The Potato Chip Rock. No, it’s not some swanky new dance move sweeping the country. However, it is one heck of a good hike. Yep, so my friend I ask you, are you looking for a quick travel guide to San Diego? Because I’ve got you covered!
Oh yes, America’s finest city has a lot to offer, from the sun, the sea, gorgeous scenes of nature annnnd its world famous Potato Chip Rock. Located about 40 miles drive inland, in the city of Poway, at the top of Mt. Woodson Trail, one will find massive boulders, beautiful scenery and a long line to take a picture with a glorified pet rock. Yep. Lovingly nicknamed Potato Chip Rock, this barely there, sliver of a by-gone boulder has become a much-loved So Cal tourist attraction and attracts visitors from all over the globe. (And without giving too much of the ending away. Spoiler Alert, sadly, there are no potato chips waiting at the top.)
Make no mistake this is no easy trail to hike. In fact, if you go the long route, it will be flatter technically, but it is going to take you a whopping 8-miles roundtrip. On the other hand, if you go the “short cut” route, although, it will shave off a whopping four miles off your hike, most of your journey will be uphill, on a steep mountainous old service type of road. Whichever way you choose to go, the hike is beautiful and you will get a great bird’s eye view of all of San Diego. From the ocean in the far off distance, to the nearby mountains and green valleys below, on a clear day, this is an unforgettable backdrop for climbers.
So, what all should you bring with you on your trek up the trail? Well it goes without saying that depending on what time of year you go, certainly think about dressing for the occasion. If you go in fall/winter, a jacket is recommended. If you’re like me and and my posse, and decide to go early spring in So Cal, where that means its sunny and a blazing 90 degrees outside, well then in that case you should definitely bring a lot of water, snacks, sunscreen and… did I mention a lot of water? I’ll be honest with you, I am in fairly decent shape, doing my occasional Pilates class and uphill treadmill walking at the gym, and the short cut uphill route of this trail, kicked my butt. I had to stop on numerous occasions to catch my breath and take a much needed water break. Oh and what the brochure doesn’t tell you is the trail has 1,700 feet of elevation gain. And maybe even more elevation gain with the shorter trail, I am not sure. And boy does it feel like you are walking uphill the whole way to the summit. Please, please, also keep this in mind, if you’re bringing pets along for the ride. They too need water and snacks and it does get hot up there on their feet.
Now because I didn’t go the long trail route, I drove a bit future down the road and parked alongside the busy highway 67, then cut across to the trail. I hear though if you decide to hike the full route, the parking address will take you to an actual parking lot, which you do have to pay for. But with that parking offering, you may or may not get a great view of a lake? I am not sure exactly, I however just left my car on the side of the road and went for the short way.
Other things you will see as you crawl up the mountainous trail? Well you will definitely see plenty of daredevil climbers that are bouldering the massive rocks that sprinkle the mountainside and you will also see a few random houses sprinkled in there, maybe a snake or two, some pretty flowers and wildlife annnnd some ginormous cell phone towers, that are a bit of an eyesore to some degree If I am being completely honest. The upside is, you do get excellent cell phone service on your hike, Haha, perfect for uploading Instagram photos of you on top of potato chip rock once you get there.
Speaking of…The Summit of Mount Woodsen Trail, also known as finally reaching the holy grail of hiking spots. The much beloved Potato Chip Rock. Yep, the awesome end result of this hiking experience will be a bucket list type of moment when you finally reach the top and take your ultimate fantasy picture on top of SD’s beloved Potato Chip Rock. Be prepared though, depending on what day you go and the time of the year, as I mentioned before, there will oddly and most likely be a line at the top, with everyone waiting patiently to have their moment of alone time with the rock. So in this waiting time feel free, to check out the photography competition and come up with a really clever pose with your favorite Potato Chip. I personally opted for the dangle over method and the jump up action pose, which in retrospect probably wasn’t the safest choices, but it did make for one heck of a story and excellent photo memories.
What a fun Potato Chip Challenge to hike to the top!
Address to the Short cut route is:
16200 Hwy 67, Ramona, Ca
Address for the Long way:
14644 Lake Poway Rd, Poway, Ca 92074
If you want to see the video journey of my hike to Potato Chip Rock, definitely check out the video below! Also, have you climbed Mt. Woodson? What would be your signature pose with the world famous Potato Chip rock? Let me know in the comments below.
