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Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts

Try SUP/paddleboarding In Florida For FREE !

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Stand up paddleboarding is probably one the most beginner friendly water sports out there. Not only is it easy to learn, it's also cheap or even free to try.

Last summer I had a proper introduction to SUP, and had a great chance to try different boards during a free SUP on-the-water demo day at Magnuson Park organized by Seattle REI.

This summer, while in Tampa,Florida, I attended another free SUP demo , this time organized by a local outfitter Watersports West locataed in Largo, FL

One thing that I was looking forward to the most was a chance to paddle in the Gulf of Mexico...Unfortunately, the demo took place at a local marina, thus taking a bit of fun out of paddling. What I loved about it was a chance for me to try out a couple new boards.

Specifically designed for women paddlers, Tahoe SUP’s Zephyr and Bliss were a bast to paddle, and are the most beautiful boards I have seen. The finishing, graphics, and colors make these boards stand out from the crowd.

But what really caught my attention was Pelican Flow 106 Stand Up Paddle Board

I've tried " hybrid" boards ( sit-on-top kayak/stand up paddleboard ) like Nalu or Emotion boards before, and it was a big disappointment. Heavy and slow, the boards were hard to paddle.

No doubt, they are big, stable, and very durable. But unlike other plastic SUPs, Pelican was amazingly light and fast !

One thing that all these plastic stand up paddleboards have in common is the price. I've already seen a few Nalu SUPs on Craigslist for $300-350, and brand new ones on Amazon go for $ 350-550.

So, if this summer you decide to give SUPing a try, there is no better ( and cheaper ! ) way than attending a free demo. This way you will be able to see if stand up paddleboarding is for you, and also, decide which board to buy in the future.

My Bucket List : Mardi Gras in New Orleans

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Honestly, now I don't even remember where I got the idea to go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. But if you've been following my blog for some time , you remember that in 2009 I started my first Bucket List, and one of the ideas was - Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Well, two years later, I've made it happen !

Partly inspired by Rio de Janeiro 's Carnaval, partly by articles like " 10 Best places to get drunk in public", I wanted to experience this celebrated -around -the- world event first hand.

I had only a couple days to spend in New Orleans, and being ExtraHyperActive, I wanted to see/do everything ( or at least as much as possible). After surfing the net and checking out some of the Lonely Planet books, I found... tons of absolutely useless information.

So here, I'd like to offer a few of my own tips, and I hope they'll be useful:

- If you are not planning to "get wild and out of control" try not to go there the last weekend/Monday/Tuesday or at least avoid the famous Bourbon Street

- The cheapest way to get from airport to Canal St is by bus ( instead of taking taxi/shuttle for $33)

- The cheapest place to stay is 10 minutes away from downtown along Tulane Ave ( I got a room on the day of my arrival for $70 )

- The famous drinks to try - Hurricane/Hand grenades/Bloody Mari/anything with alcohol in it

- The famous food ? Don't even know where to start. I've never been a big food snob, but trying out "authentic southern cuisine" was one of my reasons to visit New Orleans. Got to try : po-boys ( basically a seafood Subway sandwich ); Jambalaya ( spicy fried rice with sausages/seafood); Cajun cuisine ( everything spicy); Beignets ( powdered doughnuts )

Things to do ?

River boat tours

As a kid growing up in Western Siberia, I was fascinated by Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn/ Tom Sawyer, and never thought that one day I would travel on the mighty Mississippi River, where Twain operated a steam-powered riverboat.

Swamp tours

A unique journey back to the early days of Louisiana bayou and swamp explorations is a "must do" during your visit. Just 3-4 hours long, these trips offer a quick look at the Louisiana Wetlands, the inhabitants of the swamps, and particularly the life and habits of the American alligator.

Walking Tours - The French Quarter History Tour. A better alternative - check out one of these books, pic what you want to see, and go for a walk.

Turned out, I am not a big fan of carnivals. But the French Quarter made an unforgettable impression on me ! If visiting Paris/Brazil seems like a "dream that won't happen", New Orleans is a cheap ( "off season" ) and a great alternative.

P.S: There was another "heavily promoted " tour - Hurricane Katrina tour, traveling through neighborhoods affected by the hurricane.

Jazzland Amusement Park after 2005 Hurricane Katrina 

I wasn't sure if I wanted to ride around on a bus looking at other people's devastation...."they say that money goes towards families affected by this disaster"...If you believe in something like that, aside from Mardi Gras, that's another reason to visit this wonderful town. If not, here are " Top 10 reasons to travel to New Orleans "...

