The Florida Keys

I’m just going to start his post by saying that I’m a terrible, spoiled snob about my vacation spots. I’ve visited Hawaii several times with my family and Brian and I went to Koh Samui, Thailand for our honeymoon. I warned him that starting off with a five star, tropical island resort was a terrible idea…. I’d expect everything to be that level from then on, but he insisted…. *sigh*  He really has no one to blame but himself. 

So that’s my basis of comparison for everything now. 

Me: It’s not Thailand

Brian: Not everything can be Thailand

Me: ūüėĒ


We had some time to sneak off by ourselves for a few days. Since we live in Florida now I thought going to the Keys would be fun… and close…. but it’s not really ‘close.’  From Jacksonville it’s still a five hour drive just to the first Keys and another three to Key West.

I’m perfectally content to sit in the car, listen to music, Snapchat and nap. Brian could probabaly drive forever. We stop at pretty places and I take a few photos and then we drive again…. we’re good Road Trippers. 

We took the A1A or Hwy 1 most of the way down. I’d expected there to be more places to stop along the way… beaches, parks, cute little shops…. but not so much. 

(Brian told me to edit this and point out that there are cute shops, resturants and sandy beaches between Jacksonville and the Keys. Once you get into the Keys things change.) 

We finally stopped at Long Key State Park and learned that the Keys don’t have sandy beaches…. unless you’re at a resort that had sand trucked in. Huh, okay…. We paid our $6 and wandered off into the park. The Ranger told us that we could get to a rocky beach, so we figured we’d give it a try. Or, at least I thought we were going to the beach…. Mr Let’s See Where This Trail Goes led us off on a one mile hike through spider infested woods instead. 

With raccoons. 
When we’d passed the front gate I saw something fuzzy cross the road and I asked the Ranger what it was and he said it was a raccoon. In Missouri when we saw a raccoon durning the day we worried about rabies and distemper because raccoons are usually nocturnal… so Day Racoons = Bad, but the Ranger didn’t seem concerned. 

There were more racoons in the woods along the path… the narrow…. very quite…. spider infested path. 

These suckers were HUGE! (I couldn’t get my phone to focus of them, but I got some good pics on the big camera. I’ll post those when I get back to my computer.) 

The trail was long and hot and kinda creepy. 

We finally found the ‘beach’ which was actually just a strip of road and rocks with ocean on the sides. They had BBQ grills and picnic tables, but not what I was thinking when I heard ‘beach.’ It was fairly crowded already so we decided just to keep heading south through the Keys. 

We hadn’t booked any hotels… I just wanted to wander and see where we landed. Aside from the pictures I’ve seen online I didn’t really know anything about the Keys and I just wanted to take our time. It’s just a bunch of little islands… how lost could we get?  But the lack of planning/destination was just killing Brian. 

We stopped at a Visitor Information Center as we entered Key Largo. I was thinking it was the usual State Travel/Welcome Center that you come across on the highways as you enter a new state…. noooope. This was a commercial travel center. They’re selling shit. 

Now, I’m not entirely opposed to the commercial travel center… they’ve gotta pay the bills too, so if they make a commission for booking my reservations and I get a bit of a deal and good recommendations for going through them then that’s fine. Win-Win. What I am oppose to is the ‘used car salesman’ joking, badgering and juggling. We kept getting tossed between sales people. One did hotels, the other tours. Neither one could focus on the task in front of them or figure out how to use their own damn computer and they were both trying to work multiple groups of people. (Form a line, help each group in order. Duh!)  I’d have left, but Brian was having heart palpitations from the lack of trip planning and reservations. 

This is one of our big differences as a couple: When I’m with a group I plan everything down to the last second. I make itineraries. I have binders. I set alarms on my phone. I am ORGANIZED. I once earned the title ‘Evil Tour Guide Barbie.’  I’ve never lost a vacationer and the pictures always look great. The truth is though…. I HATE traveling like that. It’s no fun for the tour guide to lead 10 whiny people through a trip and answer ‘where are we going’ and ‘what’s for lunch’ ninetyeight times an hour. I like to just wander off and see where we end up. No schedule, no real destination. Brian hasn’t had to play tour guide as long as I have, so he doesn’t quite understand my aversion to ‘planning.’  Usually we compromise by choosing hotels in advance and leaving the days relatively open for wandering…. but this time I tried to skip reserving hotels and it was just killing him apparently. 

So we suffered through the sales pitches and finally got it down to a tour, a restaurant and a hotel. Brian was relieved but I wasn’t even entirely sure what we’d booked or IF it had even been booked at all. The whole thing felt sketchy to me.  (Since we survived the tour and the hotel I can tell you that it had all been booked and it did work out, but this still isn’t my preferred way of making reservations… it felt way too used car salesman-y.  Just know that when you go in and be prepared.)

We got reservations at the Pegasus International Hotel in Key West. The sales lady said it was right in the center of things and they had a special price in it. (We ended up paying $159 a night vs the $200 a night that I saw on The hotel was right in the middle of things…. read ‘noisy,’ but most everything was in a reasonable walking distance. It’s an older hotel, recently remodeled… ‘cheaply.’ (Cheap laminate floors, makeshift upgrades in the bathrooms.). Not high end, but clean and functional. I liked the location because we could walk to most of the stores and resturants, but it was quite noisy at night when all the other people were still out drinking or the trash and delivery trucks were out preparing for the next day. If we visited again I might check out The Garden Hotel of the Southernmost Hotels. They were set a few blocks back and looked pretty.  

