All Mancation Articleshttp://www.mantripping.com/table/mancation-blog/Thu, 30 Oct 2014 21:12:51 -0700Joomla! - Open Source Content Managementen-gbjames@mantripping.com (Man Tripping)Winging it in Washington with the W Hotel Washington DChttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/winging-it-in-washington-with-the-w-hotel-washington-dc.htmlhttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/winging-it-in-washington-with-the-w-hotel-washington-dc.htmlWashington DC is a special town - it's where I grew up and later after I returned, it's where I met my wife. The city has no shortage of awesome hotels, expensive hotels, cheap hotels, and hotels that are just "good enough". One thing though that I always love is checking into a W Hotel. They aren't always the biggest rooms or the fanciest rooms but Starwood Hotels has always done something special with these properties to make them hip, fun, and welcoming when you enter the door. That's absolutely true for the W Hotel Washington DC as well. What's interesting here is how Starwood has taken a nearly 100 year old hotel (opened in 1918 as Hotel Washington) and added ultra modern styling to it in a way that works well.

I had the chance to visit here as part of the Dodge Charger press trip but I can't wait to come back again for a longer stay!

Upon approaching the W Hotel Washington DC, you realize just how well situated it is - right smack in the middle of everything and close enough to the White House that I could tell what cologne the secret service guys we wearing across the street. It is also just a short walk to the Smithsonian Museums, the National Aquarium, and the Washington Monument. 

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Once you enter the lobby, you'll notice that it is beautiful during the day, but super chic and modern at night with video projected on the walls and ceiling. It's like you have stepped out of the dull drab charcoal suits of DC and entered a more special place that will simultaneously help you relax as well as recharge with energy for the night ahead!

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Luckily, you don't need to be a guest here to come in and hang out in what they call their "living room". This is also the entrance if you are heading up to POV, their awesome rooftop bar / club / restaurant  space.

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While the daytime view at POV is fantastic, the nighttime view is even more impressive with unobstructed views of the monuments and the roof of the White House too. 

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If you happen to be a guest, W Hotel rooms are always cool to check out. The decor here continues the cool, hip and modern style of the rest of the house and ours - Room 929 was no exception.

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Because the building that is the W Hotel DC today is nearly 100 years old, the rooms have certain constraints that are typical of older buildings. Despite that,W has done a great job of keeping the amenities that matter such as a great big shower, a cool leather couch for lounging, fast wifi internet and a good desk and chair that I am using to write this article at right now. 

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The bathroom design continues the same styling but one of the surprises was the amazingly refreshing lemon body wash that made me feel like I had suddenly turned into a giant lemonhead candy. While all of the soap amenities are lemon scented the body wash was particularly intense and refreshing.

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Additionally, as part of the modern theme, you'll notice that there are recycling bins and "eco flush" toilets as well as CFLs for lighting.

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Of course - if you are looking to live like a baller and your idea of a great weekend is more than just a chic hotel room and instead one where you can host a group of guys for the ultimate in luxury then the Extreme WOW suite is where you should be instead of one of the guest rooms!

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With nearly 1,200 square feet of space and unparalleled views of the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial as well as a virtual fireplace and living room with space to hang out and watch the game this is an awesome suite for your next guys weekend or Washington DC mancation.

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james@mantripping.com (James Hills)Mancation BlogTue, 28 Oct 2014 20:27:35 -0700
Interview with Allan Karl, of WorldRider & Author of FORKShttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/interview-with-allan-karl-of-worldrider-author-of-forks.htmlhttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/interview-with-allan-karl-of-worldrider-author-of-forks.htmlA few weeks ago at the San Diego Travel Festival, I had the opportunity to meet a bunch of great people, but one person in particular stood out for his awesome tales of adventure, entrepreneurism, and frankly he's just a cool fellow blogger. Allan Karl - better known as WorldRider set off on a journey around the world ... inspired by Marco Polo, Ferdinand Magellan and Phileas Fogg but he did so on the back of his motorcycle - a single cylinder BMW F650GS Dakar.

Over the course of a 3 year journey, he visited more than 35 countries. During this time, he documented the journey through photography and writing - ultimately ending up being compiled into his book FORKS. The book is an adventure story that explores the connections between people that are made through Culture and Cuisine, with more than 700 photographs (some of which are provided below) and includes more than 35 recipes from around the world that he collected while on his journey.

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What inspired you to create the book?

The experience of traveling the world overland is incredible. I could not keep this to myself. I knew that one day I'd write a book, but it occurred to me one night after I cooked one of the most memorable dishes of my entire journey, a moqueca from Brazil, it occurred to me that I had to share it through pictures, stories and food—readers could experience the world by seeing it through my photography, feeling it through my stories of connection and culture and taste it through the local food.

I never set out to write about food or a cookbook. Yet, when I returned home, I struggled to find the best way to share my journey with others. It finally hit me over that dinner with friends: I remembered the connections I had made with new friends over the meals and stories we had shared—together.

FORKS-cover-800px

As I traveled, it occurred to me how important the ritual of sharing food is and how much we learn when we take the time to connect and share a meal with strangers or good friends.

This book brings the world to our tables. This is the best way to share and experience the world—as I did again and again during my journey—spending moments and making memories with good friends over real food and conversation.

How long did your trip take and how many countries did you visit?

My journey lasted more than 3 years. In total, I visited 35 countries. I visited most all of Latin America including central and south and the countries of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. I could go on, but Colombia, Bolivia, Malawi, Sudan, Syria and Turkey were also along my route.

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Do you have any regrets - did you take a left when you should have taken a right and missed seeing something awesome?

