Still in Florida and Lovin' It

Trip Start Aug 13, 2006
Trip End Aug 12, 2007

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Flag of United States  , Florida
Thursday, January 18, 2007

January 12 2007

So here we are still in Suwannee, Florida. It is definately a little slice of heaven on earth. Especially if you like to fish and I like to fish. Fished every moment I have gotten the chance and I even let the kids do it too when I am not too busy catching fish lol. There are even pictures to prove I let the kids fish.

That said, I owe a couple of stops on our trip a huge apology. You were not forgotten or overlooked. I just got so far behind in writing this blog that I thought that I should bring everyone up to speed with where we were and that I would do my best to catch up.

So before I go on any further about fish I will get y'all caught up and on our adventures in Virginia and Georgia. The proper thing would be for me to start by expanding on the drive from Mass to Virginia. It covers a number of states that the I-95 goes though. We went through New York, Washington, Delaware and Maryland. Stopping only at the rest stops on the I-95 to sleep one night and in Washington to see the White House.

If anyone is familiar with the Arrogant Worms (a Canadian Satirical Folk Band) they sing a great song about the War of 1812. You know the war that Americans seems to have forgotten. Well we haven't and the Worms remind us in that song that it was the only war that the Americans lost with the other exceptions of The Alamo, Vietnam and the Bay of Ham. You can see that they are a bit of a laugh. At the end of the song they suggest that if you go to Washington that you should bring a pack of matches and we could burn the White House twice. Well it sounds like a good idea and all given the current world situation but one look around at all the snipers on the roof and the idea quickly melts away. So, in the end we took a picture of us with a lighter in our hands and made a beeline for Virginia.

We met Janice at Dancing Bones dance camp in New Hampshire in August and told her what we were doing. Without hesitation she invited us to come stay with her and her partner Dick for a while. Janice also said that there would be work for me and as it turned out there was plenty of work for all of us, the kids included.

Hard to do justice to in a written description of the beauty of the mountains of Virginia and the view of them from Dick and Janice's back yard so I hope that a few pictures will do. I don't know how they can stand living there but I guess someone has to do it. We were received like family on our arrival and I barely had any time to do anything else but work, play, eat and sleep. It was easy to get behind on the blog writing.

Our first night there as I remember we got to meet a number of Dick and Janice's friends at a full moon party around their fire pit in the back yard. We had a great time drumming, singing and staying warm by the fire, meeting new friends and eating like kings.

It wasn't all fun and games though in Virginia's Nelson County. Dick and Janice had lots of work for us to do and we were very grateful for the chance to earn some bucks. It really helped as South East Florida has almost broken us. The work was challenging but I think we all enjoyed it. Garrett and I got to clear overgrown fence line, doesn't sound like much except that south of the Mason Dixon line there are all kinds of different plant life that includes vicious prickly vines that rip at your arms and legs. It actually became a personal vendetta to get the suckers off the fence and all the trees that had grown up into it. I still have some of the battle wounds and the poison ivy left a lasting impression all the way to Florida lol. In the end after about 26 hours of work Dick, Garrett and I cleared about 70 or so yards of fence line. Looks great now ...see picture of clear fence.

I did learn one thing about chain saws while clearing the fence line of trees. Apparently the chain on a chain saw is not multi directional. What I mean to say is that in order to work the chain on a chain saw it needs to be going the right direction in order to cut wood, no matter how much you sharpen it. This was kindly pointed out by a local chain saw dealer as we were going to purchase a new chain to get the job done. He was laughing at us as much as you are now. We were a little embarrassed to say the least. Once we got the chain going in the right direction we were well on our way to saw dust and firewood.

While the men were toughing it out with the fence clearing the women folk were working twice as hard planting tulip bulbs for one of Janice's landscaping customers. The customer's ranch is going to be featured in Home and Garden magazine this spring so they were busy planting some 15,000 bulbs. In the time that April and Evelyn put in with Janice I think they planted almost 7,000 bulbs. Man were they tired when they got home at the end of the day.

Dick and I did our best to have dinners ready for them when they got home but we, being men did not always have it quite ready on time. It is fair however to say that none of us starved. One night Dick and I went out to get Thai food in the middle of nowhere that was some of the best Thai I have ever eaten. Nelson County does not know how good they have it when it comes to Thai food. I don't think there is any better at home in Ottawa. The other notable eating experience happened at the Blue Ridge Pig, our first southern BBQ experience, delicious. Not to mention that we ate our Blue Ridge Pig beside a beautiful mountain stream with a great suspension bridge that was part of the Appalachian Trail.

The other dominant memory of Dick and Janice's in Virginia was a game they called Hot Dice. We played almost every night we were there. It is a very addictive game the whole family can play. The next time you see us we would be pleased to teach you how to play and in the mean time we are working on a way to properly market the game and make our fortune at dice LMAO.

I also have to mention that we frequented a great little coffee house in Nelson County called Rapunzel's. What a great place! It is an old apple-packing warehouse that has been turned into a coffee house complete with a small stage, inexpensive used books and free high speed internet. If we talked to you on the phone from Virginia we were talking to you while enjoying a latte form Rapunzel's. We even got to take part in an open stage night at the coffee house with all the local talent and there was no shortage of talent there. I got to get up on stage and play the bodhran and sing a Great Big Sea song for those southerners and Evelyn also had her moment in the spotlight. Great times. See pictures.

I could go on and on about our adventures in Virginia's Nelson County but I think I will wrap up with the recording studio above Rapunzel's where Dick's twin sons were recording with their band. I wish I could remember the band's name as I am sure they will be famous some day. They played metal and did it very well. I am still waiting for their CD to be released. Dick what was the band's name again? And when the CD is finished please send a copy, thanks.

All too soon as it has seemed to happen on this journey it was time to move on, we needed to get ourselves to Georgia for US Thanksgiving and help TJ and Sheevaun with wood splitting and concrete.

We thanked Dick and Janice for a wonderful stay and we are really looking forward to seeing them again. We hope that they plan to come to visit us back home in Ottawa, I hope that we can show them nearly as nice a time. I know that I have left out some of our experiences in Virginia but I need to keep moving on here.

So we pulled out of Dick and Janice's refreshed and with a few more bucks in our bill folds from our labours to keep us on the road and headed for Asheville North Carolina. It did not take us long to get to Asheville but we did learn again that when we are traveling no matter what is going on we need to stop and eat while there is still daylight. Because once we get past about 6pm on the road we turn on each other and it just gets plain nasty in the van. We don't do very well hungry and road tired. You think we would learn after a few times but nothing like repetition to get something hammered into the head.

Asheville, North Carolina is a beautiful city tucked into the mountains. I am glad that we had the opportunity to stop there. We have decidedly become non-city people but Asheville is a place that I would really like to visit again. It was full of art, music and a great diversity of people. We were actually in Asheville for their Christmas Parade, in fact we were trapped by it so we just settled in for the show. What was really cool about being in a city for it's Santa parade is that you get to see a great cross section of a city's population both in the parade and in the crowd.

From Asheville we were off to an Eco Village called Earth Haven, the most successful intentional eco village in America we were told. We were definitely impressed with Earth Haven. They are completely off the grid and have a very functional community of some 40 permanent members and another 30 or so living there becoming members of the community. What impressed me most about their community was not the fact that they co-existed with nature so well but that their interpersonal communications were very highly evolved. All governance of Earth Haven is done by absolute consensus. Can you imagine! None of this majority rules stuff. They did everything with the complete agreement of all of their members. I wish I could have seen one of their counsel meetings. I can only imagine how they do it. I have served on my share of committees and I am still in awe of Earth Haven for having gotten as far as they have. There are several permanent buildings both communal and living quarters. Incredible!!! They use a stream for most of their electricity and solar to back it up. All of the homes there are designed with permaculture in mind. For those of you that don't know Permaculture is then can I call it the science of living in harmony with the land around you. So very cool!! There were cob homes, timber frames with sod roofs and straw bale houses, all very comfortable and warm. I can only hope to live as environmentally friendly as those people one day. You never know what is possible until you decide to do something about it. Heck look at me now LOL.

We were doubly fortunate that while we stayed at Earth Haven that we got to see a presentation on Permaculture made by a class of students taking an eight weekend course. The presentation was designed for a client that wanted to build a home at Earth Haven and there were two design teams that brought two different presentations. Each team was given the same parameters to keep in mind by the client and they were also give the same budget. The presentation was fascinating, so much so that it even kept the kids attention for almost 4 and a half hours. One more place on the list of where I would like to spend more time and in this case take the Permaculture course to implement their environmentally friendly ideas in my everyday living. LEAVE THE SMALLEST FOOTPRINT YOU CAN AND LIVE WITH THE EARTH!!!

We only spent two days at Earth Haven and then it was time to make our way to Loganville, Georgia. It was a little bit of a culture shock going from the mountains in North Carolina to suburban Atlanta. Loganville is about 40 miles outside of Atlanta and we were told that it is the fastest growing community in the area. We stayed with TJ and Sheevaun a couple we met at Bev and Chris' wedding, friends that got married just before we left home. Sheevaun is Chris' sister and when we told them what we were up to and that we thought we would be in Georgia around November they invited us to stop in and stay and work for a while. So we did J!

