It’s hard to believe I’ve been back from my hiking trip to northern Georgia for more than two weeks. Days pass quickly when you’re retired and have nothing to do. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. Since the last blog post, it’s actually been quite hectic. We are in the midst of planning for next summer’s Messages of Hope tour. We will be departing The Villages on the 22nd of March, then heading out west, returning in late September. Stops along the way will include Tuscumbia, AL; Branson, MO; Tulsa, OK; Santa Fe and Albuquerque, NM; Tucson, Phoenix and Sedona, AZ; Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks; Provo and Ogden, UT; Pinedale and Jackson, WY; the Wind River Range; Vail, Steamboat Springs, Golden and Aurora, CO; Lees Summit/Kansas City, MO; Black Hills, SD; Billings, Bozeman, and Kalispell, MT; Glacier National Park; Coeur d’Alene and Boise, ID; Yellowstone National Park; Estes Park, CO and Rocky Mountain National Park; Wichita, KS; Oklahoma City, OK; Little Rock, AR; Vicksburg, MS, and New Orleans, LA. Some of those stops will be for Suzanne’s events, and others will be for R&R. I will update the map at right for 2016 in a couple of weeks, but it’s looking like another 10,000 mile plus summer, and we’re already getting itchy feet…
On the home front, I have been experimenting with some creative cuisine using one of my favorite references, The Wine Lover’s Cookbook. This meal, Grilled Flank Steak with Roasted Corn-Panchetta Salsa, got a rave review from My Lovely Bride. It’s nice to be able to treat her to a gourmet dinner at home. I may surprise her next week with some of my dehydrated backpacker food that I didn’t use up on my trip to the Appalachian Trail. Won’t she be thrilled???
We have also enjoyed the company of several friends at dinner, such as the delightful Donna and Ron Virgilio. They are seen here at one of Suzanne’s events, Der Blogmeister having forgotten to alert his camera crew the night before when visiting Casa Virgilio with its spectacular view of farm fields with rolls of golden hay. Donna is an amazing cook; dinner was fabulous, but when I asked for a recipe, Donna replied, “While I occasionally use recipes, I never keep them. So I never make the same meal twice…” Well, Darn!
Suzanne recently held a Sanaya session at Unity of The Villages, and again, it was virtually an SRO event. We were surprised how many first-timers were attending; evidently the word is getting out, and it was very gratifying to see all those new faces in addition to many long-time friends.
One of the top highlights this month was a trip to Naples, FL, where Suzanne was invited to give the Sunday message and her Awakened Living 301 workshop. We were greeted warmly by Rev. Diane Clevenger, Unity of Naples’ dynamic and inspirational minister. Their campus is gorgeous, with beautiful tropical landscaping (reminding us of Panama) and a serene lake.
Diane’s Sunday service must have had 450 attendees inside the church, and another couple of hundred outside, an amazing number considering most of the area’s snowbirds have not yet flown south for the winter. It was also Veterans Day weekend, and Suzanne’s message on Steadfastness (one of the cardinal virtues designated for that particular week) was timely and very well received by the Unity community. Her afternoon workshop was given to a full house, one of the most enthusiastic groups yet. We are already looking forward to returning to Unity of Naples and its vibrant, welcoming community.
We have also been bike riding a lot, both on our own and with the Sumter Landing Bicycle Club. The only hard part about riding with the club is getting up early enough to be at the start by 0845. This photo was taken at the start of our longest ride to date, a 64 mile fundraiser for a local hospital. It was a chilly morning (55F) and we needed jackets. The ride meandered through The Villages, south through farmland and horse ranch country, around Lake Panasoffkee and back through Wildwood to Spanish Springs.
We had two short rest stops along the way with Gatorade, PB&Js, bananas and Oreos highlighting the menu. On the way, we were almost involved in a crash when a rider three forward of me fell. We bailed right into the grass and avoided the fallen rider and two others who almost wiped out. Luckily, he wasn’t seriously hurt, and after an EMT check, got back on his bike and completed the 64 mile ride. Exactly four hours later, we finished the ride with an average speed of 16 mph. I had decided not to fill Suzanne’s bike frame with lead – for this ride, anyway… and My Lovely Bride looks a lot more chipper than I felt at this moment. We may be ready for a full century ride (100 miles) in a month or so, but this was a good training ride.Attentive observers may recognize our darling Dachshund Gretchen on the front of my jersey; Rudy also rode with us (he’s on the back of that jersey).
We enjoyed a blues/pop music interlude with Gayle and Bill Hancock at Garvino’s Wine Bar in The Villages to listen to Stephonie Seekell, the talented singer in the middle of the photo. Stephonie is a terrific performer, and when I made a request, her throaty voice was perfect for a magical rendition of Me and Bobby Magee. It was the best I had ever heard… if you closed your eyes, you could be back in a live Janis Joplin concert in 1969.
I was able to find a day to get out in the woods this week, but not for a normal hike. This was a Trail Maintenance Day with the Florida Trail Association, Highlanders Chapter. A dozen of us volunteers met at a trailhead in Seminole State Forest near Eustis, FL, to clear a section of the Florida Trail about two miles in length. (You can see the orange blaze at right, the standard blaze of the F.T.; the Appalachian Trail is marked with white blazes.) It had been a year since the last crew work here; the saw palmettos had grown like crazy, obscuring the trail in many places, and wind storms had knocked down 15 decent-sized trees that required chain saws and “heave-ho” manual labor to move from the treadway (footpath). We also lopped off dozens of overhanging branches.Two younger guys (like in their late 50s) also guided mowers back and forth to reduce trip hazards.
After four-plus hours of hot, sweaty labor, our crew (average age about 65) was ready for lunch. One of the team leaders had thoughtfully baked dozens of brownies and rice krispie treats, and a cooler of soft drinks and tea magically appeared from someone’s trunk.
Our picnic was held next to the placid waters of Black Water Creek. It was a great place to rest and unwind at the end of the day. This area is less than 45 minutes drive from downtown Orlando, yet we had only seen two other people that day, two mountain bikers, a father and son.
Finally, in a moment of whimsy, My Lovely Bride decided to create a three-dimensional shopping list for me (T.P., Plackers and cotton makeup wipes) that I thought was a piece of modern art. I thought we could list it on eBay or Craigslist. Bids will start with a reserve of $50,000….