January 1 – 14 – Sun N Fun

This year in Sarasota is somewhat different that in the past.

Other than our morning walk (everyone is wearing a mask), we have restricted our normal activities and the people in those few those in which we are participating area all masking and insofar as possible social-distancing. 

While Florida is trying to vaccinate everyone 65 and older, the supplies being allocated to the state far short of the demand.  To date, if you wanted to get a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, it has been necessary to register on-line.  I have tried on several occasions to be logged into Sarasota County Health Department’s COVID site in advance of the designated times only to see a message that they were SOLD OUT for all currently open dates.  In one instance we hard about, more than 9,000 people tried to register for 600 shots … with all being taken within 15 minutes.

Debbie has decided to avoid her classical stretch, line dancing, knitting and water aerobics (the latter as it has been far too cold for her).  I continue with my photo class (everyone seated alone at a six-foot table set six feet from any other table) and radio-controlled sailing (masked and by the nature of the activity, people are separated).  Neither of us has gone to Petanque, gone out to eat or visited with family in the area thus far. And due to aa fall due to black ice just before we left home, I am refraining from playing any golf until my right shoulder, on which I landed, gets a whole lot better,

We did participate in a campground "flea market” (masks were required) where Debbie was selling her baby/chair blankets and baby hats and I had my photography on sale.  She was the big money-maker for our twosome!

One morning we took a3.4 mile walk around the Nathan Benderson lake,

which hosts not high national school and collegiate one, two, four and eight man/women shell/crew races but Triathlons, Pentathlons and other U.S. and International events … as well as recreational kayaking.

Along two of the fences near the tower,

representing the finishing line for water races, is Sarasota’s 2020-21 Photoville Fence exhibit, a year-round public photography project exhibited in major parks and downtowns across North America featuring both U.S. and international professional and amateur photographers … in panels of 4 to 5 images printed on a white canvas background.  Some of the themes are artistic while others speak to suchissues as segretaion in 20th century American, historic old buildings across teh country and the brutality of autocratic African regimens.

We also have limited out grocery, drug and other store runs and try to go at time of day when the traffic is at a minimum.

Meanwhile, I have rediscovered jigsaw puzzles, which can become not only time consuming but addictive.

However, despite our self-limiting our activities, we find more, particularly outside, things to do here and the weather, while cool in January, tends to run 20o to 30o warmer than back in Pennsylvania.

Between cellphone calls, Facetime and a periodic family Zoom get-together, we have managed to stay in regular touch with our kids and grandchildren. 

 

 

 

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Welcome 2021 … at Last!!

Shorlty after we signed-off last evening, we were getting ready to take a shower and head for bed when there was a loud BOOM! 

Looking out of our window we saw the sky light up almost overhead.  Exiting our motorhome we discovered that just 30 yeards away a group was launching fireworks.  Graabbing my camera, we were entertained for the ensuing 15-20 minutes.

This morning, after walking with our morning group, we headed over to Benderson park, a 600-acre park that incorporates a 400-acre artificial lake. The lake was excavated to provide fill for the construction of Interstate 75 and created a venue which has since hosted National, Olympic Qualifying and World Championship rowing events and such other competitions as Triathalons and Pentathalons. 

When not otherwise being used for formal events, ~3.0 mile walking/biking path around the lake is busy 12 months a year and the lake used by kayakers.

With friends form Sun N Fun, we took a walk around the lake, stopping for the FENCE photo exhibit, a large-scale traveling photography exhibition reaching over 6 million visitors annually through open-air exhibitions in 9 cities across the North America: Brooklyn, Boston, Atlanta, Houston, Santa Fe, Durham, Denver, Calgary, Canada and Sarasota.  The works of as many as 40-50 photographers are displayed in 4-5 photo panels along a chain link fence.  Since its inception, THE FENCE has consistently attracted exceptional work by talented photographers from around the world, providng an opportunity to share powerful photographic narratives with a diverse audience of millions of visitors annually, while providing photographers with a truly public platform and unexpected career opportunities.

While many of these panel exhibits display stitll life and other vanilla subjects,

Rural, mostly one room schools across America

In parts of Africa, soccer balls made of plastic and other trash while the goals are a mixture of sticks and rocks

others hone in on such disturbing and controversial subjects as American's Jim Crow segregation era

 

the brutal regimes in Africa where journalists critical of their government simply "disappear" … some later found dead while the fate of others remains unknown,

and the tragedies of land mines left across the landscape after the fighting has ceased … which can have tragic consequences when triggered by innocent children and audlts who are permanently maimed or killed when accidentally triggered..

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Christmas To New Year’s Eve – 2020

Since arriving at Sun N Fun, we have remained pretty much self-isolated other than walking each morning with a group (everyone masked) and I sailed my radio-controlled boat on Sunday afternoon (again people were wearing masks).

On Christmas Day Night, I grabbed my camera to photograph the decorations around the park when lit up.

Almost directly across the street from our motorome, some friends who own a park model have a displaay we have enjoyed every evening.

It is now jusr after 10:00 PM on New Year's Eve.  Three fifth-wheel RVs which arrived across from us yesterday are each displaying an American flag light display.

As 2020 passes into history, Debbie and I are hoping that 2021 will be a better, happier, less restrictive and healthier year for family, friends and people everywhere!

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Christmas Day – Arriving in Sarasota

The temperatures have taken a tumble since yesterday afternoon when we saw the mercury reach into the 70os…. tumbling after the afternoon's thunderstorms to belw freezing overnight, resulting in some ice on one of our coach's slide toppers.

Still, we decided on an early start for the drive to Sun N Fun in Sarasota, assuming, rightly as it turned out, that the traffic would be light on this holiday morning.

We hadn't traveled very far when we came up on what initially looked like an accident but, fortunately, turned out to be just a flat tire which was being changed.

There was some wind, but otherwise the weather was the best we'd seen since leaving home.

The next vehicle we spotted as possibly being in distress was also not serious, as the driver had just pulled partway into the shoulder before leaving it for reasons unknown to us.

Debbie again began to focus her camera on the back of cars which were racing by us.

As it is December 25th we were not surprised to have "guess who" wave as we drove past him.

 

The political leanings of many people in the south are often on display with their Trump and Biden banners and both American

and Confederate flags.

 

As we turned into Sun N Fun where we'll be spending the next four-plus months, Christmas was on display.

After getting settled in and our utilites hooked up

it ws time for our quiet Christmas celebration.

Debbie's brother, Dick and wife Kate graciously brought over Christmas dinner for us.  We then talked with Doug, Nancy and Scott and fmailies, although we have planned a "secret Santa" Zoom call for later tomorrow afternoon.  After dark, one of our immediate neighbor's Christmas lights lit up the area.

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On to Jacksonville, FL

Traveling as far south as we did yesterday turned out to be an exceptionally wise decision … and made our Christmas Eve Day drive much easier and safer than if we'd had to start out from the Wade/Fayetteville area which experiencing heavy thundertorns and winds gust to over 40 MPH.

After taking my first hot shower in since leaving home … while our hot water heater is working fine, none of the warm water is reaching our faucets or our shower, a problem I plan to have looked at by someone who knows more about motorhome plumbing systems that I do when we get to Sarasota …  we got underway about quarter after eight.  almost immediately after getting back ion I-95, less than 1/4 mile as the crow flies from were we spent the night, were engulfed by a thick fog crossing Lake Santee.

However, as quickly as it came up, it was gone once over the lake

other than in a couple of roadside depressions off the highway.

Then we were caught in a brief rain shower … and passed by an obvioulsy wet motorcycle rider whose wide red and white scarf remnded us of comic versions of Snoopy and the Red Baron.

Another first, an ambulence being given a lift.

and,last but not least …

A now discontinued South Carolina state flag

A little less than an hour later, we approached the South Carolina / Georgia state line.

We always wonder what inspired this out-of-place lighthouse.

This fountain was the first indication of some of the stronger winds which we anticipated, although no where as gusty as those we'd avoided to the north.

Does he want to be Santa or Frosty?

Anyone what a fire engine?

Debbie is again watching the rear of vehicles in front of us

I don't recall ever seeing a fuel oil truck this dented

I'll bet we've photographed this crumbling smoke stack more times than we can count

With only 17 miles to go once entering

we saw the first road clean-up crews on this trip,

another flipped over semi's trailer being recovered

and a Winnebago "retro" travel trailer … a newly built version of a 1950's year unit.

We still like the Pecan Park RV Resort

with the one reservation that the sites we invariably end up in are directly in line with and just 1/2 mile from the end of the Jacksonville Inernational Airport's runway "26" … and when the plans are on their final approach we can damn near reach out and touch the aircraft. 

However, we get used to the occaisonal roar of the jet engines.

This now being Christmas Eve, we walked around before dark, as rain and high winds were predicted for shortly after 6:00 PM, to see some of the Christmas decorations short and long term visitors to the Park had on display …

and shortly after dark and before the heavens opened up, an attempt to capture some of them actually lit up.

 

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A Longer Day than Originally Planned – Ashland, VA to Santee, SC

Last evening we began looking at the weather for the I-95 corridor over the next two days and how it might affect our travels from Ashland VA to Wade NC and then the next on to Jacksonville FL. Today's forecast for overcast conditions but with no rain nor high winds predicted.  So, we got underway a bit after 8:00 AM for what we thought would be our lowest mileage day of our four day trip to Sarasota.

