#Schummer14: Day 11-12 recap of Summer of Schnyder ~ Vermont

#schummer14 vermont

View from Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak.

On Day 11 of the Summer of Schnyder, we rented bicycles to ride the Island Line Trail that unites the Burlington Bike Path, the Colchester Causeway and the island community on South Hero into a 14-mile trail that travels along and over Lake Champlain. It was the perfect way to get a flavor of Vermont – we saw the lake, the coastline and the Appalachians in the distance; we stopped at a few beaches and rode through several neighborhoods, including farmland on the island; we also got to eat some local food while having lunch at an apple farm on the island.

We made great time – one hour – riding the 10 miles from the bike shop to the end of causeway. From there, we took a short – like five minutes – bike ferry that gets bicyclists across the gap in the Colchester Causeway (allow boats through). We spent a couple of hours on the island riding the roads and stopping for lunch at Allenholm Farm, where The Accidental Farmer fed us a yummy grass-fed burger and mac & cheese made with Vermont cheeses.

We shared lunch so that we didn’t eat too much, since we had a good 14 miles to ride back to the bike shop. Still, the return didn’t go quite as quickly. After we got off the return bike ferry and rode for about five minutes, it felt like I was riding through mud even though this is a rails-to-trails flat, easy path. The back tire was flat. Since we were 10 miles from the shop and close to the ferry, the bike shop had us go to the ferry for a fix. The guy there fixed it but after about 10 minutes of riding it was clear he didn’t do it right. We had to call the bike shop again and they sent a mechanic out on his bike to take care of it. That did the trick but by now we’d been out much longer than expected and were pretty wiped out. It was overcast most of the day but it seemed like the sun popped out when we were stranded!

We finished up the ride about six hours after we started! We cycled a little more than 30 miles. It was steady terrain except on the island so it wouldn’t have been as tiring without the long delays with the bike tire issue.

That night we met Gray, a Vermonter I met at TBEX travel writer/blogger conference, for a well-deserved local beer at Vermont Pub & Brewery in downtown Burlington. She showed us Church Street – a cool pedestrian area full of art, shops and restaurants with lots of outdoor seating – and then we had pizza at American Flatbread. The restaurant is right next to a parking lot that used to be home to the original gas station building where Ben & Jerry’s got their start scooping ice cream. We also checked out a new place called Tilt, a bar/restaurant with a collection of pinball machines and old video games.

Day 12: Burlington, Vermont, to Franconia, New Hampshire

We made sure our route to New Hampshire took us through Waterbury, home to one of the Ben & Jerry factories … the one with the tour. It was $4 for a short video about the history of the company and a tour of the operations area (since it was Saturday, there was no ice cream being produced while we were there). The final stop on the tour was the tasting room, where we tried a Sweet Cream & Cookies flavor.  Then we walked through the outdoor flavor graveyard, which honors fallen mixtures that are not longer offered. It was a fun stop and well-organized.

From there, we visited a local apple cider mill, bought some maple syrup and went for a drive up the auto toll road to see the views of Mount Mansfield, the highest peak in Vermont, and the Stowe township. We drove through Smugglers’ Notch before heading east toward New Hampshire.

Views from our time in Vermont:

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Taking a rest during our 30-mile bike ride in Vermont.

#schummer14 vermont bike path Lake Champlain

View of Lake Champlain along the bike path we took from Burlington.

#schummer14 vermont

Loved riding through farmland on South Hero Island near Burlington.

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Fun at the Ben & Jerry’s factory tour in Waterbury, Vermont.

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On the Ben & Jerry’s tour.

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Have ice cream for lunch — Lee got a flavor only offered at the Ben & Jerry’s factory: a new Saturday Night Live collaboration called Lazy Sunday. It had cake batter ice cream with pieces of cupcake and a frosting swirl. I had the half-baked combo of cookie dough & fudge brownie.

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Hiking at the top of the auto tour near Stowe, Vermont, that goes to the top of Mount Mansfield.

