Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Army-Navy Game; Sharknado; Bikes and Hikes; Suzanne's Events; "If My Nose Was Running Money..."; Bob's Rainbow; A Swipe at Moriarty; Tomtoes and Brocklie
It is with great sadness that I write this part of the post. Army has lost to Navy in football for the 14th consecutive year, a record that even some Navy folks might find appalling. Well, in a weak moment of compassion, at least. On the positive side for at least some Army supporters, the Black Knights on the Hudson did win the point spread. Navy had been predicted to win by 17 points, and Army fought like the devil to win, and only lost by 4 points, a very creditable performance. But in vain. (Mea culpa, it just slipped out.) We had given our great friend, Colonel Charles Cunis, 17 points, so we owe him a dinner when we get out to Colorado. (Let's see, we were thinking about a choice of Army or Navy delicacies, either Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) or lobster and filet mignon...)
This next entry may be a little weird... we were told by a good friend, a retired US Navy Vice Admiral, about a movie that another Navy admiral (a former boss of mine, in fact) had recommended to him, which makes me seriously question their taste in movies. Sharknado is about a waterspout spawned by a hurricane off the West Coast that sucks up thousands of sharks and deposits them onto the flooded streets of Los Angeles. (Think on the bright side; it could have deposited thousands of lawyers instead... but I digress.) I looked online at the write-up of Sharknado, and despite the ridiculous nature of the concept, there were several redeeming attributes of the movie, actress Tara Reid for one. And there were follow-on sequels with great whites, hammerheads and tiger sharks landing in Manhattan. I am hoping that D.C. is next... the sharks could feed on the lawyers there, if they weren't dissuaded by professional courtesy.
Okay, getting away from sci-fi humor, it's been a busy bicycling week. It started with my working with the Sumter Landing Bicycle Club to fix up donated bikes for underprivileged kids in Sumter County. We must have received about 50 bikes that were repairable, and a dozen more that were designated as spare parts bikes (the term hangar queen is used in the Navy for unflyable aircraft in that sad state of disrepair). It's been years since I had ridden a cruiser, which is obviously the bike of choice for many Villagers. The readied bikes were then loaded onto trailers by Sumter County Sheriffs and carted away for distribution.
My Lovely Bride and I also got in several forest hikes and bike rides on local roads and on mountain biking trails at Santos Trailhead near Ocala. One was to the Landbridge overpass across I-75, part of the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross-Florida Greenway, a 110-mile swath of forest and prairies that runs from the St. Johns River to the Gulf of Mexico. It's amazing how few people use these trails, especially on weekdays. The Greenway is a fabulous place to get away from the noise and bustle of city (and Villages) life.
Suzanne has been busy with events lately, including this Sanaya presentation at Unity of The Villages. It was almost SRO, and the snowbirds aren't even back yet!
We also headed to Lecanto, Florida, for Suzanne to present the Sunday Message and a Sanaya session at Unity of Citrus County. Both were very well received by the enthusiastic and hospitable Unity community, led by Rev. Marciah McCartney.
I would like to acknowledge the anonymous blog reader who sent me a link to a spoof video of a country and western singer. The title of the song? "If My Nose Was Running Money, I'd Blow It All On You..." I don't think it's going to win the next Country Music Award for best new hit song.
We haven't had a lot of rain lately, but this past Sunday I walked the puppies out front and there was a double rainbow over My Good Friend Bob's house. By the time I ran in to get my camera and tell Suzanne, the secondary rainbow had faded, but the primary was still vibrant. Bob must think that his house is guaranteed good fortune this year...
Finally, this sign for U-pick Tomtoes and Brocklie caught my eye the other day while driving up US-301...
Posted by Ty and Suzanne Giesemann at 7:03 PM
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Great news! I am not the only person who reads this blog and has a strange sense of humor. I am looking forward to meeting our latest contest winner, Dawn Ryan, from Longmont, Colorado, who successfully answered the question, "What do Vespa and Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral have in common?" The cathedral's bell-ringer was named Quasimodo, and a Vespa motorscooter is a "quasi-moto". Har har har! The young lady at left was suitably awe-struck by my humor... (Actually, that's Maureen O'Hara, Charles Laughton's co-star in the 1939 film The Hunchback of Notre Dame.) My Lovely Bride was also struck dumb for a few moments as we were driving down the highway in our RV and I told her about the playful pun for this contest. Thanks also to our dear friend Charles Cunis, Dawn's neighbor, who facilitated her entry. Both couples will be appropriately feted when we return to snowy Colorado in the Spring. (Yes, Colonel, I know it's a toasty 59F out there today, but you're going to get hammered Friday night!)
