The Final Stretch: Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia

So we were back from our cruise and it was a straight shot up the coast to Savannah, GA. We had a 7 hour drive from Miami and we were only staying one night in Georgia. As we got into Georgia we had stopped to fuel up and noticed a gas station that had some magnets. As soon as we crossed the state border, we immediately noticed the drastic change in weather. It was several degrees cooler in GA compared to Florida, so we had to change our clothing to adjust to the quick change when we stopped. We picked up the Georgia magnet that we needed and low and behold there was a Tennessee magnet, Tennessee was the only state where we wee unable to find a magnet while we were there. After getting our magnet we were back on the road and not stopping until Savannah.

We arrived in Savannah around 4pm. We checked into the Mulberry Inn. It was a decent little hotel with clean rooms but a breakfast, which we found out later, that was lacking a bit. We dropped off our luggage into the room and knew that we had a few things to do tonight so we could head to the Carolinas the next day. Next on our list was to to find a cache. Luckily right near the hotel was a cache that ended up being fairly easy to find. We placed our frisbee and were on our way to dinner.

The hotel that we were staying in was on the north side of Savannah. Christina wanted to head into the downtown area to get some dinner. She actually found a Paula Dean restaurant that we thought would be somewhere good to try. We got into the downtown area and there was something big going on. There must have been a festival or something that day. Many of the streets were blocked off, there were police all over the place, and all of the parking lots were already full. After looking for somewhere to park for 45 minutes I decided to call it quits. There was a restaurant right next to the hotel that we were staying at that I had originally wanted to go to so we ended up heading back there. After another half hour drive back towards the hotel we arrived at the Sweet Tea Grille restaurant. The food there was pretty good and I think our favorite was the loaded chip appetizer. After dinner we decided to call it a night as we had to get up early and head north.

We woke up and packed up our luggage and car and headed to breakfast. We like to try and find hotels where they offer free breakfast but this one was just a bit of a disappointment. Everything seemed a little old and like it had been out for a while. We quickly ate a little bit of breakfast and decided to head out of there as our final destination for today was all the way up in Richmond, VA.

We started to head to Virginia and knew we needed to make a few stops along the way. We needed to visit North and South Carolina. North Carolina was pretty easy. We stopped at South of the Border. We were easily able to find a cache right there and or course they had a magnet. Luckily since this is on the border of North and South Carolina they also had a North Carolina magnet so we were able to pick up both of them. We also to decided to grab some lunch while we were there and make our way to North Carolina.

North Carolina was a little more difficult because we needed to find a cache and we didn’t have a specific location to go to. We pulled off the highway¬†and I found a cache that seemed to be pretty close by. It was actually at a dentist office and it was about 2:30pm(two thirty) I thought it was pretty fitting.(Lets see who gets the joke). We searched of the cache for a while and finally just before we were about to leave I prevailed and found it attached to a tree in the woods. Victory! Only one state left.

We continued our drive to Virginia, our last state in the continental U.S. We arrived fairly late in Fredricksburg, VA and decided to get dinner and call it an early night. We headed to an Italian restaurant right next to the hotel, Vita Felice. The food was pretty good and we were really happy with our meals. The restaurant was showing some signs of age but we were able to over look that when our entrees came. We headed back to the hotel after dinner and rested up for our final drive.

We woke up early had breakfast at our hotel and had a couple of errands to run. First and most importantly was to find a Virginia country ham for Christina’s dad. We headed to the Made in Virginia Store that was near by. We knew they carried Edward’s hams and that is exactly what we were looking for. Edward’s are know for their salty country hams and are always raked amongst the top tasting in the country. We found a ham that fit what we were looking for and also grabbed our VA magnet. We only had one more thing to do. We searched nearby for a cache and found one just around the corner. It was a pretty easy find so we placed our frisbee and headed to New York.

After 7 more hours of driving we arrived in New York, completing our trip around the continental U.S.(plus Alaska). All that we have left is Hawaii and boy are we excited to go there.

T-minus 5 days until our wedding. Now we must switch from fun mode back to get things done mode.

