Otis Takes An R-U-V Vacation

Otis takes a  ride.

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Yeah, I know – a cat.  This past fall ‘Otis’ wandered up  and after spending the $ to have him ‘fixed;’ we’re giving him every opportunity to ‘fit-in,’ so far he has passed all his exams.  Anyway, –

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a cat wandered up…. other than that it’s been a quiet winter in the foothills of South Carolina.  More often than not it was comfortable weather, the frigid weather held back until the first part of January – then we got a dash of it!

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Within it all I have nothing to complain about – i didn’t have to pull out my ‘jong-johns,’ the pipes didn’t freeze, and nothing broke.  Another month, another set of bills – seasons’ pass, and another sunset hits the mountains; ‘Life’ is good.

In this rotation is February – a time to trade any sense of ‘cabin-fever’ for another snowbird ‘loop’ through Florida – my homestate.  It’s ironic growing up hating tourists because of their impact on our little town, and now having an “R-U-V!” But at at this time also (life at 60 ) it fits, so well, why not?

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btw; one of the GK’s (James) calls our RV an R-‘U’-V, James is a pretty smart guy, so with this our ‘Little Bessie‘ is now considered a first class “R-U-V!”.

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On last year’s ‘loop’ I wanted to ride the backroads of W Georgia to Florida; long story short – it didn’t happen (‘fluid’ decisions). We stay off of the interstates as much as possible; this year in the direction of South Georgia and Plains, Ga – home of Former President Jimmy Carter.  I always liked this guy – still do, he’s a good man.  So we spent the day ‘lolly-gagging’ around the town stores and finding out first-hand just how much he is thought of as ‘a friend’ and neighbor.  He has a lot of friends.

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The old brick elementary school he attended has been preserved by the National Park System, really nice – and a place where the halls can easily remind one of where real ‘friendships’ begin.  The above picture was on the wall – I liked the character and took a picture of it.

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Sometime in the night Otis came out of his nest, looked around – then curled up and went back to sleep. Kims done a good job training him..  His eating/cat activities were normal with no messes.  When morning came we continued southward on Ga Highway 19  into Florida with a stop at Fanning Springs.

The Suwannee river at Fanning Springs

The Suwannee river at Fanning Springs

Fanning Springs is a clear spring along the Suwannee River that I’ve paddled through several times – and it was a good time to show Kim where’d I been the past several years.

Manatees

Manatees

I was really hoping for Kim to see some Manatees, and surprisingly we found 6 or seven ‘lazing-around’ just below the clear spring waters in the thin February sunshine.

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Next stop along the way was to see an old friend, Dan Goddard (FMHS 70).  I’m a ‘drop-in’ kinda guy, and Dan is always good with it.  A schoolmate, we chatted as we walked through his back-yard (‘bone-yard‘) of old-cars and rusty projects – I’m into that stuff too; just don’t have a pace to put it – so I enjoy others stuff.  Old-friends are good; and after a mmmmeaty burger and a beer at nearby Willards with Dan – Kim and I were off to Rainbow Springs.

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We had five days and four nights at Rainbow Springs State Park waiting. Long enough to get comfortable, and a good place to get Kim in a kayak – on the water.  The North Carolina Carr’s gave us a tandem-kayak for use at the lake, and when Kim said she would get out in it; I threw it on the trailer (along with my solo) and took them both with us.

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The Rainbow river

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If I ever have another home; along the Rainbow river would be the place.

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The place worked well for getting her introduced to a kayak, and I think she liked the clear water.  The Rainbow Springs ‘head’ is about a mile upstream, an easy paddle so we worked our way up river – then with our ‘feet-up,’ completed a very mellow hour-long trip back to the campground ramp.

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I was wondering if I could get her back in (kinda hoping not so I could solo) but I blew it when I mentioned there was beverage at the other end.  The following day we paddled (lightly) with the current a few hours down the Rainbow river to the Withlacoochee.  A little further from there was the Blue Gator tiki bar – and next door was a shuttle (at our convenience) back to the Park.

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– it is true, at the end of the Rainbow – was a cold little cup of gold.

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Oh yeah, and Otis – he figured right in to this park-life stuff.

