• Learning and Exploring

    Final Thoughts of Our Western Survey Trip

    Most of us kept a travel journal. I painted two simplistic paintings on the spot and some rough sketches. I glued in a ticket and a menu. I have added in more details and will continue to do so until I feel it is complete enough, but I need to make a better effort next time by writing quotes, memories, activities, etc. down sooner before I forget.

    I may have mentioned this before, but I added 7 new states for a total of 22 visited/lived in. Now, some of these we only drove through, but I am counting those anyway.

    We brought plenty of car entertainment (far too much; we hardly used any, and we could have used the space), but my youngest sisters provided quite a bit on their own. For example, the first day we were regaled to the entire first verse of “God Bless America” for every.single.U.S.flag my little sisters saw. I feel like we were in flag territory that day too.

    My foodie attempts failed, miserably. I will keep suggesting, but I just need to realize I will probably have to try new places on my own, we are a rather unadventurous and VERY impatient family when it comes to food.

    I recently finished a book on Native Americans which mentioned the economy of casinos on reservations. We saw the evidence of that. We discovered that as reservations have their own regulations, casinos are allowed on reservations in states that do not allow them in other areas.

    I loved seeing all the wildflowers. I feel like the areas of my state that I frequent most do not have the variety that I saw on this trip (or they are mostly yellow and white). I know that picking wildflowers is often illegal, so I did not pick any, but I wished I had researched to see if I could pick some in order to have a few for my travel journal.

    I heard quite a few European languages spoken in the Grand Canyon and noted many Asians.  My sisters noted a lot of Europeans at Zion National Park also. I heard fewer than I would have thought in San Diego. Of course the number of Latinos (probably mostly Mexican, especially in San Diego) increased as we traveled with Mom saying she felt like a minority in San Diego. I felt like I did not see many African Americans although that could be because in many of my work situations and school situations, I saw a higher percentage than I would otherwise. And we saw some Native Americans as well, though less than I anticipated. So less ethnic diversity and fewer foreigners than I expected I suppose.

    We did not get very far into the trip before I decided to make dream itineraries for other road-trips such as the northwest, northeast, and Blue Ridge Parkway. I would prefer to be less crunched for time and to make foodie exploration more of a priority.

    I did finish one of my photography classes and started reading my photography book before the trip. I brought two spare batteries and two extra memory cards. I replaced my battery maybe twice but used the same (16 GB) memory card even though I shot RAW. I learned some points during the trip and when going through my photos.

    I still overshot, mainly at the zoo; I had my face to the camera the majority of the time there when I should have focused on my favorites and animals unique to the San Diego Zoo. Part of the reason for the the overshooting was the inability to tell how well focused the photos were. I came home with around 1200 (I think) photos. I would shoot and then delete the photos that I could tell were bad, but I need to purge at least 50%. I need to hone my skills, so I can take fewer photos faster (I was hounded about my speed) with a higher success percentage, but I also need to choose my moments and subjects. And I need a good tripod and self-timer if I want quality evidence that I went on the trip!

    I posted unedited and lightly edited photos on this blog, but my main focus is a photo book, and I need to learn more about optimizing RAW photos with editing. I think I will give myself several months to complete this project because 1) I made myself sick of the photos quickly 2) I need to learn more, and 3) I do not want to feel rushed. I also need to research a reasonably priced, high quality photobook. I do not want to pay too much, since no matter how I edit my photos, they will not be professional quality, but I want my effort to pay off.

    A Few Notes for Future Trips
    -Better prepare for photography and art/travel journal (I think I want an insta camera to some quick moments for journal).

    -If I want good food, I will have to buy it. But we should have made the effort to have a cooler. Jerky, nuts, dried fruit, fruit, fast-food etc. is not the greatest diet.

    -Wetwipes are a must; I packed some homemade ones and these proved so popular we bought more.

    -Calculate space for purchases (I toted around a box for my fragile goodies which cause grumpiness).

    -Because of entertaining sisters and sound sensitivity the audiobooks and Adventures in Odyssey mainly served to take up much needed space rather than entertainment. If you can (we couldn’t in that car) take advantage of downloadable options.

    -The coin laundry in hotels is EXPENSIVE. So you have to find a balance between space and expense when packing. Even on low outdoor and exercise days, I did not really want to re-wear clothes after using disgusting restrooms, so I washed clothes more often. Washing in the sink isn’t really an option if you are staying only one night it most hotels because clothes won’t have time to dry.

    -Knits, knits! I ironed too much. I know most people won’t really have that issue, but I really need more casual and easy elegance clothes.

    -I missed a few beauty tools/toiletries. Luxury yes, but I would have been happier with them, and they would have been small. I could also have downsized a few more items.

  • Learning and Exploring

    U.S. Southwest Survey Vacation: Colorado and Kansas or We are Getting Tired of Makings Stops

    We did not make much of an effort to find sites (other than for gas and food) at which to stop for Colorado and Kansas.
    I found Colorado’s landscape refreshing after the barrenness of most of the other states.