Slight Detour

Along our journey across all 50 states, Michael and I constantly checked various travel websites for deals on lodging, transportation, and more. We came across a deal that we just couldn’t pass when we were traveling. It was a vacation from our vacation, yes! We had been driving, driving, and driving some more. We opted for an exotic¬†Western Caribbean cruise, where the captain and ship’s staff and crew did most of the work for a week’s time. And boy was it worth it. We just got back stateside yesterday morning, left the ship at 8am with our luggage in tow and our tans to show off.

The following post is quite long, so feel free to simply scroll through the photos or take your time and experience¬†the different countries we experienced along the way…

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Carnival was our cruise line of choice this time around! Since we selected Holland America for our Alaskan cruise, we thought, “hey, why not try a different type for our ‘fun’ beachy getaway!” It was also definitely on the lower end of the spectrum in terms of pricing, so it didn’t make us feel like we had empty pockets. Michael discovered the cruise for $192 per person, plus taxes, fees, and parking: which eventually added up to total $1,000 for the week.

We departed from the Port of Miami, the busiest cruise terminal in the States. Our destinations included: Cozumel, Mexico; Belize City, Belize; Roatan, Hondoras; and Cayman Islands, Grand Cayman. We checked out of our Miami Lakes Holiday Inn hotel and took the half hour drive south to the Port of Miami on Saturday, November 8th. Our boarding time was 1:30pm, but we wanted to get an early start, so we got there before noon and were able to get on the ship by 1pm. Check-in was such a breeze compared to when we were in Vancouver. They even squeezed in a questionnaire about Ebola, since there was a concern for this disease at this time. This surely did not deter vacationers from cruising to the Caribbean as it sailed at full capacity!

The set-up of this ship, the Carnival Glory, was quite similar to Holland America’s Ms. Zuiderdam. Our interior cabin was on the “Odd” side on Deck 7. Our emergency drill followed that afternoon at 3pm, and the way this particular drill was organized was really ineffective. We could definitely tell this was going to be a different experience.

Holland America really put a strong emphasis on using hand sanitizer before, during and after meals, but Carnival did not place a high value on this process. Michael and I could both see why some of these other cruise lines have such high rates of contamination and spread of stomach viruses. However, nothing of that nature happened on this cruise, our version of course.

We took full advantage of attending the first art auction on board which included free champagne and an artwork. Michael really likes to get involved in these auctions because he is really quick with putting the bid card up to win us some neat prizes. At the end, we got a picture of the cruise ship, 7-8 free artworks, and a bag of chocolate. Last time, we won a bunch of other art pieces and a bottle of champagne…man, is he quick! We both went into this art auction knowing that we would not invest in anymore pieces of artwork until we get settled down into a house where we will have room to put them up:) Yes, we did it! We did not give into purchasing anymore, willpower!

Before we went on the cruise, we perused through some shore excursions, and one really caught our eye: it was none other than the Amazing Cozumel Race! We were so excited to do something like this because we had been traveling across the states and really wanted to be challenged with the task of solving riddles, clues, and getting from point A to point B by interacting with locals and finding our way around the city. It turned out to be a beautiful, sunny and hot day in Cozumel, Mexico, and our Amazing Race excursion started at 11:30am on Monday, November 10th.

We met our guides who were really enthusiastic. They gave us a map, a sharpie, a Mayan number key, and a cell phone in case we needed help or if we happened to get lost. This race started with us all getting in taxis to get to the downtown area where we started at the Plaza Punta Langosta (Lobster Mall). We were split into teams, and there were a total of 10 teams consisting of 2 to 11 people. I was with Michael on a team, and we were Team #13, The Falcons!

It kicked off with a puzzle, which led us to a number on our map. Pretty much we ran from one location to another, and at one point, we were clocked in (when they stopped the time) to get ready for a snorkel excursion into the water to find a clue on a sunken ship. Of course Michael volunteered to be the snorkeler! And he shouted out the clues for a total of four teams. After that we were off to several other locations.

It was really neat to see the downtown area and interact with everyone. I really enjoyed myself because I got to practice my Spanish! I was really happy to see that all that high school Spanish paid off because I knew things that I never thought I did.

How’d we do? We took first place, along with two other couples. It was the first time in their history that three teams won 1st place. We were awarded with metals and a balloons at the Hatched Roof Restaurant. Woot Woot!

