Life’s a Beach

After New Year’s our good friend Michael was in the park with us for a few days after attending a wedding party in Houston. Michael and Randy have been good friends for many years since we met in Mexico. We have visited them in Philadelphia several times and they have a great parking spot for the bus, a beautifully curated garden right in the middle of the city. Heavenly.

Randy passed away in February of last year, to all of our shock, and we were looking forward to seeing Michael and catching up.
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Layered beach.

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We organized a trip to the beach on South Padre Island since the weather was fabulous and it turned into a big group of about thirty people! We ate and drank and played games and splashed in the surf while the fog came and went.

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Foggy dunes

We even refurbished the sign designating the nude beach since the paint had faded away. It’s a ways down the beach. Before and after.
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We enjoyed tamales from Delia’s when we got back to the bus and as a native Texan, Michael gave his approval. They are really good.

Another evening we made dinner for our neighbors returning to the park, Jim’s famous cioppino. In the meantime we talked and swam and truly enjoyed and appreciated Michael’s company. We had a great visit and plan to see him again sometime this summer. We always look forward to the various garden projects and hopefully we can help more now that Randy is gone.

And he brought us a lovely reminder of Randy for the bus, a deep blue shot glass that he culled from Randy’s studio. We treasure it and the memories it brings back. But first and foremost we treasure our good friends.
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Happy New Year!

A little late;  I know. We’ve been busy swimming laps, playing volleyball, socializing, having dinners with friends, going to the beach, herding cats and enjoying time with visitors. Whew! The weather is supposed to turn cooler and rainy so we will have a few days of downtime to catch our breath.

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Late in 2015 I saw a Facebook post suggesting that folks get a jar with a lid and each week write a post-it note about a positive experience that week. Then at the end of the year, open the jar and read all the notes for a year in review.

I’m all for being positive and grateful so we decided to try it. We used an apple butter jar that we got on a bike trail somewhere and were pretty good about adding notes. A bonus was that every time we opened the jar to add one, the apple butter aroma wafted out.

When we opened the jar on New Year’s Day it was fun and gratifying to relive the experience and be thankful all over again. I didn’t photograph them all but we were fairly consistent throughout the year. A few examples.

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We wrote about this here.

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The best part about shingles.

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This unfolded really well…

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Just reading back through the blog and all the lovely people and places we have gotten to experience is humbling and gratifying. We know we are BIG BIG Lucky…

We have already started our jar for this year and it still smells like apple butter! Try it! You’ll be glad you did.

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Merry Christmas From The Mighty Bus

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The day before Christmas we pause to wish all our friends and family the Happiest Holiday possible. Some are filled with good will and cheer and others suffer from loss of loved ones and disability. We love you all.

The figurines above are our sole decoration in the bus. They took up about four inches of real estate on top of the charging cabinet until I realized that the cats traversing the narrow topped cabinet would result in ruin. So I took the pic and wrapped them back up. When my sister and I broke up my Aunt Muriel’s house, I kept these. I gave them to my mother in law in 1995 because she loved Christmas so much. When she died and they broke up her house in 2014 I got them back. I never realized how drunk they are. As a friend here said, Like us at a super happy hour.

We are fortunate enough to enjoy good weather and friends here in South Texas. It is warm and wonderful.

Best of the season to you.

The beauty in me salutes the beauty in you. Namaste.

And Then We Were Thankful…

When we were in Pensacola meeting up with B and Jim they graciously invited us for Thanksgiving dinner at their place. We hadn’t planned on arriving at our winter spot until after Thanksgiving but not only did we want to enjoy dinner, Jim had to practice for his first Jam Band performance on Friday. So from Padre Island, we headed for the Rio Grande Valley.

B explained the logistics and menu: We all gathered for the first course of Jim’s famous oyster pie and champagne, a longtime tradition of theirs. And more oysters! After the first course we all dispersed to warm up our stuff, then reconvened for the main event.Cecilia and Paul brought a smoked turkey and everybody made a side. There were sweet potatoes, gravy, mashed potatoes, the best brussels sprouts and green beans. Cranberry and a Mexican relish. Stuffing, of course. Buttermilk biscuits. More gravy.

