Recently, hubby and I traveled from Los Angeles to Santa Fe between Christmas and New Year’s Day. En route we made sure to go off the major highways/ freeways and take “Old Route 66”. I wanted to write a blog to spotlight some of the places we stopped – including Oatman and Winslow Arizona.
Tip #1: Make sure you have a camera ready to capture some of the prettiest skies as you traverse Old Route 66 from Kingman to Oatman and then Kingman to points east. The clouds are so dramatic!
Welcome to OATMAN – aka the Wild, Wild West!
I am not sure how I feel about Oatman. Part of me loved the quirkiness and the roaming donkeys that seemed very domesticated. There are re-enactments of gunfights daily and some unusual exhibits – such as walking in a replica of a mine. The vendors who were selling coffee and homemade salsa and jams were filled with information and interesting trivia.
A website dedicated to Arizona travel describes Oatman as follows:
More than 500,000 visitors are drawn annually to Oatman’s gold mine history as well as the legend of its namesake. Olive Oatman is entrenched in western lore as a woman who was kidnapped by an Indian tribe, then sold to a friendly local tribe before being freed to her family near what became Oatman.
Oatman might have suffered the same fate as many Arizona mining towns and faded into a ghost town if not for Route 66 nostalgia and nearby casinos. The town prides itself on maintaining a Wild West feel, down to the wooden sidewalks, staged shootouts, and kitschy shops. (You can even adopt a wild burro and take it home!)
Note: Oatman has a number of individuals (i.e. shop owners) who are very loud and blatant with their words, displays, and merchandise about their disdain for the current U.S. President and support of MAGA and our former president. Tip #2 – if you offend easily – skip Oatman.
Paying homage to loved ones
When you leave Oatman you will be in for a treat as Old Route 66 provides us with a lovely drive through the mountains. (Be careful though as donkeys roam the roadways, as well.) About 10 minutes outside of Oatman is where Hubby and I found a small parking area to stop and snap some photos of the gorgeous views. It is known as Sitgreaves Pass. We walked a short distance and stumbled upon what looked like a series of makeshift memorials to loved ones. I did some research and found that this was an area where locals scatter the remains of cremated loved ones or erect a tribute memorial to them. Ironically, weddings also were purported to happen on this reverent mountainside.
Well… you don’t see THIS everyday!
There are a few places along Route 66 that are best described via photos. Here are some of our favorite “finds”.. b.
Tip #3: Stop for Good Eats at Gabby’s Cafe
We had some good and some not-so-good meals during our road trip. One of the favorite eateries was not far from Rte. 66 and located in Grants, New Mexico – GABBY’S CAFE. The sandwiches and donuts were awesome! The servers were very friendly and pleasant and the coffee was better than most places we found! Gabby’s Cafe for a win!
A few extra travel tips:
Gas prices vary – so you may want to use an app like GAS BUDDY to compare and plan your gas stops in advance
If you are unfamiliar with an area consider making the drive during daylight. Some of Rte. 66 is windy and the weather can be variable – including black ice on the roads during the colder months
Ask local folks where they eat so you aren’t subjected to touristy places with so-so meals.
Pack for all kinds of weather. Rain gear and snow boots were needed on this trip.
Know that you may not have consistent cell phone reception, as some of these areas are very rural and surrounded by mountains.
Almost all of the places I listed in this article has easy accessiblity for those who have mobility challenges. There may be some stores in Oatman where access is limited, however, I believe most can be available to someone in a wheelchair.
For people who are blind, be careful in Oatman, especially. There is uneven ground and as mentioned, donkeys roam freely. People walk on the road and that means a bit of mayhem with cars and people trying to share the street.
Next travel blog will be (drumroll)… Laughlin, Nevada
Hubby and I recently took a road trip from Los Angeles to New Mexico. We ended 2021 in the very fun Nevada border town of Laughlin.
I had heard about Laughlin via their very robust travel representatives that I met when I visited the LA Adventure and Travel Show in 2019. I was all set to visit and tour the Laughlin area and then… well you know… the Covid 19 pandemic hit!
