Greetings and welcome. Here are my thoughts and ramblings about my life as a writer, photographer, and artist. Life isn't all sunshine and flowers. I weave my way through as much heartache as joy to discover wondrous hidden treasures bubbling my soul. I cover numerous topics bouncing from one to another like a butterfly going from flower to flower. These explorations are fascinating. I hope you enjoy and find inspiration of your own. Namarie.
My mind is totally focused on
writing about the recent trip. It’s hard to pull away to get other things (like
my job, ha ha) done. I’ve spent the last couple of days doing research about
areas I traveled the second day and discovered some of my previous assumptions
were way off.
I wanted to know about the
elevations and mountains that I-81 traverses through Pennsylvania. Uh, oh, that
area isn’t really considered the mountain as I had believed, although there are
a few mountains in the areas. This information will be an excerpt in the book.
I’m still trying to get an understanding of it all from reviewing the atlas,
Google maps, various websites, and geology. I’ve spent a lot of time on this
one subject and it’s time to move on.
And so, yesterday, I moved into
Day 3. I’ve written the first draft from what was blogged during the trip,
written in the journal, and little notations written in the pocket notebook I
carry on my person. I edited, earlier this morning, a dozen of the photos taken
while driving. Virginia is a beautiful state for photographs. I love some of
the scenery along the highway.
There are the usual issues with
photo editing and how I see the pictures on the laptop and the light in that
room is different from working on the PC. (The first couple of days of travel I
hadn’t saved the pictures to Dropbox which can be accessed by both computers,
so those earlier days are only on the laptop.) And there’s always the decision
of printing out the photos so I can see them while I’m writing.
So many decisions that
sometimes I get stuck and can’t move. The hardest thing is that there isn’t
really anyone to advise me. Friends may make suggestions, but I really don’t
know anyone who is doing what I am doing.
I’ve spent time the last few days (in between
newspaper editing and article writing) working on the new book. The goal is to
provide more description. I’ve managed to get through Day 1. Photos were edited
which also help me to remember details I hadn’t written in the travel blog or
Yesterday, I perused Google Maps and the atlas tracing
the route, and came up with a couple of surprising revelations. A quick glance
at maps does not always translate well to the subsequent actual traveling.
There were a couple of times when my sense of direction was totally off, even
with the compass in the car. Yesterday’s scrutiny of the New York Thruway
interchanges contradicted what my feelings were as the interstate was accessed.
My mind kept saying, “This is not what I felt while actually driving!” I
studied the maps. How did I not understand this before?
After I finished writing Day 1, I copy and pasted it
to a new sheet to see how adding photos would look. I realized that too many
pictures detract from the text, so I definitely want to do a picture book of
the journey. That book will contain more of the along the road shots while the
travel book will have the better, more artistic pictures.
I want to work on both books at the same time. I didn’t
do that for the 2013 trip and subsequently never got around to doing anything
with all the pictures that didn’t make it into the travel writing book. What a
waste of some beautiful photographs. I’m not going to let that happen again.
“Not Too Cold for Alligators” is being written at the
moment in MS Word. The printing/publishing decision will be made when I’m
further along with the book. As for the picture book, I’ve looked at templates
and pricing with createspace.com, Blurb’s Booksmart, and Shutterfly. These
books are expensive. They sound good for a copy or two, but to sell these books...
there’s no room to make any money. (And I’ve learned from past experience that
it is even impossible to break even!) It’s a lot to think about.
I’m almost wondering if an ebook is the best bet for a
picture book. Oh, I would still want a printed version for myself and I have
some feelers out to a couple of local publishing places and I’m waiting to hear
My focus is on writing, but in the back of my mind,
the call to draw is getting stronger. Ideas vie within my mind. I tell myself I’ll
only work on the book a couple hours, but the next thing I know, most of the
day has gone by. Once the light begins fading, drawing in the studio is not an
option. My poor mind feels like it goes through the wringer.
Another brutally frigid morning with below zero
temperatures and more snow predicted for later today through to tomorrow. I’ve
only been back 10 days and I’m tired of this weather. I’m still in recovery
mode from the trip and feeling overwhelmed with everything I want to do. I’m
beginning to think overwhelmed is a constant state of mind for me.
I started working on the new book, thinking I’ll call
it “Not Too Cold for Alligators” to tie it into the 2013 trip as there were
similar aspects with this one. Plus, I did see more alligators on this trip.
Photos are slowly being edited and that’s one of the bigger issues and it
drives me crazy.
For the most part, books are either picture books or
story books (novels). Yes, some pictures and images can be added to the latter,
but printers/publishers frown at combining pictures with a lot of text. The
printed version ends up unaffordable. Still, I am pushing. The technology that
is available should allow more pictures with story.
I never did manage to pull together a full picture
book of the 2013 trip and wonder now if I should combine those photos with the
current ones. There are many very good pictures that haven’t been shown. I work
hard to get these photos and if they can’t be shared, what is the purpose?
As a photographer and a writer, it is important to me
to use both photos and the written word. I figure if I talk about it enough, a
solution will come my way on how to resolve the issue. How can I tell my story
with the written word and pictures and have the book be affordable?
Of course, the book isn’t the only thing on my mind. I’m
trying to update all my spreadsheets to properly track expenses, art
inventories, sales, etc. Each year improvements are made; as my art evolves so
must the record keeping. There are lots of ideas and desire to do new drawings
and paintings, too. And I still have those unfinished works on the easels.
There are bills to pay, house to maintain, and the
freelance job with the InterTown Record. That means editing, putting together
the community calendar, writing and arranging the weekly column, and any extra
stories or interviews that come my way.
I have to continue downsizing and it’s imperative I
find a smaller house. Time management has never been my forte. But I’ll keep
I can’t get out of this crappy Days Inn fast enough.
As soon as it’s light, I’m out of the room and getting the luggage trolley. I
haul everything out and bring the trolley back while leaving the car running.
