2020; Not So Simple

The year of 2020 stunk, period…. we’re in a new year now and its so nice to be getting back to a ‘normal, even if it is a ‘new normal.’

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I do have to add that the Covid pandemic event while living alongside an isolated lake along the foothills of the Blue Ridge – changed life very little, fewer trips to the store – no trips out to eat, and no travel for a year. But along with that and very unfortunately, my single hour of news each day increased dramatically, especially after the November 2020 election.

Mask’s, well that was different too but not insurmountable – I took it like seatbelts; for me having to wear a seatbelt was the hardest thing ever to adapt to and I openly rejected the idea – but that’s in the past and these days wearing a seatbelt is automatic. Hearing people reject the idea of masks while our so-called leader lead their rejection; dumbfounded me too, and that obvious indifference added to the reason 600k American’s died on American soil in 2020.

In the 4 years leading up to 2020, this same leader also lead the charge rejecting climate change, rejecting unity with our Allies, and cultivated an increase in disinformation and unfounded conspiracy theories – a few weak news organizations sold their allegiance for the ratings. This leader divided, bullied, and belittled whomever did not follow his sole and very selfish agenda. He has divided the best of friends.

This man represented fascism, a President that attacked the media, surrounded himself with ‘yes’ men, and made impulsive, and uneducated decisions – he expounded in an absolutely unAmerican manner, many times reflecting a Mussolini-type individual fed by his own ego and acting above the law. The wealthy received tax-breaks and pardons could be purchased. During this period there was a complete lack of any clear objective values for our country. A Big Lie was contrived from his lips and his incitement along with his social-media followers nearly took down a nations 200+ year strong democracy. Our children were cheated out of one of America’s most sacred periods; the transition to a new administration. Then a sick republican Party turned their back on their sworn oath to our country – and in front of a nation, would not convict the apparent and obvious.

The lines have been blurred where the religious lend credibility to a man that a golden Idol has been made of.

Yes, I voted for this man in 2016; I was wrong – and NO, I haven’t been brainwashed – I had only to watch an hour of news each day (half local, half national) and recognized what was happening through the values of a 68 year old educated American.

Wow, I’m telling you the events remain mind-blowing to each of us whom have grown up respecting the position and role-model of the American President – and the American flag that represents our democratic based country….

To me this flag represents the greatest democratic country ever (not one man, not one Party), and yes, I am an absolute Patriot to our nation.

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Yes, I’m so glad 2020 is gone – but we’re not out of the woods yet.

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and the things from 2020 that I would like write about; but at this moment I find difficult;

No February RV ride –

No Spring Skunk Festivus –

No Spring Delaware (wood piles dried)

No forth of July family gathering at lake

No California ride – Billy’s wedding

No fall Skunk festivus

Fall Delaware (Sept Oct) quarantined in a corn-field

Presidential election drama

92 y/o Mom goes to Memory-care

Quiet Christmas at home

Quiet New Years eve……

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2021 is looking a whole lot better, I do believe that we are getting back to a better place – and I have many things in family and life to chirp about…

A Summer Surge 2019

Life at 60,  plus…

Ten years ago at 57 and 31 years on the job I was fortunate to walk away from the City of Asheville Fire Department – there were places that I wanted to see and things on the list.  I have accomplished a good number of them.  Retired life is good for sure, doing more ancestry study (familysearch.org) continues to remind me that this time of life can’t be stretched into forever, with that said – I wish you happiness when your Plateau arrives.

I’ve noticed that our cat Otis favors peace and things that move slow; it seems noise and motion mess up his naps.  Well I’ve come to the spot in life that I don’t totally disagree with the concept even though the nap thing is yet to arrive – I call it a 30 minute ‘sit-down’ (sometime between 12 and 2pm).  I enjoy sound; noise is something different. Retirement is an area that the cat concept could easily creep into ones lifestyle – anyway, the general summer atmosphere around the lake is cat-like.

