"" Writer's Wanderings: March 2014

Monday, March 31, 2014

Destination--Cleveland, Ohio

Recently the travel editor, Susan Glaser, at the Cleveland Plain Dealer published an editorial about the newly formed Positively Cleveland and their toughest task: getting Clevelanders to recommend their own town. We have been at the wrong end of so many jokes and have dealt with so many disappointments in sports and politics that many have become disillusioned about what the city has to offer to those who visit. So for a few posts, I'd like to take a closer look at the city and the area where I live--from a visitor's point of view.

There have been several times when I have been asked about what someone would see if they visited the area. The first time I truly had to scramble to come up with some things. After all, I live here and like anyone else who lives anywhere else, I don't look at where I live in the same way. I started by mentioning the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. That was easy. Everyone knows that Cleveland Rocks thanks to Drew Carey. The real gem is not the Hall of Fame itself but rather the museum that fills the majority of the unique building designed by I. M. Pei.

After that I started scrambling but once I got going, the rest just started to roll off my tongue. The Playhouse Square, the lakefront, the Cuyahoga River, the museums, the orchestra, the architecture, the restaurants (you can find almost any ethnic choice), the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (and the Scenic Railroad), the Cleveland Metroparks we call the Emerald Necklace, depending upon the time of year--baseball, football, basketball, golf,  hockey, and more, the list goes on.

As you expand to include a little more area surrounding Cleveland that is easily accessible, you have another long list of activities that include several amusement and water parks, the Football Hall of Fame, Amish Country, wineries, islands, and well, as you can see, this list goes on too.

Over the next few posts, I'd like to highlight several points of interest and perhaps put together an itinerary for a visitor with a weekend, or a week to visit our city and the area. Come to Cleveland, I say. Let us surprise you.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday Morning Worship - The Love Triangle

Bob and I have gotten into the practice of eating out on Saturdays when we are home. We have a favorite place that makes a great breakfast that isn't more than we can eat and for a terrific price. Not fancy but it is a gathering place for many on Saturday mornings. Several times we have overheard wonderful conversations that indicate some are gathering for Bible study or at least discussion. Yesterday was no exception.

Two men sat behind me and I caught snatches of conversation. It was about marriage but from a godly perspective. The word sin came up often in the discussion of marital problems that arise--in the sense that you need to look at yourself first before your spouse. It made me think about the premarital counseling our pastor did with us before we tied the knot almost 46 years ago.

Pastor Fish was a wise man and as I look back on it now I can say, even in his youth. (When you're young and starting out everyone else seems so much older.) He asked us if we wanted to get involved in a love triangle. I'm sure I blushed. Love triangle? Those are the things that get people into trouble in romance novels, I thought. But as he explained, I began to get a whole new look at what a love triangle could be.

The pastor explained that to keep a marriage solid and working there had to be an equilateral love triangle with God at the top and Bob and I starting out at the bottom angles. If we both kept the goal of getting closer to God in mind--moving up our side of the triangle, we would continue to get closer to each other as well. If not, the triangle would get out of shape and we would have problems.

I've thought back often to that love triangle. It's worked well in theory and in practice. Love triangles. They're not just for romance novels.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Getting Through TSA With A Cast

No, I guess I'm not done boring you all with the plight of my broken wrist. We have a scheduled trip to see our son's family before they move to Tokyo and I suddenly realized I was going to have to go through security with this pretty pink cast on my wrist--one that doesn't come off without some chipping and sawing. What would it be like going through security?

My first stop was to look at the TSA site online to see what guidelines they might have. Sure enough the information was there. They will take you through the metal detector or imaging machine and most likely do a swab of the cast to be sure you are not explosive. If your medical appliance is removable, they may ask you to remove it and put it back on. And there may be a pat down but not as likely.

