New York On A Nickel

IMG_3147Oh my goodness, if we had it our way we would not have gone to New York City, one of the country’s most expensive cities, on a Nickel (not even a dime) but that’s what we had and that was where we were rolling. And, we rolled in with a bang, taking our rig right down into the heart of the city. Not even sure if we were allowed to but we couldn’t help ourselves.

At one point, Craig said, “Jana! Jump out and get a picture of our bus!” Still in my house clothes and shoeless, I squealed and jumped out, allowing the bus to pass just far enough to capture the shot! Then I raced up the Manhattan street, catching up with our bus and hopped on board. I have to say that running down that street, barefoot, through the massive crowds of people, was one of the more exhilarating things I’ve ever done.

IMG_3180After our jaunt through the city we made our way east to Huntington, Long Island where we would neighbor for a week with our friend Kevin. We met Kevin a few months prior in North Carolina and he invited us to come and see his part of the world. We pulled into his cul du sac and found a beautiful refuge of gardens, pool and picnic settings awaiting us. He welcomed us with a wonderful breakfast including one of our favorites, fresh peppermint and ginger tea. We planned out our week and decided that we would take the hour and a half trip into the city four or five times that week. The other days would be spent at the Robert Moses State Park, as well as, relaxing at Kevin’s house, enjoying the pool and catching up on laundry and enjoying an evening making dinner for Kevin and his friends/family, sharing meals, song and story.

IMG_3360Honestly, four days was about all we could handle in the city. We arrived with just enough to purchase our 7 day metro passes at $32 a piece and had a few coins to spare. What that meant was dining out or special activities were limited but rather we explored by foot, subway, train and ferry. We walked and walked, taking in all of the free opportunities available. We walked the Brooklyn Bridge, rode the Staten Island Ferry to catch a glimpse of Lady Liberty, strolled through Battery Park and visited the 911 Memorial. We made a modest donation and wandered around the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We met up with old friends for dinner at their place on the upper east side, we spent time in community with fellow muso’s, Dylan Sneed, Katie Lee and Craig Greenberg and performed our music in Greenwich Village at Caffe’ Vivaldi. We snuck into the Iridium (Les Pauls famous club) to see our Bus Rider, Chris, perform with his band, The Frotations. We met a friend for breakfast and then went to the Robert Moses State Park on Long Island, the most populated beach we have ever been to. We took a hike down to the lighthouse where we ran across a few nudist fishing on the beach. And, that was something.

IMG_3359And then, we met Amanda and Christian Neill, owners of Roots Cafe in Brooklyn and were inspired by their epic story of coming to NYC from Nashville with extreme debt. They found jobs but it was seeking a deeper purpose there that led to miracles and finally becoming debt free. But that wasn’t even the coolest part of their story, the part that was mind-blowing was how they eventually found themselves as the owners of Roots Cafe, this awesome little coffee shop that we met them in. Their’s was an intricately woven story involving faith and community and that story continues to set a tone of openness at Roots Cafe as Amanda and Christian, seek to share the space with musicians, artists, and vendors living and working in Brooklyn. And share they did, as we partnered alongside them on a Tuesday night after hours, sharing sacred space, story and encouragement.

Our time in New York City pulled all sorts of emotions out of us, from being overwhelmed and frustrated to pure joy, self-pity to total contentment. That city took us for a ride and we went along with it, and for better or for worse, we’d do it all over again.

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How We Got Stuck In Wilmington

Wilmington, NC was voted the best river city in the US for 2015, and we’d have to concur. Population 112,000, this little river town has all the admeities of a city three times it’s size, including Trader Joes and Whole Foods. But, best of all it still has all of the mom and pop speciality joints, including some of the best BBQ on the Atlantic, surf shops, Brits Donut shop, the Veggie Store, funky/artsy downtown shops reminiscent of Austin’s Congress Street, awesome Thrift and Consignment Stores, and pretty great Sushi. It’s music, food, history, river ways, and beaches offered us a wonderful back drop for blue grass jams, roadschool days, parties, lazy days on the beach and a sailboat ride.

Originally we had planned one week in this region connecting with fellow travelers, The Shanks (Herd of Turtles). During that week they showed us around their former hometown, including a double date where we shared Niki’s Sushi and went to a R&B concert at a little speak easy. Later, while the fella’s talked bus conversions, us girls shopped at some of Wilmington’s fun consignment stores, we also spent an evening dining and playing music at Dukes BBQ. Along the way, they introduced us to many of their hometown friends, which lead to conversations about parking in peoples driveways, which lead to us staying longer after the Shanks had gone.

