Until last week, I’d never even heard of Helvetia. Now I can’t wait to return to the tiny town nestled in the mountains of West Virginia.
It’s all because of Clay. My fabulous brother-in-law and his wife, Patsy live in Highland County, a lovely farming community in Virginia. Tom and I were there for a visit, enjoying time together in the most peaceful place I’ve ever been.
But all that peace comes at a price. For one, restaurants are few and far between in the rural area near the border with West Virginia. No problem for Clay and Patsy. They know all the dining hot spots and are willing to take a road trip most anywhere to enjoy a good meal.
At Clay’s insistence, we all climbed in the car and headed for one of his favorite eateries…two hours down the road! Truthfully, I thought it a bit much—driving 70 mountainous miles for lunch.
Thankfully, I kept my feelings to myself because, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The drive alone was worth the trip, a quiet, tree-lined highway wound through miles of unspoiled, natural beauty that took my breath away. Mountains, valleys, late-summer sunlight streaming through the trees…it was like traveling through a postcard!
At long last, signs of civilization appeared, including our destination - a colorfully painted restaurant called Hutte (HUH-tuh). Inside and out, the cheerfully charming restaurant perfectly represented its colorful heritage. Hutte could have been as easily located in the Swiss Alps as the mountains of Appalachia!
Thankfully, Clay was quick with a lesson on the history of Hutte and the quaint community surrounding it.
Six years after West Virginia gained its statehood, a group of Swiss immigrants made the rugged journey to settle in a high remote valley of the newly formed state.
Despite the many challenges living in an isolated area brings, (the railroad never even made it to the town!) the Swiss settlers farmed the land and built Swiss-style homes, forming the tiny town (population: 59!) of Helvetia. (Hel-VAY-shuh)
Despite its size, Helvetia remains steeped in its Swiss heritage and unique culture. We dined on authentic Swiss cuisine - bratwurst, sauerbraten and homemade cheeses. The bowl of mueslix I ordered was a meal in itself, a bowl brimming with fresh whole grains, nuts, yogurt, fruit with a generous drizzle of local honey. Divine!
Heaping servings of homemade peach cobbler and whipped cream may have been dessert, but for me, the last course was yet to come as we settled into Clay’s car for the delightful drive back to the farm.
Should you ever find yourself in Appalachia, make sure your itinerary includes a trip to the “little Switzerland” in the mountains of West Virginia. Believe me, it’s worth the drive!
FYI: You can get your full of the Swiss culture at the annual Helvetia Community Fair, held every September in the tiny town in Randolph County, West Virginia.
If I could, I would fast-forward to next May! I’m that excited about our upcoming Romantic Rhine River Cruise!
It’s not that we haven’t cruised before. Ten years ago, we joined two thousand other travelers for a cruise to Alaska. Our cabin was comfortable. The food was incredible and views of the Alaskan coastline were beyond spectacular.
But the enormous cruise ship, lines of people embarking and disembarking and crowded venues was a bit much for us. That’s why the idea of a river cruise has always been so appealing. For years, while pouring over beautiful brochures, we’ve dreamt of taking a peaceful cruise along one of Europe’s legendary rivers.
Our dream comes true May 13 through 22, 2016. What’s even more exciting is that Tom and I have been invited to “host” the excursion. And we would love to have you join us!
Together we’ll enjoy guided sightseeing in Strasbourg, Koblenz and Cologne, as well as an excursion to Heidelberg, Germany’s oldest university town. We’ll sail through the dramatic Rhine Gorge - the most beautiful stretch of river dotted every mile with castles.
As we gently cruise along on Avalon Waterways’ “Felicity,” we’ll have ample time (and space!) to take photos that capture the romance and splendor of this magical journey.
The “Felicity is fabulous!
- Wall-to-wall panoramic windows
- Sky deck with shade awnings and whirlpool
- Friendly English-speaking crew
- Lounges and upscale bars
- Fitness Center
- Onboard movie nights and well-stocked library
And instead of a crowd of 2,000, we’ll be traveling with closer to 200 fabulous folks, including our little delegation (20ish) from San Diego.
