For a lot of people their immediate answer is “YES!”. I prefer to travel for a week or two and then return home. What do you think of when imagining traveling for months at a time? There is a wide range of thoughts anywhere from constantly on the go living as a nomad like Gary Arndt of Everything-Everywhere or Matt Kepnes of Nomadic Matt to traveling in Europe for six weeks and returning home.
My personal preference depends on where I’m traveling. If I’m traveling in or near the United States I like to go somewhere for up to two weeks and then return home to re-group and comprehend the recent experience. Also, I like the comforts of home in between new experiences. If I’m traveling overseas to Europe or Asia than two weeks is the minimum. My general guidelines come from the length of time it takes to get someplace.
Ideally I would like to go someplace new once every other month. There can be a lot involved in planning and executing a trip such as places to stay, air, passports and visas, ect. so some downtime in between is often helpful. There are some limitations to traveling like this. Trips are packed with more to do in less time because time is limited and it is more difficult to say I will do or see that tomorrow and stay in a location for a few extra days. This is of course an assumption since I have never really experienced the nomadic lifestyle. The costs are higher due to traveling home and then off to another destination as well as the expense of keeping a home which means maintaining a job.
I use to believe that traveling from one destination and going to the next one would be great. Now… I would have to give up a lot of things I enjoy with having a home, family, and work so I choose to travel on occasion. Another belief of mine is that travel is a great lifetime of adventures. Traveling for a few years straight can lead to getting burned out after a year or two reducing the enjoyment of the next adventure. Getting burned out is something I have read from travelers who have been on the road for an extensive amount of time. I know, many of us would like to give it a try. There are many new experiences and adventures that I look forward to from completing the National Parks Monopoly Board to diving in the Great Barrier Reef. Keeping that travel excitement and anticipation is part of exploring a different area.
What did we enjoy the most continued? (The most humorous portion of this board)
Back into the car with seat belts on we begin looking for the exit to the ramp. As we started driving around we ended up in the same circle we took before and there happened to be an employee who had seen us pass for the second time. The route we were on did not exit the ramp so we went around again searching for exit signs without finding one and ended up back by that employee for a third round a very short time later. He motioned for us to stop and we complied. I rolled down my window and he asked if we were lost. I’m not sure what the most obvious clue was but he was more than willing to help. This particular gentleman spoke with a foreign accent which prompted me to answer yes. Only yes came out as “sei” which apparently took him by surprise. It was obvious to me and everybody else in the car that he was not from a Spanish speaking country which may be why he had such a quizzical look on his face. Or maybe it was the fact that I don’t resemble a person who speaks Spanish in anyway. My German/Swedish heritage might be a good reason for that as well as the fact the I maybe know five words in Spanish. After this helpful man took a quick step back, I quickly relinquished with a ‘sorry, I mean yes!’
He quickly explained to us how to exit the ramp and watched us drive away. As I looked back I noticed everyone in the car had a smile and was trying desperately not to laugh while he could see us. We drove around the parking ramp one more time, taking a turn that this nice employee had suggested and found our way to the exit. FREEDOM! We made it out of the airport grounds and on to our next destination. Talking or even thinking of this story continues to bring smiles to all of those in the car that day and gives us a memory that will bond us for life once again showing us why being Monopoly Travelers can be so much fun. Maybe you had to be there to really enjoy the humor.
I always enjoy exploring and experiencing new things so that is my favorite part of being a monopoly traveler. The Minnesota Zoo is a fun place to explore for the whole family. It was nice to see the new Minnesota Twins Stadium along with the new University of Minnesota Gopher Football Stadium. One of the highlights for the Children was the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden where there are sculptures on a grand scale so that the kids can climb on them and play around. We were fortunate to be able to take in a Vikings football game and see the legendary quarterback Brett Favre. Like him or not he still was and is an exciting quarterback to watch.
