Preparing for Hermine

The National Weater Service has been warning about heavy rain and wind, flooding and other effects of Tropical Storm Hermine for over a week. So what’s the best way to prepare the day before landfall is expected? Get outside for a little fun before a day or more of being shut inside in the rain.

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With bikes in the back of the Suburban, we drove to Daytona to ride the Sweetheart Trail, a very short portion of the East Coast Greenway which connects Key West to Maine.

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We rode past the International Speedway Bridge, decorated with mosaics.

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And then just off the trail, we found Jackie Robinson Ballpark. In addition to being the home of the Tortugas, it’s also where you’ll find the Jackie Robinson Museum. We didn’t visit the museum since we already had a full day ahead.

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Less than a mile from the Atlantic, we continued riding east to spend a little time on the World’s Most Famous Beach. The overcast sky meant very few people so it was a perfect time to ride on a hard packed sand without dodging cars.

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Of course being so close to the boardwalk called for a short detour north to see how the area has changed in the forty years since I last spent time on this part of the beach.

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No time for the Jackie Robinson Museum but we learned about the history of motorcycle racing on Daytona Beach since this exhibit is located outside near the bandshell.

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After returning to the car and loading the bikes, we were off on Part 2 of our adventure with stops in New Smyrna Beach, Titusville and Melbourne to local quilt shops to purchase Florida Row by Row kits for Meghan’s upcoming quilt project. But not before a seafood lunch overlooking the Halifax River at Dolphin’s View.

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And how could we resist a stop at Canaveral National Seashore to see the storm approaching.

Hopefully we won’t experience too many ill effects from Hermine, but after a full day today, we’ll be ready to read and nap on a rainy Thursday.

And while it was good to play today, it was also nice to see the Volusia County Public Works trimming trees and the tree trimming trucks and power company trucks traveling north on I-95 getting positioned for possible storm damage.

Time to stay inside and stay safe.

Woodpecker Trail

I can always count on John to find new trails to hike or ride. Last week he suggested we ride the Woodpecker Trail in White Springs. That meant setting the alarm clock for 6:00 (during the first week of school), but we had a two hour drive ahead of us and didn’t want to ride in the heat of the day.

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Since Woodpecker Trail is only seven miles round trip, we decided to not only ride, but to also hike to Big Shoals, Florida’s largest whitewater rapids.

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It’s an easy mile to the shoals, but since we were the first on the trail, we had the pleasure of breaking through all of the spider webs. I looked like a crazy Ninja chopping my way down the path trying to avoid having webs across my face. And after a short while, John took the lead and handled the webs and spiders blocking the way.

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The overlook provided a good view of the Class III whitewater. But of course, we had to climb down the rocks to get a closer view. image

The first time we were on this part of the Suwannee River was in the early 1980s…in a canoe. We watched two canoes attempt to manuever through the rapids unsuccessfully, but that didn’t prevent us from making our own attempt. I’m pleased to say we paddled through without any difficulty and plucked the items from the overturned canoes out of the river tossing them on the bank so they could be retrieved by their owners once they were back on the water.

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When we completed the hike and returned to our car, we unloaded the bikes and started down the paved trail.

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Within the first couple hundred feet, we found the trail blocked by a tree upended in a recent storm, but John wouldn’t let me use that as an excuse to call it a day.

 

The 3.4 mile Woodpecker Trail connects the Big Shoals and the Little Shoals through a mostly wooded path with bridges crossing tributaries of the Suwannee.

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Big Shoals State Park offers over 28 miles of wooded trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding and birding, and for those interested in water, there’s a canoe launch and plenty of opportunities for fishing.

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However, be aware that those who own the property adjacent to the park don’t take lightly to trespassers.

It’s Monday. Take a Nap.

Yes, it happened again. We planned an outing for a Monday, and when we arrived, we were met by locked doors.

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That’s our car. The only one in the parking lot of the Appleton Museum. As we pulled in, I asked, “Did we do it again? Is the Appleton closed on Monday?”

A quick check of their website confirmed what we already knew. The Appleton Museum hours:

Tuesday-Saturday 10:00-5:00

Sunday 12:00-5:00

We were out of luck.

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We decided to do as the banners in the parking lot suggested: Be Inspired by the art displayed in the outdoors space.

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Connect with the whimsy of childhood memories.

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Celebrate the beautiful, sunny day.

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Create a plan for a return visit.

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To explore not only the creations made of reused water bottles.

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Or of the Fancy Free sculptures made of Crepe Myrtle and Elm saplings, but also of the more traditional artwork on display inside.

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Maybe we’ll learn our lesson. Check schedules before making plans, especially on Monday when restaurants and museums are frequently closed. In fact, you may be better off taking a nap on Mondays.

Appleton Museum…we’ll be back in the fall.

Celebrating Sun & Wind

Days with both sun and wind have been few and far between this summer. We’ve had many windy days, in fact one day it was so windy the sailboat was picked up and tossed on its side. However, like the sailboat tossing afternoon, most often the wind has been accompanied by heavy rainfall and usually lightning as well.

