I’ve lost track of how many people asked us if we were sure we wanted to commit to a long-term sit in Alabama. So glad we decided to go for it.
This was a fairly simple assignment. We had only one critter in our care, along with a very well-kept property. Kiwi isn’t an overly affectionate cat, but she did enjoy our company (typically from a few feet away). She only jumped onto our laps every now and then. Her preference was for Paul, which I tried not to take personally.
We were walking distance to both Mobile Bay and Downtown Fairhope and spent many a morning and evening (when it was the coolest) on the water. It was an unforgettable summer full of new adventures and friends. You can click on any of the photos in the gallery below to make them bigger.
I am still processing our time there and will most likely add to this post in the coming days. For now, I wanted to get these photos out (like I promised a few weeks back). Also, I am not currently on Facebook but will be back soon. In the meantime, you can find me on LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.
Paul and I are now in Orlando, Florida and will be renting an apartment in Winter Park as of November 1. We plan on staying here until Paul retires. Winter Park is gorgeous and we are smitten. It is going to be a fantastic fall! We miss all of our friends, old and new, so please keep in touch until we see you again. XO,
Valynne & Paul
PS I’ve been having some technical issues with the blog. At present, your comments are not being displayed (along with all kinds of other quirks). Please bear with us as I have found someone who is going to help me rebrand Caretaking Couple altogether in the coming weeks. Exciting!
It was an exhilarating two weeks, driving across Route 10. The plan was to drive from California to Florida (Paul will be working in Orlando soon), but that changed somewhere along the line and we are now on a house and pet sit on the Alabama coast. That is not very surprising to those of you who know us well, is it? I promise to post all about how we ended up in Fairhope and what it is like here soon. First, Route 10.
After our lease was up on the Ojai rental, we moved back in to Linda’s place. Linda is our friend with the ranch – the horses, the goats, the chickens and the cats, and one very fun little Whippet named Giselle. I took English and Humanities classes from Linda’s late husband Hugo – that is how far back we go. So, we stayed at Linda’s for a few weeks before hitting the road, sometimes sitting, sometimes rooming with her. Thank you, Linda. We love and appreciate you.
The Salton Sea
Our first night on Route 10 was spent in Palm Springs. Since I’ve recently written about Palm Springs (click on highlighted text for that post) and we didn’t do much there aside from sleep and revisit our favorite spots, I will carry on.
It didn’t take Paul long to stray from our original route. Neither of us had been to the Salton Sea so we decided to take a detour on our way to Arizona. What we saw of it was eerie and abandoned, sad and beautiful. What will become of California’s largest accidental lake? I encourage you to Google “Salton Sea” if you don’t know the story and would like to. If you feel like discussing it, leave a comment and I will happily reply.
The Arizona / Mexico Border
One thing I should mention is that most of these pictures were taken with my new iPhone 6. I normally use my Canon for blog pics, but this phone is so handy and I thought I would try it out. This border shot was taken while Paul drove and it looks like a movie set to me. The border is actually behind those dunes, but the metal barriers are what piqued my interest. My guess is that they are to stop someone from 4wheeling it through the border wall, over the dunes and onto Route 10.
Our first stop in AZ was at a Harrah’s casino. This was Paul’s idea, because he knows I like to play poker. Texas Hold ‘Em is the only game I care to play. He doesn’t gamble, so it was very sweet of him to pick this place. I turned $40 into $300 at one of the tables and had a great time doing it. Paul sat at a restaurant bar, away from the smoke and the noise.
Poker Room in The Distance
Neither of us had been to Tombstone, Arizona. We heard that it was touristy but worth it, and Paul loves Wild West history, so we put it on the itinerary.
O.K. Corral in Tombstone
Paul found us an inn belonging to an English couple. The husband and wife team came to Tombstone for a visit several years ago and fell in love with it. Soon after they were running the Trail Rider’s Inn. I love stories like that. Maybe someday we will fall in love with one place and decide to do something spontaneous like that. More likely we’ll be traveling around in an Airstream or something similar and continuously falling in love with everywhere, though.
Trail Rider’s Inn Bunkhouse
We wandered up and down and all around like we always do. It is an interesting little town, especially if you enjoy eavesdropping. Lots of short story material.
