Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving with plenty of family, friends and food!

Monday, November 24, 2008

3 Million ...

... And Counting! That's the last estimate I heard on the crowd size for the inauguration! This is a chance-of-a-lifetime experience and possibly my worst nightmare...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Off to Washington

No, I'm not getting in on the political hoopla, but I am going to go to a meeting so I can watch it in January. EF Smithsonian Student Travel is having their annual meeting and it will also help us prepare for the upcoming inauguration.

But first, I'll be visiting my aunt in Baltimore. I'll report back this weekend!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Must Read!

Its more likely that I'm out of the loop, but in case you haven't heard of this new book series, you need to check it out. It's the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. Perfect for fall and around this ghoulish time of year, it's a great and easy read. I read the first book in the series in three days, and I just picked up book number two, New Moon. Good luck finding the books in the library since they're so popular. I've found them at Wal-Mart for $7 and $8 dollars.

The first book, Twilight, is also a movie that's coming out Nov. 21. I'll be sure to see it, but as with all books-to-movies, I suggest reading the book first!

Thanks to Debbie for turning me onto these books!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

No Photos ...

I had a great, long weekend! John came to KC and we kept busy with a friends 30th birthday party (oh my!), going to church with my mom and having a wienie roast with my family, and having dinner with friends along with Guitar Hero. It was a lot of fun ... so much that I failed to take pictures during our festivities ... What kind of blogger am I?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New News

Well ... I posted a bit soon. I'm sorry to inform those that were hoping for a Disney discount that I just got my rejection email from Adventures by Disney. They said that 1200+ applied and they did 250 phone interviews. I feel incredibly sorry for the people doing all those interviews! Maybe next time ...

No News

Latest news in my world is no news! I'm subbing, which is always an experience. Although, kids are much like adults on tour, so it's not much of a stretch. I'm still waiting to hear back from Adventures by Disney on if they want me to go in for a second interview. Other than that, it's nice being home and hanging out with friends and family!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

New Etsy Items

Proud of Myself

I have to share my new project. Last Christmas my mom got me a soldering set - think wood burning kit, but much hotter and with metal! - and I'm just now really trying to use it well. I tried shortly after I got it to solder an adjustable ring together, and it didn't go too well.

I tried again, and look at the pretty charms I made for friends. This is why I'm so proud of myself!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Mighty MO

Missouri gets the short end of the stick as a tourist destination, but it has a lot to offer! This past weekend my mom and I took a road trip toward the St. Louis area.

Our first true tourist stop was in tiny Williamsburg. I would guess the population is around 50. The reason we stopped is for breakfast at Crane's. Crane's began first as a general store, which it still looks like the old general store, with the screen door and wood floors, and most recently it began selling boots and protective wear for the nearby nuclear plant. So we ate in a little greasy spoon, complete with the 10 farmers sitting around a table drinking coffee.

We then headed toward Kimmswick, which is south of St. Louis. You get off the highway, and you would never guess you're so close to the city. It's an old river town (Mississippi River) that's now full of craft shops and such. Mom and I thought it would be a bit more, but the best part was lunch at The Blue Owl. One Kimmswick resident started making tons of baked goods to sell and it turned into a large restaurant that serves 300+ per day, and they aren't even open for dinner!

Sunday morning was Defiance. The night before we drove through Defiance and there was a biker rally going on. I know that's why Mom initially wanted to go, but we decided instead to go to Daniel Boone's home. It was really interesting. If you like history, and you're anywhere close, you should stop by. We had a great guide, which is who Mom is standing by in the photo.

This home was actually Daniel's son, Nathan's home. Daniel Boone was given around 800 acres along the Missouri River by the Spanish government when Boone was commissioned to bring settlers into the territory. Once it became American territory, our government didn't recognize foreign land grants, so Daniel lost his land, but after some time, he did get the land back and immediately sold it to pay off debts. His son bought this piece of land, including the 600+ acres surrounding for the price of a horse, saddle and bridle. Living here was Nathan, his wife, their 14 children, Daniel and Rebbecca Boone.

