Words of wisdom

Words of wisdom

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Meet My Neighbors

Thunder on the Beach (better known as Fall Bike Week) has come to an end. The majority of RV's towing multiple motorcycles, have pulled out of Emerald Coast this morning - phew! Quite time once again. But I must admit I was amazed at the beautiful bikes (the bikers washed and shined them every single day!) and the RV's were absolutely fabulous. Had to take a few pixs - especially the 3-wheelers! This particular rig, is a custom-painted huge pusher which had a matching toy hauler which was filled not only with 4 bikes, but a custom golf cart to drive around the park - just mouth-dropping. (A beautiful woman just drove by on her hot pink and white polka-dotted Harley - guess not everyone has gone yet.)

This weekend was also $1 day at Zooland, which houses all types of animals which have been injured or abused and can't be released back into the wild. Winnie borders a very high wood fence which separates Emerald Coast RV from this property. I and fellow work/camper Nancy I took advantage of the low entry fee (us and 100's of parents and children!) Of course I took my camera so I could document what's behind my fence. Really glad now for the height of that fence as I found that the very loud and scary growl I hear now and then is coming from the black leopard which is directly behind me. The black bear cage is next to it. The peacocks and macaws are all over and 'talk' loudly whenever they feel like it. And as you can see, quite a few others add their 'voices' to my neighborhood. Sidney, the very friendly giraffe, thank goodness, lives up on the front end of the zoo - far away from me. Sidney is a sweetie but when he urinates, which he does often, the smell overwhelms every other smell in the zoo!

We are expecting 20+ work/campers to arrive this week. Mostly it will be the male 1/2 of a couple who is working, as we advertised for licensed carpenters. They will be involved with constructing a new shower/laundry at the far end of the park (we'll then have 3), new fencing, huge landscaping projects around the lake, new RV sites also around the lake, and adding an addition to the clubhouse. Busy, busy! The owner flies in from California on Saturday which has everyone on edge. All I want is some of his $$ to enlarge the marketing program and buy highway signage for the park! The GM and his wife are hosting a party so he can meet all the work/campers, which should be fun. And now with the last, big, seasonal event over and traffic slowing down, I plan to go exploring and actually get to the beach this week!

Until next time....take care of each other.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Life's a Beach.....

...though I've been so busy working I haven't gotten there yet!

But this places is absolutely beautiful and the folks I'm working with are really, really nice. Right now, through the end of October, I'm working a 40-hour week just so I can get up-to-speed and thoroughly involved with all aspects of Emerald Coast RV Beach Resort.

I've already attended a Chamber of Commerce meeting, designed a new print ad, sent out an email-blast to previous guests and helped planned the October Activities calendar. I'll be calling Bingo on Wednesday night, leading the Tuesday and Thursday morning Fitness Walk and volunteered to cook the brats 'Wisconsin-style' for OctoberFest. The owner arrives next Saturday, but this week is wild! It's Thunder at the Beach - the Fall motorcycle rally and we're packed! Rumm...rummm. I am amazed at the size of the RV's the are coming in towing huge 'toy hauler's' that contain 2-4 bikes each! The amount of $$$ is amazing. Winnie sure looks little sitting in the midst of these Big-Rigs.

I thought I would make you all jealous with a photo I took sitting at my desk. What makes me jealous is when the pool is filled with our guests and I'm sitting behind a computer!

Like I said, I have yet to get to the beach - which is less than a mile away. And this week, with all the bikers, is not a time to even leave the resort. I've found WalMart, Pier Park (shopping and dining), the closest Publix grocery store, a branch of my bank and a good fresh, seafood store. For now, that's enough. Next week I'll venture forth and explore more. Oh - did 'cross the bridge' into Panama City proper and found TJ Maxx and the big mall. Just drove by - didn't stop!

I'm looking forward to my youngest coming for the Thanksgiving holiday. My friends Don & Carrie, who winter in Ft. Myers, will be here as well, along with Big John from KS. It will be so much fun to have family and good friends with me for a holiday. AND I booked my flights to Sacramento for Christmas with Tobin and Courtney in their new home. All-in-all, it's a great day! Hope you're enjoying yours as well.

Until next time....take care of each other!


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kansas is Flat - really Flat! And Missouri is very Hilly!

I drove for 2 days to get to Lawrence, KS, which is located between Topeka and Kansas City, for a visit with my new friend John. Wheat, corn, and thousands of cows! Not the most exciting or eye-catching drive! But had a blast touring the area and taking pictures of Jayhawks everywhere! I even have one on the back of Winnie now. Met lots of wonderful new people, John's circle of friends were so welcoming and friendly. Had a great reunion lunch with old friends John and Joan Levin. I've know them for over 30 years and it was so fun catching up.

