Category Archives: Adventures

Off to Scotland!

This, my friends, is another delayed post.  We visited Scotland in May 2017 and we can’t wait to go back. We met the kindest people and thoroughly enjoyed our visit.  The words may have been lost for a bit but the adventure was not!


Somehow I am lucky enough to be leaving for Scotland in a few days. Since we are traveling internationally, watch this space for run-ins with border patrol.  Something odd always happens to us. From a VERY un-amused guard at Heathrow to our first ever jovial guard on the border between Ontario and Michigan. 

Before all the border crossing fun begins, let’s get to the planning shall we?  As I’ve mentioned before, I really love to plan trips. By this I mean, I like to know what there is for us to do in a place and then partake of whatever strikes our fancy when we find ourselves in that city, or in this case, that barely inhabited section of the Scottish Highlands.  I’m so excited! I’ve wanted to go to Scotland for a very long time. 

We will be in Scotland for 10 days and we are essentially breaking our trip into 2 parts. First we’ll be in Edinburgh for several days and then, once we are fully conscious, we’ll be renting a car and headed out for a very different kind of adventure. In Edinburgh we’ll spend a day walking the Royal Mile and then take suggestions from our Airbnb host and other people we meet who are lucky enough to live there as to how to fill the rest of our days. I bet we find some great local places!

Once we head into the Highlands, there are a few whisky distilleries we plan to stop at, including my husband’s favorites.  (Did I mention we are taking this particular trip sans kiddo?) We also have a couple of castles on our list, a Skyfall sight or 2, and some time on the Isles of Skye and Iona.  For the most part though, we are going to take our time driving and stop wherever we like. It’s a beautiful place and we have no intention of speeding past it.

We will be staying at Airbnbs the entire time. During this trip will be mostly in private rooms in homes as opposed to having the whole place to ourselves. Our hosts are already helping us figure out what to see and do and ensuring we have a great time.  I just wish I could figure out a small American gift that is easy to pack and would be enjoyed by all of our hosts. We always pitch in around the house but a small memento might be nice too. Hmm.

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Our Airbnb Road Trip Through New England and Canada

From time to time I will be sharing the lost posts of Dream Depart Explore. This is one such post as we took this trip in July and August of 2016. We did then enjoy time away in Scotland as mentioned and it went just as well.  Stay tuned for lost Scotland posts as well. Now, without further ado, our thoughts on a road trip that relied heavily on Airbnb to provide places to lay our heads as we dreamed happy vacation dreams.


We ADORE our immediate family, our extended family, and our friends who live in the Northeast and that is why we travel there so often.  This past summer though we decided to get our munchkin (I need a new nickname, she and I literally see eye-to-eye these days) to the parts of the Northeast she hadn’t seen yet.  Until this year she had been to New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts many times but that was it. So off we went.

This was the longest family vacation we have taken to date and we brought the dog. (Yes, some of my animal issues have subsided, who couldn’t love this face?)

We were gone for 16 days and drove over 3500 miles. My hubby is a champ!!

Our itinerary was a bit strange in that it wasn’t all that efficient. Though one of the main goals of this trip was to give small-fry (nope, that’s not better) a chance to explore the New England states she had yet to visit, we also wanted to be respectful of our family members. We stayed with each of my brothers for 3 nights and wanted those to be mostly on the weekends. We may have been on vacation but they weren’t and still had jobs to get to as did the rest of our friends and family we were hoping to see.

In 15 nights on the road, we stayed in 9 different places.  Two were siblings’ homes, 1 hotel, 1 traditional bed & breakfast, and 5 Airbnbs.  Before this trip we had stayed in just one Airbnb in Wisconsin.  Did I mention I LOVE Door County?  We had such a great experience and saved so much money, we decided to really test our luck on this trip.  It was an excellent decision!

We were able to stay much closer to the action than we could have in traditional hotels so we saved a lot of time. We also saved quite a bit of money even with paying for parking in Boston.  It is tricky to find hotels that will allow dogs, even house trained, crate trained, non-shedding, hypoallergenic, 12 pound cutie pies. When you do find them, there is usually a $35-ish charge per night and there is not much in the way of a safe place to walk the puppy.  By staying in Airbnbs (use that pet filter well my friends) we had lots of options, nearly all of them cheaper than hotels in the same area. We had neighborhoods and parks to explore and we got to meet lots of nice neighbors walking their own dogs.

During this trip we stayed in entire homes or apartments. When we travel with kiddo (yes!) we tend to do this.  It is much easier to have our own space. However, when my husband and I travel by ourselves or as a couple we are just as likely to stay in private rooms within family homes.

