USA – Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah – Part 2 of 2

In September 2017 my Dad and I went on a one week trip to the USA to explore the beautiful scenery that Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah have to offer. I started my blog series in 2016 but due to 2017 being such a busy year for travel I actually forgot to write about this.

2017 USA Road Trip

In Part 1 of 2 we left off with staying the night on Day 3 in Albuquerque after visiting the Puye Cliff Dwellings. This is Part 2 of 2 of this series. Enjoy!

On the 4th day we continued driving north towards the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge with a stop at the Classical Gas Museum in Embudo, New Mexico. The museum is the work of a man named Johnnie Meier, a gentleman who after retiring from the nearby Los Alamos National Laboratory started to collect car memorabilia. His collection is the efforts of over 25 years of hard work.

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After stopping at the Classical Gas Museum we continued north to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. The 390 metre (1280 foot) long steel deck arch bridge was designed by architect Charles Reed, and was built in 1965. It is the 10th highest bridge in the USA, sitting roughly 180 metres (600 feet) above the Rio Grande River. The bride won the award of being the “Most Beautiful Steel Bridge” in the “Long Span” category in 1966 by the American Institute of Steel Construction. In 1997 it was added to the 1997 National Register of Historic Place (NRHP). It received a relatively in-expensive $2.4 million repair and facelift in 2012, which included structural steelwork, a new concrete deck surface, new sidewalks, ramps, curbs and gutters. When we were there we also met a couple who were riding around on a completely custom V8 trike that they had built.

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After visiting the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge we continued along our journey to our next stop just a few minutes away called Earthship Biotecture. Michael Reynolds is the founder and creator of the concept. He came to Taos after graduation architectural school in 1969. He was inspired by the problem of trash, pollution and the lack of affordable housing so he sought out a solution to create affordable housing that was sustainable. These homes are called Earthships. His home designs can be seen all over North America, including close to home here in my province of Alberta. Dad and I purchased a few books and I ended up reading them along the road trip. They were extremely informative and you can easily create an Earthship, even for use in a colder climate such as Alberta, with a lot of elbow grease.

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After visiting Earthship Biotecture it was time to find some accommodation. We ended up heading back to Flagstaff, Arizona for the night. Accommodation was at the Couryard by Marriott for $120 CDN. We went back to Flagstaff Brewing Company for dinner and more beers.

The next day we woke up early and we drove to Shiprock, New Mexico before heading to the Four Corners Mounment. Shiprock, also known by the Navajo as “the rick with wings” is a monadnock rising 483 metres (1583 feet) above the desert. It’s peak is 2188 metres (7177 feet) above sea level.

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The Four Corners Monument marks the quadripoint in the US where the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet. Is the only point in the United States where four states perfectly meet. The monument  is made of granite and brass and I got a picture of myself in all four states.

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Next stop was Natural Bridges National Monument where Dad and I did some hiking. We first hiked Sipapu Bridge, which is a 2 km hike with 133 metres (436 feet) of elevation differential. Across from the bridge you can actually see the ancient structures of Horse Collar Ruin that were believed to have been built over 700 years ago!

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The next hike in Natural Bridges National Monument was Kachina Bridge, a 2.25 km hike with 140 metres (462 feet) of elevation differential. There is a lot of switchbacks and wooden stairs to get to the bottom of the valley, but the view was totally worth it!

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The final stop in Natural Bridges National Monument was Owachomo Bridge, also known as the “Little Bridge” It’s extremely slender in the middle and is also the oldest bridge in the park. The hike is only 1 km and has 60 metres (190 feet) of elevation differential. This was my favourite bridge in the park!

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It was time to find somewhere to stay for the night. We ended up staying at the Super 8 in Moab for $80 CDN. We had dinner at The Blu Pig, a blue’s themed bar with delicious smoked meat. I felt my arteries clogging as I ate my food and we drank our beer.

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The next morning we had breakfast at the Moab Diner, before driving into Canyonlands to see the Indian Hieroglyph’s and the unique rock features in the park.

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The next stop, which was my favorite park of the entire trip was Arches National Park.  When you enter into the park you see the beautiful “Courthouse Towers”!

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Our two stops were the magnificent “North Window” and equally stunning “Double Arch”.

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Next up was Panorama Point and “Delicate Arch”. Delicate Arch required 5 km of hiking with 190 metres (620 feet) of elevation differential, but it was worth it!

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The final stop for the day was Goblin Valley State Park. “The Three Sisters” great you as you enter the park.

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We decided to do “The Goblin’s Lair” hike while we were in the park. The hike is 4 km long and has about 50 metres (165 feet) of elevation differential. At the end of the hike there is a cave area you can climb into, which I decided to do, but my dad stayed back in case I got injured as it was fairly difficult climbing down into the cave.

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It was time to check into our hotel for the night. We stayed at The Snuggle Inn in Loa, Utah for $120 CDN. We had the entire hotel to ourselves. Dinner was at the wonderful restaurant that I don’t remember the name of, but a quick look on google maps shows that it no longer exists.

