Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Hilton Head; Fish On! Salaway; Surprise! Port Wentworth; On the Road Again! Back to The Villages; Mavis Pittilla; Home Construction Progress; Moon Pies!

We aren't generally beach people, but having spent the past 11 years in Central Florida, we are enjoying being close to the ocean here in South Carolina. Here is My Lovely Bride happily enduring a chilly breeze on the beach at Hilton Head, about a half hour drive from our new homesite...

Speaking of which, before we left SC, we stopped by after a workout on the day before the foundation was laid, and Suzanne simulated washing her hands at the island sink...

... and here are a couple of pics of recent progress there!

Regarding our new home, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I must give credit to our dear friend Irene Vouvalides, who became Suzanne's surrogate "husband", when my eyes glazed over during our first meeting with the builder's design specialist, Ashley, during which we were supposed to pick out kitchen cabinets... Suzanne was very excited, and I was ready to agree to anything, even camouflage-colored cabinets, just to get back to hiking or biking. Irene volunteered to fill in for me, and she and Suzanne spent the next two weeks selecting wall colors, door knobs, granite countertops (shown here), appliances, etc., etc., etc...... I would have been a millstone around Suzanne's neck during those meetings, but the girls had a ball together. Thank you, Irene!!!

Frequent readers of this blog know that when I go fishing, the odds are often stacked against me... whether it's foul weather (often too cold or too hot, never just right), too windy, too rainy, the moon is offsetting the fishes' feeding habits, the big fish were caught yesterday during a professional tournament, or the fish are vacationing in Miami or Timbuktu... like any fisherman, I can find 100 reasons for coming back home without catching. Imagine My Lovely Bride's surprise when she received these photos while she was at The Monroe Institute in Charlottesville teaching a class. 

The fish in question (which I am cleaning in this photo) is a sheepshead (Archosargus probatocephalus), but is also called a black drum or convict fish. They eat crustaceans, mollusks, shrimp and fish; I caught two that day on frozen shrimp. Tony Vouvalides, my new neighbor and Best Fishing and Sailing Buddy, took me to his favorite fishing dock near our new home in Moss Creek, near Hilton Head, SC. 

We ate the two sheepshead for dinner that night in fish tacos, and they were YUMMY! (Sorry, Sweetheart, you missed out on some great fish!) Irene graciously invited me to dinner every night Suzanne was gone... and she is a fabulous cook!


Tony is not only a revered elementary school principal (now retired), but also a master ship model builder who was asked by the Smithsonian Museum to restore some of their prized models. He also built a 19 foot wood sailboat in his garage, originally helped by his father-in-law Sal. Sal passed during the building process, but Tony completed the beautiful sloop and named it Salaway. He recently moved her from winter storage to a spot closer to home where she can be launched when the weather improves. 



Sticking to the outdoors theme for a bit, I also went on a hike while MLB was in Virginia. Savannah National Wildlife Refuge is a big marshy refuge, but has some nice hiking and biking trails. These live oaks are typical of this area, and provide birds and mammals excellent habitat.

After an hour of hiking, I was looking for a dewatering spot, and saw an actual porta-pottie, the first I had seen on the refuge. While sitting inside and pondering the state of humanity, I sensed movement of a critter between my legs... forcing me to leap up, thinking it might be a snake! I was actually relieved (no pun intended) to find a gecko looking up at me! This specimen is a Mediterranean Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) and is not usually a threat to humans, other than causing heart attacks in unsuspecting porta-pottie users.

Near the wildlife refuge is the town of Port Wentworth, strategically located on the Savannah River. It is a major railroad hub and shipping terminal, especially for imported automobiles and containers that are then transshipped by rail and truck. The skyline of huge cranes and highlighted rails makes for a good photo, although quite different from the earlier scene of live oaks and Spanish moss.

During our two month stay in South Carolina, Mike and Beth Pasakarnis visited from their home in Darien, Georgia, south of Savannah. Many readers will recognize them from Suzanne's book Wolf's Message; their son Wolf (Mike, Jr.) passed when struck by lightning, like our daughter Susan. Suzanne and I were inside when Mike and Beth arrived at Tony and Irene's house, and during their visit, Suzanne told them that Wolf had signaled to her to check for a nail or screw in one of their tires. 

