Summer Road Trip Series Part III: “Get Your Kicks on Route 66”

By Marianna Boyce 

After driving almost seventeen hours, we made our first stop on Route 66 in Amarillo at a humongous Texas-sized wheat field. We parked alongside the road running parallel to I-40 with other weary travelers. We all had the same plan…I just hoped they brought their own spray paint.

pic 2Wind was gusting to about 30 mph, so before getting out of the car at Cadillac Ranch, I put my hair in a messy bun. I was wearing the same blue and white Ralph Lauren dress and cute little white sandals from the day before. My husband Gerry, and son Cody, were also sporting the same clothes from the previous day, but no one cared. We were all having a blast.

I released the trunk to retrieve the lime green spray paint packed before leaving South Carolina. There were some old cars we wanted to leave our mark on before heading further west.

pic 1Cadillac Ranch is a roadside attraction showing the evolution of tail fins on ten, older model Cadillacs. They are artistically displayed about 200 yards off the road, all upright, in a row, with their noses half-buried in the ground. For those that haven’t heard of this quirky little dot on the map, we were not “Breakin’ the Law.” Graffiti is actually encouraged here.

Leaving our mark on this popular landmark proved difficult on such a breezy day, but it was exactly what we needed to break the monotony of driving. After exhibiting our artistic interpretations on several cars, we shared our can of paint with travelers who didn’t come prepared. This attraction is free of charge and open 24/7/365.

Since we skipped lunch, we stopped for an early supper at the Big Texan Steakhouse a few miles down the road. At this bright yellow restaurant with a gigantic, long-horned, bull statue in the parking lot, you can order a seventy-two ounce steak cooked to perfection, free of charge. That’s four and a half pounds, y’all. Oh wait! There is a stipulation. No sharing is allowed, and it must be eaten within one hour. This includes their salad, baked potato, shrimp cocktail, and roll; otherwise, your meal isn’t free. It will cost $72. I wisely chose their six ounce filet, and after our delicious meal, we “Hit the Road Jack.” It was my husband’s turn to take the wheel…

*****

We left the tall green trees behind. They were morphing into smaller bushes. The vast landscape was dramatically changing with nothing obstructing that enormous blue sky. Texas gives an interesting 360 degree perspective. In certain areas, if you concentrate on the horizon, you can see the curvature of the earth. “I Can See For Miles and Miles…” It’s simply amazing!

In this beautiful, strange land, the billowing white clouds not only seem to dip below the horizon, they also stretch far into the heavens. There are no limits to the imagery that unveils like an artistic masterpiece. I love the enormity of Texas with all of God’s glory brilliantly on display, but we kept pushing forward.

*****

pic 3We crossed into New Mexico and made it to our next destination about an hour before sunset. The timing was perfect. Cody wanted to see the Blue Hole of Santa Rosa. This mystical Blue Hole is a natural geological formation created by a network of underground lakes in the middle of nowhere. With a constant inflow of 3,000 gallons of water per minute, it’s an incredible sight to see.

pic 4The surface diameter measures eighty feet, but increases to 130 feet at the bottom, making it a bell-shaped gem. There’s a rock ledge just underneath the water, but it dramatically drops off eighty feet into a mesmerizing, brilliant, blue void.pic 5

There is no lifeguard on duty, but if you’re adventurous, feel free to take a surface dive in the crystal-clear water. Even in their hot summers, this beautiful artesian well is a constant sixty-one degrees.

pic 6Cody was able to take two quick dives. The shock of the cold water instinctively pushed him up in milliseconds. My husband and I weren’t quite as bold. I only dipped my big toe and Gerry chose to merely observe. He’s not keen on anything cold, except for his chocolate cherry ice cream, and southern sweet iced tea. A visit to this interesting oasis is also free of charge and open 24/7/365.

pic 7As we watched the beautiful New Mexico sun setting behind the mountains in the distance, we drove a few miles down the road and found a room for the night. We were all exhausted, so we looked forward to a good night’s sleep before the adventures we’d lined up the following day. We all showered, crashed, and burned. Our plan was to rise early the next morning to see something grand. If we timed this one right, we’d be there a little before sunset as well…

We had an amazing twenty-four hours driving from South Carolina to New Mexico—and all still on speaking terms. Miracle? Not really…just “Love the One You’re With,” and don’t sweat the small stuff. Hopefully, you picked out the song references easily. We sang them all.

