On the road again!

My month stay in Florida is done. I didn’t write much while staying there, Florida is like a second home and I was either being super lazy or super busy with family.

I spent a lot of quality time with my mom, more than I have in years, and I was so glad I was able to do so. I teared up when I said good-bye, but I managed to keep it in for the most part. My mom is in a nursing home, and it is a sad existence for her. She talks a lot about thinking she is feeling better and wondering if she can move enough to get out of bed and into a wheelchair more often. Maybe even move to a new place, out of her room. I really don’t believe so, she is in so much pain that she wears out in a very short time. And try touching her feet! Yikes. After a career wearing too tight, pointed, uncomfortable shoes, some arthritis and a broken ankle and hip that she didn’t take care of, her feet are a mess and very sensitive to the touch. I did respond on what it would take for her to move, and she did actually try getting into a wheel chair once, but it was not much fun for her. So hard to see, my strong-willed mom now in bed all the time.

But, time to go forward with my trip. I do plan on coming back down after the holidays to touch base again. So packing up all my stuff, what I brought with and all the stuff I bought on the way!

Vacation in Crystal River

So I have now been in Florida since April 22nd and it has been a warm, relaxing time to the very hot, very muggy day today. But, that is Florida. Spring is over and summer is here.

Today, my stay in Crystal River is the focus of my writing. In summary, I loved this quirky town. You have pockets of tourism mixed with the feel of a cute town with the more laid-back areas that lay outside of this sometimes overwhelming structure of “go, go, go” of tourism. This is a great place to vacation, but I wondered if it would be a good place to stay awhile too.

I had a great visit and I actually got to go swimming in the bay with some manatees! Something I have been wanting to do ever since I started coming to Naples, Florida to visit my parents over 20 years ago. I loved floating around playing “don’t touch me” with the manatees, twisting and turning to avoid touching them! They blend in so well with the bottom that all of sudden you are right over the top of them while they are floating up to the surface to breath in some air. But they are so cute! Saw a mom, dad and baby in one group. It was so sad though, the mom was very badly injured by a boat rotor (at least one). I wondered how in the world she survived to have a baby! In another grouping we say about 8 of them resting on the bottom of the bay.

The next day I want on an airboat cruise out to the gulf. Didn’t see a lot of wildlife (a manta ray, a turtle and some coral) but the ride was so beautiful! Wove through the river and the mangrove islands and out into the bay. I haven’t been on an airboat yet, so one more box checked off!

My last visit was to Three Sisters Springs for a walk, and to stop and eat of course! Lots of fun places to eat at around here. Beautiful place to walk at, but no access to the beautiful waterway for cooling off! Although you could see where a few walked around the signs. Definitely some of the most beautiful water I have seen here.

Homosassa Springs is a must-see spot in this area. Saw a couple manatees here, but it really wasn’t the season for them. Primarily it is the variety of local wildlife and all the birds! So pretty.

And of course, my last stop on the way Naples was visiting the Veteran’s Cemetery just east of Crystal River. It was a beautiful drive over here, through what would be called the hill country in Florida. So very glad I took the back roads to avoid the toll road!

Now, I am in Naples Florida until the end of May, visiting family, seeing my favorite, beautiful, smart, strong-willed niece get married to a wonderful man, and spending a lot of time with my Mom. More time than I have in years probably. It has been, for the most part, so relaxing and a great time. It just goes so fast! Too fast….

New Orleans to Crystal River: What the podcast????

This was a quick trip across the coast. I stopped in Mobile, Alabama for lunch and stayed overnight in Crestview, Florida. Mobile was a fun place for a break, walked around a bit and bought a beautiful hand-made wooden vase and then had a roast beef po-boy for lunch with gravy. Yum.

So, I thought I would write about driving. I have had a lot of long days driving all by myself, trying to stay active and engaged during this time can be a challenge. You want to have something to listen to that won’t take your mind off driving. For me, music can put me in a trance-state as I love music!

About 2-1/2 years ago I finally got an iPhone and I started listening to podcasts during Covid. Some were for health challenges at work, on finance or nutrition, etc. Then I found some fun blogs to listen to while going on walking breaks. I had accumulated a few and I went out to look for more to keep me company during my trip.

