Travel Break: Small Car, Big World Pinterest Project

The day I discovered Pinterest was the day I truly lived. In fact, on one of my Instagram accounts, I labeled myself as a “Pinterest junkie” in my bio section. Since COVID-19 has everyone self-quarantined, Pinterest has been my primary source of entertainment. Every day I’m discovering new projects to take part in. So far, I’ve done everything from spray painted mason jars, to designing watercolor bookmarks.

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In my search for something new to do, I came across a photo of a tiny vintage car sitting on a beach shore. It was clearly a photoshop project, but the photography was stunning. The artist manipulated the image to make it seem like somehow the car fits perfectly into the big world. I just had to try this. I ran to Walmart and luckily found a yellow Volkswagen Beetle. The next day I headed to Sister’s Creek and took some really great shots. The objective is to use the right camera angles to show the car somehow being a part of the bigger atmosphere. Yes, the scale will be evident, but that’s part of the fun! I spent an hour walking around and taking shots of the car on different surfaces doing different things. The results are fantastic!

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My friend, Maddy, also made great use of her time indoors. She’s taken an interest in building things from scratch using whatever wood boards she could find. Her recent project includes a bookshelf, a new dog bowl holder, and shelves for her succulent plants.

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My other friend Jheanel, has taken up with painting and colored pencil drawings during her quarantine life!

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It is the amazing things that come from boredom. Commercials of people all over the world, creating ways to stay connected, show our infinite creative abilities. Hopefully, when this virus finally goes away, we can continue to be just as innovative. I know I will. Pinterest is in my blood and isn’t going anywhere!

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Search “small car photography” on Pinterest to see more cool small car photography.

Evening on the Southbank Riverwalk

Living in River City has its perks for sure. With the demolition of the infamous Jacksonville Landing entertainment area, the Southbank Riverwalk is basically all Jacksonvillians have left for entertainment and social gatherings. Granted, Jacksonville is a large city, and there are a million and one places you can go for entertainment, but downtown Jax is the beating heart of the city. There is too much history, and we just lost one of our biggest gems.

 

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The Jacksonville Landing before demolition. (visitflorida.com)

The Southbank Riverwalk sits across the river from the former Jacksonville Landing. It begins at the Friendship Fountain and runs beneath the John T. Asop Jr. Bridge (aka Main St. Bridge) and along the river’s edge until it reaches the Duval County Public School building.

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The Friendship Fountain

 

The Friendship Fountain has been around since my mother was a girl. The aging fountain is still running on all cylinders and is still a treasure to the people of the city. There are about fifteen active spouts that run during the day. On occasions, they sprout high into the air and dance with color projectors attached to towers adding wonder to the spectacle. The fountain is popular for setting a romantic mood near the river and becoming every child’s running track around the 200-foot wide pool of water. Along the outside of the fountain are white arbors with benches beneath for resting or reading. Picnic tables are set up in the grassy area left of the fountain for family events. The Museum of Science and History is only 100 feet away if you want to do something entertaining for the entire family. Further left of the grassy area and the fountain is the River City Brewing Company, a good place to wine and dine yourself. If you have a boat, you can park right outside the restaurant in their marina.

 

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The Friendship Fountain

 

 

St. John’s River

The St. John’s River is the soul of Jacksonville. I would that is why Jacksonville is named the “River City” because the St. John’s River runs directly through the city. As you walk along the boardwalk, you will get the view of at least five of Jacksonville’s iconic bridges; the Hart Bridge, the Matthews Bridge, the John T. Alsop Bridge, the Acosta Bridge, and FEC Strauss Trunnion Bascule Bridge (or train bridge).

As you walk away from the Friendship Fountain, you have two paths to choose, you could either climb the ramp that will allow you to walk across the John T. Alsop Bridge or you take the boardwalk that will lead you beneath the bridge further along the boardwalk. If you take the bridge ramp, you can take awesome selfies at the top of the Main St. Bridge and walk into downtown where all the cafes reside. If you continue on the boardwalk, it will seem like you are preparing to walk underwater due to the boardwalk’s dip. The river is literally at your face and gives the illusion that it may spill over at any moment. Beneath the bridge is a commissioned mosaic art piece of glass and tile along the wall. It, too, is perfect for selfies. If you are lucky, you can catch a pod of dolphins playing and swimming together beneath the bridge. In my experience, night time is much easier to see them. It’s quieter at night, and there are no boats zipping back and forth, so it is safer.

