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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Biking the Vail Pass

Vail Pass
Vail Pass Bike Trail

The thrill and exhilaration increase with your speed as you cycle downhill on the Vail Pass bike trail, en route for the town of Frisco, Colorado.  Beautiful vistas, mountain streams, and increasing velocity are all part of this 14 ½ mile alpine bike experience. 

Our excursion started in the town of Breckenridge, Colorado where we rented our bikes and geared up for an afternoon of mountain biking.  From there we took a short van ride up the mountain to the start of our downhill adventure.

 “Keep heading downhill and you can’t get lost,” the outfitter explained as he bid us adieu.  “I’ll pick you up in Frisco.”   And we were off on our exciting mountain journey.

vail pass bike trailCovered bridges, picturesque streams and snowcapped mountains dashed by as we raced downhill at speeds of nearly 30 miles per hour.  A few stops to enjoy the surrounding countryside were definitely in order.  Near the end of our ride we came upon the ski village of Copper.  We cycled through the streets until we found the trail that would lead us to the town of Frisco.  A cold drink and hot food were waiting for us at trails end. 

A short ride later we cycled into Frisco where our group opted to stop at a German pub called Prost.  There we enjoyed homemade sausages and hot pretzels with a variety of unique mustards, a cold drink, and best of all, warm apple strudel and ice cream.  All too soon it was time to meet our driver, load up our bikes and head back to the town of Breckenridge.  What an ideal way to spend an afternoon.

Frisco, CO
Frisco, CO

If you go:

I recommend renting your bikes from Alpine Sports, a family owned business in Breckenridge, Colorado.  The equipment was well maintained, and the staff was friendly and knowledgeable. The prices were reasonable, too.
Alpine Sports
610 S. Ridge Street
Breckenridge, CO  80424



Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pursuing the Expat Life

Sunset off the coast of Ensenada, Mexico
Exotic locales, new experiences, low cost of living and the excitement of immersing yourself in a new culture.  Who could pass up the opportunity for a richer fuller life?  Many Americans are retiring or relocating overseas in order to achieve the “dream life.” For one family, that aspiration was attained in Baja, California.  But is the expat life all it’s cracked up to be?  What does it take to follow your heart, pack up your life and move to the country of your dreams?
Expat Emily A. agreed to sit down with me to answer a few questions about her experiences relocating to another country, and what prompted her and her husband to make “the big move.”

S:  What motivated you to move to another country? 
E:  We enjoy Latin culture and wanted to be near the ocean.

S:  How long have you lived in Ensenada, Mexico?
E:  Six years

S:  How many years in advance did you start planning your move?
E.  We planned for five years before we moved to Ensenada.  During that time we made several trips to Ensenada, securing property, permits, etc…

S:  Can you describe your life as an expat?
E:  Very similar to our life in the U.S.  We both still work.  The commute is much more attractive now though.  Our standard of living is very high and we love living in a coastal community.

S:  What do you do about health care?  Do you have Mexican health insurance and was it difficult or expensive to get?
E:  We have U.S. health care coverage, however, we use Mexican doctors for minor issues and all dental care.  I had to have knee surgery last year and I opted to have the surgery done here.

S:  What is the cost of living in Mexico compared to the U.S.?  If you are comfortable, what does a typical month of expenditures look like?
E:  Don’t move to Mexico because you think you will save money!  The cost of living is similar to what it was in Arizona, but with an ocean view.  Property costs less, supplies are more expensive, labor is less but food (other than rice and beans) costs more.

S:  How do you generate an income as an expat?
E:  We both own our own businesses. I own a consulting and training company and my husband is in commercial property management.  We home office and travel for business as needed.

 S:  Would you recommend your current location in Ensenada to others who are considering making the same type of move?
E:  Only if they are committed to living in another country and abiding by the rules and culture of the host country.  So many Americans move to Mexico thinking they are going to live by American standards and they have not integrated.

S:  Do you speak Spanish fluently?  Do you have difficulty communicating with the locals?
E:  We do not speak Spanish fluently, but we speak enough to get by.

S:  What have your biggest challenges been since becoming an expat?
E:  Working through the immigration process to be in Mexico legally (this is a step many Americans skip and it is not good!). 

S:  Do you have any advice to offer others who are considering making a move to another country?
E:  Only make the move if you are open to integrating, adopting and contributing to the new culture and surroundings.

S:  Has it been easy to make friends and build a social life?
E:  We make friends easily and have met many great people.

S:  What’s the best part of living in the town you are in?
E:  The culture, the people, the food and the wineJ

S:  Did you furnish your house with belongings from the U.S. or did you buy most of your furnishings in Mexico?
E:  Interesting you should ask….we moved all our household goods from the U.S.; however, we purchased all the household goods from Mexico long ago during our travels. We just brought things back to their native homeland.

S:  How often do you get back to the U.S.?
E:  I travel for my work so I cross the border two or three times a month.  Last year my husband Dave crossed the border five times. 

S:  What do you miss most about living in the U.S.?
E:  Nothing.  We stay in touch with family and friends from the states and have established many new relationships.

S:  Do you have any final thoughts or words of wisdom for those considering a move to another country?
E:  Think the move through very carefully.   Rent for at least a year before buying property.  You might find a different location during your explorations that you would prefer to settle in permanently.  Liquidate and buy household goods when you get to your new home country.  Go through the proper channels for immigration and always check your facts three times.

S:  How old are you?
E:  I am 48 and my husband is 60.

S:  Thank you for taking the time to indulge my curiosity about life as an expatriate.
Eighty miles south of San Diego lay the coastal town of Ensenada, Mexico.   Often referred to as the perfect weekend getaway, Ensenada is a popular place for tourists, the adventure seeker, or those in search of a better life… the Expat Life.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

Heavenly doesn’t begin to describe the spectacular vistas, the sparkling blue water, the snowcapped peaks… the beauty and romance of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding Sierra Nevada’s.  Samuel Clemmens (Mark Twain), in his travel log Roughing It,  American Publishing, Hartford Conn., 1872 wrote of Lake Tahoe…”As it lay there with the shadows of the mountains brilliantly photographed upon its still surface I thought it must surely be the fairest picture the whole earth affords."  Twain’s description aptly reflects my reaction upon seeing Lake Tahoe for the first time.

South Lake Tahoe is an interesting dichotomy.  Situated on the California/Nevada border, Heavenly Village offers a wide range of activities the whole family will enjoy.  From mountain biking to hiking to water sports on the sapphire blue lake, summer outdoor activities abound.  Just a few steps over the Nevada border a row of casinos offer nightlife, entertainment and a chance to meet with lady luck!

The Heavenly Gondola at Heavenly Ski Resort is a must do activity and worth every penny.  The glass enclosed gondolas offer one stunning views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains during the nearly 2.5 mile ascent up the mountain.  Be sure to stop at the observation deck on your way up. You won’t want to miss the magnificent views.  The gondolas don’t stop during your trip down the mountain.  Once at the top, one can choose from a variety of activities.  Hiking trails in both California and Nevada are well marked.  A rock climbing wall and children’s play area are available.   My suggestion is to hike one of the trails and take in the panoramic views of the area.  The altitude is not responsible for the breathtaking portion of the trip!  Once you have satisfied your appetite for nature, stop by the Tamarack Lodge to satisfy the appetite you worked up during your hike.  Tamarack Lodge offers a variety of fare to satisfy every palate, including a full bar with big screen TV’s.  The picturesque gondola ride back down the mountain is a perfect way to end a wonderful afternoon. 

Heavenly Gondola

If you go:

Be sure to take a jacket.  It gets cold at the top of the mountain.  You can always stop by the gift shop on the observation deck to pick up a sweatshirt if you forget yours.

Summer Operating Hours:

June 8-Sept. 3:  10 AM-5 PM daily



Teens and seniors-$26

Children ages 5-12-$20

Children 4 and under are free

Monday, May 7, 2012

Grand Canyon Caverns

Grand Canyon Caverns Rock Formations
Unique rock formations, cold war rations, a hotel room 21 stories underground.  These and other unique sites await you at one of Arizona’s hidden gems.  Located on Arizona’s historic Route 66 between Seligman and Peach Springs, Grand Canyon Caverns is considered the largest dry cave in the United States.
Your adventure will start as you descend 227 feet in an elevator to explore this rare geological wonder.   No bugs or living animals (except the ones who walk in on a tour) can be found in this distinctive grotto.  Be on the lookout, however.  You might run into a mummified bobcat or a giant sloth!

Grand Canyon Caverns Mummified Bob Cat
The trails are paved and easy to traverse.  The air is pure and clean.  In fact, you’ll be breathing air that blew through the Grand Canyon two weeks before your visit.  Be amazed at the diverse rock formations that began 35 million years ago.  For the truly adventurous, book a night in the Cavern Suite, a fully equipped hotel room inside the cavern.  After your cavern tour be sure to stop by the gift shop to browse the unique offerings or grab a bite to eat in the cavern restaurant. 
If you are looking for a unique travel experience; one that will take you off the beaten path and into a nostalgic reverie consider taking a trip to Grand Canyon Caverns located on Arizona’s famed Route 66 between Seligman and Peach Springs.  It’s an adventure the whole family will enjoy.
Route 66 Grand Canyon Caverns

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Travel Packed by Sharon: Language Translation apps

Travel Packed by Sharon: Language Translation apps: You are in a foreign country and you don’t know the language.   You are looking for the bathroom, the train station, or just a good place to...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Birthday Arizona!

The official Arizona State Centennial (February 14th, 2012) was celebrated this past weekend at the Arizona state capital in downtown Phoenix. A vast array of exhibits highlighting Arizona's unique history, people and culture were on display.  Children of all ages were able to enjoy a sampling of everything our fair state has to offer. Happy Birthday, Arizona!

For a complete overview of the Arizona Centennial:

Monday, January 30, 2012

Travel Jest: Geology

While making reservations for a recent weekend getaway, I was inquiring about a cavern tour in northern Arizona.  The receptionist who was assisting me described the unique rock formations and then excitedly exclaimed, “Your family will love the cave.  It’s a gynecological wonder!”

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Phoenix Writer's Club

I joined the Phoenix Writer's Club and attended my first meeting this past Saturday.  It was a wonderful group of people.  I look forward to getting to know my fellow writers in the months to come!