Tag archive for "USA"

Montana’s treasures: Yellowstone National Park

Destinations, USA

Montana’s treasures: Yellowstone National Park

2 Comments 17 September 2013

Montana’s nickname “The Treasure State” came about because of its wealth of minerals, including gold and silver, but for me that name resonates most in regards to Yellowstone National Park. Though most of this national park, which covers 3,468 sq miles of land, resides in Wyoming, four out of the five official entrances to the park are in Montana – making this great state the gateway to Yellowstone.

Yellowstone National Park

A lone bison grazes yellow fields at Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Given my love of US national parks that spawned from my last road trip out west, you can bet the number one question on my mind after winning a week at Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, MT (via Passports with Purpose) was “Will we be visiting Yellowstone?”. The answer: of course! Bozeman is one of the most popular means of getting to Yellowstone. Big Sky was about an hour drive from Bozeman Yellowstone Airport and the West Entrance to Yellowstone about a 45-minute drive from Big Sky.

During my week long visit to Lone Mountain Ranch, they offered two day trips to Yellowstone, which are included in the overall price of staying there. Plus, they drove my friend Erin and I out to the West Entrance for free to see the Grizzly Bear and Wolf Discovery Center on another day.

I took the first chance I could to go on a day trip to Yellowstone. We left at about 8 a.m. and didn’t return until about 6 p.m., so it was a long day – but it kind of has to be if you want to see the park in just a day.

Yellowstone National Park

Petrified wood scatters the volcanic park. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Yellowstone is the USA’s first national park. While I always think of Teddy Roosevelt when it comes to America’s national parks, especially this one, the designation of this space as a national park was actually signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872. The park is most well-known for its geothermal activity. Home to Old Faithful and at least 300 more geysers, Yellowstone is placed on top of an active volcano. The park also has close to 300 waterfalls, including Lower Falls, located in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, which you’ll see on a lot of vintage posters and post cards from the park.

Yellowstone National Park

Lowefalls can be found on several vintage posters for the park – it’s even better with no filters. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Beyond an active earth – this park also has a very active wildlife scene. It’s home to 67 species of mammals, two of which are threatened (the Canadian lynx and grizzly bear) and one of which is endangered (the gray wolf).

Anyone who has been following this blog will know that I’m more of a do-it-yourself, spend-as-little-as-possible sort of traveler. So going on a week-long trip to what is basically an all-inclusive ranch (minus alcohol and a few activities) was quite the luxury. In regards to things like park tours, I’ve almost never had someone to drive me around, let alone a highly-educated naturalist, so that was quite a treat. Our guide Kaitlyn knew pretty much everything there was to know about Yellowstone as well as the plants and animals there. She knew exactly where to take us and even better spots to see certain sights, like Old Faithful. Most watch it erupt from Old Faithful Inn, but she took us to a less crowded area.

Yellowstone National Park

Since it was foggy on my visit, I only saw steam as Old Faithful erupted. Still loved it. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Kaitlyn drove us around the Lower Loop and made sure to stop at Old Faithful, Fountain Paint Pots and Lower Falls. We spotted one bald eagles, a few osprey and several elk and bison while in the park. Plus, we got to see Old Faithful as well as Beehive Geysers erupt, which was a treat as the latter is bigger and usually only goes off every four hours.

Yellowstone National Park

I was actually more interested in Beehive Geyser erupting in the distance than Old Faithful. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

The only criticism I have about this trip, which was in no way Lone Mountain Ranch’s fault, is the crowds. I always like visiting places like this at low season to avoid annoying drivers and congested natural areas. Since Yellowstone is one of the USA’s most popular national parks to visit, I recommend going sometime outside of high season, which can be hard because the park closes certain times of year.

Oh, and one other thing – I saw a guy smoking a cigarette in the middle of a wheat grass field in the park during one of the worst times of year for forest fires there. It really annoyed me. Please don’t be a jackass while in Yellowstone. You’ll ruin it for everyone else.

Yellowstone National Park

The water color in the park’s hot springs is so interesting. A buffalo actually fell in this one and you can see its bones. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

It was an incredible day to say the least – but actually it was my least favorite activity of the week. Not because it was bad in anyway – but I just felt the other activities during the week, like canoeing and back country horse back riding allowed us to see the same beauty Yellowstone has to offer without having to be in a bus all day. Still, saying this is my least favorite is like saying Godiva came out last in a chocolate competition. It was still amazing, but means there are even better things to write about in the coming days!

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Dear Bobbi: 21st Century Pen Pals

Blog, Online Goodies, Other, Photography, What I'm thinking

Dear Bobbi: 21st Century Pen Pals

4 Comments 27 August 2013

For anyone who has ever had a pen pal or random travel partner they met in foreign lands who became their best friend – this website is for you.

Those who have been reading my site from the start (LEGENDS!) will know that almost four years ago I was in the running for “The Best Backpacker Job in the World”. There was a YouTube video that involved me scuba diving in a hot tub, which I bothered loads of people to watch to help me win. Sadly – I did not, but weirdly – another girl named Bobbi did.

I went to Australia – where this “best” job took place and ended up “working” it anyway with the other Bobbi (her name is Bobbi-Jo by the way and you can check out her blog here). After surviving shark tanks, monstrous spiders and wild cow stampedes – we parted ways, but never lost touch. In fact, not only did we correspond through emails and Skype over the following years, but we also managed to live in the same countries (New Zealand and England) and even the same city (London) again.

