Back in the Saddle

You know what they say about “time flying”? It couldn’t be more true about the past two and half months!

When my daughter and I got back from our mega-road trip, I hit the ground running and had the BEST February and March EVER in the life of my business for bookings – Travel is BACK, Baby!!! I haven’t had a lot of time to catch my breath!

We even took a week long trip to Florida in February – stayed on Disney property, went to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, Busch Gardens, Sea World, Aquatica, Discover Cove and Magic Kingdom and I haven’t even written about that yet! Well, there is no lack of writing material – just TIME. And really, isn’t that what it’s about?

So here I am in Turks and Caicos….last month, my Regional Groups Manager for Sandals and Beaches reached out to me and asked if I wanted to join her on a FAM – this is travel agent speak for a familiarization trip. The idea is that you spend some classroom time getting to know a property/brand, learn techniques and strategies that market the brand best, get wined and dined and enjoy a few days of R&R in the mix. This FAM is at Beaches Turks and Caicos and I said “YES” without much hesitation!

So, I did what I have been helping my clients do to prepare for travel; I scheduled my COVID test so that I would fit within the “five days before departure” requirement, purchased additional travel insurance required by Turks and Caicos for all travelers in the event they have to be quarantined on property for any length of time, completed my on-line Turks and Caicos Travel Authorization within the allotted time, uploaded my negative PCR test, travel insurance document and waited to get the green light from Turks and Caicos. BINGO!!!

I arrived yesterday to a STUNNING approach to the islands and instantly felt at home (it reminds me so much of Eleuthera).

I am just going to give you a sneak peek of what I experienced when I arrived – but can I tell you, Beaches is AMAZING!! 5-Star luxury for the FAMILY!!!! Look, we pulled up in our taxi, got out, a gentleman dressed in a suit greeted us by name, told the porters where our rooms were, made some small talk with us and before you know it, a lady dressed like an upscale waiter arrives with glasses of papaya juice and a bottle of Appleton Spiced Rum…..Yes, Please. Directly afterwards, another gentleman in similar attire arrived with a silver platter filled with COLD WASHCLOTHS for our face after our long journey!!! Friends – this is isn’t the wining and dining part…..this is the Beaches Ultra Luxury Part!!! I was given a mini-bar menu (since this is a family resort, the minibars (which are free) are stocked with water, fruit juices and soda) and selected the alcohol I wanted waiting in my room – and voila – it was here!

The gentleman who got us registered then proceeded to walk us to our rooms, allowed us to each break the sanitation seal on our room, gave us a quick tour, and proceeded to the next person’s room to repeat.

So – my sneak peek – the arrival, the room, and my pledge to YOU that I will write it all down – take it all in – and convince you that Beaches Turks and Caicos is THE place for your next family adventure!!!

BTW – they are operating at a full 65% here – and more than thankful to be doing so – and you can tell!

Destinations with Daughters – The Big Eastie – The Finale

Well, we have been home for 10 days now and I feel like I am caught up with life at home.

Looking back on this trip, it really was a huge undertaking and I am SO glad we did it!!!

We arrived back at home on Saturday, had our COVID testing done Monday (negative on Tuesday), and have resumed our normal lives; work, school, activities and catching up with the day to day.

Char will tell you that her favorite part was California!

My favorite part (besides spending so much time with my girl) was seeing all the beautiful landscapes the US has to offer. Even in their starkest times of winter, the amber waves of grain and purple mountains majesty didn’t disappoint.

Here is a “by the numbers” for our trip home, and then an overall tally for posterity.

I hope you have been inspired to do that road trip you have always dreamed of! The memories Char and I made are irreplaceable and will be cherished as a mother-daughter experience we will always share!

The way home, by the numbers….

Total Miles = 6068

States = Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine (20 total).

