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Puerto Rico Road Trip

After a wonderful day in Old San Juan, we slept in the next morning and returned to Cafe Mallorca for breakfast. After enjoying a Cafe con Leche, we went back to the hotel, packed up, and picked up the car. We had a day of driving ahead of us.

We had booked a coffee tour through Airbnb Experiences. Puerto Rico used to be dotted with coffee plantations, but after the U.S gained control of Puerto Rico, sugarcane became the cash crop on the island instead. There are still a few coffee farms operating around the island that offer tours on select days of the week. This one had tours operating most days of the week and it was located in the middle of the island in the mountains of Adjuntas.

Our rental car was a 2022 Mitsubishi Mirage with low miles but the thing had no suspension. You felt every single bump and in Puerto Rico, there are a lot of bumps. For most of the drive, the car handled it fine, but when we got close to the coffee farm the roads turned to dirt and got steeper and we weren’t sure if our regular mid-size car could handle it. We ended up having to turn around and skip our tour. Once we got back to the land of cell signal, I reached out to Airbnb and they didn’t reply for a week. When they did they were very demanding that I talk to them even though I was back at work and not able to talk during work hours. After going back and forth with them for days and then getting lectured about using Google Maps, not Apple Maps (I never use Apple Maps so that lecture wasn’t necessary) they did refund my money, but it made me question booking experiences through Airbnb again. There is a reason this tour wasn’t on Viator or a more reputable site.

After deciding to bail on our coffee tour, we headed to Ponce, the second biggest city in Puerto Rico and the city hit hardest in 2022 by Hurricane Fiona. Many of the attractions in Ponce haven’t opened back up since hurricane Maria in 2017, but the architecture is just as beautiful as Old San Juan. We found a delicious spot for dinner at Rincon Argentino, an Argentinian restaurant. This is when I realized that if you get away from the tourist areas of San Juan, there is a good chance you will interact with someone who only has limited English. Luckily, my husband has been taking Spanish lessons for a while and he got to practice ordering for us.

After driving dinner and a little drive through town, we headed to our Airbnb in Fajardo. It was dark by the time we got in, but we were able to sit out on the balcony and listen to the waves before bed. Even though we didn’t make it to the coffee farm, we got to explore parts of the island that most people don’t get to see. I would say that while I probably wouldn’t attempt it again, I am glad we tried. Maybe on our next trip to the island, we will find a coffee farm that is a little easier to get to. Be sure to check back next week as I detail our experience at La Ruta de Lechon (AKA The Pork Highway).

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Returning to Puerto Rico Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

19 Things You Need For Your Next Trip

Plane WingSome of the links below are affiliate links and as such, I earn a small commission from purchases that allow me to continue telling you my stories without costing you anything extra. Prices listed are at time of reporting and are subject to change.

I don’t know about you, but I am always on the lookout for gear that will make traveling easier and more comfortable. Here are some of my favorites that I have found so far:

Luggage Photo

Hard-sided luggage: Hard-sided luggage is sturdier than the more traditional soft-sided and it is lighter so you can fill it up with more stuff before reaching the airlines’ weight limit. I have a complete set of the Amazon Basics brand and I have no complaints about them! The 26 inch (checked size) is $96.32 and 21 inch (carry- on size) is $76.04 on Amazon and is available in four colors.

Carry-on Backpack: Sometimes to save money we will fly a budget airline that charges extra to check or carry on a hard-sided suitcase. In those cases, I can squeeze everything I need for a short trip into a personal item. But, since you’re carrying everything you need for the trip, that bag can get heavy so you will want something that is comfortable to carry around the airport. This large backpack is easy to pack, fits within the budget airlines’ personal item dimensions, and is $32.98 for a black backpack. Price varies for the other 5 colors.

Headphones: Most people love earbuds, but I can’t stand them. They hurt my ears. Noise-canceling headphones are a must on flights! You’ll be able to listen to your device without getting that hearing damage warning and the crying baby behind you won’t bother you. Here are the best priced/best reviewed noise canceling headphones I could find at $59.99.


Cable organizer: Have you ever gotten to your Airbnb late at night and you just want to plug in your phone and put your head on the pillow but you can’t find your charger in the bottom of your bag? I love this cable organizer because everything is in one place. It does take a while to learn how to fold your long cables to fit in the small pockets, though. The small travel cable organizer is $11.99 on Amazon and is available in seven colors and three sizes.

