"To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield"
- Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1833

"live deep and suck out all the marrow of life"
- Henry David Thoreau, 1845

"Some guys, they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece
Some guys come home from work and wash up,
And go racin' in the streets."
- Bruce Springsteen, 1977

"...to the heart, there's no time for you to waste.
You won't find your precious answers now
by staying in one place."
- Frank Turner, 2009

"The best things in life aren't things.
They're living and breathing."
- Michael Franti , 2011

"I owned every second that this world could give,
I saw so many places, the things that I did"
- Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, 2014

All written content and photos by Rob Fulfer unless otherwise indicated.

Monday, January 9, 2012

SoCal, So Fun

After securing an incredibly cheap airfare ($160 RT!) to LAX earlier in the year, we built ourselves a trip over the New Year's holiday to Southern California.  Our friend, Emily, joined us as well.

December 29, 2011 -The first thing we secured was lodging as we got a very sweet deal
at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa in Dana Point about an hour south of the airport
overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  Above is a view out of our first floor room with an open balcony
that took us straight to the heated pool, hot tub and the ocean beyond.

December 30, 2011 - Dana Point has one of the few natural harbors on the California coast.
 It was a beautiful place to take an early morning walk with the fog rising.  It was just a few minutes
walk from our hotel.  As one of her Christmas presents, Ashlee got a hour-long massage back at the
hotel's spa when we returned from breakfast and our walk.

 Today was "Brewery Day" as we had a fairly long list of craft breweries we wanted to check out in the north San Diego area about an hour south of our hotel.  The area is known for some great award-winning beer.  For more on the beer itself, check out my beer blog.  Our first stop was Ballast Point Brewing which was great.  We moved on to the smallest brewery of the day, AleSmith Brewing, which was nearby.and equally good.
Next up was the popular and quickly-growing, Green Flash Brewing.  These guys bottle their beer and
distribute it nationally as well, some of which is available locally back in Tennessee.  We took a break after this
stop and went on in to San Diego's downtown for dinner at The Field, a very authentic Irish pub in the city's
popular Gaslamp District.

After dinner, we finished off the day with visits to Stone Brewing, one of my personal favorites.
 They are the forefathers of craft brewing in northern San Diego and produce exceptional, medal-
winning beer known around the world.  Their beautiful facility includes a nice restaurant as well.  We
concluded the evening at Lost Abbey Brewing which was excellent.  Much thanks to Ashlee for being the
designated driver today and for being a real trooper despite battling a nasty head-cold. 

December 31, 2011 -  Another great early morning walk from our hotel to Doheny State Beach,
next door to Dana Point Harbor.
At noon we boarded the Dana Pride for a whale-watching trip.  Despite it being mid-day and sunny
when we left the harbor, we moved in and out of fog banks during the trip off the coast.

Our first sea-life encounter on the cruise were these sea-lions taking advantage of a harbor buoy
 to lounge about on.  The ship captain said these guys can almost always be found here unless its
bad weather.  Apparently, sea lions can get seasick in rough water too...who knew??

Grey whales migrate this time of year from Alaska down to Mexico and the ship's captain knew
exactly where to find them.  This large beauty popped up out of the fog a 100 yards or so from
the boat.
After our whale-watching trip, we loaded up in the rental car (another good deal)  and drove about an hour and a half north to the LA suburb of Agoura Hills.  We had tickets to see Five for Fighting for a New Year's Eve show.  Before the show we had dinner at Cigale Cafe, a French-style bistro in nearby Oak Park.  The food was delicious and the ambiance was very nice despite it being located in a strip mall.  The show turned out to be excellent despite the rather strange venue, The Canyon Club -- kind of like a local VFW hall on crack.  We have seen 54F twice before but both shows were acoustic.  This time lead singer, piano-man and band founder, John Odrasik, was accompanied by a full plugged-in band.  He admitted that he vowed to never do a NYE show unless he could walk to it, and since he and his family only lived a mile or so away, this worked out great.  He played all of the band's hits and ton a cool covers including a great version of The Police's  "Message in a Bottle."  It turned into a real family affair as John brought his young daughter, Olivia, on stage for some song accompaniment plus her own solo cover of Dolly Parton's "Jolene."  After her stage debut, we saw Olivia running around in the crowd with her schoolmates.  Yep, the whole event had that kind of small-town, company-picnic kind of  feel to it despite being an "LA show."  After the show was over,
and the new year was rang in thoroughly, we crashed in a hotel nearby instead of trying to drive all the way
back down to Dana Point.

