Friday, May 28, 2010

Country Inns and Suites 1K Adventure- 7 States in 7 Days!

Country Inn and Suites

Imagine your family waking up, hopping on a plane to Minneapolis, and then getting up the next morning to begin driving 1000 miles through 7 states for the next seven days.  Sounds like fun, right?  But there's a catch.  You won't know which direction you are heading or which states you will be visiting.  As a matter of fact, you won't even know where you are going each day until you received a message on your smart phone giving you new instructions!  Sounds like a blast doesn't it?  Well, that is exactly what my family will be doing from June 5th-13th while we participate in the Country Inns and Suites 1K Adventure!!!!

Lately we haven't exactly been the most spontaneous travelers.  I love to research, plot out, and organize every last detail of our vacations.  On this trip however, I have to hand the torch over to Country Inns and Suites by Carlson and trust them to do the planning.  While I am confident that they have plotted a fantastic course for us, I am still experiencing a bit of anxiety about the unknown.  I will probably be bringing along multiple travel guides so I can blurt out random facts about each location we visit and I have a feeling my road atlas will be attached to my right arm (I know we will have a GPS but I am old school), but my excitement over this journey far overshadows those little anxious gremlins in the back of my mind.  

Here is what I do know: We will be driving an Avis Rental Car, equipped with a GPS, be given a Sprint smart phone (the Samsung Moment to be exact), some Dining Cash gift cards, and a JVC Camcorder.  Each day, we will get messages on our Smart Phones regarding our next "Suite Stop".  In those messages we will be given directions and the information that we need to navigate to our next destination.  We will have a task to complete at each "Suite Stop" and it will be up to us to determine how we spent the remainder of our time during the day.  Every night, we will be sleeping soundly at one of many different Country Inns and Suites throughout the country.  Its nice to know that at the end of the day, we will be in a clean, comfortable bed with plenty of room for the four of us to spread out!

My family is not going on this journey alone. We are heading down the road with two other families.  The first is the Williams Family of Colorado. Kara (aka Colorado Gal), the family matriarch, is also a fantastic travel writer and one of the women behind Vacation Gals.  The second is the Sveback Family.   Ross Sveback is a widely recognized Twin Cities lifestyle expert (I am really looking forward to all of his tips!) who can be found on Kon-Tent.  Part of my excitement about this journey is being able to meet these two families and share our experiences with each other.  I can't wait to read their blog posts, tweets, and Facebook updates to see how their experiences differ from ours even though we are all traveling the same stretch of highway.

I would love nothing more than to have you all follow along with us as we take this trip and explore America. Make sure to bookmark the Country Inns and Suites 1K page so you can follow our three families as we roadtrip across the country.  Each day, I will be writing a post at the Trekaroo blog (I will be placing a link to that post here as well), recapping our day and giving you the highlights of our journey.  We will also be videotaping portions of our trip so be sure to check out the clips I post to see yours truly making a complete fool of herself on camera.   I will also be updating the Trekaroo Facebook page and my personal Facebook page.  Finally, I will be tweeting up a storm on both @trekaroo and @doubleadventure.  Make sure and follow the hashtag #CIS1K so you don't miss a moment of the adventure!

There you have it- the details (or lack thereof) of our upcoming  journey.  Now I would love to hear from you!  Where do you think we will be heading?  What places do you hope we see along the way?  Any tips for venturing out into the great unknown? I am looking forward to hearing what you all have to say!

Disclosure:  A significant portion of the costs and resources for our family’s participation in the 1K Country Adventure was provided by Country Inns & Suites By Carlson.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lassen Volcanic National Park with kids

When my children were about nine months old, my best friend, Chrissy, and I thought it would be a good idea to strap them to our chests and go hiking in Lassen Volcanic National Park.  Turns out, it wasn’t a good idea, it was a GREAT idea!  We had a wonderful day exploring the geothermal features of the park while introducing the kids to the first of many National Park adventures. Lassen is off the beaten path but well worth the drive. Here are some of my tips for visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park with kids:


WHEN TO GO:  The park is snowed in until June so my recommendation is to plan for a mid-June to mid-September visit unless you are in to snowshoeing.   We went in June and while all the roads were plowed, there was still quite a bit of snow on the ground which was a surprise to us. After all, we were wearing t-shirts and shorts!


