A New Zealand Drive Along the Firth of Thames.

Roadtripping around New Zealand is beautiful no matter where you are at. Driving along the southern and southeastern shores of the Firth of Thames is no exception.

Firth of Thames, North Island, New Zealand

firth-of-thames-nz-002

The North Island stretch of road just south and west of the town of Thames, along State Route 25, features picturesque views of the rocky shoreline, mountains sitting off in the distance across the Firth and more.

Firth of Thames, North Island, New Zealand

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Firth of Thames, North Island, New Zealand

Firth of Thames, North Island, New Zealand

Firth of Thames, North Island, New Zealand
You will want to get out of your vehicle often to enjoy the water views, just like the sheep do.

Firth of Thames, North Island, New Zealand

Also a part of New Zealand’s Pacific Coast Highway, this part of the country is easily accessible from Auckland. It is about a ninety minute drive, making it great day trip option. As you approach Thames you will be entering the Coromandel Peninsula.

Tip: Continue on along State Route 25 past Thames and you will embark on a 150 km drive around the hilly and forest-covered peninsula, winding up along the Pacific Ocean.

Coromandel Peninsula, North Island, New Zealand

What other New Zealand day trip options would you recommend from Auckland?

A Fountains of Bellagio, Las Vegas Performance.

Any trip to The Strip in Las Vegas should include checking out the Fountains of Bellagio at night. The fountain sits in-front of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino within an 8.5-acre lake. It contains more than 1,200 jets, shooting the water up to 460 feet into the air.

The fountain is lit after dark and is choreographed to the rhythm of the songs which play every fifteen minutes. The music playlist remains consistent from week-to-week. On Thursday at 10:15 p.m., when were there, the song happened to be One (Singular Sensation) from the musical A Chorus Line. We grabbed a spot from one of the many vantage points along Las Vegas Boulevard and watched the water art that unfolded for the next five minutes. Caesars Palace is visible off to the right, with the Bellagio beyond.

As you can hear me in that background at the beginning, I liked the song, knew the song, but didn’t quite know from where until some of the way through. A Chorus Line was a favorite of the family growing up, so it was ironic that song was playing at that time. :) It was a great show to experience.

What memorable fountains have you come across in your travels?

A Nevada Roadtrip: Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

When vacationing in Las Vegas, many people make the short trek over to Hoover Dam, one of the national wonders of the world. Instead of taking the popular route and the one that Google Maps recommends, get off the main highway to see another wonder, the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Nevada, desert, Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Whether heading east on Interstate 515 or 215 as you head out-of-town, get off on Lake Mead Parkway (Nevada State Route 147) in Henderson. It will soon turn into Lakeshore Road as you come up to the park entrance.

Note: You will have to pay a fee of $10 to enter if you don’t have a National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass.

Nevada, desert, Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Upon entering you will have 10+ miles out on the Nevada open road amongst the desert basin. Lakeshore Road runs through the southern end of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, the first such place to get the national recreation area distinction back in 1964.

Nevada, desert, Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Nevada, desert, Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Every mile or so will present a scenic overlook opportunity. Each will showcase panoramic views and the colors of the desert from various bluffs, overlooks and plateaus. Lots of rugged mountains off in the distance will be serving as a backdrop. The 33 Hole Scenic Overlook is a favorite.

Nevada, desert, Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Nevada, desert, Lake Mead National Recreation Area

You will find walking paths, bathrooms, picnic tables and grilling options at each stop. Grilling restrictions will be in place most likely in the summer months due to the over one-hundred degree temperatures.

Nevada, desert, Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Nevada, desert, Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Nevada, desert, Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Nevada, desert, Lake Mead National Recreation Area

As you are plotting along Las Vegas Bay, the Colorado River and Lake Mead will start to come into view. Looking out towards the water and beyond will present views from the state of Arizona. The approximate one-and-a-half-million acres of the park sits amongst the two states.

I’ll let the pictures that my wife and I took tell some of the story. :)

Nevada, desert, Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Nevada, desert, Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Nevada, desert, Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Nevada, desert, Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Right before exiting the park, make sure to stop at the Alan Bible Visitor Center, maybe to get some tips for the drive back. Lakeshore Road and the park exit will put you on U.S. Route 93 just a few miles from Hoover Dam.

Heading east of Las Vegas, visiting the Lake Mead National Recreation Area is worth the Nevada road trip all by itself. If you are ever planning to visit Hoover Dam whether from Las Vegas or not, take this short side trip to get a taste of what this park has to offer.

