Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Highlights and Lowlights

It hasn't been a very busy travel year for us as we've had other, real-life issues to deal with but we did get some in.  Here are some of the highlights and lowlights of the year.

AIRLINES: We did not have a bad flight this year. Southwest and Alaska both took very good care of us and we had very enjoyable flights. Hard to say which one is a better bet this year but Alaska is getting very aggressive with their pricing and destinations as we head into the new year. Look into it if you'd like to get away to a warmer climate for awhile.

On the other hand...

AIRPORTS: Have nothing good to say about three of the four airports we transited through this year...LAX, BWI, and LIR...but ONT still is a pleasant but very dead place to fly in and out of. Maybe now that the city of Ontario is taking over the reigns from LAX, they can revitalize this very convenient and much underused facility.

HOTELS: Shenandoah Inn, the mom and pop motel in the Motherlode that could, is still one of the most enjoyable and relaxing places we've ever stayed. Located in the heart of California's Gold Country with friendly and competent owners Ken and Marie, I can feel my stress melting away as soon as I hit their driveway.

We had a so-so stay at the Springhill Suites in Baltimore but found a fantastic Courtyard by Marriott when we moved over to nearby Washington D.C. We also had a pretty miserable, and cold, night in another Courtyard in San Diego at the beginning of the year but a couple of stays at Homewood Suites completely made up for that, a very nice and consistent brand (four stays at four different locations with four very nice experiences).

And I'd be remiss to not mention the very nice and understated Borrego Springs Resort, an oasis of relaxation in the middle of Anza Borrego Desert State Park in California.

RENTAL CAR: We don't rent cars very often but when we do, we usually have a good experience. Not really posted for 2015 but coming up very soon on this blog, we had an absolutely nightmarish experience with Alamo in Costa Rica who tried to gouge us out of another $600 for insurance on arrival. Put a shadow on the entire trip.

FOOD: This one's easy. Two outstanding restaurants encountered on our journeys this year, I don't even have to bat an eye over trying to pull them out of my memory...Supano's in Baltimore and Taste in Plymouth, California.

Supano's is like dining with your Italian aunts and uncles, you know, the ones who make the most exquisite dishes you've every tried and ladle it out with friendly banter and converstation with the ever-present Sinatra soundtrack in the background. We absolutely fell in love with this place and their staff.

Taste is one of those great California restaurants that take their food to another level of taste and refinement. It's located in the most unpretentious location and the atmosphere shows it. Great, relaxed, and friendly service with some of the most delicious, handcrafted entrees you'll ever have.

Both restaurants are expensive but worth every single penny, and more.

If you want good, cheap food, our champion is still Los Tacos de Huicho, the best little taco shop in the world way, way off the beaten path in Bakersfield, California or the very good (and cheap!) steakhouse at Molino Viejo in San Quintin, Baja California.

So there you have it, the highs and lows from...what for kind of a quiet travel year. Next week, we break out the new posts for 2016 so be sure to join us for another year of fun and accessible travel adventures.

Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

HITTING THE SLOPES: Adaptive Skiing in the U.S.A

There are several programs in the U.S. geared to helping those with special needs to learn how to ski or even just to go out for a day of fun on the slopes with a couple of professional guides.

Fair warning, though...these programs can be very expensive. Count on spending well over $100 per day. Still, probably more fun than Disneyland which would cost just as much.

There are a few organizations and charities that might be able to lower the cost via scholarships and charitable funding. In my area, Southern California, Ability First organizes a ski weekend camp in the San Bernardino Mountains and Casa Colina in Pomona also offers ski trips for those with special needs.

Here is the start of our list of adaptive programs in the United the program of your choice for costs and information. Click on links to visit each one.


Challenge Alaska runs an adaptive ski program at Alyeska Resort near Anchorage.
Eaglecrest Ski Area near Juneau has a program.


The Arizona Snowbowl offers adaptive skiing near Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon.


Lake Tahoe Area -
Alpine Meadows at Lake Tahoe has one of the older, more established adaptive programs around.
Heavenly Valley now has an adaptive program.

Bear Valley, east of Sacramento, has an adaptive program.

