Category Archives: South Carolina

Exciting Travel Opportunities!

Since I write a travel blog, I thought I’d share an awesome opportunity I came across recently.

I just joined a travel club. I’ve never really been into clubs or interested in any business that requires a monthly fee, but my mind changed when I saw this opportunity.

This club is the largest private travel company in the world and has won several awards. Its model is similar to Costco or Sam’s. It purchases travel in bulk and passes along the savings to its members. I just saved $300 on my airfare to Jordan compared to the lowest price offered on Kayak and nearly $1,000 compared to the same itinerary on Kayak!

There are three choices of membership levels…silver, gold, and platinum. I’ve listed a bullet point description of the options below.

In summary:

The basic membership ($100 down, $25/month) includes:
1. the dreamtrips
2. booking engine for your own travel which includes Southwest Airlines
3. rate shrinker (rebooks you if their software finds a lower price at a later date and passes savings to you)
4. flight accident insurance

Gold ($200 down, $50/month) includes (most popular):
The basic membership plus:
1. Concierge that will help you with anything, not just travel. Need new tires? Call them.
2. Net rates which removes all travel agent fees
3. If net rates are not available, you get commissions back in form of points
4. Online Shopping mall where you get 3-6% back on your purchases. Christmas is coming!! Virtually every major retailer is on the site

Platinum ($300 down, $100/month) includes (I will likely upgrade to this one):
The above plus:
1. Early booking access to trips
2. Upgraded dreamtrip experiences
3. Platinum only dreamtrips
4. Teledoc: video conference with doctor if sick
5. Roadside Assistance
6. Emergency Evacuation Services
7. Id Resolution if lost or stolen (at home or abroad)
8. Apply more points to trips

Aside from the awesome benefits that the club provides, what I love about the club membership is two-fold.
1. Any money you put into the club is given back to you in the form of points which can be applied to trips, so the monthly fees become a form of a vacation savings plan as you are paying yourself.
2. If you sign up four people, your monthly fees are waived, but this isn’t required. You can simply enjoy the cost savings of the membership.

Their are even more opportunities on the business side, but I won’t get into that right now. I’ll just share a few links for anyone interested in traveling all over the world at affordable prices while staying in 4 and 5 star resorts!

This link shows dreamtrips and the booking engine for your own travel. It doesn’t provide pricing unless you are a member. If you don’t see a trip you like, wait a week…they add 50 trips every Thursday!

This short video describes the club and all the points you get to make your trips even cheaper (like shopping at the online mall and eating out at participating restaurants).

The short video is someone else on our team explaining the club.

Comment on this page or message me if you want more information. ETB

Thanksgiving Roadtrip…Branson, Fayette, and Charleston!

December 4, 2015

I don’t think in all my years, I have made a road trip for Thanksgiving. In the past, I’ve enjoyed going to my mom’s or dad’s just minutes away or I’ve even flown out of the country, but this year, we took a road trip from Denver to Charleston with a few stops along the way. It was fun!

We started out Saturday morning under less than ideal conditions…for the first hour the roads were iced over and part of the time we followed snow plows! Soon the sun came out, however, and we were on our way to Branson, MO. With nothing too exciting to report, our tired crew arrived in Branson by dinner time.

Upon checking in at Branson’s Yellow Rose Inn & Suites, I asked the desk clerk if she knew of a good, local place to get a salad.

She responded, “I personally like chef salads, and I have yet to find a good one in Branson.”

I asked, “Well is there just a burger place that might have salads on the menu?”

After a little thought, she said, “Well Great American Steak and Chicken House has a good salad bar.”

She continued on about how I couldn’t miss it, but I didn’t listen that well because I wasn’t looking for a steak house with a salad bar. When we got in our room, we searched for a place to eat, and the results produced many chains. Finally, I resigned myself to her suggestion and looked up the restaurant. After seeing the picture, we decided we had to go despite the fair reviews! I mean who can resist going to a restaurant with a giant rooster entrance? We got what we expected (a fair salad bar) and turned in for the night.

