To the Top of Ohio

To say that I was out of breath would be a vast overstatement. On a whim, I decided to summit the highest point in Ohio.

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Next to the USGS survey marker at the highest point in Ohio.

 

There are travelers who collect high points, seeking to visit the highest elevation in each of the 50 U.S. States. The Highpointers Club, for example. The County Highpointers Association takes it a step further, visiting the highest elevation in each county in the U.S. That would take some time, since there are over 3,000 counties.

While the second goal would take quite a while, reaching the summits of the 50 states is a very achievable goal. Twenty-nine of them are less than a mile above sea level, thirty if you count Washington, D.C. Many can be driven to, or at least most of the way up. Only four are higher than 14,000 feet. Mount McKinley in Alaska requires special training and favorable weather conditions. By contrast, I was starting small.

Campbell Hill, Ohio is located within the city of Bellefontaine, the county seat of Logan County. Take a short detour from Interstate 71 or 75 down U.S. Route 33 to reach this small town, where the first concrete road in America was built in 1891. Campbell Hill is located within the Ohio Hi-Point Career Center campus. It’s a short climb to the top.

IMG_1177Still, it was  a fun achievement. I don’t know if I’m going to attempt the rest of the state high points, but it was nice to visit one. Only 49 to go.

 

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Big Move

I guess this post starts with an apology. It’s been about a month since I posted anything. That’s because I was in transition to my new home in Singapore. I was trying to build a consistent routine for 3-4 months of blogging, as recommended by Nikki at The Pin The Map Project. But my relocation got the best of me and a hiatus ensued. It’s much easier not to post after you’ve missed a couple days. I’ve rallied though. Now that I’m settled in my new home, I will strive for more consistency. I haven’t explored too much of the Lion City yet, but below are some weird things that I’ve found so far in my apartment.

Top 3 Weird Things About My Apartment in Singapore

Weird is maybe a strong word. Different than I’m used to, let’s say.  There’ll be a lot of adjusting in the days and weeks ahead. For now, just a few things that are different. And unexpected. I’m not going to waste time commenting on things that are different but expected. A rice cooker is a standard appliance here instead of a luxury item, which is not surprising. The fact that the thermostat is in Celsius instead of Fahrenheit is also to be expected. I wasn’t thrown off by the different electrical plug shape either, because I’ve traveled here before. But in the past, it was always to stay in a hotel. I’ve discovered that there are some unusual differences between my apartment and homes in the U.S.

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1. The bathroom light switch is outside the bathroom. See that light switch just outside the bathroom? That’s the light switch for the bathroom. For some reason, the lights for bathrooms here are outside. That’s just weird. Maybe it’s because I grew up with siblings, but I want control of the lights while I’m in the shower. I mean, if there’s one room where I don’t want someone to be able to turn off the light on me, this would be it. And it’s not just in the apartment. I was in a public space in the apartment building yesterday and noticed that the light switch for that public restroom was in the hallway.

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2. Some rooms have steps. Not a normal 7-8 inch step up, but a 1 inch lip. Just enough to smash your toe on as you step in instead of up. Which I’ve done several times already. It’s not in every room either. Just the bathrooms and kitchen. I could understand if one had to step up as you left the kitchen, as a sort of flooding prevention measure. This is just the opposite, however.

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3. Different levels of dry on the dryer. Did you know that there are different levels of dry? I’m used to different setting for various fabrics. I guess if I thought about it, dryers in the U.S. sometimes have settings like “quick dry.” But I didn’t know that there was a difference between cupboard dry and mix cupboard dry.

I’m sure there’ll be more surprises as I adjust. And I’ll post stories from my great American road trip that I took just before moving here as well.

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Ordinary Traveler Series – Candice

This week’s ordinary traveler is my friend Candice.

1.  What makes you want to travel?  My traveling began rather early in life. I am sure I picked it up from my parents, who trekked across the country each year with my brother and I.  They provided me with a map and my mind began to wonder.  Wanderlust is alive and well with me, so traveling is just a natural reaction to this draw to constantly move.  My job keeps me busy, and travel allows me to get out, leave the cell phone behind, and listen to nature.  Additionally, I’m naturally curious about new places, people and the experience of learning.  Travel helps me to find myself, especially out in the woods.