Waking up in Qatar for my first full and simultaneously official last day in Doha, I surprisingly was not greeted by the melodic call to prayer, as I’ve experienced in other Middle Eastern countries. Not to say that the call to prayer didn’t happen, I was just surprised that I didn’t hear it happen. Unlike our rainy and mysterious evening, the night before, today was already promising to be a brighter, much warmer day.
Seeing as how the clock was quickly ticking away and I now had less that 24 hours in Doha, I had the overwhelming feeling that this day was going to be packed with adventure and activities. Never did I imagine in my wildest dreams what this actually meant for me.
Shortly after leaving the hotel, our group of four was quickly on our way to the Qatari desert for what soon would be called an epic dose of hair-raising dune bashing. About an hours drive outside the city of Doha, and surrounded by nothing but a sea of sand, this is when it dawned on me, how small this Gulf Coast country really is. Described as: somewhere in between Connecticut and Rhode Island in land size, once you venture outside the city, one really gets an understanding of this size comparison in its entirety. In fact, there isn’t much else besides oil refineries, an occasional small town neighborhood and sand dunes for as far as the eye can see once you step outside the city. And, I couldn’t help but think to myself how interesting it was, that for a country so small in land size, what a huge splash they continue to make, in the global economic pond. For example, some reports out there say that Qatar is spending some $200 billion dollars to get ready for the upcoming World Cup in 2022. Annnnd over the past few years Qatar’s Investment Authority: Qatar’s Sovereign Wealth fund, has made a number of very large purchases in London. For instance, did you know that Qatar has acquired or at some point purchased 95% of the Shard, London’s tallest building; Harrods, a top notch designer department store for £1.5 billion pounds; the Olympic Village for £557 million pounds; half of the world’s most expensive apartment block, One Hyde Park; Chelsea Barracks, a 52,000 square meter former military site for over £900 million pounds; several top luxury hotels, a portion of the London stock exchange, and the list goes on. Wait where was I? Awww yes…driving to the desert.
Exploring Qatar in a Land Cruiser is nothing like anything you could or would experience in the States. For those who frequent Glamis dunes or Pismo Beach maybe, which does offer a taste of the off-roading lifestyle; I must say that Qatar’s dune bashing experience is a bit different than that. One part ff-the-charts exciting, mixed in with a little side of crazy. Yep, after getting in the car, and quickly being told to buckle up, our driver instantly cranked up a blood-pumping soundtrack of music, and never looked back. At that point It became very clear to me that we would be forging our own path through the desert and I that never asked to see if he had his driver’s license? Lord Help us!
Racing over bumps and hills with no hesitation and heading straight for sand mounds that you swear could be the equivalent of the Mount Everest of the Middle East. I went from screaming in delight and bracing onto the ‘oh $hit’ handle, to at some points wondering if I would make it out of this wild ride alive. This all, as our driver held onto the steering wheel with one hand, posed for pictures, and shimmied us down a mountain sideways and on only two wheels. In his defense though, our driver did say at one point that he has never flipped a land cruiser in his over 14 years of driving, but, I am sure you know as well as I do that, there is is always a first time for everything.
From a fast and furious dune bashing experience unlike any other, to a very peaceful and contrasting way to travel through the desert, our next off road Gulf Adventure was an improptu camel caravan. Never having ridden on a true two-humped camel before, this was quite the bucket list type of travel moment for me. Tall, docile and blessed with beautiful long eyelashes; my camel was everything that I wasn’t, and the overall experience of it all, felt much, different than riding a horse. Not a bad type of different, just an, “I probably look awkward as heck but am smiling and enjoying this anyway,” type of different. A true treat to experience. In fact, it was oddly perfect, that this seemingly straightforward desert excursion was the most accurate representation of this trip and Qatar as a whole. Old meets new; pushing the envelope mixed with the old Arabic heritage from its past. The desert offerings with Gulf Adventures not only gave me a taste of Qatar’s land’s excitement but also a real picture of this ever evolving dessert landscape.
