Where we’re headed in 2018

Where we’re headed in 2018

Some people make resolutions on New Year’s Day. Not us. We make reservations. It has become a bit of a tradition for us to sit in bed on New Year’s morning, sip mimosas and finalize vacation plans for the year. The best part of the day is when I get to click the, “complete booking” button.

This year, though, was a little different. We booked and started saving for our big trip of 2018 about 18 months ago. Still, we had a lot of planning to do, so our annual mimosa time (we did NOT change that tradition) was full of making travel decisions for 2018. What did we talk about? I’m glad you asked.

More blogging

Our little Postcard Jar blog is quickly growing into more than just a hobby. One of our biggest conversation topics for this new year revolves around how we will create a home business in the travel industry. Last year we dabbled in selling postcards and postcard jars. In addition to keeping some retail options, we are doing some travel consulting, and may even lead a trip or two. Obviously, we’re still trying to figure out a lot of things and in the meantime, we’re working hard on our blog and doing a lot of volunteer work in our community.

More time in Oklahoma

Our first trip of 2018 will likely be back to Oklahoma. We would like to travel to Tulsa to look at school our daughter might be interested in. Of course we’ll have to stop in Pawhuska so we can visit our new friends there, enjoy a chicken fried steak, and sip a Handy’s pop or 12.

Kihekah Ave., Pawhuska, Oklahoma

We fell in love with Oklahoma this year and are excited for our daughter, Meghan, to explore the possibilities of attending nursing school in Tulsa this year.

The great American road trip (or two)

As I write this, the temperature is -3 where we live in Nebraska, which makes us question our life choice of living in the Midwest. As a result, we have talked about taking a road trip south this winter to escape the brunt of the cold. I spent six years living in Mississippi, and Ann lived in South Carolina. We’d each like to take the other on a stroll down memory lane. We’d also like to head to Arizona where Ann spent time living with her dad when she was younger. I’ve heard an awful lot about Arizona; it’s high time we took a trip there so I can see it for myself.

We have really started to enjoy road trips in the U.S. and having the time to stop and see things along the way.

We have really started to enjoy road trips in the U.S. and having the time to stop and see things along the way.

National Track Championships

Ann and I help lead college ministry at our church and several of our college “sons” are seniors on the men’s track and field team so this is their last year to compete. With a more flexible schedule this year, we’re excited to be able to travel to the NAIA national championship meet to see them run.  We’ve booked our hotel for Pittsburgh, Kansas, for the Indoor Championships in March. Now the guys just have to do their part and qualify. The outdoor meet is in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and we’re looking into traveling there in May, as well.

A return to Rochester, Minnesota

Over the last four years, we’ve made more than a dozen trips to Rochester, Minnesota, for Ann to be seen and treated at the Mayo Clinic there. It’s time for her to have a follow up with cardiology to monitor her cardiac sarcoidosis and she will need to have a chest CT to make sure the tumor she had removed from her lung has not returned. With me not at school this year, we’ll likely expand the trip a little and try to see more of Minnesota while we’re up there. One place in particular we’d like to go is Roseville, located between Minneapolis and St. Paul, which makes it an ideal location for exploring the Twin Cities. We also have friends and family in the area we’d love to see.

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota

The big one

In June, we will set off on our biggest trip of the year, and maybe our lives. It is a 10-night cruise from Italy to Greece and back aboard the Celebrity Reflection. We can’t wait to see the sights of Rome, Malta, Sicily, and Greece and reconnect with some cruise friends we met a couple summers ago. We hope to add a few more days to this vacation to visit other places in Italy like Tuscany and Venice. The best part is we’ve been planning (and saving) for this vacation for almost 18 months, now, so by the time it gets here, hopefully all we’ll have left to do is enjoy it.

Rome, Italy

Conferring with experts

We just learned of a bloggers’ conference in Prague that takes place two weeks after our cruise, so that is a definite possibility. We’ve wanted to visit the Czech Republic for some time, and this might provide the push we need to make the visit. The fact we’d already be on that side of the Atlantic makes it much easier to go.

