Blog

How To Take a Long Weekend Trip to Malmo and Copenhagen

Not everyone has the luxury of taking off on an adventure whenever they get the urge and not everyone has a spouse that will support them to see the world for weeks at a time, so sometimes a long weekend trip is the best kind of trip.

Years ago, the idea of heading to Europe for a long weekend seemed something only the very wealthy could do, but with the new inexpensive airlines, you can travel quite cheaply. One thing you need to remember is on these airlines, you pay for anything extra like baggage and food. They don’t even give you nuts and water for free, but you can pack your own and on a long weekend trip, you can carry everything you need in a backpack or carry-on bag.

My husband and I recently went to Malmo, Sweden which is also close enough to Copenhagen, Denmark and connected by a rail system, that you can see both cities while you are there.  There are many airlines that fly there and I recommend using google flights and planning months in advance with flexible dates to find the cheapest tickets.

download (6)

                  click on picture to take you to Google Flights

We flew in to Copenhagen, walked to terminal 3 where the train station is located, took the train to Malmo which is about a 30 minute ride and stayed at the Renaissance Marriott Malmo using hotel points which helped keep the cost down even lower. Central Station Malmo is within walking distance to Lilla Torg(Little Square) where you can find wonderful hotels, restaurants and shops. You really do not need to leave this area as everything you need to enjoy the culture and history is there. And the best part is Malmo is a pedestrian and cyclist community, so no need to rent a car. However, if you don’t feel like walking, you can rent a bike!

18222693_10155328794846979_2197860746939247163_n

Mornings are odd here in Malmo, especially if you are an American. We are used to waking up at the crack of dawn and getting our day started. Well, Malmo doesn’t wake up until at least 10am. Which means if you need coffee before that, its best to brew your own in the room or head to the train station down the street.

Also, most hotels will offer a deal on breakfasts during your stay, but I don’t recommend it. Their breakfasts are great, don’t get me wrong, but take advantage of all the different cafes, espresso houses and pastry shops while you are there. The prices are all about the same and you get to experience more of Malmo culture.

After breakfast, take a walk to Malmohus,  a castle fortress built in 1434.  This marvelous castle not only houses original furniture, military items and decor from Danish and Swedish history, but also an exhibit on the Roma/ Romani people, or what many people know as the gypsies, as well as an art and textile museum. The ticket price is 40 SEK for adults over 19,which converts to $4.50 per person (FREE for 19 and under). Or maybe you will be lucky like we were and show up on a FREE day.  The walk to the museum through Kungsparken(Kings Park) is beautiful and a lovely way to spend the morning.

You can eat lunch at the castle at The Museum Restaurang Wega. This adorable little bistro is built around a beer fountain and lunch restaurant that was built in the 1910’s, closed in the 1960’s and then donated to Malmohus.

After lunch, keep walking to see more sights of Malmo. There are so many parks and public art that you will never find a loss of things to do. Make sure to stop by the local fish market, head to Ribersborgs beach and get a photo of the famous Turning Torso building.

 

Head back to your hotel in Lilla Torg to freshen up and rest a little, then go enjoy dinner at one of the many restaurants.  You can take your meal inside or eat outside under the patio heaters covered up with the blanket each seat has provided.  As someone who hates the cold, I was skeptical of how warm these heaters and blankets can keep you, but after sitting down, I was in heaven. Those heaters put off a lot of heat and the ambiance of everyone sitting closely eating their meals and enjoying each other’s company is amazing!

Malmo - After Dinner - Lilla Torg - Saturday July 5 2008

We ate many places, but our favorite meal by far was at Steakhouse Lilla Torg.  Compliments to the chef!

 

After a good nights sleep, and a quick breakfast and coffee,  head to Copenhagen for the day. At the train station purchase a 24 hour ticket that gives unlimited travel on trains, metro and buses to, from and in Copenhagen for DKK 120 or 142 SEC which converts to $16 USD. Make sure you set up a FREE city tour through SANDEMANS . The free tour starts at the Dragon Fountain in Town Hall Square and covers all of the important spots; Copenhagen Town Hall, Tivoli Gardens, Danish Royal Palace, The Marble Church, Picturesque Nyhavn harbour, Hans Christian Andersen, Absalon – the warrior bishop, Nazi occupation, WWII resistance, Strøget shopping mile, The Lur Blowers, Nytorv and Gammeltorv, Kongens Nytorv, Danish Parliament, The Royal Danish Theater in a 2.5 hour time period. This tour gives you a chance to learn and see what you want to see more of or spend more time visiting. Of course Nyhavn Harbour is one of the most iconic areas and I recommend heading there to eat lunch.

18342405_10155334762486979_1161853392567467485_n18342467_10155334762886979_8136956666530393897_n

After enjoying lunch, make sure you get ice cream for dessert at Vaffelbageren. Not only do they make their own waffles and waffle cones, but their own ice cream as well!

Vaffelbageren

Don’t leave Copenhagen without seeing the Little Mermaid statue. Honestly, it’s not all that exciting, but it’s one of those things that is pretty much required on a trip to Copenhagen!

James-Bilbrey-cL

Enjoy your day here in Copenhagen, shop, eat and make the most of it and then head back to the train station for Malmo. One thing to make note of, is to make sure you keep your passport with you at all times. On the trip back to Sweden, the train stops and police come through to check your passports before continuing on the way. I’d hate to be the person who forgot their passport at the hotel that day.

Spend the next day in Malmo visiting all the other spots you didn’t make it to. A quirky little museum to stop at is the Theatre Museum. It costs $3 to enter and is a nice way to support the local arts as well as interesting to see set models, costumes, props, posters etc, from Swedish theatre.

foto-fran-utstallningen

 

Make sure as you walk around today, you pick up souvenirs for all your friends and family back home. Who doesn’t want an iconic Swedish Horse?

dala-horses

And of course, continue trying all the local cuisine. I recommend dinner at one place and dessert at another so you can hit them all. (I love food)

18342559_10155332111646979_3290588034902852771_n

Enjoy your last evening in Malmo and get a good nights rest. When you wake up in the morning, pack your backpack, check out and head back to Copenhagen. You have to visit Tivoli Gardens, the 2nd oldest amusement park in the world, before going to the airport.  The gardens are beautiful and you can definitely see that the buildings and atmosphere were an inspiration for the Disney Parks.

18301553_10155340050446979_1580058351432272037_n18402812_10155340050276979_523494224075785523_n

 I don’t know about you, but I see It’s A Small World in this building.

After your visit to Tivoli, it will probably be time to get to the airport to go through security and start boarding.

What an amazing trip and a long weekend was just the right amount of time to visit Malmo and Copenhagen. When we booked the trip, I thought we’d spend more time in Copenhagen, but I am glad we stayed in Malmo which is much more relaxing and enjoyable! And I get to color in two more places on my map!

Happy Traveling!!!!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Best Tours to Take When Traveling

There are so many different types of tours out there to choose from and sometimes it can be rather overwhelming., but I am going to give you some ideas on what tours to take when you go on your next adventure!

When I go to a new city, I always want to learn the most that I can about the history, the culture, and what makes this place unique.  I want to experience it not only as a tourist, but also a local and a scholar. I want to leave my trip knowing something about the area that I didn’t know before. Tours are the best ways to do all of that.

There are so many different types of tours out there to choose from and sometimes it can be rather overwhelming., but I am going to give you some ideas on what tours to take when you go on your next adventure!

