Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Covid Conversation

It’s been an interesting week. Last week, there was no swimming. It was a welcome break in terms of sleep; no alarm, being lazy (LOL, being lazy is sleeping until 0600 instead of 0530) taking a walk now and then when I needed movement . . .

It was also handy because at my annual skin scan, my adorable dermatologist wrinkled her brow as she looked at me through her magic magnifier and said “Oh! we need to take care of THAT!” and THAT was prominently on my cheek.

(A brief aside because I cannot resist – when I was shown to the exam room, the tech asked if I wanted a gown and I said yes, and then, not being a smart-mouth but because I wanted to understand, I asked “What is the alternative? Like I stand here naked? Do people do that?” Sometimes I really am a stranger in my own land, and maybe I’ve missed some growing lack of self-consciousness? The tech laughed and said “No, there are people who will NOT take their clothes off!” I tried to comprehend that and totally failed. “So what’s the point of a skin scan?” I asked, “How can they be examined?” The tech said “We pull at their clothes a little and look underneath, but yeh, it’s not complete.” Totally boggled my mind.)

I have never been so happy about masking in my life. Having a big crispy spot about the size of a quarter on my cheek makes me feel like a teen-ager again, like every eye will be fixed on my boo-boo.

With my mask covering my big blotch, I got my second COVID vaccination. Yes, I might be suggestible, and then again, I am not a big baby, but my arm was sore almost immediately. By evening, I had chills so bad I was taking hot baths to feel warm enough. I had a headache just between my two eyes, and I was SO tired. The next day, I felt the same. Finally, the second night, I took an Aleve and slept wonderfully. The next morning, I was fine.

So I really needed the week off from swimming. One funny thing about the COVID vaccination, and again, who knows, it may be in my mind, but all of a sudden I have a sharp sense of smell again. It comes from my father’s side of the family, some of us have it and some of us don’t, but I think it had faded, and right now, it is noticeably back again, and oh, what joy it brings me.

So all the health drama is over now, I am back at swimming, and we continue to have work done to make our house safer and more energy efficient. A roof inspector, seeing our stack of photo albums (labeled Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, etc.) asked us if we had ever been to Alaska, and that started a great conversation, one we are hearing over and over as more people get vaccinated.

“We’ve decided we don’t want to wait any longer. We don’t know how many good years we have left. We are going to travel now, while we can,” he said.

He and his wife want to see Alaska. They want to see France. We had a great conversation, and I sent him some information by e-mail.

COVID has had its gifts, and awareness is one of them. Couple after couple have told us the same thing, this feeling of urgency to do it now, while we can.

We have four trips booked. One, a passage from Japan through Kamchatka and the Aleutians and the Alaskan Gulf, we’ve had booked for over a year. Another is a trip which COVID cancelled, but we want to do it and have scheduled it again. Another is coming up soon, a trip with our family to New Orleans, where we will continue to socially distance in a VRBO near Magazine, near the Audubon Zoo, near the Saint Charles trolley and several of our favorite restaurants with our family, and one back out to Yellowstone and Glacier, staying in cabins, mostly with kitchens. We’re good with take-out; in fact we’ve grown to really like it.

Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite

It’s not a hardship for us. We are introverts. We travel quietly. We stop and observe. I take photos. At night, I write reviews and research possibilities for the next day’s route. Part of the fun I have in life is finding really fun places to stay, some of which, like El Tovar at the Grand Canyon, or Ahwahnee in Yosemite, (LOL, “Yo! Semite!”) have to book far in advance, like sometimes a year out or more. Right now, several of the most popular cruises are already booked in 2021 and 2022 by people a lot like us, yearning to be back out on the road.

El Tovar Hotel, Grand Canyon

People in Florida are concerned about another wave of COVID following Spring Break. I am thinking here we are, all eager to get back on the road, us restless Boomers, and we’ve forgotten the pounding compelling imperatives of youth – meeting, mating, maybe even committing. But that’s another conversation . . .

