Birdsong: Paradise in South Georgia 

Studly and I had friends visiting this past weekend from Indianapolis. Gary and Lee Ann are two of my favorite people, and their annual visit to Doright Manor is a highlight of my year. 

Lee Ann enjoys exploring nature, so while our golf crazed husbands headed to the links on Saturday morning, she and I drove into Georgia to visit the Birdsong Nature Center just south of Thomasville. 

From their website: 

Birdsong Nature Center’s 565 acres of wildflower meadows, forests, ponds and swamps, are home to a myriad of birds and other wildlife. Here you can enjoy the serenity and beauty of the natural landscape and return home with a renewed spirit.

The preserve features several distinct natural habitats including grasslands, swamps, and lakes. 

Lee Ann posing in the tall grass. It almost looked like a wheat field.
Who wouldn’t love a place with this name?
Inside the Listening Place we were surrounded by the sounds of the swamp. Apparently none of the resident alligators were feeling vocal during our visit.
The swamp is a surreal setting. Scary and fascinating.

Lee Ann and I walked nearly four miles and climbed the equivalent of eleven flights of stairs during our trek through Birdsong. The day started out cool, but by the time we finished I was sweating like a nervous groom at a shotgun wedding. 

Our journey ended at the preserve’s main attraction, the Bird Window, a beautiful viewing area tucked away inside an old house on the property. The Bird Window is just that–a huge window overlooking a scenic spot landscaped with the goal of attracting our feathered friends. 

This area features fresh water supplied by a misting device and a small pool. There are bird feeders in key spots as well as loose seeds spread on tree stumps. Carefully placed rocks and logs provide perfect perches for the avian visitors.

I became so enraptured by the show of bluejays, chickadees, cardinals, woodpeckers, and titmouses (titmice?) that I totally forgot to snap any pictures! Still kicking myself, but the experience was breathtaking. Next time I’ll see if the camera works well through the glass. The birds come right up to the window as if to say, “Wow! What a great way to view humans!”

Come visit Birdsong Nature Center before the migratory birds return to their northern homes in late April. You don’t have to be a diehard birdwatcher to enjoy the experience. 

Here’s the link to their website:

http://www.birdsongnaturecenter.org

Peace and feathers, people. 

Over a Few Rivers, Out of the Woods

“Off again,
On again,
Gone again,
Flanagan.”

Thus began our journey northwest from Tallahassee to meet our children and grandchildren for a family Christmas in Nashville, TN. With my mother-in-law, Saint Helen, along for the ride, Studly Doright and I set out on our eight hour trip on Thursday morning. We were in no great hurry, since the house we are renting wouldn’t be available until Friday afternoon.

Saint Helen and I took turns riding shotgun next to Studly in the front seat. I enjoyed my turn riding in the backseat, taking note of texting drivers and giving them dirty looks. Saint Helen is too nice for that task, though, but she and Studly enjoy visiting.

Just north of Montgomery, Alabama, we stopped at a Bass Pro Shop to stretch our legs and use the restroom facilities. If you’ve never visited a Bass Pro Shop, you’re missing out on a grand experience.


The stores are humongous. 


And chock full of everything an outdoorsman or woman could possibly need:


Boats and guns share space with crossbows and fishing gear, shoes and clothing. Most disturbing are the dead animals displayed in abundance:


This guy posed with me:



There is a shooting gallery with fake guns:


Rows and rows of the real thing:


An archery section:


An aquarium with live animals instead of those stuffed ones that were displayed hither and yon:


A general store and a fudge shop with real fudge for sale. No fake fudge here!

We spent an hour or so wandering around Bass Pro Shop before climbing back into the car. No stuffed animals were injured in the writing of this post. 

Studly’s Big Birthday Adventure, Part 3: The Leftover Photos

I snapped many photos while Studly Doright and I toured the USS ALABAMA and the USS DRUM in Mobile, Alabama, this past weekend. Here are the ones taken while we snaked our way through the DRUM, a World War II era submarine on display at Battleship Memorial Park. 

