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31 March 2018 – Ocala, FL – Perry, GA – Clemson, SC -Atlanta, GA – Mt. Pleasant/Charleston, SC

     The beginning of March found us back in Ocala and we were excited for our  Pensacola friends, Andy and Tony, to come by for a visit. We had a great lunch at the Crazy Cucumber as we caught up on all we 4 have seen and done in the past few months. 

     Bill found an opportunity to take off on his bike for 23 miles of saddle time, unsuccessfully trying to make up for so long with NO cycling time. That evening we enjoyed music at Circle Square and at 7:00, went next door for an evening of Eagles music by the tribute band, 7 Bridges. Love this community!

I’ve found a new interest!
     Wanted to have some “ground breaking” photos so friends, George and Donna, were our photogs and we took some fun pictures of our own personal ground breaking. 



In the front yard of our ‘dirt’
     From there we went to an old car show where Bill met and bonded with a Model A and its owner; Happy Hour at the Lodge; dinner at The Club; and sliding in at the last second to enjoy an evening with The Kingston Trio. I sang along and didn’t care if my tone deafness offended anyone. What a fun fun day! What’s in store for us tomorrow??? Every morning is a new gift.

The Kingston Trio
   Another fun and filled to the brim day again. Bill and I took a class given by a wildlife photog on “What to Do With All Those Photos”. He was a wonderful presenter and teacher and we left there inspired to get more organized. We fit in our 10K steps through the neighborhood and went to Meadowbrook, our church’s First Wednesday service that more than met our expectations. It was a very meaningful time of soul-searching.

     Bill walked, exceeding his 10K steps while I sat on my backside in a 90 minute class with a brilliant instructor who made my brain cells stand at attention and hold hands. Her lecture was “Power and Fun With Words”. I’m a real clock watcher but we went 5 minutes over and I NEVER looked at my watch. I wondered why she was letting us go so soon. Would love to tuck myself in her back pocket and absorb every word.
     While I attended to hair, nails, and took 2 Life Long Learning classes, Bill cycled 35 miles through OTOW seeing things and places he hadn’t seen before. We left home at 9:15 AM and returned after 6:30 PM so it was an exciting day filled with ‘saddle time’ and learning. I attended an “Eye Health Awareness” class and one on “A Journey Through The Musical World of the Mountain Dulcimer”. Besides a very informative lecture, the ‘band’ was comprised of 8 dulcimers, 1 violin, 2 acoustic guitars, and 1 electric guitar providing a very relaxing afternoon.  We absolutely love it here! 

     We embarked on another adventure, leaving Ocala for Perry, GA. We’re just one of more than 2600 coaches here for a week-long rally. Opportunities for fun and for learning were colossal. We’re on our way to Stone Mountain for a couple of nights—love it there. This is what 2,904 RVs look like. There were 989 First Timers and we were numbered among them. This was a week well spent.



     We walked the downtown and historic area seeing beautiful old houses with azaleas bursting in a palate of colors, punctuated by Snow White dogwoods beginning to bloom against a background of clear blue cloudless sky. Perry is a beautifully quaint little Southern village.

     Our plans to spend a few days at Stone Mountain were cancelled by horrid weather so a few days later we drove to ATL to spend a short weekend with my brother, Bob, and our friend, Nancy. A little shopping and a lot of eating! They’re always so much fun to be with. Bob keeps us laughing and Nancy and I always have our own Laugh Fest. “A good time was had by all!”

   
     Enroute to ATL, we stopped in Clemson, SC, to enjoy a meal with long time boating friends, Bob and Emily.

       Palm Sunday gave us the opportunity to visit with our daughter, Courtney, granddaughter, Alleigh, and their pet bunny, Sophie. She’s so soft and sweet. Now we want a bunny rabbit! They live in Traveler’s Rest, SC, which is a little burb north of Greenville. It was SOOO cold there that day!!!
Palm Sunday
Our Grand Bunny, Sophie

     We’re back in Charleston for several weeks and looking forward to returning to our Seacoast Church, visiting with friends, eating rich and well, and seeing clearly!

     As the month ended we celebrated our anniversary. 15 years ago I was lucky enough to marry my best friend and Kindred Spirit. Happy anniversary to my amazing and ever so patient husband. (We ‘dated’ for 5 years—if that’s what it’s still called–meaning separate domiciles) with premarital counselling from our pastor to make sure there were no land mines. So 20 years—so far so good and I just can’t believe it’s been that long. He’s an incredibly long suffering man and I love you to pieces, Bill Bender!




     The last day of March found us strolling downtown Charleston not in search of restaurants or shopping but just relishing the gorgeous warm weather and splendid spring flowers.








See you again in a month!


Bill and Laura
Charleston/Mt. Pleasant, SC



 




February 2018 Christmas – Orlando – Titusville – Charleston/Mount Pleasant, SC, Brunswick, GA, Christmas – Lakeland – Arcadia – Seffner – Brooksville – Ocala – Brooksville – Ocala

     One of the advantages of living in Central Florida, besides being away from the coast and hurricane threats, is the proximity to so many places for day trips. We scooted down to Orlando to two furniture stores searching for bedroom furniture. When we left terra firma, 2008, we gave everything away except for 4 pieces of furniture so we’re starting from scratch. Thought we needed to begin the hunt before we found ourselves on the floor of our new home in sleeping bags. We know exactly what we want and that style isn’t easy to find so we need a head start. At ScanDesign, we found 6 pieces that we love and it’ll take 3 months from ordering to delivery so we can choreograph the timing.


     I have an affinity for bridges and below is my many times photographed Ravenel Bridge, Charleston, SC, and on the right, the Bartram Island Bridge, Jacksonville, FL.



 


     We made a quick trip to Charleston to take care of some business then back to Christmas, FL, and my pool du jour. We manipulated that travel so that we’d be in Brunswick, GA, in the evening to take advantage of wonderful filet mignons and cocktails at the Millhouse Steakhouse.


      Then, we moved on to Lakeland for a RV Rally, which was an eye-opener. During our stay there we drove to Arcadia to visit 94 year old Uncle Harold and Aunt Maybelle.  He is absolutely amazing and hasn’t forgotten one single thing in his 94 years. Sharp as a tack, he is!