  1. Food Tours-  First and Foremost, this is my favorite type of tour! Who doesn’t love food, am I right? And what better way to learn some of the culture than to try some of the foods an area is known for.  Now, there are two versions of a food tour; the tourist attraction food tour, which is great. You know, don’t leave here until you try this place…. Or the local food tour, where you can try some of the restaurants that the locals only know about.  On my podcast Love You a Brunch, I spoke to three different city tour group owners who told me all about what makes their food tours so special. Listen here- http://loveyouabrunch.libsyn.com/love-you-a-brunch-ep-11started-back-in-2006
  2. Haunted Tours- You have to be careful when you are booking these. I love them, when they are done right, but when they are done wrong…they are just…WRONG!  New Orleans has some great haunted walking tours that you can find here- http://www.hauntedhistorytours.com/ . The best parts about these tours are you get to walk around the city in the evening safely in a group, be told not only about the scary ghost stories of the city, but also learn about the architecture, the history of New Orleans and any other little detail the tour guide can think of.  Now, on the other hand, we went on a haunted tour in Las Vegas and it was just WRONG. Instead of telling stories, they created a ghost hunt, a very lame ghost hunt with fake apps and tools, and then proceeded to take us to where the recent murders of children in the area had been. Not my idea of fun! Make sure you read reviews before you book your Haunted Tour._MG_7341
  3. Self Guided Tours- These can be difficult if you don’t have good resources, but with the internet, you can find out just about anything.  Self guided tours are nice because you can go at your own pace, stay as long as you want at one spot or the other or skip over something that you don’t think will be as interesting. My favorite self-guided tour is the Freedom Trail in Boston. It’s easy to follow because of the brick guidelines Boston has laid out for you and you hit every great historical spot and eatery. Plus, it feels like you are on your own “National Treasure” hunt. Check it out here- http://www.freetoursbyfoot.com/boston-tours/freedom-trail-map-guide/download (25)
  4. Adventure or Sporting Tours- I love to mix these in on our trips to bring some extra excitement into some of the low key tours and activities on our vacations. Fishing tours like this one http://www.fishbaltimore.com/ , Swamp tours –  http://www.gatorsandghosts.com/airboat/  and Whale watching tours – http://www.pugetsoundexpress.com/tours/  are among the tours in this section. Everyone will love one of these types of excursions, even if they think they won’t. download (24)
  5. Architecture and Fine Art Tours-  Yes, you can visit all the cities architectural wonders by yourself, but it is often better to have an expert tell you about them and take you to the offbeat places you might not have thought of. Chicago has a great one- https://www.architecture.org/experience-caf/tours/?transportation=40  Are you an Art Lover? Well, Fine Art Tours know where all the greats are and can tell you all about ones you’ve never heard of, but should have. This tour group in Philadelphia has some incredible art tours https://www.muralarts.org/tours/experience-cajun-country-swamp-boat-adventure-and-plantations-full-in-new-orleans-125445
  6. Sightseeing Tours- This tour is the epitome of a vacation must-do. From movie sets to iconic buildings and destinations, the Sightseeing Tour is the one to book. Atalanta has a great Walking Dead tour https://www.viator.com/tours/Atlanta/Walking-Dead-Filming-Location-Tour-in-Haralson/d784-16315P1 for those of you who love the show as much as my sisters do. While tours in Los Angeles can show you all the hot spots https://www.adayinlatours.com/  and you can sit back in luxury while seeing them. Chinese-Theater

Maybe you are a sit in your hotel room or stay on the beach everyday type of traveler, and if you are, this post is not for you. Unless….you want to take one day of your next vacation and try out one of the types of tours I just told you about. Use the internet, search your destination, see whats out there and take a trip on the wild side!

Who’s going to watch the pets?

4 Questions to Ask Yourself About Who is Going to Watch Pets When You Travel

We have four dogs, a guinea pig, and a fish until recently (RIP Atreyu, may your story never-end).  Jodi has two dogs, a bird, hamster, and chickens.  Oh yeah and bees.  When we are traveling, someone has to take care of the animals for us.  Obviously the bees will take care of themselves, but the rest of our  broods could turn into an Animal Farmesque situation without some human supervision.

Over the years, I’ve relied on family, friends, co-workers, and paid pet sitters to watch our pack.  I’ve never used a kennel, but have friends who swear by them.  Kennels can be ideal if you have a smaller number of pets who need care and who are comfortable outside your home.  All our dogs are rescue, varied ages, and some have serious medical needs.  Basically, they are high maintenance and in home care is best.  Making certain they have good care is crucial to enjoying a trip away from home.  The last thing I want to be worried about while flying to London is if my pets are OK.

Here are some questions I ask and things I consider before asking someone to pet sit:bremen-town-musicians-1651945_1920

  1. What am I capable of and willing to pay? It’s best to get this question out of the way in the beginning.  Sometimes a pet sitter will have an established fee and other times, you need to negotiate one.  I recommend a daily price point that includes a set of expectations the sitter will meet each day.
  2. Will the sitter stay in my home or only visit during the day?  I always prefer and will pay extra for round the clock in home care.  I don’t mind if the sitter has a day or night job, just so they come home and spend time with my pets during their off hours.  I don’t even care if they bring their families to stay at my house with them.  Jodi’s chickens might not notice if anyone is around all day long to pet them, but I know for a fact and from personal experience that her Beagle wants to sleep with someone at night.
  3. Is the sitter able to understand and meet my pets medical and health needs?  I have both older and infirm pets who need medication administered during their meals.  It’s important that any sitter you choose will be able to take care of medication but also the health needs of your pet.  Daily exercise in the forms of walks, outdoor or indoor play time, and lots of love are part of a pet’s health needs.  Health needs can also include food preparation.  One of our dog’s has heart disease, and we cook all the dogs food fresh once a week in a crock-pot with low sodium chicken, green beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, corn, etc. to make sure he never gets anything in his mouth that will hurt his heart.  Basically, knowing how to take care of a dog and a chicken aren’t necessarily the same skill set.
  4. Is the relationship with your pet sitter worth losing?  Let’s face it.  Sometimes people let us down.  People who love us might say “yes” when they really mean, “Do I have to?”  It’s not worth losing a friend or straining a family relationship if you can find a good sitter somewhere else.

A few final thoughts for choosing a professional pet sitter.  If they have one, visit their website or social media page to get a feel for their services and personality.  Ask for references and then CALL THEM.  If your state has pet sitting licenses, ask to see theirs.  Ask them to explain in detail their contingency plans for inclement weather, illness, or other unforeseeable events that might effect their ability to provide care.  Finally, ask to see their contract before you sign or agree to anything.

Travel with peace of mind by finding the best possible pet sitter for your pack.  As for your kids, just let them run wild while you are gone 😉chicken-918418_1920

Jodi wants to backpack in the Pyrenees

I’ve never backpacked.  So, there’s a learning curve for me to make this trip.  First step is to try out an easier backpacking trip in the Appalachian Mountains together in July.  There are so many things to think about for an endeavor like this.  For instance, water is heavy.  I can’t possibly carry enough water to make it a week in the mountains. Where will I get water?  How many bugs are going to try and suck out all my blood while I am sleeping on the rocky ground?  What are we going to eat?  What things do I need that I don’t even know I need?

I did a little digging and found this list for the 10 most essential things to take with you when you go hiking in a mountain.  Very helpful.

 Note-  If you want to purchase any of the below items, click on the pictures and Jodi and I will make a commission supporting our blog and podcast without costing you any more money than if you went to the site yourself! Thanks for supporting us!!

 

    1. Navigation (map and compass)
    2. Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  1. Insulation (extra clothing)
  2. Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
  3. First-aid supplies
  4. Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
  5. Repair kit and tools
  6. Nutrition (extra food)
  7. Hydration (extra water)
  8. Emergency shelter  

From: https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/ten-essentials.html

I have a water filter straw still from our India trip and I’m bringing that along just in case.  I have a sleeping bag liner that should be cool enough for July temps but enough protection from bugs at night.

 

I still have lots of research to do before I am ready for this trip, but I am excited to try something totally out of my normal experience.  After this trial trip, I’ll be ready for the mountains of France.

Should You Take Your Kids to an Indoor Water Park Hotel?

So, should you take your kids to an Indoor Water Park Hotel? Is it worth it?

download (4)

There is something to be said about the excitement of watching your little ones experiencing something magical for the first time.  You are young, your children give you a fresh new outlook on being playful and even a new outlook on life in general. Everything you take them to; museums, amusement parks, even just a playground is fun for not only them, but you as well. It’s like you are allowed to be a kid again, well, a big kid with responsibilities, but a kid none the less.

I remember the first time my husband and I took our little guys, maybe 3 and 4 years old, for a weekend adventure to the Poconos to visit the new craze in hotels; The Indoor Water Park, Great Wolf Lodge.  As soon as you drive into the lot the experience begins. The lodge is built to resemble the authentic lodges out west and has carvings of wolves all over the building.  You step inside the lobby and you are greeted with a huge stone fireplace, more wood carvings and an atmosphere built right out of a childhood fantasy. And the rooms! The rooms and suites match this childhood dream perfectly. Some rooms are basic, but most of them have little log cabins, tent themed areas or a wolves den built into them where the kids can sleep in their own little fort. It’s almost like getting a little bit of the Disney experience for just a few days.

