Traveling Through Each State’s Quarter

Are you a coin collector? Do you practice numismatists, the study of coins? Or maybe you just like to collect United States quarters, you know, the ones made for each state?

Though we started collecting quarters when our kids were little, not long after the U.S. Mint started the State Quarters Program in 1999, I still enjoy looking at them and wondering about the place, object, or person which was chosen to represent each state.

State Quarters

I haven’t been to every state, nor have I seen everything depicted on each state’s quarter, but I have seen Oregon’s Crater Lake and hiked up Vermont’s Camel’s Hump, I’ve driven by Nebraska’s Chimney Rock and climbed California’s Half Dome. I’ve seen New Hampshire’s Old Man of the Mountain, walked around New York’s Statue of Liberty, and even seen a grizzly bear in Alaska. But I haven’t been to Kentucky’s Bardstown Mansion nor have I eaten a peach in Georgia. I’ve seen many American bison but never in North Dakota or Kansas. I haven’t crossed West Virginia’s New River Gorge Bridge nor been to the Indy 500 in Indiana.

SD Quarter

Here’s a list of states with the elements depicted in each of their designs. Where have you been and where do you need to go?

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Do You Plan Your Wanderings?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Happy Wanderer.”

I’m a planner. I admit it. But whether or not my children believe me, I wasn’t always one. When I traveled to Ensenada, I let my friend plan our weekend. When I traveled to San Felipe, I went with the flow. On my trip to Australia, we were free and spontaneous. We chose where to stay and for how long, money and a flight home our only boundaries. Even my first trip to Paris and Zurich were simple – I stayed with friends, brought guide books, and decided each day where I would be a tourist.

But then I had children. And the world became more crowded. I discovered that summer camps would fill up before spring. With a child with food allergies, spontaneity was difficult and wrought with disappointment and a hungry child. Slowly, I learned to plan. And now, I always plan.

My hesitation and anxiety about traveling to South Africa was lessened by learning more about the country, where we could and would go. Planning has allowed me to avoid long lines and eat gluten free at Disney, visit our sponsored child in Lesotho, camp at Pawtuckaway State Park every summer for years, be led by a tour guide through Gettysburg National Park, and visit the Senate on a trip to Washington.

But I still love spontaneity. And while doing a little research before traveling to a new place helps me to find the special and unique, or avoid those well traveled and touristy, destinations, spontaneity allows us to change course. To listen to recommendations from other travelers or discover new places ourselves.

Without spontaneity, I wouldn’t have attended a hearing for Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, watched the surfers in Half Moon Bay, or listened to the Wave Organ in San Francisco. I wouldn’t have spent the night in a treehouse, picked strawberries in Pescadero, gone hiking with the Hobart Bushwalking Club, or danced Nia in Santa Barbara. Without spontaneity, I wouldn’t have met Terry from England who later invited me to her wedding in Athens. I wouldn’t have stayed with the dairy farmer in Auckland or gone hot air ballooning outside of Alice Springs.

The travel world is so different than it was – the internet provides information and access to so many places, and apps like Yelp can allow a little bit of spontaneity with less risk of disappointment. You can read about where to go and what to see on blogs and share your experiences on social media.

But there’s nothing quite as freeing as just setting out, doing what you feel like doing at the moment, eating when you’re hungry, and being ready to just let things happen.

When Traveling, Remember the Moscow Rule

While traveling in Paris many years ago, my American friends introduced me to the Moscow Rule. Not to be confused with the Moscow Rules, this rule has to do with shopping and souvenirs and is fairly simple. If you see something, buy it, because you may never see it again.

My friends told me that this rule originates from people standing in line in Moscow. If you lived in Moscow under Communist rule and saw people standing in line, you joined them, because whatever they were waiting for you most likely needed or would need and you may not have the opportunity to buy it another time.

Although I try to remember this rule when I travel, the times I forget are the times I regret. Like the time I didn’t buy the metal toy truck in Cape Town because I knew we’d see several more during our trip (we didn’t).

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Or when I didn’t buy a drum and then had to resort to the airport gift shop. Or when I passed up a pretty necklace at a price I saw quadrupled in future stores.

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Sometimes it’s easy to remember, like buying Lindt chocolates in Zurich, wool scarves with the family clan in Edinburgh, or maple syrup in Vermont. I find it more difficult to remember when I see something different. Is it something I truly want? Is the price a good one? Will I see it again?

Maple Syrup

To prevent those post traveling blues, remember the Moscow Rule: if you see something unique, something you’re unlikely to find online or anywhere else, snatch it up, because you may never see it again. Most likely, you won’t regret the purchase, and the memories it holds will bring smiles for a lifetime.

