I am a horrible backpacker…

So, I have decided I dislike backpacking.  It is fun for about a week at a time and then moving around and different people get tiring.  You miss the really cool person you met in the other town but who was flying back to Australia or flying to the US for another leg of their trip.  I hate riding on buses especially with almost everything I own in areas where robberies are not uncommon.  I prefer to fly or take a tourist bus.  I also prefer to stay in one place for a longer time.  Get to know the baker and grocery store owner and the guy that sells papayas and mangos.

So I am staying in Gautape on a work exchange at a hostel for a couple of weeks.  Guatape is a gorgeous little town nestled into mountains on a huge reservoir that was created in the 1960s for power generation.  It buried a town called I think El Penol under water.  There is still a steeple under water that people apparently gather around in boats for an Easter service.  There is a big rock with 740 steps to the top of the little tower on top with tourist shops on the top and bottom.  There are wonderful views of the reservoir and surrounding villages and gorgeous houses.

There are waterfalls, hiking paths, great vistas, a monastery, lots of boating and kayaking, and a lot of tourist things to do on the weekends, such as party boats, little paddle boats shaped lie tractors with large plastic wheels, jet skis, private boat tours, touristy shops, and games, etc.  During the week, however, there is a whole lot of nothing going on except backpackers going on treks and school kids running around at lunch and after school.  I have been able to see a marching band and color gaurde practicing, a small wedding, people watching the same futball game at every tienda or restaurant, and since I am getting a bit of a rapport with a few locals I am practicing my Spanish more and I am taking Spanish lessons.

I even got asked for directions today.  Though, when I asked for her to repeat where she wanted to go because I was somewhat dumfounded someone thought I would be able to provide directions and speak Spanish, she stopped.  The sad part is I just was studying directions and might have been able to answer properly in Spanish but the man she was with was English speaking and she just deferred me to him sort of hiding behind him.  Most people here just smile or if they know any English want to say hi to me in English.  Occasionally I try to strike up a conversation with old ladies who are incredibly amused at my attempts and usually end up laughing in fits at me.  It is kind of funny.

In other news I found out how to use a vpn to watch hulu.  It feels much more normal sticking it out in one place, cooking dinner, going on hikes everyday, seeing familiar faces, and watching the sunset with a Colombian cerveza (beer).

Well here are the pictures!

Medellin

Guatape

Detours and Road Blocks

Detour Before it Begins

Things will always go wrong if they can go wrong.  Isn’t that Murphy’s Law or something?  Every time things go wrong I have to believe it is to put me on an even better path or else I might go crazy.  First my oil sending unit (?) burst in Winter Haven, thankfully in front of a shop.  I got the car fixed for only $20 if I got an oil change at the same time, an oil change I had been putting off.  Only I missed yoga and did not get to the restaurant on time for a seat and got to bed so late I did not get to do the trail the next day and yoga got rained out Sunday also.  I however rested, spent time with S, and caught up.  It was not what I planned but it was a good time.  I would not have traded the extra time with S for everything going right, we had our famous deep philosophical talks.  I miss them.

Tropical Storm Debbie

Then there was Tropical Storm Debbie.  I was going to Savannah to walk around and take pictures and stopping in Jacksonville, FL first to see the massage therapist that changed my life by turning me onto yoga for healing my body.  So instead of just moving on from Jacksonville, I looked up some couch surfing (as I have yet to actually couch surf) and who should be on there but the same massage therapist.  So I asked if he knew anyone able to take a couch surfer and surf his spare bed I did.  I got to know him and his family more, including his completely adorable 8 month old son.

Keith also suggested a place I could see in Georgia would be the Hostel in the Forest.  I thought I would not be able to go because I needed to take pictures in Savannah, right?  Well Debbie decided to slow down and not go anywhere.  Stay one more night with my new friends or continue on?  I felt I really needed to cross the Florida border, as if the storm was testing me and my resolve to really start this trip I had been putting off for so long in my life.  So what is one tiny tropical storm to get in my way?  Right?

