Monday, November 30, 2009

Day 26 nov. 29 Golf cart city

WELCOME TO FLORIDA!!! It's shocking how fast the southern accent disappears as soon as you cross the border. As far as people in the south are concerned, Florida is a whole different country. It is not considered part of the south!! Them folk in Florida are Yankees. - meaning white out-of-towners. Typical Yankees come from New York or New Jersey.

This is the land where the driveways are lined with palm trees and 70 degrees is considered a cold winter day.

I think the moment I noticed the warmth the most was when I went to use the restroom in the middle of the night. My typical dance to the bathroom is to tip toe across the cold tile with as long a stride as my legs will allow, so I have as limited exposure to the cold as possible. Last night, I started to enter in normal form and was quickly surprised with the warmth of the tile. Instead of the second step being a quick toe hop, I put my whole foot down and walked through the bathroom. WOW!! That's great!!

I am actually sitting here on the patio now with bare feet while writing this.

My aunt lives in The Villages, FL. It is a community for retired people. I might change the name to Golf Cart City though. You'll see why as you go through this posting.

Cars have a secondary place in the garage. It is golf carts that are the primary source of transportation. The roads are all built with a lane for them and they even have a special road for the carts that is separate from the standard street.

The garages are set up with one for the cars and one for the carts.

My aunt had to run some errands, so here we are headed out. The funny part about this trip is she said to me that it really is cool enough to have a jacket on. Hmmm... It is 75. Here, you can see the golf cart road and standard road.

Even UPS delivers on golf carts!!!!
Now, here is a common form of accident. The lady that caused this hit the gas instead of the brake. OOPS!! The insurance guy that was there said it happens all the time.
While we were here, one of my aunt's neighbors walked up to us but he can't hear and when my aunt said, "This is my neice from Washington visiting me."
He said, "That's OK. We'll all do it. I ran into something not to long ago too." Then he put his hand on my shoulder as if to say, "It'll be OK."
At first, I didn't understand what he was talking about and asked if he knew the lady.
He then said, "Hopefully, you can get your car back soon."
Gotta love the "can't hear" factor!!! Gave me a giggle!!
They even have parking lots just for golf carts. These are special mini parking spaces.

Speaking of parking- Here at the dog park, the cars have to park several blocks away but the golf carts park right next to the fence.
My aunt, taking the dogs to the dog park for an afternoon run!!
I think you can see why I have changed the name. I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I have been told it will be a busy day, so we'll see what's in store!!

Day 25. Nov. 28 Driving to FL


I got a bit behind, so I am making 2 postings today. Scroll down to see yesterday's events that I posted about 2 hours ago.

I started the day today at a slow and steady pace. This is the first leg on the trip I didn't look at the map and see how many miles I had to travel. I thought it was around 350 and couldn't figure out why my aunt said it would take me 8 hours to get from north Georgia to just north of Orlando, FL. I figured she was working in "Dana time" and didn't think another thought about it.

I diddled my way out of Blue Ridge, GA and headed south. I was all bundled up in a nice shirt, turtle neck, fleece, and jacket since it was in the 30's.

Each day, I wear a nice shirt with some silly idea everyone will get to see it. BUT it has been so cold that I never end up peeling away the layers that cover it and my nice shirts never get seen by anyone but me.

Well, I have great news!! Today, I got about 50 miles south of Atlanta and stopped to use the restroom. When I opened the car door and stepped out it was like a wall of warmth. WOW!!! I had the car set at the temperature for what I was dressed in. I had no clue it was so warm out. Whoosh, off came all those layers and low and behold there was my nice shirt!! YEA!!

Now, the only thing I need to do to complete the outfit is do my way unattended nails and yank those old lady hairs off my face.

I have got to say, rest areas down here are TOTALLY different than up in the NW. Here, they are huge, really nice, beautifully landscaped, crowded, have a full staff working at them, and the bathrooms have 50 or more stalls. This makes for no lines in the ladies room!!

That 8 hours that my aunt said it would take me was used up rather quickly with the flowing ocean of red brake lights.

Traffic would get up to speed every now and then, but for the most part it was me and all the others singing to ourselves. My singing is improving greatly!! Well, either that or I just keep turning the radio up so I can hear the professionals more than myself. Have you ever sat in traffic and watched other people sing in their car? It is rather entertaining!!!

