My Travel Philosophy

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Upcoming Trips

Only 29 days until our cruise!  I can't believe how quickly the time is passing.  Between today and that day, we'll have Christmas in Appleton and Pulaski, a visit to Rice Lake for New Year's, Stacy's book party plus her birthday and Jeff's, Ian's birthday, a driving trip to Florida with Mom hitting Memphis and New Orleans along the way, and maybe a couple of days working before hitting the road.

Now, we're adding another trip.  On February 1 (right after we get back from our cruise), Jeff and I will be going to Vegas for a few days.  He has a conference so most of the expenses will be picked up by Boldt.  I've been trying to squeeze in a trip to Vegas for the longest time, so that should be a fun time.

Friday, December 2, 2011

2011 Vacations in Review (Pt 3)

Mom and I went to New York in June for a few days and did things that we haven't done before.  We stayed at the Doubletree in Times Square, which was a great central point for getting around.  We took a Walking Tour of Times Square, had a backstage tour of Radio City Music Hall, saw a Broadway musical, and had a wonderful brunch on Mother's Day in the revolving restaurant in the Marriott Marquis.  

It was so much fun to go see the Broadway production of 'How to Succeed in Business...' on Saturday afternoon and, then, sit in the hotel room on Sunday night and watch John Laroquette win the Tony Award for his performance in that play.  We hit the deli on the corner and relaxed in our room with great food every evening.  Great way to make sure we were ready to go again the next day!

 As always, we spent the entire week of 4th of July at the cottage.  Steve, Stacy and the kids were there for much of that time, while Ian and Alex joined us for a couple of days following their time in Minnesota.  The weather was really, really good so there was a lot of fishing and swimming and playing outside.

Stacy and I went to Antigo and bought 28 pounds of strawberries from which we made 52 half-pints of strawberry freezer jam, plus we had a lot to eat fresh as well as quite a few that we packaged up and froze.  The month of June wasn't very helpful (from a weather standpoint), so we weren't even sure that there would be any ripe berries, but we got lucky!  On the drive over, we saw a black bear cross the road and spotted some vultures circling over something on our way back.

In the middle of doing some web browsing, I came across an advertisement for a stage production of 'Pride & Prejudice' to be held in an outdoor theatre in Door County.  It was about a 2-hour drive up to Bailey's Harbor where we took part in an afternoon tea that included lots of different teas and things to add to the tea, plus finger sandwiches, etc.  I totally loved it!  Actors from the production came in while we were having tea and mingled with the group while staying in character.

After the afternoon tea, I killed time seeing the area and scouting out the location of the theatre, before returning back to the same restaurant and having a truly fabulous dinner.

The stage production was a lot of fun and very faithful to the book, and held outside under a lovely star-filled sky.  I wrote up the whole thing for the Wisconsin JASNA newsletter.

No more travels during 2011, but September marked the beginning of the new theatre season at the PAC and, with my season tickets, I'm expecting to have mini-adventures each time I hear the opening bars of the music!

2011 Vacations in Review (Pt 2)

So, we left Yellowstone by going up through Montana and decided to go to the site of Custer's Last Stand at the Little Bighorn.  At this point, I realized that we were hitting all of these National Parks so I bought a little blue book (Passport to your National Parks).  It gives information on the park system, and provides empty spots to put stamps for each park and, then, you use a rubber stamp to put the date of your visit.  I'm really disappointed that I didn't start this years ago as there are many, many parks and battlefields where I've visited over the years.  Guess I'll have to go back!

The Little Bighorn monument area is, of course, much like Gettysburg in that you're in the middle of a lot of fields (where the battle actually occurred).  There is a cemetery where the soldiers were all buried, a visitor's center, and some beautiful metal sculptures throughout the area.  It was a cold and rainy day, but I really enjoyed being there.

After we left the Little Bighorn area, we headed for Devil's Tower.  Jeff said that we were here years ago when traveling with the boys, but I just don't remember being here.  My only memory of Devil's Tower is Richard Dreyfuss carving it out of mashed potatoes!  We were really lucky because the sun came out and the day turned beautiful when we got there so, as a result, I got some great pictures.  Interestingly, from the ground, it looks like the whole thing is made from cement!

On our way to and from the monument itself, we passed through a prairie dog village and it reminded me of 'whack-a-mole'.  Those little guys just kept popping up out of holes all over the place!

