Not all who wander are lost.

Monthly archives for January, 2015

Headed South

The other day Jason and I were trying to remember a day when we both felt good at the same time and its been awhile.  Jason got sick with Bronchitis soon after we got to Colorado (in November) and it hung on forever.  Just as it seemed as though he was starting to feel a little better, I (the person who never gets sick) ended up coming down with this awful cold/flu thing just in time for Christmas and its been with me ever since.  We’ve had some days where we felt okay, and others where we felt like complete crud but it hardly gave us the motivation to update the blog or much else. We did have a couple good days we were able to get out and ride our bikes, only to be completely drained when we got back.  I wonder if we’re actually picking different illnesses up as we go along since we’ve been traveling so much.  I think we’ve finally turned the corner though and even though this cough seems to have taken up permanent residence in my lungs, we’re able to get out and enjoy the area a little more finally.  And feeling well or not, waking up to the blue skies of Florida and ocean just out our front window is far better in our minds than being so cold in Iowa. We’re hoping to get everything caught up within the next few days.

One of our first stops on the way here was in Nashville at a place called Redkite Bicycle Studio.  Ron, at Skunk River Cycles in Ames had located another Raleigh Sojourn and since we were headed southeast anyway, picking it up worked out perfectly and saved us a ton of money in shipping.  These guys are actually more into the racing aspect of biking but they had the bike we were looking for and they were getting all tweaked and ready to go when we walked in.  We were immediately greeted by Patrick and Shannon and the first order of business here is to share stories and get to know each other a bit over coffee or a beer, depending on the hour of the day.  We hung around for a little while talking about bikes and complaining about the frigid temperatures we’d just left.  I don’t know why they did it, but they only charged us cost for the bike.  In other words, these bikes usually cost around $1300.00 but they charged us only just over $700!  I don’t know if it was because we shared our story with them, or if they just wanted to get the bike out of the showroom but given some of the luck we’d had recently we were reminded that there are still some caring and decent people out there.  I don’t know if we’ll ever make it over there again but we would gladly spend our money there if we ever decided to add racing as one of our hobbies.

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We wanted to get out of the car and stretch our legs a bit so we scoured TripAdvisor looking for something to see in the area. I gotta say, when you’re on the road an Iphone and TripAdvisor are the best thing there is when looking for something to do or somewhere to stay.  We stumbled across a place called Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, Alabama.  Its located on the grounds of St. Bernard Abbey, which is the only Benedictine monastery of men in Alabama.  We stopped to pay admission and met Brother Christopher who shared the story with us.  On the site of a former quarry that was used by the Abbey,  the grotto was opened in 1934 to display the works of Brother Joseph Zoetl who came to the Abbey in 1892 where he spent his life in prayer and working in the powerhouse.  When he wasn’t shoveling coal, he was creating miniature replicas of famous buildings and churches from all parts of the world using stone, concrete and and other found or donated objects like broken plates, jewelry, seashells or the like.  They were built and installed along the hillsides of a 2 block pathway in the gardens of the monastery.  What I found amazing was that of all these 100’s of little buildings and structures he had only actually seen 6 of them in person. The rest were inspired by photos people had sent or just printed descriptions.  I couldn’t imagine how he was able to create these in such detail only using a written description.   He started his first structure 1912 and continued on even after a back injury caused him to have a haunch back and completed his last work in 1958 at age 80 which was miniature of Lourdes Basilica Church. The difference in his craftsmanship from his first work to his last is very distinct.   As we walked around we were completely overwhelmed with the sheer number of these things.  We could stand in front of a small portion of the hillside and look for a half hour and still not see every creation in the 4 foot section before us.

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Out of all them a couple of my favorites were Vatican City where you can see things like St Peters Basilica and The Colosseum just to the upper right..

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…and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

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I loved finding this unexpected treasure along the highway in Alabama.  I find myself constantly drawn to the unusual, less publicized places that people have created with their own two hands for no reason but to share their passion of something for anyone who cares to go find it.  If you find yourself along I 65 near Cullman Alabama, take a break, get out of the car, and fork over the $4 and go see this place. Talk with Brother Christopher who will tell you the story about how the  F4 tornado of 2011 ripped through the city stopping only a block from the Abbey before it abruptly changed directions, or how the huge tree fell in the garden missing many of the structures in the grotto by inches proving to him that the Abby is a safe and sacred place.  Don’t forget to stop at the gift shop before you leave and pick up some Mystic Monk Coffee and some Strawberry Rhubarb preserves!

We arrived in Laguna Beach, FL which is right by Panama City Beach and we’ll be here through the end of January.  Even though we aren’t right on the beach, we can look out the window every morning and see it right across the street which is good enough for us.  After getting yelled at on our first day here by an old busy-body dude, we found out pretty early that most of the beach front here is dog UN-friendly but there is a dog beach just a few miles up the road.  After speaking with the locals we found that most of them take their dogs anyway. Yesterday we were feeling like rebels so we took them down for a little bit and luckily didn’t face an encounter with anyone else who chose to set us straight.  Jude loves the water and looked like a little kid trying to body surf.  Lucy….not so much. She ran like hell every time she heard a wave crash.  We’re hoping to extend our stay for a little while but haven’t decided how long or where we want to go.  All we know is that we aren’t ready for the bitter, nose hair freezing air in Iowa just yet.


30 Minutes in Desert Hot Springs, CA


Raleigh Sojourn

We have taken a little break from our wandering as we had to get some things taken care of back in Iowa.  We’ve been a little busy with that and the holidays so haven’t had much time for updating the blog or much else for that matter so we’ll be trying to catch everything up over the next few days.

Prior to our arrival in Palm Springs our plan was to spend 4 nights in a city about 20 minutes away, Desert Hot Springs, CA.  There was a hotel there that was pretty reasonable and had 7 natural hot springs pools so we were looking forward to staying a few days in the same place so we could get some laundry done, travel around the area, and at the end of the day relax the hot springs on the property.  That was the plan anyway…

One of the downsides to traveling is not knowing weather you’re going to be in a safe neighborhood or not.  When we arrived at the hotel it was clearly a little older than we’d realized but it seemed clean enough and they took pets, which is always something we have to consider when choosing where to stay.  We got our room keys and went to the back to park and unload the car and take our stuff to our room.  We both kind of wondered if we were in a safe area, but it seemed okay (plus all of those hot springs were calling our names!)  As we were unloading, Jason mentioned that we should probably store the bikes inside this time.  We had them locked to the car carrier and these bikes literally have traveled the country with us, many times being locked to the car carrier.  They had spent the night locked to our carrier in Vegas the night before.

We got everything in the hotel, checked the room out a little, and took a little time getting settled in.  We had a good few hours of daylight and of course everyone knows that bad stuff only happens at night….right?  When Jason decided to go down and get the bikes roughly 30 minutes later, they were GONE!  Nothing else to do at this point besides be instantly furious. What people that don’t bike don’t get is what the bike means to the biker and how much of their time, energy, and money goes into these things. We didn’t either until we had been biking for a little while and then worked hard to earn and pick out these two bikes that we’d used to tour the coast of Florida just a few weeks before.  They aren’t toys, they were a means of transportation when I didn’t have a car available.  Biking helped us get healthier after I had my stroke and we had to quit smoking and actually get out a move our bodies.  The best part about it was that we loved doing it so it didn’t feel like exercise! It was one of our favorite things to do together.  We typically chose our vacation spots that were bike friendly as it gave us another view of the places we’ve visited over the years besides flying by in a car. We painstakingly researched which bikes we wanted for our trip, then we spent more time and money customizing and adding to them so they would be perfect just for us. It took us longer to select bikes than most of the cars we’ve owned!  If it was feasible, we biked everywhere unless the brutal Midwest winter reared its ugly head.  So to have someone just walk up with a pair of bolt cutters, cut them off our carrier and toss them into his ugly, old, green, Jeep Cherokee without a license plate on the front as if he was entitled to them, creates a level of frustration that I just can’t explain!  Theft is one of those things that I have a SUPER hard time dealing with.  Its the epitome of selfishness and entitlement that seems to be of the way of things these days.  I’m sure that man didn’t know that most of what we owned was either in, on, or on top of that car (and in a tiny storage shed somewhere in Colorado.)  I’m sure he didn’t know that Jason had just lost his job which could make replacing them very difficult.  I’m sure that even if he knew those things, he wouldn’t have cared and he would have taken them anyway!

