Friday, January 31, 2014

Living Logic

I am trapped in a logic puzzle. You know, one of those things that goes kinda like this:

The man, who is not Dreaming, did not leave the service center and did not drive to Florida or New York.

Dreaming used the fourth washing machine two times in three visits but lost two quarters that rolled under the 1st dryer.

The mechanic who worked on Dreaming's coach was not the one who dropped the wrench nor the red head.

The coach was filled with propane at $ .50 more a gallon than was spent 4 days previously but less than the cost of the dog food and potatoes.

Given this information, can you figure out where Dreaming is and what she has been doing?

We have finally left Red Bay, where we never had one morning above freezing the entire twelve days we were there! We have moved on to Nashville. This was supposed to be an overnight visit, three nights at most. But, the action won't start until next week some time - so here we sit. At least there are some fun things to visit in Nashville!

On another note, and part of the cause of feeling like I'm living a logic problem, is the quest for the title of our motor home. Around Thanksgiving Mr. Dreamy pulled out important papers that we should take with us in our new little fireproof safe. He noticed that the State had made an error. They had our coach down as a 2013 model, when in reality it was manufactured in 2012. He took the title and all of the supporting documents down to the DMV, took a number and waited in line. When it was his turn, he showed all of the information to the clerk and explained that we needed a new title. It seems that someone at the State made a mistake (albeit, one we should have caught) when the title was originally printed. The clerk took the old title, filled out some information and told Mr. Dreamy we would receive a new title in the mail in 3 or 4 weeks. Say, what?! The title did not come in the mail while we were home.
So.... I happened to be back in town at the beginning of January and lo and behold... there was an envelope with our new title in it. The new title, just like the previous title, had an error. It still said that our coach was a 2013 model. Here we go again... So I took the title and all of the supporting documents down to the DMV, took a number and waited in line. When it was my turn, I showed all of the information to the clerk and explained that we needed a new title. It seems that someone at the State made a mistake. The clerk talked to the clerk Mr. Dreamy had visited. He shook his head, agreeing that someone made a mistake. He took the new title, filled out  some information and told me that we would receive a new title in the mail in 3 or 4 weeks. Say, what?! I explained our situation and asked if he could expedite things a bit. He said that he would. I guess he forgot that part!
So.... we are still waiting for the title. Mr. Dreamy called the DMV yesterday. The title was processed and mailed last week. They couldn't tell us what day. I called the DMV today. I called the US Post Office today. It turns out that since we are having our mail forwarded to a mail service, the title may or may not be returned to the sender. Neither the person at the DMV nor the person at the PO was sure about that... but it could happen. Geesh! The PO employee explained that mail forwarding can add 2 to 10 days to the delivery time of your mail. Yikes! The DMV employee suggested I wait 2 weeks before seeing if the title was returned to them. Holy Cow... I need it NOW! It seems that no one understands my sense of urgency. Do you? It could have something to do with this post!



Saturday, January 25, 2014

Baby, It's Cold Inside

One would think we would be snug as bugs in a rug in our motorhome. Wrong! Despite having two propane heaters, the motorhome has numerous holes and gaps that allow the frigid air to swirl inside and wrap around our ankles, and send tendrils to strangle our necks, and seek out any gaps in clothing so it can fiendishly tickle us with frosty cold. (That was one heck of a run-on sentence. Seems the cold may have addled my brain, as well. But, I was having fun with the imagery - what else is there to do?!)

We have a handheld infrared surface temperature thermometer. The other night, when it was in the 20's outside, I discovered that the floor near one of the bedroom slideouts was 36. That slideout has since been shut and heat loss, or perhaps more aptly,  cold gain, was only measured at 50.



When we visit campgrounds there are often semi-permanent motorhomes or trailers on site. I have noticed that many of them have insulated panels over their windows. Now I understand! The windows are all single pane, and several have a slight gap where the window opens. Brrr!


