Archives for February 2013

Here Piggy Piggy

The other day when I spoke with the cook from the Blackwater Inn, he said they were cruising down the St. John River to hunt pigs.  Logic would lead one to believe that the pigs would have to come from somewhere to get to the water. That place looked like the State Forest near the river. Since all my other plans fell through, I decide to go investigate  Lake George State Forest Astor Tract near the campgrounds and check things out.  Look for some sign.  If it looks like there is activity, maybe I’ll go get a license and do some still hunting in the forest.

Before the sun is up, I have the dogs in the truck and we’re pulling out of the campground, heading almost immediately onto State Forest land, and soon onto a forest service road.  Surprisingly, I saw no signs of wildlife on that short trip.   After only 20 minutes of travel time I pull over and get out of the vehicle—standing in the dark, listening, and praying that the dogs behave while I’m gone.

Of course, I, the stealth hunter, am dialed in to pick up on slightest of movement or sounds.  Poised, alert, adrenaline rushing down to my fingertips and toes, anticipating the slightest sign of life,  I tip toe down a foot path into a thick canopy of wet, jungle-like woods.  I hold my breath, thinking I’ll be able to see better, hear better.  Instead, it causes me to suddenly gasp for more air. 

As I continue into the 21,176 acre forest, I remind myself to breathe.

I make my way through the brush, almost half a mile into the thick stuff when suddenly there is a loud

“CRACK!”

A branch snaps behind me.   I freeze in place, my heart pounding, wishing for eyes in the back of my head.  Straining to hear something from behind, I try to turn around in slow motion.

“Shuffle… shuffle…”

Dear God, what is it?  My ears are now pounding, fingers tingling, and I cannot get a big enough breath…

Yes, I, the stealth hunter, armed with…with …well shit armed with nothing, spin around to see what is about to eat me.  As I turn and prepare to scream out for my very life…..I realize nothing is there. So I press on. 

Another 10 yards, then another painfully cautious and slow 10 yards, then another.  As a glimmer of dawn surfaces, I find a tree to lean against that appears fairly creepy crawly free, and wait.  And wait, and wait some more.  Wait and watch, motionless.  Eyes constantly scanning the heavy landscape.  Watching as dawn makes its appearance. Waiting for any sign of a squeal. 

“Here, piggy piggy.  You are sly but so am I—where oh where are you?”

After an anxious wait for well over an hour, I press on again, feeling more comfortable in the light of day.  I walk about another quarter mile through the woods.  Everything growing seems to be about armpit high or less.  Except for the big trees.  I spend another hour or so, waiting in silence.

I got nothin.

So, I go on again.  Then I come upon a small clearing. It is a dried mud clearing with ruts of dirt that look dug up. Hello pig haven!   But it is all old and dried.  This could have happened weeks ago.  Still, I walk along the circumference, check the wind to find a good direction, then patiently wait in silence again.  Another hour goes by. It’s probably close to 10 A.M. by now.

Then I turn around.  

Where the hell is the footpath?  I look out and see armpit high foliage as far as the eye can see from all directions.

Shit.

Where’s the sun?

Impossible to see where the sun is, with the thick treetops and overcast sky.

Shit. 

I walk around the mud clearing again.  Oh—this looks like the foot path.  And I start to go down it.  I keep a fair pace on the path for a good 10 minutes, hoping it’s the right path.  Then I stop to listen again.

Nothin. 

As I take my first step to continue on I hear a

“CRACK!…. Crack!” 

And I, the stealth hunter, dialed in to pick up on slightest of movement or sounds, remain  poised and alert with adrenaline rushing down to my fingertips and toes, anticipating the slightest sign of life….then it occurs to me I really should have an exit plan.  A good exit plan, like up a tree…but there are no trees to climb.  There is nothing to get up and out of the way to.  I will have a face-to-face with whatever it is out there.

Shit.

As I sink into a slight panic, the brush in front of me starts to sway.  Sway like something is moving through it.  Something big.  Running would be the worst thing to do.  Stay calm.  Not even a buck knife on me.  Oh lord what was I thinking?

