Destinations with Daughters – What’s In My Car?

You might be wondering what on earth I packed for a trip across the country. Well, everything but the kitchen sink – almost (you should see the vehicle)!!!

  1. There are some things I couldn’t live without, like emergency equipment. Traveling across country during winter can pose some interesting potential pitfalls; cold weather, snow, ice and wind to name the biggies! I made sure we had extra gas, extra blankets, emergency fire starting gear, water, food, jumper cables, flares and an emergency battery pack.

2. Maps of all kinds. I love Google Maps, but when we left Minnesota headed towards Badlands National Park in South Dakota, all Google applications were down – including my daughter’s Google classroom! So, we opted for some old school technology – MapQuest! It worked until Google came back on line, but what will we do when there’s no internet? Even older school maps. When you are driving 3000 miles, you need Plan A, Plan B and Plan C.

3. Chargers and a set up Bluetooth connection. We have really been enjoying listening to whatever we want on our Spotify account. We have listened to Hamilton about 14 times, the 90s, the 80s, the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, the Eagles, and some 60s. We have also enjoyed listening to a couple of books via Audible. It makes the miles go by even quicker and we have a lot of shared laughs and fun! Chargers – well, for phones, Chromebooks, tablets and anything else we might need!!! What would we do without our connection to the world?

4. Activities for passengers. I’m a teacher at heart, so this opportunity opened some doors to provide Char with some cool National Park and cross country activities to do on the road. Oh, and we have had a few Travel Mad Libs that have had us rolling!

5. Food. If you know me well, you know that I get ugly when I am hangry! And I need proteins – so the sweets that Char likes just won’t cut it for me! I need yogurts, cottage cheese, baby bells, bars and lots of water!

6. Sanitizer of all sorts…..Lysol-type wipes, Lysol spray, hand sanitizer, and way too many masks to chose from!!

So far, we have had everything we’ve needed! Here’s to the homeward bound journey – full of laughs, love, coffee and witnessing the beautiful people and sights of this amazing country we live in!!!

Destinations with Daughters – Waning West – Day 2

Today was our longest driving day on our way west. To have a couple days in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, we had to do it this way – but it was long. Add on top of that sleet this morning (and getting in 150 miles before the sun even came up) and blizzard like conditions for two hours as we approached Minnesota. I’m happy to be in our hotel room!

Char is enjoying her little “cubby” in the car! She has everything she needs at her fingertips and seems to be enjoying the long rides. What would a cross country trip at Christmastime be without Christmas lights, Sable and Charlie, the rainbow unicorn?

We trucked through a lot of states today! Here’s the proof (and Illinois is weird because we crossed the border at the City of Chicago line so there wasn’t much of a sign – but we made due!)

Apparently, my car started to worry about me because about every 250 miles without stopping, this sign pops up on my dash…

You might wonder why we were pushing so hard and going so far – well, to see the Mall of American, of course. And we got there just in time to pop in, walk around for 10 minutes, get some rainbow unicorn cotton candy with edible eyes and mouth, and head to our hotel. It was worth it!

Total Miles = 971

States = New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota

Hours on the road = 15.5 (including stops and sight seeing)

Average Temperature = 26.5 degrees

Coffees = 2

Playlist = Hamilton the Musical (twice), The Best of the Eagles, Pitch Perfect Soundtrack, 80’s & 90s hits

Major Landmarks = Cleveland, OH, Lake Michigan, the Mighty Mississippi River, Chicago and the Mall of America

Speed Traps passed = 4

People not wearing masks in public places = 2

Gas bought = $80.00

Extras = $54.00 (coffee and food)

Hotel = $108.00 – Holiday Inn and Suites, Maple Grove, MN – SUPER nice!!!! Great location and very nice lobby, rooms, staff and in non-Covid times, they have a really cool indoor water park open to guests. This Holiday Inn has a Venetian theme going on and we were really diggin’ it!

Destinations with Daughters – Waning West – Day 1

Day one of a road trip is always special!  We got off to a strange start with our Google Maps doing weird things – but we got it figured out and named the Google Maps voice “Eliza”, basically so we have something to say, “be quiet” to!