Now that we have the big bad Atlantic between us – as we did when we were just strangers with the same name entering random YouTube contests long ago – we’ve decided to keep in touch as pen pals of the 21st century.

May I introduce – Dear Bobbi.

A tale of two Bobbis. To the left is my photo of the New York skyline, to the right is Bobbi-Jo's of the London skyline.

A tale of two Bobbi’s, to the left is my photo of the New York skyline, to the right is Bobbi-Jo’s of the London skyline.

The website is a transatlantic correspondence between me and my name twin. Twice a week we’ll post photos with the same theme, such as self, skyline and fruit. Follow along as we send photographic love letters across the pond.

Have you ever met a great friend on your travels that you still keep in touch with? Have you ever had a pen pal?

Share your stories below!

If you want more Bobbi: Follow Dear Bobbi on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

12 Photos for my One Year Instagram Anniversary

Other, Photography

12 Photos for my One Year Instagram Anniversary

6 Comments 05 July 2013

I was really late on the whole Instgram thing. I haven’t had a smart phone since 2009 and I still don’t, but in June of 2012 I treated myself to an iPod Touch and one of the very first things I did upon purchasing it was download Instagram.

I love everything about the app.

I love the filters. I like taking photos of all my food. I like seeing what everyone else is doing around the world. I love receiving likes from strangers. Plus, I like that it encourages me to take more photos. I’ll post pretty much anything and everything, but I do have one rule to my Instagram account that I take very seriously. I only post photos taken with my iPod. No SLR or point and shoot photos. That be cheating!

It’s hard to believe I celebrated my one year anniversary recently. In that year I’ve taken over 600 photos in New Zealand, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, USA, Canada and England. #landscapes #selfies #foodporn #fishporn #doglove – You name it, I’ve shot it. So I thought it be fun to have a look back at my 12 favorite photos in my first year of Instagramming.

Italian Renaissance Gardens Hamilton New Zealand

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

12. Italian Renaissance Garden – Hamilton Gardens, New Zealand

This was my first hardcore Instagram day and I think I probably lost all my followers during it, because all I did was take photos of gardens and flowers. Hamilton Gardens is a stunning spot to wander around on a nice day. They have gardens from all over the world. I spent an afternoon there in June 2012 waiting for my visa extension approval.

Mount Maunganui New Zealand

11. The Mount from the top of it. – Mount Maunganui, New Zealand

Ric and I lived in Mount Maunganui for about seven months. In the off-season, climbing the Mount is one of the only things to do there. So we spent a lot of time up there. It’s a beautiful sight of the seaside town.

Hobbiton New Zealand

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

10. Bilbo Baggin’s house – Hobbiton, New Zealand

This was definitely my favorite tour in New Zealand. It’s the actual film location for the Shire in Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Once a sheep farm, this Hollywood set is open to the public and located in Matamata.

Yantarasri Chiang Mai Thailand

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

9. Terry-cloth robes make me feel like I’ve made it in life. – Chiang Mai, Thailand

Ric and I don’t stay at high-end accommodation often, so I had to get a shot of me on our balcony, looking out to our pool when we stayed at Yantarasri in Chiang Mai. I really wish I had a terry-cloth robe right now :/

Elephant Nature Park Chiang Mai Thailand

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

8. Had the most amazing day with the elephants. Don’t want to leave. – Chiang Mai, Thailand

I’ve written before about my visit to Elephant Nature Park. I really didn’t want to leave this place. It was so peaceful and open. I tried so hard to get a shot like this with my SLR, but for some reason couldn’t do it.

Railay West Sunset Thailand

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

7. Can’t imagine it gets much better than this. Railay, Thailand

This one did not require a filter. After two stints in Thailand that came to about three months altogether, I finally found my perfect Thai beach: Railay. This shot was taken at Railay West Beach, which isn’t the most beautiful at day (that be Pranang Cave Beach), but definitely takes the price at night. There is a bar there that lays out mats on the beach and delivers your drinks to you at sunset. My dad, Ric and I sat there for hours every night we were there.

Changi Golf Course Singapore

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

6. Flying over Changi Golf Club in Singapore.

Ric said his dad told him to look out for this golf course when he flew out to Australia years ago, but he said he didn’t see it. So when we flew from KL to Singapore this past Autumn, I was on the lookout for it. Looks pretty cool from up in the air.

Graffiti Brooklyn NYC

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

5. Graffiti by our Brooklyn pad – Brooklyn, NYC

This was my first visit to Brooklyn and I couldn’t get enough of the street art, like this little gem.

Falling Water Frank Lloyd Wright

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

4. Falling Water by Frank Lloyd Wright – Pennsylvania

I’ve been wanting to visit FLW’s Falling Water for years. It’s about a five-hour drive from where I grew up, but for some reason I just never made it up there. When I came home to meet my dad’s new girlfriend for the first time, I found out we shared a love for all thing FLW, so I took it as a sign that we had to go. Double-date weekend to Western PA and I got this iconic shot of the house.

Liverpool dock

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

3. Reflections at the dock in Liverpool. – UK

Ric and I mainly went to England to visit his family for Christmas, but he wanted to also show me around the north a bit. Though we had both been to Liverpool before (actually on the same day in 2007), we wanted to visit the city again for a day of touring. We spent most of the day at Anfield, then headed to the waterfront. I absolutely adore this photo. Liverpool is such a beautiful city – and it doesn’t quite get the attention it deserves.

