Category Archives: Travel

The Land of Love: Where Kitschy Meets Marketing Genius

My husband reads our local newspaper every day as part of his two hour morning ritual and will sometimes leave articles on our kitchen counter for me to read that he thinks I should see, including the occasional obituary.

A few weeks ago I found this one, circled and with arrows pointing to the specific article of interest…

Why? Well, we need to go back to the summer of 2003 when my daughter spent her first of many summers at a sleep away camp in the Poconos and my son went to one in the Berkshires…2 states and 3 mountain ranges away…and, of course, his visiting day was the same day as hers.

Seriously, why should anything in life ever be simple? It’s so much more “interesting” to be challenged by these kind of logistics right?

Side note: Both camps had an “alternate” visiting day on Sunday, mostly for divorced parents who didn’t want to share the few hours with their children. And while I was divorced by the time my kids started going to camp, the alternate days for us were especially important because of the distance between the two camps. Why were they in 2 different states? Sigh…we’ll have to have a few cocktails one day to get to that story.

Anyway, for anyone that has ever tried to get a hotel during a camp visiting day weekend, you know the rates are usually at least double and, oh, there are 3 night minimum stays.

So call me crazy but…I didn’t need want to spend 3 nights in either location. I wanted to leave Tampa on Friday morning and return Sunday night.

And not spend thousands of dollars in the process.

Apparently, I was somewhat delusional.

Ok, wait, we’ve already determined I am crazy so I guess delusional isn’t much of a stretch.

The first year I literally spent months combing the internet for reasonable multi city airfare (arrive in Scranton…yes Scranton…on Friday and leave from Hartford…not as bad as Scranton but still…on Sunday) plus hotels with no minimums and a car rental that didn’t charge a ridiculous fee for dropping off in a different city than the one picking up.

Gotta love supply and demand economics!

Finally, I came across what was at the time a Sheraton about 30 minutes from my daughter’s camp through Orbitz that didn’t have any restrictions whatsoever and was very reasonably priced.

Only one room left…I didn’t even bother looking at the hotel’s website and grabbed it before it was gone as quickly as it had magically appeared. I’ve stayed in enough Sheratons, Holiday Inns, Hiltons and Marriotts off various highways and they are all pretty much the same.

Yeah, well, the hotel I reserved, Cove Haven on Lake Wallenpaupack in Lakeville, PA, clearly was the exception to that little rule.

Unbeknownst to me, I had reserved a suite at a place referred to as “The Land of Love”, one of the infamous Poconos resorts that was/is advertised incessantly on Northeast radio and television as a “blend of romance and recreation”, complete with…

silo-like rooms (meaning no windows)
round beds (uh…not at all practical for my 6’4″ husband)

mirrored ceilings (OMG)
glass enclosed individual indoor heated heart shaped pools (aka giant germ/disease tanks)
and, yes,  a seven-foot champagne glass whirlpool bath-for-two complete with celestial ceiling (I thought they were a myth..I was so wrong)

At the reception area, they advised us that “Betrothed Badminton” was starting in 10 minutes to be followed by “Cupid’s Archery” and then some name for the cocktail hour I have obviously blocked from my memory.

I had entered hell.

My then fiance now husband, Stan, was in heaven.

Honestly, I love the big guy but I have never known anyone more attracted to cheesy stuff like this than him. He actually proposed to me in the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel complete with an Elvis impersonator so Cove Haven had him written all over it. 

Me, not so much. Truth be told, not at all.

It was going to be the longest 16 hours of my life…8 of them hopefully sleeping…before leaving at 8 am the next morning for visiting day #1.

“What time would you like the photographer to come to your room to take the photos of the two of you in your champagne glass bath?” asked the front desk clerk.

“Not necessary,” I said.

“What do you mean?” said Stan, looking extremely surprised that I didn’t want a complete stranger in our room taking pictures of us  in a bathtub. “Come on babe, it’ll make for a great memory.”

“I’m good,” I said. I already had plenty of images from this place permanently seared on my brain and we hadn’t even left the reception area.


FYI…searching for a photo of the champagne glass tub that was “free to use for commercial purposes” you will find some very interesting ones.  The one above was the least creepy one I could find.

Look, no disrespect to anyone who has stayed in one of these resorts and thought it was awesome. It just isn’t for me. But I will give Stan major props for making me laugh…A LOT…during our brief stay.

More importantly, I really do admire, Morris Wilkins, for taking a vision, no matter how kitschy, and making it come to life. A former electrician, he took over ownership of what was then called the Hotel Pocopaupack in 1958 and renamed it Cove Haven. For the next few years it was just another couples-only hotel until he came up with the idea for the heart-shaped tub, followed by the champagne glass one and both truly put the Poconos on the map as a modern honeymoon and romantic getaway destination.

