Tuesday, October 17, 2017

An Introduction to the San Andreas Fault

The San Andreas Fault is under the road in this area.
   There are things in life that a person knows but chooses to ignore. We tend to like to focus on the positive things rather than the negative. This may be shying away from the news to avoid the stories of assaults, robberies and accidents. It may even be as simple as going out for pizza after brushing off your latest kitchen mishap resulting in burnt chicken. But what I've found while living here in Southern California for the last year is that people tend to not think about earthquakes as much as I thought they would. Even writing this article I'm still not sure how I found myself on the subject but somehow I got the crazy idea that I needed to research the San Andreas fault. After ten minutes or so I decided that doing research wasn't going to satisfy me. I had become mildly obsessed with this near 800 mile long crack in the ground. The fault represents where two tectonic plates, the Pacific and the  North American, meet. These plates are moving in opposite directions which is what causes our earthquakes. This is fascinating stuff. No, reading about it wasn't going to be enough. I had to see this thing for myself. So how was I to go about doing it?
Elizabeth Lake's dry boat ramp.
 Like many faults, the San Andreas isn't exactly the easiest thing to see. It's not like there is really an obvious giant crack running across the face of the Earth, right? Well, sort of. I used Google Earth for an incredible view of the fault from above and actually from that vantage point you can actually see an obvious line dividing California. But I knew that I would need a little more information to actually get up close and personal to this thing. Well I happened upon a book called the Field Guide to the San Andreas Fault by David K. Lynch.
 The book breaks down the fault into twelve sections and turns them into a mile by mile geology tour of California. Now that may not sound romantic but before you roll your eyes at the prospect ask yourself this: what is it about the outdoors that you find so appealing? I bet one of the first things you think about is the scenery. Do you like to stare down at the Colorado River in the bottom of the Grand Canyon? How much do you enjoy the views of El Capitan and Half Dome in Yosemite? Did you visit Arches National Park and fill your memory card with photos of the amazing sandstone formations? Yes you did. Congratulations, you just learned that you're a geology fan.
View of Quail Lake.
 The fault starts near the Salton Sea to the south of me and stretches up past San Francisco in the north. I looked through the book and found the sections that allowed the best views of the fault. From there I found the sections closest to my house and from there planned a Sunday afternoon drive through Palmdale and up to Frazier Park. This introduction to the San Andreas let me explore over 50 miles of the fault and opened my eyes to not only how close it is to where I live but also how it likes to hide in plane sight. There were sections of the fault that travel directly under the road we were driving on. In fact, if you start to pay attention you can see how the asphalt is separating and cracking from the stress.
The desert ends and the mountains begin. 
  Along this part of the drive you are treated to views of the quieter parts of California where the houses come with a little breathing room in between and no traffic. We came across small ponds, dry lake beds and some interesting geological features that one would ordinarily ignore if they didn't have a handy dandy guide book to tell them what they were looking at. Thanks to the book we got to pull over at a view point that over looked a valley where the Mohave Desert ended and the Sierra Nevada mountains begin. I never would have imagined that here in the dry desert is where I would see the Sierra Nevada's. I'm pretty sure it was more exciting for me than my companions but hey, I enjoyed it. 
The fault snakes across a meadow.
 Of course we did get plenty of opportunities to see the fault first hand and while it may not seem like much more than a small ditch in some places we did get to see some impressive evidence of the fault in other places where scarps identify the San Andreas' path.
This is just the first of many trips that we are planning to visit along the San Andreas fault over the next couple of months. I would love to just start at one end and cruise toward the other but that just isn't feasible for me right now so we'll just hit it one section at a time. My next plan is to head north to the Carrizo Plain, east of San Luis Obispo, where some of the most impressive evidence of the shifting plates are waiting. Here we'll get to get a little dirt on the tires and we will actually get to climb inside the fault itself for a unique experience. It's a trip I'm really getting exiting for. I hope this inspires you to take do something a little different for your upcoming adventures. Remember, a little learning with your leisure time is not necessarily a bad thing.    

Friday, October 13, 2017

Our Adventure at Cornbelly's and Insanity Point.

