Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Joy is a Choice

 Hello,

I am glad I went to Jean's to help her with the paperwork.  She appreciated my efforts and she paid me!  There will be more work coming once I am back home.

And the frosting on the cake was that I had fun spending time with her and Keith and meeting some of her friends, 

The campground that I was going to stay at rejected me because I didn't have a "certified RV" sticker on my trailer.  So I plugged in and put up my portable sink in Jean's driveway.  It worked out well for me, Jean and Keith were very hospitable, and, as far as I know, no neighbors complained.

I worry that my winter RV park might have some similar policy that requires the "RV Certified" thing.  I don't think so, though, because my friend is staying there in a re-modeled van.

I left Jean's before the sun rose on Monday and crossed the border into Florida by late afternoon. 

I saw scrub woodlands, it got hot out, I got bit by no-see-ums, and stung by fire ants.  I thought back to the ancient trees I saw on my trip, the lovely mountain vistas with trees turning yellow and red, of the cool mountain air and the rushing clear water streams in Pennsylvania and Virginia and West Virginia.

And I began to wonder if Florida was the right choice for me.  I was driving in an area where the trees had been damaged by hurricanes.  I was not feeling any delight at being back close to where I started this trip in April.  I was anxious to be done traveling, but wondering if Florida was the joyful place I used to think it was.

I began to hunt for signs of home.  Wading birds... gators. I didn't see any.

I stayed in a campground near Century, FL.  I had planned to stay two nights, but I decided to stay only one.  I was getting anxious to get this long journey completed.

On Tuesday while driving, I was reminded on an audio book I was listening to that the way we look at things is a choice.  We can choose to focus on the negative or we can choose joy.  The book is titled, Remember.  The author was saying that we can focus on the bad memories or we can put our attention on the good moments.  And when you meet someone you can tell which way they focus by what they say.  Are they happy and delighted with memories or do they tell you about all the bad stuff that happened.

I had been faintly aware that I had lost my joy focus.  This message hit me in the face and reminded me to pay attention and take the time and energy to harvest happy thoughts.

I aimed the car for an Anytime Fitness in Crawfordville, FL.  I needed to work out and get a break from sitting in the car.

While there, I called my Florida friend Debra.  She was happy to hear from me and called me back shortly after to invite me to go out to dinner with her and some others next week.  

Yay!  I told myself, Florida may have fire ants, but it also provides me with wonderful friends!

I had to worry and fuss a bit about how much further I would drive.  I had arranged for the water to be turned back on at my house on Wednesday.  I had to make sure I didn't arrive before the water.

I found a small campground in Newport, FL which was close to Crawfordville and south of Tallahassee.  When the campground host asked if I would be staying one or two nights, I said two, even though I had already made reservations at Manatee Springs further on my journey for Wednesday night.

I discovered that I was right across the street from the St Marks Wildlife Refuge. A sign said the light house was 11 miles down a road that looked bike friendly.

I texted Cindy Hampton because St. Marks is one of her favorite places to go birding.  She said that maybe I will see "Pinky".  

Pinky is a flamingo that was first sighted at St. Marks right after Hurricane Michael.  He/She has been around alone now for three years.  The refuge is 17,000 acres.  I didn't think my chances of seeing Pinky were good.  The campground hostess had said Pinky was last seen in the city of St. Marks.  That was the other side of the river from the refuge.

Then I got a call from Frankie.  She and her husband are renting my house for three months this winter.  They were wondering why I was renting my house out.

Was it for the money?  Why don't I just get a job?

Well, yes it is kind of for the money, but really mostly it is an experiment to see what it is like to live longer term in my little Weeroll.  I am experimenting with possibilities and life choices.  Why not?  It is a temporary thing and who knows, I might learn something, I might love it.

I am a bit scared, but hey, I try to do something a bit scary all the time to expand my comfort zone.

***

Wednesday morning I was up and riding my trike into St Marks Wildlife Refuge before the sun was up.  


About five miles into my ride I met a couple on bicycles coming from the other way.  She said Pinky was at one of the ponds up ahead.


