culture, day trip, destinations, travel tips

Disney Parks: US vs. France

DSCF2731

While in Paris, I took a day trip to Disneyland. I was fortunate that my parents’ favorite family vacation was going to Walt Disney World, so I went there several times when I was young. When I was even younger, we would take day trips to Disneyland while visiting relatives in Southern California. It was pretty much a no-brainer to blow my daily budget for the opportunity to go to a Disney Park while abroad!

Needless to say, I loved the experience and my new goal is to visit the Asian Disney Parks. (And also go to Disneyland’s California Adventure. How have I not been to that park yet?) But when asked if I liked Disneyland Paris more or less than Disneyland in the US, I’m not entirely sure what to say. So today, I’m going to break down the perks of the parks in the United States and France, and you can help me decide which one is better!

Price

DSCF2779
Disneyland Paris, France

 

 

US: At Disneyland in Anaheim, California, a one-day ticket is $99 for anyone aged 10 or older. This only lets you into either California Adventure or Disneyland. To get into both, it is an extra $40 for a park hopper ticket. Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida, has a higher price for their Magic Kingdom at $105, but the other three parks are only $97 for ages ten and up. A park hopper pass at the Magic Kingdom is $64. Note multi-day tickets do lower the cost per day, and these prices were taken January 26th, 2016. Tickets in more tourist seasons do cost more.

France: Disneyland Paris has a drastic seasonal price difference, due to lack of year-round warm weather like California and Florida. Right now a winter ticket starts at $64 for ages 12 and up, but a ticket that can be used any day of the year is $115. These tickets are valid for both of the parks (or, as they say in France, “parcs”), so no park hopper pass is needed. This is the price you get from the US website, but if you use the international website, you’ll find winter tickets starting at 47 euros and year-round tickets at 74. This is usually cheaper, so purchasing from the international version of the website will save you lots.

Winner: Disneyland Paris No matter how you look at it, it’s a lower price!

Transportation

DSCF2789
Walt Disney Studios, France

US: I love taking the Walt Disney World Magical Express from the Orlando airport to the resort my family stays at, and then the free bus service between the Disney hotels and parks. It’s probably the only positive part of US Disney’s current transportation situation. I remember when California Adventure was built in Anaheim, and Disneyland had to go from a spacious parking lot to a multi-story garage. Although I’ve only used the bus transportation in Florida (which takes you right to the park entrance), the parking lots did look spacious, although many people have to take the tram because they park so far away.

France: I purchased the Disneyland Paris Express, which picks you up from one of several downtown Paris locations and escorts you to the Disneyland parking lot for 99 euros. (Neither of the US Disney Parks offer a similar service from LA or Orlando.) The parking lot was spacious, but surprisingly far away from the entrance and it took several minutes and moving walkways until I could even see the parks. I liked this service, but if I were to do it again, I would instead take the metro. It costs about the same as the extra cost of the Disneyland Paris Express ticket, but it’s faster and brings you closer to the entrance. You actually pass underneath one of the Disneyland Paris resorts on your walk into the park!

Winner: Disneyland Paris Neither country has perfect transportation. I do wish the buses could get closer to the park entrance, but there are more options to get around and this park seems to be better connected to the city.

Parks

DSC00088
Animal Kingdom, Florida

US: The original park, Disneyland, is in California. The turn of the century brought a second park to Disneyland, called California Adventure. Over in Florida, Walt Disney World consists of the Magic Kingdom (similar to the Disneyland park), Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, plus a couple of water parks and other fun attractions.

France: The first park in Disneyland Paris is Disneyland, which of course is pretty similar to the Magic Kingdom or the original California park. The second and final park is Walt Disney Studios, which, while it has a several unique attractions, is most comparable to Hollywood Studios.

Winner: US Disney Parks It would be harder to determine a winner if I were only comparing Disneyland Paris with Disneyland in California. But with Walt Disney World, it’s no contest. The French Pavilion in Epcot alone had as much French culture as all of Disneyland Paris.

Rides

DSCF2768
Disneyland Paris’ Small World portrayal of the United States

US: Being the oldest parks, most of the famous Disney rides originated in the United States. Instead of listing all the attractions that can also be found in Europe or Asia, I’ll point out a few of the unique highlights. A longtime favorite ride of mine has been the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. This one is also in France, but the US version offers a longer ride. The Animal Kingdom has completely unique rides, including several with real life animals! And while Epcot is still in my home country, rides like Spaceship Earth, The Seas, Mission: Space, and Ellen’s Energy Adventure have me thinking about the world as a whole.