January 1, 2012 - HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!  After driving back down to Dana Point, we spent the first
day of  2012  just lounging around the hotel pool since the weather was perfect.   What a great way
to start  the new year!  Above is the sunset that day, I was hoping to capture, or at least see, a
green flash (hence the nearby brewing company name) that occur rather often at sunset on the west
coast, but it was not to be this day with so much cloud cover.

January 2, 2012 - We got up extra early this morning to make the hour drive north to Pasadena
to attend the 123rd Annual Rose Bowl Parade.  We had bought tickets to sit in some temporary
bleachers set up on Colorado Avenue and had parking close by.  We expected a lot of traffic,
but it was rather a breeze to get to our assigned parking lot before the 8 AM start of the parade. 
The photo above was of some very cool skywriting that entertained the crowd before the start of the
parade.  A stealth bomber also streaked (very quietly, of course) down the parade path to signify the
start of the event.

Rose Parade Grand Marshall, J.R. Martinez, a wounded vet and actor, who has became a star
when he won "Dancing With the Stars" recently, was still enthusiastic in greeting the crowds even
though our seatswere already 45 minutes from the starting point.  As the photo shows, our seats were
great with a unobstructed, elevated view of the parade.

The nearby San Gabriel Mountains made for a stunning backdrop to the parade.  Here the very
largeUniversity of Wisconsin Marching Band makes their way down Colorado Avenue.  Wisconsin
topped Oregon in the Rose Bowl game later that day in what was said to be an exciting contest.

The parade floats are bigger and grander than TV or this picture even gives them credit for.  There were
44 floats in total at this year's parade, a score of marching bands and a dozen or so equestrian teams.

Our favorite float, and clearly a crowd favorite, was the Surfing Dogs presented by Natural Balance
Pet Foods (note the dogs actually surfing).  This beauty also broke a Guinness World Record for the longest,
 heaviest float at 119 feet, 7 inches long, with an 85'-long water tank that holds 6,600 gallons of water.  It weighs
a total of 138,000 pounds.

This year's parade theme was "Just Imagine" which is just what we did with this memorable visit to see
 this iconic event live and in person.

Amazingly, for only $10 extra we were able to go see all the floats after the parade up close and personal.
The detail and painstaking design of these floats is simply amazing.  We were told every flower is put in
 by hand by volunteers on each float.

The real stars of the show.

Another cool aspect to the Rose Parade is that while roses are the main things used for decoration,
many other types of flowers and other organic matter are implemented as well including as seen above,
apples, oranges, beans, berries, etc.

We got back to Dana Point after the Rose Bowl Parade and float-viewing and enjoyed our last night
at the resort.  We loved this place and the fact that there were very few guests around most of the time
 made it even more special.  We practically had the heated pool and hot tub to ourselves most of the time.

January 3, 2012 - We headed back to LAX this morning for our flights home, but had enough time to seek out Patrick's Roadhouse on the Pacific Coast Highway north of the airport near Santa Monica.  This quirky little hole-in-the-wall has been featured on the TV show, "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" and their spicy breakfast burritos are pretty darn good.  We had some other excellent food while in Southern California including some highlights like a yummy swordfish sandwich at  San Pedro Brewing,  great burgers and fries at In & Out Burger,  yummy pizza at Stuft Pizza & Brewing, fancy oatmeal at Vue (our hotel restaurant) and some authentic Italian at another "DDD" alumni, Mama Cozza's in Anaheim.

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