Road Trip to South Dakota/Wyoming Part 1

When we moved to Northeast Iowa last year I knew an epic roadtrip was in our future. This New Jersey girl had never lived so far west before and when I saw that we were only 12 hours from Mt. Rushmore I was in! The plan was to see the top attractions in the area – Mt. Rushmore, Badlands, Custer State Park and Devils Tower in Wyoming.

Mt. Rushmore

So once January hit I planned our trip. I knew that we were about a 6 hour drive from Sioux Falls, roughly half way to Mt. Rushmore. So I decided we would spend one night there and then hit the Badlands National Park the next day on the way to Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills.

Stopping in Sioux Falls ended up being a great idea. We had gotten a late start on the road and by the time we rolled into town we only had time to see the city’s namesake attraction – a beautiful waterfall that runs through the middle of town. Bryce was able to run and stretch his legs which also made it a great kids stop!

We stayed at a Residence Inn. Which thank goodness we had a small kitchen there since the hotel wasn’t serving breakfast due to COVID. So we stopped at a grocery store and picked up some things to eat and had a relaxing night. Early the next day we got on the road to make it to the Badlands for our first western adventure.

The Badlands were amazing and we did get a chance to hike a little. But not nearly enough time was spent there. We definitely want to go back and spend the night so we can do more of the trails and explore the area more. It truly is beautiful. And after driving just endless highway roads a very welcome sight! Lol. Bryce also got a kick out of feeding some Prairie dogs at a roadside attraction by the park entrance.

By the time we left the badlands it was mid afternoon. We decided to stop at Wall Drug and it was every bit the touristy attraction I thought it would be. 😂 Good restroom break anyway. We got back onto the road and headed into the black hills. I had decided to book two nights at a glamping campground called Under Canvas. I had never been glamping before and the location is literally 5 minutes from Mt. Rushmore. A tent with a real bed and a bathroom is my type of “roughing it.” We loved the experience but I don’t think I will become a die hard tent 🏕 camper anytime soon. I didn’t realize how cold it can get at night there – 49 degrees in June! Needless to say we used the wood furnace both nights we were there! I highly recommend the place though if you have thought about trying “glamping.” The furniture in the tents made it feel like we were on Safari and the bathroom was very spacious with a barn door for privacy. We had a good location near the main reception tent so that is something to think about when you book if you are like me and need your caffeine to get going in the morning. They do provide complimentary coffee and tea, and they also provide s’mores at night which was nice. I did miss having our own campfire at the tent, but they did have a few campfires spread throughout the campground for people to use to make their s’mores and hang out.

Under Canvas Mt. Rushmore

We booked a Deluxe Tent with Hive. The main tent had a King Size Bed and we added a cot for Bryce. The 2nd tent was for Brian’s mom who came with us. But because it was so cold at night we ended up moving her bed into our tent and just all slept that way. It was amazing how big the tent was to fit so many of us but it definitely made the space cramped. So my suggestion to you if you book is to check the weather 😂 and bring extra blankets. One of the more surprising parts of this experience was the food! They have an actual trained chef running their onsite food truck and he supplied us with amazing breakfasts and dinners that we ate on our patio. Which I also loved by the way ❤️. Having coffee on the patio while staring at the forest is something I could do every day!

Since we were so close to Mt. Rushmore we were able to see the lighting ceremony the first night and then we went back the next morning to walk around and explore what we could. Unfortunately they were during construction while we were there so we couldn’t do the mountain trail. But it was amazing to see and experience. Highly recommend not rushing through this monument and taking some time to explore. There is a little museum onsite that explains the history of the build and there were National Park Rangers throughout that answered any questions we had.

Mt. Rushmore at Sunset

That afternoon we spent some time in Keystone and did some gem mining there which Bryce loved. We also got to take him to Reptile Gardens which actually was very nice and Bryce loved getting to see snakes and other animals that he had never seen before. It is the largest reptile zoo in the nation. After two days there we checked out of Under Canvas and headed to Custer State Park, stopping at Crazy Horse Memorial on the way.

As you can see from our pictures we kept busy! Definitely you will not get bored. I am glad we stayed a full week in the area even if we didn’t get a chance to do everything we wanted! This wraps up Part 1 of our trip. Part 2 I will go into what we did at Custer State Park and show you the Cabin we rented for the week. Keep adventuring my friends!

