All posts by Mandy Bee

Elsewhere: Feed Your Travel Cravings When You’re Stuck at Home from For the Love of Wanderlust

Paige from For the Love of Wanderlust has written a post full of ideas for feeding your travel cravings when you’re stuck at home.

How to Feed Your Travel Cravings When You’re Stuck at Home by For the Love of Wanderlust

I follow Paige’s blog for the lovely photos and travel tips. This post in particular resonated with me because I feel a bit stuck at home at the moment. Even though I recently quit my full-time day job so that I could travel more, I still have a part-time position as a remote adjunct instructor at the local college. Being remote, it seems like I could just pick up and go whenever I please but I have intermittent courses to take to get my “digital professor certification” and also a fear that I will end up somewhere without cell signal or wifi, which I need to teach my course. (It still surprises me when we find ourselves somewhere without a data signal in the US.) Anyway, the urge to travel is strong and we’re going to be in Orlando for at least the next 3-4 weeks.

Today, John and I were walking around Lake Eola after trying out a new-to-us french bakery in Thornton Park (Benjamin’s). The weather was really  lovely and made me think that maybe I would enjoy Orlando more if I actually went out and tried new things in Orlando more often.

Duck at Lake

Do we love places that we travel to because they are genuinely better than where we live or do we love those places because when we travel we’re always trying new things?

Paige’s suggestions are all great, and some of them, like going to a local museum or on a local hike, may also connect you with where you currently live and help you not feel ‘stuck at home’. Explore your own city and fall in love with it the way you would when you’re traveling!

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Until we purchased Fodor’s The Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West (Full-color Travel Guide), we had never really thought of visiting a volcanic site. We figured the areas would be considered dangerous, off-limits, and we never actually considered that there would be any in the US.

Our main attraction to northern California was the redwoods, but we noticed as we were planning that Lassen Volcanic National Park wasn’t too far. We decided to stay near Mount Shasta and take a day trip out to Lassen Volcanic National Park while we were there.

We only spent about four hours at the park, but it seemed like you could spend a few days. The park was huge and offered scenic drives, hikes, and some awesome geothermal activity.

A ring of volcanic rock from the explosion of Lassen Peak in 1915
A ring of volcanic rock from the explosion of Lassen Peak in 1915

Continue reading Lassen Volcanic National Park

The Redwoods Along the Pacific Coast Highway

As I had posted in my personal blog last year, I had always wanted to see the redwoods in California. I remember flipping through this old travel book my parents had; I was always amazed at the pictures of tiny people next to massive, living, towering trees.

Having been born in California while my parents were in the Navy, I’d actually been to see the redwoods when I was a little baby. My mom always talked about them fondly, saying they were amazing and bigger than you can imagine.

When people say things are more than you can imagine, you still try to imagine them. You might even think that you’ve successfully imagined the awe inspiring feeling you’d get from looking at the redwoods… but you haven’t.

We drove from Crescent City down to San Francisco in November of 2013 on Highway 101. It was a 6.5 hour drive. Honestly, a bit short by our normal standards of driving 12+ hours per day. We even stayed in Fort Bragg for a couple nights in the middle of the drive. This gave us plenty of time to see the northern Californian coast.

The redwoods thrive and are able to grow so tall because of the fog on the west coast. John and I had never seen fog quite so thick or expansive. If I remember correctly, we were either driving through, towards, or around fog for 2-3 hours of our morning drive.

The smallest redwoods we saw were at least 2 times the size of the largest pine trees we’ve seen in Florida. In areas with older groves that weren’t bothered by loggers, looking up towards the top of the trees reminded me of looking up at the buildings in New York City. Nothing has ever made me feel smaller or more in awe of our planet.

Endert’s Beach Overlook

This was a little park near Crescent City. It has hiking trails and we took a short 30 minute hike that reminded us of something from Jurassic Park.

Bridge and ferns


Coastal hike near Crescent City

It was extremely foggy and wet, but we got to experience some coastal hiking and even saw one of those huge banana slugs.



Banana slug for scale
A banana slug for scale

The overlook was nice even if we couldn’t see much. We had initially stopped there in hopes of seeing a whale but we could barely see the water below.

Fog at Endert's Beach Overlook

Fog at Endert's Beach Overlook

Cathedral Trees Trail

We stopped at the Cathedral Trees Trail in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. This park had one of the first really large redwoods we had the opportunity to stand next to.


Meet the Big Tree:

John in front of the Big Tree in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
John in front of the Big Tree in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

John looking up at the

This was a really lovely hike. I noticed that everywhere that we hiked in California, it was very quiet. Maybe it was the time of year (mid-November), but everything seemed very peaceful.


Lady Bird Johnson Grove

The Lady Bird Johnson Grove was a really short hike on a lot of boardwalks. We were here around 2pm and the sun came through the trees beautifully. I guess all of the moisture in the air gives the light a lot to play off of.










Fern Canyon

Fern Canyon was a really fun and easy hike in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. We got a little wet walking in the creek between the fern walls and saw so many different types of mushrooms.

