My U.S. Travel Bucket List

The United States is an incredible country for traveling. You can find everything here from sandy beaches, luscious forests, fabulous cities, rivers, mountains, and everything in between. I decided to finally make a bucket list of all the things I want to do in America. I will change and adapt this list as I travel. The items highlighted in green are completed while those in red still need to be accomplished.

Alabama

Play on the beach in Gulf Shores

Alaska

Visit a national park

See some glaciers and a moose

Spend some time in Anchorage

Arizona

Yell obscenities into the Grand Canyon

Enjoy a quaint meal in Flagstaff

Explore downtown Phoenix

Arkansas

Heal myself at Hot Springs National Park

See a ghost at one of the haunted hotels in Eureka Springs

California

Drive through Los Angeles traffic

Get panhandled at Santa Barbara beach

Take a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge

Colorado

Enjoy the nightlife in Denver

Visit Rocky Mountain National Park

Smell some flowers in Colorado Springs

Try to ski and fail miserably

Connecticut

Stroll along the coast in New Haven or elsewhere

Delaware

Learn about history at one of the museums in New Castle

Florida

Build a sandcastle on one of the many white beaches

Get nauseated on one of those really intense rides at Universal Studios

Pose with Mickey Mouse at Disney World

Georgia

Appreciate nature and history at the same time in Stone Mountain Park

Channel my inner Scarlet O’Hara in Atlanta

Eat some peaches

Pretend I’m rich at the Gold Museum in Dahlonega

Hawaii

Drink out of coconut on one of the islands

Idaho

Take a beautiful picture at Idaho Falls

Go whitewater rafting on one of the rivers

Illinois

Admire the architecture in Chicago

Go to the top of the Sears Tower

Indiana

Try to distinguish between a bog, swamp, and marsh at Indiana Dunes State Park

Iowa

Appreciate some art in Des Moines

Kansas

Marvel at the flatness, the unending flatness

Kentucky

Dance to some Bluegrass tunes

Wear one of those Daniel Boone hats

Louisiana

Listen to some Jazz in a New Orleans night club

Eat a plate full of crawdads on the bayou

See a naughty show on Bourbon Street

Maine

Eat lobster on a dock

Drive along the Loop Road in Acadia National Park

Maryland

Admire the National Aquarium in Baltimore

Learn about the Civil War

Massachusetts

Read about the Salem witch trials and hope that we’ve learned from our past

Eat something tasty at Cape Cod

Try to imitate the Boston accent while learning about the American Revolution

Michigan

Pretend to be a rapper in Detroit

Go for a swim in Lake Michigan

Minnesota

Take a boat out on one of the lakes

Say hello to a pelican at Voyageurs National Park

Mississippi

Drink a beer while listening to the blues

Missouri

Go to one of the many attractions in Branson

Lay out under the arch in St. Louis

Montana

Experience all four seasons at Glacier National Park

Nebraska

Try not to get dysentery while walking the Oregon Trail

Nevada

Lose money at a casino in Las Vegas

Party in Black Rock City at Burning Man

New Hampshire

Spot some wildlife in White Mountain National Forest

New Jersey

Ride in one of those Rolling Chairs in Atlantic City

New Mexico

Take a pueblo tour in Santa Fe

Learn more about our Hispanic roots in Albuquerque

Wear an alien mask in Roswell

New York

Get drenched in Niagara Falls

Spend New Year’s Eve at Time’s Square

Get lost on the streets of New York City

Give the finger to Wall Street

Imitate the Statue of Liberty

Find out if I have any family who went through Ellis Island

Relax in Central Park

Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art

North Carolina

Try to unravel the mystery of Roanoke

North Dakota

Thank Theodore Roosevelt while visiting the National Park

Ohio

Visit the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland

Go to a museum in Cincinnati

Oklahoma

Drive the historic Route 66

Oregon

Enjoy good food and good company in Portland

Visit Crater Lake National Park

Pennsylvania

Learn about history in Philadelphia and Gettysburg

Stroll through Longwood Gardens

Enjoy the scenery while learning about the Amish community

Rhode Island

Do a little sightseeing in Providence

South Carolina

Unwind at Myrtle Beach

Do some history studies in Charleston

South Dakota

Appreciate our Native American culture

Visit Mount Rushmore

Roll down a hill in “Paha Sapa”

Tennessee

Walk the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Appreciate some good ole American music in Nashville and Memphis

Texas

Yell “YEE-HAW” out the car window

Listen to some good music in Austin

Visit the Alamo in San Antonio

Utah

Stay in an RV park in Salt Lake City

Watch the sun rise in Arches National Park or Canyonlands National Park or Zion National Park

Vermont

Enjoy the nature of Green Mountain National Forest

Eat some icecream at the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory

Virginia

Learn all about the first English settlements

Take a drive through Shenandoah National Park

Washington

Visit the Space Needle in Seattle

Washington D.C.