Fast forward…secure with two vaccines, a booster, and lots of masks – we ventured to Laughlin en route home to LA. We opted to stay at theLaughlin River Lodge located on the banks of the Colorado River. The hotel was well equipped with dining options nearby, several casinos, and an outdoor heated pool with a spa.
PLUS… the lodge is loaded with family fun activities including a bowling alley, kid specific activites, and kid-friendly electronic games (Similar to what we played many times at amusement centers on the New Jersey Shore boardwalk.)
The rooms at the Laughlin River Lodge are quite nice and reasonably priced. Thanks to my TripAdvisor’s TRIP PLUS membership, we paid under $60 per night for a quiet and clean room.
Some may say Laughlin is a “mini Vegas”, but we found it to be unique and prettier than over-stimulating Las Vegas. First and foremost, you can enjoy water sports thanks to the flowing Colorado River that separates Arizona (Bullhead City) from Nevada (Laughlin). Staying at the Laughlin River Lodge afforded us access to the beach alongside the river and an opportunity to snap photos. Plus, there are many places to shop, eat, have kids play, and enjoy a walk while being surrounded by beautiful mountains that illuminate the awesome sunsets.
We had read up on TripAdvisor reviews about where to eat in Laughlin. The Minato Japanese and Korean restaurants frequently received consistently excellent reviews and the menu piqued our interest!
OMG – this restaurant was AWESOME. Yes… there is EXCELLENT SUSHI in the DESERT!
Minato’s was located within easy walking distance from our hotel in a little shopping center. An elevator for easy accessibility is available to bring you to this ultra-yummy establishment. We started our meal with a LAUGHLIN ROLL. This was a tempura-sushi hybrid made with various veggies and seafood. I could have ordered a second but we opted for an udon noodle soup instead. Hubby likes to compare restaurant spring rolls, so we ordered some. They were some of the best we ever have eaten!
Lastly, the udon soup was stocked full of meat and veggies plus a healthy dose of chili! Luckily, I had ordered a Thai ice tea that helped to soothe the slight burning in my mouth from this spicy dish! I would easily give the food and service a 9/10 rating.
Bonus Fun – Classic Cars!!
As previously mentioned, there is much to do in Laughlin. We opted to visit an exhibit of old classic cars and gaming machines at the aptly named Laughlin Classic Car Collection. Pricing varies here from free to $3 per person. (Waived if you are a casino “member”.) I would recommend this place as it provided great family fun and there were no visible issues for people using mobility equipment to have full access.
LAUGHLIN – thanks for the fun! We will be back!
(Note, I have been a frequent contributor to TripAdvisor and a beta user of this new plan – but my opinions are not being compensated for on this blog.)
Each year I write a post with my list of ideas for holiday gifting. I try to skew to gifts that give back to charity or are educational. I also like to list gifts that are provide “random fun”. This year I am writing three blogs – three lists full of holiday gift ideas. The first one is dedicated to educational toys and games. AND… there is a GIVEAWAY. Simply comment below to be entered to win the Griddly Games 5 STONES game by midnight Pacific Time December 13, 2020. See rules below.
Two things you need to know…
First, if I recommend a product or charity I do so without any payment from the company or organization. A few companies sent samples and they will be donated to families who are struggling due to Covid 19 or teachers.
Secondly, I welcome your suggestions. Simply add your holiday gift ideas in the comment section below.
From Griddly Games comes a very unique ensemble of ” just add…” products and others that use word and numerical reasoning. I must admit, as an educator, they had me at their descriptions of being products focused on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math). All of these kits are user friendly (younger children will require supervision, as can be expected).
CALLING ALL TEACHERS AND HOME EDUCATORS – CHECK OUT VERY FUN STEAM ACTIVITY KITS FOR THE HOLIDAYS FROM GRIDDLY GAMES.
just add EGG.(ages 5 and up, parent/ teach guidance required) – Comprised of more than 10 interactive activities with “egg-speriments” included in this very fun egg shaped box. This game is filled with everything from molding clay, crayons, glue and even corn syrup! Lots of hours of fun are to be expected and all need is a child, their imagination, a parent or teacher to supervise and EGGS!
Like science AND art? Then check out just add BAKING SODA! You can make at least 20 different projects – including your very own bath bombs, volcano or holiday ornaments with this very visually fun and interactive kit! I like that this kit uses a lot of visual motor perceptual skills and helps to build fine motor skills.
