The Summer of 2013 – Where did it go? (Part 1)

I’ve always considered Summer to officially start on Memorial Day and end on Labor Day.  I suppose it will always be that way for me.  The official dates of Summer for 2013 were June 21st through September 22nd, so that’s the period I will cover!

Beth and I started the Summer of 2013 off in Boston, taking a cruise on the Carnival Glory to St. John, New Brunswick and Halifax, Nova Scotia.  We had never ventured north on a cruise ship, and were very glad we did something different for a change.

This was the scene leaving Boston Harbor.

SunsetDepartingBoston

If you haven’t cruised on a Carnival ship lately, you need to.  Almost all of the ships have now undergone extensive renovations.  Guy’s Burger Joint,  The Red Frog, Blue Iguana, and other venues have all been added to bring your cruising experience to new levels.

RedFrogGlory

And the staterooms are awesome as well.  For this cruise, we chose an 11th floor balcony.

Glory Balcony Cabin

Making this cruise even better was knowing that one of our favorite crew members from past cruises, Nolan Villamor, would also be aboard the Glory.  I am confident Carnival will one day promote Nolan to Maitre’d!

NolanVillamor

St. John, New Brunswick is a neat port city, where the St. John’s River flows into the Bay of Fundy.  The tide fluctuates as much as thirty feet daily, making the “reversing falls” a continual attraction.

ReversingFallsGloryAtStJohn

During Lobster Season, you will even find McLobster at the golden arches!  Yes, I had to try one, and it was surprisingly good.

McLobsterSignMcLobster

We bought tickets for the “Pink Bus,” where you can ride anytime the entire day for one price.  We ride out to the falls in the morning, and then back that afternoon to see the river flowing both ways!

PinkBus

St. John is full of beautiful, historic buildings.  One fine residence displayed this plaque by its front door.

historical Plaque

Onward to the seaport of Halifax, Nova Scotia.  The harbor is very active, and historical buildings are everywhere!

HalifaxLighthouseHalifaxArchitecture

Pubs and eateries are everywhere along the harbor in Halifax.  You can also purchase a Harbor Ferry pass, where you can also access the city’s bus transit system all for one low fare.

HalifaxHarborDiningHalifaxFerry

Thomas The Tug is another popular sight along the harbor.  You can purchase rides on it also!

ThomasTug

After departing Halifax, we would have a full day at sea before arriving in Boston.  Our cabin was the most forward cabin on the port side of Deck 11.  Would recommend this part of the ship to anyone.

GLoryCabinDeck

Boston Harbor is a beautiful place.  The sun was coming up as we entered.

SunriseBostonHarborBoston harbor

Cruising from the Port of Boston is a breeze.  Just a $20, 15 minute cab ride from the airport to the ship!  If you love cruising, but are somewhat tired of the Caribbean, give cruising out of Boston a try.  It was a refreshing change!

Next time, we will plan at least a day for sightseeing in Boston.  This year, we had to get back to Nashville for the rest of the Summer of 2013!  Be on the lookout for Part 2!

planewing

 

Trey Lewis is a licensed Real Estate Broker in the State of Tennessee with Ole South Realty, 615.896.0019  direct 615.593.6340 and VP Sales for Tennessee’s largest home builder, OleSouth.com, specializing in new homes in the Greater Nashville area to include Nashville, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, Gallatin, Clarksville, and Spring Hill, Tennessee.

 

 

Advertisements

Honduras – Let’s go again!

The highlight of each new year is returning to Honduras with Rotarians from District 6760 and friends. We will spend one week in the Choluteca region of southern Honduras. We will visit many friends we have come to know over the years, and meet many more!

This year, our group will bring electricity to a total of 68 families. In the Las Delicias village near San Marcos De Colon, we will complete service for 22 homes. During this time, we will stay at one of our favorite hotels – The Hotel Barcelona in San Marcos De Colon.

After the work is finished there, we will move to the Rivera Hotel in Choluteca and complete the wiring for 46 homes in the village of Tapaci, just outside of El Jocote, which we “electrified” in 2008.

Last year, our project was to build a home for the family of Mario Sandoval and Dania Osorto. Windows and doors have been installed since we were there and I look forward to posting those pictures when we return.

Here is Mario, Dania, Daniela, and Mario Jr. in front of their new home.

OsortoFamilyHome

Honduras is a place where everything makes a difference in someone’s life.  Every minute spent, every penny collected, every tear shed, every dollar donated.

Many that are unable to visit in person have made generous donations to our club for humanitarian efforts while we are there.  Needs are plentiful there, but resources are scarce.  We may not be able to help everyone at one time, but we have helped many – one at a time.

Back in 2007, a co-worker and friend Rob Calk slipped me $200 cash a few days before we left.  He said “do something cool with it” and left it at that.   On the way to our project each day, we passed a very “run-down” house, bound together with plastic tarps and cardboard.  Adjoining this “house” was a foundation for a new home similar to above, and that work had been abandoned.

We stopped and learned that the single mom and 4 kids were all alone.  Their Dad had been killed earlier in the year.  He had started a new home for them, and those hopes left with his death, until she could save the money to continue construction.  In our best attempt at Spanish, we asked the mother what it would cost to finish the house.  She knew exactly the cost of the supplies she needed, and said she had neighbors that would help her with volunteer labor.

She answered with the figure in Lempira, Honduras currency unit.  After running a few calculations, she needed $200 USD.  Unbeknownst to Rob, he had just financed the completion of a home in Honduras!

That evening back at the hotel, some of the others learned of what we did with Rob’s money and laughed at us.  They said we should have given it to an organization, or someone responsible to oversee.  They predicted Rob’s money would be used to throw a party.  I just looked and said – “Right now, a party might be more important than the house – whichever they decide to do is fine with us!”

The following year, we rode down this path….a completed house stood where the abandoned foundation had been just one year before.  The former house was now being used for storage and chickens.  The house had obviously won out over the party.  I do have before and after pictures, but just cannot find them to post.  Rob did get to see both, by the way!  The family was most appreciative too, and yes they remembered us immediately!

This year will identify more needs that we will address.  If you would like to donate a few discretionary bucks, just let me know as we leave Friday morning, February 1, 2013.   We promise that donations will not be spent on beer!

I can’t wait to document this year’s trip when we return, and also to share the news of another amazing story – a story how a young child from Honduras will be admitted to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital for major surgery upon our return – thanks to the efforts of Middle Tennesseans involved in our projects!  As of today, he and his mom have received their medical visas for the trip.  More to follow.

Until then, we’ll be down there doing what we can to help – one family at a time!

January Cruise 2013 – A Quick Getaway (Part 3)

We’re back on the boat in Progreso, headed to Cozumel and I just realized I had forgotten about “Formal Night” on the Carnival Elation.  I left my phone/camera in the cabin and didn’t take a single picture myself.   I was pleased to see more people than usual dressed in formal attire, especially the ladies in their assorted short skirts and heels!

All throughout the promenade are various photo backdrops, and it doesn’t cost a thing to give your best pose.  If you see a photo that you like, you can buy it.  If you don’t, just leave it in the rack.  This is a great opportunity for you to get that new Linkd-In, Facebook, or Twitter Profile shot – or a family portrait without expensive sitting fees.

Meanwhile, I worried about Ruby, our Blue Doberman, and if she was having seperation anxiety.  Turns out she wasn’t, thanks to our dear friend Julie, who also is a profressional “dog-person.”

Ruby' suite

Tuesday morning, the Carnival Elation arrived on time at Cozumel, and the day was going to be simply gorgeous!   Shown here is the Pilot Boat that drops off and picks up a “Harbor Pilot” from each incoming and outgoing cruise ship.  The “Pilot Boat” has got to be a great scam!

Pilot Boat

In Cozumel, Elation was docked right next to its younger twin sister, Paradise.

Elation and Paradise along Cozumel Pier

This was the first time we have docked at the older downtown pier in many years.  All things considered, I like it better.  Downtown is still the hub of activity for this great port!

Carlos and Charlies Downtown Cozumel

A large part of our group wanted beach time, and Carlos and Charlies Beach Club was the destination!  The van driver they hooked up with told them it was no longer there, but he had a better beach for them.  I could give a rat’s ass about getting sand in my crotch, so six of us decided to rent our own car and see just what happened to Carlos and Charlie’s Beach Club.

Carlos and Charlies Beach Club Entrance

Not only was it still there, it was even better!  The food is great, and the selection of drinks is endless.  It is located about 10 km south of the newest cruise ship pier.

Carlos and Charlies Beach Club Beach

Carlos and Charlies Beach Club Inside

After a few snacks and drinks, we decided to ride around the back side of the island of Cozumel, making a complete circle before heading back to the ship.

Back Side of Cozumel

The shopping area at the cruise pier has a shop for everything you would imagine, even a Drugs and Deli.

Cozumel Drugs and Subs

Elation and Paradise at Cozumel

And the rest of our gang made it back for the Cozumel sail-a-way!

Sail-Away Party Cabin v-4

We enjoyed great service from our Dining Room server Sydney, from Indonesia.

Sydney, from Indonesia

I regret not having a camera with me for more of the cruise.  We had a great experience.  Cruise Director Willie Lee had everything on the ship “in synch” if that is a term.  His staff was cheerful and was always around making sure everyone had a great time.  the Wednesday Night Deck party was one of the most lively I have seen.  If I had my camera then, I probably would have dropped it!

There was always a creature waiting back in the cabin.  I wish they could make one of Ruby!

Towel Bear

towel frog

We were off the ship and in the car headed home at 8:15 am on Thursday!  The weather forecasts were not sounding good through Alabama, but since when is a weatherman right?

Alabama Snow

We made it just past Cullman, Alabama before we hit a large traffic jam around 4:00 pm.  There was no turning around.  Mile Marker 313 on Interstate 65 North would be our home for the next 9.5 hours!  At least the Greyhound Bus next to us had free wi-fi!

I65 Traffic Jam mm 313

We arrived back in Nashville at 3:45 am Friday morning.  You know what?  I’d still do it all again!!!   You should too!

January 2013 Cruise – A Quick and Fun Getaway (Part 2)

Boarding the Carnival Elation at New Orleans was a breeze and we were onboard just minutes after parking the car. Once onboard, you have to get a ceremonial drink to start your cruise. I chose a Bloody Mary since it was before noon.

bloody mary

Carnival Elation is the 7th in the series of 8 Fantasy Class ships of Carnival. It was built in 1998 at a cost of $350 million dollars and was the first cruise ship to ever use “Azipods” for propulsion. If you are wondering what an Azipod is, CLICK HERE.

The Elation and its sisters are considered small ships by today’s standards at 855′ in length, carrying 2052 passengers and 920 crew. No matter what they say, it is still a damn big boat!

We were last on Elation in October of 2011 for its final sailing from Mobile, Alabama. When we returned, it went to dry dock for refurbishment of certain areas and general maintenance. Although it did not get additional balconies or the water park, it still emerged as a new ship and you could notice the improvements on our sailing.

Elation Atrium Bar

Elation Mikado Lounge Balcony

Elation Mikado Lounge Main Floor

Elation Golf Course

ElationLidoDeck

At 1:30 pm, our rooms were ready. It is amazing to me just how quick the ship can be “made new” after each voyage. Off we go to Cabin M22.

Elation Cabin M22

Before we knew it, the ship was setting sail.  What a relief – no Homeland Security issues this time!   (READ THIS and you’ll know what I am talking about)

The closer we got to the Gulf of Mexico, the foggier it got.  When you can’t see, just blow the horn and they’ll move right?  Notice the ever-changing lighting effects of the pool.

Carnival just recently introduced the Punchliner Comedy Club on all ships and it is going over quite well.  Comedian Russ Nagel was beyond terrific as you can see from the standing room only crowd!

Another cool event recently introduced is “Superstar Live.”  This is just like karaoke, except you sing with a live band – which happened to be the Carnival Elation show band.  Here is the group “Sexual Chocolate” performing at “Superstar Live.”

I won’t bore you with all the details about the great meals except to say the famous Chocolate Melting Cake has not changed a bit!

Chocolate Melting Cake

The first Port of Call (formal term for ship stop) was Progreso, Mexico, which to many is a “shit hole.”    For whatever reason, I like this stop because it is the closest you will ever get to “real life” in Mexico from a cruise ship.  It is worth the free bus ride from the pier into town to check things out.   They now have a “bus port” complete with a new straw market, and its even closer to the beach.

EntryToProgreso

Progreso Bus Port

Progreso Tourist Village

ProgresoBeachfront

Inflation has struck the beach in Progreso.  A massage that used to be $10 is now $20.  Don’t choke – they will still negotiate!

The locals are on this beach in full force trying to sell everything you can think of…. and a few things you would never imagine.   Don’t let it annoy you.  They are just trying to feed their families and a boat load of tourists are “easy pickings!”

I have found it best to tip the “cold beer on the beach guy” and ask him to keep the other vendors away while you sit on the beach with your cold beer.   That works.

Marinas MasssageProgreso

Many musicians stroll the beach at Progreso for tips.

ProgresoBeachMusicians

It is especially fun to tip them to play for the people getting a massage.  Thats what I always do.

Musica Massage

And you can tip them to ride back to the ship with you.  I did that too.

Bus Music

And once back to the Port, there are several bars with a great atmosphere.  Don’t get back on board just yet!

Progreso Beach Bar

Elation at Progreso

The Port of Progreso is a huge industrial port and cruise ship visits are relatively new in comparison.  Each visit, I can see more and more tourism developing this third world town into what will one day be a thriving resort location.  Just wait and see!

MexicanMilitaryShip

Part 3 finds the Carnival Elation in Cozumel.  Join us there, and also as we head back home on what would become “the drive home from hell!”

Janaury 2013 Cruise – A Quick and Fun Getaway! (Part 1)

There is never a good time to plan a vacation, even a short one. When times are slow, we’re out there hammering pennies from the pavement. When times are busier, as they thankfully are now, there are just not enough hours in the day!

Sometimes, everyone is better served if you take just a few days to recharge yourself – and that is what 26 of us just did!

We headed out at 7:00 Friday morning, January 11th for New Orleans. Sometimes, I would rather drive to New Orleans rather than fly. One reason is this “drive-thru daiquiri joint” in Pearl River, just outside of New Orleans.

Drive-Thru Daiquiri Joint

We arrived at the Drury Inn Suites at Carondelet and Poydras Street around 3:00 pm. Several in our group chose to fly down and we all arrived at the same time. The Drury is convenient to everything – Carondelet turns into Bourbon Street one block over, Harrahs Casino is 3 blocks down, and they have a complimentary happy hour and hot breakfast included with your room. They also have a rooftop pool.

Drury Inn New Orleans Rooftop Pool

It had rained the entire day, but the skies cleared just in time for us to enjoy a night on Bourbon Street. First a visit to Harrah’s, where Beth picked up a quick $100. After dinner at Pat O’Briens, we joined all the other tourists and freaks on Bourbon Street.

I ran across these two girls. They said they were doing this to pay off their student loans. I believed them.

Glitter Girls

This cat was just a freak and couldn’t possibly have had a student loan, and probably wouldn’t pay it if he/she did.

guess

Regardless of your level of social tolerance, Bourbon Street really is something to experience.

The cruise ships normally arrive in New Orleans before sunrise, and you can usually see them from the roof top of the Drury Inn. Not today!

NOLA Fog

The Carnival Elation had arrived, so after breakfast, we loaded up the car and headed to the Erato Street Cruise Terminal. Normally we would have left our car at the Drury Inn, which usually includes parking in their cruise special. This year, they are adding on to the hotel and building a parking garage. In other words, we had no choice but to park at the cruise terminal ($75), where we arrived at 11:15 am and were on the ship having the first drink at 11:40. The Port of New Orleans and Carnival Shoreside staff have mastered the process here!

This cruise was my 20th sailing, the 14th with Carnival and the other six with Royal Caribbean and Princess. I keep returning to Carnival quite frankly because I have had more fun on their ships. Damien Smart, my Carnival Vacation Planner, has always taken great care of us, and everyone that sails with us. People may think I get rewards or kickbacks for these cruises, but I don’t. I just recommend people that I have good experiences with. Give Damien a call at 1-800-819-3902, ext 82885.

Meanwhile, up on Lido Deck, you can see just how busy the Mississippi River is at New Orleans.

Nashville’s own Ingram Barge Lines has a huge presence here and the boats they have here make the ones we see on the Cumberland look like toys. Years ago, Ingram Barge’s main office was located in the Shell Building in New Orleans prior to Mr. Bronson Ingram moving it to Nashville.

Ingram on Mississippi River

And then there are numerous freighters like these all around.

Freighter</a

Most people don't realize that the Port of New Orleans is over 100 miles away from the mouth of the Mississippi at the Gulf of Mexico. The nice thing about cruising from New Orleans, no matter what the weather is on the high seas, your first and last 8 hours of cruising will be smooth!

