The Traveling Chefs Discovered Aruba

THE TRAVELING CHEFS DISCOVERED ARUBA AND ENJOYED IT.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”  ~Mark Twain

While searching for a wonderful place for vacation in the Caribbean, The Traveling Chefs discovered Aruba, the “One Happy Island” which they enjoyed well. There, they’ve spent one of the best weeks of their lives as a family. Those who have gone there were raving about their experience.  It is rated the number one place in the Caribbean for repeat visitors. 

To date, it is the place where The Traveling Chefs have spent most of their hard-earned vacation money and did not regret having done so.  In fact, the memories of their special moments still linger in their hearts even to this day. Their adopted daughter Pauline joined them in this special place.

THE TRAVELING CHEFS FLEW TO ARUBA

They took a plane from Orlando International Airport to Aruba via AirTran.  They were in the air for way over two and a half hours.  From the airport, they took a taxi to Caribbean Palm Village Resort.

On the way there, the taxi driver took a shorter route. They were very nervous because the areas they passed through didn’t look desirable.  At one point, he stopped his taxi and spoke to two men and a woman on the street.  The men wore nothing but pants.  

Their fears slowly subsided when they reached a paved road and saw better looking buildings and cars.  They didn’t miss the words “One Happy Island” embossed on the plate number of every vehicle.  Chef Pedro was eager to find out what make this a one happy island.

THE TRAVELING CHEFS LOVED THE FOOD IN ARUBA

They were so tired and hungry after depositing their luggage in the Resort.  They went out looking for a restaurant nearby and they chose “Wacky Wahoo”.  They were not disappointed.  It is owned by two fishermen who serve their customers their fresh catch of the day.  They Traveling Chefs loved their food. The waiter and waitresses were friendly. Their only disappointment was the long wait because they did not have a reservation.  It was however, well worth it.

They woke up early the following day to find out what awaits them at this paradise. They decided to hang out at the MooMba Beach Bar and Restaurant located close to Palm Beach.  The place was so busy.  It offers all kinds of drinks and they have live music. 

They saw some birds in the sand and an iguana up a tree limb.  It later climbed down the tree and slowly walked on the sand, unmindful of the scantily dressed tourists lounging on beach chairs or walking to and fro the restaurant.  They did go into the water which was very soothing.  There were so many other people enjoying themselves in the beach.  

THE TRAVELING CHEFS MET NEW FRIENDS

The following day, they decided to go the lighthouse located on the northernmost part of the island.  A little down below, they noticed an Italian restaurant.  They decided to dine there. Located on top of the hill, it has the best view of the rest of the island. 

That night proved to be The Traveling Chefs’ lucky night.  The waiter assigned to them is a Filipino with whom they developed an instant vibe. They regarded each other as friends and he introduced them to some of his relatives and friends in the area. Some of them were working at the Tiera del Sol golf course.

So, the following day, they arranged a tee time for Chef Pedro and his son Stephen to play with them at Tiera del Sol. Its driving range is perhaps the best they’ve experienced. They were hitting balls on the direction of the beach at the eastern part of the island.  The cool sea breeze negated the early afternoon sun’s heat.

The course has a great layout. They struggled at the holes which obliged them to hit the ball against the wind.  Although they didn’t score well, they had so much fun.  Their new friends were gracious to play with.  They did not run out of encouraging  remarks when they mishit their balls.

THE TRAVELING CHEFS DIG THE WELCOME PARTY

That evening they attended the welcome party of the Island at the town square where their famous tower is located. Food and drinks were available; singers and dancers took turn entertaining the happy crowd of strangers from different corners of the world. 

At one point of the show, they called for volunteers to join a contest.  Blindfolded, the participants were carrying a stick and he who hits the rooster with it wins, subject to the audience’s final approval by loudest noise.

Chef Pedro joined and instantly became the crowd’s favorite as he danced goofily while searching for the dummy rooster.  He got a free snack and drink of his choice for prize. He walked back to his family with a sheepish grin as the crowd kept applauding.

