Camping at Westgate River Ranch Resort and Rodeo

So this isn’t my normal type of camping. When I camp, in Florida especially, it usually involves a spring, a tent, a campfire, etc. in a state or national park. This was a little something “extra”. My camping buddy asked me if I wanted to try @westgateranch in Lake Wales, Florida. I checked out the website and discovered here was where one goes “glamping”. Y’all they got fancy teepees and double wide wagons to rent. Not such a fancy pants, I wasn’t sure it was my thing but then I checked out the activities and decided to give it a whirl. Glad I did!

Things to Note

The tent on the platform option does not seem any better than bringing your own tent. The tent size was not bigger than mine. If you really want electricity than this is an option. The water pump at the site was at the entrance so everybody could use, whether you brought your own tent or rented one of theirs. And let’s be honest, the party was in the open field. So many kids running around, riding their bikes, making friends, climbing trees. This is what it’s all about!

Try to camp during the week. We got there on on Thursday and the field where we could choose a spot was wide open and we found a beautiful location right under a perfect climbing tree. There are no designated camping spots so you can pick wherever you want in the field, but this also means people can camp as close to you as they want or can. On Friday night, the field was a totally different place! It was packed!! If you get there early, you can grab a spot with a picnic table.

There were spots to build a campfire. When I read the camp site description, it did not say there was a fire pit but we found one. It also did not say we couldn’t bring in our own firewood. We ended up purchasing their firewood because we didn’t think it was an option but if we do it again, we will bring in our own. There firewood bushels were around $10. That’s a lot in my opinion.

The lines are long. The wait is long. I don’t know if they have cut their staff in half because of COVID-19 but the wait to check in took forever. Then we had to wait longer so someone in a golf cart could escort us to a giant field. Big waste of time. The line/wait at the General Store was long. One person on the cash register, and they were also taking food orders. I understand you want to distance people and space them out at check in but it beats the purpose if they are standing in line for long periods of time. Especially if people aren’t wearing a mask (no surprise here but not everyone (guests) wore a mask.

Be at each activity you sign up for at least 15 minutes in advance. They make you check in (and there are lines again).

Bring your own soap for the bathrooms. The bathroom near the campsite (also beside the general store and skeet and shoot range) were almost always out of soap. Thankfully, someone always left some soap behind. Thank goodness. You would think that during a pandemic this would be top priority but I guess not.

The rodeo starts at 7:30pm on Saturday’s only. They say be there at 6:30pm. We purchased tickets in advance and found seats easily once we got in but again, we had to stand in line for 30 minutes until the gate opened and it was packed. Buy your tickets in advance, but don’t necessarily feel like you need to be there at 6:30pm, unless you like standing in lines, during a pandemic, around people with no mask. I will note, one of the doorman walked around and asked people to put there masks back on. This made me happy. I also noticed that people brought in there own food and drinks, FYI.

Everything cost money. And it cost a lot. Book everything in advance. We couldn’t purchase rodeo tickets until we checked in but for everything else, book online and book early.

Things We Did

The Rodeo! What can I say. I had fun! It’s very all American so if you have friends who aren’t American and want to show them a very American tourist show. It’s great. There is just something majestic about the horses galloping at a fast speed with riders bumping up and down. I don’t know if it’s because I am Taurus but I love counting the seconds riders can hang on until a bull bucks em off! It was good clean fun, music bumping to put you in the mood, and some friendly competition between riders. I have been to other rodeos and in the past I have felt uncomfortable at the way calves were handled but not at this place. The price for an adult was $25.01 with tax. Kids were $15.00 (5-12).

Airboat Ride.

Adults 13+ were $30.00. Kids (2-12) were $20. I did an airboat ride in the Everglades and this one was better. We didn’t see a lot of critters but in my experience you don’t because you are going so fast. Our driver took us up close to an area with baby gators and we got stuck. I have to say it was a lot of fun and a mini adventure because a pontoon boat had to come and pull us out. We loved it. And it gave our driver an opportunity to tell us about the waterways and the abundance of gators!

The Petting Zoo.

It was cute. There was not a lot of animals but there were some and it was nice. If you want to feed the animals, have quarters only for the bubble gum style food dispenser. The had baby kangaroos. My son said maybe they are rescues. Hmmm. I’m not a big fan of that. And I don’t need to see kangaroos at a farm in America.

How cute are these calf’s teeth?

Horseback Riding.

It was $48.15 with tax/per person for an adult and a 12 year to ride. It was nice. Wear sunblock while you wait for everyone to get saddled up. If they don’t offer, ask about getting a helmet. They had younger people running the counter and to me, this seems obvious for inexperienced riders but I guess I am biased as public health practitioner. I did see a horse decide to lay down mid trail with a woman still on. She was okay but here leg was a little trapped there for a bit. Kinda pricey for the ride but hey, it’s not something you get to do every day.

Meet Katie.

Swamp Buggy Rides

Adults 13+ were $30.00. Kids (2-12) were $20. So much fun. Cold! But fun. It wasn’t very swampy but it’s been dry lately. We went through some pretty big puddles and met some cows along the unbeaten patch. See video below. You might want to mute me gushing over the cows and calves running.

We loved it.

The Pool.

There is a pool and a hot tub. The pool was heated. The hot tub was hot. I read about there being a pool in the resort but it was not marked on the map or listed as an amenity in the flyer they gave me. But we found it behind the apartment or hotel looking rooms. It’s not a fancy pool but it does the trick. I was just so happy it was warm and towels were provided.

The Archery.

$10/per person. It was good way to practice your skills and kill some time. No instruction or instructors so maybe watch a YouTube Video beforehand it you didn’t go to 4H camp as a kid. I don’t think I saw mini or small bows for little ones but I could be wrong about that.

Things we didn’t do.

Rent a golf cart.

Visit the saloon.

Participate in the Adventure Center. Each activity in the Adventure Center cost money. For example, the Mechanical Bull costs $9/per person. But we didn’t go because of the money, It was because the kids just got too busy running around or riding their bikes and making friends. Also, the adventure Center didn’t open until 4pm. I wanted to play putt putt but we just didn’t get to it.