One of the more memorable events of this trip was getting the picture of National Car Rental. The location we choose was at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport in one of the parking ramps. Not that there was a big choice as the only other location in the Twin Cities is at another terminal of the airport although it may have been easier to access. While entering the airport grounds we followed the signs to the car rental businesses and found National Car Rental. Now keep in mind that at an airport car rental businesses are designed for travelers coming off of airplanes and not arriving by car so there really is no place to park if you are not in a rental car. Well, at least none that we found. Since this is the case we drove by the first time trying to figure out where we wanted to take the picture and drove out of that level of the parking ramp. We were able to drive around the ramp and back to the National Car location but this time we had to decide where to park to get out and take a picture.
Finally we found a spot between a yellow line and a barrier and quickly got out of the car heading towards a National Car Rental sign. I’m quite sure this was not a designated parking spot but we only needed a few minutes so hoped this would work and we would be back in our car before we got a ticket, or worse – had the car towed. On the way to the sign a helpful employee asked if we needed help. We responded a quick no and kept briskly walking towards the sign that was half way across the parking ramp from us. The pictures were quickly taken while other customers and staff gave us wondrous looks and we were off back to the car. Fortunately the customers that were waiting appeared to be weary travelers so didn’t really give us a second thought. Ahh success! We took care of the picture taking and the car was still were we left it without a ticket. Now that in itself was memorable but it gets even better.
The most challenging location to travel to was Ultra Wheels by First Team Sports. Apparently this company has been out of business for a few years now and I was finding very little information. After researching for a little while I came across a blog which explained that the company was no longer active. A small plug for blogs. I was able to find the old address and this became our picture spot to fulfill our traveling adventure in the twin cities. As you can see, GRACO now occupies this building.
There were a few other surprises that provided some challenges. The first was the Radisson Hotel St. Paul. Apparently this has now become a Crown Plaza Hotel. This required us to make a decision as to how to handle this type of situation. Do we take the picture in front of the Crown Plaza Hotel which use to be the Radisson Hotel St. Paul or do we find another Radisson Hotel (the closest one to that location)? It was determined that we would rather have the Radisson name for that board property instead of the location and since this is a business with a lot of locations another location would be possible. That was basically the same logic in deciding to use Target Corp instead of the Macy’s Minneapolis landmark store. This decision made it easier to decide what to do for another property on the board – National Car Rental. National Car Rental use to have regional office space in the twin cities which it no longer uses. In keeping with the rules we decided upon, we found another location still in use which turned out to be at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport and probably one of the most memorable locations for us to get a picture of on this edition.
Traveling the Twin Cities Edition of Monopoly would have been a great experience without all of these situations to adapt to. It is these decisions that make being a Monopoly Traveler an adventure. In addition to being an adventure, choosing to be a Monopoly Traveler in the twin cities provided some unrivaled family time that we can always look back on and share our memories of. By using a monopoly board to determine our destinations we have found some locations that we have not been to and will definitely return to. One in particular is the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. I have never been there and neither have our children but we enjoyed the time we spent together there and will return another time to take in a beautiful Minneapolis day.
People may look at us a little strangely when we tell them we are monopoly travelers but once you begin explaining why they usually begin to understand – Family togetherness, new experiences, adventures, and many memories to share!
This edition of Monopoly has been completed and provided a fun and interesting adventure. There are many memories with a number of discoveries to last us a lifetime confirming why we are Monopoly Travelers.
Why did we choose the Twin Cities Edition of Monopoly?
The twin cities is an area that we are somewhat familiar with as we have been in that area several times. We wanted to experience how difficult or easy it is to be a monopoly traveler in an area that we are familiar with and let us know how familiar we actually were with this area. Another reason for traveling the Twin Cities Edition was to help us find out what is required to travel other editions of monopoly in areas that we are not familiar with.
While I knew of virtually every location on the board, I have not been to many of these destinations and this provided an opportunity for us to experience places that were new to us. We had a great time exploring these areas along with revisiting places that we have not been to in awhile such as the Minnesota Zoo, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, the new Twins Stadium, and the new Guthrie Theater.