Uncle Harold and Aunt Maybelle

     From Lakeland we moved on to Lazy Days in Seffner/Tampa for another RV gathering of our “brand” of coach. While there, we met some interesting and fun folks with whom we’ll stay in contact and expect to see again next month.

    Then on to Brooksville for a Blue Grass Festival—our very first but one of those things you’ve just gotta do at least once! There was a non-blue grass group, The Atlantic City Boys, very much like Frankie Valle and the Four Seasons or The Jersey Boys, and I LOVED them! They were incredible and I grinned all the way through their performance. Besides being musically excellent, they are superb showmen with their choreographed movements.



     While in Brooksville, Bill’s antennae picked up info of a festival/display of old train engines, tractors, and trucks so he took off to Fort Meade for the day and enjoyed that. Without any meal preparation needed for the day, I was able to spread out my watercolor materials in our tiny space and paint away.

     Another drive up to Ocala to check on our little rectangle of dirt being graded and prepared for the building of our home, enabling us to meet Donna and George for breakfast and Bruce and Patty for lunch. There’s NO way to eat  ‘healthy’ in restaurants! We’re soon going to be too big to fit through our narrow little doors.  But visiting with our friends—and getting fat—is so much fun!

 


   

     


     From the Blue Grass Fest, we drove farther into Brooksville to have some repair/maintenance done on our coach. Fortunately, the Suncoast Trail is just a stone’s throw away from our site so the 2 days we were there we took ultimate advantage of it both walking and cycling. We all recall the old, tired, and hackneyed ‘saying’ that exercise doesn’t keep but not only that, saddle time doesn’t save, either. Both of these came home to roost. We have made great use of the Suncoast Trail both on foot and bicycle. We are either older than we thought or more out of shape than ever we would’ve believed. We aren’t old so it definitely must be the latter.

     And so the month ends with us returning to Ocala and back in the same campsite we occupied for 2 months in the winter. 

Bill and Laura
Aboard Monaco Dynasty Coach
Ocala, FL


  

31 January 2018 Our January Whirlwind

     For a long time, we’ve wondered where we’d want to live when it was time to move to land. We love the area of western TN and NC but we both have such thin Southern blood that our temperature comfort level has about a 4 degree range—from about 72-76 degrees so that rules out the mountains. 

     I’ve always said I didn’t  want to live with a bunch of old people but I’m now eating my words. About a year ago, we heard of an active over 55 retirement community with the dumbest name—On Top of the World, Ocala, FL. We were in Wildwood, FL, having coach work done, were bored and decided to go see what this place was like. The gate guard wouldn’t let us through and directed us to the sales center. We were introduced to Mercedes, a sales counselor, who asked what we were looking for. Bill was sure he could escape the grip of a “sales person” so he said, “the smallest house with the largest garage.” She said, “I have it!” We were not even remotely close to thinking about moving to terra firma. She took us to the model, Arlington, and when Bill saw the 1100 square foot garage…well, the rest is history.


      Six months later we returned for a 2 night 3 day stay and were courted by On Top of the World with meals, tours, and connections with residents whose brains we picked. 


          We spent 2 months in Ocala to get the flavor of the area and to see if that is where we want to settle. We not only have found that Ocala fits us to a T but we bought a lot and will be building a house in a brand new still-being-developed Larkhill section of the Candler Hills area in On Top of the World where streets aren’t even in yet.

               Our friend, Wolfgang, Bill, and I surveying our piece of dirt


        There were so many who had their eye on Larkhill so our names were entered into a lottery pool and were drawn last Tuesday. We were the 4th of 20 to be drawn and we got our 2nd choice lot. We’ve spent two eight hour days with a designer in the Design Studio. Talk about painfully grueling!!!!! But we’re done!!! Bill did some tweaking of the garage, master closet, and laundry area. I tease him about his being anal and with a love of detail but he was incredible and outdid himself on every single iota of precision—things I’d have never thought about.

Our lot is sorta center left where the first pile of dark blue pipes are on north end.

      We’ll return in March and May for walk-throughs with a tentative closing date is 17 September. We’re super excited with some fear and trembling mixed in. 


          We’ve become so entwined and ingrained in the Candler community and have made so many wonderful, warm, and welcoming friends, that it’s really going to be difficult to extract our roots when we leave tomorrow. I’ve become part of a women’s Bible Study. Bill’s connected with several “old car guys” and 3 of them recently traveled to a Mecum car auction. 

A fabulous wood working shop for Bill.

          Remote control airplanes are huge and one of our friends has a whole fleet. There are endless educational and fitness opportunities. I’ve taken two art classes and both of us have attended several lectures/presentations on numerous and very interesting topics. 
      I’m so looking forward to having a pool walking distance from home.


 

The Lodge

The pool at the Lodge with zero entry in lap pool
The Lodge Pool

and a gym for a structured workout. I have the grace of an elephant but am eager to take ballet. 

      Almost every weekend at the Cultural Center, is the opportunity to see big name performers. We loved the Van-Dell’s last weekend. Frankie Avalon, the Letterman, and others will be here later this season.

      Our future neighbors are from all over. I had my fingers crossed for ethnic diversity and thankfully we aren’t all a group of white Caucasians and I’m loving the differences. Diversity was one of my favorite things about our 3 months in Washington DC.

     We’re so excited about regaining some structure in our lives and having a sense of community. The social life here is non-stop–quite a departure from our solitary cruising lives. There’s something going on here ALL the time; EVERY evening and we’re loving it. 

     We’ll be moving about the end of September and we’re so excited.

     Let me guess your first question. Yes, we’ll be swallowing the anchor and sadly putting Kindred Spirit III on the market this summer. We’ll return to her in May and spend some time on the Chesapeake and Long Island Sound. Selling her is the most difficult thing about this entire scenario. It’ll be “Cryin’ Time” in Lauraville, for sure. 

     We’ve loved our cruising life since we bought Kindred Spirit III, June 2006. After many trials and errors with Bristol and Epifanes, Bill’s finally perfected the art of varnishing and his ‘wet edge’. Our exterior teak is spectacular with the grain visible and a flawless glass-like finish. When it’s not fun anymore, it’s time to move to another adventure.