The Drive In Movie. Alert. It’s only for people in golf carts. The parking lot for the drive in only allows for golf carts. They don’t mention this. Bit disappointing. The Drive In Movie is free and on Friday nights.

Craft Shack. Or whatever it was called. It was closed.

Skeet and Shoot. Seemed hard and it was expensive. The age minimum is 13 so we missed it. Give it a go if you want to though.

We definitely had fun. I wouldn’t say it was the safest for a COVID-19 free get-away despite being outdoors, but it was close. We would do it again and I don’t think you need to have the glamping experience to get the best out of it. Matter of fact, you might have more fun amongst the tent campers. But definitely have some cash put aside for all the activities. Happy Camping!

Florida Department of Transportation Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Survey

The Florida DOT is conducting a safety survey related to Pedestrian and Bicycle activity.  We are assisting FDOT by sharing this information as widely as possible.  Please take a few minutes, if possible, to participate in the survey.  The survey is 25 questions long and parts of it will test you about your knowledge of traffic laws, it will not reveal to you if you answered correctly or not though.  The purpose is to determine how well the public knows the traffic safety laws.  The survey is anonymous.

Here is a link to the survey: 

Respectfully,

Sergio Gomez

Secretary

MC Squared, Inc.

5808-A Breckenridge Parkway

Tampa, Florida 33610

Choice to Change

Mindset and the power of the Big, Beautiful Brain

Whether you are looking to eat more healthy, dig out of depression, do better in school or improve organizational behavior-it’s all change! Very few people are 100% content or happy with themselves and their circumstances. Personally, I am always on a path to improve- whether its my own character flaws or a public health problem. So how do we change? How do we change THAT one thing about ourselves (or multiple things)? How do we change our child’s behavior to chores? How do we change a drug addict’s choice? I am on this journey to explore these topics from a psychological perspective and also as a Christian. You mean science and faith complementing each other? I believe it is happening.

Now I have learned in the first “real days” of e-learning that I need to be paying better attention to my child’s e-learning, as he was missing some things. And as I am diving into this topic of change and mind set, I overhear a TED talk my son’s teacher assigned him titled, “

The Power of belief — mindset and success” by Eduardo Briceno.

Serendipitous? I think this is a great example of synchronicity.

Synchronicity Meaning: Message from the Universe | Synchronicity, What is  synchronicity, Meant to be

In this video he talks about the “Fixed Mindset vs. the “Growth Mindset”. This idea of a “Growth Mindset” was first brought to my attention by Carol Dweck. For all my friends who are peeved by Millennials who can’t finish a day’s work should read this book.

But I digress. Dr. Briceno states if we are to fill our potential we need to change our mindset. The key to do this is to realize We CAN change.

So step 1: Accept that you CAN change.

Now I am currently reading “Switch on the Brain” by Dr. Caroline Leaf. Like Dr. Briceno, she too states that the brain is malleable. Not fixed.

A large flaw within our thinking and society is that we need to be born with natural gifts and abilities in order to obtain or perform. I know myself as a parent, have told my child numerous times, that God has given him the natural ability for music. Now the problem with this is, when my son plays something incorrectly, he gets really frustrated with himself, and instead of working through the problem, he wants to quit for the day. Some of us may feel like we can’t pick up a new hobby because we weren’t given the opportunity to learn at a young age. For example, a language. We are told time and time again that the brain is best able to learn a language at a young age. That once we get older, it is hard for the brain to learn and remember a language.

This is so wrong.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2

In Dr. Leaf’s book, she works with patients and clients who have had severe brain injury and/or learning disabilities. How many stories have you heard of someone being told they will never walk again but yet they somehow defy the odds and baffle the doctors? This isn’t battling the odds. It’s that big, beautiful brain that continues to function in an amazing way. Now if you are a Christian or religious, you might think this is a miracle? Well, if we look at what the bible tells us, really it’s just how God designed us and the power he bestows on us through him.

2. Understand it’s a process.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Hebrews 12:1

Isn’t life a process? Aren’t we always trying to figure it out? We are constantly growing. And growth is beneficial and scientific. This is important to understand for many reasons. If you or someone “falls off the bandwagon” they may not get back on the bandwagon if they don’t understand that growth is a process. Which is why if you are in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) its a lifetime commitment, where if you take a drink, you can come back. If you are on a diet and eat a bag of cookies on Sunday, no one should tell you that you can’t get back on that diet on Monday. Many health campaigns have learned that in order for people to kick bad habits, we need to recognize failure and give people non-judgmental agency to try again, and again, and again.

Every Try Counts Campaign | FDA

Fall backs are an important part of the growth process and without them we do not grow. And God tells us this too.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

So what does a Growth mindset vs. a Fixed Mindset look like in practice. Here are some examples:

Growth Mindset

“Wow, you can really see that you studied and worked hard to get that score”.

“Its shows you have been practicing your 3-pointers on the court.”

“If I start jogging and add 1/4 mile each week, I can build endurance, work on my breathing and increase my distance.”

“I was not a good communicator in my last marriage but I am going to ask my fiance to hold me accountable to a weekly date night where we talk about anything we need to.”

Fixed Mindset

“Wow, you must be so good at math with a score like that.”

“You must get your basketball skills from your Dad.”

“I just don’t have an athletic build and won’t ever be called a runner”.

If I messed up this marriage, who says I won’t mess up another.”

3. Make a deliberate intention to develop your abilities to change.

What does this look like?

  • Make feedback process related.
  • Listen for your fixed mindset. Listen for toxic thoughts. Negative thoughts.
  • Consciously change it. Talk back to it.