Redwood National Forest
Redwood National Forest

2. How do you afford to travel?  Each month I apportion off a bit of what’s left in my bank account from checking into savings.  This helps build a budget to spend on a couple of trips each year.  Uncle Sam also helps out, in that, my state taxes, from Iowa, are returned to me in one lump sum.  That also kicks in for another great trip each year.

Winslow, Arizona
Winslow, Arizona

3. Do you prefer to travel alone or in a group? There are times when I really enjoy having several people accompany me on the journey and then others when I find travel best experienced solo.  I like group travel in foreign countries or with someone from the location.  In the United States, my best trips are conducted in the car – just journeying from one location to the next.

Tombstone, Arizona
Tombstone, Arizona

4. What is the most memorable experience you’ve had and why? My most memorable moment during one trip to the North Shore of Oahu occurred right before I went to Bosnia.  My friend recommended that we hit Haleiwa Beach Park because the waves were really pounding.  We paddled out in the middle of a break in a small rainstorm and just savored some pretty big waves.  While we were out there, gigantic turtles popped up next to us, just to get a quick breath before diving down again.  Then a pod of dolphins swam up to us.  To top it all off, this massive rainbow appeared in the distance.  It was truly a blessing to have complete serenity out in the ocean before traveling to the other side of the world.

A turtle checks us out in Hawaii.
A turtle checks us out in Hawaii.

5. What has been your favorite destination and why? I’m a National Parks junkie.  One of the best things our nation ever did was to protect portions of this country for future generations to enjoy.  The Grand Canyon is the ultimate in destinations to see in one’s lifetime.  I would say the best trip I’ve ever experienced was traveling to Salzburg, Austria from Rome, taking the train.  After college, I took a trip over Europe and found that ride in the Alps is one of the best views I’ve seen in my entire life.

The Grandest Canyon
The Grandest Canyon

6. Where have you been that you’d like to live for at least a year? I’ve had the good fortune to live in some excellent locations in the United States due to the Army.  Spending several years in Hawaii, Arizona, and New York were just dreams of mine when I grew up in Iowa.  After having traveled for almost four decades, I’d say a year in Northern California or Colorado are two places I haven’t lived that I’d like to try on for size.

7. What’s the one thing that you have to bring home as a souvenir? Every time I travel, I tend to bring home a piece of art.  In San Francisco, I found a great painting of a trolley car in bright orange, red and purple.  While traversing New Mexico, I persuaded the owner of a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant to sell me a cow head covered in turquoise.  My last trip to Mexico City resulted in a bag full of brightly colored paintings.

Mexico City
Mexico City

8. What’s the strangest custom that you’ve seen or experienced? That’s a bit difficult, as there are some customs in the Middle East completely foreign to my way of thinking.  One of the strangest things I’d ever seen was in Afghanistan, when our convoy passed a bus packed with people.  Looking through the windows as we passed, the entire vehicle was jam packed in the back with women in burkas, in front of them we saw livestock, then boys and then amply spaced out men.  It just took me back at how people are treated differently across the world.

9. What do you always pack? The “must” pack is my camera.  Photographs are the best pieces that I always bring back.  They can capture a scene and the essence of travel itself.  Photos from my journeys cover my walls in my house and remind me that the next adventure awaits.

Chiricahua National Park
Chiricahua National Park

10. What’s the best travel advice you’ve learned? Pack once, unload everything, and then pack again, taking out half of what you packed the first time.  You can get along with less in your bag if you think multifunctionally and pack light.  The best advice on the road I ever received was to constantly ask locals where the best hidden spots are.  Most recently, I had someone tell me the best places to eat, if you’re looking for a hole in the wall, is where there are lots of motorcycles parked outside.  If bikers approve then it’s gotta be good.  This definitely applies to Arizona.

