The Morning and the Evening of the First Day
As it tends to do every year about this time, very cold winds started blowing through Easton in late December and early January so we hastily packed the storage bins of our trusty steed and departed for Greenville, SC on Monday January 4. Linda led the way in our Chevy-Woo pace car as we left Easton at 4:15 AM, drove North to cross the Bay Bridge and then South on Route 310 to I-95 in Richmond for a quick breakfast and Diesel relief at a Cracker Barrel before turning west on I-85 toward Charlotte, NC. At a rest stop we were presented with our first strategic challenge when the battery of the great white whale proved inadequate for restarting its engine. Our normal backup procedure for this eventuality is to start the onboard generator, plug in the on board battery charger, and voila! But, of course, our generator remains unfunctional after a month in the repair facility before our departure. A good Samaritan truck driver aided us with jumper cables and the red minnow jumped a starting charge to the white whale and we were off again with me chanting that I must always leave the engine running until we could find a new battery. Then Linda communicated to me by walkie-talkie that she required a gasoline refill. At the station, I found a whale sized parking space and then turned off the engine to gallantly rush to assist Linda in refueling. When I returned to the whale, their was barely enough juice to click the starter solenoid. When I sought assistance in the station, the manager informed me that he happened to have an appropriate battery and for a nominal ten dollars in labor, he spent a half hour removing the various obstacles to removing the battery and installed the new one.
We arrived in Greenville just in time for the commuter rush and a retina scarring sunset in our eyes as Linda tried to follow our MapQuest directions to lead me to the location where we were to pick up a towing dolly that I had earlier purchased on ebay. More and more cars and trucks separated our two vehicles as we tried to make our way through the traffic maze that surrounds Greenville. Meanwhile, my silent walkie-talkie seemed to be implying that Linda was either too occupied with the dangerous traffic conditions or still too angry with me about the battery failure. When I inevitably lost sight of her, I was dismayed to discover that when I had last put the W-T aside, the channel selector had bumped against the side of the cup holder so that I was now monitoring and calling frantically on the wrong channel. When I finally found a whale mooring spot, Linda was well out of range without any navigation aids except a Road Atlas and the MapQuest directions to the towing dolly's location. I had our only cell phone with a nearly discharged battery, our only directions and address of a friend's home near Easely where we intended to spend the night, and a tentative awareness of the street address where the towing dolly was located. I quickly deduced that our only shared coordinate was the towing dolly so I got out the computer to use Mapquest and direct myself to that location. The computer immediately announced that it had only 7% of its battery power remaining and could not be of service to me. I had parked he whale next to a Fuddruckers in the hope of snaring a WiFi access. so now I ventured inside where I was provided with directions to 1434 Poinsett Highway where I hoped either to find Linda or to be within W-T range of her. After many more whale moorings and many more direction refreshments in the middle of commuter bedlam, I arrived at the desired location only to determine that the location had not been mutually desired. Like a detainee with the battery power of a single telephone call, I called the only "Rodger" number that was recorded in my cell phone and recorded a message on Marge's phone indicating my state of distress now feeling that my battery had used the last of its energy and I would never be able to receive a return call. But I was amuck with luck and Marge indicated that Linda had combined the use of telephone directory assistance to determine our friend's address with turn-by-turn instructions from a GPS dude to arrive safely at her home.
Now if only the blind Ahab could be provided with a tractor beam or Brail "whale navigation" instructions to arrive at the same safe point. After several failed approaches, I was intercepted by Rodger on his way home from work and taken in psychic tow for the miles between the Greenville beltway and the Rodger/Marge farmette. What would always be a joyous reunion with old friends was now much magnified by rapprochement with my much stressed bride. Many beer clankings and a great salmon, asparagus, and wild rice pilaf dinner later we stumbled to bed for a much needed recovery.
The Morning and the Evening of the Second Day
Rodger had provided me with a hitch equipped and GPS enabled pick-up truck to drive into Greenville and retrieve the towing dolly so, after breakfast, I followed the well voiced instructions of the GPS to easily make my way to the targeted location. After hitching up, I made several abortive attempts to find a RV parts store for repairing my freshwater petcock and then returned to find Linda very much ready for lunch. I then drove to Easley to refuel the car, clean off the winter coating of dirt, and retrieve some bird corpse to refuel my spouse. After this light hearted repast, I began a series of futile attempts to get the car up the ramps and onto the towing dolly. In all of my mental walk-thrus this process had gone very well for me but when I came time or the real-time implementation, the car would reach the top of the ramps and then the front wheels would spin so that it could not get over a small ridge at the back of the dolly's wheel holding tray. Using the usual escalation technique sometimes known as "getting a bigger hammer," I kept approaching the ramps with less and less caution until a slo-mo, frame-by-frame analysis plus the shattered remains of the new Chevy-Woo's lower lip lying on the ground convinced me that, as usual, there was a relationship problem. The height of the dolly bed was about 1.5" above the lower lip projection of the Chevy-Woo.