France: Most rides, especially in the Disneyland Parc, are carbon copies of United States originals. But the French have a few winners of their own. “Moteur, Action”, is a show that was brought to Hollywood Studios as “Lights, Motors, Action”. Unfortunately, that show can now only be seen in France as it was closed in the US for the upcoming Star Wars renovation. An attraction that hasn’t been brought to the States yet is “Ratatouille: The Adventure”. This is a fun 3-D ride around French fine dining from a rat’s perspective. US parks should take note on this ride’s creativity!

Winner: US Disney Parks This one was REALLY hard to decide. In the end, my tiebreaker was that The US copied very little from other nations’ parks, and also that several parks means a wider variety of rides are offered. If I had to take the average ride from each country, I think it would be a tie.

Cleanliness

DSC00162
Epcot, Florida

US: When you ask an adult why they take their family to Disney Parks instead of a competitor, they don’t say it’s because of the rides or the characters or the price. It’s because “it’s clean!” Every other amusement park I’ve ever been to had an undertone of sketchiness to it. I know that they were probably perfectly nice parks, but Disney’s cleanliness standards have just set the bar too high.

France: Disney’s need for clean translates into French, too! Like the US parks, you won’t find messy gum for sale, but you will find a trash can within a few feet of wherever you’re at. Also like the US parks, smoking is only allowed in designated areas. Unfortunately, this is not enforced quite as well as some of my time waiting in the queues involved choking on smoke from people ahead of me.

Winner: US Disney Parks I’ve seen people smoke outside of designated areas in Walt Disney World too, but the reputation of cleanliness is better displayed here.

Castle

US:

DSC00174
Magic Kingdom, Florida

France:

 

DSCF2744

Disneyland Paris, France

Winner: Disneyland Paris For no other reason than I love how the sides have retaining walls, making grass grow halfway up the castle!

Disney Parks

So I guess it is possible to break Disney down into categories and determine a winner for certain elements, but I still don’t know who should win overall. Which park sounds like a winner to you?

Bucket List, day trip, holiday

Back… to the Future!

image

Back in April, I got to visit one of the most iconic locations where Back to the Future was filmed. As you can see in the photo above, this place is often written off as a large empty parking lot at a mediocre mall. But for me, I could see the places where Marty skateboarded to the Twin Pines sign (which warped into a Lone Pine sign by the end of the movie), where Doc introduced his latest invention of a time machine, and where the Delorean took its maiden voyage back to the future.

Although the mall scenes only appeared in the first movie of the trilogy, something very significant happened in the sequel. Doc and Marty travel from 1985 to 2015. More specifically, they travel to October 21st, 2015. Of course many people across the country and around the world are celebrating this day in history, or should I say this day in future? Puente Hills Mall in City of Industry, California, better known to fans as the Twin Pines/ Lone Pine Mall, had to jump on board with the festivities. The photo below was taken today, in the same place as the photo above. Check out the cool mall sign!

image

This month the mall added a Twin Pines sign in the same spot it is seen in the movie. But that’s not all. If you look down at the parking lot (just as Marty did in the movie), you’ll see a peculiar white truck parked down below, likely surrounded by people taking pictures with it. This is Dr. Emmett Brown’s truck that he uses to transport the Delorean time machine to the mall parking lot for a test drive in the movie.

image

I was very thankful to have this unique opportunity on this special day. It wasn’t even the reason I went to California to begin with. I originally wasn’t even supposed to leave Oregon until tomorrow, but plans changed and things just happened to align! If you’ll be in the area, Puente Hills Mall has the sign and truck free for fans to view through the weekend.

Liked this post? Answer one of the following questions:

1. Did you do anything special for Back to the Future Day?

2. Have you ever visited a movie prop or set? What was it?

3. What do you think the future will be like in 30 years? Will we finally get flying cars and hoverboards?

culture, day trip

When You Can’t Travel… Bring the Travel to You!

image

I haven’t done any traveling this week. But sometimes even staying at home can lead to an unforgettable travel adventure!

I went to Cieneguilla, Peru in 2007 and 2009. It doesn’t feel like it’s been nearly six years since my last visit! While there, one of the many people I met was Ruby. I have kept up with this fellow adventurer through Facebook as she has gone through different ministry programs. Not too long ago, I saw she was fulfilling her dream of taking her first trip to the United States… including Southern Oregon!

Ruby’s schedule while here was tight, but fortunately we managed to squeeze a couple hours in this afternoon when we were both available. I decided to take her to the local tourism town of Jacksonville. I played tour guide as I showed her the famous homes of the Nunans, the Britts, and the Beekmans, as well as a few other sites related to the Gold Rush. We then finished up our time with a lunch at Bella Union, including sharing a mud pie for dessert!