Our next stop along the way was Belize! I was really excited to check out this country because both Michael and I have never stepped foot on it before this. We booked another shore excursion where we took an hour an half van ride out of the city to the jungle, where we selected to go tubing on a freshwater river. In Belize we had to tender ashore because the country has such lovely coral reefs that they do not want to damage nature with large cruise ships docking ashore. So they send out smaller boats ashore to and from the ship. It took about fifteen minutes to get to the docks from the ship.

This excursion was a lot more relaxing than running 4 miles around the city in Cozumel. However, we both felt they really put a lot of emphasis on our safety than anything else. The rapids were not very fast at all, and we were decked out with helmets and thick life vests!

We looked quite adventurous! However the river was not very exhilarating. The best part of the excursion was having the opportunity to learn about the country of Belize with our tour guide, Axel. He really did a great job with giving us some really nice and detailed highlights about the country itself. I have to be honest in saying that once we left the port, the city was really run-down looking. It wasn’t a bad thing. It just gave us a new perspective. We passed the only prison in the country…which by the way is not government owned and operated. It’s actually owned by an American Foundation that works on rehabilitating prisoners through crafts and various activities such as baking, farming, and cooking and cleaning, interesting… Also, did you know the official language in Belize is English?

The next stop on the list was Roatan, Honduras, where Carnival has a piece of real estate to itself at Mahogany Bay Islands. We defaulted into turning this into our “beach and snorkel day” where we rented some snorkel equipment to explore some underwater life. This was my very first time snorkeling ever!!! I was really happy to have shared this experience with Michael. The weather could not have been more perfect, and it beat taking any excursion. We put our waterproof camera to the test here, and we actually used this more durable camera pretty often on this Caribbean vacation. Michael spotted a few different kinds of fish, and even a barracuda! I saw a jellyfish and got a bit scared, but we really enjoyed our own snorkel adventure here in Honduras.

Our last stop was the Cayman Islands in Grand Cayman on Thursday, November 13th, where it was Pirates Week when we got there. We were able to get tender stickers from 10am to 12pm, and then afternoon we could simply board the ferries to get ashore. We decided to stay in a bit, take a our time with breakfast and use the fitness center before we embarked on our adventure.

There were several cruise ships that were in port that day. Michael and I decided to simply explore the area on our own as there was a Seven Mile Beach we wanted to check out. We also had to tender into the area, but it only took five minutes to get ashore.

The water here was so clear! And we ended up walking about half an hour to the left, where the ocean was on our left where we docked ashore. We had run out of sunblock in Roatan so we found a little scuba diving¬†shop and purchased some there on the way. We came across a sign that read “Public Beach Access”, which led us through a narrow pathway to a beachy and also coral and rocky area. This beach led us to various resort-like areas, and we decided to hang out by this little cove. There were thousands of tiny fish, and Michael spotted many needle fish trying to catch these little tiny fish as prey.

On our way back to the ship, we stopped at a local grocery store where we decided to get some freshly squeezed pineapple and watermelon juices…we were parched and decided to get some refreshing beverages. We also passed numerous roosters that were crowing.¬†I also ended up getting a fresh coconut from a man selling them on his shopping cart. He was kind enough to cut them up for us to eat the coconut after we were finished drinking the fresh water, yum!!! What a tasty snack. Of all the islands, I really enjoyed Grand Cayman the most because I can totally picture myself getting a little house and living the island life there. They have all the basic necessities. The only thing is that they drive on the opposite side of the road.

For dinner that night, we had our last elegant evening, where we snapped a few shots with our dinner companions:) #BestTableEver!

Overall, we found our first Carnival cruise to be really fun and a nice getaway during our vacation! To cap this post off, we have a feature photo collage of some of the various towel animals that greeted us in our cabins and some of our dinner entrees.

Florida: Fish, Sun, and Fun

IMG_2538 (640x427)We drove through Alabama and were on our way to Florida. Our first destination was Panama City in the Florida panhandle. We were staying at the Beachside Resort. The hotel was ok. It wasn’t the nicest but it worked. The big draw was the view. The hotel is right on the Gulf and just out the doors of the hotel were beautiful white beaches and crystal clear water. The first night we got there it was very windy and a little cool out so we headed down the road where there was a shopping center, Christina’s favorite. She wanted to get a few ore things for the wedding and there was an Olive Garden near by, also Christina’s favorite, that we headed to for dinner. The shopping center was ¬†Panama Pier Park;¬†it was actually huge with all sorts of stores. It was on outdoor shopping area similar to what you find at most outlet stores.

