ExtraHyperActive: Great American Road Trip
Showing posts with label Great American Road Trip. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Great American Road Trip. Show all posts

Tips On Visiting Crater Lake National Park In Winter

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I've been really looking forward to visiting Crater Lake National Park in Oregon for the past 5 years ! I wanted to see it both : covered under the blanket of snow, and on a nice sunny summer day.

Snowbiking At Hoodoo Ski Resort In Oregon

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Move aside skiing and snowboarding, a new and exciting winter sport is coming to the ski slopes around the country  - snowbiking !

When I heard about snowbiking at Hoodoo Ski area in Oregon, I knew I'd have to give it a try ! It just looked so much fun ! It's like mountain biking in winter. And even though Hoodoo ski area is just a few hours away from Seattle, I just couldn't find time to make it down there. And my first introduction to snowbiking ( or ski-biking as it's sometimes called )  happend at Vail resort in Colorado.

"The Hunt For Red October" And Other Fun Things To Do In Portland, OR

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It's no wonder that our neighbor  - Oregon- is one of the best states in the US for outdoor adventure. When it comes to outdoor activities and adventures, there is always something to do for everybody all year round. Surfing, kite-boarding, skiing/snowboarding, hiking, biking, rock climbing; you name it and you can find it somewhere in or close to Portland, Oregon.

Recently we went on a 5 day road trip around Central Oregon, and our first stop was in downtown Portland. 

Portland has earned the reputation of the most bike-friendly in the U.S., with more than 171 miles (275 kilometers) of bike lanes (and more soon on the way) and a 40-mile (64-kilometer) loop trail system (www.40mileloop.org). It's also home of the beautiful Forest Park, the biggest urban forested area in the country; the 5,100 wooded acres (2,064 wooded hectares) have more than 70 miles (113 kilometers) of hiking trails, including an epic 30-mile (48-kilometer) loop called the Wildwood Trail.

Unfortunately, we only had just a few hours in Portland, and before the trip, I had to find something fun, adventurous, and outdoorsy to do in downtown Portland for my 8 year old and I. 

Lucky for me, it wasn't hard !

Ski Biking In Vail, CO

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I came across ski-biking ( snowbiking ) a few years ago while researching about another new winter activity - airboarding.

Though both of these activities could be experienced in our neighboring Oregon at Hoodoo ski area, for the past 2-3 years, I simply couldn't find time to make a trip down there. And honestly, to me, ski-biking seemed a bit like kids snow scooting. I thought it would be fun to try, but didn't think it was worth driving for 5 hours.

But during my trip to Colorado I had a chance to jump on this great opportunity, and combine skiing at one of the epic ski resorts in US with trying out a new adventure.

7 Amazing Grand Canyon Facts

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... visiting the Grand Canyon last year was an amazing experience ! ...it's definitely one of the (few) places I'm going back to...

Check out these "7 Amazing Grand Canyon Facts", and may be this will motivate you to visit one of the great World Wonders !

Fact #1 -  At its narrowest, at Marble Canyon, the Grand Canyon is only 600 yards (548 meters) across. At its widest, the gorge spans 18 miles (29 kilometers).

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Visit The Manitou Cliff Dwellings ( If You Can't Visit Mesa Verde NP )

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The American Southwest contains more than its fair share of natural wonders: Grand Canyon, Arches National Park, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park are only three of the most famous natural attractions that draw people from all over the world. The region is home to a wonderful and vibrant mix of Anglo, Latino, Hispanic, and American Indian traditions making it one of the more diverse and interesting corners of America with regards to history, landscape and culture.

During my trip to Colorado, I was looking forward to seeing such famous landmarks as the Great Sand Dunes and Rocky Mountain National Parks, Mesa Verde, Dinosaur National Monument, and of course, taking an iconic photo at The Four Corners !

I was especially fascinated to learn more about the rich history of Native Americans in this area. Originally, I was planning to visit the famous Mesa Verde National Park, but due to weather conditions, and time travel from Denver ( about 7 hours ), I decided to leave it for my next visit.

Luckily, while visiting Colorado Springs, I heard about the no-less famous Manitou Cliff Dwellings. And I believe was a great substitute for Mesa Verde NP.

Being A Tourist In Denver

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Visiting Colorado state has been on my Bucket List for a long time. For years, tourists have been enticed to Colorado for the mountains, which offer opportunities for recreation, scenery, and a climate conductive to good health. For many outdoorsmen like myself, Colorado has long been associated with great powder skiing and riding.