It's beautiful country, and you can see why Missouri is a beautiful place for a weekend road trip! If only had a vehicle like this to road trip in!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Newfound Photos

A fellow tour director, Kylie, sent me additional photos from our final run on the GrandLuxe Express that I would like to share. Enjoy!

Me, Michele and Kylie at the Lower Falls in Yellowstone

The three of us at Paradise Falls in Mt. Rainier National Park (notice a theme?)

My beautiful birthday cake. Notice the Happy Birthday writing on the rim of the plate. The pastry chef makes these masterpieces while the train is moving!!! I was also given the wonderful Montana Trivia book by my fellow tour leaders. Thanks!

Me on the carousel in Missoula. I'm telling you, this work is grueling!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Denver Downtime

I finally downloaded the photos from my Denver visit with Lisa. I know the anticipation was killing you!

Getting fresh with the buffalo

Me and Lisa - One Mile Above Seal Level - Capitol Steps

(Note: Lisa is willingly touching the grimy steps...)

John and I pose

John joins in on the silly pictures. What a great sport!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New Header!

I'm so proud of myself! I found Scrapblog through a friend's blog, so I decided to try it out. Hope you enjoy the new look! You can also check out my new banner/store header for my Etsy site. Very fun!

Savannah, Georgia

There's nothing like a great book to spark your need for travel. I just finished "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," and the book made me want to vacation in Savannah. It's a semi-non-fiction account of a 1981 murder. I picture Savannah as the true "Old South" with its mansions and architecture. I strongly suggest the read, and I've been told it's also a movie. Happy Travels!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Travel Tips

This is a great skit! Just don't ask Judy Grimes to plan your next trip!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Reduce Abuse Campaign

As many of you know, when I'm not traveling I do a bit of freelance work. Well, right now I'm working on a cause marketing campaign for Beauty Brands Salon, and I would like to spread the word.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Beauty Brands locations nationwide raise money for local domestic violence shelters through the Reduce Abuse program. As you may know, people often confide very personal things to their stylists, so stylists may learn about the abuse.

Beginning Sept. 29 through Oct. 26 Beauty Brands is selling its Redken Guts product for $6.98 (regularly $14.95), and 100% of proceeds will be donated to the local shelters of each location. Beauty Brands are in 11 states including Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas.

Be sure to find your nearest location and help stop domestic violence in your community!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Shopping Safari

I hate to brag, (not really) but look what I found yesterday while shopping with my mom yesterday. The total price for this purchase was .... (drum roll) ... $8!! It's not a travel post, but I couldn't help myself!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

My Etsy Store is Open!!

I'm open for business! Take a look at some of my jewelry and purses, and be sure to pass along my site to friends and family. Go to to view the entire selection of goods.

If you have any special requests, ask away! Check back periodcally for new merchandise. Enjoy!

Be sure to bookmark!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Northwest wonders

I now will make my way back to Kansas City on Sunday. I'll be visiting my friend Lisa in Denver, and from there, I'll get on a plane to Kansas City. Using a pre-booked GrandLuxe flight, I only had to pay for changing the ticket, no additional airfare. So it wasn't too painful.

The GrandLuxe Express is now owned by the bank and is making its way down to San Francisco tomorrow so it will have a frost-free winter and hopefully be bought up by some multi-billion dollar investor. I'm not holding my breath.

As for my trips through the Northwest, they were magnificent. The Northwest beauty is more my speed. I absolutely love all the mountains and trees. Grand Tetons will always be one of my favorite parks, but there are some definite rivals.
During these trips we went through the north entrance of Yellowstone, and I have to say it's my favorite. This is a photo of the falls at Artist's Point, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

A day in the Red Jammer Buses. My first trip through Glacier National Park in mid-August it was 42 degrees. Very cold in a convertible top! A week later, it was in the 70s. Fall comes quick in the mountains!

Mt. Rainier National Park - Spring came late, so we were still enjoying wildflowers in August.

Kylie, a fellow tour leader, and I ride the carousel in Missoula with our guests. If I were to live in Montana, it would be in Missoula. It has the necessities, but it's a clean, fun and artsy town that's minutes from the mountains.

