Suwannee Solace Part 2 of 2

Sunday provided us yet another beautiful start to our day. I woke with the sunrise and spent time outside with the dogs, wandering the campgrounds, pondering the emotional Saturday Paula and I shared.   Perhaps one of the most difficult things a person can do is try to hold back insurmountable grief. Loss is never easy. Words are never enough. I’ve been there more than once.

But to get a call on a Monday that your husband keeled over and died during his routine Doc appointment—well, what are you supposed to do with that?! Struggle through a million questions in your mind? Feel devastated, lost, alone, robbed, deserted, helpless, confused, enraged or all of the above? Or perhaps just block it out, believing it simply isn’t true; he’ll be home any time now? My heart breaks for Paula! I am just glad she decided to make this trip. Indeed, I cannot imagine going through what she just has.

We are more than ready to have some fun.   I am anxious to get this party started!

Paula’s head pops out the trailer door. “Good morning!”

Yes it is!

Today we will embark on a grand canoe adventure on the Suwannee River. We delved into an area map, plotting a reasonably do-able route that, by our estimation, should be completed in about 6 hours. Both being highly experienced paddlers, we agreed we can do it. If we ‘put in’ at Blue Springs, we can stop right here at Convict Springs, then bike back to Blue Springs to get the truck, and drive home with the bikes. We grabbed our food, water, and gear for the day. After a hug goodbye to the pups, we were rolling out of the campground, ready for a day on the river!

SuwanSolaceP26Rural forest and farmland, tall green pines and live oaks, the drive to Blue Springs was so beautiful! So similar to home, and not at all what you would expect from Florida! We passed by miles of horse pastures, amazing colorful fields of native flowers, farmsteads, and grazing farm animals. A perfect country drive!

We arrived to Blue Spring Park by 9 am, and prepared to launch our canoe. Paula volunteered to start our journey in the back of the boat, and we will switch half way. Decisions come easy for us. We work together well. We laughed and made light of our ‘extreme packing’ situation . Since both of us had backgrounds of being in charge and carrying the responsibility to guide a trip, it appeared we had about a month’s worth of stuff between the two of us for our 6 hour trip. Truth be told, we probably didn’t need a flashlight along, let alone two. Extra clothes and rain gear? It’s not even a full day trip! A GPS? Not needed. Compass? We’re floating downstream, probably not needed. Cameras? Well I’m not going to take one this trip. 16 granola bars? I will surely barf if I consume half of them in one afternoon….we carefully examined our pile of gear, and downsized our ton of stuff to some food and water, life vests, and paddles into the boat. By the time we got onto the water, we were both tired from laughing so much.

Gliding onto the Suwannee was borderline magical. There’s something about the waters that pulls you into a state of reflection, or a state of self-realization. My thoughts drifted to memories of sad things, and those sad things then lead me into a sort of solitude that almost echoed from bank to bank, rolling downstream. I felt comforted in my sadness, and honored those sad memories. I hoped Paula felt something similar. The river was absolutely motionless, and looked like glass. I cast my eyes far ahead of us, and studied every branch jutting out of the dark water, expecting it to rise up with huge snapping jaws like the alligators in the movies! Alas, there were many alligator stumps, and alligator rocks, but thankfully, no actual alligators.

“It’s really not warm enough for them up here, you rarely see them up here.” Paula reassured me. Yeah well, there’s always going to be a rogue gator, defying the norm, looking for cool weather food source….

“Ohhh! There’s one! Is that one?”

“No, that would be another alligator stump.”

SwuanSolaceP27One would think that it would be pretty easy to float down a river, but the Suwannee was moving so slowly, we did actually have to paddle. That is, when we felt like moving. It was fantastic to just float along, gazing into the banks, or up at the blue sky, nibbling on treats, reflecting on lives well lived. We were the only ones on the water. This was our river. Our time. All ours. Until the water patrol buzzed around the corner, and blew past us, sending our canoe into a less than gentle rocking motion.

Yup that same water patrol buzzed up and down the river past us at least 5 times throughout the afternoon.

Amazingly, he was about the only other boat on the water. We stopped at Peacock Spring and explored the little channel that brought you to the actual spring. It was surreal, with gangly trees sprouting out of the waters, and strange alien-like plant life I’d never seen before, and the waters were an earie blueish green. Not a soul in sight besides us. We grounded the canoe, got out and took a good stretch, and checked out the primitive campground. It was exactly like the one we saw yesterday! We pulled off to the shore several more times to explore the wilderness settings we floated by. The Suwannee doesn’t boast much development in this area at all. Except for the occasional cabin type dwelling, it was pretty remote feeling, uninhabited, and wild. We saw cranes, eagles, ducks and many jumping fish on our journey down river.

And about those fish……

A splash over here, a splash over there, here a splash, there a splash, everywhere a splash splash; giant tarpon ‘round the boat, e-i-oh-my-oh! They were everywhere! I had a hankering to drop a line in the water but didn’t have my pole. Then we floated around a corner and there was the sign:

DANGER, TARPON WATERS

BEWARE OF AGGRESSIVE FISH

Okay then! We looked at each other. Apparently the tarpon are aggressive enough to tip a canoe or kayak over, and kill you. My curiosity and hankering to fish disappeared instantly, replaced with searching for tarpon stumps and tarpon rocks along with the alligators. Some of the dark swirls were very near the canoe. Some rose up and showed some body, others simply flicked a heavy tail and dove deep. And no, they absolutely were not manatees. Paula tried to calm my fears with a crazy story of how she was the only person – ever – to be bitten by an alligator at Myakka State Park. Yeah, that really made me feel better. Not. But somehow, her story didn’t surprise me, either. Of course the next thing would be; “Two Canoeing Women, Killed by Tarpon.” Or “Two Women, Capsized By Tarpon, Eaten By Alligators.” The rest of our journey we made jokes, laughed at everything and nothing, and got downright serious in solving all of the world’s problems for a few minutes, to boot.   What we didn’t do was keep track of our time and distance.

SuwanSolaceP28We were lagging behind schedule. That meant power paddle. We switched seats. Because I am a strong paddler, it took some time before we got into sync again. By the time we hit Convict Springs our upper bodies were spent. Spent but we were still laughing and enjoying the day. We dragged the canoe up to the lawn and rested. The idea of a 90 minute bike ride sounded a little too ambitious, so we decided to drive my truck back to get her truck. It was somewhere between pulling the canoe up and deciding on driving that I made a major, horrible discovery. OH CRAP! I left my keys in her truck. We can’t drive back to Blue Springs. And we’re too tired to bike. But we are very smart outdoors-women with answers to all of life’s problems, so, in a moment of brazen creativity, we opted for a shuttle ride to Blue Springs.

I’m not gonna lie, I about fell asleep in the back seat of the shuttle ride while Paula and the driver chatted up a storm. But we got to the truck and back to camp in time to pick up the canoe from the launch and get back to start dinner right before dark. We shared some wine, toasted to new beginnings, good times, good friends, and more adventures together.

Friday morning as she prepared to head back south, Paula made the bold decision to “take the scenic route” and stop along the way. My friend chalked up a few “firsts” this weekend. Just a taste of what can be a whole new chapter of firsts for her. And as for me? I feel blessed to have shared time with this wonderful person. She has become a cherished friend, indeed.  Now I will continue my journey north to Minnesota, making my own scenic stops along the way.  I’m already planning our next adventure!

Thank you for reading my post. Was it inspiring? Scary? Funny? Unbelievable? I’d love to hear your thoughts! All comments are greatly appreciated. Life is an adventure—and it begins today! Why wait for an invitation to live an amazing life full of great experiences? There are lots of inspirational stories under my blog category, “PRs Amazing Outdoor Adventure Update”. If you like what you see, please let me know by “liking” my website. You can even join my tribe to automatically receive new postings ‘hot off the press’.

If you find yourself spending your time not doing what you love, I invite you to contact me for help to create your own, amazing adventure. As always, please feel free to share with others who may find meaning and value in exploring limitless possibilities with PR Brady AdVentures. Thanks again!

 

 

 

Suwannee Solace Part 1 of 2

The prospect of leaving sunny Florida for chilly Minnesota is much more palatable knowing stops are being planned along the way; especially when stops include some warm weather adventure.

So when the opportunity arose to spend time in the Panhandle with a native Floridian, how could I resist?

My colleague and new friend Paula had just experienced a devastating loss, and was more than ready for a distraction from her world. She invited me on an excursion to visit her property “up north”, and it quickly turned into a full blown adventure!

Friday we left Sarasota with my three hairy kids riding shotgun, my trailer in tow and her following behind in a truck loaded with kayaks and bikes, and headed north to Mayo, Florida. The weather was perfect and the drive pulling the Toy Hauler was a breeze. The Suwannee River winds all through the area, and a quiet little place at Convict Springs is where we planned to set up camp for the duration. We arrived around dinner time. We had had a rocky departure from Sarasota that morning, so after getting the Toy Hauler situated and everyone fed, we turned in for the night.

The next morning we woke to another beautiful day. There’s something very freeing about being away from ‘the routine’. We found ourselves decompressing at the picnic table, soaking up the morning sun; she with her tea, me with my coffee, smiling and enjoying honey drizzled zucchini bread, letting the stress of last week melt away. The plan was to quickly walk the dogs, then head out early to Holton Creek Wildlife Management Area, to see her little slice of private heaven. From there, she had a couple other places she wanted to show me. If we didn’t go soon, we wouldn’t make them all.

The dogs got their walks, we prepared for our day trip and headed out of camp. Our hour drive was scenic, rustic, and suddenly a 4 wheel drive challenge. I was simply a passenger (wow, that’s a first!) and I trusted my friend completely, but I admit I was becoming a little nervous.

“Paula, are you sure we are going the right way?” I finally peeped as we joggled down the unmaintained excuse for a road.

“Well I’m pretty sure this is right. That doesn’t look familiar, though.” She replied.

There wasn’t anything to GPS, so the guessing game went on for another 30 minutes before she somehow identified a tree off to the left or something like that and announced “there it is, we are here!” and she pulled off to the edge of a thick woods.

I looked back at the road we came in on. It wasn’t much of a road. I have no idea where we are.

She leaped out of her truck bursting with energy, and dove into the woods. I jumped out, and followed close behind as she forged through thick brush, along over grown trails, and hiked up and down several hills (Oh my! Florida has some hills!). The terrain is much different than down south around the Gulf. More oak trees, pine trees, and virtually no palm trees or palmettos. It almost looks like Minnesota. Especially with those deer tracks…

She was a woman on a mission. Determined to find and face her land on her own terms. She chattered excitedly about plans she had for the land, new ideas, and old dreams. We walked the land for an hour, through the woods, and along the edge of the high river bluff, as she tried to recall where the property lines were. Finally she uncovered the evidence she was looking for. A giant game feeder, hidden in the brush.

There were deer tracks everywhere, and spent shells. Wow, this was the ideal hunting haven.

She touched the feeder, then followed an invisible trail over to another, and then another, recognizing each in its own right, as though she expected them not to be there.

My heart broke for her as she stood by the last feeder. “He was more concerned about feeding the deer half the time than shooting them.” She sighed.

The woods became very quiet. Our eyes met. She had never been to this land without him. It was good that we were here. She looked around with misty eyes, then quickly turned and headed back on another trail as I raced to catch up, giving her plenty of space to feel what she needed to feel.

SweetSuwan4Once we found the truck, we continued down the “beyond rustic” road that eventually lead to a campground. The road was there for emergencies and the camp host to have access. The campground is designed to only be accessed from the water, hosting a dozen or so primitive camp sites for paddlers to rest at while working their way down the Suwannee River. Florida sure has a strange perception of what “primitive” campsites are. There were modern bathrooms with flush toilets, showers and heat and air conditioning, and the campsites were actually screen houses raised off the ground, with electricity, lights, and grills. WHAAAAT?  Apparently this was one of many such campgrounds along the Suwannee.

We explored the entire property, marveling at how pristine of a campground it was, and how empty it was. They even provided heavy duty carts to haul gear up from the elaborate canoe launch, stairway and ramp. This Minnesotan was highly impressed!

We made our way back to the truck and back down that minimal road, on to our next stop of the day: Big Schoals State Park.

There weren’t any attendants on duty. We breezed through the entrance and drove straight to the parking area. Only a couple cars were there. We got out and wandered around the picnic area, looking for the hiking trail. Her mood was improved, she had a little spring in her step, and she was determined to take me to a special place. We found the hiking trail, and began our journey.

SweetSuwan5Within 20 minutes I was in a state of shock. WHO’D A THUNK there were actual rapids in Florida!? Paula brought me to a park that boasts the largest white water rapids in the state, an impressive Class III Rapids with 80 foot high Limestone bluffs along the river. Simply amazing. We snapped pictures of breath taking views, and marveled at the powerful Suwannee River waters surging downstream. SweetSuwan3The hiking trail could have brought us through another 25 or more miles of wooded wilderness, quite a different scene than the Gulf area. But we opted to head back and on to our next destination—the hunting camp.

Once again we were on the road, this time following coordinates she obtained from somewhere that would hopefully bring us to the hunting camp. We drove at least an hour on paved roads, but then it was back to the Florida back roads. We drove at least another hour down what she swore was a road, (but I think it was an oversized animal trail) that at times we had to keep the windows up or we’d be whipped in the face by branches. We pummeled through mud and water, over deadfalls and squeezed through some very narrow areas of the “road”.

“Paula, are you sure we are going the right way?” I finally peeped as we joggled down the unmaintained, animal trail excuse for a road.   We could barely drive 15 miles per hour safely.

“Well I’m pretty sure this is right. That doesn’t look familiar, though.” She replied. “And neither does that.“

The GPS didn’t seem to be reading correctly, so the guessing game went on for another 45 minutes. Finally she somehow identified a tree off to the right or something like that and announced “there it is, we are here!” and she pulled off to the left of a Y in the road.

I looked back at the road we came in on. It wasn’t much of a road. In fact, where the hell is the road? It had evaporated into the bushes. I have no idea where we are.

She slowly pulled up to an old steel gate across an overgrown fire road.

“Are you sure about this?”

“Yes, this is it! But just wait here, and I’ll go check.” And with that she bailed out of the truck, sprinted over the gate and down the fire road.

I sat waiting at the truck. My mind starts to wander.

Dang, is this where they shot Deliverance?

We’ve got about 2 hours of daylight left, tops.

Dang, my phone isn’t picking up a signal.

What if she is wrong?

Dang mosquitos! Good Grief!

What if she doesn’t come back?

Dang we slid through a whole lot of mud back there.

Suddenly she was back, and digging around in the foliage looking for a hidden key for the gate.

“I don’t understand, it’s always here.” She mumbled. We decided to leave the truck there and hike in.

Yes this is it. Look, a BATHROOM! I made fast tracks to the can.

So this is the hunting camp. Paula was engrossed with searching for something. I did not ask her what for. Perhaps it isn’t anything in particular. Her searching became more determined.

“Are you looking for something specific? Can I help?”

“Richards stuff. Where is his stuff?” she seemed anxious.

Everything in the hunting shack was beyond neat. Unbelievable neat. No way could this be a place where men hung out. It was just too neat. Or, maybe her late husbands’ buddy has already been there and gone.

Again, my heart broke for her. She canvassed the entire inside of the cabin, looking more and more distraught. Then she picked up an object.

The cabin became very quiet. Our eyes met. She had never been here without him. It was good that we were here. She just wanted something of his to hang on to. She stood in the middle of the main room with the object, looked around with misty eyes, then quickly turned and headed out the door as I raced to catch up, giving her plenty of space to feel what she needed to feel.

SweetSwuan2We walked the property in silence as the sun began to set. Where ever the heck we are this certainly is a great hunting camp! There were feeders and treestands and carefully trimmed trails for close shots with the bow. She talked about how much time he spent managing the two properties, and how they would come up together and fill the feeders, look for sign of wild game, and just relax.

We had to head out, or we’d never get out in the dark. Racing the sun at a snails pace, we made our way down that rough and tumble animal trail road–through the water and mud and deadfalls and brush and eventually hit pavement. We drove back to our camp in quiet resolve, sharing just enough small talk to keep us both awake. I sat silently in the passenger seat, realizing something epic took place today, and I was honored to have been a part of it.

Oh dear friend, I can’t imagine your pain! Losing your best friend, your childhood sweetheart, your husband of 40 something years….oh, I am so sorry for your loss!

Tomorrow will be a new day with a new adventure.

Thank you for reading my post. Was it inspiring? Scary? Funny? Unbelievable? I’d love to hear your thoughts! All comments are greatly appreciated. Life is an adventure—and it begins today! Why wait for an invitation to live an amazing life full of great experiences? There are lots of inspirational stories under my blog category, “PRs Amazing Outdoor Adventure Update”. If you like what you see, please let me know by “liking” my website. You can even join my tribe to automatically receive new postings ‘hot off the press’.

If you find yourself spending your time not doing what you love, I invite you to contact me for help to create your own, amazing adventure. As always, please feel free to share with others who may find meaning and value in exploring limitless possibilities with PR Brady AdVentures. Thanks again!

 

Third Time’s A Charm Part 2

Counting down the days.  Can’t believe I’m going to leave all this.

As Monday grows nearer, so does my unrest about leaving Florida.  I know all too well, once I leave, there is no one to step in and pick up where I left off.  Jeff stops by to talk about what we need to do to pull the trailer out.  He mentions that rain is on the way, and I start watching forecasts non-stop.  It’s on the way here, and with that, Delay #1 presents itself.  Besides rain coming here any minute now, storms, big violent storms are being predicted north.  North meaning the Florida Panhandle and up.  High winds and heavy rain.  Not things I am willing to pull my trailer in.  We watch the forecasts carefully.  I have plans in the Panhandle.  Oh no.  The rain would be following me for the next 5 days.  It isn’t going to make sense to leave Monday.

Delay #1–Wait out the storms.

So I wait.  Hey I tried to leave, but……….guess I’ll stay awhile.  Paula and I go biking.

Things have a way of working out, don’t they?  Wednesday looks much better for travel.  Jeff arrives to pull the Toy Hauler out from its cozy woods location, and lines it up for me to have an easy pull out to the road.  We small talk, and he says he’ll be back to help once I’m ready to hook up.  Now I’m getting a bit anxious.  After all, once I get about 3 hours north, my friend Paula and I will embark on an adventure in the Panhandle.  I scramble to take care of last minute chores and details and so does she.  I can’t stop thinking about how things will be once I leave.  I keep a steady watch for the Executive Director.  Each time I see her, it’s harder to look her in the eyes.   I can barely stand how I feel about leaving.  She has become like a sister to me.  I can’t stand to leave her to manage it all alone again.  But she knows I can’t stay.  On top of everything else, now her sister is sick and in the hospital, and with that, Delay #2 presents itself.

Delay #2—Being there

There is no one to “mind the store” Thursday so she can visit her sister in the hospital   There’s no way I would leave her in the lurch when she needs to be with her family.  God knows if I had family I’d want someone to be there for me.  I talk with Paula.  She is fine with us leaving later. It’s agreed, I’ll stay a few days more to help manage things so Laney can spend time with her sister, then we’ll leave.  Perfect opportunity for one last Wednesday night drum circle.

Friday, 7 a.m. comes bright and early, with staff on site.  Paula and I look at each other.  It’s time!  Jeff arrives, checks and airs up the tires. We discover I’ve been pulling around the Toy Hauler with the wrong tire pressure in my truck tires.  He is a genius cowboy ranch guy and I am totally indebted to him!  He leaves to take care of some projects.  No problem, I can crank up the Toy Hauler and hook up.  Paula and her son have arrived with the kayaks and our bikes loaded on her truck.  Her son is helping get things tied in and ready to go.  I back the truck carefully to the trailer hitch and begin to turn the crank………and with that, Delay #3 presents itself.

Delay #3—The Hitch Crank is Stripped

Wow, we all stand there in a state of shock.  How can the crank be stripped already?  This trailer is way too new.  Well?  Chalk up another one up for PR’s Trailer Trauma Saga?  I call Jeff.  ThirdTime2He arrives within minutes, and carefully examines the situation.  Yup, it’s stripped alright. So we have two choices.  Jeff can lift the trailer up on jacks to get it on the hitch, but then how would I get it off the truck if I need to on the journey home?  Or, I find a new hitch and he installs it.  One thing that has been constant during my stay this winter is the “can do it” attitude everyone has here.  Paula and I race into Sarasota to the nearest RV Dealer, and to my relief, Campbell’s RV carries the exact parts I need.  After making one last stop to Detwiler’s Market, we speed back to camp. Paula brings the new part to Jeff and her son while I make a quick trip up to the Welcome Center to drop off treats for the animals and say final good byes to everyone.  Within an hour, we should be ready to go.  Okay, an hour and a half?  Umm, so in two hours.  Well?  Lots of chickens to see.   And everyone else.

I head back to camp, where Paula is waiting.  Finally.  After trying and trying to leave, the third times a charm.  It’s just us now.  No distractions.  Nothing to stop us now.  Third times a charm.  Just load up the dogs and we are ready to go.  I start the truck.  I start the truck. Hmmmm, let me rephrase that to “I try to start the truck.”

I try. To. Start. The. Truck.

The truck won’t start.

Paula and I look at each other.

“NOOOOOoooooooooooooooo!”

I’m not sure what’s going on.  Did I leave something on when I went up to the Welcome Center?  Staying calm.  Staying calm. Jeff is gone.  It’s just me and Paula down here now.

“Jumper cables!” I cry out.  “Maybe it’s just the battery!”  In an instant I have my cables pulled out, Paula is aligning her truck next to mine and we begin trying to charge my truck.  We are a great team.

5 minutes.  Turn the key.

Nothing.

Another 5 minutes.

Nothing.

“It’s a sign Paula, I’m not supposed to leave.” We both sigh.

Another 5 minutes.

Whurrrrhh…blahhh.

Nothing.

Another 8 minutes…..turn the key…..

We are women, hear us roar!  Hear my truck roar, that is. It started!  We look at each other.

Let’s go!

It’s still Friday and we’ll reach our Panhandle destination before dark if we hurry.  A quick trailer light check and we are rolling away from my cherished winter home, heading north to Mayo Florida with Paula close behind.

On the road again, to another new adventure!

 

Thank you for reading my post.  Was it inspiring?  Scary?  Funny?  Unbelievable?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!  All comments are greatly appreciated.  Life is an adventure—and it begins today!  Why wait for an invitation to live an amazing life full of great experiences? There are lots of inspirational stories under my blog category, “PRs Amazing Outdoor Adventure Update”.  If you like what you see, please let me know by “liking” my website. You can even join my tribe to automatically receive new postings ‘hot off the press’. 

 If you find yourself spending your time not doing what you love, I invite you to contact me for help to create your own, amazing adventure.  As always, please feel free to share with others who may find meaning and value in exploring limitless possibilities with PR Brady AdVentures. Thanks again!

 

 

 

Third Time’s A Charm Part 1

Woke up to the sad realization of what day it was.  My stomach is churning.  My heart is beating fast.  My eyes feel tight and teary. Today I will begin to leave.  It’s time to start packing.  It’s time to leave Florida.  How can I even fathom leaving?  I struggle with the thought.  My heart is here, on this rustic natural land.  My heart is here, with the people I’ve worked with side by side all winter.  My heart is here….

But it’s time to head north.  I must.  Time to head home.   Home?  Where exactly is home?  I’m not sure anymore.  I’m thinking it may be right here.

My mind is reeling, my guts are wretching.  It has been 90 degrees or more for days.  I’ve been miserably hot.  Still, I force myself to focus, and “break camp”.  The dogs watch with great anticipation.  They know something is up. Cleaning off, folding down and stacking up our outside furnishings.  Down comes the screen porch.  Down comes the dog yard.  Everything is strapped and stored in its secure place. Gone is all evidence of our comfortable home.  Soon after, I sort through the interior; putting things away, picking out things to leave behind, checking off the essential steps that must be completed prior to departure.  And I am one hot mess.

“When are you heading out?” I’m asked.

Not sure.  Planning on Monday.  I say with a sigh. Today is Wednesday.

ThirdTimeP104Morning farm chores are difficult in the next few days.  Every morning my walk to do chores and back presents a new natural wonder to me.  Perhaps it’s seeing the turkeys.  Or the eagle fledglings in their nest.   Sometimes it’s getting very close to the deer in the vineyard.  Some mornings it’s simply the exquisite beauty of the dew filled spider webs along the trail.

Carrying a fresh bucket of hay, my walk down the trail is a somber one.  Sugar has been acting strange lately anyway. Now she won’t even approach me.  I coax her to me and brush her down while she munches on fresh hay.  I think she knows I am leaving. Sugar3 I hug her, and tell her everything is going to be just fine.  I’ll see her again before long.  The mini horses are being strange too.  They jump and pull and cause quite a bit of commotion as I walk them from the barn to their pasture. How I love to jog with Happy.  And the boys?  Well they are just a bundle of trouble that I adore.  Maybe they notice my lack of eye contact.  Maybe they’ve caught me staring at them for long moments from afar.  Funny how animals sense these things.  But every time I look at them I almost cry.  I’m not even gone and I already miss their stubby little legs and bushy manes!

ThirdTimeP101From the mini’s I head to the Welcome Center, where the bunnies wait for their morning alfalfa.  They look up at me, eager for morning greens and cuddles.  Cotton and Scarlet, delicate balls of softness.  How I want to take them home with me!  The Welcome Center–where all the action is.   I stand behind the counter, place my hands firmly on it and with arms stretched out, soak up the feel of the thick, wood counter top.  How many amazing people I had the great fortune to meet right here!  People from around the world.  People from around the neighborhood.  People who believe in a natural, farm to table lifestyle, searching for tools to help bring them closer to their own. This solid counter, the solid foundation of nature, and all things natural are all here.  ThirdTimeP103Then I peek into the garbage can-turned-nesting box to see how the newest baby chicks are doing. Mama Hen looks up with a suspicious eye as I switch out their water.  The chicks are nestled tight under her fluffed bosom.  I’ve been here for 4 rounds of broody hens hatching chicks.  I will miss them all so much!

Emotions are getting the best of me. Quickly, I grab the key ring to the historic buildings, step outside and grab the chicken feed, and head over to greet the rest of the flock over at the chicken coop.  Birds bust out the door in all directions, ready to peck around the yard all day.  The third batch of babies are my favorites.  Although they are almost grown, they still follow me everywhere.  Some jump up on my arms.  The sound of chickens is so comforting.  I should tape record my babies!

Next, I open the Pioneer building, and take a long, lingering glance around the room.  Everything in this room is old.  Even the air smells old.  The story starts here.  The family started their journey with this cabin.  It chokes me up just imagining having roots and a legacy that can be traced back so far. Taking a deep breath, I cross the yard over to the Museum.  I unlock the big wood door, swing it wide, prop it open with the rustic, weathered pole, and pull the big rubber mat across the entryway.  I enter and flick, flick, flick the light switch until the room illuminates.  Walking through the Museum is like taking a giant step back in time.  Hundreds of artifacts displayed here tell the Cracker story.  I start up the boom box, locked and loaded, ready to play a constant loop of Cracker Cowboy tunes.  Cracker Museum ambiance. Standing in the room, I sigh and look around at the amazing piece of history I am leaving.

On the way to the Tatum House I stop at the corral and lean against the rail.  Visions of our March Festival come alive as I study the old, original sugar cane press and boiler, remembering the boiling, steaming brew that cooked all day.  Beyond the far rail, sugar cane is growing tall in the big “kitchen garden”, along with a plethora of fresh, organically grown produce.  I will miss that too.  And next to it, Paula’s ‘work in progress’ pollinator garden.  My chest fills with worry about where funding will come from to complete that garden.

ThirdTimeP102As I continue to the Tatum House, there he stands, just looking at me from across the yard, grunting.  Head down, unlocking everything, my mind drifts off, recalling the unique outdoor weddings Ivy and I took pictures of on this enchanting, rustic porch. Yes, my heart is heavy as I make my way across the grounds to take care of morning chores.  Even Squirt the pig seems to know, as he continues to stand and grunt at me.  I finally greet him with my last carrot, and walk away.

Chores are done.  I return the key ring to the office wall, and make the long walk back to the Toy Hauler. My daily routine will soon be no more.  Yes, I leave on Monday.  The ground becomes a blur as tears fill my eyes.

Can’t believe I’m going to leave all this.

 

Thank you for reading my post.  Was it inspiring?  Scary?  Funny?  Unbelievable?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!  All comments are greatly appreciated.  Life is an adventure—and it begins today!  Why wait for an invitation to live an amazing life full of great experiences? There are lots of inspirational stories under my blog category, “PRs Amazing Outdoor Adventure Update”.  If you like what you see, please let me know by “liking” my website. You can even join my tribe to automatically receive new postings ‘hot off the press’. 

 If you find yourself spending your time not doing what you love, I invite you to contact me for help to create your own, amazing adventure.  As always, please feel free to share with others who may find meaning and value in exploring limitless possibilities with PR Brady AdVentures. Thanks again!

 

 

One Gypsy’s Life

She is gentle, kind and wise.  She stands proud.  Proud when she is able to stand, that is.  She is often seen lying down alone in the field.  Some times as I am walking or driving by, it seems like she has simply laid down and died.  I wondered why for days until I was told about her feet.

I walk across the field to where she is laying and visit her from time to time.  She always greets me with relief and appreciation. Her spirit is broken, her eyes express the weary, pain filled condition she is stricken with. Dear Gypsy.  If only this beautiful, Cracker mare could tell me stories about her 33 year long life.  Gypsy2Would she tell me stories of passion, romance, adventure and splendor?  I think not.  She is skinny, with ribs showing, her back is swayed, she has double foundered, and her feet ache from years of being an obedient soul, living a life of hard labor, rough treatment, and general neglect.  Years of being a faithful servant, pulling equipment on a farm, and being left in her shoes and in water so long that her coffin bones have completely collapsed.

Not the ideal Gypsy life.

All this misery, and yet she has no ill will.  Looking deep into Gypsy’s eyes I see gratitude.  Gratitude that she was taken away from that harsh place and brought here to rest and be cared for by a remarkable woman like Laney, a caring soul—a medicine woman with the knowledge, compassion and fortitude to make this one Gypsy’s life as comfortable as possible now.  Minimize the pain.  Maximize the love.  If anyone can heal this Gypsy, Laney can.

Gypsy1My heart fills with sadness as I walk up to beautiful Gypsy. I wonder why some people own animals.  How can they be allowed to?  The life of this Gypsy has been long and hard.  Now she is barely able to stand any more, she can’t graze long, or even make it to the water trough. She spends day after day laying in the field, in pain.  Try as she might to help her or heal her, Laney has come to the realization that the damage to Gypsy’s feet is beyond the ability to repair.  The truth cuts like a knife.

What’s most sad is that this didn’t have to happen to Gypsy. Those “other” people who had her all those years could have prevented this horrible condition so easily.  But they didn’t.  When things got bad enough, they simply discarded this noble mare.  And now here Gypsy is, with us, thankful for the love and attention Laney has showered her with.

Laney carries out water and alfalfa to where she is laying down.  Her mane is full of burrs from laying down so much.  Gypsy heaves a heavy sigh as Laney and I stroke her tired face, and work out the knots and burrs from her mane.  Gypsy’s are beautiful and exotic and lively.  This Gypsy’s eyes have become tired and vacant.  She seems to know why we are there, and is accepting her fate with the grace and noble stature few humans could ever possess.  Laney coddles her, brushing her, holding her, whispering sweet things to her.  I struggle to keep from bursting into tears.  I want to find those awful people and hurt them.

A Gypsy horse is a magical being.  Romantic, restless, roaming; forever dancing over the horizon to a new adventure.  This Gypsy will soon be dancing and prancing.  This one Gypsy will finally be able to dance and prance like a pony again.  No more sadness.  No more pain.  Frolicking across endless green pastures, kicking her heels up, celebrating her freedom forever.

The veterinarian’s truck rounds the corner of the field.  He is almost here.  Gypsy3You see, today we must say goodbye to Gypsy as she prances across that Rainbow Bridge to a never ending paradise.

One Gypsy’s Life has not gone unnoticed.

Laid to rest on December 10th, 2014

So grateful she shared her gentle nature with me, taking comfort in knowing she is finally at peace.

Life is an adventure!  Are you waiting for an invitation to experience an amazing life full of adventure, or do you just go make your own?  There are lots of inspirational stories under my blog category, “PRs Amazing Outdoor Adventure Update”.  If you find yourself not doing what you love, I invite you to contact me for help to create your own, amazing adventure.  Please feel free to share with others who may find meaning and value in exploring the possibilities with PR Brady AdVentures.

 

Tuck Away Home

It’s a beautiful day on the farm.

Each time we venture out to walk around the property we see something amazing.  Turkeys, deer, whistling ducks, and even a mama alligator with her 30 some babies!  The air is cooler than I’d expected—perhaps low 60’s at the peak of the day.  Jeans, and a light long sleeved shirt weather.  But I hear after this “cold snap” temperatures will shoot up to the high 70’s.  Can’t wait for that!

There are no bugs here.  Where are the clouds of no-see-ums?  Where are the swarms of mosquitos and the fleas and the dreaded fire ant mounds?  This place seems to be void of all the truly annoying creature attacks I’d experienced in Florida the past years.  How refreshing!

Today is the day we move my Toy Hauler into its “permanent” location for the season.   As I survey the general area where it will go, my mind lands on one single thought;

“It’s a jungle in there!”

The vines and palmetto and prickly stickly plants and moss and more vines dominate the woods.  I cannot imagine my trailer is going back into all that.  Then Jeff arrives with a tractor.  Jeff is the facility maintenance contractor.  He is a true blue man of the earth rancher; a wealth of information about living the country life in “Old” Florida.  We are introduced, and begin our discussion on where to move my toy hauler.

“Well Miss Patty, I can clear this area over here, and back you in right here at this angle here.”

Never has anyone ever called me ‘Miss Patty’.  I shoot him a quick look to try to see if he is kidding with me.  OMG, he isn’t.  Taken off guard, I can’t seem to reply to his suggestion.

“Or what about over there?  We just want to stay on this side of the ridge, as that’s the edge of the swamp.”

Swamp? An alligator swamp?  I’m still back on ‘Miss Patty’….

“Umm, but how will I be able to get out when it’s time to leave?  It’s awfully thick in there.  I can’t make that corner or back in.  Can you do it?”

“Yes ma’am, I can put this trailer where ever it needs to go.”  Jeff says with conviction. Homestead

I understand the idea for me being back in the woods is to minimize the visual impact of my big Toy Hauler in this pristine pioneer landscape, so we should get me back as far as possible.  But looking at how far back “back” is….is very daunting.  We walk and talk and evaluate further, finally coming to agreement on a relatively level area that is back far enough to not be conspicuous to visitors.

“I’ll get to clearing the space then.” Jeff says, and hops on the tractor.

Jeff is a family man.  He is a hard working rugged man, and an expert land manager.  He knows everything there is to know about how things grow Florida, and how to get rid of them.  And he wears some really cool camo, too.

Wow, talk about clearing a space!  Ripping up the brush and palmettos, grabbing 30 foot long snarled tendrils of vines dangling from high branches or wrapped around trees and brush, Jeff basically stripped the area bare in less than an hour.  I step in to help with nipping the vines off and tossing piles of sharp, prickly foliage into the thick woods.

“Before we get too far along, we should check to make sure “the boss” is in agreement with our direction .” I advise.

“Yes, Miss Patty, we’ll have Miss Laney take a look.”  He responds.

Homestead3Sure enough, we were on track but not quite there with our vision.  The remainder of the day is spent fine tuning where to place the Toy Hauler.  Back and forth, back and forth, inching along to try to position the 28 foot dwelling in just the right spot so it’s hidden, and the porch can also be utilized.  The ideal location caused the back end to be perched precariously over a giant crevasse in the dirt.  I envisioned sitting on the porch some evening, only to have it suddenly drop down into the pit.   Jeff worked diligently to try to fill that hole so we could set the trailer in front of it without risk of the weight of the trailer sinking into the ground.  Last thing I need is my trailer to collapse into a giant hole.

Next we tried to back the trailer up on boards.  Back and forth, back and forth, trying to center the tires onto the 2 x 4 planks, but my boards were too short and narrow and immediately sunk into the soft ground.  One even snapped off as he got the 2nd wheel onto it.  Laney stepped in to help thrust 2 and 3 foot long boards under wheels as Jeff inched the trailer along with the tractor, but we quickly ran out of boards and couldn’t get the Toy Hauler close to leveled.

“I can bring a load of mulch tomorrow to fill the area and help with leveling, Miss Patty, but you may want to get you some 2 x 6 x 10’s and we can cut them down to pull those wheels up on.”

Sounds good.  Jeff hops on the tractor and drives away from our hard work.  I stand and watch him slowly disappear around the palmettos.  I turn and admire the hard work of the day.  What a day.  I walk over to the event parking area, back away and off to the left, then to the far right, realizing that no matter what position you look from, Homestead1you can barely see my “tuck away home” in the woods.  We are well hidden, indeed.  I find myself wondering where the heck all the “Minnesota Jeff’s” have been hiding all my life.  Wow, what a guy!

So after a long day of carving out a space for my home on wheels, “Miss Patty” is one day away from being ready to settle in.

How I love this place already!

Life is an adventure!  Are you waiting for an invitation to experience an amazing life full of adventure, or do you just go make your own?  There are lots of inspirational stories under my blog category, “PRs Amazing Outdoor Adventure Update”.  If you find yourself not doing what you love, I invite you to contact me for help to create your own, amazing adventure.  Please feel free to share with others who may find meaning and value in exploring the possibilities with PR Brady AdVentures.

Welcome To The Farm

As I look around from side to side of the road, I am humbled and amazed.  The cold, precarious drive south instantly became worth it once I headed down the long dirt driveway towards my new winter digs.

Woods with palmettos and moss filled hammocks; pastures and cows and fields. Welcome to farm life!  There is no beach here, that’s for sure.  I follow the narrow farm road.escape42

A rugged, tattered, one story wooden building stands at the end of the road; the Welcome Center.  There are several cars in the small parking area.  I park and walk up to the open door.  No one is there.  I walk through the small, rustic building, noting the walls are lined with shelves of honey, and toys, and other items for sale.  It feels like history here.  It feels like the salt of the earth here.  It is a quaint, sweet, homey place I instantly connect with.  They believe in the honor system, indeed…..I cross through to another door that leads the way out to an area where people are congregating.  Visitors are looking at the chickens.  Chickens?  I approach and watch along with them.

Welcome2

Oh oh.  I am hooked.  Totally hooked.  I love chickens.  This place has chickens.  Look at the babies!  Mama is teaching them how to scratch and hunt for food!  Look at that beautiful rooster!  How will I ever be able to leave?Welcome3

 

 

 

I meet the woman in charge:  Lanie.  With her hair tied back, clad in cowboy boots, dungarees and a worn, plaid cotton shirt, she is clearly a woman of the earth.  From this earth. She greets me, and we discuss where I will be staying.  It’s back down the dirt road I just came in on.  We spend the next hour trying to get me and the Toy Hauler turned back around.  There’s not enough room for me to turn around.  A white truck slowly approaches.  Charlie, the living legacy of this property, leans out the window and says “why don’t you just have her circle around through the cow pasture?”

I have been in some ‘situations’ with this Toy Hauler of mine, but I can’t say I’ve ever driven it through a cow pasture.  Now I can.  They open a cow gate across the road, just about 10 feet wide, and I pull through it, heading towards the cows, make a wide circle, and come back out, now able to get back down the driveway in the right direction.  I feel like a true country cowgirl somehow.  Laney hops in and we head to the “Learning Center” area.

A large, rustic one story screen house with a commercial kitchen attached, the Learning Center is just that, a place for people to gather and participate in learning programs.  Laney lives on site across the yard from it in an adorable little trailer she calls “The Tiny House”.   I pull up into the event parking area.  We get out and look at the options for where we will park me for the winter.  Tomorrow she will have her guy make it happen.  For now, just rest, renew, relax, and get comfortable.  I take the kids for a walk to get a peek at the place.

I am home!  This place is exactly where I am supposed to be!  I am so blessed.  I feel overwhelmed with gratitude.  I feel overwhelmed with peace.  I feel overwhelmed with joy.  I feel overwhelmed with….

OMG, what was that?

OH!  What was that noise?

I peer into the thick moss and palmettos.  Alligators? Nothing.  Hmmm.  I wait.  Jack is all ears, looking into the brush with me.  We wait.  Listening.  I hear something again. Welcome4 I look up to discover oranges hanging from a moss filled tree.  What?  How cool is that?  Then I catch a flicker of movement.  Suddenly a deer busts through the brush and off to the left.  It is catching up to—it looks like—catching up to another 4 deer.  But wait, I see yet another 3, no, 4 deer.  I can’t get a firm count, but it appears there is a herd of perhaps 10 deer right in front of us.  They carefully step through the woods in front of us.

Oh oh.  I am hooked.  Totally hooked.  This place has deer.  Many deer.  This feeds my soul, even if I cannot hunt them. And look at the fruit trees! How will I ever be able to leave?

We continue on, following a fence line.  I look out into that field and spot two horses.  WHAT?   Oh oh.  I am hooked.  Totally hooked.  I love horses.  This place has horses.  I am instantly reminded of days gone by with my sweet Precious, and Sassy Girl.  I miss having a horse so much.  This place has horses.  How will I ever be able to leave?

Welcome1We continue on, ending up back at the Welcome Center.  Poinsettia is growing in front of their wrap around deck.  The chickens are milling around.  Jack is getting anxious and pointing them.  The girls spot the chickens and are curious.

This place is fantastic!

We turn around and head back to the Toy Hauler.  It’s been a long day.  Feeling like I’m in a dream, a very happy dream, I get everyone settled and fed, and we turn in for the night.  It’s 60 degrees.  I open the windows and look out to see a little vineyard. A vineyard?  This can’t be for real!  A VINEYARD?  I’m in heaven.

Welcome to the farm, indeed.

Life is an adventure!  Are you waiting for an invitation to experience an amazing life full of adventure, or do you just go make your own?  There are lots of inspirational stories under my blog category, “PRs Amazing Outdoor Adventure Update”.  If you find yourself not doing what you love, I invite you to contact me for help to create your own, amazing adventure.  Please feel free to share with others who may find meaning and value in exploring the possibilities with PR Brady AdVentures.

