Saturday Savoring ~ Strolling Senoia’s Streets and Shops

Senoia, Georgia. Most people know it as the town made famous by The Walking Dead. On any given night, you can have dinner in Nic & Norman’s on Main Street and perhaps see Neagan having dinner with a friend. That’s what happened to us, only as a non-watcher, I didn’t recognize all the fame seated at the table right next to me until my stepson enlightened me. Plenty of movies have been filmed here, and the titles line the brick sidewalks in brass plaques.

If you were hungry for Shepherd’s Pie, you could eat at Maguire’s, the sort-of-underground Irish Pub where Drop Dead Diva was filmed – and bask in the soft comfort of the green velvet chairs in front of the fireplace while you wait. Their Monte Cristo is a tasty favorite, too.

My sister in law and I went over on a recent Saturday morning to enjoy coffee and breakfast at the Senoia Coffee and Cafe before strolling the shops lining Main Street. She ordered the quiche and a latte, and I had black coffee with a shot of sugar-free vanilla syrup and a splash of light almond milk. Without deadlines or time frames, conversations are a great way to start a relaxing weekend!

It’s fun to wear sunglasses in a movie town. People wonder.
The food and beverage selections all look delicious!
My sister in law had the broccoli and cheese quiche.

When we left the coffee shop, we ambled along the sidewalks and browsed in the specialty shops. In one, we noticed that all of the plants were named after African American women such as Cicely Tyson, Oprah Winfrey, Beyonce, Coretta Scott King, and others. It makes me want to name all 3 of my plants and put little name cards in their pots so I can talk to them as a person when I water them. I wish I had a more evolved green thumb.

No trip is complete without a visit to the local bookstore, so we found Book Love and spent some time perusing the new releases and the well-loved classics.

And when we were finally tired, we sat in a breezeway and people-watched for awhile before heading home. Saturdays are days to savor the aroma of coffee and the sweetness of unhurried time.

Seeking Slower Travel: The Atlanta RV Show

Slow travelers bus, train, walk, and bicycle. We cruise along the roads on bikes, in camper vans, or RVs.  Some others cross the high seas in ferries or sailboats….we make stops along the way to inhale and exhale. - Bhavana Gesota, The Art of Slow Travel: See the World and Savor the Journey on a Budget

Last Sunday, my husband and I bought tickets to the Atlanta RV Show.

We don’t need a camper – – we just purchased a 21 foot 2022 Little Guy Max Rough Rider to see if we can become more minimalist campers as we contemplate selling our 29 foot 2010 Keystone Outback. We love them both, but each offers a completely different approach to camping.

What we found out is that we can still keep all the things we love about camping while giving up the extra 8 feet that contains two recliners and a loveseat. We’ve learned a lot about appreciating a simpler way of life by giving up some of the extras. We’re doing this at home, too. Paring down. Lightening up. Enjoying the ride. There is much to be learned by not seeing more, but seeing more of it.

We’ve also learned a few things along the way about purpose and fit – which is what motivated us to go to the RV show. We’re looking with different eyes, thinking of the type of camper that we want to rent when we drive Route 66. It’s on our bucket list – not backpacking through Europe or camping in the Australian Outback, but seeing the United States from the road.

We want to rent an RV with a small kitchen, a wet bath, and sleeping accommodations for four adults who take shifts driving and who all know how to pack a wardrobe that works for two weeks in one small carry-on bag and who know how to savor coffee and oatmeal for breakfast, a sandwich and chips for lunch, and eggs and bacon for supper. We want to watch sunrises, see the changing landscape, and search for the constellations as we stargaze.

We want to become schooled in the art of slow travel – – to breathe: inhale, exhale. To open our eyes with heightened sensory awareness and few possessions along the way and say, “Now this?? THIS is living.”

We took notes of the features we think we need on Route 66. A small kitchen is a definite, so that we can prepare at least two meals each day in the camper, eating out only once a day.

A table would be nice, but isn’t as necessary as the sign on the wall to remind us that the adventure is one to be enjoyed – – including the bumps in the road along the way.

