Wednesday, April 23, 2014

La-Z-Boy; Flutes and Vegetables; Farewell Meals; On the Road; Squirrels! Valdosta; What Coffee Pot?

It's been a hectic week... On Monday, My Lovely Bride went into Drill Instructor mode and got The Coach organized. I stopped counting at 157 loads (armfuls, laundry baskets and plastic bagfuls). I would have tried to (a) take a nap or (b) schedule a tee time, but since it's been two years since I played golf, Ms. D. I. was having none of that... "Get off yer duff, Sailor!"   "Yes, Ma'am!" 

Monday evening saw us at the Miona Rec Center for Suzanne's Flute Choir's Spring Concert, "Flutes and Vegetables"... Director Christine Smith put together a fantastic program, based on a menu of music introduced by Maitre d' Ward Green, whose day job is Director of The Villages New Horizons Concert Band.

In addition to eight or nine beautiful group pieces, My Lovely Bride performed a duet on her bass flute with Christine on the piccolo. It was a terrific evening, enjoyed and appreciated by the many Villagers who attended.

On the day before we depart, we try to have a meal out to save time and relax for a few during an otherwise very hectic schedule. A breakfast at our new favorite diner saw Elizabeth Magee and Bev Garlipp joining us for First Watch's unusual menu. Bev will be coordinating all of our events again this year, and Elizabeth will be giving Suzanne moral support remotely during her European Grand Tour. ("Hey, Elizabeth, how about you come visit The Coach for a week and I'll fill in for you on your Rhine River cruise?")

Then lunch at home, several hours of packing, cleaning the house, and some final yard work, and a fabulous, finger-lickin' rib dinner at Oakwood with Suzanne's mom Ruthie and our neighbors Bob and Jan. (Regrettably, the photographer fell down on his duties and missed the historic evidence for our meal (yep, five full racks), other than when Jan tried to use a straw with the paper cover still attached...) 


At 1600 (4:00 PM) today,  we arrived at the Air Force's Grassy Pond Recreation Area in Valdosta, Georgia, the first night's campground on our 2014 Summer Tour. We completed all our preparations for departure this morning, checked The Coach's tires and oil, said goodbye to friends and neighbors, and settled Rudy and Gretchen in for the trip north. They were looking forward to seeing old friends (prey?) again at this oak-studded campground that serves nearby Moody Air Force Base. This must be one of most heavily populated places for squirrels that we've ever seen, and this is our third visit here.

After dinner, we went on a hunt... Rudy and Gretchen must have treed at least 6 or 8 furry rodents, and by the end of our w-a-l-k, they were both panting and tired. So was I! Here's a shot of Your Faithful Correspondent running with the puppies in search of targets of opportunity. It's hard to tell in the photo, but I am being pulled headlong by 17 and 10 pound puppies... when they are on the hunt, they are unstoppable!

 An historical note: Valdosta, Georgia, was named after Val d'Osta, the estate of Governor George Troup in 1860. The estate was named after the Valle d'Aosta in Italy, the name interpreted as meaning the Valley of Augustus City, referring to the Emperor Augustus. One of Valdosta's historic events occured in 1902, when the Harris Nickel-Plate Circus' prize elephant, Gypsy, went on a rampage, killing her trainer and terrorizing the town for several hours. In 1910, Fortune Magazine named Valdosta the richest city in America by per capita income. More recently, Valdosta was named as one of 2003's "Top 100 US Small Towns".

The trip to Valdosta was uneventful, with only a few dozen love bugs disturbing our view out the front windshield. Interstate highways, in this case I-75, aren't our favorite routes, but when you have to roll up miles, they are useful. We are looking forward to rolling down backroads whenever possible. We're headed to Marietta, GA, tomorrow, where Unity of North Atlanta will be showing the Messages of Hope documentary on Friday evening, and Suzanne will be giving two presentations on Saturday, Making the Connection in the morning and Heart Gifts in the afternoon. Please see Suzanne's web site,, for more details about this and upcoming presentations in Marietta (Atlanta); Greenville, SC; Wilmington, NC; Mills River (Asheville), NC; Farmington Hills (Detroit), MI; Evanston, IL; Golden Valley (Minneapolis), MN; Fort Collins, CO; Albuquerque, NM; Vancouver, BC; and Calgary, AB; additional events are being added weekly, so please check her web site periodically for updates. Suzanne will also be giving readings in person whenever possible, as well as by Skype and telephone.