I wanted to get some sunset photos so we killed time visiting the shops and taking photos. 

I wanted to get a photo at the Southernmost Point Marker…. but the line was crazy long. (I’d read that it would be.)  Brian and I ditched the line and stood in front of the wall. I caught a few photos in between the groups taking their photos. (We weren’t in anyone’s way, so I figure this is totally fair… I angled Brian’s head to block the couple standing next to the marker and I think we actually got a better photo by being a little further away from it.). 

We also got a photo at the “0” mile marker. 

The shopping wasn’t quite what I’d expected either. I was expecting something more along the lines of (again) Hawaii or Hot Springs, AR with an even mix of art galleries, tourist crap and nicer shopping. There were art galleries, but much more expensive ones, mixed in with ‘tourist crap.’ (Offensive t-shirts, lots of smoking/hookah stuff… I’m not complaing about the cigars,  those make sense here…. and tacky souvenirs.) I was hoping for the local artist galleries… but I didn’t see much of that. Maybe we didn’t make it to the right area?  

There were tons of food options. You could just roam around and eat all day. Even looking for Gluten Free food was easy.  That’s a whole other post! 

On our second day we took a sailboat tour with Danger Charters. It was a bit overcast that day so we didn’t get roasted on the boat, but I think that effected the snorkeling visibility and the kayacking location. 

I’m having trouble rating this tour… to compair it to the snorkeling/catamaran tour in Hawaii or the snorkeling/power boat tour in Thailand isn’t entirely fair….  Partially I think the weather kept us from potentially better snorkeling/ kayacking areas. I loved the sailboat, but I’m pretty happy anytime I’m in a boat.  The water was a murky green as we snorkeled and a darker blue as we sailed…. not the beautiful turquoise that I’d been expecting. 

The crew was great. They fed us constantly (with plenty of gluten free options like fruit, hummas, salsa & chips and a ‘make your own sandwich’ spread of chips, deli meats and cheeses.) and offered wine, beer, sodas and water every time we turned around. 

It was a smallish sailboat with room for twenty passengers and three crew. The crew, food and sailing were great, but I wasn’t impressed by the snorkeling and kayaking… again… consider my basis of comparison. If you’ve never been to Hawaii or Thailand, you’d probably love this tour. 

The Florida Keys aren’t what I expected…. I like em…. It’s not Thailand…. or Hawaii… or New Orleans for that matter (though Key West has some similarities).  If you can swing the air fare, go to Hawaii. Always choose Hawaii. The little islands of Thailand are also phenomenal, but depending of your starting destination the flight time (17 hours from LAX to Bangkok) is a killer. If you’re looking for fancy resorts and beaches I’d suggest Mexico. The all inclusive resorts and air fare are much more reasonable than Hawaii….. but it’s NOT Hawaii either. 

I was plenty happy with a three day trip, but we certainly could have spent more time taking other charter tours. There are jet ski, glass bottom boat, sail boat, kayack, SUP, parasailing and diving tours. There are also the historic walking and tram tours too. If we’d have stayed longer I would have liked to see the Earnest Hemingway house. You can rent bicycles, motor scooter and golf carts to get around since parking is limited and there are a lot of one way streets. Of course that makes things more interesting if you’re trying to walk and not be run over. ūüôĄ

I enjoyed Key West. I’d recommend it…. and I’d be happy to go back sometime…. but I’m not in any big rush. 

Under Contract

Our house is under contract!

We have the awesomest (yes, that’s a real word) Real Estate Agent in the world! ¬†Sheri, our agent in Missouri who handles all of our flip houses and is now selling our own houses…. did an amazing marketing job with our home. ¬†We were under contract in less than 24 hours.

Can I just say how much I love Sheri? I adore this gal. ¬†She’s been a friend for years and then helped us to navigate buying, flipping and selling houses and now… even though she says she doesn’t want us to leave… she knows how excited we are to begin our next adventure… she’s doing everything she can to help us move on. ¬†That’s a true friend.

We’ve got to go through inspections and walk-throughs and all sorts of other hoops…. we could still fall out of contract… but, fingers crossed, our home will have a new owner to love it soon.

Its weird to walk around my home and know that soon it will belong to someone else. ¬†It’s bittersweet. ¬†I’ve loved my home and the time we’ve spent here… but I’m ready for our next adventure… and I’m excited for our buyer… they’re going to be happy here.

Now we just have to get Mom’s house sold…. and once Mom’s house is sold…. well our Florida house won’t be done for months…. so…. we gotta live somewhere….


Yeah…. we bought an RV.

Me, Mom, Brian, Boo and our six cats…. yes, SIX!… are going to live in this RV and travel the country before finally settling in Florida.

It’s crazy! ¬†It’s absolutely insane…. but kinda cool too. ¬†Right?!¬† How often do you get the chance to travel the country with your favorite Pomeranian and humans? ¬†(and a bunch of cats.)

As has been the theme lately… we hadn’t planned to buy an RV that day. ¬†We just wanted to start looking and get some ideas… but the perfect RV was just sitting there waiting for us.


We started our hunt at Byerly RV. ¬†We’d rented a small RV from them back in March to take our National Park trip. ¬†They’d been really great about getting us educated, organized and out on the road. ¬†And when we had a problem with our generator (on Easter Sunday), Mike from the service department answered his personal cellphone and tried to talk us through the problem. ¬†Turned out that the generator was dead, but Byerly was apologetic and great about adjusting our bill when we got home.