The weather was cold to start – 29 degrees at home when we left at 5:20am (goal departure time was 5am).  We ran into some fog in Vermont and some rain in New York, but overall the traffic was light and the roads were good!  We took the scenic route through New Hampshire and Vermont instead of only highway – this added about 40 minutes but gave us something to look at. 

We listened to lots of music (thank you Spotify), sang, ate and did three Mad Libs Travelers Edition!

View of Vermont’s hills from Hogback Mountain overlook.

We made our first goal of Niagara Falls at 2:50pm and the last elevator ride down to the Cave of the Winds was at 3pm.  We Made It!!

Then we hightailed it to the Observation Deck to see what we could see!  It was rainy and a bit windy – I think more from the falls than anything else – but it was stunning!!!!

On our way to our hotel – a Holiday Inn Suites in Hamburg, NY, we drove by Lake Erie and Char wondered how we got to the ocean!  Of course, she knows her geography, but she was confused by the lake’s size.  We stopped for the last rays of sunset at a small state park near Buffalo and ran on the beach as the sun went down.  It was cool!

Today we laughed, Char slept, I sang, and we enjoyed our time together a lot.  Tomorrow is our longest day on the road – 950+ miles ahead of us and I hope to be on the road before 5am.  Here’s to a good night’s rest and a thankful heart for a safe and healthy Day 1.

Total Miles = 531

States = Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York

Hours on the road = 10 (including sight-seeing and stops)

Average Temperature = 39.5 degrees

Coffees = 2

Playlist = Hamilton the Musical (twice), The Best of; Billy Joel, Elton John, Maroon 5, and the Beatles

Major Landmarks = Erie Canal, Niagara Falls, Lake Erie, Buffalo, NY

Speed Traps passed = 5 (all in New York)

People not wearing masks in public places = 2

Gas bought = $44.32

Extras = $34.64 (coffee and food)

Hotel = $145.00 – Holiday Inn and Suites in Hamburg, NY – The hotel was good. The staff was very friendly and the room was very nice and clean with a modern design. We used the pool (You had to sign up for a time so you were the only ones in the area for social distancing) and the beds were comfortable! It was conveniently located right off the highway and we would stay there again.

Carpe Diem – Destinations with Daughters

While 2020 has certainly been a year for the record books, all the heartbreaks and disappointments have lead to some very important lessons to be learned. For me, those lessons have included; learning to let go of my Type A – “everything has to happen as I schedule it” – attitude. Another lesson I have learned is to be more flexible and adaptable. But the biggest lesson I have learned is carpe diem – seize the day – and that is exactly what Char and I are going to do!

I am a “live and let live” kind of girl and I tend to be pretty even keeled. But my next trip might not be for everyone, and that is ok…it IS for me and my daughter.

Char and I have been to Paris together and also Hawaii. I really cherish those memories!!!!

Ya know, there is something magical about the opportunity for a mother and daughter to travel together. I tried to pull off a short Disney cruise with my mom this past September but COVID. lol

BUT, because of COVID, my daughter and I are going on an adventure of a lifetime and it is being made more possible by the remote school schedule. We are doing something that couldn’t be more physically distant if we tried!

We are doing a Great American Road Trip and hitting as many of the National Parks as we can!

Our road trip will begin soon and I am bringing you along with me! I can’t wait to take this adventure!!! I mean, how many moms get an opportunity to spend so much time with their 14 year old daughters? ME! I am really going to treasure these precious days!!!!

Stay tuned and check out winter across America – socially distant style!

Travel Ornaments; A Year in Review….

People collect mementos of their travels, and one thing I collect is ornaments. Every year when we put up our tree, the ornaments from vacations past come out of the box and the trip is relived with joy, stories and laughter. It is EXACTLY why I travel and bring something home with me.

This year was a bit different. While we did still get in a couple of trips pre-COVID (Amsterdam and a girl’s trip to Punta Cana – and somehow I cannot find my ornament from that trip…), and still went to Disney and road tripped to South Carolina, we did miss out on a Disney cruise, a river cruise on the Rhine and my hubby missed a boy’s cruise to Mexico. There’s always next year!!!

Here are some memories and our ornaments…I know I will treasure them for many years to come. What do you bring home from your adventures?

Amsterdam – January 2020 – We LOVED this trip with friends – we can’t wait to go back!