Favorite – Welcome to Nightvale. This is SO funny and quirky. It started in 2012 and I would definitely recommend going back to the beginning and starting there. The characters run throughout the stories and there are so many subtle plotlines running throughout that you don’t want to miss out! Plus it is always good for a laugh! They are so popular they have live shows, a website and souvenirs you can buy. I also support them a little bit through Patreon. https://www.welcometonightvale.com

Second Favorite. Amateur Traveler. There are currently at number 711 for postings. The speaker does not profess to be an expert on all the locations he discusses. He brings in a number of fellow travelers to speak to the various locations. I also love how they incorporate pictures with the talks, which do show up on my screen. So cool!

Worst – Down. I listened to the whole thing because I really wanted to know what happened, but I ended up skipping a couple episodes just to get it over with. It was a great premise, but I think the story could have been told in about 70% of the time spent on it. Anyone else listened to this one?

Very good:
Derelict – An underwater / alien contact adventure. I am looking forward to another season!
Thrillist Explorers – A travel blog that has a number of eclectic-travel related posts as well as more traditional ones on sites visited. I only listened to a couple of these, but they were good.
The Earful Tower by Oliver Gee – This is also a travel blog, but it focuses on France and particularly Paris. Oliver is Australian but has lived and worked in France for a number of years now and in fact had a baby that they incorporate into their stories on how to be a tourist. 🙂 Since I am going to spend some time in France this fall, listening to this has been inspiring.
Atlas Obscura – A classic on obscure and odd travel sites to visit. Everyone should try this out.
Weird Things: The Podcast – The site states this is a blog for those who love both science and are fascinated by the impossible and fantastic. It’s for people who believe a mystery is interesting no matter the outcome. I listened to a few, and they were very good.
Minnesota Circle – Highlights events and products developed in Minnesota. I loved the one on proper breathing techniques and breathwork for adults, and school.

For the way home I have also downloaded “Overheard at National Geographic” and “The Join us in France Travel Podcast”.

Do you have any recommendations?

My Dad

I left my dad one of my pictures, I couldn’t help myself. But I love the picture with the flowers most. It is so sad to have him so far away from family. I have to keep telling myself, he isn’t “there”. I loved my dad and I miss him terribly so. Definitely cried a lot on this visit.

Veterans Cemetery

New Orleans

New Orleans, the land of sore feet and long and high bridges and overpasses over overpasses (can you tell I am a little bit scared of heights?). I have gone over high bridges and long bridges, however getting into New Orleans from Natchez took it to a new level!

I checked into New Orleans on Monday, April 18th. My hotel, Prytania Park Hotel, was wonderful. The rooms were small, but the woodwork was beautiful, the bed was very comfortable, and it had a nice desk for spreading out all my art supplies. Not that I really used them much. I had a nice little courtyard outside of my room where I would sit and have breakfast (usually yogurt and some fruit from the hotel) or read a book to rest my feet. Gated parking, so my little car felt safe. Locked gate and a security guard at night, so I felt safe. Plus, it was only one block from the St. Charles streetcar line and there were a number of great places to eat close by. Everything I needed! A wonderful respite from all the driving, and my allergies! The only thought I had, here is this town full of wonderful art, and the room is bland like vanilla. That is it! Dinner was at Lula’s Distillery and Restaurant, just one block away on St. Charles Street. Very good!

The weather at the start was in the 70’s and breezy, so I spent a full day just wandering around town and stopping at various shops to look at merchandise. I have to say, not impressed by Bourbon Street, it was dark and narrow and dirty. But it was daytime, I imagine it is more alive at night. I walked through quickly and then spent more time on areas such as the waterfront and Royal Street. Being a Tuesday, not many tourists around. Lunch was chicken alfredo at Pere Antoine Restaurant, very good and filling. Then after meandering down to Jackson Square (closed, as they were setting up for a festival the following weekend) I walked along the waterfront (Woldenberg Park) and stopped for beignets and hot chocolate at the Cafe du Monde (of course). I meandered so far, I even made it to Frenchman Street, Magazine Street and the Longshore Studio Gallery. Definitely got my steps in today! And spent a little more money than I probably should have on artwork. My favorite shop, Fleur d’Orleans. The owner/artist was in her shop, and she was very nice to talk to. Her focus was silversmithing and she had some beautiful jewelry in there! https://fleurdorleans.com If you like silver jewelry with a New Orleans flair I would definitely check it out!