When "Resourceful Rodger" reappeared on the scene that evening, he sized the matter up and turned to the field expediency of putting thick and long ramps up to the dolly so that the car was higher off the ground when it dropped off the end of the approach ramps and settled on to the dolly bed. That was a very nice solution to the getting the car on to the dolly so we celebrated ourselves for having solved the first half of the problem and drove off to meet the middle Beckett daughter for dinner in Greenville. Good company always out-trumps broken and problematic stuff so by the end of the evening I was able to sit up and take nourishment again.
The Morning and the Evening of the Third Day
Through a fitful night of little sleep I reluctantly decided to take the last resort of reading the thin owner's manual for the towing dolly. Therein I discovered that what is required for a successful loading or unloading of a car on the towing dolly is a flat surface of asphalt rather than the hilly surface of turf that I had chosen for my initial "stabs." With this new knowledge I drove the rig to a nearby abandoned service station where I could practice loading and unloading a few times before driving the car back to the "Casa Beckett" to announce my findings to Linda so that she would be prepared to hop aboard when I returned with the assembled rig to pick her up. Shortly after noon we were off to travel north on I-85 back to Spartanburg and then southeast on I-26 to Columbia, SC and then on toward Savannah, GA where we rested for 2 hours in a Home Depot parking lot before waking to the sound of a carbon monoxide warning alarm. After opening doors and windows to the sub-freezing night air, we decided to continue along I-95 so that we could warm ourselves with the whale's heater. After traveling through Jacksonville, we came upon a rest stop with an open parking space where we resumed our sleep for another 4 hours until 7:00 AM when Diesel insisted upon a cold morning walk.
The remainder of the trip was tiring but uneventful and we arrived at Sugarloaf Key about a half hour after a magnificent sunset that made the sky have no division from the glowing water surface except for a slight ripple texture. We checked in for two weeks, unloaded the car, dropped the dolly in the designated area, refilled an almost empty propane tank from three nights of furnace overuse, backed into our regular berth 222 next to the swimming pool, and struggled through water hookups, cable TV hookups, electrical plug-ins, and futile attempts to make a twenty foot sewer hose stretch the 22 feet that separated our sewage drain from the hole in the ground where our sewage was to be deposited. The KOA dude tried in vain to find a usable extension but my neighbor Larry from New Jersey eventually saved the day by supplying me with his backup extension. By now I stunk from my exertions, so I showered and put on my PJs so that we could nuke a chicken pot pie dinner and then sit outside our reestablished southern home drinking an exquisite birthday bottle of Estancia pinot noir and watching the diamonds of Orion pivoting over our heads.
1/8/10 - I was awakened far too early by Diesel's plaintive cries as he sought some relief for his bowel and bladder pressures. Donning slippers to match my PJs, I walked him to the dog defecation club where he proceeded to fling great rooster tails of debris in celebration of each excretion. While the other club members cleaned Diesel's dirt from themselves they spoke of his handsomeness and of how much we missed seeing Fred Neff. As I wrote last year, Fred stood like a colossus at the gateway to the Sugarloaf Dog and Philosophy Club. As the eighty-something father of seven children and the two time husband of their mother, Fred had acquired a doctoral equivalent in relationship management. He also had much understanding of animal husbandry and is greatly loved by his dog who was originally known as Dutchess but is now addressed simply as Dutch. He is the father that all of us always wanted and together we laughed about almost everything that can be laughed at and some things that shouldn't. Fred had been a seasonal tent camper here at the KOA for five years, but did not intend to return this year and he is very much missed by all of us who knew him.
After I reviewed the previous evening's hasty hookups and extracted bicycles from the back of the Chevy-Woo, Linda drove off to the Winn-Dixie on Big Pine Key to replenish our larder. While she was gone I seized the opportunity to update this site with news of our arrival and upon her return we changed into our swimming togs and walked across the street to the pool. After we had exercised and basked for some time, we were joined by Larry and Gwen who told us of their adventures since we saw them last year. I was green with envy when they told me of how they had been in Key West for Fantasy Fest in October. They provided excellent descriptions of the naked and nearly naked participants and also spoke of the arrival of a nude cruise ship traveling under the Banner of "Bare Necessities." Cruise members and landlubbers mingled together in Dionysian revelry lasting through parades and into the night with only a few random couplings to mar the Eden-like atmosphere. Now we are very much excited about scheduling an October visit but not this year because of our currently scheduled debauchery in the Mediterranean.