But for me, Colorado has become more than just ski resorts and the great outdoors. The great outdoors, culture and nature of Colorado go hand in hand. You can also find Colorado in ancient cliff dwellings, historic railroads, ghost towns, museums and scenic byways.

Just like for many tourists, my introduction to Colorado started with visiting its capitol - Denver.

Most visitors only see it on their way to or from the legendary ski resorts in the Colorado Rocky Mountains – if they see it at all. It's too sad, because the "mile high city", as Denver is known, is the beautiful historic and cultural center of a wide area extending over the Great Plains and into the Rockies. But its touristy part is found in the heart of downtown -  the main financial, commercial, and entertainment district.

Visit Palouse Falls State Park In Winter

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Palouse Falls State Park is beautiful any time of the year but winter adds a unique touch as ice forms into amazing shapes and textures on the rock walls that surround the Falls...

Have you had a chance to visit this park yet ? I've seen amazing pictures of this jaw-dropping waterfall before, but once I was actually there... it wasn't that impressive.

Check out my experience visiting Visit Palouse Falls State Park last summer - "Driving Along The Palouse Scenic Byway To Palouse Falls State Park"

Scenic Drives Washington : Historic Columbia River Highway 14

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Sometimes it's the journey, sometimes it's the destination—and sometimes, it's both. From the dramatic California coast to history-lined thoroughfares of New England, there are countless scenic drives across the country—and some stellar standouts.

The federal government has declared more than 100 roadways to be "Scenic Byways" because of their "outstanding archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic value."

Highway #14 is part of the Lewis and Clark Trail that travels along the north side of the stunning Columbia River Gorge and offers a wide variety of sights and scenes.

My main destination was Hood River, an official windsurfing capital of the world, which is located on Oregon side of the Columbia River. But to get there I decided to travel on HWY 14 to Maryhill, and then to jump on HWY 84 to admire the Gorge from both borders.

The Best Surf Towns In America - Westport, WA

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The beauty of great surf towns is that they combine great waves with a laid-back beach atmosphere.

The West Coast is dotted with dozens of diverse and attractive surf towns. While California and Hawaii remain the most popular surfing destinations, their PNW neighbors - Oregon and Washington - are gaining popularity and respect among the more hard core crowd of cold water surfers.

Wesport's Westheaven State Park is probably the  most popular surfing destination in Washington state.

Have You Visited Yellowstone National Park ?

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I had a great opportunity to visit Yellowstone NP during my road trip around US a couple years ago. Unfortunately, due to lack of time I didn't have a chance to explore this amazing park the way I wanted.

 I call Yellowstone NP " - "all American experience". And it's not only because it's one of the places in our country every American must see, it's also because it's very "convenient" to visit it. You can see/visit all major interest points/landmarks almost without leaving your car. Just drive to the next viewing point, get out of your car, walk a few steps, snap a few pictures, and you're done !

 Only for me, it's not the way to explore a new place. I want to immerse myself into the environment, and the best way to do it is through activities like hiking, backpacking, or camping.

 Next time, I plan to visit Yellowstone in winter ( everything looks better when covered with snow ), and to explore the park on skis or snowshoes.

 Meanwhile, check out this great video that will hopefully inspire you to make the trip to the park:


Urban camping

In my opinion, traveling is not expensive, spending a night at a hotel ( even the cheapest one ) is. There is always an option to stay at a hostel or a camping site, but even there you will have to pay a small fee.

What if you could pitch your tent anywhere you want ? Like this car tent designed to look like a car cover

Well, of course, you'll have to pay those outrageous city parking fees :)

Here is another great idea from Belgian architects - a mobile multi-level tower that allows for tents to be pitched in urban settings.

Looks great, and I'm sure the view from the top tent is amazing ! Though a mid night bathroom trip might be a little inconvenient...

And the last option ? WallMart parking lots ! It was my home for 3 month last year living out of my Subaru...

Check out this video, it's pretty funny!

Simple Life: 23 Feet Movie Trailer

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This is how it all started for me... I don't remember who, when or even why somebody recommended me this movie trailer. I was nothing like any of those people: I didn't really have any passion for anything, I loved comfort, I didn't want to sacrifice it for anything else, and I'd never considered myself to be a dirtbag ( I always thought it was just another name for "homeless" ) ...

A simple life has a different meaning and a different value for every person. Living a simple life is nothing new.The practice of voluntary simplicity is advocated in the teachings of Jesus, it also has its roots in the teachings of other world religions, the teachings of Gandhi, and the writings of Thoreau. The American Friends Service Committee (The Quakers) define simple living as a "non-consumerist lifestyle based on being and becoming, not having."