Studly and I had to go through some drastic physical manipulations to get through all of the sub’s narrow hatches.
Run silent; run deep
Beautiful brass fittings gave the sub an artsy feel.
Doors (aka hatches) approximately 2 feet x 4 feet.
No privacy for the sailors!
Captain’s wheel
The officers’ shower room.
Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!

I can’t imagine being stuck on this vessel for months on end. Claustrophobia would’ve been the death of me.

Peace, people!

Studly’s Big Birthday Adventure, Part 2

On our way home from New Orleans where we purchased parts for a motorcycle Studly Doright is building (see Tuesday’s post) we stopped to tour the USS ALABAMA, a decommissioned battleship that saw duty from August of 1942 until 1947. Since January of 1965, the ship has been the centerpiece at the USS ALABAMA Battleship Memorial Park east of Mobile.

I highly recommend a visit to the park where, in addition to touring the battleship one can also tour the submarine USS DRUM, and an aircraft exhibit. 

Below are just a few of the photos we took during our tour:

Does this propeller make my butt look big?
View of the ship from the gangplank.
Part of the deck was made wooden planks.


GUNS AND MORE GUNS!
Compass
The ship’s chapel in the photos above and below.
Medical isolation room–gave me the creeps!

Talk about a fearsome sight!

The ALABAMA earned nine battle stars, and shot down 22 enemy planes during World War II. She’s a beautifully fearsome ship. 

More than ever, peace, people!

Studly’s Big Birthday Adventure, Part 1

Saturday was Studly Doright’s 59th birthday. Having feasted to the overflow mark on Thanksgiving he wanted no special birthday foods and said he’d play a round of golf to celebrate the big day. I sang “Happy Birthday” as he headed to the golf course while he grinned. I have that effect on people.

When he arrived home after golf, though, he told me to pack an overnight bag. He’d bought some motorcycle parts online and we needed to pick them up. In Metairie, Louisiana, outside of New Orleans! I didn’t quibble and ten minutes later we were on the road. 

New Orleans is a five and a half hour drive from Doright Manor, and we made it to the seller’s home around 5:30 p.m. Studly was delighted with his bargain, so while he and the seller stood swapping motorcycle tales (a.k.a. “kicking tires and telling lies”) I booked us a hotel room in Metairie. 

After a nice light dinner at PF Chang’s we checked into our hotel and cheered on the Florida State Seminoles from the comfort of our bed. 

A birthday toast at PF Chang’s.

Knowing the New Orleans Saints were playing at home at noon on Sunday we planned to get up early and be well away from the area before game time. Studly had me find us a breakfast spot using Siri, and with only one little mixup we were soon seated at a table at Willa Jean, a top brunch spot in the central business district in downtown New Orleans.

I had beignets on my mind, but unfortunately they weren’t on the menu. But, oh my goodness! What a menu! Studly, who is a breakfast traditionalist, had biscuits and sausage gravy and proclaimed his meal to be perfect. I enjoyed grilled cornbread with a syrupy butter and a side of bacon. We both believe it was the best restaurant meal we’ve had in years. Check out their website: http://www.willajean.com


After we left Willa Jean, finding the interstate was a cinch. I snapped this photo of Louis Armstrong just standing on a corner:


Ok, so Satchmo was only there in statue form, but the city was waking up around him in preparation for the game.


Once on the interstate I took a few random shots. Whatever did I do before I had an iPhone?


I’ll finish up my piece tomorrow with photos of our visit to the USS Alabama. For a low-key birthday, we had a pretty grand time. Thanks for reading! 

Peace, people!

Note to Shop Owners

Dear Shop Owners,

On Saturday, November 12, as I wandered in and out of shops in Juliette, Georgia, I noticed confederate flags and merchandise featuring the flags available for purchase in several establishments. In a couple of shops I had amassed an armful of souvenirs, as reminders of the little town where Ruth and Idgy were brought to life in Fannie Flagg’s novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

As soon as I noticed the flags, symbols of the ugly racist history of our country, I returned the items to their proper places and left. I didn’t raise a fuss, but neither did I spend any money in these shops. 

As protests go, it was a small one, but important to me. Maybe I didn’t get to come home with a Towanda t-shirt, but the spirit of Towanda was with me.

Sincerely,

Leslie Noyes

Fight racism however you can everywhere you go. It’s as important now as it ever has been.

Peace, people

To My Brothers

we shared
rooms and bikes,
christmases and
vacations,
love, fear, and
exultations.

do you remember
planning a nativity
skit?
The only girl,
I was always Mary
while you two were
shepherds or kings,
never baby Jesus.

while we never
actually performed
the play
we could have,
maybe.

how about the time
in New Mexico
when Daddy stopped
the car in the smack dab
middle of the road
to get close to a
black bear?

did we all scream
or was it just
me when he got out
of the sedan to talk
to said bear?

remember cousins?
going on road trips
to California and
back?
baby brother damned
near drowned at San Juan
Capistrano.

Mama worried
that she and I would
need head scarves to
tour the
mission there.

where are we now?
far, yet close.
set free by parents
who knew we had to
be strong.
I miss them.
I miss you both,
little brothers.

Adventures in Jet Skiing

Folks, I have no photographic proof, but trust me, I was not meant to ride a jet ski, and perhaps after reading today’s post you’ll be inclined to agree with me.

Friday morning Studly Doright and I checked in at H2O Jet Ski Rentals in Clearwater Beach at 10 a.m. for our scheduled 120 minute tour. After filling out the required paperwork I was raring to go.

Had I been a smarter woman I would’ve elected to ride on the back of Studly’s machine, but noooo, I had to have my own mount. After all, I know how to ride a motorcycle, how different could this be? Heh.

After a brief instruction period in which we were told that we’d ultimately be cruising at a speed of 25 to 35 m.p.h., our group left the dock single file in this order: a guide, a couple riding double, me, Studly, another couple riding double, a single male rider, and a second guide. We were told to refrain from using any throttle as we made our way out of the marina area. The jet skis’ idle speed is a pleasantly boring 2 to 3 m.p.h. 

Not to brag or anything, but I was the queen of idling. Puttering through the slow zone I waved in parade royalty fashion to folks on passing boats and along the marina, smiling in my sublime ignorance of the rigors ahead. 

Once past the “go slow” area, the lead guide gave us the speed up signal and off we went. Or I should say off they went. I held down on the throttle and instantly went perpendicular to the rest of the group, narrowly missing being broadsided by Studly as I caromed off into the intercoastal like a wayward cue ball. 

I let off the throttle and remembered the guide’s warning that no throttle meant no control. I now had no control of my ski. So, I pulled back on the throttle control,  turned the handlebars and whipped off in another random direction while watching my group slalom off into the distance. 

Fortunately the rear guide was close at hand to get me back on course, and soon I was following him like a pro. Then I made the mistake of looking down at my speedometer. Fifty-one m.p.h., it read. Holy crap that was fast. My brain pictured in gory detail what my body would look like after hitting the water going that speed.

I slowed down a bit and tried to relax, and soon we’d caught up to the rest of the group. Deftly I fell into position at the rear of the procession and followed fairly well for a time. But this was a very fast group, and soon they ran off and left me again. Hadn’t the guide told us we’d try to maintain a speed of 30 m.p.h.? So why was I flying along at 45?

Somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico the lead guide pulled us into a loose circle. Of course my jet ski ended up facing out instead of in, so I had to throw a leg over the seat in order to see what was going on. Here we were given the opportunity to free ride or cool off in the water. I chose to catch my breath for a couple of seconds. 

Our guides both told me not to worry about lagging. One said this was the fastest group he’d taken out in ages, and that most days I’d be right in the midst of things. That made me feel slightly better, so I decided to take a dip in the Gulf. It was lovely. I swam with a couple of riders for a bit as the guides watched over us. 

Then it was time to mount up again. If only that had been as easy to do as it was to type. Here’s a jet ski:

  
At the rear there’s a small deck area to pull up on and the seat features a handle. That’s all well and good if one has the strength to hoist oneself up on the deck and grab the handle. Unfortunately I have all of the upper body strength of a piece of soggy buttered toast. 

I managed to get half of my left boob on the aft deck and both hands on the handle, but reached a stalemate at that point. To my ever lasting mortification one of the guides had to jump into the water and push my fat ass up onto the jet ski. And even then it wasn’t a done deal! With his help I had to scootch and inch along until I safely made contact with the seat. 

Now, do you have any idea how hot a jet ski seat becomes when left uncovered under the tropical Florida summer sun for any length of time? I’m just guessing here, but I reckon it was between 3,000 and 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Only the very recent and vivid memory of having been bodily shoved onto the machine by a young man who weighed considerably less than I prevented me from jumping back into the water to cool off my scorched thighs which were now as bright red as my embarrassed face. I’d suffer the fiery pits of hell before submitting to that again.

We started up our mounts and went barreling over the smooth gulf water with the admonition to avoid heading to Cuba which started my brain wondering if it could be done. I was pleased to note that I was keeping up quite nicely when I realized I was gaining too rapidly on the riders in front of me, and that they were idling in a loose circle. Oops, I let off the throttle and tried to gracefully rotate into a proper position, only to find myself once again facing outward. Shoot. 

But I was soon overcome with joy as I realized why we’d stopped. A pod of dolphins was frolicking in the area. They swam all around us, one surfaced several times right next to my jet ski. Another dove under Studly’s machine, and I felt tears roll down my face. Surely I was meant to be right there at that moment in time. 

We watched the dolphins for many wonderful minutes. Honestly I could’ve stayed all day, but our guide indicated it was time to head back into the intercoastal. I rode in the guide’s wake for awhile, but he and the faster riders in our group soon pulled away from me, and I again found myself lagging behind. 

Studly and the rear guide stayed behind with me and I encountered some bone jarring waves generated by the Little Toot sight seeing boat as we headed to dock. I caught some serious air. In my mind I looked like this:

  

In reality much more like this:

  
But trust me, when I hit the wake from that tour boat I flew straight up and came abruptly straight down feeling my spine compress like a cheap spring on a tin wind up toy when the jet ski bottomed out. 

My arms felt like two pieces of spaghetti at this point, and I struggled to hold onto the handlebars. Somehow I maintained my grip and caught up with the other riders as they slowed down to enter the marina.

Again we idled in single file, and I tried valiantly to perform my queenly wave. Unfortunately my spaghetti arms could barely approximate such a grand gesture, and I ended up bobbing my head at passerby. In retrospect this move probably appeared slightly demented as I recall the odd looks I got from those we met. 

“What’s wrong with that lady, Mommy?”

“Shh, sweetie, it’s rude to stare.”

“But, Mommy….”

“Come along, sweetie.”

Finally I left my trusty jet ski in the care of the good folks at H2O only to discover that my legs no longer worked. Lurching hither and yon, I followed Studly to our car. One of the couples from our group caught up to us before we got in, and the woman told me how one of the dolphins had played in the wake of my jet ski for quite a while. That made me forget all of my exhaustion and I left smiling like a million dollar lottery winner.

What an experience! Three days after I’m still nursing sore muscles, but I’ll never forget being in the midst of dolphins, literally close enough to touch. Thanks to H2O for taking great care of us, and for the boost back onto my jet ski. I’d be pretty wrinkled by now if not for the help.

Peace, people!

In the Middle of the Night

I caught Studly Doright’s cold on our last day of vacation. We arrived safely home to Doright Manor around 3:30 p.m. I took a dose of my favorite nighttime cold medicine and went straight to bed. Yay Tylenol! I slept twelve hours straight through.

Studly wisely slept in one of the guest rooms. I can hear his muffled snores echoing through the hall. From a distance they provide a soothing backdrop. The key word there is “distance.”

I took a second dose of medicine, and hope to drift away soon. I still have some good vacation stories to write and will do so when I’m feeling better. In the meantime here are some random vacation photos. 

   
    
    
    
    
   
Peace, people.