California Dreamin’

Here ya go.  After almost 6 weeks back home, I’m finally posting some shots from our trip to California.


I promise you though.  I have not been lazy.

I’ve been RUNNING!

Take a look at these totals.  I cannot believe I’ve run this much.  170 miles in August.  I’d say I was all in for August all right.  I’m 45 miles so far for September and by the end of the weekend, I’ll be over 85.  That’s right.  I’ve got a 28 miler on Saturday and a 12 miler on Sunday on the ‘ole training log.  I’m not the least bit nervous.  I’m excited.  The first 23 on Saturday will be with all my best buds at Galloway and then I’m sure Ron will run some with me on Sunday.

Running totals

And then I’ll almost be there.  Only 2 weeks left until Hinson Lake, and the next 14 days are all about taper.

During these last 6 weeks, I’ve really focused.  I’ve tried to go to CrossFit as much as possible.  I’ve made it 2x week every week and sometimes 3x.  I’ve done my ITB exercises some. (I wish I could say I did more.)  Lastly, I have watched my diet.  I haven’t really stressed so much about what I’ve been eating but I have kept track of my weight. Two times this week someone noticed that I was loosing and I was so excited.  I looked it up and I’ve lost 8 pounds since vacation.  Yay!!

But enough about running and health.  I owe you these awesome shots.

Aww…The Ferry Building along the Embarcadero.  So pretty.

Clock tower

We toured in and around this building both on Saturday and on Sunday.   We walked up and down The Embarcadero and had so much fun.

SF skyline

Sailboat and clouds

Safeway was Ron’s grocery store growing up so I had to get a picture the first time I saw one.


We had an awesome lunch at  The Plant!

Ron at Plant

Plant burger

Pier 39

Pier 39

play fighting


just getting up

Holt Tower

Holt Tower


All the piers were cool and we both had a blast.  The sea lions were so interesting, I could have watched them forever.  The crowds were kinda big and that’s the only thing I didn’t care for so much.  The next morning when we ran by all these sites it was very quiet.  The smell of the sourdough bread baking was heaven on earth.  San Francisco rules!

On the Monday after the marathon, we headed out of San Francisco and traveled down the Pacific Coast Highway toward San Luis Obispo.

First up was the lighthouse at the top of this post, Pigeon Point.



cliff at lighthouse

sun on the rocks

Pigeon Point might have been my favorite spot of the whole day!  The have a hostel there and we met 2 bikers.  They were headed to Mexico from Canada.  I was impressed!

Our next stop was Pescadero State Beach.

PCH and Mel

Pescadero State Beach


Tai Chi Ron

The entire way was lovely.  Sometimes I was a little scared.  I didn’t get carsick but I was very glad Ron was driving.

We stopped at Carmel and had some breakfast at the cutest cafe.

Cafe Strvaganza


Greek omlettes


Hearst Castle was breathtaking!



pool 2


This view from Hearst’s bedroom was my favorite!

view from the castle

Limekiln State Park and the Redwood were gorgeous!  I wished we could have stayed there for a week!

among the Redwoods


Bixby!  Really really cool!


Bixby Bridge 1932

Ron at Bixby

Elephant Seals!

Elephant Seals

in the ocean 3

in the ocean



As we got closer to the place that we were getting off the PCH, I spotted this spooky rock.  Can you see it in the distance in the ocean?

spooky rock

These shrimping boats were cool too.

Shrimp boats

Before we knew it our day was done and we had made it to San Lusis Obispo.  I loved this city!



We walked around a little that night and then the next morning we had breakfast at Bliss Cafe and then toured the mission.




Ron at the fountain


misson 2



After we left SLO, we spent some great times with Ron’s family.



Joseph, Dad, and Ron

lunch at Aunt Linda's

the guys

So much LOVE all around.

One day we went to Sequoia National Park and had a really BIG day!

Ron and Dad at GS




top of GS

going up to Sequoia

And then on the next to the last day on our way to LA, we saw WINDMILLS!


Windmills 4



Now our plan for retirement is after we hike the entire AT, we’re going to be camp hosts in California!

Love you all!

Gotta run.  LOL

Bed is calling.

I’ll check back in one more time before my 50 miler and give you an update on my last 2 weeks of training.

The Journey

I haven’t mentioned this before, but my mother and stepfather have been in poor health.  My mother has dementia, COPD, and kidney disease.  She requires 24/7 care as her dementia makes her quite confused on occasion.  On one of my last visits with her at her home in Wise, VA, she made a full breakfast of fried eggs, biscuits and gravy, bacon and jam and woke us all up.  It was delicious.  The only problem was it was 3:00 in the morning.  Mother was getting her medicines mixed up and she even had a fall and broke her wrist.  Due to these and many other examples, my siblings and I found an assisted living facility to help care for her.  She has been a resident at Mount Pleasant House in Mount Pleasant, NC since last winter.  My mother seems to love it there and we are very glad that we can have her so much closer to us so we can help with her care. 


Our stepfather is 85 years old he has been in the hospital in Wise.  Mother’s health has been stable lately and since she was having a good week we took her to Virginia to visit her husband.  She was so happy to see him and all his children.  I believe that our stepfather was also very happy to have her come for the visit and was a good dose of positive medicine.