Being able to stand up in the camper is a nice feature, too – – especially for the Johnson guys, who are all tall. Just these extra couple of feet at the top make a big difference.

If you’ve traveled Route 66 and have any words of wisdom for us, please add these in the comments. We’ll be traveling with two other adults when we make the trip. We need pointers, tips, and any landmarks and stops that are must-sees. Your experience and valuable insights are appreciated!

Savoring Saturday – Coffee and Books

What is missing from many of our days is a true sense that we are enjoying the lives we are living.  It is difficult to experience moments of happiness if we are not aware of what it is we genuinely love.  We must learn to savor small, authentic moments that bring us contentment. – Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy

Some Saturdays, we get up and head over to the local coffee shop on our town square. My husband orders coffee, a cinnamon roll, and a slice of breakfast casserole. I take my Optavia breakfast fueling along with me and order black coffee. We sit at a table near the fireplace, where we chat and enjoy the meanderings of those, like us, ambling about town on a Saturday morning.

When he has extra errands to run that will take an hour or so, he’ll drop me off at the back door of the bookstore across the square, where the comfy chairs are circled around an oval coffee table, and I’ll gather a handful of books, grab a Cherry Coke Zero from the store fridge, and throw my feet up and read.

The place is magical from the moment you walk into the store. The smell of books greets you, and the floors creak under your feet as you browse the shelves. On the walls, there are watercolors and photographs by local artists for sale, and on the counters there is also handmade jewelry and other gifts. The new books are up front, along with the book club books that are lined up according to the month they’ll be discussed. The heart of the store is the used books – $3 for paperbacks, and $5 for hardbacks. And the lighting is warm and welcoming, giving the perfect ambiance for comfortable reading. Sometimes they play slow jazz.

I go straight to the travel and adventure books to see if there is anything obscure that grabs me, and I begin my book stack there. I mostly hang out in the nonfiction, perusing the shelves and searching the spines for titles that spark my interest. When I have one armful’s stack, I glance at the fiction and keep moving toward my chair – the one with the matching ottoman. I plop down, throw my feet up, pop my Coke top, and take a long swig as I begin with first glances at the books. What’s in the Table of Contents? When was it written? What does the back cover say? What’s the format, and do I like it? Is the print big enough? What do the pages feel like? Does it smell real?

I’m picky.

Two members of my writing group have recently books – Starting From Scratch, about teaching poetry, and Kitchen Table Wisdom, about womens’ wisdom from ancestors with answers. I order these, and then I chat with two of the owners. Karen leads the writing group, and we share what we’re writing. I meet her daughter and grandson. I speak briefly with another owner, Chris, who is headed out for lunch, but always asks what I’m reading – so I tell her I’m reading around the United States, and I’ve just finished Stephen King’s On Writing for the New England states and am narrowing down my choice for the Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Wyoming states. I’m leaning towards Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore.

Today, I narrow it down to two books: The Iditarod Fact Book and The Happiness of Pursuit. And then I wonder: How am I going to meet my goal of getting down to two and a half bookcases if I bring more home? I think there is math involved: if I get rid of more than I take in, will it work? Somebody who can do math, please – tell me that it will. These are small, authentic moments that bring me contentment – – and books are what I genuinely love.

Day 5 Open Write with Barb Edler and Glenda Funk

Yesterday was the last day of five days of January’s Open Write at http://www.ethicalela.com. Each month, this writing group gathers to write and give positive feedback to at least three other writers. I took a break yesterday to pause and give thanks for my daughter Mallory on her birthday.

Yesterday’s prompt was to write a Postcard Poem. Using a postcard or a blank index card, you draw a vertical line to separate the address and the poem on the writing side. Here’s my Haiku poem, prompted by a suspension bridge I crossed in December at Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee:

tracking feet

suspension bridges
crossable risk-taking feat
empowering treks

Experience: 2022 Christmas Camping Across 4 State Parks in 5 Days

“Slow travel rejects speed, emphasizes soaking in the local culture, and encourages us to savor the journey, not rush it.” –The Art of Slow Travel, by Bhavana Gesota

Most everyone we told of our Christmas travel plans tried to convince us to rethink our winter camping journey in subzero temperatures.  

