Road trip

Why We Keep Coming Back to Wisconsin, No Matter the Season

Those that have been following our travels closely know that this past winter we ventured off on a snow-filled Wisconsin getaway… right in the heart of the polar vortex. While the temperatures were a little colder than we had anticipated (-13 degree weather with a windchill of -25), we had the BEST TIME exploring all that Madison, Wisconsin had to offer - even in some extreme icy conditions! 

Now we just returned from a summertime getaway in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin (you can read more about that trip here), and it cemented our love for this beautiful, neighborly, and always surprising state. 

Here’s why we’ll keep coming back to Wisconsin, no matter what season it is! 

THE NATURAL BEAUTY

WINTER :: Winter in Wisconsin is postcard-worthy. Families ice skating on frozen lakes, tall trees covered in glistening snow, charming shops and cafes welcoming visitors in for hot cocoa and a warm place to sit… It’s lovely in every way. We were mesmerized by the weather, requesting a window table at every restaurant so that we could watch the snowflakes fall over the city. 

SUMMER :: We didn’t think it could get more magical, until we returned this August. What we knew to be a winter wonderland had transformed into a green, lush, summer paradise. The Northwoods is what we would consider the ideal Fourth of July destination. We couldn’t get over how naturally beautiful Wisconsin is in the summer, and we can only imagine how colorful it is in the Fall! (That season is next on our list!)

THE FRIENDLY LOCALS

WINTER :: We always say that what makes a place is the people. There is no better way to learn, understand, and connect with a destination than through conversations with the people that call it “home”. During our trip to Madison, Wisconsin this past winter, we spent hours chatting with locals about the snowy weather, what life is like in Madison, and what restaurant really has the best cheese curds. (Important stuff.) 

SUMMER :: This trip, we spent our first morning in Boulder Junction on White Sand Lake with a local fishing guide, Marty Clauson. Marty not only taught us how to fish for walleye, but shared about his love and admiration for the state of Wisconsin. He told us about his around-the-world travels, and how he’s never loved a place more than where he is now. Marty’s love for the Northwoods was contagious, and by the end of our fishing adventure we were about ready to move! That’s when you know you’re somewhere special.

THE WISCONSIN CHARM

WINTER :: There’s a kind of charm that Wisconsin possesses, if you’ve been or if you’re a Wisconsinite, you know what we’re talking about. It’s more than the pretty scenery, rustic accommodations and smiling faces, it’s a feeling. In the winter we were charmed by Madison’s big-city-charisma meets small-town-allure. We’d sit in a snug coffee shop and sip our lattes as we’d admire the striking capitol building from across the way… Madison was approachable, yet cosmopolitan, all in one!

SUMMER :: This trip, we experienced Wisconsin’s charm just about everywhere we went. We grabbed ice cream at the local Ice Shanty Drive-In and Mini Golf, an adorable ice cream shop meets mini golf destination that one could only find in Wisconsin. What’s better than a soft serve ice cream and a friendly round of mini golf?

We dined at the Blue Bayou Inn, a homey and whimsical restaurant serving New Orleans cuisine by candlelight. We feasted on homemade soups, a table-side salad bar, and blackened catfish, all the while watching the lake shimmer in the distance. It couldn’t have been more romantic! 

One day we heard some people talking about the Min-Aqua Bats, the oldest continually running amateur water ski show in the United States, and we were instantly intrigued. Of course this kind of performance would be in Wisconsin! This free, interactive summertime attraction was spell-binding, and fun for the whole family. We couldn’t believe the tricks these young water skiers could do! 

THE SENSE OF ADVENTURE

WINTER ::  One thing we’ve learned from our Wisconsin travels is that Wisonsonites know how to have fun, even if the temperature is well below freezing. From ice fishing along the frozen lakes, to rooftop campfires underneath the falling snow, to whimsical botanical gardens that are begging to be explored… it was the winter wonderland we’d always dreamed of - and more! 

SUMMER :: We couldn’t get over all that there was to see and do in the Northwoods… it was borderline overwhelming! From picturesque hiking and biking trails, to exploring quaint towns, and swimming in the literally hundreds of lakes, it’s a destination that would take weeks - if not months, to properly traverse. It’s perfectly rugged and untouched, making the Northwoods of Wisconsin an outdoor lovers dream. 

We’ve been consistently surprised by Wisconsin. By its approachability, affordability, its pristine beauty, and even this time by how dog friendly it is! We’ve seen this state at its very coldest, and at its warmest, and we’re happy to report that we’ve truly loved both! We’ve still yet to experience Wisconsin in the Spring and in the Fall, so we’ll be sure to check back when we do. ;)

What You Probably Didn't Know About 'The Zoo" (aka Kalamazoo)

Kalamazoo, Michigan. With a name as fun and quirky as that, how could this city NOT be cool?! 

