Monday, October 14, 2019

The Sun and the Moon over the Everglades

I am writing this from Starbucks in the Miami, Florida area on Monday, October 14, 2019.

We are staying at the Midway Campground in the Everglades.  Located 1/2 way between Naples Florida and Miami.  The highway (highway 41) is called the Tamiami Trail.  It is named for the two cities it connects, Tampa and Miami.

Jim McCrae said they are raising up Highway 41 in places so that the flat-flowing river that is the Everglades will be able to flow better.  So far the places being raised are on the Miami end.  I drove over them this morning.

The campground has electric!  I am glad for that so I can cook my meals, make a morning coffee.  There is water at the bathroom.  The RV's don't have a sewer hookup or a dump station.  So their time here is limited.

Also, being in the middle of a very large wilderness area, there is no cell service and no internet.  Once in a while my phone would ping and I would see a message come in.  Most often I could not reply because the service just wasn't there.

Which is ok!  I get to read some, write some, sit some, ride some more.

I last posted from the two-story McDonalds in Fort Meyers.   After that I drove to the campground.

As I was driving I remembered driving this road with George and seeing so many birds in the trees by the ditch by the road.  They had created canals on the sides of the roads when they piled up rock to create the highway.  It was a place for gator to lounge and birds to hunt and nest.   This time, though, the Everglades had a lot of water from the rainy season.  The fish and food had been dispersed.  There wasn't the concentration of birds and gators.

I stopped at a board walk.  As I was walking it I had to overcome some fear.  I was by myself and I remember a story someone told me about being on a dead-end board walk and encountering a panther (or some dangerous animal... it has been a while since I heard the story.)  So I was pushing through my fear and I moved forward.

 I came upon this amazing tree that was hugging another tree stump.

 There was an explanation nearby.  A Strangler fig starts as like an air-fern.  Then it strangles the life out of the host tree and as it grows it reaches the ground and becomes a regular tree with roots.

The water through the huge swamp/river that is the Everglades is crystal clear.  I tried to take a picture to show you.  But all you can see is me floating on the surface.

 Hey sister Mary!  Are you likin' this Lichen?

 There was a building at the beginning of the board walk.  It turned out to be a Native American gift shop.

 The clerk said her ancestry was Seminole and Miccosukee.  I picked out some feather earrings made from Turquoise.

When I arrived at Midway Campground I found my reserved spot next to three huge RV's in a row.

Will Byers who arranged this ride for the South Florida Recumbent Riders was already there in one of those huge RVs.  In fact, all three huge RV's next to my little tent were from Polk City MOSN.  This was the total of our group that was here to ride the Shark Valley Trail by moonlight.

MOSN is their Polk City, Florida neighborhood bike group.  I learned that the neighborhood is an RV neighborhood, but most of the people or parts of the neighborhood also have a brick home.  Anyway, I met folks from MOSN at the Catrike rallys we used to attend.  And then I would see them riding on the Withlacoochee and elsewhere.

We are now connected via Facebook groups such as Recumbent Riders and the South Florida Recumbent Riders.

I knocked on their doors and let them know I had arrived.  They had already riden the trail that day and were chillin' in their air conditioning.   They said the weather said it was going to rain in the evening so they weren't going to do the moonlight right that night, but would do it the next night.

I was setting up camp when Marie came over.  I was glad to learn I wasn't the only single person in the group this trip.  She has been widowed a few years.  We shared stories and dreams and she helped me set up my canopy.   She said I should get an RV and we could go traveling together.  I said, "I am not rich enough."  I am on a tent kind of travel budget.  Ha ha.

At around 3:30 I decided to go ride the Shark Valley by myself.

For those of you into grasshopper porn...

When George and I visited the Everglades years ago with our friends Kathi and Karl, Kathi counted 72 gator on the seven-mile ride to the tower on the Shark Valley Trail.

This day I saw only two.  TWO!  I remember the ground around the tower being covered with gators, huge fat gators.  Today, none.

We had visited in February during a drought, shortly after a cold spell.  The gator were concentrated around the canals and water holes.  The birds were nesting all along the canal next to the trail, making for easy pickings when nestlings fall out of the nest.

I return to camp (15 or 17 miles away from Shark Valley).  I arrived just in time for ice cream!

There are 5 of us gobbling on four 1/2 gallon tubs of ice cream.  Lots of choices.  Thank you Will Byer's for the ice cream!  The light above Will's head in this picture below is the full moon rising.

