Saturday, July 25, 2009

Howdy from Asheville!

We had a very pleasant finish to our vegecation, with a final swim in the ocean and one last meal of fresh fish (swordfish steaks). Sadly, Ken was unable to grill them, because a storm blew in and it absolutely poured in the evening! I panfried them, and they turned out well...but not as good as grilled. I think it is kind of funny that it rained the first night we were there, and didn't rain again until the last night. Thank you, weather gods! Oh, and we found out later that tornadoes were in the area and came fairly close to us! The skies definitely looked ominous, but I didn't realize they were that bad. Yikes!

We hit the road at 10 AM, made our way up to Jacksonville, past Savannah, through South Carolina (Hi Bob!), and on into Asheville, where we're spending the night. It was really interesting to come through all the various ecosystems. I found the channel islands of Georgia fascinating, and loved seeing the large swampy areas with channels and tributaries. The palm trees and swamps of Florida and southern Georgia gave way to hardwood and pine forests in South Carolina, which eventually gave way to rolling hills, and finally the Smoky Mountains. We had sun the whole way until we started our ascent into the mountains and ran into a very intense thunderstorm...which we got through quickly and then had more sun! Ken and I remarked on how interesting it was to come through so many different areas and environments in just the space of several hours. What an amazing and wonderful place we live in, and how cool to get to enjoy so much diversity!

I was also pleased to add South Carolina to my list of states I've visited. As much time as I spent in the South as a kid, we never went through South Carolina, and I never went to Myrtle Beach or other places like that. I would like to come back and visit--it's a lovely place.

Biltmore House

It had been some time since I've been to the Smokies, and ohhh, it's still so pretty, and one of my favorite places I've ever been! Asheville is lovely, and I think it would be a neat place to live. I just scoped out Biltmore House and bought tickets online, so that's our plan for tomorrow. The gardens, the winery, a tour of the house, and then a couple more hours on the road. I'm excited to see Biltmore again, and when Ken and I were having dinner tonight, I was talking a little bit about George Vanderbilt. Ken didn't realize that Biltmore was built by a Vanderbilt--I thought I had mentioned it, but perhaps not--so is even more interested in seeing the place. Hmm, wonder if I can find a book about the place in the gift shop? I bet I can!

Oh! We had a scary moment when we first got into town. We were planning on staying right in the area of Biltmore Village, not far from the estate. Several hotels there, so we should have no problem, right? At our first attempt, a Double Tree, Ken learned that there is a major outdoor festival in town this weekend, with three to four hundred thousand people expected in the city. Bruce Hornsby was performing at Biltmore tonight, and every hotel room at that exit was booked. Uh oh. A woman at one of the hotels recommended an exit a few miles down the road, and we were able to book the penultimate (I told Ken I was so excited to be able to use that word!) room at the Holiday Inn. It's a very good thing that we made great time today, and got into town earlier than we expected. If we'd gotten here at 8 PM, we would probably have had to go even further down the road.

Time to relax and get sleepy, so we can get a fairly early start tomorrow. Hopefully more tomorrow night!

Friday, July 24, 2009

All things considered, I prefer Smucker’s

Wow, I missed an entry yesterday! I feel so ashamed. Okay, not really, but it was weird to not update! I intended to, but our friend Lee came down to visit from Jacksonville, and there just wasn't time.

He got here around noon, and after sitting on the balcony and getting caught up a bit, we headed down the beach to one of our yearly stops, Breakers. They make the best burgers I've ever had, and every year, I love them even more. (Debbie L., we had a basket of onion rings, too!) Q: How do you make a cheeseburger better? A: Add more cheese! Ken and I both got the Three Cheese Burger, with American, Swiss, and Provolone. The extra cheese was delicious, and it was great to sit by the open window and look out at the beach as we ate.

Manatee4 After lunch, we went out to the beach and yes, frolicked. Ken and I tried to get one of his stunt kites up and running with limited success. I decided to hop in the water while Ken and Lee worked with the other kite, and had a pleasant time bobbing in the waves. They were those gentle swells that let you just float along and I was thoroughly enjoying myself, even feeling a little brave and taking on some bigger waves. (I can't swim, so I stay in where it's not over my head, but sometimes the waves are big!) It was beautiful and sunny, and I was as happy as a little girl.

Then, WHAM! I felt a sharp pain on my back and the underside of my arm. I knew right away that it had to be a jellyfish, and when I looked down, I saw a blob of jelly on my board shorts. I tried to rinse it off in the ocean right away, but it slithered down and stung my leg, too. In all the years we've been coming down here, I've never gotten a jellyfish sting before, and wow, that initial Manatee5 impact is intense! I came up and put Benadryl spray on it, and that really seemed to help. The initial sting wore off quickly, and there were no ill side effects, but those babies pack a wallop. I can now say that I know what a jellyfish sting feels like, and I hope they leave me alone for another eight years! I really don't hate the jellyfish...he was bob-bob-bobbing along just like I was, and the waves smashed him into me. After all, I was invading his space, wasn't I? I also suspect that he perished in the impact. I'm still alive. So I don't hate the little gel guy.

