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.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

2011 - Year in Review

Looking back on 2011 I can honestly say that it has been a busy travel year.  I went on at least one trip every month - some for work, some for fun, some to visit friends and some as social calls... no matter how I look at it, it simply was an exhausting year.  All told, I visited 20 states and almost as many major cities.  In fact, I went on at least 2 trips each month* (I can't keep that pace up).   I hiked in several "new to me" national parks; meandered through art museums; took in several Broadway shows; cheered at  sporting events; danced, sang and shopped at several festivals, and learned about sea life at several "new" aquariums.  It was a year of unique experiences, beautiful vistas, new learnings ... and yes, a few new states.
  • New States - I finished the "O" States by visiting Cleveland, Ohio and several places in Oklahoma (and I revisited Oregon this year too).
  • New Cities - Fairbanks Alaska (the 2nd biggest city in Alaska, yet the smallest I will list); Tulsa and Oklahoma City; Cleveland; Pittsburgh
    • Art Towns - NONE =-(  but I did get to quite a few arts festivals- West Palm Beach, Boulder, Alexandria
  • New Aquariums - Pacific Coast Aquarium in Newport, Oregon offered me (and a friend) the most incredible one on one octopus experience; Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois was so big that I spent over 6 hours exploring its nooks; Oklahoma Aquarium in Tulsa offered fishing tips!
  • New Parks - Zion, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon - South Rim (finally), Cedar Breaks NM, Chickasaw NRA, Cuyahoga Valley; Valley of Fire (Nevada State Park)
  • Funky Features - Whalebone Arch in Barrow; the official Arctic Circle line; Oklahoma Rt 66 Sites (POPS, Red Round Barn, Braums Ice Cream sign); Santa Claus's House in North Pole, AK; the Christmas Story House and Free Stamp in Ohio; Lincoln's Head looking south of I-80 in WY
  • Iconic Structures - Grand Canyon, The Vegas Strip was visited several times in 2011, NYC Times Square and Yankee Stadium for the holidays; Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; Oklahoma City Memorial; Disney; Willis Tower (aka Sears Tower); Mount St Helens
Even some of my old favorites offered me new experiences.  I took my mom to New Orleans for her first visit and we danced and shopped our way through the French Quarter Festival.  I have always heard great things French Quarter Fest and I can tell you that they are all true.  It brings all the fun of the larger parties, but the ease of it being all in once location... there is endless music, art, parades, hundreds of booths of local food.  The streets are filled, the shops are open, and city pride is out in full force.

My sister got married in NYC this year - in Central Park.  Now, I have been there plenty of times, but never for a wedding.  In a city where you see everything and anything - groups walking around all dressed up in the park while people are sunbathing in bathing suits was quite the sight.  And contrary to popular belief, everyone was perfectly nice when asked to shift out of pictures.



While I had been to Chicago before, 2011 marked the first time I got to spend quality time in the windy city.  While there, I took in all that I could in a week (after an exhausting and emotional week prior).  While in Chicago, I made it up into the iconic Willis/Sears Tower... from classes inside, to the museum to the top most walk-out windows.  With a friend I walked Miracle Mile, saw the historic water towers, ate in Little Italy and tried authentic deep dish pizza (still a NY slice kinda girl).  Walked miles along the city street and water front to see the art museum, the aquarium, Navy Pier... fell in love with the architecture and the feel of the city.  And to top it all off, I did my only ghost tour of the year...

Attended a few sporting events this year, and that is nothing new... what was awesome was attending my first college bowl game.  Sure the Pinstripe Bowl is not a BCS game, but it was well run, well attended, and in a great location (who doesn't love NYC during the holidays).  And I can't help saying it again - GO RU!!!

