The colors of fall at the Acadia National Park

After witnessing a spectacular Sunrise at the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Maine, USA, it was time to experience the fall colors that Acadia is famous for. The best way to do so is by driving on the 27 mile Park Loop Road, which connects the park’s lakes, mountains, forests, and rocky shores, and provides easy access to many stunning views. The road is open from mid-April through November, but a small section is open year-round.

Since we had the yearly pass for all the National Parks in the US, we didn’t have to pay any entry fees (otherwise, a pass can be obtained for $25 per vehicle and is valid for a week). As soon as you enter the park, you can imagine why Acadia is a must-visit during autumn. The fall colors there were not at their peak yet, but were still fabulous to have anybody exclaiming ‘what more!’

There are many pull-off observation points and one should stop at them to see why they are famous for…a leisure trip definitely is a huge plus if you really want to enjoy the bliss of nature! If you are short of time, I would definitely recommend enjoying the following:

Sand Beach: Just walk along the spectacular azure water, or take a swim! The beach is flanked by mountains on 3 sides and we walked from end-to-end against this lovely backdrop. The clouds that were hovering around in the morning provided for a mystical experience!sand beach acadiasand beach acadia np mainephotography in acadiaThunder Hole: A small crack in the cave along the shoreline where waves crash into the hole. The ideal time to witness the road of air and water is when the tide is midway between high and low. Since you can’t time it perfectly, just enjoy whenever you are there!thunder hole mainethunder hole acadiaOtter Cliff: There are many cliffs in there…Otter cliff is a famous one! I went further up on a few ledges to enjoy the sound of waves and inhale in the pristine surroundings.viewpoints in acadia national parkEven if you keep driving along, there are many viewpoints where you could just park the car along the road and enjoy the beauty of nature. I especially liked the views of the Frenchman Bay in the distance!islands in acadia maineroad trip in acadia

P.S. During our trip, I found a fascination for smelling the colored leaves but, unfortunately, they don’t smell any different when they are undergoing the color change.

The hidden gems of Tobermory, Ontario

Further to my previous post on the Sauble Beach that we visited on a Friday evening a few weeks back, we had a lot of attractions lined up until Monday evening. They form a part of the Bruce Peninsula and the adjoining Fathom Five National Marine Park. On Saturday morning, we had to first get the permit for the famous Grotto (natural intricate cove) since the parking for it is through timed slots and is distributed on a first-come first-serve basis. The slots are from 7-11am, 12-4pm, 5-9pm. It is suggested to reach as early as possible if you even want to be safe for a slot (you can only get a permit for that day, not for future). On weekends (especially long ones), all the slots could get filled up in the morning itself…you can follow their twitter handle @BrucePNP or even use #grottoparking to see the current availability.

We reached the entrance (on the Cyprus Lake Rd) to the Bruce Peninsula National Park about 8.30am and were given the option to choose from any of the 2nd or 3rd slots. We went with the 12-4 one since photography is better during the day time and one could enjoy the reflections in crystal-clear waters too! In the meantime, we backed-up our car and headed further up about 10 kilometers to the Tobermory Visitor Center (map here: BP-FF_Map_en). As I’ve mentioned earlier also, the benefit of starting with the Visitor Center can’t be undermined…the folks there give you valuable information even though you might think you know it all!

We were advised to head to the tower right next to it and then go to the Dunks Bay just a short walk away. We did exactly that and were treated to spectacular views of the entire Georgian Bay from the summit of the tower. It was quite windy and cloudy that morning, but the views from up there are still fresh in my memory.tobermory tower near visitor centerbruce peninsula national parkviews from top tobermorygeorgian bayAfter that, we headed to the Dunks Bay and were in awe looking at the clarity of the water. I could even count stones deep into the turquoise waters…I felt the clarity to be even better than that of Lake Tahoe in California that we saw in April last year!nature traildunks bay tobermorywhat to see in tobermoryWe got so excited about the prospect of what is coming up next that the 3 hours at those 2 small sites seemed to pass by in a jiffy!

There are other attractions in Tobermory too, especially a cruise to explore the Flowerpot Island of Fathom Five NP (we covered that on Monday). Our priority was The Grotto for most of Saturday and The Blue Mountains on Sunday. More on these coming up next…

Another Day, Another Beach!

We have been to so many beaches in the last few years that it seems like just yesterday I was at (yet) another beach. It was a few weeks back when we started our long weekend by spending the Friday evening at the gorgeous Sauble Beach in Ontario. It’s a 2-hour drive from our place and we stayed close to the location to get a head-start for the activities we had planned for on Saturday.

At a length of 11 kilometers, Sauble Beach is the second longest freshwater beach in the world (after Wasaga beach, that I wrote about earlier). As the community of Sauble beach is located on the West, the pristine shores of Lake Huron provide for some spectacular Sunsets. Our experience was no less!

Being a working day for me on Friday, we reached the beach around 7.30pm. Since the Sunset was supposed to be around 9, we were there at the perfect time to witness the change of colors.sauble beach ontarioThe best part about this beach is that you can drive right up to the water (see the car on right in above shot). Moreover, that parking is free! If the parking is full, you can park on the road as well (that is paid, but reasonable). I must also add that the beach is quite clean and, luckily, there were very few people around when we visited.day trips from torontoI don’t swim, but that never deters me from just being in the water and listening to the sound of waves. There were a few kids and a surfer further into the lake, enjoying their heart out 😀best beaches in canadaWe spent a couple of hours (even had our dinner in the car while looking at the lake from a few feet). It must have been around 9pm when the waves increased, so we had to back-up the vehicle a bit.sunset phorography ontariosunset at a beachAfter a long time, I witnessed a perfect Sunset. Also, this is one place Saru didn’t want to leave…so she didn’t have to drag me off either 🙂

Why patience is a virtue in the Stock Markets?

Many of us are tempted to make quick bucks…how of it doesn’t matter! What if I told you there is a great way to make money (sometimes quickly) that too all legally? Well, Stock Market is your answer! I am not suggesting that is an easy way though! You have to have a decent knowledge of how the markets work.

My post for Money View here talks about the phenomenal run we are into and how the markets have made many rich in just a few years. It also talks about my personal wins, and some challenges, too. However, the main point is that I learned from my experiences and have been doing better every passing day! If you are into trading and have maintained discipline and had some patience, you would know what I am saying.

The times are still great and there is much more to be made in the Great Indian Story, as I would term it. Do let me know your thoughts after reading my insights shared on the MV Blog.

*Here’s a picture of me working for Morgan Stanley in New York…looks like a highly-paid wall street guy, no? Don’t ask my salary now 😦alok singhal

A ‘snowy’ journey to Zion National Park

Our next destination after covering Lower and Upper Antelope Canyons and Monument Valley in Arizona/Utah was Zion National Park (NP). We had an overnight stay in Kanab (just an hour drive to Zion) with the Hampton Inn…we always try to reach close to our next destination the evening before so we are fully relaxed for the ‘sometimes’ hectic day ahead.

It was expected to snow overnight and even the next day for the most part. However, Zion was on the tight part of our schedule, so there was no leeway for us to work around the weather fury!

As expected, it snowed a bit late into the night. In the morning, as soon as we hit the road, we were met with heavy snow. I had to drive with caution but, luckily, had the road to myself. It essentially meant we stopped as we pleased…the views were stunning, to say the least!zion national parkWe had always considered the states of Arizona and Utah deserts but both had enough snow to pleasantly surprise us. We wouldn’t want a bit of magic while on vacation?antelope canyon to zionThe weather was supposed to clear-up once we reached Zion, so the excitement was building up too!mountains in utahJust before we were about to enter another unique wonder of nature that Zion is, a picture-perfect setting caught my attention, and I was sure to catch it 🙂attractions in utahZion has a terrific scenery to keep you in awe, and we sure witnessed it! As if snow was not enough, it also rained a bit in Zion while we were there, adding another aspect to our experience – you have to wait for another post for that 😀

The first place to view Sunrise in the United States: Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, Maine, is the place to see first rays of Sun in the whole of United States. We had reached there after covering fall in Vermont and New Hampshire, and Acadia is even better known for its colors over the many small islands.

At an elevation of 1,530 feet, Cadillac Mountain is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard. We were staying just a bit from the road to the Summit of the mountain, so it was easy to drive to its peak early morning, which was on the top of my list of things to do there.first sunrise in united statesThe road to the top meanders through the North and Eastern side of the mountain. If your want to see the Sunrise, it is better to rush to the top first, though you might be tempted to stop at the various vintage points along the 5.6-kilometer stretch. Sometimes, even the parking might be hard to find up there though they have ample spots!cadillac mountainAt the summit, I stood in the bitter cold of early-October and my fingers froze many times to capture these shots. I was in the company of many ‘wise’ men and women though 😛acadia national park.jpgThe scenery changed dramatically as I admired the views from about 5am till 7.30 or so. The clouds and islands in the distance added beauty to the extravanagza. There were fall colors too, but not at their peak yet.sunrise at cadillacThe sun made its first appearance in style, and many around clapped to welcome another day!best of acadia npThe following moments kept me hooked to the mesmerizing sights, as it was a perfect morning one can ask for!best sunrise shotsphotography at cadillacThe entire experience only made me strengthen my resolve to never miss a Sunrise while on vacation…it is a wonderful gift of nature that needs to be appreciated and be thankful for!

Day trip from Toronto: Lake Simcoe and Wasaga Beach

Last Saturday, we ventured out on yet another day-long trip (after Niagara falls). This time it was Lake Simcoe and the world-famous Wasaga Beach (the longest freshwater beach in the World!).

Saru had decided on the outing last week itself and I am always up for Travel anyway. So, it was about 10 on Saturday when we started towards the fourth-largest lake in the province of Ontario. The famous attractions of the lake are mostly in the city of Barrie, just an hour or so from our place. Due to lack of proper information available on the internet on what to do around the lake, we first stopped at the office of Tourism Barrie, which is just at the edge of the lake. The young chaps at the office advised us to spend a few hours strolling around the lake and enjoying its beauty amidst the mountains in the far distance, and then driving to Wasaga Beach (which we had planned for anyway). They suggested to go further to the Bluewater Beach for witnessing the Sunset at a quaint place as Wasaga beach is normally crowded (and it literally was too crowded).

There are many activities around the lake. We started by driving to the Minet’s Point Beach (just a kilometer or so before the Tourism’s Office). Though the beach is small but it is an absolutely wonderful place for the kids. We were quick to experience it and then drove towards and past the office and parked at the Centennial Park (not even a kilometer from the office).lake simcoe ontariocentennial park lake simcoeIf one has time, a stroll around the lake (starting from the office) is definitely recommended…but you can’t walk fully around the lake (it is too long).alok singhal lake simcoe wasaga beachWe saw a bunch of people Kayaking and Canoeing in the lake, and we couldn’t hold the excitement. So, we rented it too (for $45 per hour) 🙂 It was a first-time experience for us and we enjoyed it thoroughly. The HappyPaddling folks took our pictures too, but they were not of acceptable quality. I took some of my own shots while we were in the lake.kayaking and canoeing in lakeThe guide had suggested to explore Downtown Barrie too, but we are more of nature-oriented. So, we picked our car and drove further around the lake and parked at the Heritage Park.heritage park ontarioheritage park lake simcoeThere is a bay alongside, which provided for some unique shots of the place!lake simcoe phorographyWe must have spent about 3 hours before heading to the Wasaga Beach. Having been to numerous beaches across countries, I can say too much crowd is the last thing you want to see at a place where you want to just take off your clothes! Anyway, I went by the guide’s recommendation (to head further to the Bluewater Beach) but not before capturing this shot at Wasaga.sunset at wasaga beachBluewater Beach would have been difficult to find had it not been for the precise directions given by the guide (no wonder, it was his favorite beach). For those reading here, it is in the town of Tiny. A gem of a beach it is, I would say! Since it was cloudy that day, we couldn’t witness the sunset there, but I can imagine how magnificent it could have been. I strolled around on the secluded beach, while Saru did some playing-around with the Camera.bluewater beach tiny ontario.jpgFor those looking for a weekend outing from Toronto, it could easily have been so considering we returned back around midnight.

P.S. We didn’t have to buy magnet souvenir on this trip as the kayak vendor gave us a couple of them 🙂

Who is Crazy…They or Me?

You might know we drive on the right side of the road here in the West, but even that has at least 2 lanes. The right-most lane is for the slow moving traffic, and you wouldn’t want to be there unless you have all the time in the world to reach your destination! The left-most is for those who can’t wait to get to their destination (like me)!

Now, I am not a slow driver, so I hardly visit the right lane. But then I don’t over-speed in the left, so people keep overtaking me from the right. Even if I am over the posted speed limit, people still keep zipping past me from the right. Some even give me horrible looks as if I shouldn’t be driving at all! That drives me crazy! Would you give me that title if I am already above the posted speed limit? Crazy! Not me…they!

Because of those looks, I do visit the right lane at times…when I get frustrated enough! But then I can’t see people leaving me behind from the left either. And some still give me looks as if I am too old to drive fast! Do you think I am crazy to let them reach early at their destination while I slog in the right lane. No way! …And here goes my car from the right to left 🙂

So, as you can imagine, it’s a constant struggle for me on the road – I can neither let people give me horrible looks when I am on the left-side; nor can I let them feel sorry for me when I am on the right.

When we have 3 lanes, it is easy for me to decide – just be in the middle one 🙂 That’s where I am at peace as I get the least of the weird looks, compared to the other 2 lanes. Some still show me the middle finger occasionally, but I consider it the price I have to pay to be on the road.driving-on-the-rightThings get complicated when there are too many lanes, as in the picture above. What do I do then? That requires a bit of analysis: Leave the left and the right altogether for the reasons mentioned earlier. Leave the 2nd from the right also, as those are the ’un-deciders,’ who can’t be on the extreme right but are afraid of picking up speed too, which is required in the left. That leaves us with 2nd from the left and the middle lane – and I use them both, with 80% of my time spent in the 2nd from left and only 20 in the middle one. The 2nd gives me the speed I need and the middle gives me relief, when I want to relax. The combination works well for me, and since there are too many options for people, I get the least of the crazy looks 🙂

*Picture sourced from here

Looking to move your car from the US to Canada? Here’s what is involved…

Let me state at the outset – it is very easy to move your car from the US to Canada, if you have proper documentation. I was told otherwise by a few, but after going through the experience myself, I would say it is only time consuming but well worth the pain and money you would save (by not selling in the US and buying again in Canada)!

toyota camry
I drive this Camry, which I absolutely love 🙂

Here’s what you need to do to make the process a cake-walk for you:

Assumptions/Notes:

  1. Your car should be in the acceptable list of vehicles permitted to be imported to Canada. Check the list here
  2. The car is in your name and you’ve driven it for some time in the US. I am not sure what the process is for bringing a brand new car from the US to Canada.
  3. I still had my US DL active for a month when I moved to Canada.
  4. I also continued with Geico US Auto insurance till I got my Canadian insurance. When I got the local insurance in Canada, I discontinued Geico and got the refund of the remaining amount I had already paid for in my US account.
  5. I didn’t drive the car through the border – Since I wanted to avoid the hassle of putting proper documentation in place, I sent my car through the moving company my firm has a tie-up with.
  6. If you had renewal(s) of DL in the US, you should have even the earlier DL(s) to surrender to the Canadian authorities to be considered for full driving history.
  7. Carry all the documents that would collect from various agencies over time before you head to the next one. You don’t want to go to an agency and be in the queue only to find out you are missing something that you should have carried along.
  8. I spent around CAD1,000 overall and most of it was reimbursed by my firm. Your charges could vary a bit here and there depending on your personal situation.
  9. If the moving company paid any charges to any of the 2 governments, I am not aware of that. What I do know is they billed my firm for about USD2,000 for the move.

What to do in the US:

  1. You would have to go to DMV a month or so in advance and get the ‘Abstract’ of your driving record. In New Jersey, they charge USD15 and you can get it in minutes if you go yourself. You would need this (along with any previous DLs, as mentioned above) to have your entire US driving history taken into account in Canada. Without the abstract, Canadian authorities would only allow you to exchange the US licence for G1 licence (as if you have under 1 year of experience).
    I had 3 years of history in the US and got the extract before moving to Canada. So, I got the full G licence by paying CAD90 in exchange for my valid US licence (had to give them my expired US DL also from a year back and the abstract).

What to do in Canada:

  1. The first thing you need to do is to get the DL as explained above. You can visit the nearest Drive Test Center for this step.
  2. Next is to get the car when it arrives in Canada by getting it cleared through customs. I was called by the moving company on the day it was ready for pick-up at customs. I just had to go there with the documents I was handed over in the US by the moving company, along with the Canada Work Permit and Passport. Overall, it took about 5-10 minutes to clear my car and the payment was a customs fees of CAD220.
  3. You would need to get the vehicle inspected so it meets Canadian standards. I went to Canadian Tires and it took about 4 hours to get that done. I was asked to replace the rear break pads and a couple of other minor things. The total was CAD600, out of which parts were for about CAD222 (except for the cost of parts, the labor and inspection cost was borne by my firm).
  4. Then comes the process of buying Auto insurance. I spoke to a few vendors and finally went with TD Insurance, they gave me a good deal by combining both Renter’s insurance for my Apartment and the Auto insurance. Always lookout for such deals!
  5. Finally, the registration of car is required, which is to be done at Service Ontario. It is a 5-10 minute job (I paid CAD240, which includes a sticker too) and you should be able to happily walk away with a new number place. Remember to mail the US number plate to the DMV back there.

Don’t be frightened by the number of steps. As I mentioned upfront, it is only time consuming, but would save you thousands of Dollars!

The Valley of Rocks: Monument Valley

Just a couple of hours’ drive from Page, Arizona (the location of HorseShoe Bend and Antelope Canyons) lies the valley of rocks – the Monument Valley! It has a cluster of large Sandstone buttes (an isolated hill with steep sides and a flat top).

Though the tour of the valley was not in our original plan for Arizona/Utah, we decided on a quick trip from Page as we had one afternoon open. The drive itself is through the vast barren landscapes, but as one approaches the Valley at the border of the 2 states, the tourists begin to be seen.road to the monument valley utahThere is a general admission fees of $20 per vehicle and then you can just drive on the 14-mile graded dirt road that takes you through the major monuments – The Mittens, Three Sisters, John Ford’s Point, Totem Pole, Yel-Bichel, Ear of the Wind.

Here’s the John Ford’s Point, followed by the Three Sisters:john ford's point utahthree sisters monument valleyThere are many monuments there, difficult to capture in just a few hours. One can stop at the designated points though and enjoy the stunning views.snow in desertwhat to see in arizona utahIt had snowed a bit there earlier (who can imagine that in the so-called desert!), but it made our outing all the more exciting. This one is my personal favorite from the day (the colors are all natural):beautiful photography monument valleyThe below shot has Yel-Bicehl on the left and Totem Pole on the right, which has gone through extensive erosion over time!best of usa travelIt was about time for dusk, and that’s when I get super-active. The reason – most of my best shots have come either at dawn or when the sun was about to bid good-bye for the day!snow in arizona utahThe last shot of the day was that of the Mittens (left and middle one) and of the Merrick Butte (right foreground) – looks magical, isn’t it?night shots at monument valleyAfter about 4 hours, we left another of nature’s wonder, but not before collecting a souvenir from a large shop at the entrance.