Planning vacation

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).

ROAD TRIP!

Photo courtesy of DiscoverAmerica.com

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!

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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

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

Made it to the Front Page!

We’ve kind of been MIA lately – swamped with work in our “real lives” where we own and operate a shaved ice business on the beach. We moved from Michigan to Florida last June to buy Beach Snoballs – an artisan shaved ice shop across the street from the Gulf of Mexico in Treasure Island, Florida. I know, rough life, right? Spring breakers and tourists have consumed us this month but today, we made it to the FRONT PAGE of the local beach newspaper! The Pinellas Beaches Patch interviewed us and took some great pictures of our storefront and of us shaving/making a customer’s snoball. Click here to read our article!

Photo credit: Rachel Jolley of the Pinellas Beaches Patch

And a little side note: The businesses around Treasure Island are having a contest for Best Customer Service on the Beach. Beach Snoballs has made it to the Elite 8 but we need VOTES to move on to the next round. If you would be willing to take a few seconds to click the link below and vote for BEACH SNOBALLS in the contest, we would greatly appreciate your support.

http://goo.gl/NYC9d

You don’t have to have visited our shop before to vote – anyone can vote! And you can submit votes from multiple devices (phones, laptops, desktops, iPads, etc.). So the more votes we can accumulate between now and Monday at noon, the better! THANK YOU to all!

Categories: Beach, Beach Snoballs, Family, Florida, Food, News, Ocean, Outdoors, Photography, Planning vacation, Random, Summer, Summer Desserts, Top Knotch Gear, Tourist Site, Travel, Travel Tips, Trip planning, United States, Vegan, Vegetarian, Water, World Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why We Love Florida

Moving to Florida (we bought a beachside business on the Gulf) has been absolutely fantastic. Besides having a great starting location for our travels with easy access to the Caribbean, Mexico, Cuba and Central America, it’s warm even in the winter, we get an abundance of Vitamin D, there are palm trees and grapefruit trees in our back yard and the wildlife is awesome. We’re both from the midwest (Michigan and Pennsylvania), so the tropical flora and fauna are very exotic to us. (How often can you just pull off at a roadside park and see live gators!?). If you have never been to Florida or are looking for great location for a getaway, we highly recommend the Sunshine State. Oh, and stop by our shop – Beach Snoballs – on Treasure Island – we’d love to meet you!

This is a picture I took while we were moving into our new house – I found this little guy crawling on our mailbox!

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Backpacking, Beach, Beach Snoballs, Explore, Family, Florida, Food, Landscape Photograph, Nature, Ocean, Outdoors, Photography, Planning vacation, Plants and Flowers, Top Knotch Gear, Tourist Site, Travel, Travel Photography, Travel Tips, United States, Water, Wild, World Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Travel Tip Tuesday!

We’re back! After a brief hiatus to handle a family emergency, we’re back in Florida.

This week’s Travel Tip Tuesday is all about how to save money WHILE TRAVELING. So you’ve already hit the road, you’re on an adventure and you want to be sure you stay within your budget. The tips below will help effectively budget your money and not go broke while traveling.

How to save money while traveling:

Forego fancy restaurants – Utilize the local markets and vendors to make your own food or eat the street food (which is MUCH cheaper than restaurants, usually). That being said, you’ll want to navigate street foods carefully and have anti-diarrhea pills handy.

Save the souvenirs – My first trip to China, I bought 3 tea sets (I’m an impulse buyer) without factoring in that China was only the first stop on my itinerary. The lesson: Buy souvenirs and ship them home or stick to smaller items that you can easily put it your pack and carry with you (jewelry, magnets, etc.)

Tipping – An easy way to save money while you’re traveling is researching local customs to see if tipping is necessary. In the U.S., we tip for everything but in some cities in China, it’s rude to tip. Do the research and you may be able to save a chunk of change.

Taxi Troubles – If you can get around without using a taxi, do it. If you can’t, try to negotiate the fare before getting in. (If you’re a woman, fight hard. There are many countries that will try to take advantage of you if you’re a foreign woman).

Exchanging Money – Exchange money for the currency you want BEFORE you get to that country. Don’t exchange at the airport and if you use a kiosk, don’t forget there are fees. I like to use ATM’s… but watch out… there are international and bank fees that apply to ATM’s, too.

Tours and Tickets – This is my weakness. It’s so tempting to book every boat charter, snorkeling trip, zip line and caving tour out there but these activities will drain your bank. Set a budget and stick to it. Or investigate what the tours do (where they go, how they get there, what’s included) and do some of the same activities on your own.

For more tips and tricks to saving money while overseas, check out AirTreks Travel Blog.

Categories: Adventure, Alcohol, Around the World, Asia, Asian Food, Australia, Backpacking, Bracelet, Camping, Caving, China, Circumnavigation, Climbing, Europe, Explore, Extreme Vacation/Adventures, Food, Fresh Food, Gear, Globetrotting, Hiking, Jewelry, Nature, Packing, Planning vacation, RTW, Seafood, South America, Top Knotch Gear, Tourist Site, Trails, Transportation, Travel, Travel Tips, Trek, Trip planning, Vegetarian, World Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Islands for Everyone!

As cabin fever sets in and winter blues hover in the air (unless you live in Florida, no winter blues here), why not take yourself on a tropical getaway? Say, to an island that’s perfect for your personality?! CNN Go has put together a list of islands that are perfect for all kinds of people – nudists, families, loners, lovers…. you name it. Here are some of the findings:

World’s Best Islands For…

Naughty Nudists
Rab, Croatia – The birthplace of skinny dipping where clothing is optional. There are 3 different nude beaches where all of your parts can get some Vitamin D.

