To Get Done Before You Leave

A couple of things I’ve learned that should be done well in advance of leaving on a road trip.

  • Getting a new camera, phone, or other “necessary” device
    This one should be obvious, but I did find my camera broken only days before vacation one year, managed to pick out a new one by the day before we left, and my photos left a lot to be desired. This was back in the days before cell phones, by the way. If it’s something new that you’re going to have to learn how to use, get it in time to learn it. Don’t think like I did that it would be something to do along the way. You’ll need it before you learn it.
  • Getting a new swimsuit
    Depending on what time of year you go, you could either find a lot of swimsuits or a few leftovers on sale. We often go later in the summer, so I’ve dealt with the sale leftovers; I’ve occasionally gotten lucky.
  • Figuring out just what all you can pack in for a back country island beach camping situation
    This is what I’m working on now…

Planning Anew

I wasn’t actually planning a road trip for this summer. I didn’t feel I could leave my Kitty Cat who was 21 years old and had just had a stroke; I lost her this winter, though, and I guess planning a road trip might be a good distraction. I told Terry and Benjamin this (they didn’t realize I hadn’t been planning one) and asked where we should go. Terry said, North Carolina. Ok… We’ve been there a couple of times before — in 2006 and 2013. So the first things that popped into my head — wild Venus flytraps and wild horses!

Wild horse on the beach in North Carolina

Wild horse on a beach in North Carolina, August 16, 2006

We only found one wild horse or Banker pony (from Outer Banks), so I want to go back and find more. So, I have to figure out which island we were on. I remember a ferry; it was on an island, and when we got there, they told us to go one direction to find horses and the other to find massive amounts of seashells. I chose the horse direction, since that’s why I was there, but thought, what seashells? I want seashells, too. This time, we’ll need to go both directions.

Wild Venus Flytrap

Wild Venus Flytraps, July 21, 2013

Of course I can’t remember right where the Venus flytraps were either. We went one place, but they said they didn’t have them anymore because vandals and thieves had dug them up. We went to another place, a place with an admission fee, but they didn’t have them. Then we finally wound up somewhere around the Green Swamp on a trail with a boardwalk that went through the swamp where there were the largest, meanest, biting, blood-drinking creatures I’ve ever seen. And then there were Venus flytraps! So… gotta find that place again.

And then Terry got to thinking how I said I might go camping if it were on a beach, so he brought that up. So, I’m looking into that; the Cape Hatteras National Seashore on Okracoke and Hammocks Beach State Park on Bear Island look good. I think we might have to kayak over to Hammocks, and I’ve never been in a kayak, but it sounds kind of fun. I probably need to be in a kayak at least once in my life, right?

Then I remember that my last post on this blog was about the Mothman Museum, and it’s in North Carolina! Boom!

Terry also wants to go through Virginia and West Virginia. He wants to see them. So, I’m thinking, West Virginia… what’s there? I want to see the landmarks, the big cities, the famous stuff… but I don’t think West Virginia has any of that stuff. Maybe it does; I will have to do more research. But I thought, what does West Virginia have? What do I know about it? What is it known for? I think, rural, mountain villages… Then I think, I will Google the towns in West Virginia with the lowest populations! So I did. I’ve looked at the smallest two so far. They both look interesting. By “looked at”, I mean zoomed down with the Google Maps satellite view. The Google car had even driven through one of them (the bigger one).

I also figured there would be some of those historical farms in the area, so I started looking into those and remembered Land Between the Lakes. We were there years ago, but I remembered Terry enjoying it, so I put it on the map.

I’m also looking at waterfalls. And I’m thinking that we’re going too close to Washington DC not to drop by and see some of the museums that we’ve still never had time to go to.

Obsessive Compulsive Extreme Road Trip Planning: The Next Thing to Do

So you’ve chosen a destination (first step) that won’t really be your destination. Remember it’s just for distance.

Since I’m planning our next road trip to Florida, I’ll be using it as an example.

Go to Google Maps and route from where you are to your destination. Have a look at the time. Can you do it in the time you have? Ha! Just kidding! I don’t ever ask that question, and you shouldn’t either. I find that destination, and I figure out how to get us there in whatever time we have. It becomes a quest.

Remember Wally World!

I’m calling Key West our “destination” for this trip.

Greenland to Key West Google Map

Greenland to Key West, Google Mapped

Twenty-six hours! 1,578 miles! Can we do it in a week? Of course we can!

And now on to the places in between…..

Obsessive Compulsive Extreme Road Trip Planning: The First Thing to Do

Okay, here it is! The Obsessive Compulsive Extreme Road Trip Planning Method!

First thing to do: Figure out where you want to go.

