Make Time

Busy, busy, busy…we all lead busy lives. Sometimes, we’re busy sitting on our butts watching TV, but we all claim to be busy all the time.

This morning, I took a break from busy. About a week ago, a friend I haven’t seen in a long time sent me a message asking me to meet for coffee. We checked our calendars and decided today would be the day. So at 9:15 this morning, I met a friend at Cafe Moka, a cute little coffee shop in the Waverly shopping center in South Charlotte. Apparently, I was the only person in Charlotte who didn’t know about it, because it was hoppin’! You can see the website here.

This particular friend is sweet and funny, so I was looking forward to seeing her. When I arrived and saw her smiling face waiting in a little nook of the coffee shop, I smiled. At that moment, I knew this was something I needed…to catch up with a friend I haven’t seen in a long time…really catch up without distractions, and it was great.

A few days ago, my husband was going through some old photos on his phone, and he came across some from summer of 2008. They were pictures of our daughter with her preschool friend…and there, in the third picture was the daughter of the friend I was meeting for coffee today! My husband texted the pics to me, so as soon as I arrived, I showed them to my friend. She enjoyed looking through them and then said, “I have no recollection of this!” The pictures were made at Carowinds, a local amusement park (see the website here). We ran into my friend and her daughter near an attraction that is no longer at Carowinds…small convertibles on rails that the kids believed they were really driving. Even though they weren’t really driving them, they were a vision of the future.

And now we are officially in the future. My friend’s daughter is now a senior in high school, driving a real car and preparing for college. My own daughter just got her driver’s license two weeks ago…driving herself to high school in a real car instead of waving as she drives past me in the cars on rails at Carowinds. Time flies. And that’s exactly why we need to stop and “smell the roses.”

Time passes so quickly that we often forget to stop and spend some time with the people we care about. Sometimes, I look at my calendar and see the things I need to do instead of the things I want to do. In reality, we need to put forth the effort to do some of the things we want to do and spend time with some of the people we want to see.

But today, I put forth the effort. Today, I enjoyed a little time over coffee with a friend. And it put a smile on my face for the rest of the day…just what the doctor ordered!

 

 

 

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Lessons From The Florida Panhandle

The Florida Panhandle. It’s a place I know well. It is a place that is near and dear to my heart.

My daddy, his siblings, and all my first cousins grew up there. I was born there. My grandparents lived there. My daddy is buried there, and my mother’s ashes are there.

When I was five months old, my family moved to Brewton, Alabama, and I never lived in the Panhandle again, but we visited family there regularly. We also vacationed at the beaches along the gulf coast in the Panhandle. I learned a lot in the Panhandle.

This past week, I took my teenage daughter on a road trip through the panhandle. Neither of us had been there since 2007, and she had no recollection of that visit. I also showed her some places she had never been. She didn’t act particularly interested in all my stories, but maybe she will remember some.

Maybe she will remember my telling her about doodlebugs in the Panhandle. Nope, I’m not talking about VWs. I’m talking about antlions, insects whose larvae dig pits to capture prey. If you’re not familiar with them, this will be as confusing to you as it was to my daughter. But doodlebug pits look like tiny holes in the ground with a small crater around them. When my cousins and I were little, our Granddaddy showed us how to get doodlebugs to come out of what we thought were their homes. He told us to put a tiny stick down into the hole and stir it while saying, “Doodlebug, doodlebug, come out and get a cup of coffee. Doodlebug, doodlebug, your house is on fire.” After a few stirs and a few chants, the doodlebug would emerge! We thought it was because of our chanting, but as an adult, I know it was because of the stirring. I think Granddaddy was just giving us something to do, so we wouldn’t bother people, but we spent hours bothering doodlebugs…and we had fun and made memories!

I also learned about biddies in the Panhandle. Nope…not gossiping old ladies or hot girls (urban slang). Biddies…young chickens. I must have been about six or seven the first time I heard young chickens called “biddies” by my cousin, Patti. I think we were visiting her house when she suggested we go see the biddies. I followed her to someone’s barn…I have no idea who it belonged to. I don’t remember much about the biddies, but I do remember there were cats there…and hay. I also know my mother must not have known where we were. She would have been worried about snakes. I don’t think we stayed long, but I learned that some folks call young chickens “biddies.”