We have talked about Thanksgiving Point before here on the blog when we talked about Luminaria and a little bit about it here when we talked about the Fun Five of Utah. Now we are back to Thanksgiving Point to talk about the other adventure we love so much there.  We drove from the warm California sun to pick out the granite slab for the home we are building.  While we were there we had a smidgen of time to stop by Cornbelly's and Insanity Points haunted fun and snap some quick photos.  

You can buy tickets online before you go.  Often this can save you a few dollars if you search for discount codes (For example BELLY will get you $2 off per ticket here).  We missed this step and just paid when we got there, but for all we got it wasn't a bad deal.  They have great options in prices to suit your family needs.  Each pass includes the courtyard activities and the corn maze.  As you get higher priced tickets you add Insanity Point scary attractions.  If you have toddlers then you would love the Laughin' pass which is $11.95 Monday through Thursday and $14.95 on the weekends.  We picked the second option, the Lovin' ticket for $29.95.  This includes everything they have to offer.  The only ticket above this is the season pass which is $59.95 and is basically a Lovin' pass with the ability to bounce back for the entire season.  Included with the Lovin' pass is Insanity Point and five tabs you redeem for either activities or treats while you are there.  We are big fans of the kettle corn if you are having trouble making up your minds on anything.  

The largest part of our night was spent in the Courtyard.  This is where you can find most of the activities.  We laughed so hard at the pig races.  We loved to shoot apples in the apple cannon shooting range.  We watched people ride the mechanical bull though no one in our group was feeling up to it that night.  We had kettle corn, hot cocoa and cookies.  All of this was included in our tabs and our ticket in.  There is a giant air pillow for kids to jump in, rides and games for the kids.  You can roast smores or chat around the fire.  The little ones can burn off energy on the haybail playground.  If you love looking for gems they have that too.    

The highlight of the night for me was the scare factor.  You can walk through the smaller haunted attractions as you wait for your time to hit the but haunt.  The Creature Insanity Point was a great walk through full of zombies, clowns and things that make you jump.  Quick tip, when you see the rear end of a cow duck fast.  It was dark and scary.  It was a great combination of outdoors and enclosed rooms.  The walk through the bus full of prisoners was absolutely petrifying.  The special effects are intense and the characters are dedicated to their parts. 

Of course the ended the night with beautiful super hero themed fireworks.  This is a Halloween tradition we will be continuing for a long time.  We love the family fun that Cornbelly's has to offer.  Our littles are not as little as they used to be.  The haunted attractions are more fun today but keep in mind that they are designed for people 12 and older.  

We are big fans of this event and we think you will love it too.  If you want to learn more about Thanksgiving point you can learn more here and learn more about Cornbelly's here

Off to the next adventure.  Happy travels.  

❤ Misty










Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Adventure Rides: Spidey

  Not long ago I introduced you to Klondike, our Jeep Wrangler Unlimited that we use for our rock crawling and overland adventures. But sometimes we like to go a little faster than ten miles an hour and we like to find some tighter trails to get us deeper into the back country. For those days we turn to our Polaris RZR. 
  The black, red and blue color schemes this 2016 RZR reminded us of Spider Man's outfit so it was only natural that we have nicknamed this ride, "Spidey." This Trail 900 with electronic power steering has been a great replacement to the 800 that we had before. The ability to carry four passengers has been a game changer for our family. No longer does anyone have to stay behind at camp to watch the kids while the other gets to go out on the trail. Of course, now the kids are older and we have used Spidey to start training them to drive a car. The driving basics are the same but the smaller size of the RZR makes it less intimidating for them to operate.
 If only we got to take Spidey out more often. Unfortunately we've had this RZR for over a year and we've just gotten past the 25 hour break in period. This is because we've had to leave him with family in Salt Lake while we've been here in California for work. This hasn't stopped us from using it but it has obviously kept our outing limited.
  I look at these RZR's as the Jeep of the UTV world. Their popularity has exploded and so has the aftermarket. The amount of parts that you can bolt on to one of these things is amazing considering how "new" they are to the off road world. I've always got my eye on the possibilities but so far the full plastic "bikini" top is all we have added. We just haven't had the time to really decide what kind of additions we want to make. I do know that the first thing I'm going to do is put a street legal kit on it. This adds turn signals and a horn to allow us to license it for road use. Utah has embraced the UTV which has opened up access like we've never had before. 
  I had a hard time accepting the UTV when they first arrived on the scene. I never saw them as a replacement for my quads but as time has gone on I have changed my tune. They allow us to go to the dunes, cruise through tight woods and now take us to the grocery store. All this with all four of us in the same machine. The RZR has proved to be versatile and important to our adventure fleet and I look forward to spending more time out on the trails with it over the years. They are expensive (the price of a Honda Civic) but if you're looking for a machine that can do it all this may be what you're looking for.