The windows are all icy. The desk clerk checks me out and never asks how the
stay was, never wishes me a good day. While I like Port Jervis, N.Y., as a
stopping place, next time I travel in this direction, I’ll have to either stop
sooner or drive later to another town. I never want to stay in this place
I scrape and wipe the windows because they’re still
not totally defrosted and I’m on I-84E by 7:30 a.m. The sun is blinding and I
swap glasses. The speed limit is 65 mph and the roads are clear so traffic moves
along. Windshield picks up salt and grime; not good for trying to get
photographs; doesn’t matter anyway, as the traffic is heavy.
Google maps had been perused before leaving the hotel.
There are three ways to get home from here and all are almost six hours give or
take five minutes. I could return the way I came which would be I-84 to the New
York Thruway to NY 7 and to Rte. 9 across Vermont and to Rte. 114 in Henniker
to Bradford. Or, I could stay on I-84E into Hartford, Conn., and pick up I-91N
to Rte. 9E in Brattleboro, Vt. The third way is recommended by friends Gayle
Hedrington and Candy Bliss, and that’s to take the thruway to Rte. 7, but
staying on Rte. 7 in Vermont before taking Rte. 11 across the state into New
Hampshire and catching Rte. 103 home. They say that way is a pretty ride.
The final decision will be made when I get to the turn
off. I tend to stick to something more familiar… especially on the return home.
Plus, I want to get a photo of the bridge across the Hudson River that I missed
the last time, so when the turn off to the thruway comes up, I stay on I-84E.
Five minutes later, I regret that decision as the traffic becomes bumper to
bumper, stop and go across the bridge. No photos can be taken in this
situation. Then there’s the toll after the bridge and as I approach, the two
lanes widen into many and I don’t know what lane to be in.
The signs are hard to read, but I finally make out, on
the far right, something about all vehicles. Luckily, I am able to cut over
four lanes. I don’t even know how much. It’s only $1.50. I tell the guy how
confusing this is and it’s hard for drivers unfamiliar with this route to know
what to do. (At least it’s cheaper than the thruway… though not enough to be a
Connecticut is boring; at least it is to me and I
again regret the decision not to take the recommendations of friends. Next
time, I promise. There also seems to be more city-type areas along this route
and closer together. I make it through the tunnel in Hartford and take the
right onto I-91N and the traveling gets better. Snow banks are higher and some
of the signs are buried. The further north, the more the traffic thins and I am
more comfortable. There are better views and road crews are out cleaning up
snow in preparation, I guess, for more snow coming.
Gas is getting low so I stop in North Adams, Mass.,
and decide to also have something to eat. I haven’t eaten at a Friendly’s in
years and order French toast and bacon. I only eat half and get a to-go box.
There’s an Irving station across the street and that has the cheapest gas I’ve
seen all morning at $2.11/gl. Getting out of there is tough with the traffic
backed up from road crews cleaning up snow, can only go one way out at one exit
which is the wrong direction and no cross traffic. To come out at the lights, I
have to contend with a stream of traffic from BJ’s and whatever else is down
that way and there are a lot of vehicles.
Someone finally lets me into the left turn lane and
when the light turns green, I follow the car in front. Unfortunately, I forgot
to pay attention that these lights don’t have arrows and the light is green
from both directions. I turn right in from of some guy shooting straight across
and earn a blaring horn for my inattention. Thank God that’s all that happened.
Back on I-91N, I cross the Vermont border at 11:42 and
I’m in New Hampshire at noon. I just want to be home at this point. There’s
more snow, but it’s not until I reach Bradford that it hits me that there
really is a lot of snow. I swear there’s more here than I’ve seen all day!
I get to my driveway which has been plowed nicely.
However, my walkways haven’t been shoveled. That’s a let-down. I back into the
garage, get out, and run into the house without bringing anything else but the
“Kitty, I’m hooommme!” I yell, but I don’t have to
because she’s right there. She’s meowing and rubbing against me even before I
put the camera down. I scoop her up. “I’ve missed you so much!” Tears run down
my face and I just hug and cuddle her. I try to put her down, but she clings so
I walk around the house just holding and petting her. She finally lets me set
her on the table and she sits there while I bring everything inside.
I make a second trip to the bathroom and her hear
meowing again. “I’m in here,” I holler and she comes running. She’s been close
by and even now sleeps in the chair beside me.
Well, I’m home. I’m going to relax the rest of the day
and tomorrow I’ll have to dive into paperwork and getting things in order. Oh,
there’s a lot to do and I can’t even think about working on the book yet. Yep,
home and work. There’s lots to do… starting tomorrow.
woke up early and was in the shower at 5 a.m. Everything is packed but the
laptop. The morning writing is done and when I pull back the curtains, I see
snow in the parking lot lights. Wait a minute! I hung out here two extra days
to avoid snow. The forecast said rain.
finish up and am eager to get on the road. I take a couple of small bags out to
the car. The doors are frozen and I have to give a tug to get them open. I
start the vehicle to put on heat and defroster while I’m rearranging and things
inside. I scrape the windshield and move the car to the covered drive up and
bring a trolley to the fourth floor to load up the rest of my belongings. I’m
all checked out and ready to go at 7:15 a.m.
temperature is 32 degrees and the weather helped in the decision of the route.
No extra sightseeing today. I head up Rte. 17N. Traffic is heavy, but after
awhile, when away from the city, the highway narrows and the traffic thins.
This is the Virginia I love with the open rolling hills and farms. I take some
photos… maybe I’ll do a book of Taken along the Highway.
driving isn’t bad. I catch I-66W to I-81N and cross the West Virginia border at
8:55 and cross the Potomac River into Maryland 20 minutes later. There are
patches of snow in the fields now and the speed limit drops to 65 mph and it’s
only 60 mph going through Hagerstown. The Pennsylvania border is crossed at
love, love, love the farms along this route with their humongous fields and
huge silos. Again, there is much open countryside, rolling hills, and
interesting trees. (I need to find out the trees that have white and brown
trunks and limbs. Usually the upper trunk and branches are white.) But
sometimes the big trucks block my view. Awwww.
is more snow in the fields and now in the meridian. I-81N climbs and a couple
of cities – Chambersburg, Harrisburg – are passed. The terrain becomes rockier.
