U.S. Road Trip Re-Cap: Week Thirteen (Chicago to Pittsburgh)

North to South U.S. road trip recap week thirteen

After our much needed road trip break in Chicago, we set our sights on exploring the Northeast. Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania were all checked off this week of our road trip, as we made our way to New England. And we saw a good amount of ultra-green midwestern farmland along our route. Take a look at our journey from Chicago to Pittsburgh on week thirteen of our trip!

Note: I’m still catching up on our weekly road trip re-caps! This one covers August 2-8.  Continue reading

U.S. Road Trip Re-Cap: Weeks Nine, Ten, Eleven & Twelve (Chicago & Oshkosh)

North to South U.S. road trip recap weeks nine, ten, eleven and twelve

Two months of nearly non-stop road-tripping exhausted us, so we decided to take a break.

We wanted some time to relax, regroup, and work on our blogs, and to do that, we needed to stay still. Luckily, we were traveling around the midwest at the time, and my twin brother had a room available for rent in his Chicago apartment. So we settled down for a full month and used the time to explore Chicago more, set new goals for our projects, dabble in some artistic hobbies, and even launch a new business. See what else we accomplished during our month-long road trip break in Chicago below!

Note: I’m still catching up on our weekly road trip re-caps! This one covers July 5 – August 1.  Continue reading

The Magical Landscape of White Sands National Monument: A Photo Journal (New Mexico, USA)

The Magical Landscape of White Sands National Monument, New Mexico, USA

This year Ian and I checked a HUGE item off our bucket list. We can both now officially say we’ve visited all 50 U.S. states. (Hooray!)

We’ve explored a LOT of the U.S. this year — even amplifying our goals to include visiting all 50 states in one year’s time — and every time I tell people about our epic quest, I always get asked some version of the same question: Which place was your favorite?

Well, if you limit me to a certain number, I’ll have trouble answering, but White Sands National Monument is absolutely 100% somewhere on my list of favorites. (Funny, because our visit there was completely unplanned.) And while I could go on and on about how amazingly surreal and magical the scenery is there, I think the photos will give you a better idea. So I’ll let the scenic photos do most of the talking… Continue reading

Things to Do Year-Round in and Around Anchorage (Alaska, USA)

Things to Do Year-Round in Anchorage, Alaska on NorthToSouth.us

Alaska is a BEAUTIFUL state. In fact, it’s one of my absolute favorite states from our entire 2015 50-state quest. And there are a lot of things to do, even if you’re visiting outside of the summer “tourist” season.

The most popular tourist season in Alaska is summer, with a secondary season in winter, but the time in between — the “shoulder” seasons — can seem pretty dead. That 28-glacier cruise only runs May through September. Dog-sledding tours near Anchorage don’t run in fall or spring. And even the expensive polar bear excursions up north shut down post-summer. There’s a lack of demand, so yes, the big tour companies that rely on big numbers shut down when the crowd thins, but there is still PLENTY to do in this awesome state outside the major tour company offerings.

We’re currently in the midst of a two-week “offseason” trip to Anchorage — the last week of October and first of November — and we haven’t run out of things to do yet. Here’s a list of our favorites so far:  Continue reading

U.S. Road Trip Re-Cap: Week Seven (Wyoming to Alberta)

North to South U.S. road trip recap week seven

Week seven was by far one of the most memorable weeks on our road trip. I can’t believe how much we saw in one week! Oodles of wildlife, gorgeous sunrises, and even the Northern Lights — all the way down in Yellowstone National Park (they’re not usually visible so far south).

Somehow we managed to visit FOUR national parks all in one week. And despite late night Milky Way photo sessions, we managed to wake up before dawn TWICE to witness the gorgeous sunrises Yellowstone has to offer. If you’ve never seen Yellowstone yourself, add it to your bucket list NOW. And in the meantime, you can drool a bit over these photos!

Note: I’m still catching up on our weekly road trip re-caps! This one covers June 20-27.

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U.S. Road Trip Re-Cap: Weeks Four, Five & Six (Illinois to South Dakota)

North to South U.S. road trip recap weeks four, five and six

After completing our third week on the road in the U.S. this summer, we decided it was time for a little breather. We departed St. Louis at the beginning of week four and then pressed the pause button when we reached Chicago. And there we stayed, visiting my twin brother, for the first two and a half weeks of June.

Despite growing up in St. Louis, I’d never visited the nearby Windy City ’til now. And what an awesome place it turned out to be! So much so that we decided we’d return to Chicago for an even longer break after our upcoming national park loop. We finished off this three-week period in Badlands National Park, where we found unique erosion-formed landscapes, plentiful prairie dogs, and the craziest (and unexpected) storm we’ve ever experienced! (You don’t want to miss that video.)

