Monday, March 19, 2018

Northbound Road Trip: Days Two and Three

Saturday after I blogged, Travalon and I went to the Florida State History Museum in Tallahassee, which was really cool, and I tried to get a shot of their capital building, but it was hard because we were driving. Then we went into Alabama and stopped for lunch in Dothan at a place called Hunt's Seafood Restaurant, which was really Southern. The food was so good - we had shrimp and oysters with hush puppies, and Travalon had cheesy grits for his side while I had seafood gumbo. We also stopped at a stained glass shop that advertised boiled "p-nuts," so we got some, along with some chocolate-covered pecans and deep fried peanuts and half-day suckers. We passed the time by playing a silly game in which we competed to see what typical Alabama thing we would see first: a Baptist church or a fireworks stand? An Alabama sticker or an Auburn one? Etc. For some reason I was a lot luckier at this game. We stopped in another tiny town and had some amazing peach pecan ice cream. I know it's Lent, but it was the Feast of St. Patrick and also the anniversary of my baptism, so I felt like I should indulge in some treats to mark the occasion. We drove by Montgomery, and I could see the domed capital building downtown, but I couldn't get a picture of it. Outside of Birmingham we took a hike along a lake in Oak Mountain State Park. Then we entered Mississippi, and outside of Tupelo we had really good fried chicken at a place called Chicken King, and we also had moon pies. We finally got to Memphis and arrived at the pyramid around midnight. It was originally built as a basketball stadium, but the NBA said it didn't meet their standards so now it is the biggest Bass Pro Shop you have ever seen. For some reason it was open, so we went inside and discovered there was a hotel there as well, but they were booked up so we crossed a very cool bridge to Arkansas and stayed at a more sketchy motel than we were used to, but it was fine. We ended the evening with a shot of Sheridan; I bought some on the ship since you can no longer get it in this country. We were too tired to check out the St. Patrick's Day insanity on Beale Street.

The next morning we went to Mass at St. Patrick's in Memphis with a very diverse congregation, and then we went to Beale Street. It had clearly been an insane scene the night before because there were pineapples and broken green bead strands as well as cups everywhere. We drove through Arkansas and came across Johnny Cash's boyhood home in Dyess. In Portageville, Missouri we had a wonderful buffet lunch at a place called Mary Ada's that seemed to be the big gathering spot in town. We drove to Cairo, Illinois, a very historic town where the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers come together. It used to be an important steamboat stop, but now it is very rundown. We went back into Missouri, and the landscape became beautiful and hilly as we drove toward St. Louis. I was driving as we passed through the city, so I was unable to get a picture of the arch as we passed it. Just east of the city we took a hike in Cahokia Mounds State Park (Illinois), and that was extremely cool. It has the largest mound in North America, Monk's Mound. Travalon's oldest brother is the one who told us about it. A thousand years ago it was a huge city, the biggest in North America. By then darkness was starting to fall, so Travalon and I kept ourselves awake by singing show tunes and every Steely Dan song we could think of. Finally we were back home, driving toward our own capital building. We got in very late and went right to bed without unpacking.

Today I had a very easy day. Travalon and I slept in, then he went into work late and I went to Adoration. I was supposed to have the day off because a coworker is taking Friday off so I have to work for her, but I had a staff congress meeting so my workday was two hours long. Then I went to Mass in honor of St. Joseph's feast day. What a great way to ease back into regular life!

Here are some photos from this weekend. First are some shots from the museum in Tallahassee: a collection of orange crates, and an old-fashioned bicycle.

This is the best shot I got of the Tallahassee Capital Building. It's still not very good.

Oak Mountain State Park in Alabama was beautiful and reminded us of Governor Dodge State Park here in Wisconsin.

The Pyramid in Memphis changes color from indigo to turquoise.

Here are exterior and interior shots of St. Patrick's in Memphis.

Here are a couple of shots of Beale Street in Memphis.

This is Johnny Cash's boyhood home.

Finally, a couple of shots of Cahokia Mounds State Park: Monk's Mound and some reconstructed wooden walls.

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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Northbound Road Trip: Day One

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone! Sorry that I didn't blog last night, but we had a kind of a weird day, with some good luck and some bad luck. The morning was great - very relaxed, because we had plenty of time before meeting Travalon's old friend Hedgecat. She has a lovely house with a beautiful sunporch full of plants, and we sat out there talking. We found a great shortcut from her town to Ocala, but the road signs were confusing, so we ended up going forty minutes out of our way. We did find a Beef O'Brady's for lunch, since Travalon said I had to try the Gulf shrimp at this Florida chain, and they were really good. I grabbed a little clump of Spanish moss from a bush outside the restaurant and will try to grow it at home. A guy there warned me that there was a horrible traffic jam on the freeway heading north, so we found an alternate route, but the exit ramp was really backed up so we took our chances with the freeway. Big mistake - it was the worst traffic jam I'd ever seen outside of the Long Island Expressway at rush hour. We finally made it to the next exit and found a way to Silver Springs State Park, but by the time we got there, the last glass-bottom boat tour had already started. They are very cute boats that look like floating green trolleys. There is a boardwalk on a lush island at the park, and we felt like we were in the jungle. Supposedly there are monkeys at the park, but we never saw any. We did see a big, beautiful, black and white woodpecker with a red crest. I couldn't get a good closeup of him with just my cell phone, and Travalon's camera battery was dead. Plus his sunglasses somehow vanished at the park. Fortunately they were cheap ones, and he has other pairs with him. We drove to the cute, historical town of Micanopy and then had the great luck to get to the Payne Prairie Preserve State Park just in time for a spectacular sunset. We drove into Gainesville and took a walk on their lovely, subtropical campus, where I collected a tiny bit more Spanish moss. (We'll see if I can keep it alive...) They have a beautiful carillon just like we do back home on our campus, but theirs is much never, from the 70's. Thing seemed to be going better, especially when we easily found a Captain D's, a seafood chain native to the South that was a perfect place for a Lenten Friday dinner. But then... we had a tough time finding a hotel with any vacancies, so by the time we got settled, I was too tired to blog. I may blog twice today, depending on what time we get through Alabama. Our goal for tonight (too ambitious?) is Memphis!

Here are some photos from yesterday. The first couple are a large bottle brush tree outside our hotel from the night before, and the swans they made out of towels for us.

Next are some shots from Silver Springs State Park.

The sunset over Payne Prairie Preserve State Park was breathtaking.

And this is the carillon on the University of Florida campus.

Finally, a movie of two birds that were at the restaurant by the Everglades: a very loud black bird, and a pretty coppery brown bird. I don't think you can see the color that well in this video, so sorry about that. I do have a picture of it below.

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Hanging Out in the Everglades

Today was a really fun day. Getting off the cruise ship was a smooth affair, since they have everything down to an art. Then we headed to the Everglades and took a walk in the national park by the Shark Valley Visitor Center. You have to pay $25 a car to get in, but it is well worth the cost. You would think they paid the animals to just hang out and pose by the side of the canal, because that is what they were all doing. They weren't even scared of people! We saw so many birds, and a number of turtles and alligators too. We were standing on a bridge from which you could see a number of gar fish, and suddenly an alligator swam out from under the bridge.

After the park we went to the Miccosukee restaurant and had frog legs, alligator bites, and Indian fry bread for lunch. Then we took an airboat ride, and halfway through it the Native guide took us to a place where he said there are often baby alligators - and we saw two tiny ones! Then he took us back into the swamp, and suddenly he stopped and showed us a big one. After the airboat ride, Travalon and I went across the street to the Miccosukee Indian Village, and we watched an alligator show. At the end of the show, everyone got to hold a young alligator, and then Travalon was brave enough to sit on the back of a full-grown one!

We drove along Lake Okachobee, but you really can't see it from the road because there is an embankment built up along it. We did go through the very cute town of Pahokee, which is a historically black town, and where I saw just about the only Catholic church I have seen in this state, outside of the basilica in St. Augustine. For dinner we had fried oysters and more alligator!

Here are some pictures from our adventures.


 Snowy Egret

 Anyone know?

 Blue Heron



 Another Alligator


The next two shots are decorations from the Miccosukee.

 Baby Alligators

 Alligator we saw from the airboat.

Here are a couple of pictures of Travalon with alligators at the Miccosukee Village.

This is a shot of beautiful Pahokee State Park.

And finally, a movie of one of the alligators swimming.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Packer Cruise: Day Five

Today was a very Packer-filled day for us. We had our photo taken with Dave Robinson and James Lofton, then we had very potent coffee drinks with a punch before going to a talk with Bill Schroeder and Naje Davenport. We went up on the sports deck and watched some Packer players and other people play basketball, then we played ping pong, and then we went to an auction of different Packer memorabilia for charity. We didn't bid on anything; I wanted the football signed by Davante Adams, but that started at more than we wanted to spend. A giant painting of Vince Lombardi sold for eight grand! We actually found a hot tub with nobody else in it and enjoyed it for a bit before dinner. There was a "farewell party," but it was just a concert of CWA, or Cheeseheads with Attitude, a rap group that take well-known rap songs and write new words having to do with Wisconsin and the Packers. They took a break, and as we wandered around the ship, we saw Ahman Green! So we got a picture with him. This cruise was so much fun - I would recommend it to any Packer Backer!

Just a couple of pictures: a giant painting of Reggie White that took the guy eight minutes to paint, and Ahmad Green with Travalon and me!

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Packer Cruise: Day Four

Today was a wonderful day in Cozumel. We went with about two hundred and fifty other Packer fans to an all-inclusive resort, where we ate and drank. They also had swimming and kayaks, like the resort Travalon and I had gone to in Costa Maya, but today was cooler so the weather was perfect for just sitting around and talking to Packers. We talked to a bunch of them, like Travalon used to see Gilbert Brown at his old job in the Milwaukee area, and when I told George Koonce that I collect stamps too, he gave me his business card and said we have to talk about stamps sometime. They were all so friendly, but none more so than Dave Robinson, who showed us his two Super Bowl rings and told us about playing in the infamous Ice Bowl. He said the practice the following week was even colder, and when the hot coffee froze, Coach Lombardi said practice was over. Then the Packer players and some fans participated in the Beach Olympics, while the rest of us watched them. First they did a sack race, then they did a tug-of-war, then they did a balloon toss, and of the six teams, the two with the highest scores at the end of all that played a game of beach volleyball. Naje Davenport's team won! It was such a great day. Travalon and I sat at a table with a couple of fans from Arkansas who were very friendly. I ended up buying a hat with the Green Bay G that says "Cozumel"; I'm sure my readers will be gobsmacked to learn that in Costa Maya I bought a rosary.

When we got back to the ship, Travalon and I looked for a hot tub not packed with college students, and we found only one. I started talking to a lady from Georgia as we sat in it, and when I said my fear was that at least three of these college students would have their IDs stolen, she said yesterday a girl walked back to the ship wearing only a tiny bikini - she had lost her ID, her clothes, and even her shoes. She also met a college boy who said, "I guess I'm staying here - they stole everything in my wallet." So that's two confirmed, which means a third is more than likely. I cringe watching how stupid these kids are in a foreign country, but you can't really say anything to them - would I have wanted some middle-aged busybody telling me what to do when I was a college kid? Hopefully nothing even worse happens to any of them, because they are drinking like I have never seen anyone drink before, and I thought Madtown was notorious for its drinking culture.

Here are a few pictures for you. This first one is from last night, when they had a recap of Super Bowl 31. It's a portrait of LeRoy Butler, the player who invented the Lambeau Leap.

This was a really interesting-looking ship. I couldn't tell if it was a passenger ship or a cargo one, but a Google search revealed in Spanish only for some reason that Transcaribe is a shipping company out of Cartagena, Colombia. So it is a cargo ship, but why with a French name and French flag colors? The mystery deepens...

The water off of Cozumel was so blue!

Here is a shot of the all-inclusive resort where the Packer Beach Party was. I thought I took some action shots of the Beach Olympics, but apparently I was too into watching them to take pictures. Travalon took some good ones on his camera, so once we get home I can post some.

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Packer Cruise: Day Three

Today was the most fun day yet of our vacation. We got off the boat in Costa Maya this morning and got on a bus that took us to a glass-bottomed boat. We boated to a coral reef and saw lots of coral and fish and even some sea turtles! After the tour we took a shuttle to the town of Mahahual, where we went to a resort called the Krazy Lobster. We kayaked and swam in the warm Caribbean waters, then we took a taxi back and went to a tequila tasting. One tequila came in a particularly beautiful bottle, so I took a picture of it... and then it was the one Travalon and I both liked best, so he bought the bottle! When we got back to the ship, they made us check the bottle, but we can get it back just before we get off the ship. Then we sat on our balcony and watched the sun set over the ocean. This evening at dinner we were supposed to wear an outfit with a tropical theme, and Travalon and I have got that covered! Now he is at a Journey tribute band concert, and while I love a lot of Journey's songs, especially "Separate Ways," we got there as they were playing that song and it was way too loud for me. I always need earplugs during rock concerts!

The coolest moment of the day may have been as we were eating lunch outside, by a pool full of college kids having a water balloon fight and drinking from a beer bong, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix walked by and said to Travalon, "It's too hot for me! I can't wait to get back to Wisconsin!" We cannot complain about the number of Packer players we have seen on this cruise!

Here are some pictures from our glass-bottom boat tour, including a sea turtle that has a remora riding on it.

There was an aviary in the tourist area with these flamingos in it.

Then, at the beach, we saw these brown pelicans - in Spanish, "pelicano cafe."

Here are a couple of pictures from the tequila tasting: Travalon enjoying a sample and the beautiful hand-carved bottle we ended up buying.

We brought some "pets" with us on the cruise: Randy and Andy Panda!

And also Dineen the Irish Bear and Saoirse (pronounced seer-she) the Shamrock City Lamb!

We also get towel animals on this cruise. Yesterday we got a bunny much like the ones I have previously posted, but today we got one I hadn't seen before - a crab!

Finally, who ever gets tired of pictures of tropical sunsets?

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