 

 

 

Countdown To A Sub-Zero Escape Part 4

Countdown To A Sub-Zero Escape Part 4

Crossing the Florida border is like entering a new galaxy.  The truck runs better, the Toy Hauler pulls easier, the dogs are calmer, and I am so excited I can’t stand it!  Our journey across the panhandle is far from scenic; simply freeway and lots of speeding drivers.   Hello Florida Speed Demons!  Good grief, I need a sign to paste across the back of the Toy Hauler that says ‘Heavy Load, Moving Slow, Turning Wide’.  Seriously.  I will drive to the very last rest stop before hitting I75 south bound.

It’s 11:30pm and the traffic is insane.  I pass a traffic sign that says “Heavy traffic ahead, find alternate routes”.  Taking a break until most drivers are off the road is a great idea.  I have no problem napping until 3am.  I see massive flashing lights closing the gap behind me as I pull off I10, heading up the rest stop ramp.  As I pull into a parking spot, I watch10 speeding squad cars, followed by half a dozen police motorcycles, then a string of 8 beautiful, streamline, metallic gold coach buses with gold running lights on the sides, flying down the highway, with another cluster of squads and cycles bringing up the rear.  They are in one helluva hurry to something!  I grab the dogs, jump in the back, and am out cold in a matter of minutes.

My alarm goes off at 3am on schedule.  No.  Really?  Ugh.  Snooze…. Snooze……Snooze……. Snooze….4am…Snooze….4:30….Snooze…..5am….ohkay, ohkay…okay…… and then we’re back on the road.

Thank the Gods we are heading straight south, or it would be a real challenge to deal with the sunrise.

There are virtually no cars on the highway.  Sunday—the day of rest!  A couple more stops, a couple more hours, a little bit of construction, and soon, I see familiar territory from last year.  My heart races as I pass familiar exits.  I am filled with anticipation as I get closer to Sarasota. We are almost there.  Almost to paradise.

Oh I just know this place will be amazing!

My exit is coming up shortly.

We take the exit.  It is away from the gulf, the beaches, the action.  We are being directed into the bush.  The rural.  The farmland.  The “old” Florida landscape of jungle and ranch land.  There are canopies of old trees loaded with Spanish moss across the narrow roads void of shoulders or maintenance.  Ranches, and horses and cattle stretch across the land as far as the human eye can see. escape41 And within 25 minutes of leaving the interstate, we are here.

I pull over on the side of the road just short of the driveway and take a deep breath.

Subzero Escape to Paradise is achieved!

 

 

Life is an adventure!  Are you waiting for an invitation to experience an amazing life full of adventure, or do you just go make your own?  There are lots of inspirational stories under my blog category, “PRs Amazing Outdoor Adventure Update”.  If you find yourself not doing what you love, I invite you to contact me for help to create your own, amazing adventure.  Please feel free to share with others who may find meaning and value in exploring the possibilities with PR Brady AdVentures.

 

 

 

Countdown To A Sub-Zero Escape Part 3

Happy Thanksgiving—we’re almost to Des Moines Iowa! What a bummer to be so far behind schedule.  But the sun is up, the roads are wet, and we are getting back on track.  The bitter bitter -8 degrees actually feels more like -14 below.  It’s hard to believe there was a time I would gladly throw a 60 pound pack on my back and snow shoe out into “God’s Country” in the middle of winter and pitch a tent.  A trucker at the truck stop offers to look at my propane problem.  He determines that my tank is empty—just needs to be switched over to the other one, and makes the switch.  Everything seems to be working now!  He also checks my lug nuts to make sure nothing is getting loose.  I’m all set. Oh how I love to stop at truck stops!

Today’s goal is to drive until there is no more snow.  Try to make up for some lost time.  Maybe get to Missouri?  All I know is, we are heading to DESTINATION WARM!!  As we roll down the highway I can see the slowly melting road kicking thick, dirty slush up on my leveler legs through the outside mirrors, coating the whole front of the Toy Hauler.  It becomes habit to keep checking the mirrors, using the slush as my temperature gage.  As the sun climbs up the cold sky, we pass exits for Ames, Bethany, Cameron, stop a few times for gas and finally work our way around the outskirts of Kansas City.

The icy slush stuck on the trailer is completely gone.  It’s mid-afternoon. Temperatures are in the 40’s!

I want to keep going. Try to get back on track.  I target Columbia Missouri for our next rest stop.  There isn’t one.  We continue on and stop at a truck stop just outside of St. Louis around 8 pm.  The atmosphere in the building is uncomfortable.  Eye contact is uncomfortable with everyone.  My attempts to be friendly are met with silence and stares.  I quickly make the decision to keep driving, I fill up and we pull out of there.  By Sikeston I can’t keep my eyes open anymore.  We are far, far away from Ferguson now, so I pull into a truck stop to sleep a few hours.  I open the Toy Hauler door to a flashing red light on the propane detector gage, and the check fridge light is on.  The problem wasn’t fixed.

Once again I try to get the propane to kick on, so the fridge will work.  Why the propane smell?  Why isn’t anything working?  I push every button I can find.  Check the propane tanks.  I don’t see anything obvious.  A trucker comes by and attempts to help.  He checks the tanks and says one is empty and the other is almost empty, and turns the dial.  Exactly the opposite of what the other guy did….but it seems to have worked.  I thank him and scoot the kids into the Toy Hauler for some sleep.

Four a.m. I wake up to the propane alarm going off – I panic and toss the dogs out of the trailer, with me trailing behind.  WHAT THE F????? We all huddle together in the dark, staring into the trailer door.  I usher the dogs into the truck and try to figure out what is wrong with the propane.  The red light and alarm is quickly eliminated with the push of a button.  Is this Toy Hauler going to blow up or WHAT?  I am beyond nervous.  Ticking and alarm buzzers and flashing lights—I resign myself to shut everything off and take my chances with all the perishable foods.  Now that it’s Friday I may be able to find a repair shop.  With just a couple hours rest we are back on the road.

Thank goodness the rest stop in Blythesville is open!  I go in looking for information on RV services.  There isn’t anything close.  Realizing that I am still very tired, I take a much needed 4 hour nap and exercise the dogs for an hour in the sunny 50 degrees day before continuing on.  Armed with special directions for the most direct route around Memphis, I continue southwest down softly rolling hills and beautiful green landscapes, farmland.

The farther we go, the more tranquil and content I become.  We have escaped the frigid north.  It’s Saturday morning.  I start thinking about the propane situation.  Maybe something got too cold with my hoses and such on the Toy Hauler.  Surely everything is all thawed out by now.  I try again to get the propane to kick on and run the fridge.  The loud clicking noise is a good indication there is still something wrong.  All of the sudden, there goes that alarm and red light.  The smell of propane is overwhelming.  I scramble to stop the noise, and quickly air out the trailer of all smell.  Could the Toy Hauler blow up or WHAT?  I am beyond nervous. Yup, I need help.  This stretch of highway is void of anything that looks helpful.  Even the gas stations are few and far between, and set up with minimal service.  I stop at a rest stop near the exit for Dothan and fire up the computer to google RV Services.  I could get to the Tallahassee Camping World in a couple hours. I call them, and start by saying;

“I think my Toy Hauler is going to blow up—I smell propane in there.”

They don’t have service staff because of the holiday—and from the rest of my lengthy description of what’s been happening, they are certain the problem is a big one.  I would need to be there for days for them to get parts.  They can’t even promise to look things over today, as I would get there too late.

