The Rosy Wanderer

Wandering with a Purpose

Tag: travel ideas

#tbt – “Home on the Range” in South Dakota

Two years ago (wow, I can’t believe it was that long ago!) my travel buddy, Irene, and I went on a long weekend to see North and South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. It was our first time to that area of the country, and I couldn’t be more excited. There is something about the apprehension of a trip when you have no expectations. I mean, one of the best feelings! This trip surpassed anything I could have imagined.

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  • Stay: The Bullock Hotel, Deadwood, SD. The Wild West come to life!
  • Saturday: Fly into Rapid City. Explored South Dakota’s Black Hills and Deadwood
  • Sunday: Roadtrip through the Badlands to Medora, ND, for lunch before heading over to Makoshika State Park in MT to look for dinosaurs
  • Monday: Visit Devil’s Tower in WY before heading back to the airport in Rapid City

A Closer Look Into South Dakota

Even upon arriving at the airport, the landscape was breathtaking. The world was open, the air was fresh, and adventure was calling. We rented a car, which was a 10-15 minutes shuttle ride away.

An interesting tip is that all car rentals from Rapid City have a fee for additional miles. You can’t rent for a flat rate in that area because there is so much space to cover. Pay attention to this for costs!

img_2897Our first planned stop was to visit Mt. Rushmore and see a buffalo. For my SD experience, I really wanted to see both of these things. I truly believe in my travel philosophy; you have to have a plan when you travel. You have to know what you want to accomplish, but you cannot be too strict. You’ll never know what could come up! Case in point, as we were driving from the airport, we saw a sign for “Red Ass Wine.” I mean, a winery in South Dakota! 1. Who would have thought and 2. how can you say no?!

The winery (Prairie Berry) was a fun stop. Red Ass Wine was a rhubarb wine. I knew of rhubarb, but I had never had it. The wine at this winery was made from a variety of berries and fruit; it wasn’t traditional grape wine. We really enjoyed it and spent a good amount of time drinking another glass with lunch. The trip was already a success.

Mt. Rushmore

The rest of the afternoon was spent driving to Mt. Rushmore. img_2894We saw img_2892buffalo and order rhubarb pie from Purple Pie Place on the way. (Road Food recommended them on one of my favorite podcasts Travel with Rick Steves). Seeing buffalo was amazing! I can’t imagine what it was like to be a pioneer or cowboy moving West in the mid-1800s when buffalo numbered about 35 million. Today’s number is closer to 400,000. We drove around forever trying to find them. We gave up and decided to make our way to Mt. Rushmore – that’s when we saw them! One even walked right by our car.

buffalo for miles

Look at all of them! And we weren’t even at a zoo!

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He got so close…and yes, I was scared he was going to ram into the car.

We finally arrived shortly before the sunset, and it was even more awesome than I expected that it would be! Mount Rushmore is an enormous sculpture made during the Great Depression. It features faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt. As a history fanatic, it was overwhelming to see something in person I had dreamed of seeing since I was a kid. We were there through dark so we got to see it lit up, as well.

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There it is! Such an amazing feeling to actually be there.

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Irene and I with the NY state monument. We had both recently moved from the Big Apple.

Goodnight from Deadwood

img_2948Next stop was to check into the historic Bullock Hotel in Deadwood. What a cool place to stay! Gambling is legal (brothels didn’t close until the 1980s), so there is a small casino downstairs. We were exhausted after such a long day, so it was time to find some food. Based on Yelp ratings, we went to dinner at a close hotel. Let’s just put it this way,  you can’t expect much from a culinary perspective in Deadwood. After that, we decided to call it a night. We had an early morning for our Badlands road trip in the morning and prayed we wouldn’t be woken by a ghost…

More to come on the next #tbt post! Until then, rosy wanderings!