Of course, what everyone comes to GWL for is the indoor water park. It, too, is themed with forests and wild animals carved into the walls, slides and pool areas. It’s perfect for families with little ones as well as older kids who like the more adventurous slides. And it even has an adult only hot tub for when mom or dad need a quiet break.

download (5)

The GWL in the Poconos (and many others) also has an interactive game throughout the hotel, so when your kids get waterlogged they can take a break, but still not agitate you with boredom in the room. Wands are bought at a little store at the hotel, your quest is chosen and off you go on an adventure around the hotel to talking trees, stars that light up in the ceiling, wall carvings that move and then finally ends in a fight with a dragon. It’s awesome….when you are young and have little ones brimming with bright eyes and smiles.

This is where this post changes…. We recently found an old gift card we had been given to  “the Lodge” ten or so years ago. One nice thing is they never expire. However, our family dynamic has changed a bit since we had visited the Great Wolf. We are now a family of 6; 3 of which are teenage boys. Our youngest is an 8 year old girl, so I was very excited to take her to this magical place.

We drove into the lot. Yep, still the same. Carved wolves and all. We entered the lobby and again, same ambiance. My daughter loved it. My sons-not so much.  They were surrounded by parents in their beginnings with loads of toddlers and elementary age kids running around with wolves ears, pointing wands with the occasional scream of laughter or tears from exhaustion. Pure chaos.

My husband checks us in and we decide to change into our suits and hit the water right away.  My husband and the boys grab my daughter and they introduce her to all the fun that is Great Wolf Lodge; the wave pool, the slides, the huge bucket that dumps. Everything! I, immediately, head to the lazy river as I’m much more of a “take it easy” type of guest.

As I’m laying there in my tube floating down the man-made waterway, I look around at all the young families. The happiness in their faces, the joy of experiencing this as a child along side their own little ones and it makes me a little sad. I’m old. My kids are old and soon instead of being grumpy while hanging out with us, they won’t be hanging out with us at all. My oldest will be going off to college in a year and a half and then the second will follow the year after. And then they will be off to their own lives getting to experience this kind of thing for the first time with their kids…. and maybe they will even drag me along so I can once more experience it through the eyes of my grandchildren and maybe even turn me back into a kid once again, at least for a few days.

So, should you take your kids to an Indoor Water Park Hotel? Is it worth it?

Well, with all the extras, it can really add up to be an expensive little weekend, but YES! You should! Become a kid again! Enjoy your little ones while they are young and you aren’t too tired from life to hop on that tube and slide down that slide. The memories you will make will last a lifetime! And memories are what makes life worth living! And who knows? Maybe it will become a tradition for generations to come!

The Order of Comfort and Quality of Hotel Does Matter!

Creek n Crag Hotel, India tourism destinations

When you are going on a long touring trip where you will be changing hotels on a regular basis, believe it or not, the order of quality and comfort does matter!  It could make or break your trip!

Now, you are saying to yourself…”Order of quality and comfort? What does she mean by that?” Well, I’m going to tell you…

Before leaving for India, I spent a week booking all the hotels, resorts, and accommodations for our trip. I had access to my in-law’s time share for the “extra vacation” feature, so I booked those first in three different parts of the country. In fact, those were the only places we were going to stay in the beginning. One week in Rajasthan, one week in Mumbai and one week in Delhi. Resorts included in time shares tend to be of pretty good quality and comfort, so we weren’t too worried about them.

india-map

After thinking about the trip more, we couldn’t pass up this once in a lifetime experience to see every thing we could, so we started looking in other locations around the country. I went to work searching online on various travel reservation sites and found what looked like awesome Indian resorts and booked them. One in Gowri and one in Varanasi. I was very excited about these. Their websites looked awesome and the reviews were pretty good as well. We knew these were not a “resort” per se, the Gowri Resort looked like little cabanas and had all the amenities listed to please a guest and the hotel in Varanasi had a photo of a very nice bathroom and bedroom and was right on the ghats.

We had our stays booked and it was almost time to go. We psyched ourselves up and prepared ourselves for holes in the floor bathrooms, not being able to use the local water and knowing that we may be roughing it. Hey, I’m a girl scout leader and a hiker and am used to roughing it. I could handle it!

Our first stay was at Fort Chanwa. An 1800’s fort converted into a resort  You can read more about it here: Fort Chanwa- Luni, Jodhpur, Rajhasthan . It was beautiful, and exactly what we were expecting as far as comfort goes.

10a-495x400

After spending most of the week there, we decided we wanted to see more of Jodhpur and be in the city, so we looked online and booked a new hotel for the last 2 nights on that leg of the trip. This hotel was a bit of a downgrade and made us very happy we had prepared ourselves before hand, but we were still doing great!

Soon we’d be moving to Mirasol near Mumbai for the next time share resort. This one had always worried us a little as getting there required a plane and then a train or car and then after the stay we would need to do it all again to get back to the airport to take us south. Now, our spouses did not want us on the trains, so we decided to forego the time share and had my husband book us a hotel in Mumbai close to the airport using his travel points. He booked us at a Renaissance Marriott.  He upgraded us to concierge level. It was HEAVEN! So much more luxurious than the last two places we had stayed. We were happy for the little vacation from our vacation.

8035_16030313260040427483

Next we’d be moving to Gowri, the resort I was really excited for. The little cabanas were surrounded by rice paddies and looked just like the cool experience I wanted. We had them send us a driver and rode a very long  8 hours. It was the drive from hell, but more about that in a later post. We arrived at Gowri and enter what looked like a rustic campground. The electricity they boasted on the site… out, the hot water they advertised- only available 2 hours in the morning, (The fact that they advertised should have warned me) the comfy beds…More like cardboard on plywood.

standard-room.jpg.pagespeed.ce.-AvVxaEHWN

That night we got absolutely no sleep and when we got out of bed the next morning, we were bruised on every location a bone hit the cardboard mattress.  After two weeks into this long trip and especially after staying in luxury for a couple days, this was not the best way to continue the trip for two forty something year old women. There was no way we could stay here longer. We were exhausted, frazzled from the “drive from hell” and not willing to go back to being uncomfortable after laying in soft cushy beds, bathing in a jacuzzi tub and having fresh water bottles and room service brought to us every day.  We were lucky. We were able to use my husbands travel points and get a hotel in Hyderabad for the rest of the stay which would be closer to the airport for our next leg and also be back up to par to the hotel in Mumbai.

We know we could have handled Gowri if it would have been before the Renaissance Marriott. We had prepared ourselves for roughing it, but once you get that taste of comfort, it is hard to go back.

My suggestion: Either stay with the same level of quality the entire duration of your trip, or even better start with lower comfort and build up so by the end of your trip you are in a magnificent hotel and you leave your vacation refreshed, with a great feeling about where you’ve been and what you’ve done on your travels. Its always a good idea to finish with a bang!  Don’t do what we did and have to “start over” half way through our trip convincing ourselves going home was not the answer and if we just endured, we could do better.

14956569_10154727483796979_1488968777219014109_n

Plan Smart and Travel Wise!

5 Items to Keep you Healthy and Germ Free in India

Stomach_Ache

In a previous post, I told you the 12 OTC medicines you need to pack on your next trip, but there are other necessities you MUST bring with you in order to stay healthy and germ free when traveling to a foreign country.

  1. Toilet Paper- Even the standard hotels will not have a large supply of toilet paper, or perhaps will have none available at all. In India, water is used to “clean up afterwards”, so if you are accustomed to good ol’ TP, you are going to have to bring it with you. I found the easiest way to pack it was to cut the cardboard out from inside of the roll and smash the roll of paper as flat as possible, then shove it in a ziplock bag full of the other necessary bathroom items.
  2. Bar of Soap– Again, this is not something that you will find readily available. The custom of spraying with water and using only the left hand for unsanitary “jobs” makes for unhealthy  hands. Make sure you pack a sample size bar of soap or two so that you can not be touching your face with germ infested hands. Keep it in a smaller ziplock bag with the toilet paper so the paper stays dry, but the soap is always available when you are in a bathroom.
  3. Baby Wipes– After much experience, I would not travel anywhere without baby wipes. These are helpful in so many ways. India (really, anywhere with a lot of people and animals) is not a clean place and you would not want to spend the entire day touring a village or city without have someway to wash your hands before you grab a bite to eat. They are also perfect for those times when it has been a few days since you’ve seen a shower, bathtub , or in India, a bucket and spout. What about washing that fruit that you just purchased from the little stand?  You wouldn’t want to spend the rest of the trip trying to find holes in the floor(toilets). Westerners are not used to the water in India and can get sick from eating fruit, raw vegetables, and even using glasses and straws- *Yes, they reuse straws, so always ask for one in the wrapper, so you are the first to have your mouth on it and it hasn’t been rinsed with water that will make you sick.  **If ordering a soda or water bottle, it is best to ask them to give you the whole bottle or can, and not have them pour it in a glass. ***Also- Do not eat salads if you want to stay healthy. It is very tempting when you are served curry for every meal, but that lettuce can be filled with lots of diarrhea causing bacteria from the water that is used to wash it!         Stay Safe and forego it!
  4. Sheet Sleeping Bag Bed Liner- Ok, lets talk about bedbugs and lice. They are nasty little critters that can be anywhere especially in locations where washing bedding may not be a top priority. This was something we still talk about as being one of the best things we brought with us. It is much easier to sleep at night knowing that you have a barrier between yourself and bedding that maybe dozens or hundreds have slept on since the last washing.

