My Trips: 2014 and Beyond

Wow! The last time I wrote in this blog was in late 2014. I’m looking to get this thing fired up again, so here is a brief update.

2014:
I last posted in fall 2014 after having done quite a bit of business travel that year, including multiple trips to Austin and a lengthy stay in Albuquerque, among other places. I finally got to “visit” Detroit, albeit just through the airport! I will get to you someday soon, Motor City. In August 2014 I traveled to Edina, Minnesota, also for work. In June, I spent a long weekend with my husband Eric in Rehoboth Beach (Delaware) for leisure purposes. I’d been there a few times before and he agreed with me that the popular little beach town (and its surrounding environs) are well worth the visit. Also in June, we camped in Big Meadows (Shenandoah) with my family. September was our annual family beach trip to Murrells Inlet / Garden City, South Carolina.  In October I took a long weekend in a cabin at Shenandoah National Park with Eric at Big Meadows. And of course, that December we traveled home to spend Christmas with family.

2015:
I took one more business trip to Oakland, California (although I had to stay in Richmond/Berkeley … what a drive) and a great night visit to San Francisco, including the Chinatown area. I’d like to see more of that city.

Leisure-wise, in March we took a 10-day Eastern Caribbean cruise that left out of Miami – in the nick of time to avoid a snowstorm – and stopped at St. Kitts & Nevis, Martinique, Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic), Antigua, and St. Thomas. We also fit in a visit to gorgeous St. John’s as well while we were on St. Thomas, and we did an excursion to the Everglades once in CONUS again.

It was one of the most incredible vacations I’ve ever had. It was hard to imagine how anything could top that near-perfect cruise, but our visit to the island of Isla Mujeres, Mexico in August definitely also had us feeling heavenly. The little island charmed us from the start, and I don’t think we ate a bad or bland meal the entire time we were there. The highlight of the trip (and the whole reason I planned it) was swimming with a pod of whale sharks in the middle of the open sea. What an adventure! It more than made up for some mishaps we ran into just trying to get there from DC!

For family trips, we had a trip to Skyline (Shenandoah) for my dad’s 74th birthday in April, and Eric and I camped with Cat and Rob at Point Lookout State Park in Scotland, Maryland in June. My parents met us up there for the day and we thought it was funny that we were in Scotland, Maryland while our aunt was in Scotland, UK!:) In September we made our annual pilgrimage to the beach house on the “Hammock Coast” of South Carolina where some of us got to meet our sweet baby cousin, Allie, for the first time! Christmas in 2015 was spent with Eric’s family in Corpus Christi and that was a great trip. We also stayed a night in Richmond (VA) in July following a friend’s housewarming party. The drive back wasn’t THAT long, but we were tired and frankly, it was really just an excuse to relax in a hotel and order room service!:)

2016: 

This has been a busy year so far and somehow the months have flown by. Day trips have been the name of the game for the most part. I’m really hoping to go camping a time or two this summer, if not several. In July, we have a road trip planned that will last 11 days and show me 5 new states (6 if you count Illinois … I’ve been through both Chicago airports so many jillions of times that I feel strange saying I’ve never been to Illinois at this point! So I usually say I have been there but give a disclaimer). We’re going to start by driving to Chicago, spending a weekend there, then take off on Historic Route 66 (Mother Road dream trip!) and follow that as far as Oklahoma City, then drive to Dallas specifically to stay the night at the Joule hotel and swim in their crazy cantilevered pool. I’m sure we will enjoy lots of other things about Dallas besides that, but ever since I saw that pool I knew I would make a special visit there one day, and here I am. (Never been to Dallas except through the airport several times.) From there we will make our way home with stops in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Bristol (on the VA side). I have carefully planned everything and picked out certain sites, and at this point, I’m pretty smug about my ability to plan the perfect trip (at least for Eric and I). A road trip of this length and variation is a new one for my planning skills, though, so this is going to be a test to see how I did. I have picked out the sites we both will want to see and planned driving and rest times carefully so I think I am doing good. And, at least I’ve gotten all the hotel booking out of the way! Although this is largely “my” trip, Eric is definitely excited (especially when I told him about some of the very Eric-y things he can expect to visit along the way). At some time in the future, we’ll come back out and drive the rest of Route 66, at least from OKC to LA.

