Tennessee – Tuesday, May 14
I finished the drive through Georgia, and entered Tennessee by way of Chattanooga, and I hit the ground running! I had already done my homework, and had read about Chattanooga’s big soup kitchen, which was called The Community Kitchen. I had talked to someone there this morning, and had already shopped for items on their wish list. Since they’re a big organization, they asked for the big #10 size cans of baked beans and vegetables, and big sizes of oatmeal and grits since one or the other is served every morning. And that’s what I had shopped for. I found the place pretty easily, and a pleasant young man helped me carry in the bags of food. The Chattanooga Community Kitchen first opened as a feeding program in 1982, and over time has grown to cover a city block offering other services for needy people, such as showers, laundry facilities, clothes, and help in trying to move forward. The volunteers at the community kitchen provide 3 meals a day, every day of the week, 365 days a year, and their mission is “to work to lessen the struggle and despair of the homeless and needy without expectation of recompense, but out of love and compassion for human kind.”
The soup kitchen was only a couple blocks away from the Chattanooga Veteran’s Cemetery, so after I made my donation, I started my Tennessee walking there in the shade of trees. There were lots of workers out – I imagine they’re sprucing the place up for Memorial Day remembrances.
Then I drove to Chattanooga’s riverfront, where we got out for more walking. There was a nice riverfront walkway, but it wasn’t real long, so we continued on the sidewalks, and found a long pedestrian-only bridge across the Tennessee River, into the north shore part of town, where there were more parks to walk in. The Delta Queen riverboat was tied up at one of the docks and is now a hotel, and they let visitors on board in some of the front rooms. Between the riverfront walk, the pedestrian bridge, and the parks on the north side of the river, I was nearly able to finish off my walking for the day. It was a pretty city for walking since both sides of the river had good things to see.
Then I wanted to figure out what the Chattanooga Choo-Choo was. It seems to be a historic train station and hotel complex, with old train cars parked on the tracks behind the hotel, and it looked like some of them might have been converted to hotel rooms. Chattanooga has some interesting hotel options with the Delta Queen River Boat hotel and Chattanooga Choo-hoo hotel! I wandered around that train complex a bit and finished my walking.
On the way out of town, I stopped at Hillbilly Willy’s to get a BBQ pork sandwich. And I talked with my old childhood friend Linda, who lives in Nashville, and we made arrangements for meeting up tomorrow. Then I headed out of Chattanooga and admired all the green mountains and bluffs as I drove toward Murfreesboro, where I stopped for the night.
Saturday, May 11 – Monday, May 13
I had to say good-bye to Christy and the US Virgin Islands early Saturday morning, and start making my way back to the mainland. I turned in the rental car – relieved that the week of driving on the wrong side of the road was finished without incident. After driving for a week in Puerto Rico with signs all in Spanish, and then driving for a week on the wrong side of the road in the Virgin Islands, I think I’m done with driving in “foreign” places!
Christy’s flight was more than 3 hours after mine, and I had dropped her off early back at the beach – she wanted to enjoy her last few hours there. Later she told me she walked another 8 miles on the beach and took a final dip in the ocean, so she ended up walking 64 miles – more than I’ve ever done in a state/territory!
The first leg of my return took me back to San Juan where I had a long layover, but I had a good book, and since I seldom have time to read, I didn’t mind the layover. Then a flight to Miami and then back to Gainesville, where Toni picked me up, and then I was reunited with Tula.
Tula’s doing well – due to unexpected travel plans, both Toni’s dog and Tula had to be in the kennel for the first 10 days while I was gone, and Toni noticed some blood in Tula’s urine after picking them up, so she had to deal with a vet visit, which indicated a bladder infection, plus they took an X-ray to make sure if wasn’t more serious. So she’s been on antibiotics, and is doing well, and was a happy puppy to have me back!
Mother’s Day was wonderful. Toni took me to the Flying Biscuit for a yummy brunch, then we went and got pedicures courtesy of Taryn, and then we went and watched the new Great Gatsby movie and ate lots of popcorn. Fun day! And good timing to be with one of the kiddos on Mother’s Day – it just worked out well!