Yesterday morning it was 6 just before I took the pups out at 6:00 AM. Brrrr! While we were out walking the temperatures quickly rose to 8. Whew! A veritable heat wave!


May I remind you that we are in Red Bay, AL. AL stands for Alabama, as in 'The south'. It isn't supposed to get that cold down here. Not for more than "once in a great while".

We filled up with propane on Friday, having burned more in one week than we have ever burned in two or three weeks in the past. Mr. Dreamy overheard the manager telling a customer that he could only deliver half of the normal amount as his supplies were limited. Evidently, with all of the very cold temperatures throughout the US, heating fuels are becoming a bit harder to get. How scary.



And, it doesn't look like it is going to improve anytime soon. This is what we will experience this week. So many homes in this area, like our motorhome, were not built to withstand these temperatures. Having lived in the south, we know. Our first home predated the Civil War. It had only the least bit of insulation, substandard wiring, exposed water pipes under the home, and gas space heaters in only half the rooms as the sole source of heat. 

Hopefully temperatures will improve after Wednesday, and the rest of winter will be more typical for the area. 

I really shouldn't whine. I have no right. I am living a life many would love, traveling around in a motorhome, seeing lots of things and enjoying a lifestyle I would never have imagined I would live.  Depending on repairs, we may be able to leave as early as Tuesday. We're wondering just how far south we will have to go to get out of this cold. Hmmm, Cancun?


Friday, January 24, 2014

Among the Chosen

Taking our motorhome to the factory service center in Red Bay, AL is always an adventure. The facility has over 50 service bays in a huge building that was constructed along the runways of an old airport. The areas on each side of the runway have been transformed into a campground. Well, that might be too grand a vision, better to say a parking area, with benefits: electric, sewer, and water - if it is not below freezing, which it was during our visit, so we had to rely on filling our tank with water every 4 days or so. In addition to the service bays, there are numerous service vans that roam around the parking area, performing minor repairs. 

The strange thing about this service center is that one cannot get an appointment for service. Service is performed on a first-come, first-served, basis. Well.... sort of! Let me see if I can describe how it works... when I’m not at all sure just how it does work! (The following description is based on observation, my own experience and pure conjecture on my part. There may, or may not, be an ounce of truth to this information!)

When you arrive at the service center you are assigned a parking spot. You are given a form to complete where you can list the repairs you need and indicate whether your motorhome is still in the 1year service warranty and whether you have a third-party insurance policy that might pay for some, or all, of the service.Then... you wait. The head of service will be around to review the form with you and get you in the queue for service. He should come around in the morning, we were told. We neglected to ask, “Which morning?!” Forgetting we were in the sunny (but unseasonably cold) south! We did not see anyone from service until midday on day #2. 

Once that meeting is complete the head of service, The King... the Head Honcho... he who controls all... apparently slots you into the system based on the type of service you need and the line of vehicles in front of you that also need that service. That all sounds simple enough. However, it begins to get complicated when certain factors are considered. For example, if your motorhome is in the 1-year warranty period I believe you are slotted ahead of some guy who has a 2-year old home... and his gets priority over the 2006 model parked next to him, regardless of how long he has been parked on the runway. However, if you have a new motorhome on order, you are placed higher in the queue no matter what. It may also be that the squeaky wheel gets the grease... or perhaps gets the shaft - if you get my drift! 




As you wait for service you can take advantage of all that there is to do in Red Bay, AL.......................... or you can sit on your motorhome. You will probably end up sitting on your motorhome, so plan to bring plenty of books, DVD’s, craft projects... oh, and alcohol. Red Bay is in a dry county. Also, keep in mind that the grocery stores are small - the one we stopped in offered two versions of Triscuits, at prices quite a bit higher than our local grocery. The service center waiting area has lots of jigsaw puzzles, comfy arm chairs, free coffee and a vending machine. Up until this year, this was the only area to get wifi - now they have it throughout the campground. They do allow dogs in the waiting area - if they don’t bark. There is also a laundry area and a store with motorhome bits and pieces and some camping supplies. 

