The Peanut Gallery has been getting more and more belligerent about the last 2+ weeks of “dark space” where the blog used to be. Well, here we are again!
The last couple of weeks have been consumed with getting settled in our RV campsite (more on that in a bit), doing all the administrivia to become residents of Florida (drivers licenses, register to vote, re-register all the vehicles, critical address changes, finding doctors, etc.). We have the bulk of that under our belt now and are eagerly awaiting the announcement from our builder that permits have been issued and ground will be breaking. We are deep into the original time window they gave us when we signed our building contract of 6-9 months to start but they have told us the start is imminent, and we might still finish in the original window of 12-14 months. Stay tuned for an announcement on that!
We have also been indulging in retirement. This is a time when you can finally stop to smell the roses (although there aren’t any around us), watch the world go by (or at least the cars and trucks barreling down the highway adjacent to the campground), and finally getting around to all those things you never seemed to have time for, like picking the lint out of the Velcro on your cargo shorts, or cleaning the grime off of your rear license plate. It’s important to savor the small pleasures of life, to better position yourself to manage the larger issues that pop up.
As previously noted, we witnessed ever-increasing levels of conservative politics almost from the moment we left the Seattle area, and the southerly slide into Florida has certainly followed that trend. The “I Did That” stickers are ubiquitous in nearly every gas station here, and people are very vocal about the price of gas and groceries.
I acquired a tee shirt a couple of years ago that blares “Defund the Media” boldly on the front.
It never drew comments near to the West Coast, but easily elicits at least 2-3 comments a day when wearing it here. I get the vibe that Ron DeSantis will have no problem getting his governorship ticket stamped again come November, and probably by a much larger margin than the 3% he won by four years ago. That will tell us all something.
We arrived in Florida on June 13, a sunny, very warm Monday. I made the reservation at 4 Lakes Campground in Hastings Florida several months ago, and because nobody vacations in Florida in the summer, I was offered a “Premium waterfront pull-through site” but opted for a standard back-in site that had several large shade trees and extra depth. We’re super glad we did because our stay here started at the beginning of an unusually long warm spell that saw daily temps in the 90’s. The shade has helped us to beat the heat without our air conditioner running non-stop. In anticipation of some more moderate days and evenings, we put up a screened cover over the picnic table and installed a box fan and a couple of camp chairs in our “back yard”. We have been adopted by Mr. Squirrel, who likely lives above us in the trees, and who loves to hang around, literally, looking in the back window of the rig.
We had Wendy’s Jeep shipped via transport a few days before we left, and 10 days later it was delivered to family (Hi Donna, Glen, Daniel and Kristen!) down south in Cocoa. The day after our arrival we drove the hour-and-a-half south to visit them and pick up her car. We brought our grandson, Daniel, a gift from Devil’s Tower (prairie dog capital of the world), a Lego prairie dog model, and he wasted no time in dumping it out on the floor and starting to build. We got to visiting and chatting and forgot all about it until he came to present his finished Prairie Dog. He has quite an imagination and is also a H_U_G_E Thomas the Train fan, so to everyone’s surprise the prairie dog had evolved into something else. Can you guess?
4 Lakes Campground is only a few years old and so has excellent infrastructure like 50-amp electrical, good water pressure, robust Wi-Fi and spaced-out sites to provide a little privacy. The downside is the distance to anything. We’re out in the country, 8 miles from the Interstate (and nearest T-Mobile cell tower), and about 14 miles from our build site. It’s close enough that we can make frequent trips to monitor the progress once it starts, but not quite “in town”. We plan an activity each day to keep us occupied, something that Grandma Wendy requires to keep her sanity. But one activity does not a day make, so we found other ways to occupy the remaining hours. We know we will have many hours to occupy before we get consumed with moving into the new house. You are reading the product of one of those efforts. We also raided our storage unit to extract her sewing machine, and she has already made a new sun dress and some shorts. Other grandkids will get some of her famous “Critter Stuffies”. I think if I stand still long enough, she will hang a new shirt on me.
