https://southernwestvirginia.blogspot.com/2013/12/oh-canada-british-columbia-moose-madness.html is the post about my getting us our moose), we have been talking and dreaming about doing an elk hunt! That moose provided us with years of THE best meat I think I've ever eaten in my life; we both love elk, caribou, and other delicious game, and Dan, who hunted extensively in Alaska, Canada, Virginia, and other places, has been wanting to do an elk hunt for decades. Although our part of West Virginia, like many other places around the nation, was once Elk Country, (our inn, the Elkhorn Inn, is named for Elkhorn Creek, the great wild trout stream which runs behind our building, and the town of Elkhorn in 5 minutes down the road from us...), the elk population in our area became basically nonexistent many years ago. Elk have recently been re-introduced to West Virginia, but it will be many years before they are huntable again. Elk were successfully re-introduced into Kentucky, just across the border, however, and hunts there are now possible, and so every spring we have plunked down $20 for two elk tag raffle tickets from the State of Kentucky Dept. of Fish & Wildlife: https://fw.ky.gov/Hunt/Pages/How-to-Enter-the-Kentucky-Elk-Hunt-Drawing.aspx, in the hope of winning at least one hunt there- and every year so far we've been disappointed. Elk hunts are usually wildly expensive, especially “bull” hunts for hunters who primarily want a “rack” for display- bull elk hunts are often in the $20,000 range and up! But we are not trophy hunters at all- we are meat hunters: we wanted to do a “fill the freezer” rifle elk hunt, and cow elk hunts are often much cheaper, as cows don't have a rack- and the meat is more tender, as well. As I learned from all my “Googling” and internet research (I now know enough about elk hunting to be seriously dangerous, LOL), elk hunting, which is often thought to be primarily in western states such as Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Nebraska, and Colorado, can be done in many states (https://metallens.com/elk-hunting-states/), but it isn't “just a hobby”, like, say, deer hunting- it's an absolute passion and an all-consuming lifestyle for many- especially bow hunters! There are many websites and forums devoted specifically to elk hunting, as well as numerous Facebook pages, YouTube videos, online courses, etc. One great (and free) elk hunting course is available online on the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website: “Elk Hunting University”: https://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/EHU-CH2-L01.aspx
Next: First stop: Kentucky and the Distillery Trail!
Road Trip Tips:
Use your hotel point credit cards to accrue points- and use them! Don't let them sit there until they expire!! We are primarily loyal to Hilton properties (Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn, Embassy Suites, etc.), and IHG (Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Intercontinental, etc.) at this time, as we have enjoyed many years of using their frequent guest programs and credit cards for free hotel stays all over the world, as well as throughout the USA, and have credit cards for both, which allow us to accrue points even when we're not traveling. Hotel-branded credit cards often give sign-up bonuses, too: the American Express Hilton card gave us a sign up bonus of 100,000 Hilton Honors points, which covered 5 nights of hotels rooms on this trip! We also used points we had accrued on our Capital One credit card for two lodgings in Colorado: a fine, “boutique” hotel in Denver, and a lovely B&B in Grand Junction.
As you plan your trip (I use http://www.mapquest.com, and I make an old fashioned "calendar chart" on paper with a pen, Luddite that I am), look up the places where you will be stopping online, and do internet searches for unique, independent lodgings, such as bed-and-breakfasts, historic inns, hot spring hotels, etc., as well as cool things to see and do. We stayed at two hot spring hotels in Colorado, as well as a lovely B&B. TripAdvisor, airbnb, and many other sites list unique lodgings. One of the sites I love to peruse is “Roadside America”: https://www.roadsideamerica.com/ which has tons of cool, and “off-the-beaten-path” things to see in every state! TripAdvisor and Yelp are great for finding attractions and restaurants on the road. State and city tourism websites are excellent sources, as well, and many states have winery, brewery, and distillery websites (Distillery Trail is a good one, too: https://www.distillerytrail.com/) and maps, as well as special pages and sites for music, the arts, outdoor activities, history, etc. Researching your trip takes time, but this really is The Fun Part- you basically start enjoying your trip the minute you start planning it!
