Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Paradise Found, at Pico de Loro

Just a mere hour and half drive from Manila, I never knew one could feel a million miles away from the city. And yet you can, and a perfect weekend escape is closer than you think. 

Named after the twin peaks of Mt. Pico resembling an upward pointing parrot's beak, Pico de Loro in Hamilo Coast is the newest residential resort community with all the modern amenities and comforts in a sprawling 5,800 hectare property that includes forests, mountains, 13 picturesque coves and 25 kilometers of pristine coastline (see more on Pico de Loro in my other blog here at  http://dude4food.blogspot.com/2014/03/escape-to-pico-de-loro.html and for more on the private beaches and secluded coves here at http://dude4food.blogspot.com/2014/04/exploring-pico-de-loros-coves.html).

A Short Drive to Multnomah Falls

Less than hour's drive from Portland, Multnomah Falls is another must-see stop. The majestic falls consists of an upper and lower falls, making it Oregon's tallest waterfall. And what a sight...

Feel the cool mist of crashing water as you get closer up the falls, and when you reach the bridge at the top, the power of the falls become evident as the crashing waters drown out all other sounds (see my previous post on Multnomah Falls in my other blog here at http://dude4food.blogspot.com/2012/02/side-views-multnomah-falls.html).

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Coffee Stops and Finding the Grave Creek Covered Bridge

On the road to Portland some years back, I remember finding the historic Grave Creek Covered Bridge almost entirely by accident. And thanks to a cup of coffee, I found it. A cup of coffee and a few gallons of gas, I still had miles to go.

It was the off-season, and few cars were on the road. "Where you headed," asked the friendly gas attendant,  who probably noticed me fumbling through some maps, and I said "Portland." Guessing I was a tourist, she said "you should make a quick stop and see the covered bridge, it's along the way." And I'm glad I did. Along I-5, make an easy left at Sunny Valley Exit, and you'll find the graceful bridge. Constructed in 1920, seeing the bridge just felt like being in an old movie. And on cue, the shifting clouds allowed the sun to peek momentarily, washing the bridge with light. For more on the Grave Creek Covered bridge, see my post in my other blog here at http://dude4food.blogspot.com/2012/02/side-views-grave-creek-covered-bridge.html.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Big Texan: Everything's Bigger in Texas

Everything's bigger in Texas, and it's true. We enter the Lone Star State at the end of a cool road trip along the Mother Road, just in time for a late lunch at the legendary Route 66 landmark, The Big Texan. 

For more on the epic road trip along Old Route 66, see more photos on my other blog post here at http://dude4food.blogspot.com/2011/09/driving-mother-road.html

The Cliff Dwellings at Bandelier National Monument

A short one hour drive from Santa Fe, New Mexico is Bandelier National Monument, an ancient settlement of the ancestral Pueblo people in the beautiful mesa country, just one of the many sights from a road trip along Route 66 some years back, covering Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. 

Estimated to be more than 11,000 years old, the cliff dwellings at Bandelier National Park are just some of the spectacular sights in the vast park, with countless trails to explore and discover. For more on Bandelier National Monument, see more in my other blog here at http://soloexpeditions.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-antelope-canyon-experience.html.

Before Sunrise at the Grand Canyon

"Sunrise," the concierge said almost without batting an eyelash, responding to my question on the best time to see the canyon. "You definitely have to see it before sunrise," as I nodded and thanked her for the advise. And she was right. Many years after the road trip, the images of the Grand Canyon remain some of the best experiences in my bucket list-filled road trip along Route 66. 

A visit to the Grand Canyon was like a NatGeo experience, and seeing the natural wonder change in colors and hues throughout the day was definitely an experience like no other. For more on my experience at the Grand Canyon, check out my post in my other blog here at http://dude4food.blogspot.com/2012/04/side-views-sunrise-at-grand-canyon.html.

Seattle's Very Best at Pike Place Market

A visit to the market is usually the best way to get to know any city and feel the local vibe. And at Seattle, Pike Place Market is definitely one of Seattle's best...

A Seattle institution for more than a hundred years, Pike Place Market boasts some of the freshest local seafood, vegetables and fruits. For more on Pike Place Market, check out my post in my other blog here at  http://dude4food.blogspot.com/2011/09/pike-place-market-seattles-best.html.

The Spruce Goose, A Flying Fortress and the Cadillac of the Skies at Evergreen

A chance to see the Spruce Goose up close was one opportunity I wouldn't miss. During a road trip from San Francisco to Seattle some years back, I made sure to schedule stops for a few days along the way, including a visit to see this wooden marvel.   