Sometimes, I’ve heard about something that sounds really interesting. Sometimes it’s just a name. Somewhere I had heard the name, the Outer Banks. I thought “the Outer Banks” sounded like a really cool place. I had no idea where it was or what it was or why it was called that, but I wanted to know. I wanted to see these Outer Banks. So I researched it and became even more intrigued. We visited the Outer Banks in 2006, and that place was just as cool as I had thought it would be. Wild horses, pirates, lighthouses, and more!

Wild horse in the Outer Banks of North Carolina

Wild horse in the Outer Banks of North Carolina

One day I was looking in to Venus flytraps and was stunned to find that they are only endemic to a tiny area around Wilmington, North Carolina (yeah, North Carolina has a lot of neat stuff). So we went in search of them, a journey that took us into the wilds of North Carolina.

Wild Venus Flytrap

Wild Venus Flytrap

Sometimes the place is more obvious, like when I decided I wanted to see New York City or the Hollywood sign or the Smithsonian or the St. Louis Arch or the Alamo or the Space Needle.

Once you know where you want to go, you can figure out what you can see (and do) on the way. This initial destination will no longer be the actual trip destination. It’s really just to set a distance.

Step two gets really fun!






Planning for Florida

Since Terry wanted to go to Alaska, and Benjamin wanted to go to Hawaii, I became the voice of reason (weird, right?), and we’re planning our next road trip for Florida. Terry and I drove to Florida in 1991, and then we finally went back again in 2013 with Benjamin. The trip in 1991 was our first ever road trip, the first real vacation for either of us. I thought of it as our honeymoon even though we had been married for three years.

Prehistoric shark teeth from Casperson Beach

Prehistoric shark teeth from Caspersen Beach

When I looked through our pictures from Florida in 2013 recently, I realized that maybe a tenth of them are actually from Florida. Most are from the trip there and back. So this trip, we’re going to drive straight to Florida and go from there. There’s a lot of stuff in Florida. And there are some places we want to go back to, like Delray Beach, Caspersen Beach, and WonderWorks. Caspersen Beach is where we found the prehistoric shark teeth. That’s about the only reason to go there unless you like being dragged under and tossed back into large sharp rocks. Benjamin kind of liked it. The beach was pretty full of people looking for the shark teeth. Terry found most of them; I found a couple, and Benjamin, who didn’t wear his glasses to the beach, couldn’t see well enough to find any. So we need to go back so he can wear his glasses this time. A trip to the eye doctor before we go probably wouldn’t hurt either.

Terry at Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine, Florida

Terry at Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine, Florida

So, now I begin the New Plan for Florida!





Desperately Seeking Toynbee Tiles

I love modern day mysteries!

Toynbee Tile at at 8th and 45th in New York City

Toynbee Tile at at 8th and 45th in New York City (7/14/2014)

Toynbee Tiles are a modern day mystery, and I was determined to see at least one of them.

The Toynbee Tile website has a map, has a Toynbee Tile category, has a Toynbee Tile cache page, and I used all of them. I researched Toynbee Tiles for years.

In July of 2014, we set out on a Northeast Road Trip. Along with all the other landmarks and oddities that I wanted to see, I was planning to find a Toynbee Tile if I could. I was going to try in Philadelphia because most of them are located there. But there were also several in New York City (and in some other large United States cities and a few in South America). We were going to New York first on this trip, so I picked one from the lists (I don’t even remember which one) that was newish and was probably still there. (They’re often destroyed by street maintenance.)

We got to New York City with a plan of walking around all day, wandering the famous streets. I planned our wandering to go by the tile I had picked to find. We looked for it with no luck.

We continued our wanderings and when we’re crossing the street at 8th and 45th, Benjamin says, hey, is that one of those things you’re looking for? I stop and look, and there’s my first Toynbee Tile in real life!

Toynbee Tile at 8th and 45th in New York City

Benjamin and the Toynbee Tile that he spotted at 8th and 45th in New York City (7/14/2014)


I can’t believe it! My first Toynbee Tile! I took several pictures.

Then we continue our wanderings, get to 51st and 5th avenue, and Terry spots another one!

Toynbee Tile at 51st and 5th avenue in New York City

Toynbee Tile at 51st and 5th avenue in New York City (7/14/2014)


They all have similar text, and no one knows what any of it means — but there are several theories, involving among other things the historian, Arnold Toynbee, and Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Toynbee Tile at 51st and 5th avenue in New York City

Toynbee Tile at 51st and 5th avenue in New York City (7/14/2014)

People started noticing the tiles in the late 1980s. A ceramic tile, usually about a foot by six inches, sometimes bigger, is placed in a busy, city street and covered with tar paper. By the time the tar paper is worn off by traffic, the tile is embedded in the asphalt. This works best in the summer because the asphalt softens from the heat.