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After a week at Rainbow, we hit the bacroads once again – down the road stopping to visit a cousin, Ellen (Lakeland/Kathleen is family land, Mom’s side).

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Ellen’s got a neat little place off Scrotum rd (Socrum rd) with just the right amount of livestock – and a little gator in her pond.  Julie, her daughter is the only female gator-trapper for the area and drops one off on occasion. Good to see Ellen and her other daughter Ginger whom was enjoying a birthday.

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To “Creek Week”

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Fisheating Creek

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and some paddlin time…

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The goal for the past year was this ‘week at the Creek’ – with friends.

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Al and Ava (FMHS 71) came in for a few days, and ‘pitched’ in – right beside us.

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It was a time to enjoy what a place and folks have in common…..

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(now Ava, was that mouse really that big??)

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and there was plenty of ez time within the weekday peace to take a paddle….

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gator watch

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maybe even reflect,

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or share a laugh

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Life can be, a tire swing – if you let it.

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Kim paddled the waters too

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even got some gator watchin time in

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Of course there were a few other stories floating around the camp too…

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another good thing about old friends

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It was a simple time, with the best of friends

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Kim and I remained through the weekend, as the crowds came – weekend at the creek changed, it was like a festival without the band.

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Full of people and their activities – all the canoes and kayaks were rented out, the campsites were full – even had a ‘Joe Dirt’ wedding taking place. I was impressed how the staff kept up with everything.  We just rode the bikes around and watched it all in amusement, kinda like hanging around a boat ramp – cheap entertainment.

Sunday was the best though; we watched as the crowds departed…..

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Monday the peace and tranquility of the creek was back; later that day we headed North

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Otis’s first ride in the RUV was a positive; he operated at the same pace as everyone else and fit in just fine.

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 “….can’t we all just get along?”

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link; Tom Haynie

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A Sister Cycles Home

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Life’s a Journey;  Janis cycles across our country

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While I’ve been playing my sister’ Janis has been in the desert of Afghanistan the past 6 years supporting our servicemen – Bagram.

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The experience of our soldiers along with those in support of the effort, the hostile territory where they ate, slept, and mingled – created bonds of comradeship that the lucky ones will carry with them forever.  As with the warriors of all generations scars remain; souls have been touched, lives have changed; memories linger.

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My sister is but another returning with realigned dreams

Simply put, my sister has been living in a shipping container in Afghanistan for more than 6 years. Janis is scheduled to return to the US in the first weeks of August.  In communication with her, she wants to take a few days off in California to ‘get her feet on the ground,’ to re acclimate – before returning to the east coast via bike; cycling back into the life that she departed.

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before

Within my career at the Asheville Fire Department we learned of such things called ‘debriefings.’ A debriefing is intended to help one cope with ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ events.  As a firefighter I experienced a few of those events, and debriefings.  Janis’s idea of that same process is somewhere within the effort of peddling from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Within this effort, she desires to honor all of our warriors along with those she has encountered through her years in Afghanistan.

The more I thought about it, the more I liked her idea – it made sense.

Janis has mentioned that the experience has been a ‘life changer’ – adding further that her ride will reflect appreciation for those agencies that continue the support as many soldiers rehabilitate back onto society.  Folks along the way will be reminded of the Fisher Foundation as well as the Wounded Warrior Project in reestablishing the lives affected.

Janis’s personal challenge; her ‘debriefing’ and ‘calibration’ of sorts; will be a prompt to us all to remember those sacrifices.

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The Pacific Ocean in California, to the Atlantic in North Carolina; 3100 miles, in real time – peddling her bike.

Early on I readily mentioned that I would support her effort (I love the ride) with my truck and trailer –  my next months are a minor sacrifice in comparison to her efforts/resilience, and experience.  My personal belief is that along the way, we will all be reminded too of how great our country really is.

For the ride I’m thinking that she will have three important benchmarks,

  1. first; the first thirteen days ((making a habit) completed 8/26/2015)
  2. second; crossing the mountains of Colorado (completed 9/6/2015)
  3. third; the Appalachians (completed)

The likelihood of many other challenges along the way are high.