“Snap!  Crack!” 

And as I stand there, praying for intervention from the wild hog, out steps the biggest mole-like rodent I have ever seen in my life.  WHAT?  And I’m not standing around to evaluate it in detail.  I bolt away on that foot path and pummel through the brush without stopping for what seems like forever.  The path ends at a logging trail.  This is not the way I came.  I get onto the trail and keep going. After another 45 minutes of brisk walking, happy day, I see the truck up ahead.  Ok, so I ran a good part of the way.

As I approach the vehicle, the dogs are barking up a storm.  No doubt they had an exciting morning as well.  I let everyone out to pee, have a drink of water, and I devour a granola bar and an apple while I scratch my legs and arms. 

After a half hour of sitting on the tailgate being grateful for finding the way back, I load up everyone back into the vehicle.  We head down the Forest Road and over to the Dexter Mary Farm Tract to the South of the campground.

Here, piggy piggy!  Once again I head down a foot path to try my luck for the afternoon.  At least I have a flashlight this time.

 

Into The Mist

The air is cold, still and moist. The palm branches are dark with moisture.  Every fanlike branch I brush against deposits a swatch of wetness onto my arm. There is a layer of mist on the top of every surface in the jungle-like forest.  A cloudy mist hangs in the air— chilling me down to the lungs with each inhale, producing a fine vapor with each exhale.  Slowly, quietly, each step carefully placed, I make my way through vines, palm branches and shaggy moss tendrils hanging from the sparse trees.  As I look up, the moss seems to overpower the foliage above me, creating a canopy of dangling light green-grey fluffiness, blocking any hope to see the sky above. The smell of earth and wood is overpowering. The mist, the moss and the moist, become a place of  magical adventure.

And I, the stealth hunter, am dialed in to pick up on slightest of movement or sounds.  Poised, alert, adrenaline rushing down to my fingertips and toes, anticipating the slightest sign of life,  I hold my breath, thinking I’ll be able to see better, hear better.  Instead, it causes me to suddenly gasp for more air, in turn, causing awkward movement, unwanted sounds and heavier vapor exhales.   

“CRACK!”

A branch snaps behind me.   I freeze in place, my heart pounding, certain whatever it was can hear it beating.  I stand motionless, wishing for eyes in the back of my head.  Straining to hear something from behind, I try to turn around in slow motion.  I cannot seem to move.  I cannot move.

“Shuffle… shuffle…”

Imagination launches full throttle to conjure up a guess of what might be moving across the ground behind me. Towards me. Heading towards me.  Sounding rather large.  Sounding rather tall.  And large.  Towards me.

Panther?

 

Bear?

 

Snake?

 

Pig? 

 

Dear God, what is it?  My ears are now pounding, fingers tingling, and I cannot get a big enough breath…

Yes, I, the stealth hunter, armed with…with …well shit armed with nothing, as I am just scouting around to see what kind of animal sign I can find……

 

ARGHHHH!  I spin around to see what is about to eat me…… and…..

And….. as I turn and prepare to face the demon and scream out for my very life…..

 

There is nothing there!

 

Huge exhale.

Huge exhale again.  I wipe my brow.  Blink.

Um, oh, ok.  Ok.  It’s ok.  I quickly glance around to make sure no one saw any of that…

All-righty then.  It’s all good.

I turn back around and, continue on into the magical mist.

A Day At The Beach

The weather reports stated severe cold front coming.  Radio stations were advising that if you did have to go out, dress in layers and wear mittens.  The locals were complaining that it was too cold to be out at all.

Still, we ventured out for a day at the beach, or two or three.  After all, it’s 63 degrees!

First stop, Ormond Beach, via the city park.  We were sidetracked into the Ormond City Park on the National Waterways.  Good place to stop and see the bridge over the water, and meet a “Snowbird with a story”. 

After a lovely visit with her, across the bridge we went to Ormond Beach.  Holy Hannah could it be that we were transported to Minnesota crossing that bridge?  Butt kicking mega cold wind!  No one on the beach but me and a few brave gulls. 

Then we traveled north on A1A and stopped at several sections of Ormond beach, hoping for a warmer, and dog friendly area, but with no luck on either.

Finally we arrive to Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation area at Flagler Beach.

Flagler beach—a dog friendly beach!  Thankfully there is far less wind.  Not wanting to be outnumbered by excited canine I take Buddy out first.  We walk up and down the sandy beach.  I try to discreetly throw his orange bumper for him to fetch, despite posted rules ”all dogs must be leashed” everywhere.  The poor guy really needs to get some run time in.  We get away with it for a good 20 minutes. Some days he gets more than others.  Today is not one of the better days.  We go back to the vehicle and the girls get their turn.

Well, girls just wanna have fun, and sure enough mine find it with a couple of hot boy dogs on the beach.  Nothing compares to a 4 dog chain of butt sniffing.  Two girl Lhasas and two boy Scotties.  As the boys owner and I stand trying to keep leashes untangled, we both express our gratitude that people don’t indulge in the same “get to know you” techniques.  After some great romping around and entanglement, the Scotties walk off, leaving my girls in an unrequited love state of mind. It happens.

Then it’s back to the truck for further exploring before sundown.  We turn around and head south, stopping at North Peninsula St Park, and several unmarked ocean side parking areas, then down to Daytona Beach. 

Daytona is a serious tourist focused area. We are early for tourist season.  As I drive around looking for places to park, I envision race season traffic.  I’m glad we’re here now instead of then.  I drive out onto a beach front access point.  It’s gotten cold and windy again, and not too many people are out here with us.  We drive down the coast a little further, and come up on 4 surfer hotties.   Wow, right there are 4 hot guys on surf boards!  Just like the movies!  I watched with genuine curiosity as they tried to ride the waves.  This was my first lesson on the tides.  They had waited until this specific time to show up at Daytona beach to surf when the waves were just right.  How cool is that?  And oh my.  You know the saying if you can’t be good, at least look good?  

They sure looked good!

Can Cookin’

How do you have a quick hot meal without hauling or digging all sorts of supplies out of storage?  Or, what is the next best thing to cooking over a fire—without having to build a fire?  I call it Can Cookin’, and it’s as simple as this…………

Cooking on a clean, empty aluminum food can over a lighted sterno can.

First, you need to carry a few sterno cans.  You know, the cans typically used under chafing dishes.  Back in the day, Fondue was done in a little pot over a can of sterno. I have experimented with that technique, but find when cooking outside, there is too much air flow to heat the pot well. One sterno can typically lasts about 2 hours, or estimate 5 meals.

Second, you need to have an empty, clean aluminum can.

I find that the best cook top surface to use with sterno cans is one of those 21 ounce aluminum cans of baked sweet potatoes—they are about 3 ½ inches high and are 4 inches across.  If you use a taller or bigger can, it will be more difficult for the sterno flame to reach and heat food.

Third, punch a few “air holes” in the aluminum can–use the can opener end of a bottle opener.  This will optimize the ability to heat the surface of the can by allowing some air in.  Two or 3 around the top of the side, and two or 3 around the bottom of the side should be plenty.  You don’t want too much air or it will blow out the sterno flame.

Fourth, light the sterno and place the can over it—and start Can Cookin’ your meal!

Here are a few ideas for can cooking just to get you started thinking.

Dinner in a Can—

Yep, you can cook anything you want to eat straight from the can!  I have cooked Spaghetti Os, Black Beans, Bushes Baked Beans, and Progresso Soups for quick meals on the go, in the dark, at the rest stop or when I don’t feel like getting the whole outdoor kitchen set up.  Open the can almost all the way around, leaving enough attached to be able to  bend the lid back and use as a handle.  Cooking times vary, but the can is usually heated through in about 12 minutes or so. When it’s hot, carefully lift it off with the cushioning of a folded up paper towel or mitten.

 Coffee—

I make Turkish coffee using Can Cookin’ when I don’t want to deal with pulling out a stove.  My Turkish coffee pot fits perfectly on top of the can, and it slow cooks my coffee to perfection in about 10 minutes, every time.  If you are not into Turkish coffee, you could simply boil water in it, and add instant coffee, tea or hot chocolate.  Ahh nectar of the gods.

Breakfast Sandwich—

I have a cute little egg poacher with a lid—works great to make a perfectly sized egg and cheese biscuit or bagel on the cook can in about 12 minutes.  Just crack an egg into the bottom of the poacher, stir it up, season as you like, then cover. The important step is to keep the lid on until the egg is almost done, then position a cheese slice on top of the egg and cover for the last minute or two.  When it’s done, you simply turn the poacher over and drop your creation ‘cheese first’ onto the top slice of your bagel or biscuit.  ShaZam!

Chicken and noodles—

I carry a big ceramic soup cup that fits perfectly on top of my aluminum can.  It is just deep enough to boil a package of ramen noodles and wide across the bottom to heat up well.  I cook the noodles, then drain most of the water, and add a can of drained chicken and heat through.  It heats up best when the soup cup is covered.  Cooking time will range between 15 – 20 minutes.  But when it’s done, yum yum good!

Can Cookin’ isn’t meant to be the end all for eating on the road, but it works slick for a quick meal, and can springboard to other ideas for primitive meals in a pinch.  In all cases, make sure when you are done cooking your meal, never try to lift the can with your bare hand. Extinguish the sterno pot by carefully lifting up the can with either a couple sticks, a fork or tongs through the air holes, and then covering the sterno with its lid.  Wait for all items to cool before transporting.

Pitching Camp

Here we are at Parramores Campground on the St. Johns River at 7:30 in the morning.  There are a couple large parrots in cages beckoning to us as I walk across the parking lot to the office. 

Hellloooo, c’m ere!  Hel ooooooo!”  They cling to the sides of their cages, rocking their bodies back and forth, hoping for some attention.  Squirrel are milling about on the ground underneath them, stuffing their little rodent faces with unbroken seeds.  I walk by…thinking….. pellet gun…..the squirrels, of course!

Well this place is certainly off to an interesting start. 

I walk into the office and register.  Ten dollar fee for the dogs, $25 a night to stay, there’s bathrooms, showers, workout room, pool, food, ice, and a lovely boardwalk dock area right on the river.  Then I consider what I saw during my little “drive by” the other day.

Where would I be staying?  Campsite T3, next to the bathrooms.  Well, ok, let’s start with a couple nights.

Off we go to find T3.

Very quickly I note that there are only two “primitive” sites for tents.  The entire rest of the park is designed for RVs, with long flat dirt pads and hook ups for water, sewer and power.  The outside loop is inhabited by the full time or almost full time residents.  The inside loop is empty.  Those folks will start to arrive between Christmas and New Years.

 

I stand there, scratching my legs and ankles, evaluating my set up options.  I have water and power too.  I pull out the pop up canopy and have it up in about 15 minutes.  The whole time, a man across the road from me is watching me from his picnic table.  Hmmm.  My friend arrives. We engage in a bit of somewhat uncomfortable conversation, then walk up to the office for lunch.  Surprisingly, this little camping establishment is also home to Buck and Kats Café, and they produce some fairly decent grub.  We split a smoked salmon salad, go back to my campsite, unload and exchange “stuff” and she drives off.

Heavy sigh.

Now I have time to move some things into place.  I back the truck up under the canopy until the gate is under it, and to block off the neighbor across the way and give us some privacy. Then I attach tarps on the remaining 3 sides.  I pull the dog fence out and wrap that around the canopy walls as well, and pull out the lawn chairs to sit on inside.  I hang an electric lantern from the canopy frame.  We have a narrow walkway between the truck gate and the edge of the canopy, and a narrow “doorway” on the driver side of the truck. The big black truck box my friend left me will serve as a long table.  Last, I retrieve the bug net.  I remove it from its secure wrapping, and drape it over the opened gate window, over the back of the truck.  Now we’re bug proof back there.  I pull out the cooler, crawl into the back of the truck and take a look out at our temporary home.  Good enough.  I decide to stop fussing, and just see how things go for now.

The kids are anxious to get into the back of the truck and I don’t blame them.  I’m ready for a nap on something more closely resembling a bed myself!  So Buddy jumps up into the truck and heads to his kennel, while me and the girls curl up on the bench/bed I created on the other side.  I pull the bug net down and across the gate opening, and we all take a nap.

 Our nap is short. The constant buzzing of andchatter from folks on golf carts going back and forth keeps us from really falling asleep. I get up and take a walk around our new digs.  Observations as follows:

We are the only tenters.

We are the only ‘residents’ under 80.

We are the only non-smokers.

We are the only ones without a golf cart.

“Grand central golf carts” seems to be at its peak between 3:30 and 5:00 pm.  When the sun goes down, perhaps the campground is quiet. But for now¸ there is a constant back and forth from bathroom to RV, RV to RV, RV to activity building.  Perfect time to make my dinner on the picnic table. 

As I heated my meal on a can, I watched and waved as folks rode by.  By the time I fed the kids, the sun was gone, and finally, so were most of the golf carts.  We all had our last bathroom break, then curled up into the back of the truck for the night.  My plan is to get up early and go check out the Lake George State Forest land for pig sign.  See if it’s worth getting a non- resident license and hunting.  As I lay there, my arms are getting a little tingling and itchy.  My ankles are itching again, and my lower legs.  I haven’t seen even one mosquito. WTF?  And I scratch myself to sleep…

Friendship And Letting Go

She had been through some tough times, indeed.  Tough enough that it was apparent she didn’t have the “fight” left in her, to get back on top of it all on her own.  Her life was a mess, her house a mess, her kids (all adult), taking advantage.  She was at the point of turning a blind eye to it all and just looking for the fastest way out.  This dear woman, so fun and accepting and loving and kind, deserved better.

Then she suddenly announced she was moving to Florida with a man she barely knew.  How many of us have dreamed of a quick escape from all of our troubles?  A fresh start? In a blink of an eye, she left us all.  Her family, her friends, her job, her equity and home.

Months later, we get in touch and she is describing all of the things they are purchasing for their fresh start.  Things that she has sitting in the home she abandoned.  She sounds lonely.  She has not been doing any of the activities she did at home.  As we talk, I convince her it would be wise to come home and go through her equity before the foreclosure is complete, and bring as much back to Florida as she can rather than go buy new.  Despite her new “friend” is not supportive of her leaving, she agrees and books a flight home.

During her time back home, she spends much of it taking care of her new grandbaby, talking or texting to her “friend” about what she is doing at that moment, and some time going through her belongings and packing things up for a Pod move.  He allowed her two weeks.  She needed about a month.  The rest is history.

So, there were a few things that I followed up with for her after she went back to Florida.  Running into her kids when I would go to the house was uncomfortable to say the least.  They voiced their concern about their mom leaving with “that man”.  There were no good things said about him.  She, on the other hand, had made it clear they left because of the kids bad behavior toward him.  I tried to remain neutral.  While none of her friends ever had the chance to meet him, she did say he didn’t like kids, animals, or people in general. We all had a hard time understanding what the attraction was. 

Not everything made it into the Pod.  I ended up bringing a short list of her things with me on my road trip adventure, with the intent to deliver them to her and then spend some time together.   As we got closer to that time, she became more uneasy about meeting, more vague, and seemingly more under her friends control.  When a free thinking persons communication suddenly shifts to “well John doesn’t think I should…”, and “well john wouldn’t want me to do that” and  “well I’ll ask John…”  

My heart would ache!  I am holding back from screaming out;  “Girlfriend!!  Heck with John!  What do YOU want?  What do YOU think?  Is this man your jailor?”  Instead, I say, “you know if you ever want to come home you have a place to stay with me.”

Clearly there is trouble in paradise.  Although they have just purchased a home on some acreage, I am not welcome on their property.  Apparently no one is. The hurt I am feeling pales in comparison to the fear I am feeling for her.   I listen carefully to her words, her phrases, and her rationales. She no longer has an opinion, every sentence starts with his name.  She is over her head.  She is basically suggesting we should meet on a highway rest stop somewhere for her to pick up her belongings. How ludicrous.  I brought product to color her hair again.  Do that in the rest stop?  Oh please.  There is so much she is not telling me.  I cannot take this personal.  I could easily get sucked in further as a concerned friend. Instead, I stand my ground.  Regardless of what may or may not be going on with her life, I deserved better treatment from a friend.   I have driven several thousand miles to see her.  Since I am not allowed to her home, she can drive 60 miles to my campsite to see me and get her stuff.   I cannot take this personal, it’s not about me.  It’s about a situation she has allowed herself to get into. 

When she came to my campsite she seemed nervous. She didn’t look good.  We went up to the Campsite office for a quick lunch and she relaxed a little—started talking about the property they bought.  I am the only one who has the address and phone number. Geeze does that put me in danger?  I’ll delete it pronto! Maybe she is happy? Maybe this is what she wants?  I find it hard to believe, and want to reach out, push her so I can get to the bottom of what’s really going on and help. 

But instead, with a heavy heart as we said our goodbyes, I simply let her go.

Good luck, my friend.

Drip! Drip! Drip!

One day, when my German Short Hair was still a new addition to the family, we were off  bird hunting and camping in an area that offered a water sprocket, and other people in the campground said it was fresh spring water.

So I filled a container for him.  And that morning, Buddy drank his fill of that fresh spring water before we went out for a day of pheasant hunting.  I packed several small bottles to bring with, as well.

About half way into the day, I found a great “untouched” section of field, with the wind in the perfect direction.  I parked and jumped out of the truck to fetch Buddy from his kennel in back.

Low and behold, we had ourselves a big problem. The smell coming from his kennel was outrageous, and he was trying his hardest to keep all 4 paws tight to the walls of the kennel so as not to step in the outrageous diarrhea that filled the back wall and floor of his kennel.

There are no words.  It was awful.  For hours.  Oh what we went through together to clean that mess up.  Never again.

Ever since that day, I’ve made it a point to carry water from home for the canine.  No changes to upset their system while on the road.  Normally it’s not a big deal, since we’re never gone more than about a week.

But in planning for a long trip, things change.  As I finished packing up, I evaluated the situation and realized I could really use about another 10 gallons of water along.  So I dashed off to Gander Mountain, and bought two brand new 5 gallon, plastic collapsible Reliance Fold-a-Carrier containers, filled them and loaded them up. They have been securely positioned on the bottom row of supplies on the cargo rack, between other water containers, that will be retrieved last.

Today, I went to pull one out for use.  “Drip, drip, drip”.  Water is all over the bottom of my tarped cargo rack.  That would explain the occasional mysterious moisture under the car I’d noticed in Lynns’ driveway.  One of my new containers is about half empty.

The cap was still on tight, the sprocket not accidentally turned to open, but the water is no longer there.  As I feel along the seams and turn the container from side to side to side, I cannot find leaks or anything wrong.  But on the top, there is some moisture surfacing, so it appears that maybe the closure is not firmly sealed?  So the water very slowly leaked out from the top underneath the cap?  Still not sure what happened. But in about 30 days I lost about 2 ½ gallons of water just from traveling. At least the other container seems ok.

Still, I am not happy. 

Shame on me for not checking to make sure my brand new water containers were problem free.  But as a consumer, why do we have to be concerned that a brand new water container would be defective?

Back to purchasing purified water at the store.

My advice is if you decide to purchase the Reliance Fold-a-Carrier container, make sure you have time to test the heck out of it first and ensure there is no leaking.

Figuring Out Base Camp

It’s December and I have the air on in the truck. Gainesville is hot and sunny, and I’m so excited to be here I can hardly stand it!  And hey, the cool air helps with my itching ankles! I pull in to the parking lot of my destination, Bear Archery, but alas there is no one here.  That’s odd.  Did I miss something?  Hmmm, what day is it, anyway?  While I am starring in disbelief at the locked building, several other cars pull in, then leave.  One guy gets out of the vehicle with his boy, they walk to the door, and linger there for a few minutes, then turn away. The kids disappointment is obvious as they walk back to their vehicle with heads hanging down.  At least I wasn’t the only one. I try again to reach out to my contact via phone—and have to leave another message.

So it’s on to the next step of the plan.  Apparently I will not be driving down to Hudson to see my friend.  So I reach out for Ben, a friend’s nephew who is also helping to set me up with a pig hunt.  He had suggested a good place to base camp, out of Astor FL.  Once again, the phone goes to voicemail.

“Hi Ben, I’m here in Florida!  I’m heading to Astor now, please give me a call to work out details!” 

We pull out of Bears parking lot, and stop at the grocery store for a few supplies before heading south east to Astor. In the meantime, the prospect of unloading my friends belongings is looking more and more grim.  My heart is heavy with sadness by how things are going, and concern for my friend and what she maybe isn’t telling me.

The sun is going down as I reach the city limits of Astor.  GPS directions lead me over a skinny draw bridge and directly to the campgrounds Ben talked about.  I get there but it’s after hours and no one is there to check me in.  I get a sneak peak at the place.  It looks like an RV park.  There are no other tents.  I decide to go find dinner, and try Ben again.

Back over the draw bridge we go and suddenly spot The Blackwater Inn right on the St. Johns River.  What a lovely place!  I turn left and head down to their parking lot.  This is the perfect place for a nice meal!  They have a big outdoor bar seating area along the water, and a very nice restaurant inside with views of the water. My waitress appeared quickly, offered me great recommendations, and was a wealth of information about Astor.  I told her a little bit about my plan to camp, and my reservations about the place I was referred to, and that I couldn’t get in there tonight anyway.

“But, I’m not concerned, because I saw several State and National Forest signs, so I can go back to one of those places tonight and just pull in somewhere and camp for the night in the vehicle.”

“Ohhh no, don’t go do that.  You can stay in our parking lot, I’ll just go check with the boss.” She comes back, “yes, feel free to stay in our lot tonight.  Once we close up by about 10:30 there won’t be anyone here to bother you at all.” 

“Awesome, who is the boss? I should thank him.”

“My husband.” She winks.

We laugh, and strike up a conversation.  Tina and her husband came to Florida from Alaska, looking for less people and hustle bustle. When I told her I was in Florida primarily to go pig hunting she disappeared once more, and came back with one of the cooks.  He is a big hunter as well, and is planning a pig hunt in the morning.  I can join him, but I’ll need to get a few things done first.

“You need to get to the Walmart about 20 miles away and get your small game non resident license then be here and ready to go at 7:00 am to get on the pontoon.” 

What?

Yep, he and his group are going to cruise down the St. Johns River on a pontoon boat and shoot the pigs with their 12 gauges when they come to drink in the morning.

Hmmm, I may not be able to do that, as I am hunting pigs with my bow…..but what the heck, it’ll be an interesting experience, anyway!  I finish my dinner and dash to Walmart.

Of course by 10:30 at night there was no one to be found in the hunting department to help me with what I need….as the excitement wore off,  I looked around the barren isles, reconsidered the cooks kind offer, and drove back to Williams Landing and the Blackwater Inn without the required license for pig hunting.

The next morning, I was up early, and left another message for Ben.  As I was heading toward the State Forest entrances I’d seen the day before,  the phone rang:

“Ye.., hello, you’ve be…en calli Ben?” was the poor connection, crackling voice on the other end of the line.

“Hey, Ben is that you?  I’m so glad to hear from you!”  I say.

“This isn’t Ben, no,” replies a mans voice.

I pull over to the side of the road, hoping for a better connection.

“Hello?  Ben?”

“no” the man says, “there is no Ben at this number.  I just checked my voicemail for the first time in days and found all your messages, perhaps I can help you, I’m a little familiar with Florida.

I was stupefied.  What happened to Ben?  This is the number he gave me.  When I had tried his original number, there was no voicemail, it just rang and rang.  He said to use this number, which apparently is not his……great….

So instead I chat with a very kind man from Ohio who will be in Florida after Christmas.  He advises me NOT to camp in the State Forests right now because of heavy panther and pig sightings, instead, stick with Bens recommendation.  His wife is on line, looking up other parks they are familiar with that would be good options.  How supportive and helpful.  Bless their hearts. 

In a nutshell, I can’t reach my hunting contacts, my friend’s significant other will not allow me at their place, it’s not safe to camp in the State Forest, so I’m on my own and heading back to Astors RV Campground until I can think of another idea.  Ohh, geez, my ankles are really itching.

The Art of Listening, Part 1 Open Mouth, Insert Foot

Who wants to save the world?  One human interaction at a time? 

Ever run into one of these people? You strike up a conversation with them, either in person or electronically.  After about three minutes, or eight sentences of information you provide, the other person has somehow reached a conclusion about your story or situation and is querying or lecturing you further, set on solving the problem they have determined you must have by the limited information you’ve shared?

The “Save-E” becomes reactive, and continues to answer the “Save-or’s” questions,  which continues to feed their desire to show their brilliance, or the Save-E will just politely listen to their oration about how you “should” do this or “need to consider” that, lecturing them as though they are the ignorant new-bee student.  Thank goodness the Save-or has swooped in with all the answers.

In the end, the Save-or, may come to learn that as they were talking down to the Save-E like a three year old, that person was actually an expert in that field, trying to be polite and secretly hoping they’d go away, while the Save-or expressed their diarrhea of the mouth.  The Save-E, has likely been borderline tolerant, irritated, not wanting make a big deal, and depending on the circumstances around them both, may have experienced some public embarrassment by the entire interaction.

It’s most likely the Save-or truly has only the best intentions in mind with their interventions.  What they know is so important. They want to show you.  They believe they know better, and need to step in to save the day with their brilliance. So, if and when the Save-or is finally and perhaps abruptly put into their place, they are shocked, offended, and trudge off feeling rejected and unappreciated.  

Even if the Save-or is extremely knowledgeable and provides valid information about the subject matter in general, the fact that it was not specifically requested by or applicable to the Save-E, makes it a huge social and business no-no. 

So why does it seem to happen so much, in business, in personal life, in general? 

Stay tuned for the Art of Listening, Part 2, coming soon.

Welcome To Florida!

Rest Stop 1 mile.  It’s been a long drive, much of it through fog and rain and since leaving Georgia. I pull onto the exit lane.  The welcome center sign up ahead is sporting a great big orange.  As I pull up into the parking area; WELCOME TO FLORIDA!    We’re finally here!  Hurray!  It’s only 9:30 in the morning.  There are almost no parking spots left.  License plates give evidence of travelers from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Rhode Island, oh one from Washington state! People are milling about, stretching their legs, and heading in droves to the “facilities”.  I join the crowd.   Blue sky, 65 sunny degrees and climbing.  Surely this is heaven.

Inside the welcome center, visitors are offered a glass of orange or grapefruit juice. There are kiosks chock full of information throughout the room, isles of pamphlets separated by region of Florida, and a dozen representatives eager to help you find great places to vacation in the sunshine state.

There is a lot to do in this state.

I begin an investigation of the massive recreational choices.  I talk to a couple of the representatives.  Next thing I know, am carrying a couple pounds of literature back to the truck.  Five brochures later, I realize I could sit in this parking lot all day and not absorb everything there is to do in Florida.  I make a couple calls to check on arrangements for my camping destination and to meet up with people, grab a light lunch out of the cooler, and check email. 

After a bathroom break for the canine, we are back on the road and headed to our first stop, Gainesville, hoping to connect-the-dots to a pig hunt before dinner time! 

A few minutes into the ride, I notice I am developing little welts around my ankles, and along my forearms.  And they are sort of itchy….