NO!!!!! Really???????   The tech on the phone suggests I try another Camping World. There is one much closer to me in Benton.  Just try them, tell them he said to go there.  Maybe they can at least troubleshoot and identify the problem today so we know what we are dealing with.

Okay.

I call the Benton Camping World.  They are only 15 minutes from me.  They agree it sounds like a major situation but will have someone look at it.  By the time I pull into their giant RV lot it is almost noon, and they have a technician standing by, ready for me.  The girls and I wait under some trees in the parking lot, and Jack stays in the truck, comfortable in his kennel.

Two hours pass.

The Service Manager calls me over to discuss what they found.

They checked all the gas lines and connections.

I have one empty and one partially full tank of gas.

They found one of the lines was plugged, cleared and tested it.

Everything works perfectly now.

They also checked the temperature gage, and electric connections to ensure everything was working properly.

They checked the tires, added some air.

I am good to go.

“What do I owe you for all this?”

“Don’t worry about it.  It’s on the house today.  You managed to get all the way here from Minnesota with 3 dogs?  Happy Thanksgiving.”

OH my goodness, how can I be so blessed?  I stare, dumbfounded, at the Service Manager, soon blinking away tears.

“Thank you so much!”  I give him a cash tip for the technician’s time, and drive past two long rows of brand new amazing looking fully loaded RV’s on Holiday Sale at Camping World.

We are all set to go now—within an hour I am crossing into Florida, honking the horn to celebrate!  It’s 65 degrees!  Within a few minutes we arrive to the official Welcome Center Rest Stop.  With only a few hours until dark, I decide we will rest here for a while, and tackle the last leg of our journey at night when there is less traffic on 10, and especially on 75.  The dogs are thrilled to be able to run around in the warn sun and stretch out on the grass.  I cook up some Turkey Chili, take a big breath, and smile.

We are so close—almost to destination paradise.

Life is an adventure!  Are you waiting for an invitation to experience an amazing life full of adventure, or do you just go make your own?  There are lots of inspirational stories under my blog category, “PRs Amazing Outdoor Adventure Update”.  If you find yourself not doing what you love, I invite you to contact me for help to create your own, amazing adventure.  Please feel free to share with others who may find meaning and value in exploring the possibilities with PR Brady AdVentures.

 

 

Countdown To A Sub-Zero Escape Part 2

My beloved Toy Hauler is once again, parked safely in my driveway, thanks to my dear friends and neighbors, June and Randy.  With 3 days to get everything else in order to leave, I am scrambling to get it all done.  People to see and say goodbye to.  Dogs to shampoo.  Items to pack.  Errands to run.  Details to wrap up.  The days burn away quickly.  Now here we are, almost ready to peel out of town with the Thanksgiving crowd.  The plan is for Randy to come over with his big truck, hook up and pull my trailer to the shopping center first thing in the morning, where we will hook up to my truck and level it for the journey.

Then I catch a glimpse of the forecast as I sprint past the TV.

It’s currently 20 degrees.  Snow.  Cold. Winter storm warnings, exactly the direction I am headed.  Then I glance outside to discover it has just started snowing.  Seriously?  And it will be several hours before my neighbor gets here.EscapeP21

I call a friend who works down south for a “real life” weather report.  He says it’s looking pretty bad and if I don’t have to leave today, I should wait.  I ponder this notion for a few minutes.  Wait?  What would that mean?  The temperatures get even colder up here Thursday, and windy further south….it would mess things up worse for over half the trip for sure.  I ponder some more.  Now there is 3 inches of fresh snow on the ground, still falling. Ok.  I jump into the Toy Hauler and start pulling out everything I just put in there that I didn’t want to freeze.

I watch the clock.  It’s almost 11:00 am.  The dogs are anxious.  I am second guessing my decision.  Someone peed by the back doorway and Jack rearranged everything in the kitchen he could reach—again.  After cleaning up and picking up I catch a weather update.  Looks like the storm is moving slower than expected.  I could still make it.  I could skirt past it before it hit highway 35W.

I’ve got to try!

So I rush to re-load everything back in the Toy Hauler, toss the dogs in the truck, and shower while Randy hooks up the Toy Hauler to his truck, and straps my gear in tight.  After one last look, I lock up the house, say goodbye, and we head to the shopping center.

Escape22Hooking up to my truck has become a snap as I get more proficient, but doing it in the cold and snow is a whole different matter.  Still, we got it done, Randy filled my airbags to 80 pounds which “almost” got me level, and by 12:15 I was hugging him goodbye and pulling out of town.

Who knew there would be bumper to bumper traffic at noon on Wednesday?  I did.  This is why it was so important to leave early in the morning.  Oh well.  We chugged along the highway through the south metro, finally reaching 35Wsouthbound where the traffic seemed to disappear.  I am pulling one heck of a heavy load, so I stay in the right lane and keep it to 55.  Sure, there is a little slush on the road, but nothing major.  But the further south we get, the thicker the slush.  Soon, we are in a convoy of slow moving vehicles.  It has started snowing hard again.  The slush is thicker, too.  We just passed two cars in the ditch, and one in the median; things are degrading by the minute.

The road conditions changed drastically over the next few hours.

Yes, on a scenic, snowy trip pulling my 28 foot trailer south on 35W from Minneapolis to just past Mason City Iowa I witnessed 67 cars in the ditches (most heading north) and 3 semi’s rolled (two in the median heading north, stuck together side by side). Escape23 Although I left home at 12:15 I didn’t reach the Clear Lake (Mason City) exit until 7pm.  That drive would normally take less than 3 hours!  The fastest I’ve drove was 40mph.  Most of the way we crept along at 15 or 20mph.  I finally made it to the next rest stop, and knew I just couldn’t go any further, it was too scary!

Things could have gone much differently for us.  Even in the best of conditions, there’s nothing worse than pulling a huge, heavy load slowly and having impatient drivers zoom up from behind, dart around you to pass and zip right in front of you.  It’s a completely white knuckle-harrowing experience to manage it in a snow storm!  Have to give a HUGE THANKS to so many of the drivers out there that were being careful and respectful of weather, speed, and distance, it truly helped!

Up ahead I see an exit with a truck stop—thank the Gods, we are pulling in!  The truck-stop was surprisingly quiet.  I pulled into a double stall, grabbed the dogs, and tried to convince them it’s “potty time”.  Never saw them pee so fast and run to the Toy Hauler door.  I let them in and went into the building to try to get some information.  The wind is picking up, the roads haven’t been closed “yet” but there is a solid layer of ice down now.  Best thing would be to wait until morning when the plows have come through, and the sun hits the roads.  Good thinking.  We are safe now, and can just curl up in our toasty warm house on wheels and wait it out.  But wait, why isn’t the propane furnace turning on?  What?  WTF?  Why isn’t it turning on????  Everything is frozen, including my dinner.

So, here we are, stuck spending the night in the trailer with no heat.  Then we wake up at 5:00 in the morning to -8 degrees, with blowing snow and ice on the road.  Back to the blankets until sunrise!

 

Life is an adventure!  Are you waiting for an invitation to experience an amazing life full of adventure, or do you just go make your own?  There are lots of inspirational stories under my blog category, “PRs Amazing Outdoor Adventure Update”.  If you find yourself not doing what you love, I invite you to contact me for help to create your own, amazing adventure.  Please feel free to share with others who may find meaning and value in exploring the possibilities with PR Brady AdVentures.