Wednesday, December 30, 2015

From Florence to Florida

Tuesday, December 29 & Wednesday, December 30, 2015

I just love the name Piggly Wiggly -- too funny.
Today we drove from Florence, SC to St Augustine, FL. As with our previous drives we encountered numerous delays due to heavy traffic on I-95. I don't think that we will be attempting to drive to Florida via I-95 on the week between Christmas and New Year's again. There are major portions of I-95 that are only two lanes which means that it doesn't take much for the traffic to back up quite a distance. At one point today we even left the highway and drove parallel to it on a state route. We were obviously not the only ones attempting this maneouvre because the traffic was backed up on a portion of the alternate route also. Eventually, we were forced back on to the highway before the traffic jam had cleared anyhow so I am not sure our diversion accomplished much other than giving us a dose of the local scenery which one does tend to miss while driving on the interstate.
Yes it's blurry. It's also 83 degrees.
What are gizzards anyway?

I think I will get some sliced jowels but $149 per pound does seem rather a lot 
Camelias in bloom.
Also Star Magnolia

St. Augustine City Hall
Flagler College in St. Augustine -- why didn't I know about this place when I was applying for college?
Tonight at The Present Moment Cafe (ohhhhhm)
Florence, SC was an interesting stop. There isn't a whole lot going on in downtown Florence as we discovered during our mid to late afternoon car ride around the area. The primary business activity seems to have moved out by the interstate (think shopping malls, big box stores and chain restaurants) while the downtown area is struggling. Normally I would attribute this phenomena to my least favorite corporation (Wal-Mart) but in this particular instance I didn't see evidence of my forever foe. Even though national chains dominated the business scene we were able to find some evidence of how different life in Florence, SC is from say Hockessin, DE. See photographs for proof of some of this "local flavor."

Today, like yesterday, was warm and mostly dry. When I say warm I mean above 80 degrees so that's pretty warm even for these here parts. We saw in Florence many camellias blooming and here in St. Augustine the tourists in shorts were out in force.

Tonight's dinner was much better than last night's which was at a sixties-themed pizza chain restaurant called Mellow Mushroom (clever, huh?) that advertises that it can accomodate vegans. I ordered a Very Veggie pizza (also clever -- I mean who comes up with this stuff! They are truly gifted!) complete with vegan "cheese" and Russell had a veggie burger with "roasted" potatoes. My pizza was drowning in vegan cheese which is not my favorite (some things just shouldn't be attempted in the vegan-o-sphere) and the vegetables (that I assumed would be roasted) were raw and consisted largely of peppers (both green and strangely, banana peppers, which, last time I checked, had yet to make an appearance in the vegetable category of the USDA food pyramid). R's burger was best described as adequate and his roasted potatoes were sweaty rather than crispy meaning that they must have been microwaved. The waitress named "Ayers" (yes that's spelled with a "Y") was friendly and Russell and I have decided that sometimes we just need to consider food as "fuel" rather than as an epicurian experience. So, if you hear us referring to our meal as "fuel" in the future then you will be able to read between the lines.

Tonight however we had better luck eating at a local vegan restaurant called The Present Moment Cafe. Despite its Zen title, the place was positively hopping and the food that we had (cream of tomato soup, veggie burger for me and BBQ tofu sandwich for R, brownie sundae for dessert) was more than adequate. My soup and burger were good and Russell's sandwich despite the presence of dulce (seaweed?) and a side of "weeds" (his word) was mostly eaten.

After dinner we drove to the "Premium" Outlet Mall and walked around for a bit. I find these places rather depressing. A combination of superficiality (all of the emphasis on brands) with poor quality that I find uniquely American (perhaps I am wrong) and unquestionably dispiriting. We left pretty soon after we arrived.

Tomorrow we drive from here to R's Mom's place in North Palm Beach, FL. Looking forward to spending more than one night in a place and also to having an opportunity for exercise. All this time in the passenger's seat is making me feel fat and sore. I have been working on a set of needlepoint acorns (yes, that's right, acorns -- they are ornaments in the shape of an acorn, each with a different design, one for every month of the year -- don't ask me, I don't know why you would do them either nor do I know what you would do with them when they are completed but still in all they are very cute and I've enjoyed working on them for the store). I would prefer to work on my Nordic Christmas House but it is mounted on a lap frame and I am a little worried about what would happen if, God forbid, there was an accident and the airbags were deployed. That is definitely not how I envision my life ending -- impaled by a K's Creations needlepoint lap frame holder (even if it is the nicest, biggest lap frame holder that they sell and the needlepoint piece is by Melissa Shirley who is one of the most expensive needlepoint designers out there). Hah. Now who's the superficial one?

Monday, December 28, 2015

Richmond, VA

Monday December 28, 2015

Today we started our 2016 World Adventure. Left Hockessin on schedule around nine this morning. Surprisingly, we were well-prepared (luggage packed and in truck, Christmas decorations put away, garden "put to sleep," kitchen cleaned, laundry done, needlepoint selected, destination entered into navigation, etc.) and we encountered no last minute snags.

Our luggage (more about that later)
Before lift-off

R decided to be adventurous with our route (following the nav instead of the usual route) departing from the loathesome Washington Beltway in favor of some Parkway or another. This took us "up close and personal" with the Capital building (dome is currently under scaffolding), the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial. Eventually we arrived in Alexandria where we visited with our two fun-loving, wise-cracking friends named Gordon and Jen. Their two girls are teenagers now (how time flies!) but they still came over to us and shook our hands and gave us a big "Hello." So polite. We were shocked (as you can tell we are accustomed to much less from ... certain people who I will refrain from naming in the interest of family harmony). 

Gordon, Jen and their eldest (yes I know her name but in the interest of privacy am refraining from sharing it)
Lunch was at our favorite Indian restaurant called Raaja (sp?) They make the best Butter Chicken but we resisted its allure in keeping with our freshly proclaimed status as vegans. After lunch we hit the road again -- this time we encountered heavy traffic and light rain.

We arrived at Hotel Quirk in Richmond around 5:30 pm. The hotel has a lively reception area complete with bar, restaurant and ... gallery (of course). Our room is smallish but has high ceilings and a loft-like feel which makes one not immediately notice that there is no place to sit other than the bed or the desk chair.

Across the street from our hotel is a restaurant called "comfort" or should I say "lower case C space O space M space F space O space R space T period"?

Dinner necessitated a multi-block walk from the hotel to Ipanema, a self-proclaimed "Vegetarian Cafe" which featured numerous vegan options. It's a funky place with low ceilings, tattooed twenty-something staff members and a single menu on the chalkboard by the front door. I had a Ceasar salad and chicken-fried tempeh with dirty rice (we are in the South now, y'all) and R had mushroom ragout.

Notice the tattoo parlor upstairs. As Russell said "We are going to have to go outside our box" to find the vegan food options!

Thoughts for our first day? Anxious about leaving of course and concerned that our fourteen pieces of luggage (no joke) will prove to be too much for both Captain Charley's Limo Service and ultimately for Holland-America. We have luggage issues, what can I say? Fortunately for you, you will only have to hear about our luggage once at the beginning of this trip and then again at the end but since we are staying in one room for the entire trip there will be no need to repeat the luggage transfer debacles of our previous vacation.