The Big House!

   Ever since I was a little girl, my Daddy would always play music for me. He taught me what real musical talent was. When I, his only little girl, decided I wanted to be a rock star, he took me to Guitar Center and bought me a guitar. He'd taken me to my very first concert, which I never could have known nor would I have thought it would lead me to where I am right now, writing this blog! Rewind to August 1998 at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey. I was 10 years old, sitting on a blanket in the grass, anxiously awaiting the experience of my first rock concert. I couldn't tell you any other bands that were there but after what was an eternity to my 10 year old self, THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND took the stage. I sat in awe as I watched the big screens in front of me, the close ups of fingers gliding so smoothly over guitar necks and piano keys. I was hooked on this band like my father before me. We saw them ten summers in a row after that night. They were always something special we shared together.
   Now, lets fast forward to 2013. My father has become my room mate in our small but comfortable home here in North Carolina and we both have lots of time to spare. We, unlike many fathers and daughters, truly enjoy being around each other! My Dad, and mom for that matter, are two of my very best friends. So, with all the time we have, we talk a lot about things we want to do. Aside from our dreams of traveling very, very far way, are a few smaller, more attainable dreams. One of those dreams was to visit the resting place of Duane Allman & Berry Oakley and visit The Big House, 2321 Vineville Avenue, Macon, Georgia. The place the band and many of those dear to them called home for a few years in the early '70's. A pilgrimage for any true ABB fan. Well, in August of 2013, we (just barely) made it happen!
Duane Allman and Berry Oakley
   We left North Carolina at 4am on a Tuesday headed for Rose Hill Cemetery to pay our respects to Duane. For some reason, about 50 miles outside of Macon I looked at my phone and said, "Let me see how late The Big House is open..." and boy am I glad I did. They weren't even open until Thursday and we had to be on the road back to NC before the doors even opened! Boy were we sick with disappointment. What were we thinking, to not check the hours of operation?! Let this serve as a warning for you all - they are only open Thursday to Sunday! Anyway, I went to The Big House's Facebook page and shot them a message about our misfortune as I had communicated with the pages admin before about admission prices. We headed onto Rose Hill anyway. It took almost a dang HOUR to find the graves of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, as they are tucked away in this gorgeous, old grave yard under some big trees and are also fenced in. The roads were definitely made for horse and buggy, not modern day vehicles. I would recommend parking by the gate and walking around especially if you aren't the best driver. You will be amazed at what you see, I promise. I would take another trip to Macon just to see more of this cemetery. The only complaint I have, is I would have loved to be able to touch the beautiful headstones but do not blame the families for wanting to protect their loved ones. I just feel a certain closeness to a person whose passed if I can sit and touch their headstone as I talk to them! We stood around for a while, I held onto the fence and we thanked two legends for great music that helped to bring me and my Daddy closer together.
As we were about to get back onto the road and find a hotel until we left the next day, I got a message from a woman at the house who said she was actually at the house that day and we should have rang the doorbell! Again, I was sick. After replying back asking if there was any chance at all that we could view the home, and receiving no answer, I decided to call the number listed on the Facebook page. Wouldn't you know it, the lovely lady answered! I again explained our situation and regrettably she had a meeting that night so coming to the house was impossible. She did however say "How about you come by around 9:30 tomorrow morning. Just find some parking, ring the doorbell and I'll let ya in!" Can you believe it? We went from missing out on something we've waited 15 years to do, to getting the house all to ourselves.
We arrived early to take some photos by the gate with a giant 'shroom and "The Road Goes on Forever" inscribed on it...and by the steps...and the front door! We were like two kids on Christmas! A little before 9:30 my Dad rang the doorbell. Within moments we were greeted by a sweet Poodle we would later find out was named Charlie and was just rescued a few months ago...He's got to be one of the luckiest pups in the world! Anyway, we met with the woman we had spoken with, she explained it is a self-guided tour and gave us some information and she went about her business, leaving us to admire all the wonderful things that this beautiful old home contains. Clothing, instruments, concert tickets, guitar picks, drum sticks, posters, albums, hand-written lyrics. You couldn't possibly see everything in one trip. There are interesting "artifacts" everywhere you look! Of course, everything is wonderfully and beautifully arranged and organized. I have to say some of my favorite things were getting to sit at their table from H&H's Restaurant, sitting on Duane's bed and in the "Casbah" lounge with the legendary 7 headed shower. You could imagine the things that went on in this "relaxation" room...or that bed for that matter! I wish I had a time machine!
After over an hour of browsing, we shopped in the gift shop. $170 later we left, smiling from ear to ear. Our hearts happy. Another check off the old bucket list. Another memory made with my Daddy. We will be back at The Big House...but next time we wont make anyone work on their day off!