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Another view of the beautiful mountains from Mount Mansfield.

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The green mountains of Vermont.

~~~

#Schummer14 – Lee & MeLinda Schnyder are turning their home in Wichita, Kan., over to a friend and taking a month-long road trip. They’ll travel from Kansas to Ontario and Quebec, Canada; then through Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The trip home will include stops in Ohio and Missouri. Beyond the blog, you can follow #Schummer14 on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

 

Lee has now had pizza in every state where we’ve overnighted during the trip except Michigan.

Posted in Lee, travel

#Schummer14: Day 8-10 recap of Summer of Schnyder ~ Montreal

#schummer14 montreal

Three days isn’t enough time to do everything for first-time visitors in Montreal, especially when you’re staying at a hotel so comfortable you want to spend time there, too. (See my post about the Ritz-Carlton Montreal.)

We had two partial days and one full day in Montreal. Since we didn’t have a lot of time, I booked a five-hour bicycle tour called Montreal Highlights. It was a small group and through an outfitter called Fitz & Follwell. We don’t do a lot of group tours but we really enjoyed this one – we covered a lot of area on the bikes and learned a lot from our guides. And as the tour name implies, we saw many of the major areas of Montreal.

Two other activities in Montreal stand out:

Moishe’s – a restaurant that was recommended to Lee by a friend in Houston who grew up in Montreal. It’s a steakhouse on Saint Laurent Boulevard, a main street full of restaurants, shops and culture that geographically divides the city east-west. We were eating a little later than usual and decided to split a steak. The menu didn’t list sizes and we were so glad we split this ribeye! It was 22 ounces!! Plus, they serve house made pickles, coleslaw and bread. The steak had a great taste but my favorite part of the meal was the twice-baked potato that comes with it.

Mont-Royal – I had no idea until I started researching our trip that Montreal was named for the mountain that is west of the city and called Mont-Royal or Mount Royal. It was visible from almost everywhere in the city and not far from our hotel. On our last morning there, we climbed the 256 steps to an observation area. The climb was worth the amazing views of the city.

We had other meals (tradition poutine: French fries and cheese curds covered in brown gravy), saw many historical buildings and even managed the Metro on our own (we usually have our buddies Charlie & Kim with us when we are navigating mass transit in large cities).

I can’t believe a full week of #Schummer 14 has already passed! Montreal was our last stop in Canada before heading to the U.S. for a tour through many tiny little states I always got wrong when filling in blank maps in grade school. Maybe experiencing them first-hand will set them straight in my head for once (I hope there’s no geography quiz at the end of our trip).

Photos from our time in Montreal:

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The view of Montreal from Mont-Royal.

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The Mont-Royal chalet.

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Our room at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal

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The McGill University campus was just a few blocks from our hotel so we walked through several times.

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We took a full day bike tour of Montreal highlights, including Notre-Dame Basilica.

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Sculpture in Old Port Montreal.

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Starting point for all the bike routes that run through Montreal — it’s a bicycling city!

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Lots of murals along our walks on Saint Laurent Boulevard in Montreal.

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One of my favorite buildings in Montreal: Mary Queen of the World Cathedral.

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We visited the Biodome (nature museum) and next door was Parc Olympique — Montreal Tower and Olympic Park where the Expos used to play baseball.

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Had to have some poutine — french fries and cheese curds covered in gravy.

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Our favorite meal in Montreal was a steak dinner at Moishe’s.

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Berries at Atwater Market, where our Montreal bike tour stopped for lunch.

~~~

#Schummer14 – Lee & MeLinda Schnyder are turning their home in Wichita, Kan., over to a friend and taking a month-long road trip. They’ll travel from Kansas to Ontario and Quebec, Canada; then through Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The trip home will include stops in Ohio and Missouri. Beyond the blog, you can follow #Schummer14 on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Posted in Lee, travel

#Schummer14: Summer of Schnyder settles in at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal

#schummer14 Ritz-Carlton Montreal

I’m able to walk into a Residence Inn by Marriott like I own the place. I hand the front desk attendant our Marriott card, they have our preferences for King bed and quiet room on file, I know about the free breakfast in the morning, let’s get our bottled water in the room’s full-size fridge and the cooler’s ice system in the freezer so it’s ready to use for tomorrow’s portion of the road trip.

