lake anna, virginia

 

For the past few years, each spring I have found myself making my way towards beautiful Lake Anna in central Virginia.  I spend five weeks there in May and June for the annual Virginia Renaissance Festival.  Though I’m called to Virginia for work, I really look forward to the time I get to spend there each year.

Lake Anna is one of the largest lakes in Virginia, spanning more than 20 square miles in Louisa, Orange, and Spotsylvania counties. Lake Anna is an ideal vacationer’s lake. It is clean and well maintained by Lake Anna State Park, several campgrounds and marinas along it’s edges, and plenty of homes with private water access.

Come out for a weekend and a chance to relax and get back to nature.  The best times to visit are spring and summer, but I’ve heard winters can be beautiful as well.  Soft white snowfall covers rolling hills, and dark brown barren winter trees line a still grey lake making for a quiet nearly mono-chromatic beauty that is incredibly peaceful and restful.

I’ve yet to visit in the winter, but in the summer there is plenty to see and do around Lake Anna.

Consider camping inside Lake Anna State Park, where you will find your standard state park campground amenities: well maintained roads, wide level camp pads, fire pits, and rustic bath houses. For those disinclined to stay in a tent, there are several cabins of various sizes available for rent.  Lake Anna State Park has over 15 miles of trails to hike and access to a sandy beach perfect for families to spend the day at the lake. Sunbathe in the sand while the kids swim in the lake shallows. There is also a public boat launch point from within the state park.

Also available for camping is nearby Christopher Run Campground. It too has a small beach and boat launch available for campers.

While on vacation, consider spending some time at the nearby Lake Anna Winery.  The Winery is open Wednesday – Sunday each week. Tours of the winery are available upon request. If you sit down to a tasting, definitely ask to try the Lake Side Sunset, charmingly peachy/rose-colored, fruity, semi-dry wine. Sweet, refreshing, and incredibly easy to drink chilled on a hot summer evening, the Lake Side Sunset is my personal favorite of the Lake Anna Winery wines.

Lake Anna Winery is part of the Virginia Wine Trail, which provides a leisurely self-driven tour of six of central Virginia’s wineries. They also host many events throughout the year including fireworks, concerts, and more. Check their website to find out if there is anything exciting happening during your visit.

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Swim in the Lake (left), or visit the Lake Anna Winery for a summertime concert (right)

And of course, I should mention the Virginia Renaissance Festival.  Come out to the Lake Anna Winery in May and early-June and travel back in time with us! Visit their website to learn more about this year’s dates and times. Come dressed like a princess or pirate and browse the high quality artists and craftsmen selling their wares at the Renaissance faire. See incredible live performances of musicians, actors, and entertainers. Drinks some wine and ale and have yourself a day of merriment and fun. Look for me at The Silk Road Traders, custom blend perfume oils booth! I’ll make you smell real nice.

Whatever time of year you decide to visit, Lake Anna is sure to delight you with its beauty and tranquility. This year I was doubly happy to arrive, exhausted after my three-week long tour of the United States. I left Santa Barbara, California and made stops in Las Vegas, Zion National Park, Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Colorado, and Pittsburgh before finally landing at Lake Anna in time for the faire.  You can read all about those adventures in the previous weeks’ blogs.

I took every opportunity to relax in Virginia. We had lazy lake days, cook outs, plenty of leisurely evening walks and spent a nice overnight trip in Washington D.C (see next week’s blog post).

It was good to relax, because coming up next is a six week adventure in Europe!  Stay tuned for stories from London, England; Malaga, Spain; and various parts of Italy including Rome, Assisi, Florence, Naples, and Cefalu`, Sicily.

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306545_10100339996775636_297841040_nHave you ever had the urge to just drop what you were doing, pack a bag, and set out on an adventure? Seven years and over two dozen countries later, Aeri Rose is proof that excitement, independence, and discovery await those who are bold enough to say “yes” to life’s craziest choices. When not exploring the world with her little grey backpack, Aeri Rose an be found living a nomadic lifestyle traveling the United States as an artist and entrepreneur.  To follow Aeri on all her adventures, check her out online at travelingwithaeri.com; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aerirose.

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arches national park

Today lets talk about Arches National Park, in Utah, on the Colorado Plateau and relatively close to the Colorado state border.

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Though the sandstone cliffs and formations of the park can seem harsh and barren, plenty of life still finds a way to thrive.

Arches National Park is beautiful in a stark and formidable sort of way.  It is a land filled with sweeping vistas built of solid red rock. It seems you can look in any direction and find stunning natural stone formations in the shapes of arches, pinnacles, standing columns, precariously balanced boulders and more.

The park is best known for Delicate Arch, a 65 foot tall naturally formed sandstone arch. But there is plenty more to see and explore in Arches National Park.

