At the invitation of the tourist bureau last week, I drove up with my younger son and sister Kymberly for a mini-vacation to Morro Bay, with the AMGEN Stage 3 Men’s bicycle race as our excuse to visit a place that’s only a few hours’ drive from both L.A. and San Francisco (only 1 1/2 hours from Santa Barbara).Morro Bay in Central California has More, More, More of everything you want in nature. #travel… Click To Tweet
Look for an upcoming post from Kymberly about the community bike ride we took the evening prior to the pro race.
We stayed at the 456 Embarcadero Inn & Suites, right on the beach, but that wasn’t even the best part. The best part was the customer service. The owner was super friendly and smiley, which set the tone for the entire staff. Definitely stay there when you go.
When we weren’t kayaking or bicycling or walking along the waterfront or eating seafood, we were shopping at the various thrift and consignment stores in town. Set aside some time for going up and down Morro Bay Boulevard, as we felt like we hit the jackpot in thrift store land.
The town is small enough that you can walk or bicycle nearly everywhere, which probably comes in quite handy during the summer season. For us, in mid-May, parking was easy even with the bike race in town. We loved the small town feel and the friendliness of the locals. Even the otters seemed to enjoy showing off to us.
Text & Photos: Alexandra Williams, MA
Just to be clear, in this case, “we” was NOT my sister and I (see the part just there that mentions romance). Last year my sis and I went to the spa for Bike Week, so you can go for the active adventures, or wind down with spa treatments. Or both. This time I went for relaxation and spa treatments (you don’t have to be a guest to take advantage of the spa services, FYI).
For Pixie Month, my particular friend and I showed up in time for dinner, which included a Pixie mousse for dessert. Yes, you CAN get dessert at a fitness spa. Our goal was to relax after a busy week, so we took a short stroll after dinner, then sat in the hot tub contemplating our good luck at having it all to ourselves.April is Pixie tangerine month at the Oaks at Ojai. Ready for your visit? Click To TweetAfter breakfast, which included as many Pixies as we could fit in our pockets, we drove to the Ojai Meadows Preserve for a hand-in-hand stroll, where we saw several hundred teeny tiny frogs. We were tempted by both the morning hike and the aqua class at the spa (I have done both in the past, and loved them), but we were focused on our “together” time, so chose solo activities instead.
By the time we got back to The Oaks at Ojai, it was time for our spa treatments. In my case, that meant a pixie pedicure. Yup, it included a foot and leg scrub infused with tangerines, plus a fresh tangerine squeezed into the foot soak water. I almost chose tangerine as my nail polish color, then decided to go with a merlot color. I’m sure both sound delicious. My friend had a massage, which I was surprised to learn was the first he’d ever had in his life. How is it possible that he made it into his fifties without ever having a massage? In any case, he loved it, including the hot stones, and now he knows what he’s been missing.
ABC Channel 7 did a piece about Pixie month and the Oaks at Ojai, which we recommend you watch. The spa is only 45 minutes away from Santa Barbara, and includes a scenic drive past Lake Casitas. If you’re coming from L.A., it’s only an hour’s drive.
My little extra piece of advice? You can go for a girls’ getaway (some friends did that a week before our visit), or with a male partner. Some people think the Oaks at Ojai is just for women, but that’s not the case at all. There were a number of men there (though mine was the handsomest). And if you want to laugh, ask for Rachel at the front desk. She’s a hoot.
Alexandra Williams, MA
This is not a sponsored post, though I was a special guest at the spa for the night.
While contemplating the many things for which I’m grateful, I got a brain flash (like a brain fart, but good), and realized that the most obvious answer is sometimes hidden in plain sight because it’s so normal, standard and everyday. Even you, dear readers, see the “thing” for which I’m especially grateful for every time you come to our site. Have you guessed yet? It’s my co-blogger, aka my sister Kymberly.I challenge you to improve your health by showing gratitude for something in your life.… Click To Tweet
When people are mean to me, she’s got my back. When I want something, she wants it for me too. When I want to talk about my boys, including my hopes and worries, she lets me ramble on.
She has taken on the huge task of managing our mom’s affairs as our mom ages; all without pay or thanks. On the contrary, sometimes she gets a lot of grief for doing what’s best for our mom.
