Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Post-Vacation Ick

Before leaving on this vacation, there were, of course, the expected comments about last year's vacation and how it ended with an emergency appendectomy. My typical response was that first I did not believe that I possessed any extraneous body parts to go bad, but that, second, if anything happened, we would at least be in the USA.

I'm happy to say that no hospitalization was called for for either of us while on the road. I can't say the same thing about when we got back, though.

I felt really good while on the trip. We were doing a lot of walking, I was eating my protein and even getting decent veggies and fruits in. I may not have been getting all of my liquids in, but that's a daily struggle no matter where I am, so no big.

The first signs that something was amiss was on Friday. After the bus tour, I was beginning to feel woozy, like when you turn your head and it feels like the brain inside has to wait a second before turning with it. I realized that I forgot to take my pills and assumed that was the reason. I took the pills and at some point felt better.

The next day, Saturday, while we were traipsing around Stone Mountain Park, I felt it again, realized that yet again I had not taken my pills. I took them and paid attention this time. It was several hours before I felt better.

That night, we stayed in a hotel in Chattanooga. When we got there, we discovered that the person had screwed up our reservation and put us down as coming in Sunday evening, not Saturday. Thank God, they were able to give us a room. Unfortunately, the only room available was a smoking room.

Now, my father smoked for the first 35 years of my life. I actually do not mind the smell of smoke. (Attention nieces and nephew who smoke, this does not mean that I don't think it's a disgusting habit and really wish you'd quit ASAP!). I figured we could handle it. I mean, how bad could it be? It was pretty bad. Good thing I had some Febreeze in the car, I sprayed the entire room, including me and Mom, and it was somewhat better. Probably, it was more just our olfactory senses had adjusted to it so we couldn't smell it all that bad.

On Sunday, I woke up with a headache and my eyes ached.  Well, specifically, my left eye ached.  I could see fine, but if I scanned from left to right, when I got to the far sides, the eye muscle was pure pain.  Mom and I attributed the headache and eye issue to the smoking room.  We drove home, and the wooziness returned.

In the middle of the night, I awoke with a fever, then chills, then fever.  It was a good thing I had planned on taking Monday off because I felt horrible.  As soon as my doctor's office opened, I called and made an appointment.  My doctor, who I love!, ordered bloodwork and a urine test for Legionnaire's Disease.  Great!  Between giving the blood and weeing in the cup, I almost passed out!  They laid me down, got me some juice, called my mommy to come get me, and strongly suggested I go to the ER for more tests. 

For the third time since November, Mom and I headed to the ER!  After tons of blood work, weeing in a cup, and other tests, the results were all negative, except for low white blood count which, or so we learned, means a viral infection.

I've spend the rest of the week trying to recuperate.  I attempted to go to work on Wednesday, but about two hours in, I almost passed out and had to be driven home.  I can't say that I was pleased about having to miss the whole week of work, but honestly, yesterday, Saturday, was the first day that I felt almost human again.  So I've had a week to recuperate, rest with my little fur balls, and to recap the vacation for posterity. 

Tomorrow, I plan to return to work.  Today, I'm going to take a nap.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

On the Road (Home) Again

For some reason, although Savannah is two hours south of Charleston, it is only 9 hours drive to Evansville while Charleston from Evansville is 11 hours.  The extra two hours that we would gain, we decided to spend (squander) on "blue" roads with two additional side trips.  1) It just so happened to be the weekend of the Annual Vidalia Sweet Onion Festival in Vidalia, Georgia.  BTW, only onions grown IN (or possibly around) Vidalia, Georgia, can be called "Vidalia" onions; and 2) Stone Mountain just outside of Atlanta.

First off, we were on the interstate between Savannah and Macon when we roamed off toward Vidalia.  I'm not sure what I expected, but it was just a little town, in Georgia, selling onions.  When we got there on Saturday morning, it was Day 3 of the fest and they were announcing the winners of their 5K fun(ion) run.  We were interested in onions, lots of 'em, and cheap!  Oh, and Mom wanted onion rings.  And we found both!  We got 25 pounds of onions for $15!  And there was a tent of people selling onion rings.  And I stole one of Mom's and they were probably the best onion ring I've ever had.

Before we left, we attempted to get Duncan an official Vidalia Sweet Onion Festival t-shirt as a souvenir/thank you for watching the cats and condo thing, but they only came in children's sizes and 2x.  The beloved boy is, at best, an XL (like his favorite aunt, tee hee!!), so that was out. 