Children’s Products) If you enjoy trivia games – then you will LOVE Wise Alec(TM). Meant for family night or classroom game time – WISE ALEC incorporates mind games such as brain teasers and tongue twisters with physical activity. Over 1000 questions are included in the game box. The game is geared reinforce elementary school curricula covering the subjects of History, Science and Spelling!
Need easy questions for your first grader – no problem. Want to challenge your fifth grader? With Wise Alec you can do that, too! And when you pick a STUDY BREAK card get ready to MOVE (and earn points for doing so!) Excellent game and great for those who need support with literacy skills, too! Supper fun and creative. I give Wise Alec a solid A++
SHOW ME THE KWAN!
When I first saw this game in the box I started hooting and hollering! A WORD game!! Plus it was very reminiscent of Scrabble® and Boggle®. SHOW ME THE KWAN also had many components of categorizing games such as Scattergories®. This game is Intended to be played with a large group (you can have up to ten players). I envision this game as great for classroom use, “Covid 19” education pod groups (home education) and parties with tweens and teens.
“KWAN” takes a bit of a learning curve to get the rules down – but once you do – watch out! This is a fast paced game for letter/wordsmiths! Small enough to bring along to family and friend gatherings.
PUZZLES! PUZZLES PUZZLES!
There are several reasons for parents to buy puzzles this holiday season. How many gifts can teach history, art, geography and much more for a fraction of the price of an electronic gaming system? Plus, kids can learn foundational literacy skills.
First, when you assemble a puzzle you need organizational and visual discrimination skills. Some people like to separate pieces by color, or by shape. Others are very focused on the cover picture and organize their puzzle pieces section by section (frame vs. inside, for example).
Did you know that when you assemble a puzzle you also are training your eyes to see how “parts become a whole”? Puzzles, believe it or not, can help teach children how letters become words and words become a paragraph?!
Endless Gamesis a company that you can access online or by driving to your nearest Kohl’s. If you are a lover of puzzles AND Broadway you will FREAK at their PLAYBILL Presents puzzle! Hours of fun for under $15!
PEACE ON EARTH
This is a beautiful 1000 piece puzzle spotlighting the artistic talent of Malcom Watson. Your whole family can linger over the dining room table as you complete this puzzle that measures almost 20″ by 26″ when finished.
Master Pieces – beautiful quality puzzles.
I received this CATOLOGY puzzle. While not a huge fan of cats (more of a dog lover) – this puzzle was simply lovely and the poster inside was a nice bonus feature!
More Favorite Puzzles with Educational Value
White Mountain Puzzles. Their Nostalgic / Vintage Collection are my favorites. These puzzles are great for multi-generational play. Grandparents and parents can educate children and young adults about life before the new Millennium! The pieces are thick and that is good for young and old fingers, alike. White Mountain Puzzles are POPULAR – so be sure to check back if ones on your wish list are out of stock. Website and Amazon.
Uncommon Goods offers novelty puzzles with political and historical themes. This VOTES FOR WOMENis a circular pattern.
GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!
GIVEAWAY- the Griddly Games new edition: 5 STONES! Open to all United States residents who are 18 years of age or older. Must comment on this post on or before Sunday, December 13, 2020, 11:59pm Pacific time. No employees or family member associated with Griddly Games nor LouiseSattler.com may enter. One winner. Will be announced here on the blog AND via email. No substitutions.
Coming up in the next blog: Giving with a Purpose!
Update: Sadly after I ran this article the last remaining Blockbusters in Alaska announced they were closing.
This month my family ventured to the Pacific Northwest. We watched whales frolic and feed, walked glaciers and even explored villages and remote areas both by land and sea. But, it was a little store in Anchorage that was deemed the “highlight” of our 12 – day excursion. Yes, apparently one can relive their childhood by simply walking through the doors of one of the last remaining Blockbuster video stores in the heart of Anchorage, Alaska.