On Monday morning, I had a dentist appointment scheduled for a cleaning, but that had to be canceled, so I will have to make another appointment elsewhere. I finished laundry, reorganized the van, did some computer work, walked both dogs, and caught up with a few other details. And I got my new camera! When Toni had a break in her schedule, we went out for an early dinner to celebrate her 28th birthday a couple days ahead of time.
Then I hit the road to continue my journey. Tennessee is going to be State #33. All of the eastern seaboard states are done, and Tennessee will be my “gateway” state to the midwest. But I had to drive through Georgia to get there, and I made it to the north side of Atlanta before stopping for the night. The Tennessee border wasn’t far away!
Virgin Islands – Friday, May 10
With all my donations for the Virgin Islands done, today was a sailing and snorkeling play day – a treat from my sister as thanks for giving her a place to stay for a week! We didn’t have to be at the marina on the east side of the island til 9:45, so Christy and I got up early and drove down to the Magens Bay Beach so we could get some walking in – we knew we’d be too busy snorkeling to do any walking on the beaches we’d be near today. So we walked 4 miles back and forth – barefoot along the pretty beach. There was a cute little rowboat we saw last time down here called No Mo Trouble, and I wanted a picture of it that time, but the glare of the sun was so strong, it was hard to see what I was trying to take a picture of and all I got was sand. So I tried to take a picture this morning, and once again, my camera didn’t work. Chris and I decided I’m just not supposed to get a picture of that boat – because it’s taking all potential future troubles of my trip and storing them in the spirit of the boat, and I can’t get a picture of that! Logical early morning reasoning! It was quiet in the early morning, although we weren’t the only ones down there. Some families with babies were down there – avoiding the heat of the day.
Then we drove over to Red Hook again, and to my surprise, my camera started working again. We ran across a Kitten Kabana in the parking lot, and Chris fed those cats too – yes, she had cans of cat food in the car! Our sailboat was called New Horizons, and Chris guessed it was about a 50 footer. There were 20-25 people on it for today, and although the boat used a motor to get out of the harbor, she hoisted her sails when we were on the open ocean, and we sailed for about an hour over to a cove off St. John Island. The day couldn’t have been prettier – a lovely way to end our stay in the Virgin Islands. Chris and I were up near the bow enjoying the breeze and the sails, and they brought everyone juice and muffins and started passing out snorkeling gear.
Our first stop was at Honeymoon Beach (and there was a couple on their honeymoon on board), and most of us got in the water quickly – we had an hour to swim around there. We hadn’t been in the water more than 5 minutes when Chris already spotted a nurse shark (the captain said they were around and that they were harmless) and a barracuda. We followed the nurse shark for a bit – it was swimming near the bottom, and then looked at the barracuda who was hanging out near the boat. I didn’t have my underwater camera this time because of the probable little leak problem (but I took it out in the next bay). Then we headed for the rocks by the shore and spent time swimming along all of those – admiring tons of colorful fish and lots of different kinds of coral.
The time went fast and we made our way back to the boat where they had a big lunch set up – big meatballs in tomato sauce covered with tons of cheese, pasta salad, green bean salad, sliced fruit and veggies and brownies. The sun was really really hot on the water, and people either stayed under the awning or kept covered up with towels and all. When lunch was over, one sail was raised (the other couldn’t be because of the awning) and we sailed over to another beach area. As we were getting close to where they were going to anchor, we began to see lots of stingrays flapping their way along the bottom. The water is so clear we could see down a long ways. As we anchored, a big puffer fish appeared, and there was another barracuda hovering around. They actually anchored a little too close to another yacht, so we lost some snorkeling time as they re-anchored. But we got in the water as fast as we could, and I took my camera with me this time, and headed over to the rocks to see the fish. I didn’t see any sting rays once I was actually in the water, but I got good close-up looks at the puffer fish and some other weird looking fish and the barracuda, who had fierce-looking teeth! It seemed like we had no sooner gotten in the water than they were calling us in – the time just goes so fast! There’s a whole new world to see under the water!
Christy and I loved our day out on the boat – it’s so peaceful to be out in the wind and waves, and it was a special part of my journey to have her around for a whole week – we don’t usually get a lot of time together. Someone took a picture of us up by the bow at the end of the day, and that was the last the camera worked – it needs some repairs. Luckily I had ordered a new camera to arrive at Toni’s apartment by the time I’m back there.
Once we were back in the harbor, we drove back to the Magens Bay Beach to walk 4 more miles – I leave bright and early in the morning, and this was our last chance to finish up the walking. And we did! We actually bumped into a couple people we had been sitting near on the sailing trip, and they couldn’t believe we had walked 4 miles both before the trip, and then again afterwards! But we finished the 56 miles!
Since it was Friday night, we had made reservations at the Hook, Line and Sinker restaurant for our farewell dinner, which was my Mom’s treat – a day full of treats for me We made our way over there, and were seated once again by the big windows that opened up to the marina. But they had to be closed soon because a ferocious thunderstorm came through, with lots of lightening and a torrential downpour. No one was able to go anywhere for a while. But we enjoyed a wonderful meal along with the storm – glad we weren’t out in it, and glad it hadn’t stormed like that during the day. When we were done eating, it began to let up, and we wondered about all the boats in the marina that now had a lot of water in them, and sure enough, we saw one guy arrive and start to bail out his boat.
Then it was time to head back and start packing up. Christy now has the record for most miles walked with me (all 56 – yay!) and we did all 7 donations – the Animal Care Center on St. John, the Women’s Coalition on St. Croix, the Bethlehem House and the Soup Kitchen that are part of the Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army, the St. Thomas Reformed Church, and the American Legion. I’ve been spoiled having Taryn and Jared around for a week in Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands, and having that overlap with Christy’s time here – a good chunk of family time!
Virgin Islands – Thursday, May 9
Christy and I decided to do a little driving tour this morning, partly to check on the possibility of another snorkeling outing. It seemed we had to go to a big Marriott resort on the south side of the island to look into different excursions. It was a rainy morning, and it took us a little longer to get there than we thought – the southeast side of St. Thomas is also very steep, and the roads are narrow and curvy. I’m feeling comfortable driving on the left side of the road now – although the one thing that still seems confusing is that roundabouts go the opposite direction of what I’m used to, and fortunately there aren’t too many of those. We finally got to the Marriott resort, and it’s on such a steep hillside that there’s an elevator for guests to take to the pool! We found the person in charge of activities and boat excursions, and ended up getting on a sailing/snorkeling trip for tomorrow. We were happy things hadn’t worked out for today since the weather wasn’t very nice.
As long as we had come this far around the island, we decided to go back to Red Hook on the east side since we hadn’t had time to walk around there on Monday. Some of the brochures say that Charlotte Amalie is the only town on the island, but Red Hook seems to be a decent size town too. We did a couple miles of walking, but the town just wasn’t big enough to have sidewalks going very far, and we walked on everything we could. None of the streets in the interior of the island through the mountains are suitable for walking since there’s no shoulder and they’re narrow anyway – it just wouldn’t be safe. But at least there is a long stretch of good walking in Charlotte Amalie, and we got a few miles in Red Hook to add a little variety. I’ve done repetitive walking on all the island territories! We stopped in a few cafes trying to find a place with wi-fi service, and those seem to be few and far between on the island. A couple days ago, I had used my computer back on Magen’s Bay, but it was using someone else’s “hot spot” from their phone. The resort does not have wi-fi. And the few cafes around here that sometimes have it didn’t seem to be working today because of all the recent rain. But at least the rain seemed to be over for now! So, since I need wi-fi service to be able to add photos to my blog posts, that’s where I fell way behind on those, and I’m now working to catch up!
We shopped around a bit in Red Hook and Chris found some good things, then we stopped for a quick bite to eat. There’s a pretty good size high school here, and the kids were getting out as we were doing a little more walking. Like the students on Puerto Rico, the kids all wear uniforms here too – maroon and pink plaid skirts and pink shirts for the girls, and maroon pants and pink shirts for all the guys. It seemed like kind of a strange color choice for everyone. A bunch of the kids walked over to the ferry terminal – there must not be a high school on St. John (which is 2/3 national park land anyway) so they must have to ride the ferry every day instead of taking a bus.
