Birthday week, Part Two
The last part of our Great Ohio Epic Birthday Extravaganza Adventure brought us up to Cleveland to visit some of my old friends from high school and take in a Rush concert. Rush is one of my all time favorite bands, and I saw my first concert by them in Cleveland when I was 14 years old. I haven’t missed a tour since, and I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to see them in Cleveland on my birthday!
Of course it was great to catch up with my old friends, a few I had not seen for over 20 years! We hung out, talked about old times and new, and in many ways it was as if no time had passed at all!
There was one bit of stamping business that we had to attend to… in downtown Cleveland there is a sculpture of the world’s largest rubber stamp. It was massive!
We rounded out the week with the concert last night, and it was a great ending to a great trip!! Now we drive back to Columbus for our flight home, hoping not to have to tangle too much with Hurricane Sandy!
Day 4 – Hitting the jackpot in Paulding!
Our last day in Columbus started with a long and scenic ride out to Paulding County, OH for more research – and we hit the jackpot! Our first stop was the library, where we found a map to the plot of land that was owned and occupied by one of her ancestors. It was plot #22 in Latty Township, Paulding County. Then we had to find where plot #22 existed in real life. That was a fun puzzle to solve! Luckily, Grover Hill School was still there so we had a place to work from.
Then it was off to the courthouse, literally walking distance from the library. It’s a great old building that provided a wealth of information.
Instead of copies, transcripts and microfilm, this time we found ACTUAL documents! Getting to them was a little precarious, but worth it in the end!
We were on a time crunch, so we made copies and took pictures of everything and will wade through it later. We wanted to make it out to plot #22 before dark, and we did. It’s still farm land, with no real evidence that Linda’s ancestors were there, but we’ve got the map to prove it.
To cap off our time in central Ohio, we again got together with Brad and Paul to visit one of their favorite restaurants in Columbus, Figlio. Linda got a tasty Chicken Marsala and I got the Salmon dish below. It was out of this world!
Then early this morning (Saturday) we said goodbye to Delaware and hit the road for Cleveland. We’re now off to see a bunch of my friends from high school that I haven’t seen in many, many years. Good times!
Day 3 – in the can!
Day 3 of the Great Ohio Birthday Extravaganza Adventure lived up to it’s name! Starting off back at the Delaware Library, again with Millie’s help, we cross referenced a few facts and got our ducks in a row. Then it was off to Marysville Public Library, about 30 minutes west of Delaware.
This was taken just outside the library… the weather today was beyond gorgeous. Made us wish they had all the books outside.
Unfortunately, the trip to Marysville lead to more questions than answers. We found some things that could have lead to other things, if we knew where those other things were. So, we decided to set out for Paulding County, where one of Linda’s ancestors is buried, and where we might find some more records that would give us an idea of where to go next. Because Paulding was 2 hours from Marysville, Linda called ahead to see if the trip would be worth it. She surmised it would be, so jumped in the car and took off. Until…
Out of nowhere, a North American Curb Monster stopped us in our tracks. Jumped right out and got one of our tires, stopping us almost dead in our tracks. Luckily, we rolled to a stop at a service station to assess the damage from the attack.
That crazy varmint chewed clear through the tire! Long story short, our rental company wouldn’t let us get a new tire at the service station we were at, so we had to put on the spare, which pretty much negated our plans to travel long distances at high rates of speed anytime soon. On a side note, if you are ever in need of automotive repair in Marysville, OH, I would highly suggest going to see my new friend Ron at Hometown Auto Center. He was bending over backwards to try to help us out, and was willing drop what he was doing to fix the tire, if only the rental company would have let him!
With the spare in place, I dropped Linda off at the Delaware Library to continue working while I took the car back to Columbus to switch it out for one with 4 good tires. In the exchange we got a car with leather upholstery and seat warmers, so I think it was a win-win. Now we can head to Paulding in the morning!
Last stop of the evening was for dinner… we had been hearing about another local institution called the Hamburger Inn. Listed as THE oldest restaurant in Delaware, it certainly had the “charm” of a place that hadn’t seen a cosmetic update in quite some time. It was great, though, and Linda even made some new friends. Here she is playing scratch-off Keno with the waitstaff. (Linda is in the stripes, this was taken all the way across the restaurant with my phone.)
The food was really good! We both got burgers and split some onion rings. In an irony of all ironies, I got the “hangover” burger, mostly because it had a fried egg on it (along with cheese and bacon – yum). It was quite good!
Because it was our first time there, the waitress brought us a complimentary cinnamon roll (with maple frosting – double yum) for us to try. She said this is what they are really famous for and we could see why. We brought another one home just to make sure their recipe was consistent.
And that’s it for Day 3. Catch you on the flip side… or Day 4!!
Happy Birthday, Linda!!!
Yesterday was Linda’s b-day, and another successful day of genealogy research. Before we got to the research though, we had to start Linda’s b-day in style! We got a waffle!!!
We got to know he card catalog and microfilm readers in the Family History Room of the Delaware Public Library VERY well (107 printed pages later!). Millie from the Delaware Genealogical Society was EXTREMELY helpful!
