A Good Time for Camp NaNoWriMo

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

I’ve participated in 10 NaNoWriMo events in Novembers, winning 9 of them. And I’ve often thought of participating in the other events throughout the year, specifically the April Camp NaNo. But I’ve just not made time for it.

This year, thanks to the lock-downs and quarantines, it seems like the perfect time to dedicate my April to doing another NaNo project. Especially as I have some big disappointments in my creative house right now.

This year, I am the same age that my grandmother, Jerrie Mock, was when she became the first woman to fly around the world. April 17 is the anniversary of her landing that flight. I was supposed to take my first flying lesson that day in honor of her dedication, spirit, and the wonder of it all. But with COVID-19 shut-downs, that probably won’t be happening.

I do have ideas for books to write about my grandmother, however, so I’m finding a different creative way of honoring her – through writing those during Camp NaNoWriMo, while I’m stuck indoors so much.

If you’ve got a creative project you’ve been putting off for a while, I encourage you to take advantage of this strange time in our world. Use these times to create and bring joy into the world through those long-term dreams of writing a novel, a new podcast, or whatever else you’ve got to offer to the world.

Family snapshot of Jerrie in one of her airplanes

The Jerrie Mock Podcast Goes Live Today

I’ll let the podcast do most of the talking, but for anyone who’s intrigued by history, aviation, women making history, or travel, you’ll love the story of my grandmother, Jerrie Mock, first woman to fly around the world.

Join us on her 29+ day flight starting in Columbus, Ohio, making her way around the globe, having crazy adventures, meeting unique people, and being a novelty wherever she went in 1964.

And yes, she did it in a skirt and heels.

Jerrie Mock, minutes before taking off on her round-the-world flight in 1964

As each day of the journey unfolds, a new mini episode will be released, telling of her adventures. Today, we start with the moments leading up to her record-taking flight.

All episodes will be posted on the Jerrie Mock Podcast page on this site.

25 Budget-Friendly Destinations for 2020

I love reading Fodor’s Go List with 52 destinations each year. It’s a great selection of locations based on trends, travel ideals, significant events – think centennials, celebrations, etc. – and other criteria, and gives people some great ideas on where to go throughout the present year.

Well, this year, since I’m doing a year of travel – hitting that 52+ country list in my own travels – I thought I’d like to build my own “Go list” for the year, even if I’m not visiting everywhere on it myself.

My list is based on similar criteria as Fodor’s, except I’m only going for budget-friendly travel destinations – somewhat, of course, based on where in the world you live.

Where in the World You Should Consider Traveling to in 2020

Every location and destination is someplace I love, would love to see, or otherwise heavily recommend visiting, with reasons given as to why you should.

Hopefully, paired with some travel and budgeting tips I’ll supply in the next several weeks, you’ll be able to build your own itinerary for the year on a budget that won’t bankrupt your piggy too badly.

Look for longer posts for each of the locations as the year passes. These posts will include a more in-depth look at each location, the best ways to get there, things to do while visiting, how to give back to the community as you visit, and more.

For now, let’s take a brief look at each spot.

Latin America

Antigua – Guatemala

The Arch in Antigua. Image by Carlos Adampol Galindo on Flickr

Filled with historical sites, churches, and fascinating history, while being surrounded with volcanoes and mountains. It’s a pretty awesome spot.

El Yunque National Forest – Puerto Rico

La Mina Falls, image by Ron Kroetz on Flickr

Come here for some amazing hiking and wandering, waterfall spotting, and more.

Santo Domingo – Dominican Republic

Image by sergejf on Pixabay

If you’re interested in history, ruins, and fascinating cities, you’ll love this Caribbean spot.

United States

Yosemite National Park, California

Image by tspdave on Pixabay

Who wouldn’t want these kinds of views on a hike?

Zion National Park, Nevada – United States

Image by InfiniteThought on Pixabay

Zion offers you the opportunity to drive down into an immense canyon. From down in, you can hike, run, camp, or climb.

Des Moines, Iowa – United States

Image by 2564368 on Pixabay

An unexpected delight in the middle of nowhere, Des Moined seriously has some awesome urban experiences.

Big Bend National Park, Texas – United States

Image by tpsdave on Pixabay

Beautiful scenery by day, dark skies by night. The perfect combo for outdoor lovers who want to see the Milky Way.

Keystone, South Dakota – United States

Image by TheDigitalArtist on Pixabay

From Keystone, visit Mt. Rushmore and tons of state parks that are completely awesome for any outdoor interests.

Missoula, Montana – United States

Image by Wesley Fryer on Flickr

It may seem random, but Missoula has some amazing things to offer visitors who love the outdoors, shopping, and more.