Dave listened to our wish list (Brian wanted a diesel pusher… less than 40 feet… used…) and said I’ve got just the thing. ¬†Mom and I both swear we heard him say “it’s Fate,” but apparently he was saying its a Phaeton. ¬†I think Mom and I heard him right though… it really was fate. ¬†It had everything that Brian had said he wanted. ¬†I’d been hoping for something that needed a bit more updating on the interior…. I’ve got a whole Pinterest board dedicated to RV renovations…. but much to my dismay… this RV was in great shape.

We just couldn’t pass this RV up. ¬† So we bought an RV… and we’re gonna travel the country for a few months…. yeah… it just gets weirder and weirder…. more awesome!



Pup Friendly Winery


Boo has recently begun traveling with us beyond the short trip to Gramma’s house or Home Depot and she’s really taken too it like a pro. ¬†She hops into the car and makes herself comfortable without any fuss or anxiety.

We’ve had a recent warm spell in Missouri so we decide to spend the day at our favorite winery and take Boo with us. ¬†She wasn’t as impressed with the convertible… though I think she mostly didn’t approve of the noisy motorcycles who had also decided to take advantage of the 75¬į February day.

FullSizeRender 5We knew that Chaumette Winery¬†is pet friendly since we’d visited other times and met other pet families. The staff was great about seating us so we weren’t sitting right in the main crowd of people and everyone was really friendly to Boo. ¬†It wasn’t long before our area got a few more pet families, but the waiter asked us if we minded first. Which I thought was really nice. I asked to make sure it wasn’t a big dog, since I wasn’t sure what Boo would think and I didn’t want her to get upset. She’s been a bit of a homepuppy for a long time… but she’s branching out and handling it all so well! ¬†Our table neighbor was a Corgi/Pug mix named Jack and his parents.

It’s always amazing to me how pet people can come up and talk to each other’s furbabies without any hesitation… but without our furbabies around, we’d probably never speak to one another. ¬†Another example of how furbabies improve the world! ¬†IMG_7978

Boo and Jack shared a bowl of water, but Jack wandered off to say hi to a new diner, a Chihuahua, and Boo decided to sit on my lap so she could have a better view of things…. like bacon.

I’m really loving the new chef at Chaumette. ¬†Chef Rob has been really great about modifying menu items to be gluten free for us. ¬†Chaumette has always been good about having something GF on the menu, but this is was the first time the chef came out to talk with us.

Brian and I both had the Grass Fed Burger (applewood-smoked bacon, roasted sweet peppers, caramelized onions, IMG_7974white cheddar, herb cream cheese, arugula) without the bun and Garlic Fries. ¬†We split an order of the New Orleans BBQ Shrimp. ¬†I’d had them as my meal last time… and had refused to share with Brian… I should have shared, they’re huge! ¬†The BBQ sauce that it comes with has gluten in it, so the chef made a Romesco sauce for me instead. I reminded our waiter that I’d had a different sauce last time and the chef came out to check that we were thinking of the same thing. ¬†The waiters are really good about checking that everything is safe for us too eat and never making us feel like we’re being a problem. ¬†There is almost always something on the dessert menu that is gluten free (and delicious) too. ¬†They had creme brulee today, but with the Shrimp appetizer and the hamburger… I was just too stuffed.

After lunch we took Boo for a walk around the winery. ¬†Chaumette is really beautiful. ¬†We first discovered it when we were venue hunting for my cousin’s wedding. ¬†I tried to convince her to choose Chaumette, but she chose a winery that was closer to home. ¬†I keep trying to convince Brian that we need to throw our Anniversary party at Chaumette, but he hasn’t given in yet. ¬†Maybe now I’ll have Boo on my side!

After a trip around the little lake and a through the wedding barn (it’s SO cute!) we headed back home. ¬†Boo made herself comfortable in the floor using one of Brian’s jackets and slept most of the way home. ¬†Poor baby… it’s tough being a world traveler!

You can follow more of Boo’s adventures on Facebook!


Gluten Free & Pup Friendly

When I went Gluten Free in December of 2012 and Brian joined me a few months later, our traveling lifestyle changed. ¬†We’d never been huge fast food people, but going Gluten Free eliminated most fast food restaurants…. which made traveling a bit more tricky. The Find Me Gluten Free app¬†(iOS & Android) has been priceless. ¬†We’ve discovered several amazing little places that we’d have never discovered on our own. ¬†We picnic a lot too. Fill a small cooler with deli meat and cheese and a bag of chip and you’re good to go. ¬†There are a lot more Welcome Centers and nice rest stops along the road than I ever realized. Brian has become a master at locating cute little parks and picnic areas for us to eat our picnic lunches.

Well…. now we’ve added another challenging element….. Our Pomeranian, Boo¬†has started traveling with us. ¬†Mom is traveling with us too, but she’s pretty easy. ¬†Mom is GF too and our travel style works for her, but since she’s going with us we’ve lost our baby-sitter for Boo. ¬†I just can’t stand the idea of leaving Boo in a kennel and most of our friends know how neurotic I am about Boo and they’re too afraid (of me) to baby-sit.¬†So Boo has to become a traveling pup.

I wanted to introduce Boo to road trips gently, so we took her on a day trip to Alton, IL to see the eagles. ¬†She was a bit nervous at first, but but got bored pretty quickly and slept through most of the ride home. ¬†We didn’t see any eagles… I don’t think she was too disappointed…. she does look like a little fox, so I don’t think she’s a huge fan of eagles.