Great mancation idea : Shooting real fully automatic machine guns in Las Vegas

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For many guys, Las Vegas is already # 1 destination to blow off some steam partying, drinking and gambling. The downside of all that is ....you won't remember shit drinking your face off for five days straight. But I guarantee you that no matter how drunk you are, you'll never forget this:
The Gun Store offers people the opportunity to shoot fully-automatic machine guns as well as handguns, rifles and shotguns...
I mean, we are talking about fully automatic M16, AK47, Uzi, M1A1 Tompson, M 249 Saw...

My suggestion, visit the store before you piss your money away on booze and hookers...because starting your story with : " I shot a fully automatic AK47..." beats " I got so wasted and almost hooked up with a fat chick..."

The Gun Store Las Vegas from nicholas Larralde on Vimeo.

Good, ol' American cuisine

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American foods have a reputation as being “junk foods " ( you may disagree ). And nothing says " junk food " like " Quadruple Bypass Burger " and "Flatliner Fries" (cooked in pure lard ! ). If this is still healthy enough for you, how about unfiltered cigarettes, beer, liquor, and soft drinks such as Jolt cola and Mexican Coke made with real sugar ?

There are several US cities and restaurants that lay claim to being the home of the hamburger. But if there is one place I could eat my " last meal ", it would be " The Heart Attack Grill " in Chandler, Arizona. After watching this video, I've decided this is the way I want to " go ".

P.S : Did I mention waitresses are dressed like " naughty nurses " ?

Outdoor adventures in Miami and Florida Keys.

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Planning your adventure trip to Florida any time soon ? Here are a few suggestions from my recent trip to Miami and Key West.

Before going there, I stopped by Barnes & Nobles and my local library, to see if I could find any good info on outdoor activities and adventures in that area. Once again, I came to conclusion that those were not the best places to find detailed, and (what was especially important to me!) budget conscious information.

The first "must-do" activity for me was surfing. Though, South Beach is considered to be one of the top 10 beaches in the world, don't get too excited. I had to drive to Haulover Park (40 min drive from South Beach ) just to catch a few 2ft( 5ft top) waves. It was a bit mushy; its a good idea to go with a long board. Haulover Park ,also, turned out to be ...nude beach. So, it kind of worked out.

Interesting fact: renting out a jet ski for 1 hour at South Beach- $75.
Key West -$35.
Parasailing at South Beach- single $85, Tandem- $ 150.
Key West ? $ 41 single !

What I am trying to say here is, that you really won't find these kind of deals in guide books ( outdated info), and you'll spend hours on Internet to find a good ( read-cheap) deal.

You want more, better deals ? Fury Water Adventures in Key West offers Ultimate Adventure Pass.
$ 125 will buy you: snorkeling, sailing, kayaking, jet ski,parasailing and a lot of fun ! One drawback- you have to do all that withing 6 hours (10 am-4pm). Don't know about you, but for me there is never too much fun.

Two more "must-do" adventures in Key West should be fishing and diving.

If you are not crazy about spending the whole day with a rod, your best choice is- fishing party boats. Be warned ! : Don't go for those "private" super expensive charters ( unless, of course, you can either afford one or you are really into fishing), who will charge you $500-700 for half/full day trips.
A four hour trip on Tortuga or The Gulfstream III party boats will cost you ...$50-55 ! They supply the rod & reel, on board cold storage for the fish, fish cleaning, and the fishing license. What do you do with that fish ? Have a professional taxidermist make a fabulous trophy mount of a fish you've just caught !

When it comes to diving and snorkeling, the Florida Keys unlock an underwater paradise. Here, you'll find the longest living reef in the western hemisphere; more than 500 wrecks to explore; more dive shops per square mile than anywhere else in the world; and crystal clear waters with visibility up to 120 feet.

Not scuba certified ? No problem !

Snuba diving is a popular guided touring activity in many tropical tourist locations (Florida is not an exception). Snuba is also popular because no prior dive experience is necessary. More fun than snorkeling and less training than in scuba diving.The air, instead of coming from tanks (like in scuba diving), comes through a long hose from tanks on pontoon rafts on the surface. Drawback- snuba dive is limited to about 20 ft.

But whether you are scuba or snuba diving in Florida, one place "absolutely- must- do"-Jules ! Never heard of it? Absolutely "one of the things to see" before you die!

