Loading...

Follow Wandering Rose Travels on Feedspot

Continue with Google
Continue with Facebook
Or

Valid


Portland Head Lighthouse, lobster, beer and museums

 We spent a weekend in Portland, Maine to leisurely conclude our hiking trip in Acadia National Park. Our primary goal was to ogle the nearby Portland Head Lighthouse, a spectacular beacon on the Atlantic coast.

Who doesn’t like a lighthouse? Especially if it’s one of the most scenic in the country.

We stayed in the historic downtown Portland harbor section. We chose the Hampton Inn to gain loyalty points and the staff rewarded us with incredible service. Hampton designed this hotel to blend into the local landscape – it’s located just several blocks from the waterfront and a boatload of restaurants, specialty shops and brewpubs.

When on vacation, I rarely prioritize the city portion of our trips; from my viewpoint, towns simply exist to provide an airport for starting and ending our outdoor escapes. Portland, however, awakened my dormant urban side.

Maine's Portland Head Lighthouse.
Portland’s seafood, more seafood, and donuts

For most of our weekend, we ate. Totally justified by us because we hiked all week. Three restaurants in particular impressed us: Flatbread Company, DiMillo’s on the Water and The Holy Donut. Flatbread was divine, with a great organic and locally sourced menu and fantastic service from maybe the best waitress who has ever served us. DiMillo’s resides on a boat in the harbor, so we worried that its popularity might be attributable to the nautical gimmick. But we loved their seafood, especially the lobster stew. And there’s no mystery surrounding Holy Donuts – they bake lots of donuts. Mine was still warm when I devoured it. The customer line extended out the front door, but it moved quickly.

While I can enjoy a large urban microbrewery, I prefer exploring the smaller venues with more neighborhood-like atmospheres. And we found that local gem at Rising Tide Brewing Company, a five-minute drive from our hotel. Great beer and a fantastic seafood truck that we went back to for seconds.

Rising Tide Brewing Company in Portland, Maine.
Trains, Sasquatches and churches

We walked a lot to enjoy the Portland shops and harbor, including a great stroll along the Promenade and past the Maine Narrow Gauge Museum, which operates a train that takes people along the waterfront. The museum offers themed family events, including a pumpkin, polar and ice cream seasonal train ride that kids (and care-free adults) would love.

Now, I hope you’re sitting down. We also visited the International Cryptozoology Museum, which is about a 10-minute drive from downtown and a $10 per person hit to your wallet. Cryptozoology is the study of hidden or unknown animals. I can recommend it, only if you’re an avid fan (my wife) of Bigfoots, Yetis, lake monsters and other legends. Basically, we paid $20 for a couple of quirky selfies. However, if you also enjoy watching people who are watching weird stuff, this small museum is priceless. And “no,” people weren’t staring at us!

You can also drive north or south from Portland for a side trip to Maine’s famous coastal communities, such as Camden or Kennebunkport. In the fall, these drives pop with color that turns every small church or marina into a postcard.

We’ll visit Portland again, maybe next time taking in Victoria Mansion, Casco Bay Islands, Allagash Brewery or the Observatory. And our return will definitely include more lobster, donuts and brews.

Portland's historic First Congregational Church.
Portland's Maine Narrow Gauge Museum includes a train ride.

The post Portland rocks as gateway to Maine appeared first on Wandering Rose Travels.

Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Escape into the Czech countryside and back in time

Cesky Krumlov offers a can’t miss medieval Old Town, nestled among rolling green hills. Visiting this Czech town is a journey both into the South Bohemian countryside and back in time.

Cesky Krumlov is the perfect getaway from Prague and should be part of any trip to the Czech Republic.

Our favorite activity was just wandering the charming maze of streets – eating, drinking, shopping and snapping photos. The Czech Republic tourism site describes this perfectly: “The Renaissance facades of painted houses, traditional artisan shops and medieval taverns create an inimitable labyrinth in which you’ll want to simply lose yourself.”

The South Bohemian countryside offers natural wonders as well. Float or paddle the peaceful Vltava River, both in town and further afield, among castles and monasteries. Active opportunities include biking, hiking, fishing and horseback riding.

The Czech town of Cesky Krumlov is historical and colorful
Historic Cesky Krumlov

It’s well-preserved historic center is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, with picturesque highlights including a dramatic castle, beautiful churches, and colorful historic buildings.

Founded in the Middle Ages to support the estate of notable noble families, Cesky Krumlov’s peaceful history means that many Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque features are still intact.

A 13th century castle complex watches over the town from its hilltop perch and is a must visit.

Enjoy the architecture, history, the famous Baroque theater, and a moat with bears in it. Interior and exterior tours are available. Be sure to climb the tower and/or visit the gardens or nearby viewing platform for sweeping city views.