I’d been thinking of a short weekend trip for Boo’s next excursion, but our ‘short trip’ turned into an 8 day adventure all around Texas and into New Orleans. ¬†Boo was nervous for the first 20 minutes and then got bored and fell asleep…. which is pretty much how I travel too.


Boo had a great time. ¬†She was totally relaxed in the hotels… Love the Holiday Inn Express (some are pup-friendly) and Candlewood Suites… (Most were pup-friendly). ¬†Boo snoozed in the car and had a great time running around the parks and rest stops.

Breakfast is always easy. ¬†Since we like to stay at Holiday Inn Express’ we usually grab breakfast at the hotel. The omelettes, sausage and bacon are usually GF. The scrambled eggs make me nervous. ¬†I haven’t been able to get a hold of the packaging for the scrambled eggs to confirm that they’re GF and I’ve heard that some places add flour to their eggs to make them extra fluffy. ¬†So on the mornings where my option is scrambled eggs I grab a banana and peanut butter from the breakfast bar instead. ¬†When we stay at the Candlewood Suites we usually opt for Cliff Bars or Laura Bars brought fromIMG_7757 home. ¬†We’d get our food from the breakfast bar and then eat in the room since fur-babies aren’t invited to the dining room. ūüė¶

Lunch is easy too… Boo is a huge fan of picnicnicking at parks and rest areas. ¬†Dinner is the bigger challenge. ¬†By dinner time I want real food… I want to try the local foods and sit down for a real meal. ¬†Finding a sit down place that accomidates fur-babies and offers GF food is a bit more of a challenge. ¬†Most places with a patio or outdoor seating are likely to allow pups (always ask first!). ¬†I found the BringFido app (iOS) which lists pup-friendly hotels, parks and restaurants. ¬†We didn’t bother using it for the hotels, but it really helped finding restaurants. ¬†I do wish it had a section for Gluten Free restaurants.

Boo was super well behaved at the restaurants. ¬†She usually sat under the table and then sat on our lap after the meal so she could join un while we finished our drinks and chatted. ¬†She loved the attention from the waiters and waitresses… especially when they’d bring her a fresh bowl of water and talk to her.

I’m pretty sure we’ve made a spoiled monster now. ¬†She’s never going to want to be left home alone again.

Some of Boo’s favorite places were:IMG_7773

Freebirds in Waco, TX

Austin Terrier in Austin, TX

Cafe Amelie in New Orleans, LA

The Rum House in New Orleans, LA

Chef Ron’s Gumbo Stop in New Orleans, LA (We ordered take out, since it wasn’t actually pup-friendly, just GF, but we took it back to the hotel and had a fabulous dinner… and Boo got to try a bit of Cajun food.)

And, of course, Starbucks! ¬†Boo is now addicted to the Puppuccino on the Secret Starbucks Menu. ¬†Just ask for a Puppaccino and they’ll give you a little cup of whipped cream…. Boo thought it was the most fabulous thing ever!

MTTS: Day 9 – Memphis, TN

10580188_10152330338893668_5972410947265355868_nDay NINE? Really?

We started out this morning in Dallas…. I’m starting to get confused…. We’ve stayed in four different Texas cities and everything is starting to run together. ¬†I’m not the only MTTS-er who can’t remember where they’ve been. ¬†When you meet new people you ask where they started and how far they are going… The long distance people are starting to look a bit dazed. ¬†Too many early Rise & Shines following too many late Evening Owner’s Events. ¬†I don’t know how else MINI could do it… there is just so much road to cover in a day and only so many hours… We need a Nap Day thrown in here and there maybe.

Today was probably our longest drive…. 488 miles. ¬†I slept A LOT… thank goodness. ¬†My mom wishes that I had slept that good in the car when I was little… maybe I would have, but she just didn’t drive long enough…. 100-150 miles… bam… I’m asleep.

We didn’t get to see many interesting things along the way today. ¬†There was a lot of construction on the highway and we ended up taking a couple of creepy back roads (and we’ve been in the no-man-lands of New Mexico, and I say these were creepy….)

We finally made it out of Texas and into Arkansas around lunch time. ¬†I’d swear that the moment we crossed the state line the humidity quadrupled. ¬†That is something that I’ve discovered on this trip… I’d always thought that state lines were an imaginary kind of line… something drawn on a map and marked with a sign…. nothing tangible….. Nope! ¬†Crossing state lines begin/end all different kinds of landscapes, languages and heat indexes. ¬†Who knew!?photo 1

Since we got into Memphis in the late afternoon on a Sunday… and all the sights were closed… Our big thrill of the day was dinner. ¬†My Father-In-Law loves… absolutely loves…. plans trips around… Corky’s Ribs & BBQ. ¬†Now, unlike my SIL, I totally get my FIL’s food style. ¬†If it’s food… it’s probably good…. if it’s different… we should try it. ¬†Yep… I get that. ¬†We tend to like a lot of the same foods too (not drinks, tho.. we totally disagree on coffees and wine). ¬†So as Brian and I are scrolling through Google’s recommended places I came across Corky’s Ribs & BBQ…. Well… ribs are a very Memphis thing….. what the hell?

10577004_10152331244628668_4666225502343366721_nWe got a parking space right up front… apparently we just beat the rush… and Posh got a cute picture out front. ¬†We sent that to Brian’s dad to make him jealous.

I’d googled to see if the BBQ sauce was gluten-free and most of the things I’d read said it was. ¬†I checked with the waitress and she said that yes, the regular sauce was GF. ¬†I’ve never had a problem with any of the BBQ sauces that I’ve had before, but I’m trying to be extra careful to not get sick while we’re on our trip. ¬†I ordered the Rack of Ribs (1/2 Wet & 1/2 Dry)….. I think I like the ‘Wet’ better, but the ‘Dry’ was good too. ¬†I also got the Twice Baked Potatoes as my side… yum! ¬†You’d have thought I’d have had them before, but I can’t remember every eating them….. I found the recipe and those potatoes will be showing up at a Family Dinner Night soon. ¬†(So will Fried Pies, as soon as I figure out a good GF recipe for them…. I keep seeing signs all over the south for Fried Pies… and I want one SO bad!) Brian ordered the Loaded Potato and had plans to share my ribs…. he just let me order the giant meal so the waitress thought I was the cow!

After dinner we decided to skip the Owner’s Event and just get to the hotel earlier. ¬†We’re having a great time, but we could use more sleep (napping in the car just doesn’t count.) ¬†Tomorrow is our last day on MTTS… It’s be a wonderful adventure, but I’m ready to get home. ¬†I miss my home and my family…. and I’m pretty sure my dog won’t speak to me and my cats have probably convinced my aunt to let them order pizza and pay-per-view every night…. it’s time to go home.


MTTS: Day Eight – Dallas, TX

IMG_9266It was another very early morning when we rolled into the Texas State Capitol (Austin, TX). ¬†Posh got a great spot right in front of the Capitol Building….. she’s gonna have the best scrapbook!

MINI once again provided excellent coordination and got everyone lined up nice and neat with a minimum amount of fussing. ¬†MINIs like to snuggle together anyway… While the MINIs took in their surroundings, us humans roamed around the center taking photos and checking out all the other MINIs and shopping the “Boot Sales” ¬†(If you didn’t already know… MINIs have ‘boots’ and ‘bonnets’ not ‘trunks’ or ‘hoods’). ¬†I acquired a new shopping bag from MINI of…. Dallas? And some MINI gum…. I have no idea why MINI had it’s own gum…. they just do. ¬†MINI USA and the MINI Clubs have been awesome about giving out fun MINI swag. ¬†The sponsors are pretty fun too! ¬†Peeps is a sponsor and they have a Peeps MINI… it’s so cute! ¬†They keep handing us mini Peeps at the different events. I’m starting to get a collection of them! ¬†We got a mini Lego MINI¬†in our Welcome Bag… I’ll let Brian put them together…. I have no patience for following the directions with LEGOS. ¬†I build castles… that’s about it…¬†¬†And Banfield Pet Hospital¬†has presents for the furry co-pilots too.

Today Value Service¬†gave us safari hats after our trip through the Franklin Drive Thru Safari. ¬†IMG_9359They’re actually pretty perfect hats for the Roadster. ¬†I’ve got two other hats and a couple of scarves that I’ve been trying to make stay on my head for the last 3000 miles…. these have a nice floppy brim to cover the back of my neck and a strap to hold them on!

The trip through the Franklin Drive Thru Safari was more fun than I thought it would be. ¬†If it wasn’t for MINI, I would have never (a) found the place, or (b) bothered to go… Brian and I are pretty spoiled with our St Louis Zoo memberships… it takes a lot to compete. ¬†Probably what made it so much fun was sharing the experience with 400 other MINIs…. The Safari knew we were coming, but I don’t think the quite grasped how many of us there actually were…. Until you see 400-500 MINIs swarming down the highway, you just don’t get it. ¬†We shut down the main road into town… we blocked up everything for two miles…. the police finally came to direct traffic…. We weren’t being bad…. there were just a lot of us! ¬†The city police were very nice and they started directing people around us and soon everything got uncontested. ¬†We almost skipped the Safari because of all the traffic, but I’m really glad we decided to stay. ¬†(Not just for the cool hat..) ¬†We’re in the Roadster… with the top down…. so we had an excellent view of the animals… and they had an excellent view of us! ¬†

After the Safari we continued on to Dallas. ¬†It was a much prettier drive today. ¬†This part of Texas has more hills and trees… I was starting to go a bit crazy with the endless fields of nothing. ¬†We actually reached Dallas fairly early in the day, so we had some time to look around a do some sightseeing. ¬†I hadn’t planned anything in Dallas since I figured MINI would have an event and we’d go to that. ¬†MINI did have an event… but it just wasn’t our cup of tea so we decided to wander around town for a bit. ¬†Neither one of us is a big history buff, but we watched enough of the History Chanel to know the¬†Dealey Plaza¬†in Dallas is where Kennedy was assassinated. ¬†We were too late to visit the Sixth Floor Museum, which used to be the Texas School Book Depository from where Jack Ruby allegedly shot JFK. ¬†IMG_8186We were going to cross the street to see the Grassy Knoll, but one of the homeless guys was trying to be our “tour guide” and was starting to freak me out. ¬†I grabbed Brian and drug him away. ¬†The homeless guy started yelling, but I couldn’t tell if it was at us or at another homeless guy. ¬†There were a lot of homeless guys yelling in the area… I’m glad it was a sunny afternoon and there were a bunch of other people around. ¬†I wouldn’t have wanted to be down there later in the evening.

Brian and I also checked out the Old Red Museum. ¬†It used to be the courthouse, but now IMG_8176it is a museum. ¬†I didn’t want to pay $8/person for tickets. ¬†The architecture is amazing, but we just¬† looked around the first floor for a bit.

