Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Cautious Hope for Post COVID

Greetings from Inverness, Florida.  

I am back home and very much enjoying springtime in Florida.  My garden is happy, the monarchs are fluttering around the milkweed and laying their eggs.  The collard greens and parsley are prolific.  

And the most amazing thing is happening...bit by bit, friends are gathering, still at a distance, but with less fear.  The COVID vaccines seem to be working to reduce hospitalization, death, and even infection rates in the United States.  Though we still have a long way to go to be back to normal, hope is blooming along with the spring flowers.

Before I get into the stories around me, I would like to share with you a podcast interview that I was part of.  It was launched on March 15, 2021.  Author Marianne Sciucco interviewed me this summer while I was camping in Rhinelander, WI, for the AlzAuthors' Podcast for caregivers.  

***

The last time I wrote to you I was at Hart Springs Campground which is near Chiefland, Florida and the Nature Coast Rail Trail.   I had posted from the Chiefland Library on a rainy morning because I didn't have cell or good internet at the campground.

When I left the library, the rain had slowed to a drizzle.  I headed back toward the campground. I passed a sign to the Andrews Wildlife Management Area.  I made a u-turn and went to explore.  

I was glad I did!  It was a nice walk in the woods to the Suwannee River on a gravel road.  Just after starting the walk I saw about twelve small wild pigs scrambling away from me.  Wild boar are considered a nuisance species in Florida.  They keep multiplying and digging up the undergrowth in the forests and along paths and roadways.   Originally they came from the pigs that were brought here by the Spanish, but now they are probably integrated with escaped domestic pigs.  Anyway, it was thrilling to see them.  I wasn't afraid because they were small and running away from me.  Big ones can be aggressive and dangerous.

I passed a huge bat house and I could hear the flying mammals squeaking from their perches.  Under the bat house was a mound of guano.

Some kind of insect or worm had created holes in the guano, I didn't see the critters, just saw the holes.


 

I followed the signs to the board walk.  A sign showed that the flood waters often covered the walk.  Well, in this instance, the river was up 22 feet and I didn't even see the roof of the shelter on the boardwalk.  Of course, I had never been there before and didn't know where to look.



 Every late-afternoon I would start to look forward to gathering around a campfire with my fellow Florida RV Women, Lynelle and Ginnie.   The wood I had bought at the campground did not burn easily.  Lynelle bought some firewood in town and we tried a new log-cabin style of stacking the wood.  That seemed to burn better than the Teepee style... at least to start.  As wood was added and walls collapsed the logs always ended up more Teepee than log style.

Lynelle had a heavy-duty knife that she used to make kindling.  She would place the blade at the edge of a log and bang the flat side, whittling off 1/2 inch thick strips of wood.  I am going to get me one of those knives.  Friends told me last summer that I need an axe if I am going to camp.  I was hesitant to buy one.  First, it is something big to pack.  Second... what if I miss and hack my leg or foot?  This knife seems like the perfect solution for me.  I will probably have to shop at a pawn shop or an Army Surplus store to find one.

Lynelle also had packets of fire-starter goop that she would break up and put bits it with the paper and kindling to help get the fire started. 


One day I went exploring on my two-wheel bike.  I took side roads south and I ended up riding on the Nature Coast Trail to the Suwannee River bridge.  


 
See the moth with the horizontal stripe?


On my way back I was passing two women on diamond-frame bikes who had stopped on the trail.  I slowed down and ended up stopping when I heard one say, "Look!  She has pannier's like you just got."

My panniers are waterproof and pricey for casual riders, they are more for touring.  I asked if they were going to use them touring.  

Yes they were, and when I asked where they were touring, they told me they were doing the Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal trails in September.  

"Me too!" I exclaimed.  I put their names and numbers in my phone.  We were amazed at this serendipitous encounter. 

The Withlacoochee Bicycle Group had a planned ride for the Nature Coast Trail on Monday.  I drove down to Chiefland to meet them.  When I got there I thought I would use my powered air pump that works for cars and bike tires. It plugs into the power socket in the van. While I was setting it up, Richard and Louise pulled into the parking lot.  Soon he was helping me, but instead of me standing by to see how he did it, I was distracted by all the cars and people arriving.  Each new addition was a celebration.  

"Oh! Yay, Donna and Rick are here!"

"Susan and Mike, and there is John, yay!"

"Hey, David!  It's good to see you!"

