Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Florida 2017: Home Again, Home Again, Hippity Hop...

Where Are We Mama?

March 1st, Wednesday. Its still very warm. We drive the 5 hours back to Hilton Head. If we decide we want to avoid the cold still further we might stop here for 1-4 weeks in April eventually. It's a lovely RV park. We go to their restaurant for dinner. Dinner is good but not as spectacular as our brunch was back in January.

March 2nd, Thursday. It rained during the night and the temps have dropped a bit. We drive the 5 hours to Mebane, North Carolina. This RV park is in a very rural area, way out in the country. Richard is an old college friend of Lee’s. They used to play guitar together way back when. Now that Lee is retired he has taken up the guitar again, and has been practicing diligently so that he and Richard can play together. After meeting for dinner at a local Asian restaurant we go back to their house. The men go upstairs and make music, Richard’s wife Catherine and I talk. I'm a bit uneasy about the dogs, mainly Cosmo. I would be dreadfully embarrassed if someone decided they needed to pee inside! Next year we'll remember Cosmo’s belly band!

A Temporary Tattoo

The temperatures drop dramatically during the night, but they stay above freezing, so we don’t need to turn our water off, at least not yet. It's cold though. I need the heavy down quilt on the bed. 

March 3rd, Friday. Its time for a 7 mile run in the morning. It works out fine to run on the rural roads. I was a bit worried because they don't have shoulders but they don't have a lot of traffic and there is plenty of grass on the side to go to when a car comes by.

Then we meet Richard and Catherine for lunch in Mebane. Its a cute little town, and we eat at a very nice farm to table restaurant. When we get back to their house we let the dogs play in their fenced in back yard. This is great until Cosmo finds a nest of baby rabbits. After a panic-stricken few moments I message my Westie friends. They tell us to just put the baby rabbits back in the nest and they will be okay, the mama will come back and probably move them. One of the babies is dead however. Its sad but you really can’t be angry at Cosmo, its just instinct.

March 4th, Saturday. It was cold enough last night that we had to turn off our water. Better safe than sorry! Onward to Pennsylvania. The RV park we choose is outside of Allentown. They are experiencing a power failure when we arrive, which sucks. I have to bring my headlamp into the park bathroom, because its so dark! Its going down in the teens tonight, so our water stays off. Before too long their power comes back on and its cozy and warm in the RV, but we definitely need the extra heater that Lee bought as insurance against freezing pipes. 

March 5th, Sunday. Home. Its always nice to be home, but I am SO over snow! How funny to think how much it excited me when we first moved to New Hampshire. Its hard to make me happy though. While we were in Florida they had a couple good blizzardy snowstorms at home. Lee and I both were happy that we didn’t have to deal with them, but at the same time we were sort of sorry to miss them. We both said we’d like to just be there for a day to experience the weather but then go right straight back to Florida!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Florida 2017: Baseball, Dali, Beaches and Owlets!

Feb 14th, Tuesday. Happy valentine’s day. We have breakfast with the Pauls sisters and their father at Athens. Three of the sister’s visit’s have overlapped for a few days. Athens is supposed to have really good breakfasts, and it turns out that they do. Everyone else gets omelets, but I have blueberry pancakes. They are great, as is the coffee, and the bacon!

I give Lee various lotions and soaps that he likes. He gives me roses, a macaron making kit, and a westie umbrella. He outdid himself this year.

Because of our huge breakfast we have no need for lunch but I do have an afternoon ice cream cone. We go to Green Springs Bistro for dinner. The same guy is playing guitar in the background as in years past. Lee has mushroom ravioli, I have the chicken stuffed with ham, with mashed taters and stir fried veggies. Its all delicious.

On Wednesday, February 16th I take another boxing class. Only two of us attend so I really get a workout. I'm quite out of breath but my form continues to improve. A rainstorm blows through in the afternoon, then around 5 pm we go to Coastal Cantina, down the street. We sit at the bar cause it's chilly, windy and wet outside.  I have an excellent Manhattan.

Feb 17th, Thursday. Dennis and Diane come for a visit. We have lunch on the patio. The dogs are so happy to see them! We go for a bike ride and see a huge alligator in Kapok Park! And I finally see a manatee from the Safety Harbor pier! Just one, moving slowly, but finally! Lynn’s manatee curse has been broken!

Feb 19th, Sunday.  I go for the first of several bike rides over the Courtney Campbell Causeway, almost all the way to Tampa. This time I ride 18 miles. Its a beautiful foggy morning. I see lots of birds, runners and cyclists. We are well protected from the traffic, and the bike path is mostly flat except for two bridges. Afterwards we get brunch at Marker 39. Lee has chorizo and egg, I have waffles, sweet potato fries, scrambled eggs. So good.