Three hours go by and I keep driving. My legs start to ache as the driving goes
on and on with me picking up the camera occasionally to get a couple of shots. Sometimes
my brain kind of zones out and I catch myself drifting. I yawn a lot and I’m on
my second bottle of water. For some reason, I’m very thirsty today.
gas gauge drops. I push further and finally take a break for lunch when I reach
Wilkes-Barre, exit 168. I saw a sign for Applebees, but decide on Red Robin. I’ve
never eaten at a Red Robin. It advertises “gourmet burgers.” There’s a bar
inside and TVs every few feet. Oh, my, God! Then there are little computer
things on the table with more advertising. I hear a guy in the next booth
talking about being able to play games on these things… for a price. Gosh, can’t
people come in for a meal without TVs, computers, and cell phones?
burger is good and you can have all the fries you want. When I go to pay, the
waitress says the credit card can be run on that computer on the table. I’m not
sure how I feel about all that. While the burger was good, that would not be a
place where I’d return.
are no gas stations near the restaurants. First I drive one way for a bit, then
turn around and come back by the restaurants and stores. I find a Sheetz
station at the bottom of the hill on another road. How confusing. The gas costs
$2.39/gl. The most expensive I’ve seen all day.
billboards now have flashing advertisements. Personally, I think these should
be illegal. It’s too easy to get distracted and not watch the road, especially
the ones that advertise more than one product or event. Also, there were times
when the flash made me jump thinking it was police or emergency vehicles. Some
signs are very, very high. Again, I find these hard to read. When looking up
that high, it’s hard to see the traffic around. I don’t get it.
speed limit on I-81N drops to 55 mph due to construction areas around Pittston
and for miles further. Some vehicles never slow down even though there are
signs threatening double fines for speeding in these zones. This makes the
driving even more tedious. For some reason, I have a harder time keeping awake
when moving slower and do a lot of wriggling in my seat.
is reached and it’s up, around, down on I-380 and finally east on I-84. Hmm, I
should have looked at the atlas to see how many exits. It’s easy to count down
because it gives an idea how farto go,
but when the exit numbers go up, I have no idea how much further and I don’t
remember the towns I traveled through on the way south.
thought I had another half to an hour more to go and am surprised when I see
the sign for Metamoras, Pa., and Port Jervis, N.Y. I consider driving further,
but a stop is needed anyway, so I may as well call it a day.
woman at the desk isn’t the friendliest. Oh, I miss those southerners! This one
could probably care less if I booked the room or not. She assigns Room 105 and I
go check it out (and to use the facility). There’s a good-sized vanity in the
bathroom, but the sink is at the same end as the toilet. That’s kind of yucky
to have to squeeze beside the toilet to wash hand or, worse even, brush teeth!
get my things inside the room. I have to pull up on the door handle from the
inside to get it to latch. Oh, I’ll definitely be double locking tonight. The
TV is old style and there are not enough electrical outlets for this day and
age. I unplug the coffee pot so I can plug in the laptop. The chair to this
desk is not a swivel desk chair nor on rollers and it has a cigarette burn in
the seat cushion (and this is a non-smoking room).
thing I do like is the burnt orange comforter on the bed. The spot of color is
nice against the white sheets and the white snow bank outside the window.
this price is the average I’ve been paying for rooms and this one if far less
quality. I understand older and things getting run down, but to charge the same
price as better quality places… Then again, there isn’t much else between here
and home unless I want to drive a lot further (either direction).
I did my goal today. Tomorrow I’ll arrive home.
not ambitious today and think I’ll just hang out at the hotel. I write for
awhile then go down to the breakfast room for biscuits and gravy. At least the
TV isn’t blasting depressing news – except for the storm in the northeast. I’m
glad I chose to stay in Fredericksburg until tomorrow.
of me would like to go back to that battlefield I saw on the tour yesterday,
but I just don’t feel like driving. I have two more days of heavy driving to
get home and I want to save my energy for that. I do pour over Google maps
again. I could be in Port Jervis, N.Y. in a little over five hours depending on
traffic, weather, and road conditions, but that would be going I-95N a bit more
then taking I-495 around D.C. and catching Rte. 15N. I don’t want to go
anywhere near Washington and I-495 is a toll road.
are a couple other options. Rte. 15N could be accessed by going east along I-66
from Rte. 17N and that would bring me into Harrisburg, Pa., where I-81 would be
picked up. Rte. 15 goes through Gettysburg. Then there is that route those
people told me to take yesterday. But it would be so tough to go by historical
places and not stop. Any stopping might not get me to the New York border
because I’ll be too tired.
see what tomorrow morning brings and make decisions then. I’ll be checking the
weather and the routes. I want to be out of here by 8 a.m.
finish catching up on the blogging and work on editing photos. Eleven pictures
are posted to Facebook. I’m only up to the first full day in St. Augustine and
that was Tuesday. St. Augustine is one of my favorite places. I love the
history, architecture, and friendliness of everyone and it doesn’t feel hectic
there. I had loved the Nature Coast of Florida, too, where Andrea and Lance
have their house.
have lunch at Perkins Family Restaurant. I drive over because today is much
cooler than yesterday and there’s a bite to the air. Later I go for a swim and
sit in the hot tub… figured out where to turn it on this time. One of the
workers has been painting and propped the door open while he cleaned brushes
and equipment outside. Oooh, that air is cold coming in. I keep my shoulders
below the surface. Steam rises from the water.
in the room I am totally unambitious. Maybe it’s because I didn’t sleep well
last night. Yes, I am a bit worried about the journey home, then being home
with all that snow. Snow is beautiful, but I don’t want to deal with it and the
cold any more. Gosh, I’ve been saying that a lot, and once I actually see how
much, I’ll probably be saying it more.
