Jolley Trolley

After living in the Tampa Bay area for the last 15 years, I finally took the time and rode the Jolley Trolley.  I mentioned the Trolley in my last post, when I finally made it over to Clearwater Beach.  I was going to try it yesterday, but the timing didn’t pan out, so I drove up to Dunedin to catch it, since Dunedin lies in the approximate middle of the Coastal Route.



I decided to try and start on the Northbound route, which took me up to Tarpon Springs, which Mom and I visited when we came home for my doctor’s appointment in August.  Since it was one of the first runs of the morning, the trolley was pretty empty.  That gave me my choice of seats (so I snagged a window).  Then, we were off to Tarpon Springs.



Since I’ve already talked about Tarpon Springs, I won’t go into details, but it was nice to be able to get off and stretch my legs.  I walked around for a little bit, but my main goal today was to ride the Trolley all the way, so I hopped back on and headed south to Clearwater.


Also already talked about, but once again, Florida was showing off her beauty, so I had to snap a few shots as the Trolley rolled from North Clearwater Beach to South, over a causeway.


I snapped one more shot before deciding to call it a day, though I could have easily kept on the trolley for hours.


For $5, you can ride all day and get off and on as many times as you wanted.  You can stop for lunch on the beach, head back up to Tarpon Springs for dinner and still be able to ride until the last Trolley goes to bed.  I’m glad I was finally able to get to do this Clearwater staple and highly recommend it for anyone who wants to see these areas without having to shell out for gas.


Weeki Wachee Springs-Home of Florida’s Mermaids

This morning, we headed down the road about half an hour from Crystal River, to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.  Weeki Wachee is a Seminole phrase for Winding River and is an appropriate name.  The river winds down into the Gulf of Mexico from a deep spring that remains a constant 74 degrees year round and is 99.8% pure water.  The attraction was established in 1947 by former frogman Newt Perry, who took his Navy diving knowledge and taught young women how to use hoses to breathe underwater, becoming mermaids.  It was a privately owned attraction until the state of Florida took over operations in 2008, turning it into a state park.



With the holiday season upon us, we opted to get there early so we could see the early show of the mermaids.  There is also a water park attached to the main attraction, which is included with your admission.


Mom thinks she missed her calling and should have been a mermaid herself.


But it was time to watch the professional mermaids make breathing underwater look easy.



It can take quite a bit of time to learn how to swim in the mermaid fins and breathe through the hose, as well as learning how to go up, down, sideways and all the other tricks they perform underwater in front of a theater that can hold up to 500 people.



After being thoroughly impressed with the performance of the mermaids, we decided to take the 25 minute boat trip up the river that feeds out from the springs where the mermaids perform.


Florida state law prohibits the touching or feeding of manatees and Weeki Wachee made sure to reinforce that information in the nicest way possible.


No manatees were in the Weeki Wachee today, but the ride was still nice and we got to view some Florida flora.



Upon disembarking, we ran into the other creature that Weeki Wachee is known for: their wild peacocks.  One decided to go on full display.


Then he decided we needed to see what the back of the feathers looked like.


The admission is very reasonable, at $13 per adult, children ages 6-12 are $8 and anyone under 6 is free.  The ticket includes all the shows as well as admission to the water park, Buccaneer’s Bay.  The mermaid shows do change and can be cancelled due to weather.  This is Florida, after all.  This state park is a good glimpse back at ‘Old Florida’.  It really is some place that should be experienced if you’re ever on Florida’s Nature Coast.

Murchison Rogers Park


In El Paso, there is a drive, known as Scenic Drive, that takes you up to a small park where you can see the city and all the way to Mexico.  That park is named Murchison Rogers Park, but if you ask the locals, they only know it as Scenic Drive Park.  A bit off I-10, which cuts through the center of town, you wind up a mountain road at 25 mph.  We happened to come into El Paso during a cold front, so the clouds were pretty thick.



The drive reminded us of winding up to Mesa Verde or through the Hot Springs mountains.  Luckily, Red Rover is so used to these kinds of drives, he didn’t balk once.




An interesting, uninterrupted view of our neighbor to the south, the drive is fun and the view unequaled.  I wish my pictures did it justice, but I’ll admit I didn’t take many because it was 50 degrees and the wind was blowing.  What?  I lived in Florida for nearly 15 years.  My blood is thin and 50 degrees is way too cold for little ole me!  Still, a beautiful sight.

