Sunday, January 29, 2012


I’ll admit that I haven’t spent much time in Arkansas.  A few friends and I were driving from South Carolina to Oklahoma in 2000 for a conference and we spent the night in Little Rock.  We had a delicious meal of catfish and then we continued through the Ozark Mountains onto Oklahoma.  That being said, I’ve done some research into what I might do if I ever went back to Arkansas.

We all like a good deal, and Arkansas has helped us out in more ways than one.  First, they gave us Wal-Mart!  You can still go and visit the 1st one in Bentonville.  There is a museum at the old location of Walton’s 5 and dime store. http://walmartstores.com/AboutUs/287.aspx  Wal-Mart has gone from Walton’s 5 and dime store in 1962 to having 2.1 million employees in more than 9,884 locations around the world today!

The state tourism website provides a list of 101 FREE things to do in Arkansas - http://www.arkansas.com/things-to-do/101things/ .  Two places on this list that I’d like to go visit are the Cedar Falls at the Petit Jean State Park in Morrilton - http://www.petitjeanstatepark.com/, and the Old Mill in North Little Rock - http://www.northlittlerock.org/entries.aspx?id=233&section=1&subsection=19&filter1=&filter2=&filter3=.  These areas just look amazing!  Cedar Falls is one of many beautiful places in that state park and the Old Mill is featured in the opening of Gone With The Wind.  Be sure to check out its old fashioned country store too.

Photo found of the Old Mill online
The list also recommends checking out the Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs - http://thorncrown.com/.  It has so much glass!  I think it would be a cool place to praise and worship God.  There is a similar church in Nebraska that I visited and will talk about in another post. 
Photo found online
Another place in Eureka Springs that has really interested me is the Great Passion Play http://www.greatpassionplay.org/.  It’s been there over 40 years and has a top of the mountain gospel music dinner theater, interactive living Bible tour, and a Bible museum exhibit. The play is America’s #1 most attended outdoor drama.  For more information on the town of Eureka Springs located in the Ozark Mountains visit - http://eurekasprings.org/.

Have you ever dreamed of going to Paris?  You can always check out Mount Magazine State Park in Paris, Arkansas - http://www.mountmagazinestatepark.com/.  It has a breathtaking view of the mountains and it’s one of the tallest places in the state.  It would make a perfect place to go “leaf peeping” in the fall. 
Photo found online
For more leaf peeping, you should drive on the Talimena National Scenic Byway http://talimenascenicdrive.com/.

When visiting Little Rock, you should first visit the state capitol building - http://www.sos.arkansas.gov/stateCapitolInfo/Pages/default.aspx.  Most state capitals (if not all) will allow you to tour the capitol building.  Arkansas provides guided and audio tours.  Be sure to check out the various monuments on the capitol grounds as well.  Also, Little Rock has a Peabody hotel just like the one I’ve visited in Memphis, TN.  Peabody hotels have a duck parade in the morning and afternoon as the ducks go from their penthouse room to the water fountain in the lobby and back.  Its fun to see at least once in your life - http://www.peabodylittlerock.com/peabody-ducks/.  Lastly, no matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican, you should visit the Clinton Presidential Center and Park.  It has the largest collection of presidential documentation and artifacts in US history.  http://clintonlibrary.gov/  You can also see what the oval office looked like when Bill Clinton was president.

Arkansas is home to some odd things as well.  Emerson hosts the annual Purple Hull Pea Festival / World Championship Rotary Tiller Race every April - http://www.purplehull.com//.  I’d like to see what a purple hull pea tastes like, but a rotary tiller race and the world championship at that!?  Hmm.  Well, that sure is different! 
Photo off of their website

Next, an entrepreneur in the town of Lead Hill is building a theme park called the Ozark Medieval Fortress - http://ozarkmedievalfortress.com/en-us/.  The castle is in the making and won’t be done till 2030, but you can visit it now and they have various activities.  STRANGE!  Lastly, you can go to a town in Arkansas and be in Texas (it’s a 2 for 1 deal).  This town is Texarkana - it’s a city in Texas and in Arkansas.  Texarkana has the only US post office that is in two states at once!  http://www.texarkana.org/Texarkana_USA/

These are just a few of the things I’d like to do in Arkansas if I go back; it’s not a complete list.  If you know of anywhere else in Arkansas we should check out, please leave a comment below.  See you next week when we explore what’s just round the corner in California.