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The table
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The oyster pie
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All the yummy deliciousness

We had a great group of 10 for the day, all from the park except for Cecilia and Paul from Austin. They are Airstream people like B and Jim and parked right next to us so we got to know them in the week or so they were there. They had a little dog, Honey who almost met Carmella and played well with Maisy, B’s dog.
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Honey and Cecilia

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Paul dresses for dinner.

After dinner we relaxed over more wine. B played her harp for us.
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Their house is full of colorful and interesting things and a story goes with each one. It was nice to learn more about their lives and history.

After Maisy got a walk and our food had settled down, we walked across the park to Dona and Stan’s place for three fabulous desserts; a raspberry cobbler, pecan caramel tarts and pumpkin cheesecake. And more wine. And coffee. The raspberry treat with ice cream (!) was so good I couldn’t stop eating it.
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Fortunately, I did get a taste of the cheesecake as we reconvened for meal #2 on Sunday. We finished off the turkey and ate a few more sides and I got to enjoy a piece. Delicious!

The whole weekend was just what the doctor ordered; a relaxing and recharging weekend with friends, puppies, good food, drink and thoughtful conversation.

We are thankful.

 

Otra Vez: Padre Island National Seashore

Time to head for our winter spot in south Texas. When we got a Thanksgiving dinner invitation from B and Jim we had a deadline. And my Jim wanted to practice with the band he plays in at the park before they performed right after Thanksgiving.

We were already pointed west and stopped for a few last days of beach bicycling at Padre Island National Seashore. We went back to the same campground on the beach we were at in 2014 except now with our senior pass it was just $4 a night. We settled in for a few more days of bicycling, cat walking and eating fresh seafood.

The first day it was misting a little in the morning when we took off down to the beach. We had gone just a short way before the sky opened up so we turned around and went back to the bus. The next day was gorgeous and we got in about 25 miles in all. Riding on the beach takes more energy, not just because of the wind, but the sand although hard packed has more friction than the average road or trail. It’s pretty easy to just cruise along on some of the trails we’ve ridden. Not so at the beach. The panoramic views were spectacular.
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The beach
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The dunes

That evening we had a nice sunset and I decided to fool around with my new Layered Skies project. I have put these images together before but this was the first time I shot particularly for this technique I discovered by accident. The results. There are infinite possibilities.

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This will be a fun project to fool around with while we are parked for the winter since the sky is ever changing and it is about all there is to take photos of. More coming soon.

Tammany Trace & Biloxi Blues

After leaving Sumrall, we spent the weekend in Slidell, Louisiana at the Elks which was right on a lake and close to the Tammany Trace. We have ridden the whole Trace and it is a great trail. They need to make some new ones!

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The lake we camped on had fish to feed and lots of turtles. A bluebird nest was in a hollowed out tree and the heron came to visit. We were there for the supermoon but it was behind some trees until higher in the sky. We had the place to ourselves except for the caretaker. There was a kid’s playground and Carmella loved running around on that. She even tried to go up the slide and ran up the seesaw until it moved and she jumped off.

After a couple of days riding, we decided to continue our Gulf Coast seafood crawl with a stop at Darwell’s Cafe in Long Beach on the agenda. The shrimp creole and crab cakes did not disappoint.


We  landed at the Elks Lodge in Biloxi, right across from the beach and next to the old French Cemetery. Carmella loved the cemetery!

And, as the Elks Exalted Ruler (yes, that’s really what they call the Lodge leader!) pointed out, they have no problems with the neighbors. The live oaks draped with Spanish moss provided shade and atmosphere for the graves, some dating back to the 1700s. Of course, being right across from the beach, it saw major damage in Hurricane Katrina but a restoration project was launched and except for a couple glued-back-together tombstones, you would never know. Those live oaks must be tough because all along the coast we saw places where homes had been. The houses were completely gone but the trees remain. Toward Gulfport the land across from the beach was completely devoid of buildings and lots of property was for sale.

We didn’t get the bikes out here but instead walked to the Ohr O’Keefe Museum to see the work of George Ohr, “the mad potter of Biloxi.” In a career spanning about thirty years until 1910, he produced an astonishing amount of carefully crafted ceramics. Many had whimsical handles and others were formed then obviously imploded or deconstructed, making the viewer look twice. Mugs that you don’t notice at first have holes in the sides. Elaborate handles, some pieces with several handles. The museum is right across from the beach in a complex designed by Frank Gehry. So a double treat to see. A friend had told me about it on our way east, so we walked the few miles to take a look. Wow!