My favorite place in Tombstone turned out to be Big Nose Kate’s. I peaked my head in when we first got to town and was rewarded with live country music and a woman in neon yellow shorts dancing on the bar. According to Wikipedia, Big Nose Kate was a Hungarian-born prostitute and longtime companion and common-law wife of Old West gunfighter Doc “I’m your huckleberry” Holliday.
Big Nose Kate’s
We came back later for karaoke night with the locals. There was some serious talent in the room and I videotaped some of it. I am unable to post my videos here on the blog for some reason but you can “like” us on Facebook for more photos and a few travel videos.
Big Ass Beer at Big Nose Kate’s
Paul loved the bar at the Crystal Palace Saloon the most. It is gorgeous in person and has been around since the 1800’s. He also loved the costumes that the bar staff wore (I think it had something to do with cleavage). I tried to get him to take an old-fashioned photo with me in one of the numerous booths along Main Street, but he kept coming up with excuses not to. He really doesn’t love having his picture taken and since I take a lot of pictures (of him) I can’t complain (I guess).
Crystal Palace Saloon
Our wanders eventually lead us into the The Tombstone Epitaph, which has also been around since the 1800’s. Anyone else have a thing for old typesetting equipment?
Setting the Type at Tombstone Epitaph
And to the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park. I’m not much into stories about people shooting and hanging each other, but I did get a kick out of this quote out of George Parson‘s diary back in 1880: “A man will go to the devil pretty fast in Tombstone . . . Faro, whiskey, and bad women will beat anyone.”
Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park
We hit Boothill Graveyard on the way out of town. Again, not something I would typically do but am glad that I did. See my favorite marker below. Every so often I like to remind people that they can double click on my photos to enlarge them. That’s your reminder.
Boothill Grave Marker (Keeping It Real)
What can I say about West Texas? Not much. We got ourselves rooms in El Paso and Ozona, but all we really did was eat, sleep, do laundry and watch The Big Bang Theory reruns. We were both shocked at what $109 a night gets you in El Paso, though. Our digs at Hampton Inn and Suites included a full kitchen, dining area, living room, bedroom and bathroom with a tub.
It wasn’t until Fredericksburg that we really began to appreciate our time in Texas. We had a hearty and traditional lunch at the Old German Bakery and Restaurant which provided plenty of fuel to wander another day away, this time on one of the largest and prettiest Main Streets in America (according to me, anyway).
lots of German Food in Fredericksburg, Texas
My Kind of Main Street
Pioneer Memorial Library in Fredericksburg
After that, we headed to Austin. Our friends and fellow adventurers Thyra and David had kindly offered their guest quarters to us and we took them up on it for a couple of nights. They’ve recently moved from California to Texas and it was a treat to see their new home, hang out with their four-legged friends and compare travel notes.
Finnegan Says Hello
David, Paul and Thyra at Guero’s Taco Bar in Austin
For our literary friends, David is in the process of having his second book of poetry published while Thyra completes the cover art. Find out more at MaxMundan. Prepare to have the wind knocked out of you.
Walking Into Austin
After visiting Thyra and David, we spent two nights at a Hyatt, chosen for its proximity to downtown. Austin was as enjoyable as everyone said it would be. Like California, it was in a draught when we left. Right now, a few of the places we visited are under water owing to the floods. A State of Emergency has been declared. Thankfully, our friends live on higher ground on the outskirts of town.
My Favorite Outdoor Austin Mural
My Favorite Indoor Austin Mural (Firehouse Hostel)
We loved Austin – it is a great walking town. Hours were spent inside the Blanton Museum of Art as well, which we just happened to stumble upon. Get there if you can.
Lone Star State
The Blanton Museum of Art
Best Margarita? B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub (Go Figure)
Rickshaw Boots (Because Airstream)
The Oldest in Austin, Hotel Driskill
Along with the Wild West, Paul loves a good detective series. He is a fan of the Dave Robicheaux novels by James Lee Burke, which take place in and around Bayou Teche. That is how we ended up at Country Charm Bed and Breakfast in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. It was indeed charming, with Norman Rockwell plates on the wall above the kitchen table, a big bathtub with jets (I’ve really missed taking baths) and a pond out front.
Country Charm B&B
The View From Our Porch
Paul wanted to go on a swamp tour while we were in Bayou country. I wasn’t so sure. I was thinking mosquitoes, alligators, and snakes hanging from tree limbs. And rightly so.
Champagne’s Cajun Swamp Tours Headquarters
Paul Loves Swamp
But then we got there and it was beautiful. Plus, I felt kind of foolish over my initial trepidation seeing as how this five year old was showing no fear whatsoever.
Champagne’s Cajun Swamp Tour with Gary
Our guide Gary grew up in these parts and returned here after having traveled the world. He shared with us all kinds of interesting facts. Example: we suffered no mosquito bites thanks to the dragonflies that kept the population low. And did you know that the biggest threat to baby alligators is fire ants? I could have done without all of the ex-wife and mother-in-law at the bottom of the swamp jokes, but that’s just me. Being in a swamp / bayou is unlike anywhere else I’ve been. It was an unexpected highlight.
We really wanted to have dinner at Glenda’s Creole Kitchen (a hole in the wall down the road from the B&B) but it had just closed for Mother’s Day Weekend. I almost wept when I read the sign – it still smelled so good from lunchtime. Instead, we found ourselves eating fried food and people-watching at Pont Breaux’s. The tall man dancing towards the front of the stage was celebrating a Birthday. Everyone there knew him and I could have watched him dance to Lee Benoit and his band all night.
Oak Alley Plantation
We stopped at Oak Alley Plantation on the way to New Orleans. It was random and since we hadn’t planned it out, we ended up having to choose between lunch and the last tour. Guess what we chose? That is right, we chose lunch. Maybe next time, or maybe not. Lovely on the outside, but with an ugly past. Thoughts?
Hurricane at The Ice House Bar in Hotel Provincial
Paul and I are enchanted with New Orleans; especially the French Quarter. First stop: Hotel Provincial. I freshened up and walked across the courtyard to a small bar across from the lobby and ordered myself a Hurricane from James. A proper one, with premium rums and fresh citrus. In a glass (as opposed to a plastic Bourbon Street cup). It was delicious. This bar was full of friendly locals and both James and Etienne know how to tend. We love everything about this hotel.
Below are some of my favorite New Orleans photos. Not my best photos, but my favorites. I have blogged about New Orleans before and have gone on long enough for one post besides.
Thank you for following along with us. I know some of you have been stopping by the blog since Day 1 (back in 2009). Some of you even give me grief when I go too long between posts and let me say that I do appreciate it. And we both LOVE hearing from you, as well. Feel free to leave a comment / question on any of our posts at any time and one of us will respond.
New Favorite Breakfast spot = eat
Johnny White’s for $5 Bloodies
Old Ginger Mint Tulep Mural in the French Quarter
Revolving Bar at Hotel Monteleone
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (Oldest Bar in NOLA)
Faulkner House Books
Walk in Large Groups
Tarot & Palm Reader – Jackson Square
Outside Cafe Negril on Frenchmen Street
d.b.a. on Frenchmen Street
Early Morning in the French Quarter
The Courtyard at Hotel Provincial
Thank you again for stopping by. As a token of our appreciation, I will be sending one lucky commenter a copy of my favorite southern read so far. Simply leave a comment here on the blog and I will draw a name on June 15th. In the meantime, Laissez les bons temps rouler! XO,
Valynne & Paul
Our time in California has flown by. I love that Paul enjoyed the stomping grounds of my youth so much and that we were able to spend time with friends (old and new) and family. Next up is Orlando, Florida. We will road trip it there in the next few weeks and plan on stopping in Palm Springs, Tombstone, Austin, New Orleans, and possibly one more place along the way. I will share details here and on Facebook as soon as I have some.
We had planned on spending a bit more time here but that was not meant to be, and we are both ready for whatever is next. I am keeping an eye out for job opportunities and potential sits/rentals, and would love to hear from any Orlando readers. Below are my favorite California photos. I will probably be adding to them in the next few days. Please send me any that you would like me to share, California friends! Thanks for the memories . . .
The Three Amigas (Thirty Years of Friendship and Counting)
New Friends! The Ojai Ladies at Gjelina in Venice Beach
Bukowski Quote on Main Street, Ventura
Paul’s Favorite Spot at Azu
Lots of Classy Old Cars in Ojai
Anniversary #9 Selfie
Ojai Farmers’ Market
Paul and Giselle at the ranch on Old Creek Rd
Old Creek Ranch Winery
Old Creek Ranch Winery
The Farmer and The Cook in Meiner’s Oaks
Our Next Door Neighbor
Johnny’s on The Avenue
A Dog and His Truck
Someone’s a Little Spoiled
Soule Park Blossoms
USA’s Smallest Post Office
Paul’s Birthday Spread
Libbey Park for the Storytelling Festival
Airstream Bar in Whole Foods (Oxnard)
Ojai Roasting Co on a Sunday
Deer Lodge Peace Sign
An Upper Ojai Meadow
Helen’s First Birthday
Corrale’s For a Burrito
Weekly Hikes (See Prior Posts for Hiking Pics)
Life is Beautiful at Surfer’s Point
Christmas on Old Creek Rd
Kurt Vonnegut at Bart’s Books
Madrigali at the Ojai Storytelling Festival
The Ojai Playhouse
Yellow Truck on Main Street
OVAC Hiking Group at Horn Trail
Yoga and Wine at Majestic Oak Vineyard
Linda and Giselle at the River Bottom
Force of Nature at The Ojai Wine Festival
Lunchtime View at Soule Park Golf Course
CC (Club Cat) at The Ojai Valley Athletic Club
Smitty and Julija at The Lavender Festival
Lavender Festival Umbrella
Ojai Raptor Center
Lavender Lemonade Martini at Osteria Monte Grappa
Before I Die . . at Porch Gallery
Gay Pride at Libbey Park
The Oaks at Ojai
Ojai Music Festival Flag
Emily’s Cal Poly Graduation
Hanging Out at Porch Gallery
July Fourth Parade
July Fourth Parade
Bonnie Lu’s on July Fourth
Deborah on Her Phone at The Vine
Watching The Game at Osteria Monte Grappa
Sadie and Erik at Los Cap
Dawn and Fancy Mike at Los Cap
Ojai Concert Series
The Star Lounge
Live Your Dreams
The Breakfast Club at Sea Fresh
Lynn and Helen at The Vine
Private John E Concert
Cheers From Yours Truly
Classic Car Show in Ventura
Classic Car Show in Ventura
Classic Car Show in Ventura
Classic Car Show in Ventura
Food Truck Love
Ojai Yarn Bomb
Optimist Club at Ojai Day
Singing Gypsies at Ojai Day
Ojai Day Music
Jared, Tending Bar at The Vine
Jacob and David at The Vine
Puppy Love With Lori
Nigel and Kara at Taste of Ojai
Helen on Halloween
Mom and Helen on Halloween
Yours Truly on Halloween
David on Halloween
Greg and Paul at The Vine
Singing at Smitty’s Place
Imagine at Monte Grappa
Ojai Christmas Tree
Tim and Bernie at The Vine
A Visit From Jonny
Sunset Over the Channel Islands
Helen and Mom at CoCo’s
Pool Shark Sami at The Hub
Old Truck in Meiner’s Oaks
Book Ends in Meiner’s Oaks
Century 10 in Ventura
Pratt Trail in Ojai
The Ojai Library
Paul on Ojai Ave
The Ojai Vineyard Tasting Room
The Patio at Osteria Monte Grappa
Paul at Surfer’s Point
Helen in Her Woody Hat
Emily and Helen
Joey and Jasmine
Joey and Helen
Chalkboard Sign at Love Heals
Ojai, California is home to some of the best trails I have ever hiked, and most of them are just minutes away from us. Paul and I have hiked here and there on the weekends, but most of my trail time happens on Monday mornings with a group led by Robert Evans via the Ojai Valley Athletic Club.
I’m getting to know this side of the Los Padres National Forest thanks to Robert. We first met in January when I joined OVAC and started going on his weekly hikes. Since then, I have enjoyed his Yoga, QiGong and Spin classes, as well. Please meet (or get to know better) one of my favorite Ojai Valley locals via this short, sweet Q&A.
Robert in Los Padres National Forest
Robert, how long have you lived in the Ojai Valley?
I was raised in the valley from age 6-16 and retuned to Ojai in 1997.
OVAC Hiking Group at Horn Canyon
My Sassy Friend Lynn Hiking Horn Canyon
What brought you here?
My car (haha, you funny). I really was craving a quieter place to live and wanted to be closer to my mom.
Robert and His Wife Susan and Friends in Los Padres National Forest
Paul in Los Padres National Forest
When and why did you become a health and wellness professional?
I started in 1999. Wanted to be able to be of service to others.
Terry and Patrick on Pine Mountain
Coulter Pine Cone in Los Padres National Forest
What were you doing before then?
I owned a jewelry manufacturing and repair company.