Much of the procedure just depends upon the luck of the draw--who you get for a screener--as I discovered in a flight forum for travelers. Most people just had the initial pass through the detectors/imaging and then a swab of the cast. We've been swabbed before. Once even, Bob's camera case showed something suspicious but not enough for them to hold us. He just had to fill out some papers and sign them. We were carrying an underwater housing for our video camera and screeners who were in airports that were not dive destinations didn't know what it was. Admittedly it did look dangerous. It did surprise us though when the swab was suspicious.

One note of importance here is to be sure screeners keep your items that have passed through the x-ray machine in your view. That's their responsibility. They may not let you touch it while they do their screening but it should be within your view so that there's no chance of someone else claiming something like your laptop or camera or that chunky watch that sets off the alarm if you leave it on.

So, wish me luck. I'm always looking for a good personal
travel story. I just don't want it to be from an experience going through TSA.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

What's Wrong With Being A Tourist?

Absolutely nothing. There I've said it. In some circles there seems to be a debate about whether to call yourself a traveler or a tourist and in many cases it's because someone who considers themselves a traveler frowns upon the term tourist. So let's define the terms.

A tourist travels for pleasure and recreation. Their stay is usually not more than a year before returning home. Perhaps he is just there to soak up the culture, see the sights, participate in a sporting event or two, or even visit family and friends. His trip is usually planned out with points of interest to see or places to visit. Tourism is the bread and butter of many countries. They rely on tourists for the major part of their income.

Travelers on the other hand are those who set out with no particular plan. They may stay in one place for a period of time, even a few years, and then travel on. The intention is to travel--move from place to place as the verb suggests. While they often visit the important places of interest in an area, they don't usually plan all of it. I think we've met some people in our dive trips that I would label travelers. There are a lot of dive masters who travel from one part of the world to another, stay a few years, work in the area and explore and then move on.

Too many times someone will want to consider themselves a traveler rather than a tourist just based on the fact that they shun the usual tourist attractions. What a shame. Those very attractions offer glimpses into the history and culture of an area. Sure we laugh at some of the ways famous places have become "tourist traps" but that doesn't necessarily take away from the importance of seeing them or experiencing the history and culture that surround them.

I don't mind being labeled a tourist. I like coming home, touching base with friends and family and then planning for the next trip. You see, I've always maintained that a good part of the fun of traveling is in the planning and anticipation. And who wants to miss out on the Eiffel Tower, the Coliseum, the Grand Canal, La Segrada Familia, or Big Ben? Not me!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Books For The Road - Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly

Okay, I'll admit it, I'm a Harry Bosch fan. I started with one of Michael Connelly's Bosch stories and have ended up working my way through the whole series. Harry Bosch is an old school detective in LAPD whose sense of right and wrong get mixed up with his passion for solving murders. Nine Dragons is book 15 in the series and now Connelly has brought Harry together with his Lincoln Lawyer character, Mickey Haller.

When Harry draws what seems like a simple robbery with a murder, he ends up in the middle of a Chinese mafia-type situation which leads to his daughter, who lives with her mother in Hong Kong, being abducted. Harry hops a plane and tracks down the kidnappers but not without leaving a trail of bodies. Mickey Haller comes on the scene to help him out of his international legal dilemma.

I like the cadence and the voice Michael Connelly writes with but in this book he took me back to China and it opened up a floodgate of memories of our trip to China. The smells. The back alleys. The superstitions. I was glad when the trip down memory lane ended and Harry was back on a plane headed home. Books can do that to you. A good story teller can help you get a real sense of place and if you've been there, you'll revisit it vicariously.

The Bosch series is great if you enjoy mystery and detective stories. I haven't tired of the character yet although I'm afraid he's getting old enough to retire (which he did
prematurely and came back) so I may have to move on. It's kind of like seeing the end of the alphabet stories Grafton puts out. You know it can't go on. Or can it? Hmmm. Mr. Connelly do you think Harry could work as a consultant during his retirement?

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Traveling Grandmother

Besides loving to travel, there's another reason to travel so much--actually eight of them, soon to be nine. Grandchildren. Our kids and their families are scattered all over the place. Even with Skype, Facetime, and old fashioned phone calls, there's nothing like a real hug.