 

IMG_1718Our first host family, April and Buck Hubbard, welcomed us to jump into life with them, learning about their work in Children’s Ministry and Film making, as well as, their love for Settlers of Catan. Their location in the city was a great fit as we were able to explore more of downtown Wilmington, as well as, catch up on much needed laundry and grocery shopping. We love it when hosts are comfortable just living life with us offering suggestions for things to do but mostly just allowing us to participate in their every day rhythm. We shared meals, watched movies, visited their friends, had a birthday party, did lawn work and Craig and Banjo were also able to get their hands dirty by helping the Hubbards finishing off their deck project for April’s birthday celebration.

IMG_1847One Sunday evening they invited us to go to Satellite Bar for a open Bluegrass Jam which turned out to be a fantastic night of community and song. The house band, Possum Creek Bluegrass Band, welcomed us like old friends. Their Band members are Jones Smith, Big Al Hall, Ben Chontos, with special guest Charlie Coulter on Violin and Bryan Humphrey on the squeeze box.  They played all the classics, and they played them well, setting a tone of support and control, so that even a beginner could sit in with them. They were gracious to us all and especially excited to have our son sit in on cajon, and the Hubbard’s 11 yr old daughter, who plays fiddle, join in the fun. They even offered us a cameo spot to share a few of our Hollands! songs, while they sat in with us. By the end of the night, we were all good friends and Bryan’s wife, Mari invited us to their home in Wrightsville Beach for a delicious meal and another bluegrass jam.

 

IMG_1732Pristine Wrightsville Beach boasts emerald green waters, and is home to a few surf/kite surfing clubs,and the inter-coastal water ways offer awesome protection for sailing and paddle boarding. Over the next week and a half, we ended up joining Mari and Bryan for more jams, beach days and even a first season sail on their sailboat. We learned about Mari’s 3 year nomadic adventure, leaving for England with a backpack and coming back from India with nothing but a little shoulder bag. She would partner with others along the way, as well as solo, traveling the world in little VW vans, having a daughter in the Netherlands and crossing the Sahara dessert in a Peugeot 505 Sedan twice. And, Bryan inspired us with his amazing furniture architecture, sailing expertise and of course teaching us about some of the North Carolina folk music culture.

IMG_2108Our second host family, the Meehan’s, invited us to come, park in their cul de sac and enjoy their Carolina Beach for a few days. Carolina Beach sits about 20 miles south of downtown Wilmington and has a laid back, festive, welcoming vibe with brightly colored beach shacks, little shops, including the infamous Brits Donuts and bars that run along the new board walk. There are benches and swings that over look the beach and a band shell, which is sure to be packed in the summer.  Our time at the Meehan’s was restful and spiritually engaging. We shared meals, hiked and worked out the deeper meanings of community and faith.

IMG_1898We also enjoyed exploring some of the historical elements and took a cloudy day trip south to Fort Fisher, later riding the ferry to Southport for lunch. While there we walked the grounds and visited the free museum, learning about the strategic placement of Fort Fisher in the Civil War and the Blockade runners (war paddle steamers that would haul supplies in from the islands off of the Atlantic to the Wilmington port.) The battle to take the fort was epic and it was said that 90 days after the fort fell, the Civil War ended. After we finished at the Fort we took the ferry to Southport. It was $5 for our carload and took about 40 minutes to cross. Once we were in Southport we made our way down to the Yacht Basin Provision Company for their shrimp and wings. The food was basic but held delicious flavors. The fella’s devoured their portion while Graciana and I shared a bowl of the homemade chowder and a crab cake. The little town was reminiscent of Baileys Harbor, WI with cute little shops and portside docks. Between the Fort, ferry ride, and lunch at YBPC, the day that started out rainy turned sunny and we finished off the evening with one last sit on Carolina Beach.

When we pulled out of Wilmington we all felt that a little piece of our heart stayed behind. Inspired not only by all that Wilmington has to offer, but by the amazing people we met along the way, the stories we heard, and the commitment to keep the culture of Wilmington full of hope, creativity and love.