Drummer Joshua Tree National Park

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

2. The things you’ll come across in the desert. – Joshua Tree National Park, California

My Jucy Tour of the USA came about very last minute and randomly, but was absolutely incredible. Of all the places I visited during my three week tour of Western USA, Joshua Tree was the one I was looking forward to the most. I have a thing for deserts and heard it was a really funky place. I expected to see some weird things there and I did – like this drummer playing by the side of the road.

London

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

1. Striped block in London.- UK

I spent the first half of 2013 in London, which was another random and surprising happening in my year with Instagram. I adore this city and could probably have picked 12 photos to represent this anniversary just from London, but I chose this one to represent my five months here. London has a million and one attractions, but I like to walk around the city and take it in. This was a random street block, somewhere in the city that appealed to me.

So that was my year first year in Instagram. What do you think? If you want to follow a long in real time, follow my photos on Instagram and leave your user name below so I can follow you.

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Where I’m off to in summer 2013

Blog, Destinations, USA, What I'm thinking

Where I’m off to in summer 2013

14 Comments 23 May 2013

There’s something in the air, literally.

I’ve had this fascination with Montana since college. I don’t know where it came from, but I do remember the first time I voiced it.

One night in college and I bumped into a guy I knew in grade school at Bob and Barbara’s in Philadelphia. He said his parents had retired there and it was stunning.

I looked at him with wide Bambi eyes and asked.

“What’s it like when you walk off the plane? What’s the air like?”

He knew exactly what I meant.

“Amazing,” he replied.

Coming from a city-heavy northeast USA, I couldn’t even fathom how spectacularly natural Montana is and how clean and crisp air would be when I was having that chat with an old acquaintance. But I’m happy to report that five years later, I’m going to find out for myself.

This summer, I’m going to: MONTANA.

Photo provided by Lone Mountain Ranch

I can’t remember being this thrilled to visit a destination since Prague in 2007. It’s not that I’ve not loved the places I’ve visited since then. I just think that everyone has a few spots in the world they put on a pedestal, Montana has been hoisted and praised by me for years.

This trip came about in quite an exciting way too. Every Christmas Passports with Purpose offers a long list of travel-oriented prizes put fourth by different bloggers and websites. To enter for a specific prize, people make a donation to the charities the organization is supporting that year. I must be the luckiest traveler alive, because I’ve won twice now. In 2011 it was a bungy jump and swing package at Nevis Bungy in Queenstown, NZ and 2012′s prize was a week vacation at Lone Mountain Ranch via Trekaroo.

On top of accommodation, meals and what not, the trip includes horse back riding, canoeing and a visit to Yellow Stone National Park. It really just gets better and better.

Photo provided by Lone Mountain Ranch

I’m looking forward to just being in Montana and experiencing its natural beauty, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited for a bit of lush tripping. If you know me at all, you’ll know I always travel on a budget and sometimes get by on a trip by the skin of my teeth. It will be nice to have my own log cabin, restaurant food and all the good things luxury travelers take for granted.

Photo provided by Lone Mountain Ranch

Photo provided by Lone Mountain Ranch

One other difference in this trip from my usual travels, I’ll be traveling with this girl:

You may have seen this photo on hostel walls across Europe. Pretty much the greatest person in the world.

I’m going to leave that photo there as a teaser and explain how special she is to me in a later post. But I will say before Ric, she was my ultimate travel partner. We’re both at a major transition in our lives, so I can’t wait to just spend some time hitting the road with her and righting the world.

Where are you headed this summer?

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Playing prostitutes and robbers at Pioneertown, CA

Destinations, Road Trip, USA, USA

Playing prostitutes and robbers at Pioneertown, CA

4 Comments 16 March 2013

After two years of wearing cowboy boots in hot and non-western countries, my footwear finally came in handy in California.

Thanks to my readers’ advice, Ric and I made a quick stop at Pioneertown after a day in Joshua Tree. The old western movie set was built in the 1940s and used for TV shows like The Crisco Kid. Today it remains intact for tourists, with a few shops, a hotel and Pappy & Harriet’s, a restaurant and music venue that’s worth stopping at on its own, open for business.

Since Ric and I visited in the winter (out of season), there were no scheduled gun fights or crowds of people, so we decided to make our own fun. After all, if you show up at an old western film set in cowboy boots and a plaid shirt on you have to take advantage of it. So what did we do?

Impromptu photo shoot!!

Doors swinging, Bobbi busts out of the Pioneertown Bank after a robbery gone wrong. Photo by Richard John Hackey

Without knowing it, she leaves her Clyde behind. The sheriff catches Ric, loot in hand, and locks him up. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

No money and no man, Bobbi’s forced to work at the local bath house. Photo by Richard John Hackey

Months later, Ric is released and he’s looking for revenge. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Besides pretending to be locked-up thieves and whores, we also fit in an epic meal at Pappy & Harriet’s. Ric had a chilli-steak burger with cheese fries and I had an obscene amount of unsweetened iced tea with lemons. Basically the makings of a perfect day.

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Pictures of famous visitors to Pappy & Harriet’s, including one of Ice Cube wearing a sombrero. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

All I need in life is a mason jar of iced tea with loads on lemons. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Have you ever visited Pioneertown in California? Share your story below.

