Volunteer: Underwater Archaeology in Florida. Part Two

Answering My Questions?

The ancient inhabitants of Florida were just like us.  They enjoyed being near the water, feeling ocean breezes, and in certain centuries, the warm climate.  Discovering their lives is like discovering our own past.  In cultures that do not have a written language that we can recognize, we must dig to find the answers.

Did the Floridians at Windover cross the Bering Strait/Land bridge?

Windover an amazing exhibit of people who lived 8,000 years ago in Florida.

After DNA analysis of brain material found in skeletons at Windover Archaeological Dig,  the scientists could not verify that the people at Windover had the same DNA as most ancient Americans.  Some White Supremacists groups have argued that the DNA is the same that is found in Europe.  They argue that this proves that light-skinned people colonized the East coast of the United States thousands of years ago.

But, other scientists argue that the match is not definitive.  (It is difficult for people not to believe in the Bering Strait theory.) Archaeologists at Windover have stored the brain matter and will analyze it again when better tools are developed.  The Florida State University PaleoAucilla Prehistory project also argues that the ancient peoples in Florida did not come from the vicinity of Alaska.

As an aside, long ago when visiting Mayan sites in Belize our guide was vehement about his people not crossing the Bering Strait.  He kept saying, “Look at me, I am very short with slim limbs and body.  My skin is reddish brown.  Have you ever seen someone from China with reddish brown skin and black hair?”

It is also brings up the persistent questioning of whether or not ancient peoples could have crossed the Atlantic ocean.  Some researchers today argue that they did.  What is now the United States may have been colonized by peoples from around the globe long before our records.

Why wasn’t the flesh preserved on the skeletons at Windover?

Reproduction of a skeleton found at Windover.

Here is a photo of a bog body from northern Europe. Notice the rope around his neck.

Most bog bodies are/were found at the bottom of watery peat bogs in Europe.  The skeleton is usually dissolved by the acidity of the peat water.  But, because of the low temperature, acidic water, and lack of oxygen, skin may be preserved.  Some of these bog bodies date back to 8,000 BCE, or 10,000 years ago.  Most of them were killed or sacrificed and deposited with no clothing.

The skeletons discovered at Windover did not retain their skin because Florida is too hot!  There is no tannic acid  in the water to preserve the skin.  The bones were preserved because at certain levels in peat, there is no oxygen.  That lack of oxygen preserved the bones and other finds in the dig.  One unusual find was the brain material in many of the skeletons. William Royal also found preserved brains in his dives.

At other ancient sites in the United States, skeletons were buried without their skin.  It is said that men from the Choctaw tribe would come and take the skin off skeletons for families before the person was buried.  Some of those burials resulted in bound bundles.

Bundled skeletons.

Were people sacrificed at the Windover mortuary site?

Archaeologists do not think so.  They have studied many of the skeletons and discovered broken bones and other diseases that killed both old and young.  One skeleton had a blown out eye-socket, others had indentions in their skulls or bones that were from blunt force.  There was  an embedded antler in one skeleton’s  behind which probably killed him.  The conclusion is that many people suffered through different types of physical violence, but they were not systematically murdered.

Why did people use this same site to bury the dead for a thousand years?  Did they find evidence of occupation around the site?

No one really knows why people were buried in the same site.  It did not make sense to me that the people who used this burial pond were hunter-gathers that traveled most of the time.  A thousand years is a long time and people must have lived permanently in the area.  When Windover was discovered most of the ground around it had been disrupted.  I read in one journal article that there was evidence of fire pits.  But, the archaeologists did not explore the countryside around the cemetery.  A housing development was in progress at the time.

I know that in other parts of the world that families have places where they bury their kin.  And, you can find grave sites or caves with multiple skeletons.  Near the Mississippi River in what is now Missouri, it appears that people were buried at certain heights in the landscape.  Archaeologists theorize that there was a class system that dictated where a person could be buried.

Where I grew up in Roseville, Michigan, the Roman Catholics had their cemetery.  The Jews had their cemetery and the wealthy had theirs.  The common folks were buried in public cemeteries.  And, we have found areas all over the United States where light-skinned people and dark-skinned people had separate cemeteries in very small towns. Archaeologists have not yet deciphered if there were separate family graves, etc. at Windover.

I wonder if burying in shallow water had anything to do with their religious beliefs in an afterlife?  If so, then they might believe that they would be together in death?

Were there other pond sites?

Here is that map again.  It may help with pinpointing the sites.

Key Marco

Artist’s conception of Key Marco.

One of the artifacts that survived.

One of the oldest excavated pond sites was at Key Marco.  Around 1896 a rather eccentric F. H. Cushing found thousands of artifacts.  The story is long.  Cushing claimed to be an archaeologist but scientific approaches to digging had not been invented yet.  In a watery burial area he discovered wooden artifacts which is very unusual in Florida.  (Although a huge wooden statue has been found in the river near Hontoon island.)

Cushing and company dug up the artifacts but did not understand that by doing so, they were destroying them.  Many ended up turning to dust.  Some artifacts survived. There was no employment of stratigraphy,  and today, dating of the objects is almost impossible.

Huge statue found in the river near Hontoon.

Below are some of the artifacts that survived.

Few bones have survived, although the pond was a burial cemetery.  Archaeologists suggest that the bones turned to dust also.

Some of the items found on the steamship. This is a fascinating story.

Here in Kansas City, a family spent most of their savings discovering and uncovering a mid-nineteenth century steamboat, carrying supplies to settlers, that sank on the Missouri River.  Today they have placed their finds in what is called, The Arabia Steamboat Museum.  The searchers quickly discovered that boots, cloth items, and more, were turning to dust and needed to be placed in a preservative.

Fort Center

Artist’s conception of ancient Fort Center.

Look at this rendering of Fort Center.  There is a mortuary pond and  above it is a staging area for the deceased.  Notice that on top of the mound is a building and there is a meeting room to the right.  There are carvings of birds around the central platform over the water.

Fort Center was occupied for at least 2,000 years dating back to 450 BCE.  (So it is not as old as the Windover site.) Archaeologists found bird carvings and post holes indicating that there had been buildings in this place.  Within the area they found 150 bundled skeletons (bones in a bag with flexed arms/legs).  They were buried in 4-5 feet of water similar to Windover.  A LiDar sweep of the area discovered 4 circular ditches with an outer circle of 1197 feet.

Here is another drawing of Fort Center.

Manasota Key in the Gulf of Mexico

Artist’s conception of the key.

Manasota key is not on the above map.  It is a new site that has not been totally excavated. This find really opens up possibilities of discovering how peoples lived and died before the ice melt.  Many villages may be on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

In 2016 an amateur diver found human bones in 21 feet of water about 900 feet from shore.  Archaeologists have since discovered jaw bones, teeth, and wood.   They argue that it is a gravesite similar to Windover.  I have been told that archaeologists are prevented from digging in cemeteries in Florida right now because of a new Florida statute protecting dead bodies and skeletons.

Employment of Modern Technology

How do archaeologists find the underwater sites?  Archaeologists employ:

LiDar:  a laser  technology that uses light to measure and uncover artifacts.

Magnetomometry:  This technology helps archaeologists to actually see ino the ground and identify what lies beneath without having to excavate.

Side-scan Sonar:  Sound waves are bounced off the seabed and used to create an image of large areas of the sea floor.

They also use down-to-earth methods of methodically piloting a boat in lines over a section of water using GPS which is then transferred to a map of the area.

According to one article, there are  over 200,000 historical and archaeological sites in Florida.  Amazing!

Other Sites (There are many–a lifetime of sites!)

I haven’t answered all of my questions, so I am still searching.  Along the way, I discovered shell mounds (often termed middens) and began studying them across the United States and around the world.  I will share my research with you soon.

Tom and I are soon to leave for our home in Florida, one of the epicenters of the virus.  We hope that Covid does not find us.  Please wear a mask and social distance.  I was in Walmart last night and a woman without a mask cut in front of me while I was trying to choose a bin of potato salad.  She was about one foot away from my face before I even realized it.  I backed up right away and asked why she was not wearing a mask and social distancing.  She laughed at me!  It is no laughing matter.

Have you been reading about President Woodrow Wilson who cared little for the people in the United States?   He did nothing to help people who were dying from the Spanish flu.  On a cruise across the pond, he and his entire family caught the virus.  Not soon after he had a stroke and went blind, dying three years later.  Is history repeating itself?

Be safe and sane and hopefully we will be able to talk to each other soon.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

Posted in Archaeology, Archaeology of the Southwest, Florida, Underwater archaeology, Windover Archaeological site | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Underwater Archaeology in Florida. Part One

Florida is Beyond Anything I Could Have Imagined

Volunteer and Discover!

When you think of Florida, what comes to mind?  There is sand.  There are beaches, rivers, lakes, the ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico.  There are warm comforting breezes, Palm Trees,  and  lots of explorations and adventures.  Who thinks about the past when the present is so inviting?

While training to be a docent at the Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science last year, I spent a lot of time with people who described the Windover Archaeological Exhibit at the museum.  Questions kept popping up in my mind that no one could answer.  Many of the people suggested that Windover was an archaeological first in several categories.  My ears perked up!

The image above is an artist’s conception of one of the 168 (skeletons) graves found at Windover.  For over 1,000 years, roughly 6-8,000 years ago, inhabitants buried their peoples here.  The deceased were buried in a shallow pond, with woven fabrics, and then held down in the pond with sticks.

I had a lot of questions.  Were there other pond sites?  How old were those sites?  Why were the bones preserved but the skin was missing in 168 skeletons?  Did other sites preserve palm fibers or gourds?  Were people sacrificed and then buried here?  Can we detect violence on any of the skeletons? Why did people use this same site to bury the dead for a thousand years?  How does this site compare with bog sites around the world?  Did they find evidence of occupation around the grave site.

The language sounds a lot like Hebrew and was easy to learn,

During my Masters and Ph.D. classes I studied archaeology and planned to be an Egyptian archaeologist.  I still have my Egyptian Hieroglyphics grammar!  But, my favorite archaeologist died in the field because he was too far away from a hospital.  That changed my mind, but it did  not change my love of archaeology.

While working at Converse College, I taught a class in archaeology and even took my students on a dig to a local farm.  And, Tom and I spent several days in Michigan volunteering at the Ft. Michilimachinac dig one summer.  We have also visited archaeological sites from the Terracotta army in Xian, China to Tuzigoot in Arizona, and around the planet.  I was funded by the University of Dayton to work in Caesarea, Israel,  but the dig was not funded, so we visited sites in Egypt, Israel, and Greece.

When I heard people discuss the dig at Windover, I knew I had to find out the facts for myself.  This led me to study as many water/pond sites that I could in Florida.

First, Let’s Talk about Archaeology.  What is it? How do they do it?

Above is a  little exercise.  Archaeologists want to discover the past.  They find objects through surface exploration, or they might use LiDar (Click for definition.) or Google Earth to locate a specific site.  When they find the site, they map off grids or squares and carefully remove one layer of earth/soil at a time.  You can see the top layer/strata is full of recent items.  The bottom later is the oldest and that is where they find the Mammoth. Sites are often dated through examining pottery styles, arrow heads, wooden artifacts, pollen, soil, and more.

Underwater Archaeology

Here is a diver laying out a grid underwater.

Underwater archaeology investigates sites, such as; shipwrecks, harbors, ponds, and flooded land sites.  Because I taught classes about Middle Eastern Religions, I was familiar with some of the work of the underwater explorer and inventor, Jacques Cousteau in the Middle East. But I  had never studied underwater archaeology in the United States.

During the 1970’s and 1980’s self-contained under water breathing devices became more popular and affordable (Aqua-lung was the first.). This led to a slew of divers to begin looking for treasures beneath the seas. Eventually Scuba diving emerged!  Most academics/professors ignored early finds in rivers, ponds, and springs.  They viewed Scuba diving as a sport that had nothing to do with discovering the past.

Holding a basket of bones.

One of the earliest amateur archaeologists in Florida was William R. Royal.  Around 1959 while diving at Warm Mineral Springs and Little Salt Spring, he discovered skeletons.  Today we know that those skeletons date back to at least 10,000 years ago.  At the time that Royal was making these discoveries, academics thought that people had only been in Florida for about 3500 years.  By the 1970’s academics realized the importance of what Royal had found and began to support him and others in their search.

 

 

Take a look at this spring.  It used to be more shallow.  It is now 245 feet deep.  Fresh water is on the top of the spring but oxygen-depleted below.  This water preserved the remains of people and animals. Can you see a ledge? or more?  One ledge was at 52 feet and another at 89 feet.  The remains were found on the ledges, even a giant cooked tortoise.

Why is the spring so deep?

Before the great glacier melt,  Florida’s coastline was at least 140 miles wider.  As the seas rose Florida became smaller.  In order to survive, people moved to places where fresh water was appearing.  Little Salt Spring was one of those places.

I am not a geologist, but I have read that fresh-water springs began to emerge, especially in the north of Florida, as the coastline diminished. Peoples began to build their lives around these springs and rivers.

Many of our traditional minds are filled with images of half-naked ancient peoples in Florida roaming around looking for food.  (As an aside, have you noticed that museum specialists always portray ancient Americans as half-naked, even in cold climates.) Reality is much different.  Many modern day archaeologists hold disdain for the term “hunter-gatherers.”  They say it diminishes our respect for peoples of the past and negates discussion about villages and living spaces built by these peoples thousands of years ago.  Those ancient beings were not like wild animals constantly looking for food to survive.

Investigating Ponds

For some reason the peoples in various times in Florida, buried their deceased in ponds.  No one knows exactly why they did this?  Some argue that it had to do with religion?  But, who knows? Most of the people I talked with about Windover did not know of all the mortuary pond sites in Florida.  I began to read and became overwhelmed by the amount of work that had been done discovering these sites.  To help me keep the sites straight, I created a spreadsheet.  The spreadsheet below is still a work-in-progress.

I learned so much.

Some of the pond sites we will consider are marked on the map below.

We will explore Key Largo, Warm Mineral Springs, Windover, Hontoon, Fort Center and more.

The more that I studied these sites and the peoples from so long ago, the more I realized how sophisticated they were.  Below is a map that outlines trade routes that were used thousands of years ago.  The routes are based upon discoveries of items that did not belong to certain regions.  For instance, if you find a certain type of pottery that uses a special soil not found in the place the pottery is discovered, then you know that there was trade.  You know that people were moving around.  Notice the lines below.  Think about how close Cuba was to Florida 14,000 years ago. (Of course it was not named Cuba so long ago!)

Power Point Presentation

I created a presentation on my research, but I think  it is too long for a blog.  The next blog will continue to take you with me on my discovery path of Florida.  Below are books that I recommend.  Check them out of your local library for free or purchase them used from booksellers like amazon.com.  I would highly recommend Submerged History!

Hope you are weathering the virus and political storms we are facing.  Sometimes it is a good thing to take your eyes off the news and discover something very positive, interesting, and challenging in the past.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

Some of the images were borrowed from the net.

 

 

 

 

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Coping with Covid: At Home and Somewhere Else

Strategies That Calm the Mind

One of my favorite bays, Agate Bay.

Happiness usually finds my fingers on the keys of a computer.  These days it is a little hard to settle down to sitting at the desk.  It helps to keep busy when millions are being infected with the virus and thousands and thousands are dying.  Yesterday was the decision day.  It is time to write a blog. Since we are not on the road much these days, this blog will share our paths to avoiding insanity in an unmanaged pandemic.

