ARMCHAIR TRAVELS TO CARLSBAD CAVERNS, THE ORIGINAL BAT CAVE, IN NEW MEXICO

ID 115255539 © Martin Schneiter | Dreamstime

I love a cave, any cave. There is something magical about a cave. It almost feels as though I am in a mermaid’s grotto whenever I see the beautiful stalagtites and stalagmite formations around me. I find it fascinating, too, that most caves remain a fairly constant temperature year round, no matter where there are located.

Caves transport us instantly to another time where it feels as though time elapsed photography happens before our eyes, as these beautiful cave formations happened drip by drip over many many years.

Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico is a beautiful example of a cave in all its glory. This area was surrounded by water approximately two hundred and fifty million years ago, and then most of the water in the area dried up. What was left behind is a bed of limestone now. Minerals have flowed over the limestone and collect to make the magical formations we see inside the cave.

The original cave was discovered by accident by a teenager named Jim White in 1898. He was riding his horse and saw many bats flying up from what appeared nowhere. He rode his horse closer and found a big hole into the ground. He left and brought a friend back with him, and they crawled through the caves with a torch and a ball of string to find their way back, according to the legend. Visitors can explore the cave through this natural opening (a 1.25 mile extremely steep trail which takes about an hour and is not recommended for those guests with heart or respiratory conditions) or take a seven hundred and fifty foot elevator to get to the bottom of the cave into the “Big Room” through the visitor’s center to walk along a 1.25 mile relatively flat trail, which takes about an hour and a half to walk. The Big Room is the only area accessible to guests in wheelchairs, and this trail can be bumpy. It is best for guests in wheelchairs to have help from another guest accordingly. Also, only guests with mobility issues are permitted to have a cane or walking stick in the caves, and the cane or walking stick must have a soft tip on the end.

Guests who enter through the visitor’s center have the option to visit a shorter .6 mile trail instead, which takes about forty-five minutes to walk. Apart from these “explore at your own pace options”, thrill seekers can go on a tour with a ranger into other, less explored, areas of the cave with reservations, as availability for these tours is very limited. Children under four are not allowed on any ranger-guided tours. Make sure you check the website ahead of time for any required footwear and other restrictions before you go. On these tours below, special equipment is normally provided by the park.

  • The Left Hand Tunnel Tour is a moderately difficult two hour candle lit tour
  • King’s Palace Tour – 1.5 hour tour requires walking up a steep hill where rangers frequently black out the lights for a few minutes in the cave
  • The Lower Cave Tour is a three hour tour, accessible by descending down sixty feet of ladders and a knotted rope that you need to hang onto as you descend backwards into the cave at some point (this tour is definitely NOT for everyone)
  • For adventure seekers, the four hour Hall of the White Giant tour might be for you if you are not afraid of confined spaces or heights, as in some parts you need to crawl through some tight openings, along with ladder climbings and free climbs as well. Minimum age for this tour is twelve, but anyone under sixteen must be accompanied by an adult.
  • The Slaughter Canyon Cave Tour is a five and a half tour into places without any electricity into narrow, uneven, and slippery areas.

In my opinion, the best time to visit Carlsbad Caverns is in August through September, where you can see baby Brazilian Free-Tailed bats fly out of and into the caves, along with adult bats, during pre-dawn or evening flights. The bats sometimes fly up to twenty-five miles an hour and are an impressive site. There is a ranger program that provides education about these fascinating creatures at Carlsbad near the “Natural Entrance” to the cave in the amphitheater. Make sure you check the website before going to Carlsbad during the Covid pandemic, however, to verify hours of operation, tour offerings, status, etc..

bats flying out of the cave at Carlsbad Caverns: source: NPS

Speaking of bats, there is currently a huge concern with the bats at Carlsbad developing a disease called “White Nose Syndrome”, which has spread from the northeastern to central United States. This disease is caused by a fungus that causes the bats to wake up more frequently during their hibernation and to use up their fat reserves too quickly for the hibernating season, causing them to die. Visitors to Carlsbad Caverns, like many other caves in the US, will be asked to scrub their shoes on a special mat if they have visited other caves recently in order to help stop the spread of this bat disease, which is not contagious to humans.