"You might want to reconsider," they'd urged, each in their own way.  

"It's going to be dangerously cold.  How will you stay warm in a camper?" 

We'd recently downsized from a 30-foot 4-season Keystone Outback to a 21-foot non-insulated 2022 Little Guy Max Rough Rider.  We were looking forward to seeing what it was made of.....and, perhaps more importantly, what we were made of.  

We weren't wavering on our decision.  The plans were made, and we would set out with two full propane tanks, an indoor-safe propane heater, an indoor electric heater, a supply of firewood, and an electric blanket.  We'd monitored the weather and were keeping close tabs on the conditions of the roads.  

We weren't worried about the extreme temperatures, either. With three radiant-heater dogs (who sleep at our head, hips, and feet) and each other, we were looking forward to all the cozy snuggling and excuses to linger in bed with coffee and read or write or watch Netflix or listen to our favorite seventies bands until the sun came up and warmed the walking trails a half a degree or more. 

With any trip, things happen that we don't anticipate - - like when the bananas freeze and all turn dark brown and ooze goo, and the jar of olive oil freezes solid when we'd planned on searing steaks.  Or when the propane, which converts from a liquid to a gas in the pipelines, freezes and renders that first heating plan completely ineffective, taking us straight to our backup heat.  Those kinds of things.  A few minor setbacks mixed in with some more serious ones.  

So it is in life.  Determination, a plan, a road map, forecasts, obstacles, challenges, a burning desire to experience life ~ even in extreme elements.  It's all part of the journey.  

I'm so glad we stayed the course and savored the moments. It was worth it to experience "slow travel," without a novel-thick itinerary, to "camp our way across states," breaking down the drive into short segments.  

Here are the “Slow Travel” savored moments from our week away over the holidays.

First Stop: Burdoc Farms, Crofton, Kentucky. Most memorable moment: goofing off in the snow in our pajamas, taking pictures of the White Christmas winter wonderland as one of our daughters clicked her heels in sunset snow.

Second Stop: Rock Island State Park, Tennessee. Most memorable moment: enjoying the peaceful sounds of the waterfall at the dam.

Third Stop: Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee. Most memorable moment: taking in the beauty and sounds of the frozen waterfalls and cascades.

Waterfall at Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee

Fourth Stop: Harrison Bay State Park, Tennessee. Most Memorable moment: sunrise on the bay.

Fifth Stop: Red Top Mountain State Park, Georgia. Most memorable moment: writing all day on a rainy New Year’s Eve Eve.

Sixth Stop: Lunch with my aunt and uncle at OK Cafe in Atlanta, Georgia. Most memorable moment: sipping coffee at the retro dinette table, celebrating their December birthdays.

Seventh Stop: Home for New Year’s Eve with one of our sons. Most memorable moment: eating collard greens, black eyed peas, and ribs as we watched the Peach Bowl.

Experiencing places + savoring the journey through slow travel = just the right pace!

Relaxing the Pace: My Experience Goals for 2023

“Slow travel is being in a place long enough to experience it without having a strict itinerary. It isn’t about seeing everything but experiencing the soul of a place.”
― Bhavana Gesota, The Art of Slow Travel: See the World and Savor the Journey On a Budget

Tulips in Gibbs Gardens – Ball Ground, Georgia

In April, I took a girls’ trip with my sister-in-law to north Georgia and North Carolina. We ambled around Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground, Georgia at a leisurely pace, admiring the tiers of tulips and daffodils before embarking on the scenic drive to the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina, where we sat by the huge stone fireplace and sipped coffee in those relaxing wooden rocking chairs you see in the mountains in places where life is simpler and a fresher type of air cleans the lungs and awakens the senses.

Big stone fireplace at Grove Park Inn, Asheville, NC

“I’m loving this,” I told her. “I don’t feel rushed, and it’s a more relaxed pace than the itinerary I usually keep when traveling. I zip from place to place, and I don’t generally sit down and breathe until day’s end.” I was especially thinking about the EF Tour I’d taken with students to Europe in June 2019, when we’d visited four countries in ten days with a full day of air travel there and back as two of those days. It had drained every bit of me!