March 13, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Fitness / FitBit, Health Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Departing Apalachicola via Hurricane Michael

Our last day in Apalachicola, we have a leisurely breakfast, cooking up the last of the eggs, using up cream for coffee, milk, we pack up the rest and hit the road.

Today we are going back through some of the hardest hit territory when Hurricane Michael hit. 1t is hard to believe how much damage still exists, and hard to see the trees broken off like toothpicks, the utter lack of tree cover in some areas. Equally unbelievable is the re-building boom going on in this hurricane-prone part of the Gulf. A lot of money going in; I hope they are using steel beam construction and the highest quality prevention.

Mexico Beach

Tyndall AFB

Calloway, FL outside Panama City, FL

Slowly, slowly, people are hauling away the signs of damage and repairing, but there is still a shocking amount of visible damage remaining, and a lot of work to do.

February 5, 2021 Posted by | Community, Hurricanes, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Renovations, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , , | 3 Comments

Family Coastal Restaurant, Eastpoint

After walking on the beach, we had a great appetite, so we were delighted to come across Family Coastal Restaurant, with all kinds of people parked in front. We could tell this was a popular place to gather on a Sunday morning, and it had an outdoor deck with no one on it.

Occasionally AdventureMan will read a post and remember our experience differently. This is the last time we ate in a restaurant, although I maintain we were not IN the restaurant, and AdventureMan maintains we had to walk through the (admittedly, very crowded) restaurant to get to the outdoor, screened deck, and that the servers did not wear masks, even though we did.

You know how you can tell how other people are thinking by how they look at you. Most of the camouflage-dressed hunters and local people crowded in the waiting area to have an indoor table found our mask wearing somewhere between amusing and incomprehensible.

AdventureMan reminds me how the unmasked server got right up next to me to point out something on the menu (I didn’t notice and it didn’t bother me). While we were waiting for our food, a couple other couples joined us, socially distanced, on the outdoor deck. Inside the restaurant, there was an open salad bar and tables packed closely together, and lots of happy chatting going on table to table; they all seemed to know each other and this was a local gathering place.

I was delighted the server told me that I could have my oysters grilled, as opposed to deep fried, so I ordered them with cheese grits and steamed vegetables. The oysters were OK. I ate a bite of the grits, and most of the vegetables. The hush puppies were delicious. I envied AdventureMan his meal.

Below is AdventureMan’s fried oysters, fried okra, fried onion rings and fried hushpuppies. It all looked so good, and being a generous hearted man, he shared one of the fried oysters with me. Mine didn’t take up much room on my plate . . . Fried food, when done right, just looks so appetizing . . .

When we left, it was even more crowded than when we arrived.

February 5, 2021 Posted by | Community, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Pilgrimage to St. George Island from Apalachicola

A very short drive from Apalachicola, but a whole different world. Cross two amazing bridges/causeways which are an adventure in themselves, so beautiful, so wonderfully engineered. We are always in awe of what it takes to connect dry land over a lot of water, and how really smart people can also figure out how to generate electricity, maintain the equipment, and bring it to far flung locations.

Moody sunrise

Headed out of Eastpoint toward St. Georges

Coming into St. Georges

We drove all through St. Georges; we stayed her once when our son was a student at FSU but it all looks entirely different now. Finally, we get to our favorite part, the beach at the far eastern end of the island. You can park and walk even further east, or west, or whatever you like. There are few people there on this sunny cool day, and it is a glorious day for a long walk.

Day tripper friendly

Shell heaven! Piles of shells everywhere!

Wind patterns on the sand

What is the beach without some surf?

Surf, sand, shells and sun; we are as happy as we can be. No masks on the beach, no need, few people and far apart. It is a glorious day.

More wind/sand patterns because I am a dork who cares about these things . . .

This was a great part of our get-away.

February 5, 2021 Posted by | Beauty, Cultural, Exercise, Geography / Maps, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Spiritual, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Sunset and Gibsons in Apalachicola

We arrive back in Apalachicola mid-afternoon, relaxed, happy – and ready for a nap. Apalachicola is full of people. We know from experience that many of the people are day trippers, and by late afternoon they will be gone. Hey – it’s a get-away. A vacation. Naps are not just allowed, they are encouraged.

