Friday, November 30, 2012

We Have Returned! Last 2012 Tour Stop; Preempted by a Minnesota Poet!

General MacArthur said "I shall return!" It took him two years to return to the Philippines. We departed Port Richey, Florida, on Sunday, and have returned only five days later. To be honest, we didn't have to fight the Imperial Japanese Navy and Army to get here like MacArthur did (although to be fair to Douglas, he did have Navy patrol boats giving him a lift out of Corregidor and  the entire United States Navy's Pacific Fleet (including dozens of battleships and aircraft carriers and hundreds of cruisers,  destroyers, submarines, and amphibious ships) to sink the Japanese Navy and to support the amphibious  landing when he walked out of that landing craft for the AP photographers.  (Frankly, I always thought that his pipe was a bit ridiculous...)

In any case, we are back in Port Richey, where tonight we had a private viewing of the Messages of Hope documentary, the last official stop on our 2012 Messages of Hope Tour. Rev. Barbara Williams, pastor of Unity Truth Center of Port Richey, is seen here introducing Suzanne. We had an excellent turnout of sixty eight attendees, and the movie was extremely well received.

There was a heartwarming round of applause for Rudy the Sailing Wiener Dog and his sister Gretchen at the end of the movie, and Suzanne was quite busy signing books after the event.

I had planned on ending tonight with a series of (half) witty remarks about Minnesota in response to our good friend Terri Horsmann's epic email from last night. Imagine my surprise when I returned to The Bus to find the following poem sent electronically, not by dog sled, from The Frozen North. (I have to sleep on this tonight, as we have a 0600 reveille in the morning to prepare for Suzanne's S.O.A.R! Workshop). Thank you, Terri.... 

Short I must be,
Lest Mr. Blogmeister tell on me.
My thoughts are quick, and typing fingers faster,
Truncated missives, I do not always master.

Tales of Minnesotans I do tell,
Sven and Ole, many know well.
But get down to the most exciting facts,
And it is there, some may think we are lax.

Yet exciting things happen here,
From White House pardoned turkeys to Schell's Beer.
Alligators to cattle to humans we feed,
About that, it is here you may read.

Bless our fair state - so many are jealous,
They're just so afraid to simply tell us!
The snow and cold? Just an exaggerated cover,
Designed to prevent outsiders, from coming to hover.

Yet we can never resist telling a story,
Of how we love our home in all its glory.
The result is that transplants abound,
We must admit -- we like having them around.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hard Starting; Lanai Lights; Water Heater Blues; Ollie North? Gloom and Despair; Minnesnowda Musings?

It’s been a very busy week. We returned from our weekend trip to Port Richey with a couple of unexpected “maintenance issues” on The Bus. The first was what sounded like dying engine starting batteries, you know, that rrrr-rrr-rrrrr sound? The Bus has two large 12 volt,  660 cold cranking amp starting batteries wired in parallel (large black batteries on top in photo), and four 6 volt house batteries wired in series and then in parallel, for lights, fridge, inverter, etc., the smaller white batteries below the big black batteries). They all seemed fine the last time we ran the engine a month ago, but “stuff happens”. So while looking at the batteries, I saw some green corrosion on the negative battery terminals. Not necessarily evil, but corrosion can actually build up between the connections, reducing electrical flow and making the engine hard to start. Out comes the socket set, a file, a wire brush, safety glasses, and other necessary bits and pieces from the tool bag. Remove all terminal connections, wire brush and file down the connections, and put some electrical grease on the terminals to prevent corrosion. Also turn on the battery charger in equalization mode, which pumps in 15 volts to the 12 volt batteries to boil accumulated sulfates off the battery plates. Result: engine starts easily and purrs like a kitten. Yee-Hah!!!!!  

My Lovely Bride had a brilliant idea this week... actually a couple, but the one with the most “Ty man-hours” attached was to buy those white rope lights and string them around our lanai (patio). Okay, measure twice... no, thrice... then off to Lowe's to buy 120 feet (5 x 24 ft strings) plus the hardware to mount them on aluminum framing, as well as an extension cord that matched the white rope lights... “No, Darling Ty, an orange extension cord will not suffice, even if it’s the perfect length and in good condition... it would clash!” “Yes, Dear... no clashing.”) So, about five hours later, the last self-tapping screw was going in and the lights came on, and no, I wasn’t electrocuted. I have to admit that the lights look pretty good... but there is no waving Santa or dancing elves...  

