Nomad by Trade

A travel blog for the kid at heart.

Tag: Professional Nomad

Redwood trees in Muir Woods National Monument

Walking Among Redwoods at Muir Woods National Monument

I’ve been awed by nature in many different places around the world, but walking among the redwood trees at Muir Woods National Monument was the first time I’ve ever felt my jaw drop at the sight of a living entity. Ever since I first learned about redwood trees in school, I’ve been dreaming of seeing them in person, so when I got sent to Sacramento for work, I made the couple-hour drive to the coast to finally lay eyes on them. Muir Woods, located just north of San Francisco, is one of the more easily accessible places to view these giant trees.

Entrance to Muir Woods National Monument

For those like me who never really knew the difference between redwood trees and sequoias, redwoods are found along the California coast whereas sequoias grow further inland. Redwoods are narrower and taller (they’re the tallest living things in the world!), while sequoias max out at slightly shorter heights, but have wider trunks. Though redwood trees can live to be very old – 2000 years isn’t bad for a lifespan – the oldest sequoias make them seem like young ‘uns as they can live up to 3200 years. Think about how much the world has changed in 3200 years, and yet there could be trees still standing in the same place for all of those centuries. Nature is incredible.

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Alamo in San Antonio, Texas

An Evening in San Antonio

After spending a week in the much smaller border town of Laredo, I got to have one whirlwind night in San Antonio. It was exactly the kind of Evening Tourist adventure that I specialize in. We made the drive up after work on a Thursday inght so we could catch a direct flight home first thing in the morning. We didn’t leave Laredo until almost six, so by the time we got to San Antonio, it was getting close to nine.  Even with our late arrival, I still got to have a great evening in town. Read more about the fun things you can do in San Antonio after work.

Dinner time

After checking into the hotel, our first stop was a nearby Mexican restaurant/bakery that I had read about. After three days of authentic Mexican food in Laredo, Mi Tierra felt like a return to the cheesy (both atmosphere and food) Tex-Mex I’d grown up with. The décor was close to being over the top, but things like that amuse me so I kind of loved it.

Mi Tierra restaurant in San Antonio, Texas

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Sunset at Presque Isle State Park in Erie, PA - The fun side of business travel

The Fun Side of Business Travel

I’ve spent the last few years traveling for work almost every week. I’m notorious amongst my coworkers for spending my evenings out exploring town and finding interesting things to do after work. The chance to travel the country on my company’s dime is too good to waste watching tv in the hotel, so I try to take advantage of this opportunity to see and do as much as I can. Along with some other travel bloggers, here are some of my favorite fun things to do on business trips in the United States.

Waldameer Water World – Erie, PA

Waldameer Park in Erie, Pennsylvania

One of my most surprisingly fun buisness trips was to Erie, Pennsylvania. I found Waldameer, a little amusement park near the lake, and was thrilled to discover that it was pay-per-ride. That meant that instead of having to buy a full admission ticket to ride a couple of roller coasters, I could buy just enough credits to ride what I wanted. Their biggest ride is a coaster called the Ravine Flyer II. I wasn’t expecting much, but I was absolutely blown away. I ended up going back to buy more credits just so I could ride it again. Afterward, I looked up the ride, and it turns out that it’s one of the highest rated wooden roller coasters in the country. It deserves every accolade. I finished the evening at nearby Presque Isle State Park, watching the sunset over Lake Erie from one of the many beaches.

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Minelot Falls in Thacher State Park

Thacher State Park

If you’re a fan of waterfalls, Thacher State Park might be a perfect escape in the New York capital region. Located about half an hour west of Albany, it’s a great spot to visit if you find yourself in the area. It’s an easy drive, and at only $6/vehicle for a day pass, it’s an affordable place to explore.

I visited in the evening after work, so I didn’t have time to explore the whole park. Even though I only had a couple of hours before dark, playing in nature beats sitting in a hotel room watching bad tv reruns any day. Based on recommendations from some of the locals I was working with, I focused on the Indian Ladder trail. It’s a relatively easy hike that can be completed in less than an hour if you don’t spend too much time enjoying the scenery. From end to end, the trail is about half a mile.

Minelot Falls in Thacher State Park

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View of the Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada

5 Things that Surprised Me in Las Vegas

Las Vegas never really seemed like my kind of place, but I’ve always been curious about it because it also kind of seems like somewhere everyone should try to see at least once in their lives. Due to a last-minute booking for a recent work trip, I ended up with a six-hour layover there, and since LAS is right next to the Strip (I’m not joking – it’s basically across the street from the Luxor and Mandalay Bay.), I decided that it was the perfect opportunity to get a taste of the town. Plus, I got to check off Nevada (hey, #45) on my list of states that I’ve visited. Here are five things that I learned in my four hours in Las Vegas.

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The Evening Tourist – The Pez Factory

I love crazy evening adventures. Especially ridiculous ones that are a little cheesy. They’re exactly the kind of thing needed to break up the monotony of hotel living and keep you sane on the road. And also I’m pretty much just an overgrown child.

 

While on a business trip to southern Connecticut, I discovered that we were only a few minutes down the road from the Pez factory in Orange, CT. Not only does the factory have a visitor center and museum, but it was also open until 6 pm, giving us exactly one hour between when we would finish working and when it would close. (Hours vary seasonally, and winter closings are a bit earlier.)
Giant Pez candies at the Pez Visitor Center in Orange, CT

I’d like to take these giant candies home, please.

I had convinced a co-worker to go with me, so at exactly 5:00 we shut our laptops down and headed to the car. It was a quick ride down the interstate and we found the factory easily. As part of your admission, you also get a store credit (it’s a great way to encourage you to spend even more money in the shop, and sadly worked quite well on both of us).

 

We also got bingo cards that had a bunch of specific Pez dispensers on it and to mark off each square, you had to locate that dispenser and write the year it was manufactured. You only needed to get a bingo to earn a free Pez dispenser, but we were determined to fill out our entire cards. Thanks to some excellent teamwork, we were able to find all but two of them. The ladies behind the counter spun the Wheel of Pez (A very catchy name I made up myself) and I earned a polar bear one that I regifted to my sister when I got home.
Giant Pez dispenser at the Pez Visitor Center in Orange, CT

That’s one tall Pez dispenser.

You’re greeted at the door by an enormous Pez dispenser that opens and closes with a motor. It would’ve been a lot easier to pose with it if I wasn’t so darn short.

 

The museum isn’t huge, but it was a fun way to kill a couple hours if you’re in the area. There is some history about the candy and dispensers along the wall. I had no idea that Pez started out as peppermints from Vienna. It does explain the name though, as pfefferminz is the German word for peppermint.

 

The main display is cases upon cases of old Pez dispensers. Looking at the oldest ones was interesting because some of them were pretty creepy.
Vintage Tinkerbell Pez dispensers at the Pez Visitor Center in Orange, CT

Tink is looking a little scary there.

I was also pretty jealous of a set of Canada-exclusive NHL ones that I would’ve loved to have had a chance to buy.
Zamboni Pez dispensers at the Pez Visitor Center in Orange, CT

I would totally shell out for a Red Wings one.

I quite liked these Pez dispenser guns and totally would’ve purchased one if they’d had them in the store.
Vintage Pez dispenser guns at the Pez Visitor Center in Orange, Connecticut

 

This display showing how different colors are molded together to make the figures on top was interesting too.
Anna from Frozen Pez dispenser at the Pez Visitor Center in Orange, Connecticut

 

You could peek into the factory through some windows at the back, but there wasn’t much to see. The area closest to the viewing spot had a couple workers mixing different shaped dispensers together for individual wrapping, followed by grouping into a variety pack.

Pez dispensers being packaged at the Pez factory in Orange, CT

 

My favorite part might’ve been the Pez dispenser head photo op. You can basically pose for a picture with your face on top of a Pez dispenser stick so it looks like you’re about to eject some little candy tablets. There were a variety of hats you could use as props, but I went with just plain, old me.
Pez dispenser photo op at the Pez Visitor Center in Orange, Connecticut

I guess I’m famous now that my head is on a Pez dispenser.

Nearby, there was an opportunity to make your own Pez dispenser. There were a bunch of different shaped bases that kids (or fun adults) could color to make their own designs. These cost money, but weren’t any more expensive than the other items in the store. I didn’t make one for myself because I’m pretty lacking in the creativity and drawing department, but in hindsight, I kind of wish I had given it a shot.
Detroit Tigers Pez dispensers displayed at the Pez Visitor Center in Orange, CT

After the obligatory pass through the Pez store (We had to spend the free credits that came with our tickets, after all), we headed out, with five whole minutes to spare before closing time. Not bad for an after-work adventure.

The Pez Visitor Center in Orange, Connecticut offers fun for families and adults.The Pez Visitor Center in Orange, Connecticut offers fun for families and adults.

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