Instead of seeing the local culture that I’ve seen countless times, it was unique to see things through Ruby’s eyes. Even the small things were special, like having cars stop for us so we could cross the street instead of waiting for all the speeding cars to go away. We also discussed how Peru has changed since I saw it six years ago. I recalled the things I found shockingly different during my time in Peru, and she shared a few of the American practices that she hadn’t expected. We both were missing the Peruvian food!

Pretty soon I had to drop Ruby off with some friends so that they could spend some time with her.  I joked that Ruby has near celebrity status since she’s so busy with everyone wanting to see her! But I’m am super thankful that she spared a couple of hours to spend adventuring with me!

Bucket List, day trip, destinations, road trip

Street Fairs and Roadside Attractions

If you haven’t read about the previous days of my road trip through Northern California and to the desert, you may want to catch up on those first. After those two legs of the trip, the next several days were spent at my grandmother’s house in Southern California, but we took little day trips from that location.

IMG_20150424_154956_492[1]

On the day we got back from the desert, we took a walk around downtown Upland. This is the town where my mom grew up, but little did we know that the city was having a celebration for her homecoming! Okay, it wasn’t really for her, but Upland was having their annual Lemon Festival the weekend we were there. The next day, I went there for a little longer to enjoy the sights and street food (including, of course, lots and lots of fresh lemonade!).

IMG_20150425_153446_080[1]

Chick-Fil-A exists within an hour of places I’ve previously lived, such as Nebraska and Ohio, but there is not Chick-Fil-A in Oregon. When we found out that there was one right in my grandmother’s town, I just had to take my mom out for her first-ever spicy chicken sandwich!

IMG_20150425_173429[1]

On Sunday, we hopped in the car and went to City of Industry. This little side-trip took a lot of convincing, but my mom finally agreed to it. Our first stop was this guard rail:

138

What, you don’t know what this guard rail is? What if you pictured part of it turning into a big sign with a digital clock and the writing “Twin Pines Mall”, or perhaps “Lone Pine Mall”?

Okay, if you haven’t seen Back to the Future (or didn’t pay attention while watching it), you won’t know what this is, so I’ll tell you: this is the location where they shot the mall scenes in the first movie of the Back to the Future trilogy. Yes, this is the parking lot where time travel took place!

139

In the above photo, you can see some fence-type thing (not sure what that’s called?) in the background. It’s location didn’t make much sense, unless it was put there to prevent movie fans from driving 88 miles per hour!

IMG_20150426_091553_154[1]

Since Back to the Future Part 2 involves a trip to 2015, it was my New Year’s Resolution to see a location from the movie this year. Hey, it was even on my Travel Bucket List!

While researching the Back to the Future mall parking lot on Roadside America, I noticed another interesting location just a mile away. So we drove up to it and found this:

152

Wait, McDonald’s isn’t an attraction! Ah, but this one is.

IMG_20150426_092923_316[1]

This particular McDonald’s has never turned on their range. They refuse to serve the public. In fact, it’s surrounded by a security fence! That’s because this is not McDonald’s restaurant at all. Instead it is a McDonald’s set, the place they use to film all the McDonald’s commercials! Below is a sign on wheels, so they can position it to wherever the best lighting and scenery is.

146

Next to the fake McDonald’s is a big warehouse with the McDonald’s logo. It’s funny since I’ve never really thought about commercials like this having props or costumes, but I guess they need this large of a warehouse to store that kind of thing!

147 148

Of course, all the gates were closed and I’m sure there was no lack of security cameras and burglar alarms, but I have read that on days when they film, they sometimes have customers pull up to the drive-thru and begin honking their horn due to lack of service! I’m not sure if that’s legitimate though. This McDonald’s is pretty out-of-the-way in and industrial area and even has signs stating it’s not real!

149 151

Our final roadside stop before leaving grandma’s house to continue our road trip was right on one of America’s most famous roads. When visiting my grandmother, you can’t avoid driving on Route 66. (Even though I didn’t realize it was actually Route 66 until I was about eighteen!) So while I haven’t really traveled on Route 66, I am very familiar with a several-mile stretch of it. And with that familiarity, I am going to assume that the best place to eat in all of Route 66 is right here:

155

Locally-famous Vince’s has delicious spaghetti, as well as garlic bread, cheese bread, soup, and salad. It was a delicious way to cap off all the things we saw in the street and alongside the road!