**Pictures were found online**

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Being an east coast girl, I’m not used to such “young” states like Arizona who will celebrate 100 years of statehood this year http://www.az100years.org/.  Wow!

I visited Arizona during a road trip with my friends Lori and Lauren in May 2009.  We had a blast visiting Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado (in that order) over the course of a long weekend.

We crossed into Arizona from Nevada on the Hoover Dam - http://www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam/.  It is in the middle of nowhere, but there were so many cars.  They have alleviated congestion by building a bridge across the dam area that was being built when we were there.  It’s really cool to see the marvel of this man-made wonder in person.

View from on top of the Hoover Dam
New Bridge - looks a little scary
From Hoover Dam, we drove to the Grand Canyon.  It was raining, foggy, and cold in MAY!  After spending the previous day in Vegas in a tank top and some capris, I was so surprised that I was freezing at the Grand Canyon - http://www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm.  Because of the rain and fog, we couldn’t see much.  We drove to the various viewpoints hoping for better site seeing, but, none of them were as clear as the pictures I’ve seen on the internet.

Here are two that my friend, Chris, took (much better day and photos):

There is so much to do in the Grand Canyon that you can spend 24 hrs there like we did, or a week.  You can take rafting trips or mule trips down into the canyon.  We only viewed the south rim; however there is the north rim as well.  One major piece of advice is to research and research early because there is so much to do but depending on the time of year, things book up fast.  You’ll need to decide what time of year you want to go, how much time you want to spend there, and how you’ll get to the canyon area, etc.

To spend the night, you either have to stay in a park lodge or about an hour away in the nearest town.  We chose to stay at the Yavapai Lodge in the park- http://www.grandcanyonlodges.com/lodging-413.html.  It’s one of the cheaper ones in the park.  If you don’t mind spending more, you can stay at a lodge with a view of the canyon.

That night for dinner, we weren’t really interested in the limited options in the park.  Luckily, Lauren’s dad had been to this area and told us about the Cameron Trading Post outside of the park about 45 minutes away from where we were staying.  http://www.camerontradingpost.com/.  Talk about AMAZING FOOD!!  You got to try their fried bread.  We went back the next morning for breakfast!!  As the name implied it was a trading post, so we were able to buy some souvenirs there in the general store area. Also, they have a great view out back.

I’d like to note that when you see a gas station in Arizona, you should fill up the tank and go to the bathroom.  They were few and far between.  Thankfully, we heeded that lesson from others and got gas so we were never stranded.

While at the Grand Canyon, I would have loved to have checked out the Havasupai Tribe’s waterfalls - http://www.havasupaitribe.com/waterfalls.html.  It’s right outside of the Grand Canyon and they are beautiful!  It takes a 10 mile effort to get there though.  There wasn’t enough time and I wasn’t physically fit enough to go.  Maybe next time.

From the Grand Canyon we headed to the Four Corners - http://www.navajonationparks.org/htm/fourcorners.htm.  You can touch Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado all at the same time.  But, it’s IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE.  A few Native Americans had shops around where you could pick up some souvenirs but be sure to have cash on hand.  There wasn’t a gas station there (and not one nearby), but they did have port-a-potties if my memory serves me well. 

Photo taken of us by a nice military guy we met while we were there.
Lori and Lauren backbending into four states!
From there, it was onto Albuquerque, New Mexico.

I would have liked to have checked out the big cities of Tucson, Flagstaff, and Sedona if we had time on this trip.  One of my friends got engaged at the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona about 5 years ago - https://www.chapeloftheholycross.com/store/ .  Ever since I saw her pictures I have wanted to visit that area some day.  It’s so beautiful!

Picture off of their website

If you’re looking for a road trip, Arizona has a piece of one of the oldest American road trips – Route 66 http://www.historic66.com/arizona/.  It’s a two lane road that takes you over 2,000 miles from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California.

In between the sites we saw in Arizona, it was just dessert, and rock formations but it was all so ah inspiring.  We didn’t take many interstates, if any.  Mostly we were going 75 mph on a two lane road with no one around.

These are just a few of the things I’ve done or I’d like to do in Arizona if I get back there; it’s not a complete list.  If you know of anywhere else in Arizona we should check out, please leave a comment below.  See you next week when we explore what’s just round the corner in Arkansas.

**Unless noted, all pictures came from Lori, Lauren, or myself from our trip to Arizona.**

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Alaska Cruise - Part II

Part II of the Alaska Cruise Tour was a land tour.

After landing in Seward, Alaska, you should take the shuttle into town.  It’s nothing special, but you can pick up a few remaining souvenirs.  Seward was mile 0 of the original 938 mile trip to Nome that later became the Iditarod Race.  After lunch back on the cruise ship, we boarded the bus to Anchorage.  The bus driver did stop a few times for us to stretch and take pictures. 

At this point, we noticed we were the youngest on the bus.  When they found out that we were in Alaska for my 30th birthday, they were pretty shocked at how old I was because they thought we were in college! YEAH! 

When you arrive, be sure to take a walk around town in Anchorage.  During our walk, we found a kiosk that was selling Reindeer dogs – dinner - yummy!  We also found a sign telling us how far we were from various towns around the world (3322 miles from home!). 

Because we were so far north, the sun never went down.  We had a dusk and a dawn, but never a dark.  During our land tour, there was 19 ½ hours of sunlight each day.  The hotel rooms had room darkening shades though so don’t worry about that.

The next morning, we were up and out early to get on the McKinley Explorer Rail for a train trip to Denali National Park.

The train car had glass all around so you had an amazing view of the beautiful scenery.

The best part of the train trip was seeing Mount McKinley which only 33% of the people that come to this area get to see!

The worst part of the train trip was the food service.  It was super slow and the food was fair.  They do have alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and some had Alaskan names like the one I had was called “Moose Kiss.”  Once we arrived at the McKinley Chalet, we walked around the resort area, got dinner, and saw yet another sign telling us how far we were from various towns around the world.

We started the next morning with the Natural History Tour of Denali.

Denali is HUGE so you won’t be able to conquer it in 1 day, but we got a nice taste of it and saw a few animals – a moose, a red fox, and some caribou. 

There are other tours that you can choose from that go further into Denali but they are much longer trips.  Many that went on those tours saw much more wildlife than we did.

At the end of the tour, we got to see the park’s sled dog camp.  Then, it was time to board the train again, this time bound for Fairbanks.  Once we got there, we toured the town.  It seemed almost deserted, but alas we saw yet another sign telling us how far we were from various towns around the world and within Alaska.

Our last day in Alaska started off with a cruise on a sternwheeler riverboat.  Four-time defending Iditarod champion, Lance Mackey, was waiting for our boat when we got back to the dock!  We got our picture with him, his sled, and 1 of his dogs. 

Then, we boarded the bus to the Gold Dredge No. 8 where we got a tour and panned for gold. 

Next, we got to pull over and touch a piece of the Alaskan pipeline. 
Then, we were off to North Pole, Alaska for some Christmas ornament shopping and to sit on Santa’s lap.

We arrived back at the hotel to say goodbye to our new friends before jumping on the airport shuttle for our 1 am flight home.  The end of an amazing trip!