Unfortunately, George never achieved the fame or financial success he desired from his art so he closed his studio and his collection sat untouched for many years until his family sold it to a collector in New York. He was quite the character.

Afterward we were ready for some more seafood so we found the Half Shell Oyster House and settled in with some oysters and a couple of martinis. They go great together. These oysters, while tasty, did not measure up to Peg Leg Pete’s in Pensacola. We really got spoiled there. The martinis were good though and much appreciated.
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A live oak along the way in a lot empty of house.

We scouted out a laundry in El Campo, Texas and there was an Elks Lodge there too which was completely deserted that night. In preparation for our winter in Texas, we washed everything in the bus, blankets, towels, rugs, clothes, bike stuff, cat stuff, quilts and seat covers. The El Campo Super Wash was brand new and had three 6x size washers and plenty of 4x washers. I figured out we did the equivalent of 28 loads of laundry! I need to get rid of some clothes! Planning on that soon.

On to Padre Island for some beach biking.

Back in Sumrall, Y’All

Once we got the go ahead to park at the trail head we made the short hop to Sumrall, Mississippi so we could ride the remainder of the 41 mile long Longleaf Trace that we first found in 2014. That time we parked at Bassfield and rode the Sumrall-Prentiss section.

Herlon Pierce is the gentleman from the Longleaf Trace who OKed us parking in Sumrall at the trail. He has a trail head named after him! How cool is that?
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This is a really great trail, one of the best we have been on. They have lots of amenities and comfy little rest stops all along the way. The section between Hattiesburg and Sumrall is especially well appointed. One aspect we hadn’t seen before is the identifying signs of the trees along the trail.

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There were many varieties including:

  • Southern red oak
  • Longleaf Pine
  • Tung tree
  • Tulip Poplar
  • Mimosa
  • Sumac
  • Post oak
  • Water oak
  • Persimmon
  • Sparkleberry
  • Eastern red cedar
  • Ironwood
  • Sassafras
  • Eastern Dogwood
  • Flowering Dogwood
  • Wax myrtle
  • Blackgum
  • Chnese Tallow tree Loblolly pine
  • Crabapple
  • Poison Ivy (Yes! They marked it.)
  • Shortleaf pine
  • Groundsel tree
  • Hornbeam
  • Yupon
  • Supplejack
  • Southern magnolia
  • Chinese privet
  • Willow Oak
  • Muscadine
  • Cat greenbriar
  • Chinkipin
  • American Holly
  • Swamp Cyrilla “Tuti”
  • Black cherry
  • White oak
  • Cherry oak
  • Hawthorn
  • Devilwood
  • Sourwood
  • Huckleberry

There were probably more that I forgot. When I passed a sign I could ride until I had gotten about ten in my head, then I had to stop and put in my note before I forgot. I had never heard of several of them and Sparkleberry was my favorite.

We rode to Hattiesburg and back the first day, about 30 miles. The flag above the trail was a first. I don’t know James Moore’s  role in the Trace but we appreciate his effort toward a top notch experience.
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Some scenes along the trail.

We got misted on a little bit but no serious rain.

One of the rest stops. Even bridges got “adopted.”
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The next day we rode in the other direction toward Bassfield. When we rode that section before we came upon an exotic animal farm and wanted to see if it was still there. We saw some of the llamas up in another pasture but no prehistoric birds. Glad we saw them before.
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We also witnessed a beautiful incident. In a pasture by the trail were three magnificent horses. One was a very large draft horse. The others were smaller by not by much. I was going to try to get a picture when a truck pulled into the upper pasture and they started off at a trot toward the truck. It quickly escalated into a full gallop. As the driver went back to shut the gate, he waved his arms at the approaching horses. The others turned back but one of them, a beautifully proportioned tan and white beauty with a long mane, managed to slip past him and galloped into the adjoining field. We stopped to watch as he pranced and cavorted with his head high for a good ten minutes before allowing himself to be corralled. It looked like this has happened before. No pictures, you had to be there.

On the way back we stopped at this sign and decided to get some eggs.
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We headed down this drive and entered a whole other world, the world of Major Woodworking. There were chickens and kitties and piles of wood carefully covered.dsc_8787
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He makes custom counter tops and flooring and when a big tree goes down, they know who to call, Major. He and his helpers Jimmy and Scott uncovered something that he said would be worth taking a picture of.