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Jucy Wheels out West: the good, the bad and the budget

Destinations, Road Trip, USA, USA

Jucy Wheels out West: the good, the bad and the budget

No Comments 01 March 2013

We’ve been driving higher and higher on Highway 180 en route to the Big Stump Entrance of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, elevation markers letting us know we’ve reached 2000, 3000, 4000 feet. The last few miles have not been easy. The fog is so thick I can’t see more than 15 feet ahead. Then it disappears and reveals one of the most beautiful sites I’ve ever seen.

I’d tackle any hard drive for this view. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Rocky mountains and trees fill the scenery to my left and ahead, two my right, the tips of a few mountains peaking above the clouds. I realise I wasn’t driving through fog before, but those clouds below me right now. If that’s the case, then this must be heaven.

It looks like it anyway.

It’s next to impossible to justifiably sum up my three-week road trip with Jucy Rentals in Western USA. I met so many characters, fell in love with so many destinations and the number of moments that almost brought me to tears driving in this beautiful country, well most of those moments will remain within me.

For me, this wasn’t just a road trip through California, Nevada and Arizona, but a chance to reignite the flame with my homeland. I’ve been away from it for three years now. In that time, I started to forget just how incredible it is. This trip was a serious reminder of that.

So while I can’t possibly share with you all my best moments and stories from the road, I can explain this trip in terms of numbers and figures and a few of my favorite things along the way.

Route and destinations

I kicked off this three-week road trip in Los Angeles, headed straight for the Pacific Coast Highway and never looked back. After a night in Santa Barbara, I continued onwards to Morro Bay then to Big Sur with a quick stop at Hearst Castle. After a three-day love affair in Big Sur, I headed up to San Francisco, to visit Alcatraz and take advantage of all the free things to do in the Bay Area.

Sunset at Morro Bay made me wish I had more time to visit the waterfront town. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

The furthest north I hit on this trip was Napa Valley. From there I headed east to Yosemite National Park, then along the west side of the Sierra Nevada to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, after which I spent a night in the Mojave Desert. I spent one day cruising through the state of Nevada and one night in Lake Mead National Park.

I drove for about an hour on Route 66 on the way to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. A night in the national park there and I made my way back to the Pacific Coast with a few stops in between.

Three nights in Las Vegas, a day in Joshua Tree National Park then I was spreading my toes in the sand at Huntington Beach, CA. I beached it up during my last weekend with my Jucy Champ, visiting Venice Beach, Santa Monica and Malibu.

Distances and travel times

Altogether I covered just under 3000 miles around three states in Western USA: California, Nevada and Arizona. This took about 44 hours driving time in total, but fitting it all in three weeks was really tight. My longest drive in terms of distance was from the Grand Canyon South Rim, AZ to KOA at Circus Circus in Las Vegas, NV, 277 miles over about four and a half hours. The longest drive in terms of time, excluding inside national parks, was from Hearst Castle in San Simeon, CA to Fernwood Resort in Big Sur, CA, only 66 miles, but took about five hours, because of the routes winding roads and I kept stopping to take photos.

We made it to the Grand Canyon just before dark. Photo by Richard John Hackey

Budget (fuel, accommodation, food, activities, rental and insurance)

I spent a total of $559.94 on fuel. It cost me $505.71 to camp out 15 nights during the trip. I stayed with a friend for three nights in San Francisco, got a hotel room for one night at $70 in Napa Valley and used American Express points to spend two nights in a hotel in Las Vegas, which would have costs $60 total.

I went to the grocery store three times on this trip, which cost a total of about $150 in total. I spent about $400 between snacks, eating out and alcohol.

Between five National Parks ($90), various tours and tastings ($111) and one show in Las Vegas ($89), the total of activities adds up to $290.

Three weeks with my Jucy rental with unlimited mileage ($1,410), plus 21 nights of partial insurance ($189), since I was already covered for Supplementary Liability Insurance because with my own car in the USA cost a total of $1,599, plus taxes etc. All trip prices vary depending on how long you’ll be renting for, how many miles you’ll be traveling and what kind of insurance you require, so it’s best to get a quote for yourself.

This brings my trip to a grand total of $3,574.65. This is a basic budget you could use if you are interested in doing a similar road trip of the USA, but consider how many people will split the cost of fuel, camp fees, entrance to national parks, etc. Plus you know yourself best, how often will you be eating out or going out for the night. I did very little on both.

Favorite drive

There’s a reason why my drive from Hearst Castle to Big Sur was the longest in terms of time. The drive alone is stunning, sun setting on the Pacific Ocean to my left, rocky mountains to my right and to add to the thrill of it, this drive is along a cliff with a massive drop to the sea. But I also got to see some really cool things at stops along the way, elephant seals, whales, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and Henry Miller Memorial Library.

I must have stopped ten or twenty times in Big Sur to look at the sights. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Least favorite drive

After a long day of driving through Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, I went through the worst driving conditions I’ve ever experience on Route 58 in the Mojave Desert. Fog so thick, you could only see about two lines on the middle of the road ahead. This happened at night as well, when all I wanted to do was park up and sleep.

Favorite stop

This is a very hard one, but overall Joshua Tree National Park was best for me. I’ve wanted to see the National Park for a very long time and it was even more interesting than I anticipated. The town of Joshua Tree is small, but quality. The people in this area are really unique and fun. Plus we came across some random things in on our drive through here, like a drummer in the desert and an old western Hollywood set.