I live by the golden rule that the only things you truly regret in life are those things you didn't do or take advantage of — for the most part, my journey was full of experiences that could fill a dozen books—many stories only shared over the dinner table and good wine. So it's hard to think and search my memory for something I might have missed.

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In Alaska, I remember riding below bronze tinted skies created by raging wildfires and in looming bad weather of rain and sleet when I passed a unique looking compound in the middle of nowhere. A big sign identified the ramshackle building as "Mr. Alaska." I couldn't get the image of the building, that weather and smoke out of my mind for days and truly regret not stopping to check out; perchance to meet "Mr. Alaska."

I wonder if he or the building is still there. Hmmmm.

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Of all the places you covered in your book, which was the most awesome experience?

This is impossible to answer. I do know that I appreciated the blend of Latin and European culture in Buenos Aires, Argentina — great food, live music and a creative and artistic community. I loved Ethiopia for its rich culture, kept in tact, perhaps, due to it being the only country in Africa that never was colonized. And I be remiss if I didn't mention the hospitality, kindness and rich culture of the Syrians. I loved Syria. My stomach turns and tears fall when I think about what's going on there today.

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With your grand journey completed, what's next?

I'm working hard on sharing my stories, the positive experiences, the beautify of humanity and the wonders of culture through my book FORKS: A Quest for Culture, Cuisine and Connection. My new mission is to get "FORKS" on more tables — coffee tables and kitchen tables — and into the hands of as many people possible so that each reader has a chance to experience and expand a broader worldview. After a year or so of promotion I'm looking at getting back on the road and possibly bringing new experiences through not only another book, but also possibly with a film documentary or television series.

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What's one place in the world that you would go with a group of guys and who would you pick to join you?

Buenos Aires. There's no question. Great food, restaurants, access to adventurous day trips and more. It makes a great base of exploring South America, too. Plus, today, Buenos Aires and Argentina also provide excellent value for travelers with dollars.

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Is there anywhere you haven't gone yet but are dreaming of visiting?

Iran. I made trips to three Iranian embassies/consulates as I made my way through the Middle East. Each time, I was turned down for a visa. I hope I get the chance to convince the Iranians to let me and my motorcycle into their country. From Iran I want to ride into Pakistan and travel, winding my way around the glorious mountains and through remote villages along the Karakoram Highway.

I also want to circumnavigate and criss-cross the wonderful island nation of Madagascar. I will do all of these journeys over the next few years!

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Thanks Allan! 

If you are interested in learning more about Allan please visit his site WorldRider or you can get an autographed copy of his book right here.

 

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james@mantripping.com (James Hills)Mancation BlogSat, 25 Oct 2014 19:48:47 -0700
Affligem Beer Tasting Party in San Diegohttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/affligem-beer-tasting-party-in-san-diego.htmlhttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/affligem-beer-tasting-party-in-san-diego.htmlBeer is good - beer is delicious when shared with friends but beer really shouldn't be pretentious. Instead, this is a blue collar drink that should be shared after work, to celebrate a day of fishing, hunting, skiing, or just relaxing on the beach. That being said, there is always a space in any market for an "ultra premium" beverage and that's what Affligem is all about. 

To help them spread the word, they invited me to join them at an event in San Diego last month where we got to learn more about the history and how to pour the beer properly using the "Body and Soul" pour with special glasses.

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To be fair, Affligem beer does have a pretty great history. It was founded in 1074 AD when Roman soldiers put down their weapons and armor and decided to be monks and brew beer. Today, the abbey of Affligem is owned by Heineken International and based on that same original recipe.

affligem-party-san-diego

How Does it Taste?

The beer itself is fairly typical of Belgian style beers with a very smooth flavor that was almost creamy, slightly fruity, and had a hint of honey towards the end of the body. When you add in the "soul", the extra yeast from the bottom of the bottle gives it a nuttier flavor, or you can drink each separately. 

Overall, it was a very tasty beer that paired well with the food they had at the party including green-lip mussels and ahi tuna.

At the end of the day, this is a different type of beer than what most people experience. This is not a "yo grab me a beer from the fridge" experience. Instead, it is a fine dining experience for a discerning beer fan that wants to try something new ... and then wants one of the finest beers because it goes along with the rest of his luxury lifestyle.

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james@mantripping.com (James Hills)Mancation BlogWed, 22 Oct 2014 18:05:38 -0700
We Sailed Away with Styx & Carnival Live and it was Awesomehttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/we-sailed-away-with-styx-carnival-live-and-it-was-awesome.htmlhttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/we-sailed-away-with-styx-carnival-live-and-it-was-awesome.htmlIn a market that is nearly saturated but at the same time working feverishly to expand its reach, the cruise lines are in a fight to find a way to fill their ships and bring in new cruisers. While other lines are building ever bigger boats with features unheard of at sea, Carnival decided to focus on entertainment and creating once-in-a-lifetime experiences that are surprisingly affordable. Earlier this month we had the opportunity to spend a week on the brand new Carnival Breeze and experience it for ourselves.

Unlike "themed cruises" the band isn't actually on the ship during the voyage, so that means that you can still have a "normal" cruise experience but on concert night things turn up a notch. On this cruise, we started in Miami followed by stops in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, Georgetown, Grand Cayman, and then during our stop at Cozumel, Mexico the band loaded their equipment on the ship and we stayed in port till about 1 a.m.

carnival-breeze-triumph-cozumel

I'll save the review of the cruise for a separate article, but this was our first time experiencing a "2.0" ship and it was awesome with new venues like Cucina del Capitano, Red Frog Pub, DJ Irie trained DJs, the new Carnival "House Band" concept and more. In short, even without Styx joining us for one night Carnival Breeze had hands down the best entertainment I have experience on any ship to date and I can't wait to go back again!