Dublin – Ireland

Image by Wesley Fryer on Pixabay

Why wouldn’t you want to find some shamrocks and sausage rolls?

The Isle of Arran – Scotland – United Kingdom

Image by shilmar on Pixabay

The Isle of Arran is one of my absolute favorite places in the world. Amazing hiking, waterfalls, animal sightings, and more.

Bucharest – Romania

Image by Florin Stanciu on Flickr

This amazing city offers amazing history, tasty food, beautiful architecture, and intriguing entertainment.

Santa Maria Island – Azores

Image by SMASOLTRAV on Pixabay

WThis stunning island off the coast of Portugal offers amazing cuisine, scenery, outdoor sports, and more.

Setenil De Las Bodegas

Image by waldomiguez on Pixabay

This city combines life under a rock with beautiful Spanish countryside.

Guernsey, England – United Kingdom

Image by bobbeeez on Pixabay

An English island getaway filled with World War II history, sheep, and beautiful people.

Gearrannan – Scotland – United Kingdom

Image by rachinmanila on Pixabay

For an amazing, historical experience in a once-abandoned village in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.


Image by joannaaustin on Pixabay

One of the smallest countries in Europe, Andorra offers amazing sight-seeing, hiking, mountain climbing, exploration, shopping, and more.

Brighton – England – United Kingdom

Image by 921563 on Pixabay

A charming, urban area of England with loads to do while taking it as as easy as you like. In other words, a spot for an actual vacation.

Warsaw – Poland

Image by Websi on Pixabay

Here, history comes to life from so many periods and cultures. Take a guided tour or wander on your own. The whole place is fascinating.

Prague – Czech Republic

Image by Julius_Silver on Pixabay

Pretty much everywhere in Europe is loaded with history. Prague isn’t any different. But nearby you’ll also find some strange and unusual things worth visiting for, especially if you’ve got a thing for the macabre.


Hobart, Tasmania – Australia

Image by carley05 on Pixabay

Hobart’s my favorite city in Australia. It’s got this amazing homey “brown” feeling to it that makes it so comfortable and safe. And nearby, there are mountains, nature preserves, animal sanctuaries, a temperate rain forest, and Alpine territory within a couple hours. Just watch out for the kebabs in the city. They taste amazing, but they were the only thing that’s ever given me food poisoning before.

Darwin, Northern Territory – Australia

Image by Patjosse on Pixabay

Another one of my favorite spots in Australia is Darwin. The city is intriguing, filled with art, museums, historical sites (WWII anyone?), and wildlife. Plus, it’s within an hour or two of Litchfield National Park with an easy smooth drive for someone not used to driving on the left side of the road. Plus, you might just spot some sugar gliders in the wild in the area.


Casablanca – Morocco

Image by postcardtrip on Pixabay

This was one of my grandmother’s favorite spots on her journey around the world. It’s a truly fascinating city with history, rich colors, fascinating culture, and tremendous beauty.


Living Root Bridges, Various Villages – India

Image by Surajram Kumaravel on Flickr

There are many of these fascinating structures made from living trees. They’re primarily in more remote areas of India where the bridges are needed for daily travel. And they’re well worth the hike getting there.

Da Nong – Vietnam

Image by austinjojoe on Pixabay

The whole region is truly fascinating and beautiful. You can explore and shop, dine out for not a whole lot, and experience things you’ve never seen or done before. And, while you’re in the area, you can take a long cable car over the mountains up to the famous Golden Bridge and the French provincial theme park while you’re around.

Get Your Suitcase Ready

So, whether you’re going to make it to international spots or more local sites, you can do any of these for not a whole lot of money. Look for individual posts coming up about each spot, with stories on what to do, how to get there, what kind of budget you’ll need, and more.

The Most Haunted Places of Chicago: Tour Guide Style

Welcome to the wild and woolly Windy City, where the town takes a nickname for all the blustering windbags and conveniently happens to have that lake effect wind.

We’ll be taking a brief tour through some of the creepiest, weirdest, and most haunted places of the city, as we pull that pea coat closer and huddle as we walk.

First off, let’s pause at the Chicago River and get a bit colder as we talk through three events and locations.

The Eastland Disaster

The Western Electric Company was doing a good thing: a giant family picnic for the whole of the company. Unfortunately, they weren’t so great at selecting a company for their excursion to Michigan City, Indiana however, because the Eastland was hired.

This boat was already notorious for not being in the best of shape, but the crew upped the ante by removing the ballast so that they could cram in even more passengers on that fateful morning of July 24, 1915.

The ship began to list within a couple of minutes of loading. And by the time they were between the LaSalle and Clark Street bridges – less than 10 minutes after departure – disaster was upon them.

Nearly 850 people, including 21 entire families, perished that day.

So, of course, the river banks and many of the temporary morgues are haunted. The home of Harpo Studios, for example, has had tons of reports of creepy happenings. Old -imey music playing in hallways, children screaming, hundreds of footsteps marching the empty halls. Just an average day there.

Marina City


Next, let’s look at these corncob looking buildings side-by-side at the river. The idea behind these buildings was to create a city within the two buildings, to appeal to and keep folks from moving out to the suburbs. They’ve got stores, restaurants, groceries, and more in these two buildings, to keep everything self-contained.

But when construction on these buildings began in 1961, a ton of weird and terrifying things started happening.

  • 1961 – Three workers were killed when scaffold plummeted 43 stories
  • 1961 – Seven men were injured when a workers’ elevator dropped suddenly
  • 1962 – William Jones, working on the 40th floor had a dizzy spell and plunged to State Street Bridge
  • 1966 – The body of Roy Holland was found in his apartment after 3 weeks and 3 suicide notes
  • 1967 – June Fleck leaped from her fiancé’s 50th-floor apartment shortly before the wedding
  • 1969 – A retired government worker shot his 88-year-old mother and then himself
  • 1972 – Gloria Kirkpatrick – manager at the Marina City Theater – was stabbed to death outside the building
  • 1973 – Sandra Easton leaped to her death from the 52nd floor and crashed through the canvas on the now Smith & Wollensky restaurant
  • 1976 – Kenneth Parvin fell from the 57th floor and landed between the two towers

And the craziest part? Every single one of these incidents is associated with the East Tower, and not the West.

So, what’s our lesson here, folks? If you move to Marina City, go West!

The Chicago House of Blues

Our third point of interest is just next door at the Chicago House of Blues, formerly the home of the Marina City Theater. There’s a tale here of a little girl who haunts the joint. It’s said that she “died of an illness,” but we don’t know anything else about her.

Once, it was reported that a little boy was present, playing with his toys. When he wouldn’t share with a little girl, she screamed and cried, and vanished into thin air.

The Old Cook County Courthouse

Next, let’s move on to some chilling places nearby on Dearborn Street where some horrifying figures have been haunting the place. First up, the Old Cook County Courthouse.

The alley behind the building is a great place to take in the full ghouls of the night. It used to be the site of the gallows where some notorious figures in Chicago history were removed from society.

Some of these nasty folks include four members of the Haymarket Bomb throng who chucked a bomb into the police ranks at the famous labor rally.

Some other folks who’ve been on trial here include mobsters like Frank Nitti, Al Capone’s “Enforcer,” the crooked White Sox players who fixed the 1919 World Series, and the infamous Leopold and Loeb who committed the “Crime of the Century” when they kidnapped and killed 15-year-old Bobby Franks because they thought they were too smart to get caught.

And if you love musicals, you’ll love knowing that the trials of Belva Gaertner and Beulah Annan who inspired the lead roles in the musical Chicago were put on trial here, too.

The Haunted Chicago Fire Department

Right next door here, you see this firehouse. Well, that used to be the location of the jail that was attached to the courthouse. Something like 100 convicts were hanged here in this alley, and tons of unsavory things happened inside the jail walls.

It’s no wonder numerous firefighters report unsettling happenings and an unwillingness to stay overnight on shift in the firehouse.

The Castle

Our final stop along this brief tour of the most haunted places in Chicago is currently called Tao, but formerly has been known as Excalibur, the Castle – not to be confused with the H.H. Holmes Murder Castle, the Limelight, and formerly the Chicago Historical Society.

By Goldnpuppy – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

There are three main theories on who’s haunting the place.

1. Eastland Disaster Victims

The folks placed here when it was a temporary morgue seem to be haunting the Dome Room where they take liberties with flying rags, breaking glasses, and eerily speaking the names of employees when no one else is around.

2. The Lady in Red

One of the three women seen fleeing the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 ran into the then wooden structure on the site. She’s seen regularly going about the building in her bright red Victorian gown.

3. The Man in Gray

Before all of this, probably not long after the Fort Dearborn days, there was a land dispute over the spot. One man claimed to own the land while a squatter refused to leave, saying he had the right to live there.

The “landowner” however wasn’t keen on squatter’s rights, so he sent a hitman to take him out. The squatter’s body was left to rot on the land, and so it seems kind of likely he’d have a reason to haunt the place.

Thanks for Coming Folks

I appreciate you joining me for this windy walk through some of the most haunted spots in Chicago. Be sure to keep your ears open by the River where you might hear some old-timey music playing, or by the Holy Name Cathedral where two mobsters supposedly haunt after being murdered nearby. You might see the weird floating orbs of light and have your own haunted tale to tell.