Good Day at Red Rock Canyon

There’s a movie called “Bad Day at Black Rock” from 1955 where one of my favorite actors of all time, Spencer Tracy, finds himself in a hostile western US town.  If Tracy had only gotten his colors mixed up, he could have had a lovely day in the desert instead.

Red Rock Canyon, just outside of Las Vegas, is a national conservation area with ancient rust colored rock formations. It was one of the few “must dos” on my list for this trip: getting off the strip to see nature. The park’s small entry fee per vehicle is good for a full day and allows for re-entry  if you want to take a second loop through (we did).

The one-way road is well paved making it highly accessible for all with a number of places along the way to pull off to soak in the views or for hiking. I usually ignore visitor centers, but this one was worth the stop. The building was a modern eco-friendly design containing family friendly hands-on educational activities and displays with a focus on the environment and nature conservation.

Winding around Red Rock the landscape continuously morphs and the rock formations are always captivating.  Dog friendly walking, hiking, biking, and horse trails of various lengths and difficulties are everywhere for you to explore. At one location there was even a group of rock climbers repelling down the side of cliff face. For many though, the big draw of the park are the ancient petroglyphs  tucked back along one of the trails, and we definitely agree this is one thing not to be missed.

For a good day outside the hustle of Las Vegas visit Red Rock.



Beer Here! Craft Breweries in Decatur, GA

If it isn’t already, the city of Decatur should be on your list of places to visit in Georgia. Within the perimeter of Interstate 285 and along the MARTA subway line, its as easy to get to as it is charming. Enjoy the restaurants and maybe a stroll around the square before trying  one of the three local craft breweries.

Three Taverns Brewery – the largest in the immediate area with an intimate tasting room and outside picnic space. They specialize in sours, so get ready to pucker on any available Sour Asylum option and calm it down with the ubiquitous Night on Ponce IPA. They’re quite popular, so be prepared to wait in line for your next taster.

BlueTarp Brewing Co – small brewery with local distribution. The tap room is open for tasting and tours with a dog-friendly outdoor space. They specialize in IPAs and we definitely recommend the Tropic Thunder. (Pro-Tip: check Groupon for their regularly available special)

Wild Heaven Beer – technically located in next-door Avondale, this brewery is a low-key hangout. Mum’s favorite is the Funkenrach smoked wild ale and I go for the White Blackbird Saison. There are special events every weekend and dogs are always welcome both inside and on the large outdoor patio.

Also check out…

Independent Distilling – ok, they don’t do beer, but they do have some sweet southern corn whiskey that’s worth a stop. They also make a delicious bourbon and rum, so make a tiny detour, enjoy the short tour and get ready to take a bottle home!


Beer Here! Craft Breweries in Harrisonburg, VA

The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia is known for both the beauty of the mountains and its many wineries.

Fans of hops don’t despair, the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail runs along nearly the same route and offers a variety of craft breweries for any palate. One spot along the way with a concentration of stops is the city of Harrisonburg, VA. There are four breweries within walking distance of each other, allowing for a full day of touring the tastes in the historic downtown area. The big bonus for my visit was that all of these options had outdoor dog-friendly patios!

Three Notch’d Brewingone of three tap room locations of the Charlottesville based brewery. The Minute Man IPA was smooth and citrusy and the Watermelon Gose was refreshing, salty, and sweet. They also had dog biscuits available for purchase made from the grain left after the brewing process!

Brothers Craft Brewing – probably the most well known brewery in the area. The seasonal Hallelujah IPA has a mid-level bitterness and citrus note, but my personal favorite is the Hoptimization. If you can’t make it to the tap room, a number of local restaurants offer their brews on draft.

Pale Fire Brewing Co. – known for their IPAs, they also have a good variety of other styles. I personally loved the Salad Days Saison and the Electric Sheep Belgian Amber.

Wolfe Street Brewing – located in an old garage, this is the smallest and most intimate tap room location. They tend toward more ambers and stouts, but definitely try the Citra Tonic Pale.


