El Paso Evening - by Greg Bulla - WikimediaTexas is the largest state in the contiguous U.S. and was an independent republic for a short while before joining the union.

They say everything is bigger in Texas. We experienced it firsthand as we crossed this huge state. It took us 2-days to cross, and along the way, we saw megacities like El Paso, San Antonio, and Houston.

Interesting facts: Texas had 6 flags over the years — those of Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the United States, and the Confederacy—which inspired the name of the Six Flags amusement park chain.

So, what things are actually bigger in Texas – other than the Texan egos?

Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix Central Aven - Wikimedia - JCordovaPhoenix, one of the largest metro areas in the USA is also known as the "Valley of the Sun" due to its warm weather and sunny days.

Before you enter the city center you will encounter the usual American urban sprawl but with desert landscaping, a lot of cactus trees, and stark black hills. 

If you love the hot-dry desert climate, then you will enjoy living in or visiting Phoenix. A lot of people do, and that is why it is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country.

Brea, CA

Brea Oil FieldsCalifornia is known for the gold rush, which caused many prospectors to head west to strike it rich. But California also experienced a black gold rush when oil (petrol) was discovered.

Brea started as a village for oil field workers, but when the oil boom became the oil bust, Brea became a citrus producer with orange and lemon fields instead of drilling fields.

You can still see some oil drills on the hills above Brea, but they are dwindling. 

Over the years, Brea turned into an important retail center because of the large Brea Mall, several mini-malls, and the recently redeveloped Brea Downtown. 

Southern California on a budget

Los Angeles skyline from observation towerSouthern California is well-known for popular destinations like Disneyland, Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA), and the beaches. But most of those places will cost you an arm and a leg. 

So what can you do when you are on a budget? Believe it or not, there is plenty to do for free or almost free in the Southland. Here are a few of my favorite places.

Stroll through some rustic old towns, visit ethnic enclaves, take a walk on the beach, go for a hike, spend time at a museum, or take a Scenic Drive

Rocky Mountains Zipline adventure

Rocky Mountains Zipline - Bill ZainI love the feeling of flying over a forest canopy while admiring the nature around me.

Well, I wasn’t exactly flying, but sitting in a harness and sliding on a long zipline is close enough.

And I wasn’t admiring nature too much as it was zipping under me way too fast, but I still loved every minute. 

While visiting Denver, I decided to go on this zipline adventure with Denver Adventure and chose the 6-zipline adventure with a media package.

Rocky Mountains NP Tour

Denver Rocky Mountains - by James St John - WikimediaWhen I decided to visit Denver, the mile-high city, I expected to see forests, rivers, and snow-covered mountains, but I was disappointed when I landed. 

Denver, at first glance, looked like any other major city in the USA, with urban sprawl, a city center with tall buildings, and a sprinkle of parks. 

But my disappointment was short-lived as I explored this beautiful city and the Majestic Rockies a short drive away.
You can read more about Denver here, but this page is dedicated to the splendor of The Rocky Mountains National Park.

The park spans the Continental Divide and encompasses protected mountains, forests, rivers, lakes, and alpine tundra. 

Mule ride through the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon PanoramaMore than two years ago, I signed up for the Phantom Ranch lottery, and finally, in October of 2021, I won a spot. 

WoW! What is this place that is so popular you have to win the lottery to get in? 

Phantom Ranch is a campground at the bottom of the Grand Canyon on the banks of Bright Angel Creek, which flows into the Colorado River. The place is so popular with hikers that you must plan your trip years in advance.
When you accept your lottery and book your cabin, you must decide whether to hike down and up the canyon or ride the mules. 

We decided to ride the mules thinking it would be easier than a full-day hike in each direction. 

In some ways, it is easier but for the uninitiated, sitting on the mule for five hours has its own challenges. I got to exercise some muscles I didn't even know I had. 

Road trip CA to FL

nullMy daughter and I decided to embark on a road trip from California to Florida. At first glance at the map, it didn't seem like a daunting task – 2100 miles? No problem.

Once we started planning for the trip, we realized we would need at least a week to get to our destination in Florida – that is if we wanted to enjoy the sights along the way.

If our goal was just to get there, you could take it in 3 to 4 days.

The trip was mainly a straight line on the 10-freeway with a few side trips. Along the way, we visited iconic places like Phoenix, Sedona, Tucson, El Paso, San Antonio, the Alamo, Houston, New Orleans, Mobile, Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach, and Destin.