You might be traveling with a vegan if…

LaDonna Cole talks with her hands evidently!

LaDonna Cole talks with her hands evidently!

Ah, road trips! That ever-calling, gypsy-gene, love’em-till-you-hate’em pull of the open road journey. We look forward to them like a child for Christmas, then when our cramped and bloated bodies protest we can’t wait to get back home.

Windmills in the far far distance...I promise they are there.

Windmills in the far far distance…I promise they are there.

My daughter and I took a road trip to upstate NY. (Um, actually I don’t think it was up state, maybe west state? We got really close to Canada, so maybe?) We went to a book release party for a dear friend of mine, S. R. Karfelt. Go buy her book! Click!woa

My darling D has recently become a vegan, which is really nice for me, because I get to tease her endlessly about it.  (Can’t you imagine how much fun she had on this trip!) Anyway, I have found the ever joys and trials of being confined in a small 4×4 space for 26 hours with a vegan and I thought I would share them with you, in case you ever decide to take a road trip with your favorite vegan.

You might be traveling with a vegan if…

… you hear munching sounds coming from the back seat every hour on the hour.

…your trip partner can core and slice a bell pepper with her bare hands. (A bit scary, really.)

…2 hours into the trip, you have an intense desire to stop at Cracker Barrel and buy a car freshener.

…your trip partner insists her fumes don’t stink and come out in the shape of a halo.

…when you stop for food, you want what she’s having because it looks so fresh

…when you lay your snacks on the counter, you want to hide your Snickers under her hummus and apple slices.

And last but not least you might be traveling with a vegan if the road chat is the deepest, most meaningful and significant conversation you’ve had in months and you find yourself caring more about the world you live in as you see through her eyes.

Stay tuned! Dayla will retaliate with the next blog, You might be traveling with a Carnivore if…

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Snorkeling in the Bahamas

There are two types of people in this world, Sinkers and Floaters.

A sinker is that person who jumps in the pool and immediately sinks to the bottom. They can even sit on the bottom of the pool without much effort. They dive for the quarters, get there first, then struggle against the weight of the water to get back to the surface. I’ve often thought these people would make excellent deep sea divers.

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The other type of person is the floater. These are the people who jump in the pool, lay back and float for hours. With very little effort they bob on the surface of the water, occasionally they kick a foot or move a wrist to turn or adjust, but they don’t really have to try to stay afloat, they just do.

yo yo

Now the sinkers and the floaters don’t do well in the same pool. The sinkers want to have tea parties on the bottom of the pool or play diving games. The floaters want to have contests to see who can tread water the longest or swim the length of the pool the fastest. Neither one is really all that interested in doing the other activity, because they just aren’t that good at it.

Wow. There are so many life lessons we can learn from sinkers and floaters. We can run analogies between deep thinkers (sinkers) and optimists (floaters).  Or between the research writer (plotter, aka sinker) and the off the cuff (pantser, aka floater).  Check out ObeytheMuse.com on 8-22 for more about sinkers and floaters.

But what this post is really about is SNORKELING!1375253751

I am a floater in almost every way mentioned (I do like a well plotted story, though.)  I float. You could use me as a buoy, I am so buoyant. I could be the sole life saving object on a cruise ship, I float so well.  So you can imagine how well I took to snorkeling.

We took the sail boat out with a load of about 12 other passengers and maybe 6 crew members. We used the motor for the trip to the reef. As we sped across the vibrant turquoise waters, bouncing on the waves, the thought came to me. “I was born to do this.” I was reconnecting with some primal intuition, an earlier form of me. It felt like coming home.

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When we got to the reef, I slid into the water, put on my flippers, mask, and snorkel and kicked away from the boat. I had on a life jacket, but didn’t blow it up much, because, hey, floater here!

Once I put my face into the water, I gasped through the snorkel in amazement. The colors were so vibrant, neon colors radiated from the fish and the flora. I couldn’t bring myself to take my head out of the water. It was gorgeous.

I became aware of some screaming noises, muffled by the water in my ears and finally wrenched my head up to see what was going on. When I lifted my head, there was nothing in front of me but wide open ocean. I turned around to where the shouts were coming from and saw the sail boat far in the distance. They were waving me back.  I couldn’t believe I had gone so far in such a short time.

I ducked my head back into the water and started back toward the boat.

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Some of you are aware that I came home with an injury and I promised to tell you about the shark attack. So I guess this is the perfect place to relay that story.

As I kicked back toward the boat with my head down watching a school of neon striped fish, a shadow passed through my peripheral vision and I turned in time to see something large swim away behind me. I talked myself into believing it was just another snorkeler and went back to watching the gorgeous sites around me.