While these days were jam-packed with roadside attractions, I’ve been to other interesting places that I love as well. What roadside attractions have you visited? Are there any that are on your bucket list?

day trip, destinations, saving money, travel tips

National Park Day at Crater Lake

A few weeks ago, the U.S. National Park Service celebrated the “Opening Weekend”, in which parks that have to be closed for the winter can typically open. But best of all, admission to all of the National Parks across the country was FREE that weekend! The National Park closest to me is Crater Lake, and I was definitely interested in getting in for free! Even though it was a nannying weekend for me, I brainstormed ways to make it fun for the kids while still enjoying the time myself. But when I got that Saturday off, it seemed like everything fell into place perfectly, and off I went!

025

Coming from the South required going though lots of farmland and forest, which is probably my favorite driving scenery. I even happened to come across a little trail system next to a river, so I stopped there along the way. (There are a lot of other places to stop, but I had already been to most of them while going on my Jackson County One-Day Road Trip!)

027

It was a pretty long drive to Crater Lake. Even after my GPS announced “arriving at destination”, there was still a lot of driving through the forest to get to the actual entry area. I drove right past the admission booth and parked at the first Visitor Center. The had a film that told many interesting facts about the uniqueness of the lake. Of course after seeing that, I had to head up to the lake myself!

029

Now, it has not snowed all winter where I live. There wasn’t even much snow in the mountains, so little that the ski area was closed down! I guess all the snow ended up at Crater Lake. In the past I have snowshoed through the area, and once even played in the snow midsummer. So I was expecting there to be some snow, but not as much as there was! Most of the roads were closed off, and the one road that was open up to the lake did not have enough cleared-out parking spots, so I and dozens of other drivers parked in the middle of the road! It was thick enough that I could stand on the informational signs, and had to bend all the way to the ground to put garbage in the trash cans. There were even signs warning us to stay off the roof! (Although the footprints on the snow-covered roof suggested that not everyone followed that rule!)

031 032

The funniest sight was that half of the people there were wearing shorts in the snow. If it wasn’t for the breeze picking up the chill from the snow, it actually would have been a very warm day! But of course, the best sight was the Crater Lake itself:

033 034

On the way back, I stopped at Union Creek and walked on a short nature trail by the stream.035

The most memorable thing about Union Creek is “The Living Stump”. As you can see in this picture, this stump has been healed over, proving that even though it was chopped down, it is still alive. The reason behind this is that its roots are grafted to the roots of the tree next to it.

037

And here are a few more pictures of Union Creek.

040 042 044

This nature day trip to Crater Lake National Park was pretty fun, and on a wonderfully low budget, too! My only expense was the gas in the van I drove. However, if you’d like to visit Crater Lake National Park, know there is typically an entrance fee. But I do have good news: If you’d like to visit a National Park, whether it be Crater Lake or anywhere else, you can get in for FREE on August 25th, in celebration of the National Park Service Birthday! In fact, there are several days each year where all U.S. National Parks are free to enter. Plan your low-budget park visits on these days!

day trip, hike, tour

Jackson County One-Day Road Trip

When I lived in the Midwest, I would have gone crazy if I stayed even one week in the same county! In fact, going to different counties was an almost-daily occurrence. In Ohio, I lived and worked in tiny Morrow County, which didn’t have much of anything. I would go to surrounding counties to attend church, go shopping, and basically live my entire life! In Nebraska, I lived across the river from Fremont, the county seat of Dodge County. However, the Platte River was the county border, so I actually lived in Saunders county. Every time I went to town, I switched counties, even though it was the same city!

But since I’ve moved to Southern Oregon back in September, I have not stepped foot outside of Jackson County. Fortunately, it’s not the same as the Midwestern counties I lived in. It’s really huge, and there are a ton of things to do! I recently decided to take a day trip around just a section of Jackson County, and I realized that there is so much I still have not seen! (And I’ve lived here nearly 20 years!) So without further ado, here is my one-day road trip in Jackson County, Oregon.

The first stop was not a planned stop. But after going through Eagle Point, this house was on the side of the road and I just had to stop for some snapshots.

001

You may have seen this house before. Do a Google Image Search for “retiring on a budget postcard”, and the first thing that will pop up will likely be a popular postcard picturing this house.

002 003

It’s actually called The Wood House. Although the house is certainly made from wood, it’s actually named that because of the name of the family who built and lived in it.

004 005

Everything except for a picnic and parking area is fenced off to visitors, but it is interesting to look at this longstanding house, as well as all the other old artifacts decorating the yard.