Brandan

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

2017 Off Road Expo

 One of my favorite parts of attending the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah is the vendor show held the second weekend of the event. This show is where the who's who of the off road world converge to showcase their latest and greatest products. Each year the show tends to get bigger with more product available and little elbow room to browse. Until recently I didn't think I would see anything that would compare to it. Well, when I walked through the entrance to the 2017 Off-Road Expo in Pamona, California I learned that there was a next level and this is it.
 The expo is held at the L.A. County Fairgrounds and utilizes indoor and outdoor spaces. Like three warehouses and a couple of football fields. It was awesome. Everything you could ever want and even more that you didn't know that you needed were on display for you to handle. Vendors were there to answer all of your questions and to give you ideas that you may not have thought about doing with your ride on your own.
  The Off-Road Expo incorporates all aspects of the off road community. Here there were pre-runner trucks, UTV's and Jeeps. SCORE off-road racing had a very large indoor display as well as an outdoor area where the drivers got to show off their skills. 
  Jeep and Toyota both had displays that showcased their current model year vehicles and Winnebago showed off their all new Revel 4x4 RV. The Revel is a compact RV built on a Sprinter van platform from Mercedes. It's made to get you farther into the back country and take all the comforts of home with you.
 What has become very apparent to me is that the Polaris RZR is taking over the off-road industry. They were the first vehicles I saw when I walked through the gate and you couldn't throw a rock and not hit one. As far as the aftermarket for RZR goes, I would say they are very similar to Jeep. Everyone has something cool to bolt onto one and improvements are limitless. At this show, however, the RZR builds are built more for the all around off-roading experience. If you want to see the ones built for sand then you need to go the Sand and Sport Expo. Wheel's, tires and CB radios were around every corner and for some reason full LED whips are extremely popular. I don't see the RZR popularity dying off anytime soon.
  Another segment of the community that is starting to take off here in the U.S. is the overlanding side. There were plenty of roof top tents, pull behind trailers and traction devices to peak your interests.
  Of course there was no lack of things to purchase but I think 4 Wheel Parts reigned king. I think they had three tents outside and a very large indoor display that sucked me in. They had enough inventory there that I'm both happy and sad that I may have missed something I needed.
  A unique display that grabbed a lot of attention was the Rubicon Experience. If you were interested in what it would be like to travel the famous Rubicon Trail the expo gave you the opportunity to live it. Sort of. Piles of boulders and off camber dirt hills attempted to recreate what it is like on the trail. However, if you've been to the Rubicon you would immediately see that there just aren't enough boulders to create the Rubicon. The display did peak a lot of people's interests, though, and in my opinion that's a win.
  Here's a tip for anyone that is going to attend a vendor show. If you have something that you are planning on buying do your research before you go. I went to the expo looking for deals on a few different items. I had already figured out the costs at all of the online dealers including Amazon. This gave me the freedom to browse the booths and know exactly what I should be paying. The good news is that I found some of the things I was looking for. But the bad news is I only found a good deal on one of them. I did pick it up, though, and I'm happy to have gotten it. The kids were just happy to have a greasy snack while I shopped. 
 I will always look forward to going to the vendor show in Moab during the Jeep Safari. Knowing that a show of this magnitude exists and has so much to offer will always make me think about visiting SoCal each fall. You will never see another show like it. If you do see one, please let me know. I'm always looking for more parts because when it comes to your off-road vehicle project, there is no such thing as being complete.

