"It is in the wild places, where the edge of the earth meets the corners of the sky, the human spirit is fed." Art Wolf

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Florida, the Short Trip

I was not forced into deciding to start my seasonal work several months early. It was a decision made free and clear but strongly motivated by my recently collected memories of Scotland and my imagining how many other destinations are still out there not discovered by me. Yet.  So increasing the savings account requires staying around Ohio this winter.  Making a quick visit to Florida to spend some time checking in with friends and remembering what warm weather feels like seemed like a good idea to motivate me to buy warmer boots and tough it out up north.

I took three days to make the drive to Live Oak, Florida, to hang out with Liz and friends.  Judy and Birdie joined us on our first hike.  Lark enjoyed her off leash opportunity and handled it responsibly like a good Golden Retriever should. 

And then there were the morning walks with just Liz and Thistle.  Lark began to better understand that the possibilities for hikes is greatly increased in the winter if the GHL leaves Ohio and travels south. 

Liz no longer lives full time in her RV. She and her new husband Bob live in a retirement community with miles of trails and convenient kayaking access.  The small campground available for guests and visitors is just around the block from her home.   It is very easy for the dogs to stop by and gather their friends for morning hikes. 

I tried to locate my pictures from last December's trip when the Suwannee River was so high.  I found them on iPhoto but not when I tries to pull them up to transfer to the Blog for comparisons.  So now I have another project to add to my list. Organized photos.  That being shared, last year the sand bars and banks where all covered.

And this section of grass was covered.

And the river was within a foot of the pavilion roof.

And the wonderful riverside hiking trail was our private very special watery kayaking trail through the woods. Last year.

More Thistle, Audrey and Lark hikes.

Coming to Florida also gave several of us a chance to create a mini Get Together up in Alachua.  It doesn't take much more than the mention of food to gather folks together even with only a few days notice.  Retirement helps.

Left to Right: Bob and Liz, Steve and Irmi, Birdie, The GHL, Peggy and Nan.

The Christmas Eve Day, Judy and a young friend, and Liz and I took to the river.  After attaching the kayak to the roof back in Ohio, in the dark, in the middle of a sleeting cold rain, with frozen fingers, I was determined to kayak in Florida even if it was an overcast, light jacket weather.

Remains of the beached whale. Maybe.

And this is Liz's method of transporting kayaks.  When she came off the road and traded down from her Class C to a smaller Class B RV, she specifically made sure that her Hornbeck would fit in the aisle.  She reports having carried up to four kayaks when necessary, just don't try to get to the beds or the bathroom.

From Live Oaks I drove south towards Cedar Key stopping at Nan's driveway in Beverly Hills for two nights.  As important as it is for our children to purchase homes with flat driveways or acreage suitable for their mother's RV, it is very nice to have friends around with similar offerings.  (The next best option is to live within 15 minutes of beautiful state parks. Claudia and Martha.)

I was invited to Nan's grandson's and Christmas dinner.  No one went hungry.  Nan and I enjoyed visiting during our car ride.  Later, I got to go to Publix to refresh my supplies and spend more time catching up and sharing stories and perspectives on life.   A mutual friend, Donna, made the short drive over from her Florida home to visit briefly. Lark and Audrey were invited into Nan's house to meet her new Min Pin, Jessie, and once again both remembered their good manners.  We promised not to tell on Audrey and her raid on the trash tissues.  It was only a small lapse of judgement, really!

After leaving Nan's driveway I traveled over towards McIntosh, FL, to stay the remaining  couple of days on Orange Lake with their kayak ramp within walking distance from my door.  

This handsome feller quietly observed my paddling past before turning and slowly walking away through the vegetation.

Ok, so it wasn't a bright sunny day.  It wasn't a rainy downpour sort of day, either.  I was paddling on water. I was happy.

Coming back into the campground, I took this picture to show Liz that her favorite campsite on the lake is still here.  This is what a Premium Lake front site looks like.

And the water in the lake was up. Not as far a up as the river by Liz but enough to attract more sport fisherman.  This particular campground is small and geared more to long term residents and fisherman.

In the afternoon after kayaking I drove to the store to pick up dog food and later drove up highway 441 towards Gainesville. Nan had mentioned that Paynes Praire Park was slowly filling up with water again after a suspected shift in the limestone had drained it years ago.  She was right.  So the Bison and wild horses will have to be satisfied with less grazing land.  However, the ducks, Ibis, Cranes and other water loving birds will be very happy.

Just some friends hanging around the campground early on a damp morning.

One of the reasons that I like to come back to this campground when I come through Florida is because the dogs and I get to take our daily walks around the beautiful  village of McIntosh. Other years I have made posts of the wonderful old Victorian homes and the streets lined with large Spanish Moss covered Live Oaks.  Many of the homes are beautifully kept up. Others are in need of love and a good handyman.   Some appear to be more storage facilities than homes. As I walk past those I imagine an episode of "Hoarders" or the wild treasure hunt of valuable discoveries that might be made as one would work themselves through the various hallways and rooms.  