Sunday afforded us a day of tourism. We started out with an all access pass to the Hollywood Wax Museum which also provided access to the Maze of Mirrors and the Castle of Chaos. None of us had been to a wax museum, and we didn’t have high expectations, but we were pleasantly surprised. Many of the wax figures were quite true to form, and who knew some of the displays were interactive. The kids posed in a star trek scene, and I shared a bed with Hugh Hefner. We had quite a time before we entered the Maze of Mirrors that we couldn’t seem to find the exit. Eventually we moved to the Castle of Chaos. We spun around in theater seats and shot at a 3D screen. Castle of Chaos was my least favorite, but overall we enjoyed an hour or so of fun before wandering around historic downtown and grabbing lunch. The girls didn’t know what a five and dime store was…I’m getting old. Jaz asked, “What do you buy…gum?” Not to mention, it was more like $5 and $10!

We spent the afternoon at Silver Dollar City, a theme park that is one of the World’s top holiday destinations according to CNN. All the buildings and trees in the park were decorated in 5 million Christmas lights. While the tickets were pricey at $60/person, the park offered a variety of shows, restaurants, shops, and things to do. We saw two shows, “A Christmas Carol” and “It’s a Wonderful Life”. We got to “A Christmas Carol” 30 minutes before the show began and barely got a seat in the giant space. I was pleasantly surprised by the actors’ voices and performances. They were quite good. After the shows, we waited for the Christmas Tree lighting and the Christmas parade before we left. It was definitely an experience!

On Monday, we headed southeast to Fayette, Alabama where we visited David’s mom, Cece. Fayette, was once called Frog Level due to being in the swampland of croaking bullfrogs and has the distinction of having three burned court houses. Currently, Fayette is home to a population of around 5,000, a few main streets, a lovely court house and a nice civic center. We took a tour of the basement in the civic center which displayed local artists’ paintings, carvings, and sculptures. Jimmy Lee Suddeth is a famous artist from the area who finger painted with a mixture of mud and paint. His art was quite nice.

After our tour, Cece taught us how to make a divine chocolate souffle. We enjoyed an early dinner before we attended a concert at the civic center. The information we knew was that a top one hundred guitarist would be playing, and he had played with Jimmy Hendrix. We sort of assumed it would be classical or something given the concert was to take place in the civic center, though I don’t know what other venue there would have been. As such, I had the girls dress up slightly. Little did we know, we were going to Martin Barre who is best known for touring with Jethro Tull. His best known guitar work is “Aqualung”, “Cross-Eyed Mary”, and “Locomotive Breath”. His solo on “Aqualung” has been voted 25th best ever in the USA. So we basically went to a rock concert in Fayette! I wondered how he made it to the small town. Apparently a friend of his lived in the area. The girls absolutely loved it. And what a treat being on the front row to see his guitar work!

After a lovely time in Fayette, we set out on the road again. This time on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I wouldn’t recommend this! I’m not sure if it was better to drive or fly, though. We got stuck in a parking lot in Atlanta mid-afternoon before eventually arriving in Charleston by 8pm, while David’s flight was over an hour late and got in at close to 1am. At least David’s dad, Charles, had dinner waiting for us! We enjoyed great food and hung out until it was time to pick up David at the airport.

Thanksgiving was so fun! It may have been the first time I didn’t watch the Cowboy game, but as bad as they are this year, it was probably a good thing! We started the day walking around the neighborhood so we could have an extra piece of pie. Around 2pm, we headed over to David’s aunt and uncle’s house located in the heart of Charleston. The table was set for 38 people!! This was a small gathering for them. I met all the aunts/uncles/cousins and had a great time.

On Friday, David’s uncle Steve gave us a driving tour of Charleston and showed us where to walk. Thereafter, David and I strolled around Battery Park, through small alleys, and up and down King Street. We stopped for shrimp and grits at Prohibition before we eventually detoured off the busy shopping street and walked through the market. I think we walked around 6 miles. We needed to, because Allison, David’s step-sister, had us over for another nice dinner. We had to eat and run because David’s aunt Julie organized a night at the local theater. She is the costume and set designer. We saw “Grey Gardens”. The lead actress was a hoot! What a great few days!

If only we didn’t have to drive 24 hours back to Denver. Amazingly, aside from a few hours of rain we got home in decent time with acceptable weather and traffic. What a road trip! ETB

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Second Largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the World!