In September, we’ll head to the Finger Lakes region of New York for another TBEX conference for bloggers and those in the travel industry. That is an area of the country we’ve wanted to explore, as well, and autumn seems like a perfect time for a visit. Along the way we’ll likely take in Niagara Falls and other sights in the region.

TBEX Minneapolis/St. Paul

We attended the TBEX conference two years ago in Minneapolis/St. Paul and made a lot of good connections.

Spending time with our parents

It was such a blessing this year to have time to spend traveling with our parents and we’d like to do more of that this year, as well. We took my mom and dad on a trip through the Nebraska Sandhills last summer and would love to take them even further west (and northwest to Toadstool Geologic Park) if we’re able. We also had a great trip with Ann’s mom to Oregon and she’s already talking about wanting to travel to an away Husker game this year. Speaking of the Huskers …

Steve's parents in the Nebraska Sandhills

Steve’s mom and dad take a minute to enjoy the view across the Dismal River valley in the Sandhills.

Pioneer Woman Lodge kitchen, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Carol has seen this stove in action on TV many times, and enjoyed checking it out for herself on our trip to the Drummond Ranch near Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Go Big Red!

As you know by now, we are big Nebraska Cornhusker football fans and look forward to football season every year. This year promises to be extra special as we have a new coaching staff that promises to bring a new scheme and a return to the Husker culture of old. Fingers crossed! We’ll plan our travel schedule around home games and may even try to take in a road game if we can. We hear The Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is an OK place to see a game.

We loved exploring the Pacific Northwest and despite a Husker loss, had a great time at the at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon.

We love going to Husker road games. Last year we traveled to Eugene, Oregon, to see the Huskers play the Ducks.

Concerts, shows, and attractions

Finally, sprinkled in thought the year, there are a number of concerts and shows we’d like to see. We love everything from the symphony to musicals to modern country music, so we are always looking to see a show. We are lucky to live close to a place like the Lied Center in Lincoln, and we already have tickets to several great shows in 2018.

When we're not traveling, we love to see shows at the Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln, Nebraska.

When we’re not traveling, we love to see shows at the Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The great unknown

It is impossible to know on January 3 where, exactly, the year will take us. We know we have a lot of work ahead as we grow our blog and our business and that will be a big focus of our year. Undoubtedly, 2018 will bring new opportunities that we don’t know about today, and just as assuredly, things will happen that will prevent us from being able to do everything on this list. No matter where the year takes us, we will make the trip together, and that’s what I’m looking forward to the most.


Have you been to any of the places we listed? Is there any place else we should consider? Please let us know in the comments below.

Blogiversary 3: What a year!

Blogiversary 3: What a year!

Who’d a thunk it? Three years into this crazy adventure we call travel blogging, we’re having the time of our lives and we can’t thank you enough! Readers like you have inspired us every day with your comments and suggestions, notes about your travel experiences, and of course, your postcards.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for sending us postcards from your vacations!

We are so thankful for your interest in our little Postcard Jar and hope you know how grateful we are to be able to write about extraordinary travel for everyday people. This week, as we celebrate our third blogiversary, we thought we’d take a look back at the past year and give you some sneak peeks at where this journey is taking us next.

It was three years ago today when we penned typed out our first blog post from a hotel in Rochester, Minnesota, while visiting the Mayo Clinic. [You can read that first post HERE] We started a blog as a way to take our minds off of the health issues I was facing and share with others one of the things we enjoy most in life — traveling. Shortly after our 2nd Blogiversary last year, we decided to get a little more serious about this whole travel blogging hobby and we attended TBEX North America in Minneapolis, Minn.  TBEX is a conference for travel bloggers and representatives of the travel industry and me just say, all the cool kids were there and they made us feel oh, so welcomed.