POOL OF WATER IN CARLSBAD CAVERNS, NEW MEXICO ID 23317928 © Alexey Stiop | Dreamstime
beautiful cave formations
impressive crystals
more cave formations

Although Carlsbad Caverns is currently closed because of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, it is normally open during the following hours:

  • 8:00 am to 7:00 pm daily – Summer Hours
  • 8:00 am to 5:30 pm daily – Non-summer Hours
huge stalagmite
popcorn ceiling formations

If you are looking for a good old road trip to an interesting destination once the pandemic is better and our travel restrictions have lifted, you might want to consider traveling to Carlsbad Caverns. There seems to be something for almost everyone here. “Holy stalagtites, Batman, ” said Robin!

Life is good; plan a road trip like no other in anticipation of when you can travel in the near future.

Carpe diem, friends………

WHITE SANDS NATIONAL PARK IN NEW MEXICO

A few years back I remembered reading about a place where one can actually go “sledding” down a hill of white sand. Longing to teach my Florida child, “Teen Traveler” a bit about another kind of sledding, I couldn’t wait to go there. We planned a trip to New Mexico to see this incredible place of large dunes. I learned this white sand isn’t really sand at all but really is gypsum, a mineral that covers about two hundred and seventy-five square miles of desert in New Mexico. Gypsum is used for many things, I learned. It can be used as plaster in surgical casts, as an additive in many foods (ice cream and tofu among others), for brewing beer and mead, for creating drywall, wallboard, plasterboard, for binding tennis court clay, as molds for dental impression plasters, as a hardening agent in Portland cement, in chalk, in hair products and even in some toothpastes.

White Sands National Park, known as the world’s largest gypsum dunefield, is located approximately fifteen miles southwest of Alamagordo. Some time during World War II, the military started using this place for scientific research and missile testing in the area. Missile tests are still conducted near here from time to time. The dunes are sixty feet high in some spots and are breathtaking to see. The bright blue sky against the whitish dunes is remarkable, almost other worldly.

There are picnic areas and limited back country camping allowed in some spots here. At the visitor center, you can purchase a round saucer-type plastic sled along with some wax to coat the bottom of the sled to make it easier to slide down the dunes. You may also bring your own plastic sled from home, as this is allowed. Round saucer-type sleds seem to work best, though. Sledding is lots of fun here, and so is climbing back up to the top of the dunes afterwards. Although currently closed because of the covid pandemic, normally the visitor center is open 364 days a year (closed on Christmas). The visitor contains a gift shop with snacks and drinks, too, along with rest rooms. There is no water available on the dune fields, so plan ahead. It can get very hot out there.

Life is good. Go out and have some fun all over again. Sledding for both children and adults is a blast.

Carpe diem, friends………………

COPING WITH CORONA….ARMCHAIR TRAVEL TO ASSATEAGUE ISLAND

I had always dreamed of visiting Assateague Island in Maryland and Virginia since I heard all about it from some people I met many years ago. Another “bucket list” item. Assateague Island is the place where the children’s story, Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry, takes place. In the story, a family tries to raise a pony that was born to a wild pony on this island. During the summer, usually in July, wild ponies on the Southern tip of the island are rounded up and swim to Assateaugue Island. Here the ponies are auctioned off to control the size of the herd and to raise funds for the veterinary care of the ponies. This week-long event is a BIG deal, with over fifty thousand visitors from all around the United States and Canada. A short youtube clip below, by National Geographic, captures the excitements of the annual pony swim:

Of course I had to make the journey with my family to this special place, where you can camp among wild ponies, a few years back. What makes Assateague Island so wonderful, in part, is the availability of some campsites right on the beach. Imagine looking out your RV or tent only to find wild ponies walking through your campsite. It is magical and like nothing else I’ve experienced before. Part of the Island is managed by the National Park System, and part of the island is managed by the state park system. Camping is only available in the Maryland district of the island. Campsite reservations are required from March 15 until November 15, and the site below takes for reservations six months before then. Most weekends sell out quickly. From November 16 through March 14, campsites are first-come first-served . This is an experience for which you should plan ahead, as even the firewood needs to be purchased within fifty miles of the park.

