Quordle, Covid and The Land of Lawn Ornaments

Author Joan Didion penned an award winning book entitled A Year of Magical Thinking that deals with grief, mourning, and attempts to avert abhorrent circumstances through hopeful thinking. My upcoming year is not as distressing and certainly not comparable to Ms. Didion’s year of heartbreak. Yet, I do intend to utilize her idea of magical thinking to aid in my trek through the next twelve months of vagrancy. It will be A Year of Embracing Everyday Eccentricities.

Have you played Wordle? Quordle? I am addicted to both. They are an opiate to me. I cannot start a day on the right track if I do not successfully complete both of these word games. I have a serious monkey on my back.

I thought that it would be a good idea to get a booster shot now that Covid numbers are, once again, on the rise. I knew that I would probably get achy and feverish but I bit the bullet and rolled up my sleeve for shot #4. Six hours later every muscle in my body throbbed. I was clammy and cold at the same time. It felt as if I had been pierced by a bayonet at the injection site. I wanted so desperately to just go to sleep, but my arm was pounding and my head was throbbing, and all I could think about was five-letter words that I could plug into Wordle and Quordle. I’m moaning and sweating and thinking: FEVER, AGONY, THROB, CRAMP, CHILL, COVID. You get the picture. I think I need a 12-step-program.

Riders Up!

May is all about running for the roses and making mint juleps. We were not invited to wear feathered, organza hats while sipping bourbon at Churchill Downs and watching the sun go down on our old Kentucky home. Instead, we joined friends at Laurel Park for a thoroughly enjoyable day of thoroughbreds and throwing money away.

It was a day for mudders. It’s been one of those Springs. Bring your boots and bumbershoots.

Meanwhile, back at Ramblin’Pines Campground, we have had a few sunny days and long walks with Gypsy. While meandering about the acreage, I happened to note the large numbers of towering hardwoods, and the near absence of pine trees. Just another comical anomaly. I am easily amused.

Speaking of which, does anyone else out there find lawn ornaments to be too campy (pun intended) for words?

And FINALLY, we have made a concrete step in our home building process. We have met with our site operations manager and now have an overview plan for the construction process…

“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”
― Aristotle

Stay tuned…

Looking for Light at the End of the Tunnel

With a contract in hand, we are finally moving forward with concrete plans to have a new home built. Site planning, lot clearing, well digging and construction are projected to take a year. A year? We’ve already been living like wayward wanderers for six months. What’s another year?

Another year is an additional 365 days, another 525,949 minutes. Long-suffering perseverance is not my long suit. I am itching to see the light, but we are entering a long, long, tunnel.

So, an RV will be our abode for another trip around the sun. Big Bertha has been good to us, but her floor is constantly dirty, she smells like a dog, and she can be a tad too cold for comfort unless the outdoor temperatures are summerlike. I can endure this. Positive thinking and layered clothing. Breathe in the good. Breathe out the bad. Ommmmmm….

“It will never rain roses: when we want to have more roses, we must plant more roses.”
― George Eliot

So, I will breathe in the beauty and breathe out the cramped quarters. In fact, my goal is to turn the next twelve months into a gigantic Advent calendar. I will greet each sunrise by opening a door to see what curiosity will be behind it. It will be an ADVENT-ure calendar, a tool to count down the 365 days while reminding myself that life is an adventure, a trip of twists and turns, an expedition into the unexplored.

Advent is about waiting with expectation while preparing to celebrate. I can do this. I expect champagne at journey’s end.

I will be in my old stomping grounds for the next several weeks. I can shop at stores I am familiar with. I can go to my old gym. I can see friends and family, attend little league games, and engage in familiar activities.

A year feels less daunting when you can subtract the next 57 days. See, I can be optimistic. 308 days seems much more manageable.

It’s been a gray, chilly Spring but a few rays of sun have made it through, bringing promises of warmth. Today, however, is a dank, dreary day, replete with a penetrating rain. It is not a day for getting lost in the woods, or long walks with Gypsy, or sitting around a campfire. There will be no Little League. It is certainly a rain delay kind of day.

