I love my morning coffee as much as anyone else, and I love it brewed in about 30 seconds by a Keurig. In fact, I try not to stay in hotels that don’t have a Keurig in every room.
Keurig’s are great machines, and I have no problem with them. What I do have a problem with is looking into the water receptacle of a Keurig in my hotel room and seeing that it is full of black mold. That is not Keurig’s fault.
It’s the fault of the hotel and the housekeeping staff. I know the picture above isn’t very clear, but I’m sure that you can imagine the queasy feeling I had when I discovered that mold in the coffee maker that I had already used once.
A word of advice, look into the water receptacle of your hotel room Keurig before you use it.
As I’ve done with other Top Ten lists, one of these is fake and the first person to pick the right one can have a paperback or Kindle version of one of my books. (Yes, I realize that’s not a big incentive and might in fact scare some people away)
10. Wearing Colorful Underwear: In many Latin American Countries, as well as Spain and Italy, wearing different color underwear is supposed to bring different kinds of luck or prosperity in the new year. White is thought to bring peace and harmony, and red obviously is for love and romance. I wonder what purple does for you? (asking for a friend)
9. Plate smashing in Denmark? Apparently people in Denmark smash dishes and plates on their neighbors doors to bring good luck. Really? That sounds like vandalism to me. I wonder if I could get away with doing that here in the States. I’d just tell the police that I’m Danish.
8. Ecuador Effigies: In Ecuador they burn effigies, called año viejo, of public figures like actors, music stars or politicians at midnight in order to banish any bad luck or ill-will from the previous. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that I’d love the idea of people burning a scarecrow of me. I’d be worrying what comes next.
7. Beware Falling Furniture: At midnight in South Africa people throw their old appliances and furniture out the window. Man, what I wouldn’t give to be a furniture salesman on January 1st!
6. April New Year’s in Thailand? April 13th-15th is the start of the New Year in Thailand because that is the start of the New Year for their religion, Theravada Buddhism. They celebrate by having a big water fight, believing that symbolically throwing water on each others washes away bad luck. Now that’s a New Year’s tradition I’d enjoy! Where I live, if we threw water on each other on New Year’s Day, everyone would get frostbite.
5. In Bangladesh, Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: The New Year is celebrated by everyone in the family eating a pastry, with wine, at midnight and if you find a coin in your pastry, you will have good fortune in the coming year. Yikes! That sounds dangerous. I hope they’re chocolate coins!
4. The Psychic Germans! In Germany they melt small pieces of lead in a spoon over a flame, then pour the melted metal into cold water. The shapes formed by the Bleigießen (lead pouring) reveal how good their coming year will be. If the lead forms a ball, luck is going to roll your way. If it’s the shape of a crown, that means good luck with money, while a star signifies happiness and a cross will bring death. Wow, that is kind of terrible isn’t it?
3. Travel Insurance in Colombia: In Colombia you might think that once the clock strikes midnight everyone is trying to flee the country because you’ll see many people running around their house or even their entire block with a suitcase. They believe that doing so will ensure good travels in the coming year.
2. All The Single Ladies in Ireland…are hoping he’ll put a ring on it. Apparently the single women in Ireland put mistletoe (which apparently wasn’t effective at Christmas) under their pillows and then burn it in a fire the next day hoping to lure the love of their life. Geez, I hope they take it out from under their pillow before setting it on fire. If I’m in Ireland and I meet a girl who likes to set things on fire, I am probably going to run the other direction.
1. Some people Like their grapes in wine…: This one was contributed by my friend, international travel writer Bel Woodhouse (follow her on IG @thetravelbag.guru) In Mexico they eat 12 grapes at midnight. Some eat them one with each toll of the bell to bring good luck in the coming year. What happens if you have a grape allergy? Are those people just out of luck? That doesn’t sound like a fair tradition. Personally, I’ll just drink enough wine to ensure that I’ve taken in 12 grapes. That’s at least one bottle, right?