On Monday, February 20th we go to Clearwater Beach. Its a beautiful warm day and its Washington’s birthday so the beach is more crowded than we would like. Even so the beach is great, but the traffic is terrible. It wasn’t too bad getting there, but returning home was insane. Maybe next year we should park in downtown Clearwater and try taking the water taxis.

Feb 22nd, Wednesday. My mother-in-law Joanne has arrived and we have our first truly rainy day. We head to the bahn mi restaurant Seasons for lunch but there is a power failure and it is closed. The traffic is godawful. We end up at Alesia, right outside Gulfport for lunch. It's a great Vietnamese/French restaurant but by the time we get there it is 1:30 and we are starving. We split 2 bahn mi sandwiches and 2 bowls of pho. 

Fortified, we head to the Dali museum in St Pete. Its very, very crowded and there is a huge line to get in. I guess lots of people had the same rainy day idea as we did. Even so it's a very interesting museum. Dali was weird but he also was a very good artist. The audio guide is very helpful in trying to understand his paintings. There is a Frida Kahlo exhibit too, which seems to be more about her and less about her paintings.

On Thursday February 23rd we take the dogs to Enterprise dog park one more time. They are in heaven. Cosmo gets bossy with a few males dogs, all of which don't want to argue and cede dominance to him, even a big pitbull mix that appears to be unfixed. You’re not supposed to bring unfixed dogs to a dog park, but I guess his owner must have known he was just a very meek guy. That night we go to Parts of Paris for an excellent meal.

Feb 24th, Friday. In the morning I go for a one hour bike ride and then take a "core fusion" class at the spa. In the afternoon Joanne and I get 80 minute massages followed by herbal wraps. The wraps were free with an 80 minute massage so hey why not? The massage is good. She gets rid of some big knots in my shoulders. The jury is out on the herbal wrap. It smells great, but it is hot, and heavy. We lay down on a table and get covered in layers of herb-scented cloth, warm damp towels, and heat blankets. We lay there for 45 minutes and by the end I'm very well done.

Saturday, February 25th is our baseball day. We’ve got tickets to see the Phillies play the Yankees. Its a beautiful sunny day, and I’ve gotten us great seats, shady, on the first base line, close to home plate. We root for the Phillies, but not TOO hard. After all they are not the Cardinals. But they’re also not the Yankees! The Philly mascot is darling, the Fanatic. He's a sporty Big Bird. The end of the game is actually exciting. The Yankees tie it up in the top of the 9th and the Phillies score in the bottom for the win. I like spring training games!

On Sunday February 26th I go for another 20 mile bike ride on the causeway to Tampa. 10 miles still doesn't get me all the way to the city. Maybe next year. There is an awful headwind on the way out. I average less than 10 mph for the first 10 miles, 16 mph on the way back.

In the afternoon I ride my bike over to Phillips Park. I want to see if I can find the owl nest. Catherine told me where it was and how to find it. Go to the restrooms by the Indian Mound. Turn so that the restrooms are to your back. Look at the second live oak, in the crook of the trunk....why there it is! And there is a baby! I'm very excited. I tell a few people that are wondering what I'm looking at, so now the birding community is informed.

Feb 27th, Monday. Time to pack. This takes some contemplation. What clothes do I need for a 6 day trip, with the starting temps in the high 80's and the ending temps in the mid-teens? The rest goes in my large suitcase in the back of the truck. I can get to it if I really need something but it would be much better if I don't.

We take the car over to Phillips Park to look at the owl nest one more time before we go. Now it's easy to spot because there is a small gaggle of birders with binoculars and fancy cameras, murmuring and watching the mom and owlet appreciatively. I feel very fortunate to have seen this unusual sight. What a year for wildlife! An alligator, a manatee, and 
now an owl!

Most places in Safety Harbor are closed on Mondays but Whistle Stop is not. Joanne has no problem walking there but after the sun has set and its dark she does much better if Lee and I take her arms on either side, so we walk back to the house like the three musketeers!

Feb 28th, Tuesday. Bye Safety Harbor. See you next year. We have the house for two months in both 2018 and 2019. I already can't wait! Lee takes Joanne to the airport and then we drive the truck to The Villages, get the RV out of storage, and drive to our campground for the night. Grand Oaks is much much better than the place we stayed in January! It is also a carriage museum AND a huge equine center in addition to being an RV park! There are lots of places to walk the dogs, lots of room to go for a run. Its horribly hot, however, with a high of 88. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Florida 2017: Lynn Hears a Chamber Music Concert, We Visit Diane, and Go on a Walking Tour of Dunedin

Feb 4th, Saturday. Because the Best Damn Race has the streets closed until 11 I head north on Main Street and run along McMullin Booth Road for my 5 mile run. Last year I ran the races but this year I’m still recovering from Dopey so no racing for me right now. It's not as scenic but the sidewalks are wide and plentiful so it's really no problem. Later we go to a place in St. Pete called The Bikery  to make a donation to the coffee shop ACLU fundraiser. Yeah it's a coffee shop AND a bike shop. We look at bikes a bit, go to another bike shop too. We may want to upgrade our bikes but we’re not sure exactly what we want.