Disney – August 2020

Southern Road Trip – Asheville, NC and Charleston, SC – November 2020

The Evolution of Travel in the COVID Age; A Trip Inside a Travel Agent’s Own Adventures.

I have been saying for a while that folks CAN travel during COVID, but two key words right now are Flexibility and Adaptability

I am living proof.  Here is a glimpse into the mind of someone who NEEDS to travel to survive.  I know that sounds dramatic, but I am a nomad in a first world country.  I need to move.  I need to explore.  I need to be challenged. COVID has presented a particular type of struggle for people like me.  But I persevere…..and here is what it looks like.

Plan A – An AMA Waterways river cruise on the mighty Rhine

Early this year, my hubby and I booked a FAM trip (this is travel agent speak for a FAMiliarlization trip – it is an opportunity to scope out a particular travel vendor, sometimes at a discount) with AMA Waterways – a luxury river cruising company that I have wanted to patronize for a while.  I love their itineraries and commitment to clients!  I was super excited about this opportunity. 

Our river cruise departed from Basel and ended in Amsterdam.  Since we are particularly adventurous, we booked flights to Paris three days ahead of our cruise departure, giving us a chance to hang out in Paris, go to Disneyland Paris, then drive to Basel, Switzerland to meet our cruise.

We held out hope….then on September 15th, we received confirmation that our river cruise was cancelled.  We waited another couple days then figured Europe probably would still be closed off, so we scrapped Plan A.

Plan B – Costa Rica

In September, Costa Rica opened it’s borders to select US states, and Maine was one of them, with restrictions (negative COVID test and the purchase of additional medical insurance in case of contracting COVID while in Costa Rica resulting in a prolonged stay).  We were cool with this opportunity – I mean, my brother in law and his lovely wife had agreed to come stay at our house during our absence to be with the kids and pets and hang out, so we really wanted to take this time as a couple.

I found FABULOUS airline tickets on JetBlue with direct service to Costa Rica and the plans were made.  We were going to stay in an all inclusive and I made sure I purchased the Travel Insurance PLUS option which allowed me to cancel for any reason for a full refund in the original form of payment.  I purchased our additional medical insurance and we were ready.

Just this week, I was dotting the I’s and crossing t’s (like every good travel professional should be doing) and saw on my JetBlue account that our flights had been cancelled – no communication – no nothing from JetBlue (and I am surprised about this as I really like JetBlue and expected more from them. I later found out that somehow the email linked to these particular tickets was different than the email attached to my TrueBlue account….so that explains it!).

So, to rebook on another airline would have been crazy town expensive, so I called our resort vendor and cancelled for a full refund.  I was also granted a refund for our additional medical insurance.  On to to Plan C.

Plan C – the Great American Road Trip

OK – I didn’t have to think about this Plan long…..I am in love with Charleston, South Carolina.  I have been since I taught middle school there right after I graduated college (winter of 1997).  I have only been back once in 2000 and I have been telling my hubby ever since how much I love this city and want to bring him there.  Enter Plan C!!!!!

Our plan is to road trip to Asheville, North Carolina via an overnight stop in Winchester, VA, and see American’s largest private residence, Biltmore.  We will stay there two days so I can get my “castle/mansion” fix, then we will spend four nights in Charleston at a fabulous B&B.  We have plans to visit friends and family a couple nights, do a ghost/pub crawl in Charleston, tour Magnolia Plantation and Middleton Place Rice Plantation and also drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I cannot wait!!!!  Oh, we will also have fun listening to Harry Potter books on Audible as we drive (this was a wee bit of a concession on my part since our road trip is very history heavy – my love, not as much Kelly’s, although he has grown in his appreciation of all things old as of late).

So, there you have it.  Adaptability and flexibility.  If you want to get out there….go!  Sure, some things will be different but get out there and explore!  Use this time to do things you haven’t done before.  And follow our adventure right here!!!  Don’t miss out!

Sweating out the Crazy

Last weekend, one of my BFFs from High School and I decided to go on a backpacking adventure. We headed up to Mt Chocoura, NH for two nights of solace and time together. We got that and so much more!

My friend, Sherry, has never been backpacking. I have been a couple times but I am by no means an expert…but since I have an almost Eagle Scout, I had all the gear we needed for our trip.

