Cool times in Kanab

3 day weekend…hot air balloon festival paired with a “battle of the bands”…sign me up!

Seeing hot air balloons in flight has been a bucket list item for me so when I heard about the Balloons and Tunes Festival in Kanab, Utah, I was all in. I will admit that deep down I was secretly was hoping to see the Wizard and catch a ride back to Oz…(this is normal right?!)

Sadly, the weather was just not cooperative for any launches to occur. Not to be disheartened by this unfortunate occurrence…the show went on and a great time was still had.

Being that it was a festival, food was consumed!

  • My heart melted when I saw the Havana Cabana, a Cuban sandwich and a cafecito were ordered. The combination spoke to my soul, taking me momentarily back to S.Florida i.e. home. It was amazing.
  • Breakfast was at Peekaboo Woodfire Grill: a great spot for vegans and vegetarians as the menu has multiple selections that are v/v friendly – a friend ate the Huevos Rancheros and said it was tasty. I had the Cinnamon French Toast, which sadly didn’t live up to my expectations.
  • Dinner was at the Iron Horse Restaurant. The establishment is a tasteful and fun recreation of the Old West – right down to a mock village perfect for an Instagram-able photo shoot. The menu is complete with custom cocktails, brisket sandwiches, fried okra, BBQ Chili Cheese Fries and more. A must experience for those visiting the area. The service was excellent and the food was delightful.

The weather was chilly, to say the least, however there were a couple options to help keep from freezing: 1) Hot chocolate 2) Cafecito 3) Dancing to the music played by 12+ bands battling for top spot in “Battle of the Bands” 4) Space heaters strategically placed in the vendor area and 5) Balloon Glow.

What is the Balloon Glow you may ask? Think giant flame throwers perched atop a basket…VOILA! The balloon operators set up on Main Street and light up the street with light, and heat. A magnificent showing of flames and the warm, warm heat that is given off (delightful to be sure)! I got super lucky and was able to get in a basket and pull the levers to make the flames go SWOOSHHH! It was epic – many thanks to the operator for Redneck Cowboy balloon out of New Mexico for allowing folks in the basket for this cool experience. Also, his pilot in training is my new heroine (she is 12 and super awesome).


Following the Balloon Glow another memorable event occurred. The Lantern Festival.



Open the lantern, light the base on the tiki torch (or a lighter should you have one handy), wait for the heat to fill the lantern and as it is ready to take off, make a wish and set it free. To see all the lanterns floating up into the sky was nothing short of magical.

While I wasn’t able to live my dream of seeing multiple hot air balloons floating, like brilliant petals in the clouds, I did get to watch Smokey the Hot Air Balloon Bear be inflated and staged on the ground. It was pretty neat to have a ground perspective of the size of the balloon to basket, and the backdrop against the snow dusted red rock was stunning.

Would I go back next year? I’m not sure. I think my next attempt at checking off this bucket list item will be the “Mother of All Hot Air Balloon Festivals” in Albuquerque, NM. Will I go back to Kanab? Absolutely. While the weather wasn’t cooperative for the balloons to launch, the event was well run and everyone was super friendly. A major kudos to the organizers for making great use of text message to communicate the event schedule.

Kanab is absolutely picturesque and charming. I do think my next trip will be when it is a tad warmer as there are some hiking trails that I have my eye on tackling.

As John Steinbeck said “People don’t take trips, trips take people.”



Skiing into the Winter Season in Park City

So the state of Florida does not have a “Fall Break”. I found out that this is a lovely two day break in which there is no school! Since it has been about 6 or 7 years since I was last in Park City, I decided to drive up for the long weekend.

The trip wasn’t purely vacation, as I took the opportunity to schedule some site inspections. I forgot how amazing some of the properties in the resorts are.

The run-down:

The Resorts: Winter season – Park City and The Canyons are connected – which equals lots of skiing opportunities on one lift ticket! Summer season provides an opportunity for golfing and hiking. I was able to do some short hikes on the golf course (and ski runs). The vistas were spectacular, and walking straight up ski runs isn’t for the faint of breath!