The Radisson Blu rolled out the red carpet and this incredible ice bar for TBEX North America.

Not only did we get to experience a fantastic pre-conference tour of Stillwater, we met some of the most interesting people and successful travel bloggers like Maven on the Move,  Lou Mongello, Backpacker Brock, and Vicki Winters.

We also met with lots of destination reps, took in a photography lecture, and learned so much more about all of the social media platforms. And (perhaps most importantly) we got to visit the Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America after hours, with free rides and complimentary Dip-n-Dots and all.

Steve was so excited to be able to play all of the carnival games at Nickelodeon Universe after hours for FREE!

The whole experience just got us more fired up about blogging and we put in as much time on our blog as our schedules and my health allowed this year. We documented our visit to England, our road trip across Nebraska, and all of the great ports from our cruise in the Caribbean, including our favorite island of St. Kitts.

A highlight for us this year was traveling to both Stonehenge (in England) and Carhenge (in Alliance, Neb.) within the span of a month.

Since this time last year, we’ve added 40 new posts and worked hard on beefing up our social media presence. We started hosting a few Facebook live events and it was great to connect with our followers online.

By mid-year, our efforts were really staring to pay off. While on vacation in the Baltic Sea, our daughter Meghan noticed a message on our Twitter account [you can follow us @postcardjar] and quickly emailed us about it. A young, social media savvy reporter from our local CBS affiliate had messaged us to ask if we’d be her guests on the 10/11 morning show called First News Nebraska. Natalie Micale had read about our travel blog in Buy Local Buy Nebraska magazine and wanted to have us on to talk about our travels and our blog!

It was so cool to be on our local CBS station with our actual postcard jar!

We agreed and just after completing a weeklong trip across our home state, we found ourselves waking up at 3 a.m. to get to the TV station by 4:30.

Natalie Micale was just great to us!

We ended up doing four segments on the morning show that day and Natalie posted the videos on her Facebook page so were able to share them with our followers who weren’t quite out of bed with the roosters that morning. We had a blast on the show and that only sparked more conversation about Postcard Jar and got us even more excited to share our love for travel.

Seeing the interest in our segment on Nebraska travel, we decided to focus a little more on local and area destinations throughout the summer. We joined the Crete Chamber of Commerce where we live and signed up to sponsor a photo booth at our town’s annual Great Pumpkin Festival in October.

We grateful for help at our photo booth from friends and family like De’Andre and Meghan (and the Pipers).

A month later, we found ourselves hosting a Chamber Tech Tuesday event where we shared our new-found knowledge of social media marketing with other small business owners. And, to top off our business ventures, we got a Nebraska tax ID and we’re now selling customized postcards!

We were humbled that two of our readers drove down to the Pumpkin Festival to meet us and check out our Crete postcards!

Also last fall, I traveled to the western part of the state for the Nebraska Travel and Tourism Conference where I learned so much more about the wide variety of travel and tourism destinations here. Steve wasn’t able to go because of his school schedule (he’s a middle school principal — God bless him), so I took our daughter Meghan with me. We made lots of good contacts there and I was even interviewed by the Omaha World-Herald for a story they were doing about the conference.

Scottsbluff National Monument in western Nebraska,

Upon our return, we were contacted by a nearby community college and asked to teach a class on Nebraska travel. A little hesitant at first, we eventually agreed and were delighted to see “Postcards from Nebraska” offered in the winter non-credit class schedule.

Our very first Postcards from Nebraska class at Southeast Community College in Lincoln, Neb.

Steve and I taught our first class to 18 enthusiastic Nebraska travelers in January and it was a blast! We’re hopeful that we’ll teach more classes in the near future and have even talked with the college about leading some day trip tours. We’ll keep you posted.

It has just been incredible to see how our travel blog has grown in the past year and we couldn’t be more grateful for all of the love and support we’ve received from readers like you. You guys are AMAZING and we can’t thank you enough for coming along on this journey with us.

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]