This Blockbuster store is under the management of Kevin Daymude. “Blockbuster” as a corporation is long gone, due to the change of the video landscape. Replaced by streaming services, such as Netflix, the demand for video and gaming rentals has dwindled to nearly “zip”. However, in this part of the world, Blockbuster still holds relevance. New and “antique” videos and games adorn the shelves and there is the requisite aisle of theater sized boxed candies. You can purchase older videos for under a dollar and don’t forget the popcorn and cotton candy! The only “addition” to the Blockbuster of 20 years ago was a prominent display of movie memorabilia in the very front of the store, including some “goods” obtained from actor, Russell Crowe.
There is a very interesting story about how Blockbuster of Anchorage and Kevin Daymude received Russell Crowe’s items from the actor’s “ART OF DIVORCE SALE”. It would appear that the items were received via an intermediary who acted as a conduit for this Blockbuster store to receive these “treasures of cinematic history”. Among the memorabilia were two director chairs from the movie American Gangster that were used and embroidered with the actors’ names – Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. Plus, there was from Russell Crowe’s collection a “jockstrap” that was placed in the display (and reportedly cost 7K!)
Who was the buyer of all these “artifacts” and what was the backstory? Well, the person who purchased many of Crowe’s items would be none other than HBO talk show host, John Oliver. The reason why… well that is a whole other story. Let’s start with Oliver’s announcement via Twitter from April 2018.
Why is this store still open while the vast majority have closed? I had an opportunity to chat with Kevin about the remaining Blockbuster stores in Alaska (and one in Oregon) and get more insight. (There are two videos for easier uploading.)
Lastly, if you do visit the DeBarr Rd. location of Blockbuster know that there are shirts and pullovers available for purchase. My entire family bought one – how could we not!?! Plus, we walked out with a handful of those repurposed DVDs for 99 cents each!
“Wherever there were glaciers, the world was in a constant state of creation.”
John Muir, Wilderness Essays
First Stop: Icy Strait Point/ Hoonah
Hoonah is located on Chichagof Island, less than 40 miles from Juneau. While once known for the canning of salmon, only since 2004 has the town of Hoonah been known as a cruise destination. The construction of an elaborate and “official” pier and tourist center known as Icy Strait Point has turned this fishing / canning port in to a great location for travelers to explore.
We were welcomed at the entry to “Icy Strait” by a group of teens singing and playing their ancestral instruments. (Little did I know that these teens comprised the majority of the high school students who remained in Hoonah for their education.)
HICCUP #1: WE NEEDED A PLAN B
One thing a person learns when visiting remote areas, even in the United States, is to be flexible with your plans. Case in point – the tour jeep company oversold their excursions so instead of a guided tour throughout the Hoonah area, we took our backpacks and hiked sans tour guide. Getting to the town “center” was easy as the hike was only 1.5 miles over flat paved terrain. (Note: Bikes, strollers and wheelchairs could make this trek without problems as there are sidewalks and paths.)
Our initial stop on this impromptu hike resulted in us stumbling upon a small restaurant/ bar. The Office Bar is a lot like the infamous (albeit fictitious) pub, CHEERS – as you enter a stranger and leave with everyone “knowing your name”. Jess, one of the bartenders, was a fountain of information and on the “ready” to pour your beer and tell stories about the history and people of Hoonah. Ask about snow accumulation and she will show you the “family album” of local residents helping each other during snowstorms and more. When you have had your fill of beer and peanuts, head on down a few more blocks to try local fare. Fish is the menu favorite and the Fisherman’s Daughteris a fun little place with outside seating that attracts both local families and tourists. When you leave this restaurant turn left and walk about two more blocks. There you will find the bald eagle’s nest across from the school. There also is a totem pole demonstration.
Best of all… whales grace the Icy Strait region in late May and June. While we were at Hoonah we watched more than eight whales swim and feed right in front of us. There is no mistaking that whales are a force to ‘reckon with.” I held my breath, as a whale watching boat seemed drifted within a 50 meters of a pod of whales. But, all were safe! Below is a video of the whales eating from the strait gobs of fish! Apparently, one “lead” whale will catch in his/her mouth enough food to supply to the others in the pod. The tell tale sign that they are involved in this activity is the “bubbling” that happens on the surface. When you watch the video below look carefully for the bubbling formation in the water followed by four whales coming to the surface in almost perfect unison.