After watching the sunset on Sugarloaf we walked to the legendary Mangrove Mama's where we very much missed the great company of our friends from Western Pennsylvania with whom we had celebrated the previous year. Over shrimp and scallops we listened to Chris Towne the Alaskan Singer/Songwriter & Classical/ Spanish Guitarist. During a break, for the cost of a single shot, we got to chat with Chris about his life and travels.
1/9/10 - It's cold and raning when Diesel requires attention in the semi-darkness of early morning. We are the only man and beast that are out on such a morning. We sat around for most of the morning cursing our luck and then drove to the Geiger Marina for a chilly lunch before shopping for a gas grill replacement. Unable to make up our minds, we returned home to watch the play-off games.
1/10/10 - My warmest coat and hat were inadequate for accompanying Diesel to his morning ablutions. I met a Jack and Judy from Gainesville in the good company of five dogs including two rescued greyhounds. Next we stopped at the much decorated tentsite of Mark from Wisconsin who was covering his traveling costs by selling items that he had created from coconut husks. He introduced Diesel to the slow moving iquana that he had captured and I took some snapshots of his artistic creations. I am now reliving the horror of the Eagles loss to the hated Cowboys in last night's play-off game. Just to inform you of how desperate we have become with the bad weather, we are now contemplating going to a flea market at Big Pine Key for the remainder of the morning. Soon enough I will be putting on my, 'Ask me about my Grandchildren' T-shirt, my plaid mid-calf shorts, my black socks and sandals to go to the clubhouse for a nice nap. We will then go to line up for the early bird dinner about 3 PM, but will get there by the fashionable 3:45 PM, because we're late eaters. The large portions will allow us to take home enough food for the next day's lunch and dinner, including extra bread, crackers, packets of mustard, relish, ketchup and Sweet-and-Low along with mints.
1/11/10 - The sun came warm and bright today but an ill wind continued to blow. After lugging our accumulated dirty clothes to the laundry, I accompanied Diesel to the Dog Club where I chatted with Susan and Diesel introduced her pugs to the club facilities. On our return to the whale I began reading a book called "I Am a Strange Loop" by Douglas Hofstadter examining in depth the concept of a strange loop originally developed in his 1979 book Gödel, Escher, Bach. The book argues that the key to understanding selves and consciousness is the "strange loop"--a special kind of abstract feedback loop inhabiting our brains. Deep down, a human brain is a chaotic seething soup of particles, on a higher level it is a jungle of neurons, and on a yet higher level it is a network of abstractions that we call "symbols." The most central and complex symbol in your brain or mine is the one we both call "I." The "I" is the nexus in our brain where the levels feed back into each other and flip causality upside down, with symbols seeming to have free will and to have gained the paradoxical ability to push particles around, rather than the reverse. For each human being, this "I" seems to be the realest thing in the world. But how can such a mysterious abstraction be real--or is our "I" merely a convenient fiction? Does an "I" exert genuine power over the particles in our brain, or is it helplessly pushed around by the all-powerful laws of physics?
After a day spent wrestling with these matters, I let Diesel wrestle with a tree and we then ventured out to the No Name Pub to share a pizza and a Caesar Salad and listened to people from Ohio,Wisconsin, and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as they celebrated being far from their cold homes.
1/12/10 - With much grumbling I retrieved my tools and began to develop my sanitation engineering skills to repair a slow leak in the toilet. After I removed the toilet from the bathroom and examined its functions in the sunlight, I was able to see that the problem was associated with a non sealing valve. I then took the toilet down to mile marker 22.5 where I found an unobtrusive little RV repair shack where I was able to secure a new valve and succcessfully reinstall the toilet to the delight of my spouse.
It's reunion day at Sugarloaf Key as Craig and Kristine Sink arrive from Iowa followed shortly by Harvey and Jan Olson from Minnesota. We started telling lies where we had left off last year especially those involving Bernie, Yvonne, Bill, and Al from Western Pennsylvania since they were not here to defend themselves. Blame for all of last year's debauchery has now been firmly placed on their frail shoulders and this year we are pledged to daily exercise and Bible study. The Sugarloaf "Special K" club dispersed to various venues for the evening and I assembled my new propane grill for searing some steaks for dinner. After we had finished, we were joined by Kelly and Susan (pug parents that we first met in 2008 and saw again last year) and they played a dulcimer concert for us at our picnic table outside under the stars.