Have TWO map apps on your cell phone. One for the route to where you are headed that day (such as your lodging), and one to find cool stuff along the way, such as historic sites, museums, wineries, distilleries, breweries and great restaurants! While Dan drives, I “ride shotgun” and hunt for cool things to see and do on my iPhone!
Take “old-school” paper maps of where you will be going, and paper copies of all your hotel reservation confirmations, etc. Do this even if you have “everything” on your cellphone. You WILL find yourself in places with no cell phone reception and no internet access. Trust me!
Take a notebook or a journal, and a pen. Trust me!
Have at least $200 in cash, as well as credit cards. While paying by credit card is often the best bet, there are times when it isn't, or isn't even possible, and you will want and need cash for tolls, tips, parking meters, and other things. Trust me!
Get AAA coverage for your vehicle, (this is non-negotiable as far as we are concerned), and then get the free AAA Guide Books for all the states you will be traveling through. They have great information, list excellent restaurants, and provide hotel ratings and details, such as if the hotel has an electric outlet for plugging in a freezer... something that even hotel staff don't often know! The AAA books were absolutely indispensable for our Canadian Road Trip, as our GPS surprised us and didn't work in Canada! Many hotels and attractions also give discounts for AAA members, as well. Whenever we pay for something I always as if they have a discount for seniors, military, or AAA members- and most do!
In addition to your toiletries, vitamins, medications, etc., buy, and take with you, every OTC (over the counter) medication you think you Might possibly want or need, such as Pepto-Bismol, Imodium, Senokot, Advil, Benadryl, iodine, tea tree oil, etc., as well as bandages, duct tape (a MUST for any road trip!), a sewing kit, etc. That way you won't need any of it. :-)
Given the COVID situation and the constantly changing rules and regulations, openings, and closings, CALL every place you want to go, and speak to a Real Person before you book! Do NOT rely on website information, as many websites are not being kept updated, and the information on them is often inaccurate.
My best Travel Beauty Tip is to use the sugar packets you will find everywhere in lieu of sugar scrub! Sugar is an excellent and gentle exfoliator, and it's one less thing to pack!
Buy things you can eat and drink as souvenirs to take home. That way you can extend the fun of your trip by eating and drinking them, remembering all the cool stuff you did while gaining weight. LOL Wine from wineries, booze from distilleries, local honey, oils, hot sauces, condiments, candies... you get the idea! My other favorite souvenirs are books, and locally made art and crafts, especially by artists and craftspeople we meet and get to know...
Yes, you can do a road trip wearing a pair of sweatpants, a fleece, and booties every day, but that's no fun! Take (and wear) the nice clothes you rarely get to wear, and makeup, and have some fun dressing up for dinner- and reminding each other of why you fell for each other in the first place! :-)
Once you get home, take the time to review all the wonderful places you've been, and all the great things you've done, eaten, drank, or seen on TripAdvisor, Yelp, and other review sites. As we know, having an historic inn in West Virginia for 18 years, great reviews can truly help businesses, especially small businesses, many of which are literally struggling now simply to keep their doors open. Do NOT bother to review places you didn't enjoy. Let it go! If we have a problem somewhere, we take it up with the manager or owner of the property right then and there, and almost always get it resolved. If not, when we get home I contact the owner in writing, and again, almost always get the issue resolved. For that reason, I have well over 100 reviews on Trip Advisor and they are all 4 and 5-star ones, with photos, to prove we really did the things we reviewed!
Travel with an open mind and as few preconceived notions as possible, remain flexible and optimistic, don't live in fear or sweat the small stuff, and- most importantly- HAVE FUN! Once you hit 50, almost everything you do seems like a “bucket list” event, so we try to glean as much fun and joy as possible from all our trips!