For me, it means spending my time doing what’s important to me, getting rid of many of the things I do so I can spend time with people I love and do the things I love.

The "23 Feet" movie trailer is a film about a community of people who make the conscious choice to live simply to do what they love in the great outdoors. Three women set out across the west in their 23 foot, 1970 Airstream to search for the stories of people who have turned their backs on the creature comforts of society to live in school buses, vans, and other small spaces. From an inspiring campfire chat with legendary Yosemite climber Ron Kauk, to hearing the powerful story of a woman who changed her whole life for surfing, 23 Feet gives an intimate look at the ups and downs of dedicating your life to your outdoor passion.

Big Sur Road Trip : Driving California's Pacific Coast Highway In 2014 Toyota Highlander

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Driving along California's Pacific Coast Highway, and especially its most scenic part - Big Sur, has been on my Bucket List for a couple years !
An exhilarating driving experience, this twisting, cliff-hugging, 123-mile (198-kilometer) route along the central California coast takes about five hours to complete at a leisurely pace. Designated an All-American Road—among the nation's most scenic—the drive encompasses both the Big Sur Coast Highway and the San Luis Obispo North Coast Byway. ( National Geographic ).
Though I used to live in Southern California, have visited San Francisco and Sacramento, camped and hiked at Yosemite, visited Mt Shasta's Caverns, I've never been to Monterey/Carmel area before ( where Big Sur "officially begins" ).

That's why I was especially excited when Toyota invited me to test drive their stylish and luxurious 2014 Toyota Highlander in that area !

Ideally, my road trip along Big Sur would be driving a red convertible Mustang 1966 ( and hitting every major surf break along the way ! ), but cruising in a brand new Toyota Highlander Hybrid and relaxing in upscale Carmel Valley Ranch,  sounded like ( at least half of the ) dream come true.

Following National Geographic's advice, I explored Monterey : visited Royal Presidio Chapel, Monterey State Historic Park, Custom House, Casa Soberanes, took a stroll along beautiful Fisherman's Wharf and Cannery Row, had gourmet dinner ( in the empty !!! ) Monterey Bay Aquarium surrounded by beautiful fish (!!!), and learned about Monterey Canyon.

Then I took the Highlander for a scenic drive along winding 17 mile drive, and stopped by the famous Mission San Carlos Borroméo del Río Carmelo.

Agri-tourism ( a unique experience that combines traditional agriculture with tourism ) is growing in popularity in states like Washington, Oregon, California, as well as in the Midwest. I got a taste of it touring a couple local farms, learning about produce, and tasting unique treats ( deep fried artichokes  ? with garlic sauce ?  delicious ! ).

Unfortunately with so much time spent in Monterey/Carmel, it didn't leave me enough time to go on a full size road trip along Big Sur. I reached the famous ( and much photographed ) Bixby Bridge, and decide to head back home.

Over the past few years of travel, I've realized that there are places where I want to go back. With so many things not seen/done, I'm sure Big Sur will be one of them.

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More Family Adventures In A More Family-Friendly 2014 Toyota Highlander

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What makes an SUV an ultimate family adventure-mobile ? When it comes to your most precious cargo ( no, not your golf clubs, your kids are :)) the right vehicle is a must-have.

For families on the go, the car has become an extension of the home. Finding a car that's comfortable, safe, reliable and has the features that make life easier can be tough.

Nowadays, more families have shifted from traditional station wagons and minivans to crossover SUVs, and Toyota set out to create a vehicle without compromise for families who are going places and they want to get there in style.

 The all-new 2014 Highlander is a dynamic, stylish SUV that offers form and function that will keep your entire crew protected—no matter what road you’re on.

 2014 new Highlander features

  • All-new exterior with three-row seating for up to eight,
  • Increased cargo capacity,
  • Three power train choices: a fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine, a powerful V-6 with a new six-speed transmission, and a V-6-powered Hybrid Synergy Drive,
  • Entune Audio with Bluetooth phone and streaming music and touch-screen display,
  • Integrated backup camera,
  • STAR Safety System, includes Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Anti-Lock Brake System, Electronic Brake-Force Distribution, Brake assist and Smart Stop Technology,
  • Adjustable height power rear liftgate and flip-up rear hatch window, and
  • Eight-way power driver seat.

"For families’ sake" Toyota added a range of safety options, including parking aids, blind-spot detection, a lane departure warning system with automatic high beam headlights, and a radar-based pre-collision detecting system.

