Monday, August 30, 2010

Camping and Traveling With A Tent vs. Trailer And A Six Dollar Upgrade in Iowa

Two years ago, I set out across the country with my teardrop trailer, "trailie."  The past two years I have been traveling with my tent.  I receive questions asking which is better to travel with, a tent or a trailer.  As with everything, it's all about how you prefer to travel and what comfort level you are able to tolerate.

For me, I find it much easier to travel longer distances in a tent and I am one that doesn't get the "planner of the year" award. For that fact, a tent is much more versatile.  I can change direction at any time without reservations since some campsites will more likely take a solo camper with a tent as opposed to a trailer. I can make a uturn in the middle of the road if I see something I want to take a photograph of, and it takes the same amount of time to set up my tent as it does my trailer at a site.

Of course, I don't get all of the luxuries that a trailer brings, but in some cases...I can "upgrade" to a trailer site and get a better view.  Case in point...a week or so ago I camped in Iowa by taking an exit that I assumed would have camping facilities since there was a lake.  Both my map and handy camping application on my iphone told me otherwise, but I thought I would give it a try anyway.

Lucky for Max and I, there was a wonderful campground with plenty of availability.  When I checked in, I told the woman at the gate that I was camping in my tent and she immediately gave me directions to the "camping hill."  I took a swing by the hill to find an open field of grass with a few pegs in the ground marking "spaces" for people to set up their tent.  Each site was a hike from the parking lot and there were already a few families camped out by their rented plots of land.  They talked to each other as if they were at each end of a football field and music blaring to match.  Kids were running around all over the place and in the corner of the open field there was a solo man in a chair, staring at Max and I walking around to find a spot.

I went back to the station and asked if there were any other sites for the night.  At that point, she told me that I could select any site I wanted but would have to pay the full trailer price.  It was $12 for the "open field, good luck being rested" plot of land or a quiet spot on the lake for a mere $6 more.  It wasn't hard for me to make up my mind.  I chose the upgrade!  Max and I decided to live large for the night with our lake front property rental!

I thought about writing down the top reasons to camp with a tent or trailer, but here might be a better way to make a decision.  If you agree with most of the five qualities in either of these two categories, your decision has been made.

I should travel with a tent:
You don't mind sleeping an inch from the ground
You like hearing the noises of nature (and people) all night and all day
You like to live on the edge and sleep just a thin barrier away from people and wildlife
You like to save money in gas
You don't mind if it's too cold or too hot

I should travel with a trailer or RV
You want a comfortable even temperature and a secure shell to sleep in
You don't mind the cost of gas
You want the comforts of home
You want privacy and the option to hide from the world
You don't mind that you aren't allowed on all roads

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Musings With Amy In Columbus, Ohio

Amy and I have been online friends for a few years now.  I am not sure how we stumbled upon each other, but she sure does bring a smile to my face.  She writes a very witty blog under the title, "Amy Musings" that talks about her life and stories of her everyday adventures.

She has always been kind to me so I thought I would stop by to meet her in person for the first time.  She's always commented on the photos I take of Max so I think she may have been a little bit more excited to meet Max.

As soon as I arrived, it was as if I went to visit a pal I haven't seen in a long time.  She just moved into a new house so she gave us the grand tour over a cup of tea.  Max had a great time playing with her dog, Maggie and I felt right at home listening to her stories and meeting her husband and children.  We took the dogs for a long walk around the neighborhood and saw several deer on the lawn of a house that almost looked as if they had the popular lawn ornaments that I've seen across the state.  At the house, Max enjoyed watching her pet gerbils and perhaps mistook them for lunch.  He really didn't know what do make of them.  I think he wanted to be friends.

I am so glad I came to visit.  We headed off to an amazing breakfast place in the morning and then we were on our way.  It was a short visit, but one I won't forget.  Thank you for having us, Amy! You can become a fan of her blog on facebook by clicking HERE.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Adventures In Illinois

After I participated in the bike ride, there was much more fun to be had on my visit in Illinois.  I went to a local farmers market, watched the band "the pimps" perform, went to a concert on the grass at a winery and I photographed a senior portrait photo shoot with my friend Adriane's son, Jake.

I do appreciate it when my friends don't mind me showing up at the last minute to crash their plans and tag along for the adventure.  I tend to plan mostly day by day so I don't really know where I will end up and where I will be at any given time.  Lucky for me (not sure about Adriane), it was a weekend full of activities.

I had a great time doing a photo shoot with Jake. He chose the place to go which is a good thing since I had no idea where I was.  He plays the classical cello and wanted to include that in his shoot since it shows a part of who he is.  When I photograph people, I give very little direction on what I want them to do so they can look as natural as possible.  Being in front of a camera is a very vulnerable place to be for some people.  Jake didn't mind it at all and he wasn't concerned about how it looked or where he stood.  He was easy and went with the flow.  We didn't stay out for long as the clouds were looming in the distance.  Once we were finished, we walked along the highway back to the car.  He held his cello and I was following him with my camera in tow.  We must have looked like we needed help or at least looked like we were lost since a bus came by and stopped in the middle of the street to open the door and asked us if we needed a ride. We graciously declined.

The following day, we drove out to a local winery to enjoy a picnic and concert on the grass.  It turned out to be a beautiful evening and there were surprisingly about a thousand people who decided to do the same thing on the grass.  I wandered around with my camera to snap photographs of some of the activities that evening.

After a whirlwind of weekend fun, it was time to leave and head on our way.  Thank you for the slice of Bloomington, Illinois Adriane!  Max and I look forward to our next visit!

To see more of my portraits from the road, click HERE.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Photographs Published In Airstream Life Magazine Fall 2010 Issue

I wanted to take a pause on my travel blog adventures to mention what a thrill and honor it is to have a few of my photographs printed in the newest issue of Airstream Life magazine!

As you might have guessed, I love Airstreams.  I joined the Silver Sisters at a rally back in March and took a few photographs of the ladies having a great time together at lake San Antonio, California.  I wrote to Airstream about this wonderful group of women and their "unofficial" club and now they get to share their story with all of the readers of Airstream life in an article about the Silver Sisters written by Becky Blaton. I was even able to get in the magazine with a strategic timed group photograph. I was just keeping Holly (the yellow lab) company while we huddled together in the below normal, extremely cold temperatures in California last March.

I am thankful to the editor of Airstream Life, Rich Luhr for the opportunity to be the official photographer the first annual Alumapalooza event held in Jackson Center, Ohio last June and for publishing a few of those photographs in the newest issue of the magazine (to view current issue online click HERE).  It was a wonderful event to be a part of and I enjoyed meeting and getting to know all of the proud Airstream owners!  Some of whom I keep in touch with and will get the chance to visit with on the road...stay tuned!  Don't miss out on next year's Alumapalooza event!  You can click on their official event page to see what it's all about and register HERE.

If you want to get a flavor of what happened last June, I put together a little slide show of my photographs from the event that you can view HERE . I look forward to more Airstream adventures and owning my very own Airstream trailer someday.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Taking My Cruiser, "Rusty" For A Spin In Illinois

Don't get me wrong, I don't just drive around the country with my rusted cruiser bungee corded to the back of my car just to make my ride look stylish, sometimes I actually get on it and take it for a ride.  More specifically, two times I have taken it off for a spin.

Today was one of those days.

I drove to Illionis to visit my friend, Adrianne.  I am usually last minute on planning things so I told her not to worry about her plans and that I would tag along and do whatever she already had plans to do.  On this particular day, it was the weekly meeting of the Bloomington Women's cycling club for their evening ride.  I warned Adrianne that I only had a cruiser, flip flops, no helmet, no fancy bicycle clothes and only one speed for the ride.  She assured me that this was a "fun ride" for all levels.

When I arrived at the shop, I met the ladies and some looked at me and said, "awww, you're not going to join us this evening?" (as I wore flip flops and walking shorts). When I pointed to my cruiser they looked at it and paused to think of the correct words instead of the, "are you kidding me" that most likely went through their head.  I even joked that I found it on the corner with a "Free" sign attached to it and one woman nodded her head and said, "oh, that makes sense. "

I didn't mind.  I just wanted to go along for the ride and take pictures along the way.  It was a fun ride until I couldn't see the group anymore.  Every now and then someone would fall behind so I could keep tabs on the direction we were headed.  As long as I knew the direction we were going, I was fine.  I just had my camera phone in hand the entire way to snap these photographs as I was riding along.  I had a good time seeing the back roads of Illinios and snapping pics as I passed by.

The ride ended with a welcomed snack assortment and social hour at the Bloomington Bicycle shop.  I am so glad I was able to join these wonderful ladies on their weekly ride.  If you live in the area, ride a bike (anything you have will do) and are a woman, this is a great social group to join!

I can't wait to see what else the weekend has in store in Bloomington, Illinois!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Road Trip Scavenger Hunt - Your Help Needed

The other day I was arranging things in my car when I noticed a group of young runners taking a jog down the street.  I thought to myself, "ah, look at them enjoying the day...what a bunch of nice kids."  I turned back to my car and noticed in the corner of my eye that they didn't continue down the street but turned and started jogging my way.  I immediately thought to myself, "uh oh, they better not ask for directions because I have no idea where I am."

One of the young men approached me as the others stayed back.  He looked at me and said, "would you mind arm wrestling me for a scavenger hunt we are completing."  "Yes, of course!" I said.  As I was arm wrestling him (I didn't know it was just the "posing" of arm wrestling he wanted) he said, "oh boy, you are actually doing it."

Once that was over, I took their group photograph and they went on their way, jogging with not an ounce of fat on their bodies and their entire life ahead of them.  Sigh.... oh yeah, what was I saying?

So, what a fun idea a scavenger hunt would be!  I decided at that moment that I wanted to do one too!  I enlisted the help of some facebook friends and would love to know what YOUR challenges are!  I am going to choose the top 10 ideas and complete each one on this trip and post photographs along the way of completing these challenges.  If I choose your challenge, I will also mention your name (if you would like).

To get your creative juices started, here are some ideas thus far...

Photograph with a small town Mayor
A cartwheel next to a state line sign
A photograph of a drag queen smoking a cigarette
A picture of a 4 corners crossroads from all directions
A picture with a high school team mascot
A Photo of a fortune teller
A photo of me in a roller derby outfit
Photographs of a dragon tattoo, on top of a ferris wheel, a family of triplets
A photo of someone doing something really challenging right before they do it
Wearing a hard hat, pumping gas for a stranger, playing leap frog, driving a truck
A pic of my tent next to a round haybale, pic of a bride and groom with max

What is YOUR challenge?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Meeting Halfway - Visiting Kristiana Spaulding And Osa On The Road In South Dakota

It's always nice to have another traveling friend on the road the same time you are on the road, especially when you cross paths on the way.  I was lucky enough to be able to coordinate a visit with Kristiana on her way heading West, while I am currently headed East.

We decided to meet in Sioux Falls, South Dakota at their beautiful Motel 6.  She didn't have one of her 5 Airstream trailers with her and was traveling without camping equipment so it was a nice break for Max and I to stay in a luxurious hotel (for us anyway).

I haven't seen her since Alumnapalooza so we had a lot of catching up to do.  It was a first time visit with Max and her dog, Osa and they did so well together!  Kristiana and I have become close friends ever since I decided to meet up with the Silver Sisters last March.  The silver sisters are a group of women that meet twice a year camping with their Airstream, or in my silver teardrop trailer.  It's a weekend of ditching the husband and kids (if you have them) to bond with other women with a common love for Airstreams or as the sisters say, "all things shiny."

If you are a woman, in the Southwest area and have a silver trailer, you should join the unofficial group! They have meet ups on the Air Forums and you can see what they are up to by clicking HERE.  It's a confusing site so don't be upset if you don't get it right away. Their next gathering is in September.

Anyway, I am so happy that I was able to meet up with Kristiana on my travels.  The last two photographs are from Alumnapalooza when I did a photo shoot with her. She designs beautiful jewelry (I wear my bird necklace every day on this journey) that you can purchase HERE.

Max and I are refreshed from our visit and on the road again headed East...

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Badlands

I've driven by this National Park the last few years on the road and this time I decided to stop for a night.  I am so glad I did.  Even though it's off of  boring highway 90, it's like you stumbled upon a different world.  When I first looked at the rock formations, it reminded me of those glass jars you could buy at tourist shops with layers of pastel colored sand in them.  Or, you might have made those yourself at some point to decorate your stylish room.

The mountains and rock formations are beautiful.  Max and I set up camp at a lovely site that gave us plenty of room to stretch out.  The weather was perfect, scenery was beautiful.  We even slept with the "windows" on the tent open in order to see the sunrise.  It didn't disappoint.

This site is one of the more relaxing and beautiful sights I've been to so far.  Voices in this small campsite carry and lucky for us, most campers realized that and kept it down.  If you visit, know that the sites don't have hook ups and there aren't fires allowed.  What they do have is a beautiful view and a sky that seems to go on for miles.

If you are traveling cross country and need a break from the highway, this is the best you can ask for in the middle of South Dakota.

I am glad I took the time to take a break off of the highway to see this beautiful park.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Yellowstone National Park

I love Yellowstone.  It's my favorite National Park out of all of our wonderful parks across the USA.  There is something about this park that I love.  It could be the wildlife or the breath taking views at every corner.  This year, I entered the park from the West Entrance and that completes all four corners for me.  I have been at all entrances to the park and have been on every road the past three years.

I think the feeling I have when I am at the park is the same as playing the lottery.  When you get a ticket, you think about winning and everything you will do with the money if you win.  The excitement of being a winner and your number being chosen that it's almost worth the dollar you spend on the piece of paper to get those feelings.  The same holds true at the park, except the winning lottery ticket is seeing wildlife.  If you are lucky enough to see a bear, elk, buffalo, coyote or the other numerous wildlife at the park, you are a winner!  As I drive down the road, I always imaging something darting out or where the next pull out is so I can stop for a photograph.

This visit didn't disappoint.  I was lucky enough to see all of those animals (except a bear) inside of the park and even close enough to get some photographs.  Sure the scenery is beautiful but I was more focused on the buffalo.

When I arrived at the park, I was greeted with rain that turned into hail at one point.  It wasn't the best in camping situations but Max and I made due and snugged up in the sleeping bag together in 28 degree temperatures.  The following day was clear and we drove around the park to play the "are you going to see a wild animal today" lottery.  We won.

If you haven't been to Yellowstone, it's a must.  I have visited this park each year for the past three years and each time is breathtaking.  The only downfall is the crowds.  That is one thing to expect when you go visit in the summer.  The one tip I have about not being in the middle of massive amounts of people is to get up early and see the sights when everyone is still asleep.  You will be alone with the animals and the beauty.  At least for a little while.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Visit With Lauren Grabelle in Bigfork, Montana

Sometimes when you sit back and remember how you met someone in your life it was by chance encounter, a different turn, a mutual friend, a new job, etc.  I am thinking on how exactly I started talking to Lauren and it all started last year.

A virtual friend, Jane O' Hara's artwork was in a show last September and I went to the link to look at the other artists on the site.  I clicked on Lauren's website and instantly fell in love with her "Natural Boundaries" portfolio.  Not only that, there were and are so many images that I am drawn to.

I wrote to her to tell her just that.  She checked out my blog and what I was doing (driving around the country with my dog) and she identified with some things I wrote about on my travels.  We started talking and ended up having a lot in common.  After writing for almost a year here and there, I finally met her in her home/studio in Bigfork, Montana and Max and I spent some time with her and her dog, Sugar.

We had a nice slice of life in Montana going for walks, eating at the local establishments, listening to live music, visiting a farm house and enjoying her "yappy hour."

I had a great time in Montana.  I can see why Lauren chose to make Bigfork her home.  It is an amazing place and I look forward to returning again.  A big thank you to Lauren and Sugar!  If you are on facebook, you can be her fan by clicking HERE.

She is a blogger too and wrote a nice piece on our visit with her.  You can view that by clicking HERE.


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