Located just 45 minutes south of Grand Rapids, this booming and surprisingly urban town doesn’t always get the same recognition of its other neighboring metropolises... but it should. Kalamazoo is hip and trendy in all of the best ways (think cool coffee shops, craft breweries, local boutiques), and yet it’s warm and inviting and unpretentious AND distinctly midwestern. 

We didn’t know much about “The Zoo” (as Kalamazoo locals like to call it) upon arriving, but we left with new friendships, countless memories, and a deep love for this bustling Michigan town. Here’s what we discovered about Kalamazoo, and why we’ll be back:

The Downtown is SWEET

We tend to judge a city based on their downtown. Is it hopping? Are their cool places to eat/drink? Do we immediately want to jump out of the car and go exploring? It was a big YES to all of those questions as soon as we drove into Kalamazoo. The downtown is easily walkable, surprisingly sophisticated, and filled with charming streets, art-filled alleyways, and lively shops and restaurants. 

Bates Alley was a little known alleyway in downtown Kalamazoo that was recently revitalized with a painted pathway, new decks, twinkly lights, and more. The result is breathtaking… even our puppy Sally thought so!

The historic Kalamazoo Walking Mall is not only an incredibly picturesque street to explore, it’s the first outdoor pedestrian mall in the United States! It’s filled with local shops, vibrant restaurants, brewpubs, coffee shops, and more - you could easily spend an entire afternoon here!

In our opinion, it’s not a downtown until you have a trendy rooftop bar - and Kalamazoo has just that! SkyDeck has 360 views of downtown Kalamazoo, plenty of places to sit and hang out, and wide variety of tantalizing mixed drinks. (If you’re feeling really adventurous, we suggest taking the stairs to the top! It’s a great way to get some exercise!)

Sally loves Bates Alley too!

Of course we stopped for ice cream in the Kalamazoo Mall

Best views in town from the SkyDeck

There’s A LOT to see and do

There’s no shortage of fun activities in Kalamazoo, no matter the season! We visited in early August, when the high temperature was 82 degrees, and the low was in the 70’s… absolutely perfect, if you ask us! Now having seen photos of Kalamazoo in the fall, we’re anxious to plan a trip to see the autumn leaves, and the winter looks absolutely dreamy too! But we digress… Even though our time was short, we packed in as many “must see” spots as we could (but there is still SO much more we’ve yet to explore)!

The Kalamazoo Valley Museum shares the history of Kalamazoo in a fun and “hands on” approach, with exhibits focusing on science, technology, and more! It’s fun for the whole family, and we had a great time learning more about Kalamazoo - and the best part is? Admission is FREE! (While we were visiting in the height of summer, this would be a perfect rainy day activity!)

Located in the iconic Kalamazoo Walking Mall, the Kalamazoo Candle Company is a family owned and operated candle shop with walk-in candle making! Visitors are encouraged to walk in anytime during store hours and craft their very own scented candle! The candle making process only takes about 30 minutes, and then they need about 60 minutes to cool. We had so much fun concocting our candle scents, we each made two! (This would also be a great rainy day activity!)

If you’re visiting Kalamazoo in the summer months, like us, we highly suggest attending a Kalamazoo Growler Game! The Growlers play in the Northwoods League, a summer collegiate baseball league, and they’re REALLY fun to watch. They’re very interactive with games, dance cams, contests, and more… And if you’re traveling with your pup, you might even be able to catch a “Bark in the Park” game, where dogs can come too! Check the schedule here

The checker cab started in Kalamazoo! There’s one in the Kalamazoo Valley Museum!

Making candles!

They have a RAD Farmers Market

We can never pass up a good farmers market, and if you’ve been following us for awhile, you’ve seen us hit up dozens across the country. We can easily say that Kalamazoo’s is one of the biggest and the best, as they have over 100 businesses represented! With everything from fresh produce to locally made accessories and wellness products, they truly have something for everyone. Days and hours change based on the time of the year, check the schedule here

It’s REALLY pretty in the Summer

Both of us were born and raised in California, with little (if any) knowledge about Michigan. We knew there were a lot of lakes… but that was about it! We were amazed by the beauty in and around Kalamazoo in early August  - it’s green and lush, the lakes are sparkling, and wildflowers everywhere are blooming. Michigan friends, we understand the hype now

Our first evening in Kalamazoo was spent at the scenic Gull Meadow Farms, where we got to frolick, play, and photograph our way through sunflower fields during their first annual Sunflower Festival. Does it get any dreamier (or more romantic) than this?! 