Dr. Leaf says to “catch those thoughts”. As Missy Misdemeanor Elliott says,

Dr. Caroline Leaf’s book provides a 21-Day Brain Detox Plan. As I continue to read this book and work through my own 21-Day Brain Detox, I will continue to share my own personal insights and its application in my life and work. I want to reiterate that this is a process. For me. For you. Whatever journey you are on. And each of us are on a journey. Whether we are religious/spiritual or atheist. Whether we feel perfect or flawed. And all good things come with time and practice. But know that you have it in you.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7

Final thought for my public health campaigners and social changers out there. How can we use this knowledge for positive, impactful social and behavioral change? For me, it reinforces the idea that SHAMING and GUILTING to not work. Knowing that Growth-Changing mindset is a key for change, how can we incorporate these into health campaigns? Providing actionable steps? Feedback loops? Positive reinforcement? How does this challenge us with reward and incentive products in a health campaign? Are growth-process campaigns better for specific target audiences? I would love to hear your thoughts below.

Thanks for reading!

10 Day California Road Trip continued…Mt Tamalpais, Patrick’s Point, Redwoods and More!

This post focuses on our 10 Day California Road Trip once we left San Francisco and continued north along Route 1 to Route 101 up until Eureka. The first day was Mount Tamalpais and Eureka. The second day we spent exploring the Redwood National State Park and the dramatic landscapes of Trinidad. Keep reading below for more details.

Mount Tamalpais. San Francisco in the background between clouds.

Day 2 (22nd July): Drove up the west coast on Route 1 stopping at or through Mt. Tamalpais State Park, Stinson Beach, Bodega Bay and the Avenue of the Giants (Humboldt Redwoods). Night in Eureka, CA;

Day 3 (23rd July): Explored the Redwoods. Hiked Lady Bird Johnson Trail and Fern Canyon Loop trail. Camped at Patrick’s Point State Park (total $42.99- Abalone site).

So we got up early from our AirBnB in San Fran and headed to Fisherman’s Wharf for breakfast. I feel like this was a very touristy area with a lot of chain restaurants. We decided on Darren’s Cafe for breakfast. It was good but expensive for a diner, in my opinion, and we would probably have been better off grabbing a coffee and pastry or biscuit to go and saving time and money. From here we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge along Highway/Route 1 to Mt. Tamalpais State Park. This was a beautiful, scenic drive with no clear state park signage. I wasn’t sure if we had passed or missed our marked spots. We did stop for some cherries and apricots on our way up the mountain and a hiking trail along the road.

We intended to stop at Muir Woods (we drove past it) and Point Reyes National Seashore but we just did not have enough time. If I had to do it again, I would have added another night on the west coast between San Fran and Eureka. I would skip Stinson Beach and camp near Mendocino. We currently live near the ocean so we decided to omit the estuary habitat and go for gorgeous trees and mountains.

Once we left Mt. Tamalpais we ended up in the town of Stinson Beach. I think we were looking for a quick lunch cafe, but as we saw mostly restaurants, we ended up going for ice cream at the Parkside Snackbar. Now I am going to complain a little bit again about the restroom situation here. There is an adjoining restaurant and even though we were patrons at the ice cream parlor, they would not allow us to use the restroom inside the restroom. A father at the near by park just walked into the restaurant with his child and used their restroom, but when I politely inquired with the host beforehand, he said no. So I wasn’t happy and wish I hadn’t purchased the ice cream, which was window service. Though everyone else with their big, messy ice cream cones were content. Oh well. In the town of Stinson Beach there is nice shop called Livewater Surf Shop with swimsuits and gear if for some reason you need a little boutique browsing escape from your family (no judgement) or forgot your swim gears. They also provide board rentals and surf lessons.

Next stop was Bodega Bay. At Bodega Bay we found public parking right on the beach with a large parking lot, restrooms, and outside showers to rinse off sandy feet. This is wide open beach with plenty of room, warm sand and choppy Pacific water. Great place to stop for a swim for seasoned swimmers and surfers. From Mount Tamalpais to Eureka, CA it is about a 4.5 hour journey not including any stops.

By the time we got closer to Eureka it was getting dark as we drove through Humboldt Redwoods State Park and we did not stop. The ONE BIG REGRET of this trip because I absolutely loved the large, giant redwoods we did encounter on this 10 day trip and couldn’t get enough of them. I could dedicate a whole trip to just the Redwoods in California (Cathedral Grove in Muir Woods, Avenue of the Giants, etc.). That night we stayed at an AirBnB in Eureka. My impressions of Eureka is that its a small, logging town with lumberjacks drinking coffee and retirees bird watching. Haha. It’s quaint and a great launching spot for the next day.

Day 3- My Redwood Dreams Come True.

The next morning we had breakfast at Old Town Coffee & Chocolates on F Street. So glad we were able to find a local coffee shop with yummy baked goods. Did I mention I live for pastries? But this was not my favorite spot on the leg of this trip. What we found afterwards was… the Lady Bird Johnson Trail. This is a very easy and perfect hike for the kids and grandparents. It was flat and had wide open paths to accommodate lots of people, though we didn’t see that many people outside of the parking lot. The restrooms in the parking lot are also holes in the ground BTW with no sink/hand washing available.

My favorite photo
This was a very peaceful place. Beauty in silence. Majesty in trees.

Plenty of opportunities for the kids to climb trees, make pretend tree forts and hide in old tree trunks here!

I was doing some serious tree hugging on this trail. Such a beautiful place. It really shows you the importance of protecting our national forests and parks!

After we left Lady Bird Johnson National Trail, we headed to the Fern Canyon Loop Trail located inside Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. This trail is known for being used in Jurassic Park.

jurassic3

Both trails are a part of the Redwoods National and State parks. You can find more details about these trails and others at the National Park Service webpage, as well as temporary closures.

To access the Fern Canyon loop trail we drove down a dirt road, past the beach and into a sandy parking lot. I say this because 1.) you can take a detour to the beach and 2.) your vehicle WILL get dirty and you WILL track sandy dirt into the car. The car parking lot was busy and packed. This trail was more populated than Lady Bird but we had enough space to physically distance ourselves from others.

My son said he preferred this trail but he is a water baby so whenever there is a creek he is happy. He was able to dip his head in the water dripping off the cliff-side ferns. Because of the cold water and shade, this is also a cool trail. As we were coming from Florida in July, you can see we had jackets wrapped around our waists for cool morning temps and coastal winds.

