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The 5 Most Epic US Travel Destinations of 2018

This is a Guest Post from Kyle Rutten.  I will have more updates this week!

The United States has a wealth of world class travel destinations fit for any personality. There are stops with amazing history and culture, jaw-dropping protected wilderness reserves, and completely unique and quiet getaways spots. Whatever your sensibilities, you can find an amazing vacation without having to leave the country. In this article, we’ll break down some of our favorite spots of the year to help get your gears turning on your next adventure. Let’s dive in.

1. The Rolling Destination: Colorado RV Trip

If you want to maximize novelty, an RV trip is the perfect way to do so. In fact, putting ourselves in a novel environment trips a circuit in our brain that evolved to increase focus and creative thinking in order to improve survival when we’re on the move. It’s this effect that makes so many of us love travel, because of the “feeling” we get. The best way to maximize that feeling is to maximize the novelty we experience.

Hence, an RV trip. You can fly into Denver and rent a rig from one of the premier, privately owned Colorado RV dealers in the area. From here, head west for the trip of a lifetime. About an hour up I-70 you’ll find yourself surrounded by countless adventure options.

driving rv

Hiking, camping, rock climbing, rafting, zip-lining, fishing, kayaking, and so on. If you are looking for the most action in one trip, this is the way to do it.

2. Take a Retreat in a Tree House

If you’re looking for some quiet time to recharge rather than nonstop action, go chill in a treehouse for a few days. Treehouse Point in Fall City, Washington is one of several tree house getaways in the United States.

There are yoga classes and numerous hiking trails to enjoy. Or you can cozy up with a book and let yourself decompress. The area is surrounded by pacific northwest greenery that will calm the worst of nerves. If you’re looking for a reset in your life, this is the place to be.

3. Rad History: Dry Tortugas National Park

On a tiny island off the coast of Key West Florida you can find Dry Tortugas National Park. Within the park is the extremely unexpected Jefferson Fort. A massive, 16 acre brick fortress that takes up the entire island it resides on.

The fort was a controversial build during the early days of our country, with some experts seeing the location as completely unfit for a naval installation. However, the decision was made to construct the base in order to secure the area for merchant vessels. It was believed that merchant vessels in the area were mission critical to the survival of the union at this time.

Whether you are into history, or just want a bit of the island charm, the Florida Keys are a must see.

4. Every Night’s a Party in New Orleans

If nightlife is your thing, it’s hard to find a better place than The French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. Every night, Bourbon Street comes alive with jazz, blues, hip hop, folk and other genres of high-energy live music. Drinks are always at the ready, and the open container laws of the town make the place feel like the party simply never stops.

During the day, there is also plenty to take in here, including some of the best food you will ever put in your face.

Pro Tip: Forget about your diet in New Orleans and eat as much as humanly possible.

autumn in northern arizona

5. Nature’s Grand Finale, Autumn Colors in the San Juans

Every year as the Rocky Mountains make their preparations for winter, millions of Colorado aspen trees turn a vibrant gold. The spectacle attracts tourists from all over the world and is truly a sight to behold.

The perfect hidden gem for witnessing this phenomenon is taking a ride on the Durango to Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Enjoy a charming ride in an enclosed rail car, with food and drink available. The train winds through 45 miles of some of the most stunning wilderness Colorado has to offer. Time the trip right, and you’ll get to see a sea of aspen trees bursting with their seasonal gold. It’s a ride you will not soon forget.

top of cadillac mountain bar harbor maine

The United States is a difficult place to top in terms of travel options. No matter what kind of activities you enjoy, there is always a place you’ll love. Travel is an important way to gain a fresh perspective in life and touch that ever-elusive feeling of joy and meaning.

It’s for this reason that we are firm believers that you shouldn’t wait to “find” time to travel, but rather “make” it. Hopefully this article has inspired you to get out there and have an adventure, the world is waiting!