006

The second stop also wasn’t planned, but I had considered stopping at Lost Creek Lake. I ended up going to Joseph Stewart State Park’s day use area, just to walk around and behold the scenery.

007 008

The next stop was the highlight of the trip, and what I had planned the entire trip around. After driving to the little mountain town of Prospect and realizing that I had perhaps driven a mile too far, I turned around and ended up at the parking lot for Mill Creek Falls Scenic Area.

030

After a decent-length hike through the hilly woods, I arrived at a lookout point for the 173-foot Mill Creek Falls!

010 011

But after hiking a little bit further, I came to an even better site: Barr Creek Falls is 242 feet high, and the lookout for it was situated at a nice pile of rocks where I could sit and eat my lunch.

014  016

The area also had a good view of the river below, and nearby were some spots where I could hang my feet over what looks like a death-defying ledge!

018 019

When I had my fill of the falls, I took the trail over to another path that took me through an area filled with giant boulders and down to the bottom of this canyon. I saw what remained of the area’s first power plant, climbed rocks, and even did a TINY bit of splashing in the water! (Too cold to actually play in it!)

022 023 024 025 026 027 028   031 032

My final stop before heading home was back at Eagle Point. The Butte Creek Mill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is part mill, part free museum! A video near the entrance pointed all many fascinating facts about the mill, the surrounding area, and the items inside.

033 034 036 037 038

After touring the mill, I walked along the path behind it downstream until I got to a covered bridge!

044    048

Now I have been to half of the Jackson County covered bridges this year, and I hope to see the others soon!

This was a ton of sights to cram into one day, but oh so very worth it! And I still haven’t seen everything in Jackson County! Of course, my traveler’s heart will likely lead me out of this county very soon!

day trip, hike

The Wonder of Waterfalls

I think waterfalls are pretty neat. Going to Niagara Falls this past summer only ignited my desire to see the beauty, majesty, and wonder of these natural works of art.

Cave of the Winds Trip on the US side of Niagara Falls

And while Niagara Falls is likely the best-known falls in North America, in my current state of Oregon, the best-known waterfall is Multnomah Falls. I have yet to be up-close and personal with that particular waterfall, but I did get to see it for the first time this past summer as well when my bus trip happened to end up passing by.

Multnomah Falls

But now I’m in Southern Oregon.  Jackson County, to be exact. A county so big, that to be entirely honest, I haven’t stepped foot out of it since I moved back here in September. A county known for its natural beauty and historical significance. Having grown up here, I knew some of the best places to hike, swim, and play. But since my interest in waterfalls has grown in recent years, I didn’t exactly know where the good falls were. But not to worry, I should be able to find dozens around my home easily, right?

Wrong.

Below is a picture of me at Tilomikh Falls. Do you see that wonderful waterfall? Yeah, I don’t either. It’s really more of a rapid. In fact, it wasn’t considered a waterfall until just a year or two ago.

2014-09-27 11.13.26

Tilomikh is near a home where I nanny, and it’s a short drive from my home as well, so I go there quite often because it’s convenient, but definitely not because it’s impressive. When my Harry & David job finally ended on February 17th (because that was supposed to be a Christmas season job… haha), I was determined to go on a trip to find a real waterfall. And yet that same day of my layoff, where do I end up? Why, my mom invited me to Tilomikh Falls, of course!
image
Okay, so despite its size, Tilomikh Falls is still nice to look at, and I really can’t complain, especially after spending three years in the flat, plain Midwest where waterfalls are all but impossible to find. Still, I knew I needed to search for a real waterfall.

And last week, that’s exactly what I did. In fact, I found more than one waterfall, as well as a slew of other mini adventures! Last week was my first week working one less job (only three now!), and in addition to visiting a mountain range lookout and volunteering my weekend in the snowy mountains with Wilderness Trails, I took a waterfall excursion. And yet, I still haven’t left Jackson County! Stay tuned for when I share all about my jam-packed one-day road trip!

culture, day trip, holiday

Happy (Chinese) New Year!

Chinese New Year is officially on February 19th this year, but the city of Jacksonville, Oregon decided to celebrate it a couple weeks early. Each year, the historic town honors the Chinese workers who contributed so much during the formation of the town during the gold rush by celebrating all the culture and festivities that go along with Chinese New Year.

Several years ago, I managed to get a day off of work to attend the festivities with my sister. I hadn’t been able to do it any other year that I lived in Oregon, but it sure was fun! I wanted to make a point of attending this year, but it just so happened that I was scheduled to work. Fortunately, my job for the day was my childcare job. After asking the mom, we both thought the kids would benefit from a fun day at the Chinese New Year festivities. As an added bonus, it saved a bunch of money by learning about Chinese culture just a few miles away instead of heading on a trip to China!

