Wabi-Sabi Sole

Finding Beauty with Imperfection

Treasures, Temples and Shopping

My last full day in Seoul was Wednesday. Laurie planned for us to do a little more sightseeing and shopping. Most shops don’t open until 10am. However, we were able to visit two Korean Treasures located in a public park. The first was the Monument of Wongaska Temple. The monument is Treasure No. 3. The monument is a large granite turtle with lotus leaves carved in the center of the shell. The lotus leaves provide an area for the marble monument to be inserted. The stone monument was a tribute to the lantern festival held in 1465 at the Wongaska Temple.

The second treasure was a ten-story marble pagoda. Due to the amount of weathering the pagoda has endured, it is now encased in glass to prevent further deterioration. The ten-story pagoda was also located at the Wongaska Temple.

The temple was destroyed and the land has been turned into a beautiful public park.

Besides the two Korean Treasures, the other highlight was having a conversation with an older Korean gentleman. He approached us as we were leaving the park. His English was excellent. We enjoyed a brief conversation. He shared with us that he liked Americans and had visited Hollywood. At one point, he held up his hand and I thought he was going to give me a hug. No, instead he exclaimed to Laurie how tall I was! Haha! He was very nice and it was a pleasure talking with him.

After our visit in the park, we went to our first shopping area. It was a cute area of Seoul where there were lots of shops with local crafts and pottery.

I bought a few small bowls with little koi in the bottom. I think they will be a nice addition to our sushi dinners. Perfect for soy sauce!

After shopping, we went to visit a nearby temple. The temple was still decorated from Buddha’s birthday on Tuesday. There were so many lotus lanterns hanging and there was a prayer being led inside the temple. It was absolutely beautiful. Considering all the temples I have visited in Japan, this experience was like none other. It was so peaceful, beautiful, and serene. I told Laurie she out did herself with this celebration during my visit!

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Laurie picked us another great spot for lunch. It was tucked down a side alley. We arrived at 11:15 and it opened at 11:30. By the time it opened, there was already a line!

While we waited, I posed with a couple giant kimchi pots!! Can you imagine how much kimchi would fill these pots!

Promptly at 11:30 the restaurant opened and we were seated. The restaurant is known for their Korean dumplings. We each ordered a lunch set. Laurie ordered the pork and dumplings, I ordered the dumplings and traditional pancake.

The highlight occurred when the polite older lady came over and literally showed Laurie how to eat her lunch. She used her chopsticks to pick up lettuce, pork, and kimchi to make a small lettuce wrap. It was hilarious. Complete how to each your lunch tutorial!

After lunch, we continued our shopping adventure around the city. We walked to my very favorite- the Daiso! I knew we had to go when Laurie told me it was eight stories! Along the way, we passed three sections of the Berlin Wall. Germany gave the sections to Korea because it remains a divided country.

During our walk, we also passed a LOVE statue just similar to the one in Philadelphia. I was saddened to read that morning that Robert Indiana had passed away at age 89.

There seemed something poetic about seeing both statues within a few blocks from one another. The world needs less walls and more love.

And clearly, more Daiso! Check out the size of this building!!

I enjoyed shopping and looking at all the options. I kept things under control because I knew I would have to get it home. One thing did give me a good chuckle. Check out this toilet seat! If I find one in Japan I might have to buy it. “Find joy in the ordinary šŸ’©.”

We made one more stop on the way home. We visited a very crowded shopping street that was adjacent to National Treasure No. 1.

National Treasure No. 1 is Sungnyemun. It is a large gate located in the middle of the city.

Sungnyemun is one of the four Great Gates of the Seoul fortress or the Seoul wall. We saw this same gate the previous day when we were walking along the Seoullo 7017. As our afternoon wrapped up and our arms were tired from carrying our packages, we headed home. I can’t express enough how envious I am of the location of their house. They are right in the middle of Seoul. When you want to go home, it’s a short train ride. Compared to our 1 hour and 15 minute train ride to Tokyo. Maybe more depending where you want to go. I’m so glad I took the chance to visit Laurie and her family. It was such an easy flight and the city was fun to explore. I hope she has the chance to travel to Japan so I can reciprocate the hospitality. Military families have an uncanny ability to find each other and pick up right where they left off. It’s a pretty special bond. Cheers to you, my friend! Thank you, again. My VIP experience was first class! Arigatōgozaimas!