Portable battery charger: Don’t let your electronics run out of battery when you are on the go! These little chargers had two recharges before needing to be plugged in themselves. And they fit right into the cord organizer I recommend above. 2 pack of USB Battery charges are $18.99 on Amazon and are available in several different colors.

Water bottle: Don’t get stuck paying airport prices for a bottle of water. Most airports have water bottle filling stations now so it’s easy to fill up after security. I like this one because it folds up when you’re not using it so it doesn’t take up much space and it’s dishwasher safe so you don’t have to hand wash it. I have had Vapur water bottles for years and they hold up well. Their .7 Liter bottle is $9.99 on Amazon.

Packing cubes: I am late to the packing cubes game but they really make packing easier. Sometimes when we travel we share a suitcase and these make it so much easier to determine whose clothes are whose and they seem to make the clothes fit better in the suitcase. If you haven’t jumped on the packing cubes train yet, I highly recommend it. Veken 6-piece packing cube set is $19.99 on Amazon.

Shoe bags: I used to always pack my shoes in plastic bags to keep the dirt from getting on my clothes. Then, I found these reusable drawstring bags for just that purpose! 6 pack travel shoe bag is $5.99 on Amazon.

Hanging Toiletry Bag: Hotel bathrooms never have enough counter space. Keep your things off the counter by using a hanging toiletry bag. I used to always have my makeup and my shower toiletries in separate bags, but now I just use this one bag with nine zipper pockets, and it’s all in one place! WANDF Hanging Toiletry Bag is $15.99 on Amazon. For shorter trips, this PAVILA Hanging Toiletry Bag holds travel-sized toiletries for $19.99 and is available in 6 different patterns.


USB Charging hub: A lot of hotel rooms don’t have enough plugs for all of our devices and most cruise lines no longer allow power strips. A USB hub allows you to charge all of your USB-powered devices at one outlet and you only have to carry one charger block in your cord organizer! 4 port USB adapter is $9.99 on Amazon.

Roku Stick: This is not something we take with us on all trips, but if we are going to be staying in hotels for a while, I don’t like to be stuck watching scheduled television. I cut the cord a long time ago and must prefer watching what I want when I want to watch it. Why does it seem like Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives is always on when you’re in a hotel? Roku Stick+ is 37.99 on Amazon.


Passport/Vaccine Card holders: On our last cruise, I literally kept our passports and vaccine cards in a Ziploc bag to keep from losing them. I got home and ordered these holders and they look so much nicer. They’re big enough that your documents won’t get lost in your bag. 2 Pack Vaccine Card Passport Holder is $10.99 on Amazon and is available in 15 different color combinations.

Comfortable Travel Pants: The pressure change while flying can make you feel bloated. That is even more obvious if you are still wearing jeans when you travel. A few years ago, I realized flying is much less uncomfortable in stretchy pants and you won’t have a belt to take off at security! I love these joggers for women and these training pants for men.

Neck pillow: If you’ve ever tried to sleep on a plane, you know that it is hard to get comfortable! This memory foam neck pillow bends to keep your head and neck straight or you can bend it to cushion your head against the window. Twist Memory Foam Neck Pillow is available on Amazon for $24.99 and in available in 5 different colors.


Airplane footrest: Flying coach can get cramped and uncomfortable. This airplane footrest allows you to put your feet up and relax on those long flights and takes some pressure off your feet. It folds up small enough that it doesn’t take up too much space in your carry-on. Everlasting Comfort Airplane Footrest is $19.95 on Amazon.

Portable luggage scale: Have you ever packed your bag and headed to the airport, only to learn that your suitcase is three pounds over the weight limit and then have to scramble to move things into your carry-on? This small scale fits easily into your suitcase and allows you to weigh your bag before you get to the airport! Amazon Basics Portable Luggage scale is $10.34 on Amazon.

Scarf with hidden pocket: It’s frustrating when you get dressed and realize you don’t have any pockets! Add this scarf that will carry your phone and ID for you without being bulky! Pop Fashion Infinity Scarf is $10.00 on Amazon and is available in 6 colors to go with every outfit.

