Another nice daytrip

Simplicity copyI like to take Mom and Liberty out for the day every once in awhile. As I stated in a previous post, I think of day trips as mini vacations – a break from the usual routine that is good for the mind and spirit. I had seen the sign for Historic Downtown Sanford on I-4 so many times when driving to Orlando and I had recently commented to a friend that it’s strange how we always visit historic sites when we’re on vacation but we forget to explore the ones that are close to home so I decided it was time for a daytrip.

Mom and I are big fans of  “Main Street USA” and “Preserve America” downtowns; they have received federal or state grant funds to renovate and revitalize their downtown areas. I have even planned vacations around “Main Street USA” destinations – Hendersonville, NC and Thomasville, GA are two examples. We like to park the car and walk the main street, free to pop into the shops and eat lunch at an outdoor cafe where we can people watch (and, of course, Liberty can join us!). Maybe because we live in a town where the oldest house was built in the 1970’s and most of the stores are in shopping malls, we enjoy older buildings and the look of an old-fashioned main street. Although neither of us are “shoppers” anymore – we both feel that we have enough stuff – but we like to window shop and see unusual things that the “Big Box” chain stores don’t carry. In Sanford I went in a used book store called Maya Books & Music. Jam packed shelves, piles of books on the floor and tables, and just that perfect combination of organization and chaos that I can’t resist in a book store. I could have spent hours in there but controlled myself and only bought a particular book I had been wanting to read 🙂

Being able to be near water – whether it be ocean, river, or lake – is always a big attraction for me and downtown Sanford is right on Lake Monroe; a huge lake that feeds into the St. Johns River. There is a really nice pathway called River Walk along the lake and the weather was sunny, windy and cool – perfect for a walk. Liberty met two nice dogs – a little terrier/poodle mix named Charlotte who was decked out in a pink rhinestone-adorned halter and leash, and a friendly old chocolate Lab named Bob.

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Mom on the River Walk at Lake Monroe

After our walk we had delicious fish n’chips (although NOT authentic English style!) at the Breezeway Restaurant where Liberty was greeted by many admirers, as usual, and also met a nice dog who was passing by with his owner. We continued our leisurely walk around the small downtown area and stopped at Matties’s Delectable Desserts and bought a couple of yummy cookies to munch as we strolled.

Didn’t cost much, didn’t take a lot of time or effort. Just another nice daytrip 🙂

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Just hangin’ out lookin’ cute 🙂

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

 

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Thanksgiving in Apalachicola

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Mom & Liberty in front of our guest cottage

As regular readers of this blog know, I take my Mom away for Thanksgiving week and another week in late spring. I started doing this the year after my Dad passed in 2006 and these trips have become special times for us. This year Mom, Liberty and I spent the week of Thanksgiving (and my birthday!) in Apalachicola, FL. I had never heard of Apalachicola – called Apalach by the locals – but a few months ago I heard someone talking about it on TV and thought it sounded like my kind of town so I read about it on the Internet. I found a comfortable dog-friendly house right in the heart of town that was perfect for us – The Apalach Guest House, which I rented through local realtor and property manager, Kathy Robinson (www.robinsonrealestate.com)

Apalach is a charming old small town with the Apalachicola river on one side and the bay of the same name on the other. It is a fishing village well-known for oysters and back in the days before trains it was a busy shipping port for all kinds of goods. There is a 17 block historic district with beautiful homes, with some built as far back as the 1840’s. We enjoyed being able to walk just a short block or two from the guest house to the main “downtown” area and we found friendly people everywhere we went, both working in the restaurants and shops and just walking along the streets. Also, lots of dogs everywhere! Early every morning Liberty and I walked along the riverfront and through the deserted downtown.

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Sunrise at the riverfront

One afternoon we toured the historic district and the town on an 8 person golf cart. Since we were the only two passengers (three if you count Liberty), we had our very knowledgeable tour guide, Judi, all to ourselves. Judi is quite an interesting character herself having retired from a 36 year career with the federal government and returning to Apalach, where she has 5 part-time jobs (including being part owner of the tour business and a connected shop) and serves on the library board of directors! If you go to Apalach, I highly recommend a tour with Judi (http://www.enjoyapalachicola.com/vacation-services1/historic-tours). That was Liberty’s first ride in a golf cart and, although a bit apprehensive of the open air experience at first, she quickly acclimated to it and seemed to enjoy herself. I think she realized it was even better than sticking her head out of the car window!

