View Where in the world? in a larger map (Best if viewed via Google Chrome)

Continents: 5
Countries: 21
States: 37

The world is a book, and those who do not travel only read a page.

St. Augustine

Places I’ve Never Been

I was just browsing through my dashboard page, and I came across a list from some (real) travel writers, lamenting about the places they have never been.  Admittedly, I started comparing their lists to mine.  (I lost, by the way.)

I think I’ve mentioned the site Most Traveled People before; it’s a fun place to track the number of places you been, and look at other people’s travel adventures as well. I’m not a very helpful member of the site, as I’ve never written a review or uploaded photos, but I enjoy logging in from time to time.

One of the coolest things about the site (IMO) is the ranking list.  It tells you which places (countries, states, etc) are “easiest” and “most difficult” to visit, based on the number of site members who have been there.  You can see the most difficult places you have been, as well as the easiest places you have NOT been.

The most difficult place I’ve been to is Sharjah, an Emirate in the UAE where I did a desert safari a few years ago while on business in Abu Dhabi.  The top three easiest places I’ve never been are Austria, Czech Republic, and Catalonia.  

This got me thinking about the places on my personal list that I still want to visit (sooo hard to rank).  Australia is up there, simply because it would complete my travel to “inhabitable” continents.  As I have mentioned before, I definitely want to go to Antarctica too, but mostly just to check it off my list.  There are so many other places I’d like to see before Antarctica - Austria and the Czech Republic happen to be high on my list.  I would say the next five, in no particular order, are: Morocco, Oregon, Switzerland (for real, not just zooming through on a train), parts of Germany (even if it wouldn’t increase my country count!), and Singapore.

What about you, loyal readers?  What places would you like to see?

Matagorda

I haven’t had any super exciting travels for the last couple months, but when I started this blog, I did plan to share ideas for fun things to do in Houston and the surrounding areas.  I don’t know if Matagorda really qualifies as a surrounding area, as it’s almost two hours away, but it was a fun day trip, nonetheless. 

About a month ago, on Good Friday, Nathan and I took all three of our dogs (yes, three) down to the beach for the day.  I had heard about Matagorda because of the Texas Oilman’s Charity Fishing Tournament, but I had never actually been there before.  There wasn’t much traffic on the way down, and we mostly drove on two-lane highways.  We actually stopped to rescue a turtle in the middle of the road, but I wasn’t fast enough to snap a picture. 

Matagorda seems like a nice relaxing town, with access to the river and the bay.  There were a number of houses available for weekend rentals, and lots of bait shops.  It’s definitely a fishing-focused town, and I’m not really a fisherman, but it was a really relaxing place to spend the day.  We drove off toward the public beach, where we had been advised we’d have to pay $10 for a year-long access permit.  I was surprised to find that you buy the permit from an old guy in a pickup truck who is blocking the path to the sand, but no matter.  Seemed legit. ;) 

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Park City

Now that the weather is getting warmer, I figured I should probably write about my ski trip before it’s TOTALLY out of season.  In February, one of my friends from college organized a trip to Park City, Utah.  We had gone about a year ago when they had record snow, and were excited to hit the slopes again.  My boyfriend Nathan had never been skiing before, but he joined us for the trip and planned to take lessons.

Living in Houston, any snow seems like a lot, but the locals in Utah were disappointed with the snowfall this season, and were complaining about the conditions on the mountains.  We thought it was fine, but we were definitely in for a surprise in a few days.

Nathan and I landed on a Friday morning, and headed straight to Park City Mountain Resort, where the rest of the group was already skiing.  It was too late to sign up for a lesson that day, but thankfully we rode up the lift with a private instructor who was happy to give Nathan some pointers on his day off!

At the end of the day, we headed back to the condo we had rented just a few miles from the resort, and enjoyed our time in the hot tub.  We had dinner at Flanagan’s, an Irish pub on Main Street, and played pool at O’Shucks while we were waiting for our table.