Cesky Krumlov's 13th century castle watching over Old Town
Visiting Cesky Krumlov

Cesky Krumlov can be visited as a (long) day trip from Prague, but it’s worth spending one or two nights. The morning, evening and nighttime hours are a gorgeous respite from the day tripper crowds. There are many quaint places to stay in the heart of the car-free Old Town.

Travel from Prague via train, bus, shuttle or car. We took the train one way and a bus the other to experience both. Cesky Krumlov can also be visited from Vienna, Austria.

Explore historic buildings, colorful facades and cobbled streets
Brave the crowds at the small Seminarni zahrada park/garden for Old Town views
Relax, eat and drink along the Vltava River at cafes or parks
This riverside cafe offered views of the Vltava, Old Town and Saint Vitus Church
Visit the castle's gardens and nearby viewing platform for sweeping views of this picture-perfect Czech town and surrounding countryside

The post Cesky Krumlov: A picture-perfect medieval town appeared first on Wandering Rose Travels.

Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
The best gear to keep us warm, safe and dry

There are a few things in life we’re willing to invest a little extra in – like warm weather gear for winter outdoor travel. We’re frugal in most things that we do, sometimes to a fault. But not when it comes to staying warm, dry and safe outdoors.

Our most expensive outfits are not something we wear to a fancy party, but rather our bicycle and hiking gear. In planning a winter trip to Yellowstone National Park we sought the advice of friends who frequent the outdoors in extreme cold for advice on the best winter gear.

We also found the folks at Xanterra extremely helpful in providing advice on clothing and accessories. They not only operate the lodges, transportation and tours in the park during winter months, but several of their staff we spoke with do active park adventures during winter months.

We’ve snow skied and done limited winter camping, but not a lot of winter hiking. With hopes of hiking and snowshoeing in Yellowstone, we wanted to be certain that we were comfy and safe.

Having the right gear is critical for a winter visit to Yellowstone National Park

With advice from veterans, extensive online research and some REI Christmas gift cards in hand, we set out to add some new items to our gear. And to replace some winter items that were getting old and likely not performing at their peak. We procured all our gear from REI for two reasons:

#1 – REI’s staff is always helpful in giving advice relevant to our needs. When not at their day job they are frequently enjoying the outdoors and testing the gear they sell.

#2 – They have a return policy that is unequaled as far as I am aware. For a full year you can return any item for refund or replacement (except certain electronics) if you are unhappy for any reason. Prior to this discovery there were many times I purchased hiking boots or other gear which worked great when testing at home only to find there was some concern or issue when I hit the trail. This makes me a super loyal REI customer.

We tested our new winter outdoor gear at home prior to leaving for Yellowstone.
Winter hiking boots – what to look for

First on our list was insulated winter hiking boots. With an average February high of 34 and low of 13 degrees at Yellowstone, we felt that our traditional hiking boots were not up to the challenge. The park gets 50-200 inches of snow annually depending on location, so we went with high top boots with Gore-Tex, a waterproof membrane that is also highly breathable so your feet don’t get wet from sweat.

We’re fans of Merrell hiking boots for traditional hiking and were lucky to find both men’s and women’s Merrell boots that were highly rated and on sale. I opted for the Merrell Capra Glacial Ice boot and B will be styling and comfy in her Merrell Thermo Adventure women’s boots. We were advised to go with a little larger size than we normally wear in a boot to allow for insulated socks and give our feet and toes a little wiggle room.

Staying safe and warm requires the right outdoor gear.
Base layers (or, long underwear, for the non-technical)

Next it was time to look at our underwear. Figuratively of course. We both have existing lightweight tops and bottoms, but they have some age – like two decades. Fearing they had lost some effectiveness over the years, and wishing for something heavier, we asked our REI associate for an education in base layer basics.

Though more expensive, we opted for Merino wool because it warms like no other, wicks moisture like a garden hose and – most importantly for this trip – can be worn multiple days without stinking. I am not a fan of tradition wool garments. They itch like crazy. But the salesman convinced me that Merino wool was a much finer fiber than traditional wools and would provide years of itch-free wear. The price tag was a bit staggering, but when I figured the cost versus lifetime, it worked out to about the price of a movie ticket each year. The store did not have any Merino wool base layers on sale, so I shopped the REI Garage when I got home and found what we needed at a deeply discounted price. The tops and bottoms don’t match, but who will know? We opted for the Smartwool brand.

Wandering Rose contributor Jim on a prior winter visit to Yellowstone.
Cold weather accessories round out our winter gear

Happy that we had the major items covered, there were a few miscellaneous items we added to our outdoor gear for this trip. We’re certain to find lots of uses for these going forward.

