Monday, December 26, 2022

Cold Camping In Florida

 It is Christmas morning and I am camping on St. George Island off the coast of the panhandle of Florida.







I am snuggled under a folded over quilt and a folded over down comforter.  The little space heater I use in Lilac has been working hard all night.  It is still cool in the camper outside my bed so when my alarm goes off.  I lay there and wonder why I should get up.  I mean, really, it is too cold to go out and walk or ride.  It is Christmas afterall.

But then I remember how wonderful the starry night was on Christmas Eve. How beautiful the sunrise was the previous morning.  

I remembered that it would be fun to send Steve a sunrise picture or two.   I pull the covers off.  I am already half dressed in two long-sleeve shirts and a light sweatshirt and long underwear.  

I turn on the coffee maker and finish putting on many more layers.  Ending with a wind breaker because these days the wind blows the cold right through to your skin.

Sleep - A Senior's Dilemma

I have the alarm set for six a.m. each morning.  It is part of my sleep-hygene program.  

When George got the dementia diagnosis I began to go to workshops to get support and learn more.  One place I went I met a man who was conducting research on caregiver longevity.  His theory was that if he could help caregivers sleep better maybe they would survive.  The statistics he explained were that caregivers often die before their loved one passes.  He was studying caregiver sleep and hoping to improve their ability to get good sleep.  He was conducting the research program through a University in Florida.

I volunteered.  

After many tests that monitored my sleep and tested me for sleep apnea, they issued a report.  I was averaging over seven hours of sleep!  I was surprised at that.  It felt like so many nights I was laying there not passing into unconciousness.

They then started teaching me about sleep hygene.  Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.  Even if you go to bed late for some reason or have trouble sleeping one night, get up at the same time.  So I set my phone's alarm.  A pleasant little tune that slowly gets louder and repeats until I tell it to stop.

Other sleep hygene instructions were:

  • If you lay awake for 20 minutes.  Get up and do something like read until you feel tired again.  Then try again. Repeat all night long if you have to.
  • Don't look at a phone or computer screen or TV screen for at least an hour before bedtime and don't look at it if you get back up.   (This is the hardest habit to give up for me.)
  • Keep the room a bit cool.
  • Create and follow a bedtime routine; like brush your teeth, lock the doors, do a few stretches. 

My friend Regis said if he had one wish he would wish to be able to sleep every night soundly through the night.  Those of us over 60 often talk about sleep problems.  So I hope the information I shared above might help at least one of you get a good nights sleep. 

I have another pointer if none of that works.  A bit of blackberry brandy.  But use it only when you are despirate... it can be very addictive if you do it too often.

Back to Christmas Morning

I bought some rechargable handwarmers a while back and they have come in handy for warming up the bed a bit before I get in, and for taking with me on mornings like this one.

I grab a headlamp, but I don't use it.  There is enough light, even without a moon, to see the road and its edges.  I walk to the beach in the dark and wonder when it was I stopped being afraid to walk in the dark outside like this.  I have been doing this often enough it isn't scary... as much.  I do keep my hand on the flashlight just in case and watch for critters crossing the road.  I see none.

I reach the beach at 6:45 and the light in the east is already causing the stars to disappear from view.  The big dipper is right over my head.  I do my 10 pushups in the sand, pause and watch the sky, do another exercise, pause and watch the sky.  The wind is brutal, I move closer to a sand dune where I get some protection.  I get to see a small meteor for a brief moment.

A melody on my phone tells me I have an incoming text message.  I smile, I know it is Steve and he is wishing me good morning, and he may be out on the dock looking out at the sunrising over the lake in his neighborhood.

I check my phone, it is him and a picture of his sunrise. His power is out, he says.  During his working days he was a line man and remembers holidays spent fixing a crisis instead of being home with the family.  He feels the workers' pain on this cold Christmas morning.

I send back a picture of my sunrise.  If only I could have sent pictures of the starry night last night.  He would have loved that.  His appreciation of the night sky has enhanced my love of looking up at night.

