Riverside Motel

If you have ever traveled First Street in Gallipolis, Ohio, you likely have driven past this sign. It’s outside the Riverside Motel which, as the name promises, is just across the street from the river.

I think it’s darling and always look for it when traveling by. Modern advertising and signs err on the side of boring so cool pieces like this stand out from the pack and are just fun to see.

That is all, friends. I just wanted you to see this creative sign and hope you enjoy it as I do. Have a great day!

Reminiscing About Arches

As winter begins to wind down and adventure season dawns before us, my mind is wandering to some favorite past trips. This is what I do when I’m itching to travel but not able to go just yet.

The Wandering Canadians’ account of their visit to Utah and Arches National Park made me nostalgic for the glorious week I spent wandering through that area with my western adventure friend. That was back in 2018 and still stands up in my memory as one of my best trips ever.

This place is drastically different from my Ohio home. The red rocks, wide open skies and desert climate are like the surface of the moon compared to the lush, green hills of home. Here in Ohio, forests grow thick and tall. In Arches, the trees are small and gnarled curiosities that have fought to survive each passing year. Arches features spires, giant stone arches, balanced rocks and monoliths.

Maybe it’s the drastic difference in landscape that makes it so appealing. When you find something growing here like a cactus flower, a tree or an insect, it seems so miraculous that anything can survive in the sand and heat of this place.

This is why we travel – to understand the world beyond our daily reach and to better appreciate the places where we do live. It encourages us to ask questions and drives us to seek answers about the world and ourselves.

Traveling feeds a curious mind and a wandering soul. My feet itch just thinking about it!

Solo Travel 101

Traveling with a companion is wonderful but there’s something special about solo travel. People tend to use the word brave when they learn that you travel alone and it always surprises me. In fact, I’m a little taken aback that someone would think me brave because I can function on a road trip without someone else in the car.

If you can take yourself to the grocery store, chances are you have the life skills needed to take a road trip, check into a hotel and find your way around a new town. Google and phone navigation apps make mastering a new place as easy as can be.

Today, I want to share some ideas on how a beginner can travel solo.

1. Start Close To Home – Before you plan a big trip, start by being a solo traveler in your own backyard. You don’t want your first adventure alone to be to another country where they don’t speak English. Start somewhere easy.

Find a tourist attraction like a museum or a historic home in a neighboring town and take a tour. Eat alone in a cafe you’ve never been to. See how it feels to be a tourist in an environment that feels comfortable.

If I were going to experiment with solo travel for the first time, I would choose a place like Marietta, Ohio (pictured). It’s just a couple of hours from home, has lots of small town charm plus history, museums and some neat restaurants. Look for a place that has lots to do so it’s easy to stay entertained.

Someone once told me they would be terrified to eat alone in a restaurant or to even sit alone in a movie theater. The very idea of all that they are missing made me sad. The movie is a no brainer to me. Splurge on the extra butter and get there early so you can stake out your favorite seat. Sit back and enjoy!

Restaurants are admittedly harder. I often have something to do. It’s rare to catch me without a book or a to do list of some kind. There’s no shame in that. However, I have been known to just sit and eat and people watch and enjoy my meal. Look around you. People are so absorbed in their phones and conversations they don’t care what you do.

2. Plan….. or Don’t – Maybe you would be more comfortable with reservations and an intiniary to define your trip. Just remember, the best thing about solo travel is that you don’t have to plan around someone else. In fact, you don’t have to plan at all.

Read that again. You get to do as you please.

I have booked multiple nights in a hotel only to learn that I was ready to go after one day. I have had some of the best meals by randomly choosing a place because I liked the awning out front. I have awakened early by chance and decided to hit the road in the dark with a McDonald’s breakfast sandwich so I could watch the sunrise from the next town. Flexibility is a tremendous perk to solo travel because you can follow a whim instead of a plan and without worry for someone else’s needs.

3. Find The Unusual – I cringe when someone tells me they want to go on “a Brandi Adventure.” It’s a compliment but the very notion stresses me out. When I have someone else in the car, I feel pressure to entertain them, to keep them comfortable and fed. I get distracted with conversation and am not prepared to slam on the breaks for a quick turn because something about a road looks interesting. When you are able to be in tune with a whim, well, that’s where the magic happens. It’s where the fun starts. Don’t be afraid of the fun.

If you see a building with cool architecture, get a closer look. Park the car and enjoy a town on foot. Read the historic markers, track down the restaurant with the best pie, look around the museum, talk to strangers. Find out what makes a place special. Find out what makes it tick.

