Using the LAX Flyaway…

So, I’m back! And as such I have quite a lot to talk about as time (and posts) go on, but first things first, a little from Los Angeles.

Whether you are from the greater Los Angeles area or visiting, there is something about driving to The Los Angeles International Airport that causes a headache. If you are from out of town, the traffic – dealing with the LA driving style more than anything – and stress caused by traveling alone is enough to make people avoid this city. And as a local, driving around LAX with people who don’t understand LA driving and the fierce, crazy taxis, we generally avoid it as well.

This is why for years my parents have relied on the amazing service provided by LAX Flyaway. This bus service gives quick, reliable and cheap round-trip or single fare options for getting to LAX from a variety of locations – Van Nuys (our usual drop off location), Hollywood, Westwood, Union Station, or Long Beach. This not only makes traveling to and from LAX easier but makes flying into the city easier.  While we may make the drive for long term travel or international destinations – for sentimental reasons – the fact that you can really only pick up and drop off at LAX means there really are no reasons to drive into the chaos especially for quicker trips, ie Kansas.

Of course, if you aren’t looking to go into the city and have other options – like Burbank, if you are more valley-bound – you can avoid the whole mess. However, I have to caution (as always) to research locations. My brother-in-law had an out-of-town guest who didn’t pay attention to this and, thinking the Long Beach airport was closer as well as cheaper, booked a flight there only to need a pickup an hour away with no traffic.

If you are from out of town, this is a great service that can get you to Union Station which can then get you all over the city and beyond.

I know this isn’t about Kansas – but trust me, you will hear plenty about that in the weeks to come – and a little disjointed, but I am still a bit travel-lagged and promise that this service is well worth talking about. But for now,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Using the LAX Flyaway…

In LA? Surf’s Up!

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Surfer at Huntington Beach Competition. Huntington Beach, California. July 2016.

If you area visitor in the LA area right now – and, alright, even you locals as well – the first thing I have to say is sorry: these fires suck! Air quality is bad, lighting is all screwy from the ash clouds, and it is so hot that no one really wants to do anything. This is not the California I signed up for when I moved home but at least us locals are used to fire seasons and the burning in the chaparral – again, for you visitors, I am so sorry.

But this week and into the weekend there is a pretty cool excursion which more or less helps you escape the orange lighting  which makes LA city look a lot like an angry Mordor upon approach:

The Vans US Open of Surfing at Huntington Beach.

From young surfers to older and more experienced pros, these athletes are quite the sight. The event has spaces for two simultaneous surf competitions, as well as BMX and Skateboard arenas.

Whether you are a beach junkie (yes!), photo-bug (yes!) or a fan of any or all of these sports (a little calmer but still, yes!), then this is worth the drive. These are also pop up shops including a Van’s mega-pop up which sells exclusive 2016 US Open gear if the heat gets too much for you or you are just looking for a break.

We went last Saturday which was day 1 of the competition and it was already pretty crowded so I’d plan to get there early especially as the finals roll in this weekend. There is lot parking but that usually fills up hours before things get truly underway and parking on the street isn’t crazy expensive so I would plan to park on the street and walk in – again, be wary as you may have to walk a fair amount!

Unfortunately, while we were there, the fog was so heavy that there wasn’t much to see on the water. For the three hours (two of actual surf time) we snapped pictures, each site seemed to get less than a single heat scored. Still, a lot of photographers – my father and myself included – did pick up a few good shots of practice runs from the pier during the standstill.

Photographers! Remember to set up and protect you camera and gear for the conditions (moisture, wind, sun, heat, salt, ect) and that the pier gets crowded so finding a good vantage point can be really hit or miss.

I didn’t mind the conditions except for the little bit of fuzz in my pictures, so as long as you enjoy watching the surfers do their thing regardless if you get perfect shots, you’ll have a great day.