WHERE TO STAY: We stayed near the town of Chester, in a cabin by the shore of Lake Almanor.  It was close enough to drive back and forth to the park every day, but much more practical for us than camping inside the park with a couple of infants.  Lake Almanor is a popular summer vacation destination and there are plenty of cabins for rent in the area.  If your family loves to camp, there are 6 campgrounds (3 of them are group sites) within the park. 


WHAT TO DO: I think every trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park should include a hike to Bumpass Hell.  It is a beautiful 3 mile hike over the side of a mountain and into a stinky, hydrothermal wonderland filled with steaming pools, bubbling mud pots, and multicolored streams.  Make sure to keep your children on the boardwalk so they don’t break the fragile crust on the ground surrounding the features. Mr Bumpass made the mistake of walking too close to the features and slipped through the crust, scalding his leg in the process!!!

June 2007

Those with older children who are up to the challenge can take the 5 mile RT hike to the top of Lassen Peak.  On May 22, 1915, Mt Lassen experienced a large volcanic eruption and the effects of the volcanic eruption can still be seen throughout the Devastated Area.  Views from the trail leading up to Mt Lassen are nothing short of spectacular.

Another fun (and short!) hike is to Cold Boiling Lake. This trail is only .8 miles RT and leads to a lake with gas bubbles coming up which give it it’s boiling appearance.  For an even more incredible boiling lake experience, take the easy 3 mile RT hike to Boiling Springs Lake where the water temperature is 125 degrees due to a number of hot springs under the surface of the water.

This post is featured on Trekaroo’s Spotlight Thursday. Click on the link below and see who else is playing along!

Trekaroo | Kids. trips. tips.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Barbara’s Lake Hike, James Dilley Preserve

How many natural lakes do you think Orange County, CA has? True, there are a few lakes in OC, but as with alot of things in Orange County, most of them are not natural.  The answer is ONE.  Just one.  One small, unassuming lake tucked away in the James Dilley Preserve off Laguna Canyon Road.  At 12 acres, Barbara’ Lake may not be Lake Superior, but she certainly is pretty.

Mari and I met some friends and introduced them to the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.  We have hiked quite a few trails in this park but we still hadn’t seen the lake!  Since the trail from the Nix Nature Center to Barbara’s Lake is flat, we decided it was a great hike for our toddler foursome to take on.  We began with a quick loop around the 1/2 mile nature trail (named Mary’s Trail) and admired all the sights and scents of the coastal sage scrub habitat.

Hiking with Friends

Then we headed out south on the Little Sycamore Canyon Trail which lead us under the road past more great scenery and over towards a little pond.  Now this may or may not be Bubble’s Pond.  I seem to have found conflicting reports on the internet as to its exact location.  What is the significance of Bubble’s Pond?  Well back in the early eighties a hippo escaped from the (now closed) Lion Country Safari and took up residence for 19 days in the area! 

Hiking with Friends1

Hiking with Friends2 

We took a right on the Stagecoach Trail and then a quick left onto the Lake Trail.  The vegetation grew more lush and we could tell that we were close!  Suddenly we found what we were looking for- Orange County’s lake!!!  The shore was lined with cattails and wildflowers instead of million dollar homes.  I think I like lakes alot better that way…



New Orleans Jazz Heritage Festival Food- The Best of the Best

Last month I entered a little place called food heaven. It was a land filled with seafood, spice, pastries and pork. I may have gained 5 lbs and taken 5 years off my life in the process, but it was all worth it.  Where is food heaven you ask?  Well honey, its down on the bayou of course!

I could go on and on about how amazing the New Orleans Jazz Festival was (and believe me, I will in another post) and about how I plan on going back every year (because I do) but today I want to talk about the food.  The glorious, glorious food.  Every single food item that I sampled was fantastic. I was lucky enough to attend the festival with some seasoned veterans who guided me through all things Jazz Fest related. Now I want to pass my new found knowledge on to you so you will be prepared when you visit (because you REALLY SHOULD).

THE BEST PO BOYS: You absolutely CAN NOT go to Jazz Fest and not eat a Po Boy (or three).  They are the classic New Orleans sandwich.  We all agreed that the Cochon de Lait Po-Boy, a flavorful shredded pork sandwich with an out of this world sauce, was one of the best.  I don’t know what they do to that pork but I do know that I have found myself waking up in the middle of the night screaming “I need more Cochon de Lait!”. The Fried Softshell Crab Po-Boy was unlike any other crab sandwich I had ever had before.  So crunchy, so crabtastic, so perfect.  I never knew you could eat the shell of a soft shell crab and I certainly couldn’t imagine it would taste so good.  Finally, you HAVE to try alligator while you are in New Orleans so why not try it in a po-boy? The Fried Gator Po-Boy is actually very good and yes, alligator does taste like chicken. 

