Saturday, December 29, 2012

Our first week in Cedar Key December 2012

Our rving friends, Maria and Brian, had arrived in Cedar Key a few days before we did  and we were reunited over drinks at the Tiki Bar down the street. It felt really good to be "home" - how we really feel about the place. We had purchased a used canoe through friends and it was waiting for us in our site when we arrived. There is an annual Christmas boat parade of lights every year in Cedar Key and we were excited to be able to participate in it. New paddles and PFD's were ordered online, along with some fun decorations, and all had arrived in the nick of time to dress up the "Wild Ride," as we called her, for the parade.

Early Saturday morning Bill and I went for a run down to the pier to check out the water and see how the town looked after being gone for six months. The water was a little choppy and I got a little nervous thinking about how we would fare with all of the big boats out there with their wake and this choppy water. I mean, we hadn't even been in the canoe, we didn't even know if it was sea-worthy!

Photo from Slider Magazine, thanks Jay for the push off!
We ended up being first in line for the parade, pretty incongruous, as Number 1 - we had never been in this parade before (or any other for that matter), Number 2 - we had never even floated in this canoe before, and Number 3 - we'd only ever been in a canoe twice before, in Tahoe this fall. But being the intrepid warriors that we were, we grabbed the big sign with the "1" on it and off we went into the sunset.

We were quickly brought up to speed as to where we should go and what we should do, but for about an hour we just paddled around the calm waters and greeted the other boaters. I was so happy that the water was calm and that all of the big boats were moving slowly and we experienced no issues with wake. It was a magical time watching the sunset out on the water and paddling around. This experience has to be one of my top five, ever.

Some amazing pics taken by Pat Bonish - except the pic of his boat I took, lower right.

It was truly a magical night - another awesome pic from Slider Magazine!
Eventually it got dark enough and we were to start our approach to the pier where the judges and town were waiting. We had no idea that they were judging us on anything other than decor, so when everyone started yelling for us to sing we were quite taken aback. And of course, with all the singing we do, neither Bill nor I could think of a single thing to sing. We just sat there looking at each other laughing. We circled around to watch all of the other boats and the sea was alight with beauty. People were singing and dancing and doing their best to entertain the crowd and I could have stayed out in that canoe for the rest of time.

Our friends at the Tiki Bar took home all of the prizes and they celebrated by hosting a party at their bar. Pat & Cindy (Tiki Bar) also hosted an "End of the World Apocalypse" Party on 12/21/12 and because it was freezing cold Bill and I wore our furry Burning Man coats to everyone's delight; it was good to be warm!

One of my favorite things in Cedar Key is the yoga and the following week I made it to class three times. It was nice that people remembered me and welcomed me back. Maria and Brian started doing some circuit training and I joined them twice that week also. It felt good to get back into an exercise routine and feel the redefinition of my muscles.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Savannah again...

I really love Savannah, there's just something about the buzz of this city with it's incongruous mix of young people at SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) and the historical district. It's clean and has a lot of cute places to grab a beer, some interesting shops like the Spice and Tea Exchange and a great hair salon I've been to twice now called the Color Boxx.

Last spring we parked in the visitor center parking lot - great location but very noisy and really not that cheap because we had to pay to park the rv and the car, so at about $12 per day it was no bargain. This time we opted to stay at Skidaway State Park, an absolutely beautiful park and with Bill's senior national park's pass it was about $22 per day with full hook ups and more importantly, peace and quiet and just a short ride into town.

We hung out in Savannah for four days with nothing much we wanted to do except catch our breath. I spent a day shopping and getting my hair done and Bill rested up from all of the driving. We had planned to visit Charleston, South Carolina on our way to Cedar Key. I had just finished the excellent book, South of Broad, which was set in Charleston and really had an itch to see it but we also were getting desperate to just stop moving. Since we left Cedar Key on May 1st we had driven down to Key West, up to Maine, across to Washington state, down to Palm Desert, California and all the way across the United States and we were beat up. So we made a call to the rv park and moved up our arrival date two weeks and beat feet to our little spot where we spent two and half months last winter with a stop along the way in Jacksonville for an oil change for Bebe. It was also our last Whole Foods stop where we stocked up on all the food we knew we couldn't get in our little island town. We feel we are home now and in one spot for four months, our longest stay to date....should be interesting!

Atlanta, Georgia

We had planned to visit Atlanta on our way north last spring but time ran short and we put it on hold. This time it was on the itinerary and I was excited to see the city where my Walnut Creek friend's Susan and Ron were from. I had read a lot of books that were set in Atlanta and had great expectations. Bill really wanted nothing to do with the big city but was really looking forward to seeing his Air Force friend, Jolly, who he hadn't seen in thirty plus years. A hashing friend of ours from Sacramento had moved there a few years ago and we were planning to see him too.