It was a bit of a depressing birthday last week. Added to the fact I was turning *** (thought I would tell? uh, uh) I discovered that what I thought was a sprained wrist is actually a broken one. But my day was also dotted with times of pure joy when I got to connect with my kids and grands. Now the kids are getting a little old to be cute but the grands, well they certainly turned my frowns upside down.

It started with a morning poem from one who texts through her ipod and was followed a little later by a video posted on my Facebook page of three grands in a pyramid formation singing Happy Birthday interspersed with all sorts of giggles. Then another text later from the poet's brother who covered nicely for his father. He wasn't sure Dad would be able to call me because he was on a business trip but he was sure that his dad would want me to have a Happy Birthday.

The afternoon mail came and my other set of grands had sent me a package: chocolate (probably chosen by our grandson) and purple nail polish with toe guards for a pedicure (surely chosen by his sisters). Now I've never worn purple nail polish before. This should be fun. They too were all giggles as we spoke later.

So even though we couldn't travel to be together with any of them on my birthday, we could virtually travel through all of our modern technology. The world certainly has gotten to be a smaller place.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunday Morning Worship - The Left Hand

Most of my friends and family as well as many of my readers, I'm sure, are tired of hearing about my broken wrist so just one more mention here and I'm done--maybe. Playing tennis while we were in Florida, I fell backwards and immediately put out my left hand to cushion my fall. While I may have saved my head from cracking on the court, my wrist took the brunt of the fall. I thought (and desperately hoped) it was only a sprain but a few weeks later when it wasn't healing as it should, I saw my doctor and x-rays confirmed it as a fracture.

I'm right handed so everything I do depends upon that hand but I have found lately that my left hand has been doing a lot that I didn't realize was important. It's a holder of things. It's a balancer. It steadies the vegetables I need to cut and grasps jars and bottles for opening. It's a partner to my right hand when I'm getting dressed. Ever try to fasten a bra or tie a shoe with one hand?

If I may draw an analogy: I depend upon Jesus for my strength, my encouragement, the power to get through a day. He sits at the right hand of the Father but, I wonder, who's on the left? If I think of all the things my left hand does, I am reminded of family and friends who balance me, steady me, hold me, and partner with me as I walk this life's journey. While Jesus is foremost in my life, I love those "lefties" too.

Friday, March 21, 2014

World Cruise - Around The World in 108 Days!

Yes, I know Phineas Fogg did it in 80 days but he was trying to win a bet. And unlike David Niven in the film version we won't be using a balloon.
We're only trying to enjoy a cruise that circumnavigates the Southern Hemisphere. The question arises though, how do you prepare to be out of the country for 108 days? We've been working on that.

For a long time now, we consolidated to two charge cards. One we use for everything and the other we keep in reserve should the main card be lost or stolen and thereby canceled. It's our fall back. Our main card is used to make payments on things that come due regularly so that we don't fall behind. You would be surprised at how many utility companies, etc., will keep your card on file for payments. Often you can set up regular payments as well through your bank. So most of our bill paying is taken care of automatically or done online.

Mail is a big problem to solve, however. During our six week stay in Florida this year, we had our mail forwarded for two weeks and then held for the other thirty days (the limit for vacation holds). It cost a pretty penny to do that and we knew we needed to find a better way. Bob finally resolved with one of the fellows at the P.O. that it was possible to do a temporary forwarding of mail from our home to a post office box that we can rent. We can have someone pick up the mail from there and save it for us. It works out to be cheaper than the other forwarding we did. The lesson learned is keep asking until you get a reasonable answer.

License plate renewals will come due but we discovered that we can get that done up to 90 days before so that works. Little by little as we go through this year we do so with an eye to what will come around that time of year and needs to be taken care of before we leave. So far, I think we have the bases covered.

We have a wonderful friend who checks on our aquarium once a week or so while we travel to be sure that all is running smoothly and that the house seems to be okay. We may have to ask him to water a couple of plants this time though.