A mess, that is what it is.  A giant mess.  If there is one thing you are always able to use for an excuse is a tropical storm.  Honestly, it is okay to not drive through torrential rain storm with gusts of wind blowing people into your lane.

Hostel in the Forest

After an incredibly crazy drive through the storm and almost getting stuck in the driveway, as soon as I set foot into the actual hostel area, I realized I needed to stay another day.  My entire body seemed to let go of all the stress from the last few days.  It was amazing how liberating the place was.  I really needed to let go of the expectations from my trip and the expectations I place on myself.  In a yoga class at Asheville Yoga Center, the teacher said to let go of all the definitions of who you are and who you are supposed to be.  In that class you are supposed to be who ever you are in that moment.  That is what I am working on for this trip.  At the forest that was the closest I had been to that person yet.  It was just what I needed to start my trip.

While at the hostel I was going to do yoga when some people asked me if I could lead a class.  I said no, I am not a teacher.  Later more people asked so I did lead a small class.  I am not good enough or not a teacher or do not have something to offer are all things I have used in the past when people have asked me if I would like to teach or lead a class or just do yoga together.  But while I was there I was able to do it and it was amazing.  The second night I was there I also taught a class but this one was a candle light class in the glass room which is an isolated, octagonal glass room overlooking a pond.

St. Simons

The next day I spent part of the day at the Hostel and the massage therapist and Reiki master Donna was from St. Simons and wanted to show me around town so it was another detour.  We had the most amazing sea food lunch at Gnats Landing (I think that was the name) and spent the day touring the island and hitting the beach.

Savannah

That night I left to Savannah and stayed at a cheap motel, Inn at Mulberry Grove, close to I-95.  It was very nice and clean compared to many hotels I have stayed at and the furnishings were upscale and it included free breakfast.  I got it for 40 dollars bid on Priceline, while in their parking lot, with Name Your Own Price.  Only I could not sleep, so I did not get to Savannah until almost noon.  And it was hot, HOT, HOT!

So hot that I only stayed for four or five hours before I could not handle it any more. I started from there towards Black Mountain a day early and skipped a second night in Savannah or Charleston.

Black Mountain

Somehow my GPS took me to the scenic route through Route 9.  In the dark up and down a windy mountain road.  Another detour.  It was however gorgeous. I arrived later than I thought I would and ended up chilling out with my friends I had not seen for a while and my car STILL smelled like burning oil.  Turns out I have leaks.  Like four or five oil leaks.  Yes that many.  So now what?  Another detour.  I have been in the Asheville area for a week now.  But in that time I have played play-dough with an adorable three-year old, saw gorgeous waterfalls, did yoga, went to a dance collective dance wave, and in general had a great time.

What is Next?

I am going to have to take a much more direct route home and I need to figure that out.  But I have had a great time and saw some great things.  I am heading to a drum circle tonight.  Everything is just a reminder to let go.  Let go of where I am supposed to go when I am supposed to get there and who I am while traveling.  If I can let go, I can let so much more into my life.

Pictures are Up!

I am currently in Black Mountain, North Carolina!  And I did not even get a speeding ticket from a trooper in Georgia.  There are first times for everything.  I did get asked if I was a “working woman” in Savannah and had several offers to join me by creepy old men with no teeth in South Carolina.

For a teaser, the uploaded pictures from my Michigan Road Trip thus far.  I will be updating my map soon!

Jacksonville, Florida

The Hostel in the Forest in Georgia  (I seem to have messed these photos up when I re-sized them.  I forgot to set the it to keep the aspect ratio.  Oops.  I will re-upload them soon.)

St. Simons, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia

Updated! 

Here are the correct sized pictures for the Forest Hostel!

Seminole Wekiva Trail – SR 434 to Lake Mary Blvd

After being on the computer for days for the same amount of time I was when I was working, I realized that I was wasting my time off.  I know I need to blog and social network and apply for unemployment, but I need to take the time off to accomplish the goals I want to accomplish and use the time to just explore the world.  So after sitting on a couch for almost two days, I got off my lazy butt and did something I have meant to do for a while.  I did not feel too bad, as it had been raining every day I had been back for a large portion of the days. I walked the Seminole Wekiva Trail to Lake Mary Blvd. from SR 434 or Starbucks to Panera as most people will recognize it. And in my true fashion I took photos along the path.