I think there is a contest down here as to who has the biggest billboard. They started out normal, but the further south I got the bigger the signs became. The companies must have thought, since we were getting closer to old people country, the signs needed to be bigger so they could read them. They are probably 4 times the size of a normal billboard. McDonalds has taken supersize to a new level!!

Anyway, these are the deep thoughts that went through my mind as I ventured south.

When I got to the Florida border, I so excitedly called my aunt in north Georgia to share with her how close I was to my other aunt's house. (Mind you, at this point, I had been driving for 7 hours straight. Not even stopping for lunch. I ate cold turkey in my lap) She said to me, "Well, you are about half way."

"EXCUSE ME!!! HUH?!? I have 7 more hours to go? Oh, that's just not possible!"

I then quickly called my other aunt to confirm the information and she said, "Oh, no. only 2 and a half hours left."

WOO HOO I'm getting close now, or so I thought...

The traffic that lay ahead made my first aunt a lot closer. It took me 5 hours to go those last 120 miles. I have the brake light of every make of car memorized. I would make a really good accident investigator because I would be able to identify all the cars based on tail light identification.

I got to play the alphabet game with myself. This is where you have to find each letter in the alphabet on billboards in order and the first person to get to "Z" wins. Naturally, I won!! :)

My rear is now shaped with a flat crease in the middle from where it was imbedded into the seat and became totally numb, my eyes can't see straight anymore, and my fingers have practically created indents in the steering wheel. AND take note, I stepped into very abnormal behavior today because I only took ONE picture all day!!!!!!!! You will get to see that with tomorrow's posting!!

For now, it's off to bed. Good night!!! :)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Day 24- nov. 27 last day in GA

Before I start today's events, I must show you a few things with local character...

So, county, you think you are going to name the street, huh?
Here, you can see the street sign. The one down on street level looks normal, but if you look carefully about halfway up the telephone pole, you will see another one upside-down and crooked.
You see, the county decided to name this street but didn't name it after the family that has lived on it for over a hundred years. Well, the county put up the street sign with the name they chose and the locals weren't so happy about it, so they got out their shot guns and shot the sign to pieces.

The county promptly put up another sign...
The locals promptly shot it to pieces again...

The county then thought they would get smart and put up the telephone pole and put the street sign about 15 feet up in the air.

Silly people, don't they know a shotgun can shoot further than that???

The locals promptly shot that sign up too..

The county came right back and put the street sign up 30 feet in the air so when you would give directions, you would say...
"Yeah, just look 30 feet up in the air and you will find our street."

Well, silly people. The shotguns could reach that too!!

So that leads up to today. The sign still sits shot up, crooked, and upside-down up the pole and they have just put up a new sign at street level. :)

Look at this. Gave me a giggle. They even write in an accent here...
I got up at a normal hour (according to me) 10:00 am, and my aunt was fixing waffles!!! Oh, wow!!! I can't express what a treat it is to have breakfast fixed for you!! Men, are you taking notes? :)

The kitty starts the day just a bit differently than me. He goes tissue diving. As soon as you throw a tissue in the trash, he leaps and dives for it. Then, takes it out and plays with it. Check your shoes before you put them on because there's a likely chance he might have put one there to show you his trash diving trophy.
Us girls had a busy day!! We wanted to go to the movies and had heard, "The Blind Side" was good. Hmmm... we had an hour drive one way, so would this movie be worth the trip? WOW!! Let me assure you, it is worth more than that and I would recommend everyone go see it. What an INCREDIBLE movie!!!!!

After the movie, my mind could not stop rolling through thoughts, well it never stops, but more than usual this time. I thought about my life, where I am headed, what I do for others...

Probably more than any thought, the one that repeated most of all is what is my purpose in life? Well, today, I really had to think about that. I have a laundry list of goals, but not purpose. Hmmm... I am going to have to work on this one. I have many hours of driving ahead of me to think about it. I'm telling you what, when you think through things like this while driving, you won't believe how fast 8 hours goes. It amazing!!

Anyway, after the movie, we headed back towards home and had spotted this cute little shop. It was well worth a U-turn. Even my aunt is getting good at U-turns. You are only seeing half of it in this picture. It was full of everything you could dream of made of steel, brass, and other metals. The other half had homemade jams, veggies, birdhouses, and stone art for the yard.

