Revolution off Road

It was my daughter’s birthday and we wanted to give her a memory. Unfortunately, for this birthday, the memory would not be a happy one. My Brother-in-law’s father was dying and it would be any day. We were all very close to Dad, and it was unexpected. He passed and the funeral was just a few days apart from my daughter’s birthday. What could I possibly do to give her a happy memory at a time like this?

I found Revolution off Road, 4000 State Road 33
Clermont, Florida 34714, by just doing a search online. I thought it might be fun to bring the family together at this time. Family is important to us all. I called and set up the date. The only one that couldn’t join us was a niece that had to work that day. The rest of the family was there.

We drove an hour to get there from Orlando, but it was worth the drive. We were greeted and set up in no time. I had never driven any kind of ATV, but they ran me through the drill and put me at the front of the line. I was behind our guide. I was told to just follow him and do what he did. I was down with that.

We started out slow, I was determined to not let my family down and I was going to keep up with the guide the best I could so that everyone behind me would have a great time. And I did exactly that. The more we went the faster he got and I kept up with him the whole way. We went through puddles, around bends, over bumps, into ditches. We splashed each other, and yelled for joy and laughed.

The vale of grief that had been with us the last week was lifted in those woods. As a family we connected in joy and we knew that Dad was looking down on us smiling knowing that the family would be ok. We were strong and knew how important life was and how we must every now and then turn loose and be ourselves.

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We also drove the jeeps and screamed and hollered the whole entire time. Out on the paths, just letting the grief blow away with the dust we were stirring up. The family was dirty and laughing and once again enjoying life. I had given my daughter the happy memory she so needed, but more importantly, I had given the family a happy memory. Whenever we think of Dad’s funeral we smile now, remembering the day after how we came together, got dirty, yelled, laughed and connected.

What can I say? Revolution off Road will always hold a special place in my heart and memories. I will never forget the great time we had that day, and the great people we met that worked there. If you want something fun to do besides visiting the mouse, go get dirty and drive the ATV’s.

Canning Memories

Spring is in the air and that got me thinking….yep it’s that time again to grab a glass of wine, or whatever and come take a trip with me down memory lane.

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In the spring, Mom always got ready to start her canning. She would get the jars out of the attic, wash them, put them back in the boxes all clean and pull out the pressure cooker and have everything ready for the harvest right around the corner. I was thinking about how canning was a lot like life, we take our fresh veggies and put them in a state to enjoy them later. If only we could do the same with memories….oh but we can and do with pictures. The problem is if we don’t do the canning process correctly, then the food will spoil, just like our pictures.

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No, the wine isn’t getting to me, yet. How many of you have sat and looked at old family photos? You pull them out and look at faces from the past and yet, some of them you don’t either know who they are, or know the date the photo was taken. Such a shame when there is no one left to let us know who and where something was celebrated. Someone thought the time and date was important to preserve it with a photo, but the canning process went wrong, the photo is spoiled, and no one knows any details about it.

When we travel we take lots of photos. We go photo crazy sometimes; and why not? Photos don’t cost us anything unless we print them out; we might as well take as many as we can. The problem is after we return home; if we don’t immediately go through the photos we start to forget. The wine or whatever we had on vacation starts to cloud that memory or day and things start to get a little fuzzy.

The days and events start to blend together and suddenly you find yourself doubting what you actually did on vacation. Did you actually go to this place and do these things? The photos say you did, but your mind is not in tune with the photos. You remember taking the photo and clearly it was you that took it, it was your camera, but when, how, why, and where all seem to be a mess in your mind.

Once the cans were clean and the pressure cooker was ready to go, Mother would then clean out the pantry making room for the fresh crop. The canning process was not ready to start just yet. There was some prep work still needed to be done.

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When we get ready for a trip we bring our camera and memory sticks, and sometimes our lap top to download photos at the end of the day. We should always include a journal as well. We aren’t going to remember those pictures every single one once we get home. A journal is a great way to keep track of where you went and what you did. That journal needs to be ready to go before the trip begins. My suggestion is to start the journal a week or two prior to the trip. Every night sit and just jot down a line or two about packing, being nervous, feeling excited, hating your job at the moment…whatever comes to mind. This will get you in the habit of writing every night and gives you some last minute planning details about the trip.