The staterooms have flat screen satellite TV’s, floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors with French balconies and (my personal favorite) comfy beds from the Comfort Collection.
There’s so much to see and do on this amazing trip. Tom and I can’t wait. And we’d love to have you experience this trip of a lifetime with us. (For all the info, click on Romantic Rhine River Cruise through Buckhalter Travel at carollebeau.com)
(And remember…you only have to unpack once! Now, that’s a vacation!!)
Every once in a while, I need to shake things up a bit. You see, in many areas of my life, I’m a victim of habit. I eat the same thing for breakfast every morning, go to bed the same time every night and often find myself stuck in a rut with the same workout routine.
That’s one of the reasons I value my walking buddies. Together, we break our routines by scheduling our “walk and talk” dates at a variety of fabulous walking spots around San Diego County.
Last week, my friend, Jo Dee Jacob suggested we walk around Lake Murray in La Mesa. Excellent choice!
As San Diego Girl Scouts CEO, I can tell you firsthand…Jo Dee walks the talk!! She’s all about health, fitness and wellbeing for girls…and it shows.
Once I adjusted to Jo Dee’s perky pace, we gabbed our way around the lake…and back. (You can’t actually walk the entire lake perimeter, so we used the dead end at the tail of the trail to log some extra miles!)
The path around the lake is flat and wide, so it’s not only great for walkers and runners, but for dogs and strollers, too! We passed through picturesque Lake Murray Park along the way. Despite the drought, ducks were swimming and bright, yellow mustard weed was blooming everywhere. (not great news for those with allergies!)
Once we reached the dam, touching the fence to be “official,” we turned around and power-walked back the way we came. Surrounded by nature’s beauty, time passed quickly as we logged 6.4 miles and talked a ton.
Lake Murray is actually a reservoir, located within the boundaries of Mission Trails Regional Park. It’s centrally located between the city of San Diego and the neighboring communities of La Mesa and Santee. The lake is open for shore fishing and private boats. Small boat and kayak rentals are also available.
But the lake is most popular with cyclists, joggers, walkers and rollerbladers…anyone looking for a beautiful, safe spot to get a little exercise…for body and spirit.
FYI: The Lake Murray path can be accessed from I-8. Exit on Lake Murray Boulevard North. Turn left on Kiowa Drive.
After thinking about running a marathon for years, I finally pulled the trigger at age 45. It was 1998…the first running of the “Rock ‘n Roll Marathon. Nervously waiting for the starting gun in the nine-minute mile section, I went over my race strategy and prayed for the best.
Concentrating on the two major pieces of advice I’d received from the experts, I took it out slowly and drank plenty of water. I was told lots of water was key to finishing the 26.2-mile run without bonking.
For years, the mantra has been drummed into endurance-sports competitors: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Swig water every chance you get—whether you’re thirsty or not.
Maybe not! Mounting research supports very different advice. Athletes are more likely to suffer severe harm by drinking too much water during competition than by drinking too little! In extreme cases, people have died after drinking too much liquid during a race.
New studies suggest that 3% dehydration levels during competition—which experts once warned against—don’t hurt performance and might actually help it. More and more, experts advocate a simple rule: During a race, drink when you’re thirsty.
In his book Waterlogged, Tim Noakes, sports medicine physician and professor at South Africa’s University of Cape Town, says the body’s instincts are an athlete’s best friend.
“If you drink to thirst, you maximize your performance,” he says. Noakes blames the sports-drink industry for encouraging athletes to drink more than they need.
Ultramarathoner Dean Karnzes says he drinks gallons of water in events like the 135-mile run across sizzling Death Valley. In last year's New York Marathon, however, temperatures were in the mid 40’s. He says he drank only once: a half cup of water at the 15-mile mark.