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The next morning we had breakfast at The Country Café. the owner was very nice and it was funny because he was mad that his son was late showing up to work and when his son did show up to work he just took money from the till and left. The food was pretty good though!

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Today we drove towards Las Vegas with a few stops along the way including Zion National Park. It was absolutely pouring rain in Zion National Park so we just got out of the car to take a few photos, before continuing on to Las Vegas.

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After arriving in Las Vegas Dad and I checked into the Luxor Hotel for the next 2 nights. Rooms were only $40 CDN per night so we both got our own room. He was starting to not feel too well so he ended up having a nap and I explored the hotel and the Las Vegas streets.

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The next day Dad and I went for breakfast at a restaurant outside of Planet Hollywood, but that restaurant no longer exists, and I can’t find the name of it online.

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After breakfast we visited The Auto Collections car museum at the LINQ Hotel, formerly the Imperial Palace. Sadly, the museum shut down at the end of 2017. I’m very fortunate to have seen this museum 3 times since 2013.2017-09-01 USA 3882017-09-01 USA 3892017-09-01 USA 3922017-09-01 USA 3942017-09-01 USA 3972017-09-01 USA 4002017-09-01 USA 4102017-09-01 USA 4112017-09-01 USA 4122017-09-01 USA 418

We spent the afternoon relaxing at the hotel, and even did some gambling, making a 50% profit on the $20 we initially invested. Dad still wasn’t feeling well so I decided to go to the Neon Museum by myself in the evening. The Neon Museum features signs from old casinos and other businesses from the Las Vegas area. The main feature is the fully restored lobby shell from the defunct La Concha Motel as it’s main visitor center. The Neon Museum opened on October 27th 2012.

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One the final day of our trip we went to the Carroll Shelby Museum before doing some plane spotting, and then catching our flight home. The Carroll Shelby Museum, which functions three-fold as the Headquarters, a Museum, and the actual production facility.

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An all-time past of mine is plane spotting. I have an absolute love of aviation, and my father has always taken me plane spotting since I was a very small child. Las Vegas has some prime plane spotting areas, which my Dad had researched, so we sat and watching planes for a bit, before it was time to catch our flight home.

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Be sure to check back soon when I depart on my Eastern Europe road trip in about a month!

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USA – Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah – Part 1 of 2

In September 2017 my Dad and I went on a one week trip to the USA to explore the beautiful scenery that Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah have to offer. I started my blog series in 2016 but due to 2017 being such a busy year for travel I actually forgot to write about this.

2017 USA Road Trip

Our trip started and ended in Las Vegas, Nevada. The reason for us starting the trip here was the frequency of flights offered from our home city of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Non-stop flights can be had on Air Canada Rouge, WestJet for around $300-500 return if booked 45-90 days in advance. The savings can add up even more if you book a hotel and flight package.

We arrived on an evening flight and stayed at the Desert Rose Resort, which went for roughly $130 CDN a night back in 2017, but with a recent renovation has gone up to roughly $300 CDN a night. I can almost guarantee that you’ll get better value staying elsewhere now.

The next day we drove to Page, Arizona where we stayed the night. We had a few stops along the way at some nice slot canyons, but nothing as amazing as what we were going to visit the next day.

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Accommodation in Page was at the Motel 6 for roughly $60 CDN. For dinner we ate at State 48 Tavern, which I highly recommend. We both had burgers and beer.

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On Day 2 we woke up early and drove into the center of town to get picked up by Chief Tsosie Slot Canyon Tours to take us for a half day tour to Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. When we used them they drove us out in 20 year old pickup trucks with cages in the back, but they have recently upgraded to very nice shuttles that have air conditioning. Either way I highly recommend them!

Antelope Canyon is a two separate slot canyons located near Page, Arizona. Upper Antelope Canyon is known as “The Crack” and Lower Antelope Canyon is known as the “Corkscrew”. The Navajo also refer to Upper Antelope Canyon as “the place where water runs through the rocks”, and Lower Antelope Canyon as “spiral rock arches”. The canyons are formed by the erosion of the Navajo Sandstone due to flash flooding. Rainwater during the monsoon season runs into the slot canyons, picks up speed, and over time erodes away the sandstone, thus deepening the canyons. Flash flooding can occur suddenly and care must be taken; one such incident occurred on October 30th 2006 for 36 hours, and caused the Tribal Park Authorities to close the Lower Antelope Canyon for five months!

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After exploring Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon we explored Horseshoe Bend, which was just a few minutes away. Horseshoe Bend is a horseshoe shaped meander of the Colorado River. The river has an absolutely beautiful blue-green tinge to it.

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After visiting Horseshoe Bend we drove to Flagstaff where we stayed the night at the beautiful Courtyard by Marriott for about $165 CDN a night. At the time it had just opened a week prior and still had the new hotel smell (formaldehyde). For dinner we ate at Flagstaff Brewing Company. The food was okay, but fairly greasy. The beer was very good though!