11. Where are you going on your next trip? My next adventure takes me to Montana.  I’ve never been there, and both Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks are the next in my series to visit.  Friends in Missoula and Helena are helping me find some of the local attractions in the area as well.   In the upcoming year my goal is to prepare for the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) and get to finish the ride in 2016.  It’s something I’ve wanted to do since the early 1990s. I might just have the time and motivation in 2016.

Morning hike in the Huachuca Mountains
Morning hike in the Huachuca Mountains

All photos provided by Candice.

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In Defense Of Walking

I turned down a ride for the third time that day. I appreciated the offer, I truly did. But having walked five and a half of the six miles that I had planned for that day, I was determined to finish on foot.

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For the first time in 20 years, I don’t own a car. I’m in transit between my last house and my next house, and it seemed easier to go without than to deal with shipping the car. All day long, I find myself checking my front pocket and wondering where I left my keys. Their absence sets off an initial panic until I remember the reason for it. It’s like a ghost sensation.

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This experience has given me a new appreciation for the ease that my automobile brought to my life. A quick run down to the grocery store is now a 40 minute walk. Both ways. I calculate how much I can purchase not by how much cash I have but on how much weight I can carry. Some roads are less pedestrian friendly than others. Walking on the shoulder of the road when necessary, I’m reminded how small I am and big those semi trucks are.

Still, there are advantages. I am forced to slow down and take in the scenery. I can wander down trails that look interesting to me. I’ve found shortcuts and local parks that I didn’t know existed. Without my car radio blaring, I’m left with my own thoughts and the sounds of the birds around me.

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I’m sure that I’ll enjoy the freedom that wheels bring once I get another car. Until then, I’m grateful for my feet and for the trail in front of me.

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Taft Historic Site

America’s 27th President was a large presence in Cincinnati, Ohio. It would be hard for him not to be – he weighed in at over 300 pounds. William Howard Taft is notable for being America’s most obese President. Towards the end of his Presidential term, he weighed around 335 pounds. His large size made him the target of jokes even in college, but we won’t comment on it anymore here. What we will discuss, however, is the tradition of public service that was part of the Taft family legacy in Cincinnati. This tradition is a major part of the story being told at the William Howard Taft National Historic Site, part of the National Park Service.

The family home on Auburn Avenue is three stories and fairly spacious. It had to be, since there were up to fourteen people living there at times. William was one of six children, and his grandparents lived in the home as well. They also had four servants living under the Taft roof.

William’s father, Alphonso Taft, served his country as a diplomat, as Secretary of War and as U.S. Attorney General. If you visit the Taft Historic Site, you’ll learn about the Taft family’s contributions to civic society at city, state, and national levels. William famously became the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court following his term as President. Tafts have served as Congressmen, Governor, Ambassadors, and have held numerous positions on charitable boards in Cincinnati and throughout the country.

Ohio is known as the birthplace of Presidents. If you’re in the Cincinnati area, you should stop by the Taft Historic Site to see the actual birthplace of one of those Presidents. And be inspired by his family’s legacy of seeking opportunities to give back to their community.

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American Sign Museum

I’ll admit it, I didn’t really know anything about Cincinnati before I drove there on a whim last Saturday afternoon. I knew that it had a baseball team. I also thought it was named after Cincinnatus. It is, but only indirectly, deriving its name from the Society of the Cincinnati. Other than that, I had no expectations. Then I stopped in the American Sign Museum and had a fabulous time.

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This wall traces the history of signs in America.

Now, I’ll say up front that Cincinnati has a lot of sights to see. The zoo is world famous, there are art museums and national parks and more. I chose to spend my short time there at the American Sign Museum and I was not disappointed.

The collection demonstrates the history of signs in Amercan, from early trade signs and goldleaf signs of the early 1900s up to the neon age and the plastics used in the 1950s. There’s a free tour, which I recommend. Our tour guide was a volunteer who is studying graphic design. She gave descriptions of each type of sign and pointed out subtle differences that denoted innovations and technological advances.

Main Street at the American Sign Museum.
Main Street at the American Sign Museum.

The finale of the tour is a re-created American main street. This was a very cool place to stop. Big hat tip to Atlas Obscura, which is where I heard about it.

