December 2016 Wildwood - Ocala - Orlando - Tops'l Preserve - Ft. Picken's, FL - Daphne, AL - Biloxi, MS - Alexandria, Shreveport, LA - Longview - Lewisville - Dallas, TX

     Our 2nd day in The Villages provided an opportunity to "rest up" so we took our bikes to a local shop to have their periodic checkups. Should be ready Friday which’ll give our ‘sit-upons’ a much needed rest. Also, day 2 of a technician searching for an electrical connect which seems to be elusive. The hourly rate isn’t peanuts, either, so hope it reveals itself soon because it’s gotta be identified.

     We discussed our take on The Villages, population 157,000 of those 55 and older. It is TOO homogenous for me. Of all the people we saw, they were every one white caucasians. Every conversation we heard was only English. There wasn’t a single child or young adult visible. Don’t think I could ever settle in a community where everybody looked the same, spoke the same, acted the same, were the same age and all living in little cookie cutter houses. The property is very well maintained—lawn maintenance folks are working all the time and everywhere we looked was pristine. Despite the recreational facilities available, SO many of them are grossly overweight. In their little golf carts, regardless of gender, their bellies were just flopped over into their laps.

     We're still in the RV Infirmary and hope we don't end up in the Big House before we're sprung. This place has far too many "Thou shalt nots". The Villages Mafia wear yellow shirts and they're everywhere AND seems we're always transgressing. There are 81 pools here. I've not seen them all but the ones I have seen have lane lines, back stoke flags and not a soul in them. I'm so tempted to take advantage of one but I think the Yellow Shirts hide in the trees and I'd be nabbed for sure.

     Those who live there apparently love it but, as our vagrant life style attests, we're free spirits and don't want our lives choreographed for us. It's a beautiful place and extremely well maintained. There's a definite palatable social strata and you can feel it hanging in the air--from the village you live in to the fanciness of the customization of your golf cart. I don't want to live and play with a bunch of other old folks but among many ages and varied ethnic groups. I'll step down off my soap box now.
     We're en route to an Apple Store in Orlando. Last night I plugged a USB into my Mac and it must've driven a spike into its heart. It's deader than a door nail. Thank goodness for AppleCare!!!! Were it not for that, I'd be forking over $500+ for a new logic board.  It's being shipped tomorrow to the ER and will be back by Friday and good as new. 

     While in Orlando, we took advantage of a little sight seeing. We strolled the park and around Lake Eola where we found these beautiful swans and fountain.

Fountain in the center of Lake Eola

                                  Lake Eola Swans
      Bill cycled 55 miles through The Villages and said he still didn't see it all. The paved paths are wonderfully maintained---no roots poking up through the asphalt to rattle your teeth, plentiful water and potty stops. This is a superb place for bike riding. 

      A Liv bicycle rep was in The Villages offering trial rides on 2 of their new carbon bikes. I first rode the Avail Advanced Pro 1 weighing 13# and with electronic shifting which was a new experience for me. I LOVED it and it absolutely FLIES!!! Then I rode their Envie Advanced Pro 1 at 16#--shorter wheel base and not as sleek and fast as the Avail. When we moved aboard in '08, I had to sell my road bike  so I just needed to get on one again to remember how good cycling fast feels. Our Bike Fridays are not machines of extraordinary speed. They are fun and do serve their purpose of being our land transportation when we're on our boat. I love my BF but Liv is pretty dad gum awesome. 

      A trip to Silver Springs was a trip down Memory Lane for both of us. 65 years ago Bill came here with his family and for me, 'twas about 70 years ago when I was here with my family. Almost impossible to fathom the speed of those past years. "Life is but a vapor."

      Our coach is repaired and ready to go but not as much as we're ready to head out. Two weeks in one place is about our limit for being stationary.