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On Day 3 we drove to Albuquerque, stopping at the Puye Cliff Dwellings about 1.75 hours north of Albuquerque. I forget where we stayed to be honest. We stopped at Nemesis Brewing Company for dinner and some beers. The food was quite delicious and the beers were extremely delicious; they even had some IPA’s which are my beer of choice.

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Be sure to check back soon for Part 2 of 2 of this USA road trip!

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Czech Republic – Pilsner Urquell Brewery Tour

After visiting Český Krumlov it was time to head to Pilsen for a tour of the Pilsner Urquell Brewery in the city of Pilsen. Before we take a look at the brewery lets take a look at the beautiful city of Pilsen.

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The brewery was founded in 1839 by local Czech and German speaking citizens in the city and for the first two years was brewed in the homes of the locals. There was major inconsistencies in the beer so it was decided to build the Burgess Brewery in 1842, which is where the current brewery stands today. Currently the brewery produces almost 10 million hectoliters of beer per year. It was the first brewery in the world to produce pale lager, branded as Pilsner Urquell since 1898, which can be roughly translated from Czech to English as “the original source at Pilsen”. The beer was trademarked in 1898. The brewery was sold to the Japanese company Asahi in March 2017.

During the tour they took us to the original water tower, the bottling factory, the old brewery, the new brewery, and the original underground cellar network. We even were able to sample some of the original unfiltered and unpasteurized beer that is still brewed and stored in kegs in the underground cellar. The flavor profile is quite distinct compared to the regular filtered version.

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Belgium – Brussels – Day 2 of 2

Today I woke up at 8:00am and had some coffee in my room before venturing out to explore more of the city.

First stop was Hôtel van Eetvelde, which was sadly under construction so I couldn’t get any good pictures of it. Hôtel van Eetvelde is a town house designed in 1895 by Victor Horta for Edmond van Eetvelde, the administrator of Congo Free State.

Second stop was Maison Saint-Cyr was built in 1903 to serve as a mansion for the painter Georges Saint-Cyr. The façade is about four metres wide, and is rich in finely worked ironwork that forms a set of lines, curves and geometric figures. Each balcony has a railing with different patterns.

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Third stop was Stoclet Palace, after a few quick photos of some various things along the way. Stoclet Palace was built in 1911 in the Viennese Secession style by architect Josef Hoffmann. It was built for Adophe Stoclet, a wealthy industrialist and art collector.

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Fourth stop and fifth stop was Arcades du Cinquantenaire and Autoworld. Arcades du Cinquantenaire is a triple arch in the centre of Brussels and is topped by a bronze quadriga sculpture group with a woman charioteer, representing Brabant raising the national flag. Autoworld is a substantial collection of vintage vehicles in extremely well preserved states.

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The sixth stop was the National Basilica of the Sacred Heart, a beautiful Art Deco church that was completed in 1970. Construction began in 1905 in Neo-Gothic style, but only the foundations had been completed before World War 1 broke out. Construction of the actual basilica began in 1919, with the architectural style changing to Art Deco, and was not completed until 1970.

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The seventh and eighth stops were Mini-Europe and Atomium. Mini-Europe is a miniature park that was started in 1989 and represents over 80 countries and 350 buildings. Atomium was designed and constructed for the 1958 Brussels World Expo by architect Andre and Jean Polak. It is 102 metres (335 feet) tall and has nine 18 metre (60 foot) diameter stainless steel clad spheres which are connected by escalators and stairs. 3 metre (10 foot) diameter tubes connect the spheres. The central tube had the world’s fastest elevator at the time; allowing people to reach the summit in only 23 seconds at 5 metres/second. The Atomium, was designed to last a mere six months and was slated for destruction after the 1958 World Expo, but due to its popularity it made it a major element of Brussels landscape. A weird piece of history about Atomium is that SABAM, Belgium’s society for collecting copyrights, claimed worldwide intellectual property rights on all reproduction of the image via the United States Artists Rights Society (ARS). There are numerous censored images circulating the internet, but finally in 2016 there was a bill enacted to allow pictures to be legally distributed.

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I then stopped for dinner at the same restaurant I stopped at for lunch yesterday; Tonton Garby, before heading to get a new power adapted, because I somehow forgot mine at home. After getting a power adapter I visited the Brussels Comic Strip Museum, and then went to Beer Planet and picked up a few authentic trappist monk beers that were recommended to me.

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I went back to my hotel room to edit photos and write my blog before heading out to take some night time photos of Atomium.

Valley Of 5 Lakes & Bald Hills Hikes

Yesterday I completed two hikes in Jasper National Park; Valley of 5 Lakes & Bald Hills. I started my day off early at 6:30am by waking up and making a nutritious breakfast omelet and coffee before setting off on a 5 hour drive towards Jasper.