There’s a wonderful water aerobics class at the pool where I swim. I’ve observed class members frequently stopping to chug from their water bottles. We’ve been so inculcated with the message that we have to hydrate, even in a 45-minute gentle exercise class, people force themselves to drink.
I know. We’ve all heard the stories of dehydrated athletes needing intravenous fluids after a long race. That’s why the notion that more water is better than less still persists.
But after feeling sick and bloated following my second marathon, I have to wonder—should I have backed off on the water and Gatorade? One woman I know felt ill at the 18-mile mark of her marathon and later became delirious. She was hospitalized and diagnosed with hypoantremia. Her excessive fluid intake caused dangerously low sodium levels in her blood.
This, of course, isn’t the final word on water. But, until I hear more, listening to my body is probably the best bet.
(If you’re training for the “Rock ‘n Roll” in June? Good for you…and best of luck!)
The Salvation Army’s annual Women of Dedication Luncheon turns 50 in April…and I’d like to personally invite you to the party!
Co-Chair, Connie Conard and I promise you’ll have a great time while supporting the many vital programs of the Salvation Army in our community.
It would be a joy to have you join us Tuesday, April 7 at the beautiful Hilton Bayfront Resort for a festive, fun-filled and inspirational event called “50 and Fabulous!” as we honor the 2015 class of 15 truly fabulous women who consistently dedicate their time, talent and resources to help people in need.
We’ll also take a trip down memory lane as we celebrate the hundreds of fabulous Women of Dedication who have been making a difference in our community for 50 years.
Back in 1965, The Salvation Army became the first San Diego non-profit organization to publically honor extraordinary local women…shining a light on their selfless service to others. Women of Dedication (WOD) is now the largest fundraiser of the year for The Salvation Army.
Please consider joining us April 7. You can start early (10:30 am) and shop till you drop at our 15 amazing boutiques. If you feel lucky, buy some tickets for our fabulous Opportunity Drawing packages (one of which contains an exciting “LA Experience…” including tickets to the finals of “American Idol” in Los Angeles!) Then enjoy a lovely lunch and entertainment by San Diego’s masterful Master Chorale!
ABC 10’s Kimberly Hunt has graciously agreed to emcee the event and her personable, sportscaster husband, Billy Ray Smith will don his auctioneer hat…encouraging you to bid on tickets to “Dancing With The Stars,” the “Bill Walton Experience” and a fabulous fur!
Money raised will go to support the new Women’s Emergency Shelter at the SA’s Door of Hope.
It has been such a blessing to work closely with the dedicated soldiers of The Salvation Army this past year and meet some of the amazing men and women who have experienced changed lives through the Army’s many effective programs.
Their slogan is “Doing the Most Good,” and I’ve seen firsthand how the SA does the “most good” with every dollar they receive.
And what a treat to be part of a vibrant committee of hard working, caring, dedicated, Godly and fun-loving women.
Join us, if you can…and bring a friend. You’ll have a great time while doing the most good.
A week’s stay at the Golden Door had been on my “bucket list” since moving to San Diego in the early ‘80’s. But I couldn’t justify the cost…so assumed I’d probably never experience the uber-luxury spa nestled in the hills of Escondido.
One day, several years ago - and quite out of the blue - I got a call from the program director at the Golden Door! She wanted to know if I’d consider being a guest speaker sometime. Consider it done!!
After excitedly accepting her unexpected invitation, I was informed there would be no speaker fee. My “payment,” she said, would be a stay at the Golden Door the week I was scheduled to speak.
For a moment, this speaker was speechless!
Regaining my composure, we chose a week and three months later, I found myself in a kind of heaven on earth—spending my days getting massages and facials - taking vigorous mountain hikes and restorative yoga classes - eating delicious farm-to-table cuisine - sleeping like a baby in my cozy casita.
And yes, I also gave three presentations that week… to some of the most fascinating women I’d ever met. I still remember every detail.
Now under new ownership, the Golden Door is undergoing somewhat of a makeover…both physical and philosophical. But don’t worry! The spa treatments, fitness classes, and healthy cuisine remain in place at the world-famous spa.