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On the Road: Looking for a Burger

You’re in unfamiliar territory. You’re driving (or flying) for miles, and you need a burger. Or at least someone in the backseat does. Besides the obvious and familiar chains, where do you find a good and quick burger when you’re far from home? Here are a few places we’ve found while driving up and down the West and East Coasts.

The West Coast, South West, and Texas

In-N-Out Burger: The menu at In-N-Out is simple and old fashioned: just burgers (made with 100% beef), fries (fried in vegetable oil), shakes (made with real ice cream), and beverages. If someone in the family doesn’t eat meat, they can order a grilled cheese. If you’re gluten-free, be sure to order the “Protein Burger,” a burger wrapped in a lettuce leaf instead of a bun. Messy but yummy.

IN-N-OUT BURGER

All Over (Almost)

Five Guys Burgers and Fries: We first discovered this burger place on a trip to Florida only to learn there was a location close to home. With another simple menu, Five Guys Burgers and Fries specializes in burgers and hot dogs with your choice of a plethora of toppings. And the fries are good and plentiful. But don’t come here if you’re allergic to peanuts. Five guys uses peanut oil and offers peanuts to customers as they wait for their burger. If you’re gluten free, just get a burger without the bun. The burger is gluten free, even if the bun isn’t. Five Guys is located in 47 states. If you live in Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, or South Dakota, you’ll just have to travel.

Five Guys

New England

A small New England burger chain, Wild Willy’s has only six locations in Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire. While its burgers are made with certified Angus, all natural beef or even bison, Wild Willy’s offers more than specialty burgers. There you can get a grilled chicken or steak sandwich, or salad with fries or onion rings and a shake. If you’re gluten free, make sure to ask for a gluten-free bun, and check to see if the fries or onion rings are fried in a dedicated deep fryer. Last time we checked, both were gluten free at the Worcester, Mass. location.

Washington, D.C.

While traveling in DC in April, we discovered another simple and fast burger joint, just off the highway, Burger 7. Burger 7 offers a healthy alternative to those who crave a burger but are trying to eat healthy at the same time. The menu includes grass fed hot dogs and hormone free beef, turkey burgers and veggie burgers, whole wheat buns and lettuce leaf wraps, potato fries and sweet potato fries both cooked in olive oil, plus shakes made with organic milk. Burger 7 has three locations in the DC area, but we ate at the one in Tyson’s Corner.

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Where else can you get a burger? Do some sleuthing on the internet if you’re visiting a particular place or check out these links for favorite burger joints in Los Angeles,  Boston, the Midwest, in South Carolina, and across the U.S.

Who serves your favorite burger?

Trip taken 2012 and 2013.

In-N-Out photo used under Creative Commons from whatleydude.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries photo used under Creative Commons from kennejima.

Camping with Crocs

Bats swooped, fish jumped, and the sun set as I watched Kristina lifted her foot off the rock and let her Croc slip into the water. Dave grabbed a fishing pole and with a flick of his wrist attempted to rescue the shoe. but with each missed cast, the bit of plastic blue floated further and further out to sea. Now only visible as a black blob rocking gently on the water surface, the shoe was far from shore. As Sandy took over the fishing pole, Dave ran to the boat, shoved the nearest one into the water, and paddled furiously. Moments later, Kristina was wearing her shoe once again.

We were camping at Pawtuckaway State Park in New Hampshire, our annual camping weekend with four families from three New England states. Each December we choose a weekend and then in January reserve our three sites on the water. With eight children ranging in age from 6 to 13 that summer, camping brings us all together. We swim and kayak, hike and read, fish and just hang around. The kids play chess, hunt for sticks and catch frogs. It’s on camping weekends that they are allowed to be kids, without scheduled activities or plans, without electronics or toys. The adults watch, but not too closely, allowing them the freedom to explore and to imagine.

It’s a lot of work to go camping, and each year there is some grumbling before we get there. We bring tents and sleeping bags, folding chairs, wood for the fire, tools, cookware and dishware, fishing gear and boating equipment. We bring food to share and food for ourselves. But once we’ve arrived and the tents are up, there’s a peace and a camaraderie that doesn’t exist at home. If it rains, we put up the umbrellas and the tarp. If it’s hot, we find shade and go for a swim. We collect blueberries in August and roast marshmallows and sing songs around the campfire. Some of us get up early for a kayak while the water is still; others stay up late for a moonlit paddle, while the kids are asleep in the tents, and the other adults reminisce by the fire.

Pawtuckaway State Park has been our camping venue of choice for several years. The campsites are spacious, the restrooms are clean, and the park is accessible. Plan on making reservations early if you want a water site.