First stop was Valley of 5 Lakes, a short 4.5km hike with a mere 154 metres of elevation gain. The hike was amazing; it started through a moderate density forest and opened up into a meadow before going back into a forest with a view of five beautiful turquoise and emerald coloured lakes. The hike took roughly an hour to complete and was completely worth the visit.

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It was nearly lunch so it was time to head into Jasper. I stopped at my favorite place; Jasper Brewing Company and had a cheddar burger with poutine, and a pint of their Rockhopper IPA, which is super tasty.

After lunch I drove to Maligne Lake, where I started on the trailhead to Bald Hills. It was a light misty rain when I started the hike, but over the course of the hike it started to rain more and more. About 1/3 of the way through the hike I met a wonderful woman named Susan, and her husband Steve. They had one of their daughters, and daughters friend with them. We spent the rest of the hike together, which made for a nice time. One of the kids made a hilarious comment when we were talking about religion. She said “Is a Protestant also a prostitute; we all burst out laughing! By the end of the hike we were all soaked. The hike was 13.2km with 701 metres of elevation gain; I definitely felt it in my quads towards the end.

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After the hike I drove back into Jasper to fill up my Lexus with fuel, and get some coffee from Tim Horton’s before heading back to Calgary. I finally made it home around 10:30pm.

Vietnam – Day 9 – Ninh Binh & Hanoi

Today I woke up at 3:30am when the power went out. The room became unbearably stuffy because there was no air-conditioning or air flow from the fan. I managed to finally get back to sleep before waking up again at 6:00am. I decided to go downstairs to get some breakfast and a coffee before getting ready to head out for the day. Oh by the way did I mention that my place has the cutest puppies I’ve ever seen!

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I started to ride my motorcycle into the town of Ninh Binh so that I could get more cash from the bank, as I was running low on cash. Sadly the motorcycle died and I had to do a walk of shame for about 1.5km before coming to a gas station. I filled the motorcycle up with gas, but sadly it still wasn’t working properly. I kept stalling out unless I gunned the throttle, but even then it would start to hesitate after a few seconds. I finally figured out a movement that seemed to work; hold the throttle full blast for 3 seconds, let off for a few seconds, and then repeat. I managed to get into town and pick up more cash.

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After picking up cash I rode the motorcycle to the Danh Thang Trang An boat tours, about 10km away. The motorcycle was really starting to act up now, and even dying for up to 10 minutes every few kilometers. Again, I figured out another trick; if I bounced on the bike up and down a lot, and then sloshed the fuel from side to side then it would eventually start if I help the throttle down half way. Eventually I got to the boat tours at about 10:00am. Along the way I did see this beautiful looking temple from the side of the road, as well as a very cool gateway.

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The boat tour lasted about 3 hours and cost 200000 Dong ($12.50 CDN). The tour took the group of four people through numerous caves and to a few temples. It was absolutely fascinating!

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After finishing the tour I rode the motorcycle back to the hotel, about 10km away. It took me over one hour to get back because the bike kept on breaking down. When I got back to the hotel I explained what was happening to the owner and she said that she would take a look at it. Unfortunately within 15 minutes she had already loaned it out to someone else, which I found to be quite dishonest.

I was feeling quite hungry at this point in time, as it was well past lunch time, so I decided to walk down the street and see if I could find something to eat. I came across this nice small restaurant called Sunflower Tam Coc and ordered some pho, salad rolls, and some fresh beer.

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After lunch I walked back to the hotel, checked out, and ordered a GRAB to the Ninh Binh train station. The fare for the ride was 80000 Dong ($5 CDN), but all I had was a 200000 Dong note for which he didn’t have change for. It wasn’t a big deal for me and I told him to keep the change, but he insisted on getting me the correct change. He ran around the six different stores asking for them to make change, all the while leaving me inside his car with the keys in the ignition and the engine running. I felt pretty bad for the guy. Remember, in Vietnam it is not customary to tip and many people will flat our refuse even if its a nice gesture. Oh and safety isn’t top priority in this country; take a look at his seatbelt reminder defeat with a plastic spoon!

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I was about 1.5 hours early for the train, but ended up talking with the nice young man from Chile that was backpacking around SE Asia. The train ride back to Hanoi took about 2.25 hours. After arriving in Hanoi I took a GRAB to the hotel I was staying at two nights ago so that I could pick up my passport before carrying onto my new hotel called Hotel Golden Art. Hotel Golden Art wasn’t the nicest, but it did the trick for the night.

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After checking  into the hotel I walked down the street to a fast food Bahn Mi place called Pho Bahn Mi. The food was absolutely delicious, in fact I ordered a second because it was so good. After having dinner I walked back to the hotel and went to bed.

Be sure to check back tomorrow when I take a brief pause from the Vietnam series to share a recent hike that I completed with my father to Plains of Six Glaciers, before continuing with my Vietnam series. The next part in my Vietnam series has me travelling to Ha Long Bay, so be sure to stay tuned!