This is also a great trails for teaching children about different types of ferns. Plant lovers will revel in the unique and ancient species of ferns found here. This easy hike is a .7 mile flat loop, with opportunity to join longer trails if you want more. Would definitely come back here again and again.

After we were done with the Redwoods for the day we headed back down south to Trinidad. What a cute town!

We headed down to a restaurant on a pier called Seascape Restaurant and really lucked out with a great dinner and evening. I had clam chowder and it hit the spot from being on a chilled, windy beach.

Dinner view inside the restaurant. Eye spying some seals.

Turns out this restaurant is owned and managed by a local tribe – Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community. We also went to Murphy’s Market and Deli in Trinidad to stock up on groceries and firewood for our night camping. They have pre-made meals as well and a decent selection of beverages.

Next to the Pier is the Trinidad State Beach and Lighthouse. What an amazing beach! We had a beautiful evening. Some were kite flying. Others walking. Lots of critters to explore on this beach as well.

I would say this was one of our favorite moments of the trip. An after dinner stroll, drawing our names in the sand, chasing each other with seaweed, and walking off dinner. And aren’t moments like these what its all about?

I spy a yellow slug.

Afterwards we headed to our campsite at Patrick’s Point State Park. As this was our first campsite, we were really impressed with how nice it looked and its location. But if you read my first post about this trip you might remember my comment about the bathrooms in California campsites. Basically, you need to have quarters to take a shower at THIS campsite. And by the time we headed into the bathroom at night for a shower, the campground attendant (who I guess makes change for people) had closed down for the night. And again because people either didn’t know like we did or didn’t want to spend the money, the sinks were clogged with dirt and paper towels from where people were trying to take sponge baths in them. There was a pump outside near our campsite and even though it was freezing water, I opted to wash my face, brush my teeth and rinse my feet and hands off here. Funny thing, in the middle of the night I went to use the bathroom and came across a SKUNK! Thankfully I spotted him before I got too close and he/she did not spray me. 🙂

The real appreciation of this campsite did not come into the morning when my son and I woke up and decided to take a little stroll. A little path near our tent led to the most beautiful, dramatic lookout and kindred wild flowers. Top spot alert.

Dramatic drop off leading to the Pacific ocean and craggy rocks.
This reminded me of Goonies.

The area right outside of the campsite was also very pretty and lends itself to lots of picture stops. It’s very hard not to keeping stopping which is why the more time you can spend in CA, the better, or you’ll have to come back like I hope too.

From Patrick’s Point we headed to our next stopping point, Lassen Volcanic National Park. The drive was between 4-5 hours and since we had been going non-stop, this was a great opportunity for passengers to catch some ZZZzzz. Please check out my post on Lassen Volcanic Park coming soon!

Thank you for reading and feel free to comment below with any questions or suggestions for our next trip. Happy traveling!

Changing Behavior by Tali Sharot

How to motivate yourself to change your behavior

This TED- Cambridge talk was posted 5 years ago but it is still applicable today. It’s always good to have a refresher on a subject matter or be exposed to a new way of thinking when tackling a current issue. This TED Talk by Dr. Tali Sharot, a neuroscientist at the University College London, provides “3 key ingredients” on how to change your behavior, however, some of the examples she provides are organizational behavior change and customer behavior change.

The 3 key ingredients are:

  1. Social incentive;
  2. Progress monitoring;
  3. Immediate award.

One big take-away I got from this is fear appeals, shaming, threatening, warnings, etc. on the whole are not effective in changing behavior. Many impact evaluation studies have shown where negative messaging and fear appeal marketing campaigns are ineffective in changing behavior, however, some fear appeal social marketing campaigns have proven effective in road or driver campaigns. I think this is something we really need to dive deeper into. Think about social norming of face masks during COVID-19. What if 99% of people are wearing a face mask in a grocery store but one person approaches a non-face mask user and yells at them for not wearing a face mask. What happens? Do they decide to wear a mask next time? Ummm, no. What if they are told that they may have a pre-existing condition in the future or may pass the disease unknowingly to a loved one later. Does this change their mind? Probably not. Now what if the manager goes over the intercom and says, “Congratulations shoppers at so and so grocery store, we are at 99% compliance for wearing face masks and we are outperforming the grocery store so-so five miles down the road”. Does this change the non-mask user’s behavior? More likely. What if the manager says, “we are passing out $2.00 off your coupons for all mask wearers”. We got a winner. The messaging is positive. It demonstrates social compliance, progress monitoring and incentives. The benefits are immediate.

We seek positive information! We want to know we are okay and WE CAN change the outcome. Positive intentions are REWARDED and socially ACCEPTABLE.

“Kids and teenagers are the worst at learning from bad news”. Plug for the ever growing trend towards positive behavioral therapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy, in schools. How does this work in real life? “Son, you are getting better at picking up your toys, could you finish the job so we can go outside and play?” vs “Son, you still haven’t picked up your toys and you can’t play outside until you do”.

We get too much information and filter out what we don’t want or need by focusing on the positive information, giving us a distorted view of the reality. Self-denial anyone? I don’t know about you but my new thing is to tune out PEOPLE who don’t give me the information I want (anyone want to take a wild guess who it might be?). This is why it’s important for organizations to put out specific, timely, relevant and targeted messages with BEHAVIOR SCIENCE. Go beyond thinking about information or education.Don’t just put out anything to stay relevant. You won’t be.

Informational campaigns and education are not enough. We must get the word out to organizations and agencies that applying behavior science to impact change is a must-do and the more cost effective way to achieve results.

10 DAY CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY AND MUST-DO’s!

As you can see from my chicken scratch below, my initial plan was pretty ambitious. But you should have seen it before when I was planning a Washington to Santa Cruz trip! But with all travel, especially when you are traveling with children, flexibility is key.

Below I offer an outline of our

10- day California itinerary:

Day 1 (21st July): Flew into San Francisco- Explored San Fran. See below 10 day itinerary for our day details in San Francisco;

Day 2 (22nd July): Drove up the west coast on Route 1 stopping at or through Mt. Tamalpous, Muir Woods, Mendocino Beach and the Avenue of the Giants (Humboldt Redwoods). Night in Eureka, CA;

Day 3 (23rd July): Explored the Redwoods. Hiked Lady Bird Johnson Trail then visited Fern Canyon. Camped at Patrick’s Point State Park (total $42.99- Abalone site).

Day 4 (24th July): Drove to Lassen Volcanic National Park (4-5 hours). We traveled through the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and stopped along the road for a stretch and breathtaking views along the river. We hiked the King Creek Falls trail at Lassen Volcanic Park (from Manzanita Entrance) then traveled down to South Lake Tahoe (3 hours). Night at Hotel.

Day 5 (25th July): Hiked Eagle Falls Trails to Eagle Falls Lake. Camped the night at Emerald Point (total $32.99 tent site at Lower Point). Dinner in town at @bluedogeatstahoe We had pizza and my partner discovered his new favorite beer, Great White from @LostCoastBrewery in Eureka, CA.

Day 6 (26th July): Hiked on the Rubicon Trail from Emerald Point campsite to Vikingsholm and Kayak Tahoe. Drove to AirBnB (Coulterville) outside of Yosemite.

Day 7 (27th July): First Day in Yosemite. Hiked the “4-Mile Trail” and visited Bridal Veil Falls. Stayed the night back in Coulterville at AirBnB.

Day 8 (28th July): Second day in Yosemite. Drove down to Mariposa Grove and hiked the Mariposa Grove Trail to the Mariposa Grove Cabin. The evening camped out at Cedar Bluff inside the Sierra National Forest (total cost- too much-charged for 2 sites).

Day 9 (29th July): Drove to Santa Cruz and straight to AirBnB. Explored Santa Cruz Wharf and harbor. Dinner at The Crow’s Nest and night at AirBnB.

Day 10 (30th July): Drove to San Francisco and flew home 😦 Depending on your flight time, there is the possibility to do at least one hike in Santa Cruz or highlight in San Fran.

Mariposa Grove Trail, Yosemite

Be sure to check out my other posts for more in depth details about each stop along the way!

Cost Breakdown

This is the first time I have posted a cost estimate of my trips but for this trip I kept better notes on expenses and I want to show people that you can accomplish a lot with a little, even in an expensive state like California (gas prices were insane!). This is not an exact price list but it can give you a good idea for a starting budget.

  • Plane tickets from Florida to San Francisco- $ 394.30 /per person
  • Travel Insurance for flight – $51.26
  • Car Rental for car pick up and return at San Francisco airport (10 days) – $ 440.44 (not including insurance, insurance was included with my personal car insurance policy);
  • Total accommodation costs including 3 camping sites, 1 hotel and 4 Air BnB’s (1 for two nights) – $1335.06;
  • America The Beautiful National Park Pass– $80.00

Day 1- San Francisco!

Day 1 (21st of July): Fly into San Francisco- We arrived at 9:40am and went straight to the Golden Gate Bridge. We hired a rental car from the airport and compared to Tampa, FL, the driving was stressless. We checked out Fisherman’s Wharf and grabbed an expensive but delicious panini from the Round House Cafe, right near the visitor center.

It was July and it was windy/cool, so bring a jacket. There is a mild hike near the bridge and we did see one homeless person but other than that, it was beautiful, and we felt safe. This was the only homeless person we saw btw. I think San Fran gets a bad rap for homeless people but I honestly have seen a ton more homeless people in San Diego. I only say this for any safety concerns. Personally, I use it as a teaching lesson.

Next, we met up Kara from Chinatown Food Walk: Tea & Dim Sum experience from AirBnB. This was the first time I tried an AirBnB experience and we really enjoyed it. Of all the things we did for 10 days, my son said this was his favorite! Granted, he is a foodie like me. We went to a tea shop, a temple, THE Fortune Cookie Factory and three food stops. We tried dim sum, a moon cake, pork roll, boba tea and tons of tea! From this experience, my son and I became hooked on Boba Tea. I thought it was like Thai Tea and I find Thai Tea too sugary so when we tried traditional, Chinese black boba mile tea, I was pleasantly surprised. You don’t know unless you try things! When we got home we immediately scoped out the best Boba tea shop in Tampa. I won’t specifically name where we went on the tour, you’ll need to contact Kara for that 😉 https://www.stretchy-pants.com/sf-food-tours/chinatown-food-tour-san-francisco/

Pork Roll. First stop. Not Vegetarian.

Side note: this tour is not for vegetarians. Contact @stretchypantssf if you would like them to try a vegetarian menu. They might be able to accommodate. I generally don’t eat meat but I make exceptions for special occasions. My child has a shrimp allergy and they were able to help us with this.

After our tour we went to our AirBnB. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay out late due to flying in from the East coast and London so we were exhausted. We stayed at Jonathan and Sally’s AirBnB in the Twin Peaks area. Not much to eat within walking distance but a nice and safe area. The home was clean and cozy and offered a rare, second closed bedroom for an AIrBnB.

Next morning we hit the road up Route 1!

Tips and Tricks

If you don’t read any more of my posts about this trip I wanted to make you aware of a couple key things that you may not see on any official website or in a book.

At the San Francisco airport the cell phone waiting lot is not at the airport! It was about 6 miles away further down the interstate. Don’t make the mistake I did!

Showers are NOT included in the price of your camp fee at California State Parks. Some required quarters, some tokens- one had no shower at all (though it might have been a federal camp ground?)! So please, please do yourself a favor if you are camping and contact each campsite to see what they require to take a shower.

Gasoline prices are no joke. In areas outside of major cities, like Shasta, the cost per gallon was pushing $5.

Not all restaurants have bathrooms. Not sure how they got around this but we learned this to be true. AND the public restrooms at gas stations are NASTY. The majority of ones we stopped at didn’t even have soap. I can’t imagine the situation now with COVID-19. So while you are at stopping for supplies, grab some toilet paper, disposable wipes, soap, gallon of water and hand sanitizer!

