Category Archives: Restaurants

Leaving California

Driving along in the car, we spend a lot of time listening to NPR. There are exceptions in some desolate areas, but I can almost always count on it being available somewhere between 88.1 and 92.5 on my FM dial. As we steer along unfamiliar roads, there is something very reassuring about hearing the familiar voices of Scott Simon, Renee Montagne, Terry Gross, and of course, my favorite, Daniel Schorr. As Stewart and I finally (finally!) made our way out of Lodi, and began our journey that will eventually take us across Canada, I heard a story that saddened me a bit.  Actually, I heard part of a story as I was also navigating and looking for a place to get something to eat – but more about that in a bit. What I thought I heard was that about 3000 people are leaving California each week, and that a one way truck rental is as much as ten times more expensive leaving the state. I’ve done a bit of checking, and the truck rental report between the states is all over the place. For example, between San Diego and Ft. Collins a truck is $1340, and between San Diego and Dallas, the same truck is $2098. The distance is very close, but who knows, maybe less people are bringing the trucks back. None of my searches returned anywhere near ten times the cost. As for the number of people leaving each week, I suppose I’ll just have to wait for those new signs that welcome visitors to town that will go up after all the 2010 Census numbers are counted. Regardless of the doomsday, whoa is me, we’ll never get out of this mess attitude that is often heard over the airways and seen splashed across headlines, California still has IT! Yes, that indescribable “it” that makes a person feel like anything is possible. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Peregrine has a toilet and copper plumbing. It only took 20 months on the road, but I finally figured out how to transport our clothes sensibly (some process engineer!), and we can set up and spend the night almost anywhere. The closet we lost to the porta potty was replaced by a Yakima Rocketbox on top of the car. So, when we left Lodi, CA on 17 May (a month late) , our load was lighter, and I was excited to try out all the new found freedom and my new trunk organization system.  I have a feeling the neighbors weren’t too terribly sad to see us leave either. Stewart has always subscribed to the school that one cleans up once at the end of a project, so you can just imagine the mess he made while modifying Peregrine. Lodi Creedence Clearwater Revival

We headed out Hwy 12 straight west for the coast, where it turns into Hwy 1, bringing us right to beautiful Bodega Bay. As we were making the final few winding turns, we realized we’d better hurry if we were going to catch the sunset on the water. The first place we came to was Doran Beach, and we turned in.  The road switches back, and on one side is the Bay, and the other, the ocean, but there was no clear view of the sunset. It was still beautiful. We decided to spend a couple of nights right there. It was a bit more rustic than I’m usually up for, but that’s also part of what makes life interesting. Not having any food with us, not so much. After trying several options, we finally found a store in Guerneville (23 winding round miles) that would sell us a loaf of bread. They were actually already closed, but took pity on us standing in the cold rain, and let us in. When we got back to Peregrine, we made peanut butter and fruit sandwiches that went down like gourmet fare.

There are a couple of places in Bodega Bay that were noteworthy this time through. The first one is Patrick’s. Stewart and I never pass through here without stopping. It’s hard to miss with it’s pink and white striped facade. And, from the images on Flickr, apparently quite a few people feel the same way. For 50 years, Patrick’s has brought the best salt water taffy flavors together under one roof, making it difficult to decide between the caramel cheesecake, watermelon and my favorite, the licorice. Or, you could just buy the varietybags, and take whatever you get each time you stick your hand in and grab one.

We had also passed by the Boat House on a number of occasions, and decided this time we would make a point of stopping in before leaving town. Stewart wanted to try their BBQoysters, one of his favorites, but I’m not a big fan, so I went with the more traditional fish and chips. Both dishes were excellent, but Stewart’s only came with a few oyster crackers, so I gave him my fries. My hips thanked him all the way to the car. For a tiny place, they carried about 30 varieties of bottled beers, and many types of sodas from all over the world.  The walls are covered covered in fish stories that would make any angler itchy to cast his line into the water. Stewart was no exception. The rest of the night was filled with plans for catching crabs and mussels along the Pacific beaches.

