Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Long Road to Venice

I-285, I-675, I-75, FL-681

River waited patiently by the door in the Tucker motel room as I sipped my coffee and packed up the car for our long trek to Venice.  I took him for a little walk before we hit the road. 
 We drove for maybe half an hour when I saw a sign to a town called Griffin. I could use some gas, so I thought it would be fun to do it there. Once I got off the main Interstate, I realized Griffin was going to be about ten miles out of my way, so the fun wore off and I turned around. I spotted a gas station in McDonough, just before getting on the Interstate.
Next to the highway was a BBQ place and a shack next to it, selling peaches. I didn't realize that I was hungry until I saw the BBQ sign, so I pulled in. There was a man and a woman standing there as I looked at the menu. It was kind of like a food truck, just a ramshackle lean-to with kitchin equipment inside. The menu was tantalizing, and as I was deciding what to get, the man standing nearby mumbled something. I have a hard time with the southern accents. I almost always have to ask them to repeat themselves. In this case, not only did I not understand him, but he was wearing one of those ridiculous blue tooth phone earpieces, so I didn't know if he was on a phone call. I asked him, 'Are you talking to me?' and he explained that he'd been standing there half an hour, and he doesn't think the guy is there. I laughed inside. Half an hour and your'e still wondering?
Right at that moment, a busy-looking young man ran out with something in his hand, said "I'll be right with you gentlemen" as he ran past and handing the woman a lid for her beverage. He then turned to us and asked us if he could help us. I asked "are you making food?" and he told me that the guy wasn't here. "So, are you selling peaches?" I asked? That perked him up. "Yes, Sir!" he said and ran to his place behind the counter in the peach shack.
Long story short, I got some peaches. Some that are ripe and ready and some that will mature over the next few days. I couldn't very well leave Georgia without peaches, could I?

So back in the car, we drove and drove until I decided I wanted to stop for a latte at Starbucks. Next to the Starbucks, in Tifton, GA, there was a patch of grass that River was very attracted to. There was an opening in the fence, so we went through and hung out on the parkway for about twenty minutes. I drank my latte and River explored and rolled around a bit as the cars whizzed by. 

All caffeinated and grassy, we got back in the car and continued down I-75 until we passed the state line. Shortly thereafter, we stopped in a rest area. It was about 4pm which is the time I like to feed River. After feeding, we had some fun exploring the lichen-covered trees and chilling out in the shade.

The cicadas in the trees were incredibly noisy in spurts. It seemed that whenever I got my phone out, in an attempt to capture their loud rapture, they would go silent. Shy, I guess?

As I was checking into my Motel 6 in Venice, a couple of guys came into the office and stood behind me, waiting to be helped. River was checking them out, and I was keeping my eye on him. I never know what his reaction to strangers will be, so I have to be ready to intercept if necessary. River and one of the men seemed to connect, and River approached him to sniff. The guy didn't give River enough opportunity to feel safe around him before reaching out to pat him on the head. Well, that's definitely River's trigger, and it set him off. He loudly barked and everyone was surprised. I pulled him back and used my chain technique to quiet and calm him. I was kind of embarrassed. Only because I should have told the guy not to pet him. It is exhausting sometimes, always telling people to back off the dog. I was tired and a little bit spaced out from 8 hours of driving, and I watched it all unfold. In my head, i could see that River was going to burst, but I didn't muster the words to intercept. Fortunately, I was quick on the deflection. But if I were quicker, and told River to do something BEFORE he blew up, I might have prevented the whole situation.

So, we checked into the room and I started looking for food for dinner.I found a local sports bar that claimed to have The Best CheeseBurger You've Ever Had. Well, that was certainly tempting, although I think I've heard that claim before.

I asked for no onion and subbed Swiss cheese for American. No burger with American cheese is ever going to be "The Best I've Ever Tasted" blech. But this one was really good. It was basic, but all the flavors and textures were just how I like. Hot and juicy with a hint of real cheese flavor. Freshness, supplied by the veggies and a little bit of pink in the center of the meat without feeling raw. The fries were good too. I wish they had asked if I wanted condiments, because I never use them. Instead they gave me a superfluous plethora of ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise, but not a single napkin.