Janis has been able to keep her legs and mind in shape – our initial concern is more with her saddle (maybe a pillow will help). In the beginning we planned thinking a minimum of 50 mpd, but I’m really not sure what it takes to find peace with six years of another country fresh in your mind – we’ll keep you posted.

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Shortly I will load her bikes and equipment then blast west across the US.  In reality I really look forward to the adventure, the scenery – and being part of hopefully more than one persons re acquaintance with this great country we call home.

As this ride materializes in the upcoming weeks I will add some links intended for contributions for those inclined – hopefully with a side-note recognizing Janis’s effort.  She seeks no personal acclaim and is using her personal funds for the trek.  A facebook page for daily updates (link here), and a blog page for more long-term information will come into play shortly.

Please join us, but most importantly think of all those families and warriors who continue to live those sacrifices for us…..

Help our soldiers at;  http://www.teamfisherhouse.org/site/TR/AllEvents/3rdPartyFundraisers?px=1038808&pg=personal&fr_id=1290

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“Miles of smiles” she says – yet I understand the underlying emotions involved……….

Facebook link 

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TRIP COMPLETED, THE PACIFIC TO THE ATLANTIC OCEANS IN 49 DAYS!!

Link to some of the journey pictures

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A Snow-Bird ‘Loop’

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Kim - Tom Haynie

A few months back I mentioned to the wife, “hey, lets make a ‘loop’ through Florida!” – of course being married as long as we, she immediately disagreed that it would be a ‘loop’ – somehow it was important to her that I recognized that!  Being what it was – it was indeed a ‘time-out’ for the winter’s cold; plus it was a ride to my ‘home turf; – whatever the reality of the motion – it’s the ‘ride’ that I love.

I came up with a tentative plan; grab the RV, ride through Plains, Ga – maybe even drop by the Civil War POW camp at Andersonville near there – not sure why, but I wanted to do that.  I wanted to follow the back roads down through Western and Central Fl to the turn-around point in Fort Myers on the Gulf coast – before crossing over to the east coast to visit a cousin along the way.  Kim’s sister visiting Fl added a little ‘fuel’ for her – but the main course for me was a few days in the hometown with long-time friends Al and Ava.

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A few days prior to our ride I located a camper cover for my pickup in Jacksonville (at the perfect price) so that blew our initial plans.  We hitched up the trailer and headed down through the backroads towards Jacksonville.  Along the way Kim enjoyed her first RV night with the Walmart zamboni sweeper in Waycross – life is simple (noisy sometimes) but very good.

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Second night was a little better, a few miles from Jacksonville we spent an evening with some old friends from NC – Rick and Sue Montgomery, plus their family.  A driveway stop along the St John in the RV (I love the independence and not putting any pressure on folks when visiting). With that I do like to run into old friends, it’s special for some reason – maybe about closing some of life’s ‘little-circles’ as we go.

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At Ricks we enjoyed a long overdue visit around a campfire with a family that we hadn’t spent face-time with in 20 years. What a great bunch of kids, er – adults now..

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Leaving our trailer at Rick’s Kim and I moved on for another RV night at Paynes Prairie State Park; an unexpectedly peaceful evening in the woods. She also encountered her fist armadillo beside the camper, but her efforts to get a ‘selfie’ with the burrowing critter failed.

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A few miles down the road we visited another old friend and school-mate Dan Goddard – we each spent waay too much money on fast cars ‘back-in-the-day.’  Dan always seems to be in good spirits so its fun to visit him each year as I pass through.  His son Danny writes and plays for the band the New 76’ers – talented, and ‘super highway’ tunes.  With a few laughs and hearty tales of quarter-miles that turned into years; Kim and I moved on once again.

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From Dan’s we rode towards Crystal river, beings that this wasn’t a trip about ‘schedules’ or doing fancy things; we drove to the Gulf at Inglis and simply stopped!  It was lunch time, so Kim made some sandwiches and we just sat there tantalizing the seagulls and watching the fishermen come and go.

Inglis, Fl

Inglis, Fl

This ride was about ‘enjoying the ride’ and this is exactly what we did; all back-roads – no interstates.

