Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Chicago

“It’s a metaphor, see: You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.” – John Green

My Mom has come to visit me for the third time on this journey of mine, and I am just as excited to see her as I was the last two times.  I booked us tickets the first night for Adam’s Murder Mystery Playhouse in Denver (http://www.adamsmysteryplayhouse.com/amp.htm). We had such a blast! The actors were very interactive and hilarious.

Our first day we took a trip to Colorado Springs. We walked around the trails at The Garden of the Gods.  Its incredible how these 300′ towering sandstone rock formation just jet out of the earth. It wasn’t a clear enough day to take a trip to the stunning snow capped Pikes Peak adjacent to the garden, so we headed to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. It wouldn’t be a trip without hitting a brewery while we were there too! We stopped for a drink and some lunch at Trinity Brewery and they had this cool doorway of books that lead into the barrels of beer.

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 I have always wanted to see what this Red Rocks amphitheater is all about. Now that I have seen it, I NEED to go to a concert there.  The view is incredible and the rock formations are spectacular. On a clear day like we had, you can see downtown Denver in the distance. I didn’t get a chance to check it out, but there are dinosaur footprints in the rocks nearby.

IMG_7508 IMG_7495That evening, I drove up to Boulder to see a friend of mine from middle school. She lives up in the mountain side.  We drank some IPAs and watched the sunset, catching up on life. Her and her husband are building a tiny house, which I can’t wait to see how it turns out. I’m so excited and happy for them. I feel so lucky to be able to reconnect with so many people on this trip.

We had the whole family get together on Mother’s day to celebrate. My aunt ordered Chinese food for dinner because its a tradition in their family. One year on Mother’s day my cousin had chickenpox, so they ordered Chinese. The next year my other cousin got chickenpox, and so the tradition began. Great night, with great people.

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My next destination was Chicago, but it would take more then a day to drive there. When looking at the map, I decided I would stop in Omaha, Nebraska since that’s where the number one zoo in the world is located. After visiting the San Diego Zoo (#2 in the world) I figured I needed to compare.  I am not sure how they rate each zoo. Do the number of species matter? If each species of tarantula is counted then I think that’s unfair because I didn’t need to even know that many existed.  Even if the spiders and snakes weren’t counted, I do think Omaha had more species.  They even had an aquarium where you walked through a tunnel with sharks swimming overhead. There is a huge price difference in the two zoos as well. Omaha is about $17 while San Diego is $50.  San Diego’s Zoo has an amazing set up everywhere you look, where Omaha has a few really cool areas, but lacks in some areas.  I think San Diego will always win in my eyes because of the company I had with me.

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Before heading to Chicago, I decided to stop and visit the girls I met on the Grand Canyon mule ride. I stayed one night in Minneapolis and then headed to New Prague to visit all the horses and have drinks with the girls.

IMG_20160514_240550083 IMG_20160514_085746240_HDR IMG_20160514_092548041Chicago is an amazing city! I stayed in a hostel downtown where I went on a brewery tour with a group. I ended up spending the rest of my time in Chicago with the people from the hostel. We rented bikes and used them all day. I did the architectural boat tour which is super interesting. I wish more cities had tours like this, but the river makes it easy. We got drinks on top of the Hancock building and did all the top tourist things. I will being visiting this city again the future.

IMG_20160515_150808923_HDR IMG_20160515_121813609 IMG_20160514_220153073Off to the home of the Oatey Company!

Yosemite, Sequoia, Death Valley, Las Vegas, Reno and Lake Tahoe

I’m on a rollercoaster that only goes up my friend. – John Green

This leg of my trip was a little altered due to weather, but still turned out incredible! I headed to Yosemite and upon arrival, I realized a lot of roads are closed in the winter. A snow storm started when I got there so I just filled up my time inside where I could stay warm!  I woke up at sunrise to a beautiful day, and was able to explore and get some hikes in.

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My original plan was to drive through Yosemite to the East, but that road was closed.  I decided to head to Sequoia National Park and drive around the long way.  Why not! Some of Sequoia’s roads are closed down or you need tire chains to drive them. I drove as far (past the chain limit) as I felt safe and then turned around.  It was a winter wonderland!

IMG_6588 IMG_6575 IMG_6566 IMG_6556Next stop, Death Valley and Las Vegas.  Why not have some fun! I had a friend that happened to be in Las Vegas at the time, so it ended up working out perfectly. I love how in Vegas you can walk from Paris to Rome in less then 5 minutes. “We will always have Paris”.

IMG_6599 IMG_6592IMG_20160330_224444329 IMG_20160330_223507018 IMG_20160330_184227966On my way to Reno, I stopped at Lake Mono, which is on the opposite side of Yosemite (the original plan). There is also a ghost town, called Bodie, I was planning on stopping at, but the road was closed. In Florida, we don’t close roads for the winter.

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Reno, “The Biggest Little City in the World”. My brother’s best friend since I was two (aka my second brother), moved to Reno about two years ago. It was great to see him and his family. They took me to Virginia City, which is an old mining town with a lot of history and saloons.  We took a tour down in one of the mines, learning about the process that was used back in the 1860’s. My friend also currently creates the animation for slot machines.  He brought me to the casinos in Reno to show me and I won $50! Can’t wait to visit them again!

IMG_20160403_014741251 IMG_20160402_235344129 14849 IMG_6677IMG_666514878Can’t stop in Reno without seeing Lake Tahoe. I have a friend living in Truckee for the winter. We went to a Bluegrass festival and some took a few hikes with breathtaking views.

IMG_6694IMG_671215223 15244Oregon and Washington next!