I'll be here in Venice for four days, and I'm going to be teaching four Nia classes here. I hope to also get to the beach at some point. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Gorgeous Georgia

Strangers here say "hi" to each other.

I didn't do any highway driving today, so no map.  I spent most of the day on Friday, hanging around the motel room.

I ate some soup, tuna and bread out of my ice chest and cleaned out the car. I accumulate junk, and without the occasional purge, it can really pile up. I found a search engine online that will tell me where the nearest Crystal water filter dispensers are. I found one outside a Kroger store and filled up my three jugs.

I found a great burger on Thursday night, which I blogged about here.

And I checked into my motel room. I've stayed at this place before and it perfectly meets all of my criteria for a perfect Motel 6 experience. I blogged about that here.

My burger blog is done chronologically by the date I ate the food, but the Motel 6 blog is done alphabetically by region. The reason for that is that for the Motel 6 blog, I am creating a database for myself, so the next time I set out to plan a road trip, I can look up the Motel 6 in the area and remember my impressions and experiences there.  But for the burger blog, I'm keeping a journal and don't really intend to look things up in it later.

I shaved and showered, fed River at then took off for my evening Nia class at Firefly studio. Sandy was my host, and we used her regular studio rather than the bigger studio. I ended up liking the intimacy of the smaller studio much more than the big one, but some of the student were laughing afterward that they'd never really had to navigate around each other so much before due to lack of space.

It's a good thing I allowed an hour for a 15 minute drive.

There were 13 students in class. We got real sweaty in that small room. A quirk of this group was that they only used the back half of the room. I exaggerate, but they kept drifting further and further back from me. This is another reason I like the smaller room; because when they did that in the big room, they got really far away from me so that I had to yell for them to hear me. But today, the people in the front were being reminded by the people in the back to please move forward and give them some room.

I know that I didn't stink. I made a point of it because both times I was in Atlanta before, I did. Not me, but my clothes. When I came through with Goldfinger and with Frankie Say Nia, I had an established costume I was wearing, which sometimes didn't get washed in between classes. And both times I was here in the past was one of those times. So this year I was sure that I used freshly washed gear and that I was showered and deodorized. Maybe it was my breath this year, since I'm doing the no toothpaste thing. hehe. I teased them goodnaturedly. It's funny behavior. My tendency is to move closer and closer to the teacher all the time.

There's a movement we do in Amazing that I call the helicopter. The movement came to me from the folks in Santa Monica, but I didn't get a name for it from them. As I practiced the routine at home, I'd be asking for a pearl but nothing would come. It's a side travelling with a big arm circle from the shoulder in the frontal plane, one complete circle for each side step. The other arm is held out, stationary, parallel to the floor. We travel four counts in each direction and then back for a full bar. I began calling it The Windmill, because I was trying to think of what that circular motion reminded me of. But it never really felt exactly right. And then, a while ago, while I was teaching it to a class, I said Helicopter instead of Windmill. That's when it started to feel right, and then something else interesting happened. I make small, quick circles with my outstretched, unmoving hand. It felt necessary to make it a helicopter. And, as it turns out, it's a fun and challenging movement. It feels like something Carlos would've come up with; simple but takes a bit of coordination. I love to watch the students' faces light up as they gradually get what I'm doing.

After class had ended and we were all post-Nia chatting, I noticed a woman was spending a lot of time with the crystal that I left out for everyone to connect with. Later, she came up to me and said that she loved what I was doing with the crystal, gathering all the energy from all over the USA, but that she had moved it. I had set it near the microwave, and she cautioned me about putting the crystal near any electronics. She also told me that I could rinse it in water and, with my intention clear, only wash off the unwanted microwave and electronic energy, while keeping the human energy intact.

River hasn't been itching quite as furiously as he was in Texas, but he's still got a bit of a rash on his belly, and he's still super over-reactive when I lightly scratch him. But he's getting better. Today as we were lounging on the grass after feeding time, a man walked by, dragging some roll-aboard luggage and talking on his cell phone. River stared at him for a bit, and I guess the sound of the wheels and the force he was using to project into the phone (must've been a long distance call) freaked him out. He started barking. Another reason I say "Thank you for the bark!" It helps me hold him back when he gets riled up. Before he could bark, all of his energy went into running toward the threat. But now that he barks, he might still be lunging toward the threat, but there's also a force pushing him back. So that helps me contain him. And it increases the likelihood that he will hear me and actually calm himself down enough to lie down and bark his frustration out.