The Trail

The Seminole Wekiva Trail in in Seminole County, Florida and starts at the San Sebastian Trail head near SR 436 and ends at Markham Woods Road Trail head on Markham Woods Road.  Total distance is about 14 miles.  The portion I walked was almost 6 miles (or 12 there and back).  Along the trail there is the Seminole County Softball Complex, Sanlando Park, an Altamonte Springs Leisure Center, and several restaurants.

Trail heads include:

  • San Sebastian Trailhead
  • Seminole County Softball Complex
  • Jones Trailhead
  • Markham Trailhead

Goals

My goal was to walk there and back, carry a pack (just my computer, wallet, Kindle and camera), survive, and take pictures.  I was successful! I did not think the pack would affect me as much as it did, but it did.  I felt so sore the next day.  I decided in the future to carry my laptop but no cords for anything and carrying the laptop and Kindle is a bit redundant.  The light was so bright that day the pictures were not so good, but helpful.

This is where I get a bit upset the Eye-Fi card did not work better.  I could have just uploaded my pictures to a map using the GPS location of the pictures.  Too bad it crashes my camera all the time.

Off to a Late Start

The day started later than I had wished, I could not sleep the night before so went to bed very late and woke up very late.  I did not get to the trail until almost 11:00 a.m. And it was hot.  God was it hot.  I started off in the parking lot behind the Starbucks on 434 in Longwood.  There is plenty of shade there and its seems like most of the businesses are vacant.  It was Sunday anyway.  I see people park there a lot.

And I headed north towards Lake Mary Blvd.  There is a nice underpass under 434 so you do not even have to cross the street.

I was awfully upbeat and chipper at being out of the house.

The trail was bright and sunny.

There were pretty flowers out.

The light was sparkling as it filter through the lush green leaves.

Miles are marked for you every half mile (this one is just after the SR 434 underpass).

I am always amazed to see what is at the houses once you get going.  I did not take pictures of other people’s houses and property, but there are people with goats, chickens, huge houses, giant pools, people with huge self-made solar systems, etc. I did get a picture of a some art someone put on their fence.

I thought it was awesome.

Chasing Shade

Then, around noon, I realized it was really hot and I had not put sunscreen on.  My neck was kind of burning.  Around this time my tactics changed.  I walked fast through the sun and strolled through the shade. Luckily there are a lot of shaded areas with benches.

Then as you keep going the path get hilly.  Everyone I know from Michigan will laugh at this, since its not like most of the area gets to more than 25 feet above sea level so hills are not really hills. But, when its 90 something degrees they seem like mountains.

Right when I ran out of water and thought I was going to burn to a crisp, I reached Jones Trail Head.  There were two nice bikers talking and the lady gave me sunscreen, a water bottle, and a frozen water bottle.  It was so nice.  I keep hoping I see her again so I can repay her.  There is a working water fountain at Jones Trail Head also.

The clouds were still gorgeous but the shady areas were becoming far and few between.

Then suddenly the trail got much more Urban.  There were really nice looking condo and apartment complexes…right across from a ranch with cows and horses.

You Have Arrived

And then you are there.  You can tell you are at the right place because of people waiting in line for a spot on the bike rack.

There is a shopping center where there is a Panera, another cafe which had a line out the door when I was there, and a bunch of other shops.

View from Panera’s patio.

Long Way Home

So I stopped and ate and cooled down and drank tons of water.  And then I was off.

As I said, the clouds were gorgeous.  However, they were moving quickly and a nice cool breeze blew up.  Since it was much later in the afternoon, and this was the first day since I had been back it had not rained, I was worried.  So I started moving quickly and did not take many pictures on the way back.  It was fairly quiet since it was the hottest part of the day.

The last part seemed to take forever.  Finally I could see 434 ahead.