Nature Nuts
Sark, Channel Islands – It’s here, off the French coast of Normandy, that you can see the Milky Way nearly every night. There are no street lights or headlights because cars and bright lights are outlawed – perfect for stargazing space freaks (like me)!

Family Frenzies
Oahu, Hawaii – I’ll admit, the thought of visiting an island where are bunch of kids are running around is a turnoff to me. But Oahu is a great destination for families because of all the activities to keep young ones entertained – things like surfing school, giant mazes and water slides.

Lusty Lovebirds
Lizard Island, Australia – Between the 24 private beaches, the torch-lit dinners at the resorts and the Great Barrier Reef, this island is sure to make sparks fly. I know it’s going on our itinerary…

Laid Back Loners
Ogasawara Island, Japan – Traveling solo isn’t a bad thing, especially if you enjoy the quiet of being one with nature. South of Tokyo, this island has few inhabitants and a ferry is the only means of connecting the island to the “real world”… otherwise, you’re on your own! (Bring your survival bracelet!)

Party Peeps
Ibiza, Spain – Yes, the same Ibiza that J-Lo sings about. Known for its sweaty summer raves, there are tons of clubs with head-throbbing trance music if you’re looking for a party scene-getaway.

Movie Star Madness
St. Barts, French West Indies – Pretty, posh and full of paparazzi, this is THE island for celeb sightings. It’s also a gorgeous place with white sand beaches, just like in the Hollywood movies.

To read about the other island recommended, check out CNN Go’s article.

Happy island-hopping!

Categories: Adventure, Around the World, Backpacking, Celebrities, Explore, Family, Globetrotting, Landscape Photograph, Love, Naked Hiking, Naturalist, Nature, News, Nude Beach, Nude Hiking, Ocean, Outdoors, Photography, Planning vacation, Plants and Flowers, RTW, SCUBA Diving, Summer, Top Knotch Gear, Tourist Site, Transportation, Travel, Travel Photography, Travel Tips, Trip planning | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

10 Extreme Adventures!

Back in September, MSNBC Travel did an article on 10 extreme adventures – everything from shark bating to helicopter safaris! How many of these crazy vacations would YOU take?

10 Extreme Adventures:

  1. Go shark-bating (we don’t support this one*)
  2. Dive in an exosuit
  3. Go drag racing
  4. Take a helicopter safari
  5. Rescue training school
  6. Bulldoze something
  7. Go street-luging
  8. Drive a tank
  9. Try stunt training
  10. Fly a MiG over Russia

Go street-luging!

Take a helicopter safari!

*After researching some pictures to accompany MSNBC’s list, we were really turned off by shark-bating. We learned that there are some French Islander fishing techniques that use live dogs as bait – the pictures are very sad and we do not support these practices. What are your thoughts?

Categories: Adventure, Africa, Airplanes, Animals, Backpacking, Beach, Explore, Extreme Vacation/Adventures, Family, Florida, Helicopter Safari, Law Enforcement, Nature, Ocean, Outdoors, Planning vacation, Police, Russia, SCUBA Diving, Sharks, Summer, Top Knotch Gear, Transportation, Travel, Travel Tips, Trek, Trip planning, United States, Wild | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Transparent Kayaks

Ever wonder what you’re gliding over when you go kayaking? These special kayaks (and canoes) are made with the same materials as bullet proof glass and have completely transparent bottoms. Get a workout, enjoy the outdoors and observe the ecosystems below you as you paddle through the water. If we had an extra $2,500, we’d definitely get one of these!

Click the picture for more information

Categories: Adventure, Backpacking, Beach, Circumnavigation, Explore, Family, Florida, Globetrotting, Kayaking, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Planning vacation, Snorkeling, Trails, Transportation, Travel, Travel Photography, Water | 4 Comments

National Parks FREE ADMISSION!

There are a few weekends each year where the National Parks offer free admission for visitors. This weekend is one of them! In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, each of America’s 397 national parks will waive admission fees. (You may still need to pay for parking, we’re not sure). So this weekend, get out and enjoy the wonderful outdoors at a national park! For more info, click here to visit the U.S. National Park Service’s website.

Joshua Tree National Park

Other times when the parks have free admission are:

  • April 21-29 (National Park Week)
  • June 9 (Get Outdoors Day)
  • September 29 (National Public Lands Day)
  • November 10-12 (Veteran’s Day weekend)
Categories: Adventure, Backpacking, Camping, Explore, Family, Mountains, National Parks, Naturalist, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Planning vacation, Rock Climbing, Tourist Site, Trails, Transportation, Travel, Travel Photography, Travel Tips, Trek, Trip planning, Utah | Leave a comment

Essential Packing List for India

Travel Tip Tuesday: If you’re traveling to India (or would like to in the future), check out Candace Rardon’s Essential Packing List on Matador. It’s full of helpful tips, things to expect and gear to bring on your journey. While your own packing list may vary depending on the places you’ll visit and activities on your itinerary, Rardon’s list gives a great breakdown on some of the most important items. But don’t forget the #1 item we recommend bringing… your CAMERA!!

Picture courtesy of Vagabondish

Categories: Adventure, Asia, Backpacking, Beach, Bright colors, Camping, Circumnavigation, Explore, Gear, Globetrotting, India, Mountains, Nature, Parachute Cord, Paracord, Photography, Planning vacation, Rock Climbing, Survival gear, Top Knotch Gear, Tourist Site, Trails, Travel, Travel help, Travel Tips, Trip planning | Leave a comment

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