Two Friends on the Road, Part 1

Two friends on the road, Part 1.

I’ve recovered now. Wow. About 11 days ago, I embarked on a road trip with my friend, Mary Ann. We were long overdue for some fun, and frankly, we had discussed the possibility of a road trip without kids for years. It was high time we just got into the car and went. So we did. My husband stayed home with our 17-yr-old daughter, and my friend left her three kids with her mom…and off we went. We didn’t plan anything in advance. We didn’t have hotel reservations. However, because of COVID, we decided we needed to travel to places that were actually open, so we headed south…toward Florida.

We had used an app called Roadside America before, so we decided to use it on this trip too…and using the app, we decided our first stop would be at the UFO Welcome Center in Bowman, South Carolina. Crazy, right? It’s not an official welcome center; a gentleman built it in his yard, but it’s rather impressive. We knew when we had arrived, for sure. It’s shaped like a flying saucer and it cast a rather large shadow on the road as we approached from the east. Wow! Someone had spent a lot of time building this! I have to admit it was pretty amazing…an unusual photo op, to say the least. For a $20 “tip” you can go inside the massive structure, but since the sun was setting, and we weren’t sure the structure was “up to code,” we opted out of the grand tour. And soon, we were back on the road.

It wasn’t long before we were on I-95 south, and we stayed the course for several hours, till we decided it was time to stop…in St. Augustine, Florida. We got off the interstate and headed toward town, looking for a restaurant where we could grab dinner. We found a lovely place called Green Papaya, which offered Asian Fusion, but it was nearing closing time. We quickly ordered online and opted to eat it in the car, because we didn’t want to cause the staff to stay late. (My husband would be upset that we ate in my car…but he wasn’t there!) We were impressed with our ability to find a great restaurant, as the food from Green Papaya was just what the doctor ordered! If we find ourselves in St. Augustine again, we will return!

After dinner (in the car!), it was time to look for a place to stay. As I mentioned, we hadn’t made reservations ahead of time, and we wanted a small, locally-owned inn for the night. After checking ratings online, we headed toward a place called Magic Beach Motel in Vilano Beach…just outside St. Augustine. When we rolled into Vilano Beach, it was easy to spot Magic Beach Motel, because it was aglow in neon! It was exactly what we were looking for…a charming little beach motel from days gone by. (See feature photo!) For more info on the Magic Beach Motel, click here. Here’s where I should mention we purchased lottery tickets (it was at $950 million!) and scratch-offs every time we stopped for a bathroom break or to gas up the car. Scratch-offs added some mindless entertainment when we checked into the motel (and every hotel thereafter), and won more than we spent! We got a good night’s sleep, and the next morning, we decided to check out the area. We walked around the village, a tourist/beach area that boomed in the 1940s and 50s, situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Tomalato River. For more information on Vilano Beach, click here. I read there was once a drawbridge that directed traffic to the area, but when a new bridge was constructed in 1995, traffic was diverted away from the area, having a negative impact on the area’s businesses. It’s still a charming area, and it appears to be having a bit of a comeback, as a couple of hotel chains are building there. We strolled from the beach park on one end to the pier overlooking the Tomalato River on the other end. It was at the pier that we found the Bluebird of Happiness statue…another great photo op.

We had fun exploring. Lots of the old motels/restaurants are closed and falling into disrepair, and Mary Ann and I mused about what could be done to revitalize them…if we won the lottery! We also learned there is a Saturday flea market and a cute little Airstream shopping village on weekends. Too bad we were there on a Tuesday/Wednesday. We would have enjoyed it. Good info for next time, though!

We also learned the sign for Haley’s Court, an old beach motel, is an icon of the “beach tourism boom of the 1940s and 50s,”and it has its own historical marker, according to hmdb.org. When we drove into town, the sign was not illuminated, but the next morning, we were able to see it clearly. The sign is a great example of mid-century modern design.

After spending the morning exploring Vilano Beach, we loaded up and drove to The Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine…a tourist trap, for sure, but a fun one. We had lunch at a barbecue spot there, and it was surprisingly good! The park itself is interesting and informative, having begun as a tribute to Ponce de Leon’s landing in the New World. It has since become an archeological park, after several Christian relics were unearthed, positively identifying the area as the location of the settlement of St. Augustine in the 1500s. In the park, we found lots of information about the history of the area and even a planetarium! To learn more about The Fountain of Youth Archeological Park, click here. We didn’t feel any younger when we left, unfortunately.

