Mission Statement

This blog journals my quest of art, whether it is a piece of work that is inherent in nature or one created by artists known or unknown or that I created myself. During this search, I have come to appreciate the magnificence and generosity of God who in his infinite wisdom surrounded us with exquisiteness everyday...everywhere and inspired our human spirit to create beauty that feeds our bodies and souls. Come join me on my journey to find art through my travels and my own creative endeavors. Maraming salamat.

All rights to all posts and contents on this blog, including photos and artwork are reserved by jojo sabalvaro tan.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

On the Road Again - The Roundabouts 2300 Mile See the USA Road Trip - Part 3

The Roundabouts, our band of intrepid road trippers who have braved the highways of Europe, Asia and the USA in search of  what Dennis' daughter refers to as  "EXPERIENCE", checked out of our hotel in New Orleans  right after breakfast and made our way to Florida. It's an early start, since we know we are travelling at least 9 hours and almost 600 miles if we do not stop. Gas, comfort and stretching breaks are necessary so our travel time could be as much as 12 hours. We would definitely have to do some nighttime driving. Our target destination is Hernando, Florida, with the option to overnight somewhere in between if need be.

Driving through Sweet Home Alabama
For the most part, we drove east on Interstate 10, crossing Mississippi and Alabama before we reached the Florida's border. In Alabama, all we saw was the highway. As road signs leading to Alabama cities such as Mobile, Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma whizzed by, Alabama's history flashed back in my memory - the cotton plantations,  slavery and racial segregation,  which eventually led to Alabama being at the forefront of the American Civil Rights movement.

East Interstate 10 sign in Alabama 2015
from the Travel Watercolor Sketch Journal
by jojo sabalvaro tan

We stopped at the Alabama Tourist information center to get maps and inquire about places that sell souvenir refrigerator magnets which had proven to be a truly challenging search. We were directed to turn off at the last exit before entering Florida  to a place called  Derailed Diner . It is considered somewhat of a tourist destination there. It is actually, a big barn with a diner and a store with food stuff, clothing, home décor and some souvenirs for the weary traveler.

Wishing Upon a Star in Florida

Day 1- Florida
Pushing on to Hernando, Florida, where our host was eagerly awaiting our arrival, we veered away from Interstate 10 and took the old Georgia -Florida Parkway where we stopped for gas at a vintage gas station selling Spicy Boiled Peanuts. We enjoyed the spicy flavor of the peanuts so much that I decided I would learn how to make it. Here is a recipe I found online from www.food.com.

Spicy Boiled Peanuts
       10 (2 pounds boiled peanuts)                 
Add all ingredients to a large pot and stir well. Set on high heat to boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer once it comes to a boil for a few minutes. Simmer until soft for about 3 hours. Stir occasionally. May be done in a crockpot for 5-7 hours on high or 12-24 hours on low.
 At Hernando's Citrus Hill community, Dennis and Lulu were introduced to the retiree lifestyle at one of the many gated communities in Florida replete with fully-equipped gyms, zumba and yoga rooms, indoor-outdoor swimming pools, golf courses and country clubs. One does not have to leave the enclave if they choose not to.  Most residents shop online via Amazon and the various TV home shopping networks. It is also a community where fights and backbiting can ensue over the attention of the Parish priest or Affection of the latest widow or widower. Yet these are the same folks that band together for the almost weekly funerals singing the hymn "The Old Rugged Cross."

Day 2 - Florida
The next day,  we were treated to lunch by our host at the country club and then we headed off to my brothers' vacation home in Kissimmee, Florida, about a 90 mile, one and a half hour drive from Hernando. We agreed that we would spend the rest of the day catching up on our rest and laundry and making final decisions on how we would spend our time in Florida. With so many things to do and see in the area, we narrowed it down to the beach and  EPCOT center.  For dinner, we ordered carry-out from Cid's, a Filipino restaurant since we were all hankering for Crispy Pata (Crispy Deep-fried Pork Legs), Egg Rolls and Pancit Canton (Stir fried Noodles with assorted vegetables and meat).

Day 3 - Florida

In this part of Florida, you are spoiled for choices of beaches. In less than two hours, you can be on the Atlantic Ocean to the east or the Gulf of Mexico to the west. We decided to go to Melbourne Beach on the Atlantic side and wade in waters that we imagined touched the shores of Europe.
Sunbathers on Florida Beach
from the Watercolor Travel Sketches Journal
by jojo sabalvaro tan

After a few hours at the beach, we drove along the coast to Cocoa Beach, whose once bustling economy was fueled by the NASA space program at Cape Canaveral but collapsed when the Apollo program was stopped even though there are still active space launches being made from Cape Canaveral today. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex  has tours of its facility which is a must-see for those who are interested in space flight and even those who do not know too much about it. We stopped for appetizers at Rusty's Seafood Restaurant at Port Canaveral just in time to see the cruise ships leave for the Bahamas, the Keys or the Caribbean. At Rusty's, we had chicken, shrimp and fish tacos as well as the steamed seafood platter with oysters, clams, mussels and shrimp.

Steamed Seafood Platter


Fortified, we drove  to Orlando's Chinatown where we had dinner at my favorite restaurant in the area, LA Boiling Crab. This place is always on our schedule of places to eat when we come to Orlando. We always order a dozen large crab and shrimp prepared in Cajun garlic butter sauce. We always get it extra spicy. It has never disappointed.

Cajun Garlic Butter Sauce Crabs and Shrimps

Day 4 - Florida
The next day, we visited the Basilica of Mary, Queen of the Universe, a church built to provide for the spiritual needs of the many Catholic tourists that flock the Central Florida area. It is a beautiful large church, at the same time modern and traditional. It has a great choir. I love being there when there are very few people and I can light a candle, meditate and pray in relatively quiet surroundings. Even the gardens, invite quiet contemplation. It also has a fully stocked religious shop.

Basilica of Mary, Queen of the Universe
Photo from maryqueenoftheuniverse.org

Crucified Christ at the Main Altar
Photo from maryqueenoftheuniverse.org

We brought Dennis and Lulu to Downtown Disney for early dinner. It now has a new parking complex. Unfortunately, even at an early hour, the restaurants are full and the whole place felt very crowded and squeezed in. This is probably due to the construction currently going on to enhance Downtown Disney. There were a lot of areas boarded up. So we made some quick souvenir purchases and decided to eat  outside of Downtown Disney.

Lego Lochness creature at Downtown Disney

We ended up at a tapas restaurant called Columbia in Celebration, a Disney master-planned community.  At first glance, the community seemed too perfect or idealized, almost like a movie set (Why does Stepford Wives come to mind?). Yet, I would like to live there. All the homes had back alleys so that the garages are not in front of the house. Instead the homes feature balconies and porches facing the street inviting folks to hang out on the porch to catch the breeze or the latest gossip, similar to how communities were many years back when neighbors actually interacted with each other as compared to today's quick nod or wave as the car enters the garage.
The porches at Celebration

Enjoying some beer


Celebration Movie Theater Sign

Day 5- Florida
Yikes, it is raining and this is the day we designated to go to EPCOT, a Disney park featuring a look at the future and a World Showcase. For first time visitors, the premier choice among the Disney and other parks in the Orlando Area would be Magic Kingdom, the fairy-tale themed park of Disney World. Both Dennis and Lulu have been to Disneyland in LA so we elected to visit EPCOT instead. The iconic Spaceship Earth, a huge white golf ball-like structure greets all visitors into the park. Inside the dome is a ride that goes through the development of communication from the prehistoric times to today.

Monorail against the backdrop of Spaceship Earth at Epcot Center
From the Travel Watercolor Sketch journal
by jojo sabalvaro tan 

Most of our time in the park was spent at the World Showcase  (mercifully, the rain stopped and we had a beautiful day) featuring re-creations of famous sites in eleven countries including iconic buildings, authentic food, merchandise and cultural specialties such as dance, music and theater. One is also given some history lesson about these countries. It is like going around the world in a day. We've seen many of the places replicated here in their actual settings and it is amazing how closely they were able to come to simulating the actual structures.

Unfortunately for Lulu, she can not escape a UP Prep 65 reunion no matter where she is. Dennis and I were classmates in high school at UP Preparatory School in Manila. Our class is relatively small and enjoy having reunions in the Philippines and all over the world. We are never lost for excuses to get together. This time was no exception, as we met up with another classmate who had his entire family in tow including his beautiful two month old grandbaby at Epcot.

Prepians at Morocco Pavillion, EPCOT

We took one last ride in The Land  called Soarin' which simulated a hand glider ride over California. It is one of our favorite rides in EPCOT. We avoided Mission:Space, a shuttle flight and landing simulator since we learned our lesson the last time we tried. We were air sick for days.

Day 6 - Florida
Dennis and Lulu flew out of Orlando to Las Vegas, NV and will be going to LA and San Francisco and then heading home. My husband and I are now waiting for my brother and his newly retired wife to join us in Florida and then on to the road trip back home via Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana. Hey, did I say we are retired?

I selected the song On The Road Again by Willie Nelson as the theme for this road trip. I thought the lyrics were particularly apropos.

On the road again
Just can't wait to get on the road again
The life I love is makin' music with my friends
And I can't wait to get on the road again
On the road again
Goin' places that I've never been
Seein' things that I may never see again,
And I can't wait to get on the road again.
On the road again
Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway
We're the best of friends
Insisting that the world be turnin' our way
And our way
Is on the road again

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