Ok, remember that I said one of these was made up? The first person to guess it in the comments gets a free paperback or Kindle copy of one of my books. Happy New Year to each and every one of you. I’d better get going if I want to squeeze all ten of these traditions at midnight! ~Phil
Kansas Fun Facts: Kansas still has a law on the books that prohibits shooting at rabbits from a motorboat. Kansas shares their capital city, Kansas City with Missouri.
Best Thing About Kansas: BAR B QUE! If you love some pulled pork or beef brisket, Kansas is your state. Their barbecue sauce is world renown and with good reason. In Kansas when they baptize children, they dip them in barbecue sauce instead of holy water.
Worst Thing About Kansas: Like Iowa, Kansas has a lot of tornadoes. So many that Kansas’ unofficial nickname is “Tornado Alley.”
Best Movies Made in Kansas: Terms of Endearment (1983), Dances with Wolves (1990), Friday Night Lights (2004). That’s it. There was a list of about 25 movies made in Kansas, but these three were the only ones I recognized.
In my research I found that Kansas does have some beaches, but they’re not like a day staring at the ocean. Kansas is landlocked. It is smack dab in the middle of the country. I’ve never been there and don’t plan to go, unless a Super Bowl is held there and someone gives me free tickets. It’s a lot like Iowa. It’s identity is tied up with farming and college and pro sports.
Right now, I’m not seeing Kansas as much of a draw for tourism, unless you want to watch sports, dodge tornadoes and eat yourself sick on barbecue.
“I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to.”~Bill Bryson. I guess that explains why author Bill Bryson now lives in England.
State Nickname: The Hawkeye State. This nickname for the state of Iowa is said to have come from the scout, Hawkeye, in James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans published in 1826. Has anyone alive this century read that book?
Iowa Fun Fact: In Iowa, hogs outnumber people 4:1. If hogs ever get any smarter, they could probably take over the state. Who am I kidding? It’s possible the hogs are already smarter. If hogs outnumber people 4:1, that whole state must stink like hog crap. (Iowans are going to hate me)
Best Thing About Iowa: Iowa has the best literacy rate in the country. Iowans have to stay smart otherwise the hogs are going to take over. Also, Iowa is where Ozzy Osbourne bit the head off of a bat back in the 1980’s. There’s also the world renowned Iowa State Fair. I’m told that if you want to know what the mid-west is about, go to the Iowa State Fair.
Worst Thing About Iowa: The weather. According to native Iowans, in the summer it’s brutally hot and humid and in the winter it’s brutally cold, with temps often below zero. Lesson learned: Visit Iowa in the Spring and Fall.
Best Movies Made In Iowa: Twister (1996), I really enjoyed this movie. Field of Dreams (1989). Ghosts playing baseball?!!? It still gets me in the heart. Michael (1996) It’s got John Travolta & Andie MacDowell! How can you go wrong? It was actually a pretty decent movie. Children of The Corn (1984) I’ve never seen it. I think it’s a vegetarian movie.
My big question: Do they have a beach? The answer is yes! They have several beaches on freshwater rivers and lakes.
In summary, I’ve never been to Iowa, and I’m not likely to plan a vacation there, but if I find myself stranded at the Iowa State Fair or one of their beaches, I wouldn’t mind.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, when I travel, I’m going to be looking for beaches. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Indiana has a nice beachfront on Lake Michigan.
State Nickname: The Hoosier State. Hey Indianans, what’s a Hoosier? According to Wikipedia, no one is 100% sure where that word came from. It could be an ancient curse for all we know. That would explain why Indiana is the way it is.
Indiana Fun Fact: Elvis Presley’s last concert was in Indiana. Way to go Indy, you killed the King.
Best Thing About Indiana: You rarely have to walk outside in downtown Indianapolis. There’s an extensive system of skywalks all over the downtown area.
Worst Thing About Indiana: To be honest, the things I found online regarding the worsts things about Indiana were plentiful, such as they have lots of tornadoes and meth busts. More of both than almost all the states. Also, if you want to mitigate the stress from the meth and tornadoes, you can’t buy alcohol on Sundays in Indiana. Thanks Mike Pence.