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Ordinary Traveler Series – Courtney

This week’s ordinary traveler is a friend and fellow blogger. Courtney lives in upstate New York. She writes about tea at illbemother221btalkstea.wordpress.com. She writes about everything else at galinthegreyhat.com.
1. What makes you want to travel? The chance to see new places is always a huge draw for me. Traveling abroad usually means new customs, foods, etc. and that is always exciting to me. While traveling in the U.S. allows me to see the history and to some extent new customs and foods too.
2. How do you afford to travel? My husband and I typically try to save up for a trip every other year somewhere big. Two years ago, we went to Ireland. Thanks to our tax return and a work bonus, we were able to make it happen without breaking the bank. There have been times where family will offer to let us stay with them so all we’ll need to buy is the plane ticket and make dinner while we’re there. Plus Southwest always has good fares.
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3. Do you prefer to travel alone or in a group? Group travel can be difficult. Last fall we went to Disney World. It was my first time – which meant everyone wanted me to see everything, while I just wanted to wander and see what I could see. So that was tough. I do like tours when traveling abroad because the tour tends to include a lot of entrance fees for museums and the like. But when we were in Ireland, we drove ourselves. I think we were able to meet more of the locals because we weren’t with a tour group.
4. What is the most memorable experience you’ve had and why? There have been two. . . and they were the two most recent trips. Disney World because I had never been. I loved experiencing it with my husband AND I got to meet Minnie Mouse which was the BEST part of the trip for the 5 year old in me. Ireland was amazing and full of history. Plus my family and my husband’s family come from Ireland so in a way it felt like going home.
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5. What has been your favorite destination and why? Besides the two above? I LOVED the UK! But I’m a history nerd and let’s face it there is a whole lot of history to take in there.
6. Where have you been that you’d like to live for at least a year? I’m torn between London and the west coast of Ireland. Seeing as I haven’t been to London in many years I think I’d have go with that.
7. What’s the one thing that you have to bring home as a souvenir? Tea!
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8. What’s the strangest custom that you’ve seen or experienced? I don’t know that it’s so much a custom. But in Ireland and the UK we were always asked “what time you wanted to be knocked up”. It took me a moment to realize they were asking for the wake up call time!
9. What do you always pack? Beyond the essential items. I always take my grey hat with me because of my blog and also because sometimes you need to cover up a bad hair day no matter where you are!
10. What’s the best travel advice you’ve learned? Pack your suite case then take out half of what you packed for clothing. So true and it’s saved me space to bring things back.
11. Where are you going on your next trip? My next trip is to Bethesda, Maryland for a Sherlock Holmes convention. So not vacation, but it is time away for something I enjoy so I think it counts!
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Ordinary Traveler Series – Michelle

This week’s ordinary traveler series features an old friend of mine. Michelle Lavicka is the co-owner of Mountain Top Pilates in Morgantown, West Virginia.
Bolivia
Bolivia
1. What makes you want to travel?  I have an incurable form of wanderlust. Every time I cross something off my list, I find two or three things to add . . . My husband doesn’t help–he is always coming across cool places or events or activities for us to see or do first-hand. Whenever we meet people on our travels, we always learn about “one more place” we need to see. The world is incredible and I want to see all of it!
Michelle in Australia
Michelle in Australia

2. How do you afford to travel?  Travel is, by far, our biggest expense–more than our mortgage, food, and everything else combined! It helps we don’t have debt (aside from the house). But otherwise, we collect miles/points aggressively. We know that, since we only have the one life, we might as well go for it. We have never regretted money spent on a trip which, I would say, means it’s been well-spent.

3. Do you prefer to travel alone or in a group?  We prefer alone so we can make our own itinerary and see exactly what we want. That said, while we usually aim to be on our own, some activities have to be group (Korea’s DMZ comes to mind). As a result, we’ve had memorable group trips where we met wonderful people and had a lot of fun.

Mongolia
Falconry in Mongolia

4.  What is the most memorable experience you’ve had and why? Oh, man. Just one? My husband would say hot air ballooning over Bagan, Burma (I know this to be ready for a game show if we are ever on one). Mine changes. Am I allowed to do a list?