Please continue reading my other “10 Day California Road Trip posts” to see fun photos, honest reviews and good details from each major stop!

Thanks for reading and please feel free to ask questions in the comment section. Happy travels!

10 Day California Road Trip Cont… South Lake Tahoe

On days 5 and 6 we traveled to South Lake Tahoe from Lassen Volcanic Park and spent two days exploring this beautiful area. The drive from Lassen was about 3 hours. The road into Lake Tahoe was windy. We arrived late our first night and stayed at Beach Retreat & Lodge Tahoe https://www.tahoebeachretreat.com/?utm_source=google%20my%20business&utm_medium=listing&utm_campaign=visit%20website. I don’t remember the room being especially nice. It was outdated but clean. However, the staff were really nice and there was a nice laundry facility right beside the pool. Since we got there late, parking at the hotel was difficult to come by. Even though we didn’t experience this, I would guess this is a great place to stay for a bunch of young friends in the winter, where they ski during the day and enjoy the night life at the end of the day. It is close to shops and restaurants/bars.

We were not out the next morning very early because I had a call and still managed to find street parking somewhat close to Eagle Falls Trail. The parking lot definitely does not hold enough visitors so plan to park on a windy, steep road and walk to the entrance of the trail. I believe there is a fee to park on the road or in the parking lot. I don’t remember paying it but we also had a national park pass decal so that may have been why. We hiked from the parking lot to Eagle Falls Lake.

Warning: the bathroom facility in the parking lot is a hole in the ground. I opted not to try it. Despite the scary bathroom, my son said it was his favorite hike of the whole trip.

It takes about 1/2 mile to get to the cascading water itself. When you cross the bridge there are some stones to rest on, cool your feet off and take a freezing dip if you are so inclined. We rested for a minute or two and then headed on to the lake.

While we were hiking up a little chipmunk followed beside us on the rocks. I think it thought we had some food.

Pretending I had food in my hand. As you can see, it was not shy. It was however, cute as can be!

Clearly some people are feeding them. Please do not do this. Later we discovered some carry the plague.

This is posted at Emerald Lake Trail bathrooms. Oops.

This hike is beautiful. It was a little steep in places and some of the footing was tricky but overall it is a pretty moderate hike with water to play in and stunning scenery.

The lake itself is not for the faint at heart. It is FREEZING. And you guessed it, all of the people in it were from Northern Europe or Canada. Except for my son, the island water baby and my poor freezing soul.

Cold water shock is real so make sure you read up on it ahead of time and expect to burn twice as much energy swimming in freezing water. BUT the reflection of the mountain on the lake and the scenery will leaving you feeling #blessed and invigorated.

You get great high up views of Lake Tahoe and big boulders to warm up on after a freezing swim in the mountain lake. This trails is about 1.8 miles one way.

Our second night we checked in at Emerald Bay State Park. The campsite was very clean and there is a nice spot to hop into the lake, HOWEVER, you need coins, not quarters to use the showers. After our first fiasco at Patrick’s Point where we discovered we though needed quarters to use showers, we came prepared with at least $20 in quarters. And after a long day of hiking and swimming we were ready to shower up and headed to the showers with a bags of quarters only to discover you needed tokens to shower. It was dark when we went so if there was a machine outside to change quarters for tokens, we did not see it. And of course, because either we aren’t the only ones who didn’t know this or some people don’t want to pay, the one big sink outside the bathrooms was busy with people cleaning up. I guess at least they offered that big sink? The showers were not very close to our campsite but there was a small bathroom across our site with 1 stall for women and 1 for men. If you don’t like bugs, than don’t go in. That’s all I can say. Also, bears are a big deal here so make sure you don’t leave any food or “smellies” aka deodorized toiletries out or in your car. You need to use the bear-proof storage lockers provided at each site.

On day 2 we tried the Rubicon trail that starts inside the Emerald Bay State park (near the entrance/exit). It was an easy, hike down and back to the lake and Vikingsholm.

At the time, Vikingsholm was undergoing some reservations so we did not go inside and do the tour but there is a little guest shop and neat restroom (complete with stalls and toilets) nearby. The guest shop was able to tell us a little bit about the family that built and lived in Vikingsholm, which was informative and free.

Then we headed down to Kayak Tahoe https://www.kayaktahoe.com/index.htm. There is a line, or two lines, to rent kayaks so go early and be prepared to wait a little. I don’t believe we waited long because we opted for paddle boards instead of kayaks, which seemed more popular. They are very friendly and can take card payments. You get a few minutes instruction and life jackets.

Children are not allowed beyond a certain point and must share a paddle board with a parent or guardian so my partner and I took turns riding with my child so we could paddle out to the little island in the middle. If you haven’t guessed yet, the water is cold. If you have never tried paddle boarding, this is a calm, relaxing way to give it a go. There are boats on the water with you but we didn’t witness any speeding so balancing on the board was not hard, but you can also lower down and paddle on the bottom or knees. #kayaktahoe is open 10-5pm with the last rental going out at 4pm. It is $25/hour or $35/hour for 2 hours on a paddleboard. UPDATE: Please check their website before going as locations, hours and renting times are constantly changing due to COVID-19.

Raccoon? What do you think?

For more of the 10 day California road trip adventure continue onto the Yosemite post or day 7.

Racism Today: 101

A white person’s explanation of racism today for white people who do not see it, experience it and/or understand racism.

If you are watching the news or reading the news online you may be hearing a lot about “systemic racism”. For the average, white person, this may be confusing. Racism may be far removed from your day to day reality. When you see the video of George Floyd being killed by a police officer, this may look like obvious racism. It is wrong. We can see this. But how is this connected to the larger picture of racism in America? Let me help explain. According to Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones**, there are three levels of racism: institutionalized racism, personally mediated racism, and internalized racism.

