Idea Treasure Hunting on Road Trips

Approaching a road trip with loose ideas about what you will discover provides a creative way to explore well-documented tourist areas without being stuck in possibly boring activities.

My husband is more structured than I am. He lists all the things he wants to see, studying each area in depth.

I, however, regard road trips as a treasure hunt. If I find only one unexpected-but-meaningful thing per day, I count it as highly rewarding. If I find many, I regard it as “striking it rich.”

Treasures I Found

I struck it rich many times during a three-week road trip to Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan (May 2019), but many cannot be documented as “tourist advice.” Here is what I found:

(Note that non-listed treasures include time with family and friends.)

  • Royal Icing Workshop: I spent two days in Wilton’s headquarters (Darien, Illinois) learning Royal Icing techniques from world-famous instructor, Julia Usher. My husband spent time exploring bike trails. All activities in this area were classified as “treasures.”

  • Losing All Art Supplies: While visiting family, I lost all my travel art supplies that I’ve collected over the years, forcing me to buy new ones. By doing this, I discovered how creative I could be with a cheap, kid’s watercolor set. And best? Upon arriving home, my sister-in-law found my original supplies in her car.

  • Recognizing I Love Drawing People: During my trip, I realized that I’d rather draw people than flowers, natural scenery, or architecture. I came to this conclusion after seeing a stunning sketch book on Facebook that focused exclusively on portraits. Here’s one example of my work (done with cheap watercolors and a rapidly disintegrating paint brush). For more, visit Sketches by Karen Little on

  • Buying Stuff: I bought two long scarves, one at the Milwaukee Art Museum, and a second in Fish Creek in Door County, Wisconsin. Yes, I am a “treasure hunting” consumer at heart. Nearby surroundings were fabulous, too, in all locations.The following photo is my friend, Toni, creating “art with art” in the Milwaukee Art Museum as she almost locked arms with the museum’s famous “The Janitor” by Duane Hanson. (Note: When asking Toni to pose, I didn’t know you were not supposed to step into the “box.”)

  • Michigan’s Tunnel of Trees: Just driving through this area is amazing, especially after a period of heavy rains where everything is verdant (lush). In spring, check for forest floors covered with Jonquils.

  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore: This federal preserve in Michigan is always a marvel. But treasure-wise-speaking, we got to use our antique, “forever free” federal park pass, which is no longer available to seniors.

  • Cherry Republic at Glen Arbor, Michigan: Glen Arbor is the original home of this small chain of unique restaurants. It features cherry-products, outdoor seating, and great food. Its other locations are nice, but this one is extra special. In addition to good food, I was fascinated with their lovely window box:

Of course, I found many other treasures, but perhaps the most important to me was discovering that my passion as an artist is drawing people in action! (My family, of course, benefits from my second passion, which involves sugar cookies decorated with Royal Icing.)



Article by Karen Little, first published for on June 3, 2019, all rights reserved by Karen Little and Littleviews. You may re-publish this article on a non-commercial site with permission from Karen.

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