We were chatting with Suzanne's Lovely Mom Ruthie the other night, and she mentioned that she was not a big bingo fan. That reminded me of an interesting experience when we stayed at an Elk's Lodge in Bremerton, Washington, a few years ago. I was checking in at the bar (really, the bartender handles all RV check-ins... really!) A bingo game with about 50 ladies was going on, and I jokingly asked an older gent having a beer what would happen if I yelled, "BINGO!" His deadpan reply: "Son, you wouldn't make it out the door alive."
Suzanne and I were also reminiscing about an experience with the late Dr. Wayne Knoll, PhD, Professor of English Literature at Georgetown University, former Jesuit priest, and husband to noted medium Anne Gehman, when they visited us here in The Villages. (Readers will recall that Wayne and Anne were the subjects of Suzanne's book The Priest and the Medium.) Wayne had been grading a big stack of student final exams, which he left on our coffee table. When we returned from dinner, there was Rudy, standing in a big pile of chewed-up composition books. Wayne sat down on the couch, stunned... speechless... until we said, "Wayne, it's okay, those were some blank papers we tore up; here are your exams." Fortunately, he had a great sense of humor.
This next experience was not even funny. In fact, I was deeply insulted by My Lovely Bride when we were out shopping. The last place on our list was a home goods store where she wanted to get some new place mats for our dining room table. Because she had a reading scheduled in 30 minutes, and was feeling a bit rushed and edgy, I offered to drop her off at home and return to the store and get the place mats. She looked at me rather skeptically, saying, "Ty, you can't be trusted to pick out place mats. You couldn't even remember the color of the walls or the carpeting in your cube where you worked for two years!" "But Love of my Life, you were going to get red place mats, and I think black and blue would be a nice combination." "Ty, if you came home with place mats like that, they would match your eyes!" Hmmm....
Posted by Ty and Suzanne Giesemann at 2:36 PM
Monday, November 30, 2015
S/V Magnolia; Rudy's Birthday; A New Quiz; Mountain Biking; Almost Run Down; A Seat with a View; "What Did You Say?"
Last week we had the pleasure of visiting some sailing friends in Vero Beach aboard their beautiful Morgan 45 Magnolia. Anthony and Annette have been full time cruisers for over two years now, plying the waters of the North Atlantic from Maine to the Bahamas. Here we see the intrepid mariners' version of grocery shopping, a dock cart filled with provisions for weeks in the Out Islands, where carrot, peas, potatoes and onions make up the total inventory of produce sections of local groceries, often in private homes.
Frequent readers of this blog will recall our two miniature long-haired Dachshunds, Rudy and Gretchen. Well, Rudy turned 11 this week, and he's doing quite well as a Senior Dog. He (and his sister Gretchen, of course) got some chopped-up chicken to spice up their dry food dinner (instead of the usual teaspoon of cheese). I sang Happy Birthday to him, but presents had to wait until the return of his Dog-Mom. Rudy is known to disembowel his new toys immediately, and this day was no exception. He also performs a less than delicate operation called a squeakerectomy, in this case upon his new stuffed quail...
Okay, it's time for a new "punny" quiz. This one is really easy, so I should receive no less than 100 or so correct answers. The prize is breakfast with Der Blogmeister and His Lovely Bride, or if you're living in some remote place like Kazakhstan or Brooklyn, maybe a ball cap, tee shirt or box of Rice Krispies... Here's the question to answer: What do Vespa and Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral have in common?
Suzanne truly missed her furry kids, Rudy and Gretchen (and me, I think), and was unable to gain much solace from Bilbo the College Cat, who retained an amazing (typically British?) aloofness during her visit. The opening welcome brief even mentioned that Bilbo was aging, and had started to leave little "surprises" around the hallowed halls of Arthur Findlay College, so "be careful where you step"...
You will probably be hearing a lot from Suzanne in her blog posts about her experiences last week at Arthur Findlay College, but here is a photo of her with her tutor, Mavis Pittilla, one of the world's most respected and gifted mediums.
I loaded up the coach and went for a trip to the Cross Florida Greenway's Santos Campground, which is adjacent to some of the state's best mountain biking and hiking trails. The next three days provided almost perfect weather for two of my favorite outdoor activities. The terrain varies from open pine areas to darker oak and palmetto groves.