OK, I am being a bit critical. Red Bay is a sweet little town. The problem is the ‘little’ part. They have a dog food factory. The Tiffin factory (where you can take a tour - and that is very interesting), a Piggly Wiggly and a Fred’s, a McDonald’s and a Jack’s, and a few other shops. There are some places to visit that are further afield, such as the Coon Dog Cemetery, Helen Keller’s home and the natural bridge. But, I digress, back to the service puzzle...

As you wait you might be able to get a general idea of where you stand in the queue from “He Who Controls All”, but there is a lot of conjecture to that. So much depends on how long the repairs on motorhomes ahead of you take, whether they slot a new coach or one under warranty at the top of the list and I am sure there are probably some other variables that come into play. Then, you have to factor in that there are a certain number of service bays that only do body work. Others only do work on hydraulics, etc. So, depending on the nature of your repairs, you may be in several queues. 

You wait in the queue until you get “the call”. Each afternoon those with the lucky number are called and told what service bay to be in front of at 7:00 AM. You might get ‘the call’  some time later in the morning indicating where you should arrive after lunch. If any of this bothered you, you might find yourself obsessively checking your phone to see if you missed ‘the call’. It didn’t phase me, but Mr. Dreamy became progressively more restless as each day went by. This was also compounded by the midday temperatures in the 20’s with a biting wind that made taking a stroll around the runway something one wanted to avoid. 

We were seen quickly for minor repairs by one of the mobile crews - although with the low temperatures we were assigned a service bay. Hmmm, did that mean that some hapless soul was kicked down the line since we occupied a bay in which he might have been scheduled?!  


One of the mobile guys hard at work solving the next level of his game
while his buddy works on our motorhome.
I guess his buddy didn't need a screwdriver handed to him at that moment!


Then we were back on the line waiting for ‘the call’ for minor body work. (No, Mr. Dreamy did not get a ding in the motorhome - we developed a small crack in a fiberglass side panel, through no fault of our own. However, the State of New Mexico might have had some culpability due to their lousy repairs of an on ramp for I-10 that had a chasm across it that might have tripped up Texas had it tried to access the Interstate!)

Thursday I happened to chat with “He Who Controls All”. He looked through his little spiral notebook and said we might get in a bay next Wednesday or Thursday. I mentioned that we had to leave dear, old Red Bay on Tuesday or Wednesday, and I explained why.....

Later that afternoon, Mr. Dreamy got “The Call”. We were among the chosen. 

On our way down the runway at 6:45 AM

So, today, I sit on the motorhome in a service bay, with a hustle and bustle of busy service guys (??) around me. Strange how the system works!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Prost

During our trip to Europe last May we toured Schloss Vollrads, a castle and vineyard in the Rheingau region of Germany, that has been making wine since the 1400's.


It was fascinating. We were entreated to the history of the castle and vineyard and had the opportunity to tour a few rooms in the grand, old manor, as we tasted some of the wines they produced. 


As I recall, the vineyards and buildings had fallen into disrepair.  The last member of the family that went back centuries in time was somewhat of a recluse, and wouldn't entertain any ideas to market the wines. When the count died, the estate was taken over by a German foundation. Since that time, renovation has begun, the buildings have been put on tour, wine tastings are conducted (with a final stop at a gift shop where wines may be purchased), and people can rent areas for large celebrations. 



This is a dining room in the manor house. We enjoyed a different wine in each of three rooms we toured. One of the rooms still has the original, gold-leaf leather wall covering.

The Rheingau region of Germany is known for producing fine Riesling wines. The tour guide explained that we Americans think of Rieslings as a sweet white wine, yet most of the wines they produce are fruity, but dry. We had the opportunity to taste three different wines, and none were very sweet. The tour guide/sommelier, with a bit of a sneer, indicated that most of the Riesling's that are exported are overly sweet to appeal to the American palate.