Took a quick brake for lunch at the Old Bag of Nails Pub in Delaware, then off to the Rutherford B. Hayes building to look through the county land records. (Did you know that R. B. Hays was born in Delaware? Now you do!)
So… this is what we had to start with. Luckily there is an index that helps you decipher which volume to start with. We needed the land records to help piece together the comings and goings of Linda’s ancestors. People didn’t move around as easily as they do today, so following the trail of who owns what land helps figure out the family story.
Once you find the right volume, actually reading through the handwritten notes of the sale or transfer of land was time consuming and also difficult, given the quality of penmanship and condition of the document. What was really interesting is how they described the property boundaries… 10 paces from the large oak tree on the southern corner of the ridge. I guess they figured that oak tree would be there forever!
With our eyes seeing double, we went back to the hotel to decompress for a few minutes, then it was on to my cousin Brad’s house for a WONDERFUL family dinner. He lives up in Marion, Ohio, which is where I was born and still have a lot of familial roots. Brad and his partner Paul went over the top with the dinner menu – it was like a Thanksgiving Day feast in October! There was chicken with incredible croutons, ham loaf, green beans, mashed potatoes, and a delectable corn bread casserole thing. Whatever you call it, it was great! It was also great to hang out with family that I hadn’t seen in 5 years – Aunt Judy and Uncle Gary, cousin Gwen and her husband Brian and their two boys Wade and Wes.
Top ALL that culinary and family goodness off with birthday cake and a Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie! Yum! (Taylor is Wade’s girlfriend who was supposed to join us but had school commitments.)
Today (Oct. 25) we are back at the Delaware Library getting some last minute details covered, then off to… wherever the trail takes us!!
We’ll keep you posted!
Day 1 of our Ohio Birthday Extravaganza is (almost) in the books. This morning we got up bright and early to catch a flight from Orlando to Columbus, Ohio. I thought it was a good omen to see this truck on the way to the airport:
Linder is what I call Linda sometimes, paying homage to the tendency of a certain regional accent that adds ‘er’s when a word ends in ‘a’.
Our ultimate destination for the first leg of our trip was Delaware, Ohio, about 30 minutes North of Columbus. And what is the first thing we did when we got here? Had lunch! Bun’s was recommended by my parents as a Delaware institution, so it had to be our first stop! It opened in 1864 as a bakery, and later expanded to a full restaurant in 1920. We both had the fish and chips, which were very tasty.
Then on to the main event. We began our genealogy journey at the Delaware library, and made some pretty huge progress right off the bat. Linda was looking for one particular piece of information, something she has been searching for for almost two years – and she found it! Wahoo! The trip is already a success! So then I began piecing together where in the county her ancestors might have lived, and I think I was able to get pretty close. It took some doing to decipher some old maps from the 1850′s and compare them to what’s out there today.
After a full day of traveling and research, it was time for dinner. If you ever find yourself in Delaware with a hankering’ for Mexican food, scurry on over to El Vaquero’s. Linda and I split the Burritas Tapatias and an order of Mexican Rice… OMG! It was out-of-this-world fantastic! I wouln’t be surprised if that ends up on the culinary itinerary at least one more time before we leave town.
Now back in the room, I just typed the word word, and Linda is following up on some of the leads she got today. Tomorrow we meet with a genealogy specialist at the library, and who knows where the journey will lead us from there?
Toward the end of October, Linda and I will be taking a trip to Ohio. What started out as birthday trip to visit friends and go to a concert has turned into a genealogical exploration! Turns out that the ancestor Linda was researching when we went to Virginia a few years ago had moved to Delaware County, Ohio later in his life.
So that’s where we are going. We’ll spend a few days doing research, then head up to Cleveland to meet up with some friends that until this past summer, I had not seen in about 25 years! Crazy!
We’ll be sure to post interesting tidbits of our adventures here!
This past weekend, Linda had a workshop and training session in New Smyrna Beach, FL, so naturally you know what that meant for us… road trip! We decided to make this a little get-away, so we booked a room at the Dream Inn in Daytona Beach (just north of New Smyrna) because it had been featured on the show Hotel Impossible. More on that in just a minute.
We hit the road a little early to grab lunch before the workshop, and found a cool restaurant called the Downwind Cafe, which literally sits on the tarmac of a local “fly in” neighborhood (where the residents live and keep their planes – and can fly in and out at any time!). It was pretty cool to watch the planes taxi by as we decided on what to eat.
Here’s Watson (what we call our Honda Element… Element… elementary… Watson – you get the idea!) parked on the same pavement as the runway! Rightfully so, the planes have right-of-way!
Not to worry, the next day was the beach day!
The hotel was about what I had expected. It looked a little dated and worse for wear in the TV show, but you could tell they were making strides in the right direction. We talked to one of the owners who said that Daytona Beach in general was down in terms of the number of tourists, so that made business for their little hotel even tougher.