Make like a Joshua Tree. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Favorite RV park

During my trip I stayed in 13 different campgrounds and RV resorts. I can honestly say that they were all friendly and special for different reasons, but my favorite is going to have to be Fernwood Resort in Big Sur. The woods there are beautiful and I was parked up right next to the Big Sur River. The bathrooms are heated. Plus the Redwood Grill attached to this resort is cosy and filled with really friendly and interesting locals to talk to.

Colorful lights line the bridge across the Big Sur River at Fernwood Resort. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Best lesson

Buy a national park pass if you plan to road trip Western USA. The $80 “America the Beautiful” pass will allow you to enter and leave all National Parks in the country for an entire year. It be dumb not to visit National Parks in the USA and they each cost $10-25 to enter. We visited five in three weeks, which cost a total of $90, which means we could have saved $10 if we had known about this pass.

Want to read more? All posts about my trip out west can be found here. Enjoy and safe travels!

Thanks to Jucy Rentals USA for sponsoring my trip out West. Visit their website to start planning your own US road trip. Use the code “BobbiUSA” to receive 10% off your booking. Follow my trip right here on Heels and Wheels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

As always, all opinions are my own.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

The road tripper’s guide to cooking like a champ

Destinations, Road Trip, USA, USA

The road tripper’s guide to cooking like a champ

4 Comments 27 February 2013

Being a budget traveler and just enjoying cooking in general, it means a lot when I can cook while traveling. That’s why the best thing, for me, about traveling with my Jucy Champ in California had to be the full kitchen in the back. I loved waking up and making breakfast in the middle of a Cachuma Lake Recreation Area or cooking as the sun sets next to me in Big Sur.

The nice thing about cooking on the road is not only that you eat more affordably, but also that you can pick the best seat in the house.

I mainly ate what was cooked from the back of my Champ on my tour out West. No matter how equipped the kitchen, cooking from the back of a vehicle is a lot different than cooking at home. This guide will name the essentials that should be on your first shopping list, things to keep in mind and my personal road trip recipes.

Cooking essentials

Do you often catch yourself saying, “Oh no, I forgot….”? Road trippers should purchase these three things on their first trip to the grocery store to be used throughout the trip.

  1. Salt and pepper
  2. Dish soap and sponge
  3. Olive oil or butter

Boiling some water from the back of my Jucy Champ for coffee in the morning at Cachuma Lake. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Make sure you have

You think soup would be something inexpensive and easy to make on your road trip, until you get back to the car to find you don’t have a can opener! Luckily, my Jucy rental came fully equipped, so I didn’t have to buy any extra appliances, but it’s always good to be sure. Before planning out your meals, make sure you have these key items.

  1. Can-opener (soups, tuna, sauces)
  2. Sharp knife (meats, vegetables)
  3. Cutting board
  4. Colander (pasta, rice, vegetables)

Tips and reminders

Some things that are obvious to seasoned road trippers are unknown to newbies. Keeps these things in mind when cooking in your RV or camper van.

  1. No illegal dumping. This applies to anything and everything coming out of your vehicle, not just bathrooms. If you are emptying your waste tank ask people on the campground where to dispose of it.
  2. Consider how long things take to cook. The butane gas cartridges used for portable gas stoves pack quite a bit of cooking time, but be realistic with how long your meal idea with take.
  3. Wash up immediately. This is the golden rule in all kitchens, but especially those in cars. It’s not a good idea to drive with things floating around. Wash up and put everything away after eating, so you can go as soon as you want to.
  4. Cool off. Make sure your stove top and any pots or pans have cooled down before putting them away.
  5. Plan ahead. Purchase all your groceries etc. in advance of visiting national parks or secluded areas. These places have few choices and most are more expensive than say in the suburbs or big towns.

Three meal ideas

There are so many things you can cook from the back of your camper van. My advice is to keep it simple, but still have fun. These three videos were all shot from the back of my Jucy camper van and will give you some ideas of things to cook on your road trip.

Breakfast: Eggs California

Lunch: Nachos Grande

Dinner: Creamy fettuccine with three-cheese sausage

Thanks to Jucy Rentals USA for sponsoring my trip out West. Visit their website to start planning your own US road trip. Use the code “BobbiUSA” to receive 10% off your booking. Follow my trip right here on Heels and Wheels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

As always all opinions are my own.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

The road tripper’s guide to Las Vegas

Destinations, Guides, Road Trip, USA, USA

The road tripper’s guide to Las Vegas

No Comments 22 February 2013

The whole idea of Las Vegas, a mirage in the middle of the desert, makes it the perfect road trip city.

Its centrally located campgrounds allow road trippers to park up and leave the car for a few days. But for those who want to keep exploring there are plenty more interesting road side attractions, like the Hoover Dam, located less than an hour from Las Vegas Boulevard, otherwise known as “the Strip”.

Since the city packs so much, the only real problem is choosing what to do with your time here. This guide will help you decide that.

KOA at Circus Circus is the only RV Resort in Las Vegas located on the Strip. Perfect for road trippers. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Sleep

Las Vegas has quite a few campgrounds and RV resorts, but only a couple are located either on the Strip or right next to it. If you want to camp and be close to all the action, check out KOA at Circus Circus or Oasis Las Vegas RV Resort.

Further options can be found in the city, but Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Red Rock Canyon are two conservation areas located just outside the city that offer camping, making them ideal places to escape the 24/7 party, but still be within reach of it.