Hours on the road = 112 hours to include stops during the day

Food bought = $240 (the benefit of staying at hotels with Grab and Go breakfasts and making lunches everyday on the road)

Gas bought = $592.00

Extras = $258 (parking at Horseshoe Bend and Disney, Graceland and the Wildlife Safari)

Hotel = $1186.25 (9 hotel rooms)

Non-essential costs (trinkets and gifts for others) = $221.00

Total cost for The Big Eastie – $2497.25 for 14 nights (four of those with friends in Arizona) = $178.38 per day for two people.

The GRAND total – round trip US Road Trip to include 36 total states, 12 National Parks, over a dozen major landmarks, four major river crossings and countless memories made:

Total miles driven = 9944

Total hours on the road = 183.5

Total States driven through/in = 36

Gas total = $952.33

Total food purchased = $673

Hotel and B&B stays = $2521.32

Trinkets and non-essential expenditures = $829

TOTAL for 24 days of cross country travel for two people = $5,234.29 – That’s just over $100 a day per person. I will look back on this trip someday and know that I would have paid any price to do it again with my daughter. Thanks for coming along with us on this experience of a lifetime! I would do it again in a heartbeat….but maybe I’ll wait a couple years!

Destinations with Daughters – The Big Eastie – Day 13

Paul Simon’s GRACELAND was on our mind ALL day!!! Char and I both love this song and were happy to sing it all day!

Graceland!!! WOW! It was pretty cool and pretty empty!

I loved the adjustments that Graceland has made to accommodate COVID – we had temperature checks upon arrival and I loved the signage!!!

We totally enjoyed the tour of Graceland Mansion – it was grand and yet, it wasn’t. The personal stories shared by Lisa Marie Presley and others made Graceland feel like a special place. Here are a few pictures from inside and around the mansion – check out the kitchen!!!

We also toured around Elvis’ crazy collection of vehicles (WOWZERS) and also many of his personal items – Army uniforms, stage costumes, awards and so on.

We thought Graceland was super cool and a must see for us!!! We would totally go back!

After our time in Graceland, we drove to Nashville just to see the Grand Ole Opry. We were there for about an hour and really just popped in to the gift store!

It was a great “last” touring day on our trip! We loved every minute of our day and hope you will check back to see the Tally of our Big Eastie and the whole trip overall. I have enjoyed having you all along with us!

Total Miles = 624

States = Tennessee and Virginia

Hours on the road = 15 – this includes 2 hours in Graceland, then another hour in Nashville

Average Temperature = 52

Coffees = 2

Playlist = Hamilton and Lake in the Clouds

Major Landmarks = Graceland, Grand Ole Opry

Speed Traps passed = 0

Gas bought = $35.00

Extras = Trinkets at Graceland and Opry

Hotel = $92.00 – I wasn’t decided on whether or not I was going to be able to drive straight through from Nashville to home, so I did not book a hotel in advance. But as I approached midnight, I decided getting 4 hours of sleep was probably the best plan – and we stopped just outside of Roanoke, VA for a quick sleep.

Destinations with Daughters – The Big Eastie – Day 12

Today could have been a bust.

We started out WAY before dawn in the windy plains of Texas. Do you know how scary it is to be traveling 75 miles per hour on the highway in the dark and see objects coming at you from the side…all the time…really fast? The “objects” are tumbleweed. It’s a real plant (the ultimate air plant). And when you are not used to it and it comes screaming at you in the dark, it scares the crud out of you! Trust me!

After running that gauntlet and overcoming the fear, we powered through Texas towards Dallas. Our overall goal today was Memphis, Tennessee, but Char REALLY wanted to see this sculpture that, as the website says, is on display in Dallas. This sculpture has something to do with a musical piece she payed in 7th grade and she has wanted to see the sculpture for almost two years. We drove FOUR hours out of the way to see the sculpture. We paid $10.50 to get into the Nasher Sculpture Center, walked around the outside display area, did not see the sculpture, asked the docent, and was told that THREE YEARS AGO it had been retired, but we could go see the copy at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh. NO WAY, JOSE!!!!

