Posted in Exploration, Family, Life, Personal Challenge, Photography, Southern California, Sports, Tourism, Travel, Writing

Archery and Coffee, A Perfect Saturday Combo: Personal Challenge, Day 13 (9.29.12)

Today, I decided to enlist my honorary nephew, Brandon, to help me out with my personal challenge.  On the Discover Los Angeles website under 100 Free things to do in Los Angeles, I found a link to the Pasadena Roving Archers group that offers free archery classes on Saturdays.  The only downside is that you have to get there really early because it is on a first-come, first-serve basis (and the small parking lot fills up quickly.  I recommend parking on Arroyo and just walking down the hill to the park).

Brandon is a Boy Scout and really interested in learning archery so I thought this would be a fun thing that we could do together. Unfortunately, since he is under the age of 10 (he is 9), he is required to take an evaluation and preliminary instruction course before he can participate in the other classes.  The introductory class for adults starts at the same time (8:30 am–the time hasn’t been updated yet on the website for the kids evaluation class) but it is on a different range.  So I decided I would just stay with Brandon and watch his first class.  I could always come back and take the introductory class later on or take a one-on-one instruction course for $25.

I was impressed with the way the instructors, Jim and Terri ran the youth class.  They were organized and patient with the children.  That emphasized all of the important safety issues and they would complete stop the class whenever anyone was disobeying their safety rules.  They explained everything step by step and they had additional instructors that would help the kids individually, if needed.  It didn’t take long for the kids to get used to their class structure and whistle system.  I would highly recommend this class to anyone who lives in Pasadena or the other local SoCal areas who have kids (or nieces and nephews) who are interested in learning archery.  The introductory class is free and they request a $5 donation for any subsequent classes.

Jim mentioned that since the release of the films Brave and Hunger Games, classes on the range have increased in popularity and fill up quickly.  Brandon and I realized this when we arrived and there were absolutely no parking spaces available in the parking lot so we chose to park on Arroyo Blvd and just walk down the hill to the park.

I asked Brandon what he thought of the class and he said he loved it.  He definitely wants to come back (and since the “returning” classes start at 10am, my California sister will actually be awake in time and able to join us).  He said that in Boy Scouts, when teaching archery, they just tell the kids to line-up and shoot.  They don’t explain anything.  Brandon said it was nice to have all the instructions and the helpers there to let you know if you were doing anything wrong.  He also liked that all the equipment was provided.  Each kid was fitted for an arm guard, a finger guard, a quiver with specific colored arrows, and a bow.  And it was easy to see that Brandon wasn’t the only kid who enjoyed the class.  There were plenty of parents asking about the returning classes and private lessons offered by the Pasadena Roving Archers.  Again, I was really impressed by the instructors and the class.  I would recommend this to any of my friends with kids.

Now since I had to start my Saturday much earlier than normal, I decided I would take the opportunity to have another first time experience before the day was out.  Somewhere on Facebook, I read that today was “National Coffee Day.”  As a coffee lover, this was something I could whole-heartedly support.  After having lunch and running some errands with my California sister and Brandon, I decided I was in need of a coffee break.  Many times, I have passed a local coffeehouse on N. Lake in Altadena called “The Coffee Gallery.”  I have read reviews about how it is a local artists haven and hang out, complete with a backstage area for bands, shows, comedy, and open mic nights.  So in honor of National Coffee Day, I thought I would check it out.

There is no parking lot for The Coffee Gallery so after finding street parking on Lake, I made my way over to the cozy coffeehouse.  You can definitely feel the relaxed atmosphere the minute you walk into the door.  This is nothing like the corporate designed Starbucks and don’t expect the same menu.  I had no qualms asking the barista for recommendations.  He asked me if I liked Lattes: Yes, I do.  He asked me if I liked sweet drinks: Yes, I do.  So he recommended the “Caramel Turtle” Latte or if I liked something a little more spicy, like Chai, then he recommended the “Filthy Dirty Chai” Latte.  I chose the latter (I love Chai Lattes).