When my Granddaddy died, a family friend took some of the cousins to get a milkshake at cousin Patti’s other grandparents’ store in Sneads while the grownups talked. They didn’t have a chocolate shake, so I ordered a strawberry shake. I feel sure the folks at Patti’s grandparents’ store knew how to make good milkshakes, but on that day, I learned I don’t like strawberry milkshakes.

On the beach in Panama City Beach one year, when I was a teenager, I learned that tar sometimes washes up with the tide. There had been an oil spill in the Caribbean, and the jetstream pushed a lot of the tar into the Gulf of Mexico. I knew nothing about it, until I was walking the beach near the Fontainebleau Terrace and got some tar on my white sneakers. Had to throw those away…tar doesn’t just wash out easily.

Also in Panama City Beach, at Miracle Strip Amusement Park, I learned a Scrambler amusement park ride is a lot more fun when it’s enclosed in a giant building shaped like an abominable snowman with loud music playing and mirrors on the walls…and bright lights flashing. I also saw a chicken play a piano at Miracle Strip and rode the Starliner roller coaster.

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Miracle Strip Amusement Park in 60s or early 70s

And everywhere in the Panhandle, I learned that gnats will congregate around your eyes, your nose, and any cuts or scrapes you have. Natural springs are naturally cold (Blue Springs Recreational Area). And more info here. I learned that Spanish moss is beautiful, even though it’s not a moss at all…it’s a flowering plant. I learned about stalactites and stalagmites at Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna. In Quincy, I learned about a banker who loaned folks money to buy Coca Cola stock….eventually making them millionaires. Many years later, I became friends with that banker’s great granddaughters purely by accident, after meeting one of them at a party in Charlotte! From my daddy and his siblings, I learned what life was like in the rural Panhandle after the Great Depression. I learned about peach trees right outside the door whose limbs were used as switches. I learned about the one room schoolhouse in Bascom and Faye Dunaway’s being a student there. Yes, that Faye Dunaway…of Bonnie and Clyde fame. I listened to speculation about how a community called Two Egg got its name, and I ate as much pound cake as I could when I visited a great aunt in Two Egg. In my grandmother’s house, I learned what an antique sewing machine looked like, and I heard stories about my grandmother and aunt playing organ and piano at folks’ weddings and funerals…oh, one funeral story I’ll have to share another time. At the beaches in the panhandle, I learned how much fun it is to bunk with all your cousins in one house on vacation. And I used my first crosswalk button to cross the beach road in Mexico Beach when I was six…it was malfunctioning and shocked the stew out of me. On that same trip, I learned about wading out into a bay to catch scallops on the same trip. And I learned that fireworks are pretty on the beach.

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Blue Springs Recreational Area and Park, Marianna, Florida

The coastal Panhandle looks different now. There are planned communities and high rise condos where beach houses and roadside motels used to be. The original Miracle Strip Amusement Park is long gone from Panama City Beach, but there is a new Miracle Strip located near Pier Park on the beach road. Shipwreck Island waterpark and Capt. Anderson’s Restaurant are still there, and even the old Fontainebleau Terrace is still standing…it was a beauty in its heyday.

A little farther north, along Highway 90 in Jackson County, one big difference is that most motel/hotel accommodations either closed or moved over to I-10 after it was completed through the area. Well, that and the Hurricane Michael damage that is everywhere from Panama City to Jackson County…lots of devastation. In Marianna, lots of the downtown businesses were damaged and/or destroyed. I have lots of memories there…getting my first Florida State University sweatshirt at Daffin’s, seeing the RCA dog on top of one downtown business, and watching Mary Poppins in the old movie theatre there. The theatre has been gone for a long time, but I remember. Say a prayer for the folks who are still affected by that terrible storm. Lots of people are still suffering, including my aunt, whose house in Panama City was badly damaged by the storm.

