Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Pensacola and Tammany

 Hello,

 

As I write this I am sitting in my Weeroll facing the open back doors. I am looking into the woods.  In my big screened window I see the woods has quite the variety of trees, not like the pine forests in Ochlockonee River State Park.  Among the trees within 50 feet of my chair I see:  Tall Long Leaf Pine; Oak, Magnolia, and what I think is a Maple.  The dirt is dark and damp, the lower vegetation is sparse, indicating a population of deer.  

 The fan is sending a nice steady stream of air on the back of my head and shoulders.  The heat has been high and the humidity thick at times.  I am looking forward to heading north a bit, starting tomorrow. 

The evening before I left Ochlockonee State Park I got a knock at my door.  It was my campground neighbor from across the way.  Susan just wanted to let me know she enjoyed meeting me and wanted to keep in touch!  How nice is that!  

She shared that her husband was 10 years older than her and that they often talk about what they will do if one of them passes away.  She was encouraged and inspired by meeting me.  I told her that single women over 62 is a huge cohort.  I heard a woman on the radio who converts vans for people saythat 97% of her customers are divorced and widowed women over 62.   Susan and I exchanged info.  

I texted Susan when I reached my next location to let her know I arrived safely and what the campground was like.

Big Lagoon State Park

The drive over to Big Lagoon I tried driving on the Interstate a while, but the higher speed had the van's engine working pretty hard.  It added stress, I kept to the back roads.  And began to wonder how to lighten the load.  I am thinking there are two things that are heavy that I could remove are the inflatable kayak and one of the middle seats in the van. 

Big Lagoon is just West of Pensacola.  It is in an area that was struck by Hurricane Sally last year.  I remember hearing about my friend, Camille, having to sop up water as it came in around the doors.

I emailed and called a Camille once I got to Big Lagoon.  We arranged to meet for lunch at Carmen's Cafe in downtown Pensacola one day.

Big Lagoon had not fully recovered from the storm.  Some trails were closed, the beach was closed.  The camping spots and restrooms were top-notch though. And the boat ramp is open.  A lot of birds and rodents are back.  I saw a rat and an armadillo in my camp site.







 



I tried my inflatable paddle board in the big lagoon.  I was afraid of the tidal currents and for good reason.  I took the time to take pictures of the board as I assembled and inflated it because I was beginning to think I had made a pricey mistake by buying it.   I thought if this outing didn't work, I would sell it.







The tide was coming in, so that was good, I thought.  I would work hard against the current and it would take me back in.  There was also a steady wind blowing in from the Gulf.  I paddled hard and made it... maybe 500 feet?  I was trying to keep close to shore but the wind kept pushing me into the vegetation there.  A kayak sits down in the water a bit, this paddle-board sits on top of the water and is easily pushed around by the wind.  I gave up quickly, went back to the landing and sat defeated.  


I could admit I made a stupid, expensive mistake (yet again) and move on, or I can keep trying to make this board work for me.  I decided the weight of it in my van was also a weight on my mind.  I can sell it and free myself, or keep towing it around, blowing it up and assembling it, trying again and again.  My neighbor, Mari, told me that when I started biking it wasn't comfortable, but I kept going out (There was an ice cream shop up the road for motivation...).  This is the same, she told me.  You gotta keep trying, you will gain strength and resilience and love it.  Give it time.

About the time I had settled on selling it, wouldn't you know I get a call from Liz Lee.  She and I went out once this winter on a smaller lake and canal when the wind wasn't blowing.  We had a good time.  She urged me to give it time.  Don't get rid of it.  "We will go out more when you get back, I promise," she tells me.

Well I put the pictures up and tried to sell it while I was in Pensacola, it didn't sell.  So I still have it and now I am thinking, smaller lakes without wind... 

I had a wonderful time the day I met Camille in Pensacola.  I thought parking would be at a premium downtown so I parked a few blocks away and rode my trike.  I was able to explore before and after we met.

There were whole clusters of new or refurbished homes that were deep and narrow with big front porches and small front yards (designed to improve a sense of community).  Camille told me that Pensacola has a philanthropist that provides grants for city improvement projects.  He has traveled the country living in places and helping to revitalize them.

I thought of a few questions after we departed.  I also through I should have had the waitress take a picture of us together!!!  Dang.  I took a picture of the place we ate from across the street.  It was wonderful seeing her.  George and I stayed with her in her condo a couple nights on our trike trip from Illinois in 2014.  




I thought about Debra as I rode the neighborhoods.  She loves meandering neighborhoods with me.  I went by big mansions and small homes with barred up windows.  I went through neighborhoods with lovely front yards planted completely in flowers.  Historic homes and new homes, brick homes and brightly painted homes.



 
I stopped at the library and donated Alzheimer's Trippin' with George and thought I should have given copies to Camille for her church!  She said her church is mostly old folks and they might have found the reads helpful.  They probably have a church library.  

I got my trike back in the van just as it the first sprinkles hit of a heavy rain.  I drove to Perdido Beach which Camille recommended.



Well that is enough for now, I gotta go for a walk and explore Fontainebleau.


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Smiling in the Moon Light

Hey there!

It is my last day on the Ochlockonee River.  I discovered after my last post that I missed one of those "o"s.

The Brown Bird

Yesterday while doing yoga in the grass I saw the Brown Thrasher bird that is  by my campsite feeding a chick next to the saw meadow palms.  The little chick would run back into the cover of the palms on occasion.  No wonder the adult zoomed at me the other day when I played the Brown Thrasher call I found on the internet.  

It is interesting how when I learn a new bird species name it often becomes my new favorite bird.  This one has a lovely repertoire of  melodies like the mocking bird, which was/is a favorite too.  

The White Squirrel

There are white squirrels in this campground too.  Unlike the white squirrels in Wisconsin, these have a dusty streak of black down the back of their head and shoulders.  Like they crawled under a dirty car.

The other day I was looking up at one and of course looking up you see things... I noticed that this one has one huge testicle.  I got my binoculars out to stare because I thought maybe it was a momma with a pink baby squirrel clinging to a nipple.  I am the crazy lady, staring at the underside of a squirrel with her binoculars.  I wondered if it might be a special feature of these white squirrels, but I have been looking at others... It appears to be just that one.

Though they are always moving so it is hard to tell.

St Marks to Tallahassee

After I wrote to you last I drove over to St. Marks and rode up to the trail head in Tallahassee.  Trail Links told me it was going to be about 40 miles round trip, but it was only about 32.  Lots of shade, some interesting houses to look at.  Was surprised by the call of a peacock in someone's yard.



 

I stopped at a park and found a Little Free Library.

I just happened to put a book in my bag in case I encountered just such an opportunity.



As I rode I noticed a pinching in my lower spine.  I have been having a hard time tightening the web seat enough for good support.  I even took the seat off and added tight velcro straps creating a webbing like on a lawn chair.  It still sags.   I stuffed my jacket behind me and it helped.  I need to get a bike shop to fix that somehow.
About every four miles there is a nice pit-toilet on the trail.  We need more of these on the Withlacoochee Trail.

So even when we run into a closed one, we know there is relief, just down the trail a bit.


There was a modest home with a huge branching oak tree reaching across the whole generous yard.


In St. Marks I saw a couple on ice trikes.  "Hey, didn't I just see you unloading your trikes at the Tallahassee trail head?" I ask.

I was able to chat with them... well with her.  He was pretty quiet and distant.

They were from Georgia and come down to do the trail regularly.  They have had their trikes for two years.

When we introduced ourselves she shook my hand.  This is an action we haven't been doing since COVID struck big.  I turned my head away and said, "I have been doubly vaccinated."  She said she isn't getting the vaccine.  

She said her daughter got it and after 10 days started getting migraines.  I told her that is important information to add to the CDC data base.  I told her that when I got the vaccine I got a paper with information to sign up for the CDC to track my symptoms.  I get a text asking me if I am experiencing any symptoms.  It takes less than 20 seconds to check in and it really will help them assess the side affects.  It is an important part of their ability to gauge whether the risk is worth it.  She said she would tell her daughter.  

She has seven children.  I said, "Wow, you are a strong woman!" and at the same time I noticed that is what her t-shirt said, I am strong!

She pointed out that she had the same shaped glasses as I do now.  I recently got new frames from Zenniopitical.com because my not-so-old ones got run over on the Withlacoochee Trail.

I was riding in the rain and so I took them off and hooked them over the neckline of my shirt.  Later I heard a rubbing on my back tire.  I went to check it out.  I bent over to get a closer look and  I think that is when they must have fallen to the ground.

I posted my loss on Facebook and someone found them and returned them to me.  But they were scratched pretty bad.  So now I have newer ones. It is fun to have a new look.

Mask-less Land

Though I have had both my vaccines I still wear my mask when in stores and restaurants or in close proximity to other non-vaccinated people.  

All the park staff and volunteers wear masks, even when driving around in their golf carts.

I wanted lunch in St. Marks.  I first went to a place that had a bunch of motorcycles out front and some of the riders outside.  Some looking not to friendly at me, some a little wasted.  As I walked through them, with my mask on, they stared... I wasn't one of them, I guess.  

Inside all the patrons and the waitstaff were mask-less.  And again I was the object of all eyes.  I looked at the menu and there was nothing for me, so I left and went across the street.  There was more space and a few masks and not as much staring.   Still, there was a sign warning the wait time was an hour or more to get your food.

Dining in St. Marks isn't that important.  I drove down the road and picked up a subway sandwich.

Dancing in the Moon Light

Back at camp I was looking at my messages on Facebook.  There was a comment from Connie telling me to sing in the rain and dance with the moon, or something like that.  

I told her I had sang and danced in the rain but never with the moon.  What music would I play?

I took my phone outside with me and it turned out there was a full moon.

Heather commented with the lyrics to a song that was perfect:  Dancing in the Moonlight

I took my phone to the trail by the river.  Turned the song on and danced.  Giggling.  I only saw one other person far off.  





 Connie said, "Give me a minute."

Then she posted a picture of her and Jerry dancing to the same moon.  And Heather sent a picture of the moon from her house. Thanks for the smiles!

Special Moments

Last time I told you about the wonderful send off dinner that Connie hosted.  

There was another send off that makes me feel so blessed and valued.

Beth contacted me the weekend before I left home and said she wanted to have a ladies dinner before I go and I should name some of the people I would like her to invite.  I had to keep the number down to six of us.  So I thought of those I don't get to see very often.

Right away I remembered that I had just briefly met her friend Marti that she has talked about and I have seen on Facebook.  I wanted to get to know her better.  Then there were a couple gals I see on the trail that I just keep wanting to get together with but it never happened often enough.

Beth did all the work, got it all together, we each brought a dish to share.  We had a wonderful time.  Thank you Beth!  

WOW!  Why do I want to travel when I have such treasure at home?

A big part of it is that I want to see my sister and my family and friends in Wisconsin.

I am listening to a book that is appropriate for traveling, Do Not Go Gentle, Go to Paris.  In the book she talks about perfect moments.  She describes one for example, over looking a lovely green quiet country valley with grazing sheep and then the church bell rings, gong gong gong... a perfect moment.

The first couple days I was here I was feeling a desperate need to discover, to see, to explore.  I didn't want to leave here and then have someone say, "Did you do this?"  "Did you see that?" And me feeling like I missed out and I would need to return here again.

I was also hunting down that perfect moment or the delight of learning or seeing something new.

Then I started feeling discontent.  The hunger unsatisfied, I was feeling unfulfilled.  What was I seeking and why?  Why wasn't I using my energy and talents for something?... for human kind?  Is there something wrong with me that I can't just be but I have to be contributing somehow?

The next morning I decided instead of going out I would work a bit on the next book first.  A few hours of work, I felt valuable again.  

When I was getting ready for a bike ride I heard my neighbors chatting.  I have met the neighbors across from me, Susan and Robert are from Ludington, Michigan.  They like to come down for a few weeks each spring.  They don't sit with me around the fire, but we stand and chat.

The ranger came by and we chatted with him probably 15 minutes!  His name is Bruce.  He wanted to know if we saw the white deer.  I had, Susan and Robert and Bruce had not.  Bruce said the range of the white deer is quite small and all within a part of this state park.

We chatted and joked for a while.  

I was able to go for a bike ride without guilt... but first I drove 19 minutes to get ice cream in Carrabelle.  I remember riding through this town when George and I rode our trikes from Illinois to Florida.  We spent a couple nights in Apalachicola. 

I love these names, Sopchoppy, Apalachicola, the loblolly pine tree.

The ice cream shop was closed when I arrived.  No fear, there was a Winn Dixie down the road a bit.

I stopped at the library first and donated a copy of Alzheimer's Trippin' with George

I was the only one in Winn Dixie with a mask.  I took my ice cream to a water front park.





I then drove down to Bald Point State Park and rode around about six miles. Finishing as the sun was setting.




Tomorrow I leave here and head further west.


Sunday, April 25, 2021

Journey Begins Fully Vaccinated

 Greetings from Ochlockonee River State Park!  

I am SW of Tallahassee, FL by the St Marks Wildlife Refuge (which is huge!).


 Today I am going to go ride the St Marks Rail Trail, so I hope to make this short.

News

Maria, the woman that was going to be traveling with me had to cancel for health reasons.  She is bummed, I am bummed.

The first part of my trip she was going to be traveling in her RV right along with me.  I definitely miss her presence already.  I planned my route keeping her in mind.  

