Palm Springs and Joshua Tree Park

Palms Springs is definitely a great weekend getaway.  It is also very different than many people may think.  It is much more than just ritzy golf clubs and celebrity events.

We stayed at the Ritz Carlton which overlooks the city and valleys.

It also has great evening entertainment, activities and host guests that will help you even star watch which is quite a delight.

Of course, I snuck in an afternoon run, but you need to be in good shape, because with the elevation and hard core trails, it is quite a workout!

The city is much larger than I ever thought, but there are tons of great stores and restaurants to check out.  The variety and diversity of all the stores, hotels and restaurants is quite large…and I am still not sure I could figure out this Hotel which was close to where we ate last night, and nobody seemed to be there, but the sign said “Open”.  I guess I digress…

Now, one of the highlights of the area is the Joshua Tree National Park which is about 1.5 hour drive east from Palm Springs.

It has some amazing hiking choices and trails available for everyone.  It is a huge park and only costs $30 per car to visit.  But warning, arrive early as the entrance lines can be a mile long if you wait too long on a weekend.

We chose to first hire the Barker Dam trail.

The views and hidden spots are quite amazing and it is hard to not stay in park and checking out more trails to explore more of the history of the area.

You can even find and closely observe Native American petroglyphs in the area which was a surprise find!

Overall, it is not too technical, the only challenge is where to stop taking pictures and selfies because there are so many memorable landscapes and foliage.

This overall area and part of California is very different, very western and very unique and not what many people would expect.

We stopped for a break and for some lunch in Yucca, which is almost a mid western US time of culture and environment.

Not what we expected only 30 minutes away from Palm Springs, but clearly a different landscape.  We even stopped by Pioneer Town for a few minutes to check out the old movie set and compliment to the overall culture and people of Yucca Valley.

Summary: Palm Springs is a wonderful place to explore, but be advised as you adventure and research the broader area, it is much more diverse and different than you would ever expect or see on television.

 

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RSA Security Conference in San Francisco

OK – what is it really like to attend a security conference in San Francisco?

Yes, of course, you spend a lot of time in giant dark, cold massive halls.  You get to hear and see famous people and great speakers.

You walk through massive expo halls and through thousands of sales trolls to do whatever it takes to scan your badge and give you swag…

Some are questionable…

Some are quite funny!

It is crowded, the hotels are expensive, it can sometimes rain in torrents and plan to do a lot of walking.  But you get to explore and see a lot of San Francisco that you would not normally ever get to do if you were just a tourist!

And it is also an amazing place to go running in the mornings

Where you take in gorgeous sites while running along the water

and famous history like Alcatraz Island (prison) that surrounds the city!

Now, what is the best part of the conference?  You get to have fun, see entertainment and meet famous people.

Do you know who that is?  Just watch the video and give it a listen 🙂

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Masada Israel and the Dead Sea

Based on popular demand, here is another retroactive blog posting from 2009 when I visited the Masada and Dead Sea on the way down to Eilat Israel.

One the way, you can, of course, visit the historic site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.  I still do not see how people climbed up in those caves…see one of them in the far top left of the photo?

Masada is an amazing place to visit.  It has tons of history and is one of the most amazing hikes/climbs you can do.  Yes, I recommend the hike and not the easy tram to the top.

It is one of the popular places for Israel IDF (Army) to conduct their unit graduation exercises and you often get to see them at the top and sometimes even practicing their Krav Maga training at the top as well.

I have done the climb multiple times, but the reality is…it is always best to do the climb very very early in the morning and then you can see the sun rising above the Jordanian mountains.

Now the other great part of Masada is the fact it is only < 20 minutes drive from the Dead Sea and all the hotels/resorts there.  There are many great hotels and choices and it is an awesome place to spend the weekend.

From there, we drove down to Eilat which is more like a Hawaii or Caribbean resort down that is nestled between Egypt and Jordan.  It is full of activities, night life, restaurants and of course diving in the Red Sea!

Now here is the really cool thing that was quite a surprise.  On the way back north from the drive from Eilat, we tool the eastern route which is close to Egypt.  Is there a hard border or fence in the dessert between the two countries?  Nope.  You can actually walk right up or across the border…but did not attempt that given all the guard posts on the Egypt side.

 

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Jordan Petra and Wadi Rum – 2009

Getting all my trips put together into the single blog site.  Here is another great trip in 2009 to Jordan!

We took a day trip from Eilat, Israel, crossed the border to visit Petra, Jordan.  It is quite famous from the Indiana Jones movie of course where he found the Holy Grail.  The reality is the tomb is only like 10 feet deep and not a massive cavern.

Crossing the border is always a challenge, but if you pay the money and get a private guide, it is all good.  Now, what is interesting in visiting Petra, is the fact it is a 1-hour hike to the site…unless you accept the tourist trap offer and pay big money to ride a donkey down the trail.  It is a really fun and scenic hike, so it is highly recommended. Lots of old homes and carvings.  The time passes by quickly.

Towards the end, you then wind through some tight canyon walls before coming out to the famous site/temple.

From there, the huge surprise and delight is the larger city and (homes) off to the right which is part of the bigger story.  Not as many people climb up, but this is the gem of the site and why you should visit.

From there, we took some old Toyota Land Cruisers to go visit Wadi Rum which was made famous in the movie Lawrence of Arabia.

It is quite an experience in taking in the famous landmarks and battle place…

and mingling with all the historical Bedouin tribes that still live and own the area.

The best part…and you have to be patient and tolerate the dropping temperatures is the sunset.  It is memorable.

Overall, very safe and worth the money to take high quality local guides.

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Exploring Peru – 2011

This is a restorative posting from 2011, but I have had some many requests for sharing some stories and pictures, I went back and put together this story from a tour I took in 2011.

Touring the best way to visit Peru since there are so many sights and things to see…but they are very long distances apart and some are a little hard to find. Lima is a very artistic city that is worth exploring and very comfortable to visit despite the claims of crime and corruption. Never ran into any issues, threats or discomfort. You can safely walk everywhere.

However, the most fun is visiting and exploring the countryside and small villages in the mountains.

It is amazing to see how farming and building occurred over thousands of years and how some people retain the culture, style and clothing.

What is the most popular (meat) dish in Peru?  Guinea pigs.  In the villages, they live in your home and when hungry…

And the culture and mysterious superstition of land carvings still exist in the modern towns.  More on the Nazca lines later…

Another highlight was visiting and paddling out onto Lake Titicaca and visiting one of the villages/communities that lives on floating islands in the middle of the lake.

Yes, they still live on these reed collections and maintain their culture, but the kids do go to school on the mainland now.

It was an amazing experience to meet some of the people, share stories and learn all the history of the floating islands.

SONY DSC

OK – time to talk about the Nazca lines.  You have to get permission to an air force base and try very hard to get a seat on one of the rare civilian airlines that can fly over the lines.

It looks easy, but the ride is rough and faces enormous g and wind forces that makes the flights difficult for the timid.

But the highlight is how you can see some of the ancient drawings from above that are impossible to see from the ground.

Very exciting to see some of the images that were created for the alien visitors that visited the people thousands of years ago.

and if yup get the time, you can drive for a few hours and find one of the hidden landing sites that was built for the giant alien spacecraft.  These things were huge!  Look at how small the people are at the bottom.  It is quite a hike down and up.

Speaking of hiking, climbing and hiking the mountains is a highlight in Peru.  You do have to be ready for the high elevations and thin air though.

Some of the routes and sites are breathtaking.  Check out this ancient path we checked out.  Any game for that narrow path with no ropes?

And what is the highlight at the end?  Machu Picchu of course.  A place everyone should visit once in their life.  It is memorable and hard to fully appreciate until you visit in person like the Taj Mahal.

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Lady Gaga Enigma Show in Las Vegas

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas right?  Well, when you see a concert/performance/show like Lady Gaga, you must share.

But when you travel, you must also explore and run right?

I snuck in a 8 mile run and headed to the mountains to prepare for the evening show.  You can also go hiking or rock climbing like we did in the past in Red Rock in Las Vegas area.

OK – everyone does not want to hear about that right?

You want to hear about Lady Gaga right?  On to the concert!

First and foremost, it is not a concert, it is a show.  It is like a Broadway performance and musical with acting and special effects.  It is held in the Park MGM Theater, not a massive arena where it is massive and you are 1,000 feet away from the artist!

The Park MGM Theater It is much more intimate and everyone is connected to the show and artist, because you are at most, 150 feet away from the stage.  There are high end tables and VIP seating which you can see in the video below, but I think some of the best seats for the money are in section 301, Row A.  You have nobody sitting in front of you, yet you are above the main floor.  A clear win-win!

Let’s talk about the show.  Here is the playlist for Enigma, which does not change because it is a show and story with some virtual characters and acting on the main screen.  It is like a sci-fi movie from the start.

Everyone asks when the show starts, what time it starts, etc.  The tickets say 8:00 PM, but that is never realistic.  But it was now 10:00 PM either.  It starts around 8:20 or 8:30 and begins with Lady Gaga dropping down from the top of the theater which is a true kickoff of what is going to transpire over the next 2 hours.

It is hard to believe but she drops from the ceiling, she is actually playing her instrument and singing.

The Enigma show is a story…in some ways like Abba and Mamma Mia.  There is a science fiction story that is woven through the evening that ties fantasy and her life story together.

Of course, the second song was Poker Face. The sound is not as good as the ending video (spoiler, you will want to listen to that one), but you cannot blame people when they are all excited and signing along.

You have to love the Pixel 3 XL phone for the picture, sound and night sight capabilities.  They helped me to capture the story and Lady Gaga in her giant robot.  I almost felt like this was an upcoming scene in Valve’s upcoming Half-Life 3 game 😉

Now the best audio with the Google Pixel3 phone:

OK – here is the best part of the show.  The Encore.  The Ending.  The Experience.  The Story.

It is all all based on her Oscar nominated song Shallow in “A Star is Born” movie. I think once you see this video (the sound is incredible) and hear her voice, you will want to try and see this show in Vegas.

And if you have missed the movie, you are truly missing out!

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Scuba Diving in Turks and Caicos

Adding another country to list.  Took a Caribbean cruise to check out some of the diving locations in a rolling trip.  Yes, I know, Carnival Cruises are not the best, but you can get to a LOT of dive sites in just one week.  Turks and Caicos was one of the best diving sites I have experienced in the world over the past 10 years.

Was not able to sneak in a run, but I was able to get a dive in.

The Wall is one of the most memorable (and dangerous) dives in Caribbean.

Check out the video!

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