I want to be in my own place, sleep in my own bed, and enjoy the company of my
little fur ball. I can’t wait to cuddle her.
good night’s rest; maybe the swim and hot tub helped. I spend an hour and a
half back and forth between Google maps and weather.com trying to decide if I
should move on or hole up here. With sleet, rain, snow through Pennsylvania,
snow across New York and continuing into Monday, I decide to stay put. Tuesday
and Wednesday look to be clear days, so I’m make the run for home then. I could
make it in one day, but if I drove straight for 11 hours, I wouldn’t be able to
get out of the car without falling on my face… if I could move at all. There
will be a stop for one more night after leaving here. I’d like to shoot for
Port Jervis, N.Y.
go down to the lobby to let them I’ll stay two more nights. The rate is $5 a
night lower. I fill my travel mug with coffee. Hopefully this stuff is better
than the in-room coffee; it is. As usual, there is nothing appealing on the
breakfast bar and listening to that TV turns my stomach.
coffee is stronger, but bitter. At least it’s drinkable. I catch up on more
blogging, check messages, edit a newspaper column and call about the trolley
tour. No, they do not do hotel shuttles and it’s a tour only, no getting on and
off. She gives me directions and I’m heading out by 10 a.m. The temperature is
woman had said to go to the bottom of the hill and take a right at the lights.
Near the bottom, there’s a blinking light and further on a full set of lights.
At the blinking light is a Visitors’ Center sign and I turn right. She had said
to get in the left lane. Wait, this is only a two way road without extra lanes.
It’s more of a country road running along the river. This can’t be right. I
have to drive a bit before I find a place to turn around.
return to Rte. 17 and take the right at the next set of lights. Ah, this is better.
What the woman failed to mention was that many of these are one-way streets.
What’s worse is that I can’t see street signs for some of them. Do I look on
the left (as I need to turn left) or do I look to the right? I miss Charlotte
Street where I am supposed to turn and go through two sets of lights before
reaching one where I can turn left. The next left puts me on Caroline Street
and I’m starting to drive past a street when I see the trolley. Oops. Good
thing no one is behind me. I pull in the exit only way to a parking lot. It’s
Sunday morning and things are quiet. I figure I can get away with it. I
straighten out so I can pull into a head-on parking space next to the trolley.
Visitors’ Center doesn’t open until 11 a.m. on Sundays, so the tour is given
first and the tickets bought afterwards. I’m a little early and chat with the
driver/tour guide. Another guy gets on. He’s a driver/tour guide in training
and in talking about my traveling north, he suggests taking Rte. 3W to Rte. 29N
Rte. 17N to Rte. 66W instead of Rte. 17N. A woman boarding hears him and agrees
saying it’s a much nice route with less traffic going through Chancillorsville
we are off for the tour. The trolley has large windows. There’s one problem.
The top window is a huge arched piece and the bottom is a small 12-inch high
two pane wide window where the right slides to the left to open. Unfortunately,
the frame between the top and bottom is right at eye level. I can’t see over
the top without standing and to see out the bottom, smaller windows, I have to
bend over. Not a very comfortable to manipulate the camera. And the front
windows, which are very tall, are a little narrow for photographs.
the history stories are great although I’m not into statues and monuments. It
was interesting to hear something of George Washington’s younger years and the
farm from which he came. There’s a university here named after his mother,
driver explains that all the streets are named after King George’s relatives
and that Sophia Street is pronounced with a long i. Many of the older houses
are narrow because at one time, property taxes were determined by the width of
the house. The trolley travels around the city and to the edges. The city is
along the Rappahannock River which once was a major seaport as it was much
deeper in the earlier days. When the railroad became prominent, shipping down
the river to Chesapeake Bay wasn’t as lucrative and the bigger ships stopped
stories are told, but I focus on trying to get photos. Oh, I wish I could get
off the trolley for a few. He stops often to tell the tales, but the angles
aren’t good for pictures. To actually visit these places, I’d have to drive
here as some are not within walking distance. Fredericksburg needs to have
trolleys like St. Augustine and Savannah.
spot that interests me the most is the Fredericksburg National Military Park.
The driver had been having us imagine most of the buildings not here and there
were just fields looking from the hill down across the river. He talked about
the union and confederate soldiers on either side of the river. The
confederates had burned the bridges into the city and held the high ground.
Union soldiers would build pontoons to try to sneak across the river at night.
It was December and too cold to swim.
at this one park, that has been preserved is open except for some trees, he
says, “Imagine the hundred thousand wounded soldiers screaming in agony, crying
for help, for mothers, wives, and loved ones. The sound would be echoing across
the hill and valley. If they weren’t dying from their wounds, they were
freezing to death in the December cold.”
that moment, I could hear them crying. Can you imagine thousands of men
screaming, crying, or moaning? I could see bodies, thousands of bodies,
littering the expanse of the hillside, writhing in pain or totally still in the
odd positions they dropped. It’s one thing to read about these events in
stories or to see movies, but to actually be in the place where this happened;
my heart contracts and I choke down tears. It’s hard to describe what actually
being in this place is like.
am reminded of when I visited the Virginia Civil War Museum off I-81 on the
trip down and I stood in that family’s farmyard and envisioned what it was like
to have a war overrun your farm and have your fields full of dead and dying
young men. I was emotional that day, too. Would you ever want to eat crops from
those fields again?
more people need to experience moments like this; feel the dying, seeing the
hurt it does. Yes, the land will replenish, but there are still scars to it and
to those who can feel the horror and grief of war.
are a couple of cemeteries. The one for the confederate soldiers have many
unnamed graves where bodies were buried sometimes two or three to a grave
because the soldiers were unknown. There are even a couple of mass graves.
pull myself back to the present as the trolley rambles on. It takes a few
minutes to get my head out of that space and soon the trolley is parked. I pay
for my ticket inside the VIC center and she gives me a map to show how to get
back to I-17N and the hotel. First, though, I want to walk around. It’s only a
block to the river, so I cross the street and head down the hill.
this part of the river doesn’t have a lot of nice views. I do enter a parking
lot with signs saying No Trespassing, Parking for Motorists Only. Hey, I’m only
after a few pictures. As it is, there are other people here relaxing in the
warm sun and enjoying the views.
go back to Charlotte Street and wander for a ways in one direction, then cross
the street to return. There are many little shops and cafes. Each café has a
couple little bistro chairs outside which makes is nice, especially on a day as
beautiful as this. I plan to lunch at an Irish pub, but there is a 20 minute
wait and I choose to move on.
stop in an art gallery and meet Robyn Ryan, the docent of the day and an
artist. We have a magnificent conversation about art, creativity, and the
courage to change styles. This is a highlight of the day and the art work on
the walls is amazing. I love the different styles, techniques, and media.