The Panhandle taught me a lot. All this, and I didn’t even mention Tallahassee, Destin, and other places yet! Whew! I’ll share stuff about those places soon. Big lessons from all over the Panhandle. Mostly, it taught me my aunts, uncles, and cousins are keepers. Maybe we need to plan another beach vacation for the whole bunch!

I hope my daughter will remember some of it…

***Some friends asked me about the planned communities along the Gulf Coast. You can find lots of rental information here.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Favorite Road Trip, Part 1…and favorite car entertainment

If you’re lucky, there will be families like the ones we met, and your kids will leave their electronics in the wigwam while they play on the playground, run through the misting station, play games on the sidewalk, and share s’mores with new friends.

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Road trips. Spring break is fast approaching, meaning lots of families will load up their cars and set out on an adventure. Lots of people know I believe experiences are far more valuable than things, and I love making memories with my daughter.

In summer 2015, my daughter and I loaded up in a Ford Expedition with my friend, Mary Ann, and her three kids. Two adults and four kids…in a Ford Expedition…for 10 days. It was incredible.

We refer to our 2015 trip as the Epic Road Trip. I was the driver; Mary Ann was the navigator. Today’s post is about the first part of the trip. I’ll have some future posts about other parts later.

We loaded the car with entertainment, hoping to keep mayhem to a minimum. We started with I Spy Road Game, something adults and kids could play and enjoy. We broke up into teams. Mary Ann and I were a team…a very competitive team…the kids didn’t stand a chance. You can purchase it at Amazon here. It’s playing cards with pictures of objects you can see riding down the road. The player who collects the most cards wins. We also played the License Plate game collectively, trying to see how many different state license plates we could see. You can purchase boards for it at Amazon here. Mary Ann loaded her phone with lots of silly Ray Stevens songs before we left, so we had some goofy music to listen to…the kids were especially amused.

It’s essential everyone stays hydrated, so we had small bottles of water. Kids drink whatever is provided, so big bottles were off limits…too many stops afterward. We didn’t have snacks…too much mess for a long road trip, and Mary Ann I didn’t want to spend our time cleaning out the car at each stop. We would all eat together whenever we stopped…and we tried foods or restaurants we couldn’t experience in Alabama or North Carolina.

Don’t forget hand sanitizer, baby wipes, and garbage bags. A fun hand sanitizer I’ve mentioned before is Maybe You Touched Your Genitals Hand Sanitizer…kids will remember to use it just because of the name. You can purchase it here. Baby wipes are good for any small cleanups. Garbage bags are essential in the car for a number of things…water bottles, paper scraps, used tissues and/or baby wipes, carsickness, and they can be used for dirty clothes.

From Charlotte we drove to Gatlinburg, Tennessee and spent a couple nights before going on to Cave City, Kentucky, home of Mammoth Cave National Park (for more info click here) and Wigwam Village #2 (for info click here). In the early 1900s, seven Wigwam Villages were built across the US. Three remain: one in California, one in Arizona, and this one, which was completed in 1937.

We were going to sleep in a Wigwam.

We arrived in Cave City mid-afternoon. As we approached Wigwam Village, Mary Ann and I got excited. My daughter, however, was apprehensive. She took one look and said, “Mom, please! Can’t we just go sit in the wigwam and sleep in a hotel?” From the road, it was obvious the wigwams had seen better days, but we were determined.

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It was a night we will never forget.

Wigwam Village #2 is set up as a semicircle of white wigwams with a big wigwam at the road serving as the office/gift shop. The open area in the center of the semicircle is a grassy playground with monkey bars and other equipment, plus a misting station.

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We checked in, got our REAL keys (not key cards), parked between our wigwams, and unpacked. We had wigwams #7 and #8, the middle ones. The wigwams are concrete (see photos) with window unit air conditioners and aren’t particularly spacious. They have what seems to be the original louvered doors, and inside, the beds are clearly “antiques.” The bathrooms are basic, but the water pressure in our shower was amazing. However, because of the way the village is set up, we didn’t spend much time in the wigwams, except for sleeping and getting dressed.