These red oak planks are about 10 feet long, four feet wide and four or five inches thick. There were other piles he didn’t uncover; he had about a dozen planks this size. He showed us a picture in his phone of the tree before they milled it and was going to email it to me. It was a monster.

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Oreo guarding the planks once they’re covered back up.

And kitties.
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These two cuties posed willingly.
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Mom, not so much. We like those orange tabby females.

Scott and his 2002 Vette. He’s pretty proud of it and rightly so.
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Major took his time and we talked for quite a while. He went to the trouble to explain his work and we gained a real appreciation for his skill. We asked about the chickens and the local wildlife. He even cut us a piece of sugar cane.

As with most property owners along a rails-to-trails project, when first confronted with the idea, they are against it. As Major said, waving his hand toward the trail, “That’s our front yard.” They planted screening and it has grown up well but he may clear it out again. We said we hoped he and his neighbors have found that bicyclists are peaceful people. It took a while, he said, but he came around and now he gives us a look into his world and sells us eggs. We ended up with two dozen and they are delicious.

It was the best and most affirming experience of the day.

Buds, Bikes, Beaches and Bivalves

We spent a couple of nights at the deserted Elks Lodge riding the Fall Line Trace in Columbus, Georgia. It’s a short trail, only about 16 miles but a good ride and nice surface. In some spots it is really wide! Right by the Elks though. Next time we will do the Chattahoochee Trail that Linda recommended.

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We wanted to do some riding on the beach like at Padre Island a few years ago so we found a trail in Tallahassee, the Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail that looked like a good option. There is an Elks in Tallahassee but it is nowhere near the trail. So we decided on Gulf Islands National Seashore outside Pensacola. That sounded good too because we have friends from Texas in Pensacola but it turned out they were already back in Texas. They pointed us in the right direction for food though.

We used our senior pass to get four nights at a really reasonable rate. Right across from the beach! Low rate = more $$ for oysters. We rode in to Peg Leg Pete’s from Fort Pickens for lunch. We ate these oysters and some more, along with grouper nuggets. Washed down with margaritas. I found a pearl in one of mine; never had that happen before. Even after we rode the ten miles back to the bus we were still stuffed. In a good way.

We were right between the Gulf of Mexico and Santa Rosa Bay and perfectly situated for two mornings of flyover practice by the Blue Angels based at the Navy Base in Pensacola. Our own private air show!
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And the beach! White quartz sand that sparkles against the very turquoise water. We slogged our bikes down to the water one day only to discover that the sand was too soft to ride on. Not like Padre Island where we could ride for miles. After we pushed them back up the dunes to the road we saw the No Bicycles sign. OOPS.

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Sunset one evening.

Another evening. I took this with my phone riding in the back seat of a car!
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We knew our Texas friends and Airstream adventurers B and Jim were in the area and we started petitioning them to come on over, especially after we had eaten at Peg Leg Pete’s. Jim is a raw oyster aficionado and they are always posting pictures on Facebook that make us hungry.

It turned out they weren’t too far west yet so they came and camped right across from us. We started eating in earnest then. More oysters, of course.

And fish, crab cakes, key lime pie. All even more delicious when enjoyed with friends and good conversation. Our waiter at our second day’s lunch was a friendly sort and the subject somehow turned to politics. Imagine that! He said he wasn’t going to vote for anybody and we four, being of similar political persuasion, urged him and all his friends to be realistic and vote. And Florida… Let’s hope he does.

We saw a dog park on the beach and later went back so Maisy could get in a little beach time. They spent last summer as lighthouse keepers and guides in Oregon and Maisy loves the beach. She is always in motion!
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The next morning Jim and B went west. They will be back in Texas in just a few days! We will continue to mosey along our seafood/bicycle route, yet to be determined.

We found an Elks Lodge in Hattiesburg on a lake. We had called the city of Sumrall on the Longleaf Trace to see if we could park at the trailhead and ride the one section of the trail we haven’t yet. We were still waiting to hear back from them when we decided to stay at the Elks an extra night. Remote, quiet with lots of room for the kitties to roam. And right on the lake.
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We got the word that it was OK to park at the trail head for a few days so we made fuel and food stops before settling in right next to the trail. We will be here for a few days and had to make sure we had satellite coverage so we can follow the election. And football, of course.

