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Happy New Year! We spent the first 4 days of 2015 on our babymoon in San Francisco. We set out at around 2:30 am on December 31st — blarg. We made it to California around 2 PM and checked into our hotel — the Radisson at Fisherman’s Wharf around 4 PM. We made a quick stop for a late lunch at IHOP (of all places — it was right next door to our hotel and we both love it!). Next, we wondered around the wharf taking in the street performers and bayside views. Sea lion’s congregate year-round right off of Pier 39, so we spent some time watching them bark and topple over one another in a large heap. We made our way into an arcade that hosts antique machines from the 1800’s up through the 1980’s. Many of the machines had a sign that said– be careful — this machine is older than you’ll ever be! But all of them worked and we played nearly all of them. A lot of the games were fun, some were odd, and others were just a little creepy! Overall, it was interesting to see how arcades evolved over time. We made our way back to the hotel to clean up and get ready for dinner. We met up with our friends Marty and Candice and their little daughter Natalie for supper at Boudin — a restaurant famous for their sourdough bread. The food was delicious and the company was even better. There is nothing better than catching up with old friends while ringing in a new year!
The next morning we slept in a little and set out for some city sightseeing on a San Francisco double decker bus tour. We looped around the downtown area, taking in the architecture and history of buildings including the Cannery, city hall, Coit tower, the ferry building and many others. We stopped for lunch at King’s House of Thai Noodles — wonder of all wonders! Joe is not really known for agreeing to each in such establishments. Back on the bus, we headed into union square — a large shopping district. I found some great deals on maternity dresses — less than $5 each! Next, we wondered through China town, an area that I have always been curious about. There was less food in the area than I expected, but a lot of interesting stores. We made a stop at In n Out Burger for supper — a California fast food chain that was founded in 1949, but never really franchised much outside of the state. It was good — and a good way to replenish after the 7.51 miles we walked that day. FitBit stat #1!
The second day we took a tour shuttle across the Golden Gate Bridge into Muir Woods — home of San Francisco’s redwood forest. The park was chilly and foggy, which gave it a mystical feel. The suns rays were visible between the tress which made for a heavenly aura. We hiked around for 1.5 hours before we had to return to the shuttle. I think we could have stayed a good deal longer if we had the choice. These trails were a small step above the ones we trek in Missouri! The shuttle dropped us off in Sausalito — a small bayside town known for it’s mansions and it’s bike trails. We had lunch at a cafe and wondered along the bayside taking in views of the San Francisco skyline. After a few hours, we took a ferry back across the bay and made the challenging trek up to Lombard street. San Francisco is filled with hills. Many of their sidewalks would make more sense as stairways. The walk up to Lombard street was one that required us (okay, me, the pregnant one!) to take a couple breaks. But we made it — and the view was a good one. It’s a funny site — the crookedest street in the US — constantly filled with traffic that is there for no other reason but to drive down the goofy street. Next, we made our way down to Aquatic Cove beach where we saw some crazy person swimming in a Speedo. The weather in California was cold — high 40’s, low 50’s. You might think — that doesn’t sound cold, but add in some humidity, and yes, it really is. Having lived in Southern Mississippi where January = wet cold and Northern Minnesota where January = dry crazy cold, I consider myself an authority on “feels like” winter weather conditions. Both are bad, and neither are meant for swimming! We had supper at a beachfront restaurant (more sourdough!), before heading to bed. Fitbit stat #2: 8.49 miles walked!
Our last full day in the city, we took a bay cruise to Alcatraz island. I wasn’t entirely sure that I would enjoy Alcatraz. High security prisons don’t really equate with “happy place” or “vacation destination” in my mind. But, on the other hand, I felt like it was one of those things you should do, if you have the chance. I was pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. I wasn’t aware that the Alcatraz history stretched back to the Civil War, where it served as a military fort for the Union. Later, it served as a high security prison that closed in 1964 due to high operating costs and new trends in corrections leaning away from punishment and towards correction and rehabilitation. Finally, in the later 60’s the island was inhabited by Native Americans, protesting their mistreatment by American settlers. The island views were gorgeous from the Bay Bridge, to the Golden Gate, with the San Francisco Skyline in between. We did an audio tour of the cell house, where we learned about prison life as well as the prisoner’s failed escape plans. We also learned about the many guards’ families who inhabited the island. I thought it was interesting that many admitted to never locked their doors. After taking in most of the exhibits on the island, we returned to the boat and ate lunch as we traveled back across the bay. Next, keeping with the “locked up” theme of the day, we went to the International Spy Store for a lock picking lesson. This was a Groupon purchase inspired by something Joe said on our way home from a trip to Mexico a few years ago. We’d locked our keys in the trunk of the Mustang and had to hire a locksmith. Since convertibles don’t have a trunk release, the locksmith had a really hard time getting into the trunk itself. Joe said watching someone attempt to break into his car was kind of an entertaining vacation excursion in itself. Ergo — when I saw the Groupon — I just had to get it as part of Joe’s Christmas present! The spy store itself looks cool on the outside, but it could have been set up better on the inside, in my opinion. We learned how to pick handcuffs, padlocks, and a doors locks. From what I can tell — it takes practice, but it’s not impossible for anyone who has some time. Of course — we will use our powers for good — if you get locked out of your house — give us a call! Next, we took a ride on a cable car! I can’t believe these things still exist — it seems like a major liability for a city to allow random citizens to hang off the side of public transportation running right alongside normal city traffic. But, they are certainly fun — as Joe says — they’re kind of like a wooden roller coaster. After doing a little more shopping (more maternity clothes!) we returned on the cable car, had supper (at IHOP, again — yes!) and went to bed. Our alarm went off at 2 am and we spent the day making our way back to Rolla. I have one funny travel story — but I refuse to publish it on the internet! If you see me — Katie — be sure to ask!