Growing up, I've always been fascinated with aircraft from World War II, and the stories and exploits of each aircraft during the war. And to see these historic warbirds up close has always been a childhood dream. Located in McMinnville, an hour's drive from Portland, the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum has one of the most impressive private collections of historic aircraft, including legendary aircraft from World War II and Howard Hughes' iconic Spruce Goose. For more photos of the historic collection at Evergreen Avuation & Space Museum, see my post in my other blog here at http://dude4food.blogspot.com/2012/04/side-views-spruce-goose-up-close-at.html

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Antelope Canyon Experience

An early morning two-hour drive from the Grand Canyon National Park to Page, Arizona was another great way to start the day. Long, wide open desert roads across some of the most dramatic landscapes in the American Southwest is an experience in itself. 

I remember one of the highlights of the trip some years back was a visit to Antelope Canyon, deep inside Navajo Land, and another must-see destination after the Grand Canyon (see more in my other blog here at http://dude4food.blogspot.com/2012/03/side-views-antelope-canyon.html).

Mudslides and Cheese at the Tillamook Cheese Factory

I was pleasantly surprised to find Tillamook's Red Cheddar stocked in S&R's shelves the other day, triggering memories of a trip many years back. Fond memories. And some great cheese and ice cream...

Located along North Highway 101 in Tillamook, Oregon, the Tillamook Cheese Factory is a great place to visit, and if you love cheese, ice cream and fudge, it's a mandatory stop while in Oregon (see more on Tillamook Cheese Factory in my other blog here at http://dude4food.blogspot.com/2012/07/side-views-awesome-sights-and-flavors.html).

Sideways in Napa Valley

On my third visit to Napa Valley, I wanted to do things differently. One, don't guzzle up all the wine at the different wine tasting stops. Everything becomes a blur once you do that. And second, veer away from the crowds for a different perspective of Napa Valley. 

My first stop on a road trip from San Francisco, Napa Valley has always been special. Seeing it during the off-season, without the usual crowds, was like seeing Napa Valley in a whole new light (see more on Napa Valley during the off season in my other blog here at http://dude4food.blogspot.com/2012/03/side-views-sideways-in-napa.html).

Looking Up in Downtown San Francisco

After successfully finding a parking building in downtown San Francisco, it was time to go on foot. Walking is still the best way to know any city, and don't forget to look up...

San Francisco's Financial District showcases some of the best art deco inspired structures, each lovingly preserved like grand old dames from a bygone era (see more photos on the Financial District's art deco structures and architectural gems in my other blog here at http://dude4food.blogspot.com/2012/02/side-views-looking-up-in-downtown-san.html).

Bucket Lists and Conquering Mount Pinatubo

An early morning 4x4 adventure across a barren desert wasteland, a trek up the crater of Mount Pinatubo...one perfect day. 

Last year, my former high school classmates decided to get together and do something different. A bucket list worthy adventure up the crater of Mount Pinatubo. For more photos on Mount Pinatubo, checkout my previous post in my other blog here at http://dude4food.blogspot.com/2013/02/side-views-trek-to-mount-pinatubo.html.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Alone at Mount St. Helens National Park

It was the off-season, and everything was closed for the holidays. Even the Visitor Center at the Mount St. Helens National Park. And even the only restaurant near Mount St. Helens. Going off-season does have its perks, and you'll just have to live with some of the downsides. Like closed visitor centers and restaurants. And the crowds...

Having the park all to yourself is an experience in itself (see more on Mount St. Helens in my previous post at my other blog here at http://dude4food.blogspot.com/2012/02/side-views-mount-st-helens.html).

White-Outs and a Near Miss at Maroon Bells

I surfed the channels the other night and caught a documentary on the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, and fondly remembered a trip some years back to Colorado's famed Maroon Bells. The heavy snowfall the day before continued as I woke up to a virtual white-out. It was my first day in Aspen, and I was ready to hit the road and explore, with Maroon Bells as the first target on my list. Just a short 12 miles from Aspen, I thought Maroon Bells would be an ideal first stop. If only the weather would cooperate...

A break in the weather would allow me to see the famed red rocks even for just a moment, as I go for another cup of coffee and ponder my next move (for more photos on Maroon Bells, check out my previous post in my other blog here at http://dude4food.blogspot.com/2012/07/side-views-whiteout-at-maroon-bells.html).

Fort Santiago and the Manila Bay Sunset

It's the middle of Lent, and the metro is eerily empty. The absence of the usual traffic jams, with majority of the residents off on an annual exodus back to the provinces or some summer destination, casts a quiet and unfamiliar spell to the empty streets. In one of the few days each year, Manila is the the best place to drive. And a good time to visit Old Manila. 