Why We Travel

People have asked if we have a reason behind our travels.  Normally we just call it an ultimate bucket list trip, but there’s a bit more behind it.

Growing up, my parents made sure we went ‘somewhere’ during our summer breaks.  Even if it was just a drive up to the Shenandoah Parkway or a trip to Virginia Beach, they made certain we didn’t just sit in Richmond (Virginia) all the time.  I think it is in our genes, as Mom lived in Minnesota most of her life, then moved to California with her parents, then Oregon then after my older brother and I were born, moved once again to Virginia.  Dad went even farther, being from Los Angeles, but living all over the place after he got out of the Army, before settling in Virginia.  And having done our family tree, the rest of our ancestors were travelers too.  When we were all adults, my folks moved to Florida, so we followed them.  For some of us, Florida felt like home.  Others moved back to Virginia.

During the last 15 or so years, medical problems began to pop up.  I got breast cancer for the first time the year before we moved to Florida.  Finished treatment with Mom and Dad by my side the entire time, then Mom and Dad went back to traveling, including a 80 day cruise around Europe and RVing around the country.  Then, after several years in Florida, Dad got diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disease.  Fast forward a few months and he and I were back in the hospital, him for complications from the auto-immune disease, me with breast cancer again.  We both got better, though Dad continued his fight with his chronic disease.  Then, in August of 2015, we lost my dad.  This hit Mom hard.

Six months later (April 2016), I was back in the hospital.  Come to find out, all those treatments for breast cancer did a number on my heart.  I now have congestive heart failure along with a few other issues.  But, after 3 months of treatment, we got my heart back up to the low end of normal and my cardiologist said I was good to travel.  This is when we did our prequel trip.  We figured out we really enjoyed traveling together.  Oh, sure we have our spats.  I mean, you’re traveling with someone who knows you better than any one else.  And I don’t care how old you are, if your Mom uses your middle name, you know you’re in trouble, whether you’re 4 or 41.

Mom is getting up in age, close to the age when her mother passed.  Of course, sometimes she’s able to do more than I can, so I can’t see the aging affecting her.  Sure, she can’t drive due to some vision issues and if we were ever pulled over and she was asked to walk a straight line, she’d be hauled off to the drunk tank even if she were stone cold sober, but she’s the driving force behind our travels.  She also is keeping me out of working in some office where every day would be pushing me closer and closer to the end of my physical abilities at a break-neck speed.

We poke and tease each other (yes, I do still yell out ‘DINNER’ when we drive by broken tire pieces on the side of the road while she still uses the dreaded middle name) and basically drive each other crazy, but there isn’t anything or anywhere else I’d want to be.  So, we will pack up Red Rover once again and hit the road while we still can.  Because life is too short not to travel.  Or, to quote that sage philosopher Jimmy Buffet, “I’d rather die while I’m living, than live while I’m dead”.



Here in the US, yesterday was Thanksgiving.  A celebration of the first ‘Thanksgiving’, when the Native Americans helped the Pilgrims with their first harvest in 1621.  It didn’t become a federal holiday until during the Civil War, when Abraham Lincoln signed it into effect for the 4th Thursday in November in 1863.  For many, it is a time to gather with your family and friends and celebrate all that you have to be thankful for (before trying to be the first in the door at whichever shopping venue you chose for Black Friday shopping).

There are many things that I’m thankful for.  I’m thankful to be able to take this epic journey with my mother.  I’m thankful for having a (changable) roof over my head and food to eat.  I’m thankful for my family, even though we’re all spread out across this country.  I’m thankful for all the adventures Mom and I have been able to experience and (health willing) will continue to experience on this trip.

We’re thankful for all the wonderful friends we have made along the way.  We’ve made some great new friends, notably Chris and Anita in West Virginia, and Todd and Beth in New Mexico, and look forward to making more.  We’re both thankful for everyone who reads this blog and travels along with us this way.

We’re thankful for open roads and people who open their homes and share their experiences with us and help us find new wonders to enjoy.

Thank you!