I know that many of us in my age group have either already lost our parents or may be in the same situations helping to care for them.  Dementia has been so hard for me to deal with.  Whether it is your body that gives out first, your mind, or your mind and body together, it is a very hard load to carry.  It is hard not only on the individual but on the extended family as well.   We are taking it one day at a time and I find comfort in knowing that my parents are saved and they will be dancing with the Lord whenever he chooses to call them home.  I also find comfort knowing that God will also help us as we continue to love them and care for them while they are here on the earth with us.

The trip to VA is only 5 hours from Mount Pleasant but my mother’s doctor gave strict instructions that we must stop often.  We adhered to those guidelines and stopped many times and also found 2 wonderful places for lunch. 

First came our Saturday adventure.  We stopped in Wytheville at Key Ingredients at the Fort Chiswell Mansion.  This gem is right off I81/I77.  Saturday was my day to find the restaurant and Urban Spoon pointed me in Key’s way. 


the mansion

 the mansion

This mansion was built originally in 1840 and was the home of a family that owned a lead mine in the area.  My sister pointed out that it made sense that there was a lead mine there because just a little further down the road was the Shot Tower on the New River.  This is where they dropped molten lead into the cold river to make the shots that were used in the Civil War.

Mother and Rosa


Our server was very attentive to our needs and the mansion was really interesting.  The food was delicious. 

Here’s my veggie wrap and pasta salad. 

Veggie Wrap

Very, very yummy.  It was piping hot and there wasn’t a sauce on it that I could tell.  The veggies burst with flavor! 

Mother got the pulled pork sandwich and coleslaw.  She loved it and Rosa said it was good too but I didn’t take a taste.

Pulled Pork

Rosa got a salad and a crab cake.  She said it was very delicious and I agree.  I love crab cakes and this one was one of the very best I have ever tasted.

Salad and Crab Cake

Mother and I have a huge sweet tooth so we couldn’t pass up dessert.  Key offers creamery ice cream. Here’s my Lemon Crunch.

Lemon Crunch

Rosa got Peach, and Mother got Black Raspberry.  We all tasted each other’s but the one that we chose was our individual favorites. 

If your travels take you near Wytheville and you want a very relaxing, beautiful, and tasty lunch, you’ve just got to give Key Ingredients a try. 

the dining room

 I’m giving Key 4.5 fat cucumbers out of 5! 

Complimentary Cukes

On Saturday for dinner we stopped at a Pound, VA iconic drive-in.  Robo’s is famous for their foot long chili dogs.  All 3 of us got one.  Yes, even me.  You can’t go to Robo’s without getting a hotdog.  



Check out Rosa’s new hybrid Camry.  We really were traveling in style!

Rosa's new Camry 

This weekend was the Bristol Speedway race weekend so we had to travel about 9 more miles away to the little town of Clintwood to find a hotel.  A brand new Sleep Inn had a vacancy and was a wonderful place to rest our heads.  

Look at what was right across from our hotel. 

Dickenson County HS

That’s the Dickenson County Memorial and Industrial High School.  It is always so cool to see my maiden name when we come to this neck of the woods. 

For lunch on Sunday it was Rosa’s turn to pick the restaurant.  She came up with Harvest Table also located right off I81 in Meadowview, VA.  This awesome place was the 1st place winner in the Southwest VA farm to table category. 

Harvest Table

 Harvest Table is surely #1.  Every single thing about this place was perfect.

me and Mother

We had called ahead to make sure it was handicap accessible but what was so neat was that they met us at the side door for easy wheelchair entry.

The oven

the kitchen

The place was bustling and our server informed us that on Sunday at brunch, they offer all of their best dishes.  She assured us that we’d love whatever we chose.

Harvest Table Sunday Brunch menu

Mother got chicken salad and she loved it!

Chicken Salad Sandwich

I got this doosey of an omelette.  Wowzer!  So delicious!  It had shiitake mushrooms (the healthiest of all), caramelized onions, and  goat cheese. 


 Rosa’s entrée was the best!  A Trout Cake Benedict.!  This was so good. 

Trout Cake Benedict

Next came dessert.  Mother got the mocha fudge cake and I got the oatmeal cake.


Rosa was just going to share with us and that would have been fine.  However, when Mother pushed her chocolate cake to the side and started in on my oatmeal cake and then Rosa started in on mine as well, we waved to the server and proceeded to order a 2nd piece of the oatmeal.  We loved the first piece so much but when the 2nd piece come out it was obviously from a new cake that had just come out of the oven.  Man was it good!

Chocolate Mocha and Oatmeal Cake

Now don’t get me wrong.  That chocolate cake was delicious but one bite of the oatmeal and you were in heaven.  

Mother and Rosa at Harvest Table

I have to give Harvest Table 5 farm to table fascinations out of 5.  It is truly top notch!

I used to be a huge Nicholas Sparks fan and I read his book, Three Weeks with My Brother quite some time ago.  New York Daily News describes the book as a healing journey that will remind us to live life to the fullest. I remember that as the 2 brothers were planning a 3 week trip together, Nicholas was finding himself too busy and wasn’t at all interested in the details of the trip.  His brother said to him, “You’re missing it you know,” and that one statement has stayed with me ever since.  I’m a planner.  I love to search out memorable things to do and dream of upcoming trips.  I find a lot of joy just in the anticipation.  I also love making memories!  We didn’t head to Virginia on the happiest of occasions and the trip had its share of stressful moments.  However, what I will remember is the fun that we shared and the love along the journey.

May your journeys be filled with peace, love, and happiness always.

Pilot Mountain

Make Like a Lighthouse and SHINE!

On Wednesday we left Elizabeth City and headed to the Outer Banks not really knowing what we were planning on doing.  We thought we’d drive to some of the lighthouses and maybe have lunch at one of Ron’s favorite breweries.

That’s exactly what we did.

Here’s Currituck peaking out from the tops of the trees.  She was the first lighthouse of the day.


We started in Kitty Hawk and drove north on Hwy. 12 through Duck, NC.  Duck was super crowded and it made the short trip up to Corolla very slow going.  It seemed like everyone on the Outer Banks wanted to go see Currituck with us.


Currituck was the last lighthouse built on the OBX and is the only one that is left unpainted.  I really loved her red bricks!


The wait to climb her 220 steps was over an hour and a half long so we decided to skip the trip to the top.

Our drive back down Hwy. 12 was much faster and before we knew it we were at The Outer Banks Brewing Station in Kill Devil Hills.  It was around 12:30 by this time and Ron and I were ready for some lunch.


Ron got his favorite IPA and we ended up with the normal veggie selections.  I got cheese pizza and Ron get pressed portabella mushroom Panini.  This spot is a happn’ place and even if you don’t love craft beer, you’ll love it here.

Next up we headed to Bodie.

When I saw this picture, I quickly fell in love and is my very favorite shot of all the lighthouses.



DSC_0247 DSC_0248

You can also climb Bodie’s 214 steps but we opted to skip this time as well.  The coolest thing I’ve learned about Bodie is that it is pronounced “Body” and not with the hard o that I have been saying all along.

The drive from Bodie to Hatteras is straight down the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.  It’s about 50 miles but the trip was pretty fast as the speed limit was 55 and there wasn’t much traffic at all.  I think most people were in Duck on this day!  We went through Rodanthe , Waves, Salvo, and Avon and all of these villages seemed not as commercialized as the cities on the northern side.  Rodanthe was especially hit hard and debris was still all along the sides of the highway.  I’m not sure if this was from a recent storm or if they are just really slow at cleaning up.


I love Hatteras’ red brick on the bottom and the swirl at the top.   She’s the tallest lighthouse in the nation!  The line was not long to go to the top and climb the 257 steps but since we had not climbed Currituck or Bodie, we skipped this one as well.


By this time it was getting a little late in the afternoon and we didn’t know if we should go over to Ocracoke or not.  Ocracoke is an island and the ferry from Hatteras runs every 30 minutes until midnight.  When we found that out we decided we go ahead and go.  We didn’t have evening reservations in Ocracoke and with the ferry running all the way until midnight, we knew we’d still be able to get off the island and make it back to Nags Head or Manteo or somewhere for the night if we had to.

Here’s a shot of Ron by the car when we were on the ferry.


Goodbye Hatteras!  You were pretty!



The 30ish minute ride to Ocracoke was fun!  We had only been on a ferry one other time when we were south of Wilmington so this was still all new to us.

Ocracoke Lighthouse is tucked away and we had to search a little to find her.


You can’t go inside this lighthouse.  She’s the oldest lighthouse in NC still in continuous service and the 2nd oldest in the United States.  I loved her!



While we were on the ferry, Ron called and got us a very reasonable room in Ocracoke.  We ended up at the Harborside Motel.  It had been recently refurbished and was was very cute.


Across the street was the office and gift shop.  They had a huge selection of cold craft beers and the owners were super friendly.  I even got some great cold wine.  Might even be my new favorite!


We went out in search of dinner and traveled only 2 doors down from the hotel to Dajio’s.


They had outdoor seating and that seemed like the place to be.  They had a cool band playing and we really wanted to sit out there but the wait was over an hour.  We opted to go ahead and sit inside.  It was very nice and proved to be the very best dinner we had on the entire vacation.

We shared a delicious beet salad for an appetizer and then these were our main courses.


Vegan tacos for me and then Ron’s was a pesto quinoa salad.  After the beet salad and one of my tacos, Ron couldn’t eat a bite of his salad.  We put it in the mini fridge at the hotel and then in our cooler the next morning.  We devoured it when we were picnicking at our last lighthouse stop the next day.   So delicious.

We got up early and ran 2.5 miles up the road and pathway and then ran the 2.5 miles back.  There was a light breeze and even though there wasn’t a bit of shade, it was a very pleasant run.  When we got back into the busy part of the island we stopped and got a coffee and breakfast.  Ron was good and got some Kashi oatmeal and I was bad and got a huge homemade cinnamon roll.  I guess it’s a good thing that I like to run because my sweet tooth would be the death of me if I didn’t.  My vanilla latte’ was the best I’ve ever had.  If you want a good coffee, Live Oak Coffee is the place to go.

Next we had to say goodbye to Ocracoke and headed on to Cedar Island via a 2.5 hour ferry ride.  Yesterday’s short ferry ride was free and today’s was only $15.  I was worried that I’d be bored with that long of a ride but I wasn’t at all.  It really flew by thanks to my book.  I was a little seasick at first (might have been the cinnamon roll) but Ron encouraged me to go out on the deck for some fresh air and focus on the horizon.  I did and it passed quickly.


