"If you are tempted by the awakening of your own long-dormant wanderlust, Going Gypsy can serve as a primer. . . . The questions [Veronica] poses about 'what next' are relatable ones for all empty nesters." —PBS's Next Avenue
We are convinced that there are two kinds of people in the world, those that love boats, and everybody else. We learned which side of that equation we resided on a long time ago, over thirty years back as a matter of fact.
That was when we bought our first vessel, The Busted Flush. She was a forty foot steel hulled monster that drank fuel like a sailor drinks rum and… CONTINUE READING >>
We are convinced that there are two kinds of people in the world, those that love boats, and everybody else. That is why some folks feel like Kenneth Grahame said in The Wind in the Willows, “There’s nothing––absolutely nothing––half so much worth doing as messing about in boats.”
We learned which side of that equation we resided on a long time ago, over thirty years back as a matter of fact. That was when we bought our first vessel, The Busted Flush.
She was a forty foot steel hulled monster that drank fuel like a sailor drinks rum and taught us the true meaning of the phrase Rust Never Sleeps. But we were hooked… line and sinker. From that day on we lived by our own saying “Any day that we spend some time on a boat is a good day.”
For years we kept her on Percy Priest Lake outside of Nashville, Tennessee, until we moved down to the US Virgin Islands.
We briefly considered taking The Flush with us down to the Caribbean, but better judgement prevailed. She never would have survived in the salt water.
So rather than have her spend eternity in Davy Jones’ locker, we bought another, an Albin 27 Family Cruiser, and put her into port at Christiansted on St. Croix.
We took it out weekends to the nearby Buck Island National Park, and on some longer cruises across to St. John and St. Thomas. Once we even took her on a week-long adventure through the British Virgin Islands.
Even though the marina was right below our condo, certainly closer than we were to the boat when we were in Nashville, it wasn’t quite close enough, but with three kids still at home we needed more room than our little Rising Sun could provide for any long term or live aboard possibilities.
But now, after another decade has passed and we live aboard our 38 foot Rawson Trawler Gaviota, and love it. With just the two of us these days it is just about perfect.
However, under the heading of the grass is always greener, we have surmised that this is might not be the ultimate situation.
We have decided that the ideal arraignment would be to have our own private port. So we have been looking into it, even if it is only a dream for now. All we would need is a bit of waterfront property with a house.
It turns out that it isn’t all that difficult. After all, we are not talking about one of those wonders of the world that we love to visit, just a nice, private place to keep our boat.
Oh, and to swim, and fish from, and grill, and just all around hang out by the water. Then, as Otis Redding so eloquently sang, we could be Sittin’ on the dock of the bay, wastin’ time. That sounds pretty darn good to us.
Who knows, we might even rediscover Skinny dipping. Good thing we would have the added bonus of privacy.
Known as the “rich coast,” Costa Rica’s natural beauty dazzles even the most experienced travelers. It is one of the world’s most biodiverse countries with half a million different species that it home, so you might see more exotic wildlife in a weekend than many people see in a lifetime… CONTINUE READING >>
Known as the “rich coast,” Costa Rica’s natural beauty dazzles even the most experienced travelers.
It is one of the world’s most biodiverse countries, after all, with half a million different species that call this place home. From giant anteaters and scarlet macaws to white-faced capuchins, you’ll see more exotic wildlife in a weekend than many people see in a lifetime.
The right Costa Rica tours can help you get the most from your vacation to this unique place. But before you start planning your trip, consider these five top locations to experience the raw, natural beauty of Costa Rica.
1) Braulio Carrillo National Park
Located roughly 90 minutes outside of the country’s capital of San Jose, the Guápiles Highway takes you from the modern world into the real-life rainforest that is Braulio Carrillo National Park. Over 150 species of mammals inhabit this 108,970-acre protected area. Watch howler monkeys swing from tree-to-tree and see colorful parrots perched in the distance. More than 500 species of birds can be found sailing the cloudy skies here.