Now all I have to say is Starbucks, eat your hearts out because this little coffee-house blows you right out of the water.  The Filthy Dirty Chai Latte was amazing.  I can’t wait to go back and try other items on their menu.  I definitely have a new favorite coffeehouse/hangout place/writing spot (they have free WiFi).  If you live in the Altadena area, there is no need to go to the Starbucks located in Ralphs.  Support our local businesses and go over to The Coffee Gallery instead.

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Posted in Exploration, Life, Personal Challenge, Photography, Southern California, Tourism, Travel

A Disappointing Day of Discovery: Personal Challenge, Day 12 (9.28.12)

Still a bit sore after my horseback riding adventure yesterday, I decided I would take it easy and explore something closer to home.  Originally I thought tonight was the full moon so I was planning on visiting the Linda Vista Hospital (despite my students and mother warning me to stop going places at night, alone, especially on a full moon).  But the full moon is tomorrow so that means I could pick something a little more low-key and indoors (a great way to beat the heat).

Once again, I found myself searching the Discover LA website for ideas when I found their “Best of LA in One Day” page.  Most of the places I had visited before or they cost too much money but the section, “Fun, In Any Language” sounded interesting.  It mentions an area known as ground zero for LA’s Chinese population; a place often referred to as “The Great Mall of China.”  This place is the San Gabriel Square.  They said it has a supermarket, lots of Chinese restaurants, gift shops and “a vibe that says Vegas and Southern California as much as Beijing.”  I love Chinese food and anything Buddha so this sounded like the perfect place to go.  I used Google Maps, printed out my directions and headed to my destination.

First off, the drive over there sucked.  The Google directions were confusing and there were traffic jams galore with all the construction in the different areas of Pasadena (and it wasn’t even Carmageddon time yet).  But once I was on Valley Blvd and started to see all of the Chinese symbols on the signs, I knew I was headed in the right direction.

In my mind, I was imagining a Chinatown version of the Mall of America or at the very least the Forum shops at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas.  I figured it would be flashy and easy to spot, yet the sign was not easily visible while driving so I drove right past it, being forced to turn on the next street and find a back entrance into the parking lot.

The building was not at all what I expected but I was trying to stay positive.  I did feel like I was stepping into another country.  But the minute I emerged from the parking lot stairwell and stepped into the courtyard in front of the Focus department store, I thought I was going to throw up.  There was an overwhelming stench of rotting seafood.  I noticed there was markets to the left of Focus so I decided to walk off into the opposite direction.  Once again, a wave of disappointed flooded my senses when the San Gabriel Square failed to live up to my fantasy version of a Great Mall of China.  At the very least, I thought it would have the feel of the shops in Chinatown (downtown LA).  But this simply felt like a regular mall but the signs and music were all in Chinese.  There was even a T-Mobile store.

So in an effort to try something new, I thought I would try eating at one of the restaurants.  But as I walked around, I realized that all of the restaurants that were open had a B rating and didn’t look all that appealing.  The restaurants that I wanted to try, like the steamed dumplings place, were closed until 5:30pm.  It was only 4pm.  I didn’t think I would be able to entertain myself for an hour and a half.  But I still had the Focus department store to check out.  Maybe that would be a time killer so I could enjoy some dumplings.

The Focus store has four levels.  I decided I would go up to the top and work my way down.  The top-level was a restaurant so that didn’t take that long.

The third level was jewelry.  It was set up like a flea market where each booth was owned by someone else.  If only I had known about this place back when I was looking for a Jade Buddha necklace.  This is definitely the place to go for Jade jewelry.  The only thing I didn’t like was I couldn’t understand the price tags (they didn’t use decimal points).  So I didn’t know if the necklace was $12.50 (which would be a total bargain) or $1,250.  And the jewelers were all with customers and talking Chinese.  I was the tall, white American girl who stood out like a sore thumb.

The second level was clothing, clothing made for skinny little women, not curvy Italian-Polish-German-French Canadian-Americans.  But if I ever want a fancy Chinese style dress, I now know where to buy one.