 Soon the mosquitos were biting.  I returned to my "home" and climbed into my bed.  I thought I would read a while.
I was too tired.  However I woke often and looked out at the moon as it moved across the sky.   I had expected the Everglades to be loud at night.  I expected to hear critters rustling, frogs singing.   All I heard was crickets chirping and the occasional hoot of an owl.

In the morning trucks start roaring down highway 41.

Midway is known for being a great place for star-gazing.  The nights we are here, the moon will be bright and keep us from seeing the lights of many many stars.  Just the brightest show up in the sky.  I keep checking.

Will arranged for us to ride in the morning.  We are to leave camp at eight a.m.

I leave a bit early so I can stop at a gas station to get ice for my cooler.  I had brought some things from my fridge for meals and it needs to keep cool.

When I arrive at the Shark Valley Trail, Will and Carolyn and Bill are talking with a guy named Jim.  I have seen him on Facebook.  Jim McCrea lives in the Miami area and volunteers on the Shark Valley Trail.  He was there to ride with us!

It was great, he pointed out birds, told us a bit about the trails history.  When I picked up a snail shell he told us that the non-native snails are shaped differently.  Some kind of hawks in the area are getting longer and more curved bills over the generations.  Natural selection is happening before the naturalists observing eyes.  Evolution in fast motion.

Back at my camp site I cooked my lunch and Marie came by to chat.  We are excited to meet each other, fellow single women travelers and adventure seekers.  I tell her about my dream to do Ohio trails again and she is all in.  She didn't ride in the morning but instead went to the visitors' center.  She saw about 11 huge gator there.  Dang!

It is warm in the afternoon.  Everyone escapes to their air conditioning.  I rest in the shade, siesta time.  I rest because this night we are doing the moon-light ride starting at six.

I love how easy it is for me to get ready to ride.  I just pull out my trike from the car, add my water bottle, and off I go!

We park our cars outside of Shark Valley because the gates are locked at six p.m.  But they let bikers and walkers into the park.   Jane Weber was there!  Jane is an Ohio tricycle rider.  When I was riding with the Ohio trikers they talked about her with affection.  They said she was in Florida doing a whole year of work-camping.  (She is working in exchange for a free camp site at a KOA.)  It turns out she was only about 45 minutes from Shark Valley, so she drove over to join us for the ride.  It was great to meet her in person.

It seems like I am getting to meet a lot of people I have connected with via Facebook groups interested in recumbent bicycle and tricycle riding.

As we were approaching the tower the sun was already disappearing behind the trees by the canal on the west side of the trail.

We rushed up to it to catch some of the color of the fading sun.  The color was wonderful and sent some rays into the sky.  The fading light made the flat grasslands to the east of us, brilliant.  We waited only a few minutes for the Moon to appear in the East among the thick dark cloud hovering on the horizon.

Yes, that dot above is the moon rising just after the round orb of the sun has disappeared in the west.

It was a wonderful and lovely experience.  Very much worth repeating.  Will said he would study the moon charts and try to schedule something for spring.

I try texting my friend Debra to let her know she has to do this one next time.

She needs air-conditioning.  She doesn't like hot weather.  Hmmm. 

Who else?  Linda Tolley from Ohio?  I wonder if our new Inverness triking friends the Texas Trikers will be interested?  I took two days to drive down here, but it could be a one-long-day drive.  Hmmmm.

I loved being there.  Just taking in the beauty. 

The group started moving again.  Heading down the tower to return to our trikes.

I got in front of the pack and didn't turn my lights on.  I wanted to ride by moon-light.  Which was fine, but when they got too far behind and I didn't see the trail as well, I would slow down and wait for them. This is about as brave as I get.

Little frogs with there white undersides shining in our head-lights would hope off the trail as we approached... most of the time.  I heard a few crunches... ewww!

I pulled into my camp site and Maria stopped her Jeep behind me.

"We are gathering in my RV for ice cream if you wanna come," she told me.


Today is Monday and the RV's are pulling out this morning.  I couldn't hang out in the mosquito-feasting twilight this morning.  I couldn't wait for them to get up and get going so I could say good bye.

Instead I will email them this morning from Starbucks in Miami.

Then maybe I will go ride the trail again, stop in the visitors' center, and chill in the heat of the afternoon.  Who knows?

Tomorrow I head south to join the Sisters on the Fly near Key Largo, Florida.  It is an event where we snorkle and dive and count fish for the DNR or some organization.  Excited and scared, I have never swam in the sea much, never snorkled in the ocean.  Something new to discover.