The park road entrance is just outside of Moab, the tiny outdoorsy little town I talked about last week. Just past the entrance the road climbs steeply with a number of sharp switchbacks marking the rapid rise in elevation. Though the park is filled with hiking trails and perfect spots for rock climbing of all sorts, if you only have a couple hours to spend then just taking a long and winding drive through the park. The views available along the main road are sure to satisfy.

The first sights on your way in are a group of incredibly tall, long narrow columns called the Courthouse Towers.  Just past these monoliths find the Petrified Dunes. These dunes formed 200 million years ago.  Back then they were part of a massive sandy desert area. Over time other stones and sand settled on top of the dunes, compressing and hardening them. Only after the other stones were again carried away by erosion were the original sand dunes, now petrified, revealed once again. With stones and stone formations I think we often have this sense of timeless beauty, but even stones are constantly changing with the passage of time.

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The Courthouse Towers

Past the Petrified Dunes are many stunning formations including a grouping of rock pinnacles, and a collection of smaller stone arches in The Window Section of the park. These arches include Pothole Arch, Double Arch, North Window and South Window. Don’t overlook the balanced rock, a massive boulder perched on top the point of an unbelievably narrow pinnacle.

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The Balanced Rock

Continue on and take in the sweeping panoramas and stunning sandstone cliffs that make up the bulk of the park.  If you only have time for one hike, I recommend taking one of the three trails to check out Delicate Arch.  The first trail is a short ten-minute hike up to the Lower Delicate Arch View Point.  This hike is good for all athletic abilities and is wheelchair accessible. The second option is a hike to the Upper Delicate Arch View Point. This is an easy to moderate hike of about 30-minutes (.5 miles). From the this view point the arch is plainly visible across a canyon. The third option is to hike directly out to Delicate Arch.  This is a difficult three-hour (3 mile) hike over open slick rock in full sun. Bring plenty of water and be prepared for a narrow rock ledge crossing before reaching Delicate Arch.

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Delicate Arch as seen from the Upper Level Delicate Arch View Point

I opted for hike number two, out of respect for my short time frame and hopes to be back on the highway before too late in the day. You can see from my picture of Delicate Arch what kind of view you can expect from the Upper Delicate Arch View Point.  It is a nice view, but if I’m ever near Arches National Park again I definitely want to do the more difficult Delicate Arch hike.  I also hope to spend more time exploring the Devil’s Garden.  This area of the park is at the most northern tip of the park and includes a campground and an extensive collection of trails and dozens of arches.

But unfortunately the sun was working its way lower in the sky and I knew it was time to hit the road again.  So with a last appreciative sigh at the beautiful vistas before me, I climbed back into my Jeep and made the slow trek back out of Arches National Park.

Next up on my journey? A few days and nights visiting friends along the way towards my final destination, the fine state of Virginia and the beautiful Lake Anna.  Check in next week for some exciting East-Coast adventures!

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306545_10100339996775636_297841040_nHave you ever had the urge to just drop what you were doing, pack a bag, and set out on an adventure? Seven years and over two dozen countries later, Aeri Rose is proof that excitement, independence, and discovery await those who are bold enough to say “yes” to life’s craziest choices. When not exploring the world with her little grey backpack, Aeri Rose an be found living a nomadic lifestyle traveling the United States as a writer and entrepreneur.  To follow Aeri on all her adventures, check her out online at travelingwithaeri.com; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aerirose.

moab, utah

Welcome back to the multi-part series on my Road Trip from California to Virginia taken this spring.  I guess I should have made that clearer in the beginning. I struck out from Santa Barbara, California, and spent a good two weeks working my way east. I made stops in lovely places like Las Vegas, Zion National Park, Arches National Park, Pittsburgh, Lake Anna, Washington D.C. and more. The past few weeks and the next several weeks will be filled with instillations of those exciting stops along the way.

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It is hard to pay attention to the road with views like this.

Anyway, welcome back and onward we go!

When we last talked travel, I was as far as the Coral Pink Sand Dunes in Utah.  Leaving the sand dunes, I again struck out east.  Moab, Utah, was my next destination.

Moab is a tiny, sporty, artsy little town in eastern Utah on top of the Colorado Plateau.  Its most famous features include Arches National Park, and Canyonlands National Park. Though small, it is visited by many tourists on the hunt for outdoor adventures each year. Off road Jeep treks, mountain biking, hiking, climbing, white water rafting, 4x4s, base jumping, slack lining, and more are offered to intrepid adventurers near Moab.  Want to know more? Visit Moab’s Tourism Website.