          The calendar of our birth years belies the way we feel which is decades younger than “the truth”. Bill’s teak maintenance is a tremendous amount of work. We want to settle on land while we can still enjoy the activities offered. So now you have our story of our impending new adventure.
     We spent a full day going to every single furniture store in Ocala and chose the best that we saw which wasn’t really a bell ringer for us but was better than other things that we saw. We’re focusing on our bedroom now feeling that a place to rest our weary bodies after the move should be a priority.

     Our “loose” intentions were to investigate a lot in Candler this time next year but things seemed to develop so fast with everything falling into place—just a year sooner than what we’d thought. We’re at peace with our decision and are confident we’ve made the right decision.

This month, I took a fun ink and watercolor class from a fabulous instructor. I look forward to being under her tutelage in the future. Bill’s had a couple of days with the boys. He was in Greenville, SC, for a week and the day after he returned, he and some of his old car buddies went to Kissimmee for a Mecum car auction. None of them came home with a garage-sized toy but think Bill’s getting getting primed since he’ll have this “dream garage”. Even though it’s 1100 square feet, he tells me a garage can never be too big.  He wanted to take some of our master closet for garage!!!  The nerve!!! One of these days I hope to have a wardrobe that exceeds shorts, tees, and jeans.

     After leaving Ocala, we moved to Christmas, FL. I’d never heard of it but it’s a cute little wide spot in the road and the campground has a rectangular pool that is actually swimmable. I’ve been in it every day since we arrived. This is the first time I’ve swam since May and the pacemaker bump-in-the-road in June so it was wonderul to see if I still knew what to do. It was as if I never had that 8 month hiatus.


     Our dear dear friend, Bobbi, from Merritt Island came for a visit and she brought steamed shrimp that had just swum that morning. For lunch we drove to Titusville to the iconic restaurant, Crossroads. Bobbi is amazing and I drink in everything she says. She’s a fount of knowledge and especially her past trawlering and motor coach travels.


     We’re a short drive from Orlando so we spent another day at 2 “transitional” furniture stores and without a quibble, have found our bedroom suite. It needs to be ordered which’ll take 3 months so that should work out perfectly.


     Monday we’re moving on but are enjoying this area for a brief time.


Bill and Laura
Christmas RV Park, FL


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31 December 2017 Solomons – Ocala – Leesburg – Silver Springs – Rainbow Springs

     It seemed to take forever to move from the boat to our coach. Even though the move isn’t from house to house, it is from home to home with the coach having FAR less room than Kindred Spirit III. To take a break from the drudgery, in Ocala we attended an excellent lecture on the Florida Panhandle which was of particular interest to me since I was “born and raised” in Pensacola. 

     Boating/RV friends, Dinata and Andy have just moved to Arlington Ridge Retirement Community near Leesville. During construction, Dinata took photos every day and posted them so that everyone could watch the progress. It was very fascinating to us so we went down for a visit, to see their new home where boxes were still being unpacked. They gave us a tour of their new neighborhood and we ended the day at The Village Green, a little pub and grill, where Dinata surprised us by singing. She has a wonderful talent and voice. We’d never heard her sing before so this was a huge treat. 

     More boating/RV friends, Sue and Rich, met us at Silver Springs State Park. 




     We wandered around over the grounds reminiscing of when we were there 60+ years ago and my, how it’s changed! That was one of Florida’s main attractions so long ago. There’s so much algae in the water that there are only a few bare areas that are free of growth so that the clear water can be appreciated and with a view of the sand. 

     The air was perfect and we vicariously lived through their tales of their month long hike through Ireland. 

     I was torn between skinny dipping which would’ve cleared out the area or jumping in in my clothes. I wanted to swim in tht water SO bad!

     These kids have lived a most adventurous life and every time we’re with them, we’re awed by yet more stories of experiences and feats we’d not known about before. They’re an amazing couple. Our time together was culminated at the Mojo Grill where we had the patio all to ourselves. A good thing because the guffaws and howling laughter would’ve been disturbing to others. We love spending time with them and Rich is hilarious. 

     The reason we’re spending 2 months in Ocala is because the retirement community that we’re considering when get older, grayer, and infirmed, is Ocala’s On Top of the World. www.ontopoftheworld.com.  From this point forward we’ll refer to it as OTOW. We want to get the flavor of the area and learn more about OTOW. I’ve always chanted that I’ll never live in a retirement community with a bunch of old people but seems I’ll be eating my words AND have become one of them. I sent a friend the link to the community and she said it looks really nice but there sure are a lot of ‘old people’ there. Uh-huh!


     We’ve taken advantage of quite a few of their offerings and one afternoon we listened to a couple recount their recent experience touring Cambodia and Thailand. They had 3000 photos from their trip and shared a mere 300 with us Fascinating!

     While we were still at Alliance Coach in Wildwood, FL, we had lunch at TooJay’s, across the street in The Villages. 

     One of our fave lunch spots that we were first introduced to while in Vero years ago. I went back to the coach after lunch and Bill spent the afternoon at a Tractor Museum in Leesburg, devouring every second of it. How many more museums of old mechanical things could there possibly be that he’s not yet seen??? Probably not too many.

     The day before Thanksgiving we were finally sprung from Alliance Coach where we had repairs and service taken care of. They are excellent and very fair in their charges. Josh, service manager, was outstanding in expediting our repairs. 

     We traveled 30 miles north on I-75 and thankful that we didn’t have to go farther. Traffic is atrocious and people seem to be driving like bats out of hell. We’re now in Ocala RV Resort (‘resort’ is a loosly used word) and can see the interstate from our site making us relieved not to be numbered among them. 

     Thanksgiving Day was our first day in Ocala and also my birthday so we celebrated both at a wonderful French restaurant in Ocala. Bill Bender did himself quite proud that day earning him some “good boy” points. He really outdid himself!



















     Bill’s has a Facebook account but he doesn’t post so I’ll do it for him. He drove to the Daytona Speedway for an old car show just as a day trip. He left at 6 AM and got home at 8 PM and walked 9 1/2 miles while he was there. He wore his Garmin because he always wonders how far he walks at these events. There were 1000 cars for sale and 5000 for show. He came home dragging his tail behind him and he was done for the next day BUT he had a good time! And I had a good time staying home playing “happy homemaker”.


     Friends we knew from Greenville, SC, Bill’s colleague at Michelin and his friend for 40+ years, Wolfgang and his wife, Pily, came down from their home in GA with their new travel trailer to see what we’ve been raving about at OTOW. 


Wolfgang and Bill
     We took another day trip to Rainbow Springs State Park.



and then to Cedar Key,  a quaint little fishing village reeking of Old Florida and had lunch overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.



     Every weekend, OTOW has live music in their Circle Square so we took Pily and Wolfgang there for unabashed dancing in the streets on a Saturday night. We’ve missed only one since we’ve been here.

                                Shaking a leg on a Saturday night


      We had the opportunity to meet Brigitta, Wolfgang and Pily’s realtor. We had dinner in their home and they are such a delightful couple. She and I have become friends but not real estate related.She has so much to offer and I can’t seem to get enough of learning new things.

  

     I just finished a 5 week acrylic painting class and my initial undertaking was our little TR6. Not a good choice for a green-horn but I finished it and it sort of looks like what it is supposed to be. 


I completed it one week early so, at the instructors’s suggestion, I chose a simple one and finished it in a couple of hours at our last class. At the close of  class #3, she said for my very first painting I should never have chosen the car with so much detail and perspective NOR should I have used such a small canvas AND that when I’m through with it, I won’t be happy with it AND I’m paralyzed with fear for doing something wrong. She waits d3 weeks to tell me!!!????  At the first class there were 5 of us. At the last, only 2. Wonder why.
Can’t get much more simple than this!
Our RV ‘Resort’  
     We’ve found a church here that teaches similarly to our Seacoast Church in Mt. Pleasant and we felt right at home the first Sunday that we visited.The pastor’s fantastic and his teachings are Biblically solid.

     Six months ago we were here for several days and met JoAnn and Lee with whom we’ve stayed in touch. We reconnected when we arrived and they had us to their home for brunch. Bruce and Patty were also guests and we’d met Patty 6 months ago when we were looking at the model homes. Patty’s in a Bible study with a large group of women and she invited me to join. We had a Christmas luncheon that was fun to be able to chat with each of the women and, of course, my primary questions were, “how long have you lived in OTOW and how do you like it?”  Bill and I have walked extensively in the development and everyone we meet or even pass on the street or sidewalk will wave. The ones who are walking, we stop and interrogate them. Everybody LOVES it but you know “there’s always one in every crowd.” One evening we were walking and a man was driving by, stopped beside us, lowered his window (to vent, I suppose) and spoke to us. We asked him the same 2 questions. He hates it here; he didn’t want to move here but his wife did—she wanted a tile roof and a palm tree. That’s why everybody moves to Florida, he said.


     Sholom Park, just outside OTOW’s gate, was donated by the owner/developer of the community, and is a 44 acre botanical garden that has over 2 miles of paved trails and more than 250 species of plants and trees. It is a place of natural beauty and a place designed to find inner peace to relax, unwind, and think on things.


     It’s such a beautiful and restful park. Hurricane Irma took out about 25 trees so can’t imagine how much more gorgeous that would’ve been. The park requires little or no supplemental watering. Native plants are combined with cultivated ornaments, perennials, and annuals. This creates a beautiful and resilient landscape. If you ever drive through Ocala, stop and wander through these meadows and woodland areas, with added flowers and trees, as well as native wildlife for our enjoyment.


     On a Sunday afternoon a Lutheran Church hosted the OTOW Concert Choir one Sunday afternoon and we were on the front row. The blending of voices was magnificent and the accompanist’s talent, extraordinary.


     One of the groups at OTOW are the Storytellers. We attended their Christmas presentation and all were good but the last story teller related his best Christmas ever when he was 13. My tears leaked out. He was such a great sharer.


     Last Sunday afternoon we attended the Ocala Jazz Musicians monthly jam and it was foot-tapping knee-slapping music for sure. A couple there were ball room dancing and they were such a treat to watch. She seemed to be levitating and gliding on air. 

     While I was at art one day, Bill attended a presentation of the Quirky Influences that Florida’s had on the U.S.  


     We’ve both attended several classes by an attorney on documents needed as a Florida resident of which we’ve been since 2007. We had our durable power of attorney and will executed in SC but FL has a few twists and turns, as I imagine do most states, so we’re going to have them reviewed by an attorney before leaving Ocala. The information was great and we learned several new things.

     Have you ever heard of a Cracker Cowboy Poet? Ocala is the horse capital of the world and cowboys here call themselves Cow Hunters. Hank Mattson provided an afternoon of entertainment. He brought many props—gator hide, snake skin, skunk skin, cow skull and more things than I can name but maybe in the photo you can pick out some things. He’s put 400 years of cow hunting facts into poetry that he recites in the Cow Hunter dialect. We laughed and I had tears. This was all from his heart and we could sit through his presentation again!



     There is so much to do in OTOW that no one could ever be bored. There are several pools; foreign language classes; art; sign language; ballet (which I can’t wait to do) and more than I can rattle off. There’s a fabulous wood working shop that Bill’s drooling over already. Remote control cars and planes are huge here and we’ve been out to the field to watch Lee fly one of his fleet of planes. Bill lapped it up.


     Our great cycling guru friend, Charmaine, came down from DC to visit and brought her bike for a little stroll through our potential new home.



  


    Moving to OTOW is going to mean swallowing the anchor and I can tell you, that’ll be Cryin’ Time in Lauraville. I LOVE that boat and being on and in the water. Can’t bear the though of no more anchoring out and the gentle rocking of our home. Always said we’d stay aboard till the Grim Reaper came but guess we need to become Land Dwellers before we get too much longer in the tooth. We’re looking at about a year out. When you buy a lot, you can’t sit on it and construction must begin. The lot we have our eye on isn’t even developed enough for us to purchase but should be within a month or two. The build time will be 8-12 months so the longer it drags out the better for us.


     Till the end of next month–
Bill and Laura
Ocala, FL

November and December 2017 Wildwood, Ocala, Daytona, Jacksonville, FL

     It seemed to take forever to move from the boat to our coach. Even though the move isn’t from house to house, it is from home to home with the coach having FAR less room than Kindred Spirit III. To take a break from the drudgery, we attended an excellent lecture in Ocala on the Florida Panhandle which was of particular interest to me since I was “born and raised” in Pensacola. 