How I met my husband

I met Brian at a sushi bar. This is funny because to this day he doesn’t eat fish 😂 I was working as a bartender there while I looked for my first “corporate” job after college. Brian had just graduated from grad school and had gotten a job at a start up company nearby. He would come in with his coworkers for happy hour at least once a week. He would write me notes on napkins and leave flowers on my car. He definitely knew how to woo me! lol.

We went out on a few dates when we got to talking about our love for travel. On a whim we booked a trip to Paris. We went and as you guessed, fell in love. It has been an adventure ever since with him.

Since then we have lived in five states together and been to over a dozen countries! I am glad to have found a partner who loves to travel as much as I do. We are hoping next month will be our next adventure to the black hills of South Dakota. Our son is already following in our footsteps and loves to travel too. Last year we took him to Atlantis in the Bahamas and he asks us all the time now when we can go back. Someday kid 🙂

Bryce is our biggest adventure yet!

We may not be able to whisk away to Paris anymore but our shared love of adventure and willingness to embrace the chaos of cross country moves definitely has helped in our 16 year marriage. We moved to northeast Iowa in August of last year and have had fun discovering all the hiking and nature opportunities nearby. Finding your towns outdoor treasures is more important than ever given our current situation of having to stay home more and socially distance from everyone.

What is your love story? How did you and your partner meet? Please share in the comments below!

Our Mount Mitchell Adventure

Last weekend we decided to drive to Mount Mitchell and do some hiking and exploring. Ever since I moved to Boone last summer I have been wanting to visit it. The North Carolina mountain holds the title of the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, measuring in at 6,684 feet above sea level!

No clue who the guy photobombing me in the background is. LOL

So Saturday morning we went. First tip – bring lunch. We didn’t because we thought the restaurant there would be open and surprise! it wasn’t. lol. It is only open seasonally. Thankfully we had snacks but there is literally nothing nearby as this is a remote area so bring all the food and drink you will need for the day. Little Switzerland is where we stopped at on the way home to eat and they have a nice lunch cafe. But it would have been better if we had packed a picnic lunch.

Loved all the fir trees!

Being at such a high elevation the vegetation is vastly different from the rest of the area. It truly feels more like a Canadian forest both temperature and tree wise. So unique and makes for some great hikes. Bryce had a blast pointing out the different trees to us and unique rocks.

My climber

Since my mother-n-law was with us and Bryce we only tackled the .75 mile Balsam Nature Trail. But it was beautiful and a nice way to stretch the legs after the long car ride. We also went to the observation platform and was amazed at the 360 degree views offered there!

On the way home we stopped for lunch at Little Switzerland and then came across the cutest ice cream/pie mom and pop store! It is called Linville River Mercantile and Bakery. It is located in Crossnore, NC. Stop by on your way back to Boone for a treat!

Mount Mitchell is only a few miles off of the Blue Ridge Parkway so the drive there and back from Boone was also a treat. Add this to your bucket list for sure!

Atlantis Paradise Island Resort Review and Photo Diary

In March, on the Friday before my 40th birthday my husband came home and said “Pack your bags we are going on vacation!” Like something out of a movie. And in true Hollywood plot form, he refused to tell me where we were going. Just that I needed to pack for “hot” weather and needed a swimsuit. So it was with no small miracle that we quickly packed the car and headed to the airport for a quick 3 day getaway!

Paradise Found

Brian truly did not tell me where we were going till the taxi to the hotel. I had heard of Atlantis but seeing it with my own eyes as we drove up was surreal. The immense SIZE of the place was instantly the first thing that impressed me! Huge, with multiple hotels, a casino and even a marina village all part of the Atlantis property.

Our room was one of the upper level rooms with a stone balcony!

Our room was located in The Towers, which has a perfect central location to everything. Simply amazing. Suite actually, with a kitchenette, huge balcony and an incredibly large bathroom with his and hers showers! The suite had way more space than we needed, but I definitely wasn’t complaining. It had incredible views and it was very nice to come back to the suite and have room to spread out. I would describe it as being perfect for those planning a longer stay, traveling with children or bunking up for a group trip. Our son slept on a couch in the living room and it worked out perfect for each of us to have our own space.