March 16, 2013

Today I decided to venture to Savannah for the second largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world. Supposedly only New York City’s is larger, but some locals like to contest this. Savannah’s first parade was held in 1813 by a small group of Hibernians. Now the parade consists of 350 units. The parade is always held on March 17th, unless the 17th falls on a Sunday, in which case it is held on Saturday the 16th…a perfect scenario for me!


Being an out-of-towner, not familiar with the area, and having to deal with a mass of 500,000 people congregating into a 2 mile parade route, I was not quite certain I was going to enjoy the hassles of driving and parking while trying to follow directions on my smart phone! I was lucky to have spoken with an old colleague whose daughter attends SCAD, and he suggested I go to the Westin on Huthinson Island and take the River Ferry across. Not a bad idea, I thought, especially, since I was coming from the north and have a Westin parking pass from Hilton Head. His idea was golden! The convention center was next door to the Westin and parking was $15.


Multiple ferries were operating. I waited in line for the next one, cruised across the river in a few minutes, and disembarked on River Street. I walked around the store front, up the narrow stairs, and found a place on the already packed Bay Street just in time for the parade to start at 10:15! I was toward the end of the route, so I didn’t expect to see any participants for an hour or so which proved true. In the meantime, I just watched all the celebratory spectators. Amazingly they were rather tame given it was suggested that anyone who wanted a shady spot in a square should arrive at 6 a.m. and anyone who wanted a shady spot on the street should arrive at 7 a.m.


The parade included multiple Irish bagpipe bands, high school bands, floats, The Bulldogs (all the way from Indiana), prior parade masters, the bishop from the Catholic Diocese of Savannah, the military, and my favorite – the Budweiser Clydesdales, to name a few! Of course, it wouldn’t have been a St. Patrick’s Day parade without spotting a leprechaun…there were plenty! While I hear the parade lasts for 3-4 hours and I’m certain the party continued on River Street, I only stayed for a few hours as I had a more important event waiting at the Country Club of Hilton Head later in the evening!



We had a great time celebrating Roy and Szilvia’s special day. The outdoor setting was lovely, dinner fantastic, and dancing fun! It was another nice night of hanging out with my aunts and cousins catching up on the years that have passed us by so quickly. I think the Ukraine might be on my travel list in 2014. I’m not sure how much longer Roy and Szilvia will be there. Should they move, hopefully they will come back to America, and I will see them more than once every twenty years! ETB








Fishing and Dining in Hilton Head

March 15, 2013

I arrived in Hilton Head late on Thursday night. The town doesn’t seem to believe in street lights! I eventually made it to my hotel, The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort and Spa. I received a newly renovated room that still smelled like fresh carpet with a broken luggage rack…thought that was kind of funny. My balcony looked out on the pools that glowed dark blue in the black night and a sunrise view of the beach I got to enjoy before a quick breakfast.


After a mid-morning stroll on the beach checking out a few shells and lots of washed up jellyfish, I set off for an afternoon fishing charter. We fished for sheepshead, a black and silver striped fish that live in shallow, grassy areas. We took the boat about thirty minutes off shore to an old wreck, where we dropped our weighted lines baited with little crabs in eighteen feet of water until we felt the weight hit the bottom. Every five or ten seconds we slowly pulled up and reeled if we felt like we had hooked a fish. Without feeling a strike, they are tricky fish to catch, and their incisor teeth crack right through the crab. I had quite a bit of bait stolen before I finally hooked one, but it ended up being the biggest one of the bunch…8 pounds or so. I fished with Bulldog Charters and a couple of guys from Memphis. We all got robbed of our bait multiple times, but we all reeled in some good eating fish too! A great three hour charter!!






Friday’s dinner with lots of aunts and cousins I haven’t seen in ages was held at The Old Fort Pub. It was nice to catch up with them all! Roy and Szilvia were the honorees and came in from the Ukraine. Relatives traveled from all over…Michael, Michael-Anne, and Joshua from Annapolis; Diane from Arizona; Judy, Phil and Larry from Florida and Pittsburg; and the rest of the crew from South Carolina! It has been way too long.