I head back to the hotel and stop at the Perkins Family Restaurant for a
delicious burger, fries, and chocolate mousse cream pie. I would definitely
like to see more of Fredericksburg.
wake thinking about getting home. Google maps and weather.com are studied. It’s
four and a half hours to Scranton, Pa. with the weather saying 39 degrees and
rain. It’s six hours from Scranton to Bradford, N.H., but the weather forecast
for Monday is lots of snow. No matter what, tomorrow will not be a good travel
check out the breakfast around 7:30. Ugh, nothing appealing and the thought of
sitting there listening to the TV blaring depressing news is something I am not
going to do. Why do places have to have TV blaring everywhere now? Can’t people
do anything without being bombarded with negative happenings? I refuse to
listen and return to my room.
spend the entire day editing, working on the community calendar, and writing my
column. I periodically check messages and answer. I finish up before 4:30 and
because I haven’t eaten, go to the front desk for delivery menus. There’s no
one around the pool and it looks so inviting that I hurry back to the room to
change into a swimsuit.
the water is warm and feels so good. Up and down the length of the pool,
sometimes face up and other times swimming; back and forth until I’m tired… at
least 15 times. Then it’s over to the hot tub where the heat warms muscles and
bones. So good!
would be nice to have some conversation, but traveling alone leaves a lot of
silent times. I get out and dry as well as possible and head back to the room.
I feel better than I have in days!
order delivery and enjoy another good meal, then settle to watch TV for an hour
or so. A good day!
can’t wait to be out of this crappy hotel! The one good thing, the bed was very
comfortable and I slept well. The bags are packed and loaded in the car as soon
as it is light. I go back inside to have a biscuit and gravy. That is as dull
and dry as this hotel. Ugh, I can’t even eat it. Even the gravy is tasteless.
Maybe it’s just me and I’m ready to be home. I throw my breakfast in trash and
in turning I lose my balance and fall against an older woman. Good thing I don’t
knock her over.
on the road by 7:30 and the temperature is 30 degrees. Google maps said
Fredericksburg, Va. is six hours away. The Santee River is crossed. How
beautiful! This would actually be a nice area to explore – someday – like I say
all too often. The driving is tedious and I push for North Carolina before
stopping for gas. (I should’ve stopped before the border because gas there was
$1.98/gl. and on this side, $2.14 (I do find one for $2.09.)
speed limit in North Carolina is only 65; funny how dropping 5 mph feels so
much slower. The driving is a bit tedious and just before Florence, the speed
limit goes up to 70, then later drops back to 65. Many vehicles don’t even
bother to slow down while others stay in the middle lane and drive slow.
take a break in Selma to visit a historic train station, but then I don’t
explore it. I do take a couple of train photos, though, as it’s still an active
area. My feet and legs are aching and it helps to walk about a bit.
Virginia border is crossed at noon and the lady at the VIC says Fredericksburg
is two hours away. She gives me the Hotel Coupon booklet for the discount at
the Comfort Inn & Suites then shows me a flyer dropped off by Wingate by
Windham reps about a special they are running. Most hotels charge an additional
$10 or more a night for Fridays and Saturdays and I’ll be checking in both of
those nights. Regular nights for both hotels are the same, but Wingate is only
charging $5 a night more for the weekend. Plus, they not only have an indoor
pool, but also a hot tub. Oh, my. Wouldn’t a hot tub feel nice on my aching
dear, what a decision. Comfort Inn & Suites has that wonderful mineral pool
and they were so nice to me in 2013. But this trip is supposed to be different.
Why should I think the Wingate wouldn’t be as nice? Well, I’ll make the
decision when I get there.
opt to take I-295 around Richmond to get photos of the Varina-Enon Bridge over
the St. James River. This had been the first Oh, My, God bridge I crossed in
2013 and back then I didn’t realize I could take pictures while the vehicle is
moving. (Don’t tell anyone.) Fantastic! I love these bridges. If I wasn’t
driving, I could get more and better pictures.
was one hurting puppy by the time I reached Fredericksburg. Oh, was it
difficult to walk! Good thing I have the walking stick. The Wingate is chosen
and I’m assigned Room 424. Bonnie says it will be quieter after I explain that
I’m the editor of a local newspaper back home and I work on Saturdays. I also
need to do laundry and she tells me how to get to that room.
room is great! It’s spacious and the light by the bed was on when I come in
making it a warm welcome. There’s room for both suitcases, plus a good-sized
work desk, an easy chair with footstool in the corner from where I can watch
TV, plus other amenities.
dirty laundry is dragged to the laundry room. Everything costs four quarters. I
put the money in the soap dispenser machine, but the little box doesn’t drop
down which mean I hobble down the hall to the front desk where she hands me a
box. Everything fits in the washer, but a couple of items. I hide the suitcase
behind the door and return to the room where I work for half an hour, then go
back to tend to laundry.
dryer is loaded and four quarters are put in the machine for Bounce. Again,
nothing and I hobble back down the hall to the desk and then back to the
laundry room. OK, set, and it’s up to Room 424 where I order delivery of
fettucini Alfredo, Caesar salad, and tiramisu which arrives in half an hour and
return to check on the laundry. Not dry and I’m out of quarters. Crap! Another
hobble to the front desk and back and the dryer is restarted. Up on the fourth
floor, I finish dinner and clean up the work folders. An hour later, I’m back
in the laundry room. Noooo! Still not dry. By now, I can hardly walk. You’d
think with all the walking I’ve done the past two weeks that this wouldn’t be
happening. Somehow, though, the day’s driving did a number on me. One more trip
to the front desk.
time was the charm and the clothes were finally done. However, I had little
energy left and took care of the clothes in piece meal; do a few items, sit.