I went up on Fiverr before I left internet and asked the artist to add the narrators names to the covers for the audio books.  Soon soon soon, Alzheimer's Trippin' with George - Diagnosis to Discovery will be out on Audio book on Audible and elsewhere.

Marie bought a copy of this book.  She told me she is enjoying it.  Thank you, Marie!  I hope to see you again soon.  Maybe on the Van Fleet Trail this winter.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Off to the Everglades and Keys

It is Saturday, October 12, 2019.  I am sitting in a... get this... two-story McDonalds in Fort Meyers.

I don't think I have ever been in a multi-level McDonalds, except maybe in a big city like Chicago.

I am here because... guess what...
both my replacement cards arrived in the mail on Friday!

I was greiving over the loss of my National Park pass and my State Park Pass that I was going to use on this trip.  When I was packing, I found them in  my purse!  Woo hoo!

It was great to be home, but I am excited too to be taking this trip.  Camping in the Everglades has been on my bucket list.  As I am driving I am looking around for routes for biking this direction.

This trip was meant to be.  When I contacted ATC hosts for the trip down and a different place back up, they both said, "Yes".  Easy peezy!

I wasn't supposed to arrive until 7 p.m.  So when I got to Punta Gorda two hours early, I went to Anytime fitness, and then used to find a "park near me".

 It was a tiny boat-launch park.  I think the only boats would be kayaks.  I was dining and watching a lovely blue heron across the canal/stream purched at the very top of a tree with his head and shoulders reaching out beyond the foliage.

A truck pulled out and a man in his 60s or so got out with his pole and started fishing.  He was quite talkative and trusting.  It was a pleasant exchange.  He just drove down from Tennessee and had a similar experience of being very wired and stressed by all the highway driving.  He pushed too late in the evening and then couldn't sleep.  I guess I did it right for me, shorter days and I slept well.

Last night I stayed in Punta Gorda at the home of an ATC host.  The description said they were on the water.  It sounded nice.  I didn't see the water until the morning, I was so busy chatting with the hostess and her daughter.

When I pulled up I was kind of nervous.  They still had the hurricane shutters up.  But I guess if you put them up you might as well keep them up all season.  It isn't easy putting them all us.  She said it took a crew of 8 men several hours to get them all up.
 Anna is also a recent widow.  Her husband died in February 2018, just a few months before George.  Her daughter, Kristine or Katherine (she goes by both) did this needle point for her father.  It is amazing.  Ever inch is needlepoint.  Her father was in the Air force and stationed in the locations listed.

 I slept well.  Anna refused my money.  As ATC members we leave $20 to hosts to help cover the costs of the laundry and breakfast.  I don't eat breakfast and used my own bedding.  So she refused the money.  In the morning I looked out at the canal.  Then I signed a copy of Alzheimer's Trippin' with George and left it for her.  I should get a picture when I leave a book, I keep forgetting to do that!

There is a long stretch of road heading south called "Burnt Store" road or avenue or something.  It is not real congested (at least early in the day).  AND it has a bike trail for a long stretch of it.  Keeping that in mind just in case....

I stopped by a grocery store.  I am worried about not having enough since I won't be by a store, isn't that silly.  I have so much now.  I think there is a potluck tonight before our ride.  So I bought extra salad.

Today I meet up with other recumbent riders at Midway Campground in the Everglades.  Tonight we ride the Shark Valley Trail to watch the sunset and the moon rise.  I am excited and yes, I have my bug spray packed.

I probably won't get a chance to blog for about 3 or 4 days.  FYI.

Enjoy your moments.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Moods Swing Wide


I am writing this on October 8, 2019.  It is a Tuesday and I am hoping to punch this out before I meet up with my bike group and ride on the wonderful Withlacoochee Trail today with friends.

I left off the last post at Deep Creek Camp Ground near or on the edge of Smokey Mountains National Park. 

Yesterday when I went by Dollywood in Tennessee I remembered driving through the area in 2017 when George and I were escaping Hurricane Irma.  This morning, after packing up in the dark, I drove toward Bryson.  We had stayed in Bryson a few nights as the storm blew through, following us all the way to Tennessee.

I remembered going to a restaurant and getting a newspaper, but I was unable to sit and enjoy the newspaper because George couldn't sit still.  I wanted to return to that very restaurant, get a paper, and just sit for an hour or two because I can.

I drove into town and passed the areas we had walked, the restaurant doesn't open until seven and it was six.  I stopped instead at a gas station for coffee and kept driving.

I stopped a while later at a McDonalds somewhere and wrote out a blog post.   This McDonalds didn't have a playground for kids, it was more like a coffee shop.