Now The Atlantis isn’t your standard resort– there’s a reason they call it Paradise Island – because it’s like it’s own city! The property is massive and while you are free to roam as you please, every section of the hotel has it’s own easily-accessible pools and restaurants. We spent most of our time at the waterpark but it was nice to walk the aquariums everyday and we even spent some time at the beach one afternoon. I did get in a facial at the spa as a treat for my birthday, and I highly recommend you check that out if you get a chance. They offer free use of their facilities for the day if you get a treatment and it was very relaxing to enjoy their steam rooms, saunas and pools for a bit before my facial.

The water park area is huge and options from water playgrounds to lazy rivers

The open air and closed aquariums are amazing and a must see! Bryce had endless entertainment watching the animals and actually learned a lot about them while we were there. The property is simply breathtaking and themed perfectly. Just walking around felt like a vacation seeing all the marine life.

One of the aspects I like about The Atlantis is that it’s a destination for all ages. No matter if you’re traveling with family and children, a large group of friends or if you’re looking for a romantic getaway, the resort is so large that’s there’s a place and an activity for everyone.

Before we know it our trip was over. We hope to go back someday as there is still stuff we would like to see and do there! It is definitely a place you should add to your bucket list and I can’t recommend The Atlantis enough if you’re looking for an upbeat resort with endless activities. And for those of you who live in the south or on the east coast in the U.S. it’s an incredibly quick flight– it was just two hours for us from Charlotte. Easy enough to go for a long weekend!

Bye for now!

My leap of Faith

Today I am flying to Salt Lake City, Utah for the first time to attend Young Living’s Convention.  I will be with Young Living 2 years next month.  I knew that the oils would be fun,  but I truly didn’t know the full extent of how life changing they WOULD be and HAVE been!

There are no words that I could express just how grateful I am to the Lord for persisting in nudging my soul to purchase.  I read and saw about Young Living oils FIVE TIMES over a span of FIVE MONTHS until I finally said YES,  Yes, to better health and yes, to a better life! I want each of you to realize that I want that for you and your family. Where my family was 2 years ago, seems surreal to me.  My mom had died unexpectedly.  I had a chronically sick 6 month old baby that only slept 2-3 hours at a time and I was EXHAUSTED.  My hormones and emotions were all over the place.  I was barely hanging on.  Seriously I look back at those first few weeks when I lost my mom and I honestly don’t know how I made it.  But then a kit of oils arrived on my doorstep.  I started diffusing and wearing them.  I made rollerballs and creams.  And I started to feel better! Still skeptical, I started reading into them and researching.  Amazed at what I saw I decided I had to share.  Adventure In Oils was born that day.

But you see, I didn’t start sharing Young Living with others with the mindset of doing this as a business. I simply shared something I was excited about. I joined Young Living for the sole purpose to support my family’s health. I was desperate as a mother, and willing to try anything, no matter how crazy it sounded. I took a leap of faith. Sometimes we must step out in faith and just move!  So it was with this mindset that I started.  Getting my oils paid for sounded nice but it was not my end game.

But now? Now I see the abundance and freedom that Young Living gives!  Instead of having to use medicines with side effects I can try oils first.  My now growing 3 year old has even started to ask for oils and it is part of our daily routine! And the business? Unlimited opportunity for those that want it.  Whether it is just getting your oils paid for (which is where I am at currently) to making enough to retire now money, it is there if you want it.

So, why am I telling you all this? Because I know somewhere there is someone struggling. You have that thing that you are holding onto wondering if this is it. Maybe its money problems.  Maybe you are facing some major health stuff for or your family and fear is trying to grip where you stare. Maybe you are kicking yourself for not fully embracing oils and even the business because you are still waiting for it all to be perfect.

Lean into this.

What is it for you? Where are you staring? Come jump in this intentional faith thing with me, whatever that looks like, I promise it will be the best ride ever!!

Live without regrets

I will be visiting this farm Wednesday.  So excited!

What Florida Really Looks Like

About 45 minutes from Disney World there is a Nature Preserve like no other. Set on a scenic lake surrounded by old Oak trees, and housing miles of walking trails, sits a place called Circle B Bar Reserve.  A once functioning cattle ranch, it is now recognized by USA Today Travel as one of the 51 Great Places to See Wildlife.


