Posts Tagged ‘travel’

I’m a month late posting about it, but for my birthday last month, we went camping in the Michigan Upper Peninsula and got an early taste of fall that was so much fun.

We camped in Tahquamenon Falls State Park, which is home to the second biggest freshwater waterfall to the east of the Mississippi River (the biggest, of course, being Niagara). Our site was near the Lower Falls, and when the breeze was still we could hear the waterfall in our tent at night.

There is a nice hike between the Upper and Lower Falls, but there are also parking lots and short trails with access points and overlooks if you don’t want to hike the 5ish miles (or, as is the case with our visit, if it’s been raining and the trail is too muddy to deal with).

The leaves were just coming into the start of their peak, and the ones around the waterfalls were mostly golden with a few shots of red thrown in. The roads between the UP towns had more autumn color, and I kept stopping the car to take photos.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park is also home to the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery, which is located inside the park. They’ve got a restaurant and shop, and you can sit outside on their huge porch in rocking chairs surrounding a cozy open-air fireplace while waiting to be seated.

One of the days we were there, we visited Whitefish Point and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. The Shipwreck Museum has artifacts from about a dozen shipwrecks from Lake Superior, and stories about what brought the various vessels down.

You can also visit the lighthouse and lighthouse keeper’s quarters, learn about the history of lifesaving efforts on the point, and walk along the beach.

The museum’s signature piece is, of course, the bell of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, from the 1975 shipwreck immortalized in song by Gordon Lightfoot (which plays nearly on a loop in some parts of the museum). The bell was brought to the surface in 1995, and serves as a memorial for the men who were lost.

The other highlight of the trip for me was a visit to Deer Ranch in St. Ignace. Not only is St. Ignace a quaint, adorable fishing village with plenty of shops and restaurants (and Mackinac Island Fudge to boot), but it’s home to the oldest white-tail deer ranch in the US. For just $5 you can visit the deer, and for $1 more you can get a cup of food (we had carrots and apples).

When you walk through the ranch, there are barns and runs for the fawns, a huge yard for the older does, and then several wooded lots in the back for the adult resident deer, including some leucistic (white morph) deer! Since they are hand-reared, they are pretty comfortable with humans, and many of them enjoyed having their ears and backs petted. (I made so many deer friends!)

And of course there were meals in little local breakfast places and bakeries and cooking on the campfire and all the usual things that make camping so fun. We’ve enjoyed escaping to Michigan, and particularly the UP, during our time in Chicago. While I’m looking forward to getting back to the west coast, the north in summer and fall is quite nice.

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Over the years, I’ve accumulated a fairly good repertoire of things that improve our lives between frequent moves to new cities and staying on a tight budget. Here are some of my resources, and feel free to share with whomever needs it, or to suggest more in the comments!

1. The USO 
The USO has made a HUGE difference for us while stationed in Illinois. They not only have really awesome airport lounges (often with free snacks and drinks, wifi, and maybe even places to nap!) but they provide access to all kinds of opportunities for entertainment thanks to donated tickets. In the last year alone we’ve been to a Bulls game, an illusionist, and a jazz concert. They are also, of course, famous for bringing entertainment to military bases for free shows (think Bing Crosby in WW2), but they do so much more than that. Search for your local USO chapter and sign up for their mailing list– you won’t be disappointed.

2. VetTix
Similar to the USO, except way more options offered on a lottery system, VetTix allows for individuals or groups to donate tickets (or just funding to fulfill wishes through the Hero’s Wish program) that military service members can apply for via lottery. If your lottery entry is selected, you pay a service fee (like you would on Ticketmaster to transfer tickets to your own account) and can go to all kinds of events for a low price. Again, sign up for your local mailing list!

3. Military Travel Agents and Accommodations 
Most bases have an ITT (Information, Tickets, Travel) office (or look up your “Military Leisure” office), but some are partnered with people who can actually help you plan your vacations. We did this when we were stationed in Hawaii, and were able to take some fantastic trips. There are also military-only hotels including Shades of Green at Disney World. AND there is a military campground inside Volcano National Park, not to mention cabins you can rent on all kinds of military bases (I love a good cabin!). Many bases have hotels that are available for leisure/recreation use, and a lot of them are right on beaches (so right at the top of my list).

4. MWR Rentals
MWR (Morale, Wellness, and Recreation) is the Military’s Parks and Rec department. They have tons of things you can rent for free or cheap, ranging from popcorn machines to kayaks to bounce houses. Do your research and make sure you know how to operate whatever equipment you’re borrowing, but if you want to take a boat for a spin without buying one yourself, it’s not a bad way to go. They even offer classes for a wide range of things.

5. COMPASS
This one is Navy-specific, but there are versions for other branches. COMPASS is a program for brand new Navy spouses to help them do things like read their spouse’s LES, navigate military life, etc. I only found out about it after I’d figured all this stuff out the hard way, so wanted to include it in case I can catch anyone in time to take advantage of it!