As we left Vidalia, heading toward Atlanta, but on "blue" roads, we also started keeping an eye out for roadside farmers selling tomatoes.  We could have bought vine-ripened tomatoes at the Piggly Wiggly in Charleston for a $1 a pound, but decided it would be better to get them later in the trip, so as to help them last longer.  Plus, we figured Georgia was south(er) of Charleston, so they'd be more likely to have tomatoes!

I could wax on, but let me just say that we didn't find any locally grown tomatoes.  The person we did find, had gone to Florida and brought back tomatoes to sell.  We bought some and they have been delicious, despite not being what we wanted exactly.  After a considerable amount of effort on both my and my Navigator's parts, we finally made it back to the interstate. 

I've never driven thru a city as big as Atlanta, but Mom assured me that we'd be taking the by-pass so it shouldn't be that bad.  Turns out the by-pass still has 7-8 lanes at times, and the speed limit is 60-65, so people are going 75-80.  We were able to find Stone Mountain Park.  Stone Mountain is the Mount Rushmore of the Confederacy - they are carvings of Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Lee.  The family went on a vacation to Tennessee many moons ago, and we could have, but didn't for some reason, gone and seen it.  Having been to Mount Rushmore, I figured parking lot, visitor center/gift shop, and a viewing area.  Mom read in the AAA book that for $9 each we could take a ride to the top, but didn't see the point, plus, according to the book, those rides didn't start until Memorial Day.  Piece of cake, take some pictures, run thru the gift shop, potty down and leave.

Our first clue that something was amiss was when we were charged $10 for parking.  The map they gave us had no visitor's center or gift shop marked.  And the parking lot was full, it took us driving around about 20 minutes before someone left their spot and we parked.  Turns out, Stone Mountain Park is an AMUSEMENT PARK.  Since we were there only for the carving, we didn't have to pay the $26 to ride the rides. 

Frankly, I was horrified at the borderline blasphemy of an amusement park at a monument to war heroes.  I suppose my horror was slightly abated when we got to the park part of the park. 

After finally getting a t-shirt for Duncan at the park, we headed out and were back on the road.  We spent Saturday night in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Then on Sunday morning, not including the stops for caffiene to take in and then stops to "get rid of" said caffiene, we made great time and were home by 12:30 p.m.  Whew!

It was a good, but tiring vacation.  We were both glad to be back.  And I think the four-footed furry ones were very happy at our return, too.

The Day in Savannah

Neither Mom nor I had ever been to Savannah.  Frankly, I didn't recall ever being in the State of Georgia, but Mom reminded me that the year we went to Andersonville, we were in Georgia.  My bad. 

So first things first, we had reservations for a three-hour air conditioned bus tour of the city.  I point out that we had reservations because before we could hit the road, "they" had to deal with the fact that they'd sold tickets to two people that morning for the same tour, making the total number of butts for the bus ride greater than the number of seats for said butts.  It took about 15 minutes for those two to be told they had to get off the bus, making me feel really bad, but... it was either us or them and mom and I didn't want to wait another 4 hours for the next tour.

I have to point out that while we were waiting for our tour bus to come pick us up, we were sitting in the waiting area with a gaggle of Paula Dean fans who were waiting for their Paula Dean Tour - where you got to see the restaurant where PD made her first sandwich, and the store where she bought her first ton of "buttah", and the thing ended with dinner at one of her restaurants.  If you're interested, this tour was about $60.  I noticed, while Mom was checking out the ladies room one last time, that a lot of the women on this tour looked similar to PD.  The husbands all looked resigned to their collective fates.  Sad.

For the first two hours of the tour, our guide, a retired salesman, exercised his skills by selling Savannah to all of us.  This man was born and raised in Savannah and knew something interesting about almost ever building/house/dog house.  I don't know what the tour people pay him, but he is well worth his wage.  Savannah was a planned city, every few blocks there being a "square," or a block with grass, trees and park benches, and there were tons of one-way streets, making it for very interesting transport.

Now, I have to say that I took tons of pictures on this tour, but since they were all taken from a moving bus, unfortunately they didn't turn out as great and I hoped!  :(  But they should all, by now, be loaded into the Vacation 2012 photo album on my Facebook page for those who want to see them.

 The third and final hour of the tour was very educational in that it was mostly about the different styles of architecture found in Savannah.  I learned more than I ever (EVER) hoped to know about architecture during that hour.  Thank God it sieved out of my brain as quickly as it went it!