My Love Affair with Mexico!

   To be honest, my most recent trip to Mexico was what made me want to start a blog to begin with. Mainly one day in particular, but I'll try not to get ahead of myself. After a rough first year of marriage, my husband and I decided to take a belated honeymoon once he got home from almost 8 months in Afghanistan. He allowed me to choose the destination, so naturally, I chose my "happy place" - Mexico!
   See, at 14 my father took me on my first out of country vacation to Akumal, which started my love affair with the Yucatan and we didn't even leave the resort! We went again when I was 16 and were able to do some more exploring this time. We went to the gorgeous ruins at Tulum and snorkeled at Xel-ha. After graduating high school and starting community college (2006-2007) I decided once again it was time for a visit! I asked one of my good friends if she would come along and she said yes! We decided Cancun would be best. I must admit we were two single 19 year old's at the time, having just hit rough patches with the men who would later become our husbands, so, we were looking for a typical Cancun experience! We needed to let loose and let loose we did. We stayed only four nights, so we jam packed what we could into the short stay. We did the bar thing, Senor Frog's, Dady'o and Coco Bongo were a great time! As far as cultural experiences, we took a party boat to Isla Mujeres, which was the highlight of the trip for me. I am not a big drinker, all of the disco's were fun, but, I truly love to learn about the place I am visiting! Isla was beautiful! We got a golf cart and drove around the island. What beautiful views. We even stopped and held some nurse sharks. :) The whole vacation was over very quickly but the memories will certainly last.
   Fast forward to 2009-2011. I am a newlywed! My husband and I reconciled before he left for boot camp. Later he was stationed in Okinawa and proposed when he came home for a month long visit. We were married 7 months later at the courthouse in the town where I grew up in New Jersey with just our close family and friends. One month later we moved to our new duty station in North Carolina and 5 months after that he was deployed. After the whirlwind that was our first year of marriage, we really needed relaxation mixed with some fun! Like I said, my husband said to choose a destination and book it, so I did. Cancun it was. I was familiar with the area so I knew we would have a great time.
   We arrived mid-afternoon so we decided that night and the next day we would relax and book our day trips. We met with our representative and booked two trips. We took a full day trip to Isla Mujeres via Albatros. We started off with a snorkel trip mid-way to the island, followed by lunch at a beach club. Following lunch was a short cruise to the other end of the island and some shopping and then right back on the boat for a party and spinnaker ride before docking. If it seems like I rushed through the description of this outing it's because that's how the whole day felt. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed myself and our main guide was wonderful. But, I would have enjoyed it more if we had more time to do each activity. The boat was quite crowded so it wasn't a very personal experience.