We headed back to Charlotte Amalie, and browsed through the blue-covered tourist tents again, and a couple other stores – Christy was on a quest to find Bob Marley t-shirts for a couple of her boys, and hit the jackpot at the last store. We walked back to the Catholic Charities place to get some pictures since my camera hadn’t been working that day, and ran into Mick the director again. So we chatted a bit more – he had liked my story and had told his wife, who is a free-lance writer, and she wrote about it in the on-line newspaper for St. Thomas and St. Croix. Then we continued our walking some more by the ocean, and went back to the marina to look at all the boats again. There are iguanas all over the place, and only once were we startled by one – the tail sort of looks like a snake. We walked all the way down to the Pueblo supermarket, where Chris bought some cat food for the resort cats. As we walked several miles back to the car, I was once again struck by her walking in flip-flops (wearing the broken ones again!) and we thought how the store employees would think she’s crazy for buying cat food and walking for miles with it, especially since there were lots of taxis waiting for people at the market – everyone assumed we needed a ride since we were on foot!
My donation today is for the American Legion, which will cover the military-related donation for the week. Like on Puerto Rico, they organize Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day activities, and Flag Day observances, and they support veterans and their families and are involved with community projects. I just mailed it in since we couldn’t find the post.
We walked a total of 10 miles today, which only leaves 8 for tomorrow, so we got all caught up. We had noticed a place called the Greenhouse Restaurant earlier in the week, so we went in there for dinner, and they had working wi-fi (all I needed to do was upload some photos!) and then we headed back to Magen’s Bay.
Virgin Islands – Wednesday, May 8
We were out the door by 7am so that I could drop Taryn and Jared at the airport. It’s been fun having them around, and now they must head back to Michigan. We’ll miss them! I was disappointed my camera wasn’t working last night – we got a good picture of the 4 of us at a restaurant, but they turned out too dark on the cell phone cameras. When I got back to the resort, Christy and I got ready for some walking – we had 5 extra miles to make up before we leave in a few days since we fell a little short on Saturday (our first day here), and Monday (due to being all sandy and wet from rainy day in St. John). And we also had a couple donations to take care of.
Yesterday when we were out walking, Chris noticed a street called Ny Gade. Our maiden name is Nygaard, and I wanted to make a donation somewhere on Ny Gade for that reason. (Perhaps not the most logical reason to make a donation, but that seemed to fit this morning!). Gade is the Dutch word for street. As luck would have it, there was a cathedral right across the building that had the Ny Gade sign on it. A couple of guys were painting the doors, but we were still able to go inside, where Chris saw a donation box for me right away. This church was St. Thomas Reformed Church, which was founded in 1660 by the first organized group of Dutch settlers in the area. It’s one of the olde3st churches in the Caribbean, and the Reformed Church of America is the oldest denomination in America (according to the church pamphlet), and it’s a close cousin of the Presbyterian Church. Since this church building belongs to the oldest denomination in America, and is one of the oldest churches in the Caribbean, it was a good place for my donation on Ny Gade, especially when one of the painters told us how everyone pulled together and worked hard on repairs after a really bad storm damaged the church. I was happy to find it!
We had seen a cruise ship in the harbor first thing this morning, and by the time we were done in the church, there were 3 of them lined up – and lots of people in town again. We continued our walk – heading along the bay back to the Frenchtown area where we ate last night – we wanted to walk around there and get some pictures of some of the boats in the marina. Actually my sister wanted to re-read the hand-lettered “Crew Wanted” sign in the restaurant – advertising the need for crew members to sail to Grenada from June to November! I think if the boat was at the dock leaving right then, she would have wanted to hop on and join them on the spot – haha! If she vanishes in June, I know where to find her! We left the docks and continued walking as far as we could – getting kind of close to the airport. Then we walked back into Charlotte Amalie, where I did another donation. We had been walking down one of the back streets in town looking for a women’s shelter that a local lady had told us about, and we couldn’t find that, but then we noticed the local Salvation Army. It was housed in a historic old building built in 1860, and Chris remembered our mom mentioning how good the Salvation Army had been to my late brother when he was in need of assistance and no family was around. We could smell the lunch they had just served to the homeless people, and many of them were sitting around in the courtyard. We decided it was a wonderfully appropriate place for a donation, and we went into the thrift store part of the building to talk with a couple people, who were very kind and thankful for a donation. Sales from the thrift store help support the program, and there were several people in there shopping and buying things. It was a cool old building, and the upstairs used to be where the original shelter was, although it’s now used for storage. It was probably the most interesting Salvation Army place I’ve seen, and I was happy to find them too.