We never know what to expect when we are invited to stay somewhere and we were pleasantly surprised once again. They live in a beautiful home that is landscaped to perfection. Once again I think that only pictures can do justice to the work TJ has done to their yard, complete with a 30,000 gallon coy pond and some 2 dozen coy. We could only imagine what the gardens must look like in full bloom come spring. WOW!!!

It was a pleasure to meet their family, Carlyle the African grey parrot and their three husky's Timber, Tassa and Dragon. Never thought I would actually meet a talking dog but Timber can say walnut. Very impressive, he loves to eat walnuts and if I hadn't heard him say walnut I never would have believed it. I guess Scooby Doo is based somewhat in reality.

As promised TJ and Sheevaun had some work for me to do. Five cord of wood to split and 55 bags of cement to mix and lay down. I think that I broke all records in getting the work done. Finished in 15 hours. I think they got a pretty good deal on the $10/hour labour. Felt good though to do some of my favorite work, splitting wood. Perhaps there is a career change in my future?
Also as promised we got to enjoy American Thanksgiving with TJ, Sheevaun, TJ's parents, brother and her grandmother. I might mention that this was not just any Thanksgiving dinner it was a Southern Thanksgiving dinner. Deep fried turkey and corn bread pudding. Yum!!! Sheevaun for being a Canadian you sure can cook southern. This was topped off with a Pumpkin Cake made by TJ's grandma we were too spoiled. Tough life eh y'all? Each day was filled with amazing cooking by Sheevaun not just Thanksgiving dinner. Thanks....what a great break for April.

Other fun in Loganville included teaching Carlyle to say "Where are the Hope's?" and listening to all of her other sayings and phrases. Damn are African Grey's smart. As it turns out Carlyle is a Tennessee State Volunteers fan, "GO VOLS!!!" says the bird. I still don't get the whole college football phenomena in this country but then again I am not really interested in any sport that I am not currently playing.

Once again all too soon it was time to move on down the road to Florida as we were meeting my parents and family. So we had to say thank you and goodbye to our Loganville friends. Another great stay with wonderful people and animals alike. Our trip would certainly be cut short if it were not for the hospitality we have found along the way like we did in Virginia and Georgia. Thanks again.

My goodness I think that I might almost be caught up with the blog. Say it is not so! "It is not so!" I just went and looked at the 9th entry and I can see that I have left out most of our Florida experience. Damn! Guess you will have too keep reading which means I am going to have to keep writing. That's ok I am still in Florida right now at a quiet place called St George's Island in the Gulf of Mexico. Tough life. Today is a freezing 60 degrees out, cold, now by our standards and I have retreated into the van to write for a few hours.

OK, where was I? Oh yea meeting my Mother and Step-Father Steve in Florida for an early Christmas. We have family in Florida too, Steve's sister Mary and her husband Bill and my two cousins Stephanie and Greg. Stephanie is married to Vince and they have two children, Brandon and Victoria, approximately the same age as Evelyn and Garrett. My Nonna, Steve's mother was also staying at Mary and Bill's in Boca Raton. It was great to see family again and get all caught up and share some of our grand adventure.

Mom and Steve rented a fantastic hotel for all of us and so we stayed in the lap of luxury for a change. Once again talk about culture shock!!! Going from a very small van to a king sized bed in a suite at the Embassy Suites I almost lost April. We did lose the children to their grandparents' hotel room which left us all alone for a change. Ahhhhh sweet silence!!!! I told you it was a real culture shock.

The hotel was right on the beach and was everything I could imagine a hotel in Florida to be. It had lounge chairs on the pool deck that came complete with a huge heated pool and an even warmer hot tub. The surf was huge the days that we were there and we got to do lots of body surfing. I bought a boogie board and taught the kids how to really catch a wave. Woooo Hoooooo!!!

One of the real highlights of Mom and Steve's stay was going on an air boat tour of the everglades. When we got there it was a bright sunny day perfect for seeing alligators laying out in the sun. We saw tons of them and I got the best gator picture ever. See picture. We learned lots on the tour as our guide was a naturalist of 45 years studying the everglades. He told us all about the habits of the gators, birds and dozens of other everglade residents. The kids had plenty of questions and if it hadn't rained at the end of our tour I don't think our poor guide would have ever gotten home.

We ate and slept like kings for 3 nights and then we had to stuff ourselves back in the van. Boo-hoo. Oh well it couldn't last I guess. We had a great early Christmas with Mom and Steve and we all really enjoyed our time together. Hopefully they will come and meet us again somewhere on our journey. Steve has another sister that lives on the west coast. Maybe there will be time for another family reunion.

