Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

I’m Dreaming of……… Zebra Domes

There’s been a flurry of planning lately in my home – several trips and several weddings taking place, all within the span of one year.

Of course, my brain can’t focus on the nearest one (my own wedding at the end of September!) but instead keeps jumping forward to next February and our stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House.  The atmosphere at AKL is one of my favorite Disney things – the smells, sounds, sights, and tastes stay with you and make you long for more.

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Seattle, City Pass, Gluten Free, and a Little Wedding, Day 4, Part 1


Let’s go do some more touristy stuff first, yeah?

We planned to do the Argosy Harbor Tour this morning because there’s a 9:45 cruise (weekdays the first tour is 11:00) and that gets us back to Tacoma earlier to get ready for the wedding.

I love guided tours – I love that someone else has all the information and rattles it off to me, and if they’re funny and likable, all the better. Ethan does not like guided tours – he doesn’t like that someone else has decided what his level of knowledge will be about this new subject. So I was apprehensive about his enjoyment of this component of our City Pass.

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Trying new things at Cedar Point

Earlier this month, we made our second trip to Cedar Point for this season. No race. No events. Just going to ride rides and have fun. Summer weekends have held a reputation of being extremely busy. That in mind, we went expecting the worst. There were four of us this time around (a good number for touring a coaster park, in my opinion) and none of us had any great aversions to riding anything.
As usual, the best intentions of mice and men often go astray. Even though I set the alarm plenty early to get ready, enjoy the complimentary hot breakfast at the hotel, load the car and be to Cedar Point by the 10am opening, we didn’t make it until well after 11. I cannot recall ever parking so far away from the entrance gates. It was almost ¾ of a mile walk after I parked the car, which isn’t bad when you are starting your day. But if you make trips to the car for food, beverages, sun screen reapplication, etc., then you definitely feel it. And the journey out at the end of your day seems like mile 25 of a marathon across a desert of asphalt.

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Seattle, City Pass, Gluten Free, and a Little Wedding, Day 2, Part 2

We check the GPS on the phone for walking directions to Pike’s Market, the location of which all I could tell you at that point was “inland”.  It appeared to be about 2-4 blocks inland.  I see a sign across the street announcing “This Way to Pike’s!”

We cross the street and are met by this:

You want me to CLIMB THAT???

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RunDisney Updates, Rumors and Goings On

It’s National Running Day in the USA, so I thought it would be an appropriate time to make sure you are up to date on some of the happenings with runDisney.

Disneyland Half Marathon, Disneyland 10K, Dumbo Double Dare, Disneyland 5K

Last week, the course for the Disneyland 10K was certified by the USA Track & Field Road Running Technical Council. For this certification, a course map needs to be submitted showing the route so it may be measured to prove the correct distance. Thanks to the internet and public record, here is the map for the Disneyland 10K. Continue reading

Safety On The Road

In light of the Boston Marathon bombing last week, it was suggested to me to do a segment on safety while traveling.  Your safety while traveling also relates back to preparing to be safe before you leave home.  We’ll go over a few things to consider.

Let’s start with social media.  Do you share your posts with friends, friends of friends or everyone?  Be very careful when sharing your traveling plans on a social media site.  It’s definitely better if you have someone housesitting or neighbors watching your home, but think twice about who you share with before you let the world know that you will be out of town, maybe out of the country for a set period of time.

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Registration proves runDisney demand is high


RunDisney opened registration to everyone on Tuesday, April 9, 2013 for the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. Although the percentage of registrations didn’t sky rocket quite as fast as when they opened registration for the Disneyland Half Marathon, new Disneyland 10K and Dumbo Double Dare, they are edging on the brink of selling out in a few short hours.  The number of participants at Walt Disney World races is larger than their counterparts at Disneyland, which can make it difficult to compare directly.  Regardless of which coast, the new 10K distance is proving to be very popular.  The Disneyland 10K sold out in less than a day and the WDW “Minnie” 10K sold out in just over 7 hours.  The new challenge races (Dumbo Double Dare and the Dopey Challenge) with their extra miles, back to back racing days, and extra medals are also becoming hot ticket events. The Dumbo Double Dare (19.3 miles in two days) sold out in less than an hour.  The Dopey Challenge (48.6 miles in four days) went to above 95% capacity in less than two days.  Even the Family 5K Fun Run events for both weekends sold out in less than 48 hours; whereas in the past, it would take a few months.