There was a group of people sitting at a table visiting over their coffee.  They seemed like a regular coffee-meeting group.  One woman got up and helped a man up who kept his hand on her shoulder as if he were blind or unsteady.  I got the sudden urge to give them Alzheimer's Trippin' with George - Diagnosis to Discovery in 10,000 Miles.  It is the kind of book that would be enjoyable and helpful to not just Alzheimer's caregivers, but to any person whose life is altered by the duty of care-giving.

I ran to the car to get a copy, but I wasn't fast enough.  So I took the book and presented it to the people remaining at that table and asked them to pass it on to that woman when they next met.   Later one of them came over to chat and shared with me a test he takes regularly to monitor his cognition.  I wrote down the website to share with you, but I see it requires a log-in. 

I aimed to get back on I75 south of Atlanta, just north of Macon.  It was Saturday and though I was aiming for Reed Bingham State Park, I was afraid that if I arrived late in the afternoon there would be no camp sites left.  I needed a break from driving.  

I ended up at a KOA near Tifton, Georgia.  Where I did laundry and used the electric to cook a healthy meal and blog.

Deep Thoughts

Maybe it is because this trip is coming to an end.  I have gotten to see my sister and my son and others I love.  I am done.  I don't EVER want to drive this distance again.  Ever! ever! ever!

Yet the idea of not seeing my family again is not a thought I want to dwell on.  I will fly, I suppose, or take a train... or ride my trike.

Driving on I75 listening to a program on a study now being conducted that will add healthy years to us aging folks.   The number of folks over 60 will out number children soon.  I don't remember any of the statistics, just that the average age of the population is getting older, as we know.

Part of the longevity program is 45 minutes of aerobic exercise every day.  I stop at a town square and go for a walk.  I set the timer.  I make it 35 minutes, then I am anxious to keep moving toward home.

 The town square still has their civil war monument to the Confederate soldiers.

Maybe it was because my hip has been hurting, sometimes I have numbness and pain in my lower leg.  I am aging and becoming one of those old folks with limp and hand on hip.   I don't want to limp and sit for years waiting for the final exit.

When I think of getting a job for next summer, I think, "Well, I can't stand for long periods, I can't sit still all day... What can I do?"

I was thinking how we don't have a way for people to say, "Ok, I have lived a good life, now it is time for me to get off this planet and make room for the next generation."   Why are we so adverse to self-determination in our end?

It isn't like we don't allow human interference in our longevity.  We replace hearts, lungs, kidneys, hips, knees, and much more.  Why is it we can't allow for a peaceful end?  Even when a person is going to die, they are in pain, somehow we think the moral thing to do is to not interfere.  Can we not give them an out somehow?

Though states and some countries allow for physician assisted suicide, that isn't what I am talking about.  I am talking about individuals determining when they will step off the planet.

Anyway, these are some of the thoughts I am having as I drive and drive and drive on I75. 

I stop to wash the car at one of those self service car washes after I cross the Florida border.  It feels great to move around a bit.  Sometimes the hip cooperates wonderfully.


My mood and thoughts change as soon as I walk into my place.  I am not ready to die.  Maybe I will travel again someday.  It wasn't that bad. 

The house sitter is out somewhere so I have the place to myself to unpack and check mail.

Of course there is always some kind of crisis in the mail.  This time, my homeowners insurance was canceled due to a miscommunication before I left.  How can an insurance company require you to replace all your plumbing and electric when your place is only 30 years old? 

It makes absolutely no sense to me and the insurance broker just kept saying it the same way over and over again.  I asked, "You mean I am to blast up the foundation of my home in order to replace the pipes in the cement?"

I arrived home on Sunday.  My house sitter came home and she made me dinner!  It was lovely.

On Monday I was able to do exercises with my friends.

Replacing my drivers license was a breeze.  They have remodeled the DMV and it was more comfortable.  The staff have obviously been trained in customer service.  I had a star on my license which made replacement so easy!  I didn't even need to show my passport.

I was contacted by someone on Facebook.  "Did you lose your license in Tennessee?"  It turns out that a pastor from Inverness had moved to Tennessee and someone had found my license by itself in a corn maze.  They turned the license into the church he is part of and someone asked him if he knew me.  The search began.

I don't know if I am going to be able to go to the Everglades and do the moonlight ride and camp with other recumbent bicycle riders.  It will be hot in my tent-cot I think.  And the charge cards have to arrive by Friday. 

It is what it is.... whatever that is.

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 ...