National Park information can be found below:

Maryland State Park information can be found below:

https://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/eastern/assateague.aspx

There seems to be some difference of opinion as to how these wild ponies got to the island, but most say a Spanish Galleon with these ponies aboard sunk off the coast, and the ponies swam to shore.

If you are traveling with children, a stop to Ocean City Maryland, might be a good place for the kids to burn off some energy after being in the car. Ocean City, Maryland, has a lot of beaches and a wooden boardwalk with shops, restaurants, and hotels. There is also an amusement park there, at the Southern tip, called Trimper’s Rides. This is a historic themepark, which originally was opened in the 1890’s. It is under new management now, and there were plans to add at least nine more rides in 2020. I’m not sure what the status of this new expansion is, however, with the current Covid-19 situation. Normally, the park opens from Memorial Day until October, and there are both indoor and outdoor rides.

https://www.trimperrides.com/home

For a unique camping experience, consider camping on Assateague Island. For those of you who don’t wish to camp, you can drive through to see the wild legendary ponies that live there. Keep in mind, however, that both Assateague Island parks and Trimper Rides are currently closed because of the pandemic.

Enjoy a little unique travel to Assateague Island when the travel restrictions are lifted. This would be a great road trip when that happens and something for which to look forward.

Life is good; carpe diem, friends…….

You can read all about the annual “pony swim” week here:

https://www.chincoteague.com/pony_swim_guide.html

COPING WITH CORONA….SCAVENGER HUNT AND BLACK SAND

Wanderlust? Stuck inside? Same here. I turn to memories of travels in times past to keep myself sane.

While visiting French Polynesia, I flew to Tahiti for a day, longing to find a beach with black sand. I flew into Fa’a’ā International Airport in Tahiti, armed with a little bit of the French language under my belt and a lot of adventure in my soul.


Even the plane to Tahiti is colorful

As soon as I got off the plane, I knew I needed to rent a car to go on my scavenger hunt (if only in my mind) to find a black sand beach. I stopped at one car company and was aghast at the rate they would charge me for less than a full day rental. The attendant was surprised that I could speak French, as I am sure he wanted to take advantage of this five foot American woman traveling alone, so I said thanks and moved on to the next car rental agency. At the next car rental agency, it was the same story with a slightly better rate, so again I moved on. They say “three is a charm” so I settled on a car rental from the third agency, whose rate was still high but a bit more realistic. The rate for less than twenty-four hours was equivalent to what we might pay for a three day rate here in the States.

A business in Tahiti

With a rudimentary map I picked up at a tourist kiosk at the airport, which listed only the highlights of the island, I set off for my adventure. I decided to pull over at a local business (Intersport) to seek clarification of the map. I walked into the shop and was greeted with a smile by a kind man. In French, I told him I was looking to find a beach with black sand, as I wanted to take some home to my daughter, and showed him my crude map of the island. Again, he laughed and gave me instructions (in French) to the black sand beach. As best as I remember, his instructions were something like go to the third red light, take a left, then take a right, etc….I thanked him and then set off on my adventure. I was delighted that one can travel half way around the world to still find a kindred spirit and kindness. The man laughed with me, not at me, and called me a “Cowboy”. Evidently he understood the wanderlust deep in this American soul. The language may be different than that which we are accustomed, but there is so much similarity between people from all parts of the world. Kindness, humor, gratitude, confusion, amusement, and respect are all part of the universal language we share with people all over the world.

It had been a while, several decades maybe, since I drove a “stick shift”, or car with a manual transmission. The road was very steep in some parts, but I was committed to finding that black sand. I was also VERY committed to finding an adventure.

Black sand beach in the north of Tahiti

I had been to a black sand beach in Hawaii before, but it had been many years. There is something other-wordly about seeing black sand radiating beneath my feet. I knew from my college days of Geology 101 that Tahiti was formed by two volcanoes, so the black sand is actually pieces volcanic rock. Continuous weathering of the rock replenishes the sand through the years as well.