Smell the old books in the Library of Congress

Learn all about our government

Visit as many museums as I possibly can

Take my picture in front of the White House

West Virginia

Listen to the waterfalls in Monongahela National Forest

Wisconsin

Drink a beer in Milwaukee

Wyoming

Jackson Hole

Admire the wildlife at Yellowstone National Park

Advertisements

Adventuring in Jordan

Of all the Middle Eastern countries I’ve been to, I think Jordan is my favorite. I could give you 100 reasons why, from the red desert to the beauty of Petra to the food or the wonderful, friendly people going about their daily lives. There’s something special about Jordan. Here are some of the highlights from a trip I took in 2016 with 3 wonderful friends I met in Saudi Arabia.

0127

We arrived in Amman and met with our travel guide. During our stay in Amman we visited Um Qais, Golan Heights, Lake Tiberius, the forgress in Ajlun, and some of the remains of the Greco Roman cities. The cities in Jordan are beautiful.

There’s a splendid mix of Judeo-Christian and Muslim culture to be found in Jordan. We visited the Christian Town of Madaba and saw the mosaics. We visited churches and various biblical sites including the place where Jesus was said to have been baptized.

0093

What I found most serene were the churches right across the street from the mosques. Everyone was going about their lives and I saw no conflicts. Jordan gives off such a peaceful vibe.

We spent a night camping in the red desert, Wadi Rum. Being in this desert is like being  on another planet, so it’s no surprise that several blockbuster movies were filmed here including The Martian.

My favorite part of the trip was Petra. I’ve never seen anything so breathtaking in my life. I thought Petra was just the one building carved in the rock that’s so iconic with the name, but it turns out Petra is a fairly large city and a long walk through beautiful rock formations both natural and hand-carved.

https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/326

0023

 

Petra was inhabited in ancient times. No one knows for sure who built the city, but the Nabateans are considered to be one of the oldest civilizations to have settled there. It’s positioned between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea and is surrounded by mountains full of passages and gorges. I could spend an entire day here!

Our last stop was the Dead Sea. It was almost too chilly to play in the water, and that’s okay because it was so salty it burned my lips! We enjoyed the customary mud bath (which allegedly has healing properties) and ended our tour on a relaxing note.

0042

I would recommend visiting Jordan to anyone. There’s so much to see and do that a week simply wasn’t enough time. I hope to visit again someday!

A Day in Turkey

In the fall of 2016, I spent a day in Turkey. I wish I had taken more pictures and not rushed through this trip, but this was a good lesson in taking my time. Here are a few highlights from my trip!

0001
Lunch with Locals

 

0009
I visited the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. I’m not frowning in this picture, but the sun was in my eyes.
0008
I saw many mosques and lots of beautiful architecture.

My favorite site was the Bosphorus Straight.  The water here is just so blue and beautiful!

0005
The Bosphorous Straight

This trip went by way too quickly, so I must go back and visit again! What’s your favorite place to visit in Turkey?

Cruise #2: Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand

I’m personally not a big fan of cruises, but one of the perks is the ability to visit multiple countries for one price. My second cruise was a trip to Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand.  Here are some of the highlights from that trip.

The trip started out in Singapore where we saw some sites and celebrated the new year. While in Singapore we visited friends who also worked in Saudi Arabia. The food was incredible!

12263_10152819760307614_775791906817293395_n_10152819760307614

We visited the Singapore Gardens and it was absolutely beautiful. I think Singapore has some of the most beautiful nature I’ve seen.

It was so refreshing to be in nature again after living in the desert for so long.

From Singapore, we boarded the cruise ship and headed off to our first destination, Malaysia! The people there were so friendly and pleasant.

12507315_10152830604882614_8207529277421456161_n_10152830604882614

We went to Kuala Lumpur and saw the famous towers.  Unfortunately, they were closed on the day we went, so we couldn’t go up, but I didn’t mind. I just wanted a picture.

12507309_10152830608422614_3507293862540447937_n_10152830608422614

We explored the islands and ran into some pesky monkeys. There were monkeys everywhere! And they were incredibly ornery.  We were told to be careful about them trying to get our bags!

We even had time to play on the beach and be silly before going back to the ship.

Our last stop was Thailand. This was my first time in Thailand and I wish I could’ve stayed longer. Thailand is an incredible place. We went to Phuket, so if I do return someday I plan on going to Bangkok.