Just as the wind started to pick up in the desert, it was off to our next location, and probably the main reason we came to Doha, the world-renowned, Qatar International Food Festival. Held at the Museum of Islamic Art’s, green park area, just along the water’s edge, this flavor extravaganza was much more like a red carpet event for the who’s who of Qatar. With actual red carpets rolled out and seas of brightly colored culinary booths lining the walkways, cooking demonstrations, stilt walkers, musicians, you name it, one could spend hours trying to taste and soak up all of the flavors, smells and luxe entertainment samplings that this OTT food festival had to offer.
Walking around the grandiose event it was obvious that the, “the skies the limit,” mantra was certainly in full effect. And by that I mean, it would be nearly impossible to find a food sampling that didn’t exist, or a dinning experience that was considered, too much. For instance, you want dry ice cookie desserts? Or at least that’s what I think they were? That makes your mouth smoke as you eat them, sure that’s not a problem! How about? You want to rub elbows with A-list celebs like Martha Stewart and hang out in exclusive VIP areas? Sure! We can certainly make that happen as well. (And by we, I mean the fine folks who put on this extravagant event) Oh IIIIIII know, you want to eat a multi-course meal, dangling hundreds of feet in the air by a crane, overlooking the culinary crowd below. Great Idea, we can definitely make that happen as well!
Yep, like I said before, ‘the skies the limit’ theme was in full effect. And I mean that as both a figurative and literal translation. That’s because my greatest indulgence and exciting opportunity at the food festival would have to be…*drum roll please*…. the Dinner in the Sky experience.
You see, the way it works is: you are seated at a dinner table, that approximately fits 20 or so guests, which seems normal enough, that is, until you’re strapped into a full seat harness, as if you are about to embark on some crazy roller coaster adventure, and I might add are hoisted hundreds of feet in the sky.
Although, I’m not typically afraid of heights there is something to said about your dinner table being lifted hundreds of feet in the air by a crane, and your feet dangling, free-as-a-bird, from your seat. I’d guess that even those who aren’t typically afraid of heights may be a wee bit nervous about this over the top dinning experience.
Although the menu was a scrumptious seafood offering with several fantastical courses, I’ll be honest, mentally I couldn’t quite get over the fact that our life on top dinner table was hoisted in the air by, did I mention, a crane? And heaven forbid, I accidently drop a fork or other utensil onto some poor unsuspecting soul below. This dinner was simultaneously both one of the best and craziest meals that I’ve ever experienced in my life. Only in Qatar could you be enjoying a luxurious dinner overlooking the city in all its glory, while pushing the boundaries for what constitutes an over-the-top dining experience. Is this what they meant when they came up with the term: Dining Al Fresco? I’m not so sure? Truly though, this is what Arabian Dreams are made of.
After exploring the food festival further, running into Martha Stewart yet again, (geez stalk me much Martha? Totally kidding, more like the other way around) It was off to our last truly Qatari experience: a traditional Dhow boat dinner cruise accompanied by what else, fireworks! Now this was truly an almost perfect night and experience, and the reason I say almost perfect, is for reasons unknown to me, the dhow boat we boarded unfortunately couldn’t sail that night? Weird. Perhaps because of the soon-to-be, fireworks show that seemed to launch directly over our head, or perhaps because of some bewildering mechanical problems, sadly our evening dinner cruise turned into a stationary dinner buffet.
However, that being said the true magic of the Dhow boat, was not whether or not it could sail in a circle around the harbor, but rather I loved hearing all about the Arabic heritage and the pre-oil tradition of living off of the sea, and the nearly, by-gone pearling industry that once dominated the Gulf region. Despite being full-bellied still from my earlier Dinner In The Sky, experience, not even an hour prior, somehow I found even more room to eat yet another amazing meal, this time on board the dhow. With crew and chef so accommodating and hospitable, I can honestly say this was the BEST stationary dinner cruise, I’ve ever been on.
Now as my 36-hour whirlwind trip to Doha was rapidly coming to an end, it was my friend’s mission to find the other, ultra mod, luxurious nightlife, side of Qatar. Of course I was game. So, after hoping into a Mercedes taxi car and heading to the West Bay area of the city, we made our way to the well-heeled W hotel. A super glam, hot-spot, that feels straight out of a swank Miami beach or Beverly Hills social scene. Beautiful people, ultra posh environment, Lamborghinis and Range Rovers valeted outside, and most importantly…a nightclub with actual bar inside. (That didn’t just serve the ever so popular mock tails that we’d previously been offered.)