The next day we headed over to the other side of the mountain to Alta, where the lift tickets are cheaper, the snow is better, and they don’t allow snowboards.  It’s also more popular among the locals, but a lot of tourists skip it because there is not a lot of lodging close by, so most people stay in Park City and don’t want to make the drive.  But if you are headed out that way, I highly recommend it!  It is definitely worth the trip.  And I say that, even in spite of what happened to us the following day…

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Looking out over the slopes from the top of the Sugarloaf area at Alta near Salt Lake City, Utah

Looking out over the slopes from the top of the Sugarloaf area at Alta near Salt Lake City, Utah

Dinner at Malaga in Austin before seeing Wicked with the girls!

Dinner at Malaga in Austin before seeing Wicked with the girls!

Holidays and Road Trips

To those of you who have been loyally following my blog, I apologize for the delay in updates.  I haven’t taken any “major” trips lately, but I did visit my family in Chicago over Christmas, and I’ve taken a few road trips since my last post.

For several months, two of my friends and I had been training for a half marathon.  In mid November, we headed to San Antonio to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon.  We had a blast!  It was warmer and a little more humid than we expected, but that’s Texas for you!

All three of us had strong races, and our boyfriends/husbands were there to cheer us on.  In fact, another couple we know got engaged the day before the race and ran together in t-shirts that said, “Just Engaged.” 

We didn’t have much time for touristy activities, but we did have dinner on the River Walk and visit the Alamo.  If you are interested in other activities in San Antonio (or any other major US city for that matter), you should check out http://www.seeamerica.com/ca/, a tourism website created by The Brand USA, a relatively new organization promoting foreign travel to the US.  They have some pretty great ideas!

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Just after mile 4 of the half marathon in San Antonio

Just after mile 4 of the half marathon in San Antonio

South Dakota and Wyoming

If you have been paying close attention (all three of you that read this), you may have noticed that my total state count has gone up by two in the last week.  My grand total is now 33 with the addition of South Dakota and Wyoming.

In my current job, I really haven’t had much of a chance to travel for work, and after nine months, I’ve started to miss it.  Luckily for me, I was invited on a recruiting trip to the South Dakota School of Mines in Rapid City to interview graduating seniors for our management development program. 

I didn’t know until I was already en route, but our lodging for the week was at a haunted hotel, the Alex Johnson.  Needless to say, I was pretty – er – excited.  The story is that a girl committed suicide by jumping from the eighth story the night before her wedding.  However, after interviewing close friends and relatives, the police ruled that suicide was unlikely.  It then came out the she stood to inherit a large sum of money, and speculations arose that someone in her family had pushed her to her death.  Rumor has it that her ghost haunts the eighth floor, searching for her killer.  We didn’t see any ghosts, but one of my colleagues slept with all the lights on, and I managed to send myself into a panic about the ceiling fan.

Despite working in a haunted building, the staff at the hotel was amazingly friendly.  I learned a lot from the folks at the gift shop.  In particular, I found out that the local Native American tribes make jewelry out of porcupine quills, which bend like straw when they are soaked in water.  I bought a pair of blue and white earrings and I can’t wait to tell people what they are made of!

Due to the flight schedule, we ended up with a free morning before our interviews started, and we took the opportunity to visit Mount Rushmore.  I had never been before, and I felt very patriotic. 

Our first view of the mountain was on the drive there, and we stopped to take a few photos.  The whole thing looked strangely smaller than I had expected.  Apparently, movie cameras film it at a particular angle that makes it look absolutely massive.

When we got to the visitor’s center, we were at a much closer distance (and better angle) to see the Presidents’ faces.  This was more of what I pictured from the movies!  On the path from the parking lot to the visitor’s center, there were columns with flags from all the US states and territories, with information about when they joined the Union.

After taking some pictures and reading the plaques, we headed through the winding roads to the site where they are carving the sculpture of Crazy Horse.  So far, they have only carved his face, but you can clearly see where his arm will be pointing, and an outline of the horse’s head is painted on the rock.

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Art Alley, near the Alex Johnson Hotel, Rapid City, SD

Art Alley, near the Alex Johnson Hotel, Rapid City, SD