Family Cross Country Road Trip: Florida to Nevada

Three adults, two kids, two vehicles (one pulling a trailer), a dog, and a cat.

Put together, it’s the ingredients for one unforgettable and exhausting adventure!

My brother (Ryan), his wife, and my two nieces were in the process of moving from Florida to Nevada, and needed some help. I needed out of Pennsylvania. It seemed like a no-brainer.

We left Florida (where they had called home the past few years) and set off on the 1,800+ mile trip the first week of December.

Let me just say, I am all for 3 a.m. wake-ups when it is for a trip! (Though I was riding shotgun, and just the designated keeper of snacks/drinks/toys/blankets/tissues. I suspect those driving might’ve felt differently.)

Without further ado, here were some of our highlights and stops:

11/30 Monday

This day was pretty much straight driving, trying to cover the greatest distance the first day, since most of the attractions we wanted to do/see were closer to the west coast.

Felt like we were always chasing the sun or moon.

Night one: Terrell

12/1 Tuesday

VW Slug Bug Ranch– which yes, did have cars, but this little one was more interested in playing in the abandoned graffitied buildings and broken glass, so I had to go scoop her.

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Palo Duro (Texas Grand Canyon) where we grabbed lunch and enjoyed some social distancing by hiking a trail, all to ourselves.

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Just the girls 🙂


Cadillac Ranch– something so bizarre and yet so fascinating. What would you paint if you were leave your mark?

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We’re all about the public art installations.

Night two: Tucumcari

12/2 Wednesday

We hit a TON of traffic due to a bad accident, so we didn’t make it to Albuquerque like we wanted. We drove through Sevilleta National Wildlife area, through New Mexico, instead. This was a challenging day, (long hours in the car, no stops or attractions) but luckily we covered so many miles the day before that we were still well on schedule even with the setback.

& there was snow! Can you believe it?

We watched the most amazing sunset as we crossed into Arizona.

Night three: Flagstaff

12/3 Thursday

We stayed in Flagstaff for two nights, as we planned to do most of our exploring from this point. We ventured to the Grand Canyon– more specifically, to the South Rim, which was the only part open during this season. The last time Ryan and I had been here, we were on a family vacation back in the early 2000s. I know I didn’t appreciate the immensity of it then…but seeing it now, over 15 years later, I was blown away.

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Completely freezing. Completely worth it.
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Such an incredible place
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I need longer arms for this

Then we went on to Sedona, and ended up hiking Cathedral Rock on a whim. It wasn’t for the faint of heart- a rocky, steep cliffside. My five-year-old niece kept going, all the way to the top, beyond any of our expectations! She was a little warrior on the trail, and I loved sharing this moment with her at the top:

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Girl Power!
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Just a little beyond the end of the trail…

While we were there we saw the Chapel of the Holy Cross, the Sedona overlook, Airport Mesa, Three Sisters, and some of the adorable shops in town as we sipped hot chocolate. We only had a couple hours here, and hiking took the most time. I would love to go back for more hiking- Devil’s Bridge and more.

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Family photo with Cathedral Rock in the background

Night four we spent back in Flagstaff. It was great to have that AirBnb for two nights in a row and have a “home base” that wasn’t the inside of a vehicle. Already, it almost felt like we had been LIVING on the road and yet at the same time, just started the trip. All we had left was the four hour drive between here and Vegas…

And just like that, it was over. Friday early afternooon, we pulled into the driveway of their new home and began the process of unpacking!

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So what has happened since?

I can’t wait to share those next adventures with you—

Sending love,

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My Top 10 Traveling Items

Though it feels weird to post this in a time when hardly any of us are traveling, I’ve been asked this question quite a few times, and I’m hoping this will be useful to other female travelers.

*Keep in mind I’m a very low maintenance traveler. I don’t bring hair products or styling tools, and haven’t found neck pillows or eye masks to be necessary. That’s just my personal preference. Also, things like your passport, visas, money, phone, camera, etc. go without saying.*

Without further ado, here are some of the things I always bring with me on my trips:

1. A reusable water bottle

This is a must. I’ve definitely been guilty of buying a bottle of water right after getting through security before– don’t be like me.

Here’s what I use:

Not even just reusable, this water bottle is also collapsible. This is compact, and will save you (and the environment!) lots in the long run.

2. Teva sandals

I wear these constantly. They are so comfortable for walking cobblestone streets and yes– sturdy enough that I often hike in them, too!

I typically opt for the black, which matches with everything.

3. Portable charger

This shouldn’t come as a surprise- we need to stay connected on the go.

The power bank I have (shown above) has been a lifesaver in many situations where I couldn’t get to a power source. Make sure to charge ahead of time.

4. Black leggings

Go ahead and roll your eyes, but leggings are: A. stretchy and comfortable B. suitable for most weather C. easy to pack and D. again, black goes with everything, and you can easily dress it up.

I love these ones because they are high waisted, lightweight, and even come with a pocket! (Ask any female, they will tell you how exciting it is to have pockets in clothing.)

5. Packing cubes

Because organization is important, and so is saving all your precious carry-on space (and your sanity when you’re trying to find the stuff you’ve packed). These come in all sizes and colors.

I just got these ones last year for Christmas and am obsessed with the teal!

6. Lightweight Jacket

Your girl gets super chilled, super fast. Layers are always key, and even in temperate weather, you never know how fast it could turn.

I love this one, (with a hood!) perfect for walking around European cities in the fall:

And typically use this (waterproof!) one for more outdoor adventures:

* Even for warmer climates, don’t forget a shawl or scarf, especially in countries that require modest covering (i.e. entering temples in Thailand).

7. Daypack

It’s important to have some kind of smaller luggage for hiking, day trips, or any type of adventure you may find yourself on.

Gregory is one of my favorite brands, but this Osprey one is great as well.

8. While we’re on the subject of bags and backpacks, let’s talk purses.

This is an anti-theft cross body bag with tons of storage space, even for umbrellas or water bottles!

If that isn’t really your style, and you’re looking for something smaller and more sleek, I’d recommend this:

There’s also some pretty cool infinity scarves that have hidden travel pockets like these:

9. Adapter

This is obviously an absolute must if you are traveling internationally where plugins are different. Try to aim for one that has extra USB ports, so you can maximize charging time with minimal space.

Here is what I use:

Honestly, it doesn’t hurt to have two!

10. Personal safety alarms

As a solo female traveler, there are (unfortunately) extra precautions that are necessary to take. However, that shouldn’t hold you back from your dream of traveling. Here are some items that may help your peace of mind:

These loud alarms have LED lights and come in packs- great for women, kids, or elders- so there’s one for everyone in your family.

Pepper spray (above) and key whistles (below).

What’s great is that these come in multiples as well.

(If you’re forgetful or lose things like me, this will certainly come in handy.)

..And for bonus #11: A mask!!!

Be sure to follow all COVID-19 guidelines and be aware of the measures and rules in place before you get to your destinaton.

This list can go on and on, but I’ll stop there.

I’m forever interested in helpful gadgets, space-savers, and all things cute, practical, and safe to take on my trips. What’s something you always take with you? Let me know in the comments!

Stay safe,

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*Disclosure: Please note that some of the links listed above are affiliate links. This is to no extra cost to you- as an Amazon affiliate I may earn a commission from qualifying purchases.*

Michigan’s Finest

From Saugatuck Dunes and windmills in Holland to sandboarding to Sleeping Bear to homemade cherry pie to Traverse City and drop-off cliffs and teal waters to the best fudge I’ve ever tasted on Mackinac Island to weird birds and crystal clear springs to drinking blueberries to sunsets and rainstorms and Pictured Rocks cruises to my first pasty to Ann Arbor and tiny surprises to all the waterfalls chased and miles driven home- here’s some of Michigan’s finest with my family.

Day One:

Drove to the Saugatuck Sand Dunes & took a buggy ride, watched the most gorgeous sunset over the water, visited Mt. Baldhead Park

Day Two:

Visited the cute town of Holland & Windmill Island Gardens (next best thing if you can’t visit the Netherlands!), Ottawa Beach, spotted Big Red Lighthouse against some dark blue skies, hit up Tunnel Park, went sandboarding at Silver Lake Sand Dunes, Inspiration Point, Sleeping Bear Dunes State Park

Day Three:

Stopped through Traverse City and had some cherry pie, drove to Old Mission Peninsula to see the Old Mission Point Park & Lighthouse, admired the blue hues of Torch Lake, and cruised through the scenic Tunnel of Trees

Day Four:

Stayed the night in Mackinaw City, caught an early morning ferry to Mackinac Island to awe over Arch Rock, indulge in the best fudge, and Sanders hot fudge cream puff. This is a car-free island, so no motorized vehicles, and a lot of horse drawn carriages. Simply beautiful.


Day Four/Five:

Left the city for Kitch-iti-Kipi, Manistique. The most beautiful teal water, and watching the fish swim below your feet!

Day Five:

One of our bucketlist items: Pictured Rocks National Landshore. Still stunned this place is real. We finished our outing just as the rain started falling. Obviously one of the highlights of our trip!