However, if there is one city you might consider ditching the RV or camper for a few days and staying in a hotel, it’s this one. Las Vegas has a very wide range of hotel rooms, some as low as $19 and centrally located. Staying in a hotel can be more affordable than camping in Las Vegas, but make sure to weigh out the two options.

Best part about road tripping into Las Vegas from the West? Passing the “Welcome to the Fabulous Las Vegas sign” on arrival. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Go

Vegas is a lot bigger than most people expect. The city limits stretch out much further than just one road full of casinos, so look into locations when booking or planning things here. It’s very easy to get around the city by car. Fuel is fairly affordable all over, though the further from the city center you are, the more affordable it becomes. Don’t forget to check out traffic reports during long weekends and holidays as this holiday destination will be a lot busier at those times. Always expect to drive slow down the Strip.

RVs or campers with height restrictions might have trouble finding parking in certain areas, especially Las Vegas Boulevard, because the parking is often in garages. Be mindful of this and plan ahead. Those who want to travel the Strip without their car, should purchase a one day pass for $7 with The Deuce, a double decker bus that runs up and down the Strip all day and night. Also look into what free shuttle services your hotel or campground offer.

Try Gordon Ramsay’s Burgr, which allows people to visit a famous chef’s joint, but at a decent price. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Eat

Fine dining in Sin City is endless and delectable. Some of the world’s best chefs work here and the city is known for its unique restaurants. For those on a budget, there are a lot of grocery stores, like Wal-Mart and Trader Joe’s, just off the strip to stock up food before parking up or heading out.

How about a drink of Absinthe? Or you could just see the show! Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Drink

Those who intend to take part in this city’s renowned nightlife scene should stay on the Strip to be closest to all the action. This will help you avoid expensive taxi fares or the hassle of worrying about public transportation on nights or days out, which you’re likely to have several of during your stay. Plus it’s easy to find nice, affordable rooms in this area, so there’s no reason not to book here.

Drinks are free to gamblers, whether they’re spending pennies on slot machines or Bejamins at poker tables. Tips are expected and you might have to wait longer for the following drink if you don’t. Another idea for affordable drinking is to check Spy On Vegas, which organizes open bars around the city during the week.

Walk across the Memorial Bridge for the best and scariest view of the Hoover Dam. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Play

Though visitors don’t really need to leave Las Vegas Boulevard during their stay, it would be good to also check out Downtown Las Vegas. This is the original Casino strip in Vegas. It’s great to check out the funky signage on Fremont Street here, though you probably won’t feel much like Sinatra walking through the somewhat cheesy enclosed area.

Remember that there is a lot more to do in Vegas than drink. If you’re getting a bit tired of the constant boozing, check out the city’s spas and shows, which are among the best in the world.

It’s amazing how many great things are within reach of Las Vegas and several tour operators use Vegas as a starting off point to see the Southwest. Less than thirty minutes from the Strip is Lake Mead, which is the largest reservoir in the USA, and Red Rock Canyon, which is known for its rock formations and Native American history. Beyond Lake Mead on Route 93, about 45 minutes from the Las Vegas city center is the Hoover Dam.

One final trip people often take from Las Vegas, but is very far out is to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. It takes about four hours to reach the South Entrance of this National Park and under three hours to reach the entrance to the skywalk, which goes out over Grand Canyon West, though this is not open all year.

Road tripping to San Francisco or Los Angeles? There’s a guide for that!

Thanks to Jucy Rentals USA for sponsoring my trip out West. Visit their website to start planning your own US road trip. Use the code “BobbiUSA” to receive 10% off your booking. Follow my trip right here on Heels and Wheels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

As always, all opinions are my own.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

Las Vegas: Hotel vs. Campground

Destinations, Road Trip, USA, USA

Las Vegas: Hotel vs. Campground

3 Comments 09 February 2013

If there is one stop on your road trip around Western USA that you’ll consider hopping out of your van or RV to stay in a hotel room, it’s Las Vegas. Over 140,000 rooms available, Sin City constantly makes the list of US cities with the highest number of hotel rooms in the world. With rates starting as low as $19 a night for a standard room at Circus Circus and soaring up to almost $40,000 a night for the Hugh Hefner Villa at Palms Resort, there’s something here to suite everyone’s budget and interests.

But is a hotel room in Las Vegas right for you or are you more suited to camping out?

I tried both on my recent trip and found both have their perks and limitations. Inevitably one is not better than the other, but more right for the visitor. Before getting swayed by cheap prices or visions of how you’re suppose to spend your time in Vegas, consider these questions when choosing between staying at a hotel or campground on your next trip to Las Vegas.

Head away from the new hotels on Las Vegas Boulevard for funky hotel signs. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Where is it located?

Hotels easily have more options on the Strip, for less too. You can find a few campgrounds in prime locations either on or near Las Vegas Boulevard, such as Circus Circus KOA RV Resort and Oasis Las Vegas RV Resort. Most are located within two miles of the main attractions in Las Vegas. So if you want to be where all the typical Vegas action is taking place, you’ll have more options with hotels.

But this might not be for everyone. Visitors to this city of debauchery might not realize all the natural beauty that surrounds it. When you only see Vegas at night or stay indoors lost in casinos throughout your stay, you might not even realize the mountain scenery that surrounds the desert city.