Peace, tranquility and refreshment for the soul are still a mainstay. Golden Door founder, Deborah Szekely, set the standard for spas worldwide - creating the perfect venue for guests to achieve health, wellbeing and refreshment for the soul.
But times are changing and the Golden Door remains cutting edge. “In addition to refreshing the body and spirit,” says Golden Door General Manager, Kathy Van Ness, “wouldn’t it be nice to get your brain refreshed?!”
I talked with Kathy on a recent visit to the “Door” as a guest for their first Friday night speakers’ series featuring world-renowned artist and photographer, Don Barber.
“We’re all bombarded with data about exercise, hormones and the latest diet,” Kathy explained. “How about sharing some intellectual conversation?”
So, after filling our bodies with a culinary feast of tender Dover sole and roasted vegetables on a bed of seasoned brown rice and quinoa, we filled our minds with a compelling presentation and breathtaking photos by Don Barber. An informative interview was followed by a lively Q & A session with Barber.
Artists, composers, authors…even Hollywood actress, Jamie Lee Curtis…all presenters for the Golden Door’s Friday night speaker series. What I wouldn’t give to fill my mind with the wisdom of author, Gail Sheehy. Famous for her knowledge of the stages of life, Sheehy has also been a guest speaker.
Kathy put it this way, “If you could go to dinner with Rembrandt, wouldn’t you want to ask him a question?”
And wouldn’t that be a lot more interesting than another lecture on menopause? I’m just saying…..
On the trip of a lifetime three years ago, Tom and I joined several friends on a 10-day, unforgettable visit to the Holy Land.
Our tour of Israel was a thrill! Among the highlights, a time of prayer at the Wailing Wall, a challenging hike up the desert fortress, Masada and, like the early followers of Jesus, an emotional baptism in the Jordan River.
From the river, we traveled to the sea…the Dead Sea…for a nice swim. Actually you can’t really swim in the hyper-salinated sea. The water is so super-salty, all you can do is float. So you just lie back and enjoy bobbing around…relaxing in a warm, soothing, natural mineral bath. The sensation was so lovely, I didn’t want to leave!
Guess what? The other day, I got to re-live that marvelous experience…not in Israel, but in San Marcos! In a cozy, little nook behind Grand Avenue I entered “A Quiet Place” (AQuietPlaceFloatationSpa.com) and a time of relaxation and peace in its state-of-the-art floatation spa.
Spa owner Richard Fraccalvieri greeted me with a warm cup of Tranquility Tea, seated me in the comfy waiting area and prepared me for what to expect. Floatation therapy, he said, is a “luxurious escape from the constant stress of life’s daily pressures and a natural way to heal the body and mind.” He said the concept is, indeed, similar to the mineral salt bath I experienced at the Dead Sea.
Nearly 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt is dissolved into the spa tub of skin temperature water to create this effect. After showering off lotions and hair products, I stepped into the large, egg-shaped pod and lowered myself into the warm bath. (I wore a Speedo, but you can float in the buff, if you prefer!)
My mind drifted back to my Dead Sea experience…as I floated effortlessly on my back. While you may want the pod opened slightly, I chose to close it completely, so my “float” would be lightproof and soundproof. The gentle roll of the water freed me of gravity, noise and other distractions.
For some, the experience is like deep meditation as body and mind achieve calmness…entering into a theta brain wave state and a profound state of relaxation. I found myself praying and thinking about things peaceful and lovely.
While some doctors and athletes use floatation therapy for neurological, circulatory, respiratory and digestive issues, others claim a decrease in chronic pain, depression and anxiety. But all who use the therapy regularly agree it feels great!
If, like me, you enjoy being surrounded by water…you will love the hour-long float. But even if you’re not a water person, give it a try. You don’t even have to get your face wet…and you can’t sink if you try!
Besides, Grandma always said a warm Epsom salt bath would do me good. Right again, Gram!