Arizona, here we come…pic 8

Summer of 2019: Trial Run of an Empty Nest

By Janet Prince

pic 1This summer, Gary and I have had the opportunity to have a trial run for when we have an empty nest. Our youngest has attended two trips leaving us home alone for the first time in almost 22 years! We have always joked that when the nest was empty, we would start dating again, and we did!

We went out to dinner alone one of the nights. Having time to have dinner alone in a restaurant with out the girls and their friends was a rarity. But of course, what did we talk about? The girls! Our life has always revolved around them and it seemed that not having them with us put us a little off balance. In our little family we have always moved as a unit. We go most places together and even when we are home, the girls have always spent time with us on the porch talking and watching TV. On another date, we made it a double with Ashlan and her husband Joe. It was a lot of fun getting to hear everything going on with them and it let me get my “mama fix”!View of beach at Huntington Beach State Park, South Carolina, USA

Summer has always been a great time to travel and to relax. The beach and the mountains are always our go-to places. We have our favorite places to go eat and our favorite things to do in both mountainsplaces. We always do the same things, but they are things that make us happy and things that the girls always looked forward to. I guess we can be called creatures of habit. Every place holds a special place in our memories.

Summer also means some separate traveling for Gary and me. The last weekend in June each year is when I travel with many others from our state to the GFWC Annual Convention. This year we were in Austin, Texas. We had lots of laughter and catching up with members from across our great country. Although it can be tiring it allows me to come home rejuvenated. Spending time with my girlfriends on these grand adventures is something I look forward to each year. Gary also gets to travel, but his is for work.

Our trial run of an empty nest has been good for us. We have had time to talk about whatever we wanted, and we learned that yes, we will be alright when the nest is really emptied. But for now, we are glad our nest is still full!

Until next time,

Janet

Summer Road Trip Series Part II: “God Bless Texas”

By Marianna Boyce

According to Google, Dallas is the third largest city in Texas, and ninth largest in our nation. In my opinion, it’s the most daunting to navigate. I was a passenger for a previous road trip in 2015 with our daughter and her family and quite honestly, I was awelcome to texas sign nervous wreck. It was nearly impossible to enjoy the mesmerizing sparkling midnight skyline with their intense traffic, but I somehow managed. My heart races just thinking about it.

With this bit of information in mind for our 2016 trek across the USA, I called driving dibs for this enormous metropolis once we reached the city limit sign. I actually insisted. In a meager attempt to persuade my husband Gerry easily, I forfeited the remainder of our driving marathon for him and our son Cody to split between themselves. Surprisingly, they both humored me and agreed to my crazy little deal. Otherwise, my backseat driving alter-ego may have reared her ugly head—and no one wanted that girl on our trip. I could’ve sworn they secretly adored her, but Gerry and Cody both swore they didn’t like her at all, hence my decision to leave her at home. Y’all would be so proud…

After driving all night from Lexington, South Carolina, we closed in on Dallas around lunchtime the following day. This year, we’d see the mega city during daylight hours. As we approached the outskirts, Cody’s driving shift came to a close.

It was lunchtime, but none of us were hungry. We grabbed a pack of cheese crackers and cold Pepsi-Cola from the ice chest and carried on our traditional American, wind-in-the-hair road trip. Finally, it was my turn to drive.

Nervous excitement consumed me, but I’m happy to report, I drove like a pro. The midday traffic was more tolerable than the midnight mayhem the previous year. The intimidating multiple lane roadways were still packed full of cars. I navigated their intricate highway system that in my opinion, resembled a big roller-coaster ride. I loved every exhilarating moment.long straight highway

Exercising such formidable driving ability, Gerry and Cody suggested I continue our quest without stopping for a driver switch. As we exited the Dallas-Fort Worth area, that famously long and straight Texas speed limit 80highway magically appeared out of nowhere. It was right up my alley. This is an area you’d definitely want a full tank of gasoline. There was nothing intimidating here. The speed limit was eighty, so eighty(ish) was what I did.

There are reminders up and down the highway system warning drivers that the left lane is for passing only. After passing, you must safely move back into the right lane. What a novel idea. I wish South Carolina had the same law. Oh, wait! We do! We are merely lacking in the reminder sign department. Where can we start a petition to get those for the Palmetto State? “God bless Texas.”

***

The scenery in this great state is very special. It’s exactly what you’d expect, but in a peculiar way, nothing you’d expect at all. Trains stretch as far as the eye can see. On one side of the road are oil wells. Grandiose wind turbines occupy the other. Chances are, they all belong to the same roughneck or rancher, but who knows? They contradict and complement each other simultaneously. It’s the old and the new, the big and the small. Oh, never mind! There’s nothing small here. The old saying “Everything’s bigger in Texas,” is true. I’ll bet that landmark steeple will never be mounted on a church rooftop.

***

Our course transitioned further north to I-40 via US-287. We were gravitating toward a national historic highway. Maybe you’ve heard of it…

I drove until we reached Amarillo. This is where our road trip took on a life of its own. So route 66far, we’d been driving fast and furious, but join me for my next post where the fun truly begins. What good is trekking across the United States of America unless you experience a little bit of classic Route 66.

Summer Road Trip Series Part I: Go West Young Man

By Marianna Boyce

arizona sign (p1)Have you ever heard of Sierra Vista, Arizona? It’s a great little city in Cochise County about twenty miles north of Mexico, but 1,921.5 miles west of South Carolina. You’ll discover the reason Sierra Vista holds a special place in my heart as we travel west for my summer road trip series.

rocky wall w flag (p2)In a day where everyone is in a hurry to do everything, flying the friendly skies makes more sense, but my preferred method of travel is the traditional American ‘let the top down’ road trip to see the beautiful sights our country has to offer. Gerry and I have done both—many times.

We embarked on this long journey with our daughter Tiffany and her family in 2015. Our son Cody was unable to go with us, but he expressed interest in our taking the same exact route to this special little dot on the map the following year. He knew it wouldn’t take much to convince me of another opportunity to drive west.

I had kept a journal of our original trip, so we easily charted the same course in 2016. It was awesome knowing exactly where we were going and how long it would take to get there; but for this adventure, we made no hotel reservations. We threw caution to the wind and prayed God would protect and have us in the right places at the right times. Talk about faith. Be sure to read my future posts to see how that worked out for us.

Of course, as a woman, I packed everything but the kitchen sink days in advance. It was neatly organized in the dining room waiting for our departure day of June 8. I even packed lime green spray paint…

Gerry was slated to drive the first leg of the trip, so he took the day off to rest while Cody and I worked. Once I arrived home, Gerry neatly arranged everything in the trunk of my light sage-colored Lincoln MKZ. Over the years, I’ve learned this process is much easier when I’m not involved. His goal was to leave the backseat open for whoever needed to rest or just enjoy the ride. The only thing he tossed inside the car was a comfy pillow and my purse.

We planned to leave that evening in order to travel as far as we could while traffic was light. Have you ever driven through Atlanta at lunchtime? Exactly!

After a quick burger, fries, and frosty at a local fast food restaurant for supper, we embarked on our wind-in-your-hair road trip. I chose the backseat to start our journey, but took a silent vow to leave my backseat driving instructor mentality at home. I can’t express how difficult that was for me.

blinding sun (p9)The sun was blinding as it set in the western sky, so I put on my sunglasses, placed that comfy pillow behind my back, and propped my bare feet up on the console in front of me. “Go West, young man,” I recall saying to my husband. “Life is good!”

We drove west on I-20 all night and left South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi in our rear view. There’s not much to see at night, so Cody—being in line to drive—catnapped. My job was keeping whoever was driving awake, but I was still careful to leave my backseat driving wisdom at the house.

early morning sunrise (p11)After twelve hours, we decided to stop in Monroe. The sun was peeking over the eastern horizon, so we thought stopping for a hearty breakfast at Waffle House was a great way to greet the new day. Not to mention, we were also in desperate need of strong coffee.

For those who remember the television show, Duck Dynasty, the Duck Commander store was only a few miles down the road from Waffle House, so we stopped by to see if Phil, Willie, Jase, or Si were there. It was still very early, so their store was closed. We walked around in the parking lot for a few minutes before heading west again on I-20. It felt good to stretch our weary bodies after the long ride.

