Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Blessing - Or Not? My New Girlfriend Sasha; FATS, Mad Marco and Whoop-De-Doos; Dirty Girl; Payback

I am blessed with the most astute and keen powers of observation and deduction. I have determined this because My Lovely Bride is not so gifted, and our interpretation of events that we both observe is often diametrically opposite. She can be very strange at times. Let me provide a recent example. We were driving through metro Atlanta, and I commented to MLB, "Suzanne, I have deduced that commercial fishermen in Georgia are having a great season." She looked up, a bit befuddled, and said, "Ty, where did that come from? We're driving down I-75, and I don't see any fishing boats around here." "Well, My Dearest, I just observed a very attractive, flashily-dressed 20-something woman driving an expensive, hot, white convertible sports car. She must be a successful commercial fisherman, because her license plate read "HOOKER2". You would not believe the look Suzanne gave me... followed by a "Smack!"


After departing Atlanta and its fishers of men, we headed east for several hours to our next campground outside Augusta, Georgia. We have a very nice water view campsite at the Fort Gordon Army Recreation Area, located on Strom Thurmond Lake. Our nearest neighbor (about 100 feet away) is a nice young couple from Fort Gordon with a two-year old boy and one in the oven, as the saying goes. They are living in a small trailer while awaiting the closing on their new-to-them home in Augusta. It's nice to meet young families for a change, but I'm glad I'm out of the diaper-changing business...








This Army couple also have a very affectionate and playful boxer (the canine variety) named Sasha who wiggled out of her harness yesterday and had a field day turning over their trash can and sorting through the rubbish over a wide area while her Dogmom and Dogdad were at work. Being the neighborly sort, I convinced Sasha of the error of her ways, gave her a belly rub and reconnected her harness. She's now my new best friend.












While walking the puppies, Suzanne found a new way to torture me. We were passing the towers where "Ropes Courses" are run for the 20-somethings from the local Army post, and she suggested that I give it a try. "Let's see, you want me to pull myself up hand-over-hand for 30 feet, then use the rock climbing handholds on a telephone pole that's swinging freely from a cable, then slide down the wire 50 feet over the ground? I don't think so... Waiter, another glass of Pinot Noir, please!"














The reason we chose this particular location, far from Suzanne's last or next speaking venue, was outdoor-related. Three weeks earlier and we might have been mistaken for Masters' tourists, but when I walked up to the window at the tiny post office in Modoc, South Carolina, just across and up-river from Augusta National, I asked, "Where is FATS?" I received a bewildered look from the postal lady who proved not to be a cyclist, because I had to explain that FATS stood not for a local billiards or pool shark, but for the Forks Area Trail System, one of the Top Ten Mountain Biking Destinations in the USA. Once we had looked at our map and used her local knowledge, we were on our way to the almost unmarked trailhead for 37 miles of the best MTB trails the South has to offer. We had just unloaded our bikes and were getting ready to ride away when a local rider pedaled up. In usual friendly Southern fashion, he asked whether we had ridden here before; the Florida plates may have been a give-away. It was obvious that he was an expert rider; the high-end bike covered with mud and the multiple bruises and scratches (not yet healed) marked him as A Hard-Core Mountain Biker. After we explained our novice level of riding ability, Marco asked us if we'd like to ride with him for a bit on Skinny, one of the least challenging trails. We happily agreed, and he took off like a bat out of hell.



Marco is a retired Coca Cola marketing guy, but his real passion in life is mountain biking. He's been doing this for 18 years, so he has a bit of an advantage over The Old Coot and His Lovely Bride. We did our best to keep up, but it was obvious that he was in a different league than we... but he was also a perfect gentleman, and slowed to our "less insane" pace, taking care to warn us when we might want to consider slowing or dismounting and walking at those really demanding parts of the trail, such as the steep double-dip with attendant rocks that was marked with a skull and crossbones and DANGER!!! signs. We were curious, and asked Marco why his bike had only one fork... turns out that Cannondale's top-end MTBs are often equipped with their proprietary "Lefty" design single forks (lighter, stronger, stiffer, smoother, etc.). It sure looks weird, though!






Overall, the trail was a real joy, mostly pine needle-covered and twisty, with moderate climbs, except where this past winter's ice storm had wreaked havoc with the forest. In several places the Forest Service had conducted controlled burns to get rid of the highly flammable fallen treetops before the hot, dry summer fire season arrived. Several areas were still smoking, and the smell of smoke and charcoal lingered over half our route. The trails here are known as "fast and buttery"; after 40 minutes or so we transitioned to Brown Wave, another novice/intermediate trail with lots of Whoop-de-Doos, which are the MTB equivalent of downhill skiers' moguls.






As the name suggests, national forest trails are located in... well... the forest. That often implies that there are lots of trees around, right? MTB trails are known for rocks and roots, uphills and downhills, and the occasional branch that falls across the trail. Depending on the size of the branches, you can pump your bike just before reaching the branch and pull up on the handlebars, lifting the front tire up high enough to clear the obstruction. Suzanne had some difficulty clearing these tiny branches on her bike...








Lest you think that these trails were totally smooth and wussy, it should be noted that we were soaked in sweat and exhausted after two hours of  up-and-down workout. The mud in some of the down parts was... well, interesting... particularly to My Lovely Bride, whose mantra as a child was "Little girls do not get muddy". Well, you're a Big Girl now, Baby! (Check out those legs!) On a mountain bike, if you're not getting down and dirty, you're not having enough fun...













The trip is not all outdoor fun and zest, though. Suzanne is giving readings daily by Skype or phone, and in person whenever possible. Internet connectivity can be challenging. We have a 3-bar signal at this campground, but when we drove into South Carolina for our MTB rides, our AT&T phones were searching unsuccessfully for a signal. If you're on her waiting list, please be patient!  Meanwhile, she's preparing to give her "Making the Connection" presentation tonight (Wednesday) in Greenville, SC, and tomorrow in Wilmington, NC.  See the "events" page on her website, www.LoveAtTheCenter.com for details.





To celebrate our first week out and a truly memorable mountain bike adventure, I suggested we have a nice dinner out at Five Guys. Regrettably, I made a serious blunder in letting Suzanne navigate. Instead of burgers and fries, we wound up at La Maison, a top-shelf French restaurant in Augusta where many of the pro golfers dine during Masters Week.... Sigh. Chef Heinz and his gracious, lovely wife Zelda put on a dining experience worthy of Paris or Berlin. And as you can see, My Lovely Bride cleans up pretty good for a Dirty Girl.








Sunday, April 27, 2014

"I Don't Think It's Coon Rapids"; A Tower for What? Atlanta Events and a Huge Synchronicity; A Fowl Landmark; Marines and Ospreys; A Pleasant Lunch



Okay, here's the scene. I'm at the wheel, driving The Coach up I-75 in northern Georgia. My Lovely Bride is in the passenger seat, "dozing"... okay, she's actually zonked out, as the saying goes. Some yahoo in a nearby pick-me-up truck is laying on his horn because a Dodge minivan isn't moving quickly enough... welcome to the big city. Ahead of us is this huge skyline with big buildings, some even bigger than in Sumter Landing in The Villages. Suzanne awakes and says, "Wow, is that Atlanta?" I reply, "It had better be. I don't think it's Coon Rapids." The gold dome in the photo probably belongs to the Georgia State Capital, but we were not planning on a downtown tour, so I couldn't confirm my suspicion.



After getting settled in our campground at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, GA, we went for a brisk walk to shake out the cobwebs after a long day's drive - only 250 miles - an easy trip, you say? Well, we set the cruise control at 62 mph for fuel economy (such as it is), and every 75 minutes, we stop to stretch our legs. Thus, our average speed is only about 50 mph over the course of a day. And when you add in a 30 minute lunch break (we always eat lunch in the coach to save time and money) and the occasional traffic jam and refueling stop, it's obvious that a Lamborghini or Ferrari will almost always beat our speed records.




This next entry is a bit bizarre. I was looking on the map on my iPad for a park with mountain biking trails, and there was one just a mile or so off base. I Googled it, and found that there were indeed MTB trails, and a prominent police tower to provide surveillance and deterrence against "perverts who accosted males walking through the woods." (Ah, life in the big city ...) At first I thought that this might be referring to problems from decades in the past, but when we drove to the park, this white police surveillance tower in the parking lot was unmistakable. I felt relatively safe with Suzanne to guard me, but it was also comforting to know that the Marietta PD might be on duty as well. Our ride was uneventful, and moderately challenging, since Atlanta is in Georgia hill country. The rolling trails were lots of fun, and hopefully will prepare us for our next stop, a famous mountain biking destination in South Carolina. 