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Vietnam – Day 8 – Ninh Binh

Today I woke up at 5:30am. I’m still struggling with this persistent jet lag, a whole 8 days later. I packed my bags and got ready, before heading down for breakfast at the buffet. After breakfast I walked about 10 minutes to the Hanoi central train station.

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There’s a few ways of obtaining train tickets; you can buy right at the station, or you can buy online from a third party which charges a small booking fee on top. Unfortuneately foreigners can’t book online through the REAL Vietnam Rail website unless you happen to have a Vietnam bank card, which I presume almost everyone won’t. Also one thing to note is that there are a lot of fake websites in Vietnam, and other parts of SE Asia for things like trains, airlines, museums, etc. You need to be extra diligent and do your research as they mostly all look the same. I read multiple travel blogs to ensure that I was picking the appropriate websites. Anyways, I chose to use the third party website called Balou, as it came the highest recommended. I only paid about $2 CDN more to book it online through them than just showing up, but it was a nice piece of mind knowing everything was taken care of beforehand.

The train departed Hanoi station at 7:30am and slowly crawled its way through the city before picking up speed. About 15 minutes into the train ride I realized that I had made a bad mistake… I forgot my passport and US cash in the safe back at the hotel. I called the hotel and explained the situation, gave them the passcode for my safe, and told them that I’ll be back tomorrow evening to pick it up. Phew, disaster averted.

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The train arrived at Ninh Binh station at around 10:00am. While exiting the station I booked a GRAB, which happened to be waiting right out front. It took about 15 minutes to drive from Ninh Binh train station to my accommodation in Tam Coc, called Tuan Ngoc Hotel. The fare was 76000 Dong ($4.35 CDN). After arriving at the hotel I dropped off my bags I decided to rent a motorcycle from the hotel for two days for a cost of 110000 Dong/day ($6.25/day). The motorcycle didn’t include gasoline so I had to find a gas station before I ran out of gas, as they had drained all the fuel out minus a few drops.

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First stop was Hang Mua viewpoint, about a 6km ride away. Something to note here is that you don’t take the first parking spot that people try to flag you down to because you’ll end up paying way more, and have to walk a fair distance. If you can drive past all the people standing in the middle of the road you’ll find yourself with parking right at the entrance for only 10000 Dong ($0.55 CDN). Unfortuneately despite reading this there was an extremely persistent group of very angry sounding Vietnamese women that wouldn’t get out of the road and pretty much forced me to park in their parking spot for 25000 Dong ($1.35 CDN). Obviously we’re not talking about much money here, but the fact they were so pushy left a sour taste in my mouth. Picture down below of where NOT to park.

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After a 15 minute walk from the very end of the road I came to the entrance of the Hang Mua Viewpoint, which had a nominal entry fee of 100000 Dong ($5.50 CDN). There is a small cave at the start of the steps up to the viewpoint with a tiger statue and some offerings from the locals.

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After viewing inside the cave it was time to start the hot and strenuous journey up to the vietpoint. 500 steps and about 20 minutes later I was dripping in sweat, but looking at an absolutely fantastic view of the karst sceneries of Tam Coc, as well as the Lying Dragon ontop of the mountain. I spent some considerable time up here getting the photos that I wanted to get, before heading back down so that I could get some lunch.

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After walking back to the bike I rode back into town to get some lunch from a restaurant, which I unfortunately forget the name of. I had some beef pho soup, but it wasn’t very good and the service was quite slow.

After having some lunch I rode a short distance away to Bich Dong Pagoda. The parking attendent wanted to charge me 30000 Dong ($1.65 CDN) but I ended up negotiating down to 20000 Dong ($1.10 CDN). I crossed over a bridge through some temple gates, walked a short while to the Lower Pagoda, before ascending 100 steps to the Middle Pagoda, which is built half inside of a cave. There are roughly 20-25 steep steps to the Upper Pagoda, which is fully inside the cave, which is also filled with bats. Bich Dong Pagoda was built by the two monks Tri Kien and Tri The in the early 18th century.

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It was starting to get extremely hot as it was mid afternoon, so I rode back to the hotel and hung out in the pool for a few hours.

For dinner I rode to the Bia Minh Beer Garden, which was just down the street. I probably could have walked but I was feeling lazy from my hike up all those stairs earlier today. For dinner I had a Hawaiian pizza, and a pork Banh Mi sandwich, along with a mini keg of fresh beer. I’ve never seen anything like it before; it’s a combination between a growler and a keg. This was some of the freshest beer I’ve had in SE Asia so far. During dinner it started to pour rain. After dinner I rode back to the hotel in the pouring rain and ended up going to bed at around 9:00pm.

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Be sure to check back tomorrow when I explore more of Ninh Binh before heading back to Hanoi.