5. Steri-Pen UV Water Purifier– You will need this for those times when a bottle of water is not available. It could be for drinking or even tooth brushing. The nice thing about this is that it is small AND destroys over 99.9% of bacteria Viruses and protozoa, like Giardia and Cryptosporidium.  One important thing to note- put the batteries in BEFORE you leave your home country. Do not travel with a full brand new pack of batteries bought at the last minute and shoved in your bag. Eventually during one of the many bag checks on your trip, someone will decide that this item could make them some money and decide to not allow you to keep it. However, batteries in separate baggies or in the items will typically be fine.

Keep yourself comfortable and healthy and you can have the trip of a lifetime! Forget a true necessity and you could be spending your entire vacation from the inside of a bathroom! Pack Well and Happy Traveling!

Sunrise Over The Ganges

14639870_10154734690631979_605986485986434187_n

After a few days of craziness and unforeseen difficulties on our trip, we were finally in Varanasi and after a rough nights sleep, were scheduled to take a boat ride on the Ganges during sunrise.

For the entire planning and traveling on the trip thus far, Jennie told me she was going to swim in the Ganges. I totally understand! It is said to be healing and purifying. It is the most holy water in Hindu culture. Pilgrims travel from far off distances to bathe themselves, swim and especially to die in Varanasi to have their body cremated at the waters edge and ashes left in the Ganges.  I would be right with her- EXCEPT like her, I watched numerous documentaries, read many books and saw the pollution and muck that was also in that water. Every time she said, “I’m going to swim in the Ganges.” I would say, “No, you’re not.” She would argue with me a little and I’d finally say, “Ok, if you say so…”

The morning of our trip to this holy river was finally here. We woke up at 4 am and waited in the lobby of our hotel for our guide to meet us. We followed him through the small streets and alleyways in the dark of morning to the famous ghats of Varanasi. When we arrived at the water, we both look down into it and saw what looked like sewage floating on top. Jennie looks at me and says, “I’m not swimming in the Ganges.”

14906920_10154734688066979_7649730664695921015_n

It was just as we had seen in the photos in all those books we read. Pilgrims who had traveled near and far covered the ghats waiting for their turn to enter the water, mourners were lighting candles in little floating holders, locals were washing laundry and bathing themselves and others were setting up their ceremonial wares to sell.

This was the first place we encountered other tourists on our trip. Many other tour groups were waiting to get on large boats for their sunrise ride as our guide searched out a boater who was asleep in his small boat on the water. He was a young man, perhaps late teens- early twenties. He got himself up and situated his boat and the blankets inside it and helped us into our seats in order to balance the boat.14925520_10154734692926979_582815307609241083_n

The boat driver guided the boat down the waterway as our guide pointed out temples, different ghats, old architecture and the crematoriums. He told us there were between 150-200 bodies cremated each day here and pointed out a service taking place at that moment.

14900440_10154734692006979_9144224353137624667_n

He also explained there are more than 80 ghats in about 4 miles in Varanasi. Each of them has its own importance and pilgrims that flock to them.

14925305_10154734690451979_3555648033579806736_n

The cities laundry was also washed here by slapping them on the rocks and dunking them in the water. (That explained the crustiness and grayness of our hotel towels…)

14947451_10154734695146979_3185678286966968622_n

As the sun rose over the water, prayers and chants could be heard from the morning rituals and the day began calmly and with a new found excitement to see more of this wonderfully complicated country and its culture.

14925810_10154734693096979_2947941405813571713_n

Our driver took the boat back to the ghats and our guide took us on a tour of the old city that we had walked through in the dark. The colors were marvelous, the architecture astounding, but the condition of the streets, animals and living spaces was tough to see.

This is India to me: A contradiction in every way. Beautiful gardens that are well maintained right in front of a pile of trash the size of a building, huge corporate and government gated communities sitting across from a slum of hundreds of shanties covered in tarps and cardboard, or the honor and worship of male and female gods and goddesses, yet a second class citizen view of its own women. It is this contradicted culture that presses deep in your mind as you visit and learn.

14947951_10154734693076979_5244206232122765423_n

“There are some parts of the world that, once visited, get into your heart and won’t go. For me, India is such a place. When I first visited, I was stunned by the richness of the land, by its lush beauty and exotic architecture, by its ability to overload the senses with the pure, concentrated intensity of its colors, smells, tastes, and sounds. It was as if all my life I had been seeing the world in black and white and, when brought face-to-face with India, experienced everything re-rendered in brilliant technicolor.”

– Keith Bellows (Editor-in-chief, National Geographic Society)

Getting to the Ganges

It was dark as we entered into the city. The people, cars, bicyclists, cows, and dogs were everywhere. To make matters worse there had been a water main break so the streets were flooded up to our ankles in most places.

16143385_1381500495225171_238108271657070212_o

The Ganges or Ganga River is the most sacred river to Hindus. It is believed that if your ashes are put into the Ganges, your soul will no longer be reincarnated and moksha will be achieved. To Hindus, the waters in the Ganges are both pure and purifying therefore pilgrims flock to Varanasi to the banks of the river and the ghats (stairs) that lead down to its edge.

Of course, this was a must see on our tour of India.

We were scheduled to arrive in Varanasi during our second leg of the trip and after many long drives, hotels and experiences(good and bad).  We were looking forward to a cultural experience that would refresh us for the rest of the trip.

We flew into Varanasi from Hyderabad via Spice Jet and arrived at 6:10pm. The hotel sent a car to pick us up. They drove us into the historic part of the city. We knew once we got to a good dropping off point, we would be led on foot by “porters” from the hotel through streets where vehicles were not allowed. We were ready. We had our backpacks ready to go and our walking shoes on.

It was dark as we entered into the city. The people, cars, bicyclists, cows, and dogs were everywhere. To make matters worse there had been a water main break so the streets were flooded up to our ankles in most places. There were random high spots on the roads that were just mucky and everyone was trying to stand or step on these places to keep as dry as possible, including the dogs and cows.

Horns are blowing, people are yelling and every car stops facing each other from every direction. Traffic Jam. Now, this isn’t your normal American traffic jam where everyone is orderly but not moving. No, in India there is no order on the streets. If you want to get somewhere, you go. You don’t care if there is another car facing the opposite direction or there is a crowd of people. You push your car in and force your way out. Unfortunately, there was no easy way out of this flooded traffic jam.We sat there listening to more horns and more shouting for a good ten minutes while inching our way furthet into the mess. I’ll be honest, it was so overwhelming, I don’t remember how we even got out of all that, but eventually we did.

The car pulls over, two young men meet us and we quickly get out into the frenzy and grab our carry-ons while the men grab our backpacks. They say something to us about staying close to them and they take off. Jen and I look at each other, I grab the back of her shoulder and she weaves through the crowd trying to keep up with the porters as I try to keep a hold of her and all the while trying not to step our Croc covered feet into the sewage filled water flowing in the streets. It was a madhouse. The only other time I have been in such a self important, shoulder to shoulder crowd was in my early twenties at the Limelight Club in NYC. And I was enjoying this experience about as much as I enjoyed the previous one.

Now I know as you are reading this, you think you can picture it, but I want to ask you to triple the crowd in your head, double the cars and bikes and quadruple the cows and dogs. There. That’s what it was like.

We force our way across the road to keep up with the men leading, bumping into people with each step. Do you think the crowds stopped the vehicles? Absolutely not! In the middle of the road a car shoving its own way through the mob is stopped less than a foot away from me. I’m still holding onto Jennie’s shoulder and shuffling my feet through the massive amount of feet around me and I feel a nudge on the side of my calf. THE CAR HIT ME! It was not an accident! He was actually pushing me out of his way!  We take a few more steps and a motorcycle rams through and DRIVES OVER JENNIE’S FOOT! We were flabbergasted!  Three more steps and we are back on the sidewalk still hand to shoulder and trying to keep up with the men in front of us.