BEST USE OF CRAWFISH: Crawfish is a Jazz Fest staple and the Cajuns know how to turn those lowly mudbugs into some of the most tasty cuisine you will ever experience.  The Crawfish Beignets are so rich and flavorful.  The flakiness of the beignets compliments the tender meat of the crawfish beautifully.  However, the award for best use of crawfish of all time goes to whoever created Crawfish Monica (I am assuming it was someone named Monica).  Wow.  In this dish pasta goes Cajun and let me tell you, its the best decision pasta has ever made.  Its creamy, spicy, crawfish heaven.   I also have to recommend staying at the French Quarter Suites while in New Orleans. The rooms are spacious and accommodating and every Saturday of Jazzfest they do a crawfish boil for all their guests. All you can eat crawfish, fried chicken, potatoes, corn, salad, beer, and soda.  It was wonderful. I have never eaten so much crawfish in my life. It just kept coming!!!!!

Photo Courtesy Kajun Kettle

BEST SWEET TREATS:  You can’t come to New Orleans without trying Cafe Du Monde’s Beignets and Cafe Au Lait. Lucky for everyone in attendance, Cafe Du Monde has a stand at the New Orleans Jazz Festival.  In my opinion, there is no bad time for beignets and an iced Cafe Au Lait is perfectly refreshing after spending hours in the hot sun.  If you are looking for a dessert to go with all that Cajun goodness, try the Mini Pecan Pies.   Nothing says sweets from the south quite like a pecan pie and these little tid bits of heaven are sure not to disappoint.

BEST POST JAZZ FEST STREET PARTY EATS: I never liked bloody marys. That is, until I tried a bloody mary from Luizza’s.  They are so fresh and tasty that you almost feel like you are doing something healthy by drinking them.  Every day after Jazz Fest ends, the streets around Luizza’s are filled with people celebrating the end of an incredible day of music.  Join  them for a bloody mary, and be sure to grab a Cajun style tamale from a street vendor along the way.  Still hungry? Try a barbeque shrimp po-boy from Luizza’s. In New Orleans, barbeque doesn’t refer to some tangy sauce smothering a hunk of meat. It refers to the way the food was cooked.  And this shrimp is cooked to perfection and paired with a lovely garlic sauce.  Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my computer…

Photo courtesy

New Orleans Family Vacation

Monday, May 17, 2010

Guest Post at Who Says Eight is Enough

Hi all-

I just wanted to let you know that I did a guest post over at the blog of one of my dearest friends, Debi, at Who Says Eight is Enough. Her and her NINE kids are currently on a cross country road trip so I thought I would share some road trip experiences of my own. I would love it if you took the time to head on over and check it out here. I am really looking forward to heading back out on the road with my family next month!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lake Englebright

For so many of us, Memorial Day Weekend signals the opening of camping season. The weather is warm, the rain has slowed, and great outdoors is calling.  When I lived in Northern Random pictures1 California, we spent several Memorial Days at Englebright Lake.  Located in the California’s Gold Country outside of Nevada City, Englebright is a quiet lake with a houseboat studded marina that seems to be off the radar of most Californians.  Every year, we rented a large party boat with a bunch of friends and made our way to one of several boat-in camping areas located on the lake.  It was so much fun to pitch our tents on the oak studded shores and circle our chairs around the campfire.  The men played horseshoes and had tri tip cooking competitions while the women lounged in the sun or climbed up the hills on hikes to the dam.  If the weather was warm enough, we would take the boat out to the middle of the lake and jump off the second story into the freezing water below.  It was a great tradition that we all looked forward to every year.

Random pictures


Sadly, my last visit to Englebright Lake was when I was pregnant with my children.  Evidently, air mattresses and twin filled bellies  do not work well together.  One night on the air mattress was enough to pull a bunch of muscles in my stomach (an injury I still feel the effects of) and cause me to have to leave the campsite in tears. 

I refuse to let that ill-fated visit be our last. I look forward to one day taking my kids on a camping trip at Englebright Lake with the children of my friends who shared in those trips of years past. We will share our “under the radar” location with a new generation and hopefully start new traditions in the process.

In the meantime, if you are in Northern California and looking for a fun spot to take the family, check out the boat-in sites at Englebright Lake. I hope your family can create some fond memories as well.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Fiesta Days at Heritage Hill

Sometimes all you need in life to make you happy is a  Mariachi band and a dancing horse. Well, at least that’s all my family needed to declare our outing to Heritage Hill’s Fiesta Days a rousing success. We knew there would be butter churning, even candle making, and of course there would be a celebration of our area’s Mexican heritage. But the frantic hooves of a stallion stomping to the beat of the Mariachi caught us by utter surprise.

May 2010

I imagine the caution tape that was placed in front of the stage where the dancing horses performed was to keep rabid fans who had been entranced by the rhythm of the Mariachi music from coming up front and trotting alongside the professionals. Mari was one of those rabid fans. Her eyes danced and her hands swayed to the beat. She furrowed her brow as she tried desperately to understand why no horse she had  rode in the past had ever stepped to the beat of the music she so sweetly sang. She stared dreamily at the man who rode those magical horses as he crooned love songs while wearing his glitzy ensemble. It was if he stepped directly out of her toddler imagination: a snazzy dressed singer who danced with horses.

It wasn’t just Mari who swooned at the performance. Women of all ages seemed to be captivated by the man who could make horses dance. After the show, they lined up to get his autograph and smiled for the camera next to their dream boat.



There was plenty more fun to be had at Fiesta Days beyond the dancing horses. The kids enjoyed hand churning ice cream, learning how to make their own hand dipped wax candles, and making their own jump ropes the old fashioned way. We watched people perform traditional Mexican dances and tried on bonnets inside the one room schoolhouse. It was a wonderful afternoon and while the candles and clay pots we made will become fixtures in our home, those horses dancing to Mariachi music will stay firmly implanted in my memory forever.  

May 20101

Playing along with two for Twos-day at Who Says Eight is Enough.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mc Cloud Falls

Back before there was Mari and Ben, there was Toby and Raley. They were my first children and the thought of leaving them behind for a hike or a camping trip was incomprehensible.  They wagged their tails and happily hopped in the car and went along with whatever journey I had up my sleeve. Today, the dogs don’t join us nearly as many trips as they used to because honestly, two toddlers are hard enough to wrangle, let alone two dogs! Luckily, things are getting easier. Soon Toby and Raley will be hopping back in the car and walking alongside us on the trail. Until then, I have memories of trips past, including the one we took to McCloud Falls.


McCloud Falls are actually three different waterfalls located within two miles of each other along the McCloud River in Northeastern California, not far from Mt Shasta. There is a trail that runs along the river connecting each of the falls and the entire roundtrip hike is 3.4 miles. Its a great little hike for families with three different destinations along the way!

The Lower Falls are the most popular due to their accessibility. They are only twelve feet high but the water takes a powerful plunge over those twelve feet into a wide pool below, creating a beautiful scene. The base of the falls is a popular spot for swimming and picnicking. The edge Lower Falls is also a popular cliff jumping spot. There was absolutely no way you were going to get me to take the plunge (one fall off a cliff will do that to you) but Paul and my friend Kristi were happy to take the plunge over and over again while Toby howled with worry.

4th of July 2005

The Middle Falls are the most impressive of the trio. They are 46 feet tall and nearly 100 feet wide. The area surrounding the pool has plenty of boulders around it, perfect for soaking up the sun after swimming in the chilly waters at the base of the falls.


The Upper Falls are just a couple minutes up the trail from the Middle Falls and shoot over the edge to a pool 25 feet below. Most people only view them from the platform above but I have read that you can scramble your way down to the bottom.

4th of July 20051

Camping along the McCloud River is a wonderful way to spend a family vacation and explore a part of California that few people ever see. I look forward to taking Mari and Ben to McCloud Falls with my original babies one day, and  making some new memories as a complete family.

Playing along with Spotlight Thursdays at:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Happy to be the New Kid in Town

Trekaroo | Kids. trips. tips.

I am happy to announce that I have taken a new position as Blog Editor in Chief for the family travel website, Trekaroo. I fell in love with Trekaroo late last year after discovering it through a friend and never thought I would ever actually have an opportunity to be part of the team! I will still be posting on Double the Adventure, but I hope you will sign up and follow me along at Trekaroo as well. We have some great giveaways coming up (including the current Hawaiian vacation giveaway) and lots of great projects in the pipeline.