Winter traction control. Several people recommended we invest in grip traction control to stay safe on the icy sidewalks and boardwalks in the heavily traveled areas of the park. As we age we get less graceful and more likely to slip, so we took this advice to heart. Yaktrax is the brand that came up almost every time we asked. It’s quick and simple to pull them over our winter hiking boots when we need extra traction.

Balaclava. Gotta admit that most times I try to say this it comes out “baklava” – as in the Greek pastry. But this is headgear that acts as a full hood covering the neck, face and head, leaving just an opening for the eyes. It may also be worn as a neck gaiter only or as a face shield/neck gaiter. Breathing cold air can trigger B’s asthma so this has an added safety benefit. We opted for the Seirus Ultra Clava with a wind- and waterproof outer layer and fleece liner.

Snow baskets for our hiking poles. Last but not least, we purchased Black Diamond Powder Snow Baskets that fit our existing hiking poles. This will ensure the poles help us through what we hope is lots of powder snow without just sinking in. At $7 a pair, they were super cheap.

To Yellowstone and beyond!

We’re excited to use all our new winter outdoor gear, and believe that it will encourage us to do more winter hiking, beyond our trip to Yellowstone National Park. Stay tuned for more to come about the trip and how the gear performs.

The post Winter outdoor gear we’ve added for our Yellowstone visit appeared first on Wandering Rose Travels.

Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

I’ve visited places that never started out being destinations. Maybe you have, too. These diamonds in the rough pop up along lonely highways or lurk in the shadows of major attractions. The people who oversee them may not appreciate the label “quirky places”, but it’s intended as a big compliment.

Santa’s Village amusement park — New Hampshire

Once we were driving from Maine to Niagara Falls, simply traveling from point A to point B. The scenery consisted of forest and more forest. And then, it appeared, as if a secret dome of invisibility had been lifted as we drove by. “Santa’s Village,” near Jefferson, New Hampshire. We all perked up, especially my daughter. After a quick family three-way nod and a semi-safe U-turn, we were buying tickets.

It’s no Disney, or Cedar Point, or Six Flags. But that’s what we loved about it. The park and its attractions were nestled among the forest and trees. And who doesn’t like a splash of Christmas in July, with rides like Chimney Drop, Reindeer Carousel, Yule Log Flume Ride, Rudy’s Rapid Transit Coaster and HoHo H2O Water Park. And the theme continues with the shops and eateries – Doe-Nut Factory, the Elf’s Lodge Merry Mess Hall and Polar Expresso. I can’t wait to take the grandkids someday, if they materialize.

Asheville Pizza & Brewing is one of our favorite quirky places
Asheville Pizza and Brewing – North Carolina

Let’s first deal with the obvious. Yes, Asheville Pizza & Brewing serves very good pizza, beer and other food and drinks. But what’s in the back of the place really captured our affection and landed them on this list of quirky places: an old-time theater where you can feed your appetite and thirst and enjoy a $3 movie.

Most of the films are mildly new releases, some in 3-D, for both big people and kids. They also routinely show the Rocky Horror Picture Show and sell $5 prop bags on those nights. We’re not groupies of the film, so let your imagination run wild as you think about this experience.

The atmosphere is oh-so Asheville, with interesting wall and bathroom art, along with classic video and pinball games. And as we exited, one of the servers cried out, “We appreciate you!” And I think she really meant it.

Wisconsin Concrete Park

Located near Phillips, Wisconsin Concrete Park contains 237 statues made from, you guessed it, concrete. Local artist Fred Smith, a retired lumberjack, created these masterpieces that now grace the Northwoods landscape. Smith owned a tavern and brilliantly imbedded pieces of glass, mirrors and beer bottles into each of his concrete creations. He crafted replicas of Paul Bunyan, his ox Babe, Sacajawea, Statue of Liberty, Abe Lincoln, soldiers, miners, cowboys, angels, farmers, deer, moose and other assorted legends and wildlife.

There’s no admission into the park, which surprises most tourists since demand for concrete art could certainly command a hefty entrance fee. The grounds also include a half-mile hiking trail, Countryside Artists Gallery & Gifts and onsite art classes. And remember, I did disclose early on during this post that these places are “quirky.” And the Concrete Park delivers.

California's Legend of Bigfoot.
The Legend of Bigfoot — California

Driving Highway 101 from San Francisco to Eureka, we desperately needed a bathroom break. All of a sudden, in a dense forest section close to Garberville and the Redwoods, we stumbled upon The Legend of Bigfoot. And yes, it qualifies as a tourist trap, but one of the better ones in my opinion. Plus it offered facilities for our bladders.