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Later in the afternoon we eased over to the Beef O Brady’s in N Lakeland, where we found ourselves head-first in Kim’s first ‘bingo’ gaming session with a flock of grey. After posting on facebook of our visit – I was contacted by my cousin – We had missed on some home vittles and gator ribs just a few blocks away…….. doggonnit!

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Fisheating Creek Outpost

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Two nights in Palmdale, Fl

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Fish-eating Outpost has been a lifelong camping spot – it’s changed little over the past 40 years.  A busy place in the summer – but during February it is possible to find some cool Fla ‘peace’ while camping (few of those ‘doggone people) – just the way I like it.

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I love it too that the train is the only noise to break the owl’s calling each night.

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In Ft. Myers we had a great three night visit with Al/Ava/Walker, the Stewarts; fine folks and ‘the best of’ friends.

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We found (and helped) them do what they’ve been doing for many years; just lingering around searching for items (and people) of interest.

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1982

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They’ve enjoyed the same back-yard for the past 40 years – where there’s always room for friends (bring some peanuts for the squirrels and wood-peckers). Al had a fire going for us each night, they too had a little owl that kept us company through the night.

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With that same back yard comes the same driveway – one that I have slept in a number of times over the years (for much different reasons) – and yes, it was better in the RV; perfect place and weather.

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Cat-Daddy Moonshine

We enjoyed a perfect visit.

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After three fine days of hometown air; it was back to the ‘Creek‘ for another day of ‘feet-up’

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– the sunset kinda said it all.

At no time had we been rushed to keep a schedule – heck, thats how its suppose to be isn’t it?

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But I really did want to visit a cousin, so off to another driveway along the east coast; Lee and Sandy’s in Hobe Sound

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Sandy has an awesome spirit; a friendly soul with an ever present smile on her face

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Cousin Lee was busy working on a ‘long-board’ idea – an old ski and set of skateboard trunks from the thrift store came together nicely

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coool

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The next day we walked to the beach, little more than a mile away.

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Kim had a great time collecting shells, I think the Atlantic was the calmest and blue-ist that I have ever seen… folks were fishing and pulling whiting in right and left

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 A quick picture for our Moms (Elsie and Marie Hilliard, sisters). Thanks Lee and Sandy for the hospitality and some awesome fajita’s.

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After Hobe Sound it was North to Ocala, and a visit with some prairie-birds; Kim’s sister Patti and Scott Atkins

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The first day we did the ‘tourist’ thing,’  Glass-bottom boats at Silver Springs

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The following day it was on to a more independent experience at Juniper springs

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Where we were the ones being watched

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It was all good

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Four hours of simple paddling, Juniper is a great little ‘run’ if your ever in the area

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we survived

Salt Springs

Salt Springs Recreation area

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After a couple of days in an Ocala hotel, a ‘resbit at Salt Springs campground in the Ocala National Forest was added to the list – it was also another time to just sit back with absolutely no pressure.  Feeding the squirrels was my biggest task (note: M&M chocolate covered peanuts makes them abit ‘squirrelly’).

Green Cove

Green Cove

Day 16 put us back for the trailer and a fine second visit with Rick.  The weather was right for chili and he had a batch waiting for us, mmmmeat! thanks Rick.  Great place, nice sleep in the RV with more owls through the night

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It was a fine ride for Kim and I, long overdue time – yet in the end I think I created a monster, Kim loved the ride and never brought up the fact that it wasn’t really a ‘loop’ again – I guess it really didn’t matter.

the monster? – she wants to do it again……

Where Kids ‘Fly’

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Carr's 2014

Carr’s 2014

GK’s = Great Kids.

A fine summer for a couple of old-folks in the foothills of South Carolina; if seasonal weather didn’t start the summer prior to June, then the visit from a few little warm hearts sure did.

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The Colorado Carr’s (Jessica and Myron) made their Mississippi crossing eastward to spend some time with us, a fine visit too.  Fourth of July, and fireworks by boat; always the favorite place and time of year – seems watching all those colors spread out over the water provides ‘the best’ of reflections for all.

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At the lake, the forth of July is a holiday where kids can actually ‘fly.’…

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– and they sure did!