The park is the most extensive in the country, teeming with native wildlife, plants, and flowers, many of which you can only find in Costa Rica.
Take a riverboat through the myriad of interconnecting rivers and canals sprinkled with mangroves and water hyacinth as you cruise towards the Carribean coast. This is a great opportunity to really take in your surroundings and watch for wildlife all around you.
2) Tortuguero Park
This Costa Rican National Park is best explored by boat, giving you an optimal view of the surrounding vegetation. For those who want to walk along its Carribean sandy beaches, watch for the park’s famous tortuga hatchlings as several species of turtles deposit their eggs in the piles of sand along the coast. This protected area of land was once part of an archipelago of volcanic islands. Over time, the sediments altered the coast’s structure and the area became filled with marsh and sand deposits perfect for sea turtles to implant their eggs.
The people of Costa Rica are dedicated to preserving this national treasure and the species of turtles that rely on it for the birthplace of their young. You can also visit the Tortuguero Museum, which proudly showcases the ecology of the area.
3) Baldi Hot Springs
Located in the Arenal Volcano area, the Baldi Hot Springs is a rare treat that offers ultimate relaxation. The expansive geothermally-heated springs vary in temperature because the surrounding rivers flow into them. That means there’s a perfect fit for everyone to enjoy a good soak.
Visitors are surrounded by pristinely landscaped grounds, crystalline waterfalls, and stunning wildlife which make for a truly memorable experience. Be sure to bring a towel and come thirsty to enjoy a cocktail at one of the three swim-up bars onsite. Nestled at the foot of the sleeping Arenal Volcano, many regard the Baldi Hot Springs as the “purest” hot springs the world has to offer. The best part? The springs are 100% pure of contamination and are rumored to have healing properties.
4) Arenal Volcano National Park
The Baldi Hot Springs are not the only major draw in Arenal, Costa Rica. The sprawling 29,692-acre Arenal Volcano National Park is actually home to two volcanos, although one, the Chato Volcano, has remained inactive for 3,500 years.
At 5,437 feet, the Arenal Volcano demands your attention. But you will be most entranced by the looming clouds surrounding its peak. While the volcano has been in the resting phase for over four decades, it has a history of both major and minor eruptions. Thankfully for travelers, the volcano’s seismicity, explosions, as well as lava flows have decreased significantly since 2010. Scientists have assured the public that it is still, in fact, “alive” and that it’s simply resting.
While at the park, you can see evidence of remains from the massive 1968 eruption of the Arenal Volcano. Take a hike over to the edge of Arenal Lake to find the largest dammed lake in all of Central America. There are a number of memorable views to take in throughout the hikes through the park, including the collapsed crater from Chato Volcano which gives way to a picturesque lagoon.
Throughout your journey in the volcanic region and nationally protected lands, you will be treated to the sights and sounds of Costa Rica’s native wildlife. Watch for parrots, magpies, tapir, deer, monkeys, and many more. The park also features countless plants, including several species of palms, fungi, ferns, orchids, and bromeliads.
Be prepared to wear your comfortable walking shoes for this unforgettable adventure through the Costa Rican jungle. The Arenal National Volcano Park is ideal for experiencing the raw beauty of Costa Rica.
5) Monteverde Cloud Forest
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve gives travelers a chance to experience Costa Rica’s most remarkable landscapes up close.
Take in 360-degree views of the lush jungle. The thick moisture in the air helps to preserve the vegetation and protects the biodiversity found in the cloud forest. Wander over suspension bridges and watch for spider monkeys, coatis, and raccoons. If you’re lucky, you just might catch a rare glimpse of tapirs, pumas, jaguars, or even ocelots. The Monteverde Cloud Forest will make you feel as if you are one with the land and the wildlife inhabiting it.
This list is just for starters
Costa Rica is a country that prides itself on preservation and sustainability. The country encourages you to experience its raw beauty while seeing the immense value the nation’s people place on keeping the environment as pristine as possible. But this list just scratches the surface of the amazing places that you can discover here.
We are happy to present this collaborative post to offer valuable information to our readers.
Sometimes in our travels we come upon connections across history — and miles — in coincidental and unpredictable ways.
Come along with us as we explore the Presidential Library and Museum (and yes, we found the weird stuff!), peek into the houses that the Roosevelts lived in — together and apart — and have the privilege to visit with a friend of Eleanor’s (seriously)… CONTINUE READING >>
Sometimes in our travels we come upon connections across history — and miles — in coincidental and unpredictable ways.
On our recent exploration through Holland we encountered two important sites in the life of explorer Henry Hudson, the spot where he set sail from Amsterdam in the Half Moon and, Hoorn, where a replica of the ship is headed this summer.
Upon returning to the States we found ourselves once again in old Henry’s stomping grounds.
This time on the banks of the river that bears his name, as we were invited to take the Roosevelt Ride for a visit to the home and library of President Franklin D. Roosevelt at Hyde Park on Hudson in New York.
Exploring the Library and Museum
After a hop, skip, and a jump up the Hudson River from New York City on the Metro North train, and a short ride on The Ride from Poughkeepsie, we found ourselves at FDR’s Library & Museum.
Opened in 1940, this was the first US Presidential Library ever created. Before that, presidential papers were considered property of the outgoing executive, so they could do whatever they liked with them.
Some even chose to destroy them.
It was Roosevelt’s hope that by donating all of his papers, the library would become an important research center, as well as a preservation of the history of his time in office.
Both aims have been a resounding success.
Thousands of researchers use the archives, and even more visitors, like us, enjoy a firsthand look at one of America’s most influential presidencies.
In the entry hall to the museum, a wall is covered with letters sent to the president.
We spent some time perusing the correspondence and found that while most of it was complimentary, several held extremely harsh criticism as well.
Partisan politics is nothing new, but we were impressed that FDR not only kept these, but they are now proudly on display.
We moved on along a timeline which begins with the Great Depression and FDR’s first campaign, and continues on with mementos from all four of his election victories.
We found a few choice items such as his lucky hat, which he wore in every campaign, and a giant paper mâché sphinx featuring the president’s head.
The sphinx head came from the time when speculation was gathering about whether Roosevelt would run for an unprecedented third term.
For a long time the president remained stoically silent on the issue and the press started showing him as a sphinx in political cartoons.
The giant figure was the centerpiece at the annual Gridiron Club White House Correspondent’s Dinner in December of 1939. FDR liked it so much that he asked if he could keep it.
A new temporary exhibit, running only until the end of 2015, features gifts Roosevelt received while in office.
Some fabulous fineries, such as jewel encrusted swords and magnificent china sets, were given by government dignitaries from around the world.
However, much of the more interesting items came from ordinary American citizens.
People sent the president all sorts of hand-made crafts, including a vest made of buttons, an amazing carved wooden bell tower, and figures of a cowboy lassoing Hitler.
The basement serves as storage space, but cutaway windows were installed so visitors can still take a look at the rooms filled with letters, documents, and a massive collection of model ships.
Roosevelt had been a collector since childhood, mostly of stamps and naval memorabilia.
Two of the museum’s most popular exhibits are also down in the cellar, the 1936 Ford Phaeton that FDR had specially modified so that he could drive it only using his hands, and the desk he used in the Oval Office during his presidency.
Polio left Roosevelt without use of his legs after contracting the disease at 39 years old in 1921, so a series of knobs and levers were devised to control the brakes, accelerator, and clutch of his car.
A box attached to the steering column delivered a lit cigarette at the touch of a button.
The desk is known as the Hoover desk because it was given to FDR’s predecessor.
When Roosevelt took office in the depths of The Depression, he decided not to change any furniture.
He used this desk his entire time in the White House and the library has kept it just as he left it, with all of the knickknacks and books in place.
Leaving the museum we passed through a rose garden that was one of the president’s favorite spots on the property.
It is where he chose to be laid to rest, along with Eleanor.
FDR insisted that no large monument be erected, just a plain piece of marble no larger than his desk.
Springwood, where FDR was born, grew up, and used as the Summer White House
After building the library, he also chose to donate his home and the grounds to the people of the United States effective upon his death.
One year to the day after FDR passed away the home was opened to the public and the entire complex is administrated by the National Park system as a National Historic Site.
We were met on the driveway of the house by a ranger, Scott, who began by showing us how much the structure was changed from its original floorplan.
The estate, known as Springwood, was purchased by James Roosevelt, the president’s father, in 1866 for forty thousand dollars, which was a healthy chunk of change in those days.
At the time it was a wood-framed house, but after his father’s death FDR’s political ambitions grew, and he thought that the house should too.
By 1916 he had more than doubled the size and completely enclosed the original building inside a new stone edifice he designed to be fitting for a governor of New York, or even to serve as the Summer White House for a president.
Even as both of those plans came to fruition, the interior remained fairly similar to its original.
There are no huge ballrooms or opulent entryways; in fact the inside is quite homey.
Scott showed us around the ground floor, where more of Roosevelt’s collections are kept.
In the front room, a showcase full of stuffed birds native to the Hudson Valley occupies one wall.
As a youngster the future president collected the specimens, and even performed the taxidermy on a few, until his very protective mother noticed the chemicals were turning his skin green.
In the study, the desk where FDR worked on his much less toxic stamp collection remains in one corner underneath a large bookshelf.
This room was one of the few in the house that he could call his own.
The home was rightfully his mother, Sara’s, and she continued to live in it until her death in 1941.
Her little office where she handled the household affairs, was known as the Snuggery because of its cramped quarters, was created by dividing the parlor during remodeling.
We were fascinated by the 1939 RCA television tucked away in a corner, a gift to the president, but can’t imagine that there was any signal to pick up out here in the relative wilderness.
Of course this was also home for Eleanor Roosevelt, but there is ample evidence that she never really felt at home.
Mother-in-law Sara seemed to make certain that it was clear who served as the lady of the house.
There is only one room in the entire house that the First Lady had any impact on, a tiny former dressing room adjacent to the President’s bedroom.
Mrs. Roosevelt, Eleanor, not Sara, turned that little space into her own bedroom after Franklin contracted polio, so she could be nearby to help him.
After finding a packet of amorous letters from her former social secretary, Lucy Mercer, while unpacking FDR’s luggage, Eleanor began spending more and more of her time at Val-Kill Cottage. According to the Library the Roosevelts, “thereafter were more politicall partners than husband and wife.”
Eleanor’s digs, Val-Kill Cottage
Val-Kill cottage is about two miles away from Springwood and part of the estate, but did not become the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site until 1977.
Mrs. Roosevelt stayed in the home from the time of the president’s death until she passed away in 1962. Then it was sold to developers, and finally a public campaign succeeded in preserving it.
Our guide for Val-Kill was a rare treat indeed, a friend of the First Lady.
Ms. Doris Mack first met Mrs. Roosevelt at an NAACP meeting, and both women were members of the nearby St. James Church.
Doris took us inside and explained that the building was originally used as Val-Kill Industries, a furniture factory that Eleanor Roosevelt established in 1927 with three friends, Nancy Cook, Marion Dickerman, and Caroline O’Day.
Most of Val-Kill’s present furnishings were made in that factory and used by Mrs. Roosevelt when this became her residence.
The cottage is small, but packed with history, as the former first lady was very active in politics throughout her life.
Ms. Mack pointed out the chairs used when a young senator named Kennedy came to Val-Kill in hopes of getting Mrs. Roosevelt’s support as he ran for president in 1960.