The next morning we decided to head out to the beach. It was a little warmer and not as windy as the previous day. Christina relaxed on a large wooden beach chair that she had me lug from the top of the beach all the way down to the water. I had my fishing pole in had and was ready to finally get some fishing time in. I waded out into the water about waist deep and I could still see the bottom perfectly clear. I ended up catching on flounder in the hour and a half we were out on the beach. Although it was nothing big it fulfilled my urge to fish. Later that night we headed to find some souvenirs, as well as our Florida magnet, and to get some froyo and call it night.

The next day we were off to Cocoa Beach where we got a pretty good deal to visit a time share seminar. For $199 we got a 3 night stay in a Holiday Inn Express and after the time share seminar we would get $199 back in cash and a free stay for a night in another Holiday Inn. We knew what we were in for with the time share seminar and we made sure we were ready. It was a little late when we got to Cocoa Beach, It was a 7.5 hour drive from Panama City, so we decided to get dinner and call it a night. We headed to Papa Vito’s. Boy were we happy we did. Check out Christina’s review of the restaurant here!

The next day was our time share seminar. In the morning we headed out for a run and went back to the hotel to get ready. We didn’t have time to get lunch so we headed to a little shop right near the hotel, The Local Experience. We noticed a sign for smoothies so we decided to try them and they were great. The owner and employee working were also both great and very helpful. The time share company that this seminar was with was Holiday Inn Club Vacations. We were told this presentation was going to last 2 hours. They were exactly right. At two hours on the dot we were out of there. They did try to get us to buy a time share but their¬†pricing didn’t seem very good. Although, we wouldn’t have gotten a time share anyway. Who wants to always vacation in the same place (yes, I know if you pay extra fees you can go to different locations). They claim these are “investments”, but they do not seem to grow in value.

After leaving the presentation we headed back to the Local Experience shop. We saw a pamphlet for a fishing charter and wanted to check it out. When we went back to the store they helped us call a few places to find somewhere to fish. We ended up going with Cast Away Florida who heads out on the Banana River and only cost us $65 per person for 4 hours of fishing.

We also decided to head to dinner at on of the restaurants that one of the locals recommended from the shop we were in, Baja’s Tavern and Eats. We headed to dinner and upon being seated Christina was already skeptical. There was a cat walking about in the out door seating area. We ordered our food and although nothing was bad nothing was really good either. The service that we had also wasn’t quite on par with what we expect from most restaurants, especially in this price range. You can also check out Christina’s review on this restaurant at her Yelp link here. After diner we decided to find a waterproof camera to bring to out fishing the next day and to bring with us on our Caribbean cruise. We checked Wal-mart, Sears, and Radioshack, before finally landing at Target just before closing and finding the camera we were looking for.

The next day we had to be at the boat dock for 8am. It was about a 10 minute drive from the hotel we were staying in. When we arrived to the dock we noticed the boat that we would be fishing from. We were on a decent sized, 24ft, pontoon boat with a captain and guide and we were the only ones on the boat. We caught a decent amount of fish, between the 2 of us we probably caught 30-40 fish. We caught a few pinfish, speckled trout, puffer fish, and grunts. In addition, I caught a very rare oyster, and Christina ended up hooking the biggest catch of the day: me! Yes, she hooked my ankle on accident, so I was the biggest catch. I was excited to finally get some real fishing in. After fishing we decided to go back to Papa Vito’s since it was so good, plus we had some coupons for lunch.

On November 6th we headed to Miami and checked in to our hotel in the afternoon. There was a Chinese restaurant that Christina wanted to stop by for dinner so we decided to head over there, called Wei’s Chinese Restaurant. We had hot pot for dinner, which is basically a pot of boiling broth at our table that you use to cook raw food that is given to you. Dinner was great and we were really happy that we decided to go over there.