On previous visits there has always been some trepidation before splashdown – not so this week; what we did see (in sort of a blur) was Rylie flyin off just about everything, including the pontoon! Wyatt was right behind her and doing all that he could to keep up – the splashdowns were many.

mid-lake swim

mid-lake swim

We found plenty of time to boat out and anchor mid-lake, for “jumpin in.”  Water’s really nice out there and if your’re lucky, you might even find your own little ‘warm spot.’ With PFD’s in place or just sittin on a cushion in the water – we all just ‘hung-out,’ swam under the boat, while sharing some laughs. “Boatin and floatin,” dosent matter where the bottom is (can’t touch it), it’s a time to just stop, jump in, and float with family. Wyatt was right there with us, paddlin back and forth, and then back and forth again, and again.

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Another day and with fingernails white and skin wrinkled – the last to climb aboard was Wyatt.

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lifeguard

What a crew; each growing up – Wyatt, Rylie, and the big kid Myron.

recharge

recharge

The pace of the lake is a demanding one.  On a warm days in the South its never unusual to find the herd laying around in a pocket of shade – recharging those afternoon batteries, same here.

fireworks

fireworks

Fireworks are legal in SC, so it wasn’t out of the ordinary to find time for some homegrown fireworks – before the big ones

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and plenty of driveway time; write/draw most anywhere you like; please!

Write on....

sketchin….

It is encouraged..

Car's 2014

Car’s 2014

Of course the toughest part of the visit for us was the departure.

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Having the kids living on the far side of the big river is tough; we miss those chillin.  We know that the Carr’s have been busy enjoying a new home, while Rylie and Wyatt have been as busy as two growing kids could possibly be; we all know and understand through experience.

We appreciated them warming our summer.

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Rylie – Wyatt – James –

But there’s more to our summer of 14;

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Hunter

Sprouts Point

All the ‘GK’s’ visited got to visit Sprout’s point pole.

Melissa, James

Melissa, James

Because Melissa and James came from Hawaii,

chalk time

chalk time

and then Uncle Gray and Hunter came from San Diego; awesome! more warm hearts to brighten our summer!

Happy ride

Happy ride

Better yet, we had an interesting ride in the works – A FES – TI – VULL!.

Fes ti vull

Fes ti vull

The Albino Skunk Festival !

Kim and I couldn’t have been happier about it.  The Albino Skunk Festival in South Carolina is a kid-friendly, Spring/Fall event that we have enjoyed the past couple of years – it’s a lot of fun (next one April 9-11/15). On each visit as we watched the other GK’s run and play around us, we could only hope to share some time here with ours – and in the fall of 2014… we had that pleasure!

in the R O V

– and that meant a trip for/with the GK’s in the R-U-V! (as James called it).

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There were plenty of toys around, kids could be kids and run; or – ride if Uncle Gray would push (which he did, alot)

get a face painted

or have their face painted,

buy a t-shirt

or hide-n-seek under the t-shirt stand

ride a shoulder

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Hunter had one of the better views, from Dad’s shoulder.

or just playin

There was a place for ‘story time,’

oh yeah, its a music festival

its a music festival

and oh yeah, parents/kids/adults could wander at will back and forth as music drifted through the air – all afternoon and into the night.

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Sure there were ‘facilities’ available,

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and you could wear any party hat you wanted…..

or have a pb sandwich

Peanut butter sandwiches were available at the ‘R U V’

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 or other refreshments.

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This is the morning view and stage perspective from our R U V spot; with the music in immediate view; it just seemed a natural place to ‘gravitate to,’

Pumpkin lift

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leaving James plenty of time to inspect the toys on the ‘pumpkin-lift’ (James idea)

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But remember, we still had stuff to do at the lake,

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water to play in,

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things to work on,

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things to wash

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and more family to see.

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It was a very good time and year – but once again, there are ‘lives’ to get on with….

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In the time since;

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the water has become calm – maybe even tranquil; and winter is in the air

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– the events of this past year still linger in our hearts

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– thoughts of holidays, family, flyin kids, and yes – all those little hearts.  That should warm us through the coldest part of winter; thanks to you each for the lasting smiles.

Proud of you guys.

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“feet-up”