The cottage was also a place for outdoor activities, with picnics and swimming being favorites. The President would regularly use the swimming pool as a favorite form of exercise after he had lost the use of his legs.
Today the pool is closed and covered, but plans are in place to refurbish it since it was an integral part of Val-Kill.
After spending an entire day exploring, we still didn’t come close to seeing everything that we would have liked to.
We most certainly need to make a return trip.
Now we know just a little of how FDR felt when he said, “All that is within me cries out to go back to my home on the Hudson River.”
We just heard about a new idea, Competitours.
The idea is to make each tour a competition, à la The Amazing Race, while discovering new places in a unique and exciting manner. Honestly, we can hardly think of anything more up our alley…
We’ve done our share of tours over the years and, while they do have advantages such as skipping long lines and reducing the hassles of booking hotels and finding restaurants, exciting is not usually a word that jumps to mind when we describe them.
Then we heard about a new idea, Competitours. They bring a completely different concept to touring that could certainly change our outlook. I must say, our curiosity shot up to a inevitable feline fatality level.
Simply put, the idea is to make each tour a competition, à la The Amazing Race, while discovering new places in a unique and exciting manner. Honestly, we can hardly think of anything more up our alley.
The two of us are crazy competitive, to the point of jumping out of an airplane just because of a dare.
It started long ago, on the Christmas Eve before our oldest was born. On that not so silent night we spent hours timing each other to see who could solve her baby puzzle present the fastest.
We had bought her a learning toy that had shapes that fit into a cube and while attempting to wrap it made the big mistake of trying it out. Easy, peasy, just put the stars, circles, triangles, and rectangles into their corresponding holes.
Soon we were timing each other while madly stuffing plastic blocks into the shaped holes as fast as we possibly could… over and over and over again. This ridiculous display of insanity continued into the wee hours of Christmas morning until we finally collapsed, wild eyed and sweat drenched, under the tree.
Neither one of us can remember who emerged victorious, but the rivalry was burned into our memories so needless to say we will be taking winning a part of the $3,600 to be split by top 3 teams very seriously. We can also take comfort in some good news; even if we fail no one gets eliminated.
Even better, some challenges actually upend the normal ambition of seeking victory, instead committing to the intriguing goal of simply being the ‘least worst’! Now that sounds like something we might have a good shot at.
We also love to discover new destinations, especially those that are off the beaten path, and Competitours does just that as they zig zag through a secret ten day itinerary of nooks and crannies in Western Europe that will bypass most of the big cities and tourists meccas.
They have scoured the continent in search of iconic, pedestrian friendly medium sized cities, mountain hamlets, coastal enclaves, and medieval flavored villages to explore.
Along the way each two person team will earn points by completing fun, interactive challenge activities that take sightseeing to a new level. They call it sightDOING.
Previous challenges have included chocolate making in Switzerland, a scavenger hunt in Spain, indoor skydiving in Copenhagen, Kite fighting in Holland, an Iron Chef style dinner in Italy, and building and sailing a raft made of barrels, pieces of wood, and some twine in the shadow of the Rock of Gibraltar.
Other past Comptitours adventures took competitors down the longest alpine coaster in the world, which ironically is in one of the smallest countries in the world, Andorra. Another television style contest during a trek high in the Alps of Austria incorporated Tyrolian dance and musical instruments in a competition akin to Dancing With The Stars.
Of course these are just to get an idea of what to expect. The challenges change every year, so there is no telling what might be in store for this summer. We do know for sure that 2020 will feature at least three totally new contests that have never been attempted before.
With all that we have learned about this new travel concept, we can’t help but think that all of this really does sound just about perfect for us, with the possible exception being the fact that we are not spring chickens anymore.
No worries, all of the challenges are about being creative, resourceful, and spontaneous, so speed (yes, we have lost a step or two) or physical prowess are not the deciding factors. Anybody can play… and win!