So, where did we stay?

Let me open my handy app and check it out!

  • In Boston we stayed in a fun and funky lofted apartment in a brownstone in Beacon Hill not far from Boston Public Gardens and Boston Common.  We parked our car and forgot about it for 3 days as we walked everywhere.  Thanks to our apartment in Back Bay, we were close enough to everything to do so.  This all went so well that my daughter now has her eyes on Boston/Cambridge for college. She’s thinking MIT.  We’ll see!
  • In Portland, Maine we stayed in a house that I’d guess was about 100 years old and had been converted to apartments. It was right down the street from a large park and a donut shop. Apparently they are the best donuts in Maine so we dutifully checked them out. They did NOT disappoint! We also visited the Portland Museum of Art and enjoyed time in the cafe and gift shop. Not far away was the Spring Point Ledge Light.  Before we left the state we did make sure to stop at the LLBean outlets in Freeport.  We spent nearly all day there, actually.  It did my New England heart good!
  • In Vermont we stayed on a farm that came with goats and chickens and my daughter saw more stars than she has ever seen growing up in suburbia. (On our upcoming trip out west she insists that we camp a few nights so she can see more!) We were within a mile of the Ben & Jerry’s Factory.  Bonus: Our host pointed us to The Reservoir restaurant in town.  We enjoyed the wine at dinner so much that the next day we took off for the vineyard.
  • In Montreal we stayed in a converted cigarette factory that had the most gorgeous pool and patio on the roof.  Once again it was walking distance to what we needed.  There is a very eclectic set of restaurants and shops about 2 blocks away. Three blocks or so away and we found the Metro which we used well.  Among other places, we hopped a ride as we headed to the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal. They had the coolest Pompeii exhibit while we were there.  The permanent collection is well worth the trip too.
  • In London, Ontario we stayed in the most spectacular basement apartment I’ve ever seen. It was so clean and modern, and extremely well appointed. This was a stopover point for us but the hosts (who live upstairs) were extremely kind and hospitable. There wasn’t anything we needed that they didn’t provide for us.

The best part? We had our own local guides to ask for activity and restaurant suggestions. We even had people who located dog parks for us and drove us over to them!

We met the nicest people and have memories to last a lifetime. We did so well that when hubby and I head over the pond to Scotland in May we will be staying exclusively in Airbnbs.  Some are entire homes and some are private rooms, one even has a dog.  Wish us luck!  Check back here to see how it went.

If you are interested in trying Airbnb for yourself, feel free to use my link here to get $40 off your first home booking of $75 or more.

**This is not a paid post, I am simply an enthusiastic Airbnb community member who loves to share my experiences with others.

How To Travel When Your Spouse Prefers Not To

Since I love to travel so much I talk about it A LOT.  This leads to learning other people’s philosophies on travel; why they go, where they go, when they go and why they don’t go.  I come from a traveling family and happen to have married someone who likes to travel as much as I do (OK so it was a requirement for me).  For a long time I had my blinders on, I assumed that everyone liked to travel just to differing degrees when it is simply not true. Sometimes those who don’t care to travel are married to those who do. What do you do if you are bitten by the travel bug but your spouse is not?

Options abound for travel when your spouse or significant other doesn’t like to travel or if you don’t currently have, or want, a spouse or significant other.

1. Vacation with family or friends who live in the same town as you do.  This makes planning easy and you can share a car or ride to the airport.

2. If you don’t have people who live in town who like to travel, then travel to see people who do and then continue your adventure together. Bonus: you’ll get to spend significant time with people you don’t get to see often.

3. Join a travel group or club – many cities have groups of like minded people who meet and travel together.  These groups offer everything from day trips to those lasting a month or more.

4. Go on a group tour – there are scores of companies that offer wonderful tours domestically and all over the world. Head out with one of these groups and you’ll come back with friends from all over the country, maybe the world.

5. Travel by yourself – there is nothing like the flexibility that comes with having to answer to no one but yourself.  If you want to get up at 5 a.m. and see the sun come up, no one whines.   If you want to sleep in until 11 a.m., no one will bounce on the bed because they are bored. It is much easier to pop into a hotel or hostel and find room for 1 as opposed to 2 or more.

Get out and see the world!

 

Wherein Mama Doesn’t Think We Are Funny

Have you ever been to Rocky Mountain National Park?  If not, go there soon and bring your sense of adventure!  Fourth of July is fantastic as are the hiking options.  I’m headed back at some point but a little wiser this time.