It is a Central Florida hidden gem.  Free, and open to the public year round, it is considered one of the best places for birding in Florida as a result of the Banana Creek marsh system. In a nutshell: don’t visit the reserve without your camera, your Instagram followers will thank you.


The 1,267-acre property features several diverse habitats including freshwater marshes, hardwood swamps, oak hammocks, creeks and lakes, which are home to a wide variety of ducks, shorebirds, wading birds, native and migrant landbirds, ospreys, bald eagles, and more than 45-species of butterflies.

You can even see Bald Eagles!

For me, I come here for the Alligator sightings.  Which is quite common and can be safely done from the preserve’s pier, shoreline, or the infamous Alligator Alley.

See those dots in the water? Those are all alligators!

On a calm water day you will see more alligators on the lake than you will see people in the park. That many alligators reside here.


And even as you leave, look out your window, because Wild Boar live in these woods. I made sure to stay far away from this protective mama as I took this pic.


Believe it or not, all these photos were taken the SAME day.  There is that much wildlife to see at this preserve.  It is a must see place.  So put it on your list, maybe see Mickey Mouse one day less.  This place is worth a visit.  Most people don’t see past the concrete of Orlando’s amusement parks or Florida’s beaches.  The REAL Florida is this. Wild, untamed, and amazingly beautiful.

A World Perspective

I have been fortunate that I have been able to travel. All over South America, Europe and as far east as Bali so far in my life. Still, there is so much more I want to see. To experience.

Every time I go somewhere I am always amazed how once you break down social, economic and religious barriers, humanity is all the same. We all want love, all want our place in the world. Forget jobs, money and toys, your family is what is important and your place within it just as much.

When Brian and I were in Bali we kept getting asked if we were married, how many kids did we have, did our parents live with us? At first we were taken aback but then I realized how family oriented their culture is. Even their houses are built for harmony, as compounds where there is an open air room in the middle and around it separate buildings that are bedrooms, or a living room, or a kitchen. 3 generations or more of a Bali family may live together. Family is how they define themselves and each other. So they were asking us these questions to determine our family, to define us as they knew how.

This village in Bali is known for their wood carving art. They pass down their skill through their families.
This village in Bali is known for their wood carving art. They pass down their skill through their families.

Another eye opening experience for me was seeing the level of poverty outside of the US. Of course we have poverty here, and considering we are a developed nation, way more and worse than we should. But still, most people here have access to clean water, to some food, some sort of housing. When I was in South America, I was floored to see how entire villages lived. Some people walked miles just to get water, and entire families slept on dirt floors. Food? If they were lucky, enough for that day. In Chile I remember all of us getting back on our comfy tour bus, and our tour guide from the last two days comes running over to us. He had a pair of running shoes in his hand. Muddy, torn and frayed, he asked if someone had forgotten them. When it became apparent no one was to claim them, he said he would bring to his village for someone who needed them. WOW. And he was so excited about it to. This has left a forever impact on me. At the time I was 21, going to college, never had the hardships this guy probably had. That someone would think dirty old shoes were treasure opened my eyes to how superficial I was most of the time.

One man’s trash truly is another ones treasure

Of course not all my trips have been life altering. And I wish I could say I joined the Peace Corps and changed the world but I did not. Some of my trips are purely for that mythical “tropical escape” and I act like a normal tourist who enjoys the resorts and tries not to think about the poverty around me.

As a woman, I have become grateful for the freedom being an American gives me. I realize how different my life might have been if I was not born where I was but in a country that doesn’t allow a female the right to live life the way she wants. I have had to cover up in some of my travels and otherwise adopt local customs in order to honor their ways and fly under the radar. It feels weird. And I am always happy to come back to where I can just live how I want and not question myself on how I should act.

I will leave you with one more story. When I was in Bolivia we gave out school supplies we had bought with us to some children. They were so excited. And grateful. It just blew me away that kids were getting excited over pencils and paper. But to them, getting an education is a gift. A chance to better their life and their families. They are praying just for the opportunity to learn. To have hope.

Hospitals of Hope Bolivian children