Quote on the rock of the Grove Park Inn Lobby – there were many of these all over the place

Sitting in the huge stone-walled lobby, I noticed the quotes on the rocks in the wall. On a breakneck-paced trip, I would have never noticed such a detail. As I observed more, I discovered that they were scattered throughout the hotel, and I visually scaled the walls on a self-secret scavenger hunt, making pictures, taking the time to ponder each one and to consider why it was selected out of all the quotes they could have chosen to etch there.

Grove Park Inn Gingerbread House, winner of the 2021 competition

We stumbled upon the gingerbread house display from the annual competition and noticed each captivating detail of these winning designs. Further down the hall, we found the desk F. Scott Fitzgerald used during his time at the Grove Park Inn. Our room was directly across the hall from the two rooms that were “his” at the inn. We strolled through the gift shops, too, taking time to peruse the books about the history of this historic hotel. We each bought one and returned to the great fireplace to read them.

Open Windows at The Grove Park Inn – Historic Section – Asheville, NC

That’s why months later, when I saw the book The Art of Slow Travel, I knew it would be my next read. Four months into 2022, I was already beginning to realize that a more relaxed pace when traveling has more than mere physical benefits. Throughout 2022, most every trip that didn’t involve our camper held a hard lesson about taking life at a slower pace, lugging less on the journey, and savoring more tranquil moments.

My experience goals for 2023 are to cut back on entertainment in the form of concerts, sports, plays, and movies and instead focus on the experiences that are found outdoors – kayaking, hiking, long walks, conversations over orange spiced tea and playlists by the fire pit (my son and daughter in law gave us one for Christmas). It’s time to open the windows and relax the pace. To breathe. To embrace slow travel not only on trips, but as a daily living practice.

My One Little Word for 2023

As we move toward the beginning of a brand new year starting at midnight, on this last day of the year I'm taking time to reflect on 2022 and all the living we’ve done in its 525,600 minutes.  My blessings far outweigh my challenges and setbacks.  

Last December, I chose listen as my One Little Word for 2022, which Ali Edwards has made popular since 2006.  I suppose it’s what daily writers do: we listen to the world around us.  We listen for what inspires us and what we can take from conversations, moments, lessons, experiences - and time we share with others - to make sense of our world.  

What we do with all the listening is what invites me to choose pray as my word for 2023.  It wasn’t my first serious consideration, or even my second.  My initial choice was believe.  During my week of Covid confinement in December, I almost prematurely announced believe and all my reasons for choosing it.  It’s the essence of my Christian faith, the verb of what we do with our faith to trust in God’s plan.  It’s what gets us through tough times.  Long moments of pondering all that I don’t want to be quick to believe led me to think more about the power of sharing.  Share was my second consideration. I share what I experience and what I believe as truth, often on my blog. 

Then I thought of my word listen this year, and all of the listening that happened through prayer.  I wondered:  what if I spent an entire year with the word pray as my guiding light word?  My little Caribbean blue Rav4 has been my twice-daily prayer chamber for years as I make my way to and from work.  I don't turn on the radio ~ I pray.  I believe fully in the power of prayer and the difference it makes.  I see miracles that have happened because of prayer, and I often wonder about the miracles that happen that we never see, also because God answers prayer.  

As we step into 2023, I've chosen an action verb again.  Pray.  What a blessing I feel already!  

If you’re taking a One Little Word as your guiding light this year, please share in the comments below or send me a Facebook message - - I love all the thinking that goes into OLW choices!  Cheers to you in 2023!  

Tomorrow, I will begin daily posts in the areas of my seven goal categories this year.  They are: Reflection, Inspiration/Spirituality, Self-Improvement, Creativity, Literature, Experience, and Gratitude.  I've never succeeded at keeping New Year's Resolutions, but what has worked for me for the past 12 years is establishing goals and adding an accountability measure in my writing through a month-end checkpoint.  More on this beginning tomorrow!