UGH! So, off we went and we arrived in Memphis around 6:30pm.

Today wasn’t a total bummer because I got to listen to Matthew McConaughey’s memoir, Greenlights, in its entirety. I began with the intro chapter the night before, but all the way through Texas, I got to hear about the first 50 years of Matthew’s life and it was riveting! I have actually never read (or listened to) an autobiography or memoir before, and to have this one read to me by the author was cool. And “knowing” what I know about Matthew McConaughey, I had a pretty good idea I would like his no nonsense approach to life – and I DID!

Road trips make you think. This book made me think more. Over the past month, and mostly on the road, I have been thinking about a lot. My time on the road has really solidified my notion that I AM a First World Nomad. I don’t miss a darn THING in my house; I miss my people, my cats, and my dog. I crave alone time – just the road and me (and a busy teenager in the back) and I think this is one benefit of being an only child – I am happy alone and I like my own company. And you know those people you think are “crazy” for traveling? Doing something new? Living outside the box? Taking a chance? They are not crazy. They live without fear – or rather, they know that LIVING life (not just surviving it) happens in the absence of fear.

There were so many quotes I heard today in this book that I have to READ it and not just listen to it. One of the best ones was this: “We all have scars, we gonna have more. Rather than struggle against time and waste it, let’s dance with time and redeem it. Cause we don’t live longer when we try not to die. We live longer when we are too busy living.”― Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights

I want to be “too busy living” to be afraid. Our trip didn’t come to a screeching halt today because I couldn’t get over that fact that leafless plants were flying across the highway at me – I got over it – I moved on – and I learned not to be afraid of tumbleweed. Today could have been a bust – but it wasn’t. Today was full of laughter, tears, too many curse words coming out of my speakers and an unnecessary detour. If we wouldn’t have gone to Dallas to try to see a sculpture that is no longer on display, I wouldn’t have been in Texas long enough to hear the whole story of a Texas boy honing in on the values of life. Greenlight.

Total Miles = 816

States = Texas, Arkansas and Tennessee

Hours on the road = TOO MANY!!! LOL 13 hours

Average Temperature = 55

Coffees = 3

Playlist = Greenlights, Lake in the Clouds (Char did school a lot of the day and then watched movies – I had the radio to myself!)

Major Landmarks = Dallas, Little Rock, the Mighty Mississippi, Memphis!

Speed Traps passed = 4 – seriously, Texas – you kept me on my toes.

People not wearing masks in public places = everyone in Arkansas other than employees! LOL

Gas bought = $95.00 – that’s what 800+ miles will do for ya!

Extras = $18.00 at subway for dinner

Hotel = $92.00 – just a half mile from Graceland and apparently not in the best neighborhood, but the hotel is pretty new looking and parking is in a secure area, so I think we’re cool.

Destinations with Daughters – The Big Eastie – Day 11

The days on the road are blending together. For the most part, we just drove and drove today (tomorrow will be more of the same) – but we totally had some highlights!!!!!

When we passed into New Mexico, there was no sign, so we ran across the street and grabbed the “Thank you for visiting” New Mexico sign and called it good! hahahaha

After heading through Albuquerque, we weaved back and forth between Interstate 40 and Historic Route 66 – there are definitely some fun Americana sights to see on that fabulous road.

The highlight of our day was Cadillac Ranch – just west of Amarillo. It was super cool to see and Char asked over and over again what the heck these cars were doing out here like this and if it was ok that we were here! There were other visitors – and this iconic stop on America’s most iconic road was a must!

I absolutely love this picture of Char!

Friends of ours had visited in October and told us to bring spray paint – and we were prepared. Char left a message for her BFF Lizzy, and I tagged a car with some classic initials, “KS + DS”.