On our way back to the car (I was starting to worry about Posh all alone with all the yelling homeless people!) we stopped to look at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza… it’s kinda ugly. ¬†I just don’t get it… it’s kinda like a LEGO…. but boring. ¬†IMG_8197
We also stopped and visited the Dallas Farmer’s Market… I am SO jealous of their Farmer’s Market!! Why is our’s not this cool? ¬†Ugh! ¬†Brian and I picked up a gluten-free brownie (mine, all mine!), some yummy red grapes for our lunches and a jar of apple cobbler jelly to take home and share at our next Family Dinner Night. ¬†I think it will be killer served warm over home-made vanilla ice cream! ¬†(I’m gonna have to serve something pretty awesome to get the family to sit still through all 2000 MTTS photos…..)¬†IMG_8171

For dinner we decided to try In-n-Out Burger. ¬†We don’t have them in Missouri and I’ve heard my Sister-In-Law rave about them. ¬†Now, my SIL doesn’t really like anything… I can count on one hand the things that I know she likes….. so I was thinking that these must be some freaking awesome burgers. ¬†I checked online first to make sure I could eat them and was super excited to discover that they were very gluten friendly. ¬†They even have a button to press when you order to tell the cooks that you have an allergy. ¬†It took em a bit to find the right button, but they got our order in and were super nice. ¬†I even heard one of them call back to the cooks that they had a customer with a wheat allergy and to change their gloves and utensils. ¬†WOW! ¬†IMG_9370

Brian and I both got a Double Double ‘Protein’ Burger (the “protein” part means that they wrapped it in lettuce instead of putting it on a bun). ¬†I got cheese fries too…. The fries were safe from cross contamination because the fries are the only thing they fry. ¬†Yay! ¬†The burger comes wrapped in lettuce and then wrapped in paper and then in a little paper sleeve… all of which is necessary to keep the juice and sauces from getting everywhere.

So…. it was good. ¬†Not amazing… but it was good. ¬†I still don’t understand my SIL. ¬†*sigh* ¬†I was ecstatic about the care they took to make sure it was safe for me to eat, and it was a good hamburger…. It tasted a lot like a Steak-n-Shake hamburger. ¬†I wish Steak-n-Shake would take that much care in ensuring gluten-friendliness!





MTTS: Day Seven – Austin, TX


So far as I can tell, Texas roads are either “OMG, we’re gonna die,” or “OMG, kill me now.” ¬†When we are in the city the roads loop around in undecipherable patterns and when we are out of the city…. the roads go on¬†forever. ¬†I’m kinda over driving in Texas…. and I’m not even the driver… Brian does all the driving. Mostly I nap and take photos out the window… sometimes I ask him odd, random questions…. he tries to ignore me, but it’s a pretty small car.

We left Lubbock, TX this morning and headed to Austin, TX. ¬†We wandered off from the pack pretty early. ¬†MINI’s directions were a little convoluted and we gave up and let Google Maps lead the way. ¬†We weren’t the only ones with that idea… we had a nice little collection of MINI’s that we motored with for most of the way.

It’s pretty fortunate that we’ve packed our own lunches… today we might have starved to death. ¬†We stopped at a picnic area and had a quick lunch. ¬†There were GIANT grasshoppers in the picnic area and I don’t like hopping things…. we got back in the car pretty quickly. ¬†Around two o’clock we saw a bunch of other MINI’s stop for BBQ… Glad we didn’t have to wait that long!

IMG_8032We met up with the MINIs again in Brady, Texas…. which is apparently the Heart of Texas. ¬†Metroplex MINI was waiting with a big sign and MINI USA took photos of us all. ¬†The photographers have been nice about snapping a photo for us using our own camera too.

Brian and I wandered around town for a bit and checked out a couple of the shops. ¬†It was nice just to be out of the car and stretch our legs. ¬†People would come up to us and ask what was going on… MINI has invaded Texas…. It was the cutest takeover ever. ¬†I love watching people realize that a hundred or so MINIs have just swarmed their town…. Surprise, confusion, curiosity….. glee!

Brian finally lured me back into the car with the promise of ice cream. ¬†I’ve been craving ice cream in the worst way….. but when we find a shop the ice cream looks all crystal-y….. I dunno, just not smooth and creamy…. I know, I know… I am super picky. ¬†We found a cute little shop and since we nearly died getting across traffic I figured I’d better not be difficult about a few ice crystals.

We finally arrived in Austin and made it to our hotel… early in fact…. so now we’re waiting until time to go to this evening’s event. ¬†MINI has arranged for food trucks and live music. ¬†I’m a little nervous about the food trucks…. I’m hoping I can find something safe for me to eat.

At any rate, it should be an early night… We were up really late with the Drive-In Movie last night and we had to get up really early to leave this morning….. I did NOT want to give up my nice Holiday Inn pillow. ¬†We’re at a Candlewood Suite tonight…. which is part of the Holiday Inn/IHG family…. they’re pretty nice and considerably less expensive…. but their pillows don’t stack up to the Holiday Inn or Hampton Inn pillows. ¬†I may have to ask for another couple of pillows before we settle for the night…. Brian steals them from me!


MTTS: Day Five – Albuquerque, NM

Today was AH-may-zing!

Brian woke me up bright and early. ¬†He claims it was the time change, but I think he was just excited to get going… and worried about fitting it all in today! ¬†I’ve been to New Mexico¬†before and had a bunch of places that I wanted Brian to see. ¬†We already had to pare down the list a bit to make it all fit.

First stop was the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Park¬†– I figured Brian would enjoy looking at the ancient architecture. ¬†There are actually three different sets of ruins. ¬†I’d only been to one site, so we decide to see that one first.