Map NOLA to GULF>

Check back for Part 2 and find out all about the Carnival Elation and the ports of Progreso and Cozumel, Mexico.

The Return of Steamboating to Tennessee!

There were three Queens that once plied the US inland rivers.  The Delta Queen, The Mississippi Queen, and The American Queen.  All were once owned and operated by The Delta Queen Steamboat Company.  In 2008, each of these boats ceased operations.

The Delta Queen was fortuante enough to continue her service as a hotel in Chattanooga.  The Misissippi Queen was sold for scrap.  CLICK HERE for a previous blog article about The Delta Queen. 

Meanwhile, The American Queen, originally launched in 1995, was idled in foreclosure at the US Maritime Reserve Fleet in Beaumont, Texas to await its fate.

Fast forward to 2011, and the start-up of the Great American Steamboat Company, headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee.  The American Queen was purchased and towed to a shipyard in Sulphur, Louisiana for renovation.  The American Queen Steamboat Company is putting the that third queen back into service!

CLICK HERE for the history of the American Queen.

Thanks to The American Queen Steamboat Company, the only authentic overnight paddlewheel steamboat in America will have Memphis has its home port!  And the new Godmother of this reborn legend is none other than Priscilla Presley.

The maiden voyage of The American Queen departs New Orleans on April 13th, 2012.  On April 27, 2012 the Queen will arrive in Memphis for its christening ceremony at Beale Street Landing.

For the rest of 2012, The American Queen will offer a variety of 5 to 10 night cruises departing from New Orleans, Vicksburg, Memphis, St. Louis, Louisville, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Chattanooga, and St. Paul, MN.  Here is the current American Queen website.

To learn more about the rebirth of this grand vessel, visit the American Queen Steamboat Company website.

Who knows, maybe The American Queen will pay a visit to Nashville in 2013.  We’ll be there when she does!

(photos courtesy of American Queen Steamboat Company website and Facebook Page)

 

Trey Lewis is VP Sales & Marketing for Ole South Properties Inc, Tennessee’s largest independent home builder,  615.896.0019  direct 615.593.6340 or email TLewis@olesouth.com.  Specializing in new homes in the Greater Nashville area to include Nashville, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, Clarksville, Gallatin, and Spring Hill, Tennessee.

Nashville New Homes: Your Very Own Dream Machine

The past few years have offered some incredible opportunities for home ownership, with many just now getting off of the fence and exploring.  What did they see, hear or feel that made them decide to act now? 

I love selling new homes.  You meet so many neat people.  While they may have different needs, they all have one common desire – they want to own something!

One prospect I recently worked with answered the question like this…. “If I don’t buy anything now, I won’t have anything to sell later!”

 

She explained her reasoning…. a friend in her office was retiring.  She and her husband were turning 60.  All of their kids were grown.  Their house was paid for.    Their dream was planned.  They wanted to see the world while they could still enjoy the experience.

They had recently sold their home of 35 years.  With the proceeds, they purchased a smaller town home so they would have a place to get the mail, or a “home base.”  They purchased a large Motor Home with plans to visit every state in the continental US, and Canada too!  They were leaving April 30th, with no firm plans other than to take a break for a 14-day European Cruise in September.  Needless to say, they still had a chunk of money left over from the sale of their home!

 

My prospect has similar dreams for her future, and like she said earlier, “If I don’t buy anything now, I won’t have anything to sell later!”

In essence, her new home is now her very own “Dream Machine.”  When she is retirement age, it will be paid for.  It will be hers to sell.  The proceeds will be hers to enjoy.  She put it even simpler…. “After 30 years of renting, all I would get is a Change of Address Form.  Now I will have something to sell!”

Everyone has a dream for the future.  Owning your own home will increase your ability to pursue that dream.  And as long as you continue to rent, you are giving your landlord the ability to pursue his or her dream.

What is YOUR dream?   There is a “Dream Machine” that can make it come true!  CLICK HERE to find yours.

Trey Lewis is VP Sales & Marketing for Ole South Properties Inc, Tennessee’s largest independent home builder,  615.896.0019  direct 615.593.6340 or email TLewis@olesouth.com.  Specializing in new homes in the Greater Nashville area to include Nashville, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, Clarksville, Gallatin, and Spring Hill, Tennessee.