The first floor was the marketplace.  There were beauty items, household items (who knew they make Hello Kitty Pots & Pans), a whole section of Chinese Alcohol (Plum Wine & Sake), and then my favorite part, the tea section.  There is no need to go to a wallet-killer store like Teavana when there is Focus in San Gabriel.  The teas were reasonably priced.  I finally got my tea infuser pot for only $5.98 (they are $19.98 at Teavana).  I also got some Bamboo serving spoons for $1.90 each.  They also had some beautiful tea sets, Sake sets, and Sushi plates.  Yep, the tea and kitchen area made the whole trip worth it.

It was now 4:30pm and there was nothing else for me to explore.  I had arrived at 4pm.  It only took me a half hour to explore this entire place.  So I would disagree with Discover Los Angeles’ description of the San Gabriel Square.  It isn’t the “Great Mall of China” nor does it have a Vegas vibe.  But if you want good deals on tea, tea pots and anything else to meet your Oriental Cooking needs, this is the place to go.  As for the restaurants, I will have to comment on that if I should ever get down there again to eat at the dumplings place.

On my way home, I looked over at my new tea-infuser pot but I wasn’t satisfied.  This didn’t really seem worthy of my challenge.  Yes, I did go somewhere I had never been before but I was disappointed by what I found.  I needed something else.  I needed another adventure but as I was driving home, I didn’t see anything “inspiring.”  There was a sign that said “Live Oak Park” and I thought that could be something cool was it was simply a park with baseball and soccer fields.  There was a little league baseball game happening as I drove past.

So I figured I could just stop and get dinner at a restaurant I had never been to before.  I drove past “The Habit Burger Grill” at the Hastings Ranch shopping center in Pasadena.  I had never been there and had heard it was like the old chain Topz (the one with the healthy burgers and aero-fries, that the original Tops in Pasadena).  So I order what appeared to be their “famous” burger, the Charburger.  I do have to say it was a good burger.  Not as healthy as Topz used to be (the fries were definitely not baked) but it was still really good.  The Habit Burger Grill is a chain that started in 1969 in Santa Barbara and now you can find them all over SoCal.  I can safely say that I would definitely go back.

With a full belly, I returned to the car and watched as the moon rose into the sky and the sun started to set behind me.  It looked like a full moon.  I started to think that maybe I had my dates wrong.  If it was the full moon, I needed to head home to get my camera.  I could add more adventures to my day, like capturing the full moon over the Colorado Street Bridge and Devil’s Gate Dam.  But I checked my calendar and I was right, the full moon is tomorrow night.  I guess I am just going to have to settle with what I have already done–technically I tried two new things–and hope that tomorrow turns out for the better.  At the very least, I know I can enjoy the full moon, the Harvest Moon, tomorrow night.

As for tonight, I am just going to head home and watch “The Avengers” on On Demand–a movie I haven’t seen yet.

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Posted in Exploration, Life, Personal Challenge, Photography, Southern California, Sports, Tourism, Travel, Writing

I Wanna Be a Cowgirl, Baby! Personal Challenge, Day 11 (9.27.12)

Today I decided I wanted to do something that I hadn’t done since I was in high school back in Michigan.  I wanted to go Horseback riding.  I started to think about it last week when I went to the Old Zoo in Griffith Park and saw the pony rides.  So I did my research and found several different places where you can go horseback riding in Los Angeles.

Since it has been over 16 years since I saddled up, I thought it would be best to find a place that worked well for beginners.  Ironically, the perfect place for my adventure was very same place that inspired my choice, Griffith Park.  At the LA Equestrian Center, there is a horse rental area that provides guided trail rides through Griffith Park for just $25 an hour.  Other places that I found looked more advanced and had prices starting at $40 an hour.  So the Griffith Park Horse Rental and Trail Rides was my adventure destination for the day.