The Old Fort Pub was opened in 1973 and built next to Fort Mitchel, constructed in 1862 by Union forces after their successful invasion of the island. The 1,000 Confederates didn’t have much of a chance in defending the island against some 13,000 Federal troops and folded in a day to the largest amphibious landing prior to WWII at the mouth of Port Royal Sound. The fort was built to protect against invasion from the mainland, though never saw battle. The island was used to supply Union troops who were battling to block all southern ports, including Savannah and Charleston, as Hilton Head was centered between these two cities, and the troops never pressed inland to fight. Because slaves had heard they would be freed once they set foot on Union soil, Federal troops were faced with many homeless slaves. Now, the Fort and the restaurant are connected by walkways through lush gardens in the Hilton Head Plantation, so guests may visit the fort and enjoy a nice meal and gorgeous sunset! A great day in Hilton Head…ETB


Photographic Summary of the USA

Below are links to two albums encompassing my travels around the USA…200 pictures of memories, mostly scenery and nature type, but some history, architecture and the like…enjoy!  I would love to know your favorites.


Day 75 – South Carolina Stay with Cousins

I got an early start to a day that included mostly travel and maintenance.  I knew I wouldn’t make it all the way to Bluffton without having to get my oil changed within the 5,000 mile requirement to keep my warranty, so I planned a stop in Charleston.  I found a state park on the way, so the dogs could have some play time as I presumed they’d be cooped up much of the day.

We stopped at Hampton Plantation State Park, a South Carolina historic site where rice was once grown.  I didn’t go to see the plantation as the goal was to let the dogs run around and to find a South Carolina cache which I failed to do on the scenic drive in the western part of the state.  Finding the cache wasn’t easy as my GPS couldn’t get a satellite signal and my phone was on an extended network that kept showing a cell tower in Africa, 5,000 miles away on the map yet another screen that doesn’t update unless it is refreshed claimed I was within 100 feet of the cache.  I used the hint to get me to the ammo can.  Nearby the walking trail, stood the remains of a former slave’s home.  He and his wife remained on the property long after rice was no longer profitable.

After our walk through the surrounding forest, we stopped at the Firestone in Charleston for an oil change and two new tires.  This took most the afternoon, but I was able to salvage enough time to dine at 82 Queen.  For those of you who have ever been to my Super Bowl Party the grits come from this restaurant.  I’m not much of a grit lover, but the grits here are fantastic.  They are the only grits I will eat, and I would have never known of them if it weren’t for my Aunt Jennifer who had purchased a few cans and made them at home for a birthday party!  It was fun to order the grits and experience the restaurant for the first time (though I don’t think the waiter was too enthused about my $2.50 check) Before leaving Charleston, the dogs and I took a walk along the Charleston Harbor and watched the sunset.

I arrived at the Bowling Alley in Beaufort, SC around 6:30 just before my uncle and cousins finished their Sunday league.  Josh, my cousin Catherine’s husband bowled a 300!  I haven’t seen my cousins in over 10 years and my uncle in over 20 years.  We had great fun catching up over wings and beer at Catherine’s house in Bluffton, SC.  Catherine, the youngest of my cousins (31) sells memberships to the Hilton Head Country Club and Josh is in sales at an air conditioning company.  They have three kids, Kristen, Justin, and Ryan and a cat that successfully dodged the dogs for the evening.

Mary Ellen recently moved from New York to South Carolina.  In less than two months of being in the area, she already has a boyfriend, J.C.  Mary Ellen is currently volunteering at Justin’s school in after school reading, and plans on beginning a part time teaching job next week.  J.C. also works at an air conditioning company, and met J.C. through her brother-in-law.

Marjorie is a single mother of four, Ashley, Carli, Faith, and Matthew.  She has her hands busy!!  Marjorie is an advertisement representative for the newspaper during the day and is a floor manager at a restaurant at night.  In addition, she recently self-published a novel, The Other Side of Midnight.  Marjorie was inspired to write the book when her daughter Ashley, who enjoyed reading vampire books in the hospital while fighting Leukemia, asked her mom to write a story making Ashley immortal.  Ashley is a vampire in the book, but more importantly, the Leukemia has been in remission the last three years!

My uncle Roy is retired from the rail road.  He spends his time bowling and taking care of his granddaughter Ryan.  It was just so fun to see them all.  If only my cousin Roy lived in the states and I could have seen him too.  He’s currently living in Ukraine and coming home for Christmas.  Too bad I missed him.  We decided we should not go another ten years without seeing one another and that we need to have cousins reunion, Just Cuz!