By then we had walked over 6 miles in the heat, and were ready for a break. We stopped at the grocery store and headed back to the resort where we fixed a light lunch and headed to the pool for a little while. We had also been trying to check into a sailing/snorkeling trip for tomorrow, but there had been no response from one of the contact people and I was getting conflicting information from another person. It sounded like nothing was running tomorrow, so we put our names on a list for Friday’s trip to St. John and will have to take care of details in the morning.
Then we headed back into town – we couldn’t afford to get any farther behind with miles, and even though rain clouds were moving in again, we went back into town for more walking along the bay. We wanted to walk a total of 11 miles today, so we parked in our usual spot, and headed out along the boardwalk by the cruise ship marina and along the sidewalk by the sea. We watched as 2 of the cruise ships sailed out of the harbor – floating cities that quickly became little specks on the horizon. It started to sprinkle a bit and then Chris caught her flip-flop on some wood on the boardwalk, and broke them. She was able to put it back together, but every now and then they still came apart. Most people wouldn’t wear flip-flops for all the walking we were doing, but she did, and she ultimately walked all 56 miles with me in the Virgin Islands – most of it in flip-flops and the rest of it barefoot on the beach! I don’t think anyone will match that record on my journey! When we were at the farthest point of our evening walk, the sprinkles turned into rain, and there wasn’t much we could do about it – we got soaked! It was coming down pretty hard. We sloshed our way back to the car, and surprisingly didn’t make too much of a wet mess in there, and headed back to Magens Bay, where we just stayed in for a late dinner.
Virgin Islands – Tuesday, May 7
Taryn and Jared decided to enjoy a pool day in the sun since this was their last day in the islands. So Christy and I left them there, and we headed into town to get some walking in. But first we stopped by the front desk and found out they were able to upgrade us to a bigger unit for no extra charge. And we also found a little map that we were able to use as a guide on a walk through town that took us past a bunch of historic places. We walked by an old fort, old churches, government buildings and the governor’s mansion, and climbed the famous 99 steps up to Blackbeard’s castle, and saw the statues of notorious pirates, including Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean movies. It was really hot out, and we had to occasionally duck into one of the air-conditioned shops to cool off a bit. After we made our way back into town, we walked down the main street where all the warehouse shops were open. The center of town was crowded because a cruise ship was in, and the passengers were all out and about shopping. To our surprise, the vast majority of the warehouse shops were jewelry stores – literally dozens of them. And there were people in a lot of them, but it’s just hard to imagine how so many jewelry stores can sell enough merchandise to stay in business. There were only a couple souvenir type stores in the midst of all the jewelry stores. We browsed around a bit in the souvenir stores, but had no interest in the jewelry shops. My camera had some temperamental moments and quit working for a while, and even though it’s an underwater camera, I began to wonder if the water had somehow affected it.
Then we kept walking down the street to find the Catholic Charities office where I was going to make 2 donations today – their slogan is “…Lean on us when you need a friend…” It was hard to find at first – we had to go through a closed gate into a courtyard, and there didn’t seem to be anything there, but we finally went up a flight of stairs, and found the office. The Catholic Charities is made up of a number of social service programs, including the Bethlehem House Shelter and a soup kitchen, and those were the 2 programs I was going to donate to. One of the ladies went and got the Mick, the director, and we were able to talk with him for a while. The Bethlehem House shelter has 40 beds on St Thomas and 40 beds on St Croix, and the residents also get 2 hot meals a day and counseling. The soup kitchen is open Monday through Friday, and they serve about 100 people a day. In addition to food, the people are also able to get clothes if they need them, toiletries, and they can also take advantage of showers and outreach services. On our way out, we stopped for a couple pictures.
By this time, we had a lot of our walking done, so we headed back to the car and drove back to the resort. We got our stuff moved to the new unit, then headed down to the pool to read for a while. And later on all 4 of us headed over to the Frenchtown district, where we found a restaurant called Hook, Line and Sinker right on the water. the shutters were open to the night air, and we had a wonderful dinner for Taryn and Jared’s last night on the island.