But I got it done. Oh, that bed felt so good when I got in it!
leave St. Augustine at 8:10 a.m. to begin the trek north. The temperature is 56
degrees and it’s raining. Only a right-hand turn is allowed and then it’s a
scoot across three lanes to the left to do a U-turn, then I-95 is an immediate
right. It’s a good thing I asked because my sense of direction is off. I
thought north would be a left onto the interstate, not right.
is heavy, but moves along in spite of the rain. I’m not going to be able to get
photos with the windshield wipers going. I decide to take the I-295 beltway
around the city of Jacksonville. That might not be a smart move as the traffic
is stop and go, bumper to bumper, for half an hour. A Patti Griffin CD keeps me from boredom and
the singing helps the time go by. When was the last time I sang? It feels good.
The beltway crosses Marion Creek and the St. John River on the N. Dames Point
Bridge; a huge cable-stayed bridge like those that had so thrilled me on the
2013 trip. Up and up and over; aieeee!
five minutes later, I am back on I-95N.
St. Mary’s River is crossed at 9:30 a.m. and a quick stop is made at the
Georgia VIC. I am sad leaving Florida. I wanted more bird pictures. I wanted to
explore more. I get a little weepy. Stop! No regrets! I did what I did and
loved it. There will have to be other times to come back and make new
discoveries and revisit favorite places. The plan is to drive through this
state and get into South Carolina before stopping for the night. I take a
little stretch and am soon back on the interstate.
rain becomes lighter and more periodic. Many creeks and rivers are crossed and
I hold the camera up to catch shots of the Brunswick and Turtle rivers. By now,
I’m quite hungry as I didn’t have anything for breakfast. I stop at I-Hop in
Brunswick for strawberry and banana pancakes. I can’t eat them all and I’m back
on the road by 10:50 a.m. after getting gas for $2.09/gl for a total of $20.09.
How’s that for numbers?
Savannah River is crossed into South Carolina at noon and at 1:45 p.m., I check
into a Comfort Inn & Suites in Santee at Exit 98. The temperature is 61
degrees and I’ve driven 1,596.3 miles. At first, the desk clerk said I couldn’t
check in until three, but then found a room that was ready. This woman is
probably the least friendly person I’ve come in contact with on this entire
trip. She didn’t make me feel welcome at all. If I wasn’t so achy, I’d continue
to the next Comfort Inn.
settle in to a less than great room. There was a bit of a musty smell when I
opened the door. It’s dark, drab, and depressing. The bathroom door slams shut
and makes me feel I’m being locked in. It looks like it might have, at one
time, been a hallway door before they went to card keys. There’s one easy chair
squeezed into the corner between the bed and wall. There’s no way to watch TV
from that corner and the large footstool that matches the chair wouldn’t fit
beside the bed and the heater. The desk chair, when I push back, hits the bed. Do
I sound crabby? I am. I’m tired, achy, and I am used to friendlier people down
get my work started for the week as I plan a lot of driving tomorrow to make
I want to do the Alligator Farm, but it’s raining. It wasn’t supposed to rain
until afternoon. As I wait for the shuttle, a yellow cat is by the door, so I
go out to talk to him. I sit on the bench and he gets up beside me and for some
attention. He makes me miss Pele even more.
is the shuttle driver and when I explain my problem getting on and off the
trolley yesterday, she says the front car usually has one of two wider seat
entrances for people with walkers and such. She’s right as I climb aboard the
last seat in the first car. It’s still an effort to pull myself up, but it’s
much better than yesterday.
rain isn’t heavy and the temperature is warmer than yesterday. I get off at
Stop No. 16 and wait about 15 minutes for the bus to the beaches on Anastasia
Island and the Alligator Farm. The trolley driver said the bus drivers are not
tour guides and do not tell stories, however this guy chats and it’s good. Gosh,
I wish I could remember all the stories and information that all these people
provide. He’s good at explaining about the return, too. The Alligator Farm is
the first stop, so I don’t get a chance to see the beaches.
are many more alligators than I remember. Lots of pictures are taken along with
different signs so I can make identifications later. There are many different
types of ‘gator and even a few crocodiles. I’m eager to see the rookery and all
the birds and make my way around in the opposite direction from my visit in
the rookery is a bit of a disappointment. There were many herons and roseate
spoonbills, but they were all sleeping. But the alligators! Oh, my God, are
there alligators! They are more interesting and there a little food machines
along the way so people can feed them. There are so many! Thank heavens that
the boardwalk is high above the ground and waters. There are alligators
everywhere and all different sizes!
also photograph Galapagos turtles and some African birds. Some of the exotic
birds are behind thick mesh fencing so pictures are impossible. That’s
disappointing. It starts raining a little harder. Good thing I’m near the end.
I pass through the gift shop and sit on an outside bench awaiting the bus back
course I am aching from walking the Alligator Farm, but when I get off the bus,
I head down Aviles Street, one of the oldest streets in St. Augustine. This
road has areas set up in old Spanish style like an old hospital. Pam, the
shuttle driver from this morning, had said to see this, but at the moment, I
don’t feel like paying any more and keep walking… and walking. I cross King Street
to the waterfront and make my way back to the bridge. I’d love to walk across
to get pictures, but there’s no way. I hobble back to the trolley stop.
are two places back at Stop No. 1 for which I have tickets. Thankfully they
came with the three-day trolley pass because the Tea and Spice place wasn’t
doing a tour until later and the Old General Store Museum had a tour in
progress. I didn’t want to hang around and Pam took me back to the hotel. She
tells me, on the way, that St. Augustine is all decked out in white lights in
December and January and they give special night tours. December is very busy,
but January is their slow month. She says I should come back next January.
drops me at Blondi’s, a diner in the parking lot. I haven’t eaten all day and
enjoy a delicious burger, fries, and a glass of white zinfandel. Then I hobble
back to the hotel. Oh, I ache after another day of a lot of walking, but St.