Driving to Fern Canyon
The drive through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park to Fern Canyon was lovely, dark and deep.
We saw elk – for real
John in Fern Canyon
John taking a picture of me taking a picture of him
Fern Canyon
Playing in the canyon
Shallow waters
Shallow water
Fern Canyon
Leveling up those climbing skills
Fern Canyon
Tight roping in Fern Canyon
Mushrooms galore
Mushrooms galore
Like I said…
Fern Canyon, California
Fern Canyon
I enjoy taking pictures of mushrooms
Mandy and John at Fern Canyon
A little hippy took a picture of us
Mandy at Fern Canyon
Everything just seems to dwarf me… but that’s nothing new
Fern Canyon
John on the path towards/away from Fern Canyon
One more for good measure


Avenue of the Giants

Before we started driving through the Avenue of the Giants, I had it in my head that it couldn’t possibly be that great to drive through the redwoods. We had been driving through the redwoods along 101 all day, so what could be so different?

Amazing redwoods – Avenue of the Giants

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The Avenue of the Giants
Our redwoods will blot out the sun!

The redwoods along the Avenue of the Giants are bigger, better, and some are so close to the road you feel like you want to fold in the side-view mirrors to keep them from flying off.


The only problem is that because the trees are so enormous and not a lot of light gets through to the road, I couldn’t take good photos without stopping the car.

I often wondered if people who live near the redwoods get used to seeing them on the side of the road. I was just in awe for the entire drive, especially on the Avenue of the Giants, gasping every 10-20 minutes as we passed by another tree trunk that was at least 6 feet in diameter.

The redwoods are something everyone should see at least once in their life. Standing next to one is so humbling.

Mount Shasta, California

For our honeymoon in November of 2013, John and I flew to San Fransisco, California and drove around northern California for a week.

We drove to Mount Shasta from San Francisco and stayed there for the first two days of our trip.

Being from Florida, I was amazed at how gigantic this mountain was as we slowly drove toward it from the airport. It’s been a while, but I think we could see it for the last hour of the drive. There’s nothing in Florida that you can see from an 60-80 miles away. Well, except for the sky.

Mount Shasta from afar
Mount Shasta from afar

One of our favorite memories from our entire trip was leaving the hotel around 6am and driving up Mount Shasta to watch the sun rise.

View of Mount Shasta
View of Mount Shasta from the hotel – including beautiful trucks in the way. 😛
Driving on Mount Shasta
This was probably a picture of the drive down, since there is some sunlight

Sun rise on Mount Shasta

Sunrise on Mount Shasta


As the sun rose on Mount Shasta
As the sun rose on Mount Shasta
We couldn't drive higher than this point. This is a trail up towards the skiing areas that weren't open.
We couldn’t drive higher than this point. This is a trail up towards the skiing areas that weren’t open.

It was so cold and so quiet. It was just a perfect moment.

Mount Shasta from so far away
Mount Shasta from so far away



Road Trip Tip: Pack a Lunch

My biggest regret from our last road trip wasn’t that we got caught in a blizzard, had to take a 20 mile 25mph detour off of I-10, or that we got a $312 speeding ticket. It was that we packed in such a hurry that we forgot snacks and small meals.

We started the road trip with a bit of patience, taking time out for two sit-down meals on the first day. Every subsequent 16+ hour drive devolved into a Supersize Me kind of day. Our only meals on the last drive home were from Whataburger… (I’m not proud.)

So if you’re going to be impatient speed demons like us, do yourself a favor: Buy some carrot sticks, make a few sandwiches and throw them in a small cooler to keep with you in the car. You won’t need to stop for food AND you won’t feel like a tub of lard at the end of your drive.

Hiking to Earn More Food

We love hiking — getting outside, going farther than you probably should before you turn around, burning calories — but the meals you eat afterward are the best because they’re so guilt-free.

This is what we discussed after our hike at Lair o’ the Bear with Beana while eating cookies and brownies.

The trail at Lair o’ the Bear wasn’t overly strenuous but it was pretty. From what Beana told us it can get fairly crowded, but we only passed one person on our tromp through the woods.

View from Lair o' the Bear

We saw no lairs nor bears.

Mandy and John at Lair o' the Bear

Mandy and Beana at Lair o' the Bear

Mandy and John at Lair o' the Bear

After about an hour at Lair o’ the Bear, we’d completed one of the loop trails and decided to move on to Red Rocks because we had not had enough hiking.

A view from a trail at Red Rocks

So… this hike was an ass-kicker. Not only did the altitude steal every breath from us but the trail has a 16% grade incline.

Mandy and John before things really got started on the trail
Mandy and John before things really got started on the trail
Beana and John going uphill
Girl, look at that steep hill.

Pretty views from Red Rocks

Mandy and John pretending like they're not dying.
We’re trying to pretend that we’re not dying up here.
Beana leading the way
Beana is leading the way downhill — our destination is the parking lot at the top right of the picture.