Driving up to the Ritz-Carlton in Montreal was intimidating. I wondered if my t-shirt and shorts from an afternoon spent at a nature museum would suffice or if we should stop and change before pulling up in front of the hotel.

We aren’t Ritz-Carlton folk, much the way – as Lee once said – “we aren’t Lexus people.” We tend to stay at Hampton Inns, Courtyards, Holiday Inn Expresses or whatever last-minute deal we find on Hotwire, Priceline or Hotel Tonight. A few months ago, though, we signed up for a Marriott credit card in preparation for our month-long road trip. We had decided to not spend valuable vacation time searching for hotels along the way, so we booked all of our accommodations in advance. Lee found that many of the hotels we would want along the way (based on location and TripAdvisor reviews) were Marriott properties. One of the perks of the card was receiving 60,000 Marriott points after spending a certain amount on the credit card.

When we were looking for places to stay in Montreal, Lee noticed that the Ritz-Carlton was available to book with reward points. It would zero out our points account, but it sounded like a fun way to splurge at what is ranked as Montreal’s top hotel on TripAdvisor.

Was it worth the 60,000 points? Absolutely!

Would I pay the regular $575 U.S. per night (plus taxes) that the room would have cost for the two days we stayed? No. {she says with a frowny face} But only because we need to make our travel dollars stretch, not because the experience wasn’t spectacular.

The Ladies and Gentleman of Ritz-Carlton had emailed us in advance to find out when we would arrive so our room would be ready. We pulled up to the valet on one of Montreal’s busiest downtown streets a little after 4 p.m. The doorman welcomed us as he opened my door and asked if we had luggage. We opened the back of the vehicle loaded strategically with all of our long-road-trip stuff and out flew my MacBook onto his foot, followed by the kitten notebook I’ve been using for Summer of Schnyder planning notes. {awkward}

#schummer14 kitten notebook

Thankfully things went much smoother the rest of the time. After giving the doorman our name, everyone who greeted us inside referred to us by name. Lee had mentioned in his email response about our arrival time that we were on a month-long road trip and celebrating my birthday during the trip. Guest relations had taken note and everyone at the front desk wished me a happy birthday. When we got to the room, there was a birthday gift waiting for me from the general manager (a book on the history of the Ritz-Carlton brand).

#schummer14 Ritz-Carlton Montreal book

Oliver, who checked us in, also accompanied us to the room. As we rode the elevator to the 10th floor, he explained that this was the very first Ritz-Carlton in the world (opened in 1912) and that it had closed from 2008-2012 for major renovations. Once in the room, Oliver spent 10 minutes showing us all of the features and instructing how to use the sensors for lighting, window shades and the toilet. Ahhh, the toilet – it was one of those Japanese intelligent toilets that automatically opened when you stood in front of it and did things you didn’t even know you wanted done.

#schummer14 Ritz-Carlton Montreal intelligent toilet

Oliver showed us the coffee maker and when I told him I only drank tea, he had a tea kettle brought up with a complete serving tray. When the soap was too strong of a floral scent, a call to the front desk resulted in delivery of a tray of three alternatives.

#schummer14 Ritz-Carlton Montreal soap options

Our room was large, it had a comfortable mattress wrapped in ultra-soft sheets and so many conveniences that we weren’t expecting. Heated towel rack, heated bathroom floor, heated toilet seat. A bottle of room spray near the bed, a personal loofa in the bathroom, a small container of office supplies on the desk. Turn-down service featured chocolates on the bed the first night, eye cream on the second night. You know you are in a fancy place when the housekeeper folds a t-shirt you leave laying on the bed or puts dirty clothes left in a pile on the floor into a Ritz-Carlton laundry bag as a reminder to clean your room. One night we returned from dinner and all of our shoes (dumped from a bag we needed to use) had been neatly lined up on a towel to restore order to the room.