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One of Judi’s favorite homes in the historic district

As vegetarians, it is often challenging for us to find restaurants that serve dishes we can eat but, for such a small town, we did surprisingly well. We enjoyed very good wood-fired oven pizza at Slice of Apalachicola, one of the best veggie quiche I’ve ever had at Cafe Con Leche, and for my birthday Mom treated me to dinner at Up the Stairs (http://www.upthestairs.me/) where we enjoyed a delicious pasta dish and the decadent “Nonnie’s chocolate cake” (made with a recipe from Chef Richard’s grandmother). Funny side note: when we arrived for dinner, there was Judi at the door – it turned out that one of her part-time jobs is as a hostess at Up the Stairs, which is owned by her step-daughter! Small town life!

One afternoon we walked to the Ormon House Historic State Park, adding another one of Florida’s great state parks to the list we have visited. For a paltry $2 we were able to tour the beautifully restored house, which was built in 1838 and overlooks the Apalachicola River, stroll the grounds and enjoy the Chapman Botanical Garden. Also on the grounds is the Three Soldiers Detail, a bronze replica of the Vietnam memorial statue in Washington, DC.

I like Thanksgiving because it is such a uniquely American holiday and I hope all of you, like us, took a few moments to be thankful for all the blessings we Americans have. In fact, it’s good to take time to be thankful everyday!

If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily. ~ Gerald Good

 

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Good spot for a rest!

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More Travels With Liberty

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Arriving at our Gulfport rental

My pup, Liberty, and I recently enjoyed a few days in Gulfport (FL). Liberty is a good traveler – she likes to go in the car, no matter how short or long the trip, and usually adapts to a new place within 24 hours. In the two years since I adopted her she has been to Gulfport twice, Sarasota, Thomasville, GA, St. Simons Island, and VA – plus numerous day trips. This time she didn’t adapt as easily because there were a couple of sounds she didn’t like – nail guns and the sound of lumber being dropped at the house behind us, and the thump of the wall air conditioner as it ended a cycle. I had purchased a Thunder Shirt for her after a particularly severe thunder storm left her shaken but, had not used it yet. Fortunately, I remembered to pack it “just in case”. I used it two times during our vacation and was amazed (and happy) to see that it actually helped to calm her!

Tests that were conducted using the Thunder Shirt showed that it helped in 80% of cases so, it’s definitely worth a try if you have an anxious pup (they make them for kitties, too).

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Yikes. Did you hear that?

This was my sixth visit to Gulfport in the past 7 years. I took my Mom on the other five visits but I like to get away by myself once in a while and this is a place where I feel relaxed and comfortable and it’s only a little more than three hours away in case I needed to get back home quickly. I usually don’t stray far from town but if I want more activity, St. Petersburg is only a 10 minute drive, Tampa another 15. Gulfport is a small, quiet, dog-friendly, walkable town on the Boca Ciega Bay – I think it’s only about 4 square miles. It has an “Old Florida” vibe with most of the homes built between the 1920’s and 1960’s and many of the shady streets paved with red brick in the 1920’s. There is a small beach and park on the bay and the other main thoroughfare in town runs alongside it and offers a very pleasant walk. There is a broad main “commercial” street, shaded by huge old trees, where most of the shops and restaurants are located. Several of the restaurants have outdoor seating where your canine companion is welcome. Liberty is an old hand at going to outdoor restaurants so she sits or lays quietly near my chair – except when the server comes to the table, of course. She knows who has the food and gets very excited when she sees them coming! She knows she’ll get some special treats – small pieces of melon, or home fries or pizza crust – but she doesn’t beg or drool. She has better manners than some people I’ve eaten with!

Every morning we had breakfast at Stella’s – special to me because it shares a name with my dearly departed pup, who also went there many times with me.

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Lunch at Mangia Gourmet

We had lunch at Mangia Gourmet and dinner at Siri’s and  Pia’s Trattoria – I guess we ate our way through Gulfport!

One day I took Liberty to Ft. DeSoto Park, which is on a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico. My main reason for going there was the off-leash dog beach but I also visited the old fort and took advantage of the walkway that was built along the top of it – spectacular views of Tampa Bay and the Gulf. Liberty had fun on the dog beach – it wasn’t crowded but she got a chance to meet several dogs and run in and out of the gentle waves of the Gulf. She isn’t a swimmer, in fact, prefers not to go in the water past her thighs, but she enjoys splashing about and she seemed to like the freedom of being off her leash. Thankfully, she stayed within 10′-20′ of me and came back every time I called her.After the beach I threw the ball for a while in the dog park and gave her a shower at the doggie cooling station – it was a very hot day! Kudos to Pinellas county – this is a beautiful, clean park! It’s more than 1,300 acres offers miles of people-only beaches, camping and picnic facilities, hiking trails, and kayak, canoe and bike rentals.

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Walkway on top of Ft. DeSoto – what a view!

As always, it was fun to have a change of scenery and routine but, good to get back to my comfy little home. Now I’m researching where I’ll take Mom for our November vacation!

In life, it’s not where you go – it’s who you travel with.

 

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making a new friend at the dog beach

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Feelin’ free!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dream Tweaker

A Star to DiscoverA friend, who recently turned 70, made the comment to me that it was difficult for him when he realized that he’s not going to be able to do all the things he once dreamed about, or live all the lives he wanted to live. I don’t like that thought either but, I understand what he means. He’s not saying that you can’t have adventures or new experiences, it’s just that, at some point, the awareness seeps into your mind that time is no longer on your side. Possibilities are no longer endless and some of your dreams will probably never come true. We’re so used to thinking that we have plenty of time ahead of us to achieve our dreams – when the kids are grown, when we have more money, when our  responsibilities to elderly relatives are fulfilled – but eventually we’re confronted with reality.

This is where dream tweaking comes in. I’ve had a dream for a while about traveling all over the country in a small RV with my dog, Liberty. I’ve spent many happy hours over the last few years looking at maps, researching different types of RVs, and doing lots of armchair traveling on the Internet. I’ve planned the routes I would take – hop scotching across the map from one national park and historic site to another. I’ve had a lot of fun with this dream but recently I’ve started to look at it through a more realistic and practical lens. For one thing, this dream can’t become reality as long as my mother is with me. I treasure her presence in my life and hope she lives many more healthy years but, the reality is that I will probably be quite a bit older by the time I’m free to roam. I’m 65 now – is it realistic to think that a woman in her 60’s (or 70’s) with no mechanical abilities could travel the country alone in an RV? Maybe, but I’m beginning to have doubts. I haven’t completely abandoned the dream but, I am tweaking it. I’m thinking about alternate ways to achieve this dream, like doing my wandering in a comfortable car and staying longer in places I like.

Back in 2009, when I adopted Stella, I began renting dog-friendly homes on Homeaway.com for my vacations with Mom and we have stayed in many affordable, comfortable places. I have also rented smaller places for solo trips with my dogs so this might be a more practical way for me to achieve the dream of a cross country trip. There are many expenses involved in RV ownership – maintenance, extra insurance, increased gas costs, and storage fees (my town doesn’t allow RV storage on my property) – so, driving a car and staying in vacation rentals might be financially comparable to traveling in an RV.

Dreams are enjoyable and I happen to believe they’re good for you – let your imagination soar and then do what is possible at whatever stage of life you’re in. If you’re 85 and you’ve dreamed about learning a new language or taking up painting – do it!! You probably won’t become a famous artist and it might be too late to become an interpreter at the UN but you can enjoy the fulfillment of your dream even if you have to tweak it to make it work. It’s reasonable to accept the limitations of age or disabilities but don’t completely abandon your dreams just because the original version is no longer practical. Be a dream tweaker!

Cut not the wings of your dreams, for they are the heartbeat and freedom of your soul. ~Flavia         

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Life is but a dream

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St. Simons Island

Bon voyageAfter my Dad passed away in 2006 I began taking my Mom away for Thanksgiving. When I was still working we would go away for a long weekend but, since I retired, we go for the whole week. My birthday is November 25th so we celebrate that, too. We have spent Thanksgiving in some very nice places and have shared lots of good times and laughs together. Mom says she replays these happy memories like movies in her head when she is back home in her recliner. Since 2009, we have traveled with my dogs – first Stella, who passed away in April 2014, and now Liberty. I’ve been blessed with two good little travelers!