Many of the campgrounds we've stayed in are notorious for RVs adorned with political and other banners suggesting their societal opinions.  While the Trump paraphernalia has mostly disappered, even in the South, this guy took top billing for today.

Shortly after getting back on I-95, we spotted a wreck in the northbound lane although we were moving too quckly for Debbie to get a clear, in-focus photo.

It did, however, create a more than five mile back-up for the folks headed north.

As we have traveled across North American, we have been intrigued with the seemingly endless types of bridges … ranging from historic, old wooded coverd bridges to the modern chamfered design.

After seeing virtually no police presence from Pennsylvania thru Delaware, Maryland and DC, almost from time we crossed the Potomac River into Virginia, we've seen one speed trap after another … to the dismay of many holiday-bound motorists.

Ninty miles later, we crossed the state line intowhere the police were, again, all but invisible.

For the most part, the traffic was relative light … although one minor slowdown was the result of a very wide load which I had to navigate around.

This half of a house soon pulled off onto a exit ramp

where it caught up with the rest of someone's home-to-be.

We also spotted our first, albeit brief, glimpse of blue sky of the day.

We made it to the South Carolina state line and pulled into a Visitor's Center for a break. again, checking the weather.

If we were to stick with our original plans and go only as far as Wade (just north of Fayetteville) it looked like we'd be confronted with severe thunderstornms and high and gusty winds the following morning and for most of our over 400 mile drive to Jacksonville … not an option we were comfortable with. 

But, as we were making excellent time, we decided to make today a much longer drive and push on south to Santee, SC, adding roughly three hours of driving time.

As the I-95 corridor through southern North Carolina and much of South Carolina can be pretty, in the winter with the leaves off the trees and fields brown, it can also be extremely boring from a scenic point of view.  While I had to keep focused on the road, Debbie took an interest in bumper stickers and other things of interest on the rear of our fellow travelers' vehicles … perhaps inspired by yesterday's SUV with 77 decals.

Having hiked New Hampshire's Mount Washington on many occasions and even taken the auto road to the summit once, I can assure you this fifth-wheel never "climbed" or drove up New England's highest peak.

Never could figure out what type ot animal was riding in this cage

Then, there was the Grinch … a character which I am occasionally accused of resembling from time to time.

We also caught a view of the first of what are generally 6-12 Confederate flags we always pass along this Interstate.

Despite the added distance, the traffic flow was excellent and there were virtually no slow-downs allowing us to reach Santee by 3:30 this afternoon.

Thie Santee Lake KOA was a new campground for us, and our 360th different one … and was exceptionally nice and after getting hooked up we walked to down to its beach to try to enjoy the 72o temperature and a posible sunset.

The campground was also obviously out to impress dog owners to clean up after their pets with signs posted throughout the facility.

.When reading through the materials the staff gave us when we checked in, Debbie noticed there was an on-site pizza shop and proviided free delivery.  Therefore, ordering a pizza rather than cooking for the evening was a no-brianer … and it was delicious!

Rain predicted for the overnight.

 

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Langhorne to Ashland

With the COVID-19  health challenges, especially for the so-called "elderly" we made a difficult decisoion to bypass having Thanksgiving and Christmas with our family.  However, once in Florida, we planned on self-quarrantining for 14-days and then staying socially-distant from even our friends and relatives.

So, we began planning to head for Sarasota in early December.  However, between a series of doctor's appointments, dental surgery, a snow storm followed by two days of bitterly cold temperatures (making dewinterization of our motorhome unadvisable) we finally headed south this morning … under heaavily overcast skies

Philadelphia skyline which wasn't visible until just five miles away

and intermittent rain … and a horrendous traffic jam north of the Ben Franklin Bridge.

Loved the transit bus nearing Lincoln Financial Field

All along I-495 and I-95 in Delaware and Maryland we saw many overhead signs (one too late to get a photo warned us to watch out for reindeer)

Crossing the exposed Francis Scott Key Bridge where 10 MPH winds were forecast …

but as I was driving over the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore with an iron grip on the wheel, Debbie informed me the winds were gusting of over 20 MPH.

Some, signs of the times …

When we got to Lorton, VA we hit a predictable (we've been stuck in this area on our last five trips south) slowdown

 

In all of our travels across North America, this was the first time we saw any vehicle adorned with some 77 (count them) decals

Despite the several traffic slowdowns we made it to Ashland, VA by 3:00 this afternoon. 

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May 28 – Home

When heading home from Florida, our last day is always one of the most exhausting, facing the beltways around Washington DC, Baltimore and WIlmingtion and finally right through Philadlephia.  As morre rain was predicted again today, we were on the road just before 7:00 AM … and the forecast provde accurate!

We also were prepared for an increasing amount of traffic, including more 18-wheelers.

