70 Degrees in FL

With apologies to our Northern friends who are experiencing the coldest winter in recent memory, I must say we are enjoying central Florida.  Everett and I are not so far south as to be in tropical territory, but not so far north as to be cold.  As a matter of fact, Monday was a balmy 70 degrees Fahrenheit and the sun was shining brightly.  I decided to run a couple of errands in town while Everett was out golfing.  I pulled on a pair of capri slacks, a short-sleeved top, and my flip flops, gave Tyler Dog his “you’ve got to stay in the RV” cookie, and headed to the local Winn Dixie for some groceries.

After finding what I needed – there’s a level of compromise when hunting for familiar ingredients in regions of the country that aren’t “home” – I headed for the checkout.  As the friendly cashier scanned my items, I noticed the woman in line behind me.  She was a few years younger than I am and dressed completely different.  SHE was wearing a vest over a thermal, waffle weave, long-sleeved Henley-style shirt, heavy sweatpants and sneakers with thick socks.  She looked me up and down a couple of times.  She smiled.  And said, “Y’all one of them snowbirds, ain’t ya?”  She then proceeded to try to sell me a couple of acres of swamp land along the Withlacoochee River that had been in her family “for generations without doing us much good.”  I believe I was lucky enough to experience the rare sighting of a native Floridian!

Advertisements

Starting off the New Year with a Bang

Happy New Year’s everyone!  I love the idea of starting over every January.  Cleansing the home and the soul and making resolutions and good intentions and just . . . renewing oneself.  Part of my renewal this year is to reconnect and stay connected with our friends and relatives from home while Everett and I stay happily retired and far south of New England.  To that end, I wrote holiday letters to several folks back home and was thrilled to get one back from Dot and Roger Mitchell.

Dot and Roger have been married forever – they met in kindergarten and never really looked at anyone else.  They’re both good Swamp Yankees who know the value of a dollar and get every penny’s worth out of every one.  They’re also the product of the 60’s sexual revolution, which seems to come up in every conversation.  Dot wrote that since Roger retired last summer things haven’t been “up to snuff” in that area and she was getting disgusted with him.  “There’s nothing wrong with his prostate or his blood pressure,” she relayed.  “It just seems like he doesn’t THINK about it anymore!”  Well Dot has never been one to sit back and let things slide, so she started researching on the Internet and discovered a whole new world of aids and supplements.  “He won’t take Viagra again ’cause the lights danced in his eyes and the package said that wasn’t good.  Well, it was good enough when we were kids dropping acid!” she noted.  (perhaps I shouldn’t have shared that bit . . .)

Dot has settled upon an herbal supplement called Horny Goat Weed.  It’s supposed to get a man to “thinking about it” again.  She’s quite happy to have found a supplier with a “buy one, get one free” policy and has been adding the powder to Roger’s supper for a couple of weeks now*.  I hope her next letter will let us know if 2014 started off with a bang!

Horny Goat Weed*Please note that I am NOT condoning nor promoting such behavior!

OMG DISNEY!!!

We’re at the Fort Wilderness Campground at Disney for a week.  This is a big step for Everett & I as we 1) don’t like kids, 2) don’t like to be in crowds of people, 3) are not fond of using public transportation (i.e. not being in control of the ride), and 4) aren’t really “Disney People”.  We define “Disney People” as those who decorate their RVs with Disney lights, signs, and mouse ears.  Every T-shirt they own is Disney licensed.  These are the folks who start wearing their Disney Santa Hats with mouse ears on December 1st.  There are a LOT of those people here.  You should see the Christmas lights!!!  (no, we didn’t get any pictures last night, but we will, we will)

So . . . we will struggle to stay on our Fast Pass schedule and not snipe at the parents of crying children.  Or barking dogs – during Tyler’s dog walk last night one lady shouted over the hysterical yapping of her Tibetan Spaniel that “he doesn’t like other dogs, but he’s lovely with just people.”  Who could tell?