I learned recently that Potts Preserve is a dark place close to Inverness.  You may recall that Potts Preserve is where George and I got lost on the trails and ended up spending a cold night in that preserve in early 2016.

But now I have learned it is a designated dark place for viewing the night sky.  This would be something I would never do alone, but Steve (who can read a compass, ha ha) makes it not only possible, but much more desirable.

This is the time of year (when daylight is short) to enjoy starry nights and sunrises.


Before Christmas Day

It is hard to believe a whole month has gone by.  I saw the last time I wrote you it was just after Thanksgiving.

I have not been at St George Island by myself.  

First Steve joined me at Newport Campground near Crawfordville, FL.  The campground is right across from the entrance to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.   We had a wonderful time there.  The first time we kayaked there it was sooooo incredible.  I don't remember ever having such a beautiful awesome view while kayaking or anywhere.  Look at the pictures and you will say, "WOW!"


Shortly after we started kayaking we saw five dolphin circling a school of fish and the fish (large ones) jumping.  What a thrill!








We saw an American Oystercatcher on one of the many oyster beds in the area. 

We went kayaking a few times after that in different places, but none could compare.  Both times the wind blew and it was cold.  Another time we saw a couple dophin but it wasn't as action packed.  

Steve said, "If you don't go experience the uneventful or even bad ones you will never get to the really great ones."  So true.  Forest Gump... "Life is like a box of chocolates..."

We hiked several times.  Once we heard the endangered cockaded woodpecker but didn't see it.  Once we stopped in the Nature Center and Steve bought several childrens books for his daughter's classroom. His daugter is a grade-school teacher in New York.  When we got to the checkout I teased him that he didn't get the one about the Armadillo.  He said he couldn't buy them all.  And the volunteer there told him the Armadillo book was one of her favorites.  

Most popular State Parks in Florida you need to make your camping reservation 11 months in advance.  I had planned to camp over Christmas at St. George Island with my friends, Regis and Cindy.  We had made our reservations last January.  About a week before Steve was able to book three nights at St. George when I would be there. 

I enjoy being with him alot, I still am very careful to hang onto some me time and to keep him also independent of me.  



 

At St George Island we biked into town and walked many miles.  But the sunsets and star gazing were out.  It was cloudy all three days he was with me there. 

Steve had memories of being at the island with his family.  We took an exploritory bicycle ride into the business district.  Steve showed me the house they had rented on the beach.  I stood there trying to imagine what Steve was feeling with all the fun memories from his time there. It was strange, looking back at happy times.  Living in different happy times.  It was kind of surreal. 

On our last night together we went to Paddy's on the island and had fish tacos and listened to live music.  Fun!



The next morning, on his way out of the campground, Steve stopped by my trailer.  He dropped off the brocolli cheese soup he had made and a pizza he had made.   Thank you, Steve!  I was going to need easy foods because I wouldn't be using my outdoor kitchen in the freezing cold days that were coming.

Later, my text bell went off.  It was a picture of the Armadillo book!  He had stopped by St. Mark's Nature Center and bought it afterall! I laughed out loud.

In the evening that same day I was sitting at my computer when I got a text.  

It was Cindy!  She said, "I didn't know we got a spot right next to you."  

I looked out my window and there was their van and trailer, they had pulled in and set up without me even noticing!




This is how I do dishes without my outdoor sink.  I have a glass measuring cup I use to warm water in the microwave.  I wipe all the food stuff off the dishes with a paper towel.  Then I put a little water and soap in one dish and use one dishpan for the dirty soapy dishes and the other for the rinsed dishes.

And this is how I dress for washing dishes when it is freezing cold out.  ha ha.


The dripping spigot made a skating rink on the pavement.

Ice under the dripping spigot.

If the Ice Fishing Houses on wheels weren't so heavy I would consider shopping for one.

Regis and Cindy and I have gone on long walks on the island.  Always watching for birds and other interesting things.

A jelly fish we saw at low tide on one of our long walks.

Regis and Cindy bundled up for a walk at low tide on the intercoastal side of the island.