If you are interested in reading the wonderful welcome post that  Trekaroo wrote for me, you can read it here. Working with a team dedicated to the world of family travel really is a dream come true and I would love nothing more than for you to join me on this new journey.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

National Geographic Prize Pack Giveaway: 2nd Annual Tuesday Blog Party


From now until May 8th, I am holding a give-away to help benefit, which is an organization that was founded by Charley & Jessica Whitt to honor their daughter Tuesday.
Although their site is not completely up and running yet, the idea they have is (it will be up by mid-May). is being set up to benefit families that are dealing directly with pediatric cancer. It will help to fund their medical costs, food & travel, and even funeral arrangements, if needed :(

And, of course, it will also help to provide funds for Pediatric Cancer Research.

Charley & Jess know all too well what it is to live with pediatric cancer....
Tuesday was their beautiful twin daughter who bravely fought and sadly lost her 8 month battle with stage 4 neuroblastoma in January of 2009. They learned firsthand what cancer does to a family and they want to turn their pain & their loss into something to help others.

And myself, and all of Jess & Charley's friends, want to do anything we can to help them achieve their goal and make sure that the loss of Tuesday is never forgotten and always has purpose.


A National Geographic Prize Pack which includes a subscription to the National Geographic magazine of your choice (National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler, National Geographic Kids, or National Geographic Little Kids), the National Geographic Guide to the National Parks, and National Geographic Our Fifty States! That’s an over $65 value!

National Geographic Magazine U.S. DeliveryNational Geographic Our Fifty StatesNational Geographic Guide to the National Parks of the U.S., 6th edition

All pictures courtesy of

All you have to do to enter to win this auction is simply leave me a comment letting me know you are interested in winning this fantastic prize pack and then be sure to donate $1 per entry to the Tuesday Fiona Whitt Foundation, which benefits Just click on the donate now button below.

Also, head on over to the Tuesday Blog Party to see what other fantastic items are being auctioned off by clicking the image below.

There are lots of great auctions and all it costs is one dollar to enter each one (unless otherwise specified).
If you would like to make a donation for one lump sum, instead of many individual donations, please feel free to donate however is easiest for you.

If you end up donating $10, but only find 5 auctions you are interested in, you can use those additional dollars as additional entries (Just let me know how many entries dollars you donated towards the prize pack and I will give you an entry per dollar).

Thank you so much for supporting a great cause and remember to have fun!
Good luck!

Why we do what we do

This post was originally written by Debi Bouffard over at Who Says Eight is Enough. I found it to be so powerful and inspiring that I wanted to share it with all of you as well. Tomorrow is the 2nd Annual Tuesday Blog Party. Bloggers from all over the blogosphere will be giving away fabulous prizes all in the name of Pediatric Cancer Research. You can host your own giveaway or just participate by bidding on a few items for $1 a piece. Either way, please help us raise money and awareness about a disease that took a little girl who so many of us love so much and can never forget.


These are the Whitts...
Axel, Spencer, Piper & Tuesday
They are the beautiful children of my friend's Jess & Charley. They are privileged children.
Privileged because they grew up in a home full of love, in a family that envelopes the very meaning of home... where the world revolved around happiness. and exploring. and adventure. and love of man. and earth.
Their parents did everything right. For their kids.
Healthy food. Healthy living. Happy life.
And then cancer came.
Piper, Axel, Spencer & Tuesday
It was a shock.
They did everything they should do. They loved their bodies. Their children. Their world.
They ate healthy. They lived strong. They fought hard.
And cancer still won.
Spencer, Piper & Axel
There's a big gaping hole where Tuesday once was. A hole that everyone can feel and yet no one can fill.
All the prayers, the tears, the hugs, the love.... none of it touches that space.
But they still feel love and hope and happiness.
And that is why I do what I do.
To help bring them any bit of happiness I can.
And part of that is to make sure Tuesday is never forgotten and that her legacy lives on forever.
Not because the family asked it of me, but because I need to do it for them.
Because I love Tuesday and miss her.
Tomorrow, the Tuesday Blog Party begins.
Be a part of it and help us make a difference.
For Tuesday.
For the Whitts.
For all of the children fighting cancer and winning.
And especially for the ones who aren't.