January 20, 2022

My Bucket List is Overflowing

Hey!  Didja miss me?!  I have been in Technology Hell, struggling with internet, modem, cell phone and wireless carrier issues for almost a month.   Each was having an impact on the others making this a frustrating, tail-chasing repair job of the grandest proportions.  Technology – the gift that keeps on giving in all kinds of wonderful and awful ways.  Just yesterday, I think I finally got the last of the problems cleared up and I’m hoping for clear sailing from here on in.

I want to get back to documenting our M&M trip – our travels to Minnesota and Michigan in 2015 – but, first, a comment Joe made (he blogs over at Easin’ Along) on Laurel and Eric’s blog (Raven & Chickadee) got me thinking about the current edition of our Bucket List.  It seems like the start of a new year might be a good time to review the ol’ list.  The photos in this post are of some of the Bucket List items Alan and I have been able to cross off our list over the years.

Yosemite National Park

Merriam-Webster defines “bucket list” as “a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying.”  I guess whether you consider this a cheerful definition or a depressing one depends on whether your outlook on life tends toward the glass being half full or half empty.  Actually, I never got that expression because, well, my logical mind says that half is half.  But, I digress.  Merriam-Webster says that “bucket list” falls into the top 6% of words in what they call “Look-up Popularity.”  Hmm.  That tells me that a lot of people are, at least, thinking about creating, updating or completing a list of adventures to be had before, um, kicking the bucket.  There are certainly a number of projects on my list that aren’t related to travel.  For example, organizing our photos (I think that must be a mandatory item because it seems to be on everyone’s list), compiling a cookbook of family recipes to pass down to the kids and renovating the kitchen.  But, for the purposes of today’s post, I’m just going to stick to the travel-related items.

Grand Teton National Park

You would think that I, being such a detail-oriented over-planner, would have our Bucket List written down or, better yet, saved in spreadsheet format accompanied by tremendously detailed notes.  You would be wrong.  Our Bucket List is all in my head and always has been.  I figure that, if it was written down anywhere, Alan might just take it upon himself to go somewhere without me and I couldn’t let that happen.  Honestly, the reason “our” Bucket List isn’t written down is that most of the time it’s not “our” list; it’s really “my” list.  Alan is kind of odd that way.  He’ll suggest a travel destination only on rare occasions, and has often told me that where we go doesn’t matter much to him since I always plan such great trips.  God bless that man!  Sometimes I actually have to force him to talk about vacation plans and help me make a few decisions.  Am I really that good?  Or is he really that odd?  I don’t know and I don’t care.  Both of us are pleased as punch with our travels and that’s all that matters.  (In case you’re counting, “pleased as punch” is the third nonsensical - at least to me - expression that I’ve included in this post and we’re only four paragraphs in.)  So, about that Bucket List . . .

Talk about odd . . . Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

Looking back on the sheer number of items Alan and I have been able to cross off our Bucket List, I have to admit that we’ve been extremely blessed.  We’ve always been hard workers and excellent planners, but we never would have been able to accomplish as much as we did without good jobs to fund our travels, the generous vacation policy of Alan’s former employer and the fact that our two kids proved to be exceptional travelers at young ages.

Cruising in Alaska

Many of the Bucket List items we’ve crossed off over the years have been National Parks and other public lands and natural locations – the oceans, mountains, lakes and rivers throughout the United States.  When Ryan and Kyra were at the ages most appropriate for enjoying outrageous amusement parks, we visited Disney World, Dollywood and Silver Dollar City.  We’ve traveled to Alaska twice as a family, combining railroad and cruise ship travel to explore parts of America’s “Last Frontier.”  You would think that, after traveling together for more than 40 years, Alan and I would have pretty much crossed off nearly every item on our Bucket List but, again, you would be wrong.

Bryce Canyon National Park

The main problem with a Bucket List – or, at least, with our Bucket List – is that it’s constantly evolving and never diminishing.  As soon as one item is eliminated, another destination (or more!) is added.  I suppose that’s the end result of reading other travel-related blogs, subscribing to newsletters from various states and just sitting on the front porch daydreaming.  Truth be told, that puts us in the arguably enviable position of looking forward to more and more adventures, so I guess it’s not really much of a problem after all.  However, crossing off items from our Bucket List has led to the necessity for another list – the “Return To List.”