Near the end of the tour, the guide drove us past some famous restaurant where the line for lunch ran down the block... no, not Paula Deen's, someone elses.  And then he told us that if we wanted someplace just as good, without the wait, we could go to the Crystal Beer Parlor - he and his wife eat there frequently.  So after the tour was done, my Navigator and I found our way there.  It was a very nice bar, basically.  Mom, who had been woefully used and abused all week, pointed out that she hadn't had a hot dog since we'd left Evansville, so she got a nice juicy dog while I got BBQ pulled pork sandwich, hold the bread - with extra pickles!  A much deserved/enjoyed rest/repast was had by all.

After lunch, we found our way to the house from the book/movie "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" and bought a ticket for the house/garden tour.  While we waited the half hour until our tour left, we wandered around the front of the house and into the "square" that it looked upon.

I also downloaded the book to my Kindle (iPhone app) while we were there waiting.

The tour was fine.  The house's air conditioning wasn't enough to keep me from being very warm, but it was better than I felt while we stood out in the sun in the garden.  Of course, the tourguide did mention the murder, glossing over it as "self-defense" and moving on to another topic almost in the same sentence!  We only got to see the first floor, but it was pretty impressive.  We really wanted to see the ballroom on the second floor.

After the tour, we were pooped and we headed back to the hotel where I downloaded the movie to the laptop, so mom could watch it.  She really enjoyed it, especially after having just been thoroughly educated on Savannah.  Me, I watched an episode of Firefly on my iPad. 

So that was our day in Savannah.  The next two days would be on the road headed for home.  Whew...

On the Road to Savannah

First of all, you have to keep in mind that Savannah, at the most, is about 2 hours from Charleston.  We left about 8:30 that morning, all bright and eager for the day's adventure.  We arrived in Savannah at the hotel about 3:45, approximately 7 hours later.  I defy anyone else to do better!

So, why did the 2 hour trip take 7 hours?  Well, as we head out, the Navigator (Mom) is looking at the map and she says "I didn't know that Hilton Head was on the way to Savannah."  So I asked if she wanted to swing by there.  After assuring her that it was an open island for which we did not need to have a pass to enter, we took the "only 30 miles there and back" detour.

Now, while I was correct that the "great unwashed" can enter onto Hilton Head, I'm pretty sure they don't actually want them to.  We obtained a map of the island from the Visitor's Center (an ironic name), and mom located on the map several public access beaches.  We were off!  I don't actually think the "public access beaches" exist.  We searched and found nothing.  Finally we, by accident, really, found a public park to park in so mom could look more at the map.  I noticed a sign with wavy lines and what appeared to be a beach umbrella and an arrow.  So I trotted off to investigate.  After walking about a 1/4 mile, I turned around, having decided that there just might be a beach at the end of that path.  I got back in the car with mom and drove to where I thought the path headed.  After first ending up in a subdivision, (?) we FINALLY located a path to the beach. 

LONG story short (I know, too late), we found the beach, I was not impressed, in fact I was rather grumpily peeved, but I think it was more due to my being hungry than anything.  So we went back to the car to find someplace for lunch.  Now for this quest, the problem was that most of the places seemed to not be open for lunch.  But we found the Main Street Cafe in a little strip mall area on the side of the road on the way back off the island.  We didn't really care what we had, as long as it was food.

Mom ended up getting a Fried Green Tomato BLT, one of the chef's favorites, and she thought it was great!  I think her plan for the summer is to recreate the sandwich... I mean, we love fried green tomato sandwiches, so how can the addition of BACON make it bad!? 

After leaving Hilton Head in our wake, we finally made it to Savannah.  Oh, I should mention that Mom was happy to have seen the exit off the interstate to Paris Island.  This meant nothing to me, but she tells me it's where the Marine boot camp is.  I suppose I should have absorbed that info from all of the NCIS I watch, but..

Once we were ensconced in our hotel in Savannah, we decided that the better part of valor involved our resting up for the rest of the day so that we'd have the strength to do the entire town of Savannah the next day. 

Charleston - Day 3

Our itinerary for Day 3 in Charleston was to begin the day with a horse-drawn carriage tour of the historic part of the city.  After ascertaining that the tour would be "child free", we boarded the carriage being driven by the horse, Jasper, and our guide, Tim.  Both did a fabulous job of leading us around the city with Tim telling us all about the.
various places in and around downtown Charleston.
Although it was only a one-hour tour, we saw a sorts of beautiful houses, including the famous Rainbow Row, on cobblestone streets, and the ocean-front homes on the "Battery."

After the tour, we walked a wee bit around the same streets to both see a little bit more of the sights and to find someplace to eat.  We came to two conclusions:  1) it is lovely down there - there are some beautiful parks, a walk-way along the waterfront, and beautiful million dollar homes there; 2) there are NO open places for lunch.  So we trotted back to the Market area where we'd parked, and had lunch at the Charleston Crab House.   

