Greetings From Inverness, Florida.
You may be wondering about Steve. I mean, it seems like we are spending a lot of time and sharing some great adventures together.
For example, remember when I tried to
create a team called Grinners and Spinners to help with some of the work needed
in North Fort Myers where hurricane Ian devastated the barrier islands and a
large swath inland?
volunteered right away when I told him what I wanted to do. But that was it, I could not recruit anymore
volunteers. Steve was a good sport about it and excited to help out. Our team of two was going to head south in our campers and help a fellow Sister on the Fly, Linda Shay. We would clear fallen and damaged trees from her property. Then I had also signed us up to help the American Legion for a couple days with whatever they had going on.
I met Linda in Hayward, Wisconsin in June during a Sisters on the Fly camping event. She had invited me to park on her Florida acreage several times. She had hook-ups.
She reported the house was fine but there were many trees down. I was glad to have Steve on the team because he used to be a lineman for the telephone company and knew how to safely cut trees. He was also bringing two chain saws, gasoline, and tools.
On the night before we were to leave he invited me over for homemade pizza at his house about six miles north of Inverness. He showed me how to tie a couple knots we would be using to pull on trees and branches in Fort Myers. He has one of those chin-up bars in a doorway like I used to have when I had a house. He said he has to pay a toll of chinups each time he enters that room. Later when I needed to use the bathroom beyond that chinup bar I did one! I have been trying to do a nice chin up or two for several years! I was mighty proud. A little happy dance.
morning we were to leave, Steve texted me to tell me his bike (that he had
packed in the back of his pickup truck the night before) had been stolen. He would be delayed because of the police
report. What a bummer for him. It was a very nice road bike.
to meet up at a park just before entering what I estimated to be the disaster area. I messed up and the park was closed due to
hurricane damage. I drove around looking
for another place that would accommodate two trucks and two trailers. We ate our packed lunches on a curb in a parking lot.
Later as I was leading us down I-75, I got a
call from Steve. Someone
had motioned to him that he had tire damage on his trailer. He was going to
pull over and fix it. I began to
worry. What if he gets defeated or the
tire causes damage to his trailer and he must return home?
How would I be of much help to Linda with my measly loppers?
I was happy
to see him pull up into a gas station.
He told me the warning to pull over was a kids prank. The tire was fine. Better that than the alternative, we agreed.
We saw piles
of rubble lining the streets and many blue tarps as we headed into Linda’s
neighborhood. Her road was quite the
roller coaster. The sign on it made me
Linda actually had water and electric hookups for two trailers. She and her husband David had already cleared the drive and our camping spots. We got set up and then went to work.
Linda showed me how to operate the gator. What a blast! That became my job.
They kept a big fire going for days as we worked. Steve would cut and I would load and haul dead branches and vegetation to the fire.
We tied a rope to the gator and used it to pull down broken and stuck branches. Learning the knots was a big help. We were tieing and untieing a lot of knots.
Before I learned about the four-wheel drive feature, I dug a pretty good hole into the ground one time.
Steve took a picture of me before we cut this little tree down.
And I took pictures of him at work. We were smiling a lot, working outside brings a special joy.
David was using the back hoe too and pushing downed debris into the fire. I was worried he would blow a tire as he would often roll right on top of the pile of ashes and burning debris.
After the second day of work, we realized we were making a lot of progress. The place was looking very nice! Steve suggested we get cleaned up and go exploring, maybe find a place to watch the sunset.
We drove around and ended up further North than we expected. We lucked out and found a nice waterfront walkway that had been cleaned of debris. We saw sinking and broken boats. And walked through a replica of the Vietnam Memorial.
We got back in the truck and headed back southward when we came to a Ponce de Leon Park, right on the water at Sunset! How lucky was that! We sat on the cement sea wall and watched fish jump and the colors change.
It was getting hungry out! Linda had told us about Boat House Tiki Bar near her place. It has a salt water pool and live music! We put that in the GPS.
Wow, what a full day for a couple of people in their sixties, don't you think?
Two other Sisters on the Fly drove down to Linda's from Minnesota and Wisconsin to help. I had met them in Hayward too!