We already know where dinner will come from and that we won’t eat there. The Gibson was recently featured in Garden and Guns magazine as THE place to stay in Apalachicola. It is semi-Victorian, each room is different, it has a lively bar scene and a good restaurant. Under other conditions, a fun place to stay, but in the time of COVID, maybe not so much.

They are doing a lot of expanding, and renovating, and this is a great time to be doing it, before the great onslaught of people breaking free from travel restrictions. Actually, as AdventureMan is picking up dinner, he hears the desk clerk telling someone at the desk, “it is our last room, and it is on the third floor.” So much for travel restrictions.

I had the New Orleans BBQ Shrimp, an appetizer, and the Caesar salad. AdventureMan also had the BBQ shrimp and something else. The shrimp were good, the salad was not great and we can’t remember what else we had. Things rarely taste as good in take-out containers as they do in plates, so not the Gibson’s fault.

On this night, I also got a sunset photo:

So you could see a little piece of our hotel 🙂

February 5, 2021 Posted by | Beauty, Character, Food, Health Issues, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Sunsets, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Highway 98 back to Apalachicola

This is a beautiful drive, it never gets old.

My friends have fishing camps and hunting camps; some of the fishing camps you can fish from the porch, just like the fishing camps along the Dordogne and the Gironne in France. I think some of the hunting camps double as venues for poker games and some serious drinking.

When I was a little girl in Alaska, bear were serious business, and every Alaskan child learned early to make noise, not to run and never never never to get between a mama bear and her cubs. I can imagine a Florida bear is a nuisance, getting into garbage and tormenting the dogs, but I haven’t heard of a human being having a problem with a Florida bear, other than hitting them on the highways.

All along this route we see some serious money going in. Some is Florida people, building their dream home in a beautiful, if dangerous (hurricane) location. Others are people sick of the snow and ice and cold of the north, building their more modest retirement homes or sheltering in trailer (caravan) villages. This very pretty little village is Carabelle, just east of Tate’s Hell State forest. (I just love that name, LOL)

February 4, 2021 Posted by | Alaska, Biography, Community, Hurricanes, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Hamaknockers and We Exercise Bad Judgement

Have you ever noticed bad judgement happens in bunches? Like you can be really good for a long long time and once you let loose, even just a little, your self-discipline just goes to hell?

It’s all Hamaknocker’s fault.

So for the third time, we are choosing to eat inside a restaurant where not everybody is wearing masks, and how can you wear a mask while you are eating? We do manage to sit apart from the other customers dining in.

Now . . . more bad judgement.

We ordered platters. I ordered the chicken, and it was a lot. I also ordered applesauce, because I don’t see that on the menu often, and it was really, really delicious. I think it must have had a LOT of sugar in it.

AdventureMan ordered the pork, and there was a lot of pork, too.

So this was the really really bad part. We had a refrigerator back at our hotel, and it is a cold day. We COULD safely take extra food back to the hotel and enjoy it later.

We did not.

We ate the whole thing.

Hamaknockers is what we call Michelin Red R cuisine – really good local food at reasonable prices.

February 4, 2021 Posted by | Cooking, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Thousands of Ducks in Saint Marks National Wildlife Refuge

It’s an easy drive from Apalachicola, and we also have an agenda; we remember a particularly good barbecue restaurant not far from Saint Marks.

The drive is beautiful. It is still early, but getting toward mid-morning, so it is warming up. We are dressed for the cold; it is also windy so the chill just goes right through your clothes. You have to have a lot of clothes, in layers, or you are too cold to walk.

We stop on the way so I can take a photo.

As I step out of the car, and start walking on the grassy roadside toward the bulkhead, I suddenly step into a deep hole. The grass is just a cover, and the ground underneath is eroding. I managed to stay upright, but it was awkward.

That’s where I stepped.

Saint Marks had a couple heron, an egret here and there, a couple pelican, the St. Mark’s lighthouse, and a million ducks. If you have never read Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach Book Series, this is the area and lighthouse I picture when we first enter the alternate world in Annihilation.