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So when we awoke this morning to both sunny skies and steady winds we wasted no time in raising the sails to take advantage of a morning sail on the lake.

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A morning sail followed by a swim and then lunch on the porch…couldn’t do any better loading the car and heading to the beach.

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What a good reminder take advantage of our backyard! No need to always pack a suitcase or travel when we live in Florida.

TBT: 250 Years of Teaching

What better way to celebrate a new school year than by gathering with other retired educators for a first week of school lunch. Friends from over thirty-five years with more than 250 years of combined service in the Marion County joined us at the same location where we’ve hosted end of year staff parties since 1984. Of course, we missed several who were traveling, because after all, we can now travel on our own schedules instead of relying on the school calendar.

After seeing all of the first day of school pictures posted yesterday, we decided to take our own version.

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John ended his career at Osceola Middle School, the same school where my teaching career began, and a place both Karen and Doug made their marks.

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John and I not only both taught at Stanton-Weirsdale, but we taught there together with Leasa.

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We were also both at Ward-Highlands, but at different times. John worked with Kay and I worked there with Doug.

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John, Leasa and Kay were all members of the South Ocala staff in the ’80s.

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And then John joined forces with both Karen and Kay at Shady Hill.

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While not there together, John and Doug were Reddick Collier Mustangs.

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Somehow John, Maureen and Doug spent over twenty years at Oakcrest, but none of them were ever on campus at the same time.

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Then Doug and I came back together at Ocala Springs where we teamed up with Maureen and Lisa.

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And finally Lisa introduced me to the virtual world of education where we taught together my final five years, and while Lisa doesn’t qualify as a retiree, she joined us for lunch between student calls. We want to provide good retirement mentors for her.

This is the way to spend the first week of school.

Boston: Fun & Games

The past two nights we’ve been watching baseball. Monday’s Homerun Derby and last night’s MLB All-Star game are annual events as well as part of our family traditions.

Last month while in Boston we didn’t attend a Red Sox game, but we did take a tour of Fenway Park.

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The Fenway tour isn’t exclusively for baseball fans. The guides are actually storytellers who include tales about the personalities behind the stadium. Tales of team owners, politicians, sportscasters and players.

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The tour takes place in the grandstands, in the highly sought after seats atop the famous green wall and in the press box with the tour concluding in the stadium’s museum. A great experience for baseball fans as well as those who just want a peek inside the iconic stadium without being subjected to nine innings of baseball.

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Fenway isn’t the only place Bostonians are playing games. One evening we went to Knight Moves a game cafe. It’s nowhere as impressive as Snakes and Lattes in Toronto, but we enjoyed playing Forbidden Dessert and a card game called Exploding Kittens. Nothing says fun like exploding kittens.

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Of course there’s opportunities to pose next to symbols of Boston like Larry Bird’s shoes. And what can be more fun than colorfully painted pianos that appear in the most unexpected places just waiting for someone to sit down and play a little ditty.

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Boston: a good place for some fun and games (so long as it doesn’t involve the Patriots)!

 

 

Boston: Take the Trail

Our celebration of Independence Day started about a month early during our June visit to Boston. We first encountered the 2.5 mile brick path marking the Freedom Trail only a couple of blocks from our condo located just down the street from the Paul Revere House, so while the trail officially starts in Boston Common, we began in our Little Italy neighborhood.

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We weaved our way through the city and through our nation’s history with stops in Boston Common, the Massachusetts State House and the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial taking time to enter many of the buildings, like the Old South Meeting House and the Old State House, along the way.

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We made some mistakes on our trail trek. First, we didn’t pick up a guide. This free resource would have kept us on track and would have helped us identify all nineteen sites along the trail. Instead of sticking to the trail, we got side-tracked multiple times taking pictures, looking for restaurants and just enjoying the cool weather (low 70°s in June!).

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Over the course of our stay, we eventually visited all but one of the historical sites on the trail, only missing the Bunker Hill Monument. Fortunately, Emily and Brian enjoy cemeteries as much as I do. That meant we spent more time at the  Granary Burial Ground than any other location on the trail.

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Our history tour took us beyond the Boston city limits to Lexington and Concord, but not without a glitch. A Sunday trip using public transportation is not supported by the bus line so we found ourselves stranded over five miles from our destination. A few weeks earlier we learned to use Uber so problem solved.

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While waiting for the next bus for the Liberty Ride, we toured the Buckman Tavern where 77 Minutemen gathered awaiting the British marching from Boston.

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And before  leaving the tavern/museum, we helped settle the debate as to whether the Revolution started in Concord or Lexington. Now that we’ve voted, it’s been decided…Lexington.

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The informative narrated tour lasted about two hours and included a couple of stops along the way. It was even possible to exit the bus to explore other sites and then catch another later bus back to Buckman Tavern.

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In addition to the history along the trails, we also encountered some unusual things along the trail like this Edgar Allen Poe statue.

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Or a man with a sign, Give me a dollar not to vote for Trump. Couldn’t resist. Why hadn’t I thought of this scam to earn a little extra money?

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Boston: a great place for a walk.

