MISSION: To visit every state and territory in the U.S. For my mission a visit is greater than a stop over; I wish to explore the natural and cultural environments of these areas. Each of these locations has a story to tell, and I want to find it.

As of February 2018 I have visited all 50 states (and Puerto Rico and 2 island in the US Virgin Islands) at least once.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Memorial Day on the Great White Way

I have been itching to see some new Broadway shows for a while.  While I have been in DC for 13 years now, I have never been able to stop mourning the loss of convenient Broadway.  I love the theatre and miss it terribly.  So, when the opportunity arises, I go and see a show… or in the case of this weekend I see 5 shows.  Before you think me truly crazy, know that only 3 were Broadway shows; one was an off Broadway production at Union Square and the last was something that I can’t quite put into a category… but still, 5 shows in 2 ½ days is a record for me, and I have done crazy Broadway binges before.

That said, I have to admit I am still on a buzz from seeing Pippen.  Holy Wow.  It was insanely amazing.  There is not a weak link in this show… the players, the show in a show, the circus, the colors and that incredible wall of sound.  The company blends and they just blow your hair back with their intensity.   If you are headed to Broadway – go see this show.

That is not to say that the other shows I saw were no good.  Each of our choices were award worthy.  The costume magic in Cinderella is enough of a reason to see the show the dress transformations left the audience audibly gasping.  But it was the voice of Laura Osnes and the character acting of Harriet Harris that really make the show.   They play off each other and the rest of the company to make the show shine like that glass slipper.  And then there was Once, a show about the love of music and how it transforms our souls.  Not a happy ending, but filled with talented musicians, singing and playing and just enjoying each other.  I would say the best thing about this show was the jam sessions the company had before the show and during intermission… worthy Irish pub music.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Planning to Bring My List to 6!

My desire to see all the states still remains.  Currently, there is a car commercials with a young woman on the same quest.  I have no doubt that there are many out there with the same itch.  I have met a few on my travels and everyone has their own interpretation of what a "visit" means.  For some, driving through counts, for others it is a layover in an airport.  I know someone that wants to go for a dip in a river or lake in all the states.  For me - my quest is to create a memory in each state.  I want to see something, do something.  I want to be able to tell anyone that asks what I have done in any state on the list.  Now, some states I cover better than others, but so far I have remained true to my rules (otherwise I would have 3 less states on my to-do list). 

It has been almost a year since I knocked Arkansas off my list.  It is time to pick a new target, so I started planning.  Next month, I will be taking myself on a one week journey.  I am visiting the lands of cheese and corn - I am headed to Wisconsin and Iowa.  Yeah me!!!!

Now I know some of you may be laughing but I have a full fledged trip planned.  I am headed in all directions in Wisconsin and will cross the border twice into Iowa for two different experiences.  The plan is to touch as many cornerstones of my travel wishes as possible.  First up will be a visit to 2 national park units - Apostle Islands in Wisconsin and Effigy Mounds in Iowa.  To counterbalance, I will be soaking up city culture in Milwaukee and Madison.  My love of aquatic life will be quenched by visits to three aquarium like facilities - the Great Lakes Center (Ashland, WI), the Mississippi River Aquarium (Dubuque, Iowa) and the state aquarium in Milwaukee, as well as tours of the islands.  I plan for art in Milwaukee and Dubuque Iowa; I plan for history in Mineral Springs and Bayfield. The sports lover in me hopes to get a turn this trip because I hope to grab a seat at the Brewers game (they are playing the Cubs).  I plan to go hiking and maybe kayaking.  I hope to be spooked and informed on a ghost tour in Bayfield.  And then I found some quirky stuff to visit- the National Mustard Museum  in Middleton and a troll lined Main Street in Mount Hoerob. Fun shopping from local artisians and urban neighborhoods should fill some evenings.   And of course, I plan to stop throughout Cheeseland to visit Cheese-making stores and Creameries. 

I know it is a lot of driving and an ambitious goal for a week... but I think I can do it all.  And with these states, I will be left with 6 states on my list.  The Great Lakes is my greatest cluster, so Wisconsin and Iowa will be a great accomplishment.  I hope to comeback with many pictures and stories... and then I will be ready for one of those vacations where you sleep on the beach all day!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

You Don't Need Calgon for Quick Trips Away

For the last several months I have been city hopping.  Not spending too long in any location to write whole posts; just enough time to see 1 or 2 things in a place,  Enough time to “get away” and keep my mind busy.  These trips are typically in my urban corridor – I-95 – travel.  It is what makes living on the east coast a blessing to those that like all the features cities have to offer.  I can take a quick drive to Richmond to see an art exhibit at the Virginia Art museum or go in the opposite direction visit Baltimore, Philly, the Big Apple.  Sure, DC is great too, but with tourist season in high gear (Cherry Blossom festival, spring break and now schools getting out soon), the city can be a more trafficky than normal for this congested place. Add to this the fact that I am no longer traveling for work and I have been ready to bolt.   So, like I said, I have been trying to keep busy.