After 3 days in Lawrence, we packed up Winnie and John, I and 6 other couples headed off to Branson, MO - home of old, should-be-retired, once popular performers, of whom most have their own theater's named after themselves. But they have some great golf courses! We had 2 full days of hitting the little white ball around the courses, playing some fun games, and making new friends. We even went to the Andy William's Moon River Theater to see Paul Revere and the Raiders (Paul is 72!) and Bill Medley (of the Righteous Brother fame). It was an evening filled with songs I knew every word to - 50"s & 60"s rock & roll - it was like reliving my youth. A great evening, but sure was funny seeing old men, dressed in tight pants and wiggling their bottoms and try to stop giggling.

On Sunday morning I packed up and headed on the last leg eastward that will take me to my 'winter home.' Two very long days of driving through 4 states one day and 3 the next, though horrid thunderstorms that exploded the minute you drove into a massive road construction site in downtown 'big city' USA! Not pleasant and driving 10 hours a day is never fun.

But late Monday night, in pouring rain and pitch black, I made it to the Emerald Coast RV Beach Resort in Panama City Beach, FL. What a SPECTACULAR place. I woke up to the sun shinning and palm trees outside my window. What a big change from the high desert landscape of Wyoming and Utah. I'm a 1/2 mile from the beach, the folks who run the resort are fabulous and I started my new job as Director of Public Relations today. Unfortunately it's been raining every day and is forecasted to continue doing so till the weekend, so pictures will have to wait.

But I've settled in, unpacked everything, even have the awning open for the first time in 3 months. Tonight the 'park worker-ladies' are coming over for drinks so gotta spiff up Winnie a bit. Pictures coming and will also share with you whom my 'neighbors' are over the back fence.

Until next time....take care of each other.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Madrid, Taos, Santa Fe, Great Hotels & Yucky RV Parks!

Ellen winged her way home on Sunday, 9/6, after a fantastic week of sightseeing. I told her I would never have seen as much without her egging me on to go see this and that! She didn't tell you about seeing the Caldera, driving through snow on the top of the Jemez Mountains, touring the pueblos at Bandalier National Park or stopping at a 1900's hot springs bath house and indulging in 184 degree waters and a massage - heaven.

We left the very deserted Big Sky RV resort in Acoma, NM on Sunday morning, 8/30, and decided we would take The Turquoise Trail (very wiggly Hwy 14) UP to Santa Fe. This road takes you through the old ghost mining towns of Golden & Cerillio, and brings you right downtown Madrid (pronounced Mah-drid). Porta-potties line the street as they have no sewer system, fantastic boutiques and bars abound and this is where the last half of the movie "Wild Hogs" was filmed (John Travolta, Bill Macy, etc.) And it really is a 'bikers' town with great people-watching. Ellen and I spent 5 hours wandering the streets, meeting and even having lunch with one of the local jewelry makers at Mama Leesa's wonderful restaurant, before heading UP further to Santa Fe.

We had done our research and by location and description, we were parking Winnie at Santa Fe's #1 RV Park - Los Campos RV Resort - NOT! Very low-class, lots of long-termers, no WiFi, pool was cinder block and overlooked the highway, even the parking spaces weren't level. Not worth the top dollar we paid to just park Winnie here for 5 nights. But we locked up, unhooked the Jeep, and headed to Taos and what a wonderful place it still is.

We took the 'low road' up, driving along the the Rio Grande River (which gets it's start just above Taos at the NM/CO border). We stopped to watch some rafters float down and just gaze at the beautiful mountains. Drove into downtown Taos and found our hotel, the El Monte Seragdo (check out the picture of the bar!). Marvelous, glorious piece of property. We had cow-hide covered armour doors, a turquoise-nugget covered pillow on the bed that took both hands to lift, a fabulous spa tub and rain-shower, with a balcony overlooking the mountains! I never wanted to leave.

But we did - leave - and wander into the Village to enjoy another fabulous lunch at a well-know local joint and then through the all the galleries and shops lining the winding streets of this very quaint and beautiful little town. Exhausted, martini's in that fab bar seemed in order before heading out for a late dinner at the best pizza joint in town.

The next morning we arose to sun shinning and we were anxious to go explore the surrounding countryside. Since Taos is a huge ski destination, the scenery, even in summer, is massive. We decided to skip a visit to the pueblo as we had seen a bunch already, and instead went to see the bridge that crosses the Rio Grande at the Royal Gorge. This structure, built in 1964, really opened up northern Mexico, as it was the first and only way to cross this very deep, wide schism in the landscape.

After viewing the gorge we drove to a little town north of Taos and toward the ski area called Arroyo Seco. We had been told this was the 'newest, up-and-coming arts community.' And they were right! We ate in the neatest little place who had just been ranked by Bon Appetite as one of the 10 best hand-packed ice cream shops in America! They also do a great breakfast! We then wandered in and out of some great galleries, shops and stores, talking to the locals, learning abou the recent dedication of their 200-year-old church, how they handle the winters, etc. Both Ellen and I were thinking this would be a great place to live!

Next we drove out of Taos in headed DOWN the High Road back to Santa Fe. What a beautiful drive - weaving, winding, through tiny villages (most with galleries or 200-year old churches) clinging to the side of mountains, huge thunder clouds coming in over the mountains - it was spectacular. We arrived back at Winnie and spent the night and the next morning we packed up and 'moved' to The Inn of the Governor's in downtown Santa Fe for 2 nights. FYI, Cody the Cat, is not happy, has not been happy and continues to not be happy with all the extra people, being deserted and being left for days on end. I won't go into detail as to how he is showing his displeasure, but he's almost ready to find himself another home!

Back to Santa Fe - lovely. First time I had been there in 16 years and it was great. We wandered out and had a delicious breakfast at one of the best-known restaurant's - Pasquale's. Then we wandered around town, in and out of museum, churches, etc. (The Bascillica, The Georgia O'Keefe, The Loretto Chapel) and more art galleries than we could count. Then it was time to get 'gussied-up' and head to the Santa Fe Opera to hear Roberta Flack & Shawn Colvin preform. What a stunning venue, perched on the hill overlooking the mountains. Shawn Colvin really was good - and a wonderful guitar player. But Roberta Flack was a hoot! She's 72 (we had to look it up on Wikipedia when we got back to the hotel). At first we thought she was 'flyin' as she was just acting really strange and her hair was all over her face and she really had the most awful outfit on. Her sound system was off, she would wander around the stage 'directing' her band and singers, and then just stop in mid-song and start again because it was 'too fast'. But she can still sing! She sounds exactly like she did during the 70's & 80's and put on an hour and a 1/2 show that was really good.

The next day we visited with Bryan & Artie, a wonderful couple who live in Santa Fe we had met when I was living in Mexico. They gave us a tour of their beautiful home and fantastic Mexican art collection. We had dinner our last night at a tiny, Italian restaurant and then a good night's sleep before Ellen headed to the airport and I started the next leg of my trip - to Kansas!

To be continued - Until then, take care of each other.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

My Guest Blogger Says....The Adventure Begins

ReAnn is on vacation this week, so I volunteered to be her guest blogger. My name is Ellen, and my qualifications for this honor are that am her good friend and am sitting in Winnie...having spent the last six days with ReAnn exploring central and northeast New Mexico. It's called the "Land of Enchantment" and for good reason. But get ahead of myself...

Our adventure began last Saturday when ReAnn picked me up at the Albuquerque airport in her Jeep, and we immediately drove to Old Town for some exploring and lunch. Great introduction to the area...restored adobe buildings...beautiful jewelry in every Southwest style imaginable...and a tantalizing introduction to the fine art the for which the area is so famous. Then, off we went on the west-bound interstate (where old Route 66 used to be) -- to where ReAnn had parked Winnie the evening before -- for my very first night in an RV. While Re and I have travelled together many times, I wondered if Winnie's close quarters would test our proximity tolerance. But so far, so good. We seem to have learned the dance-of-close quarters.

As you can see in the picture, the RV park was rather barren. No picnic tables...no landscaping...no personality at all, in fact. The place was tucked behind the semi lot behind a small casino just off the busy interstate. Must confess, a tad disappointing after ReAnn's tales of luxury parks with lakes and golf courses. But the view certainly was beautiful. To give you an idea of how generous ReAnn is, I'll share that she gave me her own queen-sized bed for sleeping and moved herself to the pull-out bed in the front. But neither of us slept particularly well that first night. Many late arrivals to the park. Too much ambient light from the truck stop and casino. And, I'm sure, a bit of anticipation of the week's adventures ahead.

But we agreed the park was good for location, at least, since early the next morning we ventured out to visit the ancient Acoma pueblo just to the south. The drive took us through the modern pueblo where most in the Acoma tribe live today. A rather typical rural community with homes of many styles, a modern school, community center, etc. Then, we crossed open desert and headed into some winding mountain roads. I cannot adequately describe the vista that unfolded as we came around the highest curve. Stretching out before us was a deep desert valley tucked between two mountain ranges. All oranges, golds and reds emitting almost an incandescent glow. And there, across the valley, was a high plateau with the pueblo buildings only slightly discernible from the mesa's natural stone. We crossed the valley past other-worldly rock formations jutting from the flat valley floor, and as we approached, the pueblo took more certain form. Amazing. The questions began... How did they build up there? Why did they build up there? And on and on.

From the visitor's center, a mini-coach took us up the mesa's side. Our walking tour of the site was led by a member of the tribe. A gentle man whose love of his ancestral home, his family, his Tewa-speaking neighbors, his religion and the history of his people he wore as a spiritual cloak that virtually glowed like an aura around him. He shared much about the pueblo, including showing us the many sacred kivas -- or places of ceremonies, learning and worship -- throughout the site. This picture shows just one of the kivas with a spectacular ladder providing access to the ceiling entrance. We were told that the ladder's vertical poles symbolically point toward the heavens and the arrow at the top provides protection. To this day, only men of the tribe are allowed in kivas. And while our guide also shared that only men serve on the governing council, he also said that they live in a matriarchal culture where women own all the land and possessions and control much else of the tribe including lineage. Very interesting balance that has served the culture beautifully for hundreds and hundreds of years. In fact, the pueblo has been continually inhabited for at least a thousand years. Those who live there today do so without running water, electricity or indoor plumbing. Their motivations are different. Some elders, because it's the only life they know. Some male tribe members because it is their responsibility to serve a period taking care of the ancient city. As our tour wound down, the guide showed us his family's ceremonial home and invited us back to join them for a huge festival to be held the following Wednesday. Music. Dancing. And tons of food. Very sorry we couldn't make it. I'm quite certain his invitation was genuine.

Sorry, no pictures to share of the valley. On our way down, we were not allowed to take any as you must have a permit to capture images within the pueblo environs, and upon our return -- with permit tag hanging on ReAnn's camera -- its batteries died. I have pictures emblazoned in my head...but none committed digitally to share. You'll just have to visit this spectacular and wondrous place yourself.

As it was our first day together, we had ambitious plans for more adventure so then, headed further afield and west to an area called The Badlands (but, generally, referred to by its Spanish name which escapes me at this late hour). From atop sandstone bluffs -- as far as the eye can see -- simply miles and miles of craggy, volcanic rock. This sea of intimidation lies along the major trade route between the Acoma and Zuni people, so they certainly blazed a trail through the rocky blackness to ensure they could exchange valuables and wares. A rugged land of stunning contrasts. And the light...again, the amazing impact of the sun of this spectacular landscape is not to be believed. Everything stands out in brilliant contrast.

After that, we headed out to one last sight even further west. We had begun to rely on our trusty Frommer's guide on New Mexico and called to see if there were any chance that the specially noted roadside restaurant was -- contrary to published details -- open on Sunday. Yeah! It was. Happily, when we were only a mile from our last site of the day, we stopped for a very late lunch at The Ancient Way Cafe. What fun. Sat on the porch and enjoyed freshly made Chicken Pesto. Chatted with the Native American waitress...and then, the chef. A most interesting fellow. Former potter. But someone who definitely never wanted to work for "the man". At dessert time, we wanted to try their famous Berry Cobbler with Green Chili...but, alas, it was sold out for the day. Just HAD to suffer through the blackberry cobbler with ice cream. Sugar is a great re-energizer. So, off we went with only an hour before the gates closed on our next and final stop for the day.

And what a site it was. The huge, almost white mesa face soaring over 200 feet above the high valley floor has captured the history of dozens of people who passed by...from the ancients who left hieroglyphics to the early Spanish who tried to conquer the native inhabitants...from professional soldiers testing the use of camels to cross to California to simple pioneers making their way west to start new lives. Historic graffiti carved in stone with antler and chisel alike.

While we didn't have time before park closure to take the trail to the mesa top, we certainly enjoyed picturing the ancestors who spent a night or two resting at "Inscription Rock's" base, quenching their thirst at the mesa's cool-water pool and preparing to move on bravely -- though not always with a cause as righteous as they thought. This site is also called El Moro, if you're looking for it on a New Mexico map.

After that, it was a rather long drive home to Winnie (thank you, ReAnn...because I never learned to drive a stick) and preparation to hook up the Jeep, unplug Winnie and head east and north toward the mountain and Santa Fe.

(More later in Part II.)