We’ll of course also have family trips this year to the beach, likely to Corpus Christi, and possibly Puerto Rico. And maybe we’ll have a good weekend jaunt or two. I really want to tick off the rest of my unseen states, so cruises to Alaska and Hawaii and random trips in 2017-18 are very strong possibilities! Our next big international trip is supposed to be Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Chile via Santiago. That one will be another dream come true.

Where you have been lately? Where would you like to go?

Blue Heron in Georgetown (South Carolina)

A blue heron takes off from the docks in downtown Georgetown, South Carolina. This photo was taken by my husband last month with my old iPhone 4.

heron

I’ll post more on this historic little town later this week. It’s more than worth a visit!

Cool Roadside Architecture: Myrtle Beach Edition

A few days ago I posted about some of the fun souvenir shop architecture found in Padre Island, Texas. Here are several similar sculptures from South Carolina’s Grand Strand. Continue reading

When the Levy Breaks

Sometimes the inlet floods. Here’s the road in front of our house.

IMG_6468.JPG

Rainy Days in Murrells Inlet

I’m in South Carolina’s Grand Strand for our annual family beach week! For the third year in a row we snagged the same gorgeous oceanfront house. Unlike years past, it’s been overcast and/or raining each day so far. This means the water is rolling right up the beach past our steps. We’ve had some great sightings of both dolphins and sharks chasing giant schools of fish!

IMG_6464.JPGThe shore as seen directly below our upper deck. Note the fences and built-up dunes; new this year to prevent erosion. The dunes are still favorite haunt of ghost crabs, cotton rats and the occasional bunny.

Improving your air travel experience

Great article posted at xoJane today by Portland writer Amanda Blum called How to Have a Generally More Pleasant Air Travel Experience. Her tips are great and many of them boil down to one thing – be kind, and not just because it might nab ya some upgrades, but because … well, I’ll just let you read it.:)

El búho y yo

For the past several weeks, I’ve been learning Spanish with the help of the program Duolingo and its owl (búho) coach, Duo. This program – which is FREE by the way – has been an absolute godsend for me. Earlier this summer, I started working with a Spanish coursebook and a few CDs, but found myself getting bored and impatient, and the lessons weren’t really sticking. With Duolingo, I can log in to the app via my iPhone or to the main program from my laptop, track my progress, take quizzes, see a list of vocabulary I’ve learned, and tell at-a-glance which lessons it’s time to go back and practice. I get emailed reminders to log into my lessons, which get progressively harder as I increase my knowledge.

As I work, I gain “lingots” – virtual currency which I can spend on outfits for Duo, extra “lives”, quizzes, and “fun” lessons like Flirting or Idioms. The app smartly allows users to make their experience more social if they choose. You can share your progress with your friends on Facebook, for example, or go online to access forums and recommended immersion programs.

The best part of all of this? It’s FREE! You don’t have to spend a fortune on Rosetta Stone if you don’t wish. Give this a try first. Spanish isn’t the only language – find French, Dutch, etc. It is fun and a great stress-reliever. And the award-winning mobile version (which links to your usual account) is great for on the go. with the app you can practice speaking your chosen language, as well.

Complaints? Sometimes the spoken portion of the app will be really lax about some words, and very picky about others! And occasionally, when I have to choose the correct words to make a sentence, one of the required words is missing from the options! These are relatively small compared to how much more comfortable I feel with Spanish now. And yes, I’m smitten with the adorable owl.

Coach Duo

Coach Duo

Whichever language you choose, buena suerte!