Seoul City Tour

On Tuesday morning, Laurie and I took the train three stops to Seoul Station. We wanted to catch the Seoul City Bus for a tour around the city. We had a little time before it arrived so we stopped for a cup of coffee and a sweet snack. Check out the name of the cafe – Ding Dong. We thought the sweet snack was filled with blueberries and cream. I think it was red bean paste and cream. Nonetheless, the cream made it tasty.

We sipped our coffee and enjoyed a walk across the brand new Seoul city sky walk known as Seoullo 7017. The Seoullo 7017 is pedestrian walkway designed to reduce pedestrian crossings in the busy city center. The Seoullo 7017 was decorated with beautiful flower planters. The honeysuckle planter was my favorite. It smelled like America in the summer.

In this picture, you can see one of the main city gates that is part of the Seoul wall.

We hopped on the Seoul City bus shortly after 10am at the Seoul Station, stop number 4. We road the bus around the city until stop 21 – Gyeongbokgung Palace. We were able to use the headphones provided to hear an English version of the tour.

Before visiting the Palace, we decided to enjoy lunch. We walked down a side alley and stopped at a cute cafe with what seemed to be Italian cuisine. We were told we needed reservations. We continued on our way along the alley and came to a small restaurant serving traditional Korea food. One of the owners was standing on the corner in her apron. She waved for us to come to her restaurant and we did. As we followed her up the steps she turned around and said, “food delicious.” She wasn’t kidding! It was very delicious! First, she brought us lots of condiments and soup. From left to right, top to bottom, we had: candied green onions, kimchi cabbage centers, mushrooms, broccoli with spicy sauce, and kimchi.

A short time later, she brought out the fish Laurie ordered and the bulgogi I ordered. In South Korea, it is common to share dishes. So, even though we each ordered separate dishes, they were placed so we could share. Which we happily did!

After lunch we walked back to the Palace. At the entrance were ceremonial guards and many visitors wearing traditional dress known as Hanbok. Laurie let me in on the secret – if you rent a hanbok from a local vendor, you receive free admission to the palace. We decided to skip the dress and look like two traditional American tourists.

The Palace is the former main palace of the Joseon dynasty. It was built in 1395 and destroyed during the Japanese invasions between 1592-1598. The buildings were restored during the reign of King Goyong (1852-1919). The palace is the most popular palace because of its large size and beauty. We enjoyed a leisurely afternoon walking around the grounds.

I still enjoy seeing the beautiful painting and details of the Korean structures.

My favorite painting was the painting of the five mountains of Seoul. The painting also includes the sun and the moon, representing the king and queen.

There were numerous buildings throughout the palace grounds and they were so elaborate. The first few pictures are where the king would preside over the court.

Our exploring took us all around the grounds. As it started raining, we made our way towards the exit and to the closest train station. By the time we made it home, the rain was coming down pretty hard. Making it the perfect evening to relax at home in the middle of the city.

Bukhansan National Park

Bukhansan National Park is located on the north side of the city. We hopped on a bus Monday morning and it took us about 40-minutes to get there.

The weather for Monday was predicted to be the nicest all week. Perfect for hiking and enjoying the view above the city. The bus ride to Bukhansan National Park was very simple and a great way to see a little bit of the city. We reached the the entrance to the park a little bit after 9 am. We stopped at the Ranger station to review our hiking route to the peak of Bukhan Mountain, Baegundae, and we were hiking by 9:30. Side note: San means mountain in Korean – Bukhansan means Bukhan Mountain. Here is our pre-hike selfie.

Please notice the cute lanterns hanging throughout the entrance to the park. They are lotus lanterns and placed in celebration of Buddha’s birthday on Tuesday. Also notice the recycled rubber matting placed on the wooden bridge. The rubber helps provide more secure footing when the bridge is wet and also reduces the wear on the wooden bridge. Brilliant!

The hike through the National Park was beautiful. The trail was very well maintained and included a lot of stairs to climb. Shortly after the entrance was a spot along the trail to wash your hands and bring good luck for your hike to the peak.

Before too long we reached a view point. Already we could tell this was going to be a perfect day for the hike. The tall building in the picture is the Lotte World Tower, the tallest building in Seoul.

Around the city of Seoul is a stone wall. Even though the city has spread beyond the wall, it remains part of Seoul’s history and continues to be maintained. Part of our hike today was along the wall.

The Seoul wall has several gates. We hiked past one as we were climbing up.

We continued our climb up countless stairs. The views as we reached the top became even more amazing.

Check out this huge rock. Laurie snapped my picture with it and then informed me that was the summit we were hiking towards! There are tiny specks on the right side of the mountain, those are people!

Clearly, we had more hiking to do and more stairs to climb. It’s hard to read the distance sign, it says .1km and it’s pointing straight up! The last part of the climb was pretty intense. There were chains to hang onto and use to hoist yourself to the top.

When we finally reached the summit, we were so excited and invigorated.

After enjoying the view, we were ready for lunch. We packed sandwiches and a Korean pear to enjoy. I think we had the best view in the city.

After lunch, we began the climb down the other side of the mountain. The path was less crowded on the way down. I was able to snap a few pictures of the chains. Hopefully, you can see the trail became pretty challenging at the end because of the smooth rock and vertical angles. We were both glad we had long legs to help us climb!

Going down was easier and harder at the same time. It was less exhausting and yet more tiresome on our legs. The pounding was painful. Our tired quads and calves were shaking by the time we reached flat ground.

We caught the train home, showered, and were ready for dinner. Laurie, Izzy, Maddy, and I went out for Korean Barbecue. At the restaurant, we had a hot pot placed in the center of the table. It was covered with a grate. On the grate, we were able to grill our meat. We made lettuce wasps with the meat and assortment of vegetables. After the long hike, the dinner and beer were delicious.

Perhaps the favorite part was dessert. Ice Cream! Maddy and Izzy enjoying their sweet treat.

As we walked back home, we caught a glimpse of sunset. It was a sweet ending to a fantastic day!

Seoul Tower & National Museum of Korea

My flight arrived late at the Incheon airport Saturday night. By the time we made it to Laurie’s house, it was after 11pm. They live right in the middle of Seoul. Their location is perfect for exploring the city!

Sunday morning, we went to the Seoul Tower. It is located in a large park in the center of Seoul.

We had a short walk to the top and stopped for pictures along the way. Seoul Tower is the tall structure in the first picture. The city stretches out for miles and miles. So many tall buildings.

As we approached the area around the Tower, we saw the actual Geographical Center of Seoul.

Part of Seoul’s history is the stone wall surrounding the city. The city has since spread beyond the wall, but the wall continues to be maintained and preserved.

We arrived a little early and wandered around the park while we waited for the Tower to open. Seoul has their own version of “love locks.” They were mostly concentrated in a specific area of the park. We did observe locks being cut off that were not placed in the appropriate area.

Shortly after 10 am, we bought our tickets and took the 25 second elevator ride to the top of the tower (236m high – 480m high including the mountain). As we walked around the observation deck, we enjoyed a tub of popcorn and a beer. Sightseeing and beer at the top of a tall tower. What a great way to start the day!

Can you guess where I took this picture?

Yes! In the bathroom stall! Check out the sign.

After our visit to the Tower, we worked our way through the park and back to the house for lunch.

We stopped near the base to look at the many different kimchi pots. They are very cool, but I don’t think one of these will fit in my luggage! The shop owner was very nice and offered to take our picture.

We returned home to eat lunch and relax a little bit before walking over to the National Museum of Korea. I still can’t get over where they live – literally right in the middle of the city. Conveniently located to everything!

The National Museum of Korea was built on the land that used to be the US Army golf course. It has since been turned into a beautiful museum with lovely gardens.

Throughout the gardens were numerous statues and pagodas.