Today's final blog entry is a bit of an embarrassment.  The night before our departure, I was really beat. That's the reason for my lack of situational awareness, or "S.A.", as it's called in the Navy. Here's the story... I was doing dishes after dinner, and My Lovely Bride had brought in the coffee carafe from the coach. It took its place in the queue, and as I was washing it, I asked, without looking up, "Hey Sweetheart, did you think to bring in the whole coffee maker, since we now have the Keurig and don't need it in The Coach?" I heard a less-than-subdued "Snort!" and then a "Ty, look up!" I knew I was in trouble when I saw this large, black plastic object in front of me on the counter... Duhhhh....

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Award Lunch; Suzanne's Channeling and Readings; Movie Call and Dinner; Speed Scrabble; A Flute Plug; "Pimping" Bob; Stilettos and Teslas

You may remember a couple of weeks ago that we gave an award to Dr. Elsa Lopez for her highly imaginative and scientifically logical, but ultimately incorrect, answer to one of our photo quizzes. Elsa lives in the Miami area, so we weren't sure when we could take her to lunch - fortunately, she set up a date when she could visit America's Friendliest Home Town, and this week we got to meet her. My Lovely Bride put together a lunch of crab cakes, spiced shrimp and cranberry cole slaw; the meal was perfectly accompanied by a bottle of exquisitely delicious Vougeot Clos du Prieure Monopole that Elsa most graciously provided.

Elsa drove her motor home up from Miami (not many people come north to The Villages). Five hours is a relatively short trip for her; Elsa has made the epic trek to Alaska in her previous camper, from Miami to above the Arctic Circle, to see moose, grizzlies and polar bears up close and personal. Her camper is totally self contained, and perfectly sized for national parks and tight, switchbacked roads like the Going to the Sun Highway in Glacier NP. Thanks for the visit, Elsa!

Recently Suzanne had a remarkable channeling session at Unity of The Villages. It was her last session before we depart on our 2014 Summer Tour on Wednesday April 23, and the church was filled with love. She has been giving daily readings to try to whittle down her waiting list as much as possible. She will also be giving phone and Skype readings again this summer while we travel across the US and Canada, in addition to in-person readings whenever possible. We now have 16 events confirmed, with Bev Garlipp hard at work making additional arrangements along our route. You can find the up-to-date list of events on Suzanne's web site,

Along with good friends Michelle and John Uss, we were happy to be able to join our great Navy friends Bill and Gayle Hancock at their lovely home with the best view in The Villages for hot-tubbing, dinner and movie call (that's a Navy term, for sure...). Gayle is your Classic Classy Navy Wife; fabulous cook and gracious hostess... when she told us that we were having 40 Clove Garlic Chicken, and I responded that I was allergic to garlic, without a blink she said, "Sounds like a personal problem." (Good thing I wasn't serious...). I think Gayle's sense of humor has been honed by decades of living with her three-star admiral husband Bill, who before going to the US Naval Academy had a short career as a stand-up comic at Iowa State. John and Michelle are also funny characters about to celebrate their 39th anniversary. Guess Suzanne and I are the newlyweds with only 17 years of joint service.

After dinner My Lovely Bride gave a tutorial in Speed Scrabble, a version of that famous game that you play without a board. Games go quickly, like in 4-5 minutes, and you are rewarded more for quick thinking and short words, rather than slow, careful composition...Speed Scrabble is perfect for airline or train travel when you have a small tray table or when you don't have a long time to play the regular version of the game.