Goodbye pretty lighthouse!


Goodbye sweet island!


Hello open sea.  (Well sort of I guess.)


Once we got to Cedar Island, we decided to try and see one more lighthouse before we had to head home.  We pointed our car toward Harker’s Island and were off.

We made it pretty close to Cape Lookout but you have to take a boat to get all the way out to the cape.  We decided to just change lenses on my camera and hope for the best.

This is what we got.  Look closely and you’ll see the light.  Cape Lookout is the only major lighthouse that operates during the day.


I can’t wait to go back again another time and get to see her up close.

We’ve got 2 more NC lighthouse to visit.  Bald Head Island and Oak Island.  I think I better plan a trip really soon.

Happy Travels!

Old and Older

On our last morning in New Bern, Ron had wanted to find a fitness center for a workout with weights but we ended up sleeping too late and decided on a quick 3 miler around New Bern.  4 miles later (Ron Cupit miles) we finished up and really enjoyed the run.

Sunrise on the Nuese River.




A Spider Lily sculpture by the Convention Center.





Our sweaty selfie!


The breakfast area was mostly empty so I got some shots of our meal.  Ron and I both got the spinach omelettes and it came with a blueberry almond cobbler.  Breakfast at the Aerie was scrumptious.





Next up was our tour of Tryon Palace.  No photos were allowed inside the buildings but I got a lot of shots in the gardens.  Just like the trolley tour yesterday, if you love history, this place is for you.
















We really shouldn’t have been all that hungry but we were after Tryon and we tried to eat at the Museum Cafe.  It looked really good but it was very crowded.  Ron remembered this Indian place near The Chelsea from last night so we swung back by there before we headed out of town.


IMG_1486Totally vegan and totally delicious!  We both went back for seconds.  I noticed on the wall that Bay Leaf won several years in a row for the best entree in New Bern.  If you are there, you’ve just got to try this awesome restaurant.

Next we pointed our car towards Elizabeth City, NC.  Ron was stationed there 30 years ago when he was in the US Coast Guard and wanted to so me some of his old stomping grounds.

On the way to Elizabeth City, we saw we would be passing near Bath, NC and since we had just been to the 2nd oldest city in NC, we thought we might as well see the oldest city.


Above is a beautiful shot of Bath Creek.

Bath had a curse put on it in the olden days and it was supposed to always stay a small town.  That curse has stayed true and I didn’t really see all that much to Bath.   There was a walking tour and we saw some more old houses and the oldest church.




Blackbeard came to Bath for a pardon but then ended up getting killed at Ocracoke not too much later.


I loved Bath Creek and I get the feeling that the citizens of Bath are very happy that it has remained such a small town.

We made it to Elizabeth City but Ron wouldn’t let me take any pictures at the gate of the base.  He scared me to death and told me that the US Coast Guard was a division of Homeland Security now and that they would probably shoot me if I didn’t get back in the car.

We walked down by the Pasquotank River and had a very nice veggie meal at the Cypress Grill.    It was a short visit to Elizabeth City but Ron had a blast reminiscing.

Today, we’ve spent the whole day touring the lighthouses of the Outer Banks.  I’ll get these pictures up ASAP.

We are on Ocracoke Island now and it is time to go exploring and find some dinner.


Happy, happy, happy!





New Bern, We Like Bears

Day one of our vacation and we’ve learned so much about the city of New Bern, NC.  It’s the second oldest city in North Carolina and is the sister city to Bern, Switzerland.  Bern mean bear in Swiss and 4 years ago they celebrated the city’s 300th birthday and placed decorated bears all over. DSC_0019 DSC_0077   DSC_0076DSC_0075 DSC_0078 DSC_0090DSC_0072DSC_0032 DSC_0027 DSC_0026 DSC_0023 DSC_0022   But I’m getting a little ahead of my self.  Here’s some shots of our awesome B&B that we are staying at. DSC_0111 DSC_0110 DSC_0109 DSC_0037 DSC_0010 DSC_0008 DSC_0004 DSC_0001 Breakfast was wonderful but I didn’t get any shots of the actual food.  Every room was booked and the breakfast area was filled to capacity. I didn’t feel right snapping any food shots.  Ron had blueberry pancakes and I have almond French toast.  (I had dreamed that we overslept and didn’t have anything other than bacon and sausage so it was wonderful that we had other options.) Here are some shots of the breakfast area I captured later in the day. DSC_0104 DSC_0100 DSC_0099 The first order of business today was a trip to the birthplace of Pepsi! DSC_0033 I began a Coke girl and I do still love the advertising but sometime around college I switched over to Pepsi and I’ve never looked back.   We try to not drink sodas often but when I do, Diet Cherry Pepsi is my favorite. Ron’s favorite is Diet Mt. Dew! DSC_0036 We walked around a little and then it was time to take the 90 minute trolley tour. We saw so much! DSC_0093 DSC_0092 Check out that snake eye window!   Cool huh? DSC_0047 DSC_0041 I loved the history in the Cedar Grove Cemetery and this cedar tree was so neat.  Thousands lost their lives in New Bern to yellow fever and many were buried in mass graves here. The next stop on the trolley tour was Christ Church.  We got to go inside and it was breathtaking. DSC_0068 DSC_0067 DSC_0066 DSC_0064 Notice the Star of David in this Christian church.  Christianity embraces both the old and the new covenant.  It is 2 triangles and the triangle represents the Trinity. After the trolley tour we were getting hungry and Ron found this little gem. DSC_0086 We lucked out and found 2 vegetarian choices.  We got them both and shared.  A veggie wrap and a portabella mushroom burger with sweet potato fries.  We also both had this awesome strawberry and goat cheese salad. DSC_0084 DSC_0082 We try to stay away from dairy as a rule but since it was vacation we endulged! After lunch we rented bikes!  Ron said he hadn’t been on one in over 30 years and I hadn’t been on one since I did the Smithfield Tri back in 2012.  It was so fun! DSC_0094 In this shot of me you can see the trolley in the background. DSC_0097 Here’s some shots of the restaurant we ate at last night. DSC_0089 DSC_0088   Captain Ratty’s was a wonderful seafood restaurant and quite the hopping place.  Not too veggie friendly however.  Ron got a scallop salad and I had salmon tacos which were actually divine. Next came some afternoon siesta time back at our room and then dinner at The Chelsea. It was Wonderful! photo (8)   Check out the interior and the restored mosaic tile floors. photo (7) photo (5) They had 2 veggie selections and we got them both and shared.  Risotto and another portebella mushroom selection. photo (1) photo Our appetizer was fried green tomatoes with fresh mozzarella. photo (6) And I had my very first mint julep. photo (3) photo (4) Wowzer was it ever strong! For dessert it wasn’t vegan but boy was it good! photo (2) Delicious coconut cream pie! I highly recommend  The Chelsea! So delicious. We still have our tickets to Tryon Palace for tomorrow and Ron has announced that we will be guests of Sound Fitness. When you are in NC, make sure to go to the place that the Trent and Nuese River meet and have yourself a blast with the bears!