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That video pretty much sums up the Carnival Live experience. It combines the best of an amazing intimate concert with the fun and adventure that only a cruise vacation can offer.

 

bernie-styx

While we had our VIP passes, any guest could buy VIP tickets for between $100-$250 depending on the band and get seats in the first few rows, a commemorative VIP pass, and an exclusive meet and greet with the band including a photo. Normal tickets cost between $20-$60. For 2015 concerts, tickets will range from $35-$60 and VIP will range from $125-250, so still an amazing deal for such an awesome experience.

Leading the concert concept for Carnival is Bernie Dillon (above) who brings with him years of organizing concerts for some of the top casinos in the country and experience working with pretty much everyone who's anyone in the entertainment industry. It will be exciting to see where he takes this program as it develops (and who who brings with him!) 

styx-russ

Getting to meet the band in a situation like this was an extraordinary experience. While ticket prices are going up for the 2015 series, this makes for a perfect mancation experience since it combines the thrill of doing something awesome like getting to meet the band, see them in a small venue (typically 900-1,300 seats depending on the ship) - plus all the other great stuff about cruising such as steak every night if you want it, tons of bars including the Red Frog Pub where they had a great acoustic guitar guy "Justin Time".

atlanta-people

Of course, it's also a great opportunity to get away from the kids and go with someone special on a romantic getaway too. I met these folks at the concert and they were super fans who even brought their albums to get autographed. What's nice about this concept is that it isn't just for the "hard core fans" and it isn't just for the established cruisers. It is a great way to draw in the people that love a band's music and are just looking for an excuse to see them on vacation.

styx-on-stage-chucky

I always try to judge my experiences as a blogger by saying "would I do this again and pay for it?" In this case, the answer is a resounding YES and I want to bring friends with me too! In fact some of the folks that we met on this cruise are already looking forward to meeting up again in St Thomas in March to see Journey on the Carnival Liberty.

Ready to experience Carnival Live for yourself?  

carnival-live-artists

Upcoming 2014 - 2015 Carnival Live Concerts:

(dates are when the cruise departs from port)

  1. Trace Adkins - Oct 31 and Nov 2
  2. Jewel - Nov 9 and 10
  3. Kansas - Nov 10 and 13
  4. Lady Antebellum - Nov 16 and 17 (sold out)
  5. Daughtry - Dec 1 and 2
  6. REO Speedwagon - REO Speedwagon Dec 14 and 15
  7. Journey - March 15 and March 15
  8. Little Big Town - March 28, March 28 and March 28
  9. Smokey Robinson - April 18, 19, and 20
  10. Rascal Flatts - May 2, 3, and 4
  11. Styx - June 13, 14, and 19

This Carnival Live concert schedule runs through June but Bernie promises me that there are some exciting announcements coming up next year covering the back half of 2015!

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james@mantripping.com (James Hills)Mancation BlogWed, 22 Oct 2014 05:09:15 -0700
My New Traveling Accessory from Pulsar and Why Watches are Great to Have! #sponhttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/my-new-traveling-accessory-from-pulsar-and-why-watches-are-great-to-have-spon.htmlhttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/my-new-traveling-accessory-from-pulsar-and-why-watches-are-great-to-have-spon.htmlWatches - yeah, I used to have one back in the day ... you know, those cheap plastic ones that we all had in school. Over the years though as cell phones have become ubiquitous there was less and less need to actually have a timepiece on your wrist. Pulsar Watches invited me to check out one of their latest watches and so I decided to give it a shot and see what it was like to wear a watch again.

What I discovered was that having a watch was a great accessory that is now a standard part of my gear when traveling.

My journey began by selecting what watch I wanted from a pretty extensive selection on Pulsar's site. I knew that I wanted something that was stylish but not garish, something rugged that would stand up to the sand and surf but I didn't necessarily need something for diving. Also, I hate reading hands on a watch so I wanted something that also had a digital display.

The watch I selected was the PW6011 from their "On the Go" Collection. As you can see, it isn't a fancy "Swiss Army Knife" of a watch but it has exactly the features I need.

So, with watch in hand - or on arm as the case would be, I set off on a trip to Miami and a cruise through the Caribbean. This is where a watch goes from personal style preference to something that is critical to have.

For those of you who aren't cruisers it may come as a surprise that though the ship might move across time-zones that guests need to stay on "ships time". This is the first place where having a real watch shines. Unlike my phone that would jump to the local time when we landed in Jamaica or Mexico, my watch would stay on ships time.

The second area where having a watch was a huge benefit is that it was more than ok wearing at the beach and into the water. Pulsar cautioned me to not refer to it as "waterproof" but this model it is water resistant enough when I went snorkeling in Cozumel and swimming with the dolphins in Jamaica. Not surprisingly - these are areas that I wouldn't even dream of taking my phone.

Finally - a watch doesn't need to be plugged in at night to re-charge! As such, it was easy to have the watch on in bed and not attached to the plug on the desk in the stateroom. This makes it easy to check it quickly and make sure you don't miss dinner when you come back to the room for a quick nap after getting back on the ship!

Because of these three critical factors, this watch will be a guaranteed travel accessory on my future travels and most certainly on any upcoming cruises.

What surprised me even more though was that even after I got back I sorta like having a watch on. It is easy to glance down at my wrist to get a quick update and my wrist almost feels naked when it isn't on.

I'm not the most stylish guy out there but it was nice to have a little "bling".

So, with the time change this fall, maybe it's time for you to make a time change of your own! If that sounds like a good idea, I encourage you to check out Pulsar's website and select a watch that matches your personal style. Pulsar watches are also available at Kohls and Kohls.com.

Marketing Copy from Pulsar ...

Every day, there’s a new rhythm, a new adventure. You dance to the beat of your own drum. You capture and share moments, with your family and your friends. PULSAR is a quality companion that is right there with you – every day, and for tomorrow, with modern styles that stand the test of time. That’s Life. In real time. 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Pulsar. The opinions and text are all mine.

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james@mantripping.com (James Hills)Mancation BlogTue, 21 Oct 2014 05:50:07 -0700
Team Up With Timbaland Sweepstakes from Lenovohttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/team-up-with-timbaland-sweepstakes-from-lenovo.htmlhttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/team-up-with-timbaland-sweepstakes-from-lenovo.htmlMicrosoft and Lenovo asked me to share with you that there's still time to win a trip to LA by entering the Team Up with Timbaland Sweepstakes but hurry it ends on Oct. 22! Other prizes include Lenovo products and cool tech and music gear.  The grand prize is a trip for two to L.A. with two Weekend One 3-Day VIP Passes to Coachella, one of the largest, most popular, California music festivals April 10-12, 2015. 

It's easy for fans to enter though -  just enter here by October 22 for your chance to win. Don't forget, you can enter daily!

Since the contest began, more than 5,000 independent singers, songwriters, and music artists have entered the Team Up with Timbaland Sweepstakes Giveaway presented by Lenovo and Microsoft. Timbaland plus the team of judges have narrowed it down to 5 finalists.

lenovo-finalists 

These five finalists will now be given a two-week surprise challenge that will help determine the winner. The artist that emerges at the top will win the grand prize - a day in the recording studio with Timbaland in Miami.

Honestly, even if you aren't into winning all those awesome prizes, it's still worth heading over to the contest and checking out the finalists. If you have even more time, I am sure there are some other gems in the other 5,000+ entries too!

My two favorites right now are Ngan from Spring Valley, NY and Brandontory from Los Angeles.

It's always great to see a contest like this that focuses not just on winning "money" but a chance to really make dreams come true for some super talented musicians. Heck, even the ones that didn't make it to the finalist round have a platform for a little extra exposure. If you dig deep, there are some interesting creations such as "Boomshakalaka" from TheGeekSquad that sampled music from one of my all time favorite games. 

Of course, not everything is awesome in there but that's sort of the fun if indie music!

So, what are you waiting for? Why are you still reading this? Head on over and enter now just enter here by October 22 for your chance to win. Don't forget, you can enter daily!

Presented by Lenovo and Microsoft Team Up Timbaland Sweepstakes Giveaway Enter Daily Trip to LA with VIP Passes to one of Cali’s hottest music festival.

More Contest Details:

Enter Daily - Limit one entry per day

Must be over 18 years of age or older at the time of entry.

Must be legal residents of the US (Continental United States and the District of Columbia).

This is a sponsored post but opinions are my own.

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james@mantripping.com (James Hills)Mancation BlogTue, 21 Oct 2014 02:43:13 -0700
Six Steps to Plan an Awesome Mancationhttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/five-steps-to-plan-an-awesome-mancation.htmlhttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/five-steps-to-plan-an-awesome-mancation.htmlWhen planning a mancation, most guys think that all they have to do is to pick a location and time to go there. But you can transform an ordinary mancation or guys weekend into a perfect vacation with the guys by spending a little time thinking, planning, and preparing for the adventure.

Here are five suggestions to help make your next adventure epic!

cabo-guide

Decide why you want a mancation.

Yes, you want to relax and escape the stress with your best buds, but how do you want to relax? Do you want to relax by exploring something completely new and exciting? Do you want to relax by finding something familiar and predictable? When you get the "why" right, then the "where" falls into place.

Plan well ahead of time.

Once you've decided where to go, plan early to get the best airline prices and the best hotel rates. Contact your friends in the travel industry or use the Internet to figure out the best times to get the best prices. Sometimes the best deals come when you buy your tickets and book your hotel room ahead of time. At other times, they come when you wait until the right time toward the close of the tourist season. Only early research will clue you in on when to act.

Avoid mistakes made during past vacations.

Notice what didn't work during your other vacations and try to do things differently this time. If you had a bad flight, avoid that airline. If you booked a room at a cheap hotel to save money but got frustrated with the lack of amenities and lousy service, decide to pay a little more this time to get a better hotel.

biltmore-hotel

Avoid the stress of travel.

The whole idea of a vacation is to get relief from your work and other demands. Yet vacations can be stressful too when the details of travel are neglected. Get your passport and visa ahead of time. Book your flights when prices are cheap. Reserve a room at your favorite hotel before it gets fully booked. Arrange transportation to the airport and from your destination to the hotel before you step out of the front door. The more things you can figure out before you leave, the less stressful your trip will be.

Pack sensibly.

Now that you’ve taken care of why you want to go, where to go, and how you’re going to get there, there is one last detail to handle: packing in a way that works for you. Decide on the electronics you want to take with you. Figure out your best selection of personal toiletries. Choose an assortment of clothes like surf polos, dress shirts, jeans, shorts, dress pants, etc.—to give you plenty of options on what to wear on different occasions. But don’t stop there. Think about what types of books or magazines you might want to take, what kind of music you would like to listen to, and, perhaps, even what type of gifts you would like to take to spring on new friends that you might make.

Summary

By taking care of a few fundamental things, it's easy to turn a good time into a memorable experience.

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james@mantripping.com (James Hills)Mancation BlogThu, 16 Oct 2014 14:50:28 -0700
2015 Kia Soul EV Reviewhttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/2015-kia-soul-ev-review.htmlhttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/2015-kia-soul-ev-review.htmlElectric cars aren't sexy, they aren't fast enough to have fun with, and they certainly aren't fun to drive - right? WRONG! The folks at Kia should be very proud of the latest iteration of the Kia Soul. While mocked as "that hamster car" the truth is that this is one of the most stylish and fun to drive cars in the world right now. That's not shared by everyone, but it is true for me and at least several million other people who have bought one and helped propel the rapid growth of this once "upstart" auto manufacturer. 

To help set the mood for the launch, Kia invited me and a bunch of other bloggers, journalists, and social media influencers to the St. Regis Hotel in beautiful Dana Point, California where they did an amazing job of giving us a chance to live what they called the Kia Cali lifestyle - if only for a couple days.

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The event kicked off with a gourmet food truck party featuring entertainment by a great California band while we watched the sunset over the Pacific Ocean and then we watched Chef in a mock of a drive-in theater while noshing on cupcakes from another food truck. 

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The next morning it was time to get down to business as Kia introduced the new 2015 Soul EV to us by teasing us with one of the sexiest looking Soul's I have seen - sadly though the ones we drove were not as hot looking.

Perhaps the most important statistic for an electric car is the range - Soul EV has a range of 93 miles, with recharge time as little as 33 minutes to reach 80 percent charge using the 50 Kw-output fast charger. Using the 240v outlet, it will take 5 hours, so good for plugging in at work or overnight at home. 

eco-electric-soul-ev-badge

The front wheel drive Soul EV is powered by a 109-hp electric motor, that produces 210 lb-ft of instant torque with 0-60 speed of 12 seconds. We did however discover while testing its limits that while the Soul is quick and responsive that it has been electronically limited to a top speed of 90 mph which was was initially disappointing but better than ruining the motor! In practice, this is not a big deal since you really should never be going that fast anyhow!

soul-ev-charging-port

The Soul EV though is more than just the engine!

Inside, the car uses 52.7 pounds of bio-based organic content in the interior and cellulose derived plastic in the door panels, seat trim, roof pillars, and carpeting. In fact, it is the first ever vehicle to receive the UL Environment recognition.

Standard amenities include the eight-inch navigation screen, rear camera display, bluetooth hands free system, power driver's seat, cruise control and a heat pump system with individual ventilation zones, scheduled ventilation, and air intake control. The schedule ventilation system will actually let you cool the car while still connected to the charging station, before you turn the car on. This significantly reduces the drain on the battery while driving since it will be maintaining the temperature vs going full blast trying to cool things down.

soul-ev-lineup

Then it was time to drive! While the blue and white design looks nice, Phil from Gunaxin and I were stuck with what essentially looks like a Stormtrooper Helmet on wheels.

We both agreed though that in hot climates there is a benefit to having an all white car but sadly just didn't have the curb appeal that it's black and red brother at the press conference did.

soulev-boat

While stereotypical, the Kia Cali lifestyle consists not only of electric cars and food trucks but salads at restaurants overlooking the ocean. 

We'll roll with that since it was a beautiful view and a delicious salad too!

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Then we set off to do some real world driving and see how the Soul EV stacks up in every-day use.

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The first thing owners of the Soul EV will notice is that unlike a Prius or Tesla (much less those "golf cart" EVs), the Soul EV feels like a real car with no compromises.

That isn't to say that those aren't great cars as well but just that the Soul can be looked at as a "car" and not just an "electric car". While driving around Southern California we also came across numerous Teslas and while these are amazing cars it is nice to know that the Soul EV has almost as long of a range as it does for a fraction of the cost!

james-phil-juice

Our Kia Cali tour continued with a stop at Nekter Juices - where we got some refreshments!

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In our real world conditions during the Soul EV review, it was remarkable that the car was super quiet, no electric whine as some other EV's have and I had no problem passing other cars on the highway, accelerating on entrance ramps, or going up hills. 

Additionally, while the air conditioner uses a highly energy efficient heat pump design, it was remarkable to note that even in 92 degree heat it had no problem staying cool for us.

nearby-charging-stations

Sadly though, all good things have to come to an end and as we approached the St. Regis hotel at the end of our circuit the battery warning came on and reminded us that we needed to recharge soon. 

It was nice though that the navigation system seamlessly came up with a list of all the charging stations that were in range.

Overall, I have to say that I am extremely impressed by the Soul EV and despite the fact that during this review we pushed it to the limits it took everything we threw at it. While clearly there are modifications from the traditional gas version of the Soul, it retains the fun, youthful, energetic and awesome spirit that the rest of the line has. This is a no compromises electric vehicle that is accessible and affordable for anyone who wants to make the transition from gas and lives in an environment where they have charging stations available.

Base price for the Soul EV ranges from $33,700 to $35,700 for the + model (not including the the federal tax rebate of $7,500). Even more remarkable is that they are offering a lease deal that will drop your monthly payments to only $250 / month. This puts a great EV into the range of almost everyone's budget and at least for those of us in California where this will be initially available it is a welcome addition to the lineup currently dominated by Tesla and "golf cart" cars.

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james@mantripping.com (James Hills)Mancation BlogThu, 16 Oct 2014 00:30:13 -0700
I'm Taking Part in the Breathe Right Sleep In - You Can Too!http://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/i-m-taking-part-in-the-breath-right-sleep-in-you-can-too.htmlhttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/i-m-taking-part-in-the-breath-right-sleep-in-you-can-too.htmlFall is here and that means that Daylight Savings time is right around the corner, so what a perfect time to try the Breath Right Sleep In challenge! So with that little tidbit of news it's time to talk about sleeping, relaxing, and recharging the brain so you can get more stuff done in that limited amount of sunlight that is available. To make things even better, I've accepted their challenge and unplugged and went to bed an hour earlier last week - though to be fair, I was on a cruise ship so that made unplugging just a little bit easier.

The folks at Breathe Right have a new lavender scented strip that they sent me for this post to try out and let you guys know how it was. 

BreatheRightProduct2

 

It's a little weird at first but circumstantially I can say that it helped me sleep better and my wife tells me my snoring wasn't as bad and that I didn't have a stuffy nose in the morning like I often do without the strips.

james-breatheright

Millions of people around the world use Breathe Right strips to help them sleep better. These little strips help by opening nasal passages so you can breathe more effectively through the nose, alleviating nasal congestion and nighttime allergies. This happens drug free and now with the pleasant lavender scent - which btw while may not be a "manly scent" is relaxing and nice to have at night.

Sleeping better is great, but what's even better is getting your friends to sleep better, be more productive at work, and ultimately have more fun on your next getaway. As such here's some ways that you can help them out ...

First, send them over to the Breathe Right page so they can get their own sample sample by clicking here.

Next, head on over to Thunder Clap to help send a huge message to everyone about the importance of getting some extra sleep as part of their #sleepinmovement. This year during Daylight Savings Time, Breathe Right wants you to take the same pledge that I did to make a healthy commitment to unplug and get an extra hour of sleep as part of the #BreathRightSleepIn movement. Their goal is to get to 500 participants so they need our help! It's easy, just head over here and signup by 11/01/2014.

 Disclosure: This is a sponsored post from Breathe Right, but all opinions are my own.

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james@mantripping.com (James Hills)Mancation BlogWed, 15 Oct 2014 06:17:00 -0700
Five Awesome Days Exploring Oklahomahttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/five-awesome-days-exploring-oklahoma.htmlhttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/five-awesome-days-exploring-oklahoma.htmlWhen met with the proposition of an all-male vacation, most guys go to Las Vegas, or maybe Cooperstown, New York for a visit to the baseball hall of fame. Me? When met with the idea that me and my three best friends from college could get away from our daily lives for five days, we decided to explore our own backyard here in Oklahoma. While we don't live in what anyone would mistake for a tourist hotbed, there are indeed some pretty awesome things to do in our neck of the woods. So, after kicking around a few ideas, we decided to maximize our time and get the most out of our money by loading up the car, and hitting the open road right here in our home state.  What we did next was actually some of the best vacationing I've ever been a part of.

I must admit, I was pulling for Vegas, but I can't deny that I had a ton of fun on this little mini-road trip with some of the best friends a guy can have. After scouring the internet, we came across a tourism site, ChickasawCountry.com that focuses on our state and began to map out a plan for just what we'd be doing on our guy vacation.

So what'd we do?

Gambling

While we were rather split between Vegas and staying in Oklahoma, we made the compromise by promising to check out some of the local casinos. A quick visit to the Winstar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma gave us our Vegas experience but right in our back yard. After more than a few drinks at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill, and several hundred wagers at the tables, we called it a night and headed back to our amazing rooms at the resort. After sleeping soundly, we pondered getting massages at the spa attached to the hotel, but decided it was time to pack up and get some golf in.

Golf

After a night of gambling there's nothing better than an early morning of golf the next day. Luckily for us, Oklahoma actually has some amazing golf courses. Our first 9 holes came at The Territory Golf and Country Club in Duncan, but we got out later in the vacation to play again at Boiling Springs Golf Club which was also pretty amazing. 

turner-falls

Camping

We camped two nights of our stay, and had a blast. The first camping stop was at Turner Falls Park near Davis, Oklahoma and it was full of beautiful scenery, a great campfire, and a cold beer or two right out of the cooler. During the day, we cooled down in the falls, which were more of a natural water park, featuring a 77-foot waterfall that fell into a pool below. It was a great time and something I would definitely recommend seeing if you are nearby. We had actually decided to try another campground for day two, but we had so much fun at Turner Falls that we just decided to stay another night.

After a week hopping from spot to spot in my own backyard, I can say that I am really happy that we decided to stay close to home. We saved money, got to experience some great new things right here in our home state, and had a great trip that these four guys can talk about for the next decade. I'd urge anyone looking for cheap vacation ideas to give your home state a try. There are often hidden gems that you never thought to look for and once you discover them, you'll be glad you did. The best source of info is going to be your state tourism or travel website as they often have a ton of attractions that you may have never realized were there. Happy vacationing!

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james@mantripping.com ( Sam Lopez)Mancation BlogTue, 07 Oct 2014 03:09:43 -0700
Josefas Cocina Mexicana Restaurant Reviewhttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/josefas-cocina-mexicana-restaurant-review.htmlhttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/josefas-cocina-mexicana-restaurant-review.htmlJosefas Cocina Mexicana is a brand new addition to La Jolla from the same folks that brought us Iberico. As part of it's opening, I was invited to stop by for a lunch to check it out and share my thoughts.

For the past year, I have been moaning that the San Diego restaurant scene sucks - and so a few PR teams ganged up on me to convince me that I just had bad luck in picking places. While I still stand beside my earlier comments, I am starting to discover that while San Diego doesn't celebrate - or demand - a certain high level of sophistication from it's restaurants compared to the prices charged, ... there are some fantastic gems. 

Main dining room area at Josefas Cocina Mexicana in La Jolla / #SanDiego California from @ManTripping

Josefas was one of those gems that since it was open only two weeks at the time of my review being written is destined to become a star of downtown La Jolla as well as San Diego in general.

The restaurant concept is upscale Mexican with a menu featuring classic dishes such as Tacos and Sopas but also offers delicious alternatives that while still distinctly "Mexican" and "Spanish" influenced are on-par with the top restaurants in any major city. Truly, this is a restaurant that those people in La Jolla who enjoy rolling up to the valet in a Bentley convertible will enjoy as much as those like myself who self-parked around the corner in my Kia Soul.

Bar and Lounge area with Tequila bottles at Josefas Cocina Mexicana in La Jolla / #SanDiego California from @ManTripping

Of course, alongside the dining menu, the restaurant features a large bar / lounge area and a long list of top shelf tequilas both as decoration as well as available for pouring.

Margaritas Menu at Josefas Cocina Mexicana in La Jolla / #SanDiego California from @ManTripping

As it was lunch today, we passed on the tequila and margaritas but as you can see they offer a variety of types well beyond the traditional "strawberry" and "traditional". 

I look forward to going back and trying the Jalapeno Basil Margarita next time - though Apocalipto sounds fun too!

Outdoor Seating at Josefas Cocina Mexicana in La Jolla / #SanDiego California from @ManTripping

The restaurant itself is located right in front of Iberico (sister restaurant) and directly above Richard Walker's Pancake House with a fantastic view of Prospect street. If you manage to snag a table by the edge, this should make for some fantastic people watching on weekends!

Honestly, I could stop the review right here and simply tell you to go check the restaurant, but what makes Josefas extra special is that the menu, food, service, and of course plating all matched what I expect from a $100 meal for two. (our bill came to $79 with taxes and no drinks)

Queso Fundido Chorizo at Josefas Cocina Mexicana in La Jolla / #SanDiego California from @ManTripping

I always like to ask for recommendations and our waiter, Oscar was spectacular with guiding us through the menu and made excellent recommendations.  

Our meal started with Queso Fundido Chorizo that was served with fresh tortillas.

Carlos, our server at Josefas Cocina Mexicana in La Jolla / #SanDiego California from @ManTripping

Not only was he extremely friendly and knowledgeable about the various items on the menu, but he also had an awesome smile and offered great service.

Top view of our dinner at Josefas Cocina Mexicana in La Jolla / #SanDiego California from @ManTripping

Heather ordered the Short-rib Braseado, "Fork tender short rib slow braised for 8 hours and glazed with a "cafe de olla" reduction sauce accompanied with seasonal vegetables and mashed potatoes".

I love my fish and Oscar highly recommended today's "catch of the day" which was sea bass prepared as Pescado al pastor "Fresh fish marinated in red chile-roasted sauce and grilled to perfection. Served with a puree of grilled pineapple."

Pescado Al Pastor and Braised Short Ribs at Josefas Cocina Mexicana in La Jolla / #SanDiego California from @ManTripping

The plating amazed me, since while the dishes were both in the mid $20's, I haven't seen this level of beauty on a plate in a long time and certainly not here in San Diego.

As such, it was a delight taking photos of the food and that's part of the joy of having a truly great meal - being able to have an experience worth sharing.

Pescado Al Pastor at Josefas Cocina Mexicana in La Jolla / #SanDiego California from @ManTripping

Our meal concluded with Spanish Bread Pudding - sweet brioche bread soaked in milk and vanilla then glazed with caramelized brown sugar and served with vanilla ice cream, walnuts, and blueberries. Unsurprisingly, this was every bit as perfect as the rest of the meal!

Spanish Bread Pudding at Josefas Cocina Mexicana in La Jolla / #SanDiego California from @ManTripping

Josefas is now one of my favorite restaurants in San Diego. While there are some restaurants in town that do one thing good or maybe have a great atmosphere but "good" vs "great" food, Josefas was consistently great across the board at all of the critical areas from plating to flavor, service, selection, atmosphere etc.

Josefas Cocina Mexicana is located at 909 Prospect Street #209, La Jolla, California. Or you can call for reservations and more information: 858-454-1961

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james@mantripping.com (James Hills)Mancation BlogFri, 03 Oct 2014 02:12:24 -0700
A Taste of Freedom! Hard Rock Cafe San Diego Freedom Burgerhttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/a-taste-of-freedom-hard-rock-cafe-san-diego-freedom-burger.htmlhttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/a-taste-of-freedom-hard-rock-cafe-san-diego-freedom-burger.htmlI love big over the top burgers, rock and roll, craft beer, and honoring those who serve to keep our country the best in the entire world! When a place manages to combine all of those into one tasty (if not extremely messy!) package I love to share the news of it with you guys.

freedom-burger-sign

Hard Rock Cafe San Diego just launched their "Freedom Burger" and it is exclusively at this location for a limited time (likely through the end of the year). When people purchase it, $1 will be donated to the USO of San Diego, which I learned today is NOT funded by the military but instead through donations by people as well as corporate programs such as this one.

hard-rock-servers

So what is this amazing burger?

freedom-burger

Think of this as a backyard BBQ on a burger. It features an Angus beef patty topped with a grilled hot dog, melted cheddar cheese, Cowboy beans, and citrus coleslaw served on a toasted Brioche bun with spicy brown mustard, served with on-location made fried plank chips.

In short it is delicious and while extremely messy had a remarkable combination of flavors that just worked. 

san-diego-beer-sign

Of course though - no great burger is complete without great beer and the Hard Rock Cafe San Diego is ready to deliver that too with a great beer selection in general as well as local favorites on tap ranging from West Coast IPA and Sculpin IPA (which pair great with the burger!) as well as great brews from Hess, Coronado Brewing, and Karl Strauss.

Since 1941, the USO of San Diego has assisted service members and their families from the moment they elist to their days as veterans and the Hard Rock Cafe San Diego is supporting that effort by donating $1 per burger sold as well as offering a 15% discount on food and merchandise to military families who visit the restaurant.

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james@mantripping.com (James Hills)Mancation BlogWed, 01 Oct 2014 10:50:00 -0700
Live like a Rock Star When You Charter the Ohana Super Yachthttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/live-like-a-rock-star-when-you-charter-the-ohana-super-yacht.htmlhttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/live-like-a-rock-star-when-you-charter-the-ohana-super-yacht.htmlDreaming of a Caribbean cruise but don't want to be bothered having to step around the "regular people" littered across the deck of a cruise ship? Maybe it's time to check out a private yacht rental such as the Ohana - the "star" of Bravo's reality TV series "Below Deck"!

ohana-slide

At 154 feet and featuring an inflatable water slide, spiral staircase, hot tub, full staff including an awesome chef, and space for 10 guests, this is almost as good as you can possibly get on the high seas.

ohana-top-deck

It's fun to watch Below Deck and I always wondered about how much it would actually cost to rent Ohana. According to a couple different charter websites, including Sun Reef Charters, the weekly rental price for Ohana is between $125,000-$140,000!

Divided 10 ways, that's a blistering $13,000 per person for the week (plus tip!), quiet different than what you'd pay on a cruise ship.

ohana-inside-staircase

However, for those of you with money demanding the ultimate in luxury this is worth it and an awesome way to spend some time with your favorite friends such as the guests on a recent episode that were party of an Irish rugby team on a guys weekend trip.

ohana-aft-deck

Want more of a tour of Ohana? Check out Bravo's website for a virtual tour of Ohana.

Below Deck airs on Tuesdays at 9/8 central and "documents" the life of the current crew. It's a great show and will absolutely make you dream of one day being able to afford this level of luxury ... or run away from your current job and enlist as a deckhand for some adventure!

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james@mantripping.com (James Hills)Mancation BlogWed, 01 Oct 2014 06:37:02 -0700
Islands Happy Hour - Burgers, Tiki Drinks, Wings, & Football!http://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/islands-happy-hour-burgers-tiki-drinks-wings-football.htmlhttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/islands-happy-hour-burgers-tiki-drinks-wings-football.htmlThe folks at Islands Restaurants invited me out for a happy hour last night to watch the Chiefs and Patriots game ... no, I wasn't up north ... I was in warm sunny San Diego and we do football happy hours different down here.

For those of you outside of Southwest US (California, Nevada, Arizona), Islands is a casual American style restaurant / sports pub similar to Fridays or Applebees but with an awesome Hawaiian theme, great burgers, tiki cocktails, and frankly super gracious staff.

Never one to turn down free burgers and drinks or a chance to hang out with some friends I headed out to their La Jolla, California location to check out the food and try their new Nalu Nalu burger.

nalu-nalu-burger

First up, the Nalu Nalu burger!

This is their seasonal burger right now, named after the Hawaiian word for "Big Waves" it works to delivery "Big Flavor" and it definitely did so. Personally though, I didn't care for it but Heather from Chick Vacations loved hers. The burger comes with their standard burger patty smothered with roasted garlic aioli, provolone cheese, sauteed onions, mixed peppers, hot deli pepper rings and is resting on a bed of lettuce. 

Imagine it as a cheesesteak on a burger - and of course served with their bottomless fries!

islands-cocktails

While Islands always has great beers on tap, the spirit of the islands is always there with their cocktails to including classic Mai Tai and Bloody Mary but also the Makaha Maggie featuring their Pineapple Infused Tequila!

wings

Of course, you can't have an awesome happy hour experience without great wings and Islands delivers these perfectly too.

Their sauce is spicy but not "OMG WTF did I just eat!?!" and the wings are plump and meaty as well.

islands-burgers-sliders

Last but not least and perfect for a happy hour with friends are their sliders!

As you can guess, I love Islands and this is more than just the fact that I got a free meal. They seriously are a fun restaurant chain that offers great food so I'd encourage you to check them out if you happen to live in an area where they are located.

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james@mantripping.com (James Hills)Mancation BlogTue, 30 Sep 2014 17:22:40 -0700
Live Like a Celebrity at $7,500 per Night in Miami's South Beachhttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/live-like-a-celebrity-at-7-500-per-night-in-miami-s-south-beach.htmlhttp://www.mantripping.com/mancation-blog/live-like-a-celebrity-at-7-500-per-night-in-miami-s-south-beach.htmlThe economy might suck for some but if you want to live like a rockstar then times have never been better! Check out this amazing suite at the Hilton Bentley in Miami's South Beach neighborhood that goes for between $2,700- $7500/ night!

How does a 1,500 sq ft private rooftop pool and whirlpool tub with breathtaking views of South Beach sound?

hilton-bentley-beach-view

This amazing suite at the Hilton Bentley Miami features a two-story, two master bedroom and three full bathrooms all recently renovated within this year? The suite offers a full stainless steel kitchen, with personal wine chiller, elegant dining room, living room with 60 inch retractable LED television, and marble bathrooms, accentuate the refined interior. 

No matter where you occupy your 3000 sq ft, you can hear the Dolby surround sound system, while controlling it and everything else in your suite from your iphone or ipad.

hilton-bentley-inside

Whether for a romantic getaway or a rockin' mancation, Miami is always a great destination and I'd love to have the dollars to throw down on something like this to make a weekend we'd never forget!

Of course though - you can always stay in one of the "normal" guest rooms for a more modest ~$200 per night!

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james@mantripping.com (James Hills)Mancation BlogMon, 29 Sep 2014 11:23:23 -0700