Once you pull into the LA Equestrian Center, you will see sign guiding you to the Horse Rental and Trail Rides area in the parking lot off to the left.  I parked and walked back to the rental stables.  I was immediately greeted and when I told them I wanted to go on a trail ride, they started to prepare my horse while I filled out the legal forms.  I made sure that this was my first time at the trails and that I hadn’t been on a horse in over 16 years.  They gave me a safety helmet and introduced me to my personal guide, Jesus.  They went over the basic instructions of how to control the horse with the reins.  The assured me that Jesus would be with me at all times if I had any questions or needed assistance.

I do have to admit that it was a little weird for me that I was told to lead the way and Jesus traveled just behind me, nudging my horse on when he needed it.  And since we had a language barrier, he didn’t know enough English and I didn’t know enough Spanish, it almost felt like I was on a solo ride.  But what a nice ride it was, especially when we got into Griffith Park.

We saw deer in several different areas.  If I hadn’t been concentrating on keeping my balance and holding onto the reins, I probably would have been faster to grab my phone to get a few pictures of all the wild animals that crossed our path.  Thankfully, Jesus was sweet enough to use my phone to get a few pictures of me on my horse.

I chose to do the one hour trail ride and that was plenty for my first time back on a horse.  And it wasn’t until we returned to the stables and I dismounted that I realized what a workout I had received in that one hour.  My legs and butt were sore.  They told me that was a good sign and it meant that I was riding correctly.  So now I completely understand why cowboys walk the way they do because that is exactly how I was walking.

Overall, it was an excellent experience.  Everyone was very nice.  I would definitely go back.

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Posted in Astrology, Exploration, Life, Music, Personal Challenge, Southern California, Spirituality, Tourism, Travel, Universe, Writing

The Teacher Becomes The Student: Personal Challenge, Day 10 (9.26.12)

This morning, while watching the news, I saw a commercial talking about a website called Discover Los Angeles.  I thought this would be a great place to find new ideas for my personal challenge.  And today, my allergies were still acting up so I thought it would be best if I found something indoors.

So I went to the Discover LA website and clicked on their link to “100 Free Things to Do.”  I am a broke teacher who lives paycheck to paycheck (gotta love budget cuts where you are making less money then when you started your job).  There were so many interesting ideas but I thought it would be best, in my current state, to check out the “Free Health and Beauty Things to Do.”  The last item caught my eye, “Get self-centered,” at the Sahaja Yoga Meditation Center.

Unfortunately the link what is disabled but being the tech savvy photo teacher, I just deleted the last part of the web address and was redirected to the Sahaja Yoga Meditation Center home page. 

On the home page, I read the following:

“Sahaja Meditation is a simple yet very powerful technique which brings meaning, balance and gravity into our lives. Everyone can do it! And remember… it’s always free! Your self-realization is your birthright. You should never have to pay for the touch of Divine Love… Sahaja Meditation is a unique method of meditation based on an awakening that can occur within each human being. Through this process an inner transformation takes place by which one becomes moral, united, integrated and balanced. One can actually feel the all pervading divine power as a cool breeze, as described in all religions and spiritual traditions of the world.

Perfect!  I noticed that there were several locations and I found one in San Gabriel that was meeting tonight.  I always wondered what it would be like to take an actual meditation class so this was my chance.  Plus the description mentioned something about one becoming balanced–that is every Libra’s dream, their mission to find balance.

So I drove down to the San Gabriel Library (a place where I had never been before).  The parking lot is small so I had to park on a neighborhood street.  When I walked into the library, the teacher in me almost had a heart attack.  It was loud and children were chasing each other around the book stacks, no parents in sight.  The teenagers at the information desk were busy texting that they didn’t even notice I was standing there, waiting to inquire about the location for the class.  I cleared my throat, loudly, and then just asked them about the class.  Without even looking up from their phones, in unison, they said, up the stairs.  WOW!  I was a little concerned about how a group of people would be able to meditate in this Chuck E. Cheese atmosphere.

Thankfully quite a bit of the noise was inaudible once you reached the meeting room.  But when I arrive, I was the only person there.  I thought that maybe I had the wrong place.  This wasn’t what I expected.  I had imagined a room with Tibetan prayer flags strewn about and a big Buddhist alter.  This was simply . . . a meeting room with off-white walls and industrial gray carpeting.