First Aid Kit

Travel first aid kit: Accidents happen everywhere, including on vacation. It’s good to always have a basic first aid kit with you on every trip. This 100-piece travel first aid is $14.95 on Amazon.

Travel pill organizer: I don’t have any prescriptions that I have to take every day, but I do travel with pain killers and allergy meds just in case we need them. I used to always keep them in Ziplock bags that took up too much space. Then, I found this handy pill organizer that lets me fit several weeks of the just-in-case meds that we may need when we are out and about. 2 piece Travel Pill Organizer is $6.48 on Amazon.

Thanks for stopping by! Do you have any must-have travel accessories that I forgot? Let me know in the comments! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Wordless Wednesday: Norris Geyser Black & White

Norris Geyser Basin Black & White

Epic National Park Road Trip Recap


Whew! It only took six months, but I have finished the recap of our epic 3-week trip out west! This trip taught us a lot, especially about what we need to work on the road. Of course, we saw some amazing sites and the ones that I can’t wait to return to may surprise you!

For most of this trip, the weather was much hotter than I had expected. I feel like I wrote the phrase, “we were planning on hiking at X, but it was too hot” at least five times throughout the recap of this trip. The middle week at Yellowstone and Glacier was really the only one where it wasn’t oppressively hot. I would love more time to explore Badlands and Theodore Roosevelt without dying of heatstroke.

One thing that really surprised me through my recapping this trip is that three days in Yellowstone really seemed to be enough to see the highlights. Yes, with more time we could’ve gotten off the beaten path and explored some of the backcountry, but I feel like I saw what I wanted to see. I would love to return to Yellowstone someday, but it’s not going to be high up on my list.

On the other hand, with three days at Glacier, we barely scratched the surface. Yes, we managed to visit each of the areas in the park, but we were only able to do a few short hikes. I would love to go back later in the season and spend more time in the Many Glacier area and maybe even hike to Grinnel Glacier. I will definitely do my planning in advance to get a room at the Many Glacier Hotel!

Mountain in the Clouds

But the area that I really want to return to is South Dakota’s Black Hills. The other day, I was trying to figure out if we could manage a camping trip to Custer State Park next summer (no, I don’t think we can). Even though we had a full week there, it didn’t feel like enough! Of all the stunning National Parks we visited on this trip, it’s funny to me that this is the place that stands out the most in my memory.

I know I have mentioned this a few times already, but if you are looking to stay inside a National Park, lodging can be found less than a year out as long as you are flexible. I still hear people saying “I didn’t plan this trip a year in advance so I know I’m not going to be able to get a room in the park” and that is just not true. Keep checking for cancellations and subscribe to the park’s email list. We got our room at Rising Sun Motor Inn two months out and Old Faithful Inn two weeks out. Don’t give up!

Needles Highway

This was the first trip we took where Chris was working remotely and we learned a lot from that too. If you are working remotely from a hotel with at least one other person, spring for a suite with a door that closes. It was really nice when we were at the Roosevelt Inn and Suites in North Dakota and I was able to go in the bedroom and close the door when he was in meetings. Country Inn and Suites is a chain hotel that has this feature as well. The full kitchen at Roosevelt was nice to prepare lunches while he was working too. An AirBNB would also be good for this purpose.

Alright, I think that’s all I have to say about this trip! Check back next week when I share about some of our other explorations this summer!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Heading Home

Indiana Dunes National Park

After three weeks on the road, exploring the western United States, it was finally time to head home. We left Watford City, North Dakota, and started on I-94 towards Detroit. The first night we stopped at a hotel in Moorehead, Minnesota, which is basically a suburb of Fargo, just on the other side of the border. I don’t know how you determine which states you have visited, but in my mind, I need to spend a night to make it count, which is why I chose Moorehead as a stopping point.

Inside the Mall of AmericaIn the morning, we continued heading east to one of the places I desperately wanted to visit as a child, The Mall of America. The Mall of America is the largest mall in the United States at 5.6 million square feet. The mall is home to 550 stores including 2 mini-golf courses, SeaLife Aquarium, and a 7-acre amusement park. It really was a sight to behold. It was a great stopping point for us to get out and stretch our legs during a long driving day and a place to find unique lunch options. If you are in visiting twin cities, The Mall of America is a good place to explore on a rainy day, but be aware that a lot of the attractions do require reservations in advance. I’m not as into malls as I was in my teenage years, so this isn’t really a place I wanted to spend that much time.