Toyota has also made a number of improvements to the Highlander's interior, including increased spaciousness along with a number of comfort and convenience features:

  • Heated and ventilated front seats 
  • Panoramic moonroof 
  • Soft-touch materials throughout the interior  
  • Seating for up to eight  
  • Increased cargo capacity behind the third-row by 34 percent  
  • Smart storage compartments
  • In-dash shelf with easy cable management -  
  • Oversized 24.5L center console

Build on Toyota’s tradition of QDR (Quality, Durability, Reliability) and Safety, you will enjoy everyday adventures or once-in-a-lifetime trips in this  upscale, sophisticated, and luxurious SUV ( that will also get you up to 28 mpg on highways ).

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Rafting And Fly Fishing On The Cle Elum River, WA

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Last year, while driving  cross country, and passing through Montana, I (unexpectedly ) fell in love with this beautiful state, and one of its most popular outdoor activity - fly fishing !

There is something very special about fly-fishing. The experience is not only about catching fish. Fly fishing offers the opportunity to enjoy and learn about nature, relax, spend time with friends and family and even solve problems.

Fly fishing is a great stress reliever. It's is a great outdoor activity that combines physical and mental therapy. Learning how to tie flies, cast a fly rod and hook a few fish and then going on a fishing outing , introduces people with ADHD, PTSD, and anxiety to the tranquility and fascination that fly fishing offers.

Of course I added fly fishing to my Bucket List :) And it was only the matter of time before I got to try it !

A few weeks ago, while visiting Cle Elum, WA to test drive 2014 Toyota 4Runner and Tundra, I had a great opportunity to go on a nice relaxing rafting float, followed by a brief fly fishing lesson with Troutwater, the local fly fishing guiding outfitter.

While drifting down the scenic Cle Elum River, we learned a lot about the area's geology, river ecology, wildlife, regional history, and of course, the basics of fly fishing.

The fly fishing part of the trip consisted of learning how fly and spin fishing differ, how to make the basic overhead cast and a roll cast, basic knots you will use every time you go fly fishing, how to make your own flies. You'll also learn about the bare essentials you need to get started in this fun and addictive sport.

 But as we know, knowledge without action is futile. That's why, once you've mastered the basics, the next hour or so you spend trying to catch your fish. According to our guide, the Cle Elum River is not the best place for fly fishing.  For more thrill ( and fish ! ) the Yakima River ( which confluence with the Cle Elum River at the dam ) is a batter choice.

Though there wasn't a ton of fish in the river at that time, I  still managed to hook a little one ! For me, it was truly a fun, educational, safe and successful day on the river !

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Would 2014 Toyota 4Runner And Tundra Be Ideal For Active, Upscale, Rustic Lifestyle ?

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A few months ago, I wrote a short post about the role of a vehicle in the life of an adventurer. For many of us, our cars are more than just transportation to get us from home to our favorite trail-head or surf break.

Whether you live in your van while climbing full time in Yosemite ( like Alex Honnold ), travel around US and Canada with your house-trailer in search of fresh powder, or living the good life for two months, cruising the Pacific coast catching waves, making friends, and living in a van ( like Cyrus Sutton ), you are very serious  ( and picky ) about what you drive.

The more rugged and demanding your adventures, the longer your trips, and the more gear you need to haul, the more requirements you have when it comes to choosing your adventure-mobile.

Is is 4WD or AWD ? How does it handle demanding outdoor conditions like snow, dirt, mud, dunes ? Is it specious enough to keep all your gear and live in ( for at least a weekend ) ? Will it tow my additional toys like a dirt-bike/snowmobile/jet ski trailer ?

Most "outdoorsy cars" brag about off-road ability, durability and their towing capacity, but few have the heritage and durability of the new Toyota Tundra and 4Runner.

 If you've been following this blog, you know that I'm not big into off-roading, but when I got a chance to test drive both  Toyota Tundra and 4Runner in beautiful and remote Cle Elum, WA, I was very excited !

Both cars proved to be real adventurous, go-anywhere, hard-core workhorses ! Not to mention their rugged exterior design, and interior refinements that add comfort and convenience without sacrificing their hallmark performance capability and excellent value.

While I enjoyed driving both cars on paved and gravel roads, unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to be behind the wheel to truly experience their off-road capabilities. I left it up to the professionals.

Piloted by off road  racer Joe Bacal ( the winner of 2012 Baja 1000 ), and co-piloted by yours truly, we took Toyota 4Runner on off-road trails in the heart of the Cascade Mountains.