 

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Beneath the Main St. Drawbridge
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“Mirrored River: Where do you see yourself?” commissioned mosaic piece
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Boardwalk leading under Main St. Bridge.
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View of the Acosta Bridge and the Train Bridge.

 

The Boardwalk

Along the boardwalk, you take notice of more than just the pretty views. You can also see the see in full scale, and it’s growing development. There seems to always be construction cranes seen somewhere to show something new being built in the city. Lately, a lot of hotels and condominiums are being constructed. Jacksonville lives and breathes for tourism, so it would make sense. When you come from beneath the bridge, you can see as far west down the St. John’s river as your vision will allow you. Across the water, you can view the TIAA Bank Stadium home to the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars. If you are a coffee fiend, Maxwell’s Coffee manufacturing plant can be seen and smelled no matter how far you are. At some point along the boardwalk, new helicopters will fly above your head as they circle around the bridges and highways for traffic readings. If you get tired, there are fancy-designed benches with triangular umbrellas overhead to keep you cooled off. Near the end of the boardwalk, you get a great look at the Strand Apartments building and its high-class lifestyle through its glass lobby walls.

 

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Benches with triangular umbrellas.
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TIAA Bank Stadium for the Jacksonville Jaguars
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River Taxi
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The Hart Bridge
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Maxwell Coffee manufacturing plant.
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The Strand Apartments

 

An evening on the Southbank Riverwalk is perfect for families, couples, soloist, photographers, and even runners. No matter how much Jacksonville grows and expands, the beauty of the River city will always lie at the heart of downtown Jacksonville.

The Trails of Kingsley Plantation

The near three-mile, pot-hole filled, low-land, flood-threatened dirt road entrance to the Kingsley Plantation is only the beginning trail among other trails which recounts the story of slavery and freedom. The trails at Kingsley Plantation offers more than your typical southern slavery tale. It provides the opportunity to let your imagination drift back into a critical time in history, even if it means hallucinating a bit. 

 

The Entrance Trail

Growing up in the modern world, I couldn’t be happier to be able to drive on paved streets. Though my Toyota Camry has hit some potholes in her day, it was nothing compared to the rugged road from Hell, otherwise known as the entrance to Kingsley Plantation. Unless you have a boat, there is only one way in and out of the plantation through the entrance trail. Previous rain makes the trail worst. My car bounced and jumped through hole after hole to the point where I had to reduce my speed to crawl mode. Tall trees and vines enclave the narrow road, so it appears darker than it actually is outside. I had to roll my windows u,p thanks to the drop in temperature due to constant shade and humidity. Along the way, the trail past several marshes. Because of the rain, the water levels are high and slowly inch across the path, nearly consuming it. As I approached water-filled holes, I either had to maneuver the car to drive on half trail half grass in order to escape the hole or I had to floor the gas pedal through water-filled holes to keep from getting stuck. The trail seemed like it would go on forever until you come to a split road, one going to the Kingsley Plantation. The other road going to the Ribault Club, a beautiful mansion often used for weddings. After another quarter of a mile, you come to some ruins of a tabby house off to the left and voila! You are at the Kingsley Plantation. It is very interesting that your first welcome through the gates of the plantation is a semi-circle row of slave quarters. 