We packed two very heavy frame packs to include a tent, 2.5 gallons of water (no water up there), food for 48 hours, Sterno in case the fire went south, fire starting material, warm clothes, poles, sleeping bags and mats, books, chargers (because we couldn’t totally unplug), phones and some nips. We had everything we needed but didn’t feel like we over packed.

Setting off from the car at 4pm.

My pack was about 60lbs and Sherry’s was around 50lbs.

We almost died.

Chocoura isn’t a big mountain but we aren’t in the BEST of shape, hauling 50+ pounds of gear and finishing our hike in the dark Thursday night to a full moon…..we made it but were a bit anxious by the time we found the shelter on the dark, not marked trail.

It rained most of the day Friday but we had gotten up early to collect downed firewood in the area for a collection for the afternoon, evening and our last morning….Friday night and Saturday were COLD and the fire was a blessing.

We talked, told stories, laughed A LOT, did Mad Libs, didn’t read as much as we wanted to but learned a lot about Mt Chocoura and it’s history. Our intent was to complete our hike to the summit on Friday but the rain gave us an excuse to not do it. We Googled it.

We didn’t find the outhouse until the second day…..it’s so cute, isn’t it?

This time away with my friend was priceless. I almost feel overwhelmed with the nothingness that is going on. Time to think. Time to push myself beyond a physical limit. Time to be scared. Time to project some hope.

Sherry and I will plan another escape this winter – but we are thinking a nice cabin in the woods with hot water and fire wood we don’t have to hunt for!

Sangria by the Lake

While camping this year at Long Lake, I decided to make a “sangria a day” for tasting.

You see, I really do not like wine – GOSH – I TRY so hard to like wine, but I just don’t.  So I thought I would try many different “mixers” with wine to see if it helped.  Not only that, but I have had some lovely sangrias in Spain and wanted to try my hand at it.

I have enjoyed a fall themed sangria in the past (think caramel apple), but looked to Facebook to find some tried and true summer time refreshers for this little experiment.

Here is my picture diary, the recipe link and my assessment for each sangria I made!

Red, White and Blueberry Sangria

Red, White and Blueberry Sangria Recipe

I served this our first night along with a Maine feast of lobster rolls, corn on the cob, clam chowder and salad. This sangria was one of my favorites – it was light and I might have a little less Prosecco in mine, but overall it was light, bubbly and refreshing.

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Red, White and Blueberry Sangria

 

Sparkling Rose Sangria

Sparkling Rosé Sangria

This sangria was again, very refreshing and had a little kick to it with the addition of vodka.  I served this for our anti pasta night (even though I made a putenesca) – meat, cheese, bread and yumminess!  This pared well with dinner and was fabulous after a long, hot day on the lake!

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Sparkling Rose Sangria

 

Blackberry Sweet Tea Sangria

Blackberry Sweet Tea Sangria

This twist on two fab drinks really rocked!!!  I served this with a traditional summer meal – hamburgers, hot dogs and pasta salad.  My kids were feeling totally left out of this whole sangria experiment so they did get to enjoy the sweet tea before infusing it with the wine!

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Blackberry Sweet Tea Sangria

 

Mystery Sangria – contributed by Jennifer Smith (a dear friend from HS who warned me not to drink this too fast – maybe it should be named Knock You On Your Can Sangria

Approximately 1/2 gallon of red wine

1 to 1 1/2 cup apricot brandy

1/2 cup to 1 cup triple sec

1 cup orange juice

1 cup apricot nectar

1/2 cup to 1 cup Sprite or equivalent

Half an apple, chopped

Half and orange, chopped

Cinnamon

Combine the liquid ingredients in a large pitcher, chop the fruit into bite size pieces and add to pitcher.  Sprinkle cinnamon over the top.  Chill

My sister cooked this night and we had a Greek chicken and salad meal.  This sanrgia would kick you in the pants if you drank too much of it!  It was a bit too alcoholy for me, but others enjoyed it and luckily, I only made one batch!

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Knock You On Can Sangria

 

Pink Sangria – contributed by my girl Cheriene who loves this recipe as her go to for summer sangrias!