1/13/10 - Again, Diesel announced his needs at the first crack of a promising dawn and I met another old friend named Jean at the Dog Club for reminiscing about our absentee president, Fred Neff. Later the "Five Dog Night" group arrived and I provided them with more reviews of the local restaurants. When I returned with Linda's newspaper, a quorum of Larry, Gwen, Craig, and Chris had gathered at Larry's digs for the Bible study class, but decided to postpone the class to meet later at Schooner Wharf in Key West where the study could be enhanced with the background music of Michael McCloud and a bit of the Yuengling to wash down the fish and chips. .Michael McCloud (born 1947) is the stage name of Michael Snyder, an American folk singer and songwriter who regularly performs at Schooners. His album, "Aint Life Grand " features the lead guitar playing of the late "Doctor" George Turner. He gained national attention after filing a formal complaint for copyright infringement against country music star Toby Keith in 2006 when McCloud claimed that Keith's 2003 hit song "I Love This Bar "...was copied largely from (McCloud's) work, "Tourist Town Bar."
We bought a copy of Michael's latest CD and then wandered past B.O.s to Duval Street where we were suddenly overcome by dehydration and walked into Sloppy Joe's for a pint or two.
1/14/10 - Met the "Five Dog Night" at the Dog Club and then said goodbye to Kelly, Susan, Abby, and Sugar. In the afternoon I returned from a Diesel walk to find Linda already partying at the Kris and Craig Club. I momentarily hesitated befor plunging into a couple of rum and cokes that left me reeling. Hoping to hide the sad state that I was in, I stumbled off with Diesel to walk off the edge of the buzz so that I could again be seen in polite company for the dinner gathering.
1/15/10 - Finally we observe our second sunshine day and the pool exploded with Northern White Porpoises for the entire afternoon. After dinner we drove to Key West with the hope of finally seeing a Mallory Square sunset. Unfortunately we tarried too long at the Hog's Breath Saloon and arrived at Mallory Square too late for the sunset but just in time for the fire swallowing and juggling of dangerous equipment.
We next walked along the harbor to Schooner's Wharf where we listened to George Victory and the Observant Lion Band. This five-piece band is fronted by George Victory from Trinidad, on guitar and vocals. He was joined with Carlon Lyons on steel pan and djembe; Rolando Rojas, on percussion; Ken Fradely on trumpet and flugle horn; and Marty Stonely on sax and vocals.
1/16/10 - At about 9:00 AM we drove to the Big Pine Restaurant where we had a great breakfast before going on the Flea Market where I was able to purchase a cute little outfit made up of Eddie Bauer shorts and a lovely black and olive green shirt embossed with variety of Japanese or Chinese characters in brilliant gold. I intend to make this my standard dog walking costume so that can steal some attention from Diesel as a chick magnet. The heat soon drove us from the FleaMarket to the swimming pool where we remained until an early dinner followed by a trip to the Marathon Community Theater for an excellent performance of "Sylvia."
Sylvia is a romantic comedy about a man, a woman and a dog. Sylvia, a street-smart dog, meets Greg in the park. She has no identification except a tag with her name, “Sylvia”. Greg brings her home, surprising and dismaying his wife, Kate. Tensions rise as Greg spends more and more of his time with Sylvia, learning about himself in the process. The marriage is put in serious jeopardy until, after a series of hilarious and touching complications, Greg and Kate learn to compromise, and Sylvia becomes a valued part of their lives. When Sylvia played in New York's Manhattan Theater Club, Vincent Canby wrote "Not since 'Abie's Irish Rose' has there been a play as critic-proof as "Sylvia," at least for anyone who has ever owned a dog, loved a dog, wanted to wring a dog's neck or wished the dog would take a long weekend"
1/17/10 - Sort of a dreary morning of gray skies marked only by Diesel's first meeting with young Lily, a seven month old English Bulldog puppy in Lot #157. She now gazes longingly out of her window at him every time we walk past. We were invited to join the Olsens for the final half of the Minnestota/Dallas game so thar we could gloat over the Cowboys as they were beaten worse that they had beaten the Eagles on the previous weekend. We were very jealous of the Olsens who were attired in matching purple t-shirts depicting a Viking player with Brett Favre's number 4 urinating on a Green Bay helmet. After the game I was able to make some protocol adjustments on the Olsen laptop so that they could connect to the campground WiFi signal.
1/18/10 - After a late breakfast we rushed to poolside to gather as many rays as we could while the sun was out. Fueled with gin and tonics we then rode with Harvey and Jan to the Geiger Marina where we joined the usual suspects for dinner and paid proper attention to a beautiful sunset.
1/19/10 - At the Big Pine Restaurant we celebrated Larry's Bingo playing success and his kindness as he treated us to breakfast with his winnings from the previous evening. Next we replenished Linda's medications and recoiffed ourselves to meet the Tebbs and Rose families at Tranquility Bay on Marathon Key. Afer the rest of the places we had visited in the Keys, Tranquility Bay seemed like a pristinely maintained gated community. Even the No See'ums seemed to be the product of genetic engineering such that they just nibbled off flakes of dead skin and excreted some sort of aloe that caused a body to have a buffed and polished look upon return from a walk along the beach. Bill Rose soothed our palates with some fine Manhattans before we ventured out to the Keys Fisheries where I very much enjoyed my first sauteed hogfish.
1/20/10 - After breakfast at the Galley Restaurant with Kris, Craig, Gwen, and Larry we made a quick stop at the Winn-Dixie and then raced to the pool for a day of basking. I'm reading a book called "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell in which he examines the lives of people who's IQs would place them way out in the foothills of the north slope of the bell shaped curve.. Then I started to speculate with the pool occupants that perhaps our hereditary ancestors had perhaps been lacking in fighting skills and great strength but had managed to survive and replicate by lying around looking unappetizing to large carnivores because of our pasty and nasty looking skins. Any carnivore that was anywhere short of absolute starvation would have regarded us as unworthy of attention as a food source or thought of us as already dead so long as to have been poisoned by decay. If a sabre-toothed tiger had managed to get inside the pool fence on that day, he would only have paid attention to a golden brown young woman off in the corner and would have passed by the rest of us.as appearing completely unedible.
1/21/10 - We learned by telephone that Thea Rose had fallen on the stretch of the old Key Bridge that is reserved for walkers. Her nose had been broken in two places and she had required "911" attention. While she and Bill Rose recuperated at Tranquility Bay, Bill and Rosalie picked us up at our campsite and drove us to Key West where we drove past the beaches and had breakfast at the Croissants de France. Next we parked at Key West Harbor and wandered along the waterfront before rehydrating at Schooner's Wharf. After our return to Sugarloaf in the early afternoon, I joined the usual suspects at the pool and then again at the Sugarloaf Pub for a sendoff evening for Craig and Kris with background music supplied by Lou Renshaw.
1/22/10 - Reluctantly said goodbye to Craig and Kris and spent the morning at the pool before making arrangements for a sunset cruise with my bride of 7 years and 362 days. I scrubbed myself up as well as I could, donned my recently purchased Japanese ermbossed shirt, and tried to stay clean until Linda was ready to drive us to Key West. After parking we heard the good music of Joel Nelson coming from the Conch Republic Seafood Company so we sat under an umbrella and listened to him while we ate our lunch. After getting our cruise tickets we were still too early to board the boat so we wandered over to Schooner Wharf to listen to Michael McCloud and Friends including the best Mark Knofler sound alike guitarist that I have heard. Finally dragged our feet away from their great rendering of "Sultans of Swing" to board our Sebago catamaran and begin surrendering to the temptations of the demon.
We left the Key West harbor in the wake of the schooner Haile and Matthew, past by the envious hordes on Mallory Square, and then glided majestically along the port side of the hugh cruise ship "Crystal Symphony" to a hovering spot a few miles southwest of the end of the keys where we could bask in the sunset and further partake of the libations.
We were less steady getting off the gangplank than we were getting on but nontheless we walked over to Schooner Wharf for a night-cap and a listen to whoever was playing. The whoever turned out to be Caffeine Carl and the Buzz accompanied for the evening by Raven Cooper,a talented guitar player and singer, Raven Cooper has a wide range of vocal styles. Her diverse singing ability rivals an earthy Janis Joplin, orchestral Julie Andrews and masterful Marilyn McCoo Davis. Together with Caffeine’s incredible harmonica playing and smokin’ guitar work churnin’ out Delta Blues and Classic Rock covers and originals, they held us enthralled for several parking meter refills.
1/23/10 - After we goofed away the day watching the Colts beat the Jets for the AFC Championship we were treated to an anniversary dinner at the No Name Pub by Larry, Gwen, Harvey, and Jan. Strengthened with grouper and Yuengling we then reassembled in the Sugarloaf Pub for another fine evening of entertainment by Lou Renshaw.
1/24/10 - Pre-departure day from Sugarloaf with many well-wishes from our friends who will remain here. In the evening we joined many who wished success for Brett Favre and the Vikings only to groan at the hits against our hero and the errors of his team as they fell to the unsaintly Saints. Now we all wish the Colts success so that we can witness the Saint's comeuppance.