Settled (for now) in Sin City

For the rest of November, we have a steady base to work from (and good wi-fi to work with).  After leaving Bullhead City on the 27th of October, we made the trek over the Colorado River to Laughlin, NV, where wi-fi was once again spotty at best.  But for the 4 nights we were there, we enjoyed good food, played a little in the casino, and rested.  Then, on All Hallow’s Eve, we put Red Rover in drive once more and headed over the mountains and into the valley into Sin City.

Vegas, baby, yeah!

Now, for years, every time I was supposed to go to Las Vegas, something happened to prevent it.  But last year, on our trial run, we broke the curse and decided this time we’d make it a longer stay and get out of the resorts and do some things.

We spent the night of the 31st at the Rio Casino and Resort.


Overlooking the Strip, we could see Caeser’s Palace, The Wynn Resort, Treasure Island and the High Roller, the Las Vegas Ferris wheel.


We had dinner at Guy Fieri’s El Burro Borracho, a Mexican restaurant inside the Rio.  Now, some of you who know me might remember my issue with all things onion/garlic.  Let me tell you, I didn’t have a problem.  Why?  Because they were more than happy to get me something I could eat.  It was a huge burger and some delicious fries, but completely worry free for me.  Mom had an enchilada and a margarita, which led her to ponder taking the Voodoo zip line from one side of the Rio to the other from the roof.  Luckily, it was only one margarita or it might have turned from talk to truth.


We checked out yesterday and made our way over to our AirbnB for the month, which is only a block or so away from the Rio.  We spent today getting settled and will start our explorations of the city tomorrow.

Life is a Highway

Yesterday, Mom found a listing for the World’s Largest Thermometer in Baker, California and decided we should go see it, as we have yet to do any “Largest” items in our travels.  At 114 miles one way, it was going to be a 2 hour drive each way, so we got ready quickly and headed out.

What we were not expecting was that our drive would take us down the Joshua Tree Highway, which is Nevada State Route 164, which connects Searchlight, NV with Nipton, CA and I-15.

As many of y’all might be aware, Mom is a bit of a tree hugger, but these were not really huggable trees.  But they did call to her.  I was waiting for the Lorax to jump out and shoo us away as I took pictures.




The winds were blowing pretty hard, but these trees continued to stand still.



But time was ticking, so we had to hit the road.  So we hopped back into Rover and continued on, over mountains and down into the mouth of Death Valley.


The world’s hottest temperature ever recorded was in Death Valley, in 1913 at 134 degrees Fahrenheit.  Luckily for us, it was a mere 81 degrees that day.  That is why the thermometer is 134 feet tall.  Plus, that makes it the tallest thermometer in the world.


We stopped to have lunch nearby before once again pointing Rover to our Bullhead City AirBnB home.

Of course, Mom’s hippie soul required one more stop to see the Joshua trees on our way back.



While the thermometer was neat, the drive is what made the trip worthwhile.  Two hours, three states and more differences in this great land of ours that we could see made this trip worth it.  Going through the bustling downtowns of Bullhead City, AZ/Laughlin, NV through the arid stretches through Nevada into Eastern Southern California, and the hills and passes in between was a sight to behold.

Sitgreaves Pass

If you continue on former Route 66, now CR 10, out of Oatman towards Kingman, you find yourself on a twisty-turny loop of roadway that continues up into the Black Mountains and afford you some awesome views.




The speed limit is mostly 20 mph, with curves taking it down to 10-15 mph.  And it is best to stick to those speeds because most of the curves are blind and there are those who don’t agree with the speed.  Eventually, we found one large pull off, where we were able to see the terrain we had crossed.  Plus, others who had been through had left cairns, or rock mounds, to mark their passage, I suppose.


I didn’t leave once, since, knowing my luck, I’d try to pick up the rock hiding a momma rattlesnake.


Once we passed through Sitgreaves Pass, it was all down hill from there.  Altitudinally speaking.  We did hit one other place that required us to pull over and take some more pictures.





We were greeted by the gentleman working there who informed us that the place’s claim to fame was being blown up in the Jean Claude van Damme classic, Universal Soldier.  Then, it was used as inspiration for a scene in Disney-Pixar’s Cars.  There were some eclectic items on display.


The shirts advertised were once men’s 4x shirts that were cut up and braided together.  Supposedly, if you dipped the shirt in water, the braids would hold on to the water, keeping you cool in the 113 degree desert weather.  Since neither Mom nor I had any plans to hike out into the desert, we passed on them, though we did get a few pictures before we hit to road again.