You won’t learn a lot about the legend (yes, I believe!), but you can shop for plenty of Bigfoot and Sasquatch souvenirs. The open-air store also sells lots of chainsaw carvings of Bigfoot himself, bears, western characters and gnomes. Plus I enjoyed the simple artistry of the Bear Hollow house. We bought a few things, including a driver’s license for Bigfoot – I assumed it was real because, as established above, I believe. Reading from the license, “Bigfoot, aka Skunk Ape, Yeti; Hair, brown and matted; height 8 ‘4” and weight 695; large foot pedal vehicles only, must wear corrective deodorant; hair donor; in case of emergency contact Patty Squatch.

Moab Museum of Film and Western Heritage – Utah

We’ve vacationed in Moab, UT five times, hiking in Arches and Canyonlands national parks. What beauty and raw outdoor adventure!

One rainy day we decided to explore the indoors and drove about 15 miles along the Colorado River to the Red Cliffs Lodge area, which includes the Castle Creek Winery. Nothing neutralizes a cloudy, rainy day better than a wine tasting. After that, we walked over to the lodge for a snack and were surprised to find the Moab Museum of Film and Western Heritage. Not a big place, but plum full of great history and memorabilia from the films and the actors and actresses who worked on location at Red Cliffs, including John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Rock Hudson, Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart and Richard Widmark. And the museum is free, which meant we used our extra vacation funds for another wine tasting.

So, these destinations may not fit your definition of “quirky places,” but then your definition probably won’t match anyone else’s. Wandering Rose Travels would love to hear about your favorite diamond (or cubic zirconia) in the rough.

The post Five quirky places to visit if you’re in the neighborhood appeared first on Wandering Rose Travels.

Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

B and I are hoping to do our first RV vacation in the coming months. There is lots about RVing that intrigues me, and a lot of unknowns that I fear. We reached out to our friends at Rover Pass to ask some RV veterans what advice they have for a first time RVer. Here is their advice. I’ll keep you posted on our plans.

Your first time driving and traveling in an RV is a big deal, and being prepared is the best way to ensure that your first experience is a good one. Knowing how to pack for a journey, how to adjust to your new vehicle and where to go your first few times out gives you a starting point as you plan your first trips. These tips will help you during your first experiences as an RVer, from simply becoming comfortable with driving your vehicle, to learning to find the best RV parks and campgrounds anywhere you go.

1. Get to know your RV

Before leaving on your first trip, get to know your RV and all of its parts. Practice hooking up disconnecting your RV from your vehicle. Drive your RV around town and through the nearby countryside to get used to the way it handles.

Make a meal in the kitchen, hook the RV up to power, test the air conditioner, and spend a night in your driveway. If you’ll be traveling with children, have them spend some time in the RV with you, and ask them to do all the same activities they would do on your upcoming trips.

Avoid crowded freeways on your first RV trip to keep driving stress at a minimum.
2. Get organized before your trips

Make a list of everything you’re going to need on your trip. Having spent time testing your RV will help you create a list that is accurate and thorough. Break your list down into categories, like by room. Categorizing helps you think through your list in an organized way, and can prevent you from forgetting anything.

3. Plan ahead

Knowing where you plan to go, routes you want to drive and where you’ll be staying when you arrive can reduce stress on your first several journeys. For example, if you’re traveling to Seattle in your RV, know which freeways you plan to drive. Look up in advance which RV parks and campgrounds near Seattle will have space for your vehicle. Call ahead if possible.

Plan to travel short distances and stay near home as a new RVer.
4. Start small

Traveling short distances and staying near home in your first several trips simplifies everything. Knowing that you can go home if you forget something or if something goes wrong with your RV can help reduce pressure and encourage relaxation.

5. Avoid problematic roadways

Changing lanes and navigating an RV on a crowded roadway is a special kind of challenge, especially for new RV drivers. Avoiding crowded highways, freeways and interstate roads makes driving easier and reduces the chances of an accident.

Many first-time RVers also avoid driving on winding mountainous roads. If possible, stick to relatively uncrowded highways and major roads for your first few trips. It helps to know the roads from personal driving experience, because you can’t always tell from a map what it will be like to drive on a roadway.

Following these tips can help you have great adventures in your new RV.

The post Tips for first time RVers from RV veterans appeared first on Wandering Rose Travels.

Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Olympic National Park is like the Swiss army knife of national parks. It’s a knife. A tweezers. And a corkscrew! And so much more!

Located just west of Seattle, WA, Olympic National Park combines alpine mountains, lush rain forest and rugged coastal shores. We watched a loping black bear along a hilly ridge, waded in a hot spring and explored a Pacific tide pool full of sea stars and urchins.

You can visit a lot of websites to learn about the basics of planning a trip to Olympic, but I’m going to share some opinions that will hopefully result in a better experience.