1/25/10 - I spent an hour in the Dog Club so that Diesel could say his goodbyes to his many Sugarloaf friends then we unhooked and drove to the location of the dolly so that we could attach it to the RV and load the Chevy-Woo. Then we drove north on US-1 for about three hours to connect to FL-997 in Homestead. There we made a late brunch stop at the Cracker Barrel and drove north to the intersection with US-41 to begin a very long traverse of the peninsula through Naples and Ft. Myers and then across the Caloosahatchee River to North Ft. Myers where we turned west on Lee County 78 to cross a bridge into Matlacha. Matlacha seems to be a sort of brightly painted artist colony with many interesting seafood restaurants; neat as a pin in contrast to the loosely strewn anomalies of the keys. We then drove across another bridge to Little Pine Island and then another onto Pine Island and its only intersection.
There we took Lee County 767 south for about five miles along a corridor of very tall palm trees flanked by a cement bikeway that runs the length of the island toward St. James City where we came upon KOA's Pine Island Resort. After a few difficulties with our hook-ups, I took Diesel for a quick walk and we then drove back north to Matlacha to find a restaurant that was still open and serving dinner at 9:00 PM. After several abortive efforts we found Moretti's Restaurant and spent the next hour raving about Linda's broiled salmon filet with lemon dill and capers while she was snatching samples of the best tempura battered shrimp and calamari that anyone in the world has ever tasted. Both will be the standards for all such foods in the future. We met birthday girl Mrs. Moretti, several sons, and a daughter who spoke to us of their migration from Buffalo, NY to Matlacha and the establishment of the restaurant. It will be hard to keep from eating all of our meals here during our stay.
1/26/10 - We drove back along our yesterday route to shop at the Cape Coral Wal-Mart for some necessary things. We then meandered back through Matlacha for a closer look at the village before returning to the KOA for a bicycle ride exploration of our new community. The Pine Island KOA does a very good job of providing two lake front communities for seasonal residents that are somewhat separated from the four parallel rows of about 25 concrete slabs each which serve the needs of the more transient RV types with each community served by a separate clubhouse. In addition to a large modern swimming pool with a diving end depth of 8.5' and a quite massive hot tub with powerful Jacuzzi jets, the front clubhouse offers very ample showers, laundry facilities, a stage, ample seating, and kitchen facilities. The second clubhouse located in the center of the park boasts an exercise room and other facilities more suited to longer term residents. Because the KOA is from 3 to 10 miles from local towns, there are two "Big Red Buses" making daily trips to area beaches, shopping malls, specialty shops, and points of interest. Diesel is especially appreciative of the huge dog walking area with its thick mulch that can be kicked about in celebration of a good movement or a Nobel prize.
Late in the afternoon we drove about 12 miles to the northern end of Pine Island to explore the town of Bokeelia and watch the sunset..
1/27/10 - We laid a 40 mile course back through Little Pine Island and Matlacha to Cape Coral where we turned south on FL-884 and traveled across the Caloosahatchee River to continue south on McGregor Boulevard and pay $6.00 to cross the causeway to Sanibel Island. Upon arriving in Sanibel we were famished for breakfast so we drove toward the south end of the island to the Lighthouse Cafe to test their claim of having the "World's Best Breakfast." After eating we felt that we had not compiled enough evidence to file a counter-claim so I bought a T-shirt to flaunt in front of Linda's brother who had introduced us to the Lighthouse Cafe back in the days of our relative youth. Leaving the cafe, we drove to the north end of Sanibel and across the causeway to Captiva where we circled the Mucky Duck parking lot several times before coming to a landing just short of dehydration. I checked inside for dog-friendlyness and then we found a table where the boy could rest in the shade while we drank margaritas.
1/28/10 - I took a long morning walk with Diesel and, upon returning, met Hans who was hitting tennis balls to his two German Shepherd dogs named Selly and Caesar. In talking with Hans, I learned that he had been born in a small town in East Prussia in 1941 and grew up without malice toward the Soviets who drove his family out at the end of WWII. He had then made his way first to East Switzerland in 1965 and then to Buffalo in 1970 from where he had journeyed to Toronto where he had been issued a green card and established a successful business in Ontario with several offices in the northern US.
After breakfast I headed for the pool and then the Jacuzzi before Linda and I mounted our trusty bicycles to ride about three miles to St. James City at the southern tip of Pine Island. First we stood and looked across at the center of Sanibel Island and then we rode along the canals wih their waterfront homes and speculated about selling our home in Maryland and moving here where nice waterfront homes are still available for $250,000 and basic 2 bedroom, two bath ranchers near the water are available for less than $125,000. It's hard to resist establishing a winter home here and traveling to the north during the hot summer. We rehydrated at rhe Waterfront Restarant while peeling and eating some gulf shrimp.
