Monthly Archives: September 2012

Day 1: St. Pete to Gulfport, MS

We hit the road 45 minutes early today, leaving St. Pete around 1:30pm.

So long, Tampa Bay!

We made great time – even with dog breaks! We had great driving weather throughout most of Florida and then hit storms around Pensacola. I made it to Tampa before I opened the Snacks. (A great record considering when I was a kid, I used to break into them before even leaving the driveway.)

Just south of Tallahassee, we passed a farm with a bunch of mini donkeys roaming around. Sadly, I couldn’t whip out my camera fast enough to take any pictures but that our first time seeing baby burros!

Before we left on this trip, I spent quite a bit of time on the Roadside America site – a giant database of random, unique, mostly odd and very memorable roadside sites and attractions. I mapped out our route to San Francisco and all of the fascinating sites along the way. Today, our first stop was in Tallahassee, FL to see a front yard full of whale sculptures… this site is literally called, ‘Yard Whales.’ It’s just a random Person’s front yard with giant whale and dolphin sculptures made to look like they’re swimming in the grass.

Raffles likes driving a whole lot more than stopping. She’s a little anxious and seems to think we’re going to leave her every time we stop

More rain through Alabama made us quickly discover the rain-sensing wipers on the Beamer. Way cool!

Just before 10:30pm we arrive at El Camino Chicken and it’s exactly what it sounds like: a giant chicken sculpture built into the back of a El Camino at a Citgo gas station. Weird!

For now, we’re resting peacefully in our hotel room. We snagged the last available pet-friendly room at the Hampton Inn in Gulfport, MS. We hope to hit the road early tomorrow for more site seeing and much more driving. Good night!

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Road Trip Birthday

Wednesday was September’s birthday and this year, the theme (in light of our much-anticipated adventure) was:


I had to get a little creative with the decorations (license plates, maps, etc.) but we had a good time.

Happy Birthday sign I made from a bunch of old maps!

I bought Sep a new iPad for her birthday – it will be perfect for our trip! We’re just about packed, we have tons of snacks, our camera batteries are charged, audiobooks are downloaded and Bunny’s ready to have the house to herself for the week. We can’t wait to hit the open road and explore the southwest & California! Only 14 hours until the adventure begins!


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Impromptu Road Trip!

Road trip across the southwest

In both of our families, September and I are known as adventurers – up for just about anything, the crazier the better. So when September’s aunt & uncle needed their car and dog (the fluffy, enthusiastic pup Raffles) delivered from Sarasota, FL to San Francisco, CA, they called US to make the road trip!

On Saturday, Sep, Raffles and I will spend 6 days driving across the southwest U.S. The trip alone is nearly 3,000 miles and takes over 41 hours… excluding pit stops, detours and must-see sites (which I am a sucker for).

Our itinerary:

  • Day 1: Tampa –> Gulfport, Mississippi (588 miles; 8.5 hours) – Point B on the map above
  • Day 2: Gulfport –> San Antonio, Texas (600 miles; 9 hours) – C
  • Day 3: San Antonio –> Tucson, Arizona (870 miles; 12.5 hours) – D
  • Day 4: Tucson –> Kingman, Arizona (300 miles; 4.5 hours) – E
  • Day 5: Kingman –> Yosemite Village, California (520 miles; 8 hours) – F
  • Day 6: Yosemite –> San Francisco, California (200 miles; 4 hours) – G

We’re stopping at things like the Alamo, Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park (and if we have extra time, Joshua Tree National Park) but we’ve got some 30 other sites that are off-the-beaten-path…. sites like the world’s largest rocking chair, a 25-ton tiki head and a house made completely of beer cans, that are just too wild to pass up. At Roadside America, we searched for cities on the various legs of our trip to see what bizarre, strangely awesome, roadside sites we’ll pass. There are TONS!

Time will surely be a limiting factor on this trip but we hope to move quickly (seeing as much as we can along the way), so we can gain some free time at the end of our journey to enjoy the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. Neither one of us has traveled the southwest U.S. before and we’re so excited and grateful for this amazing adventure!

Be sure to follow along – we’ll be posting regularly with pictures, videos and fun updates! (Thank goodness for the mobile WordPress app).


Photo courtesy of

Please note: Our online shop, Top Knotch Gear, will be “on vacation” and we will not be processing orders until we return. If you have any questions/requests regarding gear, please direct them to us via email. Thanks!

Categories: Adventure, Backpacking, Extreme Vacation/Adventures, Family, Florida, Hiking, Landscape Photograph, Mountains, Nature, Outdoors, Packing, Parachute Cord, Paracord, Photography, Planning vacation, Rock Climbing, RTW, Survival gear, Top Knotch Gear, Tourist Site, Trails, Transportation, Travel, Travel Photography, Trip planning, Uncategorized, UNESCO World Heritage, World's Largest | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hiking Humor

Some hiking laughs courtesy of one of our favorite outdoor/adventure retailers, REI


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Travel Tip Tuesday!


Need some inspiration for your next adventure? Try following this Hollywood hunk’s footsteps from South America to the Middle East and visit some of the sites from the films! Check out what Gadling writes about these adventure-packed destinations: Peru, Nepal, Egypt, China, India, and Jordan. Don’t forget your passport!

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Travel Tip Tuesday!

Travel, be it a family vacation, business trip or RTW adventure, has gone digital. Between the internet cafés (which are quickly becoming a thing of the past), 4G and matchbook-sized travel devices, there are plenty of gizmos to keep you constantly connected to the rest of the world on the other side of cyberspace. Mobile apps like Facebook and Instagram are some of the most common – seriously, who doesn’t use them? But have you heard of some of these others? Below is a [truncated] list of the “Ultimate Travel Apps” – a list compiled by CNNGo. I’ve summarized 5 apps that I’d splurge on. To view the whole list, click here.

1) UNESCO World Heritage Location Guide – Over 900 sites all over the world to browse from, this is a great app for those travelers looking for something on the road less traveled. (Don’t worry, all the famous sites are on there, too.)


2) mTrip – Great for big cities in Asia (i.e.: Bangkok, Hong Kong… all my faves). It tells you what places you’d enjoy visiting (based on preferences you enter once downloaded) and even lets you send virtual postcards to friends and family! I am a sucker for postcards – physical or digital – so I think this one is perfect.


3) Trip Advisor – As small business owners, Trip Advisor is some of the best word-of-mouth advertising we could ask for. Whenever we go on trips (even if it’s just a of couple hours away), we’ll hit up this site for activities, things to do and hotel recommendations. NOTE: In my experience, this site has only been beneficial for places in the U.S. (If you want to check out our business on Trip Advisor, just click here!)


4) Tripline – This app lets you document your trip with pictures, notes and a mapped timeline of everywhere you’ve been. You can check in at various places on your journey just by snapping a photo! Then return home and replay your adventures at your next family function.

5) EveryTrail – Perfect for nature freaks and hiking junkies, this app lets you find trips and trails nearest you, allows you to map your route with the phone’s GPS and even find other hikers in your area. You can view stats (like elevation and distance), see pictures of what’s around the bend and search tons of other trips that fellow nature nuts have taken.

Last tip: Make sure you’ll actually be able to use your smartphone or mobile device where you’re traveling. Just because you have lightning-speed service doesn’t mean you’ll be able to catch a signal in all corners of the globe.

Safe travels!

Categories: Accessories, Adventure, Around the World, Asia, Backpacking, Beach Snoballs, Communication, Europe, Explore, Gear, Hiking, Nature, News, Outdoors, Paracord, Photography, Planning vacation, RTW, Top Knotch Gear, Tourist Site, Trails, Transportation, Travel, Travel Tips, Trip planning, UNESCO World Heritage, World Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vegetarian McDonald’s in India!

As much as I love exploring local cuisine when traveling, I was excited to hear that McDonald’s is opening an all-vegetarian outlet in India soon! While the conglomerate certainly has more than a few strikes against it (like tons of trans fats, very UNfair trade with farmers, obesity-causing-artery-clogging fries for a mere $1…just to name a few), I was surprised to see it could and would bend its menu to accommodate a vegetarian diet. In India, where the majority of the population is Hindu and does not eat beef for religious reasons (there are also a large number of Muslims in the country who do not eat pork), McDonald’s needed to invent a menu that was 100% veggie-friendly. And they did! According to CNNGo, Micky D’s gave up their McRib and Big Mac burgers for the McAloo Tiki burger and the McVeggie – an delicious vegetable patty made with carrots, potatoes and peas. The sandwich I’m most excited about (who says you can’t be excited for people halfway across the earth?) is the McSpicy Paneer – a spicy burger filled with paneer (Indian) cheese!

The McSpicy Panner sandwich! YUM!

The foodie fun has its downsides, though. McDonald’s wants to build stores that would be practically on top of Temples and holy site property in order to maximize visitor foot traffic. Many locals and officials are upset that the golden arches are invading their space and building too close to sacred sites.

Many Indians are upset that McDonald’s plans to open a location close to the Golden Temple of Amritsar. They say it’s an “attempt to humiliate Hindus”.

As enthusiastic as I am about the spicy panner sandwich (and the jobs that McDonald’s could bring to India), I hope the company has enough compassion to set aside their business plans and respect the Indian culture. Read the whole article on!

Categories: Asia, Backpacking, Food, India, Indian Food, Religion, Top Knotch Gear, Travel, World Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Travel Tip for this week:


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