The way you take photos will also help. One person suggested to me once to take a photo of the ground every time you leave a destination and go to a new one. That works really well if you don’t accidently take photos of the ground. If you are like me, after that third glass of vacation wine, I’m snapping photos of the ground, and that doesn’t work for me. Taking photos of the restaurant menu and even pointing to what you ordered is a great way of keeping track of where you ate, and that goes with where you are. If you are at a museum take photos of the signs explaining what you are looking at, the name of the museum before you go in and then again when you leave so you know the photos in between those two are from that museum.

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A video diary at the end of the day is a great way of keeping track of the events and photos, saving post cards from locations with notes on the back of each one. If you like to draw then doodle in the journal, a cartoon of the day’s events is a fun way of keeping thoughts straight. The size of the journal should be small enough to fit in a backpack or bag, so while you are waiting for a bus, train, or travel partner to get out of the bathroom, you can jot down a line or two, or draw a silly picture.

Just like there are endless veggies and fruit out there to can, there are endless ways to preserve your memories. Take time to find the right recipe that will work for you and then follow that recipe. Don’t let the cans of your labor spoil by not taking the time to label and can them properly.

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Then after you return home from that trip, sit with a glass of wine, have your friends and family over and you can have more than one glass, because your photos will all be labeled and you can tell them exactly what each one is about. Even that photo of the ground that you took after that third drink on the beach…..you can delete that photo……

Sometimes life gets in the way of our lives

I went to dinner with friends the other day and we had not seen each other for quite some time. We were catching up on good and bad news. The bad news was that their son was on hospice care. He has a rare illness and there is no cure. He will be with Hospice for a very long time.

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The good news with all of this is that both of his parents happen to be Hospice nurses. They were able to hand pick the doctors, nurses, and team for their son. A great plus since they will be working with them for what could be years.

I asked them how was it being a parents and a Hospice nurse at the same time. They told me it was hard. Sometimes they just have to step back and say, “it’s time to just give a hug, and not advice or knowledge right now.”

As life marches on and stops for no man, we sometimes allow it to get mixed up with our lives and forget to step back and just give ourselves a hug and not give advice or knowledge.

I thought about how this applied to the travel industry. I was working on a trip for Scotland with a friend and started getting frustrated because she wasn’t listening to what I was telling her. I wanted her to know about the upcoming events at museums and the history of some of the places she would be attending. She didn’t want to hear any of these things.

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I just wanted to make sure she was getting the most she could get out of her vacation because she was my friend and I knew these things from research and experience.

I suddenly realized what my friend actually needed was just a hug and to be wished a happy trip. This was her journey, not mine. I might have known all of these things, but she just wanted to go to Scotland, nothing more.

Once I realized that and stepped back, I was able to get her the trip she wanted, the trip she loved, the trip she will always remember. I was able to pick up that glass of wine and go, “AHHHHHHH…..”

Just because we have knowledge about something, doesn’t mean we always have to share or even use that knowledge. If the information isn’t important for safety, saving money, or time and the person who is being helped isn’t interested, then just smile and give a hug. They will figure it out. Maybe not knowing that knowledge is suppose to be a life lesson that person is suppose to experience on their own.

Oh dear, that sounds like another glass of wine topic that we will have to save for another day. Until that day I leave you all with just a hug today !

Seeing for the First Time

Grab a glass of wine or whatever and join me on a journey of seeing for the first time.

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I love Art. I can look at Michelangelo’s David all day long. Well who couldn’t? I mean just look at the guy. He is something. I wonder what the people who saw it for the first time thought? There is no Internet, photography, newspapers to spread the work of this piece of art work. It was finished and put into place and people came around are viewed it for themselves firsthand. This was a nude young man standing holding a stone. Nothing spectacular until you actually looked at this piece. Suddenly, you see a young man carved in stone. His body relaxed and frozen in a hardness forever; marble was chosen showing shadows across muscles and features that you would have never paid attention to before. Marble is smooth and soft that makes you just want to run your hand across a shoulder, arm or leg to feel just how soft and smooth, and yet if you were to touch this piece you would feel how cold and lifeless it is. Seeing this piece for the first time would be an awesome experience.

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Van Gogh is another great artist that seeing his art for the first time blew me away. Finally, understand how violent of a painter he was. The amount of paint in just one painting, it must have taken a month to dry properly.  The lines you see in a painting are actually hills and valleys of paint. He painted in 3D and was way ahead of his time.