As I open the door to my ADVENT-ure calendar, I see the weather and am inclined to slam it shut. Instead, I see that I can go to the gym, run on the treadmill while listening to a podcast and can finish reading RULES OF CIVILITY while whirling my legs on the Elliptical.

Moving from darkness towards light. Positivity is my new superpower.

Stay tuned…

Wanderlust Woes & Wonders

Lake Anna

It is nearing a half year since we kissed domesticity goodbye and headed out on the open road. It would be a big, fat, fib to say that it has been a rose-strewn road of exciting exploits and continual contentment. We have days that are filled with dramatic discovery and days filled with untold tedium. This is not a vacation. It is life in a truck.

One of the downsides to a nomadic lifestyle is the incessant solitude. I’m basically an introvert. So, I relish the peace and quiet. I need time for reflection, but too much isolation is not conducive to a healthy psyche. I am also a social animal that needs to see a familiar face from time to time. My husband has a very nice face and I never tire of seeing it, but after six months I know every freckle, every laugh line and every wayward eyebrow hair. So, it is a VERY GOOD day when old friends, who happen to be fellow RV’ers, can join us for libations, laughter and a round of Scrabble.

“The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house. All that cold, cold, wet day.”
― Dr. Seuss

I believe that Doctor Seuss had adequately summarized another downside to living in a truck. All is right with the world when it is warm enough and dry enough to make the outdoors your living room. But when the cold rain comes, especially when it lingers for a few days, the living quarters can create claustrophobia. Oh, and if you are blessed enough to have a lovely Labrador, who needs regular constitutionals, you are going to be forced to confront the elements.

Wet dogs have an interesting aroma that further enhances the cabin fever element brought about by inclement weather.

If I love warmth and sunshine, which I do, I should not be in the Mid-Atlantic in April.

There are also good days. In fact, there are GREAT days. I am able to feed my wanderlust during day-long hikes to new valleys and vistas. I can breathe in the scenery while allowing my spirit to soar.

There are campfires, and grilled meals, and owls hooting haunting lullabies.

There is minimalism and simplicity. There is something satisfying about learning to live with less.

There is only one bathroom to clean. When the sky is blue, the accommodations are not claustrophobic; they are cozy. Sure, I have to sweep the floor a dozen times per day, but it takes all of 30 seconds.

Due to close quarters, I am nearly always covered in dog hair. It is no longer bothersome. Learn to like what you cannot change. It is now a fashion statement.

A REALLY great day entails going to the local winery to celebrate signing a contract to have a home built on Lake Anna. Perseverance Pays.

Perhaps now, I can relax and enjoy the next 12 months in Big Bertha.

Light at the end of the tunnel will allow me to appreciate the adventure.

Now back to Maryland and opening day for little league. I cannot wait to see my little sluggers.

Stay tuned…

A home for the homeless?

Lake Anna

There is an Irish proverb that states: “Bricks and mortar make a house, but the laughter of children makes a home.” I could not agree more. Children fill my heart and are a source of unbridled joy. They make me feel as if I have come home.

It was painful when our dream of building a new house, on a lake, fell through due to material costs, supply chain issues and all of the other nonsense that we are confronting in today’s economy. We were feeling defeated, deflated, and directionless. Our trip North took us through Lee State Park (SC), Medoc Mountain State Park (NC), James River State Park (VA) and finally, to Patapsco State Park in our “home” state of Maryland. We were home, but without a home, and with no concrete plans for how to obtain a home.

We had already had an RV site, reserved at Lake Anna State Park, for two weeks in April. Presumably we would be checking on the progress of our new abode. In spite of the angst over our housing dilemma we decided to make the most of it and take the grandkids on a camping trip anyway. No new house to get excited about, but at least we could create memories and heap affection on our favorite progeny.

We had loads of fun, playing games, hiking, making new friends, visiting Civil War battle sites, and traipsing around our empty lot.