Nature can be a Haven

Our backyard is filled with trees and a pond.  Feeding the fish is a joy!  Last year while we were on vacation, some greedy animal stole all of our fish.  The fish had been with us for over 20 years.  Early in the Spring of 2020, Tom purchased seven fish.  We did not realize how much a fish could cost.  They promptly hid from us.  Now we know why!  They had lots of babies.  We are not sure how many small fish we have now, but it is around 20.  Only three big fish show their faces to us.  Where are they? in the maternity ward?

Taken in Two Harbors.

Camping is a way of enjoying Nature.  It is an escape from concrete, naughty neighbors, and cleaning the house.  In a previous blog, we shared our experiences at Two Harbors, Minnesota.  Today I would like to add another chapter.

Camp in the Open Air

Grand Marais on a clear day.

From Two Harbors you can explore Lake Superior and the small towns and parks along the lake.  But, you can also go north to the Boundary Waters and Ely.  We took trips all the way up to Grand Marais.  Because the border was closed, we did not make it to Thunder Bay.

Grand Marais is a tourist Makkah.  Here are a few interesting pics.

This bike path goes from Two Harbors to Grand Marais along Lake Superior.

Who is making the Pizza in Grand Marais?

Interesting store with a fish on the roof. It was quite rugged. In Grand Marais!

Black Beach was teeming with tourists.   Here are a couple of pictures.

It was not easy to walk on this beach.

There were picnic tables situated all over the beach and people were social distancing. The landscape was a bit foreboding.

Tettegouche State Park

Tom and I did not want to brave the crowds to visit the main Tettegouche State Park and falls.  We were so surprised to see so many people.  So we took a back road and hiked down a couple of hills to Illgen Falls near Silver Bay.  It was much quieter.

A quiet moment!

Get Out and Bicycle your way to Freedom from the Virus!

Tom loves to ride and you will find most campers towing bicycles, boats, kayaks, or off road vehicles.  There is something about feeling the wind in your face.  Below was a family of bikers.  I loved seeing all the different sizes of bikes.

Here are our bicycles. Notice Tom’s Kayak.

Back at the Campground

Weather is not always perfect but when it storms, it gives you the opportunity to do something else.

A beautiful storm on Lake Superior viewed from our front window.

I even bake bread when we are camping. Do you see the front of the RV in this shot?

Beauty Surrounds you when you Camp!

I made a friend!

Enjoy the flowers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rent a Kayak for $20 an hour!  A half-hour would be okay for me!

Staying at Home is not so Easy

After our excursion to Two Harbors, we found ourselves at home.  There were no concerts, no real shopping because the stores were empty, no dining out, no social activities whatsoever.  So we punted!

Outdoor concerts with food kept us safe. Except the neighbors next to us were not so safe.

These days  we order take-out and dine in the parking lot!

We continued upgrading and uplifting our home.  Besides Tom’s guitar painted bright yellow, we have painted walls in the family room, the entry way, Tom’s office, a couple of walls in the hearth room, both entry doors, and begun to change our decor to reflect our Florida life.  What fun!  The only problem is that everything you purchase has to found online.  Below are a couple of examples of change.

Tom beginning to paint his office a creamy pumpkin.

Tom’s office shines now!

The mantel before paint!

The hearth room with a Florida hue.

New Food

Since we are not dining out as much as we normally would, we are trying to learn how to cook new items.  Below is my first Cranberry and Wild Rice bread.  One of my new favorites is a German hearty bread with about seven different seeds and nuts.  It is a meal in itself.

Really, Cranberry and Wild Rice bread was good.

Here is my own recipe for German bread. Spices were difficult to find.

Breathe in Fresh Air

Below is a pic of our pond and waterfall.   In the evening we watch deer, foxes, ground squirrels, sometimes large rodents, raccoons, and opossums. Occasionally we see Eagles, Turkey Vultures, and other birds of prey.  The list is too long.

Tom takes care of it and I feed the fish.

Hillary is our protector and leader.  She is standing guard and sends greetings and hopes that all will be safe.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge with Thomas C. Hemling (some of the time).

Our new card!!!

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Hiding Out in Two Harbors, Minnesota

A Most Unusual Summer Excursion

There were signs everywhere!

Covid-19 is sneaking into all of our lives, everywhere.  You can’t see it.  You can’t feel it, and you can’t smell it.  

We fled Florida because we knew what was happening and what was going to happen under the current leadership.  Cass County, Missouri has only few cases and last year we had already planned to spend three weeks in Two Harbors.  Turns out that Lake County, MN has no deaths and only a few cases.  It is a good place to hide from the virus. The day we arrived the governor gave orders for everyone to mask up!

Where is Two Harbors? 

Follow I 35 north until you hit Minnesota 61.

It is about thirty minutes north of Duluth, Minnesota on Minnesota 61.  Two Harbors has a population of just over 3,000, and Duluth is a major hub with 85,000 people, where you can find all the supplies you need. The drive to Two Harbors  along Lake Superior is also spectacular!  Visit Spirit Rest Area in Duluth for the best view of the lake.

Aerial View of Agate Bay

Burlington Bay Campground. We are in the top row at the bottom.

Why vacation in Two Harbors?

If you like water sports, hiking, birding, bicycling, golfing, lighthouses, visiting state parks with awesome waterfalls, and a great view of Lake Superior, this is the place to land.  Two Harbors has created a state-of-the art campground with sites overlooking Lake Superior. The view is mesmerizing and awesome!  Day trips can get you to places you have always wanted to visit. Lakeview golf course is right across the street and there is a Dairy Queen within walking distance.   And … the weather is mostly cool, clear, and calm!   Locals are friendly!

Two Harbors is a Gem!

Almost every day I walk a path down to Agate Bay and back.  Sometimes I walk through the town and inspect what it is like to live in Two Harbors.  At other times, I take a more rugged path that ends up on rocks behind the lighthouse.  The views are stunning.  Only a few people walk the path or the streets, so it is very refreshing. The best hiking path in the world (for me) is in Hoonah, Alaska.  Crisp air and sea meet towering black reflective mountains along Icy Straight!  Ah!  The path at Two Harbors has to be my second best hike.  It is clean, paved,  groomed and welcomes you with sparkling sights.  I look forward to it every day!At the end of this blog, I will take you on a walk with me!

They are so proud of the sights that they place these selfie spots all over town!

I wondered about the economic situation of Two Harbors.  Many of the houses are crumbling along with streets and sidewalks.  In many places in town, you have to walk in the street because the trees hang low to the sidewalks.  I wondered if anyone lived in those houses?

Here is a propeller view of the Bay! Can you see yourself walking around this Bay?

I thought the median price of a home in Two Harbors would be about $75K.  Wrong!  It is $140K.  I can’t believe it.  It looks like there are many houses in the $700K range built on the water.  This has to bring the median price up!  There is not much industry in Two Harbors and most people earn around $50K.  I thought that was pretty good because it is more than the median salary in Kansas City. Less than half of the people are employed and the median age is around 40.  I wonder if they leave in the winter. (In almost every town we visit, I find a Masonic temple. Two Harbors sports one near the Bay.)

Who is this happy guy? in a kayak?

For such a tiny town, they have done wonders to attract tourists.  The main drag on 61 is a feast!  There are lots of little shops and places to dine.  (Of course, there is only take-out now!) We were surprised that it had a large and reasonable grocery store. Burlington Bay campground was financed through a State Bond by a local politician, David Dill.  He died before his dream came to life.  Thank you Rep. Dill!

This house has four levels. I wonder how many rooms?

Agate Bay has been revisioned from its old mining days where men lost their lives living in tents.  In 40 below temperatures they mined ore, rock, and cut wood.  All along the bay up the hill are old rooming houses that must have replaced the tents.

 

 

The train used to run cargo right here and the tracks are now under parts of the Bay.

Tourist Attractions Abound

There are several levels of falls at Gooseberry and there are stairs up and down the falls.  It is so popular that you have to wait for a parking place, if you can find one!

We visited Gooseberry Falls and learned about the CC camps that built it in the 1930’s.  Of course, all the buildings were closed so there were no souvenirs.

Two Harbors Light House

There is so much to discover on Highway 61.  You will find the stunning Split Rock Lighthouse, Iona’s Beach, Tettegouche State Park, Lutsen, and the massive taconite harbors that are essentially shut down.  Take time to explore the rest of Minnesota too! Several years ago we spent about a month searching out everything we could find in Minnesota, some of it was a shock! especially the mines and toxic waste they left.  But everyone was Minnesota Nice!

What a jumbled mess!

Duluth

This is from the net!

Thirty-eight years ago, on our honeymoon, we camped through this area.  I have mentioned in an earlier blog that there used to be only a two lane rugged pot-holed road between Superior, Wisconsin and Duluth.  Today the highways are upgraded but they make you dizzy!  I think they have created such a mess that people are afraid to exit and visit Duluth.  Highways are on top of each other and turn back and forth!!!

Duluth is a marvel to explore.  Built on the side of a hill, the view of Lake Superior is beyond beautiful!  Visit Spirit Mountain!  Many of its stone and brick structures reminded me of Butte, Montana.  I wondered if Duluth had had a fire and it sure did at the beginning of the 20th century, in 1918. After Butte’s fire of 1895, they declared that buildings could only be built of cement, brick, or rock!

We usually hang out around the Maritime Museum and walk to the lighthouses when we visit Duluth.  This time we were spooked by unmasked tourists.  The numbers of people were overwhelming!  And, only one building had public restrooms.  We felt at risk for the virus, so we escaped and decided to order take-out somewhere in Duluth.

Bob Dylan Has a Street Named After Him

The best thing about visiting Duluth was finding Bob Dylan’s boyhood home.  Forgive me, I have never been a fan of Dylan’s genius.  He was too raw for me.

How does it feel?
How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

Here is his home. It has two apartments in it now or maybe four. Wonder if it did back then?

Take an hour hike with me from Burlington Bay Campground to Agate Bay

Our site! The campground is open and unusual. There is so much space around us!

Along Lake Superior.

Have a seat!

Don’t venture too close!

The waves rock you to sleep.

Watch for deer and ground squirrels.

Walk this with me! You can hold onto the chain fence.

Sit and dream!  As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

Twinkers says hello and goodbye! She wishes you could visit Two Harbors, too!

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Reflections on a Planet filled with FRIENDS!

The People of the World are our Friends

Avenida Nueve de Julio is the largest street I have ever crossed!

The Twilight Zone

Even though the rain had stopped, there were pockets of dead air that surrounded some of the construction sites along my daily 90-minute trek.  As I walked past a freshly dug basement, out of the corner of my eye was a glimpse of a man wearing a long flowing shirt.  Construction people are not usually dressed in silky long-sleeved shirts.  Their very punishing work wears them down.  Jeans, a dirty tee shirt, and work boots is the normal fare for the day.

This man stood out.  He was not young or old.  His shirt was tucked into his pants and draped around him.  He looked like someone in a movie.  Over his shirt he wore a red bandana, sporting a ball cap with swash-buckling jeans.  From the way he walked, I surmised he was an aristocrat in his country of origin.  He reminded me of many men I had seen in the Nicoleta area of Buenos Aires, Argentina.  The few seconds prompted me to think about all the international people and experience that have enriched my life.

Roseville, Michigan

This mall was so important to us and now it is almost empty.

My life began in a multi-cultural environment just outside Detroit, Michigan.  People from all over the world had come to live in Michigan to work for the Big Three auto makers.  Our neighbors came from Poland, Canada, Sicily, Italy, Germany, countries in Africa, and so much more.  They spoke other languages and shared their delicious food with us! It was a real culinary shock when I first moved to the real Midwest.  Where were all those mom and pop ethnic restaurants?  I thought that living with multiple ethnic groups was normal, but I was wrong.

Saint Louis University

Here is where I obtained my Ph.D. Saint Louis University

Graduate school brought to me friends from Nigeria, Japan, and Lebanon.  I learned about the awful life of females in Nigeria, the crashing economy in Hokkaido, Japan, and the fighting in Lebanon. There were also Jewish professors who taught me Classical and modern Hebrew, the rituals and beliefs of various Jewish divisions, and brought me to the edge of understanding political issues in Israel.  My main mentor was from Ireland and I learned a lot about white male supremacy from him.

Lebanon. No wonder my friend left.

Hokkaido. There are miles and miles of empty factories–even today. Many cities are waste lands.

Remembering Colleagues

With fond memories I think of international colleagues who befriended and supported me in my quest to bring the world to my university.  There was a computer scientist from Iran, a geography professor from Nepal, a construction professor from Saudi Arabia, a very close friend from Malaysia, a library dean and provost from India, a religious studies professor from Ghana, a Sociologist from Taiwan, and so many other wonderful people.

Religions of the World Visited UCM

St. Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent. Belgium

During my long career as a professor, I made it a point to share faiths from other cultures (and minority faiths in our own culture) with my students and the entire university.  There was the Nation of Islam, Bahai, Islam, multiple points of view from Rabbis, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Latter Day Saints, Soka Gakkai and other Buddhist sects, religions from India, Sikhism, Hare Krishna, Wicca, Shinto, and New Religions from all over the world.  The list is too long to share here.

The Swami

One Swami representing Kriya Yoga interested over a thousand people on campus.  These people expanded my life and the lives of others on campus.  Many of the representatives of the religions, I call friends.  Listening to them express the love for their faith and how it could help people was inspiring.  Scientology, often misunderstood, brought people back to a normal life. And their inspiring story could be told of almost every religious leader I met.

Travel is the Best Medicine

The beauty is beyond words. The Taj-Mahal

Discovering the planet was one of my primary goals in life.  To that end, Tom and I have traveled to approximately 80 countries.  (Many we have visited more than once; like Italy, China, Turkey, Australia, New Zealand, and Tom visited Belgium 52 times while working. There is more here for him.) People always ask, “What is your favorite country?”

The Hassan II Mosque. Glorious!

And our response is that every country is our favorite.

The Beauty of other Cultures

It is difficult to forget the beautiful Thai faces, or the children surrounding Tom on the Bund in Shanghai.  Dining in Marrakesh or visiting the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca are experiences that change you.  India’s poverty can be juxta positioned against the Muslim Taj Mahal, Red Fort, or Khajuraho! Egypt’s pyramids, the Wailing Wall in Israel, and the Parthenon in Greece were among our first explorations. We wanted to move to Australia and live in New Zealand too!  Every people, every country, every experience has made our lives rich and full.  We often wished that our faces matched the faces in the countries we visited — because they were so beautiful.

The Tunes in our Minds

Puppet show in Vietnam.

Architecture and food are basic to any trip, but as we traveled, we listened to music that penetrated our hearts.  I will never forget the drumming in Japan or the chants of monks in Nepal.  (Click link for monks.) Muslim Calls to Prayer in Egypt, Turkey, (Click link for prayer.) or Greece were beautiful sounds that filled the air.  And monks chanting throughout Europe in great cathedrals was enthralling. Puppet plays in Vietnam (Click for puppet show.) and Cambodia exposed us to very high pitched music that we had never heard.  And then there was dancing!  High-powered set dancing in Ireland was loud and exciting compared to the choreographed long-fingernailed dancers in Thailand.  To visit a country and a people is a way to step into the historic and current lives of others.  Travel is the best way to educate yourself!  It humbles you.