The main attraction is the parade. Tons of local businesses and organizations get involved. Since it was hard to find a parking space at one of Jacksonville’s most populated days of the year, we had to walk a ways to get to the main street where the parade was taking place. We found a nice empty space of curb near the end of the route just as the parade was beginning.

It started off with some cool classic cars.

IMG_20150207_103753_551

The Southern Oregon University Raiders used this opportunity to promote some of their programs, like foreign exchange.IMG_20150207_103821_909

And then there’s one of the Jacksonville trolleys. I took a tour of Jacksonville in this trolley several years ago, and it sure is fun! During the parade, the seats were filled with orchestra members. That sure beats playing in a marching band!

IMG_20150207_104058_959

Being a parade to mainly celebrate Chinese culture, there were several of the traditional dragons. Some of the dragon cast members had fun getting up in kids’ faces and pretending to bite at them!

IMG_20150207_104903_459

There were several different dance groups. Here was the first one in the lineup:IMG_20150207_105108_982

And there were a few costumed characters. The dragon one was more elaborate, but nothing beats the adorableness of a panda!

IMG_20150207_105246_949 IMG_20150207_105250_369

Although this is more British than Chinese, these were performers from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, so I guess it sort of made sense.

IMG_20150207_105255_369

Several school groups got involved too, such as the school one of “my” kids attend. Another school made their own Chinese dragon costumes.

IMG_20150207_105411_041

And how can you resist the cuteness of a young girls’ cheer team? They did “Go Rams” cheers, since this upcoming Chinese New Year is the Year of the Ram.

IMG_20150207_105433_298

There were quite a few dragons considering that it wasn’t even the Year of the Dragon. This could be a scary parade for some children!

IMG_20150207_105642_428

One group paraded all the animal years, starting with this year’s Year of the Ram. Although I was born in the Year of the Ram (so does that make this year some sort of special anniversary for me?), I think I would prefer to be Year of the Bunny!

IMG_20150207_105724_098

And some old fashioned cars. I think the drivers had fun breaking all the rules of the road as the zigzagged the entire width of the street!

IMG_20150207_105904_559

And bagpipers. Bagpipers are pretty nifty, even though that’s really more Irish than Chinese.IMG_20150207_110410_225

Then again, the parade celebrated many different cultures, not just Chinese. These flamenco dancers seem to prove that…

IMG_20150207_110446_526

…And hula dancing originated from a different land as well!

IMG_20150207_110852_670

This picture didn’t turn out so great since this tractor was going fairly fast, but this daycare turned a cute little tractor ride into cute little rams!

IMG_20150207_111032_206

A historic-futuristic mashup tourist attraction in Jacksonville is their Segway tours. Oh, how I want to try out a Segway!IMG_20150207_111106_339

And even more dragons…

IMG_20150207_111558_432

The parade ended with a decked-out motorcycle!

IMG_20150207_111619_055

When the parade ended, the festivities were nowhere near complete. Special activities all over town were taking place. One advantage of Jacksonville is that nearly everything is within walking distance, even if you have a couple of tykes tagging along! If I had gone by myself or with someone closer to my age, I probably would have enjoyed the artifact exhibitions and the martial arts self-defense class. Since I was with kids, we ended up jumping in a bounce house (well, I didn’t, although it did look like fun!), making crafts, playing games, and learning origami. Although we only went to the activities marked specifically for children, I even had a bit of fun with the challenge to try to transfer marbles in a bowl to another bowl using only chopsticks!

After several hours, we had to leave the festivities, but the events in my day weren’t over yet! After bringing the kids back to their house, I headed over to my own home to get ready for my next event of the day. But I’ll wait until tomorrow to share that experience!

day trip, geography, hike

Up There on Lower Table Rock

001

The Table Rocks are a sight to see in Southern Oregon. These plateaus are not only a unique view in the mountain range, but the hiking trails on each of these twin mountains leads hikers to a unique view of Jackson County at the top.

002

I’m actually ashamed to say that, although I always lived within a half mile drive of these mountains for most of my childhood, I only hiked them a handful of times. I believe the first time was when I was in fourth grade and we took a class trip there. Even our first-grade buddies were able to keep up on the strenuous hike! I remember hiking with my family once during the winter rain, and my shoes got stuck in a sticky mud puddle, causing me to face plant in a pile of mud! There was also one time I went with my youth group. In our middle school rebellious state, my friend and I carved our initials on a tree and watched as some of the boys threw things off the edge of the mountain, including a paper airplane and an orange. The last time I hiked up Table Rock was when I was still in high school, with a few of my closest friends at the time. Being able to count my Table Rock memories on one hand, I knew I needed to return.