Surrounded by love, and feeling very much at home, we decided to try our luck with another builder. It is a work in progress, but it now appears that sometime in 2023, we will have a new house, on our lot, at Lake Anna. The contract is not yet finalized, but we are on the home stretch (pun intended).

Home is the nicest word there is.


This, of course, means another YEAR in Big Bertha as the permitting and building begin. The Journey Continues.

Stay tuned….. & HAPPY EASTER!

Ya’ Bums Ya’… Birds, Bucs and More Birds

As I child I could barely wait to pick up the morning newspaper to check the MLB standings and box scores. The Sunday paper had complete statistics. I committed the ERAs, batting averages and slugging percentages of the Pittsburgh Pirates to memory. My mom and her entire family were huge fans of the Bucco’s. She taught me the finer points of the game. It was a passion we shared. After attending Towson University, and moving to the Baltimore area, I began to follow the Orioles, and was soon chanting “Let’s go O’s”, and singing Thank God I’m a Country Boy during the seventh inning stretch. It’s okay to back one National League team and one American League team. I said so.

I was a city kid with no real hopes of ever getting to Florida. It was not on my family’s radar. So, I would go to sleep at night, praying for a trip to Bradenton, when I was supposed to be praying for all of those poor souls in purgatory. It took several decades, but my prayers were finally answered. Well, I mean, I made it to Lecom Park. I can only hope that those poor souls have also made it to their desired destination.

Now, having said all of that, those MLB Bums nearly ruined my miracle because of yet, another labor dispute between players and team owners. For the love of Pete, these guys all make enough money! The owners and the players have all turned into a bunch of fat cats who don’t give a hoot about their fan base. It’s sad, really sad. I remember, as a kid, taking a train to Philadelphia to watch the Pirates and the Phillies play daytime double headers. Yes, real double headers; not the watered-down, shortened inning type. We would sit in The Vet stadium all day, eating affordable hot dogs and popcorn. We brought our own coolers full of beverages. My dad could drink his own beer without paying the price of a case for a single can of lager. Now it appears that even 7-inning double headers are going to be a thing of the past.

In the 80’s, in Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, you could pack your own container, filled with icy cold Natty Boh’s (National Bohemian Beer) and go swill suds with Wild Bill Hagy in section 34. The stadium was filled with fans. Blue collar Baltimore could afford seats. It was not all about corporate suites and who could carry the heaviest money bag.

I’m shamefully guilty of throwing greenbacks at the greedy, baseball barons. I am, however, for the record, disgruntled and disgusted at the present state of a sport I once had a genuine fervor for.

 “When the Sun of compassion arises darkness evaporates and the singing birds come from nowhere.” – Amit Ray

Rant over. Time to move on to the type of bird that does not feather its nest with dollar bills.

While in the land of the Grapefruit League, we wandered away from the manicured fields and onto the prairie lands of Myakka State Park. We took an 11-mile hike that took us through grass, saw palmetto, live oak and palm hammocks. Myakka is enormous, covering 58 square miles. The scenery is breathtaking and there is plenty to do.

A few more days in Florida, then we make our turn North. I am VERY eager to see familiar faces.

Stay tuned…

Fast Cars and Dashed Dreams

I’ve never been a motorhead. I danced ballet, sang in a madrigal group, read classic novels and did lots of other nerdy things. I like to hike in remote areas and use pedal power to bike down long trails. Let’s just say I’m relatively low-key. However, after our recent golf outing, and Googling “must do in Adel, GA”, we came to the realization that there was only one thing left to do. So, we headed to the South Georgia Motorsports Park.

When we arrived, the drag strip was being prepared for a night of racing but the afternoon was dedicated to something called autocross. Stock cars navigated through a maze of orange cones in a race against the clock. There was plenty of loud, engine revving, squealing wheels, and blue smoke that reeked of burning rubber. I was a novice. All of this was new to me. I was hoping to see a drag race, but time (and a dog left in the RV) would not allow us to stay for the main event.

Apparently, though, motorsports is a true passion in the Deep South. From our next campsite, at Lake Manatee State Park, we could hear the unmistakable sound of speed demons putting pedal to the metal. So, on a chilly, sunny, Sunday we trekked the two miles to Bradenton Motorsports Park and finally got to see dragsters, souped-up hot rods, and motorbikes fly down the dragstrip.

I was grateful for the experience, and can see why car enthusiasts are so passionate about it. I’ll probably go back to nature, novels and nerdy endeavors but am delighted to cross one more item off of my to do list.

Most days have been beautiful and warm. Hiking has given me much needed contemplative time during which I digest the fact that our dream of a lake house is an aspiration that will not be coming to fruition. Due to supply and material issues, the cost to build on our lake lot became prohibitive. I’m not always frugal but I am practical. A price tag exceeding a million bucks for a three-bedroom house with an unfinished basement is ludicrous; laughable.

Lake Anna Lot for Sale.

Time to “pick myself up by my bootstraps” as my dad would say, and move on. Reassess. Regroup. Remind myself that there is a reason for everything. Despite the disappointment life will move on.

We are looking forward to catching a couple of Spring Training games before heading back North.

Stay tuned…

Getting a Grip

Yes, that’s me, golfing in sneakers and ill-fitting batting gloves, with a driver that is taller than I am. My dad is chuckling in heaven. He is either mortified or amused. He was a real golfer, one with trophies, and eagles and birdies to his credit. He had golf shoes, clubs that fit, and an actual golf glove (complete with ball marker.) He tried to get me interested in the sport. He wanted to teach me the beauty of medal play but I scoffed at his attempts, telling him that it was “an old man’s game” and that I would rather be grounded for a week than to spend time on a golf course. It would be an understatement to say that I am filled with regret.

“Golf, like measles, should be caught young.”
― Wodehouse

We are just biding our time in Adel, Georgia. We have been camped here a while, and although beautiful, there is not too much to do for entertainment after walking all of the trails and biking around the park. There are times that retirement can be too relaxing.

Fortunately, we stumbled upon Circlestone Country Club, and decided to break out the woods, irons and the wedges. Why not give it a whirl? They allowed public play, and were very accommodating about allowing a “twosome”. Although we rarely (nearly never) play, we brought our clubs on our journey, hoping we would find some time to play nine holes, maybe even 18-holes, if Geoff’s back, and my temperament, would hold out. I’m the type of golfer who is inclined to throw a three-wood into a lake after multiple miss-swings and mulligans.

“It took me seventeen years to get three thousand hits in baseball. It took one afternoon on the golf course.”
― Hank Aaron

So, why was I wearing baseball gloves? Well, if you have not even touched your clubs for six years, and they were collecting cobwebs in the shed, the grips were also slowly dry-rotting away.

On our first day out, the clubs seemed to be melting in my hands. My palms were black. My fingers were black. The seat in the golf cart was turning black. Clearly this was going to be a 9-hole day. We headed to the club house, but they only had men’s gloves, all of which were too large. We got a voucher for another 9-hole day, and headed to Walmart in search of ladies golf gloves.

Hmmm…. no ladies golf gloves at Walmart, and no sporting goods stores nearby. Batting gloves were the next best option. They were a little large, but at least I would not have to wash my hands with acetone.

I am a duffer, a hacker, the kind of golfer that you do not want in your foursome. People draw straws to see who has to take me. I like to envision my tee shots with lots of loft and distance, but most of mine are ‘worm-burners’. Thankfully, the grass was so dry that the ball seemed to roll forever. Yes, sadly, I had plenty of 9-stroke holes, but I did manage a legitimate 4, and enough solid shots to keep me coming back for more torture.

Where do you get new grips when you are rolling around in an RV?

In other news, it took Gypsy exactly three days to completely gut “Bun-Bun”, her (Ha! Ha!) indestructible, tough toy that she received for her recent birthday.

The weather has been warm and wonderful, AND today we are headed to the South Georgia Motorsports Park to check out some Autocross and Drag Racing….. I see another blog coming.

Stay tuned…

A Gifted Gelding and an Icky Inn

Fylicia Barr on Kipper the Rockstar – Photo Credit: Mark Donaldson

I’ve been friends with Lynn for decades and her enthusiasm for horses has never waned. I tagged along with her when she rode in various horse shows during our high school years. I had to keep my green-eyed-monster in check as I watched her perform; desperately wishing to be in the saddle, too. I was better suited for a hobby horse, but a girl can dream, right?

We were recently honored and delighted to join her, and her husband, in Thomson, Georgia for the Advanced-Pine-Top-Horse-Trials, in which her 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood was competing.

Kaballero (‘Kipper’ to his friends) is an exceedingly handsome horse with a white blaze, long neck, powerful hindquarters and a winning spirit. He is young, enthusiastic, vigorous and just recently began competing at the Preliminary Level. His spunkiness paid off during Cross Country and Show Jumping, where he had ample opportunity to showcase his desire to be airborne. He is a natural acrobat who prefers hurdles to ballroom dancing. His dressage score suffered a bit because of his reluctance to methodically tap dance for the judges. He sees himself as Edwin Moses, not as Fred Astaire. “I don’t want to do the Too-Slow-Two Step“, he whinnied in protestation a few too many times. It’s all a learning experience, and I have little doubt, that his very capable trainer, Fylicia Barr will have him doing a more peaceful polka in the dressage ring in no time.

Even when he is naughty, he is a noble beast.

Pine Top offered an amazing setting. It is a spacious and beautiful farm. The cross country course was huge, challenging, and well laid out. There were plentiful barns, fields and relief stations. The concession stand, run for the benefit of the local high school band, offered a few chortles of comic relief. A very nice, but exceedingly OCD supervisor was giving precise instruction for food preparation to high school volunteers. The ‘Sandwich-Czar’ made sure that each PB&J sandwich was made in the exact same way; a certain, measured amount of peanut butter on one side, spread with a particular knife, then jelly was to be spread only on the clean piece of bread, never on top of the peanut butter. Each sandwich took 10 minutes to make. It turns out that I’ve been doing it all wrong for the past half-century, but I can whip up a PB&J less than a minute. When it comes to peanut butter, it is function over form for me.

Because our RV (Big Bertha) was hooked up and level, 225 miles South of the horse trial venue, we opted to stay one night at the same pet-friendly hotel/motel at which our friends had made a reservation. They warned us, after their arrival, that it was a far cry from a 5-star hotel. In fact, they cautioned us that if we chose to proceed, we would be doing so at our own risk. We make some crazy sacrifices for our pets, and this was one of them. It was the sole establishment in the area that would allow for our furry friends. The hotel was worn and dated, and falling apart at the seams. There were cracked floors, missing lightbulbs, threadbare carpeting, a broken phone and even a water outage. Still, it takes more than a seedy motel to keep us from enjoying time spent with good friends.

Good Food!!!

“There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.”

-–Samuel Johnson

Thank goodness for Hogie Joe’s Grill. We were able to avoid our rooms and spend the evening with comfortable outdoor seating, a cold beer and a tasty meal. Good company + Good food = Good times

Next Up… Our Golf Outing… It’s not pretty.

Stay tuned…

Miles and Milestones

It seems impossible, but our faithful companion has just observed her 1st Birthday. Her celebration was held at General Coffee State Park in Nicholls, GA. After an 8-mile, morning hike, she enjoyed a doggy cupcake, a bully stick, and some tug-of-war with “Bun-Bun”, her new toy, which will inevitably be gutted by the end of the week. At her tender age, this meandering mutt has been in 25 different States and has hiked hundreds of miles. There is little doubt that Gypsy is appropriately named. She is a tried and true traveler.

There is a replica of a 19th century farm at General Coffee SP that is complete with barnyard animals, so Gypsy had many furry friends to share her birthday with.

There were goats, and mules, and roosters, and wild boar. My favorite, however, were the newborn lambs that were bleating in soft, soprano voices and joyously springing about on their brand, new legs.

Georgia State Parks offer amazing trails that wind through a myriad of habitats. I have grown to truly appreciate the swamps. Once upon a time, I thought that swampland was unattractive but now, I find such beauty in these forested wetlands.

Aside from the unique farm display, there is also an interesting archery range. The campsites are large and wooded, and there are multiple playgrounds and picnic shelters throughout the park. General Coffee is well attended by families enjoying the great outdoors. It is springtime in this neck of the woods. The nights and early mornings are quite chilly but the morning sun warms the air quickly. Ahh, baby lambs and budding azaleas give me hope for an earth awaking from its silent slumber.

“Fishing is not an escape from life, but often a deeper immersion into it.”

– Harry Middleton.

We were blessed to happen upon this young man who was smiling from ear-to-ear after reeling in his first fish ever! His happiness was so contagious that I felt elated for him and with him. He was so proud to eagerly pose with his prized catch. These are the moments that create memories.

Hiking is not escapism; it’s realism. The people who choose to spend time outdoors are not running away from anything; we are returning to where we belong.

-Jennifer Pharr Davis

Our Birthday girl would rather be out hiking than anywhere else. It is where she belongs and I am blessed to join her on her journeys (when she is not bounding forward, trying to rip my arm off…)

Back to Reed-Bingham State Park tomorrow where we have a busy week planned. Golf, a winery excursion, and a horse show are on the agenda.

Stay tuned…

Barbarism and Billy Beer

“Once inside… men exclaimed: ‘Is this hell?’ Verily, the great masses of gaunt, unnatural-looking beings, soot-begrimed, and clad in filthy tatters, that we saw stalking about inside this pen looked, indeed, as if they might belong to a world of lost spirits.”

W.b. smith, 14th illinois infantry, oct. 9, 1864

A drive through the South Georgia countryside led us to Andersonville, an American Civil War prison site where nearly 13, 000 soldiers died. It is now a National Park that serves as a memorial dedicated to all American soldiers held captive during any war. Casualties are expected on the battlefield but why did so many perish at Andersonville?

When you walk the grounds, you can see the perimeter of the stockade. The area that had been fenced was approximately 25 acres, with a low-lying, marshy area that served as both a source of drinking water and as a latrine. Although originally intended to imprison 10,000 POWs, the number quickly expanded to 32,000. The area was a mass of lice-covered, skeletal humans who developed dysentery. Death due to the unthinkable number of microbes in the drinking water was commonplace.

Deep in the heart of the Confederacy you are bound to find reminders of a bloody war fought between brothers. There are so many relics of an era of disgust, division and disunion. While rambling about and probing our past, it is difficult to digest the reality of man’s inhumanity toward his fellow man.

In total contrast, a short drive down the road took us to Plains, GA, the home of our 39th President. Regardless of political leanings, Jimmy Carter is inarguably a stellar example of kindness and humility.

“I had this beer brewed up just for me. I think it’s the best I ever tasted. And I’ve tasted a lot. I think you’ll like it, too.”  ~ Billy Carter

Those of us who are of an age to recall the Carter Presidency, cannot forget Jimmy’s colorful brother, Billy. Billy drank beer for breakfast, and was involved in ‘Billygate’ a scandal involving becoming an agent for, and borrowing money from, Libya.

Despite the headaches and public embarrassment, when asked about Billy’s shenanigans, President Carter replied “I love him.”

Plains High School, from which both Jimmy and Roslyn Carter graduated, now serves as a National Historic Site and Museum. Although their personal home is blocked off from public view, the Carters continue to live in the same, modest, ranch-style house they built in 1961.

History lesson is over, class. Sorry to be so boring. The next post is bound to be less cerebral. I wonder if you can still find Billy Beer? It’s going to be near 80F today. I may need to grab a six-pack and a kayak….

Stay tuned….