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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

On The Road Again

Hello roadies! 

Sorry there was no update last night but Tuesday is about the only good TV night all week--NCIS,NCISLA and White Collar.  So where did I leave off? Ah, yes, Daytona and dinner with the Doyles.

Couldn't sleep even though we'd gotten in early, by around 730 actually. I watched the race with Bill until 9 when he retired. Since I just don't get watching cars go round and round in ovoid patterns with no apparent change, I watched Cold Case. At around 945, during a commercial, I decided to check to see if anything interesting had happened. Imagine my surprise at the conflagration! When they showed the incinerated car and truck I was positive that at least one of the people had died. What a miracle they both survived relatively unscathed. Guess those precautions and emergency measures work smoothly. Anyway, went back to Castle and then to bed at 11, my usual time. Everything was pretty well packed but at 6 am I was wide awake and, though I tried, there was no getting back to sleep. Got up, had breakfast, got the food from the fridge they we were taking with us and organized the rest so that Bob and Trish could find it easily and, hopefully, use it or leave it for Jack and Kate, who are arriving for bike week. By tennish, we'd patted the dogs one last time, hugged BandT--well, Bill shook hands--and mailed the Netflix DVD's and postcards to Barb and Aunt Shirl and were on our way--across the causeway bridge--sadly, for the last time--heading West on Rte 44.

At first blush the landscape looks like home--forested on two lane roads--but upon closer examination it is evident that the forest is nothing like ours. Lots of oaks and what we assume are all considered palm trees, with a very think understory of palmetto and other very thick vegetation. There is no walking through these " woods "--one must hack through them.  Soon, this gave way to open pasture with wooden fences. Ranches--Bill says there are lots of cowboys in Florida. I don't know but there are lots of cows. In time, too, we came upon a small swath of citrus groves and the trees were quite heavy with oranges. In truth, it was amazing how few groves there were and we saw only one roadside stand selling HoneyBells--it was on the other side of the median and we thought we'd encounter others--but no, so we did not have any citrus so far.

Before Eustis we came to Fl 46 and headed down to Mt Dora which is a cut little town with quaint buildings. It is not an easy walking town, however, with unlevel sidewalks, hills and valleys and little alleys. We drove around and admired some of the old architecture. The found 441 and continued on our way reconnecting with 44 and arriving in Tavares. We had gotten a bit hungry by that time and I spotted a little diner with the cute name Soup to Nuts.

As we headed toward the dining area a young man stopped at a booth and indicated we should sit there. Bill asked him if he was Michael and, smilingly, he said yes. I gave them both a quizzical look and they just laughed. I said to Bill--there must have been a sign and he said Nope, Mike and I are old buddies and Mike said yup. What a pair! So to remember him forever I took a picture of our old family friend, Mike as well as several shots of the fun diner playing Brenda Lee singing I'm Sorry among other great hits of the 50's and 60's. As we left, I also turned and took a snap of the sign that should have tripped me on my way in. Sometimes, lately, I'm terribly oblivious of my surroundings---and I'm usually so observant. Another sign of the golden years??

Moving along we came into Leesburg and I gave Jack and Pris a buzz to let them know we were near. Pris said not to eat and I had to tell her we had stopped. On we continued through Inverness and on back roads to the beautifully landscaped home away from Vermont of our friends.

We haven't seen them in about five years it seems but within minutes it was as though we saw each other just a few days ago. It is so neat when a friendship picks up right where it left off no matter how much time has passed. We all gathered together and caught up on kids and, for them, grandkids. Old times, recent times, old shared friends, travels in common and on and on. In what seemed like minutes it was dinner time--Bill and Jack went outdoors to grill the biggest pork chops --as big as small steaks--and delicious. Pris and I remained in the kitchen as she steamed veggies and made up a salad. The meal was just wonderful and the conversation continued to flow. Jack and Bill both have such humor that laughter is a constant or almost so.

Pris had gotten fresh Florida strawberries and though absolutely stuffed--I didn't finish my chop and truly hope they  used it--how I hate discarding food, especially such quality -----there was no way I could pass on shortcake with real whipped cream. Bill is not a dessert guy and, though he'd declined any, when he saw those berries, he quickly changed his mind.

When we got back to the motel I googled around until I found Verne and Jean Batchelder's address in Florida. Verne taught with us at TA and now is one of the biggest horseman in the Hanoverian world. They have two ranches--one at home and one in Woodsville, Fl as it turns out. We knew they were in the Ocala area but had no idea how close they are to Jack's. Emailed Jack the link to the ranch and how to contact Verne.  I emailed VandJ and said we just want to get out of Florida, so we'll visit next time we come down. I dropped the ball on that one--if I'd been more organized perhaps the six of us might have been able to get together. But hopefully JandP will reconnect and we'll see VandJ in Vt.

This morning I was awake again at 5 or so and hadn't slept really well. I think the change in venue and bed probably played a roll but by 913 we were once more on our way.The Quality Inn in Crystal River where we stayed is located on 19 and that is the almost only road that heads to Tallahassee. If you look on the map and at my pictures you'll see that there isn't much along that road all the way to Perry, about 148 miles away. The road actually reminds me of the Taconic Parkway in New York. A nice quiet, scenic road with little traffic and tiny towns.

Chiefland was the first of any size but buildings are for sale and empty storefronts for rent. I felt like a ghost town. Coming along the main street strip the steeple rising above these flat identical buildings was so incongruous. From the side it was really stranger than straight on but either way it was noticeably weird.

Crossing the Suwannee River was really neat except for the fact that you couldn't really see it and when it became visible it was fields away behind a tall tree line. Some of the towns were so small that, though they were on the map, there was no sense of going through them. Pineland was a trailer with a sign that said Pineland. Until I looked down at the map I thought that was a trailer park name. Sadly, this road does not go through a very affluent area --repo shops, and mobile home parks.

Perry is good sized and we stopped to get gas and plan out our route around the Gulf and avoiding Tallahassee. Picked up 98, turning west but also south to the coast. It took a little while to actually get to the coast but the drive was pleasant--two lanes--some logging trucks but only two that I can recall going our way, a couple of land yachts, and a few bicyclists. Had to laugh at one lady biker with a flashing red light on the nape of her helmet. Looked ludicrous though, I suppose, a practical safety device.

