See where our parents have been

See where our parents have been

We thought we’d kick off this summer travel season with a series of blog posts featuring some of the postcards that we’ve received. We love going down to the post office, opening our P.O. box, and finding postcards from far-away places. It is so neat to think of all the places in the world our readers have visited. Occasionally, it is somewhere we’ve been. More often, we add it to the growing list of places we’d like to go. In any event, it’s our hope that you’ll see something in this series that sparks your interest and makes you want to set off on an adventure of your own.

We love getting postcards from our Postcard Jar followers.

We decided that it would be best to start our “postcard parade” with postcards sent to us by our greatest fans (don’t laugh) — our parents. They’ve been sending us postcards since the beginning of our blog, and we couldn’t appreciate it more.

My mom and dad have taken a few trips over the past few years. A couple of summers ago, they headed to northern Minnesota. There they made stops in Duluth, Gooseberry Falls State Park, and at Split Rock Lighthouse on the northern shore of Lake Superior.

A different trip to Minnesota took them to Stillwater and they sent a postcard not of that quaint town, but a fun one about traveling in the state (complete with a “Minnesota rest area” photo on the back of the postcard.)

My folks have gone other places, as well, including a stop at the Lewis and Clark Visitors’ Center in Nebraska City, Neb.

lewis and clark barge

Finally, they took a trip across southern Florida this winter, and came across a gallery of work by environmental photographer Clyde Butcher. They absolutely loved it and said it was on the Tamiami Trail and was located in a cypress swamp.

Ann’s mom, Carol, has done quite a bit of travel, as well. She has made a couple of trips to see her brother, who lives in North Carolina. When she goes, they typically explore the region. With her brother, Carol has been to Washington D.C. where she saw the cherry blossoms, and to Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello.

They have also visited George W. Vanderbilt’s Biltmore estate, a not-so-modest 250-room “French Renaissance-style chateau,” which Carol said was beautiful. Finally, they have also visited some of the beaches that make the Eastern Seaboard such a wonderful place to visit.

Carol and her late husband, Mark, had a cottage on Hamlin Lake near Ludington, Mich. As a result, Carol has made many trips over the years across Iowa and Illinois on their way to Michigan. On a more recent trip with one of her daughters, Carol realized that just steps from where she and Mark had gotten gas for years in Leclaire, Iowa, was the store from the show, “American Pickers.” They stepped in, met one of the show’s stars, and had a wonderful time.

Carol pointed out that it was just one more, “reason to stop and smell the roses along life’s journey.” Of course no trip to Ludington, Mich. would be complete without a visit to the city’s iconic lighthouse to watch the S.S. Badger head out for its crossing of Lake Michigan.

Finally, Carol’s travels have taken her to see friends in far-off places. She’s visited Estes Park, Colo., where she stopped in at the Stanley Hotel. One night spent in the Stanley was all it took for Stephen King to come up with the story of The Shining.

Carol has also visited some friends who have a home in Arizona. There she visited the Biosphere 2, where eight people lived for two years eating only what they grew while inside.

Finally, Carol also visited my parents in the Florida Keys, where she made a stop in Key West. Among other things, she toured the “Little White House,” where President Truman would go for vacation.

Looking back at all these postcards, we’re really proud of our parents for their willingness to set off into the unknown and do a little exploring. In fact, it sort of answers the question as to where we got the travel bug. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing more postcards sent in by our readers. We hope that they inspire your imagination and give you some new ideas on where you can go next!

Have you been to any of these places? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you. And if you do take a trip, please don’t forget to send us a postcard at Postcard Jar, P.O. Box 334, Crete, NE 68333.

As always, thanks for sharing!

A look back at 2016

A look back at 2016

After traveling in the Caribbean for 10 days over Christmas, Steve and I returned to our home in Crete, Nebraska, about 15 seconds before the clock struck midnight Saturday night and just in time for a New Year’s kiss to ring in 2017. Before we delve into our travel plans for the upcoming year, we wanted to take a look back at 2016 and thank all of you for coming on this journey with us.

Last year, we rang in the new year with friends and family at home spent most of the spring in our home state of Nebraska. In February, we drove to nearby Wahoo to pick up a half a beef and ended up spending a delightful day in the town previously known as the home office of the Late Night with David Letterman Show.

 

 

In March we drove to the central region of the state to witness, first hand, the incredible Sandhill Crane migration. It was an absolutely amazing sight.

 

 

Although I’ve spent most of my life in Nebraska and had heard lots about the Sandhill Cranes, for some reason, I’d never taken the time to visit the sanctuaries and see these majestic birds up close. Let me just say, if you live in or near Nebraska — GO SEE THE CRANES! I would rank this experience among my Top 10 best travel experiences ever.  You can read more about our visit HERE.

Another Nebraska highlight for us was our visit to the Museum of American Speed in nearby Lincoln.

The car driven by Louis Chevrolet in the 1915 Indy 500. It achieved a maximum speed of 81 mph.

The car driven by Louis Chevrolet in the 1915 Indy 500. It achieved a maximum speed of 81 mph.