My vacation to Santos was a splendid getaway, and I was also fortunate in not having any mishaps; in fact, the woods are much safer than the Interstate, or even neighborhood streets... when I returned home, I started out on a 4 mile run, wearing an orange jersey, and was on the left side of the street when a neighbor backed his truck rapidly out into the street, missing me by no more than a foot. He was still backing up when his door passed me and our eyes met. I was just a tad bit upset, and waited until my blood pressure came down to talk to him later in the day. I knocked on his door, asked him to step outside and said, "Neighbor, you almost ended my string of birthdays today." He replied, "I didn't see you until I backed up. I'm sorry." Then he turned and walked quickly back into his house without another word. I just shook my head...
Another neighbor, who shall also remain unidentified, must like the outdoors even more than I. He has placed his favorite chair in his driveway, perhaps to enjoy the beautiful Fall weather and to watch the Sandhill cranes that often frequent the area.
Suzanne's trip was not without its moments. On the night before her return flight she called me from her hotel at London Gatwick airport, saying, "Ty, our credit card was declined when I went to check in. You paid for the room, but I'm out of cash. How am I supposed to eat?" I replied, "Love of My Life, when I talked to NFCU about the possible fraud on our account, they said they were not going to cancel your card until you returned home. I'll fix this, so go ahead and have a nice dinner at the hotel. If it's declined at the end of your meal, you can always wash dishes to pay off the bill." Either there was a loss of signal on the trans-Atlantic phone cable or My Lovely Bride's hearing went out for a minute, because there was a stony silence followed by a voice that I did not recognize saying, "What did you say?"
Posted by Ty and Suzanne Giesemann at 5:56 AM
Sunday, November 15, 2015
2016 Tour Planning; Culinary Treats; Sanaya; Unity of Naples Events; On Yer Bike, Mate! Blues and Wine; Seminole State Forest; Modern Art Shopping List
It's hard to believe I've been back from my hiking trip to northern Georgia for more than two weeks. Days pass quickly when you're retired and have nothing to do. Well, that's not entirely accurate. Since the last blog post, it's actually been quite hectic. We are in the midst of planning for next summer's Messages of Hope tour. We will be departing The Villages on the 22nd of March, then heading out west, returning in late September. Stops along the way will include Tuscumbia, AL; Branson, MO; Tulsa, OK; Santa Fe and Albuquerque, NM; Tucson, Phoenix and Sedona, AZ; Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks; Provo and Ogden, UT; Pinedale and Jackson, WY; the Wind River Range; Vail, Steamboat Springs, Golden and Aurora, CO; Lees Summit/Kansas City, MO; Black Hills, SD; Billings, Bozeman, and Kalispell, MT; Glacier National Park; Coeur d'Alene and Boise, ID; Yellowstone National Park; Estes Park, CO and Rocky Mountain National Park; Wichita, KS; Oklahoma City, OK; Little Rock, AR; Vicksburg, MS, and New Orleans, LA. Some of those stops will be for Suzanne's events, and others will be for R&R. I will update the map at right for 2016 in a couple of weeks, but it's looking like another 10,000 mile plus summer, and we're already getting itchy feet...
On the home front, I have been experimenting with some creative cuisine using one of my favorite references, The Wine Lover's Cookbook. This meal, Grilled Flank Steak with Roasted Corn-Panchetta Salsa, got a rave review from My Lovely Bride. It's nice to be able to treat her to a gourmet dinner at home. I may surprise her next week with some of my dehydrated backpacker food that I didn't use up on my trip to the Appalachian Trail. Won't she be thrilled???
We have also enjoyed the company of several friends at dinner, such as the delightful Donna and Ron Virgilio. They are seen here at one of Suzanne's events, Der Blogmeister having forgotten to alert his camera crew the night before when visiting Casa Virgilio with its spectacular view of farm fields with rolls of golden hay. Donna is an amazing cook; dinner was fabulous, but when I asked for a recipe, Donna replied, "While I occasionally use recipes, I never keep them. So I never make the same meal twice..." Well, Darn!
Suzanne recently held a Sanaya session at Unity of The Villages, and again, it was virtually an SRO event. We were surprised how many first-timers were attending; evidently the word is getting out, and it was very gratifying to see all those new faces in addition to many long-time friends.
One of the top highlights this month was a trip to Naples, FL, where Suzanne was invited to give the Sunday message and her Awakened Living 301 workshop. We were greeted warmly by Rev. Diane Clevenger, Unity of Naples' dynamic and inspirational minister. Their campus is gorgeous, with beautiful tropical landscaping (reminding us of Panama) and a serene lake.
