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Parrottrek Journal 2012

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Mr. Turtle snubs us

Mama and baby osprey in nest

A little fawn just a couple bushes away from what appears to be his big brother

July 12th - Jacques Cousteau Would be Proud-
Just walking around our neighborhood, as long as you have a camera in hand, you can catch some absolutely amazing photos. I've learned that no matter what time of day it is, if I don't have my camera in my back pocket I miss out on some great photo ops. These photos aren't too shabby, but I could have gotten some even better ones if I packed properly. For instance, just yesterday the mama osprey was teaching her baby to fish, which entailed him diving into a nearby lake only to miss the fish each time and half drown himself. The turtle in the upper corner actually crossed our path, stopped to look at us, posed a bit and then slowly walked away. Today, he only showed me his back.

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This snake was about 2 inches long

Lunch time for the deer family

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A golf cart ride through The Villages

Handy tunnels under the roadways

That lead you to fun restaurants on the water and lots of shopping

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July 23rd - Visiting The Villages -
About 2 hours away from us, lies a community called The Villages. It is made up of dozens and dozens of, yep you guessed it, villages. Each village has its own recreation center, pools and tennis courts, a golf course or two or three or four, shopping areas, restaurants and gated neighborhoods that are all connected with over 500 hundred miles of golf cart trails. We have been hearing about this place for years, and since our good friends Jim and Susan now live there, we decided to check it out for ourselves. It is definitely something you have to experience in person. Jim and Susan first gave us a tour of the place in our van, yes they do have miles and miles of roads for cars.

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A brief stop to catch a great photo op

Helpful signs to keep you safe from cars

Which we did take advantage of, but after getting an overall tour, we decided to head off for dinner on the golf cart in order to get a slower and more detailed tour of one the shopping and dinning areas, which included a town square with live music. Good thing the golf cart was fully charged, since we went about 20 miles up and down all the roads and ended the evening with a great self portrait overlooking one of the lakes and a gorgeous sunset.

August 3rd - Leaving on a Jet Plane - California Here I come -
As probate gets underway in my brother's estate and the legal crap begins, I find myself being forced to fly across the country and spend a little over a week in my home town of Santa Barbara, bummer!. 9 days in one city seems like a long time but for some reason every minute of everyday is already booked up and I haven't even left Florida yet. I'll keep you posted on all the goings on, but I apologize in advance if it is a few days until my next post. For some reason now that we are sitting still I find myself busier than I ever was while traveling, my poor Webpage is suffering and my inner writer is getting quite annoyed with my sitting still self that seems to be stricken down with a wicked case of writer's block, but don't give up on either of us yet! I'm sure some fun stories will come out of the next couple weeks.

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Dad throws the stick about 187 times for these wonderful beasts

Hobart prefers to roll in the sand instead of the waves

Rufus, the world's only beach loving, ocean swimming pug

A very wet Saundra swims in the waves to fetch her stick

August 8th - Playtime for the Pooches - The Pacific Ocean -
There is no comic relief like watching these three lovable dogs run, jump and swim in the waves of the Pacific Ocean. My dad has a dear friend. Her name is Juliana and I adore her. When the two of them are together, they make you smile. They are like two teenagers in love and it melts your heart watching them interact. They met while walking in the park about two years ago, a little over a year after each of them lost their life long spouses, never thinking love would find them again. Juliana was walking the above beasts and my dad, an avid pet lover, watched as she and her dogs crossed the park. The two of them started to talk one day, after waving at each other every now and then, and the rest is history. She lives just a stones throw from a dog friendly strip of the Pacific Ocean, so this wild group hits the beach two to three times a week. Hobart is a long haired Dachshund, Saundra a Golden Retriever, hence the AU in her name for the gold element and Rufus is a sweet lovable Pug, perhaps the only ocean loving, wave leaping Pug on the planet. He is my favorite of the three, but don't tell Hobart that. Today's weather was beach perfect! The sun was shining, the breeze was warm, the day was long and relaxing and the ocean was chilly! Ooops, I forgot for a moment I was in Cali and not Florida. But heck, we had fun just as much fun putting our toes in the water, well us people at least. The dogs had no problem plunging face and paw first into the cool water as they fetched for sticks, chased each other and rolled in sand and sea weed. My sides still hurt from laughing so hard as they played, crashed and dunked each other. At times all you could see of Rufus was his little nose above the water.

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Front of house, needs a lot of TLC

Back of house, with plastic addition

Ghetto roof on plastic extension

Very scary bathroom!

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Kitchen, note the flooring

70's bedroom with retro lamps

Dinning room with wood paneling, Yikes!

Living room, blurry, but you get the idea

A Frightening Case of Deja-Vu - Orcutt, California -
Yes, we have a new Real Estate project! As some of you may recall, in late 2010 and most of 2011 we took on a fixer upper in Santa Barbara California, which I might add, with the help of some very good friends who happen to be contractors, a year off from traveling, a bit of blood, a lot of sweat and a tear here or there, we turned it into a gorgeous home in less than a year. Once renovated it quickly rented out and turned into a great investment for our family. And now we are on to project #2. The above photos are of my late brother's house. With all that was going on in the last few months of his life updating his house wasn't one of his priorities. But thanks to a very helpful insurance company and a nice check for improvements we are embarking yet again on turning old into new(er) This home won't be quite the transformation that the Santa Barbara house was, this one will be more of a work in progress, but if you look at the photos below, you will see that my fabulous brother-in-law and his crew have already made great improvements to this quaint bachelor pad, originally built in 1972 (and no it isn't a modular home, even though it does slightly resemble one). Check back in the next couple weeks for even more improvements. Our hope is that it will be rented out before the end of the year and probate will conclude within 6 months. Here's hoping!

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The house in pressure washed and the broken aged latice removed

Plastic extension/roof has been taken down and backyard mowed

The entryway and dining room painted and old icky flooring removed

Living room scrubbed, painted and super bright with the extension gone

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Beautiful views from the plane

My new half sister Raenee, Dad and Juliana adopted a sweet little spoiled puppy

Lounging by the pool with Dad and Juliana

Good friends and a fun anniversary party

Highlights of California -
I've always enjoyed the views out the windows of our coach on our travels. Whether it's corn fields in Iowa, big city views in New York City or Chicago, desert sunsets in Nevada and New Mexico, or waterfalls and mountains in Georgia and Tennessee. Each and every state has something different to offer and a unique facet to their part of the country. This week I was able to peer through a much smaller window than I am used to, but able to oversee multiple states while traveling at a slightly quicker pace then the Highway Patrol allows us to do on land, however Frank and I have both been known to exceed the speed limit a bit on some of our travels. In fact, if you ask Frank I'm much more of the lead-foot behind the motorhome wheel than he is, but that's a story for another day. Once I landed in Santa Barbara the fun began. Day one was lunch with my dad, settling in and catching up. Day two was a relaxing Sunday afternoon at Juliana's with my dad, a few dogs, a dip in the pool and views of the ocean from her deck. Day 3,4,5, and 6 were crazy days with lawyer appointments, contractor meetings, real estate transactions and other things that I won't bore you with. However the evening of day 5 was wonderful! A dear dear friend of mine that I grew up with and has since also moved out of state was in Santa Barbara with her family celebrating her son's birthday. This entailed dinner and swimming with some life long friends that I haven't seen in years and some much needed down time from my week. Day 7 included getting the stomach flu and sleeping all day long. Day 8 involved sleeping in, lounging by the pool and an evening with more friends at a fun anniversary party for the couple that were my second parents growing up. Day 9 was a bit sad since I had to leave town, but a joyful reunion with my dearly missed hubby and feathered babes. Traveling is great, but much more fun when I can take along my whole little wacky clan.

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A fun birthday party for Jack

Good times with life long friends

Mr. Brown cooks up yummy burgers

Love seeing familiar faces

August 13th - Vacation from Vacation - A Week in Key Largo -
Now this is more like it! A vacation for the whole family. After the last few weeks of prepping for California, flying across the country and getting everything done that could possibly to be done out there, for now, I am wiped out! To recoup, my ever darling husband suggested that we head down to Key Largo and relax on the beach of John Pennekamp Coral Reef Park and catch up on the lack of sleep that comes with a bit of jet lag and my racing mind on what else needed to be done before leaving the West Coast. With almost my entire to do list scratched off as I stepped off the plane, and the few things that remain on it are weeks away from completion and in the hands of others, I am ready to enjoy the next few days. What's on the agenda for our week in the Keys? Sailing, snorkeling, bike rides and perhaps a little paddle boarding. There are bike paths for miles and miles in both directions of us, restaurants and tiki bars on every block, swimming beaches within walking distance and about a thousand things to take pictures of. To top it all off, there is nothing but sunshine is in the forecast all week long. Call me happy!

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This way to fun in the sun

We had lunch right on the water

Our own private beach in the evenings

Gorgeous sunsets each night

August 14th - Exploring Key Largo -
The water goes on forever here. As does the sunshine and palm trees. We've enjoyed sunrises and sunsets, walks on the beach and bike rides down the shore with the birds right there with us. We started our day off by exploring John Pennekamp Park on bikes and met a few of our camping neighbors. Then we headed into town for lunch on the water and hit the grocery store for stuff to grill in the evenings since the weather has been so nice at night and the evenings are long and light. On our drive into town this afternoon we noticed a bird sanitary, so we're going to try and squeeze that into one of our up and coming days down here. Hmmm, maybe we won't relax as much as we thought we were going to.

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I could stay out here and sail forever

A fun day with just us and a captain

A short bike ride to dinner looking over the ocean after sailing

Crystal clear warm water was always in our sights

August 15th - A Half Day at Sea -
The two of us and a Captain! You can't get better than that. As we looked into the different sailing excursions that the Keys have to offer, we found that we could go on a boat with 25 other people, 6 others or just the two of us and a captain. We chose the private sailboat for today and the group snorkeling boat for tomorrow. Today was a great choice. We boarded the boat around 9:15 and sailed all over the crystal clear waters where sea turtles and dolphins were not only visible, but almost within reach. We sailed until a little after 1:00 and then had a late lunch at Senor Frijoles, a mexican restaurant within walking distance of our campsite, so we splurged and had a couple rounds of margaritas. Yum!!

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Suzy swims down for a closer look

The sunken Christ statue at the bottom

Frank reaches out to pet the fish

Underwater self portrait

August 17th - Another Day on the Water -
Thank God for spf 50! Since this very pale gal has spent the last two days straight in the water and sun with just a slight kiss of pink on my shoulders to prove it. Today we spent most of the day floating in the 80 degree waters of the Atlantic, swimming and diving for closer looks at schools of fish and historic sunken statues. Christ of the Deep is submerged about 11 feet below the surface of the water and is the third bronze statue made from the original mould to replicate Jesus. The first statue made, called Christ of the Abyss, is under water in the Italian Riviera and the second lies on the ocean floor of Grenada. Since there is so much corrosion and crustaceans that grow on the statue, the fish love to nibble on his nose and face, which makes for some great fish watching. Along with the statue we saw barracuda, friendly sharks, starfish, eels and iridescent jellyfish. It's amazing how much energy the sun can zap out of you, so we are headed home for a nap outside under the awning and a family bar-b-que.

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Iridescent jelly fish all around us

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A hawk being rehabilitated

A grumpy owl wakes up too early

The pelicans freely walk all about

One came right up to us to pose

August 18th - A Few Crazy Close-Ups - The Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary -
Now here's a place we could spend more time, at Mile Marker 93.6, in The Keys. That's the crazy part of The Keys, everything is labeled by their mile marker, not just the city or Key they lie in, which fits right in with our life style and the fact that when we do cross the country our destinations, amount of time we'll drive in a day, fuel stops, food stops and fun stops are all laid out by my huge laminated Trucker's Atlas in mile makers. Most people know the offramp by name that they take to get to their own house or their parents and friend's home, but have you ever noticed what mile marker you live at? Just food for thought. So anyways, back to our fun day of exploring The Laura Quinn Bird Sanitary and getting up close and personal with all sorts of feathered friends. Wouldn't this be the perfect place for Frank and I to work? We could have a cage for our own babies and work right along with all sorts of other avian beauties. We walked all along the boardwalks with flocks of pelicans who came so close to us, we could almost pet them. We accidentally awoke a very pretty yet cranky owl and watched a beautiful hawk preen almost every feather in his plumage. Unfortunately the place closed at 5, or we would have stayed even longer.

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All aboard! We're off to Punta Gorda. Love that our mini van seats so many

Happy Birthday to LaVerne

The boys catch up in the lanai

I offered to trade Cody for this cute face, but was turned down

August 20th - Happy Birthday to LaVerne -
What started out to be a surprise birthday party, turned into a fun long weekend with friends. Our good friend Rick was attempting to throw a secret party for his wife LaVerne, but thanks to a bounced e-mail the secret was blown and LaVerne found out. She initially was going to play dumb and go along with the surprise but she felt bad misleading Rick, so she confessed that she had seen the e-mail and jumped in with Rick to plan the party. Rick and LaVerne, who live on the other coast of Florida, are just a few mile away from other good friends of ours, Tom and Coni. The six of us have traveled the country on and off for years. In fact Rick and LaVerne were the first full-time RVing friends that we met outside of the NHRA circuit. Back in 2005, Frank and I went camping at Lake of the Ozarks and on checking into the RV Park back on that 4th of July weekend, we met LaVerne, who we talked to for about an hour, who later on that night brought her husband over to meet us, who then introduced us to their camping neighbors Tom and Coni, and the rest is history with far too many stories than I can fit in here. However if you look back on our various years of adventures, you might come across a few of them.
The bad part of the surprise being spoiled is that we couldn't see the look on LaVerne's face when we, along with the other 25 invited guests, jumped out and screamed as she walked into her sister's house for what she thought was dinner for four, but the good part of the surprise being blown is that we were able to spend the whole day with them and not just the evening of the party. We had all already planned to spend the night in Punta Gorda to make the party a two-day event, but this way it gave us two full days of fun. And let me tell you, the six of us always have a blast when we're together. Happy Birthday LaVerne! We love you!!

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We enjoyed watching the sunrise, but boy did it seem early

Here comes the Endevour

We enjoyed watching the sunrise, but boy did it seem early

We enjoyed watching the sunrise, but boy did it seem early

September 19th - A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity - The Endevour Overhead - Cocoa Beach -
How appropriate is this? We not only were able to watch one of the most historic events this very early morning here in Florida, but we watched as the Space Shuttle Endevour was transported to California via a Boeing 747 , right over our heads as we sat on the beach where they filmed I Dream of Jeanie, the TV show about an astronaut named Major Nelson, who while walking down this very beach found a bottle, rubbed it and was granted his very own genie to have to hold forever. Needless to say we didn't find our very own genie in a bottle, but we did have a spectacular view of the Space Shuttle Endevour as it flew over our heads followed by a fighter jet and a smaller plane carrying the necessary tools to set it up in its final resting spot, the California Science Center. I tried to get some even closer pictures, but I didn't want to watch the entire fly-by through the lens of my camera, so I compromised and watched for a bit, which was well worth it, and then snapped photos for a bit, so all you in Parrottrek Land could see it as well.

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She sits on them 24 hours a day 7 days a week and won't let anyone touch them but Frank. It breaks my heart to see her work so hard.

One morning we noticed someone had laid an egg

Within the next few weeks the clutch grew to four

The only time she stepped off the eggs was to eat

October 3rd - A Slightly Confused Parrot Lays 4 Sweet Eggs in Winter -
Yes, we know the weather here in Florida is pretty darn amazing. When it gets below 65 during the day we all throw a temper tantrum because we have to pull out our long pants and sweatshirts since we are so acclimated to the ideal climate of 80's everyday, but when it stays below 50 degrees for any period of time it apparently flicks a switch in my sweet female parrot that makes her think it is springtime and therefore she must breed. Since all she has to breed with are two other parrots that look nothing like her and a couple of people that must look even more strange than her siblings to her feathered self, she gets so confused that she picks Frank to attempt to "inspire" to mate eight her. She's really quite cut about it. She beings by fluffing her tail in his face and then starts to wiggle, dance and make very strange noises. I guess in the world of fellow African Greys this means it's your lucky night with a cute "chick", but in the world pf trying to keep our sweet 16 year old horny parrot from loosing the calcium it takes to lay eggs, this is the time for me to pick her up and put her in her cage, which according to the vet, is pretty much like making her take a cold shower.

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She finally realizes that they won't hatch, a very sad day in her little life. But watching this rainbow gives us hope she'll cheer back up

We were so happy, since this plan worked last year and not an egg was laid that we were certain she was over her egg laying day, until one morning I reached into her cage, as I do every morning, to pull her out for breakfast she just about took my finger off. Not knowing why my sweet bird had turned so mean, I feared the worst and as i looked into her cage I discovered a perfectly shaped oval shinny egg nestled under little chest. Now we must let nature takes its course, and as I fast forward 8 weeks later there are now four little eggs in her cage, but since her little birdie brain is so smart, she has finally rallied that alas, they will not hatch and she is once again my breakfast partner each morning. However there is a very sad aura about her, just as there was in the past after she left her eggs. But since history does in fact repeat itself, she will be back to her happy old self in about 2 weeks and the unhatched babies will be a memory of the past.

October 17th - A Fabulous 40th Surprise -
I was the victim of a TOTAL surprise today. My husband is so awesome and sneaky that I didn't suspect a thing. Wait, let me backup a bit... Since my 40th birthday is just around the corner Frank and I had made plans with a bunch of different friends to do various birthday things throughout the week and weekend. I had a handfull of clients scheduled for massages throughout the days along with working a few nights at the restaurant, including tonight. I knew it was going to be a long night, since the other day I received a frantic call from a neighbor who needed someone to pick her up from the airport at 10pm since she had to fly in for a family emergency and didn't know who else to call. God knows I'm too familiar with family emergencies and having to fly across the country at a moments notice, and can totally relate, so there was no way I would have turned Connie down.
Allow me to set this evening's stage... ...The restaurant is full and I am busy. There are two big tables of neighbors and friends as well as a full bar of familiar faces. I keep thinking to myself, "how fun that they all came in tonight and are staying late " since we were only about a half hour away from closing and this isn't even the busy season of the resort yet. I stop to check on one of my tables to see how their dessert is and they ask me to go back to the kitchen and find out the name of the chocolate cake. "Seriously?" I think to myself? "What does it matter what the name of the cake is?" As I go back to ask the kitchen, my coworkers start to look at me funny. "What's with you guys?" I ask. They just stand there grinning at me. Still nothing clicks, aside from me thinking they must be drinking on the job. I return to the table with the name of the cake, which by the way is Beter Than Your Mama's Cake and all of a sudden Frank is standing next to me, telling me I have a new table. "What are you talking about? And when did you get here?" He turns and points to a couple at a table just behind me. I think to myself "Why do they look familiar?" And I start to scream! As I realize the familiar faces at the table is one of my very best friends in the whole world and her husband (and might I add, they live in California) it begins to dawn on me why the restaurant is full of friends. That wonderful sneaky Frank. The rest of the night is a bit of a blur, but I'm told that all our plans with friends aren't really happening. Frank has gotten ahold of my appointment book and cancelled all my massages, telling my clients what is going on, my schedule at the restaurant is fake as well and I have the next five days wide open to hang out with Sharon, Tim and Frank. I'm told to clock out and have dinner with our friends as the rest of the weekend plans are revealed. A day at Disney World, a day at a fabulous spa, a day lounging by the pool and an airboat ride and lots and lots of dinning out plans. The best part of it all? Tim and Sharon will be staying just a couple doors down from us at some friend's home, who happen to be out of town. As it turns out, all of this had been planned months and months ago and I was kept totally in the dark, even though everyone I know here in TGO (The Great Outdoors) knew all about it. And P.S. Tim and Sharon's flight was early, otherwise it was going to be them that we were picking up from the airport and not Connie and Peter. Connie could have won an Oscar for her dramatic phone call. I was almost in tears because of it.
Needless to say I have the best group of friends a girl could ever ask for and an amazingly awesome hubby for putting the plan together!

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On the banks of the Polynesian Hotel ready for our fun filled day of Disney

Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Cocktails in China

Lunch in Mexico

October 18th - Drinking Around the World - Epcot -
Once a year Epcot throws an HUGE party called The International Food and Wine Festival. They invite ever country you can think of and have that country bring two or three food dishes that represent their country and a few cocktails, and no, they aren't all wine, and yes, each country is staffed by people from that country. The four of us took full advantage of this festive event and successfully made it around the whole world still standing. We had rum drinks in the Caribbean, margaritas and nachos in Mexico and crepes in France. As Sharon and I passed through Italy, we were served delicious drinks by very good looking men who barely spoke English, Yum!