The U.S. Adaptive Recreation Association is based at Bear Mountain in Big Bear, 2 hours east of Los Angeles
Skiing legend Nic Fiore started the ski school at Badger Pass in Yosemite National Park and it carries on in his name.
Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra runs the program at California's most popular ski mountain, Mammoth.
In Wrightwood, just north of San Bernardino, Mountain High has an adaptive ski school.


Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center has programs at both Breckenridge and Keystone ski areas.
Crested Butte offers adaptive skiing provided by the Adaptive Sports Center.
Durango Mountain Resort has a program run by the Adaptive Sports Association, which also offers scholarships.
Steamboat Springs is a great ski area and they have an adaptive program.
National Sports Center for the Disabled runs the program at Winter Park.


Ski Sundown in New Hartford has one of the more affordable programs in the country.


Recreation Unlimited runs the adaptive program at Bogus Basin near Boise.
Higher Grounds runs the adaptive program as Sun Valley.
One of my favorite Idaho ski areas, Scheitzer, also has a program.


In Lawrenceburg, Perfect North has the adaptive program.
Paoli Peaks in Paoli offers an adaptive program.


If you're near Dubuque, Sundown Mountain Resort can help you out.


At Sunday River, the program is run by Maine Adaptive Sports and Recreation.
Maine Adaptive also runs a program at Sugarloaf Resort
Wachussett Mountain in Princeton offers an adaptive program.


Michigan Adaptive Sports runs programs at Pine Knob, Schuss Mountain, and Crystal Mountain.


Giants Ridge offers an adaptive program near Duluth and Grand Rapids.
Also near Duluth, Spirit Mountain offers a program run by Courage Center.
In Makato, the Mankato Area Adaptive Ski Program runs a program at Mount Kato.


Snow Creek in Weston offers a program for the Kansas City area.


Is there a better place to ski than Big Sky? Don't know, but there can't be too many and they're open to adaptive skiers too.
Near Bozeman, Bridger Bowl has an adaptive program.
In Whitefish, you can go adaptive skiing at Whitefish Mountain.


See Lake Tahoe Area under California, above.


In Gilford, you can find an adaptive program at Gunstock.
New England Disabled Sports runs a program at Loon Mountain.
One of the oldest adaptive programs is the New England Handicapped Skiers Association at Mount Sunapee.
In the Mt. Washington area, Atitash has an adaptive program.
Waterville Valley has a free first timer program for adaptive skiers.


Ski Campgaw is your spot for adaptive skiing in the Garden State.


Near Ruidoso, Ski Apache has an extensive adaptive program.
One of the world's great mountains, Sandia Peak, has a program run by the Adaptive Ski Program.


Near Lake Placid, Belleayre has an adaptive program as does Whiteface Mountain.

Up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, you can find adaptive skiing at Beech Mountain and Cataloochee Ski Area.


Near Minot, Bottineau resort has Annie's House for disable skiers.


Near Mansfield, Snow Trails offers an adaptive program.
In Zanesfield, Mad River offers a program run by The Adaptive Adventure Sports Coalition.


Near Bend, Mt. Bachelor offers a program run by Oregon Adaptive Sports.
In Coburg, Hoodoo offers adaptive skiing.
Remember "The Shining?" Well, another of the world's great mountains welcomes special needs skiers...Mt. Hood.


Near Mercersburg, Whitetail has an adaptive program run by Two Top Adaptive Sports.
Pennsylvania Center for Adaptive Sports runs a program at Camelback Mountain near Tannersville.

Near Sioux Falls, Great Bear Recreation Park offers adaptive skiing.

The National Ability Center runs one of the country's premiere adaptive programs at Park City.
At Snowbird, a little south of Park City, Wasatch Adaptive Sports runs a program.

Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports hosts an adaptive program at Bolton Valley.
Stowe Mountain Resort caters to special needs.
Near Warren, Sugarbush runs an adaptive program.

Near Lovingston, Wintergreen Mountain is your destination for special needs skiing.

Mt. Spokane offers "therepeutic recreation," including adaptive skiing, run by the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department.
Closer to Seattle, Mt. Baker offers adaptive skiing.

Snowshoe Mountain offers adaptive skiing as does Silver Creek Resort in the same area.

In East Troy, at Alpine Valley Resort, Southeastern Wisconsin Adaptive Ski Program operates.

Many consider it the best ski mountain in the world, special needs skiers can also find a home at Jackson Hole.