Olympic National Park Sol Duc Falls
Combine Olympic National Park with visits to Mt. Rainier and North Cascades

We’ve usually explore Olympic by combining side trips to Mt. Rainier and North Cascades national parks. Be careful trying to take in all three unless you’ve budgeted at least ten days. This trio makes northwest Washington one of our favorite national park destinations. Plus, you can add Seattle as your vacation kicker.

Lodging in the park is dispersed, which allows you to plan your stay in a “loop,” several nights at one spot and then move on to explore different ecosystems and sights. We especially enjoyed Kalaloch Lodge with its rustic cabins along the coast and opportunities to watch sunsets and listen to ocean waves into the dark of night. Its restaurant also provides great views and good food.

If you want to consider something more high end, I highly recommend the George Washington Inn outside of the park. We used this luxury B&B as our base while hiking the alpine section of the park outside of Port Angeles. Amazing breakfasts, beautiful views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and an estate lavender farm and gift shop are bonuses for inn guests. We chose this accommodation as our “guilty pleasure” before moving on to the park’s more rustic retreats.

Ochre Sea Star in one of Olympic's tidepools
Sol duc Hot Springs, tide pools and vampires

Now, let’s talk about the park’s sights and trails. To fully experience the “three parks in one,” I recommend a walk or hike along Hurricane Ridge, in the Hoh Rain Forest and along its iconic, wild coast. The rapid rise in elevation from the ocean to the mountains creates these multiple ecosystems within the park.

Many people enjoy Sol duc Hot Springs and Resort, where you can relax and swim in natural mineral baths created by spring water mixing with gasses from cooling volcanic rock. It’s located along the drive from Port Angeles to the rain forest and coastal sections of the park. I’m not a fan of smelly wading pools, no matter how natural and soothing to the skin; however, a short hike from here takes you to one of my favorite waterfalls in the country, Sol duc Falls. It’s special.

The tide pools along the coast mesmerize. We love exploring them and all the creatures and plants that find refuge there. And Rialto and Ruby beaches and their rocks and spires offer the senses a burst of energy. I fill my camera with images along this coast because it’s both wild and gorgeous. Be sure to check with staff at the visitors’ center for recommendations on the best and most accessible tide pool beaches, and for low tide times. Otherwise, you might be disappointed.

And there’s nothing more enchanting than absorbing a tourist extravaganza as you travel from one section of Olympic to another, like the town of Forks, which inspired author Stephanie Meyer to write her famous Twilight novels. The city also holds an annual festival for fans, vampires and werewolves. It’s campy but, for some, worth a selfie or pitstop or yearlong sabbatical.

Olympic National Park offers fishing, climbing, stargazing, winter sports and a lot more. We’re repeat visitors. And we’ll be there again soon.

The post Olympic National Park – 3 parks in one appeared first on Wandering Rose Travels.

Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Bicycling 100 miles from Key Largo to Key West – Day 2

This is a continuation of our Florida Keys bike tour three-part blog. Day one provides overall details of our bike tour, including detailed trip planning, outfitting with Key Largo Bike and Adventure Tours and our first day on the road. As a refresher, this was a ride to celebrate my 59th birthday. Most serious road bikers would do the 100-mile stretch in one day. We opted for three days, preferring to sightsee and dine our way down the Florida Keys.

Mark from Key Largo Bikes provided our bicycles, hotel recommendations, daily luggage shuttle and bike pickup at the trip’s end in Key West. He was invaluable with tips on things to do and see along the way. I’m hoping to get back down to the Keys again soon and do the same trip, or maybe travel with Mark on one of his bike trips to Cuba.

Day one (covered in another blog) took us from Key Largo to Marathon. We spent the night at the Glunz Ocean Beach Hotel & Resort. Glunz is family-owned with a high level of guest service. Not to mention it has a fun outdoor bar for hanging out after the ride.

Seven Mile Bridge sits about half way down the Florida Keys.
Biking Marathon and Seven Mile Bridge

Day two started by cycling through the town of Marathon, a 10-mile jaunt mostly along bike paths. A great side trip is down Sombrero Beach Blvd. at Mile Marker 50 where a two-mile bike trail takes you to Sombrero Beach. Sombrero Beach is a city park and includes bathrooms and picnic tables. It’s also a good place to snorkel. Hurricane Irma caused extensive damage here but as of December things were largely reopened.

Navigate back to Highway 1 and follow the bike path to Mile Marker 47, the start of Seven Mile Bridge. If there was a stretch you could skip while biking the Florida Keys it would be this one. For seven miles you’re pedaling on the shoulder of Highway 1 hoping you don’t get a flat and hoping that motorists are paying attention to the road and not awestruck by the scenery. But it’s the only way to make the bike ride down the Keys so just grin and bike it.