Basalt volcanic rocks

After getting my sand in my little bottle I purchased at some little gift shop along the way, there was a smile in my soul when I finished my scavenger hunt and was ready to enjoy all else the island offered.

I stopped in the Marché de Pape’ete (Pape’ete Market) which is famous for its sights, sounds, and smells of authentic Polynesian life.

Marché de Pape’ete in the capital
Fish for sale at the market
Sign at the Tahiti Market that reads, ” Before Dying I Would Like….”

I encountered a blackboard at the market with a sort of “bucket list” written by visitors, which made my heart smile. Others everywhere had “bucket lists” and were checking off items one by one I’m sure.

One visitor wanted to travel the world. Another wanted to live in Tahiti with a spouse. Another wanted to find his love. Another wanted to return to Polynesia. Yet another wanted to build a big house for her children. I didn’t write on the board; I kept my “bucket list” in my soul.

After my journey, I was able to get back to the resort to relax a bit to sit in a comfortable egg chair with a good book in my hand and the scent of frangipani wafting through the air.


A Tahitian sunset



“I’ve seen a black sand beach
stranger than any foreign world
where King Poseidon draped in seaweed
once walked upon the Earth–”

-“Black Sand Beach” by Bret Norwood

Life is good. See the sights. Smell the scents. Taste the flavors. Carpe diem friends………….

“I’ve seen a black sand beach
stranger than any foreign world
where King Poseidon draped in seaweed
once walked upon the Earth–”

-“Black Sand Beach” by Bret Norwood

COPING WITH CORONA….VANILLA AND TEMPORARY TATOOS IN TAHAA (Armchair travel to French Polynesia)

Temporary Tatoos in Tahaa? Time for armchair travel to a warm, sunny place….. French Polynesia. Armchair travel in my mind keeps me sane amidst the Corona pandemic.

While visiting French Polynesia, a country comprised of more than one hundred islands located in the South Pacific, I took a tour of one of the islands there, Tahaa. Tahaa is ninety square kilometers (about thirty five square miles) and simply breathtaking. While driving along this island, located on the leeward (western) side of French Polynesia, our guide pulled over to the side of the road to pick a wild fern.

The fern has silvery white powdery spores on its backside.

When you place the backside of the fern against your skin and press for a few seconds, the spores leave an imprint on your skin which resembles a white tattoo. This spore powder doesn’t easily rub off and remained on the my skin for the duration of the day, coming off only when I washed it with soap and water later at my resort.

The thought of a tattoo on my arm did not especially appeal to me, but the thought of a “temporary tattoo” imprint from the spores of this natural plant intrigued me.

For the next stop on our tour, we visited a vanilla plantation. Tahaa is known as “l’île de la vanille” in French, ( “Vanilla Island”), as this island produces about eighty percent of Tahitian vanilla.

Vanilla growing in Tahaa

The vanilla plant is part of the orchid family, and the wet climate and altitude of this part of the world is great for growing this vanilla. La Vallée De La Vanille, an organic vanilla plantation, was an amazing place to visit.


vanilla normally produces flowers in a short season (May and September mostly)



During my visit, I learned that vanilla beans are harvested after each flower is hand pollinated, after about six to nine months. While it is possible to hand grow Vanilla planifolia  (vanilla) in other parts of the world, Tahitian vanilla is actually a hybrid of two species (vanilla planifolia and vanilla pompona), which were bred together to create Vanilla tahitensis or Tahitian vanilla. The bees that normally pollinate vanilla were not brought to French Polynesia by the Europeans from Central America, are not on the island, and are nearly extinct. The plants, which contain both male and female parts, are hand pollinated accordingly. The plant is propagated mainly from stem cuttings instead of seeds because they require a certain type of fungus to even germinate.

unripe vanilla pods on the vanilla plant and a “temporary tattoo” on the tour guide
Dried vanilla pods after several months

Vanilla pods are harvested when they are mature, as harvesting them too early before they turn the right color yields a vanilla bean that is not as aromatic or flavorful. Post-harvest, the beans are washed and dried in a series of steps for approximately nine months before going to market.