We went to the front desk to see if they had a security camera and they did.  It was pointed right where our car was and of course it had to be broken.  We called the police so we could get a case number to give to our insurance company and of course the first words out of his mouth were “yeah, you don’t want to leave things out in this town.”  Wow.  Ya think? That would have been good information to know..yesterday.  He was actually very nice and took all of the information we had to offer, but we knew that police don’t run around looking for stolen bikes as if they were a matter of national security as there are many other things they need to do that are much more important.  We decided that once we were done talking with the police, we weren’t staying another minute in this town.  I do have to say that even though the hotel’s cancellation policy states that we would have to cancel a minimum of 72 hours before our stay, the front desk clerk at Desert Hot Springs Spa Hotel was very decent and refunded every penny.  Right before the police arrived, the hotel manager gave Jason a piece of paper with the description of the person that took them along with the details of the car, which is how we knew it was an old Jeep Cherokee. I just threw in the “ugly” part. I’m sure the man was ugly too!  A woman was working in her yard and watched the entire thing and didn’t bother to mention it to anyone until the hotel manager started wandering around asking people if they saw anything.  Thanks a lot, Lady!  We gave that to the police and at first we thought in a town of 20,000 people there would be a chance that we would get them back and thought we might even get a phone call in the next couple days while we were in Palm Springs, but as time goes by we know that’s most likely not going to happen.  I keep looking at Palm Springs Craigslist to see if they are for sale anywhere but I know we aren’t getting them back.  From what we understand, this city has a huge theft problem.  Apparently, the unemployment rate is high so they just decided to create their own jobs.  Here’s the problem though:  As decent as the hotel was to us, we will never go back there.  I’m pretty sure that the other people who have had things stolen will never go back there either.  So now, they aren’t just stealing our bikes, or someone’s car, or wallets.  They are robbing their community of other revenue that is appears to be desperately needed as well. Pretty sure that doesn’t help create jobs, does it?

We felt a little optimistic when Jason called the insurance company (which incidentally was our homeowner’s insurance and not auto insurance as one might think.)  Halfway into the conversation I hear Jason explaining to the adjuster about how he uses his Iphone app to keep track of mileage and such, and how he hooks up his blue tooth speaker so we can listen to IHeartRadio while we bike.  Let’s just say it really helps when your insurance adjuster is a triathlete. Even thought we didn’t get quite enough to cover all of it, he was able to get us pretty close even with our huge deductible.  See?  He gets it!

We’re back in Iowa for a couple more days and we’ve made a couple trips to the bike shop trying to decide which bikes to get.  As much as we loved them, we’re having a hard time spending that much money again. The ugly man that stole them doesn’t quite understand what he took.  The other issue is that these bikes aren’t being made anymore and they were a little hard to get the first time.   I do have to give a big shout out to Ron at Skunk River Cycles though!  He spent a great deal of time in the store with us showing us various bikes, he spent hours on the internet pricing out different options if we wanted to try to build something like what we had, and he made phone calls all over trying to find a couple of the same bikes that we had stolen.  Luckily he has one at his warehouse now and he was able to locate one in Tennessee. This is another person that gets it!  Looks like we’ll be stopping off in Nashville on our way to Florida to get our 4th new bike for the year.