You’ve got to go to Alaska!  After my first Alaska post this week, I actually heard from one of our friends that we met on the cruise, Chris from Belgium.  He's a facebook friend and he's been reading this blog.  He's a great photographer and offered some of his pictures for this blog.  Thanks Chris.  Here are just a few of the pics I I wanted to share.

Photo taken by Chris

The glacier was falling into the bay while we were there.  Photo by Chris.

He actually saw whales up close and a lot of them.  We didn't see them this well.  Photo by Chris.

The Statendam - Our Cruise Ship.  Photo by Chris.
If you know of anywhere else in Alaska we should check out, please leave a comment below.  See you next week when we explore what’s just round the corner in Arizona.

**Photos by Lori or me unless otherwise noted.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Alaska Cruise - Part 1

Alaska shouldn’t be the last state you visit.  It’s magnificent and beautiful!  But, to see it in all it’s beauty, you have to get on the water.  My friend, Lori, and I chose a Holland America Cruise Tour that took off from Vancouver, Canada (that’ll have to be another post).  The cruise was full of funny towel animals, dancing, changing elevator carpets showing us what day it was, and socializing with our new friends of all ages from Texas, Oklahoma, New Zealand, Belgium and Singapore.

There's me with the Sunday carpet in the elevator
As we cruised up the Inside Passage, our 1st stop was Ketchikan (Salmon Capital of the World).  We visited the Saxman Village Totem Pole Park (I wouldn’t suggest it), the Libby Salmon Cannery tour (very interesting), a wildlife cruise on George Inlet where we saw a bald eagle (lots of fun), and ended on Creek Street (a nice shopping area that used to be their red light district).

The Salmon Cannery

Our next port was Juneau – state capital - on my 30th birthday!  Stop by the public library for free internet – it’s expensive on the ship.  We visited the Mendenhall Glacier (pretty cool – be sure to walk up to the glacier – my only regret on this trip), a whale watching cruise on Auke Bay with a salmon lunch at Orca Point Lodge (a lot of fun! totally recommend), and the state capital building.

Mendenhall Glacier

Two Bald Eagles we saw on the Whale Watch
Skagway was port number three.  They have a Radio Shack downtown if you need any electronics/batteries.  It’s much cheaper there than on the ship.  A van took us to Carcross, Canada in the Yukon Territory. 

Me in the Yukon
No one else was in the van so the driver would let us jump out whenever we wanted a picture and he became our personal photographer.  This was a perfect reason why it’s good to check out other tour companies – not just the cruise ship’s excursions that might fill up.  We even got to stop and take a picture of the Welcome to Alaska sign.  In the Yukon, we visited the Emerald Lake, Caribou Crossing Restaurant, and got a dog “sled” ride (our rugged golf cart was pulled by the dogs).  Playing with the Husky puppies was so fun!  On the van ride from the dog sled ride, we saw a bear!  This was one time we did NOT jump out and take a picture.  Then, it was time for the trip home on a train!  The White Pass and Yukon Railroad is a must do– so beautiful!

Welcome to Alaska!

scenary along our ride

My puppy

The Bear!

White Pass Train Ride

The next day, we spent the day floating in Glacier Bay!! Amazing! 

Then, we pulled into Seward and it was time to say good bye to our new friends and our home away from home. 

At every port we discovered that it’s a good idea to allow time to venture around town.  Don’t stay on an excursion from landing to pulling out.  The spa on the ship did have ½ price deals on the days when we were in port, however, don’t spend your whole time on the ship either – get out and see Alaska.

We found that many of the ports had the same souvenirs so if you’re not sure if you want it, no problem, it’ll be at the next port.  There are a lot of jewelry stores at each port – don’t get sucked in.

This is only half the story!  Part of the Cruise/Land Tour was a week on land.  I’ll save that for the next post so stay tuned.

**All photos taken by Lori and myself on our trip**