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Category: travel

going places!

A few months back, the husband decided we should move to Texas. After some thought, I decided I was up to the adventure. I married a Texan; I knew the day would come when I, too, would become a Texan. I’m pretty sure it’s in the marriage vows.

And so ensued a whirlwind of activity: renting out our house, finding a rental home, finding jobs … I thought it was all supposed to be hard, but everything fell into place without too much effort. Moving is easy y’all! I think I’ll do it more often!

To get my car to our new home, we decided I’d drive down early and take care of logistics (internet and cable, really … the husband might just die without internet and cable). But I didn’t want to drive for 26 hours all by myself, so I flew my sister out. She couldn’t take a whole week off (ah, the shackles of adulthood), but she managed a long weekend for a ‘road trip’. Little did she know it was less a road trip and more just a whole lot of driving.

I quit my job early in the afternoon, hopped in the car, picked up my sister, and we were off! We managed to beat DC traffic and had ourselves a looooong drive through Virginia.

At the recommendation of a few coworkers, we stopped just shy of the Tennessee border, and called it a night. The Virginia side of the border is supposedly ‘nicer’ than the Tennessee side; I had to laugh when I looked out our hotel window and found a lumber yard. Admittedly, it was a clean and orderly lumber yard, but I was promised mansions and golf courses!

Day two took us through Tennessee, with a quick stop in Nashville for lunch (and a t-shirt), and another stop in Memphis for another t-shirt. Both Nashville and Memphis seem like happenin’ places, I’d like to go back sometime and spend more than 30 minutes there.

We stopped just past Little Rock, and the sister decided to have a swim. I had forgotten a bathing suit, so she risked the dangers all by her lonesome, and managed to not get kidnapped by hill folk. The hill folk were a bit odd (“there was a guy in the hot tub … wearing a trucker hat “), but were apparently friendly enough. They told my sister they’d “see her later,” which left her hoping they meant at breakfast the next morning. And me hoping it was just an expression that they said without thinking of the meaning behind it.

We did manage to get out of town the next morning without incident, and made it to Texas. We drove through the husband’s home town and ate some really terrible barbecue because the good place was closed. Chicken Express would have been a much better choice.

Later that night we made it to our destination, and picked up some Rudy’s. This time the sister was impressed – brisket, sliced white bread, and cream corn – and decided that Texas barbecue doesn’t suck. Which is a good thing, otherwise the husband would have had to disown her. I’m pretty sure that was in the wedding vows, too.

The husband and I have been planning a trip to Phoenix for months. We’ve carefully planned out our itinerary: a Star Trek Convention, an Easter Pageant, some theater (Nine), a Cowboy show, the Grand Canyon, the Phoenix Zoo,  the Arizona Science Center, and the Pueblo Grande Museum.  Do we know how to party or what?

We purchased the Star Trek tickets ages ago (priorities!), but I hadn’t booked the theater tickets or the cowboy dinner.  It was on the to-do list, but I just kept putting it off.

I signed up for the Phoenix Groupon and Living Social emails when I knew we were going to be in the area, as that strategy paid off for our trip to Vegas last year.  (Half-price Gameworks day passes and Atomic Museum tickets!)

So, what should appear in my email inbox but a Groupon for the Cowboy show!  Followed shortly by a Nine deal.  I’m still holding out for Grand Canyon, Zoo and Science center deals.  Here’s hoping I get lucky!

seattle

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I booked a red-eye out of Seattle for our trip home from Leavenworth, because I wasn’t sure when the rest of the family would be leaving – and also because it was really cheap.  Turns out people don’t like to spend the night in a tiny airplane seat …

With the family departing early in the day, that meant the husband and I had a long time to spare before our 11 pm flight.  So we spent the day in Seattle!

I know I’m from Washington state and all, but I’ve never really spent much time in Seattle.  With this latest adventure, that brings me to 4 whole days in the city. 🙂

On our way to Seattle, we stopped at Jack in the Box for lunch.  I miss that place.  I don’t understand why there aren’t any in Virginia.  🙁  If one ever opens in the northern Virginia area, I think it’s safe to say that the husband and I will single-handedly keep it in business …

Once we reached the city, we parked by the waterfront, and made our way to the Aquarium.  There were a lot of people out and about, and the aquarium was no exception.  We did get to see the feeding of the sea otters and the seals (or sea lions?  I always get them mixed up …), which is always fun.

After the aquarium, we wandered up to Pike’s place market.  And I mean UP.  Unfortunately, it was ridiculously crowded, so we didn’t stick around to do any shopping.  We watched the fish guys holler at each other for awhile, but there wasn’t much throwing going on, so we left.

We stumbled across the BEST chocolate chip cookies ever.  The signage was a little disturbing – it’s a cookie masquerading as a cow-pie in a field – but we took the plunge.  And it was oh so yummy!  And the best part is … they deliver!  I haven’t ordered any yet – they are a tad expensive, especially when you add the shipping in – but I have a feeling I will some day.

Next up was the Ducks tour, but they were sold out.  Never underestimate the draw of the amphibious vehicle tour …

So we ended up across the street at the Experience the Music Project/Sci-fi Museum.  Everybody (b2, the husband’s work buddies) kept telling us to hit EMP, but it was actually the sci-fi part that got us in the door.  They have a great exhibit of sci-fi goodies: comic books, star trek props, star wars props, a fan-made borg costume (looked better than a lot of the real stuff, IMO), and an animatronic teenage mutant ninja turtle!

After we were done with that, we hit the EMP.  It was a lot of interactive stuff that we passed on, but I think if we had been in the mood, it would have been a lot of fun to lay down our own tracks and shoot a music video.

After that, we made our way to the airport, turned in the car, and tried to check in.  Except we couldn’t because the ticket counter was closed.  And the auto-checkin machines were turned off.  We were, admittedly, a little early, but if we’d have known we’d be sitting in front of the ticket counter for an hour, we might have laid down some tracks.  Or at least found one last Jack in the Box …

Once we checked in, we went through security.  As is expected when you fly.  It’s the place where you remove your jackets, belts and shoes.  And remove your laptop from it’s case.  And empty the change and keys from your pockets.  And put your 3 oz bottles of liquids and gels in a 1-quart ziploc bag in a bin such that it is visible to the security folks.

I know the drill.  The husband knows the drill.  Everybody who flies out of Dulles knows the drill.  And thus I am spoiled and shocked when I encounter people who do not know the drill.

We were behind one man who had to go through again because he didn’t empty his pockets.  And he GRUMBLED as he put his handfuls of change in a bowl.  Seriously?  Dude, you are walking through a METAL detector.  It detects METAL.  Like that $4 in change you just put in the bowl.  Metal detectors are not new at airports, they were there even before the 9/11 craziness started.  It’s not like they suddenly changed the rules on him.  If he’s flown at all in the last 20 years (that’s when my flying experience started, so I can’t vouch for before that), then he’s been through a metal detector.  Where he’s had to empty his pockets.

We were behind another gentleman who had trouble with the ‘remove your belt’ thing.  He removed his belt, but then proceeded to walk through the metal detector with it IN HIS HANDS.  Um, sir – they asked you to remove it so you could put it in a bin and NOT set off the detector …

And, lastly, a young man who was insistent that if he removed his belt, his pants would fall off.  Which was true, but the TSA gentleman had a suggestion for him:  HOLD ON TO YOUR PANTS until you get your belt back on.  Which he finally did.