As we continued to travel East, we went through Deadwood, SD and bemoaned the changes that have taken place since the casinos have moved in.  It's definitely not the nice little tourist town it used to be.  Our next destination was Mount Rushmore, and we were both surprised at the changes that have occurred since we were there last.  The visitor's center is much larger and there is an entire plaza leading up to the mountain.  Additionally, there is a wonderful walking path that takes you very near the base of the mountain with viewing spots for each of the individual Presidents.

On an episode of Man vs. Wild, Bear Grylls took on the Badlands so I really wanted to take a look up close.  Driving down the road to get to the entrance to the park, we were able to hit an additional place in my Passport:  Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.  It was pretty modest -- just a couple of small buildings with information and pictures of the underground silo that held the missiles.

We walked around the Badlands areas and it was both stunningly beautiful and extremely harsh.  The ground looked like dried mud that would crumble if you tried to touch it.  The striations, though, reminded me of the Grand Canyon and we needed to stay on the wooden decks (paths) that had been erected to allow you to go back onto this unstable surface.  Lots of signs about rattlesnakes, too!

From here, we drove pretty much non-stop to Rice Lake to spend a couple of days with Mom before returning home after an incredibly fun vacation!

2011 Vacations in Review (Pt 1)

2011, overall, was a very painful year with more bad memories than good.  However, there were some travels and celebrations that are also memorable.  My blogs were neglected during most of the year, though, as I struggled to regain my equilibrium following the loss of my Dad.  Before the year is over, therefore, I want to capture as many of the memories as possible.

Other than driving back and forth to Rice Lake a lot during January, we didn't go anywhere but did enjoy the celebration of Ian's birthday with a party.  We started with some really good food playing at Ian's house, and then we moved to the bowling alley for an afternoon of good competition, birthday cake, and opening presents!

In mid-February, we took a trip to Las Vegas -- joined by Peg & Len and Mike & Debbie.  We all stayed at the Flamingo and enjoyed some good weather!   On one of the evenings, we went to see a murder mystery dinner at the Fitz -- and it was hysterically funny!  Jeff got to be an ambulance attendant, and the food was actually good, too.  We gambled all over town and, for a change, I won almost continuously playing blackjack.  Mike and Debbie had a free room at the Flamingo (one of Peg's comps) -- and it wasn't worth the price!  Very, very small and you couldn't even get into the bathroom.  Really funny (but they switched rooms the next day).  We had a really big room and used it kind of like a party room with drinks and snacks before we went out each night.

Ben was playing a golf tournament in St. George, Utah and we decided to all pile into Debbie's car (6 of us in a car designed for 5 people) and drove up for the day.  It was a beautiful day and a beautiful view of the mountains around St. George.  We made a stop in Mesquite to gamble and have lunch, but our luck was not to great there.

A really fun trip!

Our annual Wisconsin Dells birthday weekend was the second weekend in March and, as always, a totally fun time.  It's fun for the kids to all be staying together so there's plenty of playing and snacking, and being able to go to the water park just down the hall makes it a special weekend.

We decided to drive out to Utah in early May to attend Ben's college graduation and just have a fun journey, in general.  The drive out was boring (of course) as we passed through miles and miles of nothing, but staying in Layton for a few days was really fun.  Mike and Jeff went golfing while Debbie and I went shopping, then we all worked together to get things ready for the graduation.

Despite rushing to get to graduation, we were way too late and completely missed the ceremony.  Problem:  Ben hadn't planned to go at all and decided at the last minute that he wanted to "walk".  So, I asked a nice young man if Ben could borrow his cap, gown, and diploma just so we could get a nice photograph which really worked out great.  We got a good picture, had fun in the process, and didn't have to sit through the graduation ceremony.  Then, we went to a local bar for a drink.

When we left Layton, we headed up to Yellowstone and found that much of the park was still covered with snow.  In fact, it started snowing while we were there.  We stayed the night in Jackson Hole, and then had the best day we've ever had at Yellowstone.  Probably due to the cold weather, there were more animals moving around than I've ever seen and many were very, very close.  The first excitement was seeing a pair of moose in the river.

As we moved through the park, the rushing water in the rivers was beautiful due to the high water, and the geysers were really steamy.  We had lunch at Old Faithful Inn (somewhere that I definitely want to stay at some point in the future), and went out to catch the geyser.  It was "faithful":  right on time.  Hard to get good pictures, though, because that hot water hit the cold air and the whole area was blanketed in steam.

The number of buffalo reassures me that they are no longer an endangered species.  There were hundreds of them -- mostly right up on or near the road.  In some cases, traffic (light though it was) had to come to a complete halt while the buffalo slowly moved across the road.  It was especially cute to see the little ones.  Since it's Spring, there were quite a number of newborns, which you don't see when you're here later in the summer.

Not sure how many types of animals we saw:  buffalo, moose, elk, mule deer, mountain sheep, Jeff saw a bear, and we saw a wolf -- which I thought was the coolest of all.  I even got a necklace at the gift shop with a wolf on it as a reminder!

The route that we wanted to take East out of the park was closed earlier in the day due to snow so, instead of heading across Wyoming, we went up through Montana.  In the end, it turned out to be a really cool choice!

More to come in Part 2...

Friday, November 4, 2011

January Cruise

Pulling all of our plans together!  It's only 77 days 'til we leave and I'm starting to get a little excited!

January 20:  fly from Milwaukee to New Orleans (we'll need to bum a bed and a ride to the airport from Steve and Stacy since our flight is at 6 a.m.).  We'll be staying at the Courtyard in downtown New Orleans just steps from the French Quarter.  One of the first places I want to hit is Southern Candymakers for some of their excellent pralines!

I've been watching The Next Iron Chef on Food TV from 2009.  One of the finalists was John Besh who has restaurants all over New Orleans.  Since I've already been to many of Emeril's restaurants in New Orleans, I think I'll make dinner reservations for us that Friday night at one of John Besh's restaurants.  Then, I'm guessing we'll take a little tour down Bourbon Street that evening.

Saturday morning, January 21:  breakfast at Cafe Du Monde for beignets with enough powdered sugar to cause diabetes!  We always hit Cafe Du Monde while we're in New Orleans and, hopefully, there will be street performers all around Jackson Square.  This will be a really great day:  the ship doesn't depart until 4:30 so there's no rush to get there at the crack of dawn.  A leisurely breakfast and final walk through the Quarter will be lovely. [Note:  after writing this blog, I watched a special on Food TV about the best places to eat in New Orleans.  Alton Brown swears that the beignets at Cafe Beignet are the best.  Now I'm in a quandary -- may have to try both places!]

Then, check out of the hotel and take a short cab ride over to the cruise port (it's almost walking distance but not quite), and get ready for a fun cruise.  Because we'll already be in town, we can be appropriately dressed for the weather rather than waiting forever for our luggage to show up like we've had to do in some past years.  We'll start having some drinks with little umbrellas and listen to some steel drums, and start converting from New Orleans jazz to Caribbean calypso.

I also booked two shore excursions for us today.  We'll be at sea our whole first day, but the second day we'll dock in Cozumel and I've booked a Salsa, Salsa, and Margaritas class.  We'll learn how to make 7 different kinds of salsa (eating it along the way), 2 different kinds of margaritas (with a lot of tasting along the way), and they're going to teach us some salsa dancing.  It just sounds like loads of fun instead of the typical beach or shopping type things that we normally do.

Our second day, we'll be putting in at Georgetown, Grand Cayman where I've booked a snorkeling adventure.  There is a sandbar reef over which swim a whole bunch of stingrays and you snorkel right among them, feeding them periodically.  The reviews I've read and the videos I've watched seemed like maybe this was something not to be missed.

From Grand Cayman, we go to Jamaica but I haven't booked anything there yet.  We've been to Jamaica a couple of times and nothing on the list looks really "not to be missed".  Guess I'll have to think about it a bit and do more research.

Only 77 more days to get our planning completed.  This is going to be a great trip!

January Driving Tour

Mom is headed to Florida next week for a nice visit with my Dean and Carol, and Aunt Jan and Dale -- all of whom live fairly close together on the Tampa side of Florida.  Aunt Ethel is going with her and they'll be staying in a timeshare all week and, while she's there, Mom is going to be looking for a place to rent for a couple of months this winter. [Sidebar:  Good for you, Mom!   Get away from the cold and snow!]

The plan would be for her to go back after the holidays for 2-3 months.  We were chatting about it this week and thought it would be great fun to make the journey down there a trip in itself.  I'm going to go along for the drive and fly home.  Logistics will be interesting because Jeff and I are leaving on a cruise the third weekend in January and I don't want to miss Stacy's book launch in early January, so I'm thinking about leaving around the 10th and having a really fun drive with some stops in Springfield, IL to visit the Abraham Lincoln home and burial site, and in Memphis to visit Graceland, and a dip down to New Orleans for some fabulous cajun food and visits to some fun places.  Then, we'll cut across the panhandle and that beautiful Gulf Coast area all the way down the Gulf Coast of Florida to where ever the ultimate destination will be.  Not sure how long it will take for the journey, but we'll see really fun things all along the way.

Then, I'll come home and go on a Caribbean cruise.

2012 is already shaping up to be a pretty fun year.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Travel Videos

I really loved my trip to England last year, and cannot wait to go back.  I recently got some videos from the library just to refresh my memory of the things that I saw, and maybe get a few ideas for the next trip. [Note:  I had originally planned to go back next year (2012) after the Olympics are over.  However, we're going on a cruise in January and I'm going to Alaska on a cruise in August, and we may go to Mexico in May so I'm not sure I can fit in another big trip.  We'll see.]

Anyway, the videos are:
  • London:  City of Majesty (I like this one but it has terrible reviews on amazon)
  • Rice Steves' Europe / Britain & Ireland (but I'm just watching the England parts now -- I'll save Ireland, Wales, and Scotland for another time).  This one has some pretty good travel information.
  • England (by Globe Trekker) Note:  Glastonbury is a little 'new age' for me
  • Europe to the Max:  London and Beyond
 I absolutely have to go to Dover and Canterbury next time!

I also started reading the souvenir guides that I bought at the various castles and cathedrals (finally).  Turns out that I didn't get guidebooks for Hampton Court, Windsor Castle, and Westminster Abbey -- but I found them for sale through amazon so I snapped them up to make my collection complete.  I think I actually saved money and I didn't have to carry them home in my luggage!  A pretty good deal, really.

With those cruise coming up in 2011, I also got some materials to do research prior to going:
  • video from library:  Cruise Western Caribbean
  • book from B&N:  Caribbean Ports of Call 2011
  • video from library:  Cruise Alaska
  • book from B&N:  The Alaska Cruise Handbook
  • video from library:  Cruising Europe's Great Rivers (because this is something that I really want to do in the very near future)
I also picked up a little book to carry around:  Rough Guide Phrasebook - Mexican Spanish.  I'm thinking that it will come in handy when we stop in Mexico (and if we go to Mexico in May for the wedding of Doug and Debbie's daughter), and I need to pick up more Mexican anyway!

Now, I need to get going on the research for our January cruise so I can book some excursions!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


We have 3 timeshare properties (or Vacation Ownership Properties, as they're called).  Initially, I wondered if we'd be able to use them because there really are drawbacks when you have to use an entire week at a time.  A lot of our trips are for fewer than 7 days, or the trips are long but not all at one place.

Anyway, it really is working out beautifully -- especially now that the grandkids are old enough to travel so the whole family is able to take advantage of using the properties.  Also, the timeshare companies have made huge changes which allow using the week in increments of a few days (although we haven't done that yet).

The reason all of this comes to mind is because we had a week that Scott & Maggie had originally planned to use in Tennessee last summer, but the property turned out to be pretty far from where they wanted to go so we "banked" it and we needed to use it by the end of February 2012.  This is the type of scenario that I don't like:  the need to use it us or lose it.  

Turns out that Mom and Aunt Ethel are going to Florida in a few weeks and I was able to use it for them in a place only 20ish minutes from where Dean lives.  Now, they'll have a nice 2-bedroom, 2 bath place to stay all week where they can cook in instead of having to eat out.

Worked out really great!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

2012 Travel Plans (so far!)

On this Sunday afternoon, I slept until 1 p.m. and now I'm enjoying a day of nothing.  Sitting in front of a scary movie (1963's The Haunting) and watching the wind blow outside.

A word about this movie:  this black and white movie is a horror classic.  Starring Julie Harris, we saw this at the drive-in when I was a kid and it scared me greatly.  I think it was the beginning of the love that I have for horror movies and books.  I try to watch this every time it's on TV.  Great cast:  Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Russ Tamblyn -- so much better than the remake with Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Owen Wilson.  Looking it up on IMDB, I found that the exterior shots were taken at what is now a 4-star hotel in the Stratford-upon-Avon area.  I may think about staying there the next time I go to England!