Down in Miami we really feel like we are already down in the Caribbean islands. Everyone here is fluent in Spanish. Either they are native speakers or they have acquired it along the way. It seems mandatory down here if you are working in any retail or hospitality work. Also, Christina and I were very surprised to see the overwhelming amount of tolls we have to pay on the Florida turnpikes. We figured it’s going to cost us about $50 in tolls as we travel through Florida. I think we have spent over $30 so far.

The next day we needed to get a few final things for our wedding. Somehow Christina keeps finding a few more things we need to get. We headed to Miami International Mall and were able to find everything that we were looking for. Also, everyone seems to be on island time, especially in the mall. We also noticed a cache nearby. We were able to drive to a library just near the mall and find our cache pretty easily. After our cache we headed back to the hotel so we could get ready for our cruise and finalize some wedding tasks.

As of tomorrow afternoon our cell phones will be off for a week, and we will be on our way to the Caribbean. Woohoo! Can’t wait.

 

Alabama

We made the decision to drive through Alabama the day of Saturday, November 1st, after leaving New Orleans. It was just going to be a quick stop. We were stopping through just to get a magnet, find our cache, and grab some lunch.

When we got into Spanish Fort, Alabama we stopped for some gasoline and headed to a Walgreens to look for a magnet. We found a magnet that said “Spanish Fort, AL” but not one that only said ” Alabama” So we decided to keep searching. In the Walgreens parking lot we noticed there was a cache. It was a quick find. We placed our frisbee and were off.

Christina had a couple of items that she had to return to Kohl’s so we headed one that was nearby in the town center. We were pretty hungry since we hadn’t eaten breakfast so lunch was the next thing on our list. We found a Five Guys Burgers and Fries, our favorite, so we had to stop there for lunch. After eating lunch we resumed our search for a magnet. we checked a couple of shops in the plaza we were in with no luck. One person recommended we go up the highway an exit and there was a “Tiger Pride” store that should have some.

We drove up to the next exit and found the store. To our dismay there were not any magnets there that we could use, unless we wanted one that was about a foot long. There was also another small gift store near by that we checked, and again we came out empty handed. The owner did recommend checking  Barnes and Noble, Bass Pro Shops, and the Welcome Center. Barnes and Noble was just next door so we searched there and again, nadda.

We decided to go check Bass Pro Shop and the Welcome Center. The only problem was they were back at the last exit we just came from. So we headed back to the previous exit and headed to Bass Pro Shops. Im sure you can see where this is about to go. There were no Alabama magnets there. I did need to get some fishing line, which came in handy the next day, so the trip to Bass Pro was not a complete loss.

We rushed over to the Welcome Center. They must have magnets there we thought. We arrived at 3:15 sharp, only to find they closed at 3pm. What kind of Welcome Center closes at 3?

We made the decision that this was becoming very much a pain and headed back to Walgreens, where this all started and to get the original magnet that we found.

NEW RULE: When we find a magnet with a state name on it, we buy it. No searching around.

That was our trip to Alabama. Now, on our way to Panama City Beach.

New Orleans: The Beignet Battle

Michael and I were very much looking forward to visiting New Orleans, Louisiana and since the beginning of the trip I had been bugging him to visit this city! I had heard lots of fun and exciting things about this city, and I was ready to take it on with my side-kick hand-in-hand.

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We booked two nights, 10/30 & 10/31 at Hotel New Orleans Downtown, which was undergoing a $29 million renovation to become Le Meridien. The architects and construction was very much limited to one section so we did not feel bothered at all by this. This hotel was so nicely decorated and had that nice, refreshing hotel scent as soon as you walked into the lobby. Since this hotel only offered valet parking for about $45/night, we opted to park at Harrah’s Hotel & Casino, right across the street for $30/night. This saved us $30 for parking in total for the two nights. We did not want to gamble, but if we signed up for a Total Rewards Card and gambled for 30 minutes, we would have received one free night of parking. We’re not big on gambling anyways, so it was not worth the risk to us.

View from hotel room

One of the main reasons we selected this hotel was the fact that it was right in the French Quarter, but it wasn’t too close to the main “party” area in city. It was just close enough to walk to and from, so we were happy with the location.