Located about twenty minutes outside of Kalamazoo is Prairie View County Park, which features 210 acres of lakes, picnic spots, a swimming beach, dog park, and SO much more! The scenery is stunning and the activities are endless (fishing, hiking, disc golf, boating, you name it- they have it), making it fun for the whole family. (Including your pup!)

Even downtown Kalamazoo has some charming parks, our favorite being Bronson Park. It’s grassy lawns, colorful flowers, and striking fountains make it a perfect place to break for lunch. And conveniently enough, during the summer it’s the location of Lunchtime Live! Lunchtime Live! is a seasonal food truck and music festival every Friday from 11:30am to 1:30pm during the summer, and it’s just as much fun as it sounds!

While we’re no experts on Kalamazoo by any means, we experienced enough to know that this city is something special. It’s a place that surprised us in so many ways, and we hope that at the very least, we piqued your interest in this vibrant and energetic city. 

We’re not sure when we’ll be back (hopefully soon!), but one thing we know for sure... it’s only going to get better

Our Top 5 In (And Near) Wallace, Idaho

Discovering new places that are off the beaten path is our jam. It’s 90% of the reason why we do what we do! (10% is for the food, obvi!) As we road tripped around Northern Idaho, we found some real hidden gems - many of which are in and around the small mining town of Wallace! It’s cute, quirky, oozing with history and fascinating superstition, and it’s absolutely worth a visit. Here’s a list of our Top 5 places to go and things to do in, around and near Wallace! 

(And for those of you in the planning stages, we stayed at the cozy Wallace Inn, just steps from downtown Wallace, and an easy drive to everything else. Highly recommend!)

THE ROUTE OF THE HIAWATHA SCENIC BIKE TRAIL

If you enjoy adrenaline-filled adventure, spectacular scenery, historic train tunnels, and downhill bike trails (that’s right - 100% downhill), you’ll LOVE the Route of the Hiawatha! This 15-mile long mountain bike or hike trail is totally epic, and sure to be the highlight of your time in Idaho - it surely was ours! The friendly folks at the Lookout Pass Ski Area will get you all set up with bikes, helmets, snacks, and even a bike rack for transportation to the trail. It’s about a two-and-a-half hour ride, but give yourself plenty of time to stop and enjoy the views, have a snack, and learn more about the history. And be sure to bring a jacket and wear comfy clothes that you’re ok with getting dirty - the tunnels are cold and wet!

THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE

Located in the heart of downtown Wallace, on the corner of Bank Street and Sixth Street, is the Center of the Universe. Don’t believe us? There are signs and a manhole/sewer cover to prove it! In 2004 the Mayor of Wallace at the time, Ron Garitone, declared and proclaimed Wallace to be the Center of the Universe. For no reason, other than why not? And that’s exactly why this random spot is on our list. It’s pretty cool to say that you’ve been to the center of the universe… even if it can’t technically be proven. 

WALLACE BREWING COMPANY

After you’ve taken your share of selfies at the Center of the Universe, walk down the street to the iconic Wallace Brewing Company. You’ll feel as though you’ve stepped back in time in this craft brewery that’s reminiscent of an old time saloon. The bartenders are friendly and knowledgeable, the crowd is a mix of Wallace locals and visitors, and the best part… it’s dog friendly! So if your pup is along for the journey, they can join you inside as well! Oh, and of course, the beer is really solid too. Be sure to try their famous Huckleberry Shandy! (Insider tip: If you want to enjoy your beer on the go, just as for a red solo cup! It’s perfectly acceptable - and legal - to walk around town with your drinks!)

THE OASIS BORDELLO MUSEUM

This famed wild west brothel turned museum is mesmerizing and bewitching, and one of the most engrossing tours we’ve been on in awhile. The Oasis Bordello was an active brothel in downtown Wallace until 1988, when the residents fled the building after rumors spread of a possible FBI raid. Since then, the new owners of the Oasis Bordello decided to leave the brothel completely as is, and make it a museum. It’s like walking into a time capsule, with everything from the bedding to the opened soda cans on the counters left just as they were. Unfortunately photos aren’t allowed on the tour, so trust us that it’s worth a visit. It’s absolutely captivating.

Outside the Oasis Bordello

RED LIGHT GARAGE

Being the foodies that we are, we couldn’t help but include a restaurant on this list. But this isn’t just any restaurant. The Red Light Garage is a Wallace staple - and whether you’re hungry for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, this eccentric and downright zany spot has you covered. Especially if you’re in the mood for some huckleberries. Their huckleberry pancakes and huckleberry shake are basically world famous! 

Did we miss anything? We’d love to hear what your favorite sights in and near Wallace are, as we plan to return real soon!

16 Tips for Cross County Road Trips With a Dog

In case you don’t follow us on Instagram (which you SHOULD), in the past year we may have been better off calling ourselves the “Roadtripping Newlyweds”. If it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert on something, we’re probably getting close to that based on all of the long drives we’ve done. If you’re doubting our expertise, here’s where we’ve been (keep in mind all of this is within the past 12 months): 

  • Aug/Sept 2018 - We embarked on a 5,000 mile drive from our house in California up to Seattle, east to Banff, back down through Montana and Idaho, and back home. 

  • Sept. 2018 - We drove on a “mini” 1,100 mile road trip to hike the narrows in St. George. Worth it! Do it!

  • Dec 2018 - Also on the shorter side, we drove 2,100 miles to Tempe, Taos, and Aspen. All so pretty during the holidays!

  • Apr/May 2019 - We drove from our house in Costa Mesa to Savannah (GA) and up to Pittsburgh, then headed home. Just over 6,500 miles. There were plenty of stops and potty breaks. 

  • Jun 2019 - Had a quick trip to Carson Valley, Lake Tahoe, and Bend. It’s weird that a 2,000 mile trip now feels like nothing.

  • July/Aug 2019 - We just returned from a nice “little” drive to Kalamazoo, Michigan. 5,800 miles in 19 days. Not the furthest, but definitely the greatest mileage per day. Woof


Did we mention that we’ve had our bernedoodle, Sally, with us on these drives? And that we’ve done 3 of the 5 in our compact Toyota Prius? Pretty ridiculous!

We get pretty excited when we’re home…

We get pretty excited when we’re home…

Family photo!

Family photo!

She loves the car!

She loves the car!

With all of that in mind, it’s safe to say that we’ve learned a few things. 

Here are our 16 tips (in order with the most important first) for a massive road trip with a puppy in tow. 

  1. Leave early - This is our most important tip if you are a road trip rookie. Specifically on the days of your big drives (300+ miles), get up as early as possible for your drive. You’ll be sleepy, but trust us - you’ll wake up. To us, there is nothing worse than leaving somewhere at noon, and having to end the drive and arrive at your destination in the dark. On the contrary, if you leave before the sun rises, you’ll probably arrive at your destination mid-day, with plenty of time for a nap (praises!) and to start exploring. 

  2. Pack right - You’re going to be taking your luggage in and out of the car A LOT, so you want luggage that is durable, lightweight, and easy to move around. For us, that is our American Tourister bags, along with a couple of backpacks (Bobby has a Lowepro Camera bag and Alli has a Herschel backpack). Oh, and we of course have a little tote for all of Sally’s things! :) 

  3. Optimize your vehicle’s layout for humans - This is a big one for comfort. For us, that means knowing where everything is at all times. The car is packed the same way, so that you could ask me right now (a week after our last road trip) where I keep my computer, sunscreen, Sally’s food, Alli’s bag… it all has a place. This is your second home, so it will make it much easier if you piece it together effectively.

  4. And for dogs - Speaking of second home, you have to have your fur baby’s safety and comfort in mind when you’re going on a long drive. For safety, we have a harness that hooks Sally in (a pet seatbelt), but also allows her to be mobile in the backseat. For comfort, we have a backseat bridge that extends the backseat so there’s no gap, giving Sally a lot more space. Lastly, we have a dog hammock that drapes over the whole backseat and makes it all one consistent surface. Yes, we are those dog people. And yes, Sally loves us.

  5. Stop frequently - Aside from having to use the restroom, get out and move a little. Having Sally with us may seem like an inconvenience, but she actually forces us to get out and run around every hour or two. 

  6. Have your thing - If you’re traveling with a partner, there’s only so much you can talk about. For us, we listen to audiobooks together, talk about anything and everything, play with Sally, and we always run out of things to say. Other than music, we each have our own thing in the form or unique podcasts that the other person doesn’t really care for. For Bobby, it’s the Fantasy Footballers. He knows it’s kind of nerdy, and he loves it. For Alli, it is the Morning Toast. While we each do our own thing, the other person naps (although Bobby is totally a “Toaster” now, and Alli’s never been more proud.). 

