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Archive for April, 2012

Sharing! :)

I mentioned in a previous post having met Nishant Prassad while exploring Savannah, Georgia.

Nishant Prassad from Gabby Garcia-Pardo on Vimeo.

I love the interesting and beautiful people I meet while traveling.  Its lovely to be able  to share a piece of Nishant through this neat little video ‘snapshot’ of him.  And of course, the video makes me want to meet this talented videographer as well.  Perhaps during my future travels I will!

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"Tybee"Tybee Island, GeorgiaTybee Island near Savannah, Georgia. Just a bit of beach zen to tide you over…

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Intermission!

This little adventure is going to have an intermission while I head back home to take care of my back.  I had a local doctor check me out.  He then sent me to get an MRI and bingo! presto! I have a diagnosis!  It seems I really did do a number on my back a few weeks ago and have a rather unhappy disk to deal with.  I’ve arranged to make my way home in a few days (with assistance as I can’t drive just yet).  My hope is that I will be able to heal and continue on my way afterwards. Think happy thoughts for me, eh?

I’ll look on the bright side- I’ll have time to process the photos I’ve taken so far.

Its just a fork in the road…a branch in the tree…To be continued!

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Laid up…

Easter Sunday was spent sipping coffee on the porch followed by a quick dinner out at Sams, a restaurant with a good view of the gulf.  The plan had been to photograph sunset there, but apparently my brain was still back at Pam’s sipping coffee on the porch because I’d headed out without any memory cards for my camera.  Silly.

We still enjoyed walking along the water and watching for dolphins.  We saw two close to the shore but they moved on after only a few appearances.  The three of us were just as happy to head home rather than staying out.  Pam and I stayed up long enough to make some dinner and watch Sister Act (I’m sure both of us have that movie memorized) then headed to bed early.

Sunday I had made plans to visit with my friend Amanda of  Hungry Vegan Traveler (where I’d written a guest blog back in August) in Tampa.  My GPS told me it would take about an hour for me to reach Eureka Springs Park where we were meeting.  I didnt hit any traffic, but my GPS took me to a toll highway that did NOT accept my EZPass.  When I hit the toll booth I breathed a sigh of relief because I had the $1 needed.  I paid and figured I was golden.  Only, a ways down the highway, without exiting the highway, was another toll booth.  This one called for $0.75.  I dug around and came up with $0.53.  I explained the situation to the toll booth operator who smiled, told me he had an extra quarter to cover the rest of my toll and sent me on my way.  That should be it, right?  Nope.  I hit a third toll.  This time when I explained the situation, the cheerful toll booth operator said it wasnt a problem, she could take my driver’s license info and give me a receipt which would tell me how to pay the $1 toll by mail.  So, we did that, with impatient drivers waiting behind me.  I asked her if the next exit would have some place with an ATM and she said I didnt need it, I’d hit the last of the tolls.  After continuing on my way, I decided better safe than sorry and took the next exit and got cash out of an ATM at a gas station.  Of course,when I went to get back on the highway, there was an automated toll for $0.50 where it called for exact change only.  It had an envelope for people to pay by mail when they didnt have the change on hand.  Good grief.

The rest of the drive was uneventful and I reached the park where Amanda was waiting more or less on time.  I’ve known Amanda for several years now, but our only interaction has been online.  I loved getting to meet her in person.  We walked around the park for a while chatting,  looking at flowers, butterflies, lizards and snakes.  After that we headed to The Taco Bus for lunch.  I’m an instant fan of the Taco Bus.  The restaurant is part building, part refurbished school bus.  You actually order your food outside at the bus’ window.  They have your usual Mexican food fare, but also has a vegetarian/vegan menu.  I ordered a Seitan Taco and a Tofu Taco.  Both were excellent.  As good as the food though, was the people watching.  It looked as if people of every race, age, income and occupation ate there.  Its open 24/7 and Amanda informs me that  there are people in line at all hours of the night.  I’m hoping I get a chance to return later in the week.

Amanda and I hung out at the Taco Bus until the last moment when she had to head to work.  Before leaving, she pointed me in the direction of the Whole Foods so I could pick up some vegan food staples for Pam’s fridge.  I found everything I was looking for, but when I went to check out, my card was declined.  I paid with my backup card, got change for the return drive, then went out to call my bank.