From our Shameless Advertising Division comes this announcement: "Music lovers will not want to miss the Spring Concert of The Villages Flute Choir at the Miona Recreation Center on Monday evening at 7:00 PM."  Suzanne has been practicing more than usual because she is playing a special song featuring the ensemble's director, Christine Smith, on the piccolo, and Suzanne on the bass flute, backed up by the rest of the talented ladies in the flute choir.  The selection of music is cleverly based around food and the programs are menus.  Should be quite a tasteful concert.  (Groan)

We are now in the final stages of preparing for our trip, and the house is a disaster, with piles of clothes, camping gear, puppy paraphernalia, tools, bike stuff and kayak gear littering every corner and cubicle. Maps are spread all over the floor, and Rudy is checking our route to make sure it passes through prime squirrel and gopher territory.

We can't bring The Coach to the house too early for loading because we'd be blocking the view of My Good Friend Bob. Normally we're on wonderful terms, but I got in a little bit of trouble recently when I saw Bob and Jan on the street in front of our houses and I mentioned that I had to make sure I told Suzanne how nice her hair looked when she got home from an appointment with Judy, her stylist.  The background is that the week before, Suzanne commented on how much she liked Jan's haircut, causing Bob to react with surprise. This was followed by chagrin, because Poor Bob had had forgotten Rule Number 48 from Good Husband School: "Always comment how nice your wife's hair looks when she comes home from the hair salon." So I decided to "pimp him", as we say in the Navy; whenever I saw Jan and Bob for the next week, I would say, "Jan, I really like your new hairdo." I think MGF Bob laughed the first time, smiled the second, but after 14 such comments, my attempts at levity may have been wearing a bit thin.

I am continually surprised that not everyone shares my ebullient sense of humor. At last week's Unity event, I was speaking to our good friend Donna, whose husband Shelby had dropped her off at the door and drove off to park their car (a hot Tesla Roadster) because all of the closest spots were taken. After a half hour Shelby hadn't returned, and Donna was getting a bit worried. "Donna, don't worry; I saw Shelby showing the Tesla to a nice young lady in stilettos and fishnet stockings. I'm sure he'll be back in an hour or so." Donna was not nearly as amused as I was by my joke...  Smack...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A New Navy Family; Bull's Blood; Saving Sarah; Salmon Run; Lawnmower Clippings; "You Missed a Spot!"

The US Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD, has special meaning for us. We both taught there while we were on active duty, 1977-1980 for me and 1995-1998 for Suzanne. It was a great surprise when Suzanne's good friend Marilyn Dyer asked us to come over on Sunday to talk to her grandson Logan, who will be entering the Naval Academy with the class of 2018 in July. Logan is a top student and a star lacrosse player. We spent a most enjoyable hour with the Dyer family talking about the Academy and life in the Navy. Here we see Nolan, Tom, Brooke, Logan and Lynn behind Jim and Marilyn. Jim also served in the Navy aboard a destroyer. It was especially nice being with such a delightful family. Tom and Lynn are both mechanical engineers, and their kids are all very bright, outgoing and good in math and science. Maybe Logan won't be the only Naval Academy grad in the family... The only sobering part of the visit was the realization that both of us served at the Naval Academy before Logan was born!

What a gory title... Bull's Blood... no pun intended. Our good friend and neighbor Chris Lavender had given us a bottle of red wine by that name a while back, and frankly, I was a bit apprehensive about serving it to unwary guests who might be "put off" by the name. So I waited for an appropriate occasion to pop the cork and imbibe this dry red wine varietal from the vineyards of Eger, Hungary.

The birthday of composer Franz Joseph Haydn (March 31, 1732) appeared to be an auspicious date (born in Austria, for many years Haydn served as Kapellmeister to the Esterhazy family of Hungary). Unfortunately, Suzanne had flute choir on that night; then our mountain biking trip got in the way, and I deemed it unlucky to take the wine with us the following week on our sailing trip, since cattle aboard ship are considered unlucky. Finally, I uncorked the bottle this past Saturday night, with the closest event being the feast day of the Venerable Saint Athanasia the Wonderworker, Abbess of Aegina (790-850 AD). As a young girl, she was said to have experienced a mystical union of a star with her heart while weaving at her loom. In any case, the wine was quite good, and went very nicely with pasta. Thanks again, Chris, for the Bull's Blood and the unplanned history lesson!

One of the hazards of life in The Villages is getting safely across our busy roads. That's why we have so many golf cart tunnels; but for our resident turtle population, who move somewhat slower than golf carts, getting from Pond A to Pond B with a four lane divided road between the ponds is a serious matter. I was driving down Morse Blvd. the other day when I saw a very large female (I think) Florida softshell turtle (Apalone ferox) in the middle of the road, and there were five or six cars and trucks behind me. I stopped, turned on my hazard lights, jumped out and scooped up "Sarah". Running quickly over to the cart path, I found three carts already stopped to watch the action, and there was a young guy who offered to carry her over to the pond across the second fairway of the Caroline course. It was a festive moment, with everyone feeling good about helping out one of our aquatic residents.  As always, I felt our Susan watching over my shoulder.

The next entry has to do with probability theory and salmon. No, it's not related to the extremely low probability of my catching a fish on our upcoming summer tour, in spite of the grief that My Good Friend Bob gives me about my piscatorial prowess. Rather, it is related to the probability of people wearing the same shirt color... here's the story... My Lovely Bride decided that she wanted some variety from my normal breakfast menu of gruel and water, so we drove over to First Watch on Highway 27. As we were seated, she noticed that there were four of us similarly old coots (sorry, sophisticated, debonair guys) wearing salmon-colored shirts and sitting in the same seat positions in four consecutive booths. The probability of this happening in an unstaged manner is impossibly low; I'm glad she got an iPhone photo of us, but now regret not going out and buying a PowerBall ticket. (By the way, our breakfast was amazing: I had the chorizo, onion and avocado omelet, and MLB had the Belgian waffle with warm almond butter, strawberries, and granola.)

While we're on the subject of food, we recently went to Bonefish Grill for dinner with My Good Friend Bob and His Lovely Bride Jan to thank them for watching our puppies while we went sailing. (It is very comforting to be able to leave your canine babies in good hands - I think Rudy and Gretchen enjoyed their vacation away from mom and dad for a few days).

As our server placed the bread with olive oil and dipping spices on the table, I mused that the green mixture looked like what gets stuck in the underside of a lawnmower. My fellow diners looked at me strangely... "What?"  I will admit that this concoction is part of what makes dining at Bonefish Grill such a treat.

Speaking of MGF Bob and HLB Jan, the other day Bob brought his motor coach to the house to polish its huge aluminum wheels in preparation for their trip north this summer. Even with a polishing wheel on his power drill, this was an all-day job. And for an old guy like Bob, being bent over for hours must have been hard. I thought I might offer some moral support and unwanted advice, but I found that Jan had the project completely under control from her comfy lawn chair.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Sailing Part 2; Chihuly's Glass Sculptures; A Cheesehead

Our sailing adventure continues... Greg, Renee, Samantha and Juliana Scalzini from Atlanta seem to be taking the arduous routine of shipboard life in stride. Here they are seen at sunset at Bahia Beach, with the St. Petersburg skyline barely visible in the distant background.


Juliana and Samantha were quick learners in handling the boat's mooring lines; here we see them "Flemishing" the bitter end of our boat's stern line. I've served with a lot of bosun's mates aboard Navy ships, but never any that were this cute and photogenic.


After our trip to the east side of Tampa Bay, and with a serious cold front threatening thunderstorms, we decided to sail west back to St. Petersburg for shelter. We encountered 25-30 kts of wind and 3-4 foot wind waves, but the crew did a superb job in maintaining level stomachs and laughing all the way. We moored back in the marina at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort, a barely acceptable slum hotel where jackets are de rigeur at the bar, of all places. Unfortunately, I had forgotten my tux back at home, so we opted to dine aboard. Suzanne's sausage and pasta with vodka-tomato sauce was far better than anything we could have gotten in town anyway; there is no Little Italy area in St. Pete, and the landmark Mazzaro's Italian Grocery was a long drive from the marina.