I was so happy to get to my car, though it was hot as a sauna inside.  It was also still sunny and clear.  It did not start raining until around 8 p.m. that night and it had some pretty impressive lightning, thunder, and a nice 30 minute downpour that is typical for Florida and floods everything low-lying within minutes.

Google Maps

My Google Map with helpful locations, trail heads, water fountain and bathroom locations, and pictures.  Updated as I get the time and walk the rest of the trail. The map can also be found on my “Maps” page under “Seminole Wekiva Trail.” If you click on the camera icon you can see pictures. I plan on doing the northern portion of the trail this Saturday from Panera to the Markham Trail Head. Ignore the parts in the directions which make you take a road. For some reason Google will not let me keep the path on the trail but it always runs next to a road in those instances. For instance, you do not need to cross Lake Mary Blvd. because there is another underpass.

Photo Update – Michigan Almost Summer Day 6

I am behind.  I know.  But, there have not been many picture opportunities because of rain.  My grandma is doing great after her surgery.  She had two organs and a cyst remove and she is in her 80s.  She is one strong woman.

I did go for a walk yesterday and today and took a few more pictures though. Here is Day 6 (of 7) pictures!  If you missed it, there is also Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3. There are not as many pictures because I walked with my dad and he is always imparting bits of information and wisdom as we walk.  Like what type of trees are there and their health status and which trees he needs to cut for firewood next year and which trees he needs to cut to make sure they do not fall on the trail or their shed/house. Dad had to patch the roof of the shed this weekend because a branch from a dead tree fell on it.  It makes me nervous when he goes up a ladder.

The most notable moment of this walk was watching Jack fall into the swamp.  He did not even know what was happening.  He was chasing a frog or something and suddenly splash!  He stuck his head out of the algae and plant covered green water confused and then pulled himself up to the shore.  Jack hates the water so I was surprised that it only took him a few moments to get over the shock before he shook it all of and started running after a squirrel.

Jack is really happy in Michigan with all his friends (mom has four, yes four, dogs), walking through the woods, and my parents which feed him anything he wants.  He absolutelyloves going for walks in the woods.  He gets so excited when you ask him if he wants to go for a walk.  I am glad to see that.

Here ya go!

 

Photo Update – Michigan Almost Summer

The weather is a gorgeous 60-70 degrees.  The sun is warm, the shade is cool.  Flowers are in bloom and butterflies abound.  And I am reunited with my dog JackHere are a few updates from central Michigan.

Textures and Shadows of Cranes Roost Park

I took some pictures at Cranes Roost Park in Altamonte Springs today before yoga.  I only took pictures around the fountain area.  My focus was on the pretty shadows of mid day light and textures.  All pictures up on Photobucket.

(I could add tons of these hibiscus I love them!)

Beach Weekend Revisiting College Town!

Here is an end to all the wishy washy fluffy bits on personal growth and back into the beautiful photos.  I needed to get away.  I was not writing, no yoga, no photography.  For whatever reason I was in a slump.  However, for Cinco de Mayo I went to the beach with my friend S and her friend C. I went to college in Melbourne and revisited a few places and just enjoyed resetting my clock on the beach.

Last Saturday I left for Melbourne, Florida at a not so early in the morning hour.  I was very nervous because the hotel I had booked was a mom and pop hotel that did not have a lot of information on it.  Plus it was more expensive than I was used to.  I usually can get a nice hotel on Priceline for cheap.  This hotel was not very expensive ($134 after taxes) but was not cheap as I am used to.  It also looked a little old.  But, after being told my five or six other hotels there was NO availability I was a little desperate.  I eventually asked one of the full up motels what was going on.  Apparently there was a country music festival with Alan Jackson.  The lady said Alan Jackson’s name like a teenager girl might say Justin Bieber’s name.

So Ocean Front Paradise Resort it was.  They are actually older one bedroom apartments.  It looked very odd from a street view because on each side were 5-6 story motels or condos.  It was made up of about 8 or 10 one story units total with a main house that the owners lived in.  The woman who owned it is a bit strict about not having any guests other than those registered on the property (cannot invite people to the beach who are not paying customers) and to not open your windows at all.  I actually appreciated the empty beach the most, not a lot of noise or litter and I understand they do not want the humid salty air ruining the apartments.

When you arrive (and check in time is flexible, I showed up at 2) and get checked in there are two side walks, one in front of the two rows of apartments.  We got the unit right next to the beach on the right.  I have no idea what number it is, but ask for it.  The windows overlooked the dunes and it was beautiful. And this might be the most amazing part, instead of having concrete built up to the boardwalk, there was actually a grassy lawn that overlooked the dunes and beach and lots of available chairs and loungers.  There was even a kayak to borrow (we didn’t).

The apartments are fully stocked with silverware and plates and kitchen ware.  The mini fridge did not seem to get things too cold, but that could have been a setting.  I did not pay too much attention since the first thing I did was go sit on the beach.  When I got to warm I got up and splashed around in the surf.  I have not been to the beach in years, it’s a pity, I used to live so close and the expense of gas to get there seems somewhat prohibitive, but I need to balance out costs and benefits.  There was a huge benefit of going. However, after trying to figure out why my sunscreen would not absorb I looked at the bottle and realized it was two years expired.  Oops.

So, I decided I would walk down to the surf shops about three-quarters of a mile away and get sunscreen.  It was a wonderful walk.  I tried to be conservative taking pictures because I only had one fully charged and one partially charged battery.  All the moving around finally caught up with me, I left the charger and 2 spare batteries at the apartment I house sat for the week before which I could not get back until the next week.  I did still get a lot of awesome pictures.

When I walked up to the Indialantic (get it, get it no really it is a town) surf shops I found some sunscreen and a really cute skirt and Coldstone coconut ice cream with almond joy in it.  Then I sat on the beach and sat on the beach some more.  When my friends called me to come get dinner I might have blown them off and sat some more. I was hoping to snap some of the moon rise, but it did not work out, hunger won.

We ate at a little restaurant in historic downtown Melbourne  called Island Pasta Company where I had the seafood coconut curry – yum).  The Mahi and shrimp were perfect and I love coconut curry.  In fact, I have been on a never-ending coconut kick lately.  I love sitting outside at this restaurant because it has a cute out-door corridor with nice lighting and ambiance and a sort of European cafe feel only with Island music.

After a nice night revisiting downtown Melbourne and seeing all the craziness in the clubs down there for Cinco de Mayo (and did not participate), we headed back to the hotel.  When S asked what I did all day other than sit on beach I gave a look that conveyed all I was feeling, “why would I need to do anything else?”  S and C pretty much collapsed onto the pull out couch while I stayed out in a beach chair for most of the night.  After brushing off the third roach (or maybe it was the same roach) from my hair I decided I should get some sleep in the softy comfy bed with springs in it.  You have no idea how much I miss a spring bed.  Sigh…

S and I got up to watch the sunrise and it was amazing.  Dolphins jumping and all.  We went to Blue Berry Muffin Restaurant which happened to be across the road, where we all ate too much and enjoyed some really good muffins.  I had the Chocolate Chip instead of Blueberry but they were both made of a corn muffin base that was so crispy on top but without so much sugar.  It was awesome.  I had corned beef hash which was just ok.  I make much, much better.

Then we all went and cleared out the apartment and laid on the beach while the lady cleaned the apartment for her next guest.  Checkout was a non negotiable 11 AM.  That was okay as by 12 we were already sunburned and dehydrated and C had to leave to go to work.  S and I stayed and walked around downtown Melbourne, I took her to Holmes Park and Promenade Park which are on Cranes Creek near where it meets the intercoastal water way.  S had not seen manatees before.  There were no manatees but there were lots of jumping fish and even another dolphin.

Then we went and windowed shopped and ate lunch at Meg O’Malley’s Irish Pub.  I love this place because it has the best corned beef sandwich I have ever had.  Even better than mine. They use real corned beef roast.  It is amazing.  After being sufficiently stuffed we walked back toward the car and stopped in a new agey sort of store.  S bought a new peacock stone and I bought a fuschite and a couple aquamarines to make a necklace out of.  I am not sure if I believe in crystal power, but I like my stones.

On our way back to the express way we got some frozen yogurt and I tried to stay awake for the drive back.  I was very happy for a bed and shower that night back into the house sitting gig.  I made sure I charged all my camera batteries and put them back in the case.

So here are the pictures (click on the link to see all of them):

Chris Botti at Ruth Eckerd Hall Clearwater

A couple of months ago I was looking at trying to find things to do with my friends before I leave.  I used to go to several Chris Boitti concerts a year with a group of friends.  Chris Botti plays trumpet and I first saw him opening for Josh Groban in 2004.  There were two good seats in Row G left.  It was fate.

After worrying if Kathy and I were going to be able to make it on time, Kathy was able to move her schedule and have someone cover the end of her class.  We were off for the normally 1.5 hour drive before 4:30.  At 6:30, after a fun detour through Ybor City and a drive by Tropicana Field (where the Tampa Bay Rays play), we were still on the causeway over to Clearwater.  Traffic was crawling and we were starved, starved enough to grab Checkers down the road and scarf it down in the parking lot.

First off, I really loved Ruth Eckerd Hall.  I have been trying to go to a show there for years, it is just so hard to get to Clearwater since there are always tons of people going in the few ways there are to get in.  The place is a little old and outdated in looks, which is a common thing in Florida, especially for nice places near/on the beach. The seats were velvet covered and cushy and most importantly, the sound was AMAZING.  Definitely the best sound I have heard in Florida.  The seats were great.  Not the closest seats I have ever had, great for sound though and overall view.  Pictures were not as good as at the Hard Rock though.  The lighting was not as good either, which is my excuse :).

Best part was probably the fact there was no opening act.  That is right, all Chris, no sitting through another painful opening act.  Makes me happy that the entire time was to Chris.  Only it was not just Chris.  Chris has always had a top-notch band backing him up.  Only this time it was all mixed up.  His long time guitarist was out and the other members were a mash-up of new and old.

Robert Hurst was on bass.  He went to Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp like I did, makes me like him even more, though it is not necessary.  He is awesome and always gets a great groove moving.  Geoffrey Keezer was on keys.  I really loved he and Chris playing my Funny Valentine at the end, very smooth.  On drums is the always there Billy Kilson.  I only think he missed one show I have ever been at.  Billy rocks.  He is always chewing gum and is really a machine. I could not remember the name of the violinist and I believe Mark was replaced on guitar by Leonardo Amued, an amazing guitarist from Brazil.

The most amazing part of the band to me was Lisa Fischer by far (does she have an official page any where I can link to and get info from?).  She might have been the highlight of the whole show.  When she started the look of love she did this vocal playing at the front of the song that was just so amazing.  I cannot explain it.  This does not give it justice, but here is a You tube Video of a performance of her with Chris.  I do believe Billy and Geoffrey are there too.  She has sung with so many great people, Rolling Stones, Sting, Luther Vandross, etc. but she steals the show.  Really, look her up and see her in person.  It was amazing.

Kathy and I decided that this was the best sounding concert we have been to.  It was truly amazing.  Also, before we left her daughter was crying because she thought that was the last time she was going to be able to see me.  However, it was just the last time she was going to be able to see Jack, my dog.  So, I bought a ridiculously priced poster and after the show we had Chris sign it to Helen, don’t cry.  It was cute.

So, since I cannot remember the set list and the funny details of our adventure since I did not write this fast enough, I will let pictures tell the rest of the story…

The many expressions of Mr. Billy Kilson:

And, Kathy, Chris and I after the show!

If there is an easier way to get photos in a slide show or presented neatly let me know please!

More photos here.

Shared review at PhotoBoto

The people at PhotoBoto are using my review! And they say nice things about it!

Eye-Fi Pro X2 8 GB Class 6 SDHC Wireless Flash Memory Card – Product Review | PhotoBotos.com

http://photobotos.com/2012/02/27/eye-fi-pro-x2-8-gb-class-6-sdhc-wireless-flash-memory-card-product-review/

Sorry about crazy first post. First time using share a link on my Android phone to WordPress. Live and learn.