I stayed long enough in the Ocala area to visit with my friend Leslie who is an Ohio transplant.  She and her husband moved to a new home this past summer.  I liked the view of the lake through the screened porch.

Lark liked the view, too!

Leslie said that a few very small gators have been seen around the lake but weather permitting the grandchildren swim off the dock and one neighbor does his ritual lake swim across and back every morning regardless of seasonal weather changes.  This is life in Florida.

And Leslie shared that the additional acreage across the one lane sandy road in front of the house. also came with their house.  I think Lark is evaluating its potential to fit a small RV.

Sigh. So after gathering up memories of warmer weather, I climbed back into the driver seat and headed back up I-75 towards Ohio.  I once again successfully navigated my way north through Atlanta right before rush hour and made it home Wednesday, New Year's Day.  I got the dogs cleaned up and groomed on Thursday, headed off to a supervisor's meeting on Friday and spent the Saturday and Sunday with Lark and Audrey at their first Rally and Obedience Events.

Both Lark and Audrey earned two Rally Novice B legs and Lark earned her first leg in Beg Novice B Obedience.  Audrey's attention in Rally told me all I needed to know. She will be entering Obedience next time, too!

And for those that have been following Josef's adventures in the conformation ring, he completed his Silver Grand Champion title in November and finished his Owner Handler year in the Top Ten for the third year in the row.  He declined his invitation to Orlando this year.  He had happily sent me off to Scotland in October to use up his Orlando funds.   

Here he is in PetSmart practicing a long down stay next to some of his favorite squeaky toys.  He was learning how to be a better mannered companion animal.  In early December he and I drove up to his Other Mother Cindy's house to meet a wonderful family from the Philadelphia area. He had been corresponding to his humans by email while he was finishing up his Silver title.  It was pretty much like finding love on the internet. The dog version of Match.com. That "First Date" worked out so well, he left to go back to PA with them and meet the two younger humans in the  family.  He has sent pictures reflecting what being an"Only Dog" means to him: More snuggles on the couch, sleeping in bed with his humans and no other dogs to compete with for attention.  He says he likes being THE "heart" dog to humans that need him.  Just this afternoon he sent another email outlining how well his new humans are responding to his training.  

Sadly, Lark and Audrey won't be helping me add 10,000 step to my Fitbit now that we are back in "frosted fingers" Ohio weather.  Maybe walking around Rural King enough practicing our obedience moves will add a few steps. I still have a few days to locate those warmer boots before reporting to work on the 20th.   

Monday, October 21, 2019

And Then There Came the Last Day

Aren't you relieved?   I have had a wonderful time but was ready to enjoy this final day in Scotland and bring all these memories home with me.   

Random thoughts:

Who remembers those slide carousels of their youth.   My parents would invite friends over for cocktails and snacks and show the slides from their "last trip".   They (or we/family) would sit in the darken room and have to sit through every. little. thing.  and be polite.   Then again the cocktails and wine probably helped.  We were young. We didn't get any of that wine.  Between the photos all having been taken on film with no chance to crop, delete or play with in iPhoto, some of those photos were more special than others.  I personally really appreciate the current situation. I love my delete button and knowing that no one has to sit at their computer and "like" a single things if they don't want to.  But these will be my memories and someday remind me that my hips and knees did work once upon a time....or they will until some "delete" button in my brain turns traitor to my spirit and starts to fog out the synapses.

The rental car got returned with all major car parts still intact.   I am glad that I had the car to drive myself around. It allowed me to stay in places and the freedom to visit parts of Scotland I would not have otherwise, particularly this time of year when many of the the "day trip" offers are not available.  On the other hand, I think each country and trip might be different and there are many areas that have different networks of mass transportation and different road conditions that might make other decisions more practical and economic.   Having the car did make eating economically much easier.  I had more choices.

As I stood outside the Cincinnati airport waiting for my ride home and watching the gentleman in bright safety vests sort the mass of assorted vehicles wheeling past the arrival/pick up zone like herding feral cats, I also recognized what I didn't see much of on the roads of Scotland.  I saw few huge, monster SUV.   There were Transit vans and Sprinter vans but most of the daily driver type cars were of a modest size.  I also didn't see many huge pickup trucks.  There were plenty of farms but just driving down the roads I passed or were passed by few trucks.  Then again the price of a liter of gas probably is a great motivator of driving smaller gas sipping cars.   I know that the Ford Fiesta that I was driving had the electronic engine that turned off when the car came to a stop and turned itself back on when you touched the gas.   It is strange to sit at a light or stop sign and not hear or feel an engine.

Well, anyway, here are the pictures of the last road trip.

Again, on the these final legs of the journey I was reminded of how many areas of Scotland resemble the rolling valleys, small farms and mountains of the Hudson Valley, or Virginia or North Carolina.  The stone fencing is distinctive but my son's home in NY state also has old stone fencing but then the first section of his home was built in 1750.  Then you notice the plethora of sheep. The difference is the number of sheep and how the land is used.   Old stone homes spot the landscapes of the older east coast colonies in the US but again not nearly as many as one drives past on the roads of Scotland.   And back to observations regarding driving issues, the posted speed limits seemed to be more suggestive than anything else, though I had been warned I was responsible for any tickets I should get.   Most roads were posted at 60 kilometers (40 MPH) and the highest limits were on the large two lanes that mostly crossed through eastern Scotland and they were all the way up to 70 kilometer.   Speed limits, as expected, fluctuated for small towns and school areas.  As might be imagined, this touristy driver had no trouble staying under most of the limits but I also spent time frequently using the "passing areas" so that others could go on their merry, much faster way.

Farms with with their own historic ruins

Before I headed toward Stirling I drove into St Andrews and drove around a bit.  The weather was drizzly and I knew that my tank of energy would not last forever so I just waved at the St Andrews castle and the famous golf course with its impressive hotel and grounds and then headed west.

I made it to Stirling with plenty of time to explore and the energy to make the walk.  Information on the Internet had warned that parking at Stirling Castle was limited and that visitors should be prepared to park and walk or park down in the city somewhere and take a bus.

I found a parking spot right a good hike away from the castle but just around the corner from where the signs required paid parking.   I took stock of my surroundings, pulled out a walking pole and headed off up hill.

Street scene in Stirling on the way to the castle.

The walk takes you higher and higher.

This Scout Troop has been here awhile.

Just a sample of the small, rental caravans that are available over here.  Just a reminder to me how happy I was to not have to find parking for a caravan.

A pause in our castle programing to show the different to me, neat sink and hand drying combination. I had used these in the Edinburgh airport and found them again here at the visitor center.  You place your hands directly under the faucet for water and then hold you hands under the side bars for the twin jets of drying air.  Made by Dyson. 

The old barracks.   After the last of the royals and other important people moved off the place, the castle was used by the military for many more years.

Something about sitting on the high ground maybe?

This raven and his friends were busy flapping around and having a loud discussion of important castle business.

Don't tell OSHA, but do be warned to walk at your own risk.

And those little white spot off in the far off distance are sheep, of course.

The restored chapel that was built in 1594 because the protestant faith couldn't have used the old chapel used by Catholic Mary Queen of Scots .

The Great Hall

Large hearths lined both sides.  How many people did it take just to maintain the fires in these castles in winter?

The castle gardens

Just in case a guard wanted to shoot or drop hot tar on someone they didn't like walking through the gate.

King Robert the Bruce, 1314

Autumn is coming and it is time to go.

An the walk back I passed the Argyll's Lodging just down from the castle.  The sign on the gate said it was currently not open for tours but then again the gate was open so it was open for at least one picture.

Then I started my journey back to the car which turned out to be an adventure of my own making.  Yes, I found it but I did have to back track up a road or two until I got it right. I told myself that I needed the exercise and the shops I passed were all so interesting.   Knowing that I had parked in a more residential area and the angle of the road heading up to the castle on the GPS helped.  What will help more in the future is if a drop a "pin" in the car location.   We are a continual learner.

I found some dinner and then found my last B&B which was located east of Stirling and only about 30 minutes from the airport.

Someone took time to add the lace around the bath towels.  

Another first made available in the room, going beyond the usual tea an coffee room options.

And in the morning the same attention to detail to the breakfast table. My hosts insisted on getting up early so that I left for the airport with breakfast. They usually served between 8-9 but when I told them that I wouldn't be staying for breakfast in the morning in order to head out to the airport told me that wasn't going to work for them.  They had me eating at 7:15 so that I wouldn't have to worry about traffic or airport delays.  

Silver butter dishes with silver butter knives.

And then it was off to find the car rental return at the airport which my GPS was not as helpful as I would have liked.  No added excitement moving through the airports and customs.  The plan was late leaving Edinburgh but the stop over in Philadelphia was generous enough to allows for delays and working my way through customs and over to the concourse for the flight to Cincinnati.  Only hold up was when I realized that I had on orange in by backpack that had been picked up a couple days earlier for a possible snack.  I had to declare it and then head over to Agriculture and confess and turn it in and have all my bags rescanned.  I had realized my dilemma on my own and self reported as soon as I stepped into the bathroom and saw all the signs warning me not to thrown any food or agricultural products in the trash.  The nice young lady in a hurry to make her connection was reminded of her apple in her bag by the agricultural searching beagle.   

But compared to traveling the border crossing between Canada and Alaska with Nan sitting in her RV  ahead of mine eating her banana and grapes while being asked if she had any fruits or vegetables on board, it wasn't as funny.

So if you are still here reading thanks for staying awake for the entire slide show.   Stay tuned for future adventures or turn around and share some of your own.