We weave through like a snake as we are trying to see this city for the first time, the little shops we are walking through and yet still maintain some sort of direction of where we are going.  Finally we are through the crowd and into back alleyways of old stone buildings. It was dark and we had no idea where these men were leading us, but we persevered.   Finally we turned a corner and the men entered a glass door. We arrived at our Hotel.

the-streets-of-varanasiNow, after our recent experience at a Hotel in Gowri, we were ready for anything. (This will definitely be a future post) We got to the front desk as we were bombarded by flying gnats, mosquitoes and who knows what else. Yes, we were by the river.

I pull out our confirmation paperwork. The man behind the desk shuffles around and finally says, “I am really upgrading you tonight. You will have to change tomorrow to a lower grade room.” At this point, it is after 9 pm and we just want to get to a comfortable bed. Fine. He hands us the key and we head upstairs to our “Premium” room.

Now, before we left on our trip, we read to bring our own mosquito net because hotels would have them, but they may have holes and we’d want to be protected. Up until this point, we had not needed the one we packed, but I am so thankful we had it. We enter this room that is a total dump with no mosquito net, dead bugs all over the floors and try to start figuring out how to get the mosquito net attached to the ceiling fan that is very high above us.  Jennie managed to figure it out as I took the sides of the net and stuffed them under the mattress to block out any openings. We change, lay down exhausted and lay on what felt like a thin futon mattress for another rough night of sleep.

We had scheduled a sunrise ride on the Ganges for the next morning, so needed to be up and ready to go at 4 am.

As Jennie falls asleep, I start trying to figure out how NOT to stay at this hotel for the next 4 days and to get to somewhere a little more comfortable. This hotel would do for one night as it was right on the Ganges and we would get that experience, but we did not need that much culture after 13 days of it!  Yes, I am a princess, but I also felt the need to fix what I had reserved and make Jennie comfortable on this trip as well.

Hubby to the rescue!!! My husband had been our personal concierge from America on this trip. He came through anytime we needed a new comfortable hotel.  All I would have to do was text him and he would work his magic and book us using his hotel points into the closest nicest hotel he could find.  Within an hour he had us scheduled at the Ramada near the airport until we flew out to Delhi.

Finally things were fixed, the madness of the day was over and I was off to sleep to begin our next adventure with our Sunrise on the Ganges tour.

If you want to read about our tour and the interesting place that is Varanasi, please come back for my next post!

Best FREE American Roadside Oddities and Attractions to See in Each State Before You Die

Best FREE American Roadside Oddities and Attractions to See in Each State Before You Die

Nothing says America more than our strange roadside attractions, oddities, and promotional statues that became the trend as soon as taking trips with an automobile became the style. I have listed the BEST American Roadside Oddities you need to see in each state before you die!

ALABAMA– Barber Pkwy, Elberta- Dinosaurs in the Woods– Artworks by Mark Cline include 4 different dinosaurs; a Brontosaurus, T. Rex, Stegosaurus, and Triceratops. They hang out in the trees along the marina entrance road, and are surprisingly difficult to spot, but well worth it!
alelbdino_ks06_620x300
Drive US Hwy 98 either eight miles east of Foley, AL, or 21 miles west of downtown Pensacola, FL. Turn south onto County Rd 95. Drive five miles. Turn right onto Fish Trap Rd. Drive a half-mile. Turn left at the Barber Marina sign. Drive one mile. You’ll see Bamahenge on the right, set back among the trees. The dinosaurs are spaced out along the road beginning a quarter-mile past Bamahenge.

ALASKA-101 Saint Nicholas Dr, North Pole, AK – Santa Claus House and Statue- North Pole, Alaska takes pride in their name  from candy cane light poles to an actual red and white striped “north pole”. They also have a 42 foot tall Santa Claus that sits next to Santa’s house.

aknorsanta2_lankford

East of Fairbanks, at milepost 14 of the Richardson Hwy.

ARIZONA– Prescott, Az- Muffler Man- Big Johnson– Muffler Men, along with other giant statues can be seen throughout the US. Big Johnson is one of the originals. He was moved to this location in the early 1970’s and is a great photo op!

azpremuffler2

From downtown Prescott: Take Gurley St. west to Grove St. Turn right onto Grove and drive 1 mi. to Fair St. Turn left on Fair and it’s on left side (across from Fry’s supermarket).

ARKANSAS-Fouke, Ak- Boggy Creek Monster– If you LOVE to watch those old B horror  movies from the 70’s, you need to make a stop to see the Boggy Creek Monster. The Boggy Creek Monster is a legend that locals claim have been terrorizing the area since the 1940’s  and was later used as the subject of three horror films.  Visit the Monster Mart to find out more info, get a photo as the Boggy Creek Monster and see a cast of Big Foots Footprint.

arfoumonster_3912

Fouke Monster Mart. US 71 north into town. Just north of Butler St., just south of the post office. East side.

CALIFORNIA- Los Angeles, Ca- Iconic Kindles Donuts Giant Donut– California has a ton of must see roadside attractions, but I couldn’t pass up the iconic Giant Donut that we see so often in movies. Los Angeles has a lot of these left, but Kindles is the very first one, built in 1950.

calandonutkind_kreuzer

Kindle’s Donuts: 10003 S. Normandie Ave., Los Angeles, CA, W. Century Blvd. and S. Normandie Ave

COLORADO-Penrose, Co- World’s Oldest Giant Rocking Chair– America was enthralled by Giant anything in the 1950’s and different styles of chairs did not get passed up for advertising hugely.  But in Pennrose you will find the Oldest of all the Giant Rocking Chairs.

copenchair_0064

Hwy 115, just north of Penrose, in front of the Apple Shed Cafe.  Chair is behind fence. 

CONNECTICUT-New Haven, Ct- Midnight Mary’s Grave- Mary had some sort of attack and fainted; her husband assumed she was dead and had her buried immediately. The night of the funeral, her sister woke up at midnight from a nightmare she had about her sister screaming from the grave. She begged to have her sister exhumed. When the casket was opened, Mary’s fingers were bloody, her fingernails were ripped off, and she had a petrified expression on her face. The gravestone reads: “At high noon/just from and about to renew her daily work, in her full strength of body and mind/Mary E. Hart/having fallen prostrate/ remained unconscious, until she died at midnight October 15,1872/born December 16,1824.” And above those words in big black letters: “The people shall be troubled at midnight and pass away.”

ctnhamidnightmary1_drissel

Address:Ella T. Grasso Blvd, New Haven, CT, Evergreen Cemetery. I-95 exit 45. Drive north about a mile. The cemetery will be on your right. Go in the main entrance and straight through to the back. She’s right near the fence near Winthrop Ave. Also, cemetery office provides map to her grave and other famous burials as well.

DELAWARE- Dover, De- Miles, the Monster– Miles appears to be crashing out of the top of the Dover International Speedway. With his angular cement looking body and red eyes, he is a must see, even for those that do not like racing or cars.

dedovmonster_7446_2ks

Dover International Speedway:1131 N. Dupont Hwy, Dover, DE, Behind the front stretch grandstand at Dover International Speedway. Hwy 1 exit 104. Head east on Scarborough Rd, then turn left at the light onto Dupont Hwy. After 1.5 miles the Speedway will be visible on the left. Turn left at the main entrance, then bear to the right and drive around the stadium to the back side.

FLORIDA- Spring Hill, Fl- Pepto Bismol Pink Dinosaur– Built in 1962 to promote a museum, this Pink Dino is 22 ft high and 58 ft long. The business has been long closed, but the Pink Dinosaur still stands!

flsprpinkdino_2866

3273 Commercial Way, Spring Hill, FL, On the west side of US 19/Commercial Way. Around 3.5 miles south of the intersection of Hwy 50/Cortez Blvd in Weeki Wachee, or around 1.5 miles north of Spring Hill Drive in Spring Hill.

GEORGIA- Gainesville, Ga- World’s Largest Tiger Statue– This tiger officially named Lucille, sits at Brenau University and is 8 ft tall and over 14 ft long. It is one of the newer Giant statues being built in 2013, but is well worth the stop!

gagaitiger_derek2

World’s Largest Tiger Statue: Green St., Gainesville, GA, North side of downtown. In a small park on the east side of Hwy 60/Green St. at its intersection with Academy St. NW.