#schummer14 Ritz-Carlton Montreal room

The entire staff was friendly and constantly looked for ways to help. Our first night, the concierge booked our dinner reservations. When we came downstairs five minutes later to head to the restaurant, he had printed precise Google map directions sealed inside an envelope. At dinner our waiter served us a piece of birthday cake as the concierge had mentioned to the restaurant that we were celebrating my birthday while on our road trip.

The common spaces at the Ritz-Carlton were beautiful as well. We spent time at the rooftop saltwater pool each of our three days there, reading on the deck, which was small but never crowded. Everywhere in the hotel you went, they offered you complimentary bottles of water. Wifi was included and worked very well. We rarely heard another guest on our floor although they were sold out our last night.

#schummer14 ritz room service

On our last day, we stored our luggage before checkout time and told the staff we were going to walk up Mont-Royal for a view of the city. They gave us two bottles of water as we headed out. That walk only took about an hour round-trip but we decided to go have lunch in another part of the city while we were out. When we returned to the hotel about 3.5 hours after we left, the concierge seemed happy to see us and relieved to hear we hadn’t gotten lost. He gave us more water and once we had loaded our luggage in the car, two more waters for the road.

I’ve told Lee that now I’m going to expect a higher level of service when we get back to Wichita; I hope he learned a few things from the staff at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal ;-)

#schummer14 ritz lee in room
~~~

#Schummer14 – Lee & MeLinda Schnyder are turning their home in Wichita, Kan., over to a friend and taking a month-long road trip. They’ll travel from Kansas to Ontario and Quebec, Canada; then through Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The trip home will include stops in Ohio and Missouri. Beyond the blog, you can follow #Schummer14 on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Posted in Lee, travel

#Schummer14: Day 7 recap of Summer of Schnyder ~ Toronto to Thousand Islands

 

#schummer14 1000 Islands canada flagAfter dropping our friends Charlie & Kim off at the airport to fly home to New York just before lunch, we left Toronto to head toward Montreal. It would have been an easy trip to drive the whole route that afternoon, but we decided to stop along the way at the Thousands Islands (or 1000 Islands) area and spend one night outside of Canada’s two largest cities.

We could have explored this area a lot more than we did (observation tower, hiking, etc.) but we were pretty wiped out after a lot of walking and constant activity in Toronto. So we opted for a peaceful boat tour of the Thousand Islands from Rockport, Ontario, and then settled into our hotel fairly early.

For about 30 minutes, we were back in the U.S.A. The 1000 Islands are actually 1,864 islands that span both the U.S. (New York) and Canada (Ontario). They are in the St. Lawrence River where it flows into the northeast corner of Lake Ontario.

We saw islands with huge mansions and one with a castle (Boldt Castle), and we saw tiny islands where the entire surface area was taken up by a modest home. To be officially considered an island in the Thousand Islands, it has to stay above water 365 days a year and support a living tree.

And about the name … yes, Thousand Island the dressing has a connection to this area. Legend has it that an operator of luxurious hotels in New York in the early 1900s, George Boldt (who built the castle), vacationed in the 1000 Islands. On one of his trips, he asked his chef to whip up a dressing with ingredients they had on hand. Boldt liked it so well he started to serve it at the restaurants as 1000 Islands dressing and it became a thing.

MeLinda & lee in 1000 islands

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#schummer14 1000 Islands Boldt Castle

#schummer14 1000 Islands small house

#schummer14 1000 Islands span U.S. and Canada

#schummer14 1000 Islands dressing

~~~

#Schummer14 – Lee & MeLinda Schnyder are turning their home in Wichita, Kan., over to a friend and taking a month-long road trip. They’ll travel from Kansas to Ontario and Quebec, Canada; then through Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The trip home will include stops in Ohio and Missouri. Beyond the blog, you can follow #Schummer14 on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Posted in Lee, travel