The Jules Undersea Lodge is an underwater hotel in Key Largo, Florida and is the only such hotel in the United States. It is 30 feet deep on the ocean floor and guests have to scuba dive (you don't have to be certified !) to get to their rooms. The hotel is located at the bottom of the Emerald Lagoon.

Though the price is 475.00/person per night, you can stop by Jules' Undersea Lodge for a three hour visit. Enjoy unlimited diving for certified divers, watch a movie, listen to music, or just relax and enjoy the tranquility of Innerspace for $125 per person (two person minimum reservation). Word of advice- call minimum 2 weeks ahead.

Of course ,there is much more to do and to see in Florida. And I am sure, you can find activities and adventures for every budget. This trip taught me a few things:
-plan in advance
-do detailed research
-try to find local "expert" to help with planning
-don't try to do all at once

"Easy Rider" Mancations

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Remember the movie? Two counterculture bikers travel from Los Angeles to New Orleans in search of America and "Freedom". Classic! Why ? Because that movie captures the true reality of the open road and yet still had the philosophical edge.It shows that the adventure is not about the destination, but it's rather an odyssey of personal discovery. It questions what true freedom really is, whether anyone is truly free, and whether it can even fully exist ( now that's just LSD talking).

How many of us (men) have dreamt about becoming a "Free Spirit","getting away from all that", away from all those ''responsibilities''?

And what represents"Freedom" and "Free Spirit " better than good-ol' Harley Davidson?

EagleRider is the pioneer of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle rentals and the guided motorcycle tour business. Today, they are the largest motorcycle tourism company specializing in rentals of Motorcycles, ATVs, Dirt Bikes, Scooters, Snowmobile, and Watercraft.

You have a choice of : renting a bike, go on a guided or self drive tour, or go on a one-way trip between franchise rental facilities located in the most desirable tourist destinations in the world.

The self drive tours is a perfect idea for your next mancation. Self drive tour packages include:

-a late model motorcycle
-first-rate hotel accommodations
-a detailed day-by-day itinerary with lots of useful tips
-transfers between hotel and EagleRider location.

You can choose from a variety of 8-day and 3-day trips or have your personal "dream come true" tour custom designed by EagleRider's experts.

For Seattle EagleRider location visit their website here.

Guys extreme adventures in Washington.

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After my recent post about " mancations", I couldn't stop thinking whether guy's vacations should be just booze and strippers, "soft" adventures like biking, rafting, skydiving or something they will remember for a long, long time. I spent some time on the net and found some unbelievable adventures. Here are just a few of them: driving WWII tank, flying in a fighter jet, driving Formula 1 racing car, becoming a firefighter , special/covert/sea operations agent, piloting a submarine and more.
Everything from extreme adventures to extremely bizarre, like "pirate hunting" vacations to those interested in wielding AK-47's and shooting at pirates off the coast of Somalia ( just US$5,000+ AK-47's and ammunition available for rent each day).

Do we have anything that even remotely as extreme as those adventures in Washington State? Not quite, but here are a few ideas:

My first pick ( and my favorite one ) is...Stuntman School. Yes, right here in Mukilteo, Wa. This three week intensive training, with an emphasis on the most basic stunts found in film production, will include : precision driving,fire burns, martial arts, foot/stair/high falls, special effects and more. Whether you want to use this trainings to pursue a career as "stunt performer" or just want to perform your own basic stunts for your friends, you will have a lot of fun during those three weeks. To remember this unforgettable experience ( and show it to your friends), your entire training will be video taped. Who knows, may be you will become some big action star's double, living in Los Angeles or at least working at Six Flags or Disney.

My second pick is a bit more intense. While on a leisure walk around Pike Market, you are kidnapped and held for ransom. A terrorist attack closes the district and you find yourself in a fix. How do you stay alive? Let's start with... why you were at Pike Market... Just kidding. But if Pike Market happened to be captured by terrorists, you will need to know how to get to safety on your own and that what "Scout Urban Escape and Evasion" course will teach you. Even if you don't live in "challenging urban environments", you can feel like James Bond for a day and learn : " urban baseline movement and urban awareness training, the use of urban disguises and false papers/identification, lock picking, escaping from unlawful custody, obtaining and driving local transportation, the use of "specialized" urban gear, and instruction on how to develop urban escape and evasion go-bags, etc." Besides it's all very practical knowledge (the use false papers/identification,lock picking ? isn't it?) used in everyday life.

My next two pick are less extreme, but no less fun or practical.