The best time to visit is late-spring to early-summer, or in the fall. Though there is something to do there any time of year, high summer and deep winter can experience extreme temperatures. My mid-to-late-April arrival was perfect. The weather couldn’t have been better; warm and sunny during the day, and cool at night.

When I arrived the sun was just setting.  I knew that by the time I got to the condo I would be too tired to venture back out.  So I stopped at a little grocery store for supplies. Some pasta and veggies for dinner, and a six-pack of a local brew, HooDoo, a Kolsch style ale by Unita Brewing Company.

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A great beer and a good view make for a happy Aeri!

Once at the condo I dropped my bags cracked open a beer to relax and enjoy the last of the settling twilight from the back porch.  The views were astounding. Snow capped mountains on one side and red orange sandstone plateaus on the other.

The next morning, feeling refreshed, I ventured towards downtown Moab.  It is a cute little town.  There are plenty of coffee shops, restaurants, artisan boutiques and outdoor equipment general stores.

I spent time admiring the local artists’ work, and bought a few small prints by Serena Supplee. She was my favorite of the local scenery artists displaying work throughout the town.  Her use of color and bold shapes made for work that felt almost surrealist if the subject matter wasn’t sitting on the horizon for easy comparison.

Feeling hungry, I made my way to The Moab Brewery, a restaurant and brewery at the top of the hill, just outside the edge of downtown.  They had a bunch of great beers on tap. It made it hard to choose just what to try! Since it was lunch time I settled on the Dead Horse Amber, a mild beer, good cold and at 4% a reasonable choice for a midday meal.  It complimented my gigantic  burger and fresh cut thick fries well. The Moab Brewery was good. They had good food, good atmosphere, and great beers.

And the best part is that since it’s a brewery too, you can buy cans and bottles to take home with you. I picked out the Over the Top Hefeweizen, Black Raven Oatmeal Stout, and Squeaky Bike Nut Brown Ale to try later.

I just wish I had had more time to spend in Moab.  I would have explored the more adventurous options around the town. A jeep safari deep into the beautiful canyons and ridges around the Colorado Plateau, and definitely some more hikes.

As it was the day passed quicker than I would have thought. The next day I had plans to visit Arches National Park for the day and get on the road by the late afternoon.

Check back next week for stories from Arches National Park.

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306545_10100339996775636_297841040_nHave you ever had the urge to just drop what you were doing, pack a bag, and set out on an adventure? Seven years and over two dozen countries later, Aeri Rose is proof that excitement, independence, and discovery await those who are bold enough to say “yes” to life’s craziest choices. When not exploring the world with her little grey backpack, Aeri Rose an be found living a nomadic lifestyle traveling the United States as a writer and entrepreneur.  To follow Aeri on all her adventures, check her out online at travelingwithaeri.com; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aerirose.

wiggle your toes in coral pink sand dunes

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Imagine pale pink sand rolling in massive hills as tall as buildings, nestled in a great bowl of red Navajo Sandstone walls. Imagine walking out onto the dunes, a wavering line of your footprints strung out behind you as you walk, barefoot, along the tallest ridge.  Warm, incredibly soft, pink sand working its way between your toes as you walk along, steadily warming beneath the bright afternoon sunlight.

You pause for a sip of water and hear the happy laughter of children up ahead.  Suddenly two curly little heads go whizzing down the side of the dune, holding tightly to a cheap plastic disk, a snow sled repurposed for these perfect desert dunes. A third child, too impatient to wait for the disk to return, launches himself head first down the hill and rolls to the bottom in a pink dust cloud of arms and legs.  He is chased by the family dog, who is mostly confused, though happy because his tiny humans are happy.

Welcome to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes of southern Utah.

The dunes are a protected State Park of Utah.  Here, visitors can walk, sled, ski, snow sand-board, and take ATVs out onto the dunes for a day of adventure.  With a backdrop of red sandstone cliffs all around, its the perfect setting for a Mad Max photoshoot or a Mars Landing sci-fi film.

The Coral Pink Sand Dunes got their beautiful pink hue from the Navajo Sandstone cliffs surrounding them. Over time, high winds passing through the mountains caused the cliffs to erode. The winds deposited the pink dust past the mountains and created the beautiful coral colored sand dunes we see today.

I like thinking about the sandstone cliffs and the dunes and the wind. I feel like there are lessons to be learned there. Maybe the lesson is that only with the constant adversity of the wind, are the mountains able to create the beautiful dunes.  Or maybe the lesson is that despite the constant adversity of the winds the mountains remain strong and permanent through time.  Or, the dunes and the mountains are made of the same stuff. But where the mountains are rigid and unchanging, the dunes are flexible and shifting.