Everything else was uneventful, thankfully, and we made it safely back home.

leavenworth

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Early this year, the dad and I plotted and schemed a vacation that would be a little more fun than just sitting around the hometown.  The husband and I only visit my family once a year (if that), so I wanted it to be, well, fun and exciting!  And the dad loves travel as much as I do, so he was easy to convince.  🙂

The dad suggested Leavenworth, a charming little Bavarian village 2 hours east of Seattle.  It’s all decorated in ‘ye olde’ Germanic style (even the McDonalds!), and it exists strictly for the sake of tourism.  Which means you should totally visit!  They need your money …

He found a house to rent, just outside of town.  With 4 bedrooms, a loft, and 3 bathrooms, it was perfect for our family-reunion needs.  There was no cell phone service and no GPS lock at the house due to the towering mountains on either side, but the location could not have been more gorgeous.  The lake and mountain view were amazing.  Having been out of the Pacific Northwest for the last 10 years, I now have a better appreciation for its beauty.

We saw wildlife, kayakers, and gondola-surfers glide by on the lake every day.  The department of fish and wildlife stopped by one morning with their scuba gear to check on things in the lake. I watched people scuba dive!  In a frigid mountain lake!

And the weather!  The weather was perfect.  I was a little wary, as we went in August, and Seattle had quite the heat wave right before we headed out.  But, once we arrived, the heat wave crashed and we had lovely 60-70 degree days.

Leavenworth is a ski village in the winter, but in the summer, they have a theater festival.  The mom got us all tickets to the three plays they put on this summer, so every evening, we had a show to see.

The first night was Singin’ in the Rain.  It was on a lovely outdoor stage – complete with rain effects (probably unneeded on many nights …) and a gently sloping hill for natural theater-seating for the audience.  We parked at a fish hatchery and walked through the fish hatchery grounds to get to it – so I suppose those are some very entertained fish.  Verdict: good play!  Liked all the leads.

The next night was Pirates of Penzance.  I was most excited about that play, because all I knew about it was the Ray Stevens’ song.  Unfortunately, the husband and I had skipped our afternoon nap that day (which is vital if you live on the east coast and are visiting the west coast), so the old, british, comic opera was a little lost on us.  The actors did their job, but watching a 130 year old commentary on 130 year old times meant, well, that we missed a lot. Verdict: meh, but mostly because I had no background on the play before going into it, and I was fighting sleep for the last 40 minutes.

The last night was their showcase play, Sound of Music.  They do it every year in a wonderful hilltop theater – so the hills are literally alive with the sound of music.  It’s quite a hike to get up to the amphitheater, but once you do, it’s well worth it.  They had some set changes that seemed unnecessary (2 minutes to change the set for a 3 minute scene), and there was a snafu where a nazi flag was left up after a set change.  Overall, though, it was their best play.  Verdict: if you only see one, see this one!  Oh, and be sure to bring a jacket.  Once the sun goes down, it gets cooooold up on that mountain, even in August.

So that’s the night-time review …

During the day, we took it easy with eating, b3 baked all manner of yumminess, and playing card games.  Oh, and the shopping in town!  They have toy stores, a crazy hat store, candy shops, ice cream shops, more candy shops, gift shops, tourist-souvenir shops, and a nutcracker store.  I bought a pound of fudge at the. best. fudge. place. EVER.  I’m thinking of joining their fudge of the month club … The sister bought a caramel apple at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.  We are sooooo related.  🙂

I tried really hard to buy something from the yarn store, but every time I went, they were closed!  I tried first on Wednesday, which happens to be when they are normally closed.  So I headed back on Friday, just to find a note taped on the door to let me know they decided to close for the day.  After some pouting (on my part), the mom convinced me that the quilt store around the corner had a small yarn selection, so we headed that way.  I picked out some lovely (but expensive!) lorna’s laces sock yarn, that the sister said looked like ‘Jayne’s hat colors’.  And I’ve just finished her socks!  The heels turned out a little tight (it’s the first time I’ve done that particular kind of heel), but maybe some blocking will help.  I’ve never blocked socks before, so this could be an adventure …

I highly recommend a trip to Leavenworth for a laid-back touristy fun visit.  It is obvious that everything is done for the sake of tourism, but that doesn’t make it less fun.  The one downside is finding parking in town, but once you get parked, let the shopping begin!  (mmmmmm, fudge ….)

home again!