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Home base is within the foothills of SC aside a small mountain lake where we have pretty much shunned metro motion and unnecessary noise – the place where most folks make their living, been there..  Entertainment at the lake is cheap – like noticing the southern air creating gentle waves that roll northward through the day. As the evening sets in, air cools and reverses course down the mountain slopes and back across the lake – the waves shift south like the changing of the gulf tide. Then somewhere in the night, life levels out.

In the summer neighbors come to their cabins for the weekend and make noise, mostly the laughter kind.  In the winter – it’s what kind of duck is migrating through. Loons, wood-ducks, herons, coots, buffle-heads, and hooded merangers. Eagles and Ospreys have made their appearances too – once even a brown pelican showed up after a storm and hung around for a couple weeks (Kim’s “Penguin” story).

Each February we head for creek-week in Florida but in 2019 we remained stationary ($Health insurance, $taxes, Hawaii) – I didn’t regret hanging around one little bit. But the challenge we have identified while living at the lake is – Where else do you go for vacation? – we seem to have all we need right here!

And then came spring and the ‘skunk fest,’ the ‘back to abnormal’ weekend….

No different in April 2019, our 12th (6 years spring and fall), it’s cool..

Sure it’s a little ‘off-the-wall’ if you’re from the city, but it’s also neat, and very real. “Live humans making music,” along with folks of all mindset (kid friendly event) being entertained a very cool setting while simply being their-selves.

There’s a tone of gentle conversation and casual festivities floating in the air, easy to breathe stuff like that. The privately organized venue began as bluegrass but has grown into a mixture of local and touring musicians gaining their foothold in something that means a lot to them; making and sharing their music.

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We use the RV; camping is available and many come for each day. It runs Thursday through Saturday in April and October. The Albino Skunk Music Festival.

‘like I said, enjoy; and at least twice a year – ‘set it free…

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A few days later it was off to Delaware where we find a second tiny oasis on this planet.

Believe me, I’d really love to be out there running the highways, I miss it – but this is pretty good stuff too.

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I found plenty to do there in my ‘cave.’  Doors open early with coffee, upright and working on something, thinking cap a little later.  There’s plenty to do surrounding the place, in between there are other pending tasks before getting back to those projects I haven’t finished yet (or I could be hunting my coffee cup, or the last tool that I was using).

In my garage I have a tractor, refrigerator, a shower, a table, a ‘crib,’ and a loft with a soft horizontal spot (for that ’20-minute sit-down’) –

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but most of all, I still have the ability to enjoy this stuff; and I am grateful for that.

Here’s a thought too, when you reach your Plateau – with a spouse – have more than one roof. At the lake I have 4 other roofs to go to during the daylight hours (shed, boathouse, garage, dock); in Delaware I have a great garage – she can do whatever she wants to do in the house.  What I’m implying; is that a single roof for two retired folks can be unnerving for some souls.  Maybe later, but for now “shoot for more space to piddle” and spend your time ‘upright.’

In 2019 I built yet another roof – a corn-crib, well really a wood-crib as Kim took three weeks to babysit in Hawaii (yes).  Scott/Patti (in-laws) moved back from Kansas and cleared some of the trees near their home; a sorely needed one of ours too (thanks).

Scott had a badass wood splitter and I had the time; so that was on the ‘whenever’ agenda for me.  After heating with and spitting many loads of wood by hand in the late 70’s – I actually enjoyed (yes I enjoyed) lugging the chunks into the clutch of the splitter and watching the wedge sink without remorse into the solid stumps of wood – shredding them to stove-size pieces.  URRRR..  Life is good.

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New batteries in golf-cart, positioned a wood-stove for the fall, and thinned out some underbrush in the woods nearby.

Had a few fires too; “let’s burn one.”  In early June our piles held wood too wet to burn, the flame dimmed, so we rounded up Otis and returned to the lake.

There we found two months of cobwebs; the shop-vac ran late into the night and the cat took care of the lower ones…

Long-time friends from FM Al and Ava came through; the draw-down before the surge was on.

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Like-minded friends from yesterday just headed for today; always special to have them stop and put their feet in the air.

