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.

Paul's yard

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……

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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.

GK's

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”

The Best Cry I Ever Had….

– was with the loss of a pet.

81 A7 - 1981- Margo

In the late seventies we rented a home and inherited the pets that were present; ‘Margo’ and ‘Blackie.’  Two outside dogs that were left by the previous tenants, thus becoming part of our young family.  To shorten the story, in the eighties I had to make the decision to take Margo and have her ‘put-down.’  The drive to Asheville took about twenty minutes, I said my goodbyes and petted Margo as the vets gave her a shot – she went to sleep peacefully.

I opted to bury Margo on familiar land and returned with her remains to our rural home. The ‘ride’ and loss through this pet brought a surplus of stored emotions to the surface. Being alone in my van I was free to express my sorrow, and I certainly did. I cried, no I wailed like a bee-stung baby.

Folks that know me could say that I seem harsh and show little emotions; probably true – but through the emotions of that single ride, forever remembered – was one world of good. Margo had reminded me of something.

There have been other reminders through the years too; beginning with my little cocker spaniel ‘Tippy,’ but Bailey, Jaxx, Shack; each touched and reminded us in their own special very loyal way.

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On this date we have unexpectedly lost another fine companion; my heart is heavy and I feel that reminder once again.

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Jackson, a ‘grand-dog’ and awesome Irish Setter belonged to our daughter, but has been in our care for the past two years as they experience life in Hawaii. Jackson was their family pet, their loyal family companion.  He became our best friend too.

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Melissa and James came to visit several times and on each visit it was clear that Jackson remembered and loved his family. I would be lying if I said that I was always for the arraignment but the caring wife of mine welcomed Jackson in and the dog found his place in our home and earned his way into our hearts.

May add more later – but feeling the emotions right now; while reflecting on the ride; the ride that pets seem to unwittingly direct and remind us to feel; that of deep appreciation, sincerity, how simple it is to love and care, and just how special unequivocal forgiveness really is.

Thank you Jackson.

Generation Next

. Hunter Gray Haynie .

Who will be at the helm?

At this age I am blessed to have 4 sets of little feet, each finding comfort in grabbing ‘the wheel’ and learning to set ‘their course.’  If they are anything like their parents, that direction will be a positive one.

Shipmates

Shipmates 2011

I believe to the greatest degree that each generation improves upon the previous one – the technology of today continues to structure new concepts to daily life as compared to the parents archaic experiences.

Gray, Hunter, and Mom

Gray, Hunter, and Mom

A career in the fire service provided me an insight to accepting this very normal progression of improvement.  The methods of those fire-officers that I worked under thirty-five years ago was harsh; non diplomatic, and with little to no tact.  It was accepted then.  I smile when I think of those early days when the fire-officer packed up his men and equipment and promptly left a fire scene leaving much of a persons ravaged (from fire) possessions wet and strewn about in the front yard – along with the resident! – And those folks thanked us as we drove off!!!!

It was apparent there was room for improvement, compassion, and change.

Tom, Gray; @ 6

Tom, Gray; @ 1988

When it was ‘our’ turn to take ‘the seat,’ that progression brought about a much greater sensitivity (and responsibility) to the communities needs – it evolves still. The fire-service has indeed improved through generational change.  As a parent, I have found this analogy to be so similar – each generation takes basic information from their parents then improves upon that standard of care.  In looking back its easy to feel as one of those officers to my family; an example – one of which they could choose to improve upon.

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Of course with this all said; a long overdue family visit from Gray to the lake wasn’t going to be all play – I always like to save some special time for those very special people;

Mowing

Mowing

My Dad was never one for ‘just sitting around,’ so special time means there was time put aside to – mow, to paint

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 and maybe a few other things along the way!

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but still plenty of time to feed the ducklings

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and still time to play hide-n-seek on the evening boat ride

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more time to watch Mom’s do goofy girl stuff,

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– time to play in the dog’s water,

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– and even time for some paddles with Dad.

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We even found enough time (mowed there also) to visit great-great-grandparents in Georgia

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and then a quick trip to Delaware to visit even more relatives

don't stop yet son

(with yet more).

Licia, Gray, Hunter Haynie

Licia, Gray, Hunter Haynie

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The two plus weeks held plenty, it was a fine visit.  Thanks Licia and Gray – plus, BIG congratulations son after graduating USD with a Bachelors degree in Engineering, we are really proud of your efforts, decision-making, and achievements along the way – you are indeed setting the bar a little higher, as generations go.

Measuring up

They are – measuring up