To re-build the economy during the Great Depression, President Roosevelt started the CCC's.  It employed thousands of men building and improving parks.  One of the things the CCC's did was build levees in this area to create fresh and salt-water ponds to support migrating birds.  Much of the levees were built by hand, with shovels and man-power.

I pulled over at one pond where I saw a man sitting on a bench looking out over the beautiful scenery.  And there was Pinky!   I could see Pinky well but my camera didn't see it well.  I want to get a telescope with a camera that is small and easy to carry.  Does it exist?  

A woman with a camera with a big lens came up and took pictures.  She does a lot of birding in Circle B area near Lakeland, FL.  The man was from Panama City and drives up here to look at the birds a couple times a month.  He talked about the times he has seen bobcat in the refuge.  And he wondered if they would introduce more flamingos so that Pinky wouldn't be so alone.  

I watched Pinky and the many Grackles clacking and hoping for some crumbs from us humans.

I rode the rest of the way to the light house.  I saw lots of lovely wading birds.  Great Blue Herons, White Herons, Egrets, Ibis, a Night Heron and cute ducks (Grebes I think).



 

On the way back I decided to lock up my bike and walk one of the levees in search for gator.

And what do you know, I saw Pinky in another location.  This time closer, but still no good pictures.



On my walk I finally saw a big gator!  My sign that I really am close to my Florida home.




 

I even tried to take a picture through my binoculars... ha ha .  It is time to get a new pair.

When I got back on the trike I used google maps to find out how far to get to the restaurant in St. Marks - Less than nine miles!   I ended up drinking a beer with supper and biked very slow on the way back to camp.  Ended up biking 32 miles and probably walked three or four miles.

***

Tomorrow I arrive home.  I will stop at the Post Office and try to pick up my mail.  I imagine I will have a crises or two to take care of, a couple of toll road bills to pay at least.

On Monday I move the Weeroll into its winter home at Oasis RV Park.  It should be interesting.  First I will take it to get the wheels greased.  I probably pulled it over 6,000 miles this trip and last year 3,600 miles.  We be rollin' a lot!

Now we are done rolling for a little while.  I will have some work to do for Jean when I get home and lots of re-connecting to do with friends whose lives have gone on without me for too long.




Friday, October 22, 2021

Flexible Life, Plans Change

Greetings from Mississippi,

"Wait.... what? You are in Mississippi?" you may ask.

Yes, I am.

Last I wrote you I had a wonderful plan.  After riding the New River Trail in Virginia, I would attend a Sisters On The Fly (SOTF) event on the border of Virginia and Kentucky.  Then to the Virginia Creeper Trail starting at Whitetop Mountain, then I would make my way to Myrtle Beach and then meet up with friends to ride Jekyll Island.  

A great plan with some great places to visit and some friend time too.

And I was living the plan.  I was at Breaks International State Park with the some Sisters.  Then I got a call from my friend Jean in Mississippi.  She just got a bunch more clients and was asking if I could come help her with all the paperwork involved. She treats trauma victims with a special treatment called EMDR.  And she is good at it and helps people.  What better task is there for me?

The timing was perfect because I was just thinking that I was done being a tourist.  I have pampered and treated myself to great views and experiences since April.  I wanted to be working again on something bigger than me.  Jean's offer was just what I was seeking next.  It meant canceling all my wonderful plans that I invested many hours creating, but that's OK.  And just maybe I would arrive home a couple days earlier.

I made calls to cancel all my reservations (I hope I captured them all.) I experienced a little grief/disappointment giving up the Creeper Trail and the gathering with the Polk City, Florida friends to ride trike on Jekyll Island, Georgia.

Then I started making reservations for the journey to Mississippi and the stay near Jean's home.  Only the campgrounds were full near her!  We found a campground that was first come first serve, no reservations.  

The Sisters' event was just what I needed. Though the twisting narrow road to get to it was harrowing.  Though my car had another episode of not starting.

I just got out of a Dollar General.  I turn the key and the car grunted (not clicked) as it does.  I waited and tried again and again.  A man came and offered to give my batter a jump.  I told him he could try but it wouldn't work.  And he did try and it didn't work.

I walked up on a hill to get cell service to call AAA to get a tow.  Then I returned to my car and tried starting it again. It started just fine.  So I called and cancelled with AAA.  I drove myself to the garage. 

When I arrived there was a loose dog in the lot that barked and barked at me and made me nervous.  The guys at the shop didn't grab him or stop him from barking.  When I talked to the mechanics there, they didn't know what it would be if not the battery (already replaced and jumped this time too and it still didn't start) or the starter (replaced last year... yes I was having the same trouble last year and the new starter didn't fix it.)

The mechanic wouldn't know what to do.  I mentioned what strangers have suggested when I was broken down, the timing and alternator.  He didn't think it was that.  

By now the dog had stopped barking and had placed a chunk of wood at my feet.  I was afraid to bend down and pick it up.  I asked the guy if I could.  He said I could but then I would never be able to leave because I would be throwing the wood all afternoon.  The dog never quits.

I drove to camp and worried about all the times I would need to turn my car off during the rest of my travels.  Would I have to deal with this long periods when I won't start?  What if next time I am a loooong way from cell service?  I have to turn it off at night and I have to turn it off when I fill it with gas.

I was one of the first folks to arrive at the Sisters event, which turned out great because I got to meet two very interesting and bright women who also had arrived early.  Susan is a deputy policewoman and had a small "Runaway" camper that is so small you can't stand up in it.  She is a few months away from retirement and already has a couple of working camper gigs for summer of 2022.

Derry had a van that she had done all the conversion work herself. Amazing cabinetry and she had also done all the electrical work including installing solar panels.  Derry is also retired from being a Veterinarian.  I was impressed with both of them.  

I spent the majority of my social time with these two women and we had such fun!  By the end of the weekend we were making plans to see each other again when they travel to Inverness, Florida this winter.

We hiked with Julie who is studying herbs and their uses for our health.  

Derry didn't want me to post any pictures of her, so you can't see us together.

A fellow sister had to cancel and she offered her site to me, which was right across from the event's leader.  The first night I offered to have the fire at my site.  The leader was going to have it at her site, but her fire wouldn't start even with a kind of blow torch, my wood must have been drier.  It worked such that the fire circle was at my site every night.  Fun!

I did my first ever zip line.  I was the only one in the group that chose the time I chose, so I went with a couple of strangers who were very friendly and I had a great time.



 

Though I was sad to give up this-year's visit to the Virginia Creeper Trail, I was ready to get out of the mountains.  The views were breath-taking.  The drives on the hairpins with Lilac in tow and my spotty starter on my van left me yearning for flatter and straighter roads for a while.

I camped twice on the way to Mississippi.  Harrison Bay State Park in Tennessee was recommended to me.  I had a lake-side site!  I hiked a nice trail there for five miles and then rode about 18 miles on a trail in Chatanooga that ran along a river.

 



The mile markers on the trail were lovely metal cut-out works of art. 



Then Jennings Ferry Corp of Engineers Campground in... Alabama.  I had to stop and think on that one.  What state was I in?  I only spent one night there, so I didn't explore the area.  The one hiking trail was blocked, maybe they had flooding?

So it is time to got to work.  I just wanted to give you a quick update on where I was.  This afternoon we will ride trikes here near Jackson, Mississippi.




 

Monday, October 11, 2021

Lovely Hike and Bike and Camp

 Dear Friends and Family,

What sights!  They take my breath away.

After I last posted I searched for a trail near me and found one only three miles away.  Wow, was it ever a pretty trail!  It started out going through a tunnel through Mountain Laurel.

Then steps down to a falling creek (or "run" as they call them around here).
The ground covered with colorful leaves and some snowing down in front of me.  There were trees and mosses growing on giant rocks.
Golden leaves  were floating on a crystal clear stream.
There were lots of pretty and interesting fungus/mushrooms.
And the walk was just the right length.

I hooked up my trailer that night and on Sunday I pulled out of my site 63 at Chestnut Ridge Campground by seven a.m.

Google said it would only take me four hours to get to my destination.  I knew better.  I gave my next campground host in Fries, VA and estimated arrival time of two or three p.m.  As it turned out, I didn't even make that.  

Why?  Well there were lots of slow climbs and lots of things to look at and then I had to get out an walk a bit and that is how I roll.

By 10:00 I needed to walk so I found a recreation area and parked at the Bee Run Campground.  It was lovely and I thought how I need to figure out how to camp without electric.  A bag of ice in my fridge, and a battery with a plug for my computer.  I could do a couple days, I think. 

Right out of the campground was the Happy Camper Trail.  It went down down down and reminded me of the trail from Ohiopyle Campground to the Great Allegheny Passage Rail Trail.  This trail took me down a mile and a half to a reservoir and marina.  It had a beach, a playground, and shelters with electric where a camper could charge up their devices.  Here there was cell service too.  Hmmmm.



I marched the mile and a half up the road this time back to my car ride for today.

I was still 120 miles away from my destination of Fries, VA where I would camp and ride the New River Trail, when I began to see signs for scenic views of the New River Gorge.

I pulled into a very very busy visitors' center parking lot.  I was going to see about picking up a map of the trail and information.  But there was a line waiting to get into the visitors center. 

I walked a bit to the scenic overlook of a bridge that I was about to drive over on the highway that I was driving.


It is the longest arch bridge.  And by creating the bridge they saved travelers several hours of travel.

But the viewing area and paths were crowded!  Everyone was out doing touristy stuff this lovely Sunday.  So I moved on.

My camping spot is sweet!  We are actually in a creek valley that floods on rare occasions, and has a lovely little stream trickling by our line of campsites.  In the mornings and evenings the smell of autumn and pine fill the air.  




The campground host told me how to get to the New River Trail, "Straight out the campground and behind the school across the street."

When I got to the trail, I was amazed.  What a lovely river valley.  The river is a lot wider than I imagined and in many places it is rushing over and around rocks.  This must be the best time of year to do the New River Trail.

Right away I was glad I decided not to ride my trike.  The trail had spots where the crushed limestone had washed away and the big-rock gravel or ballast made for a bumpy ride.  

At the Fries end of the trail is a caboose that sells ice cream.  I made a note to check that out on my way back into town.


The trail in places looked blacktop, but it was a dark crushed stone, with some big stones sometimes.



There are campsites along the trail, though they are not free like on the C&O trail.  These were $17 a night for the first night.  But they were in very pretty spots with the sounds of rushing water close by.


I biked 5.5 miles to where the there is a branch that turns off the New River and follows a smaller waterway to Galax, VA.  First I rode two more miles along the New River and then I came back and took the bridge over the New River and toward Galax. 

The beauty of this linear park is in no small part due to the stewardship of the adjacent land owners.  Thank you!

I think this is the first time I have encountered horse pooh on a bike bridge.
Before crossing the bridge, I rode down to mile marker 38.

 

 The way sides have bike racks and places to tie up your horse.

I had researched Galax the night before so I knew there were restaurants there and a coffee shop.  I didn't pack a lunch.

The surface of the branch to Galax was very rough in places and reminded me of the C&O Trail.  But next to it was a pretty stream.  I was riding up stream and that meant at least the first 12 miles of my return trip would be down a slight rail-grade.


When I got to Galax, right away I came upon a produce store.  I was surprised at how excited and giddy I was to shop for vegetables and nuts and fruit.  I was so happy with my find, since Fries doesn't have a real grocery store.
I had learned in a booklet the campground host gave me that Tuesday evenings there is a music Jam somewhere in Galax.   I stopped by the tourist info place to inquire. 

It turned out they just had their last jam for the season last week.  Dang!  Then the woman told me that there is one on Wednesday evening in Independence at the old courthouse.  Cool!

I went to the coffee shop, their website had a lovely picture of a spinach and egg quiche.  But the actual shop only had white bread bagels and plain cream cheese.  I was disappointed.

I biked a busy road to an IGA to pick up some whole grain bread.  When I exited the store I heard a kind of rap song that I thought was coming from a truck that was unloading.  It said something about pussy and dick and "Mash it, mash it good."  I was wondering if I should go over and remind the trucker that there were grandmas shopping.  As I took a few steps toward the truck I realized the music wasn't coming from the truck but from the store's overhead speakers!

I biked over to Subway and got an egg sub after eating half a white-bread bagel.  I took the sub with me on my return ride and found a spot  by the rushing water to eat my lunch.



There is a tunnel on this trail.  I am glad that I read that none of them were very long.  I was kind of nervous walking into the dark alone, but this tunnel goes around a curve and by the time the dark was almost surrounding me, I could see lots of light coming from the other end.  I did have my light too, but ... still.

 

 

 Going back up the New River Valley later in the day was just as beautiful as in the morning.  I was stopping probably every 1/2 mile or so to take a picture or just soak in the sights and sounds. 


At one point the river was calm, reflecting the cliffs and colored leaves on the hill across from the Trail.  Then I stirred up a great blue heron that silently few a few feet above its reflection.  The drips from its spindly toes the only thing disturbing the mirror.

Those of us who ride rail trails know that there is usually a sewer plant or two we get to ride by.  The one in Fries is very small and didn't smell bad at all.  Fries is a very small town.  But I see it has a river adventure outfitter... if only I had more time here.


I headed toward the caboose because I had promised myself ice cream.  But I wasn't hungry for ice cream so I was kind of relieved to discover it was closed.  It is Monday, a lot of the places in Galax were closed too.

When I got back to camp, I did yoga because my hips were complaining today. They had not been stretched enough.  They almost felt arthritic.  The stretching felt great.  The campground host stopped by to check on me and I mentioned the music jam.  He directed me to the music museum on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Galax.  They do music there every day noon to four.

Hmmmm.  Tomorrow do I ride again on a different part of the trail or do I go listen.  Maybe a short ride and a listen and do the music museum.

We'll see.

Dementia

I am listening to a book titled, Running All Over The World by Anthony Copeland-Parker.  His wife was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's Disease.  He decided to retire early and travel the world with his wife doing what they love, which is running marathons.  

Around Chapter 14 or 15 he talks about exercise and the new and different experiences may be helping stave off the dementia symptoms, or even helping to prevent or slow down brain damage.  He sights some preliminary studies.  

Working your brain a bit (where you have to stop and think hard) is good too, mostly before you get dementia.  It increases your capacity and therefore you have more brain to lose when/if you start to lose it, so the symptoms won't show up as quickly.

He also writes about some research studies they participated in for new medications.  If you are interested in brain health and also dream of traveling the world, I recommend his book.  But I warn you they only spend an average of three days in one place and it is a whirlwind of activity.  I don't know when he has all the time to book tickets, research, and do all the other stuff required when traveling.  

I find that way of travel would be stimulating but entirely too much time spent in airplanes and airports.

I also discovered I have a book on taking care of your brain by Dr. Amen.  In it he mentions the MIND diet.  I haven't researched it yet, but he says it is like the Mediteranian Diet, leans towards Pescatarian (Vegetarian that eats fish) and avoids cheeses.  So I am trying to cut down on my cheese intake and will read up on the MIND diet.

He also talks about many supplements.  But I have also heard we are making expensive pee by taking so many supplements.  I take D and a bone booster type supplement.  Now I am adding fish oil and B-complex.  

Last year in October I had put together a fitness team to raise funds for Alzheimer's Education.  The fundraiser is happening again this year, but I felt too busy when I learned about it,  I think I was doing or about to do the big bike ride from PA to DC.   

Here is the link to the Alzheimer's Walk in Floral City.

There is also going to be a walk on November 13th in Floral City to raise money and awareness.  But the Southern Florida Recumbent Group will be riding the Withlacoochee that day and I had already committed to joining in the fun there.  Still, I can send a check, and you can to. 

Thoughts Turn Toward Home

 My friend Marilyn texted today reminding me of the fun I am going to have when I get home.  She reminded me of happy hours with neighbors and friends.  Oh yes!  I miss that, I miss them.  It is time to get on home.

But first a music jam, a few more rides, and ...





Joy is a Choice

 Hello, I am glad I went to Jean's to help her with the paperwork.  She appreciated my efforts and she paid me!  There will be more work...