A few minutes later, the instructor arrived.  Again, not what I expected.  I think my mind had assumed that a meditation class would be something like the ones run at the monasteries.  I was expecting a guru in his robes.  Not a man in business attire carrying a Macbook.

A few minutes later, another person arrived.  Again, not what I expected.  I had dressed the part of what I thought a meditation student should look like.  I was in my yoga pants and tank top, wearing my sandals and all of my crystal bracelets.  I had my hair up, dangled earrings and my Buddhist necklace.  The young woman who came in looked like she had just come from work, or the mall.

As it turns out, we were the only students that evening but that was actually to my benefit.  The instructor told me the history and ideals behind Sahaja Meditation.  Then he guided us through a Chakra meditation sequence followed by meditation with music and then the conclusion of the meditation process.  It wasn’t what I expected but it turned out better than I imagined.  I basically had a personalized course with the meditation instructor, once again proving that a teacher is more effective with a smaller class size.

I left there feeling calm and relaxed.  I was drama free and happy.  I think I will be back next week.  Who knows, perhaps my meditation skills will improve, allowing me to ignore my noisy teenagers.  This was definitely a good experiment.

Posted in Exploration, Life, Personal Challenge, Photography, Southern California, Sports, Tourism, Travel, Universe, Writing

Taking a Hike: Personal Challenge, Day 9, (9.25.12)

Thankfully today the weather cooled off a bit.  Unfortunately with the cooler weather comes the winds that always set off my allergies.  I woke up this morning with sinus troubles and by the time I left work, I was doing a pretty good impression of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.  But I didn’t care that I felt lousy when I left work, I was determined to soldier on with my mission to go somewhere or try something new every day.

Solution: Mucinex!  I stopped at Ralph’s on my way to my next destination and bought up the magic “make my nose stop running” pill.  I packed my new “Made in Detroit” bag (courtesy of my nephew) with extra pills, Kleenex and a large bottle of water.  I was ready to go.  My destination: the JPL hiking trails.

With my previous visits to the Cobb Estate, Suicide Bridge, and Devil’s Gate Dam, I wanted to see what else the Arroyo Seco had to offer.  Every morning and afternoon I drive past the parking lot for these trails on my way to work but I have never stopped.  Some of my students have been down there and they said it was beautiful but creepy.  So I wondered if this had anything to do with the stories I read about JPL and its co-founder, Jack Parsons.

When I arrived at the parking lot (located at the end of Windsor, just North of the 210 Arroyo/Windsor exit), and took in the view of JPL down below, and the Devil’s Gate off to my left in the distance.  There were few cars in the parking lot so it looked like this was going to be a nice peaceful hike.

I crossed the street to the entrance to the hiking path (next to a locked gate).  The path is paved, sunny jaunt with an easy incline.  There wasn’t much shade and lots of mountain bikers flying past but it was a beautiful view.  The mouth of the canyon was a distance down the hill, at the end of the JPL parking lot.  On the way down, there is a large DPW water facility to the right when you reach a fork in the road.  The path to the left goes down to the JPL parking lot and there is a pathway behind one of the fences that will take you streamside.

At the time, I didn’t know that is where the path would lead so I stayed to the right.  After hiking for a few minutes, I could hear the water moving down below, as well as a young child playing in the water with her father and trusty canine companion.  I wanted to find a way down there so I followed the path until I found what I was looking for on the right.  Part of the path down to the stream was a little steep but manageable.

It was absolutely beautiful down by the stream.  It reminded me a bit of my trips through Eaton Canyon, but without all of the shade and crowds of people.  There was even a cute little waterfall just below an area that the young girl was using as a wading pool with her dog as her father watched from the shore.

I followed the path for a little bit, running into very few people.  It was so peaceful and serene.  There was nothing sinister about the place.  I did hear voices from time to time but I figure they were coming from the mountain bikers on the path up above.  I can understand why this place is packed on the weekends.

Though I do have to admit that I was upset about all the litter, graffiti and random dog feces bags hanging from tree branches.  Some people have no respect for nature.

