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“Never give up on your dreams,” advise Ed and Joyce Payne. “This one was a long time coming, but well worth the wait.”

In 2000, the Paynes hooked an Escapade trailer filled with camping gear to their Honda Gold Wing motorcycle, and varoomed off for the trip of their lives. Six weeks later, the Burkesville couple had felt the wind in their faces for 9,416 miles and 29 states.

“We went to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, Crater Lake, Columbia River Gorge, Rogers and Clark Trail, Avenue of the Giants, and many, many more beautiful places in this wonderful United States of America,” the Paynes recall. “This trip put a punctuation mark on our goal to ride all 48 (contiguous) states on a motorcycle.”

As the Paynes proved, dream trips don’t have an age limit, nor do they have to be costly. The couple were in their sixties when they made the trip, and used their Golden Age Card to camp inexpensively amid the natural splendor of the national parks.

Now it’s time for the Paynes to pack their bags again. They are first-place winners of Kentucky Living’s Dream Trip contest and will receive a $250 state park Unbridled Spirit gift card for use at any state park in Kentucky.

Eighty-four readers took us up on our invitation to write about their dream trip. Through your letters, we traversed the United States, crossed oceans to exotic lands, had all manner of adventures, reconnected with friends, shared a last memory with loved ones, created bonds with young family members, and brought home priceless treasures.

Reading about your dream trips was often like being part of an Indiana Jones thriller.

“A hooded cobra rose slowly from a wicker basket, swaying to the eerie notes of a flute,” writes Joseph E. and Bernice Schabell of their dream trip to Morocco, North Africa. “Atlas Mountain men clothed in dazzling white robes executed amazingly frenzied leaps and twirls, and a bespangled belly dancer undulated to the music of drums, flutes, and tambourines—all of this taking place not 10 feet before our front-row table in a native nightclub.”

The couple began their adventure in the land of sun, sand, camel caravans, and the Casbah in the port city of Tangier.

“We were quickly engulfed in the exotic sights, sounds, and culture of North Africa,” Schabell recalls. “Tangier was the first of five Moroccan cities we would explore. Our adventures began with a stroll through the narrow, winding cobble-stoned lanes of the native quarter known as the ‘medina.’ Throngs of men in full-length robes, heavily veiled women, urchins, donkeys, and goats swirled around us, creating a Technicolor dreamlike atmosphere. Exciting beyond belief!

“The following day in the city of Fez, we dined on tea and couscous. Then it was off to the northwest edge of the Sahara Desert and the city of Marrakesh…The next morning while Bernice posed with colorfully clad water sellers who dispensed tepid water in small brass cups from goatskin bags for a few coins, a nearby dark-skinned man held aloft handfuls of long, thin snakes for my camera. Visits to Rabat and the gleaming white city of Casablanca concluded our fantastic journey to marvelous Morocco. Incredible!”

Details of the trip are still “vividly etched in our memories despite having occurred almost 23 years ago,” Schabell says. “I am 85 years of age and Bernice is 82, and although we have since traveled extensively, no country has ever again compared with Morocco.”

The Ratliff family of Willisburg will never forget their dream trip to China, either.

In April of 2003, Peggy Ratliff, her daughter, Gretchen Bierly, and her parents, Reverend Oliver Hawkins and wife Joy, spent a month visiting family who were living in Beijing, China, as missionaries.

“While in Beijing, we walked on The Great Wall of China—the only man-made object visible from outer space,” Ratliff says.

“We also saw the blood stains left by the slaughter of young Chinese students on the stones at Tiananmen Square. We visited the Forbidden City, home of the palace of the great emperors of China, where the movie The Last Emperor of China was actually filmed.”

But it is what they brought home that will forever change their lives.

As a result of the trip, Ratliff’s daughter and son-in-law are adopting a little boy the family met in a government orphanage in China. David Jay, or D.J. as they call him, now has a family to call his own and will be able to have the surgery he needs for spina bifida and a crooked spine.

In another part of the world, another missionary group from Kentucky, this one from Gilead Baptist Church in Elizabethtown, was in Kampala, Uganda.

“My Uganda experience was awe-inspiring,” says Jacob R. Beard.

“When we stayed at Queen Elizabeth National Park, I witnessed the natural world as it is meant to be. Warthogs and hippos roamed freely along the resort grounds, and water buffalo congregated along the water bank, birds resting upon their horns. Hyenas guarded freshly killed prey, and a pride of lions sunned themselves lazily. While we were on safari, our guide stopped the bus, reversed, and told us to look to our side. In the bush nearby, a leopard had appeared and zigzagged across an empty space, as if he was posing for us. The alluring sunsets and bright smiles of Africa captured me, inviting me to come back again.”