I use these examples because this week I had the privilege of seeing nature for the first time. I was invited to attend a tour by Archeopteryx Birding and Nature Tours. Rebecca Smith and Gallus Quigley are both expert guides for bird and nature tours.  I have been on hundreds of nature tours before and walked through nature trails. I have never seen a quarter of the things I saw then as I saw on this one tour. It is amazing what you can see when you are with someone that knows what to look for and what to point out. https://www.facebook.com/archaeopteryxbirdingandnaturetours/

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We met at the Natural Wildlife Refuge in Merritt Island Florida. And with a group of about ten we started the morning out with a treat from NASA of a launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. It was just by luck they launched right before 9 AM and we were able to see the launch and had one of the best viewing spots. The roar of the engines could be heard and the glow of the trail could be seen for a long while. The wildlife in the area isn’t bothered with such things. They keep going on as if there is nothing to see over in that area just a few miles from where they are.

 

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Rebecca Smith’s photo was so much better than my actual photo of the painted bunting I used her photo for this blog, so you could all see just how beautiful this bird is. 

Shortly after arriving and greeting everyone, we started right away looking for a painted bunting, which we found quickly. He was a treat seeing in all of his color and glory. If that wasn’t enough we continued on with the day seeing close to seventy different species of birds, butterflies, and different plants growing in the wild including vanilla. How many times have you been out walking around on a nature trail and walked by vanilla growing wild and never knew that you had just passed by such a great find.

The Roseate spoonbill was one of my favorites we got to see. Pink like a flamingo, due to their diet, they stand out in the environment painting color across the sky and in the brush. They hang out with White Pelican birds. So with the pink, white, and a splash of dramatic black thrown in there, it really is a painting worth seeing.

We drove around the park for about nine miles or so. We stopped and got out and walked some, nothing that anyone can’t handle. The group of birds in the tree are Boat-tailed Grackle, who knew? There was a guide in every car which made it fantastic for everyone that was there. The way the environment changes and the way the eco system works is amazing and is something you don’t see unless it is pointed out to you by someone trained. Who knew there were so many different types of ducks out there with their butts in the air like they just don’t care? We even got to see a huge alligator that wasn’t interested in seeing us at all, which was fine by me, but seeing this magnificent reptile in it’s natural environment is a treat.

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“Put your butts in the air like you just don’t care!” The good stuff is always at the bottom of the pot – everyone knows that….

There were so many different species of birds that by the end of the day my mind was just too full at the moment to take another one in. At that precise moment the tour actually came to a close and we all drove to a local restaurant to eat, socialize, and have a drink or two. A perfect end to a perfect day! I came home and started right away downloading photos and naming the birds so that I would not forget. I did forget some, but that is ok, because all I had to do was send the photo right to Rebecca who responded within minutes telling me the names of my birds.

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Green Heron 
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The very shy, so we are told, Belted Kingfisher

Any-who, I totally recommend taking a tour or even consider going on a trip with them, they do trips all around the US and overseas as well. Each trip is a small group with a total of a dozen people tops. They will make the trip to fit what you want. So birds, nature, history, whatever fits you the best is what they will do.

If you are interested you can reach out to them on Facebook, or me either way and we can set up a tour for you! Travel shouldn’t be just about cruising, or history, include nature in with your travels and at the end of the day when you sit back with that drink in your hand it will taste so much more rewarding.

 

Christmas Gifts

Pour me a drink and make it a double when it comes to buying Christmas gifts. We wait all year long to buy them and then dump a ton of money all in two months for a few moments of happiness.

Christmas can be a stressful time. No one has any money, and then we have to fight crowds at the stores, try and think of each person and figure out what they want…it can be a nightmare.

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My daughter one year for Christmas was given by an Aunt her cousins hand-me-down clothes. She was eight at the time. I had to warn her before she received the gift to let her know what she was actually getting. I took her aside and said, “Your Aunt didn’t have money this year, but wanted you to have something to open so she took your cousins old clothes and wrapped them up. You will open the gift, pretend you are very happy, and we will talk about it in private later.” It worked. She opened the box full of old clothes, many of them so worn they didn’t even get sent on to goodwill, they went right into the rag box. We still laugh about it. What made my daughter really mad is that she could have gone to the dollar store and spent a few dollars on something, but instead thought rags would make a cool gift. They actually did wind up making a cool gift in the end. We took a number of the really old ones, and made a rag doll out of it. When life gives you lemons, you learn to make lemonade.

I decided when my child was five that I didn’t want to ever do traditional birthday parties for her. I did one, and it was a mess. The planning, the cost, and then the cousins came who were all older and didn’t want to be there. And on top of all that, I still had to buy a gift. I decided instead to give her birthday memories. So each year, we planned a special event to do on her birthday. I would find all kinds of fun activities to do with her. She has flown in a glider, played one on one with a baby tiger, flown a small plane, and many more fun things. The cost of these things were cheaper than a party and separate gift and my daughter can tell you exactly what she did on each of her birthdays growing up.