#tbt – Oklahoma City

Sorry it has been so long since I last posted! I wasn’t well last week, and this week completely got away from me. I’m excited to conclude my three day jaunt to middle America with you today. Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 7.16.47 AMFrom my start in Kansas City to Omaha and Abilene, I finished my trip in Oklahoma City. I didn’t do much research for this stop at all. Several people that I met on my journeys mentioned that the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial was one of the best executed memorials, so that was on the agenda, but not much else. My brother drove up from his home in Austin to meet me, so at the least, I would get to see him. I figured it was a big city, there should be something to do. I was pleasantly surprised.

It was a good ride from Abilene to Oklahoma City. The rolling hills of Kansas started to flatten and get dry. Then I saw something weird in the distance, but I couldn’t quite make it out. Then, it hit me. I think that’s an oil pump! IMG_2809I had never seen one in real life, and it made me excited! There were many of these throughout the rest of my drive into Oklahoma, and I continued to see them on my other trips out West. I didn’t even think to research the rise of oil and oil tycoons. One sign mentioned there were mansions for oil tycoons that you could visit as historical sites. That has done so much to affect their economy and culture, I bet it would have been really cool to see.

Once I got to OKC, I met my brother at our hotel downtown and we went to the state capitol. I love to visit state capitols when I have a chance. To think that is the center of the state’s government and all of the things that happen there. Funny enough, I still haven’t been to the North Carolina capitol, and I lived in Raleigh for almost 6 years. The curse of not visiting your hometown…this will change in the future. Oklahoma’s capitol was very impressive. Since it was a weekend, we weren’t able to go inside or take a tour, but we did get a good luck of the outside of the building. We had an absolutely PERFECT fall day. There were Carolina blue skies way out there in OK!IMG_2815

After visiting the capitol, we decided to explore the city. There was an Ohio State football game on, so my brother found a local OSU bar so we could watch. Following that, we walked around and “discovered” this fantastic riverwalk area of the city. I believe it was relatively new, but it was a great find! The area around it is called Bricktown. I can’t believe that wasn’t one of the first areas mentioned in sites where I researched. Since I have visited, I see it more, but for whatever reason it wasn’t readily apparent to me. Basically, a small, man-made river (creek?) was created through the city, and it was lined with bars and restaurants. It doesn’t go anywhere; it just is in the city. I believe they fill it up manually when it gets low. IMG_2823 IMG_2821OKC has done a lot of revitalization efforts over the past few decades. One of my favorite podcasts is Travel with Rick Steves, and I heard an interview about OKC many months ago. I think it’s wonderful to see these improvements! They have done an amazing job making OKC what it is, and it now rivals Tulsa in offerings and coolness. After dinner and drinks, we went to bed.

The next morning we each needed to leave early to get home, but we took a morning walk to the other side of the city where the memorial is. OKC is very walkable. The city has a hip and shiny part of the city and an older part with sandstone colored exteriors. The Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial was as well done as people say it is. The memorial was created to remember the 168 people who were killed in 1995. I remember this happening as a kid. We planted a dogwood tree in our backyard, which President Clinton suggested families do as a memorial. The whole scene was still, somber, and peaceful. I think the pictures tell the rest, but I would highly recommend a visit.

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Oklahoma City isn’t somewhere most people think about visiting, but I think it should be. I believe there is a lot more to explore in the city and the surrounding area. Whether it is native Americans, ranching, or oil, that area has a rich history that we are not usually exposed to if you’re from either coast.

Overall, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma may not be as sexy as dog sledding in Alaska, partying on South Beach, or eating lobster in Maine, but it was a huge treat and provided more appreciation for this great country. Flyover states have their own unique charms and are home to millions of Americans. Even though it was hard to recruit someone to meet me, I suggest you have an open mind if you’re present with an opportunity to visit. Happy wanderings!

#tbt – I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!