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Vietnam – Day 3 – Hoi An

The next day I woke up at 5:30am. I didn’t realize this at first but I had the whole villa to myself; none of the other 12 rooms were booked. The villa had a restaurant that opened at 7:00am so I waited for the restaurant to open. I had some beef pho for breakfast. I borrowed one of their bicycles for free to ride into the ancient town of Hoi An. I explored around the local market, wandering up and down the streets to take in the sights, including the famous covered Japanese Bridge, which was built in 1719. It was starting to get too hot to bear at around noon, so I rode the bicycle back to the villa. I looked on the weather reports and noticed that it was 37 degrees, but due to humidity it felt like 46 degrees.

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After relaxing by the pool for a bit and drinking a few beers I decided I was hungry so I borrowed the bicycle again in search of food. I settled on a place called Pho Co Hoi An. I had some beef pho and a local beer. I was getting tired so I rode back towards the villa, quickly stopping for some bottled water, a bag of Doritos, and some more beer. The villa had a good supply of bottled water and beer, but I wanted to save some money by purchasing it at the store instead.

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I had what was supposed to be a short nap, but ended up sleeping from 3:00pm until 8:00pm. After waking up I walked into town and went to famous Banh Mi Phuong for dinner. Anthony Bourdain ate there a few years ago and featured it on his television show called Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. Banh Mi is a baguette filled with savory meats, spices and a few vegetables such as shaved carrots and a bit of lettuce. To describe the taste of the Banh Mi at this particular restaurant I would say it’s like having Pho in a bun. It was so delicious, and very inexpensive; only 50000 Dong ($3.15 CDN) for a Banh Mi and a beer.

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After dinner I walked around and explored the night market, and watched people floating down the river in the love boats, as well as watch people making wishes with lit lanterns and placing them in the water. It was getting late so I decided to walk back to the villa. It was around 11:00pm by now so it was time for me to go to bed.

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Portland – Day 3 – Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum / Wings & Waves Waterpark

The next morning we woke up around 7:30am and I went downstairs to get us some Starbucks while Catherine lay in bed continuing to sleep. After getting ready for the day we walked over to the Budget rental car location on Washington Street. Picking up the car was pretty quick and trouble free. We had a 2019 Nissan Versa. The car was a huge improvement in comfort and technology over the 2017 Nissan Versa that I rented in Hawaii two years ago.

First stop was the Evergreen Aviation & Space Musuem. The museum was first opened in 1991 by Captain Michael King Smith, son of Evergreen International Aviation founder Delford Smith. The museum center piece is the Spruce Goose (Hughes H-4 Hercules), which was originally housed in Long Beach, California at the Walt Disney’s Spruce Goose exhibit before it was disassembled and transported to this museum in 1993 and underwent 8 years of restoration. The museum is also home to a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress, Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, de Havilland DH.100 Vampire, Douglas A-1 Skyraider, Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, Douglas C-47 (military variant of DC-3), Douglas DC-3A, Fonton C-6 Space Capsule, Grumman TF-9J Cougar, T-39 Sabreliner, Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird, Martin Titan II Space Launch Vehicle (SLV), Titan IV, McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagle, McDonnell Douglas F-4 Fantom II, Mercury Space Capsule, Messerschmitt 262 (reproduction model), MiG-17A, MiG-21MF, MiG-29, X-38, and Supermarine Spitfire Mk. XVI. In 2016 Michael King Smith filed for bankruptcy but the facility was acquired by the Falls Event Center for $11 million which helped saved the beautiful museum.

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We then had a lunch break at The Diner, which was only a few minute’s drive away. We shared a Cobb salad and turkey burger before we went to the Wings & Waves Waterpark.

The second stop was the Wings and Waves Waterpark. The waterpark was opened in Jun 2011 and houses a retired Evergreen Boeing 747-100 that sits atop the roof and has four water slides connecting to the 92000 gallon wave pool. The Waterpark also featured a small wave pool (which was very underwhelming), a hot tub, a water play park, and a whirlpool. We stayed at the Waterpark for a few hours before starting our way back to Portland.

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On the drive back to Portland we stopped at Sushi Hunter Izakaya. I ordered some spicy miso ramen, which was extremely spicy and wasn’t particularly good. Catherine ordered some sushi, which was quite good. We also shared some Takoyaki, which are deep fried squid balls. On the drive back we also stopped at some Walgreens so that Catherine could pick up some M&M candies for her friends.

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We had to return the car at Portland PDX airport as the downtown location that we picked the car up from was now closed. It took a while to wait for the budget shuttle bus and it was starting to get chilly so we were shivering. The shuttle bus driver was a bit of an interesting character. He had some interesting stories including a story about how his dad met Bruce Lee and how he would fight with him. I’m not sure how believable I find that story but it was amusing non the less.

After arriving back at PDX Airport we attempted to take the MAX Red Line back into the city, and had much more success this time. After the 45-minute journey we walked back to the hotel and played some games in the loft game area. We played Connect Four, Jenga, and Foosball. Catherine and I each won a game of Foosball, each won a bunch of games or Connect Four, and I lost at Jenga. It was getting late and time for us to head to bed. Luckily, we didn’t have to wake up early tomorrow so we didn’t feel so bad.