6. National Parks
Here’s a cool thing: military personnel and their dependents get free National Parks passes! You can find out more info on their FAQ page, but the summary is that if you or your sponsor is active duty (or reserve) then just bring your military ID to a National Park Office where they sell America the Beautiful passes and they’ll give you one! They’re good for a year, so be sure you’re up to date when traveling, but this make national parking SUPER easy and affordable! We love visiting as many national parks as possible, and it’s usually pretty affordable to stay (or camp!) in the parks, too!

Anything I forgot, or something you want to share? Comment below! 

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Oh hey! WordPress just told me it’s my 7th anniversary with this blog. Huzzah for that!

Things have been pretty hectic here the last couple of months. We were supposed to move into a new place at the start of May but for various reasons which aren’t terribly interesting the timetable got accelerated… and we moved March 24 instead. I also have been picked up for a lot more hours at my job and have successfully interviewed and been taken on as a volunteer at a local place (details to come later, as I feel it needs its own post).

#earglehaslanded

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In the meantime, I have been to North Carolina twice in the last five weeks, first for my sister’s bachelorette weekend and then for her wedding (how did it go? it worked!) and now I’m at the other end of all of the things and have a few days to finish unpacking my household and putting stuff on the walls and figure out what the next six months hold.

We did hit up a national park while we were down south: Appomattox Court House, where the Civil War ended and General Lee surrendered his troops. They’ve got much of the original village either restored or replicated, and it was fascinating to visit it having just been to the Abraham Lincoln Home in Springfield, IL, about seven months previous. The two are, of course, closely tied together and the perspectives on everything happening at that time are fascinating and sobering.

National Parking at Appomattox Courthouse. #findyourpark #iggleverse

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One of the things I like about national parks in general is that they preserve slices of things important to our heritage, whether it’s vast forests that have unreachable depths, ancient homes, or sites where important things happened that directly impact us today. It’s a way to literally touch history. I also generally just like being outside and doing things, so that’s nice, too.

Other big things include launching a new YouTube channel for Geek Girl Pen Pals. We don’t have many videos up yet, but the plan is to have regular content focused on our monthly site themes, and to encourage response videos from members of the community.

There have been many other things happening in the last couple of months and I may not get to all of them on here. If you need my new mailing address, please contact me in the usual way. ~_^

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No, that title isn’t a typo. I realized today that in the last year I’ve probably flown more than in the previous three years combined, and that I’ve already got plane tickets (or plans to acquire them) lined up for a good chunk of this year, too. I also realized I’ve been woefully neglectful in recording my adventures. So here’s the plan: this year we’re going on adventures together, but before I take off again in a couple of weeks I’m going to try and catch up on some of the ones I had last year. It’ll take some piecing together for me (and going through photos I’m extremely behind on editing) but hopefully I’ll be caught up again before summer.

Here’s a small preview of The 2015 Travelogue!

January: Southern California

Selfie with Mickey

April: Texas wildflowers

Texas longhorn sitting in bluebonnets

May: Madison, Wisconsin

Capitol Building, Madison, Wisconsin

July: London and surrounding English environs

Tower Bridge, London, England

September: Minnesota

Minnesota Renaissance Festival 2015

September-October: New England autumn things

New Hampshire scarecrow

October: Springfield, IL

Route 66, Springfield, Illinois

December: North Carolina wedding

Bridesmaids

Plus bonus National Parking content!

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, national parking

So there’s a small look at the places I’ve gone in the last year. Some of them I was able to drive to, some of them needed plane tickets. Most of these snaps are from my phone, but I’ve got some fun stuff that I’m pulling off of my camera, too. Maybe I can get at least a post or two about each place I’ve been, but with other journeys approaching, there may be a lot of overlap. I’ll do my best to keep it straight. Until next time!

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Hello, 2015

DSC_6723

Well, here we are.

Things have been quiet here for the last couple of months.

First I was off on an extended road trip with J, exploring the entire southern half of our country, with nearly a week in Orlando to do all things Disney and Harry Potter, and then I was in our new home trying to sort through the mess that has been our move. The team that packed our stuff did a great job and we lost very little. The team that was responsible for our furniture? Not so much. As I write this, I’m waiting to hear back from a wood and upholstery repair shop. Fun times.

Chicago has been a shock, though not an unexpected one. We’ve shifted from sunny SoCal to frigid MidWest and it’s going to take some adjustment. And some good boots.

But the trip was lovely and we’re finally starting to settle in and life goes on. I’ll try to get back into the swing of things with updates soon, and probably roll out some new features this year. Five Fandom Fridays sound kind of fun. ^_^

Here’s to a happy 2015!