Julia Hewitt Hand has been able to accept that kind of invitation. She has made her dream trip every year for the past 40 years.

“Since childhood, I have spent at least a week every summer on Kentucky’s Lake Cumberland,” writes the Deltona, Florida, resident whose parents live in Jabez. “For as long as I can remember, the green waters of the lake and the beautiful countryside draw me like a moth to a flame. I live in Florida, have visited most of the eastern United States, the Caribbean, and even Europe, but Lake Cumberland remains my constant destination.”

Like all dream trips, an important part of what makes Hand’s trip special is sharing it with others.

“As a child, my family vacationed every summer in Jamestown,” she recalls. “Swimming, skiing, tire swings, dirt roads, fishing, picking blackberries, and hiking through the woods were, and remain, favorite pastimes. As a young mother with children of my own, I was able to bring those memories alive for my son and daughter. Our trips often included seasonal visits to see the leaves change and even experience snow.

“More recently, I have introduced my husband to the Bluegrass State, and thankfully he shares my enthusiasm for the area. I have many lifelong friends and family members from Kentucky, and we keep those relationships blooming every summer. I look forward to the next chapter in this love affair with Lake Cumberland—the joy of bringing my grandchildren on my dream trip, and so another generation of making memories.”

Three generations of the Little family shared their first “real” vacation in June of 1998.

“We had never been west of the Mississippi, the kids had never been on a plane, and Grandma had never seen the ocean,” recalls Debbie Little. “We spent a day at the Grand Canyon, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. We stopped by the Pacific Ocean at Huntington Beach for a cooling dip. We headed up to Yosemite National Park and Kings Canyon…We made memories that will last a lifetime.”

So did Greg Rodgers of Lexington as he explored Alaska.

“I watched with fascination as a young bald eagle swooped low overhead, then thrust its talons in the water with a white splash, just barely missing the salmon it had been eyeballing for lunch…Less than an hour later, I would be pulling my own prize, a 4-1/2 pound, 22-inch rainbow trout out of the icy blue water. We were float fishing the Kenai River in Alaska, a sportsman’s paradise nestled in some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. The pearly glacier sitting high in the mountains behind us was melting and providing icy clean water for the running salmon.

“I was blessed enough to spend three fabulous weeks in Alaska in 2006, and now I can finally understand why people’s eyes light up when you say the name. As our largest and least populated state, Alaska is also undeniably magical. You can feel it as soon as you get off the plane. The small airport in Anchorage is filled with excited chatter about grizzlies, fly rod cases, and smiling faces. Aside from the fishing, I spent many hours in the field, hiking and camping, chasing bears, and enjoying an escape that only Alaska can provide. I will never forget.”

Since the Paynes’ motorcycle trip out west, Ed and Joyce Payne, now 71 and 69 respectively, have made another dream trip, this one an 18-state trip to the East Coast. The motorcycling couple logged 7,763 miles from June to August of 2002 going to New England, around the Great Lakes into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, out to North Dakota, and back home.

“We’ve now covered all 48 (contiguous) states while riding a motorcycle,” says Joyce. Even so, they are planning a 489-mile trip this summer traveling the length of the Blue Ridge Parkway from North Carolina to Washington, D.C.

Thanks to everyone for sharing your dreams, your memories, and inspiring the rest of us to never give up on our dream trip.


“It truly gives you and your husband and the whole family the quality time you need together,” says Roberta Kay Bannen of Wellington. “Isn’t that what a dream vacation is? Having fun and relaxing with your family, showing them how much you love them and how much you love being with them.”

The ability of travel to cement bonds between family and friends was one of the recurring themes in the submissions and what transformed a mere trip into a dream trip for many. Location is what makes a dream trip for others—seeing a place that particularly intrigues them. New experiences make a trip memorable for the adventurous.

Most everyone brought back more than souvenirs or even memories. They also brought back important life lessons. Here’s a sample of what you learned on your dream vacations:

“SEEING THE STATUE OF LIBERTY and Ground Zero was a somber reminder to us of how blessed it is to be a citizen of this great nation.”
—Tim Ritter, Alvaton, of his trip to New York City.