     Boating/RV friends, Dinata and Andy have just moved to Arlington Ridge Retirement Community near Leesville. During construction, Dinata took photos every day and posted them so that everyone could watch the progress. It was very interesting to us so we went down for a visit, to see their new home where boxes were still being unpacked. They gave us a tour of their new neighborhood and we ended the day at The Village Green, a little pub and grill, where Dinata surprised us by singing. She has a wonderful talent and voice. We’d never heard her sing before so this was a huge treat. 




       More boating/RV friends, Sue and Rich, met us at Silver Springs State Park. We wandered around over the grounds reminiscing of when we were there 60+ years ago and my, how it’s changed!


     That was one of Florida’s main attractions so long ago. There’s so much algae in the water that there are only a few bare areas that are free of growth so that the clear water can be appreciated and with a view of the sand.




     The air was perfect and we vicariously lived through their tales of their month long hike through Ireland. These kids have lived a most adventurous life and every time we’re with them, we’re awed by yet more stories of experiences and feats we’d not known about before. They’re an amazing couple. Our time together was culminated at the Mojo Grill where we had the patio all to ourselves. A good thing because the guffaws and howling laughter would’ve been disturbing to others. We love spending time with them and Rich is hilarious. 



     While we were still at Alliance Coach in Wildwood, FL, we had lunch at TooJay’s, across the street in The Villages. One of our fave lunch spots that we were first introduced to while in Vero years ago. I went back to the coach after lunch and Bill spent the afternoon at a Tractor Museum in Leesburg and devoured every second of it. How many more museums of old mechanical things could there possibly be that he’s not yet seen??? Probably not too many.

     The day before Thanksgiving we were finally sprung from Alliance Coach where we had repairs and service. They are excellent and very fair in their charges. Josh, service manager, was outstanding in expediting our repairs. We traveled 30 miles north on I-75 and thankful that we didn’t have to go farther. Traffic is atrocious as it seems to be nationwide. We’re now in Ocala RV Resort and can see the interstate from our site. The traffic out there NEVER stops.  Our intentions are to be here for a couple months to get the flavor of the area and to make sure this is where we want to land one of these days. We’re in Ocala RV Park and Resort–that last word is loosely used. A ‘resort’ it isn’t.


                                   Duck Pond at our ‘resort’

     The retirement community that we’re considering when get older, grayer, and infirmed, is Ocala’s On Top of the World. From this point forward we’ll refer to it as OTOW. We’ve taken advantage of quite a few of their offerings and one afternoon we listened to a couple recount their recent experience touring Cambodia and Thailand. They had 3000 photos from their trip and shared a mere 300 with us. Fascinating!

     Thanksgiving Day was our first day in Ocala and also my birthday so we celebrated both at a wonderful French restaurant. Bill Bender really racked up some “good boy” points on my birthday. He did a super-excellent job!



     Bill has a Facebook account but he doesn’t post so I’ll do it for him. One day he went to the Daytona Speedway for an old car show. He left at 6 AM, got home at 8 PM and walked 9 1/2 miles while he was there. He wore his Garmin because he always wonders how far he walks at these events. There were 1000 cars for sale and 5000 for show. He came home dragging his tail behind him and he was done for the next day BUT he had a good time! 

     Friends we knew from Greenville, SC, Bill’s colleague at Michelin and his friend for 40+ years, Wolfgang and his wife, Pily, came down from their home in GA with their new travel trailer to see what we’ve been raving about at OTOW. While they were here, we took a day trip to Rainbow Springs State Park






and then to Cedar Key, a quaint little fishing village reeking of Old Florida. We enjoyed a Gulf-side restaurant for lunch. 














     Every weekend, OTOW has live music in their Circle Square so we took Pily and Wolfgang there for unabashed dancing in the streets on a Saturday night. We’ve missed only one since we’ve been here.




                              Shaking a leg on a Saturday night


     I just finished a 5 week acrylic painting class and my initial undertaking was the little TR6. Not a good choice for a green horn but I finished it and it sort of looks like what it is supposed to be. I finished one week early so, at the instructors’s suggestion, I chose a simple one and finished it in a couple of hours at our last class. At the first class there were 5 of us. At the last class, only 2.



     We’ve found a church here similar to our Seacoast in Mt. Pleasant and we felt right at home the first Sunday we visited. 

     Six months ago we were here for several days and met JoAnn and Lee with whom we’ve stayed in touch. We reconnected when we arrived and they had us to their home for brunch. Bruce and Patty were also guests and we’d met Patty 6 months ago when we were looking at the model homes. Patty’s in a Bible study with a large group of women. She invited me to join and  I’m really enjoying it. 

     We had a Christmas luncheon that was fun to be able to chat with each the women and, of course, my primary questions were, “how long have you lived in OTOW and how do you like it?”  Bill and I have walked extensively in the development and everyone we meet or even pass on the street or sidewalk will wave. The ones who are walking, we stop and interrogate them, too. Everybody LOVES it here. 

     While I was at art one day, Bill attended a presentation of the Quirky Influences that Florida’s had on the U.S.  We’ve both attended classes by an attorney on documents needed as a Florida resident of which we’ve been since 2007. We had our durable power of attorney and will executed in SC but FL has a few twists and turns, as I imagine do most states, so we’re going to have them reviewed before leaving Ocala. The information was great and we learned some things of which we weren’t aware.


     OTOW’s Concert Choir performed Christmas music at a local Ocala church and, of course, we were right there. Their voices blended beautifully and it was a treat for us.

     Have you ever heard of a Cracker Cowboy Poet? Ocala is the horse capital of the world and cowboys here call themselves Cow Hunters. Hank Mattson provided an afternoon of entertainment. He brought many props—gator hide, snake skin, skunk skin, cow skull and more things than I can name but maybe in the photo you can identify some things. He’s put 400 years of cow hunting facts into poetry that he recites in the Cow Hunter dialect. We laughed and I had tears. This was all from his heart and so intriguing that we could sit through his presentation again!




     
     A group of ‘elderly’ (I’m no longer certain of that definition) gentlemen who comprise the Ocala Jazz Society presented a concert that was out of this world. We tapped our feet and grinned the entire time. A lagniappe was a couple very proficient in ball room dancing who danced to several of their pieces. Their movements were beautifully graceful.


     Christmas Day, Bruce and Patty invited us to join their friends in their home for a Yule Celebration. We loved meeting new OTOW friends and being asked to share Christmas with them.