Another fascinating tidbit of information we learned is that this particular region chose to use a unique bottle design to make their wines more recognizable. All of the bottles of wine from this region are sold in green bottles with a fluted top.  Schloss Vollards investigated cork options, and chose to move to a glass stopper. The stopper, which can easily be opened with a flick of the thumb, can also, just as easily be put back on the bottle to seal it. 



Last week Mr. Dreamy ran up to Publix to pick up a few grocery items. Imagine his surprise in seeing a fluted bottle on the wine shelf. It was from Schloss Vollrads! The wine was good - although a bit sweeter than what we had enjoyed in Europe. 



What fun to find a little bit of Germany in a local grocery store. Even more fun to remember our trip and enjoy a glass of wine! Cheers!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Merrily We Roll Along

We left Florida, headed for the Tiffin factory and service center in Red Bay, AL. Our travels had been uneventful. The sun was out, it was a tad more windy than Mr. Dreamy likes, but all in all, things were going along quite smoothly. Then....


traffic slowed to a crawl. With the new Google map, one can see how the traffic is moving - the route will be red, yellow or green - oh, and very dark red. The route in front of us was dark red. There was a symbol on the route showing that there was a traffic incident ahead. (Our technology is so awesome!)

Did I ever mention that patience is not one of Mr. Dreamy's strongest points? He was not taking kindly to this disruption of our day. Of course, he was the one driving inching forward, not I. Well, actually, I did get to experience it for a few minutes. Mr. Dreamy had been talking about the need for a break. Now with the traffic situation, that break was going to happen even later. So, Mr. Dreamy stopped the coach, put on the parking brake and turned the seat over to me. I hopped in and began driving rolling forward a few feet at a time. After a bit, Mr. Dreamy came back and reclaimed his spot. I was grateful. I am not experienced at driving - this stint at the wheel added another 1/2 mile to my 100 mile total. This sort of driving was fine - it really was my speed, but I worried about the traffic clearing and everyone speeding up. I need not have worried! We spent some more time inching forward. I made sandwiches. We inched a bit further. I enjoyed watching a passenger in the car ahead of us get out and dance on the Interstate. A few more inches. I considered making a sandwich for the truck driver next to us. We moved along.... slowly.

As we progressed we could see police cars ahead. They were blocking the road at an exit to downtown Birmingham, AL. Three lanes (plus a 4th that came and went on the breakdown lane/shoulder) had to merge into one lane. It was slow going. Then, we were dumped on a fairly typical city street. Mr. Dreamy was not particularly happy. Any patience he had, had long ago been used up! Thank Heavens for Google maps that showed me the route to direct him (the GPS wanted him to turn back and take the onramp for the Interstate - yes, I know there is a feature to have it provide a detour, but we've never tried it before). With only a mile of small city blocks, and stops and starts at almost every intersection, we were able to get on an expressway that led to the next Interstate we wanted, and we were on our way.

Not so for the poor hapless soul idiot who decided to drive around the road block.... I do wonder just what the police had to say to him!


Monday, January 20, 2014

The Front Porch Quilt Shoppe

It is probably a good thing that there are 1441 miles separate me from my sewing machine. As we came back from a grocery run in Ozark, AL, Mr. Dreamy indulged my whim and stopped at the Front Porch Quilt Shoppe. Although quilting is not one of my craft addictions, my mother was a talented quilter and I enjoy seeing quilts and quilting fabric. Perhaps some day my fingers will itch to piece together lots of pretty patterns of fabric, and then stitch through the layers to make quilts.

All photos courtesy of the quilt shoppe

 This shop made that thought very tempting! The quilt shop is located in a cute southern-style home with a huge front porch. I am thinking that it is a quilter's idea of Heaven. Inside the shop there are several rooms that have bolt after bolt of fabric in just about any color or pattern imaginable.


You can buy bundles of precut quilting squares and bundles of triangles, called "turnovers". There are numerous quilts and hangings on the walls for inspiration.