Before I sign off for the evening, I forgot to mention something exciting that happened yesterday.  As I was traveling on Saturday, a number flashed on my cell phone that I didn’t recognize.  I normally don’t answer calls from a “non-contact”, but I’ve exchanged numbers with a handful of people recently that haven’t made it in my address book, so I took the call.  Neal was on the other line.  He was in Indiana with his parents for the holiday and took them geocaching for the first time.  He found my card which simply includes my name, number, and blog in the cache and called me!  He wanted to know if I was still in Indiana.  How cool is that?!?  It kind of reminds of spring break in college, when our sailing class bare-boated a 45 foot yacht around the British Virgin Islands for a week and tossed a message in a bottle overboard only to be contacted three months later by a man who flew weather balloon in the Bahamas!,

Day 68 – South Carolina’s Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway

We left Georgia for the northwest portion of South Carolina today.  Our first stop was at Stumphouse Tunnel Park to see Issaqueena Falls, a 200 foot cascade.  Unbeknownst to me, the park also featured an unfinished tunnel, hence the name.  The work on Stumphouse Tunnel began in the 1850s to provide railroad passage from Cincinatti, OH to Charleston, SC.  The granite rock proved a challenge and Irish immigrants were only able to progress 200 feet per month.  As such, funds for the proposed 5,863 foot tunnel were depleted.  Before more funds were acquired, the Civil War commenced and the tunnel was never completed.  Due to the tunnel’s interior temperature remaining at a constant 56 degrees with 85% humidity; Clemson University purchased the site in the 1950s to cure blue cheese.  The University used the tunnel for 20 years before duplicating the conditions in air-conditioned cheese ripening rooms.  The tunnel, one of the most visited historic sites in South Carolina, is still owned by Clemson, but is operated by the City of Wahalla.

The pleasant waterfall is named for a Muscogee (or Creek) maiden named Issaqueena.   Legend has it that Issaqueena was captured by the Cherokees and renamed Cateechee.  As a young woman, she fell in love with a white trader.  The Cherokees became upset with the white settlers and planned an attack on the white settlement.  Upon hearing the plan, Issaqueena rode a pony 96 miles to warn her lover, Allan.  Issaqueena stayed with Allan, eventually marrying him.  One day the Cherokees tried to recapture her.  Knowing that the Cherokees believed evil spirit lived in the waters, she pretended to leap over the falls, but instead hid beneath a ledge at the top of the falls until it was safe.

After our short walk around the park, we entered Ellicott Rock Wilderness via the Walhalla National Fish Hatchery to go for a longer hike.  Without knowing if any of the trails in the area were loops with only the mileage posted on the nearby signs, I decided to go elsewhere as all the trails were over three miles long.  On our way to Table Rock State Park, we stopped at an overlook to take in the magnificent view.

Table Rock State Park is a hiker’s delight, with a choice of several trails ranked from easy to challenging.  We took the two mile Carrick Creek Trail along with countless others who were out enjoying a spectacular day.  I think I wore shorts for the first time in a month!  The trails crisscrossed the creek peppered with a variety of small falls.

After our walk, we made the winding drive up the mountain to Ceasars Head State Park just to see the view, but we opted out of hiking the trails as we wanted to get to Walter’s farm.  We met up with Walter, an ex-coworker who now practices at Davenport, and his girls, Martha (7) and Virginia (5) around 2:30.  The girls ran over the hill to shoals of the river as Walter and I drove around the hill to meet them!  Shortly thereafter, we drove to their lake house in North Carolina where Martha and Virginia helped me walk the dogs.  Martha, a second grader, plays tennis, likes camping, and scored all three’s (that’s the best) on her report card!  Virginia is a keen soccer player…she once scored a goal from the midline!  We kicked the ball around by the dock, and she can boot it.  Walter’s wife, Cindy, met us around 5, and we enjoyed a wonderful, home cooked meal: salad, potatoes, rolls, roasted cherry tomatoes, tenderloin, and cheesecake – DELICIOUS!  It was so nice to see Walter and meet his family.  Thank you, Walter and Cindy.