Lots of creeks and rivers drain across the road and form nice lazy backwaters that are quite picturesque. Much of the area along 98 are wildlife management areas, or managed logging area. Sometimes there would be open fields with only a few mature trees--Bill said this is a common forestry method, or at least was when he studied forestry in college. It is called the seed tree method where everything but some healthy old trees are removed and those trees are left to reseed the harvested areas. Makes sense--especially with the fairly long growing season.

At Ochlockonee Bay we arrived at the Gulf Shore at last. Crossed the mouth of the Bay into St Theresa and came to a boat launch across from which is Alligator Point. The small cove formed by the point and mainland is filled with shellfish farms and their borders are marked by tall poles protruding from the water. The fog above the water was pea soup thick. Visibility disappointingly limited. Nevertheless, it is the Gulf and it is sparsely populated in comparison to the Atlantic and Southern Gulf shore.

As we continued along through St James and Lanark Village the windshield looked as though we had driven through an atomizer's mist. The temperature dropped from 78 to 60 degrees in a ten mile stretch and yet the air remained humid, humid, humid. All during the drive the a/c on 1 was too cold with the windows open but not cool enough with the windows closed even turned higher. Windows open without a/c was simply oppressive. To put on a jacket meant that you'd die when you got out of the car. A very strange occurrence to us anyway.

Eventually we arrived in Carravelle. It wasn't until I reviewed my pictures that I realized how ancient a community it is. :)  We drove around the little park along the Crooked River and through the tiny streets. Both here and in several of the prior communities it looks as though there has been storm damage though not very recently.

At the western end of town we came to a tiny restaurant--2 Als. I ordered a sweet tea and I think I got at least a liter in a huge cup--and several times the waitress asked if I wanted it topped!!!! Naturally being in the Apalachee, Apalachicola area, I had a fried oyster basket WITHOUT those darned hush puppies. I told her--I won't eat them so please, don't serve them. And unlike a couple of other servers I've had down here, she listened!

Sated once more, (we just don't eat well on these trips at all, do we?  Bill had a delicious looking Spanish hamburger basket. ) we proceeded across the looooong causeway and then causeway bridge that connects Eastpoint to Apalachicola and around the bend into Port St Joe and the Mainstay Suites. We've never stayed in this Choice Privilege holding before but I don't think you can beat the price. I reserved a one queen room for 80.99 plus tax. The lady at the desk upped us to two queens without telling us but when I asked about an upgrade she said, you know, you've been so patient while I took care of the lady before you and two calls and you are Diamond Elite, I'm going to put you into a King Suite. Which floor would you like, 1st,2nd or 3rd. We opted for 1st and because she was so gracious I awarded her one of my 1000 point vouchers that CP provides me to give to employees who recognize us as good and frequent guests.

So, in current parlance, we ended our day with a win-win experience. What could be better??  And with that our good friends, the Ponds bid you a fond goodnight.  Somehow the maps I packed for the Southern tier have disappeared but we will probably make Biloxi tomorrow. Until then, be well and take care.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Good bye Meal at Blackbeard's

Rainy, hot, humid, hazy day and for some reason I was truly tired. Got up at 830 but returned for a nap at 130ish. Slept until 3 or so. Kind of got things tidied up and packed for departure tomorrow. Called Jack and Pris and let them know we would kick around Mt Dora a bit on the way to Hernando. Made reservations at the Quality Inn in Crystal River for tomorrow night.

Took Trish and Bob out to dinner at Blackbeards. Raw oysters for appetizer and fried oysters for dinner. Trish had a fish and the men had prime rib---everything was delicious and the waitress graciously took our picture. When we got in the car Bob said he could smell Dairy Queen and so off we went for dessert and more good conversation and laughter. Such a great evening. Trish wrote Swampy and Kathy Pond were here so, of course, at Bob's instigation I had to take a picture. LOL

Home in time to look out at the park lights, the glow of Daytona and the Ponce Inlet light. Just in time to see the opening of the race and the first major crash through which Danica nicely maneuvered her car.

Chatted with Bets before dinner--she had trouble sleeping last night and Misty is favoring a hind leg. Hope they are both okay.

So tomorrow, we leave New Smyrna, which will be sad but it is time to move on. Will miss the Doyle's and this lovely apartment and the town which is really quite friendly. Tomorrow Jack and Pris and a quick catch-up then off to the Panhandle after years of wanting to see it--hope I'm not disappointed. Then off to Louisiana. 30 laps already finished but no matter what, I'm watching Castle at 10.  Good night all--enjoy the race, if that's your thing.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Roaming Leisurely Close to Home Base

Hi folks! Sorry I'm late with yesterday's post but we howled at the moon a bit last night and so I didn't get up until 1145 this morning. Not hungover but tired. It is overcast and there is a drizzle now and then today but it is nice to just veg for a change. The five jets went over headed up to rainy Daytona Speedway and then half hour later flew over on their way back down South. Somehow it was six on the return--wonder where that guy was on the way up? They fly directly over the house just as the shuttle and other spacecraft did. Must have been quite an experience to see those things so close up. But back to yesterday--it was my kind of day--64degrees, great wind and sun. Kept lots of people indoors so the Canaveral National Seashore was almost ours alone. We went through Bethune Beach, which historically was the black beach. As we drove by the expensive homes and one or two condominiums I could not help but think that integration brought some losses as well as many victories. I don't think too many of these homes and condos are owned by black people so a gorgeous beach that probably was the source of generations of memories has been taken away. Of course, there is a public park with access to the beach which is open to all but it isn't the same. Anyway, soon we were passing the funny ranger at the entrance booth and off we went to the first stop--Turtle Mound. To get there you walk along a bit of the riverfront and then into the jungle on a very sturdy boardwalk and a stroll to the mound itself. In this area during the time of European discovery lived an Indian group called the Timucuan people. They occupied the vicinity for over 2000 years and did little to alter the land. There are burial mounds and shell middens that in their layers hold the history of their civilization. In 1513 when Ponce de Leon arrived there were about 40,000 but by 1763, when Spain withdrew from Florida, there were just a handful surviving Timucuans. Decimated primarily by diseases introduced by the Europeans the only thing left of their culture are these structures. Turtle Mound has been left pretty much as is but others have been used to build roads or have been otherwise disturbed--like books with pages violently torn out. It was with great pleasure that I looked into that surrounding lush vegetation and saw a remnant of the more recent inhabitants of the area---turn of the 20th century transplanted farmers--an orange tree, out of reach but laden with the most delicious looking oranges. We continued along the road, sometimes with a canopy of trees above us, other times with open skies but palmetto scrub surrounding us. Our next stop was the sight of an old community, Eldora. The parking lot was the location of a Coast Guard --then called the US Lifesaving Service--House of Refuge. Nothing remains of it but I could imagine its appearance since there are several preserved at Mystic Seaport and I cannot imagine this would have been much different--the government being what it is--cookie cutter mentality. All border stations looked the same and I think these refuge houses would have, too. We walked in along a wide road surrounded by huge live oaks--they are such majestic trees. Their thick branches dressed with furry Resurrection Ferns--nice and green as a result of the rains of the past few nights. Also mixed in with the oaks, a deciduous tree with bark reminiscent of sycamores and several species of palm trees. The textures are so appealing and varied. We entered by circling around back--not following the rest of the tourists thereby seeing the fresh water system of the community, including a cistern which has not been refurbished. The brochure and the video and the really nice lady ranger filled us in on the history of Eldora, which really only thrived as a community for about sixty years though it hung on by a thread for another few years. In 1877 or so the home of Native Americans and a few woodsmen began to be developed by immigrants from Mississippi, Alabama,Georgia, Missouri and, of course, New York and New Jersey with a few English and German Europeans thrown in. Initially, these people established an agricultural community and grew citrus of all types as well as pineapples and various vegetables. An industry rose supplying pharmaceutical houses with dried saw palmetto berries to make an elixir used in various ways. Steamboats plied the river bringing supplies and taking away produce to markets. The Coast Guard set up its rescue station. By 1898 several changes had taken place--two severe frosts in 1895 and 1896 destroyed the citrus trees, the railroad was built by Mr Flagler on the mainland and so steamboats were put out of business, the intracoastal Waterway was rerouted. As a result the business of the community became tourist centered--in that hunting and fishing lodges were built.Also wealthy families built seasonal homes and whatever farming done was purely gentleman's farming. By 1938, even these pursuits declined and the Coast Guard moved up to Ponce Inlet further north up the coast. Only 10 people were let in Eldora. Over the next 30 years the population dwindled to fewer permanent homes, which were literally left to decay and be reclaimed by the elements and vegetation. In 1975, there were a couple of year round residents and a few seasonal and weekend people. That same year the National Seashore was established. In 1989 The Friends of Canaveral looked at Eldora House and the State House. It was discovered that Eldora House was too far deteriorated to be restored so it was torn down. Through fund raising and grant writing Eldora State House was able to be refurbished and so it was and opened to the public in 1999. It is now maintained by the National Parks Service.

We continued on to the end of land and stopped where the river and ocean meet. With feet planted firmly and my clothes plastered to my body I turned my face into the furious wind. I love the ocean in all its fazes. Someday I'd like to rent a place on the Maine coast during the winter and just revel in its unbridled freedom. No matter what we do to its coasts the ocean just keeps on keeping on.

And then we returned to PJ's where I ordered escargots in garlic butter with lots of freshly baked bread and glasses and glasses of good German beer to wash it all down. Great conversation with some of the locals. I like PJ's alot--after you show your face there a couple of times it's like Cheers--everybody knows your name. Just fun. NSB is truly a friendly place and it will be sad to move on. Came home to a beautiful indigo sky with a brilliant quarter moon and evening star. Went to bed by 830. Couldn't do much else to be honest. But it was a terrific day. 
Trish and Bob are really great. They came down with Petty the dog all ready to watch part of the race--who can bother watching it all?--but it is raining in Daytona and the race is in an iffy place. The jets have come and gone, the talking heads are filling in time. So Trish went up to take a nap. I decided to blog and upload pix. Bill and Bob talked themselves out so Bob is off doing something, Bill is going to the store. I'm going to set up bill payments and watch one, if not two, movies. Unless, something really exciting happens there won't be pix or a blog for today. It is a catch up rainy Sunday kind of day--what is left to say? Take care until the next installment.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Hot , Humid , Historic Florida

St Augustine at last! We took the Dixie Highway to Port Orange and crossed the Intercoastal Waterway onto the barrier islands that include south Daytona, Daytona Shores and Daytona Beach--absolutely no view of the ocean OR the waterway--a wall of condominiums of all colors, sizes, shapes and styles. Where there is an empty lot there is a fence blocking the view. Blessedly there are a couple of State parks where nothing is built and so periodically a bit of beach peeks over the dunes temptingly. Then there are communities such as Summer Haven and Flagler Beach which have built their mansions and small, though expensive bungalows across the road from the water--allowing more unsullied beach to be enjoyed by all. The original Marineland still has its dolphin experience but we had no interest in seeing it. There is also the Alligator Farm that has been there for over 50 years but we are happy to see them in the wild. The appearance of the Anastasia Island light alerted us to our imminent arrival at the Lion Bridge and the magnificent Ponce de Leon Hotel with is now actually Flagler College. Behind it is the Presbyterian Church dome--the church also built for Flagler--he who started the whole invasion of Florida by his affluent friends, the first snowbirds. Quite the salesman, he told them the hotel was built on the site of the Fountain of Youth, discovered by Poncey himself! But none of this was of interest to me--I've seen all that before and it was nice but what I remember from my visit 54 years ago in the Castillo de San Marcos--built by Spain to protect the main settlement of its Florida colony in 1625. It is constructed of blocks of tightly packed cochina shells--I was so fascinated by that material as a teen and just had to see the place again. It is just as I remembered it. It has aged better than I--with my gimpy leg and susceptibility to the heat and humidity which just make me miserable. Still, with the wind tearing at my hair,my clothes sticking to me, and feeling very off balance on the uneven ground, I was so happy to be there. It is a beautiful fort, if small, and just has a special place in my memory.We spent two hours there in the blue and white blazing, blinding sun and loved it. Then we went back over the Lion Bridge and headed back to NSB. We hope to return next week after Daytona is done and see Fort Mantazanas which was built to defend the inlet leading to St A and which was manned and commanded by the soldiers at the Castillo. It was not open to the public when I was a girl and is apparently in a great deal of disrepair, having been deserted by the British and Americans in their time operating the Castillo--or Ft St Mark or Fort Marion--as it was renamed. There is a half hour ferry ride to get to it and that is worth the trip. We stopped in Flagler Beach and had late lunch at Martin's. Fried Oyster platter for me, Seafood platter for Bill. The lady who owns it used to live in Rotterdam and her gentleman friend is from Maine--Penobscott Bay area. So guess what we discussed/ What a small world this is. And then it was back through the Forest of Condominiums' Ocean Obscura City. Past by the NSB airport and the Goodyear and DirectV blimbs bobbing at their moorings and waiting for the action in Daytona on Sunday. A quick shower and nap and now settling in for TV or a Netflix movie---not sure which. The next couple of days are going to be spent kicking around here--avoiding traffic. The beach, the seashore drive, and other little excursions. Looks as though we'll be thinking of moving West midweek. Nothing definite yet--we still want to go out half day sea fishing. I'm beginning to get antsy for the Panhandle and Louisiana! Until tomorrow--goodnight. Is it snowing up North? And those who started Feb vaca today--have a wonderful break.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

<a href="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6588662-the-help" style="float: left; padding-right: 20px"><img alt="The Help" border="0" src="http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1315058290m/6588662.jpg" /></a><a href="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6588662-the-help">The Help</a> by <a href="http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1943477.Kathryn_Stockett">Kathryn Stockett</a><br/>
My rating: <a href="http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/115697878">3 of 5 stars</a><br /><br />
No matter how well intentioned, nor how well a white woman thinks she can research this topic, only black women will ever know their true feelings about working for white people in the South. I'm not sure how unbiased I'd feel a book on this topic written by black women would be, either. It is fiction perhaps with some truth as all fiction contains and as such I liked the story. I will go to see the movie, too.
<a href="http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/3211847-katherine">View all my reviews</a>

Me Time!

Just felt tired today and felt like reading so that's what I did. Trish came down and had coffee and chatted with us for about an hour. After she left I got comfy in a deep leather chair with a great ottoman and read for the whole day. Carrots and homemade hummus for lunch with a couple of almonds. Have some Netflix with me but didn't get to them today. Finished The Help which I really liked but to which I couldn't truly relate.  Wasn't in the South during the civil rights time and don't really remember much of the trip we took down here in '57. I vaguely remember signs over water fountains for whites only but other than that I was totally oblivious. I, of course, remember all the upheaval of the '60's but it, like 'Nam really were far removed from my world and I didn't feel terribly affected by any of it. Never a hippie, never into drugs and free love--kind of totally aware but not a part---it was at the fringes of my existence.  My daughter doesn't believe anyone could have sailed through those times without being hippies tokin' up and sleeping with every guy who was in the area. Long hair--yup, shorter skirts--sort of  but the rest of it--nope. Those who were part of that scene want her generation to believe that everyone lived that way and many of them haven't really outgrown the life-style.Pitiful.

Anyway, the most exciting thing to happen today is that an egret decided to visit our front lawn. Bill and Bob went off to the local airport to see some WWII vintage planes and then hit Clancy's on Flagler for a couple of beers. I was invited but was happy to stay home. Even Trish left for somewhere so I was truly alone in the whole house in silence. Fabulous. I'm rejuvenated and ready to go again tomorrow. Should be St Augustine--LOL !

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

1970's Florida--Actually Could be 1950's!

The last time I traveled US 1 the length of Florida it was a series of small towns and orange groves and tangled vegetation. This stretch from NSB to Titusville is just the way I remember it. The orange groves are there but most of the trees are dead--damaged by the ice storms of 1985--or, if producing and some are--neglected because I 95 has taken away the cars that would stop at the stands to buy bags of them.  Sad in some ways but made me happy to see Florida the way I remember it. Old motels and pastel houses and buildings in Mims and Titusville.Went out to the Space Center but the admission price is ridiculous--45 per person and far too much to try to walk around to see in this heat. We returned to the Astronaut Hall of Fame and paid 20 per person, were indoors and cool and spent 2 solid hours reliving the memories.

I was standing on a footstool in Freshman Chem class at Mount St Vincent weighing out a reagent on a microbalance as Alan Shepard made his sixteen minute orbit of Earth. I sat in my parent's living room worried that Grissom wouldn't get out of his capsule before it sank into the ocean. Those guys had splashdown in the ocean and had to wait for Navy divers and helicopters to pluck them out of the drink and onto a Navy carrier. I was with friends as we watched the grainy shots of the man on the moon. I don't remember where I was when Gus and his crew were incinerated in less than a minute but I remember the incredible sorrow I felt. I was pregnant and supervising a study hall in Chelsea when word came that the Challenger had exploded and we turned on the TV and watched in dreadful silence as they showed the explosion over and over again.  And now we are done--the Russians and Chinese are giving us rides. I guess we lost out to Sputnik after all. I wonder how this chapter of history will be rewritten by the victors?

NOAA has developed the Lesson on a Globe--how I wish I'd had such a great item to teach Earth Science. Guess they are installing four of these in four museums though they did not say where. Just a wonderful teaching tool about our planet,its sun, its moon and its neighbors--in this case the giant, Jupiter. Fascinating.

Finished the day with dinner at Bob and Trish's --pork kabobs on the grill, sweet potatoes, salad, roll, cauliflower and broccoli and a Klondike Bar for dessert--Double Chocolate! YUMMY!

Good fun,good talk, good food , good friends. hopefully, St Augustine, tomorrow!  Night all

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Another Heavenly Florida Day

Today began with a visit and coffee with Trish. So good to see her up and about. She said having coffee was a good sign because she can't stomach it when she is stuffy with sinusitis. We talked about lots of things--her boys, some of Bill's other frat brothers, living here, Manatees in the river etc, etc. Bob popped in on his way to work, smelly delicious. I love men's aftershave and so few men use it now. Bill never does, even when he shaves. So it was nice to have a scented man around for a few minutes. Trish said that she was going to force herself to stay vertical all day but that she was going to bow out of the Mardi Gras festivities on Flagler tonight. We said we were definitely not going to bother with it--I've never aspired to attend MG in NO why would I want to bother anywhere else. Public drunkeness, rowdiness and nudity didn't appeal when I was young and I haven't developed a taste for it through the years.

After dressing and checking the map we were off to the interior--Deland and Orange City. First stop, Blue Springs State Park. We ambled down the length of the cove to the St John's River. Unfortunately, the 1 pm river boat cruise was booked and we didn't want to hang around until 330 for the next one. Bill is not one to return to a place we've already explored on the same trip so my suggestion to reserve for tomorrow and come back was voted down. Oh, well, it looked so lazy and relaxing. Nevertheless, we had a marvelous time looking at all the fish--alligator gar with their long needle-like noses, tilapia in huge schools and other fish that I cannot remember the names of though I'm sure it is in the brochure. At then at the mouth of the cove where it meets the River we spent ages watching the manatees. The water, as you can see, clear as can be and the manatees just wonderful, particularly the mother and baby. Even the birds in Florida wait around in lines--it is so crowded here! It is interesting how narrow the temperature range that the manatees can tolerate. Too shallow and warm they move to the river, too deep and cool they move into the cove. They eat vegetation so the fish are not in the least bothered by these huge silent slow moving creatures. They are mammals so they stick their noses up once in awhile for air and, of course, moms nurse their infants for about a year.

After a short break in the cool of the pavilion with a hot dog we continued viewing them and chatting with others --a man and woman with heavy Quebecois accents from Madawaska Maine--what was Rich's last name from Van Buren?--and an adorable red headed boy named Mason who was getting whiney because he didn't see any. I called him over and he looked through the bars of the fence to the white patches--the scars on the manatee's back--didn't tell him what they were--and he was so happy. Then, of course, he was able to see all the others now that he knew what to look for. I told his Mom I was tempted to steal him, since I'd always wanted a red-haired boy. She laughed and said Done! He's yours!  and we all laughed as he blushed. Then Bill went to get the car--these legs and this ankle bring me to the brink of tears with frustration more than pain. I feel like such a cripple. What a difference from last year at this time.  I just pray that it is merely that it will take awhile for the ankle to regain its strength and I'll walk normally again. I swear I've aged ten years since I broke it. But enough of that.  While Bill was getting the car I was joined by a gentleman of my vintage who opened the conversation by saying it was warmer here than where he is from--Ohio. He's been to all the states but Hawaii. He was a steelworker and had driven the Alaskan highway in 85---spent a lot of money on gas to do it--got laid off the fall after he came back and was happy he had gone because he knew he'd never get a job that paid as well as that one had and he would not have been able to go. He said, rather resignedly but hopefully, it looks as though some of those jobs may come back to this country though.  When Bill picked me up he laughed and said --you've still got it kid!  LOL

From Orange City we headed back through Deland. Unfortunately, I'm not getting shots from the moving car--only when we are stopped--so no pictures of the beautiful buildings of Stetson College. Soon we arrived at Deland Municipal Airport and the Perfect Spot at SkyDive Deland. Was great to chat with the jumpers and watch the different ways they choose to land from way up on high where they are just specks. Some drift down like leaves on air currents--others choose to whoosh down like skiers shooting straight down a long steep slope and believe me there is an audible whoosh that you hear before you see them come flying by you on the way to a two footed running landing. Amazing.

From there we came back to NSB and a beer at PJ's and our 21st of the month picture of two. Back home we were greeted by the barking of Lucky, Petty and Indy and a smile from Trish on the balcony. She spent a half hour in the sun near the pool and stayed up all day. She is feeling tired so having soup and to bed. That is good--Bob is at work and she has no need to fuss. We are tired and relaxed and content. Tomorrow is another day. They are supposed to send up a rocket from Kennedy tomorrow --don't know when but I guess it goes right over the house. That would be fun. At this point don't know what we'll do tomorrow--deep sea fishing, St Augustine and the A1A drive, Cape Kennedy?  We'll decide over coffee and biscotti tomorrow. For now, The Help, which I'm loving and then my NCIS shows. Until the same time tomorrow night--good night all!

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Beautiful Day with Nature ( and some tourons!)

Oh, What a glorious day my friends!  We took our time getting ready but by 10 am in 60's we headed across the drawbridge to US Route 1--The Dixie Highway ---and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  The pictures pretty much say it all---at least all of the good stuff. The weather was heavenly, the fauna and flora to die for and it was just wonderful. We did see Manatees and spend time talking to two local retirees in their folding chairs lazily casting for ocean trout at the boat launch. The water was so murky that we only saw an occasional back or a whiskered face as the manatees--three of them--fed in the cove on dead vegetation. The pelican lazily guarded the access and egress from and to the cove on the off chance that a fish might be dropped at his ( her ? ) feet.

The visitor center was a zoo--with obnoxious Northerners demanding attention but still managing to hold each other up. One guy tried SIX credit cards before one worked and then had the gall to tell the little girl cashier that he COULD have paid with cash,while the rest of us patiently sweltered behind him.

Then the wildlife loop was awful with a string of cars--though everyone was polite--still, it was like seeing the Mona Lisa at the Met or the Pieta in St Peter's look but don't stop. We did meet a nice couple from St Albans and managed to share a few words before having to move on. If I didn't look ahead and just paid attention to the wildlife it was fabulous--so that is what I did and my blood pressure was normal and the day was heaven.

Came back to New Smyrna and hit PJ's for early dinner. Met Terri's Dad and another fellow. Terri is the bartender who used to live in Burlington. His Dad is a friend of the guy who owns PJ's and The Garlic, who it turns out is not really from Vermont--though he lived there for years and ran restaurants in the Rutland--Killington--Woodstock corridor. He is from Huntington, LI.

Anyway, got a lead on fishing boats for half day excursions and also a great state park in Deland where there are crystal clear warm springs in which the manatees bask. Well, guess where I think we will spend a day?  Also he told us how to avoid Daytona traffic and get to St Augustine easily and through some neat old places.

Our days are beginning to look full. Trish is still feeling poorly so I haven't gone upstairs YET but Bill has gone to see Bob. Hopefully, she'll make the turn to health soon. I really hope to spend time with her soon. Also we are looking forward to taking them out to dinner. We shall see. In the meantime, fresh air and animals have me sleepy. So back to The Help, maybe some TV and bed.

Thank you, Gloria, for adding Merritt Island to our itinerary!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Quiet Day on the Island

Hello all,
Finally a full restful sleep! Actually got to sleep by 10 and except for a couple of quick wake ups stayed in bed til 8 am.  We were planning on hanging out in this comfortable spacious apartment and just be glad we weren't in the car, but Bob came down and said he wanted to drive us around the island to let us know where things were and take us to a great fish place.  So without much ado I ran in, showered and washed my hair and off we went. It really is paradise if a crowded place--hardly able to see the water until going out on the National Seashore road. But the air is wonderful and the sunshine is different here than any other place--the tropics are surely unique.

Had some fried clams by the side of the inland waterway and then out the six miles of mangrove and palmetto  and palm trees. The water just sparkled and was such a composition of a myriad palette of blues and greens. A turtle held up traffic as he lazily crossed in front of us and an armadillo went merrily about his business totally ignoring those gaping Northerners.

When we returned we found that Trish is feeling somewhat better if still sinus-y. I told Bob I'd get upstairs to see her tomorrow but she came in to visit for a bit when she decided to do a laundry. She's been really under the weather for about three days and is on antibiotics. She had greeted us upon arrival yesterday but hopes not to pass the bug on and, to tell the truth, I'm avoiding her for the same reason.

Bill went off to Publix to pick up a few things--though heaven knows there is not much that the Doyles haven't placed in the cabinets and the refrigerator and the freezer. Unbelieveably gracious.  I started The Help while Bill was gone and fell asleep for about a half hour. Used to feel guilty when I napped but have come to accept that some days a nap is just necessary and should be enjoyed.

Bill came back and we watched the weather channel for a bit. Boy did we time our passage through Virginia right or what. We were in Roanoke, Blacksburg et al and are we glad we missed 6-8 inches of snow! Somebody was watching out for us.
The wind is blowing like crazy and has been since just after noontime. Several boats and moved into the cove on the River just outside the house. Very cloudy so sunset was not terribly spectacular but the  black silouettes of the palms still make a dramatic scene.

Continued reading The Help and I'm loving it. And tonight is the Downton Abbey finale. Life is good.

Tomorrow we'll either go up the coast road to St Augustine or down to Merritt Island Sanctuary. Have to figure out what is happening in Daytona to decide direction. We have no interest in NASCAR nor the traffic it brings.

Love that shot of those two old guys--Frat brothers from UMaine Orono--Swampy Pond and Bob Doyle, affectionately called Doyle. BTW, the Swampy Dude sign was on the corner of the street down which we had to turn to get here. Hilarious--wonder what the neighbors thought!

Well, back to my book until Masterpiece. More tomorrow. It is going to be easy peasy relaxation while we are here.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Florida at Last!

Long day today and I am beat but the apartment in New Smyrna Beach is wonderful and Bob and Trish are delightful....Started the day in Orangeburg,SC where we had a suite the night before--a long story about the poor service from Choice Privileges but I'll save the saga of that battle for a day when I'm not so beat. In the end we had a wonderful room in a wonderful hotel with excellent people--it was the guy on the concierge hot line that messed up.  Anyway, for the first time we left the Interstate for awhile and followed a lovely back road in South Carolina through small towns with mansions and not so mansion-like shacks and/or trailers. Nothing we haven't seen before.

It was great to see Spanish Moss that I always associate with our stay in Hilton Head years ago--a great time. And then there was the group of scavengers, one of which was really not very happy to leave the treasure but who finally moved out of our way. And, of course, we have the palmetto, and mistletoe that, as a parasite, has always amused me as the choice for stolen kisses sites.

I adore the Georgia welcome sign and had to get the Florida one, since this is a first in our five years of travel--actually in my 12 years of cross country travel. I haven't been here since I was in training at FLETC on the Glencoe Naval Air Station over 30 years ago. The Brunswick Ga sign is for my friends, Amy and Glen, who also spent time at Fletc and flew into Jax for the training.

I 95 is like a speedway in which the gates to the North have been opened. Plates from Canada and every Northeastern states, except Ct, were in great profusion. I hated being part of the herd. Jacksonville is awful to drive through!  But oh, the scenery--I'd forgotten how loverly the air and the sky and the water are. And then, above Daytona, the Directv blimp. When do we ever see a blimp in Post Mills?  Hot air balloons galore--but NEVER a blimp!

Found our exit to NSB with no problem. Bob had called as we passed St Augustine and said Trish was fighting a sinus infection and though she'd planned a big welcoming dinner she really was feeling blah!  Not a problem--we don't want her to feel she has to entertain us. We crossed over the causeway and stopped at PJ's.I called Bob to let him know and asked him to join us if he wanted. He told us the bartender was from Vt but we'd already discovered that.  The place and the Garlic House across the street are owned by a guy born in Rutland, grew up in Killington and lived in Woodstock before moving here. Then the kid at the end of the  bar told us that he had just spent a year in WRJ as the master carpenter for Northern Stage!  The couple at the other end of the bar are from Ausable Forks.   Just crazy!  Bob did come to join us and then we came home with him and met Trish and the three dogs. 
The place is beautiful, the people seem great. We are supposed to watch The Last Indian tonight--I'm sort of tired so think I'll pass. Sounded like a good idea til we got home and then I just felt zonked.

I think I'll just curl up and watch one of my Netflix and socialize tomorrow when I'm fresh. Now that I'm here I'm actually quite psyched.

Oh, btw, missed who do you think you are last night but watched two installments of Michael Feinstein--I was happy. Hope I see the finale of Downton tomorrow.

So, from Florida , at last, good night .

Friday, February 17, 2012

440 Miles Today and Still Haven't Hit Georgia

Hi again, Friends!

Today's photos actually start with the sunset last night as we reached Harrisonburg, Va. But right after that are shots of the Blue Ridge mtns from the Shenandoah Valley as we continued south on 81 in Virginia.  We came to an electric sign warning us that there would be blasting at MM 121 at 1030 am. We passed the construction on the edge of the world at 1020!  It took us about seven miles to figure out that MM meant mile marker 121--well, we were already past there so no delays for us.

 It is so interesting to see the various places to explore that we haven't seen before since, we have, like Stonewall, criss-crossed back and forth across the mountains to see various things but don't seem to have ever stayed on one side or the other.  Today was not much different since, around Blacksburg, we left 81 for the first time since Binghampton and headed southeast on 77 toward Charleston, NC. I tried to take pictures of the forests of rhododendrons as the understory of Carolina piney forest. Unfortunately, I'm not used to this new camera yet so several of those shots are as blurry as the shots across the valley from the height of the Blue Ridge. The climb is always so subtle that you don't realize you've done it but boy the ride down is very noticeable--and the emergency turnouts for runaway trucks are very impressive!  I bet those guys pray they never need to use them.

Once we reached the other side and hit North Carolina the temperature rose quickly into the 60's.  NICE!  Charlotte is a lovely city and easy to get around.  By the time we reached there the traffic on 77 was doable but it sure was a change from 81!  About 25 miles north of Columbia, SC I began to notice the sky--first the clouds were fish scale but then they began to thicken and curdle forming real cauliflower head formations around the sun. Then I noticed a very distinct demarcation between them and a solid mass of cloud. Soon that mass sorted into a series of wispy horsetail cirrus. Though the clouds' movement was hardly noticeable the  rapidly changing formations indicated that things were at truly high elevation and there was definite agitation going on.  Then, I saw a sun dog--the small patch of rainbow to the right of  the sun. I'm sorry if my multitudinous shots are boring but the changes were so fascinating I couldn't resist. Then, for who knows what reason, I stuck my head out and looked right above us and there it was--a rainbow circle around the sun. The ice crystals in the cirrus served as tiny prisms and created a beautiful sight that I've learned about in meteorology class, taught my ninth graders about but never saw before. It left me speechless--it was so beautiful!

Then we were at Columbia and I had to resume navigation and choose our stop for the night. We decided an early stop is really nice so here we are in Orangeburg, SC. Not quite Georgia, but tomorrow is another day--we'll surely make New Smyrna before dark tomorrow. For tonight, we are full of fried tilapia and fried oysters washed down with Amber Bock. What's on tv? I'm ready to kick back and relax.

Hope you've enjoyed the trip so far--until tomorrow--goodnight.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The First Two Days of 2012 Winter Trip

Hello Roadies!!!

We managed to get on the road yesterday, Wed Feb 15 at about 9:30 am. Since the first day's trip is exactly the same as it has been for each of the past four years I didn't take many pictures nor is there an awful lot to say. Misty was busy taking a bath and didn't want to bother with good-byes. Betsy hugged us and waved us merrily on our way. I took a few shots of a frozen, well-behaved Ottaquechee and also a few shots of the damage a raging swollen river can wreck. Stopped in Saratoga for a late brunch at my sister's. As usual she set a beautiful table laden with enough food to feed an army--chorizo, sausage, bacon,Canadian bacon, English muffins with English butter and jam, coffee cake of three types, orange juice and coffee. She sets a pan and eggs at the stove for Bill to prepare eggs in whatever way he'd like them, since neither she nor I are fond of eggs. Needless to say I sampled everything else and left stuffed to the gills. We follow back roads through Florida and Maryland New York from Amsterdam to Saugerties where we pickup 88 to Binghampton. This time I got a few shots of Scotch Bush --a tiny enclave of large houses literally cheek by jowl on a curve in the road. I've always loved that little village. The picture of the curved highway as we entered it is a shot I take every year--some years it has been totally covered by snow and or ice. Not this year. The scene is much like late fall, very early winter. Just amazing. Got to Binghampton around 6 and as usual got lost. How do we do that each year--never find the right exit for the motel the first time and have to back track. I think it is a mental block. Went to Applebee's for dinner since our favorite local pub is being renovated and will reopen in March. Met a couple of darling college grad boys --aged 24. One employed in construction but currently laid off, the other out of work. It is sooooo sad--these kids with degrees and no jobs--or at least not in their fields or offering them salaries on which they can live independently. Shameful. Relaxed chatting with them until about 9 and then early to bed and early to rise this  morning.

As soon as we left the motel we hit freezing rain which very shortly turned to heavy snow. The whole Scranton--Wilkes Barre strip was horrible weather, trucks, fog and just plain awful---but it always is. Once we got through Ravine Pa we continued with fog but the snow turned to torrential rain. Temperature rose from 32 to 35 degrees and that was the condition all the way to Winchester Va when the sun came out and lo and behold the fields were green. Temperature rose to 50 degrees and we appreciated being in the South, sort of.  Stopped in Harrisonburg, Va for the night at 4 pm. Took a quick hop down to Chili's--chatted up the bartender--another adorable young man and then back to the room before 6.

Blogging, charging phone and camera battery, uploading pictures and then TV.  The weather was so tiring--I napped several times --missed most of the half hour in Maryland and the one in West Virginia. I've seen them lots of time before. Staying on 81 in Virginia is different territory but with the rain and fog there really wasn't much to see. The Shenandoah Valley is gorgeous, though. I looked for a rainbow but no luck.

Tomorrow we will start eastward south of Roanoke--so that will be no land--or at least we haven't been there for 25 years--I'm sure it has changed. Until then---nightie night, all.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Seven Days to Blast-Off

The first week of February has just flown by. It began with a somewhat sleepless night though I was only up for about an hour from 3-4 am and then slept until 10 which is almost unheard of for me. Although the car was to be repaired by the 1st, Johnny didn't like how the new paint looked with the original so he repainted it.

 I made an appointment with Troi, our hair-dressing neighbor to cut, color, highlight this old mop in preparation for going out into the real world.

Feb 2 was cold and blustery and lack of sleep caught up with me--I read and took a nap on the couch with Misty. She was thrilled and decided that my luxurious blanket was a fine replacement for the bakery shirt on the floor.

Received Big Bend info for which I'd sent a couple of days before.

No Groundhog shadow but I forget what that means, exactly. I think nothing, actually.

Thinking of leaving for Fl on the 14th ipo of 19th. Bets going to NYC on the 10th 'til the 13th

Feb 3--Last year's --or was it two years old?--white amaryllis in bloom. Terribly cold day and I found myself spending it on the computer. Not so good.

Feb 4--Decided to leave on the 15th and told the Doyle's we'll be there by the 18th. We don't rush when travelling. Slept well last night and finishing the fluff of Killer on a Hot Tin Roof.

Feb 5--Hooray, Giants!!!!! Typical Sunday--paper, puzzle, reading, munching all day. Betsy here for the game. Johnny Blake sanded and salted the ice rink out back, better known as the driveway. Put the creche away--always makes me a little sad.

Feb 6--Sunny and warm--in the '40's!! I love it.

Bets put insurance on Red--almost hers.

Down with the tree! Makes me even sadder. I LOVE my ornaments and hate to see them in storage for 11 months--some of them are true works of art--others whimsy--all sentimental.

Ordered some new clothes from LL Bean for the trip.

Gorgeous full moon!!!

Feb 7-- Gray and colder. Couldn't sleep--up at 6:30 am to a fine drizzle of snow? sleet?

Plans for trip moving along.  Set up billpay at CU, put Doyle's numbers in cell phone, sent out emails to see who wants to continue on roadies list, got directions to Doyle's house.

Sun by afternoon and Bill's chicken salad for lunch. Perfect

Feb 8--Traumatic start to the day. Awake at 3:45--moonlight bathing our bedroom, black tree limbs against a clear silver blue sky--beautiful

Betsy mouthy today--doesn't want to do oil change on car today but Bill can get an appt first thing this morning. It will be done when they get back from Springfield where she will register Red in her name, now that I've signed over the title. AND I refuse to call the insurance company for her to check about her back that hurts from the accident. I've been asking her for weeks to get it done and now she wants me to do it. NOOOOOO!

Upon return--they DID drop the car off for oil change--a birthday gift from her Father--she informed me that to be favorite parent I would have to spend $34. on her since it cost him $33. Said I was fine being second class parent, but thanks for the opporchancity for advancement.

She on the other hand is over $600 poorer, among registration, taxes and insurance---welcome to the grown-up world, my sweet!

Which brings us to today--woke up again at 3:30. Since the moon was so beautiful decided to photograph it to moon set, some beautiful shots and some not so great--but fun until 6 when I returned to sleep until 730. Clothes came from LL Bean so I'll have to see how they fit--have my fingers crossed. Not sure yet what my agenda is for the day--but getting out the lists from prior trips is definitely planned. From there I may start gathering things together and also doing some laundering of clothes stored since last year's trip. I have tomorrow through Sunday pretty much to myself so that is good--will get everything done except what Bill needs for the trip and we can get that organized on Mon and Tues. Wed, weather permitting, looks like a go. We might even be able to do something for Valentine's Day. Dinner out?

And here, to finish up today--are the Photos A Day for the beginning of Feb thus far:

Feb 1, like every first of the month, finds me paying the bills!
Feb 2--Couldn't find a ground hog but my gray squirrel did not see his shadow.
Feb 3--Red returns as good as new.
Feb 4--The third amaryllis in bloom this year--and it is beautiful
Feb 5--Super Bowl watching--have no idea how this double exposure happened--used timed release on a tripod. But, Betsy's change after the Giants first score is priceless.
Feb 6--Aufwiedersehn, Tannenbaum :(
Feb 7--Flex-a-min for achy legs that have been waking me up lately and American Roads recent issue on Florida.
Feb 8--Jazzy me--signing away Red to DD
Feb 9--Full moon embraced by the tree limbs in the tree line outside our bedroom window at about 6am

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Catching up on January!

Took a long shot trying to capture the heavily falling snow and saw a blotch in the photo. When I cropped it I found that I'd captured the flight of a junco trying to get out of the storm!
One of my favorite breakfasts: a quarter cup of cottage cheese, fresh Florida strawberries, two tablespoons of slivered almonds and a packet of equal served in a beautiful pedestal dish.
Dropped my camera!!!!! Must have done something to the lenses. I feel crippled!
Every so often I just have to wash away the gray. Daughter loved sneaking this shot in.
Dad's 109 birthday! Born Jan 17, 1903!

Hubby and daughter playing catch the grape. She got him in the eye a couple of times but he DID finally catch one!
One of our raised beds covered in snow that is capped with shiny ice.
About the only place in this house that is organized. Bought the new utensil tray and love it.
Is she ticklish?  Darned tootin', I am!
Bill's sister, Sally, dropped by to pick him up for a sibling day of sorting Mother's boxes of pix. Better them than me--I've got plenty of my own to sort.
Poor baby, Red, off to the car doctor's for a fixin'!
Snow, then rain, then freezing rain, then rain--it's a skating rink out there. Crazy weather.
Goldfinch feeding frenzy!
Boring, boring day!
Mom, the eldest of this bevy of beauties and standing first in front of Grandpa and Grandma, would have been 111 today. The only one left is the little girl in front--Aunt Shirl is 89!
Sister Barbara is 66 today. Here we are with Mom sometime in the '60's.
Give Misty a bakery shirt on the floor over the woodstove and there is nothing better in the world!
Going out to dinner tonight so DD parked the car as close to the stairs as possible and sanded the heck out of the ice I'd have to trod upon. Just call me Her Majesty--thank you!
Dawn, a native of Florida, and me planning out our trip to Florida next month. Love the lighting in this shot.

And so , January 2012 comes to a close.

January Photo a Day!