If you’re looking for a calmer, naturally pretty place to stay not far from Vegas, you would be best off camping in national parks like Red Rock Canyon or Lake Mead. Both these places offer an array of camping options, surrounded by stunning scenery, no more than 20 minutes from the centre of Las Vegas.

Circus Circus has an adorable dog park and k-9 washing facilities. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

What does it include?

That depends how much you’re willing to pay.

Las Vegas boasts some of the most luxurious and expensive hotel rooms in the world. Suites with their own personal concierge and hot tubs, even pools. So if you’re looking to go that high end, there really is no competition, but if your tossing up between camping out or staying in a budget to average priced hotel, here are the things you should consider.

Overall you can easily find campgrounds and hotels at the same price that come with free wifi, access to pools and spas, concierge services, shuttles and security. That said, really look into what is included with both options. Hotel rooms in Vegas don’t cost $20 for no reason. Some literally only come with a bed and there is a wide range of campgrounds, so do your research.

Some perks of staying in a campground include dog walking and washing facilities (most hotels will not allow you to have a dog) and easy parking (most parking at hotels is in a garage, which have height restrictions usually lower than the height of RVs and camper vans, if you have either, call the hotel of your choice ahead to find out if they have any outdoor parking options). Some perks of staying in a hotel room, I’m going to be blunt and say it’s really nice to have AC and a bathroom that doesn’t require a code when you’re hungover and feeling awful.

The Bellagio is one of Las Vegas most expensive casinos to stay in. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

How much is it going to cost me?

It depends.

If you’re staying near the strip you will almost always find staying at a hotel is your cheapest option. The amount of competition allows for really affordable rooms, ranging from $20-$60 for a budget or average room depending on the time of year. It depends on the time of year you visit and the size of your camper, but expect to pay anywhere from $40-$90 at a an RV park, most containing similar amenities and services as a hotel.

When staying off the strip, hotel rooms usually will not go much lower than the rate mentioned above. but campsites will. At Lake Mead National Park, camp rates start at $10, on top of a $10 entrance fee which is good for seven days.

Now there are some other things to think about when it comes to cost. Guests usually cannot cook in basic hotel rooms, whereas people can in campgrounds. The cost of eating out in Vegas will be much higher than cooking for yourself. Some hotel rooms require guests pay a resort fee on top of how much they pay per night. A lot of campgrounds and hotels come with shuttles, but if they don’t, you need to think about the costs of public transportation, fuel, parking or taxis. Finally, think about the extras, such as internet. Does the place you wish to stay include the extras you want? If not, how much more is it going to cost?

This is the adorable set up at Circus Circus KOA RV Resort. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

What’s the major difference?

The great outdoors or the neon lights of the casino floor.

It’s possible to never go outside during your stay in Vegas. The major hotels and casinos have a wide range of food options, means of gambling, shows, bars, spas, rooms and people can smoke inside. This is an actual nightmare for some. While some casinos do things in style, a lot are  dimly lit, noisy, and lost in time (meaning there are no clocks). It can often take a half hour just to find a door to the outside world.

Staying in a campground, you get to breathe real air, whether it be in a national park or just in a parking lot outside. You’re forced to see the sun and there’s a certain level of genuine hospitality that is lost in some hotels in Las Vegas. Everyone at the campground I stayed at were very friendly and helpful in a way in which I wasn’t being forced to pay more or sign up for a casino card. At the average hotel, I was pretty much shuffled around, three counters at check-in, which felt like a method they took to get the most out of their guests. It took at least an hour.

But this was an average hotel. High-end hotels and casinos are known for the caliber of their hospitality.

Ric didn’t really care where we slept in the end. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

So where should I stay? (Final thoughts)

It really depends on what you want, who you’re traveling with and how much money you have to burn in Las Vegas. If all you need is a cheap bed to rest your hangover, go for a hotel. If you’re on a budget with a family and/or dog, a campground would probably be best for everyone. If money isn’t an option, well it really comes down to what you prefer.

There are so many things to do in this city and so many ways to see it. Your trip may center around camping or staying in a particular hotel, but if you get lucky (i.e. on a roll or, well, I don’t need to explain…), a bed might not even matter.

Thanks to Jucy Rentals USA for sponsoring my trip out West. Visit their website to start planning your own US road trip. Use the code “BobbiUSA” to receive 10% off your booking. Follow my trip right here on Heels and Wheels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

As always, all opinions are my own.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)

Jucy Wheels Out West: Las Vegas to LA

Destinations, Road Trip, USA, USA

Jucy Wheels Out West: Las Vegas to LA

5 Comments 06 February 2013

Laying in bed inside my Jucy camper van, Santa Monica Mountains in front of me, the sun setting on the Pacific Ocean behind me as well as my favorite chef cooking away back there, I can’t help but get sentimental about the last three weeks. I’m spending the last night of my Jucy Wheels Out West tour in Malibu, California. Probably the only night I’ll ever be able to afford in Malibu, but definitely not the last night I’ll ever spend in a Jucy.

It was here that I really started my trip. I saw this RV Park one day short of three weeks ago when I hit the Pacific Coast Highway from LA en route to Santa Barbara. It’s hard to believe tomorrow I’ll be giving my Jucy wheels back. There’s still so much left to say about this trip and my experience out West. That will all come in the next few weeks. For now, here is how I spent my third and final week out West.

I ended the last post in the Grand Canyon. I had just seen one of America’s most epic sights at the last hours of the day. It’s a good thing I saw it then too, because the next day it disappeared.