"Jean and Keith, I am so glad you came."

"There is Ann and Fred!"

We had over a dozen riders/friends.  It was a fun ride.



We rode to Trenton and hunted up spots in the sun to enjoy our picnic lunches.



 

We stopped on the Suwannee Bridge and then went just a bit further to admire the 500-700 year-old oak trees, before we turned around to return to Chiefland.  We had a great 42-mile bike ride.



 I decided to cancel the last portion of my camping trip.  I was supposed to head down to Hillsborough River State Park to meet up with the Florida RV Women's group.  The pictures coming out of the event on Facebook showed that 95% of those women were not masked and were not distancing.  I knew if I went I would have a good time but feel a bit isolated.  Plus, Debra had canceled because she wanted to be home with her new puppy.  I had gone five days without good cell and internet.  I was feeling like my to-do list was getting too long.  It was time to head home.

I wasn't quite ready, I added one more day to my Hart Springs stay.  I went exploring.  The water had gone down, probably a foot since I had arrived.  The road was now dry at Hart Springs.  I walked around the barrier at the entrance to Hart Springs to get a closer look.  The campground is separate from where the springs are located.  There is a hill that goes down from the road to a cement wall around the springs, and a few feet below the wall is the level of the springs.  Well it was that way the last time I was there, but as you can see from this picture, we can't see the cement wall around the springs.

Back at my trailer I wrote for a couple hours and then it was time to go exploring.

 

First I went to Trenton and after looking around, I entered a Mexican Restaurant that only had one other customer.  I got a table on the opposite side of the room.  As I sat there waiting for my food the restaurant began to fill up, and no one was wearing a mask.  I put my mask back up and asked for my food to-go.  Then I had to wait, what seemed like, a long ass time to pay the bill.  It was getting crowded and I was getting worried.  I finally got to pay and as I was leaving I passed a man who was coughing a fake cough while smirking at his lady friend.  Was he making fun of me and my mask?

I then set out to find Rosewood, FL.  This is the site that I had learned about where there was once a prosperous middle-class town.  But it was burned down and the people terrorized and driven away in 1923.

Rosewood is near Cedar Key, Florida, and near where the Suwannee River meets the Gulf of Mexico.



I read that a group was trying to raise funds in 2018 to turn the only remaining house in Rosewood into a museum.  I did not see it, but I did find the memorial, covered in beads, stones and flowers.  There were also few COVID facial masks hanging on the adjacent fence.



I explored the Shell Mound area near Cedar Key and recognized the place when I arrived.  George and I had biked here with our friends, Louise and Richard, Bill and Christine a few years ago.

I hiked a trail and just about when I was done I heard wild boar rustling and grunting.  They seemed to be only 15-20 feet away on the other side of some palms.  I pulled my camera out, but didn't see them, at it was just as well.

***

I was glad to be back home.  I had a few more reservations to make for my Summer trip.  Plus, now I had to plan a trip back to St. Augustine to get my second COVID shot.  People are reporting that the body responds to the second shot with aches, fever, tiredness, and diarrhea.   I thought I needed to camp several days after the shot to recover before I drove home.

I told you about Joan who had visited me and we expressed a desire to go to Alaska.  She called me and told me she was going on a mini self-supported tour just to see if she was still up to traveling that way.  She was only going to go about 30 miles a day to keep it fun and allow time for exploring.   She said that if it went well, then she would plan on doing the Allegheny Passage Trail with me.  If it went lousy, it was a no-go.

A week later she called me again.  It went well!  We are on for the Allegheny, starting September 24th!  I am excited.  I think of all I need to do to prepare, but I have months.  "Relax", I tell myself.  "Learn, investigate, and prepare..."

Marie was supposed to travel with me this summer in her own RV, heading north as far as Iowa with me.  She had fallen and hurt her shoulder and it we didn't know if she would be able to do the trip.  But we talked and she is in still!  Yay!  She was worried that I would feel burdened because she wouldn't be up to my activity level.  I told her I was just happy to have someone to share stories with over a campfire most nights.  It will be good as long as she didn't expect me to baby her and she didn't feel she needed to follow me around.  We were in a agreement and I am anticipating a super trip.

I can't believe this, I have my reservations and plan all the way through September.  I like to fly by the seat of my pants, be spontaneous, but with campgrounds filling up these days with baby-boomer retirees and families able to work virtually, I am glad I have my spots reserved.  I am also glad because now I can reach out to others and invite them to join me.  Already I have a meetup set in Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and then either Maryland or Ohio.