Senso-ji Temple

DeLaval and its People

Finally, I must remember many of the people who generously gave of their time to us while Tom was employed at DeLaval.  Sten was our first crusader who took us through the inside and outside of Sweden and Belgium.  He was so generous.  Others in Belgium treated us to home-cooked meals and tours of Brugge, Antwerp, Ghent, and more.  They popped (often) for gourmet meals and desserts.  A friend in Japan took us to Kamakura and paid for our fare on the Shinkansen to Kyoto.  He even booked our hotel for us.  When I returned to Japan, this same friend and his wife, took me to Senso-ji Temple complex.  We learned so much about WWII at the Yaskuni Shrine from them.  When we visited Argentina and Uruguay, several DeLaval people hosted us and toured us around the countries before we headed to Machu Picchu in Peru.  I will be forever grateful to DeLaval itself and the people who worked with Tom.  They were so gracious and opened their hearts and lives to us.

We are thankful every day!

These thoughts are miniscule when compared to ALL of the international people and places that have become part of our lives.  How do you say, “Thank YOU!” to the world and to the people at DeLaval?

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

Wear a mask and social distance.  It could save a life.

It would have taken me days to find my own photos of the above places.  Thanks to the net for loaning the images to me.

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Make it Shine! Obsessed with Beauty!

Renew on the Cheap!

I have done similar designs.

Let’s take a step backwards.  One summer during graduate school I bid a job to paint an entire elementary school by myself.  To my surprise, the Superintendent was up for it.  So, for the next three months I scaled 14-foot walls and painted every room blue.  It was the cheapest way to go because you could purchase five-gallon buckets for a lot less than one gallon at a time.  If the color was all the same then there would not be much waste.  When the job was done, I was paid a lot of money.  But when the teachers returned in the fall, they were not happy with the paint.  They argued with the Superintendent that they should have been able to choose their own color for their classroom.  He never thought of asking them or, maybe,  did not want to get into the fight!  I still got paid!

I painted a cabinet like this two-tone. Lime green on the inside and maroon on the outside.

Obsessed with Beauty!

Refinishing furniture, floors, and painting are in my blood.  I am always on the hunt for an upgrade.  At about eight years old my dad put a brush and a hammer in my hand and that is when the problem began!

Refinishing furniture is a great payback.  While working on my Master’s Degree in Wheaton, I needed to make some cash.  It was difficult to find a job that meshed with my classes, homework, and research.  So, I decided to refinish and paint furniture–and then sell it.  This  eventually could create income wherever I lived.  And it did, even during my first very low-paying teaching job as a professor.  I sold refinished and painted furniture on the side to pay the bills.

Soon, I was buying old throw-away pieces of furniture, repairing them, and then painting them.  I created patterns and often used two or more colors on furniture.  It was great fun.  And, I am still doing this with my own furniture today.  All of the furniture sold quickly. (I am thinking about painting my coffee table yellow!  Maybe? What do you think?)

Refresh and Enjoy

I love the blues and teals.

Over the course of my long-life, I have renovated several houses.  Sometimes I hired sub-contractors to do things that I could not do, such as outside rock work or laying heavy tile. Only once did I tear out a kitchen and replace everything in it.  When it was finished, I promised never to do that again.

Often contractors did not do a great job (and they still don’t), so I learned from them and began tackling lots of renovation projects.  This taught me how to renovate or renew on the cheap! Today, I would like to share some of the commonsense things I have done and I am doing now to refresh our living quarters.

Brightening Hardwood Floors

Apply a very thin coat! You will have to return to the spots you missed.

Many people think that when their hardwood floors become dull or scratched that they need to hire a professional to sand them down.  We have lived in our current home for over 20 years and have never had the floors sanded.  The finish was stripped twice, once after a water accident.

Yesterday, Tom and I vacuumed, washed, and then,  I applied gloss Bona Hardwood Floor Finish to the hardwood floors in the hearth room. It is also available in Satin.  Shiny floors inspire us.  To apply, use a soft applicator.  (Read the directions carefully.)  The cover on my window scrubber works well as an applicator.  Afterwards, it can be thrown into the wash.  Very expensive applicators can be purchased, but I gave that up long ago.  But, unfortunately, my window scrubber cover failed to make it to the washing machine.

Can’t find these today. Copies range from $30-$300.

I found an old Stanley Home Products applicator that mom gave me decades ago in the garage.  It worked well! How long will the finish last?  It depends on where you use it and how many people and pets are walking on it.  I would say that it has lasted five years in our hearth room before becoming scratched and worn.

This little scrubber is very versatile. I buy them at Lowe’s.

Here is a look at the Hearth Room floor! Presto-Change-o!

Sealing Dull Tile or Stone Floors

A contractor installed Travertine stone floors in our lower level.  Unfortunately, the team did not know how to install the tile correctly (As usual).  They mistakenly sealed the stone while it was filthy dirty with cement dust and debris.  Tom and I tried to clean the tile and ended up using a razor blade to scrape off the crud.  Eventually the company had to return all of our money because they could not fix the problem.  They even brought in specialists who could not clean it.  After a couple of weeks of scraping I applied TILElab Sealer and Finish on it and the floor just screams excitement.  It is beautiful! (Oh, by the way, the young man who installed the tile had just lost his mother.  His brother killed her, so he had an good excuse.)

TILElab has some great floor products.  I deployed their 4Care Gloss Sealer and Finish on the slate tiles in our front entrance over 10 years ago (refreshed).  They were dull and I don’t think the previous owner had sealed them.

The sealer lasted a very long time on this slate at our front entrance..

 

Renewing Furniture, Cabinets, and Anything that has Wood Scratches

When I first began my refinishing career, there were lots of products to enhance the wood.  (I have used almost all of them from wax to ….)  Many times, on antiques, all I had to do was use a furniture cleaner and then spread Old English Lemon oil on it,  leave it on overnight.  For darker furniture there was Old English Scratch cover.  This was a quick way to renew and then sell furniture. The Old English Lemon Oil is still useful for me.

I don’t recommend using this today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pledge Revive It is a great product to renew laminate and no-wax floors (This doesn’t make sense because you really do have to wax them, sort of!) I have also used it on stone but the manufacturer does not recommend it.  It is easy to apply and lasts a long time, for us, years. I have never used it on wood.

 

 

 

 

 

Current Strategies

The top of the desk in the kitchen showed scratches and had become dull over the years.  Also, cabinets, after cleaning were showing scratches.  A product that I have used to fill and refinish the small scratches is a Varathane touch-up marker.  I drag the end of the marker over the scratch and then quickly wipe off the excess.  The markers come in different color finishes.  I have used them on bedroom furniture, cabinets, and more. They work!

 

Back to that desk in the kitchen!  After touching up as many holes and scratches as I could with the marker, I still wanted a better finish.  I considered sanding down the top of the desk, (or other strategies) but that would have thrown sawdust all over the hearth room and kitchen–probably more.  Tom suggested that I use my hardwood floor finish.  What the heck, if it did not work, I could still sand it down.  It did work and it has a wonderfully hard sheen on it now.

Painting on the Cheap.  Hints!

Good paint brushes are expensive.  My favorite is a one-inch very thin brush that I use on small areas.  That brush can cost up to $9.00.  These types of brushes have to be treasured.  I don’t dip them in oil-base paint unless I have a large job that will take weeks.  Then, I throw it away.

This is a great and versatile roller.

Dollar Tree is one of the best places to purchase painting equipment.  Everything is a dollar.  Even when I am not working on a project, and I am shopping at Dollar Tree, I always pick up a few brushes.  They carry 1.5 inch brushes and larger.  When you are finished using them, they can be thrown away.  Why spend an hour saving a $1.00 brush?

These rollers are about four inches.

 

 

Dollar Tree does not carry the very small paint rollers.  A good place to snap these up is at Walmart, when they are in stock.  Small paint rollers are much easier for me to use than those old-fashioned eight or nine inch rollers.

 

 

Save Those Bags

Painting trays can also be expensive.  Instead of using new ones or buying inserts for expensive trays, I use a garbage bag.  I pull the bag over the tray and tie it.  When I am finished using the tray, the bag gets thrown away.  The tray can be used for years. Keeping brushes ready for the next day to paint takes a little planning.  I usually wrap them in a plastic bag or two bags and this keeps them from drying out. Also I save large cardboard pieces to use to protect the floors when painting. No plastic on the floors.

Coronavirus Blues

We have all had to find things to do during the lockdown.  Please stay safe.  So many people do not believe that there is a pandemic and are not social distancing.  I was calculating today if only 10% of the seniors died from the virus, it would amount to 4.5 million people.  You can do the math on other percentages.  Take care of yourselves and stay safe. Hillary, Twinkers, Tom and I are fine!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

Most of the product images were taken from the net.  Tom told me to contact the companies and perhaps I could create some advertising revenue.  Nope, that is for people who are not retired!

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In the Middle of the Night

Life is different now for all of us. 

Homeless person on the Indian Lagoon in Titusville.

I thought about titling this piece, “Let them eat pasta.”  Why?  Modern day slave drivers have sent meat packing people (and others) back to work in spite of infections that have ranged as high as 1,000 at their  plants.  I sometimes wonder if we are all in a dream.  Can this really be happening?

The blues come too easily as we wait for the virus to leave us.  Keeping busy takes our minds off the fear we have going to the grocery store or pumping gas or talking to anyone.  And, it keeps us from constantly grieving for all of those who have passed on, or who are fighting for their lives in hospitals.

Since arriving back in Cass County, we have planned projects for almost every day. Of course, this is not traveling, but in a way, it is traveling.  It is traveling around our home!  So today I am going to share some of our traveling, workaholic days!  While I love to read, research, and create, my mind does not want me to sit still!  So we work!

Clean, Repair, Clean

Painting the trim is a once-in-a-lifetime event for me. I don’t recommend it.

Our home has been cleaned and polished from top to bottom. We have washed the windows inside and out.  Tom cleaned the blinds and power-washed the driveway.  Yesterday I finished painting the trim in the garage (yes, garage) while Tom cleaned the cars inside and out!  The garage also got new paint on the doors and trim.  The day ended with scrubbing the garage floor.

Here is a sample of his repair. Looks like new! New rocks too!

Last week we found a concrete guy who tuckpointed the front step and sidewalk.  After 23 years the bricks were breaking away from the concrete.  I tried to fix it but tuckpointing is not one of my skills.

Earlier, our back patio (after Tom power-washed it) was revived with an acrylic co-polymer sealer.  We learned about this type of sealer in Florida from Charles King.  Florida’s constant rain and intense heat turns concrete to dust.  Water-based sealers do nothing for the driveway in this type of weather.

The results on our patio were gorgeous.  It will last about five years.  The patio, sidewalk, and driveway are all exposed aggregate so it takes a ton of sealer.  We hope to seal our sidewalk and driveway in a couple of weeks.  It will take about 15 gallons.

Making the Property Shine

What a cool Florida color!

Tom weed whacks, mows, or trims bushes one or two days a week.  While he was in the sunshine last week, I brought a little bit of Florida sunshine to Missouri by painting the front door blue, and again, sealing the front porch.  My Talavera manatees are enjoying the new view.  They are on either side of the photo below. Yesterday we purchased new rocks to frame our walkway!  What fun!

New, clean look!

Creative Activities

This is a 2017 photo of Jaisson (L) and Brandon (R)

Tom continues to take guitar lessons from Brian Hudspeth, one of the best blues guitar players in Kansas City.  Brandon has been streaming concerts with Jaisson Taylor and his group, Levee Town.  While their technical expertise needs improvement, it is a treat seeing and hearing them on Youtube.

Like a child …

I am making baby steps in learning how to play the Banjolele.  The G7 chord is especially difficult for my fingers to form.  But, there is progress and I hope to join the Ukulele group at TGO in the fall.

And, Tom plays in three golf leagues.  He walks and practices social distancing.  We have golfed together for about 25-30 years but these days my right wrist complains, so I have stowed by clubs for a while.

Meanwhile…

Hillary loves to be groomed!

We are trimming the dogs and more.  I don’t know how much longer they can go without visiting the spa!

This is twice as big as a regular loaf of bread. Created in a $49 Panasonic Bread Machine!

On cold days baking takes over my heart and mind.  When in Florida, I missed my bread machine.  It has been working hard for us lately.  First it served up English muffins laced with sesame seeds and then it baked a Cranberry Pecan loaf.  Pass the butter please!

Also, a fresh apple pie appeared on our counter last night.  I am sure that Tom and I are gaining weight!

 

So beautiful! Granny Smith apples!

Social Distancing

Finally we could take our donations to Goodwill. The garage said goodbye to all of this stuff!

Social distancing is very challenging, as you have no doubt experienced.  I had three incidents when people shouted at me.  In Walmart a family of seven was blocking entrance to the door.  They were not wearing masks or gloves.  I did not want to push by them.  Finally, they entered the store and I said to the mother, “Do you know that the virus can extend to 13 feet?”  She said, “Mind your own business.”  A couple of days ago, a mother let her children run up and touch me.  I told the children that they need to social distance.  The mother said, “Stop talking to my children.”  She was not about to social distance.

Another day at Walmart, a frustrated young woman with her hands in the air yelled, “Let me by you.”  The guard at the door was stopping people from entering and I was in line.  She shouted at the guard also.  I asked her if she knew anything about the virus.  She said, “Where do you find that information?”

I don’t know why these people don’t practice social distancing.  Are they defiant?  Maybe they can not afford masks? Are they not in touch with the pandemic? Do they understand the risk?  Maybe they are following Trump’s lead?  Who knows?

Harriet is Gone

We adopted seven fish who will live in our pond. Most stay hidden so we hope they will survive. We will call one Harriet.

Singing in a Community Chorus has been a highlight for us the past few years.  One of the soloists, Harriet, just passed away.  She was 99.  We all wished we had her musical abilities and long life.  She is missed!

In the Middle of the Night

In November, we hope to purchase a Fiat Pop for me. A 1957 retro would be the best!

I keep looking for something that I don’t find in the news or online.  Billy Joel’s tune, “The River of Dreams,” started whirling around in my brain.   It seems to fit what we are all experiencing.  Click here! if you want to listen to the tune!

Stay well and keep busy! Oh, Tom wants to go for a ride! Let’s go!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

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Shock and Awe! Homes at The Great Outdoors!

Are We Living on Another Planet?

Where is the front door on this one? If your RV is parked in the slot, you can’t see the door!

Vacationing in Florida with an RV is problematic.  People love doing it and have been camping for over one hundred years.  In the 1920’s Titusville, and other cities along the Indian River/Lagoon or Intra-costal water way,  created camping spots where people could stay for free.  They even added amenities like showers, and running water, and food.  Their goal was to attract people to their city.  Well, it worked, and people have claimed RV spaces of their own for decades or longer.

Finding Our Paradise

This is an executive suite. The photo was taken from the back.

Many of the RV resorts/campgrounds in Florida today have broken down small trailers smashed together.  In the old days, people did not sport 40 foot Class A Motorhomes.  We thought for sure that we had found a place to stay for the winter in Cocoa Beach, just a minute from the water, but it too was a mess. We scoured the East Coast and Central Florida in 2018 and found nothing that would work for us.  (We looked at over 20 campgrounds/resorts.) We were not about to pay $125 a night for a high-end RV resort that offered only a concrete pad.

This is a covered portal with an executive suite in the back.

The other problem with renting is that it is almost impossible to rent several weeks in a row.  One RV resort will give you three days.  A state park might give you two weeks (if you win the online lotto).  And then another RV resort will give you two days.  So, this means that you are constantly moving.  You are really in a competition with others to land a space,  and often you lose because they only offer spots at a certain time online. And they call their friends first.  We ran into a couple who tried to find a place for a month near the water.  They gave up and went north to St. Augustine.

Real Estate Mania

Usually these homes have only two bedrooms.

In 2018 we found TGO but no one would show us around the facility.  Real Estate people were too busy and they did not allow “foreigners” to just tool around.  (The community is gated.)  So, in 2019 we decided to stop and look at properties on our way to Sebastian Inlet which is about 90 miles south of TGO.  We emailed the Real Estate people twice.  Called several times and no one returned our calls or emails.  How were we to see properties if TGO Real Estate people would not show us any?  Finally, we called a Real Estate agent outside TGO and made an appointment.  She showed us only properties that were listed by MLS agents. TGO is not MLS,  and, while she could show TGO listed properties, she would only make $400.  Essentially, TGO agents run a cartel.  What?  Eventually we did buy a property and that story is another blog in itself (more cartels here).

Which Property to Purchase?

This is a lovely driveway where someone could park their RV.

Our goal was to find a place to rent.  This did not happen.  TGO charges $70 a night for a down and dirty driveway.  YUK!  We stayed on two of them while we were looking for property.  When we first toured TGO, we were shocked by the architecture.  We just wanted a place to park for the winter, a driveway.  But, as we investigated TGO, we decided that we needed more room that our 400 square foot RV, so we purchased what they call an Executive Suite or a hut or…  It gives us about another 1200 square feet of living space. But a bedroom is not included. What?

First Glance, it was Ugly

I took this photo while golfing. The houses look like barns.

The more we circled TGO, the more we were in awe of the architecture.  It was so ugly to us.  (Recently I took a real estate friend around at TGO and she was shocked also.) Often all you could see of a home were the openings for the RV and cars/toys.  Where did people live?  We have explored some of these homes and they are very dark inside and most of them have only two bedrooms.  Some of the other homes are trailers with huge ports in front.  Others are two bedroom bungalows. All of this was very odd to us.  And prices ranged from $69,000 to millions.  So this blog is really designed to give you a small peak at how people live at TGO.

Just as an aside, we also flew to Texas with hopes of finding a place to spend the winter.  We found the same problem of small trailers/RV’s squished together.  Some of the “resorts” had casitas (one room buildings) but the prices were outrageous!  We left after only a couple of days of searching.  Texas was not for us!

Opps. This guy forgot to stop.

Walking the Walk.  The Hurricane Home!

This is a TGO model home on the market for a million dollars.

Most days I walk about five miles and choose to circle areas where there are larger homes.  On a few occasions I brought my phone and cataloged the building process of new hurricane resistant homes.  Most of the homes took about six months to build.  The walls are of concrete with hurricane resistant windows and hurricane window covers of all kinds.  The roofs were made of pine, which did not make sense to me.  The walls might hold during a hurricane but certainly the roof would fly away.  I did not see anchors on a roof.  So the following photos sort of follow the process of building one of these homes. The prices on these homes range from around $600K to a million and over.

So here goes with the photos:

This is phase one. Concrete galore! No concrete blocks!

Another phase one.

Phase Two.

Almost Finished.

Finished. Again, where is the front door?  The most important objective for these structures is to store toys.

This is a lovely home that only has two bedrooms. It was on the market for just under a million. Two-thirds of the structure is designed for toys.

Coronavirus Pals

Twinkers the Great!

Hillary, Madame President, is in charge, ALWAYS!

We have read several stories about how animal shelters are empty.  People decided that a pet might help them through the lock down.  Our white girls, Hillary and Twinkers, are our best buddies.  They are always there for us.  They eat with us.  Walk with us.  Play with us.  Smile at us.  And, they keep us company when the rest of the world cannot enter our home or RV.  We are so lucky to have these creatures in our life.

Please be safe.  Politicians don’t always have our best interests in their primary career goals.  Keep distancing for at least a year–maybe two!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

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Hunkered Down in Cass County, Missouri

Enjoying our space in Florida!

A Crispy Home

Twenty-eight-degree weather welcomed us home.  We shivered and are still shivering.  Last spring, we spent about three months in the south and did not experience adversity because of the change in weather.  We adjusted.  After six months in Florida, we are still trying to wear our flipflops and shorts, and we are freezing! Where are my boots?

Leaving Florida was Painful.  Politics and Ignorance pushed Us!

We came home early.  It was not what we had planned.  But … Gov. DeSantis kept making lethal mistakes regarding the virus. A quick check shows almost 30,000 cases and 900 deaths today.  In the beginning, no one was being tested.  To be accurate there are probably thousands of cases that went by the wayside.  We have a friend who had the virus and locals would not test her.

Politics and the Health Crisis

DeSantis is and was more concerned with finances than funerals.  He allowed students to storm the southern beaches of Florida and this is exactly where the epicenter continues to grow. In a knee-jerk decision he closed the borders from Louisiana and to people traveling from the Northeast. Then, he banned rentals of vacation properties.  He forgot that half of the people living on the Florida coast are from the Northeast and have homes in Florida.  So TGO (The Great Outdoors RV Resort) had an influx of East Coast people that we had not seen all winter!  Shuttered windows on houses opened and the streets filled with people as the virus exploded in New York.

Florida Systems Failed

DeSantis is and was pressed to open Florida because the unemployment system crashed and has only served about 15% of those out of work. (Thousands and thousands of people have been furloughed by Disney and other entertainment venues.)   Today they reported that one million people had filed.  The unemployment system was designed to fail because the last governor, Rick Scott, (as I read) wanted to taut his ability to keep people working by making it very difficult to apply for unemployment insurance.  It was to be a star on his forehead.  Now, the sky is and was falling on DeSantis and no one can fix the system.  We figured that Covid was coming for us soon!

Merritt Island National Refuge

A great highlight in our lives was volunteering at the Refuge.  Sadness stalked us as we left.  We were both at high risk because of serving so many visiting internationals from the Space Center.  I figured that Covid was going to knock on our door, but thankfully, it has not visited us.  (Or, are we carriers?) With our work schedule gone, we were stuck at TGO for most of the day.

TGO Illusions

TGO is a close-knit community.  Socializing is an art.  Many think that all they need in life is found at TGO.  (Restaurants, golf course, swimming pools, tennis, games, Nature Center, special events, and a scads of clubs.) So, everyone talks to everyone all hours of the day. (hyperbole)  If you would like to see some of the activities of TGO, I am inserting a link to the bi-monthly magazine, here!

TGO residents protested when the community church cancelled all activities.  In spite of the mandatory shut-down, the church kept holding meetings in their parking lot and in people’s homes.  I argued on Facebook that the virus was airborne, but the elect paid no attention to the science of the virus.  Unforgivably, they pretended that it did not exist. “The blood of Jesus was going to protect them,” is a quote I recently heard on TV.   This really scared us.  And the virus did come to TGO!  Next, there were rumors that the two couples who live on our street had been stranded on a Princess virus ship.  They were coming home. They are our neighbors. (I mentioned this in my last blog.)

Campgrounds were Shut!

We also heard that governors were shutting down public campgrounds and some states were closing  private ones. (Our favorite campgrounds were closed.)  We were afraid that we would have no place to park during our four-day trek home.  We were afraid that we would not make it back to Missouri. We had to leave.  It took two days to pack. We left, hoping that we would not be quarantined along the way. One campground threatened to quarantine us 14 days if we stayed with them. (Friends across the street at TGO have a home in Alaska and cannot leave.  The border to Canada is closed.)

The Lonely Trek to Cass County

I took this photo in Alabama because the trees were so lovely. The roads were nearly empty.

The green grass and Palm trees gave way to an open road with some rest areas closed.  And, (believe it or not) rest areas on interstates cannot be found in some states.  This is very dangerous for everyone.  Trucks end up parking on exits and along the interstate in order to take breaks.  Very few automobiles ventured on the interstates we drove. There were trucks in front of us, in back of us, and very close beside us on every highway.

Campground Blues

There were three of these trailers in this park. I had never seen them before. I wondered if they had been in a junk yard.

After considerable research, Tom located places for us to park overnight.  When we arrived, two or three of them had electrical problems.  At one place, we had to move twice in order to find a site that worked.  People stole the breakers out of the units.  It is disheartening to see how people live in these less-than-trailer parks.

I saw a young man washing dishes in this trailer. He even owns a dog.

We called ahead and paid by credit card so that we would not have to meet or talk with anyone.  Of course, this did not work all of the time.  The places where we stayed were permanent residences for a host of the families.  We saw very few RV’s or motorhomes on the road and only one or two other transients like us in the campgrounds.

I think a lot of veterans find their way to campgrounds.

In Titusville I helped a homeless vet.  There were 200 homeless vets living in the woods and on the streets near Titusville.

Graceland has Lost its Grace (One of our Stops)

This sign was in good repair.

We have vacationed at the Graceland campground many times.  It has always been a stellar event. This time was different.  Heartbreak hotel had been demolished along with all the shops along Elvis Presley Boulevard. (It is a very ugly space now.) Even the planes looked shoddy. Lisa Marie should cry!

In front of Graceland.

A new Las Vegas-type hotel reaches to the sky across from the campground.  Elvis shops can only be found in a hidden mall.  What used to be a pristine location has now lost its shine.  Fences were rusted.  Sidewalks were dirty.  Homeless people dotted the landscape.  It did not have the air of a inviting place to visit any longer.  Flags bearing the King’s image were torn.  And, … the campground was virtually empty.  We could understand that people stayed home because of the virus, but the campground itself was in disrepair.

A faded and torn Elvis.

The only campers here were permanent.

Gas on the Road

Our last stop was at the Flying J along I49.  I was shocked to see that no one at the station wore gloves or masks.  I asked the cashier if she knew there was a pandemic?  She just stared at me. I told her that it was coming to her part of the world soon.  I don’t think she understood me!

Stay safe.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

 

Find my book here!

 

 

 

 

 

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Covid-19 Therapeutic Excursions

Florida Coronavirus Blues

Governor DeSantis, at this very moment, quarantined all of us in Florida.  Up until now we have been able to do a few touristic activities. We still can bike, hike, kayak, swim, and more.  Here in Titusville the parks are open along the Indian River and they are not crowded.  All National, State, and County parks are closed.

Is it a Bird, Is it a Plane, No, its … 

Last week we trekked across the Max Brewer bridge to the Refuge only to see two manatees waving at us from the Indian River Lagoon.  Yesterday we think we saw a “Right” whale hanging out at the harbor. Besides all of fantastic natural activities in Titusville, it is also a repository of Space history.

The Shuttle just popped up on us as we were scouring Titusville in search of its historic sites.

I have lived through all of the space adventures so far.  There was Sputnik, the monkey astronauts, the men on the moon, abductions, landed aliens, the space accidents, the space station, and more. But, could I name all of the astronauts and missions?  Give me an “F.”  Brevard Museum makes a point of informing us that the first woman astronaut/cosmonaut was from the USSR, Valentina Tereshkova. Did you know that, I did not!

Titusville has many space exhibits and memorials and they are mind-boggling. Now the U.S.A. is  launching a Space Force, and it just across the river from us!

Here is an example of the one of steps.

Just like the movie stars out west, and the music notes on the sidewalk in Memphis, each astronaut has their name embedded in concrete.  (I don’t recall if there is a walk of fame for teachers? or scientists? or clergy? or health professionals? or grocery store clerks? or, ….)

The displays would be a great place to take children to learn about space exploration.  They could spend all afternoon reading about the past. Then they could head to the Kennedy Space Center to see the real thing!

This display overwhelmed me!

This is one of my favorite photos!

The photo above captures how I felt walking through all of the displays.  I was just floating in space.  We also ran into some great murals on the walls of older buildings.

This mural captures Titusville.

Fort Christmas (Just outside Titusville!)

We have visited many, many forts but this one was excellent in every way!

Yes, there is actually a town of Christmas in Florida, and right across the street is Fort Christmas.  Visiting Fort Christmas had been on my list for a year.  My excitement about history wearies Tom sometimes and he was not keen on visiting the place.  With most places locked down because of the Coronavirus, we headed for the Fort and were pleasantly surprised at how it was managed and the attention to historical detail. In a future blog, I will explain the need for the fort and the Seminoles.  Bravo Orange County!

Tom and I visited the homes from the 18th century and later.  They were not reproductions but actual buildings that had been brought to the park.

This could have been my mother’s bedroom.

When I walked into the front room of the first house, I felt like I was coming home.  The furniture, the TV set, and the smell of someone smoking were very familiar to me.  The rest of the home was filled with objects that could have been in my family home.  I felt like I was in a time warp.

As a child, we did not have a dining room in our house. We ate in the kitchen.

The next house we visited displayed wood and coal stoves from various vintages.  My grandmother Ova and Aunt Thelma cooked on a coal/wood stove.  It was a marvel to see them work.

My grandmother’s stove was twice as big.

In a small school auditorium there was an exhibition of old typewriters.  I recognized one of them.

When I was in seventh grade, I wrote my first research report on Egypt and typed it on a machine like the one above.  A neighbor loaned it to me.  No, I could not type.

While we were exploring the park, we heard screams from the chickens across the way.  I asked one of the rangers what was going on.  He said that he had just stolen their eggs and would be eating them shortly.

Wonder how fresh eggs taste?

This looks like my mama’s cabinet at the end of summer. Oh, mom passed away 10 years ago.

Soon we will leave this great adventure to return to Missouri.  A transport truck just picked up my Beetle.  Tom is plotting the route to take to Kansas City.  We are hoping that borders are not closed as we travel.  How can something like this happen to all of us? Below is one last look at a favorite spot of mine on the Refuge/Canaveral National Sea Shore.

Mosquito Lagoon will be waiting for us in the fall. This photo was taken near Playalinda beach on the Canaveral National Seashore.

A great past time in Titusville is watching the rocket launches.  Seems like they happen weekly.  Below is a photo of a launch that was canceled.

We all stared into the sun waiting for the launch!

This is not the end of our story.  We still have lots of side roads to share with you. Hopefully we will ALL survive the virus storm that is approaching! We just heard that two couples who live on our street are on one of the stranded cruise ships with coronavirus victims.  Perhaps we will leave early.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

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Coronavirus Blues on the Beach

No Insanity here!  Love Your World!

Reclining Buddha at White Sands. Look at the smile on his face.

Locked in place, how do you cope?  Tom and I decided that we were going to pretend that we were in another country.  As tourists and explorers, we tooled around the outskirts of the great Disney Kingdom and the Space Coast.

White Sands Buddhist Center (Click here)

One of Tom’s new found friends told us about White Sands Buddhist Center in Mims.  We were skeptical that something so wonderful could be found in Mims.  Then, we were totally amazed at the serenity and beauty of the place when we found it.  The buildings were closed but the grounds were open to the public.  We were the only public visiting.

The Reclining Buddha from a distance. Nirvana can be reached by just relaxing!

White Sands is sponsored by the Vietnamese government.  We have visited many temples in Vietnam but I did not know what division of Buddhism the Vietnamese followed.  White Sands seems to be a mixture of Mahayana and Pure Land Buddhism.  Mahayana looks to bodhisattvas (sort of living buddhas) to help them reach nirvana.  Pure Land Buddhism, founded in Japan, is modeled after Christianity with a hope for a heavenly life.  I think both of these strains were found on the grounds of White Sands.

Guan Yin is a Chinese bodhisattva who lives to help others. They had another name for her!

Who is that guy to the right of the Buddha?

White Sands was a welcome relief to the craziness in the news and grocery stores.  Walking  the grounds and viewing the statues put your mind at ease.  What a great find!

Here is a quote from their website,”When we close our mind, it is as if we voluntarily imprison ourselves in a tight and narrow world.”

Check out the article in Wikipedia, “Buddhism in the United States.”

Religious Structures are Often Hidden

Local governments often write building codes with the express purpose of keeping out faiths unfamiliar to them.  Sometimes they put limits on a dome or how a building can be designed or redesigned.  This forces religions that create unusual architectures to become even more creative.  Sometimes they go underground to create the religious space that meets their needs.  Often they purchase unwanted land, defunct warehouses, or production sites, and build their beautiful buildings inside.  From the outside their property looks like it is falling down.  From the inside it can be a glorious golden dome of light. White Sands is hidden in a great forest.

Most of the religious properties we visited were not on main streets.  The Hindu Temple was built next to an old car dump.  Behind a wall of apartments and fences stood the Sikh Temple.  And the Jewish Synagogue, from the street, looked like an office building. Of course, no religious structure is safe these days.

The Sikh Temple

South of Orlando.  Gurdwara is a place to gather! Nanaksar refers to its division.

Sikhs are monotheistic and resist the caste system found within Hinduism in India.  The parking lot was empty when we arrived at the temple.  Soon, Mr. Singh was greeting us and inviting us for a tour, or at the very least a bite to eat.  He was so welcoming.  Declining the invitation, we promised we would return.

Hindu Temple in Melbourne

Manav Mandir

What a treat!  We snuck by the “No Trespassing” sign because the gate was open.  It was like an invitation.  Hindus are often polytheistic.  Stories about their gods and goddesses are very entertaining.  Many Indians prefer to call themselves “monotheistic” because they follow the One, Supreme God from which all other emanate.  Some follow only Shiva or a favorite god or goddess.  One of our favorite gods is Ganesh(a), bringer of good luck.  And what do you know–greeting us on that beautiful day was Ganesh.

Ganesh is the son of Shiva and Parvati. It is quite a story.

We also tried to visit another Buddhist site south of Orlando that houses monks but we were not allowed to enter.  We will go back after the virus settles down in the fall.  I am going to include just a few pictures.  One of them is from the net.

 

This is not my photo but it gives you an idea of the beauty of the site.

Jewish Synagogue

I chose this synagogue because of the architecture.  We drove right by it because we did not recognize that it was a synagogue.

“Ohev” means, “he loves.”  And, of course, shalom means “peace.”  Below is a photo of the building.  Today, trees hide it from view.

This photo is not mine.

Holy Land Experience

This is a small replica of the temple in Jerusalem.

Have you traveled to Israel?  If you have, one of places that most tourists visit is a replica of Jerusalem during the time of Jesus, or the second temple period.  It is right behind the Holy Land Hotel.  In Orlando, the Holy Land Experience complex tries to replicate this small replica of Jerusalem on a grand scale.  The gates were locked so we were limited on picture taking.  At the front gate stood a handsome soldier.

Tom is photo-bombing this pic.

Inside you could see the temple and other historic sites found at the Holy Land Hotel in Jerusalem.  The following two photos were taken from their website.  It is a place where the Bible and Christianity is centerstage.  But, some say that it is failing economically and will soon go out of business.

 

 

 

 

 

Explore Your City

This is no time to be hunkered down.  We met only one person on our religious treks, so we were practicing extreme-social-distancing.   Make a plan and visit places that you have never been that are near you.  We tried not to stop at public restrooms, so your treks could be about an hour long.  We also stopped by a Masjid (mosque) in Titusville but it was in a small house and not so interesting.  What is interesting is that there are Muslims in Titusville.

Today, as we walked along the Indian river, people were holding exercise classes outside.  Some were boxing.  Many were walking their dogs.  There was plenty of space for everyone. So get out that bicycle, or tricycle, or motorcycle, or ….  and explore your world.

I met a friend the other day!

Every morning I walk about 90 minutes.  The Nature path is a small part of my exercise.  In the past few months, there have been several sightings of snakes so I keep my eyes peeled. I have only seen three so far.

The other day I noticed horizontal tracks on the path and stopped because I thought it might be a big snake.  I looked down and an alligator was right at my foot staring up at me.  I was shocked.  I looked at him.  He looked at me and this looking went on for a few seconds.  Then, I gently stepped away.  He was not aggressive.  I have never been this close to an alligator. (How lucky I was!)

This is not the end of our exploring.  We have scoured the cities of Mims and Titusville and discovered historic and important sites.  In my next blog, I will share them with you.  So, avoid the alligators and get out there and enjoy and love the world.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

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Living it Up in the Space City!

Titusville, a small town with BIG opportunities!

The Coronavirus is coming our way!  Florida has over 150 who have tested positive with four deaths, but that is only a fraction of what is out there.  People were and are not getting tested.  Our volunteer opportunities have temporarily vanished.  They have shut the tours at the Refuge and at the Brevard Musem.  I voluntarily left the Visitor’s Desk at the Refuge because of the contact I had with internationals.  The desk will be open only five days a week and maybe less.

Dining in the Indian River Town (Titusville)

There are at least 100 restaurants in town.  Many of them are the mom and pop variety.  I have written about Loyd Have Mercy.  It was featured on the Food Channel recently.  Many of the family restaurants post their daily offerings on a white board.  The paper menu that is handed to you is just a suggestion, freshly cooked food is on the Board.

One of our favorite diners is Good Thymes where the owner personally comes to your table and greets you, almost every time.  Her personality is bigger than life.  Another hotspot is Steve’s Diner that is owned by John?

Recently we discovered Pier 220 right on the intra-costal highway. The setting is beyond gorgeous.  Outside you can dine right above the water, at the bar, or on a sandy beach while listening to live music.  Inside it is calmer with a great view of the water.  After a meal you can walk the pier and talk to people who are shrimping.

At a table. This is as good as the island of St. Croix or maybe better!

Shrimpers use lights to attract the catch.  What a beautiful site right under the bridge to the Refuge.

Lots of Activities Around Titusville

Our friend Lois was on a panel to discuss discrimination. She was awesome!

In March we were invited to a Black History Celebration at Eastern Florida State College.  Our new friend, Lois invited us.  Her daughter Tara was on the planning committee of the event.

The evening explored the life of Harry and Harrietta Moore, civil rights activists in the 20th century.  In 1951, they were responsible for more than 100K African-Americans/Blacks signing up to vote.  For this hard work, their home was bombed and both of them were murdered.  Of course, the perpetrators were never found.

If you have time, read about their lives. (Click on the link.) They were not  the only persons of color to be killed in Florida.  Florida has a horrendous history of stealing the land and the lives from peoples of color who called Florida home. Read about the Black Seminoles if you ever get a chance!

Shell Mounds of Florida

Since working as a docent at the Brevard Museum, I have become very interested in the shell mounds that are found along the Eastern Coast of the United States.  Canaveral National Seashore has many mounds and features “Turtle Mound” that rises 50 feet above the water.  Originally thought to be middens or garbage dumps, scholars now think that they were foundations of ancient villages.

We visited Turtle Mound and, on another day, hiked Hontoon island to discover a shell mound.  No one really understands these mounds. I hope to do more research and present a lecture on the topic for the National Park Service next fall!

In order to hike Hontoon we had to take a boat across the St. John’s river. Limit 6 people.

Here is what scientists postulate about the shell mounds.

This is a diagram of shell mounds found along the Canaveral Coast.

 

Music in the Flower State

This is Trinity River Band.

We have yet to find a music venue that we love.  A few days ago we bought tickets to hear a little Bluegrass excitement. The gig was held in a defunct mall cinema.  Trinity River Band is comprised of an entire family, having written many of the tunes they sing.  Of course, Tom liked the music but I felt like I was in a tent meeting.  When was the altar call going to come? They used religious language throughout the evening and by the end I understood that they were really missionaries singing about their faith.

Not a good photo, but you get the idea.

Historic Cocoa presents  a retro-environment.  Old buildings have been restored and it is often a hotspot on weekends. We went to hear Sirsy at a German Beer Garden.  On a sunken picnic table we tried to listen, but the noise of the crowd was overwhelming.  Last year at Sebastian Inlet we were treated to a Sirsy concert.  Tom really loved their music. They are a married couple who tell their stories of overcoming cancer several times. You can see the love on their faces.

Nature

Every day NATURE is an integral part of our lives.  Check out the Refuge website to view some of the creatures we meet regularly. (Click above.) The photo above is of Julia, a volunteer (paid, yes paid by the Friends of the Refuge.) ranger holding a snake.  TGO also presents Nature programs that push us out into the wild.

This Red-Shouldered Hawk keeps us company at our hut almost every day.  And, as I write this blog I am watching a couple of River Otters frolicking in the same pond that an alligator tooled by this morning.

Tourist Stuff

I have fallen in love with Talavera Mexican/Spanish pottery.  I am bringing home a pair of Manatees that look something like this Manatee below.

This is the end of my story for now.  Every day is an adventure and then some!  Be safe during the coming weeks.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

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Critters to the Left and Critters to the Right of Us!!

Watch Where You Step!

Shot by a resident of TGO.

We live in a nature preserve.  That means that a lot of things are preserved here that you would not find in an urban neighborhood.  I thought some of you might like to see a few of the critters who invade TGO and the area nearby.

We have two alligators who live in the pond behind us.  One is about 12 feet long and the other is half the size.  They really don’t bother us! Day and night we have mammoth birds sitting on the banks or launching from our roof.  Sometimes when we walk  from the hut to the RV there will be two large white birds enjoying the day on our driveway!

TGO Heroes

I wanted to upload only photos for you but WordPress is protesting.  We will see what we can do.

Shot by James Dick. He is in a little river that runs through TGO. And those are the colors!

Giant Cranes. Sometimes they walk with me. Shot by a resident of TGO!

The cranes are at least four feet tall.

Several of these rattlesnakes have been found on the Nature trail! The two photos of rattlers were shot by someone at the Nature Center.

Here is a guy to walk with!

Brevard Zoo

Yesterday we visited the Brevard Zoo.  Even with discounts, it cost over $40 for the two of us, but it was worth the price we paid.  There are a lot of exhibits where visitors can interact with the animals and birds.

For a fee visitors can feed the Giraffe!!!!  I have never been so close to one of these tall critters.

I think some of these live out in our yard???

You could walk a path right through the middle of Kangaroo land.  So close, but yet so far!

This one was protected from the fires in Australia.

The Aviary was Supreme!

We are not birders.  I know that they have feathers and feet and that is about it.  We have met hundreds of people who follow birds to the ends of the earth.  After visiting the Aviary at Brevard Zoo, I understand!

It is hard to believe that this bird was so red!

These seemed like love birds to me!

All of these photos are real.  Amazing! One of these guys has a striped vest.

So big and beautiful!

Blue Spring

A few days ago we heard that there were about 40 Manatees at Blue Spring State Park.  The park itself is stellar with crystal clear water.  Yes, crystal clear water is in Florida.  We did see Manatees but they were huddled together playing cards and we could not get good photos of them.  Yesterday, the Manatees at Haul Over Canal circled Tom and his six friends.  Dolphins jumped around the Manatees.  Kayaking here is more about discovering nature than paddling yourself to death!

Volunteering is a great sport in Florida.

 

These photos were taken from the net.

 

This is the closest we got to the Manatees at Blue Spring.  We brought home one of these toys!

Merritt Island National Refuge

While volunteering at the Refuge, we have almost 900 visitors on a single day.  It is the largest and most visited Refuge in the country.  Birders recently spotted a Great White Pelican from Africa recently.  I never knew that pelicans could be so graceful and beautiful.   Pelican Island National Refuge was created in 1903 located near Sebastian Inlet.  I think it was the first National Refuge!

This is a real photo.  Tom took it at the Refuge.

Naturalists love to leave their marks!

There are many other photos but I am afraid I am boring you!  Titusville is a surprise for us.  We made the right decision coming to this fabulous place.  Here is my last critter!

I wanted to do something special for the Brevard Museum.  So I designed and purchased stickers to be given to visitors. (The photo was purchased.)

Come visit!

Photo taken by a resident at TGO.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Space Coast Has Adopted Us!

Making the Most of our Florida Life….

I took a gray Buddha and made him handsome!

Who da’ thought that one year ago that we would be Florida residents today?  Our quest to find a place to vacation has changed our lives.

This is the front of the hut. New paint and a refinished driveway.

For about five months we have been renovating the “hut” that we purchased in Titusville.  It has about 800 square feet of inside living space, and an expansive 600 square feet screened in porch.  We knew the little place had problems, but we never guessed how filthy and dilapidated it was.

Our little hut on a pond!  They call it a lake!

The two couples who owned it did little if any maintenance in ten years.  It still had the original water heater, air conditioners, washer and dryer, and more, that was purchased over 20 years ago.  We even had to replace the refrigerator.  The guy who inspected it, found major water damage on the outside of the house, but did not see that the roof needed to be replaced.  The 20 watt light bulbs hindered him.  He refunded his fee to us.

Creating a Little Paradise

The Guitar Room with Tom!

So, what have we renovated?  The first thing we did was to throw everything away that was inside the house.  It is a tradition at The Great Outdoors, that when you sell a home, you sell everything that is in it, even the TP.  There were a few things that we thought we might be able to use but they were so encased with dirt, grease, and grime that we just gave up and awarded the contents of the house to the SPCA.  To be fair to us, there was so much junk on the walls and crowded into rooms that we really could not see all the challenges that lay ahead of us. The blue blinds in the front room hid many problems.

The office with a side view.

The other side of the room! Notice the banjolele.

We began by scrubbing every inch of the place.  Corners were blackened and windows (with encased bugs) in one room took eight hours to clean.  We painted every room and sealed the tile floors.  Tom tore down the old blinds and added crisp new white ones.  The tile in the shower in the bathroom was so disgusting (We would not touch it.) that we had it re-grouted and cleaned.  We caulked around all the sinks and Tom added a sink and storage unit to the laundry room.

They cooked in this room. Full of holes and grease on the walls.

We bought a new washer and dryer and a state-of-the-art-on-demand water heater.  The electrical had to be upgraded. Tom had a Mitsubishi heating and cooling system installed in every room.  One of the in-wall air conditioners had lost its cover (totally rusted) and it was just sitting there.  Before we arrived in November, he had the roof replaced.

I sealed the floor twice and we painted it.

The porch is painted and we are in the process of adding windows.  I was outside one day on a huge ladder trying to paint the trim on the house when Tom protested.  Seems that he was worried about me.  So, we popped for a painter to finish the job.  A couple of weeks ago we had a professional re-seal our driveway.  And, someone dumped a truck load of river rock in our driveway that had to be moved into place around the hut.  Tom also dug a French drain to keep water away from the laundry room.  Some day we will tell you that story.

The French Drain incident.

The “hut” has a small, functional kitchen that we do not use.  Extra libations, ice cream, and soda are stored in the fridge.  We cook and sleep in our Class A Motorhome and rarely dine in the hut.

It is so clean and bright now!

The hut is extra space for us to live (no bedroom).  Tom has a guitar room.  There is a huge bathroom.  The front room is a dedicated office space with a TV.  And the laundry room houses the dogs (sometimes) with storage space.  We had to measure every inch of the tiny place to find furniture to fit.  Our last big project will be to replace the old vinyl siding next year.

Life is Exciting and New

TCH Animal health is alive and well as Tom helps clients part time.  His other pursuits include playing in a band on Monday afternoons (sometimes I sing with them), aerobics three times a week, and organizing kayaking and biking for residents at TGO.  The guitars are actively played every day. Tom began driving the tour bus for the Merritt Island National Refuge as a volunteer today.

Tom drives and a Naturalist comments. They saw a great white Pelican from Africa today!

This a pic from Biolab road at the Refuge. WOW!

I am not so integrated into TGO.  Because this place is so large and beautiful, it makes my daily 90-minute walks more refreshing.  I have been busy painting and decorating and spending money to make the hut our own!

I knew that I would go outside TGO to find people and things to do.  I applied to be a volunteer at the Canaveral National Seashore (National Park Service) but decided I did not want to drive the hour to Apollo beach.  So,  I threw out a line to both Merritt Island National Refuge and the Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science. They welcomed me!

This is an amazing exhibit of people who lived 8,000 years ago in Florida.

On Wednesdays I staff the Visitor’s desk helping people to explore the gorgeous Refuge just outside of the Kennedy Space Center that houses thousands of birds and critters.  I am learning so much and meeting people from all over the planet!  Sometimes engineers who work on the rockets stop by.  Last week we had several French people visit after they watched their rocket take off.  The museum has been training me for about a month to be a docent for the Windover Archaeological exhibit and the history of Florida.  It is so much fun!!!  (Warning, I may write about these adventures later!)

Both Tom and I took a training course in Defensive Driving (passing the tests) so that we could drive the tour bus.  I think I will just be a fill-in for people who can’t make the regular schedule.

And, oh!  I just purchased a banjolele that I am going to learn how to play! The band leader was playing one about a month ago and I fell in love with the instrument.

Come visit us!  We really don’t have any room for visitors, but we will find a place for you to stay! Because of the Space Center there are many, many hotels nearby.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

 

 

 

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In the Shadow of Kennedy Space Center


Was this what I was watching as a child?

Living the Myth at Cape Canaveral

As a child, I would lay in the grass watching for Sputnik to cross the horizon. I wanted to know who was in that shiny little dot in the sky.  I also remember watching astronauts walk on the moon, and then, trying to explain it to an African in Sierra Leone.  They did not believe me!

 

Here is Benjamin Sisko who starred in “Deep Space Nine.”  Borrowed from the net.

I admit it.  I am a recovering Trekkie!  Glued to the TV, I watched many of the Star Trek franchises and read extensively in Science Fiction when I was younger.  Do you remember:  James T. Kirk (a role model), Jean-Luc Picard, Kathryn Janeway, and one of my favorites, Benjamin Sisko? Now we are living that space and star dream in Florida in the shadow of the Kennedy Space Center!

We are not alone!  The myth of space penetrates businesses everywhere along the Space Coast.  Here is a short list of some of the astral names people use:

Costal Dental, Astrotech Space, Rocket City Real Estate, Space Shirts, Space Museum, Solar Lube, Rocket Car Wash, Space Coast Credit Union, Space Coast Pawn, Warbird Museum, Space Coast Ice Cream— and so many more!

Titusville (Our Town)

This is it!!! Kennedy Space Center.  Borrowed from the Net.

Titusville even offers a map showing approved designated viewing areas of launches.

Last spring, we were standing in our neighbor’s driveway (at night) when we heard this tremendous sound and then shaking below us.  We looked East and saw a ball of fire take off from Canaveral.  It seemed as if it was a scene from “Dr. Strangelove,” and the atom bomb had just exploded.  We had no idea that launches could be so powerful and visually compelling.

Our friends, Igor and the Red Elvises, perform regularly in clubs around the Space Center.  The fans love his rocket tunes.  Here is one for you!  “I am a Rocket Man.” Just click here:  HERE

Tom wanted to see a SpaceX launch — up close.

The first launch was during the day.

The first day of the planned launch was cancelled at the last minute.  On December 5 it was rescheduled again for around 12:30 P.M.  Crowds were gathering at the water’s edge.  People were parked on the grass with lawn chairs by their sides.  There was an air of excitement.  We were all smiling!

Borrowed from the Net.

As we anticipated the launch, I was struck by how orderly, polite, and diverse the crowd was.  Finally, we saw a flash of light as SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket headed for the Space Station.  The rocket seemed so small compared with others we have seen while staying in Melbourne years ago.  As it reached toward the Space Station the sound was deafening.  Billowing dark clouds of exhaust from the rocket at Cape Canaveral revealed millions of flying birds who had been shocked or displaced by the rocket launch.  What a sight!

My favorite photo so far! A second launch of a SpaceX rocket!

All of us were looking up.  No one moved.  Within a couple of minutes, we lost sight of the rocket.  But people were still looking up. 

I think we wanted another rocket to launch or maybe we were just worshipping the technology that sent that piece of steel into space. 

Maybe we wanted to be in that rocket?  Some left right after the launch, but others stayed and kept staring at the sky as we departed for lunch at Dogs R Us. 

It was a sacred moment.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

Several photos were taken from the Net.

 

 

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Space Coast Xmas underneath the Palm Trees

Rockets launch while TGO Residents do the XMAS Boogie!

SpaceX working for the world!

Usually Tom and I try to escape Xmas by leaving the country. The shopping and frantic rush to make purchases that leads to gridlock in the stores and on the highways is too much for us. One year, to our dismay when visiting India, we were greeted with Xmas music and large decorated Xmas trees at our first hotel. Morocco is a better place to escape.

TGO has changed my mind.

This one is modestly decorated!

It is like they have Christmas fever.  Wreaths are attached to the back of their golf carts.  Christmas lights blink and Xmas music can be heard for blocks. Even the trucks who service TGO residents are decorated.

This is my favorite pic. Teddy bears in a very dated Class A.

At least two streets have Xmas displays that light up the skies at night.  During the day, you can tour the street with blow-up Xmas figures. I especially like the one where Santa is piloting a rocket. And on the main drag, called Plantation, there are pink Flamingo’s pulling Santa’s sleigh!  WOW

Apollo Beach (What a name!)

On one afternoon we visited Apollo Beach on Canaveral National Sea Shore.  Right in front of the visitor’s center was a rocket-ship sleigh waiting for Santa to Arrive.

This sleigh was the most unusual that I have ever seen in my life!

Every yard, the whole street, is lit up at night! Wonder if aliens can see it?

They serve free cookies and drinks at the local church, and have created an evening where decorated houses are open to the public.  On one Friday, scores of decorated golf carts paraded through the compound.  Early  in the fall, the Nature Center had a sale of Xmas items.  Little did we know that these items would be on display just about everywhere. Here are a few of the snazzy golf carts:

Volkswagen Christmas Wagon. They were late arrivals because the sides fell off when they surged toward the street. Quick thinking got it back together.

They were all “hamming it up!” I did not ask them to do this!

This was on the back of a golf cart. Where are the golf clubs?

Don’t you think this one is over the top.

Tom joined the parade. Notice the lights on his handle bars. He was the only one peddling!

Every condo-area throughout the park has its own decorated Xmas sign–with lights.  You can’t miss them!

Underneath TGO Xmas trees are all sorts of creatures including alligators and armadillos. This morning I was over run by guys in their 80’s circling streets in their very red and very expensive motorcycles. On the way home other guys in their 80’s were also driving decorated BMW and Audi convertibles.  Huh!

Shopping at Be(a)lls (my favorite department store) the other day, we spotted a palm tree with Xmas lights that was half price.  But, it was still too pricey for us.  After Xmas, I am going back to see if it is still for sale.  Who me?  Yes you!

This blog won’t describe our experience watching a rocket launch, (that will come later) but I did want to draw attention to the fact that SpaceX is sending objects out into space about the same time that Santa should be arriving.  Watch out Santa!

Santa sitting in the back of a golf cart. He will be coming to your town soon!

As always, this blog is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

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Cardboard Heaven and the Games Bugs Play!

OZ and the Lay of the Land!  TGO RV Resort Park 

Oz and all its glory. (Taken from the net,)

(Click on the title above)

Everyone keeps telling us that we are, “Living the Dream!”  We don’t remember dreaming about living in Florida.  It was just this thing that happened to us.  We only wanted to spend a couple of weeks every winter where it was warm.  We came, we left, and then we had to return!  We missed the sun, the warmth, and the friendly people.

Bugs, Bugs, and more Bugs!  Every day is a biting adventure.

Stay away from fire ants.  Why?  Well, Tom was trimming our beautiful Palm trees when he was attacked by fire ants.  They bit him up and down his legs.  I was sitting at least ten feet away and they came after me and devoured my legs.  How did they find me?

We followed the yellow brick road to here!

While visiting Sierra Leone, W. Africa, I learned about Army Ants.  If you step on their line, they will swarm all over you and devour what they can.  Fire ants aren’t as lethal, but they sure can bite and the bite itches for weeks.

More Ants and No-See-Ums

We have sprayed for snakes, fire ants, red ants, Palmetto bugs, and more.  At the end of the day, they love the spray.  After spraying your legs with Deet, they head right for you.  We get bit everywhere we go.  On our lovely screened in porch overlooking a pond, we keep feeling something biting but can’t see a critter.  They are No-See-Ums!  Tomorrow I am going to bomb the porch to see if we can keep some of those biters at bay. Oh and by the way, chiggers can rain down on you under Spanish Moss.  And Spanish moss grows everywhere, even on power lines.  Be careful!

Nature Is Beyond Wonderful!

Here’s that creek in the morning sunshine!

Every day I walk by a creek next to our Nature Center.  There are all sorts of stunning white birds enjoying breakfast in the water.  Some of the Cranes appear to be over five feet tall.  The past two mornings sitting on the bank was a Crane and about two feet away was a three-foot alligator.  This morning they were sitting together about four inches apart.  Seems like a strange relationship to me! And……. every once in a while we get a glimpse of an alligator right outside our windows!  Even huge birds spend the night with us!

Renovating the Hut

This is an old pic. The hut is behind the RV.

Cousin Charles and lovely Cassie!

My cousin Charles and his grandchild Cassie dropped by for a visit the other day.  We showed them around the hut and he asked, “Where is the bedroom?”  Well, we sleep and cook in our motorhome and the hut is extra space for music, for writing blogs, for paying bills, for TV watching, for entertaining guests, for eating desserts, for a huge shower, and for doing laundry.  I think it was difficult for them to imagine camping full-time!

 

I never realized how wonderful it would be to visit Lowe’s in the winter in Florida. Just look at those flowers!

We have fixed a lot of things on the hut!  There is a new roof, new washer and dryer, new water heater, new up-graded electrical, new heating and cooling system and more.  Plus, almost every stitch of furniture and shelving is new.  That means that Tom was constantly opening boxes and filling the space in the hut.  Every inch is precious!

Filling the Landfill

TGO is ahead of its time in recycling.  They have an area where old used goods can be taken, stuff can be recycled, and there is a bin for large bags of garbage.  TGO picks up our garbage at the hut every day. We hauled huge cardboard boxes to the area every day for three weeks.

Last March we painted about 75% of the hut  but workers took out air conditioners and filled holes and did not paint or clean up after themselves.  They also left their dirty hand marks around the place.  So Tom spent several days re-painting and touching up areas.  Today I am painting the trim on the porch.  It will take me 2-3 more days to finish.  In my next blog, I will send pictures of the upgraded hut.

When we arrived in November, mildew had encompassed the hut.  Tom and I washed down every inch of our 600 square foot porch and then Tom scrubbed the outside of the hut by himself.  As you can surmise, we have been busy!

Exploring OZ!

Of course, the most important outings are to new restaurants.  One by one we are checking them off the list.  One of the most unusual was “Loyd Have Mercy.”  It boasts good southern cooking and a down to earth clean interior.

Here is the interior of Loyd’s!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playalinda beach just north of Cape Canaveral is one of our favorite spots.  How cool is it to walk on a beach where you don’t see anyone? It is more than restorative!

Playalinda. Ahhhhhhhhh!

Greg launching his kayak at the Marine Park in downtown Titusville.

So far, we feel at home in Titusville and Orlando and have made a few friends.  Orlando is more than twice as big as the Kansas City area.  Titusville is relaxed and Orlando is fast-paced and electric! TGO is a nature preserve through and through!  Come visit!  There is no room in the hut but there are about four hotels about a mile away where you could stay.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge and the Canines

TGO is getting ready for Santa!

 

 

 

 

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Dancing down the Yellow Brick Road to Florida

We are not in Kansas (or Missouri) any longer! 

I took this photo which was on the side of one of his 18 wheeler trucks.

About eight days ago the journey to Oz began.  But, before our motorhome was launched Tom had to attend a concert by Joe Bonamassa at the Midland Theatre.  Bonamassa is one of the best Blues guitarists in the world. The Midland Theatre is tired but reminded us of so many tourist sites that we had visited in Europe.

The stage turned different colors with lots of mirrors.

Bonamassa burned up several guitars while the rest of the band followed his lead.  I especially liked the section where there were dueling guitars.  Concerts these days are more than music.  In order to keep you interested they continuously spike the stage lights and shoot spotlights at you.  As soon as they opened the cannons of smog, my eyes began to weep.  The ear plugs could not blunt the amount of sound that was coming from the stage.  Gum inside a package in my pocketbook vibrated violently. It was like a jet taking off!

Sunset at Lake Dardanellle is beyond words!

On the way to Oz (TGO RV Resort and our new hut) nights were spent in various campgrounds.  Hands down, Lake Dardanelle  State Park is a fine place to stay for a few days.  Many of the RV sites are on the Lake with full-hook ups.  Pull-throughs are hard to find.  If you like to walk, this is the place to stop.  You can engage in water sports, fishing, as well as, swimming.  Lake Dardanelle has great staff and a modern visitor center. Our site was right on the lake.  Steps led down to a table and a lower patio.  What a stellar place to vacation.  Below are a couple of photos of our site right on the water.

What a spot to dream!

Just outside Tupelo, Mississippi is Trace State Park.  It had been recommended by Newmar Motorhome enthusiasts. Trace’s brochure boasted a beautiful lake, woods, cement pads, and a wonderful life.   When we arrived, we could barely get through the dilapidated gate.  About five years ago the lake went dry.  No one has been able to fix it.  Instead of gazing out over a soothing water view, we  meditated on dried weeds.  The park itself is crumbling.  The 50 amp service was not working at our site and when we reported it, the three people sitting at the kiosk were unconcerned.  I wonder what those Newmar owners were smoking?

This is not a view of water. It is fog hanging on the weeds. Yuk!

Permanent residents haunt RV campgrounds, parks, and resorts.  A lot of people must live on Social Security or disability or ….  If that is their only means of income, then how do they live?  If you can find an old camper and get it hauled to a RV park.  You can have all of your utilities included in your rent.  We found spots in Texas for $500 a month (Some required additional payments for electricity.)  Recently, we overnighted outside Montgomery, Alabama.  Right in front of us was an old van where someone lived.  Next to it was an ice cream truck, and another old van where two or more people lived.