The Twin Cities Edition of Monopoly is obviously a promotional tool used to highlight some of the better known local businesses at least for 1997 when this edition was created. It was amazing to discover how many changes there have been in the Twin Cities since 1997. There were six properties that have changed names due to mergers or acquisitions and one property that has since gone out of business. These are the situations were research is essential in order to complete a board. In my opinion, deciding to skip a property because of a name change for some reason or other is not an option when traveling a board. Figuring out what happened and adapting to these changes are what makes being a Monopoly Traveler more of an adventure.
Some of the name changes were relatively easy to figure out such as Northwest Airlines and the Pillsbury Company. There have been numerous news stories highlighting Northwest’s merger with Delta Airlines and the Pillsbury Company being purchased by General Mills. Even finding out where to go for Dayton’s was not very difficult but deciding among a few different options took a few minutes. Dayton’s Corporation has become Target Corporation and the Dayton’s brand was ultimately changed to Macy’s so we had to decide if we wanted to find Target Corporation or Macy’s. As it turns out we visited both but took our picture in front of Target Corp’s Minneapolis headquarters since it is a Minnesota based business and the traveling adventure we were on was highlighting the twin cities. We walked by the old Dayton’s Minneapolis landmark retail store which is now a Macy’s landmark retail store.
Minnegasco has now become Center Point Energy and U.S. West is now Qwest and again these were not terribly difficult to research but without looking up these board properties, we would have not been able to complete this edition of Monopoly. The last business to change names was National City Bank. M& I Banks acquired National City Bank in Minneapolis which provided a little more of a challenge because upon first discovering National City was no longer in business I found PNC Banks had acquired National City Bank late in 2009. PNC Bank has no current presence in the twin cities so further research was needed. After looking a little harder I found that M & I Bank had acquired the Minneapolis location providing an opportunity to seek out that board property.
There are many different levels and commitments of travel from those who travel around the world 365 days a year to those who take a leisurely trip every couple of years just to take a break from work. We are a family with two children, pets, a house, and many of the same priorities as other families. Our priority of travel has been elevated since we made the decision to complete the National Parks Edition of Monopoly before our children graduate from high school. In order to accomplish this, our travel plans have been made through 2018 requiring one to two trips a year depending on the proximity of destinations to each other. The summer of 2011 brought plans to go to Acadia National Park. Upon returning from our winter adventure to Everglades National Park we discovered one of our dogs ailing from an unknown cause which would affect these plans.
After several visits to the Vet, it was determined that our dog – Shadow had either suffered a stroke or there was a brain tumor causing her medical issues. Only time or an expensive MRI would be able to confirm which of these was most likely. We opted for time since the MRI would only confirm one of these diagnoses and still would not give us an opportunity to correct any problems. I’m sure there are a number of people that are reading this and saying to themselves it’s only a dog. For many others it is understood that some pets become family members and provide similar emotional ties. This dog has been with us a year after Karen and I were married and moved into our house with us the day we bought it. We have known her longer than our children meaning that our children have known her all of their lives. We definitely had an emotional connection to this dog and wanted the best we could provide for her knowing that she will not be around forever.
As summer grew closer we were pretty sure Shadow’s medical problems were a result of a brain tumor as issues from a stroke would not likely worsen and her difficulties became more severe. How long this would persist was an unknown. Do we go ahead and plan our summer adventure? Who would be able to take care of our dog is she was still with us? Originally we began going through some preliminary plans which including going to the Statue of Liberty for the Independence Day celebration and then driving to Acadia National Park to explore another destination on our Monopoly Board. In order for this to work out we wanted to start making arrangements by the middle of May. As this date came we had to shift our priorities and the possibility of a summer trip dwindled because we were not willing to burden someone else with taking care of our sick dog and we were not willing to put her down just for our convenience. I was very frustrated because of the uncertainty surrounding our dog and knew that canceling this trip made the goal of visiting each national park on our board more challenging. Besides, what would the point of this site be if no one was traveling around a Monopoly Board?
