PNW Coast – Weekend Roadtrip

Earlier this month Sam and I took the car along the PNW coast and saw a few of the many, many spectacular beaches – each only about 2-3 hours away from Portland. The trip left such an impact on us that we’ve been longing to do it again, so we’re hitting the road again this weekend! So before there’s too many memories to recount,  I wanted to take some time and reflect on our coastal trip and jot down some of my favorite moments.

 

Driving through the Country

After work, we drove directly to Newport in the hopes of getting there with some daylight to spare. With an obligatory Taco Bell burrito puddling up hot sauce on my lap, we made our way through windy, country roads with (frustratingly) low speed limits that gave us plenty of time to sightsee. Since every road trip requires lots of time in the car, it’s a bonus when there is always something new and beautiful to see. One thing we didn’t do? Take a picture. Just imagine rolling amber hills, forested cliffs, and a windshield with more than enough dead bugs to make me question my validity as a new Vegan.

 

Catching the Sunset in Newport

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We did manage to get to Newport in time; we parked as close to the beach as we could and walked in the freezing cold coastal winds to enjoy the sun as it set behind the horizon. The majority of the town was asleep by the time we arrived, and was still asleep by the time we left in the morning, but seeing the cute shops in the street helped me imagine a bustling seaside town during peak hours. Maybe this weekend we’ll see that side of it.

 

Finding little Sea Creatures in Smelt Sands

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The next morning we drove about thirty minutes south down the coast to visit Smelt Sands, a really cool beach with tide pools, which, for those of us who have lived 15 years in a desert, are little pools of ocean water that get holed up in the crevices of rocks as the tide changes. Sam and I saw a bunch of crabs and starfish and since I grew up catching little sea critters just like that with my brother, I was incredibly delighted to experience this. Other living things here? Ravens or crows, I can never tell the difference. But they hunt the crabs here and it’s interesting to watch them work their way strategically through a shell.

Exploring Sea Caves in Depoe Bay (and grabbing lunch)

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Probably the highlight of the trip for me was Depoe Bay, where we spotted some caves along the cliffs that were accessible because of the low tide. I don’t keep up with the ocean’s schedule but we arrived around noon so I imagine that’s a good time to come and see these guys for yourself! Getting to them requires some scrambling and clambering but nothing too intense or advanced. (Sam’s Note: & don’t make the fun mistake that we did. You don’t have to scramble over the slippery algae rocks. There is a rope to help you get down towards the South side near the caves!)

Afterwards we grabbed lunch at the Chowder Bowl (the veggie burger was a special so they may not have it all the time) and grabbed some vegan Taffy at Ainslee’s.

 

Enjoying the Views in Neskowin

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There’s a really cool hill/cliff/hump?/chunk of land on the beach in Neskowin. If you make your way up you can sit on branches and enjoy some incredibly peaceful views of the ocean. Another thing to do here is almost die because you lose your footing (SAM) so make sure to be careful when you start the descent. Neskowin seems like the type of place where you find more to do the more you visit, so I’m super excited to head back and do some more thorough exploring. We enjoyed a veggie burrito and a beer at a little shop near the beach as we prepared for our final stop of the day.

 

Sleeping in Oceanside

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*Picture is from Newport but sleeping is all the same, isn’t it?

Oceanside automatically makes me think of Southern California, but the only thing the two cities have in common is that they’re both on the side of an ocean. Oceanside, Oregon is beautifully quiet, and quaint, and we found a good spot to listen to the waves as we got tucked in for the night. Just like Newport, I imagine this small town to be packed with surfers during the day but experiencing the quiet side of it was the perfect way to end the trip.

Our Way Home

On our way home, we stopped in several other small towns and revisited Cannon Beach (which is still my favorite, for now) and made it home with enough time to unwind and prepare for the workweek.

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Sam and I never used to have two consecutive days off together, but now that we do (on occasion) we’ve discovered the absolute magic of weekend traveling. I highly suggest doing this and just bumming it out in your car and pack a ton of PB&J sandwiches to make it cheap, and fun, and easy. On to the next one!

-Zach

 

Lake Las Vegas Getaway!

 

It was 80 degrees out and we had that itch – that desire to see something new. So we rolled the bikes out, revved into the weekend traffic and arrived at the picturesque village just in time to catch the sunset.

Despite feeling like a little oasis, Lake Las Vegas is only about 40 minutes from anywhere in town. Making it a perfect getaway for those tourists who are tired of the crowded strip! This place is loaded with hotel rooms that all seem to have a view of the lake through the room window. There’s also a little shopping center that has multiple restaurants ranging from Italian to Mexican food, as well as a market with surprisingly low prices on their items!

We went on a Friday afternoon and were surprised with how quiet the town was, but it actually worked in our favor and helped the whole place feel very serene and peaceful. There’s a variety of dramatic backdrops here, which makes Lake Las Vegas a favorite for photographers and romantics.

For those seeking a more adventurous approach, the Lake Las Vegas website offers equipment rentals for several different water sports and activities. We saw one guy doing flips over the water on one of those pressure jetpacks and it looked pretty damn cool!

Also, if you’re debating whether to check out Lake Las Vegas during the winter season, definitely do! They set up an ice rink over a part of the lake during the winter.

-Sam

Benefits of Book Keeping

Wish you had money to travel? Budget yourself to your goals!

Lots of our friends ask us how we afford to take a two week trip every three months while living on our own, and paying 3 auto loans. We both have regular, hourly paid, non commission jobs. Answer is, we budget! I feel most people think budgeting means restricting yourself which causes anxiety for some. Others may not understand where to start? But without it, Zach and I wouldn’t be able to afford these trips that we do.

If you want to start budgeting your money, here are the first three steps to take:

Begin Bookkeeping Your Expenses

I use excel to log everything related to money, like an accountant (which I’m not!) So first, you’ll need to back log your past two months to find out what you actually spend your money on. Separate it week by week to make it more organized.

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Categorize Your Spending Habits

Begin a new column next to what you wrote, and write a category next to each entry. Was it food, personal spending, gas money, etc.

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Once it’s categorized, add it up! Now you can look between the two months and find an average that you spend on each category.

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Create A Budget

Now that you know what is your norm spending, you can budget what you want it to be in order to achieve your side goals. Subtract your bill expenses from your income and see what is left over. From there, just distribute that money between the categories to decide what you will spend your money on.

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This is just a simple example, it can be as detailed as you’d like. But from here, it just takes self-control, monitoring, and patience!

 

Have questions? Ask us!

-Sam

Lantern Festival – What To Bring!

Lantern Festivals are becoming more popular and easier to attend thanks to social media! Lantern Festivals originated in China to mark the last day of the traditional Chinese New Years celebrations. Now, lantern festivals are being hosted around the world in efforts to bring communities together to write down their hopes/wishes and watch them rise into the night sky. In the United States, two large companies that host these events include LIGHTS FEST & LANTERN FEST.

#1 Purchase Your Ticket Months In Advance

These events usually take place on the outskirts of cities, at night time usually during spring, summer, and fall to ensure safety since the lanterns are lit with fire. We attended The Lights Fest in Mesquite, LV. These companies mainly do one event in each city once a year, and keep moving to the next city. So make sure you purchase your tickets month/s in advance & also to get in on the cheaper ticket prices.

Your ticket price will include your personal lantern, a sharpie so you can write/draw on your lantern, and usually a goodie bag with a little free gift depending on what company you go through! Parking fee is separate! So ensure you look for the separate link to purchase a parking slot!

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Quick Tip:

To avoid traffic, I would definitely arrive at least an hour or two prior to festivities beginning.

#2: Bring Activities To Stay Entertained

Since the lanterns are lit up with fire, I can image all lantern festivals are surrounded by what ours was, dirt. The actual lantern part is about 20 minutes long, and happens at the very end of the event. So food, drinks, and games would be great to bring along with you to ensure it’s a fun afternoon all the way through. (You can also purchase sparklers for some extra fun!)

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#3 Bring A Camera

When those lanterns are let go, there is something about that sight that just makes you tear up no matter how manly you think you are! Now camera’s aren’t going to capture the full beauty, but we definitely cherish our videos/photos. So make sure you bring a camera/smart phone to capture your experience!

-Sam

Oklahoma – What To Do!

Sam and I visited my family in Oklahoma last week and we were surprised to see just how many beautiful places there were here. We stayed in Norman, which is real close to Oklahoma City and home to OU. Every time I mentioned Oklahoma to anyone, the common response is “What’s in Oklahoma?” – and I thought the exact same thing.

So to enlighten those of us expecting nothing but cornfields and tornadoes, here’s a list of 5 things I didn’t expect to see near Norman, Oklahoma.

5. OU Campus and downtown Norman

The Oklahoma University campus is right across from downtown Norman and walking around both paces you can marvel at charming and impressive architecture. To be fair, it’s all rather compact and you can walk all of downtown and the campus in about twenty minutes but on a cool, sunny day it’s perfect for peeking in a bunch of little shops or grabbing lunch.

4. Lakes

DSC07531The amount of water in Norman surprised me. We swam a LOT during the trip and there aren’t too many places strictly regulated which means you can grab a paddleboard or kayak and just go exploring.

3. Chickasaw

Chickasaw National Recreational Area is a large area of springs, streams, and lakes. We only saw a small part of it, called Little Niagra Falls, but if we’d had more time I could spend several days here. There’s a little waterfall to jump off here and if you follow a trail up you’ll come to a little spring said to have healing properties.

2. Bricktown

Bricktown is a little strip of brick shops lined up along a river, which makes for an incredibly romantic atmosphere. We went to a dueling piano bar here, which was fun although a bit pricey, and then walked along the river as boat tours cheered us on for our making out in public

1. Turner Falls

DSC07527My favorite spot near Norman has to be Turner Falls. The beautiful area transports you somewhere exotic and although it’s become a bit commercialized, it’s worth the money for the visit. You can find old ruins of a “castle” built in the 1930s and caves and trails and lots of swimming opportunities in clear water. If you bring children under 12, make sure you have life vests for them – they kicked us out because we didn’t know about the rule, which soured our experience a bit, but if you’re prepared you can easily spend your entire day here.

-Zach

Asheville – What Not To Miss!

Sam and I had never been in a small town – not for an extended time, anyway, and arriving at the tiny, bo-dunk airport in Asheville came with a feeling of apprehension. The air was hot and humid and our cab driver was the Han Solo of cab drivers, jutting between traffic and tuning his police scanner to ensure we wouldn’t get pulled over. When we arrived at our little hotel, he smugly suggested a tip, adding, “Well you survived, didn’t you?”

We did survive, and despite the ride we got a pretty good impression of Asheville. Looking out of the window you couldn’t see an end to the green. The trees were healthy and thick and they crowded the mountains like a blanket. Rivers rushed along streets and under bridges and people were inner-tubing or kayaking – not the professional grade kayaking you might be picturing, more like the improvised “your cousin Billy has a slab of plastic that’ll float” type of kayaking.

Our hotel was a bit dingy, but cheap and close to bus stops so it did the trick. Our nightly routine here was getting a coffee at the iHop across the street; then coming back to our room and reading or watching Fresh Prince. If you travel, bring a book. Sometimes Fresh Prince isn’t on.

Downtown Asheville

DSC05169Downtown Asheville was about 5 minutes away from our hotel by bus. This was the only part of the city that actually felt like a city: tall, brick buildings and tons of little shops. Asheville’s community is passionate about preserving independent businesses, and everywhere in town we found signs plastered on the windows urging consumers to “Unchain Asheville”. While we were there, we tried to visit as many of these little establishments as possible. Our favorites? I’m glad you asked.

Best Shops

We love our food and we love our coffee, so top of our list are two cafés and a restaurant.

Wicked Weed Brewing

IMG_9050-1Beer and good food and even better ambience. We ate here twice, once as the sun cast heavy shadows over the narrow streets and we were able to enjoy all of it because of their amazing half indoor/half outdoor bar seating.

Double D’s Coffee

DSC05143The coffee was alright, a bit sweet, but the charm here is the fact that the café has been set up in an old English double decker bus.

The Rhu

DSC05205Again, the coffee wasn’t great but our experience was amplified by the fact that if you sneak upstairs to the third floor, there is an unused events space that was empty. Large windows and wooden chandeliers create an inspiring atmosphere and we spent some time reading here before a barista found us and kicked us out.

In addition to food and coffee, there are plenty of boutiques and knick-knack stores. My favorite shop was called Horse + Hero where we got a couple of shirts with amazing art by Andy Herod.

Best Views

In Asheville you can’t get away from the beautiful green mountains, but for some of the most picturesque moments you have to visit the Blue Ridge Mountains. We rented a uHaul truck to get around for $20 and also used it to visit the Biltmore Mansion, built by the badass George Vanderbilt. Make sure you do the wine tour here and then go pet some farm animals to sober up.

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Additionally, in order to get some good panoramas of downtown we climbed a fire escape to get some height. Drones are cheating.

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Overall, we were a bit underwhelmed with our visit to Asheville. To be fair, we did minimal research on the town and went in expecting something… grander. More to do, I suppose, for eager urban explorers. This was one of our first “let’s just go”/on the whim trips, and we’ve learned a lot since then. Maybe if we went again now we’d discover the secret charm little towns like Asheville keep tucked beneath layers of two-lane streets and single story homes.

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-Zach

Our Experience in Amsterdam & Paris

I don’t remember when it first hit me. Maybe it was when the sun was on my face and I was hearing the splatter of fountain water in the gardens by the Louvre; maybe it hit me watching Sam pick through stones and shells on the beige beaches of Soulac; or maybe it was way earlier than that – sitting at a café by the canals eating poffertjes and drinking dark coffee, Dutch Coffee, feeling inspired and enthused from our visit to the Rijksmuseum. In any case, it hit me like – not like a brick wall, although it was sudden, but more like something pleasant and wonderful. It hit me like tickle, I suppose, when the hairs on your arms stand up and your stomach tingles and your palms prickle. It hit me like that and the notion was that my life is good. You get a feeling like that occasionally, and it is fleeting just like all feelings, but that’s what makes it good. And on a trip like this you keep track of those moments and when you get home you will always be able to remember everything about them. The smell and the sounds. The ambience. The feeling on your skin and inside of your skin. This is why travel is important.

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Looking for shells in Soulac Sur Mer

I also remember the scary moments, and the stressful moments, and those moments will stay with me forever too, and they’re just as important because contrast is the most beautiful thing in the world. But for now let’s focus on the good.

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Ducking under bridges in Amsterdam’s canals

At the beginning of last month, Sam and I flew to Europe. We were going to visit Holland and France with a day in Brussels, Belgium, and maybe swing by Switzerland depending on how long we intended on staying in any given place. We booked nothing, no trains or hostels, with the intent of traveling with as little restriction as possible. Only 2 things were certain; we would see my grandmother in France and meet up with my mother in Holland, and then again in France.

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Our view from the Eiffel Tower

This was Sam’s first time out of the country and my first time out there alone, as an adult, no longer the Dutch child I once was but now more American and far hungrier to explore and to experience life as I’d remembered it and, undoubtedly, romanticized it. Because of this, I didn’t want to plan the trip around family – it was too tame, too familiar, and I wanted adventure – I wanted that backpacking experience that broadens horizons and shakes up your soul.

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Swinging 100 meters above Amsterdam

It was two weeks of figuring our train routes and tram lines and learning about French culture (Dutch culture wasn’t much different) and hunting for wifi and vegetarian food and, above all, beautiful places to take mediocre photos of. That’s the physical aspect of it. Emotionally it was two weeks of challenging ideals and fine-tuning our plans for the future and just talking, endlessly over coffee or tea or beer or wine (always with a drink, I’m saying), endlessly discussing options and laughing at each other, endlessly having time for each other, and occasionally bickering and making up and laughing at each other again. Because that’s the other thing about travel, is finally getting to be with each other 24/7, and you never get that chance at home so you have to indulge in it like a good wine.

And it’s nice to kiss someone you love and then look up and see the Eiffel Tower behind them, you know?

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But after all of that, after the long days of walking and eating and catching last minute trains and all that European adventuring, every night we returned home to a piece of my family. And that’s unique, and bizarre, because I didn’t want that and I would’ve worked hard to avoid that originally, but it ended up becoming a part of the trip I cherished most.

Family reached out to me when they found out we would be in town and worked around their schedule to meet with us. To take care of us and to share a piece of their life, a shard of their culture with us. It was family I hadn’t seen in 10-15 years, yet felt oddly close, comfortingly familiar.
And out of the 2 weeks we were in Europe, we ended up only booking one hotel, a bed and breakfast in Bordeaux, while the rest was spent in the company of Kiefts. It broadened my horizon in different ways – reminding me that there is goodness in company, that going out of your way for someone else can be rewarding and that being alone isn’t always the best way to enjoy things. A difficult pill for a writer to swallow.

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Sam bicycling by my oma’s house

Anyway, the summary of experience is that life was good, is good still, but was really good there and then, and in more moments than I can count but moments that we will write about here.

We’ll share more detailed posts soon, and if you’ve been to Europe you might relate, or maybe tell us what we missed so we might catch it next time we go, and if you haven’t gone maybe this will convince you to go; everyone ought to.

-Zach

Follow us on Instagram z_s_adventures for more photos and more frequent posts

Pack These For International Travel

Plugs

Some might find this a surprise, but Europe and the UK have their own electrical outlet plugs that differ from America. So you have two options to be prepared for that. You can either purchase an adapter like this one that will allow you to plug in your phone, hair dryer, etc. We kept ours on “converter” setting. When I tried my hair straightener on the “adapter” setting, it started smoking!

Or, you can wait until you get there to purchase a cheap version of each from one of their markets. Why I say that is because they actually say it’s pretty dangerous to plug in American hair curlers into an adapter. They say that there’s a high chance that it could actually short circuit the whole building that you’re staying in.

IMG_3198The Louvre in Paris

Credit Card

To avoid having to carry a ton of cash on you while traveling (for pick pocketing concerns), perhaps consider getting a credit card that has no foreign fees. We got this Bank of America card and it’s been great! It also has a point system to each towards cash back on future traveling expenses.

*we do not get paid from Bank of America for advertisement

Cash

You’ll still need some no matter where you travel, but if you have a safe place to store it, try to only withdrawal cash once. We experienced a $10 fee plus 15% fee per transaction at a foreign bank.

Tip** Some countries you’ll need more cash than others. For instance, most places that we went to in Amsterdam needed cash. However, when we traveled through France, they accepted credit cards more often.

IMG_3408Soulac Sur Mer, France

Wifi hot spots

Before we traveled internationally, we looked into what to turn off on our cell phones to avoid international fees. The average we found online was to expect $200-$1000 for the first time going internationally! We were terrified of this and looked up tips from this and this and neither of us got charged anything! We didn’t get a data plan nor a SIM card.

So once you are in your new country, you’ll need to find a wifi hot spot to look up directions on how to get to that restaurant, or museum you wanted to visit. A cool tip is when you look it up, hit “start directions” on your phone before leaving the wifi hot spot. Your directions will actually still work due to it loading prior to losing that wifi. So it doesn’t use your data, and you’ll be able to keep track of how to get to places!

**these are our experiences with Iphones, on Verizon plans. Charges may vary per person.

Enjoy the travel!

-Sam

Cliff Jumping in Las Vegas!

There’s not a lot of this in Vegas – waves crashing over pebble shores, breezy winds, gentle sunshine, you get it – so when we found it at the end of a two lane street in the middle of the desert (and on my birthday, no less) it felt about as close to paradise as I could ask for. Welcome to Nelson’s Landing.

We came here for my birthday to do the only things it’s known for: cliff jumping and getting weird sunburns.

Of course, Nelson’s Landing isn’t actually in the middle of nowhere –  it’s as simple as following the US-93 south before the NV-165 exit. This means you could be paddling away from the summer heat just an hour after you get off work and that makes Nelson’s Landing a ton more attractive. I mean, if the bare desert cliffs don’t do it for you already.

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Sam and I took the Bonneville out there and jumped off a couple of short cliffs before daring the 20-foot tall one. There are no signs for the heights or anything, we just estimated it based off the butterflies in our stomachs!

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To get there, we parked at a large dirt lot at the end of the road and walked until we hit the water. From here you can follow a trail to the right that leads you along the edges of the cliffs until you find a height you’re comfortable with. Before you jump, remember to test your spot to avoid getting KO’d by shallow or otherwise dangerous water.

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Nelson’s Landing isn’t the picturesque kind of experience you imagine when you think of cliff jumping, but that doesn’t take away from the thrill and for as close to the city as it is, it’s the perfect summer getaway. Just don’t forget to pack water, sunscreen, and food!

-Zach

How to Travel Cheaper!

The top two tips alone save us $1000 a trip. Insane savings!

Tip 1 – Ditch The Hotels

Did you know that the average price per night for a 3 star hotel in major cities such as San Francisco, New York, and Boston are usually around $190 a night? So for a week trip, you’d be spending around $1300 after taxes just for your hotel room. And that’s not including your $500 round trip airplane ticket I’m sure you just booked as well.

For us, we’d like a week trip to cost no more than $3K after all expenses. That’s how we travel so often. Budgets. But for two of us, being left with a grand after hotel and airline fees isn’t enough money for food, souveniors, museum fees, and cruise tours. So, we started to switch to hostels instead of hotels. The average hostel is half the price of a 3 star hotel. So now, we are paying $620 after taxes for that week stay. That saved us $680!

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Our intimate hostel room in Boston

Tip 2 – Look for Niche Airlines

With the travel industry booming, more niche airlines are opening up. Niche airlines fly to specific destinations on specific dates which allows them to lower their prices since they are doing less air time on their part. Even though that means you’d have to plan your trip around when these airlines are flying, you’d be surprised with just how much money you will be saving.

We’re going to Oklahoma City to see Zach’s family during summer 2017 and were amazed by the price differences:

Regular Airline – American Airlines: $1,180

Niche Airline – Allegiant Airlines: $420

That saved us $760!

Some niche airlines include: Alaska Air GroupHawaiian Airlines, Spirit AirlinesLatam Airlines, and Allegiant Airlines.

Tip 3 – Stay Loyal to Companies

I naturally began using Booking.com for our trips because I felt like they made it simple to sift through all the options and find exactly what I need & their prices are usually lower than competitor sites. Since I use them so much, they actually made a special link for me. Now, if anyone books their accommodations through this link  not only do I earn $20 in travel money, but the person who used my link does as well!

On top of that, Booking.com has reward programs too. If I book 5 trips within a year with them, my fifth trip I can get a stay for free. I got all of this, just because I didn’t feel like googling different hotel names!

I hope you look into these options! Sometimes those top two tips alone save us around $1000 a trip. Don’t spend money that you don’t need to!

-Sam