 

 

Faith in Humanity Restored*

*See previous post.

We made our way back to the Chief Ladiga Trail campground and settled in for a few days of R&R. After being at the Choo Choo Garage for ten days we were ready for a change of scene so we returned to this campground right on the bike trail. We had been here in the spring, right before I got shingles on our visit to the Choo Choo Garage. I told Joel I was a little nervous about going back but reminded myself that I got the shot and it’s mostly over.

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Our view in the spring

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And in the fall

We told Terry in the spring that this was the best campground we had ever been in. Quiet and beautiful, it is a true hidden gem. We have our same site right along the creek but it is much drier now. They haven’t had rain in over two months and the leaves are crunchy underfoot. Even though there are no hookups here we planned to stay for several days now that we have a working generator.

Some scenes along the Chief Ladiga Trail.

We planned to sleep, walk the kitties, ride the trail and eat at the Solid Rock Cafe. I had my heart set on their Sunday buffet which we happened onto when we were here last. I also needed a haircut. The first day we rode to Piedmont and I found a salon. When I went in to ask about a haircut she said she was fully booked all day. Hmmm. She probably took one look at my hair and thought “I don’t want to touch that!” I asked if there was another place and she reluctantly sent me down the street to Michelle’s Beauty Boutique. As it happens, Beauty Boutique was the name of the place I got my hair cut in Kansas City for years.

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Michelle was working on someone when I went in but said in about 15 minutes she had time. We sat outside while she finished up. When it was my turn,she and I had a wide-ranging and interesting conversation all sparked by that old question, “Where are you from?” We get that in the south all the time because as Bobbie at the campground explained, “I could tell ya’ll not from around here because of your dialect.”  I explained about the bus and traveling and she remarked that we got to see and experience many things most people don’t. I told her I was well aware of that and felt extremely fortunate. She was complimentary and curious; a delight to chat with. Plus I got a great haircut!

When we approached the counter so I could pay her she said “Today is on the house. I just enjoyed meeting you and it was so interesting talking with you” That was totally unexpected! I protested and she refused. “I want to do this for you. At least she let me tip her. Best haircut ever. And a truly heartwarming experience that touched me deeply.
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With a little more spring in my step, we headed to the Solid Rock for lunch. It did not disappoint and we noted the time of the buffet on Sunday. Sadly, we went on Sunday and they were closed! Just every few weeks. We recalibrated and went to the Piedmont Diner and had a good barbecue plate.

Piedmont has lots of cool old/new signs all around the town.
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That evening some tent campers pulled in on bikes and we chatted a bit. Lonnie and Patricia were riding the Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga Trails from Smyrna, Georgia. And Lonnie was pulling a trailer. There is a section of the Silver Comet Trail between Rockmart and Cedartown that is very steep and hilly and they had ridden that section the day we met them. With the trailer. Yikes! I remember that part of the trail and we walked our bikes in several spots; it is that steep. Patricia said they had to leave her bike at the bottom of the hill while she helped push up the trailer then went back to get her bike. Several times. They were ready to ditch the trailer for the final leg.
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Lonnie and Patricia on arrival

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A couple days later they came and picked up the trailer to take back to Piedmont where they would retrieve it by car.

We told them we were going to be here for a few days and offered to keep it for them till they returned. Now these folks didn’t know us from Adam but they gladly accepted the offer. I made them coffee the next morning before they took off for Anniston, about 30 miles away. They are both 71 years young and Patricia explained that since they didn’t have too many years left so they were doing what they want now. Great plan. She said that they were the kind of people who just say, “We can do this!” And then they do. They love to kayak and paddleboard too and the trailer comes in handy there too. We always enjoy meeting like minded spirits and bike riders. When we explained to them about the bus and traveling Patricia asked “Well, what do you do about church?”

I hesitated before answering that we don’t attend church but I have always viewed gardening, nature, and bicycling as my church. And yoga. Spirit knows no bounds. We forget to ask if they had bus parking at their house but we have their contact info and an invitation anytime we are in their area.

We got in about 80 miles riding the trail. Jim played ukulele and the weather was perfect. The cats were able to go out unleashed for the first time in months and it was a real joy to watch them run around, up trees, chasing each other all around. I was filled with peace and gratitude just sitting by the creek reading my book and watching the kitties run around with Jim playing uke in the background. Like a sponge, I just wanted to soak it all up.