From there, we revisited downtown St. Augustine in the daylight…and it was just as stunning by day as it was when it was illuminated at night! The town square! The marinas! The fort! The beautiful, historical architecture! It’s definitely worth a visit! To learn more about St. Augustine, click here.

On our way out of town, we visited the lighthouse for a quick photo op, and we drove past the Alligator Farm, a place I visited as a child and loved. We needed to get a little farther south quickly, so we didn’t visit this time, but it’s also worth your time. I love a good alligator farm. Having lived on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay in Alabama, I’ve seen lots of gators…fascinating creatures. You can see lots of other animals at the Alligator Farm too. To learn more about the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, click here.

As we drove out of St. Augustine, we made a quick stop at a food truck park and grabbed some macróns before getting on A1A to head south on the beach road. We opened the windows and the sunroof, cranked up the 80s tunes and cruised the beach road through Palm Coast, Flagler Beach, and Ormond-by-the-Sea. This stretch of A1A felt like old school beach road…we enjoyed it and put our toes in the sand at several beaches along the way, searching for Right Whales every time we stopped. Right Whales can be spotted off the Florida coast between the months of December and March…something I didn’t know before this trip… so we hoped we might be able to spot one. We didn’t, but it was fun looking for them…and we got to enjoy the beaches in the process! We spoke with some local folks along the way…asking if any of them had ever seen Right Whales off shore…none of them had, but they knew people who had.

At Daytona, we hopped off A1A to take advantage of a photo op at Daytona Motor Speedway…a landmark, for sure. We then followed Highway 1 south to Merritt Island. I’ll pick up with that stop next time. At this point, we were having a great time, and the fun continued!

Outside Daytona Motor Speedway

The Chick-Fil-A One App…Winning!

Anybody who knows me knows I love to win. I don’t care about winning an argument. I don’t care about getting my way. But if there’s a competition of some kind, I like to win. A friend of mine has a dog in an online photo competition? I vote as many times as I can. Another friend has a child trying to get votes for soccer player of the year? I’m sharing it and voting every chance I get…even when I wake up in the middle of the night. And I do it, because I want to win…or at the very least, I want someone I know to win.

I have always loved Chick-Fil-A. The first one I ever visited one was in Eastdale Mall in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1977. The mall had just opened, and I was 10 years old. One of the employees was outside the store, in the mall corridor, holding a tray full of tiny bite size pieces of a Chick-Fil-A chicken, so I took one…and I never looked back. I ate there every time I went to the mall, and that was pretty often. But back then, they didn’t have waffle fries. They had shoestring fries, and really…I liked those better, but when they changed them, it was OK…i got used to them. I think they changed them at about the same time I visited my first free-standing Chick-Fil-A on Windy Hill Road, in Marietta, Georgia, in 1990, but I could be wrong on the timing. That was the first place I had their waffle fries, and I didn’t love them, but I have developed a taste for them. They had yummy cole slaw then too. It has since been removed from their menu, but I tried their new mac and cheese last week, and it was pretty darn good. I’ll always miss the cole slaw, though.

And a couple of years ago, we got the Chick-Fil-A One app. Oh, it’s a total game changer. Download it to your phone and have it scanned every time you purchase food there…or better yet, load money into the app from your debit card, and you can even purchase food using the app. That’s where my winning comes in.

My goal is to have more Chick-Fil-A points than anybody else. OK, so I know I’m not really going to ever have the most Chick-Fil-A points. I have one child. We can only eat so much, and even if her friends are with us, there’s only so much they can all eat. But I’m giving it the old college try. I am the mom who refuses to part with any of my Chick-Fil-A points. I’m just letting them add up. My favorite Chick-Fil-A location was closed for a few months last year, because of a remodel, and that really cut into my points accumulation, but I have red status, meaning that I have accumulated enough points to get 12 points per purchase on the app…two points more than just a regular member.

And I really love sports season or parties, because if someone needs a volunteer to bring in a nugget tray, I’m your gal! Yes, I know…I’m spending lots of money to get those points, but it’s not like no one eats it. Every single time I’ve ever delivered a nugget tray to a team or group, no nugget has been left unturned. With a sports team, every nugget is usually gone within five to ten minutes…so it’s money well spent. Teens love Chick-Fil-A.

So without telling you how many points I have right now, I can tell you this: my plan is to accumulate enough points that our daughter can get free sandwiches all the way through college when she goes in three years. I’m still trying to figure out exactly how many that will be, and I have nowhere near enough points, but I’m on my way!