Everett promises not to be crabby about the sounds of fireworks from 3 different parks after 9pm.  I promise not to give parenting advice to anyone, regardless of how they’re struggling.  We both promise to make an effort to have a good time.  I booked this trip and I’m GOING to have FUN.  Can you tell I’m up too early?  Our breakfast reservations are for 8am.  Ugh.  I’m sure it will be an incredible, enchanted, happy, happy day!  But I’ll keep you posted.

Northerners Anonymous

“Hello, my name is Ethel.”

Chorus:  “Hi Ethel!”

“Umm, yeah, my name is Ethel, and I’m a recovering Northerner.”

Chorus: “Welcome to Florida, Ethel!”

Look, I was born and raised in New England.  I believed to the bottom of my warm woolen double knitted socks that if you didn’t have the fortitude to stick out eight or nine months of cold and snow, you didn’t deserve to enjoy the short but perfect New England summer.

December in Maine

December in Maine

We used to joke about it:

“Say, Everett, what do you want to do this summer?”

“Gee I’m sorry, Ethel, I’ve got to work that weekend.”

But I was SOOOOOO sick of shoveling snow.  Again, I realize this is sacrilege to a good Northerner.  It’s healthy exercise, warms one up, clears paths and decks for winter use.  But we were tired of it and decided to winter down south after retirement.

So here we are in central Florida.  In December.  In the sunshine.  75° Fahrenheit.  No jacket.  Flip flops on my feet for crying out loud.  And BLOOMING FLOWERS!!!  No one ever told me there would be winter-blooming flowers!  I mean, I’d heard of Christmas Cactus and Poinsettias, but those are indoor plants that sit in your grandmother’s dining room.  Everett and I went to the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville this Monday and there was COLOR!  Outside!  We even saw a blooming BANANA TREE!

It IS winter.  It still gets dark around 4:30, 5pm down here, just like up North.  But the locals call anything below 70° “freezing”.  And I can walk my dog 3 times a day without spending 20 minutes getting bundled up before and unbundled after.  And I can stop to smell the flowers EVERY time.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Interstate Two-Step Part 2

After finally leaving NH, we headed south through the diesel desert of Massachusetts. Have you EVER tried to find a diesel fueling station on Route 495?!?!?!  We drove our no-more-than-250-miles-a-day allotment and stopped at the Brook Bend Campground in Thomaston, Connecticut, where only two tenths of a mile away, a gas station sold diesel – yay!  Thomaston does not look like a town that would have a campground.  It’s an old mill town, having been the home of the Seth Thomas Tower Clock Manufacturing Plant and many other large factories during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  It LOOKS like an old mill town.  But tucked away between the sewage treatment plant and a large brook, an old horse farm was converted into RV and tent sites.  No need to enforce the 5 mph rule here – the road in (between an ancient oak tree and the original farmhouse) is so narrow and curves in so many places that cars and campers just naturally go slow.  Once you’re “down in the field”, it’s an amazingly lovely little place filled with friendly seasonal campers, dogs – lots of dogs – and one African Gray Parrot who sits in the front window of his owners’ Class A and curses the dogs.

Passenger train service from Thomaston was shut down in 1963, but the station has been restored and is operated by the Railroad Museum of New England.  Their billboard on the highway drew our attention.  Their website informed us of the Saturday Pumpkin Train.  We HAD to stay.  The depot building is an incredible example of architecture from a time when making public places beautiful was an art and craftsmen took great pride in their work.  Look at these roof joists!

Thomaston Station Supports Thomaston Station

Thomaston Station Pumpkin TrainThe train ride itself was an hour and a half of gorgeous views, happy families, and a well-narrated history of the area.  The only flaw in the entire day was when Everett learned the pumpkin patch stop was for CHILDREN ONLY.  He complained his adult ticket had cost more than a kid’s ticket, so he ought to get a pumpkin too!

Seth Thomas Tower Clock Manufacturing Plant

Seth Thomas Tower Clock Manufacturing Plant

Thomaston Pumpkin Field 6

only the KIDS could take pumpkins!

Thomaston Train Views 2

Thomaston Station Caboose 2

Our 2-day Thomaston adventure was topped off by discovering a great little cigar bar in the next town over (The SmokeEasy, Watertown, CT).  The hosts and some regular customers made us feel right at home by sharing a good smoke, friendly conversation, and some of the owner’s delicious homemade sausage and cheese.

