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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Brooklyn Bridge - New York City

Let me start by saying I have never been a New York City fan, and I know I have said this time and time again. 

 It's too busy, too dirty, too much traffic, and the people can just be downright rude.  Oh, and of course everything is so insanely expensive.  But in January, I spent the day in Brooklyn (instead of the chaos of Manhattan) and that visit really changed my perspective on NYC.  

Over in Brooklyn, there are so many beautiful old brick buildings, so much less garbage, and a lot less people.  The harbor is beautiful with all the parks, kids playing basketball, babies in strollers, and everyone running with their head sets on with a big smile.  And then there are the insanely beautiful views of the Manhattan city skyline.  
Brooklyn, who knew?  

Monday, June 27, 2016

Book Barn - Niantic Connecticut

The Connecticut Shoreline is home to some adorable coastal towns. Stonington, Mystic, Groton Long Point and Niantic are some of my favorite small shoreline towns East of the Connecticut River.  One little coastal town that always sort of surprises me in its charm is the little section of East Lyme called Niantic.  In Niantic, you can find some historic homes, the Children's Museum and ocean views. Home to an old little independent movie theater with only five screens, a boardwalk where you can find runners and walkers, and an array of seafood shacks and restaurants on the water. Oh, and it is also home to the "famous" Book Barn. 

The Book Barn was started in 1988, in its original location, an old shingled barn in Niantic. The barn experienced a fire in the early 1990's, but has been up and running ever since. What started as "Three book cases and a couch" now spans eight stores with over half a million books.
There are a few things that make this not just your "average used bookstore".

Friday, June 24, 2016

Connecticut Breweries

There are a few states that are known for their awesome breweries. For example, we have California, with (as of 2013) 268 craft breweries, and Washington with (as of 2013) 136 craft breweries. Its a little hard to compete with those numbers.  But my East Coast loving friends, we can't let the West Coast get all the attention. Vermont also makes the ranks of a state with good local beer, home to big names like Long Trail, Magic Hat, and Harpoon. 

Beer Sampler at Ninkasi Brewery

But what you probably didn't realize, is that the little state of Connecticut, sitting between New York and Boston is rising in ranks of breweries. I feel like I moved away for two years and BAM breweries were popping up all over the state. I even moved in virtually next door to a brewery, Beer'd Brewing Co.  Why the sudden change in CT?  A 2012 change to state liquor laws, allows breweries to have onsite tap-rooms, really helping the fleet of craft brewers.  You can read all about the trend of New Breweries in CT here.  

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Scuba Diving: Kings Beach, Newport, Rhode Island

If you have talked to me for half a second you probably already know I am obsessed with the state of Rhode Island, and with lobsters.  And I am very very very fond of scuba diving.  So a day that combines these things together on a beautiful sunny Saturday in the middle of June is about as good as it gets for me. It was one of the weekends that puts you in such a good mood, that the weekend almost feels long and you are in such bliss that you don't even let Monday knock you down. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

My Cross Country Drive (Moving East Recap!)

Driving across the country is an experience. While you are driving, you keep saying to yourself "Why did I do this to myself.  Why didn't I just give a moving company all my money, my left limb and my first born to move all my crap across the country so I could just have a nice leisurely cross-country drive with company and a comfortable easy car".  But then looking back, I can look at a few photos, remember a few funny moments, and laugh.  And then I look at the bills and the money I saved and say it was all worth it (The moving truck along was going to run me >$5,000).  In the moment its always a stressful situation, a WHY DID I DO THIS TO MYSELF, but looking back, it all worked out for the best.  A drive of this length, with all of your stuff in a pretty big Penske moving truck will come with a lot of laughs, some tears, and a wholllle lot of coffee and bathroom breaks. 

Like I said above, the moving company just to move my stuff was going to run me over $5,000.  And we would still have to drive one car back with the animals, paying for gas, hotels, food etc. After doing a lot of math, stressing out, and calling various companies, I decided to rent a truck. Once I decided I was going to rent a truck, I had to figure out which truck (what size), what company, and if we would tow the second car or drive it. There is a lot of work in moving across the country and after 2 big moves, I think I have the process down to a science. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Cuyahoga National Park - Ohio

First Impressions:  Cuyahoga Valley National Park is the most confusing National Park I have ever been to.  I am up for our beautiful country taking a special plot of land, putting it in the National Park System, and preserving and protecting it for years to come (especially one so accessible, close to I-90 and the city).  But after visiting at least 10 National Parks in the last few years, ranging from the amazing canyons of Zion in Utah to the rocky shoreline of Acadia in Maine, I was just confused about this park in the middle of the two in Ohio. 