If you’re more of a cider person, try nearby Old Hill Hard Cider in Timberville. Located at the Showalter Orchard, Old Hill offers tastings made from 10 varieties of apples grown specifically for cider making. Try their special mead blend and whisky barrel aged options for unique flavors (I bought a bottle for home).


Charleston’s Dog-gone Charm

I’ve brought Hondo along on road trips to Charleston, South Carolina a number of times.  This beautiful, historic city is not only a great tourism spot, but also one of the most dog friendly places we’ve ever been. Everytime we go, there’s always a new dog friendly place to explore.

great view of Marion Square at Carolina Ale House
fully fenced in patio at Parson Jack’s

The downtown area is extremely walkable with great views of the harbor and historic houses. You can go from waterfront park, past the famous Rainbow Row, and all the way around the battery at the tip of the peninsula. The main shopping drag of King Street is lined with stores and restaurants, many of which have water bowls outside their doors for a thirsty pup. Many restaurants allow you and your little beast to on their outdoor patios. We recommend Kitchen 208, Taco Boy, Home Team BBQ, and 39 Rue De Jean.  Outside of the down town area check out White Duck Taco, Parson Jack’s Cafe, Triangle Char & Bar,  and The Dog and Duck.  For more, see the links at the bottom of this post.


vegetarian tacos at White Duck


Many of the craft breweries around the city allow pets on their outdoor patios.  We had an excellent time at Cooper River Brewing Company, sitting at one of the many picnic tables and listening to live music. Also check out Revelry Brewing Co, Ghost Monkey Brewery, and Frothy Beard Brewing. If you prefer wine or vodka, try Firefly Distillery (the original sweet tea vodka) and Deep Water Vineyard. Their dog friendly grounds and tasting room make a great afternoon on James Island. 
The beautiful beaches allow your pets with seasonal rules on acceptable hours and leash regulations. Hondo’s not a fan of the beach (he doesn’t like the evil water chasing him) but we do enjoy walking along the sand when we have a chance.

If you’re lucky enough to be in town on a Monday in the summer, catch a Charleston Riverdogs baseball game. “Bark at the Park” nights are dog friendly and some offer special prizes if your pooch comes in costume!


For more dog friendly places in and around the Charleston area, check out these articles from Lowcountry Dog Magazine and Holy City Sinner.


Riding in Cars with Dogs

There’s nothing like a good road trip. Add a dog and you’ve got a recipe for a great weekend escape.  I travel with my dog Hondo as often as I’m able to, now 6 different US states in our 4 years together.  I feel that its easier to travel with him by car than airplane and always try to bring him along. While it does add more prep work (and planning stress) it’s totally worth it.

5 Tips for Taking Your Dog on a Road Trip

Safety First – When you’re driving down the road, your little beast should be as safely secured as you are. Keep your dog in a crate or seat belted in. Hondo’s harness is attached to a seatbelt in a car, assuring that he doesn’t go sliding if I need to hit the brakes fast. You can find a seatbelt attachment at pet stores.

Take Breaks – When you’re on a good stretch it can be tempting to keep driving for hour after hour. Try and break that habit and make regular stops along your route for rest breaks, snacks, and a little walk. everyone will be much happier (trust me)

Keep to a Routine – Dogs like routines. They seem to instinctively know when dinner time rolls around. While it’s not always 100% possible, I try to stay to our established routines on the road. It makes the change in scenery a little less stressful for Hondo.

Be Aware of Temperature – The heat and sun are amplified inside of a car and can easily become dangerous to all living beings. When you’re road tripping make every attempt to NOT leave your dog unattended in the car.  If you absolutely have to leave them, make sure to limit the time and take steps to regulate the temperate and airflow. On solo trips in the summer when I need to make an emergency relief stop where dogs aren’t allowed, I’ll  leave the car running with the air conditioner on and doors locked.

Be Well Supplied – There’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to buy what you need for your dog when you’re away from home. Make sure that you being everything you might need with you

  • food & treats
  • dog poo bags
  • leash, harness, etc
  • crate & blanket
  • favorite toys
  • bowls for food & water


Do you have a tip for car trips with Dogs? Tell us in the comments!


Hiking, Wine, and More in Shenandoah

In August of 2014, Mum and I met for a week in the appalachian region of Virginia. Neither of us had been to the area or new what to expect and both of us left wanting to return and explore more of the area.






We stayed in the small town of Basye near Bryce ski resort. Being there in the off-season turned out to be a good idea, not only because it was significantly cheaper. The ski resort, like many others across the country, offered activities to make the best use of the green hills like golfing, mountain biking, and tubing. Mum jumped at the chance to go zip lining and fly down the mountain through the tree tops. The whole idea frightens the ba-jezes out of me, so I sat on the condo balcony and knitted, watching her slide in at the end.

Shenandoah County offers a number of state parks with excellent hiking trails. Hondo and I hiked in a few of the local offerings and enjoyed the great views. Of course, Shenandoah National Park is also a prime local destination. The winding Skyline Drive offers amazing views of the valley and connects different peaks, waterfall, and amenities. There are a great deal of hiking trails, but not all are dog friendly, so be sure to follow signs and check your map. Thankfully the trail to the highest peak, Hawksbill Mountain was, and we enjoyed a long look over the patch-work countryside.

Nearby small towns of Mt Jackson, Quicksburg, Edinburg, Woodstock, and Harrisonburg make for great side trips . We made our way around some of the antique and thrift stores, family owned restaurants, and I picked up some local alpaca yarn. We even stopped at local potato chip factory, Route 11. They have large windows to the production floor where you can watch the potatoes at every stage from washing and peeling to seasoning and bagging. Their shop offers tasting of their regular flavors as well as a few unique offerings.

The Appalachian region also happens to be Virginia’s wine region. The “Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail” connects 22 local vineyards and you could take over a week just traveling to all the different options. Our favorite nearby stop was the Cave Ridge Winery. This small, family owned winery has daily tastings and live music on weekends. They’re also dog friendly and we felt very welcome to sit and sip our bottle while Hondo lounged by the vines.

The Appalachian region of Virginia has so much to explore and we only got a taste of it. I can’t wait to go back and see what else we can discover among the hills.




Navigating Atlanta Airport

If you travel, you’ve probably experienced  Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Int’l Airport at least once.  The world’s busiest airport sees 90 million passengers a year and I’m one of them.   The surrounding area is a maze of parking lots and there’s a pick-up/drop-off area on both the North and South side of the domestic check-in to keep the traffic flowing. If you’re going to or coming from the city, I recommend considering taking MARTA. The local transit train has a terminating point at the airport and fares start at $2.50 one way. It doesn’t go everywhere, in town but will get you closer.

The layout of the terminals is linear, starting from domestic check-in and  then moving alphabetically towards the international terminal. Each lettered terminal is connected by the “Plane Train” as well as walkable corridors. While its fairly easy to navigate, there are a million stories of running down the long walk ways to catch connecting flights in other terminals. Once I  ran from the far right of Terminal D to the far left of Terminal A and barely made the connection! The gate agent closed the boarding door behind me, the flight attendant announced to the airplane that “the prodigal daughter” had arrived,  and I proceeded to have a small asthma attack in my seat.  All in all a memorable way to start a journey!

If you have a long enough lay-over or have arrived at the airport early, take some time looking at the guide. Each terminal as some unique shops or restaurants, and you can probably find something you have a taste for. There’s also a few different vegetarian options to be had!  I recommend walking between terminals instead of taking the train, if you have the time.  Each one has a different art exhibit and they do change occasionally. New this year is an immersive forrest experience between Terminals A and B.

If you’re traveling with your dog, like I do with Hondo, there’s a pet relief area outside the baggage claim on the far end of the South Terminal. Its double gate makes it secure for an off-leash moment and the astroturf provides a space for year-round doggie relief. The metal sculptures are probably better enjoyed by pet-parents who can sit on the provided benches while the hairy ones are having a good sniff.  There are currently no dog relief areas in terminal, but signs in Terminal C announced their intention for this in fall 2016. As of November, they are not open yet.

Update 12/13/16: the Atlanta airport kindly tweeted me to let me know that animal relief areas are now open by gates B33 and C21! I must have missed them my last time through. I blame the massive cold I had. 


LA is for the Dogs!

When you think of experiencing Los Angeles with a dog, just think of Paris Hilton. The originator of the “pooch purse” knew that the city of Angels is better with your bestie beastie. My little furry man and I second that, having explored the city together now three times.

IMG_2379Most of the coffee shops in the city offer pet-friendly patios, but our favorite is Echo Park’s FIX. Local roast beans and unique whole leaf tea blends offer a good cuppa while enjoying the low slung chairs shaded by umbrellas. If you’re already hiking pet-friendly Griffith Park, try Trails for vast picnic table seating and a vegan-friendly menu.

There are great parks and outdoor shopping all over the city where you can relax with your dog. Hondo loves to watch the ducks at Echo Park Lake and we had a great time exploring the Americana with friends. We don’t often go to the beach (he’s NOT a fan of water, especially when it chases him) but Huntington Beach and Long Beach both have areas where dogs can run in the waves.

enjoying a soft serve at HoneyMee
enjoying a soft serve with a friend at HoneyMee
The great number of restaurants with patios or sidewalk seating means that Hondo gets to come along, and maybe get a sweet potato fry. Guisados for fresh tortillas and amazing tacos, ELF for vegetarian friendly small plates with a mediterranean flair, or Chego for Korean influenced rice bowls. We got an extra treat this time and shared a soft-serve with honeycomb from HoneyMee in Koreatown.

Later in the day when I’m craving a brew of a different kind, we opt for Golden Road in Glendale.  The dog friendly patio is a great place to meet friends and have a snack (vegan friendly offerings here, too). We didn’t get a change to visit Angel City, but locals like it for allowing dogs inside as well as out.

dog "bathroom" at LAX
dog “bathroom” at LAX
LAX is the most dog-friendly airport. Period. As part of a major renovation they have incorporated dog “bathrooms” post-security in every terminal. Set back near the people facilities these quiet, private rooms have synthetic grass and disposal bags, as well as a sink for the human companions. Hondo insisted he didn’t need to go, but it’s always good to have the option – especially after a delayed flight.

Note: Laws in Los Angeles County leave the decision to allow dogs up to the individual companies, so its always recommended to check before visiting.


The Barking Carry-on Bag

I’m currently packing for a solo trip. Well, not exactly solo – I’m bringing my dog, Hondo. He’s a fairly seasoned traveler now, having joined me for both road trips and flights to seven different states. This time around, it’ll be a flight to California to visit friends.

Hondo peeks out at the other airline passengers

Preparing to fly with Hondo takes a little extra shuffling of my regular packing procedures. Normally my “personal item” would be my purse, fully equipped with books, snacks, and charged iPhone; this time it’ll contain a 14 pound hairball that barks. Most US domestic airlines allow you to take a small pet on board as a carry-on in exchange for one of your regular bags plus a fee (check with your airline for their policies).  In addition to having Hondo be my baggage (rim shot), I need to pack everything he’ll need along with my own items (see 1 week, 1 carry-on) in my remaining carry-on bag.  For a week in summer, here’s what I pack for him:

  • portioned food for 7 days, plus one extra day just in case
  • treats (bribery will get you everywhere)
  • 2 full rolls of poo bags
  • 2 travel bowls, one for food and one for water
  • any necessary medications
  • small toy and blanket with his sent on it
  • supply of puppy pads (for emergencies)
  • a few bandanas for style

Once we’re in the airport, he’s pretty much confined to his case. The one real test is going through security. Just as I have to empty my pockets and take off my belt, Hondo has to have his collar off before going through the metal detector in my arms. This isn’t the hard part; it’s getting him back into his collar and carrier at the end of the conveyor belt without him impersonating an eel and escaping my arms that’s the challenge.

Hawksbill mountain, Shenandoah National Park

To me, its worth the extra effort and worry to have Hondo traveling at my side. Just having him there soothes anxiety while pushing me to explore our surroundings. He might not understand the importance of the giant redwoods, the beauty of the Smoky Mountains, or the history of Olvera Street, but I know he enjoys being there with me.

If you’re looking to learn more about traveling with your small dog, check out Dog Jaunt.