30 years ago, Tom and I were married in a traditional church service followed by a rather raucous reception. (I was the one in the long, white dress dancing wildly to The Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited) in the courtyard of the Hotel Del Coronado.
The next day we boarded a plane for West Virginia where Tom’s mom hosted a reception for us in my new husband’s hometown of Charleston. From there, we headed for a little town called White Sulfur Springs to spend our honeymoon. (I know! My feelings exactly-- at the time!) It was Tom’s idea and he assured me I would fall in love with a world-famous resort nestled behind the tiny town.
He was right.
30 years later, we made the trek back to West Virginia and the gorgeous Greenbrier Resort where Tom and I began our lives together…and fell in love all over again.
Young and not very worldly back in 1984, I had no idea the Greenbrier is not only a luxurious, award-winning resort; it’s also a National Historic landmark! The building alone is magnificent… classic architecture, old world interior design, exquisite chandeliers, perfectly sculpted landscape (a maze of mums celebrating fall!) and service so superb and friendly, it puts Disneyland to shame!
Surrounded by the majesty of the Allegheny Mountains, the Greenbrier Resort covers ten thousand acres, has 710 rooms, suites and estate houses, ten lobbies, designer boutiques, a world-renowned mineral spa, fine dining, championship golf (on three perfectly manicured courses!). And oh, did I mention more than 55 activities??!!
More than 200 years old, the Greenbrier manages to combine the graciousness and class of the past with all the creature comforts of today. What a treat to enjoy breakfast in our elegant room with big, brightly-colored, turn-of-the century floral patterns and a cute, little bathroom with throwback fixtures…while wrapped in fluffy, white spa robes.
In the late 1700s, guests came to White Sulfur Springs to “take the waters” to restore their health. Today, the Greenbrier is still a place to relax, refresh and recharge.
We spent two nights at our anniversary getaway…just enough time to reflect and reminisce about our last 30 years together…at the place where it all began.
The Greenbrier in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia. Sometimes magic happens where you least expect it!
For more information and history on the Greenbrier, please visit greenbrier.com.
We were 23 when my best pal, Julie, and I boarded an airplane in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and flew to Seattle. We’d decided to visit a mutual college friend from our days at the University of Northern Iowa. Neither of us had ever flown on a commercial jet. It was the farthest had ever been away from home.
That trip was a big deal for two, young corn-fed, Iowa gals. And we had a ball. One of the highlights of our adventure was a ferry ride from Seattle to Victoria. We bought sweaters, sipped tea at the Empress Hotel and three hours later, hopped aboard the ferry and headed back to Washington. My one and only Canadian experience…until now!
Tom and I recently returned from a terrific 10-day tour of Western Canada with a wonderful travel company called Holiday Vacations. What a treat to have the time to really experience the people and the beauty of our neighbor to the north!
We started out just as Julie and I did with a trip to Seattle and ferry ride to Victoria. But this time, we got to spend two days touring the capitol of British Columbia and two glorious nights as guests of the elegant Empress Hotel. (We opted out of re-enacting the tea experience. High tea? $67 per person. Gulp!) However, we did enjoy a very reasonably priced cup of Canada’s own Tim Horton coffee!!
Then we explored the British-inspired city… viewing historic sites, including the Parliament Building on the lovely Inner Harbor. Beautiful flowerbeds and gardens reflected the area’s passion for gardening.
Speaking of gardens, the next day we visited the world famous Butchart Gardens. OMGosh! I’d been told it would be gorgeous, but what my travel mates and I experienced was simply stunning. As we walked from one eye-popping garden to the next, Tom had to keep reminding me to close my mouth. The vibrant colors and dazzling displays kept my mouth agape for hours!
Our tour of Vancouver the next day was fascinating. Surrounded by water and mild weather, Canada’s third largest city reminded us a lot of San Diego. And while Vancouver doesn’t have anything like our Balboa Park, we did take an afternoon to stroll spectacular Stanley Park, a 1,000 acre wilderness and recreation retreat. Truly, a local gem.
Our next adventure took us aboard the famous Rocky Mountaineer. We spent two peaceful days riding the rails, taking in breathtaking panoramas of the Canadian Rockies.
Next stop? Banff…and a lovely lunch overlooking famous Lake Louise. For decades, Lake Tahoe has been my favorite lake…but Lake Louise is now a close second! The glacial blue waters of the lake give it a surreal jewel tone look. Depending on the color of the sky and the angle of the sun, the lake among the mountains sparkled in brilliant hues from sapphire to emerald to aquamarine. Simply stunning.
Our coolest (and I mean that literally!) experience was a trip along the Ice Fields Parkway to the awesome Columbia Ice Field. There we boarded an enormous vehicle called the Glacial Explorer…a bus-like vehicle sitting atop huge balloon tires that literally drove us onto the Athabasca Glacier. Carefully, we stepped off slipping and sliding on the gigantic block of ice cascading down from the peaks of the magnificent Rocky Mountains.
Back to Banff and lunch at the historic and (truly) grand Banff Springs Hotel…with a view of shimmering Lake Louise. So much beauty, it was hard to take it all in.
Finally, it was time to bid farewell to the beauty of Canada and its warm, welcoming people…back to the US as honorary Canucks, eh?! Can’t wait to go back!
It was the experience of a lifetime as I went “home” to Iowa this summer and joined more than 15,000 cyclists for the 42nd annual RAGBRAI…my first RAGBRAI.
RAGRAI is the somewhat awkward acronym for the Register’s (Des Moines) Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa…the oldest, largest and longest recreational touring bicycle ride in the world.
Speaking of awkward, as a lifelong competitive swimmer, I quickly learned swimming and cycling aren’t even loosely related. But my lack of skill in the saddle didn’t really matter, because I wasn’t riding for me. I was riding to remember--my amazing Dad and legendary Iowa bicyclist--who went home to be with the Lord last year.
My step Mom, brother, three nephews and two grandchildren comprised “Team LeBeau,” a small but mighty family contingent hell-bent on pedaling across the Hawkeye State to honor an amazing husband, father, grandfather and 41-consecutive-year participant of the iconic biking event.
For those not familiar, RAGBRAI is an annual, seven-day, bike-riding party that begins in a selected community along Iowa’s western border and ends in a town along the state’s eastern border. This year’s route took us from the northwest city of Rock Valley—through 418 miles of lush northern Iowa farmland—to Guttenberg, a charming river town on the Mississippi.
It all began in 1973 when two Des Moines Register newspaper feature reporters decided to take a bicycle ride across Iowa, writing about their experiences. Of 300 riders starting the ride, 114 (including my Dad) completed the trek.
Dad was officially honored on Day 6 of this year’s ride…a 67-mile leg that started in Waverly (home of Wartburg College!) and ended in American flag-draped Independence, Iowa. The course was a blur of color that day…with more than 1,500 pairs of mismatched striped socks warn by riders honoring Dad. His signature attire, the vintage stockings were on sale through the RAGBRAI website…and completely sold out.
As my brother, Carter, and I rode together, we reminisced about the guy who made us clean our rooms and encouraged us in all our endeavors. I believe his impact on the cycling community rivals that of Lance Armstrong (who, by the way, rode RAGBRAI with his entourage. I was just too far behind to actually see him!) A great cyclist, Dad never cared about the race. He just wanted to encourage all levels of cyclists to get involved by socializing and having fun.
So from Rock Valley to Okoboji and Emmetsburg…through Forest City and Mason City…we made our way through northern Iowa’s beautiful countryside…celebrating Dad’s life and legacy with hills, heat, headwinds and a sense of purpose… all the way to the northeastern Iowa border town of Guttenberg. As the magnificent view of the Mississippi River appeared in the distance, my stepmom, Kaye, summed it up. “I feel like he’s still with me and encouraging me along the way.”
Me too, Kaye. Me too.