Day Six:

Tahquamenon Falls State Park (nicknamed “Root Beer Falls” for a good reason!), and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

Day Seven:

We started our venture back home. Stopped at the Cross in the Woods, Stepping Stone Falls, Ann Arbor & Graffiti Alley, enjoyed some blueberry beer to toast to a wonderful trip!

If you live in the beautiful state of Michigan, how lucky you are! It was so good to get out and explore this beautiful state and make memories with my family after months of being cooped up. I feel very grateful to experience such natural beauty & calm my restless soul for a bit.

xoxo,

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Exploring Closer to Home

So now that we’re all experts at navigating the path between the refrigerator and the couch, what about some outside trails?

I recently came back to be with my parents in rural Pennsylvania, and there’s not much to do here in our small town. (Not that I’m out painting the town, anyway. I’m staying home!) However, I was getting restless for new scenery, and a lot of the local parks/attractions I’d already been to. That is, except for Nelson Ledges Quarry Park in Ohio.

We opted to spend a weekend out in nature, and who knew Ohio was keeping this gem hidden? I loved climbing over these giant rocks, squeezing myself between crevices, hiking all the paths to waterfalls.

Two weekends later, we woke up on a Sunday and decided to go for a drive. My mom had heard about Freedom Falls in Pennsylvania, and we ended up there. We parked on the dirt road and walked down to the falls, where there as only one other person there. I was amazed at how clear and crystal blue the water was. The gentleman that was there told us the falls weren’t as impressive as they usually are due to the lack of rain we’ve had this year, but I was still blown away by this little teal paradise in the middle of nowhere. We hiked down the river to the furnace and the tunnel, taking some nearby trails. Honestly, it was awesome.

There were also many covered bridges along the way:

Where have you explored lately? Any secret spots that are a close drive from northeast PA? Let me know- I’d love to hear!

                                                          Until then, stay home & stay healthy,

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The Getaway

By now, I’m sure most of you have seen the picturesque, tiny Getaway cabins on Instagram or Facebook. Ads for them are nearly everywhere, and their large bedside windows make for incredible photoshoots, I must admit.

My friend Candice and I had been interested in renting one, and we finally found a weekend in September that worked with both of our crazy schedules.

We drove to Lisbon, OH and checked out what it was all about. When we first entered the cabin, there was a cute note left on the table inside, complimentary s’mores, and a small guidebook. A cute personal touch!

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Here was our cabin, “Clyde” and the stretch of open field next to the long drive down to it:

It was equipped with every basic supply we needed- minus food. See here for the entire list of items. On our last night, we enjoyed some homemade wine and more s’mores.

On Saturday, we drove along Little Beaver Creek and then stumbled upon the (very odd, tbh) Leetonia Beehive Coke Ovens Park:

And on Sunday, we hit the Johnny Appleseed Festival in Lisbon, where I enjoyed the BEST apple dumpling of my entire 29 years:

We also went paddleboarding at Lake Milton State Park, dined at The Courthouse Inn & Restaurant/Love Cafe (an absolute must if you’re in town!), saw an amazing sunset, and visited the World’s Largest Teapot on the way back to Pittsburgh.

I have never felt so Instagram-ish in my life. I leave you with two of my favorite shots:

Our only disappointment with this experience is that the cabins aren’t as remote as they appear to be- you’re actually among a group of other cabins, in a campground-like setting. Still, it’s worth the experience. Have you tried it?

Until the next getaway,

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Sweet St. Louis

Wow, y’all. I believe this is now my SIXTH Sigma Tau Delta International English Convention- my fourth as an alumna. The first two were in Pittsburgh, PA and New Orleans, LA during my undergraduate years. Then came Minneapolis, MN, Louisville, KY, and Cincinnati, OH. And now, St. Louis, MO!

I’ll never forget when I was in the Uber, heading from the airport to my hotel, when I caught my first glimpse of the Gateway Arch.

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I stayed at a hotel right in downtown, where I could see it from my window. I also checked out Busch Stadium, Forest Park, the Cathedral Basilica, and Citygarden Sculpture Park. There was plenty more to see, but as usual, I was only in the city for a couple days. I presented my poetry collection and made a couple new friends, and tried the best BBQ ever.

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I also visited the Botanical Gardens, shown here.

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As you can see from my photos, one of my favorite things about this city was the incredible street art and murals!

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These images were taken on a rainy walk through the Mural Mile.

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Such wonderful memories here in sweet St. Louis!

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Next year, the convention will be held in Las Vegas– so make sure to stay tuned to find out if I get accepted and what adventures await, if so!

