One of the things we have learned over the years of Rudy and Gretchen owning us and taking us for walks is that they are frequently the key to meeting nice and interesting people. I say “nice” because nice people will stop and admire our little “eternal puppies”; “not so nice” people will walk by with frowns, as if dogs shouldn’t be in public places. Fortunately this latter sub-species is not so common here in The Villages.
Just yesterday we were walking in Spanish Springs and met a couple that stopped to pet Rudy and Gretchen. Dale and Betsy Nelson are two of the few residents we’ve met who actually moved north to The Villages. They had lived in south Florida, then Orlando, before finally moving to Florida’s Friendliest Home Town. Dale was in law enforcement, and Betsy was a prosecutor, my favorite type of lawyer. (Because of her background, I respectfully withheld any lawyer jokes I had been considering.) We talked about this being a Disney-like area, and Betsy floored us by mentioning that they had been to Disney over 700 times; yes, that was no typo, “seven hundred”. (Suzanne and I noted the similarity with the 70 times that a couple from Finland had visited the Grand Ole Opry when we were recently in Nashville). Dale and Betsy had once lived only 2 miles from Disney, so it was like our driving down to Sumter Landing for an hour or two. Needless to say, they are devoted Mickey Fans! They also had a sense of humor and joie de vivre that isn’t as common as it should be. I sensed another couple, like Suzanne and me, that haven’t really ever “grown up”. They showed us their annual passes and convinced us that we needed to go back to Disney World; neither of us has been to the Magic Kingdom since the 1970’s.
While walking in the square, we saw The Villages Cheerleaders getting ready to practice for their Columbus Day performance on Monday at 5:00 PM in Spanish Springs. It was getting hot and humid, but they were a lively group, laughing and joking before getting serious about their practice. (I was reminded of a couple of dates I had with one particularly winsome cheerleader back in college… well, I’d better not go there… after all, this is a G-rated blog, and God forbid she might be one of my readers!) Smack! …
Friday night was a very touching event, a Welcome Home Party for the Messages of Hope Tour, in Lake Miona Recreation Center’s ballroom. Bev Garlipp, Ann Lavelle, Frances Rolph, Tony and Terry Kawas, and other volunteers spent many hours planning, getting the word out, and setting up the room for the 135 wonderful attendees.
There were munchies and nibblies galore. I don’t think anyone left hungry… Looks like our friend Gloria is about to decimate the shrimp plate. “Hey, leave some for me!”
They even ordered a huge (and very yummy) cake that fed everyone there.
Suzanne and I greeted everyone as they entered, and after a pot luck dinner, Suzanne gave a terrific presentation on our five month, 10,400 mile Messages of Hope book and documentary movie tour. The most touching moments were when she described some of her readings, including those for two mothers who had each lost a young son.
She also described each of our stops, the rest and relaxation (R&R) stops as well as the working stops, and the wonderful people we met along the way. My Lovely Bride was even funny at times (mostly at her poor husband’s expense, like when she mentioned that in spite of Herculean efforts, I hadn’t caught a single decent-sized fish all summer… really, now, is nothing sacred?). To make matters worse, she coined a new name for me… The Chipmunk Whisperer…
There were a couple of folks who were interested in asking me some RV questions that I never got to meet with, so if you’d still like to chat, please contact me at my firstname.lastname@example.org email address.
Suzanne ended with a brief description of her newest book, The Real Alzheimer’s, which was just published on her birthday, August 1.
Both before and after the party, The Bus was open for visitors to take a look at what 21st century roughing it is really like.
When we came back to The Bus at the end of the party, we found this group of ne’er-do-wells continuing the party without us… “Hey, Suzanne, where’s your wine?”
Everyone was hoping that Rudy and Gretchen would be in The Bus, but they had to stay at home tonight. It was Rudy’s poker night with all his friends, and Gretchen was worried that he might leave cigars lying around, so she was going to act as house mother.
To the party organizers, we are deeply appreciative of your efforts. To all who came last night, many thanks for taking the time from your busy schedules to be with us, and for your friendship and welcoming smiles. It’s great to be home in The Villages for the winter. To those in our “ports of call” during our summer tour, many of whom Suzanne recognized last night, thanks for your hospitality to us tumbleweeds who rolled in for a few days and then rolled away. It was an amazing trip, and like every journey, it’s the people you meet and new friends you make along the way that make it all worthwhile. We have some amazing memories, thanks to each and every one of you.