Because of scheduling and the fog, we only stayed a short while but I have heard that you get quite a show from the other competitions as well, so they are worth stopping into. The skate and BMX competitions start closer to noon so keep an eye on the schedule. If I managed to get back out there this weekend, my camera and I will definitely be running around every inch of the competition!

Until then, remember your hats, glasses, and sunscreen and stay safe out there LA!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

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Going to the Zoo

The amazing new Los Angeles Zoo renovations that are so worth the visit.

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Prowling tiger hunting hidden meat. Los Angeles Zoo. July 2016.

I’ve always loved the zoo – school visits,  family outings, or simple art excursions, it’s always a great day. This could be me being an education nerd – I spent a good chunk of my day talking about cool tech additions they could use as a way increasing visibility and audience interactivity – but the new additions to the zoo are the areas that really deserve attention.

There are many who – rightfully so – dislike zoos for the same reasons many now avoid Sea World; enclosures are too small and they don’t fit the needs of animals whose natures’ dictate room to move and, in many cases, hunt. While the hunting issues can’t really be fixed in any publicly approved ways – no animals released to be attacked in the paddock, but they do hide food for predators to have to hunt down before they can eat – in terms of space, the Los Angeles’ zoo has been going leaps and bounds to improve the situation.

A few years ago, this dealt with updating the reptile house but, most recently, was the opening of Rain Forests of America – the new otter enclosure.

This enclosure houses a single family of otters which has been growing rapidly since the opening of this amazing space – happy otters = otter babies. Filled with a rushing river slide,  large diving space and plenty of land to sunbath on, this is the most spectacular area I’ve ever seen in a zoo.

Anyone who has been disappointed with this zoo in the past should see this enclosure and the work being done to improve the lives of the animals housed here.

Whenever there is extra money or donations made, those funds are put into improving habitats. One serious show of trust in the reintroduction of Australian animals – Australia is extremely selective in where their zoos send animals.

And don’t forget, it’s summer so you should definitely check out the events calendar – Brew at the LA Zoo (for adults only) and music events like Friday music shows as part of the Roaring Nights series.

Finally, don’t forget other local treasures you can hit in one go – such as Travel Town Railroad and Shakespeare in the Park in Griffith Park throughout the summer (this year it’s Richard III and The Tempest).

Below are a few more pictures but if you are in LA – visiting or just home – locked in like I am – I really can’t recommend a visit enough. It’s summer and gets busy so don’t forget you can download digital tickets online even on location!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Going to the Zoo

On Tracks: California Edition

And welcoming our guest writer (and an amazing travel companion): Bex!

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That’s right, this week we have a special guest writer, my little sister Bex – this is the same sister I’ve traveled through the UK and Europe with pretty much every time I talk about my recent travels here on my blog. I haven’t traveled up to her at school yet, but after reading and editing this post, I may be looking at following her lead and use our California public transport! But for now, read on and enjoy!

I just recently used the Amtrak to travel between Fresno and Los Angeles for the weekend and I’ll admit, I’m not a regular commuter on public transportation – I always figured it was easier and faster to just drive myself between the two when I had to and not make the effort to get dropped off and picked up from a station.

The week I decided to use it was the second weekend of four in a row I was planning on making this back and forth trip and the idea of driving for 3+ hours each way four times in a row really didn’t appeal to me. So I decided to check prices before resigning myself to either driving anyway or just scrapping my plans for that week. Round trip cost turned out to only be $64, just slightly more than it costs me for gas.

There were pros and cons – as with most things. I didn’t have to drive, which meant that I could get some reading done or watch things on YouTube or Netflix because the trains I was on (both ways) had free wifi (always a plus!). On my train back, they also had a food car which wasn’t too overpriced.

Another good thing with Amtrak is they have guaranteed connections. My train down from Fresno was delayed about half an hour (and when you get your ticket, you can put your phone number and have them text you notifications about delays which is handy) which meant we got into Bakersfield late. However, my bus connection and all the others were still there because they don’t leave until the train gets there and their passengers have made it to the bus they’re meant for.