Our competitive streak aside, ultimately Competitours is all about fun, with friendly rivalries made during the day and even more sociable revelry filling the nights.
Steve Belkin, the Evil Genius behind this great idea, and the fearless Trip Leader on the adventures, might just have us beat when it comes to competitive nature. How else could he possibly rack up over forty five million frequent flier miles?
That’s right, 45 million! From what we have learned this required some rather elaborate schemes involving Thai rice farmers, four thousand luggage tags, a couple of empty wings in budget hotels, and about nine thousand magazine subscriptions.
All we can say is holy crap!
An additional point in his favor, certainly with David, a life-long Packers fan, is that Steve is the self-proclaimed Ultimate Cheesehead.
He was also kind enough to put us in touch with several previous competitors, including his mother (who has participated six times and is a hoot) and all were more than happy to share some of their experiences with us.
Without fail they had a ball, but above and beyond their descriptions of the great time had by all, the thing that stood out to us was the bonding that occurred between contestants that was forged by the heat of the competition.
Each and every one of them agreed that this was an experience that made memories that will last a lifetime.
While our bucket list may never be completed, we have learned a few things about getting there along the way. Perhaps our biggest discovery was that traveling at ground level can be much more enjoyable than flying. Why miss all of the sights and experiences while going from one place to another? CONTINUE READING >>
We’ve all heard the old adage that the thrill is not in the destination, but in the journey. Well the more we travel, the more we have come to realize the truth in that statement.
It’s not a new idea, even for us. Decades ago when we lived in Nashville and David was writing songs between concert dates all across the globe, he wrote one called It’s In the Getting There with just that sentiment.
So while our bucket list may never be completed, we have learned a few things about getting there along the way.
Perhaps our biggest discovery was that traveling at ground level can be much more enjoyable than flying. Why miss all of the sights and experiences while going from one place to another? Busses offer a much more visual, and relaxed mode of transport.
Watching the world go by has become a big part of our travel technique these days, and that’s where a service such as ComparaBUS can really make a difference.
With one search on their easy to use webpage we can find the best fare on busses to all sorts of destinations all around the world.
Honestly, we can hardly imagine criss-crossing the great American West way up in the sky. We want to get up close and personal with the mountains, valleys, prairies, and canyons as we make our way from one amazing landmark to another.
We would hate to miss all of the desert and mountain scenery on the trip from LA to Vegas. From 35,000 feet in the air the canyons just look like cracks in a sidewalk and the peaks like anthills, but at ground level they become an experience not to be forgotten.
Without a doubt some of the most memorable moments of our travel lifetimes have come aboard busses. One reason for that is the fact that they can often go where no other method of mass transportation can.
An example jumps to mind from our trip to Machu Picchu in Peru. It is possible to hike up to the historic Lost City of the Inca but it is up the side of an incredibly steep mountain. For that reason most everyone, including us, takes a bus, but that terrain makes for one harrowing ride.
On the other hand, the views were unmatched by anything we have ever encountered in our vagabond exploits across the globe.
Sometime those journeys have taken us to regions where a bus is the only form of public transport. That was the case in Mexico’s Yucatan when we rode a remarkably comfortable motor coach across the Peninsula from Cancun to Valladolid on a trip to see the Mayan ruins at Chichén-Itzá.
Not only are busses the best way to see the countryside while traveling, they are almost always the most economical way to go from place to place.
Another great reason to choose the bus is that they are eco-friendly. Each mile a passenger travels aboard a bus creates less than one-fifth of the emissions that are produced by an airplane. That sure makes us feel better while we watch the world go by.
Of course, sometimes the bus is just not an option. For instance, try as we may we have found it extremely difficult to cross oceans in them. Also, the fact of the matter is that sometimes saving time is more important than seeing the sights.
In that case a quick search on ComparaBUS will also show great prices on air fares, trains, and even car pool options.
So no matter where we are going we know ComparaBUS will be our first stop.