The good news is I have had my second vaccine shot for COVID19!  Some of the fear has faded.  I am hugging friends that also have had the vaccine.  I have dined inside restaurants with them.   

I didn't have to go to all the way to St. Augustine for the second vaccine.  I was able to get it at  Winn Dixie closer to home.  My symptoms were mild to non-existent.

Traveling Solo

Ok, I traveled alone last year, but I had arranged to meet up with folks all along the way.  This time I didn't do that as much because Maria was going to be with me.  Now I am kind of worried that I will get lonely or not enjoy the experiences as much because they are not shared with anyone... in the moment.

I will still be sharing some of it with you.  But if I shared it all with you I would be spending hours each day on my computer instead of out in nature and exploring.  

Just know that I am a bit afraid of so much alone time.  Isn't that strange?  I live alone but I usually see at least one friend every day.  My life is full of companionship and mutual admiration.  Though COVID has reduced the physical hugs I still get affirmation that I exist and that my existence matters to someone.
 

Send Offs

Several of my friends made a point of getting together with me.  I am so blessed!  They made sure I felt their love.  What a wonderful thing.  Now I will definitely not try to drive into a tree.   Ha ha.
 
Connie invited me to a meal in her home.  She asked if I liked lima beans.  I grew up not liking lima beans, and my tastes have changed, I wasn't about to turn down a dinner invitation, "Yes, I love them," I lied to her (Sorry Connie).  
 
She was inviting my good friends Debra and Glen and Charlotte too. My first post-covid dinner party in someone's home!
 
She made a special vegetarian pot of beans for me!  Man o man were they good.  I took some leftovers home and besides eating them at home I had some for my first meal camping.
 

 
On my last night, one of my yoga buddies had me over for happy hour and surprised me by inviting other neighbor/friends and presented me with a gift!  It is a pretty black fan with purple sparkles!  I want to  mount it on the wall of LILAC (my trailer).  
 
I like the picture she took, I look slim in it.

Debra messaged me on my last day.  It was a Thursday and I wanted to ride.  She offered to meet me at Pudgie's where I could enjoy my last Vegetarian "Slap Your Mama Burger" of the season.  Man, those things are good!  And I got one last hug from Debra and Glen.  A great send off.  I finished my ride home ready to pack pack pack!

I had to wait to clean and put the house to rest for the morning of departure because I was watching my friends 14 year old lab that was shedding.  That turned out to be a good thing because I took the dog home on the morning of departure and then I went to yoga and exercise one last time at the Club House.  
 
I left by 11 a.m. and I had less than 300 miles to travel.  All my travel days are around 300 miles.  I am following the advice of others who travel this way.  They advise, 300 miles or 3:00, and stay three nights to you have a chance to explore the area.
 

Ochlockonee

Yesterday I rode my trike on a trail that is about 10 miles long.  It was a windy day and there was the threat of rain... that never happened.
 
Driving out of the park to the trail I saw a white deer with brown spots!  Maybe that is the piebald deer that someone mentioned to me on Facebook.
 
 
I took a picture by the trail sign and thought this would be my tradition on this trip.  My trike by the different trails I ride.

The trail runs along a very lightly traveled road to the coast.  There I saw wind surfers taking advantage of the blustery day.


At a bridge I saw a cell phone.  It was locked but someone had texted and when I pushed on the text I read, "Will you be home for dinner?" and I was able to click on that and make a call.  The owner answered, he had been fishing on the bridge and was wondering where his phone was.  He told me to leave it there and he would come get it.



I passed a group of homes all painted white and blue.  I took a picture of the sign to remind myself to look it up on Google.  I have yet to do it. 


After packing up my trike I went to a park across the street where some women were working the gardens there.  One of them was thrilled to show me what they had planted.  They were volunteers with the native plant society.  They had a carnivore area, plants that eat insects.  It was lovely AND I got to chat with someone. 

From my picnic table I observed a pretty brown bird.  I looked him up on my phone.  It is a Brown Thrasher from the Mockingbird family.  I played his song to him and learned not to do that as he quickly zoomed toward me in attack mode.


This is the first campground I have stayed at where the dump station is over 1/2 a mile away.  I have to carry my waste in the car!  I hope it doesn't leak.  I took this picture after dumping and rinsing.  I don't set it on edge before that.



Last evening my camping neighbor came over to chat.  They are from Michigan and she rides bike.  I invited them to bring chairs over, but they were about to eat.  "We have a few days yet," they said.
 
Well, it is a beautiful day and I have 42 miles to ride if I do the whole St. Marks trail.  We'll see what the day brings.  

Thanks for checking in on me and being my virtual travel buddies.


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