We went into the Red Rock Amphitheater Hall of Fame downstairs from the parking lot (yep, more stairs).

Mandy and Beana

Sabrina and John
Ain’t no thing to go back up for Beana and John (I think they’re holding it in).
Beana and John acting tough at the top of Red Rocks
We made it back up to the top!

Views from Red Rocks

View from Red Rocks
You can see the car down there! It’s all downhill from here.

We made it! I’d definitely recommend hiking around Red Rocks — they’re tough hikes but well worth the views and make you feel like a bad ass when you’re done (though not as bad ass as all of the mountain bikers we saw riding around).

Today’s Steps: 12,000+

Achievement Unlocked: Two 16+ Hour Drives in One Week

This is just going to be a big gallery from the trip between Wimberley, TX and Golden, CO. Not much happened on the way.

Driving at 5am
The trip started out dark and scary, with lots of fog.


Christmas Lights
We popped out of the car in Fredericksburg to take some pictures of the lights
Christmas lights
So this is Christmas!
Super fog
A little after this, I took over driving and got my first speeding ticket. Just a PSA – make sure you slow down on those Texan highways when you drive through a small town!
Big Texas Sky
Big Texas sky
Windmills in Sweetwater, Texas
Windmills galore in Sweetwater, Texas
Agri Producers Building
Not sure exactly what these are for but they’re gigantic, towering and in the middle of nowhere.


Texas sky
So much sky
Texas sky
More sky, taking a quick break to stretch our legs
Look at that handsome mug
Driving down a northern New Mexico road
I know people hate out-of-the-car shots, but I couldn’t help it. We were getting to New Mexico right around 3:30pm and as always, New Mexico delivers an amazing sky.
Old building in New Mexico
Slowing down through small towns – we learned our lesson.
New Mexican sky
Amazing colors
Panorama in New Mexico
Little panorama
Sierra Grande: An extinct shield volcano
Sierra Grande: An extinct shield volcano
Sierra Grande
Another shot of Sierra Grande
More sky in New Mexico
More sky in New Mexico
Sun setting in New Mexico
Sun setting in New Mexico
Sun setting in New Mexico
Sun setting in New Mexico
Sun setting in New Mexico
Sun setting in New Mexico
Sun setting in New Mexico
Damn! Look at that sky.
Sun setting in New Mexico
Not even sure what else to say…
Mountain in New Mexico
Mountains and stuff
New Mexico sky
New Mexico
Driving down the highway in New Mexico
Driving down the highway in New Mexico
New Mexico sky
Breathtaking, pretty much the whole way.
New Mexico
New Mexico
At a rest stop in New Mexico near Sierra Grande
At a rest stop in New Mexico near Sierra Grande
At a rest stop in New Mexico near Sierra Grande
I could not believe the way that sky blended into the snowy mountain

At a rest stop in New Mexico near Sierra Grande

New Mexico rest stop
That sky!
New Mexico sun set
The sun was setting, still at that rest stop
Driving through New Mexico
Back on the road, but ain’t that purty?
New Mexico is beautiful!
More out-of-the-car shots. Don’t care.
Tiny town in New Mexico
Tiny towns
Driving in New Mexico
Driving down the highway
John and Mandy in front of Sierra Grande
From the left: John, Sierra Grande, Mandy (also, John is becoming a Grand Master Selfie-Taker)


Hill Country Romp

We spent the day in Wimberley, Texas with Debbie on her birthday. We had no real plans, so we just kind of ran around and did whatever we could think of.

We watched a group of glass blowers at Wimberley Glassworks for 30 minutes. They stood around swinging around molten glass on the end of stainless steel sticks like it wasn’t any big deal.

Glass Blowing Facts: Glass is 2100° when being worked

If you ever have the chance, go watch someone blow glass. It’s quite mesmerizing.

John and Debbie watching the glass blowers
John and Debbie watching the glass blowers


Wrapping molten glass around some more glass
Wrapping molten glass around some more glass


Glass blowing
Molten glass on glass action


Glass blower showing off a bird's nest light fixture cover
Look at this smug mother. I’d be smug too.

After the glass blowing, we had a delicious lunch at The Leaning Pear.  They have an amazing reuben and a side salad that can hold its own with roasted/sugared pecans.

They also had this Texas Yaupon tea. Since I’d never heard of it and I love tea, I ordered it. It’s apparently tannin free, which is where real tea (Camellia sinensis) gets its bitterness. It’s really smooth and tastes amazing with a splash of lemon.

Texas Yaupon Tea at The Leaning Pear
Texas Yaupon Tea: Native North American Caffeinated Smoothness

We drove around town, bought a few bags of the tea, sadly found out that the local alpaca farm had shut down, then went home to relax for a bit.

A little car talk
A little car talk

We finished up the night with a drive out to San Antonio for some Maggiano’s for dinner and happily made it home alive thanks to my dad’s expert fog driving. Fog, total darkness and tons of hills makes for a very entertaining (read: horrifying) after-dinner drive.

A night out at Maggiano's