Friday, September 6, 2019

Three Unique Boat Rides to Take in the US

I grew up in the suburbs, and with the exception of a pontoon boat ride at family reunions every year, I didn't have the opportunity to ride on boats very much. I've remedied that in my adult years and like to go on a boat as much as possible. In fact, we own our own pontoon boat and go boating every summer weekend that we can. Over the Labor Day Weekend, we enjoyed boating in a new area and I was reflecting on some of the unique places I've been boating. So here are three unique boats or places to boat in the US that you can go get out on the water.

1. Whale watching on a RIB boat in San Diego
San Diego is one of the best places to see whales in the United States. I did some research and found Adventure Rib Rides. A rib is a rigid inflatable boat that seats 6 along with the captain and I think it was one of the coolest way to see whales. Our captain had been taking people out to see whales for many years so he knew where to go. We saw one mama and baby whale together - of course, keeping our mandatory distance of 100 yards - and then we saw a pod of about 50 dolphins - which seemed like thousands - jumping the waves. All around us.

 That was definitely one of the coolest things I've ever experienced. Crazy amazing.

If you want to see whales and dolphins with a unique experience, then you might want to forego the usual large boats and try a rib ride. I think you'll be glad you did.

2. Seeing the wilderness of Lake Fontana in North Carolina by boat 
Lake Fontana is the largest lake in western North Carolina and has the tallest dam east of the Rockies measuring in at 480 feet.  It was built by the TVA for power usage in 1942. Surrounded by the Nantahala Forest and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, most of the lake is wilderness. 

We rented a pontoon boat at Alarka Boat Dock on Alarka Creek- which feeds into Lake Fontana - they supplied a map, good directions and the pontoon and we were off. One of the more unique things about Lake Fontana is it's floating cabins. Small dwellings that are moored to land but reached by boat, these floating cabins are tiny houses on the water.

If you really want to get away from it all and enjoy some wilderness with a little water thrown in,  I suggest a visit to Lake Fontana.

3. Camping and wind surfing on Lake McConaughy
A lake with turquoise water, windsurfing and sand beaches in the middle of Nebraska seems more like a mirage than real life. But Lake McConaughy, or Lake Mac, is just that. A reservoir of the North Platte River, Lake Mac even has surfing. 

You can camp on it's beaches (with tractors available to pull your vehicle out of the sand), rent boats and jet skis, fish and windsurf.( No kidding, y'all, that prairie wind here is fierce.) It's a water sports playground.

So if you're in the middle of landlocked Nebraska and you're feeling that need for sand between your toes or the wind beneath your board, then head to Lake Mac for some lake fun.

How about you? Do you like to get on the water? Where is the most unique place you've boated?

Linking up with: My Corner of the World at Photographing New Zealand and Faraway Files at Oregon Girl Around the World!

Friday, August 23, 2019

My Favorite Moments of Road Tripping Ireland

I've wanted to go to Ireland for a long time. I can't really remember when it first became a top choice on my travel wish list. It seems it's always been there, though, with it's greenness, castles, sheep and smiling eyes waiting. I recently had the opportunity to visit for my first time and road trip from Dublin to the south of Ireland, along the west coast and back to Dublin. I, admittedly, didn't do any of the driving - thanks to Mr. UR for all of that - in this introductory road trip to the Emerald Isle.

And here are some of the highlights and favorite parts of my road trip to Ireland - of course, I'll be writing much more over the coming months. 

Seeing a sheepdog herding sheep along the road in Connemara -
We were heading back from Kylemore Abbey when we stopped to take some photos of the glorious landscape of Connemara. A sheep farmer was setting his sheepdog to round up the sheep who were panicking and running all along the road. I wish you could have been there to hear those sheep - they were bleating and yelling for all to hear. "The dog! The dog is coming!" is what they seemed to be saying. Quite the quintessential Irish moment.

Driving The Vee in peak rhodedendron season
Part of the joy of traveling is meeting the people of the country you're visiting. On our first night in Ireland we chanced upon a pub to have a guiness - as one does - and the bartender gave us a whole day's worth of things to do that we hadn't even heard about. So we changed our schedule for the next day and went on to drive, as our new friend suggested,  The Vee.  The Vee, located outside of Lismore, is a pass famous for it's panoramic views. Called one of the best views in the British Isles, the Vee happened to be in peak bloom - rhodedendron heaven. In fact, when we first saw some of them we pulled over to take photos not knowing what incredible views lay just around the corner! I highly recommend a drive on the Vee in early June if you're there.

Driving the Dingle Peninsula
The Dingle Peninsula, in the southwestern part of Ireland, is a very isolated and hauntingly beautiful area of the country. Usually falling second to that other famous drive, the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula is windswept, rocky and stark. And I just loved it. We followed Rick Steve's guidebook when driving the peninsula and went step-by-step with his tips. It took several hours and then we stopped in Dingle town for some dinner and a walk around. If you'd like a feel for a traditional, and isolated, part of Ireland, take a drive around the Dingle Peninsula. 