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The next morning we woke up at around 8:30am and slowly got ready before walking to this amazing restaurant called St. Honore Bakery. It’s a chain breakfast restaurant in Portland that has multiple locations that serves amazing French breakfast foods. We both had Croque Madame which is a great inferior sandwich with Brioché slices with Emmental cheese, béchamel sauce, Dijon mustard, Black Forest ham, topped with a soft poached egg. We also shared some fresh fruit and both had a coffee.

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After having breakfast, we both walked back to the hotel and relaxed for a few minutes before venturing out for the day to do some shopping. Catherine was on the scope for some new shoes for herself and her friend Julie. First stop was the Nike store downtown, which was extremely disappointing and had a limited selection The next stop was across the street at Ross For Less. There was a decent selection, but nothing that Catherine was looking for. We decided to make the 50-minute walk across the city to the Nike Factory Outlet store. On the way we quickly stopped at McDonalds for a coffee for myself and an ice cream cone to share.

The outlet had much more selection and Catherine ended up finding a pair of fuschia coloured shoes for herself and a couple pairs of shoes for Julie. After purchasing the shoes, we stopped at an amazing Japanese restaurant called Izakaya Kichinto. I had a wonderful rich and flavourful curry ramen, and Catherine had a Poke bowl. We also had some delicious Gyoza to share.

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After our amazing lunch we walked to NE 7th Ave Station and caught the MAX Red Line back into downtown and walked back to the hotel to grab our bags before walking back to the train station and talking the MAX Red Line to the airport. After arriving at the airport, we shared a Key Lime doughnut from Blue Star Doughnuts. We both agreed how amazing it was and that it was much better than Voodoo Doughnuts.

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At the security checkpoint Catherine’s bag got thoroughly searched because of the 6 pounds of M&M’s in her bag. I can understand why they would make such a big deal about that, because who in the right mind would have 6 pounds or M&M’s in their bag!
After clearing security, we shared some artichoke dip over a cider and a few IPA’s at the Deschutes Brewery inside the airport. I also got to try a sample of The Dissident and Chasin’ Freshies Fresh Hop IPA; both of which were delicious!

Our flight was delayed about 1.25 hours because of the snow that had occurred the previous day in Calgary. The delays were accumulating since 5pm the day before. I’m glad we were not flying home yesterday as the delays were 4 hours on average towards the evening. The flight was relatively smooth. After arriving at the gate paramedics boarded the plane and tended to a young boy who had kept blacking out on the flight. I hope he’s okay; perhaps he was just exhausted?

Check back in a few weeks when I embark on a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia!

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Portland – Day 1 – Travel Day & Portland By Night

This weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the beautiful city of Portland, Oregon. Before we dive into what I did lets take a brief look at the history of Portland to understand how it came to be where it is today.

Portland is Oregon’s largest and most populated city with a population of roughly 650,000 people. Portland was founder in the 1830’s by pioneers who travelled via the Oregon Trail. The Oregon Trail is a 2170 mile (3490 km) East-West wagon route that was used by pioneers and fur traders in the early to mid 1800’s. Portland was originally referred to as Stumptown and The Clearing because of the many trees that had to be cut down to allow for the growth of the settlement. In 1843 William Overton saw potential in the new settlement but lacked the funds to file an official land claim, so for a mere 25 cents he agreed to share half of the site with Asa Lovejoy from Boston. In 1845 Overton sold the remaining half to Francis Pettygrove from Portland, Maine. Both Pettygrove and Lovejoy wanted to rename The Clearing after their hometowns, and the renaming was settled with a coin toss. Pettygrove won in a series of two out of three coin tosses, and The Clearing was renamed Portland after Pettygrove’s hometown of Portland, Maine. The coin used to make the decision was declared the Portland Penny and is on display in the Oregon Historical Society headquarters.

Portland was officially incorporated on February 8 1851 and had a population of 800 people. There was a major fire in 1873 which wiped out about 20 city blocks. The city rebuilt and by 1890 the city had a population of 46000 people. Portland’s access to water made it a major port city for the timber industry and helped provide a major boom to the city’s early economy. This also helped earn the city the unfortunate reputation as being a dangerous city with organized crime and racketeering. It took a while to shake this rough edge but Portland came out of the 1960’s with a new lease on life with its progressive political and environmental views. The city operates with a commission-based government guided led by a major as well as four commissioners and a directly elected metropolitan planning organization. The city is recognized internationally as one of the world’s most environmentally conscious cities due to its ease of walkability, large number of public parks, large use of bicycles, public transportation, and inner-city farming. An interesting fact is that this city is also ideal for growing roses and Portland has also been called the City of Roses. Portland also has various other nicknames such as Bridgetown, Beervana, and Brewtopia.

