Our Canyon Ranch Vacation, Day 4

The last morning of our trip came quickly, and we were already feeling nostalgic about having to return back to, sigh, regular life. Blah! My mom and I imagined out loud someday returning with my sister, since the three of us have always wanted to go together, yet we can never seem to get our schedules to align. My mom said maybe someday I could round up a group of girlfriends like she used to do. Apparently, if you visit with a group of friends, there is a way that the group organizer gets a free vacation out of the deal so, um, hi friends! ;) The last day was just a morning for my mom and a half day for me before I made my way back to the smoke scene of Los Angeles. Here’s what it was like:

6:15am Why are we getting up so early on vacation again?

7:00am We join the 50 minute speed and hill interval walk, which is enjoyable. We had considered taking an 8 mile scenic walk to check out a nearby canyon, but obviously that is a crazy amount to walk on a whim, so here’s a picture of it. You can imagine that we were there:

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8:00am The last breakfast! I cry into my french toast and bowl of yummy fruit muesli.

9:00am My mom does a multitude of exercises while I attend acrylic painting class. The description doesn’t tell me much of what to expect, and I’m worried it will be like one of those paint and sip parties where everyone has to paint the same thing and it’s a cherry blossom or a bridge or something else that you don’t really care about. Then I’m nervous because we start really slowly, learning about color theory by blending different quantities white and black into a single color. This lesson actually improves my knowledge of making colors, and after that we can paint whatever we want. I totally copy one of the paintings I’ve seen hanging on the walls at the Ranch, and it comes out pretty nicely.

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11:00am My mom’s flight is a few hours before mine, so we eat an early lunch and more dessert bars at the outdoor cafe.

12:00-4:00pm We’re rushed to say goodbye, but we’re both glad to have had this week of bonding together. I stay for a few more hours, enjoying the sunny desert weather, taking another Zumba class, and treating myself to one last soak in the hot tub. Then it’s time to turn in my plushy robe and slippers and head for the airport.

Between Tucson and LAX, I rope myself into helping a couple of Guatemalan women locate and reunite with their relatives, so I feel like I have done my part to give back to society after taking a week of luxuriously selfish pampering. Goodbye Canyon Ranch! I hope we see each other again soon.

Our Canyon Ranch Vacation, Day 3

Our last full day of fun! I’m not too sad because my regular life is a lot like life at The Ranch, and I’m sure my mom’s is, too. I was nervous to fly back to LA the next day in the midst of all the wildfire crises, but I am lucky enough not to live in the evacuation or danger zone. It feels extremely sad and scary to have a natural disaster hit so close to home. I feel guilty for not being in LA to endure the chaos, but thankful to be somewhere safe and flame-free.

Paella

6:15am We wake up early again. Today is a little easier because mom agreed to turn on the heat in the room last night, so it’s not quite so chilly as we crawl out of bed and out the door.

7:00am Another morning walk. We decide to join the 50 minute power group this time. It ends up being much like the normal paced 40 minute walk because a couple tagged along who didn’t know what they were getting into. I just like walking and being outside, and I don’t wear a watch, so I don’t mind either way.

9:00am Zumba!!! I love taking Zumba and I love that the instructors here give us belly dancing wraps with fancy silver coins hanging from them. We dance and dance and dance.

10:00am I take a yoga class on surfboards. The surfboards are indoors on platforms, so it feels a little silly, but I’m pretending to branch out and try new and different things while still doing what I do every day.

11:00am My mom and I take a TRX fusion class with straps that hang down from the ceiling and heavy kettlebells. I’m a little worried since we’ve already been working out for like 3 hours at this point and it’s marked on the schedule as a Very Difficult class, but we have a good time anyway. The instructor is entertaining, and I appreciate his enthusiasm although we stop giving full effort about halfway through the class.

12:00pm We return to lunch in the main restaurant. This time, there’s a pasta bar plus the usual lunchtime offerings. I again eat everything and end up feeling much too full after. I’m glad there is enough exercise around here to balance out all of the deliciousness.

2:00pm I meet with Leslie the psychic for a Tarot card reading. They really do have everything here! She tells me that I attract narcissistic partners (I’m a blindfolded woman surrounded by swords!) and that my near future will contain a wonderfully sunny period followed by the image of two people leaping from the windows of a burning tower. Things are looking good…

3:00pm I’m back in the room trying to write a book for National Novel Writing Month. I’ve been sticking to the daily word requirements, and I won’t let vacation knock me off track. I will end up getting knocked off track after vacation, but that’s another detail for another time.

4:00pm We make our daily visit to the spa for a quick dip. I bounce back and forth between the cold and hot tubs, and I think I could get used to this. The cold pool is very icy, but I can definitely feel a difference in my muscles the following day.

5:00pm It’s Spanish paella night! We’re excited so we get there too early and end up having some time to kill. We look around to find the “Live Ranch Music” and find that it’s an elderly man playing piano in the lobby. We run back to the room to grab our books to read on the couch by the fireplace. Someone requests that the pianist play “Thanksgiving Songs”, but isn’t sure if there are any or which ones he would like to hear.

6:00pm BINGO time! They’ve moved the game far away into one of the conference rooms, and we walk along the winding paths to get there. The adobe buildings all look similar so it’s easy to get lost here, at least for us, but there are usually signs and friendly employees to point you the right way. We have a nice time playing Bingo for prizes, but neither of us comes close to winning unlike the group of women behind us who each win 2 times in a row!

8:00pm We have to exit Bingo early to get our second round of massages. It’s not a huge loss because our cards are all duds, and getting an immediate massage is a much better prize anyway.

Our Canyon Ranch Vacation, Day 2

Pardon the interruption as I was taking a little Thanksgiving break, but I’ll return to our detailed account of a Canyon Ranch vacay! Day 2 was our first full day of taking advantage of everything the resort had to offer.

6:15am My mom’s alarm goes off and I reconsider my level of interest in the morning walk. It’s cold! And I didn’t sleep well the night before. But I decide to urge myself out of bed so I can see more of the scenery around the ranch.

7:00am We meet in one of the gyms with a group of other walkers to split up into three groups. There are 30, 40, and 50-minute guided walks and the leaders are very peppy for my 7am self. We decide to stick to the middle and head out for a nice walk. I decide to decorate my future home in the color scheme of a Saguaro cactus desert.

8:00am The air warms up on the walk and I see some of my favorite cacti. We’ve worked up an appetite so we head to one of the breakfast options for pretty much anything we could possibly want to eat for breakfast including a fruit/yogurt/oatmeal bar, omelette station, pancakes, waffles, eggs, and other special menu items.

9:00am We take another yoga class, foregoing my promise to try new and different things.

10:00am We stumble upon some kind of cardio class that uses exercise balls and Bosu trainers. I like it and it gives me some new ideas for my own workouts. Then I head back to the room to work on a writing project for a little bit while my mom goes off to join another class.

12:00pm We visit one of the lunch and learn sessions in the demo kitchen where a chef shows you how to make yummy healthy meals while you watch him work and then get to eat whatever he’s making. We learn about brown butter shrimp and winter squash gnocchi, and I’m happy to devour it. I learn that you can make gnocchi much, much more easily by putting the dough into a pastry bag, and then squeezing out a bit and slicing it straight into boiling water. I’ll have to try this at home.

2:00pm Water aerobics! I am not usually a fan of swimming in outdoor pools when it’s below 80 degrees, but the water is heated and I’m trying new things so I join the pool full of eager classmates. It’s not bad, but too cold for me and run-swim-leaping from side to side across the pool is not enough to warm my spirits. I want to quit early but I like the teacher and don’t want her to think it’s because of her. Probably won’t do water aerobics in November again.

3:30pm We stick to our afternoon spa date and enjoy the hot tub(s). I try to master my mind and body by dipping into the cold tub. I turn my back to the clock and try to last a minute, which ends up being the longest 60 seconds of my life. I’m not sure how long you’re supposed to stay in the cold dip so I retreat back to the scalding waters of the hot tub. I think the cold helps my muscles though since I don’t feel sore at all the next day.

5:00pm We return to the room to get ready for dinner, and my mom spots a group of these babies just outside our door:

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6:30pm We eat in the same restaurant as the night before. There’s no need to branch out when the entire menu looks and is so good!

8:00pm My mom booked us massage appointments, which is one of the best ways ever to round out the day. My masseuse is a little heavy on the foot massaging, but I’m thankful for the overall pampering. I fall asleep easily again.

Our Canyon Ranch Vacation, Day 1

In case you missed it, my mom took me to the most wonderful wellness retreat in Tuscon, Arizona a couple weeks ago, and I promised I would tell you more about it. The purpose of the trip was to celebrate my belated 30th birthday. I moved to LA about a month before my b-day, so I wasn’t ready to make any travel plans to close to the move date. Luckily, my mom is retired and her golf and tennis schedule allows for frequent vacations. And, if you didn’t already know, my yoga teaching schedule does too!

I learned about Canyon Ranch when I was younger, because my mom used to go with her girlfriends for a week every year. She would come back carrying logo-bearing tote bags and fancy water bottles and tell us about pampering spa treatments, so my sister and I have always been curious. Unfortunately, Elayne the vet was busy slaving away at her internship and couldn’t join us this time. Hopefully there will be a next time when the three of us can go together.

Before leaving, I knew that we were going to a nice, outdoorsy type of spa place, but I didn’t know what to expect. My mom had revealed that there would be yoga classes and healthy cooking demos, but that’s the extent of what I knew. I imagined a bunch of older, already pretty healthy women treating themselves to spa day. But during our 4-day relaxcation, I found that Canyon Ranch actually offers a lot more than spa services. I was pleased to find a more holistic approach to health— the classes range from cardio bootcamps to lectures on technology addiction or running on an underwater treadmill. There were people of all sizes and adult ages. People suffering from loss, mental illness, and addiction. Families celebrating together. Men and women on their own learning about self-care. There seemed to be something for anyone interested in improving their physical, emotional, and mental health or simply looking to recharge and reset the system.

Canyon Ranch yoga

Here’s a daily schedule of some things that we experienced:

Wednesday

11:00am I arrive after a quick up and down flight from LAX. Driver Dan picks me up at the airport with a sign that has my name on it. I feel very elite.

12:00pm I check into the resort and find my mom at the outdoor cafe. We split a tasty portion-controlled salmon burger and some desert bars. I learn that everything on the menu is all-inclusive, but it’s not a buffet, so you can really order one of everything on the menu if that’s your game.

1:00pm We’re early, so our rooms aren’t ready yet, which doesn’t bother us. We stop at a shoe shop in the hallway to talk to the foot specialist about my lingering foot problem (I have a bone spur on one of my heels). Before I even stand up out of the chair, she comments on my right foot collapsing inward. She watches me walk from 4 angles on a treadmill and has me step across a sensory pad. My mom and I both end up getting new running/walking shoes. Mine are meant to correct the way I’ve been compensating for the heel spur. This ends up being the most valuable life takeaway of the trip for me. I can run pain-free again!

3:00pm We take our first class— Yogilates. I realize that I miss the strength and slow control of Pilates; it was my gateway into yoga and my first teaching stint. I feel inspired to incorporate it more into my yoga classes.

4:00pm We stay for Yoga Vinyasa flow, even though I said I was going to branch out and try other forms of movement on this trip. Oh well. You can take the yogi off the mat, but you can’t put the yogi back into a room full of mats and expect them not to practice.

5:00pm We decide to skip meditation class, having just done two hours of controlled movement and breathing. We head to the room to check in and unpack.

5:30pm We visit the spa area and change into our bathing suits and plush robes. There’s a eucalyptus aromatherapy room, a regular steam room, a sauna, two hot tubs, a cold dipping pool, showers, a nude sunbathing area (maybe good for sunning the skin, but I’m with my mom, so come on…), and a room where you can apply masks and body scrubs. And if you lose your towel or robe there are about 600 other towels and robes available to you.

6:30pm Dinner time. I order almost everything, and it is all delicious.

8:30pm My mom made us facial appointments. What a treat! I would pay a lot of money just to lie down on the facial bed again because the way it is sloped and padded makes me the most comfortable I’ve ever been. Usually I would change someone’s name if I’m going to talk about them, but Euvgenia, my Eastern European facialist, has the most amazing presence and facial skills. Seek her out! Afterwards I visit the restroom where all the walls and ceilings are mirrors and there is a hanging chandelier. I can’t tell if I’m just extremely relaxed or I’ve been transported into a Las Vegas drug-induced experience. 10 out of 10 either way.

10:00pm Easy bed time.

Sunday Special, Vol. 13

Last week, my mom took me to a special wellness retreat in Tuscon, AZ to celebrate my belated 30th birthday. It felt strange to be basking in luxury while giant parts of LA were on fire, but pleasant to reconnect and practice self care. I’m home now, and the smokey air is smelling like campfire, but it’s nothing here in my neighborhood compared to people in Malibu losing their homes and seeing their whole lives go up in flames. This week is heavy hearted, but it’s another chance to witness the power of people and communities coming together.

Canyon Ranch

Health

This had to have been my healthiest vacation ever. Most guests stay at Canyon Ranch to relax, refocus on health, or reconnect with their spirit. Every hour of the day was loaded with fitness classes, lifestyle lectures, spa services, creative classes, and nature activities. Since it was my first time there, my mom and I kept very busy and wanted to try as many different things as possible. We went for morning walks among saguaro cacti. We took yoga classes (of course), Zumba, water aerobics, kettle bells, acrylic painting, and I received a tarot card reading. I’ll have more to details to share later this week, but this getaway really took the idea of healthy living up a few notches. (+)

Family

Getting to spend a week with my mom was nice. I wonder if people whose parents are still together get the same chance to connect with each parent one-on-one. It’s a special thing, and I’m grateful to have had this time. (+)

Friends

When you’re a yoga teacher, it’s hard getting started out with new classes. Sometimes no one shows up or one person comes and you’ve got to give an awkward private session. If you move to a new city, it’s like restarting the entire experience all over in a new place. I am so thankful that I found friends here who have been willing to come to my classes. Friends, please always let me know if you’re starting a new venture and need an extra show of support! (+)

Mission/Work

It was nice to take a few days off from teaching classes to visit Tuscon. I ended up going to quite a few yoga classes anyway, even when I said I’d branch out and try new styles of exercise. But I did end up learning a lot and coming back with fresh ideas to incorporate into my classes. (+)

Finances

Since it was my birthday celebration, I was treated to so much this week! You know I welcomed it with open arms, and that has to be a plus. (+)

Adventure

Canyon Ranch was a totally new experience for me. It was kind of like an all-inclusive vacation mixed with summer camp and a spa and a health club. I wished that we had a tiny bit more time in Tuscon to see life outside the ranch, but I spotted enough saguaros and javelina that I can’t complain. (+)

Hobby

I painted some mountains! And finally finished the bag I’d been crocheting for about a month now. (+)

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Spirituality

It was reassuring to learn that Canyon Ranch doesn’t just focus on restoring fitness and physical beauty. They have really developed a holistic approach that lets visitors focus on what concerns them. I liked that we were able to try some new classes and learn about unfamiliar topics while still getting to enjoy our old favorites. There was plenty of meditation and quiet stillness to go around. (+)

Emotion

What a rollercoaster! I was thrilled to be experiencing a whole new type of vacation and getting away from it all. But news of the shooting and fires in SoCal had me worried about my friends and our city. My mind was definitely in two different places at certain points of the trip. (+/-)

Saguaro cactus

Nurtured by Nature

Sometimes when you’re lucky enough to find yourself on a long vacation, you notice that similar things keep happening to you over and over again and, because of them, your vacation tends to take on a certain theme. On our latest road trip adventure, that theme turned out to be the power of Nature to make or break our plans.

We discovered that when we drove along, flying by the seats of our pants, without forcing or timing anything, we would end up seeing unexpected, mesmerizing stuff like this:

Somewhere in Utah...
Lake Powell, AZ

Lake Powell, AZ

Beginnings of the Grand Canyon

Beginnings of the Grand Canyon

And whenever we planned, plotted, and Yelped our way into a city, Nature would remind us of her right to step in and throw us a different agenda. We realized this when we were forced to sprint through the second half of our Sedona vortex hike as threatening storm clouds rolled in. And when the list of hip bars and restaurants to visit in Phoenix was cut short when we stepped out the door into the dust storm/thunder/lightning filled night. The next day, flash flooding on the interstate interrupted our quest for the best sopapillas in Albuquerque and kept us pulled over until after the restaurant had closed. And I already told y’all about the forest fires.

Storms in Sedona

Storms in Sedona

During our time in the campgrounds, our bodies learned to adjust to the schedule of the sun. We woke up early, stayed outside all day, started our fire as the sun dipped down, and went to sleep once the cinders settled into ash. We didn’t need much more than the excitement of the changing flames to keep us entertained until bedtime. When we traveled to the bigger cities, we tried to fight this newfound rhythm and go against the flow of things, but Nature had different plans for us. However, she had already let us graciously cool off in our campsite river after a 102 degree day in Zion and given us so many other lovely gifts on the trip, so we weren’t too upset about our updated schedules. Plus we still ate other sopapillas in Albuquerque and our trip to Phoenix was saved by a bomb-a** breakfast at Matt's Big Breakfast. Thanks Matt! (Asterisks because I'm pretty sure my mom and her friends make up 90% of the readers of this blog).

Sunrise outside Albuquerque

Sunrise outside Albuquerque

So, Nature, we dedicate our trip to You. We are feeling more grateful than ever for the constant reminders of your power and our own efforts to bow to you as we sit back and appreciate the way things are meant to be.