4. Talk To People – Ask a local for lunch recommendations. Talk to a museum security guard about the artifact they like best. This is actually my favorite thing to do. I got to see the only DaVinci painting on public display in America because a security guard recommended it. Strike up a conversation with a shopkeeper and ask about the town, the business, the broach they’re wearing. Anything. If you show a little interest in people, they typically are happy to share a story and a laugh. I have gotten the best tips and the most enriching interactions out of simply showing interest in someone’s opinions or stories.

5. Be Safe And Smart – Talk to strangers but don’t be too free with information. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t take chances. Do a little research so that you’re informed when choosing your hotel. At least google the hotel and the neighborhood to see if it’s a safe area. For example, I booked a budget hotel in Jasper, Indiana a few years ago. I don’t recall which one but it would be easy to find. I got to my room and looked out the window to see a very large group of extremely spirited bikers pulling into the parking lot across the street. It was a jail. No one mentioned in the hotel reviews that there was a jail across the street. I might have chosen someplace else had I known. I learned from this experience.

When I travel alone, I like to scope out the hotel before dark. Ideally, I’m in my room at dusk but that doesn’t always work well so be strategic about parking. Let me tell you, after a long day of adventuring, it feels positively luxurious to take a hot shower and sit in the middle of a soft king bed to eat Chinese food while watching bad tv.

Most of all, be smart and listen to your gut. If something feels off, get out. Don’t leave food or drink or bags unattended. Don’t flash a lot of cash or anything valuable and do your best to blend in with the crowd. Don’t look like a tourist or look lost. Walk with purpose, even if that purpose is to duck into a store to ask directions and regroup.

Most tourist attractions don’t allow weapons but it’s smart to carry something where you can – pepper spray, a taser, a small handgun or a knife might be appropriate options for you. Years ago, when I was a young reporter, I had a state trooper advise carrying a large Maglite flashlight. These metal flashlights, when loaded with batteries, are heavy and double as a nice club in a pinch.

I wrote a lot about safety because that’s the part everyone asks about. But guys, please note that this is advice I would offer for any outing, even just a day of shopping in your own town. You can encounter trouble anywhere.

Solo adventuring can be the most rewarding, the most fun, the most liberating experience of your lifetime. Take control. Don’t let fear hold you back.

Go forth and adventure. Most of all, have fun!

First 2023 Adventure Day

Yesterday brought a break in the No Spend Challenge for a little Adventure Day. I intended to stay home and use the time to do a couple of projects, get some rest and read. But the forecast for sunshine and 41 degrees was simply too tempting to ignore.

Instead, I set off early and headed to Dayton to hike at Aullwood Audubon where I visited the trolls or the forest giants, depending on what you call them. It was 21 degrees and the weather app said it felt like fifteen but I was so happy to be in nature I did not care.

Then I hit up the Waco Air Museum in Troy.

And, I needed lunch so I found a fantastic little diner nearby. It was cramped and busy so my pictures are all awful but the food was delish and I really liked it there. I will tell you all about it soon.

And I mostly window shopped at Antiques Village but did score a couple of good deals. This is one of my favorite antique malls so I couldn’t leave town without a stroll through.

It’s funny because I was so happy at home and focusing on my January No Spend Challenge that I never felt deprived. However, this day that was heavy on experiences and light on spending was just what I needed. I felt more like myself than I have in a long time.

It was a long day but I would have stayed out longer. We are probably lucky that I didn’t continue West when I found myself on the National Road. Don’t think I didn’t contemplate running away from home to the great state of Indiana!

Along the way, I chatted with people, looked at some interesting things and even saw a mink in the wild. So check back to hear more and to see more pictures!

The Promise Of A Journey

Is there anything more exciting than the promise of a journey? While road trips are my preferred mode of travel, I’m dying to try train travel.

How great would it be to avoid traffic and to keep zipping down the track without need to pull over for lunch, restroom breaks or a stretch of the legs?

For now, I’ll be happy with my road trips and dream of this adventure ahead!

Pizza And Sweets At Farinella’s

Farinella’s is a small artisanal bakery and pizzeria that feels both fresh and modern and also like it has been there for generations. We were seeking shelter and a place to rest during a rain shower after a stroll through Central Park. This place was nearby.

It’s a cozy spot with just a few small tables and a robust grab and go business. Most customers were just picking up a slice to go. But I was glad to dwell a while with friends, warm and dry. We had a table in the window, a terrific vantage point for watching the world go by.

The staff was friendly, helpful and eager to answer questions despite being busy.

We started with pastries and stayed there long enough we tried the pizza too. It was a delicious treat, especially with a cold Diet Coke to wash it down.

Note that they do have a clean restroom for customers, an important thing to know in a city with limited public restroom access. Get their history and view the menu at their website.