Apparently there were other plans for us this 4th of July. We spent it at our house with the kids and dogs and as it turned out, this was the last day we got to spend with Shadow. She has passed now leaving us with only memories of her 13 years as our devoted pet. She is severely missed and we are learning to adapt to a life without her. Our other dog is also adapting to being the only dog now which she has never experienced. However, now we are able to travel again so the preliminary planning for Acadia National Park has begun. We’re looking at going on this adventure near the end of August. I’m really looking forward to experiencing another national park! I expect there will be several other challenges causing us to evaluate how high of a priority completing this Monopoly Board is as many other people need to do when unforeseen events interfere with already made plans to travel. These are the times when we get to find out how important certain things are to us.
Once reaching the visitor center for a second time it was off in search of moose. We were informed that moose were spotted more frequently on the other side of Rocky Mountain National Park so we continued on Trail Ridge Road towards the Continental Divide and Milner Pass. As we reached Milner Pass there were no signs of Moose. Stopping to take the requisite photo of the Continental Divided (where the water from one side of this divide heads towards the Atlantic Ocean and water from the other side goes to the Pacific Ocean) the question of how much further do we want to explore as the day was growing long and the trip back to our lodge would take some time. We decided to press on and fortunately we did because soon we came upon another area with a lot of cars which usually means there is something in the area to see.
Sure enough, there were two moose lying in the grass allowing us to take photos and just watch for awhile. Satisfied we turned back for the journey to Alpine Visitor Center and on to Estes Park. Along the way a cow moose was spotted. We turned the vehicle around quickly for another look and then turned our vehicle around again for another chance to observe this moose. We quickly came upon a parking area and quietly exited the vehicle in hopes of getting a closer look. This moose wasn’t willing to stand still as we crept closer to it but it didn’t move very far or fast away from us either. We got a few photos and it was gone. Retreating back to the vehicle satisfied with yet another moose spotting I realized we were standing in the middle of another colony of wild orchids. What a great, unexpected discovery as there were hundreds of orchids around us, many not yet in bloom but others that were allowing us the opportunity for another experience. Daylight would be waning soon so time to keep going.
There still was the matter of spotting a big horn sheep. This continued to be an elusive animal however the last ranger we spoke with mentioned the best location was near the entrance close to Estes Park. Perfect! As we neared this entrance there still were no big horn sheep to be seen. At the entrance station they post the last sighting of big horn sheep. It turned out that the sheep had not been sighted for a couple of days so we ended up not being able to see them. We were all tired from another long day of exploring so getting back to the lodge was acceptable and welcomed.
This adventure was an amazing experience of which I could do again. Another time I would like to be more prepared for long hikes into the mountains as there are numerous trails to explore. For those who are really adventurous, camping in the back country is an option allowing for hiking even further into the mountains and witnessing sights very few get to see. For two days we traveled and hiked a lot of miles and enjoyed many of the sites of RMNP. There is so much more to do and experience in this vast park that a couple of weeks would be quickly used up and provide a lifetime of memories. Rocky Mountain National Park has 3 webcams that update approximately every 10 minutes. I often will check out these webcams for a reminder of our visit and to see the changes throughout a day and throughout a month. There have been some great sunrises, sunsets, snowstorms, and rain as the weather at each of these camera locations can be different all at the same time. I have yet to see an animal caught on camera though. As much as I would like to go back to RMNP, I look forward to seeing some other great National Parks that we will enjoy just as much.
P.S. We did eventually find some big horn sheep near Mount Rushmore.