#Schummer14: Day 4-6 recap Summer of Schnyder

 

#schummer14 Toronto Lee & MeLinda Toronto Skyline

We don’t have full, unlimited access to the Internet while in Canada, so I decided to use that as a good excuse not to post for a couple of days! We had wifi at the condo in Toronto so I did take some time each night to post a few photos from the day on Instagram. While it’s nice to unplug sometimes, it’s amazing how many times during the day walking around a city I want to grab my phone and look up directions, the history of something, restaurant reviews, etc.

Day 4 through Day 6 were spent in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I’d visited the city (Canada’s largest city and among the top five largest in all of North America) last year for a travel writer/blogger conference; this was Lee’s first trip. The main purpose of this trip was to see a baseball game at Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays. We ended up seeing two games – we had tickets to Saturday afternoon’s game but after the All-Star break we saw that there was a great pitching matchup on Friday so we bought tickets at the gate for that game. I’m glad we went to both games because as a dome stadium Rogers Centre had a different feel with the dome open Friday night versus closed Saturday. I loved being able to look up and see the iconic CN Tower visible and changing colors during the game.

We did so much in Toronto that I couldn’t cover it all. Here’s a quick recap of our days followed by some best moments.

Day 4, Friday: braved driving in downtown traffic to pick up Charlie and Kim (friends we met in Wichita who now live in New York) from the airport, which is on Toronto Island; visited St. Lawrence Market and walked around that area of downtown (including a Melinda Street!); took the subway to and from the Blue Jays game.

Day 5, Saturday: took the subway to Graffiti Alley; met up with my friend Tanya, who I met at the conference last year, and her friend Kim for the Blue Jays game; walked around downtown some more; had dinner at Pizza Libretto on the Danforth, an area known for its eateries.

Day 6, Sunday: drove to the Distillery District, a collection of shops and restaurants set in cool, old buildings that once housed distilleries; walked to harbor front to take the ferry out to Toronto Islands; had dinner near the condo.

Day 7, Monday: walked up to the Danforth and got pastries for breakfast at Athena’s Greek bakery – chocolate covered baklava, cream horn, coke/kok – two cake-type cookies dipped in a light syrup and sandwiched with pastry cream, then dipped in a chocolate glaze; took Charlie and Kim to the airport; left Toronto.

 

Best of Toronto …

#schummer14 Toronto outside rogers centre

Best activity: Toronto Blue Jays games with our friends!

#schummer14 Melinda & Tanya Rogers Centre

Best tour guide: thanks so much to Tanya for making reservations for our meals on Saturday and for helping us figure out the best way to get from here to there! She was a great tour guide on Saturday when we got out of the Blue Jays game and it was raining. It was great to spend the day with her, her friend Kim and her husband, Bruce, who joined us for dinner.

Watch video of the quad bicycle here: #schummer14 Quad Bicycle

Best team-building exercise: We took a ferry over to Toronto Islands and rented a quad-bicycle there. We rode from Centre Island to the east end (where Lee briefly lost his Wichita State Shocker jacket; fortunately someone hung it on a tree instead of stealing it!) and then all the way to the west end, where there is a plaque commemorating Babe Ruth’s first recorded home run as a professional baseball player (a minor league team played on the island in the early 1900s). To give you an idea of how small the islands are, it only took us two hours and that included stops to see the great views of the Toronto skyline.

#schummer14 Toronto graffiti alley

Best photo opp: Loved the graffiti alley area, which is protected for graffiti artists. Lots of fun stuff to look at and photograph … although 90 percent of its meaning was lost on me.