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Great spot for kitties and us too!

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Carmella and Astrid roaming around

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Carmella climbs a tree!

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Carmella, Astrid and Tikita

Some other tent campers arrived on the other side of us and we met Popcorn (really!) and Linda the next morning. They are apparently longtime friends who get together every year or other at a bike trail to camp, ride bikes and catch up.

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Popcorn and Linda

The next day we rode to the Silver Comet Trailhead where we were surprised to see six dogs lounging around in the sun. A guy was there and we figured he brought his dogs out to the trail to relax or something. When he took off on his bike the dogs stayed behind. Hmmm. I saw some plastic bowls and found a running log on the dogs at the trail marker. People had dated when they were there, fed and watered the dogs. Looks they were abandoned or dropped off there. Not good. There were three really cute pit bull mix puppies obviously from the same litter, the mom, and a couple other adult dogs, one who looked like he needed some veterinary attention. I wished I had some dog food to give them.

A short time later Ken arrived and we struck up a conversation. He apparently knew about the dogs, living in Cedartown just 10 miles away by bike. He had both water and food for them, a big bag of food. They devoured it in minutes. I asked him if he added to the log and he said this was the first time he had brought food but said he would bring more tomorrow when he hiked the Pinhoti. When he left I added to the log saying “Fed and watered. Someone please adopt them!”He is a retired physical education professor at a local college and as his retirement present to himself he decided he was going to hike the entire Pinhoti Trail, a nearby hiking trail that actually crosses the Chief Ladiga Trail. Michelle had mentioned this trail during our conversation and he alerted us to where the crossing was near our campground.  Little rough for bikes.
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Apparently armadillos are also born dead by the side of the bike trail.

A few days later I rode back to the trailhead with water and dog biscuits that we use in Texas to avert the packs of dogs that chase us on our bikes. No dogs that day but I was gratified to see that someone else left food and the log was updated to say that the puppies were adopted! I made another plea to adopt the adult dogs, especially the little black one who just didn’t seem quite right. Not sure what will happen from here on out but even though somebody did a bad thing dumping the dogs, lots of other good people chipped in and rallied around them. Thanks, Ken!
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And Popcorn was kind enough to photograph the beginning section of the log for me! I had meant to ask her to and she did it anyway! What a gal!

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Popcorn and Linda. As Linda said, Popcorn is very picturesque.img_3218
Meanwhile we were enjoying getting to know them better. They are a lot like us, except they are way tougher since they tent camp and the nights were chilly! They have a leisurely approach to life and took their time, like we do, having breakfast and taking off on their bikes every day. It was a real pleasure to camp beside them. We extended our stay a few days; it’s that nice.

As Popcorn said, meeting people is the best thing about camping. The sites are spacious with lots of privacy and they were best neighbors ever. They also know all about the bike trails in Georgia and when Linda heard that we were headed to Tallahassee by way of Columbus, Georgia, she alerted us to a trail right near where we were planning to stay at the Elk’s Lodge. She has a great book and I got the info for the trail. We hadn’t planned to stay over in Columbus but when we saw that the Elks was right by the trail, we demurred.

After a 150 mile drive through the mountains with the trees changing into glorious color, we stocked up in Columbus and headed for the Elks. I had called but the number was out of service. I Google Earthed it and it appeared to be closed. It still looked to me like we could park there; at the end of a dead end industrial street. Both the Walmart and the Elks back right up to the Fall Line Trace, which is not the trail Linda told us about but still a nice long trail in Columbus. We made it to the Elks and sure enough, it was closed and chain linked off. There was a spot in the front where we could back in but weren’t sure it was OK. What to do? Go back to the Walmart?  My vote was to try the Elks since way better for the cats.

Jim called the realtor on the sign and as he did, a guy pulled up. I thought OOPS! Busted! We shook hands and he introduced himself as Keith, the owner of the property next door. He said it was fine to park there and that the place across the street had been for sale for seven years! The realtor gave us the OK to stay too, not likely a buyer will kick us out in the next few days. And the best thing about closed Elks Lodges? No donation required! Friendly neighbors and resident cats.

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This kitty showed up immediately. He and Carmella had a hiss-off.

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We love the Elks because they are remote, right next to the bike trails and cheap. Even cheaper when closed.

We are thankful that our travels include so many nice people! How would we get to meet them all otherwise?