We enjoyed a blues/pop music interlude with Gayle and Bill Hancock at Garvino's Wine Bar in The Villages to listen to Stephonie Seekell, the talented singer in the middle of the photo. Stephonie is a terrific performer, and when I made a request, her throaty voice was perfect for a magical rendition of Me and Bobby Magee. It was the best I had ever heard... if you closed your eyes, you could be back in a live Janis Joplin concert in 1969.
I was able to find a day to get out in the woods this week, but not for a normal hike. This was a Trail Maintenance Day with the Florida Trail Association, Highlanders Chapter. A dozen of us volunteers met at a trailhead in Seminole State Forest near Eustis, FL, to clear a section of the Florida Trail about two miles in length. (You can see the orange blaze at right, the standard blaze of the F.T.; the Appalachian Trail is marked with white blazes.) It had been a year since the last crew work here; the saw palmettos had grown like crazy, obscuring the trail in many places, and wind storms had knocked down 15 decent-sized trees that required chain saws and "heave-ho" manual labor to move from the treadway (footpath). We also lopped off dozens of overhanging branches.Two younger guys (like in their late 50s) also guided mowers back and forth to reduce trip hazards.
After four-plus hours of hot, sweaty labor, our crew (average age about 65) was ready for lunch. One of the team leaders had thoughtfully baked dozens of brownies and rice krispie treats, and a cooler of soft drinks and tea magically appeared from someone's trunk.
Our picnic was held next to the placid waters of Black Water Creek. It was a great place to rest and unwind at the end of the day. This area is less than 45 minutes drive from downtown Orlando, yet we had only seen two other people that day, two mountain bikers, a father and son.
Posted by Ty and Suzanne Giesemann at 1:17 PM
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
Appalachian Trail, Part 2; Squirrel Poop? Mackenzie and Susan; Suches, GA; Blood Mountain; The Shoe Tree; Walasi-Yi
In the previous post, I introduced my new hiking partner from Germany. Manuel had recently completed a 3 1/2 year apprenticeship as a piano maker, and was taking advantage of his new free time to travel the world. He has already been to the Caribbean and Mexico, and after a visit to New Orleans to sample its cuisine, music and culture, he decided to hike the Appalachian Trail, probably as far as Virginia. We met up near the Stover Creek shelter in Georgia, where he had spent the night. As we hiked, I found out that Manuel was carrying a beautiful Swedish hand-made axe that his father had given him as a Christmas present. He is the only backpacker I have seen in years with an axe, because of the weight, although they are popular among car campers. But because it was such a personal gift, I could understand why he had to bring it with him. And who knows, it might come in handy against an aggressive squirrel one day...
As we hiked along that day, we found evidence that the southern Appalachian Mountains had been more populated in the past; this sign marking the former location of a school, and a nearby cemetery, exist now out in the woods, far from any population center.
At one fire road crossing, we met shuttle driver Ron Brown (in blue jeans), and the three hikers on the left, whom he was driving south to the start of the A.T. at Springer Mountain. That's Manuel on the right. Ron provided some Trail Magic in the form of fresh water (the springs in this section of the A.T. were mostly dry) and also relieved us of our small bits of trash (mostly food wrappers), saving us a few ounces. Ron has been doing trail shuttles for 7 or 8 years, and has 450,000 miles on a Toyota RAV-4; this is his new car, a Toyota 4-Runner with only 150,000 miles on it in under 2 years. During hiking season, Ron is often on the road from 0430 until 1900, and covers the area from Atlanta to Fontana Dam at the south end of the Smokies.
We set up camp near Horse Gap, GA, and that night while preparing dinner, I noticed that Manuel was carefully sorting his pasta, which had been stored in a blue Wal-Mart bag while he slept in the shelter the previous night. He mentioned that a chipmunk or squirrel must have gotten into the bag and eaten a pack of crackers. We looked carefully at the tiny black bits mixed in with the pasta, and he said, "I think they may have left this stuff behind..." YUCK!!! Squirrels and chipmunks are sources of Hantavirus, so Manuel prudently tossed the pasta. Fortunately, I had enough food for an entire platoon of hungry Marines, so I was glad to get rid of some weight and help the cause... After dinner, we hung our food up in a tree on parachute cord and turned in, Manuel to his hammock and me to my tent. Here is our campsite in dawn's early light the next morning. Fortunately, no animals had breached our defenses, and our food bags were intact. However, Manuel had to get out of his hammock at 0530 and rig his tarp over it when an unexpected rain started falling. In all fairness, he had asked whether I thought it might rain, but I assured him that none was forecast. MY BAD... MISTAKE #3!!!
The third day's hike was much like the first two, up and downs with an occasional flattish spot. The trail was pretty well marked with white blazes (seen on the big tree closest to the camera). Many hikers don't even carry map and compass, particularly during the busy season, March-September.
Here we see Manuel filtering water from a creek. I also filtered water, but some times used iodine tablets. Either system works about 99% of the time, but filters take longer. Neither system is foolproof, and occasional stomach ailments due to bad water are not uncommon.
The canopy of trees was pretty thick all along the A.T., and my sunglasses and ball cap were dead weight, so to speak. (I won't be carrying them if I come back here.) Fortunately, because of the cool weather, bugs were not a problem, and I had not bothered with insect repellent on this trip (normally I would carry a small container of DEET).
The first photo below is a young girl named Mackenzie, from Atlanta whom we met with her mom Kristin at the lookout on Ramrock Mountain (3,260 ft.). It then dawned on me that Mackenzie looked very much like my daughter Susan who was struck and killed by lightning in 2006. Without knowing any of our history with Susan's passing and butterflies, they mentioned that just 5 minutes before, a beautiful yellow butterfly had flown by. As we chatted, I noted that many of her mannerisms were similar to Susan's, and I asked to take her picture. It was only later that Suzanne noted the similarities between this picture and one I had taken of Susan back in 1999 (on right). The third image is of a drawing that Suzanne did of Susan years ago, with yellow butterflies (symbolic of those that visited us after her death) superimposed. Minutes after we left Mackenzie and Kristin at that viewpoint, a single yellow butterfly flew past me on the A.T., the only one I would see in four days and 40 miles of hiking.
Manuel needed to resupply his food bag, so we called into the booming metropolis of Suches (also known as the Valley Above the Clouds) 8 miles from the trail. There was a campground co-located with the only store and restaurant in town so we decided to spend the night in the campground and get showers. (The architects of the A.T. shelters somehow forgot to include showers in their designs... also omitted were electrical outlets, bunks, doors, toilets and air conditioning, although many do have outhouse-style privies.) We got a lift into town with a friend of the owner. This was the store; unfortunately, the selection of food items was rather limited, but we were able to enjoy some pulled pork sandwiches and hand-cut fries.
Our fourth day on the trail found us humping up the steep slopes of Blood Mountain (4,461 ft.) to the highest elevation shelter on the A.T. in Georgia.
It was windy and cool up on top of Blood Mountain, and clouds were rolling in from the southwest, predecessors of the remnants of Hurricane Patricia which would soon be pouring cold rain and high winds onto the area. We would not be spending the night here; I was meeting Ron, my shuttle driver, at Neels Gap and Manuel needed to resupply his food bag, so we continued hiking for another 3 miles.
There were a few spots where the colors had changed dramatically, probably due to the more frequent frosts at higher elevations.
The forest thickened as we dropped in elevation, and the trail flattened out a bit. This was a pretty part of the woods, but we couldn't linger because it had been an 11 mile day, and my ride would be arriving shortly. We went into high gear from this point on...
As we dropped into Neels Gap, we left the Blood Mountain Wilderness. Manuel had told me over coffee one day that in Germany, camping is only allowed in developed (commercial) campgrounds, rather than what we were doing on the Appalachian Trail, where you could pitch a tent or hammock almost anywhere or stay in a rustic three-sided shelter for free.
Just before my shuttle arrived, Manuel stood under the Walasi-Yi Interpretive Center's shoe tree, where A.T. hikers who have finished the trail, and those who arrived here needing new boots, toss their old boots and shoes. There are hundreds of pairs of boots and hiking shoes hanging on the branches here.
This building is notable because it is the only place on the 2,185 mile long Appalachian Trail where the trail actually passes through a man-made building. Walasi-Yi also offers a mail drop where thru-hikers can have food and supplies sent, and also offers food and a hostel.
Unfortunately, I had to depart for home now, but Manuel would be continuing on to Virginia. I had had a great time on my four day hike, and wished that the weather would have cooperated for another three or four days, but that's life on the trail. The two highlights of the trip were meeting and making friends with Manuel, and having another visit by Susan, who I am sure managed to get Mackenzie to be at the summit of Ramrock Mountain when I passed, and then sent a yellow butterfly to be the icing on the cake...
Posted by Ty and Suzanne Giesemann at 6:00 PM