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Soon after we checked in, other families began arriving. The family in the wigwam next to us had a daughter about the same age as our kids. Two wigwams down, a lady and her husband checked in with their grandson.

The children played for a while on the playground, and then we decided to check out an old theme park nearby, previously known as Guntown Mountain, but renamed Funtown Mountain by new owners. Sadly, the park was still undergoing repairs, so the only things open were a gift shop and the Haunted Hotel, both at the front of the park.

We visited the gift shop first. It was filled with old toys and a few new things, but mostly, it was junk.

We decided to take a chance on the Haunted Hotel and purchased tickets in the gift shop. At the entrance (see photo), a young man took our tickets. I was the last of our group to enter, and as I handed him my ticket, he said, “Have fun. This is the oldest haunted house in Kentucky, and it ain’t never caught on fire or nothin’.” I thought nothing of it and went inside.11709620_10207224665599785_9102713117535772104_n

We quickly learned it was in disrepair. No special effects were working, and the deeper we went, the passageways became more narrow and darker. It was at this point I started thinking about what the guy had said, and all I could think was “fire, fire, FIRE.”

We were trying to find our way in a dark, narrow hallway, and all I could think was, “If this thing catches on fire, we don’t have a chance.” Right then, I HAD TO GET OUT. I won’t go into detail about the language I used, but we had our phones out trying to provide enough light to GET OUT NOW. Finally, my daughter found an emergency exit, pushed it open, and we all rushed outside into eight inches of mud, but frankly, I DID NOT CARE. Panic over.

*Side note: one week after our visit, “Funtown Mountain” and its Haunted Hotel were condemned. I guess my fears were warranted. Afterward, the owner destroyed the gift shop. See a news clip from 2015 here

When we got back to the wigwams, our new friends were sitting outside and making s’mores over a grill. Children were playing on the playground and running through the misting station. Our kids joined them.

When it got too dark to play, Mary Ann’s kids brought out Beanboozled, a jelly bean game with good flavors (tutti fruity, fresh pear, coconut) and nasty flavors (sweaty socks, vomit, dead fish) that look alike, but you have to chew them to find out which one you have (more info here). The children gathered around and played for an hour or so on the sidewalk while we visited with new friends.

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When it was time to turn in, my daughter was still begging me to take her to a “real” hotel. She wasn’t sure about sleeping in a wigwam. John, the grandfather of one of the kids, assured her he would hear if anything happened, and he’d get there fast. His wigwam was two doors down from ours, and our other new friends were next door, while Mary Ann and her kids were staying on the other side of us. Before turning in, we went to Mary Ann’s wigwam to wait till midnight, so we could celebrate her 40th birthday at midnight. She turned 40 in a wigwam. We sang and called it a night.

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My daughter and I returned to our wigwam and slept remarkably well.

The next morning, we were surprisingly sad to say goodbye to our new friends. We felt as if we’d stepped back in time for 24 hours. It was a brief journey to a simpler time. If you decide to visit Wigwam Village #2, know in advance it’s not a luxurious experience, but if the people are half as nice as the people we met, you’ll have a great time. More info here.

While I can’t guarantee you’ll have the same incredible experience we had at Wigwam Village #2, it’s worth a visit. If you’re lucky, there will be families like the ones we met, and your kids will leave their electronics in the wigwam while they play on the playground, run through the misting station, play games on the sidewalk, and share s’mores with new friends.

What we learned is that sleeping in a wigwam isn’t just about the wigwam. It’s about the experience of spending time with new people in a simple place.

Our trip continued to Louisville, then through Indiana to Chicago, before driving east through Indiana and Michigan to Sandusky, Ohio. We detoured through one small town in Pennsylvania on our way from Ohio to North Carolina, but that is for a later post.

While so many parts of the Epic Road Trip of 2015 were special (more posts later), we loved Wigwam Village #2 so much, it deserved a post all its own.

Happy trails,

Kelly

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