Morris Wilkins

Despite several more years of visiting day weekends, we never returned to Coven Haven (please tell me you aren’t surprised).  I did, however, feel a bit nostalgic when I read that Mr. Wilkins had passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 90 and found the one photo I did allow to be taken while there. I wonder if they would want it for their marketing materials?

Then again, we probably have on way too much clothing for their needs.

That’s it for now…#BlackerOut!










Filed under Call Me Crazy, Random Stuff, Travel

History Lessons…Tampa Bay Style

I consider myself a person who really likes history and whenever I travel I love finding tours, museums, whatever to visit. But in my own community, Tampa Bay, I’ve kind of taken it for granted. Then I spent a recent Friday afternoon at the Tampa Bay History Center  as well as the following day at The Ringling Museum in Sarasota and realized there is nothing about our region’s history that should ever be taken for granted.

So let’s start with the History Center…I was invited on a VIP tour with several other Ambassadors for Tampa Bay Business Owners thanks to Timothy Bennett of Armon Events . Our tour guide was Rodney Kite-Powell, who started out working for the center one summer during college when it was essentially a storefront on Harbour Island, an area adjacent to Downtown Tampa, and never really left.


That was about 20 years and several paid grades ago. He is now the Curator of History and we were so fortunate to get his take on all of the museums exhibits and artifacts.  In other words, he was awesome…and so is the museum. Seriously, I know many of you are rolling your eyes, thinking what could possibly be so interesting about Tampa Bay’s history.

Honestly, I used to roll my eyes too. I mean, I never really thought Tampa Bay or Florida, in general, had done much in terms of contributing to our nation’s history and culture other than becoming a mecca for senior citizens and Disney fans.

When  I was working for a research and marketing company almost 15 years ago and the president of the company was very much behind the development of and fundraising for what is now the Center’s permanent home…behind Amalie Arena in the Channelside District of Downtown Tampa and part of the ever expanding Tampa Riverwalk  …I just didn’t get it despite how much I happen to really like American history. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that 15 years ago I still looked upon Tampa as a whackadoodle place, but as I’ve mentioned many times before, because of how much I have connected with the business community here in recent years I have grown to appreciate all that it has to offer more than I could have ever imagined.

So here’s my history lesson of Tampa Bay in a nutshell…#BlackerStyle of course…

  • Spanish explorers came to the region in the early 1500s in search of gold and encountered the native Tocabaga Indians. They never found gold but in the process, they essentially drove the tribe to extinction because of the fighting that ensued and the disease they spread.  No bueno, Espana, no bueno. At least there are a few remnants remaining including the canoe pictured below made from a tree trunk. Not sure I’d trust it today but back then, it definitely was a clever mode of transportation for the Tocabagans.dug out canoe
  • There is, however, one thing the Spanish did bring to this region first that we kind of can’t be too mad at them about…bacon! You’re welcome Estados Unidos. (Sidenote: The America Loves Bacon Festival is this weekend at the Florida State Fairgrounds …I’m not sure the early explorers ever anticipated a festival around “jamón” but I assume you’ll thank me later  if you go)
  • Did you know that the Seminole Tribe was originally from Georgia and Alabama and known as the Creek Indians?  Sorry Creeks but FSU Seminoles does have a better ring to it.  Meanwhile, the United States government is still technically at war with the Seminoles since there was never a treaty signed after the last war between them ended in 1858. Something tells me the Seminoles aren’t too worried about it today given the success of the Hard Rock Casino here.Standing ground
  • Henry Plant was, of course, the gentleman who brought the railroad to the region after the discovery of rich phosphate deposits, giving a huge boost to the local economy. He built the Tampa Bay Hotel , the signature building on the present day  University of Tampa campus and now a National Historic Landmark, as well as several other hotels along the railroad route from the north, encouraging the growth of our tourism industry.  I’m guessing those weren’t exactly of the Motel 6 variety either.Tampa Bay Hotel
  • There is no disputing the role the cigar industry has played in our history. There is only one factory left today but in the 1920s there were 120 and more cigars were being made here than anywhere else in the world. Over 400 million a year to be exact. A few of the older Cubans in our community today apparently joke that their mothers, who worked in the factories, were “strippers”. They are, of course, referring to the fact that their mothers were responsible for stripping the tobacco leaves from the stems and not some of the first employees of a particularly famous Tampa landmark on Dale Mabry Highway.Cigars
  • And last, but certainly not least, Jose Gaspar, the pirate who we “celebrate” every year at the Gasparilla Festival (sorry, hard for me to understand why we celebrate pirates who were essentially rapists and thieves) …Totally made up. Yep, sorry, kids but Jose was part of a marketing campaign in the early 1900s that started the whole Gasparilla parade thing.  Hey, I’m just the messenger…if you want to debate it, you definitely need to hook up with Rodney at the Center.

Oh and two more things…1) Definitely do a docent tour if you go. I think you always get more out of these type of places when you have someone guiding you and 2) If you are looking for a very cool event space, you really do need to put the Center on your short list of possible venues. It has a fabulous 3 story atrium housing a Columbia Restaurant outpost and an outdoor patio overlooking the Garrison Channel.

Tampa History Center entrance 3

I think that’s enough of a history lesson for today. I’ll report on my visit to The Ringling Museum another time. But if you can’t wait, go see for yourself. I promise it will be just an equally amazing  immersion into Tampa Bay’s history.

That’s it for now…#BlackerOut !







Filed under Call Me Crazy, Florida Life, Tampa Bay, Travel

Swim With The Manatees Giveaway !

I’ve lived in Florida for almost 20 years and have always wanted to take a day to head up the Crystal River/Homosassa area to swim with the manatees. My kids did it with their father years ago and so has my husband with his son long before we met.  And while they all loved the experience, I got the “been there, done that, don’t need to do it again” response whenever I mentioned it in the past.

What? Why wouldn’t you want every opportunity to get face to face with these adorable creatures???


So call me crazy but…when a really great deal appeared on my screen a few months ago for a 4 hour private tour on the Nature’s Coast Manatee Tours 32 foot Nautaline Houseboat (aka Yabba Dabba Doo), I grabbed it and immediately sent out a message to a group of 6 girlfriends to arrange a date before the voucher expired on April 17th.

download (1)


Yeah, easier said than done. We tried…but it just wasn’t meant to be it seems.

So now it is a few weeks away from that expiration date and I decided rather than it go to waste, I will do a Rafflecopter giveaway *
Well, technically, I’m just hosting the giveaway because OJ Mortgage (aka the hubby’s company) has agreed to be the official sponsor…Thanks Stan…you really are (insert shameless mortgage company plug) THE MAN! 

If you’d like to enter to win, you must do so by 12 am on 4/4/15 .  The random winner will be announced by 5 pm that same day. As previously mentioned, the coupon does expire on April 17th, 2015 so take a look at your calendars and make sure you have a day available to do it. Otherwise, it will really go to waste and that defeats the purpose of this giveaway…just saying.

That’s it for now…Good Luck!…#BlackerOut!


*The giveaway includes a 4 hour private tour for up to 6 people. You must call to reserve in advance. Tax and gratuity not included.

Click here to enter:  Rafflecopter giveaway

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Filed under Call Me Crazy, Florida Life, Travel

Back To Life, Back To Reality…Why Can’t Every Day Be a Vacation Day?

I just got back from a week in LA visiting a lot of friends from various times in my life as well as celebrating my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah and, suffice it to say, re-entry is definitely tough.

While I certainly can’t complain arriving home to 80 degree temperatures when the vast majority of the country is still dealing with crazy winter storms, sitting here at my computer in Tampa I can’t help but feel like the ridiculous number of emails, messages and reminders of things I MUST DO  is making me want to crawl back into my vacation hole and never return.

Call me crazy but, why can’t every day be like the previous 7 days of fun, frolicking and freedom?

I suppose if I won the lottery or found out some long lost relative left me a big inheritance I could be on permanent vacation mode but the odds are sufficiently stacked against me it seems.

So here I sit…the morning after… mapping out the rest of my day and it doesn’t look pretty.

No lemoncello iced tea at my old camp friend’s fabulous store…

American Tea Room

American Tea Room

only to be followed by a famous chopped salad lunch at La Scala in Beverly Hills.

(Sorry no salad photo…too busy talking…but it was really good…trust me)

No long conversation over a bottle of wine hanging out at my post college roommate’s Benedict Canyon home …


No 2 hour power walk along Manhattan Beach checking out the very cool architecture of the bazillion dollar beach homes

and lunch at Lemonade with a high school friend

(OMG!!!! I could eat there every day) …

Manhattan Beach

Ok, so I am possibly the worst at taking selfies but these visual memories for me are priceless and in my mind, I will travel back to these moments whenever I want a mental break from the monotony of any day.

Is that enough of a daily “mini vacation”? Eh…probably not for most of us. Yet the demands of life in our society put the majority of us in a kind of full throttle mode during the work week. And as much as we read and hear the advice to take the time every day for some “vacation” moments like going to the gym, having coffee with a friend or maybe even just sitting still and breathing, for many, if it isn’t scheduled in our smart phones, it simply doesn’t happen.

Planning a few extra days like I did in LA to see as many people as I could took a lot of coordination. Trust me, I relied heavily on Tripit for keeping all of the details in one place and providing quick access to addresses to get me from point A to point Z and all of the points in between.

Planning a few extra moments every day to feel like you can be “away from it all” may not require a special travel app, but it still requires putting forth some degree of effort.  Hopefully, though, once you are in those moments, you savor them. And when you have to head back to life, back to reality again you are refreshed and ready to go.

That’s it for now…#BlackerOut


Filed under Call Me Crazy, Friendship, Travel