Yesterday afternoon for an hour, it warmed up enough to brave walking barefoot on the beach a while.  We lasted about 20 minutes before we were putting out socks and shoes back on.

Just before we gathered for dinner we walked out to to watch the sunset.





Now I got to stop writing and start getting ready for a bike ride.  The weather is supposed to get up to 45 degrees by noon and that is my marker that it is warm enough to ride.  We plan to ride into Apalachicola.  Cindy said the Piggly Wiggly there will steam fresh shrimp for you.  I haven't been a shrimp eater.  Steve is encouraging me to try it.  I looked up the health benefits and said, "We'll see."

I hope your holiday season is going well and you are well and surrounded by the people or activities you love.


 

Friday, November 25, 2022

Going On 70 and Feeling 30

When I returned from the Everglades I parked my trailer at an angle so that the distance from the electric box to my trailer would be shorter and not require an extension cord.   An extension cord provides too much resistance and my air conditioner doesn't cool.

Those of you reading this from the snowy north will have a hard time imagining that sometimes we are still turning on our airconditioners here in Inverness, Florida.

I like the angle of my trailer, the screen tent can set further from the road.  It is still is in danger in this 55 and older Mobile Home and RV Park.  The flower pot I set by a tent stake to mark it, got smashed last week. I have added some reflectors on tall sticks to try to prevent others from driving into my stuff.  



I thought replacing the dust cap (Hub Cap?) on my Weeroll would be easy once I set my mind to it.  So I took measurements and pictures and went to a trailer place.  Nope!  They directed me to NAPA.  I went to NAPA.  Nope!  They told me to call the factory where I got my trailer.

I called Weeroll and I got a person right away!  She was nice and took down the information and I sent pictures.  She said she would investigate and get back to me.

It has been a week.  I will have to call again.



The Couple Status


Steve jokes that he has to check my blog to find out the status of our relationship.  First, "We are not a couple!" then "We are a couple."

Since Steve and I realized we are a "couple" after all.  We discussed our age difference.  He just turned 64, and in July I will hit the big BIG 70 bench mark!  "You gotta take care of yourself," he said to me.

After that discussion I went online to look at the actuarial statistics.  Since women live longer than men (statistically) what are the odds I will die before him.

I found a neat website where I could put in my birth date and female and his birth date and male and I got this cool chart.  Looks like the chances are good we depart this life at about the same time.  

Now our task is to fit as much living into those next 18 to 20 years as we can!


New Us

There are studies out there in the Universe about the euphoria and chemical changes that occur during the early stages of romantic love.  I believe I have read some articles about that.  

Reading about it and the experience of it are two different things.  I am giggling and giddy, I am one dang sexy old woman.  I am 30 years old until I look in the mirror.

I thought I was happy before, but this new experience with Steve has me over-the-top with excitement for future adventures and just sharing the beauty of today.  

And the best part (besides all the things I admire, enjoy, am grateful for, am amazed about, in Steve) is that I now have a play mate.  

Now get your mind out of the gutter!  That isn't what I mean... well, not what I mean here.  

What I mean  here is that he says, "You wanna go kayaking?" and I am there because I love sharing nature with him and I love kayaking the lakes and rivers around here.  

In the Everglades I waded through a puddle and Steve joined me.  And later we were aiming our bikes to ride through puddles.  Playing like kids.

I say, "Would you like to join me on this camping trip?" and he becomes just as excited as I am to go explore a place together.

Did I tell you that he wants to do the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) Trail?  We are planning on doing that the second half of September 2023.  We will carry out tents and all that crap.  I just replaced my back rack with one that is rated for 85 lbs.

We were at lunch on a Withlacoochee Bicycle Riders' ride and the couple across from us were telling us about their trip to Bonaire in the Western Carrabean.  They said the snorkling was amazing.  Steve nudged me.  

Oh my! Yes!  That too is a distinct possibility when you have a bold and venturous play mate. 

I am keeping my eyes open for when Sister Corp (a branch of the Sister's on the Fly that goes in to help months after a disaster) will be going to Fort Myers to help with the rebuild after Hurricane Ian.  Steve is very interested in doing that also.