The Canyons: I was fortunate enough to stay at the Grand Summit. Great location (ski in/out in the winter, golf-course access in the summer), great amenities and becoming a Rock Resort has truly agreed with this property (I want to live one of these units). I recommend the breakfast burrito and grabbing a drink and bite from Legends Bar and Grill (their Cubano Pork Sandwich was delightful). If you really want to treat yourself, I HIGHLY recommend visiting the spa for a treatment.

Coffee with a view

Coffee on the patio of my Grand Summit unit

Other properties that I highly recommend: Hyatt Centric, the decor is very 70s mountain modern and I commend the decorators on a job well-done (great location and amenities); Waldorf : the lobby is absolutely divine, s’mores by the pool-side fire pit in the winter evenings!; Silverado and Sundial are both great properties for the budget minded but still provides an upgraded feeling. The nice thing about The Canyons is that everything is walk-able to the lifts and the village center.

Park City: I spent a good portion of an afternoon strolling Main Street and wandering in and out of shops. I recommend taking advantage of the public transportation (which includes several busses that are electric powered!). If you don’t have to stay right on the mountain then I recommend the Park City Peaks, the property just underwent renovations (skiers breakfast buffet in the winter) and the restaurant is a local favorite (so make reservations if you want to dine there).

I taste tested a couple spots including The Spur . In addition to the the Loco Moco, which was very tasty, they carry lots of local brews, and the upstairs dining has great outdoor seating and views of Main Street. For dinner, Shabu was absolutely divine! The service was impeccable and for dinner I had the bibimbap – it was excellent (I was also told that the firecracker shrimp was a good choice). Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory is a fun stop, however the real gem is Dolly’s Bookstore connected to the chocolate shop, be sure to say hello to the bookstore cat!

A good lunch stop for wood-fire pizza is Vinto Pizzeria, a very cozy location, and after you eat something walk into Old Town Cellars for a glass of wine (say hi to Stella!). If whiskey is more your thing than I suggest High West Distillery (I did a whiskey flight but the ‘hot toddy’ seemed pretty popular). The building is a converted auto garage making for a fun ambiance. They do serve food – so a good stop for lunch or dinner (and would probably be a very fun spot for an event).

Deer Valley:  Even if you aren’t staying in Deer Valley, I recommend taking a drive up. The views are stunning. Properties at which you can indulge yourself: 1) The Stein Collection: Stein Ericksen, Stein Ericksen Residences, and The Chateaux at Deer Valley. The Stein Lodge recently underwent a multi-million dollar property enhancement that includes a beautiful pool, game room, and theatre. If old-world elegance isn’t your style, then the Stein Residences are unmatched in modern luxury. Anddddd let me tell you about the infinity pool…better yet see below pictures.

2) If the Stein isn’t for you, then I recommend going down the mountain and checking-into the St. Regis. Even if you don’t stay overnight, you should have breakfast at the J&G Grill (recommendation: short rib hash). If you are on the mountain skiing, ski into the St. Regis beach and have a drink on the Mountain Terrace before skiing back down the mountain. If skiing isn’t your thing, take the funicular from the base area up to the St. Regis, enjoy the views and grab a drink (or visit the spa for a treatment).

All in all it was a fantastic trip and a mini-road trip that I very much enjoyed. Very grateful to the properties that took the time to showcase their amazing products. Also, a very, very big thanks to Alpine Adventures for helping me put this fab trip together. I can’t say how appreciative I am for being a continued part of the AA team.


The next leg of my journey had me flying (back to that plane part) from Seattle to Great Falls, MT and then driving (o look automobile) to Red Lodge, MT with a brief stop in Bozeman, MT. My journey also took me to Cody, WY.

Going to take things a little old school and omit the words and let the pictures do the talking.