Tom pointed out the vans to me.  I always want to write a story (in my mind) about the people who are living in these makeshift abodes.  So, I began thinking about an older person, or a person who just got out of jail, or a disabled person, or a recently divorced person.  Soon the person living in this tiny van with flat tires emerged.  She was young, in her 40’s, and was dressed very well.  She went off for a while and brought back her laundry which was hung on her make-shift deck.  I couldn’t write her story!

This happened in Montana also.  We were walking by a dilapidated, grungy, trailer that had been hauled into the campground. It was sitting on top of another flatbed trailer.  We wondered!  A finely dressed, coiffed, and maintained female emerged.  I could not write her story either.  Maybe you can?

Could you live here?

After a horrid night in Lake City, Florida at a dusty, congested, and noisy campground, we decided to leave at 4:00 a.m.  We had to get out of Dodge.  Arriving early at OZ, the transporter of my Beetle also arrived about the same time.  The yellow brick road ended right at our doorstep where we found a rainbow.

Lots of elbow grease awaits us as we complete renovation on our hut.  The sun is shining on November 11 and it is 84 degrees.  You can’t beat it!!

This isn’t our hut. It is a dead gas station!

As we traveled across Alabama we came across many abandoned gas stations like the one above.  We wondered if the trend toward electric cars was already hurting the gas station owners?

Yesterday was the day we made it official! Residents of OZ!

I will be back in touch with you when the renovations are complete and the furniture has arrived.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge and her canines Twinkers and Hillary.

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Belle Isle, Detroit, Motown, RV Hall of Fame, and Cahokia Mounds

Visit Michigan and All its Lakes!

I grew up near Lake St. Clair.  Besides the Great Lakes there are hundreds of lakes in Michigan.  We caught up with friends one weekend at Indiana Dunes National Park on Lake Michigan.

Picture yourself Here!

Gorgeous paintings of animals outside the Visitor’s Center@

The Visitor’s Center is state of the art with helpful rangers!  Capturing the stunning beauty of the sand dunes as they kiss the lake is impossible. Your eyes can’t believe that anything can be so sparklingly beautiful.  Part of the excitement for the day was visiting the Bailly Homestead and Chelberg farm with lots of  farm animals. We also trekked into a dark forest of ancient trees to an unusual 200-year-old grave site.

Motown Record Company. Hitsville USA

How exciting!

Visiting Motown Museum in downtown Detroit was a superb highlight in Michigan.  My brother told us to take a gun.  Not so!  Hundreds of people were flocking to the two stitched-together houses on Grand River. Tom and I have watched videos about the music and musicians at Motown but had never considered how the record company functioned.  Nor, had we considered the millions of records it produced.  It finally sold for $61 million dollars.

Motown was more than sophisticated.  It had the music, but it also had the style.  There were people who recruited singers, taught them how to walk, talk, and to wear makeup.  They were taught manners, stage presence, and a fashion flare that made Motown one of the wealthiest record companies in the world.

We were there in that very recording studio!

Until I began studying music, I had never heard of “race music.”  Supposedly in the early 1950’s and 1960’s people did not want to hear music sung by African Americans.  Motown groups were so great that I never ever thought of race.  They were just talented people that sang tunes. We sang along to the music and danced to their beats.  We were not racists!  And my parents loved Elvis, who supposedly sang “race music!” Here is a video about the music!  Click here!

I lived only about 12 miles away from Motown headquarters and its music is still with me every day of my life.  There was the Jackson Five, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Lionel Ritchie, The Temptations, The Supremes, and more.  And, we looked forward to hearing and seeing them dance on The Dick Clark Show.  Even this morning, every time I heard a Motown tune on my MP3 player, I walked a little  faster with a smile on my face!  Thank you Motown!!!!

Belle Isle and the New Detroit

Historic post card of Belle Isle!

Detroit was a safe and easy-going city when I was a kid.  We would take the bus downtown to department stores and shop for the day. Sometimes we would stop for a Cherry Coke and French fries before heading home.  When I was in seventh grade, I rode a bus by myself to the Wayne State University Library to work on a paper about the history of Egypt.  Those days seem like a myth now!

Another post card of Belle Isle.

After visiting Motown, I had to circle Detroit.  The Detroit I knew is mostly gone.

1950’s in Detroit. What a magnificent place to live!

We got a glimpse of Cobo Hall sitting on the Detroit River.  It has had a make-over.  Next it was a jaunt to Belle Isle.  Belle Isle was “the” place to go when I was young.  There was a zoo.  There was an amusement park.  There were flowers and cascading waterfalls.  There was a beach.  There was an arboretum.  It had an aquarium.  It reminded you of the gardens at the Palace of Versailles.  Today, there is nothing left of that beauty.  It has all been torn down, and in its place, there is a wasteland.  How sad! My brother told me that while we were there a man was murdered on the bridge going across to the island. Ouch!

Detroit today! No Federal’s Department Store, No Hudson’s, No Crowley’s!

RV Hall of Fame in Elkart, Indiana

Here is a home town video of the RV Museum.  Click here.

Mae West’s 1931 Chevy RV.

Fantastic! Mind-blowing! Beyond Belief!  This museum houses RV’s that go back to the first cars that were manufactured.  I took a hundred photos. It is a huge place but it should be three times larger.

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site  (Click here to go to the website.)

Artist’s conception of Cahokia. The mounds are huge!

Cahokia was a welcomed stop just across the river from Saint Louis.  We were stunned by the size of the mounds that had been built so long ago. Cahokia museum is free but leave a donation if you decide to visit.  Here is a video for you:  Video

Imagining the people who lived at Cahokia. Why are Native Americans always shown with so little clothing? It gets cold in St. Louis today!

The museum is state of the art with an interesting video.  The archaeologists and anthropologists attempt to reconstruct the Mississippian culture.  (This takes a lot of guess-work!) If you have read a history of Missouri, you know that there was a huge mound exactly where St. Louis sits today.

Their website reads:  “The remains of the most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico are preserved at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. Within the 2,200-acre tract, located a few miles west of Collinsville, Illinois, lie the archaeological remnants of the central section of the ancient settlement that is today known as Cahokia.”  This is worth a visit!

Home at last!

Tom and I will be heading to Florida to take up residency soon!  We will split our time between Florida and Missouri, with, of course, a trip north during the heat of the summer!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

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In What Country are We? Do I need my Passport?

“You aren’t from around here, are you?”

We had entered a time machine!

Late at night we could hear the constant sound of trains, eighteen-wheelers gunning their engines, motorcycle enthusiasts, and the clickety clack of horses and carriages going by our door.  We were at the world famous Newmar Service Center in Napannee, Indiana.  Our motorhome had issues that only Newmar could fix.  These problems had to be fixed before our warranty ended.  We were stuck in Anabaptist territory for a week.

Inside their spotless service center. Our motorhome seemed to like it.

The ultra-modern new Newmar Service Center!

At the check-out stand at the local grocery a woman said, “You aren’t from around here, are you?”  The next morning at an Amish Dutch restaurant, the server asked the same question. Maybe it was the fact that I was not wearing an ankle length skirt and a bun on my head that tipped them off. Maybe it was the fact that I was the only woman dining at the restaurant.  The server explained that Nappanee is only a town of 7,000 and a lot of people know everyone in town.  Huh?

The waiting area for clients is stellar but it was still our prison for a week!

Look closely at this photo!

Forced to stay in Amish country for a week yielded great adventures. It seemed as if there were as many people in horse-drawn carriages as people in cars.  The carriages pull everything from other horses, equipment, or materials.  It was almost a shock to see female Mennonites with their long skirts and hat-covered buns peddling down the streets holding cups of Starbucks.  Men with two-foot long beards (no moustaches) wear straw hats or knitted caps. The beards flow in the wind.  Their bicycles pull carts, carry their pets, and usually have saddlebags on both sides.

The Amish are partying at the Dairy Queen!

Sometimes they peddle tricycles with a cart behind, especially to the grocery store.  On a Wednesday night, at the Dairy Queen we encountered a dozen Amish folk who were meticulously dressed in line ahead of us.  I figured that they had just had a meeting.  They all sat together and did not interact with anyone else in the restaurant.  I said hello to one young man and his eyes beamed with joy.  Throughout our stay we waived to many Amish and Mennonites. And they waived back!

Shopping at a local grocery store and leaving poop behind! Yuk!

Little did we know the beauty of Amish homes and farms.  Everything is perfect!  Grass is mowed, paint is new, horses are in the fields.  Gorgeous!  They live on two lane roads and have businesses far away from town.  In between farms, you will find wood-working, or canning, or quilting, or furniture-making shops, or a restaurant or creamery.  They build their own carriages, buckboards, and wagons.  One store sold ready-made carriages.  He displayed them on his front lawn. We felt as if we had left the United States or at least gone back in time.

We went back twice for the great food, and it was 30 miles away.

If we look like we have gained 100 pounds, it is because of the fantastic Amish pastries, pies, cheeses, and home-made chocolates.  While the main menus in the restaurants were normal country food, the desserts sent you flying.  We even ate a couple of meals at a local grocery store, Martins.  Their food was better than most of the restaurants where we dined, and the pies were only $3.99–FRESH!  Visit Shipshewana someday, you will want to stay just because of the food.

The Amish guys at the Newmar plant peddle to work.

Amish pay taxes, but do not collect Social Security.  They can opt out of paying it when they sign up for a card.  Some vote!  Most have 8-10 children that only go to the sixth grade.  They do not have electronics in their homes.  (I bet they have cell phones?)  They do not drive cars and only use a small bit of electricity. (But, interestingly enough, while touring a Newmar motorhome plant, the guide told us that the Amish drive the trucks in the buildings.)

They can collect food stamps but decline.  They are among the wealthiest group of farmers in the United States.  On our tour of Newmar, only males worked in the factories.  Read about them on line!!!  Nappanee houses the second largest group of Amish in the country.

While this is Amish territory, it is also Anabaptist territory.  These hearty souls were known as twice-baptizers in the 16th century and broke with the Roman Catholic Church, not without much pain and torture. Originally within Mennonite groups, they are now separate.  There are many other Anabaptist groups such as the Bruderhof, Hutterites, and more.  Just around the corner from Nappanee is the Anabaptist Seminary and close by is the Mennonite Goshen College.

Founders Building but it is no longer.

While in Indiana we had the opportunity to visit Fort Wayne.  This is where I received my B.A. so long ago.  The college is defunct, but I thought the buildings would still be standing.  Wrong! Most of the college is gone.  I did find my old dorm.  I kept thinking about this private college sponsored by The Missionary Church.

I knew when I was a student that the college had warm relations with the Mennonites in the area.  Some said that it broke away from the Mennonites. (Who cares about these things when you are 17 years old?) While in college, I was assigned extra-curricular activities at Mennonite Churches.  After researching the history of The Missionary Church during our stay in Indiana, I found, “The Mennonite Brethren in Christ changed their name to the United Missionary Church in 1947.”  I was actually schooled by Mennonites! Who da’ thought!

When I learned this, there was an explosion in my mind.  My first major book was published by a Mennonite Press, how ironic, or did they know my past?  In Michigan, we knew nothing of Mennonites.  I lived in Catholic country.  When I was about seven years old, I picked the little 100-soul-Missionary Church as my church.  (My family was not religious.) It was my home away from home.

While the pastor was very right-wing and even preached against drinking, dancing, and playing cards,  I paid no attention to him.  He seemed a little weird to me.  They eventually convinced me to go to their denominational college and even sent me off with a few dollars.  Irony, Irony, Irony prevails!  Maybe they thought the college would convince me not to dance!

This is certainly a commentary on the Anabaptists in the area.

They have hitching posts like in the old west!  One of the women is pulling a trailer with her bike!

There are some negatives to being in Amish country.  Amish do not catch the droppings from their horses.  There is poop everywhere and it smells.  After a while you get used to the smell.  Local businesses have set up bars for the Amish to park their buggies or carriages and hook up the horses.  It’s like the wild west! They leave so much poop that workers have to scoop it up at the end of the day.  YUK!

Mennonite females work in a lot of stores and businesses, but I did not see any employed Amish women. We did see many Amish carts with several children hanging out the window, or a female clinging to two or three babies.  Old Amish females wear all black and a huge black bonnet.

There are a lot of different Mennonite groups in the area.  All the females wear long beautiful dresses.  Elbows are covered but the head gear and color of the dresses change so it is hard to know who is on which team.  In one store out in the country, I asked a female clerk if she was required to wear the dress?  She told me it was her dress and she made it herself!  It is funny to see a female with a floor-length dress operate a fork-lift!

If you have time visit Nappanee, Shipshewana, and Middlebury. We had a great time!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge.  The next blog will tackle our trip through Michigan and our tour of the Motown Studio.  I lived only ten minutes away and grew up with their music.

 

 

 

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Tootsie Rolls, Donuts, Dollarama, and Friendly People in Canada

Fear and Loathing on the Canadian Borders!!!!!!

(Kabow!@Bam!Yuk*#% Warning! This is not a pie in the sky piece. Tread lightly!)

Happily entering Canada at International Falls with our buddy, Smokey! Photo by Cindy.

I confess.  I idealized Canada!  We love Canada.  Vancouver is my favorite city.  If I had five million dollars, I would live there.  We have visited Vancouver many times.  Tom’s favorite is Halifax in Nova Scotia.  We circled the entire province in an RV.  Montreal is stunning and both Toronto and Ottawa boast diverse populations and lots of amenities.  We have camped along the spectacular route from Calgary to Jasper, through the Rockies, Banff, and the Ice Fields.  Then we headed East through the bad lands.  We expected our adventure around the north of Lake Superior on the Trans-Canada Highway to be just as adventurous and memorable.

 

Thunder Bay.  Can you hear it rumbling?

Thunder Bay is no longer Thundering.  I have dreamed of visiting Thunder Bay since our honeymoon 37 years ago.  Minnesota has been a destination several times, but there was never enough time to cross the border.  Who wouldn’t want to live in a city with that name?

I should have done my research before I began dreaming.  After checking into a very crowded, dusty, noisy, day care, and no WIFI KOA (Kampgrounds of America) we headed toward the dream.  (Campgrounds north of Lake Superior are lost in the 1950’s.) First off, Google GPS took us way past our target.  It happened to us again the next day, when we were directed to someone’s home. Google needs to talk to the Canadians.  I think I will find the number for them.

After getting lost, we decided to visit the Mission Island Marsh.  There were supposed to be trails along the lake and panoramic views of the city. We passed over a bridge heading toward McKellan and Mission Islands.  On the right side, just before the bridge, we saw two Orthodox churches.  We had to return.

Driving through McKellen and then, Mission Islands, felt like something out of a Sci-Fi thriller. Rusting structures flanked us on both sides.  Grass was six feet high in many places.  Debris was everywhere.  We wondered if there had been a nuclear disaster and we were the only people left on the earth.  The bleakness was interrupted only by two men directing one lane of traffic across a crumbling and sinking bridge.  We were not alone.

Very interesting walk into the water.

After crossing the bridge, there were no signs pointing to the Mission Marsh.  It was eerie.  No one was around.  We turned around and went back to another road where we finally found it.  Mission Marsh was a great idea.  Walkways went into the lake and grasslands, but no one was taking care of it.  The grand water view was of a power plant.  The best thing about the place was the oversized, clean, porta potty.  (It looked brand new.) Soon the bridge will fall, and no one will visit.  It will turn into another graveyard of decaying structures.

