Adventures

All 50 by 40: Tennessee and Arkansas

Some of my favorite trips are the ones I go into with no expectations. My expectations for Memphis were fairly simple: Visit Sun Studio, stop at Graceland, sleep in past 6:30 a.m., eat some barbecue, and enjoy a romantic anniversary date with my husband. It met all those expectations and then some.

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Sun Studio was my favorite place in Memphis. There’s something about setting foot in such sacred ground where Elvis, Johnny Cash, and others began creating the music that I love and that would influence pretty much every rock musician from that day forward. Our tour guide was super cool, entertaining, and informative so that certainly didn’t hurt.

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Throughout Sun Studio are pieces of original recording equipment, records, radios, and of course a lot of photos. The tour guide played a lot of original music as he explained the history of this magical place. It was so cool.

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We also toured Graceland. While not as inspiring to me as Sun Studio, it was definitely cool seeing Elvis’ home. I learned a lot more about the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

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We toured Elvis’ living room, dining room, airplanes, and even the Jungle Room. Sadly, I forgot to photograph the latter. I think I was just distracted by that much green shag carpet.

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Graceland was built in the 1930s. Elvis purchased it when he was in his early 20s and already an international star. The inside of the home is oh-so-1970s which was tacky and cool at the same time.

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Elvis was only 42 at the time of his death. He had achieved such over-the-top stardom, yet seemed to long only for spending time at home with his family. The tour definitely sparked a lot of conversation between my husband and I about what his life must have been like.

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Memphis was a great, laid-back place to take in a little history and a lot of barbecue. On our last night, we toasted our fifth anniversary at High Cotton Brewing Company. Then we took in some great live music on Beale Street.

Fifth Anniversary

We stayed at the Sheraton in downtown Memphis, a short walk or trolley ride to Beale Street and other area attractions. Notable meals we ate were ribs and catfish at Westy’s, to-die-for barbecued pork shoulder at Rendezvous, and some yummy steaks and oysters at 117 Prime. The food scene in Memphis was great and my barbecue-fan hubby definitely enjoyed.

Beale Street

As far as Arkansas goes, we merely drove across the Mississippi River to look around, so I don’t have much to say about that state. Sorry for the lame review, Arkansas. Maybe we’ll meet again another day. This end this trip with just four more states to visit before I turn 40 and almost five years to do that. I’m feeling confident that I will accomplish this goal.

The Updated List

Alaska

Michigan (I have been to airports)

West Virginia

Wisconsin

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Adventures

All 50 by 40: Texas

My quest to visit all 50 states by the time I turn 40 has the self-imposed rule that airport layovers don’t count. This is why Texas remained on the to-visit list despite the fact that I have been to airports in various Texan cities several times. My husband and I decided to make this one a family trip and chose San Antonio for the history, River Walk, and abundance of kid-friendly activities.

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My three-year-old has flown several times and is a pro as well as a lover of all things vacation-related.

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This was my one-year-old’s first time flying and she didn’t take too kindly to it despite the happy photo below. I’m not giving up that easily, however.

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The grounds of the Alamo are beautiful and made for a great place for the girls to run around and experience some fresh air while my husband and I got our history fix.

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We explored all five San Antonio Missions, which were fascinating.

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We stayed at The Hotel Contessa on San Antonio’s beautiful River Walk. I’m working on a separate post just about the hotel, which was elegant, yet kid-friendly. This was a great location close to shops, restaurants, and, of course, a pink horse-drawn carriage.

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The below photo pretty much sums up the highs and lows of traveling with small children. There are smiles, fun, happy memories, mixed with occasional inevitable meltdowns.

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Sea World was a must and the whole family enjoyed our day spent there.

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The little one sampled the duck food. Gross.

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San Antonio is somewhere we’ll definitely revisit in the future. We will also continue to take family vacations at least once a year, despite the hiccups that accompany traveling with small children. In the end, the memories of their laughter while splashing in the pool and watching them experience something new will always overshadow the screeching, spilled milk, and flights with a squirmy, nap-fighting one-year-old.

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I have six states left to visit and tomorrow marks exactly five years to visit them all before age 40. I can’t wait to book my next trip!

The Updated List

Alaska

Arkansas

Michigan (I have been to airports)

Tennessee

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Adventures

All 50 by 40: Hawaii

I just finished visiting my 43rd state on my quest to visit all 50 by age 40, and this last trip left me with one question: Why did I leave Hawaii until number 43?! Silly.

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My husband and I stayed on Maui. It was absolutely gorgeous. We chose not to island-hop on this trip because we really wanted to absorb as much of Maui as we could while still having time to relax.