SJL1: Hike, Horsecamp, and Wine

Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone. – Wendell Berry

To be very honest, I wasn’t sure that the opening leg of my trip could be topped. I was wrong. Horse camping was incredible.


Side note: I was pretty proud of myself for being somewhat handy in helping with providing some minimal guidance for the truck to the trailer hitch and not being a total dolt around the horses.

Second side note: This was my first time around horses in 7 years, of which the last time ended up with me in a neck brace being ambulance off the side of a mountain – The credit goes to my horse and my camp leader for making this experience back in the saddle seamless and confidence boosting.

Silver Falls State Park, Oregon ( – DO it. Go! I was so amazed at how beautiful it was!

Trail of Ten Falls *cue momentous music*


800 ft of elevation gain, 7.8 miles, 8 waterfalls, approx 4hrs (inclusive of lunch, breaks, camera stops, etc.)

Start at North Falls Trailhead > Canyon trail to Twin Falls (1.1 miles) > Twin Falls Trail (.5 mile) > Twin Falls to Winter Trail (.3 miles) > cont’d to Double Falls (.4 miles) [ you will see: Middle North Falls, Drake Falls, Double Falls – which was really 1 and a trickle, Lower North Falls, Middle North Falls] to Canyon Trail to Lower South Falls (1 mile) > Stairs of Hells to South Falls (1.3 miles) > South Falls to Rim Trail (.9 miles) > Rim Trail to North Falls Trailhead (2.3 miles)….and you DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!! **HUFF-HUFF-PUFF-PUFF**

I highly recommended hiking the entire loop (in some places you get to walk behind the fall!) – be sure to wear comfortable shoes, take a hiking stick if you have one, and dress appropriately. I saw one too many silly people in flip-flops and shoes that made my feet hurt just looking at them (here is to you platform boots and let’s not speak of the ding-dong parents who let their kid (roughly between 3-5yrs of age) wear jelly sandals – the kid looked miserable btw…DUH!). Pack a lunch/snacks and water! Take lots of pictures and give yourself time to enjoy the hike!

Side note: The “stairs of hell” (SoH) they aren’t fun (that also isn’t their real name, I don’t think they have a name but it seems appropriate). The below picture doesn’t show the entire staircase up, nor does it illustrate the actual ‘stairs’. I recommend you take your time, breathe, be in shape, stop and enjoy the scenery (look behind you at the waterfall), breathe, look around, did I mention breathe?


Yay! You did it!!! But wait! There is more! Don’t get all excited that you made it through the SoH and think you can make it from the Rim Trail to the North Falls Trailhead in record time. Heed my advice: Don’t go out of the gate hot! There is an incline, it isn’t apparent and it will get you. Consider yourself warned! I also recommend doing the trail in the direction given above however if you don’t have time to do the entire loop, it can be done in sections.

The next two days were filled with horseback riding, fires, and enjoying the outdoors.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end and so there was a return to Newborn. (With dinner at Chehalem Brewery Co ( – Excellent! Ask for the house aoli!)


Before leaving and moving onto part two of my walkabout, wine was had. Wine should always be had, especially when in wine regions. A wine tasting at Vidon Vineyard ( was the farewell ending to my time in Oregon, and an ever so perfect ending at that. The winery has super awesome views accompanied by happy, knowledgeable staff. Be sure to say hello to Mr. Studly (the vineyard rooster). I really liked the Explorer Tempranillo (yes, named after the Explorer satellite program!) and 2014 3-Clones Pinot Noir. Do the tasting, buy the wine, enjoy the experience. Thank me later.


After buzzing up, it was a drive to Portland where I caught Amtrak Cascade to Seattle King Street Station…and onto Walkabout Part Two.

Side note *3 or is it 4?*: Don’t take the Amtrak Cascade if you can take the Coast Starlight. If you must do it, go business class and sit on the left side of the train.

Endnote: This trip wouldn’t have been possible without my Oregon mom, her ponies, and an adorable little pup. I’m forever grateful and the memories will last a lifetime.

SJL1: Riding the Scenic Express

I am very keen about travel, not only personally…but also about travel for as many Americans as can possibly afford it, because those Americans will be getting to know their own country better; and the more they see of it, the more they will realize the privileges which God and nature have given to the American people.  – President FDR

June 19

The time spent in Tahoe City was perfect (see the previous blog for more). The weekend was a celebration of love and laughter and new experiences. Getting in the car to head out of town was not sad but rather an eager anticipation of the next adventure. The route was as follows:

Tahoe City – 80West (may or may not have been some slight backtracking that did go by Donner Lake and Donner Memorial State Park – all persons survived with all body parts accounted for) – take 89 north through Quincy, CA

Food stop in Quincy: Patti’s Thunder Cafe (super cute! dog-friendly patio and they brought water for the pup – food was really good (I had a Thunder Burger with salad and homemade blue cheese dressing) and the coffee was also good! Recommend!

Over lunch the subject was asked about going a little out of the way to drive through Lassen Volcanic National Park – the vote was a yes! (I may or may not have been a little giddy).


Lassen NP was stunning – absolutely stunning. The greens, the blues, the snow…Mother Nature knows how to impress. The park wasn’t that busy and that was super nice. It is a park that I would love to go back and do some camping and hiking in.

From Lassen, it was onto 44west and into Redding, CA. Dinner at Black Bear Diner (Tri-tip sandwich was divine and paired with sweet potato fries …nom nom!)

The temperature changes of the day:  Tahoe City 72F – Lassen NP 59F – Redding 96F

The elevation changes of the day: Tahoe City 6,250 ft – Lassen NP 8,511 ft – Redding 344 ft

June 20

From Redding, it was I 15 to US 97 (with a stop in Weed, CA and a view of Mt Shasta) then onto St Rd 138 and into Crater Lake National Park (insert squeal here).

So the fact that I was able to visit 2 unplanned national parks…let me repeat…TWO AMAZINGLY AWESOME NATIONAL PARKS!!!! Yea well I was in nerd heaven.

It was so easy to see why Crater Lake is one of the crowning jewels of the NPS – pictures really don’t do it justice. (BTW – there was a Tesla charging station at the North entrance…#phdnerdmoment). The park was busy, much busier than Lassen – and while I didn’t get a chance to see the entire park – I did get to see the Crater Lake Lodge (Part of the historical society of hotels). On the way out of the park, the weather took a turn for the interesting with temps dropping and hail coming down. It was an experience, to say the least! Then it was onto Oregon and home base!

Temperature changes: Redding 92F – Crater Lake 48F – Newberg 72F

Elevation changes: Redding 344 ft – Crater Lake 6,178 ft – Newborn 175ft

Over the course of 2 days

? State Forests/Parks – Donner Memorial State Park and possibly others

6 National Forests: Tahoe NF; Plumas NF; Lassen NF; Shasta-Trinity NF; Winema NF; Umpqua NF

1 National Wildlife Refuge: Klamath National Wildlife Refuge

5 major lakes: Donner Lake; Lake Almanor; Shasta Lake; Klamath Lake; Diamond Lake

2 National Parks: Lassen Volcanic National Park; Crater Lake National Park

This was one of the most scenic road trips…hands down…ever!

Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone. – Wendell Berry

Go West…Drive tourism in action

When one of the most important people in your life decides to take a job across the country (literally 3,350 miles in the opposite direction of you), it is only logical to volunteer as co-pilot for the journey.

Go West Young Man

The trip went something like this: Day 1: Orlando, FL to Metropolis, IL (we saw Superman); Day 2: IL to Osage City, KS (crossed the Mississippi!); Day 3: KS to Estes Park, CO (Highly recommend the Silver Moon Inn, Claire’s for breakfast, and Estes Park Crossfit – Rocky Mountain National Park was amazing, from what little we saw due to weather); Day 4: CO to Rock Springs, WY (WY has the most impressive visitor center I’ve seen); Day 5: WY to Boise, ID (saw the 1st JC Penny store in Kemmer, WY before a stop at Fossil Butte National Monument to interview park ranger, must go back and hike); Day 6: ID to Seattle, WA (Cowboy Donuts was most excellent and “You have reached your final destination”).

