To Catch A Sunrise At Fernandina Beach


Have you waken up at 4:30 am to catch a sunrise? What if you’re going to wait for the sun to rise at Fernandina Beach, where they say you can view one of the best sunrises in the Sunshine State?

Fernandina Beach, the northernmost city of Florida on the Atlantic side is a little over three hours by car from Orlando. To get a good parking spot close to the beach, the Traveling Chefs have to be there by 4:30 am. This requires them to wake up at 1:30 AM.

That’s not going to happen Chef Pedro thought. “Why don’t we spend the night there?”, Chef Pedro asked Chef Alicia. “Okay,” she said, as long as they could save some money on lodging.


The Traveling Chefs have been following some travelers on YouTube converting their vans into houses on wheels. So they had thought of doing the same to their Ford Expedition. They removed the 2nd row seats, folded the 3rd row as well as the driver and passenger seats, and voila, they have a bed!

Chef Alicia was initially against it. She thought the folded seats would be uncomfortable. “And where shall we park our car?”, she worried. “At Walmart parking lot,” Chef Pedro answered.

They’ve researched on how to make their converted bed comfortable and decided on buying sleeping bags which turned out to be a smart idea. The ones they bought are very soft and comfortable. And to shield the windows from inquiring eyes, they used the Thermal Shield Film from Home Depot. Builders use this to insulate houses. They cut it with scissors into the shapes of their SUV’s windows.

Earlier, he had verified with the store manager they can park there. They just have to park on the lots away from the entrance.


There were three other cars parked farthest from Walmart’s entrance when they arrived at 10 PM. One of the cars has its windows covered similar to theirs. They parked close to them in a lot under the lamppost. It will be safer there, they thought.

Before they slept, they made sure they knew where they kept their car keys. They also have their pepper sprays and their hunting knife ready for emergency. Shortly thereafter, he heard her snoring. Look at this lady, he thought to himself. Initially terrified of this whole idea, she is now asleep like a log.

At 4 AM, he nudged her to get ready to leave for the beach. On the way there, they spotted Starbucks and bought two cups of hot coffee. There were three other customers inside, two of them were police officers. This time, all his fears vanished. They took turns going to the restrooms to wash their faces and to brush their teeth.


Their red Expedition was the first car on the beach parking lot under the palm tree. They left their windows covered with the makeshift film which worked well to their amazement.

As the sun began to rise slowly above the water, he aimed his camera at it. Some people gathered close to the water. He decided to stay beside Alicia farther back.

He stood in awe. She glanced at his wife. She remained seated motionless on her chair.

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And We Stumbled Upon Yosemite

“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing
while in pursuit of something else.”
~Lawrence Block


We stumbled upon Yosemite when we went to California for the first time to attend the wedding of our adopted daughter Pau. She is the same daughter of ours who went with us to Aruba. She was getting married to Ricky who lives in from California.


After the wedding, our other daughter Joni, asked if we wanted to go with them to Yosemite. I heard of Yosemite a while ago because of my interest in El Capitan, a mountain made of granite, a draw to photographers. It is in Yosemite. Without a second thought, Alicia and I said yes! Had we known how far Yosemite is from Vallejo and how stiff the cliff is going up there, perhaps, we would have had some second thought.

Yosemite is about 217 miles by car from Vallejo, Ca., site of the wedding. Most of the trip to Yosemite was uneventful until we approached the cliff going to Yosemite. The road is very narrow and nothing separates it from the edge of the towering cliffs. This frightening circumstance drove Alicia crazy. Her fears of heights and death brought her to tears.


“Stay calm, otherwise I will be frightened myself and we’ll tumble down the cliff”,  I told her.  Every time an incoming car approached ours, we had to drive slower and sometimes even pull over to the very edge of the cliff to avoid it. This exacerbated our fears even more. We were in jubilation when we reached the end of it.
Siri, our i-Phone assistant is good with directions except when there is no connections. We’ve lost connections more than a couple of times on the way to Yosemite. In fact, we were only able to talk on the phone with Joni on our second day in Yosemite and we agreed to meet in Yosemite Valley where 90% of the tourists congregate. El Capitan is also there.

We felt lost on our first night in Yosemite. We stumbled upon a roadside hotel overlooking a  mountain on its front and  a stream on the back. We had a great breakfast in their restaurant which was fully-booked.


We met Joni and her family in the very foot of El Capitan. With them were Joni’s friends Dong and Rachel who guided us for free in all our wanderings there up to Lake Tahoe where Alicia and I had booked previously. 

Dong and Rachel led us to the Half-Dome, the Bridalveil Moraine, the Cathedral Rocks, and the Tunnel View. Each of these places we found amazing. El Capitan consumed most of my attention for its towering height, granite construction, and gargantuan mass. There were people climbing this vertical monster but they weren’t visible to the naked eye. They looked like ants in the binoculars.

On our way to Lake Tahoe, Dong and Rachel made it a point to let us stop on some scenic spots along the way. They pointed to us the Death Valley and other interesting spots which I can’t now recall. We remember though the mountains’ towering heights,  the tall trees, the green leaves, the smell of the pine trees, the visitors’ happy faces, the singing of the birds, the butterflies, the streams, and the lines of cars and buses.

Indeed, “…it’s not the destination. It’s the journey,” as Ralph Waldo Emerson said. That is why we talk so much about our travels. May our travel to Yosemite inspire you to do the same. Don’t count the cost. It’s nothing compared to the memories it brings.

And one thing more – while pursuing something as you’re traveling, allow yourself to stumble upon something else.   Thank you for reading. 

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Dancing With The Bison In Yellowstone

“The greatest moment in life is a departure into unknown lands.” :- ~Sir Richard Burton

Dancing with the bison in Yellowstone is Chef Pedro’s own adaptation of the title  of the movie “Dancing With TheWolves,” starring Kevin Costner which more than anything else had fueled his imagination for the bison and his desire to see them in their natural habitat.

Since then, he always wanted to meet a bison in person and his past vacation in Yellowstone had afforded him this opportunity. It happened when his adopted daughter Joni who has moved to Idaho, invited Chef Alicia and him to visit her family there. They live in Boise, Idaho about 5 hours and 53 minutes by car to the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park.

“Dad, don’t you worry, I will take care of your itinerary here,” Joni assured them. They didn’t know that part of the places she wanted them to visit was Yellowstone. After they stepped in Yellowstone and saw the realization of his life-long dream to see bison in person, he knew without a doubt, this has to be one of his best vacations ever.


Their first encounter with this large, seemingly harmless mammal happened when they saw a couple grazing on the side of the road in Yellowstone. Mamu, Joni’s biological mom, was fearless like Chef Pedro who asked Chef Alicia to stop the van. The two stepped out of it and began walking towards the bison who continued to ignore them. Thankfully, they did because they could have done some serious damage to them.

Walking on the very land on which the American Indians of long ago must have walked, and gazing upon the same mountains and bison, and other animals which they did, filled Chef Pedro’s soul with so much gladness.

For reasons unknown to him, he felt drawn to these bison as he followed them like crazy with his camera. They continued to ignore his uninvited presence. He must warn the readers not to emulate what they did because they have read stories of others who were gorged by them.

On two occasions, they saw a group of bison crossing the street. All cars on the road had to stop. The bison had the right of way. It was a long wait for all of them. They did not mind waiting. It was an awesome sight.


Then, Joni brought them to some of the top attractions in Yellowstone like the Mammoth Hot Springs, the Norris Geyser Basin, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, the Lower Geyser Basin, the Old Faithful Geyser and the Grand Prismatic Spring.

The last one occupies first place in The Traveling Chefs’  hearts. Joni said it’s her favorite spot, too. It is the largest hot spring in the US and the second largest in the world. Words aren’t enough to describe its rare beauty and  Chef Pedro’s camera was inadequate to capture its grandness and enchantment. You’ve got to be there to appreciate it.


Imagine being enveloped by colorful cloud of mist in red, orange, green and blue colors. The Grand Prismatic Spring discharges about 560 gallons per minute of these colorful water. It’s pretty special for Chef Pedro because of what he felt there.

He felt that his inner core was being caressed by colorful breeze coming from underneath the Earth. The place is magical, enchanted, even spiritual. To top it all, he was with some of the people he loves most in life.

They were in Yellowstone for only two days but it seemed like eternity. Sometimes when one finds himself or herself in an extremely beautiful place, it feels that time stops. It felt it did for him there.

Yellowstone is so vast and wonderful. It has so many attractions. It is no wonder it’s considered America’s greatest gift to the world when she made it its first national park.

Thanks to Joni for bringing them to Yellowstone notwithstanding the difficulty of bringing along her two very young children. We missed her husband Ping who had to fly to Japan on a job related matter.

This travel to Yellowstone is one of The Traveling Chefs’ greatest moments in life. It is a place which they wouldn’t have reached,  for on the way there, they were on the brink of a major accident.  But this is another story.  

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Don Pedro Island – Wild, Unspoiled Paradise


The Traveling Chefs visited with their family Don Pedro Island, a wild, unspoiled paradise.  Unknown to many, it is one of Florida’s hidden gems. Not only were they with the people they  love the most, they  also experienced many exciting things some of which they did for the first time. 

Very few people know about Don Pedro Island, even many Floridians themselves. Ken, our niece Kimberly’s husband has been visiting the island since he was young because his family used to own a house nearby.

Adding to the obscurity of Don Pedro is its lack of accessibility. One can get to the Island only by boat or kayak; the latter will take one to get there in hours.

We rented a boat for a week, and everyday that week (except when it rained) we rode to the Island from Manasota Key where we rented a condominium. No one can stay overnight in Don Pedro. This helps in making Don Pedro as pristine as it’s always been: wild, rugged, beautiful, breathtaking, fun.


Ken is a good boatman. He showed Stephen and I how to steer the boat. It was exhilarating for us to do it the first time. It was also our first time to be in a private boat, albeit only for a week, which was actually shortened by a storm which failed to diminish our fun.

Every single day on the way to Don Pedro we saw dolphins swimming. On two occasions, one of them swam so close to our boat which made us yell in excitement. Those weren’t our best encounters with a dolphin there, though.

The highlight happened on our last day of boat ing. A dolphin, whom we nicknamed “Noodle” swam side by side with our boat for over twenty minutes! What an awesome experience!

None of the many dolphin sightseeings we had in the past can ever compare to this one and those were for a fee. This one was free. We saw Noodle rose and dipped in clear water so many times. We were able to film this rare encounter in full.


We arrived at Don Pedro early everyday because we wanted to have the chance to pick up newly-washed up sharks’ teeth. There are hundreds of them in the sand. They belong to ancient sharks who lived millions of years ago. When we get tired of soaking ourselves in this unspoiled beach, we also dove for sun dollars. Ken collected the most perhaps because he’s taller than all of us, so he can see better deeper in the water where these can be found.

Both Don Pedro and Manasota Key provided ample opportunities for photographs. Their beaches, birds, turtle nests, vegetation, trails, fish were magnets for our lens. In the group, I am the most avid photographer. I combed the shorelines of both and took hundreds of photographs and scores of videos. I was lost in the trails of both islands looking for the perfect shot.


After dinner we hang out together over board games. Ken and Kimberly are into these games and they brought with them many different ones. My favorite is “Cards Against Humanity.” We laughed at each other’s hilariously horrible comments.

There was a couple of nights when we missed these board games. We dined out. There were two restaurants in the area which Ken and Kimberly suggested. They were both great. One had a live band and the guests can dance. From our table, I was the only one who danced.

As in some of The Traveling Chefs’ travels, saying goodbye to an island paradise isn’t easy.  That’s the only part of this adventure that wasn’t fun.

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