Feb 6th, Monday. I traipse off to a mall in Tampa for Lee's valentine’s day present. We never go to Tampa. I don't know why, it's not that far. Later in the afternoon  we take the dogs to Enterprise dog park, the best dog park I've ever seen. It is huge, with actual trails and a separate section with agility equipment. The dogs love it, and it makes us happy to watch them run their little heads off, enjoying the wide open spaces and playing with other dogs.

Feb 8th Wednesday. I take a boxing conditioning class in the morning. This year I have wraps for my hands and they seem to make a difference when I punch. This class is such a great workout, I look forward to it all year. And this year for once I seem to remember a bit so I don't have to start completely over.

In the evening I go to a Chamber music concert with Joan in St Pete. I drive the truck, which is fine except when it comes to parking. The parking lots right by the concert hall are full so we go down a couple of blocks. We find a quiet side street with plenty of parking but it's next to a park and seems dark and deserted. Neither of us know St Pete so we have no idea if it is a perfectly safe place to park there or dangerous, but we take a chance and leave the truck there.

The concert is really great. It's been awhile since I've gone to a classical music concert. Their name is The Ehnes Quartet. It's an all Beethoven program. They play 3 string quartets, one each from his early, middle and late periods. The early one contains no surprises, the middle one is very beautiful, and the late one has parts that are a little humorous, kind of like musical jokes. Especially the last movement, that seemingly pretends to end at least five times.

At intermission I try to turn on my phone but the battery has drained. I turn it back off and try not to worry about getting home. I know we need to head north, and preferably not go through Tampa. But once we get to the truck and I’m able to plug my phone back in it fires back up without any trouble.

Feb 9th, Thursday. We go visit Diane in New Port Richie. We bring sandwiches, and sit in the sun watching the dogs play. Diane's dogs look great, all clean and groomed. Our dogs have a great time playing with her dogs and running around her big yard. Then we put the dogs in the house for a nap and take our bikes to a nearby park with a huge nature preserve. We go for a 13 mile ride through the trails in the park and the surrounding area.  We bike through fields of palmetto plants and pines, with the occasional turtle sunning itself along the path.

That night we try a new restaurant. The Little Lamb is a gastropub with good food. We split  a Caesar Salad. Lee has a lamb burger and I have the short ribs. Yummy! But in retrospect it must have been very salty because I gained two pounds overnight.

Feb 10th, Friday. We go on a sunset walking tour of Dunedin. Dunedin is a larger town than Safety Harbor. It has a lot of things going on so it's a fun occasional destination. I signed us up for a walking tour of Victoria Drive, which has fancy old houses along the shore. The houses and the sunset are lovely. The light slowly fades and all the men in our group have been given lanterns to light our way in the dark. That part of the tour is fine. And our tour guide, Vinny, is very knowledgeable. He know everything about these houses and the people that built them. The problem is, he doesn't seem to know how to be a little selective in the information he imparts. He gets sidetracked with so many stories that what was billed as a 75 minute tour was still going strong at close to 2 hours when we finally told him we had to go and took our leave. The rest of the people on the tour had more stamina than we did, or maybe they had the sense to eat something beforehand. We get a carry out dinner from the Greek gyro place we like, Famous Greek Salads. Its just a little restaurant in a strip mall but the food tastes heavenly. I think Vinny and Frank, our tour guide at the Vatican, would get along great. They could just talk each other to death.

Feb 11th, Saturday. It's Dunedin’s farmers market day so back we go. There is also a crafts festival going on so there are a lot of people in town. It's crowded and there's no place to park. We almost decide to give up but finally find a place in a little park about a half mile from the market.

We walk through part of the crafts festival on our way to the market. It's is huge, and so are the crowds. The dogs are very very good, and as usual they have their own personal fan club everywhere we go. We get fruit,  veggies, bread and bagels before we hightail it out of there. We stop at the fish market on our way back to the car and get some amberjack for dinner.

Feb 12th, Sunday. Lee and I go on a bike ride, 16 miles along the Wilson Reams trail and then the Progress Parkway trail until it peters out. We cycle through a subdivision after the Progress Parkway trail ends. I know there is a road somewhere we can take to get to the Pinellas County Trail but I don't remember where it is so we turn around, taking a detour through Kapock Park on the way back. It is another beautiful day in Florida and they're having another blizzard at home. We’re not sorry to be here, not at all.

