Organ Pipe National Monument

Did you know?
The major difference between a national park and a national monument is the manner in which they are created. A national park is established through an Act of Congress, and the land may originate from a variety of sources, including public and private land. A national monument is established by Presidential proclamation, and this land is to be taken only from existing public (federal) ownership.

Organ Pipe National Monument is about a 2 hour drive from Tucson.  Some quick facts.  The park was established  in 1 937 Franklin D. Roosevelt. Most of the mountains in the monument are volcanic in origin in the Ajo range. The highest peak in this range, as well as in the park, is Mt. Ajo, which elevates to a height of 4,808 feet.

12 hours in the greater Phoenix area

I was making a late night airport run so I decided to spend the day on a scavenger fun hunt.  I wanted some photos representing the history of area.  I then went to the State Capitol which is closed for tours on the weekends.  The Wesley Bolin Memorial Park is a sobering reminder of those who gave all for our freedom.

A short drive towards downtown will land you at Smurthwaite House. The park has stellar photo opportunities.  I took photos of the pioneer cemetery which I have a creative sign idea to make for Halloween.   If you want a tour email

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I returned to my car driving towards downtown and stumbled upon the Police Museum.  I took a selfie of me in a retired patrol car and got a chance to sit on a motorcycle. This would be great for kids big and small. Take time to learn about the Ernesto Miranda.  I did not know Ernesto was tried twice after the first conviction was overturned.

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The small museum is worth the time.  For lunch I grazed at Alice Cooperstown. I had No More Mister Nice Guy and Desperado playing over in my head. I was not brave enough to try  The Big Unit hotdog but several patrons did while I was dining.
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I returned to my 12 hour adventure and stopped at the Park and Swap.  I didn’t purchase anything but managed to walk around entertained for an hour.


A visit is not complete without a stop at Tempe Beach Park.  The splash park is luring for children and parents during the summer heat. I did not rent a boat but it’s officially on my fall bucket list.

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Continuing on my journey I went to Mesa.  The Idea Museum is the perfect activity for small children offering a creative outlet.  Who doesn’t want to color, create and be inspired by science.

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I did spend a chunk of my afternoon at the AZ Natural History in Mesa which is walking distance from the Idea Museum. I even panned for gold and found a couple of specks of pure fools gold.  The moving dinosaurs are lifelike and the jail in the basement was a fun bonus.

I found an old camera treasure at the Antique Mall on Main street.   I could have spent hours shopping. I will add this to my return list.

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I finished my trip relaxing at Desert Eagle Brewery.  I did a sample flight of their crafts. My favorite was the dunkel weizen.  The staff is friendly and engaging.  I always enjoy seeing businesses passionate about their creations.  I finished the day with a walk on Main Street taking pictures of the statues before my 12 mini vacation came to an end.  See you next weekend.

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12 hours fun list completed
Indian tribal buildings
State Capitol
Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza
Smurthwaite House
Phoenix Police Museum
Alice Cooperstown
Swap Meet
Tempe Beach Park
Idea Museum
AZ Natural History Museum Mesa
Antique Plaza
Desert Eagle Brewery
Mesa Main Street



Mt Lemmon

Find a cool escape from the Tucson heat just a short drive away from town.  (O’odham: Babad Doʼag) was named after the Sara Plummer Lemmon who climbed to the top in 1881. On the backside is Peppersauce Cave (Coordinates: 32°31′28″N 110°42′26″W.) The limestone cave is free and open to the public.Mount Lemmon has breath taking views of the town and the mountain ridges along a small lake 22 miles up from the base.

Salt River Tubing

Spend the day floating on the river.  The 4 hour float is worth the 30 minute drive outside of Phoenix. There are a few tips, bring cash as they do not accept credit cards and an onsite ATM is not available.  When it comes to coolers  the foam coolers will not survive the rapids.  The first rapid has a sharp curve and we watched coolers spontaneously com-bust.  I highly recommend a stop at the closest Walgreens 3624 N Power Rd Mesa for supplies including the floating cooler pictured.  This location has inflated tubes, ice, coolers, sunscreen and any other accessory for tubing at a reasonable price.

Salt River Tubing Mesa  tubbing

South Dakota Panning for gold vacation style

We spent a week around the Rapid City area. We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Spearfish as they have an indoor waterslide.  Do a search on things to do in South Dakota and you will be wildly surprised to see all the state has to offer. We were busy from sun up to sun down being one with nature, history and shopping. The locals are friendly and we felt welcome to be sharing their community.  Below are a few of the items on our list of activities we accomplished in our few days stay.

The Bay Leaf Cafe  offer a Bison burger which is a must try to blend with the locals.


The DC Fishery was established in 1896. The  D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives and is a fun family tourist stop. You can feed the fish, walk through the museum and fish train cart, historic house and short hikes. Take a picnic and enjoy the grounds.

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Spearfish Canyon Many of the waterfalls are visible from your car. If you are not into hiking this is your opportunity to see the waterfalls without the effort. Drive to see the Bridal Veil Falls and Roughlock Falls and you will not be disappointed.