Here’s the deal, It’s not that we needed to booze it up, to enjoy ourselves in Doha, oh no! It’s just that it kind of felt like the perfect way to end our trip to Doha. Dancing, toasting, laughing and reflecting on an extraordinary whirlwind trip to Qatar. In fact, during the wee bit of time we actually had to let our hair down and hang out in the W Hotel Nightclub, my friend thought it would be funny to start the rumor, that I was an international deejay that could be compared to the likes of Ruby Rose. I even had a very clever deejay name that he picked out at the time, which now sadly I can’t remember. Although a very funny experience to see unfold, and a great memory that I’ll treasure forever, I must say, I am neither an international deejay or comparable to the talented Ruby Rose, but it did give us a huge laugh and I was able to try out my turntable skills in the deejay booth. Poor bar patrons. (I still find myself walking alone randomly laughing about this)
So to wrap this thing up already…And because I’ve been asked a million times on whether or not I feel it’s safe to travel there.
I am not naive and don’t doubt for a second that there are very real threats and dangers lurking in many different countries around the world, the U.S. included, but If I had listened to much of my friends friend’s broad pre-conceived notions of why I should not travel to the Middle East, I would be missing out an unforgettable 36-hour travel love affair that I had with country of Qatar. (Don’t get too excited, not a literal love affair, rather a travel love affair) From Incredible food on the Dhow dinner boat, to an unforgettable dune bashing experience and camel clad trek through the desert, navigating the souq market maze on a rare rainy night in Doha, getting over my fear of heights and dining in the sky, and running into Martha Stewart not once but twice, my only regret for this trip was… that it didn’t last longer.
It seems to me that long after the oil money has dried up, I hope that people will remember Qatar for its stand alone, unduplicated exceptionalism. A place committed to making itself a global tourist destination similarly to the likes of London, or Hong Kong. A place committed to being architecturally and technologically the best and most advanced skyline in the world. A place committed to its pursuit of offering life-defining travel experiences unlike any other place out there. A place committed to hospitality, luxury, shopping, adventure and so much more. A place committed to welcoming people from all walks of life, all while staying true to its deep rooted Arabic culture. Justly nicknamed the “Pearl of the Middle East,” Qatar is precious, luxurious and a fine example of unduplicated exceptionalism.
For a visual experience of my travels through Qatar make sure to click on the videos below:
Traveling anywhere new and exotic can be a lot of things. Nerve-wracking, exciting, stressful, tantalizing. On the other hand, traveling home from most places, can also be a lot of things.
A relief mostly, that you’ll finally get to sleep back in your own bed, a relief you’ll finally you’ll get to catch up on sleep in general. And a relief, to go back to the norm of what feels comfortable in your everyday life.
Qatar is anything but the norm. Qatar is an exotic mystery. Qatar is one of those places that you feel emptiness upon leaving. A happiness and excitement that you experienced it, mixed with an overwhelming sense of loss upon leaving it. Experiencing Qatar is equivalent to a first love for me. Exciting, new, brief and often times fleeting. Something that is never replicated and always carried with us into the next travel experience. Aaaah, the sweet smelling lemongrass, mint and island-like salty sea air combination that immediately penetrates the senses and creates a distinct, smelling of your first crush’s cologne type of happiness and butterflies in your stomach combination. From eating dinner dangling from a crane, being mistaken for an international deejay, riding on my first real-deal camel and navigating the souq on a rare rainy night in Doha, I only wish I could bottle up the whirlwind excitement, luxuriousness, hair-raising adventure, belly-aching laughs and WTF moments that I experienced while I was in Qatar.
Day 1: Traveling is not my friend…or is it?
Traveling to Qatar. this is not a hop and skip down the street to grandma’s house. Oh no, this is a lonnnng, lonnnng journey and a true time investment. In fact, if you’re not familiar with travel times, flying LAX to Doha, the capital city of Qatar, is one of the longest straight flights on the planet. Yes, that’s 15 and a half hours of travel time to be exact, cooped up in a glorified flying metal bus. Oh and maybe now is a good time to mention, that because of prior work commitments needing me back in LA, by a certain day, my trip to Qatar was going to be a short one. To say it was going to be basically a turn around trip may be an understatement. As a matter of fact, I was actually going to be in the airport and in the air flying, longer that I was actually going to be on the ground.