Of course as always, we register with our local police department to be sure there is someone keeping an eye on the house should anything look suspicious. And we do have wonderful neighbors who also know we travel and keep an eye out as well.

So now as we look ahead, the only problem we have is--what to pack!?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Nothing in Life is Free. . .Except. . .

Nothing in life is free is a mantra of my husband's making that my kids grew up hearing and learning. There are however some things that are "free" as you travel that you may or may not be aware of. For instance most hotels and bed and breakfasts provide soap, shampoo/conditioner and often lotion in your bathroom. What you may not know about is what is at the hotel desk that you could use if you needed to.

I remember getting stuck in Houston because of weather on a trip from San Antonio to home. Our luggage was taken off the plane and placed in a room under lock and key. We could even see it through large glass windows but could not get our hands on it to get anything we might need for our overnight stay. The hotel that the airline put us up in when all flights were canceled offered us an overnight kit of toothpaste, a toothbrush, a comb, a razor, a little packet of shaving cream, wipe on deodorant, and a mint. We laughed over it but it served the purpose nicely--even the mint.

Most hotels have extra things at the desk for those travelers who packed in a hurry or just somehow forgot some of the basics toiletries they would need. Before you go out to try to find the nearest store, ask at the desk. There's no charge for a toothbrush and a little tube of paste among other items.

Foreign hotels often have converters on hand if you need to plug in and forgot yours. Many hotels now have chargers available if you left your phone charger plugged in at home and forgot to grab it.

As I was reading some articles about what hotels do offer, I found that there is one chain called the Kimton that has a yoga mat in every room and you can even ask for curling irons or flat irons for your hair. They also have contact lens solution for a nominal fee. Now there's been times I could have used that.

Hyatt has also begun a program called Hyatt Has It which provides quite a list of freebies as well as items with a small charge attached.

The bottom line is, always go to the desk if you've forgotten to pack an essential (even socks). Ask politely if they know where you could get said item and you will be amazed at what they may have on hand--for free!. At the very least you'll be given directions to the nearest supplier of said item. My mantra? It never hurts to ask.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Books For The Road - The Linen God by Jim O'Shea

The Shroud of Turin is one of the most studied and controversial religious relics in history. It's a cloth that is said to have been Jesus' burial cloth and bears the image of a man that many claim is Jesus. It is around this mystery that Jim O'Shea has woven his story of intrigue, murder, and the supernatural. The Linen God is undeniably a page turner and was a favorite read of our church's book club.

O'Shea's approach to the story line is a mixture of Dan Brown (Angels and Demons) and Frank Peretti (This Present Darkness). Grace Barden is in love with a physics student, Manny Lusum, who is a soon-to-be Catholic priest. Across the ocean, three grisly murders and the theft of a secret manuscript that contains valuable information about the Shroud of Turin thrust Grace and Manny into an old controversy of biblical proportions. From New York to Rome to the inner sanctum of the Vatican, they struggle to untangle the bizarre mystery that results in a confrontation between faith and the ultimate evil.

It's an exciting read that keeps you intent on turning pages. One of our book club members said she was up until 4 a.m. because she had to finish it before she could sleep. So, warning: pace your reading to keep yourself from losing sleep. This is definitely a good book to tuck in your suitcase, read on the plane, or just curl up with at home and let the book take you on a trip to Rome and the Vatican and adventure.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Booking Your Next Cruise Without Sinking Your Wallet

Our poor mailman, I'm sure, is tired of stuffing all those cruise brochures into our mailbox but even though we do all our looking--or most of it--online, the brochures continue to come. The thing about those brochure prices is that they aren't the lowest fares no matter how they slash through the "original price" to make the brochure price look good. So the first rule for saving money on booking your cruise is to not settle for the brochure price. Instead go online or to your Travel Agent and see what deals you can get.

Deals come and go like the seasons and if you can adjust your travel to the cusp of the seasons, you will find great prices. Often the best deals are on ships that are re-positioning, say from Europe to the Caribbean for example. You may have to spend a few more days at sea, but would you really complain about good food, fun times, and lots of great entertainment?

Booking early vs. booking at the last minute is still being debated. We lock in our cruise early but if you do that, you really need to keep a watchful eye--something your TA may not do. Prices can drop and if you see that happen, you can insist upon the lower price or an upgrade. But be wary of those upgrades. Upgrading from one category to the next is usually good but an upgrade to what the cruise line considers a better room within the same category may not be. Use those online deck plans and information you can find on the Cruise Critic boards to be sure it's a good move.

One of the best ways to get a deal and a drop on the newest offerings is to spend a little time with the cruise consultant on your current cruise. Most lines allow you to book a cruise with a minimum down payment that can be applied to a different cruise if you change your mind and in most cases is refundable if you change your mind. They usually offer good deals for booking during your cruise and your TA will still get credit for the sale if you prefer doing your bookings through an agency.

Register online for email notification of sales. Most cruise lines will offer a short window of sales time and entice you with those. We've found some great cruises that way at some wonderful prices. Our Alaska cruise last year is one example.

Now of course if you go a little crazy on your cruise, you could negate all those savings so you might want to stop over at one of my other posts about saving onboard the ship to help with that. The last thing you want to do is "sink" your wallet in either situation.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Fort Sumter - The First Shot

The Civil War was a grave time in our nation's history. Fort Sumter plays a big part in that history as it is where the first shot of the war was fired. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the union in December of 1860 followed quickly by five other states in the deep south. They formed the Confederate States of America and soon after the fight at Fort Sumter they were joined by other southern states. At issue was the right to own slaves as property.

The first shot of the war was fired at Fort Sumter where US Major Robert Anderson and his 85 soldiers had moved to from Fort Moultrie nearby when South Carolina and the other states seceded. The first shot was fired on April 12, 1861, just weeks after the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln as president. The fort was bombarded over the next two days eventually causing Anderson to surrender on April 14. He and his men were allowed to return to the north. The story does not end there though.

Fort Sumter became a central point of fighting among the North and South. The Union troops bombarded it mercilessly. According to what I read, the Confederates never surrendered the fort. They were forced to abandon it when Sherman surrounded the city of Charleston and effectively cut it off from all supplies thereby forcing the surrender of the city.

The fort is a monument to the brave men on both sides who fought there. There is not much left of the original fortress whose construction began just after the war of 1812. The fort was still not complete when the war between the states broke out. Fort Sumter is pentagon shaped with five foot thick walls that once rose 50 feet over the low tide mark. There were several stories that housed the military who were stationed there. Much of that burned and fell to the ground during the first battle at the fort.

After the war, the fort was used as a lighthouse but when the Spanish-American War broke out, the fort was once again fitted for a defensive position with the construction of a large interior area called "Battery Huger."
It never saw action and now houses a museum on the island fortification.

The only way to get to the Fort Sumter National Monument is by boat and the best way is to take the Fort Sumter Tour that leaves from Liberty Square in Charleston or Patriot's Point in Mount Pleasant on the other side of the Cooper River. The price is reasonable and the 2 1/2 hour trip was pleasurable. The ride on the ferry is about 45 minutes each way and is often accompanied by some of the 500 dolphins that inhabit the river area. It leaveas one hour for touring the fort itself. Once you arrive, there is a National Park ranger who gives the historical overview and then you have time to explore.

Our morning tour was our last day in warm sunny weather. The next day we ended up staying an extra night in Wytheville, VA, to avoid the storm we thought we had so carefully avoided. We wish we had stayed the extra night in Charleston but who knew? What a crazy winter.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Stop in Charleston, South Carolina

In an effort to try to time our road trip back home from Florida so that we would avoid a major storm that was due to hit the mountains of West Virginia, we stopped at Charleston, South Carolina. We arrived late afternoon and so picture taking was not optimum but I did capture a little of the flavor of the old city as we explored a bit looking for a place to eat.

We happened upon Chalmers Street, the longest remaining cobble stone street in the city and just in time to see a horse drawn wagon full of tourists stop at the intersection. The tour guide was explaining that this was one of few streets remaining with the cobble stone surface and that's when we realized that we had stumbled onto the longest.

I guess I didn't know quite what to expect of Charleston. Maybe I was looking for more of a New Orleans type look. More of a Victorian look perhaps. What little I did get to see wasn't exactly what I expected but there were some interesting nooks and crannies like the alleyway we passed where I snapped a photo.

Out on the public pier that extended into the Cooper River, people were strolling and swinging in the suspended swings that lined the pier. The sun was setting behind us and the river was taking on a dusky late evening look. A boat I later learned was the Fort Sumter tour boat was lazying down the river probably on its way to its nighttime berth. It was a pretty picture and we lingered a few moments until we were reminded that we were hungry.

Going into Charleston on a Saturday night without dining reservations is not a good idea. We must have checked out a half dozen places before we found one that could seat us before 8 p.m. (we don't eat dinner that late). What we found was a nice place called the Southend Brewery and Smokehouse. I got a wonderful sandwich with smoked turkey, brie, and cranberry sauce while Bob polished off another plate of shrimp and grits, his favorite southern meal.

Again, without a plan to explore Charleston we surely missed a lot but decided that if we saw nothing else, we should at least visit Fort Sumter in the morning before leaving to travel further north. Ah, another city to return to. The bucket list never gets shorter.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Tin Can Tourists

Long before they were labeled snow birds or snobirds, people flocked to Florida to escape the winter cold. Back in the early 1900s, they were called Tin Can Tourists because of the heavy metal gas and water cans they carried on their automobiles and the canned foods they carried with them. While some were looking for cheap Florida real estate deals, most were just tourists and middle class.

The hotels and restaurants in Florida at the time catered to the wealthy Victorian tourists and so most of the middle class Tin Can Tourists brought their own accommodations in the form of tents. Some even modified their Model Ts to be used as campers. Some just modified with a canvas topping. Others even included small kitchens. These were the first RVers.

It was said of those early tourists that they would "arrive with in a clean shirt with a quarter in their pocket and never change either." A nice way of saying they were cheap?

Enterprising Florida residents began to see a market and started offering their land for campers for a fee and some even began building some cabins to rent to tourists. Roadside stores sprang up featuring food stuffs and the all important bug repellents.

Could even Mr. Disney have imagined the changes that would be wrought between those early days and the present?

Friday, March 07, 2014

A Shrimp Farm in Ohio? Teresa Slack Explains

Teresa Slack is an author friend who has a new book releasing today called Runaway Heart. When I found out it was set in Ohio and included a shrimp farm, I just had to ask. . .

I’ve never heard of shrimp farming in Ohio. What made you include it as a story element for Runaway Heart? 

Small family owned farms are shrinking or disappearing throughout Ohio. I wanted to explore viable options for farmers looking to create additional income. And of course, I’d never read a book about shrimp farming either. Investigating and learning about it was fun.

Where did you begin your research? 

When I decided on freshwater shrimp, it was just a quick Google search. I found a small shrimp farm in a neighboring county and gave the lady a call. She was the inspiration behind the shrimp sale and barbeque Kyla organizes in the book. It was a fun topic to include and hopefully one that will stand out in readers’ minds.

I see most of your books are set in small towns or on farms. Why are you drawn to those settings? 

Small towns are considered exotic locales to most of the world’s population. A small town setting appeals to more readers, myself included. When people say nothing ever happens in a small town, they’re just not paying attention. My grandparents owned a farm not far from the town where we lived and we kids spent much of our time there. Those memories have influenced all my writing.

What is your heroine like in the book? 

She never told anyone, but she always dreamed of being part of a big family. She’s afraid of making the same mistakes as her parents and hurting any children she might bring into the world. It easier to avoid the whole situation than figure out a way to break the cycle. Though she’ll never admit it, she’s not as courageous as she likes to think.

Thanks, Teresa! Shrimp farming in Ohio. Who would have guessed? You never know what you'll find even if you travel close to home.

Here's a little more information about Teresa and Runaway Heart:

Teresa Slack began creating stories and characters about the time she learned to hold a pencil. Her first novel, Streams of Mercy, won the Bay Area Independent Publishers’ Assn award for Best First Novel. The third book in her Jenna’s Creek Series, Evidence of Grace, debuted nationwide according to Christian Retailing Magazine. Her latest novel, Runaway Heart, is set for official release March 7, 2014.  She grew up in rural southern Ohio, which provides the background for much of her writing. Her down-to-earth characters and writing style have endeared her to readers and reviewers alike. Teresa believes people who think nothing ever happens in a small town just aren’t paying attention. She loves writing in many genres, especially suspense, mystery and romance with a touch of humor stirred in. Someday she even hopes to write a historical.  

Book Blurb:
Kyla Parrish yearns for love and security. But her heart can't be trusted. Can she find what she longs for in the most unlikely place--home? Running at the first sign of opposition is nothing new to Kyla Parrish. She’s never held onto a relationship for more than a few months, and she’s quit more jobs than most people apply for. Until Will Lachland. He’s the first man who ever made her think of getting serious about something, about putting down roots. But she can’t forget her mother’s ominous warning. Men are users. They take and take and leave nothing but a shell of who she wants to be. Fear of losing her heart to anyone or anything has kept Kyla running all her life. A new man and a new life seem like the answer to her prayers. But things are never as simple as they seem. Can she find the love she longs for even though she can’t forget Will? Or is something else, something greater, calling her heart toward home?

On the cover of the book it says, "The best journeys are the ones that bring you home." If you'd like a chance to get a free copy of Teresa's book, please leave a comment on this blog with your email (in robot-proof form: email at whatever dot com). Maybe you'll be tucking Runaway Heart into your suitcase for your next road trip.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

St. Augustine, Florida - The Nation's Oldest City

Actually the city of St. Augustine clarifies that it is the oldest continually inhabited city in the U.S. We have passed it by several times in our road trips between home and the Florida Keys and this time decided we needed to stop.

We arrived late afternoon and parked the car to wander as much as we could before it got dark. Suddenly we found ourselves surrounded by a group of people in character dress. Eventually we decided they were all headed for some sort of gathering aboard the Spanish galleon, El Galeon. The authentic 170 foot long replica came for a visit to the port of St. Augustine and decided to make the port its home for six months of the year at least until the 450th birthday celebration of the city in 2015.

St. Augustine was founded (42 years before Jamestown and 55 years before the Pilgrims landed) by Don Pedro Menendez and his 600 soldiers. They landed in the area on St. Augustine's Day which explains the name of the city.

The old town area has many historical buildings but much of what is there is occupied by all sorts of gift shops, cafes, restaurants, and museums. It was a bit overwhelming since we really weren't prepared to explore in any kind of organized way. We decided to eat dinner and the next morning take one of the trolleys that run routes in and around the historical area.

The trolley tour takes an hour and a half if you don't get off and on along the route. The Old Town Trolley Tours has 22 stops where you can get off, explore and hop on again. Your ticket is good for three consecutive days and also gives you access to a free beach shuttle. [Note to seniors: Our price was only $16 each and I didn't see where that was available online.] There are all sorts of packages you can choose from that will give you admission to some of the museums and attractions. It's a good deal even if you only use it one day. Parking in the public garage is $10.

It would be best to go with a plan of what you'd like to see. We had no plan and we only had a few hours. We were trying to schedule our trip home to avoid another snow storm that was predicted to arrive right about the time we were to hit the Blue Ridge Mountains area. St. Augustine's is certainly on our to do list for a return visit. The next time we will be prepared and plan to visit the Castillo de San Marcos, the impressive fort made from coquina stone, and several of the other museums in the area as well as explore some of the neat shops we passed by.

And of course, we need to stop by the Fountain of Youth and try out some of that special water. At our age we need all the help we can get.

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