Three Broomsticks butterbeer cheers

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grand canyon, J and J

As I’ve mentioned previously, we’re moving this month. And next. And maybe for part of December, too, I’m not really solid on that front at the moment. Basically the Navy is sending us to a new place (again) and the never-ending adventure continues. We just figured this time, as it’s our first move that doesn’t involve crossing an ocean and water-tight shipping crates, that we’d make the journey into an epic. This is the beginning of that journey.

We left San Diego on Monday, October 20. As of now it’s Wednesday, October 22, in Mountain Time-zone. I’m in Colorado. I’ve never been to Colorado before yesterday. It’s rather beautiful. But how did we get here in two days? All. Of. The. Driving. There have been plenty of amazing stops along the way; we try for at least one big Thing a day. Monday we stopped for lunch in Temecula before driving late into the night to reach…

grand canyon, under a tree

The Grand Canyon. It’s…. well, huge doesn’t quite do it justice. Monumental? Humongous? It doesn’t look real, I will say that. At least, not without hiking down into it I’m sure, and we didn’t have an entire week to tackle that. Suffice to say we’ve seen it and it is large and beautiful. As one of the US’s signature natural features, Grand Canyon National Park has been on my life-list for years.

Point of interest: We had lunch at El Tovar Hotel’s dining room and scored one of the best tables in the house overlooking the canyon. The hotel itself opened in 1905 and still has the old style and grandeur, plus the food was tasty and reasonable. I had the Navajo frybread taco, definitely recommend. Of course, I’d recommend anything with Navajo frybread… ~_^

From there, we drove on to Colorado and…

mesa verde, cliff palace

Mesa Verde. I’ve been fascinated by Native American culture since I was a kid, and it was amazing to actually get to visit these adobe cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park in person. For some size perspective, you can see an archaeologist surveying the site in the above photo. This is Cliff Palace, one of the biggest sites in the area. The cliff dwellings were built by the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived in the area between 1500 and 800 years ago. There are over 20 tribes descended from them today.

mesa verde, climbing out of cliff palace

Point of note: Getting in and out of the sites is tricky, and involves climbing wooden ladders. Between the steepness and the high altitude, this is rated as a “strenuous” climb and not for people who aren’t in at least descent physical shape. If you can make it down and back up again, though, it’s very much worth the trip.

mesa verde, spruce house

The other major site we visited was Spruce House, which is the best preserved of all the dwellings because it sits so far back into the crevice that it’s protected from the elements a bit more. Though access also involved hiking down and back up, there is a paved trail with benches along the way for catching your breath, and not a ladder in sight, which makes it a bit easier. I still got more winded on this one, though, simply because it was a longer trek. Altitude is rough when you’re not used to it.

mesa verde, trail to spruce house

It’s gorgeously autumn here, with the leaves changing and all, and I’m actually enjoying the cooler weather. Cooler. Not cold. This is important, as I’ve got a whole heap of cold waiting for me at the other end of this trip… But that’s not for today. Instead I’ll leave you with this really cool monumental tower we passed today. Tomorrow we head south again, toward Petraglyph National Park. (Are you seeing a pattern yet?) More when I have internet again.

mesa verde, nearby monumental view

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meadow near El Capitan

Happy October! It’s time for another monthly roundup of stuff I did in other places. Yay!

Newsy things:
Heyheyhey, I got invited to join the staff of International Geek Girls Pen Pal Club as a “Ninja.” Whoop! Just means I’ll be doing more behind-the-scenes stuff, really, particularly in January once I’m (theoretically) unpacked and a bit more settled, because…

This is moving month. EEP. The movers come in less than two weeks and I’m trying to clear things out (which is hard in a small space) and use up consumables and all sorts of things.. Expect not much posting between now and then.

For our last weekend roadtrip, we went to Yosemite National Park this weekend! I’ve got a ton of gorgeous photos to go through asap and try to get posted for you, but the photos in this post are a sneak peak.

Half Dome, overcast day

Things I wrote:
As usual, I’ve been posting stuff in other places. Over at IGGPPC, I’ve got two movie reviews, a Hobbit Day celebration, and an everyday cosplay post.
The Giver was excellent, and much better than any of the other dystopian teen world movies I’ve seen of late. It ought to be because the source material is fantastic.
The Maze Runner was enjoyable and I’m interested in what’s going to happen next. I like that we don’t have all the information going in, and that we learn things as the protagonist does.
Huzzah and Hooray, it’s Hobbit Day! We celebrated Sept 22 over at the site, too.
Everyday Cosplay: Some things happening this month and links to other articles. Just a roundup of stuff I liked this month.
I was also featured as part of the September Staff Picks, which you can check out over here if you like.

Tunnel View after storm

So that’s about it for September. Internet might be patchy in October, but I hope to have some fun things to share about the Great Moving Adventure. See you soon!

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