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30 April 201 Charleston/Mt Pleasant – Dublin, GA – Dothan, AL – Pensacola, FL – Ft. Pickens National Park – Tallahassee, FL – Ocala, FL
|Finally back in our home state known for its warmth and Sunshine
Years ago we were adrift in the channel outside NAS on a Wednesday morning and had, what we considered, our own private Blue Angels performance. That is a sight forever indelibly etched in our memories. The sun was glinting off their bellies and that was absolutely exhilarating!! Saw some of their practice this morning but it wasn’t nearly as dramatic viewing from ashore as from afloat.
As if our beach walk along the Gulf and Bay weren’t enough, we took off on a 20-ish mile bike ride from the fort and east past Casino Beach. Our plans for tomorrow include a lot of calorie ingesting and walking Pensacola’s historic areas.
Today was to be a day of rest and forgetting our low carb eating plan. We succeeded in accomplishing number 2 with humongous bagels at Bagelheads with Tony and burritos with Emily at Cactus Flower. Somehow, we also walked 6 1/2 miles trying to get rid of the bagel AND burrito.
Back in my era, if your mind will allow you to think back that far, we locals teethed on Ft. Pickens, climbing all over the prison cells, turrets, batteries, loved going into Geronimo’s cell. He was the Apache Indian Chief. Now all that’s crumbling and cordoned off. “Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end.”
And look at these azure waters right here in my home town. Why ever did we think we had to go to the Bahamas to enjoy blinding white sand and beautiful waters? To me this is just as beautiful as what we saw in the Caribbean. But that was just one more thing checked off our bucket list.
From my morning beach walk — I’ll never get enough of this sand in my shoes and Gulf waters coursing through my veins.
Night 1 of two of our 60th Pensacola High School at Pensacola Yacht Club. A great time was had by all.
Night 2 and the Grand Finale.
Sunday, “the morning after”, we had a wonderful brunch with Tony and Andy which coincided with a group from our reunion who were also Sacred Heart School of Nursing grads.
No trip to Pensacola is complete without at least one trip to Joe Patti’s. One night they steamed 2 pounds of large shrimp and we made quick work of every single one of them.
On our last day we met our friend, Tony, down town and he led us on an Old Pensacola Historic bike tour…and we even followed him over the Bayou Chico Bridge for lunch at Cook’s Kitchen, the #3 ranked restaurant in Southern Living.
Our last night there we just vegged, enjoying our final night in the beautiful National Park bounded by Pensacola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico and reminiscing over the friends we’ve been with, the wonderful meals we’ve enjoyed, and our cycling efforts.
A bit of trivia—did you know Pensacola’s beautiful white sand is of quartz and came to us from TN during the Ice Age?
17 years I spent growing up on the Pensacola beaches but then I went away to college and every time I’d come home, the beach was in my cross hairs. After college I taught school in Ft. Walton Beach for 3 years and the activity was repeated—just in a different location. I think I took the splendor for granted because now I have a totally different appreciation for it. This morning, after 8 days of being out on Santa Rosa Island, we had to pry ourselves away as we head to Ocala to meet with our builder. BUT, before our leave-taking, I had to commune with the rising sun as I strolled the bay shore; took a detour up and over the Langdon Battery to see what I could see from atop; then walked the Gulf shore chatting with fishermen who were reeling in the Pompanos. Alas, it was time to heard east.
View of the Gulf from on top of the Langdon Battery
View of NAS from the top of the Battery
|I’ve found a new interest!|
|In the front yard of our ‘dirt’|
|The Kingston Trio|
Our Grand Bunny, Sophie
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
|The pool at the Lodge with zero entry in lap pool|
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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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.
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”.
|Wolfgang and Bill|
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.
|Can’t get much more simple than this!|
|Our RV ‘Resort’|
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
Shaking a leg on a Saturday night
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.
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.
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.
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
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 …
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.