 

With the first leg of our trip in the books, Gerry took over the coveted backseat to get some much-needed sleep. Cody gladly took the wheel while I rode shotgun. I gave him a gerry sleeping (p13)tough choice between me or Siri as his trusty navigator. He chose wisely: Siri it was.

From Louisiana, we headed toward the great state of Texas. Of course,cody driving (p14) any amazing road trip wouldn’t be quite as good if you didn’t sing, “On the Road Again,” in your best Willie Nelson twang. In spite of mine and Cody’s bellowing, Gerry was asleep in mere moments…

*The photos used in this post are personal photos from my amazing road trip. They may not be the best quality, but they are all near and dear to my heart. Enjoy!*

Destination Unknown

By Marianna Boyce

For Memorial Day, a moment to acknowledge the men and women who died while serving in our military for the United States of America is definitely in order. Our fallen soldiers secured freedoms we enjoy today by making the ultimate sacrifice for our country. I’m forever grateful for their selfless acts of valor.american flag

For many people, Memorial Day also serves as the unofficial start of summer. I am not what you’d consider a world traveler, so when it comes to vacations, my preference is sticking close to home.

As you’re reading this post, I’m heading back from Folly Beach in Charleston, South Carolina. I love the more mature vibe Folly has to offer, and it’s only 125 miles away. Gerry loves playing his guitar on the beach or poolside while I relax in the chair next to him. The bright sound of that Martin guitar is incredibly soothing while listening to the ocean waves rolling onto shore. It’s absolutely divine!guitar

Some of my travels have also lured me further from home, but always for good reasons. The first flight I ever boarded was in 2002 for an all expense paid trip to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. This tropical paradise at the exotic Marriott’s Frenchman’s Cove is situated 1,475 miles from home. It is filled with indescribable splendor and beauty, but be wary of the island’s “voodoo juice” and shenanigans on the beach after dark. I’m thankful Gerry always had the presence of mind to remove us from questionable situations. With that being said, the white sand, crystal clear blue water, CoCo Joe’s, and steel drums playing nearby, are four things everyone should experience personally. Did I mention the crystal clear blue ocean water? Wowza!

The following year, we traveled by air to New Orleans, and boarded a cruise ship to Cozumel, Mexico. This was another all expense paid trip by my employer 2,765 miles from home. Gerry said I was the luckiest woman he knew. I thought he meant because I was married to him, but maybe it was for the great trips I won instead. Being whisked away from my comfort zone made me mindful of how small we really are on this terrestrial ball. My feelings on venturing further from home slowly began to change. With that being said, I truly pushed the envelope with my next adventure.

The best vacation I’ve ever taken was a 4,614 mile round trip, nine day, adventure filled trek across the United States of America. This trip to Arizona wasn’t won by any contest; however, it was indeed a gift. I’m sure you’re bewildered, so I invite you to “ride along” with me this summer as I write about reasons this adventure is my favorite one of all time.

What better way to kick off the unofficial start of summer than with a purely unadulterated, top down, wind in your hair road trip series? With our course charted, and several interesting stops planned along the way, we headed west on I-20.route 66

This vacation perfectly divides my normal life with what I often refer to as my alternate universe. It was the day we returned home that my new voyage began. Unfortunately, I had to navigate uncharted territory with my destination completely unknown. Within fourteen days, intense chronic pain had overtaken my entire body. I was neither physically or mentally prepared, but God saw fit that my incredible journey beforehand was completely unhindered.

Be on the lookout for my Summer Road Trip Series. This will be fun y’all. Where are your travels taking you this summer? Until next time…

Get out – now!

By Jeanne Reynolds

A couple years ago, my husband hosted an awards trip for people from his department at work and their spouses. If you’ve read many of my previous posts, you know we’ve built our someday-retirement home in Beaufort and have fallen in love with the area, so he decided to hold the conference there. The group stayed at a charming bed-and-breakfast inn in the historic area, dined one night in a wonderful waterfront restaurant and another in the moss-draped backyard of a century-plus-year-old home. Throw in some carriage rides, art galleries and strolls along the river walk, and a great time was had by all.

No, I’m not working for the chamber of commerce or visitors’ bureau on the side, so why am I telling you this? Because of the three dozen people on the trip, my husband and I were the only ones who had ever been to Beaufort before.