Augustine is a wonderful place and worth every step.
early morning is spent catching up on the blog after having a rubber-waffle for
breakfast. Next trip I will bring a real knife, fork, and spoon. The cheap
plastic utensils provided are horrible, plus a lot of waste. All the hotels talk
about being “green,” but a lot is thrown out with the use of plastic utensils,
foam plates and cups, etc. I don’t know how much, or if, they recycle…
everything goes in one trash bucket. I already bring my own coffee cup and the
next trip will also include a brewer and my own coffee. The coffee in the
hotels isn’t very strong or flavorful; well, there’s flavor if you like the
taste of warm, dirty dishwater.
front desk calls the trolley shuttle for me. Yoshi talks me into doing Old Town
Trolley Tours instead of the Red Train Trolley. I don sweater and jacket from
the car as the temperature is quite cool. Juan is the shuttle and what a nice
guy! We stop at another hotel and pick up a couple from New York and we chat
about the weather back home. (Everyone is talking about the storms in New
Town Trolley’s home base is at the Old Jail. A woman with Switzerland across
the back of her jacket cuts in front of me as I’m standing in line. I’m so
shocked, I’m speechless. She is totally oblivious, so intent on… whatever was
her concern. Most people are so courteous around here that I can’t believe she
is so inconsiderate. I feel invisible.
finally get up to the counter. They offer deals with multiple sites to visit. I
purchase a three-day pass, but I’m not interested in the jail. My ticket
includes a museum, trolley, and Alligator Farm. (I want fabulous bird
wander through the museum. It’s interesting, but what really catches my
attention is at the end. One wall has a series of miniature train sets with
working lights to depict the Eastern Florida Rail System. How cool is this!
There are a couple of engines running around the tracks. It’s set up as how it
was years ago and I try to recognize landmarks.
leave the museum without looking at the store items. I’m not interested in
souvenirs or candy. The trolley is being boarded and head on over getting on
the third of a four-car set. Many people are already on board and a couple in
the last row move over on the seat.
oh, this isn’t easy. The steps are a little high and the entrance to the seat
is narrow between the rows. I struggle and the man reaches over to give me a
hand. I give him my walking stick so I can have better leverage to heft myself
up. It’s a squeeze to get into the seat, but soon we are off.
cold. People are pulling coats tighter. I love the history and the stories.
Yes, it’s cool, but this is a great way to get around the old city. The plan is
to ride the trolley throughout one trip, then choose where to get off, however,
at Stop No. 6, I get off… or try to. It’s not easy manipulating walking stick
and taking care not to bang the camera on the car.
put my right foot down and that put the widest part of my body in the narrowest
part between the seats. I got stuck. Talk about embarrassing! I couldn’t get
down and needed the help of another man to to pull myself back up. He just
guides and is there if I should fall. A woman says to put my left foot down
first and that worked. I thank them and quickly move off.
want to get a new pair of Birkenstock sandals. The man in the store is very
helpful. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything I really liked and if I’m
going to pay $100 for a pair of shoes, I’m darn well going to like them!
we look at Vionic sandals. Andrea had recommended these. However, what he has
in stock has too many straps (I want slip-ons) or there’s the thing that goes
between the big and second toes (which do not fit my feet). I leave the store
disappointed and head across the alley to the Silver Feather where I choose a
pair of earrings to replace the pair where I’d lost one. (However, they were
not the right shade of green.)
streets are wandered, photos taken. Andrea had asked me to look up a friend who
works at the Old School House, but he isn’t there. I do come across a man in a
side alley playing a didgeridoo with a dog beside him dressed in costume. I
approach after a few minutes and after others have moved away. I don’t want to
take photos without asking.
is a great conversation. Come to find out, he once lived in Gonic. I take
photos and got a story and he will be in my next book. I continue along St.
George Street trying to decide where to have lunch. There are so many places to
choose from and I can’t decide. I’m really starting to ache and enter an
enclosed section of little shops, like a mini-mall. There’s a restaurant at the
end, but the blaring TV is a turn-off and I head out the door.
oh, where am I? I’m near Flagler College and I cross the road to get photos of
the dining room. I find out later on another trolley tour that there are
special panes protecting the Tiffany windows from the outside elements. That’s
why I can’t get good photos! I can see the bump-out of what used to be the pool
in the Alcatraz Hotel. The Alcatraz is now The Lightner Museum and the pool
area is a café, so that’s where I head. By this time, the walking is extremely
order a chicken sandwich with Cajun coleslaw and zinger iced tea. The slaw is
too spicy for me and the waiter brings balsamic rice instead. It’s a good meal
and after eating, I painfully make my way to the trolley stop out front. This
time I choose the front seat of the fourth car. By now, it’s quite cool and I
pull my jacket tighter.
we get back to Stop No. 1, I again need assistance getting off. The narrow
space and manipulating camera and walking stick while backing down two steps…
most of the time I don’t mind being short, but when the rise in steps (and
bathtub walls) are high, it’s difficult.
the shuttle driver, is nearby. “Are you ready to go back to the hotel?” Oh,
yes! He remembers I’d mentioned earlier that I like history and regales me with
stories all the way back. Gosh, I wish he could take me all around. He loves
St. Augustine and says, that in spite of the tourism, it’s quiet here.
showered, dressed, and writing at the kitchen table when Andrea comes out of
her room for coffee. She is going to try again to make reservations for Tucson.