An added bonus? I don’t have to get out my credit or debit card every time I go through the drive thru! Before I had the app, I would hand them my card to pay, and then when they handed me back my card, I would get in a rush and just put it in the wrong pocket of my handbag or wallet, and the next time I wanted to use it, I would panic, thinking I had lost it. With the app, I just hold up my phone to pay, and they scan it right from there…no more fumbling for my debit or credit card, and no more panic later when I can’t find it.

But here’s more motivation for you to get enough points to become a red member on the Chick-Fil-A One app: when you reach red status, you get even more special stuff! Once you reach red status, you and five guests can get a “backstage tour” of the Chick-Fil-A home office in Atlanta…just give 30 days notice. And as if that’s not enough gratitude, you also get two free tickets to the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta! If you are a football fan who has never visited, it’s a must-see. I took my daughter a few years ago, even before I had the Chick-Fil-A One app, and we both loved it!

So yes, I have a problem…I like to win. And even though I know it’s costing me money every time I get those points, I know I am accumulating points in the process…and I’m on my way to free sandwiches for our daughter when she will need them most. She won’t have to feel guilty one bit about going to Chick-Fil-A when she’s in college, because it will be FREE!

Winning!

Thanks, Chick-Fil-A!

 

 

 

 

I Hope They Don’t Call the Cops

I just got home from a long day, and the phone rang just as I was getting settled in to finish reading a book I started yesterday. It was the home phone, which is rarely used in our house, so I knew it was likely a scam, a robocall,  or someone asking me to donate to some fraudulent cause.

Now, I’m hoping it really was a scam or someone fraudulently asking me to donate to a cause.

I used to get downright angry about the stupid robocalls, scam calls, and fraudulent donation calls. Then I started having fun with them. I started playing games.

One of my games is to answer cheerfully and listen carefully to their spiel. Sometimes it’s a person, and sometimes it’s someone pressing a button with a prerecorded message…you know…they always ask for Bryant first. When you say they have the wrong number, they press a button so the recording might respond, “Well, you can help me. I’m calling on behalf of the Egg Handlers of America.” And they launch into a long speech about how your donation can help their organization. Since the number often shows the name of another company or “Unknown caller,” I feel pretty sure it’s fraudulent. I let them finish the long speech and then say, “I’m sorry, my child came in while you were talking. Could you repeat that?” They press the button to repeat the speech, or maybe it’s a real person who repeats the speech, and then they say, “Can we count on you to support us?” I then yell, “Touchdown! I’m sorry…my team just scored! Could you repeat that?” Often, they will jump straight to, “Can we count on your support?” I then ask, “Support for what?” They usually hang up at that point.

Another tactic is to answer with an unknown bad foreign accent. Don’t start saying I’m “appropriating” someone else’s culture by using a made up foreign accent. I’m just trying to stop the madness, people! Sometimes I simply will tell them early on that I don’t speak English. Sometimes, I let them go through the whole speech, and then tell them they “talk too fast.” I ask them to repeat more slowly. They go through it all again. I tell them again they “talk too fast.” They usually hang up.

Sometimes, I actually feel sorry for the person on the other end of the line. I know it’s likely they are working for pennies in a developing country. The person on the phone likely isn’t making much money at all from the scam. It’s their employers who are cashing in.

I know. I shouldn’t even engage with these folks, but dang it! I can get mad about it, or I can make it fun.

And that leads us to tonight. Tonight, I tried a different approach. When I saw a number pop up on the Caller ID that I thought was a sales/scam/robocall, I picked up the phone and yelled, sounding out of breath, “It’s done! There’s blood everywhere! What do I do now?!?!” Click. They hung up immediately. My husband walked in from the other room and asked me what I was yelling about. I told him what had happened, and he asked, “Who was it?” I said, “I don’t know.” He then asked, “How do you know it wasn’t a parent from school?” I explained it was an “unknown” caller from a familiar-looking number that always calls saying they are working for a nonprofit. Surely, if it had been a legit call, they would have said something. But they didn’t. Plus, no one calls me on my home phone.

My husband then said, “I hope it wasn’t a real person. I hope they don’t call the cops.” Yeah…that would be bad. But since I’ve had time to write all this, and the cops aren’t knocking down our front door, I guess it’s safe to say it was a scam call. Whew!