So there we were, alone again and in a part of America where it is not uncommon for a campsite to charge $30-50 a night. This actually created a rather large dilemma for us because our good friends David and Julie were going to be in the neighbourhood at the end of the week. What to do and where to stay in the land of overpriced camping and unsafe Wal-Mart parking lots.

We decided to ask the universe for a solution to our problem and it is amazing just how fast things manifest these days. While we stayed at the hotel there was nowhere for our van to stay so we had to leave it at one of those very expensive camp sites in Fort Lauderdale. Not a bad little camp spot for being next to 'The Hood'. Never thought you could have a campground in the middle of the inner city. But they manage in South East Florida and they think that a little patch of pavement is worth $30 bucks a night. There was no way we staying there any longer.

Having asked the universe for help we went to the Fort Lauderdale Unitarian Congregation service at 11 am Sunday morning, the day Mom and Steve left for the cold north. We were exceptionally well received at the church. It was a very typical Unitarian gathering and we felt right a t home. We put it out that we were looking for a driveway to stay in for a week while we waited for David and Julie and before the morning was done we had a place to stay.

Janine, her teenaged son Zack and room mate Danny the Viking were happy to host us. Their house was not far from the church and it couldn't have felt more like home. Janine keeps her gardens very similar to ours at home (natural for those of you who have never seen our front yard). There were some great cats living at their house and needless to say we fit right in.

Janine had a great fire pit in her back yard and we spent most our nights there enjoying a fire and days were spent exploring the area with Danny and seeing the local beaches. One morning we found a Hispanic fellow selling cooled coconuts out of the back of his pick-up truck. He didn't speak any English but that was ok we managed. None of us had ever drank fresh coconut milk before but I guarantee if we ever get the chance we will again. It was delicious.

What a great connection we made in Fort Lauderdale new friends that I truly hope to see again. Man is our house going to be a hive of activity when all these wonderful people we have met show up for a visit. I hope it happens J!!! Thanks again Janine we couldn't have afforded to stay in Fort Lauderdale without your gracious hospitality.

Oh and before I forget the reason for our extended stay in South East Florida. David and Julie were stopping in. It had been quite a while since we had all been together. The kids refer to David and Julie as Unca Dave and Aunt Jules. Evelyn was especially impressed that she is now taller that Julie, and Garrett was a bundle of excitement (not that it is overly unusual).

We got to go on our second everglades tour courtesy of David and Julie. They had never gone out there before and we loved our first adventure so a second sojourn couldn't hurt. It was a different day and a different part of the everglades. We saw a number of different birds and creatures. We did see more gators. The place is loaded with them. Wouldn't want to get stuck out there and have to swim back.

Anyhow it was a great day with our old friends. And I mean that in the most affectionate way, David is getting older you know LMAO. Love ya David. Julie on the other hand couldn't be a day over 30 J Thanks guys for a great visit! We also got to have a really nice dinner with our friends at a Peruvian restaurant yum. David and Jules were off to take a cruise and we were off to Orlando to over fun ourselves at Universal Studios.

I think that y'all are caught up now. There are some gaps in this story but I think that I have gone over all the broad strokes. If I have forgotten anything oh well I guess it's gone LOL. Now I am sure that when we are showing all of our endless photos to y'all when we get home the cobwebs in my mind will be cleaned out and I will have tons to tell y'all.

Jan 18, 2007

So here is a quick up date before I post this most recent installment. April's Mom Gladys joined us in Suwannee on the 6th of January. We stayed in Suwannee a little longer than anticipated but I think everybody enjoyed themselves, including our generous hosts. I am planning on writing more about our adventures in the fishing land of Suwannee but for now I am going to end here and get this blog posted. Stay tuned for more Hope filled adventures. We are currently staying on St George Island in the Gulf of Mexico in a state park. Pretty tough eh?

Ciao for now y'all!!! JJJ
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daddiox on

Hi!!!! Cliff!!!! & April!!!!

Am heading for Gualajara, Mexico fom Ottawa on Feb. 19/Mon. with a friend, John Valiant.
and without Lise, she has to work.
Lise and I are planning on a Mediterrean Holiday in May & June.
My route to Guadalajara is as follows: ottawa - detroit - laredo - monterrey -guadalajara - lake chapala.
will probably stay in lake chapala for several weeks
want to check the place out
may take excursions to porto vallarta, mexico city, etc.
I will be interested in seeing where you guys will be later in February and in March.

david & lise

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