This year we went to St. Simons Island, GA. I had never been before but had been told by several people that it was a nice place to visit. Mom and I like scenic small towns that have an old-fashioned downtown area so we can leave the car in the driveway and walk everywhere. St. Simons didn’t disappoint. The town is very pretty, with streets shaded by lots of trees including many huge old live oaks. There is a “downtown” area with a waterfront park and pier referred to as “the Village” and the cottage we rented(https://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p439968vb) was within easy walking distance of that and the beach. Every person I spoke to – from restaurant servers to shop keepers to fellow dog walkers – was friendly.

Early every morning I took Liberty for her usual walk – about 1-1/2 hours – then had a second cup of coffee and breakfast with Mom. Some days the three of us would walk to the Village, have a leisurely stroll around and stop for lunch and some days we got in the car and ventured out of town. We discovered a small bakery and sampled many of their treats during the week!

If, like me, you’re interested in history there are plenty of historic sites within a short drive. We didn’t visit them all but we did see the St. Simons Island Lighthouse and Maritime Museum,which is close to the Village, we toured Fort King George in Darien and we ate a picnic lunch on the grounds of Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation near Brunswick and then toured the house and outbuildings. The grounds of the former rice plantation (and later dairy farm) are beautiful with many live oak trees ranging from 300- 500 years old and one next to the house that is 800.

We spent a quiet Thanksgiving Day in the cottage, had the veggie lasagna   I brought for dinner, pecan pie from the bakery, and watched “The Godfather” parts 1 and 2. Although we were enjoying a wonderful get away we were also very aware of the tragic events occurring outside our little bubble. We were still watching stories about the radical Islamic terrorist attacks in Paris on 11/13 when the news broke about the shooting at the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs. Just a couple of days after we returned home there was another radical Islamic terrorist attack – this time in San Bernardino, CA. I watched with growing anger, frustration and fear as officials and mainstream media pundits did verbal contortions for days to avoid calling the attack what it really was. My happy little vacation bubble was burst and I was back to reality.

In the prayer I said at Thanksgiving dinner I thanked God for all the blessings in my life and asked Him to protect us from our enemies, both domestic and foreign. I also asked for protection from the misguided and foolish actions of our leaders. I should have also asked for protection from hidden agendas.

God bless us every one.

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Liberty makes herself at home at our St. Simons Island cottage

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

Digital Nomad

Father's Day-happy camperI recently read something that instantly resonated with me – someone described herself as a “digital nomad”. She is a writer/photographer who travels around the country in an RV (with her dog) and documents on her blog the places she visits, the people she meets and the experiences she has along the way. Yes! I said to myself. Yes, that could be me! Perhaps someday I’ll be able to indulge in this particular day dream. Maybe someday I’ll be writing this blog from the Grand Canyon or the Pacific Coast Highway or Niagra Falls or the Rocky Mountains or …

Every week I buy two lottery tickets and I always think I’m going to win. So far, I haven’t won more than a few dollars but, for some reason, I always think I’m going to win BIG. I’ll share a sad little story with you now that I have shared with very few people. I don’t like to talk about it or dwell on it but, it fits the context of my thoughts today. Many years ago, as a struggling single mother living paycheck to paycheck, I used to buy one lottery ticket every week with the same sequence of numbers. I did that, without fail, for about 3 years until one week when I was so sick with the flu that I didn’t even think about the lottery. The following week, when I was checking the winning numbers for the ticket I had bought that week, I was shocked to see that my numbers had won on the previous Saturday – the day I would have normally bought a ticket if I hadn’t been sick. I would have won over $2M – I can’t remember the exact amount; I think it was $2.4M – and that money would surely have changed my life in unimaginable ways. I can’t adequately describe the way I felt but some of the emotions were anger, frustration, disappointment and a deep sense of injustice. I ranted and raved. I swore. I cried. I felt sorry for myself. Eventually, I managed to get past it but, trust me, I was miserable for weeks.