Big deal, you say, but wait: His company is based in South Carolina, with headquarters in Columbia. In fact, nearly everyone on the trip has lived in this state their whole lives. Yet they had never ventured the relatively short distance to check out a town Southern Living magazine and who knows how many other lifestyle publications can’t stop gushing over.

Admittedly, Beaufort isn’t exactly on the way to anywhere (except maybe Parris Island, and I doubt many Marines are reading this anyway). You pretty much have to mean to go there. But this is my point: South Carolina is full of wonderful places you have to mean to go to – beautiful, quirky, unexpected places you’ll never see unless you get up and go. And it’s so worth it.

Let’s take Yemassee, for example (it’s near Beaufort, by the way – giving you a two-fer here). Population 966, it’s home to:

  • A company that makes incredible (and expensive) granite-type countertops with oyster shells embedded in them.
  • The hauntingly beautiful ruins of the mid-1700s Old Sheldon Church, burned down in both the Revolutionary and Civil wars.
  • A golf club so private it makes August National look like a neighborhood open house.
  • A dive bar that serves weekly standing-room only steak dinners.
  • A farm that raises monkeys for pharmaceutical research.
  • An antique store that doubles as a deli and catering company.

 

Show of hands: How many of you have been to Yemassee? Or even heard of it? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m guilty, too. I’ve lived in this state for almost 30 years and I’ve yet to hear a performance at the Newberry Opera House or eat at Yoder’s Dutch Kitchen in Abbeville. And until just a few years ago, I’d never stepped inside the State House.avenue of oaks

Yes, I’ve seen homes decorated for Christmas in Camden, trod the trails at Historic Brattonsville and Congaree National Park, kayaked to Shell Island near Edisto and bought boiled peanuts at Snider’s Crossroads – but that’s barely scratching the surface of the oh-so-many places to see in our state.

Need ideas? (After all, you don’t know what you don’t know.) Find inspiration on the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism website, or Google “places to visit in South Carolina.” Or just get in the car and head to the next town over – the one you never go to because, well, it’s really not on the way to anywhere. Be sure to take the back roads, and stop anywhere that looks interesting.

Take a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon or a long weekend. Whatever you do, just get out and go. There’s so much more out there than you – or I – can imagine.

My Day at Magic Kingdom

by Tina M. Cameron

I have always been independent and not wanting to miss out on things because of being single. I attend NASCAR races alone, rock concerts, college football games and today, Magic Kingdom. I had friends say that I was crazy, and some said I was brave to travel from Columbia, SC to Orlando by myself. The trip to the Magic Kingdom came out of wanting to go to Orlando for The University of Alabama’s season opener on September 1st. You see, I am a huge college football fan-moreover the Crimson Tide. This is where I am presently a student in the RN to BSN Distance Learning Program and the university that my oldest son earned his Mechanical Engineering degree from- so, it holds a special place in my heart. So last year when they announced that the season opener would be in Orlando I decided I had to attend. I also decided I wanted to go to Magic Kingdom. I arrived at Disney’s All Stars Sports Resort at 1:45 p.m. today and stepped into the Magic Kingdom at 2:30 p.m. I felt like a kid in a candy store. 20180830_203132

With the help of friends who have recently gone and my cousin Christy, I planned my rides carefully using my three Fast Passes. I was also able to make a reservation nine days before arriving at The Crystal Palace Restaurant which is a buffet style restaurant with the Winnie the Pooh and friends’ characters.

The last time I was at Disney was 20 years ago with my children and parents. My, how things have changed. There are Magic-bands that you are given to use as your ticket, your hotel key at the resorts and to use as your Fast Pass to skip the traditional waiting lines. It is fascinating to me the way that technology has changed even a trip to Disney.

In writing this blog post today, it was not my intent to promote Disney, or college football, but, to inspire people – including women – in getting out and doing things. It doesn’t matter if you are single, if there is something you love to do or dream of doing, then do it. You only get one life and I am trying to make the most out of mine. I do get tired somedays and I don’t get out of my pajama’s. But, fifty years have now gone by and my life is half over. I think that is why I am trying to do as much as I can while I still can. I am finally getting my four-year degree. So, go live your best life. Do things you are interested in and don’t be afraid to travel alone or be the only one in a restaurant surrounded by Winnie the Pooh characters and families. As tired as I am while I am typing this, it was one of the best days of my life. And, tomorrow, I’m off to Animal Kingdom!