Saturday, May 24, 2014

April, 2014 at Home in Cherry Log

After our return home from Sarasota, we had some great times visiting with lots of friends, old and new.  The first weekend we were back we hosted four of our dear friends from Atlanta, Jon and Joyce, Ebb and Lois.  Ebb and Lois and I first met when I returned to Vanderbilt Law School after a 3 year unplanned semester break for a visit with my Uncle Sam.  Ebb and I were in a study group together and became fast friends.  He and Lois transferred to Georgetown after first year, though, so we didn't reconnect with them until we moved to Atlanta after graduation.  Jon and Joyce both joined the same law firm where I worked a year after I started; though Joyce moved to another firm and eventually to the Bankruptcy Court where she had a distinguished career as the Chief Judge, Jon and I were partners for many years until we retired.  We've all gone through a lot together, some happy times and some tough times in each of our lives.  As we are all now retired--well, Ebb is almost there--reflecting on all that we've shared, it's so wonderful to have good friends with whom you've shared so much through the years.  Since we moved from Atlanta, over the last few years we've rotated hosting long weekend gatherings where we reminisce about old times, talk about where we are now and what lies ahead.  So it was our time to host this august group and what a wonderful weekend it was, lots of laughter, some serious times, good food--our nights aren't quite so late as they once were!  (We had seen Ebb and Lois for a day in Sarasota--Ebb makes an annual trek to Florida for a week of baseball spring training while Lois enjoys the beach, so one day they came over to Sarasota and we had a delightful day visiting the Ringling Museum.)  The weather cooperated with us on Saturday, so we had a lovely outing to Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground.  Mr. Gibbs is a well known master gardener and landscape guru who has designed many commercial sites in the Atlanta area.  As a way of sharing his love of flowers and plants, he has developed his family land into a stunningly beautiful gardens for tours, events, etc.  When we were there it was the tail end of the daffodil festival, and he was there in the visitor center, holding forth about the many different varieties, describing how the daffodil was his mother's favorite flower, and how this all started as his tribute to her.  Though lots of the daffodils were already gone, there were still many beautiful flowers and it was such a beautiful sunshine filled day, nice and crisp--had just a great time!  We even ran into some folks the others knew from Atlanta.  We got back to Cherry Log just in time to take them to the Pink Pig for supper--they loved it, and we were happy that Sam, the owner, was there so we could introduce them all to her.  She's our youngest son's age, and got the restaurant when her grandfather, Bud Holloway, died several years ago.  She's done a fabulous job of getting the place cleaned up and upgraded and we eat there quite often.  So we were happy to share our local treasure with Atlanta friends!

The following week we welcomed some new friends--Denny and Jane--to our home for an overnight visit.  We had met them in Bayfield, Wisconsin (Apostle Islands National Lakeshore on Lake Superior) on our trip last year.  We had just come back from a day of hiking and biking on Madeline Island, and as we rod our bikes up to the RV in the parking lot, we noticed another RV just like ours parked beside us.  As we were loading the bikes, Denny got out of his unit and we chatted a bit about our RVs, but then drove off our separate ways.  Later that evening, we were waiting on a table at a local restaurant, and in walked Denny and Jane.  So we ended up having dinner together and realized how much we had in common.  They are from southern California, a little north of LA, and were doing something of a similar trip to ours, celebrating Denny's recent retirement.  As we talked, we realized that we had each mapped out roughly similar itineraries for the balance of our trips, so we exchanged contact information, hoping we might cross paths again later in the summer or fall.  They told us they were planning to end up in Florida by November, then put their RV in storage and fly back to California for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then fly back to their RV to continue their journey.  As it turned out, they ended up leaving their RV in storage in Orlando, and while we were in Sarasota we drove over there one day to take it out for a spin, just to check on all the systems for them and make sure it was in good shape.  We were happy to do that for them, and it gave them real peace of mind to know all was okay with their RV.  We had invited them to stop by to see us in Cherry Log on their way home, and the timing worked out well for all of us.  They flew back to Orlando just as we were leaving Sarasota, and they had some folks to visit along the way, but got to Cherry Log the week after our Atlanta friends left.  So we had a great visit with them while they were here, and once again, as we got to know each other better, we found many more common interests.  They were planning to take roughly the same southern route back home that we had travelled last year, so we gave them some of the names of RV campgrounds we had liked and some tips on places to see.  As it turned out, since they left, they've written that they've followed our blog from last year to help them decide where to stop along the way, so that's been fun.

The weekend after that our new friends from Mass., Linda and Gary, who we got to know so well at the RV park in Sarasota, were on their way back north and camped for several days at Stone Mountain.  Trisha drove down there and spent the day taking Linda into Atlanta to visit the Botanical Gardens.  She took Linda to see First Presbyterian, where Trisha had been the minister in charge of Pastoral Care for 14 years, so she could see the beautiful stained glass windows, and they had a delightful day.  They had been so nice to us when we first got to Sun N Fun in Sarasota, introducing us to lots of new folks, showing us all around the park, as they've been spending the winters down there for 7 years.  They were the ones who hosted the big party I described in the post on Sarasota.  So that was fun for them to get together, and Trisha got to meet their new dog, who they adopted in Sarasota right after we had left.  Trisha had been able to give Linda a lead on the shelter where they found Chino--our friend Barby had a friend who worked at the shelter, so Trisha passed the info along to Linda and they were able to find just the right dog!

Later in April, Trisha and two of the Beach Girls group drove to Buford, SC to surprise another of their group for her birthday.  They had a great time and were able to completely surprise Diana, who had no idea they were coming.  Barby had flown up from Sarasota to be part of the surprise, and they all had a great time!

Here I am with Jon, Ebb, Lois and Joyce at Gibbs Gardens
Some of the lovely daffodils, as we rode the tram through the gardens

Beautiful forsythia!
Intriguing metal sculpture
And stone carvings
Ebb, doing his best Buddha impression!!
Longtime readers will remember how much Trisha loves owls, so we had to get a pic of her by this one!
Above, lovely little waterway through some nice colors--this place would be gorgeous in the fall, too!
Below, a beautiful tree lined walkway--they use this area for weddings, with the wedding party processing down between these two rows of trees--can only imagine how beautiful that must be!
Some more daffodils
Trisha in front of our ornamental cherry tree in front of our house in Cherry Log
Denny and Jane, with their RV beside our house, as they were taking off the morning after their visit.
Linda, among the statuary at the Botanical Gardens
Linda telling a frog to cheer up!!

Trisha, chillin' with Sophie on our front steps!

Sunday, May 18, 2014


After seeing our youngest son, Jeremy, off to Bangkok, Thailand, for his next teaching gig, we packed up the View and headed for Sarasota, Florida.  Trisha and I went to college in St. Petersburg, and she has been going to Sarasota with a group of her girlfriends from Atlanta every year for going on 30 years, so we decided this was a great place to spend some time during the winter.  

Our initial intention was to spend a month there and then move to the east coast and spend a month somewhere between Daytona and St. Augustine, especially since the place we had called in Sarasota, Sun N Fun RV Resort, only had space for one month when we called for reservations.  Well, after only a few days at this wonderful place, we went to the office and asked them to put us on the waiting list for any cancellations so we could stay there the whole time!  And, fortunately, they were able to work that out, even though we had to move to different sites during our stay.  This is an absolutely fabulous place.  It's quite large, with lots of "park models," mobile homes that are permanently parked there, as well as lots of RV sites, all set up in little neighborhoods.  There are so many facilities and amenities there:  a fabulous health club, with 2 heated Olympic size pools, indoor and outdoor, lots of aerobic machines, weight machines, free weights, sauna and steam rooms, classes of all sorts, tennis and pickle ball courts, lawn bowling,a tremendous woodworking shop, a lapidary shop, all sorts of groups, a restaurant, and the list goes on.  We could ride our bikes right out of the park on a network of sidewalks and paths, and I found ways to cobble together some 20-40 mile rides.  Trisha took water aerobics every day, and really loved that; I usually got up very early, hit the gym for an hour on the rowing machine, then a few laps in the pool and the steam room to start the day.  

We met some really wonderful new friends, many of whom have been coming to spend the winters there for years.  Roughly 40% of the people are from Ontario, but folks come from all over--met one delightful lady from England who's been coming there for 15 years, first with her husband, but she kept coming back for years even after he died.  The community feeling there is just great.  Gary and Linda, from Mass., became really good friends of ours--Gary is the unofficial "Mayor of Laura Lane," and Linda is just about the friendliest, welcoming person you could ever meet.  They welcomed us right away, introducing us to other snowbirds and giving us tips on things to do and places to see.  Gary was one of the water aerobics instructors, and Linda quickly welcomed us into her fresh citrus coop, so we had delicious oranges and grapefruits the whole time!  They even baby sat for our new little puppy!  And after we got home, they were on their way back to Mass. and camped at Stone Mountain for a few days, so Trisha went down and spent the day with Linda, showing her around Atlanta.  Just great folks.  So we decided to go ahead and reserve our site for 3 months here for next winter, and for the foreseeable future, this is where we'll make our winter home.

Sarasota has so much to offer--we were about a half hour's drive to Lido beach where Trisha and her Beach Girls hang out, so we spent some lovely days there.  Trisha was excited to be able to be on the beach on her birthday in March!  Then there's the Ringling Art Museum, and the circus museum, where one man has spent 50 years creating carved wooden miniatures of circus life, which is just impossible to describe, but well worth the visit if you have the chance.  Barby and Jean, our dear friends who always host the Beach Girls, had us to their lovely home on the water to watch the sunsets, we found a wonderful church home at their church, First Presbyterian of Sarasota, and Jean's other daughter, Judy, who works at a veterinarian's office, found a puppy for us!  We got a 4 month old Maltese-Shih Tsu mix, now named Sophie, who is the sweetest and cutest little thing--a wonderful addition to our family!  We also found a marvelous vegan restaurant, called Veg, where we ate at least once each week we were there, as well as a great Indian restaurant where we could have lots of vegan choices.  So much to do in Sarasota, we didn't have time to take everything in, so we look forward to next year.

Anyway, got to remember that this is catch up, so I'll quite rambling and give you some pictures from our time in Sarasota:

Sunset from Barby and Jean's back patio!
Sweet potato volcano at Veg--quinoa base, topped with grilled portobello mushroom, sautéed greens, sweet potato mash and sprouts, surrounded by broccolini and beets--over the top delicious!!
Selfie on a 20 mile ride on the Legacy Trail, a Rails to Trail paved trail from Sarasota to Venice--great brisk day during the early part of our stay
Isn't this just a lovely, wide, paved trail??!!
Trisha with her new baby, Sophie--all last year on the trip, she kept looking for the right dog, but it was worth the wait to find precious little Sophie!

Sophie:  I want to play cards, too, Mommy!
Jean, holding Sophie on her screened patio, overlooking the pool and the bay

She was crate trained when we got her, and she loves her little crate in the RV
Her first bath.
Lido Beach

Valentines Day!
A longtime circus family now runs Big Cat Habitat, a refuge for retired circus and zoo animals, that was right up the road from Sun N Fun--we were fortunate to be there during their annual fundraiser, a mini circus show with lots of wonderful animals.

Sophie loved to lie down on the bag of oranges and grapefruit that we kept in my bicycle basket by her crate
We drove to St. Pete to visit our alma mater, Eckerd College, and Sophie got to ride in the front carrier.  We came upon a student leading a tour of prospective students and their parents, so we interrupted them briefly to say:  If you come here, this is what you'll look like in 50 years!
With Kathy, a fellow student when we were there, who now works in the President's office; her husband, also a fellow student, just retired as an English prof there, and has published several books

Lunch in St. Pete with our dear friends, Bill and Patti, who were visiting from Chicago
Wearing jeans on "Jeans for Genes Day," to commemorate those with rare genetic disease, in special honor to my little friend, Landon, who Santa visits every year.
Sophie, holding court outside our campsite
Were able to attend our college reunion--special one, as it was the first 50th reunion in the college's history--the Founding Freshmen graduated in 1964, and we started that fall--they called us the Replacement Class.  Sitting next to me is our classmate, Sarah, who's now the head librarian at UMass in Amherst.
Linda and Gary's annual party at their site at Sun N Fun--it's grown bigger every year, and we were so happy to be included!
The buffet line in front of their 5th wheel
Loved this collection of flower vases!
Our host, Gary, in his formal attire!
Trisha with Gary and Linda--she's wearing, in her own words, a little dress I picked up in Greece--she's a world traveler and has the most unique jewelry, too.  A retired elementary school teacher, I've never met anyone who enjoys life more than she does.
An owl at a bird rescue place on the beach
Statue near the beach, a replica of the famous Life Magazine photo
My amazingly talented wife made me this shirt!  I just love it!!  We had found the fabric and pattern at a lovely little shop in Taos, NM on last year's trip, and she made it after we got home
A cake celebrating the 90th birthday of Bill, who's the father of our classmate, Jane--he goes to First Pres, and we were so excited to be invited to join the birthday celebration, which was a lunch cruise aboard a boat, touring the bay
Jean, along with our classmate Jane
Jane and her lovely wife, Carolyn.  Jane is an incredibly talented and well known surgeon, having pioneered some groundbreaking surgical procedures.  She also used the money she made as a surgeon to fund charitable medical work she's done all over the world--including surgeries at the fistula hospital in Addis Ababa--anyone who's read Cutting for Stone has read about this hospital.  Carolyn holds an endowed chair on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, and is one of the world's most renown endocrinologists.  They both travel the world, leading seminars and making presentations to medical groups.  Quite the pair.  And Jane's whole family is quite remarkable:  one brother is a federal judge, another is the head of protocol for State, and another has headed US AID--Bill was justly proud on his 90th birthday of his family!
Another sunset from Jean and Barby's back yard
Well, that's just a small sampling of winter in Sarasota!