Another last minute change of plans. Originally, my plan was to go to Tallahassee tomorrow and in the morning go to Venice, Florida, where I will teach four classes. Awkwardly, my first class there is at 10am, which meant I would have to leave Tallahassee by 4am to give me enough time to get there comfortably. And that meant I would need to get up by 2:30am! And I was fully willing to do this.... until today. Suddenly it seems to make much more sense to drive all the way to Venice tomorrow. Even though it's a long drive, it's not crazy long. It's only 7 1/2 hours. I like to keep it below 6, but I've also done as much as 9 hours on more than one occasion. But, 7 1/2 hours of driving seems like a much less evil option when weighed against the prospect of waking up at 2:30 am, driving four hours, teaching a Nia class, and then having to wait four more hours before my room was available. What was I thinking?!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Alabama Adventures

This morning at 4am, I was awaken by the neighbors, calling up to the upper floor from their car, right outside my door. River, actually is what woke me up. He responded with a loud bark. The neighbors had what seemed like a pretty long shouted conversation from across the parking lot. Finally the loudmouth got in her car and drove off and we fell back to sleep.

A couple hours later, i hear a lot of dripping coming from the bathroom, like someone is taking a shower in there. I go in and see that there is a waterfall coming from the lighting fixture in the shower stall, it's splashing all over the floor, which explains why it was a bit wet when I checked in last night, and why it seemed like the shower stall floor hadn't been cleaned. Obviously whenever they shower in the unit above, I get the run off. Gross.

And then finally, it was actually time to wake up and get ready for class.  I had about an hour of driving ahead, so I got up and out in plenty of time.
I-20, I-65, US-31, US-278, US-431, US-78, I-285, US-29

We arrived at the civic center with enough time to run on the grass for a little bit before getting set up for class. About ten people showed up for the Woodstock Experience. Last year, when I was here, I taught a workshop on How to FreeDance.  A few of the participants from that were there today, but it was less than half of the group. I talked a little bit about Anything Goes and about taking my choreography as a mere suggestion, and I explained how I envisioned this class to be an homage to the original music festival. Much to my delighted surprised, this group took me at my word. I start the class by having everyone wander around lost, and then I start the music, and without saying a word, go into my very simple warm up choreography. For two songs, I don't usually speak, as Jefferson Airplane does a fine job underscoring my movements. 

Every other time I've taught this routine, the group immediately connects to my movements, and within moments of my saying that this is meant to be freedancing, are doing my exact choreography. But today, they didn't. They kept wandering around, some of them were kind of doing what I did but no one was following exactly. I found that I had to actually give some cues to stimulate full body warm-ups, since they weren't doing my movements. It was great. 

I was a bit concerned too about the 10 minute Ravi Shankar raga and if I could sustain holding the space for them to freedance. It is a fairly tame bunch. Not the most adventurous, and very comfortable in their comfort zones. And despite the obvious fact that it was not something they were used to doing, they went along with me and after my giving them a few carefully planted suggestions and enough time to settle into the music, even the most staunch resistor was finally joining in and exuding that magic glow that comes from totally free dancing.

I was very impressed with the ladies in Cullman.

We also had a young girl with us, named Ally. I'm not good at telling ages in children, but I'd guess she was four years old. She was dancing with us, and she was well in touch with her free spirit, so for one of the songs, I had everyone follow her.  She didn't know that's what we were doing. She was so caught up in just being herself. But we got some great moves from her.

It's interesting that my Woodstock Routine so far has had two juvenile participants. I don't get children in my classes that often, but maybe there's something about this particular routine that inspires women to bring their daughters. In both cases, the child was interested and participating for about half the class, and then went off to explore other fun and games. 

I have been having all my students on this trip commune with my crystal. I ask them to tap it, hold it or give it a hug so that it can exchange energy with as many people as possible across the country. I joked not to hold it for too long, since it now has so much energy in it, it might be overwhelming.