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Suitcase Adventure

I went to Minneapolis for Mother’s Day. Lee had been there since Wednesday, helping Sarah and Erik with the remodel of their master bed and bathroom. I was just going for the weekend, so on Friday, I had to go to the airport by myself. I had my suitcase and bag all packed and ready to go. I locked up the house, carried my suitcase downstairs, and put it next to the car. Then I went back upstairs, put the dog’s harnesses on and got them in the car. 

I drove to Diane’s, dropped of the dogs, and then made my way to Boston Logan. I intended to park in Economy parking, but the lot was full, so I followed the signs to overflow parking, way off by the Airport Hilton. As I was parking the car, I suddenly had a sinking sensation. I had no memory of putting my suitcase in the car. Was it in the back seat? No, of course not, the dogs had been there. Was it in the trunk? No, the trunk was empty. I had forgotten it! It was sitting in the garage back home. There was no way I could go home and get it and still make my flight. 

I called Lee as I was leaving the airport. “I can’t come. I forgot my suitcase.” He asked me if I was sure, and I said yes. He said oh that’s too bad. I hung up the phone and promptly got a call from my daughter.

“Just come, we’ll figure it out.”

“But Sarah, I don’t have any contacts except the ones I’m wearing. I don’t have my glasses! I don’t have any clothes!”

She said, don’t worry, we can go to Target, and you can borrow things of mine.

Well…okay, I said. I’m coming!

It was getting late so I didn’t try to go back to Economy Parking, but pulled into Central Parking instead. Yes I know its expensive, but it would be really stupid after all of this to miss my flight!

Central Parking was jammed packed and it took me awhile to find a place to park. I wrote down my level (4) and row (bb) and headed to terminal A. With TSA Pre it didn’t take me long to clear security and I was at my gate just as they started to board.

It was a great weekend. I went to Target that night and wandered through the store, grabbing must-haves like saline solution and a contact case, a toothbrush, floss, and a comb. I quickly selected a couple of t-shirt and maxi dresses, a pair of yoga pants, some underwear, socks, sandals and a sports bra. I grabbed a couple of t-shirts and something to sleep in, and I was set.

I was able to help some with the reno; I can paint (except for the edges) and I was a good errand-runner too! Sarah made a yummy brunch on Sunday morning, and we took her little dog Mika for a nice walk. I managed to get my daily contacts to last two full days, and I could see close-up in the morning if I held things right in front of my nose. I made the best of it, and figured, oh well! My suitcase was waiting for me at home, right?

Sunday night I flew back to Boston. It was rainy and cold, and it took me forever to find my car in Central Parking, even though theoretically I knew where it was. I think I came out a different exit in terminal A and that got me turned all around. They give you 30 minutes to leave the garage from the time you pay, and I think I cut it pretty close.

I drove down I-93 in the rain and fog, eager to get home and get my glasses out of my suitcase and throw the overused contacts in my eyes away. I turn into our driveway, get the mail out of the mailbox and look for the NYTs in the driveway. Its not there. Hmmm, that’s strange. Well sometimes they miss the delivery; I’ll have to call them in the morning.

I drive up to the garage. The NYTs in right outside the garage. Hmmmm, that’s strange too. Someone must have brought it there, because the delivery people NEVER do that. I open the garage. The suitcase isn’t there. Wait, where did I leave it? I thought I had left it right next to the car, but maybe not. Did I leave it in the basement, by the garage door? No. Upstairs? No. Somewhere odd in the house? No. Outside? NO! Did someone come up to the house, see it, and put it on the front porch or the back deck? No….. I go get a flashlight and walk down our long dark driveway in the rain, checking both sides. No suitcase.

I’m very disturbed. I have no idea where it could be. I’ve looked all over the house, in semi-logical and totally illogical places. My suitcase is gone.

Its 1:30 in the morning and I’m exhausted. I need to go to sleep and deal with this in the morning. I do what little unpacking I have, take out my contacts and dig out my old “emergency” glasses. They are really old, probably over 10 years. I can barely see out of them, but they do improve my distance vision. 

Even though I’m very tired I toss and turn all night. I’m up early too. By now I’m in recovery mode. I send my neighbors a text, asking them if they’ve seen anything odd. I start making a list of the things I’ve lost and planning how and when to replace them. I call Lee and tell him and he clearly thinks I’m losing it. So do I, but I also think someone took it. There is simply no other explanation.

On Monday I get ready to do the most urgent replacements, things like ordering new glasses and buying a razor. Late in the morning I get a phone call. Its a 603 area code but an unknown number. I answer it, just hoping against hope….

“Hi, is this Lynn Nill?”


“I think I found your suitcase on Mary Anne Avenue”

At this point the poor man can’t get another word in edgewise as I am exclaiming and thanking and babbling to beat the band. He is coming down Shore Drive and I meet him in the driveway. Its my suitcase all right, torn and covered in mud. It looks like its been dragged and beaten up. I quickly open it. Nothing inside has been disturbed or damaged, but everything is soaking wet.