Babymoon is kind of funny word, and from what I can tell, a new concept that probably leaves some people rolling their eyes. Traveling with Joe for the last 9 years has definitely been one of the best parts of my life. Throughout this trip, we had babies on the brain and we kept our eyes peeled for baby travelers. They are out there and soon enough we’ll have one of our very own! We can’t wait!
Hello from Hot Springs! It’s the last long weekend of Summer 2014 and we decided to make the most of it with a little getaway to someplace we’ve never been — Hot Springs, Arkansas!
Hot Springs is a National Park that contains plenty of water, hiking trails, and some hot and steamy natural springs. Throngs of Americans flooded this area in the 1920’s in search of relaxation and the natural elixer found in the city’s many bathhouses. With the rise of antibiotic treatments, the public bathing business has taken a dive, leaving the city of Hot Springs itself with the vibe of a historic era — gone, but not forgotten.
We hit the road on Saturday around 9 am and rolled into town around 3:30 PM. Our first stop was Garvan Woodland Gardens — home of St. Anthony’s Chapel and miles of hiking trails. We spent a few hours winding around the path, checking out the lake along with many streams and waterfalls.
Next, we went to dinner at the Bleu Monkey Grille, a casual restaurant right next door to our hotel. We both ordered fresh pasta and ate more than enough.
After a good night’s sleep at Country Inn and Suites (a hotwire deal) we headed downtown to check out the city. We went on a Duck Tour, which was a good way to get a lay of the land, but I don’t think either of us really shared in the guide’s humor. Regardless, ducks are a fun way to tour most anywhere — we saw the sights in town and enjoyed a tour around Lake Hamilton.
Next, we did a little more hiking along the Grand Promenade — a paved walkway where well-to-do folks used to strut along like peacocks –showing off their fine fashions before or after indulging in the baths. Today, it’s still a nice nature path — filled with a variety of people in hiking gear. We stuck our hands in the HOT water — the streams steam like pots of boiling water. Stand close enough to the spring and you’ll get the same sensation you would get standing in a sauna. Perhaps it’s the power of suggestion, but I felt like my hands were extra soft after dunking them in the springs.
We at lunch at the Copper Penny Pub — an Irish bar with live music and hearty food. After lunch, we headed towards bathhouse row — a line of historic bathhouses, some of which are still in operation today. The first building hosted the National Park visitor center. In here, we both drank a cup of the spring water. The water is tasteless, but it contains large amounts of minerals including calcium and fluoride. Outside the bathouse, we noticed people filling bottles and jugs in the public spring taps. One man in particular, had a dozen 10 gallon jugs. Nice guy — he warned me that the water was hot. Hot? Really? Where are we right now?
Anyway! The next bathhouse we toured had been converted into an art gallery. Local artists mostly focused on the city’s history. The building retained its original layout and materials, so it made for a very fancy antique bathroom feel.
Next, we entered Buckstaff Bathhouse- the only bathhouse that sustained continuous operation since 1912. I decided to give the public bathing scene a try. Joe Jackson opted to wait for me on the porch. Really, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I’ve been to lots of spas in several different states, but this particular place prides itself in maintaing a historic bathing experience. Upon entering the spa, I put all my clothes in a locker and one of the attendants wrapped me up in a sheet toga style and led me to a waiting area to sit down. I felt like I had jumped in a time machine and ended up in a 1950’s hospital. Looking arond, most everything was white and there was no air conditioning. The air was humid and dozen’s of female staff scurried around with towels, guiding other sheet clad women from bathtubs to cooling tables.
The public bathing process has several stages. First, a 20 minute bath in a claw foot tub. After getting into the tub, the bath attendant covers you in a towel and then scrubs you down with a loofah. Pretty sure no one has given me a bath in really really long time — so this was very weird. And not what I expected given my other experiences in all the other spas in all the other states! The bath tubs have a metal motor that looks like it belongs in an antique store. The motor agitates the water and somehow, my towel got tangled up in it and the attendant had to come and help me get it out. Ahem — did I really pay for this bizarre experience? Yes, yes I did. Moving on. After 20 minutes, the bath is over and out you go to the cooling table. My legs were both packed with hot towels and I got an ice towel for my head. Next, you sit in a sitz bath — which is sort of like sitting in a sink. The water is hotter and it is supposed to help with lower back problems. Then, you go into a steam chamber, which is a metal box, filled with steam with a hole for your head to stick out. Finally a needles shower and a massage round out the whole experience. It’s a fun experience in that it’s historic, and relaxing, and other-worldly — people don’t do this anymore, except for the die-hards at Buckstaff who refuse to let their tradition die its potentially deserved death.
Next, we toured Fordyce Bathhouse which is the most ornate bathhouse. This building has been preserved to function as a museum focused on the heyday of bathhouses and public bathing. At the height of the bathhouse craze, Hot Springs gave nearly a million baths a year. Most bathhouses went of of business in the early 80’s. As an aside, all the bathing equipment pictured above is similar to everything I encountered at Buckstaff.
After some snacks, we drove up a mountain to take in some scenic views. We rode up the mountain tower which had 2 observation decks. The top deck offered and open-air view and the lower deck was enclosed with a 360 timeline of the city’s history. For only 6 dollars a person, it was a steal of a deal for over an hour of fun.
We ate supper and Perkin’s and we’re headed home tomorrow morning. Hot Spring has been a good experience — kind of like a little time capsule in the middle of Arkansas!