The bad weather didn't slow down Samantha and Juliana... they were ready for the pool at the Vinoy before the rain had yet cleared to the east. Fortunately, marina guests get a good deal for using the Vinoy's facilities. You can see by their expressions that their energy levels far outstripped those of the adults aboard Summer Breeze, especially the retired Navy contingent...

We also took the opportunity to visit the Morean Art Center to view a superb exhibit of blown glass sculptures created by world-renowned artist and entrepreneur Dale Chihuly. Here are images of several of his works... this chandelier might set you back a half-mil or so... and then you'd have to reinforce your ceiling, because it weighs about a thousand pounds. Our docent recounted the story that when the benefactor donated this chandelier to the museum, the workers disassembled its 370 individual pieces without reassembly instructions. A somewhat panicked agent called Chihuly, who casually stated words to the effect that "it's art; there's no right or wrong way, just put it together." Okayyyyy......

This 8 foot long boat full of glass balls was meant to recall the glass balls supporting Japanese fishermen's nets in the Pacific that Chihuly first saw near Seattle in the 70s; it's hard to tell from the image, but the largest balls are almost 3 feet in diameter and weigh 60-70 lbs. Our docent explained that it takes 6 people working together to create glass balls that heavy.

This "garden" was stunningly beautiful. The tall glass "flowers" are about five feet tall and are supported by metal posts. The lighting for each display was carefully designed to show off the beauty of individual pieces of Chihuly's glass sculptures.

Some of Chihuly's pieces are whimsical, like this purple flower...

I think my favorite individual piece was this bowl. It is about 2 feet in diameter, and I told My Lovely Bride that I thought it would be great for soaking my tired feet after hiking. (Smack...)

Suzanne's favorite was this wall display of yellow glass flowers (titled Macchia by the artist)... I thought they would go well in our living room until she reminded me that it would probably cost more than our house itself... yikes! (I obviously did not invest well.)

Samantha and Juliana enjoyed the exhibit as much as did the adults. Unfortunately, our cruise and shore time together were drawing to a close, but the girls and their parents still had Disney World to look forward to, while Suzanne and I were returning to Disney World for Adults (AKA The Villages). We loved our time together; it was so refreshing to see a beautiful family at ease with one another and the happy (and sometimes frenetic) interaction between them. I just wish you could bottle some of Juliana and Samantha's energy... talk about a million dollar elixir!

After returning to TV, I went for a walk, and almost immediately encountered a neighbor, Kathy Anderson, walking down the street with a cheese head and a Swiss cheese scarf. Kathy, a Wisconsin native, was bemoaning the fact that property values in our neighborhood of Mallory were in the process of tanking. I asked why, and heard the bad news that a Minnesnowta Vikings couple had just moved in. Guess it's time to put the house on the market.... 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hershey Girl; Sailing! (Part 1); High Energy Girls

One of the lesser-known facts about My Lovely Bride is that her dad Bill Smeltzer was once Milton Hershey's personal assistant. If the name doesn't ring a bell, think "CHOCOLATE"! Her grandmother also lived in Hershey, PA. (That's Pennsylvania, for the uninitiated). As a result of her familial relationship with the center of American chocolate production, it is unsurprizing (don't blame me... she actually spells it that way) that she is addicted to Hershey's Chocolates in Every Form, No Stinkin' Substitutes allowed! Here we have visual proof of her chocolate habit. I had liberally squeezed in a stream of Hershey's Genuine Chocolate Syrup... she obviously deemed it insufficient, because Suzanne grabbed the container and squeezed in... a river... a cascade... nay, a veritable deluge of Mr. Hershey's finest chocolate sauce to smother the French vanilla ice cream remaining in the carton. (I have to admit, it was delicious, and worth every calorie!)

The blog has been off line for several days because we have been at sea... not mentally, although I have been accused of that condition as well... rather, we were aboard a bareboat charter sailboat in Tampa Bay with our wonderful friends Renee and Greg Scalzini and their beautiful daughters Samantha and Juliana from Atlanta, Georgia. Renee had attended Suzanne's S.O.A.R! Workshop in Marietta, GA, last year, and offered to give Suzanne's web site a complete make-over. Renee was a Fine Arts major, and is a very gifted web designer. The fabulous job that Renee did can be seen at

Here is Summer Breeze, our Hunter 44 Deck Salon with three cabins and two heads, a relatively spacious charter boat for four, although a tad cramped for six. Suzanne and I were used to cramped spaces, having lived aboard and cruised our Morgan 46 Liberty from the US to Europe for six years.

One of the differences between boats and houses is the head, otherwise known as marine toilet. Its only similarity with the household version is the "end purpose" and the shape. Actual functionality is radically different, as the Scalzini family is learning from Captain Drew, our charter contact, during our pre-sail brief. One of the big differences is that almost anything will clog a head, resulting in an immediate panic on the part of the boat owner/operator, since un-clogging toilets is the least glamorous and most dreaded job on a boat.

After a run to Publix for groceries, we got underway for Bahia Beach, our destination across Tampa Bay. The weather was supposed to turn rainy and very windy, so we "beat feet" while we had sunny skies and a strong but not overpowering sailing breeze of 18-20 kts. Here we see Captain Greg at the wheel, doing a great job for his first time steering a sailboat under sail. It isn't an easy task, since a sailboat reacts a lot slower than a power boat or a car.  It also tends to slew back and forth around your base course when the winds increase and decrease. Renee was keeping a watchful eye on Her Intrepid Captain...

Although there were three cabins, that belonging to Samantha and Juliana was "Off Limits" to adults without specific permission, as indicated in the sign that lovely Juliana is holding in the photo. Greg took this nautical equivalent of  "No Trespassing" in stride... well, mostly. There were several screams heard when he burst in on the girls to tickle them or give them hugs... It's been a few years since we were around little girls with that much energy, and we still wonder how they keep up such activity from 6:00 AM until 10:00 PM without naps! (Please note that we are moored (tied up) pierside in this photo, hence wine glasses are deployed for imminent use; had we been underway, our boats are always "dry" until we are anchored or moored pierside.)

Monday was Samantha's 8th birthday, and she got to open a few presents out in the sunny cockpit of the boat while wearing a very stylish swim suit. Samantha is an avid reader, especially the Rainbow Fairies series.

Meals were interesting... once while Suzanne was preparing dinner, Greg asked if he could help. Suzanne appreciated the offer, but suggested that since this boat's galley (kitchen for you landlubbers) was only big enough for "one-hiney-at-a-time", he could do clean-up instead. That worked out very well, since that dreary job usually falls to Your Intrepid Correspondent... thanks to Greg, I had a few days off... Hoo-Ray! 

Here are Juliana and Samantha posing on the bow of our floating home for four days while tied up to the pier in Little Harbor, Bahia Beach. Because we arrived on a Sunday afternoon, there was a somewhat loud party going on aboard some of the full-timers' boats; "alcohol may have been involved". Fortunately, the noise died down right about sunset, and we had a quiet evening.

 Lest our readers think I was a total boat bum during this holiday afloat, this photo proves that I was indeed hard at work (occasionally) preparing breakfast, in this case gourmet bacon and eggs... and yes, Greg took care of cleanup!

We will file an "after-action report" in the next blog, as well as show you some photos of some of the finest glass art any of us had ever seen. "Watch This Space!"

