Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Just Some News

No stories or reviews this week, just a bit of news.

The travel portion of my blog here has really been chugging along, so much so that it seemed time for me to take the next step and create a travel website.


So next Tuesday (November 29th), I will officially launch the Obligatory Traveler website.

Here’s my logo. It’s pretty much me in sloth form.

 Starting next Tuesday, my weekly Travel Tuesday posts will appear on the website. You can find at www.obligatorytraveler.com

Coming up…
-      - I’ll finish out our Colorado Trip
               -  My first trip to Disney World at Christmas Time
        -A few end of the year posts (my favorite books, favorite travel moments,          etc…)
        -Our Costa Rica/Panama Trip with UnCruise Adventures

To ensure that you don’t miss the fun you can follow my website’s Twitter page  @obligatraveler

Now I won’t be completely abandoning this blog. I’ll still use it to post smaller, more local activities, my geeky escapades, and I’ll probably get back to doing some musings about some of my favorite things, I just will no longer be posting here on a weekly basis.

Thank you to everyone so far who has provided me with inspiration, encouragement, and support. Life is such an unpredictable, exciting, journey. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

TommyKnocker Brewery-Colorado

It was drizzly and chilly as we made our way down Mt. Evans.  By the time we entered the main town of Idaho Springs, Colorado, we were in the mood for some comfort food.

 Since it didn’t seem possible to visit Colorado without hitting at least one brewery, we decided to grab a bite at TommyKnocker Brewery.

Once through the door, you definitely can’t mistake the fact that you are eating at a brewery.

The Drinks

I appreciate breweries that brew their own soda. It gives the non-beer drinkers and kids something they can experience. TommyKnocker brews a variety of sodas. Since we are at least semi-connoisseurs of homemade root beer, we started off with two tall mugs. 

It was some tasty craft root beer. 

Shannon, who makes a variety of comical faces whenever hops touches his lips, left the beer drinking up to me. He does find stouts tolerable, so we asked if we could switch out one of the beers in the Mid-Flight with the Oatmeal Stout.

I am a huge fan of the flight, as I always love having the chance to taste a couple of different things at one time. I’m excited that the flight concept is going beyond drinks now and is being carried over to include items such as ice cream and French fries.

My Mid-Flight included the Thundrabeary, Mountain City Amber and the Jack Whacker Wheat.  Shannon did end up liking the Oatmeal Stout. All the beers were very good, but my favorite was the Amber. 


As I said at the beginning, we were craving comfort food. TommyKnocker delivered. 

We started out with an order of garlic fries. 

They tasted great. They had just the right amount of garlic so that it wasn’t overpowering. You could still taste the fluffy, crispy French fry goodness. We probably could have just made a meal of the fries and been happy.

I went simple and got the grilled cheese with tomato-artichoke soup. I’m pretty sure it was the thickest grilled cheese I have ever seen delivered to a table. 

As hoped, it created the perfect cozy feeling in my belly.

Shannon went with the elk burger, and experienced a similar cozy, comfort.

 I tend to plan out most of our eating ahead of time, but we ended up going to TommyKnocker Brewery on the fly. It had a fun, relaxed atmosphere, great food, and tasty beer. It’s worth a visit if you are enjoying some of the fantastic nature in the Idaho Springs area.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Mount Evans Summit

Important advice, even if it is in the mid-80s at the bottom, at the summit of the highest paved road in North America, it is going to be chilly. There may be snow at the top, even in summer. Be prepared. We were prepared.

We wore pants and hiking boots.

We had extra layers, including our puffy jackets, waiting in the back of the car. 

We watched many a person cry out as their bare knees thudded into the snow because their sandals/flip-flops slipped out from under them. They were not prepared. 

Hiking to the very tippy-top after your car makes it to the summit of Mt. Evans is optional. There are great lookout points and plenty of breathtaking views at the easy to navigate parking lot level.

I was super excited about seeing mountain goats on an actual mountain for the very first time.

If you are feeling adventurous, it doesn’t take too much extra effort to climb to the top.
The biggest challenge was that the trail was snow covered, so you had to more or less forge your own path. There was quite a bit of scrambling up and over rocks, but nothing that was too strenuous or precarious.

Standing on the top was worth the endeavor.

Plus, if this selfie-taking, super dad could make it up, carrying his kid on his back, you could too, as long as you are in reasonable health.

The views were stunning.

We took a million pictures from every side, and then just stood there, quietly taking it all in.
It was one of those places where you feel completely unsure as to the appropriate time to leave.

You think, I may never be here again, I may never see this view again, I know I can’t stay here forever, but what is too short a time to be up here?

We stayed at the top for quite a while. We used our binoculars to watch a mountain goat traverse across the ridge of a neighboring mountain. We took one more picture. Finally when it seemed like our eyes had taken in every inch of blue sky, clouds, and mountain, we were satisfied enough to make our way back to the car.

Mt. Evans was my favorite activity we did during our Colorado trip. The beauty in every direction was amazing. I highly recommend checking it out if you are in the Idaho Springs, Colorado area. Just make sure you come prepared. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Driving Mt. Evans-Colorado

We were looking for something to do during the day that was in reasonable driving distance to the Red Rocks Amphitheater. When we saw that Mt. Evans, the highest paved road in North America fit our criteria, we knew we had to check it out.

The drive to, and up the mountain, elicited many oohhs and aahhs. We barely turned on the road that leads to the road to the mountain, when we just had to stop. 

The scenery at Echo Lake Park was stunning. 

The calm, clear water, lined with skinny, standing at attention trees, was a sight to behold.

There were signs advertising trails, and as much as we would have loved to hike one,

we weren't sure how far we had to go to get to Mt. Evans' peak, or what else we might want to stop and see along the way, so after contenting ourselves with just a stroll around Echo Lake, we jumped back in the car. 

I imagine you could easily spend at least half a day at Echo Lake.

While traversing our way up to the mountain, we saw a spot where we could stop to get a fantastic view of the lake from above. 

The scenery in the other direction wasn't too shabby either. 

We sat in the car for a bit, just to really take the scene in, then we continued to the peak. 

The road to Mt. Evans is narrow. There are no guardrails. There are hairpin turns, and before you discover their existence, it looks for a moment like your car may float off of the road to soar through the clouds. 

On our way back down the mountain we stopped at two more spots.

One was a tundra. It had started to drizzle on our way down. The clouds raced like marathon runners to engulf the mountain. It was so thickly white, we could barely see the road in front of us. 

We also stopped at the Mount Goliath Natural Area. 

It was another very cool spot, and another place where you could probably spend a decent amount of time, if you didn't have a concert to get to. 

The drive to the peak of Mt. Evans is an amazing experience. Even if you have no desire to drive all of the way to the very top, the scenery along the way is worth a trip. They are sights that you will not forget. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Harry Potter Festival-Chestnut Hill, PA

Carefully moving my tulle tail out of the way, I plopped down on the train seat. I jumped on my phone. I wanted to see everyone's pictures. I wanted to read about how much fun the people that I encountered during the day had. I starred at my phone perplexed. All I saw were complaints, lots and lots of complaints. I just had a spectacular day. Others did not. So essentially this post is about why I had a good time at the Harry Potter Festival in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania. 

- I Researched and Kept up to Date 

From the moment I decided to go to the Harry Potter Festival, I kept up to date on the goings on. The website, the Facebook page, everything discussed how limited, and how terrible the parking would be. The festival highly recommended taking the train. Being someone who follows instructions, I listened. 

Taking the train was easy, and a lot of fun. The train station was a buzz with festival attendees. 

Professor Mcgonagall was helping some students figure out the festival map. 

On the train there was a newbie who used a sorting hat app to determine what house she would be in. When her results came back,

her friend yelled out,

    "My friend is a Hufflepuff!" Then all of the Hufflepuffs on the train began chanting,

"One of us, one of us," Lost Boys style. I was having the best time ever, and I hadn't even left the train. 

When we arrived at the station, it was even more fun. 

I didn't end up waiting for the train that was dubbed, "The Hogwarts Express," I took the train before that one, so that I could get to the festival early. The extra time allowed me to have a line-free treat. My chocolate-peanut butter truffle snitch from Bredenbeck's was really yummy. 

I also arrived in plenty of time for Dumbledore's opening address.

 The other thing that I kept on top of during my research, was how the crowd would be. I noticed that the Huffington Post, as well as several other major websites, did articles on the upcoming Harry Potter Festival. I knew this would attract people to the festival beyond just the locals. Every so often I would look at the event's Facebook site. I saw that a lot of people from New York planned to come. People from Indiana, North Carolina, and other places around the country showed an interest in coming. I concluded that the crowd was going to be bananas-bonkers. I figured that I could either decide not to go, or I could embrace the mayhem. I chose the latter, mentally prepared, and dived in. 

Yes, it was crowded. Maybe because I travel a lot and/or attend a lot of concerts, but it wasn't the worst crowd I've experienced. I worked with it, not against it. 

Now I will admit that I was solo. I had no stroller, children, or anyone to keep up with. I have a great eye for people free pockets, so I was able to bob and weave freely. 

