Thursday, October 27, 2011

Columbus, Georgia

Years ago, when I was stationed at Fort Benning, Columbus was a typical military town - pawn shops, dance clubs, cut rate auto dealers, tattoo parlors, etc.  Phenix City, Alabama, directly across the river, was even worse, and the entire city was off limits.  When I came back to the area after 50 years, what a surprise I had.  Even though Fort Benning has greatly expanded over the years, Columbus, too, has grown.  
All the old cotton gins along the river that were mostly abandoned years ago are either restored or in the process of being restored.  A walking trail winds along the Chattahoochee River, linking the university and the convention center and the arts building.  In the far background the building by the water tower has been developed into trendy condominiums.
With a gym and future shops planned for the ground floor, the condos on the three upper floors are in high demand.  The original foot deep walls and cement floors and exposed pipes add to the charm of the units.  Most have balconies overlooking the river and park.
The restaurant at the Marriott has a large outdoor patio eating area, so it is one of our favorite lunch spots.  The brick street beside the hotel has majestic old Magnolia trees in a row in the median.
The performing arts building always has a good slate of entertainment.
Different sculptures grace nearly every corner of the core downtown area.  
While there still may be a "military zone", the downtown area has definitely changed into a trendy financial and college district.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Georgia Flowerbeds Getting Some Love

This is what it looked like when we first got here October 6.
After a day or two of serious weeding, things are looking up.
Before look at Mom's front flower boxes
After  - the weeds are in a pile in front waiting for Ron to take them away.  Surprising how many hardy plants survived with little water and lots of competition for air and water from the weeds.
Best plants to thrive on neglect:  dianthus, creeping thyme, Gerber daisy, snapdragon and mums.

Honeysuckle vine on the edge of Mom's flower box is still in bloom and smelling wonderful.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Manasota Key, Florida

Manasota Key, sits about half in Charlotte County and half in Sarasota County in SW Florida.  Our house in Englewood is about halfway between the southern road onto the Key and the northern road.  Today was a beautiful sunny day so we went out to the Key.  Unlike "the season" when you can barely find a standing place, let alone a parking place, the Key was nearly deserted today.
The waves were high enough to attract a few surfers, but most of the  people on the beach were collecting shells, swimming or just basking in the sun.
Here is a close up of the shells:
Great for shell seeking, not so great for barefoot beach walking.
The canopy road up the island is beautiful with lots of interesting houses and plants to view.
Many houses are "Gulf to Bay" with the house on the gulf side of the island and the dock on the bay side.  Definitely "lottery option" homes to drool over.
Now this is a fixer!
Walls of bougainvilla and palms
This looked like a Christmas Cactus plant growing up a host tree.
The plant was covered with gigantic yellow blooms.
Manasota Key - something for everyone - one of our favorite places.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Back in Florida

After a week of intensive gardening and cleaning in Georgia, we headed down to deal with our boat and house in Florida.  We have been away from both the Georgia and Florida houses for over six months, so lots of deferred maintenance waited for us both places.  The boat battery was totally dead, so our first stop today was at West Marine to get a replacement battery.
It is so much easier when we have a full time gardener to take care of the yard work.  The things we had to do at the Florida house were all inside.  Dust, a few spiders, a little bit of mildew, and we were really thinking about listing the house on
We couldn't get the dishwasher working, so we went to Home Depot and got a new one - when it is delivered next Tuesday, the house should be ready to list.

I was able to get the TV's working and my mobile hot spot works really well.  The only thing we can't offer on the rental is internet service.  Hopefully that won't be too big a problem. 
We have been swimming laps every afternoon in the community pool.  The weather is perfect 85 during the day and 60ish at night.  Off for a boat trip tomorrow!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Conclusions from our VRBO trip

We have been toying with the idea of listing our Georgia house on the Vacation Rental By Owner site.  One of the goals of our trip across the country using vrbo rentals for our stays was to assess the program and see how our home stacked up against the homes we rented.  

Some conclusions of our trip.  All of the places we stayed were nice - very clean and a wonderful alternative to hotels.  Some differences:

  1. They were all quiet - off the freeway far enough to allow for quiet nights.
  2. They were all immaculately clean.  While most hotels are cleaned daily, they aren't cleaned with the same care as an owner gives.
  3. Nearly all of the places we stayed had refrigeration.  This was great for us as it allowed us to pack a cooler full of perishables and get it from one point to another still frozen.
  4. Most of the vrbo places we stayed had full kitchens which would allow less lazy people than us to prepare their own food.
  5. It was really nice to have lots of room to spread out in the evenings like we do at home.  
  6. Most of the places we stayed had washer and dryers available.
  7. Three of the five places we stayed had plenty of room for another couple where both would have the privacy of their own room.
  8. We saw some of the country we have never seen in spite of a dozen or more trips across the U.S.A.
  9. The bed expense was about twice what it would be using a hotel for a couple of reasons - many required a minimum 2 night stay; many required a deposit (while we have gotten all of them back, it still was an up front expense.) Many tacked on a cleaning fee of around $100.  For a one night or two night stay, that adds considerably to the total cost.  The vrbo program is more suited to week-long getaways where that fee can be spread over several days.
  10. It was hard to find vrbo rentals for one couple.  Many vrbo rentals sleep 10 or more, so the cost for one couple is high.  
  11. Using vrbo for waypoint stops is a bit expensive, but to us, worth the extra expense.  We traveled for nearly two full weeks and arrived in Georgia rested with our laundry neatly folded and ready to put away.  It forced us to stay with a plan and not start bolting for the barn after two days on the road.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Back in Georgia

The lake is really low.  It is about 6' below where it was on the dock before we left in April.
Does this look like a flower bed to you?  It looks like a ton of work to me!
We take the good with the bad - the Satsuma tree is loaded with fruit this year, so it must thrive on neglect and stingy water.
Mom's "dry creek bed" is more of a Sumac forest.  It will be beautiful when the leaves turn red if we don't get to it with the chainsaw before then. 
The house in the background is ours.  The cotton fields are in bloom, cotton bolls just beginning to form.  It will look like snow in a few weeks.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Last VRBO stop on our trip south

We took a break from VRBO rentals for the past few days as we stayed with Ron's brother in Iowa when we joined the gathering of the Crawford clan.  Ron hadn't been together with his sister and two brothers for ages, so it was a great time to catch up on everyone's family.  

Today, we left Iowa early for the last leg of our VRBO journey.  After an uneventful trip through Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee, we arrived at Ashland City, TN.  This charming little town sits on the Cumberland River about 20 miles northwest of Nashville.
This is the view from the restaurant we found about 3 miles from the VRBO rental.  We sat on the outdoor deck and enjoyed some good southern cooking while we watched the boats cruising up the river.
The house is in a rural location, one of many that sit along canals to the river.  The road is paved, but we would never have found it without the GPS as there is a maze of roads, most of which have Riverside in part of their name.
A small canal sits behind the house.
Spacious kitchen with full size appliances, and a gas fireplace.
The master bedroom is on one end of the house, with its own attached full bath.
2nd bath is just outside the door of the 2nd bedroom on the other end of the house, so it would be ideal for two couples to share.

We have been pleasantly surprised by the VRBO rentals all the way across the country.  All have been clean, off the beaten path, but close to the interstates, and nicely appointed. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Moving Eastward, ever Eastward

The locals at the dining room at Saratoga Hot Springs Resort and Spa where we had breakfast suggested that instead of heading back to I-80 (about a 20 mile backtrack) we should take WY 130 up into the mountains and a shortcut to Rawlins. 
"There are a lot of moose to be seen up there," The promised.  That was enough to sell me, and when they said we would save 35 miles and that it was good pavement the entire way, Ron was sold too.  Since we hate to backtrack, we took their advice.
Even if the trip had been 40 miles further, it would have been worth taking.  As we headed up to the top of the mountain, we reached nearly 11,000 feet.  

Every mile was scenic - from the area around Saratoga where the Aspen leaves were a brilliant yellow to the mountain lakes at the top, to the miles of antelope herds as we came down the other side.

Back on I-80 after Rawlins and into Nebraska, where we saw miles and miles of corn and soy beans.
By the time we took several secondary roads to our next stop, and finally ended up on a sand road as we left Sargent, NE, we were beginning to wonder if there really was a lodge way out here.  The directions we had from Roxanne, the owner were good, and we came to the entry to the Comstock Lodge exactly where she said it would be much to our surprise.
Overlooking vast areas of farmland, woods, rolling hills, it is the perfect place to watch for game.  The lodge is primarily a hunting lodge, but Mitch and Roxanne, the charming owners, open the lodge to overnight guests for bed and breakfast stays.
From the massive entry throughout the three levels, the entire lodge is decorated with animal skins, mounted heads, and lovely hand-crafted wooden furniture.  

Decks around the lodge on all levels allow for peaceful sitting and reading while watching for game to pass by.  The property is huge, and populated with many species of elk, deer, and sheep.
Tonight I hear coyotes calling each other as I settle down for the evening.