It was neat to hear him talk about the experience of being on the show, even though there were some things he couldn’t share because of the contract they signed. What I came away with is that even though the transformation they show you on TV is pretty spectacular, rehabbing the entire property will take more than a 4 day TV shoot. For highlights from the episode, click here. For my review from a business standpoint, you can read more here.
After the workshop, Linda and I went to dinner at a place called the Spanish River Grill in New Smyrna Beach. Linda laughed when I asked if it was Spanish food or on the Spanish river… I didn’t know! Anyway, we created our version of tasting menu with Gambas (Shrimp baked in garlic, olive oil, smoked paprika & sherry), Chef Henry’s Crab Cakes (100% blue crab, mango-guava reduction, chimichurri alioli) and Fish Tacos (White fish lightly fried, fresh red cabbage, avocado salsa & roasted corn relish). The shrimp and crab cake dishes were out of this world. Seriously yummy!! The fish tacos were a little bland, but the other two dishes made up for it. We would definitely go back!
The evening concluded with ice cream from Cow Licks and a stroll on the beach.
Sunday brought a sunny day and short walk down the road to the Cracked Egg Diner. A decent breakfast place with a cool vibe, Linda noticed that the coffee mugs matched the accent wall colors. A nice touch.
Then it was time to get our feet wet! We took another stroll on the beach, this time in the daylight! The sun was warm and the water was cool – what a great way to spend the morning!
The temperature was rising, so we thought a nice scenic drive would appeal to both our sense of nature and adventure AND not overheating! We packed up Watson and headed for the Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail, which is “a 30+ mile double loop of roadways traversing some of the most beautiful and diverse natural scenery remaining in all of northeast Florida.” That’s what the website says, and it’s true. We decided we would go back and do it again in the convertible when the weather was a little cooler.
We did make one unplanned stop along the loop at Tomoka State Park. They smartly had a bright yellow sign out by the road advertizing canoe and kayak rentals. That was enough for us to turn in and investigate. 15 minutes later we were in a canoe heading up the Tomoka river! We had been so spontaneous that we didn’t bother to check the weather before heading out. A brief rain storm encouraged us to head to the river bank and get some shelter as it passed. It was a typical Florida summer shower and it was done within about 10 minutes. We were then off on our way back up the river. It was wonderfully relaxing and fun.
The highlight of the journey was on the way back, when off in the distance we saw what looked to be a dolphin coming up for air. We kept our eyes peeled and sure enough it surfaced again, this time even closer to us. For the next few minutes, we had a dolphin swimming with us, about 30 feet from the canoe, coming up out of the water 3 or 4 times before disappearing into the river. THAT was cool! Unfortunately, the camera was packed away in the waterproof pouch, but that’s okay. I won’t forget that experience for a long time.
Ahhh… the Disney trip is over… ( We had a lot of fun with our stamping friends, as always! Here are a few more pictures of the hijinks! Apparently we like the group shots…
I don’t know why, but this is one of my favorites from the trip!
The ladies getting ready for “A Bugs Life”!
Getting ready for one of our last meals on the trip – a stop at Liberty Tree Tavern in the Magic Kingdom. Here are Tom and Patsy Waggoner…
Darrell and Jan Burnett…
Linda and I…
And Deb and Kevin Valder!
And of course, one more group shot!
A few of the couples stayed with us a few days after the official trip ended, and we went for an airboat ride on the St. Johns River. If you want an AMAZING airboat experience, call Captain Bill – he’ll treat you to a Florida like you haven’t seen!
Until next time…
Disney trip – day 2
Yesterday started EARLY with a trip to the Magic Kingdom for our own private show at the Monsters Inc Laugh Floor. Trying to avoid the crowds, we skee-dattled over to Animal Kingdom for the day, and what a day it was!
We saw tigers…
And kimodo dragons…
There was of course, time for a few rides… Deb swears this is us climbing the mountain…
The day wouldn’t be complete without a little drumming…
After a full day at the park, it was back to the hospitality suite so the girls could spin the wheel, and the guys could, well, refuel.
Then it was off to Epcot for fish and chips and fireworks!
SU in Florida!
Before the official SU Disney Incentive Trip kicked off, we spent the day at Universal with our friends Deb and Kevin Valder. We had a great time riding rides, drinking Butterbeer and catching up! Deb even went on the Mummy! (Probably because we left out a few details about what the ride actually does – but she loved it!)
Our first stop was in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure. Before the Butterbeer, Deb and Kevin stopped for a quick pic.
A little later, the Valder’s couldn’t help but to stop at one of our photo spots.
One of Kevin’s favorite rides, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. I think he is still talking about it!
Sunday (4-29-12) was our check-in day at Disney’s Boardwalk. Our friends Patsy and Tom Waggoner, Jan and Darrell Burnett and Georgia and Dave Giguere arrived and we quickly started making plans for the week. First stop? Beaches and Cream Ice Cream Parlor for a No Way Jose (vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, peanut butter and whipped cream.) SO yummy!
With our bellies full, it’s time to turn in. Got an early morning tomorrow with a private showing of Monster’s Inc. at the Magic Kingdom. After that? Who knows!!
