Dachau and Dandelions

They came by train or by foot, thousands by thousands

Across the bridge

Always watched 

Fear of even a slight misstep

Through the cold iron gates

The stone floor 

A glimpse of light

These walls hold their stories

Risking punishment to steal and eat a dandelion 

Dachau became synonymous with death

On April 29, 1945, the U.S. Seventh Army’s 45th Infantry Division liberates Dachau, the first concentration camp established by Germany’s Nazi regime. 

Crammed Full

Can I just say, packing cubes are the BEST. You would not believe how much I have crammed into a carry on bag. In preparing for this trip, I spent hours watching videos and travel shows and reading about each country and how to best prepare. I have done many road trips and have been to almost every state in the United States, but the only place I’ve been outside of the US is British Columbia. In anticipating this trip, I am both excited and nervous. Particularly about visiting India.  I known that Europe will be different and exciting, but it is not a third world country.

*If you’re wondering why I am going on such an eclectic trip, it all started when my husband was going to a conference in Frankfurt, Germany. Of course, I wanted to go with him. We decided to make it a bit of a vacation, so he suggested spending a couple of days in London, then a few days in France, then a few days in Germany. I knew that I wanted more than a couple of days in Paris, so we decided to spend a week in Paris and then go on to Germany. My middle son is attending film school in Mumbai, India, and his two-year program ends this summer. I have talked about going to visit India while he was there, and now time was running out. I decided since I was halfway around the world, I might as well keep going and go to India. My husband won’t be going on to India because he has to work. So there you have it. 

Because of the time of year and the climates I am visiting, I have to pack for Paris in the spring, snow in Bavaria, and ‘unrelenting heat’ (that is what the description of the safari on the tiger reserve said) in India. I just spent the last six hours combing over my list, packing every item just so, and then rolling up my clothes and cramming them tightly into packing cubes. In the blue soft-sided Biaggi Zipsak, I fit 4 pairs of pants, two blouses, five shirts, a sweater, a pair of shorts, a swimsuit, a dress, a pair of leggings, three pairs of shoes, socks, underwear, a winter coat, and a denim jacket, along with some medications and toiletries (the ones that are less important), cotton wipes, antibacterial wipes, and a LifeStraw Go water bottle (because India). In the small black under-the-seat carry on the I bought at Costco (sorry, no link available but it was $29.99 and is similar to this) are my important toiletries in a hanging toiletry bag, my folder of important papers (flight info, itinerary, hotel reservations, etc), my harem pants pajamas (if my luggage is lost I want my pj’s), a pair of shoes, and my important medications. In my backpack is my purse (an RFID safe cross body Baggalini) and my electronics and cords, electronics adapters for Europe and Asia, some snacks, gum, my neck wallet with my passport and my vaccination information, and a money belt (because my mom said not to keep money in my neck wallet). I’ve included the links for all of the items that I’m using. I don’t get anything for doing so, my blog isn’t monetized, I just included them for convenience. And as my travels continue, I will tell you if the items are worth purchasing or not. Many of them I bought for this trip and haven’t actually used yet.

Seeing these three countries in three weeks, my itinerary is crammed as full as my luggage. That seems to be the way my husband and I like to travel. We don’t want to be leisurely and think “If we don’t see it this time, we will come back and see it next time.” I just can’t do that – there are SO MANY PLACES TO SEE! And I want to see every bit of a place while I’m there, so I can go somewhere new the next time. I’m not saying we don’t return to places that we like, but I don’t want to assume that we will. When I visit somewhere new, I WANT TO SEE ALL THE THINGS. Go to all the places. Eat all the food. Meet all the people. (Okay, I want to meet all the people. My husband, not so much). Which, as you might imagine, does not usually make for a very relaxing trip. We have never been the type of travelers to go to one place and stay. We are always on the move.

But I am entering into this trip with the attitude that my world view is going to change. With each new adventure, I want to see as much and experience as much as I possibly can, but I also want to savor the moment. And I’m not sure how I am going to do that. So that is my challenge on this trip. Here is my prayer that I’m going to pray every day:

Help me to have eyes full of wonder, to not take this amazing opportunity for granted.

Help me to view any obstacle or inconvenience as part of the adventure, as the opportunity to make a memory.

Help me to not rush from one thing to another, with my phone out in front of me. Help me to stop and breathe in, look around with my own eyes, and take in the experience before rushing off to the next great thing.

Help me to really see the people I meet along the way. Help me to show them love, kindness, and compassion, whatever the circumstance.

Help me to treasure this time with my husband, and that we will continue to be great travel partners, and grow together as we expand our world.

Help me to look for God in every place, every experience, and every person I meet.

