Where haven’t I been?

Lately we have been going on little day trips. They can be just as fun as a long road trip. I like to find little out of the way things to do. I often find they are more fun. 

Last weekend we drove to Asheville to visit the NC Arboretum. Squeezed between interstate 26 and the Blue Ridge Parkway this park is a gem. From mild hiking trails to strolling garden paths this day trip has something for everyone. My favorite was the Bonsai garden exhibit. I love the intricate detail that is put into each Bonsai project. Tucked away in a little corner of the Arboretum this section alone was worth the visit. No entrance fee just a parking fee is another reason this location is a pleasant stop. Details are around every corner including the smallest little arrangement of plants in the butterfly house. We enjoyed lunch at the Savory Thyme Cafe, an onsite eatery. They offer a plethora of items, even food for vegetarians like myself. 

The Arboretum is the kind of place you could stop in for a few photos or spend the whole day visiting. 

Another little day trip I had was on my own. Often my husband just has to hunker down and get some work done. We do have bills to pay. I go out and explore or go on a quest for something particular. A quest sounds like a grandiose adventure and it really can turn into one if I am looking for something crazy like vintage tee shirts. I had been out for a while when I realized I had brought along my arch nemesis… hunger. Having to sacrifice time and find something to eat wasn’t as hard as I thought this time. I stopped into a local place called Sisters Cafe and Gifts. Located in the old Piggly Wiggly building sits a quaint little place to get some of the best food and service in the area. The ladies working here are either family or have a connection to the history of the old store. I enjoyed not only my food but glancing around at all the Nic-nacs on display. They showed off the building’s history through pictures from when the Piggly Wiggly offered its wares. The ladies would stop and talk about what was going on in town or just ask about your day. If you are ever in Marion VA you should stop in and chat a while.

During my outings these past few days I see all the parents scrambling to get school supplies, and kids trying to squeeze in those last few days of sun and fun. My kids are out of school and I no longer have to distinguish my vacation days from work days. I realize that I have to fill my days with activities to keep up my happy spirit and good looks. Having little days like these fills the gaps in between long epic journeys. I hope you too can make little day trips special for yourself and your family wherever you go. 

Roller coaster frenzy

So remember how we talked about work and play? Well it happens often for me and recently I was dropped off at Carowinds. If you have never heard of this theme park it is on the NC and SC border near Charlotte. They have changed hands over the years from the original owner displaying Disneyish rides and hosting Hanna Barbara characters to Paramount. The current owner, CedarFair, has brought the park forward changing the way we look at what was once just a local thrill. 

The small American style building that was once the entrance has now been replaced by a massive screen and shaded walk through.  I was amazed to see all the changes and even now you have  to walk under it’s newest ride to even get through the main gate. 

I haven’t been in a couple of years and so this new ride seems like a challenge. My husband let me out of the car and asked me if I was going to ride this new coaster. I watched it go straight down the seemingly forever drop and looked back with a “uh no”. He called me a chicken butt and drove off. Well! Now I have to ride since we ALWAYS ride new things and besides who is he calling chicken?! It was a balmy 98 degrees that day and truthfully all I really wanted to do was go swimming in the water park side. I didn’t feel like lugging all my stuff around despite them having lockers. I just hate the hassle. There I stood in line waiting to get on the first coaster of the day. It was the middle of the week and the later part of the day so really there was no line. I was just waiting for the next car to pull up. Geez! Which coaster was I getting on anyway? First stop, Nighthawk!  I always forget this coaster is set up backwards because it is a flying coaster. This means at some point you flip over and it simulates you flying like Superman.  I thought I was standing in the back row when I was actually  in the front. No one else was in my row so it felt strange. The shoulder vest and lap bar were my only companions. I didn’t mind it at first since I have ridden this coaster before, but when it turns and whips it made me think about physics. I wondered how many other people had settled the vest into a loose fitting garment. When the ride was over I was glad to get off. I was still thinking about changing my mind and going over to the water park. 

Sticking to my guns I got in line for my favorite ride at this park, Afterburn. Previously this ride held the Top Gun name but after Paramount left name changes were in order. This inverted coaster allows my feet to dangle down and feel the breeze burn through my toes. I had flip flops on that day because they are my summer staple for shoes.  I had to put them in the bins for safe keeping  and off through the twist and flips of one of the best g force coasters ever made. 

What a lot of people don’t know is the human body is not  made to go through all the g forces and twists and turns of a coaster over and over. So I was feeling kind of barfy. I decided to go into a dark ride, cool off and take a break. After zapping ghosts and soaking in the cool air,  I walked around remembering those last words from my ride partner who had abandoned me to my own wits. I still had other coasters to ride and claim as conquered for the day. Did I want to include that new coaster and it’s large drop in my day? I would keep thinking about it. 

Now our business is signage. We do all sorts of things from cars to massive apartment complex wayfinding. Big and small we do it all should be our motto. Partly why I know this park so well is because we did a lot of work here. My next coaster is one of the projects we worked on. The Intimidator was the newest ride when we lived in Charlotte. It’s inspiration comes from racing legend Dale Earnhardt. We did a lot of the signage for this and the wrap on the coaster itself. It felt crazy getting back on this ride because all there is to this crazy coaster is a bucket seat, lap bar and seatbelt! If you are familiar with the coaster world some of the verbiage you will understand is air time. If not, it kind of speaks for itself. When you drop from certain heights you become almost weightless creating that air time by coming out of your seat(only a tiny bit). Yup, glad for the seatbelt.  Screaming my head off seems to be one of the things I do best on these rides. I needed no practice here. Like most rides when you get off you leave through or near a gift shop. This is the case here. As I was browsing around I noticed a shirt that said “Fear the Four” and pictures of four coasters, three of which I had been on so far. The last coaster, the giant coaster the Fury was the only one left. I really wanted that shirt to represent my actions of the day and I wanted to boast to my husband that I alone rode that crazy contraption. 

Walking to the entrance, I noticed lockers and signs everywhere about loose objects etc. It would seem this coaster goes so fast and drops so far everything loose will get lost. For two American dollars you can get a locker to hold all your goodies; that is if you have no one in your party that has the sense enough to stand down and wait for all the crazy people to come back. There had been no lines but this was a new ride and a small wait. No spot choosing. You just go where they tell you and sit beside whoever else had lost all there senses and buckled in beside you. My seat partners were down a person who had walked out of the line unwilling to ride. We joked about crying and screaming while they made the last checks. When you are looking up a giant hill knowing that you willingly are about to drop off the other side your nerves tend to kick in. You start asking yourself why you are on this ride and how can you get off. Too late! Breaching the top and feeling that pull of gravity is both frightening and exciting. You don’t have time after that to be afraid. It was quick, smooth and intense to say the least. I felt empowered and silly at the same time thinking how I was going to crow about riding that insane ride. Shout out to my seat partners! Thanks for the post ride high five! 

Later on I began the walk out of the park across the way to our hotel. The sun was setting behind the park highlighting the coasters as if to say you did it and here is your prize. It was beautiful. I had fun and it was all part of a spontaneous decision made by my husband whom I love dearly. Next time though, maybe I will just chill in the water park soaking up the sun. 

Stay spontaneous, unplug, unwind and enjoy!

Sometimes work and fun get mixed together

Not always do my husband and I get to travel together on jobs, but when we do we try to make it a mini vacation. Owning your own business has its ups and downs. One of the ups is travel. We have been many places and seen cool things. One year we went to Nashville and kicked around there some after a job install. Pretty rockin place if you ask me. Seems like Nashville would be huge but really it is a quaint City. Lots of activity and night life of course there is music too. 

My favorite thing about business travel is the food. Where we live now has no real restaurants to fulfill my family’s food snob requirements. When we travel we gorge like there is no tomorrow! Little dives tucked down a side street somewhere that makes the best of whatever we have the hankering for that day. Makes my mouth water thinking about it. Shout out to the Kabob Grill in Charlotte for always making the best well everything! Mediterranean food is great during any season. 

Sometimes we like to play tourist and go see art museums or side of the road attractions (don’t look them up just stop when you see them). Every now and again we run across a theme park or two and really, who can resist a theme park?  Roller coasters here we come!!

We haven’t been on many trips recently because we have been so busy with other things like (dramatic pause) work. I really do miss our travels though and I am thinking I feel a road trip coming on. Time to reschedule!!!

Japan and Disney

My younger brother lives in Japan. He is a pretty amazing guy. He works for a video game company there and has a wife and two adorable kids. I visited with them a few years back but the flight getting there was pretty rough. I live on the east coast USA and when you go to Japan you travel through time, literally. I flew from Charlotte to Seattle then to Osaka. At first it is about the same time as when you left since you are bounding back over the time lines then you cross over into the next day which can confuse the heck out of anyone with jet-lag. As we were landing I was looking out of the window thinking how beautiful a day it was and how excited I was about this whole trip. I looked down to realize there was no runway just water and I thought Oh goodness! Are we landing in the water?! But just as my thought crossed we landed right at the edge of a runway that looks out on the ocean. Whew! Finally here and I was excited to stretch my legs and not have to run to the next gate to meet my connecting flight. After I went through customs I walked out to see one of the most amazing airports. It was very artistically designed and had a plethora of shops and restaurants. I wanted to visit there but I knew we had a full day ahead. My brother and his family were there to pick me up. They had the happiest faces and I was ecstatic to see them. While riding in a van that reminded me of a VW bus my brother was explaining our itinerary. My eyes tried to consume all of the new and wonderful things I was seeing and I knew it was going to be an amazing trip.

 

One of the undertakings we were going to accomplish was to visit Tokyo Disney. What an opportunity it was going to be. The day came and we had to get up early because we were riding the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo. At the station we waited, took silly pictures and talked about the different trains stationed there.

IMG_1359
In Japan everyone poses
Finally it was our turn to board and I likened it to getting on a small airplane. The seats were luxurious and inviting and I was eager to get going.  My brother pointed out landmarks and towns through the glass the landscape changed from city to country then to city several times. It felt like a long trip even though it was only around two hours. My brother explained that Mt Fuji was coming soon. Not thinking how soon I excused myself for a bathroom break. I rushed back to my seat phone ready to snap a picture of the famous mountain. “Where is it?” I asked “We just past it” my brother reluctantly uttered. I had missed it. In the flash or rather flush of a moment I had missed Japan’s sacred Mountain.

 

 

Finally we arrived at our destination and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. We took a monorail to the resort which was completely different than American monorails at Disney. It was compact looking but very quaint. The inside was adorned with Disney related items and announcements. The handrails were even shaped like Mickey. We rode past Disneyland and around the hotels and finally came to a stop at the entrance of Tokyo Sea the second of the two parks there.

IMG_1371
Peace and Love Mickey
We stepped out of the train and I felt like the typical tourist taking pictures of everything. It was overcast and calling for rain so once inside my brother bought raincoats that resembled the parks famous characters. We towered over the other guests and traipsed our way through the crowds and lines to enjoy a few rides and shows. While in some of the lines we met people from China and they were practicing their English so we chatted with them, played games and sang songs. It was fun to meet new people and talk about our different cultures.

We were day trippers and had no reservations to eat; luckily we managed to find an opening at Magellan’s. This is a finer dining sort of place and allowed us to get out of the cold rain. The restaurant was designed to look like Ferdinand Magellan’s study with globes, period artwork and grand woodwork.

We enjoyed our meal and then returned to the parks wonders. Around every corner were games and rides and shops to explore. I tried my hand at a game and won a marvelous stitch doll.

The day was coming to an end and we had to start heading towards our alternative ride home. In Japan they have the most amazing public transportation systems ever, elite busses that cater to your every whim. We had chosen to ride a bus that had pods inside. Instead of rows of seats they were pods that opened and allowed you to stretch out and watch TV, play games or plug in your phone whatever you liked.

IMG_1496
My pod!
It was going to be eight hours back home and it was already late. We joked around until we fell asleep. The bus made several “pit stops” along the way and we got out at most. When we finally got back I needed a shower and some breakfast. My sister-in-law had come to pick us up she took us back and prepared breakfast while I got ready for the next days journey.

When I returned home from Japan I carried that Stitch doll with me. The flight attendants joked around with me and asked if my guest needed anything. It was kind of silly this large doll sitting with me on my flight. He did make a rather nice pillow at times though and made me remember just how grand an adventure we were able to take that day.

Driving to Florida

6-28-17pic

Driving to Miami was always such a long drive from North Carolina especially in the early 80’s. My parents had met in the military and my Dad was stationed at Patrick AFB. We moved away when I was young and now it was a yearly trek to Miami to see my Mom’s family. Driving past the orange groves and smelling the fragrant blossoms and the sweet fruit will always stick in my mind. Riding Soarin’ at WDW brought some of those memories back to life for me when I rode it for the first time. I remember arriving at my Great Grandma Nan’s house and she always smelled sweet like roses. We usually stayed with her and visited all our other family throughout the week. My grandmother had a bigger house and I can remember the pool outside, the huge shower inside and the smell of all the trees in bloom. There were avocados, oranges and other tropical plants that were so lush and provided just the right amount of shade to sit on the patio under. During that time patio furniture wasn’t retro it was original with giant hibiscus patterns, bright colors and large cushions. Me being a kid, everything looked amazing! One year we made a movie about the pool and we all did tricks, made faces, or showed off for the camera. That was back when super 8 mm cameras were what was in use, no cell phones, no vlogs.

Now, when I travel I imagine myself back in parent’s car with the windows down taking in those amazing smells. I know that many people today are in such a rush to get to the parks, windows up, AC on high, and phones out that they miss these experiences I had as a kid. They will always be there for me in my experiences. This won’t stop me from turning my phone off, “rolling down” the windows, and imagining we are cruising past the groves, stopping for a Cuban sandwich in Miami and driving for the keys to camp at John Pennekamp once more.