On going outside, Mike looked down and found a screw in the left rear tire. Even I continue to be amazed...

In a previous post, I mentioned that this part of South Carolina is called the Low Country; how low is it, you might ask? Well, here is a trail/road on Pinckney Island at high tide...

Next: We departed South Carolina and headed for The Villages where Suzanne was hosting Mavis Pittilla, the famous British medium who is also the subject of Suzanne's latest book, Droplets of God. Mavis is an extremely popular spiritual teacher here in the US, and was Suzanne's mentor at the Arthur Findlay College in the UK. That's Mavis next to Suzanne and Jean Else, Mavis' partner, standing next to Bev Garlipp, who is at the end of the front row. Bev did a tremendous job organizing this event!

Finally, on a somewhat less spiritual note, one of the surprises of our stay in Bluffton/Hilton Head was that most of the residents are actually Yankees, and unfamiliar with that famous Southern treat, Moon Pies. I was shocked... yes, shocked... by how many transplants from up North have not discovered Moon Pies. When Suzanne's sister Janice and her fiance Rodney visited, we went in search of Moon Pies, finally finding them at a local BBQ joint. For those of you who have not tasted Moon Pies, they are two round graham cracker cookies, with a marshmallow center and a choice of chocolate, vanilla or banana frosting. Those of us who grew up with Moon Pies always ate them accompanied with an RC Cola. Driving with a Moon Pie in the right hand and an RC Cola in the left hand was considered de rigeur, but both could be held in the left hand if your right hand was on your girlfriend's "heart". 

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Rudy and Gretchen Portrait; JeanMarie; Our New Home; Kayaking; The Low Country; Pinckney Island NWR; Snake! Signs; Keta Salmon!!!

In our last post, I mentioned our eternal gratitude to JeanMarie for taking care of our beloved Dachshunds, Rudy and Gretchen; imagine our delight when JeanMarie sent us a portrait (suitable for hanging in our coach, where it now is in a place of honor) of our pups...  We were happily enjoying that portrait, which we shall treasure forever, and thanking JeanMarie profusely, until we heard that she had had a serious accident and broken her right knee and left shoulder! OMG, what could be worse??? We visited her in the rehab ward, and in spite of these terrible injuries, was as upbeat as anyone could possibly be. We are wishing you a speedy recovery!!!

On a happier note, our lot in SC has been cleared, and here is a photo of Jimmy B., the master trackhoe operator who cleared our lot in South Carolina. Jimmy B has operated a trackhoe for 27 years with Cleland, and for the uninitiated, he is as much an artist with that 15 ton excavator as a brain surgeon with a scalpel. 

Here is Jimmy using a tree trunk about 20 feet long and 3 feet wide to smooth out the dirt on our lot... he also split a 48 inch oak stump vertically, using the sharp ends of his trackhoe, like a log splitter, but delicately... not only is he a master at his profession, but he is also a very humble man.

The work on our house continues, with the latest progress being over 50 dumptruck loads of dirt to raise our foundation platform over flood level (YIKES!!!). Here we have the foundation forms being placed... an interesting description provided by our dear friends, Irene and Tony Vouvalides, of Helping Parents Heal" "The forms for the foundation are started..." My Lovely Bride (MLB), when hearing of this progress, asked, "What forms do they have to submit and for whose Foundation?"  (She thought it was for HPH, a charitable organization. But I shall not make fun of her... HA!!!)

But life here in South Carolina is not all work - here is MLB preparing to launch her newly painted (candy apple red) kayak on Mackay Creek, near our new (soon-to-built-in-about-a-year-or-so) home...

Bluffton/Hilton Head is famous for good kayaking, and we have had one outing with the Kayak Club in Moss Creek, our new development. On this beautiful morning, eight of us paddled out into the marshes north of Hilton Head Island...

The peaceful solitude was marred only by the occasional car horn from a few miles away... (oh, and also by one of our fellow paddlers who was more loquacious - and loud -  than I might have desired...)