12507401_10152833949892614_6919557705193447696_n_10152833949892614

The highlight of my trip was getting to see the elephants though I’m concerned my contribution to this type of tourism is keeping wild animals in captivity. This trip inspired me to do more reading about humane tourism.

I can’t wait to go back to Asia and visit more places. It’s an incredible place!

1003585_10152830604962614_960738202387840938_n_10152830604962614

Help from a Stranger: A Day in Kuwait

In 2016, I went on an incredible trip for my 30th birthday, and I learned a valuable lesson about trusting people.  My trip started out from Qatar to Oman and from Oman I made one stop off in Kuwait before going to Egypt.  Many people asked me why I bothered to go to Kuwait and I can understand why. It’s not what you’d call a tourist destination, but it was a nice escape.

15073547_10153467108507614_9119473710207814327_n

I was supposed to stay for about 12 hours before taking my flight to Egypt when I ran into some trouble at the airport. I was trying to find a place store my luggage so I didn’t have to carry it around with me while I was sightseeing and much to my dismay, I found out there was no place to store it.  Angrily, I left the luggage counter and that’s when a young man approached me, noticing I was upset.

15032163_10153467106042614_2207307515217067036_n
Walking along the coat in Kuwait

I explained my situation to him and he suggested I leave my luggage with him and that once he gets off work he’ll show me around the country. Now, normally hitchhiking around a foreign country with a stranger would be ill-advised, but I assessed the situation. He was a nice young man and well-dressed. He seems professional enough. And I knew where he worked, so I figured the odds of him doing anything violent toward me were pretty low. Looking back, I’m not sure I would’ve agreed, but I’m glad I did in this particular situation.

14993365_10153467108927614_6225656321462077827_n
One of Kuwait’s malls

So we put my luggage in his vehicle and he dropped me off at a nice shopping mall and he agreed to come pick me up once he got off work.  So after shopping for about an hour, I got a call from him and just as he said, he came and picked me up. From there, we went to a nice restaurant and ate lunch.  I visited the aquarium (which was supposedly the biggest one in the Middle East, but I personally think the one at the Dubai Mall was bigger). He took me to the iconic Kuwait towers, and we had a lovely visit.

15073528_10153467108097614_5232815461781998201_n
The Aquarium

 

The gentleman’s name was Nader, and it turns out he is a very devout Muslim man, which was a relief to me because I don’t enjoy being hit on by strangers. Nader was very respectful and kind and we enjoyed talking and seeing all the sights. He’s from Lebanon, but he works in Kuwait because the money is better.

15036322_10153467105762614_4364569350603813138_n
The Kuwaiti Towers

After the fun evening, he took me back to the airport, with my luggage, thanked me for the wonderful time, and saw me to my flight. I’ll never forget the kindness from this young man and though I would caution any traveler about staying safe abroad, I would also encourage them to not assume every one is out to get you. Some people are just genuinely nice individuals.

How the heck am I going to keep my bus warm?

Okay, so winter is here.  And once again, we got virtually no fall. It was nearly 80 degrees outside a few days ago, and now it’s barely 50. As a life-long Midwesterner, you’d think by now, I would know how the weather works. I’m about 2 months into my life in the bus (Lovely Rita), and so far I’m loving it. I’ve been urban camping: sleeping in parking lots, but there are still difficulties to address, the most pressing one being the temperature. The last two nights I thought I was going to freeze to death! So here are my options for keeping the bus warm:

Electric

I have a generator on the back of my bus, and I could potentially use it to power a small space heater. However, the generator is loud and I’m living in parking lots. Of course I’m concerned about drawing attention to myself from local riff raff, but more worrying is drawing attention to myself from business owners who aren’t keen on me sleeping in their parking lot. I’ve got a parking pass through a university, and if they catch wind that I’m living in the vehicle, I risk losing my comfortable parking arrangement; multiple, safe lots within walking distance from my job. Worst case scenario, I could run the generator long enough to get my bus warm, and then turn it off and hope my bus stays warm throughout the night. This seems less than ideal.

1e8eaed5-ed62-40ec-9911-9e3ff7901578_1.0bd3640da62cdcc76d9ef014eeadb2df

Propane

I’ve been looking at a lot of propane heaters, but anyone who knows anything about propane will immediately alert you to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Now normally when people are overtly fearful of something, I tend to scoff and tell them to be less worrisome, but this is one topic in which I share their concerns. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a real threat; the silent killer as they call it. Now I’ve had well-intentioned friends suggest I “crack a window” or “keep a detector handy” but these are not safe precautions. If I’m going to live in this bus, I want to do it safely.

43788338_294749874459077_1809546975381553152_n

I considered the Mr. Buddy Heater which claims to be safe indoors, but apparently even it requires some ventilation. In order to have a sufficient amount of ventilation, I’d have to have multiple windows open and all my heat would escape. I’ve considered getting a propane heater, and rigging up my own exhaust system to go out a window, but even if I took the safest of precautions, I still wouldn’t be confident in my own handiwork.

Furnace

So I went to Camping World today to look into further options, and the most ideal option happens to be the most expensive.  They can install a propane furnace with a vent just inside my cabinet. This furnace would be powerful enough to heat the whole bus and I would have a thermostat to adjust the temperature. The propane tank would be mounted under the bus, out of sight. I love this option, but after totaling up the cost of the furnace, the tank, the parts, and the labor, it would probably cost me somewhere in the vicinity of $4000.00. I’m just not sure I can afford that, especially since I’m still in the middle of trying to prep and sell my house. However, I do think this might be the safest and most efficient option for me.

Furnace6

Wood-Burning Stove

So a few friends suggested wood-burning stoves and I initially scoffed at the idea because it conjured up images of these gigantic black stoves, and I live in a 12 X 7 foot space. But then I got online and started doing some reading and they sell these adorable, mini-stoves. Now, I love burning wood. It would definitely keep the bus warm, or maybe I’m making assumptions, but I’ve been told they’re quite efficient at keeping the place warm. My bus would smell good, too. However, I’d have to stay stocked up on wood and the risk of starting a fire is something to consider, especially since I’m accident-prone.  There’s also the need to install a flue and I’m sure smoke coming out of the top of my bus would raise as many red flags as a loud generator. I think I would enjoy this option most, but for my space, it might be unrealistic.

794909501514

Sleeping Bag

Now my cheapest option is to just buy a really nice sleeping bag designed for cold weather camping and spend the entire winter roughing it. I could do it. I’ve roughed it before, but I want to enjoy living in my bus. I can’t do that if I’m just hiding in my sleeping bag and never sitting in my chair, reading my books, cooking, or doing anything else.

shocking-blue-neo-01b.jpg

Solar Panels

Could the right set of solar panels crank out enough watts to power a small electric space heater? Because I’ve been meaning to get solar panels anyways but I was waiting for the sake of saving money, but if it’s an option, I could invest in the project now and just get a nice, little electric heater.

u6-windows-41_blog.jpg

 

I’ve got a lot of options,  and they’ve all got their advantages and disadvantages, but it’s cold now, and I’m running out of time, and I need my bus to be warm!!! What are your thoughts?

 

Living in a Bus Step 12: THE BUS IS FINISHED!!!

My bus is finally finished!!! Well, it’s livable at least.  And I’ve hit the road on my first solo-road trip.  I’m driving across the west from Missouri to San Francisco, California, and then it’s off to Burning Man. My family had a nice party for me in which we set up everything in the bus.  And then I had another party to celebrate with friends.

37982001_10154802776767614_643977174340075520_o
Moving out of my parents house…..again. 

We had a blast picking out a name for the bus. I set up a little survey on and had my friends vote on a name.  The winner was Lovely Rita.

 

Naturally, I had to paint the name on the top before taking my trip out west. The paint job is pretty ghetto, so I’ll have to come up with something better.

39512477_10154840816117614_6041211701888548864_n

Now that the bus is finished, I’ve spent my first couple of nights in it. The futon is surprisingly comfortable. However, there are a few temporary solutions that I would like to sort out and make more permanent later on:

  • mini-fridge (I’m using a cooler at the moment until I can come up with a better way to power a small refrigerator.)
  • solar panels (my brother mounted a generator on the back, but my electrical needs are so low, that I’d like to have solar panels just to top off the battery.)
  • compost toilet (I made a compost toilet and I’ve only used it once. I’m not sure yet how I’ll like it. Eventually, I’d like to buy a proper one.)
  • gray water tank (In my haste to start my road trip, I forgot to install a gray water tank. I’m sure it’s against the law to let the water just run through the drain onto the ground. Eventually, I’ll need to fix this.)
  • shower (I bought one of those solar-heated shower bags that people use for camping. I haven’t used it yet, but I’ll try it out soon. It’d be nice to have a proper shower.)

I have plenty of time to invest in this bus, but one thing at a time. For now, I just need to get used to driving it and living in it. What better way than to take a 30 hour trip out west! Fortunately, I’ve got a great family cheering me on. And now my first road trip begins! Wish me luck!

38545819_10154815517467614_4271311024155525120_n
My nieces and nephew give their approval