Ally, who had just eaten a Hershey's Kiss (a tradition post-Nia ritual in Cullman) gave the crystal a chocolatey kiss. 

After class, we all met at a local deli called Berkeley Bob's. Inside, a guy on an accoustic guitar was singing Wish You Were Here, by Pink Floyd. I got noticed when I walked in with my tie dye shorts on. I fit right into this place. I asked the woman what was good and she recommended the Reuben, so I got that. It was really good. My producer Ann, bought my lunch for me, which I always appreciate so much. Thank you!

We chatted with some of the students who came to lunch with us and then River and I got in the car to head east. I wanted to stop and visit the Talladega National Forest, which was on my way to Atlanta.

As I was passing through a town called Gadsden, it flashed in my memory that I was out of River's food and needed to find a Petco. I quickly asked Siri and found out that I was less than two miles from one. It was on the road I was on. I needed to make a U-turn. I must've subconsciously seen it, or smelled it because I think I thought about it just as I was right in front of it. Kinda weird. 
Our next stop was on the way out of Gadsden, headed for the forest, still. I spotted a filtered water dispenser and stopped because two of my jugs were empty. Well the quarter fell through the slot and didn't register in the machine. I hit the coin return and nothing came out, and I hit the Dispense Water button and it was inactive. So I jostled the flap that covers the coin return tray and I must've loosened up the last ten people's lost quarters, because it was like a slot machine paying off! I grabbed the quarters and took off without my water. I still have one full one, so it's not a crisis situation yet. 

I made it to the Talladega forest according to my navigation. No sooner did she say "You Have Reached Your Destination" than I saw a sign saying "Leaving Talladega National Forest". I guess I found a narrow section of forest. I turned around, hoping to find something more interesting, but I didn't. And it was getting late, so I didn't want to spend a lot of time driving around looking for pretty trees to look at. So I just got back on the highway and headed to Atlanta. 

Right as we passed the state line into Georgia, I saw a beautiful rest area. One of the best I've ever seen, maybe the best. I fed River his dinner and we ran around on the expansive lawn. The grass was so nice and soft and clean, that I actually took off my shoes and ran around barefoot. I know it's kinda nasty because it was a Pet Run Area, but I didn't see any poop and the grass felt really good. 
I hit the tiniest bit of traffic going through Atlanta, but considering it was 6:30pm, I think it was actually flowing really well. My motel is in Tucker, a suburb of Atlanta.

I checked in and consulted Zomato and found a pub that served hamburgers down the road. I ordered a Greek burger for pickup. It had feta cheese and tzatziki sauce. 

It was so delicious. I asked for it cooked medium rare, and it came very pink in the middle. It almost ruined the experience for me as I was worried whether it had reached a high enough internal temperature for safety. I ate it anyway. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"Bama Bound and Babe Business in Birmingham

Today I was on a mission to get to Mini Birmingham. I needed to extend my maintenance agreement soon or my oil changes, air filter and the like would no longer be 'free'.  I would have just paid the fee to Seattle Mini, but my representative there told me I had to go in physically because they needed to scan my key.

Well, that wouldn't be possible, considering I wasn't planning to be home for months, and I was about to go over the maximum 36,000 on the basic maintenance agreement. So I started contacting Mini dealers and giving them my situation and my schedule to see if i could come up with a match.

And, on a whim, I also decided to make a bee-line for the Mini Dealership in Birmingham, where I was staying that night, and seeing if someone could squeeze me in without an appointment.

US-98, FL-85, US-331, US-31, I-65, I-459
Fortunately, it was doable. The guy was busy with someone, but that gave me some time to feed River his dinner out on the lawn while he finished up. And then I got my turn. He ended up telling me that he didn't even need to scan my key. If I had elected to upgrade to the full warranty, then he'd need to scan it, but just to extend the maintenance, he only needed the mileage.

So we think that Kayle, from Seattle Mini, told me a fib so that I'd go in and she could upsell me the warranty. But what ended up happening was it cost her the commission for the sale, since I was forced to look elsewhere. Thank you Gareth at BMW of Birmingham. (BMW owns Mini).