This area of South Carolina is called "The Low Country" because of its near-sea-level elevation; it is the part of SC seaward of the Sandhills, which were the ancient seacoast of this area. Now, Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties are the heart of the Low Country. This is a sunset view from our campground, looking out onto Skull Creek on the Intracoastal Waterway. Sailors and powerboaters making the seasonal treks from New England to Florida and back pass right by this spot. 

The campground also has a small marina and fishing dock. Unfortunately, the very cold weather we have experienced since we arrived has chased all the fish away, or made them move to Florida... otherwise I would have caught a lot of redfish and sea trout. Really. No kidding.

A few miles from our new home is the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, a 4,053 acre refuge consisting of 5 islands and numerous small hammocks (sort of an island formed around small stands of hardwood trees). The islands were developed to raise cotton, and were once owned by Charles Pinckney, Revolutionary War general and signer of the US Constitution. Now there are 14 miles of trails and many ponds used for viewing birds and alligators. I have just started volunteering as a trail maintainer here.

While hiking one day, I was using a tree as a de-watering spot (Rudy has trained me well), and while unable to move, noticed this non-venomous corn snake (Pantherophis guttatus) crawling about six inches from my foot! A subspecies of rat snakes, corn snakes kill their prey (mice and frogs, mostly) by constriction. They are often mistaken for copperheads (which are poisonous) and inadvertently killed, but I left him to slither away and surprise some other hiker another day.

After I hike, I am hungry. Since we are new to the area, part of the fun is trying out new restaurants. One day we had lunch at a BBQ place in Bluffton, SC, that was, well, as they say, "traditional, not trendy". The first indication was a sign that lists "s..t we will never have", like Splenda, mayonnaise, mustard, salad, milk, butter, and spoiled brats... this includes their children". This second sign above the trash can also provides a clue to the management's philosophy...

Speaking of food, I must mention the hilarity this bag of Keta salmon provided me at the local Sam's Club... yes, there is a story here that My Lovely Bride might prefer I not recall, but she's in Virginia now teaching at The Monroe Institute, so I'll share this with you if you won't tell... Here is the story as written back in 2013...

I am in deep doo-doo. It’s a long story, so I’ll start at the beginning. I was having some frustrations with repairs to The Coach and with my new Windows 8 computer, which was not connecting to the Wi-Fi at the RV shop. My Lovely Bride took pity on me and said, “I’m going to run out and get some salmon for dinner.” She is so considerate and sweet; she knows that salmon is one of my favorite meals. So, off she goes… meanwhile, I walked the puppies in their favorite rabbit hunting ground. 

We had just returned to our home on wheels when Suzanne returned from Safeway with a big smile on her face. “I’ve got dinner under control. You go sit down and have a glass of wine.” Well, this was going to be a treat. A few minutes later, the dinner bell rang, and we sat down to a feast. Perfectly prepared salmon, spinach and Asiago cheese-sprinkled bread… a meal fit for a king. As we were eating, Suzanne mentioned what a bargain the Keta salmon was… she even asked the fishmonger if it was overdate or anything, because she had never seen salmon marked down to $2.00/pound (this particular type was normally $7.99). He replied that, no, it was fine, they had just over-ordered, and their customers were reaping the benefits of their mistake. Great! I said to her, “Keta salmon… I’m not familiar with that particular fish…” So, I looked it up on Google right in the middle of the meal. (MISTAKE #1)  

I shared with her the Wikipedia entry for “Keta salmon (Oncorhynchus keta), also known as chum or dog salmon, the least commercially valuable salmon. Despite being extremely plentiful in Alaska, commercial fishermen often choose NOT to fish for them because of their low market value…” Also, it’s what the Eskimos used to feed their dogs before Alpo arrived in Univik. (MISTAKE #2)    Okay, I might have survived this event unscathed had I not started laughing and barking like a dog… (MISTAKE #3) Rudy and Gretchen looked at me in awe, but My Lovely Bride looked at me coldly after my fourth round of barking and said very quietly, “If you don’t stop, you’ll be wearing your glass of red wine on your white polo shirt.”  (Sometimes you just never know what’s going to make your bride laugh, cry or assault you.) Smack!