I was like a kid in a candy shop and could have spent thousands here. They had the most incredible bathroom sinks I have ever seen. They were made of brass and had embossed designs in them. They would be perfect in a log cabin or country home. Good thing I left the checkbook in the car and brought my self control in with me!!! Clearly, next road trip, I will need a larger budget and a U-haul trailer.
After leaving the little shop, we crested a hill and came upon this view. This is the perfect image of the Blue Ridge Mountains because it shows the trees, farm land, and mountains!!
Further down the highway, I looked up to the left and the clouds were taking shape to present a beautiful sunset. We needed to get our dinner in the oven, since it would take 3 hours to cook, but when you have a sunset like that forming, dinner will have to wait!!

A detour was in order for sure. It's not every day I get to watch the sun come down over the Appalachian Mountains. How does one decide which picture to put on here? Well, if you're me, you don't!! You just post all of the best. ENJOY!!

Me, waiting for the beautiful sunset to begin...

My aunt and I enjoying time together!!!
How cute is this... It was a father teaching his son (probably 4 years old) to skip rocks while the sun set.
Once we had soaked in the beauty, we ran home, put a turkey in the oven and dashed out the door to ring in the holiday season in downtown Blue Ridge!! Today was the annual tree lighting ceremony in the center of town and we couldn't miss such an occasion. There was live music, cute little shops displaying their best, booths with different goods, and lots of people. I just love small towns!!! We got there too late to see a lot of it, but the music was still going and some of the cute shops were still open.

Here we are in front of the lit tree!! HO HO HO!! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!
Now, this family was really in the spirit!!! The hats light up and flash. So cute!!!

They had a singer that was local but was working really hard on becoming known in country music. He had an incredible voice that was deep and rich!! He just came out with his first CD and, of course, I bought it. I know what it is like to get started on something and I wanted to support him. That is not an easy venture he is working on and I have to respect him for going for his dreams!! I hope he makes it!!
His name is Bartlee Norton if you want to look him up.

It was freezing cold at the tree lighting and even our long underwear and 3 layers of clothing couldn't keep the chill away, so home was in order.

We fixed the most delightful turkey meal for ourselves and are now going to call it a night.
Just so you can see what I looked like when I wrote this!! I think OSHA would approve, don't you?
Each stop on this way just isn't long enough!! If only that money tree would start to grow in my back yard, I would be set!!

It has been such a wonderful visit here with my aunt. It had been 7 years since my last visit and this time I will not let so many years go by again without another visit!! I will head for Florida tomorrow morning and will have to go through a major wardrobe changeover, since I am going to enter the states of warmth!! Oh, that's kind of exciting!!

Good night all :)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Day 23- nov. 26 day on the farm

Once again, welcome to "Small Town USA." This is Mineral Bluff, GA, a one-intersection town with no stop light, just a 4-way stop. What you see in this picture is the fire station and post office. There are shops on two of the other corners and a church behind me and that's about it.

This is the type of place where the people know the true meaning of life and they live it!! Many have never graduated high school and will never see a college but they can fix a car better than any mechanic that went to a 4-year school. They will never have as much stuff as city people, but when you get down to it, they actually have more in life. Their lives are rich with friendships, family, and neighbors.

Country music is what you find on the radio here. While in the past, I would listen to music and enjoy the tune, I started listening to the words in the songs and came to realize how many songs in country music are singing about these neighborhoods, highways, and people.

Farm fun!!! I spent most of today hanging out at the farm and relaxing so here are some pictures and stories of my fun day!!!

I decided to go for an afternoon walk and headed straight out from the farmhouse through the pastures. There are 7 horses that roam these pastures, and in past years, the horses have just stayed away at a distance and have never come near.

But today, as I was walking through one of the fields, I looked up and saw all 7 horses in a full run towards me. They were still about 20 acres away, but they were coming fast. I had visions of them all trampling me and you have never seen a girl run so fast for the exit. It was about an eighth of a mile to the fence, and I covered a lot of ground in no time flat!!!
When I got about 20 feet away from the exit, I looked up to see a white truck pulling over next to the gate. I could read the writing on the side of the truck just enough to realize it was the owner of the horses. (He is one of the locals and keeps his horses in the field in trade for maintaining them.) OH YEA!!! My mad dash became a nice stroll to the fence. Once he was out of the truck, I felt safe and we chatted for a while. I stayed on the side of the fence where the horses were, and he stayed on the street side and this is where I had an experience that totally changed my opinion of horses.

I have always been scared of them, but while I talked to Charlie, one of the horses really took to me. He came up to me and rested his head on my shoulder and would rub his face on my arm. At first, I was a bit uncomfortable but the more I relaxed the the closer the horse got. When I sat down on the ground because I was out of breath, he came up to me and stood by my side with his head down at the level of my face. These horses are fairly wild but this one let me pet him.

We definitely had a connection!!! Charlie told me I should take him. I could just see me calling my landlords. "Yeah, I know I can't have dogs, but I fell in love with this horse!!"
He's going to have to wait a while for me to get out in the country.

This is the other brown horse that is really really old. I didn't hear Charlie when he said what age, but he referred to him as the old guy.

This one was curious about me and followed me but always stayed at a distance.

Here are just a few of the farm pets. Cats and dogs are dumped like garbage around here so those who like animals don't have just one.

After my fun out on the farm, it was time to head into town for my much anticipated massage. My aunt SO KINDLY got me this as a special surprise gift, since my body is quite tight and sore from all the traveling. This picture of the sunset was taken just outside the massage gal's house!! AHHH... A massage and a sunset, now that makes for a good close to the day!!!

On the way home, I passed this house. They light up about 5 acres but I could only get a small portion of it in this picture. I can't imagine what their electric bill is.

Here is a fun little story for you of my baking experience-
It is my aunt's birthday tomorrow and she refuses to eat my style of dessert- box mix. So, it was time for me to dig deep down within and figure out how to cook a dessert for her from scratch. I have only attempted this one other time in my life and it was a total disaster so my track record isn't stunning. Not to add to it that she is a master baker and can bake anything with her eyes closed.

I dug through her many cook books in search for the perfect recipe. When you don't cook, it is like reading German. Just a note to those who write cook books- put a picture with every recipe so I can get some clue what I am attempting to make. All a list of ingredients does is make it easy when you go to the grocery store; it does nothing for bringing clarity of what it will taste or look like.

As I flipped through the many pages with no pictures, I came across a recipe that read "no stress souffle'." Oooooo... that sounds perfect for me. Read no further!!

I had no clue what a souffle' was, but it started with "no stress" so I must be able to make it.

I started checking the list of ingredients and comparing them with what was in my aunt's cupboards. The recipe called for unsweetened chocolate and orange liquor. I found neither, but I did find milk chocolate candy bars. It's all chocolate, right? Can't be much of a difference.

(You might ask why I didn't go to the store and get the right stuff- the store is 20 minutes one way and that would use valuable time since I had a very important massage appointment in the afternoon and couldn't miss that.)

It was now time to make this masterpiece.

I started with the chocolate and this is where I discovered my first "Hmmm..." moment.

The chocolate bars had nuts. "Hmmm..." the recipe didn't call for nuts and I don't want to ruin this thing. The nuts have got to go, but how do you pick out all the nuts from a candy bar? I dug through the cupboards in search of an idea. Ahh haa!! The strainer. I knew they weren't just for noodles!!

So I melted the chocolate and put it all through a strainer.

Now, for the rest of the souffle'. It says you have to split the eggs up so put yolks in one bowl and whites in another. This is where I ran into my second "Hmmm..." moment.

You see, the recipe called for 9 eggs. I only had 6. Well, if I split the recipe in half, that means I only have to use 4 and a half eggs. Have you ever tried to crack open an egg and only use half the yolk and half the whites and put them in separate bowls?

That takes talent!!

I can now be known as a fine arts instructor in using half an egg!!

The recipe used such specialty language like beat the eggs until they form a semi soft castle. What does that mean? They are already soft and I'm not cooking them while beating so how can they be semi soft?

I just beat the crap out of them until I could form what I thought was a nice peak sticking up. Much like I just whipped some whip cream.

I then followed their baking terms and "folded" the chocolate and whites into the yolks, dumped it all in the pan, and stuck it in the oven.

The most important part of the process is me squatting in front of the oven with the cat on my lap, chanting... cook right, cook right!!

The recipe said to cook until the edges were puffy. This was my third "hmmm..." moment because the middle got puffy but not the edges. So when do I take it out of the oven? It said it should happen in 20-30 minutes. Don't you think that's a big spread of time? Do I go for 20, 25 or 30?

I think at about 27 minutes I decided it was time and pulled my masterpiece out of the oven. It looked puffy and beautiful.

I so proudly set it in the microwave, so the cats wouldn't eat it, and headed for my massage.

When I got back, I practically ran from the car into the house to see my masterpiece again. BUT this time when I looked at it, I was crushed. It was all sunken in and had totally collapsed down to about 1 inch tall. OH NO!!!!

With my shoulders now low, I put the cute balloon candles in it and presented it to my aunt as soon as she came home from work. I explained that I attempted to make her this dessert but it collapsed.

She said with a grin and a giggle, "it's supposed to do that?"


"Yeah, it's a souffle'. That's what they do."

"WOW... no kidding!!!"

Well, great news- it was incredible!! Guess what I will be bringing to every dinner party I attend!!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Day 22- nov. 25 Thanksgiving day

What a great Thanksgiving!!!

My aunt told me we were going to go to some friend's of hers for Thanksgiving and my first thought was "oh, gads! I won't know a sole. I'd rather be flying down a zip line." That was my idea for the day but she was not really up for that and it was a bit far away. I do understand and once I let go of my zip line visions, I was feeling open to meeting some new people. That's one thing I love in life, meeting others and hearing their stories.
Well, let me tell you, I can go down a zip line any day, but having company like that on Thanksgiving, that's not replaceable!! The folks that invited us over are what I believe are true angels!! They have a beautiful piece of property here in Fanin County, GA that is tucked into the hills with open fields filling the valley and each field is lined with a forest of trees. They have set up a place on their property for people with cancer to come and stay at no cost to them. It is a way for the people with cancer to have a little retreat.

The group consisted of them, their family, my aunt and me, and the couple that was currently there on retreat. The conversations were endless, the food was delicious, and the view was incredible!!

The host of the Thanksgiving feast was also well versed in the area and geology. So I got to be a Fanin County student and learned a lot about the area and history here during our time together. This is where the legends were born. When you hear stories about moonshine and cousins marring cousins, this is where it happened.

In the days of Prohibition, the people of this area made their living off moonshine. Not just the people distilling it, but the corn farmers as well. It was more profitable for a farmer to sell their corn crop for the use of moonshine than any other use. Since alcohol wasn't available anywhere else during these days, the sales of moonshine skyrocketed and these hills filled with stills.

To this day, there are areas you should not venture into. This is a section of the country that unless you know someone, don't wonder.

The area where the nice couple has their property is known as Devil's Den because back in the day, probably early 30's, it was filled with hidden moonshine stills and if you crossed into that area, you would not come out alive.

Here is a picture of one of the original copper moonshine stills. What they did was put the fire under the bottom, and the gases would rise to the top. They would then vent out the pipe to the side and as the gases went through the pipe, they would cool and become straight alcohol. A drink of moonshine will knock you over and the locals can drink it like it's beer. Because it is not regulated, it is hard to tell the proof, but if you have good corn, they say it will be about 170-190 proof.

To this day, moonshine is still produced, but it is not the moneymaker it was back in the days of prohibition.

Now, for those of you, like me, who joke about dating your cousin or brother, this area is where that existed. Back in places like Devil's Den, you really had no choices. It was family or nobody. And to an extent, in this whole area, I'm not convinced that kind of thing is really over.

I will say this though- you will never find nicer people!!!!!!!!!! I have really come to have a soft spot for the locals. They would give the skin off their back for you, as long as you are on their good side, and are more friendly than any person from any city. Now, if you come in here and try to make it like the city, they ain't gonna be so friendly, but if you respect them for who they are, they will appreciate you.

The people of this area are the true definition of "good old boys."

A second part of the local area is the land we stand on. Down here in the southeast, there are a lot of mineral deposits that can be found.

There is a mineral called staurolite that is very rare to find but can be found in Fanin County, GA. (where I sit now) The mineral is also called Fairy Crosses because as they develop, they form a natural cross that looks hand carved. The name staurolite comes from the greek words "stauros" (cross) and "lithos" (stone) meaning "stone of the cross."

When the crystals form a cross, you will see two types of crosses. One that forms at 60 degrees and one at 90 degrees. The one at 90 degrees is very rare, and because it looks like the Christian cross, is very sought after.

Here are some pictures of the type that make the 60-degree cross.

This last picture is dedicated to the neat owners of the place we had dinner. The man was very passionate about geology and shared with me his many stones and where they came from. He had quite the collection and was kind enough to give me the crosses above and this stone to put in my journal for the trip.

It is a Crinoid Stem from a Sea Lily that was alive millions of years ago but now is a fossile. He explained to me that he got it in Kentucky, a state that was under the ocean at one time.
It was a very interesting and wonderful visit. I greatly enjoyed it and will never forget this Thanksgiving Day!!!