Nevada, desert, Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Besides views the park offers beach and water fun, fishing, swimming, hiking and camping opportunities. For more information checkout the parks section on the National Park Service website.

What National Recreation Area(s) in the United States have you visited that you would recommend?

An Ann Arbor Photo Shoot, Coffee Style.

I’m at babo: A Market By Sava in Ann Arbor, Michigan enjoying and taking a few pictures of my morning coffee and doing a photo shoot came into my head. A photo shoot, coffee style that is.

So live in the moment I start writing this post, while the coffee(s) and coffee cup(s) were working the camera. First a mocha, than a Spanish Latte. Some shots indoors, than outdoors.

Babo is a local market with fresh produce, a hot and cold bar and groceries. It caters its products to the Ann Arbor area, supporting lots of local producers. They also have a coffee shop with a seating area, to spend some time and soak in the market and community. I was doing just that as the camera was clicking.

Babo Ann Arbor Market, cafe mocha, coffee

Babo Ann Arbor Market, cafe mocha, coffee

Babo Ann Arbor Market, cafe mocha, coffee

Babo Ann Arbor Market, cafe mocha, coffee

Babo Ann Arbor Market, cafe mocha, coffee

Babo Ann Arbor Market, Spanish Latte, coffee

Babo Ann Arbor Market, Spanish Latte, coffee

Babo Ann Arbor Market, Spanish Latte, coffee

Babo Ann Arbor Market, Spanish Latte, coffee

Babo Ann Arbor Market, Spanish Latte, coffee

Babo Ann Arbor Market, Spanish Latte, coffee

Babo Ann Arbor Market, Spanish Latte, coffee

Babo Ann Arbor Market, Spanish Latte, coffee

Babo Ann Arbor Market, Spanish Latte, coffee

Babo Ann Arbor Market, Spanish Latte, coffee

Definitely got a better feel for the market as a whole through the coffee photo madness. No worries, I actually drank each coffee too before they got cold. Too coffee photo shoots! I’m now highly caffeinated. :)

#FriFotos: Some Entrances to Coffee Shops.

Today’s #FriFotos theme on Twitter is “Entrances”. It got me thinking about the many, many, many coffee shops I have entered over time. The entrance can play a factor in whether I go into the coffee shop or not, especially if it’s a random find. Below are some of my favorites starting with the most colorful.

Frifotos - Entrances, Garden View Coffee Mill, Oscoda, Michigan

Garden View Coffee Mill, Oscoda, Michigan

Frifotos - Entrances, Zingerman's Next Door, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Zingerman’s Next Door, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Frifotos - Entrances, Astro Coffee, Corktown, Detroit, Michigan

Astro Coffee, Corktown, Detroit, Michigan

Frifotos - Entrances, We Serve. Coffee, Findlay, Ohio

We Serve. Coffee, Findlay, Ohio

Frifotos - Entrances, Third Street Stuff, Lexington, Kentucky

Third Street Stuff, Lexington, Kentucky

Nothing like walking into a coffee shop that sits right on the corner in a city neighborhood.

Frifotos - Entrances, Julius Meinl, Lincoln Square, Chicago

Julius Meinl, Lincoln Square, Chicago

Basic frontage, yet easy on the eyes and that backdrop! The Alaskan mountains in the background make it a very inviting place to enter.

Frifotos - Entrances, Glacial Smoothies & Espresso, Skagway, Alaska

Glacial Smoothies & Espresso, Skagway, Alaska

The original Starbucks within Pike Place Market in Seattle. Of course seeing this shops entrance is going to give me goosebumps.

Frifotos - Entrances, The Original Starbucks in Seattle

The Original Starbucks in Seattle

Some coffee shops are carved into historical buildings, which are usually very colorful and architecturally friendly.

Frifotos - Entrances, MadCap Coffee Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan

MadCap Coffee Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Frifotos - Entrances, The Sparrows, Grand Rapids, Michigan

The Sparrows, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Frifotos - Entrances, Rising Star Coffee Roasters, Cleveland, Ohio

Rising Star Coffee Roasters, Cleveland, Ohio

Frifotos - Entrances, Common Grounds Coffee, Flowery Branch, Georgia

Common Grounds Coffee, Flowery Branch, Georgia

Others are completely open to the outside. You don’t need to enter, you’re already within the coffee shop!