However, the traffic was relatively light until we reached our first slowdown just south of Lorton, VA

and reduced sppeds contonied until we reached the Woodrow WIlson Bridge over the Potomac River, immediately south of the District.  As we crossed the river into Maryland, Debbie spotted one of our country's most iconic sights sitting at the end of an Andrews Joint Base runway.

Throughout Maryland, were overhead signs reminding drivers of COIVD-19 messaging

The rains returned again.

Francis Scott Key Bridge

Even the Rest Areas, while open, were under restricitons

A candidate for the 2020 Darwin Awards, some FOOL scaled the sign posts and ventured out over I-95 to demonstrate his/her lack of artistic skills on the back of this sign.

Almost home!

Girard Point Bridge over the Schuylkill RIver

Philadelphia skyline shrouded in rain and fog

Twenty minutes later we arrived back home.  Amazingly, this was the fastest trip we've ever made from Ashland, VA to Shady Brook … just 5 hours and 13 minutes!

Unloanding the coach took a bit longer than usual as our neighbors came out to greet us … maintaining social distancing …  and we were thoroughly exhausted when we got the job done. 

The next day I spent the morning, trying to find the source of a minor drip we've had just behind the windshield during heavy rians, especially when on the road.  Unforutnately, never sure I pinpointed the leak's source but did overseal a number of suspected areas over and near the top of the windwhield.  

Then when trying to hand wash the lower part of the vehilcle I found a slide rail panel was loose.  Seems a couple of not-easily-accessible screws had backed out.  An hour later, I had it again secured.

Not sure when we'll hit the road again … I am always more anxious than Debbie.

 

 

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May 27 – Our Last Full Day on the Road Before Returning Home

We again hit the road early, in large part to try to stay ahead of some of the rains predicted for late morning and throghout the afternoon.  Still, once on the road we found ourselves driving through some foggy weather

and moderate rain, although thankfully it didn't last too long.

Then we hit the first of several areas of Road Work;

with the narrowed lanes always presenting a bit of "white knuckle" driving.

About 10 miles south of the Virginia border, we got our first glimpse of blue sky since prior to leaving Sarasota.

Once in

we again spotted some motorists having less than a pleasant day.

Then there was the flatbed which went roaring past us but clearly having some difficulty staying within his lane.

Other "highlights" on an otherwise less than exciting drive were a pink car,

overgrown shed,misplaced lighthouse,

flaatbed hauling railroad car axles and wheels,

and an attractive sound barrier draped with green vegetation.

On the way into our campgorund, we fueled up and filled our propane tank for the first time in well over a year.

Once settled in, we had a variety of housekeeping chores (washing the floors, cleaning the shower and bathroom, deforsting the freezer, etc;) as we'll be storing our motorhome for several months beginning tomorrow afternoon.

 

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May 26 – Jacksonville to Wade (Fayetteville)

With the weather forecast prediciting moderate to heavy rains from Florida to the Carolinas we again opted for an early (7:15 AM) departure from Jacksonville.  Just before crossing the Georgia state line we caught a view of the diversion of all passenger vehicles entering Florida to determine if they were coming from a COVID-19 "hot spot" which would require a 14-day self-quarantine.

Once crossing into

I don't know if you have noticed as you cross from one state to another that, with rare exceptions, notably Virginia, how each new governor spends precious taxpayer dollars to have his/her name on the highway "Welcome" signs?

we passed the first of several motorists having a bad day.

 

Meantime, the skies darkened and we drove through the first of several heavy downpours

and discovered one of our windshield wipers had a tear.  So, during our first of two stops for gas (we maake it a policy of trying to drive "on the top half of our tank") we needed to replace the defecive wiper.

As has been previously mentioned much of the southern portion of the I-95 corridor is a strip of pavement running between endless rows of trees. 

Over the past couple of years, however, the transportation departments in North and South Carolina and Georgia have begun clear-cutting between the northbound and southbound lanes

Yet, the chain saw crews have for some reasons known only to them left a few isolated trees

and even some isolated groups of trees.

Interstingly, other than at the Florida/Georgia state line, the only police we saw were in Georgia …  and not socially-distancing … while the traffic raced past, many well above the posted 70 MPH speed limit.

On the road, only a few vehicles seemed ot be of any interest

An antique motor home

Shortly after leaving Georgia we spotted a number of cars pulled over to the shoulder, so we moved to the left lane

and were disheartened to see a rollover (we were by the scene too quickly to even properly focus the camers)

upside down in a water-filled ditch.

Coming the other way were a number of ambulences and other first-responder vehicles.

We finally reached the North Carolina border

north of which there were many displays of stella doros in full bloom,

We actually reached our camground in Wade (just north of Fayetteville), NC nearly two hours before we'd planned .. thanks to very light traffic and less rain than had been forecast.


Tomorrow a shorter trip to Ashland, VA.

 

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