One more thing, before I move on from here. The scariest film of all time was filmed in Bodega Bay, “The Birds”, by Alfred Hitchcock.  Since seeing this 1963 classic starring Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Suzanne Pleshette, and Jessica Tandy, I have had an extraordinary fear of birds on a wire. For those of you who have seen The Birds, you know what I’m talking about because you do, too. For those of you who are snickering at me right now, add it to your Netflix queue. Then let’s see how you feel about all those sparrows in your backyard next Fall!

After leaving Bodega Bay we headed toward Mendocino, another one of our favorite spots. We realized that at this rate we wouldn’t make Canada very quickly, but since we tty to live in the now, 97 miles seemed like enough for that particular day. We had found a little Indian restaurant right on the edge of the Russian River in Jenner, called Sizzling Tandoor.  It was a few minutes after 2PM, and the view was gorgeous, so we decided to stop. There was only one other table occupied when we got there, but the place smelled great. When I saw the prices on the menu, I realized the owner had given us the dinner menus. We got up to leave. When she asked why, I told her it was too expensive for what it was. She quickly offered to substitute the lunch menu, and we stayed. My curry was delicious, as was Stewart’s tandoori.

On our way south down Hwy 1 in September, we discovered the Seafoam Inn in Little River, just outside of Mendocino. The views are sweeping, and as far as I can tell, each room has at least one dog in it. Each morning, a basket appears outside your door complete with fresh muffins and orange juice. After two nights in the rain with no amenities, a hot shower and a chance to see the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy live sounded really good (all I can say is, “WOW!”). Also, the office has hundreds of movies guests can sign out. Coincidentally, the last time we were there, we had been discussing a particular film on the way down that Stewart had never seen, and they had it there. But this time there was no time for DVD’s. The guy in the next room, Daniel, also had his guitar with him, and was more than happy to jam with Stewart on our deck as the sunset. Little River, CA outside Mendocino

The next day, we stopped in Ft. Bragg, about 12 miles away, for a dohickey thingamajiggy. You know, one of those parts that make a sane person’s eyes glaze over in a hardware store. We stopped at the local Ace, which happens to be part of Mendo Mill & Lumber, and there we met Steve Channel. While I was off scoping out things like containers for under the sink, Stewart and Steve had struck up a conversation about Peregrine. It turns out Steve had recently built an 18″ trailer completely from native woods, and was in need of a heater. We just so happen to have had a heater that was wanting to be freed from under our seat, giving me oodles of more storage space. While Steve made himself look busy in order to keep his job, and Stewart took all sorts of measurements, I researched the value of the heater. Times are tough, but people aren’t, and a deal was made. Steve rang his wife, Blondie, and she started marinating the chicken for a BBQ that night. While Steve finished up his work day, we headed over to Catch A Canoe: And Bicycle Too for help attaching a tube to the roofrack for our fishing poles. The owner, Rick, was very helpful. When I rang to find out if he could help me, he told me what supplies to pick up at Mendo Mill before heading over to his shop. When I asked him where he was, he replied, “Behind the counter”. Yeah, that’s how he is in person, too.

Later that evening we arrived at Steve and Blondie Channel’s home in Ft. Bragg, and set up Peregrine next door. Steve was born in this house, and has known many of his neighbors his entire life. They lit a wood fire outside, and throughout the evening people drifted in and out, many conveniently arriving just as the food was ready. As scrumptious as it was, if I lived nearby, I may do the same. Eduardo, a native of Chihuahua, Mexico thrills us with pictures and samples from the Copper Canyons, the largest Quartz deposits in the world. It’s fascinating, and looks like a worthwhile trip to take. He said to be sure to take the trains while down there. Apparently, there are quite a few different ones to chose from.

When the heater was removed from Peregrine, it left a hole in his side. Stewart tried to convince me that it didn’t matter, but I wasn’t budging until it was covered. The guys started scrambling for something aesthetically pleasing that would also fill the hole. After about 15 minutes, Eduardo came back across the street with an expired New Mexico license plate. At first I was skeptical, but after seeing how well it complemented the orange and silver on Peregrine, it got my approval.

Eventually, we made our way further up the beautiful California coast to Eureka, about 130 miles. As you may have noticed by now, had we been walking, we could have left California quicker. Anyway, we decided since our next stop was Grants Pass, OR, which was about three hours further, this was a good place to stop. We booked a hotel in an anonymous chain that doesn’t charge for dogs, and set out to get some dinner. Whenever possible, we eat at local restaurants. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to travel the country and eat at chains. Plus, it does more to help the local economies by spending money at locally owned stores and restaurants. We saw quite a few people through the window at Lost Coast Brewery, so we decided to have dinner there. When I asked about the seasonal and special beers, the server offered me a sample of a Belgium beer. It was very good, sweet. Everything we ate was good. Four people sat down at the table butted up next to ours, and immediately started chatting with us. They ordered a pitcher of a wheat beer, and LCB World Famous Buffalo Wings, and passed them over to us to taste. Then, they insisted I taste their beer as well. As our meals progressed, I asked them  about themselves. The couple sitting closest to us, Joan and Paul Gallegos, are both attorneys, and the LA life they were living didn’t work for the family they wanted to build. They moved to Eureka, and started a life there, with Paul eventually running for District Attorney in 2002, and winning. He was re-elected in 2006, and is running again now for his third term. Sonia and John Ford also are transplants to Eureka. John is the morning drive time DJ on 95.5 FM, and Sonia is with Humboldt University. The architecture is beautiful, and there are fantastic murals throughout the downtown area. There is a strong emphasis on the arts in the community, which would certainly make it more attractive to people moving from more urban areas.

It’s clear that times are difficult throughout the United States, and in California, in particular in a way that is especially unfamiliar to many of us. After all, how can the promised land require us to tighten our belts? I’ve often heard people say that in tough times we clearly see people’s strengths and weaknesses. What I have seen is that the people of this State are incredibly generous and kind-spirited, There may be more trucks moving out of California THIS week, but there will be always be more people filled with hope and dreams for their futures with stardust in their eyes, who will come to California for all it has to offer. I’m leaving it now. But as the Guvernator said so well, “Ill be back”.

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…

Way to Go, Uncle Rex

When last I updated this little monologue about our odyssey through the US, I put out a request for places to go and things to do next. Stewart’s uncle, Rex Amack, came through with flying colors. In fact, he so enthusiastically stood up to the challenge that I am dedicating this post to him. So, cheers, Uncle Rex!

As I wrote about previously, we were debating the West Coast of Florida or Hilton Head. We intend to follow, verbatim, the trip suggested by Uncle Rex (UR). We left the Keys and headed across the Tamiami trail through the Everglades to Naples, Sanibel and Pine Island. Next, we stopped in St. Petersburg. We’ll be in St. Petes for awhile since it is a great central location for many interesting and beautiful places. Now, that’s what I call participation! We will pick back up the rest of UR’s itinerary after NOLA.

Speaking of NOLA. The type of cancer I have is called carcinoid. I have Carcinoid Syndrome, which means that it is throughout my body and causes strange symptoms like flushing and wheezing. I plan on living a very, very long time with this disease, but it does need to be tended. The leading Neuroendicrine tumour specialists in the world are in Kenner, LA, a suburb of New Orleans, at the Oschner Clinic. The doctors there have been kind enough to agree to see me. I have been having a lot of bloodwork done along the way, and let me tell you, there are all sorts of obstacles the medical community puts in the way of us wanderers, but that’s another story. My scan dates are 7-8 May, and my consultation is 12 May. I will let y’all know how it goes. Obviously, what they tell me will have some influence on our trip. Not much, but some. Please take the time to learn about this often misdiagnosed cancer. It is often misdagnosed. In fact, the symbol for carcinoid is the zebra. “Just because you hear hoof beats doesn’t mean it’s a horse. It may be a zebra”.