Marché de Papeete in Tahiti where many things, including Tahitian vanilla, are sold

Tahitian vanilla tastes very different than the usual vanilla we eat here in the Americas, which is usually a Bourbon vanilla or Madagascar vanilla. While Madagascar vanilla taste can be described as “rich and creamy”, Tahitian vanilla can be best described as sweet and floral with a hit of cherry somehow. Many people simply LOVE the flavor of Tahitian vanilla (especially my friend in Belgium), but I find it tastes almost like eating soap some how.

So when the travel bans are lifted, think about visiting French Polynesia. Try something different. Enjoy the local color wherever you end up and keep dreaming. Carpe diem, friends……….

COPING WITH CORONA, PART 9…….A GOOD DAY FOR A DAYDREAM

Venice, Italy

Closets could be cleaned. Chicken could be cooked. Soup could be simmered. There are myriads of things to do when self-isolating. Today, I prefer the good ol’ fashioned daydream…….

Day dream : noun – a pleasant visionary usually wishful creation of the imagination (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

Day dream: noun – a series of pleasant thoughts that distract one’s attention from the present (Google)

Day dream: – noun – pleasant thoughts that make you forget about the present (Oxford Dictionary)

Day dream: – noun – series of pleasant thoughts about something you would prefer to be doing or something you would like to achieve in the future…………… (Cambridge.org)

Venice, Italy

Today, I’m thinking of all the places I would love to travel to in my lifetime…..Egypt, China (The Great Wall for certain), The Ice Hotel in Quebec, Antarctia, Venice (AGAIN!)………the list goes on and on in my mind while I accomplish the mundane tasks of cooking and freezing food in case we have a “shelter in place” in the near future here in Florida. The art of the armchair travel keeps me sane while the travel restrictions are in place for the time being.

Venice, Italy

“What a day for a daydream
What a day for a daydreamin’ boy……..

And even if time ain’t really on my side
It’s one of those days for taking a walk outside
I’m blowing the day to take a walk in the sun
And fall on my face in somebody’s new mowed lawn

I’ve been havin’ a sweet dream
I’ve been dreamin’ since I woke up today
It’s starring me in my sweet dream….”

-“Daydream” by Lovin’ Spoonfuls

Venice, Italy

Life Is Good. Live while you are living. Go outside; get some fresh air…..OR…. maybe it’s time for a daydream today instead. Time to think about all the wonderful things you want to do when the virus clears the air. Keep dreaming. Keep sane.

Carpe Diem, friends….

COPING WITH CORONA, PART 6…….A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN INVERNESS, SCOTLAND

Cabin fever continues. Wanderlust waits for no one. Coping with voluntary self-isolation with more armchair travel……….travel soothes the soul and gives one something to look forward to some day soon…..

Today I am visiting Scotland again in my mind. I am thinking of spring green grass, enduring castles, vibrant yellow daffodils in the spring, warm tea and scones, and visiting dear friends.

Starting in Inverness at the small airport, we rented a car to find the Loch Ness Monster last spring. Or rather, we went to visit the Loch Ness and the Scottish Highlands and JOKED about finding the Loch Ness Monster. The weather was cool but pleasant this time of year last year.  Daily high temperatures are approximately 49°F, rarely falling below 39°F or exceeding 56°F. Daily low temperatures are usually around 36°F, rarely falling below 25°F or exceeding 43°F. Next to the Loch Ness we found two visitor centers that were small but gave our drive there a purpose.

Town Center in Inverness, Scotland, across the River Ness

Accommodations at the Best Western Palace and Spa in Inverness were stylish, clean, updated and charming, and they handed us a good ol’ fashioned key to our room. Our “River View Family Room” was in a mansion built in the 1800’s and was facing the River Ness, in front of Inverness Castle, which was built in 1836. The River View Room was worth the extra cost, as the ceilings were high, and there was a breathtaking picture window, too. The gray tones in the room’s decor and the chandelier gave the room a sense of quiet elegance and tranquility. There are no elevators to the second floor of the building that that we stayed in, which was right beside the main building, however. This hotel was one of the few in Inverness that had a large heated pool, which provided a welcome break from the cool weather outside. “Teen Traveler”, my daughter, swam there for hours catching up with her Scottish friend that we had come to visit. The hotel is just across the bridge from the town center with lots of shops, pubs, and even a major shopping mall (Eastgate).

