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Writing a book about “all the [blank]?”

I’m a big fan of travel quests—a goal of visiting a particular set of places, usually one that involves “visiting all the ________________.” ➡️ Here are some of my own quests, here’s a guide for how to get started on your own, and here’s a directory of 1500 quests you might enjoy. So it catches … Read more

The story of my epic quest to visit all 419 National Park units

This is a twitter thread I posted back in April 2022 outlining the story of my national parks quest. I haven’t changed much of the formatting, so this will resemble a twitter thread and not a traditional blog post. Perhaps I’ll edit it in the future, but for now, this will have to do. Here’s … Read more

How to make driving across Texas more fun

Our latest road trip required a long drive across Texas, a state I repeatedly wish I didn’t have to drive across. But if you live in Phoenix and your intended destinations are in the Southeastern US, then driving through Texas is simply the Price of Admission you pay for your trip. We ended up staying in hotels … Read more

The only possible way to drive directly from Missouri to Kentucky

My questing buddy Tom Thrash and I both have a quest to cross all 107 state borders—the boundaries where two US states meet via a land or river crossing. → Check out #GoQuesting1006 for more information on this unusual travel quest ← One of them is particularly sneaky—the tiny border shared by Kentucky and Missouri. There are a number of … Read more

How many countries are there?

You’d imagine that this would be a simple question to answer. But for many people with a quest to visit them all, it’s a much more complicated answer. The most commonly followed list is probably the UN member states list, which is 193. Unless you count the observer countries—Palestine and Vatican City—in which case it’s 195.  … Read more


Visiting America’s most obscure National Monument

Yesterday I visited one of the most obscure national monuments in the nation: the Military Working Dog Teams National Monument, located on the grounds of Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

The national monument—which is best described as a national memorial—is the only one managed by the Department of Defense (in conjunction with the Airmen Heritage Foundation) and one of only two Treasured Places that are located on an active military installation (the other is Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial).

While the national monument was designated as a rider in the FY2008 Defense appropriations bill, it wasn’t opened to the public until late 2013. Well, open to the members of the public that can pass a background check and obtain a visitor pass from the military base, at least. Luckily, there’s a law that allows for reasonable public access for visitors—and their dogs—to the national monument. That said, you’ll want to give yourself some extra time to wait for the required background check before you can gain access to the site.

A “daytrip” to San Antonio

As one of the most obscure national monuments in the country—and with my travel focused on completing my National Parks quest—I didn’t have it on my radar until I decided to tackle the Treasured Places list. So I really kicked myself for not having included it the last three times we were recently in the San Antonio area.

Side view of the main bronze sculptures with the Not Forgotten Fountain at the far left.

As the second-from-last Treasured Place I needed to visit to finish, and with a deadline to finish approaching, I needed to get there soon. After weighing the options of driving versus flying, it become obvious that it would be a lot cheaper, and much quicker, to fly. So I booked the cheapest ticket I could find to fly from Phoenix to San Antonio, along with the cheapest return ticket I could find for later the same day. I would be taking a “daytrip” to San Antonio, just to finish this one weird little national monument.

Visiting the National Monument

This is definitely one of the more unusual national monuments you’ll visit. While it’s less than a mile to the memorial site from the Valley Hi entrance to Lackland AFB, you’ll need to spend some time in the “Visitor Center” to receive your visitor pass. Make sure you bring your drivers license and don’t have any warrants. Once through the front gate, it’s a quick drive to the parking area and an equally short walk to the site itself. And, truth be told, it’s also a relatively quick site to visit. You’ll need just a few minutes to experience everything this national monument has to offer.

The main bronze sculptures are on a granite platform showcasing a soldier flanked by four different breeds of military dogs, which is shadowed by a large granite wall. On one side of the wall is some descriptive text, while the backside features photos of military dogs in combat action. But the highlight of the site is tucked into a corner of the 3000-square foot plaza. Named the Not Forgotten Fountain, it depicts a Vietnam soldier pouring water from his canteen into his helmet to create a water dish for his dog—a moving tribute.