Speaking of our spray paint, Char and I picked these colors (hot pink and Caribbean blue) out at Wal-Mart before we left. Today, we tried them for the first time and Caribbean blue color was NOT what we thought is was….we talked about how this can of spray paint is certainly a metaphor for life…..just because the flashy parts look like something you really want, you don’t really know what is on the inside until you give it a try…and you may be disappointed! Also, make sure you read all the labels! lol

There were recepticals for spent spray cans, and people made their own piles, but there were some “professionals” there collecting cans to throw away, so that was nice. Overall, we loved this quick stop on our journey and I love the pictures and memories!

Just 5 minutes from our hotel was the BIG TEXAN Steakhouse! Char’s BFF’s dad told us we should stop here and we sure are glad we did!!! We both LOVE steaks and HELLO!!! If you are in Texas, isn’t steak a requirement? We each got sweet tea (YUM), shared some fried dill pickle spears, I got a 16oz ribeye and Char got an 8oz sirloin (both rare, of course). We both had salads and our choice of potato. Holy smokes, I might explode!!!! Best meal on the trip so far! Thanks, Jay!

Total Miles = 551

States = Colorado, New Mexico and Texas

Hours on the road = 10

Average Temperature = 53

Coffees = only 2

Playlist = Hamilton, Dawn on a Distant Shore, we finished Twilight and started Greenlights – the Matthew McConaughey memoir. We also listened to some Paul Simon, Sting and the Police, and Janet Jackson.

Major Landmarks = The Rio Grande, Albuquerque, Amarillo and Cadillac Ranch

Speed Traps passed = 3 right as we passed into Texas

Gas bought = $51.00

Extras = $65.00 – dinner at the Big Texan at the recommendation of Char’s BFF’s dad! It was GOOD!

Hotel = $107.06 – Holiday Inn in East Amarillo, TX. Nicely done – new – but no free breakfast:(

Destinations with Daughters – The Big Eastie – Day 10

Sensory overload. That is what I have after today! We traversed FOUR out of the BIG FIVE national parks here in Utah and all I can say is WOW!!!!

We started out today in Zion – zooming through the park just as the sun was rising.

We took the most amazing “back roads” for most of the day – following Scenic Route 12, then we hopped on to Route 24 to Interstate 70.

Route 12 took us through Bryce Canyon National Park where Char and I hiked to the Mossy Cave. We saw some amazing ice formations (and ice/water fall) and the Mossy Cave has ice stalactites and stalagmites that last well into June!!!

Route 24 took us through Capitol Reef National Park (I could see Capitol Reef from above as we approached but the pictures just don’t do the overview justice).

Our final National park was Arches, in Moab, Utah.

We so wanted to hit Canyonlands National Park but it would have added almost two hours to our trip and we were toast. But WOW – I just cannot believe how much we saw today!!!

We crossed the Colorado border as the sun was just about to set and added another amazing day into our treasure trove of memories for this trip. I would be lying if I said we weren’t excited to be homeward bound – we love our home and our people – but make no mistake; we are savoring these days on the road TOGETHER!

Total Miles = 496

States = Utah & Colorado

Hours on the road = 10

Average Temperature = 21

Coffees = 3

Playlist = Twilight, Dawn on a Distant Shore, Lake in the Clouds, Hamilton & Paul Simon

Major Landmarks = Zion National Park, Bryce National Park, Capitol Reef, Arches National Park, Dixie National Forest, Colorado River, Moab, Utah.

Gas bought = $55.00

Extras = $16.00 for dinner

Hotel = $77.00 Holiday Inn in Cortez, CO – just outside Mesa Verde National Park.

Destinations with Daughters – The Big Eastie – Day 9

Today was mostly meant to be a driving day – but as always – we had some great opportunities to stop and do some cool and unplanned sightseeing.

As we ventured north from Tucson, the dramatic high mountain desert got even higher (I think we peaked around 7000 feet a couple hours north of Phoenix) and as we left the land of Saguaro Cactus, we entered the land of ponderosa pine and canyons as far as the eye could see.