Karyn is a real jokster and I think she tricked us all with fake poop. But all the way to our last day, she insisted she put it in a baggie and "it is in the trash, you can go see for yourself it is real." I regret not checking the waste basket, because we could not imagine an animal big enough for that size doodoo being on top of that tire.
Terry texted me from Tennessee and asked if I was going to watch the Lunar Eclipse. I didn't even know about it! Thanks Terry!
I googled and found out it was happening between four and six in the morning. Steve and I set alarms and sat out on the deck watching the moon pass through our shadow. Steve took this picture, we gave up trying to capture it with cameras and just watched.
I took this of Karyn in the early morning when we were up before most everyone else. Daylight savings time shifted while we were at Linda's.
We had a challenging limb to drag down. It was a riot. Vishelle and I and Linda were cackling like hens in the background. Barking out suggestions that were ignored and worries that were sometimes heeded.
Vishelle handed Steve a cut log that he used as a projectile with a rope tied to it. First try it went over the fork where we women were directing him to throw it. Of course it was our female directions and not his experience that got it where it needed to go. Ha ha.
Vishelle, Steve, David, and the big branch.
But the rope and gator were not strong enough. Dave pulled out a very big rope and his truck to finally get it down. Cheers!
At the same time we were cleaning up after Hurricane Ian the news was reporting that Hurricane Nicole was coming to Florida. The trajectory pretty much covered all but the southern tip of Florida. We didn't know where it was going to go or how bad it would be. I saw on the weather map that the storm would not reach the Everglades by the Shark Valley Trail.
Steve had never ridden that trail and I thought it would be fun to show him the area and escape the flying debris of the hurricane. We each made our reservations at Midway.
When we were at Linda's Steve had his 64th birthday. That morning I dashed out early and found him a chair that lays back. As he likes to watch the stars at night I thought this would work well for him. There were two, so I bought myself one too. He and Terry had both got me into star gazing.
For Steve's birthday, Linda baked a cake! And one evening she took all of us out to the Boat House Tiki Bar for dinner and drinks. She was soooo appreciative. Thanks Linda! It was a real blast!
Linda and David were happy to have all the help.
Me, Linda, Karyn, and Vishelle
One evening after working we cleaned up and went in search of a bike for Steve.
I found my dream bike right away. Ha ha. Boy that thing was heavy!
We felt very lucky. The first store we went to had the bike that Steve was wanting. He put a rack on it, he hopes to do some touring in the future.
Two mornings we went to the site to volunteer for the American Legion. Both mornings no one showed up to instruct us or tell us where to go. Via email I inquired and the next day came appologies saying the volunteer organizer had COVID.
The second time we went to volunteer for the American Legion, we had hooked up the trailers to head down to the Everglades afterwards. I was wandering around and when I looked back, there was Steve up on my truck cleaning my windsheild! Oh my! Ha ha, be still my heart!
Highway 41 cuts across Florida from Naples to Miami right through the Everglades National Forest. Midway Campground is a National Park and therefore we got the Senior Discount when we made our reservations. We were close when we encountered a road block. The officer said they were repairing power lines and it would be an hour.
I remembered what Terry Fund taught me. It can be fun just to set out your chairs in a parking lot and have lunch.
As we were sitting eating lunch, a crow came nearby begging. We got a really good close look at it. Steve began to explain the different layers of feathers. He does wood carvings of birds. He brought several down from New York for his Florida home. They are very impressive.
After we got into camp and set up, the wind started to blow, but the weather had said only 20-30 mph winds in the area. I asked Steve if he had ever biked in a Hurricane. He grinned, "Not yet."
We put both bikes in my truck and we went over to the Shark Valley Trail, about 17 miles from the campground. The trail is about 14-16 miles long and makes a loop so you end up where you started. We parked outside the gate because we would be on the trail after the park closed.
Whoops, we forgot extra lights in case we are out past dark. Oh well, let's just go. Ya, I know. I don't watch movies about swamp monsters, so I was ok with that.
We started seeing a lot of great blue heron. They were used to people being on the trail and many did not take flight when we passed. We counted well over 30 on our ride.
At one point we had a rainbow on our left and the sunset on our right. The Everglades is called the river of grass. It actually is a shallow wide wide river (50 miles?) that flows from Lake Okechobee to the southern tip of Florida.
Before the loop turns the corner, there is a wonderful look-out tower.
The second half of the loop trail, the wind was in our face. Parts of the trail were covered in water. As it got darker and darker, the tar they use to repair cracks began to look like snakes and gators, gators and snakes. We pushed on.
I only screamed twice.
Once there was a dead Great Blue Heron on the trail and I thought it was a gator and Steve was heading right toward it. The second scream was when something mid-sized splashed into the water right next to me.
The loop back seemed a lot longer than the ride out for sure. I was panting as we worked against the wind slowly slowly slowly. But we were still smiling. Thanks for being game to ride in the storm, Steve! What a memory and story we created!
The next day we took Big Blue again and drove around to the visitor centers and board walks.
Over lunch I told Steve that people were wondering about us. Pretty nervous, I said, "And so am I." I think I caught him off guard, but then after a bit he looked happy and said, "me too."
I had been telling people, "We are not a couple!" Perceptive Debra had told me, "Oh yes you are!" even before we left on this trip.
I thought I didn't want any man in my life. I thought I was quite happy on my own. But Steve is exceptional. Barrier one, our denial (or was it fear?), came crashing down.
After lunch, we decided to bike a gravel loop road.
We and our bikes got pretty sandy and gritty, but we saw some very nice places, a few gator, turtles, and birds.
Steve's daughter is a teacher and he often sends pictures of wildlife to her to share with her classroom. He said the kids get so excited, the gorrier the better. There was a dead gator on the side of the road. We got some good shots.
That evening we escaped the bugs by eating in Steve's trailer and playing a game that my sister had given me in celebration when I bought LILAC. Though there were great open dark skies, the bugs kept us from looking at the stars for long. Tiny little insects seemed to get in the trailer and gather by the lights even with the door shut. Fortunately they were not biting insects and seemed to die off quickly.
Our last day in the Everglades we rode the Shark Valley trail again. This time in the daylight without the big wind.
During the week I had been contacted by my boss when I volunteered as camp host at South Trout Lake in Boulder Junction, WI this summer. She wanted to know my availability and interest in doing the same this year. Since I have plans to go to New York state and Vermont and into Canada, I told her I could only do August. So there, I am, committed to a month at the same no-power campground I was in this summer. It was lovely and not too far to visit my sister.
Steve asked me if I would do the GAP trail with him next year. "Yes!"
I will be busy this winter planning for that and all the other travel for next spring, summer, and fall.
I woke early on the last day and started packing up LILAC for the trip back to Inverness. When I pulled out before 6:30 a.m. in the dark, the fog was thick.
I stopped in Naples and spent an hour or two at Anytime Fitness. I took advantage of the good cell service to call my sister and read emails and messages.
It was mid to late afternoon by the time I got home and got all set up again. I texted Steve to let him know I arrived ok and inquired about him. He had made it home but that tire problem that he thought was pranksters was actually a tire problem that was hidden when the tire wasn't rotating. When it was rotating other drivers could see something was wrong.
Another person flagged him and managed to let him know what was going on. Steve had to change the tire on the side of I-75. Just as our many many many fire ant
bites were finally on the mend, he found a nest on the side of I-75.
I told Steve that if we become a "couple" that I really need to maintain lots of space for me-time. Like four days a week even, when we aren't traveling together. He was glad to hear that, my independence is one of the qualitites he likes about me, he says. And that, dear friends, is a dam good thing, don't you think?
Though I am looking forward to sharing lots of travel adventures with him.
And speaking of "Me Time". Caregivers don't get a lot of "Me Time". (How is that for a transition?)
If you know of someone caring for someone, think about how you might beable to relieve them, visit with them or their loved one or help them pay for respite care. I was very fortunate to have good people around me that helped me when I was caring for George. Be that person for just a few hours this month.
Till next time, find something that makes you wanna do a happy dance.
And speaking of happy dance, we just had a mid-term election and it is making me feel like doing the happy dance. Jean and I and Steve are going to the Drum Circle on the beach tonight. A good opportunity to go wild.