While the Military Working Dog Teams National Monument isn’t likely to top anyone’s “Must Visit” list, it’s still a simple but well done memorial to an interesting subject. I hadn’t really considered the role that dogs had played in military actions. And if you love dogs, you’ll have a hard time not spending a few contemplative moments at the fountain.

A quick video tour

A two minute tour of the most obscure national monument in the country.

A few final thoughts

First, it’s a bit weird to fly to another city only to return a few hours later. I’m used to only having carry-ons for most of my trips, but it’s weird when you bring the smallest backpack you own and it’s still essentially empty. I could have literally just carried everything I brought with me in my hands.

Similarly, I was asked several times by random strangers what brought me to San Antonio. I can’t imagine what went through their heads when I answered that I had flown in specifically to see the Military Working Dog Teams National Monument. I am 100% certain that no one besides the guards at Lackland had ever heard of it before, but I got absolutely zero follow up questions. Answering that question was a total conversation killer.

I would have been pretty disappointed had this been the last site I needed to visit to complete the Treasured Places list. No offense, but yeah…it’s just a memorial. But luckily, I had saved one spot I had been wanting to visit for well over a decade—a place I’ll visit next week!

Having already visited San Antonio a number of times, and without much time to explore beyond the city, I made just a few stops. After lunch and beverages at Blue Star Brewing, I visited Menger Bar (one of the oldest bars in Texas—and where Teddy Roosevelt recruited Rough Riders). I then made a quick stop at San Pedro Springs Park, the second oldest park in the US and the origin site for the settlement that became San Antonio. From there it was back to the airport to fly home!

If you missed the short video of the National Monument above, scroll back up and check it out.


A Campfire Chat with Tom Thrash about Quests

This is a new thing I’m doing. Or at least something I’m testing out a bit.

My goal here is to have short, informal conversations with various interesting people I’ve met over social media. Not formal interviews with internet-famous influencers, just authentic conversations with the folks that comprise the online communities I value.

So many of us enjoy interacting with others online, but we rarely get to have an actual verbal conversation—even if it’s just over skype. So I decided to change that.

For now, these will simply be occasional chats—maybe about a specific topic (like this one), or maybe recounting a funny travel story, or just talking about a recent trip—that might happen around a campfire. Generally speaking, it’s safe to expect a heavy dose of conversation around travel and outdoor adventures.

I have vague ideas of turning this into an ongoing audio podcast, but we’ll see how it goes.

The Conversation

A little background

I first met Tom Thrash via a weekly twitter chat called #ParkChat. We bonded over our love of travel quests, craft beer, and—as you’d expect—national parks.

Tom and I talked about our quests last year via videochat, but our paths haven’t crossed just yet. Luckily, we expect that to finally happen later this summer during a #parkchat meetup we’re both attending in Sequoia National Park.

I really like the quest he’s doing to get to all the ski runs in Vermont, even the podunk ones. Those smaller quests can be a lot of fun, and as he mentioned, can be a perfect little excuse to get out of the house. I’ve done something similar here in Phoenix around the city’s ‘Points of Pride’.

Here’s a recent update Tom posted on where he stands on a number of quests:

Original embed is now broken, but here’s a screenshot and the original link:

You can follow his travels on twitter or instagram, or over on his blog.

If you enjoyed this, please give this post a like or a thumbs up on youtube. If you have some feedback for me, shoot me a quick email. Oh, and sorry about the loud start there.

Oh, and a quick message for Tom…

Kudos on snagging a Heady Topper for the chat. It was hard to concentrate every time you raised your glass for a sip…

What I wish I knew before starting my national parks quest

Travel quests are among the most powerful ways to get yourself out more. My personal national parks quest—visiting all 417 national park units in the country—has been the driving force for the vast majority of my own travel. And it’s been one of the most impactful endeavors in my life. I firmly believe that if … Read more

Why you should adopt a personal travel quest

I believe that travel quests are one of the best ways to inspire more travel. In fact, the original name of this blog was originally going to be—an ode to the quest that inspired so much of my own travel. That’s how powerful I think quests can be to getting out and adventuring more. … Read more