It turns out my card got flagged because the ATM at the gas station where I got cash had been compromised at some point.  I hate to think how many people stop to get gas there only to have their cards immediately frozen.  My card was reactivated, but the bank is documenting its use and I have to call in regularly  to explain that I’m still traveling so they don’t lock it again.  I’m going to need to have them replace it sooner rather than later.  What a pain.

I didn’t do much for the rest of the day, just hung out with Pam and noticed how unhappy my lower back was feeling.  I’d injured/thrown out my back a couple of weeks before leaving for my road trip, but I’d thought it recovered.  Unfortunately, this is not the case- when I got up this morning at 6:30, planning on photographing the sunrise, I couldn’t get out of bed.  When I finally got out of bed, I couldn’t walk.  I’m laid up, mostly immobile, icing my back, taking painkillers and keeping my fingers crossed that a day’s rest will set it to rights.  Either way I’m going to find a doctor in the next couple of days to have the situation evaluated.  Can’t very well continue on this road trip if I’m incapacitated for no apparent reason from time to time.   I’m just lucky to have it happen here where I  have people to look out for me.  Pam and her sister Colleen have been great and are taking really good care of me (I’m trying to not be too much of a pain).

That about covers it.  I’ll hang out and watch tv and get waited on for the day and try to be less high maintenance tomorrow. ;)

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I’m staying with my friend, Pam, while in Florida and I realized the other day that I’ve never written here how I became friends with her.  Its such a good example of the amazing friendships I make while traveling, that it must be shared.

For several years I had been traveling down to the Smoky Mountains with my friend, Amanda, every fall.  We’d camp out, photograph, hike and explore.  Amanda has an unfortunate sense of direction (as in “none at all”) and on our Fall of 2009 camping trip she kept getting lost on her way back from the restrooms.  

Fortunately, the couple camping next to the campgrounds noticed her confusion.  The man called over to her “Are you lost?” Amanda replied in the affirmative “I can’t remember where I came from.”   The man pointed towards the small bit of woods between our campground and theirs and said “I don’t know if it helps, but I can guide you as far back as that tree right there.”  And that was enough to get Amanda back to our site.

From there it became a joke every time she wandered by their campsite.  The next day, after a long day of photography and wandering around the park, Amanda and I ended up sitting around the campfire of the couple we now knew as Pam and Gary.  We spoke for hours about our mutual travels and life in general.  I got a huge kick out of the fact that Pam and Gary had gone to so many Star Trek Conventions.  That scores you a lot of brownie points in my book.  We just talked on and on and it didn’t seem to matter that Amanda and I were in our thirties and Pam and Gary were in their sixties.  There was just an amicable connection there.  By the end of the night we’d learned that the lot of us were in the Smoky Mountains every fall and made plans to meet up the following year.

Amanda and I headed back to camp late.  During the night there was a massive wind storm which made a mess of our camp, but we were off well before sunrise to reach a good photography location, so didn’t get a good look at the carnage.  When we returned to our campsite hours later, it was as if elves had visited our site.  Our supplies were stacked in an orderly pile on the picnic table, our camp chairs had been folded up and set securely in our tent.  The wood that Gary had spent all week gathering and chopping had been hauled through the small patch of woods between their campsite and ours and was stacked neatly under our picnic table, carefully wrapped with a tarp to protect it from the rain.  Two bottles of lighter fluid sat next to the wood.  In our tin cup on the table was a note from Pam and Gary which included their email addresses and facebook accounts.  Thankfully, we caught them just as they were leaving the campground for their home in Florida and we were able to properly thank them.

Once home I added them to my facebook account and kept in touch.  Only a couple of weeks after returning from Tennessee, Gary was diagnosed with cancer.  Heartbreakingly, in March I was in Florida to attend his funeral.  I’d only known him the one night, but it was long enough for me to realize what I was missing out on in not knowing him longer.  I sat with Pam and cried with her and saw through the reactions of everyone around how loved and missed Gary was.  It made me very aware of how lucky I was to have had that one night’s companionable chat around the campfire with this wonderful man whose character lasted beyond the ending of his life.

After I returned home I continued to stay in touch with Pam.   As fall approached and I made plans to return to the Smoky Mountains, so did Pam.  She and Gary and gone every year and she wouldn’t let him down by stopping now.  She rented a cabin, as they had on occasion before, and I drove down to meet her.  We spent an entire week together there and as before we talked and talked and talked and felt like old friends.  