Coming soon:  Part 3 – Shartlesville, PA (Cabela’s, Roadside America, and Matilda)

Interstate Two-Step Part 1

Everett and I retired to full-time RV-ing with the intent of taking our time and traveling slowly.  However, this policy causes great aggravation for all those family and friends who stress the virtues of “making time” and traveling “efficiently”.  These are the folks who plan carefully to minimize bathroom breaks and fuel stops.  The ones who consider it just plain lazy not to get from the Maine border down to central Florida within 4 days.  We drive them crazy.

First, we’re the type that plan to leave on Wednesday, but get invited out to dinner Tuesday night.  Obviously if we’re going to stay up late Tuesday, we’re going to sleep in on Wednesday, so let’s make plans for Wednesday evening and head out on Thursday morning.  Of course after sitting for 5 months at a workamping gig in NH, the brake problem we thought we’d fixed in May turned out NOT to be fixed.  A frantic phone call to a dear (and mechanically inclined) friend, several hours and much labor later, we were deciding to spend one more night in NH.  I’m not going to even go into the electrical problems we had that night.  Suffice it to say that we learned an RV’s electrical cable can be connected to the shore power outlet but partially disconnected from the internal RV connection.  And it makes quite a show.  (Thank you for the lesson, Tom!)

Which means we left around 10am on Friday, TWO DAYS later than originally planned, but rested, relaxed and confident that our equipment was in good shape.

“When are you getting here?”  asked our dear Aunt.  “When should we expect you?” asked our Florida RV Park owner.  “You’re still in WHAT state?!?” asked a friend.

Which made it hard to explain that we were going to spend two nights in Thomaston, Connecticut (barely 200 miles from Conway, NH) so we could ride the pumpkin train.

Naugatuck Pumpkin Train

Naugatuck Pumpkin Train

Saying Goodbye

We’re packing up and leaving NH this week.  Lots of end-of-season chores and time-consuming errands to do.  Parting from a loved one is never easy  and, after living in this beautiful place for five months, we feel that pang.  So this seems like a good time to relate the story of the Old Man of the Mountain.NH’s iconic Old Man was a group of rocks on a cliff edge that, when viewed from a particular angle, appeared as a rugged man’s face gazing over the hills.  The view was so popular it was used as the state emblem on license plates, coins, and millions of tourist gifts.  When I was a child, my family would drive to Franconia Notch Park every summer to view the Old Man and other White Mountain glories.  In 2003 he succumbed to gravity and water damage and fell.  Wikipedia has a lot of info about him if you care to visit.  What that site fails to mention is what we consider to be the “real” story . . .

Native Americans in the White Mountains tell of a chief who met his beloved at an intertribal pow wow far away.  He was able to bring her back to his mountain home only by promising her father that she would be able to visit her family from time to time.  The couple were very happy together for many years and their tribe thrived.  Eventually however, the woman wished to see her family again and a trip was arranged.  She left in the early summer and was expected to return by fall.  As the months went by, the chief deeply missed his wife and started climbing to the top of one mountain to look out over the land, searching for signs of her approach.  He went every day and stayed longer and longer.  The weather was growing colder and winter was approaching.  As the days shortened, his tribe became concerned for him.  They begged him to stop waiting on the mountain top – she’d come in the spring, they said.  The chief however, simply asked for a warm blanket and to be left alone.  He’d maintain his vigil until she appeared.  And maintain it he did.  When the tribe next checked on him they found nothing but his stony face staring from the cliff, awaiting the return of his love.

Many, many years passed.  Eventually, the spirit of the wife who could not return somehow made it back to the mountains.  Her love, still strong, released her chief from his long wait so they could spend the rest of time together.  And the stones fell.

Modern men made efforts to shore up the stone visage which so many people came to see.  The chief may have been forgotten, but his image was much loved.  So well loved, in fact, that a group raised funds and created a monument to him called Profile Park which makes it possible to see again the chief awaiting his love’s return.

The Old Man Reassembled

The Old Man Reassembled