Looking back, I don't recall if we had other things we were going to do the second half of the day and didn't, or if we just decided we needed a wee bit of a rest.  Either way, we left the historic area, drove back to Folly Beach, so I could get a nice video of the water and waves.  I used to have one that I took on the beach in  Gulf Shores, AL, but I can't seem to find it, so using my phone and my camera, I made two 3 minute videos of the beach.  Now, I can have them on my desktop at work and during those times that I need to go to my happy place, I can just turn them on and decompress.  It helps me want to bop my boss on the bean slightly less.

After the beach, we headed back to the hotel.  I took a nap in the sun by the pool and mom... well, I think she watched tv or something.  We'd had an eventful three days in Charleston and tomorrow, we would be leaving and heading south to Savannah.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Charleston - Day 2

In order to try not to overdo it on any given day, our travel expert (Mom) worked our schedule out so that we did one thing in the morning and then something else that afternoon.  On day 2, the morning event was to drive outside of town to visit the Magnolia Plantation. 

Now, Donna and I did go to the same plantation several years ago, but it was such a lovely place that I didn't mind going there again so Mom could see it.  It was a fabulous day, the sky was the deepest blue and the clouds were fluffy.  We didn't bother with the house, just took the self-guided walking tour around the estate.  Don't know how much of a walk it was, but it was all lovely.  I have to say, though, that I was a wee bit disappointed.  I figured that since we were there in April, the flowers would all be in bloom.  I guess the oddly warm winter that we had here in Indiana made South Carolina's flowers bloom early, too. 

We did get to see some amazing fauna in addition to all the flora, though.  I named this guy Bob.  He (yes, I'm assuming) just stood there and let me and this other lady take as many pictures of him as we wanted.  And the entire time we toured the property, we could hear the "HELP" of the peacocks that are kept there, but we didn't actually see one of them until we were on our way back to the car.  This guy is Pete (and I'm not assuming, here,.. he was a he.)

After the obligatory foray into the gift shop and the purchase of a few goodies and a bottle of water, we were back on the road and headed for the coast again.  This time for the ubiquitous Barger Vacation site - the visiting of either a Civil War or Revolutionary War battlefield.  I'm not sure that there are many vacations we've taken as a family that didn't include one, the other, or both!

This time it was Fort Sumter, which (who knew!?) is on an island out in the harbor.  For some reason, I was thinking this was the Star-Spangled Banner Fort, but quickly realized that I was thinking of the wrong war.  Anyway, since it's an island, we had to take a ferry out there, which was fun.  Again, although it was a beautiful day, it was rather chilly on the water and even though the ferry wasn't going THAT fast, we were cold.  (So, duh, you say, why didn't you go inside?)  Well, I wanted pics.  I tried to get mom to go inside, but she insisted she was ok, and since I'm the one currently sick, I'm going to assume she was.

It was about a thirty minute ferry ride over, we had an hour on the island to entertain ourselves, and then a thirty minute ride back.  We trotted around, hit the gift shop, and made sure we had inside seats for the ferry ride back!

After returning to shore, we were very wind-blown and pooped.  We returned to the hotel, making a variety of wrong turns on the way, had dinner, watched NCIS and went to bed.  Whew!

Charleston - Day 1 (Epilogue)

Please forgive me, as I've been sick, but I forgot a part of Day 1's events.  So here goes..

Between the pier and dinner with Donna, Mom and I went and took a tour of the USS Yorktown.  Mom keeps telling me it isn't a boat, but an aircraft carrier.  I tell her it floats, it's a boat.  See, yet another way in which my landlubbing life has failed me.

Now remember that it was cool and windy, but sunny.  So we toured around the inside, looking at the museum-esque parts, learning all about it's history and the part it played in World War II, then we decided to check out the flight deck.  Now, being an avid viewer of NCIS, I've seen these tiny, steep stairways that are used on these ships and submarines.  I never planned on using them.  I was concerned about Mom going up and down them, although she did fine.  My biggest problem was that I was carrying along my 15-20 pound purse!

We checked out the flight deck - very big, and very windy.  And Mom decided to forgo checking out the bridge, so she just chose a seat out of the wind on the flight deck while I maneuvered my way up even more of these crazy stairways.  It was a good call on Mom's part to not try, because for these stairs, not only did you have to go up them to get there, but back down them (and I mean BACK down them) to get back down.

But the whole thing was very good, very educational, and well worth the price!