NOLS - National Outdoor Leadership School takes people of all ages on remote wilderness expeditions, teaching technical outdoor skills, leadership, and environmental ethics in some of the world’s wildest and most awe-inspiring classrooms. No, it's not another adventure company. You won't be treated like a tourist and don't expect anybody to do everything for you. It takes practice to learn outdoor skills and time to develop leadership and the wilderness provides the ideal setting for this unique education.The Outdoor Educator courses, featuring backcountry travel, glacier travel, and rock climbing, are truly signatures of NOLS Pacific Northwest. One of their state-of-the-art facilities is located in Conway, Washington.
"The Pacific Northwest Trip Leader" one week course is designed for those who don’t have a lot of time or a huge budget but are motivated to learn the ABCs of leading groups in the backcountry.

My final pick is similar to NOLS with more in-depth approach to wilderness survival, ethnobotany, wildlife tracking, permaculture, and outdoor leadership. The Alderleaf Wilderness Certification Program prepares students to readily apply nature skills in environmental conservation, outdoor education, sustainable living, and beyond. With today's economy we all pretty soon will have to go back to our roots -learn how to build natural shelters, purify water, create friction fire, find wild food, and master a variety of wilderness crafts; develop the ability to accurately read tracks and signs made by mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects; learn how to properly identify, gather, and prepare wild plants for meals, medicines, and tools.
Tell me it's not practical? And skills like these will serve you for a long time.

But I am sure that is not all we have. There have to be crazier and more extreme adventures for man.

After my post on target shooting, I got a request to organize a "bachelor " party : booze, guns and camping. Isn't it the idea of "mancations" ? What would your ultimate "Man Adventures " be?

Dude, wanna go on mancation?

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A recen article in the Seattle Magazine talks about the latest buzzwords in the travel industry, a spin-off on the girlfriends’ getaway marketing phenomenon-"Mancations". Although the term is new, the concept isn’t--as evidenced by the dozens of guy-getaway themed movies that have been around for ages ( "City Slackers",
" Without a Paddle", "Wild Hogs" are just a few).

So, what exactly is a "mancation "?

The Urban Dictionary, an online compilation of slang, offers seven definitions with the first:
"When men "engage in 'guy' activities that involve sports, camping, gambling, chasing women and most of all drinking amongst their ... male friends. No wives, mistresses or girlfriends allowed. Done in order to get in touch with their male-primal roots.Mancations provide the opportunity for men to get together and bond with guys from work or old friends from college"

Acceptable. But the way ?...

Although golf outings, sports events and fishing trips are the mainstays of male bonding, some of the fellas are branching out with high-velocity adventures like skydiving and bungee jumping, while others opt to kick back with spa treatments and back waxes.

Is there more to the guys' getaways than sex and drinking ?

When you were younger, what was you ultimate " mancation "? For lots of guys it has always been - Vegas, Atlantic City, Miami, Tijuana or the nearest strip club ( two days without leaving the club ? It happens).

But when we get older and our lives become busier and finding time to hang out is getting more difficult to find, do we still have to do " the old routine " (drinking, partying ), or is it the time to "confront our existential crises" and share our feeling ?

One thing is for sure, there is no " mancation" without booze. That's why many distilleries now days are capitalizing on this new travel trend. The famous Jim Beam and Knob Creek distilleries offer a guys-only tour of Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail during National Bourbon Heritage Month ( did you know that in 2007, the U.S. Senate declared, by unanimous vote, September as “National Bourbon Heritage Month !).

You don't need to go "mancationing" in Kentucky, as our own Spokane’s Dry Fly Distilling—a boutique distillery that is one of Washington’s first—has become a popular destination for discerning vodka-, gin- and whiskey-loving men from around the Pacific Northwest. You will get hands on training opportunities in everything from Grain Handling and mash preparation to ...dealing with hang over ( not sure about that).

Following the footsteps of " City Slackers ", another " mancation " idea - Dude Ranches. Once you are boozed enough, make your way to the "K Diamond K Guest Ranch" , in Republic- an old gold mining town, 125 miles northwest of Spokane, where you can enjoy camping, fishing, hunting and white water rafting surrounded by fresh air and natural beauty ( make sure you watch "Brokeback Mountain" before going).

Too much bonding ?

One interesting fact :
Women's trips lean toward sharing life experiences ... related to their husbands, families, careers.
Men don't worry about other members' feelings.

And why should they? when there is booze to "taste" and women to chase- that's THE MANCATION !

Dude, you wanna bond?