Hi, I'm Adam.

Adam Parkzer   •   29   •   Las Vegas, USA   •   5'10" (178 cm)   •   152 lbs (69 kg)   •   Korean American

I was originally in law enforcement and planning on becoming a criminal prosecutor, but then I put everything on hold and moved to the Pa­cif­ic Coast to pursue my hobby as a full-time career. Now I help run Tempo, a gaming media production and game development company. I am currently the Direc­tor of Corporate Operations, primarily overseeing legal, finance, and hu­man re­sources ad­min­is­tra­tion.

My main interests include criminology and forensic psychology. In my free time, I like to write, train martial arts, and de­vel­op new prac­ti­cal skills. I used to be a competitive gamer, but now I just play casually. The easiest way to get to know me better is to read about INTJs on the Myers-Briggs Type In­di­ca­tor. I'm split between a Type 5 and 8 on the Enneagram; my CliftonStrengths Top 3 are Deliberative, Learner, and Analytical; and my top Big Five per­sonality trait is Conscientiousness.

Check out my social media profiles and channels: @Parkzer on Twitter, Adam Parkzer on LinkedIn, AdamParkzer on Flickr, Parkzer.coin on Un­stop­pa­ble Do­mains, Parkzer on Last.fm, Parkzer on Twitch, and Adam Parkzer on YouTube. If you want to write me a letter or send me a package, you can ship it to PO Box 2222, Las Vegas, NV 89125-2222, USA (though keep in mind that I'm on a cross-country road trip until mid-2022, so it might be a while before I see it).

Below, you can find my blog where I document my travels, organize my thoughts, and share snippets of my life.

 

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Investment allocation breakdown for 2021 Q4

Another quarter, another investment allocation breakdown. Note that this is a series and a lot of the commentary in this breakdown builds off the pre­vi­ous breakdowns, so I recommend that you take a look at my investment allocation breakdown for 2021 Q3 first, if you haven’t already.

Like always, keep in mind that I am not a registered investment advisor, and even if I was, I would not be your advisor. To you, I am nothing more than a guy on the Internet writing on his personal website. This blog post is intended to be strictly anecdotal, and I am in no way suggesting or implying that you should copy my strategy. Everyone’s situation is uniquely different, so be sure to consult a certified professional if you have any questions or need any guidance with your own financial strategy.

Cash

Again, at the end of this quarter, I’m still a little bit high on my cash allocation.

However, I have a good reason for it this time—it’s the end of the tax year. One of my favorite things to do on January 1 of every year is to max out my retirement and tax-advantaged accounts, such as my Roth Individual Retirement Account (IRA), Health Savings Ac­count (HSA), and Simplified Employee Pension Individual Retirement Account (SEP-IRA) (to the extent that I can predict a base­line of the coming year’s net income).

Because of this, I have a hefty chunk of cash waiting for January 1, 2022 so I can dump it into all these accounts, primarily because I prescribe to the philosophy that time in the market is better than attempting to time the market, and also because I don’t particularly have a propensity towards gambling or taking financial risks.

 11.76%

Index funds – Domestic

There has been very little change when it comes to my index fund investment strategy—I put a majority of money into broad-market index funds and leave it there to passively grow. I don’t really have additional comments for this category.

 28.43%

Index funds – International

This section is the same as above—there are no substantial changes since last quarter, and I don’t have any additional commentary for this category.

  8.00%

Target retirement funds

Just to clarify, the percentage allocation in target retirement funds is shrinking not because I’m taking early distributions or anything, but because my wealth in general is growing, so I’m consistently putting money into other areas of my portfolio, while I only con­trib­ute money to target retirement funds twice a year (once on January 1 and once when I finish my annual tax return and know my max­imum SEP-IRA contribution amount for the previous year).

As a side note, I briefly touched on this the very first time I did an investment allocation breakdown nearly a year ago, but I figured I’d comment on these two points again with a bit greater detail:

First, the reason I separate this category out is because target retirement funds are managed by a brokerage as a mutual fund that auto­matically adjusts its asset mixture over time. Because of this, at any given moment, a target retirement fund can have a different allo­ca­tion of all the different kinds of categories I present in this breakdown.

For example, a portion of my target retirement fund holdings is in VFFVX, which, as of the final day of last month, is composed of 54.9% of the total domestic stock market, 35.5% of the total international stock market, 6.6% of the total domestic bond market, and 3.0% of the total international bond market. Going through and checking on the allocation each quarter and disbursing the per­cent­ages to each of my existing table categories is a hassle, so I decided to just give it its own row in the table.

Second, the reason I use a target retirement fund with a marginally higher management fee, as opposed to managing my allocation my­self, is because I want to leave my retirement accounts in a “set it and forget it” state. I already actively tweak my portfolio al­lo­ca­tions in my regular brokerage accounts, and I’m fine with letting my tax-advantaged retirement accounts grow passively without my attention.

 19.83%

Real estate investment trusts (REITs)

I’ve continued to add more money to REITs, and my percentage allocation has increased since last quarter. In my previous breakdown, I explained why I’m investing more in REITs now, and in summary, it is just a way to try and spread my money out to diversify against a potential stock market crash.

I’m also sort of treating this like my “down payment fund” on a house. If real estate prices stabilize and I end up purchasing a property sometime in the near future, I’ll probably sell some of my REITs and use it to buy the aforementioned property to ensure that I’m still maintaining good diversification and not overinvesting into real estate.

 17.76%

Bonds

I’m always doing research and learning more about finance, and I recently learned about Series I Sav­ings Bonds, a special type of bond that is hedged against inflation. I’ve owned bonds in the past and have sold them due to their poor growth potential, but seeing as the government just printed an astronomical amount of money during the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation has skyrocketed, Series I Sav­ings Bonds end up being a lucrative investment—the current rate as of today is 7.12% in annual interest.

I didn’t mention this earlier because I wanted to save it for the bond section, but another reason I’m holding onto more cash than my target is because I also want to purchase more Series I Sav­ings Bonds once the new calendar year comes around and the maximum pur­chase refreshes.

  4.21%

Charitable fund

I think one of the best ways to learn something is to just go and do it, and following my desire to master everything related to prac­ti­cal everyday finance, I created a charitable fund via a Giving Account through Fidelity Charitable. Fidelity is one of two bro­ker­ages with which I have an account (the other being Vanguard), so the Giving Account creation process was quick, easy, and straight­for­ward.

Fidelity Charitable accepts tax-deductible donations that they will then invest on your behalf, and you can use the post-growth a­mount to donate to your preferred 501(c)(3) charities without having to pay additional taxes on the growth.

I’ve set up my account to invest in the total domestic stock market, so I will likely just lump this in together with the domestic index fund category in my allocation breakdown table, but I still wanted to separate this out as its own line item for this quarter because it’s something new.

  0.43%

Cryptocurrency

Yes, I did indeed increase my cryptocurrency allocation once again. However, it’s probably not what you think… I’m not falling into the gambler’s fallacy or any other kind of obsessive or unhealthy chance- or luck-based investment strategy.

Like I mentioned in the previous two sections, I like to be a hands-on learner because I feel like being directly involved helps you un­der­stand the topic far faster and more effectively than being a bystander or observer. Because of this, I am continuing to put more money into different kinds of cryptocurrency and actively researching different kinds of blockchain technology, and in the process, seeing what’s happening with it first-hand while having a personal stake in the outcome.

This is particularly important to me because we’re going to be integrating cryptocurrency, NFTs, and other blockchain technology in­to Tempo Games’ new upcoming strategy game, so it’s critical for me to have an intimate understanding of it, even though I’m still a degree separated from it due to primarily overseeing corporate operations (as opposed to game design or game development).

What makes it even more important is that we are aiming to do cryptocurrency and NFTs the “right way” by addressing all the crit­i­cism and pitfalls of blockchain technology. As you can prob­a­bly guess, if I want to help make something better, I’m going to need to be an experienced near-expert in the topic.

As I mentioned last quarter, I’ve lost quite a bit of money investing in cryptocurrency so far, but at the very least, it’s a decent op­por­tu­ni­ty for some tax loss harvesting. As of now, my holdings consist of approximately 60% Bitcoin, 30% Ethereum, 4% Solana, 4% Car­dano, and 2% miscellaneous coins.

  8.78%

Speculative stocks and individual companies

To my eyes, my “speculative stock” fund is almost like my “gambling fund,” in that I pick stocks that I think are going to do well, but invest with the expectation that, even if I lose everything, I won’t be upset.

I chose to slim down a bit on speculative stocks compared to last quarter because I also see a large portion of cryptocurrency investing as being on-par with gambling, and I wanted to lower the amount of money that I was putting into extremely high-risk investments. A secondary reason is, I have limited time to put into doing securities research, and if I’m going to be putting that time into researching cryptocurrency and other blockchain technology, it means I’m not going to be making as educated decisions about the securities of publicly-traded companies, so I am adjusting my allocation accordingly to ensure I’m optimizing my time-to-money ratio.

  0.80%

From what I foresee, apart from the routine spike in target retirement funds that I already justified, there aren’t going to be substantial changes during the first quarter of 2022. With that being said, if anything new does happen, I’ll be back in three months with another investment breakdown… or I might just do one anyway regardless, to maintain the cadence of analyzing my portfolio, because if anything, it’s also good to do for my own benefit.

 

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Hello, Andreas Canyon and Murray Canyon of the Indian Canyons in Palm Springs, California

I know that I just recently said that my hike at the Grand Canyon was my new favorite hike of all time, but it’s lost its title already. Yesterday, for the second half of the day I spent in Coachella Valley, I went to the Indian Canyons.

Admission usually costs US$12 per adult, but they ran a Christmas Day special of only US$10 per vehicle, so, needless to say, the line was extremely long to get in. Once I did finally make it in, the parking area was completely packed and it took me a little while to find a place to park. Even better, a vast ma­jor­ity of the people visiting were just regular people who were touring Palm Springs (as opposed to hikers).

I’m often cold at the beginning of hikes so I like to bundle up, but I warm up quickly and end up having a sweater to hold onto throughout my hike. For this hike, I decided to do a small loop off to the side to warm up before the “main event.” The small loop off to the side was the Andreas Canyon Trail, a one-mile trail that has regular dirt paths mixed in with some rocky areas. And thus, the hilarity ensued.

Remember how I said that most people were there as tourists instead of hikers? There were people literally in skirts, fancy shoes, and other non-hiking attire trying to walk this trail. The beginning was deceptively easy, but it soon became much more involved, and this is the trail where I’ve seen the most people turn back around and retreat after making it less than a quarter mile into the hike.

Andreas Canyon in Palm Springs, California

Andreas Canyon in Palm Springs, California

Andreas Canyon in Palm Springs, California

After the warm-up, I stopped by my truck at the parking lot again to drop off my sweater, then walked over to the main reason I came to Indian Can­yons, which was to hike the Murray Canyon Trail. This area was a lot less busy, which I assume is because there were warning signs about main­tain­ing health and safety throughout the hike, and because the first small segment of the hike wasn’t really that scenically appealing.

Murray Canyon in Palm Springs, California

However, it quickly got a lot more interesting once I arrived in the actual canyon portion of the hike. I was originally greeted by a long parade of horses being ridden by a group of people, but once they passed by, I went down into the wetter part of the hike.

Murray Canyon in Palm Springs, California

At first, it seemed like I could stay dry by hopping on protruding rocks, but I quickly realized that I’m eventually going to get pretty wet, so I stopped caring and just waded through the water. It seemed like the other hikers didn’t take that approach, though; this became a lot more apparent when there was a backup at one of the stream crossings when people had trouble making it across the stepping stones.

Murray Canyon in Palm Springs, California

I eventually made it to what I thought was the top of the waterfall, and the spot where most people assumed was the end of the trail. There was a nice waterfall with a nice view down to where we just climbed.

Murray Canyon in Palm Springs, California

However, I looked up the trail before hiking, and something felt off—I remembered that it was supposed to be a bit longer. Having been regularly fooled by false summits in the past, I looked around and saw an extremely steep and rocky area along the side of the waterfall that looked scalable. I wondered if there was anything beyond that, so I took a chance and started climbing up the rocks.

Murray Canyon in Palm Springs, California

I’m glad I did, because this is where the best part of the hike started. The constant nice views that I had experienced throughout the hike so far got even better, and the stream of water got bigger, faster, and deeper. At this point, my shoes and socks were completely soaked, and at one point, I had stepped into water that reached up to my knees, so the bottom half of my pants were wet as well.

Murray Canyon in Palm Springs, California

Eventually, I made it to the final stretch, which involved walking alongside the stream on top of slanted rocks.

Murray Canyon in Palm Springs, California

Just around the corner from this final stretch was the end of the trail, and the final waterfall. This photograph absolutely does not do it justice—the sat­is­fac­tion of making it to the end of the trail where you witnessed so many people give up and turn around, and having done so by scaling rocks and bas­ically half-swimming through a creek, is pretty nice. That, along with the sound of crashing water accented by the chirping birds, and if it wasn’t so tricky to get here, this would be a great place to bring a lawn chair and read a book.

Murray Canyon in Palm Springs, California

A lot of hikes have stunning, breathtaking summits with sweeping views, but are fairly boring until you get there. Murray Canyon isn’t like that—the journey is just as impressive as the end. When you do get to the end, the dynamic and technical difficulty of the hike makes you appreciate it more be­cause it feels like it’s something that you’ve truly earned. For these reasons, as well as due to my biased adoration of desert oases, this has become my new favorite hike of all time.

Indian Canyons in Palm Springs, California

Immediately after completing this hike yesterday, I drove back to Los Angeles County to attend a Christmas gathering (which is also why I didn’t have time to post this until today). It’s unfortunate that I only got to spend one day in Coachella Valley, but I also didn’t expect to enjoy it this much.

Seeing as I’m going to be spending a few months or so in Southern California recharging from my six-month road trip, I plan on making a few more trips to Palm Springs, considering it’s a relatively nearby place to get away and go exploring for a bit.

 

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Hello Coachella Valley

After my hike at the Grand Canyon, I made my way back to Las Vegas for a week and a half to catch up on a bunch of errands and appointments, then arrived at the Tempo team house in Long Beach to settle down for a little bit and rest up from my road trip.

However, after sticking around there for a week and a half, I started remembering why I hate Los Angeles, and ended up just staying indoors and working all day. Realizing that this isn’t a healthy lifestyle, and trying to continue the trend of exploring the outdoors and being more active, I decided to take an impulse and unplanned trip to Coachella Valley, best known for containing popular vacation des­tinations like Palm Springs, Palm Desert, and Indio.

I wouldn’t really consider this to be a part of my road trip, and I’m only staying here for a day (as opposed to the week that I usually spend in major cities during my road trip) because I need to be back in Los Angeles County tomorrow to attend a small Christmas gathering.

My plan was to drive from Long Beach to Palm Springs, go hiking, then head to Palm Desert and check into my hotel. I ran into an obstacle with that plan because it rained a lot and there was flash flooding on a lot of hiking trails, so a few that I wanted to go to were closed to the public. However, I eventually managed to find one near the Agua Caliente Tahquitz Visitor Center and hiked the South Lykken Trail. I’d say that it was moderate in dif­fi­culty with some fairly steep areas, but the sweeping views from the top were very rewarding.

South Lykken Trail in Palm Springs, California

South Lykken Trail in Palm Springs, California

South Lykken Trail in Palm Springs, California

South Lykken Trail in Palm Springs, California

South Lykken Trail in Palm Springs, California

South Lykken Trail in Palm Springs, California

After coming back down from the summit, I took the half-hour drive from Palm Springs to Palm Desert, seeing Cathedral City and Rancho Mirage along the way. I’m not sure if the roads were emptier than usual because it’s Christmas Eve (though I would feel like a desert vacation destination like this would actually be busier during a holiday), but the drive was very smooth and refreshing.

My impression of this western rim of the valley is that it actually reminds me of the Las Vegas suburbs, but more polished, better taken care of, and with a higher attention to detail. The rows of palm trees lining the streets, the succinct but visually pleasing desert landscaping, and the clean neighborhoods made me happy to be there. People regularly ask me where I would live if I didn’t live in Las Vegas, and even though I’ve only been in Coachella Valley for half a day, I’m thinking that Palm Springs or the neighboring cities might be a strong contender to take that spot.

 
My hotel of choice for this one-day trip was the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa. I’m usually not the biggest fan of resort-style hotels because I prefer barebones lodging that is clean, simple, and straightforward, but due to my eligibility for a great deal on a room at this property, I decided to give it a try.

JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort

JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort

JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort

I wanted to try some food from an in-house restaurant, but didn’t want to go through the hassle of going directly to the restaurant and waiting to be seated on a nearly-sold-out holiday night, so I instead requested it to be delivered to my room. I ordered some Skuna Bay salmon with sautéed mush­rooms and roasted garlic mashed potatoes, with a side of chimichurri sauce, and iced tea for my beverage.

JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort

My experience here was as expected—I wasn’t really a fan. With the long walk from the self-parking lot to the entrance (it was literally a quarter mile in each direction, which I later found out through my fitness tracker when it told me I had walked half a mile when I made a round-trip back to my truck because I forgot my charger), long wait times to check in, and constant noise coming from the hallway due to a plethora of guests with children, it made me miss the simple-but-reliable Fairfield Inns and SpringHill Suites from my recent road trip.

If I wasn’t able to qualify for the special heavily-discounted rate on this hotel, it absolutely would not have been worth it for me, as I noticed that rates were going for ~US$700 for the night. I spent (and will spend) a majority of my time out and about exploring Coachella Valley and never truly got to experience and enjoy the resort aspect of the hotel.

If I was a very regular visitor to the area and ended up hitting all the tourist spots, then a resort like this would be a nice way to keep things fresh, but for someone like me who has a massive list of things I want to see here for the first time, a resort like this is a horrible lodging selection if all you need is a clean and safe place to sleep overnight.

With that being said, I’ll be heading out tomorrow morning for another hiking trip in Palm Springs before making the two-hour drive back to Los Angeles County in time for dinner. If it wasn’t for that plan, I definitely would’ve extended my stay here, and I look forward to coming back sometime soon to see if I’m fallaciously tunnel-visioning on only the nice parts of Coachella Valley, or if it’s actually as nice as I think it is right now.

 

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My COVID-19 booster dose vaccination experience

Back in April 2021, I wrote a blog post about my experience receiving my first two doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Due to a special credential I held, I was able to get vaccinated a lot sooner than the general public, so I wrote it as a way to share an anecdote with my readers who may be looking to hear others’ stories.

The booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine was approved a little while back, but because I was out traveling on my road trip when my six-month post-vaccination recommended booster period came around, I decided to wait until I returned back home to Las Vegas before getting my booster. Because of this, a lot of other people have already gotten their third dose, but I figured I would still write about my experience as a sequel to my first blog post.

 
Before I begin, I feel like the United States has evolved (or possibly devolved) into a situation where, if someone makes a statement about anything re­lated to COVID-19 (including things like the efficacy of masking by the general public, or the safety of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines), people will draw conclusions derived from said statement that have no logical continuity. I also personally believe the United States has catastrophically mishandled the pandemic by somehow politicizing it, which has brought great division to the topic—a topic where even any divisiveness is probably too much.

With that being said, I want to clarify that I am not implicitly encouraging everyone to get vaccinated just by sharing my own personal vaccination ex­pe­ri­ence. For a combination of many reasons, I have come to the conclusion that I will respect and honor the decisions of both people who do and do not choose to get vaccinated.

Thus, if you are someone who does not trust the COVID-19 vaccine at the moment, I request that you do not leave comments on this blog post or send me messages accusing me of making other people get vaccinated, because I am not. In a similar vein, if you are someone who supports vaccine mandates and are upset that I am taking a neutral stance, I also request that you do not leave comments on this blog post or send me messages forcing me to force other people to get vaccinated.

 
Returning back to my own vaccination experience, this went a lot better and smoother than my first two doses. As a reminder, if you haven’t read my previous blog post, both of my first two doses were administered to me in the Cashman Center, a massive multipurpose facility… and it still took about two hours for each of my doses, even though I had an appointment.

This time, I went directly to the Southern Nevada Health District on 280 S Decatur Blvd. It was a huge difference compared to the Cashman Center—SNHD is supposed to be closed on the weekends, and this was a special evening and weekend COVID-19 vaccination arrangement, so there was almost nobody there except for the staff and a few vaccination recipients.

Southern Nevada Health District

Upon entering, there was a massive family in front of me that clearly had absolutely no idea what they were doing, so I had to wait a few mi­nutes for them, but after a different staff member noticed that I was standing in line, she took me off to the side and got me checked in for my appointment.

She scanned my QR code, confirmed my identity, asked which manufacturer of vaccine I wanted (I picked Moderna because it is the vaccine that seems to be performing the best against the newer COVID-19 variants), and let me into the area where tables were set up for vaccinations. There was already a spot open and ready for me, so I sat down, went through some basic questions with the nurse (such as explaining my post-vaccination experience for my previous two doses), received some post-vaccination advice (such as recommending drinking a ton of water), then got vaccinated.

From the time I stepped into the building to the time I was seated off to the side for my 15-minute post-shot waiting period, it was no more than about six mi­nutes, and I spent a total of about 20 mi­nutes at the health district.

 
My vaccination appointment this time around was also in the afternoon, just like my second dose. For my second dose, I started feeling tired in the eve­ning, so I prepared for the same thing to happen after my third dose by washing up and getting in bed after returning to my hotel room. Earlier on in the day, I had also prepared a carton of bottled water and some sugary and fatty snacks, in case I lose my appetite and need the calories.

I browsed social media and watched some videos for a bit, and I was a tiny bit more tired than usual, but I ended up having enough energy left that I got out of bed and started getting some more work done while I could, sort of as a way to cram before my inevitable suffering the following day. I worked fine throughout the evening and night, then fell asleep at 11:30 PM PST.

I woke up at 2 AM, and that’s when the side effects started. I was dizzy and had body aches, and I had the same problems regulating my body tem­per­a­ture as I did for my second dose. I fell back asleep for no longer than an hour and a half at a time before waking up again for another hour or so, with this cycle repeating throughout the night.

For the entire day following the day of my vaccination, I felt very unwell. We all know that you’re supposed to lay in bed and rest up, but I ended up in a very counterproductive situation where, the longer I would lay in bed, the worse I would feel. I would eventually manage to get up, and I would pro­gres­sively start feeling better… but then I would reach a point of exhaustion that I would have to lay back down, then I would pro­gres­sively feel worse a­gain and continue the cycle.

As I predicted, I did indeed lose my appetite. The fatty and sugary snacks helped maintain my caloric intake, and I also ordered a large portion of ice cream on a food delivery app, which helped me reach at least 2,000 calories for the day. I eventually fell asleep at 9:30 PM.

My second night of sleep was much better than the first—after falling asleep at 9:30 PM, I slept uninterrupted until 5:30 AM, when I woke up already feeling much better and very thirsty. I drank some water, went to the bathroom, took some deep breaths, and stretched a bit. My body temperature reg­u­la­tion was back to normal. I actually felt like I had already gotten enough sleep and was rested enough to start my day, but figured that I should still get a few extra hours of sleep in, just to ensure that I’m fully recovered. I fell back asleep at 6:00 AM and woke up for a second time at 9:00 AM.

Throughout the second full day post-vaccination, I was still slightly dizzy, but I was able to resume life as normal. I was able to take a shower and drive safely to a fast food restaurant nearby to get some breakfast in the morning (because I had just barely missed free breakfast hours at the hotel by the time I was ready), then I took on a twelve-hour workday to catch up on stuff I missed from the previous day.

 
One thing that I want to note is that my heart rate monitor alerted me that my heart rate was unusually high throughout the entire first full day after vaccination—so much so that it logged me as having been in fat burn zone for a majority of the day, and miscalculated how many calories I burned that day because of it. One of my co-workers also notified me about this and confirmed that he had the same thing happen to him for his vaccination.

Prior to receiving the vaccination, I had to check a box acknowledging that young men have a higher chance of inflammation of the heart after receiving an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine—specifically, myocarditis, which is the inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis, which is the inflammation of the outer lining of the heart. I clearly did not develop either of these conditions from the vaccine, considering that these are both very serious conditions and I was perfectly fine after a day, but I’m curious if a very high heart rate was a sort of milder version of the side effect related to this warning.

By the third full day post-vaccination, I was entirely back to normal health-feeling-wise, and my heart rate seems to have returned to within ~10% of nor­mal levels.

 
If you choose to get a COVID-19 vaccination, may it be your first or third dose, I wish you the best of luck, and also highly recommend leaving a day or two free after your scheduled vaccination appointment so you can rest up and recover, in case you experience side effects like I did.

 

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Hello, Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona

After my one-day “layover” in Gallup, the next and final destination of this segment of my road trip was in Flagstaff, Arizona. As you might have guessed, my main reason for stopping by Flagstaff was to visit the Grand Canyon National Park.

I’ve always heard great things about the Grand Canyon, ranging anywhere from people saying it was one of their favorite vacation destinations, to one person alleging that he had heard from all his friends that it was life-changing. Although I personally disagree about the “life changing” part, I do think that it’s an amazing place to visit, and it has been my favorite hiking destination so far.

I have to make it back to Las Vegas soon for some time-sensitive stuff, so I only scheduled one day at the Grand Canyon. As a secondary point, it is also a bit inconvenient to get to the Grand Canyon, because the closest Marriott-branded hotels are in Flagstaff, and the lodging options closer to the Grand Canyon all seem a bit underwhelming and expensive. Because of that, I opted to stay at the SpringHill Suites by Marriott Flagstaff and made the three-hour round trip to the Grand Canyon on my visitation day, an hour and a half there and an hour and a half back.

My hike of choice was the West Rim Trail. I took a shuttle out to Hermit’s Rest and walked the path back to Grand Canyon Village. Along the way, I stopped at Pima Point, Monument Creek Vista, The Abyss, Mohave Point, Hopi Point, Powell Point, Maricopa Point, and Trail View Point.

I took 143 photos throughout my hike, and I’ve picked out my favorite ones to feature here. Although I don’t precisely remember exactly where each of these photos were taken, the progression of the photos follows the order of the scenic overlooks that I just listed.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Funny enough, my main takeaway from my hike at the Grand Canyon is that I should probably get laser eye surgery soon. The Grand Canyon in person was incredible, but after browsing through the photographs I took and zooming in all the way, there is an immense amount of detail that I missed out on due to my poor vision. It left me speechless as to just how massive the scale of the Grand Canyon is, and how intricate the rock formations are.

In a similar vein, there are no photographs that do the Grand Canyon justice. Looking back at the pictures I took is reminding me how big the Grand Canyon is, but that’s only because they are simply acting as a memory trigger for me to immerse myself back into my experience of being there in-person. Prior to this, I’ve obviously looked at plenty of other people’s photos of the Grand Canyon, but that wasn’t enough to prepare myself for how much I was impressed when I first saw the canyon in-person.

The route I took for my hike was fairly easy and straightforward, but there are a plethora of more difficult hikes that I can tackle when I am better pre­pared. One of the hikes I definitely want to do is to go down into the canyon. The depth of the Grand Canyon is right around 6,000 feet (or 1,829 me­ters), so I probably will not be fit enough to head all the way down to the bottom anytime soon, but I’m eager to be able to go down part-way during my next visit.

Grand Canyon

 

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Hello, Pyramid Rock in Red Rocks Park in Gallup, New Mexico

Using the day I gained in my schedule by departing Albuquerque, New Mexico early, I decided to stop by Gallup, New Mexico, a small city on Historic Route 66 on the western side of the state near the Arizona border. Gallup is adjacent to Church Rock, a census-designated area in McKinley County that has boundaries that include Red Rock Park, a park with a convention center, a museum, campgrounds, and rodeo grounds.

My hike of choice in Gallup was the Pyramid Rock Trail, with the trailhead starting deep beyond the horse stalls and extending to the summit of Pyr­a­mid Rock, the highest point of the park.

Pyramid Rock Trail in Red Rocks

This was a fairly well-trafficked trail, so it was a very pleasant hike. The path was clearly marked a majority of the time, and in areas where there might be some confusion, there were rock towers built by other hikers to show people the way. (I contributed a rock to one of the towers.)

Pyramid Rock Trail in Red Rocks

I’m great at falling for false summits, and it happened again on this trail. It seems like I took a wrong turn at one of the intersections, because I ended up in a dead end with a moderately nice view.

Pyramid Rock Trail in Red Rocks

This clearly wasn’t Pyramid Rock, though, because I could see the actual summit off in the distance. It seems like I wasn’t the only one fooled, because there was another woman there with me. I took in the view for a bit, snapped some photos, then retraced my steps back to the intersection to take the other path.

Pyramid Rock Trail in Red Rocks

As I got closer and closer to the summit, I realized that I was clearly getting closer distance-wise, but not necessarily height-wise. This hinted me towards the fact that there is probably a tough, steep, strenuous climb right before the summit (and I ended up being correct).

I didn’t bring any snacks and only had a single bottle of Powerade Zero, so I was mildly concerned about running out of energy, especially at this el­e­va­tion of about 7,000 feet above sea level, and also considering that I was already getting tired.

Pyramid Rock Trail in Red Rocks

As you might have guessed, I did indeed make it. Reaching the summit was very rewarding. There were a few people coming down from the summit who cheered me on and told me I was almost there. Once I got to the top, the sweeping 360° views were amazing. The woman I saw earlier at the other sum­mit also joined me about 10 minutes later at the true sum­mit of Pyramid Rock.

Pyramid Rock Trail in Red Rocks

Pyramid Rock Trail in Red Rocks

So far, I think this is one of my favorite hikes that I’ve ever done. If you’re a beginner who’s looking for a challenge to step up your hiking, I think this is a fantastic intermediate trail to try out.

This hike feels like a real hike and not just a walking trail. There are sufficient obstacles, but the more difficult ones are assisted (i.e., the steepest rocks you have to scale have cut-outs for your feet). The path isn’t just a mindless straight line; you’re not going to constantly get lost, but you do have to use your eyes to look around and think about where you’re going to go next, which I think adds an important element of mental stimulation to the hike.

I also think the summit is very important—it’s pretty disappointing when you reach the end of the trail and there isn’t really much there. The view from the summit here couldn’t get any better—not only is there a view from all different directions, but I’d go far as to say that each quadrant of the view had u­nique elements that made it look like you were at multiple summits at once.

Pyramid Rock Trail in Red Rocks

Pyramid Rock Trail in Red Rocks

The hike down was obviously much easier, and I managed to survive only having a single bottle of Powerade… though I did eat two protein bars that I had in one of my storage boxes once I got back to my truck. If you’re going on this hike and aren’t used to high elevations with lower oxygen saturation, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to bring some snacks along with you.

Pyramid Rock Trail in Red Rocks

 

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Goodbye Albuquerque

As of today, my five days in Albuquerque, New Mexico have come to an end. My original plan was to stay for six days, but I shortened my stay by one day and decided to spend one night in Gallup, New Mexico, which is on the way to my next major destination, Flagstaff, Arizona. I did this for two main rea­sons, the first being that I wanted to break up the monotony of my drive by cutting it in half and doing it over two days instead of one, and the sec­ond reason being that I wasn’t really that big of a fan of my hotel room.

You might already know this, but I have a very acute and sensitive sense of smell. If there’s mold, mildew, or mustiness in an area, I’ll notice it im­me­di­ate­ly, no matter how subtle it is, and if I’m in the area for too long, I’ll start getting headaches. This was a massive problem back in St. George, Utah when the air conditioner spewed out a horrible smell of mold and mildew akin to dirty gym shoes, and the curtains had some strange musty, me­tal­lic odor to them. Since then, I’ve been much more careful about picking out newer hotels, and generally haven’t had this problem anymore.

That is, until Albuquerque. This was clearly an older hotel, and it wasn’t really maintained the best, so my room smelled very musty when I arrived. I in­ten­tion­al­ly picked the full-service corporate-run Marriott Albuquerque so I could have a nice view, enjoy free beverages and snacks in the lounge, and have a nicer stay. Although I had an amazing view out of floor-to-ceiling windows, the lounge was still closed due to being short-staffed from the pan­dem­ic, and the room was clearly dated and a little bit rough around the edges.

With all that considered, I figured that it wasn’t worth the extra cost to stay at this hotel, so I decided to leave a day early, which not only gave me an op­por­tu­ni­ty explore another city for a day, but also saved me a little bit, because I booked a SpringHill Suites instead. (Just to be clear, the Marriotts brand­ed as just “Marriott” are usually very nice and have a lot of amenities, and I would highly recommend them; it’s just that this particular one in Al­bu­quer­que was disappointing.)

View from Marriott Albuquerque

Marriott Albuquerque

Marriott Albuquerque

I already have two dedicated blog posts from two of my major tourist activities in Albuquerque, one where I went to the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History, and another when I explored the Sandia Mountains. I went on two additional hikes, but I felt they didn’t warrant their own blog posts, so I decided I would put them in this Albuquerque round-up instead.

The first hike was at the Albuquerque Volcanoes, which are in the general area of the Petroglyph National Monument. There are five volcanoes in that cluster, and I hiked around and onto three of them—the JA, Black, and Vulcan Volcanoes. The first two, I was able to summit, but the third one was blocked off so hikers couldn’t get to the top. I snapped some photos from the two volcanoes I was able to climb up, then took a photo of the volcano that I wasn’t allowed to.

Albuquerque Volcanoes

Albuquerque Volcanoes

Albuquerque Volcanoes

Fitbit Activity Tracker

My second hike was the Canopy Loop at the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park. I figured it would be a mistake to visit New Mexico and not see the Rio Grande up close, so I found a hiking trail that went right alongside it.

My favorite part about this hike was how visually different it was from all the other hikes that I’ve done recently. A majority of my hikes throughout the sum­mer and fall have been exceptionally green, so it was a nice change of pace seeing a lot of trees that had finished going through their autumn phase and were now ready to weather the winter.

Canopy Loop Trail at Rio Grande

Canopy Loop Trail at Rio Grande

Canopy Loop Trail at Rio Grande

Canopy Loop Trail at Rio Grande

Fitbit Activity Tracker

 

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Hello, Sandia Mountains in New Mexico

For my next tourist activity of Albuquerque, I wanted to check out Sandia Crest, the highest point of the Sandia Mountains in Bernalillo and Sandoval Counties, east of Albuquerque. Many tourism websites suggested doing so via the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway, a 15-minute tram ride up the western side of the Sandia Mountains.

When I went to buy tickets, I saw that a round-trip tram ticket cost $29, there was an extra $3 grounds fee, and tax came out to an additional $2.06, for an overall total price of US$34.06. I thought that was fairly steep for a tram ride, so I looked into an alternative, which would be to drive up to Sandia Crest myself. From my hotel, it was 31.6 miles there and 31.1 miles back, and at the IRS average mileage rate of 56¢ per mile, that is the functional equiv­a­lent of spending $35 to drive there instead. The price difference was negligible, but I would have much more control over my sightseeing schedule and get to stop at many other locations along the way with my own truck, so I decided to drive.

I’m glad I did, because on the way out to the mountains, I took Historic Route 66 and went over the musical highway to listen to America the Beautiful. There’s a location on Google Maps for the Musical Highway, but it’s marked as permanently closed, and the reviews state that you can’t hear anything anymore. Through first-hand experience, I can guarantee that, as of today, the musical highway is still there and still singing. The notes aren’t that crisp, probably because the New Mexico Department of Transportation decided not to service the grooves in the road anymore, but as long as you align your right-side tires prop­er­ly, you can definitely still hear it.

Sandia Crest’s elevation is 10,678 feet (3,254 meters) above sea level, so I knew it was going to get cold up there, but I didn’t realize just how cold. Not even halfway up the winding Sandia Crest Scenic Highway portion of New Mexico State Road 536, there was already snow piled up along the side of the road.

Sandia Mountains in New Mexico

I eventually made it up near Sandia Crest, but quickly reached a point where I couldn’t advance further due to severely limited visibility.

Sandia Mountains in New Mexico

I went back to the fork in the road and tried to take the other path, but I had no luck there either—it was a decently steep hill, and my truck ended up getting stuck in the snow. I did what felt like a nine-point turn to get out of the snow, and just parked in a random spot on the side of the road.

Of course, to add insult to injury, a small blue Subaru showed up from behind me and just zoomed right up the road that I failed to summit.

Sandia Mountains in New Mexico

Luckily, my feet and legs have all-wheel-drive, so I used them to walk up the hill instead. When I got to Sandia Crest, shivering in the cold and being plum­meted by powdered snow being blown airborne by the wind, I went to the railing and looked out past the trees—the precise location where you’re supposed to have sweeping views of Albuquerque. Well, that clearly didn’t work out.

Sandia Mountains in New Mexico

Having no choice but to admit defeat, I returned to my truck and figured that today just wasn’t the day for a successful Sandia Crest visit. However, I did have other plans.

Sandia Mountains in New Mexico

As I mentioned before, one of the benefits of me driving to Sandia Crest instead of taking the tram was that I could make more stops along the way for some more sightseeing. When I was headed for Sandia Crest, I drove straight up there without stopping, but on my way down, I stopped at literally every single possible stopping location to take in the views.

Sandia Mountains in New Mexico

As I got further and further down the mountains, the weather got increasingly better, and I was able to walk around a bit without being turned into an ice statue.

Sandia Mountains in New Mexico

My hope was to get a nice photo of Albuquerque, which clearly didn’t happen, but I got an alternative that was good enough—a nice, sweeping view of the opposite side of the mountains facing towards the east.

Sandia Mountains in New Mexico

Even further down the mountains, I found a little building nestled in the trees. It looked like it was a commercial building and not a residential one, but if you were in fact allowed to have a residential property out here, this seems like an incredible place to have a second home. I’d definitely want a place where I could come out during times when I want to take a break from the city so I can breathe some fresh air and go on hikes through nature.

Sandia Mountains in New Mexico

Seeing as I never actually took the Sandia Peak Tramway, I can’t necessarily conclude that driving is better, because I never actually experienced what the tram was like… but I think I did myself a huge favor by driving. The Sandia Mountains are much more than just the top, and if you’re into nature, I’d rate the Sandia Mountains as a must-see if you’re in the Albuquerque area.

(Though, as a side note, try to download an offline map of the area before you head over… I didn’t, and it was mildly disconcerting not having cell sig­nal in the middle of a snowstorm on the top of a mountain.)

 

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