The stove broke down the first day and me being too cheap to go down and buy a heating element for 50 bucks ordered one online for 16; delivery in 4 days.

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The delay was no bother – these folks adapt pretty well, the grill in the crab-shack worked just fine – more dock time…..

We had some boathouse moments and a ride to Clemson……

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Oconee fish hatchery,  and an ice stop at family Dollar – ‘peeps’

There were some crusty sailors down at the shack  (myself, Dewey, and Al).

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Feet-up Al…. you’ll find your plateau, and you can call it “Al’s world.”

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Then came July 4th, an unexpected but very welcomed family Surge for the forth of July, 2019


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‘Shipmates’

Jessica came from Colorado with the Carr family, Melissa from Charlotte with the Coates, and Gray came from Hawaii with the Haynie’s…  with them like the gulf tide came the’ little-fingerprints, little-footprints, wet towels, and that laughter – my favorite universal noise of all…. the surge was on.   GK’s flying into the water, and under – it was the best!

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Having a few gold painted rocks with $ signs on them gave them plenty of swimming objectives – Rylie came out the biggest $ winner this year, but with hours and days of water world – they each increased their basic aquatic skills… daylight to dark without a single meltdown….. Joy.

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Many simple moments that continue to grow as the memories touch our hearts.

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The kids played unabated in the water and out. Like a lifeguard, I’ve learned that a grandparent is there for their safety; not to give parenting directives – and I’m ok with this role.  “Go ahead and jump if you want”…..  My cousin James always gave me that area of support – and he was there if needed…

Gray had some Coast Guard friends (Andrew, Danielle) come by with their family, nice day, and visit.

Janis, Mom and Kristi came by for brood review. We had a large taco salad and Mom had her steak; she still likes her mmmmeat! (well done).

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Janis and Richard remained all afternoon challenging the kids with games – in Yahtzee; James and Rylie prevailed.

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a mat moment without the kids ….

James found some BB time and took aim….

 

Hunter bounced from activity to activity – settling in with the cousins and continuously singing something like “I’m gonna take my horse to the old town road, and riiiddee”…

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Checker mates..

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Garage review….

One morning Melissa mentioned that something had drug 40# of dog food across our porch (we live next to a National Forest) – it did not get into the container so I turned on my driveway cam the next day expecting to find a small bear or something wandering around; this is the activity I found…

 

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Human critter activity…..

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– If they weren’t in the water – they were tossing the ball, or playing hoops .. Wyatt made plenty of ‘buckets!’

 

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– Neat to see the fun we might otherwise have missed… kids organizing their own games…..

 

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And the 2019 Kentucky Derby winner is?

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We had plenty of family time, hoop time, paddle time, golf and dock time – with smores – before two families had to go…

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and then the critters parted…

 

We really are so proud of our children and their families – awesome folks….

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Two really short days later…

 

 

 

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The population in Hawaii went up by 4;  while at the lake the summer surge settled – flat-water returned

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– and it all became a memory, a very good memory

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Lake dreams

What’s going on Tom?

In recent conversation a good friend asked ” hey Tom, Whats been going on? Haven’t noticed any posts of late”….. got me to thinkin.

Absolutely true, I really haven’t posted here in a trip around the sun, no excuses.  I like to tell folks (when they ask) that I’ve kinda slowed my paddlin pace to “stop and feel the bottom” a while. Maybe I’ve been a little lazy; but about the same time simply trying to figure out just what rhythm life at 60  holds for these two little portholes.  Just feeling the bottom…….

In summarizing the past year or so;

Gray came through on his way to Charleston, SC for a friends wedding in May of 2016. Always good to see the young man that he has become; even if for a short while. Short visits tug at ones emotions but life calls and I understand – I did it too.  The world is ‘out there’ – beyond the vicinity of our little cove at Lake Cherokee.

Of course our world grows when Mom drops by with a peanut-butter cake for her ‘little’ buddy.

Our little universe grew again on the 4th of July 2016 when the Coates and Carrs came for the holiday’s.  There is not a better picture of that particular trip that sums it up better than the one above; a total ‘thumbs-up!’ holiday (thanks Mark/Freda).