I started out my Portland trip by arriving at Portland International Airport (PDX) on an Air Canada Express Bombardier Q400. The flight was a direct flight from YYC to PDX and took roughly 2 hours. PDX has an iconic carpet that features geometric shapes on a teal background representing what the birds eye view of the airport as seen by the air traffic controllers from the airport tower. The original carpet was installed in 1987 and received a ton of media attention and was loved by travelers and locals. In 2013 the Port of Portland announced the replacement of the carpet and this caused quite the stir on social media. The original carpet removal began in January 2015, with the airport recycling the extremely worn out portions and the remaining pieces were sold to local retail vendors. The new carpet design places more of an emphasis on modern design and features natural and man-shape shapes found around the airport, including references to flight, nature and structures such as airplane wings, hiking trails, leaves, runways and waterways. Installation was completed in November 2015. The carpet replacement ended up costing roughly $13 million. Personally I’m a fan of the old design, compared to the new design.
The old carpet design has inspired designs in socks, tie’s, sneakers, underwear, etc. Portland Trail Blazers basketball team point guard Damian Lillard released two Adidas branded shoes with the design between 2015 and 2016.

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After arriving in Portland there are a few forms of transportation to get into the city center; the MAX Red Line LRT ($2.50 USD), Uber ($22/USD average), Taxi ($35/USD average), and Rental Car ($35/day USD average). In order to align with my frugal ways of travel I opted for the MAX Red Line LRT, which should have taken roughly 40 minutes to go from PDX to Pioneer Square North, which was close to the hotel I was staying at; Hotel Radisson RED. Unfortunately, after just a few stops the train stopped and the transit operator told us to take a cab, Uber, or bus since the train bridge was having trouble getting locked in the down position.

The MAX LRT system is comprised of 5 lines spanning over 60 miles (97 km) and has 97 stations. Construction of the MAX network started in 1982. The MAX system was conceived after a series of anti-freeway movements by locals in the 1970’s. The system utilizes 750 Volts DC overhead wires similar to Calgary’s very own LRT system, except ours utilize only 600 Volts DC. Rolling stock includes five different models; simply called Type 1 through Type 5. The original Type 1’s were a joint venture project with Canada’s Bombardier and La Brugeoise et Nivelles from Belgium. The Type 1’s were high floor type trains that did not allow wheelchair accessibility. After the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 the requirement for low floor type trains were a must, which lead to the Type 2 low floor trains that were developed by Siemens, dubbed SD660’s. Type 3’s were also SD660’s. Type 4’s were Siemens S70’s. Type 5’s were essentially improved S70’s. Trainsets are typically only 2 cars, and Type 1-3 are interchangeable and Type 4-5 are interchangeable.

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Anyways… back to the trip. We got an Uber ride from a guy named Dustin, who was super friendly. He was originally from Oklahoma and ended up coming here to study Business and Economics at Portland State University. He was doing some Uber driving on the side. After getting dropped off by Dustin we checked into our hotel. The Radisson RED Portland is a brand new hotel that just opened in November 2018. The hotel has 180 rooms on 8 floors, while the remaining floors in the tower are consumed by office space. The room was massive and very hip with all sorts of retro art murals. The room had a king size bed, work area, ample storage, and a luxurious bathroom with white tiles with red grout and a lobster mural in the shower! The hotel even has an arcade and games room on the second floor loft that overlooks the foyer area.

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After dropping off our bags we walked to Deschutes Brewery. On the way I took multiple photos of Portland at night. Deschutes Brewery is one of my favorite craft breweries. Deschutes Brewery was opened in 1988 with the main brewery located in Bend, Oregon. Deschutes Brewery also has a satellite pub in Portland’s Pearl District, which is the one we visited. The brewery produces a wide range of beers including Black Butte Porter, Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Fresh Squeezed IPA, Inversion IPA, Chainbreaker White IPA, Deschutes River Ale, Obsidian Stout, Red Chair NWPA, Twilight Summer Ale, Jubelale, Hop Henge Experimental IPA, Hop Trip, Chasin’ Freshies, The Dissident, Mirror Mirror, and The Abyss. Deschutes uses an in-house, proprietary yeast strain resembling Wyeast Laboratories, Inc. #1187 Ringwood Ale yeast. Deschutes is the eighth largest craft brewery and fifteenth largest brewery in the US, producing over 29.3 million litres of beer annually. It was time for me to drink a few of those litres of beer!

First up was Hazy IPA. Second up was Fresh Squeezed IPA. Third up was Inversion IPA. The Hazy IPA was my favorite of the three. Catherine ended up having a Cider and tried some of my Hazy IPA. She really liked the Hazy IPA, maybe I’m converting her… just maybe… We also decided to also have some food so we shared an IPA Pretzel served with gooey cheese and mustard. It was absolutely incredible.

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After becoming moderately drunk it was time to go back to the hotel as we had a big day ahead of us. Oh, did I mention we actually had to leave because the bar closed at… 10pm? Yes, that’s right it closes at 10pm on a Thursday.

Check back tomorrow when we explore the beautiful city of Portland during the day and go to a Darci Lynne show in the evening.

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