1/29/10 - On my late baby brother's birthday we drove back ti Cape Coral in search of cute little outfits and while Linda had no success at all, I was able to score some classically handsome Sperry sandals from a store that was failing and selling its remaining items at half price. Crowing over my my success we returned to Matlacha for lunch at Moretti's Restaurant where I again depleted much of the world's remaining reservoir of gulf shrimp. On my evening walk with Diesel he exhausted himself by hanging from a low tree branch and then sought the soothing refuge of a nearby mud puddle to cool himself. The puddle also made him deaf so that I had to remove my shoes and wade in to carry him out of the muck. Upon our return to the RV he was not at all well received by his normally calm mother. Much to his dismay he had to be sprayed with cold water to remove some layers of soil before he was allowed back inside.
1/30/10 - I encountered Hans again during my morning Diesel walk and we talked some more about his boyhood life in occupied Germany. He also showed off Selly and Caesar doing a synchronized paw offering for my camera. We walked past a patiently waiting spaniel on our way to breakfast in the KOA Clubhouse where we heard from a Pine Island resident that the best real estate opportunities were on the Bokeelia end of the island; so we drove there to look at them and to check the schedule for the ferry to Cabbage Island and Cayo Costa. After deciding that we did not want to devote an entire day to this activity, we drove back to St. James City at the other end of the island to have lunch at Woody's Restaurant.
1/31/10 - It's a day of preparation for our return trip home with boring domestic tasks like vacuuming, storage bin reallocations, and carpet shampooing so that these tasks don't need to be done in the sub-freezing temperatures of Maryland that we don't look forward to returning to. Tomorrow we will leave early for a 150 mile drive to Lazy Days where we will examine the latest offerings in motorhome candy before traveling on to St. Augustine's North Beach for the night. Next day we will hurry on toward Maryland in the hope of arriving there at a decent hour on Thursday (2/4) so that I can meet my students on Friday morning at 9:00 AM.
5/1/10 - It was so nice to get home to Easton for a record breaking "Snowmageddon." Due to school closings, we were not able to return to warmer climes until early May after I was honored to serve as the official photographer for the nuptuals of Jack and Trish's son as the ring that had once united Jack's mother with his father now passed to the hand of his son's bride.
5/3/10 - 5/8/10 We departed Easton at about 4:00 AM on Monday 5/3/10 and drove to I-95 Exit 33 in South Carolina where we spent a rainy night and then purchased windshield wipers to replace those that we had shredded during the first day of driving. We then drove on to a KOA west of Orlando where we spent the evening of 5/4 (May the fourth be with us) before rousing tired travel bodies for the final leg into Pine Island on 5/5. As we celebrated our arrival with a dinner of shrimp scampi, Linda stumbled to avoid stepping on Diesel and bruised her ribs in a fall to the floor. She screamed a lot on 5/6 when we met the Bailor's at Iguana Mia's for dinner and the next day we enjoyed an introduction to the local medical facilities as we visited an urgent care center on the island and an emergency room at a hospital in Cape Coral, where Linda was found to be intact but requiring sedation. As a result we have been doing most of our real estate research from the RV so that Linda doesn't need to walk up any steps or sit and stand very much.
5/9/10 - We have now isolated our search to St. James City where it seems quite easy to get a nearly new waterfront place with a lanai and swimming pool for $250,000. My favorite is the tile roofed house on a corner lot at the end of a canal that is pictured in the first two images below and is being sold with all furnishings and the boat, but doesn't yet have a pool.. We are still trying to achieve that combination for about $200,000 and we have seen one such unit for an asking price of $179,000. The second set of two pictures has an asking price of $284,000, has a boat lift and as much floor space as our current home but was built in 1977. The third set of images has no pool, 1,080 sq ft, but has an asking price of $179,000 as does the rancher in the last set of images.
5/20/10 - After much deliberation we have decided not to buy property in St. James City and have instead applied for an annual site in the Pine Island KOA. Yesterday we returned to Lazy Days near Tampa where our salesperson had made provision for a two day complimentary stay in the luxurious Lazy Days Campground while we reviewed something like 155 acres of RV eye candy. We are hopeful of trading our Four Winds for a Class A motor home with a couple of slide outs so that Linda will have more room to walk around Diesel when he hogs the aisle space.
