Our weekly routine has changed much …although last Thursday,I drove Debbie to Naples to spend a few days with tow of her very best friends fr0m our years living in Yardley, PA.
(l to r) Wendy Manley, Debbie and Jane Johnson
With the new Sun N Fun wood shop still under construction (now months late) my involvement with the photo club has gown and I continue to pick up a variety of new skills.
In case I haven’t mentioned it, Debbie is a serial knitter … whenever watch TV or otherwise doing something not otherwise involving her hands. Today, there was a park-wide Craft Fair. As Debbie was away, I manned the Dick Debbie table, displaying for sale almost two dozen of her incredible her baby blankets and hats … and 5×7, 8×10 and metal prints from my photography.
We had a great (personal best) day sales-wise, no believed that “I” was responsible for any of the knitting!
Actually, I have been able to get several bunch of small projects done.
Tomorrow I am passing up on RC sailing to play golf with a friend whom I got to know through my friend, Ken, who passed away last mach and Debbie and I still miss.
Last evening, I was sitting in our motorhome dinette when I glanced outside to a spectacular sunset.
For the past 2½ weeks since arriving in Sarasota, we’ve been going almost non-stop.
Dinners with Debbie’s brother Dick & Kate and my cousin Sandy & Jeff,
Dick, Debbie and Sandy
occasional wine get-together with friends Daniel and Traci and renewing a number of other friendships make the days more than enjoyable.
At the same time it has been bitter sweet. Since Ken’s passing, Cheryl sold their Sarasota place and as Sharon is battling Leukemia, she and Tom are not coming to Venice this year and are missed terribly!
Debbie’s mornings are taken up with Classical Stretch, either an indoor or outdoor walking group, Line Dancing, Belly Dancing and Water Aerobics (unless the air is chilly). One afternoon she gets together with a knitting group.
Although, disappointingly, the wood shop is still under construction and thus unavailable, most mornings I walk the park with a group. Yesterday, however, there was an “off campus” walk around Benderson Park (a 600-acre park that incorporates a 400-acre artificial lake where many high school, collegiate and professional national, world and Olympic Rowing, Pentathlon and Triathlon championships are held) where I spotted a pair of bald eagles.Tuesdays is an exception as I have a Photo Club meeting, where both camera and editing techniques are discussed; and I’ve learned a great deal. Each week there are shooting challenges which often takes me out of Sun N Fun and cruising around the Sarasota and Bradenton area looking for appropriate subjects. At least one or two days each week I get to the driving range and also play golf (University Park Country Club … in the best shape … followed by Misty Creek, the River Club and Tatum Ridge … sadly in very rough condition). I also made a blood donation when the area blood bank mobile van came to the park.
Monday and Friday afternoons, we both play Pétanque (pronounced “Petonk”), a game very similar to Bocce Ball but using a larger (3″ diameter)1and heavier (1½ lb.) ball. Following that on Monday’s is “hamburger night” at the in-park restaurant. The burgers are large, come with lettuce, tomato and fries, can’t be beat and together with a glass of wine at the “staggering” cost of just $21.00 for both of us.
Sunday afternoons are remote sailing for me
While Debbie has become the group’s Race Director. Frequently, Dick and wife Kate come over as Kate really enjoys the sailing.
Remotely, we try to keep up with Doug, Scott and Nancy and their families (the grand kids all now have phones so we can text back-and-forth with each of them). I also continue to maintain my Rotary’s Club’s website … although slowly passing off the PR function.
The weather through much of the month has been well above normal, although we had a three-day stretch earlier this week when we woke up to temperatures in the high 30os to low 40os. However, the long-range forecast is for a return to warmth. Unfortunately, there has been virtually no rain which the Sarasota area desperately needs.
I guess we’ll just have to continue to suffer along
for the next three months when we’ll begin our journey back to Langhorne.
Today was our longest mileage day … but, despite some early brisk winds out of the northwest
one of our most enjoyable and one with virtually no slowdowns
Heading west along I-10, paralleling the Florida-Georgia border, we are always curious to see the warning signs alerting motorists to watch out for bears.
While our day was pretty good in all respects, we observed several others for whom today brought unexpected stress.
Near Tampa, we passed our fourth, and thankfully last, Confederate flag
something rarely if ever seen in the north.
We arrived at Sun N Fun, our home for the next four months in just shy of 5½ hours, a record trip from Jacksonville.
This evening we met Debbie’s brother, Dick and wife Kate at Glory Days for an early dinner. We all love the place as it serves the best meatloaf we’ve discovered anywhere!
The restaurant is located in “University City” (or “UT”), a huge complex of over 100 stores and dozens of restaurants. Little did we know about the incredible Christmas lighting display at UT. So, back to our motorhome to grab my camera and then a return to the light show.
The lights on many of the displays were constantly changing colors every few seconds.
Today was our shortest both in terms of time and mileage. Leaving around 8:30, the normal time we tend to get on the road, we needed to find ways to make the 171 mile trip last longer as our next campground charged an additional fee for early arrivals. Part one of our plan was reducing our speed to just under 60 MPH. Just eight miles after getting back on I-95, as we crossed into
we noticed a Road Work sign;
interestingly the distance from the South Carolina border to Florida was exactly 112 miles. Fortunately, most of the work had been completed and there were no slowdowns for construction or any other reason.
A little over half way through Georgia, we stopped at a rest area and then just eleven miles further on another stop for gas. With a great deal of major tree removal along the border of the highway, there was little of interest to see. As a result, we tried to find curious things along the roadway to keep us from getting too board.
Still dealing with 10-15 MPH winds
Yet, another Confederate flag
A realistic paint job in the rear of a motorhome
The first median flowers of the season … an endearing legacy from Lady Bird Johnson
Billowing smoke – although we never could see the source
and with only13 miles to go and an hour-plus to kill, we made another stop at the Florida Welcome Center where we had our lunch outside at a picnic table in 80-degree temperatures – the first time we seen these temperatures since last summer!
Turning off at our exit, we had to drive around two unfortunate drivers.
This evening we met up with my cousin Chip and wife Debby Burt for an early dinner
Unfortunately, our plans to get together with my cousin Bob and wife MJ Newbert had to be cancelled when Bob called suffering from the first cold he’s had in many years. Perhaps we’ll be able to visit with them on our trip home in May.
We decided to take a down day … with a walk being our major accomplishment.
This afternoon, we sat along the marina board walk with a cup of coffee, reading and gazing out over the river.
A large yacht moored alongside the marina’s gas dock
Sunset Grille, where we’d had our New Year’s Eve dinner
After a mid-morning walk, we decided to do a little sightseeing on Hilton Head. With no destination in particular, we took a side road toward the north side of Hilton Head Island.
Within the first half-mile, we discovered no less than three historic African American churches.
Across the street from the latter was the Cherry Hill School
We continued exploring several other secondary roads, some hosting a dichotomy of small communities of Gullah … a people who are the descendants of enslaved Africans who inhabit the sea islands of South Carolina and Georgia whose culture and religion and even Gullah language are unique … intermixed with newer housing developments and golf courses.
Our next stop was at Shelter Cove, an inlet and safe harbor for yachts and small watercraft.
as well as some “natives”.
One yacht owner, in particular had had his boat decked out for the Christmas season.
Before leaving the harbor area, we stopped in at the Marina’s Ship’s Store. There we saw one of the best models of the USS Constitution we’ve run across.
On a more serious note, the residents of Shelter Cove had dedicated a unique memorial to its and our nation’s veterans.
Along the many bike trails which crisscross Hilton Head Island there are painted palmetto trees on the bike paths indicating various historic locations.
We had intended to do some additional exploring but we continued to run into a requirement for passes … which cost money … such as driving to see the Harbor Lighthouse (which fortunately we’d visited in the past).