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I am currently working on my Maui Top 10 list, which will definitely include whale watching and eating my weight in fish tacos.

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There was relaxing pool time.

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The Banyan Tree, which gets creepily loaded with noisy birds at sundown.

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Our beautiful resort made it difficult to come back to snowy South Dakota.

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Our beautiful resort made it difficult to come back to snowy South Dakota.

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The fantastic hiking trails were one of our favorite parts of the island, and, in my mind, an excuse to eat more fish tacos.

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I took my first helicopter tour. It was awesome!

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We left our three-year-old and eight-month-old daughters home with my very generous and caring parents. We missed them so much, but the time away was good for us. Thank you, dear friends, for reminding me of that, and squelching that mommy guilt before it had a chance to take hold.

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Stay tuned for my favorite parts of Maui. What state should I visit next? Here are the remaining seven.

The Updated List

Alaska

Arkansas

Michigan (I have been to airports)

Tennessee

Texas (I have been to airports)

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Food

Boca, Cincinnati

I love trying new restaurants so you know Boca in Cincinnati is pretty outstanding if I ended up eating there two of the three nights we stayed in the Queen City. The food, service, and ambience were out of this world.

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Boca does a great Midwestern take on Italian cuisine.

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David, our server, was the best. This guy could serve me stale bread and I would still think he was great.

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But no stale bread here. Far from it. Instead I ordered the corn cappallacci, which were little homemade pasta pockets with sweet corn and black truffle. I can still smell it now. It was one of the very best things I have ever eaten.

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The restaurant’s signature dish are these delectable pommes soufflées. These puffed potatoes are a nod to the old building the restaurant occupies. They are so complicated that the chef that one out of every three batches gets thrown out. And they’re divine.

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Boca was a delicious find I will not be forgetting.

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I think it would be worth a trip to Cincinnati just for the corn cappallaci and pommes soufflées.

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Adventures

All 50 by 40: Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana

I was pleasantly surprised by the city of Cincinnati. People were welcoming, weather was gorgeous, and the food was fantastic. Newport, Kentucky and our riverboat cruise on the Ohio River were both fun. Indiana, maybe I didn’t give you a fair chance, but you’re now crossed off my list nonetheless.

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My mom and I did a lot of walking because the weather was so great. We ate two absolutely delightful meals at Boca (more on that later) and watched the Reds play the Cubs on one of the most beautiful evenings of all time. We shopped at Tiffany’s (kind of funny that the first Tiffany’s I have even been into was in Cincinnati, right?)

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Cincinnati August 2017

We got pedicures at Paragon, went bowling, and visited the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. I had a mint julep in Kentucky and ate some delicious Cincinnati ribs. I didn’t take as many photos as I usually do, but I was enjoying time with my mom and that’s what really made this trip count.

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As we visited with people throughout the trip, I was touched by their support of my goal to see all the states. I missed my daughters tremendously and was glad we kept the trip fairly short. However, travel continues to be important to me and I hope they catch the wanderlust bug a bit themselves. Eight states left!

Cincinnati August 2017 (9)

Cincinnati August 2017 (7)

The Updated List

Alaska

Arkansas

Hawaii (scheduled for January 2018)

Michigan (I have been to airports)

Tennessee

Texas (I have been to airports)

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Adventures

All 50 by 40

I love traveling and lists, so it seemed only natural to set a goal of visiting all 50 states before I turn 40. I have a six short years left to visit the remainder of my list, which you’ll see below. I have detailed the rules, essentials, and list below. After hitting Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky later this month and Hawaii in January, seven states remain. If you have been to these states, what are your pointers? If you live in one of them, do you have a couch I can sleep on? (Kidding, not kidding).

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The Rules

I must set foot in each state for them to count.

Airports don’t count (sorry, Texas and Michigan)

Extra credit for eating local fare.

The Essentials

Enablers: These are the people who are willing to hop on a plane with me, stay home with the kids, or drive me five hours out of the way so I can cross Idaho off the list (my mom, husband, and bestie, respectively).

A plan: I have a full-time job, two kids, and have to stay within budget. Having a game-plan is important.

Willingness to explore the boring ones: People keep asking “why Ohio?” We’ll make it fun!

The List

Alaska

Arkansas

Hawaii (scheduled for January 2018)

Indiana (scheduled for August 2017)

Kentucky (scheduled for August 2017)

Michigan (I have been to airports)

Ohio (scheduled for August 2017)

Tennessee

Texas (I have been to airports)

West Virginia

Wisconsin