004

Last weekend, I had Saturday off. Between working at a call center and being a weekend nanny, this is an incredibly rare occurrence, so I had to celebrate it in some way. I invited a couple of friends to do something with me, suggesting Table Rock as an option. Unfortunately, while I had a rare Saturday off, they did not. Not to worry though; I’ve traversed the continent by myself, I should be able to manage a little hike a few miles outside of town!

On Saturday morning, before I even changed out of my pajamas, I received a phone call. I was off from jobs #1 and #2, but job #3 called. The housemother on duty at the teen mother home wasn’t feeling well, so I was asked to cover for her. I love spending time there, so it was not a problem to change my plans. Besides, I would get off at 3:00, so I would still have time to go for a hike afterward.

006

There are two mountains that make up the collective Table Rocks: Upper Table Rock and Lower Table Rock. They’re not named for their heights; they’re named for their location on the river. Upper Table Rock is faster to get to, but it’s in a location with more shade, so I was afraid that, with Oregon’s liquid winters, that would translate to more mud. (I’m pretty sure that was the one we hiked when I fell in the mud!) So I decided to go out to the more iconic Lower Table Rock.

Thinking back to my first hike, we must have taken a lot of breathers and extended stops where our guides explained the flora and history of Table Rock. The incline really does get your heart pumping! It’s less than two miles to reach the summit of about 800 feet, and I was so relieved to get to the top.

008

My goal behind reaching the top (besides the mini-challenge in itself to reach the top) was to get a bird’s eye view of the county. The trail takes you to the side of the plateau opposite of the metropolitan area, so I began walking to the other side to see what I could see.

009

What I saw was a sunset. While pretty, it meant that I would need to turn around soon in order to make it back to my car by the time it got dark. So after spending several minutes at the summit, I turned around and headed back down, determined to try again in a few days.

011

My next day off was Thursday, so I headed back to Table Rock that day. The problem was, while I wouldn’t have gone if it was raining (you know, the whole mud thing), it was incredibly foggy.

002

So I waited until the afternoon in hopes that the fog would lift. It did clear up a little bit, and when I got to the top of Lower Table Rock, it was bright and sunny. Of course, that was just because all the fog was below me! Yes, a thick layer of fog separated me at the summit from the views below. Although, it did provide a unique view of the fog. It almost looked like an ocean!

008

Two hikes in one week, and I still didn’t get what I came for. But third time’s the charm, right? Perhaps next time, on a clear, dry day with plenty of time before dark, I will have a picture of an incredible view to show you!


019

014

day trip, destinations, geography, tour

The Vexing Oregon Vortex

Have you ever been to a House of Mystery before? The slanted floor, uneven roof, and caving walls allow for lots of optical illusions and a playground for your mind. But what if some of these illusions continued even after you left the mystery house? You may discover that this is exactly what happens at the Oregon Vortex!

The drive to the Oregon Vortex provided beautiful fall scenery through the quaint town of Gold Hill and the rural area beyond. Even though it is remote, there are plenty of billboard-sized signs pointing in the right direction. We arrived at a historic mining shantytown where friendly staff were happy to greet us. Several of the staff members donned crazy costumes, but I’m pretty sure that was just because it was Halloween.

Because we arrived several minutes before our tour could begin, one staff member mesmerized everyone in the gift shop with the scientific magic of magnetism. He also demonstrated how non-magnetic metals can still react to magnets, and even how magnetism can slow the force of gravity! This was a great primer before we were introduced to the Oregon Vortex, which is believed to be a strong disruption in the Earth’s typical magnetic field.

IMG_20141031_150326_287[1]

I decided to visit the Vortex a bit spur-of-the-moment. And since I went early afternoon on a weekday (and I guess October 31st is technically a holiday to some people), I had a hard time finding someone who was able to accompany me last-minute. Fortunately, my mom had a free afternoon, so I got to spend time with her on this tour! She was actually the first person in our tour group to demonstrate one of the odd features of the Vortex. In the center of the above picture is a brick line. Our tour guide on the left is inside the Vortex, and across the line, my mom is outside of it. It was strange to see their differences when they switched places, and it even felt a little different for them! I noticed that I got a bit of a “seasick” feeling when we started the tour, but after we left, it disappeared. Our guide said that happened to some people due to the polarization. We also noticed that there weren’t any animals around- no squirrels, no birds, nothing. That was strange since we were in the middle of a forest, but for some unexplained reason, many animal species avoid the Vortex.