Best Movies Made In Indiana: The Fault in Our Stars, Hoosiers, A Christmas Story, and Close Encounters. Footloose was actually a documentary about Indiana.
If you love basketball and conservatism, Indiana is definitely a state you should visit. I’ve driven through it on my way to Chicago, but I don’t think I’ve ever stopped the car and gotten out. It just seemed safer that way, with the tornadoes and meth labs everywhere. As a vacation spot, I don’t think I’d ever choose Indiana unless the Super Bowl was being played there and I won tickets. Then again, why would the National Football League have a Super Bowl on Sunday in a state where no one can buy a beer at the game?
I know I said I was going to write up 50 states in 50 days, but apparently fate doesn’t like when we make plans. I didn’t write yesterday because I was taking a short trip to visit some friends overnight. “No problem,” I figured, “I’ll just write about two states tomorrow.” Yesterday in Western New York, there was a tremendous windstorm. Certainly not of the magnitude of the tornadoes in other states, and my thoughts are with those impacted by that. In western New York the winds we got were enough to have widespread power outages and damages to trees and structures. I got home safely but had no power when I got there. I’m writing this on a word document with the last bit of charge my laptop has. Fingers crossed that I’ll get power back later today. So, let’s say I’ll get 50 states in 60 days written up.
Today I’m writing about the wonderful state of Illinois. My experience of Illinois is mainly with the Chicago area, but in my research, I’ll try to find highlights outside the Chicago metropolitan area.
Illinois state nickname: The Prairie State. Ironically the state best known for it’s one big city, is nicknamed after prairies. Apparently, the northern two thirds of Illinois is just prairies.
Illinois Fun Fact: Illinois is home to the only river that runs backwards. To combat the pollution of the Chicago River, around 1900 the Sanitary District of Chicago began implementing a system of locks and canals that reversed the flow of water from Lake Michigan, diverting the water to the newly constructed Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.
Best Thing About Illinois: Chicago Deep Dish Pizza. You all know what a normal slice of pizza looks like. Chicago pizza is deep. It looks like a big, thick piece of pie filled with copious amounts of chunky sauce and cheese.
Worst Thing About Illinois: Although most Illinoians would tell you that the Chicago Bears are the worst thing about Illinois, I found many references online mentioning high taxes.
Best Movies Made in Illinois: The Blues Brothers (1980), The Breakfast Club (1985), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), Field of Dreams, (1989), Home Alone (1990) and Home Sweet Home Alone (2021), Gone Girl (2014). Those are just a handful. Chicago is a popular setting for movies.
As I said, my experience with Illinois is solely based on Chicago, and it’s a city I heartily recommend visiting, in the summer. In the winter it’s going to be windy and bitter cold most of the time. In the summer it’s a beautiful place with beaches and walkways along the river and Lake Michigan.
There are ball games to be watched at two of the most revered baseball stadiums in the country. During other parts of the year there is professional football, basketball, and hockey. Those sports are also available at the college level as well. Chicago is also home to the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower that was part of a memorable scene in Ferris Bueller. You can take a heck of a long elevator ride to the observation deck for a spectacular view.
Chicago also has an airport that wants your marijuana. I’m betting that container is empty.
Suffice it to say, I like Chicago, but I have no idea why they like that big, silver bean in the top picture. It’s now been made a formal law that you have to take your picture with it if you visit Chicago. If you’re going to Illinois, go to visit Chicago in the summer. It’s a great city with a lot to do. Have a great weekend!
Idaho State Nickname: “Idaho’s nickname is “The Gem State” for the abundance of natural resources and scenic areas that include snow-capped mountain ranges, rapids, vast lakes and steep canyons.” ~StateSymbolsUSA.org
Movies Filmed in Idaho: Napoleon Dynamite (2004), Dante’s Peak (1997), Heaven’s Gate (1980). There’s plenty of others, but none of them move the needle for me.