Stewart and I are frequently asked about the logistics of an adventure such as ours. How we get our mail? How do we decide where to go? Don’t we miss home? These are just a few of the many questions we are asked all the time. I’m going to devote a few inches of column space to sharing some of the creative ways we are traveling unencumbered.

Our mail is sent to us by our wonderful property manager, Alex Lay. He fields the calls for the water heater, the trees needing trimming, he deals with all the day to day issues that keep our California home running and us worry free. Our mail is sent to his post office box, and he bundles it and posts it to us wherever we are. For those of you who are interested, the US Post Office does provide a service for a small fee that does basically the same thing. The big difference the post office doesn’t look through your mail for junk and items that are better handled by them. Thank you, Alex!

We have two iPhones, and as of a few days ago, a second laptop. The variety of applications available – mostly for free – on iPhone is staggering. We use no fewer than 50 apps on almost a daily basis. Here is a brief rundown of a few:

~The Weather Channel – we use this to see whether the weather suits us somewhere before heading out.
~Maps – The GPS is remarkably accurate. We have had a few funny instances for example, when it directed us into a cemetery. Considering we were in Florida, aka Heaven’s Waiting Room, we found that appropriate.
~Pandora – for those times when there is no local stations other than Rush-types and Christian music. Before anyone blasts me, there is nothing wrong with it. It’s just not our cup of tea. (did I get out of that one unscathed?)
~Shazam – for those times when we know the song, but can’t think of the artist to save our lives. this app actually “listens” to the song and give us the artist and version within seconds. It feels like magic.
~ Notepad – for keeping track of what we do, where we go, what we eat, hear, etc. Much more environmentally friendly than paper, and easier to keep up with since my phone is attached by umbilicus.
~Social Media – I’m just going to bundle Facebook, LinkedIn, Palringo, Skype and Twitter all together here. Tweetie was the one and only app I ever paid for, and at $2.99 it was a steal!
~Have2P – Yes, I know it’s a funny name, but there is nothing funny when we’re in the middle of nowhere and nature comes calling. You gals know what I mean… I see you smiling.
~Public Radio – I can look up any NPR station that broadcasts and listen to my favorite programs. Since we tend to sleep most of the day and stay up all night, I have found a great station in Hawaii that allows me to listen to Morning edition late into the afternoon.
~Offleash – We’re traveling with two very active Wheaten terriers. They are great, but sometimes their energy needs to be released in a major way. this application uses GPS to find us all the dog parks in the area. We have used it countless times – even submitted one that was missing from their list – pay it forward.
~ Stanza – Through Project Gutenberg and others, there are literally thousands of books available free to be read by anyone with access to a computer. I downloaded, for example, Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons a few days before we went to see the movie so that I would have read it in its original before seeing the Hollywood interpretation. Though Brad Pitt was great, F.Scott Fitzgerald was better.
~ AroundMe – I needed a pharmacy today. I tapped the category, and in seconds a list of pharmacies complete with directions appeared. Granted, I still got lost since I failed to look, but it was there for me.
~ TakeMetoMyCar – We were in Key West, and by the time the day was through we had no idea where we had parked. Fortunately, I’d pressed the screen before we walked away that morning, and it took us right to the car. I know it’s a little screen on the iPhone, but when I was stuck in Peregrine without any wifi or TV signal, I watched CSI and How I Met Your Mother in a YouTube-like format. Very cool.
~i.TV – Speaking of TV, wherever we go this app uses GPS to determine our location, and then gives us the local TV and movie listings.
~Music Recording – 4Trak and GigBaby allow Stewart to record four tracks of music so he can play lead, rhythm, bass and slide resulting in beautiful music.
It’s his own mobile recording studio.
~YouTube – We use this primarily for comedy. Every once in a while A Susan Boyle singing I Dreamed a Dream or Adam Lambert singing Mad world comes along, and instead of being out of the loop, we get to indulge over and over until the tears stop flowing. Speaking of tears flowing, there was one particular Youtube video, Ed Needs Bob that led us to collaborate with Jay Koch in developing a new acronym to describe the sort of laughter that doubles you over and makes tears stream down your face. ENB is when ROFLMAO just doesn’t do justice to our fun.