Brandan
  

Friday, September 29, 2017

Halloween Time at Disneyland


Disneyland is the king for creating an environment that can pull you right in.  The holiday season is one of my most favorite times to visit the Happiest Place on Earth.  The only times I like better are when the crowds are magically missing.  Halloween Time is in full swing at the parks so we took a quick trip down to see how the mouse decorated his house this year.  

In true Disney style the magic started even before you entered the park.  We parked in the Mickey and Friends parking lot where we always do unless we are staying at one of their amazing hotels.  As you pull away be ready to look to your right.  After you turn the first bend Mickey, Minnie and Donald are all dressed up for Halloween fun.  Soon after that turn to your left hand side and Goofy and Pluto will greet you with a ghostly scene. 

After you get off the tram you will be in Downtown Disney.  We made the walk to the park gates to be greeted with these giant pumpkin tributes to the Disneyland tribe.  They sit above the entrance gates for you to study while you are waiting your turn to go inside.  

As soon as you get through those gates you have a really cool photo opportunity.  The photo pass people are there waiting to help you get the perfect shot of this floral mickey with the background of the railroad behind it.  This is classic Disneyland memory magic.  

When you enter Main Street you will be in the middle of a Disney style pumpkin festival.  Along the entire stretch of Main Street you can see hundreds of one of a kind jack-o-lanterns peeking down at you.  The colors of fall are everywhere and in the center is a huge Mickey Mouse jack-o-lantern which is also a perfect photo opportunity.  The park is scattered with your favorite characters in their costumes and even quite a few villains running around.  You will know where to find them when you see the lines.  Seriously, have you got the idea that Halloween Time is a good time to get a million pictures because it is. 
At the end of Main Street surrounding the Partners Statue you can see special pumpkins carved to look like their favorite Disney buddies.  
You cant talk about Halloween time with out mentioning the Haunted Mansion.  Jack Skellington has decked it out with his haunted style of holiday cheer.  Now through January of 2018 you can see the Haunted Mansion decked out in the style of The Nightmare Before Christmas. For sure this is a cant miss event.  Space Mountain is also changed over for the Halloween season to Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy.  These two rides bring in big crowds just to see them.  Plan on making good use of the FastPass system since both rides have it available.  

In addition to all the fun decorations there is also a huge variety of ways to spend your money on Disney Halloween gear.  From orange Mickey ears to light up home decor you can find so many things you will need to have.  It takes a lot of self control to not load it all up and take it home.  

We have a strong honesty policy here.  I am going to say something that might not be very popular but I stand by it.  Disneyland also does something incredible on select nights.  Mickey's Halloween Party has a Headless Horseman, the best Trick-or-treating you can ever experience and that is for the adults too, special fireworks, Cadaver Dans singing their stopped hearts out, Villains Square and a Frightfully Fun Parade.  In true Disney style they go all out for this sold out event.  We looked at tickets and we have been before but we are not going this year.  When you buy tickets to this event you will get into the parks three hours before the event and spend 5 hours partying away for the cost of $120 a person.  We have done this before.  It was the most candy ever.  We paid $59 for our experience years ago and it was pretty cool.  The kiddos loved the heaps of candy.  Tricky part was getting them to not eat it before you went on a stomach churning ride.  This event brings in big crowds and if you are a people watcher, a person who loves to seek autographs or a person who has unlimited patience for waiting in lines you might love it.  We chose to save the $440 it would cost our family.  I think that the price of $120 a person for a partial day at the park with guaranteed crowds isn't worth it.  FYI- if you are at the park on a day that the event takes place know that you will not be spending the whole day at the park.  Don't get me wrong.  I love Disneyland.  I gladly spend the money on annual passes so I can come and go as I please.  For now we live just a few hours from the park and we go often.  Before we were living in SoCal we still had annual passes because Disneyland is Magical and I think it has its value.  That value is lost on me a little bit when its me and a million friends all jockeying for the same piece of real-estate.  