So, you know how you go camping in a national park and have large animals walking through your campsite whenever they please?  Of course you do. They even join in you the town park for fireworks.   After several days of this you notice that you have seen more elk than you knew existed but you haven’t seen a moose.  They live in the park too and you’ve never seen one. Naturally you insist one morning that you and your husband drive around the park to find a moose, like people do. Your husband is a nice guy and agrees. After about 30 minutes of driving slowly and looking around, you pull into a picnic area.  In the distance, through the trees, you see elk by the hundreds, as usual.  Out of the corner of your eye you catch a glimpse of something moving in the trees near you. A large, brown animal emerges, it is a moose!  Yay, mission accomplished!

You raise your camera and as you look through the viewfinder (because it it 2003 and you still use film) you notice the moose looks closer and it appears there are two.  You also notice that your very even-keeled husband has thrown your new car into reverse and is kicking up gravel as he hits the gas.  Your camera leaves your face and you see a mother and a calf moving towards you, QUICKLY! You have visions of hoof marks on the hood of your car, through your windshield, and probably on the humans inside.  You are ever so grateful that your husband is a steady and confident driver.  He peels out of the picnic area and you both breathe a sigh of relief.

Then you see it.

In the passenger side mirror, mama is not happy and both she and the calf are now chasing your car down the road …and gaining on you! Mama leaves the road and runs along side your car until she is even with the front of the car and proceeds keep up!  Before she decides to dart into the road and your car, your husband gives it a bit more gas and you finally leave the moose in your mirror for good.  You are grateful that you do not yet have a child because there might be some interesting language escaping your mouth.

You decide not to look for any more large game. Lesson learned folks, when the animals in the park come near you on their own, they know you are there and they don’t care.  When you happen upon them and startle them, you better have skills and luck on your side.  It certainly does not help that moose are the least social members of the deer family and prefer to be without the company of other moose never mind humans. (Thank you internet, I learned something today.)

Did I mention I have issues with animals?  My issues precede this event by a couple of decades but this encounter didn’t help.

 

Moose photo credit:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:User:Wojsyl
Poland Kampinos Alces alces 1
Caption added by DreamDepartExplore

Road Trip Passenger 101

It’s like this folks, on road trips my husband loves to drive and hates to be a passenger.  I, on the other hand, prefer not to drive and rather enjoy being a passenger. A match made in heaven I tell you. In our more than 18 years together and 70,000+ miles of road trips I have driven for exactly 3 hours.  Yes, a scant 200 miles or so.  Wanna know why I drove those?  For 2 hours my husband was still recovering from food poisoning and if it weren’t for the lake-effect snow we were trying to stay ahead of, we would have camped out at the hotel for another day.  The other hour was because he was so tired he couldn’t keep his eyes open.  Kansas is kind of boring to drive through folks, even if the reward at the end is Colorado. I swear I-70 is basically just 450 miles of grain.  Many thanks for feeding the country though, we genuinely appreciate your hard work!

Therefore I am the best darn road trip passenger you have ever seen. It works out for us.  I essentially wait on him hand and foot which he loves because I never do so at home, unless he is just this side of hospital sick.  In return he drives me all over the place to visit friends and family and go on adventures.

I don't like traffic, particularly in cities but places like Chicago are between me and vacations sometimes.
I don’t like traffic, particularly in cities. However, places like Chicago are between me and my vacation sometimes. Thanks for driving hubby!

While he drives I navigate, reroute us around traffic jams, get snacks, open water and soda, manage the music, manage our munchkin (though she is pretty self sufficient now and almost as tall as me at 11 years old), answer the phone, text responses for him, call for reservations or with travel updates to our family members or Airbnb hosts.  I’ve even listened to audiobooks (reading in the car makes me ill) and worked on craft projects to occupy myself in city traffic so he can concentrate and I can keep from looking for the brake on my side of the car every 30 seconds.  (I never said I didn’t have control issues, people, just that I am better at being a passenger than my partner in crime.) At least once during each trip I sing loudly and purposefully off-key which he doesn’t like to admit he finds funny. Lately our munchkin does too.  It’s hysterical. (In case you are wondering, we sing “On the Road Again.”)

Sock knitting in the car
Sock knitting in Chicago traffic. Sanity for all of us!

Mainly we talk, a lot.  We plan for the trip, for life after the trip and we catch up on all of the funny little things that have happened over the last few months that our over-scheduled lives have kept us from mentioning to each other.  My goal is to keep him well-fed, entertained and awake. Such people are better and safer drivers. That’s good for me, him, our daughter and anyone who happens to be on the road with us.

Happy travels!

I LOVE Door County

 

Just what we needed!

As you know, I have a very scientific way of choosing vacation spots. 😉 Even so, we happened upon a perfect spot for our family to unwind and enjoy time together, Door County, WI.