Except for a few tourists, the Walled City of Intramuros is all yours for the day. Construction began in 1590 and continued for many more years, lining the original perimeter of the city with massive stone walls to defend the new Spanish colony (for more on an afternoon walk in the Walled City, check out my previous post in my other blog here at http://dude4food.blogspot.com/2012/02/side-views-fort-santiago-and-manila-bay.html).

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Davao's Annual Kadayawan Festival Up Close

The sound of distant drums gently nudges me from bed. It was way before 5am, and the different contingents were preparing for the morning festivities. Davao's famous Kadayawan Festival was about to kick-off, and I wan't planning on missing the show. 

It was my first time to witness the Kadayawan Festival, and seeing the city of Davao prepare for months for this annual celebration got me in a celebratory mood. You just can't help but feel the Kadayawan vibe. And with the rhythmic beat of the drums, you find yourself getting into the groove as you head for breakfast at Marco Polo Hotel's Cafe Marco. After breakfast, it was time to pack my gear and head down to the street for the festival (for more on Davao's annual Kadayawan Festival, check out my previous posts in my other blog here at  http://dude4food.blogspot.com/2013/08/side-views-indak-indak-sa-kadalanan.html, and another feature and more photos of the festival here here at http://dude4food.blogspot.com/2013/08/side-views-faces-of-kadayawan.html).

Stopping Time at Taos Pueblo

On a road trip along the famed Mother Road from Las Vegas to Texas, I made stops along the way to spend a few days in Arizona and New Mexico (see more on that amazing Route 66 road trip on my other blog here at http://dude4food.blogspot.com/2011/09/driving-mother-road.html). To complete the Route 66 experience, I made sure to include a 2-day stop in Albuquerque, and visit the Taos Pueblo. Growing up, I was always fascinated by the classic black & white images of Ansel Adams, including his series of photographs of the Taos Pueblo. A stop at the Taos Pueblo wasn't just on the itinerary, it was a mandatory homage to an iconic artist and the fabled American Southwest.  

A mile north of the city of Taos, the Taos Pueblo remains one of the the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the US, reflecting both Native American and Spanish influences in the historic settlement (for more on the Taos Pueblo, check out my post in my other blog here at http://dude4food.blogspot.com/2012/04/side-views-afternoon-at-taos-pueblo.html).

Heading Off Into The Sunset From Monument Valley

Monument Valley is perhaps the most iconic natural formation that defined the world's image of the American West. And after years of seeing western classics on film and TV, I had to see the real thing. A six hour drive, one way, was no big deal. But Monument Valley was the real deal. 

With the GPS punched in and set, I start early for the six-hour drive (see more on Monument Valley on my other blog here at http://dude4food.blogspot.com/2012/03/side-views-monument-valley.html).

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Finally...Lake Tahoe

An eighteen-hour road trip from Aspen, Colorado to Lake Tahoe. Years later, I'm still amazed at what prompted me to go on that crazy non-stop drive.  A white-out at Aspen-Pitkin County Airport cancelled all scheduled flights on that day, and the weather was expected to get worse. After a cup of coffee, I decided to go for it...and hit the road.  

Conventional wisdom would dictate staying a couple more days in Aspen and wait for the unpredictable weather to clear up. But where's the sense of adventure in that? And what can go wrong driving down Aspen to the flatlands of Utah, Nevada and finally up Lake Tahoe in a perfectly maintained Hertz rental...right?

Fresh Oysters, Lobster and a Parking Ticket at Swan Oyster Depot

I still remember that day. There was a vacant parking slot right across Swan Oyster Depot. And with no hesitation, I quickly claimed the slot with my Hertz rental.  It's not often you find a vacant slot near Swan Oyster Depot. 

This was going to be my third time at Swan Oyster Depot, and every time I get a chance to visit San Francisco, Swan Oyster Depot's on the list. With a convenient parking slot secured, third time's always a charm...

Counting Cars...

The love affair with the automobile is universal, but I've never felt this connection stronger than in my travels to the States. After several road trips in the west coast and the southwest, one can immediately understand this affinity with cars. Long desert roads and that feeling of freedom can be a liberating experience. 

And along the way, one can still find the classic and graceful road warriors, majestically parked around the bend, like a monument. Like this classy Cadillac in Arizona during a road trip along Route 66 many years back (more on that awesome two-week road trip, cool and amazing sights and great food here in a previous post in my other blog at http://dude4food.blogspot.com/2011/09/driving-mother-road.html). The sun was setting fast, but I just had to stop and take a closer look. The paint may be faded, but her elegant lines still make her a timeless beauty.
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