     I've heard of Santa Rosa Beach all my life but never ventured in an easterly direction. This is our first visit here and I'm even a native!!! The beach is tucked in a stretch between high-rises. Very desolate in a good way. The only noise is the crashing sounds of the surf. Forgot how much I've missed this. I knew Destin to Pensacola in detail like the back of my hand.  I've heard of Mexico Beach, Grayton Beach, Rosemary Beach, Blue Mountain Beach but until mid December, never visited any of them. We are staying in a state park preserve so there is a stretch of two or 3 miles along the beach where it remains natural with no high-rises or other signs of civilization. A wonderful place to beach walk and cycle and we loved being there.  


     The colored leaves represent a north FL mid-December 

     Bill took a nap and I was planning to paint but the melody of a soundly sleeping man was very enticing so was either give in to a nap or go walk the beach. I chose #2 and loved ever step I took. Totally deserted beach. Perfect temp. Found myself laughing out loud, talking to the sand pipers, encouraging the waves to surge a little harder--if anybody had heard me, I'd be in a straight jacket by now. 

                                                           My footprints.
                                 A funny little design made by a receding wave. 

     Just basking in the glow of a dazzling afternoon of dancing through an incoming tide of the Gulf of Mexico.

A sea slug that emits purple ink

     We cycled the Timpoochee Trail that traces the shoreline of the Gulf and Hwy 30A through forests, marshlands, beach side communities, lakes, shops, and restaurants. We had lunch at a great little dive on 30A---Stinky's Fish Camp and it was delicious. How could you not want to stop and eat at a place with a name like Stinky's???? 
A shot of Stinky's bar

     The name caught my attention and it was also recommended by a 60 year old surfer woman who's lived there in Blue Mountain all her life. Her husband makes surf and paddle boards. She was a very interesting person. Glad we met her. No photos from our excursion but vivid visual memories.

A mystery boat washed up on the shore on Pensacola Beach

     On to Fort Pickens State Park. I DO know that area and I'm looking forward to seeing it from a motor coach vantage point. This is the whitest sand-- overcast day but the brilliance of the sand is still blinding. 

Large prop outside Joe Patti's
     No trip to Pensacola is complete without at least one trip to Joe Patti's.This is a prop on display in front of the business at Joe Patti’s. My only aunt, Aunt Annie Ruth, and her daughter, my cousin, beautiful Debby came out for a Christmas visit and steamed shrimp—from Joe Patti’s! 

Debby, Aunt Annie Ruth, and Laura
It’s slim pickins’ for relatives in my family, other than my progeny, so it’s always a huge treat to spend time with them.

Two little girls playing in Ft.Pickens National Park's camping area
     While in Pensacola, we were delighted to reconnect with Andy and Tony at the Grand Marlin, Pensacola Beach. We were too busy talking non-stop to remember to take photos. We had a wonderful holiday visit and look forward to our next shared moments.

    Continuing westward to Daphne, AL, we were able to catch up with Pam and Billy who live in a neighboring town of Fairhope, AL. They are long time boating friends but it's been 5 years since we've seen them and what a warm reunion we had!

Bill, Billy, Pam, and Laura
     Our eldest son, Chad, and his son, Zac, live in Daphne and we spent the weekend with them.

                                                                  #1 son, Chad

      Every Sunday night, all of their friends know that Chad puts a huge number of chicken quarters on his grill and makes his famous potato salad. Everyone has a standing invitation to come over about 6-ish and chow down. After everyone is quite sated, they all settle down and watch a movie. What a sweet tradition and wonderful way to stay in touch with Zac's friends and their parents. It was fun to meet their buds in a casual setting like the Sunday night gathering. 


     On Monday, Zac had a 16th birthday. He has his wheels and all he needed was a drivers' license so he and his dad were at the DMV at 7:30 that morning.

Zac and his new truck

     Chad and Zac are back to work and we continue to MS. We stopped at the state's Welcome Center and found it located in an exquisite Southern home with the most hospitable people working there. Their Christmas decorations were so beautiful!