Mt. Rainier from my Tacoma hotel.

The train going over the trestles of Montana.

Mt. Moran reflecting in Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park.

The train rolling through the mountains. I believe we're in Montana, near Three Forks. This is where the Gallitan, Madison and Jefferson Rivers converge to form the Missouri River.

Kylie, Michele and I's last day as tour leaders for GrandLuxe Rail. You can tell that we haven't heard the news! It was a lot of fun working with these gals!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

GLR Runs out of Steam

Well, I figured this day would come, but I didn't think it would be until after the fall tour season. The following news clip says it all.

GrandLuxe Rail Journeys is closing down operations on Aug. 29, the company announced internally Tuesday morning. Employees were called into a meeting by Tom Rader, chairman and owner of GrandLuxe, who told them the company would
cease operations with the return of the train to Tacoma on Aug. 28. In a letter rafted to send to clients, Rader wrote: “We are financially unable to continue operations.” Later in the letter, Rader said he was aware that consumers with booked trips will want their money refunded, but, he wrote, “At this time we just do not have many answers to your questions. … I am personally deeply sorry that we have failed to provide your trip.” He urged those who paid by credit card to contact the card company for refunds. Evergreen, Colo.-based GrandLuxe, formerly known as American Orient Express, operated train journeys around the U.S. and Mexico.
As for me, I flew from Jackson to Grand Junction to spend my time in between tours. Since there are no more tours, I'm stuck. I'll see if I can get an inexpensive flight back to KC soon. Even while I'm here in Grand Junction, I'm doing some freelance PR and I'll get back on the subbing wagon once I'm back in town.

I still have a number of pix to post from the beautiful Northwest tours. I'll post those as soon as I can.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Northwest Navigation

I just started my second Great Northwester National Parks tour yesterday. This is absolutely beautiful country! I'll be sure to post photos when I'm off tour. Last tour had some really great people. One woman was 76, but she didn't look a day over 65. She had done everything in the world, including synchronized swimming, flight attendant, coach at Stanford for most of her career and travel the world.

I can't read my current group yet. They seem indifferent to the tours. Today we were in beautiful Mt. Rainier National Park, and they didn't oooh or ahhh. A smile or nod would suffice ...

Once I finish this tour, I'm off to John's in Grand Junction for a couple weeks. I'll be sure to post tours and my commentary for the trip then.

Happy rails!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Birthday Boys

I'm getting ready to head off on my Northwestern Parks Trip with GrandLuxe tomorrow morning. I've had a great time during my month off. I went down to Texas to visit John's family and go to his high school reunion, which was fun. I spent a weekend with my gal pals and visited everyone else. Life is good!

There's no question that I spent time with my nephews. Since I'll be on tour for my birthday, my mom had a birthday dinner for me with my brothers and their families. What makes the birthday so fun is watching how excited they get over singing happy birthday and blowing out candles. Check out my birthday pie!

The gifts are creative as well. Wyatt, the four-year-old, gave me packaged fishing worms for my birthday. He said if I didn't fish with them, I could make a necklace with them. Very creative!

Here's the motley crew - Myself, Wade, Wyatt, Levi and Chase. Happy trails!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Home Again

It's a funny thing about going home after I've been away for a bit. I don't get homesick until the homecoming date is within reach. Last year in Alaska, it was about a month prior since a number of the college kids left in August, and I was staying on until September.

This summer, it was in the middle of my last tour. I was excited when the last tour started because I would get to go home, but in the middle of the tour, we had cranky people, things going wrong (which is inevitable for any tour - prepare for the worst and be pleasantly surprised when things go right), it was hot, etc. At that, I was ready to go home by Las Vegas. And to make me all that much more eager to go home, I had a brand new nephew waiting for me!

All that being said, I still had a great time during the tour, met some very interesting folks, passed out my business card to a few travel writers and soaked in every second of being in some of our country's most beautiful parks.

The saddest part about leaving this section of tours is that I won't be touring any longer with my travel buddy Ernest. He and I went to ITMI together, and we're the most unlikely match, but we had a blast these last four tours. He and I will be doing the Parks of the Northwest trips with GrandLuxe, but not at the same time. If fate has it, we'll run into each other through Yellowstone .... Two tour buses passing at the Fountain Paint Pots ...