Along the way we ate protein bars, sunflower seeds, a giant bag of Twizzlers (only 150 calories per 4!), drank shitty gas station coffee and listened to Disney, Glee, Hamilton, and lots of This American Life, which if you have never listened to I recommend you do. We also talked about random things, bitched at traffic, and had a general good time. I managed to keep up with my workouts, even if it meant getting up at 5am to do so. I also only logged two nap sessions during the 6 days of driving (this is major since I typically pass out approximately 30min into a journey), and never got us lost (I may or may not have almost missed a turn but I made up for it by reading all the signs as if the pilot couldn’t see them, which he could but it made me feel better about my momentary failures as co-pilot).

Fossil Butte National Monument

For me the biggest standout was watching the country change. It reinforced how much I love traveling and the beauty in the diversity of landscape, wildlife, plant life, people, politics and culture. I get to live in a beautiful country and this trip really helped remind me of that.

Seattle was a fun city to explore. Coffee shops every six stores, the Starbucks of all Starbucks (aka Starbucks Roastery – and even monks visit this location so it has to be good!), great places to eat, dog friendly, and super walkable.

The food scene was fantastic: Cheese, Meats, Bread (not your every day grilled cheese sandwhich); Lunchbox Laboratory (try a boozy shake!); Pho In & Out (the service was FANTASTIC and the pho on point); every coffee house ever (just do them all); Sweet Iron Waffle Bar (have a sweet and savory waffle); Japonessa Sushi Cocina (I recommend going for happy hour – possibly the best sushi I’ve ever had); The Pink Door (an experience that I strongly recommend – check the entertainment schedule – the Pink Door Lasagna and Bolognese were amazing); Elliot’s Oyster House (great location on the Pier – great spot to watch the sunset – again I recommend happy hour).

I also utilized Uber Eats while in Seattle. Let me tell you how utterly overwhelming it was to decide what to order…on one occasion I gave up and just had a protein shake, the decision was more than my little brain could handle.

What we did: When you visit friends in a place you have never been, typically you want to experience all the tourist things that make your friends cringe. The beauty of this trip was that we were really both tourists and as such visited the following:

  • Space Needle (go up, come down, and marvel at the view – if you are into kettle corn, it smelled amazing – I just drooled over the smell b/c I’m allergic and 550 feet up isn’t really the place for an allergy attack).
  • Museum of Pop Culture – super awesome, the exhibits change, but we saw: Star Trek, Jim Henson, Horror Movies, Fantasy, and Sound (where you get to play with instruments!).
  • The Space Needle and MoPOP sit in the complex that once held the World Fair (Aka Century 21 Exposition) – take time to explore the entire area, it is worth it!
  • Pike’s Place Market – and Yes we saw the dude’s throw the fish! The market is three levels and is visited by both tourists and locals alike – and rose kale seems to be the plant of choice in floral arrangements.
  • Walk and explore – the other parts of the stay really was just walking and exploring. I stopped in every coffee shop possible and some random stores that looked interesting.
  • Foundations Crossfit is the place to drop in – for you workout buffs. I did the OLY classes and the coaching was excellent. They are very friendly and welcoming and I highly recommend them for a drop in of OLY, Powerlifting, or Crossfit classes.
  • What we did NOT do: Due to an unusually early snowfall (it snowed in the city – and apparently that is apocalyptic) we did not get to visit Mt Rainier or Olympic National Parks. The road conditions less than ideal and a pass was closed – I may or may not have almost cried…Mother Nature apparently has something against my dissertation (it’s on electric vehicles and sustainability in the national parks, which is totally ‘save the earth’ so I’m confused – but such is life!) We also didn’t take a water taxi across to Alki Beach or go to the Aquarium (mainly b/c I overslept that day and decided to do school work instead).