I thank him over and over again, drag my suitcase up to the house and start to unpack. I’ve got to wash everything, but except for the suitcase itself, everything else is okay. I do throw away my toothbrush and my comb, however. It just seemed creepy to keep them.

it took me awhile to calm down enough to speculate on what could have possibly happened. Did someone come up the driveway for some reason and steal it, and then think better of it and throw it to the side of the road where it was hit by someone and buried in the mud? Maybe. Did someone come up the driveway and somehow get it caught on their car and drag it over to Mary Anne Avenue before it finally fell off? Maybe. The guy that returned it was a salvage guy. Maybe HE came up the driveway, saw the suitcase, threw it in his truck, left it there until Monday and then thought better of it and called me? Who knows!

I’ll never know a) what I did with the suitcase and b) what happened to it after I left it wherever I left it. I wish that suitcase could talk! Then it could write this saga as a first person narrative. Oh well. I’m just so happy it was returned. You never know how dependent you are on your glasses and contacts until they are gone…

Monday, April 17, 2017

Florida 2017: Part I in Which We Travel from New Hampshire to Safety Harbor, and Get Settled

On Friday, January 27th we loaded up the truck and the RV, and started our now annual drive to Florida for the month of February. We're trying something a little different this time. Since we have the RV, why not hitch it up and extend our winter escape by a couple of weeks on both ends? The only catch is the RV isn't winter-proof so we have to get south of anything resembling winter before we can use it. Catherine is willing to put us up for a night, so our first stop is in Fairfax, Virginia. This works well, or it should have anyway, but in our quest to avoid driving the RV through NYC and Baltimore we go wayyyy out of our way, west into Pennsylvania before crossing into Maryland and heading east. It's a beautiful drive but we probably lose an hour at least by doing so. We'll have to figure out a better route when we head home.

Saturday morning we waste no time getting back on the road. We have another long drive, this time all the way to Hilton Head Island. We arrive after dark, but Lee has no problem backing into our spot. This will be our home until Tuesday.

I take the dogs for a short walk while Lee gets the trailer set up. When I get back Lee says "we may have a problem." There is water all over the bathroom floor. We have a leak, but at first he doesn't know where it's coming from. I keep the dogs out of his way, and periodically go outside to turn the water on and then back off. He finally figures out that the leak is coming from the toilet, and eventually figures out why. When he winterized the RV he blew water out of all the tubes and valves, except one. Now we have a cracked flush valve, and no functioning toilet.

Now that he knows what's wrong Lee can turn off the water to the toilet, but we have running water in the sinks so we're okay. We can use the park's bathroom for the time being, and we have a temporary "chamber pot" for that first night.

In the morning Lee researches his options. It's Sunday so a lot of things are closed until noon. In the meantime we decide to try out the Sunday brunch at the park's restaurant. Wow! Beautiful view and amazing food. Lee has fried chicken and biscuits, I have smoked salmon and grits. Usually when we go out to eat one entree beats the others and is declared the "best" but this time they both are so good there is no clear winner. Oh and the Bloody Mary's with smoked plobano peppers are amazing too.

After brunch we decide to take the dogs to one of the dog friendly beaches so they can get some exercise. They've been cooped up in the truck for two long days and have lots of yayas that need to get out. On our way out we stop at the office to meet Lily, the thirteen year old Westie that belongs to the real estate agent for the park. She is less than thrilled by the sudden invasion by three dogs, even if they do look like her. She makes her objection known immediately and our dogs give her a wide berth.

They realtor suggests that we try Fish Haul Beach. It has a nice nature trail and lots of open beach where the dogs can run to their hearts content. It's great except Cosmo ends up back on leash before very long because he won't mind his manners with other dogs we meet that are on leash, even though he is not.

Back at the RV Lee has a solution to our broken valve problem until he can get a replacement part. The shower has a handheld nozzle and it will reach the toilet, so we can use water from the shower to flush the toilet. We are back in business!

Jan 29th, Monday. After a short run around the RV park in the morning we decide to try to take the dogs for a walk in one of the Hilton Head’s nature preserves. The only problem is they are all closed due to damage from hurricane Mathew last fall. But there seem to be nice bike paths all over the island so we park in a little pocket park and start walking along one of the paths. Totally by accident we end up at another really beautiful ocean view, Alder Beach. We leave the dogs on their leashes but walk closer to the water to watch the dolphins playing in the waves. By the time we walk back to the car we have walked over 4 miles. It's frustrating that my back and leg still hurt, off and on. I will start trying to reduce the amount of pain meds I take, but I get to a certain amount and the pain comes back. It's nerve pain, so sitting for long periods makes it worse, and walking is more uncomfortable than running.