As much as I have enjoyed their company, I’m ready to move. I especially don’t
want to be in the way as they are getting ready to travel themselves.
get the atlas out of the truck and figuring out ways to get to St. Augustine.
With all the snow and cold back home, I’m trying to put off heading north.
Lance says to take Rte. 40 to 19 and that will take me into St. Augustine. It’s
a real pretty drive with lots of horse farms and we’re talking about driving
when Andrea comes out and starts talking about all she has to do to get ready
to go to Tucson.
about if I leave today,” I say, and she agrees. I’m packed and leaving 45
minutes later. It’s a bit of a teary goodbye. It was nice spending time with
them and I enjoy having someone show me around and tell me stories of the area.
raining and 68 degrees as I leave. Gas is purchased in Dunnellon for $2.08/gl.
(The sign by the road said $1.98 and I don’t see anything saying it’s more
money for credit. Oh, well.) Soon I’m on Rte. 40 east. Lance was right. The
horse farms are amazing. I’d like to stop for pictures, but I’m eager to get to
stop for lunch is made in Polatka at a Golden Corral and it’s back on the road
at 1 p.m. Rte. 19 comes to a T at Rte. 17. Uh, oh, which way now? I first turn
south, but that feels wrong, so I turn around and head north. That feels wrong,
too, so I pull over and get out the atlas. Ah, I need to go south through East
Polatka and cross the St. John River. Finally there’s a sign for St. Augustine
and a left is taken onto Rte. 207.
all passes through the Ocala (oops, forgot what it’s called). A lot of this
territory is scrub pine. Periodically there are pull-off areas. I think they’re
four-wheeling parks. The sand along here is yellow. I do see a couple areas
that might be interesting to explore, but I keep going. Where we have moose or
deer signs in New Hampshire, there are bear signs here. It might not be a good
idea to wander around alone.
reach the Comfort Inn & Suites at 2:15 p.m. The temperature is 61 degrees.
I’ve driven 1,718 miles since leaving home. The bad news is that because I
stayed with Andrea and Lance, I do not have a Florida Hotel Coupon Book. She
does give me a AAA discount, though.
doing my morning journal writing at the kitchen table. Andrea comes out of
their bedroom for coffee and says she wants to paint on Tuesday and go to
Tucson on Wednesday. I agree she should go as she needs to get items to sell at
the mine this summer. She says I should stay until Tuesday.
talk about what to do for the day. I need to check the internet for anything
that came in to the folders after I signed off yesterday. We agree on Rainbow
Springs Park and she gives directions. They will meet me there and call my cell
when they are ready to leave.
head off to McDonald’s to finish up the last minute work for the InterTown
Record. Again, there are so many people pouring through the doors. It’s amazing
the business that McD’s gets. I order two hash browns and a medium orange juice,
set to work, and finish in just over an hour. Now what?
hear a ringing. Where’s that coming from? Wait! That’s my cell phone. I dig it
out, but it’s so noisy in McD’s I can hardly hear what Andrea is saying, so I
say, “OK, I’ll meet you there in a few minutes.” I pack up and head out.
no problem finding the park. I wait for about ten minutes and Andrea and Lance show
up with the two dogs. (They had further to travel than I.) We head off down the
path to the ticket booth and once we pay the fee, we move further. This is on a
hill and it looks down onto the river. I have never seen water so… turquoise. I
thought the Caribbean waters were beautiful, but this… this is totally amazing!
It’s so beautiful, tears come to my eyes.
to describe the water… it’s a gorgeous shade of turquoise in the sun and very
clear. Andrea said if the breeze wasn’t creating ripples, we’d be able to see
where the water bubbles up from the ground. There’s even a swimming area and
the water temperature is 72 degrees all year round. The sand on the bottom is
very light, almost white. There are not words to tell what this is like.
a short time, the three (five counting the dogs) stay together. Andrea and
Lance explain about the park. Soon, they head off. I don’t want them waiting
for me and I am very slow. Berlin and Dana need serious walking as big German
have to have more exercise. I take my time and take many pictures. At one
point, I see cigarette butts stuck in a fence post. Disgusting!
a climb back up to the visitors’ center and the trail goes off the other way.
Thankfully, it’s brick, cement, or boardwalk, so that makes walking easier, but
the hills are tough. I find downhill is worse the walking uphill. Photographs
are taken of the various waterfalls and remnants of the old phosphate mine…
very few ruins. (I’m curious about phosphate mines. They said there used to be
along, I come to an area where animals were once kept. After the phosphate
mine, this was turned into an animal park. (I’ve got research to do later.) The
walking becomes a struggle. Arrghh! Why is it hurting to walk? I push on as
always and at one of the highest points in the park is a pool and here bubbles
can be seen where the spring pushes to the surface. I make my way back to the
VIC. More people are swimming now and I will not take pictures of that, however
I did take some of the azaleas that are coming into bloom. They are beautiful.
get back to Andrea’s. It’s 71 degrees. She’s trying to book air fare, hotels,
and car rentals. It’s not going well. She gives up and we hang out chatting. I
get out my laptop and import 832 photos. Yikes! I work on deleting excess and
poor photos while she and Lance go to Carol’s to help her with something. That
also gives me time to finish reading the book she let me borrow.
get back. “I don’t feel like cooking!” Andrea announces.
me treat you both to dinner for putting up with me,” I offer.
take me to Stumpknockers on the Withlacoochee River. (Stumpknockers are fish
who live around the roots of the cypress and cypress knees to avoid predators.)
Again we sit at an outdoor table. Andrea and I wander along the river bank
taking pictures while the food is being prepared. Oh, this is lovely with the
cypress along the banks and in the water. Long dreadlocks of Spanish moss hang
from the limbs. Absolutely gorgeous. I’m hoping to end up with a couple of
pictures that will make good drawings.
food is delicious and later, after talking for a couple of hours, we remember
the Super Bowl. It’s the middle of the third quarter. Arrggh! We agree the
commercials are disappointing, but, boy, am I glad we got to see the end. What
a fantastic finish!