1 Bottle dry white wine

1/2 cup pink moscato (sparkling)

1/2 cup peach liqueur

1 1/2 cup sliced strawberries

1 large peach wedge

1/2 an orange, sliced

1/2 a lemon, sliced

Combine all ingredients, allow time for the flavors to mix and serve chilled.

We had this sangria pared with skewered Italian Meatballs and pasta!  It really hit the spot!

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Pink Sangria – I know mine doesn’t look very pick, but it must have been the lighting!

 

Cider Beer Sangria

https://www.howsweeteats.com/2016/09/cider-beer-sangria/

One wouldn’t think that beer and sangria would go hand in hand, but this one was delightful!  We had pizza this night for dinner and a Cider Sangria fit the bill!  It was a little fall tasting, but we did’t let that stop us!

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Cider Beer Sangria

 

I do so love our time at the lake every year!  The sangrias added a fun touch and I have to admit, with a background like that, how could you go wrong?

Social Distancing – Day 155

Coronacation continues…how surreal this summer is.  I keep thinking of the Bananarama song Cruel Summer.  It seems to fit.

It hasn’t all been cruel, of course – and I like to focus on the positive – so I’ll tell you what we have been doing since June 24th!

Gardening – lots and lots of gardening!   It amazes me every time I have a garden how quickly vegetables (and weeds) grow!  We have had a great harvest in green beans, zucchini, lettuce galore and I feel like we will be soon overrun with cucumbers!  My tomatoes are coming along nicely as well!

As for the rest of the garden – some things are doing great – I need to harvest my lavender soon but it has been so hot out in the mornings that I want to wait.  Speaking of hot – I think we have had a REAL summer here!  Super-hot days – we have had our pool heater off for almost a month and still the pool is 91 degrees!

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Exploring at home.  Hamilton House, South Berwick, Maine

We were able to do our annual camping trip to Long Lake.  I treasure this week long vacation every year and this year was no different!  We enjoyed great family time, amazing food, fabulous weather, tons of boating (skiing, tubing and trips to town for ice cream) and made memories to last a lifetime and hold us over until next year!!!

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Our home away from home.

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Two tubes, twice the fun!

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Pine Island, Long Lake.

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Storm closing in.

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What 17 year old boys do early in the morning.

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We made some cool masks!

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Drive-bys with the Songo River Queen.

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Making new friends!

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The 2020 crew – I love these people!!!

It’s been 155 days in some type of isolation because or COVID-19.  Boy, this world is a weird place!  My daughter starts high school in September.  My son begins his senior year and in a week we are going to be in Disney.  Trying to maintain a sense of normalcy in this strange season is a challenge, but still this point on our timeline has offered us quiet times of contemplation and opportunities to do something new.  Let’s see what good can come out of this cruel summer.

Social Distancing – Day 101

Well, we’ve exceeded 100 days – and many are still social and physical distancing.  I won’t get into the debate – there are so many opinions out there, but the fact is, for us, life is still not quite normal.

Our circle is still small, and while we are attending our first in-person church service this coming Sunday, it will look different – masks required while moving, family groups sitting together in pre-determined spaces 8 feet apart, and outside.  But we will be together in a way!

One hundred days is a timeframe we use to measure events in our society – the first 100 days in a presidency; our kids mark the 100th day of school; Phineus and Ferb seem to have 104 days of summer….

I have marked a few significant things in our house for the 100 days of Coronavirus…

100 days at home with my kids mean I have had, on average, spent an extra 420 hours with my children that I would not have had if they were in school.  That is like getting an extra 17.5 days with my kids that I would not have had.  THIS has been a blessing!!

100 days at home has resulted in about 90 loads of laundry – of which NONE were folded immediatly after I took them out of the dryer!

100 days at home meant that I prepared way more meals, ate a lot more food, and worked out a lot less…..

100 days at home means that I have watched more than 75 episodes of a Escape to the Chateau.

100 days at home has allowed my hubby and I to work closer together and we are still happily married.

100 days at home has meant long walks in the woods with Cooper, gardening, building, painting and attempting to declutter my house (still working on this).

100 days at home has brought more good to my life than bad (the lost income from no one traveling and the prospect of travel is still too daunting for people to explore has been tough, along with the isolation).  It has given me precious time with my family that I otherwise would not have had.

It will be almost fall when the next 100 days rolls around – I wonder what that will look like?

101 Days and counting….