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Halloween Disney Style

A self portrait at Spaceship Earth

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The boys go fishing... ...

Fresh fish for tomorrow night

The ladies hit the pool

Birthday dinner at Durango's

October 19th - A Blissful Day at the Spa -
I'm so relaxed I cannot type. Three and a half hours of shear bliss was what Sharon and I enjoyed today at La Bella Spa in Merritt Island with massages, facials, pedicures, paraffin dips, saunas, snacks and tranquil music. There are no photos of our day since all we donned were robes and a smile, however since the guys stayed dressed all day on their fishing trip, I have included a few photos from their adventure. They came home with fresh caught redfish, which we will cook up tomorrow night, since this evening we were chauffeured to Durango's Steak House for happy hour and dinner.

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All aboard the airboat

We drove through open water

And thick marshes

Our reward for surviving? Getting to hold a real live alligator

October 20th - Real Life Swamp People - An Airboat Ride on the St. John's River -
Today was quite and interesting day. Just a few miles up the road from us is a good size dock that is home to an airboat ride business. Frank and I have driven past it about a thousand times in the last several years of visiting Florida, but have never gone out on one. Since Tim and Sharon wanted to explore the marshes of Florida as they've seen on TV we all decided to pull off the highway and do some exploring on the water. As we drove closer to the dock, we noticed about a dozen or so smaller airboats that appeared to only hold one or two people. Hmmm, that's odd we thought. Then as we entered the building we noticed that most of the people were very scruffy men that were all drinking beer and very hard to understand, just like the TV show. My first instinct was to run out the door screaming and drive off, but as we approached the counter to sign in for our airboat ride, we realized that the crowd of men that frightened us were not part of the business, but owners of the airboats parked out front and were all headed out on a group ride. Apparently there are airboat gangs, just as there are motorcycle gangs and according to our guide, whom was very nice, very sober and very easy to understand, they are a nice group of guys, just a little rough around the edges. Once our airboat was loaded up and the little ones were well on their way and out of ours, we headed into the swamps and marshes for some great views, lots of knowledge and a fun, fast ride through nature. To top off our day, we were able to hold a real live alligator once we returned to land.

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Views of the lighthouse as we take a long scenic drive

Still getting used having the ocean on our left as we drive south

Quaint beach towns, with lots of parking, make it easy to stop for lunch

We watched the cannons fire at Fort Menendez while we sat at a red light, very cool

October 23rd - A Tuesday Morning Drive - Flagler Beach to Home -
One of the many joys of having a traveling home is that you can spend a lazy day at home, just about anywhere. At least once a month we take our coach out for a spin around the block to keep her engine going, her joints lubed, and to tour a new part of Florida that we haven't yet seen. I would use the expresion kill two birds with one stone, but Cody isn't too keen on that one.
This week, we drove the bus to Flagler Beach and home along the A1A, which has got to be one of the most beautiful drives one can ever take. The roads here in Florida are so well maintained, you feel as though you're driving a hovercraft along the streets. The beaches are so clean with blue water and white sand that you're pretty darn glad the speed limit is 35 and there are other looky-loos in front of you going about 10 miles under the speed limit so you take in all the views and the smell of fresh salt air. We passed through all sorts of beach towns, by lighthouses, which you can catch a glimpse of in the first photo, historic monuments, where we saw the cannons fire and tranquil neighborhoods with miles and miles of beach front bungalows.

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We surprised Chris by showing up in the middle of lunch at Taco Mac

The birthday celebration continued with a tour of the Coca Cola plant in Atlanta

Shhhh! We are standing outside the vault that holds the secret Coke recipe

Holding the Olympic torch that lit the Opening Ceremonies of the 1996 Summer Olympics

December 9th - Party in Atlanta - Chris Turns 40 -
As 2012 continues, many many of our friends are hitting the big 4-OH! And since my husband started a bit of a trend in throwing great surprises, we decided to do our best this weekend as being the ones doing the surprising. A lot of you know Chris, our good friend from California, that moved to Las Vegas where he met and married his fabulous wife Karolyn and then relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, conveniently close to us. Close enough in fact that after waking up around 4:00 in the morning(zzzzz), we were able to show up at Taco Mac, one of Chris and Karolyn's favorite restaurants, for lunch. As Chris sat at the bar, watching a football game, Frank and I walked up on each side of him and asked "Are these seats taken" He didn't scream as loud as I did, but he gave a good reaction none the less.

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December 10th - Every Kid's Dream Come True -
Given the choice of all the things that Chris wanted to do today, he chose one of our favorite past times, taking tours of fun and historical places. Unfortunately Karolyn couldn't get the day off, so it was just the three of us. We started out at the Coca -Cola plant and ended up at the Babyland General Hospital, where all Cabbage Patch Kids around the world are born. The 8 year old in me was so happy today since drinking soda was always a treat, and usually allowed only in summertime, and one of my most vivd childhood memories is when my Grandma gave me my very own, almost imposible to find, Cabbage Patch Kid back in the 80's when they first came out. Today was a blast!

A photo op with the Coca-Cola polar bear while waiting to see the 3-D movie

100 years of Coke dispensing machines

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An automatic arm fills the conveyor belt with empty bottles

Up the conveyor hills they go to be washed and filled

The bottles are filled with fresh made Coke, sealed and put in boxes

The tour ended in the sampling room with over 100 selections of Coke products

The Coca-Cola tour lead us from the late 1800's, when Coke was first invented by James Pemberton as medicine, since back then people believed that carbonated water was healthy and good for us. And became very popular once prohibition hit and other bubbly drinks were outlawed. We learned all about how the various other flavors of Coke began, when Pemberton passed away and how the Coca-Cola company became the monstrosity it is today. We were even led past the actual vault where the secret recipe lives. We watched bottles being prepped, filled and boxed and were able to taste as many of the over 100 world wide flavors and drinks that Coca-Cola makes and distributes.

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All sorts of Cabbage Patch Kids growing

We finally found the hospital

We watched one being picked

A nursery full of new born CPK's

Next Stop - Babyland General Hospital - Cleveland, Georgia -
Only a short drive up the road from the Coca Cola plant sits the beautiful home of every Cabbage Patch Kid that is hand made in the U.S.A. In reality, as it turns out, the drive to Babyland General was over two hours, which we didn't realize until we got there and only had 20 minutes to explore the 2+ acre property. That's the best thing about catching up and reminiscing with life long friends. 128.7 miles go by in the blink of an eye and more memories than you realized you had together are brought back to mind as though they happened just a few moments ago.
Our "tour" started out as a completely self guided one. And being someone who has owned, operated, employed, ran and mentored to other business owners, the first thing I've learned is that 30 minutes before most businesses close the employees turn from fun, energetic, happy, jovial people to " I'm supposed to off in 29.9 minutes and the fact that you walked in the door means I have to be here for another hour or two. I'm sure you all have experienced that, no? When you feel dagers in your back as you walk in a store that closes at 6 pm ad its 5:45.
Well you wont feel that here at CPK. We walked, explored, shopped, chatted and enjoyed all that Babyland General had to offer. I can't get over how much fun we had and especially how much fun my inner 9 year old had. So my excuse for buying a little cabbage patch kid? Oh yeah, "my bird likes to chew on fabric and since this one has a perfect spot to put a hook on her hand, I must buy one for her to hang in her cage".

A Lot of Progress and A Few Before, During and After Shots - Santa Maria, California -
No, probate still isn't finished with my brother's never ending estate, but don't start me on that, my rant may never end. My rant on how selfish it is to die without a will, that everyone needs a darn will, no matter how large or small your estate is. Whether you have four kids, no kids, three wives, no spouse, a million dollars in assets, not a penny to your name, or $168, 237.00 in assets. Everyone needs a will so your family/next of kin isn't left with a huge mess of trying to figure out what to do with all the belongings you left behind and tearing their hair out waiting for the legal system who drags their feet as long as they want and keeps you waiting because there are many many other selfish people that didn't think about their loved ones while they were still living and breathing on this planet. But I won't mention any of that here.
However, on an incredibly positive note, all the work on the house is done! Yippeeee!! Our cute little house is now rentable, and it's all thanks to Kevin, our fabulous and incredibly hard working brother-in-law who has taken the dumpy 70's bachelor pad we had and turned it into... ... ...

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The Brady's would have been proud of these lamps

Hideous orange door, Blekkkk!

Ugly wood panelling and shag carpet... ...

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Really, someone actually bathed in this? Shudder!

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Good-bye 70's - Hello (somewhat) modern times!

Turn to new, clean white walls and berber soft floors

The new renters will be even more proud of these, thank you very much!

Something that we are proud to rent out and are ecstatic that it only took 3 weeks to get a very sweet lady to make it her home. All the old orange shag carpet has been replaced with modern shades of berber, the terrifying green tub that looked as though a 5 year old with a tube of calk attempted to fix the holes in it themselves is safely in the dump under piles of trash never to be seen again. Thank God! The front old deck that felt as though the railings would break if you actually put weight on them have been replaced and repaired and now feel sturdy and safe. The windows are now completely made of glass and all in one piece, instead of half glass and half silver duct tape holding all the broken pieces together. Most of the appliances are new, except for the fridge, which we didn't replace. We just took the old one, wrapped 97 layers of duct tape around it, since none of us were brave enough to empty out it's green moldy contents, and pitched it into the appliance cemetery. We figure with an almost new house the new tenants won't be too bothered that they have to supply their own. Hmmm, perhaps we should have snapped a photo or two of the old one and given them a choice of keeping it and cleaning it out, or hitting Sears for their very own clean and usable one.

Much better!

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Brand new deck and windows, no more duct tape!!

What used to be an overstuffed garage full of junk is now empty, Ahhhhh! happy us!

Our new renter has made it a sweet home

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Another gorgeous Florida sunrise

There's nothing like a morning jog on the beach with a flock of pelicans and seagulls

Lunch at Rusty's, walking distance from camp

One of the many pathways to the beach

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November 30th- December 3rd - Camping at the Beach - Port Canaveral -
20 minutes away from us lies a little piece of heaven called Jetty Park. Jetty Park sits along the Atlantic Ocean and has the best views of cruise ships coming and going, pods of dolphins swimming with their young, sea turtles of all sizes and the occasional massive naval submarine sighting as they come in and out for service and supplies. A few months back Frank and I decided to spend a long weekend there and had so much fun and such a relaxing time, we've told all our friends about it. So now one of our favorite things to do is spend long weekends here, with friends. Our mornings start with the girls watching the sunrise while walking/jogging down the beach, the afternoons are full of lounging by the sea reading or people watching while the birds sun themselves or play on the rocks. We'll then throw some lunch on the bar-b-que or hit a local restaurant and end the day off watching the ships come and go with a little bit of background music and a glass of wine. Not a bad way to spend three or four nights in the middle of winter, especially when the temperatures rarely go below 60 in the evenings and 70 in the daylight.

Cody tries to sneak up on a pelican while he's fishing. Cody has no idea most birds must fend for themselves in the wild

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A huge naval submarine comes into the port

It passes right in front of our coach

The people walking on it look like ants

Kurt, Frank and Jim watch the cruise ships

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We're all set to head...

and through the woods... ...

Over the rivers.... ....

to the finish line!

December 16th - The Ladies Hit the Hills - The Enchanted Forest 5K Fun Hike -
Florida is so full of beautiful forests, nature preserves and wildlife areas one could spends years here and still not see them all. This morning a few of us ladies that meet every morning at 8:00am for aerobics, whether it be Zumba, kick-boxing or step class, decided to change things up on today's workout and go alfresco. The Enchanted Forest is a huge nature preserve that has walking and hiking trails all through it. Some are a bit treacherous and others are smooth and flat. We didn't think it would take us long at all to do what they called the "fun hike" but boy were we wrong. The hike lead us over fallen trees, across waterways and through all sorts of trails that were covered in sand or deep leaves. We had a good time and raised a little money for a great cause, so all in all it was a fun day, even though our time was a bit quicker than we had hoped. This means now we'll have to come back a few times over the next few months in an attempt to master he course for next year and beat our time of 56:07.

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