Thinking about that made me realize that I need to organize my travel plans for 2012.  The calendar hasn't been filled in yet (I keep a 12-month at-a-glance calendar so I can see exactly where the travel and babysitting obligations fall), and 2011 hasn't been updated yet.  It would be nice to get one more trip in this year:  I'd like to go to the Biltmore in Asheville to see it at Christmas.  Mom and I are talking about going together, and I'm wondering if it makes sense to also try to go into Washington D.C. for a day or two to hit the Smithsonian.  [Oops!  A quick look at an atlas says that combination makes no sense.  Asheville is almost a direct line between Chicago and Florida, while Washington D.C. is considerably farther north and east.) A trip to the Grand Ole Opry and Opryland Hotel makes more sense.]  That job at Kohls does get in the way sometimes -- especially as we get closer to the Holidays and the trucks really start coming in.  Maybe I'll have a talk with them and see when it would be most convenient for me to be unavailable for a 5-6 day period.

For 2012 so far, we have a cruise in January, a weekend trip to the Dells in February, a week at the cottage in July, and the Alaska cruise in August.  Doug and Debbie's daughter is getting married in May at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico and I'm thinking about doing that as well.

I had actually considered going back to England in 2012 for a month (with a side trip to France to have a better look at Paris and to visit Versailles), but I'm not sure that there will be either time or money for that.  2012 also marks the year of our 30th anniversary and I had thought about having a party or something to celebrate.  I'll have to think about that.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cruise Update (already)!

Almost immediately upon booking that Caribbean cruise, I realized that it goes right over the top of Ian's birthday and encompasses the weekends before and after his birthday.  Then, Stacy mentioned that her book launch party will be the weekend of her birthday -- which is when we were scheduled to leave.  So, that was too much stuff to miss (don't know what I was thinking when I picked that week!).  I called and we were able to pick up the whole reservation and move it to January 21.  It was $100 more each (probably because it's a bit later in the month and the weather is going to be so much nicer), so that wasn't too bad and I'm really glad that it was possible to change it.  Fortunately, I hadn't booked any flights yet or it would have gotten really messy.

Going a bit later in January will make it a lot nicer for swimming and/or snorkeling or whatever we decide to do on shore excursions.  I did a little looking online last night at what's available for shore excursions and found the usual beach/snorkeling things, but also a run through the jungle on 4-wheelers which might be kind of fun.  I don't think we're necessarily interested in swimming with dolphins or anything like that.  I saw one excursion that was a High Tea one afternoon, but I'm guessing that wouldn't be high on Jeff's list.  At any rate, we should have warm weather for whatever we decide to do.

Heading to our 50th State!

[Transferred from different blog]

I've done a lot of traveling over the years -- a lot with my job and a lot for pleasure.  I've visited almost all 50 states but I'm currently missing 5:  North Dakota, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Alaska.  [Sidebar:  there are a lot of states that I visited while on business that need another look because I saw nothing!]

Next year, I'll be adding the toughest one of the bunch:  Alaska!  Yep, Mom and I are going to go on a cruise from Seattle up to Alaska.  We're going in August -- on Mom's birthday, as a matter of fact -- and we're just starting the planning process so I'll be documenting the process right here as the research is undertaken and decisions are made.

This is the basic information:

7-day cruise on August 21, 2012 on the Carnival Spirit out of Seattle. 


Stacy said...
I would go back to Alaska in a heartbeat. That's awesome!

By the way...I have an aunt in Rhode Island who lives near the beach, and it's on my bucket list to hit that New England area in fall. So I'm just saying...hint, hint. Nudge, nudge.
Vicki said...
I'm in!! Any birding things we can see?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Celebrating 30 years!

2012 will mark 30 years that Jeff and I will be married (July 31).  Because Jeff loves cruising as his favorite type of vacation, and because we don't want to go on a cruise in the middle of the summer, I just booked a cruise for us for January 7-14.  We'll be leaving from New Orleans (one of our favorite cities to visit) and go to Grand Cayman, Jamaica, and Mexico.

Now, hopefully, I'll have lots of incentive to lose some weight before we leave!