Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hobble Creek Golf Course-Springville, Utah

When I was 10 years old, my grandpa was in town from Georgia.  My dad took the day off work to go play golf at Hobble Creek.  I tagged along and it was the first time I was ever on a golf course.  Although I didn't play, it was still a memorable day.  We stopped at a sporting goods store and bought a jr. set of clubs and I've loved the game ever since.

Hobble Creek Golf Course is one of those courses that I'm sure just about every Utah golfer tries to play at least once a year.  I make it a point to get there every September when the leaves are changing colors.  It is one of Utah's most popular and scenic courses.  Hobble Creek Canyon sits above Springville, Utah and the golf course is integrated beautifully into this canyon.  Hobble Creek runs through this canyon and helps present several challenging shots throughout the round.  This course is one that challenges you with its demand for accuracy rather than its length, particularly the back 9.  

The first hole is one of my favorite opening holes anywhere.  The tee shot of this dogleg left is directed toward a mountain that is covered in red foliage during September.  At the end of the fairway is a pond and down the left side are thick trees and a fence.  This hole just sets the tone that it is going to be a gorgeous round of golf.

The front 9 is certainly easier and much more open than the back 9.  Many of the back 9 holes are lined with trees and oak brush and missing the fairway by much can be death.  A couple of the holes involve getting the ball deep down the fairway and then having to hit over Hobble Creek onto the green, with large trees demanding that your approach come from a certain angle.  If you can hit those angles however, there will be some scoring opportunities due to the length of a couple of the holes.  Ball placement is also quite important on the greens as some putts above the hole are lighting quick.

My only complaint about this course is that it is so heavily played that at times some greens are a little bumpy.  Also, this isn't necessarily a complaint, but be warned that there is little to no cell phone coverage.
Hobble Creek Golf Course

Hole #1 at Hobble Creek Golf Course

Approach Shot on #15 at Hobble Creek Golf Course.  Springville, Utah

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pho Hoa Noodle Soup-Salt Lake City

We finally found our Pho restaurant in Salt Lake.  The bad news is it is several miles from where we live.  The good news is that it is worth the drive.

We probably live in one of the whitest parts of a very white city, not proud of it, that's just the way it is.  For us to find good Asian food, we sometimes have to make the drive to the west side of Salt Lake.  Our daughter's soccer game was out west on Saturday, so we decided for lunch we'd try to find a good Vietnamese or Korean BBQ restaurant.  We've tried several Vietnamese restaurants and were almost to the point of thinking we'd just have to eat Pho when we leave town.  That concern went away when we stumbled on Pho Hoa.

It's located on about 43rd South and Redwood Road, in the same parking lot as an Asian market.  We walked in about 2:00 on a Saturday afternoon and the place was packed, however we only saw about 4 white people...good sign.  Shortly after sitting, I ordered a coke.  It was brought out in a can along with a glass of ice...an even better sign.  I knew this was going to be a good place.

We had a Chicken and Rice Plate, Pork Vermicelli and the Stew with Flank, Tendon and Tripe.  It was all delicious.  The Stew had an excellent rich to the broth.  It also had very good meat and lots of it, something other restaurants we've tried skimped on.  The spring rolls in the vermicelli stayed crisp and had good flavor.  The food came out quickly.  I don't know if this would be considered the best Vietnamese restaurant by people who eat Pho regularly, but for Utah, it's the best we've found.

So this falls in my preference of finding something good in strip malls, so understand that how I reate service and ambience is based on a scale as compared to other strip mall restaurants.  I'm not comparing them some Michelin Star experience.  If I give service a 7, it's because I like the fact that a good Asian restaurant basically points where to sit, gives you about 15 seconds to place your order and brings the food out fast.  If you have thin skin, you might not appreciate it.  If you've been to Asia, you understand this is authentic, and is actually sort of charming.

Service: 7/10
Ambience: 7/10
Food: 9/10

Pho Hoa Noodle Soup on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Quick Hike at Zion National Park

I had no idea this year that we would find ourselves in 3 National Parks in one year.  I felt buying the season pass was only for people that get special invites to REI sales, but came to realize it would have been a good value for us this year.  2012 we found ourselves visiting Bryce Canyon, Zion and Yosemite National Parks.

Although Angel's Landing sounded like a lot of fun, we decided a 4 year old boy probably wouldn't do so great on a hike that has an 800 foot cliff on one side and a 1,200 foot cliff on the other side..  For those of you not familiar with Angel's Landing, this blogger did a good job of showing some pictures of the intense Angel's Landing hike.

Our group included Katie and I, Mason-4, Gwen-10, her friend Kembree-10, my dad-72 and mom-66.  So we searched for somthing a little more family friendly and decided to hike the Canyon Overlook Trail which is a fairly simple hike for all ages.  The hike is found on the east side of the Mt. Carmel tunnel.  There are only about 10 parking spots, so depending on how crowded the park is, it might not be easy to find a place to park.  The hike is only a little over a mile and takes just over one hour.  It starts by hiking up some steps carved into the sandstone and eventually ends at a scenic overlook of lower Zion Canyon.  It has an amazing view of West Temple, East Temple, Towers of the Virgin and Streaked Wall.  Even though the hike is short, most of the time is spent in the sun, so bring some water.

I'm choosing to leave out the parts of almost losing it on our four year old that dumped all the water out of our water bottle, started climbing the fence of the look out spot, wanted to be carried, and whined and bawled for about 1/3 of the hike.  Just trying to take away the positive.  Clearly you can see I've almost forgotten about all the other stuff.

It's a perfect short little family hike.
Gwen and Kembree on hike at Zion

Mason on hike at Zion

Mason taking in the beauty of Canyon Overlook Trail

At the top of Canyon Overlook Trail

Dragging a crying Mason down Canyon Overlook Trail in Zion.  When will hiking with kids become fun?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Hotel Review: Marriott's Grande Vista (Orlando, Florida)

I'd be curious to know what percentage of American families find themselves in Orlando, Florida at least once while raising their kids.  I know I went there with my family while I was growing up.  It's just unAmerican to not take your kids to Orlando.

Orlando has gained a reputation as the timeshare capital of the world.  Rightfully so as timeshares seam to be all over the Orlando area.  I know both Marriott's Timeshare Division and Westgate are headquartered in Orlando and are two of the largest timeshare companies in the world.  It probably makes sense since Orlando is the quintessential family vacation and timeshares are designed for family travel.

Our family has had the chance to go to Orlando a couple times and both times we stayed at Marriott's Grande Vista, which is one of and the largest of several Marriott Timeshares in Orlando.  It is a huge resort with around 700 rooms, but we didn't feel like it was crowded.  Right when we arrived, we noticed that the resort itself sat quite far from the main road making it feel secluded and the drive up was beautifully landscaped.  The buildings themselves had quite a bit of separation and the resort must sit on a huge amount of acreage because it had several swimming pools and each one of them would be as large as just about any pool we've seen at any other resort.

The rooms are great with ample space and all the kitchen fully stocked with everything we needed.  There wasn't a single thing missing, but our experience at other Marriott Timeshares has proven that if something is missing, housekeeping is quite quick in replacing that item with just a simple phone call.  The rooms were very clean and I got the feeling that they had been recently remodeled.  Plus the added space of a 1, 2 or 3 bedroom unit is so nice when traveling with kids.

The question everyone wants to know is how far it is from the parks.  It's about 15 minutes to Disneyworld and simple to navigate.  Universal Studios is also about 15 minutes from Grande Vista.  Seaworld sits practically 3 minutes away and the longest part of that journey is simply driving out of the Grande Vista driveway.

The resort also has a very challenging 9-hole golf course and Faldo golf school.  If you're looking for a challenging course, just across the street from the Grande Vista is a championship course called Grande Pines, one of my top 10 favorite courses played on vacation, but be warned it is tough.  If you're looking for an enjoyable and reasonably challenging course, Marriott has a course at the World Center that I've played several times and really like.

Our family really enjoys Grande Vista.  There are great kids activities, many pools, golf, a good restaurant (although a little pricey) called Nick's Grill, tennis courts and an excellent golf facility.  It's a property that I can whole heartily recommend to any family doing their Orlando pilgrimage.

As for our trip, we went in January and there were no lines and very little humidity.  Gwen was so excited that when we entered the Magic Kingdom she stated coughing so hard that she started to throw-up.  We were 8 steps into the park before when he had to buy a $50 sweatshirt to replace her clothes.  We discovered pineapple floats and ate plenty of churros.  Gwen loved it all.
Mickey and Minnie shrubs

Gwen pulling faces

Disney's Magic Kingdom in Orlando

Gwen watching the Disney Parade

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