#schummer14 Toronto The Real Jerk

Best meal: we had a lot of great food but Lee and I both agree that The Real Jerk was our favorite. The restaurant was not in any major tourist zones and near the condo; they served a variety of Caribbean jerk-style meat dishes. Lee had ribs and I had a pork/chicken combo. Oh, and I had a glass of Honey Badger wine … I’m not a big wine drinker but it was sweet and Honey Badger don’t care. Other food/drink we had: peameal bacon sandwich at St. Lawrence Market, brisket nachos and steak sandwich at Rogers Centre, beer at C’est What; wings at Real Sports; beer at Beer Markt; very thin pizza cooked in 90 seconds at Pizza Libretto; brunch at Mill St. Brewery; pastries from Athena bakery.

#schummer14 Toronto Athena's Greek bakery

Best sports bar: In fairness, we only visited one sports bar … but if you’re only going to one sports bar in Toronto, this is the one to go to! Tanya had made reservations for us to have lunch before the Blue Jays game at Real Sports, which has been named the top sports bar in North America by ESPN. It’s near Rogers Centre and right next to the Air Canada Centre, where the NBA Raptors and NHL Maple Leafs play. It has a massive HD TV screen we sat in front of and hundreds of smaller HD screens throughout the bar. Unfortunately all that was on TV was golf! But the food was good and the company was great!

#schummer14 Lee at Rogers Centre Blue Jays

Best musical performance: the song only heard at a Blue Jays game during the 7th inning stretch. I’m going to say it was called Let’s Play Ball. It sounded like something Robin Sparkles (How I Met Your Mother) would have sang at a Canadian shopping mall in the 1980s. They also played Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

#schummer14 Toronto Distillery District

Best shop: Charlie and Kim found a vintage sports shop — The Sport Gallery — in the Distillery District that was part museum and part store. They had very nice clothing and items like bottle openers made out of game-used bats and tennis racquets. The walls were full of old photographs and magazine covers.

#schummer14 Toronto Mill St. Brewery

Most interesting drink: a beermosa that I had at Mill St. Brewery in the Distillery District. It was a mix of beer and pineapple juice. Not bad but not something I’d drink a lot of! But when you want a yogurt parfait and a beer, it seems like the best option! We had brunch here on Sunday so Lee had what was pretty much a traditional breakfast – eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, toast … and baked beans. Not a usual side dish at breakfast where we come from!

Biggest surprise: I honestly thought ESPN was everywhere. I’ve been surprised that the network isn’t aired in Canada.

#schummer14 Riverdale condo in Toronto

Best way for a group to travel together: We’ve had great luck staying at rented apartments and condos (through VRBO, Vacation Rentals by Owners) in cities that we’ve traveled with Kim and Charlie. It gives us common space to hang out (watching Sunday night baseball is a must for this group) and usually saves us money over getting two hotel rooms or makes being in our desired part of town affordable. Our condo in Toronto was in a great location – one of the first neighborhoods outside of the downtown core – and it was about $150 a night total for two bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a nice kitchen, a living room and a couple of outdoor decks. Hotel rooms in the downtown Toronto area are $200+ a night per room.

It was great to incorporate the annual baseball trip we take with Charlie and Kim into our Summer of Schnyder! We had so much fun exploring Toronto with them, and I’m glad they were there as Lee crossed home plate on his MLB stadium tour. This was the eighth year we’ve done these group baseball trips: New York (Yankees & Cooperstown), Boston, Florida (Miami & Tampa Bay), Northern California (San Francisco, Oakland), Southern California (San Diego, Phoenix), All-Star Game in Kansas City, Philadelphia/Baltimore and Toronto.

One of my favorite parts of our annual trips with Charlie and Kim is when we start talking about next year’s destination. I love having a trip to look forward to an entire year out!

#schummer14 Charlie and Lee on Toronto Islands ferry

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#Schummer14 – Lee & MeLinda Schnyder are turning their home in Wichita, Kan., over to a friend and taking a month-long road trip. They’ll travel from Kansas to Ontario and Quebec, Canada; then through Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The trip home will include stops in Ohio and Missouri. Beyond the blog, you can follow #Schummer14 on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Posted in Lee, Sports, travel