We walked a couple miles around the various ponds, and it is hard to envision just how many ducks there are in this protected area.

We found gardens of these empty oyster shells; they were beautiful.

We are happy with our walk, but we are cold, and we are getting hungry! On the way into the park, we passed the BBQ restaurant and it is open. Off we go.

February 4, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Birds, Exercise, Geography / Maps, Road Trips, Travel | | 3 Comments

Settling In to Apalachicola

Prior to Hurricane Michael, Apalachicola had a long history as home to some of the most delicious oysters in the world. Mountains of oyster shells like this were iconic Apalachicola scenes.

Apalachicola is a great little town for walking. There is a downtown with cute shops, there is a grocery store, there are several good restaurants, and lots of parking. We check in to our hotel, we take a long walk, we decide to eat early. Yes, another restaurant, but it is early and nearly empty. We find another isolated table.

The focus is definitely on drinks.

The food was OK.

We left as more people started coming in.

You can rent these houseboats for an Apalachicola stay right on the water.

I am losing the light when we come across a large pick-up full over the brim with duck decoys. The next morning, I could hear shots going off all over the estuary as hunters brought down the migrating ducks.

February 4, 2021 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Hotels, Living Conditions, Photos, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | | Leave a comment

En Route to Apalachicola

We’ve been so good. We haven’t traveled. We haven’t gathered with our friends, with our book clubs, with our church, well, not very much. We stay masked, most of the time, even with our grandchildren. We’ve had zero colds and zero flu this year, while trying to avoid COVID.

And we needed a break.

How can we do it safely, we asked ourselves. If you are reading this blog, which is a resource for travelers, I am imagining you ask the same questions. How do responsible people travel in this time of COVID?

First, I have to be frank. We are not entirely responsible. I swim at the Y three days a week. If I walk in and there are too many people, especially young people, in there, breathing, I turn around and walk out. I’ve only had to do it twice. Most days I feel safe, and another truth is, I really need to swim for my physical and mental health.

We are also risk takers, always have been, but we try to calculate our risks. So, you’ve been warned, we are not entirely safe all the time. We calculate our risks. We balance our risks.

We really needed a getaway, and we have recently sold a house so we needed a getaway and a celebration.

We usually go to Apalachicola once a year, but we haven’t been for three years now. Apalachicola has a very low rate of transmission, on the COVID map, and the place we stay is more like a residence, and very clean. I call our visits pilgrimages, because we “worship” at the nature parks of St. Marks, St. George Island, and St. Vincent. (I am making a little joke, here.)

We love Panama City beach, and I have a yen for a schnitzle, but when we get to the German restaurant, it has become a seafood restaurant. We decide we want grilled oysters, and we know another really good restaurant, but when we get there it is closed for renovations.

So we stop here:

My husband went in to ask if we can eat there if we are not bikers, and if they have grilled oysters. The very kind waiter said we could eat there, but he would recommend our going to another nearby place if we want oysters.

Dat Cajun Place is near the little Mom-and-Pop hotel we love, the Sunset Inn, but we’ve never eaten there. Today is the day. Another first for us, we are eating in a restaurant . . .

It’a big inside, so although no one is wearing a mask – NO one – we find an isolated table.

Our waiter did wear a mask. He was very kind, very gracious.

We decided to share a dozen grilled oysters. I adore grilled oysters, and they are so rich that six is always mre than enough for me. AdventureMan could eat more, but he defers to me for his own good health. I barely remembered to take the photo before they were all gone.

I had two sides; the Cajun Potato Salad and the greens. O M G those greens. Maybe it was really grilled bacon with greens . . . they were spicy and a little vinegar-y and full of bacon and with the oysters and potato salad, my life was complete.

We thought we had asked for jalepenos as a side for the oysters, but we got a big platter of deep fried jalepenos. I would NEVER order deep friend jalepenos, and they were fabulous, served with remoulade, oh heaven.

AdventureMan found his own bliss with a gorgeous Oyster Poor Boy, one of the best ever, he claims.

This was a great stop.

February 4, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Health Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment