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!

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