All the employees I dealt with had a good attitude and seemed cheerful when checking tickets and offered those with luggage help. I enjoyed my trip thoroughly and not having large amounts of luggage (I only had a backpack) made it even easier to do.

one of the downsides I discovered was that it took longer than it would have to drive myself by about an hour (though that’s not a huge deal by any means).

The big thing is that train doesn’t reach everywhere. My trip to LA, as I mentioned earlier, had me switch out from train to bus at Bakersfield because there aren’t actually direct trains from Fresno to Los Angeles. Also, even when you’ve reached your final destination, you still need to arrange a way to get to where you’re staying in that city instead of just going straight there while driving.

There are also the same hassles whenever you’re taking public transportation – not every other passenger is considerate of those around them and if your train is crowded there is little to no privacy.

However, I can see the appeal in using it from time to time. As a group, I think it would be interesting to take a train to other places – have a group experience without having to worry about being pulled over or distracting the person who’s driving. And even when you’re by yourself, you get to see the places you may drive often from a completely different perspective.

I enjoyed my trip thoroughly and not having large amounts of luggage (I only had a backpack) made it even easier to do.

I hadn’t known when I got my tickets, but many times if you’re a college/university student, your school may have access to codes that can cut down on the ticket price so be sure to check that as well. Tickets can be bought online as eTickets or to be picked up at the station or can be bought directly from the station. I used the eTicket and it was as easy as paying and then printing it in my apartment.

So all in all, a big thumbs up and would go again for Amtrak and that’s all from me!

This is Bex writing for Leave on the Wind, (but still) helping you soar.

On Tracks: California Edition

Notes on The Broad, Los Angeles.

The first trip…

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From the Broad windows. The Broad, Los Angeles. April 2016.

This past weekend, I managed to make it to The Broad museum in Los Angeles. This is a small privately owned collection of modern art collected by the members of the Broad family.

We had tickets for 5pm on Sunday – the last ticketed entrance time – with a 6 pm closing. Therefore, this was definitely the first trip because we didn’t manage to make it all the way through.

I feel like I need to admit here: I’m not a huge fan of modern art – most of it just doesn’t resonate with me. Mostly, I just find individual pieces interesting – I love the over-sized furniture room but mostly because it like being Alice in Wonderland (my love of this story has been documented here well enough).

Otherwise, I loved the word pictures – basically just words/phrases on canvas (probably because of my bookish background and ability to make it myself!).

Our favorite room (that we managed to get into) has to be the lower level music room. Officially, this is a piece by the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson called The Visitors, completed in 2012. The lyrics of the song are based on a poem by Ásids Sif Gunnarsdóttir as arranged by Kjartansson and Davíõ Pór Jónsson.

You can read up on the piece yourself, but basically you walk into this room which holds eight videos and speakers which show individuals playing said song, each set up in a different room. Wherever you set yourself up in the room, you’ll be able to hear and watch specific screens louder/more clearly.

We agreed we could have sat in this room moving from place to place for hours on end!

My biggest piece of advice is to go early.

The museum isn’t that large and, if you want, you can get through everything relatively quickly, however, the room that you’ll really want to visit – and the real reason I need to go back – is the widely acclaimed Infinity Room.

This is a room of mirrors which seems to go one forever, and every picture I’ve seen is amazing. The issue is that the line for this is long and the sign up fills quickly. Later arrivals can always check for available standby positions for no shows – which was recommended by one worker – but the chances are unlikely.

I love the look of the building as a whole. Once again, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that I’m a huge architecture fangirl. What I love about this building is how you can look out through the cutouts which not only give you an interesting perspective but brings in nice life.

There are also windows within the building which allow you to look into the archived areas. This was another huge fangirl moment for me as someone who has studied the cultural and creative industries.

But for now – with this first visit – that’s all I have, so until next time:

This is Leave in the Wind, helping you soar.