Jan 30th, Tuesday. We head to The Villages. We are going to visit Mimi and Sel, my aunt and uncle. Mimi is my father's youngest sister. It's only a five hour drive so we take our time leaving, and get to the Wildwood  KOA Kampground by 4 pm. The people in the front office are very friendly, but this campground wins the award for worst RV park we've stayed in so far, hands down. It's crowded. The campsites are tiny, with no privacy. The lots are not level at all. The roads are sandy. I take the dogs for a walk while Lee sets things up. It's definitely a challenge to get the RV level, in fact, we appear to be in danger of rolling right off our jacks, which would be very bad. Lee moves the wheel chucks around so that we feel more secure, but it still makes me uneasy.

We drive over to Mimi and Sel's. We bring the dogs, but their sweet little dog Scooby doesn't like other dogs, especially in his own space, so we leave ours in the big soft-sided crate out in their garage. It's a chilly evening, so it's no problem. We go to dinner at a nearby restaurant. It's so nice to see them, talk, catch up on all their grandchildren and their activities. We'll see them again on our way home, but we'll stay in a different RV park!

In the morning we take the RV over to the place where we are going to store it for the month. We don't need it in Safety Harbor and we don't have a place to park it there either. So for $60 it's in a safe place and we don't have to think about it until we're on our way home.

It takes longer than we thought it would to get the RV settled in its new home. We need some lunch but the traffic around the Villages is terrible this time of year because of all the snowbirds. We finally find a Subway at a gas station. Then we can make it through the short drive to Safety Harbor.

We arrive in Safety Harbor around 3 pm. Our nice rental house looks as great as ever, and the construction next door is finished so it's nice and quiet too. We walk down to the Raw Bar for dinner. The oysters are from the gulf so we get grouper bowls instead. I get a margarita too. We're happy to be back in our second home.

When we got back to New Hampshire people asked me how we liked our vacation. But it really doesn’t feel like a vacation. Its more like Florida is just a warm, sunny, beautiful place to continue living our lives. Lee has brought his industrial sewing machine along, so he can continue working on his boat projects. I have brought my embroidery and my camera, plus I can write, bike, and take boxing and other fitness classes at the spa.  Its fun, and enjoyable, but not an earth-shaking experience. We like it this way!

In the evening of our first night we walk over to the house that Dr. Pauls is renting for the month. When my friend Catherine visited last year she enjoyed it so much that she and her sisters found a house for their father to rent for the month, and the sisters (there are four) are taking turns staying with him. Joan, the second sister, is here for the next couple of weeks. We invite them over for dinner tomorrow. Its fun having friends in town! We feed them chicken a la Becca, a family recipe that involves a cut up chicken and a tangy tomato sauce. For dessert I bought dessert bars from Joey’s Biscotti, a bakery just a couple of blocks away. They come in many different flavors and the bars are huge. Each one is like a mini cake; we can split them four ways so we can have a taste of each one.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Dopey Challenge 2017 - The Monday After

We were doing Animal Kingdom with our friends today, but I was very very tired and didn't want to rush. I really wasn't that sore, just exhausted. So Paula went on ahead and I took my time, eating, stretching, rolling, and getting partially packed for my flight home on Tuesday. Eventually I was ready to go to Animal Kingdom. I made it there just in time for our fastpass on the Dinosaur ride. This was a fun ride, not scary, with very realistic dinosaurs growling ferociously around every turn. Diane's granddaughter Alair loves dinosaurs. I hope some day she gets to go on that ride!

After Dinosaur it was time for another roller coaster - Everest. I think I was on roller coaster overload, because I had been dreading this ride for several days. It was another themed ride, the search for the yeti on a runaway train through the Himalayas, but you could see it from far away, and hear the people screaming too. I said I didn't want to go on it, but then at the last minute I changed my mind. I didn't want to be mad at myself for missing the experience.

To tell the truth I can't say I enjoyed it, but it was a very good ride, with some really scary components. I actually wish I could have another chance to ride it, when I was more well rested and less anxiety ridden. Who knows, maybe someday!

After Everest we made our way to the Nomad Bar. Tucked away in a corner of Animal Kingdom, this is another aspect of Disney for Grownups. A quiet and peaceful, beautiful, romantic hideaway, right in the middle of an amusement park. We sat on the comfortable couches and drank some delicious and unusual cocktails. In fact all of our drinks were so interesting that we passed them all around so that everyone could have a taste!

It was time for dinner and our luck held. It was close to the time for our reservation and we found the bus we needed to take in no time at all. Off to the Polynesian Resort we went, to their wonderful restaurant with an all you can eat Hawaiian feast. They brought us salad, bread, potstickers, veggies, Singapore noodles. They came around to the table with skewers of steak, chicken and shrimp. They brought bread pudding with caramel sauce and ice cream for dessert. We tried to pace ourselves, but it was hard. What a feast!