Now for the absolute highlight of every trip I have taken to Mexico combined! SELVATICA!!!!!! My goodness, where do I start?! I believe that this place and the people who work there have truly left a mark on my soul. Some during, some in the year after. I had always wanted to zip-line, but was afraid of heights. When our representative told us about this excursion, my husband said "we'll take it" right away. I was apprehensive but we were told we really should not miss out on this. I reluctantly agreed. We were picked up by our driver around 9 am and headed to the jungle! When we arrived I was so nervous! Immediately the guides eased the tension with their smiles and jokes! We were broken up into our groups, given gear and name tags, took some photos with beautiful birds and were off for Zip-lining 101. Jungle Boy gave us our lesson (you'll find many of the guides have nic-names!) and helped us all feel very secure that we will be okay and are in good hands! And, if we are to fall, not to worry, because we are wearing a helmet - which won't do much, but hey! At least we took precautions! (I promise it was funnier when he said it!)
   Little did I know, we were about to do 12 ascending zip-lines, each one higher and faster then the last. What a freeing experience it is to fly through the trees! I kept hearing "wanna do it upside down?" after every line, when the moment I dreaded came. This time, they were asking ME! I said "no, no, I can't. I really can't." To which two of the guides replied "Come on!!!! The little boy just did it!" Not to be shown up by a pre-teen, I said "Okay, let's do it." Well! I was paralyzed with fear to be honest. The guide kept saying "let go! let's take a picture" But my mind and body were on two different pages. I wanted that photo so badly but I could not let go! I was upside down though! My heart raced for the rest of the zip-line portion of the trip! What an adrenaline rush it was, not just being upside down at the top of the forest, the whole zip-line experience. I am officially hooked. (No pun intended.)
   Next, we hopped on an old-school army truck and were taken into the jungle for the ATV portion of our excursion. To our surprise, we were the only people taking a ride on the quads! It was just me, my husband and Freddie, our hysterical guide. What a great experience it was. Just the three of us riding through the jungle! We stopped for some photos, then were off the the cenote. You should see our DVD of the whole day! I go from looking terrified during our introduction, biting my nails and shaking my leg - to an ear to ear smile. I have always wanted to visit a cenote but this was my first time making it to one! It was so beautiful, there are just no other words! Now, like I said, when I showed up that morning, I was scared of heights, but when I got to the cenote, I was among the first to grab the handles and zip right into the water! It was COLD, but refreshing! I stood back the rest of the time and let everyone else have their turn. My husband was a bit of a show off, doing back flips and what not, but he deserved to let loose!
   The most dreaded part of our day, the end. We were brought back to where it all began for lunch, which we were told was Chihuahua Fajitas! I busted the guides chops right back, as I have two chihuahuas, Tequila & Charles who are the loves of my life and didn't like their little joke! ;) After lunch, we were giving the opportunity to buy souvenirs, photos and a DVD of the excursion and we bought it all! Unfortunately we left our shirts in the van on the way back to the hotel and they were taken by the people who were dropped off after us. I called Selvatica and they went above and beyond to help us. They searched the van and spoke with our driver but our belongings were gone. Luckily though, we still have our photo's and dvd to remind us of the truly remarkable experience! I am forever grateful to the staff for making this trip so amazing! I can not wait to return and get my redemption at doing it upside down! :) I am so proud to say; I AM A CITIZEN OF THE JUNGLE.


North and South Carolina

As I have stated in my "About Me" I am currently living in North Carolina, USA. About two years before moving here, I visited my husband in this area while he was here for some schooling before heading back to Okinawa. What a crazy change of pace this state is compare to living in New Jersey for almost 22 years! I grew up in a small beach town about an hour away from New York City, so you can imagine the fast-paced life I am accustomed to. Everyone in North Carolina (or so it seems) is so laid back and friendly. In New Jersey, the majority of people keep to themselves and just get to where they need to go as fast as they can! No chit-chat! In the south, it isn't so. In New Jersey, the beaches are crowded with tourists. North Carolina, not so much.
I didn't make it to the beautiful beaches of North Carolina until I had moved here and my husband was given a tour of the gigantic base, which has its own beach! Aside from the beach on base, we live near some of the southern most Outer Banks, which aren't as populated or "touristy" as other beaches in the northern Outer Banks. (ex- Ocracoke, Cape Hatteras etc.) Unfortunately, my husband deployed the May after we moved here so I was left to explore this area without him, but with my Father who came to stay with me. (Thanks Daddy!) The main beach towns we really fell in love with were Emerald Isle and Pine Knoll Shores. All of the beaches have beautiful white, light tan sands and clear/green waters. Emerald Isle is one of my favorites because it reminds me of the beach at home with all of the surf shops, seafood restaurants and piers. Pine Knolls Shores is a great little area for family vacations because its not so tourist populated and home to a sweet little aquarium that I have been to probably five times already! I just love walking around and admiring all of the sea-life, watching the sea otters play and the sharks who seem like they are on and endless hunt! They offer demonstrations as well as many discounted days.
I had spent 22 summers in New Jersey and had never seen a single dolphin or anything really remarkable other than a random sand dollar or seahorse. My first summer living in North Carolina I had some incredible encounters with wild life. On two occasions, I had stingrays swim right by me! I must admit I was terrified as I have heard about many people stepping on them and injuring their feet. (POINTER - When in the ocean, do not lift your feet, do the 'stingray shuffle' and glide your feet along the floor, that should scare away anything harmful!) Also, while swimming and laying out on several occasions on different beaches, not far off the shore pods of dolphins could be seen swimming! That for me, was a heart stopping moment!
We live about two hours north of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We visited the area once on my first visit down here, where my husband actually proposed to me outside of Key West Grille on Broadway at the Beach while watching fireworks! ;) I know, I know, I'm a lucky girl. Then we visited again before his deployment where we stayed at The Palms by Hilton. The hotel is pricey, at least for a couple in their ealry twenties, but its beautiful. It was early May so the weather was random! One day it was 90 degrees (F) and the next it barely hit 70! Regardless of the weather, we still got out of the hotel! Myrtle Beach offers a lot for all ages. They have clubs/bars(Senor Frog's, Planet Hollywood) Golf and a boardwalk called Broadway at the Beach. This area is full of restaurants, shops of all kinds and specialty stores. We did a lot of shopping! The boardwalk is situated on water which is home to tons, and I mean TONS of koi fish, turtles and ducks! So relaxing to watch and feed them! While here, we visited Ripley's Believe It or Not aquarium and I have to be honest, I was not impressed at all. It's very small and pricey. It's good for younger children but not us big kids! They do have one walk through section where you basically walk through the tank. Thank was impressive, but not much else!
Well, that's about all I can think of for now, next stop is Cancun 2007 and Akumal, Mexico 2004! I told ya I was going in reverse for a bit! ;)


Here goes nothin' ...

Well, where do I start? I started one of these as a school project in college 3 years ago but never went anywhere with it. I really wish I would have kept up with it, looking back! So many things have happened in that time, it would be nice to look back at now. I suppose I will start this blog by going in reverse for a while, but I am going to try to focus on my travels. Let's see...a little about me. I am a 24 year old military wife and wouldn't trade my husband or our insane lifestyle for anything in the world. Times get tough, but we get tougher. I met my husband in high school and we got together on a seriously level the year after graduation. Shortly after joining the military, he was stationed in Okinawa, Japan and I was lucky enough to visit for two weeks a year or so later. What an experience that was! I did not realize what a toll jet-lag could take on your body. I flew out of New Jersey straight through to Tokyo. Fourteen hours later, I had a three hour lay-over, then an additional three and a half hour flight to Naha, Okinawa.
After a few days of nausea I was ready to explore this small but incredible island! First stop - Hedo Point, the northern most point on the island in Kunigami Village. After an hours drive up a winding road, we arrived. What a view! The most blue water and green foliage you have ever seen! It's a small area with monuments which were placed there after the US occupation helped return Okinawa to the Japanese. One of the best parts about not only Hedo Point, but the entire island, is that Okinawa is such a remote destination, you won't have to fight tourists everywhere you turn! Many times my husband (fiancee at the time) and I were the only people at each location.
In between days we had time consuming outings, we spent time at a beach close to where we were staying in the village of Onna Point. Everytime we went here we were the only people in sight, aside from one day when a couple, dressed beautifully, came out of a wooded area and had their picture taken. After they were done, we walked toward where they had come from and noticed there was a church right there on the beach! They had just been married! What a gorgeous location for a wedding. I was so happy to have seen them.
Next, we went to a temple/cave which is now a sake distillery called Kin-Kannonji. It is super small but a genuine Okinawan experience. We had a Okinawan tour guide with a British accent! Quite funny if you ask me. After a short tour of the cave, she informed us her brother was the chef at the restaurant across the street. We decided to eat there and I am sorry to say I have no idea what we ate as the whole menu was in Japanese, but it was delicious! (Side note - we also ate a sushi bar called Yoshi Hachi's - phenominal and a great atmosphere!)
We also took a short trip to American Village which is really nothing more than an elaborate set of malls filled with locals and haru-juku girls! It was crazy seeing girls dressed so elaborately. I couldn't help but think of how time consuming it must be! We window-shopped for a while and headed home to grab some dinner.
Now, for probably my two favorite days of my entire trip. We intended on staying one night at a resort in Okuma, but wound up staying for two. We left early one morning for the hour and a half or so drive. To our surprise there was a solar eclipse this day! While it was nice to say we witnessed this, it left the whole day overcast and dreary. We still laid on the beach and messed around on some jet-skis though! So, when we woke up the next day, we decided to stay another night. We spent the day in the sun, collecting seashells, and had a great lobster dinner! While on the subject, let me say, this island is a shell collectors dream! Once I got back to the US I sprayed clear coat onto all my shells to preserve their color and beauty. They are now proudly on display in my home!
With my trip ending, I already couldn't stop thinking about all the beautiful sites we saw and all of the memories made. Anyone would be lucky to vacation on this island!