     Pily and Wolfgang returned here to escape the GA tundra. Pily went to Disney for a few days and Bill and he went to Jacksonville to look at a BMW for Wolfy and a Corvette for Bill. Bill was looking for pewter and this one was silver. Thought several passes with steel wool would dull the silver and give it a pewter look.  
   
     You may recall us talking about Charmaine, our cycling guru in DC. She came down for a visit and brought her bike. She, Wolf, Bill, and I went out for a little spin to show her the area. This is the gal who works downtown DC and rides her bike to work, rain or shine, unless the snow is deeper than 3″. She’s an animal on a bicycle and my hero.

                                       Charmaine and me


  

                    
                     Surveying our intended potential home site.


     Sidney Colen, developer of OTOW, has donated to the city, an exquisite piece of land, a 44 acre botanical garden, named Sholom Park. It’s designed as a place to find inner peace and is landscaped to thrive in the Central FL climate. There are 2 miles of paved pathways created throughout the park’s woodland areas and meadows that are teeming with native wildlife and more than 250 species of plants and trees. Sholom Park is named after Sholom Colen, the grandfather of Mr. Sidney Colen. It’s a most tranquil respite.












     Wolfgang, Bill, and I hiked a very pleasant 5 miles on the Baseline Trail area of the Cross Florida Greenway. Once upon a time, in the 1930’s, it was slated to be part of the corridor for the sea-level Cross Florida Ship Canal project and the latter Cross FL Barge Canal in the 1960’s and ’70’s. There are remnants of the digging from the ’30’s that still remain, so they say but we couldnt find them. Despite the number of parents and children on new bikes, skateboards, and scooters, it was still very quiet and peaceful.

     Along this woodland is a swath of true urban wilderness. We’re not fans of paved trails but the value of providing a ribbon of asphalt through a forest is amazing when you’re in the thick of humanity with subdivisions and strip malls on both sides of the park but gratefully out of sight and sound. People actually USE this trail and lose their fear of the woods. Another attribute of the paved path is its accessibility for bikes, strollers, and wheelchairs.  BTW, there are hills in flat Florida.


     We’ll leave Ocala 22 January, so if you’re in this area, please call and come visit.  We feel so enmeshed and ingrained in this community that it seems like home. It will be difficult to pull up our roots here as we move on to another adventure.


     Happy New Year to all and we wish for you a happy, healthy and better than 2017, 2018!


Bill and Laura Bender

19 November 2017Fall. Transitions. Leaving Kindred Spirit "up north". Waiting for coach repair.

     Once again we checked in to Olverson’s Marina, arriving just in time for Happy Hour and their Halloween Party with oysters fried, roasted; chicken fried, smoked; ham; and desserts unfathomable. With oyster knife in hand I attached those hot, steamy, smoking bivalves and ate till I couldn’t! Wonderful people and delicious food after a long day on the water. Coming here is like coming home. We’ve been here so many times and have great friends here. Of course, Cas and Freddie are the stars and better folks you could never find.

     ’twas a chilly and beautiful morning at Olverson’s Marina on the Yecomico River in late October. The night before we had a great evening with friends over cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and gales of laughter, hosted by Jon and Page. In the morning we’re casting off our lines en route to Solomon’s, MD, to tuck Kindred Spirit in for the winter. Being at Olverson’s is so much like home and we always love our stays here.

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     As if the feast last night wasn’t enough, just prior to our departure for Solomons, MD, the dinner bell rang for a gargantuan breakfast spread with Cas, Freddie, Linda, and Wayne at Lottsburg Cafe. I think my Western Omelet must’ve been made with at least a dozen eggs. Never have I seen such a mound of food! A very pleasant beginning to our day.

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     We happily tucked into Calvert’s Marina on Solomon’s, after a spectacular cruise on the Chesapeake. We couldn’t have ordered a more beautiful day nor a calmer bay. 
    
                                           
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      I have NEVER seen a window in a chimney. And it’s even sporting curtains.
    
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                    Day is done from Calvert’s Marina.
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                   This is a magnificent sunrise from Calvert’s.


     Great friends, Curt and July, live on Solomon’s so we joined them at Solomon’s Island Yacht Club for “shrimp night” and it was mouth-watering. Old friends and good times.

     Moved into a covered slip to see how we “fit”. Just hope and pray our new total enclosure doesn’t have to come down. What a monumental job THAT is!!! The mast is already lowered–not a big deal. I am absolutely overwhelmed with all there is to do before we leave here in 3 days. Most can’t be done till the last minute and I’m berserk. Leaving Kindred Spirit III in frigid climes is totally foreign to us…and scary. We had no idea that winterizing takes 2 men 1 1/2 days and 40+ gallons of antifreeze. Judy and Curt saved me from a total melt down last night but I do confess to a partial one. I’m just about to have a fit and fall in it. The carnage created with staging, packing away, etc., almost calls for a pogo stick to move from one part of our boat to another. This, too, shall pass.

A Waterman in Solomon’s Sculpture Garden

     Judy and Curt rounded up Ted and Navy, another couple of our friends who also live on Solomons for cocktails and dinner at the yacht club. More laughter and just a wonderfully fun evening.

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                                           Sunset from SIYC
     All of our stuff was “staged” in dock carts so when Bill returned with the rental car, we could make haste and waste no time transferring from cart to car. Onward to Mount Pleasant, SC.

I love Charleston’s Ravenel Bridge

     Bob and Deidre are old boating friends who’ve semi-settled in Mount Pleasant so we connected with them for dinner at Shem Creek Bar and Grill.

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           Evening shadows fall over Shem Creek.
     The next evening was great fun in Jim and Betsy’s home with lots of cruising friends, good food, and libations. The following day we had brunch/lunch with Jim and Martha in between MANY appointments! This is our bi-annual Medical Marathon with 18 appointments in 3 days! We’re loving these breaks of time with friends. 4 appointments tomorrow then we’re driving as far south as we can get before we fall asleep at the wheel. What a whirl wind these few days have been!!!

     Our 18th appointment was completed and we crossed the Ravenel Bridge with Brunswick in our GPS for that night.

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Leaving Charleston and crossing the Ravenel Bridge

     MUSC is a par excellence medical facility but so glad to be finished and on our way to some REAL adventures!We didn’t get out of town till after 5 PM but reached our destination with a planned stop at the Millhouse Steakhouse. What a gastric treat are their filets and a celebratory dinner! 