Kyle Rutten is a freelance content creator for B&B RV located in Denver, Colorado.  In his free time, he enjoys hiking, exploring the wilderness and taking advantage of the active lifestyle that Colorado’s mountainous terrain offers.

Our season working at the St. Petersburg KOA

We have been on the road now for exactly a year.  And the adventure has just begun.  Selling the house and nearly everything that we owned was difficult.  Leaving our friends and family behind was too.   But I have to tell you that we have absolutely no regrets.

Life on the road is everything we thought it would be.

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We often are asked how we can support ourselves on the road and I have to say that fortunately for us, we are able to handle most of our bills with income from my websites.

However, we do need a buffer.  And that is where KOA has come in.  We are doing seasonal work at various campgrounds in order to supplement our income while we see the country.

madeira beach

We worked the summer season in Bar Harbor, Maine, at the Bar Harbor Oceanside KOA.   Our winter job was at the St. Petersburg, FL KOA.  Just as I did in Maine, I have compiled a video of our season at the campground in Florida.

Enjoy!

We both want to thank all the amazing folks we met at the St. Petersburg KOA for a wonderful experience.

It is a small world out there…

We hope to run into many of them again on the road.

Adventure awaits us around the corner.  We are currently in Atlanta, but hope to be hitting the road next week.  Our next destination?

Arizona!

Stay tuned!
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Top 10 things to see and do in St. Petersburg Florida!

We have spent the last five months in St. Petersburg, FL, working at the St. Petersburg/Madeira Beach KOA.

During the winter season from November to April each year, the population of the area doubles when “snowbirds” move down from the north to enjoy the warmer winter in the area.

madeira beach

For us, that meant winter season jobs at the KOA!  And that meant a full five months in St. Petersburg, FL, enjoying the sites and sounds of the area.

I’ve compiled a top 10 list of our favorite places to see and do in the area.  Granted, it’s a bit on the foodie side.  We like food.  It’s a given.

Enjoy!

10. Tarpon Springs

tarpon springs florida

Tarpon Springs is the self proclaimed Sponge Capital of the World. And it was a favorite destination of ours while we were in St. Petersburg.  This quaint little coastal town located about 45 north of St. Petersburg had lots of great little shops, handmade soaps, and awesome Greek food.

Oh, and sponges too!

It is a small port that houses the sponge industry.  Very entertaining.  It is worth the short drive.  Be sure to check out the Spongeorama Sponge Factory for the free movie on how the sponge industry started in Tarpon Springs and the sponge museum.

To read about our adventure in Tarpon Springs – Click Here!

9. Twistee Treat

st petersburg florida

We love ice cream.  So there was no way that we could just drive by this huge 20 foot tall ice cream cone without stopping to try out the menu.  Twistee Treat is a  Florida thing.  They are located throughout the state, with two locations right in the St. Pete area.

They specialize in old fashioned soft serve ice cream, yogurt, and other tasty treats.  The awesome part?  They offer 66 different flavors of soft serve!

Of course this meant my challenge was to try all 66 of those flavors.  I made through over half the list, I’m proud to say!

Want to know some great places to view wildlife? Click here…

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Manatee Viewing at Apollo Beach!

I have a confession to make.  Until recently, I was not aware of the existence of manatees.

Yes.  I know.

Our time here in Florida is getting short.  So  I wanted to take the time before we leave to witness this beautiful and shy creature that I had heard a whole lot about.

manatee viewing center apollo beach florida

And where do you go to see lots of manatees in one place?  Well, it just happens to be a power plant!

The Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach has won many awards over the years for helping the environment, while creating a clean source of electric power.  The power station takes salt water from Tampa Bay, uses it to cool Unit 4, and then puts it back into the canal.  The water is not only clean, but most importantly- warm.

manatees at apollo beach florida

This clean warm water attracts large numbers of Manatees.  They love  the fact that in the winter, when Tampa Bay gets a bit chilly, there is a nice toasty place to hang out!