So with just about 36 combined hours flying time coupled with my actual 36 hours on the ground, this was no doubt going to be a whirlwind travel experience. And with so much of my Qatari travel log going to be in the air, it definitely seems appropriate, that I mention my first true taste of Qatar, the government owned, Qatar Airways. Despite my usual opinion of airports as an unpleasant, florescent fogs of hurry up and wait with the end result of me usually getting sick, this couldn’t have been further from what I experienced with this airline.
Soon after boarding the plane, it became clear, very quickly, that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. They take their five-star reputation very seriously. (To the point where my travel friends and I even got shushed a few times for talking too loud… I digress.)
So, as I was saying, Five star for real, they are not joking around with this five start title. In fact, seconds after boarding the plane, I was not only greeted formally by Miss, Barlow, but I was even offered designer pajamas, Armani travel kit and rose champagne to help ease the pain of my soon to be 16-hour haul. If it sounds like I’m a bragging a bit, I’ll be honest, I kind of am. Mostly, because, contrary to popular belief, with me previously having a travel show, I have never in my life been offered designer pajamas while flying. Yep, and to really set the mood for the rest of my flight describing, I want you to quickly envision Frank Sinatra and the boys singing, "Come Fly With Me, come fly, let’s fly away…"
Got it? Okay now that my Frankie Blue eyes flying soundtrack is playing in your head, Imagine, being seated in vibrating massage chairs that fold out into full length beds. Now Imagine, eating exceptional Michelin worthy meals and wines paired by a sommelier expert, who actually chooses the wines and food based on how they will interact and taste at higher altitudes! Yep, crazy, I know But Crazy in the best way possible. And to think, I hadn’t even landed in the country yet.
Officially landing at Hamad International Airport, I had an overwhelming feeling of excitement and anxiousness as there was no telling where our less than 36-hour adventure was going to take us and for full disclosure I had been warned about a million and one times, by various people to, "Be Careful, You’ll probably be the only blonde there…" (yep, people actually said that to me smh)..
Anyways, I landed and.... first things first, holy Martha Stewart Batman. Wait, what? Nope I'm not talking about a cardboard airport cutout, I'm talking the real-life, Queen of do-it-yourself crafts and cookies, Martha Stewart. She evidently exited her plane just shortly after ours and was sitting with her possee of professional looking folks in the corner, no more than ten feet away from me. I can’t tell you exactly why she was the first thing I saw when I got off the plane in Qatar, but there she was, in all her glory, real life, Martha Stewart.
After landing safely in Qatar and getting my brief (from afar) Martha Fix, it was time to disembark and explore the capital city of Doha. As for the visuals of this city, trying to find the right way to describe Qatar is sort of like trying to describe a food that you’ve never tasted before. Bewildering and exciting to say the least. Beyond that, everything and everywhere in the city of Doha, feels fresh and new, somewhat like a model home that has yet to be lived in. A mix of modern Dubai-like hyperbolic architecture in the distance, fused with its own unique Arabic flair and commitment to preserve its rich culture. No, the streets were not paved with gold, as I secretly imagined they would be, but I can say there was a noticeable attention to detail and advancement, that felt like a perceivable promise to one day be the best. Like a Google or Facebook campus compared to any old ordinary office space, Doha’s skyline is dramatic, uniquely its own, and a harmonious hybrid of past and future, east meets west, and an all-around spectacle for the senses.
Checking into my hotel, sure, I could have stayed at some internationally acclaimed cookie cutter resort that one can find in any other country you travel to, but instead I stayed at Al Bidda boutique hotel, in the Souq Waqif or old marketplace neighborhood of Doha. Designed to look like an old Arabic fortress of some kind, this luxury minded hotel offered all the amenities that one would hope for, but is uniquely positioned right in the heart of the market place, just near the Museum of Islamic Art. Remembering how I immediately felt like this city was a blend of past and future, east meets west, well the Souq Waqif gives one a taste of real deal traditional Doha, the eastern and older part of the city, personified. Sandstone architecture, Arabic lamps, and positioned just a pebbles throw from the traditional marketplace. I couldn’t wait to explore more.
Tom Cruise Film…
Never ever feeling like I was in any danger, ironically, navigating the Souq Waqif at night time was a surreal movie-like experience where I couldn’t help but feel like I could have easily been in the center of some epic chase scene from a Tom Cruise film. A maze of narrow, alley-like streets and shops, this bustling center for commerce was compactly lined and overwhelmingly decorated with the colors, sounds, smells and tastes of the Middle East. Shisha pipes, Pearl shops, colorful fabrics, woven rugs, spices, more spices, what could be magic genie lamps, and a dampness that was quickly thickening in the air, I kept telling myself, this can’t possibly be real life, it feels like a set out of a movie. Pure Magic.
After winding our way further through the souq, my small group of friends and I ended up at a neighboring luxury hotel’s restaurant, as it overlooked the marketplace and it was starting to rain. I must say even though rain in the desert is as rare and uncommon as it sounds, I didn’t even mind as it added to the enchantment of the overall night time Doha adventure. Conversely, I will say it was however a smidge disconcerting, that we had to walk through metal detectors upon entering this particular hotel and restaurant, but then again I was hungry and this quickly became a fleeting thought when I saw the brilliantly vibrant flavors and food that awaited us.
Sipping on lemon and mint mocktails, as Qatar like most of the Middle East is considered a dry country and alcohol can only be purchased at certain hotel properties or with certain alcohol approved licenses for expats, I couldn’t help but smile as I absorbed the unequalled sites, sounds and smells of everything that we overlooked and the amazing food and company that surrounded me. In lieu of a night cap, we finished out our rainy first night in Doha with a true traditional delicacy, smoking lemon mint Shisha… yep, pinch me I still must be dreaming.
Qatar at a glance:
-Pronounced Guitar with a hard C in front. Cut-Tar (not cutter per say, or Cut-TAR.
-Wealthiest country in the world.
-Roughly the size of somewhere between Rhode Island and Connecticut,
-Population: about 2 million people.
To visually see my travels unfold please check out my video travel diary below:
In the age of iPhones, iPads, iTunes, iCloud, and where just about everything nowadays has and "I" in front of it... I introduce to you an extremely satisfying new I.... iFly that is. One part thrilling, One part head rush and all around game changer for fun, If you have a thirst for going skydiving like I do, but don't actually want the death defying, plunging to the Earth deal at the end...well then I-Fly San Diego is the long lost answer to all of your soaring through the air hopes and dreams. Yep, I don't know if you're anything like me, but I'll admit it, despite having flown in just about every flying thing you could imagine, I may have developed over time a small teeny weeny fear of heights. It's not that I hadn't imagined ever taking on the extreme sport of skydiving before and soaring across the horizon like a bird... its just that every time I do imagine what jumping out of a plane would be like my hands start to sweat, knees start to shake and I get an overwhelming sick to my stomach, panic that rushes over me. (And this ladies and gentlemen, is when I'm perfectly situated safely on the ground. So hate me if I sound like a whiny little baby for the next second but jumping out of a perfectly good airplane for fun seems certifiably insane!
Here's the good news... I, being the committed bad-ass, daredevil that I am, searched the globe, well err-- ugh, the discount section at Costco, for the next best alternative.to skydiving. Yep, that's right, I'm talking about I-Fly, San Diego, an extreme indoor skydiving experience that .is sort of like the answer to all of your Skydiving-but not actually wanting to dive out of a plane-prayers.
So how does it all work exactly? Well I'm glad you asked. Sort of like a behemoth air tunnel on steroids, this baby and its air output could keep just about anybody afloat. Although some of the experts make it look easy, flipping and flopping, diving around like their dead pool , It's in fact much more difficult than it looks.
The two hardest parts of the in tunnel process in my opinion are:
A) getting your body positions down...where your hands are reached out in front of you yet perfectly bent at the correct 90 degree angle, And where your legs are extended and knees are slightly bent, but not too bent. Sort of like a giant horse shoe body position, maybe? Don't quote me on that. But yeah, i'd say it's much easier to comprehend when you see it in action.
