Vanish Brewery

Vanish Brewery is located near Lucketts and Leesburg with 20 taps started by Jonathan Staples in 2014.  The vast property 53 acres with black hops has room for kids to play and dogs to enjoy the sun.

The outdoor tables are the perfect spot to enjoy the live music. A perfect spot to spend the entire day with friends play Frisbee golf and lounging around the property.

42245 Black Hops Lane
Leesburg, VA 20176
Phone: 703-779-7407

Hours: Mon-Wed 12-9pm
Thurs, Fri 12-10pm
Sat 11am-10pm
Sun 11am-9pm

Flagstaff, Arizona

Did you know?
– Flagstaff is the 2nd highest located city in the US (with a population over 25,000)
– Pluto was discovered at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff.
– Flagstaff is located in the world’s largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest.

We stayed a cozy cabin rental.  There are couple of local cats who will come by for a quick pet.  Breakfast is included and is the perfect place to stay for a rustic cabin feel.  

6355 N. Highway 180, Flagstaff, AZ 86001

Ski Lift Lodge

The lodge is located close to the birch forest.  This is the location for family photos.

This is remote and we almost turned around when suddenly the birch trees appeared.  I followed the instructions below.
Take US-89 about 12 miles north of city center. Turn left directly across from the turn to Sunset Crater. The left turn is on to a Forest Access Road (FR 420). Take this ½ mile to a T and turn right onto FR 522. This goes 4.6 miles on a very bumpy, some areas washboard grated, ascent. Road is narrow with areas to pull out every few 100 yards in case another car is coming the opposite direct. This was a little nerve wracking as you can’t see ahead very far. I wouldn’t do this again without AWD or 4WD. After 4.6 miles of painfully slow driving you come to a pretty clearing of yellow flowers and grass = Locket Meadow. Signs take you to day parking, which is free and located near an outhouse.

Be sure to take advantage of all that Flagstaff has to offer.  The downtown is quaint and perfect for bringing out your festive holiday spirit.

Take a stroll with your hot tea or chocolate and enjoy the lights.

If you are looking for a holiday gift that is unique and one of kind then stop in the local shops.  Check out local artists at:

120 N Leroux St, Flagstaff, Arizona 86001, United States

Round off your trip with a hike into Coconino National Forest lava cave.  It is often crowded to be prepared to practice your patience. The further into the cave the crowd thins out.  It is a warm hike so bring water.

Location: About 14 miles north of Flagstaff on paved highways and graveled Forest Roads. Travel time is about 45 minutes.

One of our favorite watering holes:

It’s not just about the altitude it’s all about the attitude.

5 S. San Francisco St.
Flagstaff, AZ 86001

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



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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Mt. Saint Helens Bucket List

We flew into Portland and spent a few days in the city. We also took a drive down the coast. I highly suggest going to the Tillamook cheese factory and finding a local diner for fresh seafood.  We stopped at a local brewery and were pleasantly surprised with the flavors Pelican Brewery produces.

Climbing Mt Saint Helens has been on my bucket list for a while. Read the permit rules and guidelines for hiking this beast. We went at the end of April which gave us the complete seasons this mountain has to offer. The Bivouac was closed due to a large snow storm so we hiked another route so we went to June Lake. The views of the volcanic rocks, gives hikers a clear view. The hike started in the 70’s followed by rain all the way to snow. We hiked all the seasons in 1 day. We also stopped by Ape Cave.  Bring a flash light or 7.