Biloxi, MS, Light
Biloxi's Beau Rivage


     An Alexandria, LA, reunion with friends, Judy and Sandra, whom I’ve not seen for 40+ years, was very high on my list of 'anticipations'. When we lived there, they were 2 of my dearest friends. After our happy and endless hugs, conversationally we picked up just where we left off many years ago. Friendships like that are unparalleled treasures. The restaurant more or less ran us out so they could close and it felt as if we didn’t have nearly long enough to catch up but there'll always be a next time. What an indelible and magnificent  evening.
Judy, Laura, and Sandra
Alexandria, LA

     During a refueling stop, these two guys stopped and asked where are we from in FL. They're en route to San Diego and began their cycling trip in Tampa. Their bikes were clunkers. Their saddles are those big old folks bike seats. Their attire from the waist down was not conducive to cycling. But good for them for getting this far--to central LA, with less than adequate outfitting.

      Once upon a time, I lived in Shreveport, LA, prior to my move to the Carolinas. I just had an impressive and significant good fortune to reconnect with two long-time dear friends of 43 years and these treasures I've not seen for 26 years.  Marion, 95, lives in a Memory Care facility and chatting with her was something I'll always treasure. The world she lives in is exceptionally fascinating. Her skin is still so beautiful and belies her age. She retains, unique to her, cute facial expressions that I learned to love almost a half century ago as well as her vast and very interesting vocabulary. 

Therapy dogs who live in the Memory Care facility, Shreveport, LA

      The other delight was a visit with Jan, one of the kindest and sweetest women I've ever known. She was my rock during some challenging growing pains long ago.

                                                                Jan and Laura
                                                                Shreveport, LA

      We continued westward to Longview, TX. Our first night there we soaked up every second of a 3 hour dinner with our son, Andy and daughter-in-law, Whitney. We are so excited about spending Christmas with them and their precious children.

This lovely and elegant stairway makes the perfect frame for the tree in their new home.

                                        Looks as if Santa may've made a stop.

             Joy, the perfect name for this 105# Harlequin Great Dane.

Izzi, our 13 year old and an absolute delight!

                                   A 12 year old entertainer, Joseph.
Precious 7 year old Grayson who's missing 2 front teeth. What could be cuter?



                                          #3 son Andy and Izzi

     We said "goodbye" to our Longview, TX, family and traveled on to visit Matt and his family of 4 daughters in the Dallas area. We're on Lewisville Lake for 5 nights and nothing's a bike ride away here but we got together for a delicious meal with him, Hailey who's 26; Morgan, 21, and a student at A&M; Lily, 9; and Kate, 17.

After a delightful dinner, they came out for a visit and to see our rolling home. Hopefully we'll get to spend more time with them this week.

                                                 #2 son, Matt

         This campground, Lake Lewisville Park, is city owned/maintained and we're thoroughly enjoying our stay here. We hiked a 4.8 mile cement trail through the park and enjoyed the solitude of nature.

     Sounds kinda corny and hokey but we enjoy an old fashioned bus tour of a city to learn its history and get an overview and orientation so we did that in Dallas. The guide was excellent and he took us back to November 1962

A beautiful fountain on property of First Baptist Church, Dallas, that occupies 5 city blocks.
 The boarding house where Lee Harvey Oswell lived. We were able to go inside to see his bedroom and living room.  Kinda eerie!

Christmas tree downtown decorated with car parts. Bill wanted to adopt it and take it home.

Our 1 and only great grandson, Tristan

Dinner at the Iron Cactus, downtown Dallas
Bill, Laura, Matt, Tristan, Kate, and Lily

Captured this at the risk of looking like a Country Bumpkin and craning my neck!

Old City Hall

Old City Hall

Bronze cattle drive through downtown Dallas
49 bulls and 3 trail riders

Reunion Tower

     New Year's Eve in Dallas is our last night here before we move on to Austin. We wish each of you a healthy and save New Year!

Bill and Laura
Dallas, TX


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