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So buying a cruise or vacation for someone can be quite expensive, and if you happen to have the money for that, then by all means please buy away. Most of us do not have that kind of money that we can just buy a cruise for someone, BUT what about someone that you know who is going on a cruise in the next year? You could buy them a trip excursion for them. Most excursions can run around $100.00. You can buy a gift for them to purchase through their travel agent or you can use https://www.shoretrips.com/ . You can also purchase packages through the cruise line. What about a drink package? There are many to choose from with all different prices. How nice to know your loved ones can drink all the soda they want thanks to you. A spa package is another option. You may not be able to give them the whole cruise, but I guarantee they will love the massage they get for two hours while on the ship.

Carnival has gift ideas on their funshop website https://www.carnival.com/FunShops/gift-ideas anything from towels, robes, stuffed animals, flowers, wine, beer, totes, and chocolate strawberries are here all with reasonable prices. What a nice surprise for your loved one to have a treat waiting for them from you. https://www.ncl.com/onboard-gifts/gourmet-treats Norwegian also has a site. You can even order diapers and wipes for babies here. Who wants to pack a week worth of diapers?  https://www.princess.com/learn/cruise-gifts-celebrations/gifts-and-services/gifts/ princess cruise line offers perfume as an option. https://www.royalcaribbean.com/gifts/Browse/GIFTS Royal Caribbean offers walking sticks. https://www.celebritycruises.com/cruise-gifts/items-results?category=CGIFTS&collection=EXCLUSIVES celebrity offers dominos and playing cards, as well as special cakes and flowers.

No matter what cruise line your friend or families are on, there is a gift there for you to add to their memory.

If there is a birthday or anniversary there are packages for flowers, balloons, and even cakes. What a surprise when they arrive in their room and it is decorated with balloons and flowers. Chocolate and wine or champagne is another option.

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Think outside the box this year and give a gift they will remember for years to come. And the really cool thing is you can shop online, at home, in your PJ’s with a drink or whatever in your hand. Remember your travel agent can also make all of these things happen for you as well.

Happy shopping everyone !

Shhhhh I’m on vacation part 5

So, we have had lunch and are back to exploring St. Augustine.

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The oldest house in St. Augustine is set off by itself, located at Marine and St. Francis street. It will cost a family of four $18.00 to do a tour and is worth it. There is something for all ages at this site. Old and young will learn something here. I could go into detail about the history of the house, but then you wouldn’t need to go. I highly recommend that this be a hot spot on your list of places to visit.

The St. Francis Barracks is a historic structure constructed of coquina and now is the home of the Florida National Guard. There are some bed and breakfast places near here; you can always check them out.

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Now right around the corner on Bravo lane and Marine Street is the Saint Augustine Art Association. It is free!  http://www.staaa.org/  I highly recommend you check them out. St. Augustine has a wonderful art society and so there is always something new on display here. They also host a number of special events so check out the web site to see what the calendar shows on the dates you will be visiting.

 

The Ximenez-Fatio House is a museum not well known. It will cost a family $25.00 to tour and is a little hidden Gem. https://www.ximenezfatiohouse.org/ It is best explained on their website as Built as a merchant’s home and place of business in 1798, the coquina stone Ximenez House later became “Miss Fatio’s,” St. Augustine’s most fashionable boarding house. Today, it is a historic house museum, carefully researched and authentically restored to reflect its heyday during Florida’s first tourism boom throughout its Territorial and Early Statehood periods of 1821-1861. Every room tells a unique story about early visitors and how they experienced the Oldest City. Hear them all on an unforgettable guided tour. I highly recommend this little hidden gem and visit the web site prior to your visit, you will be glad you did.

 

The Spanish Military Hospital Museum is located on Aviles Street and is another great museum. It will cost you about $10.00 per adults and $5.00 per child. You can get discounts online and through the trolley tours so check them all out prior to your visit. This is about an hour tour and fantastic for kids. They are all about education here.

 

The Trinity Episcopal Church was established in St. Augustine in 1821 and is the oldest Protestant Church in the state of Florida. The first building was erected in the 1830s and was made of coquina. On June 30, 1831 the first service was held even though the building was not yet completed. The church was formally consecrated on June 5, 1834 by Bishop Nathaniel Bowen from South Carolina. This is worth poking your head into and taking a look at. It is a beautiful church and it only takes a minute or two and is completely free.

 

Wolf’s Museum of Mystery is one crazy place and worth the $7.00 entrance fee. Located on Charlotte Street this little wonder of a place is one of the largest collection of weird and crazy stuff you will ever find. The crazy thing about this place is that everything inside is for SALE. So if you just can’t live without that weird and crazy shrunken head, you can buy it, and the entrance fee will go towards that purchase! This is not a place I would take small children or children with weak stomachs. I would take a peek inside to be entertained on the freaky side though.

 

The Pirate and Treasure Museum located on Castillo Drive is a fun museum that the family will enjoy. It will set you back $14.99 for adults and $7.99 for kids. There is a curriculum on the website that you can download prior to your visit to educate the kids. Fun group or educational tours are available. All kids love pirates and here you can sport an eye patch and even fin a parrot or two somewhere in the museum.

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And last we have Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum. The cost is $13.99 for adult and $6.99 for kids. It’s Ripley’s all the way; Something for everyone here.

This list has something for everyone. You won’t be interested in them all so pick what you will be interested in and just have fun. At the end of the day you will be ready for that great dinner at any of the wonderful restaurants you passed today and one, two, okay maybe three tall drinks before calling it a night.

And just think …. We haven’t even talked about all of the wonderful places that aren’t in walking distance yet.

 

 

Shhhhh I’m on vacation part 4

Another great day to see St. Augustine! Get a good breakfast, you will need it. Today let’s talk about Cordova street.

After breakfast head over to Cordova Street and start at one end and make your way down. I don’t think I have ever been to St. Augustine and not gone to the Lightner Museum. The Lightner Museum is housed in the former Alcatraz Hotel built in 1888 by Henry Morrison Flagler. In 1888 it housed the world’s largest indoor swimming pool, and today you can get married right in the space of the swimming pool. It will cost you $15.00 a ticket for adults / $12 Seniors, college students, and active military / $8.00 kids ages 12-17 / free 11 and younger.

Some people refer to the Lightner Museum as the Smithsonian of the South. This is a real museum so keep that in mind with little ones that may get bored or want to run around. I would also look to see if you can get a package with trolley tickets. They might have a bundle you will want to purchase.

Behind the Lightner Museum is the Villa Zorayda Museum. The building was built in 1883 as the winder home of Franklin Webster Smith. His house began the Moorish Spanish Revival style of architecture. Cost is $10.00 for adults and kids are $5.00. There are discounts if you are seniors, military, and they also offer docent tours for groups. This is self-guided audio tours normally. This is a true museum with lots of furniture, rugs, and paintings, keep that in mind for small children.

Now, come back around to Cordova Street and cross over to Flagler College. Cost is $12.00 adults / $10.00 senior and military / kids free. I always enjoy the tour at Flagler College. When we go with friends and family that have never been before I always agree to go with them on the Flagler tour, nothing changes on the tour but it is enjoyable. The tour is run by students at Flagler College. Henry Flagler was an interesting man and really made St. Augustine the first tourist spot in Florida. Along with his ties to the railroad he managed to build this fantastic piece of architecture and design that is still admired today. Tiffany designed the many windows in the dining hall and it is such a sight. Flagler believed the only one that could make anything perfect was God, so there are mistakes in the tile that have been put there on purpose, showing man is mortal and nothing is perfect. There are ghost stories with Flagler College. You can check them out and even sign up for the ghost tour with them. Because the tours are run by students, you never get the same exact tour twice. The hotel holds the first elevator that still works the last time I was there, originally installed by Thomas Edison himself. Even Kids like this tour so well worth it.

When leaving Flagler College go behind it and head to Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church. It’s free and worth looking inside. Henry Flagler built the church in 1889. It was constructed as a memorial to Flagler’s only daughter, Jenny. Here Henry, his daughter, granddaughter and his first wife are buried.

Grace Methodist Church is also right by here and another free and worth looking inside. Pop your head inside and marvel at the detail they used when making this great house of worship.

Potter’s Wax Museum is also located on Cordova Street. Cost will be about $10.00 adults and $7.00 for kids. There are discounts if you pay online, or get through a package for trolley rides. If you get a package deal then go see the museum. It’s a wax museum and if you have ever been to one, then you know what to expect. It’s a one-time visit place for me personally. You have to decide on your own to go or not.

Now after all of that, it will be time for lunch and maybe a drink or two. In this area are a few pubs and places to grab a bite to eat. Take your time and enjoy the food and drink, rest up because is back to exploring after lunch….just saying.