Suzanne had been invited to Unity of North Atlanta to show the Messages of Hope documentary on Friday evening and to give two presentations on Saturday, Making the Connection and Heart Gifts. Thanks to Dan Glynn, Facilities Manager at UNA, and to Dave and Ann Patterson, members of the UNA congregation who welcomed us with warm hospitality. There were even four attendees from The Villages/Wildwood, as well Barry Mack's sister Sandy and her husband Mike. Barry is the Portland spiritual artist who has been showcased previously in this blog. The documentary was well-received, but the most amazing synchronicity was revealed by two women from Wildwood at the end of the movie. Please see Suzanne's blog for details...


On the drive back to the campground, we had time for our favorite "going out" dessert, a cookies and cream milkshake at Chick-fil-A. "Yummy!" is a totally inadequate description for this gourmet treat, but I must keep this paragraph short...  We also passed a famous landmark that has been previously featured in this blog, "The Big Chicken" on Highway 41. You know you have arrived when a local tells you to "take a right at the big chicken" and you know what he's talking about. 










On Saturday morning, we decided to grab breakfast at the base cafe before Suzanne's first presentation. While there, we met two Marines from New River, SC, a captain and a first lieutenant, who were part of an MV-22 Osprey squadron that was visiting Dobbins. We asked if it would be possible to get a tour of their aircraft, and they suggested we try on Sunday before their flight schedule got too busy. We said that we would drop by the flight line the next day.







A few words about the MV-22 Osprey are in order... this is one of the world's most technologically advanced aircraft. A V/STOL aircraft, meaning it is capable of both vertical and short takeoffs and landings, the Osprey is unique in that it uses two engines positioned in nacelles on fixed wing tips; the nacelles rotate to allow the Osprey to land and take off vertically, but achieve twice the speed of a helicopter by tilting the nacelles forward while in flight to a configuration similar to a fixed-wing aircraft. It uses counter-rotating, variable pitch rotors, like a helicopter. The Osprey carries a platoon of 24 combat-equipped Marines, and has an operational envelope similar to a C-130 Hercules, capable of speeds over 300 mph and altitudes over 25,000 feet. It is also capable of being refueled in flight using a retractable refueling probe. Suzanne asked about the transition from forward to vertical flight in mid-air... it was described as "like slamming on the brakes at 250 mph; it takes getting used to."




Our daughter Susan had been a Marine Corps sergeant, airframes mechanic and flight crew at Cherry Point, another air station near New River. I think Susan was giving us (Suzanne in particular) guidance in seeing these amazing airplanes up close and personal. We had a tough time finding the right gate on Sunday morning, but Suzanne said, Susan is saying to keep trying! We finally linked up with the Marines of VMM-264, the Black Knights, and got a great tour of the MV-22 Osprey with Lt. John Michael Pollock, USMC, the squadron maintenance officer, and Cpl Dees, aircrewman on the particular aircraft we toured.






The aircraft was spotless and obviously lovingly maintained by its air crew. This was a highlight of our visit to Atlanta, and we appreciated the kindness, enthusiasm and patriotism of these Marines. The squadron had recently returned from a deployment to Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, which was described as "uneventful". We interpreted that as a Marine Corps understatement for "a typically dangerous and arduous deployment, but fortunately with every Marine and all our aircraft returning home in one piece." We left with a renewed appreciation for the Marines, and especially the Black Knights of VMM-264. Ooh-Rah!!! 






Finally, on our way out of Atlanta we stopped for lunch with our good friends Renee and Greg Scalzini, recently our shipmates aboard a charter sailboat in St. Petersburg. They hosted a very pleasant lunch on their porch in suburban Atlanta. We also got to see Renee's neighbor Mara again; Mara actually introduced Renee to Suzanne's work by giving her a copy of Messages of Hope. The two then drove to The Villages last year to attend Suzanne's S.O.A.R! Workshop... and the rest is history. Thank you for a very special lunch. Also thanks to Greg for introducing me to hard foam roller massage pads for helping my hamstrings and lower back. (I'm not sure whether those roller pads were originally developed by (a) physical therapists for treating sore muscles, or (b) by members of the Holy Inquisition for torturing non-believers.)

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, www.LoveAtTheCenter.com, 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, www.LoveAtTheCenter.com.


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....