In the evening, Ken cooked spaghetti (Lee has braces, so we tried to make something that he could eat easily) and then we played card games. It's always great to see Lee, and we had a fun time!

Today, we made a stop at the cove where the manatees hang out, and Jamie, we took two bottles of water! As you can see, they came right up to Ken and got a nice drink. It was so cool!

JB's Fish Camp After that, we went to JB's Fish Camp and had lunch. More fresh seafood (we had more raw oysters, and I had steamed rock shrimp--Ken had steamed clams), and all delicious. JB's has a very funky decor, with all kinds of fishing regalia, funny signs, and oddly, a lone snow ski. I noticed something up in the rafters and thought of our friend DB. (Check out the book!) On the way to JB's, I enjoyed looking at all the buildings and homes along the way. There are some impressive beach homes, but my favorite thing to see is the older, 50's-style homes, pastel stucco with flat roofs and louvered windows. I don't think I can describe how I feel when I see such buildings. It gives me a feeling of nostalgia that is almost palpable, and I can almost see and smell the interiors of such homes. The heat, the humidity, the still air in the yard, the sound of the cicadas in the trees, and the Spanish moss hanging from the trees. It reminds me so much of our trips down here when I was a kid, going to visit relatives, picking oranges from their trees, riding my bike down the road at Lemon Bluff and seeing the alligators at the side of the road, seeing the cottonmouths by the river, and the incredible lush verdancy of the countryside. The growth is almost frightening, and Stephen King alluded to that in his novel Duma Key. I understood immediately what he was trying to say, because that strange wild and violent growth seems almost sentient at times.

But I digress.

Then it was back "home," and after Lee left, we went back out to the ocean one last time (at least for this year). Happily, no jellyfish encounters, just a pleasant time enjoying the sun, waves, and sand! A storm rolled in this evening, but we've been so fortunate with having nice weather. Hard to believe that the week has gone by so quickly, and I know I'll feel sad when we leave tomorrow morning...but I'll look forward to next year!

Next stop...Asheville, North Carolina!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Born to be wiii-iiiild!

Oh my God, I'm cracking up right now. The two young men that are staying in the condo below us rented scooters today, and they've been quite busy ferrying around a couple of young ladies. Just now, we heard the scooters start up--putt putt putt--and one of the guys went "wooo-HOOOO!" That's when I sang "born to be wild."

We've been so lucky with weather this week! Ken went golfing again this morning, and I stayed back to do little things like taking out the recycling (Yes, we recycle here, too!) and getting fresh towels. We made a trip to the fresh fish market and got swordfish steaks and the fish with the bestest name ever, wahoo! We had the wahoo tonight, and it was mighty tasty. Ken has mastered the fish grilling thing.

Late in the afternoon, we slathered on the sunscreen and headed out for some extended beach and ocean time. I got some good sun today (With no burn--yay! Or should I say "Wahoo!") and it was fun to spend lots of time in the ocean. The tide was coming in, and those were some powerful waves! I try to turn my back to them, but one caught me right in the gut, and I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach. I think I even said, "Oof!"

Howard, ask and ye shall receive. Since we were frolicking today, I made sure that we got pictures of it! Here's one of Ken--he got a boogie board today and was having fun with that.

Ken frolicking

Here are two of me--am I looking frolickey enough? Wavin' to everyone!

And here is a cool sand sculpture that a guy made. Shortly after I got the pic, one of them fell, and then the tide got them all. Notice the tiki god...somewhere, Peter Brady is quaking in his boots....

Sand sculptures

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A very cool experience

We had a great dinner with Cousin Ron and Aunt Marie, and it was wonderful to see them! They're just as crazy and fun as ever, and it was so much fun to get caught up. I was having such a good time talking with them that I totally forgot to get a picture with them, and I'm just kicking myself!

Manatee2 After we left the restaurant, we stopped by the little cove where we always go to watch the manatees (and sometimes dolphins). Cousin Ron has been coming to New Smyrna Beach for years, and he never knew about this little cove. (The lady who sold us the timeshare told us about it.) When we got there, we saw the manatees right away, but what was really cool was that a woman renting the condo across the road was giving them fresh water. Apparently they love fresh water, so they came right up to the pier to get a drink! The woman invited us down onto the pier, and Ken, Ron, and I went down there. We were able to reach down and touch their noses! I can now say that I have touched a manatee. Ron said, "In all my years down here, I've never gotten to touch a manatee." Pretty neat, eh?

Manatee3 Here are a couple of pictures--Ken is pouring water in their mouths. They rolled over on their backs and just drank it up. Manatees are a case of beauty is in the eye of the beholder...they aren't all that cute at first glance, but they are incredibly gentle, sweet creatures. Look at the eyelashes in the one picture! It was really a neat experience, and I'm glad we stopped when we did. We'll go back on Friday, but I don't know if that woman will be there with her fresh water. Thank you, kind lady, for giving us a great experience!

Oh, and for further commentary and pictures from our vegecation, be sure to visit Ken's blog, Bucko's World.


We got an early start this morning and headed out to Turnbull Bay Golf Club. I drove the cart, and putted a few. As always, the course was beautiful, with plenty of nature to check out. I saw a Little Green Heron, a family of ducks, and several mockingbirds. Here is a video for your viewing pleasure.

He may be a tyrant with a nine iron, but he's MY tyrant with a nine iron. (Please be tolerant of a private joke.)

After we got back, we cooled off by heading out to the ocean, and wow, it felt great! (Sorry, Howard, still no frolicking pictures!) We both got some nice sun, but didn't overdo it. I hope tomorrow is nice, too, and I'll head out when Ken goes golfing again.

Now I need to go get cleaned up for our dinner with the Fam tonight!

Monday, July 20, 2009

A 1946 restaurant and the ocean!

We went for a late lunch at Norwood's today. It was established in 1946, and I loved the retro vibe! I took a couple of pictures, and I noticed another woman walking around taking pictures. I told Ken, "See, I'm not the only crazy picture lady!" After we finished lunch, I walked around a little bit and took some more pictures, and I passed the woman I saw earlier. I heard her say to her friend, "See, she's taking pictures, too!" I laughed and stopped and said that I'd noticed her earlier and told her what I'd told Ken. She said, "You're probably not taking pictures of the walls, though." I said, "Actually, I did!" We had a good laugh. Always nice to find a kindred spirit.

Here is one picture that surprised me. If you look on the left, you'll see an image of the photographer. There were lots of mirrors in the place, and I had no idea I would show up in this!

Norwood interior3

Here is a little collage of the interior of the place and the sign. I love the stone walls and booths and wood. My favorite, though, is the pendant lighting. Very cool place! (Click to view all pictures in an embiggened state.)

Oh, and the food was tasty, too! Ken had flounder stuffed with a crab mixture, and I had blackened mahi mahi with a pineapple-mango salsa. Yum! They also had a wine shop there and we found some reasonably-priced selections to bring back with us.

After we got back, the sun came out (it was very overcast earlier today when we took our beach walk), and we spent a little time by the pool, then headed out to the ocean. The clouds looked so menacing earlier, and it was wonderful to see it become a gorgeous day! We splashed around in the ocean for a might even say that we frolicked. Okay, I'll say that I frolicked...Ken might balk at the frolicking thing. It was very pleasant to get out and enjoy the ocean! Wheeeee!

Ken is utilizing our downtime to plan our trip back. We think we're going to stop at Biltmore Mansion in Asheville, North Carolina on our return trip. I've been there with my family years ago, but Ken has never been there. It will fit nicely into our return trip, and I would love to see it again. I told Ken that the coolest thing to me, something I've never forgotten, is that while the entire place is a museum, full of paintings and sculptures and the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed grounds...what struck me the most is that in one of the guest bedrooms, a small Renoir painting hung upon the wall. It was maybe 10x10 inches, but it was a freakin' one of the guest bedrooms!

The fanciest thing you'll find in our guest bedroom is an I Love Lucy print. (But it's really pretty cool.)

A walk on the beach

A bit overcast today, and looks like we'll have rain later, but we were able to get out for a stroll along the beach. The beach repair and restoration that was being done last year seems to be completed, and all looks well with the beach. I took a few pictures, but until I get them edited, here is a brief video for you.

Here is another one of some gulls fighting over a piece of seaweed. They're funny to watch, but I get the impression that they aren't the sharpest tools in the shed!

Change of plans for tonight--Cousin Ron just called and something came up, so we're moving our dinner to tomorrow. That means it's time to get cleaned up for a late lunch at Norwood's!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Livin’ loud

We definitely are not lucky this year in our neighbors. From what we can tell, there are four kids and five adults in the condo. These are two bedroom, two bathroom condos, and the couch folds out into a bed. Where are they stashing everyone? Whatever, but these are not quiet people, either. They like to shout at each other from the condo to the parking lot. "Mom. MOM! WHERE ARE MY FLIP-FLOPS?" Or "Honey. HONEY! MY CAR BATTERY IS DEAD!" Passive-aggressive "Honey" mutters under his breath; the wife says, "CAN I TAKE YOUR TRUCK?" "Honey" says, "I'll go." Wife says, "WHAT?" "Honey" says, "I SAID I'LL GO. LET ME GET MY SHOES ON!"


I'm making good progress on Lord Jim, though, and called Cousin Ron this afternoon. We're meeting at 5:30 tomorrow. Ken is off for a run on the beach, and I'm enjoying taking it easy. (Something I ate yesterday didn't agree with me--in fact, it apparently hated me and wanted to make me suffer--so I'm recuperating today.) We had a brief rain, but it seems to have cleared out for the moment.

Laurel, I didn't get any of the Daytona motel pictures. It's a busy drag, and we were anxious to get to our destination. A couple of years ago, I got several pictures of the New Smyrna motels, and many of them are also in good shape. Remind me, and I'll send them to you when we get back.

I'm seeing more sun out there. Perhaps a walk on the beach is in order soon.