Once again, Mom (GGma) came to visit her precious GK’s families – and to see those kid’s fly!!  Mom has always been an inspiration for each of us; she supplies the warmth that carries us.

The Albino Skunk Festival happens twice a year – a simple yet fascinating conglomeration of evolving bands emitting some fine music in a children friendly atmosphere.  What once started as a small Bluegrass festival has continued to nurture budding musicians towards finding their unique foothold among American tunes.  The Lil Smokies Band (from Montana) above is an example of the simplicity found – Billy Strings and the Dustbowl Revival are just a couple of the many favorites.  My sister Kristi and Bob also came to share a festival day and night with us…..

Then to Delaware for a month or so, why? stuff to do. Combined visit time for 2016 was 4 months! – just the right dose of North and South. 🙂 .

Christmas 2016; kids and coins.  It was a special time and nice ride to Colorado….1st night stop from SC was OK City – 6 degrees when we woke up.

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Then two easy days to Albuquerque to pick up Gray/Licia . Uphill to PS – Joe/Judy’s and the Carr’s Cul-de-sac den – sure enjoyed the polar Christmas with the Carr’s.

Ending 2016 with a New Years visit at Scott/Patti’s in Kansas. Patti (aka “Scooter”) already had one foot-up (ankle injury) so we helped her with the other one…

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Scott supported our efforts – “feet-up”

In February 2017 – we made a return R-U-V trip to Fisheating creek for a creekside visit with Al, Ava, and ole buddy “Hobbs.”

A ride to the Lake Harney property and a @77 mile Topside of the Suwannee Paddle in March; business trip.

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Melissa and the boys stopped by the Skunk farm for a day amongst the Spring festivities in April….

Delaware and a @64-mile Pokomoke river Chesapeake Bay paddle in May

Where Kids Fly

The Coates  returned for some paddle time – and some great July 4 fireworks; twice the bang from the boat.

The great American eclipse of August 2017 was pretty neat too – sitting in the middle of the lake – day became night-like, and then returned to daylight once again…. Swallows came out, incandescent to fluorescent, and then back to normal.  Cool….

Also in August Nora Steur came from Cincinnati for a week with her friends –

At the same time we were blessed to have Mike and Beth come for the weekend. Hurting because you have laughed so hard is nothing new when these are around, it can happen. This visit was no different – thanks you two, we needed that….

Somewhere in here Gray ‘manned-up’ and bought a home for his family in Hawaii. I’m kidding when I say that because Gray (he’s a ‘do-er’) and Licia have set an awesome path pretty much on their own in managing their lives for a family in this world.  Kim and I are very proud of each one of our children and the adults they have become.

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In September, Mom slowed just long enough to celebrate her 89th birthday – it would be difficult to adequately convey what she has meant to her entire family, she has set the example for us in so many ways. Love you Mom, thanks

Fall 2017 brought another Fall Skunk Festival, had a great time. There’s a thing where all the folks can/will holler “FES-TI-VALL!!” whenever the enthusiasm strikes them (really good band, vibes, or just to get it out!) anyway, it works pretty well….

So this little guy (Abe) wandered by with his family and just couldn’t make those “FES-TI-VALL” words work right – but he could look straight up into the sky and yell something that sounded like “CHI–HEN-BOES!!” so whenever he and I crossed paths during the festival… it was “CHICKEN-BONES!!” to the sky…

Life is good, and festivals can be fun too.

 

Hurricane Irma ripped through Florida and Al and Ava were spared major damage – they came to the foothills for a week in October. A warm spell delayed the leaves from making the fall color on time, but we had a great time with sunset cruises, College football, and just hanging around at the dock – even had a few of those hearty gut hurting laughs – they sure help (thanks Ava).

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Well that’s whats been going on and sorry for the abbreviated version – but just maybe this exercise will help me get back into making some notes about a very ordinary life surrounded by some pretty extraordinary people…

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thank you for your interest

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’).

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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……