So much of the things that I wanted to do but didn't do because I didn't want to do them alone, well now I just might do them! 

Today I canceled my commitment to volunteer to camphost again at South Trout Lake in Wisconsin.  I just don't want to tie myself down to one place for a whole month.  Even if Steve decides not to come out to Wisconsin to do a shake-down bike tour with me, I have places and people to see while I am there. 

I am making my camping plans for spring now, when I will return traveling into the northern states.  I shared with Steve a couple of the places I will be going.   (I was silently hoping that he will be interested and join me for them).  

He is interested!  He has made his reservations.  So we will be pulling our trailers north and enjoying some really great places on the way.  

A couple of the places we are going, I had really wanted to share with him.  

Hunting Beach State Park in South Carolina is the place I stayed during the Sisters on the Fly/Pledge the Pink event I attended in October on the way down to Florida.  The beach is flat and when I was there lights were not allowed on the beach because of turtle nesting season.  I don't know if it will be a good star-gazing beach in the spring, but I hope so.  I also want to visit the Gulla/Geechee museum in the area and stop at the Gulla/Geechee Artists Gallery.

Hocking Hills State Park is in Ohio. I hosted my first Sister on the Fly event there on my way down and I was impressed with the hiking trails.  It has many hiking trails, gorges, and is next to the John Glen Observatory.

We are also going to Hungry Mother State Park  This park was recommended by a Sister on the Fly, Susan J.  I emailed her and Dee to see if they wanted to join me there for some kayaking and hiking.  Dee responded with a resounding "YES!".  I haven't heard from Susan yet.  I may have to break down and call her.   It is funny how making a call is the last way I try to contact someone.

If you have been reading these letters all year, you may recall that on my way North I met up with Susan and Dee to do the Virginia Creeper Trail in Virginia.  We really enjoy each other and they like to hike and eat pizza like me.

In Delaware, Steve will branch off and head for his home in New York.  He has a house and family there that will need his attention.  I am still un-encumbered by house maintenance.  I am liking that a bunch, really.  

I will visit trails in Pensylvania and then the Finger Lakes Region of New York. In my plans are Vermont and across the border into Canada where I will spend the week of the 4th of July with my good friends, Louise and Richard.  

My next travel season is really taking great shape and I have anticipating another awsome summer.

What's Been Going On

A couple villas have come up for sale in Windermere (my former neighborhood).  The prices are still high, and I have time to wait, so I will wait and continue to be house-free.

Or will I?  Read on.

I visited my storage area and was bummed by all the stuff I have there.  I am now thinking maybe I should just buy a cheap mobile home to store the stuff and at least enjoy some of it sometimes.  It is frustrating to not have a home base to invite friends for dinners and gatherings.

I am paying $168/mo to store artwork and furniture and paperwork and tools in airconditioning.  

Is that foolish?  To buy a trailer to stay in and store my stuff?  Investigating some more, running some numbers.  Second guessing my impluses.  This afternoon I looked at a small one bedroom old mobile home for under $21,000.  Hmmmm. 

Other than that, I have been going on the Withlacoochee Tuesday and Thursday rides.  Steve races down to our starting point (about seven miles) to get his vigorous workout before riding with the group.

The other day there was a special ride.  Steve drove us and our bikes down to Townsen park about 16 miles south of Inverness.  The ride was well attended.  Below is Jean, Dave and Steve.  

Jean is my friend that I did work for last year.  She has hired me again to do billing for her therapy practice!  Thank you, Jean!  I look forward to helping her serve her clients.

Good things just seem to fall in my path all the time!


Linda and Linda (below) also live in my RV park.  They are fun and on the ride we ended up trying to sing songs and howl like wolves while we were riding.  John had his video recorder going a  lot and put together a neat video of the ride and some of our childish antics on Facebook.



We rode into Brooksville and after a great lunch at the Bistro we went exploring and found this tree fountain.


And in front of the courthouse, this twisted oak.  I thought someone had trained it when it was a sapling, but Steve pointed out the  branches also showed some twist and it was probably something genetic.  Pretty cool.


Steve and I dropped in too late on the last day of the Art Festival in downtown Inverness.  The artists were packing up and it was raining.   We did get to see some of the bicycle-artworks that are scattered about town.  This one was done by my friend Linda Reiland.


This one by fellow Cyclopath (triker) Camille.


There is a lot of talented artists along the Withlacoochee Trail.  After the quick stop at the Art Fest we met up with Debra and Glen at music event in my old neighborhood, Windermere.  A band, the Mudds, was playing.  We sat at a table with Debra and Glen and Jean and Keith.  Steve talked music with Keith and I danced and danced in circles and groups of women and men. Fun!  Thanks to Marilyn for arranging this event!

This past Tuesday was cool and cloudy.  It was great for biking.  I announced on the Impromptu Withlacoochee Cyclers Facebook Group that I wanted to go all the way to Dunnellon and dine at Swampy's.  It is a bar and grill right on the crystal clear Rainbow River.

I love it when I announce something and people show up!  We ended up with 11 people around a big table.  Steve and I sat together and did a new-to-us couples thing, we shared a salad.    




***

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving Day was really, really wonderful.  Steve drove down to my camper from his house and we started our ride here.  The group was starting their ride about three miles south of here in Floral City.  We had 22 riders for the tradtional Thanksgiving Day Ride!   Yay!  

We road some very low traffic roads (did we see more than one car?) past lots of horse pastures.  We enjoyed watching prancing young colts with their tails held high, bearded goats with big horns, and shaggy coated mules.





Steve and I had been invited to Debra's for Thanksgiving.  I was really looking forward to that.  The rest of the riders went on to see the Zebra while Steve and I headed to Debras for the holiday gathering at noon.

Of course we ate too much and wanted to just keep eating more because everything was SOOOOO GOOOD!  Thanks again, Debra and Glen.  Such good good friends!


I had written up a non-denominational prayer of thanksgiving and Debra had me read it as grace.

"Thankyou God, Thankyou Universe, Thankyou Gia, Thankyou Sun, Earth and Rain, Thankyou all the mysterious powers that created and grew this food.  Thank you farmers and laborers and truckers and grocers.  Thank you for our hands and minds that we are able to prepare and enjoy this food...."
Friends Beth and Jim were there.  They have a cute black and white pit bull.  In 2020 I went over for a visit and we were sitting out  by the pool, me facing Jim and Beth.  Bear, the pit bull was quiet at their feet.  Jim asked me if I carry a gun, or how do I defend myself.  I stood up quickly and punched the air toward Jim, like I do in fitness class.  Bam bam b... Quick as lightening, Bear was standing too with his big paws on my chest barking, his muzzle inches from my face.  I screamed.  Bear quickly obeyed when Jim called him off.  

So since then, I am nervous around Bear.  I have been to her house, but cautious.

Beth says to me, "He is such a sweet dog, you really need to give him another chance."  And she said she wanted to have me and Debra and some other gal friends over.  It will be my chance to make friends with Bear, Lol.

I will keep my fists down, and repeat to myself, "Feel the fear and do it anyway."

I was and am so grateful for my good friends, to be included, for the laughter, the smiles and the hugs.  

I am grateful to all of you who read and comment, who send me emails to let me know what is going on in your lives.  It is a way to stay connected with so many, so in that I am grateful.  And I am grateful for this creative outlet.  I sometimes find I sit down to write a few minutes and hours later...

An attitude of gratitude (the inspirational speakers will tell you) is the pathway to happiness.  I have found this to be so true in my life.  It turns my mind toward the good things happening and away from negativity like what is in the news or seeing the glass half empty.

After our gathering at Debra's, Steve and I went for a walk along the lake by his house.  It was out-of-this-world lovely.  The water smooth, the clouds taking on tints from the setting sun behind us.  Incredible.














A Miracle and a Good Laugh

 Greetings from Inverness, Florida. I have sooo many stories to tell.  So much fun to share.  But I will save you from yawns by telling you ...