The plan for the evening was a monorail pub crawl. It sounded like a great idea, and I really wanted to go on at least part of it, but I just couldn't. I didn't want anymore alcohol and all I really wanted to do was go back to the hotel and go to sleep.

I hugged my friends and tried to thank them for showing me such an amazing time. How do you thank someone for planning and executing such a great vacation? I'm still in awe.

My flight home was trouble free, although it was a bit of a shock to see the cold grey snowy expanse of New Hampshire spread out below me when we landed. Lee met me at the airport with the dogs and it was so very very nice to see all of them, my family, furry and otherwise.

Well I'll have to put the Dopey Challenge right up there with Philly and New York in my top marathon experiences. Not by time, but this wasn't about time. 48.6 miles, 70,000 Fitbit steps in one day, 190,000 Fitbit steps in one week. Four parks, 7 days, 4 races in a row. Setbacks, triumphs, running in the resorts to get our 13.1 miles with 100's of other runners. 6,500 Dopey Finishers, 75 Dopey women in the 60-64 age group. My last marathon before I graduate to the 65-70 age group!

I don't know what the future holds. My leg is still somewhat sore, and I've got to take it easy for awhile and hopefully let it heal. I have no idea if I have any speed left in me, but the endurance is certainly still there, and I think I've got more training and racing smarts to employ. I know I need to start allowing for some of the disadvantages of aging, allowing more time for recovery for one thing. But I don't have any intention of stopping, not yet, maybe not ever. I love running. Who would have ever thought that un-athletic uncoordinated kid would end up as a marathon runner? Pretty darn incredible, that's all I can say!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Dopey Challenge 2017 - Race Number Four: The Marathon

I was up at 2:45 am Sunday morning. It was very cold out. The storm had blown through leaving temps in the 30's and icy winds in its wake. I wore a short sleeved shirt, with a long sleeved tech shirt over it, and a long sleeved throwaway shirt over THAT. I wore a garbage bag over that, and a Mylar blanket on top of it all. I had bought a pink stocking cap and gloves at the resort market yesterday, and I'm glad I did. And to think a week ago I was worrying about the heat!

The traffic to the race start was bad so it took awhile for the bus to get there. We had trouble finding the VIP Race Retreat tent and by the time we did it was almost time to get in our corrals. But we had our own gear check and porta potties, and we had a little time out of the wind.

The walk from the staging area to the corrals was long, probably a half mile, much like the Marine Corp Marathon in DC.  We were still walking along when they played the national anthem and the first wave began, but again we were in one of the back corrals so it really didn't matter. We found our corral and kind squirmed our way into the middle where it was a  little warmer. For the marathon they set off fireworks for the start of each corral. That was fun! They warned us to get rid of our Mylar blankets before we passed the start because they messed up the timing chips, so at the last minute I reluctantly got rid of the blanket and the garbage bag. But I still had on three shirts, my hat and gloves. I've learned my lessons from Marine Corp and New York. Cold marathons are great but you have to stay warm at the start!

The marathon ran along the roads for awhile before dipping into a park. It goes through four parks: Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Epcot, plus the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. But you also spend a lot of time out on the roads. The roads were cold and windy, the parks a little warmer. Many people complain that running the roads around Disney is boring; there aren't any spectators, and there's not much to see. But I liked the roads as much as the parks in a way. The quietness of the roads made it that much more exciting when we entered a park. And Disney tried hard to make the roads interesting. There were bands, marching and otherwise. There was music. There were volunteers cheering us on here and there. And occasionally there was a huge movie screen projecting an animation short, often with dancing and singing Disney characters timed to music. I loved those! They took my mind off any tiredness and were energizing.

And of course there are the Disney characters. We didn't get in the long lines, but if a line only had 5 or 6 people in it we were game. I loved getting our picture taken with the big bad wolf! That was funny. I tried to make a growling face at him and I think it worked pretty well!

The first park we went through was Hollywood Studios. We entered the part close to the Tower of Terror, ran along the streets, and then back out again onto the roads. It didn't last long at all. The next park was Animal Kingdom and again it was in and out. But we wove our way through the Magic Kingdom for quite awhile. The highlight was running through Cinderella's Castle. It's so pretty, and I got all excited running through it and didn't realize that Paula had stopped to take a picture. 

This is the only time we lost each other. I stopped and we texted, trying to find each other. First she ran right by me and it took us a little bit to realize that she was ahead of me. Finally we found each other. We wanted to stay together. It's really something new for me to run a race with someone else. It made the time fly by and gave me something else to think about besides my own aches and pains and fears.

After the Magic Kingdom we were back out on the roads for awhile. Usually around mile thirteen I'm ready to stop and pee, but at Disney the porta potties always had lines, and I think the cold makes me need to pee more. We were shameless and squatted in the bushes twice, and a third time behind a shed in the ESPN Complex! One place we stopped there was a sign warning of alligators but I said I didn't care. I did face the bushes however in case one came charging out of the trees!