Over complimentary breakfast, we were met by Tom Tannert who has evolved from being our designated salesman in January to being a now trusted friend. We laugh a lot and make sport of one another as he explains our leisurely itinerary for the day as we make our final selection from among three "RV Idols" that we have chosen to meet our size and price requirements. All have features that are bedazzling, but Linda and I are fully united in opting for a 26' 2010 Winnebago Vista that is four feet shorter than our Four Winds but will be nicely comfortable for six month stays in Pine Island.
5/21/10 - Waking from what we imagine will be our last night in Rocinante II before moving on to Rocinante III, we unload bicycles and Diesel's kennel from the Chevy-Woo, place them in the Four Winds, and sort of anxiously wait for Tom to arrive with instructions as to where we should park the old unit while we return to Easton in the Aveo to retrieve the Four Winds title and arrange to pay for our new investment. I unhitch our umbilicals and drive out of our site to keep cool while we wait and Linda idles the engine of the Aveo to air condition the dog. When Tom arrives he announces that the Four Winds needs to be hooked up to electricity so that its functions can be reviewed by the specialists charged with reviewing a trade-in to insure that it is worth the value assessed on paper by the salesperson. As I hook up the electricity Tom calls my attention to a bulge in the driver's side of the Four Winds which he says probably indicates the start of "de lamination". Delamination is the RV equivalent to terminal cancer in a human. Next he points out that a fist sized chunk is missing from the rear passenger side tire and now the bile begins to rise in my throat and a I am starting to feel dizzy because I am convinced that I now am discovering the "Catch 22" of the sales process. "Good guy" salesman pre assigns a high trade-in value to the potential customer, and then the "bad guy" trade-in assessor declares the trade-in to be essentially toxic waste which they must pay to dispose of. I ask Tom for the worst case scenario, and he lowers his eyes to tell me that he hopes that there will not be a horrifying increase in the price difference and directs us to go to lunch while he tries to work out the differences with the trade-in assessor. After Linda and I try to keep our lunch from coming up on us, Tom returns with a sort of hang-dog expression and I ask him to come forward with what I expect to be a deal stopping addition, and he sadistically shows me a zero change in the price and I could hug him like a brother, but settle for a warm handshake of my gratitude. We run for the doors before he changes his mind and stop only for human and Diesel fuel over the next 18 hours to Easton.
5/22 - 5/26/10 Days of frantically looking for the checkbook associated with our home equity fund, the sale of a mutual fund, insurance transfer arrangements, mowing of a 2 1/2 week hay field that had replaced my lawn, ebay purchase of a receiving banket to cover our newborn, followed by purchase of airline tickets to Tampa where Tom Tannert is to pick us up at the airport and return us to Lazydays for our driving lessons before we transfer our belongings to the new rig and head north again.
5/27/10 - We wake at 3:00 AM and after searching in frantic failure for my wallet, we grab my passport to use as identification at the airport and leave Easton at 4:15 AM to leave the Chevy-Woo in long term parking and fly smoothly to Tampa. Tom meets us at 9:15 at the Tampa Airport and drives us to Lazydays where we meet with the Lazydays financial Dude, pass him various forms of checks and transferred funds, and are driven to site #20 where our new ride sits door-to- door with our old ride so that we can transfer our possessions.
5/28/10 - Rising from our first night in the new coach, we discover that power is no longer being supplied to the TVs and raise the issue with Tiffany who makes arrangements for the new ride to be examined while we break our fast. With all the repair bays occupied by other coaches, the repair people run the generator on the coach while they debug the electical problem only to discover that the generator has failed after only five hours of usage and must be swapped out and replaced with a generator from another new coach. We then use the afternoon repair time to visit the Camping World store where we purchase a bike rack to hang our bicycles from the ladder of the new rig. When the repairs and replacments have been completed we carefully drive the new ride to the Lazydays campsite where we swim and shake off the new owner jitters.
5/29/10 - After an early departure from Lazydays we drive across central Florida toward Orlando on I-4. I am somewhat ill at ease to discover that steering from this cab-over position slightly in advance of the front wheels and having no hood in front of me to guide me along the lane is not at all intuitive. I learned to drive with a car that had a hood ornament which I could guide by steering wheels which were somewhere out there under the hood. Now I am sitting somewhat forward of my wheels and making adjustments to my own recent history in preparation for the near future spread out everywhere in front of me on a huge, three dimensional screen a few inches in front of my face. Only by lining up a small square structural hole on the right end of the driver's windshield wiper with the white line marking the right side of my driving lane can I achieve any pointing consistency and reduce the "Danger Will Robinson" warnings being shouted by my distraught, arm-waving co-pilot. I am still fine tuning my efforts when we arrive toward the end of the day at our campsight near the southern border of South Carolina.
Images of Greece 1989