Back to work on The Bus. Last weekend, the hot water heater worked on 110 volt electric power, but not on propane gas. Back at home, I now have time to attack this issue; like the battery problem discussed earlier, I suspected poor electrical connections, or maybe a blown fuse. Okay, remove the water heater back cover on the side of The Bus, check the fuses (all good), and clean up any corroded connections, including the small electrical circuit board. Everything looks okay; try to start her up... Voila, we have ignition! Hoo-Ray! (Like on our sailboat, Liberty, fixing things that break is one of my joys.) 

An old classmate of mine from the US Naval War College, Newport, RI, class of 1980-1981, was in town the other day. Ollie North, then known simply as Major Ollie North, US Marine Corps, was visiting The Villages on a book tour. Unfortunately, I didn’t know he was coming until that morning, and I knew that trying to break the line of adoring fans to invite him over for a beer would likely get me smacked about the head and shoulders with handbags from his many adoring fans. Maybe next time...  

Along with about 100 million other Americans, I bought a few PowerBall tickets the other day, hoping to be at least one of the winners of the $500 million jackpot. Sadly, I didn’t travel to Arizona or Missouri to buy my tickets, so I am rolling in self-pity right now. It’s a gloomy day in The Villages... I had already earmarked $35 million to deserving friends and readers of this blog, plus about $5 million for a new boat to entertain you all aboard... so you can share my misery tonight. Sigh...  

Lastly, I received an epic email from a blog follower from The Frozen North, but it's late in the evening and my witty repartee skills are waning fast... I'll just spark your interest with a teaser about Aesop's Fable, a food company in Minnesota, and two guys named Sven and Ole feeding alligators with Spam and Oreos. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Port Richey; Unity Hospitality; A Not-So Mellow Ride; Fish or Wings? Hot Pants; Wildlife; No Twinkies?

This weekend found Your Correspondent and His Lovely Bride driving to Port Richey, on Florida’s Gulf Coast, for the first time. We took The Bus, our 40 ft American Eagle motor coach, and made the mistake of following “my gut instinct” that driving west on Florida Hwy 44 to the coast and then south would be a nice scenic drive. “Jill”, our GPS-girl, tried repeatedly to get me to take I-75, but what does she know? She is a tiny creature who works for free and lives inside our GPS. We finally arrived almost 45 minutes later than if we had taken the route Jill recommended. Sigh...

We had accepted a gracious offer of a free parking spot at Unity of Port Richey. Little did we know that this was going to be one of the nicest “campgrounds” we’ve ever stayed in. (Yes, I know I’m not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition, but it’s my blog...) 

Our parking spot was secluded, had lots of pines and oaks nearby, and best of all, had several members of the species Sciurus carolinensis for Rudy and Gretchen to chase. Luckily, they didn't catch a single rodent... 

On Saturday afternoon we went for a 20 mile mountain bike ride in Starkey Wilderness Area on a beautiful bike path. My Lovely Bride had not had a decent workout in several days, so she was in rare form, keeping up a blistering 14 mph pace... (which is rather fast for a mountain bike) while I had not missed a workout of late, and wanted a "mellow ride"... This is the view I had for most of the ride (please understand that I'm not complaining, but I was quite worn out after an hour and a half.)

Fortunately, Suzanne decided to stop and check out some wildlife, which gave me a bit of a breather. Here is a cute example of Dasypus novemcinctus, otherwise known as the nine-banded armadillo. This little critter's diet consists of insects, ants, larvae, grubs, and other invertebrates. They dig burrows near streams, and use their hard epidermal scales as defense against predators. Suzanne asked me to get close to him so I could be in the picture, but I know how mean and aggressive these beast can be when cornered, and I didn't want to be Florida's next casualty of an armadillo attack.

Most of the terrain was relatively flat, and the trail wound through pines and palmetto prairie; it was truly beautiful. The trail wasn't crowded, but there was a good mix of cyclists, hikers and roller bladers. 

When in a new town, we like to splurge and have a meal out; Port Richey had several fine dining venues. Suzanne chose Catches, a very nice seafood restaurant on the water; I chose Hooters. I lost. But we had a great meal, with wonderful crusty herb-covered bread and pesto dip, mussels for a starter, and broiled seafood. (I was advised that wings at Hooters would be very bad for my waistline...) 

Our server, Fenal, was from Romania. He is about 42, and has a daughter who just started her Master's program in Psychology. He also has two houses in the area, one of which he rents out. We were very impressed by his work ethic.

