When in Key West, Beware of the Gherkin Patch

I have a tiny bladder. It’s kind if embarrassing to admit this, but since it has to deal with the rest of this story, so be it.

I have to go so much that my brother-in-law, who is a urologist, thought I might be diabetic. Considering my love for sweets, all things mostly made of carbs, and the fact that I’m a self-called starchitarian (the bready sister to being a vegetarian), it made perfect sense.

The other reason could be because of how much water I drink a day. I drink a LOT of water.

Dale has gotten quite used to my pee-pee dance movements and knows exactly when he needs to help me find a place to go.

Today, we were by the pool at our hotel in Key West, when nature called. I had just downed an entire bottle of SmartWater (I’m not sure that stuff really works because I actually feel kinda stupid for paying $3 for a bottle of water) when I realized I needed to GO.

I was about to pop and the long walk back to our room seemed like the distance of a half marathon. I asked one of the ladies if there was a restroom nearby.

“Sure. It’s upstairs on the top deck”.

I jumped up, put on my flip flops and bolted up the stairs…completely missing the sign that said “Clothing Optional Deck.”

Just so you know, clothing is not optional for me. It’s actually pretty much a requirement. I mean, I even jump in the pool at least wearing a bathing suit – sometimes even with one of those sun shirts on. Clothing for me isn’t optional. It’s a necessity.

However, for the folks hanging out on the “clothing optional deck,” it was VERY much an option for them.

A couple of them giggled at my obvious discomfort as I choked on air when I realized where I was. Men who were clearly registered AARP members were letting it “all hang out.” The sheer amount of women’s boobs just flopping around put a strip club to shame. (Okay. Maybe I’m jealous because my boobs don’t flop. They are so small they don’t move at ALL) but that is completely beside the point.

Regardless, seeing boobs and everything else out in the open when all I wanted to do was find a bathroom really messed me up. I tried being discreet but ended up looking like Stevie Wonder while trying to open the bathroom door.

“My eyes! My eyes!” I thought, thinking I might have damaged my retinas.

After I did my business I sat in the stall a few more minutes trying to figure out how to get out of there without making another scene of myself. I pulled my hat way down over my face like the character “Dumb Donald” from Fat Albert, put on my glasses, flew out the door and beelined it towards the stairs.

Dale asked me where I had been for so long and I told him I got held up in the gherkin patch that doubled as a nude sun deck upstairs.

Dale doubled over with laughter. After a while my blood pressure finally returned to normal but the red in my face stayed…and it wasn’t from sunburn.

So even though I didn’t show my girlie parts on the sun deck today, I’m not going to be at the pool tomorrow. I think I’ll head on over to the beach instead.

Because I’d much rather my skin blister from running through scalding hot sand to get to the bathroom than have to ever witness another wiener roast.

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Crying On The Shoulder Of The Road

Last month, we decided to take the kids up to Gatlinburg, TN for a weekend mini-vacation. Hopefully we would see some snow like we did three years ago. We had woken up the morning after we arrived to find everything covered in snow. It certainly would be fun if it snowed, but we knew we would still have fun even if it didn’t. (Hey – we live in the South and didn’t even get a dusting here this year. We get excited about seeing snow!)

We got up early, loaded up our SUV with kids, pillows, blankets, suitcases, phone chargers and iPads.
We were ready to go. I like driving, so I hopped in the drivers seat and we took off.

We had been on the road for about an hour when the “Check Engine” light came on.

I mentioned it to Dale but he didn’t seem too nervous about it. Our SUV is 11 years old, so lights come on and off all of the time. The “Check Engine” light being one of them. But this time it stayed on.

We had just crossed into North Carolina when I asked Dale if he could drive for a while so I could shut my eyes. Since I was up packing into the wee hours of the morning the night before, I was a little groggy and needed a quick power nap.

Less than five minutes after we switched drivers and just as I was starting to doze off, it felt like Dale was tapping the brakes – while going up a hill.

“WHAT. ARE. YOU. DOING????” I hissed. I was tired, and when I’m tired, it’s no time for jokes.

“I’m not doing anything!” Dale said. “Something is wrong with the car.”

Now since he is always playing jokes on me – making it seem like we have a flat tire, or we are out of gas, etc., I usually don’t worry too much. But this time he was serious.

We pulled over on the side of the road. In the middle of NOWHERE.

I wanted to cry. It was cold outside. I was exhausted. I REALLY needed a nap. Except now we were stuck. I knew that the hill we were heading up lead into more of nowhere. If we could turn around and coast back down the hill, I remembered seeing a mechanic shop somewhere before we switched drivers.

Dale turned the car around and we rolled down the hill.

As if Heaven opened up and a stream of light shone down with Angels singing, suddenly, right in front of us, was a mechanic shop. And it was open on a Saturday. Hallelujah!

We rolled in the lot and a guy who looked eerily familiar like someone from the movie “Deliverance” came over to check on us. My first instinct was to lock the doors but it turned out, the look was the only similarity. This gentleman was genuinely kind and concerned that we were headed out of town and were now stuck at a garage.

He put his other works in progress on hold and helped us out.

Unfortunately, he finally realized that the truck was going to need a part – a part that they didn’t keep in stock, and wouldn’t be available until Tuesday. The mechanic called the local rent-a-car company so that we could get back on the road.

One of the interesting things about breaking down in nowhere was that the only rent-a-car company was called “Rent-a-Wreck…and it was, in fact…a wreck.

We headed out in a 2003 (yes, it was 10 years old) Chevrolet Cavalier (no, they don’t even make those cars anymore) with 140,000 miles on it. It shook if it got over 60 MPH and it smelled like dirty feet. I would not be surprised if a body had been transported in the trunk at some point.

But it was a car that worked when ours didn’t.

A week later, our SUV was repaired and we were told we could come pick up it up.

So, our “inexpensive” weekend getaway with the kids ended up costing about $1,300 more than originally planned. But we all had a blast, even if it didn’t snow. The kids (and Dale!) played Magi-Quest; we rode go-carts in the freezing cold; and we watched not-yet-released movies while snuggled up in our hotel beds.photo(73)

It was then that I suddenly realized that no matter what the final cost of the trip was, these memories actually were….

Priceless.

Overstretched Spanx & A Visit From A Ghost

This past week, my husband and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary (Click HERE if you want to know more about our crazy story of how we met on Match.com) in beautiful Asheville, NC where we spent our honeymoon.

We were originally set to fly to Mexico for our honeymoon however that was the exact time of the bird flu outbreak.  Since it had originated in Mexico we realized that it probably wasn’t going to be the best idea to be stuck in a metal tube flying across the Gulf of Mexico with potential bird flu carriers.

Instead, we chose to drive up to the beautiful mountains of North Carolina and visit the Biltmore Estate, and since then we have been back several times in addition to our anniversaries simply because we love it so much.  More often than not, we choose to stay at the Grove Park Inn.

Grove Park Inn

If you haven’t stayed at the Grove Park Inn, I can not prepare you for how amazing this beautiful resort is…it would sort of be like saying the White House is “pretty”.  Pretty just does not do it justice.  In the 100 years since it opened, the guest list has included numerous presidents, athletes, actors & other entertainers, and now includes such unknowns as myself and my husband.  It also boasts the story of the “Pink Lady” who fell from the sixth floor (eerily, right outside our door) and is now apparently more of spiritual guest in nature than human.  (Apparently she’s harmless but likes to just be playful with people.)

It seems the entire lobby is made out of stacked stones – rather stacked boulders.  Both ends of the lobby boast a huge fireplace so big that you could fit a Mini-Cooper in.  It’s truly amazing – especially if you are sitting in one of the nearby rocking chairs sipping on a nice glass of wine.  The main building of the hotel is considered the “historic” part, as the two side additions were added years later.  Being the history nerd that I am, we always request staying in one of the rooms in the main building.  Yes, it’s a little creepy at times and after dark, the hallways have a tendency to look like something out of “The Shining” but the rooms are quaint with curved ceilings and the original fixtures, and it reminds me of something from “The Hobbit”.

One of my favorite parts of this hotel is the Sunset Terrace Restaurant, where you can have an absolutely amazing dinner with an equally amazing view of the mountains.  I was so stuffed after dinner that my Spanx turned in their resignation.  They were no longer going to be working for me and I must admit, I seriously gave them a run for their money.  It wasn’t their fault.  Blame it on dessert.

My second favorite part is the SPA, oh the glorious spa.   For this anniversary, my sweet husband treated me to a spa day, and after being covered in lavender and frankincense oils, massaged, warmed, heated in a sauna and then dipped in a whirlpool, I looked like a greasy homeless person and felt like an overcooked noodle.  Because I was so relaxed, I was lucky no one was asking me any serious questions.  I was able to answer “yes please” to an offering of water infused with lavender and lemon…anything more than that and people might have thought I had just undergone a lobotomy.

The following morning at breakfast we were talking and my husband asked if I had slept well.  I told him that it was odd he asked, because I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like someone had tickled my nose with a strand of my hair.  He got this funny look on his face and said that he woke up in the middle of the night because it felt like someone had pinched his nose!  Had we been visited by the infamous Pink Lady?

We reluctantly packed to leave, thus ending another wonderful experience at the Grove Park which only makes me already anxious for our next return trip.

And although I’m not a believer in ghost stories, I still gave a quick peek through the folded clothing in our luggage for any traces of pink that might be stowing a ride home with us.

Just to be sure, of course.