Mission

MISSION:
To spend quality time in at least one area of every state. Quality time means exploring the area; rest stops, gas stations, airports or train stations do not count. The goal is to explore the natural and cultural environments of these regions. Each location visited has a story, pictures for my amateur hobby addiction, and maybe a piece of jewelry/art.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Looking Back on 2010

While 2010 was a tough year... on the travel front, I must admit that I was able to do a few things off my lists:

  • My new state for the year - South Dakota
  • New cities - Santa Barbara, Amarillo, TX (stretching "city" a little), Pensacola
    • Art Towns - Bisbee and Tombstone AZ
  • New national park areas - Badlands, Wind Cave, Gulf Shores National Seashore, in addition Columbia River Gorge & Multnomah Falls (national scenic area in OR)
  • New Aquarium - World Aquarium in Dallas
  • Funky Feature - Wall Drug in SD
  • Iconic Sites - Mt Rushmore, inside the Rose Bowl (soccer game) [and by comparison but no where near as iconic - the Cotton Bowl]
Keeping up with my Birthday tradition of doing something new, I took a bit of time in June to head east from New Orleans and visit Pensacola for the first time.  Timing wise it could not have been more  iffy.  Oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill was headed that way.  When I arrived the water had started to hit sections of the Gulf Shore Islands, but the Pensacola beach was clear - crystal clear.  I was lucky - oil was reported to the east and west of the area; so for that day I enjoyed the last of the gulf shores beauty.  For anyone that has not been to the Gulf Coast - the water is warm and and blueish green, the sand is crystal white.   I wanted to see what was happening in the area, so on my way back to Louisiana, I took time to stop by Orange Beach, Alabama; there you could see the oil coming in.  There the water was closed, and yet I saw people going in anyway (people never cease to amaze me).  Forever I will remember this quick trip for the young child running to his parents with a black ball in his hand, screaming, "Mommy, Daddy, I found a tar ball!"  It just was heart breaking.

Making it to Santa Barbara was a big deal.  Home of the TV show Psych, this city has been ohhhh-so-close yet so far away for years.  Through work, I have spent time in Ventura County and have never made the time to drive the 30 minutes north.  I have instead spent time taking the boat to Channel Islands or visited with friends in LA.  So, this year I had an opportunity to visit this sleepy city and the timing could not have been better - I was able to make it for the Old Spanish Days Fiesta.  I had no idea that smashing eggs on people's heads was a welcome greeting... but I guess it is okay if they are filled with confetti. 

After years of staring at a map and hearing how close South Dakota really was, I finally took the plunge and drove from Denver to the Black Hills.  Of course I was planning on visiting Mt Rushmore... that is what everyone does when they get to the Black Hills, but there is so much more to stuff into a trip.  I took the guided tours in the most interesting caves I have ever seen, awestruck at the beauty of Jewel Cave.  The whole area was nothing like what I pictured for SD; it was serene and soft.  That beauty was contrasted greatly with the stark bleakness of the Badlands about an hour and half away.  The greenery, rolling hills and meandering streams were gone - they were replaced with the complex formations of the eroding landscape.  This quick get-away was all about power touring... and if I recommend anything from that trip beyond the parks, it would be the Prairie Berry Winery and their Red Ass Rhubarb wine - it tastes like pie! Well the pie and a quick stop in Hill City to visit Teddy Bear town - you have not lived until you see thousands of bears stuffed into a tiny home.

2010 also seemed to be a Texas year for me...  I spent some quality time in Houston - finally able to see more that just the office, I was able to explore the museums and city sites. I saw my first shrunken head at the Science Museum (at the cannibals special exhibit) and I honestly will not be upset if I never see one again. That same trip included a road trip to Galveston; got there too late to tour the historic homes, but did get to the shoreline and ate some gulf shrimp from an east coast transplant.   I spent some time in Dallas, actually getting there 3x last year,  I  finally got to see the World Aquarium which is more of a rainforest than aquarium; still, it was beautiful.  Then there was Amarillo - can't say that I spent a lot of time there, but I have seen it, slept there, ate at a local hole-in-the-wall breakfast cafe... Yep, definitely a year to see Texas.

I was also able to visit some of my favorite places, while still managing to do something new in each:
  • New Orleans - St Patrick's Day and the Italian-Irish parades
  • New York City  - took in a game at the new Yankee Stadium
  • Philadelphia - took my niece for her first trip to the Franklin Institute
And there were trips to other places - the weekend getaways to the beach, the repeated trips to Denver and the road trips through the Rocky Mountains, a short trips to Portland, Baltimore, Jacksonville, St Augustine and Tucson/Phoenix and return trips to a few great national parks, like Rocky Mountain and Saguaro.
Honestly, looking back, I can reflect on some fun road trips, relaxing weekends with friends and exciting new discoveries.  Guess that is why reflection is so important - sure there were challenges, but there was love and discovery, education and relaxation in there too.  Not a bad year after all.

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