During my streamside hike, I also came across some plants that looked like they could be wild marijuana growing throughout the Arroyo Seco.  I have never seen a real marijuana plant so I have no idea if I was correct.  I took a picture to show it to my friends who are “experts” on this particular subject.  But when I saw them, I thought to myself that there was now a whole new meaning to the sign up by the front gate that tells you the fire danger for the day.  It was set to “High.”

Unfortunately, my allergies were driving me nuts so I thought it would be best if I ended my hike just before the sun would start to set.  On my return trip to my car, I saw more hikers, bikers, and cowboys on their horses entering the trails.  I even ran into my California Sister’s husband who was just starting his nightly bike ride.

When I finally reached my car, I noticed that the parking lot was now packed.  It was a little tricky trying to get out–especially since there was a group of mountain bikers blocking the way to the exit.  It is a good thing I arrived when I did, I beat the crowds.  But I think I will definitely have to put this down as one of my new favorite hiking trails and I can’t wait to go back when my sinuses clear up.  I think I would like to try heading up to one of the campgrounds.

Now as for the so-called Arroyo Seco Triangle legends, I don’t think the trails behind JPL should be included in that twisted bit of urban mythology.  Of course, I haven’t really done much research on the area besides looking up the hiking trails so who knows.  Anything is possible in area with so much history.

If you are interested in hiking these trails, here are two other websites and blogs with more information on the trails:

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Posted in Exploration, Family, Life, Personal Challenge, Photography, Southern California, Tourism, Travel, Writing

A Walk On The Westside: Personal Challenge, Day 8 (9.24.12)

Last Monday, I started my personal challenge of going somewhere or trying something new every day.  I am amazed by all the support I am getting from family, friends, students and even strangers.  Every day some one asks me, “What’s Next?”

Well, today and just for today, my brother is in town from Detroit.  He arrived this afternoon and has his meeting in the morning before he flies back to Detroit.  So I actually got to drag him around and make him try something new as well.

I decided that since he was staying down by LAX then I would find a place down there that we could explore.  I chose Manhattan Beach.  It is a quiet, little beach area just a few miles south of LAX.  You get that small town feel when you notice all of the little shops and restaurants along the streets leading up to the pier.  It’s not all flashy and touristy like Venice Beach or Santa Monica.  It is just a cool place to hang out.

We walked down to the pier and watching the surfers attempting to ride the waves on this extremely warm, officially Fall, day.  I couldn’t get over how clear the water was, compared to Santa Monica.  Out of all the beaches in Southern California, Santa Monica is the one I frequent the most but I have a feeling that is about to change now that I have discovered the serenity of Manhattan Beach.  There were no crazy crowds or street performers lurking in every corner of the pier.  And down at the end, there was an admission by donation aquarium filled with sea creatures found in Santa Monica Bay.  Many of the fish were caught by fisherman off the pier.  The people of the aquarium have nursed them back to health and will release them back into the wild.  I have to say, it was pretty cool to see the large eels, starfish, bass, sting rays, and even sharks that could be found in our coastal waters.

As we reached the end of the pier and started to turn back, we both stood in awe of the amazing houses on the coastline.  We debated as to whether or not they were massive single family homes or condos.  We both agreed that no matter what they were, they were awesome.  We decided that on our way back to the car, we would stroll down the boardwalk and get a closer look at some of these beautiful beachfront homes.

Aside from the pier, I had found a few restaurants that I thought we could try in Manhattan Beach but my brother had other plans.  He hadn’t been out to play tourist in Los Angeles since my college graduation back in 2000.  He wanted to see the street performers and cheesy souvenir shops in Venice Beach and then work our way up to the Santa Monica Pier and Third Street Promenade.