Wisconsin DellsAfter stretching our legs at the Mall, we continued on to the Wisconsin Dells where we were meeting some friends. Since we were just driving through, we didn’t have a ton of time to explore the Dells, we mainly just stuck to walking down the main drag. We did stop in a cheese shop and got some cheese curds because I think it’s a requirement in Wisconsin. I do wish we had time to explore the water and actually see the Wisconsin Dells. After meeting our friends, we continued on to Madison for the night.

The next morning we decided to hit the road early and we were actually able to avoid traffic in Chicago, which is unheard of. Our first stop of the day was at the final National Park of the trip, Indiana Dunes. Being the Fourth of July, the beach was already packed when we arrived so we really just did a drive-through and saw the Century of Progress homes on Lake Front Drive (top). The park is much smaller than the other ones we visited and (I’m sure I’ll get some flack for this) is primarily a beach on Lake Michigan. It was great to get a peek at my Great Lakes again after being away for weeks! Before being designated a National Park by Congress, Indiana Dunes was protected as a National Lakeshore (the same as Sleeping Bear Dunes and Pictured Rocks) and I really feel like that is a better description of what this is. It does not feel the same as a Yellowstone or even a smaller park like Theodore Roosevelt. In my opinion, this was a political move to bring tourist dollars to the state. If you are looking for a beautiful Lake Michigan beach outside of Chicago, definitely check out Indiana Dunes. If you are wanting a traditional National Park experience, go out west.

Alright, that is the end of coverage for this epic three-week trip! Next week, I will do my final recap and then I can move on to telling you about the other fun things we got to do this summer!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt: Elkhorn Ranch Unit

Elkhorn Ranch Unit

Some of the links below are affiliate links and as such, I earn a small commission from purchases that allow me to continue telling you my stories without costing you anything extra.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is one of the lesser-visited parks. When visiting the North Unit of the park we saw only a handful of other people. When driving the rough dirt road to the Elkhorn Ranch Unit, we didn’t pass a single other vehicle and when we got out of the car, there wasn’t another person to be seen. If you’re looking for solitude in a National Park, look no further than the Elkhorn Ranch Unit.

Elkhorn Ranch SignThe Elkhorn Ranch Unit was home to Theodore Roosevelt’s “home ranch” in North Dakota and was where he came to heal after the death of his wife and mother. Roosevelt chose this location because of its remoteness. Roosevelt himself described the ranch in his book, Hunting Trips of a Ranchman: “My home ranch-house stands on the river brink. From the low, long veranda, shaded by leafy cotton-woods, one looks across sand bars and shallows to a strip of meadowland, behind which rises a line of sheer cliffs and grassy plateaus. This veranda is a pleasant place in the summer evenings when a cool breeze stirs along the river and blows in the faces of the tired men, who loll back in their rocking-chairs (what true American does not enjoy a rocking-chair?), book in hand–though they do not often read the books, but rock gently to and for, gazing sleepily out at the weird-looking buttes opposite, until their sharp outlines grow indistinct and purple in the after-glow of the sunset.”

Now, all that remains of the cabin are the foundation stones. Roosevelt abandoned the ranch in 1890 and locals stripped the buildings of their furnishings, although his desk was saved and can be seen at the south unit visitor center.

Shadows on the bank of the Little Missouri

Theodore Roosevelt is my husband’s favorite president and in a way, this trip was like a pilgrimage for him. He has read the whole three-book Theodore Roosevelt biography by Edmund Morris. To be able to walk in Roosevelt’s footsteps and see the foundation stones of his cabin (along with a visit to Chateau de Mores) was very special.

The Elkhorn Ranch Unit is located between the north and south units of the park. There is a National Forest Service campground near the parking area, other than that, there’s nothing else around for miles. The park website says to check-in at one of the visitor centers before making the drive because the road floods and can become impassable after rain and 4-wheel drive is recommended, but we made it in our rental Jeep Cherokee without any problems. There are no facilities or scenic drives in this part of the park, but if you enjoy American history, it is a good place to visit.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Exploring Theodore Roosevelt National Park

CCC Pavilion in Theodore Roosevelt National ParkLocating in northwestern North Dakota, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is one of the least visited National Parks in the United States. It averages about 600,000 visitors a year which might sound like a lot, but if you compare it to the 4 million that visit Yellowstone or Yosemite each year, 600,000 is not much at all. Coming from Glacier (which averages about 3 million visitors), the difference is very noticeable.