Frifotos - Entrances, Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, La Jolla, San Diego

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, La Jolla, San Diego

Frifotos - Entrances, Good Coffee Company, Ketchikan, Alaska

Good Coffee Company, Ketchikan, Alaska

Frifotos - Entrances, Blue Bottle Coffee Kiosk, San Francisco, California

Blue Bottle Coffee Kiosk, San Francisco, California

Frifotos - Entrances, Ritual Coffee Roasters, San Francisco, California

Ritual Coffee Roasters, San Francisco, California

Bike racks, especially if supplied by the coffee shop, out in the front make it a very inviting place to enter.

Frifotos - Entrances, Four Barrel Coffee, San Francisco, California

Four Barrel Coffee, San Francisco, California

Frifotos - Entrances, Ipsento Coffee, Bucktown, Chicago

Ipsento Coffee, Bucktown, Chicago

At it’s most basic, if the entrance to a coffee shop has the word “COFFEE” in big letters, that will get me to go in haha! :)

Frifotos - Entrances, Star Provisions, Westside, Atlanta, Georgia

Star Provisions, Westside, Atlanta, Georgia

Frifotos - Entrances, Yeah, Me Too coffee, Columbus, Ohio

Yeah, Me Too coffee, Columbus, Ohio

Finding My Holland Tulip Spot in Michigan.

Spring in Holland, Michigan means it is time for another Tulip Time (Festival)! During Tulip Time each year you will find millions of tulips planted all over town of all colors. One spot, actually an intersection, I kept finding myself at was the corner of 7th Street and College Street on the north side of downtown.

Walking first past this intersection right after sunrise, it was quite cool so some the bright yellow and orange tulips were still closed.

Holland, Michigan - tulip festival, tulips

Holland, Michigan - tulip festival, tulips

Holland, Michigan - tulip festival, tulips

Holland, Michigan - tulip festival, tulips

Holland, Michigan - tulip festival, tulips

Later in the morning and into the afternoon as I walked by a couple of more times, with the summer air and bright sunshine in place, the tulips were wide open. They were saying hello so I had to stop and hang out some more! I’ll let the rest of the picture tell the story.

Holland, Michigan - tulip festival, tulips

Holland, Michigan - tulip festival, tulips

Holland, Michigan - tulip festival, tulips

Holland, Michigan - tulip festival, tulips

Holland, Michigan - tulip festival, tulips

Holland, Michigan - tulip festival, tulips

Holland, Michigan - tulip festival, tulips

Holland, Michigan - tulip festival, tulips

Holland, Michigan - tulip festival, tulips

Where is your favorite place to checkout the tulips of Spring around home or that you have come across in your travels?

A San Diego Area Beach To Get Away From It All.

In the San Diego area and looking to get away from the hustle-and-bustle of Southern California? Make the trek over to Coronado Island and then down California State Route 75 to Silver Strand State Beach.

Silver Strand State Beach, Coronado, California

Silver Strand State Beach, Coronado, California

The beach sits on the narrow strip of land that connects Coronado proper with Imperial Beach. You’ll find beaches on each side of the highway, along both San Diego Bay to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. All of the photos below are from the ocean side.

As you head onto the beach from the main parking area, look to the right down the coast and you’ll see the heart of Coronado and Point Loma off in the distance. The beach is away from town, so you will find it not nearly as busy as nearby Coronado Beach. No hustle-and-bustle here!

Silver Strand State Beach, Coronado, California

Turn to the left, now heading southward on the white and black sanded beach, and you will see the mountains and hills of Tijuana and Mexico which sits only ten or so miles away.

Silver Strand State Beach, Coronado, California

Starring out into the blue waters of the Pacific, your bound to see a military ship or two off in the distance.

Silver Strand State Beach, Coronado, California

Silver Strand State Beach, Coronado, California

Silver Strand State Beach, Coronado, California

Silver Strand State Beach, Coronado, California

As you walk the beach who knows what you’ll encounter. Amongst the many bits of seashells, I had my first ever encounter with a sand dollar. They are a frequent sight here. If you look down you might spot some moon snail, cockle and silver oyster shells as well, the last of which is how the beach got its name.

Silver Strand State Beach, Coronado, California

Seaweed, common on a lot of beaches, is on the light side here. This was one of the cleanest and biggest, non-decaying pieces of seaweed I have ever seen.

Silver Strand State Beach, Coronado, California

Tip: To access the San Diego Bay side of the state park and beaches, just park on the Pacific side and take one of the walking tunnels underneath the road. There is no parking available on that side.

Silver Strand State Beach, Coronado, California

What other beaches around San Diego and in Southern California would you recommend to get away from it all?