If you need more ideas, there are magazines and books for sale, too. In one room the shop had a huge machine for stitching through the layers of a finished quilt, creating patterns following computerized instructions.


For a fee, quilters can have this somewhat boring process performed for them. As we left that room, Mr. Dreamy pointed out a quilted dress hanging on the door jamb. It was gorgeous!  It was constructed with a soft solid-color cotton that had a bit of a sheen to it. The bodice was quilted in matching thread with a close 'squiggly' pattern (I am sure there is a term for that, which I don't know). The long skirt had large intricate flowers formed by the quilting. It was stunning in its simplicity and subtlety!

The owner of the shop was very warm and gracious. She welcomed us, even though we told her we were 'just looking'.  She talked with us about her daughter, who is studying fiber arts at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, GA. The school was practically in our back yard for many years. She also shared her excitement that the Front Porch Quilt Shoppe was one of 11 shops featured in the Better Homes and Garden Quilt Sampler magazine. How cool is that?!


One thing I love about traveling is bumping into gems like this. How wonderful to find such an outstanding shop. If/when I decide I want to try some quilting, I know where I want to go shopping!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Thank You, George

Before the holidays we Dreamers were invited to a Panini Party. Each invitee was asked to bring something to put on a panini sandwich. We brought some ham, Brie cheese and a garlic mustard. Other folks brought pears, roast beef, turkey, cheddar cheese, olives, chutney, tomatoes.... gosh, I can't remember any more. The hostess provided a variety of breads. She had two panini presses and we had a great time crafting different sorts of sandwiches and sharing them. (Thanks, Christine, it was a great party!)
Mr. Dreamy loved it and decided he wanted to have panini sandwiches at home. We looked at a variety of panini presses, but they were all a bit larger and/or heavier than we cared to have on the coach. One day, while shopping at a major discount-found-almost-everywhere-big-box-chain-store, we happened upon a tiny George Foreman grill.
It was not exactly what we were looking for... but it was small, it was light and it was c-h-e-a-p! We walked out with the grill. We have used it almost daily since then! It was the best $17.92 we ever spent!  We have made our share of grilled sandwiches... I guess you could call them paninis. Additionally we have used it to grill chicken, pork chops, steak and burgers. They all come out great! Thanks, George!

My favorite sandwich (so far):
  • Ciabetta cut to an appropriate sandwich size and split
  • Sharp provolone cut in thin strips (I used Bel Gioioso brand)
  • Onion relish
  • Smoked turkey breast
  • Dijon mustard
I lightly spread mayonnaise on the outside of the bread and toast it in my grill. It's dreamy!

A panini restaurant I used to visit served a sandwich with pulled pork, pears and brie. That was yummy, too. I guess for me, anything with melted cheese is a winner! What about you? Do you have a favorite sandwich?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Gypsy Jabbers: You Just Don't Get It

Gypsy didn't like the utility pole near our campsite at Fort Clinch.


Every time we passed the pole, she would bark,
using her sharp, "let me at 'em" bark.
At first, Dreaming found it a bit amusing.
However, other campers probably didn't think so!


Here is Gypsy's point of view:

What Dreaming Hears:
Bark! Bark! Bark!

What I'm Saying:
Watch out! Don't you see it?
There's a Koala clinging to that pole!

What Dreaming Hears:
Bark! Bark! Bark!

What I'm Saying:
Look out! 
That giant caterpillar might
drop down on us!


What Dreaming Hears:
Bark! Bark! Bark!

What I'm Saying:
Yikes! It is a huge termite.
It's going to eat the pole and
the wires will fall on us!

What Dreaming Hears:
Bark! Bark! Bark!

What I'm Saying:
Hey!
Aren't you going to help that
smoke jumper who  got hung up on the pole?
What Dreaming Hears:
Bark! Bark! Bark!