The first afternoon we checked in, we decided to walk down the Riverwalk all the way down the Mississippi River to Jackson Square to do a cache and also grab some famous beignets at Cafe du Monde. Along our stroll we saw so many painters, musicians, artists, performers, and homeless people wandering the streets. New Orleans has a very European atmosphere to it, and the buildings have such lovely balconies and architecture. Because it was the day before Halloween, it seemed as though everyone was gearing up for the occasion. It was neat to explore Jackson Square and stumble upon Pirates Alley where we did our cache. We were also instantly able to find a magnet with an over abundance of gift shops in this area, all along Decatur Street. We also got a chance to walk along Bourbon Street to be in the thick of things.

We stayed around the area until the Krewe of Boo Halloween Parade, which started at 6:30pm, securing a standing spot along the street across from the H&M. Crowds gathered in the area so we knew this was going to be a fun one. There were so many different people, groups, dancers, musicians, performers, speakers, trucks, tractors, and floats that went by. Some were throwing out freebies and we got some samples of some New Orleans Chewy Pralines from Aunt Sally’s, some ground coffee from PJ’s, a few different beads, plastic cups, a magnifying glass, assorted candies, and snacks.

For dinner, I was anticipating, craving and hoping there would be some spicy, cajun, and creole crawfish. Unfortunately, we soon realized they were not in season. They are, however, available in the wintertime, through February. I did manage to find some places with some crawfish in a few dishes. We decided to check out Huck Finn’s Cafe on Decatur Street for some southern grub. I ordered the Taste of New Orleans (Crawfish Etouffee, Jambalaya, Red Beans and Rice) and Michael got the Shrimp BBQ Po-Boy. Our entrees were both delicious and very flavorful!

It was Halloween the next morning, and we kicked off the day with a trip¬†to the fitness center, which was on the fourth floor of the hotel. We had to walk passed the outdoor pool to get to the area. It was a nice gym filled with all sorts of weight and cardio equipment, so we took advantage of everything there, and we sure are still feeling the pain of our workout now. It was about 1pm when we got ready to go out for some brunch, and we actually decided on some sushi because we hadn’t had it since Michael’s parents took us out before we left. It was so yummy and definitely hit the spot.

We made our way to the French Market, which is home to many vendors. There were a decent amount of people shopping around and there was so much going on. I made Michael get me a “faux” diamond ring, since mine was getting rhodium-dipped in preparation for the wedding, and we figured since we were in the French Market, we might as well go with the with the theme:)¬†I also had their version of a snow cone, which was some of the best shaved ice ever!

Because NOLA is known for its beignets, we knew that we could not just limit our tasting to the really popular one in town. So…we made our way to two more cafes famed for these scrumptious donuts. Our first stop was New Orleans Famous Beignets and Coffee, where there were barely any people=no crowds whatsoever! ¬†We were a bit hesitant, but we were going for it! As soon as the order came out we knew we were in for a treat. These beignets were a lot thinner than the ones we had at Cafe du Monde. They were piping hot, and oh sooo flaky! These really reminded both of us of a pastry sheet. There was just enough powdered sugar on these mamas, and they were so delicious that we were really happy to get to try these. The coffee on the other hand was blah. Price: $3 for 3 beignets

Next on the list was Cafe Beignet. I mean it has Beignet in its name! We were surprised to see this place had the widest assortment of food and beverages compared to the other two, which was so not reflective and indicative in its name. Michael placed the order at the counter, and we had a seat. These beignets were the most expensive at just over $4 for 3. They also definitely seemed to take the longest to prepare. When they came out, the gentleman had three other plates of food for other guests, and he had them stacked right on top of our order…so it left some imprints on the¬†powdered sugar. These resembled the ones we tried at the first place, because they were much thicker than the ones at New Orleans Famous. Michael and I agreed that these were actually way better than the first place as well!

So who took the lead in this challenge? Well, I know Michael was really a big fan of New Orleans Famous Beignets and Coffee, as was I. But, I was really torn on whether or not I enjoyed the larger ones at Cafe Beignet. Because there is so much hype with Cafe du Monde’s beignets, we were both really surprised these were the most difficult to eat and chew. These were really dense, and more consolidated/doughy compared to the other two. The thinner ones at Famous were really flavorful but overly oily. Yes, we really enjoyed the Famous ones, but I would vote Cafe Beignet as a close second.