It was easy to identify the distinctive differences in the color patterns of Korean structures compared with Japanese structures. There was much more elaborate painting using blues and aqua. This shelter housed a large bell.

Inside the Museum were numerous exhibits about Korean history, shipwreck artifacts, pottery, and crafts. We walked through about half the Museum before running out of time. The Museum is free to visit. If we have time later during my visit we can return. There really is so much to see and learn!

Wabi-Sabi Sole Goes to Seoul

Dave had a work trip this coming week. While he was going to be away, I decided to book a flight to Seoul, South Korea. We have (Army) friends from Naval Station Great Lakes stationed there. This was very last minute planning. So last minute that my Seoul Travel Guide didn’t arrive in time! I’m depending on my friend, Laurie, for a complete tour. I’m excited to see them and explore another city/country.

I booked my ticket on JEJUair, a budget airline. I couldn’t help but laugh as I looked down at my duct taped suitcase and converse. In my favorite flying attire, I’ve definitely dressed the “budget” part. I have to give an explanation about the suitcase. In November, when we went to Sasebo, the handle of my suitcase broke off. Fortunately, we were able to buy a new set of luggage at the Black Friday sale on base. It was a set of three. I put the small bag inside the large suitcase and packed the medium size separate. On the flight home, my brand new medium suitcase was broken. There was a HUGE crack! I was so annoyed. Two flights and two suitcases. (Insert eye roll) I decided instead of buying another suitcase, I would just duct tape this one and use it until it completely falls apart. So far, it’s gone back and forth to Thailand, Hokkaido, United States, and now to South Korea. Fingers crossed it makes it home. Duct tape for the win!!

Anyways, back to my trip to Seoul. I’ll be gone for a few days. I’ll do my best to share my adventures as I go. Thanks for understanding if I fall a little bit behind because I’ll be tethered to a wifi connection. As always, thanks for reading!

Suspension Bridges

During my Friday English class last week, one of my students told me about her visit to a clematis and sculpture garden near Mt. Fuji. From her description of her visit, I was interested in making a trip to the garden. As I looked around the Mishima area on my Google Maps app, I realized there was another place I had flagged to visit. I suggested to Katie we take our Tuesday adventures to the expressway and visit them both! Without difficulty, we were able to rent a car and leave before 8:00am Tuesday morning.

Side note: went traveling a far distance in a vehicle, I find it easier to rent a car for two reasons. 1. I only trust our Hooptie so much. 2. Driving on the expressway is expensive because of the high road tolls (Ā„8000 – $80 round trip to areas around Mt. Fuji). Toll vouchers are included with a rental car ($58 for a 1-day rental). This makes it actually cheaper to rent a car than to drive your own!

Now, back to our story. We arrived at our first stop, Mishima Skywalk around 9:30am. Before heading to the Skywalk, we stopped to use the restroom facilities. Just when I thought Japanese toilets couldn’t get any more amazing, we were greeted by a large banner advertising “luxury toilet.” The restroom was immaculate and complete with not just functional “thrones,” but also lounging ones – inside and outside the restroom! Seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up!!

After our pit stop, we were ready to see Mt. Fuji and walk the Mishima Skywalk. The Mishima Skywalk is Japan’s largest suspension bridge. The bridge is 400m in length and connects Izu and Hakone. The bridge reaches a height of 70.6m as it stretches across the valley below. The width of the bridge footpath is 1.6m (wide enough to allow two wheelchairs to pass one another). Needless to say, the view was spectacular!

We were glad we arrived early. Mt. Fuji was starting to cloud over when we arrived. By the time we were leaving, it was mostly covered.

The walk across the bridge is not for the faint of heart. If you have a fear of heights, it might be best to skip this attraction.

Once we made it to the far side, we were greeted by the safety sign. I hope the Skywalk receives this award every year!!

On the north side of the bridge, is a natural area with a few trails and the flower drop. For Ā„200, you’re invited to purchase a flower seed attached to a piece of wood. When you cross back over the bridge, you can toss the wood chip and make a wish. When your flower blooms, your wish will come true.

Also at the flower drop area were cute little forest eggs. Some were set along the trail and others where hiding behind a door on the trees. So, kawaii!

They were so cute!

From the construction and signs, Katie and I came to the conclusion the area would soon have a zip line attraction! Now that would be amazing!

During our walk back across, the wind really started to pick up. The bridge was really swaying! It was kindof fun to not hold on! Look, Mom! No hands!

One of the cafes was called the Sky Garden. Here we enjoyed a snack while sitting under the phenomenal hanging plants.

After our snack, we were ready to head to our next destination. We drove about 30 minutes before reaching the Clematis no Oka Garden. We parked in one of the parking lots furthest from the garden. This afforded us the opportunity to walk through the woods and transit across two more suspension bridges. They weren’t as long or as high, but still very enjoyable.

Once we arrived at the garden, we were treated to beautiful clematis and strange sculptures.

Here are just a few of the interesting sculptures. We were a little surprised with the sculptures because there were a lot of naked men. It seemed out of context with the garden. But, I guess art is art.

Anyways, let’s get back to the clematis. There were so many different varieties and colors. Here is about half of the clematis pictures I took!

The lower part of the garden was filled with roses. They were also in full bloom and stunning.

The roses were a special treat because I wasn’t expecting them. After enjoying time in the sunshine and the beautiful garden, we hopped back in the car and headed home. The drive home was easy. Each time I make a trip to Mt. Fuji, I become a little more familiar and at ease driving. I consider this a win after living here for almost two years! I’m so glad we took the opportunity to road trip. It was a wonderful day exploring an area around Mt. Fuji we hadn’t had a chance to visit yet.

Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Garden

As I was looking at my list of things to do in Tokyo, I realized I still had one garden to visit from the article about finding wabi-sabi in Tokyo. I hadn’t had the chance to visit the Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Garden in Tokyo. The Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Garden is located on the north side of Tokyo, near Ueno Park.

It took about an hour and 20 minutes to get there on the train. With the rain gone, it was such a beautiful day, I was happy to be out and about.

The Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Garden was built in 1896. The main residence is a western style building that was owned by Iwasaki Hisaya, the third president of Mitsubishi. The entrance to the Garden leads directly to the western residence. Currently, scaffolding was covering the front of the residence.

The inside of the residence was spectacular. The route to explore the residence allowed visitors to go throughout the two floors.

There is a large two-story porch on the southern side of the house. The east side of the porch is enclosed.

The wallpaper in the house is valuable Japanese leather paper. I took a close up picture of the paper and the large stamping tool.

The western residence is connected to the Japanese residence. Only a small portion of the Japanese residence remains. Tatami mats covered the floors and intricate drawings adorned the walls. The views of the gardens looking out were so serene.

The third building within the garden is the Billiard Room. The Billiard Room is detached from the Western Residence. However, there is an underground passageway connecting the two buildings. The Billiards Room was designed and built like a mountain lodge found in Switzerland. Notice the high ceilings!

The grounds of the garden have been reduced to only a third of the original size. Urbanization has claimed the other two-thirds. The grounds are a blend of Japanese and Western styles. As I walked the grounds, it was easy to be transported away from the bustling city. The garden is distinctively Japanese.

My favorite structure in the garden was the gigantic lantern. It had to be at least 12-15 feet high.

Looking back at the buildings and viewing the large lawn, it is easy to see the western influence. Simultaneously, you can see how close the encroaching buildings are to the garden.

This picture might be my favorite from the day. I like it because it captures the eastern and western gardens and the western residence is in the background along with the urbanization of Tokyo. I think it nicely captures the wabi-sabi of the Gardens.

I imagine this garden isn’t visited very often, because of its proximity to Ueno Park. Most tourist want to visit the many attractions at Ueno – zoo, museums, etc. I have visited Ueno Park (during Sakura season) and honestly, I enjoyed the quiet and serenity of this park much more. I definitely found my wabi-sabi.

Florida Road Trip Part 2

Let me pick up where I left off on the previous post, Florida Road Trip Part 1. Saturday morning, Juliana and I picked up George at the Fort Lauderdale Airport. Once we had him safely aboard the bus, we made haste for Key Largo. Clearly, our speed was not fast enough for others.

One more video as we drive off the continental United States.

Our first campsite was at Pennecamp State Park. With the campsite set up, George had the chance to enjoy his first vacation beer.

As I look back through my pictures, I realize I never took a picture of the seafood dinners George and Juliana prepared. Each day, we would stop at a local fish market and buy seafood for dinner. We had a wonderful assortment throughout the week. Snapper, tile fish, pompano, and stone crab legs. All local fish and all were delicious.

Sunday morning I unintentionally woke up early. The bug bites I had received over the past two days made my feet feel on fire. I know my gnarly runner’s feet are not pretty, but please humor me and notice the welts on my feet. They itched so badly, when I looked at the picture, I felt the urge to scratch my feet! I had these welts on my hands, the back of my legs, my shoulders, my arms and a few on my face as well.

Since I was up so early, I decided to catch the sunrise.

Later that morning, George and Juliana both rented sea kayaks and I rented a paddle board. We spent about two hours exploring the inlet around Pennecamp State Park. Knowing my luck with phones, I left mine on dry land while we were out. So, no pictures.

After eating lunch and cleaning up, we got back on the road and headed towards Big Pine Key. Our next campsite was at Bahia Honda State Park. Along the way, we stopped at KMart and I bought bug protection: a second pair of beach pants, a UPF shirt, thick socks, and a pair of light gloves. The “no see ’ems” were not deterred by my 100% deet. The only way to keep them from biting me was to cover my skin. We also bought two fans to put around the campsite and inside the bus to help the bug situation. After arriving and setting up camp, we went snorkeling off the coast. It was fantastic! Perhaps, the best place I’ve ever snorkeled. We were the only people in the water and the water was so shallow we could see so many fish! After our snorkeling session, we walked out and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

We spent Monday morning at Bahia Honda at the beach. The breeze was strong and the sky was sunny. It was so relaxing.

We walked up the old Railroad/Road Bridge. From here it was easy to see the hurricane damage. The vegetation was shredded and the beach looked trashed.

Sunday night proved to be another rough night with respect to bugs. At this point, we decided to go off script. Instead of staying two more nights in Bahia Honda State Park, we decided to drive to Key West and stay at the Navy Vacation Rentals. So, after our beach time Monday morning, Monday afternoon we headed to Key West. It was a great decision. Who doesn’t love Key West? We arrived in Key West, checked into our hotel and set out to enjoy the town.

After a refreshing bug free night of sleep in American air conditioning, we were ready to tackle a full day Key West style. First up, a sunrise run, of course. With a stop at the Southern most point and Mile 0. Oh and a chicken crossing the road.

We went home to get George and the bus to take a few pictures of the bus at both of these spots.

The rest of the day was spent enjoying Key West without an agenda. As if we were on vacation!

Wednesday morning, we were back on the road again. We decided to again make haste and get further up the coast so we could enjoy a full beach day at Sebastian Inlet State Park. We stopped in Vero Beach Wednesday night. It was a beautiful night for another beach walk.

After a short drive Thursday morning, we were ready to enjoy a relaxing beach day at Sebastian Inlet State Park. We had another excellent campsite. Perfect for watching the sunset.

Friday morning, we didn’t rush to get on the road to our final campsite. We enjoyed Sebastian Inlet a little longer before making the short trip to Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine.

We arrived in time for a beach walk at sunset.

I wanted one last east coast sunrise before heading home. Saturday morning we woke up early and took our coffee to the beach to greet the sun as it cleared the horizon.

After breakfast, we packed up the bus and made haste one last time for Atlanta.

We stayed close to the airport Saturday night because my flight left early Sunday morning. We stopped for a brew and pizza before settling in for the night.

As we left the restaurant after dinner, a storm had passed and the clouds appeared to make a Mt. Fuji. I couldn’t help but see the symbolism. Just pretend the sign says “Japanese” and not “Chinese”. Our spontaneous road trip was everything I needed. It was wonderful having time together with family. We enjoyed many long conversations and a lot of American beer. We shared more laughs than I had bug bites. Despite the distance, the bugs, and time away from Dave, I would do it all over again without hesitation.

Florida Road Trip Part 1

I’m home safe and sound from my Florida road trip with my brother, George, and his wife, Juliana. It took me two good nights of sleep to get over the jet lag. Now that I have my wits about me, I’m ready to share our adventures. Our two week Florida road trip was a jammed packed with good times and sunshine. Let’s start from the beginning. I met Juliana in Atlanta. My flight arrived late on Tuesday night, so we spent the first night at a hotel near the airport. Wednesday morning, we were up and ready to be on our way to St. Augustine. However, we had a slight 1.5 hour delay getting on the road because we couldn’t get the bus started. After receiving help from two nice hotel employees, phone help from George and their mechanic, we realized the problem was rather simple. The bus needed gas. One of our new friends brought us a gallon of gas and the bus turned over right away. We were off to the closest gas station with strict instructions from George not to go more than 200 miles before refueling and never have less than 1/4 of a tank. Lesson learned. I’m happy to report, that was our only vehicle incident. The rest of the trip, the bus ran like a champion! Our trip through Georgia and across Florida went by quickly. Each time we stopped we were greeted with at least one “what year is your bus”? Usually, the person who approached us shared a story. Juliana and I decided more people approached us during the days before we picked up George. His presence, although appreciated by us, seemed to make us less approachable. Eventually, we arrived in St. Augustine. We checked into our campsite at Anastasia State Park in time for a picnic dinner at sunset. By the time we parked the bus for the night, it was lights out!

Thursday morning we went for a jog and as we were returning to the campsite, we came across this beetle working really hard pushing a dog turd. I couldn’t help taking a video. Even now when I watch it, I can’t help but laugh.

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We spent Thursday morning exploring St. Augustine. We walked around the touristy downtown area. This was by far my favorite photo spot! Argh!

We also explored sights off the beaten path. We enjoyed a tour of the Oldest House in St. Augustine.

During the tour, we learned about coquina. (The science teacher in me was so excited.) Coquina is a sedimentary rock composed of sea shells. It was used throughout St. Augustine for construction of buildings and the fort!

After lunch and our enjoyable morning in St. Augustine, we loaded up in the bus and set out for Sebastian Inlet State Park. We had an amazing campsite at Sebastian Inlet. Perfect for watching the sunset.

Friday morning we decided to enjoy a little beach time before getting on the road. The Inlet had a small lagoon – perfect for taking a swim.

While we were swimming, we were fortunate to see dolphins!

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After our morning at the beach, we showered and were on the road by 1:30. We didn’t have far to go for our next campsite. We were staying at Dickinson State Park just north of Fort Lauderdale airport. We had a rendezvous with George Saturday morning. He was flying in and would join us for the second half of our trip. Since we weren’t in a rush Friday afternoon, we chose to drive down A1A and enjoy the scenery. Talk about cruising in the bus.

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We arrived at Dickinson State Park shortly before a huge thunderstorm rolled through. At one point, the lightening was so close we hunkered down inside the bus. As the storm passed, we moved outside and enjoyed dinner. Tomato soup, believe it or not! It was the perfect warm meal during the nasty storm.

By the time the sun was setting, the storm had rolled out.

It it’s wake, it woke up a lot of bugs. We were prepared for the mosquitoes. We had been warned about the no see ’ems. The warning wasn’t nearly strong enough. I went to sleep in shorts and a tank top and work up with bites on every inch of exposed skin. Talk about itchy… The bugs would become an incredible nuisance as we arrived in the Keys. But, I’m going to save those stories and the second half of our adventure for tomorrow. Stay tuned for the rest of the story!

Gone Coastal

A completely unexpected opportunity presented itself to me at the end of last week. Long story short, I have a chance to meet up with my brother and sister-in-law on the east coast and road trip down to Key West. I only booked my ticket four days ago! Fortunately, a trip to the Keys doesn’t require too much packing. So, off I go! I’ll be back in Japan in a couple weeks and ready to continue Spring flower chasing!

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