There are many, many more, but you get the general idea. On our (my!) laptop we have a TV tuner card with fits right into a slot in the side. If we happen to have access to cable, it just hooks right up to the card. If we don’t, I know the name of a good electrician (Stewart) who is quite skilled at working the antenna to get us a picture. When all that fails, Pat Bell, also known as @MickeyMouse1105, tweets me what’s happening on American Idol.

The final question regarding missing home is a bit more complex. We have three daughters and two grandsons who we miss desperately. But the reality at their stages of life (ages 29, 24 and 20) they will have about 30 minutes a week for their parents. Should we spend our time stationary in hopes they throw us a bone? We feel that home is wherever we are together. Peregrine is home, but we are each other’s “home”. We have gotten Skype, and have asked the girls to do the same so we can see them as well as hear their voices. If anyone wishes to reach us, our user name is ravenhouse18. Just give us a warning shout so I can put on my Chapstick.

We did a lot of going back to the same places we had already enjoyed in our final weeks in the Keys. Stewart and I cooked and brought in food while I was recovering, so there isn’t a lot to report other than the remarkable care he gave me, as always. There is one place in particular that is a standout, though. Hog Heaven. The food was excellent, and the live music was a real treat. They played reggae with various guest artists joining them for different numbers. the best part was they serve a full menu until 3:00 AM. As many of you know, we just get started around midnight!

Too much fun landed me in back pain hell. Fortunately, I had my iPhone to keep me company. I have gotten really fast on that thing. In fact, I actually prefer it to my laptop. It is fun to watch the auto-correct transform my thoughts into something completely different. Steve Jobs has a really good sense of humour. I am happy to report my back is healing nicely, and I’m back in the saddle, so to speak.

I would like to share the final day I had before being down for the count. Early Thursday morning – ok, it was around 10:00 am – we headed for Miami where we met Vopni (@talkative_mime) for brunch at a little place called Wagon Wheel West. great breakfast. In my opinion, breakfast is the meal most often ruined. The owner, Wally, was so excited when we told him we’d mention him in our blog, he brought T-shirts for the table!

Straight from WWW, we headed over to Whisk Gourmet. Unfortunately, we weren’t hungry, but we still managed to share a piece of the most heavenly chocolate cake I think I’ve had since my mom’s. We actually fought over the last bite! It was so nice getting to see Ryan and Alyson, my cousins. I hadn’t seen Ryan since he was about 14. Now, he’s all grown up and working for Amex. Handsome, too!

That night, Stewart and I went to see Les Miserables at the Actor’s Playhouse in Coral Gables. The playhouse is owned by Larry and Barbara Stein. Coincidentally, when I broke a tooth in March, Larry fixed it for me. He’s both a great patron of the arts and dentist. What a combination. The company included quite a few from the original Broadway production. When Valjean, played by David Michael Felty sang “Bring Him Home” there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. We were, of course, there in our flipflops, but who cares. Magic! Incidentally, another one of my cousins, Staci Schwartz, an accomplished actor, was a part of the Actor’s Playhouse until quite recently when she relocated to our nations capital.

Down in the Keys for the most part our choices for shopping are an outlet store or two, Wal-Mart (where I refuse to shop until they pay their workers a living wage), and Walgreen’s. Spending the day in Miami gave us the opportunity to stock up on much needed supplies. We (Stewart!) had broken a lamp at the home we had rented, and buying a new one seemed a better solution than reporting it.

I am at a stand still.There is so much more to write, but if I wait until I have it all written, I’ll never get this posted! So, I’m going to post this, and then get back to the more interesting aspects of our journey. Please forgive me for not being very amusing this go. Too much to say, too little wifi!

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.

Fifty, the New Fifty!

Sorry for the long delay between posts. Each morning (afternoon?) when I wake up I have to ask myself, “Where am I?”

First of all, I have decided to withhold judgment about President Obama. Let’s face it, he inherited a mess, and it is going to take time and BI-PARTISAN cooperation to even begin to fix this mess we’re in. People outside the Beltway seem to be giving him some breathing room, which is a good thing. We didn’t get in this mess overnight. It isn’t going to go away overnight, either. I just wish there was some way to stop the bleeding. I made the mistake of opening my 401K statement (up until now I have avoided looking), and almost cried. The deflated value of real estate values coupled with the disaster, also know as our pensions, is enough to send me to drink. One amusing side note on the budget mess I’d like to share. In late January, I received a notice from the California Franchise Board (their version of the IRS) telling me I owed almost $5400 for 2005. When I called to find out what was going on, I was told that the State just assumed I must have hidden income since I am making my mortgage payments on time! After I stopped laughing, I asked the gentleman if this was one of Arnold’s ideas to go along with IOU’s. Just go after anyone, and see who is dumb enough to pay. Hopefully, Clarence (my contact) will get this sorted before they try and take Peregrine. If the California legislature and local mayors are smart they’ll spend some of their energy collecting from real tax offenders.

OK, so what have we been up to? Our dear friend, Nancy McClellan, lost her 18 year old dog, Honey, so Jeffrey and Emma did what they could to distract her. Nancy was kind enough to watch them while Stewart and I flew to Palm Springs for my mother-in-law’s 75th birthday. My brother-in-law, Lenny, took most of the pictures, so I will have to wait until he sends them to add some here. I do have one, however of Stewart with his mom on his lap. The apple didn’t fall far from that tree! I wonder how much it is worth to her NOT to post this…. Ginger’s party was great fun, and it was wonderful spending time with my three remarkable sisters-in-law. Tavia, Tara and Tonia are as different from each other as my sisters and I are from one another, however, each brings light into any room they enter. I know just how blessed I am in the in-law department. Let’s face it, when you marry a man, you also marry his family. Unfortunately, his brother, Mark, was unable to make it.

While we were back in SoCal, we met up with my dear friend, Peter Wolff. He is presently in LA working on a project using music for pain management and other therapies. I cannot wait to see how it turns out. He promised to let Stewart and I be his guinea pigs. Since we were all the way in Palm Springs, Peter took a train to Claremont where we met for a nice chat and an early dinner so he could catch the last train back to LA. When the three of us get to sharing ideas, and wine is added into the mix (Pepsi for Stewart), there was little chance of Peter making his train. We ended up eating at this wonderful little place called La Piccoletta Ristorante. The cioppino was so delicious that had they not had bread to sop up the broth, I would have drunk it with a straw! After dinner, we kidnapped Peter back to the desert and had a slumber party. Of course, when we looked at the train schedule for the morning, we failed to notice it only runs twice a week, so we had a nice chat back down towards Claremont.

After returning to Dallas, we spent one more week seeing friends and getting in the rest of my favorite restaurants. S&D Oyster Bar and Highland Park Pharmacy were both squeezed into one day (sort of like me and my jeans!). I had told Stewart that the seafood gumbo, oysters on the half shell, and bread pudding with whiskey sauce are some of the best he’d ever have anywhere. I am proud to say I was three for three. Unfortunately, Celebration was closed when we went so the staff could watch the Super Bowl. Real Texans will always put football first.

I do feel it is important to mention the place we stayed in Dallas. When I first booked Staybridge Suites I thought it would be gross. It was way further north than I would normally go, and it was on the tollway. It couldn’t have been better. The people were so nice, free laundry, breakfast, fitness room, free faxes (!), I could go on and on. When we went to Palm Springs, they allowed us to leave Peregrine in the parking lot, and gave us the same upgraded suite across the hall when we got back. Five cornstalks to them.

My birthday was on 4 February, and I really wanted to spend it in New Orleans, so we drove down the day before, and just walked the French Quarter that night. It was my first trip back post-Katrina, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. It looked very much the same, but the feel was very different. Not as many homeless in doorways, less celebrants in general. Bourbon St. was still dirty and filled with the over-served, but there was a forced feel to the place. Breakfast at Cafe du Monde did wonders for my general happiness, though. Is there another place on earth that can do so much with powdered sugar, batter (beignets) and coffee? They are is still delicious and just as messy.

On the way to Cafe du Monde, we came across a very cool little store on Chartres called Dashka Roth. She makes wonderful jewelry and Judaica. I got a very cool pair of earrings for my birthday. She has the cutest little Maltese who is very happy to help out. If you have a few minutes, read her Katrina story on her website.

Late that day, we ate at Desire Oyster Bar on Bourbon St. Stewart had had my version of a po’boy, but I felt it was only fair he taste the real thing. Of course, now he’ll never look at mine the same. He swears he will, but I know better. Just a little tip, order the combo po’boy, and don’t eat the bread. It is about the same amount as food as the platter, but a lot cheaper. When we left, a walk was definitely in order. Plus, we only had one full day as we were leaving for Miami the 5th. We found this really cool store, Road Kill. I saw these awesome boots in the window, and just had to have them. I bet I’m the only one with rubber cowboy boots like these. They should be a hit fishing.

We went to hear this very talented band, The Bridge that night at Blue Nile. We got there a little early, so we went around the corner to Igor’s Checkpoint Charlie to listen to some music and shoot some pool. We met a nice guy from Pennsylvania, Tom Klich, who went with us over to hear The Bridge. The Big Easy is that way. Go where the mood takes you.

After New Orleans, we headed to Miami. Going through Mississippi, it was clear that there had been damage from Katrina, but not nearly to the extent in New Orleans. No levies broke in MS. That first night, we spent the night in Ocala, FL, which was experiencing the coldest temperatures on record. It was 26 degrees when we checked into our hotel. V-v-v-very cold! Nevertheless, we made it through the night, and headed down to south Florida in time to pick up my sister, Nancy and her significant other, Russ from the airport.

When we got to the condos I had booked at 8200 Byron in Miami, there were some initial problems, but eventually things were fine. Adam is the owner, and obviously new at the entire vacation rental thing. No sheets, no toilet paper, no soap…. Adam did do his best to make things right, and I am sure with time and experience, he will be great at vacation rentals. I would stay there again. Here is a picture I took out of the living room window with my phone.

The four of us fit as much into a few days together as possible. Nancy loves, loves to shop. so we walked through the shops of South Beach. The first night, though, they took me out to celebrate my birthday to this really great place, called Sushi Siam. The sushi was fresh, and the ambiance was wonderful. The sake was awesome, too.

My cousin, Fran and her husband Ron Sevcik hosted a family gathering for my birthday, combined with a going away party for our cousin, Stacy Schwatz, who moved back to DC. Cousins Brad and Freddie Ross came down, along with Freddie’s love, Cecily. My Aunts Dell and Dottie are still rockin’ their 80’s, and Uncle Zay is still amazing. I wish I could see them more often. The next night, the four of us (at Ron’s urging) headed down to Joe’s Stone Crab. Very expensive, but VERY awesome. Great sweet potato fries to go with the stone crabs. Old fashioned waiters in tuxedos. Very cool.

After Nancy and Russ headed back to freezing St. Louis, Stewart and I spent some time with my cousin, Alysson (Fran and Ron’s daughter) before heading for the Keys. She is actually more like a niece. What a sweetheart. She took us to a very cool Cuban tapas bar, and a Jewish deli – not at the same time. While at the tapas bar, I received a phone call letting me know that once again, I am a grandma. Kellan Vessie Robinson was born 9 February. I hope to see him soon. Vessie, was Buck and his father’s real name.

We have been in the Keys now for over a week, and have no idea when we are leaving. Life here is easy. Get up, fish a little, take the dogs to the beach, read, hang out, read some more. Of course, eat! After how crazy our pace has been since closing on the Colorado house Halloween, we are really enjoying the slower pace. No plans yet where to go next. Stewart wants to head up the west coast of Florida next. I’m more for a trip up to Hilton Head first. I’ll let you know which way the wind blows.

Now, for the saga of Jeffrey and Emma. First, Emma got sick staying with Nancy. Nancy spoiled her with treats. Way too many treats. Unfortunately, Emma was allergic, so once again chewed the hair off her legs. They had so much fun with her, though. Nancy let them climb all over her and the furniture. She said she’s going to get two Wheatens and name them Emma and Jeffrey. Too funny.

Everywhere we go people are surprised that we are able to travel so simply with two mid-size (sounds like a car!) dogs. The worst part is when they get into sticker bushes, or one decides to get sick in the back seat of the car. It is really no different than traveling with kids, except we don’t have to get a sitter. Just zip them into their kennels. It is a bit of a problem, though, because Emma is a bit of an escape artist. She has figured out how to unzip the kennel door, so now she is in her kennel attached to a leash attached to Peregrine’s wheel. Jeffrey, always the perfect gentleman, is content to wait for an invitation to exit his kennel. Stewart groomed them both this week, and they are looking lovely. Now at least, Emma’s legs match the rest of her.

Oh, that reminds me, I found the Jeffrey (person) for whom, my Jeffrey is named. An old friend, Jeffrey Shapiro, is a drummer from LA, and when I was around town while he traveled, I watched his Wheaten, David. I fell so in love with David, that I swore if I ever got another dog, I would get a Wheaten and name him Jeffrey. Jeffrey, the person, is still drumming, and can be heard in various tribute bands. Check out his Myspace page if you get a chance. I don’t know if he still uses it, but back in the day I redid his drum face for a show at the Troubadour in West Hollywood.

Let’s talk ethanol, E85. It is more difficult to find than I had anticipated in certain states. For example, the nearest station to New Orleans is Baton Rouge. Not exactly around the corner. Also, since the E85 pump is frequently leased by an independent at a national station, the price can be greatly inflated. It is still cheaper than regular gasoline, but the savings is reduced by the station middleman (or woman).

The mileage is not a real problem. There doesn’t seem to be too much difference between gas and ethanol with or without Peregrine. The new spark plugs are great. It has definitely narrowed the miles per gallon, but gas is still leading in mpg. Actually, half a tank of each seems to be the winning combination. Obviously, this is not so simple when there is a huge distance between E85 locations. I do wish we were more efficient when towing, though. At least we are trying to do our part to help the environment and get off foreign oil.

A suggestion: Someone should come up with a user-friendly iPhone application to find alternative fuels using the built-in GPS. There is one for regular stations, but no way to tell which carry E85. All the web-based applications for E85 require that you know the zipcode – not something you’re
likely to do in the middle of nowhere.

After having spent some time in campgrounds now, I feel just fine about what we are doing. It amazes me to see motorhomes towing SUV’s. These folks bring all the comforts of home with them on the road. At the end of the day, they don’t have much more than we do with a little imagination and effort. OK, so a toilet and shower would be nice, but we have a TV tuner with a built-in DVR on our laptop, WiFi, a comfortable queen bed, seating, a table to eat at, book shelves. What more does a person really need?!

It is now clear to me that I have waited entirely too long in between updates. Please forgive me if this is too boring. There were just too many things to cram into one post. I will not be waiting so long in the future! If you have any suggestions for where to go next, please let me know. One last thing, we put Peregrine’s awning up for the first time (top picture). Doesn’t it remind you of your grandmother’s table cloth?! Be well.