Note: Since we paused for so long in Chicago, this recap covers weeks four through six of our U.S. road trip. And I’m still catching up on our weekly road trip re-caps! This one covers May 30 – June 19.

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Shot of the Week: North to South Sees the Northern Lights (Yellowstone, Wyoming, USA)

Shot of the Week: The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA

I was half asleep. Only half because of the awkward angle at which my head was tilted when I’d closed my eyes. Sleeping in the car has never been my forte. I quickly snapped out of my sleepy state, however, when my brain finally registered the three words that had just exited Ian’s mouth: “the Northern Lights.”

It was an unexpected sight, in Yellowstone National Park, but having severely sub-par cell service the past two days couldn’t even stop us from seeing them. There was no visible green glow or anything, but the eery gray streaks sweeping across the northern sky were visible to the naked eye. I quickly pulled my RX100 out of the glove compartment and clambered over the middle console of our Yaris and into the driver’s seat. Ian was already out of the car with the a7 mounted to his tripod. I opted for the meager warmth our Yaris could offer with its front window rolled down all the way.

My first shots were crap, from a photographer’s perspective, but the colors were absolutely amazing. To start, I’d quickly flipped my dial to ‘M’ and prepped for a 6-second exposure. No tripod. Just handheld. Propped atop the open window frame of the driver’s side door. With some expected star streaking from my unsteady hand in my first few exposures, I made some minor adjustments — adding a 2-second timer, using the tilt screen to more steadily prop my camera up on the window ledge — and was rewarded with better results. My final improvement to my set-up was turning the car’s engine off and setting the e-brake (Ian never does) to keep car movements to an absolute minimum. And I was quite impressed with my results!

This photo was taken on June 22nd with the Sony RX-100 III. Continue to view full photo.  Continue reading

[VIDEO] Shot of the Week: Night Storm Symphony (Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA)

It was cool and sunny in South Dakota when we woke up in our tent this morning. No indication of the craziness that ensued last night, other than the minor bowing to our east-facing tent poles that left our tent slightly askew. And we were among the lucky. Our tent had survived.

Around 8pm the lightning started. It was beautiful. The sun was setting behind a thick wall of clouds, and whenever the distant lightning struck, pink light puffs would appear and pulse throughout the sky.

The campground full, there didn’t seem to be need for alarm. Everyone was continuing on, getting ready for bed as they would if there were no threat nor signs of a storm. It wasn’t until I overheard a neighboring camper collecting his son, telling him “Let’s go. I don’t want to be here when it hits,” that I started to worry. We quickly checked the radar on Ian’s phone, and the image confirmed: it was coming. And it would hit hard. Continue reading

North to South’s Ultimate Road Trip Planner: Packing List — With Free Download!

North to South's Ultimate Road Trip Packing List with free printable PDF download

The open road. The fresh air. The opportunity to freely blast and belt out your favorite tunes as you explore lands previously unknown… The road trip is an experience everyone should have at least once in their life. And the effort you put into planning yours will greatly impact the memories you make.

If you’re like me and heading out Kerouac-style isn’t the approach you’d prefer — planless, penniless, thieving, and hitchhiking (yikes!) — then you should absolutely start with a list. Continue reading

Shot of the Week: Nature’s Water Park (Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, Missouri, USA)

North to South Shot of the Week: Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park

Johnson’s Shut-Ins is a magical place from my childhood…  A two-hour drive from home in St. Louis, we only visited a handful of times when I was young. But boy did I remember it. I’ve always loved outings that involved swimming, and of all the places I’ve swam in the world, Johnson’s Shut-Ins takes the cake.

Crystal-clear water flows through, around, and over the rocks at “Nature’s Water Park,” creating tiny pools where tadpoles grow up into frogs… And you can climb right in to experience it firsthand! It’s amazing. It’s also one of few places you can find where it’s fashionably acceptable to wear tennis shoes with a swimsuit. And you need them to climb around the slippery, rocky pools. The Shut-Ins aren’t particularly large, so it was always busy when we’d arrive early morning in my childhood. But mid-afternoon just after Memorial Day weekend, we were pleasantly surprised to have the place almost entirely to ourselves. If you’re looking for a summer day trip from St. Louis or Branson or the Ozarks, go here. You won’t want to miss it.

This photo was taken on May 26th with the Sony RX-100 III. Continue to view full photo and a video from this cool place!  Continue reading