Before 2011, I had visited Alaska quite a few times and traveled to as many places as possible in those trips.  But Alaska is a BIG state... bigger than most people realize.  And all that travel really only added up to a fraction of the Last Frontier State.  2011 brought me new Alaska experiences... I made it farther north than Denali... I visited Fairbanks and from there the towns of North Pole and Chena, and a road trip up the Dalton Highway to the Arctic Circle.   My second trip took me to Alaska in December and to the northern most town in North America; I visited the North Slope and the town of Barrow.  It is still not the smallest town that I have ever visited in Alaska, that honor goes to  McCarthy and Kennicott and Moose Pass... but the again, none of those are the governmental seat of the largest municipality in the world, and nothing is as remote as the North Slope.

I am down to 9 states after my travels this past year.  I got to 2 new states this year.  I first got to Oklahoma in June.  While there for a week, I not only drove through large chunks of the state on a roadtrip from Colorado to Texas, but I spent some quality time in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and Sulphur.  While there, I did just about everything that I could... I saw a fantastic exhibit at the Art museum, I enjoyed learning about the local fish of Oklahoma at the aquarium, I sweated in the sweltering heat at the OKC Zoo and almost passed out from the heat while walking through the national park.  I cooled off at the Lake of the Arbuckels and strolled through the Chickasaw heritage center.  I enjoyed music at the Blues and BBQ festival and cried at the OKC Memorial.

I visited Cleveland in October with a friend for a girls' weekend.  And while not a partying city, we spent plenty of time exploring the fun, cheeky, local, and national known sites.  It was a well rounded few days that included amusement parks, art museums, local sculpture the site of "Occupy Cleveland", the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the lake front, a hike in a national park and the infamous Christmas Story home.

It was a good art history year.  It was a good theatre year.  In fact, one of the best reasons to do these year end reviews is to really look at all that I took in.  While I was only able to see 2 shows on Broadway this year (Adams Family and Bonnie & Clyde), I did also see a few traveling shows and a few Vegas acts.  I finally saw Wicked in DC.  I bogeyed with the Jabbawockeez in Vegas, laughed with Terry Fador and drummed a beat with Recycled Percussion.  Visited Picasso in Richmond, Pirates in Denver, Norman Rockwell in DC, David Chihuly in Vegas (and OKC), special exhibits on New Deal Artists, Whale Hunts, Mastodons and Mammoths, jellyfish, and local art in many cities.

I also had a few quick stops in National Parks... I can now say that I have been to 3 islands in Channel Islands National Park with my visit to Santa Cruz (and my 1st siting of the island fox).  I finally made it to the Grand Canyon! Yes, it was as epic as I had built up in my head - the Watchtower, the sky, the vistas and most mesmerizing - the sunset. Still, my favorite was Bryce Canyon and the endless rows of hoodoos.  You just have to marvel at nature sometimes and really contemplate how some of these natural features are made.  From folk tales to geology, the hoodoos stick with you.  Made it to Zion and took in a few iconic features of this oasis in the desert but never made it to the "narrows"... it is hard to pick the must see features when you only visits parks for one day.  I really need to spend time in some of these places like i did years ago in Big Bend... where you have days to plan hikes, picnics and rest.

Yes, it was an exhausting year.  I think this was my busiest yet.  I know that it can't be repeated, but it will be fun trying.


    * January = Vegas, Southern Florida; February = Washington, Oregon; March= Denver, Vegas, Southern California;  April= New Orleans, Denver, New York City, Richmond; May= Alaska - Anchorage, Fairbanks;  June = Denver,  Houston, Oklahoma - Oklahoma City & Tulsa, Philadelphia, Meadowlands, NJ; July= Denver, New York City, Eastern Shore, MD; August= Denver, Vegas, Chicago, Parks in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona; September= Denver,  Wyoming -  Cheyenne/Rawlins; October=  Denver, Wyoming - Cheyenne, Rawlins, Cleveland, Orlando; November = New Orleans, Pittsburgh; December= Alaska - Anchorage, Barrow, Fairbanks, New Jersey, New York City

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