My next day I spent wandering through the Garden District, which was walkable from my hotel. But first, I searched for breakfast/lunch. I was walking down St. Charles Street looking at my options when this very nice gentleman fell into step with me and proceeded to tell me all about the neighborhood and the better places to visit and eat at. I took his recommendation and stopped in this little diner for lunch and ended up having the roast beef with mashed potatoes, gravy and peas. The peas were your typical canned mushy peas (but hey, a vegetable other than potatoes!) but the roast beef and gravy were SOOO good. I totally forgot to note the name unfortunately, but it was just east of my hotel, on the south side of St. Charles. My only sadness was that I didn’t ask him to join me, he seemed like someone who had some great stories. Always give others the benefit of hte doubt has been my motto.

Next I visited Lafayette Cemetery #1, it was closed but they had a number of gates you had no problem looking through so I was able to get a good look. I also hung out for a few minutes with a tour group going by (not long, I am sure they don’t like interlopers).

While walking around the cemetery, I stopped to speak to a resident who surprised me, she was behind a bush on her front lawn when I stopped to take a photo of her front. Her dog was very pretty too! She was super nice and I enjoyed talking to someone about living in the area. She even moved a rug she was drying so I could take a better picture.

Other than that I just meandered around, taking a few photos. So far I am up to over 1,200 photos to go through!

My last full day was in the Warehouse District. I am not sure how I felt here, I did visit some museums and meandered around, but it seemed like it wasn’t as exciting as I hoped. I did find a nice place for a muffin and a glass of iced tea (wow, their muffins were awesome).

Then it was time to pack up and leave for my trip along the southern coast, on the way to Florida. I took an alternate route, in order to avoid all the higher bridges. 🙂 Glad I did, it was very scenic.

Natchez to New Orleans

Natchez was just a quick stop, so I am not going to spend a lot of time here. I need to get caught up on my trip details! The best part, I was finally starting to feel like my allergies were settling down so I could enjoy myself. To get out and walk a little bit anyway. Cloudy weather unfortunately.

Natchez was beautiful and I am glad I stopped here. The architecture, both grand and quirky, was very interesting. It is definitely a place that deserves more attention, and time.

Memphis to Natchez

Saturday, April 17th. The drive to Natchez from Bells, TN was long, but a nice drive down Highway 61 (the Blues Highway). Definitely one of my longer driving days, a little more than 9 hours to complete the entire drive, including a stop for lunch.

Surprise 1 – The churches! And I don’t mean just a church, but it felt like at least a dozen. I would be driving down the highway and all of a sudden there would be a church on the side of the road. No parking lot in sight, no sign of a pull-off, just a church sitting there. Well-maintained and not looking abandoned. So does everyone just park along the highway on Sundays? Very curious.

Surprise 2 – The sheer number and amount of abandoned buildings, equipment and vehicles along the route. It was just so sad. From grand houses to not so grand trailer homes, to farms to homes. Just such a sad statement about life and poverty in Mississippi.

Surprise 3 – This one I didn’t notice until I was almost at Natchez. All of sudden I saw a field full of beef cattle. It made me realize I had been seeing miles and acres of just seeded farm fields, but no livestock of any kind. Seeing some made me realize how little I was seeing before then. It is strange what you notice when you are driving along a quiet road.

Lunch was one of my planned stops in Clarksdale, Mississippi at the Ground Zero Blues Club. This was an interesting place, not what I anticipated at all! At the end of a quite street is this blues club. I think every square inch of the place had graffiti or signatures on it! Including the ceiling. I had a pulled pork sandwich with fries. Thankfully the fries were not cooked through (calories be-gone), but the sandwich was really, really good. Plus I met a gentleman who was planning on playing the harmonica that night, Jock Webb. He was very polite and I had a nice talk with him before hitting the road again. I wish I could have stayed to listen!

Natchez was a beautiful place to visit before going further south. I will have to talk more about it tomorrow.