For dinner that night, they went to Texas de Brazil, an eat-all-you-can Brazilian steakhouse.  If you haven’t been to one, and if you like steak, go and indulge yourself at least once. Waiters carrying various flavors of steaks take turn carving one for you for as long you keep saying yes by letting your disk’s green side up.

The waiters and waitresses will only stop if you let the red side up.  In addition to mouth-watering steaks, they had unlimited  salad bar, too  which most of them skipped to give room for delicious steaks.  The waiters were friendly and made sure they had fun.

THE TRAVELING CHEFS LOVED THE BEACHES OF ARUBA

Baby Beach by Peter Nunez Photography

On the next day, they’ve found the Eagle Beach a little bit cleaner than Palm Beach.  At the southern tip of the island can be found Baby Beach.  They were the first to arrive there on their second to the last day in Aruba.

They were so early the cabanas weren’t set up yet.  The water was crystal clear Chef Pedro can see his wife and daughter’s feet though the water was knee high.  On several occasions, he felt some tiny fish bumping into his feet and legs. They ate at Big Mama Grill, the only restaurant in the area.  

On their way back, they passed by a fresh young coconut stand. They had to stop and enjoyed the fresh coconut juice as well as its jelly.  It sure reminded them of what they used to do in the Philippines where coconut also abound.

Their last stop was the amazing rock formation dubbed as the “place where God rests.” They went up to its summit and saw both ends of the islands. They saw a cruise ship on its west side and a cone-shaped mountain a little farther south.  

They also dined at Driftwood, another seafood restaurant.  The food was likewise great. It didn’t however make them forget their experience at Wacky Wahoo. Perhaps they were hungrier when they entered the latter. Or perhaps nothing beats first time experience.

They also tried the Filipino restaurant referred by their new friend.  The owners were very friendly and their cooking was exceptional.  Theirs is the only place in Aruba where The Traveling Chefs and their family ate more than once.

THE TRAVELING CHEFS SAY GOODBYE TO ARUBA

On their last night, they invited their new Filipino friends for a going away party at their unit in the Resort.  The latter brought a guitar and drum and they were singing and drinking and having fun till almost midnight. 

They did not want that night to end nor their vacation to stop. Yet, they were powerless to stop the clock. And they must go back to the US, back to their daily routine of work, home, and work again. Their new friends urged them to come back. “Maybe someday,” they wished, thinking that it will remain just a wish for a long time.

The staff at the Resort were also nice and friendly.  They had a great time during the whole week.  They were glad they discovered Aruba. Theirs was indeed a week in paradise.  They understood why many visitors in Aruba decide to go back.  It is without a doubt a “one happy island.”  

When will you discover your own one happy island?

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The Traveling Chefs’ First Camping

Chef Alicia SAID YES TO THE TRAVELING CHEFS’ FIRST CAMPING

The Traveling Chefs‘ first camping happened in the Little Talbot Island State Park. After months of trying to persuade Chef Alicia to try camping, she finally said yes with some caveats.

There should be water and electrical hook ups and the sleeping condition should be comfortable. Chef Pedro assured her she will be fine for he said he has camped before.

Chef Alicia didn’t know that his last and only camping happened during his boy scout days, about fifty years ago. As one of the smallest boys in elementary school, he wasn’t much of help in pitching a tent or in cooking. All he can remember is that he joined the knot tying and building a fire contests.

After a thorough search of available campgrounds, The Traveling Chefs decided to camp in the Little Talbot Island State Park. At this time, they had no RV yet, so they use a tent their friends gave them a long time ago. They paid $24 for a night stay at Little Talbot.

“What if it rains during the night?”, Chef Alicia asked. Chef Pedro said they’ll be alright. The tent should be able to handle that. If not, they can sleep in their Expedition as they did last night in Fernandina Beach, he explained.

A young courteous ranger welcomed them in. He assured them they will be alright even though they are new to camping. As soon as they found their site, they thought of pitching their tent right away.

THE TRAVELING CHEFS PITCH THEIR TENT ON THEIR FIRST CAMPING

Chef Pedro surveyed the site and decided to put the tent up on the level ground. To his amazement, Chef Alicia set her half of the tent up ahead of his. All the while, he was bragging that he is the pro in camping.