There were places to get a bit of respite if you took a little time to find them. Knockturn Alley was quiet, and had some nice places to sit.

-I have Great Deductive Reasoning and am Flexible

I saw the line for beer.

I also saw the line for the bathrooms. 

I figured that having a beer = having to use the bathroom, which = spending a good part of my day waiting in lines. Therefore I chose to wait in the much shorter hot chocolate line. It was a bit nippy, so hot chocolate was a nice treat, and the cup was smaller than the beer, so there was a good possibility I wouldn't have to wait in the bathroom line. I skipped the Butterbeer. I think I'm good for about one Butterbeer per year, and I already had one recently at the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child book release party I went to. 

I spent my time partaking in the abundance of activities. My favorite activity was doing a slow motion, dementor fight video. The line was very short, I think because people would walk by and mutter about how it probably cost too much money, but if they inquired, or stopped for a minute to observe like I did, they would have found out that it was sponsored by Philadelphia's Kimmel Center, and was completely free.

It was fortunate that I ended up with two other girls behind me who were solo, so we took turns taking pictures of one another. It was nice chatting with them in line. I love bonding with fandom people. Fighting the dementor was super fun. 

I'm supposed to get the video in my e-mail, but so far I haven't received it. It's cool, it was fun even if the video never appears. I could have stayed and watched people fight the dementor all day. The facial expressions people made were highly entertaining. 

I also chose to watch some of the shows because they didn't have a line. Because people have short attention spans, they tended to wander away after only a few minutes and it was easy to get up relatively close.

The Secret Circus Philly show was very cool.

If they had a place close by in South Jersey, I might need to take up a new hobby. 

I also enjoyed the owl show. 

There were crafts. They were the Horcrux Stations. They had lines, but by 2:30 pm, the lines had dissipated, and you could walk right up to them. I can never pass up a free bookmark. 

The multiple photo op spots had short lines, and seemed like a lot of fun. 

I intended to see a Quidditch match, but I was having so much fun, I lost track of the time, and by the time I realized what time it was, the matches were pretty much over. Just something I'll need to do next year. 

- I'm Just Here for the Cosplay

I love any excuse to make an outfit and dress up. I had so much fun working on my Fawkes outfit. After seeing that it was going to be cold and rainy, I made a few adjustments, and added layers, but it didn't effect the overall outcome. I highly recommend that everyone invest in a set of good quality base layers. 

I spent my day in cosplay heaven. 

People yelled to me, or they yelled to Fawkes. I waved. One girl yelled,

"What the Fawkes!" Which was my favorite comment of the day. More than one person told me I was beautiful, which made me consider dressing up like a Phoenix everyday. 

People asked to take pictures of me, or asked to take pictures with me.

It completely made my day. 

I in turn, asked other cosplayers if I could take pictures with them. Especially the other Fawkes.

I also geeked out over many of the endless, and awesome, cosplays. 

 I saw so much creativity and imagination. I was overjoyed. Aren't fandom people the best? 

-I am an Uber Harry Potter Geek 

I loved how all out the town shops and residents went all out to to get into the Harry Potter spirit. 

Since I am an uber Harry Potter geek, the highlight of my day was getting a picture with the official Harry Potter and Dumbledore of the Harry Potter Festival. I didn't even need to say anything, and Harry Potter was like,

"Dumbledore, it's Fawkes." Again, completely in my glory. Thanks to the girl whose name started with a C (I'm so sorry I completely blanked on your name). She was behind me at the dementor video station, and took my dementor pictures. Then, unexpectedly, she turned up behind me just in time to snap this shot. She was like a photography guardian angel. 

I made sure to get to the stage early, so I could have a good spot for the closing ceremony. I had a great time chatting with a Moaning Myrtle and her friend, as well as some other super cool fans.

There was a kid dance party happening on the stage. This mini-Draco was hilarious. He really played the part, pointing to his eyes, then back at the audience a few times. We were all cracking up. 

Dumbledore's closing remarks were fantastic. 

He tallied up the house points, being sure to give Gryffindor some amusing (and of course completely bogus) "bonus" points. He then lost track of the math. The audience was trying to tally it up for him, but also kept getting the amount wrong, so Dumbledore remarked,

"It's okay, we all know Hogwarts doesn't teach math." Everyone laughed. Dumbledore was pretty outstanding

The festival concluded and I left on a fandom high. 

The sunset on the train ride home was spectacular. 

I thought on what a wonderful day I had, on how many wonderful, interesting, creative people I met, and how happy I was to be alive in a world where Harry Potter exists.