Book Review – Win

Need a good book to read? A mystery with a definitely new twist? Try “Win” by Harlan Coben. This was my first travel book and it was perfect for the cabin in the woods. I was talking books at a retirement party for a friend of mine, and he asked if I had read anything by Mr. Coben. I was thinking, yes but it had been a while. So, when I saw this one at the bookstore, and it was a stand-alone book, I nabbed one for the drive. I tend to use my Nook when I go into restaurants, but for sitting in hotels (or cabins) I prefer a good old-fashioned book. “Win” is a nickname for Windsor Horne Lockwood III. He is a definitely an anti-hero and the secrets he dredges up… I wonder if the truth was something he really wanted to know in the long run. Lots of great background in this one, I am hopeful that there will be a second one that will provide a more in-depth storyline. I give this 5 out of 5 stars, so it will be hard to beat!

Win – Harlan Coben

Memphis, TN

I did take one day to drive into Memphis to do some quick sight-seeing. What is the point of going all this way if you don’t take the time to do something! But, all in all I was a little disappointed, however I didn’t have much time to look around and explore in depth. Many of the museums and displays were closed too. Below are some photos from Memphis.

I did have a really good meal, a Pink Flamingo drink and a pulled pork sandwich at Alfred’s on Beale Street. It was a good choice! And it was a quiet spot to sit and relax, and I got to keep the flamingo. If it gets home safe, it is going to the cabin with me this summer! One problem with traveling so much is that I have developed odd times to stop and eat. I have to admit, getting back to a regular schedule will be nice. I think when I get to Naples my first stop at the grocery store will be to buy a pile of fruit and salad mixings! I did purchase two t-shirts to memorialize my stop on Beale Street. 🙂 I love all the trolley cars, I wish we had some in Minneapolis.

I have to say, the waterfront park was very pretty and I spent a bit of time walking in the park and driving along the river. The HUGE pyramid for Bass Pro Shops really stood out, but I did not have the energy to figure out how to get to it.

Missouri to Tennessee

Whew! What a day and what a drive.

Up early for breakfast at the hotel and a walk through old town in St. Charles. My hotel was only a block away from here, so it was an easy walk. You could see the clouds gathering and the tornado warning was due to hit around 5 pm that night in Memphis. But St. Charles was so beautiful, I had to take some time.

Surprise One – B Bathhouse. This was my splurge for St. Charles, their products smell just wonderful! And, as it turned out, the room spray ended up being a life saver at the cabin.

So St. Charles to Bells, Tennessee. A white-knuckle and long drive. Pouring down rain with occasional short breaks in intensity. I just hung on and drove, although there were times when I wondered if I should have booked another night in St. Charles and eaten one night’s stay at the Green Frog Cabins. But too late! I was really sad as I had to skip by St. Louis entirely and just drive, a long 7 hours of driving in the rain and finally in the encroaching dark. I made it, I found my cabin, and all turned out well.

I walked into the my cabin, the Moonshine Cabin, and the problem, musty! You could tell it wasn’t frequently used lately. My sinuses immediately responded, and not favorably. Plus I went from the frozen north to really green and blooming! This is where the room spritz helped, I sprayed it all over and it helped add a much better smell. The porch awnings were deep so I opened the doors and let the wind blow through the cabin. Unfortunately, only one window wasn’t painted shut so the fresh air only helped in the living room area (I later figured out that I needed to switch between heat and a/c to clean out the mustiness). But the place was so charming and the bed was very comfortable. I was also the only one at the cabins this week. The only person I saw was the handyman who came by the next day to clean up after the storm! Never met anyone else, at all.

Surprise Two – the grounds for Green Frog were filled with historic structures and they leave you a set of keys to all of them so you can take a tour through the grounds. Due to my allergy attack, I skipped going to Paducah and the Lakes between the States region and just stayed at the cabin. This was a nice way to get outside and take a short walk.

It also appeared that the owner was converting additional structures into cabins for stays. They have a very nice event center there that you can rent out for groups, I could definitely see that the ability to rent out more cabins would be nice. If the cabin wasn’t so musty, it would have been perfect. Except no television, no radio and no internet. Thankfully I had one bar on my phone so I could keep an eye out on the weather. Arriving during a severe thunderstorm and tornado warning was a little nerve-wracking! A weather radio would have been a nice addition. http://www.greenfrogfarm.org

%d bloggers like this: