Sunday, March 6, 2022

Sold! Now What?

I sold my townhouse!  I will tell you about that in bit, but first some realizations and excuses for not writing to you sooner.

It Feels Like Going 90 Miles An Hour

My son contacted me with an "I love you" text and an "Are you OK?" text because I had not written a blog post in a while.  How wonderful is that?!  I called him and we caught up with some of our news.  Feeling loved, I realized I had not talked with him since Christmas time!  Life moves fast.

Winters are always bustling in Florida.  It is the peak of the Snowbird and visitor season, January - March.  People come that I only get to see during this time, and so I am active with dinners and rides and gatherings.





Friends from my years in Waukesha, WI sometimes contact me when they are in Florida.  I jump at the chance to connect with them and share some of the beauty of this part of the country.  I drove to Tarpon Springs to visit Kathi Seiger from Waukesha.  Another day I met up with Diane and Rick Frowein that were vacationing in Kissimmee, FL.  It was my first time in Kissimmee, and though I didn't like the higher population and traffic in that area, I really enjoyed our visit and kayak ride through a natural area.  I vowed to return to the area someday to camp and do some birding, hiking and biking on the trails in the nature preserves east of Orlando.  


Then there is all the Snowbirds!  There are opportunities to dance, go birding, connect over a cocktail.  

And I am still working a few hours a week.  No wonder I haven't had much time for making my reservations and planning my trip for this coming summer.


Signs From Heaven/the Universe/George

So, I decided to sell my townhome and move (hopefully) into a villa in Windermere.  I had gotten a price from a realtor in November, I decided to try to sell it on my own first, since the market is hot.

I listed it on Zillow and MLS for the price I was given in November.   So many friends told me I had not priced it high enough.  

I got lots of calls from realtors and investors, but the first call I got from a potential buyer was interesting... their last name was GEORGE!  I thought that was a good sign.  They were downsizing.  They wanted to see the place.  

At the time, the people renting my house had contracted a light case of COVID and were isolating.  So, I waited until they were feeling better before asking for a date to show off the place to potential buyers.  I decided as long as I was showing the place to the George's, I would keep it open for a couple ours and promote it as an open house.

The second call I got was from a guy in New York with a verbal offer to buy (unseen) for the asking price.  I told him I was going to wait till after the open house to give him an answer.

The third call I got was from a couple from Waukesha, WI!!  They had been visiting a relative in Windermere and fell in love with the place and wanted to live here.  Wow!  They gave me a verbal offer above the asking price.  I told them also that I would wait until after the open house to give an answer.

I asked for their offer in writing, which they delivered.

Open house day I got to meet the George couple.  Nice, they liked it.  I told them I had other cash offers on the table, they also made a cash offer.  I went back to all the buyers and asked them if the offer they cage me was their best offer because I had three bids on the table.  (I did this upon listening to the advice of a friend who is a realtor, thanks Friend!)

The couple from Waukesha won the bid.  And it turns out that he and I were in Toastmasters (a professional leadership organization) together 30 years ago in Waukesha.   Wow, so many signs to tell me I am making the right move.  And it is a good thing, too.  Because I am a bit scared to be house-less.

We set closing for two weeks after the tenants move out, April 15, 2022.  That way I have time to sort through stuff, and haul stuff into storage or charity and give the buyers a chance to claim some things.  I already promised I would leave them the antique bed.


On one of the birding walks I got to meet-up again with one of Cindy's friends, Connie.  She has been living full-time in her van.  I asked her about residency and being able to vote while living that way.  She gave me information about Green Cove Springs.  It is a town in Florida near Jacksonville that has a mail-service business.  The mail service house has all the instructions and help for establishing an address to not only receive mail, but be able to use the address for voting and ID.   If you are interested, it is St. Brendan's Isle.

In the meantime, I have friends in Windermere keeping their eyes and ears open for the next villa that might be coming up for sale.  And I have been too busy to make all the reservations needed for all the places that Lilac and I plan to stay in the coming year.

Starting the Travel Plans

I like to launch my trip up north with a social event.  A couple of times I went to a Sisters on the Fly camping event to launch my journey north.  This year I am joining a bicycle and kayak event near Live Oak, FL.  The Suwannee Bicycle Association is hosting a Pedal and Paddle for four days.  I start camping there on April 27th.  

Then I will zig zag north.  I want to do a couple of the trails I didn't get to last fall.  I think the Pine Creek Trail in Pennsylvania and the Virginia Creeper in Virginia and maybe something in western New York, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and into Wisconsin.  If you would like to meet up along the way, let me know.  It always makes the solo times more enjoyable when I know that I am connecting with friends in a few days.  Let's ride, hike, kayak, bird, dine or happy-hour together.

This Page of History -- In the News

Don't read on, if the news of the day is stressing you out.  I am just trying to give some perspective for those of you in the future reading this entry.  

Yes, we are experiencing a real-estate bubble or recovery, we don't know yet.  The number of cases of COVID is trending down.  The CDC has eased some of its recommendations, saying that the precautions should be localized to the areas according to the number of cases they are experiencing.   I and friends have found ourselves once again sitting inside restaurants... feeling a little uncomfortable... a little scared... but celebrating and hoping that our vaccines will protect us and those around us at the same time.

A convoy of truckers that are against any COVID restrictions (most of them are gone now) are entering DC to protest.  And all that seems silly now because... about 12 days ago Russia attacked Ukraine.  Images of the destruction of modern cities and neighborhoods are coming through to us via the news and social media.  The whole world, the web, the cell phone systems, our monetary systems could be at risk of attack.

We citizens of the world do not know yet if this is the beginning of World War III.  So far, the NATO nations have been inflicting financial pain on Russia and sending weapons to the Ukraine.  You know better than I do, what happens next.




Friday, February 11, 2022

Mind Changes Yet Again

 It is 40 degrees out this morning.  Too cold for this Florida gal to ride into town to attend my neighborhood fitness and yoga class.  I miss it.

But I also need to stay away because I was with friends on Saturday, February 5th, and they came down with cold symptoms a day or two later.  They ended up testing positive for COVID19.   

Yesterday I donned my N95 mask and went to Walgreens and bought myself a COVID test kit and stocked up on comfort food thinking I might be isolated for a while.  Though the government is giving out COVID tests, I have yet to order mine.  So I paid over $20 for a test packet.

When my siblings and I were young and had a day home from school sick with chicken pox or some fever, we would often get to drink 7-up and get treated with M&M's.  I still turn to food for comfort when I am not feeling well (unless it is stomach upset).  Yesterday I anticipated not feeling well.  

This time, though, after reading the label on the ice cream and the 7-up, I returned them to the shelf and opted for almonds dusted in chocolate and peanut butter sweetened with a little bit of maple syrup... and Cheetos cheese puffs.  Ha ha.

Back at camp I took the test.  A clear negative.  The instructions tell me to take the test again in 24 to 36 hours.  In the meantime I am being more diligent about my mask and distancing.  But the gym is calling to me!  I do have some N95 masks which are what is used by healthcare workers when treating COVID19 patients.  

Some of you will be horrified that I would go out at all, others of you will say I am being more cautious than you would be in the same situation. 

The good news in all this is that my friends were vaccinated and boosted, reducing their symptoms.  And they probably got the Omnicron variant which is sweeping the Nation (world?).  This varient is milder but so much more contagious than the previous variants of the virus.

Besides feeling lousy for a couple days, they will be fine.  And I am grateful for that.  I don't want to lose them or have them living with long-COVID symptoms.

The Housing Experiment

This experiment of living in Lilac is teaching me some things.  It has been a huge success.

One thing I learned is that I love living in Windermere.  I love our clubhouse exercise classes. I love being able to walk out the door onto quiet streets and walk for miles. I love the people I run-into on the streets and the friends that live there.  I love being able to walk down to the bridge between two lakes and watch the sun rise and the sun set.  I love being able to plant things in the dirt... my own plot of land.


What I don't like is too much space.  I don't like too much stuff to store, maintain, etc.  I don't like the expensive insurance, and the worry during hurricane season.  I hate it when something goes wrong with the house and I don't know who to call to come fix it.  I was thinking those items would be knocked out of my life by living on wheels.  

 

But I now realize that would be traded for the constant need to plan where I will park, the costs of parking.  The RV life used to be that you drive until your are tired and then look for a place to camp, or you make a reservation two or three days before you arrive somewhere.  But now you need to plan months in advance.  As I look to make reservations in state parks for May, some of the parks are already fully booked.  Some places in Florida they are booked 11 months in advance, as soon as they open up for reservations.

I didn't want to sell my big house and move to a smaller villa in Windermere because the price difference isn't much and probably won't cover the costs associated with moving and the agony of downsizing.  But when I think of living the next 10-15 years in a place, a smaller home feels right.  I realize now it isn't all about the money.

Another factor I was stressing over was that my current home has a discount on property taxes because it is homesteaded.  I was afraid I would lose the discount and have to start over at the prices of houses now... and that is the case a bit.  But I do get to keep a portion of the homestead exemption if I buy into a Villa within three years.

This week I put my house on the market on Zillow.  It will probably sell fast.  

I started spreading the word I am looking for a villa which is only one story and has two bedrooms vs four bedrooms and two stories.  But first I should sell my home and maybe float for a while in between homes.  That will give me that experience.  I like that idea.

Book Progress or Not

I think, ok, all this time in my little Weeroll, I will get back to working on Book III.  But it hasn't happened yet.  I feel the stirrings, but mostly they are ignored.  

But the motivation is building each time I hear from someone that they enjoyed or are enjoying one of my books.

Linda is a woman in Oasis RV where I am parked.  When she inquired about my books, I gifted her the first book, Alzheimer's Trippin' with George.  

There are several residents that gather in a circle in her front yard each afternoon.  When I joined them one day Linda told me she had finished the book.  

"You were probably as glad it was over as we were to get home after that long trip," I said.

"No!" She exclaimed, "I want to know what happened next!"

Wow, that made my heart sing.  I told her she could learn all about it in the second book, The Journey Continues, Alzheimer's Trippin' with George.


Then I thought of the people like her that have read the second book and still want to know what happened next.  The next book...  a work in progress, a life in progress.  

Linda passed on her book to Carol.  Carol told me yesterday that she is enjoying the book and has had a few good laughs.  My ego is boosted.

The city of Inverness arranges free music in the park on Wednesdays.  I was there with some friends and saw some neighbors.  One neighbor told me they had gifted my book to a friend who was in the same position I was, caring for a spouse with dementia.  She told me that the woman has told her the book is helping her a lot in dealing with situations.  

Oh wow, to help caregivers and family members understand, be more patient, find strength; to hear that the books are doing that, well gosh, it is amazing.   Thanks for telling me that.

The notes for book III are under my bed, starting to call to me again.  We'll see.

For now, though, the temperature is above 50 degrees, the sun is shining, and my trike is out and ready to ride.  



Saturday, January 22, 2022

Thank You For Caring, I Am Cozy

 Life is full.

I am getting back into biking with friends, sometimes 30-40 miles.  Between that and preparing meals and taking care of "stuff".  A bike day is all used up.

I have set up my kitchen table/sink out in the screen tent.  It's a great place to chop veggies and dine.  I get my exercise going in and out of the trailer a dozen times getting things, putting things back.  


 

The neighbors at the RV park were having Happy Hour out in their front yard one day watching me and marveling on my ability to go up and down so many times as I had to go in and out of Lilac.  

That particular evening I was more busy because I was getting ready to have some friends from Windermere (my house neighborhood) over for snacks and Pizza.   Setting out chairs and tables and dishes. 


 

Another thing that fills my life and time is my part-time job.

I am working part-time helping out my friend, Jean. Sometimes there is no work, and then there is stuff that keeps me busy for a few days.  I like it!  It is perfect for me.  And Jean is soooo appreciative.  Yesterday she wrote me a bonus check as a big thank you.  Thank YOU, Jean!

I keep thinking, I want to write to you.  I want to keep in touch!

But the weather has been soooo lovely here.  It can be 45 degrees in the morning and 70's in the afternoon.

There is always something fun calling to me.  Who wants to sit inside when I have the freedom to be outside? 

So when a cold spell came swooping down from the north this weekend, I was grateful for it.  Now I may have some inside time for writing to you.  


I am COZY!

So many good people have offered a room in their home if I get too cold in my little trailer.  

"I am serious, Sue, you are welcome to come sleep in our guest room.  I won't even fuss and try to feed you.  You can just come and go as you please," insists my friend Margaret each time I see her.  She is so awesome! I love her.

Today I got an email from Lois wondering if I was keeping warm.  Tomorrow night it will dip down to 29 degrees.


 

Here is the scoop for all of you who are wondering and worried.

I have two little space heaters.  I had only one until a few days ago.  I keep one in arms reach of my bed, so in the morning before I get up I can reach over and turn it up to take some chill out of the air before I get up and get dressed.


 I also was concerned about the moisture that gathers on the windows on cold nights.  So I bought a mini-dehumidifier.  It was only $35 and it isn't 100% but keeps my bedding from feeling wet and less moisture collects on the windows and frames by the doors where there is no place to put insulation.


 

I have two space heaters now because the other day I reached over to turn up the heater and it quit on me!  It wouldn't start up again.  I was grateful that happened on a 45 degree morning and not a 20 degree morning.  I quickly got dressed and ran to Lowes to get a new one.  When I got back to Lilac I tried the old heater again and it started right up.  Now when I return from being out and it is really cold I get both heaters going and in no time I am peeling off jackets and scarves.

I like spending so much time outside.  When the sun goes down, if I am not in front of the computer screen, my energy goes down too.  I sleep better, and that is a very good thing.

Frankie and Dennis are happy to be renting my house.  I have visited them a couple times.  It was interesting how the second time I felt less attached to the stuff I left there.  "It would be easier to let it go now," I thought.  

Frankie says she feels guilty that I am in the little trailer while they are enjoying the house.  "This is an experiment I wanted to do," I tell her.  "I am happy to have people I know and trust renting it."

Sometimes I step out to use my screen room kitchen to brush my teeth or wash some dishes after dark.  Sometimes I walk to the showers after the sun has set.  It feels so nice to be out under the stars.  Recently I got to enjoy the full moon!  Something I rarely did when I was closed up in the big house.

 

Since I am parked here for three months I covered the wheel facing the sun.  Pretty, hey?


Plans for 2022

Cindy just contacted me today.  It is time to make plans for next Christmas.  In Florida the good camping places fill up as soon as they are available to rent.  That is 11 months before your camping date.  So today I made my reservations for next Christmas!  


 Might as well go camping, I expect that COVID will still be an issue that will keep me and my friends for having a big holiday party.  Life sure is changing, isn't it?

Speaking of plans for 2022, did I tell you I have a "Camp Host" volunteer position for a month this summer?  Yes, it is at a Wisconsin State Forest Campground near Boulder Junction and Minocqua, Wisconsin.  I will be 45 minutes from my sister, and right on a paved trail for the whole month of July.  

The thing about the gig is it doesn't have electric power.  So I will be researching portable power stations and maybe a solar array. I was already wanting to try camping without shore-power.  This will force me to take that step. My friends Keith M. and Bill D. have sent me links to videos of people reviewing the different ones available.  So much to learn!  And oh oh, another big decision... do I get enough power to run my microwave? Coffee pot?  What about the fridge?  I think I will use my fridge like an ice-box and just keep things cool in it and buy bags of ice.  

I just looked at how much power the little heater takes.  Oh my, I hope it isn't cold in July or I would need 1500 watts!

 

Blessed with Fun and Friends

Here are some pictures from some of the fun with friends I have had since I have been in Florida.

 

 

I keep training and recently I jumped this high 10 times.  And I am still going back to the hood to attend exercise and yoga sessions that a few of us do in the clubhouse three days a week.

 


I danced downtown with friends, Sandee, Dave, and Marilynn.

 

Attended a fun Christmas Party at Michael and Susan's (Thanks again you guys!).  Pictured here are a couple of the better-dressed attendees, Bette and Paul.


I went birding with Diane, MaryAnn, and Cindy.  What fun!  Thank you!

I went to High Tea with Marilyn, Linda and Sheila.  I didn't expect to have so much fun playing dress-up.  What a blast.


 I attended a recumbent rally on the Withlacoochee Trail.  It is interesting how you really connect with people and then you don't see them again for several years.  

I went with Frankie and Dennis to the Drum Circle at Fort Island Beach.  There must have been 300 people there.  I danced and danced.

Ann and Fred and Jean and a small bunch of us biked to Front Porch for pie.  It was such a lovely day and we all stuck together for the ride.

I hope you are finding ways to enjoy life.  A good book, a cup of something warm or cold, a conversation.

Books

I have not been working on book three.  It will come... or not.  

The other day a new neighbor at this RV park asked how to get hold of my books.  "Amazon!" I said.  Then I found my last copy of the sunset cover in a box in my storage unit.  I left it on a chair in front of her trailer.

If it stays cold enough long enough, maybe I will get to working on that kind of writing and book promotion.  While I was at the storage unit I pulled out the edited papers my friendly-editors did up for me.   

We will see what comes.



Friday, December 24, 2021

Weebles Wobble - But Then...

 Do you remember that commercial for the children's toy.  They were little people figures with a rounded bottom instead of legs and feet.  The bottom was weighted so the person-figure would pop back upright if you pushed it over.

Well, sometimes people wobble.  I wobble a lot.  Not physically, (due to yoga practice, my balance is pretty good at 68), but decision-wise, I weeble and wobble all over the place.

But before I get into all that, I want to wish you all a wonderful holiday season.  Whether you are sad or happy, excited or in dread, may you find yourself surrounded by blessings and experience moments that bring smiles and awe.

Let's get you up to date on where I am today.

Last Christmas, due to COVID, I didn't have our traditional holiday pot-luck with friends.  And though I missed the fun gathering and seeing folks, I had a great time with my friends, Regis and Cindy.  We did a lot of birding and a little biking and kayaking over on the East coast of Florida near Titusville.  

So in January when reservations opened up at the Florida State Parks for December, Cindy and I agreed to snatch up a reservation over Christmas time at Oscar Sherer State Park.  The park is located near the Gulf Coast, but not on it.  The park is south of Tampa and north of Fort Meyer, FL.  The park is a conservation of forest and scrub land that is surrounded by urban growth.

Visiting here is a mixture of urban choices of restaurants, shops, and museums while enjoying also the hikes to see the eagles, owls, scrub jays and raccoons that make the area home.  And the Legacy Trail, a paved bicycle trail, goes right through the park! We can hop on it to just ride or to go places.


My one Merry Christmas decoration.


When I got here it was so warm, instead of having a campfire, I light a candle and had a solitary happy hour.

Just a couple miles down the road is where I can go strengthen and stretch and get a warm shower, though the showers here are clean and have warm water.

On my first day exploring the park I saw a man plugged in at a shelter.  Dave lives in the area and travels only by bike.  His bike is electric, he had music and was watching a program on his phone. 

I am enjoying my time here at Oscar Sherer.  I left town not sure if I was going to be happy with my choice that I made last January.

But then I got here and enjoyed a ride to a museum where I got to be blown away with awe inside a small butterfly house.  
 
Then as I was riding back into the campground someone yelled my name!  It was Linda O. who lives at my new "home" in Oasis RV Park in Inverness.  She rides a trike and I have ridden with her and enjoyed her company and now she has her home right next to mine in Oasis just by fate, not by plan it happened.  And now, here at Oscar Sherer, we hadn't a clue we were going to be here at the same time! 

We were both surprised and pleased with the encounter.   Since then we have ridden and explored together. 

Regis and Cindy have arrived and we have done some birding together.  We also went on the ride to the Key/barrier island where the rich folks live.
 



 
When we got to the beach we saw two dolphin only about 50 ft from us.  And we watched a man launch his kite-surf board that had some kind of thing sticking out the bottom that I thought was a rudder to help keep him upright, but when he picked up speed, he and the board he was standing on rose out of the water a few feet and he was surving on that little gizmo.  Fun.

Today we are going to Spanish Point.  That is where I went by myself the first day here and experienced the batch of fresh new butterflies.  I am returning with Regis, Cindy, and Linda and I will spend most my time in the butterfly house.
 




 

Oh!  And yesterday spontaneously, I decided to ride to the Celery Fields where there is supposed to be good birding.  Linda went with me as we rode the trail and zig zagged the streets and side walks to cover the 14 miles to the field.  Right away we saw about 30 yellow and green parrots... black hooded?  We enjoyed watching them.  We arrived back in camp just as the sun set and the temperature dropped.

Speaking of temp, I am glad it cooled off.  I bought a little $35 dehumidifier and it seems to be keeping the windows from steaming up too much and my bedding from getting damp.  Yay!

***

The weeble wooble...

I arrived back in Inverness in late October.  I had been living in my  six by twelve foot trailer (Lilac) for six months.  Then I moved into my 1900 square foot home with cathedral ceilings and two stories.  At the same time, the real estate market was going crazy.  Houses were on the market for one day.  Some had several offers in one day.  Some of the offers were over asking price. Another advantage to put my house on the market was that some are buying without even seeing the property, so the fact that my decorating had not been updated for 30 years wasn't going to be a problem. 

I decided (and I felt so sure of myself) that I would sell my home.  In my neighborhood there are smaller two-bedroom homes. I would sell my big house, wait a year or two, and buy a smaller place in the same neighborhood.  I like the location and my neighbors and the construction of the homes here.

Where would I live in the meantime?  Lilac!  Why not?  It was simple living, I had already enjoyed it for six months.  I already was committed to living in it for three months this winter because I was renting my house out.

I moved forward and got a quote from a realtor, then on the suggestion of neighbors I just started spreading the word before signing with the realtor.  I got an offer (low ball) right away.  I refused it,

 Then... I started to second guess my decision to sell.  Questions came up, obstacles presented themselves.  Then my decision wasn't as rock solid as before.

1) What about homesteading?  The property tax here is based on what you paid for your property and can't go up more than a certain percentage each year if you are homesteaded.  So if I sell and then buy a smaller place for more money than I originally paid for my big place in 2016, then my taxes will be more than I now pay.

2) The price difference between a small two bedroom and the larger four bedroom that I have isn't that much.  I was hoping to come out with 40,000 to 50,000 dollars by making the move.  That probably wasn't realistic.

3) A realtor in the area told a friend that the boom in the market isn't like the previous boom that depended on banks and loose mortgage rules.  These buyers are paying cash. So a bust might be a long time coming if at all. It certainly will not be a big bust, lowering the prices a lot.

4) Clearing out my house, making decisions about what to keep and what to give away, became over-whelming when I looked around.  I had already purged a lot and still there was so much.  How would I ever get through it all, a desk full of papers, a box full of photos, a shelf full of cleaning supplies, a cabinet full of tools.  Everywhere I turned there was more stuff.   

5) I would sometimes walk in and go, "ahhhh, I like this place".  Sometimes I would walk outside and have a fun conversation with a neighbor, or be invited to a spontaneous happy hour.  And I would think, "I really love living here."

I decided not to sell.

Weeble Wobble.

I told my friend Angie that used to sell real estate that I had changed my mind.  I lamented my indecision.  She said that as we age it is harder to make decisions.  She has experienced that a lot with her clients over her career.

I shared that information with another friend.  She is widowed like me and she said, "Oh, thank you for telling me that!  I am horrible at making decisions and sticking with them!  I thought it was just me."

Nope, it's me too.  

Then my car didn't start again.  I have had this periodic problem with my 2011 Chrysler Town and Country mini-van for well over a year.  I turn the key and it starts every time, until the one time when it doesn't.  It grunts.  It isn't the battery (replaced) it isn't the wiring (tightened) it isn't the starter (new one installed).  It isn't the battery in the fob either as I have replaced that twice.  

On top of that I had been dreaming of having a vehicle that could pull more pounds.  I got up the small eastern mountains just fine pulling Lilac, though at times my tachometer would jump and the engine would scream.  I had passed the 100,000 mile mark and noticed that some window gaskets were getting cracked and brittle.  I needed to upgrade.

Decision made, I was firm.  Friends supported the decision, "that's smart," they said.

Then more information came in.

1) Prices of cars and used cars are way up now due to the back log in shipping, shortage in people and parts due to plants having to shut down due to COVID or employees  being ill or they often having to stay home at the first sign of illness.

2) As I looked at car choices I began to settle on just getting another van like mine with the stow-n-go seats so I could haul my trike and screen tent and lots of stuff.  I would get one with a tow package so it would be more reliable towing more pounds.

3)I went to test drive a 2019 and the interior was cheaply made.  It made me love my current van more because it is luxury and quality compared to the newer models.

4) Car Max quoted my van, they would only give me $4000 - $5000 for it.  A newer model would cost me over $30,000.

I decided not to sell.  Cars run for over 200,000 miles these days, I thought, and I have this one ready to haul all my stuff when I travel.

Weeble Wobble.

When I mentioned wanting to keep my van and just fix it up to be better at towing, Keith May gave me a list of things to have the mechanic do.  And then he agreed that keeping this vehicle and just fixing it up would be a good idea.  

Now I have new tires, new hoses and belts, new heavy-duty shocks in back, and a transmission cooler on order.  I also learned I can order the window gaskets on line and my mechanic or a body shop will install them for me.

A lot of my friends and neighbors use this same auto mechanic, Steves Auto Service, in Inverness.  He does a good job and doesn't propose things that don't need fixing.  Tell Eric I sent you.  He was pleased that I decided to keep this van.  The thing that concerns him and me is the life of the transmission, but we will cross that bridge later.

***

You probably don't want to hear about all the fun I have had re-connecting with folks since I have returned home.

I am feeling very blessed to have wonderful people as friends.  So I will mention that Dave, who put the counter top in my Weeroll in 2020, volunteered to put in more shelves for me so I can store more stuff.

Next time I write I will show pictures of the improved interior of my Weeroll.  After he was done I redid some curtains.

So much has happened since I arrived home to Inverness in late October.  If I tried to update you with all the wonderful encounters, the down moments, you would be reading and I would be writing too long.  
 
One more thing.  When I arrived home it was looking like we might have this COVID thing under control as long as we are all vaccinated and now boosted too.  But then a new variant that spreads fast is filling up the hospitals again in places.  This chart below of deaths by counties according to political leanings show that there is a higher number of un-vaccinated people dieing from COVID.  And even though our 45th President is vaccinated and boosted and encourages others to do so,  more of his voters are not vaccinated.

 

  
 
It is mostly those that are not fully vaccinated that end up in the hospital, but even if you don't end up in the hospital, and you get it, you can have residual symptoms... like tiredness, brain fog, achey-ness.  Yuk!
 
So at first I had planned to try to have our bicycle groups annual New Years Day party somehow.  But as time has passed it looks like a surge in cases requires caution, especially among those of us over 65 years old.  So I have cancelled the indoor venue and I am working on creating an outdoor event where all might feel safe... as long as the weather cooperates.
 
But enough writing for me and reading for you.... it is time to go explore some more!

Stay well, laugh until the tears flow. 

 


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Joy is a Choice

 Hello,

I am glad I went to Jean's to help her with the paperwork.  She appreciated my efforts and she paid me!  There will be more work coming once I am back home.

And the frosting on the cake was that I had fun spending time with her and Keith and meeting some of her friends, 

The campground that I was going to stay at rejected me because I didn't have a "certified RV" sticker on my trailer.  So I plugged in and put up my portable sink in Jean's driveway.  It worked out well for me, Jean and Keith were very hospitable, and, as far as I know, no neighbors complained.

I worry that my winter RV park might have some similar policy that requires the "RV Certified" thing.  I don't think so, though, because my friend is staying there in a re-modeled van.

I left Jean's before the sun rose on Monday and crossed the border into Florida by late afternoon. 

I saw scrub woodlands, it got hot out, I got bit by no-see-ums, and stung by fire ants.  I thought back to the ancient trees I saw on my trip, the lovely mountain vistas with trees turning yellow and red, of the cool mountain air and the rushing clear water streams in Pennsylvania and Virginia and West Virginia.

And I began to wonder if Florida was the right choice for me.  I was driving in an area where the trees had been damaged by hurricanes.  I was not feeling any delight at being back close to where I started this trip in April.  I was anxious to be done traveling, but wondering if Florida was the joyful place I used to think it was.

I began to hunt for signs of home.  Wading birds... gators. I didn't see any.

I stayed in a campground near Century, FL.  I had planned to stay two nights, but I decided to stay only one.  I was getting anxious to get this long journey completed.

On Tuesday while driving, I was reminded on an audio book I was listening to that the way we look at things is a choice.  We can choose to focus on the negative or we can choose joy.  The book is titled, Remember.  The author was saying that we can focus on the bad memories or we can put our attention on the good moments.  And when you meet someone you can tell which way they focus by what they say.  Are they happy and delighted with memories or do they tell you about all the bad stuff that happened.

I had been faintly aware that I had lost my joy focus.  This message hit me in the face and reminded me to pay attention and take the time and energy to harvest happy thoughts.

I aimed the car for an Anytime Fitness in Crawfordville, FL.  I needed to work out and get a break from sitting in the car.

While there, I called my Florida friend Debra.  She was happy to hear from me and called me back shortly after to invite me to go out to dinner with her and some others next week.  

Yay!  I told myself, Florida may have fire ants, but it also provides me with wonderful friends!

I had to worry and fuss a bit about how much further I would drive.  I had arranged for the water to be turned back on at my house on Wednesday.  I had to make sure I didn't arrive before the water.

I found a small campground in Newport, FL which was close to Crawfordville and south of Tallahassee.  When the campground host asked if I would be staying one or two nights, I said two, even though I had already made reservations at Manatee Springs further on my journey for Wednesday night.

I discovered that I was right across the street from the St Marks Wildlife Refuge. A sign said the light house was 11 miles down a road that looked bike friendly.

I texted Cindy Hampton because St. Marks is one of her favorite places to go birding.  She said that maybe I will see "Pinky".  

Pinky is a flamingo that was first sighted at St. Marks right after Hurricane Michael.  He/She has been around alone now for three years.  The refuge is 17,000 acres.  I didn't think my chances of seeing Pinky were good.  The campground hostess had said Pinky was last seen in the city of St. Marks.  That was the other side of the river from the refuge.

Then I got a call from Frankie.  She and her husband are renting my house for three months this winter.  They were wondering why I was renting my house out.

Was it for the money?  Why don't I just get a job?

Well, yes it is kind of for the money, but really mostly it is an experiment to see what it is like to live longer term in my little Weeroll.  I am experimenting with possibilities and life choices.  Why not?  It is a temporary thing and who knows, I might learn something, I might love it.

I am a bit scared, but hey, I try to do something a bit scary all the time to expand my comfort zone.

***

Wednesday morning I was up and riding my trike into St Marks Wildlife Refuge before the sun was up.  


About five miles into my ride I met a couple on bicycles coming from the other way.  She said Pinky was at one of the ponds up ahead.


To re-build the economy during the Great Depression, President Roosevelt started the CCC's.  It employed thousands of men building and improving parks.  One of the things the CCC's did was build levees in this area to create fresh and salt-water ponds to support migrating birds.  Much of the levees were built by hand, with shovels and man-power.

I pulled over at one pond where I saw a man sitting on a bench looking out over the beautiful scenery.  And there was Pinky!   I could see Pinky well but my camera didn't see it well.  I want to get a telescope with a camera that is small and easy to carry.  Does it exist?  

A woman with a camera with a big lens came up and took pictures.  She does a lot of birding in Circle B area near Lakeland, FL.  The man was from Panama City and drives up here to look at the birds a couple times a month.  He talked about the times he has seen bobcat in the refuge.  And he wondered if they would introduce more flamingos so that Pinky wouldn't be so alone.  

I watched Pinky and the many Grackles clacking and hoping for some crumbs from us humans.

I rode the rest of the way to the light house.  I saw lots of lovely wading birds.  Great Blue Herons, White Herons, Egrets, Ibis, a Night Heron and cute ducks (Grebes I think).



 

On the way back I decided to lock up my bike and walk one of the levees in search for gator.

And what do you know, I saw Pinky in another location.  This time closer, but still no good pictures.



On my walk I finally saw a big gator!  My sign that I really am close to my Florida home.




 

I even tried to take a picture through my binoculars... ha ha .  It is time to get a new pair.

When I got back on the trike I used google maps to find out how far to get to the restaurant in St. Marks - Less than nine miles!   I ended up drinking a beer with supper and biked very slow on the way back to camp.  Ended up biking 32 miles and probably walked three or four miles.

***

Tomorrow I arrive home.  I will stop at the Post Office and try to pick up my mail.  I imagine I will have a crises or two to take care of, a couple of toll road bills to pay at least.

On Monday I move the Weeroll into its winter home at Oasis RV Park.  It should be interesting.  First I will take it to get the wheels greased.  I probably pulled it over 6,000 miles this trip and last year 3,600 miles.  We be rollin' a lot!

Now we are done rolling for a little while.  I will have some work to do for Jean when I get home and lots of re-connecting to do with friends whose lives have gone on without me for too long.




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