  • Most memorable animal experience: seeing penguins for the first time when we were in Southern Patagonia.
  • Most memorable food experience? Eating at every restaurant at the Burj al Arab
  • Most memorable family experience? Sand sledding with Jeff and my parents in New Zealand
  • Most memorable grateful experience? Crossing the border out of Belarus.
  • Most memorable “I wish I could live here” experience? Our safaris in South Africa.
  • Most memorable street experience? Eating our way through Bangkok
  • Most memorable “I can die happy” experience? Riding camels through the Gobi.

I could go on, you get the idea

Sizing up the Sphinx in Egypt.
Sizing up the Sphinx in Egypt.
5. What has been your favorite destination and why?  I love South Africa. It has everything: animals, culture, beauty, history, incredible food . . . I can’t wait to go back.

 

6.  Where have you been that you’d like to live for at least a year?

South Africa for sure. New Zealand, too. Iceland. Saigon. Melbourne. I could live in Little Washington for a year, but only if I got to garden and work in the kitchen. Oh, and Punte del Este in Uruguay–that place is a gem.

Michelle and Jeff in Antarctica
Michelle and Jeff in Antarctica

7. What’s the one thing that you have to bring home as a souvenir?Photos.

Exploring Greece
Exploring Greece
8. What’s the strangest custom that you’ve seen or experienced?
You know, after awhile, nothing seems that strange anymore since you end up seeing it, or something similar, in more than one place. So, instead of strange, it’s just a “Oh! Right, they do that in . . .” type of thing that sends us down memory lane. That said, the tea in Mongolia was a bit tough to drink, but I don’t know if it’s strange.

 

9. What do you always pack? Camera, extra batteries, electrical converter, laptop, underpants. Beyond that, if it can’t fit into my carryon, it’s not coming. Jeff and I have a very light packing credo.

Scuba diving the continental divide in Iceland
Scuba diving the continental divide in Iceland
10. What’s the best travel advice you’ve learned?  Be polite.
11.  Where are you going on your next trip?  Our next trip is home to my parents. Our next adventure is, hopefully, to finish off Southern Asia.
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Unfinished Business

You can spend a lifetime somewhere and not really see it. In our case, we spent three years on Oahu and didn’t get to everything. Some would say we didn’t make it a priority. Others would say we were leaving things to do next time. Either way, here are a few things that we didn’t get to.

‘Iolani Palace – the only royal palace within the United States, ‘Iolani palace was home to King David Kalakaua and Queen Lili’uokalani. Built in 1879, this opulent building served as the official residence for the Hawaiian monarchy until it was overthrown in 1893. It also served as the state capitol building. For the last four decades, it has been a museum.

Eat the Street – Street food in Hawaii! Eat the Street has been held monthly since 2011 and features foods by local vendors.

Polynesian Cultural Center – Maybe it’s the long drive to Laie. Maybe it’s the thought of a sober luau. Regardless, we haven’t made it there yet. The Polynesian Cultural Center is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Many of the staff are students at the neighboring Hawaii campus of Brigham Young University. Within the 42 acres of this Polynesian theme park are several villages. Each village highlights the architecture, music, and culture of a Polynesian culture such as Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga.

Koko Head Crater – A lot of stairs. Koko Head is famous for the views from the top. But there are over a thousand steps on the way up, and that’s too many for me. If you go, go early before the heat gets too bad.

Surf on Waikiki Beach – Over four million tourists visit Oahu each year. Most of them stay on Waikiki. I can’t blame them, it is a great beach. So nice that it used to be reserved for Hawaiian royalty. But I’ve learned what lots of locals already know – it’s not the only nice beach on the island. We go to the beach all the time. Some beaches have turtles, some are good for snorkeling, and some are good for just laying around. So far we’ve managed to have our island life without the crowds of Waikiki.

Maybe we’ll hit a few of these before we leave. Maybe we’ll leave them for another time. If you have a favorite, or a regret about one you missed, leave a comment.