Both the Disneyland 2013 Half Marathon Weekend and Walt Disney World 2014 Marathon Weekend opened their registration early.  Attendees of the WDW 2013 Marathon Weekend Expo and the Tinkerbell 2013 Half Marathon expo had the opportunity to have early registry for the Disneyland 2013 Half Marathon Weekend event.  Annual Passholders, DVC members and Disney Visa card holders were all given early opportunity to register for the WDW 2014 Marathon Weekend events.

Despite the rising cost to enter a runDisney event, they seem to be selling like hot cakes.  We will have to wait a few months to see if the hype and hysteria that have been drummed up around these races is worth it.

runDisney Sticker Shock

Early registration for runDisney’s banner events opens this week to Runner’s World Challengers, Annual Passholders and DVC Members. One discussion that usually springs from signing up for a runDisney event is the price point. In line with much of what Disney offers, it does not come cheap. That being said, I think you get a lot of bang for your buck. In case you haven’t investigated race pricing, here is a chart with the 1st tier pricing (available until June 18th) for the 2014 Marathon Weekend along with some other races I looked up.

Race (Distance in Miles)


Cost Per Mile

WDW 5K Family Fun Run (3.1)



WDW 10K (6.2)



WDW Half Marathon (13.1)



WDW Full Marathon (26.2)



WDW Goofy Challenge (39.3)



WDW Dopey Challenge (48.6)



Rock n Roll Cleveland Half (13.1)



Rock n Roll Nashville Half (13.1)



Rock n Roll Nashville Full (26.2)



Rock n Roll 2013 Tour Pass


Entry into up to 30 races.

Detroit’s International Full (26.2)



Detroit’s International Half (13.1)



Detroit Free Press 5K (3.1)



As you can see, runDisney events are more expensive than other events held around the country.  But do you get your money’s worth?  Let me give you some examples of why I feel the cost is so much higher and then you may be better able to answer that question for your situation.

Restrooms. I have to tinkle.  (Yes, now as I am writing this. And again while you are reading it. And again once you are done reading it.)  I can usually make it on a 4-5 mile outing without finding facilities.  A half marathon is near impossible for me.  It’s how my body works.  RunDisney provides a copious amount of port-a-pots.  Yes, there may be some lines pre-race.  Fifteen thousand people trying to take care of business in 400 units in a short amount of time will cause lines.  Once the course, there are frequent facilities.  And when running through a park, the brick and mortar restrooms are available. Here is a course map of a half marathon I did a couple years back.  This is my nightmare course.  Note the two boxes halfway on the long out and back.  Those are not banks of port-a-pots.  There were two–one on either side of the 6’ wide course.  There were a whopping ten at the start/finish area.  Twelve bathrooms for 5,000 racers (not including spectators).

Health and Fitness Exposition.  This is one of the things that a lot of people gloss over for runDisney events.  I too am guilty of doing it.  You’re at Disney World (or Disneyland).  Why do you want to sit and listen to lectures?  The expo has far more to offer than just that.  The vendors that set up are genuinely dedicated to your experience and helping you make the most of it.  The sponsors usually have giveaways and freebie swag.  You can sign up friends and family for runner tracking (wouldn’t dear Aunt Sally love to get a text after you crossed the first timing mat of your ½ marathon, well before dawn?).  Sit down for a minute or two and listen to one of the guest speakers.  You don’t need to invest the whole day in listening to all of them, but a couple minutes could give you an epiphany.

Runner safety.  With all things Disney, safety is paramount.  There are multiple first aid stations along the course.  There are cycling paramedics riding on the course, alongside racers.  Road hazards are minimized due to Disney’s infrastructure and where they cannot be, they are highlighted and racers given notice on course (i.e. speed bumps, terrain changes).

Pre-race, Post-race and On Course Entertainment.  There are no other races that can offer what runDisney can in this arena.  Photo ops with characters, running through a castle, racing through the magic; after all it is Disney.  There also seems to be much less ‘quiet’ run time.  There is almost always music of some sort along a course.

Disney branding.  Like it or not, items that carry the Disney name cost more; staying at a Disney resort, dining at a Disney eatery, cruising aboard the Disney Cruise Line, or taking an Adventure by Disney.

Would I say that every event that someone wants to do be a runDisney event?  No.  Would I suggest that a novice runner give a runDisney event a try if they were a Disney fan?  Absolutely.

What are your thoughts?  Can you justify the price difference to do a runDisney event?  Is it something you would make a trip out of or just participate if you were already planning on being there at that time?