Our room key at the Best Western Palace and Spa, Inverness
River View Room at Best Western Palace and Spa, Inverness, with a view of Inverness Castle

This is the official website of the Best Western Palace and Spa in Inverness, Scotland:

https://www.invernesspalacehotel.co.uk/

Inverness Castle, along the River Ness, dotted with spring daffodils

Inverness Castle was rebuilt at the site of the original castle in Inverness, which was built in 1057 and destroyed. Legend has it that King Malcolm III of Scotland built the first Inverness Castle in 1057 to replace an earlier castle close by, which he destroyed, and in which Macbeth is said to have murdered Duncan I. Such history. Such culture. The present day Inverness castle houses offices, mostly court offices, and has limited public access inside.

A visit to a local kilt making shop in Inverness provided to be an unexpectedly interesting stop. The Scottish Kiltmaker Visitor Centre and The Highland House of Frasier, located about a five minute walk from our hotel, showed a small movie about the cultural heritage of the kilt in Scotland. In one section of the Visitor Centre there were many mannequins wearing assorted kilts from years ago, too. What was particularly amazing, though, was to watch the present-day kiltmakers make kilts before our very eyes. These kilts are hand-sewn with ten stitches to the inch and are made from about eight yards of fabric. After seeing the intricate handwork that takes about two days per kilt, it is easy to see why these kilts are so expensive. They produce quality work and will ship all over the world. This place is definitely worth a visit if you have time.

Still making kilts by hand at the Scottish Kiltmaker Visitor Centre in Inverness

Driving west of Inverness, we traveled by car to Urquhart Castle, which is a ruin of one of the largest castles in Scotland. Sitting along side the Loch Ness, it is about thirteen miles south-west of Inverness and about a mile and a quarter east of the village of Drumnadrochit. Kids seem to love seeing the trebuchet there. The movie, “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes” (1970), was filmed here. It is also said to have inspired the writers of Disney Pixar when they visited Scotland to get ideas for the movie “Brave”.

Urquhart Castle, said to have provided some inspiration for the Disney Pixar Movie “Brave”

On place in Scotland that I dream of visiting some day, but we didn’t have time to visit, is Fingal’s Cave, on the island of Staffa in the inner Hebrides. This sea cave is formed by a volcanic eruption and is made entirely of hexagonally jointed basalt, almost like the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. Some say the cave was connected to the Giant’s Causeway at one time. It is also said by some that Mendelssohn visited the cave and was inspired to write one of his overtures (“The Hebrides”). Fingal’s Cave was known by the Celts as “The Cave of Melody” because of its natural acoustics. Guests can visit the cave by boat ride from one of the nearby islands (from Fionnphort, Ulva Ferry, Iona, Tobermory, Oban and Kilchoan). There is a walkway that visitors can use to go inside the cave, but boats only travel here and land in calm weather. The footing can be slippery and not for everyone, though.

Two useful websites that describe visiting Fingal’s Cave are the following:

https://www.visitscotland.com/see-do/unique-experiences-map/seeing-a-unique-cave/

https://www.nts.org.uk/visit/places/staffa

Scotland is part of the United Kingdom and is known for its lush green landscapes dotted with castles, kilts, bagpipes, and whiskey. This is definitely a beautiful and charming place to visit if you can.

“…………See the world in green and blue
See China right in front of you
See the canyons broken by cloud
See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out
See the Bedouin fires at night
See the oil fields at first light and
See the bird with a leaf in her mouth….
After the flood all the colors came out

It was a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away
Beautiful day.”