 

The Garden Trail

The last time I visited Kingsley Plantation was in the summer. Usually, the sample garden displays planted crops. Crops that would have been sold when the plantation was operational. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I am visiting in the middle of winter, and there are no crops. I walked over to the enclosed garden, camera in hand, and there are only weeds that obviously haven’t been touched in weeks. The weeds were so high they were taller than the wooden fencing surrounding them. However, in one corner was a small orange tree and, in the other corner, two stalks of corn. I couldn’t tell at first with all the weeds covering the stalks. Back then, the plantation grew three primary cash crops: sea island cotton, indigo, and sugar cane. Off to the left side of the sample garden are three crates built like an ascending staircase. These boxes were used to produce dyes from the indigo plants they grew. The process was lengthy, and according to the info board next to the boxes, 100 pounds of plant material created only four ounces of dye, the total cost selling at forty bucks. On the right side of the sample garden are four white posts outlining the exact dimensions of a single acre, giving visitors an idea of the workload of working sixty acres that the slaves actually worked. 

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The Slave Owners Home

Slave owner homes are popular for being massive and luxurious. As seen in Hollywood films, the homes were often two-story,  painted bright white, with pillars, and wrap-around porches on both levels. Kingsley Plantation is big too, but not quite like Hollywood films. There is the main house where the owner and his family stayed, and then there’s the kitchen house where food was prepared. A walkway with lattice siding connects the main house and the kitchen house. Visitors are free to walk through the kitchen house, but certain areas, like upstairs, are off-limits either for safety reasons or for remodeling. I never went into either home on my last visit, so I thought I’d do so on this one. I grabbed onto the old metal doorknob and stepped into a small space. The floor is made of tabby (a mixture of oyster shells, rocks, and cement), the windows are small, and the room has been set up as a presentation. Big posters lined the walls detailing the story of the plantation, how it operated, how the slaves were treated before and after Spanish rule. I tried to visit the main house, but only those taking the exclusive tour, led by a Ranger, were invited. These tours often take place on the weekend. The most you can do is admire the structure of the home from the outside. The house was built next to the Fort George River. The large windows and the front porch facing the river was the intentional design to take advantage of the wind that came off the river. Summers in Florida are brutal, so the Kingsley family stayed cool by opening their windows and sitting on the porch. 

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The River Trail

The quiet Fort George River runs pass the Kingsley Plantation. The river was the easiest way to transport goods to and from the plantation. Today, the river is mostly used for watersports and fishing. You can stand on the shore and see how much as changed since the peak days of the plantation. When facing the river, to your right in the distance, you can see the scenic Florida A1A Highway. To the left, boats and jet skis snake through Clapboard Creek. The last time I visited the Kingsley Plantation, a wild peacock walked about the grounds. Every now and then he displayed his lovely feathers. This time he was there, but there are two guarded burrows in the ground for tortoises and other burrowing mammals. A second large building apart from the Slave owners owns houses modern restrooms and a gift store where you can buy trinkets, sign up for a tour, and see artifacts collected on the plantation grounds. 

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The Slave Quarters Trail

When you enter the metal gates of the Kingsley Plantation, you are instantly greeted by a long semi-circle line of slave quarter ruins. From the small parking lot next to the plantation barn is a mulch trail that leads you directly to the beginning of the line of ruined homes. Each home designed from the tabby material. With the roofs missing and the walls nearly deteriorated down to the ground, you can see the interior dimensions of the rooms. It was common for slave quarters to be just as crowded at the slave ships the slaves sailed onto. The rooms were no bigger than a walk-in closet. With only two rooms per living quarter home, it isn’t hard to imagine the cramped lifestyle. Each “living room” area is furnished with a brick fireplace and chimney. Most of the walls in each quarter has three medium-sized holes used for ventilation. As you move down the trail studying each home, you get a greater sense of what lives were like for the slaves. The last time I visited the plantation, I found myself slightly hallucinating. I could hear singing and children laughing. I imagined seeing slaves walking around with huge containers filled with cotton and other vegetables. Naturally, when we think of slavery, we think of the beatings, slave auctions, and slaves running for the lives to freedom in the dead of night. Despite the constant turmoil, there were days that were less tragic than others. In their free time, slaves danced and ate together as one large family. Gazing at the slave quarters together as they are, built like a community filled with support and strength to make it to another day.