No one knows who creates the Toynbee Tiles and puts them in the streets, and no one knows what they mean. They’ve been showing up for many decades, and there are several hundred of them, so they don’t think it’s just one person.

I’m glad it worked out the way it did. It was better to just find one on accident while wandering than to seek one out from a list.

There’s a photo gallery of Toynbee Tiles at the Resurrect Dead site where there is also information about the movie that was made about them. And here’s a list of Toynbee Tile from 2011 and another map.

It’s Winter so I’m Thinking of Summer

I’m still looking into Arkansas adventures. I saw a picture on Facebook of a structure built into the rocks, and it said that it was a Civil War hideout at Mount Magazine in Arkansas. I thought, I want to go see that.

Now I have some research to do. I start with a Google search and find a picture of the hideout on Pinterest that says it’s on the south side of Mount Magazine. I find web sites and forums with pictures of this place, but I’m not finding a location, some coordinates or a trail. Now I go to I find there are three caches and two Earthcaches. One is at the top of the mountain, the highest point in Arkansas. I need to get that one.

I still haven’t found the hideout, but I’ll keep looking. I found Venus flytraps and the fire behind the waterfall; I’m sure I can find this.

An Arkansas Vacation

Lake Wilhelmina

Lake Wilhelmina near Mena, Arkansas

This year we decided, instead of a two week whiz-bang extravaganza road trip, that we would take what we’re calling mini-vacations. Terry wants to see Arkansas. I reckon I do too. We do live here after all.

On our usual road trips, we drive far away, to the coast. I really like beaches. So does Benjamin. Terry not so much. I remember a lot of sunburn anger from beaches past. Terry and I didn’t use to sunburn, but now we do. We got old.

Mainly what there is to do in Arkansas is to go to the woods or to a river or a lake. There are a lot of these here, and they are really beautiful. The issue I have with vacationing in the woods is that I live in the woods, and with a few exceptions (like the Redwood Forest), most woods look about the same. Terry doesn’t think so. We were up in Tennessee once, and he was going on about the forests there. I said, they look just like the woods at home. He says, no, there are ash trees here…… Yeah…….

So, here’s how I thought of a place I would like to go. I remembered back when I was a kid, and my uncle would come to visit from Little Rock and bring my cousins, and my mom would drive us down to my grandma’s at Vandervoort (population 98) to meet up with them and our other cousins, and we would ride in the back of my uncle’s pick-up down to the Cossatot River. There we would swim in the clearest, cleanest water I had ever seen. These trips were some of the most memorable days of my childhood. Might as well go there, right?

Cossatot means “Skull Crusher”; the river is considered some of the best whitewater in the country. I don’t know anything about that. My brother remembers snorkeling in the Cossatot when he was a kid and talks about the crystal clear water. I have to get back down there and see if it’s still the same.

Benjamin and I are working on a map, using Google Maps. From the state park map, we’re getting help finding the bridges and good swimming areas, and we’re also marking the geocaches. There are only three in the area. Next I’ll post the map and then, hopefully, some excellent photos of an excellent trip to the Cossatot.

Attempting to Use the Furkot Road Trip Planner

I would like a road trip planner that does what I need and is flexible. It also, of course, has to be free. Furkot seemed to be a popular one, so I figured I would give it a try. I didn’t have much faith as I haven’t had much luck with anything. I’m still pretty upset with Google Maps… 25 stops… What kind of road trip is that?

My Furkot Map

My Furkot Map

I had fixed the 2013 in Furkot (in the pic above), changed it to 2014, but one of the problems with Furkot is that it doesn’t always save stuff. I’ve had all kinds of weird little issues with it. It’s very flaky. Some of the markers are blue, and some of them are red, and some have a museum icon for museums and some don’t. Maybe the colors have meaning, but there’s nothing about it in the help file. Sometimes the miles and hours just don’t show up.

While I’ve always had it set to be a round trip, it refused to finish the trip off. Not at first, at first it seemed to return, but quit after a while. Then it worked again. Add a new place, change something like the dates or driving times, and issues often fix themselves. Better than if they didn’t, I guess.

Usually if you click on a place and then add a new place, it puts it right after, but sometimes it just throws it in there randomly. Tool tips pop up, cover up parts of the plan, and won’t ever go away.

It also plans in your overnight lodging, picks a hotel or motel for you even. I really don’t care for that. You can change the motel, but you can’t easily get what you want. I am going to try setting the drive time to 24 hours a day and putting in my own motels.

I am going to keep using Furkot for a bit and see how it works out, see if it gets any better. Maybe some of the flakiness is the browser? I’m using Chrome, but might try it in Firefox.