We have faithfully kept to our Rock Project, wherein we paint and inscribe a pair of stones (one each) with an appropriate short quotation and illustration each day for 100 days. One of the pair will be deposited near to that day’s destination, the twin will be put into storage and eventually be placed in a garden at our new house to remind us of the steps in our journey. This project reaches the halfway point on July 4th we are happy to report. We have used quotations from luminaries as varied as Albert Einstein and Winnie the Pooh. Here is a short installment:
Our antique car, the MG Midget, couldn’t be shipped like Wendy’s car. Of course, it could go on a transport carrier like the Jeep, but because it’s old, British, and finicky, it couldn’t be received by just anyone. Plus, it’s a convertible and shouldn’t be stored outside where it can be ravaged by the afternoon thunderstorms of the Florida rainy season otherwise known as Summer.
We decided the best solution was to leave Eddie (temporarily) in Washington under the careful watch of our replacement Management Team, Debbie and Tommy. (As an aside: we previously named this little gem Eddie, a family tradition in naming inanimate things and occasionally animated things that defy any other naming convention. Eddie doesn’t have a defined gender or identity, although I have occasionally utilized “bitch” as a directive and Eddie uses the pronouns Life/Liberty/Pursuit of Happiness. I’m hoping this declaration isn’t perceived as pandering to a more non-traditional audience than I’m accustomed to. You’re welcome.) Then, on June 10th, we scheduled a transport to pick Eddie up (thanks Tommy for the assist!) and deliver 10 days later to us in Hastings at the campground. The transport driver, Alexy, is considerably larger than I am, and I barely fit into the driver’s seat, so it was entertaining for us to watch him squeeze himself behind the wheel and back down the ramp into the street. They don’t call it a Midget for nothing. Thank God Alexy has a sense of humor, and also that I had a fat wad of $100 bills waiting to give him when delivery was complete.
We followed up the delivery with a 75-mile roundtrip to our favorite seafood restaurant, The Flagler Fish Company, and managed to escape any downpours before arriving safely back at camp. Following that we secured Eddie safely (and dryly) into storage with the rest of our stuff.
One of our favorite activities in any new spot is to scout out restaurants, and ice cream purveyors, both critical to our Pursuit of Happiness. On an excursion to the nearby town of Palatka, a historically significant agriculture port on the St. John’s River, we stumbled across Angel’s Diner, the oldest diner in Florida. We couldn’t resist, and I opted to dive into their Friday house special, Lou’s Famous Fried Chicken dinner. It was super yummy, as was the burger that Wendy had, and the chocolate milkshake we shared.
We previously showcased our newly acquired watercraft, Ginger and Mary Ann (see https://muddscape.com/2022/02/20/gilligan-and-the-twin-yachts/). We had, however, never actually wetted their bottoms (alright, alright, get your minds out of the gutter) prior to leaving on our trip. We discovered, on one of our daily explorations, the Princess Place Preserve. It is very near to our build site, free, and open every day to the public. It has evolved out of a very interesting history of this area into a state preserve full of hiking trails, historical displays, picnic areas, group camping, equestrian activities, and a very nice canoe and kayak launch on the edge of a very expansive estuary system that has formed at the confluence of Pellicer Creek and the Matanzas River Inlet. The preserve property is centered around a well-maintained summer residence of the wife of a Russian prince (hence the “Princess” title) who was quite the social fixture of St. Augustine in its early heyday.
The waters around the preserve teem with wildlife and are a joy to navigate with the new boats. More on the estuary in a bit.
I’ve been told by my better half that the heat might be getting to me. I ordered some sun protection as an experiment, and I’ll have to report back later on its effectiveness.
To better understand and explore the estuary, we signed onto a guided kayak tour with Ripple Effect Eco Tours (https://www.rippleeffectecotours.com) located adjacent to The Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience in Marineland Florida (not the Marineland you might be familiar with). The launch point for the tour is on the estuary, and our guide Sumo provided expert knowledge and direction for our 2 ½ hour tour through the many small streams and creeks that lace the area. The teeming wildlife display continued with sightings of feral pigs and what I’m sure was a small shark fin that briefly emerged a few feet from our tandem kayak. When asked, Sumo replied “Sure, why not?” Very reassuring, but also kind of cool. We learned a ton about the Mangroves (black and red), the different grasses that make the ecosystem possible, the vastness of the ancient 1-meter-thick coquina layer that underlies much of northwest Florida’s coastline, and because Sumo is also a career chemist, the richness of the different minerals and chemicals that make up the soil composition of the estuary and allow it to deliver a huge carbon-sequestration benefit to our planet. We give him 2 Thumbs Up and 5 Stars, our best recommendations.
Our next update will likely contain Breaking News about the house! So stay tuned.
Meanwhile, Tippy has found some appropriate wise words from Pooh.