The Manatee Viewing Center soon came to be.  It is a state and federally designated manatee sanctuary.  And best of all- it is a free attraction!

manatees at apollo beach florida

So what the heck is a Manatee?

They are large aquatic mammal with flippers- looking somewhat like a sea lion.  Although, I did read that their closest relative is actually an elephant! The average adult manatee is about 10 feet long and weighs around 1,000 pounds.

They are gentle and slow moving, spending most of their time eating, resting and traveling.

Hmmm….come to think of it, that sounds a whole lot like us!

manatee viewing center apollo beach florida

Our friends Rick and Judy came along with us.  This will probably be our last outing together for a while.  Rick and Judy are also work campers.  They are headed to Montana to work there for the summer.

The great thing about work camping is that you meet some great people.

manatee viewing center apollo beach florida

Of course I had to pose with my new friend the manatee!

He’d never heard of me either…

And yes, there were manatees!

manatee viewing center apollo beach florida

The refuge had lots of great walking trails, mangrove swamps, a gift shop and even a small cafe.

manatee viewing center apollo beach florida3It also included a great little museum where we learned tons about the manatees and the environment that they live in.

If you ever get to this part of Florida, we highly recommend this fun and educational attraction!

madeira beach

And speaking of Florida, we will be heading out of here next week.  We really did enjoy our stay here!

There is a reason our home is on wheels, though.  We are in this to travel!  We will be headed to Atlanta for a few doctor appointments, to visit some family, and then onto Arizona!

Stay tuned!

Tarpon Springs, Florida- The Sponge Capital!

One of my favorite places to visit in the area is the little town of Tarpon Springs.  Drawn there originally by an arts and crafts show, we have now driven the 45 minutes north of St. Petersburg several times.

tarpon springs florida

After living in Maine for six months, this little coastal town almost seems like home!

tarpon springs florida

Tarpon Springs is the self proclaimed Sponge Capital of the World.  You see, in the early 1900’s, it was discovered that the Gulf of Mexico was rich in varieties of sponges.  This attracted Greek sponge divers who wanted to make a living in the United States.

Over the next 30 years, the Tarpon Springs sponge industry became the largest industry in the state of Florida.  Even larger than the citrus crops or tourism!

In the 1940s, blight reduced the growth of sponges, and this profitable industry was nearly wiped out. However in the 1980s, new sponge beds were found. Now, Tarpon Springs is back to being a leader in the world’s natural sponge market.

tarpon springs florida

Our first visit in Tarpon Springs included our friends and coworkers, Rick and Judy and their granddaughter.

I’m totally getting that selfie thing down!

tarpon springs florida

This bustling little town is the home of many small and interesting shops.  Of course, there are plenty of natural sponges available for purchase all over town.

tarpon springs florida

And lots of great homemade soap shops.  I’m a big fan of homemade soaps and having tried my hand at them before, appreciate the quality and amazing selection!

tarpon springs florida

Soap shops, tourist items, t-shirts, you name it.  This town has something for everyone.

tarpon springs florida

Couldn’t find enough seashells?  They have your back.

I won’t tell.

tarpon springs florida

Dave’s favorite place in this town is the Hella’s Restaurant and Bakery.  Their huge selection of Baklava, Spanakopita, cookies, pastries, and cakes is enough to get you in the door.  Dave has gone their twice now and stocked up on Cannolis.

Awesomeness.

tarpon springs florida

Yes, this town even has a Husband Day Care Center!

tarpon springs florida

Hungry?  Head over to Yianni’s Greek Cuisine Restaurant, right on the Sponge Docks!  They offer traditional Greek cuisine and live music.  My favorite is the Pork Gyro Platter with tzatziki sauce!

And amazing Sangria!

tarpon springs florida

And I even found a boat named after me!

tarpon springs florida

Tarpon Springs is a great little town for family fun.   It is one of the many highlights of our stay here in the St. Petersburg area!