-“Beautiful Day” by Bono

Go out and have a “beautiful day” for yourself. You can still get into the car to drive to watch a breathtaking sunset over a field, lake, or somewhere special while still maintaining “social distance or self-isolation.” Maybe you can even fly a kite with a spirit of whimsy near your home if you have the need to do something that you haven’t done in a while. While every day may not be beautiful, there is beauty in every day.

Life is good; enjoy the day. Carpe diem, friends………….

COPING WITH CORONA, PART 4…..MAGIC MOMENTS

“Teen Traveler” toes in the sand

Cabin Fever. Wanderlust. Tough to be inside. Spring Break today, ” Teen Traveler” and I decided to venture out of the house to where we could maintain an appropriate “social distance” from others to protect ourselves from Covid-19. Living in Florida, we decided we would find a remote beach area where there were few people present. We searched for the perfect “Cast Aside Covid Cove” with a song in our hearts and our usual spirit of adventure.

Turtle Sculptures were originally auctioned off and placed in Vero Beach by Turtle Trax to raise awareness for mental health. There are over thirty turtle sculptures similar to this one in Vero Beach.

We traveled to Vero Beach, FL, where we found WAY too many people in the parking lots and on the beach for us to maintain our “social distance”, but we enjoyed our day trip to this magical place that is dotted with sea turtle sculptures in so many places. Vero Beach wasn’t as isolated a spot as we wanted, so we decided to drive further south until we found some hidden beach access somewhere else.

I wanted to share this day with “Teen Traveler” to show her how we prepare for Corona to come knocking on our door. We think. We come up with a plan. We prepare. We have FUN! A day spent all alone with “Teen Traveler” where we went on a road trip, we laughed, we talked, we laughed some more, we listened to music from our respective generations, and we laughed some more was just what we needed.

“Teen Traveler” the mermaid

There were few people on the beach, but there was a red flag waving in the breeze. Native Floridians know this means to stay out of the water for some peril or another. One red flag means that the surf is high or there are dangerous currents or both. So, we decided to go into the water only up to our knees, but the surf was so high the waves hit our waists as they came rolling in toward shore. The water was cool at first (for the Native Floridians in the crowd), but we adjusted okay.

“Teen Traveler’s” Life Through a Lens………..

Being with my daughter reminded me of a song by Sia……….

“… I’ve been waiting for a magic moment
But maybe there are magic moments
Could it be a magic moment now?
I’ve been waiting for a magic moment
But maybe there are magic moments
Baby it’s a magic moment nowBut darling it’s a magical, magical life, life, life
Oh honey, it’s a magical, magical life, life, life
And baby it’s a magical, magical life, life, life
When you can find magic in every day, night, night, night….”

“Teen Traveler” contemplating…….serious one moment………….
….then making “sand angels” in the sand instead of the snow the next minute…………..

We had a great day and we are already thinking of where we might take a day trip next week. Clear kayak on a Florida spring? Fly a kite at another beach? One thing is for certain. On Earth we have ONLY these five minutes. Time to go out to make a memory, as there is beauty everywhere.

Life is good. Carpe diem, my friends………

LIVE WHILE WE ARE LIVING WITH THE CORONA CHAOS…..HORSEBACK RIDING ROAD TRIP ON HUTCHINSON ISLAND

A beach on Hutchinson Island, St. Lucie County, FL

My daughter “Teen Traveler” and I decided to get out of the house today while we are all coping with the Corona Chaos here in Florida. Luckily we don’t have any symptoms, nor does anyone we know. Here in Florida, it is recommended not to be among crowds of more than ten people at a time, and we decided we can still LIVE while we are living with the Corona Chaos. We began thinking of all the things we can do on a road trip here in Florida and decided we wanted to go horseback riding on a beach with beautiful blue water, so we came up with Tours On Horseback in Fort Pierce. We called them, and they said they could meet us in Frederick Douglass Memorial Park on South Hutchinson Island in St. Lucie County. Their website said, “Horseback riding is the perfect way to relax and take your mind off the stress and tension of everyday life, ” and that sounded just PERFECT for us while we take a break from travel due to the US travel recommendations and restrictions during this Covid-19 outbreak. We made the reservation today and for $45.00 per person, we rode along the seashore while a gentle breeze blew in our hair. The temperature on the beach today was only about 81 degrees Fahrenheit, and it was just what we needed to avoid any cabin fever we might feel in the coming days…………

“Teen Traveler” on her horse

The ride lasted about an hour, which was just the perfect amount of time for “Teen Traveler”, who has never been on a horse that long. The horses walked along the edge of the beach with their hooves in the water but did not go into the water, which would have been fun.

