“TV Life” actually refers to “Life back in The Villages”. We have been back home for a month or so, mostly relaxing and catching up with friends and neighbors. Suzanne has been doing lots of readings to whittle down her 18 month waiting list, and (aside from my backpacking trip out to Yosemite) I’ve been doing regular chores and an important home improvement project. While I’m pretty handy fixing things on a ship or boat, having spent most of my adult life at sea aboard Navy ships and a few sailboats, home projects haven’t been my specialty.
But necessity being the mother of invention, when the coyote population began exploding here in The Villages, we got a bit concerned about protecting our beloved Dachshunds Rudy and Gretchen from predatory wild canines. This is not an unheard-of problem around the country; but several small dogs have been attacked and killed recently by coyotes here, and one of our neighbors encountered a coyote the size of a large German shepherd in front of our house just last week. Also, a cat was taken from a lanai when a coyote or bobcat tore open the enclosure screen. Our little guys love to chase geckos and lie in the sun on our lanai, so I went to Lowe’s and got 1/2″ wood lattice fencing and attached the panels to our lanai screen frames. I think we’re now protected adequately from coyotes, but marauding moose would be a tougher issue.
Speaking of repair projects, this image is of My Good Friend Bob analyzing the engine compartment of a Ford (AKA Fix Or Repair Daily) Expedition which had stopped running on the side of the road over in Wildwood. We were trying to help the owner get it started again, but even with the research help of an iPad, the problem was too deep-seated (a clogged fuel filter which caused a burned out fuel pump inside the gas tank) to be fixed in situ. A tow truck had to be called, but the repair bill at Wildwood Auto Repair and Wrecker Service was less than half of the local Ford dealership; hmmmm……
Even better than looking into an engine compartment is looking up at the sky… this image is of two sets of clouds at sunset; the sun behind the cumulonimbus clouds (thunderheads) on the right is casting shadows on the higher cirrus clouds, creating these dramatic finger-like shadows. I have never seen anything quite like this effect; maybe I should get outside more…
While on the subject of getting outside, we went kayaking recently with Bob and Jan Blythe to Rainbow Spring, near Dunellon, FL. Bob and Jan were anxious to try out their new kayaks, and we knew that Rainbow was a great place to paddle, even on a weekend. After splashing our boats, we paddled upstream to Rainbow Spring itself, a first magnitude spring that pumps out up to 600,000,000 gallons of crystal-clear fresh water daily into the Rainbow River.
One of the neatest wildlife encounters that day was with these 8 painted turtles (Chrysemas picta) lined up on a log. The female of the species grows to 10 inches in length; the male is smaller. They are active only during the day, and spend long hours basking in the sun on logs and rocks. During the winter, they hibernate in the mud on river and creek bottoms. Adults can live to 55 years in the wild.
Another special event this week was catching up with Colette and John Sasina, winners of one of our Photo Quizzes. We enjoyed a nice lunch with the Sasinas and Suzanne’s Lovely Mom Ruthie at Hemingway’s Restaurant in the Havana Country Club. The small object that My Lovely Bride is holding over my head is Hula Babe, the solar-powered, shimmying gal who is my companion when Suzanne is on the road. Colette was initially a little miffed that she didn’t win Hula Babe’s naming contest as well, but fortunately she’s a good sport; she even brought us several prezzies, including a book on Chicken Soup for Winos, or a similar topic… her sense of humor is very engaging.
We also had the opportunity to meet Hula Babe’s “godparents”, Sharon and Joyce, at our favorite Japanese food emporium, the VKI Japanese Restaurant in Sumter Landing. We caught them before they could leave town for some our favorite stomping grounds in Sedona, Antelope Canyon, Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion… and we can guarantee they won’t find sushi this good out in the Southwest!
As you may be aware, Central Florida is quite different from Yosemite and the High Sierras of California, where I was backpacking recently. Just to give you one example, it’s sunny and 85F outside as I write this blog post; back in Tuolumne Meadows, it’s 45F, with a low tonight of 35F (that’s actually warmer than the 25F with high winds that I experienced 3 weeks ago). But Fall has arrived, the days are getting shorter and morning temps are getting cooler. Good hiking weather (“Oh, noooo….”). Yep, I have succumbed to My Lovely Bride’s urging and am going solo backpacking again next week. No, she’s not trying to get rid of me (at least I don’t think that’s the situation).
What happened is this… for years I’ve been talking about hiking the Appalachian Trail. In fact, I had planned on doing that 2,185 mile trail with my daughter Susan at some point. When she died in 2006, I silently told her that I would hike it with her in spirit one day. I’ve done parts of the trail in North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont and New Hampshire over the years, but figured I’d never have the time to do the whole trail. Until last week, that is, when we went to see “A Walk in the Woods”, a movie based on Bill Bryson’s 1998 book of the same name. Bryson was 46 when he hiked about 800 miles of the A.T. (unlike the 70 year old Robert Redford in the movie; Old Guys don’t do crazy stuff like that).
When we got home, Suzanne said something like, “You’re in decent shape for an old geezer. Why not do the A.T. in sections?” Okay, maybe that wasn’t the exact quote, but you get my drift. So next week, I’ll be driving up to northern Georgia and starting (where else?) at the southern terminus of the A.T., Springer Mountain, near Dahlonega. Assuming all goes well, I will hike about 60-70 miles in 7 or 8 days, staying in shelters (located every 8 miles or so) or in my tent. The Georgia section is noted for being rough, with lots of ups and downs (elevation gain to mountain tops and then elevation loss into the “gaps”; repeat until exhausted), so I don’t want to be overly optimistic about daily mileages. If I survive Georgia, we will return next summer and I’ll do more miles in North Carolina; maybe I can finish at Mt. Katahdin, Maine, before I hit 80… (who says you get wiser with age?).
This weekend will find us on the road again in Cassadaga, FL, where Suzanne will present the Sunday message (10:30 AM) and her awakened Living 301 Workshop (2:00 PM – 5:00 PM) at Colby Memorial Temple on Stevens Street. If you’re able to attend, we would love to see you there!