Oh and B) the second hardest part of the indoor skydiving experience is trying to smile for the camera while not drooling everywhere! In my defense, the wind is crazy fast in the air tunnel, and I prefer to smile with my teeth exposed, The only problem with that is, that opens you up for a potential drooling bonanza, which is not cute to say the least.
So to get to the meat of it already, Was the indoor skydiving experience fun? A resounding yes! Is It actually like skydiving, with all the adrenaline rush, butterflies in your stomach sort of, one, two sucker punch to the gut excitement? Umm i'd like to say yes, but then again I don't know I've never actually skydived, skydove, jumped out of a plane before. I will say however, that the guy after me, was an extremely experienced real life skydiver and squirrel suit jumper and he said he was using the indoor skydiving tunnel, to practice his aerial acrobatics and maneuvering and said it was just like the real thing! So, would I do it again? Absa-freakin-loutely. Wanna go? I have a Costco club member now and can get 2 for 1 pricing! :)
To check out video of my Indoor Skydiving experience, check out the following video link:
If you're anything like me, one of my life goals, is to one day go on a true African Safari. I not only love animals, but I just think it would be absolutely life changing, to see these real deal wild animals in their true natural glory and habitat, before that is, the world turns into one giant shopping mall. I mean lets face it, there's a reason that Coyotes, Bears and Bobcats are seen more and more in residential neighborhoods, humans need more and more land, and by doing so, we are taking away from these animal's natural habitats. I digress.
Umm, did I mention that I want to one day go on a true African Safari? Yep, It's gonna happen, I just know it! the only minor, teensy, weensy, hiccup, to this life plan, is the fact that it takes dayssss to travel there, plus the time off work for vacation, plus the crazy malaria pills you'll need to stock up on, plus the god know's what other diseases you have to get shots for, oh annnnnd the thousands of dollars it takes to get you there. No big deal, right? But here's the silver lining to that Debbie Downer rampage that I temporarily just went on. I may have found travel lovers like myself, the next best thing to Africa! A travel understudy if you will, A true taste of Africa without all the fuss and hub bub of actually traveling there. Yep, I'm gonna call it a Safari in my own Backyard. I'm talking about the San Diego Safari Park's very own Caravan Safari. Okay so maybe you’re not quite getting the full sleeping in a hut, tracking through the sticks, African Safari experience with Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my! (for the record Africa does not have Lions, Tigers and Bears, all grouped together.) But for those like myself who are on somewhat of a travel budget, and prefer to sleep in the confines of home, or a least a plush nearby hotel room, the Caravan Safari in America’s Finest City, is pretty darn close to the real thing, and a true bargain considering your getting a sampling of a Lux Safari Experience without all the headache of getting there. From feeding endangered Rhinos, rubbing faces with Giraffes that frolic and run alongside your open air Safari truck, and a quick exploration of both Asian and African birds and mammals that come in all shapes in sizes. This up close view of the animal’s almost, natural habitat is a once in a lifetime experience and true walk on the wild side.
How did I find out about this Caravan you may ask? Well I've been a zoo member for quite some time but never spent as much time at the Safari Park, so when I found out they had a private Caravan experience that gets you up close with the animals in a way you can't experience in the regular park, I said sign me up. I truly try to live my life with as many life moments as possible. (I want to one day look back as I write my life story and think, yep I got the most out of this whole living thing.) That's why If you're needing an animal fix like I do from time to time, or if you want a unique date idea or maybe you just want to go on a Sunday afternoon adventure and learn more about some of the world's most endangered animals. This tour is a real dream outing.
Here's how it works, you're going to need a pass to the Safari Park, Whether its a day pass or you a season ticket holder, you're going to need to have access to the park. Then once you're there, you're going to have to pay a small additional amount for the Private Caravan Experience. Depending on the amount of time you want to go out in the caravan prices may vary. But once you pick your time and get ready to go out, my advice is to have your cameras on standby as this truly a tour you'll never forget.