A Day at the Tower

One last blog post from our awesome trip to Florida the other month.

I grew up in the small town of Lake Wales Florida. One of Lake Wales’ biggest claims to fame is the historic Bok Tower Gardens.

the reflection pool

The gardens were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., the son of the famed architect of Central Park and Biltmore Gardens, Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. The Singing Tower is 205 feet tall and houses a 60 bell carillon. I played in these gardens as a young girl and listened to the bells time and time again. I can remember going to the tower with my grandmother and having wonderful family picnics. More memories are going to the Tower every Easter for the Sunrise Services. I’ve taken Andie and Lydia every time we’ve visited Lake Wales over the years. It truly is one of my favorite places on the planet.

One of the perks for graduating from Lake Wales High School is you get to go inside the tower and go to the top and see the bells. This is an honor only given to graduates, donors to the tower, and volunteers that work at least 40 hours. A very prestigious club indeed.

I graduated from LWHS but unfortunately that June they were doing renovations to the tower and all tours to the top were cancelled. I think they let the class go up later that summer but I moved to Virginia right after graduation and never got my chance.

I’ve always dreamed of going inside so this trip, I clicked on the Contact Us button on the Tower website and asked. I explained that I didn’t get to go back in 1983 and that we would be in town for our 26th wedding anniversary. I wondered if there was any way an exception could be made.

Here’s the awesome response to my email. When I got the response, I totally expected to see something like, “Sorry but we can’t help you.” I about died when I realized they were saying YES!

“Dear Melissa,

Thanks for your email.

I’m sorry to hear that you never had the opportunity to tour the Singing Tower as part of your 1983 graduating class.  That doesn’t seem quite fair, does it?

So… since it’s your 26th wedding anniversary, I would be happy to make this dream a reality for you and give you a VIP tour.

How about we set a time for Tuesday, February 25…  Will that work for you and your husband?

Please let me know and I’ll schedule it.  Best wishes…. and see you soon!”

I couldn’t believe it! We were going to get to see inside the tower after all these years.

When we drove up to the gate on that Tuesday, all we had to do was mention the Marketing Director’s name, Brian Ososky, and they waved us right through. We felt like VIPs from the very beginning.

Brian met us in the visitor’s center and was the nicest person ever. He was all smiles and I could tell from the start that he loved Bok Tower as much if not way more than I did. Brian told us that it really was a fluke that he was able to grant us this awesome opportunity. Evidently, many calls are received every single day from other graduates that somehow missed their opportunity to go up in the tower. So many calls in fact, that they have to always say no and offer their apologies. However, all emails from the contact us button, get sorted. My email ended up in Brian’s in box and he had never come upon a request such as this. I guess since it was our anniversary and we caught him on a good day, Brian said yes.

Brian walked us up to the tower and when he reached in his pocket to get the key to unlock the iron gate I felt like I was in a dream. This gate had remained locked to me for 48 years and I couldn’t believe that a simple key and a regular person could unlock it. Brian held the gate open for Ron and me and we walked across the bridge over the moat. Each step I took crossing that moat felt so surreal! I’ve been by this moat thousands of times and fed the Japanese carp that live there but never did I think I could cross it.

Then, in the blink of an eye, Ron and I were standing at the Great Brass Door. This awesome door is a work of art and has 30 brass panels depicting the Biblical story of creation. It was breathtaking.

The Great Brass Door

Ron and Me at the GBD

Click here for a close up of the door and more history.

I am very sad to report that days before we arrived, a vandal somehow slipped into the gardens, crossed the moat, and carved their name into one of the panels. Can you believe that?! Here I am mesmerized by the opportunity to stand so close to the door and someone else had so little respect that they would do such a thing. Brian said they weren’t sure how they were going to repair it. This door is over 85 years old and it will be hard to find a metal worker that will have the skills to attempt the repair.

the great brass door from the inside

Once we got inside, we toured 7 of the 8 levels of the tower. We didn’t go to the tip top due to safety reasons but we got very close.

the top

One of the things that was so funny to me was when Brian let us go out on the balcony where the preacher stands when he delivers the Easter service. We walked out and right there across the moat were other visitors. They were standing where I have stood countless times and it felt so funny to be looking in this direction. I imagined that they thought we were some dignitary or famous person.

looking up from the door

I also was surprised to learn that the bells don’t swing. They stay stationary and the clappers hit up against them. The actual instrument that is used to play the music looks very similar to a piano. However, you have to use the side of your fist to play the very heavy bells.

how you play

the instrument


The smallest bell weighs 16 pounds and the largest weighs nearly 12 tons.

the largest



Click here to listen to the bells.

View albumView albumView albumView albumView albumView albumView album

When we got to the top, Brian pointed out Edward Bok’s old house in the distance. It’s the smaller one to the left and above the large home.

Bok's home


Bok Tower Gardens purchased one of the neighboring houses when it became available and now you can tour it too. It’s called the Pinewood Estate and is a beautiful example of the Mediterranean-style mansions that are similar to Bok’s home. Brian gave us free tickets to Pinewoods and we loved stepping back in time and visiting this lovely home.

My favorite thing about the mansion was that every window was framing the garden. It was almost as if the garden was the focal and the home and extension of it.

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Bok Tower was in peak bloom during our late February visit and I really got to practice with my new camera.

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My niece commented that this flower doesn’t even look real.

my favorite

Ron and I had a wonderful morning and it was the best anniversary present I could have ever received. And, to top it off, the day was not over. We had 5:00pm dinner reservations at The Chalet.

I love you honey so much and I thank you for this trip and my new camera. It really wasn’t a manly man sort of trip and I know it didn’t mean as much to you as it did to me. I love that you got into the spirit of the history and had so much fun too. Now, next year, let’s go to California and you can show me your old stomping grounds.  We could run the San Francisco Marathon, drive the Pacific Coast Highway, and see the Redwoods!

A Weekend at the Beach

Lo Tide Run / Walk and Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon

St. Patrick’s Day weekend we traveled to Carolina Beach for the Lo Tide Run / Walk. This is an all-volunteer race with almost 100% of the proceeds going towards helping those that are fighting cancer. I was so happy to be helping out such a worthy cause.  I decided that I wanted to walk this entire course and just enjoy spending time with friends.


It was a little chilly at the beginning but it warmed up not long into the walk. A beautiful Carolina Beach morning. We had a wonderful time.


After the walk, Ron was on a quest to find some juice. He found some at the Tidal Creek Co-op in Wilmington. It was such a cute mini “Whole Foods”. We both loved it.


Note that little shot of wheatgrass next to Ron’s mean green juice.


And, right beside Tidal Creek, I spotted Great Harvest. GH is my very favorite bread store. We got a loaf of Ezekiel and a loaf of Superfood.

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Next up was the Wrightsville Beach Marathon expo. The expo was pretty small. But as I am finding more and more, directors are getting things down like clockwork and have the bib and t-shirt pickups organized perfectly. Not a bit of waiting in line! I splurged big time and got some new Bluetooth headphones and a new arm band for my phone.



These headphones were the bomb.  They didn’t bounce around at all.  I loved them.  I didn’t wear them the entire time but even when I had them around my neck they were so comfortable.


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Great armband!  Didn’t slip one bit!  I love that it has a place for a GU or chap stick and a spot for your ID or debit card.

I broke every rule in the book about nothing new on race days! I wore my new headphones, a new running skirt, my new arm band, and a new Lifeproof case on my iPhone. I even took a new and un-tested flavor of GU. (peanut butter)


My running skirt has 2 snaps in front so you don’t have to pin your race bib to your shirt.  So cool!

Frank Shorter was at the starting line and he gave the advice of starting out slow and then backing off. This is great advice for a marathon but for this half marathon for me, I ditched his advice and started off strong and tried to speed up. I was risking it to push myself too hard in the beginning and I knew it.

My splits don’t really give the whole picture and show that miles 0-3 were around and 11:00 minute pace. It didn’t feel slow to me because this is the part that is really crowded and I was concentrating hard on weaving in and out of people. I wanted to get ahead of them but I was cautious to make sure I didn’t make any discourteous moves and endanger other runners. You cross the IntraCoastal Waterway around mile 3 and the bridge you go across is a drawbridge. The surface is uneven and we had been warned to pick-up our feet. I saw one runner that had fallen and just like at Gasparilla, a young woman was on a stretcher.