It took a little longer to get there than we planned as we hit some VERY strong storms on our way up but we made it in one piece.  Our cottage was just south of the town of Sturgeon Bay and was on Green Bay itself. The views were gorgeous.

We happened to visit the first week of June when the weather was perfect by my standards – sunny and mild. Also, everything was open but there were very few other vacationers as most schools in the state were still in session.

We had a wonderful time meeting new people in the area. Some places not to be missed:

Cave Point County Park

Peninsula State Park

At Peninsula State Park, the only time in my life I’ve ever taken a picture timed this well. I caught the boat!

Patawatomi State Park

View from the top of the Patatowami State Park Observation over the water. Great view was worth climbing the open wooden tower!

Downtown Sturgeon Bay
Hands On Art
Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant

Yup, those are goats on the roof at Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant!

Sunset Grill
Sunsets over Green Bay in general – chase them people!

Our first sunset in Wisconsin. This is the view from our cottage for the week!

Gaining Wisconsin

My view for the week.
My view for the week.

As you may have noticed, you haven’t heard much from me lately. The last 6 months were, hands down, the busiest in recent memory. There was barely time to do laundry, never mind keep up with my writing.  I’ve missed you though and I’m glad to be back!

In my continuing effort to collect states and countries, I am pleased to announce that I have finally been to Wisconsin!  Growing up in the northeast, Wisconsin was pretty far away and not easy to drive through on the way back from most states (notice which ones I’m still missing).  Living now in the midwest, it is a lot closer. So off we go!

Newsflash – Wisconsin is LOVELY!  Perhaps we happened upon a particularly nice area of the state when we vacationed in Door County but I’m giving the whole state credit.  Here is the very scientific method I used for deciding on this vacation spot:

  1. Pick a state I haven’t been to yet – the closest one will do.
  2. Decide what type of vacation we as a family want to take – in this case a lake vacation.
  3. Google my parameters, e.g. “best lake vacation in Wisconsin”.
  4. Stumble upon a place that apparently many people I know have been to but I have never heard of.
  5. Rent cabin on Airbnb – It was perfect!

    The Big E mug that was in the cabinet. It was a touch of home all the way out in Wisconsin. I claimed as my own for the week.
    The Big E mug that was in the cabinet. It was a touch of home all the way out in Wisconsin. I claimed as my own for the week.
  6. Do a little more internet research on what is available nearby. Lots of parks!
  7. Wait anxiously for the week to arrive and hope for good weather.
  8. Pack light, strap bikes to the back of the car and go!
Bikes on the Back
Traveling with bikes is not for the faint of heart.

Our Adventure With Border Patrol

There is no photo for this story. Security the world over does not care for photography!
There is no photo for this story. Security the world over does not care for photography!

I’ve mentioned this interaction at least twice on this website so I might as well tell the story.

First things first, don’t mess with border patrol. They have power you cannot fathom. Regardless of how cool these people may be in real life (and I do have the pleasure of knowing one) you may not joke with them on the job.  This is hard for my husband and I since we tend to joke with everyone.

We have had many interactions with border patrol agents but this is the most memorable.  Let me walk you through it.

When they stop your car at the border and run your plates like they do for everyone, you think nothing of it.

When they size you up through the window and ask if you own the car and then ask if you always have, you get a little nervous.

When they insist you produce the car’s registration to prove it, you start to get a bit more nervous.

When they tell you to get out of the car and go into the building to wait while they investigate, you begin to sweat.

When they tell you your license plates have been reported stolen and you can’t leave until they get it figured out, you start to wish you had brought a blanket for your 4 year old because the air conditioning in those offices is really well used!

When you spend the LONGEST 90 minutes of your life waiting for your state Bureau of Motor Vehicles to open and hoping they can confirm that you are in fact the owner of your vehicle (which you have owned and licensed for 8 years), you try to keep yourself and your child calm so as not to cause an international incident.

When the agents come back to you and explain that the people who set up your state’s license plate system think that it is OK to issue the same plate number for different classes of vehicles (in this case a truck plate – ours and a trailer plate – stolen) you wonder where exactly your tax dollars go… and so do the agents.

When you are released with your car, your cold child and (finally) your car keys, YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN SO HAPPY TO SEE THE “WELCOME TO BUFFALO” SIGN IN YOUR LIFE!

When 1 year later the licensing rules are changed as your entire state gets new license plates, you think your little run in at the Canadian border might have had something to do with it.

When you start a travel website, you tell the story.  It’s funny at dinner parties too.  Weird stuff happens on vacation folks.