Ironically, the movie My Own Private Idaho (1991) was not filmed in Idaho. There’s also the B-52’s iconic 1980 song Private Idaho, which doesn’t really have anything to do with Idaho. “In this song, the fine state of Idaho is used to represent a case of paranoia – the lyrics “get out of that state” meaning to get out of that state of mind. Why Idaho? B-52’s singer Fred Schneider explained to the Idaho Statesman that it was the wacky reputation of the state, saying, “Idaho is pretty mysterious to all of us. I know it’s a beautiful state. The song’s about all different things. It’s not like a parody of Idaho or anything.” ~Songfacts.com
I feel like I gave way too many Idaho fun facts there. Anywho, I’ve never been to Idaho and in my extensive, methodical research, I didn’t find anything that makes me want to go there. That’s just me. If you’re an outdoorsy type, Idaho is a fantastic place. As you would guess, there’s plenty of mountains and rivers, for hiking, fishing and hunting. There’s also the annual Boise Balloon Classic for all you hot air ballooning aficionados.
If you’re a sports fan, you’ve got Boise State sports playing in NCAA Division 1. And their football team plays it’s game in the only blue turf stadium in the country. We get it Idaho, you’re quirky.
So, in summary, unless you balloon, hunt, or watch college sports, you should probably let Idaho stay private to the people, and hobo spiders, who live there.
Hawaii Fun Fact: A new Hawaiian island called Loihi is forming offshore of the big island.
Best thing about Hawaii: The average daily summer temp is 85 F (29.4 C) and the average daily winter time temp is 78 F (25.4 C).
Worst Thing About Hawaii: It’s so damn far away. If you live on the east coast of the United States you’re looking at 16 hours of travel to get there, and the same 16 on the way back. You basically lose two days just to the travel time. And when you’re there it’s so many time zones away that your sleep is really screwed up. Get used to waking up at 3:00 a.m.
I’m sorry that I missed getting a state review in yesterday. I was traveling for work.
I’ve been to Hawaii twice, but unfortunately it was to the same island, Maui, both times. I’ve been told that each Hawaiian island has it’s own unique flavor and style, so although I really enjoyed my stays on Maui, I feel like I missed out on really getting to know Hawaii.
Maui is as lush and beautiful as you see on TV and in movies. It is truly a paradise. One of my favorite Hawaii experiences is related to that sea turtle photo. One day I had rented a paddle board and as I was paddling along a sea turtle about that size came to the surface and swam alongside me for a bit.
The state of Hawaii is actually 137 islands of various sizes, but they are grouped into eight primary islands: Ohau, Big Island of Hawaii, Maui, Kauai, Niihau, Molokai, Lanai, and Kahoolawe. Now that I know that, I’d like to go live on one of the lesser known islands. Preferably the one with the fewest tourists.
Volcanoes are a bit of a problem on some of the Hawaiian islands. Two of the worlds most active volcanoes are on the Big Island of Hawaii. That’s something I’d love to see. How many people ever get to see an active volcano? It’s an incredible, unstoppable force of nature that can’t just be duplicated any where else.
That is not me, but I did enjoy a fantastic ziplining experience on Maui. We ziplined down the side of an old volcano using about five different zip lines. It’s fun and safe.
Another unique Hawaii experience is the pig roast. They actually cook the pig in a hole in the ground for a day or more and then pull it out of that hole and serve it to you. And it is surprisingly fantastic.
There are so many more things to do in Hawaii such as hiking in the jungles and mountains, helicopter tours, surfing and just laying around at the beach. My personal advice after having been there twice is this: Everyone should try it once in your life. Then if you want a tropical vibe, go to the Caribbean and pick any island, Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya…. Puerto Rico, Guadalupe etc. They are all a much shorter flight and cost a whole lot less for the same 85 degrees and palm trees.
Here’s a tip for you if you are planning a Hawaii trip: Last year I was researching the possibility of another Hawaii trip and I discovered that there are a lot of AirBNB or VRBO houses and condos available right on beaches that are priced lower than staying at a hotel or resort.