On Sunday morning, we woke up to a frigid 40 degrees outside. Since it was 57 inside The Bus, My Clever Bride decided to use the hot air from the furnace, which exhausts up from the floor, to heat her slacks before putting them on. (It reminded us both of a Navy drill wherein you jump into a swimming pool without a life vest and have to remove your trousers, tie knots in the legs, and throw them over your head to inflate them with air to stay afloat for 20 minutes.)  

On Sunday we attended services at Unity of Port Richey, and were welcomed with open arms by Rev. Barbara and her very friendly congregation. Suzanne was introduced, and she spoke briefly about the Messages of Hope viewing next Friday evening and her S.O.A.R! Workshop on Saturday. For more information, please see her web site at


After services, we went for another bike ride in the Wilderness Park... I was still dragging, and this turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) was keeping a very close eye on me just in case I collapsed. 

I was less concerned about the vulture than this 10 foot long sunbather basking on a mud bank near the trail...

One of the unusual sights on a connecting trail near the highway was this young Hispanic kid pedaling a snack cart out in the middle of nowhere. We were at least 5 miles from civilization in any direction, but he was moving very quickly from point A to point B. Mobile entrepreneurial spirit in action! If he had had any Twinkies, I would have bought some... oh, I forgot, the unions drove Hostess out of business... very sad...


Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving; Facial Recognition Quiz Results; St Pete Race Photo; A Girl, Tools, and Fire!

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. My Lovely Bride, Her Lovely Mom, and I were invited  over to the Blythes' for turkey dinner. 
I made my world-famous oyster dressing, Suzanne made a scrumptious green bean casserole, and Ruthie brought her crowd-pleasing baked pineapple. Jan baked the turkey, had lots of sides as well as three fabulous pies....

The Massachusetts contingent (Bob, Jan, and Jan's mom and dad, Rita and Frank Fitzpatrick) were joined by Jan's cousin Jim and his wife Dee from Georgia.  After the feast, I had to go for a three mile walk to help digest... 

Here are the answers to last week's facial recognition quiz, which was challenging (of note, many people used to "Googling for Trivia" didn't show up and submit entries!):

"The Divine" Greta Garbo
"I want to be alone;
I just want to be alone."
Femme Fatale Lana Turner"My goal was to have one husband and seven children,
but it turned out to be the other way around."

"Sweater Girl" Jane Russell
Bob Hope: 
"Culture is the ability to describe
Jane Russell without moving your hands."

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain
(Holding the agreement signed with Hitler in 1938,
and announcing "Peace for Our Time";
it didn't quite work out that way.)

The "Blonde Bombshell",
Sultry Jean Harlow
Died tragically at 26; "The day Baby died,
there wasn't a sound in the MGM
commissary for three hours."
Jeff Chandler
("Impossibly Handsome")

Gen George Patton, US Army
VMI Grad, 1912 Olympic Pentathlete,
1920 Master of the Sword, and
the Army's best general in WWII

Mamie Eisenhower
(Moved 28 times with her husband, Ike; also famous
for her recipe for Mamie's Million Dollar Fudge)

Admiral Bull Halsey, US Navy
"There are no great men, just great challenges
which ordinary men, out of necessity,
are forced by circumstances to meet."

The Quiz Winner, the only entry with six correct answers, is Chris Lavender. Chris wins breakfast at Panera for two with Corvette Chick and Your Faithful Correspondent. Congratulations, Chris.

Susan Prince, who completed the Ladies' Half Marathon in St Pete last week, sent us this photo taken by her son of her hydrating after the race... There's only one thing better than water to hydrate following a hard workout... Beer! Her caption was "Victory is sweet and must be celebrated!" 

One of the things that makes many men shake in their boots is the sight of a woman with a power tool or a wrench in her hand. I will admit to having some trepidation the first time My Lovely Bride told me that she was going to replace an electric water pump on our 46 foot sailboat, Liberty, many years ago. But since she did an exceptional job on that maintenance task, I was less worried when the following year, Suzanne said that she was going to replace one of the two critical primary jib sheet winches while I did the other. Again, she did a great job. So while I was putting away the power washer after finishing cleaning the lanai today, I was not too surprised to see her already half finished the construction of one of two seven foot tall propane lanai heaters like you see in outside restaurants. (And without a single chipped nail!)