Behind that layer of fog is the Grand Canyon. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

We woke up at about 6 a.m. last Monday hoping to see the sun rise behind the Grand Canyon, but the National Park had been hit with so much snow, we could barely see anything. Between snow and fog, you could only make out bits of the 1,218,375.54-acre canyon. It was like David Copperfield had thrown us a treat before we even arrived in Vegas.

After playing in the snow, we hit the roads as soon as possible, because the weather report was not getting any better.

You know what one of my favorite things about the Southwest is? You can go from freezing in the snowy mountains in the morning to wearing nothing but shorts and a t-shirt in the desert by early afternoon. This area of the world really does have it all.

We arrived at Las Vegas KOA at Circus Circus, an RV park located right on the Strip, just in time for a quick dinner and bottle of wine before hitting the town. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, so I’ll just go over some quick points.

You don’t often see photos of Las Vegas during the day. Here’s the Las Vegas Strip from the top of the Stratosphere. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Ric and I did just about everything a person is expected to do in Sin City: drink, gamble, eat, see a show, visit a strip club and get hitched…

Just kidding!

Our first night was an interesting one and both nights that followed just got better.

Night two I met up with Abby Tegnelia, The Neon Jungle Princess, for dinner at D.O.C.G. at The Cosmopolitan. She’s one of those Twitter friends I’ve been talking to for almost three years and knew I would like right away. So glad we could finally meet, drink wine and share my first truffle experience together. Try “The D.O.C.G. Pizza”, which comes with fonduta, egg and truffles, but make sure they don’t lose the egg on your pizza.

It was Abby’s suggestions that made night three in Las Vegas so incredible. First stop was Yellowtail at the Bellagio for a “Big Eye Tuna Pizza”. Everyone raves about this menu item. It’s really different (tuna, truffle oil and micro shiso on a crispy base), but it works.

Next, we went to see Absinthe, located in the white circus tent outside Caesars Palace. I’ll go more into this circus/cabaret spoof on Thursday, but for now I’m just going to say that it was one of the best and most unique shows I’ve ever been to. We ended the night at BURGR, Gordon Ramsay’s gourmet burger joint at Planet Hollywood. I had truffles yet again. Truffle fries with truffle aioli, how do you say no to that? Amazing, yet very affordable restaurant on Las Vegas Boulevard.

This is only a preview of Absinthe. Come back Thursday to read about the show and see more photos from it. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

We left Vegas Thursday with only a tiny hangover, but empty pockets. A quick stop at Downtown Vegas then to the “Welcome to the Fabulous Las Vegas sign” for a photo with Elvis and we were off to Joshua Tree National Park.

The towns surrounding this park, seem very strange, since they literally pop up right out of the desert and are all home to some interesting characters. We stayed in the town of Joshua Tree and I kind of fell in love with it. It doesn’t have many shops, bars or cafes, but what it does have are independently-owned and quality. Visit bulletin boards located near Grateful Desert to find out about drum circles and parties at random locations in the desert.

Me, acting like a Joshua Tree. Photo by Richard John Hackey

I’ve wanted to visit Joshua Tree since college, when a professor showed us photos from a family vacation there in a media class. Then there was the Entourage episode in Joshua Tree, and well…

There is something about deserts that intrigues me, but this one especially. The National Park is one of the most interesting places you’ll ever see. Desert with random rock formations and yucca trees (Joshua Trees) that look like people waving their arms like they’re at a concert. To top off what is already an incredible place, all of a sudden a guy with a decked out bike and funky hat would drive by us waving, or-boom-a drummer on the side of the road.

They definitely do in Joshua Tree. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

This is my favorite of all the National Parks we visited on this trip. It’s one of those places you hear about, but think, “No that couldn’t exist.”. We visited Wonderland of Rocks (rock formations area), Keys View (where you can see the San Andreas Fault) and Barker Dam (where you can see Native American Petroglyphs) in the Park, then made our way to Huntington Beach, but not without first stopping at Pioneertown for a chilli burger at Pappy and Harrietsand impromptu Western photo shoot in the old Hollywood film set.

Ric doing his best John Wayne at Pioneertown, California. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

It was nice to see the beach again in Huntington, which is the ideal California beach town to spend a few days. We saw bonfires as we entered and took photos with surfers the following day while doing Jucy promotions.

After two nights in Huntington, we made our way back to Los Angeles, visiting Venice Beach along the way. Sorry to say, but this was the first place on this entire trip that disappointed me. There is a lot going on in Venice Beach. In fact, there’s too much going on there. Yet all we really wanted to do was find a nice affordable restaurant and we couldn’t do that. And muscle beach-I saw no muscles there :(

But if that was the only thing that disappointed me in three weeks of touring Western America, well that’s pretty good I think.

The sun came out strong on our last day of this trip and we got to see Malibu at it’s best, though I’m not sure this place really has a bad side. Tomorrow I go from Jucy Wheels to Homeless Heels. Though after touring California for almost two weeks, I can think of worse places to make the transition.

Thanks to Jucy Rentals USA for sponsoring my trip out West. Visit their website to start planning your own US road trip. Use the code “BobbiUSA” to receive 10% off your booking. Follow my trip right here on Heels and Wheels, as well as on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

A special thanks to Spiegelworld for welcoming me out to see Absinthe.

As always, all opinions are my own.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;)


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