You’ll bike beside the old Seven Mile Bridge, considered an engineering marvel when originally built to connect Henry Flagler’s railroad down to Key West. The old bridge and the island of Pigeon Key are on the National Historic Register. The five-acre Pigeon Key was home base for railroad workers and now serves as a historic site. The only access is via ferry from Mile Marker 47. Ferry times are limited so check this website if you want to include a trip to Pigeon Key on your bike ride.

After crossing Seven Mile Bridge plan to visit Bahia Honda State Park.
Florida Keys bike tour stop at Bahia Honda State Park

Plan on making a stop at the end of Seven Mile Bridge at Bahia Honda State Park. We spent a couple of hours here visiting the beaches and walking up to the steel truss railroad bridge which opened to train traffic in 1912 and was later double decked to accommodate cars. The park has food, restrooms, wifi and and offers kayak rental and snorkeling tours.

Bike four miles off Highway 1 to find No Name Pub.
Dollar bills cover the entire interior of No Name Pub.
Florida Keys bike tour stop at No Name Pub

Back on the Highway 1 bike path, your next destination of note is Big Pine at Mile Marker 31. Exit here to No Name Key and bike the island four miles to No Name Pub. The site traces its history to 1931 when it opened as a bait shop and general store. In 1936 a restaurant was added and has operated from the site ever since.

At the time it opened, the only way vehicles reached Key West was via a ferry which docked nearby and everyone had to pass No Name Pub on the way south. Bridges replaced the ferry but the crowd kept coming despite the obscure location. Want a place off the beaten path? This is it. The food is surprisingly good. And dollar bills cover ever inch of the interior with people’s names and messages. The wait staff will bring you markers and a stapler so you can add your bill to the collection.

No Name Pub owners say the dollar bills began collecting this way: “The 1970s and 80s were a rowdy time of our history.  Jimmy Buffett played on the juke box while people would drink, eat and dance to excess in the Pub. There was a lot of illegal money passing through the Keys back then and everyone loved to spend it. They had so much money in fact they started hanging it on our walls.” Truth or folklore? We don’t know. But it makes for a great story.

We filled our bellies with food and beer. Fortunately it was just a few miles to our stop for the night … Looe Key Reef Resort & Dive Center. “Resort” is not what you think. While you won’t find them in Travel and Leisure’s list of World’s Best Resort Hotels, this is a first rate dive shop and boat charter operation which bills itself as a diver’s hotel. As long as your expectations are realistic, this is a fun place to stay. The Tiki Bar and Grill is on the property so once we parked our bicycles we were set for the night.

Day three coming soon – Onward to Key West

The post Florida Keys Bike Tour – Marathon to Looe Key appeared first on Wandering Rose Travels.

Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Parents hard to buy for? Want to treat yourself? Check these out.

With the holidays approaching, folks are asking about gift ideas for the active traveler. Here are some favorites we added this year that make travel more fun, safe or efficient with links for additional info. You’ll see a theme here – compact and lightweight – which is influenced by my backpacking days and our wish to travel with only carry-on luggage.

Active traveler gift ideas under $25

UPWADE outlet travel power strip with USB charging ports – $15.99
Seems we travel with more electronics than ever, and they all need charging at the same time. Camera batteries, bike lights, phones and tablets used to mean pulling out hotel furniture to get to all the wall outlets, leaving our room a hazardous maze of wires and chargers. Now things are neat and easy. We picked an UPWADE power strip that is super compact, lightweight and dual voltage for trips abroad.

Lumina portable cell phone power bank – $24.99
We rely on cell phones for travel navigation whether biking, hiking or city walking. We used to cycle navigation software on and off to stretch the phone’s battery life. Now we travel with a portable power bank that can recharge our phones up to six times before it needs charging. We chose Lumina for its compact size, light weight and its ability to charge two devices at the same time.

Folding quick-dry travel hat – $22.95
Sounds silly, but my folding hat saves space in my luggage and fits in my back pocket when not in use. The material is moisture-wicking and side vents keep my head cooler and dryer than other hats. UPF 30 sun protection is an added benefit.

Active traveler gift ideas around $100

eBags Mother Lode Weekender Convertible Junior backpack – $89.99
I went searching for a new travel bag that fits under an airline seat to avoid luggage charges from discount air carriers and discovered the eBags brand. It’s rare to find innovation in luggage – most is just slight variations on the same “me too” theme. But the eBags folks have done some different things with design, materials, etc. that have made me a big fan. My Mother Lode Weekender Junior has an organizer for small items, spot for my laptop and plenty of room for clothes and gear. Wear it as a backpack or stow the straps and carry it as a suitcase. When B saw mine she grabbed it for herself and I had to order another. My globe-trotting son-in-law saw the bag and wanted one too. eBags usually has promotional discounts and opportunities to earn credit toward a future purchase.

Amazon Prime one-year membership – $99
If you or that special someone on your list does not have Amazon Prime this is a great gift for any traveler. Traveler you say? Yes. Once we broke a pair of sunglasses with reader lenses while traveling abroad. Amazon Prime had a new pair delivered to our hotel in two days. Then there was the time in Key West when we wanted a special coffee as a thank you for our housing host. Not available on the island but no problem for Amazon to get it to us with free Prime shipping. Realize you need a couple of last minute things while packing? We’re fortunate to live in an area where Amazon has same-day free shipping on many items for Prime members. Added benefits are free movie downloads for airplane flights and digital music for rocking down the highway.

Gift idea for a real splurge

Nikon D3400 camera – $396.95
Even outside our work on the blog, B and I really enjoy travel photography. We’ve traveled with a variety of point and shoot cameras, many of which are excellent. And we’ve traveled with our Nikon pro gear for professional shoots – great shots but very heavy to lug around. This year we sought something in between and landed on the Nikon D3400 SLR camera. It’s easy to operate and can be fully automatic if you wish. The eyepiece makes it easy to use in bright daylight or when your reading glasses aren’t close by.

The ability to change lens or adjust aperture and shutter speed give us more creative control. And the 3400’s video rivals that of more expensive systems. I used to breathe a sigh of relief when I got home from traveling and could backup my photos somewhere besides the camera. The Nikon D3400 has Bluetooth that copies photos to your phone and to the web on the fly. This is a great gift for yourself, or a chance for the family to all chip in and buy something special for mom or dad. There are several options of lens bundles to suit your budget and needs.

Disclaimer: We purchased all of the above items after extensive research and are happy to recommend them without reservation. But we do want to disclose that, if you purchase any of these items through the links provided, we receive a small commission. This helps offset future gear purchases and travel. The prices shown were correct at the time or writing, but are subject to change.

The post Holiday gift ideas for the active traveler appeared first on Wandering Rose Travels.

Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

B and I are hoping to do our first RV vacation in the coming months. There is lots about RVing that intrigues me, and a lot of unknowns that I fear. We reached out to our friends at Rover Pass to ask some RV veterans what advice they have for a first time RVer. Following is their advice. Will keep you posted on our plans.

Your first time driving and traveling in an RV is a big deal, and being prepared is the best way to ensure that your first experience is a good one. Knowing how to pack for a journey, how to adjust to your new vehicle and where to go in your first few times out gives you a starting point as you plan your first trips. These tips will help you during your first experiences as an RVer, from simply becoming comfortable with driving your vehicle, to learning to find the best RV parks and campgrounds anywhere you go.

1. Get to know your RV

Before leaving on your first trip, get to know your RV and all of its parts. Practice hooking up disconnecting your RV from your vehicle. Drive your RV around town and through the nearby countryside to get used to the way it handles.

Make a meal in the kitchen, hook the RV up to power, test the air conditioner, and spend a night in your driveway. If you’ll be traveling with children, have them spend some time in the RV with you, and ask them to do all the same activities they would do on your upcoming trips.

Avoid crowded freeways on your first RV trip to keep driving stress at a minimum.
2. Get organized before your trips

Make a list of everything you’re going to need on your trip. Having spent time testing your RV will help you create a list that is accurate and thorough. Break your list down into categories like by room. Categorizing your list will help you think through your list in an organized way, and can prevent you from forgetting anything.

3. Plan ahead

Knowing where you plan to go, routes you want to drive and where you’ll be staying when you arrive can reduce stress on your first several journeys. For example, if you’re traveling to Seattle in your RV, know which freeways you plan to drive. Look up in advance which RV parks and campgrounds near Seattle will have space for your vehicle. Call ahead if possible.

Plan to travel short distances and stay near home as a new RVer.
4. Start small

Traveling short distances and staying near home in your first several trips simplifies everything. Knowing that you can go home if you forget something or if something goes wrong with your RV can help reduce pressure and encourage relaxation.

5. Avoid problematic roadways

Changing lanes and navigating an RV on a crowded roadway is a special kind of challenge, especially for new RV drivers. Avoiding crowded highways, freeways and interstate roads makes driving easier and reduces the chances of an accident.

Many first-time RVers also avoid driving on winding mountainous roads. If possible, stick to relatively uncrowded highways and major roads for your first few trips. It helps to know the roads from personal driving experience, because you can’t always tell from a map what it will be like to drive on a roadway. Following these tips can help you have great adventures in your new RV.

The post Tips for first time RVers from RV veterans appeared first on Wandering Rose Travels.

Read Full Article
Visit website
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Bicycling 100 miles from Key Largo to Key West – Day 2

This is a continuation of our Florida Keys bike tour three-part blog. Day one provides overall details our bike tour, including detailed trip planning, outfitting with Key Largo Bike and Adventure Tours and our first day on the road. As a refresher, this was a ride to celebrate my 59th birthday. Most serious road bikers would do the 100-mile stretch in one day. We opted for three days, preferring to sightsee and dine our way down the Florida Keys.

Mark from Key Largo Bikes provided our bicycles, hotel recommendations, daily luggage shuttle and bike pickup at the trip’s end in Key West. He was invaluable with tips on things to do and see along the way. I’m hoping to get back down to the Keys again soon and do the same trip, or maybe travel with Mark on one of his bike trips to Cuba.

Day one (covered in another blog) took us from Key Largo to Marathon. We spent the night at the Gluntz Ocean Hotel. Gluntz is family-owned with a high level of guest service. Not to mention it has a fun outdoor bar for hanging out after the ride.

Seven Mile Bridge sits about half way down the Florida Keys.
Biking Marathon and Seven Mile Bridge

Day two started by cycling through the town of Marathon, a 10-mile jaunt mostly along bike paths. A great side trip is down Sombrero Beach Blvd. at Mile Marker 50 where a two-mile bike trail takes you to Sombrero Beach. Sombrero Beach is a city park and includes bathrooms and picnic tables. It’s also a good place to snorkel. Hurricane Irma caused extensive damage here but as of December things were largely reopened.

Navigate back to Highway 1 and follow the bike path to Mile Marker 47, the start of Seven Mile Bridge. If there was a stretch you could skip while biking the Florida Keys it would be this one. For seven miles you’re pedaling on the shoulder of Highway 1 hoping you don’t get a flat and hoping that motorists are paying attention to the road and not awestruck by the scenery. But it’s the only way to make the bike ride down the Keys so just grin and bike it.

You’ll bike beside the old Seven Mile Bridge, considered an engineering marvel when originally built to connect Henry Flagler’s railroad down to Key West. The old bridge and the island of Pigeon Key are on the National Historic Register. The five-acre Pigeon Key was home base for railroad workers and now serves as a historic site. The only access is via ferry from Mile Marker 47. Ferry times are limited so check this website if you want to include a trip to Pigeon Key on your bike ride.

After crossing Seven Mile Bridge plan to visit Bahai Honda State Park.
Florida Keys bike tour stop at Bahia Honda State Park

Plan on making a stop at the end of Seven Mile Bridge at Bahia Honda State Park. We spent a couple of hours here visiting the beaches and walking up to the steel truss railroad bridge which opened to train traffic in 1912 and was later double decked to accommodate cars. The park has food, restrooms, wifi and and offers kayak rental and snorkeling tours.

Bike four miles off Highway 1 to find No Name Pub.
Dollar bills cover the entire interior of No Name Pub.
Florida Keys bike tour stop at No Name Pub

Back on the Highway 1 bike path, your next destination of note is Big Pine at Mile Marker 31. Exit here to No Name Key and bike the island four miles to No Name Pub. The site traces its history to 1931 when it opened as a bait shop and general store. In 1936 a restaurant was added and has operated from the site ever since.

At the time it opened, the only way vehicles reached Key West was via a ferry which docked nearby and everyone had to pass No Name Pub on the way south. Bridges replaced the ferry but the crowd kept coming despite the obscure location. Want a place off the beaten path? This is it. The food is surprisingly good. And dollar bills cover ever inch of the interior with people’s names and messages. The wait staff will bring you markers and a stapler so you can add your bill to the collection.

No Name Pub owners say the dollar bills began collecting this way: “The 1970s and 80s were a rowdy time of our history.  Jimmy Buffett played on the juke box while people would drink, eat and dance to excess in the Pub. There was a lot of illegal money passing through the Keys back then and everyone loved to spend it. They had so much money in fact they started hanging it on our walls.” Truth or folklore? We don’t know. But it makes for a great story.

We filled our bellies with food and beer. Fortunately it was just a few miles to our stop for the night … Looe Key Reef Resort & Dive Center. “Resort” is not what you think. While you won’t find them in Travel and Leisure’s list of World’s Best Resort Hotels, this is a first rate dive shop and boat charter operation which bills itself as a diver’s hotel. As long as your expectations are realistic, this is a fun place to stay. The Tiki Bar and Grill is on the property so once we parked our bicycles we were set for the night.

Day three coming soon – Onward to Key West

The post Florida Keys Bike Tour – Marathon to Looe Key appeared first on Wandering Rose Travels.

Read Full Article
Visit website

Read for later

Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
close
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.
Start your free year
Free Preview