We started our exploration of Theodore Roosevelt in the North Unit which was closer to where we were staying. Of the two main units, the South Unit gets most of the traffic so when we arrived in the evening, we only saw a handful of other cars in the whole north unit. The north unit has a 14-mile one-way scenic drive that showcases the unique geological features of the park. There was plenty of parking at each of the overlooks and fresh air to breathe.

The South Unit of the park is larger than the north and is much busier. The South Unit has a 36 mile scenic loop drive that allows you to see the highlights of the park. Four miles of the road is closed indefinitely due to a landslide, although the area is open to hikers and bicyclists. Right where you have to turn around for the road closure there was one of the biggest prairie dog towns we saw on the trip.

Bison of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Wildlife is the highlight of a trip to Theodore Roosevelt. Muledeer, antelope, bighorn sheep, wild horses, bison, and prairie dogs can easily be seen in the park. When we were in the Black Hills we were SO excited to see a bison. By the end of our week in North Dakota, we were begging them to get out of the road so we could go home!

We had planned to do some hiking during our time at Theodore Roosevelt but with heat spell that was going on this summer, we determined it wouldn’t be safe. One day we stayed at the park until the sun went down and the temperature didn’t get below 90. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is on our list to return to outside of the summer or when Chris isn’t working so we would be able to hit the trails before the heat of the day.

If you are looking to visit a national park and get away from the crowds, definitely head to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, especially the North Unit. If I were to do this trip again, I would shorten the amount of time we had here, though. Unless you are doing a lot of hiking, you can see this whole park in two to three days.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week when I detail our experience at the Elkhorn Ranch Unit. To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: North Dakota’s Badlands

Theodore Roosevelt National Park View

Theodore Roosevelt National Park Overview

Roosevelt National Park View

After an amazing few days in Glacier National Park, it was time for the longest drive of our three-week road trip. We had ten hours ahead of us on US 2 to get from western Montana to North Dakota. In planning this trip, I utilized RoadTrippers to find interesting places to stop along our way to break up the driving. Unfortunately, there wasn’t to be found on this route once we got away from Glacier. The drive was not nearly as bad as I was anticipating, although it was rather boring, audiobooks and podcasts made up for that.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is divided up into three distinct units: The North Unit (near Watford City), The South Unit (near Medora), and The Elkhorn Ranch unit which is between the two. We had planned to spend the first three nights at the Roosevelt Inn in Watford City and then move to a hotel near Medora. We loved the Roosevelt Inn so much that we canceled our other hotel and spent the whole time in Watford City. Chris was working from the hotel this week and our suite had a real kitchen (not the microwave and mini-fridge “kitchenette” that some of our other hotels had) and a separate bedroom so I was able to stay out of his way while he worked. The hotel had a good hot breakfast too. It was the perfect hotel for this part of the trip and we didn’t want to risk switching to a different one that wouldn’t work as well for us.

Now, Watford City is not a tourist hub like some of the other places we had stayed on this trip. There are a lot of oil fields in the area and most of the people at our hotel worked in the oil fields. When Chris went down for breakfast early, he got stared down by tough oil field workers. If this would bother you, this is not the place for you. But, if you are looking for clean, comfortable accommodations close to the north unit of the park, I cannot say enough good things about the Roosevelt Inn.

Rock Formation in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Unique rock formations in the north unit of the park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is named after the 26th President of the United States who is often referred to as the Conservationist President. While president, Roosevelt signed into law five National Parks and 18 National Monuments along with the first 51 bird reserves, four game preserves, and 150 National Forests, totaling 230 million acres.

The future present first came to North Dakota in 1883 to hunt bison. After his wife and mother died on the same day in 1884, Roosevelt returned to the badlands of North Dakota to heal. He was known to say that if it wasn’t for his time in North Dakota, he would never have been president. The area on the Little Missouri River was first set aside for preservation in 1935 before becoming a National Park in 1947.

Be sure to stop by next week when I detail our experiences in the North Unit of the park! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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