What I'm Saying:
Geesh!
You just don't get it.
You are no fun at all!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Gotta Love Google

I am limping along with limited technology - so I tried uploading a picture onto a blog post from my phone, although I'm actually using an iPad. Yeah, it is a bit confusing. But, it gets even better!  When the application showed the photos, it showed a picture I had taken of one of my paintings. My picture showed a snowy scene. I copied it from one I had seen on Will Kemp's site. I was interested in trying to recreate the picture as it was created with only two colors and two brushes.  I was quite pleased with the finished project. However, Google, or Blogger, or some computer programmer 'out there' decided to add their own artistic license. (Cue mysterious music.) They added falling snow!


Doesn't this beat all? I did NOT tell it to snow in my painting. However, it turns out that Google + will add snow if you tap on a picture. Evidently I did so without realizing it. It does kinda jazz up my work!

If I were more serious about my art, I think I'd be rather ticked off. For now, I find it kinda amusing. 




I describe more of my painting on my other site: Dreaming Does Art

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fort Clinch

Fort Clinch was one of 42 masonry forts built as a seacoast defensive system for the United States as part of the Third System Fortifications established by Congress following the war of 1812. This particular fort's construction was begun in 1847, however the area has been occupied on and off since the early 1700's. The fort saw active duty during the Civil War and again during the Spanish American War. Restoration of the fort began in the 1930's as a CCC project, and it became part of the Florida State Park system shortly thereafter.


The fort has daily tours with period reenactors that do an excellent job of describing life in the fort during the Civil War. 


We were met at the gates by an officer who began to harass us about our disorderly line. He marched up and down the line telling us it was time to 'get tough' and that we were in the army now. It was fun to see the children's eyes grow large.


Each area of the fort had docents in period costume who explained what we were seeing and made us feel like we had truly taken a step back in time. I was given a hard time for having short hair, not wearing a hat and letting my legs show!


In one area of the fort we heard the delightful music of a flute playing on the breeze. We finally discovered the musician in one of the underground passageways. 

The fort has several reenactments during the year, as well as candlelight tours.  I found the tour by candlelight be be particularly illuminating (I couldn't resist that!) as far as giving visitors a feeling for what it was like in the day.

The fort fell into disuse when rifled armaments came about, as the walls would provide no shelter from ammunition that had that much power and weight.




All pictures courtesy of Google images





Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Fortnight at the Fort

We Dreamers enjoy staying at Fort Clinch State Park(Florida) when we visit family on Amelia Island.  The park has nice roads and trails for biking, some areas for fishing and a beach to walk on... and swim from, if you are a member of he Polar Bear club! We have not had the opportunity to visit during warmer months, when one might want to swim. We probably wouldn't care to do so in the sometimes oppressive heat of coastal northern Florida! 

The State Parks have a policy that campers may stay for two weeks in any month, and then must move out of the park for 7 days before returning. Thus, we stay for a fortnight. Do you know how that term came to be? According to Wikipedia, the word derives from the Old English: fēowertyne niht, meaning "fourteen nights".




The park has two campgrounds. They are very different from each other. The "river" campground is heavily treed. This area is situated on the western side of the park along the Amelia River. Most of the sites are quite separate from one another and with all of the trees and underbrush there is a lot of privacy. 



Source: Florida State Parks

The sun and wind find it a challenge to make it through the heavy canopy of oaks, so that can be a blessing or a curse. There are a few trails which are nice for walking and biking.  Tucker and Gypsy love this campground, and especially love going for walks at night when the night creatures are out and about. Last year Gypsy discovered a possum. I am not certain who was more surprised!

The Atlantic Beach campground is located on the east side of the park.  If you are lucky you might even see a nuclear sub go by on the way to dock in St. Mary's. 



The camp sites are closer together and the area is very open having only a few palmetto trees. There are pretty dunes between the beach and the campsites. Our fuzzy family is not welcome on the beach, so Mr. Dreamy and I don't take as many walks on the beach as we'd like.

In fact, walking the dogs is a challenge. There are no trails, and there are sand spurs everywhere. Tucker's feet seem to be a bit more rugged and he rarely complains that he has picked up one. Gypsy, on the other hand, (aptly playing the role of the princess) seems to walk less than 5 feet before stopping, holding her paw aloft for assistance from her human. Sadly, no one assists the human in removing teeny barbs in her thumb and fingers acquired from removing the stickers from Miss Gypsy's paw - she must do that herself! But, one shouldn't complain when considering the beauty from which the stickers came.





Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Fast Cars and Fine Women

When I was a little girl, my father (like many men) had an infatuation with sleek cars and speed, among other things. He often went to the races, and he had a series of small sports cars. Alfa Romeos were his favorite. Being of a mechanical mind, Dad built this rig to have a better view at the race track. (Dad is on the left.) This contraption intrigued the folks at Sports Illustrated, who published this in their magazine in the 50's.


What (you might ask) does this have to do with anything? When I was shopping for Christmas presents I was struggling with what to get for my father. I couldn't find anything that jumped out at me and said, "I am the perfect gift!" I came back from the store rather disillusioned. However, I began to think about Dad. He has never truly recovered from strokes he had last spring, or perhaps it is dementia that has overtaken him, but he is happy. Little things bring a smile to his face. Material things may not necessarily do that. But, I thought, what if I painted a picture of his favorite car from when he was a dashing young guy? What if I painted a memory of good times? At that time I was only on painting #4 of my challenge, but I decided I would try it. Since he has dabbled with oil and acrylic, I'm thinking he'd appreciate anything I did. So....
Ta Da....


Dad loved it!

Monday, January 6, 2014

All That and a Bag of Chips



This past summer I met a man from Florida. (That sounds a bit strange... but Mr. Dreamy is ‘in’ on this. It is all above board!) We were playing pickleball, and our conversation went something like this:

He: You have a Freightliner shirt on. Thwack!  Do you have an RV?

Me: Out! Yeah, 3-4-1, thwack! Do you?

He: I got it, thwack! My wife and I are living on our RV while we visit the Denver area.

Them: Out!

Me: Your serve. That’s really cool.

He: 3-4-2, thwack! Yeah. Our son lives here. Thwack!

Me: Thwack! Where is your home? Thwack!

and
so 
on
and
so
forth...

Pickleball can be like this. One can meet the most interesting people and learn about them over the course of a game or two ten. It turned out that Paul and his wife were also heading to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. We exchanged phone numbers and one day, while we were at the Fiesta, we visited Paul’s motorhome and met his wife, Sue, his son, and a few of their grandchildren. We had an enjoyable visit and that might have been the end of the story, except... I left my hat on Paul’s motorhome. (In hindsight, this was a great way to push me to keep in touch!) We couldn’t connect again during the Fiesta, but Paul lives fairly close to where we stay when we are in Florida and he encouraged us to visit and play some pickleball. We had a few days in our schedule where we couldn't get a site in the State park near the family, so we drove south and arranged to meet with Paul and Sue. Paul and I managed to get 3 or 4 pickleball games in before the rains came. We had a lovely lunch at a nearby club, and had a drive around the community. That’s where we get to “the bag of chips”.  