For background info, we had asked a local contractor for an estimate to enclose the lanai for winter use. The estimate came in at $11,000.00. My Fiscally Conservative Bride said, "No way, Buster!" So then a few days ago when we were having lunch with Joyce and Sharon, she noticed their propane heater. Light bulbs came on, and now we can brave some of Florida's notorious frigid Arctic weather with our new heaters, which actually work! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A New Venue; Geo-Quiz Awards; Mountain Biking; A Greek Banquet; Bongo; Happy Thanksgiving!

On Tuesday, My Lovely Bride gave her Meaning and Messages From the Other Side presentation at the United Church of Christ on Route 101. About 70 people attended, most of whom had not heard Suzanne speak before. It was a well-received and emotional talk, with more men attending than we usually see. 

Suzanne signed many books both before and after her talk. There was also a lot of interest in her January 10th S.O.A.R! Workshop at Unity of The Villages.

Wednesday was another busy day. Aside for shopping for the ingredients for Ty’s Unbelievably Delicious Oyster Dressing (TUDOD), we went mountain biking, had a fabulous lunch, delivered Geo-Quiz prizes, helped a friend with a micro-cell tower, and gave a reading (well, actually Suzanne did that by herself... I’m not at that point in my spiritual path yet, and likely won’t be until my fourth reincarnation down the road...).

We presented Geo-Quiz Awards for the boiling oil in defense of the castle/Quiver tree/hot air balloon crash to Bob Blythe and Lynn Spence, with 4 correct answers each. Since Bob lives across the street, we decided to conserve some Jurassic plant and dinosaur remains (otherwise known as gasoline) and walk his Magnum Bars across the street. Fortunately, Jan offered us one of the chocolate covered ice cream treats, and we accepted, just to make sure that they were fit for human consumption. 

Our mountain biking trip was to Santos Trailhead near Ocala, Florida, with our friend from the biker bar Sharon. It was a blast, not only because the weather was perfect, but mostly because this was Sharon’s first trail ride on a mountain bike. After an hour, she was riding like a pro! She enjoyed the ride as much as we enjoyed her company, and I expect that you may see Sharon riding in competitive mountain biking events in the near future.

After our bike ride, we met our other biker bar buddy Joyce, who had prepared a fabulous Greek lunch for the riders, with stuffed grape leaves (dolmades), Greek salad with feta, olives, pita, hummus, baklava, and a very nice Coppola Rosso. There was also a huge synchronicity involved... as we drove through the gate, we commented that it would be interesting if the house was near that of our friends who had moved away from The Villages a couple of years ago... it was not only close... it was the same house!!!!

Before we left, we met Joyce's pride and joy, Bongo, a handsome Conyer parrot with quite a voice. I tried to teach Bongo some "sailor words" to surprise Joyce after we left, but I'm not sure he was taking it all aboard... or maybe he had more sense than I did...

I think maybe Sharon overheard my attempts at humor with Bongo, because just before we left, she gave me the bird... not Bongo - he is priceless - and not the single-fingered version (you should have your mouth washed out for even thinking that!), but two cute little turkeys made of Oreos (my favorite cookies), candy corn, Reese's pieces, and malted milk balls. I'm not sure what Joyce was trying to indicate by her gesticulation here... 

For Lynn Spence’s Geo-Quiz award presentation, Corvette Chick and I drove her red ‘Vette to Lynn’s house where her husband Bailey grabbed the box of Magnum Bars and gleefully headed for the back 40. (Well, okay, he put them in the freezer, but my first story sounds much more fun). Bailey also told us about his busy schedule with his church’s Helping Hands program, where refurbished trailers are provided to families in need. It was a nice reminder of what the holidays are all about.

Thanks for following the blog, and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bravo Zulu! Rudy’s Gift Bag; Who is in that bear suit? Name that Flag; Sweater Fixated?

The first two words in today’s title are probably a mystery to most readers... but to Navy or Coast Guard folks, they are easily understood. Bravo Zulu, or the phonetic pronunciation of the letters B and Z on military radio circuits, is the old US Navy Signal Book two-letter code for the phrase “Well Done”. The signal book had hundreds of phrases reduced to two letter codes, which could be signaled quickly using flashing light or signal flags (shown at right). It was the naval equivalent of the “10-4” type codewords/numbers used by police and firemen. In today’s case, our Bravo Zulu goes to Susan Prince, who completed a 13.1 mile/half marathon on Saturday in St. Petersburg, Florida, with a team from The Villages. It takes a lot of training to complete a half marathon, and we’re very proud of Susan’s accomplishment. 