Georgia, the Peach State! Nicknamed after a perfectly delicious fruit. I have nothing sarcastic to say about that. My in person knowledge about Georgia is limited, but I like what I know.
My first impression of Georgia though was not good. When I was just an 11 year old lad my father decided to take the family to Disney World! The pilgrimage that all families on the East coast make at least once. But did we fly there? Of course not! My dad was frugal. Why fly somewhere that you can drive to? From our upstate New York town we drove south for three days. On the third day we passed through Georgia and as we did, we drove right by Savannah. I’ve heard good things about it since, but on that fateful day when we drove by Savannah, there’s was a horrible stench. It was an overwhelming sulfur/rotten eggs stench seeping into our car as we sped past on the highway.
So, from the age of 11 until about the age of 31, my thoughts about Georgia were this: it stinks. Fortunately, my relationship with Georgia has improved since then. I’ve been in their Atlanta airport countless times and although it is one of the busiest airports in the country, it is still one of the nicest.
As a much more worldly adult, I still don’t have a lot of thoughts or experiences with Georgia. Here are my thoughts: 1) Atlanta is a real cool city. 2) Georgia has a buttload of coastline and beaches. 3) If I have to have a layover, the Atlanta airport has a lot of places to eat.
Aside from my world renown airport experiences, Atlanta is also known as a city with a thriving night life and as a mecca for musicians from hip-hop, R&B, gospel, country and maybe as the hometown of R.E.M (one of my favorite bands back in the day) even some alternative rock. Georgia is also one of the most avid sports states with a variety of professional and college sports year round.
Lastly, and most importantly, Georgia has that long coastline with beaches and resorts galore. If you’ve read a few of my state reviews, you’ve probably picked up on my love of the sun, sand and water. Georgia seems like a nice vacation spot to me. As I’ve made painfully obvious, I’m not a Georgia insider. If you are from Georgia or have more experience with Georgia than me, I’d love if you’d want contribute here with a guest post, or just answer five questions from me by email. You can get me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’d like to preface this by saying that I will write two posts on the state of Florida. To be honest, for this post, I’m going to use something that I wrote previously about Florida. Tomorrow , or maybe even later today, I’ll post my “serious” review of Florida. Enjoy!
Florida is The Fire Swamp: Remember in The Princess Bride when Westley and Princess Buttercup were trying to get away from Prince Humperdinck and they fled into The Fire Swamp? Florida is the living embodiment of The Fire Swamp. You can go to Florida and skip Disney. The state is it’s own theme park called Nature Is Trying To Kill Us. Don’t believe me? On a good day, everyone there still has to worry about sinkholes opening up and swallowing their house or car.
Occasionally when it gets cold down in Florida, there are literally frozen iguanas dropping out of the trees. Another time the problem was monkeys with herpes.
The Fire Swamp had the R.O.U.S.’s, aka the Rodents of Unusual Size. Florida has I.O.U.S. Insects of Unusual Size. In my research for this Phil Factor I came across two news articles. One referenced a Florida infestation of “giant mosquitoes” called gallinippers that are “20 times the size of normal mosquitoes.”
Their bite is described as “being stabbed or having a hot nail driven into your skin.” Delightful huh? But it doesn’t end with mosquitoes. There are also giant, “rat-sized, tire puncturing” African snails invading Florida. That’s got to be all kinds of fun when you step out in your bare feet to pick up the morning paper. And seriously remember the R.O.U.S.’s in the movie? Tell me those didn’t look and walk like alligators!
One last thing you have to worry about in Florida is the mythical “Florida Man”. Just for fun, go to Google and type in the phrase “Florida Man” and your birthday, just month and day. I think you’ll enjoy the results.
Alright, I guess I’ve had my fun with Florida. Despite it being a fire swamp, there’s a a lot to like about Florida and I’ll get to that in my next post. Have a great weekend and safe travels! ~Phil