Personally for me, I love the idea for any sort of private one-on-one type of tour but the icing on the cake to this African Safari experience is the fact that you even get to feed and love-on some of these world renowned animals. A novel idea, that you may not actually get to do in the wild if you travel to Africa. My true living the dream, type bucket list moment was when I got to not only feed the Giraffes and Rhinos, but I also loved learning all about their unique bodies and habitats. For instance I never knew that Giraffes' only sleep 10 to 20 minutes a day, (and not all at once) as their body mass is so large and their blood pressure so high, that if they slept longer, or laid down to sleep, their body would actually crush their ginormous heart. Speaking of heart, its somewhat hard to imagine, but Giraffe's hearts are 2-3 feet long. That's insane to me, seeing as how I'm only 5'5" tall, thats nearly half my height. (I mean just check out my Giraffe Selfie above, his head is huge compared to my body!) Other quick observations that I made about the Giraffes, the adults, can be a bit aggressive and do not like to be touched, The babies on the other hand, a bit naive and hungry will allow you to gently pet them, if you come equipped with leaves that they like to eat.
As for the rhinos that I came in contact with, well there one sweet little girl whom I forgot her name, followed our caravan around diligently in hopes that someone would toss a quick bite of apple in her direction. Weighing in at a cool, couple thousand pounds, she wasn't fully grown yet but definitely could have taken the heavyweight title home. Rubbing her skin and forehead reminded me somewhat of a sandpaper meets knight's armor type of mix. A truly prehistoric looking creature that was just as curious of us as we were of her. Every time, she came in my direction, I couldn't help think to myself, real unicorns have curves!
Another interesting tidbit about this excursion was, that up until recently, San Diego's Safari Park even housed another extraordinary animal tenant named Nola, She was one of the four remaining Northern White Rhinos in the World, and up until recently, she could have be seen on this very special caravan. Sadly though, Nola's recent passing. marks an almost end to a critically endangered species of Rhinos. In fact, the three remaining northern white rhinos in the world currently reside at an animal preserve in Kenya. (Quick Side note: I also learned from this tour that it's never a good idea to keep all of an animal species in one place. If there was a disease outbreak of some sort, fire, flood, etc. this poor animal species would be a long lost thought.) #SaveTheRhinos
Oh and one other nugget of knowledge that I learned... Zebras are Assholes! (the guide's words not mine) He said when other animals act up, they put them in the zebra enclosure to correct their behavior. Evidently Zebras are aggressive and can be just all around a-holes. Again his words not mine.
So not to end on a sour note, but rather an uplifting tale of adventure and animals. Whether you're in it for the selfish Giraffe Selfie, or perhaps you actually care to see and feed these animals up close and learn all about them. These caravans are not only life changing and educational, but a true travel must do. I highly recommend embarking on this one of a kind travel adventures and getting a small taste of Africa and Asia's wildlife with the Safari Park's Caravan Safari Experience!
For a video exploration of my Carvan Safari, make sure you check out the link below:
...For full disclosure, the title of this blog, "Living the dream," is being used in the most sarcastic way possible. Although I will say that I am truly blessed to have my health, an amazing family, and some truly incredible life experiences under my belt, for the most part, I tend to use this phrase sarcastically especially when I find myself, at times, in some fairly unique life situations. Both good, bad and crazy. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've been told by other people that I should have a reality show due to the number of odd and memorable (either for good or bad reasons) things that happen, either on my shoots, or in my everyday life. Its seems like just about every one of my reflective stories starts with, "you're not going to believe what happened..." So for that very reason, I thought it might be interesting to some for me to dust off the ol' laptop and re-start blogging. This way I can share my personal ups, downs and memory-filled life experiences along with other interesting things, tid-bits, topics and articles that may come up along the way! If there is anything about me that you've ever wanted to know, a place you've wanted to know more about, or some strange experience that Ive oddly tried out, please don't hesitate to comment below to find out more!
Emmy Award-Winning Producer, TV Host, and All-Around Lover of Life. I'm a sarcastic, glass is half full type of gal, who wears too much red lipstick and leopard print, who loves to laugh til' it hurts, travel the world, pet animals, learn about new cultures, drive fast cars and oh yeah, go on spontaneous, adventures.
LET's Keep in touch!
Jenn Barlow is a vivacious, adventure-minded, student of life, who has a keen sense of humor and knack for storytelling. As Producer, Host and writer for various television programs and documentaries, she has even earned an Emmy Award for her work.