Fun in Florida in the winter!

I’m currently juggling three websites, and this one seems to suffer a bit.  My goal (hopefully soon) is to post twice a week on here.  Currently, I’m really not doing well at that!

blogging on iphone

When we first hit the road, I thought I’d have tons of time to write.  I mean, I quit a full time job that included a hour and a half commute each way.  I should have tons of time, right?  But we are work camping right now to help supplement our income.  That requires at least 30 hours a week working for the campground for an hourly wage plus campsite.

My other websites, Suzy’s Sitcom and Daily Holiday Blog have taken off this year and I’m trying to keep up with them.  Hopefully very soon we will not need the supplemental income provided by work camping.  Not that I dislike working at the campgrounds, but I cannot somehow make more hours in my day!

rain at the koa

Dave and our friend Judy on a rainy KOA day…

In the meantime, life goes on at the campground!  We are currently in St. Petersburg, Florida for the winter, parked amongst the snowbirds from Canada and northern US.  We will be here two more months and then will be moving onto the Grand Canyon in Arizona for the summer.

My sister came to town this past week to spend a few days with us.  Here is a short video that I put together from her visit!

The winds were pretty strong and it felt like winter finally arrived in Florida.  But we had tons of fun in spite of the the windy weather.  We look forward to visiting with her again when she comes to Arizona!

Dave needs a haircut pretty badly.  After taking a photo of him with his locks blowing in the wind, I couldn’t help myself.  I had to make a romance novel cover out of it.

romance novel cover humor

And then post it on Facebook.

Because that is what I do.

By the way, Buffy Dickenson is my make-believe stripper name.  (Just put together the name of your first pet and the street you grew up on).

What is yours?  LOL!

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What is your word for the New Year?

A new year.  If there was one word that best describes the year 2015 for us, it would be “change”.  It was definitely a year of change.   We have seen so many beautiful things this year, made lots of great new friends, and are both so much healthier now than we have been in years.

christmas in fort desoto florida

A year of change.

Christmas didn’t involve the normal family get togethers this year. It was a little strange celebrating the holidays in 90 degree weather.

Yes, record highs!  Florida was supposed to be temperate this time of year.  Dave calls it Tropical.  I call it False Advertising.

But with new lives and new places come new traditions.  We celebrated with a beach picnic with our friends from Bar Harbor, Rick and Judy.

new year resolutions

New Year resolutions?  Well, let’s just say that my main resolution this year is to continue to live freely.  To take some advice from my dog Ralph who insists that New Years resolutions need to be simple.

Be nice to nice people.

Enjoy life, travel, go on an adventure.

Rather than focus on resolutions, I am focusing on one word this year.  From the website, One Word 365,

One word you can focus on every day, all year long… One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live.

It will take intentionality and commitment, but if you let it, your one word will shape not only your year, but also you. It will become the compass that directs your decisions and guides your steps.

christmas in fort desoto florida

So let’s consider that word while I tell you about our holiday.

How do you celebrate Christmas when you are miles from your relatives and currently living in neverending sauna?

christmas in fort desoto florida

You snag your good friends and head to the beach for a picnic!  Fort De Soto, to be exact.

Fort De Soto Park is one of my favorite places in the St. Pete area. It is located on five offshore keys, or islands just south of the city.  Historically, the islands were used for military fortifications.  There are two piers, beaches, picnic areas, hiking trails, bicycling trails, kayak trail, and even a ferry to Egmont Key State Park!

christmas in fort desoto florida

This is Rick and Judy!  We met them while working in Bar Harbor, Maine.  Winter jobs are hard to get in the camping industry.  You see, Florida is in pretty high demand in the winter because much of the campgrounds in cooler areas are closed for the winter.

This means that you might very well run across folks that you worked with in other areas of the country if you are wintering in Florida.  Rick and Judy, and one other couple that we worked with in Maine, are working with us here in St. Petersburg.

christmas in fort desoto florida

It’s very nice to have friends in the area to celebrate with.

christmas in fort desoto florida

And do a bit of beach combing with.

Rick and Judy will be heading to the northwest in the spring, and we will be headed to Arizona.  We will definitely miss them.  The camping world is a small place, so we just may end up working together again in the future.

Change is becoming a regular occurrence.

christmas in fort desoto florida

Oh, and speaking of change, guess who stayed up past midnight for the first time in 30 years?

We have some plans for 2016.  We will be here until March, and then will be moving onto Arizona for the summer.  The fall is still a mystery.  But that is half the fun.

That word for 2016?  Let’s go with “Adventure”.  And we will see where that takes us.

Happy New Year!

Christmas in Florida

We have been settled in St. Petersburg, Florida for about a month now.  I am still behind on posting, but wanted to take some time to catch you up on our travels.  In the past month we have visited our favorite place, Tybee Island, GA, attended my daughter’s wedding in Atlanta, and even endured some RV problems.

st petersburg florida koa

But we finally made it to our winter destination, St. Petersburg/Madeira Beach KOA.  We will be here until March or April, when we begin to head west.

st petersburg florida koa

I have to tell you that I miss the snow.  As pretty as Florida is, I would prefer to be trekking through several feet of pure white snow.  But the RV and Dave both would like to have a warmer winter.

We arrived to 95 degree weather with nearly 100% humidity.  Looks like the RV and Dave both got their wish.

Our new spot is quite beautiful and the campground is like a little resort, so I really do not have a lot to complain about.  They tucked us in with the snowbirds who all seem very nice.   And we even have grass!

st petersburg florida koa

Ralph and Faith like it too.  They both have lots of things to keep their interest.  In fact, there are so many lizards running around here that it is hard to get Ralph to take a poop without getting distracted.

And Faith has an issue with herons (those tall legged white birds with the long necks), so there is always plenty of excitement when I take them outside.

st petersburg florida koa

We are working at the campground here.  I am in the office and Dave is working on the grounds.  And…we are getting the place spiffied up for Christmas!

Dave put up all the blow up decorations this week, and then spent quite a bit of time freaking Ralph out over this outhouse Santa.

Ralph is not a fan of Santas exiting an outhouse.  Just saying.

st petersburg florida christmas

The streets are decorated too!  What do you do when there are no fir trees around?

You improvise.

st petersburg florida christmas

We felt the need to decorate the coach too.  Since we had no nearby fir trees to decorate, Dave and I picked out a tiny tree at a local Christmas tree stand.

Charlie Brown would be proud.

st petersburg florida christmas

Our tree turned out great!  We ended up with just enough room in the living room for it.  The little table is actually my printer box covered in blankets.  (I’m the master of multi- purpose!)

st petersburg florida

Oh.  Did I mention there is a beach nearby?  It is 2.5 miles from the campground to Madeira Beach.  There will be plenty of beach photos in the next few months.

We have yet to located any great eating places to share with you, but I’m sure we will have a top 10 list before we leave the area.

st petersburg florida

Since ice cream is my second hobby, I do feel the need to mention this fun soft serve stand, Twistee Treat.  There are actually a few of them in the area, all shaped like giant ice cream cones.

st petersburg florida

And apparently, I have my new challenge for this leg of the trip.  Trying each and everyone of those awesome flavors!

Oh, and by the way.  That is a medium size cone there.  Can’t even imagine what the large one might look like.   I think I’m going to like Florida.

st petersburg florida

On the beach there are snowmen.  This will probably be as close as I get to snow this winter.  I’ll take what I can get.

st petersburg florida

And the sunsets here are beautiful too.  Christmas in Florida can be quite beautiful!

If you squint a bit, that white sand could be snow.  Right?

Stay tuned!
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