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Photo by kat wilcox on Pexels.com

I don’t know how to block unwanted calls on my home phone, but on cell phones, there are lots of apps out there that can help reduce the number of unwanted calls you receive. My favorite, though, is one called RoboKiller. I saw the creator talking about it on TV, and it sounds awesome. It plays games with them…the same kinds of games I mentioned before…wasting their time and decreasing their revenue. You can read about it here. Or you can see a news story about it here. You can download it from the App Store and get a one week free trial. Service for 12 months, is $29.99, or get one month for $3.99.

As for that call I received today, I hope they won’t call back, but just in case they do, I need to come up with something else. Any suggestions?

 

 

 

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My New Favorite App

There are lots of good apps out there…apps that keep you organized, apps that keep you on time, apps that help you find your way…so many apps. Lots of good ones, and lots of bad ones.

Recently, I saw something on MSN about some people who had body shamed Selena Gomez after seeing her in a swimsuit. The article I read said her response was a homemade video set to one of her songs. I loved it. The video looked like an old home movie.

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Anyone who follows my personal Facebook page knows I was on vacation last week. They also know I made my own little “documentary” of the trip. My little family (plus two of my daughter’s friends) vacationed with my brother, his wife, and two of her sons. (FYI: I’m not one of those people who refers to my sis-in-law’s children as my brother’s too, because they have a daddy…I don’t want to step on toes. I know some people are cool with it, but I don’t want to overstep.) The two boys are delightful and as different as night and day, and we love them as if they are our own.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch….so we went on vacation together, and I had just read about the Selena Gomez video. I knew she had to have used an app, so I set out on a quest to find the perfect app for making simulated Super 8/8mm videos…just like the home movies we used to make and play on the projector.

I’m not much of a “techie.” You can teach an old dog new tricks, but this old dog doesn’t have the attention span for learning too much new techie stuff.

I did my research. I read articles online, and I read reviews of different apps. From what I could tell, there was one app that would be perfect for my use. There were some that were more complicated, but that scared me. There are some that offer more bells and whistles, but that scared me. This one is simple and very user friendly. It is called simply “8mm Vintage Camera.” I needed an easy app that would produce the 8mm effect without much thinking or work on my part, and that’s exactly what it is. There is a free version and a paid version…I think the paid version offers a few more options without requiring a lot of knowledge.

I decided to download the app before our vacation in the Bahamas, and I am so glad I did.

I documented our trip as well as I could. I also annoyed my brother with this app as much as I could, but he’s accustomed to that. I will add a snippet that shows the look on his face as I take yet another video of him (no sound on this one).

 

The app offers lot of options. You can record with sound or without. I prefer to record without sound, simply because it seems more authentic to me. I’m sure younger people will want to record with sound.

It also offers different filters for recording. I have only used two of the filters: one called “60s” and one called “Pela.” The “60s” filter produced a slightly gray hue, while the “Pela” filter seems to film with amber undertones.

This video has no sound:

 

Another great thing about the app is that you can add music from your iTunes library to your own videos. Apple Music songs won’t add, so you must purchase them in order to add them to your videos. I’ve added songs to all my videos, and I’ve noticed a good song can make a not-so-good video look better!

Since we returned home from vacation, I’ve had even more opportunity to use it. My friend, Wendy, came into town for Easter weekend and brought her two children. As you may have read before, back in the day, we had the best playgroup ever when our kids were young. As time has gone by, people have moved away, but we have all managed to stay in touch.

Some of you know Wendy is sick with leukemia. After arriving in town and spending some time with friends and family, she had to go into the hospital here. Because of that, the playgroup moms all rallied and had an old-school Easter Egg Hunt for all the playgroup kids…they’re almost all teenagers now, but they were up for a bit of nostalgia. Not one of them sulked through the egg hunt, and I’m sure it was because they were just so happy to be together.

Because Wendy couldn’t be there for the egg hunt, we all took photos to send her, and I made some videos with my new app. It was super easy, and I think they turned out great, if I do say so myself. I’m only including clips here, because I don’t want to share everything with the whole world, but you get the idea. The video below is brief but includes the song Sunshine On My Shoulders by John Denver.

 

And another brief video without music:

 

 

So, here’s the skinny: if I can operate 8mm Vintage Camera, anyone can. I am completely and utterly obsessed with it, so if you see me out and about, don’t be surprised if I ask you to wave while I point my smartphone at you.

You could be a star of a minor motion picture!

XOXO,

Kelly