Juneau: The Alaska for Everyone

When I fall asleep at night, I don’t think about the homework I neglected to do, the dishes I left unwashed, or the looming threat of the zombie apocalypse. My mind is far from school, sanitation, and the walking dead. Instead, it’s in a town approximately 961 miles north of my current location. It’s in Juneau, Alaska, my adopted summer home and the only place that has ever managed to capture the majority of my waking thoughts and lucid dreams.


Like most towns in Southeast Alaska, Juneau has no system of roads that connect to other parts of the state. If you drive far enough to the northern or southern ends of town, the roads simply end.

My fascination with Alaska first manifested itself in my fifth grade state report. I distinctly remember gluing pictures of polar bears to poster board, feeling satisfied with my perceived knowledge and skill. At the tender age of twelve, I read Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, prompting me to seriously consider visiting the Great North for the first time. My fanciful daydreams consisted of a tween version of myself roaming the foothills of the Alaska Range, amidst moose and mountains, lost in the wild like Krakauer’s protagonist, Chris McCandless.

A few years later, I made my Alaska dream come to fruition, while combining the necessity of making money during my summer break from university. In early 2012, when I was offered a job in the capital city Juneau, I immediately accepted, ensuring that my dream of visiting the state would be memorable.

When I fully realized I would be spending three months in the Last Frontier’s capital city, my hopes of living out some Arctic, Jack London fantasy were dashed. Within ninety minutes of my arrival in town, however, I found myself staring at the terminus of the Mendenhall Glacier, the antithesis of urbanity and the epitome of the natural Alaska I originally sought.

You could say that Juneau was quick to prove me wrong.


Just outside of downtown, the Perseverance Trail winds its way into the mountains of the Coastal Range.

It didn’t take much longer for me to understand that Juneau was unlike any other place I had ever visited. From downtown, it’s possible to walk past the Governor’s Mansion and wander up into the mountains on the state’s oldest road, Perseverance Trail. In less than twenty minutes, it’s possible travel from sea level to nearly four thousand feet upwards onto the side of Mt. Roberts via the Mt. Roberts Tram. In the course of a day, it’s possible to enjoy the rich history only found in state capitals and the insane natural beauty only found in Alaska.

I spent three months in Juneau, and when I wasn’t working, I took advantage of everything the city had to offer. I saw glaciers calve at the South Sawyer Glacier in Tracy Arm, I serendipitously met Governor Sean Parnell at a community picnic, and I spent days climbing the mountains that surround the city. As a result, I returned to the Lower Forty-Eight with three months’ worth of memories that are sure to stay with me for the rest of my life.

As you read me wax poetic about my extended stay in Juneau, you may feel excited about the prospect of seeing glaciers, overwhelmed at the amount to see and do, or even bothered that your visit to Alaska is significantly less time than my gratuitous summer break. THIS IS NATURAL. Yes, Juneau has a lot to offer, but the good news is that if you plan carefully, you can experience a lot of it even with the strictest time constraints.

One year ago, I foolishly thought my chances of seeing Sarah Palin were greater than seeing a bald eagle scoop up a salmon from the Gastineau Channel (note: I saw the latter at least twice during the summer). And fortunately for me, the only Sarah Palin sighting I had was her likeness in the form of a cardboard cutout on the steps of the Alaska T-Shirt Company on Franklin Street.

Downtown Juneau and the Gastineau Channel

Downtown Juneau and the Gastineau Channel

It’s one thing to read a book, write a glorified book report, or watch a Travel Channel special about a place, but to experience it firsthand is entirely different and infinitely more valuable. Travel in all forms allows for an enhanced understanding of the world, and to spend even a week in a place as unique as Southeast Alaska is treat for any traveler. Regardless of the fast-paced nature of your itinerary, know that the Alaska you always dreamed of visiting is well-within reach!

Nobody Ever Wins That Stuff… Or Do They?

Editor’s Note:  Have you ever looked at a contest entry and said “No one ever wins those” and tossed it aside?  Today’s blog is from Angela Wilson, someone I admire for entering and winning sweepstakes.  Here is her story. 

My husband and I really enjoy traveling to new places together. Unfortunately, we don’t always have the budget to travel as much as we would like.  We have been lucky and persistent enough over the past few years however to travel for free, or nearly free by winning travel related sweepstakes.  With the help of sweepstakes wins and help from our travel agent Tracy at Travel On A Dream, 2012 was The Year of Travel for our household.

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