A particular highlight of my day was our unexpected stop at Horseshoe Bend in northern Arizona near Lake Powell. We paid our $10 to park, hiked in the half mile (approx.) and were greeted with such an amazing view that we just sat there in awe for a LONG time.

Horseshoe Bend, Page, Arizona

The perspective is so hard to relate in these pictures – and I was trying to relay this to Char – finally, at the base of the bend on the far left, she spotted a stone house structure and realized just how deep Horseshoe Bend canyon really was (about 1000 feet). The scale is so immense that it is hard to reason it in your mind – words cannot describe how stunning this was to see in person and up close!

Shortly after we left Horseshoe Bend, we crossed the border into Utah (Char is getting sassy in her pictures:) and the landscaped changed once again – not so much the canyon-type features, but the land itself. We went from the adobe rust colored soil/sand in northern Arizona to a pasty white granular blend in Utah. I wish I knew more about geology and the WHY behind this color change, but I sure did appreciate it!

As the sun was fading, we finally made it to the east entrance to Zion National Park. I got a few great pictures on our way to our hotel for the evening – and again, any words I choose would be doing this landscape a disservice. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Total Miles = 504

States = Arizona and Utah

Hours on the road = 10 (including an hour at Horseshoe Bend and countless minutes for me to stop and take pictures of the amazing landscape)

Average Temperature = 46

Coffees = 3

Playlist = My Book (Dawn on a Distant Shore) since Char did school for most of the day on line and then Hamilton when she was done.

Major Landmarks = Phoenix, Flagstaff, Horseshoe Bend, Colorado River, Glen Canyon Dam, Lake Powell, Zion National Park

Speed Traps passed = 4 – Arizona is really stepping up their game.

Gas bought = $50.00

Extras = $8.00 – postcards and a sticker for Char’s water bottle

Hotel = $96.00 – Holiday Inn Zion – Springdale, UT – GORGEOUS setting just outside the South Entrance to Zion National Park. The hotel is very nicely appointed with craggy mountain peaks as the backdrop. They also sport three large fire pits for outdoor evening enjoyment! It was a GREAT stop over!

Destinations with Daughters – The Big Eastie – Day 8

Today was a strange day schedule wise – we stayed with our friends until around noon, then headed up to Tucson to do some hiking amongst the Saguaros and enjoy some nice weather before heading back to the colder weather of Utah.

It’s always hard to say goodbye to good friends – but these friends are the kind that you may not see for a few years, but when you do, it’s as if you were together the whole time! I am blessed to have people like this in my life!

We arrived near the David Yetman hiking area (not far from the Sonoran Desert Museum) and headed UP!

I just can’t get enough of this landscape – and Char is the same way – we hiked here briefly two years ago when we came to Arizona and really wanted to return.

We spent nearly three hours wandering around the hillsides and climbing the crumbling terrain. We dodged lots of cacti and took some great pictures. Tomorrow we start our journey home in earnest – heading towards Utah and Zion National Park – We’ll be home in six days – and in between that time, we have a lot of miles to cover and a lot to see!

Total Miles = 106

States = Arizona

Hours on the road = 1.5

Average Temperature = 62

Coffees = One that I brought from our friend’s house.

Playlist = I listened to my book (Dawn on a Distant Shore) while Char watched a movie.

Major Landmarks = the gorgeous high mountain desert!

Gas bought = $0

Extras = $83.00 – dinner and some cool gadgets at Cracker Barrel – that store is dangerous!!!!

Hotel = $111.14 – Holiday Inn Express, Tucson, AZ – really nice! They are renovating this one and we are in the finished new section. It is at a great location right off Interstate 10 and we are comfy with two queen beds and even a sitting room!!!