After the beignets, we decided to head back to the hotel to freshen up for the parade and dinner. That evening, we were really not impressed with the parade. It was much shorter and the participants of this parade did not seem too enthusiastic about it, even though everyone was dressed up.

One huge revelation occurred when we were eating dinner on Halloween evening at New Orleans Hamburger & Seafood Co. was that mayonnaise typically does not need to be refrigerated!!! WHAAAT?? My first thought was “EW!” I saw the squeezable mayo bottle (pictured below) with a strong focus on “NO REFRIGERATION NEEDED”. I was aware that if the bottle was newly opened, it does not need to get refrigerated, but once the seal gets opened, I assumed it was necessary. I guess not. Well that was news to me. Apparently Michael had known this all along, but failed to mention that to me. I wanted to confirm this notion, and sure enough…it’s true! Even after knowing this, I will still most likely keep it in the fridge…it just creeps me out for some reason.

Overall, The Big Easy really had a lot to offer, and the best part of it all were its beignets: I mean how can you go wrong with fried dough sprinkled generously with powdered sugar?

Mississippi

We made our way to Mississippi after Tennessee booking our one night stay in Jackson the night before the incident. Michael took me to a Steak ‘n Shake for the first time where we had some burgers, fries, and shakes once we crossed the Mississippi border, because we were starving! It was about 3pm in the afternoon, and we were happy to eat some protein!

Due to unforeseen events we arrived to Jackson just after 8pm on Wednesday, 10/29. It sure was a long day! We checked into the hotel.  We thought it was peculiar there was no one at the front desk. I guess she was shopping at Walmart, so it took longer than anticipated.

The first thing we wanted to do was to go to Applebee’s when we got there. It was hump day there, so most of the burgers were $5.99. Burgers and beer while we watched Game 7 of the World Series. ¬†We pretty much ate burgers in this state.¬†It was a pretty early night when we turned in. The next morning we found a magnet, did our cache and left.

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We were really eager to get to New Orleans to take part in Halloween festivities, so here’s the MS sum-up: burgers, burgers, sleep, magnet, cache, and dash.

Tennessee: The Smash & Grab

So let me start out this post by stating that we had never anticipated this alternate ending. Oh and just a disclaimer that we do not have nearly as many pictures as our previous states to share, and some towards the end might be a bit disturbing. The following picture sort of sets the mood for what is about to come…

Memphis is the city we chose to explore in Tennessee. We only booked one night here to explore a bit in the evening of 10/28 and also in the morning the next day. We checked into La Quinta Inn & Suites Primacy Parkway pretty early (it was about 1:30pm in the afternoon). We noticed the area was sort of nice because there was a Hyatt Place right next door, and a few shopping centers and other hotels nearby. This was only one of two days that we encountered rain during our trip because we really had lucked out. So, I guess we were feeling a bit tired and just wanted to stay in. We just wanted to take a quick nap before heading out for a late lunch/early dinner.

Because we enjoyed getting real Texas BBQ, we wanted to experience Memphis/Tennessee BBQ, so we went onto Yelp and found “One & Only BBQ“. which was only about ten minutes away from our hotel. It was a tiny place, with a few tables and chairs for dining in, but it was pretty cool because they just had a chalkboard with all of their menu items available to order.¬† We went with the 4 meats (pulled pork, brisket, ribs, and fried chicken), two sides (double baked potato salad and baked beans) and 2 slices of Texas toast. Boy was it all so tasty and extremely flavorful. About 4-5 customers came in and either sat down and ate or picked up food from the place when we were there around 4pm, so we knew it was a great place! The servers were really nice, and we were really satisfied and pleased with our meals that we definitely did not have any room for dessert.

After dinner we went to go look for a cache, and there was one in a nearby business parking lot. We found it with ease, and moved onto checking out some stores. We did not have anything specific we were looking for, but we just wanted to go explore the area a bit, so we parked in a shopping center that just so happened to have a Yogurt Mountain. After walking around, we decided to get some Froyo, and I was so happy they had a KidZone with green apple and orange sorbet, so I definitely had to get those along with my tart original!