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Well…the screaming from the boat intensified. I raised my head to make sure I was back on course and saw the crew from the boat screaming and jumping up and down.

“Swim! Faster!” They motioned with their arms for me to come to them. One of the young men grabbed what appeared to be a hand held harpoon and dove in toward me.

I turned to see what the commotion was about, when BAM! It hit me. I felt a sharp sting in my right ankle. The water around me immediately turned red and I thought I was on fire. Then I saw the fin pop up about six feet away, it turned toward me and dove down…

So, that would have been a great snorkeling injury story, don’t you think?  Unfortunately, my story is not so glamorous or exciting. The truth is we docked the boat, gathered our things to leave, and moved toward the queue of people filing off the boat. There was a drop in the floor about three inches. I landed on the edge, twisted my ankle and went down.  Boring! Painful, yes. But so boring.  I like the shark story better, don’t you? Let’s go with that one.1375253748

After we completed our snorkeling time, we raised the sails, passed around the rum punch and drifted off into the deep blue sea.

Caron, one of the Bahamian crew, fell crazy in love with Dayla. He followed her around, dove for treasures, proposed marriage and asked her out to dinner. He was besotted! (Why not, she’s a treasure!)  She said she was here with her mom and that we already had dinner plans. He was crushed. Poor Caron.1375253729

The underwater shots we got are pale and muted imitations compared to the vibrant intensity of the real deal. But, here are a some of the shots.

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I WILL do this again. I plan to Snorkel on every vacation from now on. It is the perfect water activity for a champion floater.1375253735

Bahama’s Research Trip Journal

sky palmDay 1

We load the van and head down the road. Half way to Georgia, Dayla’s daddy calls and wants to know where she left the spare key to her car.

“In my purse.” She lifts her purse.

So we turn around and drive back home to leave a key.

Take Two, we head down the road…

South Georgia has the strangest trees. Tall pine looking evergreens sport draping moss in the tops. A patch of them makes me think we have mistakenly driven through a portal and now we are on another planet…couldn’t get a picture of ones with moss. But I found out in the Bahamas that they are called Tropical Pines and they are fire proof and if you see them on an island it indicates there is abundant fresh water.

Tropical pines

We did rent a book from Cracker Barrel to listen to as we drove. It is a tradition. The first book was so bad, we actually back tracked a mile and a half to the next Cracker Barrel to return it. We saw the Cracker Barrel sign as we passed it. Took the next exit and followed the road back. The huge sign rose from a clump of trees near the freeway, but we were sure the actual restaurant was with the hotels. So we turned into the hotel district thinking we could get to the Cracker Barrel from there. Only, there were no entries, no Cracker Barrel, no way to turn off the road. We drove a few blocks, then a few more and took the first right turn looking for that elusive road that would wind us back toward the hotels/Cracker Barrel.  About a mile later, we turned down the first right, wound through a neighborhood, deep in a forest of tall evergreens. My inner radar kicked in and I started giving blind instructions.  “Turn here…and now here…if I am right, the Cracker Barrel should be right there.”  The trees parted and viola! Cracker Barrel! My daughter was so impressed with Mom’s super navigation power.

Day 2

When we leave the hotel in Ocala, Florida the GPS warns us “there will be toll roads on this route.”

How bad can that be right?  Excited to catch a glimpse of Orlando, maybe see the Disney Castle from the freeway or the dome of Epcot, we are confused when the only thing we see is a sign saying “Disney World exit here”.  We looked around at concrete walls and the tops of palm trees. No sign of a city. Isn’t Orlando a big city? Shouldn’t we see something? A sky scraper? A city limits sign? Nope.

We finally get to our exit and the sign says, Speedy Pass only. We pull off thinking there will be another toll booth, but nope. Just signs that say, “violators will be prosecuted. Tolls enforced by camera, do not stop.”

So we drive through and wave at the camera, hoping that when they send our ticket in the mail we will have a chance to explain. Shouldn’t toll roads come with instructions? Maybe this toll road is a portal to a different planet?

We get to Palm Beach and drive straight to the Port Authority, or so our GPS says. But when we pull up- there are barbed wire fences and a gated entrance that looks very like a concentration camp.  Containers are stacked around and cranes. No cruise line. We back up, slowy, with much trepidation, pound in new instructions to Gyspy, the GPS and turn around.

Gypsy is confused. So I open up the inner navigator super powers and we find a delightful little touristy place called Peanut Island. After we drive around a tiki pirate bar about four times, we ask a valet for instructions to the cruise ship Celebration. He points behind him and there it is. The biggest ship in sight. How could we miss it? We drive over to it and gain our bearings, figure out where to park and where to go to get boarding passes for when we come back on Tuesday.  I begin to rest easy. We know where we are and there really is a ship called Celebration going to the Bahama’s on Tuesday.

Day 3

It’s two AM. I sit in my hotel room in a near panic. What if the travel agency was a scam? What if there really is no cruise leaving for the Bahamas in 12 hours? What if we got played? What if…what if…what if…

Can you tell I have a hard time trusting? I spoke to Al, the travel agent in Ooltewah about fifty times as he planned this trip for us. We hashed out details and he told me I was very thorough and asked questions most people never think of. So I stopped hounding er…calling him, after just a few more important questions and confirmations.  (Poor Al, I’d send him a Christmas Card this year if I wasn’t worried that one more contact from me would push him over the edge and have him filing a harassment suit.)

So we took our voucher and confirmation numbers to Florida, drove by to look at the ship, asked where we would be parking, got a room a short drive away and now we wait. Excitement builds as we kill time in Palm Beach, get our Bahama’s pedicures, buy a hat and shades and dipped our painted toes in the hotel pool.  Now, it is time to sleep and gather rest for the big day ahead and I lay here ruminating.

What if? What if? What if?

I’ve never used a travel agent before. I’ve always planned my own trips or  been with a group who planned the trips. This is my first adventure trusting my travel plans to a stranger. This time tomorrow, we should be pulling into the Port in the Grand Bahamas.  Will this research trip give me better insight for writing that scene on Crescent Beach in Ampeliagia or will I learn another lesson in why I should not trust people?

Day 4

After checking in our baggage, getting pulled to the side to remove the hunting knife from the Hurricane Survival Emergency pack (really should have checked the contents of that), having a wonderful conversation with security about “what is a beautiful lady doing with such a huge weapon” (flirt!) we finally board the ship. IT IS REAL! We are going to the Bahamas! Our cabin won’t be ready until two and our baggage will be delivered shortly thereafter, so we ascend to the upper deck for a sunny lunch. Hmmm, I packed a can of sunscreen in every bag but my purse…the only bag with me at the time… after 30 minutes my vampiric white skin is fiery red, so we move our bodies to the shade to await our room.

Sunglasses

waiting for our cabin

The cruise was amazing, the water smooth, the sky brilliant. After our muster station lecture, we found lounge chairs on the forward upper deck, kicked back, sipped tea and enjoyed the view.  The pink sunset gave us a rosy glow (along with the sunburn) and we chatted with various ship staff and guests and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

sexy feet

That night in our tiny cabin, I finally found my sleep zone. The gentle rhythm of the waves and the reflection of the wave dance on the ceiling lulled me into travelers coma.

Our bus came for us at 845 am.  Let me pause here and iron out a few details. We left Palm Beach Port around 6 pm, we reached Bahamas, Freeport around 730 am. Thirteen and a half hours to go 55 miles? We talked to a crewman about it. He said the boat…enters a time portal at the international border…er…no…but wouldn’t that make for a great story on this blog?  Actually he said we stop in the middle of the ocean for several hours before moving into port. The casino is open all night…hmmm…a connection maybe?

Well this blog journal is turning into a novel, so I will save the Island stories for the next blog. Tune in soon for tropical adventures, shark infested snorkeling, the longest breakfast from Hades, friendly Bob and chatty George.

England Continues to Astound

After we left Stonehenge, we boarded the bus and drove to a little town called Salisbury.  The bus stopped in front of an ancient wall and we disembarked.  I walked straight to the wall and placed my palm on it in awe of the ancient structure.  Trudy, the tour guide said “Amazing isn’t it? This is the original wall built around the city.”

0103130931Built in the 14th century, the stones and remnants spoke of village raids, ashes from millions of hearths, atrocities witnessed, monks and merchants, soldiers and shepherds, children and elderly, maybe even a druid or two.

Trudy told us that they decided to build a cathedral and stood on the Salisbury plain and shot an arrow.  Where the arrow landed, that would be the site of the cathedral.  However, the arrow struck a deer and he ran three miles before he collapsed at the current site of the cathedral.

We passed through a gate in the wall and under an arch. Beautiful passage, welcoming today, but once just the opposite.  To the side, a lovely gate house graced

0103130933cthe wall. I was constantly amazed by the antiquity of these remaining structures. The tour guides

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kept saying of other buildings “Oh this is a very modern building, just 350 years or so.”  Our whole country isn’t even that old! Ha!

As we followed Trudy through the archway, to our immediate right was a sundial on an historic house.

2013-01-03 09.33.15 It had the following inscriptions.

1749
LIFE’S BUT A WALKING SHADOW

THIS IS LIFE ETERNAL THAT
THEY MAY KNOW THEE THE ONLY
TRUE GOD AND JESUS CHRIST
WHOM THOU HAST SENT
St John Chapter 12 verse 5.

from the plaque

Sundial on Malmesbury House, The Close, Salisbury
The bottom black plaque reads:-

An important timely point of interest to the passer by…

In the year of our Lord 1752, the Reformation of the Calendar took place – see the Wall Dial above dated 1749. This Julian calendar made the year too short, thus the accumulated error amounted to eleven days. England adopted the Gregorian calendar, so the next day after Sept 2nd 1752 became Sept 14th 1752.

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To get an idea of the scope, note the tiny people closest to the structure in the background.

We continued down this little ally street toward the leaning spire of the Salisbury Cathedral. As we approached our jaws dropped. It was too much to take in.  The sheer size and mass of the structure was overwhelming.  This?  This was built in 1270? Oxen carts pulled these stones here and without crane or modern machinery this was put together?

Trudy told us that the scaffolding for the restoration had been there all of her life, 58 years.  She said many of the statues on the exterior were damaged by the reign of Cromwell, who used cathedrals as stables for the war horses.

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Note the green moss growing on the gables. Nearly every roof in England was adorned in this organism.

As we drew nearer, we became overwhelmed with not only the size, but the intricate detail and beauty. We stood outside for a while, gawking, then Trudy led us into the sacred chambers and we were humbled. 2013-01-03 09.40.35 2013-01-03 09.39.58 2013-01-03 09.39.12

Before I take you inside, I want to tell you about the revelation I had and how it related to Stonehenge.  I stood in front of this amazing cathedral, eyes watering from the magnificence and I asked God.

“Was this really built unto You? Did they truly want to honor you with this work or was it to honor themselves?”

In that tender soft voice He answered. “It doesn’t matter. I am honored, anyway. I created man, so all of man’s creations honor me, the creator.”

I gasped. “Even Stonehenge.” I said.

“Even Stonehenge.” He agreed. “From the dawn of creation, all great feats of mankind honor me.”

Tears streamed down my cheeks as worship rose within me.  I snapped a few more pictures, then scurried to catch up to the tour party.

More jaw dropping splendor on the inside.  We gaped around at the elegance and sheer majesty of the cathedral. Worshipers sat here and there and the clergy were stirring in the center.  As we approached the central cross section of the cathedral, a clergy stepped up to the podium 2013-01-03 09.56.56and led us in a prayer. We all recited The Lord’s Prayer with her and I was staggered at the idea that for a thousand years, lovers of God had stood in this very site and whispered this very prayer. Reverence doesn’t begin to describe that sacred moment.

More tears streamed down my cheeks as I added my own silent prayers and praise to the end of “For Thine is the KINGDOM, and the POWER, and the GLORY FOREVER!”  Those words have never meant more to me than they did in that moment.  They took on completely enlightened meanings as I whispered them in that place of worship.

For the rest of this blog, I will let the pictures speak for themselves.  Amazing day.

The cathedral is laid out in the shape of a cross.  This is one of the side wings of the cross.

The cathedral is laid out in the shape of a cross. This is one of the side wings of the cross.

The main cathedral, standing in the middle of the cross section and looking forward.

The main cathedral, standing in the middle of the cross section and looking forward.

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Organ, one of two.

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Oldest working mechanical clock in existence.

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Beautiful and original stain glass windows.

Beautiful and original stain glass windows.

Middle of main cathedral. The steeple was added a hundred years later and began to shift because the foundation was not able to support the weight. The reinforced the center by adding arches. You can't even tell what arches were added and which ones were original.

Middle of main cathedral. The steeple was added a hundred twenty years later and began to shift because the foundation was not able to support the weight. They reinforced the center by adding arches. You can’t even tell what arches were added and which ones were original.

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Ceiling in the office area.

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Salisbury Cathedral was built off of the backs of sheep, literally. The people of the area were very wealthy sheep owners and shipped their wool far and wide. They had so much money they were able to build this cathedral in 38 years. Amazing!

We finished the tour in the courtyard after we saw the Magna Carta, our minds spinning.

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Beautiful arches.

Beautiful arches.

This was my favorite day of the week.  Bath, Stonehenge, and Salisbury were undoubtedly spiritual experiences that we will take with us through life’s journey.

Watch for the next blog when I take you on a tour of Immortal Portals of England.