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The trails at Kingsley Plantation is an education in itself without textbooks or guided tours. The livelihood of this plantation was a part of a changing country. It would be decades before the actual change would come along, but every story leading to freedom is one worth telling. The Kingsley Plantation is one brick in a very long wall, but it helps to build the story that will forever be told in our American history. 

 

 

Great Makeovers for U.S. Road Rest Areas

I remember traveling at a young age, and we would pull into a rest area for restroom breaks. They were the absolute worst places to go but, when you got to go, you got to go. Often times you go into a rest area, and the bathrooms look like something from the pilgrim era. The entire restroom smelled like a port-o-potty exploded. Sanitation was beneath passing. Honestly, I couldn’t see how the state would allow this.

In the coming years, though, I’ve seen a significant change to rest areas. I would think the improvements would only extend to making the restrooms more pleasant, but rest areas makeovers are doing so much more. It was my thought that rest areas represent the state. Think about it, travelers and tourists go to a rest area in Texas. If the rest area is filthy, they may assume the worst about the state in general. It sounds unlikely, but humans often judge a book by its cover or generalize because of one little thing happening. It happens.

Now, these rest areas are being built with so much more to offer now. They aren’t just a place to get an overpriced soda and a quick place to potty. They come equipped with hiking trails for dogs, jungle gyms for kids, museums, libraries, game rooms, and other stuff to entertain people while they break. The rest stop I visited in Arkansas had a library and a museum displaying Arkansas as the world’s leading source for quartz minerals. A rest stop and visitor center at the Texas state line had an entire boardwalk you could walk on and catch alligators and other wildlife in the preserve.

Where in the hell was all this when I was little? The most we could get out of rest areas back then playing with rocks outside the building sat at picnic tables that were covered in bird poop, and boring brochures desperately displaying the vacation hotspots of the state. Now rest areas are a bed short of a hotel.

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I am glad that the rest areas have made big changes since I was young. Tourism is everything to any state or locality. It would be wise to improve first impressions.

Original Beauty of the Twin Bridges

I’ve lived in Jacksonville, Florida, my entire life, and I’ve always known the bridges there to be pretty because of the different colors they’re painted. Every couple of years, the bridge undergoes a makeover for a new fresh coat. I didn’t mind it until I started truck driving. I drove through other cities besides my own, and I see bridges in their original form, and they seem fascinating than the painted dolls back in my city.

Recently I drove across the Twin Bridges (aka The Bi-State Vietnam Gold Star Twin Bridges) in Kentucky. From a distance, I could see how vintage-like they appeared, and it blew me away. In my imagination, they looked like time portals that would take me back to a different time when I drove across them. The closer I got to the bridges, the more excited I became. It felt like the same feeling I got every year when my mother would drive me across the Dames Pointe Bridge for my birthday.

 

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The Bi-State Vietnam Gold Star Twin Bridges

 

 

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The Bi-State Vietnam Gold Star Twin Bridges

 

I couldn’t pull my phone out of my pocket long enough to snap photos of the rustic sister bridges. I love bodies of water too, and I’m sure the scenery of the river running beneath it was just as exciting, but I could care less about that river as long as I got the bridges. I took as many photos as I could as I drove through the bridge. The beauty of original metal and the rust taking over the exterior brought to life a greater love for bridges.

 

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The Bi-State Vietnam Gold Star Twin Bridges

 

 

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The Bi-State Vietnam Gold Star Twin Bridges

 

The average lifespan of a bridge is about seventy years, with proper upkeep, most bridges can live well past 100 years. I know that rust is the enemy of metal and that eventually, the city will have to treat the rust if they plan on using this bridge for many years to come. I can’t help but feel sad to know that sometime in the future, these beloved beauties will be coated in bright colors or twinkling lights stripping away their originality. Oh, what a world that will be.

Awareness of Poverty through Art

Every month, the Downtown Jacksonville Public Library changes up their exhibitions on local art. This month brought awareness of poverty. Local artists of Jacksonville have the opportunity to display their vision of homelessness and people living in poverty through their artwork. The best part about this particular display is that one it gives attention and recognition to artists who are trying to make a name for themselves. Two, it educates visitors on the issues over poverty that is heavy in our city.