Institutionalized racism is defined as “differential access to goods, services, and opportunities of society by race”. Where do we see this? Black people have fewer healthy food options due to “food deserts”. For example, in urban areas, large grocery store chains do not want put their stores in poor, urban black communities. Medical care. Blacks and Hispanics are less likely to have health insurance, and employee sponsored health insurance, and therefore less access to preventative health care services and medical treatment.

Institutionalized racism is the silent norm we don’t see until we take a look at the numbers and ask why? A black person is exposed to institutional racism before they are even born. They inherit it from no fault of their own. Ever heard the expression, you can’t chose the family you were born into? Same thing goes for a black person born in this county.

This is the structural or systemic racism the media is currently talking about. Often, this racism is codified and legal. Research the Prison Industrial Complex. It is corporate (ALEC). It is even purposefully built into our legislation. It’s sneaky and the worse kind of racism in my opinion because it is hard to pin on one person, it plays off the fears of the naive and/or ignorant people, and it kills in large numbers. One might even call it genocide.

How many of you have heard or even said, “our school is no longer good because they are busing in kids from poor neighborhoods?” Racism watch dog would have a barking fit. In an effort to increase access to better education for minorities and poor Americans, we balk at it because it brings our Great-Schools.com ratings down.

Let me give you a more relatable example. Ever had a legal issue? Someone, perhaps a landlord take advantage of you or needed to fight a speeding ticket? You may have hired a lawyer, or not, depending on how much money you had to do so or perhaps you knew someone in charge. You had ACCESS to power. Black people as a whole are systematically denied or have less access to power because of quality education, gainful employment, their physical environment, and personal safety. Like women in the workforce, it is harder to gain access to power and make positive change if there are less of you in numbers AND have less number of people in positions of power. How many people have filed for divorce? Every little thing you do has a huge price tag! People may lose access to their children in a custody case because they can’t afford the legal fees. Only people of wealth have access to a fair, legal justice system. It’s unjust. Minorities as a whole have less of a fighting chance in today’s systems of power.

But you may say, what’s happened in the past is no reflection of what is happening today. Yes it does. And unfortunately, it hasn’t gone away because bad, racist people still exist, and old, racist ways are ingrained into our systems and have never changed or dissolved.

I encourage everyone to view this movie to see how vulnerable we are to media framing and how institutionalized racism is in the county, especially in the prison system.

The Impact of Ava DuVernay's '13th' - Prison Fellowship

Internalized racism is defined as “acceptance by members of the stigmatized races of negative messages about their own abilities and intrinsic worth”.

Examples, if a black person feels less beautiful because their skin is darker than a lighter shade of black. Counter-racism, beauty ads showing women of color with varying shades of black and dark black women. Below is a short film which embraces natural black hair and I love it.

Another example, a black person using a racial slur as a nickname. Counter-racism, don’t use the n-word.

It is also a helplessness, a hopelessness and a resignation that because you are a certain color, there is no point of finishing school or voting, or taking care of yourself, because there is no point. This type of internalized racism is what I believe a lot of minorities are feeling today, what minorities are internally combating every day, and also the driving factor for radical behavior. When any marginalized people feel their cries are not heard and they continually face injustice, some no longer take a peaceful route of protest. I am not going to argue for or against violent protest, as this is not what this article is about, but I will ask that we remove our “white lenses” and try to understand the perspective of people who continually witness and experience racism and how this affects their mental, physical and emotional health and well being.

Personally mediated racism is defined as prejudice and discrimination. This is what most people see as racism. If someone is refused to be served because of their color, this is personally mediated racism. If your parent tells you not to date a black person, or vice versa, this is personally mediated racism. If you see a Muslim or Arab on a plane and immediately wonder if they are a possible terrorist, this is personally mediated racism. Derek Chauvin acted from personally mediated racism when he kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and murdered him. He may have been influenced from his personal upbringing (personally mediated racism) and/or told by his police department to target black men (institutionalized racism), in a predominantly black neighborhood (institutionalized racism).

What can we do right now?

First, reading and educate yourself. Leila Hakimizadeh shared these recommendations:

I am also adding some references at the end of this post and wanted to add “Devil In The Grove” by Gilbert King. A must read especially if you live in Florida. Personally, this book was so hard to get through because the injustice and hate are so awful. So I will commend you now for your efforts.

Second, recognize that just by being white, you are privileged. This is a hard pill to swallow for some. It’s like telling a young German person they are associated with the Holocaust. Ouch. I remember when I went to New Zealand and I was told that white people were referred to as “pakeha” and it meant white settler. Not me, please. But the truth of the matter is that until I learn from our past and understand how being white affects my life differently than a person of color, I can not begin to be the change I want to see. Here is a good read to help you get started…

Recognizing your white privilege doesn’t mean you are admitting to be a racist. It helps you recognize implicit bias, or your unconscious beliefs, stereotypes, actions, attitudes, etc. that are racist. It doesn’t mean that you are personally responsible for every act of bigotry and racism in America or anywhere. It makes you conscious and that my friend, is a good start. Acknowledging, recognizing and remembering our racist history helps us build a better future for everyone. And helps create positive, constructive change for our future.

Third, dialogue and relationships with people. Here is the catch…with people not like you. Bridge the gap. Here is a NextDoor post.

“Please, someone, tell me what I can do to help. I want to help.”

I like because it is intentional, honest and authentic. It’s getting the conversation started. Caveat… despite believing that social media is a power tool for change, I encourage readers and social media lovers to get out from behind the words. A brilliant idea?! Listen. Be prepared to listen with an open heart and an open mind. And better yet, choose before you walk into the room not to react. This is my own personal struggle, I react. I let instigators and haters get to me. Where can you listen and lend a helping hand? Organizations like the Boys and Girl Club. Churches.