     We saw a brick road in Kansas although of red brick. I think that building is of the yellow sandstone that probably inspired The Yellow Brick Road.
    Away in the distance is Fort Riley; we heard artillery go off and saw the smoke from this lookout.

  • Learning and Exploring

    U.S. Southwest Survey Vacation: Utah

    After leaving California we drove through Nevada (only item worth mentioning is that we drove through Las Vegas . . . not nearly as large as I thought) and Arizona again (through a lovely, very close gorge of the Virgin River) and then Utah (where we stayed at the creepiest hotel of the trip).

    We climbed on large rocks to the view the sunset at Pioneer Park which also featured an old jail in the rocks. The next morning we drove to Zion National Park and walked/hiked a couple trails. Then we headed to Arches National Park for quick photos.

    Pioneer Park 


    Zion National Park

    Arches National Park

  • Learning and Exploring

    U.S. Southwest Survey Vacation: Goodbye, San Diego

    When not at the zoo or hotel or running a mini, we visited Ocean and Dog Beach, Mission Beach (first two photos), and La Jolla cove (the rest of the photos). We briefly stopped at the beach there but decided Mission Beach was nicer so went there instead. Mission beach was the nicest, but we liked to watch (from the supposedly clean Ocean Beach) the dogs run and play on their beach.
    I loved how near we could get to all of the adorable roly-poly sea lions (and maybe seals; I know for certain that seals are in the last photo since we saw one with its awkward flopping). I was surprised it was allowed, but someone in charge was watching and called out to maintain a distance. One baby sea lion was snoozing so close to the stairs it could have gotten stepped on; I thought it was one of the rocks at first. Some of the sea lions complained or snarled at people who got too close. I loved the furry looking ones and felt like I could pick up one and squeeze it (I love furry animals especially).

  • Learning and Exploring

    U.S. Southwest Survey Vacation: San Diego Zoo Part 2

     “Hi, Sven!”


    “Hello, Mumford.”
    This jaguar rolled around and stretched right by the edge for several minutes which was quite fun.
    See the tongue peeking out?

    This cheetah jumped up when he/she saw a tour truck and came right up to look at it and then ran along the cage following it. The cheetah was too active/restless plus there were too many large signs to get great shots.

  • Learning and Exploring

    U.S. Southwest Survey Vacation: San Diego Zoo Part 1

    We arrived in the cold and rain and bought rain ponchos and hopped on a bus tour. Soon after the tour ended, weather changed for the better, and we walked around the zoo and took the shuttle bus for most of the day. So many animals were quite active, and we saw quite a few baby animals. I did not, unfortunately, get good panda photos; Mama Panda was quite stressed and was pacing, and the other panda was not out in his cage.
    My favorites; the little girls said we saw these three times. I do not care. I want a baby meerkat; they are so furry and tiny I wanna die!

    These otters put on quite a show playing with each other.

    Purple is one of my favorite colors, and we say these gorgeous trees all over San Diego (apparently Mr. Tortoise considers the flowers a delicacy).

    The koalas slept all bunched up like that for most of the time, but we saw two briefly snuggling/grooming. 

  • Learning and Exploring

    U.S. Southwest Survey Vacation: New Mexico

    We stayed the night in Santa Rosa, NM (which my siblings dubbed Radiator Springs) rather than in Albuquerque in order to have some time to spend in the latter city. Before heading to Albuquerque, we stopped at Blue Hole which is an extremely small, deep pool, great for divers; the site is decrepit. While driving through New Mexico and discussing the state, I decided to look up its position on the wealth scale for the states . . . one of the lowest.

    When we reached Albuquerque, we were too early for most of the shops, but we were lucky that one with pieces from local artists was open (I will post photos of items I bought/gathered on the trip separately). I definitely want to go back to Albuquerque.

    After the city we visited the Petroglyph National Monument nearby, stopped for lunch at a Mexican restaurant in a tiny town on Route 66 (we saw, drove on, and crossed parts of Route 66 on the first quarter or so of our trip) and then drove out and through the Painted Desert.

  • Learning and Exploring

    U.S. Southwest Survey Vacation: Oklahoma

    My mom and one of my sisters signed up for a mini (or half) marathon in San Diego and that trip grew into a fortnight mid-western and western roadtrip (or survey trip as my mom said since we did not have much time for extended exploration) for all the girls of the family.

    For the sake of location privacy, I am going to cut out states on the beginning and end of my trip and include only mid-western to western states. Bear with my photos, I am still learning and am not editing them all for my blog; I will have more to say on photos later.

    We drove through Oklahoma and my sister quickly found a place for us to visit near our route: Redbud Valley Nature Preserve.

    Car photos of Oklahoma skies

    Redbud Valley Nature Preserve

    A highway viewpoint stop