states


I just got back from a fun, relaxing, anti-Washington, DC vacation and am feeling the Florida vibe. I haven’t done one of these mid-winter long-weekend trips down to Bonita Springs in awhile but after seven long months of having too many clients and too much to do, I decided I needed to decompress. And I think half my facebook friends were down there with me.

Southwest Florida is so nice this time of year. Perfect weather for being a complete sand bunny (or pool bunny—there was a choice—yes I’m so blessed). The order of the week was sleep, read, eat, repeat. That’s about it folks. That much-needed vitamin D (it seems in DC there is an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency) plus hours of snoring on the beach has given me a little energy boost. I finished two books, watched a couple of fun movies, caught up with my parents, took some nice walks among houses that are so, so, so out of my price range, and then came home to my gloriously comfortable bed and pets who really missed me—awwwww.

The highlight of the trip was an airboat ride through the Everglades with my parents. Now that was REALLY fun! My expectations were kind of on the low side to begin with, but it turned out to be completely worth every cent and minute spent away from my beach chair. The price of the tour from a company called Corey Billie’s Airboat Rides, was at least half of what the others were. As we were driving through the Everglades and passing various tour operations and national park land, my dad asked me what the name was again, so I told him to just look for the biggest rednecks he could find and make a right. As it turned out, Corey Billie is a Seminole Indian who owns the land and the tour company. I’m going to have to ask my neighbor John if a Seminole Indian can also be a redneck. Regardless, as our tour guide remarked, “It’s his private property, just like if you or I owned it.” (Hmmm, let’s not think too much on that—it was said with respect after all.)

Anyway, after our airboat driver opened up the throttle, away we went, speeding through the water at 40 mph. That may not seem like much, but it was just the right amount of “holy crap” for us. He did a donut at one point and moved around those random channels of water like a true pro. He was a totally awesome guide! He stopped the boat to let us get a close up view of one of the local alligators who hangs out in the area. I have to admit, I was impressed with how close he got (see photos of him holding the alligator’s mouth open) and how the alligator and the guides actually knew each other—like a pet-type relationship. There was one gator we did ignore because in the words of our guide, “He has an attitude and likes to bite, so we’ll leave him alone.” We also saw some beautiful birds—spoonbills and herons and more. So very cool! I totally recommend this tour to anyone visiting or living in Southwest Florida.

I also managed to have some yummy meals—including a wonderful (but expensive) meal at Coconut Jack’s Waterfront Grille on our last night and some mouth-watering white fish at the shrimp shack on another night. Both get the thumbs up from Mom and Dad (and me).

So now back to the diet, the yucky weather, the traffic, the fast-paced and too hurried business of northern Virginia. That’s why vacations are so great I guess!

I continued my travels through the USA the other weekend with a road trip through a pretty part of Virginia. Once you get out of the Northern Virginia suburban cities and away from the toxins (meaning the cars not the politics, although a break from that is nice, too), mad drivers, and mini malls, you get to see in the distance the Blue Ridge mountains. It’s the beginning of fall but the colors haven’t really changed yet, so maybe another trip in a week or two would be good for the soul.

I have to admit I did not realize there were so many wineries in Virginia. The vineyards dot the landscape along with the dark fences and gently sloping hills. And I blew through Madison County but did not see any bridges. I ended up in Charlottesville but did not get to see the famous historical landmarks. Maybe next time I’ll visit Monticello and Montpelier.

This visit was reserved for catching up with friends, which I told you about in a previous post. On my way home on Sunday I took my time and stopped along the road to take some pretty photographs of the area just east of the Shenandoah Valley. I also have a thing about taking photos of small post offices. So I got plenty of them driving through rural Virginia.

I encourage you out-of-towners to visit VA and those who live here to take some drives around this beautiful Commonwealth.

I love being an American. What other people can get away with going to another country and using their own currency to purchase things. Last week I crossed the border into Canada. I have to admit it was a bit difficult to remember I was in a foreign country until the boys in the hotel lobby started talkin aboot drivin the big trucks over the ice bridge next summer. (All I can say about that is at least they have jobs.)

Anyway, my parents and I decided we weren’t far enough north in Petoskey, MI, so we drove up through the Upper Peninsula and over the International Bridge (over the locks) and into Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. For those of you who are geographically challenged, the Upper Peninsula is a whole other part of Michigan apart from the “hand.” The people who live there are called “Yoopers.” Ontario is a province in Canada (they call them provinces not states there—one of the many differences between our countries aside from national health care, their weird pronunciation of the vowel “o,” and a love of hockey). And, Sault Ste. Marie is pronounced “Soo Saint Marie.” There’s actually a Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan, too. Guess where it is.

While in “Soo” we visited the Bushplane Museum and the Sault Ste. Marie Museum, and took the Agawa Canyon tour train. The Agawa train was an all day adventure. We boarded first thing in the morning and rode the rails for four hours, 114 miles, into the beautiful scenic north. Once we arrived in the Agawa Canyon, we hiked around for awhile along a river and through the woods. It’s hard to believe we are in danger of not having enough trees on the planet when you visit such stunning places as this. It was so out of the main stream that the few people we did pass along the way had funny stuff outside their houses for our amusement and all waved at the train—I’m pretty sure we were the only people they ever got to see. After the ride home, we went over to the local casino where my dad and I won enough at the slots to pay for our dinner. (And that was Canadian money.)

On our way back to the Glenview Cottages (aka cute but crappy cabins in the middle of nowhere), we stopped at the Frontier Village. It was on the tourist map and I really wanted to see what it was. I was under the mistaken impression it was something akin to Jamestown Settlement where I visited the other week. Wrong. Big time. It consisted of a trading post (a sort of grocery store that also sold canoes), the Totem Pole (a cheesy tourist shop), an ice cream shop, and a fish and french fry stand. My dad made a funny when he noticed that the french fry stand was posting what we call in America, a “sign FAIL.” Right below the flashing neon “open” sign was a sign that said “sorry we’re closed.” Loving the tasteless tourist trap and inspiring my mom and dad to get involved in finding fodder for this blog, I made sure to walk around the entire place taking photos which I have posted below for your enjoyment. If you’re ever north of Sault Ste. Marie on the Great Northern Highway, make sure to stop in.

I do love Canada and its people. I even know the Canadian National Anthem and have been there about a dozen times including a trip to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (I love saying that). I recommend a visit there to everyone—just make sure to bring your passport or the nice man at the border won’t let you back home. As much fun as those crazy Canucks are, it gets dang cold there in the winter.

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