Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Family Trippin' The Grand Finale - Part 3

Day 5

Took a short drive to Scaly Mountain, NC for the Highlands Aerial Park where we did a little zip lining. I highly recommend this adventure spot for all ages. The guides were great and the scenery was bar none. This is the best zip ever and it's called the Squealing Mare Canopy Zip Line. It is 1550' long and 210' high. Pretty amazing views as you span an entire mountainside!

On the way back to The Dillard House we stopped at the Mountain Junction General Store and enjoyed a little reminiscing with a Nehi Grape Soda and Cheerwine. They also had a vintage Coca-Cola fountain bar that I was allowed to actually pretend that I was working.

Upon returning to The Dillard House we took a little tour of the RM Rose Whiskey Distillery that is located on the grounds. This was the day that I realized that whiskey isn't really my thing. It burned my throat. The Fire on the Mountain (comparable to Fireball) was the best out of all the options I sampled, but I'm thinking I will stick with the basic fountain Coke (Zero).

After we rested a bit at The Dillard House we went to The Country Cupboard for lunch for some Southern grub. Some of us went horseback riding after lunch and then we all started out on our next journey to the Cherokee Indian Reservation in NC where we attended a show in the Mountainside Theater. It was an informative show but really, just plain depressing - if you're a typical, basic caucasian American you were portrayed exactly how you should've been portrayed. We were not nice to the Native Americans. Not much more to say - it's the truth, we were awful people. On the bright side, the lightening bugs were fun!

Day 6

Woke up and headed to Unicoi State Park in Helen, GA to hike the Anna Ruby Falls with my kinfolk. We all met up with Uncle Dave and Aunt Patricia. My cousin Dan and his wife Lisa and their kids also joined us for a picnic lunch and a little outdoor excursion. The guys hiked for a long time while we played with our reverse and boomerang features on our phones. On the way back to The Dillard House we stopped one final time at Goats on the Roof and enjoyed a little more ice cream, actually a lot more ice cream. This was not a good trip to be dieting.

Day 7

Said goodbye to Nana and Poppy and headed to Helen, GA to enjoy some touristy fun. Walked around the shops in town and even found a go-kart track. Ate some German food, beer cheese and pretzels. Tried some candy at Hansel and Gretel's Candy Kitchen. It started to rain in Helen Square and that's when Aubree was offered a walk under an umbrella with an older gentleman who was a complete stranger - that made for a great laugh! After we sufficiently explored Helen we drove to Toccoa Falls, GA to see yet another waterfall.

Drove to our Airbnb to crash for the night and sleep. Day 8 consisted of driving home in lots of dreadful traffic. And, that friends, is the grand finale to a great family trippin' vacation to Georgia!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Family Trippin' to the Georgia Mountains and Gorges - Part 2

Day 3 (continued) - When we arrived at Stone Mountain in Georgia we decided to explore the park for the afternoon. Hello deer! Our first stop was the Covered Bridge and Aubree and I got this up close footage of a mama deer and her fawns.

Soon after meeting Bambi we met up with my sister and her family and explored and hiked a small area before making the big trek up Stone Mountain. It was much harder hiking up the mountain than I remember it being in high school! It made me feel better that my daughter also found it to be slightly difficult in a few spots, but the views at the top, ice cream and the sky ride back down made it all worth it. Side note: I don't know who Calvin is in the video below - haha!

Celebrating at the top of Stone Mountain

My beautiful daughter and niece enjoying the views

Aubree and Uncle Justin set up their ENOs and we all ate dinner, relaxed, shopped and played on the lawn.

Ended the night with the big laser light show - 3D Mountain Vision did not exist back in the day - so I was impressed! I can't say that my kids were as impressed, but all in all everyone had an active and fun day! Drove about 30 minutes north to our Airbnb. 

Day 4 - Left our Airbnb and ate breakfast at the Waffle House n Cornelia, Georgia. I think that was a first for me. It was just about what you would imagine it would be in, "Who knows where in the heck we are Georgia?" I enjoyed my waffle and that's all I will say about that adventure because much bigger adventures were ahead for Day 4.

Eventually, we met up with the Cobournes again, this time at Tallulah Gorge State Park! This is where we signed waivers saying that we agreed to possible death while climbing up an 800 foot mountain. I'm sure for skilled hikers this isn't a big deal. But, when your foot slips and your shoe gets wet, these rocks become slippery. After walking down a gazillion stairs and across a suspension bridge there's this....
This is where I experienced my first anxiety attack. Not really. But, my new Native American nickname is Slips on Rock.
But, the victory photo is totally worth the journey across the rocks.

This was the sliding rock, the goal of hiking into the gorge. We all took a turn sliding down the smooth rock and my son was very excited to use his new GoPro.

Franz Fam and Cobourne Clan
From slippery rocks to the Sliding Rock; the exhausting and long hike was worth it. The climb back up was not a gratifying experience for me in the slightest. I'm not even proud to say I made it up to the top. But, for the record, I made it to the top with the help of my husband, Rich. I mean look at all the warning signs at the top? Why did we have to take that trail back up? I'll never understand my crazy family or why I was sore for about 2 full days after the hike.
Warning! Warning! Warning!

After the Tallulah Gorge experience we went to Goats on the Roof in Tiger, Georgia. This little roadside novelty is famous for its goats but also for its nitro ice cream. The video explains how they make it. And the goats? Well, they were everywhere: waiting for food on the roof, behind the building, and walking over the bridge. A bicycle pulley contraption allows children to pedal an ice cream cone of goat food up to the goats on the roof for them to devour.

Real goat head to the left of sign
Traveled on to our final destination where we met my parents. The gorging continued as we enjoyed a big southern style dinner at The Dillard House Inn, took selfies with the petting zoo animals on the property and crashed for the evening.

Day 5 - Woke up bright and early and headed to Highlands, NC (only a short drive away) for a zip-line experience like no other... stay tuned for the grand finale, Part 3!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Family Trippin' to Atlanta, Georgia - Part 1

Last week of June 2017

When I was a wee little mademoiselle my parents would take my sister and me to the tiny town of Dillard, Georgia for summer vacations. Now that we have families of our own this was the summer that my parents offered to take us all to The Dillard House Inn for a few days to visit. On the way up to north Georgia we spent a little time exploring Atlanta, Stone Mountain and Tallulah Gorge. This is my documented discovery of the literal highs and lows of our family trippin'. 

Day 1 - Drove from St. Petersburg, FL to our Airbnb in the Storehouse Lofts (The Enclave at Castleberry) in a sketchy part of Atlanta, but wow the space inside the building was the ultimate bachelor pad! All four of us loved staying in the one bedroom, spacious, brick room that resembled a New Girl set times 10. The only mentionable pit stop was Magnolia Plantation in Lenox, GA. Typical gas stop with clean restrooms and an added bonus of Georgia pecan logs, cheap fountain drinks, and t-shirts. That night we went to The Varsity (61 North Ave. NW at Spring St. NW) to eat some dive type dinner food. There was a MLS Atlanta United FS soccer game that night that had just ended nearby so the place was packed out. I ate "the best" slaw dog ever that night! 

I would recommend the slaw dog!!! Not the peach pie.

After dinner we strolled through Centennial Olympic Park nearby and enjoyed the open air. Finished out the night with an ice cream cone from Googie Burger in the park (suspiciously similar in branding to the larger than life search-engine conglomerate Google). 

Centennial Olympic Park
Day 2 - Worshiped the Lord at the Church of the Apostles where Dr. Michael Youssef serves. Excellent service and fun to go somewhere different from what we are all used to. 

Headed to Fat Matt's Rib Shack to get some genuine Atlanta grub. On the Run Eatin' by N.O.R.E. (airing sometime in 2018) had just begun filming at the rib shack. This is our life. It never ceases to amaze me. So, we all signed waivers saying that we agree to let our faces be shown. Of course, my finger-lickin' chicken eating face will be visible because the N.O.R.E. crew all sat at the table right next to ours. Here's the actual food critique: the chicken was excellent! And, the sweet potato pie, rum beans and sweet tea were also on point. 

N.O.R.E. filming his new show, On the Run Eatin' at Fat Matt's Rib Shack.
The College Football Hall of Fame was the next stop on our Atlanta destination path. We all enjoyed the interactive part and the short movie. Rich decided to have some fun with the girl working the field goal kicking station. She quickly realized he was joking.

My son sizes himself up next to a real college player replica.

Next stop: The World of Coke. Two great parts about this attraction were the 4D show and the taste testing of Coke products from ALLLLL over the world! I would be remiss if I didn't admit to crying at the first Coca-Cola opener film. So touching, and if you don't cry, you don't have a heart. Memorabila, artwork and history were in every crevice of the Coke museum. Watching the manufacturing process was also interesting. The secret recipe vault is located on the premises and many stop for a photo. I would strongly advise against tasting the Beverly drink from Europe!

The people watching was bar none. I mean look at this kid?!
Day 3 - Ate at The Flying Biscuit Cafe and saw a tiny bit of Piedmont Park (which looked like a great place to spend a little more time). Breakfast was delish and I recommend checking the Flying Biscuit out for yourself. Our time in Atlanta had to come to a close as we began our journey to Stone Mountain, Georgia... Part 2. #familytrippin2017

Saturday, September 16, 2017

States I Have Visited Up To This Point

17 left to go in 5 years: #50by50 - updated 11/17


Michigan (Detroit airport only)
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
South Carolina
Washington DC
West Virginia

Friday, August 11, 2017

In My Mind I'm Going to (North) Carolina

I kicked off the summer on June 2, 2017 with a road trip! Destination C on my Google Maps App was to the #stokedtobeastoney wedding in Hendersonville, NC. Destination A was Savannah, GA and Destination B was Tybee Island, GA. My fellow mom friend and co-worker, M-Squared (that's her rapper name), joined me for this 4-day venture!

This is M-Squared, Crista and myself. Crista's daughter was the beautiful woman getting married. #stokedtobeastoney
Friday - We set out early on National Donut Day 2017 and headed up I-75N to I-95N towards Savannah, GA. Our first stop was at a Florida Citrus Center in Ocala. We had to see what all the hype (giant billboards) was about. I'm here to expose the truth about this souvenir shop on steroids! There is a giant 13-foot alligator but it is not breathing, it's stuffed! They never say LIVE gator so I'll let you decide if you want to patron a place that boasts of giant beasts... that are actually dead! It wasn't a completely worthless stop, especially if you were wanting to purchase the crucifix in a coconut shell, bags of shelled pecans, magnets, turtles and cheap mugs!

I am a TripAdvisor reviewer and categorized this next spontaneous roadside spot as a hidden gem. Tom's Cypress has been in Waldo, FL for 40 years. UF alum, Woodhawk, carves unique cypress sculptures (mostly fish and animals). I bought an angel fish in honor of my grandpa who cared for them in his fishtanks. I won't tell you about our first horrific and haunting Airbnb experience, but I will say this, "live and learn" came to mind. Ask me about it if you are a newbie Airbnber.

Walked around Forsyth Park in Savannah and ate at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room. I place this in the "MUST DO" category. Table seats 9 strangers and the food is excellent, family-style, down home Southern cooking'. The value and deliciousness is a combination that is hard to find, anywhere! It was well worth the toasty wait outside to experience what we were about to devour on the inside.

Dessert not pictured above, but was included.
Checked in at the Historic Holiday Inn, explored the City Market (I recommend a quaint little shop named Twinkle), saw a lot of historic monuments (M-Squared was a little obsessed with them), walked the Riverwalk (fireworks at 9:30 pm) and topped off the night at Corleone's Trattoria, a fantastic little Italian ristorante!

Saturday - This is the day that I first learned that there are combined Animal/People Vet Clinics. It's true! Think you have pink eye? Tybee Island in GA can help you, whether you have 2 or 4 legs. However, I suggest that you do as M-Squared did and go to a human only clinic. We did the tour of the Tybee Lighthouse and Museum. We walked the pier where a scene from The Last Song movie was filmed and learned of 4 other epic movies filmed at TI: The Spongebob Movie, The Conspirator, Dirty Grandpa and Baywatch.

After we felt we had adequately explored the island and M-Squared had tried boiled peanuts we journeyed toward Hendersonville, NC where we checked into our Airbnb. This time we were pleasantly satisfied with our home away from home and got ready to go to see our friends at the after (rehearsal) party at Habitat Brewing Tavern and Commons. From there we went to Mellow Mushroom in Asheville. Saw the filming of a new show from the makers of Bumble Bee, the Police Car and the DeLorean. It was neat (and really loud) to see the Transformers vehicles parked in front of the outdoor eating area where we sat.

Sunday - Stopped for some caffeine at Appalachian Coffee Company and enjoyed the local feel to the little coffee shop. We drove to Dupont State Forest and hiked Hooker and Triple Falls what a beautiful way to praise God for his amazing creation on a Sunday morning!

Found a place to eat lunch called HenDough Chicken & Donuts in Hendersonville. Good eats! Explored the downtown area, saw many painted bear statues and discovered Mast General Store (because of rain) for the first time. 5 stars for Mast! Got ready for the wedding and drove to Jeter Mountain Farm in Hendersonville. The venue was so stunningly magnificent I cannot begin to do it justice with words. Such a superb evening spent with the finest of people. #stokedtobeastoney

Jeter Mountain Farm in Hendersonville, NC.

Monday - Ordered a sweet and savory bagel at Joeys New York Bagels and loved every bite. Began our descent home with a quick stop in Spartanburg, SC at Glendale Shoals, a remote and scenic bridge and damn. M-Squared comparison-tasted Zaxby's vs. Chick-fil-a. We stopped at an Ingles Market and saw lots of cotton ball products for sale in SC. Nothing more to document about the long ride home, except that we arrived alive (through the rainstorms) and had an exciting time celebrating the marriage of two wonderful people who love the Lord and each other!

Glendale Shoals Damn in Spartanburg, SC.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Traveling a Triangle: 3 States in 3 Days

Traveling a Triangle: 3 States in 3 Days 
April, 2017

One of my bucket list goals is to visit all of the 50 United States by the time I am 50-years-old. When a woman’s biological travel clock is ticking, she must plan and go. I recently planned a quick four-day jaunt to Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota with my 16-year-old daughter.  This journey marked the beginning of my travel goals. Being Florida natives we had no idea what to expect on this adventure except for what I researched via the inter web. We jet-set from Florida to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Round trip Allegiant flights were cheap and flight days worked out perfectly for Thursday and Sunday.

Obama once visited Lost Nation, Iowa.

Maquoketa Caves

Our first adventure destination was the Maquoketa Caves State Park in Iowa. Driving through a Lost Nation on the way to Maquoketa (pronounced Ma-Coke-A-Da) is exactly as boring as it sounds. Don’t count on using a map app. Print directions or ask a rental car agency for a map before traversing the barren land of no cell towers. However, there was an almost mystical American beauty about the back winding country roads. We drove past endless dormant corn fields and both newly constructed and dilapidated red barns, many of which were garnished by the high flying, grand old flag. As for the caves, it’s a definite go to and must see, nothing boring about it. It's free and the natural beauty affords a peaceful calm that is priceless and majestic. Pictures can’t possibly do it justice. You need to see and feel the damp ground as you walk in semi-darkness to get to the end of the cave that is flooded with light through a large opening in the mouth of the cave.

Iowa = corn fields and barns.

Our next adventure stop was The House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin. At first, no words for this place. And then, lots of words for this place came to mind. Alex Jordan built it in 1945 and kept expanding to build what is now an enormous resort, inn, golf course and tourist attraction. There is a fee to walk the separate phases of the home. We paid for all three levels and got our monies worth. I confess that when we got to the last level we practically ran through it because we were so ready to get out of crazy town. If you're looking to laugh a lot, take some obscure pictures and make some memories, I suggest spending two or three hours here. I can't even begin to describe in words how ornately eccentric this place was but here are a few examples: Mr. Jordan designed musical instruments that automatically self-play. Not just a little banjo that picks itself but huge displays as large as a mammoth pipe organ type structure. We then walked onto an infinity (and beyond) walkway that extends out beyond the supporting rock underneath it. It gives the illusion that it goes on forever. If you're not careful it will give you a Buzz. Ha! There are collections of everything you can imagine; from guns to creepy clowns to colored glass bottles. The two largest and coolest attractions are the world's largest carousel valued at almost 5M dollars and a giant life-size indoor whale. It's remarkable, surreal and overwhelming. Go experience it and get freaked out!

To Infinity and Beyond!

Very cool life size whale built indoors.

Only one horse on the entire carousel.

The House on the Rock Weirdness

On the drive from crazy town to Madison, Wisconsin we discovered Arena Cheese Store in Arena, WI. Turns out the owner of this shop was also the inventor of Colby-Jack Longhorn cheese! We nibbled on some squeaky fresh cheese curds and kept driving until we happened upon The Shoe Box in Black Earth, WI. This was worth an hour of our time. The store was full of friendly staff, a vast selection and good deals. 
One the side of the road find.
Wisconsin's finest cheese.
That night we stayed across from the Alliant Energy Center in Madison and spontaneously decided to see what all the commotion was about in the parking lot. Turns out it was an I Love the 90's concert tour, so we decided to buy a couple of tickets and were in our seats within 10 minutes. I haven't had that much fun reliving the old days, with my teenage daughter at my side, as I did that night. She said it was weird at first and then it gave her a new appreciation for 90's music. The next morning we headed to the Madison Farmers’ Market on the Capitol Square. Lots of food trucks, crafts and farmer's produce for sale. The festivities brought an early morning energy and the market truly extended all around the entire Capitol. It was a bit crowded but a typical downtown area. 

Salt N Pepa, Tone Loc, Young MC, Color Me Badd, Coolio, Rob Base, All 4 One

Capitol Building in Wisconsin

The final phase of the trip was destination Minneapolis, Minnesota - Mall of America! Our hotel was about a 10 minute drive away. We ate in the mall at Cadillac Ranch and traversed three floors of mall for three hours. Neither of us are big shoppers and we weren't inclined to ride the roller coasters but we did want to see it all. Once we found out there is no tax on clothes we were spurred on to spend. We really had a blast people watching and were mesmerized by the enormity of it all. 

Mall of America Shopping Extravaganza

Before driving back to Cedar Rapids airport the next morning we attended Eagle Brook Church in Woodbury, MI. We enjoyed our time worshipping at this large church on Easter and found the message to be on point. The route back to the airport in Iowa was less than desirable. We were left without cell service several times and at one point our map app led us down a dirt road? Stress! I should have researched the drive from Minneapolis to Cedar Rapids better but we made it in plenty of time and didn't run into any snafus. 

Overall, traveling the triangle was more fun than we could of imagined. #IowatoWisconsintoMinnesota #50by50