Sunday, December 31, 2006

Old Friends

Old friends
Old friends
Sat on their park bench
Like bookends

A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
Of the high shoes
Of the old friends

Old friends
Winter companions
The old men
Lost in their overcoats
Waiting for the sunset
The sounds of the city
Sifting through the trees
Settle like dust
On the shoulders
Of the old friends

Can you imagine us years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange to be seventy

Old friends
Memory brushes the same years
Silently sharing the same fear...
--Paul Simon 1968

My work partner of 19 years who just turned 69 two days ago informed me today that she has brain cancer. I'm going to pray that we'll be sitting on that park bench when she turns 70.

Last Lazy Sunday of 2006

For my Christmas gift this year Darby scanned a lot of our old photos and put them on a CD for me. I thought about using those pictures for my Lazy Sunday post but they are mostly personal family pix so I went with our travel photos instead. Sooner or later some of the family stuff will work its way in.

Tomorrow we return to Georgia for a few days and then we begin our trek across the U.S. to southern Arizona. Happy New Year to all and Safe Travels to our fellow vagabonds.

Wildflowers at Death Valley National Park in California.

The Wenatchee River near Leavenworth, Washington.

Sunlakes State Park in Washington.

Moonlight over Pirateland Campground in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

A Budweiser Clydesdale. This 16 year old beauty is a veteran of several of their commercials.

A cushion cactus in bloom at Big Bend National Park in southern Texas.

The Capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin as viewed from the top of the convention center.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

I Hab a Code in By Noze

One of the more noticeable aspects of the fulltime rving lifestyle is how healthy it is. Whether it's from the fresh air, the lack of physical contact with others (other than the freely given hugs we exchange at the campgrounds), or just a state of mind, for the most part Denny and I rarely get sick. Okay, there's been the odd case of shingles, a stupid fall and a kidney stone but we've pretty much missed a lot of the flus and colds of winter. That is, of course, until we return to Sinus Valley, better known as the Miami Valley area of Ohio when each year one or the other of us picks up a bug. It's my turn this year and all I can say is--AAARRRGGGGHHHHH!

I make a rotten sick person.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Quiet Time in New York

The girls and Grandpa.

The Seneca Niagara Hotel and Casino.

Denny and I did make it safely to New York. It was snowing in Kettering when we left at the ungodly hour of 5 AM, which changed to rain by the time we reached Columbus, Ohio. There was more snow around Erie, Pennsylvania which is par for the course since there's always lake effect snow in that area. But the big gloom and doom prediction of 4-12 inches of snow never arrived in the Buffalo area which was just fine and dandy with us.

After Denny and I dropped our stuff at the hotel and tried to get online to let folks back home we were okay (the wifi system was down though) we drove over to our son's house for Christmas with Steve, his wife Angela and our two granddaughters. There was the usual ripping through of Christmas gifts followed by loud music and noise from the toys we brought. Parents and grandparents partook of liberal amounts of alcoholic libations prior to our traditional Christmas meal of pizza and Buffalo wings (what else do you get when you're near Buffalo, NY?) while the girls became very silly in their attempts to gain Grandma and Grandpa's attention. A typical family get-together, to be sure. Once we had the girls extremely wound up, it was time for us to head back to the hotel. Grandparents get to do that, don'cha know?

This morning Denny and I decided it was time to see the new Seneca Niagara casino and hotel so we drove into Niagara Falls. The hotel is very striking and after a good breakfast it was time to hand over some of our money to the city of Niagara by feeding their slot machines. Which we did in short order, so we took the scenic route back to the motel by way of River Road which wandered past some very lovely waterfront homes. We oohed and aahed as we drove along, thoroughly enjoying ourselves. A stop at Tim Hortons for some hot chocolate and Denny was ready for a nap. While he's dozing I'm enjoying the sight of the Niagara River flowing past the motel while a few snowflakes float past the window. But a nap is starting to sound good, I think...

Monday, December 25, 2006

Not a creature was stirring

...they were all watching "The Christmas Story" for the umpteenth bazillion time. Apparently that has become the tradition here at the R*** household (name withheld to protect my mother) by tacit agreement. The whole kit and kaboodle was glued to the set while Denny and I did the cleanup chores. Which worked for us.

Did you all have a good Christmas? For all my grousing, we did too. Darb surprised me with two CDs full of old our family pictures that he scanned and burned onto a disk. That was wonderful gift and apparently he plans to continue to work on the job for me. Because, you see, he became "keeper of the albums" when we sold the house and contents after the boys took what they wanted/needed of our "stuff". Denny got good golf stuff, my mom got lots of warm clothes since she's always cold anymore and Darb got his personalized iPod so he has lost the excuse of jogging being boring without music. Heh.

The siblings and nieces and nephews are gone now and the house is quiet once again. We'll relax for a while before Denny and I start to pack a few things for our trip to New York tomorrow. I think we'll leave early to try to beat most of the snow that's predicted because I think a lot of it will come tomorrow afternoon. I think by that time a cup of coffee with a shot of Bailey's in it will sound pretty good and I'm sure the hotel's bar can set me up with that. The hotel sits on Grand Island so we'll be able to watch the snow falling on the Niagara River against a background of Christmas lights. If the weather clears for a day or so I'll try to drag Denny to Niagara Falls at night for a few photos of the falls all lit up. I don't think New York has had enough cold weather for the falls to start freezing yet, which is a wonderful sight at night with all the colored lights.

Cross your fingers for good driving weather for us and I'll post some pictures in a day or so. Safe travels to all of you going home.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Lazy Sunday Cat

The Christmas music is playing in the background as Denny is busy making a cherry pie for tomorrow's dinner, my mother is shredding old paperwork to use for packing eBay items and I'm blogging instead of getting the house ready for tomorrow's get-together. I have my priorities, ya know.
The only one relaxing in this household is the cat, so today you get pictures of Patches. Merry Christmas everyone. Travel safely.
P.S. Speaking of traveling safely, the forecast for the Buffalo, New York area on Tuesday is for 3-5 inches of snow with an accumulation of more than a foot likely. Denny and I of course are leaving Tuesday for the Buffalo suburbs to visit our oldest son and our grandkids. Sigh.
A much younger Patches.
Learning how to insert a CD into the computer.

Patches' lesson in how to relax.

The Diva.
The Footwarmer.

Patches walking Denny's sister, Connie.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Being pulled this way and that

It's quiet here tonight. My mother has been in bed since about 5 PM, which is strange because she had requested I make spaghetti for dinner. The sauce was cooking when all of a sudden she disappeared and Denny and I noticed her bedroom door was shut.

My mother was making cookies earlier this week and started to pass out. We're not quite sure what's going on with her because the cardiologist only seemed concerned about her weight (she's lost more weight) and her smoking (go figure) but apparently he didn't find any new problems with her heart.

So now Denny and I have been tossing around the idea of putting the rig in storage or finding somewhere to hook up that would be fairly close (there are no campgrounds near here) so we can keep an eye on her. However, even if we were here we couldn't force her to eat, or to exercise, or to stop smoking so we're wondering if it would be the right thing to do. We hate the thought of waiting until there is a crisis, but being here in the house with her hasn't caused her to move around more or eat anything so I don't know that being here full time would even make a difference or help.

I think Denny and I will have to have a "sit down" with Mom tomorrow. Certainly she doesn't want us to quit our lifestyle for her; she's said that in the past. But maybe telling her that we are considering it because we're worried about her will cause her to start to take a little better care of herself. It's hard to say.

Would it be hard to give up the fulltime rving lifestyle? Oh yes. Staying too long in one area still brings on that urge to move on. There's still nine states we haven't explored and several Canadian provinces too. Could we go back to fulltiming if we had to hang up the keys for a few years? Probably, although it might be harder to do it once we've settled down for a while. However, the lure of the road is strong and we've been vagabonds for a long time.

I think Denny and I will still head west after Christmas and we'll just play it by ear. But this time when we leave home, it won't be with an easy mind...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Double Nickle

The big 5-0 was more exciting, more of a celebration, more of an "event". But today was the ideal birthday.

For years I whined about having a birthday too close to Christmas; my gifts were often "this is your birthday and Christmas both". I hated it and thought I was being selfish and self-centered until I discovered other late December birthday people who felt the same way, all the way into adulthood. But Denny has always made a point of making my birthday special and has made sure I live up to the nickname given me by a friend of his who called me "Diamond Lil" the first time we met. Ya gotta love a man who knows that diamonds are always in style!

Darby took the day off to drive down and spend time with us. I drafted his assistance in frosting the Christmas sugar cookies and we talked and played with the cat and looked at old pictures. Denny grilled steaks for us and I prepared the mulled wine from ingredients we brought up from St. Augustine and we enjoyed it all. I also have two dozen roses to remind me of his visit.

My rediscovered buddy from junior high school, Vicki, called and warbled her version of Happy Birthday to me which was a lot of fun. Perhaps by the time Vicki's birthday rolls around in March I'll be able to return the favor to her in person; when their house sells they'll be ready to start their fulltime RV lifestyle. I'm looking forward to that.

Another year older? On days like this, I can live with that.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Yup, that's the perfect word for this Christmas season. Denny and I opted for a two week stay and it just isn't enough time when we have to squeeze in the long drive to New York to visit the grandkids over the holidays in addition to all we need to take care of here in Ohio. By January 1 we'll be frazzled and faced with the ten hour drive back to Georgia. Three days later we'll be starting our 1800+ mile journey to Arizona in our quest for warmer temperatures. I figure by February we'll be relaxed again-heh.

We do this to ourselves because we don't have a home that can be opened to family and friends in large numbers. In our fifth wheel six people inside is a crowd and it only sleeps two (us) comfortably. Thus, we return to Ohio to see those faces we love, while whining about the cold, rushing hither and yon and generally exhausting ourselves until the next time. But that first quiet morning when I look outside and see pristine snow sparkling in the early morning light while the Christmas tree lights suffuse the room behind me in a warm glow, knowing family is near...ahh, that's Christmas. And I know we'll be back.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Warm Wishes on a Lazy Sunday

My aunt and uncle stopped by yesterday and as always with them, talk soon turned to past vacations in sunny climes with white sand beaches. Therefore today's Lazy Sunday post pictures will be evocative of warm breezes and sunny days. Currently in Ohio our daytime temperatures are pleasant but by midweek they will devolve into the colder temperatures that are more normal for this time of year. Which, of course, would be totally necessary if one hoped for a white Christmas. My thoughts on that are a bit Scrooge-like with the refrain of "Bah, humbug" tumbling in my brain. Bring on the beach chairs, sunblock and margaritas.

The skyline of Madison, Wisconsin viewed across Lake Monona.

A secluded cove along the Sleeping Bear National Shoreline on the west side of Michigan.

The Mackinac Bridge over the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan.

A creek in the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire.

Bridal Veil Falls in the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina.

Bridal Veil Falls in Bushkill Falls Park, Pennsylvania.

Friday, December 15, 2006

We Made It!

I wasn't thinking when Denny suggested I drive first today on our 680+ (the mapping program was wrong)mile trip home. I figured since I'm used to getting up early I would be the more bright-eyed and busy-tailed of the two of us, which would be a good thing because heavy morning fog was predicted. What I didn't remember is that the first leg of the journey included driving through Atlanta during morning rush hour traffic. AAARRRGGGHHHH. How do people live like that? Driving to work in that mess every day? People in large cities, I salute you!

We had purchased a new Patricia Cornwell audio book for the trip since her books have lots of characters and intricate plots and that made the ten+ hours go by quickly. Patches slept most of the trip, for which we were exceedingly grateful. A stop for our favorite local burgers on the way to my mother's house and we were set.

It always feels like we're moving in when we come home for the holidays because we have gifts, cat supplies and unused items that we'll place in my mother's garage for her next garage sale as well as our luggage for a two and a half week stay. Of course the bad part is that we haul equally as much back to the rig when we leave! Someday I'm going to manage to leave with less than we came with. If I'm not careful we could lean towards the top end of our weight bearing limit in the fifth wheel and that's not good on the suspension, the truck's transmission or our fuel mileage.

In the meantime, I've attached our wireless router to my mother's computer so we can use our laptop with her DSL service, I'm unpacked and I've checked out all the gifts I ordered online that I had shipped here for safekeeping. Patches is exploring the house that was familiar to her as a kitten but which she has forgotten in the four months since we left here in August. The bad part is, now she's big enough to spring to the top of cabinets where my mother displays antique glassware so we are all going to have to train ourselves to close off doors when we're not in the room to avoid CATastrophes. Hmm, not having knick knacks and tall furniture in our fifth wheel has lulled us into a false sense of security with her.

It's now time to think about hauling out the Christmas tree and decorating it and working on getting the rest of our Christmas shopping done. There's a brand new mall to explore just outside the Kettering city limits (and they have a Cheesecake Factory I hear!), people to see, things to do. I think I've just made myself very tired.

'night all.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Small Towns, Friendly People

Cochran, Georgia isn't large enough to have a rental car agency so Denny and I had to reserve a car in Warner Robins. Although Warner Robins is fairly sizable and has a large employee base in the Robins Air Force Base the friendliness of the people we dealt with while shopping was more like what you'd find in a much smaller town. Perhaps Southerners simply have not yet succombed to the hurly-burly-I'm-the-only-important-person-in-this-world attitude that seems to have taken over the populace of our country.

While waiting for our rental car to be cleaned and prepped for us we chatted with the reservation clerk and discovered his father lived not too far from the Escapees organization in Texas. We talked cold weather, snow in Seattle, football, heavy duty trucks and traveling. There's no rush in our life and it's wonderful to be able to talk while waiting for the car to be ready and not feel pressed for time or angry that a car wasn't sitting there available for us. Who knows--perhaps by being courteous and friendly we got a better vehicle than we would have if we had been abrupt and impatient (we got the Grand Prix instead of the Taurus).

It's towns like this that make it hard to choose where to settle down eventually. We've already decided that there's no perfect climate in the U.S. so a lot of our decision will be based on cost of living and the "feel" of the area. That's something that's hard to explain. We hate the traffic in Atlanta but don't mind it in Phoenix; traffic may be similar but we feel at home in Phoenix. Can't explain it, it just does. So we make mental notes of the towns where people still take the time to talk with you instead of leaving you to your own devices as you wait, where the temperatures are moderate and the traffic is not so bad. But it's not time to settle yet. Oh no, not yet.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Woods Golf Course in Cochran

The links-style Blue course.

The wooded red course.

A nice surprise waited for us in the tiny little town of Cochran, Georgia. There are not one but two golf courses in town, both reasonably priced. But for our outing yesterday we chose the Woods Golf Course because they feature three nine-hole courses. The Red and White courses are wooded, rolling hills and the Blue course is a links-style course. We arrived in the late morning and were able to get right on the course with no waiting.

The golf course itself is well-maintained in spite of seeing a lot of play for the area. There's even a small campground right beside the course and a lot of the campers were taking advantage of the proximity to the golf course to play. The price is terrific; at this time of year it costs $17.30 to play 18 holes with a riding cart and we used our Golf Card discount which cut $7 per person from the price so we each paid $10.30 for 18 holes with a riding cart. We loved that!

The town of Cochran certainly isn't a destination town, but it might be worth your while to drive down from Macon or Warner-Robins to play this course. We think you'd enjoy it.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Lazy Sunday Christmas Mood

Next weekend Denny and I will be driving about 650 miles to Ohio for the holidays. We'll be shopping, wrapping presents, decorating my mother's house, visiting, taking care of doctors' visits, driving to New York to see the grandkids and all sorts of stuff so I'm getting in my kinda-Christmas-themed Lazy Sunday pix in early.

It's 27 degrees right now and instead of a white Christmas I'm dreaming of a warm desert. For the moment, what I've got is a warm cat on my lap. It's just not the same.

My mother decorates her Christmas tree with antique ornaments and places antique toys and decorations under the trees. This papier mache' Santa is a sample.

A snowy morning in Ohio. This was the beginning of a record snowfall for the year.

My, oh my. Denny loves Santa! Thankfully we visited in the fall, rather than winter here in Colorado. Too much snow for us warm-blooded creatures.

Darb and Net got me this cute "birthday cake" made of flowers. And I still think I get gypped on my birthday since it's so close to Christmas! How mature.

For several years my mother put up an antique Christmas tree made of dyed feathers. Okay, it was valuable and okay, it was unique, but you couldn't put lights on it so it wasn't a real Christmas tree. Now we put up a genuine artificial tree. Heh.

How one family decorates for Christmas in Folkston, Georgia.

How we decorate for Christmas in our house. Less is more, right?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Is It Us or This Place?

Sometimes we end up camping in an area where everything seems to go wrong. That is what is happening this week. When we drove to the golf course, the entrance was barricaded and padlocked (new mantra, alway take your camera when you get in the car and always call ahead--repeat three times). Denny and I went geocaching yesterday on our way to the grocery store and discovered that several of them appeared to be on private property so that was a bust. The temperature is going to drop into the twenties tonight and we don't carry winter coats because we're not supposed to be in areas of cold weather--that's the whole point of traveling with the sun! This morning I upgraded to a Internet service package promising higher upload and download speeds which caused me to lose my satellite signal. Tiers 1 and 2 tech support staff members couldn't fix the problem after an hour on the phone (but I managed it on my own, thankyouverymuch!)

And now our mail hasn't arrived this week and we're pulling out tomorrow to head further north into the heart of Georgia (where it will be colder still).

But all that keeps life interesting and it's all a small price to pay for the freedom to travel about picking and choosing what view we'll have outside our windows on any given day. Otherwise, I'd be sitting in an office somewhere reading someone's blog about traveling fulltime and playing golf in December. Heh.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christmas Lights in Folkston, Georgia

The owners of this house have decorated their block-sized yard with lights and inflatable figurines. Their property is a full block, so I was able to take pictures from all four sides. It was the best show in town!
I was experimenting with the movie/slideshow capability in Picasa and the Google Video tie-in. Unfortunately I had to use a compression format to make the file fit Google's file size limits which ruined the sharpness of the photos. So you'll probably see a couple of these in a Lazy Sunday post this month. Now if only someone had gotten a picture of me standing in the back of the truck with the camera and tripod as we moved around the block trying to get a good shot between the other cars that were driving by to see the lights too!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Something to entertain you.

But Baby it's cold outside

We've moved north a bit--88 miles to be exact. But far enough inland to lose the warming ocean winds and humidity. It was in the low 30s here last night. Time to plug in the engine block heater on the truck (it's a diesel thing). Time to worry about the water hose freezing and for the ceramic tile floor to feel cold as ice. I guess all this is to prepare us for spending a couple of weeks in Ohio and New York over Christmas, but dang, our blood has gotten thin by following the sun for the past few years!

I think we'll try to play golf today as this may be the warmest day of the four days we'll be staying here. We'll get in a driving tour of the Okefenokee Swamp (don't you just love saying that name?) if it doesn't rain too much (also predicted).

I must say it's nice to be back in a tiny town again. We had dinner last night at a local family-owned restaurant where the wait staff all took the time to chat and be friendly. If you ever happen to be in Folkston, GA, stop by the Okefenokee Restaurant. You'll get a great meal and the gals that serve you are terrific. They'll even warn you that the fried 'gator tail tastes horrible and is only on the menu for the tourists. Have the shrimp instead because you get a plateful and they're wonderful.

One block away (you can see it from the restaurant windows) a family has decorated their entire yard (a small city block) with Christmas inflatables, statues and lights. I'm going to try to get pictures but I've not tried night time exposures with my current camera yet. If you see them here within the next couple of days, you'll know I've been successful. If not, you'll just have to take my word for it. ;)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Let's say thanks

My sister-in-law Phyllis sent me an e-mail this morning with a link to the Let's Say Thanks website hosted by Xerox. It's a wonderful service that sends post cards to our troops in Iraq to thank them for being there. I sent mine today and hope you'll send one too.

If you check the website you'll see a section entitled "From the Troops". There is a video/music clip by Mike Corrado, a Marine who has seen action in Iraq. The video is "On My Watch Tonight"--it's worth the few minutes it takes to download the clip.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

It's Beachy-Keen in St. Augustine

Ouch! Now that I have your attention, it's time for our Lazy Sunday pictures. Just a few more shots of things seen around St. Augustine before we start moving slowly towards the land of snow and ice. The one week of warm weather was wonderful and nothing relaxes you like the repetitive crash of surf on the shore.

You can drive up and park on Vilano Beach. The rip currents were still running strong when this was taken so there was no one in the water then or at all this week.

The 208 foot stainless steel cross at the Mission of Nombre de Dios in St. Augustine. This was a long distance shot taken from the top of the St. Augustine lighthouse on Anastasia Island.

This carousel is at the small city park on San Marcos Dr. As you can see, it's now decorated for the holidays. I snapped this as they were placing the stocking caps on the horses just before opening up for the day, which is why there are no children on the merry-go-round at the moment.
A close up of a carousel horse.

This is one of the unpleasant things about the beach here. Patches and I both have a hard time avoiding these sand burrs as we wander around our camp site. They hurt!

The obligatory goofy tourist picture. Denny was tired enough after a day of sightseeing to agree to having his picture taken. He's getting better about it.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Castillo de San Marcos

When the fort was built in the 1670s the walls were painted white and the turrets red for the colors of the Spanish flag. This photo was taken from the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse across the bay. Our trolley tour guide told us that the fort's cannons could fire cannon balls as far as the lighthouse. We found that surprising, figuring the 17th century weaponry wouldn't be that powerful.
A juxtaposition of the old and the new--the Castillo de San Marcos and the Vilano Bridge in the distance. Matanzas Bay, meaning "slaughters" in Spanish, was so named after the Spanish killed the sailors of a French fleet who were cast into the water after their ships were destroyed.

The interior of the fort. The rooms on the first story have interpretive displays and signs explaining the history of the fort and the lives of the men who manned it.
The park service hosts historical re-enactments and has staff costumed in period dress to answer questions about the fort and its history.

The Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest masonry fort in the United States. Built of coquina, which is a natural mixture of small seashells and sand compressed to form stone which is similar to limestone, the fort was able to withstand multiple assaults. The natural properties of the coquina allows it to absorb the impact of the cannon balls and musketry without shattering, which is why the fort is still standing today. The queen of Spain insisted the fort be built of stone after several earlier forts were burned to the ground.

There are many websites on the Internet that will tell you the history of the Castillo de San Marcos, so I won't go into that here. Denny and I have visited several different forts and remains of forts in our travels, but this one amazes you with its age and sturdiness. You can see graffiti left by the soldiers carved into its walls, imagine the battles in the bay as you stand on the second story and listen to the rangers' talks on the fort if you happen to arrive in time for one of the guided tours.

The trolleys all stop here or there is plenty of parking if you drive up on your own. Since the park is a national monument, you can use your Golden Age Passport or the Golden Eagle Passport to get in free. It's all part of the St. Augustine experience, come enjoy it.

Friday, December 01, 2006

If You Happen To Be In Mason, Ohio...

Do you remember Carson Williams? He created an animated light show on his house that ended up as a film clip on the Internet last December. Mr. Williams had to shut down his display after a minor fender-bender occurred in front of his house and the traffic became too much for the residential area.

Well, this year the city of Mason will have a reproduction of Willliam's house on display at their Heritage Oak Park along with three other displays created by Mr. Williams. This allows people to enjoy the light show from the comfort of their car and see it all. A map is included in the video clip link.

Well, What Did You Expect?

Killer Whale Incident

People, these are wild animals. They were not put on this earth for your entertainment and to be kept in a concrete pond.

Okay, I'm stepping down off my soapbox.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The St. Augustine Lighthouse

The St. Augustine Lighthouse.

Same shot, with clouds an hour later.

The fresnel (fre NELL) lens of the St. Augustine lighthouse.

The fresnel lens of the St. Augustine lighthouse from within the lens.

The view from the lighthouse looking north towards the Vilano bridge.

The view from the lighthouse looking east.

The high tides and rip currents of the past several days have shown us how dangerous the coastline can be, which is why the Spanish built a watch tower in St. Augustine in the 16th century. In 1824 a tower and a beacon were added to create Florida's first lighthouse.

The St. Augustine lighthouse is distinctive with its black and white striping and red lantern top. You climb 219 steps to reach the top, which they say is the equivalent of 14 stories. After climbing them, I believe it. Whew! But the view is magnificent and worth the effort.

The price of entry to the lighthouse also includes a self-guided tour of the keeper's house which is now a museum. There is information about the troops stationed in the area during WWII, about the lives of the various keepers and their responsibilities and in the basement there is a display of artifacts removed from a sunken ship. The keeper's house has been lovingly restored and Christmas decorations are starting to go up so it's a nice time to visit. After all, it's 80 degrees here now--what's it like where you are?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Enjoying St. Augustine

The entrance to Flagler College, formerly the Ponce de Leon Hotel. Pure elegance.

We're told that there's $30,000,000 worth of Louis Comfort Tiffany windows in this student cafeteria at Flagler College. Fortunately they are protected by bullet-proof glass.

A close-up of a tower on the Lightner Museum across from Flagler College.

Magnolia Avenue in St. Augustine has no magnolia trees, but does have a canopy of live oaks lining the street for several blocks. It reminds me of Savannah, Georgia.

Denny and I have been to St. Augustine before, both individually and together. But this visit is the first time we've really had the time to leisurely explore the town.

We chose to get an overview of the city and its history by taking one of the tram/trolley tours. There are a couple of companies that offer the tours, but we chose the Old Town Trolley company because we had taken a tour offered by the same company in Savannah, Georgia and were pleased with it. Both companies seem to follow the same route hitting the same highlights so it probably doesn't matter. There are nineteen stops on the tour where you can get off and wander around as there are trolleys arriving at each site about every 15-20 minutes. Denny and I decided to take the entire tour without getting off so we would know what we might want to see later. The nice part about your trolley ticket is that it's good for three days so you don't have to try to see everything all in one day. We did hop off to get new pictures of the Castillo de San Marcos (the Spanish fort) and then decided to take pictures of the interior of the Flagler Memorial Church.

Of course, by getting off the trolley and getting back on later, you will probably end up with a new tour guide. Over the course of the last two days we had three different tour guides and in circling past some of the sites we saw yesterday it was interesting to hear the different bits of information and trivia that the different tour guides shared. The spiels the tour guides give are their own instead of a "canned" speech and each has researched the area and the history of the town to try to find interesting snippets of information to pass on to their passengers. Of course, after an hour and a half of names, dates, places and events it becomes a bit overwhelming.

The name Flagler predominates in this town. Henry Flagler and John D. Rockefeller formed what would eventually become Standard Oil and Mr. Flagler became instrumental in bringing tourists to Florida by expanding the railway service into the state and building hotels. His Ponce de Leon hotel in St. Augustine is now Flagler College and our tour guide pointed out that it is the only college that has $30,000,000 (yep, million) dollars worth of Tiffany windows in its students' cafeteria. You will hear the name Flagler again and again on the tour and you will discover that there was a movement to name the city of Miami "Flagler" but Henry refused the honor and suggested the Native American name Miama instead.

That's enough for one day.
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