Around this time, I spotted the 4:30 marathon pacer. I wondered if the 2:15 half marathon pacer would be anywhere near him and sure enough, she was. The 2 pacers were very close together with a group of about 7 runners. My plan had been to stick with them like glue if I found them so that is what I did. Juliane was the half pacer. She had a pink hat on and I was determined to not let that pink hat out of my sites. I would stop when she stopped for water or Gatorade. Even though she stopped, by the time I grabbed my water and looked up, she had taken off and was several feet ahead. I gulped my water and took off like lightening.

Juliane was very quiet and had a sweet smile. She kept encouraging all of us. She’d announce the miles and the water stops and had the nicest personality ever.

                                                   Me again

(That’s Juliane in the pink hat behind me.  I have no idea who the guy is in the gold shirt.) 

The full pacer’s name was Frank and he was a hoot. He was a talker! He kept rattling off race tips about running the tangents and relaxing our arms. He told us to hold our fingers like we were holding a potato chip. I knew about both of these tips and realized we had a lot in common. He knew EVERYBODY along the course and kept high fiving different runners and volunteers. Frank and Juliane get all the credit for my PR!

Before I knew it, we were saying goodbye to Frank and the other marathoners and we were on the homestretch. Just under 2 miles to go. One of the other runners, Taylor, and I had stuck up a conversation and ended up getting a little ahead of Juliane.

                 Run Without Limits (Taylor is #2883.)

Juliane was careful to keep the pace perfect for the others in the group but she encouraged us to run on if we could. I took off with Taylor but couldn’t keep up with her. I kept at it though and before long, I heard Juliane encouraging me on. Just a tenth of a mile left. The clock read 2:15 when I crossed the finish line and even though 2:15 would have been a PR for me and I would have been overjoyed with that time, I knew I had come in under a 2:15. My Garmin read 2:12:30 and my official chip time was 2:12:26. Holy Cow!


3 years and 4 months after my first and also my fastest half I had done it! A new PR by 6 minutes! Woohoo!

I was on cloud nine from that moment on.

I walked back to the finish line area and started stretching my ITB all while keeping a keen eye out for Andie. I knew she would be next. She came in looking strong!


Way to go honey! I am so proud of her. This was Andie’s 2nd half marathon.

Next I walked down just a little to find a recycle bin for my water bottle. Just as I was turning around, Ron ran by on his way to his own PR.  I didn’t get a picture of Ron but I assure you he was all smiles!

All Andie was wanting was a hot shower so she left right after her finish. They had a great selection of IPAs at this race so I knew Ron would have no problem hanging around. I headed back to the food area and chowed down on 3 pieces of cheese pizza. They were offering free massages so I added my name to the list and waited my turn. It didn’t take too long for my number to be called. My masseuse was a petite young woman but she had very strong hands. They know exactly the right moves to do on us runners and she hit all the right spots. My ITB was just a little sore before but afterwards I felt great. She had to have worked on me for 20 minutes at least! Such a great perk!

Here’s my traditional shirt and medal shot after my shower.

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Loved the shirt! So soft and comfortable. A lot of races are giving out this new type of technical shirt that isn’t your normal polyester feel. These feel like the softest cotton you can imagine.

Ron and I were still in the celebration mood so we headed down to Historic Wilmington and to Ron’s favorite brewery. Front Street Brewery is a great place for beer lovers and foodies alike.

We got fried pickles for our appetizer.


Ron chose a burger and I got a salad. Delicious!

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And, no trip to here would be complete without a stop to Kilwin’s!


We both got butter pecan ice cream in a waffle cone. A perfect ending to a fantabulous weekend!

Just one shout out before I sign off.  Check out the times for all the paces.  That amazes me how they do it.  All of them finished so very close to their goal. 

Christine Rockey 3:10 group- 3:09:04
Heran Sabio 3:30 group- 3:30:12
George Redman 3:45 group- 3:45:47
Eddy Saldana 4:00 group- 3:59:31
Frank Borque 4:30 group- 4:29:51
Eric Torey 1:30 group- 1:29:18
Rick Poplaski 1:45 group- 1:44:46
Brenda Estlak 2:00 group- 1:59:58
Juliane Young 2:15 group- 2:14:08
Laura Justice 2:30 group- 2:27:41


Night Friends!  Happy Running!

The Chalet (a post dedicated to my mother, Loretta Collins Maggard)

For our 26th wedding anniversary, we booked 3 nights and the historic Chalet Suzanne in Lake Wales, Florida.


My mother worked here in the 1970s and I have been mesmerized by it ever since.

Here’s a recent shot of us together.

me and Mother

I can remember all the tales that she would tell about the broiled grapefruit appetizer, the famous actors and actresses that came there, the soup that went to the moon, and all the special hospitality that the Hinshaw’s bestowed upon their guests.

I cannot give this place a more glowing review.  I felt like a princess in a fairy tale.

Our room was like stepping back in time.  I loved it!

No credit card key at this place!


Blue Tree!


and Blue Tree South (our room)


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Two neat things that were provided nightly were the brandy and the homemade truffles.

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I had never had brandy before and I had to look it up on Wikipedia.  It’s called Fire Wine because it is produced by distilling wine.  You’re supposed to warm it in your hand and sip it.  Like I said, I felt like I had stepped back in time.  Open-mouthed smile

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Ron had tipped the person that brought the truffles and on the second night she brought us 4 truffles instead of the normal 2!


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And check out these neat night shots!

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Breakfast was included each morning and it was so delicious.

My teacup was precious.