***

One of items on my to-do list was taxes.  I worked my way through Turbo Tax and the result doesn't seem right, so I will probably have to go through it again, or just push send and keep my fingers crossed.

The other night I invited six people to my patio for happy hour.  With Carolyn and I that was eight folks.  We didn't wear masks though we kept a good separation.  It felt so much more relaxed.  Everyone had had their first COVID vaccine.  Four of them had received their second vaccine.  

Eight people is more than I have had here for a long time.  It was a blast!  I felt hopeful and joyful.  Maybe life will start getting back to normal now.

We are probably relaxing too early.  

 The CDC says that once our family or circle of friends is fully vaccinated we can get together and even get some hugs.

The problem with me is that I have many bubbles.  I don't have blood family in my area but I have several friends that are close like family.  A bubble is the people you are close to that you can hug and let down your guard.  Maybe not your face guard in close proximity, dang! 

We are so anxious to be back with each other again.  I have stopped forcing people that enter my home to do repairs to wear a mask.  I have stopped forcing people to mask up when they walk through my home to the back patio for social time.  I wear one in their vicinity.  I think this is a sign of COVID burn-out.  I am tired of being the one that requests the mask and stands on the outside of the circle.  I am tired of the precautions and hopeful the vaccine is protecting my friends. 

But then I read in the paper that a 54 year-old mother of a boy living with Autism has died from COVID, and I realize the numbers are still too high.  

My second COVID vaccine appointment is April 2nd in St. Augustine.  I was planning on camping and just being there in my trailer to weather out any hours of symptoms that may come up.  But I was having a hard time finding an open camp site.  

Then Jean offered to go with me and spend one night in a motel.  She has points so it will be low-cost. She hasn't been to St. Augustine and would like to get a quick feel for it, plus go on a mini-adventure together.  Fun!  Let's try it.

***

Yesterday while riding with the group, Louise and I were riding side by side.  It was a lovely day, not too hot.  In Florida in spring, the oak leaves fall as the oak trees start to bud.  The leaves are a hazard for bikers if they pile up.  They slide over each other and a pile can become slick like ice.  I have experienced this myself once on my two-wheel.  I was going very slow, getting ready to turn a corner and there was a dip in the pavement where the leaves had collected.  I went down so very fast.

Fortunately a volunteer blows off the whole trail once a week.  But there are parts of the trail...

 

As we turned a corner and ascended a ramp, Louise's bike slipped on the leaves and she fell.  Immediately she knew it wasn't good.  We surrounded her and sat with her while we decided what to do and then waited for the ambulance.  Her situation was complicated because she is Canadian, but she does have insurance for this time in Florida.

It turns out she has broken her lower leg (3 bones) and they are not simple breaks.  This afternoon she will undergo surgery.  We are all wishing her well.  Debra is gathering up assistance devices for her to use during her recovery.

Life can change in an instant.  

Go out and enjoy this day as best you can with what you have.  In just a bit I plan to go to the neighborhood pool and float and socialize.  Life is good in this moment.

***

This week I move into my friends house in my old neighborhood for a few days.  I am going to be taking care of her three pets while she is out traveling.  It will be good to reconnect with neighbors, and it happens to be the neighborhood where Louise and Richard live so I will be there to help out or run errands if they need anything.  Hear that Richard and Louise???  

Richard and Louise have done so many things for me, and Richard always says, "Let me be of service to you.  We want to help, it makes us feel good and useful."   

So I am going to remind them to let me be of service.  

***




 



Saturday, March 6, 2021

Trippin' St. Augustine with Friends during COVID

 

Hello!

Hey, Verizon isn’t everywhere!  I got a new phone with a hot-spot capability so that I could hook my computer up and write to you whenever and where ever.

But NOOOOOO.  Not at one of my campsites in St. Augustine and not here at Hart Springs near Cheifland, Florida.

I am going to be on a podcast for AlzAuthors coming up March 15.  I will tell you more about that and other caregiver programs later.

Today is a rain-all-day kind of day.  I am itching to write and catch up with you.  So I am writing this in word and then I will go to the library and copy and paste it and I hope the pictures will go with it. 

Do you see pictures?  Then it worked!

I know I told you before that Debra has a Weeroll too. 