For the second day in Rocky Mountain National Park there were two ranger programs of interest and a few animals that had eluded us of which we wanted to find if possible – moose and big horn sheep. The first ranger program was at Lily Lake and highlighted wildflowers that were in bloom around the park. It was great to find out what some of these beautiful flowers where that we had been seeing while exploring different areas. Towards the end of the program our ranger mentioned where a few orchids could be found in bloom sending us off on a minor expedition to see if we could find one. After a short time walking there they were! These orchids were only visible to those that were looking and had an idea of where they were otherwise they are well adapted to the environment and somewhat difficult to spot. This stop at Lily Lake provided a great view of Longs Peak, the tallest peak in RMNP. Our next program of interest was again a 30 mile drive to another area in the park so off we went with enough time to stop for lunch.
This program highlighted elk and the habit necessary for them to survive. More great information about elk and their seasonal migrations along with what is being done at RMNP to keep the herd sizes at manageable sizes. Some of the controls included adding fencing to certain areas to allow plants re-grow and establish while keeping elk out reducing some of the food available. A short hike going through areas that elk like to feed and drink where a part of this program. This hike meandered into the fenced off area allowing us to see plants re-growing and how much grazing by the elk has diminished available food. After the program we inquired about the best places to see moose and big horn sheep allowing us to focus on certain places to provide the best chances at achieving this goal. With that information in hand we were off. Along the way there were a few waterfalls that we wanted to see which were somewhat larger than those we had already viewed.
One of these waterfalls was located on Old Fall River Road which is a one way gravel road that winds narrowly up the mountainside. There were times I was uncertain if this was a good idea as the road winds back and forth with the edge not far away. Drive carefully or you could be going over the side and taking a ride you were not prepared for. Just before this road there is a picnic area with a small trail that heads towards a very tall waterfall hidden deep in the trees. It is difficult to see the entire fall but still very beautiful for the parts that you can see. Continuing on to Old Fall River Road towards Chasm Falls, you begin to feel like you are in a secluded area as the road is gravel and narrow with trees sheltering much of the passageway. The only reminders of civilization are the number of other adventures traveling this road and paved trails at certain overlooks. This waterfall reminds of the power that water has as it moves and carves large boulders to shape the river. It can almost be imagined the millions of years it takes to really change this landscape just by the size and placement of certain boulders as you explore along this waterfall. As you continue this drive you wind up one side of the mountain and then cutback heading towards the other side of the mountain meandering slowly higher while catching a quick view of a snowfield higher up or a larger stream created from melting snow. Eventually this drive brings you above the tree line allowing you to see how far you have climbed on this winding old road and how close you have moved towards the top. Shortly after reaching the tree line, Alpine Visitor Center is back in view. This drive takes awhile but is well worth it if you can overcome the fear of driving so close to the edge of the road where the drop off could be 100’s of feet below and take in all that is around you.
While exploring the displays in Alpine Visitro Center, some other explorers entered telling park rangers that a Wolverine was spotted not that far away. I rushed outside in hopes of catching a glimpse of this rarely seen animal in RMNP without success. Not really knowing what a wolverine looks like I perused the displays until I spotted a photo of one. Listening to park rangers tell about wolverines was interesting and hearing their thoughts on why this one was wandering around proved fascinating. Their theory was this wolverine was looking for a mate and that if one was not found soon it would head further north out of Rocky Mountain National Park. While keeping an eye out in the area where the wolverine had recently been spotted we scanned the scenery where deep snow fields blended with areas of brown indicating where the snow had just retreated from a day or two earlier. Areas where the snow had melted several days before where already green as plants had begun there quick summer season with other plants not far away blooming. It was interesting to see this summer progression of the snow receding and giving way as life returned to the hillsides.
We decided to grab something to eat at the cafeteria located near the Alpine Visitor Center before proceeding on with our adventure. After a few moments of rest and eating we headed off to climb the Alpine Ridge Trail which would end up being the highest elevation we would reach during our time in RMNP. This was a short trail with a lot of climbing requiring us to move slowly as the elevation provides less oxygen making breathing more difficult. Park recommendations are to reach your summit by early afternoon as lighting becomes more likely later in the day so we were in a little bit of a hurry in order to avoid being at the top of this trail during the mid and late afternoon. Another great view of the mountains which surrounded us! From here you can see where the Colorado River begins its journey towards the Grand Canyon along with so many other mountain peaks. Heading back down towards our vehicle we spotted several dark clouds heading our way but we managed to get to the top and back down without experiencing lightning first hand at the top of a mountain.