IMG_7758The Quarai Ruins¬†are probably my favorite. I like that these ruins are more “complete.” ¬†It just gives you a better feeling of what they were like when people lived there. ¬†The roof is gone, but there is more definition to the rooms. ¬†I also like the park area around it a bit more than the other two sites. ¬†The walking trails are nice and there was a pretty little picnic area under some big trees. ¬†There aren’t a whole heck of a lot of big trees in New Mexico. ¬†Mostly there are short cedar trees and scroungy¬†little scrub brush.

Gran Quivira Ruins wereIMG_7792 interesting to see, but probably my least favorite site to visit.  The ruins are the least intact of the three and they sit high up on a hill.  It was interesting to see the differences between the two sites and the different styles of building.  The other two sites were built near water, but this site depended on rainfall so they had big wells dug to catch and store the water.  

IMG_7834The Abo Ruin was more like the Quarai site. ¬†Both were constructed from the red rocks and red clay and the site was fairly well intact (for being centuries old!). ¬†It was interesting to wander through the remains of the rooms and imagine what life must have been like. ¬†The picnic area here was really nice, it too was built under some big trees. ¬†The first two sites had nicer (real) bathrooms while the Abo Ruin had more port-a-potty style bathrooms. ¬†(This is important in New Mexico, because you can drive for over an hour and not see a town… or if you do see a town they don’t have a gas station… or anywhere else to stop…. nice clean restrooms are important!)

Brian and I ate our lunch at the Abo Ruin picnic area before heading off to the VLA in Magdalena, NM. ¬†We’re really enjoying picnicking instead of trying to find a restaurant. ¬†For one thing, it would be really difficult to find anywhere to eat in New Mexico…. you can drive for a really long way and not see anyone… and for another, we’re saving a ton of money and calories and getting to spend more time in some really beautiful places.

The Very Large Array in Magdalena/Socorro (It’s really just in the middle of nowhere):

“The Very Large Array is one of the world’s premier astronomical radio observatories, consists of 27 radio antennas inIMG_7859 a Y-shaped configuration on the Plains of San Agustin fifty miles west of Socorro, New Mexico. Each antenna is 25 meters (82 feet) in diameter. The data from the antennas is combined electronically to give the resolution of an antenna 36km (22 miles) across, with the sensitivity of a dish 130 meters (422 feet) in diameter.”

IMG_7871These things are just amazing. They are listening to outer-space! ¬†Of course, that is totally oversimplifying, but I just look at them and realize that they can see/hear stars being born and dying… looking beyond what our human eyes could ever see…. I look at them and I see such exciting possibilities…. who knows what they will help us discover? ¬†I know it seems weird… it’s just a bunch of big dishes out in the middle of nowhere…. I just think they are beautiful. ¬†The sky was a beautiful blue with big fluffy clouds today…. I took a ton of photos of the VLA. ¬†Every time they would move I have to take a dozen more photos…. They are SO quiet… and they move faster than you’d expect for such a huge thing.

Brian and I watched the movie at the Visitor’s Center… it’s narrated by Jodi Foster… she was in the movie Contact that was based on/at the VLA. ¬†The video isn’tIMG_7928 very long, but it explains the VLA and what it does. ¬†The best part of the video is when it explains how they move these dishes on train tracks around the site. ¬†They weighTONS… the whole process is pretty interesting.

It’s a long drive to get to any of these sites if you are staying in Albuquerque (and I’m not sure where else you would be staying… maybe Roswell? ¬†Not a lot of big towns to choose from.) but if you are in New Mexico I would say these are all really interesting things to see. ¬†(And they’re all free!)

After the VLA we headed back to Albuquerque to finally meet up with MINI USA. ¬†The MINI’s started arriving at the MINI dealership around 6:00pm. ¬†We had a great time… MINI really knows how to throw a party! 10552630_10152323693423668_5713593808735944385_nBrian and I got checked in and got our MINI ID’s and our first goody bag. ¬†The dealership served dinner and had a live band. ¬†It was great! ¬†There were hundreds of different MINIs and no two alike. ¬†We ate dinner and made a new friend (MINI people are just friendly… especially when we are talking about our kids… er… cars.) ¬†We hung out for a while, sitting on the grass and listening to the band. ¬†The weather was just perfect… mid 70’s (I thought New Mexico was supposed to be hot?!). ¬†We finally decided to call it a night. ¬†We’ve got to get up very bright and early to meet the other MINI’s and start driving to Lubbock, TX. ¬†More adventure awaits!


MTTS: Day Two – Pauls Valley, OK

After a Cliff Bar and a cup of coffee, we packed up and headed out of Eureka Springs fairly early this morning. Brian had come across an¬†Arkansas road map forIMG_7272 bikers yesterday and ¬†found a couple of interesting looking places that he wanted to try. ¬†(Who knew that bikers and MINI’s would like the same driving routes… guess it makes sense… twisty, back roads with scenic places to stop…. maybe MINIs and bikers should hang out together more often!) ¬†The roads that he wanted to try eventually intersected with the Scenic Byway that I’d read about…. so it sounded like a good plan.

Our first stop was at the War Eagle Bridge & Mill. ¬†The mill actually still works… which is pretty impressive… Brian and I have been to a few other mills and most are no longer working. ¬†They had corn and a couple different kinds of flour for sale. IMG_7261Brian loves checking out the machinery and figuring out how it all works. ¬†He keeps trying to explain it all to me, but I just keep thinking how I would get my hair caught in something and kill myself. ¬†I leave all that to him and I wander around and check out the different kinds of jams they have for sale. ¬†My father-in-law likes weird kinds of jam, so we’re always looking for something new for him.

Up on the third floor was a restaurant and outside is a huge steel bridge, cleverly named, War Eagle Bridge. ¬†The bridge looked pretty cool with the mill in the background, so Brian and I waited until there was a lull in the traffic (it’s a one lane bridge!) and then took Posh over the bridge to pose for a few pictures.

IMG_7285We opted to skip the restaurant (beans seemed to be a big thing on the menu… ick) and headed off for the rest of our biker approved dive. ¬†Arkansas is just really pretty to drive through… all the rolling hills and pretty farms. ¬†It is really pretty to visit in the fall when all the leaves are changing. ¬†There weren’t a lot of places to stop or much to do other than enjoy the scenery. ¬†(That was okay with us, that had been the plan, really.) Finally, we came to the Talimena Scenic Byway.

According to the website, “The Talimena Scenic drive winds 54 miles along the crest of Rich Mountain and Winding Stair Mountain in the Ouachita NationalIMG_7370 Forest (pronounced Wash-i-tah). If you can resist stopping to enjoy the many vistas and attractions along the way, the route takes 1 hour and 10 minutes to drive. A leisurely drive can take all day.”

It took us about two and a half hours to get through. ¬†Along the way we stopped and climbed the Fire Tower on Rich Mountain… I would recommend climbing the tower if you are ever on your way through. ¬†There are some really great views from the top. ¬†Brian wasn’t thrilled with the construction of the tower (he’s always looking at how things are put together!), but I’ve actually climbed much creepier towers (with Mom!), and I thought this one was pretty good. ¬†Admittedly, I’m not really afraid of heights…

The first 6 or 7 scenic overlooks were great and exciting… we stopped at each and jumped out to peer over the edge. ¬†The hills and mountains had a blue color that didn’t seem quite believable. ¬†I’ve heard the Ozark/Arkansas mountains described as “blue” before, but didn’t really grasp that, yes, they really look blue. ¬†Even standing there, looking out over the valley my brain kept trying to convince me that they’d been photoshopped.

IMG_7405As the day got hotter and muggier we started just pulling up to the scenic overlooks and kinda leaning out of the car… yup, pretty… keep rolling. ¬†As long as the car was moving there was a nice breeze. ¬†The Scenic Byway finally came to an end and we were in Oklahoma by then. ¬†The Byway was absolutely beautiful and I would suggest you visit if you are ever in Arkansas…. especially in the fall… I’ll bet it is AMAZING in the fall!

Once we left the Byway and headed into Oklahoma….. things got dull…. super dull…. mind numbingly dull…… How long is Oklahoma?! ¬†And what happened to the cell signal? ¬†I couldn’t even message Mom! ¬†Ugh.

The sun began to set and I decided that we needed a photo of Posh with the sunset. ¬†Of course, as soon as I decide that, we hit work zones and then a residential area. ¬†Just as we were about to lose the light, I spotted a field and a wide shoulder. ¬†Brian pulled over and I bailed out to take a few photos. ¬†(Thank goodness he watches the road for me and keeps me from getting run over! ¬†“Car! ¬†Car, Stephanie! ¬†Get out of the ROAD!”) ¬†I finally got my shot of Posh and the sunset and we headed off to our hotel. ¬†Another exciting day full of daring photo shoots…. Survived!



Gluten Free: On The Go


One of the things I worried about before our trip was how we would manage to not starve eat gluten free the whole time. I’m not just gluten free because I think it’s a nice idea…. I get sick when I eat wheat. I DO NOT want to wander into something with wheat and be sick AND stuck in a car for 400 miles. (Brian wouldn’t want me to do that either!).

It has actually been much easier than I’d been expecting. Eating gluten free on the road also saves a bunch of money and calories too.

I bought a huge box of Cliff bars at Costco before we left. Brian has claimed all of the chocolate chip bars and says I have to eat the peanut butter crunch bars (guess who doesn’t like peanut butter?) Fine by me… I don’t like chocolate in my breakfast anyway. So, Cliff bars and coffee for breakfast. Easy peasy, and we don’t waste time or money in the mornings. Yay!

I’d been a bit more concerned about lunch since I wasn’t sure we’d have room for a cooler in the MINI, but we found one that fits just perfect behind the seats. (Remember, we’re in a Roadster… mini MINI!)


We’ve got water bottles and ice in the lower part and sliced cheese and turkey & ham in the curved top part. There’s a little mesh hanger in the top the keeps the meat and cheese out of the ice. It’s working really well.

At lunch time we stopped in a park and ate at the picnic tables.

I just roll up a piece of turkey in the cheese slice and that’s lunch. Add a few potato chips and a gluten free cookie… LUNCH!

We’re loving WOW Bakery’s gluten free cookies. The Snickerdoodle are my favorite. (Available at Target)

I’ve also packed a big bag of pistachios and some beef jerky (Costco’s Kirkland brand is gluten free…. Be careful with beef jerky, most of it has wheat.)

We’re also loving Real Lemon brand lemonade. All natural and sweetened with stevia. Very yummy and saves on calories when you get bored with water.

For dinner we still like to find a restaurant and try new things. Having saved money and calories on breakfast and lunch frees us up a bit more for dinner.

I do wish I’d packed some chocolate though… Maybe I can find some fudge in the next town…. Or an ice cream shop for dessert!