We have planned several camping trips together that have always gotten canceled for one reason or another.  Usually the weather, Last fall it was a hurricane hitting the part of Florida where we were supposed to be camping.  A week before we were to go camping this time, Debra got a cute new puppy.  I was thinking that she wouldn’t be able to pull herself away, Cricket is sooooo dang cute and sweet!

In my house now we have an older puppy, Josie.  She and I have bonded too.  She gets excited when I enter the house and I get down on the floor and give her a good rub-down.  Then sometimes, if she is high energy we play fetch with her stuffed squirrel.

Here is a picture of my winter housemate, Carolyn and her dog, Josie.


People ask me, “Are you going to get a dog?”

Some say, “You should get a dog.” 

To which I reply, “No way!” 

Though it is fun to play with them and love on them, the responsibility to feed and walk them every few hours does not fit my love of freedom to go and do.

Back to our camping trip in the Weerolls… an added incentive for us to go this time was that our friend Frankie was joining us.  Frankie was going to stay in Debra’s Weeroll with her.  They had formed their own safe COVID pod with each other, so the tight space wasn’t a problem in that way.

Anastasia State Park is a popular park.  We made our reservations 11 months in advance, before Debra had delivery of her Weeroll.  It is on the Atlantic Ocean and right outside the touristy town of St. Augustine, Florida.

I have to admit to you that during our time together I entered their COVID-safe pod.  On the day we were leaving Inverness, I hooked up my trailer and drove over to Debra’s.  We were going to caravan it.  Frankie walked toward me with open arms and I just decided then and there I was getting a hug and to hell with COVID precautions with these two friends!  Besides, they had both already had their two COVID vaccines.  I was the only one still unable to get an appointment.  I know it puts me at risk, but it has been a year and some times being so careful is tiring.  It makes me feel like an outcast among my friends or that I somehow don’t trust them.  Even after a year of distancing and masking it is awkward among close friends.

And before I go on with our trip I do have to interject here that I finally got a call from the Citrus County Health Department to set up an appointment for the vaccine.  I was excited!  We agreed on a time, then she asked me all these questions about my health and residency status..  She gave me instructions for the day of the shot, where to go, what to expect, etc.

Then to finish up she said, “Oh, I am sorry, that appointment time is no longer available.” 

Arg!!  “I will take any time that day,” I tell her.

“They are all gone,” she said.  There were no more appointments available.  How very frustrating for the both of us! 

I hope they fix that method of making appointments.  Before they started making appointments they were doing first-come first serve at a county park.  As you could imagine the line was long and the wait was sometimes five hours of sitting in your car waiting for your turn and then, they might run out before you got your turn.  Appointments are better.  Now they just need to lock in your time before they ask all those questions.

To those of you reading this in the distant future, we hit 500,000 deaths from COVID in the USA.  President Biden did a ceremony and ordered flags be flown at half-mast.

Let’s go back to our camping trip.  I led the caravan to St. Augustine staying off the interstate highways.  I missed turns twice and had to find a place to turn around.  That isn’t so easy when we were both towing trailers.   It was mostly a pretty drive once we got past the congested area of Ocala, Florida.

We stopped at Angels in Palatka for lunch.  I was thinking I could get breakfast, but it turns out they stop serving breakfast at 10:30 or 11:00.  So I got a fish sandwich that was fishy and onion rings that were so greasy we had indigestion afterward. 




I should note to you that before I left home I put an extra set of trailer keys in a hiding place and an extra car key in the trailer.  Just in case… you know how it can go sometimes.

In Anastasia we did not have spots next to each other.   The first evening we went to the beach right in the park.

 






On our the second day we spent the day in town doing the touristy stuff of trolley rides, walking though the old town, and dining at a restaurant.  We did the free tour with shots of mixes with gin, vodka, and rum.  It was yummy.  


Back at the park, Debra went to put her feet up and rest. Frankie and I went to the salt bay, the tide was out and the wading and diving birds were fishing.  There was a great blue heron that came within a few feet of us.  We could hear the scrape of its beak on its feathers as it groomed itself.


 


Frankie took the picture below.  It is amazing the difference between our two pictures!




The next morning I got a text from my friend Beth.  She had heard I didn’t have my vaccine yet.  She sounded like she pleading with me to get one, as if I didn’t want one!  I called her right away and explained that I had been trying but was super frustrated.  She said, “Keep trying, don’t give up, we want to start getting together with you again!”

Right away I went up to the Winn Dixie grocery store chain’s website to see if they were offering vaccines yet.  (In that campsite I had cell service and could access the internet.) The website said they were not taking appointments because they didn’t have any vaccine doses available.  But there was also a button that said “Make an Appointment”.

I clicked that button, it gave me a time and date, I accepted, and I was in!  Just like that!  I didn’t trust it.  I would wait and see if it actually happened.  The vaccine was scheduled for 8:30, in St. Augustine on the 5th.  I was leaving on the 4th.

The ranger station at Anastasia helped me out by giving me a different site where I could stay an extra night.  The catch was that I had to move right away.  It was pouring rain. As you can imagine it was a sandy, muddy, messy move, but I did it!

The new site was very pretty.  However it had two low-hanging oak tree limbs I had to fit between and a greater than 90 degree angle I had to back into off a narrow road.  It took me many many tries, I had to pull out and go around the campground each time the traffic backed up because I was blocking the road.




Debra and Frankie left and I had a day by myself.  It was strange.  I missed sharing the experiences with someone.  I texted pictures to them.  

I rode around a bit, and drove around a bit.  I saw some great stuff.  I saw some places that George and I had visited when we had biked up to St. Augustine from Inverness in 2015. I think it was 2015.  I knew he had dementia, but it wasn’t bad yet.

Oh!  And there was another Weeroll in the campground.  I never saw the person, but I mentioned it in the Weeroller Facebook group and the person responded!  They left before we got to meet.

On my bike ride I meandered neighborhoods.  There was a sculpture garden, the other side of the pier we could see from the Anastasia beach, and a memorial for the 1960's wade-in they had to try to integrate the beaches.








On my bike ride I pulled into a nursery and bought some purple flowering plants to decorate the front of Lilac.




Thanks to my neighbor, Scott, that put some new pedals with a heel strap on my trike.  I no longer am tied into wearing my bike shoes with clips.  Now I can wear whatever shoe or boot I want, without the worry that my foot will fall off and I will run into my leg with my trike.


It happened!

I got my vaccine!   The first, I got the Maderna which requires two shots.

I packed up and hitched up my trailer and drove to the Winn Dixie, arriving a whole hour early.  The night before I had driven to the Winn Dixie to make sure I knew where it was.  

While I waited I walked across to Fort Mose Historic Park.  

I learned something!

 

St. Augustine was held by the Spanish at the time and there was a mission to help the native American's there who were struggling.  Then the mission became a place to shelter escaped slaves from the Georgia and the Carolinas.

 
I asked while getting the shot if I could arrange to get my second dose closer to home.  The answer was a firm no.  So April 2nd I will return to the St. Augustine area for another shot in the arm.

On the same day, March 5th,   I drove to my next camping spot, at Hart Springs.  The area hiking trails and springs are flooded due to melting snow from Georgia.  We are near the Suwannee River which is at about 20 feet higher than normal.




I scheduled for the bike group to ride on Monday, when the weather turns Sunny.

At Hart Springs I met up with a women from the Facebook Group, RV Women in Florida.  Lynnelle is from St. Pete and brought her friend Jeanie with her and their two dogs.  We had a nice happy hour last night.

 

Caregiver Programs

Last time I wrote I had been interviewed by Linda Burhans on her radio program Connecting Caregivers Radio.  She sent me a link to the program on Youtube.

 Then Marianne Suicco a fellow AlzAuthors had interviewed me for her podcast a while back.  The program is airing on March 15th.  Here is the run-down of this season's programs.  Mark your calendar if you want to hear our discussion, as it won't be posted until March 15, 2021.

And then the 7th Annual Caregivers Conference where I discussed journaling with two other authors is only available on Facebook.  So if you aren't on Facebook you can't see it.  Journal Writing 101.  For all the different sessions you can go to this link and scroll down, as each morning or afternoon session presenters are listed and then a link to their presentation.

Now it is time for me to go to that library in Chiefland and see I if I can upload this before the library closes.

Rainy day all day today.  Besides posting this blog I am sending out a little update to the Withlacoochee Bicycle Riders.  Some of them are coming up to Chiefland to ride the Nature Coast Trail on Monday!

Oh, and I just checked the sales on Amazon for the books and people are buying the second book this week.  Thank you!  


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