Category Archives: Jeffrey and Emma

Welcome to the Cape, Where Upper Is Lower

You’re wondering why there is a picture of Rosy the Riveter here. Seems like every time you turn around, someone is using Rosy’s image for one cause or another. I will get to why the old gal’s here shortly.  In the meantime, let’s get caught up from where we left off. Last time I updated this blog, Stewart and I were breaking bread in our Nation’s capital with our friend Ali Holden.  As much as we would have enjoyed lingering for a few days, taking in the sights and sounds of Washington, D.C., we were still on our quest for cool weather.  With Peregrine in tow, we were on a mission. Sweater weather or bust!

Amish Farm

The drive through the Northeast is beautiful. We decided to take a roundabout route to Cape Cod in order to avoid driving through New York City.  The interstate highway system is great when you’re in a hurry to get from A to Z. However, we wanted to see as much as we could on our way to the coast.  Plus, our only real deadline was fireworks in Provincetown, MA by Fourth of July.  So, once we drove through Baltimore, MD, we detoured towards Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and Amish country. How beautiful everything looked in late June! The fields were burgeoning with corn, hay and other vegetables.  Families worked together as horse drawn buggies rolled by with their reflective  triangles attached to the back – the one concession to modern road hazards.  I’m not going to get into whether I agree or disagree with the Amish lifestyle here, as I grew up among the Lubavitch, a branch of Chasidic Jews, which is also beautiful and full of old ways that seem quite foreign to the casual observer. The Amish have simply chosen to follow their faith, and the do’s and don’ts of the Anabaptist tradition. One of those traditions among the Old Order Amish is not having their pictures taken. Do you think this stopped Stewart from trying to capture their graven images on his iPhone? Not for a second.  You should have heard him. “Quick, get a picture of that family in the buggy!” And, “Hurry, the kids are facing you, get ’em!”.  I thought I’d have to lock him in Peregrine until we got out of Pennsylvania. You can only imagine his reaction as we passed through Intercourse!

Tourists by, Chaim Gross

Cape Cod had been our destination for Fourth of July since we started our adventure on the road. Over and over (to Stewart’s chagrin) I had made my desires known that no matter where we were on the 3rd and the 5th of July, I was spending the 4th in Provincetown, MA.  There is an energy there that is hard to match anywhere else. It is the busiest time of year to travel to, and be in Ptown, as others seem to have figured this out as well, but I didn’t care.  I wanted the excitement of fireworks over the water. For those of you who regularly follow our adventures, you know there’s a hiccup in here somewhere. This time is no exception. I let Stewart make the reservations. Yes, you would think I would have learned after “Bug Island” (See Tale of Four Cities), but between the countryside of Pennsylvania and the sea grasses of the Cape, I was flat on my back in Connecticut. With July rapidly approaching, and me unable to sit up, I asked Stewart to see if he could find us a great campsite for a month on the Cape. In fairness to him, the deer in the headlights look that this request was met with was borderline pitiful. My back trumped his discomfort, and off to explore the internet he went. Two days later (!) he returned to the topic of our accommodations, all excited because he had found us a place at a campground that was so friendly that they didn’t even require a credit card in advance to reserve a spot. Normally, I would have been extremely suspicious, but this time I was so relieved to know we had a place to stay that I convinced myself that these folks were just trusting, and that Stewart had developed sufficient rapport with them over the phone that they didn’t want to insult him by asking for money. Travel day arrived, and off we went.  Pulling Peregrine behind us, with Jeffrey and Emma painting the rear windows with their noses, we navigated our way down Hwy 6 over the bridge that connects The Cape with the rest of Massachusetts. Traffic was fairly heavy, but we had a spot booked, so we were good to go. We made our way to  Bass River Trailer Park in South Yarmouth, MA. As we turned onto Willow Street, my heart sank, and panic began to set in.  We looked like the first arrivals since the 1970’s.  The place was a dump. There was no way I was staying there. Needless to say, it became perfectly clear why no deposit was required. “Don’t let them see us!” I exclaimed, “Quickly, drive to the corner and turn right!”

The Placemat

Immediately, I got on Twitter and, in 140 characters, explained our predicament. For months, I had been tweeting with people about coming here. Within minutes, the tweets came in with suggestions of places to go for the night, and for alternative campsites. This was the beginning of the busiest weekend of the year, and we had no reservations.  We found a hotel nearby where we stayed for the night to regroup. I plugged in my laptop, and within 15 minutes had us booked for three weeks at Shady Knoll in Brewster, MA.

