Step into the RV on a cross-America adventure, with guest Alexa Rossy, spirited author of Showering with the Alligators. We'll travel from the spiritual vortex of Sedona to the Rubber Duck Derby in Aspen; from the mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs, to a life-size Noah's Ark in Kentucky.
We'll navigate through a beauty pageant at North Carolina's rhododendron festival and the high-energy roller derby scene, explore the biker culture of South Dakota, visit the LBJ Ranch in Texas, and marvel at the majestic canyons of Utah.
Alexa caps these zany, fun examples of Americana remembering a whimsical encounter in a Miami shoe store, showing how people we meet during our travels leave indelible marks on our hearts and minds.
Alexa Rossy is the author of Showering with the Alligators, a recent best-selling travel and humor book. She is once again on the road in her RV, gathering more great tales.
Podcast host Lea Lane blogs at forbes.com, has traveled to over 100 countries, and has written nine books, including the award-winning Places I Remember (Kirkus Reviews star rating, and 'one of the top 100 Indie books' of the year). She has contributed to many guidebooks and has written thousands of travel articles.
Contact Lea- she loves hearing from you! @lealane on Twitter; PlacesIRememberLeaLane on Insta; Places I Remember with Lea Lane on Facebook; Website: placesirememberlealane.com.
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I have a glamorous creative friend named Alexa Rossy. We both grew up in Miami Beach and her new book, Showering with the Alligators, is about her travels around America in a recreational vehicle. It's filled with wry and witty observations of Americana, the places and people of many parts of the South, Midwest and West. Welcome, Alexa, to Places. I Remember. (Nice to see.) As y a woman who used to be a South Beach maven, and you still live in Miami area. how did your charming book about discovering the other side of the United States come about?Alexa Rossy:
I met a man and he convinced me to go in an RV with him. I had recently been widowed and I thought you know what life is short. I'm gonna give it a try. So off we went.Lea Lane:
That's what it takes -- somebody to get you out there. That's fantastic. Now I have to ask you about the title Showering with the Alligators. Tell us.Alexa Rossy:
So one of our very first trips was in Stark Florida, known for the electric chair, the shower and the little air stream trailer was really tiny, so T-Rex, who was my traveling person, I nicknamed him that. So don't worry, go down to the shower house on the park and take all your stuff. So I walked down there with my crocs and my soap on a rope and there they were alligators of every size off to the left. Well, I got a big chill in the Florida heat and then I realized that there was a chain link fence between the alligators, but that became the phrase for all the scary fun adventures, and there were many.Lea Lane:
Sounds like a very good phrase to use. Okay, let's talk about some of the places and the situations and the people of the United States that you've observed from RVing through the years, so we'll go alphabetically. Tell us about the vortex in Sedona, Arizona.Alexa Rossy:
Sedona is called the spiritual center of the United States and the vortexes are swirling. Things that could be in your wine glass, could be in your swimming pool, but in this case it's in the beautiful, beautiful mountains and flatlands in Sedona. So we picked a vortex to sit in and get a spiritual uplifting. I'm not sure it worked for us, but hundreds and thousands of people go there Intuitives, healers, celebrities, actors, actresses. It's a gorgeous place and I will tell you that it said that when God created the earth, he or she decided they would live in Sedona.Lea Lane:
Ah well, those red rocks are beautiful, whether you see the vortex and feel it or not. Let's go to Colorado. You went to the Rubber Duck, Derby. Tell us about that.Alexa Rossy:
Well, that was in Aspen, and so you see a lot of very upscale people making complete fools of themselves with little rubber duck bath toys. Each duck costs $5. They're all numbered and they dump them into the Rio Grande River -- it's not the big Rio Grande, but and then everybody gathers along the river to see whose duck is coming in first. The winner gets $1 million. Now that's a few years. Yes, you heard me so a few years back. Maybe now inflation has upped the ante, my goodness. But picture a waterway covered in yellow rubber duck s.Lea Lane:
I would imagine w (all wearing sunglasses). The ducks, or the people? (Yes, the ducks, oh my gosh. Well, that's something I guess I would like, m (you definitely would).Alexa Rossy:
It's an annual event.Lea Lane:
Oh, wow, very interesting. Let's go to mermaids in Florida at Weekee Watchee Springs.Alexa Rossy:
OK, so mermaids in Florida, one of the last of the old Florida attractions. The day we went they had brought in the mermaids from the 1950s and 60s and of course they were a little older, but they performed just like they were, 18 years old, flashing their tails. And then they brought in the new one and, honestly, I reverted to being five years old watching a huge tank of bubbles and sparkles, (and definitely something to remind me of the actress Esther Williams from the 50s.Lea Lane:
Yeah, it's a wonderful old fashioned place. I know in Florida, when you go to these things, where do you stay?Alexa Rossy:
We have a big, thick directory of every RV park in the United States that's been rated, so we look ahead to see where we might be at the end of the day. And then we call up one of the parks and we ask them for a space. Most times we get it and if not, if all else fails, you can sleep in the parking lot of a Walmart for free.Lea Lane:
I heard that Still going on right, (yeah yeah, I did an episode with a man who was also an RV expert. He said there are lots of clubs now where you can go stay at golf courses and country clubs and kind of upscale places as well. If you join the club, they'll allow that. So there's a variety of levels. I know that.Alexa Rossy:
Yes, every kind of level, as long as you're out there and having fun, exactly, (And you were in an air stream? Tell us about that. The first one was an air stream and it's just the most precious retro little piece of equipment. We did end up going to a place where they make the air stream. It's in Ohio and it's very interesting. They take such pride. Only one crew works on one air stream. They do not switch off employees because when they finish and every little rivet and bolt, they can sit back and say look, we made this one. Did they sign them like a work of art? I looked they might, but no, it's called Jackson Center. And I said that if any alien ever came to the United States they would think they landed in home territory, because all the little shiny things are lined up. That's funny.Lea Lane:
Okay, let's go back to the road. How about Kentucky? You went to Noah's Ark in Williamstown, Kentucky. Tell us about that.Alexa Rossy:
Okay, well, we were in North Carolina, it was raining, raining, raining and I said, boy, we could use an Ark. And someone said, oh, there is one in Williamstown, Kentucky, so we went over there. The Ark is two football fields long, it is supposedly the largest timber wood structure in the world and it is three floors. So apparently the other Ark was three decks. It is a replica of Noah's Ark. It has everything that the Ark might have had: beautiful baskets, exotic carpets, hammocks. And they do have the animals, but they're outside the Ark.Lea Lane:
How ma n a?Alexa Rossy:
Well, they had kangaroos and just all kinds of things. They were not inside. If they were out, I would say that Noah would not have recognized this Ark, as it was air conditioning, it had Wi-Fi and a gift shop.Lea Lane:
I like this Ark. Okay, well, let's move along here from Kentucky We'll go to Montana, and there were lots of things you did there. I want to talk about the Sun Road N National Park.Alexa Rossy:
When you're in an.Lea Lane:
RV. You have to sometimes take roads that are a little dicey. Tell us about that.Alexa Rossy:
It's called going to the Sun Road and it smells like pine and it's glowing and beautiful, quite frosty. It's all about the water. The first day we went was nasty and freezing and we had to go back the second day and we got the Chamber of Commerce Day. It's about 50 miles on the motorcycle. (Oh, my goodness, that's right, you had a motorcycle as well.Lea Lane:
So yeah, oh yeah. You like that.Alexa Rossy:
I do it. Yes, I got to like it. I feel safe on it because T-rex is a career pilot and he's very careful and no problem. Yeah, and it's so beautiful that you forget that you could, you know, fall off the glacierLea Lane:
That's the way to do it forget all those things. Part of the great thing about traveling like this is you get to meet people. There are a couple of people in Montana that when I was reading your book I was struck with h Martha who raises worms. Tell us about her.Alexa Rossy:
Martha. Martha raised red wiggler worms, which I'd never heard of, and apparently they are the worms that we use to eat garbage. They love bacteria. They send them to coffee plantations because the coffee grows in two years. T three. Martha also told me that the worms are bisexual, so they're all completely dateable.Lea Lane:
Was Martha dateable.Alexa Rossy:
I didn't want to think about that.Lea Lane:
Okay, well, we'll go from. t here was also Bob Wilson. You met a very interesting man in Deer lodge, Montana. Tell us about him.Alexa Rossy:
We had toured the Montana State Prison, which is quite a foreboding, dark, depressing place. But across the street there was a prison gift shop and one of the officials in the Montana government had decided they wanted an inmate to run it. So this gentleman was picked out of several thousand other prisoners. He was exemplary. Anyway, we didn't really know much about it, we just went to gift shop so I told him we had just toured the prison. He told me he had been living there for gosh I don't know how many years he was an accomplise p o a murder murder murder or murder. So it's the first time I had spoken with that kind of person. Well, that was that. You know, it was completely delightful and the door i wide open. He has a phone but it can only call . You know, call the prison. He was quite shy and he said when he started his job the money looks so different because he hadn't seen it in 20 years. He was afraid to talk to people, but anyway he's been there. So we bought a lot of beautiful things made by the prisoners and the money goes toward their Cantines cantines or their family support.Lea Lane:
Yeah, that's what's so great about travel you would you meet people? You otherwise obviously? wouldn't know and you never know right, (Exactly, Let's talk about New Mexico. You mentioned aliens from another planet. How about Roswell, New Mexico and the UFO convention?Alexa Rossy:
No, well, I'm lucky I'm still here. We heard that they were having their annual UFO convention, so we went to Roswell and Roswell is an out-of-this-world place. You know the great story about something falling from the sky many, many years ago and they thought it was a UFO and that's how Roswell became famous. So they do it up big. They have a parade, Walmart has a big float. It says we've come to shop, the motel say come, crash with us. And it goes on and on. People are dressed up in neon and they have a museum with a little mummy alien and they even have a panel of people who have been abducted and come back and talk about it, but they're usually from the same kind of place.Lea Lane:
I don't know what that is, but they're usually in a rural area.Alexa Rossy:
Not many city people say that, but that's fascinating.Alexa Rossy:
Yes, and I did want to tell you that all the light poles in Roswell have alien heads on the top of them, something I never would have known.Lea Lane:
Let's go to North Carolina, and there are a couple of things there that fascinated me from your book. One was the beauty pageant that you visited.Alexa Rossy:
Well, in Bakersville, North Carolina, they have an annual rhododendron festival. The rhododendron is the beautiful pink flower and that time of year it covers everything. It looks like a pink blanket. So we went over there to see the flowers and then found out that there would be a rhododendron queen crowned that very night in the high school. This is big so we bought a five dollar ticket. We found a great seat next to the runway. Craig was horrified that he had to sit through a beauty pageant. (I'll bet.) And then it began and the girls came out one by one, each one so pretty, poised, nervous, wobbling in their high heels. They had to do gown, they had to do bathing suit. He started to to less w than he was before and then he started to pick out who he thought would win. And these girls get scholarships, they are encouraged to live their life dream and you know what I say now is they realize they could be president of the United States or just the best man, n North Carolina.Lea Lane:
Fascinating. Now, another thing I love with women is the roller derby. That's something from the 1940s and 50s way way back. Tell us what's going on now with the roller derby.Alexa Rossy:
Well, that roller derby was in Asheville, North Carolina, and pictures sale day at Lohmann. The women are well, here. I the rules. re you roll in the pack on roller skates? The idea is to get in front of the pack. And they all have to have a killer instinct, but they have something else going for them which is their si undefined a uniform, and they have very raunchy nickname. So in between the fishnets and the tube top, you've got so fond of giving stitches, or rigor, morticia, and so on and so on. The rules say don't push, don't shove, don't pull.Lea Lane:
They all pushed, shoved, that's right that's why the rules were made very interesting. Combination of beauty pageants and roller derbies. I love it. That's going to South Dakota and some of your experiences there. I know you went to Mount Rushmore and you visited some hot springs, but the thing that I was most interested in was bike week and stir just South Dakota. Tell us about bike week.Alexa Rossy:
Picture five hundred thousand motorcycles cruising around most of them are Harley. Some of the guys come from Europe. This is a big deal and my feeling is it's their one chance to get away from whatever they do in real life and it's a mixed bag. So we went on the BMW, which was the novelty. It's a beautiful, beautiful area and, you know, one day we took a ride over to Wyoming to see the Devil's Tower.Lea Lane:
r member that yes in the movie from yes Close Encounter s-- bikers.Alexa Rossy:
Some of them a very scary tattoos, do ? Fringes, chain? They want you to take clothes off, which I did not. Do you know for a string of beads? They have to do better than that. When I did talk to some of the scary, scarier one ones, the sculptor, many of them were lawyers, dentist s doesn't s,, it's just their time out to have a great, great week.Lea Lane:
Very interesting again, meeting people and finding out things as you go on the road, which is what we love about travel Texas. You went to the LBJ ranch, the Lyndon Baines Johnson ranch. Tell us a little about that.Alexa Rossy:
Well, it's near the hill country which is so beautiful in Texas. Texas Rangers were out there. Regardless of your political views B had a very, very interesting personality and as big and bold as he was, the ranch was what they called their heart place and it's acres and acres, and after he died they donated it, it so anybody can come in. But you can go through the house. You can see the hideous shag shed carpeting. There were telephones in every room, there were televisions, but it's free range. So when you drive through the property, there could be a horse, there could be a cow, there could be a deer scampering in front of you. So we really loved it for its beauty. It's a very calm, restful place. I imagine that the world leaders who came there were very surprised because of the contrast to his big, bold .Lea Lane:
Exactly. Yeah well, let's go to Utah. I know you went to hear the Mormon Tab? urn Is acle there enough water in there to float? Because I know.Alexa Rossy:
I'm not sure this is a few years back, but you clearly can float. You don't think so? And then all of a sudden, you're sitting there with an invisible chair, so I was so glad that I had that experience. And of course, when you get out, you have enough salt on you to make a hundred thousand meals. Yeah, fun to do.Lea Lane:
The area of Utah I just have to mention the Canyon area is one of the most beautiful places in America. I'm sure you drove through them. I know from the book. Did you have a favorite canyon?Alexa Rossy:
Can have a favorite. It's like your children like you know, with each turn you go oh look at this one, look at this.Lea Lane:
It's exceptional. It is obviously you learn lots of things on the road.Alexa Rossy:
One of the things I learned is that people are people and that is the universal. But it's just a symbol. In Iowa it could be somebody's corn crop and in Miami Beach, well, flash. And.Lea Lane:
Lamborghini. Well, the name of the podcast is Places. I Remember. So, Alexa, out of all your stories and all your experiences, can you share one favorite with us to end it?Alexa Rossy:
Well for me. I love meeting different people, and so it was the serendipitous meeting with a woman in a shoe store in Miami, Florida. We just had an instant connection, turned out she was from Kentucky and we exchange names and addresses. So when we were leaving Jackson Center, Ohio, I looked at the map and I went oh, there's Kentucky. I'm going to call this lady and T-Rex t you are going to call a lady you met one time in a shoe store I don't play well, you know, not traveling with Anne Landers. Anyway, I called her. She was delighted. She had this syrupy southern accent. She invited us to their beautiful ranch with race horses which is why she was in Miami to begin with, running a Gulf stream. They were the most lovely couple. She had won many trophies riding horses, he had been a banker. They were very, very down to earth. We became lifelong friends and they are now gone. I get a little emotional, but I was able to contact their son, who now has my book, and gave me permission to use their names, which I don't have to. But meeting people, that's it. That's it for me.Lea Lane:
Absolutely. You know I've been doing many episodes are almost at 100 now and so many times the ending memory is about people. No matter where in the world, no matter how glamorous or how beautiful the scenery, it's the people that matter to so many of us. So thank you for sharing that very touching and thank you so very much, Alexa Rossy. You're the author of the charming, funny memoir of your RV adventures in the US. Keep on going out thereAlexa Rossy:
Aren't we lucky that we get to go -yeah.