Notes on The Broad, Los Angeles.

Far away, close to home…

Another cultural event down in LA…

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Carnevale, Long Beach, California. March 2016.

This past weekend – while coinciding with Easter – was Long Beach’s Carnevale Festival.

Carnevale is the Italian celebration which traditionally proceeds the Lenten season – aka Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras. This celebration is huge in Venice which has create an aesthetic of masks and costumes on top of the already great party atmosphere that has become a staple prior the long fast of Lent.

This LA based version was a bit later in the season – read: after the technical end – due to the earlier (and properly dated) celebration of French/widespread Mardi Gras.

While we never went down for Mardi Gras and only stayed down in Long Beach for a small part of the celebration (we had to make it back to the valley for Easter vigil), everything we saw and experienced was fun and boisterous.

Most of the people dressed up were there for the express person pf being photographed and later competing in the costume contest. These costumes ranged in both style and the extent of detail worked in. There was everything from geisha inspired to fantastic creatures – ie. unicorns and fairies- to cartoon-colored Victorians and beyond.

The only problem I had with the event was some of the attendees.  A lot – if not most – were professional to semi-professional photographers which made many of them cut throat and, often times, rude. I can’t count the number of times I was forcibly moved by hip checks or being banged into by cameras as someone else moved me for a better shot. While watching a dance performance, someone banged into my face and then continued to use the side of my glasses to steady their camera – this was after they used my leg as bag support. Yea, I was ticked.

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Despite these – literal – bumps and bruises, I loved the event and the setting. What’s great about Long Beach events is they can last all day but there are many other things to do and see in the area which makes the drive – and relatively cheap parking – worth the day trip.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Far away, close to home…

Travel Starved….

…and getting through it.

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Chinese Lantern Festival, Los Angeles. March 2016.

This post marks number 108 over the course of three years and, without having any real new travel in the last few months, it is easy to admit that I’m getting more than a little stir crazy being back home – a feeling I know more travelers than not have felt more than once or twice (a year!).

So what can you do? After all, despite what a million pins say on Pintrest, 90%+ of us -especially with college loans – are never going to put enough away to quit our jobs and travel for years at a time.

Well, you can work on your staycation list – or start creating one!

As I’ve said before, most of us that have lived in one place our whole lives haven’t explored much of our local environment, so if you get together the kind of things you want to do or see in places that you don’t live, you’ll probably be able to find an a similar activity closer to home – with a few environmental exceptions of course.

Look at art, science, or history museums, local carnivals and Ren Faires – which are growing in number and theme! – or just different parts of surrounding towns or cities. Push this further by subscribing to your local event sights – they’ll cover everything from art events to fairs – this way you’ll be notified on events all year long!

The key is to just get out and away from the sights (and sometimes the people) you see everyday.

For example, this weekend, we took the metro down to union station for the Chinese Lantern Festival. While this felt a lot more like a local multi-cultural festival than anything else and only lasted a few hours (not quite enough to slake my travel thirst), it was a good way of getting out of my own house and head and explore part of my world I hadn’t seen in a while. It helped.

Another thing to remember is you should try to save what you can do locally for the long haul, and do shorter, far away trips. Maybe you won’t get a month – yet alone a year – exploring temples or forests or beaches in your dream destinations, but you can usually figure something short out. For an added bonus, try to plan for the off season and you’ll get more out of your money with fewer crowds to fight through.

The thing that many of us are guilty of – myself included – is to torture ourselves with images and pins of all the beautiful places in the world we hope to travel to instead of the office/jobs that we are – for lack of a better term – trapped in. For this reason, if you are really traveled starved, I do not recommend pinning travel ideas or images or even reading about others adventures if you aren’t actively working to get yourself on those adventures – be it saving money or staying local.

Whatever it is that you need to do to get over your travel-pining, do it without torturing yourself.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Travel Starved….