Destin, Florida, where I was yesterday, was calling itself "The World's Luckiest Fishing Village" which is cool. I also passed through a town today called Lucerne, AL, which, according to the sign is "The Friendliest Town in the South."  It was a superlative day.

I took mostly farm roads and there wasn't much of note. I wasn't really motivated to take any pictures, except on one road that was shaded by the big trees lining it on either side. It was a nice break from the relentless  sunshine, but I don't think it would have photographed well. My phone was in my bag, anyway, and I didn't feel like fishing it out.

If I were to give each state I've been in recently a driving quirk, I'd say:
Florida - Speeding and Tailgating
Mississippi - Talking on Cell Phone and Driving 10MPH below the flow of traffic
Alabama - Household Pet Road Kill

Yesterday, I was in Alabama for only a couple of hours at the most and I saw a dead dog and two dead cats on the side of the road.  Today, I saw another squashed cat. I almost never see household pets, though I do see my fair share of road kill on my travels.

The thought entered my head today.  Why do we have to add a "U" after "Q"? It makes no sense to have a letter than needs another letter to appear with it every single time. Why not just make the Q into a letter that doens't require a U. If it's required every time, then it's pointless. And what happens if you don't use the U? Qite a perplexing qestion.

I only stopped once, to give River a pee break and to stretch our legs at a Rest Area off US-331, just north of the Florida/Alabama state line.  And on my way from the Mini dealer to the motel, I stopped to get gas in Bessemer.

Bessemer is a suburb of Birmingham, and might be the saddest place I've ever visited. Entire shopping centers of vacant stores. And the signs indicate that the stores that couldn't survive were pawn shops and dollar stores. I don't think I've ever seen more vacant buildings than I've seen since entering Alabama. Lucerne, that friendly town, had a store that was out of business with a sign in the window saying, "This Sign is For Sale".

When I pulled into the Motel 6, or what I thought was going to be the Motel 6, I found myself in a private condominium driveway.  So I turned around and noticed another car pulling in as I pulled out. I got back on the street and took the next driveway instead.  I could see the sign, and my navigation had told me to turn, so I was a bit confused. The second driveway I pulled into seemed to be a vacant lot. I stopped and took this picture of the elusive Motel 6 from this parking lot.
Not Motel 6; a school. 

As I was driving out, a fellow stepped out of one the bungalows and asked "can I help you?" I told him I was looking for Motel 6 and he pointed to the obvious sign. "It's right there." I laughed,
"Yes, but I can't find the driveway, I thought this was it." I was actually surprised to see a human being. I thought maybe he was a homeless squatter.  "No, this is a school." he said to my surprise. I thought, really?  With all the grass growing through the cracks in the asphalt? I thought no one had been here in years.
Anyway, I kept it cool and he gave me extensive directions, which basically amounted to telling me it was the next driveway, just passed the closed down bank. "But you can still see the sign so you'll know it's a bank. "

As I pulled out of the "school" I saw that same car that had followed me into the condo. He had stopped in the driveway of the school and was talking on his phone, gesturing toward the monolithic Motel 6 sign that seemed unreachable. I almost called out to him, "follow me!" but I figured he'd find it, since it was just the next driveway.

 I got back to the motel room and found a BBQ place that got decent reviews on Yelp. I have been having good luck simply asking Siri, "What's the best BBQ place around here?" And he answers with one selection. I usually end up going there. Today was no exception. And the BBQ must be slim pickin's around here because it was not good. It didn't warrant the high marks, in my opinion. I wrote about it in more detail on my Burger and BBQ blog, but I will say this here: I am not a fan of food that makes my hands messy. Just a qirk of mine, I guess. This is why I almost never get ribs, and had I known the combo platter included both ribs and fried chicken, I might have gone a different direction.