Acadia National Park - most definitely on the Return To List

The curse of traveling to a spectacular destination is that your heart quickly falls in love with the destination itself and all of the wonderful opportunities and experiences it provides.  What happens when your Return To List exceeds your original Bucket List?  Is that good?  Or bad?  Or is it six of one and a half dozen of the other?  (That’s four nonsensical expressions.)  On one hand, when we travel to a new destination, we want to be dazzled, enthralled and inspired.  But, if we keep adding places to our Return To List, when are we going to finish crossing off the items remaining on our original Bucket List?  That is, of course, a rhetorical question.  Travelers have been struggling with this dilemma for ages and will continue to do so ad infinitum.

Jedediah Smith State Park, California

For us, managing our Bucket and Return To Lists comes down to this: fulfilling our hearts' desires.  (Now that is one expression that I really do get!)  Sometimes, we talk about a number of options for our upcoming adventures.  But, often, our hearts draw us back to a particular destination simply because we feel an inexplicable need to be there.

Arizona Beach State Recreation Site, Oregon

Our Bucket and Return To Lists are both exceptionally long.  I won’t share them in their entirety, but I’m happy to post some of the highlights.  Because I’m not a fan of those oh-so-subjective “top 10 lists” of anything, here they are – more than 10 and in no particular order:

Return To List

Crooked River State Park/Cumberland Island National Seashore (Georgia)

Glacier National Park (Montana)

The Colchester Causeway (Vermont)

Bryce National Park (Utah)

Alaska (see Bucket List)

Redwoods State and National Parks (California)

Pigeon Forge (Tennessee)

Zion National Park (Utah)

Route 66 (see Bucket List)

Acadia National Park (Maine)

Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota)

Custer State Park (South Dakota)

The entire Oregon Coast

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon (Arizona)

Bucket List

Driving tour of Alaska’s National Parks

The complete Route 66 (from start to finish, Illinois to California)

Big Bend National Park (Texas)

The Panhandle’s beaches (Florida)

White Sands National Monument (New Mexico)

Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)

New Orleans (Louisiana)

The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum (Oklahoma)

The Oregon Trail

The Pony Express Trail

The Great River Road

The Natchez Trace

Savannah (Georgia)

Great Basin National Park (Nevada)


Some of these destinations are already woven into travel plans that are currently in place or on the drawing board.  Others are waiting for just the right time to jump onto our calendar.  (That’s what happened with Idaho last year – it just worked.)  Still others remain in the back of my mind as daydreams that will eventually have their day in the sun (There’s another nonsensical expression for you.)

Zion National Park

Our Bucket and Return To Lists are more than just lists.  They’re repositories for our hopes and dreams, future adventures and past experiences, memories made and those waiting in the wings to be made.  My guess is that I won’t outlive our Bucket and Return To Lists, but that’s okay.  Those lists are part of me, reflections of who I am, what I’ve accomplished and what is yet to be.  The open road is still calling, and life is good.

“If you want your life to be a magnificent story, then begin by realizing that you are the author and every day you have the opportunity to write a new page.” (Mark Houlahan)

I have a feeling that there are more than a few fellow adventurers out there.  Please do feel free to share one or more items from your own Bucket List with the rest of us!  My heartfelt thanks to Joe for providing the much appreciated food for thought!



  1. Better get to work on the bucket list before you start on the "return" list. We have been surprised (why, I don't know) that the onset of old age and the infernal, accompanying health issues tend to dampen the enthusiasm that we thought would never wane. It's been a tough year and, hopefully, our spirit of adventure will rekindle. I don't share this to dampen the blanket, but it seems, unfortunately, that a slowdown in wanderlust is an inevitability, and its onset is absolutely unpredictable. Go! Go now! Big Bend, huh? Now you're talkin'. We're only a few hundred miles from there, and now would be a good time to go. Springtime is too late--it gets hotter than the hinges of hell in the summertime. We're going back this winter. Search on it in P&M; it will wet your whistle and, with your penchant for seeking out those things usually missed by the sweaty masses, your quest will be more than rewarded. Thanks for another enjoyable missive, as usual.

    1. I appreciate your frank and sincere comments, Mike. Alan and I have talked about the inevitability of a travel slow down whether due to a change in inclination, health or ability. I'm in your Go Now camp because one of my standard mantras has always been, "If not now, when?" - a question that is always at the back of my mind. We've been trimming our business commitments to simplify our lives, so we'll see how that goes.

      As for Big Bend in the winter, while I don't disagree that it's a great time to visit, that would be nearly impossible for us - no matter how much we want to meet up with you and Sandy! We live on the side of a small mountain, and the travel trailer pad is next to the boat garage. Alan backs the trailer up the driveway, across the front lawn, around a bend (with a drop off on the driver's side), and up a hill to its pad. Once it snows, we can't get it out (or we can't get it home) until spring. Even if the track is plowed and the truck is in four wheel drive, the potential for sliding around the bend and over the drop off makes moving the trailer too risky a proposition. Before you make any comments about where we live, let me remind you that we enjoy pleasant temps and cool mountain air all summer long. Just sayin' . . . Stay well, my friend!

    2. Kudos to Alan for his driving (backing?) prowess. I'm impressed! Big Bend will still be okay when the spring thaw comes, but don't dawdle!. One day, I'm sure, we will meet!

    3. Yes, with winter travel not an option, we were thinking spring or fall would be out best bets. (I have taken your complaints about summer's heat in your beloved state of Texas to heart). I have no doubt that our paths will cross one day, Mike. You and Sandy are on our Bucket List, and I have a feeling that you'll be moved to the Return To List after we meet!

  2. You have a couple of terrific lists! I wish I enjoyed planning more. My husband is good about going where ever and not complaining if one of my picks (destination or accommodations) is a bummer. But, I still find the whole process nerve-racking. I'm glad you got all your tech headaches fixed, I know how frustrating that can be.

    1. Tech is still a bad word in our house this week, Janis, but at least it appears that all of our troubles are behind us. Fingers crossed on that. As for planning, I think people's brains just work in different ways, and what one person enjoys can be excruciating for another. Planning is almost like a game to me; trying to make the pieces of a trip all fit together is like working a jigsaw puzzle. When I see a plan come together, it's just magical and I can't wait to hit the road!

  3. Mary,
    Great pictures! We have some of the same items on our return list (Acadia, Zion) and hope to get to them before the bucket empties. As for when we "hang it up", I can't say and our motto remains "Do as much as we can...while we still can!" I loved seeing your list on paper. BTW: If you don't get to White Sands, you really haven't missed much. Give it a day at most. Joe

    1. Thanks for your take on White Sands, Joe - I'll keep that in mind. I think you and Helen have a great motto and, as evidenced by your blog posts, the two of you have been hugely successful in packing tons of fun into each one of your trips. So far, our wanderlust has shown no signs of waning and we have a number of adventures in the queue. Here's to enjoying every mile!

  4. I love this post! We have the exact same problem of our bucket list never diminishing. As you said, as soon as we cross something off, it often gets put right back onto the list. And we keep discovering more places that we want to go! Isn't it wonderful, though, that we have the desire to experience so much of life, and the ability to do so?
    I enthusiastically support your bucket list items of Big Bend, New Orleans, Savannah, Great Basin, and of course, the Florida Panhandle. :-) Our four-month trip this summer will fulfill our bucket list items of Michigan/Wisconsin/Minnesota. Still on the list is the Canadian Rockies, Glacier, and a trip to Quebec to see the beluga whales (among many other desires!). Happy dreaming, and happy travels!

    1. Laurel, I can't tell you how many times I've commented to Alan about how fortunate we are to be able to indulge our wanderlust as often as we do. Life on the road is magical - so much to see, so much to do! Thanks for the reassuring thumbs up on those Bucket List items. I'd love to visit the Canadian Rockies, too, but I think we'll need to wait a bit on that trip as there are business commitments that make it difficult for us to travel for an extended period of time in the summer. I'll be looking forward to your reports from the road during your M/W/M journey - beautiful states in which to spend your summer months!

  5. Here from Frugal Girl because ... travel! And as a native Michigander, I'm interested to hear what you have to say about our state. Looking forward to reading more about where you have been. We are always looking for different location ideas for our trips.

    1. Welcome, Kris! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. We LOVED Michigan!!! I don't think we were halfway home and we were already vowing to return to really do the state justice. We have an extended trip planned there, aiming for 2023. And now I have an inside source - yay! Thanks for checking out the blog. Come back often to visit and feel free to peruse the archives for some travel ideas. After I finish documenting our trip to Minnesota and Michigan, I'll be starting on our 2017 West Coast National Parks cross-country trip. It was amazing, if I do say so myself!


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