As with most of the disappointments I’ve experienced, I searched for a lesson to be learned. The immediate lesson was to NEVER use the same numbers every time I buy a lottery ticket! I’ve never been able to come up with any other lesson that makes sense. Many years later, when my best friend and I used to work together, we often talked about what we would do with the money if we won a big lottery payout. I would sometimes reflect on the difference to how I would have spent it if I had won years before. I comforted myself by saying I was more mature and unselfish than I used to be and so, I would use the money in more thoughtful ways that benefited more people. Hmm, maybe that’s why I didn’t win back then. Yeah, right. I’ve heard lots of stories about people winning millions of dollars and just blowing it all without doing one good thing for anyone. Final conclusion: there are some things that can’t be explained. Maybe that’s the ultimate lesson.

So, what does all that have to do with being a digital nomad? I have no idea except that if I win the lottery this week I know exactly what I would do – 1) pay off my mortgage, 2) pay off my son’s student loans and give him some cash, 3) pay off my best friend’s mortgage and give her some cash, 4) give substantial donations to the charities I currently support, 5) do some renovations on my house, 6) buy a Road Trek (in my opinion, the Cadillac of motor homes), and 7) hit the road with my laptop, camera and Liberty.

Not all those who wander are lost. ~J.R.R. Tolkien

Let's go!

Let’s go!

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Circus or FEMA?

Ringling Mansion, Sarasota

 

I just spent a week in Sarasota. It was my first visit and I thoroughly enjoyed the walk-ability of the downtown area, all the shops, restaurants, and the lovely bay front park. I walked 28 miles, which is almost double my usual weekly mileage! Stella did amazingly well but her stroller helps a lot! The weather was beautiful and I celebrated my 62nd birthday with dinner at an outdoor cafe saying a special thanks for being able to eat outdoors in late November – I certainly never did that when I lived in the Northeast.

While in Sarasota I visited the Ringling Estate – winter home of John and Mable Ringling (of circus fame) and I urge everyone who visits Sarasota to spend a day there. The grounds of the beautiful estate include not only the mansion, which sits right on the bay, but also a circus museum and an art museum. The mansion is an architectural delight, inside and out, and rivaled the mansions I have visited in Newport, RI, but it was the circus museum that captured my attention so much that I didn’t have enough time left to go through the art museum. There is a fantastic miniature replica of a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus  “tent city” as it would have looked circa 1918-1938, which was built over a period of 50 years by a man named Howard Tibbals. The detail is absolutely incredible and not only can you walk all the way around it but you can view it from above on the second floor of the museum. I have always loved miniatures and just wished I could climb into the display area and crawl around, peeking into all the tents.

Anyway, you’re probably wondering why this post is titled “Circus or FEMA?”. Before beginning my tour of the museum I sat in a small theater and watched black and white films from the 1920’s and 30’s of circus crews “de-training” (unloading up to 150 railroad cars of equipment, supplies and up to 800 animals) and setting up the “Big Top” and many other tents, often for just a one night stand. Their logistical and organizational expertise could rival the military! The first crews arrived very early, set up the cook tent and the huge dining tent in time to serve breakfast to some 1,300 circus workers and performers. Three meals a day were served, all on linen tablecloths with china and silverware. That’s almost 4,000 meals a day in a time before preserved and packaged food were prevalent!

As I watched the films in amazement it occurred to me that FEMA should get their hands on the organizational plans from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus of the 1920’s (this was all accomplished way before our fancy modern forms of communication and a lot of the machines and equipment we take for granted now) and follow them during the next disaster – or maybe the government should contract with a circus because I have a feeling these people are still experts in efficiency and time management!

Meanwhile, the Christmas season is upon us! One of my new Christmas card designs is below and I hope you’ll check out the others at Lynda Linke Productions – delivery is within 3 days OR you can have cards mailed directly to the recipient. If you don’t like my inside verse you can change it … can’t do that with a Hallmark! Just sayin’ …

  Merry Christmas-Love, Peace, Joy

My book “Try Lots of Hats” would make a nice gift for a pre-teen girl and my new book “Velvet Ropes: The Ties That Bind Mothers and Daughters” is a collection of true mother/daughter stories that any woman would enjoy reading. While you’re visiting my website don’t forget to like me on Facebook and Twitter!

Tis the season for shameless self-promotion! Fa-la-la-la-la!