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The cardboard info art was a nice touch to the collection because it gave facts to homelessness that is evident not only in our city but in other cities just as significant as Jacksonville. The facts touch upon LGBT teens, Veterans, and ordinary citizens who are driven into homelessness.

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Keith Doles’ paintings were my favorite because of the realism. I don’t know much about artwork and I couldn’t write a art piece critique even if I tried, but his work is astounding. He paintings reflect the livelihood of living in Jacksonville whether good or bad. He is one artist we should definitely look into. Check out his portfolio on his personal website.

Florae: Weeds are Flowers Too

Weeds are indeed the Devils of the Earth. They are resilient, durable, and, most times, annoying. I often wonder if that was the reason I created my hobby to hunt flowering weeds. I’m not sure what began the hobby, and I definitely wouldn’t talk about it amongst gardening addicts. They’d probably gouge out my eyes with their pruning shears.

Anyway, I took an interest in trying to see if weeds were as awful as we tend to make them out to be. I could compare weeds to sharks. Society (and Hollywood) created this fear in sharks making people believe that they purposely hunt human flesh when that is not the truth at all. Weeds appear as a serious problem. Yes, they are annoying. Yes, they can overtake an entire yard and are resistant tend to build resistance to weed killers. Yes, they have been around for hundreds of years, with no end in sight. I get it, but isn’t that the best part about them?

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Apart of the Liliaceae plant family

I do a lot of hiking when I can. I never really noticed weeding flowers before until I picked up this strange little hobby. Now, on my hikes, I see them everywhere. I can barely get through a decent walk without stopping to snap a photo of a flowering weed I notice. And now I have an entire collection of weeding flowers on my MacBook. ( I am not ashamed. I won’t share it with anyone.)

These weeding flowers are just like mushrooms; rain brings out the best in them. I’ve tried replanting a gorgeous weeding flower I saw growing in my neighbor’s yard. The plant didn’t last one day. I tried several times after that, and the same thing happens even though I had preserved the rootball. Strange and wondrous, isn’t it?

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Commelina erecta (Dayflower)

I’ve realized that flowering weeds are a great metaphor. They are strong and wild. Most of them have survived millions of years through evolution and continues to evolve. They are wild and beautiful, just like any Daisy, Rose, or Black-Eyed Susan. Perhaps that is why I began the hobby to hunt for them, to see them not as weeds but as this small power of life that thrives in places we don’t care to look. They contribute just as much to our ecosystems as any other living organism. Perhaps now, instead of seeing them as annoying and destructive, we could see them as little surviving heroes. At this point in our fight against climate change and Global Warming, we need all hands on deck to rescue our atmosphere.

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Gaillardia pulchella (Indian Blanket)

 

Antique Shops: Overpricing History

When I was younger, I was like most teens thinking that shopping in thrift stores was lame and for “poor folks.” My mother took me to my first one, and good God did I get hooked. I found things in there that I could never find on the shelves of stores in the mall. You can imagine what life became like for me when I visited my first antique shop. My first real antique shop was in North Georgia, headed to Talulah Gorge State Park. I spent nearly $100 in there. It was heaven on earth to be surrounded by artifacts of history. It didn’t take long for my love of antique shops to stop short. That pissed me off.

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On my second visit to North Georgia, I tried to find the same antique shop I had found the first time. The prices were high for the items in the store. You could imagine my surprise when I found out that the store was shut down. The new owner of the store had bought the old inventory and jacked the prices sky-high. So now, instead of paying seventy-five cents per vintage postcard, I was kicking out nearly three dollars for each. What the hell? That’s a 300% increase in price!

I paid attention to other antique shops I visited and noticed the same ridiculous pricing. I understand that because an item is no longer in production or hasn’t been in production for years, but to slap an outrageous price on an item assuming that someone will pay any price for it is terrible business. The worst part is, most of the inventory in these shops aren’t antiques. They’re just items that maybe didn’t sell well through a company, for example, a tall lamp pole covered in different seashells (the most hideous thing I’ve ever seen). And for the love of God, if I see one more massive collection of Coke Cola glass bottles…

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My visit today at a rather famous antique shop in North Florida nearly made me want to start a strike. The items were beyond overpriced. They wanted five dollars for vintage postcards, twenty dollars for supposed “Free-Trade African Seaglass” beaded necklaces, and $210 for a large wooden sailboat. Like, are you kidding me?

I love antiques with a passion because they tell the story of a time I never got to live through. Not only that, but they showcase the evolution of art and design. To be simply put, it’s history! These antique store clerks are the gatekeepers to new generations, discovering another time through these artifacts. It would only be fair if they priced each item by their value and not because they want to overprice because it sits merely inside of an antique shop.

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The Coming of Fall

Fall is coming and all I can think about are my past fall trips. Last year, my trip to Atlanta was the perfect start to fall. It was a big difference from the heat of Florida and enough humidity to make a dog actually sweat. Though Georgia’s winter wasn’t very kind to my ribcage arthritis, it is definitely not a place to forget.

Being a truck driver, I finally got to see what the coming of fall looked like. As I drove through Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennesse and Northern Georgia, I got to see the trees taking on the entire range of fall colors. The reds, oranges, browns, and yellows were amazing. It’s fascinating how nature follows this schedule as they prepare for winter. One could compare it to a peak season in a warehouse. (Yes I worked in a warehouse – Amazon). The entire atmosphere changes as the big event approach.

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While in Atlanta, I got to hike through a mountain that was preparing for fall. The trees were going bare, leaves blanketed the ground like snow and everywhere you looked were fifty shades of brown. I know it may sound like a dead zone, but it was anything but that. It was peace and serenity wrapped in a neat bow. You sit on one of the benches provided for you that overlooked the calm river and your head goes to a different place. You sit at in the center of a changing atmosphere, nature preparing for what’s to come ahead. Everything dying around you and yet more beautiful than you could ever imagine. 

 

It is unclear if Florida will even have a winter this year due to the bipolar weather, but the coming of fall is still much anticipated. Perhaps this year we will actually have a fall AND a winter. We’re never prepared for it like we’re never prepared for hurricanes, but for once, we’d like to experience what so many others around the country experience.

Truck Driver Sunsets

It has been a while since I have posted anything travel related. I’ve been too busy traveling the country delivering loads from one distribution center to another. Being a truck driver isn’t the easiest of jobs, and truth be told, not the most entertaining of them either. I spend nearly fourteen hours a day, just… driving. Interstate to the interstate. All I mostly see are miles of farmlands and occasional significant cities. I have grown tired of it and am ready to move back to what I enjoyed most: traveling.

Before I left for trucking training, I took courses on travel writing. I figured with all the traveling I’d do, I’d have a ton of material to work with. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see all the wonders of America. I blame that on my restricted routes. I only delivered to a set amount of states, so I ended up seeing the same things over and over again. On top of that, dealing with crazy drivers and traffic, you tend to lose interest pretty fast. Anyway, not to complain, one of the beauties I did see were some fantastic sunsets.

 

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Ironto, Virginia (Photo Credit: Nikki Lee)

 

My favorite time of day is daybreak. To me, it gives the promise of something new coming along. It restores the hope I may have lost yesterday and makes me feel that maybe today, something different and exciting is happening. No matter what good or bad day I had the day before, new daybreak always brings that rush.

In this particular case, I have seen more than my fair share of sunsets. You’d think if you saw one, you see them all. Not the case at all. I’ve lived in Florida my entire life. I’ve grown bored of those sunsets. My favorite sunsets have become the ones I’ve seen in Texas, Tennessee, and Virginia. The colors seem different, or are they just the view of the sun setting behind mountains or a massive desert. I don’t know, but they fill me with the same rush as the scene of daybreak coming into my windshield.

Living the trucker life may not have been for me but, those sunsets will definitely be worth more than any momento keychain I buy at a travel center.

 

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Nephi, Utah (Photo Credit: Jazmine Dupont)