Its ok to be a mountain, strong in the face of adversity. But its also ok to be a dune, created from adversity, and beautiful in its constant shifting and changing. Be a mountain if you want to be a mountain. Or be a dune if you want to be a dune.  The dunes don’t loose their essence, their mountain dust, no matter how many new shapes they take.

You be you! And while you’re being you…go be you at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, a beautiful pale pink treasure in the middle of the mid-western deserts that’s just waiting for you to wiggle your toes in the sands.

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306545_10100339996775636_297841040_nHave you ever had the urge to just drop what you were doing, pack a bag, and set out on an adventure? Seven years and over two dozen countries later, Aeri Rose is proof that excitement, independence, and discovery await those who are bold enough to say “yes” to life’s craziest choices. When not exploring the world with her little grey backpack, Aeri Rose an be found living a nomadic lifestyle traveling the United States as a writer and entrepreneur.  To follow Aeri on all her adventures, check her out online at travelingwithaeri.com; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aerirose.

angel’s landing and zion national park

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A panoramic view of Angel’s Landing

Zion National Park is an incredibly beautiful national natural landmark that deserves far more pomp and attention than it receives.  Located in Utah, Zion has been a protected National Park since 1919, though today it is unfortunately occasionally overlooked in favor of the more famous National Parks in the area including the Grand Canyon, Painted Desert and Petrified Forest.

Indians have lived in Zion for thousands of years, but it received the name it holds now after Mormon settlers arrived in the early 1860’s.  The story goes that after crossing the harsh midwest, the settlers arrived at the stunning, sheltered, green and lush canyon area and deemed it a truly heavenly site. The central feature of Zion National Park is Zion Canyon, though the varied landscape of the 229 square mile park includes desert, woodland, mountains, canyons, buttes, rivers, arches, and more.

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Beginning my hike to Angel’s Landing. It starts with a gentle trail along the Virgin River.

Visiting Zion National Park was high on my bucket list for at least a decade before I was finally able to make my way there this spring. The reason? Angel’s Landing.

Angel’s Landing is the name given to a 1,500 foot tall rock formation artfully positioned at the intersection of three canyons. A short but rigorous 2.5 mile trail leads from a base in the Grotto, up through a series of switchbacks called Walter’s Wiggles, and past Scout Lookout. Scout Lookout is the final destination for many, because past that the trail narrows drastically. Often only two feet wide, the trail has been forcefully carved into cliff sides anchored with chains for balance and support. At other times a mere three feet separates travelers from plummeting cliffs on either side. But the view from the summit is worth every terrifying step.  Stand at the point of Angel’s Landing and feel the vast windy emptiness of open canyons surrounding you on three sides. No matter how long you sit taking in the view, you will always wish you had sat just a little bit longer.

I had two days to spend in Zion, but after my first glance at the stunning canyons and sandstone cliffs I knew I could have spent a week there and still not been satisfied.

So what did I do? Where did I stay? What did I see?

Camping in the park is hard to get. The reserve sites fill up quickly and the rest is first-come, first-served. So instead of camping in the park itself, I reserved a spot at the privately owned Zion Canyon Campground in Springdale.

Springdale is a tiny mountain resort town situated just outside the gates of Zion National Park. It has camping, bed & breakfasts, and motel lodging; several great restaurants and bars; and a general store or two stocked with postcards, tourist souvenirs, and any last minute camping gear an intrepid adventurer may have forgotten. A free shuttle makes frequent laps between points in the town and the entrance to the park, so staying in the town is a convenient and easy choice.

If you’ll remember from last week’s adventure, I left Las Vegas in the late afternoon after dropping my friend off at the airport.  I made a bee-line for Zion, and arrived just before dusk.  I quickly checked in and set up camp in the dwindling daylight. All set for the night, I went for a walk.  Springdale in the evening has a welcoming and friendly feel. Warm glowing lights and the jingle of laugher pours from the restaurants and bars in the evening. Pass other vacationers on the street and you’ll get a friendly wave and a smile, and occasionally a bit of conversation.

Though the bar sounded inviting, I decided to turn in for the evening. I was still working off the last of my Vegas hangover and I wanted to be able to hit the trail early the next morning. So, with a contented sigh I returned to my quiet camp and settled in for the night.

The next morning I packed a daypack, strapped on my boots, and took the shuttle to Zion National Park. At the front gate hikers disembark from the town shuttle, pay the entrance fee, and enter the park. There are hiking trails of every length and for every athletic level available in Zion.  Locating the trail head for Angel’s Landing, I hopped on another free shuttle bus, this one designed for inside the park, and made my way to the Grotto.

True to it’s description, the trail to Angel’s Landing isn’t long, though it is steep and strenuous at times. I took my time, enjoying the sweeping vistas and stunning canyons all along the way. At Scouts Landing I took a break before conquering the final half mile to the summit. That last bit is really tough! Parts are down right scary. Especially hiking alone. Luckily I went on a busy enough day and met several friendly hikers that let me hike with them for a spell and encouraged me to continue the few times I almost froze.