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I’ll write up a proper review once I adjust back to this time zone, but for now, pics are up!  I’ll also trim down the gallery a bit, for now I just removed the really blurry pics.

Since I know y’all are dying to hear about our exploits in Oklahoma, here they are!

The husband’s father lives in a little bitty Oklahoma town.  The kind of place that you have a long drive ahead of you AFTER you fly as close as you can get.

Our flight itself was uneventful, but when we landed in Dallas, the husband and I started hearing a chorus of ‘Michael Jackson? Michael Jackson!’ murmured throughout the plane.  As we turned on our phones to consult the internetz about the king of pop, we were quite shocked to learn of his sudden death.

But, anyway, you might be wondering why we flew to Dallas if we were going to Oklahoma.  And that would be because it was the cheapest-closest flight I could find to Broken Bow, OK.

We got our rental car, and drove to Broken Bow (but not without a pit-stop at Sonic!)  On our way, I chatted with the sister-in-law on the phone, and found out she was ambushing us with a family portrait the next day.  A great idea, I had to admit, as it was rare that the 5 of us (father, daughter, granddaughter, son, daughter-in-law) would actually be in the same place at the same time, but I hadn’t even packed makeup for the trip.  Or a nice shirt!

When we rolled into town, it was late, so we found our room at the Microtel Inn and checked in.  It was very basic, but it was clean.  Definitely worth checking out, if you ever find yourself needing a room in Broken Bow.

The next morning, the rest of the family met us at our hotel, and we all crammed into the rental car for a trip to Texarkana for the pictures.  There was a slight issue with missing seat belts in the backseat, but luckily I have long, skinny arms, so I remedied that.  We stopped for breakfast at a great little place (wish I could remember the name, for future reference …), and headed on our way.

We had an appointment at the Arkansas Wal-Mart, so we headed to the Arkansas half of Texarkana to be memorialized.  We were a little early, so I headed to the makeup aisle in an attempt to purtify myself.  I bought a product from about all the major players (Maybelline, Almay, Covergirl and … Bonne Bell … shut up!  They do make makeup!  Oh wait, not for grown ups?  Drat …) and made myself up in the bathroom.

The father-in-law used up his quarters buying the girls tiny ‘hello kitties’ out of a vending machine, and the boy a tiny farm animal.  (The husband doesn’t know this, but his little pony is now tucked away in my ‘tiny trinket’ box that I use to hold my smashed pennies and collected shells and rocks.  Oops, I guess he knows now …)

Unfortunately, the photo ladies had just gotten a new camera that morning, since their old camera had broken the previous day.  And they didn’t know how to use it.  So, could we please wait until they figured it out?

The father-in-law had wandered away during the new-camera fiasco, and the husband found him at the airbrushed-t-shirt ‘store’ next to the portrait studio.  Having a t-shirt made.  With a bare-bottomed little cowboy.  For the husband, of course!  Once we caught him, he let the girls pick out their own airbrush designs (I got a ‘super girl’ logo!), and then we headed back to the portrait studio.  They had given up, and made us an appointment at the Texas Wal-mart.  So we headed to the Texas half of Texarkana for our pictures.

We made it to the other Texarkana Wal-mart, got our pictures taken, selected the photo package, and were finally ready for lunch.