Somewhere along the course they were handing out bananas. I didn't want one yet, but I took one anyway in case I wanted it later. I tried sticking it in the back of my shorts but that didn't work too well. It kind of dropped into my underpants and I had to retrieve it through one of the legs, which Paula said made it look like I pooped a banana! Then I stuck it in the front of my shorts, which worked much better, although that looked strange in a different way.....

Some people think ESPN is boring but I thought it was fun too. That place is huge; we must have been inside it for close to 5 miles. We ran around practice fields, we ran around a track, and we ran into the spring training complex for the Rays and ran all around the baseball field. They even showed the runners on the Jumbotron but we never saw ourselves cause we couldn't figure out where the camera was.

Somewhere in ESPN we hit Mile 20. At 20 I start to feel optimistic about a marathon but I can't get too happy yet. A lot can still happen in 6 miles. Paula was getting a little tired and our running method changed a bit. She fell behind me a tad, still running and walking whenever I did, me checking back to make sure I didn't lose her. I didn't want to tell her too soon, but we were going to speed up a little at mile 23. I knew she could do it, and so could I. 

Right before mile 23 I told her, "starting at mile 23 each time we run, when the beeper goes off we count to 10 before we stop”. We had been using a run/walk ratio of 30/60, so now we're walking 50 seconds, and running 40.  This pace carried us through the end of ESPN and back out onto the roads. She did suggest that we walk up some of the hills, and that was fine. But we HAD to run up the one where the army guy from Toy Story was yelling at us!

Army Guy!

When we entered Epcot suddenly there were huge crowds screaming and yelling for us. It was pretty thrilling. And people had Skittles, Snickers and Twizzlers they were handing out to the runners, which is so wonderful in the last miles of a marathon when the thought of another gel makes me want to puke. At mile 25 I said "okay for the last mile we count to 20 at the end of each run sequence before we stop!" So then we were walking 40 seconds and running 50. I'm sure Paula hated me a little bit right then but she was game and stuck with me.

When we entered the finish chute we agreed - no crying until after the finish line - and we ran over the finish hand in hand. We were so HAPPY! I was so relieved, this was a race I wasn't sure I could do, but we did. My 7th marathon and Paula's 2nd. Yay!!!!

We got our picture of the finish line, our marathon medal, our water. My leg felt fine, no need to stop and get ice or biofreeze. I had stopped to use some biofreeze sometime during the late miles of the race and I think that really helped. My quads were very tight, but I've certainly felt worse at the end of other marathons.

We went to the Challenge tent and got our Goofy medal (for completing the half and full marathons) and our Dopey medal. We went to the VIP tent, retrieved our gear bags and got a little something to eat. They had an amazing brunch spread out, but my stomach had been bothering me the entire race so I didn't eat as much as I would have liked. I did eat some mac and cheese and drank hot chocolate and they tasted great.

Paula really wanted to get our picture taken with Dopey, but I really wanted to make it to the buses before the last one left for the resorts at 2 pm. Dopey wasn’t there anyway, but there was a nice-looking backdrop so we took advantage of it. Paula had put all the medals in her gear bag and she lent me hers so we could both get our pictures taken with all 6 medals.

We made it on the bus just in time. A hot shower, stretching, and rolling my sore muscles all felt great. We had time to rest a little before it was time to try to get to Narcoossee's for dinner with our friends. Unfortunately we just missed a bus and the wait was going to make us late to our reservation so we took an Uber instead. Disney free transportation is great, but it's been nice to have Uber as a backup just in case.

Paula and I both proudly wore our race shirts, and our Dopey medal. Lots of congratulations came our way as we made our way through the Grand Floridian Resort. The only thing was it was COLD outside and we had to walk quite a ways through the grounds of the resort to get to the restaurant. I was just freezing. Narcoossee's was nice, however. I had a celebratory Manhattan. I had their lobster bisque which was wonderful, and warming, and then Paula and I split an order of the scallops. That way we had room for dessert. We got the chocolate cake and the almond cheesecake for everyone to share. Cheesecake isn't my favorite dessert but that almond thing was one of the best desserts I've ever tasted. It beat out the chocolate which is saying quite a lot.

After dinner we took the monorail over to the Contemporary Resort and went up in the tower, which is exclusive to Disney Vacation Club members. We could go up there as Amy and Bill's guests. It was very crowded because everyone goes up there to see the 8 pm fireworks. The view is better outside on the balcony and there's music too, but it was just too cold.

After that Paula and I were ready to cash it in. The Contemporary is a huge resort and it took us awhile to figure out where the lobby was so we could catch another Uber back to our hotel. We finally did, and it wasn't very long before I was in bed. I woke up once at 5 am, and thought NOOOOOOO and the next thing I knew it was after 7!


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