“ALL ALONG THE WAY on this trip we’ve taken in many museums, tours of historic homes, and knew we were living out a dream come true. We are thankful to have seen some of God’s wonderful beauty.”
—Charles and Gayle Butler, Franklin, about their trip out West.

“SEVERAL TIMES IN MY LIFE I’ve heard, ‘I wish I had gone there or done that with Mom or Dad, but now they’re gone.’ Well, that’s one statement I won’t be making. Last December 6-17, my mom, June Eason, and I went on our dream trip.”
—Lori Blumenberg, Horse Cave, of their European trip.

“THIS MAY NOT BE MUCH of a vacation to most people, but as a mother and grandmother to see my children and their families together in the same house laughing, talking, playing, and enjoying each other’s company is a joy that can never be compared to anything.”
—Helen Castle, River, about their trips to the Smoky Mountains.

“WE SAW WALDEN POND and walked paths our ancestors had over 200 years before. Taverns still stood where patriots had met to discuss their plan against the British. We stood on the Battle Green where the first casualty occurred. At Concord, where ‘the shot heard around the world’ took place, we changed. We didn’t have to read about history, we experienced it.”
—Michelle Wolf, Scottsville, about her trip to Massachusetts, the birthplace of the American Revolution.

“ARE YOU A KID AT HEART? Do you believe in magic?…Our dream vacation was going to MGM Studio at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. We don’t have many pictures left. They were destroyed in a fire. We do have the memories of acting like kids and enjoying the magic that you can only find at Walt Disney World.”
—Diane Lawson, Hodgenville, of her trip to Walt Disney World.

“I HAVE MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS, and my husband and I saved up for me to go on a long-awaited trip to Discovery Cove where I could fulfill my dream of swimming with the dolphins. It was a spectacular adventure. I got to swim with them and hold onto their fins and she pulled me through the water.”
—Charlotte Kitchen, Lewisburg, of her trip to Discovery Cove in Orlando.

“AFTER TRAVELING OUR STATE and nation over, we found that our dream vacation is here at home with our kids and grandkids. Goodness gracious, why would I dream of taking a vacation anywhere else?”
—Charles Hal Shipley, Murray, about exploring Kentucky.

“SPENDING TIME WITH OUR 13-year-old grandson on a trip like this is one that we cannot put into words…He is still talking about our venture out West and all the many places that we visited and the history lesson that he received along the way.”
—Sam and Charlene Clark, Wilmore, of their trip West.

“NAVIGATING THE YUKON River on a 100-mile journey to Eagle, Alaska, was an experience not soon forgotten. Bear tracks along the riverbank reminded us we were visitors in this beautiful land. The First Nation and Native Alaskans lovingly shared the beauty of their home.”
—Harold and Lisa Tarter, Nancy, of their trip to Canada’s Yukon Territory.

“ON THE FINAL DAY of our vacation, we went to Cocoa Beach. As I lay on the beach watching the large ships in the distance and my husband and kids splashing in the water, all I could think was, ‘Life does not get any better than this.’”
—Amber Sitz, Lewisburg, of her family’s trip to Orlando and Cocoa Beach.

“TAKEN AS I WAS by all the sights and sounds of the exotic locale, I was more impressed with the people. Families took me into their hearts and homes, teaching me their customs and insisting I belonged. Villagers who had lost everything in an earthquake still insisted on feeding me a meal when I was a volunteer helping rebuild their homes. Kashgar and the Silk Road helped me realize that anything is possible, people are the same everywhere, and dreams are worth following.”
—Elizabeth Burton, of her trip to the ancient trading route between India and China.

“THERE IS JUST SO MUCH wonderful stuff to see and do in this great state, why would we ever want to leave?”
—Kim Sweazy, Flaherty, about trips around Kentucky.


FIRST PLACE, $250 Unbridled Spirit Gift Card
Ed and Joyce Payne, Burkesville, members of Tri-County Electric Membership Corporation

SECOND PLACE, $150 Unbridled Spirit Gift Card
Peggy Ratliff,
Willisburg, Salt River Electric Cooperative

THIRD PLACE, $50 Unbridled Spirit Gift Card
Joseph E. and Bernice Schabell, Alexandria,
Owen Electric Cooperative

Julia Hewitt Hand of Deltona, Florida
Jacob R. Beard, Elizabethtown, Nolin RECC
Debbie Little, Frenchburg
Greg Rodgers, Lexington


Because we couldn’t begin to share all your adventures in this article, we developed a special feature on our Web site where you can take many more dream trips. To read more readers’ dream trips, click here: dream trip

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