 

We hadn’t really heard of this museum and were absolutely amazed by the quality and massive quantity of car and speed-related items in this hidden gem of a museum. Not only did the three-story building include car collections, it also had a metal lunch box collection, a taxi cab collection, and lots of guitars, record albums, and movie posters. It was absolutely amazing and great pit stop for those traveling Interstate 80.

In May, we returned for another visit to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and then went on to Minneapolis for the North American TBEX, a conference for travel bloggers. We loved the conference, met some great new contacts, and became even more exited about growing our blog. We also had a chance to spend a day in Stillwater, Minnesota, while we were there. You can read all about HERE.

In the summer of 2016, we took one of the best vacations of our lifetimes to northern Europe. We’d been planning (and saving) for this trip for a long time and it exceeded all of our expectations. I picked Steve up from work the day his summer vacation began and he was able leave the middle school where he is principal. We flew to London, England, and took the Chirton Grange car service to South Hampton with a stop at the iconic Stonehenge.

 

Stonehenge

After a night in South Hampton and a visit to the local museum that chronicled  the sinking of the Titanic, we gathered the courage to board a ship and set sail on a 14-night cruise on the Baltic Sea.

The magnificent gold fountains at Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia.

We had an incredible experience on the Celebrity Eclipse and enjoyed stops in Belgium, Germany, Russia, Estonia, Sweden, and Denmark.

Bath, England

Bath, England

We disembarked in South Hampton and took a train to Bath, England, for a couple days and spent another three days visiting friends in Taunton before flying back to the States. It was an absolutely unforgettable vacation, filled with new experiences and adventures that we’ll always treasure.

Upon our return, we spent one day doing 12 loads of laundry, then packed up the car, picked up our daughter, Meghan, and headed out on a road trip across Nebraska. Less than a month after visiting Stonehenge in England, we found ourselves taking selfies at a cheesy replica called Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska.

Carhenge

We had a great week exploring our home state as a family, including stops in Hastings (where Kool-Aid was invented), Grand Island, North Platte, Scottsbluff/Gering, Crawford, Chadron, Valentine, and Norfolk. We loved taking the highways instead of the interstate, stopping to explore small (sometimes abandoned) towns, visiting quirky tourist attractions (like the Fort Cody Trading Post) and eating peanut butter sandwiches in city parks along the way.

With the exception of a short trip for appointments at the Mayo Clinic, we spent much of the fall near home and enjoyed taking friends and family to Nebraska Cornhusker football games. We even got to go to one away game when we flew to Columbus Ohio to see the Huskers play the Ohio State University in the Horseshoe. Great flight. Awesome venue. Devastating loss.

While we typically are home for Christmas, this year we decided to escape the cold and did another Celebrity cruise — this time to the Caribbean. We flew to Puerto Rico on Dec. 23 and boarded the Summit on Christmas Eve. We spent Christmas Day at sea and then enjoyed stops in Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Martin, St. Kitts (our favorite island) and St. Thomas before returning to San Juan and flying home on New Year’s Eve. Can’t wait to share some of those experiences with you, soon.

All in all, we traveled to two U.S. territories, six states, and 11 countries in 2016. We are still working on our travel schedule for 2017, but will likely spend most of our time in the United States, as there is so much here we have yet to see and experience.

Where did your travels take you in 2016? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you. 

Rediscovering Historic Stillwater, MN

Rediscovering Historic Stillwater, MN

For me, Stillwater is one of those places that will always take me back to my childhood and ignite fond memories. Every day I spent there as a child was filled with fun and relaxation. We’d fish off the back deck of my grandparent’s houseboat, slowly boat over to a nearby beach where we’d build sand castles, roast hot dogs, and swim for hours, or simply cruise up and down the incredible St. Croix River while enjoying the scenery.

Steve as a child on his grandparents’ houseboat on the St. Croix River near Stillwater, MN.

Our days were filled not just with fun and sun but with the soda-pop and sweetened cereal that came with a visit to Grandma’s. It was a comfortable place, a place where time slowed, and everyone was happy.

Some 30-or-so-years later, today, I arrived in Stillwater on a tour bus full of travel bloggers. For most, it was their first time in this beautiful little town. For me, stepping off the bus from Minneapolis into the cottonwood fluff-filled air was a step back in time and a pleasant reminder of my summers here as a child. The Stillwater Trolley Company hosted us on a complimentary tour of the town.

The Stillwater Trolley Company provided a great tour of the city with lots of history about everything from log jams and river rats to a sneak peek at the home where Hollywood actress Jessica Lange once lived.

The Stillwater Trolley Company provided a great tour of the city with lots of history about everything from log jams and river rats to a sneak peek at the home where Hollywood actress Jessica Lange once lived.

I learned history I’d not known, and saw beautiful houses and mansions that harkened back the early days of Stillwater and the logging industry that made the town thrive and, literally, built the Midwest. We oohed and ahhed at the Victorian homes, surrounded by covered, wrap-around porches where you easily imagine sipping tea or lemonade on a humid summer’s eve.