More about Hoonah and culture…
The culture of Hoonah fascinated me. The town is around 700 people and the depths of their pride is immeasurable. Children are educated about their heritage by locals and their formal education occurs in the local public school until the 9th grade. Then they can opt to remain in Hoonah or go to high school school in Juneau. (Interesting fact: The graduating class of 2018 from Hoonah was nine students.)
Hoonah is a remote area and to access it means you either arrive by plane, helicopter or boat. There are no roads that connect this village to another town across Alaska, including Juneau. To view a map of the area click here.
Hoonah residents are proud of their heritage and what the legacy they have built. I thoroughly enjoyed our time and the gracious hospitality of all we met. If you have an opportunity to visit – do it!
Do you remember the show “Northern Exposure”? I swear it is about Juneau, Alaska. Juneau is a small town with lots to offer and if you are like me, you will fall in love with it! Cut off from other parts of Alaska, you can only access Alaska’s capitol by sea or air but there are a lot more amenities in Juneau than “nearby” Hoonah.
Juneau, perhaps, could best be described as quaint and mighty at the same time. There are quaint small shops and restaurants, but then you have the mighty glaciers nearby. Mendenhall Glacier is the closest and most famous of those available for viewing by tourists. Our family ventured on a helicopter and went to Taku, a glacier that took about a 15 minute helicopter ride from downtown Juneau. Kudos to Coastal Helicoptersfor this educational experience, but first and foremost keeping us safe! Our helicopter tour found us soaring high above the glacier field and parkland. Nothing can quite describe what it feels like to view glaciers from above and then walk on one. We drank clear and clean “glacier water” and took a ton of photos. Our helicopter operator was knowledgeable, humorous and most of all – experienced!
Special Note: I wish I had studied more about glaciers and icebergs before I traveled to one. I think it would have made the experience much more enriching. Also, for those less adventurous, consider the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.
Stepping back in time with a trip to Skagway!
Skagway reminds me of a movie set. Nothing seems real because it all looks so perfect and as if time stopped 60 years ago. I kept thinking that I was in the backlot of a movie studio – that is how clean and perfect it is! Our intent was to walk the town and then hop on the Skagway White Pass and Yukon Railroad. Mother Nature had a different idea as a rockslide prevented us from being able to make that excursion, so our family resorted to “Plan B”. The guys went on tour of the area via bus, while the “gals” hiked the village by foot.
A few notable highlights… 1) Go to the SKAGUAY NEWS DEPOT! It is charming and also reminds me how much I miss establishments that sell printed material! I had a lovely conversation with one of the salesclerks and she told me that Skagway has over two-thousand residents during the Summer. However, when the snow flies, so do the cruise ships, and the town shrinks to a mere 900 or so. When the winter becomes a deluge of snowstorms all comes to a halt. Like Juneau, Skagway is dependent on ships to bring goods or planes. Newspapers are flown in daily except during the winter months.
2) Sweet Treatsis one of those stores that you walk in because it just smells so yummy! But, once you clear the doorway you realize that you are on sensory overload! Decorations from Mexico cascade down from the ceiling alongside Japanese lanterns and other “party decorations”. I was curious if there was a “theme” to this place and was told, “It is meant to be colorful.” My friends at Sweat Treats – you succeeded!
3) Be sure to visit the White Pass train depot. Even though we couldn’t travel by train to visit the Yukon due to the rock slide, the depot itself was worth a visit! (Note: Railroad crews were working very hard to remove the rock and check the train track for any issues. They were hoping to open the White Pass railroad for business very soon. Get updates here via their email.
GLACIER BAY NATIONAL PARK
There are not enough words in the universe to describe the majestic beauty of the Glacier Bay National Park. I awoke early to grab a “front row” seat on the cruise ship and photograph every glacier, iceberg, mountain goat, etc. that I could see! What I learned from the park ranger who gave the passengers a very nice description and running commentary about Glacier Bay, was that we need to do MUCH BETTER in taking care of our environment. The glaciers are receding at alarming rates and perhaps global warming is to blame. If you do only ONE THING on a trip to Alaska – please see up close glaciers and icebergs. And, if you are on a cruise, please don’t make references to the Titanic or sing the theme song from the movie.