Then we left and had dinner with Donna.  :)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Charleston - Day 1

Now my long time readers know that I've been to  Charleston before - I went in September 2008 to visit my friend Donna... and that's where I got my first tattoo.  Well, since I didn't envision Mom being receptive to getting a tattoo, I figured this vacation would be different.

After a lovely free breakfast at the hotel (Hampton Inn - free breakfast!), we headed out for Charles Town Landing - it's the part of Charleston that was originally settled by Europeans.  I was not sure that this was going to be a good place to go because when we walked into the visitors center, there were about 25 kindergartners.  I realized that it was field trip time of the year.  Fortunately, my fears did not happen.  The kids all disappeared while Mom and I were checking out the ladies room and the museum part of the visitors center. 

We trekked around the mile and a half path to check out the scene.  It was a beautiful morning, although it was a wee bit chilly.  There was a little bit of trouble, though, and we were delayed for a short while. 

After a trek through the gift shop and the ladies room, we were able to get away.  It was time to start thinking about lunch.  As we had bananas and peanut butter in the car, we headed for the beach.  Now this turned out to be more difficult that one would think.  We discovered that while Charleston is a lovely place, they have this way of not mentioning upcoming exits until like 2 feet before it is time to exit... making it impossible to take and ending up taking the wrong bridge and ending up on the wrong island.  It was on our way to Folly Beach when this happened the FIRST time. 

We found the beach, found the public access, and made our way to the beach!  As my regular fans know, I was meant to be a beach bum, but through an odd accident of birth, was given to landlubbers.  Sigh.. 

While we dined in high style on 'nanners and peanut butter, we were joined by this cute little bird.  Unfortunately one of his legs was broken and while it was sort of cute to watch him hop and hobble, hop and hobble, it was also heartbreaking.  While I knew there was nothing I could do about it, I was pleased to know that he flew off and I choose to believe that he flew off to a vet's office where a world-class pet doctor performed a and emergency experimental bionic leg replacement surgery and now he's off fighting bird crimes.

After emailing a picture of me on the beach with a message "Guess where I'm having lunch" to my peeps back at the firm, we swept the sand off and packed up to go see this long pier.  I'm sure Mom could tell us the name of it, but..  And again, after tackling the gift shop, we trotted down the pier - I think mom said it's the second longest pier extending out over the Atlantic ocean.  That far out into the ocean, the wind was incredible and we were very chilly.  As we sat and watched the world go by, we saw these three guys catch two baby hammerhead sharks (keep in mind that there was a sign that said that if you catch sharks of ANY size, they are to be thrown back).  I'm like, ok, they're going to throw them back.  But first they each have to take their pictures with them and then the tourists nearby have to have their pictures taken with them.  The poor little nippers were hanging there flipping and gasping for breath.  The guys did throw them back finally, but God alone knows how much brain damage the poor things ended up with.

That evening, we met my friend Donna for dinner.  We tried to meet her at one place that served "gullah" style food.  Sounded good.  The only problem was that it was closed that evening.  Donna's reaction... "They're NEVER closed!"  We found another place and had a wonderful time catching up.  I did get a picture of me and Donna, but she tells me that I promised I wouldn't show the picture of her that I took back in 2008 and then I ended up posting it on my blog.  I didn't remember this, but I again promised not to post the picture.  So you won't get to see how fab she looked. 

We made our way back to the hotel, remarking to ourselves that we'd picked the perfect hotel location and fell asleep...  pooped.

On the Road Again - 2012

So Mom and I felt the need to hit the road again.  After last summer's trip to the UK so I could have my appendix out, we decided to stay in the continental US.  We figured it would be safe, since I don't have any extraneous body parts to lose, right?  And even if something did happen, we'd be close to medical staff who, while still having an accent, I could understand their speech!

On Saturday, April 21st, we packed up the Rav-4 and hit the road.  Well, ok, first we had to stop by CVS for snacks, and McDonalds for iced tea for me, and the Donut Bank for coffee and a donut for Mom, and then in Henderson for gas.   But THEN we were off.

The itenerary for this trip was to travel to Charleston, South Carolina, with that trip being broken up into two days because Mom (and, well, probably me, too) would get too tired if we did it all in one day.  We would spend three nights (four days) in Charleston, then travel to Savannah, Georgia and stay for two nights until heading back (again, taking two days.)

Duncan would stay in the condo, taking care of the kids and taking his finals.

The trip to Charleston was non-eventful, we spent the night at Dandridge, Tennessee and then the next morning, drove through the foggy mountains, arriving in Charleston late in the afternoon, ready for an enjoyable time in Charleston.