Archives for July 2013

Priorities and Nusiances

Just got done cleaning my South Dakota possession limit of Walleye, 18 Catfish, a Crappie, a Northern, and 6 Drums (for curiosity’s sake), and am feeling pretty groovy!  Then I checked email, and found one of my Linked In groups started a discussion:  

Out of curiosity, I want to know what some of you think about this?

There was a huge string of discussion about the situation and I was too late to really respond.  But, ohhhh, this one touches a sore spot for me…so, I have to express myself… I go, out on that limb….

Keith, you appear to be ‘alone on the island’ in this raccoon discussion.

Bravo to Ace, Ron and Scott and the others speaking out.  I am in total agreement with you all.

Basically I have two questions to ponder with the universe:

Why is dispatching a captured nuisance animal an act of cruelty?

Why is it okay for any one, or 1,000  armchair critics to pass a judgment on this, or any situation when they weren’t there first hand, have the knowledge or education to be a qualified advisor, or actually know the entire detailed matter to pass judgment on?

A shot to the head is what some people would believe is the best placed shot.  I’m not going to go into detail there or I’d be writing a novel.

It looks to me from the video, that the kid is not having a party about it at all.  It looks to me like he is trying to dispatch the animal the best he knows how.  Yes he could have done things very differently.  More importantly is everything else that has unfolded as a result of the video.   For all we know, maybe the kid is a bleeding heart PITA officer who constructed the entire video clip all on purpose, for the soul sake of causing a stir among the ranks of the knee jerk reactive emotional activists, as well as the responsible gun owners and outdoors people. It’s frightening to see what an extremist will do for their cause.  But I doubt it. The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter what it looks like to me. I don’t know the details.  Like everyone else, I only saw a clip of a video. Therefore, who am I to judge? 

I spent 4 months in Florida last winter, and my adventure blog reflects tons of posts about the raccoon infestation and the extent of frustration and aggravation  I endured as a visitor to the area.  Trust me, I tried to be creative so as to not end up on “You Tube” being judged harshly, but I am here to tell all for the record, “coon relocation” would be a complete JOKE.

The raccoon problem was so totally ridiculous, I thought I would go insane.  They caused havoc night and day without rest.  Maybe the news would have featured my mug if I was pushed just a little bit further.  If the park rangers would have given me the word, I’d of shot every darn one of those masked critters. 

As the animal looked helpless.”  Yeah, right.  Helpless as it does an incredible amount of destruction.   I’ve seen the destruction raccoons create. We should jump through hoops with our lives so they can continue their destruction because….why???  Sorry, but I have no sympathy for their banded little faces. When they become a problem they need to be removed.  Sensationalizing  and humanizing beings that don’t have the ability to reason, rather than standing behind a kid trying to take action, all because people experience some kind of subconscious brain transfer of feelings due to the animal looking cute? Equal rights?  What? Where are our priorities?  This shouldn’t have made the news to begin with.

Who is to say what the textbook correct way is to dispatch an animal?  The liberal PETA pacifists and other extremists?  Does everyone who has an animal problem need to go get a 4 year education and degree before they can take care of a nuisance?  If the ranting’s of the ignorant ever evolved into mandating that level of control, it would  fall under the already ridiculous gun control law concerns, right?  I’m with Ace 100% .  How many people are born and raised simply knowing the actual and politically correct thing to do in all situations at all times?  Not everyone is an outdoors professional or trained conservation officer.  Does that make them a future serial killer?  

How unfortunate that an armchair critic or two or 1,000 who are clearly ignorant of the reality of the specifics around the situation can voice such a strong opinion and have it ripple across the www and become such a big deal.  That level of influence is simply unacceptable. 

What if you were next in line to be judged on something by “them”?  Why does this teen have to be damned for his actions?  At least he is trying to fix a problem.  He clearly needs some major mentoring to understand why it’s not ok for his PITA sister to film him, and what a “best method” check list looks like for dispatching nuisance animals.  He clearly needs someone from a conservation background to guide him on best practices.

As I see it, this whole media blitz is just one more little indirect jab at gun ownership by the proponents of increased gun control, and now we are all up in arms here about this one raccoon situation, with our interpretations and personal views, and the Anti-gun people are chalking one up for them.  And yeah, Jesse Venture was my Governor-what a fun couple of years that was, indeed.  Sure hope he comes home soon.

Check out Ted Crowell’s response to the situation:

“TED Crowell–Ok, most of you are obviously upset. I can tell by the way some of you have attacked me, saying awful, heartless, cruel and hurtful things. Luckily I have thick skin. But, I find it somewhat ironic that my opinion has brought the same kind of dreadfull behavior out in a group of people that are supposed to be opposed to just that. Your all just ridiculing and persecuting a defenseless boy, and doing the same to anyone defending him. He’s an idiot no doubt. A very poor shot and not at all educated on the correct ways to dispose of a nuisance animal but that means we should ruin his life? Where is the compassion in that.

Good question.  Exactly my thoughts.  Why does an animal become more important than a person?  Where are our priorities?

If you read through the comments on that site, obviously no one who is commenting is educated about conservation, the circle of life, or what actually takes place medically when a life expires.  One comment I saw was “What’s next? Arresting homeowners for putting out mouse traps and spraying insecticide?”  That reminds me of a tongue in cheek joke about someone wanting to attempt Rehabilitating Minnesota Mosquitos rather than swatting them.  Perhaps they’ll learn to stop sucking our blood….indeed.  And for the record I am not in any way related to Joyce Brady who is first to comment on that site.

God help those that try to sort out my actions as I defend my grapevines when the berries become ripe. I don’t relocate anything.  Period.  And that’s nobody’s business but mine.   Two days ago a striped gopher fell into a five gallon pail with water in it that I was using.  I could have rescued the thing and sent it on its way.  But ya know what?  I’m really tired of seeing that critter sitting on top of my hot tub every morning, chewing on the corner of the cover.  So, instead I tested his ability to tread water….I’m just sayin’….

Favorite Florida Eateries


Blackwater Inn     55716 Front Street  Astor, FL 32102

Situated on the St. Johns River with riverside window seating and an outside bar and patio as well, this is a lovely location to enjoy a meal by the water.  The staff is down home friendly, and eager to please. The Grilled Quail with Raspberry sauce looks and smells amazing and must be fabulous to taste, but the Prime Rib is outstandingly tender, juicy and rare when it’s rare you want.  A side order of mushrooms stuffed with crab and mozzarella is the perfect complement to this carnivores feast.


Shephards      601-619 S Gulfview Blvd, Shephard’s Beach Resort, Clearwater FL 33767

One thing alone brought me to and kept me at Shepards—the ‘all you can eat’ seafood buffet for under $25!  Simply out of this world variety of non-stop fresh seafood, with a staggeringly beautiful western view the ocean from the patio.  Perfect place to sip on a Mojito and watch the sunset!


Whiskey Joe’s      Bar & Grill 7720 W. Courtney Campbell Causeway,  Tampa, FL 33607

This bar and restaurant has a super fun and dog friendly outside deck area right on the water.  Reasonably priced selection of apps, burgers and meals. They offer a healthy ¾ lb serving of peel and eat shrimp that has a little fire bite to it, indeed.  Steak Rockets are a wonderful treat—juicy steak bites marinated in a garlic herb glaze with caramelized onions and peppers, cheddar jack and avocado ranch.  Oh so good!


Crabby Bills     37 Causeway Boulevard, Clearwater Beach, FL 33763

For a New Year Celebration on the beach, nothings better than enjoying a pile of Florida Aligator Bites–gator tail chunks, dusted in seasoned flour and flash fried; Conch Fritters—lightly spiced Caribbean Conch deep fried, dipped in honey mustard; and the tender and lightly breaded Crabby Calamari dipped in a warm Marinara sauce– all hands down delicious!


Bon Appetit     148 Marina Plaza Dunedin, FL 34698

For those who enjoy the finer things in life.  Even on the brink of rain and wind, they button down the hatches and continue to rock outside on the patio.  The staff is helpful and engaging, the food is well prepared and the atmosphere is casual sheik. They make amazing lobster rolls!


Beanies     2002 US Highway 41 South, Ruskin, FL 33570

Hit it and get it at this simple sports bar that draws a gi-nor-mous crowd! Their Ruben plate is the best in town,  nummy and filling, for under $10  and Beanie’s Famous loaded chips are home made, and dumped with mounds of shredded cheese, scallions, tomatoes, bacon chunks and bleu cheese or ranch.  They taste just like a loaded baked potato!  The Birdie is a perfectly prepared chicken sandwich basket that can be served blackened, buffalo, char-grilled or fried—with their home made chips this is one heck of a big meal for around $8. 


Ybor Grill     105 Shell Point Road, Ruskin FL 33570

Yum, yum, yum!  This is the place to go for amazing scratch cooked entrees Cuban style. They serve up the best deviled crab in the bay area. The Primavera Del Mar is to die for, with the sundried tomato basil cream sauce on top of a mound of pasta and blackened shrimp and scallops!  They make an amazing Cuban Roasted Pork, marinated in garlic and oranges, (mojo) slow cooked until it’s tender enough to shred with a fork.


Fat Boys Bar-B-Q     4132 NE Silver Springs Boulevard, Ocala FL 34470

Totally amazingly seasoned all you can eat Ribs all day long.  I could live there and eat ribs until I passed out. What more is there to say?


Dee Dee’s Diner     533 NE 1st Street, Ocala FL 34470

This tiny little diner is located in the Historic Ocala Train Station, and is famous for their hot dog selections:  For less than $4.00 you got your Coney dog, Jamaican dog, Chili Cheese dog, New York dog, Philly Cheese dog, Slaw dog, Grilled Shroom dog, Kraut dog, Reuben dog, and Hell dog…..but their Monte Cristo sandwich is just as delish, and for less than $6.00!


Incognito     131 Harbor Village Lane, Apollo Beach FL  33572

There’s a new, upscale, tapas lounge, dressed up with sleek lines, smoked glass, and featuring Live Jazz.  What could be better than a Cosmopolitan, Portobello Stuffed Ravioli and live Saxophone?  Very cool setting to get out of the heat.  Their signature Incognito Pizza is a tasty combination of chicken, artichokes, mushrooms, garlic, alfredo sauce with mozzarella and goat cheese on top.  Yum!


The Dog House     204 W Shell Point Road, Ruskin, FL 33570

Just look for the trailer in the grass….and follow the crowd.  This roadside diner is an award winning scratch kitchen serving up the best seafood and dogs in the area. The owners are from the north east coast so they make sure their seafood is nothing but the best.  Their Grouper sandwich is melt in your mouth perfect, the Lobster Roll is heavenly, without a doubt they make the best clam chowder in the world, and wow, the Clam Strip dinner with hush puppies is sooooo good!


Old Castle Restaurant     3830 Sun City Center Blvd, Sun City, FL 33573

How exciting to discover authentic German cuisine so close to camp.   Home cooked old world favorites are what you’ll find here.  They make an amazing Kartoffelsalat (a warm, potato salad with oil, vinegar and bacon) and their Jager Schnitzel is a creamy and dreamy plate of pan fried pork tenderloins served on a bed of Spatzle and creamy mushroom sauce.   Their Nuernberg is a show stopper—a brat, a pile of kraut in a luscious dark beer sauce, and two potato pancakes. Zehr Gut! Danke Shone!


Romano’s and Morenos     906 W Robertson St. Brandon, FL 33511

These two establishments are side by side on the back side of a retail area.  One would never guess they were there…..but oh my…

Romanos Greek and Italian Cuisine is by far the most incredible food I’ve tasted in Florida.  Their Chicken Riganati is baked in garlic and lemon, and oregano, served with pasta on the side and fresh veggies.  The Moussaka is a flawless layered square of potato, eggplant, and seasoned beef in a cheese sauce.  They serve family style portions, so even a lunch item lasts me two meals! 

Morenos is a fabulous bakery and deli, right next door.  Oh, oh my, sweet treat central!  The dessert selection there is simply ridiculous!  Doughnuts, cakes, pies, and all sorts of exotic cookies and pastries. Everything is baked from scratch, right there.  One of everything, please? Not a good place for a sweet freak to visit, or is it?   And they make the all-time best Cuban sandwiches ever.  Wow.  The combination of these two places could be dangerous to live close to!\


Al Madina Grocery and Middle Eastern Deli   1536 W Brandon Blvd, Brandon FL 33511

The only place around to find yellow lentils, which I cook with a lot!  The store carries all of the classic Middle Eastern staple items for the kitchen and a great selection of Turkish Coffees.  Their deli serves up the all-time best Beef Shawarma and Falafel.


The Fish House     1902 W Shell Point Road, Ruskin, FL 33570

A cooking shack, and an old pavilion roof with picnic tables under it, specializing in fresh caught seafood and fish.  Literally, the food you are served was caught that day or the day before.  They are only open Thursday through Saturday.  The rest of the week is spent fishing for their menu. The food is excellent, and very reasonably priced.  One favorite is the Fish House Fish Dinner. A delicious flakey white fish (the Basa) that’s boneless, and one of the meals The Fish House is known for. Their oysters are also fabulous.  And the shrimp.  And for sure the scallops.  The crab. Well, everything is, extremely tasty, really.


The Boat In The Moat at Solomon’s Castle     4533 Solomon Road, Ona, FL 33865

Enjoy a meal surrounded by fairy tales, pirates and princes, in one of the ships rooms, or in the flower garden patio. Their menu may be short and sweet, but the food is well prepared and homemade.  The Corned Beef on Rye with a Yuengling is the perfect lunch combo.  Their Old Style Meatloaf looked amazing, and smelled great going by, too! 


Old Salty Dog     5023 Ocean Blvd, Sarasota FL 34242

Great place to take the four legged family for outdoor dining pleasure.  They are famous for their “Salty Dog, a ¼ lb hot dog dipped in Beer Batter and deep—fried.  YUM!  You may have seen one of these “loaded” on the Travel Channels “Man VS Food” show? In addition, their Mango Mahi Wrap is fantastic served in a warm flour tortilla with mango salsa and a passion fruit-mango dressing.  Can’t go wrong with the peel and eat shrimp, either.  The best surprise is their “special” of twin lobster tails for under $25.00  which is not shown on the menu.  Seriously nummy, especially with an Island Lemonade!


Little Harbor’s Sunset Grill and Tiki Bar     611 Destiny Drive, Ruskin, FL 33570

Truly one of the best kept secrets in the area, this is a 5 star eating destination for sure. Meals become a work of art whether it’s a lunchtime Citrus Mango Chicken sandwich-a chicken breast glazed with a citrus sauce, topped with slice mango, onion straws, lettuce and tomato, a citrus mayo and swiss cheese on top.  Simply beautiful.. or a full Entrée like Coconut Cashew Curried Shrimp—jumbo shrimp sautéed with fresh pineapple then simmered in an island coconut curry sauce. Oh so good on top of a bed of rice, with flaky coconut, cashews, and crisp onion straws, plus a side of snap peas and mango salsa…Oh my!


Home Sweet Home

With the rising sun at my back, these last hours seem like forever as I motor west across interstate 94 Thursday morning.  Deer are starting to line the hillsides.  Intermittent flocks of turkey.  Intermittent piles of snow.  Yes, that white stuff is still evident in the Great Midwest. 

Oh, my, I have to pull over.  I just have to.  I stop and sleep for 90 minutes.  Back to the highway, I call Lynn to help keep me alert.  She is driving to Minnesota, and will be to my house very soon with her dogs.  We talk about how she feels about her Grandma finally passing.  We talk about Mikel and how I feel about it all.  I lose her to poor reception.  Oh my, I have to pull over, I feel sick.  I nap at another rest stop for 45 minutes. 

Back on the road, I have to stop at the next gas station and get more coffee.  There’s a couple deer at the edge of the snow and tree line.  My mind keeps wandering.  I call Tim. We talk for a while.  Oh, geeze, I’ve got to stop.  I pull into another rest stop, cry and and sleep for about an hour, take the dogs for a morning pee, then pull back onto the highway.  Focus.  Focus, girl!  I cannot get my mind right!  It hasn’t even been an hour!  I pull into the next gas station and fill up, get more coffee, then pull over to the edge of the entrance as best I can and just sit there for a while.

If I ever get home at this rate……

Okay, I’m pulling back onto the highway now, with a better frame of mind….I think about the many inspiring people I’ve met the last 4 months, I think about the many people that have said I was an inspiration to them.  I think about the dozens of wonderful opportunities that have been presented to me in the last 4 months, and the many exciting things I want to accomplish with this renewed faith and vision.

I press on.  The good news is, I am choosing to live my life to the fullest.  The good news is, I have made some amazing decisions and choices.  The good news is, I am here, now, and am on the tail end of what has been an amazing adventure.  Plans change every day.  I just need to modify the plan.

And the really good news is, right up ahead is downtown St. Paul! I am sucked into the city, wind around to the north and to my last stretch of highway.  My brain has switched gears to planning the unpacking procedure.  The driveway should be clear so I should be able to park out in the street with flashers on, and run things up to the house. Bring the dogs in first, let them settle back in. I wonder how long I can keep the trailer in front of the house before the cops make a big deal?  Gifts.  I have to make sure to get all the gifts out of the trailer.  The wine!  Just in case it gets below freezing….Oh I hope it gets below freezing once everything is done, to kill those fleas! 

Exit right.  Turn left.  Turn right.  Quarter mile…half mile…my block….turn left then sharp right, right again, down the hill, right, and one last slow right and stop directly in front of my house at noon sharp!

The adventure ends here! 

Or does it?

I turn on the flashers, jump out of the truck with the girls and run up to the front door.  We enter the living room to hear the familiar sound of floor creaking all the way to the kitchen.  Yeah, I missed that sound.  I quickly scoot to the kitchen and look out the window.

O—M—G.  The canopy over the deck and hot tub was not taken care of like I’d asked, and it has completely collapsed (again) across everything.  Deep breath.  It’ll be fine.  It must be 40 someSnowCanopy degrees as I quickly unleash the girls, go get Buddy, rapid unload the trailer for the next two hours, then drive it around the block one more time to park it safely on the side street.  Sure I have a mess to clean up in the backyard, but at least I managed to miss winter!  Yeah!

After the rapid unload of almost half a year of stuff, the inside of the house looks like a hurricane hit it, but I am home, we are home, and I am grateful that I have a home to come home to.  I can’t wait to see my neighbor!  I do some sorting and nesting and go to the kitchen for some quick nutrition and give the kids some fresh water in their bowls.  I take Buddy’s bowl over to the sink and turn on the cold water.

Instantly water shoots up to the ceiling and sprays the room from all around the entire faucet fixture, the knobs, and everywhere except where it should be coming out!    I turn off the water and dry off me and the drenched kitchen.  Great.  Just great.  I quickly check the status of the bathrooms and laundry room—all ok.  Relieved, I sit down and eat the remainder of my salad left overs.  I sit down on the living room couch, and finally collapse from exhaustion and fall into a deep deep sleep.

Ahhh, happy Friday back in my own home!   I wake up, and start getting ready for Lynn to arrive.  I’m in a scramble to clear and the guest room for her, and make at least a little room for us to move around as I sort things out and get them in their place. I have tossed so much in the master bedroom it’ll be awhile before I’ll be able to stay in there, but that’s ok, I’ll sleep on the futon a few nights while I get things organized.

I get a phone call from a friend.  “I have the answers to all your problems.  I got a guy that can fix everything you need fixed, he will do everything you need done to your house, he just needs a place to stay and he needs to know right now if it’s going to be your place.  If you don’t want him, someone else will.”  My house has become an HGTV project waiting to be rescued over the last few years….Hmmm…

You know how if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is?  I agree to meet her and her amazing handy man.  I talk to Lynn about it. Where would I even put him?  But there is the sink issue….

So in a split second decision under duress and “car-lag”, I agree to give it a try and have him stay.  Now I am scrambling through my chaos to carve a space in my office for a strange guy to come and stay in, so I can have my sink fixed along with a long list of other needs that he says he can take care of.  The best I can do for now is a cot.

Lynn arrives with her dogs.  The guy arrives.  My house is full of people, dogs and stuff everywhere and I am soooo wishing I was still on the road. All I can do is laugh.  After I get everyone situated for the night, I sit down, and finally collapse from exhaustion and fall into a deep deep sleep.

Ahhhh, happy Saturday back in my own home!  It’s great to be home.  I stumble up the stairSnowDriveways from a night in the basemen on the futon, and make my way through the house half asleep to the front window. 

I look outside.  It has been snowing. It has been snowing a lot. It is still snowing.  A lot.  The cars are going to be buried. 

I run to look out the kitchen window. So much for managing to miss winter.

Okay, I’m ready for the adventure to end now.

Ah Minnesota.  Home Sweet Home!

Wisconsin Kinship

The thundering sound of diesel engines revving up and pulling out is shaking the trailer.  I wake up with dogs flanking my sides, tummies up, waiting to be rubbed.  I jump up and look out my window.


I jump out of bed, and open the trailer door.

Oh no.

I am totally blocked into the Franksville, Wisconsin truck stop turn around by 53 foot semi -rigs.

It’s 6 in the morning.  These guys are on tight schedules, I get that.  I don’t want to interfere.  They probably get flogged for every minute they fall behind, and steal sleep when they can.   I get dressed, and walk over to the building, use the restroom and get some coffee and oatmeal. I know I’m not far from my destination; maybe a couple minutes.  So I wait. And within an hour, several truckers pull out, and I have the opportunity to escape the semi turn around area.

Within 15 minutes, I’m pulling up to the driveway.

I make the call.

“Yell-low. Are you still in Florida?”

“No, I finally left. I thought I would come and see you.”

“Sure! when?”

“Right now.  I’m pulling into your driveway.



And so starts my reunion with Carol and Dennis the Menace.

What can I say about these people?  They are the greatest people ever.  As I pull into the driveway, Dennis greets me and directs me to the side of his giant work shed to park.  I shouldn’t call it a work shed since the building is bigger than my entire property at home.  A full blown automotive and wood shop.  I guess a guy has to have something to do….

We visit over coffee and I tell him about my adventure trip home so far.  Carol arrives and we catch up as well.   They were planning to go to their RV dealer down the road, and invite me along to the Burlington RV Superstore.  I bring my LP tanks to double check on the level of LP in them.  I end up purchasing two vent hoods, the cage for my exhaust vent, and a door screen.  We discover that indeed, my two LP tanks should provide a total of 60lbs of gas, but one is holding 5lbs and the other, 10lbs.  So much for the dealer making good on their word when directed by Mark at Riverside Trailers, to give me two full tanks. 

That damn Florida dealer who shall remain nameless.

We go back to their house and Dennis proceeds to install my new purchases.  He has it all done in mere moments.  Now, I’m bug proof, dog proof and ventilated. I am so grateful to know Carol and Dennis.

Carol is going to their church in the morning to help cook for a funeral reception.  I volunteer to go with and help.  In the meantime, Dennis discovers my hitch is severely bent. 

“how did this happen?”

I am clueless.  I didn’t even know it happened.  One whole side is curled up to almost a perfect vertical bend. We speculate.  Contemplate.  It could have happened when I went through the drive thru….hard to say, though.  “We can fix that.  Just let me think on it.” He says.  We have dinner and talk, then all turn in for an early start to the day.

Carol and I are up early to cook.  She introduces me to her “ladies” and we hustle and bustle in the kitchen for hours, preparing a fabulous buffet meal for the grieving family and guests of the day.  We laugh, chop, stir and serve. Carol’s gentle kindness transcends through all these other women.  Everyone is so caring and friendly!  I don’t feel like a visitor or guest at all.  I feel like I’ve been here for years.  In less than an hour, the grand spread is devoured, and we swoop in and clean the hall and kitchen as though we were never there.  Carol gives me a tour of the church.  Her hand-made quilts are displayed throughout the building.  Beautiful works of art hanging everywhere.  She is a woman who displays her faith living by example. 

Back at the house, Dennis is in the woodshop.  I stop in to see what he’s up to, and have the extraordinary pleasure of meeting his eldest son, Nick.    Nick is a rather unique guy.  Highly educated, naturally gifted, and probably, genius.  Don’t tell Dennis I said so!  He comes home daily, and to the wood shop often.  There’s a lot to this guy.  Pretty amazing story. We talk about following our dreams, and doing what makes us happy.  What makes Nick happy is woodworking.  He shows me an assortment of things he’s built, and I am in awe of his raw talent in carpentry and woodcarving.  He demonstrates the elaborate computerized machine he has invested in that cuts boards into personalized works of art.


“What would you like to see on a sign?” He asks.

“She needs a sign for her trailer, like we have.” Dennis adds.

“Well let’s make both.” Nick decides.

So, I have to make a decision on what I want my signs to look like.  We do some sketches and laugh about some ideas, then he starts working on them.  I hover over him for a while, watching the magic of his computerized machinery. Dennis is outside now with his neighbor, and they are attempting to straighten my hitch out.  They manage to get it done so it looks like new!

We all have dinner together, then I head to the camper for the evening.  As I fire up the computer to check emails, I see Rick called. Probably checking to see how the drive home is going.  I see I received an email from Rob, a former colleague and friend from the industry.  He forwarded me a news brief.  I start to open it as I call Rick back.


“Hey…Patty…how are you?  Are you ok?”  Rick is speaking softly.


reading….. Bowhunting World announcement sad to report a tragic death…of….Mike Strandlund?


“Rick?…I…I…”  I’m starting to feel sick to my stomach.

Yeah, I tried to call you earlier, didn’t know if you’d heard, but thought you’d want to know…”

“I…I….”  I can’t focus.  It’s so hard.  It’s so surreal.  It cannot be real.  I feel sick.

He softly talks to me for a few minutes. 

I have to go. 

I have to go fall apart.

We hang up.

I fall apart.

Totally apart.

I search through my phone directory for our mutual friend, Tim’s number.  I call him.  We fall apart together.

Oh my God this cannot be true.

Mind racing, I am concerned for the kids. Concerned for the parents.  Just plain concerned.  I think about the last few months.  I think about my plans.  I think about the last conversation we had.  I think I am having a heart attack.  I am concerned for me!  I need a distraction, and walk up to the house with a bottle of wine.

“Hi? Anyone want a glass of wine?”  Carol and Dennis join me.  Within minutes I am a bawling mess. 

Bless these two wonderful people for helping me through this shocking, devastating time.

I return to my Toy Hauler and proceed to search the net for all information being presented. I post some comments.  I reply to Rob.  I try to be productive.  I fall apart again, and cry myself to sleep.

There’s nothing quite like crying oneself to sleep.  My eyes are pretty well crusted shut this morning, and I feel like I was in a cage match and lost.  Not doing so good bouncing back.  I lay low in the yard with the dogs, hoping I’ll snap out of my funk before I see Dennis or Carol.   Nick is back and excited to show me the first completed sign.  It just needs to be stained and finished.  It is beautiful indeed.  It makes me cry.  Hell everything makes me cry right now.  I’ve got to get home.  I’ve got to get home and be ready to attend services.  The day is long and sad, but I try hard to be pleasant in the company of my cherished friends.  Carol gives me a tour of her amazing sewing room.  Now I see how she can create all those beautiful quilts.  Nick makes a lunch run, and brings back Greg’s Catering  take out—gigantic sandwiches and mounds of fries.  Comfort food.

I continue to lay low the rest of the day.  I sit and talk with Dennis about business, life and travel.  Dennis has a way of making a person feel strong when they don’t feel so strong.  He has a way of reminding a person of what they’re made of.  His tough, razzing exterior is just a front for the kind, wise and supportive guy inside.  I tell him about my plans for leaving. I think I will take a nap and leave in the night to hopefully get home Thursday morning.  Nick will not be back again before then, but that’s ok, he will finish up the signs and send them.  Everything else is ready so all I have to do is unplug and drive off quietly in the night.  I stop in to see Carol, thank them both for everything, and we say our goodbyes. I retreat to the solitude of my trailer to curl up with the dogs, and have a restless sleep. 

The continued pain in my chest must be entirely due to the empty spot in my heart.  I hope it subsides soon.  Staring at the air vent on the ceiling, with the new cap that Dennis installed the other day, I cannot think of a better place to be than right here, right now.


I’m so close to home.

Day In Peru

Finally.  After a long, frightening, grueling journey around Indianapolis, and taking overnight refuge at the Pilot, I have finally broke free of the insanity and am just about to find my way to Peru Indiana!  I was given some great directions from the morning manager at Pilot, and haven’t have any issues.  There is not much here, not much to see on this highway.  This post-apocalyptic feel of abandoned space is deceiving. There are people here somewhere….I just don’t see where….

A car pops up on the horizon, draws closer to me, but turns off and disappears behind a hillside.  Well there is at least one other human out here.

My trusty GPS is telling me to turn right.  I do, and am drawn down into a valley and farmstead scene that could be on a calendar. Flashbacks of the low bridge enter my head, and I start looking for places to turn around.  

Trust the system, it will be okay… I blink away those scary thoughts, and forage ahead, to see beautiful countryside that I am sure few people ever have the privilege of seeing.  Then it’s down a steep hill, around a corner and into a rickety little town called Peru. 

WOW, this is Peru?  Was it evacuated?

It’s Easter Sunday and there is no life anywhere to be seen. I am directed from one end of the town clear through to the other, and then out of town to the very outskirts to find Riverside Trailers manufacturing facility.  I pull into their property and park in front of the business office.

A quick call to Mark and I‘ve got instructions to plug into their building for power and make myself comfortable.  It’s a warm sunny Easter Sunday in Peru.  A day of lounging, left overs, and walks around the property with the dogs. I try to not think about last night’s adventure of terror.

It’s Monday morning, and I am up bright and early in anticipation of my big day of assistance from Riverside Trailers. Mark can’t be here today, but I meet Eric and review my list of issues.  He believes they can get things done fairly quickly, and sends me off in the truck with the dogs, leaving my Toy Hauler with their expert staff for the day.

Today I am treating myself to breakfast. A quick drive back into the city limits of Peru and I stumble upon “Grandma Mason’s Kitchen”.  Their motto?  “Meals and Memories Made Here.”

I’ll say.  What a friendly home town kind of place!  My waitress is about 18, and so dreadfully shy I just want to hug her and tell her it will be ok!  She is warming up though, and is doing a great job. Where else can you get a home cooked breakfast with coffee for under $5?  Where else can you get the complete story on the entire town, just by listening to the owner talk with regulars as they come and go. I’m tipping her more than the cost of my meal.

Peru, Indiana.  A sleepy little town, but also the home of Cole Porter, famous composer and song writer of great hits like Don’t Fence Me In, Let’s Do It (let’s fall in love), I’ve Got You Under My Skin, Anything Goes, and dozens more.  Yes, I actually have some of those albums (thanks, mom), and recall hearing those tunes as a little girl. Cole was quite the legend. It’s one thing to be the son of the richest guy in town, but when it’s this town…..well, what do I know about what life  was like in the late 1800s?

This is also where the International Circus Hall of Fame and the Circus City Festival Museum can be found.  An amazing history exists about how the circus started, the many transfers of owners over the years, leading to John Ringling ending up with it all. Still, annual festivities are held, celebrating the days of the big top here in Peru.

The Miami Indians reside here (the indigenous people, not a sports team).  This is where Francis Slocum spent the majority of her life. After being stolen as a child by Delaware Indians in the late 1700’s she was raised by Miami Indians here in Peru.

Peru is also home to an amazing Disc Frisbee Golf course, found in the middle of Maconaquah Park.  The kids and I took a walk around the park, and found it to be simply gorgeous. We even had a chance to see some serious Disc Frisbee action. 

We’ve pretty much covered everything there is to see in Peru Indiana now.  Luckily, it’s time to go back to Riverside and see how things are going.  As I drive through town, Rhonda calls to see if I am on my way.  She works closely with Mark and will be taking things from here, and giving me the factory tour.  I am back in their parking lot in a matter of minutes.

We walk through the work area to see my new and improved Toy Hauler.  THEY FIXED EVERYTHING!  It was all I could do to not cry with joy.  They went down my list and fixed everything!  These guys are great!  Simply great!  They discovered that my LP tanks were almost empty.  Why would that be?  I never used the LP. Well, I take that back.  When Mark came to talk with me at the Campgrounds, he showed me how to use the LP—he did a quick demo, but that was it. Would that burn two tanks?  Not likely. So, either there is something wrong with the tanks……or…….it just burns me up that the dealer lied about providing me two full tanks of LP!

I talk with Rhonda at length about the struggle, disappointment, frustration and my absolute refusal to ever communicate with that dealer again. Thank the gods there are other options I can go through.

She gives me the full tour of how they build the trailers.  It is comforting to see American made product, especially in little Peru Indiana.  My trailer is built solid, assembled by skilled carpenters and I feel so much more confident about it after seeing how one is put together.  The key is to take care of every single place where there is caulking—keep everything watertight and this trailer will last for years and years.  Armed with a much better understanding about how it all works, I’m ready to hit the road with confidence.  The guys help me re-hook up–Awesome!

I thank the amazing folks from Riverside Trailer for their outstanding level of service and head toward Chicago, hoping to miss rush hour.  Just to make sure, I stop in Merrillville Indiana for a tasty sirloin steak dinner at the Longhorn Grill, while the girls get fresh flea baths at Petsmart. Buddy and I take a walk around the Petsmart store and outside the shopping mall afterwards, waiting for his beauty queen sisters hairdo’s to be completed.

We are making fine progress toward home.  We just need to get to Franksville, Wisconsin tonight.  I continue bearing northwest, thinking back to my experience with the great folks at Riverside Trailers.  I love my Toy Hauler!




Caves, Beams and Directions

What was I thinking?  Since I had to revise my trip north and not stop in Evansville Indiana, how did I neglect to see I would be driving through Kentucky’s Bourbon Country?  It didn’t dawn on me as I passed exits for Bowling Green, home to Corsair, one of the biggest and most innovative distillers in the country.  But what can I say?  I am drawn to Mammoth Cave National Park, and just have to stop.

This awe inspiring park is home to over 400 miles of cave passageways and is the largest known cave IN THE WORLD!  There isn’t time to take the official tour I’m interested in, but I can look around, learn, and plan for a return trip.  There are over a dozen guided tours ranging from ‘Easy’ to ‘Very Strenuous’ in difficulty, and can take from half an hour to 7 hours to complete. The one I want to go on is the Grand Avenue Tour, where you get a big work out while going up and down hills and climb 670 stairs for 5 ½ hours. There’s even a lunch break. Definitely the Wild Cave Tour sounds crazy cool too;  almost 7 hours of very strenuous crawling around in the dark, squeezing through crawlspaces that require your girth not to exceed 42 inches, to see some of the wildest areas of the cave system that few people ever get to see.  This tour requires special clothing and decontamination procedures. Actually, all of the tours, sound uniquely amazing.

The park was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1981. 1n 1990 it became a core piece of an International Biosphere Reserve.  Kind of like that movie Biodome–the connection between human beings and their environment; hmmm, do they study us in those caves?  There are strict regulations and decontamination procedures for entering and exiting the caves, to help prevent the spread of White-Nose Syndrome, a fungus that has destroyed over a million bats on the East side of the country.  It’s made very clear that these tours are not to be taken lightly, participants must give strong consideration to what their limitations may be, prior to choosing and taking a tour.  Good advice.  Mammoth Cave Park will be seeing me again, perhaps soon.  I grab some brochures and get back to the road north.


Wait–what’s that?  Jim Beam?

I am able to salvage just enough time to visit the brand new Jim Beam facility and take the tour.  It’s probably a good thing I only have time for one stop.  I can’t imagine doing the whole Bourbon Country Tour with the Toy Hauler, or I’d be parking in a field overnight, taking a nap!  I pull in and park in the only place I am confident I can get in and out of, a vacant parking lot behind the distillery.  I visited the old Jim Beam several years ago, when in Louisville on business, but it was a Sunday and because it was located in a “dry county” they didn’t serve tastes when I was there.

Things have certainly changed for the Jim Beam of today– what a nice facility!  Just stepping into the tasting room is downright dangerous. So many smooth-as-silk bourbons. Digital card reading bourbon dispenser kiosks strategically positioned around the room keep a tight lid on quantity of consumption, so that’s a good thing.  There’s no control measure in the retail store, however. That quickly becomes my downfall as I literally fill my shopping basket with tasty bourbon chocolate treats, stemware and of course—great bourbons!  I shuffle away with heavy bags of goodies and have lunch on the lawn behind the distillery with the dogs.

Determined to not make any more tourist stops, I deadhead north towards Peru pausing only for fuel and bathroom breaks, and hit Indianapolis at almost 11:00 pm.  My GPS is telling me to take the next exit to reach highway 30, so I do.  I am brought through a scary looking 30 mph industrial district with pot hole laden roads and I begin to worry.  Trust the GPS, it’s never been wrong yet.

My first clue is the neighborhood has become a run-down residential strip.  The bigger clue is the tall dark shape up ahead a few blocks that looks just like a bridge over the road.  A low bridge.  Two blocks from that bridge I can finally read the sign;


“Clearance 10’4.”


“Um, I’m not going to make that.” I say out loud. 


What do I do with my 12’6”?  I stop right there in the road, and look at my options.  Turning right appears to be my only option, so I do.  Now I am driving down a pot hole laden side street, void of any street lights, heavily lined with big trees creating a low canopy over the road, and cars parked all along both sides, making it impossible for two vehicles to pass, or me to hardly squeeze through.  I look off to the sides and see rows of run down houses and silhouettes wandering around in the yards, looming around in the dark.

I have a really bad feeling about this. I make it down that narrow street to a T in the road, and turn right again.  I feel like I’ve left part of my Toy Hauler back there. Possibly my nerves, too.  I also feel like if I slow down, I’ll lose even more of both.  I arrive to a better lit main street. It looks randomly familiar.  I re-start the GPS for new instructions. 

What???  NOOOOOoooooooo!  I am directed back to the same route! I am tired. I am very tired.  It is the middle of the night.  I need to get to hiway 30 and there only seems to be one way to do it, yet, this cannot possibly be the way.  I am scared.  I pull into a vacant business parking lot to examine my Indiana map.  Creepy figures are hovering across the street.  I give up, I can’t do this in the dark. I’m turning around. 

I punch in coordinates to Jim Beam, and my GPS directs me back onto the highway heading south, approaching an exit just outside the city, offering both a Pilot and a Flying J station.  I choose Flying J, and proceed down the exit ramp and over to the station entrance. I drive directly to where the semi trucks are parked, only to discover an absolute sea of trucks.  Rows and rows of tightly parked trucks, a few open spots, and narrow lanes between the rows.  I’m in no shape to try to back into a narrow open spot, so I continue toward the back, hoping for a wider area to work with.  No luck. What was that sign?  Pay per night?  That doesn’t seem right.  I have a really bad feeling about this.  I try to swing around and head back out.  A figure steps out of the dark and approaches my driver side. 

“Is this the Flying J overnight lot?” I crack my window and ask the skinny, greasy gray hair guy standing outside my truck.

“You don’t wanna park there, those guys will clip your rig. This is contract and thirty dollars a night.”

“I have to pay to park here?”

“Thirty dollars, cash. Now.” He takes a long drag off his cigarette.

“You know, I think I’ll just keep driving for now.  Thanks.” I manage to squeak out. I slowly maneuver out of that creepy lot.

Rattled, and trying so hard to keep it together, I cross the underpass and head over to the Pilot Station.  It is well lit, and not scary looking at all. I pull in, park next to a Canadian coach, and go into the building to use the facilities.  I usher the dogs out to pee, and we all crawl into the camper to get some sleep. Tomorrow we will start over.  The folks at the Pilot may be able to help me.

This Ain’t Your Grammas Apple Pie

This Ain’t Your Grammas Apple Pie

Compliments of Lyn and Ted


1 gallon apple cider 1 gallon apple juice 3 cups white sugar

8 cinnamon sticks 1 liter bottle of 190 proof moonshine *


In a large stock pot, combine the apple cider, apple juice, sugar, and cinnamon sticks. Bring it to a boil, then take it off the heat and allow it to cool. Add the liter of moonshine. Pour this into mason jars, put the lids on, and let it mellow out. You could drink it right away, but it does get better after a couple of weeks.

This recipe makes about 9 quarts of apple pie moonshine.


Most  “moonshines” have been diluted down to 80 proof.  Everclear, a grain alcohol, comes in two strength proofs:  190 and 151.  You want the 190 proof!  And in some parts of the country, it’s Illegal to sell 151 and 190 proof, so check your state law, and label carefully.  If you are stuck using an 80 proof product, you will need to use twice as much to achieve the same taste and alcohol content as with the grain alcohol.

Monteagle Mountain Memories

Sometimes I forget to stop.  I drive and drive and drive, “just to the next rest stop….” Often pushing it to the gas tank limit.

Not so easy to do now with the Toy Hauler.  It appears I need to pull off for gas every 150 miles or so.  I’m getting roughly 8 miles to the gallon, as everyone predicted.  OUCH!!! But, when I recall those $80 per night hotel stays I shelled out when I couldn’t find a place to camp, I think it all works out.  Now I have my own, dog friendly space at all times. 

I don’t want to stop until I get to Tennessee.  It’s just as well that I’m continuing my journey in the middle of the night.  I don’t think I want to see what’s over the side of this railing as I tug straight up this highway.  My next destination is about 4 hours away.  Maybe I can make it the whole way with one stop?

Indeed, I stop once to fill up before continuing straight up the hill, going from elevation of 2 to 2500 in less than 24 hours is a big difference!  Just up ahead is my exit into Monteagle, and there is my destination  truck stop!  I am tired from a huge day of driving and visiting.  It’s 1:00 am.  I slowly pull into the truck stop.  How do I get back there with all the other trucks?  Dazed, confused, tired, and out of brain power, I drive in and out of the frontside, around and around, trying to figure out where to park.  I see where the truckers are parking, but how do they get in and out?  I spy a small van that appears to be leaving from back there so I drive over to that lane and enter.

OH NO! This is not the way back there! 



But it’s too late!  I am in too deep!  I try to take the sharp curve that is so typical of drive thrus’, but end up with my driver side trailer on top of the curbing, pulling up about 6 foot of nice lawn and dragging it with me.  Thank the gods there isn’t an overhanging bar across this drive thru or things would really get ugly.  I pull the rest of the way through and out of there, feel the BUMP of finally dropping the sod strip, and bolt away and out of the parking lot.

I am so embarrassed.  At least it’s the middle of the night and no one saw me.  Of course, except for the cameras they probably have out there.  Oh, geeze.  I am so embarrassed!  Clearly I need some sleep, and getting into the trucker parking is apparently rocket science tonight.  I drive down the road a couple hundred feet and see an open area behind some vacant buildings.  Let’s try this.

Well, hell, this is all dirt and not exactly flat, or solid, and I am tugging through 4-wheel country in the pitch dark, and all of the sudden there is a big hole up ahead that I just barely miss with the trailer…..

ARGHHHH!  Where can I freaking park???

I maneuver out of that mud pit and pull into the gas station next to my coveted trucker parking place and get out to ask the guy working there if I can park there for a few hours.  OH MY it’s cold!  It’s COLD out!  Seriously?  It’s like 30 something!  The guy says it’s perfectly fine to park there, so I do.  After a cup of hot chocolate, with a heavy, grateful sigh, me and the family curl up for a few hours of rest before dawn.

Bonfires. Apple Pie.  Long chats about places and ideas. Shared love of travel and the outdoors.  Lyn and Ted had been friends and business acquaintances for years before ever being drawn together as a couple.  Their genuine care and respect for each other is the stuff that lasts a lifetime.  It shapes who they are as people.  It’s what drew me to them immediately as well.  I am thrilled to be able to meet up with them now.  After a good rest, I am up and pacing around in the cold and wind, preparing to give them a call from the Monteagle truck stop!

“Hay girl!”  Lyn’s chipper greeting is like music to my ears! “Ya’all made it okay?  Ya’all in town yet? We can be there in ‘bout an hour, hon, and we’ve got a special day in store for you!”

I spend the next hour figuring out how to get into the truck stop parking area.  The entrance was in front of my face the whole time…I had driven past it at least a dozen times last night, not realizing that’s what it was. I pull into a spot, let the dogs out and wait for Lyn and Ted to arrive. They pull up, and I describe my adventure the night before.  Ted takes a walk over to the scene of the incident, and comes back smirking.  It could have been worse.  He gives the trailer a once over to ensure everything is intact, and then moves me to a better parking spot for the duration.  I jump into their chariot, and we are off to the back country of Tennessee.

What’s a trip to the mountains without a folklore story to take back?  While Ted plays chauffer, Lyn tells me about the Sewanee Domain, and the Angels that watch over the people of the community.  As we pass through the gates into the University she opens the window to release her Angel back into the Domain.  What?  Well when they left to come meet me, they picked up an Angel to ride with and protect them while they were away. Now that they’re back in, they can let the Angel go.


Sewanee Tennessee, and the Domain of the University Of The South, founded in 1857.  What a beautiful and historic 13,000 acre mountain top college campus and community.  This place would be positively amazing in the fall!  Since it’s almost Easter weekend, there is not a lot happening on the campus, but we are able to witness part of The Way of the Cross Ceremony.  The streets are flooded with people walking to All Saints Chapel, with a half dozen leading the pack, carrying a giant cross.  This college is entrenched in Religion and Theology.  All Saints itself is a masterpiece of gothic beauty and structure.  Stained glass adorns every window— a work in progress for 46 years.  The glass used throughout the building came from the Wippell Studios in Exeter England.  The Shapard Tower is where the 56 bell Leonidas Polk Memorial Carillon is found. The bells, with a combined total weight of 23 tons, were caste in Haute Savoie France sometime in the 1950’s.  They remain some of the finest bells in the country today.  We tour the community business area, the campus, and visit  Bridal Veil Falls, and The Cross to Morgans Steep.  Although I’ve seen all the Indiana Jones movies, I am not brave enough to walk the narrow, natural stone bridge over the mountainside, nor is Lyn.  We admire breathtaking views from the top while Ted explores the bottom ground. 

Picking up some Angels as we drive out of the Domain, our next stop is to see the area where the last of the Coke Ovens are found.  Not being the biggest history buff, I have to ask;

“What is a coke oven?”

And then I see them.  They look like half moon holes in the side of the mountain. Holes big enough for several people to crawl into and sleep.  But they were constructed to serve as ovens, used to turn coal into coke for the iron and steel foundries of Chattaooga back in the late 1800s.  There are rows of them scattered along the roadside as we drive through a beautiful, remote, wooded park with a lake.  It’s all starting to add up. The mountains, the Cumberland Plateau, Dolly Parton and “The Coal Miners Daughter” and all of that history and industry is all right here. But mining operations have been dormant for half a century now, and the coke ovens just sit here, in this quiet park, with their ominous look as weeds encroach and start to devour them into the hillside.  If I was homeless, I’d set up camp in one of these coke ovens, for sure!  They are so intriguing.  I want to go explore the hills for more of them.  But we are on the grand tour mission, and need to keep moving, and that’s okay.

Next, stop, the town of Coalmont.

“Let me live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.”

Is inscribed on a memorial to Lyns cousin, Sam Creighton.  This amazing man of Coalmont, Tennessee is somewhat of a local legend.  He ran the local store, and brought passion, commerce and service to his friends and neighbors his entire life.  Every time Sam said “I been studyin’ bout this…”, he would surely bring to life another great idea that would enhance the community and make it better for everyone.  A legacy and tribute to Lyn’s family, his recent passing remains fresh in her heart.  I am honored she is sharing these memories with me.

Her home is a stone throw from the store.  We stop there, and relax and talk about life and family after our road warrior day of touring the countryside.  We help Ted fuss with their RV to get it set up in the yard ‘just right’ for short term storage. Somehow, it’s gotten to be after 7:00 pm, so it’s back to Monteagle for dinner at Mi Casa, followed by drinks at my truck stop palace.  It’s hard to believe we’ve spent the entire day together.  As they drive off I realize it’s almost midnight!  I tend to the dogs, then curl up for another restful night in my wonderful home on wheels.

The morning brings Lyn and Ted knocking on my door, ready to go have breakfast.  They introduce me to the Monteagle Diner, a local hot spot famous for their home cooked entrees.  Hours fly by like minutes as we chat about hunting, tour guiding, property value, politics, community, and what we have to do in the next few weeks and months.   Their next trip will be to Ireland in less than 30 days!

Sadly, I must be on my way again. We hug goodbye and promise to get together again soon, at least by next winter in Florida.  They deliver me back to my rig and disappear into the Monteagle Mountains.  I take the dogs out for a good walk around the parking lot, look around the truck stop one last time, then pull out onto the ramp, continuing up the highway, destination Peru, Indiana.

No further pieces of sod were harmed during my exit.


Sweet Georgia Dream

It’s 9:00 in the morning.  I am on the road again, heading north to Snellsville Georgia, home of George Ryals III, and his amazing Archery Proshop and  Shooting School.

George is an archery prodigy.  He rose up out of the south as a top ranking shooter, joined the Martin Archery pro staff, and has become one of the most knowledgeable people around when it comes to the art of archery, not to mention one helluva shot.  We worked together for years as he built his Advertising Manager career with Martin Archery.  Having the opportunity to work with people like George were the best parts of being in the industry. 

I smile as I recall the first time I saw wind turbines.  It was just outside of Walla Walla, Washington as I was driving to visit George at Martin Archery years ago. I came up over a hill and saw an endless sea of big white windmills.  Thought I was driving up to a movie set –started looking around for Scully and Moulder….now whole towns and cities are powered by them and it’s common to see them everywhere.  Back then I thought to myself, ‘George!  You moved clear across the country to this eerie place!’   And then I passed by a vineyard for sale.  Well, I guess Walla Walla couldn’t be all bad….

George doesn’t know I’m stopping by today.  It will be a surprise.  The trip from Gainesville, Florida to Snellsville, Georgia takes the entire day.  Miles of wooded, hilly landscape.  Then at almost 4:00 I hit the outskirts of Atlanta and everything comes to a halt.  Literally.  I quickly pull off the highway into a Wal-Mart parking lot, next to an RV Coach.  Discussion with the couple in the Coach reveals that this is the beginning of Atlanta rush hour, and it could take hours to get around to the other side.  They are waiting until 7:00 to try to press on.  Me too.


Time to go shopping.


Dog treats, a loofa brush, and a small tub of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge ice cream.

Back at the trailers, I eat quickly made left overs with Jean and Larry, from Nebraska, while we wait for the traffic jam to subside.  Larry says there is nothing worse than sitting in bumper to bumper traffic pulling a rig or driving a coach.  You can see the gas gauge go down without getting anywhere.  Indeed.  Who needs that??

We look over to the highway with great anticipation for the next hours, until finally the cars are moving at a normal rate of speed.  It’s time to part ways.  Back on the road, my calculations tell me I will hit Georges shop 10 minutes before they close.  I make a call, just to ensure he is there.  He is.

I step through the glass doors and look around.  Racks of bows.  Isles of accessories.  A huge lounge area with couches and chairs.  There stands a reddish blonde guy with a goatee and a great big Southern smile.  George hasn’t changed at all!   “Patty?  Whaaatt are you doin’ here, girl?  Wow! How are you?”

We sit down in his luxurious lounge area and catch up for the next hour.

George is a classic example of going after and achieving a dream.  Founded in 2010, Archery Learning Center has been his dream his whole life.  After 20 years on the road as a Professional Archer and working a corporate job in the Archery Industry, George was able to roll out a unique Archery Retail storefront with an emphasis on growing the business of archery. His company motto is “Know More; Shoot Better”.  He accomplishes this though education and coaching, and is now producing some up and coming hopefuls that could have the opportunity to compete at the Olympic level.  His Elite Archery Team is headed by Coach Ginger Hopwood.  They run a complete program of Junior Olympic Archery Development Classes, and provide a full calendar of fun shoots, leagues and events.  If you walk into Georges huge archery retail store looking for some widget, chances are you will be drawn in as a regular shooter, and possibly a future competitor.  His favorite part of the process is introducing young people to archery for the first time, and hand picking the brightest stars to advance to serious training and competition.

He can spot raw talent a field away, and will absolutely be there to help a new archer reach their full potential.  After all, it’s his passion.  He initiates top level shooting events for the entire southeast, and people come from all corners.  His indoor range is top of the line, leading with safety first.  The overall atmosphere is welcoming, comfortable and most importantly, fun!  Everyone is treated equally, male or female. 

Yeah, George has developed a real gem with The Archery Learning Center and I am so glad I had the chance to stop in and see it all first hand.  Wish his place could be cloned and available across the country. Definitely a place to experience.  What a guy.  Way to go, George!

A Good Lookin’ Gainesville Gentleman

Talk first started around the archery range….there’s a new guy in town.  A good looking writer guy.  Then the talk shifted to that nice handsome guy that went to work for the magazines.  And then, subtle hints were dropped in “the circle” that I should meet him.  Eventually the talk shifted to other things. This was all back in 1980 something.  I was struggling to get a break in the outdoor industry, working for free for the state archery association, and trying to get donations for an event.

One day I approached that good looking writer guy asking for sponsorship, and the rest is history.  Rick hired me to sell advertisements for what was then Archery World Magazine. That single event launched my entire career track and life for the next 20 some years.

Much reminiscing as I barrel north to Gainesville Florida at a timid 55mph.  I’m meeting Rick for lunch.  It’s been almost 10 years since I saw him last—at Shot Show in Vegas in fact.  I smile, remembering “back in the day”, the crazy intensity of our jobs with the magazine, him leaving to go work for other companies in the sporting industry, and how we manage to keep in touch despite everything. 

My two hour drive to Gainesville is about over, and without issues. I arrive to Cracker Barrel.  Wal-Marts and Cracker Barrels are two very RV friendly establishments if you need a place to stop for a night—even two.  Will we recognize each other?  I park in the shade.  I wait.  I let the dogs out. I talk to the restaurant manager as he steps out for a smoke.  Then a tiny little convertible sports car zips into the parking lot next to my truck.  

“Well hello there!  Wow, PR this is some TOY!”  There’s Rick, all smiles, in a t-shirt and shades, looking G-Q Cool, greeting me as though we saw each other yesterday.

“Hellooooo!” I dash across the lot as he gets out of that little car…..we hug, then stand back and take a good look at each other.

“Wow, this is big!  You weren’t kidding!  I don’t think I could pull something like this…” Rick says, admiring my Toy Hauler.  He has always been good at saying just the right thing to make others feel good. “Hey, we could put my car in there!  Let’s go!”

We laugh.

He has a plan for lunch at a favorite Asian Restaurant. I get the dogs settled, lock up the truck and trailer, and jump into his little car.  We talk all the way there, and all through the meal, about life, the past, the future, bucket lists, and what we want to do with the rest of our lives.  Rick followed his dream years ago, writing on contract about things he is interested in.  Few people have the perseverance to do it successfully.  Rick is a success story.

He suggests I stay over, meet his gal, have dinner and get a fresh start in the morning.  Hmmm, what about the trailer?  Is there a place I can put it?  We zip over to his condo to examine the parking situation.

 “Rick I have not yet ever backed the trailer up.  I’m not sure I can.  Could I park on the street?”

“Oh, sure.  I’m on the committee, it’ll be fine.”

We go back to Cracker Barrel, I jump into the truck and follow him home. 

It all looked good from the little car, but when I pulled down his street I realized I was in trouble immediately.  The cul-de-sac was barely big enough for me to turn around in to align back onto the street to park.  Then, we discover my set up is longer than the street between driveways.  Not to mention with my Toy Hauler on the side of the street, two cars cannot pass.

We look at each other.  He looks at the parking area.

“You know, if I move my car to the other side, you could back into that whole row of spaces.  I think you would fit.”

Back into a parking lot with a row of cars on one side, and big trees on the other side, and the entrance positioned on a curved road at an angle.

“um…..Sure…..”  Gulp.

The next 20 minutes or so we spend trying to navigate my trailer back down his street, through the cul-de-sac up into the parking lot then swing wide to the right to avoid the tree, and park across about 15 parking spots while leaving room for the cars across from it to get out.

After several misses, inching over to the right further…further… and one more pass now further…with Ricks help signaling…we secure the parking spot…MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

“That was great!  You did great!  I am certain I would not have been able to do what you did.  Nice!”  Rick applauds my effort.

I’m not going to lie, my relief is only shadowed by the state of shock that I actually backed that giant trailer in so nice and tight.  Wow, I really can do this!

We visit over beers, I give him the grand trailer tour and dog introductions, and he fires question after question ab080out my trip.  Then we leave to meet his sweetheart, Ulrike, for dinner and drinks. She has been on an amazing journey.  She left everything she knew in Germany to start a life in California just a few years ago, and her professional Life Coach job search has brought her to Florida.  We engage in discussion about what inspires people to go after what they want and what is it that holds people back? Und Ich spreche ein bission deutche, abba nicht zehr gut.

Ulrike joins us back at Ricks for a grand trailer tour, then he brings her home while I tend to my canine crew.  Rick and I talk about writing and business the rest of the evening.  Intrigued with my business, we talk about adventures we want to go on.  He would like to get up to the Boundary Waters.  Maybe Spain, too. I admire a stack of publications he wrote over the years. 

“Rick, did you really bike to all of these destinations?”  I ask, amazed.  I could get into something like that, touring and hunting the country in my Toy Hauler, yeah, hell yeah!

In the morning we talk more over his amazing coffee and healthy breakfast.  I suddenly reminded how important this guy has been to me.  To my life.  And how lucky I am that after all these years we can still connect.  We complete our Minnesota long goodbye hugs and swear not to wait years before our next visit.  I do have connections to the Boundary Waters, after all…….

As I drive off, a Good Lookin’ Gainesville Gentleman is in my rearview mirror, waving goodbye.