Our last stop was the small coastal village of Whittier, Alaska. We arrive at midnight and there was still enough light to see across the region. I was amazed that this part of Alaska truly gets nearly 20 hours (or more) of light during late Spring/ Summer.
Here is a photo I snapped about 12:15 a.m. from our cruise ship of the small village of Whittier. This photo is unfiltered / unretouched. Shot with an iPhone 8 Plus.
LAST THOUGHTS and SOME RECOMMENDATIONS….
On a scale of 1-10, I would rate seeing Alaska by cruise a solid 8. There were a few hiccups that impacted our cruise, but, overall the experience was very, very good!
Here are a few quick recommendations:
Do read up about glaciers, fjords and the history of the region you are visiting in Alaska. I wish I had and I couldn’t really “google” from the ship as we didn’t have an internet package.
Prepare for rain and mud. We were REALLY LUCKY to have had great weather for the majority of the cruise, but it could easily have been foul weather. BOOTS are a necessity 12 months a year!
Bring sunblock, bug spray/ ointment and moisturizer as you can get a lot of sun, bugs or dry air in this regions.
Have a very reliable camera/ cell-phone and protect it from wet weather and breakage with sturdy cases.
Be sure to take photos of important documents and your cruiseline card, in case of theft or loss.
Consider tacking on a land adventure – such as visiting Denali National Park, Seward or Anchorage.
Don’t sit in your cabin or stay on the ship. Go and explore, take excursions and make memories!
Family vacations can be exciting, exhilarating and sometimes exhausting. But, with lots of planning, a spirit for adventure and a sense of humor – the family vacation can be a success. I am writing this blog as our family completed the first part of our “vacay” and is about to journey on to “part 2” – a cruise through the inside passage of Alaska. I hope that my chronicles helps other families learn how to plan a successful trip and give insight to those who may need special accommodations when they travel. By all means add your “pearls of wisdom” in the comment section, too!
First stops: Seattle and Vancouver.
I was expecting rain. Doesn’t everyone talk about the Pacific Northwest, especially Seattle, as being nothing but rain, rain, and more rain? Isn’t the reason Starbucks got its’ start in Seattle was to keep people warm when they were cold and wet from the damp weather? Well, let me tell you – after nearly a week in Seattle and then Vancouver our family didn’t see ANY rain. We did experience glorious sunshine, lots of delicious coffee shops, restaurants galore and a ton of fun!
Seattle is a bustling city that one can experience largely on foot or with the assistance of a very efficient rail system. To get to our hotel (Hyatt Olive 8) from the airport meant an easy train ride and then walking about four blocks. The staff was extremely accommodating, especially since we originally were sandwiched between two rooms with screaming babies. They moved us quickly to a quiet floor and all was good!
Seattle is a fun city and there is no shortage of excellent restaurants (My favorite was a small French bistro on 1st Street –Le Pichet.) We ordered a number of dishes and found all of them to be excellent! In addition to the culinary scene, be sure to check out these places if you find yourself in Seattle:
1. Go to the Space Needle but spend much more of your time at Chihuly Gardens and Glass. The glass works by Dale Chihuly took my breath away. His story can be found on his website. As an accomplished artist, the state of Washington shows their native son’s prolific works of art proudly! Moreover, his glass sculptures are exhibited in more than 200 museums and gardens worldwide. The glassworks are so colorful that they seemed to dance in place when the light hits them “just right.” Below are just some of the many photos I captured from this amazing place!
Special note for travelers: You can purchase a combo- ticket for both the Space Needle and the gardens. It is worth it, but GO EARLY to BOTH. The wait in line for the Space Needle for our 2pm ticket was an hour. While the view was spectacular, it was crowded and people were not “at their best”. Plus, they are still “under construction” and that meant less room for all the people sandwiched in the viewing area. My advice – make your trip to the “needle” during a weekday.
The Chilhuly Gardens, however, was an exhibit that offered lots of room to meander. It also was wheelchair friendly. With that said it probably would be a challenge for young children and those that need to “touch”. This is definitely not a place that welcomes people, especially little ones, who are accustomed to a museum that allows for a tactile experience.