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Mt Rushmore is a must see. Go along the President’s Trail Hike to see the faces of the famous US Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. The flags of the states are a welcoming entrance. The profile of Washington’s is along Highway 244 about 1/2 mile west of the memorial parking area.

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Crazy horse The name is Lakota: Tašúŋke Witkó in Standard Lakota translates to “His-Horse-Is-Crazy.” He was the leader who rose to fame for the victory at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. Crazy Horse’s Face is – 87 feet, 6 inches (completed June 3, 1998.) The museum is large and a family can easily spend an entire day hiking and taking in all the exhibits. We stopped and had lunch in Hill City. This small town has decent pricing on black hills gold and other treasures.

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Badlands The park is expansive covering 244,300 acres. An interesting fact is the park is considered one of the world’s richest deposits of mammal fossil beds. Drive to interior for a snack before continuing to one of my favorite trails castle trail.

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Black Hills 
The name “Black Hills” is a translation of the Lakota Pahá Sápa. The hills were so-called because of their dark appearance from a distance, as they were covered in trees. Find a creek, wild rock formations, flume trail, crow’s peak or devil’s bathtub.

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We saw signs all over the countryside for the Wonderland Cave and it did not disappoint. I found a coupon on their website so we saved on 6 entry fees. The tour last about an hour so bring a jacket.

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Devil’s Tower This natural gem is near Sundance in northeastern Wyoming. The tower rises dramatically 1,267 feet above the surrounding terrain and the summit is 5,114 feet above sea level. In 1906, Teddy Roosevelt named the tower the United States’ first national monument. The tower is also known as Bears Lodge. The tower is considered a sacred worship site by many Native Americans who leave colorful prayer cloths tied to trees near its base.

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Wall Drug Store Ted Hustead and his wife Dorothy purchased the drug store in December 1931. Dorothy created signs offering free ice water which started bringing in traffic and the rest is history. If you need a new pair of moccasins, taffy, hunting knife and lunch then you have come to the right place.

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Rapid City

City of Presidents Rapid City Find your favorite president and take a selfie with a man in history. The Presidents Information Center is open six days a week thru September from 10 AM – 9 PM. There is an unexpected piece of European history with the display of a piece of the Berlin Wall. Take a stroll around Memorial Park and have a picnic in the shade by the pond. See the photo of the Alex Johnson hotel said to have hosted Former Presidents Calvin Coolidge, Dwight Eisenhower, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
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We had lunch at the Firehouse Brewing Company before a tour of the facility and a wine tasting session. I took several pictures of the fire station upstairs while waiting for our food. I enjoyed the on tap selection as well as the food. We spent an hour walking around downtown capturing the well maintained historic story of this lovely town.

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Bear Country They charge for each person in the vehicle so no need to pack everyone into one vehicle. Adult’s are $16 per person and well worth it. Do not roll down your windows as they offer a cleaning station for your windows. The baby bears are adorable.

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A family could spend an entire week visiting all that Rapid has to offer. We only had 2 days so it is on our list to come back for more. A quick list of points of interest are:
Reptile Gardens
Custer State Park
Chapel in the Hills
Sitting Bull Cyrstal Caverns
Air and Space Museum
Dinosaur Park
Old McDonalds Farm
Watiki Indoor Waterpark
Museum of Geology
Art Alley
Storybook Island

The city is famous for being the location of one of the largest annual motorcycle events in the world. We went in June when the town is quiet and suitable for children. Originally the town was called Scooptown as residents “scooped up” their pay from Fort Meade. In time the city changed it’s name to Sturgis in honor of the Civil War Union General Samuel D. Sturgis. The town was gearing up for live bull riding and roping. What could go wrong.

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Wiki states For most of the past 120 years, there has been some military presence at Fort Meade, near Sturgis, South Dakota. Many cavalry and infantry units were stationed here, including the 7th U.S. Cavalry after the Battle of the Little Bighorn, the Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th U.S. Cavalry, and the 4th U.S. Cavalry which saw the transition from horses to mechanization. Fort Meade still serves as a training site for the South Dakota National Guard and an Army National Guard Officer Candidate School. It is also home of Fort Meade National Cemetery. If you want to visit the cemetery do not use your GPS. The road is the turn before the entrance if traveling from Sturgis. The view from the cemetery of Bear Butte Creek is worth the short drive.

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Belle Fourche
Aug. 21, 1959, when Hawaii became the 50th state Belle Fourche became the center of the nation city, according to the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Society. The monument is next to a small visitor center and gift shop, and a log cabin that is open for a visit.

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Deadwood city was  once most famous for being the home of Wild Bill Hickok. Wild Bill was shot and killed while playing cards in the No. 10 Saloon. Legend has it his hand was two pairs: black aces and black eights. This is commonly referred to as a “dead man’s hand.” Wild Bill and Clamity Jane are both buried in the local cemetery. The city is kid friendly and the reenactments in the streets are entertaining. Kevin Costner’s casino is Midnight Star has polished brass and offers fine dining. One of my favorite casinos is Celebrity Casino. They have tv memorabilia ranging from Hill Street Blues to John Wayne. We collected several of the casino chips I prefer the old coins while my brother preferred the casino chips.

