Category Archives: Travel

Five Years Ago…

Five years ago today, I was stranded in Knoxville, Tennessee. I had headed out the day before for my new life in Vermont. I had everything planned. I was going to drive that first day to Blacksburg, Virginia, to see a friend of mine who was a Ph.D. student at Virginia Tech. Then I would drive the next day to Albany, New York. I had reservations at a historic hotel in downtown Albany. Then I would spend the third day of my trip driving the rest of the way to Vermont. Life has a way of throwing a wrench in your plans because none of those plans happened.

I set out that Wednesday morning on October 7, 2015, and things looked like they were going so well. Then while driving down I-40 just outside of Knoxville, I hit some large piece of metal (well about the size of my head) in the road.  It punctured my gas tank.  I had no choice as semi-trucks flanked me on both sides.  Luckily, no sparks were present, and I could pull off to the side of the road and call 911.  The local fire department arrived and neutralized the gas, and my car was towed to a local garage.  The tow truck was kind enough to take me to a hotel.  So, I was stuck in Lenoir City, Tennessee, in a hotel. My insurance company provided me with a rental car while mine was being fixed, but it would not arrive until the next afternoon. Luckily, there was a Mexican restaurant next door to my hotel, so I could at least get something to eat, but emotionally, I was as wrecked as my car. I had called my new boss and told her what had happened, but she insisted that I had to be there by a specific date, and I could not be delayed. Luckily, I did make it to Vermont in time.

As I was finishing packing my car before beginning my journey to Vermont, a good friend of mine wrote to me to give me this advice:

I’m so excited for you starting off this new adventure and, more importantly, putting the past behind you. A friend once told me to not just look ahead but to metaphorically turn a corner because then if you should ever glance back, you won’t be able to see what’s behind you because it’ll be out of your sights. Good advice to go and never look back. This poem reminded me of a song on the radio. Every time I hear it, I smile and think of you. Play it as you hit the gas and drive like hell out of the south.

He then sent me the Andy Grammar song “Good To Be Alive (Hallelujah).” These days, I have a really hard time listening to this song because I had no idea that by the end of the next month, my friend would die in a car accident, but today, I don’t want to dwell on that. Today, I want to say: Hallelujah, it is good to be alive. I can’t help but wish my friend was also still alive. He would be so happy with the way things have gone in my life since. Yes, there have been ups and downs, but overall, I do have a new life and a life that I love.


Where?

I’ve written a fair number of serious posts in the past week or so mainly because a lot of serious events have been happening. I’ve tried to remain silent on politics and just be mostly a lighthearted blog, but I’ve realized I cannot be silent anymore. Today, however, I want to be a little bit lighter, but I need your help. Many of us dream of living someplace other than where we currently are while some people are exactly where they want to be. They cannot imagine living anywhere else. 

I used to think I wanted to live in the mountains until I moved to Vermont. That dream had been to live somewhere in the Great Smokey Mountains. I never dreamed it would be in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Some people want to live on the beach. I’m not one of them although I enjoy visiting there occasionally. If I had to choose a beach, it would be one on the Gulf Coast somewhere along the Florida panhandle between the Alabama-Florida border and Panama City Beach. Unfortunately, it’s just too damn hot down there, and the sand constantly gets stuck in places where sand should never be. Also, that area is known as the “Redneck Riviera;” the politics are far too conservative for me. I love the emerald beaches and sugary white sand, but to visit only.

Another dream was to live in Florence, Italy, but I’ve realized now how tough it is living so far from my family. Instead, I will settle for wishing I could visit Florence, or Italy in general, on a regular basis. I’ve been to Florence twice, and it’s still one of my favorite places. Some people claim it’s too touristy, but I loved it. First, the city is beautiful. The art museums can’t be beat except maybe for some in Rome or in Paris. Second, the food is fantastic and always so fresh. Then there are the streets where you can almost get lost except you can usually see the Duomo from anywhere and can navigate your way back to the cathedral and get your bearings. I loved getting a gelato to cool off then walking into a store and buying a bottle of wine. They give you a glass so you can wander around the city at night enjoying the street performers and various forms of entertainment that are seemingly everywhere. My only issue was I was alone and didn’t have anyone with whom to enjoy my time there.

My one constant dream, though, has been to live in a relatively quiet area of the New Orleans French Quarter. The picture above reminds me of Tennessee Williams sitting on his balcony in the French Quarter watching the people pass by and dreaming of new and entertaining stories to tell. New Orleans has its characters, and the food is to die for—so tasty but also so rich you’d be happy if you died after eating one of their sublime meals. I know New Orleans has its drawbacks. The smell when you first arrive is off-putting, but eventually, you don’t notice it. Then there are the masses of drunk tourists, the rampant crime that is prevalent in the city, and the bright lights and noise of Bourbon Street. But…I love the Gay District that begins at the intersection of Bourbon and St. Ann; Bourbon Pub, Oz, and Good Friends are always so much fun. Also, there is my favorite straight bar, Pat O’Brien’s, where they make one of my favorite drinks, a hurricane. And always, there is the wonderful jazz music wafting down the streets. In many ways, it’s like the easygoing feel of a European city; the culture and history are unique and awe-inspiring. 

Perhaps one day, I could live in New Orleans and travel to Florence during the craziness that is Mardi Gras. That would be ideal. Plus, from New Orleans, I’d be close enough to visit a favorite Florida beach, and at other times, I could drive up to the Great Smokey Mountains. These are my dream places.