Paul and Sue live in The Villages. Think “55+ Community” on steroids combined with the magic of Disney. (However, even though this is in central Florida, Disney has nothing to do with it.) The Villages, as they exist now, were begun by a development company owned by Gary Morse in the 80's. He modeled his community after the successful "Sun City" retirement communities, planning for amenities for residents and nearby commercial areas. But, unlike Sun City, The Villages are a collection of different residential areas forming neighborhoods, of which there are at least 32*. There may be more now, as it has been an entire week since I was there, and new villages are being constructed as I type. (OK, so I am exaggerating just a bit about the growth in this community.) Each neighborhood has its own pool and recreational area with shuffleboard courts, horseshoes or other games. There are an additional 22 Recreation Centers with large pools and recreation buildings with pool tables, meeting rooms or areas for crafts, games or entertainment and full kitchens. Each of these centers has tennis courts and pickleball courts. There are also 8 regional centers that have venues for large presentations, larger pools, and larger meeting rooms. Each facility is unique in its decor, and the one we stopped at, The Eisenhower, was stunning. Additionally there are 32 9-hole golf courses, that can be played for free, and 11 championship, 18-hole courses. Paul shared the Recreation News section of the community newspaper with me. The first 25 pages list the schedules for each of the recreation centers. The remaining 25 pages briefly describe a variety of clubs and activities that are available in the community....  everything from Acoustic Guitar, Air Gun Club and Aqua Rhythms to a number of Yoga classes and six different Zumba classes! There is no excuse to be bored!
If you are a bit more serious, there is a Lifelong Learning Institute operated by the community, as well as a nearby campus for a Community and State college.
There are 4 Town Squares within The Villages, each having its own unique architecture. The Town Squares have shops, theaters and restaurants, as well as special market days. In addition, they offer free, nightly entertainment. 

Wow! This place is all that, and a bag of chips!

*Sources for my information were Wikipedia and “The Villages Recreation News”

Friday, January 3, 2014

You Can Never Go Home Again

We traveled back to the South Carolina Lowcountry where we had previously lived for 34 years.  We had an opportunity to visit with our former neighbors and see that our sweet little house still looked the same from the outside. We had lunch with a few of my colleagues and drove around town, commenting on all of the changes. 

Some of the changes are good. The town of Bluffton, long known as an artist's mecca, has become a delightful 'walk-about' town with numerous galleries representing many local artists. There are a number of wonderful restaurants tucked here and there, and although growth is evident, the new buildings reflect the Southern heritage of the town. I caught myself thinking, "This would be a fun place to live!" Then remembered, I used to lived here! 

Scenes from Bluffton
(thanks to Google)
"The Store"
offering an eclectic mix of wonderful objets d'art

Jacob Preston
The towns tallest potter

Seven Oaks
One of several antebellum houses on the main street
(At one point we lived next to this home)

One of the art galleries in the old town area

As we drove away from the town center, and got caught in snarled traffic, I recalled why we left the community we had called "home" for so long. The growth of the town remains unchecked. What once was a sleepy community of 1 square mile with 500 residents, all of whom knew each other, is now one of the largest and fastest growing towns in the south. Wikipedia reports that the town grew 882% according to census data from 2000 to 2010. Wow!


The pink and brownish area is the Bluffton of today. Inside the green circle is the original "Old Town". When we moved to the old town, most of the surrounding area consisted of farmland or forests. When we moved into the area we had a few markets, two gas stations, a barber shop and a liquor store. All other shopping involved a trip to larger communities 30 miles away.  Now one can drop money at just about every major retail chain right in town. If you don't feel like paying full retail, why, you have two large outlet plazas to visit. The town has just about everything a person could want. There is a beautiful new library. There are several brand spanking new schools, with more in the planning stages. There are churches. And opportunities for recreation. And brand new housing developments. And housing developments with new phases of construction. And new townhouses. And new gas stations - we counted seven on the roads we traversed - I'm sure there are more. The community we once called home has everything anyone could want. But, we didn't want that. We missed the real sense of community. We missed driving down the road and waving left and right to friends sharing the highway. We missed getting delayed in the grocery store because we ran into so many people and had to catch up on what was going on in their lives. (I used to say that I had the best parent-teacher conferences in the vegetable aisle!) We missed stopping by the post office, again, running into many friends. Now, it is odd to bump into someone you actually know. I find that sad. But, you can't go back. It can't be undone. It's best, in my mind, to have great memories and move on.






Take A Hike

Stepping back in time a bit....  I flew into Denver to pick up my car, visit with my dad and then get a few odds and ends taken care of. Th...