Long John Silver’s!  They sure know how to do fast food in Oklahoma.  Er, Arkansas.  Er Texas.  Wherever we were at that point …

We headed back to Broken Bow and relaxed in the father-in-law’s wonderfully air conditioned house.  Because in June, it is HOT in Oklahohoma-Arkansas-Texas.  Really hot.  The kind of hot that I don’t like.  We caught some Michael Jackson on tv, because, well, that’s all that was on that weekend.  Even in Oklahoma.  🙂

We discussed going to Transformers and opted against it, and found out it was too late for Bingo.  So we headed to the Oaks Steak House, and I had the best french dip sandwich I have ever had.  Not that I’m an expert on such things, I can almost count all the french dip sandwiches I’ve eaten in my life, but it was good.  And so cheap!  I guess you don’t have to charge an arm and a leg for your food when you aren’t paying through the nose for your rent.   The rest of the family had chicken fried steak.  (Except for the niece, who had a baked potato.  Being 6 definitely has its perks!  There are no rules on what you have to eat for dinner.)

We watched Taken back at the father-in-law’s house, then the husband and I had to call it a night.

The next morning, we breakfasted in the hotel (cereal and bagels!  breakfast of champions), then met up with the rest of the family and headed down to Broken Bow Lake for some horseback riding.

First, we rode the train.  Which is meant for little people, but given that it was really HOT, it was nice to be moving fast enough to feel a breeze.  Then we caught lunch in the park; the rest of the family got grilled ham & cheese, while I had a dang good slice of dang good pie.  (Pineapple and pecans, how can you say no to that?)

The girls went on the horseback ride, and I have to say, I am way too bony to enjoy horseback riding.  It was my first horseback ride, and may very well be my last.  Unless they make padded saddles, I could get on board with that …

We then headed over to one of the aunt’s houses, who was having a pool party.  (Because it was HOT, have I mentioned that?)  I met some aunts and uncles and cousins, and had a second lunch (or perhaps a real lunch …) of good, southern potluck-style cooking.  We all opted to chill out in the air-conditioned inside – well, all except the niece; what 6-year-old can turn down a pool?

After the big family reunion, it was unfortunately time for the husband and I to head back.  We had a room near the Dallas airport that evening, since our flight left the following morning.

We caught dinner at Whataburger on our drive back (yummy stuff, I promise!), and then checked into the Holiday Inn.

Our room was HUGE.  Like as big as some apartments I’ve lived in.  And it was new, and luxuriantly appointed.  The nicest Holiday Inn I’ve ever stayed at for sure.  (DFW South Holiday Inn, FWIW.)  And for the same price as our Microtel Inn, go figure.  Cushy carpet, fluffy towels, flatscreen tv, leather sofa.  I considered moving there.  And then I remembered I missed my cats.  /sigh

We made it back to Virginia safely, and it was nice to be back in civilization.  But, I have to say, it was also nice to be reminded that you can survive just fine without being plugged in all the time.  Cell phones and the interwebz aren’t quite as vital to life as, say, oxygen.  🙂

(I know this post is long, but the husband has long-term memory problems when it comes to remembering trips he’s been on, so I wanted to capture the details for him.  So when he forgets, he can just read about it, and be all ‘Oh yeah!  That WAS a good time!’  You know, instead of having to take my word for it.  Because sometimes my word turns out a little more in my favor than his …)

still breathing

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Since the dad is worried about whether or not I’m still alive, I just thought I’d post to say Oklahoma was better than I expected, Berkeley Springs was great, and I’ve been knitting like crazy.  I think I’m seriously addicted …. Anybody want some women’s size medium wool socks?

(To the sister:  I’ve got some fun socks that are shaping up to be a women’s small, I think, after I get them washed.  So those will likely be heading your way.)

Depending on my mood in the coming days, I may or may not expound on the trips mentioned above.  I feel like I should give Berkeley Springs a proper review, as google analytics tells me that no less than 8 people have found my site by googling for ‘Berkeley Springs’.  That almost overtakes ‘cowgirl pants’ as the all-time search-term winner.

The husband and I are preparing for a long-overdue trip to Oklahoma to visit his father.  And not only is it Oklahoma, it appears to be in the middle-of-nowhere, OK.

