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...