Learning to Stop

Our idea of a ‘relaxing’ vacation is a 15 day road trip from Vancouver WA to New Orleans (and back again). We like adventures and cramming as much fun as we can into whatever time we have away from home. Yesterday as we left Vancouver, Washington we drove to see so many places that feed our soul in the beautiful Columbia Gorge

and then to the Oregon Coast.

It was a beautiful drive down the coast to so many of the places we love.

And then we arrived at our hotel.

The marine layer had set in so there was no beautiful sunset, and the air was humid and was starting to chill. The hotel was a little more dive-y than I remembered, but it’s a king sized bed with an ocean view and a fireplace and the man I love, and who can really complain about that?

We weren’t hungry, it was getting dark, and we didn’t really want to go anywhere, but

our restless souls found it hard to JUST BE.

This week my goal is to not try to fill every minute with busy-ness. Right now I’m purposely lying in bed writing this as opposed to rushing around to get ready. We have all day. The sound of the ocean outside my door, the waves crashing within my sight. I brought four books but I haven’t cracked one.

I want to be still, relax, read, write, take in the beauty of where I’m at, and allow my soul to refresh and recharge.

And my husband just said, “Are you getting up? Come on, let’s go!”

It’s a learning process for us both.





15 Days, 11 States, 5 National Parks, and 6413 Miles Later

Our maniac road trip is over. It was amazing, and I can’t wait to share it with you! Our style is not for everyone. We don’t like to stay in one place for too long, and we want to see as much as we can in the time we have. We have gone on vacations where we just stay put, but this was a ROAD TRIP – not a destination, but an adventure.  Tomorrow I start back to work at my full-time job, but I will try to work on  my trip reports as often as I am able. Until then, here are the basics.

Starting point: Vancouver, Washington USA (not to be confused with Vancouver, BC in Canada).  My Vancouver is just across the river from Portland, Oregon.

Furthest point from origination: Biloxi, Mississippi. We didn’t stay here but took a little excursion from New Orleans, so this is our furthest spot east.

Dates: Thursday, July 3 – Friday, July 18, 2014

Vehicle: Best road trip car – 2014 Mazda 3 SGT. I will write a post just about this car, it is so perfect for road trips. Average of 34 mpg. Gas ranged from $3.29/gal to $4.09/gal. (The most expensive gas was in the northwest. The cheapest gas was in the south.)

Approximate cost: $3700 – includes gas, hotel, national park pass,  food, souvenirs, and all attractions.

Weather:  Even the northwest was in a heat wave during this time frame. Our average temperature throughout this trip was probably 90 degrees during the day, and 70 in the evening, with a high of 107. The further south we drove, of course the more humid.  We also encountered many thunderstorms, which I happen to love. Only once did it get frightening, as we were traveling through a mountain town and there was a sudden rainstorm and the streets flooded. More about that later.

Average hours of driving each day: On the way down, we averaged 5-6 hours each day. On the way back, at least 8 hours each day. (We were traveling through areas we had already seen, and we were also anxious to get home.)

My favorite part: seeing new cities and sights that we had never seen before

My least favorite part: the smell of New Orleans in the summer, and the last long day of driving.

How we passed the time during those long hours: We usually do a lot of talking and dreaming and planning on road trips. We did some of that, but not as much as I had hoped (that was my fault).  We listened to the audiobook of “Dune”, and I fell asleep for some of it, so we actually listened to it twice! My oldest son loves that book and has always wanted me to read it, so I didn’t want to miss any important parts. We also listened to Sirius XM satellite radio, which was great! I had a free trial with my new car, and I activated it just before we left. The best part, besides all of the station choices, is that we never had to search for a new station when we went from city to city.

Were we still speaking to each other after this road trip? Surprisingly, yes! We actually get along quite well most of the time, but after spending every moment with each other, it’s easy to get on each other’s nerves. Also, this is the longest trip we have ever taken. I was surprised, but there were  just a few times  where we were a bit impatient with each other, but we worked it out. It’s  okay – that’s normal.

Lesson I learned after about 3 days: You have probably heard the advice “Lay out everything you want to bring, then pack half of that.” I wish I would have listened.

Our general route and overnight stays

Our general route and overnight stays

How to Prep for a Cross-County Road Trip – Planning Your Route and Budget

In approximately 12 hours, my husband Craig and I will be leaving on a road trip – woohoo!  I love road trips! Growing up we took two cross country trips: one from the Northwest to Florida, and the second to New York. We also took other trips to many national parks , including Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon. We also took many trips to Disneyland.