We were so tired at the end of the day, so we retired around 8:45pm, and soon realized there was no fridge in our hotel room to put our BBQ leftovers, so Michael went outside to put the food in the cooler in the back of the truck.

The next morning, 10/29 (exactly one month before our wedding day), we had an early start because we had intended to check out downtown Beale Street and get a magnet. Breakfast was plain but good, and we got our stuff packed and ready to go. We had parked towards the back of the hotel and used that entrance, so I helped Michael with our bags and headed towards the front lobby to check us out. When I came back Michael still had our suitcases and bags outside. So I asked him: “Hm, why is our stuff still outside?” This next part of the story may or may not be a shocker to y’all…DUN DUN DUN

Apparently, our truck had been broken into the night prior. They smashed the glass on the driver’s side and rummaged through our belongings taking two suitcases and one duffel bag. Yes, we knew something like this was bound to happen sooner or later, but we figured, since we had only 8 states left to go in leg 4, we were thinking mostly happy thoughts.

I ran to the front lobby to tell them about what had happened, and they called the police for us. At that point, it really hit me what had really happened and I got a bit scared at first when I was telling the hotel staff members. I soon realized it had been done with, and we assessed the damage by recounting what items had been stolen, while we waited for the police to show up. To our surprise, they did not notice our passports in the glove box (even though it was wide open). I guess the bug spray, tea, and other things really deterred them from going through to the bottom to grab those really valuable items. We came to the conclusion these criminals must have been on the lower-end of the bunch because they failed to grab Michael’s $1200 fishing pole and rod along with his $400 Federal Tax textbook that were in sight.

It took about 20 minutes before the cop had showed up, and she was really trying her best to jot down all the details for the police report. We had noticed a few cameras in the back, so she was going to get one of her associates to review the footage down the road (which we later found out, Memphis police has been having a tough time keeping up with all of the bad things happening in the area, so we doubt they will get to it soon).

It took about an hour or so, and the police officer was kind enough to attempt to dust for finger prints, but since it had been raining the night before, it was tough to do. Even if the bandit was stupid enough not to wear gloves, his/her prints would have been washed away by the water. I kept a close eye because I had ever seen this process in action before (other than shows like CSI, etc.), so I was quite curious. The officer informed us that these things (car thefts) pick up and die down and run in cycles. And she even showed me video footage of someone who captured a male smashing a window of a car and literally hopping in through the window (by all means, this was not a very tiny guy either), and grabbing stuff out of the car and returned to the backseat of car with his own driver. It was crazy a hairstylist from the Hyatt Place had seen it clearly, recorded it, and called the cops.

Michael called his insurance company and we settled on a place where could get the driver’s side window fixed. We were happy that he had full glass coverage, so we did not have to front any money at the glass shop. This place took forever! We had left our room around 9:3opm for the car, and it was literally 2pm when we had left the auto glass repair shop. While we were in the waiting room we spoke to a couple there who also had their truck broken into four times in the past and were ready to leave Memphis. The lady at the counter asked us if we had read the news before we had decided to visit. We just wanted to put that out there to oir loyal readers that Memphis locals informed us about its spike in crime.

Oh and I forgot to mention that this was the only state we did not get a chance to purchase a magnet in. We made so many attempts on the way from Memphis to Mississippi, stopping at every gas station and Walgreens we could find, that it was ridiculous. I mostly went into these shops and saw these metal gates and employees behind bullet-proof counters, who did not typically speak a word of English. I enjoyed the challenge in searching for a magnet and communicating with everyone. As soon as I finished asking the store associates if they carried any magnets, most of them looked at me like I had ten heads and gave me a blank stare. I guess they had no idea what I was talking about.¬† One even ended up asking me if I worked next door or down the road at this place called Benny…I said no, but thank you. And he said, “Are you sure? Your people, you know, your people work at Benny”. I laughed so hard when I got back into the car, and asked Michael to go into the next place to ask for a magnet.

All in all, Michael would never return to the state of Tennessee because his truck got vandalized, and he was not pleased with anything Tennessee. Even though I was upset about this incident, I did realize that worse things could have happened to us, so I would likely return in the future, just maybe to explore Nashville vs. Memphis.