So, here is where I want your help: If you could live anywhere in the world and not worry about money or working and just be carefree and enjoy life, where would you go?  Where are your dream places? And why?

I don’t often get a lot of comments, but I know a good number of people visit my blog each day. I would love for you to comment on this post. Maybe you’ve lurked around my blog and not commented for whatever reason. Please comment now. Perhaps you comment regularly then by all means please comment now. Or this could be your first time here so why not comment now? I really love getting to know my readers, so tell me, where would you love to live?


Not Enough Sleep and the TSA

I’ve been sleeping pretty good, when I fall asleep. However, it takes me a while to fall asleep and when I do I wake up long before my alarm goes off. On Saturday, I woke at 4:30 am, and Sunday, I woke at 5:30 am. Both days I’ve awoken with terrible migraines and just wasn’t able to fall back to sleep.
Hopefully, I feel better when I wake up this morning. After five or six cancellations, I finally have an appointment to do my fingerprinting and background check for my TSA Pre Check. I’ll have to go to Burlington. There is a center closer to me, but they’ve been the ones canceling on me. Finally, they notified me that the local center was closed until at least June 1 because of COVID-19. So I rescheduled for Burlington, and it looks like they will keep this appointment. It’s only supposed to take ten minutes. Hopefully, that’s the truth. Honestly, I’ve never known of the TSA to do anything quickly. I’ve been waiting on an appointment since January. But, once this is over, I can go through the TSA lines a bit quicker. 
You’d think as small as Burlington and it’s airport is, that you could go through fairly quickly, but the wait is always nearly an hour. In Burlington, you have to get to the airport at least two hours early, but it helps if you’re even earlier. When I fly out of Montgomery, Alabama, I’ve never had more than two people of in front of me at the security check, which is probably why they don’t have TSA Pre Check there.

Moment of Zen: Flying Home


The Cruise

This post is a lot later than I had planned. I had planned to get it done by 6 pm, but my mother and I have been cooking all afternoon and evening. Tomorrow we will have the whole family at the house for Christmas, do we’ve been getting ready.
So, you want to know about the cruise. The first thing I will say is that Carnival has some beautiful gay men working on the Valor. They are all so sweet too, and they were the best part of the cruise. A couple of things about this cruise: 1) the seas were very choppy and the weather was terrible, 2) the food was not as good as the last time I went on a cruise, and 3) there are some ugly, trashy people that go on cruises.
Now on to what we did. Monday we set sail several hours late because of an issue with fueling the ship. Tuesday was a day at sea, where we spent most of the day exploring the ship and trying not to be seasick. Wednesday, we went to Cozumel where we spent the day shopping. I was able to buy a few Christmas gifts. Then we headed back to the ship as it started to rain. Thursday, we docked in the tiny fishing village of Progresso. This is where we got onto a bus for an excursion. The bus first took us to the Mayan city of Mayapan, which was the last major city of the Mayans. There, we were able to climb one of the pyramids. I learned that I am too old to climb pyramids. It was quite a workout. However, the major workout was yet to come. We next headed to a place near what they claimed was a palace of Empress Carlota (I do not believe the were correct because while Carlota toured the very rural Yucatán, she apparently did not stay long enough to build a palace). At the ruins of the palace are underground caves you can swim through. It was billed as a tubing trip, but they only told you on the way that the lazy river in the caves was really lazy and had no surface currents. So, we had to swim. Thank goodness we didn’t have to swim far because it really was a workout. I was sore for days afterwards. We were fed lunch after the swim. The lunch was good but cold. We were on the #4 bus, and I’m sure the #1 bus had warm food. We then explored the palace ruins for a few minutes and the boarded the bus back to the ship. Friday was another day at sea.
While we were on the ship and basically confined to the inside areas because of the rain, we took in a lot of the activities onboard. We played trivia and came close to winning a few times and finally did win the one called Calling All Nerds. I’m a historian and sci-fi geek and the two girls I played with are nuclear physicists, so no one else stood a chance. We also took in a few Christmas shows. They were fun, especially when Alex, one of the Carnival workers from Mexico City, sang “The Hat I Got for Christmas Is Too Big.” Actually he lip synced it and did a little dance. It didn’t hurt that he was the most beautiful man on the ship. We went to some of the comedy shows as well. They had two comics, one was fairly funny, the other was not. The unfunny one was an insult comic and that’s just not my humor. I also went to the hairy chest contest hoping to see some hot men. It was incredibly disappointing as some of the men didn’t even have hair on their chests.
That was about it for the cruise, but there is one other thing. I was so proud of this one young person. I guess they were non-binary. During the day he dressed as a guy and at night as a woman. I have to say that took a lot of courage. Cruises out of New Orleans are filled with rednecks and judgmental people. It’s not easy for a passenger to be gay and with a boyfriend. The ships do have nightly LGBT get togethers, but I’ve never seen more than half a dozen people show up for them. I didn’t get to say to the person how proud I was that they were able to live their true self because I felt either that they might take it the wrong way or something like that. I also never got the chance to say anything to the couple anyway, but I was very proud of that young couple.

Alabama

I’m back home in Alabama for Christmas. I spent yesterday with my parents. I’d planned to use today’s post to talk about my cruise, but by the end of the day when I usually write my posts, I’d developed a bad headache. Hopefully, I’ll feel better today and I can write my cruise post for tonight.


Return to NOLA and Fly to Alabama


Cruise Day 5: At Sea


Cruise Day 4: Progresso Excursion


Cruise Day 3: Cozumel