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We had a great 1.5 stop at the Broken Boot Gold Mine located at 1200 Pioneer Way, Deadwood open daily from 8-6. The tour which runs every 30 minutes is easy to navigate and offered a plethora of history on the town and organization. At the end of the tour we panned for gold.
Plan on spending the day gold mining, visiting the Adams house and museum, Mt Roosevelt Monument and all the charm the historic old town has to offer.

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A Wise person travels to discover themselves 40.7127° N, 74.0059° W

A weekend of my favorite lower Manhattan activities. I would be diagnosed with writers block if I had to list my true and only 10 lower Manhattan favorites. Trekking around includes ferries, trains and some comfortable walking shoes.
NYC  we love NY

Ride the ferries

Ferries Ferry view
The ferry to our statue of liberty is the perfect vessel for picture taking. I catch it from NJ located at 200 Morris Pesin Dr, Jersey City, NJ 07305. (201) 915-3402 The roads are loosely marked but so keep an eye out for the turn. In regards to tickets to highest access of our lady liberty you must book months in advance during the holidays. If your day or time is full, check back frequently as tour availability changes. Calling their customer service center will not award you a spot on a wait list so check their online ticket portal often.

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Ellis Island has that hair rising sense of history. Spend a few hours losing yourself in our nation’s history. This building has seen millions of our ancestors stand in the very same hallways filled with anticipation of a better life for their future generations. With every visit I leave with new information. For those of us interested in genealogy this is the location to start preparing your Ancestor Hunt. Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown.

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Ellis Island


Grand Central Terminal
The city underground. The commuter rails cover 48 acres and has 44 platforms, more than any other railroad station in the world. GCT platforms, all consist of 41 tracks on the upper level and 26 on the lower, however the total number of tracks along platforms and in rail yards exceed 100. Visit the NY Transit Museum Gallery and Store. Try this acoustical “whispering gallery” located off the ramps outside the Oyster Bar. 89 E 42nd St is the mecca of people gazing.
Grand Central Terminal

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.
The Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883. At the time, it was the longest suspension bridge. For several years after its construction, the Brooklyn Bridge was the tallest structure in the Western hemisphere. The original toll for crossing the bridge was one penny. We crossed in December and windy does not describe the velocity of the cold force hitting you in the face. Completely worth it.

Brooklyn Bridge  Suspended Bliss
9-11 Memorial
The walk from the bridge a doable stroll to the memorial. I went to New York in October 2011 and was gobsmacked at the devastation. The rubble was still smoldering and the gutted area possessed an overwhelming sadness. Today the memorial stands but the sadness still remains. My heart is still heavy for those who never came home that fateful day. Never forget.

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Anne Frank Museum
Born on June 12, 1929, Anne Frank was a German-Jewish teenager who was forced to go into hiding during the Holocaust. She and her family, along with four others, spent over two years during World War II hiding in an annex of rooms above her father’s office in Amsterdam.

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44 Park Pl, New York, NY 10007 (212) 431-7993
A / C train to Chambers Street
E train to World Trade Center
2 / 3 train to Park Place
R train to City Hall
4 / 5 / 6 train to Brooklyn Bridge
Tuesday – Saturday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Closed Sunday, Monday and holidays.

See the facsimile of Anne’s own red plaid diary. Her writing style and creativity is worthy of your time. There is a short video clip of her leaning out a window. The blight of this youthful soul represents the story of many.
Take a short walk after touring the museum and stop at the Amish Deli.
Amish Market Tribeca 53 Park Pl Hours of Operation 6:00AM – 9:30PM. Grocery, Salads, Sandwiches and brick oven pizza. Pick a seat facing Broadway and watch Au fait cinema of Giovanni da Verrazzan efforts. The residents and visitors are a brimful of theatrics.

Amish Deli

Tour of all locations famous. Want to spend a month finding all those familiar big screen locations then this is your treasure ground. I picked one of my favorite sitcom Friends and went location used as Central Perk. My husband was a good sport about the train ride and short walk just to take a photo of a building that has a different awning 199 Lafayette Street in the SoHo. I admit I had to bung him a little with the promise a happy hour well worth the trek.

I'll be there for you

We ventured a above the lower line to Central Park.
If you have never explored the park, put this on your bucket list. Central Park is nonpareil to any other park I have visited. Have a weeks vacation? Central Park offers 7 days of entertainment planned for you. The park sprawls across 843 acres, covering about 3.5 square miles. Visit over the winter holiday and find the “secret” Christmas tree. Hidden is a Christmas tree where people go to hang memorabilia of pets who have bridged. Legend has it they store the ornaments every year and decorate the tree. We all know that if items were left up year round someone would filch them. Besides the dishy joggers, the park, picnics, carousel ride, zoo and Shakespeare Garden the park offers entertainment for just about everyone. A ride in a horse drawn carriage in the park snuggled in blankets is a must do on my list.

Central Park New York