  7. Take your wallet out of your pocket (Bobby) and throw on your comfy pants (Alli) - You’re going to be sitting for awhile, so make it as comfortable as possible. Don’t worry about how you look - just wear whatever you’re most comfortable in! (Also in the comfort category, for this last trip we bought these sun shades and it was a TOTAL gamechanger. Nothing is worse than trying to take a nap and having the sun beating down on you the whole time.)

  8. Hydration > Caffeine - While coffee will definitely do the trick during those early morning drives, it should not be your solution whenever you get sleepy while driving. We’ve found that staying hydrated (with water), is actually the best thing we can do on our road trips. Yes, you will have to pee more. But you will absolutely feel better that night and the next day. Trust us on this one! 

  9. Pack light - Assuming you’re driving through the US or Canada, pack as light as possible. You can pick up anything you need along the way, and there are plenty of laundromats to keep your wardrobe fresh.  

  10. Nap - When you’re sleepy, stop driving and take a nap. The end. 

  11. Decide your absolute maximum mileage for the day (and stick to it) - Also important. If you want to get to a spot 500 miles away but think maaaayyyybe you can get 100 miles further, then decide that no matter what you will stop if you get to the 600 mile destination. If you keep playing the, “Oh let’s just drive for another hour” game, you’ll put yourself at risk for dangerous fatigue or a speeding ticket. Not worth it.

  12. Be a tourist while on the road - Seven Magic Mountains, Car Henge, the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, Wall Drug, etc. There are countless strange roadside attractions. Whether you plan them out, or see a sign that it’s a mile up ahead, you won’t regret making the stop (even if you’re making fun of it as you leave). 

  13. Research your route - The shortest distance may not be the fastest. The scenic drive may be the most beautiful drive you’ve ever set your eyes on. Or the “scenic drive” is pathetic. Do some research on where your driving, beyond your endpoints. 

  14. Be honest - Unless you’re traveling solo, this just means to be honest about when you don’t want to drive any more. Or, when you shouldn’t drive anywhere. Bobby always wants to set personal long distance driving records (currently he’s gone 575 miles with a couple potty breaks), but sometimes he has to give up and hand over the keys because he’s sleepy. Know your limits and communicate with your partner. 

  15. Pace yourself - What we mean here is pace yourself over the course of the trip. If you’re whole trip is two weeks and 4,000 miles, don’t drive 800 miles on 5 different days. Spread it out. If we ever have more than 2 days driving 300+ miles, we take at least 1 day off. 

  16. Cruise control is your friend, but be smart - Bobby LOVES cruise control. But he only uses it when there’s barely any traffic, and early on in his drives. It’s a little risky if there are other cars, or if you’ve been driving for awhile. Just because your foot isn’t on the gas doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay attention… 

Can you see the sunshade on the left? Game changer…

Can you see the sunshade on the left? Game changer…

Lot’s of pretty drives! And nice naps!

Lot’s of pretty drives! And nice naps!

Lots of stops for goodies :)

Lots of stops for goodies :)

Lots of gas station stops (We call Sally “Stinker”)

Lots of gas station stops (We call Sally “Stinker”)

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Looking For an Adventure? Check Out The Smokies Summer Giveaway!

What are your summer plans? Y'all know how we love a good road trip. The only thing that would elevate the trips we've been taking in our little Toyota Rav4 would be if we could hop in an RV. How much would Sally love that?!?

With that in mind, we recently learned that RVshare is doing an incredible giveaway, with a four-day, three-night trip to the Great Smoky Mountains. You can enter the giveaway here!

We drove through he Great Smoky Mountains last month, and were obsessed with the endless forests and panoramic views. The Great Smoky Mountains encompass over 187,000 acres of forest spread across 2 states. What you probably didn't know is that it is the most popular national park in the USA, ahead of the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite. Have you been? Hopefully you're starting to realize that you're missing out. 

For the giveaway, the grand prize winner will receive a free RV rental, a free campground stay, and a $1000 cash prize. To enter, you must live in the US, you must be over the age of 25, and you should probably love the RV lifestyle. The winner will be selected at random, and you can increase your entries by doing the following:

  • refer friend to enter by sharing the link with them

  • follow RVshare on social media

  • retweet the giveaway on Twitter

  • answer RVshare's bucket list question

  • and more!

You can enter to win the Smokies Summer Giveaway anytime between June 3rd, 2019 and July 1st, 2019, which gives you only two weeks to get as many bonus entries as you can – so act fast! We can’t wait to find out who wins and to share the thrill that RVing gives millions of families every year. Thanks for playing and good luck!

Nothing better than exploring National Parks!

Nothing better than exploring National Parks!