Visiting the Rock of Cashel
Here in the US, if something is 300 years old it seems ancient. So actually seeing something that was built in the 13th century is just amazing. The Rock of Cashel is known as the site of the beginning of Christianity in Ireland. According to legend, St. Patrick baptized King Aengus here at St. Patrick's rock - which you can see in the museum - after AD 432. I find that to be mind boggling that something that old still exists and I can visit it. A really interesting spot and we had a gorgeous, sunny morning to visit.

Cycling the Aran Islands
We bought a ticket to visit the Aran Island of Inis Oirr by ferry with a return trip by the Cliffs of Moher. Inis Oirr is the smallest of the Aran Islands so we though that bicycling the island would be a good way to see it. (You can also ride a traditional horse and buggy or on a guided tractor and buggy ride) After lunch at an outdoor patio, we rented the bikes and headed out. The Aran Islands are known to be some of the most traditionally Irish areas of the country and still cling to the old ways. So many rock walls... and well, just so many rocks. The weather was fantastic and I so enjoyed seeing the island. Unfortunately, I had a bit of a mishap - which is later to come - but it still was one of my favorite places we visited in Ireland.

Driving the Ring of Kerry and Stopping at Ireland's Only Beach Bar
The Ring of Kerry receives lots of accolades as being some of the most stunning scenery in Ireland. And that is well deserved. It's a must do. It's some of the most beautiful landscape that I've ever seen. We spent an entire day driving it and it was more picturesque around each bend. What I didn't expect was to happen upon Ireland's only beach bar. Of course, one has to stop. O' Carrolls Cove is a family owned beach bar and restaurant on the Ring of Kerry (and Wild Atlantic Way) There is an actual white sandy beach here and some gorgeous turquoise water. It's seriously reminiscent of the Caribbean - well, except for the temps of the air and water. Look at that water, though.

How about you? Have you been to Ireland? If so, what was your favorite part?

Linking up with: My Corner of the World at Photographing New Zealand!

Friday, August 9, 2019

Visiting Nashville: The Grand Ole Opry

On my way to work as a travel agent in my early twenties, I seemed to drive through a black hole of radio stations. My only choices in music were classical, oldies and country. I'd switch between the three but more often than not, I'd land on the country station. I hadn't been a country fan before but now it was becoming my genre of choice. Fast forward several years and I started attending country concerts and then, Fan Fair in Nashville. My mom and I attended this country music festival for several years and it was always a good time. An extremely hot, but fun, time. We met many nice people over the years and enjoyed all that Nashville has to offer. Including a visit to the show that made country music famous, The Grand Ole Opry.  As my mom got older, the heat and the walking got to be too much for her so we stopped attending. But we both still enjoy listening to country music.

Fast forward to now and my mom is 91. Her health is fantastic - especially for someone who is 91 - and she still really enjoys going to live shows. Last week I took her to see the Grand Ole Opry and we took a side detour to see a show on the General Jackson Showboat on the Cumberland River. 

The Grand Ole Opry
Most people don't know that the Grand Ole Opry is an actual radio show and is broadcast weekly through 650 AM WSM on your radio dial. What started as The WSM Barn Dance in 1925 is now Nashville's Number One Attraction, combining the acts of old with today's favorite country artists. People come from all over the world to see and hear the show live - the man who kindly took our photo was visiting with his wife from France. 

The show we saw included: old timer Whisperin Bill Anderson, Christian singer Zach Williams, Bluegrass Band Dailey & Vincent, country singer Cam, the iconic Charlie Daniels Band ( a definite crowd favorite), newcomer Scooter Brown Band and the headliner, Little Big Town. The Opry always presents a good mix of old and new music and never ceases to be entertaining. Even if you're not a country music fan, I think you'll like the Opry!

The General Jackson Showboat
We boarded the General Jackson Showboat for the lunchtime show entitled A Taste of Tennessee which included a buffet lunch, show and cruise down the Cumberland River. Launched in 1985 and named after the first steamboat on the Cumberland, the General Jackson is one of the largest showboats ever built. When you board, you are given your table number and then you can pass through the buffet line. The hour long show, which highlights the music of Tennessee including Elvis Presley songs, rhythm and blues, country and bluegrass, starts shortly after. The boat continues along the river until it reaches the city of Nashville where you can view the skyline of the city. On the return trip, you can purchase a drink and enjoy the serenity of the Cumberland. 

There are several other shows on the General Jackson including dinner and Christmas shows. Prices and times vary  (you can get a great skyline view of the city on the dinner cruise)In all, it's an enjoyable experience - the food was good, the scenery was nice and the show was entertaining. I might suggest going sometime other than the hot, humid Tennessee summertime but other than that it made for an enjoyable afternoon.

How about you? Have you been to the Grand Ole Opry? Or on the General Jackson Showboat?

Linking up with: My Corner of the World at Photographing New Zealand and The Weekend Wanderlust Weekend Travel Blog Party!