Philadelphia, how I love thee.  I went to grad school in the Philly area.  It holds a special place in my heart.  It is an underrated city too often passed over between New York and DC.  It is easy to stay in city center, where you are so close to so much – a short walk to the museums, Rittenhouse Square, the city hall cross roads…plenty to eat, lots to see.   I headed back a few times this year – once to take a friend to the Titanic exhibit at the Franklin Institute and another to see the orchid show at the Academy of Natural Science.  For anyone that has seen the Titantic exhibit – you know what this is all about.  You get a boarding ticket as you walk in and by the end of the journey (after seeing artifacts, and learning about the ship, its structure, layout and faults) you are told if you lived or died on the journey.  Now, I have never been a Titanic-a-holic.  I know some people are, and I imagine that many of the 20 somethings today that claim to be obsessed with the ship came at it from the movie.  I can understand that to a degree – but what I do not understand is the need to take pictures of yourself on a replica of the Titanic grand staircase.  Can someone explain that to me… to take a picture of yourself (or pay to have a picture taken by the professional) on a staircase replica of a ship that went down?  Seems strange to me.  If you want pictures – take them of the artifacts (there are lots), but please don’t smile on the fake stairs of a ship that went down in cold frigid waters sending people to their icy deaths.  It seems wrong!  The orchid show was filled with completely different kinds of fanatics – orchid growers.  I dragged my sister with me to look at pretty flowers and fantastic arrangements (pictures to come) and we even sat in one of the lectures.  I wanted to learn more about orchids to help my TWO plants flower again.  And it was at that lecture where we learned that we were out of our league… the lecturer referred to the casual orchid lover as those in the audience with 10-15 plants at home!  My sister and I looked at each other and choked down a laugh.  Still the show was gorgeous, we bought some stuff at the flower market and enjoyed ourselves as uber-casual observers of those with bright green thumbs! 

 Baltimore, close to DC but oh so different.  It is famous for its Inner Harbor and rightfully so.  You have a whole tourist weekend packed into that area of the city, bumping into Little Italy, Brewers Hill and Fells Point – shopping, eating, touring all connected by watertaxi and sidewalks (and regular cabs).  No need to drive all over.  One weekend, my sister and my niece came down for a trip to the National Aquarium and a special behind the scenes shark tour.  If you have never gone behind the scenes at an aquarium, I would highly recommend it.  Small groups, resident experts, special areas to visit – it is worth the money and it all goes to a good cause.  Our special tour took us to the kitchen, to the bowels of the facility where the water was monitored and processed, to the lab, and even to the catwalk over the shark tank.  It was funny to watch many of the kids tell the guide implicitly that they would not walk over the sharks… yet after our magic tour, every one of them did.  And after the tour, we saw the rest of the place.  It was my niece’s first time there, and the sheer joy in her face at the dolphin show made the day perfect.  Another trip to Baltimore had me meeting up with a Jersey friend for the day…we met at Fell’s Point on the day the Boston PD locked down their city.  And sitting at a restaurant for my friend, a television showed an interview with a Baltimore local – a woman who was the mother of a girl who was dating someone who went to school with one of the bombers… got that?  I didn’t.  Who wants that kind of attachment.  I watched her story of “no I never met him.”  “all the kids seem so nice.”  I realized that she was in taped in the very place I was sitting, in the seat I was in.  See, now I can say I sat in the seat of a woman whose daughter dated a guy that went to school with him.  That is no more ridiculous.  Anyway, the Boston bombings was all anyone talked about that day as we walked about Fells Point into the boutiques, galleries and bigger stores … that stuff knocks you to your core.  So when my friend and I decided to go to the movies, we were completely disconnected for 2 hours… and those 2 hours were when the whole capture went down… now, our dinner waiter was happy to fill us in while we ate fantastic Hawaiian food and we chatted our relief.  A city filled with strangers cheering for a city hundreds of miles away filled with people they really did not know. 

Sometimes it’s nice to live so close to so much… and coming up, I have a fun filled weekend in New York (I have Broadway shows to catch up on).  I have not been “home” since MLK Day so it is time!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Girls Weekend in Seattle

My closest friend moved to Seattle last summer.  While we chat, text, email, it is not the same.  Anyone that has had a good friend move, knows that sad feeling of losing a close confidant.  So, what is a travel girl to do?  Well, visit Seattle of course.  Before she moved, I had only been to Seattle once for an amazing weekend (with a "then" significant other).  I had done lots - seeing shows, touring underground, the riding to the top of the space needle, meandering market, and taking in general sites of this Northwest gem. 

In the fall of 2012, I made my first visit to see my relocated friend and in that trip I went back to the market (for amazing flowers, jewelry, art, food, and to watch the fish fly)… I was mesmerized by the curds and whey being stirred across the street at a cheese shop.  I quacked like a duck on a duck tour – and was exposed to Gas Plant Park for the first time.  It was this gorgeous park on the lake (with floating homes) – the plant was a deep copper that stood out against the green grass, the blue sky and blue lake.  It makes perfect sense as to why people would want a floating home (barring the real story of the too expensive real estate for dock workers back in the day). 

I headed to the main city park (home of the space needle) to visit the Chihuly Garden and remained lost in its colors for almost 5 hours (see the pictures in the bar on the right).  For anyone that has ever stared at a glass sculpture and marveled at the color and the shape – you have this man to think.  A pioneer in the glass blowing arts, his work literally takes your breath away.  This garden – both indoor and outdoor – covered many of his different styles from vases, to lighting, to the gigantic chandeliers, to the glass columns to the ceiling installations.  I almost did not want to leave – BUT I wanted to visit the EMP museum for Pop Culture.  It is just a stunning building; from the outside it reminded me of the Disney Concert Hall in LA.  On the inside, it is filled with pop culture artifacts and on this visit including a exhibit on science fiction with props, costumes and drawings from the touch-stones of Sci-Fi like Star Wars and Star Trek.  A special bonus was the special exhibit on Horror and Suspense and with that, showcased a prop from Buffy the Vampire Slayer … ahhh, yes, pop culture heaven!

Planning the March trip, I knew I needed it to be different, I was going for a more relaxed touring option.  I was in desperate need of some quality girl time.  Obviously, I knew it would be cold, rainy and most likely not great weather.  That was okay, because my friend cooked up a great cure for my blues... starting at "The Garage", we ate burgers while she and her new Seattle friends teased me about the surprise evening.  That could not start before we stopped by Molly Moon's for some fancy gourmet ice cream... It was unique, it was yummy and it came with a helping of snarky, rude generic Seattle hipsters.  Yep, can't be in Seattle without having judgment passed on you... and judgment they dished.  Here we are, walking out of the shop and down the street when 4 kids start with their commentary on how white-people love their ice cream (in any weather).  If they wanted to be snarky, I was going to let my Jersey flag shine - I just as "discreetly" told my friends that we needed to stop before I said something to the hipsters that must have missed the fact that they were (1) white and (2) dressed as ever other hollywood hipster presented... their uniqueness was just painfully bland and that they were trying too damn hard.  Ohhhh black boots, torn stockings, fitted jeans, flannel shirts, and hats... ohhhh!  Welcome to Seattle.  With that fun done, I was lead to my surprise...
And that is where the evening kicked into high gear and down an alley to the opening night of Brief Encounters.  Bringing me back to my college days where I worked off steam at club Shampoo (in Philly), this place was perfect.  Not too big and yet big enough to really let loose.  The dancers warmed up to us easily… my friends had met a few of them earlier at another local event AND we got there hours early.  It is true that sitting in a club with the lights on ruins the illusion, so the best way to stay distracted is good friends and goofing off with the dancers before the show.  The men made sure we remained happy – raining gifts and drinks upon us throughout the night… After the showcased dancing (and making our way through our singles), we stayed to get our groove on.  Dancing my stress away – I finally had to call it a night when the clock passed what was 5am on the east coast.  Sometimes it’s nice to know that I can still hang!

My Seattle trip last fall centered around a trip to Key Arena to see Madonna – don’t ask too many details… the concert was a big flop.  I had never been so disappointed in a show.  The most recent trip brought me back to the Key Arena – only this time instead of seeing a pop icon utterly fall on her face, we watched women on skates fall instead… YEP, we went to ROLLER DERBY.  If you have never been to a derby, I highly recommend you research your local team and head on over… it is a blast.  Rat City Rollers put on 2 matches with varying skill levels and talent.  The concept of derby is simple – you have one player (aka jammer) that must pass the other team on a circular course while the other team’s blockers do their damnedest to block her path.  It can lead to some spectacular take downs, maneuvering, and chases.  Yes, there is strategy in the game – with 10 people on the course, you can bet that the teams have plans… but if you ask me (or any of my friends in attendance), a chunk of the fun on roller derby comes not from the skating but from the creativity – you have some awesome names and some very creative outfits… so Derby On!!!