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?

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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

How Clean Are Those Motel Sheets?

After 5 nights of camping in Acadia National Park, we spontaneously decided to spend one more night in Bar Harbor, the touristy, trendy town abutting the park. “Spider Web,” an Agatha Christy mystery, was playing at the local theater, and a room was available at a simple motel on the main strip. We left our luggage in the room, ate a quick dinner and headed to the theater where local talent entertained and exceeded our expectations.

It was late when we returned to the motel. With three beds, two doubles and a twin, the room was perfect for our family of four. As we took turns brushing our teeth and getting ready for bed, it was my son who discovered something first. “There’s an ear plug in my bed!” he exclaimed. No doubt about it. That was an ear plug. And it wasn’t brand new.

I turned back the covers on my bed. Human hair laced my pillow and crumbs added texture to the cotton sheets. My daughter found additional hairs on her bed as well.

Ewwww! How could we sleep in these sheets? We contemplated getting our sleeping bags from the car but reminded ourselves we were paying $100 for the privilege of staying here.

By now it was 11:30 p.m., but my husband left to wake the owners. Living in a small house connected to the motel, the owners hadn’t yet gone to bed and when told about the condition of the sheets were suitably mortified and blamed it on the cleaning service. Although they offered to make the bed themselves, my husband said no thank you. He just asked for the sheets since it was late, and we were all in our pajamas.

Two years later, we decided to stay in one of those places with single room log cabins while driving up to Vermont. Breakfast was included at this good size lodging, complete with a pool, playground and fire pit. With our own front porch and a sitting area, we discovered games and books in our cabin in addition to the usual bed and bath. But as we got into bed, I turned back my sheet in horror. A black hair lay diagonally across the pillow case, and another one on the light blue sheet below.

After a trip to the office for clean sheets, we decided the dryer must be to blame. Although we enjoyed staying at these privately owned motels, it will be chain motels or hotels for us in the future, complete with industrial size dryers and, we hope, no extraneous human hair.

Trips taken 2007 and 2009.

And on to Middlebury

Over rolling hills and through trees of yellow and orange, we drove the 35 miles south from Burlington to Middlebury, Vermont, between the Green Mountains and the Adirondacks, arriving at Middlebury College in time for a 9:30 a.m. information session.

It was Columbus Day weekend, and we were on the third stop of a college tour.

After a slideshow and informative talk, we followed our tour guide as he walked backwards down paths around the 350-acre campus.

With about 30 others, we wandered among several of the college’s buildings, including the library, student center, and a dorm room (complete with resident student).

When asked what surprised him most when arriving at Middlebury College as a freshman, our tour guide said it was the intelligence of the students.

Middlebury College was founded in 1800 and is one of the oldest private liberal arts colleges in the country. According to its website, its undergraduate enrollment is about 2,450 with students from 50 states and 70 countries.

Trip taken October 2012.

Road Trip to Burlington, Vermont

The 150-mile drive from Canton, New York, to Burlington, Vermont, went quickly as we listened to a book on tape (“Dog on It,” By Spencer Quinn) and looked out the window at windmills and Amish buggies going by.

We toured the University of Vermont with 20 or so others, exploring the campus with our tour guide, a biology major.

She led us around the sprawling university which bustled with activity in spite of the day of the week (Sunday).

We learned about the seven undergraduate colleges where 10,500 students pick from 101 majors and the average undergraduate class size is 31. We learned about UVM’s “green mindset”: UVM was one of the first college campuses to ban bottled drinking water and has several LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings on campus.

We learned that there is always something to do when you’re not studying:  there are over 150 student clubs and organizations and over 70 opportunities to play sports, from varsity to club to intramural. And we learned (second hand) that the food is good and accommodates students with a variety of dietary restrictions, including vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, and food allergies. There is even a Ben & Jerry’s on campus.

We spent the afternoon and evening strolling around Burlington, in and out of stores on Church Street and swinging in swings by the shore of Lake Champlain.

We ate a snack at El Cortijo Taqueria and Cantina (I had a yummy taco with sweet potatoes, guajillo salsa, kale, and pepitas) and dinner at Sweetwaters where my daughter ate gluten free, and everyone agreed that the burgers and mashed potatoes were the best they’d ever eaten.

Trip taken October 2012.