Quotes I like:

“Not all those who wander are lost.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Eclipse!



I had never seen a total solar eclipse. When I heard that an opportunity to see a total solar eclipse would happen this month, I decided that it was a once in a lifetime (my lifetime) event not to be missed.

As soon as I heard about the eclipse, I started researching locations within the path of totality.  From viewing the map of the path, I determined that the closest place would be Charleston, S.C.  Numerous phone calls to hotels in the area resulted in a list of very discouraging no vacancies . Luckily, with perseverance, I was able to find a room in Savannah, GA which is only a short drive to Charleston. This was exciting! I was going to be able to see the eclipse!

Oh, wait. I needed some of the special eclipse glasses.  I thought that would be easy as surely every place in town would be selling them. Of course, since this whole trip was somewhat last minute, I couldn't find any glasses.  They were either sold out or the stores never got them in the first place. A check on line showed glasses available for $20 a pair. Ouch, some dark film and cardboard didn't seem to warrant such a high price.  But fate would step in and a local television station announced they were going to give away free glasses on a particular day within a 2 hour time frame.  I made sure to arrive early and, as anticipated, the line was fairly long even at an hour and half before the event was to start. Still, I was able to get the free glasses and was all set!

Sunday morning I loaded up the car with a cooler, picnic blankets, snacks, drinks, solar glasses, the dog (of course), camera and everything I could think of to take to the eclipse. A quick stop along the way to obtain last minute items finalized everything.  I had heard that due to the large numbers of people planning to view the eclipse, cell service might be interrupted.  I stopped to get an old fashioned, paper map at the Welcome Center in case my GPS stopped working. I was afraid that traffic would be bad heading up to Savannah, but all was clear on I-95.  A check on weather leading up to the eclipse showed partial cloudiness along the southern east coast.  This might prove a problem for eclipse viewing.  I was glad I got that map as I could look to see if there was a location that was better, weather-wise.

Sunday evening, at the motel, I again checked the weather. It didn't look good for Charleston.  I found the map of the path of totality on the computer, and with my paper map, looked for another place to see the eclipse. Parameters for choosing a place were: not too far to drive, within the path, good weather forecast, some place not too populated to avoid traffic issues and, if at all possible, in an area with some elevation. I settled on Edgefield, S.C. A look on Google Earth showed a small town to the west of the coast accessible by back roads. It looked perfect!

6:00 AM Monday morning I was re-loaded the car and got an early start to avoid any traffic. Fortunately, I-95 was mostly clear and a short drive lead to the exit toward western South Carolina. The day had dawned partially cloudy and up-dated weather forecasts warned of thickening clouds and possible rain in the Charleston area. I was glad I had an alternative plan.

GPS indicated that the drive to Edgefield would take approximately 3 hours. I had left plenty of time in case of traffic, which wasn't necessary as it turned out.  The eclipse was due to happen around 2:30 PM eastern time and I arrived in Edgefield at 10:30 AM.  The town square was already filling up with people setting up tents, telescopes and chairs to view the eclipse. A quick look around showed parking to be filled up and people were still streaming into town. I decided to drive out of town and find a better place to set up.  While driving around, I noticed that the day was beginning to cloud up.  Darn!  I pulled out the map and decided to head further west.  I re-set the GPS and headed for Saluda, SC.

Much like Edgefield, Saluda's town square was full of people and I drove out of town and found a great place to watch the eclipse at a church parking lot.  Other people had gathered there as well and the sky cleared up allowing us to get a clear view of the eclipse.  Here is what we saw:

 

The day began to darken as the shadow of the moon started to cross the sun as you can see in these photos.

As the moon's shadow moved across the sun, it left a small crescent of the sun showing.

Once the shadow centered on the sun, and the eclipse reached totality, the aura around the edges was visible.  At this point you could remove the eclipse glasses and look with your naked eyes.

Darkness fell all around us, the temperature fell and crickets, confused by the nightfall, began to chirp. Everyone stood in awe looking at the sky.  It was an awesome sight and I was so happy I was there to see it!

The entire eclipse only lasted a little over two minutes and it was all over.  With a long drive ahead, I hit the road and then did find that traffic I had dreaded earlier in the day.  Part way home, it started to rain and at one point, a double rainbow appeared in the sky. What a day!

It's a little faint, but you can see the extra rainbow to the left of the brighter one. Traffic as heavy and I didn't arrive back home until almost midnight. The long day was worth the trip and I was happy to have been able to experience the eclipse.  The next one is in 7 years. Maybe I'll get to see it.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Sleepless in St. Augustine


It seems that as we age, the amount of sleep we need or get seems to lessen.  I remember reading a Stephen King book, Insomnia, quite awhile back.  The main character in the book is a 70 year old man who sleeps less and less as time goes on.  I can relate.  I am becoming well acquainted with the early hours of the morning.  A typical night for me now goes something like this:

                      9:00 pm       I fall asleep on the couch watching TV.  I awaken and decide
                                           to go to bed.  Often I can fall asleep fairly easily. Sometimes not.

                    12:00              I wake up throwing the covers off as I am burning hot.

                      1:30 am        Having woken up in an attempt to cool off, I am still
                                           trying to go back to sleep.  I attempt reading or perusing
                                           Pinterest online until I feel sleepy and can sometimes fall
                                           back asleep. Sometimes not.

                       3:00 am       I wake up cold and put the covers back on only to have various
                                           parts of my body realize I am awake and they demand my attention.
                                           The bladder wants a trip to the bathroom, my stomach decides it is
                                           either hungry or having a bout of heartburn or indigestion necessitating
                                           a trip to the kitchen or medicine cabinet.  Other parts decide to chime
                                           in with aches and pains. I make attempts to quiet all these bothersome
                                           naggers.

                       3:30 am       My dog, who is himself quite old now, decides to get in on the act
                                           and demands to be let out.  Ignoring this request is futile. He will
                                           increase his vocal demands to ongoing barking at full volume. While
                                           letting him out, I think about taking a sleep aid and decide its too late
                                           and I will wind up sleeping until noon and feel hung over when I do
                                           wake up.

                       4:00 am       Lying awake wondering random crazy stuff.  What is the meaning of
                                           life?  Who created the universe?  What was the combination of my
                                           locker in 8th grade?  Just what the hell is wrong with me? Ugh

                       5:00 am       I realize I am not sleeping and that this night will result in yet
                                           another "bad night".  I debate whether to just get up and do something
                                           as continuing to lie in bed seems pointless.

                       6:00 am       I notice that the quality of darkness in my bedroom has changed
                                           indicating the arrival of daylight. I have never been able to sleep
                                           when its light out.  Like the opposite of vampires, I need to be in my                                                      sleeping place and asleep while it is still dark.  Once daylight hits, that's it.

                        7:00 am      I drag myself out of bed for another tired day.

After several nights like this, I become so over tired I am like a 2 year old who has missed their nap; I am cranky and out of sorts.  And please don't write me with suggestions for sleep. I think I have tried them all. Some occasionally work, although leave me feeling groggy the next day.  One of my sisters had a great experience a while back. She needed some minor surgery and when I called to inquire as to how she was feeling, she replied, "Great! Best sleep I've had in years".  The doctors had used the same drug that was administered to Michael Jackson to help him sleep to put her under.  She slept very soundly for a long and much needed nap.
She decided that more surgery might be in order just to get some good sleep.  I may have to see what I need done. ha ha.



Thursday, March 9, 2017

Kayaking and Camping O'Leno State Park





My friend, Beverly, and I spent this past weekend kayaking and camping around O'Leno State Park. This is located near Gainesville, FL and provides for easy access to the Sante Fe River and its springs and tributaries.

We took the little camper which is very comfy and has all the comforts of home, well except tv, Although Bev brought the dish she was disappointed when no signal was available (too many trees)

We spent a chilly night on Friday but were warm with a space heater. I felt sorry for the people who were tent camping as it got down to 37 degrees that night!  Saturday morning Beverly made pancakes and bacon to feed some of the other kayakers who were on this same trip as they came by to warm up.

I layered on shirts and jackets as we headed out to the river as the morning temps were still only in the 40's.  The trip began by putting the kayaks in at a boat ramp near the top of the Sante Fe river. There were approximately 20 people in our group so this was no small endeavor.  Beverly took her dog Tex, a long hair doxie/papillion mix (you can see him in the photo above).  He is a good kayaker!
The plan was to paddle down the river for approximately 13.5 miles. This was my first time out this year and I think that was a little more than I would have liked, but along we went. Here is a map of our route:


The Sante Fe River is really beautiful but the water level was low due to lack of recent rain.  I got stuck on rocks a few times along the way.  We saw hundreds of turtles sunning themselves on logs.
                                   

There are many spring which feed into the river.  We paddled up into a few of them to check them out.  At Lily Springs, we were warned of a local oddity, "Naked Ed".

Naked Ed owns the land adjacent to Lily Springs and as a protest to development in the area, walks around naked. You can find more on Naked Ed in an on line search, we didn't find him on Saturday.

With such a large kayak group, I found it difficult to keep up with the pack and ended up at the back along with a few others.  The paddling was strenuous and my arms certainly noticed the work out.

We did stop for lunch along the river bank before venturing further and visiting Blue Spring.


As you can see, the water is an amazing clear, blue.  The spring bubbles out of the ground near the dive platform shown above.  It was a bit difficult paddling against the flow up into the spring, but worth the effort to see this beautiful water!  Blue Springs Park is a popular attraction and even on this early March day was fairly well attended by swimmers.  The water in the springs stays at about 72 degrees year round which attracts manatees who come in from the colder waters off the coast to stay warm.  We had recently had a warm spell and so no manatees were around.

Leaving Blue Spring was much easier as we floated down the current back to the river.

On the next leg of the trip we encountered some small rapids.  I easily traversed the first set, but got stuck on some rocks near the second and set and in getting off the rocks managed to get turned around in my kayak and ended up being swept backwards into the rapids.  Luckily it was a small set of water and I was quickly sent through.  I was also glad no one was around to see me do that!

We ended the day around 3:00 and were happy to get off the water and back to camp and hot showers. It had been a long day and we were both tired.  We ate dinner and were in bed around 8.

On Sunday, we headed out again, this time to kayak the Ichetucknee Springs.  This was a more leisurely trip, only a little over 3 miles.  The group was taking a longer route (10 miles) but we decided to take the shorter leg of the trip.  The Ichetucknee is another beautiful spring winding through a low land area bordered by cedar trees, palms and some lovely spider lily:
Here are photos of this trip:







Wednesday, January 27, 2016

America's Favorite Comfort Food


Pepperoni Pizza Slice



I just read an article showing that, according to a Harris Poll, the favorite go-to food for your soul is: Pizza. Won out at the top of the list at 15%.

Now, I like a nice slice as much as anyone, but unfortunately, it gives me heartburn. Like nuclear heartburn. Like a volcano has erupted in my stomach. So, for me, I will forgo the pizza.

The second favorite comfort food eaten by us Americans is chocolate followed by ice cream at 7% each. I personally like chocolate ice cream, so maybe with a combined total of 14%, my favorite is right under pizza.

Mac and cheese came in at fourth place with 5% with chips coming in 5th with 4%. I hear Lays is coming out with yet another new potato chip flavor and it could be mac and cheese, so by combining those two things they could edge up on chocolate ice cream.

Hamburgers and steak both came in with 3% each. But really, what is the difference, aren't they really the same thing in different forms?

The list rounded out with a tie for last place (3%) between popcorn, pasta and Mexican food. Not sure what items encompass "Mexican food".  Are we talking tacos? nachos? Everything else on the list is a specific food.  And what about Chinese food? They didn't even make the list? Seriously, I love Chinese food. In fact, when I feel stressed or depressed, I eat some egg rolls and some chocolate ice cream.  Great combo.

I bet all those poor folks snow bound in their homes are having a hay day on the comfort food. In fact since the giant blizzard arrived just in time for the final play off games to determine who will go to the superbowl,  the pizza delivery places made bonus-won the lottery type cash.

Um, now I'm hungry, Catch you later.

Monday, January 25, 2016

HAPPY NEW YEAR!





As always, I am behind the times in wishing you a Happy New Year, as most people do so on New Year's Eve or Day.  It takes me a bit longer to traipse into the new year and by now--toward the end of January, I start to feel the new year has truly begun.

Today the outside Christmas lights finally got taken down. (too cold/rainy beforehand);  the garage got cleaned out and re-organized (well somewhat). and things have been made right in my little corner of the world (well mostly).