As a whole on this trip, I found the people to be polite and friendly. Sure there were some places that had a grouch but really most people were helpful and happy to be of service.

Would I do the trip again? Absolutely! I don’t regret sitting in a car for 6 days at all (my legs and hips may argue that point but getting old is rough!) – I can honestly say that I never once was ‘bored’. There were some moments of ‘road weary’ but that comes with the territory. Overall, the time that I got to spend with my friend is really what I treasure. Life is what you make of it…your journey is all in your perspective on life. See the beautiful around you, make your own laughter, treasure the memories and the times you get to spend with those you love.


Selfies were taken throughout the journey #earthpartner

NOLA – Where life is buzzing all around

I do enjoy when academic conferences are held in exciting locations (all part of getting attendance numbers up). The conference this year was in New Orleans! Two of my wonderful girlfriends joined me for a couple days of exploration, food, music, and shenanigans.

Food ReCap

Galliano: By far the best meal/service combination I had the entire trip and in the top 5 of all time. The service from start to finish was impeccable, with everyone from management to waitstaff making sure that the meal was good, dishes were cleared, and drinks were refilled. I had the Crawfish Pasta Monica, a good portion with chunks of crawfish tails – the toasted cheese bread was a bit too toasted otherwise a dish to make the tastebuds tingle. The blackened drum is a must try and the southern fried chicken was most excellent. Dessert changes each night so ask your server for their recommendation.

Cafe du Monde: You can’t go to New Orleans and not dine at this classic establishment. However, if you don’t NEED to wait in line at the main shop then I recommend the location in the Riverwalk mall – shorter lines same great taste. The coffee was excellent but the beignets were a bit more dough-y than I recalled. Still heaven in a bite!

Drago’s: All you need to order is 1 dozen charbroiled oysters – that is all. Use the bread to soak up the buttery, parmesan goodness and enjoy every bite. As my sister said “It’s a religion”. I did have a shrimp po boy – but I really wasn’t all that impressed – the bread was far too crusty.

Mulate’s: Nightly Cajun music – but don’t get there too late because the band will wrap up  on schedule. Good location for a drink and some dessert while indulging in music. Right across the street from Galliano.

Morning Call Coffee Stand: This 24-hour joint serves coffee and beignets with a throwback flare. The beignets were probably my favorite of those tasted on the trip. This joint is located in New Orleans City Park – so make a day out of visiting botanical gardens, museum of art and sculpture garden, boating, biking, and much more.


Spitfire Coffee: Pay attention or you will walk right past it. I had the cortado and it was lovely.

Adolfo’s: Located on Frenchman street this was the perfect place to have an end of trip dinner. Cash only and limited seating, it is well worth it to get there early. Have some drinks downstairs while you wait, or walk around the Art Market and check out local wares (I did some shopping for myself and for Christmas!).

Other Happenings 

Aside from eating our way to a food coma – which by walking 14 miles over 2.5-3 days we subsequently nulled out the caloric intake – there was also time to discover what the city had to offer. French quarter fest was in full swing for the weekend, so there was plenty of music and festivities to partake in. I’d been to Bourbon Street before, so I skipped that and instead enjoyed the music offerings of Frenchman Street. Club after club with each one having better music than the last – pop in and out and dance yourself to a good time.

We opted for a tour of the city and really learned a lot about the history of New Orleans, the layout of the city, its people, and life outside of tourist-land.

To commemorate the trip…well we all may have stopped into Electric Ladyland...I can only speak for myself when I say that Chris is a great artist and I’m very happy with fresh pineapple inked onto my wrist.


Overall, I have to say that I left NOLA with a great impression and would absolutely go back. The city has experienced a rebirth since Katrina. The people were friendly and, as a city, I experienced some of the best hospitality overall that I have ever experienced. There is a zest for life that can be tasted in the food and felt in the music…as they say in New Orleans “Laissez les bon temps rouler!”