Virgin Islands – Monday, May 6
Today we had decided to take the car barge over to St. Thomas where we would go swimming and snorkeling at one of the beaches in the National Park, which covers about 2/3 of the island. The people at the front desk recommended waiting til at least 9am ferry to go – earlier ferries are filled with trucks hauling a lot of supplies over, plus students would all be in school by then.
So we drove across the northeast side of St. Thomas to the little town of Red Hook where the ferry docks were. It didn’t cost us any more to take the car since there were 4 of us who would have been paying the round-trip passenger fee anyway. And this way we didn’t have to pay for a taxi on the other end.
I had to back onto the ferry up a steep ramp which scraped something on the underside of the car, but no lights came on or anything. It was only about a 20 minute crossing, then we rolled off and tried to figure out where Trunk Bay was. Our maps guided us along a short drive toward the interior of the island, and then we spotted a sign for the national park, so we turned down the dirt road. There was a good reason no one else came this way – the gravel road was very difficult to drive on, with lots of ruts, rocks, and sharp turns and I don’t know what I would have done if another vehicle had to pass us. I was relieved to finally get to the parking lot without getting a flat tire or something.
It was pretty cloudy out, which was probably just as well. We’d all gotten a pretty good dose of sun the last couple days. We rented our snorkeling equipment, and found a nice place in the beach for towels, and headed into the water. There were some big rocks on one side if the bay, and that’s where a lot of fish were hanging out. Plus there was a short underwater trail, which consisted of heavy cement blocks dropped down onto the ocean floor with information about some of the coral and fish that were in the area. There was a big variety of fish and coral and we all enjoyed floating around to see everything. Taryn and Jared even saw sea turtles. After quite a long time in the water, we were ready for a bite to eat, and there was a little building with a few things to choose from for lunch. The sea birds are very aggressive, and have been known to take food away – and the kitchen had to post a sign saying they weren’t responsible for replacing any food that the birds might swipe! And we had to watch our food carefully and scare off the birds now and then.
Chris and I also did some more walking on the beach. This beach was only about 3/10s of a mile long each way, so we knew we’d have to walk back and forth 10 times to get 3 miles done. So we did that and then also did another mile around some of the sidewalks on the grounds. By this time it was raining, but we decided to go snorkeling again since we were wet anyway. The water wasn’t quite as clear – I think the rain churned things up a bit. We didn’t stay in quite as long this time, and when we got out, our towels and clothes were all wet and covered in sand. After a little more walking, we decided it was time to head out, and we were quite a sandy mess when we left.
We headed back toward the ferry docks, but we had some time to kill, so even though we were kind of wet, we spent a little time in Cruz Bay, looking around the shops. And that led to a couple donations. Chris was buying a few things in one of the shops when she noticed a donation box for the Animal Care Center in St John, so she called me over. I asked the cashier about the place, and she told me it was a really nice animal shelter, which is able to adopt out quite a few animals, and American Airlines even offers to transport newly adopted pets to the mainland at no charge. Plus they let people take a dog out for the day to the beach or something, and it sounded like the staff is really caring, and were able to provide a lot of extras as they worked to get pets adopted out. So I ended up making a donation to them.
And then Chris wanted to go into a Caribbean Consignment shop, and the door had a sign on it saying they were open, but then the lady inside said they were closed since they were getting ready for a fashion show. But she invited us in anyway, and while Chris was looking around, I asked the lady if the fashion show was to benefit an organization, and we got to talking, and it turned out she had close connections to the Women’s Coalition of St Croix. She told me a bit about the organization, and they’re able to provide crisis intervention services and counseling to victims of violence and oppression. They also provide temporary housing, food and clothing to those who need it. Since we weren’t going to be able to make it to St. Croix, which is the 3rd of the US Virgin Islands, I was really happy to have an opportunity to make a donation to an organization on St. Croix. So I made a donation to them, which the lady at the shop was going to deliver the next day.
Then it was time to catch the latest ferry back to St. Thomas, and we didn’t make any further stops since we were all still kind of wet and sandy. Once we landed back in Red Hook, we drove back to the resort, and Taryn and Jared headed out for a dinner on their own, and Chris and I just stayed in for a late dinner. In the end, we figured it was probably best it had been kind of cloudy and rainy since we’d all already had so much sun.