Another peeve of mine, which is weird, considering my lifestyle. I usually don't like eating outside. If the sun is directly on me, I hate it. If there are bugs, I'm annoyed. I don't like wind blowing things into my food or blowing my napkin away. I don't like eating near traffic, a la sidewalk cafe, or near pedestrians for that matter. I don't like to eat where it's very noisy, and I dislike eating in dark, shadowy places where I can't see my food. I don't like having the TV on while I eat, but I don't mind soft, peaceful music. I'm not fussy.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Southern Mississippi and the Florida Panhandle

Wow, did I make a discovery today.
On a whim, I decide not to follow my original plan, which was to visit the De Soto National Forest on my way to Decatur, AL. I was to stay two nights in Decatur and teach my Nia class once, then move on to Atlanta, GA. Well it turns out, it makes just as much sense to go to Destin, Fl for one night, and then up to Birmingham for a night, and teach my Nia class on my way from Birmingham to Atlanta.
I was missing the beach and Destin came up in two different conversations, so I went for it.
So glad I did.

I-10, US-90, FL-281, US-98

I was going to take I-10 the whole way to Florida, but I saw a sign that indicated the coastal scenic route alternative to I-10, so I quickly veered onto the road that lead me to US-90 and all the coastal towns of southern Mississippi.
I loved the white sands and grassy dunes and ample parking and vast open spaces of the beach in Pass Christian. 



I also loved Long Beach and Biloxi, though the latter actually had casinos and looked like party zone. It was dead quiet, though. I was obviously there during off season. The scenic route was paying off, though. I was really enjoying my drive and experiencing the gulf coast. 

This was a dilapidated old boardwalk with a caution sign that has also seen better days. River was quite intrigued by the whole thing. He wanted to investigate but wouldn't go near it. 

After getting enough beach time, I cut back onto I-10 right about the time I crossed over into Alabama. 
 And I stopped to fill up the gas tank just past Mobile.

Shortly thereafter, we crossed into Florida and I switched to US 98 via FL 281. 

I got into a town called Gulf Breeze, and couldn't resist blasting the song of the same name from an old Nia routine. We checked into the Motel 6 room in Destin, FL, which was a cute little beach town with beautiful white beaches. It was a bit touristy and popular, but I noticed a fairly unused National Seashore just about five miles west of Destin, so we went back there. 


Thanks to my National Parks Pass, I didn't have to pay, and we have a fun time here. The decline of the shore was so slight, that we could walk 25 feet out from the beach into the water and still only be in water a foot deep. It was a brand new experience for River to be able to come so far out off the shore. 

There was supposed to be a mexican food truck parked just a block from the motel, so I took River on a walk to get some blackened fish tacos. The truck wasn't there, but on the way back, I passed a good barbecue place and ordered some meats to go. I wrote the details on my BBQ blog, but it was basically pretty good. I was really getting into the pork and beans. They were so sweet and smokey and the juice was thick. I got the 'spicy' hot sauce, but it was mild. 

I have put over 5555 miles on the car since I started this trip three weeks ago. I got an alert from Mini that I need to extend my warranty. It expires after 36, 000 miles, which I'll reach in a few more weeks at this rate. I have to physically be there to extend the warranty, so now I'm trying to play catch up with Mini Dealers. I've contact Mini in Birmingham and Atlanta, and let them know my dilemma and my schedule. Maybe tomorrow one of them will be able to help me. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Texas Part 10 - Leaving for Louisiana

It was after 11am before I finally got my act together and started driving out of Houston.  As usual, I wanted to get a little driving in before stopping for gas. But I didn't get far. In fact, I believe I was still in Houston when I did stop.   And then I stopped again very soon thereafter, when I spotted a place in The Highlands/Baytown called River Terrace Park.  I couldn't get it to show up labeled in the map, but it's the dot near Pasadena, just east of Houston.

I guess it's technically in Channelview.  Anyway, we had a great time exploring this park/picnic area/boat launch on Old River.
We saw a turtle

He found a place that combined two of his favorite things, grass and still, fresh water.
I dont' know how safe and clean this water was, but he was having such a good time, i couldn't bring myself to stop him. I did give him a bath later, though. 

After swimming, he dried off by rolling around in the dirt in the parking lot.
Its a good thing I check my tires before driving off or I would have squished this lizard. 

So then we got back in the car and River discovered a new position. Today he was getting into resting his head on the platform that separates the boot from the back seat and watch the world go by out the rear window. 

