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, January 20, 2016

The Beach, 2 Parks, A Science Center and some Funky Golfing

The first 3 day weekend of the year... it's a great way to get away for a few days after the craziness of the holidays. This year, I didn't go too far (but far enough). Just 4 hours down the road to Virginia Beach. I know, I know, heading out to Virginia Beach does not make much sense in January, and typically it would not. This year, however, its been warm. Say it's El Nino, blame climate change, say it's a weird quirk... we all know it is NOT normal to have 60 degree weather in January, but that is what we had (on Saturday).

First stop on this weekend journey was the Coastal Virginia Wine Festival at the Convention Center. Friends know, I am not a drinker and I can't say that I have ever been to a wine festival before.. sure I have be to more than a handful of wineries before, but never something as big as this. I thought it would be fun to check out, taste a few of the sweeter ones (those are my style), look at crafts, listen to music and watch the grape stomp. Well, I found an awesome sangria with Athena Winery - just the winery name alone makes me want to visit - we are talking about my favorite Greek God people! There were some yummy fruit wines from Top Hill Berry Farms (we got a raspberry and a melon) and a great white and red semi sweet Breeze from Davis Valley. It was a great way to sample, because the pours were really just a small sip (just my style). Now, that small sip times 30+ venders times at least 4 tastes per winery meant there were plenty of drunk stumbling people all around. And that leads me to my major gripe of the festival - where was the food? There was a definite lack of food in a place where alcohol was being poured so freely. Not good! Some dip people with free pretzels, one crab cake guy and the convention center snack shop did not provide too many options. So, when my date and I got to the hotel - we headed out to eat. PRONOTO.

Friday, January 15, 2016

First Road Trip of the New Year

We are headed into Martin Luther King weekend. For a while now I have been using this weekend to explore on quick trips - I have headed to Florida, Memphis, took a bunch of trips to Vegas and had a great roadtrip last year to Palm Springs (from Vegas). I have seen a few national park sites - Death Valley, Joshua Tree and Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park.

This year, I am skipping the plane. Instead, I am headed to Virginia Beach and northern North Carolina. Virginia Beach is hosting the Coastal Wine Festival this weekend, and while I am not a wine connoisseur, my date loves a good glass of wine and I do enjoy the sweeter stuff. Besides, the festival also is host to arts & crafts, specialty foods and live entertainment. So, while it will again warm up this weekend, it is not warm enough to sit and enjoy the beach... we are headed inside to the convention center. If we are lucky, we can walk the "boardwalk" (I call it the cement walk) and listen to the waves.

I can't hang out in a convention center all weekend... I have my eye on the northern outer banks. I have spent my virtually entire life on the east coast, yet I have never been to the outer banks. It was never our thing. Growing up in Jersey, we had our own awesome beach. With family in southern Florida, a completely different type of beach awaited me there. We just never stopped in between. And now that I have lived in the DC area for 15 years, I find I still haven't made time to visit the banks. I have spent time in VA Beach, Ocean City Maryland and even the Delaware beaches. I haven't made time. That ends this weekend... We are taking the short 2 hour drive from VA Beach to Kitty Hawk and the surrounding areas. I have my sights on visiting the Wright Brothers National Memorial and Fort Raleigh. Neither will be like the 2 desert parks I have visited the last 2 years, but that is good - this is a change of pace. Fort Raleigh recognizes the mysterious site of the first English attempt at colonization (1585-1587). The Wright Brother site preserves the location of the first successful airplane flight in 1903. And if the weather cooperates, maybe I can drag my date on a few trails where I can put my camera to good use.

Have a great weekend everyone - Get Outside. Appreciate diversity. Enjoy life.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Time To Start Planning

I bought my first plane ticket of the year this week. It is not to Hawaii (the place I must get to this year) and it is not somewhere in the Caribbean (the place I am trying to convince my boyfriend to join me for a weekend getaway), instead, I booked a trip to Phoenix, Arizona.

Yeah, I know, I have been there several times. But, there are over 21 main national park units in that state. I have only been to 6 of them, and in reality, I need to spend more time at the Grand Canyon. My trips to Arizona have been scattered- I have visited the south eastern section the most, with multiple visits to Tucson and Saguaro National Park. I have stopped off to see Case Grande ruins while driving between Phoenix and Tucson, and driven out to the Chiricahua's to escape the heat during a heat wave of over 120 (where I went for a hike in 90+degree temps). I have been up to Flagstaff and saw a crater. I have detoured for the Petrified Forest, on a road trip based primiliarly in New Mexico. And I have visited the Pipe Organ Cactus but missed the visitor center. And yes, there is more to do in Arizona then parks - I have spa'ed it, spent some time in Scottsdale's old town, seen historic towns (Tombstone), visited art towns (Bisbee, Sedona and Tubec) and shopped all around. Still, I feel Arizona is incomplete... and a United sale was a good reason to head back.

Knowing I will have a few big trips this year, this could not be a long trip, so as much as I still yearn to make it up to Canyon de Chelly, I can't this time around. I will have to stay in and around Phoenix and Tucson again - That is not a problem since there seems to be some great cliff dwellings at Montezuma Castle only a few hours north on the city. To date, the only Native American cliff dwellings I have visited on my travels have been at Mesa Verde (CO) and Bandelier (NM). Both were beautiful. I would love to see more. These sites leave you with distinct impressions of what life was like for these communities - its an amazing experience. And a few hours south of the city, I hope to visit Coronado and get in a good first hike to start the year taking in the expansive views of Sonora, Mexico and the San Pedro River and San Rafael Valleys.

Of course, this is just hopeful planning right now - I have to map it all out to make sure it is doable in my time there. As much as people think I rush through these trips - I don't. The Griswolds, I am not. My camera and I need this time away from the computer to just soak nature in. I need to stretch my legs from the constant sitting at work. And its hard to deny the lure of the SW in the middle of an east coast winter (even if it only hit this week).

Of course, I love connecting with friends I have all over... and here, I have 2 friends in the Phoenix area. It would be great to see them too! So, Paige and Megan - head's up! If I plan this right, maybe we can head to the spa.