HAWAII- Honolulu, Oahu- Elvis Aloha Statue– Hawaii has a bunch of statues memorializing visitors, presidents, kings, etc, but the Elvis statue is one that almost everyone will want to get their picture taken with. This Elvis was part of a PR project to populate America with TV Land heros and characters. Although Elvis is a real person and not a character, he is in full Elvis costume with his guitar strapped on. The important TV milestone used as an excuse was the “World’s First Satellite TV Concert” performed here in January 14, 1973.

hihonelvis_1689

Elvis Aloha Statue: Neal Blaisdell Center, 777 Ward Ave., Honolulu, Oahu, HI,I-1 exit 22, then south on Ward Ave. for five blocks. On the east side, next to the box office in front of the Neal Blaisdell Center.

IDAHO-Blackfoot, Id- Uniroyal Gal– At one time this Uniroyal Gal was in a bikini, but she has been updated in a waitress uniform with a huge diamond on her finger.  She stands out front of Martha’s Cafe, so take a break from the road for some pie and coffee or even a meal and then take a picture with this great looking Gal!

idblaunigal_apriln

Martha’s Cafe, 851 S. Broadway St., Blackfoot, ID,  Downtown. A few blocks south of the Idaho Potato Museum.

ILLINOIS– Carbondale, Il, Dungeons and Dragons Park– This park is a must see for D&D players, Fantasy lovers and kids at heart! The Dungeons and Dragons Park was created as a memorial to a 19 year old son who had passed away in a car crash. His father bought the land across the street from their home and hired sculptors to reproduce the game that his son loved to play!Its centerpiece is a wood and stone castle that is actually an elaborate jungle gym of tunnels, stairs, and bridges. Hidden doors and passageways invite the small and flexible; most adults are content to walk the battlements. Pennants flutter, gargoyles and knights guard the ramparts. An ogre with a spiked club stands atop the portcullis, while Jeremy’s extensive sword collection is bolted to the lofty inner ceiling of one of the towers. Three wizards are frozen in a spell battle. A burial mound bears the slab effigy of a fallen knight. Pegasus and a unicorn stand amid native plantings; goblins leer from the trees while human archers take aim; a three-headed dragon is perched on a picnic gazebo, while a single-headed beast sits atop a fountain of wizard heads spitting water.

Dungeons and Dragons Park, Jeremy Rochman Memorial Park: 31 Homewood Drive, Carbondale, IL,  From Carbondale drive east two miles on Hwy 13, then turn south at the Wal-Mart onto Hwy 12/Giant City Rd. Drive 3.5 miles. Turn left, onto Homewood Drive to the parking lot. If you cross No Name Rd you’ve gone too far.

INDIANA- Alexandria, In- World’s Largest Ball of Paint– Michael Carmichael, an artist, began painting the ball of paint thinking that he would stop at 1000 coats and cut the ball in half to see the layers, but once he got to 1000 coats, he decided to keep going. The ball is way over 25,000 coats at this time and visitors can call to make an appointment to add their own layer to the ball.Mike and his wife, Glenda take a picture of everyone who paints the Ball, have them sign a big guest book (currently on its seventh volume), then present the painters with a certificate that has their name, date, and the coat number that they painted. Souvenirs include “I Painted the World’s Largest Ball of Paint” t-shirts and multicolor chips carved from the Ball, resembling dazzling slices of agate.

World’s Largest Ball of Paint:10696 N. 200 W., Alexandria, IN, From Alexandria, drive west two miles on Hwy 28. Turn left (south) onto N. 200 W. Drive across the train tracks, then go straight through the stop sign. You’ll soon see the World’s Largest Ball of Paint sign on the left.

Hours:Please call ahead for appt. Don’t just show up. (Call to verify)
Phone:765-724-4088 Admission:Free

IOWA- Riverside, Ia, Future Birthplace of James T Kirk- If you are a Trekkie, this is a must see! A local  councilman was a Trekkie, and he read in Gene Roddenberry’s book, Making of Star Trek (1968) that Kirk would be born in a small town in Iowa. The book didn’t name the town. The councilman thought, “Why not Riverside?” At the next council meeting (March 25, 1985) he proposed that Riverside declare itself the Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk. The motion passed unanimously. And this roadside attraction began!

iarivtrekbirth_ks06_620x300

Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk:51 W. 1st St., Riverside, IA, US Hwy 218 exit 80. Drive west on Hwy 22/E. Hickory St. for 1.8 miles into town. The birthplace is on the right, behind the small hair salon building; you reach it through an alley. Look for the Captain Kirk banner on the light pole next to the street.
KANSAS-Cawker City, Ks-  World’s Largest Ball of Twine– Probably one of the most well known American Oddity is the World’s Largest Ball of Twine. You can not go through Kansas without seeing it and adding some twine to the ball. Make sure when you go you do not forget to sign the guestbook in the mailbox!

kscawtwine_aurelio
Ball of Twine: Wisconsin St., Cawker City, KS, On the south side of Wisconsin St./Hwy 24, a half-block west of Lake Drive.

KENTUCKY- Paducah, Ky- Carved Giant Indian Head– Chief Paduke, sculpted by Peter “Wolf” Toth in 1985 from a local red oak. The historical marker names him “Wacinton” (way-cheen-too) honoring the Chickasaw people. Part of his elaborate headdress fell off in a storm in Nov. 2015. Toth arrived in July 2016 to repair it.

kypadtothindian_lucy1

Bob Noble Park, 2915 Park Ave., Paducah, KY,  Just west of US Hwy 45 on the north side of Park Ave.

LOUISIANA- New Orleans, Grave of Marie Laveau, the Voo Doo Queen- If you are a fan of American Horror Story, you’ll remember the character of Marie Laveau. Madame Laveau was a real person and Voo Doo Queen. You can visit her grave, ask her for a favor and leave an offering like thousands do each year. I recommend getting a carriage tour to the cemetery so that you can get a close up view.

lanorlaveau_michael1

Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1, 425 Basin St., New Orleans, LA,  On the north edge of the French Quarter, on the north side of Basin St. between St. Louis and Conti Sts.

MAINE- Bangor, Me, 31 Foot Tall Paul Bunyan– Bangor makes claim to be the birthplace of Paul Bunyan as well as the lumber industry. Minnesota, also makes this claim.  However, with all the statues and monuments that Minnesota has, this Paul Bunyan in Bangor is the biggest weighing in at 3700 lbs, not including his ax and peavey and standing at 31 feet tall.

mebanbunyan_daveh

Bass Park, 519 Main St., Bangor, ME,  I-395 exit 3 and drive north a block or two. On the west side of Main St., opposite the Hollywood Slots Hotel.

MARYLAND- National Harbor, Prince George County, Md- The Awakening Sculpture– This incredible sculpture portrays a giant embedded in the earth. The sculpture covers 72 feet. A favorite stop by any roadtripper!

awakeningspan

National Harbor, 137 National Plaza, Oxon Hill, MD, Where I-295 meets I-95/I-495 south of Washington, DC in Maryland. Follow the exit signs for National Harbor Blvd. Bear to the right, following the water. The Awakening is buried in the fake beach next to the National Harbor marina.

MASSACHUSETTS-Ipswich, Ma, Devil’s Footprint– Legend insists, in 1740, an old preacher threw the devil off the steeple, and when the devil landed, his footprint burned into the rock.

maipsdevilfoot_joangebhardt

1 Meetinghouse Green, Ipswich, MA ,:South side of the First Church of Ipswich, next to N. Main St., the Methodist church steeple across the street is visible from the exposed rocks. Paint marks the spot.

MICHIGAN-Ishpeming, Mi, Da Yoopers Tourist Trap– This is one of those goofy gift shops that you must stop at! Along with the gift shop and museum on location, the outside is loaded with fun photo ops.

490 N. Steel St., Ishpeming, Head west out of Ishpeming on US Hwy 41, between Ishpeming and West Ishpeming on the south side of the highway.

MINNESOTA-Austin, Mn, SPAM Museum– Unlike the other attractions that I have listed here, this is an actual museum. One nice thing about it, is that it’s FREE. Whether you like SPAM or not, this is a great place to stop, enjoy the break while learning about ham products, Hormel, as well as trying your hand at the production canning line.

mnausspam_2016prov1

SPAM Museum, 101 3rd Ave. NE, Austin, MN, Downtown, at the corner of Main St. N. and 3rd Ave. NE, HOURS Winter: Tu-Sa 10-5, Su 12-5, closed M; Summer: M-Sa 10-6, Su 12-5

MISSISSIPPI- Port Gibson, The Windsor Ruins– These ruins are what is left from an antebellum mansion owned by Smith Coffee Daniell II. The incredible architecture can still be seen even with just the columns that are left. msporruins_ks33_620x300

The Windsor Ruins:Rodney Rd, Port Gibson, MS, From the north: US Hwy 61 south to Port Gibson. Turn right at the gas station onto Carroll St., which becomes Rodney Rd. Drive 10 miles. You’ll see the brown entrance sign on the left. From the south: US Hwy 61 north to Lorman. Exit onto Hwy 552 toward Alcorn State University. Follow Hwy 552 for 10 miles, then continue another mile on Rodney Rd. You’ll see the brown entrance sign on the right.Hours: Gated at sunset.

MISSOURI-Bonne Terre, MO, Giant Animal Cluster– Blackwell Motors is a car dealership that uses Giant animals as an advertising trick, but it is a GREAT way to get lots of photos with a bunch of different Giant animals. They welcome you on property to take pictures with elephants, steers, with glasses, polka dots and without.

Giant Animal Cluster: Blackwell Motors 1001 Hwy K, Bonne Terre, MO, Exit US Hwy 67 at Bonne Terre. Turn west onto Hwy K, then make a quick left at the first stoplight. You’ll see the animals ahead on the left.

MONTANA-Fort Benton, MT, Forever Faithful- Old Shep– In the summer of 1936, a sheep herder fell ill and headed to Fort Benton for treatment. His dog, Shep, came along. When the herder died a few days later, his body was crated and sent back east to relatives. Shep followed the box to the Fort Benton train depot, and watched as his master was put on board and taken away. He followed the train a short way, then came back to the station. No one remembers the name of the herder.

But everyone remembers Shep. Because for the next five and a half years, Shep maintained a vigil at the station, greeting the four trains that arrived each day, waiting for his master to return.  Unfortunately in 1942 Shep passed away . Then in 1994, the town unveiled a larger than life Shep bronze, both front feet on a train rail, down at one end of its historic levee (Lewis and Clark are on the other end).

mtftbshep_mcleod_620x300

Forever Faithful – Old Shep: Cemetery Rd, Fort Benton, MT, The grave is north of town, on a hill overlooking the train depot. Drive north on Hwy 387, up the hill, then turn right at the brown sign onto Cemetery Rd. The path to the grave will be straight ahead when the road bends to the left. There’s also a statue downtown on Front St., just north of Hwy 80, in the park across from the Grand Union Hotel.

NEBRASKA-Alliance, Ne, Carhenge- There are a couple really great car art installations across the US. Carhenge is just one. Like the others this one was created by someone with an idea and some gumption. This is a MUST SEE!

neallcarhenge2_630

Hwy 87, Alliance, NE, On the east side of Hwy 87, three miles north of town. Midway between Logan and Madison Rds.

NEVADA-Boulder City, Toilet Paper Hero of Hoover Dam-In 2007, Boulder City commissioned local artist Steven Liguori to immortalize “Alabam,” one of the unsung workers who helped to build nearby Hoover Dam. Alabam was a specialist. His job was to clean the outhouses of the vast construction site: sweeping refuse, tossing lime into holes, and restocking the always-diminishing supply of toilet paper.Steven sculpted Alabam as he looked in old photos from the 1930s. The eight-foot-tall bronze statue — mixed with copper salvaged from the Dam’s electrical grid — shows Alabam wearing a fedora, overalls, and thick gloves, with a broom slung over his shoulder like a combat rifle, and a large bandolier of toilet paper rolls strapped across his chest. The man definitely had a sense of style.

nvboualabam_3340_620x300

600 Nevada Way, Boulder City, NV,From US 93 turn onto Nevada Way and drive into downtown. North side of the street, at corner of Nevada Way and Ash/Wyoming Sts. During the day an American flag flaps on a pole across the street

NEW HAMPSHIRE-Concord, 92-Foot-Tall Mercury Redstone Rocket Replica– Alan Shepard, a New Hampshire native, became the first American to fly into outer space on May 5, 1961. Nearly fifty years later, in 2009, the state erected a life-size perfect replica of the Redstone rocket that launched Shepard skyward. The rocket stands in front of the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, an upscale planetarium. The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center is co-named for Christa McAuliffe, New Hampshire’s other famous astronaut.

nhconrocket_02ks

McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, 2 Institute Drive, Concord, NH, The rocket stands outside of the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, a half-mile northeast of I-93 exit 15W

NEW JERSEY-Wood-Ridge, Nj, Bronze Statue of Rosie the Riveter-During World War 2, American women went to work in droves, ramping up wartime manufacturing and filling the void left by men fighting in two hemispheres. “Rosie the Riveter” posters of a brawny lady welder were part of the worker recruitment and morale-building campaign; ultimately over six million women were employed, many in construction positions. InJune 2012a lifesize statue of “Rosie the Riveter” was unveiled. Artist John Giannotti  sculpted a color bronze rendition of Rosie wearing a polka-dot bandana and wielding an industrial rivet gun. Her bronze lunch pail and coke bottle sit on a granite block with text about and photos of female war industry contributions.

njwoorosie_giannotti1

100 Rosie Square, Wood-Ridge, NJ, In the public square at the entrance to Wesmont Station/AvalonBay, a new apartment/retail development. The entrance is on the south side of Passaic St./Terhune Ave., roughly midway between the Boulevard traffic circle to the east and Main St. to the west. On the site of the old Curtiss-Wright factory.

NEW MEXICO-Las Cruces, NM, Recycled Roadrunner– The giant recycled roadrunner — 20 feet tall and 40 feet long — has been an icon of Las Cruces ever since artist Olin Calk built it in 1993. Back then it stood at the city landfill, and was made exclusively of items salvaged from it: Olin’s way to call attention to what he called, “consumption, recycling, and just looking at stuff we throw away.”The roadrunner is now also perched atop a fake rock, which Olin hopes will discourage souvenir-hunters and the occasional idiots who in the past would “ride” the roadrunner. As far as we know the rattlesnakes are still there, too, so watch out.

nmlcrroadrunner_0500

I-10, Las Cruces, NM,In a rest area on the south side of I-10, just west of Las Cruces and just east of the Picacho Ave. exit, between mileposts 134 and 135. Only accessible from the eastbound lanes.

NEW YORK– Flanders, NY, The Big Duck– The Big Duck was built in 1931 when having a large object shaped buildings was big commercially. This duck still has a shop inside it today. During the holidays, The Big Duck is decorated in lights and Santa comes to visit. However, you don’t need to wait until Christmas, The Big Duck is awesome to see at all times of the year!

nyfladuck_mangels

1012 Flanders Rd, Flanders, NY, I-495/Long Island Expressway, Exit 71. Turn right at CR-94 East/Edwards Ave/RT-24 East for 4.3 mi. At traffic circle, take the 3rd exit onto Flanders Rd/RT-24 East 2.4 mi. Duck is on the left.

NORTH CAROLINA– White Plains, NC, Chang and Eng’s Grave– Chang and Eng Bunker, the original Siamese Twins, are an American success story. Sure, they became famous as sideshow sensations, appearing in P.T. Barnum’s show and traveling widely. But they also married, sired 21 children, and retired as rich tobacco farmers and slave owners to North Carolina. When Chang died on January 17, 1874, Eng — who was healthy — quickly followed.

White Plains Baptist Church, 614 Old US Hwy 601, White Plains, NC, On the west side of Old US Hwy 601 just south of I-74, between exits 11 and 13.

NORTH DAKOTA-New Salem, ND, Salem Sue, World’s Largest Holstein Cow-A free brochure available at the gas station explains that Sue’s “primary purpose is to honor and advertise the dairyman of our area … the hardworking, persistent, and informed dairyman who is an asset to his community, church, the economy, and his family.” Also honored are New Salem’s champion cows of year’s past: “Indi Pens Suprize,” who produced milk for 14 years, and “Aggie Wayne Segis Pontiac,” who produced 1003 pounds of butterfat in a 12-month span. Sue stares north, over a flat quiltwork of grass, clover, and hay that stretches to the horizon, doing her job.

ndnewsalemsue2

8th Ave. N, New Salem, ND,I-94, 34 miles west of Bismarck, south side, New Salem exit 127.

OHIO-Kent, Oh, Homemade Star Wars X-Wing Fighter– this full size replica sits outside a college town bar and grill. It is perfect for the Star Wars Fans! It is located in the parking lot, so you can get up close!

ohkenxwing04

Mikes Place, 1700 Water St., Kent, OH, South edge of town. I-76 exit onto Hwy 43 north. On the southwest

OREGON-Albany, OR, Big Possum– This possum is 10 feet tall and stands outside Possum Auto Body Shop. A tree at the same location has three hanging baby possums as well.

oralbpossum_paco2_320x480jpg

175 9th Ave. SW, Albany, OR, Downtown, in front of Possum Auto Body. Pacific Blvd/Hwy 20, turn right at 11th Ave, quick turn right at Ferry, quick turn right onto 9th Ave. On right.

PENNSYLVANIA– Hershey, Pa, Hershey’s Chocolate World– Pennsylvania, being such a large state,  has so many oddities and attractions that you need to see, and the fact that I live in PA, it was hard to pick just one, but Hershey’s Chocolate World is one place that you must see before you die. It is easily located enext to Hershey Amusement Park. Chocolate World is FREE to enter and includes a free chocolate tour ride, gift shop and chocolatey good food court. There are also activities that you can pay to do, like see the 3D Show or make your own candy bar, but most of us locals only visit for the free ride to help entertain ourselves and kids when we need something to do, but don’t want to spend a lot of money.

paherchoc_sow

251 Park Blvd., Hershey, PA, :From Hersheypark Drive turn south at the traffic light (big Hershey Park sign) onto Park Blvd. Get in the left-hand lane and bear left when the road splits. Drive a half-mile. Turn left at the small sign into the parking lot for Hershey’s Chocolate World (The tour is inside Chocolate World). Parking in the lot is free for three hours.

RHODE ISLAND– North Kingstown, RI, Fighting Seabee Statue– The Mascot of the Naval Construction Battalion stands at the Seabee Museum and Memorial Park, site of the original Naval Construction Battalion in World War II.

rikinseabee_pence

21 Lafrate Way, North Kingstown, RI, :I-95 North to exit 8A to Route 2 south, get into the far-left lane and turn left at first traffic light. Follow signs for Route 4 south. Turn right at the second light and merge onto Route 4 south. Take exit 9, first exit on the right, onto Route 403.

SOUTH CAROLINA-Bishopville, SC, Pearl Fryar’s Topiary Garden– Pearl Fryar purchased his home he was in his 40’s. He had never owned a home before and never gardened, but decided to take up the hobby of topiary. His property original were old corn fields so over the past 35+ years he has brought in hundreds of bushes and has created an amazing topiary garden.

scbistopiary_ks33_620x300

Pearl Fryar’s Topiary Garden, 165 Broad Acres Rd, Bishopville, SC, I-20 exit 116. North on US Hwy 15 one-half mile, then left at Pearl Fryar sign onto Broad Acres Rd.

SOUTH DAKOTA– Mitchell, SD, Corn Palace– You can not drive through South Dakota without stopping to see the amazing artwork that is changed yearly entirely made of corn. The entire building is covered in whatever them they chose for that year. You can also entire the building where there is a convention center with even more corn artwork and corn displays. We had a blast here!

corn-palace-mitchell-sd

Corn Palace: 604 N. Main St., Mitchell, SD, I-90 to Mitchell. North on Hwy 37 (Burr Street). Left on Havens Avenue. Right on Sanborn Boulevard. Left on 7th Avenue for three blocks; free public parking.

TENNESSEE-Nashville, Tn, Parthenon and Statue of Athena– If you can not get to Greece, Nashville may be the next best thing. Located in Centennial Park is an exact replica of te Parthenon and the Statue of Athena. Nashville was once known as “The Athens of the South” and they have the monuments to prove it!

unnamed-1

Centennial Park, 2600 W. End Ave., Nashville, TN, I-440 exit 1. Drive east on West End Ave., then turn left at 26th Ave. into Centennial Park.

TEXAS– Amarillo, Tx, Cadillac Ranch– Seriously one of my favorite car art installations in the country. In order to get to it you need to walk through a large field, but what is waiting in the middle is worth it. If you are feeling artsy, you are welcome to bring your own spray paint and leave your mark.

I-40, Amarillo, TX, :Just west of the Amarillo city line. I-40 exit 60. Follow the frontage road on the south side of I-40 (old Route 66) east for one mile. Cadillac Ranch will be on the right (south) side; just park your car along the shoulder and enter the pasture through an unlocked gate. Visitors are encouraged; dog friendly

UTAH- Vernal, Ut, Dine-A-Ville Pink Dinosaur– “Dinah” was built by George Morrill in 1958 to advertise his Dine-A-Ville Motel. When it closed in 1999 the pink dinosaur was moved to a hilltop on the east end of town, where she began a second career as a welcome sign for Vernal.

utverdinah_teet_320x480

US Hwy 40, Vernal, UT, East side of town near US 40 on a hill.

VERMONT-Leicester, Vt, Gorilla Holds Aloft A VW Beetle– Another PR statue for a local business, this gorilla stands holding a VW bug and and the other hand is outstretched so you can sit in it and get your photo taken.

vtleigorilla_ken

Pioneer Auto Sales, 2829 US Hwy 7, Leicester, VT,  On the northbound side of US 7, about a mile south of Leicester.

VIRGINIA– Fredricksburg, Va, The Gravesite of Stonewall Jackson’s Arm– Southerners thought so highly of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson that his chopped off arm was buried in a cemetery and given its own tombstone

vafrestonewallarm_620x300

Ellwood Manor, 36380 Constitution Hwy, Fredericksburg, VA,  I-95 exit 130B. Drive west on Hwy 3 for 12 miles. Turn left at the stoplight onto Hwy 20. Drive a half-mile. On the left you’ll see a sign for Ellwood. Turn and drive up the gravel road a half-mile to the parking area (During non-business hours, park at the Ellwood Manor gate just off on Hwy 20, then walk the half-mile from the gate to the grounds). When you reach the house, bear right. You’ll see a small “Cemetery” sign and a path between some hedges. Follow it, walk down a small flight of stairs, and you’ll see the small cemetery straight ahead.

WASHINGTON– Seattle, Wa, The Fremont Troll– The Fremont Troll was sculpted by 4 sculptors in 1990. It is located under the Aurora Ave. Bridge. It is an awesome photo op!! If you can, go see it at Halloween time, when they celebrate the Troll with a big party.

waseatroll2_balz

N 36th St., Seattle, WA, Under the Aurora Ave. Bridge — sometimes called the George Washington Bridge — at N. 36th Street. NOTE-he Fremont Troll is not under the nearby Fremont bridge.

WEST VIRGINIA– Point Pleasant, WV, Mothman Statue– In 1966-67, it is believed a Mothman Monster landed in Point Pleasant frightening the residents. In 2001, a movie was made featuring the Mothman, which made him a celebrity. However, if you ask residents they will tell you he is much more monster and terrifying than the movie created him.

mothman-statue

Fourth St., Point Pleasant, WV, Corner of Main and 4th Sts. Main is one block west of Hwy 2, and 4th is four blocks north of the Hwy 2 bridge.

WISCONSIN– Phillips, Wi, Fred Smith’s Concrete Park– Fred Smith, born 1886, began building his own folk art out of concrete around the age of 50. In the 1950’s he realized that his artwork had become a roadside attraction. The Park is filled with 230 concrete folk art statues which when Fred died were donated to the county.

N8236 S. Hwy 13, Phillips, WI, One mile south of Phillips, on the east side of Hwy 13.

WYOMING– Buford, Wy, Tree in the Rock– Wyoming is another one of those states that just has too many great things to see before you die, but my families favorite is the Tree in the Rock. This tree was found growing in the rock when men were laying the railroad in 1886. They left it alone and moved the railroad over to let it grow. It has been there ever since. The Limber Pine can live to be 2000 years old and the highway now splits around it.

13529122_10154350400481979_2528147131135445096_n

Interstate 80, Buford, WY, Midway between Laramie and Cheyenne, in a wayside rest in the median of I-80 at mile marker 333.

Road trips are the best family vacations. Even the times when you all can’t stand each other or you think the boredom won’t go away are remembered with nostalgia and joy.

If you want to find more Oddities in whatever state you are visit, check out http://www.roadsideamerica.com, one of my go-to sites for planning our family trips!