I always like to use January to get organized for the new year and throw out a bunch of stuff. I tend to be a tosser rather than a saver.  Must come from having moved so much in my life--approximately every 3-4 years.  When you have to move everything you own around, you start to reduce the load.  Of course the moving itself helps you to get rid of things as they get broken, damaged or just plain don't work in the new place.

The days are again growing longer and I love seeing the sun a bit longer each day.  I know that spring will be here soon because in my part of the world it arrives around March.  The days will become warmer and life will be renewed again.

This time of year also seems to find me in a reflective mood.  I guess as you get older, you tend to look backward more than forward on your life.  It surprises me how children have grown up into adults and how friends have gotten so much older looking.  I wonder if I look as old as they do? Probably.

It seems that some of the time life is flying by so fast and at other times I can feel time stretching back like a slinky pulled to its furthest reaches.  Sometimes things in the past seem so long ago and at other times, like only yesterday.    Time is a funny thing, no one can own it.  We can use it, dread it, anticipate it, plan for it, but we cannot own it. We cannot make it move on any schedule other than its own.  It continues to march on, listening to its own drummer, of its own accord.  The only effect we can have on it is how we use it.

Welcome 2017!  I will try to use the time allotted to me in this year as best I can.  It is a diminishing resource at this point in life and so becomes more precious.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Very Crappy Christmas






Well, of all the things you might wish for from jolly old St. Nick, a sewage back up probably wasn't one of them.

I went to visit my daughter and her family for the holidays. The live in the country and have a septic tank rather than being connected to city water and sewer.  I have never fully understood how septic tanks work. I know the basics, things that go down the drains in your house wind up in the septic tank and somehow they work themselves out from there.  It is one of those mysterious things in houses that, when working, require no thought and when not, require panic on my part.

While we were in the midst of enjoying all the usual pre-Christmas preparations including planning our Christmas Eve dinner, my daughter decided to do a load of laundry.  Upon entering the basement, she noticed a lot of water on the floor. Unfortunately, it wasn't just water. There were, um, other things floating around in the water. Ugh. She came upstairs to announce to her husband that there was a problem in the basement and he proceeded to take a look and try to fix it. I have to say that his value in doing this went up quite a bit in my book. I would have taken one look and called for an air strike. He tried to clean up the mess and determine the cause of the problem and decided he needed to clear the line to the septic tank. Not having a plumbing snake, he went to borrow one from family nearby.  Upon his return, snaking of the line commenced, but the problem remained.  In the meantime, we were all told under NO circumstances to use the toilets or to run ANY water whatsoever in the house.  I began to have thoughts of a worse Christmas than when the Grinch visited Whoville.

About 3:00 PM, it was decided that professional help was needed and we made numerous calls to local plumbing contractors. As you might imagine, these companies were all closed for the holidays. While emergency plumbing service might be readily available in a big city, local plumbers in a rural area apparently don't work on holidays.

I was beginning to think that we would have to find hotel rooms for the long weekend and have Chinese food for dinner a la "A Christmas Story". I had visions of Chinese waiters singing FA RA RA RA RA to us while we ate roast duck. I dashed off a quick note to Santa requesting a plumber for Christmas and included a provision that if he could supply one, I'd forgo all other gifts.

Time was dragging on as only it can when it is Christmas eve and you have a basement full of raw sewage. Repeated calls to plumbers were becoming fruitless when a true Christmas miracle occurred. One of the plumbers called us back to say he would come out.  I was ready to sing the Hallelujah Chorus about this time and at 7:00 PM our savior appeared to clear the drain.  We proceeded to cook dinner knowing that we would be able to wash up afterwards and joyfully danced around celebrating the vision of a crap-free future.

It took about an hour and half, but finally the wonderful plumber ascended from the basement announcing that he was finished and all was well in septic tank world.  We would have idolized him and gazed fondly on him pronouncing him a true man among men, but some how his countenance, covered with suspicious brown speckles all over, was a bit tarnished.  My son in law, ever grateful that someone else handled the problem, gladly paid the double time rate charged and in his appreciation gave the plumber a box of chocolates for his troubles on a holiday eve.

Now instead of visions of sugar plums, I had visions of that plumber driving home raiding that box of candy with those brown speckled hands. Ewwww. But he did save Christmas for us and I sent up a little thank you the man upstairs and also the one who drives the sleigh with eight tiny reindeer.

I hope your holiday was truly wonderful and did not involve plumbing disasters of any kind.