 The 2014 Toyota 4Runner has kept its body-on-frame, pickup truck based characteristics. Meaning, that when you take the new Toyota 4Runner off-road, you will absolutely know it can perform.

What impressed me the most was Toyota’s Crawl Control (CRAWL) feature on its Trail model. The system helps maintain an appropriate speed to keep the vehicle under control and minimizes the load on drivetrain and suspension components. With the transfer case shifted into low range, CRAWL regulates engine speed and output (along with braking force), to propel the vehicle forward or in reverse at one of the five driver-selectable low-speed settings. This allows the driver to maintain focus on steering over rough level ground or steep grades without having to also modulate the throttle or brake pedal.

The Trail grade also features a Multi-Terrain Select system that dials in wheel- slip control to match the terrain. In loose terrain such as mud and sand, more-than- normal wheel slip is permitted, allowing wheel-spin to work in the vehicle’s favor. On bumpy moguls, or solid rock, wheel slip is minimized and the system acts more like a limited slip differential. The Mogul setting is for any extremely uneven terrain, such as V-ditches, slopes, and ridges, uphill or down. All models come standard with Hill-start Assist Control (HAC), which provides additional control for off-road driving by helping to hold the vehicle stationary before starting on a steep incline or slippery surface. All 4Runner 4x4 models feature standard Downhill Assist Control (DAC). This feature augments the low-speed ascending ability of low-range by helping to hold the vehicle, allowing time for the driver to a target speed with no driver intervention. 

But the most exciting  part of my trip was taking these cars on a beautiful and relaxing rafting trip with a gourmet dinner and introduction to fly fishing in the end !

To be  continued....

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Visit The Dry Tortugas In Florida

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Those few months I lived in Florida have become one of my most memorable experiences of my life ! I got a taste of life after retirement in Florida :)

That was my third time visiting Florida.

The first time I had a road trip of  the lifetime, driving from Miami to Key West on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway.

Though I spent a couple days in Key West, unfortunately I didn't have time to visit Dry Tortugas National Park which was on my Bucket List of places "to visit before I die" :).

Located just 70 miles west of Key West, the park is a beautiful historical landmark and a wildlife refuge like no other. The Tortugas Islands also offer some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the entire United States with the coral reef just feet from the white sandy shores of the islands.

This is one of the few places I'm definitely coming back to !

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Tips On Visiting Yosemite National Park

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Last summer I had an amazing opportunity to go on a road trip around Southwest. I had a privilege to visit Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California. One of the goals of that road trip was to visit as many National Parks as possible.

Tip - If you're planning to visit multiple National Parks during your road trip, buy America the Beautiful National Parks Pass from REI.com ($80). It will save you money and time.

At one point, I was hesitating to  visit  Yosemite National Park, but stunning pictures like the one below changed my mind...

Also, it was quite convenient for me. Driving from Nevada/Arizona side, HWY 120 took me right through the heart of the park !

Tip - If you decide to drive to/around the park, choose off-peak hours ( before 9am, and after 7pm ). One line HWY is notorious for its traffic jams and slow driving.

Summer time is THE busiest! Quite often its hard to find an available camping spot. So, make your reservations ahead of time.

Tip - If you're ExtraHyperActive/dirtbag like me, you can pitch your tent anywhere you want, and in the morning, will be rewarded with the most amazing views !

Camping/Paddleboarding Tenaya Lake

Yosemite National Park offers an abundance of activities and sightseeing destinations. Among the most popular are : rock climbing and hiking.

Have you heard of solo climbing ? Solo climbing represents the ultimate extreme in rock-climbing. Solo climbing (or soloing) is a style of climbing in which the climber climbs alone, without somebody belaying him. What if he falls down, you ask ? He dies-- no two ways about it.

Alex Honnold has made Yosemite popular by scaling the two most popular Yosemite big walls — Half Dome and El Capitan.

Tip - I wouldn't recommend to sacrifice your life for a ( breath-taking, once in a life time ) shot like this, and would suggest to hire a guide. There is a popular wall just minutes away from Camp 4/ Yosemite Village.


Yes, you can definitely opt for hiking Half Dome, but... can you really call it hiking ?

Tip -  If you have limited time for just one hike, make it Upper Yosemite Falls/Eagle Peak ! Why ?
Fewer crowds, and stunning view of Yosemite valley, and Half Dome !

Upper Yosemite Falls

On Top Of Eagle Peak

Fun fact : The setting sun illuminates one of the park’s lesser-known waterfalls so precisely that it resembles molten lava as it flows over the sheer granite face of the imposing El Capitan. A mid-February phenomenon!

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