Once that was all settled, we went exploring, and found a fabulous restaurant, The Riverway Lobster House, that had just opened its Bass River location that night.  Dinner had the expected opening night hiccups, but the friendliness of the staff, and the quality of the food more than made up for it. Any seafood restaurant that has cioppino on its menu gets a gold star in my book. Shady Knoll was beautiful. Our first three nights there, we were nestled in the trees, hidden away from everyone. Unfortunately, the site was promised to someone else for the holiday weekend, so we were forced to move. It worked out fine, because our next spot was bigger, and somewhat closer to the rest rooms. We were still rustic, as Shady Knolls has beautiful trees, and dirt paths with varied levels so no one is actually right next to anyone else. The flipside to this, is nightly I found myself wandering into someone else’s campsite – even with the aid of a headlamp. My suggestion at the camp office of the occasional reflector on  the odd tree or two was met with a knowing smile and a “no”. One of the best parts of our stay here in Brewster was the weather. We had finally found the sweater weather we’d been chasing. It was heaven – sweatshirts and flipflops.  It was very important that we made the most of our time here, so quickly, we fell into a bit of a routine – a vagabond’s version.

Jeffrey and Emma Looking for the Kennedys

Most of the beaches are off-limits to dogs (Cape Cod Friendly Beaches) , but after 5:00 pm, they are welcome in most places. In fact, the Cape is a very dog-friendly place, period. Each day, we would go about our business separately, then as the clock crept towards 6:00, we’d gather food, and head towards a different beach – preferably on the west side – to play with Jeffrey and Emma, eat, read, and see the sunset on the water.  Though it was high season on the Cape, the beaches were remarkably deserted. The homes that face these beaches are lovely, and over and over I found my favorite.  For those of you who have read or watched John Irving’s, The World According to Garp , I want Jenny Field’s house. After the sunset, the wind really picked up, and it got quite chilly on the beach. Off we’d head back to Peregrine for a campfire and some music, courtesy of Stewart.  I found some really nice roasting skewers at the camp store, and after much practice, mastered the perfectly browned marshmallow specimen. Stewart has informed me it is un-American, but personally, I feel eating a s’more is like eating cardboard with a hot mess trying to pour out of its center.

Waiting for Godot

One of the highlights of Cape Cod for me was the chance to eat fresh clam chowder on a daily basis. Each place claims the best on the Cape, and I made it my mission to see who was right. It will take another season for me to tell for sure, but so far the rule of thumb is the simpler the food stand, the better the chowder. That goes for the fresh crab as well. There’s something about sitting on wooden benches roadside eating out of plastic baskets that just feels right. If I was anywhere else, it would never happen. One place we liked in Brewster, Kate’s Seafood, serves really good lobster rolls. It’s not the place for fine dining, but then that’s not what this paragraph is about anyway.

Which brings me to the topic of ice cream. I’ve never seen anything like it. If you recall in my post on Nashville I mentioned the city’s affection for cupcakes. Well, Cape Cod and ice cream have something going on. Everywhere I turned was another stand enticing me to go over to the dark side of caloric, artery-clogging heaven.  I’ll mention one I visited on a couple (few!) occasions, Friendly Ice Cream in Falmouth. The “Create Your Own Sundae” feature is so much fun. Our server was very patient as I vacillated back and forth between the Heath, butter pecan, Butterfinger… you get the idea. The Mint Cookie Crunch is ridiculous! Here is a quasi-official tour map of the ice cream locales on the Cape.

Roger's old place

We made our way to Woods Hole at the recommendation of Roger Hjulstrom (@Booksbelow), who had previously worked and lived there. The village life ebbs and flows with the sea – the marine life, Oceanography Institute. Even the only road through town comes to a stop as boats pass under, and the bridge lifts the sidewalks into the air.  There weren’t many options for us to eat with Jeffrey and Emma, and Massachusetts has a law against sidewalk cafes without some sort of fencing or enclosure (no, I am not digging up the link for this), and we couldn’t find any that were dog-friendly. Fortunately, there was a very nice and tasty restaurant that was willing to sell us lunch to go, and then let us eat it outside on their tables. Fishmonger Cafe was reasonably priced and delicious. I took a break from my beloved clam chowder, and went with vegetarian black

Ocean ABC's

bean chili, which was one of the day’s specials. When I tweeted with Roger later that day, he informed me that I had managed to photograph Stewart and Jeffrey right in front of his previous home. Now, anywhere else this would have been amazing. In Woods Hole, Mass, population 925, the odds were fairly high we would pass by his house.

While at the Oceanography Institute gift shop, I took a picture of a t-shirt, and emailed it to a friend of mine, Elizabeth Williams Bushey, who happens to be an extremely talented children’s author and musician (among her many, many talents). In that email, I challenged her to come up with a musical accompaniment for the shirt. As anyone who knows Elizabeth will tell you, I was not surprised when within 24 hours I had a link to the Water ABC song.  Here is a link to Elizabeth’s award-winning site, Inkless Tales. If you have children or grandchildren, or if you just haven’t grown up, you’ll enjoy navigating this smorgasbord of fun delights.

Listen to the Water ABC song here.

My good friend, Karen Brown (@toadjumps) likes to think I’m a bit of a hippie, so to make her happy I went out and bought myself a tie-dyed dress that can be seen in this YouTube video if you have the patience to watch until the end INSIDE PEREGRINE. The other thing about this video is it was my first attempt with my 3GS, and it is a full tour of Peregrine.  I hope you enjoy it – and it doesn’t make you too dizzy. I’m still working on my videography skills, however, I have started using a Flip Ultra HD.