Last week’s Travel Back Thursday (#tbt) was so  fun thinking about, I decided I should continue the details of my trip for this week’s post. After my night in Omaha, NE, I work up very, very early (4:30 am, I believe, for a 3.5 hour trip) and drove to Abilene, KS. It was dark when I left, so I didn’t get to see a lot of the countryside. When I passed Lincoln, the sun was starting to rise, so I could see a light silhouette of the skyline. I wish I could have had a picture of this because I remember it vividly.

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Snapshot from Google Maps of my trip’s second leg to Abilene, KS. The terrain was gorgeous once the sun came out.

I’m sure you’re thinking two things: 1. What did you do in Kansas? and 2. What on earth is Abilene?  When brainstorming what to do in Kansas, nothing readily came to mind. I don’t know enough about that area of the country, but then I started my research. When researching a new place, I start in two places: Google and Facebook. I post to my Facebook friends if anyone has any suggestions (no one did for Kansas) then start Googling what the destination is known for and brainstorming what historical events happened.

I love history. I find it fascinating to read biographies of people who have major accomplishments and have impacted the world. English and American history are my favorites. For the last few years, I’ve been reading biographies of each American president in the order of their presidency (currently am at Taft). I can tell more about that later. When researching, if I notice a Presidential Library or birthplace, I go for it! Abilene, KS, is the birthplace of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was the 34th president of the United States from 1953-1961 and Supreme General of the army in Europe during WWII. He led a remarkable life, and it all started in the small, humble town of Abilene. His childhood home is now a historic site and the site of his presidential library.

My first impression of Kansas was absolutely not what I expected. In fact, it was one of the few states that was polar opposite of what I thought. Before arriving, all I could associate with Kansas was 1930s dust bowl (sorry Kansans!) I pictured it to be flat, flat with tumbleweed blowing in the wind. I have no reason to have this image; I assume it is something I came up with as a kid and have had no reason to change it. Kansas was beautiful! Contrary to my former thoughts, it was lush green with rolling hills! Who would have known!

Green grass and blue skies!

Green grass and blue skies!

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I thought this was really funny. There were a few of these horseback riders around.

I thought this was really funny. There were a few of these horseback riders around. I think they were advertising the Pony Express historical site..

It just goes forever!

It just goes forever!

I arrived to Abilene around opening time for the museum and jumped on a tour to see the General’s house. IMG_2768What a remarkable way to grow up – in the heart of America and a small town. He was able to play outside and meet friends, but joined the Army to get out and serve his country. Eisenhower was proud of our country and what it stands for. In my opinion, he was a great president who led America during a time of prosperity. Many presidents who do not serve during crisis are forgotten. We know Eisenhower the President of the United States and accomplished general, but this house knows Eisenhower the person. What a neat way to see someone’s background and understand where they came from. You can’t understand a person until you see this.

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At home with Dwight

IMG_2793Abilene itself didn’t have a lot to offer. There weren’t any unique, local restaurants, so after my tour and visiting the library, I headed off for Oklahoma. I know this doesn’t sound like the most exciting trip for a lot of people, but it was for me. I truly enjoyed this stop and visit in Kansas, but that is what rosy wandering is. Appreciating something for what it is and seeing the uniqueness in the opportunity.

Stay tuned for next week’s #tbt! Happy wandering!

#tbt The Unexpectedly Neat City – Omaha, NE

In my quest to visit all 50 states, I researched interesting places and (a lot of times) had to narrow down which area or city I wanted to visit in each state. Other states were harder, and I couldn’t convince anyone to travel with me. As any American can probably imagine, many of these states were in the middle of the US. Therefore, I grouped three states together for one long-weekend road trip – Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma. These three are probably not on your travel list, but I can hopefully persuade you to consider otherwise. Today, we’ll focus on Nebraska.

Omaha is located on the Nebraska/Iowa border and is about a 2.5 hour drive from Kansas City. For my trip, I flew in and out of Kansas City for financial reasons. During my 50-state exploration, I didn’t mind driving distances. You can actually fly into Omaha to save time. Omaha is a growing and expanding city. There is a Western uniqueness that they are trying to keep, but the downtown area is being revitalized. This is the home of Warren Buffett, many major companies, and the College World Series for baseball.

I love zoos and animals. When I travel, I really like to visit zoos. Maybe some of it is because I grew up in Columbus, OH, and that is one of the best zoos in the country (I mean, it’s Jack Hanna!). When I asked people about Omaha, the zoo was highly recommended by everyone. It was absolutely as cool as they said it would be. When you walk in, you see the “Desert Dome.” This is the focal point of the zoo and allows them to keep warm-climate animals during the winter. Upstairs (as the picture shows), it is bright, warm, and expansive. Downstairs, the exhibits are set for nocturnal animals. None of my pictures turned out well (no flashes allowed). You can only take my word for how close to an American Beaver I was! It was a bit nerve racking!

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There is also a Prairie Dog row at the zoo. This was my first time seeing a Prairie Dog in real life – I became obsessed! Luckily, I saw them many times on my other western trips. If you’re around them a lot, I hear they are pests. I don’t understand because they are so cute. I love how they stand up to bark! This little guy actually touched my shoe!

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After a long day at the zoo, I set in to go downtown. I love cities, eating at good restaurants and having a drink. When I got there, it was too early for dinner, so I got a manicure at a local spa. It was a locally-owned establishment right in the heart of downtown. The technician gave me a lot of insight about the city and mentioned there was a new pedestrian bridge that will take you to Iowa. What?! If you know me, this is COMPLETELY the type of activity that makes me excited. I could walk to Iowa. Yes, I think I shall.

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The beautiful pedestrian bridge. This is near where Lewis and Clark cross the Missouri River.

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I made it. Two states at the same time!

I love taking walks and the views of the Missouri were beautiful. It’s really interesting to think about explorers first coming to the area, then to think about what it was like at the turn of the century. Nebraska is well-known for its stock yards and cattle ranches. They aren’t there today, but that’s where it was founded. I don’t eat beef, but I felt like I should have a steak for dinner. I’ll pretend that I did and tell you it was devious (in reality, I had fish. Not what you should think of in Nebraska).

After my walk I went to Berry & Rye, a mixology-type bar. I was so impressed with the drinks here. They are all handcrafted drinks, where they worry about everything from the ingredients to the ice! Highly recommended. Unfortunately, I could only have one since they were quite strong and my rule is to avoid drinking when I travel alone.

For dinner, I went around the corner to Jackson St. Tavern, where they had live music and great food. Right in the heart of downtown near the riverwalk, it was a prime location. (The steak was delicious! haha). After dinner, I came out and the whole city was alive! It was the perfect temperature, and everyone was out. From young professionals to families, there was something for everyone. Street musicians were playing and merchants were out selling. I had to turn in, but I would have loved to stay out and explore some more. Hopefully on my next trip! I had an early morning to start my next trip to Abilene, KS…

#TBT – Alaska

For this week’s #TBT (Travel Back Thursday), I bring you Alaska. One year ago, I made it to my 50th state. It was a major accomplishment for me in my life. A year and a half before, I made a goal to visit all 50 states by the time I was 30 with only 25 under my belt. A month after my 30th birthday, I made it to Alaska. The accumulation of planning and commitment, I achieved a goal that I thought would take me the majority of my adult life.

Mendenhall Glacier outside of Juneau, AK! WOW!

Mendenhall Glacier outside of Juneau, AK! WOW!

There are two ways to do Alaska: 1. by sea, 2. by land. I’ve heard land is amazing and what is highly recommended. Unfortunately, timing and the logistics wouldn’t work for for what I was planning; I opted for sea. As a victory celebration, I thought it would be fun to invite family and close friends to join me on an Alaskan adventure. A cruise ship would be the easiest way to plan this, as well as give each person the flexibility to design the trip to their interest. We could meet up for dinner in the evening and talk about what we experienced that day.

Life Lesson: when you have a chance to drink local - do.

Life Lesson: when you have a chance to drink local – do.

In the end, we had a group of 13 brave the great Alaskan Wilderness. I mean, it was much more adventurous than you think. We survived a bear attack, a sinking ship, and an earthquake.

Be Bear Aware! We survived a "bear attack" when we had to walk past the grizzly to get from the Musher camp to our bus. The first bear sighting of the season.

Be Bear Aware! We survived a “bear attack” when we had to walk past the grizzly to get from the Musher camp to our bus. The first bear sighting of the season.

 

 

 

 

 

I’d say we roughed it. The Crown Princess (Princess Cruise Lines) took us from Seattle, WA, to Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, and Victoria (Canada). It was absolutely amazing! We didn’t have long at each stop, so that is one reason to do a land trip. Just be careful, Juneau is the only US capital that is not connected to the rest of the state by a car. You can get there by air, sea, and birth canal (thanks to our tour guide for that funny joke!) It’s a big state, so make sure to plan any driving trips prior to arriving…

I didn’t realize it when booking, but May was a wonderful time to go. The mountains still have snow on the top; if I got to Alaska and didn’t see snow, I know I would have been upset. I originally wanted to go in April for the birthday, but cruises only leave from May until September. I imagine fall is a beautiful time to visit.

One of the most mind-blowing experiences about Alaska has sunk in more since I returned home than I could process while I was there. In most of the continental US, we are used to very populated areas. There are buildings, signs, roads, and other man-made items almost everywhere we look. Alaska is virtually untouched. There are no man-made items for our mind to recognize to put size in proportion.

What kind of blue is that? Windex Blue! They don't look that big until you see the boat next to it.

What kind of blue is that? Windex Blue! They don’t look that big until you see the boat next to it.

Driving down the road, you see other cars, billboards, and buildings to show you how big a hill or mountain is. In Alaska, you don’t have that to scale. Sailing down the Inner Passage, there are rolling hills on either side, but it wasn’t until we passed an equally large cruise ship that they looked like mountains.

OVERALL

I’m really glad we did Alaska by sea for the first trip. We didn’t see much of the state, but we saw amazing landscapes, and it gave us the flexibility we needed for the trip. The inner passage is gorgeous, and I hope to visit it again.

Two lessons learned (besides staying longer):

  1. Get a balcony window. There is too much to watch in the inner passage. It’s not like sailing to the Caribbean where you see ocean for most of the time. This cruise provides opportunities to watch for animals and the shore line.

    The water was as clear as glass throughout the entire voyage.

    The water was as clear as glass throughout the entire voyage.

  2. On the visit to Tracey Arm Fjord, do the excursion to take a boat to the glacier. I can only imagine how amazing that would be from sea level.
    Tracey Arm Fjord. This was something that I didn't even know existed! We were lucky to get so close.

    Tracey Arm Fjord. This was something that I didn’t even know existed! We were lucky to get so close.

    Some more pictures for fun..

Even though it was May, it definitely wasn't a warm-weather adventure.

Even though it was May, it definitely wasn’t a warm-weather adventure.

I desperately wanted to see a puffin, but no such luck. I LOVED this sign!

I desperately wanted to see a puffin, but no such luck. I LOVED this sign!

I am not a big beer drinker, but I love flights at microbreweries. It's always great to sample! (This is from Skagway Brewing Company)

I am not a big beer drinker, but I love flights at microbreweries. It’s always great to sample! (This is from Skagway Brewing Company)

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MUSH! Sitting on a dog sled. I almost packed my winter boots for this...good thing I didn't!

MUSH! Sitting on a dog sled. I almost packed my winter boots for this…good thing I didn’t!

Victoria, British Columbia. Stunning.

Victoria, British Columbia. Stunning.

 

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