The biggest issue with our stay in Atlanta was where to park. Atlanta is sorely lacking in the type of rv parks where we like to stay, especially in the area where our friends would be close by. We had been reading a lot of bad reviews of parks and the only place that looked like a good fit for us was at the Dobbins Air Force Base.  Unfortunately though this park had a "no reservations" policy so we were just going to wing it and hope for the best. It all turned out great and we loved both the location and the setting of the rv park.

We got together with Perry and his girlfriend Debbie (who is a sweetheart) in Marietta Square for drinks and dinner.  It had been a few years since we had seen him back when we all lived in northern California and he was looking good and happy.

And, of course, Bill got to spend quite a bit of time catching up with Jolly.

I did get into Atlanta proper for a little grocery shopping at the local natural foods store but didn't get into tour the Peachtree District at all, maybe next time!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Road to Atlanta

....from Bill

The next stop we had planned after Hot Springs was Atlanta, Georgia, but I had an itch to see my old house in Cabot, Arkansas, which is about 25 minutes north of Little Rock. And as usual I had a friend in the area. One of my classmates from the Air Force Academy, Bob Marston, lives in Little Rock and we had seen him and his wife at the reunion in October and thought it would be fun to visit them while we were in the area.  I didn't know Bob while we were at the Academy, but met him at the Little Rock hash when I was stationed at Little Rock AFB in the 80s. Bob and his wife still do a lot of running and we knew they’d be full of good advice on hashing as well as where to go and what to do around town.
Bill's Arkansas homestead and where his babies were born.
Since this was really just a stop on the way to Atlanta, we didn't spend much time here. Debby found us a great place to stay, Riverside RV Park, right on the Arkansas River and right across the bridge from the Clinton Presidential Library and the River Market District—a perfect location. As it turned out, hashing didn't work out for us, but we did get to meet Bob and Donna for dinner one night at a place that had some vegan options that worked for us. We also took a drive to Cabot one morning to see my old house. This was the first house I owned and we built it in a new subdivision on a golf course. Things had changed a bit, but it was still pretty much the same neighborhood as it was when we left there about 20 years ago. We also made a stop at the Cabot Walmart, where one of my friends had been approached about joining the KKK back when we lived there. Interesting place this.

Probably the highlight of our brief stay was walking across the footbridge to see the library and visit the river market district. We found some marks from an old hash that led across the bridge and to the market district. We thought they might be for the hash that was being run that day, but after checking, realized they were running well north of town. The library was pretty cool and provided an interesting trip back in time to the nineties. They had replicas of several rooms from the White House, but I didn't see the infamous closet where Wild Bill “did not have sex” with that girl. We visited a couple of bars/restaurants in the market district, but had a hard time finding one that didn't allow smoking and had anything vegan on the menu. Nonetheless, we had a good time and a great walk, and the next morning we were off to see another old friend in Gadsden, Alabama, but not before we got new tires for Bebe.

I’d been noticing that the front tires on Bebe had been wearing a lot on the outside of the tread. When we were getting ready to leave Hot Springs on Friday, I took another good look at the tires and noticed they were getting scalloped and that made me nervous. The tires were already five years old and due for replacement so we found a place on the south side of Little Rock where we could get them installed on Monday and extended our stay for a day. This worked out just fine. We got Michelin’s for under $600 a piece and were on the road before 11:00 am, pretty good for us. We decided to split the drive to Gadsden into two days and Debby went to work finding us a spot to stay for the night.

I've got to hand it to her; Debby has become a pro at finding incredible overnight stops. After exploring several options, including a few Walmarts along the way, she found an Army Corps of Engineers RV park just outside of Tupelo, Mississippi, that had great reviews. It was situated on a waterway with excellent views, especially from the fishing pier that was just down the path from our site. I whipped up a couple of martinis and we went down to watch the sunset. There were hundreds of ducks, geese, and coots swimming in the shallow water and the sun put on the best show we've seen in a long time. It was a great spot and we’d love to come back some day and do absolutely nothing for a couple of weeks (except maybe go fishing, which is kinda like doing nothing while drinking a few beers). One of the best things about this stop was that we got in for $12 a night thanks to my national parks pass, and we got a pull through site. Wish I had known that before unhooking the toad.

Don’t you love how the internet can get you connected to people you haven’t seen in a long time? A lot of our travel destinations have been determined by the opportunity to visit friends and family that we've found online after years of being apart. Our stop in Gadsden was just one of those opportunities. A few weeks back, Debby got a message on our blog site from someone that I had gone to navigation school with back in 1974, Steve Alex. After nav school, we saw each other once or twice when I was stationed in the Philippines, but not since then. He was inspired to find me after he and another friend had been reminiscing about the good old days, and find me he did. So we made our way to Gadsden and through some very narrow roads to his house. Apparently, one of the previous owners of his house had an RV and had set up a place to park it next to the house with full hookups—50 amp electric, sewer, and water. We hooked up to the electric and after cocktails in the RV, got started preparing a vegan dinner for everyone. It was great reminiscing with Steve and Jan and catching up on the past 35 years. We had debated staying for another day and going for a ride on their pontoon boat, but the weather was crappy with rain in the forecast, so we packed up and beat feet to Atlanta, Georgia where we would, you guessed it, visit some old friends.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Hot Springs, Arkansas

I really had no burning desire to visit Arkansas, until I heard there was a town called Hot Springs. One thing Bill and I really try to look for on our travels are hot springs, this sounded like a place we needed to visit. That and the fact that our friends Chris and Cherie of had been here twice and loved it, We also got the skinny about a great place to park Bebe in the National Park for $12/day with Bill's senior park pass. So here we are, yes, right now, at the very moment I am writing this blog! (well that was a few days ago...maybe a week ago!)

We set up and got settled with about an hour of daylight left and took off on a trail from the campground up into the nearby mountains for a little exercise and to get the lay of the land. Luckily we were smart enough to grab our head lamps because by the time we got back it was dark.

Our first stop was to the Buckstaff Bathhouse where you can have a traditional thermal mineral bath experience, which we did, accompanied by a short swedish massage. The men's and women's areas are on separate floors; I went upstairs while Bill stayed on the main floor. I went into a little individual changing room with a locker and the attendant wrapped me in a big white sheet which accompanied me throughout my stay. Another attendant came and got me and brought me to a room that was lined on one side with individual old-fashioned tubs in curtained off rooms. These are the original jacuzzi's that look like they have an outboard motor in them to make the bubbles. I was given 2 little cups of the hot water (from the springs) and left there to soak for about 15 minutes. My girl came and checked on me several times and then I got out and she wrapped me back in my sheet. Next up was the siztz bath. You sit in a little tub of hotter water that is supposed to be great for digestion, arthritius, hemorroids and a myriad of other ills. I was re-wrapped in my sheet so my butt could sit in the water but my front was covered by the sheet. I was now brought cold cups of ice water. I had experience a sitz bath before, in the hospital after I had given birth but that was more like a jacuzzi sitz bath. This was just the hot water. It felt great, especially on my hips! Next up was the steam chamber. Looked a little like a torture chamber! I was divested of my sheet and sat on this seat - the part in front of me closed up and a little hole was left for my head. Every so often my attendant would pour ice chips into my mouth. I was then told to think about what areas I would like my hot towels put on, which was coming up next. I was very excited for this part - shoulders and hips, please, ahhhhhhh! I was rewrapped in the sheet and in addition to the hot towels an ice cold towel was wrapped around my forehead and cheeks...and more ice chips! Next was the needle shower and finally the massage. The Yelp! reviews had gone into great detail about the experience so I was pretty prepared for the massage being nothing special, and they were right, plus the masseuse had an attitude, but all in all it was a fun experience. Bill's experience was pretty similar except he was pretty much nude the entire time (sans sheet). He was underwhelmed and there certainly is no need to do it again, but what the hey!

Yesterday we took off on a hike into town to check out Bath House Row and do a little site-seeing. I had looked online and found a couple of restaurants where we could find something we could eat but our hike ran long and by the time we got to the restaurants one was completely closed for lunch and one had just closed. On our walk through town the ex-mayor offered to take our picture and mentioned a good place to eat. We were also greeted by a man who shared with us some of the local history. When he asked where we were from and we told him we lived in an rv and traveled around he said that he was homeless too! Everyone we have met here has been extremely friendly. We ended up at the Bolivian restaurant the mayor had recommended and had a fabulous margarita and meal. By the time we got home we had walked almost 7 miles!

Hot Springs, Arkansas was known as the "Valley of Vapors" and many flocked here to "take the waters," so to speak. The town is filled with very old, very large hotels that remind you of a distant era, most are no longer in use but a few still are. There are springs all over the town and many fountains that encourage one to fill up their vessels with the healing waters.

Superior Bathhouse is now under renovation to become the town's first brewery!
Last night we got online with our rv-ing homies and had a blast - first texting on Facebook and then Maria switched us all over to Google+ where we could all video conference. What fun we had - we haven't seen Sam and Tracy since January in Slab City and Maria and Brian since Delfest at the end of May. Three more weeks and we'll all be reunited - well most of us, anyway!