Four Legged Friends Hike, As Well
Where do you like to go to get away?
Our local mountains and the beaches of Telum, Mexico.
Los Padres National Forest, Looking Out at the Pacific Ocean
What are some of your favorite things about this area?
The wonderful mountains, running on the trails, and the people.
Yoga at OVAC
Is there an activity that you enjoy leading the most?
It is pretty much whatever I’m doing in the moment but my very favorite are my yoga and pool classes.
Downward Dog at OVAC
FYI: Robert also teaches Yoga classes outside of OVAC. Most of the classes I have taken from him have been at OVAC, but I did catch a few of his “Yoga and Wine” events at Majestic Oak Vineyard before they ended for the season. It’s a lovely combination, by the way!
Yoga and Wine at Majestic Oak Vineyard
Pre-Wine Under the Oak
What would you do if you weren’t doing this?
Running a yoga and surf retreat in Ecuador.
Yoga Under the Stars at Majestic Oak Vineyard
Wine Time at Majestic Oak Vineyard
Any advice for those looking to shift to a healthier lifestyle?
Just get started and find what you like best and do it more!
Pool Class at OVAC
Mary & Betty at OVAC
Eddie Says “Peace Out” From the Pool
Where can people go to find out about all of the services you offer?
Find me at GoOjai for hiking and OmOjai for yoga.
Thank you, Robert Evans! And thank you, friends near and far, for keeping up with us on our Caretaking Couple adventures. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share them here.
Valynne & Paul
Most of you know that I (Valynne) spent a good twenty years of my life in Southern California. I was born in Connecticut, but did most of my growing up in Ventura, CA. Paul and I had visited CA together a handful of times (mostly Northern as the company he works for is headquartered there) and we both liked the idea of living somewhere along or near the coast, if only for a few months. It took us a while to get here, but we are happy to say that we are officially California residents (tempted to post my driver’s license pic as it is that bad…Nope. Can’t do it).
Sharing my old stomping grounds (Main Street, Ventura) with Paul
Surfer’s Point in Ventura, CA
Paul and I came here on a long term sit for a friend that I used to petsit for back in my early twenties. We’ve just spent four months in her sweet little ranch on the outskirts of Ventura with no less than eleven animals (two horses, two goats, four chickens, two barn cats, and one loving and lovable little whippet named Giselle).
Momma and Daughter Goats, Happy and Mocha
Giselle, taking a quick break on her favorite chair after running around outside (hence the grass on her bum)…
During that time, we did some local research and decided to find a rental in the neighboring town of Ojai as soon as our homeowner friend returned from her travels. Ojai has a small village vibe and was love at first wander for Paul. We recently found a great place and are now in the process of making it homey. Can’t wait to get our books and art out of storage in New Mexico! For now, the rooms all echo. We’ve been having fun finding household items here and there via local shops and yard sales.
Our New California Digs
We will be here for at least a year, and most likely longer. The cost of living is more expensive in California than most states we have lived in, but there are ways to balance it out. I have found a job as a Client Services Manager here in town, and Paul continues to work from home, so we don’t have to worry about the time and money associated with commuting. We can walk or take the trolley just about anywhere and our plan is to leave the 4Runner in the carport as often as possible.
Ojai Farmers’ Market
There are so many community events here, and we love that we can walk to just about all of them. My Ventura family and friends are fifteen or so miles away (see photo below of my adorable niece with her momma at Arroyo Verde Park on her first birthday for reference) and my mom and I get to catch up in person almost every week now. This is a pretty big deal for me, as we’ve gone years without seeing each other in the past.
I’d say that her Dora the Explorer Birthday cake was a hit…
As for house and pet sitting, we are taking a little break. It’s been a good (almost five year) run and we are enjoying having our own place to call home again and coming and going as we please. For the first time in what seems like forever, we have no travel plans, other than a quick trip to New Mexico to pick up our stuff in storage. We will be planning another England trip soon (he’s not going again without me!), but there are other things to consider first, like the budget and vacation time with my new job.
There is so much more to say, but I am going to keep this post a simple update and get more specific in future posts. I have taken lots of pictures, and will add a photo gallery again here soon, as well. We love keeping in touch with everyone and would be thrilled to get an update from you as well, either here in the comments box or via your communication method of preference. Feel free to post any questions/comments/requests here, as well. Happy Spring, wherever you may be! Lots of Love,