Rudy’s 8th birthday was celebrated today with songs, doggie treats, and new “squeaky-toys” for both Rudy and Gretchen. Here is Rudy opening his gift bag, one of his favorite activities... 

His little sister Gretchen also enjoys gifts... here she is after disemboweling her toy (a stuffed hedgehog)... 

Our good friend Elizabeth Magee recently returned from a trip to China. Here is her favorite photo from her trip and our new favorite photo of HER.  Unlike Rudy and Gretchen's new toys, this panda bear is not filled with stuffing.  It is the REAL DEAL!  (Talk about a bear hug!)

Speaking of travel... This flag, dating back to the 16th Century, represents one of the oldest constitutional monarchies in Europe, the third largest country in the E.U., and one of our favorite places to visit. Their head of state is King Carl XVI Gustav. Their ice hockey team, Tre Kroner, is one of the best in the world. Their cuisine includes lingonberry jam, lutfisk, and Smorgasbord. Their actresses include Ingrid Bergman and Greta Garbo. If you haven't visited this country's capital, Stockholm, you have missed one of the most beautiful cities in the world... Welcome to Sweden!

A Navy friend (who shall remain anonymous, as I wouldn’t want him placed in a Witness Protection Program for his safety) commented on one of the photos in yesterday’s blog.   This photo was labeled "Face #3."  My friend wrote, “Picture #3... there is a face?”  This had me confused until I looked at Face #3... it seems that he couldn’t take his eyes off her sweater... Suzanne’s comment: “Men!” Ty's repartee': "What? Why are you picking on us guys?" Smack....  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Flower Quiz Winner; Suzanne’s Weekend; Dueling Signs; Facial Recognition Quiz; Birthday Boy!

I hope that everyone had a great weekend. I was busy judging the flower contest entries and picking a winner... Congratulations to Flo Tejeras, who was selected at random from 3,421 correct entries. Flow wins pastries and coffee with My Lovely Bride and me at Panera. (Okay, I may have exaggerated the number of entries by a little).  

My Lovely Bride is back from DC! Suzanne presented the Messages of Hope documentary at an exclusive viewing at the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment (CSE) in Falls Church, Virginia. Anne Gehman, pastor of the CSE, one of Suzanne’s mentors, subject of Suzanne’s book The Priest and the Medium, and a participant in the documentary, was present for the viewing along with an enthusiastic crowd of attendees. On Saturday, Suzanne’s S.O.A.R! Workshop was also very well received at the CSE. Suzanne carried a box of her books up to DC on the plane, and most were gone the first evening. (We should have sent a truck up!) 

Some readers may recall a sign on the highway I spotted advertising duels; I was made fun of by a lawyer friend who thought I couldn’t spell and didn’t know that “dualies” referred to double tires or mufflers on a big truck or bus. 

Nevertheless, my photo may have produced a better speller... I passed that same store on Friday, and the sign had been corrected. I also suspect that someone alerted the owner to the fact that dueling went out a long time ago.

While reading a story about the Army’s use of facial recognition technology to identify terrorists on the battlefield, I wondered about human facial recognition... so in my diabolical fashion, I have created what I think is a pretty easy quiz. Below are 9 faces that people my age and older should be able to identify. Some are really easy, and a couple might be pretty hard. Entries for this quiz will be accepted until 7:00 PM Wednesday. There will be a prize, but I haven’t gotten that far in planning yet. Good Luck!

Face 1
Face 2

Face 4

Face 3

Face 6

Face 5

Face 7
Face 9
Face 8

Finally, I have a special birthday to announce. Our own little Rudy the Sailing Wiener Dog turns eight years old today, Monday 19 November. I guess that makes him 56 in people years, but we say that he is an eternal puppy. A quick story: when we were cruising aboard our sailboat, Liberty, Suzanne had five pages of photos and stories about Rudy on our web site,, which is still active. As we passed through Annapolis, Maryland, a few years ago, she was walking Rudy in a marina parking lot. A car driving by slammed on its brakes, and a woman rolled down her window and exclaimed, “My God, is that Rudy? Rudy the Sailing Wiener Dog?” Suzanne said yes, that this was indeed the famous Rudy. The woman got out of her car and came over to meet Rudy personally... "Oh, and are you Rudy's mom?"... no wonder he is such a ham! 

This picture was taken on the day we picked Rudy at the kennel (but really, he picked us!); he was 3 months old. Suzanne's brother Brent said that the test of a dachshund is if he will allow you to hold him like a baby. Rudy passed this test with flying colors, and he remains our baby to this day.