That’s the way we like it!
SU Leadership in San Antonio!
Twice makes a tradition, right? That’s my story… this year marked the second year in a row that I (along with three other stampin’ husbands) tagged along to the SU Leadership conference. This year we got to explore San Antonio. As is tradition (now anyway), the husbands (Tom Waggoner, Kevin Valder, Darrell Burnett and I) set off to explore the town as our wives (Patsy, Deb, Jan & Linda) absorbed all the stamping knowledge they could. One of the main attractions in San Antonio is the River Walk. They’ve created a spur off the San Antonio river and lined it with all sorts of shops and restaurants. Before the stamping festivities started, the first day found us at Dick’s Last Resort. If you haven’t been to one of these “resorts”, it’s not for the faint of heart. Be ready to laugh at yourself and those around you, thanks to the quick wit of the servers. We all then explored the River Walk and some areas of San Antonio, including Main Plaza. This is an open air park right in front of the San Fernando Cathedral, which is supposed to house the remains of a few of the defenders of the Alamo. (A later tour debunked this notion, but it was interesting to think it could be true.) What we really took away from our experience in Main Plaza was Corn in a Cup. Supposedly a local delicacy, this is roasted corn that is cut from the cob, put in a cup (clever!) then augmented with butter, mayo, Parmesan cheese and chili powder (at least that is what was on ours). Decidedly an acquired taste, we all agreed it would have been better without the cheese.
The next day, Wednesday, was the first day of stamping activity and the first real day of exploring, so the guys started at the San Antonio visitors center to get the lay of the land. It was right across from the Alamo, and walking distance to a lot of things we thought we’d like to do. Our first stop was the Institute of Texan Cultures, which is a museum chronicling the history and people that have made Texas what it is today. It was really interesting to see how so many different cultures (Mexican, Native American, Japanese, Dutch, Swiss, African American and many others) shaped the culture of Texas. Unfortunately, my next stop was the airport. A business meeting had been scheduled this week in Las Vegas that I really needed to attend, so I had to leave the exploration for a day. On the way to the airport, though, we stopped at Picante Grill (always looking for the local, non-touristy spots) and this one fit the bill. I had been told by many who knew the area to try puffy tacos, so I did. We knew the place was authentic when the waitress spoke very little English. This is the first place that Kevin’s “invisibility cloak” made it’s appearance. When he asked the waitress what she recommended, all he got was a blank stare. She didn’t understand his question. Luckily, my high school Spanish lessons kicked in and I was able to ask “mas bueno?” She seemed to respond to that, although we will never know if Kevin got what he really ordered. In case you are wondering, this is what puffy tacos look like.
While I was in Vegas, the group took a little jaunt over to the Alamo. Kevin stepped in as my stunt double. Notice the glasses… The four amigos (or stooges) were back together again on Friday, so our first stop was to sneak into the SU Leadership conference to see Patsy’s presentation. (Deb also presented, but unfortunately I missed that since I was in Vegas.) Patsy was really nervous about it but she rocked the house! After that, we ventured out to the Natural Bridge Caverns. Very cool trek 180 feet below the “natural bridge” (or roughly ground level) revealed some pretty awesome natural wonders. And, I finally learned (or was reminded) how to tell the difference between a stalactite (which is “tight” against the ceiling), and a stalagmite (which “might” reach the ceiling). Thank you to our guide Sabrina, who we think drew the short straw to be assigned to our tour group.
By Saturday the stamping was done and we were joined on the explorations by our wives, and even had a surprise visit from Deb’s brother, Billy. He and his wife drove up from Bryan, TX, just to spend the day with us. We had a nice lunch at Mi Tierra, took a boat tour on the river, then it was off to the main event – a ghost tour on a Segway. None of us had ever ridden a Segway before, and it was a ton of fun – once you got the hang of it! Even though it looks like you are just standing there, your legs and feet get surprisingly tired. After all, you are standing in one spot the entire time! If you are ever in San Antonio and want to ride a Segway, go see Matt at SegCity. He’s a great trainer and tour guide! Here is a quick video I put together from some of the pictures and videos taken that night.