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Swiss Misses; A Birthday Surprise; Alafia River State Park; Guard Dogs; A Very Cool Tree

April is a good time to visit Florida, because the weather is just about perfect. We were happy to welcome two young women from Switzerland on their first visit to The Villages on Tuesday. I met Claudia (on the right) on line while researching hiking in the Alps and staying in huts operated by the Swiss Alpine Club, where she works. She was very helpful in providing information for a trip Suzanne and I are planning to her beautiful country in 2015 or 2016. When I heard she would be visiting Florida in April, we invited her and her friend and traveling companion Elena to stop in for lunch. Claudia is touring the US for 3 months, while Elena only has a month here, but they had a good start, with stops in Miami, Merritt Island and Orlando before arriving in America's Friendliest Hometown. We walked around Sumter Landing after lunch, and Claudia and Elena thought The Villages was a lovely place. But since they are both "underage" and still working, it's unlikely that they will be starting a Swiss Miss Club here in the near future.

As Claudia and Elena were departing, Corvette Chick had to rev up her red C-5 convertible and burn the carbon off her valves; at least that was her excuse for violating Sumter County noise regulations again...

(I have to add a side note here about "meeting Claudia on-line". When I first mentioned to My Lovely Bride that I had invited the nice lady from the Swiss Alpine Club to the house, she looked at me somewhat askance... "Oh, really? I don't suppose she's young, blond and pretty, is she?"  "Uh, I have no idea. I only know her from email." "Okay, Buster, she'd better not be cute." Uh-oh... In all seriousness, she could have been any age, and even might have looked like Cloris Leachman in Young Frankenstein... what are the chances???  I think I'm in trouble... again...)

On Wednesday, we loaded up The Coach and headed south to Alafia River State Park about 30 miles southeast of Tampa. The primary purpose of our trip was to attend a surprise birthday party for Connie England. Her partner John had arranged for Connie's sister Jo Ann, and Connie's daughter Ann, to fly down from Maine. Another sister, Margaret, and her husband Frank, were already in Florida, and would attend as well. We met the family at Spinner's Restaurant in St. Petersburg Beach. Spinner's is a revolving restaurant, and provided remarkable views as well as a fabulous meal. John was the consummate host, and Connie looked lovely, as well as very happy to have her family in town. (I have to thank Joanne for these photos of Connie and Ann, and Connie and John, because all of my photos were either deleted or misfiled when I downloaded them to my computer, and they cannot be found... sigh; this never happened with Kodachrome prints!)

While camping at Alafia River State Park, we decided to try out the mountain biking trails, which are extremely popular and known for some very challenging sections. Here is My Lovely Bride with her new Giant Lust. ("The bike, Smarty Pants.") 

We found the "Easy" trails to be a lot more challenging than at the Santos area trails in Ocala. After 3 sessions on the easy trails, we ventured onto our first intermediate level trail, named North Creek. It was amazing... a real roller coaster ride compared with the flat trails we are used to in Ocala. This was the start of a black diamond side trail; it's hard to see, but the trail drops about 20 feet in a 45 degree slope, with a 15 foot rise after you bottom out. Yikes! (No, we did not try it. Sometimes sanity actually prevails.)

While we were mountain biking, Rudy and Gretchen were guarding The Coach. You can see how any burglar would be terrified by these ferocious hounds...

At the end of the day, we were bushed. At least, I was bushed. The conversation with My Lovely Bride went like this:  MLB: "Sweetheart, let's go for a short hike in the woods after dinner."  Me: "But My Darling, Love of My Life, I am exhausted; couldn't you go hike and I'll have a glass of wine?"   MLB: "Aw, c'mon, Ty, don't be a lazy butt. Get your hiking shoes on and we'll knock out a few miles before dark."  Me: "Yes, Dear..."   Lest you think this was a mere walk in the park, so to speak, the trail she chose paralleled the double black diamond Moonscape mountain biking trail. I think there is a special ward in the local hospital for anyone over 30 who rides Moonscape. Several of the local kids (kids meaning "teenagers") who had ridden that trail were wearing pads on their elbows, knees and shins, and one guy in his 20s had just endo'ed off a wooden bridge and did a face plant in the dirt. But he was still smiling! Here is Suzanne on the trail (note: it is not flat) standing next to an unusual palm tree that I thought I might smuggle out of the park and plant in our front yard... hmmmm.... how to dig it up, carry it out, and fit it into the coach will be my next trick!