Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Trip Home to Canada

Easter 2014
We started out from Trophy Gardens in Alamo as planned on April 2/14 and landed our first night in New Braunfels to visit our Lakefield friends Marlene and Heinz Loth in their Texas home. We went for 2 lovely walks together and had a lovely dinner at the Gruene Gristmill (restaurant is a former cotton mill) followed by a walk around the historical town of Gruene. We walked through the Gruene Dance Hall - oldest continuous used Dance Hall in Texas. George Strait had his start here. The Texas Bluebonnets were in bloom on our drive north of San Antonio - known as Hill Country.
April 3/14 - spent the night in a Fairfield Inn in  Mesquite, Texas - suburb of Dallas.
April 4 - 5/14 - HOT SPRINGS, ARKANSAS
We traveled north to spend a few nights with our Trophy Gardens' friends, Rick and Brenda Watts in their beautiful huge condo in Hot Springs - boyhood home of Bill Clinton.
The first afternoon we had a lovely pontoon boat ride on Lake Hamilton over to scenic Garvan Woodland Gardens to see the spring tulip display. Brenda is a Master Gardener so she knew the plants and trees.
On the 5th we toured the beautiful city of Hot Springs - a worldwide destination which draws 2 million visitors annually to its famed thermal waters, scenic beauty, lakes and family attractions. We climbed their Mountain Tower (216 feet high) for beautiful panoramic views.
We strolled along the Promenade and visited Bath House Row along the main street.
President Andrew Jackson designated Hot Springs as the first federal reservation in 1832 - which really made it America's first national park. The naturally thermal spring waters that flowed into the bathhouses were believed to have healing properties, which is why presidents, outlaws, athletes and other celebrities visited the Spa City.
We dropped in to the famous Arlington Hotel and actually Bill Clinton was there that day to deliver a speech - but we didn't see him. We ate a delicious lunch at the 1217 Cafe and later had a delicious dinner with Brenda's family - Cousin Bobby and Tamera, Brother Sonny and wife Sandy from California, Brenda's son and family and Rick's son and family - at Bobby's house outside Benton close to their farm and church.

April 6-13/14 - Moved north - along a windy scenic road (stopped in Russellville for a special What aBurger lunch) and moved into our Sky Auction Timeshare unit in Fairfield Bay Arkansas - a Wyndham Resort. During our week we did hikes - Indian Falls, Indian Caves, Hidden Cove and Mountain View. We used the facilities of the town - the Hart Centre to do aquacize, zumba and yoga - even tried a few games of pickleball; the library; and the resort office for internet since there was no internet available in our unit. We even took a day trip up to Mountain View - old town with their Court House in the centre square.
April 13/14 Moved on the Harrah's Casino Resort - Terrace Hotel in Tunica Mississippi. Before we arrived at our hotel we went through Memphis and I toured Elvis Presley's Graceland Home.

April 14-15/14 Nashville, Tennessee   Spent our first night at the Millenium Maxwell House Hotel (booked thru Hotwire) - which was closer to downtown and our second night at the Best Western (booked thru - Opryland Area. Visited 4 major sites with my $60 Music City Total Access card from the Tourist Information Office. First toured the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Very interactive - well worth the visit. Then walked over to the Musicians Hall of Fame - to learn about the studios and background musicians of Nashville. On the way home from there I stopped in the Wild Horse Saloon and did a line dancing class for 15 minutes. Had dinner at our hotel - original Millenium hotel had chef that made fabulous coffee.
I toured the Ryman Auditorium (Back Stage Tour for an extra $5) on the morning of the 15th. Interesting place with lots of history. Revered by many as the "Mother Church of Country Music", the Ryman was the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974. The building was built in 1892 and named for Captain Tom Ryman, a wealthy riverboat captain, Ryman was inspired to sponsor the building's cinstruction after his religious conversion at a tent revival held by Sam Jones. Originally known as the Union Gospel Tabernacle. Lula C. Naff was its famous manger for many years. After the Opry left for its new building, the Ryman deteriorated but has been revived and holds concerts again.
Lunch at Cracker Barrel Restaurant and in the afternoon I did the Backstage Tour at the Grand Old Opry -
saw the 18 dressing rooms - all themed, the famous Green Room, Opry member plaques and mailboxes,   and the wooden circle floor taken from the Ryman Auditorium. I walked back to our hotel by way of the big shopping centre (Opry Mills) and the Marriott Gaylord Hotel and Convention Centre.
Luckily I got a seat at the evening performance of the Grand Ole Opry and saw Terri Clark, Riders in the Sky, Lindsay Ell. Sam Palladio (Deacon on the TV show - Nashville), Bill Anderson, Jana Kramer and Hunter Hayes. All had 3 songs and Hunter had 5. This was a live performance broadcast and some taping was done on the Hunter Hayes portion to be televised on July 4/14 as part of a Macy's 4th of July special.
April 16/14 - Drove on to Hickory North Carolina for a night at the Fairfield Inn before driving on to Tom and Diana's in Chesapeake Virginia for Easter weekend before motoring home to Lakefield on April 22.