We saw unexpected bursts of color along the trail to the beach

After our beach ride, while we were driving home, we noticed LOTS and LOTS of electric scooters scattered about the island, all for rent. What an unexpected surprise. You can use an app to pay for the scooters with your cell phone.

Electric scooters all lined up in multiple spots along South Hutchinson Island and ready to rent.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.superpedestrian.link&hl=en_US

Use the Link Scooter Sharing App to rent your scooter through your cell phone

Along the way home, we enjoyed our day at the beach with its breathtaking blue waters………

Sand here on South Hutchinson Island is a bit more dark than the white sands of Vero Beach, north of St. Lucie County in Indian River Count
Lighter sand on Vero Beach

What a wonderful day spent together with “Teen Traveler”, soaking up the sun with laughter and reminding ourselves that we will overcome this virus situation eventually….

“Instead of worrying about what you cannot control, shift your energy to what you can create.”

― Roy Bennett

We CAN create a day full of joy, full of love, full of exploration, full of adventure, full of hope…………

Life is good; carpe diem, friends………………

http://www.beachtoursonhorseback.com/

COPING WITH CORONA, PART 2 (LIFE THROUGH A LENS)

With Covid-19 positive cases cropping up here in Florida, combined with the CDC recommendations not to visit places with greater than fifty people, I am strolling down memory lane to visit Silver Springs State Park, which was extremely popular within Florida’s tourist industry, until the early 1970’s when some of the large theme parks opened in Orlando. This park was so popular that a tour boat operator released rhesus monkeys there in an effort to make a Tarzan-like attraction. Now, visitors can spot an occasional wild monkey roaming about the park. If you see a monkey, though, don’t get too close. Many are infected with herpes B virus, which can be transmitted to humans through contact with the monkeys if they bite. Sometimes the monkeys are aggressive, so it is better to stay away from them and live life through your lens with photographs.

Sign at Silver Springs State Park, describing the wild monkeys and advising you to stay away from them
Turquoise blue spring waters from ancient limestone formations

I spent the day, with my daughter, “Traveling Teen” hiking through the trails, enjoying the moments as they unfolded before our eyes……..

Temperature is 72 degrees Fahrenheit year round, but swimming is not permitted

Although swimming is not permitted at Silver Springs State Park, you can take a glass bottom boat ride for only $12.oo for a half hour. You can even see some statues from one of the underwater scenes from a James Bond movie filmed there.

Like Alice at the looking glass, you can see a whole new world through the glass bottom boat floor at Silver Springs

Many movies were filmed at Silver Springs:

The Seven Swans

Never Say Never Again

Thunderball

Legend

Moon Over Miami

The Yearling

Distant Drums

Underwater!

Creature From The Black Lagoon

Don’t Give Up The Ship

Blindfold

Tarzan And His Mate

Tarzan The Ape Man

Smokey And The Bandit, Part 3

Rebel Without A Cause

The Frogmen

SeaHunt (Series)

Spanish Moss hanging from trees everywhere

While coping with Covid-19, you can always take a road trip to Silver Springs to create a memory with someone you love as you get some fresh air. If you want to avoid a crowded boat, you can rent kayaks, stand up paddleboards, and canoes there, too.

Life is good; get out to enjoy it whenever you can. Silver Springs is located in Marion County, Florida, north central Florida, just east of Ocala. The blue waters and this park is “old Florida” at its best. Enjoy today; carpe diem……….

“The best way to explain it is to do it.” 

-Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Alice: “How Long is Forever?”

White Rabbit: “Sometimes, just one second.”

-Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

https://www.floridastateparks.org/silversprings