For starters, the National Park kind of blends in with the town.  There was no grand "National Park" entrance sign that I love to pose with, commemorating my trip to another National Park.  There weren't even signs within the town directing you to the park.  It kind of felt like, wait, there is a National Park here? Oh, I guess this is it?

The visitors center was not this grand building at the entrance of the park, but instead, in an old historic house.  While I love the history of the building and its location in the park, it wasn't that inviting COME ON IN and learn about how beautiful our park is.   The park boundary lines are not well defined, instead following the Cuyahoga in patchy sections that mark traveling through the park confusing and difficult.  I went in with low hopes after hearing a few people's opinion of Cuyahoga (well, from a few Ohio natives now living in SLC).  They said its pretty and all, but it really should just be a state park.  And after spending time in Utah's Mighty Five, I could see their point. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Joly Green Giant of Blue Earth, Minnesota

I feel like you are all probably wondering why I am blogging about crazy random things like corn palaces and jolly green giant statues. Well the truth is, that these are the main attractions along the highway. If you too find yourself traveling through Interstate 90 through our beautiful country, these are easy photo ops and a chance to stretch your legs. I mean, theses places are included in the lists of America's unusual or notable roadside attractions.  You stop to pose with a Jolly Green Giant and your cat when you get the chance. And you have to stop in any town with the name "Blue Earth". 

As I mentioned in last weeks post about the Corn Palace, I did not have any stops planned for this day and I was intrigued to find out about these grand American attractions right off the highway. The corn palace was the real deal, with food, bathrooms, and a store. But the Green Giant was a little more low key (unless you consider the dairy queen next door.....). 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

World's Only Corn Palace - Mitchell, South Dakota

If you read the title of today's post and you were intrigued and confused, then congratulations, you are normal.  If you read today's post and were familiar with the term "Corn Palace South Dakota", then I am the one confused. How do you guys know about something called the Corn Palace?

After leaving the Badlands, we spent the night in Murdo, South Dakota to evade one of the most terrifying storms I have seen.  So much rain, so much lightening, and so many semi's flying by me whipping poor Penny the Penske all over the highway.  The next day we were back on the road, heading East on I-90 with really no planned attractions.  We were just crossing through the entire length of South Dakota before dropping into and spending the night in Wisconsin.  

Monday, June 6, 2016

Badlands National Park - South Dakota

Badlands National Park  - Ben Reifel Visitor Center 
(Park Headquarters) 25216 Ben Reifel Road, Interior, SD 57750 

First Impressions:
 Badlands National Park was the stop I was most looking forward to along the "KWmovesEast" journey.  The Badlands are located 75 miles east of Rapid City, South Dakota and right off my route along I-90.  We left Mount Rushmore via Keystone, route 16A to 16 to Interstate 90, the highway that would be our long haul across the country.  The Badlands are beautiful in a very "unique" way. You won't find an abundance of animal or plant life for that matter. Or amazing hiking trails taking you to peaks, ledges, and waterfalls. But instead this dramatic landscape with beautiful neutral colors set against an angry gray sky with lightning striking in the not too far off distance.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Mount Rushmore National Monument

Mount Rushmore National Monument  - Black Hills, South Dakota 
I admit--- I was really 50/50 about visiting Mount Rushmore.  I mean, it's an iconic American landmark, it should have been a simple yes.  But  - there are a few buts.  National Park passes don't work here (technically the monument is free but parking is notd... but that really makes no sense), so we ended up paying 11$ in parking for each vehicle. The drive was a little out of the way to drive to the monument instead of sticking to the highways, and the trip was already short on time and heavy on the miles and deadlines. And most importantly, it was not a pet-friendly place. Oh and then there was the "Eh, cool but underwhelming" from nearly everyone I asked.  Despite the back and forth battle, I ultimately decided to see Mount Rushmore because let's be honest, it is an icon and I don't know when I will be back in South Dakota again. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Wind Cave National Park - South Dakota

It's been a crazy few weeks.  Between packing, loading a moving truck, driving across the country, unloading a moving truck and unpacking.  Let's just say that I went to bed at 8:30 pm last night from all the emotions, stress, and physical effort of this haul.  I am so excited to recap my trip across the country and wanted to start with a few of my favorite stops along the way.  And then we will fill in the gaps, I promise!  But the first big stop I am sharing with you today is Wind Cave National Park in Hot Springs, South Dakota.