If you live near snow in the U.S., chances are you live near a program. Give it a shot!

Happy skiing...

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, December 20, 2015

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Cranberry Margarita

This one's short, simple, sweet, and delicious. What we're drinking this week is a variation of the traditional margarita on the rocks, substituting cranberry cocktail for most of the sweet and sour.  We're using Fresh and Easy's cranberry cocktail, which has no added colors, so ours comes out pink.  If you use Ocean Spray's, it comes out redder.  If you want a really red drink, add a splash of grenadine.

Watch the Video!

INGREDIENTS - two drinks

2 1/2 oz. tequila
1 1/2 oz. triple sec
juice of one small lime
1 oz. sweet and sour
3 - 4 oz. cranberry cocktail

Put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker half filled with ice.  Shake and strain into margarita or cocktail glasses.

We don't salt the rims on these and the final tally is about 200 calories.



Friday, December 4, 2015

TRIP REPORT: Monterey and Pacific Grove - Part 2

We've had a great, first day in Pacific Grove and Monterey (see Part 1 here), it's time to complete the trip.

In the morning, we went to First Awakenings for breakfast.  It’s nice that the inn has a continental breakfast, but we want the full meal.  This spot, in an old fish cannery just around the corner from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, really hits the target.

We have some really superb omelets, along with their great bacon and sourdough toast to start off our day.  This gives us some good nutrition and energy for our next activity, a hike across the bay to the 17-Mile Drive.
There’s a nice, wheelchair accessible boardwalk across the sand that bisects the beach from The Links at Spanish Bay golf course.  It’s about a half-mile walk across till you get to a little point where the 17 Mile Drive comes out of the woods and a vista point is available.  Since it’s a drive, you can take your car here – for a fee – but it’s an easy walk from our inn and we get some exercise along the way.  It’s also a great way to get up close and personal with the ocean.

At the vista point, we marvel at the view and have fun watching the many chipmunks that scavenge the area for food before walking back.
In the evening, we head over to Carmel to window shop and have dinner.  We’d never been to the Hog’s Breath Inn, formerly owned by the former mayor of Carmel…Clint Eastwood, so we thought we’d try it out. 
Underneath a jazz radio station and music shop, the restaurant has a large dining room and a pub, separated by a really nice outdoor area with multiple fireplaces, free-form tables, trees, and a large, painted backdrop on the building next door.  Way out back is the very cozy pub that looks like it was lifted from a Tolkien book.
This looks like the perfect setting for dinner!  We tell the maĆ®tre‘d that we’d like to sit out here and have dinner but he tells us that this is only the bar and just appetizers are served here.  If we’d like dinner, we’d have to eat inside in the dining room.
In we go.  As lovely as the outdoor area is, the indoor dining room has all the charm of a high school cafeteria.  I don’t care how good the food is here, I can’t believe it’s served in such an austere setting so we go back outside and just have a few apps and a couple of drinks.  It turned out very nice but, really, either redo the dining room or ditch the silly “no dinner outside” rule.
The next morning, we get in the car for a drive up the coast.  We head in the general direction  of Watsonville to see what we can find. 
Past the navy’s language school, you come into Marina where you can learn how to hang glide.  Continuing on we get to Moss Landing.
We stop to take a look at this beautiful fishing village.  There are a couple of restaurants and some antique shops but it’s mostly a working fishing fleet here so our time is short-lived.  Eventually, we make it to Watsonville where we buy some freshly picked strawberries to take with us and head back to Monterey.
Back in town, we walk along Fisherman’s Wharf and have free samples of the clam chowder that each restaurant is giving out.  It’s good but I remember coming here in the past and having one of the worst dinners in my life.  After the wharf, we go over to Cannery Row where we have a cocktail at a waterfront lounge with a friendly bartender.  Unfortunately, it has since closed.
Dinner tonight is back in Pacific Grove, this time across the street from Passionfish at International Cuisine where we have a couple of very good pasta dishes along with some good red wine, but still not as good as Passionfish, which will go down as the best place we saw on this trip.
Another sunset with our Watsonville strawberries and champagne, another night in our cozy little inn, and then it’s back to L.A. where we have a couple of days to rest before we pick Tim up from camp.

Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved