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Sun Voyager sculpture in Reykjavik, Iceland “contains within itself the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress and freedom”. Could it get any better?

Spontaneous Travel

I knew the Nokia Lumia phone was coming to me. As a member of the buzzing team of worldwide Verizon ambassadors invited to try out different phones and devices, that was happily expected.

What I didn’t know was that Iceland was coming to me!  Well, I went to Iceland, but until 3 days before my departure, I didn’t know I needed to be packing mukluks and mittens, and only 5 days prior, I had no idea Iceland was even a remote (pun intended) destination on this year’s travel itinerary!

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An “USie” in Iceland

Thank goodness for fellow wanderlusters who keep me in the loop when a last-minute opportunity arises.  A friend of a friend had to unfortunately back out of her planned trip to Iceland via Iceland Air’s crazy affordable most-inclusive packages.  It was left to me to pay only the change fee and get thyself to Denver to meet Patty and fly!  So I did.

Reykjavik

 

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The gloriously designed opera house on the harbor in Reykjavik gives the appearance inside and out of a floating ice berg.

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Hallgrímskirkja, or Hallgrimur’s Church, Reykjavik, Iceland

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Quaint and colorful houses in Reykjavik are a common and welcome sight under gray skies.

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Yes, it gets chilly in Iceland in spring when the wind blows!

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I even found a Madison store in Reykjavik!

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And a skate-friendly square in the middle of town. Reykjavik, Iceland.

…And delicious eats.  The seafood is really the treat in Iceland.

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Fresh salmon for breakfast in Reykjavik, Iceland

Now THIS is adventure. Tasting traditional treats of Iceland must include their classic chocolate-covered black licorice. Yes. You heard that right. And it's not so bad. :)

Now THIS is adventure. Tasting traditional treats of Iceland must include their classic chocolate-covered black licorice, Lakkris. Yes. You heard that right. And it’s not so bad. :)

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Cathedral on the hill above our marina hotel in Reykjavik, Iceland

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Classic cars always catch my attention.

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Hallgrímskirkja, or Hallgrimur’s Church, Reyjkavik offers the best views of the town and immense bay.

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This cold gray building nonetheless captured the warmth of the vibrant sunset reflection.

Getting out of town…

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Where the ice melts through the lava layers.

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Spillunking in a lava tube cave.

But wait, there’s more!

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Best.time.ever. Slushing and sliding around on a melting glacier…too much fun! It would be off-roading if there ARE any roads on this glacier. We traveled in a group of 3 vehicles so they could radio each other and haul out of huge gulches of melting snow and ice. Cool stuff – literally.

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Wind chill factor. And laugh factor!

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The blue lagoon isn’t so blue, but it’s perfection and relaxation and muddy fun. Another contrast of steamy serenity amidst a frozen landscape.

And much as I had wanted to visit this wild and wonderful country, I was still pleasantly surprised at how very much I enjoyed so many aspects of my trip!

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Happy traveler.

Fire and Ice

I love contrasts.  And this time of year, the stark contrast of the volcanic earth and the pristine snow half-blanketing the spring mountain ranges mimicked the finest marble.

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Marbleized snow-covered volcanic mountains flanking the glaciers on our off-road tour.

Reykjavik, a grand, vibrant version of a clean fishing village…

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Colorful quaint houses of Reykjavic, Iceland

One might question why certain iconic images are missing from my gallery.  Gullfoss, for example. The dramatic and breathtaking waterfall that disappears into a deep gorge, then regurgitates rainbows. The geysers are missing as well.  Am I nursing regrets? Not one iota.  This was the itinerary selected by my friends and I wouldn’t trade anything about this trip. We filled our time fabulously and tirelessly and we are both confident in our imminent return to Iceland.  I love leaving tantalizing activities and sites for future returns… My top pursuit will be to ride one of the endearing, adorable and completely unique to the region, 5-gaited Icelandic horses. Perhaps along the ridge at Gullfoss. :)

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First sunset of our trip. What a welcome. Reykjavik, Iceland

Thank you for once again accompanying me on my wanderings. Where to next? Well, after Iceland I went to straight to San Francisco to join the #VZWBuzz team and to finally meet some fabulous fellow fone fanatics. ;) And there was the Virgin Islands and Jordan and….no stopping this wanderer! (Thankfully)

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A favorite wing shot leaving Iceland.

All photos taken by Gina Stark on my Nokia Lumia, which was generously provided to me to test out on my travels. This trip was of my own volition and budget.

You may also enjoy: Maui and Kauai: Traveling with a New Companion – My Droid Maxx (with Panorama!)

 

 

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I was recently invited to have a turn at the brand new 2016 Kia Sorento on the wildly beautiful winding roads of Lake Tahoe.  This was my first ‘ride and drive’ with Kia, and I must say, they take their fun very seriously!

I don't always jingle, but when I do...I jingle all the way.

I don’t always jingle, but when I do…I jingle all the way.

We were warmly welcomed at the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe and settled in to get to know each other over mega-Jenga, Kia cookie decorating and marshmology – in the form of piping hot s’mores crafted over open fire pits.

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Giant Jenga. Evidently, I’ve got skills. :D

 

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My marshmallogy creation.

After dinner saw the ping pong, darts and Jenga competition get more serious and I honed my single-handed block pulling to an art. The ugly Christmas sweater workshop was in full swing, and sequins and tacky garland were de rigueur.

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Welcome dinner at the Ritz, Lake Tahoe

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Full swing Ugly Sweater Contest Line-up – Impressive!

Day two began with a rapid-fire intro to the fully buffed-out third generation Sorento; probably because they knew we were anxious to get in them! I learned, mainly, that Kia does not produce a bare bones vehicle, no bones about it. In fact, I was a bit surprised at the level of luxury and you can now aspire to in their upper range models, and abundant tech in all models.

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First look, 2016 Kia Sorento

A few more surprises for me about Kia the company and the Sorento in particular stood out:

  • Kia was named 2014 Best Value Brand by none other than the people at Kelly Blue Book, who know something about vehicles holding their value!
  • Celebrating their 20th year, Kia sold their 5 millionth car in April 2014.
  • Already manufacturing vehicles on U.S. soil in West Point, Georgia, their second North American manufacturing plant will open in 2016.
  •  The Sorento is the first Kia built in the U.S.
  • Kia has garnered recognition both as a green global brand and on the very competitive race track (where I’d love to see it for myself!)

We test drove both the turbo model and the beefy and fully appointed V6. On a healthy straight-away, the amazingly quiet interior and smooth ride masked the sound of the powerful engine and any road bumps.  I had to glance down to realize my speed, though my driving partner reminded me that the ticket would be mine. :} But Kia was paying for my meals!

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Heading out in the fully loaded V6 Kia Sorento

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We overtook them :)

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Picturesque old barn in outside of Lake Tahoe. Not bad for 55mph.

I wish I had more time just tinkering with the dashboard and all of the techy bells and whistles such as Blue Tooth, Homelink, Satellite radio, driver seat memories and other customizable features on this beautiful new vehicle. It has a lot of comfort and convenience components but also impressive safety features that come standard.

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Whatever new tech-laden car you take home these days, my strong recommendation is: know thy vehicle. If you get a new car every three to five years (likely more), the leaps and bounds in standard technology and equipment will outrun your knowledge quickly, unless you’re a gear-head or tech-intuitive.

I am neither of these, and I suspect (kinda hope?) many of you feel a bit outrun by the pace of tech developments.  Fear not, like a fully stocked Genius bar, the best auto dealers are well equipped to tutor you in your new car…well, equipment!

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Lake Tahoe view through the pines.

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Sorento row in Reno.

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Brunch stop at Graeagle Meadows Golf Course, beautifully shrouded in mist.

Our tour de Sorento took us through Reno, Nevada, so I contacted the awesome customer care team at Tom Dolan’s Reno Kia to inquire about their part in the getting-acquainted process for new car buyers and their tech-loaded Kias.  I love that they assign a Delivery Specialist for each new car buyer.

The interview is below, with their replies in italics and my notes following:

Thank you in advance for taking the time to briefly answer the following questions, and especially highlight your Delivery Specialist program!

My hope is to demystify the new-car buying & owning experience by sharing what resources are available from the Kia dealer to become familiar with these features, and in turn maximize the value and enjoyment of ownership.

1) What are your recommendations for getting to know the tech of your new car, beyond the owner’s manual?

  • We have designated Delivery/Technology specialists to help with just that.
  • We follow up with our customers after their purchase
  • I would also recommend here that after you buy your new car, you follow up with the team at your dealership to get acquainted and familiarized with it even a week or two after your initial take-home. ~ G.S.

2) What exactly is a ‘Delivery Specialist’? How do we get one?

  • The Delivery Specialist ensures that every new KIA owner receives a proper delivery of the vehicle features and controls, with special emphasis on properly educating the customer about the technology in the vehicle.
  • See, this is exactly what I would hope to experience, especially after being fairly well wowed with the advancements in on-board dashboard tech! ~ G.S.

3) Do most dealerships offer “ongoing training” for their customers? What do you specifically offer at Dolan Reno Kia? Is there a time frame for available familiarization coaching?

  • Most dealers do not offer “ongoing training” for customers. One of the advantages of having a DS on staff is that our customers can come back and spend as much time as needed to learn how to operate their new vehicles. Our DS are trained to follow up with the customer after the sale and schedule future appointments for more in-depth classes with the customer if needed.
  • Even if your dealership doesn’t specifically have a Delivery Specialist program, I highly suggest you make an appointment with their service department or sales person after a week or two getting familiar with your new car to delve a bit deeper into the available tech. ~ G.S.

4) What do you find to be the most impressive new tech. feature of the 2016 Kia Sorrento?

  • The surround view feature is neat. Plus the Lane Departure/Forward Collision Warning features are nice.
  • I noticed a lot of safety additions in the tech. arena of the Sorento, yet I still love the idea of the “smart” hatchback that opens up for you when your arms are full of groceries or ski gear. :) ~ G.S.

5) What’s the number one question you wish your customers would ask you before they buy a car / after they buy a car from you?

  • Before: Is there anything special that you or your dealership provides for me if I buy from you?
  • After: Will I be able to come back to you if I forget anything about my car like how something works or if I need a new phone/devices paired?
  • I’m going to assume the answers to both of these questions from Dolan Kia Reno are a resounding: “Yes!”. ~ G.S.

Thank you very much, Dolan team, for taking the time to answer these questions about the evolving new-car buying experience!  When I got my hands and gas foot on this newest Sorento, it was yet to be released, but the 2016s are now available for purchase and I would highly recommend a test drive before you make your SUV buying decision.

Thank you, also to Kia Motors for inviting me to experience first-hand the newest Sorento on the roads of beautiful Lake Tahoe…and for bestowing me with the opportunity to meet your dynamic team and yes…this owl!

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Me and Hoot, the famous Harry Potter owl.

And thank you, readers, for coming along on my Tahoe Sorento adventure!  Let me know if you have more questions about my test drive, my (not-so) ugly ‘Jingle All the Way’ sweater, or my killer Jenga skills.

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Cocktails help.

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Gorgeous winter views over Lake Tahoe after my #SorentoAdventure – on to new ones and who knows where to next?

Unlike usual, most photos are not taken by me, but were taken by Kia co-horts, friends, and official press peeps.

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Finding Balance in an Off-Kilter World

Thumbnail image for Finding Balance in an Off-Kilter World by Gina "SuuperG" Stark November 30, 2014 Lifestyle

ShareThis last week was the week of thanks, for many. Among many other gratitudes, I’m thankful to have found my own definition of balance in my personal off-kilter world. I’m also grateful to have been asked to delve into the myriad offerings of GaiamTV, from yoga and meditation to inspirational films and the science of […]

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Romancing Emilia Romagna – with a Big Bib!

Thumbnail image for Romancing Emilia Romagna – with a Big Bib! by Gina "SuuperG" Stark October 6, 2014 Travel and Adventures

Share  An added bonus on a food foray in Italy is the setting.  The Italians must have studied our films and been inspired to plant cypress trees in rows and geraniums in clay pots under trellises of grape vines.     Don’t kill me when I disclose that I was invited to the region of […]

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By Popular Demand: My Coveted Fall Recipe for Baked Mini Pumpkins

Thumbnail image for By Popular Demand: My Coveted Fall Recipe for Baked Mini Pumpkins by Gina "SuuperG" Stark September 23, 2014 Random Ponderings

Share  I should have known. Bragging publicly on social media about any delicious unique recipe is going to result in requests for said recipe. And in the case of these delectable baked mini pumpkins, I am happy to oblige.  I think the original recipe came from the Los Angeles Times Food section, over 20 years […]

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Maui and Kauai: Traveling with a New Companion – My Droid Maxx (with Panorama!)

Thumbnail image for Maui and Kauai: Traveling with a New Companion – My Droid Maxx (with Panorama!) by Gina "SuuperG" Stark April 7, 2014 Travel and Adventures

ShareI am decidedly UNtech-y, but oh so photo trigger happy.  It is the camera feature of my new phone that I wanted to try out and continue to do so. Of course I broke it in on my recent Hawaii trip.   Here are some of my favorite snapshots so far!     The roads […]

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Dare to Dream! Lancôme #DreamTone Dare Accepted

Thumbnail image for Dare to Dream! Lancôme #DreamTone Dare Accepted by Gina "SuuperG" Stark December 1, 2013 Random Ponderings

ShareIf you follow me and my pursuits, you’ve probably gathered that I’m a hiker and outdoors lover.  This means two things: I don’t have much time or inkling for heavy make-up, and yet, my sun-kissed southern California skin has been clamoring for some camouflage.  As for make-up foundations, I still resort to my big sister’s […]

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Souvenirs – Coveted and Collected Memories from Our Travels #FriFotos

Thumbnail image for Souvenirs – Coveted and Collected Memories from Our Travels #FriFotos by Gina "SuuperG" Stark November 1, 2013 Travel and Adventures

Share Ahhh don’t we love the contributions of the French? Croissants, romantic accordion music, water lilies, the Statue of Liberty, expert flirtations, and stolen vocabulary.  The word “souvenir” means “to remember”, and if you’ve been to France, it certainly is memorable. Shamelessly plugging my beloved Idyllwild haunt, Cafe Aroma, on my bike tour through Paris. […]

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Protein Fight Club Twitter Party (with a Milk Mustache!)

by Gina "SuuperG" Stark October 8, 2013 Twitter

Share  Join #WWEmoms for a PROTEIN FIGHT CLUB TWITTER PARTY with the National Milk Mustache Campaign When: Thursday, October 10, 2013 7 – 8 pm ET   #WWEmoms #ProteinFightClub Glove up with @WWEmoms @MilkMustache @RachelFerrucci and friends this Thursday, October 10 at 7pm ET as we highlight Milk’s Protein Fight Club campaign! Learn fun facts, […]

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Interactive Travel: When in Rome…What Would You Suggest I Do?

Thumbnail image for Interactive Travel: When in Rome…What Would You Suggest I Do? by Gina "SuuperG" Stark September 2, 2013 Interactive Travel

ShareSo I’m traveling again, as is evidenced by the lack of blog postings. [insert sheepish grin here]. One would think the result would be more blog posts but my whirlwind trip through Germany was so non-stop I was lucky to find time to share some photos on Instagram!   In one day I’ve already stumbled […]

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Glass-ology: A #FriFotos Gallery from My Translucent Travels

Thumbnail image for Glass-ology: A #FriFotos Gallery from My Translucent Travels by Gina "SuuperG" Stark June 7, 2013 Travel and Adventures

ShareThis week I have happily joined the #FriFotos team on Twitter as a cohost, and even contributed the suggestion for the theme!  So you can imagine all of the sifting and sorting I’ve been doing of the various photos I’ve taken on my travels, and pondering the myriad interpretations of the glass theme.  The cover […]

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First Date: Toledo, Spain

Thumbnail image for First Date: Toledo, Spain by Gina "SuuperG" Stark May 21, 2013 Travel and Adventures

ShareOn my first stay in Spain, over twenty years ago, I was living at my friend’s flat in Madrid, only a quick jaunt to Toledo by car and an easy 35-minute train ride from the Atocha station.  In those summer days of teen-hood, my friend and I were more intent on savoring and sampling the […]

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