Eek.  I feel like I have said terrible things here.  The Halloween experience in the park is cool.  If you even like Halloween you will love this event.  We have experienced it once and I feel like that might have been enough. I love Halloween but I don't love how the crowds have exploded at the park.  Eight hours sounds like a long time but its not if you are waiting in 90 minute lines.  

Am I wrong?  Like I said, its been a long time since we have tried the event.  Maybe I have no idea how well Disneyland has streamlined this event.  Maybe they have limited the number of tickets better so that the crowds aren't as massive.  I definitely don't feel like an expert here.  

Overall take on this post.  Disneyland does really cool things.  If you choose to go to the Halloween Party I am excited for you and I would love to hear all about it.  If you choose not to go to the Halloween Party, it is still very worth it to go see what has been done on a day that the party wont be going on.  Either way Disneyland is a Magical place and you will love it. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Ready For The Worst

 With all of the hurricanes and earthquakes occurring in our part of the world it's hard not to feel for those affected by these natural disasters. Seeing the damage, devastation and the recovery brought feelings of sorrow on one day and pure joy on others. All together, however, it has reminded us of the importance of being ready for the worst before the worst hits us.


72 Hour Kits
  Over the last couple of weeks we reevaluated our 72 hour kits and found many of our supplies out of date and ready to be replaced. The kits we've had for the kids needed to be updated and we decided to add some other supplies to help keep us as comfortable as possible for the first few days of a natural disaster. Let's face it, we still have a year here in California and I don't think I need to tell you how likely an earthquake is to strike here.

  Being ready at home is one thing. But what about when you are on the road? Is there anything you can do? If you're flying to your destination it will be difficult. The airlines limit what you can take with you and nobody really wants to carry a lot of extra baggage with them as they travel. The only advice I can give you is to hit up a grocery store for some snacks that you don't mind eating when you are in and out of your hotel room. The airline traveling is an area that we have neglected and haven't figured out yet. We do spend a lot of time on the road, however, and that is what I'm going to focus on today. So I have put together a list of a few items that we carry with us for the just in case.

Tool Kit- We don't leave home without at least a small tool kit in the car. The kit includes wrenches and sockets of both standard and metric sizes. It only has the most common sizes because it is a basic kit but it will do in a pinch. A pair of pliers, a little tie wire and of course, the almighty duct tape are also important additions to the kit. Of course when we head out on the trail in the Jeep I have a larger tool kit, spare parts, jumper cables and a Hi-Lift jack due to the Jeep having a lift kit.

72-hour kit- For longer drives we carry a 72 hour kit in the car in anticipation for the worst. While we don't travel too many remote roads during the winter months where we could get stranded we feel better having the kit anyway. I've seen too many TV shows telling the stories of stranded families not to be prepared. Besides there may be a chance in the future when we could cross into tornado country or earthquake territory and get more than we bargained for. The food bars also make for a handy snack when you have a snack attack while at church or something. Just don't forget to replace them as you eat through them.  You can buy them ready made here, or build your own from an online list like this.  

Rechargeable Jump Starter- This one we learned the hard way. A trip to Disneyland a few years ago had one less than magical moment. Three days into the trip I happened to head out to the car to get something out of the trunk. As I approached the car I could see a dim light glowing in the darkness. The dome light. I remember turning it on but I couldn't remember turning it off. Mainly because I didn't turn it off. I stuck the key in the ignition, said my many pleases to the car gods and sunk into the seat when all I heard was the clicking of the starter. The good news was that a call to the front desk brought us the parking gurus that had a portable jump starter and we were up and running again. Today we have a jump starter of our own that is a third the size as they use to be and also will charge laptops, phones and almost anything else you may need to charge. This one is made by Stark Power. I used it on a coworkers truck a few weeks ago and I have to say, I'm pleased.  Here is one we found on Amazon that is similar to the one we carry.  

Blankets and sweatshirts- Depending on the time of year and where we are traveling we will bring the proper clothing for the weather we plan to be in. It is also a good idea to always have a blanket and sweatshirts for when the sun goes down. The desert can have a wide range of temperature swings and it helps to be able to stay warm when the sun goes down.