She has kept herself up to date on research that’s relevant to active aging, and she shares that information in her classes, seminars, conferences, and articles (including this blog). Even when the places she works for take her for granted and consistently fail to recognize her contributions, she keeps doing her best.
We argue a lot (well, a lot less than we used to), yet any of you with siblings know that’s how it works. Yet I know 100% that I can trust her. Not everyone can trust a sibling the way I can trust mine, so it’s worth a shout out to her. And you know what she does behind my back? She talks me up. She lets people know she’s proud of me.
She’s a warrior, and she uses that trait to protect my back (or whatever metaphor you prefer).
And she’s fun. We went on an AmaWaterways cruise together in October, and had a blast. We hiked, biked, ate, made friends, laughed, climbed hills, descended stairs (castles have a LOT of those), stood in the rain, and even shared a cabin and got along famously (except for one argument about her snoring – shhhh).
I challenge you to improve your health by showing gratitude for something in your life that’s so obvious you missed it. Sunsets, your dog, a car that works, the best parking spot in your complex, food security, a high credit score… you get the picture.
And now that I’ve written this post, I hope my sis doesn’t expect me to suck up to her. Though I do still hold out hope that she’ll suck up to me by giving me her red KitchenAid mixer.
Text and photos by Alexandra Williams, MA
One of the highlights of our October AmaWaterways cruise was the 11-mile, 2 1/2 hour guided bike ride along both the west and east sides of the river. We had two fluent English-speaking guides who took about 8 of us on an easily-managed bike adventure (everyone else was either part of the walking or beer tasting tour). We started our ride along the Rheingarten, a riverside park where pedestrians and bicyclists were out in force on a sunny (yet cold) weekend day. At first, we were riding fairly quickly, but when I said I wanted to stop for more photos, the guides were quite amenable. This I appreciated, or I would have gotten cranky.
We pedaled past the Chocolate Museum, which my sister noticed. Yes, we went back later to learn the history of chocolate, though we didn’t stop in the museum café to eat any of their 9,866 chocolate items. Um, I have no idea of the exact number, but I sure saw lots of options.
Cologne is Germany’s fourth largest city, with over 1 million people, 45,000 of whom are university students. One fact I really liked was discovering that 18% of the inhabitants come from over 180 nations. Hmmm, probably easy to find a correlation between that and the reputation Cologne has for being a major cultural center.You can take a bike tour of Cologne, Germany as part of a Rhein River cruise w/ @AmaWaterways?… Click To Tweet
Though I prefer old buildings (castles are my thing, perhaps related to my Medieval Studies BA), I found the three “cranes” interesting. Two of them are office buildings, while the one with the balconies is apartments. Who wouldn’t want riverfront living, even if it’s shaped like a giant piece of machinery, eh?
Our guides stopped for a while on the Rodenkirchener Bridge so we could take pictures and drink water. When you’re on a bike, it feels like the vista is really expansive. We could see barges and pleasure boats going north and south beneath us. When we were onboard our ship, the Ama Prima, it always felt like we were moving at a leisurely pace, yet when standing on a bridge above the ships, they appeared to be speeding along.
On the east side, away from the main part of the city, we felt like we were in the woods for a bit, as we rode by a fairly extensive campground. It’s probably jam-packed in summer, though we saw just a few campers in October. Perfect time to travel if you own a jacket and like to go when the city is not so crowded. From the east side, with its tennis and soccer (call it football if you want to sound truly cosmopolitan) fields, we had unimpeded views of St. Martin’s Church, the Cathedral, the Innenstadt, and Hohenzollern Bridge, which is where the Locks of Love are, and which leads to the Dom Platz.
After we crossed the bridge, our guides asked if we could figure out why security guards were preventing people from walking on the plaza. We had no idea. As it turns out, the Cologne Philharmonic is just below the plaza, and when they are performing, they keep people off the plaza to prevent extraneous sounds. So the floor is also the roof.
