Sunday, May 31, 2009

Savannah Rosannadanna

We're in Savannah Georgia! This morning we attended church (ours) and then headed for historic Savannah--a beautiful section brimming with heritage and charm. The city was founded in 1733 by General James Oglethorpe who had the vision to plan 24 squares (parks with a fountain or statue in the center). Today we took a trolley city tour and then retraced steps to our favorite square. This one had a huge fountain (as you can plainly see!).

A view of the city and the shipping waterfront.

Spanish Moss is hanging from the trees all over the city. The Live Oak trees are beautiful and some of them are 400 years old. When Sherman's Army overtook the city during the Civil War, his men cut down all (except a few) of the trees to use as firewood during the 2 month capture. Years later a group planted thousands of oaks as replacements and now the city is beautiful with old, stately trees providing shade and a canopy over every city street. The Magnolia trees are beautiful as well, in full bloom today!

Stately mansions are everywhere. We really liked this one.
After such a fun day, it was hard to leave but alas, Romania awaits. Wait a minute, ROMANIA????? We skip blissfully along on our trip until it hits us and we say, "ROMANIA, WHAT THE HECK!"
We're starting to wrap our arms around the idea and actually feel excited (sort of like, "I'm excited about bungee jumping" exited.) Our children have been very supportive with encouraging pats on the head. Logan scanned the first page of the mission call and emailed it to us and when we read the full page over the signature of President Monson, we are humbled and thrilled for the experience that awaits us.

Tomorrow, Charleston, South Carolina!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

NEWS FLASH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Our mission call was just delivered to Julia via a second pass from the mailman. He said it had gotten lost in his stack (you think?). So... drum roll please....

"You have been called to the Romania Welfare Humanitarian Country Office as the Country Director. You will serve for 18 months and report to the MTC on Sept. 14, 2009."

Our chins are on the floor. Now, stop laughing!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Kennedy Space-Cases

We spent today at the Kennedy Space Center and it was fantastic. I will never miss watching a shuttle launch or return again, if I can help it! My phone was never far from my heart, stuffed in my bra to be sure I'd feel the vibrating ringer when Julia would call announcing our mission location. I got "the feeling" as we entered the IMAX. I'm not sure what I looked like as I jumped, fumbled in my shirt and finally answered. Julia simply said, "It didn't come!". There you have it. Keep your positive thinking active (Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga, Australia, Tahiti). Ya'all have one last guess to add to the list above!

The entry. This was actually taken as we were leaving, in the rain!

The actual mission control.

Denny talked me into a 3 G's spinning F-14 simulator. I still feel sick.

The space shuttle you could actually go inside (that is, if you didn't feel nausiated.) Some people went in and said it was fantastic.

In the distance you can see a launch pad. Very cool.

The track where the "crawler" takes the shuttle and rockets from the hanger to the launch pad. It takes 8 hours at 1 mile per hour!

Tomorrow we'll make it Savannah Georgia, rain or shine. As Tammy Whillock would say, "Thanks for caring!"

Thursday, May 28, 2009

News Flash . . . Mission Call Missing!

For those of you waiting to hear (to laugh) about our mission assignment, the wait continues! Although it was mailed to Julia on Friday (22nd) and today is Thursday (28th), still, no news! We'll give it one more day, and then one more, and then one more. What can we do? Patience is a virtue and after all the "virgin" pina coladas we've had in the last 3 days, this has to be a test! Be patient people! (and slap that pony express pony on the rump!)

We pulled off the road on our way out of the "Keys" to stand in the sparkling blue water one last time. The water was warm, the skies were blue, the air was hot and so were we!

Highway 1 out. Notice the water on both sides of the road.
As we neared Miami, the clouds began to form and we knew we were in for it. We drove 340 miles today, half of it on the beautiful road out of the Keys and the other half in a drenching rain storm through Miami.
It's all good. We're tucked neatly in bed, thanks to Tom Bodett leaving the light on for us!
So far we've driven 6,600 miles!!! Tomorrow we'll visit the Kennedy Space Center and stay in Orlando. I hope Julia doesn't call during the space tour or we may be on the evening news! I'm not sure what I meant by that but don't they say you can't use your phone on the plane? What if an ignition switch activated? That would be bad.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pina Colada Heaven

Twenty years ago I had what I consider the best Pina Colada in my life on a cruise ship. Every one I've had since, I compare to to that Pina Colada on the deck of the Song of America. (Did I say Virgin Pina Colada? Clear that up before we move on.) That is, until now. We now have a new standard...the Key West Pina Colada. It is so sweet and so creamy and so delicious!

. . . followed closely by a key lime float. It is fresh key lime juice with ice and lime sherbet.

This is the lobby of our hotel, the La Concha Crown Plaza. It was built in 1925 and is famous because Harry Truman stayed there. Whoopee!

We got crazy and rented a moped for a few hours so we wouldn't have to walk forever in 95 degree weather. We got a lot of touring done!

First stop, Ernest Hemingway's house. We took the tour and loved it.

This is where Ernest wrote a lot of his books. I could get the writing bug if I had a studio like this and the view out his window for inspiration.

He loved cats and there are 47 of them roaming around. They all have 6 toes. Freaky.

Next stop was Mel Fisher's Maritime Museum. In the 1600's a Spanish gallion sunk near Key West and in 1983 Mel Fisher and his son's and others discovered it and brought the bounty to the surface. It was facinating.

Denny is lifting a gold bar like those discovered.

We ate our cheese and crackers lunch in this park.

Across the street were 2 parked busses. Look closely and you will see what makes these tours so fun! (the drivers were sacked out for a nap!) Now that's a fun tour!

Four Corners and now this!

I made Denny pose for this.

We have not missed a play-off game yet. This one was in a bar on a pier. Go Lakers!

A fitting end to a long day is Denny under a water fountain. The pool water is 95 degrees, I swear!
I hope your are not exhausted looking at our lame pictures. I just didn't want you to think we're lolling around some beach somewhere but that we're actually being sightseeing maniacs! Tomorrow we'll leave and head up the coast of Florida, on our way to Orlando.
Stay tuned for tomorrow's blog. It just might have some mission call news! According to Bishop Rands, our call was mailed from Salt Lake on May 22nd!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Key Largo, Jamaica, Oooo I want to take ya. . .KEY WEST!!!!

Denny and I decided we'd pinch each other today just to bring this to a reality. Are we really in Key West and are we really dancing in a bar?

We arrived here this afternoon after a long drive from Ft. Meyers and a visit to a little-known beach (actually an island) called Sanibel. We spent the morning beach combing as there are millions of shells, and more brought in with every tide. We loved it. Then, off to Key West which turned out to be a 4 hour drive.

Of course, the thing to do is head for Mallory point to watch the sunset, which we did. It was fantastic and a camera does not do it justice.

Any sunset watch is complete with a virgin Pina Colada. The Best!

Our crazy restaurant where we had a delicious Hog Fish dinner. (Honest)

Can you believe we did this? We are retired and almost missionaries, for heaven's sake!

I just thought I'd throw this in as the last picture of the day. After getting gas in Ft. Meyers today I tried to sit down and stopped short and took this picture instead. We have been reduced to traveling in pure disorganization and downright filth. How do I sit in this place and not clean it up? Easy, we're on vacation and we're having a blast and we don't give a rip!
We'll be staying 2 days in Key West because it's such a happenin' place (and we're loving it!).

Do we have an island for you?

So far, we have thoroughly enjoyed Florida. Our skin feels soft, people are happy, it's green, it's clean. The downside is, IT'S WET! The rain has yet to slow us down and as you can see in these pictures, it's sunny sometimes! All the thundershowers have put the muggy dial off the charts (my chart, anyway). For all the people who think retiring here is a great idea...they haven't been to San Diego, or Phoenix, or Flagstaff, or Spokane!

We traveled from Crystal River to St. Petersburg yesterday, stopping at Tarpon Springs to learn
how sponges are harvested. This little village is a Greek community and it was fun to walk around.

We had been told by a waitress (we learn a ton just by talking to everyone) that a beach not to miss is Clearwater. It was sunny and very warm and the sand was white and fine and beautiful, unmatched only by the crystal blue water. As we were traveling later that evening, we heard there had been a shark attack at Clearwater Beach. Did I say the water was like Mexico (85-90 degrees!)?
Look at those thunderheads ready to thunder-head us right to our car so we can get moving down the road!

Sponges, harvested and ready for market.

We went to an aquarium where we were lucky enough to watch the shark feeding extravaganza. Now I'm sure I don't want to Scuba dive!

Denny made me pose for this picture. Just wait 'til we pass a "Denny's"!
Now it's off to Pine Island and a KOA which sounds dreamy.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Florida's West Coast

We left Mobile early this morning (well, early for us is 8:00) and had plans to stop along the way and go to church. We had addresses and times but we were never in the right place at the right time! As our options dissolved and we found ourselves in a new time zone we made the bold decision to head for a Southern Baptist Church (our motto: "While in Rome...we want the full meal deal!") The Garmin is great for finding gas stations and hotels so when we put in "churches" we got a list from which we selected, "Hickory Hammock Baptist Church". It was a mile off the freeway and we were singin' and clappin' as we drove down the gravel road. We parked, walked in and found ourselves in a TOTALLY WHITE congregation. No kidding. After being handed a welcome kit (paperbound NT, pamphlets, pen, donation tray envelope, a little needlepoint cross etc.) we were welcomed into a large room where we sat in a pew and chit-chatted with our neighbors (hugging some). Finally, things got underway with some singing and some clapping and some "amen, brother", and some talk about our "sin nature". The music was great (trumpets, drums, piano, guitars) and it was hard not to dance! The 10 singers in front (choir?) each had their own microphone! The minister was fantastic and really had some good lines. Things were hi-tech with dimming lights, power-point, surround-sound. At the end of his sermon he told us to pray for sunshine today and rain tomorrow (to rain out the Pensacola Gay Parade). He also told us about a local School Board/Principal/Superintendent ACLU case and told us to pray for them. After 1 1/2 hours, I felt prayed out! Somehow, I still need to work on my "sin nature", whatever that means. It was a very facinating morning--longer than we wanted to spend, but worth it for the entertainment value.
After setting our watches for Eastern time (we're now 3 hours ahead of Spokane). We were off for the coast of Florida. We drove 410 miles today and we are about an hour north of St. Petersburg/Tampa in little town called Crystal Springs. We just had a great fish sampler dinner from a real fish market/restaurant. This was the view from our table!

Sorry this blog got so long but I had to re-live the Baptist church experience. Tomorrow we have some activities planned that will provide more interesting pictures!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

New name for the Gulf Coast: The Gulp Coast

Here we are on the Gulp Coast, named aptly because you can breathe and swallow water simultaniously. A "Big Gulp" has taken on new meaning. Maybe it's all the rain (it has rained parts of every day since leaving New Orleans) but, my oh my, it's muggy! We had a restful day today just meandering down Mississippi to the gulf and then working our way along the coast. We stopped to walk along a white sand beach in Gulf Port, Mississippi.

I'm wearing my Croc's because there are about a billion jelly fish that wash up with every wave.
With some bread we stashed from the free breakfast and the jelly we also stashed from the free breakfast, we made delicious PB&J's. (We had the peanut butter!) The perfect lunch for the beach!

We took a backroad and ran into this fruitstand. Yes, we bought some peaches and ate them-- skin and all, until the juice ran down our chins.

We walked out on a pier and watched Billybob fish with a net. Moments before, Billybob's brother, Mo caught a 15 pounder in this net.


And there you have it. We have been in 11 states (counting Washington) since leaving almost a month ago. Tomorrow we'll start our coastline tour around Florida--all the way to the Keys.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Keeping our powder dry in Vicksburg

Today was a history buff's dream. We spent the entire day at Vicksburg National Military Park where during the summer of 1863, the Confederate army held off the advancing Yankies for 47 days in the bloodiest siege in the Civil War. It was facinating yet sobering to know how the men from both sides would talk at night and then fight by day--"Brother pitted against brother". We could hardly pull ourselves away and finally "surrendered" when a Schlitterbaum thunderstorm finally let loose.

As you drive the 16 mile route, you follow a GPS thingy that tells you everything you need to know depending on where you are. Of course, it was raining when we started and the GPS signal didn't work (don't get technical, Logan) so we resorted to a CD which we purchased that would lead us along. Actually, it was a fabulous set up and we felt the whole flavor of the place. There were more than 1,300 markers which told how many fought and died and which regiment they were from etc. I learned a lot about battle talk--artillery, infantry, trenches, brigades, bridges(ok, I already knew "bridges") but I'm too tired to come up with any more on that topic! Trust me, it was cool!
Tomorrow we're heading back to the gulf coast and hopefully Florida. Funny us, it's Memorial Day weekend and we're heading for Florida! That's why this is a fun trip!