She’s one of the strongest, most loving and generous people I know and I never would have met her if we hadn’t both been traveling.  She’s become a friend I will have for the rest of my life, and I can’t explain how fortunate that makes me feel.

We both say it feels as if we’ve been friends forever.  Perhaps it is, in the words of Anne Shirley, because we are kindred spirits…

Image

(Sorry…my arm isnt long enough to bring us both in focus…haha)

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I did end up finding my way to Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah after leaving The Sentient Bean Friday morning.  Even better, Nishant met me there and I had some company while exploring the statuary and ornate headstones.  Its a beautiful location and one that requires several hours to explore properly.  Even with a heavy cloud cover, or maybe because of, it was possible for me to capture a few really beautiful scenes.

Afterwards I left Savannah (vowing to return for a longer stay!) and drove the few hours to Florida.  My timing was excellent as I met up with my fabulous friends Pam and Colleen for a night out with them, a few of their friends and the fantastic Baker Act Band .  The band blew my mind with covers from Eddie And The Cruisers to Lynyrd Skynyrd to the Beatles.  Despite having been up since 5:30 and on the go all day, I was thrilled to stay through the very last song.  We were very near Pam’s house, but between chatting with the band and others at the bar after the band finished playing, driving to Pam’s, unloading some of my gear and staying up to chat and catch up a bit more, it was well past 2 am before I called it a day.

Saturday was a lazy day for all of us.  We spent much of it sitting on Pam’s  porch, drinking coffee and catching up.  Despite staying connected on Facebook, there’s a lot that gets missed while we’re apart, details that need to be filled in and stories fleshed out.  We were still talking when evening rolled around and we headed down to the water so I could photograph the boats on the water while having a drink at Whiskey River.  Another great night and while there wasn’t a great band there to entertain us, the restaurant owner, our waitress and our bar tender all entertained the heck out of us.  Add to that some really great food, a beautiful view and perfect weather and you’re set up for a nice time.

This evening Pam and Colleen are taking me to ‘the best sunset in town’.  They’ve got other location ideas in the works, so I’ll be here a few days yet.

 

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Savannah

Savannah is one of those towns where the more I see, the more I want to stay so I can see more.

After finishing my update yesterday I ventured out to drive around the city. I couldn’t seem to decide where to stop because every street was filled with gorgeous houses, small squares, parks, stunning churches and interesting people.

I was saved by my indecision by the amazing Nishant, a fellow couch surfer who was bicycling around the US (Seattle to CA to FL and on his way to NY). We met up and spent the next 3 hours wandering through the streets of Savannah while thunderstorms rolled by overhead. The downpours, broken by periods of drizzle, kept me from bringing my camera along, but the experience proved just how endlessly charming Savannah is. No matter the neighborhood, people on the street greet you with a warm smile. People who back home might make some cross the street are friendly and endlessly polite. I’ve been informed that this is the norm throughout the South and I believe this more than makes up for the mosquitos.

Eventually, I had to say goodbye to Nishant so I could get some sleep in preparation for this mornings dawn photography. I returned to my hosts’ home where a shower made me feel 200% better after such a long day of bug spray, bugs anyways, sunblock, 95• heat and walking in the rain. My plans to sleep were put off a bit as I took the opportunity to chat with my hosts a bit more. Really, I don’t think I could’ve lucked out more. Dickie and Abby are amazing and Savannah would’ve been worth it just for the opportunity to meet them.

I headed off to sleep around midnight, slept like the dead til my alarm went off at 6:30 and I was on my way within minutes. The sky was heavily overcast, but as I reached the beach on Tybee Island, the clouds broke up enough to allow soft colors and light to filter through. I left me sneakers in the car, rolled up my jeans and walked down the beach. It wasn’t warm enough to venture into the water, but walking along in the sea scented breeze was about as perfect a moment I could ask for.

After a while I returned to my car and returned to Savannah. A pesky headache (likely due to my caffeine addiction and lack of caffeine yesterday) kicked in and I thought that a fairly good excuse to check out The Sentient Bean for some coffee and tofu scramble. The Sentient Bean has convinced me that on my next trip through the South I need to arrange to spend at least a week in Savannah.

My headache has departed, but I think I’ll sit here a bit longer before moving on. There’s a cemetery nearby that I’d like to photograph in the rain before I continue on to Florida later today, but I’m in no hurry…

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