Near the end of the ride we stopped to admire the Cathedral. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is visible from fairly high up, which presented some issues during World War II. According to our guides, the Allies respected the history and cultural significance of it, so they intentionally avoided bombing it to ruins. Another story is that the pilots left it (for the most part) intact because it was an easy landmark for bombers to use to calculate their various targets. As well, the guides said that church representatives removed all the glass from the windows, which lessened the destruction from the bombs. On a cheerier note, the Cathedral was the tallest building in the world until the Eiffel Tower came along in 1887.
We got back to the Ama Prima just in time to change for dinner (and an impromptu performance of “Thriller” by moi for all the passengers). No muscle soreness after 11 miles, either. Or should I say 18 kilometers, as that sounds even more impressive?!
Alexandra Williams, MA
photos by me
Have you read our post about all the castles and riesling in Rüdesheim yet? Better yet, have you subscribed to us?
As part of our Rhein River cruise with AmaWaterways, we had an evening tour of Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Cabinet Museum (itself situated in the remains of the 12th century Brömserburg castle), followed by a 3-hour morning hike through family-owned vineyards that produce Riesling so popular it can command over 1,000 Euros per bottle.
One thing that is appealing about going on a river cruise with AmaWaterways is that you get loads of activity choices, all geared toward a variety of fitness levels and personal interests. When we docked in Rüdesheim after dinner, we had a choice of touring the music museum (which we discovered means the instruments are all self-playing) or relaxing in a cafe that serves Rüdesheimer coffee, known for its cream and brandy. AmaWaterways included a short sightseeing train ride from the ship into town, and if it’s raining, as it was when we arrived, you’ll be glad to hop aboard. In fine weather, it’s a short 10-minute walk.Rüdesheim w/ @AmaWaterways: wine, castles and a musical cabinet museum Click To Tweet
In the morning, the rain was no longer pouring, though it was still cloudy, so we stuck with our plan to hike to the ruins of Ehrenfels Castle via the vineyards. During the hike, we passed under the gondolas that took most of the group to the top of the hill to view the town and river. On our way back to our ship, the Ama Prima, we were passed by the people who took the third option – a 13-mile bike ride. One advantage (of many) of the hike is that the vintners keep a small fridge stocked with free wine along the hiking trail. So thoughtful. If it’s sunny, bring water and sunblock, as there’s little shade. We hiked in cloudy weather, and it was perfect, as we stayed warm without getting hot. Our tour guide was a retired civil engineer who owns a potato farm in Wiesbaden. Not only was his English fluent (as are all the local guides), he knew the history of all the families who owned the vines. He also admitted to being a bit of a snob who only buys Rüdesheim Riesling, not the Riesling made on the Bingen side of the river.
Part of what made the meals served on the Ama Prima extra special is that the meal is based on the local specialties. So besides wine, those of us who huddled under blankets up on the sun deck (it was cold and rainy) to get pictures of the many castles we passed after leaving Rüdesheim were offered some of the Rüdesheim coffee. Remember how it has brandy? That helped keep me warm enough to stay up top to get pictures of every single castle we passed as we cruised downstream along the UNESCO World Heritage designated gorge. Those pictures will be in an upcoming post, so be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already.
We were guests of AmaWaterways on the 8-day “Enchanting Rhine” cruise. They made no requirements of us, except to enjoy ourselves, which we did, oh so much.
Have you ever considered where your powers excel? When guest instructing recently at Rancho la Puerta fitness resort, another guest posed the super power question to our tablemates and me at dinner. Pretty interesting conversation starter, n’est-ce pas? Nicht wahr? Si, como no? (You’ll find out in a minute why foreign phrases play out in this context).What is your Super Power? Think you don't have one? Read this. Click To Tweet
The first respondent said she had no super power. Was that also your first mental reply? If so, reconsider once you hear the examples that came up. I’ll bet you are able to select at least one super power by the time you finish reading this post.
The next tablemate said her super power was being of service to others. She went on to clarify that she particularly excelled at caregiving. Turns out she was caring for both her aging mother and father and relishing the time with her father more than she’d expected.
The guest across from her decided her super power was a willingness to try new things. Being at Rancho la Puerta for the first time was an example she gave to back up her claim.
When it became my turn, I’d had time to think about the answer. Still, it was hard to refine my choice so I went with paired powers: Teaching and Learning. (Claiming two answers as one could be a secret power). After 35 years teaching fitness, English, writing, and more, I feel gifted with teaching skills. It’s always nice to have a match between what we love and what we do well, don’t you think? I thoroughly enjoy leading learners of all ages and types.
Which brings me to the Learning Super Power: I love acquiring new knowledge, skills, and experiences. Turns out I am pretty good at it too, which is quite fortunate since I am keen to keep my body and brain active and agile as I entrench myself in midlife. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, three of the top ten ways to keep your brain in shape include:
Most dramatically, learning a foreign language not only boosts brain plasticity, but also makes us better at learning across the board. As a Medical News Today article summarizing this new research from Finland and Russia puts it: “The more foreign languages we learn, the faster the brain responds and processes the data it absorbs during learning. In other words, the study suggests loading the mind with more knowledge boosts its ability to acquire more.” Language learners have an easier time learning altogether. Need more reason to travel if you want to age actively?
Why am I particularly excited about this confluence of Learning, Boosting my Brain, and Being Physically Active? Because my sister and I are about to embark on our first river cruise, thanks to Amawaterways. After we ply the Rhein River from Basel to Amsterdam, we both decided to extend our stay and visit European friends and former stomping grounds. (DISCLOSURE ALERT: Yes, we are VERY fortunate that Amawaterways is sponsoring our adventure on the AmaPrima, though they did not ask us to write this post or any. We just want to take you with us on our journey in the ways we can!)
Talk about the ultimate in active aging! We will be taking advantage of the many hike, bike, and explore options the Amawaterways cruise offers. I will be able to relearn German (after living in Berlin for two years back in the 80’s teaching at the very first aerobics studio in Europe), practice my French which I studied for 11 years, AND gain new experiences. Nothing like building memories while boosting my memory!
Three decades from now I want to remember these adventures and languages and still have my Learning and Teaching super powers. What about you? What is your super power? Heck, make it plural and go for the gusto — what super powers do you claim? Tell us in the comments.
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Photo Credit for all three images goes to AmaWaterways.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
In less than two weeks, Kymberly and I are going on “The Enchanting Rhein River” cruise with AmaWaterways. For 7 days we’ll cruise the Rhein River, hike and bike the pathways of Switzerland, Germany, France and Netherlands, and go on city walking tours. We’ll be posting about our adventures on our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and sharing longer posts after our return, so we hope you enjoy this fantastic adventure with us vicariously.
As we want to pack just one suitcase each (we plan to take various train trips after we disembark from the cruise), we are packing clothes that are easy-care, casual and semi-formal (simultaneously, no less), roll up into small balls for the suitcase, and attractive. The obvious brand that comes to mind is Chico’s, especially their new Travelers and Zenergy lines.What 2 pack when U need 2 pack stylishly, yet sparingly? #MidlifeBlvd Click To Tweet
Here’s where you come in – I need to pick just one outfit. But I’m having trouble narrowing down the choices. Please can you help me decide? Help me pick one top, one jacket, and one skirt or pair of leggings. I’ve already spent over an hour on their website and this is my shortlist. To help you pick what might look best on me, I’m 5’5″, long torso, with fair skin and red (and grey) hair. This is me:
Soooooo, can you please help me choose the outfit that will look best on me? Thanks in advance.
Skirts & Trousers
In the words of Forrest Gump, “And that’s all I have to say about that.” Except to say I appreciate your help choosing the best outfit for me to take on the cruise.
Alexandra Williams, MA
This post is NOT sponsored, though I will get the Chico’s outfit you help me pick.
Back when California was still part of Mexico, the ranch lands were bestowed to the Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmel. By 1928 it had changed hands several times, and a hacienda was constructed. Nicknamed “Hidden House,” it was a hideaway for Hollywood celebrities. You can see many pictures of them on the walls of the still-standing building.
In the 1940’s it was expanded to include guest rooms and one of the first swimming pools in Carmel Valley. Fast forward to 2006, and the current owners brought it back to its original splendor, while adding vineyards, olive groves and wine caves.
Wine and Food
On our tour we got to taste a number of their estate wines, which have been rightly listed by National Geographic as one of the “world’s 10 best wines.” What appealed to me was their organic, high end Jarman varietals because they were created to honor co-owner Hunter Lowder’s mother, with a portion of proceeds going to the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.
My dad, a former wine connoisseur, would love their estate wine club. Besides getting exclusive access to some of their limited-production wines (which I found out means you cannot buy them elsewhere), club membership is also one of the ways to gain access to the ranch grounds, events and guest cottages. My dad also would have loved the offsite Will’s Fargo restaurant (which is owned by the same family) where we got to have dinner as their special guests. I had a favorite waiter. He noticed I was a bit cold on the outdoor patio and brought me a folded up tablecloth to put around my shoulders. I think he liked me best!
Even if you care nothing for wine, you’ll still want to stay on the property. Weddings, retreats, special events, (we were a group of 14 bloggers, though the property can accommodate 38 overnight guests), or corporate dinners are all options for staying overnight in one of the 10 “cabins.” I have it in quotation marks because my so-called cabin had a kitchen, living room, and two separate bedrooms, each with their own bathroom. It was divine, actually.
After touring the wine caves, we got a thorough tour of the – are you ready for this – game room, carriage house, great room, conference room, chapel, lawn and veranda, garden courtyard, rose patio, and stone terrace. We were also given complete access to the swimming pool.
We had spent the previous night in Carmel-by-the-Sea, which was a few miles away, yet completely different. I was trying to decide which place I preferred, and came to the conclusion that they were tied for first because both places were amazing in their own right. The main thing they had in common was superior hospitality.
If you want scenery, take Highway 1 along the California coast instead of the inland freeway choices. After leaving Holman Ranch, I wasn’t in a hurry to get home, so I took this route for the first time in quite a few years. Even though it was foggy for much of the drive, I managed to get some great photos, and go on a few hikes. One warning – your nose will let you know when you’re at the elephant seal rookery just north of Hearst Castle.
Text and photos: Alexandra Williams, MA
These are the activities we had planned for our final two days in Redding last month. To learn about our adventures for the first two days, please read our recent post about Redding.
Whiskey Creek Lake
When we woke up Sunday morning, the sky was drizzly, but not too bad, so the SUP yoga class with Audrey was still on. Swimsuits on and towels packed in the car, we drove out to Whiskey Creek Boat Launch to find a few hardy souls ready to brave what had now become a very strong, cold rain. A quick vote was taken and it was decided to cancel class, a rare occurrence. We hope you’ll give it a try when you go to Redding, and say hi to Audrey.
Of course, as soon as we drove away, the weather turned sunny. Isn’t that how it always works? So we gathered up our good attitudes and hiked to the top of Crystal Creek Waterfall. By the time we came back down to the main pool, kids were swimming in it, and splashing under the falls. We imagine it’s a perfect spot to cool off when it gets over 100 degrees in the summer. On the way back to town we stopped at the Tower House Historic District to check out the former hotel, gold mine and cemetery.
In the afternoon, we went to the Aqua Golf Driving Range, where you get to hit golf balls into the Sacramento River. Or, in our case, in the general direction of the river. The area is enclosed by a net, and the golf balls float, so it’s a recyling-friendly event.
We laughed so hard, and had a really fun time. We also discovered (my 19-year-old beat the pants off us) that being athletic has no relationship to golf swing skill. Face it, we were awful. Even the geese were impertinently walking right in front of us, daring us to hit a ball near them.
Turtle Bay and Sundial Bridge
Most people who have heard of Redding know about Turtle Bay and the Sundial Bridge, and for good reason. We were at Turtle Bay at the right time to see the lorikeets and butterflies start their day, before the crowds arrived. We even saw ducklings drop from the sky onto the ground just in front of us. Or at least that’s what it seemed like. Later we learned from Ranger Jim (see below) that they were probably wood ducks dropping from their tree nest. Want to know a secret about the Sundial Bridge? If you go during nesting time (we were there in May), look down through the glass partitions where the bridge supports attach to try and spot the swallow nests. We saw all kinds of nest-building going on, with the sparrows going in and out with their building materials. Super cool.