On to find the trail that takes a spot on our National Parks Edition Monopoly Board – Flattop Mountain Trail. This required driving over 30 miles to Bear Lake to reach the trailhead leading to our targeted destination. During this drive there was once again incredible scenery from all of the flowers blooming along the roadside to rapidly flowing rivers. I found several types of flowers I would like to add to my yard someday. It is a little more difficult to create all of the snow melting into rivers in my yard so I just need to enjoy the photos and memories for now. Once Bear Lake was reached we headed for the trails and began ascending towards our objective. This was a short 2 mile hike with the intention of staying below the tree line so as to avoid any possible threat of lightning. As we reached Flattop Trail we took a few moments to rest and take in the surrounding of stones, trees, and the occasional critter wandering in the forest. It was starting to get late in the day and we were tired after all of our hiking and exploring so the decision was made to descend back to the car and return to the lodge for food and a good nights sleep.
There are a couple of National Parks on our Monopoly board that stand out to me as the places I am most eager to see. One of them was Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). I have enjoyed all of the national parks we have visited to this date but RMNP is so far my favorite national park. There are some great places yet to come so I expect this may not remain my top pick in the end but for now this is the park I think of first when talking about national parks. What makes this my favorite national park? The elk, moose, marmots, the tundra in bloom, picturesque snowcapped mountains, wild orchids, waterfalls, beautiful lakes and rivers, intriguing trails, and on and on and on… Does it appear as though I enjoyed our time here?
We entered Colorado from the plains of the Mid-west. The mountains continued to grow larger in the background until we were at the base of the Rocky Mountains beginning our ascension towards the top. Our climb towards the top started slowly at first and then quickly became steeper and steeper as we drove higher towards RMNP. Watching the trees and rocks all around us was mesmerizing complimented by the raging rapids from the snow melting higher in the mountains. After a short time we entered Estes Park where one of the entrances to Rocky Mountain National Park resides. We settled in at our lodging for the next couple of days and prepared to go exploring in the mountains for the next couple of days.
The next morning we grabbed some breakfast and headed out to continue our adventure. Upon entrance to RMNP we browsed over the activities available for the day and began our drive towards the Alpine Visitor Center. As we meandered along we came upon a traffic jam. Further inquiries declared there were a few elk rested in the area. Driving along a little further we spotted an elk. This one happened to be a bull with horns towering above his head completely covered in velvet indicating they were still developing. For us this was exciting as we have never seen a bull elk before. While visiting Wind Cave National Park we watched a heard of elk in the distance but there were no bulls visible in that heard. Spending a few moments we snapped a few pictures of the elk and enjoyed the surrounding landscape and then off towards the visitor center once again.
Our road trip to Alpine Visitor Center would have been much faster had there not been so many places to pull over and gaze in amazement and the snow covered peaks where the snow was melting. Streams of melted snow turned into rivers with beautiful waterfalls and violent rapids allowing us to get lost in these scenic moments and lose track of time. There were at least 4 stops off of Trail Ridge Road on the way to the visitor center each one capturing our interest and providing a unique look at these mountains. Along the way we encounter snow drifts that had covered this road weeks before. Some of them were at least 10 feet tall reminding us of the harsher times of year and the amazing feat required of animals and plants in order to survive this environment. At our last stop before reaching our destination a marmot appeared in and out of rocks while crawling around on the tundra which was full of plants displaying their beautiful flowers showing the attraction of this alpine terrain. Eventually we arrived at the visitor center where Lysa and Kristy began their journey towards another Junior Ranger Badge.