Thanks to Michelle, Lonnie and Patricia, Ken, Linda, Popcorn, all the dog feeders and Keith for restoring my temporarily derailed faith that most people really are nice.

After the incident in Kansas City, this stop was a welcome affirmation.

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I Blame Donald Trump

Earlier this summer when we were in Kansas City getting the house batteries replaced, Wholesale Batteries gave us VIP tickets to an outdoor concert at Sandstone Arena in KCK. We spent that much money. It was three tribute bands, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Eric Clapton and somebody else. Real memorable, right?

We had looked at the website regarding parking, cameras, smoking and food. After we got parked, we found our good seats and settled in. The first band was just OK. We had a $13 margarita (whar VIP?) and enjoyed the people watching during the show.

One thing we noticed and did not enjoy was that the people behind us were smoking. Heavily. There were smoking areas outside the seating they are supposed to use. Silly me, I thought maybe these folks didn’t know. I turned around and politely said to the girl behind me, “Excuse me, but it says No Smoking in the seats. There’s an area just outside. Thank you.”

She looked at me and said, “You better keep your mouth shut or you’re gonna get smacked.” She looked like she would enjoy it too.

What? Who says this? To a perfect stranger? At an entertainment venue? Where the rules are perfectly clear? I turned back around in shock. Such ugly and unpleasant behavior. Where do people get the idea it’s acceptable to act like this? Maybe she just came from a Donald Trump rally where it’s apparently not just OK, but encouraged, to denigrate and mock handicapped people, women and blacks. Not to mention Muslims and immigrants. And probably non-smokers.

Of course, she began smoking more and blowing it directly at us. This is not a nice person. I turned back around and asked her please not to blow the smoke at us. She said, “I told you to shut your fat mouth. I’m warning you.” I told her I was making a simple request and that most people would comply if they knew it was bothering somebody. She continued to smoke and smolder.

I got up and mentioned to one of the staff that people were smoking in the seats, and being extremely rude about it.The staffer immediately responded that they couldn’t possibly enforce that because they were so short staffed. Great.

Naturally our smoking friend saw me do this and when I came back to my seat, she started kicking the back of my seat. Not just a tap or two, but good solid, deliberate and continuous kicks. So I turned back around and asked her to not kick my seat PLEASE. Again, her response was rude and threatening. What to do?

The seat beside me was empty so I just moved over. Well, then she got her friend to kick the back of my seat in the same emphatic manner. I asked that person not to and she continued. By this time, the smoking girl had moved over behind Jim and was kicking his seat. It was like she was itching for a fight. How many times do you have to say PLEASE STOP THAT!?

Jim finally turned around and asked her “Why are you being so obnoxious?” She answered, “I told you to just turn around and shut up.”

They wouldn’t stop kicking so Jim said, “Let’s just stand up.” Ha! So we did. That quieted them down for a while because they couldn’t see anything. It was kind of difficult for us to enjoy the show though. I can’t remember the last time I was exposed to such unpleasant and threatening behavior. From someone I don’t even know…

A woman a few rows back came and asked us to sit down because they couldn’t see. We  apologized and explained the situation, gesturing toward our smoking friend, who glowered at us. What can you do?

Finally we sat back down. I’m not sure if our smoking friend was suffering from tobacco poisoning by that time but at least they quit kicking our seats. The atmosphere was poisoned for us though. We decided to leave before the third band started. The whole encounter made me feel sad, not angry.

On the way back to the bus our conversation focused on the question: Why do people think it is acceptable to act like this? The election, which I have followed closely, and not just on Fox News, has somehow fomented the idea among Trump followers that it is OK to beat up protesters, use the N* word, smear and threaten to jail, even kill his opponent and demean women who hid their shame of sexual abuse for years for not being good looking enough. I understand that Donald Trump’s main line of attack is based on stirring up peoples’ ungrounded fears and he asserts that people are sick of political correctness. What they call political correctness is actually just civilized behavior. Don’t be rude. Don’t be mean. Be thoughtful and kind. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Don’t interrupt. Listen, really listen to others. Be nice.

Anybody who knows me knows my political leanings. But this is about more than politics. This is about basic human decency, compassion and civilized behavior. Understanding others who are not like us and working with them . Realizing that only love will bring us into the light. We really are stronger together.

And in the end, only kindness matters.

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