Whiskeytown Lake has 36 miles of shoreline and 3,200 surface acres for recreation, and I think we had that entire space to ourselves. Park Superintendent Jim Milestone was our private guide, and he even spotted a bald eagle with two chicks waaaaaaay up in a tree. (Note to self: Get a really good zoom lens for future kayaking adventures). The kayaking (they also have SUP) is free, though they do have a donation box, so be a good citizen and put in a few Tubmans. Besides showing us the lake’s treasures, Ranger Jim also shared stories about the history of the lake and President Kennedy’s visit in 1963.
The National Parks Service is celebrating its centennial this year, so we encourage you to hie thee hence to the area, using Redding as your base. And if you spot Ranger Jim (or bald eagle chicks), you’ll know it’s your lucky day.
by Alexandra Williams, MA
photo credits: Alexandra
Always on the lookout for affordable destinations that appeal to active Boomer women and their families, we were the sponsored guests of Visit Redding this past weekend. And boy, did we pack a lot into a few days, though we never felt rushed. Probably due to the proximity of everything. Really, it’s only a 20-minute drive from the Fairfield Inn & Suites to Whiskeytown Lake.On the lookout for affordable destinations that appeal to active Boomer women and their families? Click To Tweet
In this post we’ll share our adventures from the first day two days, then share the last two days in an upcoming post (stay tuned for kayaking and lorikeets). If you like travel adventures that combine nature, new activities, free and low-cost sightseeing and sight-doing, then tour with us through this post. Then book your own active adventure to the Redding area.
Whiskeytown Waterfalls in Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area
Park rangers first knew of these falls in 1967, but kept quiet, as they didn’t have the resources to protect them, even though President Kennedy had proclaimed the 42,000 acre park a national recreation area in 1963. In 2004, a park biologist was examining aerial photos and rediscovered the falls.
The trail to Whiskeytown Falls is 3.4 miles round trip. Steep in parts, it’s worth the hike. Be sure to take the stone trail to the left of the falls to get some extra special views. Pack water and a snack too, as you’ll get thirsty watching all that water. Fair warning that this hike will give you a serious glute and anaerobic workout.Whiskeytown Falls hike will give you a serious glute & anaerobic workout #VisitRedding Click To Tweet
Shasta State Historic Park & Museum
Shasta Dam and Powerplant
Want to be impressed by the former generation and your fellow humans? Take the tour of Shasta Dam. It’s free. Regardless of your views on dams, you have to marvel at the human ingenuity and vision that engineered and created this structure. One of us (Kymberly) almost skipped the tour, professing a desire to bike ride along the Sacramento river trails instead. Given that we southern Californians seem to have brought the mist and rain on our last journeys, off we all went instead to Shasta Dam. And was it ever a highlight. Hot tip: When the brochures and guides tell you to leave everything but your cell phone and keys in the car, they mean it. Security is tighter than our lips about what happened when someone in our family (not Kymberly) tried to bring “security contraband” past the security checkpoint and guard.
Lake Shasta Caverns: Three Adventures in One
We promised ourselves on frequent drives between Santa Barbara and Oregon that someday we’d stop and visit the caves. This trip was that someday. Like Whiskeytown National Park and Shasta Dam, the caverns are easily accessible — about 20 minutes north of Redding. You take a 10-minute boat ride across the lake (bring your camera for spectacular views), then a 10-minute shuttle ride up, up, up, then you are in the cave. As for coming out of the cave, well … that’s on you and those several hundred stairsteps. You want out? Keep climbing. That’s the beauty of living an active life. You’re able to see and do more when you travel.
Alexandra: This got a strong thumbs-up from my 19-year-old son, so off we went to our first-ever rodeo. It was actually quite exciting, with guys getting thrown off broncs that buck, and calves getting roped and tied (trussed?) in under 10 seconds.
My son wanted to stay for the entire event, but I was hungry, so talked him into leaving early. We looked on Yelp and found Cafe Paradisio, a classy, comfortable place that’s run by a husband and wife who just happened to have two of their children about to graduate from UCSB. Eat here for sure – excellent service and intentionally underpriced for items such as Honey Stung Shrimp, Baked Salmon and French Press Coffee.
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photo credits – Alexandra, using a Canon. Kymberly where noted.
by Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA