We decided to take a quick trip to to Atlanta, and unfortunately for me, we are not staying anywhere near the Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant we tried the last time we came through.
We got a later start than usual; we had lunch at one of our favorite lunch stops in Pensacola, The Bangkok Garden, then got on the road. AdventureMan had a full and physically active morning, so after the first thirty minutes, I drove and he snoozed.
I love to drive while he is snoozing. It makes me feel so competent and protective, and like a full partner. He sleeps so deeply and happily, it makes me feel trusted. He sleeps like all is well with the world. He sleeps like that for two hours; fortunately I took a good look at the map and directions and managed the right turns onto the right roads.
Driving keeps me alert, and it also gives me time to think. As I am driving this time, I am thinking that I have never before seen so many cars abandoned along the highway. I know cars get a ticket, and then if they are not towed within a certain time the state confiscates them, and probably junks them. It’s not unusual to see an abandoned car now and then, but there are so many this time, so many that it catches my attention.
I worked for a while with the homeless, the less visible homeless, the ones who are not out begging on the streets or carrying their lives with them in a backpack. The homeless I worked with were those who had lost homes, and were staying with people or living out of their cars. Their situation was desperate, and their car, usually old and faltering, was critical to them working whatever small job they could find to keep going. What they earned was not enough to pay rent on any decent place, and they never earned enough to be able to save up for that first and last month’s rent required by most renters. They didn’t have a rental history or a credit history, which made them unlikely to get into housing that screened.
The cars I saw abandoned along the road looked a lot like the cars my homeless people drove. Cars on their last legs. I wondered about the people who were forced to abandon their cars, I wish them well, I hope they are able to claim and fix their car and to go on with their lives.
Or maybe, I think, maybe it is the heat. There has been a huge heat wave, following on a deluge of rain. The temperatures are in the 100′s, hotter than in Pensacola where when it gets hot – and humid – we usually have breezes coming in off the Gulf to help us cope. I remember Kuwait, where cars littered the sides of the major highways, and how heat just wore the cars out. In a country with a desperate need for air conditioning (welll, in my perception, remember I am an Alaska girl) the wiring in the cars was a constant fire hazard.
AdventureMan woke up a little outside Montgomery and we had some of our great road-trip conversations. He took over driving as we neared Atlanta; it was time for my trip-reward, I got to have a Wild Berry Smoothie from McDonalds. Yes, we have McDonalds in Pensacola. No, I do not allow myself to have a Wild Berry Smoothie often. Yes, I know they are made with “real fruit.” No, I have not checked the sugar content, I don’t want to know, but it is why I do not allow myself to have more than one every couple months. And only a small one. It keeps it special.
So I am using the iPhone and directions to navigate us through Atlanta and on to GA 400 going north, and if you know Atlanta, you will know what I am talking about. First, coming into Atlanta, we saw huge signs telling us downtown was congested – and it is drive time home, around dinner time, but fools rush in and we decided everyone else could take the ring road and our directions showed us going through central Atlanta would be the fastest.
We saw billowing flames, and smoke made it hard to see, and there was a huge, uncontained brush fire along the side of the road – the other side, thank God. Traffic on the other side was backed up and more than congested; it was at a stand still. Another mile, and now there is billowing black smoke, and I see a sight I haven’t seen since Kuwait, a big black SUV on the side of the road, totally consumed by fire, and three police cars trying to get through the backed up, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and a fire truck and an ambulance, but they can’t get through – again, on the leaving town going south side of the road, not the going north side we were on.
Then we get to a place where one major road becomes two different roads. The iPhone isn’t helping, I can’t figure out the number of the road it is that we are supposed to take, and when I try to make it bigger, nothing happens, we are underneath an overpass and I think there is a problem with reception. As soon as I tell him we are supposed to go right, we go right and then our road goes under the other road and we are going left, and the little blue ball has left the road. Fortunately, we need gas, so we get to a station and I have reception again and show AdventureMan how we have to get back on 75, to a short distance, get in the lane for 85, make a loop and end up going North again.
Thank God he had a nap! Sometimes, if it is nearing dinnertime, and we hit rush hour traffic, and I make a navigational error, we can have hurtful words, and end up not speaking for a while. He was very forgiving. We got back on 85; it was actually very exciting trying to navigate into the right lanes in a strange city where we have little experience and it’s hot and all the cars are full of people who only want to get home. Then, I also miss the right exit to get us on to GA-400 once again, but there is an alternate route showing which may actually be faster than if I had gotten it right. It takes us to the ring road and then north where we can easily get on GA-400. From there, it is easy sailing; the exits are well market and my little iPhone is performing reliably.
We found the hotel easily. I’m not going to tell you the hotel, because when we got here, we found it under renovation and the temporary lobby was full of people in all states of dress – and undress, and while the receptionist was very professional and courteous, I was not wildly happy to be staying here.
And then again . . . there are no hippos outside my window. No immense river, no Fish Eagle. It is hot, and crowded, and I don’t have Steve-the-butler soothing my spirits with a Compari and Bitter Lemon, or Victor suggesting a nice river cruise. AdventureMan kids me a little about my high expectations. It’s true. It’s true. I am missing my African adventure; I am missing Zambia.
Friday, June 8
The sun rises on our first morning in Nsefu, we eat our porridge, and we head off on a game drive with our old friend Daudi.
Our friends are off to visit Kawazaa village, warning us NOT to find lion without them, and we take off – of course, we are looking for lion! We are always looking for lion! We don’t find lion, but we find lots of raptors, the biggest eagle, cranes and herons, we watch hippos, and once back in camp, we spend hours watching the elephant families crossing the Luangwa.
As you might guess, it feels like we are eating all the time, but when we get back, we haven’t gained an ounce. I think it is because we are doing a lot of active riding; the roads are bumpy and you have to steady yourself, you are climbing in and out of the game vehicles, and there are a lot of crossings where the guide says “Hold on!” Here is Daudi, taking us across one of those river crossings:
As you can see, not every game drive stars lion, or leopard, but there are thrilling moments with birds, elephant, hippo – or crossing the river.
This is a Lillian’s Lovebird, one of my favorite birds in the world. The camps are full of them, but they are fleeting and flitting, and very difficult to capture in photos.
Morning tea at a hippo pond – you know how I love hippo:
Back at camp, it seems to be elephant river crossing day. One group will gather, and cross, while another group waits across the river. They meet and greet, and then head on their way, while another group crosses.
This group has a baby. The baby can actually walk most of the way, but when it is too deep, there is always a barrier of larger elephants on the downstream side of the baby elephant, who is holding on to Mama’s tail, and is supported from behind by another elephant.
At one point, something spooks the elephants crossing close to the dozing hippo, they start running and splashing, maybe an elephant accidentally steps on a hippo, and a loud ruckus breaks out. Elephants trumpet, hippos scold loudly. Fortunately, it is all show and no go, no real fight and no bloodshed, the elephants continue on and the hippos go back to slumber.
Our friends came back just in time for tea, and begged off the afternoon drive, saying the mating lions they had seen on the way to the village would have to be enough. They’ve been to the Kawazaa school, and to the village for lunch, visiting the clinic and even helping kill the chicken for lunch. It’s been so much fun, but also very stimulating, and they want to take a break.
Mating lions?! You saw mating lions? Let’s go see the mating lions!
Jonah found the mating lions in no time, which was a thrill, except that they had mated with such great vigor that now they were lying in sated stupor. We took some photos, but how many photos can you take of exhausted sleeping lions?
We started back, but on the river road, saw an unusual sight – lions on the river banks across the river, and a lion climbing up the bank we were on.
He wasn’t wet, but he was calling to the lion damsels across the river, and had clearly made them some promises he intended to keep.
We tracked him for a while at a distance as he gauged his chances for a safe crossing here and there, and finally, we left him with our best wishes for a safe passage to lion nirvana.
At dinner we finalized plans with Jonah for an early departure for another trip to the Chichele hot springs with hopes of finding that dark maned (older) lion Madolyn was able to photograph with her iPhone, with breakfast at the hot springs and back at Nsefu Camp noonish.
AdventureMan was perusing the Weekend Section of the Pensacola News Journal when he saw the opening of the Farmer’s Market in Foley, AL, and he said “Let’s go!”
“Let’s Go!” and my agreement doesn’t always mean we will really go. The market isn’t until 3 in the afternoon, and a lot can happen. Sometimes we just change our minds.
But at water aerobics, I get a great idea, and I can hardly wait to share it with AdventureMan.
“Let’s go to the Jordan River Cafe for their Friday buffet, then head down toward Foley through Fairhope!” He loves the idea, we run a couple errands on the way home, I call the restaurant to make sure they are still open (It’s been about a year since we last went there) and then hit the road for Mobile:
When we get to the restaurant, we discover it is no longer the Jordan River Cafe; it is now the Galilee Cafe, and I wonder if the food will still be so good as before. As we enter, we are shocked – the Cafe is PACKED. Every table is taken – no, no, there is one small table, over in the back, we can have that one, the welcoming waitress says.
Lunch was fantastic. Yes, the restaurant has changed hands; the current owner born in Bethlehem, and we are astonished and delighted to see so many people enjoying “Mediterranean” cuisine, which is suspiciously like what we used to eat in Jordan and Syria The restaurant stayed busy the entire time we were there, so busy that some people ate outside on the front terrace. The food is delicious, and worth the drive from Pensacola. The Friday buffet (and it appears they also now have a Sunday buffet) is all the usual suspects – hummous, baba ghannoush (some of the best I have tasted), tabouli, fattoush, etc. plus a lot of the home-cooked favorites, lamb, chicken, grains, beans and vegetables, pita bread – all delicious.
The first time AdventureMan went to this restaurant (as the Jordan River Cafe) he went with a Saudi buddy and his son, and he has talked ever since about the route they took, but we never knew how to find it. Yesterday, we experimented, taking a right on Azalea as we left, and driving down to Government and turning left. (These iPhones are great navigational tools) It takes you through an older part of town, with large glorious mansions, and into a rather quiet downtown Mobile.
The good news is, it takes you to another tunnel under the Mobile Bay, closely paralleling the one I-10 uses. We like to have an alternative; I-10 can get clogged going through Mobile. This route serves our purposes as it is Highway 98, and it is the road we want to be on to get to Fairhope and then to Foley.
It is a lovely day for a drive, and while we have taken this drive before, it is never the same twice in a row. As we are on the stretch between Fairhope and Foley, the clouds darken and a few stray drops fall.
“That wasn’t bad!” I said as we arrived in Foley, promptly at three for the opening of the Farmer’s Market. “Great parking, too!”
We got as far as the first booth, which was soaps and toiletries (I love hand made soaps) and AdventureMan walked off to explore the rest of the stalls – and the torrent broke forth. Rain came down in buckets, and lightning came, crackling and booming, one strike after another. It never lasts very long here, so I thought we would just wait it out. The wind is blowing the rain under the canopy, so we gather up all the soaps to try to keep them dry, and we wait. And we wait. AdventureMan comes back, soaked; the wind has blown the rain under his umbrella. We wait another five minutes, and then everyone is starting to pack up – and I never made it beyond the first stall! We quickly made our purchases, ran to the car, and drove home mostly without air conditioning because we were so soaked and shivering.
The Farmer’s Market is held on Friday afternoons, 3 – 6 pm, in Heritage Park:
It was a great adventure Thank you, Google Maps, for making it so easy to share the small adventure with our friends.
Every now and then pure unexpected magic happens, a blessing, pure grace. Every now and then you make a stop and all the right things happen.
We had not enjoyed our breakfast the previous morning at the Far View Lodge, so we decided to get on the road early, and find a place to eat on the road. We were up and out by seven, and it took about half an hour just to get off the mesa and down to the main road. Once we hit the main road, we start looking for a good place to stop.
We see a sign: The Absolute Bakery in Mancos, Colorado, just turn right at the next stop light.
We turn right. We find the bakery, which looks cute from the outside:
And then we found a place to park, in front of a Hat-Maker’s Shop guarded by a beautiful long-haired cat. For me, the magic has already started. Did you even know of a hat maker anymore? I thought they had all disappeared:
As we walked into the Absolute Bakery, we were enticed with smells, the odor of break baking with cinnamon, the fragrance of freshly brewed coffee, bacon frying . . . and inside, it is homey, and welcoming, and you are warmly welcomed, and we just feel so glad to be there on this sunny morning when we have so far to drive . . .
The breakfasts are delicious, and as we eat, the bakery fills up, travelers, locals, families . . . it has the feel of a place we would like to live, a community, people who know each other.
You know how it is sometimes when you have so much to do, and you really need to get started? As we paid for our breakfast, instead of getting on the road, we dawdled. We picked out cookies for the road – I had the most huge delicious macaroon I have ever had, just a bite now and then, and it lasted all the way to Amarillo. We got to talking with travelers headed the direction we had come from, just strangers crossing paths, but it was a great conversation, and we hated to pull ourselves away, to get back to the serious business of driving.
Lunch was OK. It was BBQ, but someone forgot our order, so we lost some time:
To add insult to injury, not only is it a long day on the road, but we also loose an hour, so we get in even an hour later than we would have. As we near the border, I am watching my phone to see if I can see the change, but it happened about six miles before the border and I missed it. AdventureMan’s on the same system, but his phone changed a little later.
The morning drive was mostly through the Navajo nation and backroads, full of ranches and horses and some drama. The afternoon, on Interstate 40, was just boring, with an occasional moment of hilarity:
What can you imagine would use a tire that big?
We have reservations in Amarillo, and by the grace of God, our hotel is just off the highway, and my little iPhone tells us exactly how to get there. We hit the pool, and get some exercise. We split the last apple and some trail mix for dinner – we are still full from breakfast at the Absolute Bakery!
While I was on vacation, I got a message on my iPhone from Best Buy telling me I had won their monthly drawing for $1000. Since I had made a purchase from Best Buy and filled out a survey, it was possible.
So, first thing on getting home, AdventureMan and I hit BestBuy to find out if I was indeed a winner. I will confess, I believed I was. I wanted to give the $1000 to AdventureMan to buy a new laptop.
“Oh! You got the message that you had won a thousand dollars?” the Customer Service representative laughed! “It’s a SCAM! If you go to the website, it looks like Best Buy, but it’s not. They ask you to enter all kinds of information so they can send you your gift card, but they use that information to establish a credit card for someone who is not you!”
I am glad I did not go to that website. I wish I had won a thousand dollars.
It was also a good lesson. I really wanted to believe I was a winner, and that disposed me to believe that the message was true. It was only that inner cynic, deep within, that warned me to check it out with Best Buy first.
This is a shakedown trip for the new iPad. I love the way it travels, and that it is bigger than an iPhone for picking up e-mail, and I have a keyboard, so I can write.
It is a lot harder to blog. It is harder to crop and manipulate photos, it is harder to integrate the photos into my blog entries. It was so much more difficult that I just didn’t do it. I had a lot of ideas and a lot of photos, but not enough time (you know how it is when you are traveling) to figure out how to get the job done.
AdventureMan very generously offered to let me use his computer to upload my photos and integrate them into blog entries. Thank you, AdventureMan!
“Think you can move on?” AdventureMan asks me, and no, no, I am not ready to move on. I am still mad. So I am going to tell you about it so it will not happen to YOU, and then I will move on.
Outside of Carlsbad, I used my handy-dandy iPhone to find out if there were any Marriott Hotels in Carlsbad, and there was a Fairfield Inn and Suites, one of the Marriott Brands. We like Marriotts. We like their culture of CLEAN and SERVICE.
So I googled “Fairfield Inn and Suites in Carlsbad, NM” and wow, there was a phone number! I called the number, but when the lady answered, it was all sort of scratchy, maybe we had bad reception . . . or something. Anyway, I told her I was a Marriott Rewards customer and we wanted a room at the Fairfield Inn and we would be there in about an hour. She said “Oh so sorry, there are no more rooms at the Fairfield Inn. We can find you a room somewhere else, in fact, it is the last room in town, everything else has been snapped up.”
This has happened to us before, when we were heading into Louisiana, and every Marriott we walked into was fully sold out because of “the convention” or some such, and once before when the area had been hit by a tornado and the hotels were full with people living there.
So we said “Oh! What is the room?” and she told us about a nice room at a hotel we had never heard of and it was the last room left, did we want it? So we said ‘yes’ and gave her our credit card number to reserve it. When we got to the hotel, the desk clerk gave us a receipt for forty dollars less than the person I had called had said it would cost, so I asked about it, and was told I had gone through a booking agent who charged $40. I was livid. I checked again on the iPhone, and sure enough, the small print was some website – NOT the Marriott, even though the header was Fairfield Inn – Carlsbad, NM. Oh arrgh.
Here is what makes me so mad. I think they deliberately deceived me. I kept telling them how we loved Marriotts, thinking I was talking with Marriott people, and assuming they were helping me out because they were full, finding me this other booking. OK, OK, my bad, yes, probably the reason I am partly angry is that I am angry at myself for being so easily taken, but I was. Totally taken.
The room was nice enough, but I am willing to bet there would have been a room at the Fairfield Inn. I think this booking lady lied to me about the Fairfield Inn being full, and I know she lied about this being the last room in town – we could have gotten a room just about anywhere, and a lot cheaper.
Yes. I am embarrassed. That’s why I am writing this, so it won’t happen to you. Check whether the web site is the chain you are calling or a booking agency.
I don’t have any problems with a booking agency when I know it is a booking agency – like in Fredericksburg, the agency that handled all the B&B’s. That’s all aboveboard. It’s when you think you are calling a certain hotel or chain and they let you keep thinking that, oh, it makes me so mad.
OK, now I am moving on.
About a year ago, I finally bought an iPhone. It could do so many things, it scared me, but when my little (then) 18 month old grandson fearlessly showed me how to play Tozzle, and Zombies in the Garden, and Angry Birds, I knew it was time for me to step up my game.
I don’t want my identity stolen, I don’t want Google tracking my searches, I don’t want targeted advertising, so I’ve been really careful about what I do. And then I though about the CIA. The CIA and NSA (aka No Such Agency) and several other highly technical services find themselves inundated with so much information these days that they have a harder time sorting it and then determining what is important and what is not. That gives me hope. I’m just not that important. Who would want to track me?
So, after a year, I finally synched my iPhone with my computer for the first time. Very scary. Then, when it didn’t work, I don’t know why, I restored the original settings, losing what little I had stored on the phone, but it wasn’t much.
Mostly, I like ringtones. I like for the people who call me regularly to have identifiable ring tones, and I have been really happy with the ones I have except for my daughter-in-law, I wanted an Edith Piaf song for her, and I never could find it.
Today, I girded my loins and bought a ring tone from a non-iTunes provider. Yes. Scary. And I thought it would magically go straight to my phone, but no, I had to download it, save it into iTunes, then synch my phone.
Earlier, I had taken another giant step and subscribed to “the Cloud” so, I thought, my computer, iPad and iPhone would all have the same music, but as it turns out, not everything goes to the cloud, like ringtones that you don’t buy from iTunes. So I had to risk everything and Synch again. It warned me that I could lose everything! I hesitated, then asked “what would I do if I were 11?” and pressed Synch. Woooo HOOOO, oh, the exhilaration!
There are some things I don’t want my devices to share, like financial information, etc. I don’t really want something like my iPhone, which gets carried everywhere and has the highest probability to get lost or stolen (although I have activated the Find My iPhone program, too). It’s a good think it’s not all-or-nothing, but it takes a longer time when you want some things but not others.
Now, I am all synched-up, and oh, I feel so dramatically technological, as I jump into last years technology. I know that my problem is over-thinking; the secret is to just jump in, just do it. I am just so thankful I have a son and a grandson to help me make the technology leaps.
“OK, but I want to eat lunch at Clementine’s,” I replied, as AdventureMan is scheduling some Cajun Country Swamp Tours for the afternoon and the next day. We drive back into New Iberia, and make sure we are going in the right direction on the one-way Main Street, only to discover Clementine’s is closed on Monday. Oh, Aarrrgh.
But I love my iPhone. I love it because I can put in an address, and it shows me how to get there, when to turn, where we are . . . I love it. I love it because I can put in “great food in New Iberia” and up comes names – and ratings. The highest rating other than Clementine’s is a place called Bon Creole, and it is on the one way street, St. Peters, going in the opposite direction of Main Street, so we turn around and head back in the other direction.
We are HUNGRY. So when we miss it the first time, and have to go around the block, AdventureMan says “I think I saw it, but it looked closed.” I think I saw it, too, but it looked . . . like some dive. As we come around the second time, we see a button-down-shirt-and-chinos kind of guy coming out, so we know it must be open, and he looks like a working local, not some tourist like us. And did I mention we are hungry? We decide to give it a try.
You walk in and order at the counter. I can’t say we got a warm welcome. The woman behind the counter wasn’t rude, she was just working hard, and there really wasn’t a smile. I ordered the daily special, but it was already gone. “OK,” I say, “I’ll take the gumbo, and some potato salad.”
“Potato salad comes with it.” She doesn’t even look up from writing down the order. So far, we are not encouraged, but there are a goodly amount of customers inside, and as we wait for our food, we get to listen in on all the town gossip, which is not unlike town gossip in most towns, who drinks too much, who is going out on who, and can you imagine someone wearing that to church?
Our food arrives, a bowl of gumbo, a bowl of rice and a bowl of potato salad, plastic utensils.
And then, with the first bite, everything changes.
“Oh, WoW!” I say, and my eyes open wide. “Wow!”
AdventureMan is having the same experience. “This is REALLY good!” he says.
We are quiet now, eating this totally delicious seafood gumbo. We are both busy trying to figure out how they made it taste so seafood-y, lots of shrimp, maybe some crab, but the gumbo itself, essence of shellfish, it is SO good.
What if we had judged by the exterior and had ended up in some plastic and mediocre place? What if we had missed this totally awesome seafood gumbo? This gumbo was seriously GOOD.
If you find yourself in New Iberia, hungry and looking for some seriously good gumbo, here is where to find Bon Creole:
Bon Creole also has a lot of fried dishes; we were just looking for something not-fried, but if you like fried, you too will like Bon Creole.
One last entry from our recent trip, a happy ending to a happy trip. This is how sweet my husband is to me.
We find Pensacola a very comfortable place to be, and have only found two things lacking. There is no Macy’s, and I do like Macy’s. There are no Ethiopian restaurants, (remember, I just read Cutting for Stone) and we like Ethiopian food. We know Atlanta has both, so we plotted our return trip with a just-enough-time-for-Ethiopian-food-and-shopping.
Isn’t life funny and wonderful? We know Atlanta has Ethiopian restaurants – several – because an almost-niece who has worked in Ethiopia lives in Atlanta, and could recommend several. Using the handy iPhone, we found a Marriott Residence Inn hidden away in a quiet neighborhood near Macy’s and not far from the Queen of Sheba. Although the hotel was full, they had a wonderful room for us, with a view of downtown Atlanta:
We found the phone number for the Queen of Sheba, called – and they were open for lunch!
When we got to the plaza where the Queen of Sheba was located, we just laughed. We were back in Kuwait!
Nights and weekends, they have jazz and lively evenings:
We ordered the Vegetarian mix, a variety of Ethiopian vegetable/legume based dishes, a variety of tastes and heat, served on Injera, the large, pancake-like bread. When it came, it was beautiful, and it tasted as good as it looked. They gave us a tray of extra injera, and we ate almost all of it!
It was so good. SO good. We decided we would go back for dinner, after shopping. AdventureMan took me to Macy’s, and only called me twice in the hours I was looking and trying on.
Here’s the problem. I have a style, but I am terrified someone is going to recommend me for What Not to Wear, so I try to find a couple little things now and then to update my look. I have a tactic: take armsfull of clothes into the dressing room. Try on quickly. You usually can tell immediately.
Here is what you hear. “No.” “Oh, NO!” “No” “No” “No” “Hmmm, maybe” “no” “Holy Smokes, NO!” “Hmmm, maybe” etc. Then I try on the maybes, and out of twenty or thirty items, I might come out with one or two. Some young styles are just too young, some skirts just too short, some camis just too revealing. I don’t want to be one of those pathetic older women trying to be hot, I just want to look decently attractive, that’s the goal.
Meeting up hours later with AdventureMan (I know, I know, I owe him big time for this) we laugh to discover we are neither of us hungry for dinner. We decide to go back to the hotel, but dinner time comes and we are still so full from lunch that we can’t consider dinner. Even though the dishes were vegetarian, that injera must have swelled in our bellies. We can’t eat another bite!