Of course I passed, or rather was passed by, the stereotypical “Colorado Boys.” You know the type. Far to fit, laughing and joking as they devour strenuous trails in Rainbow flip-flops and hemp t-shirts. I tried not to be too disgusted with them or with myself as they skipped past me in sandals while I struggled to swallow my fear and take one more step forward.

Eventually I made it to the top. It was just as incredible as I hoped it would be.  I sat with my packed lunch and enjoyed the view. I sat until I got cold and stiff, trying to record every stunning detail to memory. The way the canyons faded from a bright orange sandstone to a darker grey rock. The hints of bright yellow and white stone that laced its way in layers throughout each wall. The way the river wound along the canyon floor. The way the lush green vegetation grew up from the river along the the walls of the canyons, eventually petering out to bare sheer rock. The way the crisp spring afternoon sunlight cast one side of the canyons in sharp bright relief and kept the other side in dark cool shadow. The way the wind was just strong enough to be a little bit frightening when I stood at the edge of the cliffs. The warmth of the stone when I laid down and stretched out to get a closer look at the edge. The vast empty space you feel sitting at the edge of a point a only few feet wide surrounded by plunging cliffs and deep canyons.  I snapped a few photos but I knew nothing could ever capture the incredible view before me.

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The view of one canyon from Angel’s Landing.

Finally, with a sigh, I began the climb down. Back in the Grotto, I spent the rest of the day exploring Kayenta Trail and the Lower Emerald Pools.

The next day I went back to the park and rode the shuttle on the full loop to get a simple tour of Zion Canyon. I was just as happy to see the hawks and deer the driver pointed out as I was to see long skinny ropes hanging from cliff faces, dancing lightly as rock-climbers made their way up and then repelled back down.  I got off the shuttle at The Temple of Sinawava and walked into The Narrows. The Narrows is a slot canyon hike in which hikers can venture deep into Zion Canyon along the Virgin River. Unfortunately the day I went The Narrows were closed because of the risk of flash flooding.  I have heard great things about the hike though and highly recommend trying it. If I ever find myself back in the area I know where I’ll be spending the day.

After that I wandered the park for a bit longer before deciding to head south for a spontaneous addition to my road trip.  That morning I had learned about the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, and felt that I just couldn’t pass up a chance to go walking in pink sand dunes. Yes, PINK SAND! Awesome!

Check back next week to hear about my adventures in another little celebrated park, the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park of Utah.

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306545_10100339996775636_297841040_nHave you ever had the urge to just drop what you were doing, pack a bag, and set out on an adventure? Seven years and over two dozen countries later, Aeri Rose is proof that excitement, independence, and discovery await those who are bold enough to say “yes” to life’s craziest choices. When not exploring the world with her little grey backpack, Aeri Rose an be found living a nomadic lifestyle traveling the United States as an artist and entrepreneur.  To follow Aeri on all her adventures, check her out online at travelingwithaeri.com; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aerirose.

 

aeri rose’s guide on how to have a rockin’ vegas weekend

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The view of Las Vegas Boulevard from The VooDoo Club

Step 1) Drop in on a high school girlfriend, now a professional actress living in Las Angeles, and kidnap her from work Friday evening. Drive straight to Las Vegas. Get lost only sort of and spend far too long driving through tiny desert towns on your way to Sin City.

Step 2) Roar into your hotel parking lot by 10:00 pm, check in, drop your bags, put on lipstick and high heels, and hit the casino floor for some free drinks and fun with the slot machines.

Step 3) Sufficiently buzzed, head to The Strip and take in the lights, sounds, and sights of Vegas at street level.

Step 4) Grudgingly, like kids at a sleepover, agree you should get some sleep. Crash into unnaturally soft and luxurious beds in a pitch black room and sleep far too late.

Step 5) If this is your first time in Las Vegas, as it was mine, pull yourself out of that bed at a somewhat reasonable hour for a chance to check out some of the most famous casinos.

Some Highlights?

– Walk the sidewalks and raised bridges of The Strip and snap a selfie in the center of Las Vegas Boulevard (from the elevated safety of a bridge of course).

– Watch the Fountains of Bellagio water show. Several times daily the outdoor fountains of The Bellagio Casino put on a beautifully orchestrated show incorporating music, lights, and dancing jets of water. Free and fantastic! A must see.

– Admire the grandeur of The Venetian. Eat some gelato on a bench beside the canals and watch the gondoliers ferry other guests around the opulent casino. Admit that you almost feel like you really are in a dreamy Italian city.

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Yes this is really a picture of inside the casino

– Back outside, visit White Castle for some burgers and fries and remind your palate that you’re really still in America. Let the setting sun is encourage you to run back to your hotel to get dressed for another night on the town.

Step 6) If you’re only here for the weekend, this is your only full night of debauchery. Make the most of it! Start your evening at a concert or show. Whatever kind of entertainment you’re looking for, Vegas can deliver.

We went for a rock show, like any good punk rock princesses would.  Since high school I had been trying to catch The Darkness live, and I was over the moon to find out they would be playing at the House of Blues that night. So, hair properly teased and full of enough hairspray to blast a new hole in the Ozone layer, we made our way to Mandalay Bay.

 

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I believe in a thing called love. Just listen to the rhythm of your heart.

It. Was. Awesome! Worth the wait and just the kind of energy we needed to get our night started.  In the crowd we met a group of English guys in the RAF (thats the Royal Air Force) stationed in Vegas for the summer. Which leads me to step 7.

Step 7) Make Friends!

Following the concert the British Guys recommended we check out this other club. “The best view in Vegas” they promised. With no further plans, and open to whatever the night might throw at us, we agreed. So we made our way to The VooDoo Nightclub at the top of Rio Las Vegas.

They were right about the amazing view. Situated slightly off The Strip, from the top of the Rio you can see all of Las Vegas laid out below you, fanning out in straight golden lines of light across the desert.  It’s incredible.

Look closely and see the massive High Roller Ferris Wheel. At 550 feet tall, it currently stands as the world’s largest ferris wheel. And with an open bar “happy half-hour” ticket option, that’s one Las Vegas sight that I still need to conquer.

With hints of blue starting to thread their way into the star filled night sky, we knew it was time to call this night a success and head back to our hotel for some zzz’s. Though the next day would be the last day of our wild weekend retreat, we had plans to go out with a bang.

As a happy coincidence, the weekend we went to Vegas also happened to be Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend, a massive Pin-Up and Rockabilly conference held at The Orleans Hotel every year in April.

Which is why Step 8 is…

Step 8) Make the most of every minute

Sure we stayed out until past 4:00 am the night before. And sure my girlfriend’s flight back to L.A. left the airport at 3:30 pm.  But that is no reason not to pull out our peep-toe heels, don our cutest leopard print vintage ’20’s dresses, and twirl our hair into a Victory Roll or two for day of Rockabilly, classic cars, greasers, and pin-up girls.

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So we made the most of every minute. We woke up. We chased our Advil with multivitamins and Smart Water. And we had a blast at Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend. The cars were incredible. The shopping prolific. The other attendees inspiring.

But all too soon it was time to take my partner in crime to the airport.  With happy hugs and promises to see each other again soon, we closed the curtain on our Rockin’ Vegas Weekend.

After dropping her off I pointed my Jeep eastward and on towards Zion National Park; the next stop on my road road trip east, and an adventure of an entirely different sort.

Tune in next week for stories from Angel’s Landing Trail and Zion National Park in Utah.

See you down the road!

~ Aeri

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306545_10100339996775636_297841040_nHave you ever had the urge to just drop what you were doing, pack a bag, and set out on an adventure? Seven years and over two dozen countries later, Aeri Rose is proof that excitement, independence, and discovery await those who are bold enough to say “yes” to life’s craziest choices. When not exploring the world with her little grey backpack, Aeri Rose an be found living a nomadic lifestyle traveling the United States as an artist and entrepreneur.  To follow Aeri on all her adventures, check her out online at travelingwithaeri.com; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aerirose.

pittsburgh: the pearl of pennsylvania

Like an oyster with a grain of sand, Pittsburgh is fast emerging as The Pearl of Pennsylvania. Long considered the tough and gritty anchor of the state’s western edge, a youthful artistic movement is rapidly re-gentrifying this unique metropolis. Last week I had the opportunity to check out Pittsburgh for myself, and I have to say, the rumors are true.  I found a rapidly growing artisan community that was as optimistic as it was unpretentious. Locals were friendly and genuine, the art was vibrant, and the food delicious. Our aimless wanderings quickly turned into an international gastro-tour of Lawrenceville and The Strip, two little gems that really deserve some fanfare.

Lawrenceville is an area northeast of downtown that is blossoming into a trendy and fresh neighborhood grown from industrial roots.  Along its main drag sprout coffeeshops, art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and more. Near by, accessible by foot, bike, or car, The Strip District is a historic area now home to nightclubs, bars, and oodles of specialty shops and import grocers.

While we couldn’t hit every store on our tour (our wallets and waistlines just wouldn’t allow it) I am sure you will find just as many gems on your adventure as we did on ours.  But if you’re looking for some recommendations, follow along as I recount our recent gastro-tour.

We started out in Lawrenceville at Gryphon’s Tea, 4127 Butler St., with orders of Cold Earl Grey with agave nectar, and Matcha- a powdered green tea drink.  Both were brewed fresh while we waited, and the barista was friendly and filled with recommendations of sights and eats in Lawrenceville.

After a leisurely stroll up Butler St., into a few art galleries, and down to the waters edge, past design studios and consulting firms, we wandered past La Gourmandine Bakery and Pastry Shop, 4605 Butler St., and were betrayed by our noses.  It would take someone with a stronger will than I to walk past that shop and not be lured in with the scents of fresh french bread, buttery croissants, and delicate pastries.  The smell was exactly as a French Bakery should be.  It brought back memories of living in Lyon, rushing past bakeries just taking out their fresh baked goods as I caught the bus to class in the morning, and then picking up fresh baguettes in the afternoons on my way home.  The treats were as delicious as they smelled, with flaky layers that melted in your mouth and left you completely satisfied.

Wandering back down the other side of Butler Street, we took the barista up on her recommendation to eat at Smoke BBQ Taqueria, 4115 Butler St.  Smoke is an unassuming restaurant next to a refurbished movie theater that specializes in bar-be-qua and tacos.  It was while deciding what to order here that we committed to our day of foodie exploration.  So rather than order full meals we each ordered a taco snack. I had a taco with black beans, roasted corn, poblano relish, fried potatoes, and topped with ribs pork. It was an astounding blend of flavors and textures and every bite was a delight.

From there we hopped back in our car and drove the few blocks down to The Strip. I’d like to take a moment here to applaud the geniuses at the Pittsburgh Parking Authority. Their new parking meters are brilliant in their simplicity. Rather than print out tags that one must leave on their vehicle’s front dash, at these meters you simply key in your license plate and you’re done.  Why is this so brilliant? Because it is possible to refill your meter from ANYWHERE in the city. Simply visit one of these parking pay stations, key in your license plate number and viola your meter has been refreshed.

Anyway, back to food.  Our first stop in The Strip was a visit into one of the many Asian Markets along Penn Ave. There we found all our standard favorite spices, deserts, and drinks.  I left with bags of mochi, Tom Kha soup mix, wasabi snacks, and dried seaweed.

Back outside, not two doors down, we found a Polish Deli, S&D Polish Deli, 2204 Penn Ave. Here we ordered a selection of Polish Cheeses, some spinach and cheese pierogis, and a stuffed cabbage.  The cheese was sharp, the pierogis fresh, and the stuffed cabbage just the way babula makes it.

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Pierogis and stuffed cabbage from S&D Polish Deli

Surely they must be getting full, you might think. Maybe a bit. From here we transitioned to some grocery shopping and exploring more of the specialty shops along Penn Ave.

There are Italian Markets, Middle Eastern spice shops, Mediterranean grocers, fresh butchers, outdoor produce markets, and more. The cultural cacophony is deafening, and inspiring.  “If we lived here we could make this and that and more!” we found ourselves saying over and over again.  “I can’t believe they have this!” I exclaimed more than once over rare cuts of meat, exotic vegetables, and hard to find spices.

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An outdoor produce market on Penn Ave in The Strip 

After stocking up on some Italian cheeses from the Pennsylvania Macaroni Co., and some fresh biscotti from The Enrico Biscotti Co. we were ready for a break.  Rather than head home, we wandered into The Beerhive for a seat and a drink.  After a couple of refreshing pints of Octoberfest we were ready for round two of our gastro-tour.

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So many specialty shops all in a row!

We ended the day with Vietnamese sandwiches from Pho Van Vietnamese Noodles & Grill.  A Vietnamese Bahn Mi Sandwich, as I soon learned, is a mouthwatering combination of tender pork, chili sauce, onion, cilantro, and cucumber on top of a french baguette.  Pho Van does Bahn Mi right.

With that, we concluded our delightful gastro-tour of Lawrenceville and The Strip District. Everything was delicious, reasonably priced, and worth every calorie.  By the end of the day we were ready to collapse into a satiated food coma back at our hotel, and we did just that.

Pittsburgh, you hidden pearl, never again will I think of you as a city of steel mills and silly football players.  You are now forever in my heart as one of the most delicious, artistic, friendly and inviting cities in the Northeast.

Until next time, Buon Appetito and Salute!!

Aeri

+1 increase in trailer hauling

I am now tucked into a Motel 6 in Tennessee for the night. I left Base Camp on December 31 and have been making my way slowly west since then. The adventure began with a stop for a blanket fort party in Virginia for New Year’s Eve. Then down 95 to North Carolina to visit my godson, finally meet his younger brother, and catch up with my old college roomie. This afternoon I left them and headed due west on I-40. Memphis and a childhood friend are my goal, but since I have the Vardo in tow the going has been slow and nerve wracking. I made it a little less than half way before stopping for the night.

Mostly I am thankful that the Jeep and Vardo survived the Smoky Mountains Crossing! I definitely found myself chanting “I think I can” in a zen-like mantra as we slowly chugged our way over the tops of the steepest ridges.

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Really, I think I’d like to update my Official Gypsy Scorecard after today’s drive…

I am docking myself
-2 for poor route scheduling. Why did I think it was a good idea to cross the mountains in the rainy darkness?

But awarding myself
+1 increase in trailer hauling skills
+1 in aimless wandering, unlocking power of the snail with her home on her back
And
+1 in climb every mountain, because I had to take this route in order to visit as many friends as possible and they are totally worth it!!

So overall I’d say it was an adventure well accomplished.

I did consider sleeping in the vardo for the first time tonight…but I didn’t really “move in” I just loaded up, and I don’t even have a mattress for the platform yet. Plus these rooms are once again made possible by the generous support of Bill Hession and his Christmas gift of guilt free hotel glory! So instead I will be enjoying a night of grainy motel room tv and an itty-bitty shampoo bottle spa.

Gratefully yours from the road,

Aeri

road-dog routines

After a long winter at home, I can see the road beckoning on the horizon, and my little heart goes pitter-patter with excitement.

I have spent seven months straight at Mamma Bear Base Camp this year, a practical eternity to a hopeless wanderer, and as the end of my stay draws near I feel the need to take a moment to reflect philosophically on the emotional roller-coaster  I have ridden.

Sometime in early June I arrived home fresh from a successful show season on the road, elated with the new developments, bursting with plans to conquer, and a little nostalgic for the thought of spending some quality time with family and friends.

Yet by the end of September the daily grind of normalcy was starting to take its toll. My part-time office job was pounding out new linear paths in the artistic labyrinth of my mind. Reconnecting with friends meant a parade of well dressed, first apartment-ed, newly wed, career focused fine upstanding young adults marching past. I even began to experience a sort of Stockholm Syndrome. I could be one of those be-suited socialites. Should I be striving to become a well-coiffed, demurely mature, subtly fierce young professional, shattering glass ceilings with a single spreadsheet? Perhaps. I gave it some serious consideration. I brushed off my resume and rattled off a few cover letters.

My exciting life of art and travel seemed so foreign and alien so quickly that not even the arrival of my long awaited vardo could reconnect me with the colorful fairy I loved to be. It sat awkwardly in our suburban driveway, squat and bright with its purple walls and orange trim, and dared me to remember who I was.

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The memories came back slowly. The disconnect was real. Days of khaki slacks and office coffee, car payments and the thought of real estate had made an adult out of me.

Then I woke up this morning and I could practically smell the wild sage and desert sand of Arizona. I found myself craving a WaWa Sandwich…a staple of highway nourishment.  I found I could actually focus on the thought of packing, an insurmountable mental block just a few days earlier.  I mapped my route and learned I had not one but two of my best friends directly en route and simply demanding a visit.

This is the balance I fight to maintain. When I am on the road I love so much about it. The color, the energy, the new friends I meet and the adventures and misadventures I have . But I miss my old friends. I experience such hiraeth; longing for a return to my college days when all my closest friends lived just around the corner. But those days are gone. My friends, fierce young professionals that they are, have carved niches out for themselves all over the world.

But for me at least, perhaps they are still just around the corner. It is just that my neighborhood has gotten a whole lot larger. A trip around the block lasts from late January to early June and takes me on a lap around the continental United States. A visit across town is more like a journey across the ocean and a crash reunion with ex-pats and euro-rats.

I know it won’t always be like this. So until the day that I find my own niche to carve out, I’ll just stay happy with my endless wandering, and content myself with my road-dog routines.

Here’s to stale coffee and sandwiches. To counting the miles, singing out your heartbreak and happiness to the open road, and going crazy one white line at a time.

Until the day we can all be together again,

~Aeri

is this america?

I sit at a stop light and look to my left.

Next to me is a dirty, grey Toyota Corolla. Possibly built in 1992.

Around it’s mirror hangs two endearingly intertwined graduation tassels, hung there by two graduates in a fit of optimistic enthusiasm two years ago.

In the front seats sits a couple. The owners of the tassels?

They rest, exhausted by the day’s labors, heads leaning on fists propped up on window’s ledges, waiting for the light to turn green.

In the back a toddler sits, wrapped in a puffy white hand-me-down jacket, playing with a flashing, whizzing, whirley-gig of a toy.

Is this America?

The light changes and I drive off.