First Aid and Miscellaneous Items- A small first aid kit with just the basics and some pain reliever are a given. A flashlight of some kind and our phone chargers are also part of our travel kit. Many times we'll carry a hand held HAM radio to have with us as well. One addition we've had to add is Benadryl. A food allergy has come up in our family and our first line of defense is to use Benadryl to help relieve an allergic reaction. This works for us at this time and we hope we don't have to get any more extreme than that. Know your families needs when it comes to medications and make sure you have it with you. This may be the most important thing you do.

 Well, there it the overview of our car kit. It isn't as big as it sounds and it isn't hard to have these things with you. In the end it is up to you to decide what you need to have with you but we strongly urge you to build your own kit and be ready for the worst even when you're having the time of your lives.
  
Brandan


Friday, September 22, 2017

Justice League: Battle for Metropolis at Six Flags Magic Mountain

Six Flags Magic Mountain is thrilling.  Its exciting and fast paced.  Its heart pounding roller coasters from one edge of its 262 acres to the other. Six Flags Magic Mountain holds the world record for most roller coasters in an amusement park.  Magic Mountain is an awesome place to spend a day and they are always adding new rides to the mix.  Today we are going to talk about their newest ride.  Justice League: Battle for Metropolis.  

Metropolis is under attack and the Justice League is there to save the day.  There's a catch though, they need your help.  Join them and you become members of the Justice League Reserve Team.  Enter into the Hall of Justice and be ready to start your adventure.  

The line to enter is right outside of these huge doors.  Magic Mountain employees will let you in in small groups.  When you enter into the first room you are greeted by three large statues of Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman.  (Super cool place for a selfie)! On the wall across from it is a huge screen where your Justice League friends will give you the details on what is going on and why you are needed.  

The message starts with Superman himself and he is joined by Batman, but is soon broke in by villains Lex Luthor and the Joker.  The story unfolds and we are needed to help stop the spreading of deadly laughing gas.  This is a huge task to take on and they need more hands to get this done.  Don't worry though, they have a plan.  

We then enter to the next room where we are visited by Cyclops.  He is there to tell us all the info we need to succeed  on our mission.  The Justice League has a new tool to fight this battle and we will be equipped to use it.  So far we are just moving in a clump of people but on the back left side of the room there is a door.  Its near the door we entered the room from.  This will be where you enter the last part of the line and the whole clump of people in the room will funnel through it.  Keep your group together at this point since its easy to get separated in the chaos.  

When you enter the line you start to see the mission unfold.  The line isn't very long and you can see where the ride loads.  The sides of the walls are loaded with signs telling you all the little details you might need such as scoring and what all you are going to need. Yes! I said scoring!  This is a great place to get your competition on.  Do the best you can and you will see your results as you go through the game.  You will be loaded into a car, or your Reserve Team Vehicle, that seats you and five of your friends.  Since this is an all immersive experience you will need to put on some 3D glasses. As far as 3D glasses go these are great.  They aren't your basic theme park glasses.  They will actually stay on your head and really they don't look as silly as many of them do.  

In your Reserve Team Vehicle is a blaster that shoots EMP waves to disable electronics and stun humans.  This will be your tool to beat the baddies.  Each gun shoots a different color blast out and you can see what color is yours on the dash in front of you.  Use the gun and fight the bad guys, but  don't shoot the good ones.  I'm not sure if it hurts your score or not, but even if it doesn't bad form! After you have learned finished the game you will find out your score and how you compare to others that have competed.  I asked an employee and the scores reset at night so I'm sure that there are people out there that can beat this score, but Jeremy got in the top 1% of all time!  He is very good at these games.  He beats me at Disneyland's Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters as well.  

After you see your score you have one more surprise in store.  Harley Quinn is there to blast you one last time.  Survive Harley and go to the end of the ride.  There you will see a score board that has all your scores and where you ranked for the day.  Overall this ride is a very cool addition to the Six Flags Magic Mountain family.  

What is your favorite Six Flags Magic Mountain ride? 

Hope your travels are thrilling. 
❤ Misty