Destinations with Daughters – The Big Eastie – Days 5-7

One of the highlights of this trip was the opportunity to spend time with our family and friends in Sierra Vista. My uncle has lived in Sierra Vista for 30+ years and I had a chance to hang out with him and my cousin and her family. We had a great visit and it is so nice to have a chance to catch up.

Our friends we have had for nearly 20 years – Army friends we met in California and we bonded immediately! We did church together, we did weekends together, we did life together. Amy and I were pregnant together and she stayed by my side during my whole labor with Kelton. Six weeks later, she had her own bundle of joy!

Amy and I enjoying the hot desert sun! We sat outside for about three hours just talking and laughing! I wish we could do this more often!

These friends have been a continual blessing in our lives and although we went our separate ways 17 years ago, we have stayed in touch through visits, camping trips and Amy is almost always my room mate for girl’s trips! I wouldn’t want to do life without them!

Our friends have a “Hobby Farm” called the Crazy Chicken Farm, and Char and I have so enjoyed learning about their animals and helping with chores, riding, and generally having a great time while we chill and relax at a home away from home! On the farm, there are about 40 chickens, a dozen or so ducks of multiple varieties, a miniature donkey named Button, a cow named Sampson, six goats and two horses named Cherokee and Sierra.

While visiting, we played games (Telestrations – a cross between Pictionary and Telephone – a SUPER fun game), Char had a bout with Altitude sickness – UGH! We had a lot of down time, enjoyed the warm weather and admired the views. We visited a horse rescue our fiends volunteer at and the kids did puzzles and played some Mario Cart. It was a wonderful three days!

We always look forward to time with our friends and family – especially those we don’t get to see as often as we would like. Until next time, Sierra Vista!!!!!

Destinations with Daughters – The Big Eastie – Day 4

Our last day in California and it seemed as though she was sad to see us go. The weather was cool with low lying clouds and although I promise we WERE in San Diego (La Jolla Shores), you wouldn’t know it based on the weather – but there were a ton of surfers!!!!

Before we headed east, we had to stalk Jon Foreman – again – Char is sure this is his house! She was hoping he would be outside so she could say hi, but alas….

We headed east on Highway 8 towards Yuma, AZ and I cannot even describe the differences in landscapes we encountered! Just 30 minutes outside San Diego we entered the Cleveland National Forest and the rolling hills were stunning in their simplicity! From sea level to 4100 feet, up and down through the contours of the land – just beautiful.

Then as we approached a section close to the Mexican boarder, the hills turned to boulders! MASSIVE boulders everywhere you looked and it was something out a sci-fi flick!

Coming off the bolders was miles upon miles of flatland – cultivated in some places and barren in others – equally as stunning in its own way.

And finally, as we approached Arizona, we encountered the Imperial Dunes. It was like something out of Star Wars and my picture does not do it justice, but all of a sudden it was like the Sahara and then just as quickly, it was gone.

We arrived outside of Tucson as the sun set and Char snapped this picture while we were cruising at 75 miles per hour. The Saguaro cacti were growing more and more abundant and we were so happy to be arriving at our friend’s house for the next 3 full days! There will be lots of visiting, horseback riding and enjoy our friend’s little farm.

As we were leaving California, Char said, “If I could relive any 3 days in my life (because I loved them so much), it would be these days in California”. I love that she is making these memories – postcards in her mind of what she loves (the diversity of the landscape) and what she doesn’t (the smog); storing away these snapshots for her future. I am cherishing every minute!

Total Miles = 612

States = California and Arizona

Hours on the road = 11

Average Temperature = 68

Coffees = 3

Playlist = Switchfoot and Twilight

Major Landmarks = Imperial Dunes, Colorado River, SO MANY cacti!!!!!!

Speed Traps passed = LOTS (there was an Amber Alert as we approached Arizona and I am sure this is the reason). And LOTS of Border Patrol.

Gas bought = $63.00

Extras = $51.00 in trinkets at La Jolla Shores

Hotel = NONE!!!! The joy of staying with friends!!!