Cape Cod

One of the first people I met when new to Twitter was Diana E Jennings (@DianaEJ). Diana was a real life NASA scientist. Because Bush thought money was better spent on things like bombs and fences. many important science-related (not W’s best subject) jobs were cut, so now Diana has been forced to change fields. As any over-achieving,  brilliant woman would do, Diana has risen to the occasion, and is thriving in her new challenge as Director of Regional Outreach at Bridgewater State College But, that’s another article.  Like most of the

Diana, Alison and Zoe

people I have met through Social Media, I cannot for the life of me recall how we first crossed paths. Did I start following Diana one day, or was it the other way around? For the first months we interacted it was primarily in direct messages back and forth. Diana was quite private – back then – and rarely sent tweets out into the public stream. I, on the other hand, tweet about almost everything in public. The irony of this is in the real world, I’m the one who is more of a private person, and Diana is more extroverted. Anyway, back to the main point. Diana lives on the Cape, and we were finally going to meet IRL, or in real life. Her daughter, Alison was coming with her to see me, and to see Peregrine. Now, to a 15 year old, the idea of living in an aluminum teardrop rimmed in bright orange traveling the open road with no set destination or timetable, no rules or boundaries except those I impose upon myselves must seem just about as romantic as life can get. Jack Kerouac, a fellow Massachusetts native, had nothing on this gal – rambling around the country, blogging of her adventures as she pens her memoirs. Her husband, a musician, composes his music while her two dogs play blissfully. Oh Jeez, who could live up to that? Instead, Ali got a middle-aged woman (me), a bowl of nuts and an afternoon of great conversation thanks to HER fantastic tales of travels to the rain forest. We had such a wonderful time, and I’m really looking forward to spending more time with them when we’re back on the Cape this summer.

And, now this brings me around to the story of Rosy the Riveter, and how the iconic lady ended up at the top of my piece on Cape Cod.  While Sitting over a cup of my ‘special’ tea, I said something about going “up to Provincetown” at the weekend. Upon hearing my geographical faux pax, Diana, in her no nonsense New England way, pushed up her sleeve, pumped up her bicep, and proceeded to explain to me that just as her fist was higher at the moment, it was also a fact that her hand was lower than her shoulder. Cape Cod very much resembles a bicep curl – much like Rosy’s

Scott's treat

One final thing I would like to mention before closing. From time to time, people have asked me to keep an eye out for various hard to find items. Sometimes they are looking for a type of yarn that can only be found in a special area, or in one woman’s case she wanted me to head to Hartford, CT to flip her former employer’s world headquarter’s the bird (I did, and have pictures to prove it). When Scott Whitelaw @lifecruise read that I was on the Cape, he wrote to me asking that I keep an eye out for barley candy. So, as we passed through village after village, I kept my eyes open for a confectioner. Sure enough, on the way back from Wood’s Hole I saw one with lobster lolipops in the window.  Stewart drove around the block, while I ran in and bought Scott his childhood treat from a beloved auntie. He was so excited when he went to his mailbox in Houston, TX and found it there. A few months later, I got the chance to meet Scott when were in Dallas for the #ENB tweetup. But, that’s another story.

Chasing Good Weather

Last time I did an actual travel blog was way back at the end of May. It seems like forever. Since then, Stewart and I have slept in so many states I have to look at my credit card bill to recall them all. Instead of listing a bunch of places, I will do a few quick travelogues with an explanation of how this quick exodus came to pass, and publish it in a few separate posts. Sorry Uncle Rex.

We were HOT! That’s right. It was HOT in Texas in June. Who knew? As we were packing up to leave for Austin then San Antonio, Stewart took a look at the Weather Channel, and it showed temperatures over 100 degrees for the week. We looked at each other, and immediately reached the same conclusion. We don’t have to endure oppressive weather EVER AGAIN. We sat down at Nancy McClellan’s kitchen table and figured out where the weather was cool and rainy. Cape Cod beckoned, but first a few stops along the way. The next day we turned our wheels towards Hot Springs, AR.

An important note that I need to mention is that I have lost almost a years worth of notes, and will be recreating the summer from above mentioned credit card records, the pictures that I was able to retrieve, and Stewart’s and my middle-aged memories. The big lesson here for me is not to let so much time go between posts so that I’m called upon for such super-human feats.

Ever since Stewart and I met, I’ve been telling him stories about my many huge crystals of varying shapes that were scattered throughout our homes, teasing him with the possibilities, the hidden treasures buried in the red clay earth. For days after we arrived in Hot Springs, Stewart scoured the local brochures and Internet sites looking for information and tips as to the best place to go for the primo crystal specimen. When he finally decided upon the perfect place to go, stocked up on the right equipment, was rubbed down with SPF 70, and on the road, he couldn’t find it. By the time we got there, they were closing in an hour, so we made plans to return the following day. At least we knew where it was. That night it rained. For those of you who are not familiar with the particular quality of Arkansas summer humidity, I’ll try my best to describe it. It’s somewhere between a swamp and well, a swamp. Having experienced a crystal dig in an Arkansas summer during my 20’s and 30’s, I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy the day after a downpour at 50, but off I went to support Stewart on his quest. The heavily tie-dyed couple with the matching waist-length ponytails who showed us where to dig explained to us that the clay-like dirt had the consistency of peanut butter. What they failed to add was peanut butter that had been left out in the blazing sun after a thunderstorm. Oh, what fun! Within minutes, no, seconds we were filthy. I hung in there about an hour, and went and interviewed hippie couple, while Stewart lasted about six.

After all the cuts were washed and tended, the crystals soaked, and clothes disposed of properly, we had a handful of decent crystals. None are museum quality, but a lot has changed in the years since I dug the hills around Jessieville.  Mine owners have gotten greedy, fewer mines are still active, and it’s important that customers read the fine print before handing over their money. You may dig all day just to find out at days end that you have to hand it all over to the mine! Fortunately, we knew what to avoid.

After leaving Hot Springs, we headed over to Nashville, TN for a few days in Music City. There is so much to do in this beautiful place. We spent one entire afternoon until they kicked us out at closing at the Country Music Hall of Fame. There was so much history, so many facts we didn’t know.  For example neither of us knew that country music came out of the immigrant populations from Europe as a way of keeping story telling alive. Also the slaves made enormous contributions to country music. The term hillbilly was used favorably for a long time, and was only replaced with folk after being seen as derogatory. So, does that make Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell hillbilly singers?

One evening, we ventured over to B.B. Kings for some live blues. Bart Walker and the Blues Revival were awesome! They played “Why”, and it was clear they are going to be huge. Listen for yourself. Bart Walker and the Blues Revival \”Why\”

After closing down B.B. Kings, we headed over to Bourbon Street Blues & Boogie Bar for some late night blues. It was open mike night for some up and coming talent. We got there on the tail end, but still caught some promising acts before heading back to our hotel for a few hours of sleep.

There are a few places that are must stops in Nashville for good old fashioned eats. We were determined to do our best to hit as many of these while there, as always. This time, we had the added challenge of Nashville’s infamous cupcake locations (I don’t know why I even bother to buy clothes anymore. I may as well just say the hell with it and buy muu muu’s!) to fit into our adventure. One place we made a point of hitting was Loveless Cafe’ (Fran Dean @TravelTweetie and Darren Reeves @SuperDad_08). Loveless started out as a stop for travelers on Hwy 100 back in the early 1950’s serving fried chicken and biscuits off picnic tables next to the small motel. Not a lot has changed, except they have added mail order, catering, and a store. I should also add they sell bacon soaked popcorn. Don’t ask! The menu is also quite a bit more extensive. The caramel sweet potatoes should have a warning sign, “EAT AT YOUR OWN RISK”, as they are addictive. Stewart and I started out sharing the veggies, and ended up with a fork fight over who really ordered which ones. I got the sweet potatoes; he got the fried okra!

The must breakfast stop in Nashville is Pancake Pantry. Hop Hopkins raved so highly about this place, Stewart and I delayed our plans to leave town in order to try their pancakes. The only hitch was we were, well, hitched. Peregrine was all ready to go, and Jeffrey and Emma were in the back seat ready to hit the open road. Pancake Pantry is in the middle of the college area, which means in a heavily trafficked, no parking area. After driving around in the sweltering summer heat and humidity, we decided the only logical option was to eat in shifts. First, I went in and ordered both of our food along with a large cup of coffee to go for Stewart, while he stayed outside in the shade with the dogs. I quickly ate, while they made his food. Just about the time I finished eating, his food was ready. Only glitch was, I couldn’t find Stewart. He was nowhere to be found. Gone. Finally, just as they finished boxing up his food, in walks the Prodigal Husband. Since we already had the makings of a picnic, we decided to move out to the trees nearby, where he ate his pancakes alfresco.

The only cupcake place we were able to make was GiGi’s Cupcakes, and sadly (gratefully?) it was only mediocre. It turns out wasn’t even on the cupcake tour. The shop specialty, Apple Spice & Everything Nice, was delicious, but the other flavours were really nothing special – certainly not worth the added calories. As we headed northwest towards Cape Cod we meandered through Virginia, and I saw a sign for the Natural Bridge. It looked interesting, and since this adventure is all about being spontaneous, we took the exit off the interstate, and couldn’t for the life of us find the turnoff for the attraction. When we finally did find it, it was just in time to see it in the
rear view mirror. I saw the building leading into it, though. Does that count? Here’s a picture I found on the Internet of what we would have seen if we hadn’t missed it. Never ones to be bummed for more than split second, we decided to explore the surrounding countryside, and skip the interstate for the rest of the trip northeast. Why hurry through generic roads when there was so much of America to be seen on its back roads? Who knew that what we had in store for us was one of the most beautiful drives this country has to offer – the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP), followed by the Skyline Drive. The BRP connects Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It actually stretches much further than we drove it, but can be entered at several spots en route. Skyline Drive took us through the remainder of Shenandoah National Park, and surprisingly we ended up in Virginia right outside of Washington, D.C. This was some of the most pristine park lands we had encountered on our journey to date. We stopped in the road as we watched a young bear cub walk leisurely across the road only to stop at the edge of the woods to observe us. We saw so many deer that day it would have been easy to have grown blase’ if they weren’t so magnificent. The four-legged creatures we encountered clearly outnumbered the two-legged variety. The Parks Service makes it inexpensive to camp overnight, but not easy, so it is not for the casual RV crowd. It is more suited to the hiker who carries his bedroll on his back. We stopped along the way shortly before reaching the end to watch the sunset over the valley below us. We met a hiker from the area who told us about a group of local musicians who met weekly at a little coffee shop. He said we were welcome to come. He’d be there with his banjo and there would be a mandolin, plus other assorted instruments making up the little bluegrass ensemble. As good as the offer sounded, we decided to keep moving.

Most people are not aware that the US capital was designed by a Frenchman named Pierre Charles L’Enfant.  The reason I mention this at this particular juncture is that we made the decision to briefly detour through Washington, DC so that we could see our friend, Ali Holden, who was recovering from a serious car accident.  We had already been traveling all day, pulling Peregrine, and now were faced with a rendezvous at an Irish pub in Arlington, VA. L’Enfant was a brilliant civil engineer, but the capital has grown around his design in a way that is not easily navigated by a wide-eyed rubber-necking country boy from Lodi, CA who’s never seen the Pentagon or the Washington Monument or the White House or the Capitol… you get my point. We drove those circles round and round and round until I safely talked him to a safe spot and took over the driving.  We drove into Arlington and met up for fish and chips, with Jeffrey and Emma the stars of the Capital Hill crowd for the night.

I promise to write more soon. Promise.

A Tale of Four Cities

Now that all the excitement of disease, death, and urine samples is behind us, it’s time to get back to the real purpose of this blog – FUN! We have a lot of catching up to do, so we had better get started.

As I mentioned previously, we left the Keys, and headed over to the Florida West Coast. Our first stop after driving through the much lauded and equally overrated Everglades was St. James City on Pine Island. You may ask why we stopped in this particular place when Sanibel Island was our destination, and all I can tell you is I let Stewart make the arrangements. Note to self: Google all reservations made by Stewart before departure. The Island was in a beautiful location right on the Gulf of Mexico, and the Intracoastal Waterway, however the median age was 63.2. The only thing that come to mind is they averaged in the ages of great-grandchildren who were visiting at the time the census was conducted. Even the biker bar had a handrail in the restroom with a raised seat.

Besides the mosquito and noseeum infestation, we were able to manage a bit of fun. One of the restaurants we returned to a couple of times was The Waterfront Restaurant and Marina. The food was delicious and plentiful. The fresh clam chowder was particularly good, as was the broiled seafood gumbo. The first time we at there, we sat in the bar as it was packed. Beer was 25 ¢ and served in a mason jar. As you can imagine, hot sun mixed with cheap beer made for an interesting group of diners and drinkers. A few locals entertained us with stories, some of which are just not appropriate to share on a PG-13 blog. The many stickers that graced the wall behind the bar were also good for a few laughs.

The biggest drawback to St. James City being Heaven’s Waiting Room was that Stewart and I are night people. We first began to think about food when the street lights were being extinguished for the night. Fortunately we were able to find one of the best meals we’d had to date at The Lazy Flamingo. Though they are known for their Dead Parrot Wings, we shared an appetizer of conch (pronounced conk by the locals) fritters that were moist and delicious, followed by grilled grouper sandwich for me, and a grilled fish platter for Stewart. We were stuffed to the gills, so to speak, but our very persuasive waitperson convinced us our meal would not be complete without a slice triple layer chocolate mousse layer cake. We didn’t want to let her down, so we dug in. When the bill came, the waitperson had deducted 10% from the bill because she liked us – not something that happens every day. (Note: I did not tell her I wrote a travel blog, which made it even sweeter!)

The third and final noteworthy place we visited that was Woody’s Waterside. Now, before I go any further, I think it is important that you know Woody is a dog. More specifically, a hound dog. His picture graces the wall behind the bar asleep with his tongue akimbo and paws wrapped around a can of beer. After eating there, I will be adding restaurants named for pets to my list of places to skip. In retrospect it seemed like a good idea as the parking lot was full, and compared to the geriatric biker bar, it was fabulous.

If you happened to read my previous post, you know about my experience with the less than competent folks at Quest Labs. Needless to say, I was extremely happy to see Pine Island in the rear view mirror. Our next stop was beautiful St. Petersburg/Madeira Beach. This was 180º from Pine Island. Though we had an inauspicious approach with GPS directing us into a cemetery, we ended up in this beautiful lush place on the bayou where Tampa Bay empties on its journey back from the Gulf of Mexico. Our campsite was surrounded by old growth trees and flowering bougainvillea bushes with the view of the water right across the path. Our three days there stretched into almost two weeks as we were reluctant to give up our corner of paradise. Then, the heat and humidity arrived. Florida in late April/early May is just no fun. There were so many wonderful restaurants and places we went during our stay in Madeira Beach that I couldn’t begin to mention them all. Instead, I will focus on a few standouts.

This was the first real sense we had of the West Coast versus the East Coast of Florida. There was decidedly a different feel here, more Southern than Eastern. The pace was slower, the locals and tourists younger and friendlier. We ate at a lovely place along the boardwalk in Clearwater called Britts’ Laguna Grill. We started out with a dozen raw oysters. They were so large and plump they actually took two bites a piece. Fortunately, we had ordered a couple of caramelized salmon salads. The dressing was made with fresh ginger, and was outstanding. The couple at the next table had smuggled in their dog. It was the cutest little thing tucked inside the man’s shirt. I tried to ask them about the dog, but they spoke no English, and I spoke no Portuguese.

Our Fifth wedding anniversary was during our stay in Madeira Beach, and we had a full day. First thing we did was meet briefly with Tom Morris, whom I had ‘met’ on Twitter. There is always a chance when meeting someone who is only a virtual friend, that they will not be who they seem in cyberspace. In this case, Tom was the real deal. A true gentleman, kind and generous of spirit. I have a pretty finely tuned BS detector, as does Stewart, and no bells went off. Tom was in St. Pete’s giving a speech, and coincidentally, we discovered we were in the same town. This is known in tweetspeak as a tweetup. After his speech, Tom stayed to be interviewed for an Internet TV show. The producer and a freelance journalist were also Twitter folks, ProducerGirl and McMedia, aka, Sandi McKenna. More about Twitter later.

After taking a walk along the beach, Stewart and I decided to look for a place to eat. We stopped in at Crabby Bill’s. It’s been around for over 25 years, and from what we can figure out, Bill is crabby because he wants some good food and good service! There were very few people up on the roof deck overlooking the water, so we thought there would be no problem having a leisurely meal. I’m just going to leave it that if I don’t have anythi
ng good to say, I’m not going to say anything at all.

Later that night, after spending some time with Jeffrey and Emma, Stewart and I headed into St. Petersburg proper to see “I Love You, Man”. It was very funny example of a modern day bromance. One of the bonuses of traveling is seeing concerts and films in strange venues. The audiences are different, the feel of the place is foreign – even if it’s the same film showing in your own neighborhood.

There is this little gadget I have on my laptop that allows me to enter the city we’re currently in, and it pops up all the music in the area. While in St. Petersburg, I found out SEAL was going to be performing the following night at the Mahaffey Theater. We immediately bought tickets assuming we’d be in nosebleed seats. Instead, to our delight, we were able to get box seats right next to the stage. Apparently, they save these until the last minute in case some big shots decide to attend (the venue saves them, not Seal). We have both been to hundreds of concerts, and can say without a doubt, that we have never witnessed as masterful a performance as this. The energy in the room was electric. Seal’s connection to the crowd was almost intimate. The man is a masterful entertainer, a humble man who is grateful for his life, and a gifted singer. He had us in the palm of his hand from the first note. I’ve thought long and hard how I was going to explain this experience in words, and frankly, I’m stumped. It was just too divine even try.

One of the most unexpected treats we’ve had so far on this journey was discovering my dear old friend, Marta Rose, is VP Communications for Panama City Beach. Marta and I had been close friends years ago when we both lived in Santa Monica, CA, but had lost contact with each other until quite recently. One thing I always loved about Marta was her ability to connect with people and places in a very special way. She was able to show us around, and provide some local colour. We ate at the Boatyard, which was delicious, and Guy Harvey’s Island Grill, which was horrible. It was a shame, really, because it is perfectly situated at the end of Pier Park near the waterfront.

James Johnson, another Twitter friend lives in Panama City and was gracious enough to take us to a couple of really cool restaurants. The first one was Captain Anderson’s. It was an old local staple with a variety of delicious fish overlooking a dock with boats moored all along the backside. Next, we went to Ernie’s Bayfront Grill & Brewhouse. They have a great wraparound back deck that overlooks the dock – a coastal feature present at most establishments in this neck of the woods.

Did I mention it was Bike Week in Panama City Beach? Tens of thousands of Harley Davidson’s roared through the streets creating a cacophony of engine noise, music and general revelry. One of the things that really spoiled the dinner we had at Guy Harvey’s was the occasional biker who just had to rev his engine for effect in the parking lot. We were unable to hear each other, and the smell of exhaust was stifling. I did learn a new acronym, though. RUB, Rich Urban Biker, and there were many of these! The way RUBs were described to me was guys who have their bikes shipped down while they board their private jets, change out of their suits into their leathers, and paint on temporary tattoos for the week. As funny as this may seem, from what I saw, the description hit its mark!

One last thing I feel it is important to mention before we leave Florida is we spent three full months along the coastline from Miami down to Key West, and over to the west coast and up through the panhandle. Stewart loves to fish, and as I’ve previously written about even caught Emma while engaged in night fishing off our back dock. During all this time, with countless hours spent bridge fishing, dock fishing and bank fishing, money spent on bait, tackle and equipment, we did not have a single fish dinner that did not come from the grocery store or a restaurant. Stewart is a lot of wonderful things. A fisherman is no one of them.

(I realize this blog is really, really long, but it has been a while since I updated, so please bare with me.)

We headed back to New Orleans, and spent two weeks at the Pontchartrain Landing RV Park. Of all the places we stayed, this was the most enjoyable. It was not the most scenic (we were for the most part in a shipyard), or the best facilities (no restaurant, game room or boat rentals), or the most centrally located (we were down a torn up road right in the midst of Katrina’s devastation), but it was STILL the best campground so far. It’s all about the people. This place had some of the nicest folks we’d met anywhere. The Property Managers, Nate and Dawn Garrder, were always available, kind and working hard to make this the best place to stay in New Orleans. The people working with them, like Jim and Bunny McElyea stopped by just to say hi and see if there was anything we needed. When Jim heard I had gotten good news from Kenner, he immediately went and found his wife to tell her. Bunny was by to share in my joy. We’ve been traveling for almost seven months, and this was the first time we even knew the names of staffers, nonetheless visited with them. They are doing a lot of work to make this place beautiful and fully functional for its guests. We will definitely be going back there.

16 May was our last Saturday night in New Orleans, and we didn’t want to miss one last chance to enjoy the fantastic music scene this great city has to offer. So, around 9:30 we headed over to Bourbon Street where you are almost guaranteed to find good music for free (or the very most, the cost of a beer). We walked around for a bit before we heard some of the best guitar playing either of us had ever heard coming out of Tropical Isle. The place was packed near the front, so we worked our way to the back of the bar area right near the stage. Right in front of us were friends of the bands, one of whom was a music producer out of Austin, TX. He started telling us about the history of the All Purpose Blues Band, and Billy Gregory, lead guitar, in particular. It seems Billy used to play with A Beautiful Day, and has been a New Orleans staple for decades. Their rendition of Black Magic Woman would have made Santana proud! When the band was through with their set, they came over and introduced themselves to us. Stewart and Billy quickly got into a discussion of calluses (Stewart had them, Billy didn’t). I was chatting with one of the other musicians, when suddenly Stewart grabb
ed my arm and starts pushing me. I was a bit surprised my gentle husband was manhandling me in this way, but decided to ignore him. When he kept at it, I decided maybe I should investigate what he wanted. At this point, his gingerly pushing became much more direct, with verbal instructions. “Move”, he yelled. “Let’s go”. Now, anyone who knows me will tell you, those are fighting words for me! When I asked him what the bleep he was doing, he yelled, “this place is on fire! Now, MOVE!”. Finally, I got it. I moved. Poor Stewart. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Unfortunately, it turned into a 4-Alarm fire with 70 firefighters working over the next couple of hours to extinguish the flames. Miraculously, no other buildings were damaged. The owners are planning on rebuilding, and the employees and band assured us they will find temporary work along Bourbon Street until the Tropical Isle reopens.

After we were certain everyone was out safely, and that they would not be playing another set, we wandered down the street to Famous Door, a venue we had visited previously. The same band, Rock Box, was playing. They did a good job covering everything from Led Zeppelin to Lynyrd Skynyrd. We stayed until they finished their set, then moved on to another blues club, where we heard New Orleans Levee Board Blues perform. They were world class musicians, but it was obvious they were playing to the crowd instead of playing what they loved. We were seated right in front, and the dance floor was empty. The place was about half full. I nagged Stewart until he finally gave in and danced with me. Within moments the dance floor filled up, and the band came alive. A group of young women gathered for a bachelorette party saw the crowd enjoying themselves, so they came on inside. The bride was up on stage dancing, her friends all donned wigs in colors ranging from pink to green to purple. By the time the band had finished two songs, there wasn’t an empty table or an empty inch on the dance floor. It was time to call it a night.

After all the excitement of Florida and New Orleans, we decided to bookend this segment of our trip with a return to my hometown, Dallas, TX. We arrived in Dallas on 21 May, and will be taking some trips throughout the state. More later…

Peregrine is Great, a House is Better!

After three straight weeks in Peregrine, I definitely was ready for a little square footage. Heck, I was ready for a square foot. Granted, we were staying in this beautiful place, Fiesta Key, but the restrooms were about a city block away. When we first got there, being on the water seemed more important than proximity to the toilet. Lesson learned: choose facilities over view. So, we met this really nice couple, A.W. and Beth, who turned us on to this really cool little house on Long Key. If this journey was going to be successful, we were either going to have to add plumbing to our trailer, or rent. Obviously, renting won. Check out our digs. Here’s a picture of the balcony overlooking the canal.

There is a phenomenon here in the Keys known as “bridge fishing”. The main bridges actually include a pedestrian bridge parallel specifically for this purpose. We decided to give it a try. Most of the time was spent baiting the hook, as those fish are hungry and smart. Turn to your left, and your casting into the Gulf of Mexico. Turn around, and you cast into the Atlantic ocean. Very cool. While Stewart was busy putting the squid on my hook, a local guy steps up next to us, drops his line into the water, counted to five, then pulled in his line with FIVE FISH ATTACHED! “OMG”, I shouted. “How did you do that?” He proceeded to throw me a couple of fish, and then explained they were for bait. Darn, I thought he had just given me dinner. Anyway, they are called ballyhoo, and the line is called Sabiki, which in Japanese means “little bait fish rig” I thought he said “ceviche”, so was completely confused. I was trying to figure out if it was the vinegar that made five fish bite at once. We can’t wait to try it ourselves. Stewart bought rigs in three sizes.

Speaking of Stewart and fishing…. It is time to tell you of the latest Emma saga. Stewart decided that a little night fishing off our dock sounded like a good idea. Even better, he took Emma and Jeffrey with him. It was 11:00 PM. When I looked out the top of the deck and couldn’t see anyone, I yelled down to make sure he hadn’t fallen in. This small, tight voice replies, “I need your help”. As quickly as these old bones would allow, I scampered down the stairs to find Stewart crouching over Emma with his hand down her throat. Blood was everywhere, later to be discovered mainly from Stewart’s hand, though Emma was wearing it in her beard. When I asked what happened, it turned out instead of catching fish, Stewart caught Emma. Fortunately, his instincts are still intact in spite of his advanced years, and he tied off the weighted fishing line before she could digest the hook completely. I called the local 24 hour vet, and was told to sedate her with benadryl ’till she could be seen in the morning. After a very long night, the vet was able to remove the hook from her esophagus with minimal damage – and even gave Stewart back his hook. Now, Emma waits with baited breath for her next adventure. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

A lot of our time during this segment of our journey has been spent relaxing and enjoying a fully-stocked kitchen. Alyson and Vopni Hauksson, my cousin/niece and her husband came down for the weekend, and Stewart made his always delicious breakfast. It was like being back at one of those casino smorgasbords. We all ate until we were comatose. Also, Vopni taught me all sorts of little tricks on my iPhone, as well as how to “borrow” movies on line. Very valuable information when the road is your home. After attending the Marathon Seafood Festival, we went to Lorelei for drinks and sunset. Someone had taken a 1964 (?) pink Cadillac, and set the shell of the car over their boat. Here is Vopni sitting next to it. Stewart tried to get him to climb in, but this is as close as he would get. As we were sitting there listening to music, the space shuttle flew overhead, and everyone there joined in one of those spontaneous moments of joy. Very cool.

Since so much of my time is spent in contemplation, I decided to share my streams of consciousness in another format. I am now on Twitter, and loving every minute of it. If you can’t find it on Twitter it doesn’t exist. It is a fascinating social network. If you haven’t looked at it, give it a try, or as we say in tweetspeak, give it a twy! I’ve added Twitter updates to the right side of the blog, plus a link to join. Stewart loves listening to me read out some of the more ludicrous postings. Truth really is stranger than fiction.

This couple we met, A.W. and Beth, as a welcome to our new digs, gave us a list of all the area Happy Hours, complete with the times and specials. It is hilarious the way some of the vacationers eat and drink their way across the Keys. We tried out a couple of the places, and they were packed. As soon as the drink specials were over, everyone cleared out like there had been a fire drill. I’m not big on finger-food, but Stewart sure is. He was all over the .10 cent peel and eat shrimp. So far, he likes the conch fritters at Sparky’s, but hands down, we both think the best key lime pie is still at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen in Key Largo. We happened upon Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen on the way back down to Long Key hungry for dinner. Our only criteria were a full parking lot, and no “Mom’s” or “Aunt” in the name. Mrs. Mac flew under the radar with a marital
reference instead of familial. They have this delicious drink called a key lime freeze that is like milk shake. Anything that good should be illegal. Also, we had the hogfish, and it was exceptional. What an unfortunate name for such a yummy fish. We will definitely be going back there.

March 8 was International Women’s Day. In honor of the day the film, A Powerful Noise, was shown in 450 theatres nati
onwide. Afterwards, a panel discussion was held with Madeleine Albright, Nicholas Kristof, et al, addressing the issues facing women globally, and some of the things we can do to help. CARE sponsored the event. Fran Sevcik made dinner for us all, and she, Alyson and I went to the viewing, while Stewart and Ron hung out talking fishing. Personally, I like the idea of micro loans, which help people help themselves, so Stewart and I strongly support Kiva. I strongly encourage you to give them a look. As little as $25 can change an entire family’s lives. Plus, it is fun.

We’re making plans for the next installment of our odyssey. It does look, however, like my health is once again casting a grey cloud on our adventure. It looks like we are going to be headed back to New Orleans mid-April for a consult at LSU. I will keep you posted how that goes. Until then, hope you all are well, and are enjoying Spring.