Beach Babies

Some folks find solace in the woods, some shopping on fifth avenue. Most of us Hollands! find refuge at the beach. So, spending a month winding up and down the coast of Florida was nothing short of pure bliss. We started in the Panhandle at Pensacola Beach, making our way south to Naples, ducking down to the Keys all the way to the Southern Most tip of the United States, then back up the Atlantic side through South Beach, Melbourne and finally St. Augustine. IMG_0897Each Florida beach is as different as the grains of sand, each showcasing their own unique beauty. Our favorite beach along the panhandle was Pensacola Beach and if it had been warm enough we probably would have been there everyday. Unfortunately, it was in the 60’s and being north on the gulf meant the water was not much warmer. However, we couldn’t resist throwing on a sweatshirt and sitting seaside, enjoying the emerald-green water, and fine pearly white sand. And, the bonus of Pensacola Beach is that you have access to the shallow calm waters of the Bay and just an eighth of a mile on the other side of the island was the rolling waves of the Gulf. So depending on your mood you could go from one side to the other in a single day.

IMG_1220Our favorite beach in Naples was Clam Pass. It’s $8 to park but they had little gulf cart trolly’s that took us to and fro, starting in the parking lot and ending at the cafe/beach. They had lawn chairs/umbrella’s for rent but we preferred to just take our own supplies and walk down the beach setting up right at the mouth of the pass. The cool thing about this beach is that if its low tide you can hunt for hermit crabs and clams and during high tide the surf is perfect for body boarding. Plus the water is actually warm. On a side note, we’re sand snobs, and prefer the soft powder. Clam Pass with its slightly grainy sand mixed with shells, just makes the cut. IMG_1138Having never been to the Keys and only seeing photos, we weren’t sure what to expect regarding the beaches but we did know that the water was a crystal clear mix of emeralds and blues, so that alone drew us down. However, once we arrived we realized that our ideal of a sandy beach wasn’t going to be met. Rather, we would find delight sitting by the water on a grassy patch to catch a sunset at our campground on Ohio Key or swimming directly off the dock. The waters were calm, and warm which offered the perfect scenario to bring out the blow up raft and lounge in the water all day long. We still longed for a proper beach day and found that Bahia Honda State Park appeased our desire enough by offering a little strip of sand/shell mixture to plop our beach chairs and umbrella on. Most of our time there was spent floating in the knee-deep water. On the actual island of Key West, we parked down near the docks and walked the mile across the island to Higgs Beach to take a quick dip in the ocean and cool off. It’s a small city beach with a long jetty for people to walk out on. The sand was simi soft and the water pretty clear consider how many people were swimming. We were delight by the large demographic of beach goes and specially made note of the unique swimwear at the beaches in Key West.

IMG_1197South Beach, Miami rocked! The water was warm, waves were light and fluffy, and the sand was soft yet grainy with yellow hues.  It’s a city beach and has all of the fixings  of a scene straight out of CSI Miami minus the murder. There were umbrellas, cabana’s, restaurants, and bars all up and down the coast line. With the hustle and bustle of city life all around us, this beach was very reminiscent of Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia. We only got to spend a short morning visiting to this beach and would definitely make it more of a priority next time around. IMG_1256If you’re looking for the surf, Melbourne is the place to be in Florida. Satellite Beach to be exact. Our son loves to surf and had he more time and known someone with a board, he would have loved for us to hang here a bit longer than we allowed. The sand was grainy and the water was cold but the waves were epic. It wouldn’t be where we would want to spend a whole day camped out watching little ones build sand castles but for the purpose of getting in and riding some waves, this beach fits the bill. The only draw back for us was that besides the beach itself, kinfolk in the area and a little burrito stand called Da Kine Diego’s Insane Burritos, Satellite Beach seemed to be lacking in cultural draw. There was just one long double lane road that ran the length of the peninsula and had strip malls or condo’s on either side. We’d go back but probably only to hang with our kinfolk who happen to live there in the winter months. IMG_1362St. Augustine as a destination was probably our favorite. Everything about the area, the history, quant little town, and the beach was fantastic. Unfortunately, we only had one night in St. Augustine. We camped at North Beach Camp Resort, a privately owned RV Park. The sites were a bit above our price range but we were thankful for the opening specially since it was Easter Weekend. The resort was like something out of a Fantasy Island episode, with beautiful live oaks enclosing each site, a pool, shuffle board, restaurant beach side as well as a restaurant river side. The beach was similar to Melbourne in that it was cold and the sand was grainy, however the waves had a gentle crash to shore and was perfect for sea shell hunting. Ideally, we’d hit this one again. Maybe they’d be up for a barter. We’ll do a concert in the park for a week of camping. Wouldn’t that be something! If we could, we’d probably go back to most of them but if we had to pick only one we’d probably pick Pensacola Beach or really anywhere along the panhandle. We’d probably wait until late April or May to visit this area just to give the water a bit more time to warm up. Have you been to Florida? What were your favorites?