But I about rolled in the floor laughing when Ron was sipping his!


While our waitress was getting our breakfast, I snapped this shot of a neighboring table.  Don’t you just love how everything is so mismatched!


If you ever go, do not order your eggs any other way than the normal scrambled.  When the waitress took our order she asked if scrambled was ok and I could tell that she was leading us in that direction.  Scrambled it was!  I swear they had to have had heavy cream in them along with chives and goodness knows what else!  They were divine!  And the pancakes!  They were very thin and crepe like.  The lingonberries on top were scrumptious.


Here are some more shots of the restaurant and tavern.




The last night that we were there was our actual anniversary so we picked that night to have dinner!

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My beverage selection was the famous Vita Claire.

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Grapefruit Vodka, Cinnamon Schnapps, Bourbon & Grapefruit Juice

Ron got a Dogfish IPA.

Next came the grapefruit

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and the soup

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This soup was out of this world delicious.  Really.  Out of this world!  (and I’m not just making a play on the fact that it was taken to the moon on several of the Apollo missions)  Probably my very favorite thing of the entire night.  I’m so excited that since it was our anniversary, they gave us a can of Moon Soup as a gift.  I cannot wait to have it!

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and the salad

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(That’s tomato aspic and orange aspic on either side.  I loved the orange aspic!)

then a little sherbet to cleanse the palate

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and Mother told me I had to get the Chicken Suzanne

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Oh my word.  This was so flavorful!

Ron got the Black Angus Steak

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He gave me a taste and it was like butter.  Totally melted in your mouth.

Next was dessert.

I got the Rum Raisin Pie and Ron got something chocolate.


They were both perfect!

Look at my cup that I had on our last morning at breakfast!

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I love you Mother and am so very proud you are my mom!  You taught me to love Jesus.  You taught me how to fold napkins and washcloths in fancy ways.  You taught me that “a host above all must be nice to his guests.”   You taught me that even though you might just be a waitress to work as if you are working for the Lord and to never look down upon anyone.  You’ve always loved me and encouraged me to do my best.  I can only pray that I can show my daughters and grandson the love that always seeps from every inch of you.  You are my hero!

mother and us kids in the 1970s

(My brother Billy, Mother, my sisters Tammy and Rosa and me on the trike around the time Mother worked at Chalet Suzanne.)

The St. Augustine Lighthouse

The morning after The Conch House, Ron and I headed out to visit the lighthouse up close.  But, we couldn’t get started until Ron found juice!  Ron has been juicing for, I don’t know, years and years I guess, and it’s all I can do to get him to not take the juicer with us on vacation. 

We ended up at Smoothie King.  It worked in a pinch but just as we were pulling away from Smoothie King, Ron spotted Smoothie Fresh!


They were the real deal and had a Ron approved Champion juicer.  He got his normal kale, apple, carrot, ginger, and I don’t’ know what else.

And he even got a shot of wheatgrass juice!


I stuck with the Chocolate Peanut butter smoothie I had gotten at Smoothie King.

Now we could head on over to the lighthouse.  I snapped and snapped away and really had a blast touring such a pretty lighthouse.

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The climb to the top was 219 steps and the perfect exercise to loosen us up for the next day’s half marathon.

Don’t miss the lighthouse when you are in the nation’s oldest city!

A Night in St. Augustine

Last month Ron and I were headed to the Gasparilla Half Marathon and we made a stop along the way at the historic Conch House in Saint Augustine, Florida.


The Conch House has been owned and operated by the Ponce family since 1946.  It’s located right on the Intercostal Waterway just down from the St. Augustine Lighthouse.

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I fell in love with this little motel, restaurant, and marina the minute we got there.

At first, Ron was in the mood to go out and explore and try to find a micro brewery but we ended up just moseying on over to the Tiki lounge.  Ron got a beer and I ended up with their famous Goombay Smash.


It had coconut rum, dark rum, 151 rum, apricot brandy and a blend of orange and pineapple juices.  Man was it good!

This was our 26th wedding anniversary trip and Ron got me a new camera.  I spent the rest of the evening playing.

Here’s Ron shot in portrait mode.


Check out this shot where I caught the pelican in flight!


And these shots of the lovely marina.

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I just kept playing and playing.  I love the shots of the pelicans!

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And check out this shot of a dove.


I’ve got a lot to learn in photography and I know I’m going to have a blast practicing.

Just when the sun was going down and they were lighting the tiki torches, we headed over to the restaurant.


We sat in a private tiki hut just like one of these.


Here was our view taken from our table.  I used the night setting.


Dinner started off with some more drinks.  Another Goombay Smash for me! Open-mouthed smile


The conch fritters!


And the crab cakes!


Since we had 2 appetizers, Ron and I shared the Florida Cracker Combo.


And you better believe I saved room for their famous Key Lime Pie!


On Yelp, you can see all kinds of reviews of this place.  A lot of people love it and a lot of people hate it.  I’m in the love it crowd!  Everything tasted delicious and the romantic tiki hut table was so cute!

The next morning I got my favorite shot of the lighthouse.  We had gone out just at dawn to try and catch the sunrise.  The lighthouse was still on and Ron helped me capture the beam of light.  (He counted so I’d know when to snap.)


If you are ever in St. Augustine, give The Conch House a try.  You might be pleasantly surprised.