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Ordinary Traveler Series – Molly

Anyone can travel, and everyone should. That’s one of the main reasons for this blog, to share the richness of experience gained by traveling and seeing cultures other than your own. So I’ve instituted a segment called the ordinary traveler series. I interview people who’ve travelled and are willing to share some of their experiences. These aren’t trust-funded global trotters. These are ordinary folks who’ve decided to live extraordinary lives. My sister-in-law, Molly, was gracious enough to kick off this series. Without further ado – Molly.

At an amphitheater in Ephesus, Turkey.
At an amphitheater in Ephesus, Turkey.

What makes you want to travel?  I like the adventure.  I like to see new places and have new experiences.  Traveling has opened my eyes to new cultures. Travel has allowed me to test my independence, and to rely on others.

How do you afford to travel?  I used to rely on my tax refund for travel purposes.  For the past few years, my refund hasn’t been much, so I’ve been using my savings.  I try to travel without spending too much money.  I stay with friends, in hostels, or camp.  I look for the free days to go to museums and other places that have entrance fees.  I take public transportation as often as I can. I also do local travels, like riding my bicycle down the Pacific Coast or backpacking in the High Sierra.

Do you prefer travel alone or with a group?  Both.  I like to be on my own because I don’t have to worry about anyone’s happiness or satisfaction but my own.  I am on my own schedule, and if I want to stay at the beach all day, I will.  Or if I want to go to 5 museums and 4 churches in Paris in one day (Hey! It was free museum day!) I will.  With groups, I love the bonding time; the inside jokes.  I love having people to reminisce with about the trips we’ve taken.  It can be a time to process life with others and share adventures. I’ve had the privilege of traveling with people who have become my best friends, and I’ve been able to grow closer to members of my family through shared adventures.

What is the most memorable experience you have had and why? My most memorable experience was my bicycle trip from Oregon to Minnesota.  It was something that was slightly spur of the moment.  It was a trip where I doubted my abilities.  I was with 4 strangers, and found a best friend.  I laughed with new friends, was inspired by my group members, and cried when I finally pedaled out of Montana and into North Dakota.  I climbed mountains, battled headwinds, and peed on the side of the road more often than in a bathroom in the month of June!  The best part was surprising  my parents.  I showed up at their door unannounced after 35 days on a bicycle.

The end of the trail - Oregon to Minnesota by bike.
The end of the trail – Oregon to Minnesota by bike.

What has been your favorite destination and why?  Gosh.  That’s a hard one.  One of my favorites was France.  I was a nanny there one summer.  The family I worked for had three homes–one in Paris, Chamonix, and Villefranche (near Nice).  Even though I was working, I was able to see three beautiful parts of France. I explored each area thoroughly and ate enough croissants to consider myself a snob.

Where have you been that you’d like to live for at least a year? Xela, Guatemala.  I went there one summer for Spanish Language School.   It was a place that was very different for me and I didn’t speak any Spanish when I arrived.  I want to go back for a longer time to learn more Spanish, and to live in a place that is so different from where I live now.

What’s one thing that you have to bring home as a souvenir? When I travel to foreign countries, I like to buy children’s books.  I look for ones that have illustrations which I feel drawn to.  When I’m on my bicycle, I buy stickers of the places I pass through for my water bottles or panniers.

What is the strangest custom that you’ve seen or experienced? I don’t really know if it’s strange, it’s just different.  When I was in Turkey, anytime I entered a shop I would be offered apple tea.  Most of the time, the offer of apple tea also led to conversation.

What to you always pack?  Plenty of underwear, comfortable shoes (usually my Chacos), my satchel, water bottle, book, and journal. Oh.  And my ATM card.  When I am on bike trips, I love my headband that also covers my ears.  It protects from cold breezes as well as sunburn!

Hiking the John Muir Trail.
Hiking the John Muir Trail.

What is the best travel advice you’ve learned? Don’t try to do too much.  Spending a few days in one place is much better than constantly moving to a new spot, especially in a foreign country.  When I was traveling in Europe, I spent multiple days in one place to get a better sense of the town and the culture.

Where are you going on your next trip? My next trip will by my 4th bicycle tour.  I’ll be with my best friend (from my trip to MN) and her family.  We’ll be riding in the San Juan Islands in Washington.

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Still traveling