I am on quest to reclaim my life, one mile and one photo at a time. My goal is to share all the good and bad in a way that is both heart warming and humorous. Buckle in and enjoy my tales of travels and life's trials and tribulations. All described here in detail and photos because seriously, I can't make this shit up. I'd love to hear from you. email me – firstname.lastname@example.org
I know that title sounds kind of Buzz Lightyearish but really – there were points during the trip to Georgia that it seemed like infinity might be closer.
After being coffee-d up – I hit the road about 9 am Saturday morning for what I thought was going to be a 9 hour ride to Atlanta to meet up with Lori. What I did not account for was that I was going to get caught in the snowbird exodus. I think the sign below should pretty much sum up the whole trip. In case you can’t read it clearly, it says something is 23 miles away and it will take 66 minutes.
So yeah – my 9 hours day became like 12. But alas, just about the time it was dark out, I made it to the Best Western Shenandoah in Newnan, GA where I was re-united with my traveling companion. The cute part was that we were both like 13 year girls at a slumber party – “OMG – I have so much to tell you” – That literally happened and then proceeded to try to tell each other everything that happened that night even though we would have all the next day in the car together. ( Just a side note – while we were in Atlanta with short pants on – the people at home were dealing with sleet and inches -even feet in some cases- of snow.)
Sunday morning came fast and we were on the road by 730 am. Lori said she would drive us out of Atlanta and I have never been more happy to relinquish control in my life. I was exhausted from the day before and it was raining like I hadn’t seen in a long time. We probably saw at least 6 accidents before we even got out of Atlanta. There were probably more but then Lori let me go back to sleep. She was extremely calm and confident no matter how hard the rain came down and how stupid the people were around us. She was definitely the brains of our operation that day. I think I only drove for maybe 90 minutes that day – I was burnt out from the day before and the weather was making people drive stupid and I just couldn’t get in a groove. Lori recognized this and relieved me of driving duty for the rest of the day. She really was a champ that day. I did capture some sweet pictures though as the passenger. The picture
on the left has a neat waterfall on the right side of the picture. On the side of the road. I could be wrong, but I feel like that might be where rock falls are made. The picture on the right is supposed to be the beautiful Tennessee Mountains but there were low clouds that day, so we were almost in them. We finally made it to Kentucky where we met Lori’s son at Costco for a quick stock up and then I was safely delivered to my friend Crystal’s house for the next 36 hours. – Why yes, it is the same Crystal who kicked off my tour last summer! Lori spent the time in Kentucky with her son and exploring. I got to go out for fajitas with Crystal and sleep late. It was glorious. But just like that, it was time to return to real life and at 7 am Tuesday morning Lori called me and said, I’ll be there in 10 minutes, even though we weren’t supposed to leave until 730. We both just couldn’t wait to get home.
So finally, after two and half days of driving and almost 1500 miles, I make it my Floridian paradise. It was so wonderful to see my cousin Christie and her husband, Emil again. Also, this time, her sister Roben was staying there, so I got to meet another cousin. It was quite wonderful.
Since I didn’t arrive until mid afternoon, we kept things pretty low key the first day. We “just” took the golf cart to the neighbor’s to use his swimming pool, outside, in April. The water was a little chilly but it didn’t bother me, I mean I was OUTSIDE IN THE POOL on a perfectly sunny day with no clouds in APRIL. It was so amazing. The amount of green everywhere was such a welcomed change from the snow I left behind. After swimming, we returned home to a home cooked meal concluded with a fancy bundt cake Roben baked that afternoon. From Scratch. I went to bed kind of early that night and fell asleep probably 3 seconds before my head hit the pillow.
Thursday morning, I woke up to coffee and homemade breakfast including yummy cheesy biscuits like those at the Red Lobster that Roben had baked the day before. Then we suited up and made the car ride to Sanibel Island which is one of the most wonderful places on earth. We found excellent parking and a nice spot on the beach that had both sun and some tree/bush behind us that we could hang things on. Before we left the house that morning, I “carefully” applied what I thought was a sufficient amount of SPF 50 spray on sunscreen. I was wrong. But
in all seriousness, although I was pretty red, I would say on the JenniFoster scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is winter color skin and 10 is a blistered sunburn with fever and chills, this one was maybe a 3. I took an ibuprofen and had minor discomfort. It was really such a lovely day at the beach. The water was warm and I probably spent about 2 hours in it. Saw a bunch of tiny fish and pelicans.
It was super lovely. I even collected a small amount of the tiniest sea shells ever. The only low point of the day was that I foolishly, did not properly hydrate for the amount of sun that I got, which made the car ride home a little dicey. There was quite a bit of traffic and I was riding in the back seat and at one point, I did start looking through my beach bag for an empty ziploc bag in case the inevitable happened but alas, it did not and once I got home, was still and hydrated, I felt good as new and was ready for a dinner adventure with the ladies.
That night for dinner, Christie, Roben and I headed out to a local seafood restaurant where we had a life changing appetizer – hot cheesy crab dip. It was so delicious that Christie found a similar recipe on the way home that we had for dinner on Friday night. It was really such a lovely night and I really enjoyed spending time with them. It’s weird when you meet someone and you know you’re family. It’s kind of like you fast forward a bunch in the normal “friendship” courting and there is this connection because you know that they are your people. It makes me sad that they are so far away and we can’t make like a monthly get together. After dinner I was spent and pretty much once again fell asleep three minutes before my head hit the pillow.
Friday was my last full day in Florida and was busy but in a different way. We went to Aldi’s in the morning to get somethings for family dinner Friday night and so I could score some coconut Greek yogurt (really, so I would stop talking about it – but really, it is life changing). I did some work, we headed out again in the afternoon to go to the orange store where I got fancy juice to bring home (strawberry orange anyone?) and grapefruit. I also ended up getting the coolest post cards which have been readied to hang in the bathroom with some other flamingo/ocean themed items. After all our errands were done, we headed back to the chilly pool one more time and I tried to soak up all the Florida I could.
But by far, the best part of Friday was dinner. I got to meet the son of my cousin and his family as well as some more relatives of Emil’s. It was such a fun family night with delicious food and good company. Christie’s crab dip was a close match to that we had had the night before and I ate chicken with skin on it for the the first time in I can’t remember how long. I just have to say, in this world of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, there is something amazingly decadent about a perfectly grilled piece of crispy chicken skin. Also, not to toot my own horn, but someone ( this girl) really was able to showcase just how much Spanish she remembered from high school, a mere 25ish years ago. It really was a fun night or buena noche.
Unfortunately, my time in Florida past too quickly and in a blink of an eye it was Saturday morning and time to head back to Georgia to meet up with my car pooler.
I also feel, that in the interest of full disclosure, even though I fully know my cousin will read this, I must share the two following things:
1) Dinner at the seafood restaurant was so fun. The scallops were nasty. I ordered them broiled and they came in THE grossest oily orange “juice”. Note to self – stick to fried seafood. You can’t mess that up.
2) I brought home half a suitcase of empty water bottles – but before you judge, let me explain. At my cousin’s house, they drink all bottled water. It was warm there and I thirsty. So we would come home from somewhere, I would grab a bottle of water, head to my room, check my email – get ready for the next activity- etc. I would head to bed, I would grab a bottle of water – I think you get the picture. Well, like an idiot, I should have just taken my empty out with me the next time I came out, but instead, I started throwing them in my suitcase, so then 1 becomes 2, then there is 4 and by the time I left, I think I had about 10. So now I’m embarrassed because I drank like half a case of water and I was trying so hard to be a good guest and so I just packed the empties with my stuff and tossed them when I got home. I felt pretty foolish until one of my sisters told me she did the same thing at the house of our aunt one time. I guess somethings are just genetic.
So as my friend Jason is always so quick to point out, for a blog with Photos in the title, there are not nearly enough pictures here. In order to address that concern, I will now tell you the story of my trip to Florida in pictures.
A little background – I have come up with this goal with camping at all the National Parks and in particular, I have become borderline obsessed with the idea of camping at the Cumberland Island National Seashore off the Georgia coast. It is an island, in the ocean with feral horses, no motor vehicles and awnings made from antique oak trees. ( https://www.nps.gov/cuis/index.htm ) Knowing my friend Lori has friends and family around Atlanta she likes to visit, I hatched this idea that we could “carpool” to Atlanta, I could drop her off, do my camping and then come back and collect her, and we would carpool back to Wisconsin.
After some thinking, I realized I wasn’t really in the place to haul my gear, alone, by cart, half a mile to my sweet island campground and decided I needed an alternative destination and like a bolt of lightening, I realized I could go back to visit my family in Florida at their tropical, palatial estate again. So a plan was formed, Lori and I would travel together from Madison to Atlanta, where I would drop her off and I would keep going to Florida and return several days to collect her.
Now, if you remember correctly, my last trip was in the middle of summer and weather was very little concern to me. Tis not the case in April people. It snowed the Monday morning we were leaving, so our 6:45 am departure, quickly became 9 am. A wise decision on our part, because once we left, the roads were in pretty good shape and we made it without incident Lori’s favorite Dairy Queen in the US – El Paso, Illinois. So quick note – before my last trip, my dad hooked me up with his Tom-Tom as his new truck has a navigation system and he no longer needs it. I never needed it, so I forgot to pack it this time and we pick up the rental car and guess what – no navigation system – so once I ditched Lori I had to rely on Veronica, my trusty Google map advisor via my cellular telephone. It worked ok, but was annoying.
After lunch and the required picture, we were back on our way to Clarksville, TN. ( I know, I look rough)
As the day went out, things got warmer and greener and by 5 pm, it was hard to believe we had left snow behind. We made it to our bargain hotel in TN that was surprisingly nice even though the “No Refunds after 15 Minutes” sign concerned us slightly – turns out it was close to a military base and people were using the rooms for like an hour – showering and then saying they wanted a refund. Lori made a great roommate and we were asleep early.
The next morning we left at some ridiculously early time like 6 am and headed towards Atlanta. It was warm and sunny and even the Nashville traffic couldn’t dampen our excitement. There was a small issue near Chattanooga because as the passenger I wasn’t ready enough to take a picture of the Welcome to Georgia sign. Twice. Luckily, the Welcome center had one and I was able to take this gem.
We made great time and I dropped Lori off for the pick up of her Georgia rental car and I continued on to Florida where my goal was to get about an hour over the state line. I made it about 6 pm to the sunshine state on a cloudy, grey day. Apparently after 5 pm, the Welcome Center doesn’t give a crap about you, so I didn’t get free orange juice, but I did get to take a picture of one of my favorite signs to see. I take the picture, get back in the car and drive for about another hour to my
hotel in Alachua, Florida. I get there, I check in and the girl tells me I’m in room 129. Its one of those hotels with the outside doors. I pull up and all the lights are on, the curtains are open and the TV is on. I didn’t even get out of the car, I just went back to the desk and asked for a different room and was awarded a lovely poolside room, unfortunately, it was raining so that was no real prize. Also – important life lesson learned – Taco Bell does not have a delicious taco salad. They put rice and beans under the lettuce which not a good surprise.
I go to bed without incident, sleep in until like 8 am and hit the road again to for final destination. Except for a short stop for a super satisfying breakfast of a bagel and chicken biscuit from McDonald’s, I made it to my final, tropical destination without incident where my large ziploc bag full of cheese and I were warmly greeted and happy to settle in for a few days.
So I know I’ve been MIA but that it all ends tonight.
I had dinner with a friend of mine tonight and during the course of our three and half hour lady-date, we covered a lot of topics including a little guilt trip about not writing, so I came home, returned my pants to laundry pile from which they were picked out of before dinner and sat down at my desk. Kaelin, Dagmar, J-Ho and other others that have made comments – this one’s for you.
I know that you are all wondering about the title – cults and heroin and before we go any further, no those aren’t the reasons I have been neglecting you.
One of the topics that we were discussing tonight was sleeping and things we watch to fall asleep on the TV at night. Someone, not me, tried foolishly to fall asleep to the mesmerizing National Geographic movie, Jane, all about Jane Goodall. ( side note – if you haven’t seen it- watch it) This of course led into a discussion of Jane and how from an early age, she climbed trees ( not normal play for a girl of her generation) and didn’t live a typical life but instead, one with amazing focus and dedication to the chimps she went to Africa to study. She was so dedicated in her focus to learning about the chimps, that she sent her own small child to boarding school so she could get back to the chimps. And for a moment, I was wistful because I have never found one thing that I have focused that intently on my whole life. Nothing that I knew for sure was calling and then, I realized that maybe this wasn’t a bad thing because on the flip side, I know with certainty that I definitely do not have the stick-to-it-ness to get sucked into a cult.
And that’s something I think we need to think about more. We are so quick to look at the ways we are different from other people as shortcomings instead of embracing them as gifts. For example, instead of being really sad that I messed up with my hair with a drug store box dye and now have orange hair on the top and bright yellow straw hair on the bottom, I am really happy that I will get to spend some quality time with my hair dresser, Abby and allow her to really use her problem solving skills. Instead of lamenting that I have crappy, hard to find veins, I can reassure my mom that I will never be a heroin junky.
Seriously, though – I know that I spend so much time thinking about what I am not that I forget what I am. Can imagine how different just for a few days – if you flipped the script and when you saw a difference in yourself, you recognized the good that it brought you? Just think about one thing that you wish was different and try to look at it the other way, from a different angle, how someone else might look at that and wish they had what you had. It certainly couldn’t hurt.