When the tour ended, we stopped for a delicious Sunday brunch at the Water Street Inn, courtesy of the Stillwater Convention and Visitors Bureau. We sat out on the patio, chatting with the other travel enthusiasts while we ate danishes, cheesy potatoes, smoked salmon, and made-to-order omelettes. We learned on our Trolley Tour that a building near here once housed the offices of many of the city’s lumber barons. It was said that at the height of the lumber boom, there was more money in the barons’ personal safes in their offices, than in all of the banks in Stillwater.

Later, Northern Vineyards Winery hosted us for a wine tasting (they offer many varieties of wines made from grapes grown in this area) on their beautiful rooftop terrace.

We sampled area favorites such as Lady Slipper (semi-sweet blush made from Frontenac Gris grapes grown in Minnesota) and Main Street Red (another semi-sweet wine blend of naked St. Croix and unbaked Frontenac grapes).

At both places I was able to watch the river flow past, see the boats and remember my own good times out there on the water.

After lunch, we had some free time, so I headed toward the marina where my grandparents kept their boat. Along the way I heard the whistle on the bridge blow, so I paused to watch the span go up and see the boats glide underneath.

I thought back to those days when I was on my grandparents’ boat, and realized just how lucky I was to have my so many memories of the river and town.

When I got to the marina, I found that much has changed–there is a bar in front of it now, the parking lot has been paved, and none of the docks are where they used to be. Still, there were ghosts from the past all around, drifting through my mind and that was especially fun for me.

While today was a short visit, I know Ann and I will be back. This quaint, little town has so much to offer visitors — stories and relics of the lumber boom and the lift bridge, restaurants, wineries, shops and boutiques. But most importantly, for me, it has the memories of summer days on the St. Croix River with family — and for that, it will always be worth coming back.

[well]Disclaimer: This trip was sponsored by organizations and businesses mentioned in this post as well as Explore Minnesota. All opinions are our own.[/well]

Postcards from Minnesota

Postcards from Minnesota

Steve and I are getting ready to head to north to Minnesota again this week. We’ve been going there several times a year to visit friends and family and for doctor’s visits at the Mayo Clinic where I’m being treated. It is about a 7-hour drive from our house in Crete, Neb., to Minneapolis and fortunately, there’s always plenty to see and do along the way.

As we prepare this week to return to the Mayo Clinic and then venture to the Twin Cities for the North American TBEX conference for travel bloggers and related industry professionals, we thought we’d share some of the postcards we’ve received from the great state of Minnesota.

The first postcard we received from Minnesota was from former colleagues of mine, Mary Pack and Walt Radcliffe. They sent us this beautiful postcard that features the Minnesota state bird, the Common Loon, and the state flower, the Lady Slipper. Walt and Mary were in Minnesota for an annual visit to the world renowned Mayo Clinic.

Like Mary and Walt, we’ve made several trips to the clinic. In fact, we wrote our very first blog post from the clinic and you can read it HERE.  Of course, we’ve sent ourselves a postcard or two from the Mayo Clinic like this one of a statue depicting founders Doctors William and Charles Mayo.

This statue is located in the Feith Family Statuary Park adjacent to the Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Mayo Clinic is the first and largest integrated nonprofit medical group practice in the world, employing more than 3,800 physicians and scientists and 50,900 health staff. They specialize in treating difficult cases (like mine) and spend more than $500 million a year on research. I have been so blessed by the care I’ve received and my experiences at the Mayo Clinic  [read more about that here] and am grateful we’re within a day’s drive of the clinic in Minnesota.

On a brighter note, the other postcards we’ve received from Minnesota are from our friends, the Bissons.

 

Last summer, they sent us postcards from the ever-popular Minnesota State Fair! Rick, Karen, Sawyer, and Cory drove to Minnesota last summer from their home in the Florida Keys. They loved the State Fair, including all of the fried food on a stick they could handle. We loved their postcards and their picks for the best fair food.

 

[well]Best of the best – Fried cheese curds

Best sweet – Martha’s pail of cookies and as much milk as you could drink for just $2.00

Best savory – Totchos (tots, taco meat, cheese, sour cream, bacon, green onion)

Weirdest food – Deep fried giant green olives stuffed with cream cheese on a stick and served with Ranch dip

[/well]

Adam Turman’s interpretation of the Great Minnesota Get-Together is the 12th in a series of original art created exclusively for the State Fair. Turman is a Twin Cities illustrator, muralist, fine artist and screen printer.

We’re really excited for our upcoming trip to Minnesota and look forward to meeting with the folks at Explore Minnesota at the TBEX conference. We can’t wait to lean more about tourism in Minnesota and explore places like The Mall of America (with some tax-free shopping), historic Stillwater, MN, and of course, a few of the incredible 10,000 lakes that make this state one-of-a-kind.

[well]When you’re traveling next, be sure to send us a postcard at Postcard Jar, P.O. Box 334, Crete, NE 68333. We’d love to hear from you![/well]