The Sprint coverage map says that we won’t get any coverage at all – not even roaming.  So that rules out being able to check my email via phone …

Transformers comes out this weekend, so the husband thought we might treat his family to the show.  Fandango claims there are no theaters around; movietickets.com couldn’t find anything within 40 miles.  Luckily, a google maps search came up with a theater in the next town over, just 10 miles away – one that isn’t hooked up to the likes of fandango or movietickets.com. Looks like we’ll actually have to drive to the theater to buy our tickets.  I have to admit, though, I do like the sound of $5.50 for an adult ticket.

When booking our stay through Travelocity, we had two options.  A little googling led me to a couple of b&bs – and abundant camping!

It will be quite a shock to our systems, but it’ll be nice to unplug for awhile. Perhaps without our faces looking down at our email on our phones, we’ll be able to watch the skies for visitors from another world.

a year of travel

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I love traveling.  To anywhere.  Especially if it’s somewhere I’ve never been.

The husband loves … making me happy!  And so this year will be quite the year of travel.

We started off the year with a trip to New York in February to see the husband’s other woman.  April brought a weekend trip to Gettysburg, even though it is just over an hour away.  (If you do a ghost tour, skip the Farnworth house tour; also, be sure to get some fries at Hunt’s Battlefield Fries.  And if you buy the CD audio-tour of the battlefield, the directions are really good up until about stop 12 … so pay attention!)

May took us to Texas, where we hit several of the hot-spots with the husband’s family: NASA in Houston (which is awesome, I got to sit in old mission control!), a UT graduation ceremony, caverns outside of San Antonio, the Alamo, the river walk, dinner with the husband’s bff, and Schlitterbahn.  And all of that in 5 days!

June will take us to Oklahoma, to see the husband’s father.  It’s a long overdue visit, and I’ll get to cross Oklahoma off my list of ‘states-I’ve-never-been-to’.  🙂

July is my spa trip, and at the end of the month we’ll be heading back to New York.  Amtrak is having a fare sale, so we snagged cheap train tickets.  And we finally cashed in our Holiday Inn points, so we’ll be enjoying a free stay.  And with the show tickets the husband got for his birthday, it’ll make for a fun – and surprisingly cheap! – trip to the big city.

August is Leavenworth to visit my family.  Not that they live there, but the dad decided we should have a family reunion some place fun.  We’ll be there during the theater festival, and the mom has purchased tickets for us all to just about every play available – so we’ll be doing what we all enjoy best: sitting around …

August also brings us to Pennsylvania to see Taylor Swift.

And September is Italy!

October is still up in the air, but is tentatively local trips to Winchester and/or Charlottesville.  Ooh, or the renn fest!

November will find us back in the west with a trip to LA to visit my good friend Mal.  Maybe.  If he decides he can make it.

And December is just chilling for our very first Christmas at home.  Followed by a trip to Disneyworld to ring in the new year.  If there’s any travel money left.  And if I can convince the husband …

it’s official!

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The husband and I are going to Italy to celebrate our 5th anniversary!  I just put down the deposit on our trip.  And I know our anniversary was like 2 months ago, but as the husband can attest, that won’t dissuade me.  🙂

This will be our first fully-guided tour.  The last time I went to Europe, I winged everything – but at that time, I had more time and less money.  So with less time and more money, we’ll be enjoying a trip where we don’t have to worry about anything after we get ourselves on the plane.

There will be somebody to pick us up from the airport.  A giant bus will pick us up every morning and take us to our destinations.  All of our entrance tickets will already have been purchased.  We’ll get to stand in the ‘group tour’ lines and bypass the long entrance lines.  We’ll have English tours arranged for us everywhere we go.  And we’ll have a guide with us the whole trip who can help us find husband-friendly eateries!  (You know, McDonalds …)

We don’t leave till September, but I can hardly wait!  Hmmm, I think I’m going to need some new luggage …

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