Spring update

Monday, March 24, 2014  Damp cool day in Texas
Good time to get caught up with this blog. Some of our Winter Texan friends have started the trip north. This winter has been cooler and damper than others we have experienced here but then the conditions up north have been a lot more wintery too. We still keep busy.
Don completed his baseball season healthy but not victorious this year - even losing the US - Canada game. Many games had to be postponed due to bad weather. Don is staying fit by walking at least 10,000 steps a day encourage by his "fitbit force" wristband tracker.

We enjoyed a "Texas Gold Shrimp" talk and boat tour one morning in the Brownsville Harbour in February. It is a family run Shrimp Company that has been doing these talks and tours for the past 2 winters for Winter Texans to educate them about the shrimping business and only consuming wild domestic shrimp and the reasons for that. I won a pound of shrimp and a shrimp shelling tool from a little contest they had - and we barbequed the shrimp and it was delicious!

With fellow Bike Club member Bob Wollin, I did the 25 mile Harlingen Ride on March 22 and we stopped on the way home in Mercedes for the "Smokin on the Rio" cookoff and judged the bean and fajita competition. The day before in Mercedes, Brenda, Maureen, Judy and I enoyed the Winter Texan Happy Hour - music by Jeff Gordon. Leslie Blasin and John Sager.

Bonnie, Ruth, Amelia and I attended the Victoria Palms Quilt/Craft Show on Feb 13.
Bonnie and John Paulusse enjoyed the Open House Event at Santa Anna Nature Park on February 14 followed by lunch at Willie's Barbecue for their famous Baked Potatoes.
Another day my lady buddies went with me to the Westlaco Knapp Medical Centre $5 Jewellery Sale followed by Martha's "fried" ice cream treat.
Also enjoyed the local culture with a Mariachi Concert with 4 groups at the San Juan Basilica. One of the groups was an all woman mariachi band.

There was a change up this winter in the Park Managers and the Activity Director (Fran resigned) and the way the Activity Advisory Board worked so - my monthly movie nights were cancelled but hopefully next winter there will be new activities happening.

Cousin Maureen celebrated her 65th birthday in February and her daughter Tiffany from Winnipeg flew down to join the party. Friend John Paulusse also celebrated his 65th birthday and Bonnie and John bought a park model home too.

From March 5 to 18, Mary flew to Norfolk Virginia to babysit Benjamin, Hannah and Jacob with the assistance of daughter Katie (flew down from Buffalo) while parents Tom and Diana had some relax time in Miami and on the Norwegian Pearl cruise ship for a 5 day cruise down to the Cayman Islands. All survived and lessons learned - it took Katie and I to replace Diana and there is a reason we are meant to have children when we are young. Naps are sacred. We continued on the potty training quest for Jacob and Hannah but it was not accomplished. Only injury was that Jacob had a splinter in his thumb. When I got back to Texas, I needed to take a nap for 2 more days before my batteries were recharged.

We have enjoyed parties and dinners with friends and two special dinners this year - a progressive dinner party and a psychedelic mystery dinner party. I taught exercise class a few mornings a week again and helped with some fundraising dinners and pancake breakfasts. The Garden Club completed their big garden by the entrance to TG - complete with stepping stones. We continue to golf on the TG course and our golf clubs stay behind until we return next winter. Mary assisted neighbor Gladys in planning and running the Masters Drive block party - 3 to 5 on a Sunday afternoon - finger foods and talking - about 50

Take-off date of Wednesday, April 2 - headed for New Braunfels to visit friend Marlene and Heinz Loth.