VRBO v Hotel

When Emily and Brian decided their wedding would take place in Apopka, we delved into the world of VRBO for the first time. Unhappy with hotel offerings in the Apopka area and wanting to shorten our 75 minute commute from home, I searched the Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO) website looking for an answer to our wedding weekend accommodation problem.

I found a four bedroom house on the Wekiva River which served as our base of operation, housed eight for the weekend and hosted more than two dozen guests for a rehearsal party. It also created a beautiful backdrop for pre-ceremony wedding photos. What a find!

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A year and a half later, another wedding, this time in Virginia, I again searched the VRBO website for a house for nine. Success again and at a cost one third of what we’d have spent on hotel rooms.

Of course when planning a trip to Portland, I didn’t even look at hotels. Instead, we stayed in a house complete with raspberries and blueberries growing in the backyard, access to a washer and dryer and an ice chest for our day trips…all for only $100 a day.

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More good luck in Jacksonville for family weekend last August. Five bedrooms, pool and boat lift on the St. John’s River. A perfect place for family fun.

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And most recently, we found a small two bedroom apartment in the Little Italy neighborhood in Boston. We enjoyed being in the middle of the city’s best restaurants and again spent only half as much as hotels.

But staying in houses or apartments instead of hotels come with their own unique problems. The house on the Wekiva has some water issues and the one in Virginia had beetles. In Portland, the doorway to the bedroom was only an inch above my head (the sticky note warns of low ceiling) and while the house in Jacksonville advertised their covered patio as a great place to enjoy a meal cooked on their gas grill, the propane tank was empty and the oven didn’t heat properly. In Boston, we walked up to the fourth floor on the narrow stairway and yes, that’s a step to the toilet and a post in the middle of the small room.

These problems would not have been acceptable at a high priced hotel but were taken with a grain of salt due to other advantages offered by these VRBO properties.

HOWEVER, WHEN THINGS GO WRONG, THEY CAN BE VERY WRONG. Five good experiences…but the bad one in Toronto makes me a little nervous about future rentals. Upon arrival, we found the house extremely warm. The thermostat registered nearly 90° and no amount of adjustment helped. That’s when we found the window unit AC in the closet under a pillow. No wonder we couldn’t cool it off! And the patio touted as a highlight of the property was stacked with wood and overlooked a yard of weeds…nothing like the wonderful patio in Portland.

We didn’t stay in the Toronto property instead moving to two rooms at the Marriott in downtown. Everything worked out, but it can be difficult leaving a prepaid VRBO property uncertain about a refund and possibly exceeding the vacation budget. And we learned that the guarantees offered by VRBO provide little or no   protection.

Read reviews carefully. Try to use Google Maps to get extra information about the neighborhood and pay on credit card to protect yourself. Houses or apartments can be a great alternative to traditional hotel rooms, but do your homework and protect yourself.

TBT: Oregon 2015

At this time last year Lisa and I flew to Portland hoping for a few days of fun away from the Florida summer heat, but we were in for a surprise. Portland was in the midst of a heat wave with temperatures ranging from 95°-104° throughout our stay.  Not exactly the usual 70°-75° temperatures typical during June.

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Our first day was spent on the coast, walking on the beach.

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Day 2: exploring the Columbia Gorge and the waterfalls.

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The next day, the hottest by far, we hiked a portion of the Pacific Coast Trail near Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood.

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We’d seen pictures of Trillium Lake located in the shadow of Mt. Hood and decided it would be the perfect place to wade in the cool waters of the lake.

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Of course, it was Saturday, and we weren’t the only ones hoping to spend the day at Trillium Lake. We circled at least thirty minutes trying to find a place to park and when we finally had success, we walked close to a mile to the lake, only to find wall to wall people, floats and kayaks in the water and chairs, grills and umbrellas crowded together on the shoreline.

We didn’t stay long. Instead, we decided this is a place to visit some Tuesday in May.

The heat didn’t spoil our vacation. After all, we’re used to temperatures in the 90°s, and at least we didn’t have any rain.

It’s a VanFleet Kind of Day

It’s been hard to get motivated to go for a bike ride in the heat of the summer, but when we decided it was time for a twenty mile ride, I knew immediately I wanted to ride the Van Fleet Trail in Mable. It’s a trail I described as flat, straight and shady after riding it the first time a couple of years ago, and those qualities make it possible to not only survive, but to enjoy a summer ride.

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We didn’t start as early as we should to avoid the heat, but we were riding by 8:45 on a beautiful sunny morning.

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During our drive to Mable, we heard a story on NPR about the efforts of Rangers at our National Parks trying to insure that park visitors are able to enjoy the natural sounds as well as the beauty of the landscape and wildlife. Despite the location of the trailhead only a couple hundred yards off SR 50, the sounds of nature were quite evident on the Van Fleet trail. The chirping of insects, singing of birds and bellowing of alligators were just a few of the sounds piercing the otherwise silence of the ride.

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And what a contrast of wildlife – a Pygmy Rattler and a Magnolia bloom.

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As a bonus, I burned 600 calories in less than two hours. It really was a Van Fleet kind of day.