After the tent is up, Chef Pedro built a fire. He rummaged for dry leaves, twigs and roots and with only a match, started the fire. He had an axe with him and was about to cut a fallen tree nearby when he recalled that campers must use their own firewood.

When he reviewed the welcome paper, he found out he couldn’t use the dry leaves or anything on the ground to start the fire. They hurried back to the station and bought the firewood.

The Sweet Potatoes Look Dark But They Tasted Good

For their dinner, they enjoyed their newly-cooked sweet potatoes and paired them with chicken adobo they have brought from home. They were happy to note that there were no mosquitoes or other insects to spoil their fun. They thought the campfire drove them away.

At 9:30 PM, they were ready to sleep. Before they got into the tent, Chef Alicia mentioned that it was getting windier. Chef Pedro told her to stay calm because it won’t rain. He reminded her to be ready with her pepper spray as he is ready with his. He also told her that he has also a hunting knife beside him and an axe should there be a need for them.

AND THE RAIN KEPT POURING

So far so good until the rain woke them up! They checked their phones for time and found out it’s 2 o’clock in the morning! “What shall we do, honey?”, Chef Alicia asked. Ever the “expert”, Chef Pedro reassured her not to worry for the rain shall soon stop.

Thirty minutes passed, the rain kept pouring. This time, the water has drenched some parts of their sleeping beds. They scampered to their Expedition and slept there ’til morning. Chef Pedro realized that had he pitched tent on the hill, the water wouldn’t have soaked their sleeping bags.

As soon as they woke up, they broke camp and washed their tent and dried it on their makeshift clothesline. They then proceeded to take a shower. Chef Alicia found a laundry room equipped with washer and dryer on her way there. The laundry room thrilled her.

At this point, Chef Pedro remembered he left his keys and his wallet on his backpack which he had placed on top of the picnic table at their campsite. He sprinted back and found the backpack right where he had left it.

On their way out of the park, Chef Alicia asked, “Dad, where are we heading next?” Chef Pedro said I don’t know. “You mean, we don’t have to go home!” “No”, he said excitedly; “We don’t have to go home.”

Right here was The Traveling Chefs’ eureka moment. They felt in their hearts the freedom that travel brings, that living in their house limits that freedom, that the road could be their new home, that a motorhome will make that happen. Most importantly, they realized they could live together happier with less.

Instead of taking I-95 S, they turned north for their next adventure. This time, Georgia is in their minds.

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Sycamore Lodge, Trexia’s First Camp Out Of Florida

DRIVING TO SYCAMORE LODGE, TREXIA’S FIRST CAMP OUT OF FLORIDA

Last September, The Traveling Chefs drove Trexia for a two-week vacation in Sycamore Lodge RV Resort in Jackson Springs, NC. This is Trexia’s first camp outside of Florida, their home base.

Chef Pedro drove her all the way to NC by himself as Chef Alicia hasn’t driven her yet since the test drive. If you’re wondering who Trexia is, she is their Class C motorhome which they have introduced in their previous blog entitled Introducing Trexia.

Driving a motorhome on I-95 where the speed limit goes up to 70 mph is a lot more nerve-racking than driving a cruiser. Those who have driven a tall mid-sized truck can relate. Every time a large truck overtakes her, Chef Pedro has to keep her steady on the lane. This is why Chef Alicia hasn’t been driving her up to this time.

When they arrived at Sycamore Lodge after about 11 hours on the road, including stops for gas and food, Chef Pedro took a big sigh of relief. The naps he took during each stop weren’t enough to compensate for the lack of sleep the night before. Too much excitement must have taken hold of him.

THE SITE AT THE SYCAMORE LODGE, TREXIA’S FIRST CAMP OUT OF FL

Due to their late arrival and to COVID-19, nobody was on the Registration Office when they stopped for direction to their lot. Luckily, someone asked them if it’s their first time there. He then led them to their site which was all the way to the back. Without his help, The Traveling Chefs would have difficulty locating the lot at Trexia’s first camp out of Florida.

After thanking him, Chef Pedro parked Trexia and hooked her up instantly. The trial campings they had in their home base had equipped him with these necessary skills. Shortly after a quick dinner, they went to bed, promising to explore the campground tomorrow.

THE BEAUTY OF SYCAMORE LODGE

The new friends they’ve met in their home base had great things to say about Sycamore Lodge. They said it’s one of the biggest RV campgrounds owned by Travel Resorts of America and one of the most beautiful.

Tall long leaf pines abound all over the property. The welcome center, the reception center, and the lodge itself are superior to the ones they have seen in their home base Luna Sands Resort. They even have miniature golf which Chef Pedro tried right away.

The cabins lining the edge of the lake are charming. They rent them out to guests without RVs. They even have sites for tent camping.

THE PRETTY LAKE WITH PICKY FISH

The Traveling Chefs love the lake the most in Sycamore Lodge. They enjoyed the refreshing breeze while they sat in the gazebo. Some geese rested on the foreground and then waded in the water. Chef Pedro invited Chef Alicia to take the trail around the lake. It’s a little over a mile walk. The trail leads to other points for more adventurous guests.

Chef Pedro tried fishing but hasn’t caught anything the first day. Sensing his frustration, a couple told him a secret. “The fish here like hotdogs,” they said. “The kids usually use hotdogs for bait, so the fish relish them,” they explained. Although the Traveling Chefs haven’t heard this before, they thought it’s okay to try. They purchased some hotdogs for the fish and the leftover for themselves. They haven’t eaten them for a while.

Using the secret bait, Chef Pedro caught three bluegills, each time as exciting as the rest. The last one he caught was longer than his palm. A friend of theirs in FB told them they can eat them. Unfortunately, here in Sycamore Lodge, the rule is catch and release.

THE SYCAMORE LODGE AS SPRINGBOARD TO OTHER PLACES

From Sycamore Lodge, The Traveling Chefs visited Raleigh, Durham, Pinehurst, Carthage, and Southern Pines. They have shared their unique experiences in some of these interesting places in separate posts. They have also planned to visit Lake Lure but the approaching storm on the last four days of their vacation forced them to abandon it.

To escape the storm, they departed early via Charleston, South Carolina. En route there, Trexia crawled as heavy rain battered the highway and flooded a few spots leading to the city.

As you see, The Traveling Chefs travel with no fixed destination. They embrace spontaneity for exciting moments and make adjustments when needed. They also shared in a separate post their experiences in Charleston. Thank you for reading.

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Experiencing Pinehurst Golf

THE TRAVELING CHEFS ARE EXPERIENCING PINEHURST GOLF

When The Traveling Chefs’ son Stephen has learned that his parents were going on vacation close to Pinehurst, he told his dad to play golf there. “I’ll pay for it Dad,” he urged him. You should be experiencing Pinehurst golf! Don’t miss that, he said.

Playing golf at Pinehurst, NC has been one of Chef Pedro’s dreams. A golden opportunity came when he and his wife decided to have their 2-week vacation in Jackson Springs, which is only 11 minutes by car to Pinehurst.

A couple of days after they arrived in Sycamore Lodge, The Traveling Chefs visited Pinehurst to inquire about playing at Pinehurst Golf Club, the cradle of American golf. After a tour of the place, Chef Pedro got a reservation to play The Cradle, a 9-hole Par 3 golf course on September 15, 2020. He opted to play the Cradle because he believed his game is not up to speed with Pinehurst #2 yet.

THE ALLURE OF PINEHURST COURSE #2

The thought of playing Course No. 2 has occurred in his mind. Stephen reminded him to play this course. Of the 9 18-hole golf courses in Pinehurst Resort, Course #2, designed by Donald Ross, has achieved the most fame.

Both Stephen and Chef Pedro have watched on TV when Payne Stewart won the US Open in 1999 against Phil Mickelson there. That was the second major Pinehurst has staged.

“About 1200 people play here everyday,” said an employee who befriended Chef Pedro. He said he is a self-taught golfer with a single handicap. He moaned the fact that his son is not into golf. Because of COVID-19, he said the number of people playing golf there daily went down to about 800.

THE JOY OF PLAYING PINEHURST GOLF

Chef Pedro’s amateurish swing still enabled him to hit the greens in the Cradle 80% of the time. His success is due mainly to the fact that all its greens are huge. You might suspect then that he scored well. Not at all! His putting was terrible. He found the greens fast, challenging, and difficult to read. But he was one happy camper.

His heart was pounding throughout the game. He cannot believe he was actually playing in the birthplace of golf in the US. One can play the Cradle as many rounds as he likes for one time payment. Chef Pedro played the course twice. The first time though was the best, he thought on his way to the club where Chef Alicia waited for him. His heart was full of gratitude.

PUTTING WITH Chef Alicia AT THISTLE DHU

He then played putting with her in the famous Thistle Dhu, an 18-Hole Putting Course. It is free to play for guests of any playing level. Chef Alicia didn’t know she can putt well prior to that day, something that surprised Chef Pedro, as well.

“I wish Stephen and Michael are here, Dad,” she told him. “That’s my wish too,” he said. While walking back to their RV, they made a promise to bring their sons there someday.

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Harvey, Jane And Their Olde Carthage Farm

THE TRAVELING CHEFS MET HARVEY AND JANE IN THEIR OLDE CARTHAGE FARM

The Traveling Chefs met Harvey and Jane in their Old Carthage Farm. In the course of their travels, the former oftentimes meet special people. At few times however, their path comes across with very special ones. This story is about one of these few times.

While searching at Google for a local farm one day, they found out that many visitors have rated Olde Carthage Farm rather highly. One person wrote, “What an amazing place, the owners are some great people…” G. Tomeski.

When The Traveling Chefs entered Olde Carthage Farm, in Carthage, North Carolina last September, two incredibly special people touched their lives. They were Harvey and Jane Godfrey. The former was talking to another gentleman when The Traveling Chefs were parking their RV. Harvey promptly ended his conversation with him and warmly greeted them.

THE TRAVELING CHEFS PICK GRAPES FOR THE FIRST TIME AT OLDE CARTHAGE FARM

“We have only muscadine grapes this time of the year,” Harvey said. “Would you like to pick them?”, he continued. The Traveling Chefs couldn’t believe their ears! They haven’t picked grapes before. “Of course!”, they said, selecting half a gallon container.

“Follow me!”, Harvey said as he led them to the vineyard. He showed them how to pick the grapes and surprised them by saying, “You can eat as much as you like. You only pay for the ones you bring home.”

He picked a couple of grapes and ate each one of them, spitting out the seeds and the skin. As soon as The Traveling Chefs knew what they were doing, he left them by themselves.

The Traveling Chefs took turns taking videos and photos of each other and sharing them with their friends through Facebook. “Where are you guys?”, many of their friends asked. They, too wanted to experience something like this.

When their tummies and their bucket were filled with grapes, they hastened to Harvey who was seated on one of the chairs available. He motioned them to sit beside him and converse with them as if he had nothing better else to do in the world.

HARVEY PICKS FLOWERS FOR ALICIA AT HIS OLDE CARTHAGE FARM

He told them that he and his wife also enjoy RVing usually in Florida in winter. They don’t like the highways, he confided. When Chef Pedro asked if they also sell the flowers in front of them, he said yes. “I will pick some for your wife.”, he volunteered, requesting Chef Alicia to follow him.

Wait, did The Traveling Chefs tell you Harvey gave the flowers to Chef Alicia for free? He did! What a generous gentleman Harvey really is!, they thought.

ON GOLDEN POND OF OLDE CARTHAGE FARM

Their conversations touched more deeply into each’s other lives including golf, family, vacation, and the farm. Finally, Chef Pedro inquired about the pond. “Are there fish on it?”, he asked. Harvey took some feeds from his barn and asked Chef Pedro to follow him.

As soon as the feeds hit the water, a throng of fish wiggled in the water. “Can I fish here?”, Chef Pedro excitedly asked. “I would love to let you do it, but I have been saying no to everyone,” he apologetically said. The kids have a great time feeding them when they come, he explained. For security reasons, he hasn’t allowed anyone to fish.

Meanwhile, Chef Alicia was spending time with Jane in their office. Chef Pedro and she found Jane very pleasant, down to earth and as amazing as her husband. They learned that Jane is the one doing the hard work in the farm, mowing and everything.

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE TO HARVEY & JANE

Before The Traveling Chefs said goodbye, Harvey asked Chef Pedro, “You love life, don’t you? “We should, life is short,” he replied. Harvey even asked for the phone number of Chef Pedro. They didn’t tell him they call themselves The Traveling Chefs.

As they drove out of the farm, The Traveling Chefs were telling each other how lucky they were and how great their hosts were. People are special because they make other people special, Chef Pedro thought to himself. Harvey and Jane will be in their hearts for a long, long time.

This is the kind of connections The Traveling Chefs are looking to make in their travels. This is the kind of stories they want to tell over and over again. Thank you for reading.

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The Cost of RVing And Why The Traveling Chefs Do It

THE COSTS OF RVing

You might be wondering how much does it cost to do RVing and why do The Traveling Chefs it. According to condor ferries, 11% of the US households own a recreational vehicle (RV). Over 40 million Americans regularly go RVing. It is a $114 billion industry, employing over 600,000 people and over 1 million Americans live in their RVs full time.

When they bought Trexia, (their RV) The Traveling Chefs thought that’s it. They could drive it all over the US and not worry about anything else. Oh boy, little did they know they have to spend more, a lot more to make their travel dreams come true.

Unless a person buys a high maintenance older RV, perhaps the biggest expense in RVing (in addition to the cost of the RV itself) is the cost of the campgrounds. On average, a person spends about $75 a night for a fully- hooked up campground lot. Hooked up includes water and electric. This translates to $27,375 a year, quite a sum of money, don’t you think?

THE TRAVELING CHEFS CHOSE TRAVEL RESORTS OF AMERICA

To save on campground fees and to secure safe and suitable ones, The Traveling Chefs chose membership in the Travel Resorts of America which has eight RV campgrounds in the Northeast. They have other options but they preferred this instead.

Out of these eight campgrounds, they can stay for free in three of them for fourteen days at a time. One of these three is Sycamore Lodge in Jackson Springs, North Carolina, where they camped first outside of Florida. The other two are in Georgia and in Florida which is their home base.

At the other five, (two in Ohio, one Pennsylvania, one in New York, and one in Virginia), they can stay for $10 a night. They can also upgrade their membership so they can have free camping for life at all these eight campgrounds should they decide this is something they want to do for the rest of their life. Their children and their grandchildren can even inherit the membership.

There are other perks and benefits to this membership like being part of the Coast to Coast network of campgrounds where they only pay $10 a night. Their campgrounds are located throughout the US and a few in Canada and Mexico. Coast to Coast also allows them to rent hotels, condominiums, and cabins at a discount. They can even save up to 50% on food at some restaurants, a perk which they have taken advantage of a lot of times.

ADDITIONAL EXPENSES OF RVING

To these expenses they have to add the cost of gas, food, recreation, toll, maintenance, drinks, entrance fees to attractions, etc. Now, you can get the total picture. As you can see, it’s not a drop in the bucket.

And when they don’t use their RV for travel, they need to park it somewhere. That costs money, too. The development where they reside doesn’t allow them to park their RV. Thanks to their home base campground in Florida, they can park it there for a small fraction of the parking fee anywhere else.

OK, IT’S COSTLY, WHY THE TRAVELING CHEFS DO IT

RVing appeals to people who love the outdoors. People who love to cook in their own kitchen and spend time with their family are also drawn to RVing. They can even bring their pets with them. RVing also allows people to travel a lot for less. It gives them a sense of freedom. It allows them to live a simpler and more-fulfilled lives.

The Traveling Chefs have embraced this kind of lifestyle. And they are unabashedly sharing it with you. Should you be interested to learn more about Travel Resorts of America, please get in touch with The Traveling Chefs who will get a modest referral fee should you decide to join.

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