     Arriving in Wildwood, FL, where our coach has spent the summer presents the feat of moving in, unpacking, and getting organized. Our boat has waaaaay more room than our coach which is understandable since the coach lacks a fly bridge and numerous hatches. This is absolutely moving even though not from one house to another. Inside looks as if a tornado passed through and there remains MUCH more in the car.  

     To take a break from this challenge, we attended an excellent lecture on the Florida Panhandle; of particular interest to me since I was “born and raised” in Pensacola.

     Friends we met in Marathon years ago, Dinata and Andy, were boaters, then RV-ers, and now living in a real house on dirt. They’re in Arlington Ridge, Leesburg, so we got a tour of their new home and of their community. We went with them to The Village Green for dinner and to hear Dinata sing. What a hidden talent is she!  We’d never heard her sing before and she has a beautiful voice. What a treat!!
                                      Isn’t Dinata a cutie!



     More old boating friends who are new RV-ers but also live on land, Sue and Rich, were in the area so we met them at Silver Springs State Park for a hike and dinner. 


The air was perfect and we got to live vicariously through their tales of their very recent month long hike through Ireland. These kids have lived a most adventurous life and every time we’re with them, we’re awed by yet more tales of experiences and feats we’d not known about before. 


     They’re an amazing couple. Our time together was culminated at the Mojo Grill where we had the patio all to ourselves. A good thing because the guffaws and howling laughter would’ve been disturbing to others. We love Rich and Sue!!!




     Back in Wildwood, we had lunch at one of our faves and after lunch Bill spent the afternoon at an International Harvester Tractor Museum in Leesburg. Andy recommended it and he devoured every second. He closed them down. How many more museums of old mechanical things could there be that he’s not yet seen??? Prolly not too many.

     Another lecture was available so we heard a couple recount their recent experience touring Cambodia and Taiwan. They had 3000 photos from their trip and shared 300 with us. Fascinating!

     Still attempting organization. Shorts and short sleeve weather here although we hear it gets pretty cold. If so, we’re ready for it!

Bill and Laura
Wildwood, FL



28 October 2017 Mattawoman Creek Anchorage to Olverson’s Marina AKA Lodge Creek Yacht Club

     We had another beautiful day for cruising from Mattawoman Creek Anchorage to Olverson’s Marina. 

     We arrived just in time for Happy Hour and their Halloween Party with oysters fried, roasted; chicken …

27 October 2017 Washington, DC – Mattawoman Creek Anchorage

We cast off our lines from DC today headed for Mattawoman Creek Anchorage. We couldn’t have wished for a more perfect day for cruising. 

                            &nb…

26 October 2017 Sayonara, Washington, DC!!!

        Sadly, today’s our last day here. Our intentions were to spend 2 months here. We’d spent a month twice before but needed longer this time.  Cruisers don’t have plans—unless they’re cast in dilute Jello—we have intentions. We’ve delayed our departure twice but now, after 3 months, we’ve gotta go. Temps are predicted to fall so we’re outa here.

                                    A pretty steeple in Chinatown




      Of all the big cities we’ve visited, none has the accidental loveliness, to us, as does D.C. This is a city you can walk across, with wide-open avenues, front porches, old neighborhoods and river views. It was designed by a Parisian, Pierre L’Enfant, and, in some respects, still retains that ‘feeling’. By law, buildings cannot be taller than the width of the street they front, enabling one to always be able to see the sky. There are more than two dozen free museums, so you can absorb culture the way it was meant to be experienced. Take a tour of NPR. Enter the name of a museum and discover lectures, concerts, and classes that they offer. Not publicized so the only way to know what’s happening aside from the obvious is do a few searches and you’ll be quite surprised at what’s available–you just have to hunt.


     To get a break from all the history and heritage, we’ve often hopped on our bikes and headed across the Potomac River to Gravelly Point Park off the Mt. Vernon Trail in Virginia. The trail is marked just like a higihway with lines down the middle and is very well used by commuters. They haul on their way to work and home. It’s a grassy knoll known mostly to locals, where you can watch airplanes come in, shockingly close to your head, for a landing just a few hundred feet away at Reagan National Airport. 









     There is also a walking and biking path that runs along the river, plus a pretty view of Washington.






     America does not have many truly impressive Gothic cathedrals, so the National Cathedral is one worth visiting. It is actually an Episcopal church, but Congress has designated it the National House of Prayer. Since 1907, it has been used for state funerals for three presidents, monthly emergency unity services during WWII, presidential prayer services and 9/11 memorial ceremonies. Half-hour tours are held throughout the day. It is striking and pleasantly removed from the rest of official D.C. 




     The best way to see most of Washington’s monuments and museums is to stroll down the Mall, a greenway with the Capitol as a focal point at one end and lined with treasures all the way to the Lincoln Memorial. 

    When “the Smithsonian” is mentioned, many conjure up an image of  just one museum but greater DC boasts 20 other sites—enough to thrill any museum buff.  The National Museum of American History (not to be missed!) is the home of the Hope Diamond along with an insect zoo, an IMAX cinema and a hall full of dinosaurs. There’s even an African elephant in its rotunda. A massive collection of all things American from Abraham Lincoln’s top hat to the Nintendo Game Boy, the National Museum of Natural History has something for everyone from the femme to the fierce. 




     From and 1855 castle to venues show-casing art, outer space, and culture, the buildings around the National Mall has something for every member of the family.




                                    The Smithsonian Castle

     If your head’s in the clouds, the National Air and Space Museum will delight you with its 23 galleries brim-full of aircraft, vehicles and satellites used for space travel.






                                    A stroll through Chinatown

     Architecture, history, art, and culture come together at the National Museum of the American Indian. The building’s unique curvature makes it impossible to miss.
     The newest museum, just a year old, is the Museum of African American History and Culture. There’s a collection of 37,000 historical artifacts as well as exhibitions on sports, segregation, slavery, music, and so much more.  Because it’s so new AND very popular, tickets must be secured far in advance. I failed to do that so when tour busses arrived the day I was there, I just fell in line with those folks and when the tour group leader went down the line doling out tickets, my hand was out and it collected a ticket. 