Now that I'm home, it's great. My friend Donna picked me up at the airport after a last-minute change of plans, I've played with all my nephews, seen my family and I'm still meeting up with my friends around town. Life is good.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Last Day in Santa Fe

Today was a bit sad. It was my last tour day in Santa Fe. Of all the Southwest cities we visit, Santa Fe is by far my favorite. There are numerous art galleries, beautiful architecture and the tours are great! If you can't find something to do in Santa Fe, you're a corpse!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Three Down, One More to Go

The Parks of the West tours are coming to a close. There is only one more remaining for me, and we pick up the guests tomorrow in Albuquerque. I've loved seeing the Southwest, but it's time to stop because it's getting pretty H-O-T. I'll end in beautiful Jackson, Wyo., July 4 and I'll fly home the same day.

In August I'll be back at it again with the Parks of the Northwest trips. Here's hoping the next group is ready to have a fun-filled vacation!

Friday, June 20, 2008

I'm melting!

No, not really, but we were in Vegas yesterday, and it was possible for me to melt. We went to Hoover Dam, and the guide said it was registering at 116 degrees on the dam. The train did get hot, but not as hot as it could.

This has been a great tour with great people. This group has had the most fun and they're ready to have a good time, no matter the situation.

My big news is that my brother Darin and his wife Conda had their baby. It's a boy! Born June 18, 9 lb. 3 oz., 21 in. long, named Wade Cooper. I can't wait to meet him in July!!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Break Time in Colorado

Right now I'm checking people into the tour while overlooking the Grand Teton Mountains. I had a wonderful 10 days which was spent in Grand Junction with John. He had to work quite a bit, but we still managed to gallivant about.

View of the Bookcliffs in Grand Junction.

We took a gorgeous drive down to Gateway, Colo., where John Hendricks, the creator of the Discovery Channel and all its affiliates has a resort and car museum.

John driving down to Gateway.

The "rock" that's the centerpiece of the Gateway skyline.

The car I will one day drive that's in the Gateway museum...

A thrilling adventure we also took was a flight to Moab, Utah, with John as the pilot. It was a lot of fun. I was John's first passenger that didn't have a clue about flying. He did a great job. On the way back from Moab to Grand Junction, he let me take the "wheel," which is not my idea of fun. It made me too nervous. Don't expect me to get my pilot's license any time soon!

John and the plane in Moab.

Me and John flying - Can you hear me now?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

National Park Pix

View of train going through Calliente Canyon

Me and Tasha at Zion National Park
Zion National Park - One of the most beautiful parks on the tour. My favorites are the Grand Tetons, Bryce Canyon and Zion. Zion reminds me of Yosemite with redder rocks.
Bison in Yellowstone National Park

Valley of Fire State Park near Las Vegas, NV

Petroglyphs at Valley of Fire - The day I went, it was record temps for this time of year 110 degrees.
Me and the Grand Canyon. I enjoyed the Grand Canyon, but I think we've all been spoiled by the fabulous pictures taken at sunrise/sunset. It's beautiful, but you don't get the reflections and colors at mid-day.
St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, NM
Bandelier National Monument near Santa Fe. This is where there are Pueblo dwellings. It's amazing to see them all. It's the first condo or apartment system. Some of the areas were only accessible by shimmying up a couple rocks - no ladders.

Grand Tetons in Jackson, Wy.

Fountain Paint Pots in Yellowstone. The colors in the pots help you figure out its temperature because only certain bacteria survive in specific temperatures and create the vivid blues, greens and oranges.

My room on the train. I slept on the bottom bunk. The sofa folds down, then we stored tour supplies on the top bunk. Very "quaint" and "cozy." I did have my own toilet and sink, and we shared a shower down the hall. It's not all that bad.

Ernest and me at the Temple Square in Salt Lake City, UT.

Bryce Canyon National Park near Cedar City, UT. This is one of my favorites because of the Hoodoos, which are the sandstone pillars formed by wind and rain erosion.