On Thursday evening we met up with Suzanne’s brother Brent and his wife Cheryl, who have recently moved to The Villages, her sister’s mother-in-law Janis Clay, and her mom Ruthie for her famous bean soup. It was a great dinner with lots of laughter and catching up on family discussions.
Then it was off to Brownwood, the new town center in The Villages. We ran into our friends Kay and Rollie Strand, from Minnesota, who were burning up the dance floor. They looked like pros! Rollie almost broke my hand while shaking it; it turns out that he is a former fullback and coached high school football for 25 years. Their very interesting story was about one of their adopted children who had gotten into some trouble with the law. Kay and Rollie stood by him through thick and thin, always telling him that they loved him, even though they had to call the police once themselves. In the end, he grew up and changed his life around because of their loving support. Standing there talking with them at Brownwood, their love was palpable.
The Inaugural Geo-Quiz from the previous blog post was won by Karen Leonard, with runners-up Bill Bayer, Gayle Hancock, Bob Blythe, and Chris Lavender. Well done to all contestants. I will be delivering Karen’s Hostess Chocolate Cup Cakes next week when we return from Tampa. (The correct answers were (1) The Caspian Sea and (2) Sturgeon.) (And no, Karen, you will not receive a jar of Caspian Sea sturgeon caviar… at least not from me!)
Suzanne’s friend Gisela Padgett had given her a German Jaeger doll as a thank-you gift. Jaeger means hunter in German; since Rudy was bred to hunt badgers in Germany, he wanted to meet the little fellow, especially because he comes with a little dachshund himself (look closely at the hunter’s feet). Rudy traded hunting stories in German with the hunter’s dog for a few minutes and then Rudy decided to take a nap.
When I was a kid, there was only one food that I absolutely could not eat: Brussels sprouts. I figured that they must be an “acquired taste”. That means that you can force them down if you don’t have any taste buds. Well, My Lovely Bride knew my feelings about those little green balls, and when she told me what she was making for dinner, I was in shock. She assured me that I would like them. (That’s like the dentist telling you you’re going to enjoy a root canal without anesthesia. I would have had a couple of gins and tonic to fortify my taste buds, but since we had just taken The Bus to the MacDill AFB campground in Tampa for a couple of days’ R&R, I wasn’t prepared with the ingredients for that taste bud helper.) Much to my amazement, however, Suzanne the Chef was correct. After preparing those tiny little cabbages with feta cheese, pesto, garlic, and olive oil, they were not only edible, but actually scrumptious. They went very well with the lemon- and herb-encrusted salmon she served. Who would have known?
While walking on the Tampa Bay Shore, we met Doris and Linda, two marching band performers with the Second Time Arounders in St. Petersburg. They filled us in on their band, made up of older musicians (older than 18, at least!). As has happened many times before, they stopped to admire Rudy and Gretchen, our little furry ambassadors of goodwill. We hope to attend one of their events in the spring, especially since Suzanne is a former marching band piccolo player. On the way home, she had trouble concentrating; she couldn’t get a couple of Sousa marches out of her head. It didn’t help when I started humming one at full volume… Smack…
You were probably wondering about the nanny reference in today’s headline; my comment in the title refers to the Air Force requirement that all personnel wanting to rent a boat from the MacDill marina have to take one specific boating safety course on-line, a 3-6 hour evolution. Every other base we have visited accepts current US Coast Guard Master’s Licenses (which both Suzanne and I hold), since that license allows you to operate commercial vessels at sea. But the Air Force Morale, Welfare and Recreation bureaucracy recently decided that a US Coast Guard license wasn’t good enough, so I sat through four hours of mental agony and got my boating safety card. It ensures that I know why zebra mussels are evil, that I know the whistle signals for entering a lock on the Mississippi River in Missouri, the signals for water skiing (I did that once decades ago, and poorly), what safety equipment to carry aboard a jet ski (they are noisy abominations that I wouldn’t be caught dead riding), why duck hunters should wear life jackets (I don’t hunt), and where the bow is on a sailboat (Suzanne and I both taught sailing professionally, and have owned 6 sailboats over a 35 year period). aaaarrrrggggghhhhh!
So, we finally were able to check out a 16 foot runabout and took off across Tampa Bay. Here is Suzanne with the wind in her hair and throttle wide open. “It’s not nearly as fast as my red Corvette…” “Yeah, and we didn’t need to sit through four hours of mental agony to get your Corvette, either…”
We decided to stop at a small island that popped up on the horizon. I am moving the boat closer to shore so that My Lovely Wife can step out in shallow water so as not to get her bathing suit wet… sort of like a maritime Sir Walter Raleigh…. (And Bob, don’t make any smart cracks about what those sticks shown here in the bow of the boat are for.)
This pile of driftwood and castaway trees was on Crab Island, a few miles southeast of MacDill AFB. You can just make out Tampa in the distance. It was a nice place to stop and stretch our legs, but we had more sightseeing to do. The weather was perfect, clear, sunny, warm, and not too windy, so we got underway and headed east…
Apollo Beach is a less-visited part of Tampa Bay. There is an unsightly (but very practical and functional) electric power plant nearby with huge stacks, but if you don’t look in that direction, it’s a lovely area. Home prices must be very low here because of the power plant. I think these two houses may be part of a low income public housing project…