IMG_20141031_151309_766[1]

My mom wasn’t the only person in our group that demonstrated an anomaly. The guide made sure to include everyone in our group, even the young children. Since I was the tallest, I was picked on a lot. In the above picture, the guide and I stood a few feet away from each other and placed a beam on top of our heads. Everyone else noticed it was slanted since I was several inches taller. But when we switched places, the beam was almost level! IMG_20141031_152011_895[1]

After several experiments near the outskirts of the Oregon Vortex, we ventured further in where the House of Mystery was located. I’ve heard that houses like these are built to be used at fairs, amusement parks, and tourist traps. But this is the house that is said to have inspired all the other mystery houses, plus it has a 110-year history to boot. This was built to be an office and tool shed in the old mining town, but after it was abandoned it eventually slid off its foundation. No, it isn’t covered in cobwebs as suggested in the picture above. The staff just decided to decorate everything to celebrate Halloween, which is also their closing day. I did like their little ode to The Wizard of Oz:

IMG_20141031_152003_069[1]

The demonstrations done inside the House of Mystery were even crazier than the ones done outside. Not only did the Vortex affect things, but now all the weird slants of the house confused us too. We all appeared to be standing sideways, even though we were trying to stand straight. There was even a broom that, when stood on end, would stay balanced! It looked like it was leaning into thin air, but it was actually standing straight up and down!

IMG_20141031_153009_843[1]

The hovering broom was crazy enough, but it was even more insane when we saw a bottle seemingly roll uphill (because what looked like uphill was actually downhill). An ordinary golf ball was thrown down a slide out the window, but it also appeared to roll uphill as it returned to us!

IMG_20141031_153230_564[1]

Is it possible that the golf ball was magnetized, or that the broom was fashioned specifically so it would stand up? I’m sure that’s what many people reading this are thinking, and there is that possibility. But after visiting here, I doubt it. The staff told us that, if we returned, we were welcome to bring our own levels, measuring tape, and any other objects we wanted from home. I may have to try that in the future, but all their tools looked exactly like what you would get in any hardware store. I even felt and shook the golf ball, and even tested it for magnetism before we rolled it out the window. I don’t believe it’s all a hoax, even though I can’t explain it all. There have even been scientists perplexed at what happens in the Oregon Vortex. I guess that truly makes it a mystery!

IMG_20141031_154136_446[1]

After a few more demonstrations inside the House of Mystery, we exited from the uphill side to continue our tour. After the guide showed us some things, he gave us the opportunity, he gave us the opportunity to try some things out on our own, and even offered to take pictures!

IMG_20141031_155038_203[1]

I am five inches taller than my mom. We stood on a level surface (we even checked it with a level several times) with a beam on our heads. At first we looked like the picture above. I was quite a bit taller than my mom, which is typically normal. But then we switched places and took the next picture…

IMG_20141031_155049_705[1]

We were almost at exact eye level to each other! The change in the beam’s slant is a great indicator that this happened, but if you still don’t believe it, go ahead and measure us in each of the pictures. No one knows exactly what happens in the Oregon Vortex, but one theory is that our atoms are more compressed in certain areas.

IMG_20141031_155545_378[1]

We went to one final area near the farther end of the Vortex for the last few demonstrations. On this level piece of wood, we could see the participants get shorter and taller as the walked one way and the other! We could even see size comparisons as two people on each end walked towards each other!

When the outdoor tour ended, our guide encouraged us to come down to the gift shop where he would show us pictures of significant changes that happened to people while in the Oregon Vortex. There were even some pictures where magnetic lines showed up in the film as a result of the strong magnetic force. As we walked to the gift shop, our guide turned to us and asked, “Does it feel like you’re walking downhill?”

After all the questions he had asked us, like “Does this look level?” “Does this look larger?” “Do you feel different?”, which he then disproved, we thought we might be in for one last anomaly. But we were outside, with normal reference points. It really did feel like we were walking downhill! “That’s because you are” he said with a smile. Yes, there might not be much education behind the Oregon Vortex (other than teaching us to keep an open mind to new paradigms), but the hilarious staff is guaranteed to entertain you!

Would you like to visit the Oregon Vortex? You can’t. Well, at least not right now. They close for the winter in November. But not to fear, you can line up at their door beginning in March, and experience the historical, entertaining, and most of all, mysterious Oregon Vortex!

Thank you Oregon Vortex, for providing admission for my mom and me! We truly loved your attraction, and our opinions were not swayed by anything other than the great service you provide for every guest!