Walk the talk. This reminds me of the London PSA you can hear at the train stops, “If you see something, say something”

From a NextDoor neighbor…“I appreciate this post, Jason, and love the sincerity in it. I don’t know if i have an entire answer for you but I have to tell you that calling it by name is the first step. Calling it by name every time you see it, hear it, feel it, or even benefit from it is the first step. Then, once you’ve done that start to research some of the brands, companies, organizations you’ve aligned with financially… See where they put your dollars. Identify if they truly do align with your personal values, then encourage others to do so too. Everyone in this room has mentioned the universal truth: racism is everywhere. But that doesn’t mean small steps can’t be done that may impact someone or something across the world. Lastly, donate to local organizations fighting racism. Small steps make a big impact. Thanks again”.

Fifth, legislation and politicians. Know who represents you. Research HOW they voted. Find out where their financial support is from. Not what they say they support. And VOTE. Know what is on the table and lend your support or disdain. Look into the legislation. Stand Your Ground. Citizens Arrest. A lot of legislation is implicitly biased or strategically engineered to further oppress person’s of color.

Sixth, raise your little ones right. Help them to understand racism at an age appropriate level. Don’t just leave it to your child’s school lesson on Martin Luther King or a Black History month assignment. Encourage them to make friends with everyone. And help them build empathy by sharing stories of why not everyone has what they have. Here are some books you can read to your little one:

It's never too early to talk to kids about race. Use these children's books about race and racism to spark powerful conversations with kids and teens. #race #weneeddiversebooks

Finally, I want to talk about the word “race”. Camara Phyllis-Jones, MD, MPH, PhD said, “‘ race’ is not a biological construct that reflects innate differences, but a social construct that precisely captures the impacts of racism”. We are in a conundrum of wanting to move to a place where color is no longer seen but in order to get to that place we have to recognize that color is both a privilege and barrier.

I once had a Canadian professor in New Zealand say we needed to stop using the word “race” because we are all of one race, the human race. And people who choose to identify based on their genealogy are identifying based on their ethnicity. I ask this question, can we stop using the word “race” in order to create a new social norm where our shared belief is that we are all human? While at the same time recognizing color as a barrier and the effects of the 3 levels of racism? Maybe we start by identifying by color on a census, not by a race? I’d love to hear from others on how we can move forward as one race while acknowledging the inherent privilege of whites and the barriers of persons of color.

Thank you for reading and please share.

**Levels of racism: a theoretic framework and a gardener’s tale by Camara Phyllis Jones, MD, MPH, PhD can be found here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1446334/

Reducing health disparities: critical preconception health now for better outcomes later.

We are in very stressful times. Whether it is because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our national state and/or the continued racial crimes committed against African Americans, a lot of people are in a heightened state of stress and feel helpless to help themselves and others. Like many others, I want to see long term positive impact for the improvement of black people and minorities in this country. And it is hard to see that in this moment. So I am offering today what I can as a public health advocate to improve the health of black Americans, create health equity and reduce health disparities.

As important as it is to show the general public police brutality and demonstrate against racial inequality, I also see how it fuels health risks among African Americans. Not only are peaceful protesters, rioters and police increasing their risk of exposure to COVID-19, they are creating bodily stress which can have long-term health impacts. Combined with a lifetime of systemic racism for black Americans, its a deadly combination. So in this moment, it is more important than ever that black Americans take care of their physical health.

Black Mothers in the US Are Dying at Alarming Rates

You may be hearing a lot about health disparities and health equity. Why is this? “According to the CDC, black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women’s health. Put another way, a black woman is 22 percent more likely to die from heart disease than a white woman, 71 percent more likely to perish from cervical cancer, but 243 percent more likely to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes. In a national study of five medical complications that are common causes of maternal death and injury, black women were two to three times more likely to die than white women who had the same condition.”.

https://www.npr.org/2017/12/07/568948782/black-mothers-keep-dying-after-giving-birth-shalon-irvings-story-explains-why

And why is this? Systemic racism and discrimination can cause something known as the The Weathering Effect.

The Weathering Effect

https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2018/01/14/577664626/making-the-case-that-discrimination-is-bad-for-your-health

Arline Geronimus coined the term to mean a sense of erosion by constant stress- how health is affected by big and small stressors in their life.

Infant mortality rates among African American babies are twice as high as those of the general population.

https://unnaturalcauses.org/episode_descriptions.php?page=2

What can we do about it?

  • Health is determined by an interplay of:
    • Genetics
    • Behavior
    • Psychological factors
    • Social factors
    • Environmental factors

…across an individual’s lifespan. This is known as the Life Course Perspective. Already black women and their babies are at a disadvantage because of the weathering effect, social factors (racism/discrimination), and environmental factors.

  • Each life stage influences the next
    • Each life stage impacts the subsequent stages, an integrated continuum
      • (infant → adolescent → young adult → adulthood → senior)
  • Social, economic, and physical environments interacting across the life course have a profound impact on individual and community health.

Hence the need for preconception health.

What is Preconception Health?

Preconception care is a set of interventions that identify and modify biomedical, behavioral, and social risks to a woman’s health and future pregnancies. It includes both prevention and management, emphasizing health issues that require action before conception or very early in
pregnancy for maximal impact.

If you or your partner are planning on having a baby in the future, Preconception Care can have a beneficial psychological effects on performance in labor, for both mothers and fathers.

So what can you do right now as an African American to protect your health, the health of your loved ones and your future children?

REDUCE YOUR STRESS

There are so many resources online for free, guided meditations, yoga videos, etc. I personally follow Yoga with Adriene on YouTube and have subscribed to a free Fitbit premium membership, which last 2 months. Or you can choose to pick up a book with exercises. If you have an Alexa or a smart phone, you can ask Alexa or Siri to play relaxing music, guided meditation music, even yoga videos. Now more than ever, stress relieving help and guided healthy, nutritional plans are at your fingertips.

A copy of my preconception presentation is open to the public here

If you would like me to share this presentation with your community group or organization, please contact me. If you would like to become a Preconception Peer Educator yourself in your community, the Office of Minority Affairs has more information. If you are a university student and would like to teach other students about preconception health, please also reach out to your state Office of Minority Affairs or contact me as well. And of course, feel free to share this information. Information is power. Empower yourself and others to make positive impact now. Be well and stay safe.

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