So we arrived in Venice, parked in the first lot we found (bad choice since it wasn’t worth the $10 paid in parking fees).  And when we made out way down to the Venice Beach boardwalk, we were both stunned.  I hadn’t been down here in years and boy has it changed . . . for the worse.  It looks like this is where the Occupy LA movement went to die.  There is still the famed Muscle Beach area where we say some scary looking gentleman walking around in Speedos–one carrying his boombox and the other drinking something out of a giant horn.  Then we noticed the first medical marijuana stand.  I thought it was funny so I took a picture.  We saw one of the cheesy souvenir shops  and then we were approached by people in doctor’s scrubs with a large marijuana plant symbol.  They offered to exam us and get us our medical marijuana card for the low price of $40.  As I looked further down the boardwalk, I noticed the “doctors” and medical marijuana places appeared every 10-15 feet, with bong and hookah stores in between.  This area used to be a lot like Hollywood Blvd and now it is just a scary waste of parking fees.  We both agreed it was time to move on.  I managed to get one picture of the sunset before we were back in the car and heading north toward Santa Monica.

Again, my brother hadn’t been here in years but he was impressed by the newly renovated Santa Monica Place mall area.  They had the kind of stores that he likes ranging from Sketchers to Louis Vutton.  Then we walked down the Promenade (with a stop at the Lucky Brand store) before heading down to the Pier.  This would be our final destination for the evening.

We decided we would go for the campy themed restaurant known as Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.  The best part was that they had a bar where we could watch Monday night football–Packers Vs. Seahawks.  (Turned out to be a game that everyone in the bar would be talking about, especially the final play where it was debatable as to whether or not the Seahawks really scored that final touchdown to win the game of if it was interference).  We have both been to a Bubba Gump restaurant before but we agreed to try something new.  We ordered the Cajun Shrimp (which my brother ate and really liked) and the Stuffed Crab Mushrooms (AMAZING) for appetizers.  Then we both ordered the house favorite, Captain’s Fish and Chips.  So it was good food during an interesting football game after some adventurous beach exploration (and people watching).

Overall, we had a good time and we both got the chance to visit a new place and try new things.  I wish our visit could have been longer but I enjoyed the time I did get to spend with my big brother.  And next time he comes out to visit, we decided we would continue with the theme of trying something new and explore new places, possibly the Malibu Coast.

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Posted in Exploration, Life, Personal Challenge, Photography, Southern California, Tourism, Travel, Writing

It’s Terrifying to Try Something New & Face Your Fears: Personal Challenge, Day 7 (9.23.12)

I have managed to make it through a week of going somewhere or trying something new every day.  So I guess it is only fitting on the 7th day, I return to one of my favorite places in Southern California and face something that has terrified me for years, The Hollywood Tower of Terror ride at Disney California Adventure.

My friends and I have annual passes to the Disneyland resort so we go there together once a month.  We usually stick to the safer rides, like The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Ariel’s Undersea Adventure and now Radiator Springs Racers in Carsland.  Occasionally we will go on the more daring roller coaster rides (though some in the group refuse to go on those rides and will wait for those of us who are thrill seekers) like Space Mountain, California’s Screamin’, Goofy’s Flight School, Indiana Jones and Matterhorn.  But in all the years of visiting DLR, we never even thought about attempting the Hollywood Tower of Terror.

But while on this quest to try new things and overcome my fears, I requested Hollywood Tower of Terror.  The majority of the group decided to wait out the ride while myself and three of my male companions decided we would step into the Twilight Zone’s Tower of Terror.

As a person who is afraid of heights and even more afraid of falling, this was a heart pounding experiment, especially when my friends who were sitting out the ride talked about how much they hated the ride and that “plunging” feeling.  But being the only female with a group of guys, I tried to laugh off my fears.  I joked with the elevator operator and one of my guy friends about how the warning signs show two people buckled in their seat holding hands.  I asked if that was mandatory so playing along, my friend said he would hold my hand.  I don’t think he was quite prepared for the death grip that I had on his hand for the entire ride.  And to give you a sense of exactly how I was feeling during this elevator plunge of a ride (up and down 13 stories), just take a look at our picture.  Ironically, we were sitting in row 6 (The front row to the left–I’m in the red tank top and only female on that side).

Even though the ride was nerve-wracking and a heart-pounding thrill ride to face my fears, I would do it again.  I just have to make sure that I eat after the ride and not before the ride.