And so my love affair with the road trip was born. My husband did not grow up taking road trips. His family’s main source of excitement was to drive from Arkansas to Kansas to visit family. Fortunately, he was ready to explore the world with me, and so we’ve been on many road trips over the years. Somehow in my travels I have missed the states of New Mexico and Texas (how does one miss Texas?). And so that is the path we will take on our way to the Big Easy, New Orleans. (Yes, I realize it’s July.) Here is how to prepare for a cross-country road trip!

Our route to New Orleans

Our route to New Orleans


1.  Decide how much time you can take off of work, and sketch out a budget. I think our budget for this trip is roughly $3000 (definitely no more than that), and we have 16 days. When budgeting, remember to include: gas (prices can differ greatly across the country); lodging; meals; sightseeing; souvenirs; and an emergency fund. It’s our 30th anniversary this year, so we are splurging a bit in terms of a road trip. We were hoping to go somewhere like Europe or Central America, but we spent quite a chunk of change on a Christmas trip to Walt Disney World, so an international adventure will have to wait until next year.

2.  Decide how far you would like to travel, then list everything you would like to see along the way. List those things you MUST see, and then list those things you would like to see if you have time. I made a list and sketched it out on a AAA United States Map.

3.  Estimate the time you will need to travel. You must do this in TWO PARTS. First, estimate the time from your point of origin to your destination. For our trip, Vancouver, WA to New Orleans, LA is 1 day and 14 hours. On first thought, one might think – “Well,that’s very doable. A couple of days of driving, maybe add another day or two to see the sights.”  This next tip is VERY important.

4.  Now re-estimate the time you will need to travel, taking into consideration how many hours you want to drive per day, and the time it will take to see each thing you want to see along the way. A good rule of thumb is no more than This is one of the most challenging parts of planning a long road trip. I painstakingly marked each attraction on the map, then carefully tried to figure out the best route. Next, I looked up each attraction either in the AAA tour book or on the internet. I had to decide if each attraction was worth stopping at, and realistically how long we would want to spend at each attraction. And then I had to decide to change my route, take some activities off my list (and maybe add others), and then see if the trip destination I had originally planned would work. When we first decided to take a road trip, we were planning to drive all the way to Orlando, because my son is spending the summer working at Walt Disney World. However, because of all of the places we want to visit along the way, and because we wanted to spend some time in New Orleans, we figured we couldn’t do it in the time allotted. We chose instead to stop at New Orleans, and fly our son in to stay with us while we’re there.

 TIP: There are many factors to consider when mapping your route and estimating your time. If you’re driving from California to New York to go to college and you just want to get there quickly, your trip is going to look much different than if you’re traveling with the goal of seeing the sights along the way. A good rule of thumb for anyone is to stop every few hours and get out of the car to stretch and walk around for at least 10-15 minutes.


  • How many people will be driving? If more than one, are they comfortable driving for long stretches? Do they feel comfortable driving at night?
  • How old are your passengers? Children need to get out and wiggle every few hours, and many not be able to sit for long hours. Some travelers advise driving through the night while the kids are sleeping, but you must consider that then you will have some tired parents (or at least one). Others suggest stopping in the late afternoon when you travel with children, so they have time to play and eat dinner and then play some more so that they will expend their energy before bedtime.
  • Older passengers may have difficulty riding for long periods as well, so frequent stops are advised for snacks and bathroom breaks, as well as to move those still joints.
  • Is your car reliable enough for a long road trip, or should you rent a car?
  • What will the weather be during your travels? You may not want to visit the south in the middle of July. And just because you are traveling to Wisconsin in April doesn’t mean that you won’t see any snow. 

MY BEST TIP:  The best advice I ever read about planning family vacations is this: Ask each member of your family,

“What would make this vacation a 10 for you?”

For one family member it might be going to an amusement park. For another it might be camping and fishing. One family member might prefer to stay in a fancy hotel. For another it might be seeing beautiful scenery. For another it might be spending an afternoon shopping. The challenge is this: Try to plan a family vacation that includes everyone’s 10. You may not camp the whole vacation, or spend all your time in a National Park or a big city, but can you do some of each?

My favorite vacation where we practiced this was when my boys were in elementary school. We all had different 10’s. Dad wanted to camp, Mom wanted to stay in a nice hotel, one son wanted to go to an amusement park, another wanted to see animals, and one wanted to go to Yellowstone. Well, our budget did not allow for Yellowstone that year, so we drove to Northern California and camped along the way. We went to San Francisco and stayed in a fancy hotel. We visited what was then Marine World/Africa USA, which was a combination animal park and theme park with rides. The last 10 was more of a challenge, but after doing some research, I found that Lassen National Park in Northeastern California has a geothermal area with hot springs and geysers similar to Yellowstone. It was truly a win-win!