I got hungry around Winnie, Texas and stopped for what will be my last Whataburger. I think of it as a Texas treat. I don't know if I will continue to see them as I travel further east, but this is my last one. I bought it at the drive through and took it across the street to a truck stop where I ate it standing up near my car, as River lied on the concrete nearby.

Somewhere in between Orange, Texas and Vinton, LA, I crossed over the state line and tried to take this picture of the sign welcoming me to Louisiana.  I mis-timed it.

The next exciting thing that happened was we drove over the Mississippi River. I wish it was more romantic. I know that it's an important River, and I do feel like driving over it is somewhat auspicious, but it's not a thing of beauty. I wish it were. It's cocoa brown and speckled with barges and industrial smokestacks line the shores. The bridge we were on was a web of steel girder and the traffic on it was thick and slow.  This video captures it well.

We stopped for gas in Baton Rouge and I let River take a break from the car to lie on the grass.

I had the idea that I should do some of my exercises while he rested. I am on a project to reclaim my abs, which includes adding random exercise sessions back into my lifestyle. So I laid down a blanket on the grass near him. I was about to take my shirt off so I could start my crunches, when he made his way to my blanket. But both of us were stopped by noticing the ant hill I had partially covered with the blanket. The little critters were scurrying all over the place, including River's legs. He hopped around, shaking his legs until I ran over and brush all the ants off.

After that, River was ready to get back into the car. I never got my exercise in.

I wanted to stop in New Orleans to feed River his dinner. I had set my navigation for Bourbon Street, but as soon as I got there, I knew that this was no place for a nervous dog. It is a beautiful city. So alive and so historical; vibrant, cultural and loves to party. I drove for a few minutes through the French Quarter, driving slower than running people, swerving around people taking pictures in the middle of the street, taking a detour to avoid a jazz band.... listening to the music, the crowds,  taking in the sights, the architecture, the smells that are all so unique to New Orleans.

The cab drivers did NOT appreciate my lackadaisical lookie-loo driving. It was nuts, so I couldn't really take pictures, though I wanted to many times. The only one I took was while stopped at a stoplight downtown.  Once we got into the French Quarter, I was busy navigating through the madness and making sure River stayed put. The most I could afford was to be present in the experience; photos were out of the question.

Well, I couldn't find a place to park, and didn't feel comfortable getting River out of the car in the midst of all the chaos, so I just drove up and down a few more streets in the FQ and then got back on I-10 for Slidell.

It was after 8 by the time we checked in the Motel 6. I fed River and then myself and blogged, paid some bills and went to bed. There will be no Nia for me in Louisiana. We leave tomorrow.

Locating the Lost Abs

I've been on the road for three weeks and adjusting gradually to life on the road.

One of the things that offers a great challenge, even in the best of situations, is eating healthy and finding the time and motivation for exercising. Yesterday, I took a picture of my belly for someone who requested it on Facebook and was shocked to see that my abs were covered with flab.

I'll be 50 years old in 23 days.   So I've made myself a challenge:
To take steps toward reclaiming my abs before my 50th birthday.

I'm going to start with two very basic steps.  One is to do daily ab exercises.  I do feel like my abdominal muscles are strong, I can feel them under there. But building them up more can't really hurt the cause.


The second, and I think more important step is that I'm going to swear off of eating junk food and candy out of the vending machines late at night. It's very clever how Motel 6 always places those vending machines where you can see them as you check in.  And I'm highly suggestible after a long day. But no more. I'm putting my foot down and making a commitment to having no more vending machine snacks.

I'll check back in after a few days of this to see if it's having any effect.  Here is the picture I took that started the whole thing.
May 22, 2016
Ok, so now it's been three days.  Three nights of skipping my midnight junk food snack, and three mornings of 100 crunches. I took this picture in the mirror this morning. I don't know if I'm just psyching myself out, but it does seem like I'm noticing a difference already. I'll keep at it and will hopefully continue to see improvement.  So far, what I think I see is that there is a little bit less flab in general, and the muscular cuts are barely starting to show. What do you see?
May 25, 2016

I haven't stopped eating my burgers or BBQ, and have made no other changes besides elimination of the vanding machine and adding some exercise first thing in the morning.