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H-Town Vicious

Why yes, I’m referring to the Beyoncé song, “Bow Down.” And speaking of Queen B, I visited her hometown this year, and am here to tell you it’s irreplaceable. So get in formation, ladies & gentleman–

Remember when I went to Belize and met these amazing friends, and then went to Mexico with them a couple months later, and then again to Cuba? I had yet to actually hang out with them in the States, since I live in Pennsylvania and they live in Texas. However, that changed when I visited for a weekend, for my first time at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo!  (I did not realize this was a thing. And it’s a HUGE thing!)

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We actually had a weekend full of concerts, as well. Cardi B at the Rodeo, and then Trampled by Turtles the next night at the White Oak Music Hall.

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Also- can’t forget the CRAWFISH! This was a first for me, and I was slightly terrified at first but then loved how messy and delicious this experience was! We also saw The Orange Show and Smither Park, two gorgeous installations of art.

 

 

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Most of our time was spent in between the Heights and downtown, so there wasn’t a lot of actual area covered, but we really packed so much into this three day weekend and I had such an absolute blast brunchin’ with these babes after Barbarella’s!

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What’s better than fried butter and friendship?!

Fried butter, frito pies, chicken and waffles, tamales, you name it! The food scene is on fire in this city! As is the weather, the nightlife, and the people. Can’t wait to visit again.

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Autumn Readings

As quick as the leaves changed in the fall, my season of readings for the last part of 2018 has come to a close.
I’ve kept busy the past couple months:

Carlow University

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Red Dog Reading Series

Black Cat Market

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Honey Bee Review Reading

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Full Pint Wild Side Pub

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Hell’s Lid Reading Series

 

And one more upcoming reading at the Millvale Community Library

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Girls Write Pittsburgh Winter Reading Party

 

Here’s wishing you the happiest of holidays with your loved ones!

 

Until next time,

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An Island of Strength: Puerto Rico Prospers

There will always be beauty in tragedy, this I’ve come to know.

Surely you’ve heard about it in the news over the past year. Due to the absolute devastation Hurricane Maria brought the island of Puerto Rico, the battered island is still healing but moving forward. El Yunque, its beloved rainforest, still looks beautiful but will take nearly decades to truly recover. With the changes, new species of flora and fauna will appear.

In the short time I was here, it was difficult to imagine what it looked like before- all around me it was still so lush, green, and thriving. Colorful streets and smiling people. The pride that beats down like the hot sun. This is what I will take with me from this place- the bounce back. The miracle of life and the sense of love and hope it brings. The strength of a whole community overcoming the odds together. The ability to not only survive, but to prosper.

Here is an insight to my time there:

Walking around the colorful Condado, glimpsing the sunrise at Ocean Beach and catching the sunset at Atlantic Beach.

My new favorite dish- Mofongo!

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Heart of Old San Juan

El Yunque National Forest

What a sweet way to bring in 28 years.

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                                              Keep living. Keep overcoming. Keep thriving.

                                                                                                                     Love always,

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The Maine Attraction

Ever since I took that trip with my mom to Punta Cana, I’ve been asking her to travel with me again.  Though I already have a great relationship with my parents, I especially value our time together as we all get older. To my surprise, she finally said yes! (Maybe because this was a domestic trip, for once? Haha.)

We flew into Portland on Thursday evening. She had never seen whales in real life and wanted to see them, so we opted for a cruise that next day. Of course, we had to get our first fresh lobster roll beforehand!

 

We got lucky and saw three fin whale, and a couple harbor seals! And, of course, the famous Portland Head Lighthouse.

 

Walking around Portland/Old Port: Portland Observatory, Eastern Promenade, East End Beach, Fish Point, Fort Allen Park, Lincoln Park, Wadsworth-Longfellow House, Bug Point, etc.

Our favorite spots to eat included: DiMillo’s on the water, Becky’s Diner, Portland Lobster Company, The Holy Donut, Gilbert’s Chowder House, and so many more.

The next day, we rented a car and drove to Acadia National Park.

Such a beautiful day! Highlights included: Eagle Lake, Sand Beach, Cadillac Mountain, Thunder Hole, among others.

We took a ferry to one of the many islands surrounding Portland the next day. We opted for Peaks Island and enjoyed blueberry soda while soaking up some rays. We didn’t know that wild blueberries grow naturally here- 44,000 acres, to be exact.

 

Coastal Maine is surely a sight for sore eyes, and there’s no other person I’d rather soak in that beauty with then my incredible mother. I know we’ll both cherish this time together in years to come.

 

Until next time,

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