Day 2 in NC
Today we decided to head up to Asheville, NC to see the sights. Seems we got there a little early, because most things in the city don’t open until about 11 am (or at all) this time of year. One thing that never closes, is geocaching. The area is supposed to have over 7000, so of course we fired up the geocaching app to find a few – and we did. Asheville has something they call the Urban Walking Tour which takes you around the city, telling the history of the various stops along the way. Here is one commemorating the Flat Iron building, which has some historical significance, although the brochure wasn’t too specific on what that was. We then drove down to the Biltmore Estate area, trying to get a glimpse of the actual house. We didn’t feel like take the guided tour, but wanted to at least see it. One of Linda’s ancestors, Frederick Law Olmsted, was the landscape architect of the Biltmore Estate, so we wanted to see some of his handy work. Unfortunately, you can’t actually see the house from any angle without taking the official tour. We had lunch at a place called the Country Kitchen in the Biltmore Village, which is just outside the estate area. As Eric says, we were 2 for 2 in picking places for lunch – it was great! Next was a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a certified scenic byway up in the mountains. There were some great views, and the mountain driving really put the van’s brakes and transmission to the test. We felt like we were in a sports car commercial with all the twists and banked turns getting us up and down the mountain. Once we got back to the house, as the sun was setting, Linda and I took the canoe out for a little spin around the lake. It was a peaceful ending to the day. We all decided that today we would just hang around the lake and house, maybe do a little more canoeing and hiking before we have to pack up and leave for Florida tomorrow. Good times! 11-21-11
A little r&r in North Carolina
When our friends Eric and Nicole said they were going to be going away during the week of Thanksgiving and asked if we wanted to come, the answer was a resounding YES! We made our way to a lovely house in Tryon, North Carolina, which is literally on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The house itself sits on a lake, almost at the top of Melrose Mountain. This was our view this morning: Day 1 we headed out to Dupont State Forest to do a little exploring. The trip up and down the mountains were… interesting. This is what it looked like from the iPhone GPS: This area is supposed to be the waterfall capital of North Carolina, so we set out to find one… or two. How about a triple? After deciphering the map and a little hiking, we found Triple Falls. Adding a little excitement to Eric’s pit stop. At Triple Falls (only two visible in the picture). Eric and Nicole at the falls. (Notice Eric is taking a picture of us at the same time!) Gotta get that one from him. After leaving the falls, we were heading back to Tryon when we happened upon the The Tractor Shed in Hendersonville, NC. This is down-home BBQ restaurant with the best dern corn pudding around (not that I have tried a lot of corn pudding, but it was really good). This is also where we saw a very interesting motorcycle – unfortunately we didn’t get a picture. But when we saw it, Eric and I both said, at the same time, “Mullet Bike”. It was a street bike in the front and a dirt bike in the back. Good times. 1-19-2011
SU Leadership in Nashville
This is usually the time of year that I put Linda on a plane, she lives and breathes stamping for a few days and comes back ready to take over the stamping world. This year things were a little different. I got on the plane WITH her! Yep, I followed her to Nashville. A bunch of us who usually hang out together on the Stampin’ Up cruises decided that we wanted to see each other on dry land, so 3 of the other hubbies made the trek as well, and we got to explore Nashville while the girls continued to build their stamping empire. Before the stamping started, all 8 of us (Jan and Darrell Burnett, Tom and Patsy Waggoner, Kevin and Deb Valder and Linda and I) went to The Factory in Franklin, TN. It’s a very cool artist/retail/dining experience. I saw a few really poignant signs along the way… That first night in town was the Manager’s Reception at that Wild Horse Saloon in Nashville. There was line dancing, and lots of hootin’ and hollerin’, but the guys were drawn to this mystery game that combines shuffleboard, curling and… corn meal? There was some sort of grainy substance that covered the surface that made the pucks slide effortlessly down the court. Tom found out for sure, it wasn’t salt. The next morning it was the girls heading off to classes and the guys heading off to… well, we had to figure it out. Luckily, we had a plan! First stop on the Nashville musical tour (or “tur”) as we call it? Beech Creek Studios where Darrell’s son Dustin was working with a local artist. Dustin had some free time between sessions so he invited us up and showed us around. Aaron, the studio manager, was also there and was super helpful. It was a great start of our extended weekend! With music on our minds, we grabbed some lunch and ventured over to the Country Music Hall of Fame. I will whole-heatedly admit that I an not a country music fan. However, I was in awe by this place. The incredible musical history (no matter what style you prefer) is unbelievable. Seriously a must do for any music fan. I was especially excited about the tour of RCA’s Studio B, where Elvis recorded over half of his songs. Here we are at Elvis’ piano. Cool. Day 2 of guy week started with a drive to Bowling Green, Kentucky for the Corvette Museum. Like my new found appreciate for country music, I don’t think I will look at Corvette’s the same way either. Walking through this museum you really get the sense that it is more than a car – it’s a lifestyle. Of course it wasn’t just all looking at the cars… there was an interactive game where you filled the gas and changed tires (virtually) of a Corvette race car. Darrell won. One of the few times we saw our wives was just before Make and Takes. Kevin was kind enough to carry Deb’s supplies for her. Now it’s Saturday… the stamping is done and we get to do some sightseeing WITH our wives!!! So, we decided to go to the world’s largest log cabin, a 27,000 sq. ft. monster that used to belong to Barbara Mandrell. Called The Fontanel, it is now used for events, tours, and random country star outings. Fun trivia… some of the opening scenes of the new movie “Country Strong” were filmed there, as well as the TV show, Gone Country. It is a beautiful place, with lots of neat stories and history. Before we could get on the bus to go to the house itself, we found some old rusty tools and decided to all do our own impression of the classic American Gothic painting. Somehow, we got pictures of all the couples except Tom and Patsy, however we did catch them lounging on a “family” heirloom (their last name being “Waggoner”). Once we got to the mansion, the highlight for me was being allowed to play the guitars that were on the wall. I chose Buck Owens’ signature guitar from Hee Haw. It was a little out of tune, but still sounded good! There was a little stage on one end of the room, so of course that meant “photo op!” The other hubbies joined my for some publicity photos. Then a nutty one. (This is actually a capture from a short video, so it might look a little grainy.) Our tour wouldn’t have been complete without music. A few spots along the way, the guide would stop and sing us a song. Steven, our guide for most of the tour, mentioned that he was also a musician who had recently moved to Nashville and was auditioning for a number of upcoming productions. Here we are in the “we knew you when you were a tour guide” picture! Lastly, we talked our friends into going Geocaching. This is where you get clues to little treasures hidden all over the world. Linda and I recently discovered it and really like it. Even though there was a report of “wigging out the locals” on our little scavenger hunt, we had a good time exploring… does this look like exploring or wandering? On Sunday, our last day there, Linda and I were on our own. Everyone else had already left for home, but our flight didn’t leave for about 8 hours. We went back to the Country Music Hall of Fame… Linda actually IS a country fan and she really enjoyed it. I even enjoyed it a second time… that’s got to tell you something. 10-17-10
Super Surprise B-day trip!
It’s been a tradition for a few years now for Linda and I to go away to celebrate our birthdays. This year, Linda decided to be sneaky and plan the entire trip as a surprise! And boy was I surprised! Leading up to the trip, there were lots of questions from me which garnered little to no information from Linda. She came up with lots of cryptic clues so she wasn’t actually lying, but the truth was murky, at best. To go along, I was determined to go as far as I could without knowing the final destination. I made it past security in the airport and all the way to the gate. Linda was trying to be coy about what gate we should go to, and I accidentally saw “Nashville” on the gate marquee. So we’re going to Nashville! Cool. Not so fast. This particular flight had continuing service to Baltimore, to which Linda thickened the plot, “Who said we’re NOT going to Baltimore?” Now I’m confused. Well, we got off the plane in Nashville, and Linda was concerned about the ground transportation arrangements. We weren’t renting a car, but had to meet some sort of bus/all-inlcusive transport. Turns out it was our friends Jan and Darrell Burnett! Jan met us in baggage claim with a limo driver-like sign. Out in the parking lot was Darrell, waiting with the car in his Superman t-shirt! Jan and Darrell live in Metropolis, IL, the official home of Superman – and THAT was our final destination, for a little slow-livin’ weekend! One the way to the Burnett homestead, we stopped at Cracker Barrell for a little breakfast. It was my first time, and it was yummy. The slow livin’ started with a little game of checkers. As a big fan of Superman, we spent a good amount of time in downtown Metropolis, home of the Superman statue and the Super Museum. Here’s the pose that everyone has to do at the Superman statue. I think it’s a city ordinance. Someone has seen too many pictures of Superman. Hers is Christopher Reeves’ breakaway shirt and tie, making the transformation to into the Man of Steel that much easier. We were all amazed at the amount of stuff in this tiny museum. Tons and tons of stuff! “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape…” This is THE telephone booth – is Jan really on the phone? Look at all those mugs! Those can hold a lot of tea! Clark Kent’s glasses… the best super hero disguise – ever! Metropolis is also the home of Dippin’ Dots – the perfect treat after a tour of the Super Museum! A few blocks from the Super Museum is the Hollywood Americana Museum, with more Superman stuff and other, um, memorabelia. I am sure this is just a big rock painted green, but it’s labeled as Kryptonite. I’m feeling weak…
Warning, Will Robinson. Danger. That was cool.
The other big statue in town is Big John. The great protector of groceries.
Saturday was Encampment Day! Jan and Darrell’s son Dillon joined us for a great day of history and outdoorsyness. Encampment is a huge annual festival where people from all over the region get to see what life was like back in the 17 and 1800′s in southern Illinois. There were great demonstrations, story telling and food! Pippins (fried dough with sugar and fruit topping), homemade kettle korn, homemade root beer, and Elk Chili. Here’s Darrell, Jan and I enjoying a bread bowl full of the chili. This guy made fire with a piece of wood and some string. Very helpful if I am ever on Survivor! Saturday evening was spent at the Pizza Inn in Padukah, KY (across the Ohio river from Metropolis), where we stuffed ourselves on great pizza and salad. The Reeses Pieces dessert pizza was one of my favorites! Over the weekend, Linda spent a lot of time loving on Jan’s new Labradoodle puppy, Lillie. She is a cutey! And here we all are, appropriately on the Burnett’s front porch, where we spent most of Sunday, enjoying the crisp fall weather and the company of good friends! It was the perfect “live slow” weekend, as Darrell puts it. We played, did a little work on the new deck out back, sat around the campfire and didn’t TOUCH a computer (we did have our phones) for 3 days! Happy birthday to us! 10-10-10
Takin’ a ride!
Yesterday found Linda and I with a rare day with more time than work to do, so we packed up the tandem bike for a nice long ride. At the advice of my friend Rob, we explored the Van Fleet trail, that spans Lake and Polk counties here in Florida. We told Rob we were looking for a nature trail that was traversable on a tandem. The Van Fleet did not disappoint. Finding it, however, was a different story. Neither map, nor GPS, nor printed guide could get us to the trailhead we were looking for. We finally spotted an SUV with two bikes strapped to the back so we hurried up and followed them! They lead us right to where we wanted to go! We started at the Bay Lake Trailhead and decided to head south. Only 10.3 miles to the next trailhead. Having no idea how far that is in “bike” terms, we went for it, figuring that would be a good place to stop and eat. I had just gotten a new “bike computer” that would tell us our speed and how far we went. At least we could track our progress! Once on the bike, our first spotting of wildlife was a pair of young alligators, sunning themselves. We knew momma gator had to be close by, but we couldn’t seem to find her. Averaging about 11 mph, we were making pretty quick work of the 10.3 miles. The Van Fleet is straight and flat, so there isn’t much to do except to look for wildlife. Our eyes were peeled! We may have been a little too early in the morning for some, because we got to the Green Pond Road Trailhead without seeing much more than a few vultures and butterflies. At the trailhead, we did encounter this rooster, which was unexpected! So we then turned the bike around for the 10.3 mile ride back to the car. We’ll say it was a little more leisurely, as we were both feeling the effects of using pedal power for the last hour. We stopped to se the gators again, and to checkout a little lookout along the trail. We were REALLY hoping to see some eagles or hawks, but there must not be enough food around here for them. The other big story on the way back were the gopher tortoises. We saw a bunch of their holes along the trail on the way down, now we were seeing them on the way back. We counted 10 altogether, however could only capture on film. They can be fast, when they want to be. After the ride we were ready for lunch! Linda found a place called RedWing Restaurant not too far from where we were. Linda will tell you she is not the greatest when it comes to reading a map, but she saw where the GPS was taking us and decided there was a better route – and she was right! We enjoyed a blackened Tilapia sandwich, loaded baked potato soup and a house salad. We did NOT try the advertised quail special… mostly because it wasn’t Wednesday. Yeah, that’s it. Outside the restaurant is a petting zoo/farm-yard with donkeys, pigs, cows, chickens, goats and a turkey. We checked, and the donkeys do not have pockets (from Shrek 3-d at Universal). There was also a brand new litter of baby pigs, which were as cute as… well… baby pigs! So that was our 10-10 Bike Adventure. Looking forward to exploring new trails all over Florida – and beyond! 9-15-10
Pavers, we’ve got pavers!
Seems like one of the quickest projects we embarked on… paver crew started on Monday and today (Wenesday), they are done. Just when we got used to the dust bowl again, the process is over – not that we’re complaining! Here are a few shots of the finished product (we can’t actually drive on it until tomorrow.) And another view… And our view from the carport… sure is a lot less lawn to take care of! Again, no complaints, here! Oh, the cars we’ll park! Next step… landscaping! 9-14-10
Finally paving the way…
At long last, we are seeing progress on our driveway! Out my window now I see inspectors, contractors and worker guys moving so fast that I suddenly feel lazy.
Hit the Bricks!
Dirt is turning and a little get-a-way!
Linda and I took a ride on the Ferris Wheel. Waiting in line…
Happy Father’s Day!
This one’s for you, Dad! Happy Father’s Day!
Let’s get cooking!
More cruise highlights
Before the beach we cooled off at a little restaurant called Jambe de Bois, named for a pirate with a wooden leg.
Here’s Jan, Darrell, me, Linda, Deb and Kevin with Pigeon Island in the background. Thanks to Frankie (our driver) for the extra tour stop.
Today is Bridgetown, Barbados. A bunch of us had no real plans, so we decided to see where the day would take us. We ended up seeing the Barbados countryside, exploring the native plant life, sampling some local cuisine (flying fish) and dipping our toes in the Caribbean sea. Here are some pictures we took to chronicle the day.
Pre-vacation – Day 2
As Linda mentioned, today we decided to check out El Yunque rainforest. All the people I talked to before the trip who had either been here or lived here recommended a visit. Apparently all the rain recently started a landslide, and the tour guide was as surprised as we were to hear that the rainforest was closed. It reminded me of a line from National Lampoon’s Vacation. “They don’t close Florida.” But they close the rainforest. So… The tour guide took a poll of the 7 people in the van, and we decided to not simply go back to the hotel, but instead to turn lemons into lemonade – or more accurately – rum. He took us to the Bacardi rum factory where we got learn about the history and process of the Bacardi family and their rum empire. If you are not familiar with the Bacardi brand, you may not know that their mascot is a bat, which seems sort of weird until you learn that the first Bacardi factory was in an old building that was inhabited by many, many bats. In addition, bats are very communal creatures who look out for each other. The Bacardi family felt this would be an appropriate symbol for their company. So… we each got two free drink coupons, which normally wouldn’t mean very much to me because I don’t really drink alcohol. However, we’re on vacation and I’m not driving, so what the heck. Here are Jan, Darryl (aka Wally) and I toasting our first sample. Mine was a pina colada mixture that was much different from the virgin versions I am used to… a little more of a kick! Most of the tour did not allow pictures, but they had a mock distillery set-up to walk through and a variety of rums to smell. The lemon and orange varieties were easy to distinguish, but there was also a significantly different odor depending on what type of wood the storage barrel was made of in addition to how long it had to “age” (up to 12 years). Where we could take pictures was in the final room where a Bacardi bartender explained in great detail the difference between the varieties of rum and some of the most popular rum-based drinks. These include the mojito, Bacardi and Coke (don’t call it rum and Coke, or you’ll get the cheap rum) Cuba Libre (Bacardi and Coke with lime) and the daiquiri. He was so good at describing how refreshing and wonderful rum is that even I wanted to try some more! (I guess that’s his job!!) So before we left we tried another sample, this time mine was Bacardi and Coke. A bit strong for me, but the same noticeable “kick” from before. Linda had a hard time saying goodbye… The second half of our “what are we going to do since the rainforest is closed” tour was a trip back to Old San Juan for a tour of San Cristobal fort, originally built to protect San Juan from intruders in the 1500′s. Now it is protected by the parks system, and it was neat to see the workmanship of such an old and still very stable structure. Of course for a fort to be useful, it has to be tall so the lookouts can… look out. The highest point is 150 feet above the main sea level, and for a long time, no building in San Juan could be over 1 story high. In the evening, we met up with Deb and Kevin and went back to Cafe del Angel for some more authentic Puerto Rican food. Mofongo was just as good tonight! Tomorrow we get on the boat!! Avast ye mateys!
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Day one of our Southern Caribbean adventure started with a series of smooth transportation events. Easy breezy through security, flight arrived early, bags were some of the first out, and taxi to the hotel was quick. After dropping our bags off at the hotel, we ventured out to find lunch. We ended up at Cafe del Angel, a homey, local establishment that served a fantastic mofongo (smashed plantain dish). Doesn’t look like much, but it was GOOD! By the way, the virgin pina colada’s were literally the best we’ve ever had!
Here’s “Juan” (that’s what we called him) who helped us at Cafeteria Mallorca. He was nice enough to bring us some homemade lemonade, too.
The rest of the evening was spent on a walking tour of Old San Juan. There was SO much information, there is no way I can remember it all, but Linda snapped some great pictures of what we saw.
That’s me just trying to find where we are supposed to meet for the tour!
The only light in the far is from the sun. The purple glow is simply the way the light is reflected at that time of day.
Real sky – no editing!
And a lovely serenade to end our tour.
Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!
Matt Goes to Washington
I think the last time I was in Washington D.C. (before 2 weeks ago) was around 8th grade. So when I got to visit our nation’s capitol for legitimate business purposes, I decided to play tourist for a while and see the sights. I spent most of my time around the “mall” area, near the Capitol Building, Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. I don’t know how far I walked that day, but I was on my feet for about 8 hours. My “dogs” were barking (as my friend Peter says), but it was worth it to see what I got to see. First off, no matter what your political views are, Washington is impressive. Just thinking about the history represented here is amazing. Here’s what I got to see: Got off the Metro, and there was the Washington Monument. What I didn’t know (but learned on my “Secrets of DC Walking Tour) was that much of the stone used to construct this was donated from other countries, and it was Ulysses S. Grant who finally set aside the resources to finish it after work had stopped for various reasons during the Civil War. That’s why you see a change in color of the stone a little less than 1/2 way up. If you turn around on the mall, you see the Capitol. I didn’t get very close to this… the Cherry Blossom Parade was winding down and it was time for me to meet my group for the walking tour. I did get a picture though. As I walked past the Washington Monument, I looked North and there was the White House. This picture was taken from Constitution Ave., a little later in the day (and a few more miles on the shoes). On down the mall lead me to the Lincoln Memorial. Being a huge fan of National Treasure, I just had to get down there to see Abe. And here is the Washington Monument from the Lincoln Memorial. Just around the corner from Abe is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. If it weren’t moving enough, I was right in front of someone who was explaining what it was all about to his son. Then there was this: The little girl used a crayon to rub on the paper over the name of a family member. Amazing. I tried to make it into the American History Museum and the National Archives, but they were jam-packed, and I had a meeting to get to. I did get to see Stan, and he was kind enough to let me capture part of his performance.
Last stop was Ford's Theater. I missed the last tour of the day, but it was neat to see the building and the... gift shop. The only souvenir I bought was a stone drink coaster adorned with Abe's face and the postage stamps he has appeared on. This was actually a significant find because Linda had made me coasters out of similar material early in our relationship, and she stamped on it!
Of course across the street there is a big gaudy sign in front of a house that announces "This is the house where Lincoln died". Splendid.
So there is my trip to DC. I had to get this posted before Linda and I leave for Puerto Rico and the Southern Caribbean this week (a trip she earned through her company!).
By the way, I also learned that the D.C. is a tribute to Christopher Columbus. But it's District of Columbia, right? Yes, but when you refer to a city, you use the feminine form, not the masculine.
See, you can learn something new every day!