    

     When visiting our nation’s capital, our suggestion is not to visit things that look the same on TV as they do in real life. The White House, for example, is not worth the trouble, sorry to say, having nothing to do with President Trump’s description of it being “a dump”. Look at it from the outside and marvel at the snipers on the roof but keep walking. 









     The Washington Monument? The best thing about it is its starkness. You will see that from afar all over town. In 24 hours, your time is better spent popping into one of the outstanding museums, strolling through a garden and then inspecting one of the many icons that say more about America than a slab of concrete ever will.




                               Courtyard of Freer/Sackler Gallery


  


 Today was our last day to do something new or re-visit a favorite. I love the bike path to Georgetown. Riding uphill, I was going through the woods and then…I was in Georgetown! There’s a mystical facet to that. 

     The Capital Crescent Trail connects DC to its Maryland suburbs. The trail is so lushly wooded that it’s easy to forget the hubbub of our capital lying just over the trees. While pedaling along the Potomac River, glancing over my shoulder provided a beautiful view of the iconic Washington Monument which serves as a reminder of the city’s proximity. 


    Georgetown is a trendy neighborhood and is where the 7 miles of paved trail ends–or begins–just a few blocks from the Kennedy Center and the infamous Watergate complex.









   View of the Potomac from the trail 


    We’ve ridden the trail on weekends and weekdays. As in cruising, we like to leave the weekends for the gainfully employed and then enjoy the week days when bike paths and the waterway is less crowded.  The first few miles are nestled within a national park and tucked between the Potomac and the C&O Canal. The towpath parallels the Capital Crescent before veering off on a journey of 185 miles to Cumberland, MD.


     

                    Georgetown Waterfront


     It seems there are very few things here without a historical background and this trail is no exception. It traces the route of the former Georgetown Branch of the B&O Railroad which opened in 1910. The train ran for 75 years and carried coal to provide electricity for Georgetown’s streetcars. That coal also powered a steam plant that heated the White House. In preparation for construction of the Lincoln Memorial, these trains also brought in the limestone.


     For me, the Dalecarlia Tunnel is the highlight of the trail, especially on a hot day. It’s 340 feet long, built of brick, and on steamy summer days is a total respite to ride through. There are a few cut-outs in the walls for a pedestrian to get out of the way if a train came as they were walking through–from the olden days.





     We’re fond of celebrations and it’s fairly easy for us to always find something to celebrate. Today will not be a deviation. There are several things for which to be thankful and the first is that today’s the birthday of our son, Andy. How he got to be 46 years old, I do not know!!! Secondly, today’s the 20th anniversary of our first date. I just can’t believe it’s been that long. Seems like only a year or two. And number 3–we’re so thankful for our 3 months in this marvelous city and our proximity to any and everything we might want to see or do. Along with that is thanksgiving for our health and our ability to walk and cycle to every corner of Washington, DC.


     Tomorrow we cast off our lines and begin our southern trek by way of a Calvert’s Marina in Solomon’s, MD, where we’ll tuck in Kindred Spirit III for several months while we explore land based destinations.  Saying goodbye is hard to do!


Bill and Laura
Washington, DC

23 October 2017 Another Post Interview; The Capitol Steps, National Archives with Ken Burns, and Grand Opening of District Wharf

    


     Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican and Texan, who spent nearly 20 years in the US Senate, is our NATO representative. She was the first female Senator elected to represent Texas. The Washington Post hosted Ambassador Hutchison, for an interview with columnist David Ignatius. The former senator discussed the future of the transatlantic alliance that Donald Trump once called “obsolete” — a position that he has since reversed; she talked about mounting threats from Russia and other countries against Western allies. She addressed her top priorities in the areas of military cooperation, intelligence-gathering and combating terrorism. Bill and I were for fortunate enough to be present for this interview.

     A friend who once lived here and is still in the area, suggested we attend a performance of The Capitol Steps. So thankful for her suggestion because we’d never heard of this American political satire group. They began in 1981 at a Christmas party in the office of former Senator Charles Percy. Like most things in Congress, they never knew when to stop. They have released over 40 albums that are primarily song parodies and have appeared on Good Morning America, the Today Show, 20/20, Entertainment Tonight, Nightline, and dozens of times on NPR’s “All Things Considered”. They’ve performed for 5 US Presidents—6 if you include Hillary.

     Each performance consists of 1 pianist and 5 performers frantically changing wigs and costumes.  Many of the actors have worked on Capitol Hill for both Republicans and Democrats. The current cast has at one time or another infested the offices of 11 US Senators and 7 members of the House of Representatives.

     This troupe books shows all over the country but has become a favorite on the DC social circuit. Its political satire brings riotous laughter, rave reviews, guffaws and bipartisan grins all around.
     When we arrived here 31 July, major construction projects were underway with crews working shifts around the clock to meet the deadline of 12 October’s Grand Opening of the District Wharf. The 4 day opening was certainly a “grand” event attracting hordes of people interested in the new development of up-scale shops, restaurants, apartments, and condos. This southwest area of DC used to be an area to which you dare not come out of fear for your life but now it is a happening quadrant of the city.

     We toured one of the apartment complexes and marveled at the views from their 6th floor terrace although the top floor was the 12th.

Looking south toward Capitol Yacht Club and Gangplank Marina

                         A pool that looks as if you could swim right off the edge.

The view to the north and in the direction of the iconic seafood market

    An assortment of interesting characters were present for the festivities


Each night in the huge rock fire pit, marshmallows, a roasting stick, graham crackers, and chocolate were made available to everyone.


A concert during the Asian Culture Awareness Festival. This musician is describing and explaining a 2 string Chinese violin that she demonstrated.

                              The Asian ensemble performs for us




Another delightful concert in the American Art Museum by a Chinese pianist, 
                                  Ukraine violinist, and British cellist


     We visited the National Archives to hear director Ken Burns and see clips and comments from his documentary on Vietnam, now known as the American War. Cokie Roberts moderated the discussion with Ken and Lynn Novick about their PBS documentary series, The Vietnam War. The two of them spent 10 years creating this 18 hour documentary still available for viewing. 



     Everything I do, everywhere I go, and everything I learn in this city just makes me more insatiable as I realize how little I know and how much there is to read and learn. Life’s just not long enough!



     We’re on our way to another horizon-broadening experience in Alexandria so more later…as our days here dwindle to a precious few.


Bill and Laura
Washington, DC