So, back to our motorhome, we settled in and Debbie got to watch most of the Rose Bowl Parade.
Another long drive today, but with relative light traffic … although we still haad some gusty winds out of the west.
Since leaving home, we have been surprised at how few police we’d seen thus far, particularly as it is a holiday period when many people are traveling long distances and the TV news had been reporting increased police presence. However, we did spot a couple of travelers who had the opportunity to meet some of North and South Carolina’s finest … up close and personal!
The only real traffic hold-up we had began after passing highway warning signs announcing
several miles in advance. The traffic quickly began to slow to a crawl in both southbound lanes, Then from our rear we heard the unmistakable whine of an ambulance trying to make its way past the stalled traffic, often straddling the shoulder.
Approaching the pinch point where the two lanes had to merge to a single line, annoying drivers persisted in speeding down the cleared right lane
in an effort to drive as far as possible before having to edge ahead of so many other courteous drivers who had “zippered” in an orderly manner. However, the real frustration was when we saw that the mile-long, one lane restriction was apparently unnecessary as there was zero work apparently being done, despite two trucks parked in the blocked lane and no evidence of any highway department personnel in sight.
There was, however, some levity along the way on the rear of two vehicles which passed us.
We made it to Hilton Head by early afternoon where we have a beautiful and private site
with a view of the Intercoastal Waterway out the front window of our motorhome.
This evening we had our New Year’s Eve dinner at the Sunset Grille
Leaving the restaurant, we took a few minutes to enjoy the adjoining marina
ant the heard the unmistakable sound of fireworks across the water.
Under crystal clear skies, the southern constellation of Orion and its recognizable “K” was clearly visible from the patio of our RV site.
Once again, by the time the ball drops over Times Square, we’ll likely have been fast asleep for some time.
After taking part in the campgrounds courtesy waffle breakfast, we continued our otherwise fairly boring journey south … hoping to get as far south as possible before a cold front with predicted strong winds and possible thunderstorms crossed through the I-95 corridor.
The most interesting thing we saw as the Woof.Bus, an old school bus which had been converted into a mobile vet’s office and treatment vehicle.
Debbie, however, not surprisingly focused her attention on old and dilapidated barns.
Over the course of our travels, we never cease to be amazed at the things people so desperately want to get rid of that they simply discard them along major highways.
Anyone need a burgundy arm chair?
While the rain storm fortunately petered out, the winds
out of the southwest were strong enough to occasionally buffet our motorhome and make driving a periodic challenge.
Between the Richmond area and the intersection of I-75 and I-4, just east of Tampa, four large Confederate flags can’t be missed.
We arrived in our Wade, NC campground around 1:00 PM. After being able to eat our lunch outside under partly sunny skies and a temperature reading of 76o, we “crashed” for the remainder of the afternoon.
With Christmas over, we had our motorhome de-winterized before bringing it over the clubhouse parking lot
where we were able to load it for our winter trip to Sarasota.
With heavy rains forecast along our intended route down I-95, we opted for an early start to get as far south as possible before encounter the precipitation. However, we were driving in a light fog as far south as the Key Bridge in Baltimore.
Shortly after rejoining I-95, we ran into the predicted rain.
However, the traffic was surprisingly light and we made our first 200 miles (including one stop) in just shy of 3½ hours. Then we got to Lorton, VA.
For some still unknown reason, the traffic then begins to back up and speeds can drop to zero.
Then, just as suddenly, it will spread out and highway speeds can again be achieved. However, the cause for the traffic jams remain a mystery … no construction, no visible accident and no other cause we could determine. And, this was not unusual, every year we find similar traffic conditions south of Lorton … as do nearly every other driver we speak with.
The bottom line was it took us some three hours to cover the final 90 miles!
By the time we reached Ashland, VA
the rain had pretty much stopped, although more is expected later this evening.