The Harbors of Marathon and Thunder Bay.

All over Marathon these houses were standing. Very odd. I found out that they were built by the railroad in late 19th century to house workers.

The harbor of Thunder Bay, like that of Marathon, a town a couple of hundred miles to the East has been destroyed and polluted by Big Business.  Marathon’s harbor is being remediated to remove PCB’s and mercury (carcinogens). The view from the hill to the harbor in Marathon is glorious, with small islands dotting the bay.  I could build a house there.  We found only one fisherman at the harbor the day we visited. (I would not eat that fish!) And I wondered when we camped in Marathon about the water we were using.  Eventually, the water flow diminished in our RV, so Tom changed the filter.  It was brown!

In Thunder Bay, old abandoned Silver mine buildings and equipment, defunct paper mills and more, block the gorgeous views of Lake Superior and nearby islands.  The harbor is so polluted that they don’t know how to clean up debris that would fill 130 football stadiums.  Around 1958, in Michigan, I was playing with my Brownie Troup in Lake St. Claire.  The next day, all of the Great Lakes were closed to swimming forever!  The next day I became violently ill and was sick all summer from the poisoned water.  It eventually gave me mononucleosis.  Pollution is real and harmful. We were told not to eat any fish from the lakes for ten years.

Those Churches!

Lord Jesus Christ Ukrainian Catholic Church

It was a good thing that we noticed what we thought were orthodox churches.  It diverted our attention from the holocaust sites.  The area had been settled by Ukrainians and Slovakians.  Houses were built so close that they were leaning on each other.  We haunted and stared at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, St. Peter’s Ukrainian Church, and the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ Ukrainian Church, all within a block of each other.

These people had fled violence in their countries around the beginning of the twentieth century. We searched their history and learned that thousands lived here and throughout Canada. It was a haven for them.

The Trans-Canada Highway and Tootsie Rolls.

The vistas from the Trans-Canada highway are incredible.  Every turn presents a fantastic view of Lake Superior, its bays, and hundreds of tiny islands.  But, creature comforts lack for tourists. I woke one morning having dreamed that First Nations peoples were smiling and offering us Tootsie Rolls and donuts all along our route.  The truth is that many people are not very welcoming.  We can only speculate as to why they look downward and won’t speak to you. It was particularly obvious in Kenora.

They threw away the food! How horrible!

Entrance to the Finnish Restaurant. It was an old Finnish temple. We ate in the basement.

Service is so bad in restaurants that we left before we ordered.  At a Finnish restaurant in Thunder Bay, a table of four people right behind us got up and left.  They complained loudly that the food was cold, came out at different times, and it ruined their lunch.  We waited, it seemed like an hour, for our Finnish pancakes.  (We thought dining on Finnish food would be a memorable experience–and it was but in a different way!)  And while, as mentioned above, most people do not look at you, we did find two very friendly Canadians who shared their stories with us.

Gracious Canadians who Welcomed us!

Such a wonderful man!

Along the way we met Arnold, a First Nations Canadian at Pukaskwa National Park, and an Austrian, Sophia at Batchawana Bay.  Arnold, whose middle name is Eagle, was so interesting.  He told us about how the national park came to be and how long he had worked there.  He wanted to know what we thought of Trump.  (That discussion has to be private.)  He made us feel so welcome that we would come back to the park again just to see him.

 

Inside the restaurant. I forgot to take a pic of Sophia after I got the bill.

Sophia owns a restaurant, Lake Shore Salzburger Hof Resort on Batchawana Bay, that was built by her father.  Getting to this Austrian restaurant proved to be a little fearful for us.  Tom brought the rig with car attached down a lonely gravel road.  The closer we got, the more we realized that the place would probably be closed.  Yes, it was only open for dinner.  When we arrived, Sophia ran out to greet us. “Would you like to come in and dine with us, we are hosting a group.”  She told us the story of her family and life, while at the same time, asking us where we had traveled.  It was an unexpected treasured moment for us.

Natural Sites Without Critters!

As the RV sped Eastward, we discovered lots of mines, amethyst mines, gold mines. They have saved a lot of towns from bankruptcy. Clear cut logging has killed a great percentage of the landscape. We did not see any animals or birds. We wonder if the land is toxic.  I can’t remember any road kill either.

This is so different from Alaska, the Canadian Rockies, or Nova Scotia, where every day we would see a wild creature.  Here the only wild creatures we encountered were stuffed or made out of copper. Moose signs warned us often.  The signs were the closest that we got to a Moose. The only evidence of people along this route from Thunder Bay to Wawa were small rocks piled on top of each other. First Nations people sometimes attach beads to a stop sign as a way of reminding you that you are in their territory. The land is so harsh that it would be difficult for anyone to live on it.

The Hype does not match reality!

Here is another goose at Wawa!

Wawa was an overnight stop for us.  We welcomed the little town because it has a few amenities like a donut shop and a general store,  but it is also in decay.  During a very rainy day we visited two waterfalls, Scenic High Falls and Silver Falls. Both were found at the end of muddy roads that eventually covered Tom’s car.  We had to wash it twice before we got most of the mud off of it.

All across Ontario we picked up slick brochures but when we visited the sites, the reality did not match the hype.  Sault Saint Marie has more of those comforts we need in a town of about 75K. We found a well-stocked grocery store, Dollar Tree, and Dollarama (My favorite Canadian store.) just outside the city.

Downtown Sault Saint Marie (Canada side) is a grizzly, empty, dirty place to visit.  This once-beautiful town is dead.  Wild flowers grow in the streets.  It reminded me of some of the towns we found on Hokkaido, Japan or in Eastern Europe.   Helena, Arkansas would make this list too!  I am not going to mention Detroit.  We thought we would walk the streets and find a restaurant.  None was found!  We ended up in the busiest place in town — Tim Horton’s donut extravaganza–for lunch!

Tom and I have speculated as to why most of the towns on our trip are so depressed.  It could be the results of hundreds of closed mines and mills. But we think it is partially due to the number of Provincial and National Parks.  There is barely any room for development along the Trans-Canada Highway.

Fear and Loathing as we pass through Customs

Bridge from Sault Saint Marie to USA.

Read the rules regarding what you can bring back into the USA.  I called Customs and asked which lane  we should choose for our RV when entering the United States.  The lanes are small and we could get into trouble. They reminded me that we could not bring in any fruit, vegetables, or meat.  We are in an RV and have to have food.  We chose not to throw everything out.  If they wanted to throw it out at the border, they could do the work.

Taking canines across the border is mind-boggling.  There are three Federal agencies that have rules.  I worried about all the documents we had to prepare for them.  A specially-trained Vet has to sign papers and you need to show that the dogs have had their shots for a number of years. My Vet had the classification but was very stressed when we went through all the paperwork.  Dr. Hecker is such a good vet!!!

Crossing the border into Canada at International Falls, the agent never even asked us if we had dogs. (They did not bark at all.  They were so good!) We wondered if they would stop us at the border when returning home because of our pets or the food we had on board.  Shaking like a leaf, we entered the truck lane to cross the border.  We had all of our documents ready.  The agent asked Tom a couple of questions about his passport (only) and then waived us on.  He did not even look at me.  Not one person looked at the canine documents that were painstakingly prepared.  We were angry and relieved at the same time.

Mackinac City, Michigan is such a lovely place. This is a pic of the bridge to Mackinac Island.

So happy to be on USA soil (In spite of the cruel politics in the news every day.)!

A Positive Note.  We are now in Michigan and the temperatures and humidity are high and can harm.  We were so happy to be in Canada for a month where the temperatures hovered around 65 degrees.  And, while the harbors are polluted, most of the lakes and streams were crystal clear. It was a shock to see the rivers in Michigan (once crystal clear when I was a kid) flowing brown and ugly.  And driving was a breeze in Canada compared to millions of cars on I75 near Flint, Michigan and around Detroit!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge.  Soon, we will write something about our trek through Michigan, my home state.

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Circling Lake Superior #2–No Dementia Yet!

Canadian Natural Wonders and War History! 

Here is a giant sweep across the north of Lake Superior.

Our home for six weeks!

Typical Vistas of Lake Superior on the Trans-Canada Highway 11/16

Follow our Route! from Thunder Bay to Sault Saint Marie!

Follow the map from Thunder Bay east.

Thunder Bay

Beauty in Thunder Bay high above the city.

Kakabeka Falls about 20 minutes east of Thunder Bay. You can walk right over the falls! Awesome!

Persians are found everywhere in Thunder Bay! Tasty!

Just north of Thunder Bay is a great smoked fish and amethyst shop. We spent an afternoon digging for Amethysts at a mine!

The Town of Red Rock and Neys Provincial Park

On a day trip from Thunder Bay we discovered Red Rock.  It is named for the red cliffs around it, but the cliffs are now covered with trees.  At the interpretive center we learned about this mill town governed by a huge industrial whistle that told the people when to get up, when to eat lunch, and when to go to bed.

One of the best things about the Red Rock interpretive center was an underwater simulation of a trip around Lake Superior.  We saw fish, sunken ships, invasive species and more.  It was so real that it made you dizzy.

The interpretive center also described how German POW’s were housed at Red Rock during WWII.  They tried to escape through a tunnel and were later transferred to another site.  At Neys Provincial Park Germans were also imprisoned. After the Germans were moved, Japanese were forced into the prison. The Canadian Japanese had to sell everything they had.  We did not know that Canada had such harsh policies during WWII.  And we did not know that Canada was invaded by Germans who shot down 23 of their ships in the Saint Lawrence Seaway.  What a lesson in history!

We walked among the remains of the buildings. Metal and glass still sits on the ground from WWII.

This is a miniaturized site that imagines the WWII prison.

I have ordered two books about the evidence of how Germans invaded Canada and were off the Eastern shores of the United States.  I knew that they were in POW camps in Alaska!

Marathon

The best thing about Marathon was the hike that we took through the forest around the campground.  People had created little towns of trolls with houses, ladders, clotheslines, and more.  It was as if magic had happened and we were part of it.

Here is one little troll house! Keep looking and you will see more.

Pukaskwa National Park

I took this picture on a hike from hell above the bay at Pukaskwa.

Tom doing his thing in the Bay.

Wawa

One of the three gigantic birds at Wawa!

Magpie Falls on a rainy day in Wawa –down a muddy road.

Batchawana Bay down a long, lonely, wet, muddy road!

We met Sylvia who fed us lunch even though her restaurant was closed.

Sault Saint Marie, Canada

Sault Saint Marie’s locks are for “show” and don’t really work any longer!

This is a new way to camp. They said that they did not have guns, only children inside.

The Mackinaw Bridge. We were so happy to be heading back to the states!

This blog is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge.  One more blog will consider the economy and environmental devastation of this region! BAM, you might not want to read it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Adventure Before Dementia: From Tom’s Dashboard

Mini-College Reunion in Paradise²–Kenora, Ontario

The gathering in Kenora, Ontario. By Steve Riedel

When Ramona, the nicest person we know, suggested a college reunion at her home in Kenora, Ontario, Canada, what else could we say but Yes, Eh! 

Planning started about 8 months ago. The location was set, but we needed six people to agree on a date. Things worked out and we were able to include the reunion stop in our tour across the top of Lake Superior.

The group graduated from Carthage College, Kenosha, Wisconsin 38 years ago.  I had lost touch with everyone, until 15 years ago when my college roommate Steve, returned from a multi-year overseas assignment with the US State Department.

The Group.  By Dennis?

This small group initiated a reunion eight years ago, and I attended one on the Carthage Campus 3 years ago. The group is three males and three females residing in: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, and Ontario Canada. Several of us shared a freshman honors class in college and most of the group majored in liberal arts subject like: psychology, sociology, and religion. (I majored in Chemistry.) Four of the group are well-rooted in the Lutheran faith. ***I met Marla at Carthage during the last semester of my senior year so she is an adjunct member of the group.

The best place to snooze in Paradise.

Kenora is 100 miles north of International Falls, Minnesota. We have all heard of International Falls during winter weather reports, as it is often the coldest location in the USA. We picked up Cindy and Brenda at the International Falls airport, before venturing across the border.

With unclear markings of the driving lanes at the Canadian Customs for a Motorhome towing a car, Marla got out to ask directions. Big Mistake! The customs officer came out of his booth with his hand directly over his gun and ordered Marla back in the vehicle. With that disaster avoided, we passed through Fort Frances and head north through glacier carved rock and beautiful lakes. So many lakes! Check the map. If Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, then Western Ontario is the land of 10,000,000 lakes. Crystal clear water everywhere you turn.

Paradise home on Willard Lake in Ontario, by Steve Riedel.

The reunion started with a dinner Saturday evening at Dennis and Ramona’s summer place on Willard Lake. Paradise is a fantastic layout of three buildings (main house, guest house/studio and boat house), on a 2 acre point of the lake. The location has a very Zen feeling and is complimented with 2 Zen gardens. The Carthage group caught up on each other’s lives, while Dennis and Marla discussed world travel and archeological discoveries and myths. It is funny how the conversations picked up as if we had just seen each other the day before in the dorm or class room.

Paradise by Riedel.

Sunday at Paradise started off with blueberry/raspberry pancakes followed by water sports. We brought Princess Twinkers and Madam Hillary along and they made friends with everyone. (They even avoided doing their business in the Zen Gardens).

I thought we were in Japan! Dennis built this Zen garden… and others!

We were treated by Dennis to a four hour boat tour of Willard Lake, which included a history of how his family settled on this portion of the lake, and numerous references to scenes he painted. Dinner back at Paradiseof gazpacho soup was provided by Steve and Dixie. All the guests shared in providing the meals.

They launched the pontoon boat from this superb deck!

Monday, which was cool and drizzly, was a tour of Kenora. Sitting on the shores of Lake of the Woods, Kenora is mainly a tourist town, but it was started by Europeans in the logging and paper industries.

Abandoned Greek or Russian Orthodox? church in Kenora!

The town features Catholic and Lutheran, but also a Ukrainian Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches. Kenora is also home to many Native Canadians, but as in the USA, they were not treated well by the invading Europeans. Many still suffer as a result of that today.  Post tour Ramona treated us to a dinner of local pickerel back at Paradise1.  John, the final member of the group arrived solo and joined in the dinner.

Is that Tom in the kitchen? by Cindy.

Tuesday was a venture to Ramona’s family retreat on Favel Lake. It took a 1 hour drive and 20 minute boat ride to arrive at Paradise2.  Ramona’s father, a Lutheran Minister, discovered and purchased this place about 50 years earlier.

The retreat has multiple cabins and lodges and includes a ice house, but has no electricity, no cell connection and limited water. If you want to get away, this is the place. The location is equally as beautiful as Paradisebut lacks the creature comforts we have come to depend upon. We had to boat in our food and beverage for the day. Between meals, we enjoyed the lake and touring the area. Paddle-boarding, I learned, is not my thing. Three of our group stayed a couple nights at Favel.

Best picture of the trip to Favel by Steve Riedel.

Marla and I said our good-byes to the group on Tuesday. We both agreed that Ramona was perhaps the nicest person we had ever met. We were also glad to meet her partner Dennis, who shares with us an avid interest in seeing the world.

I thought about how the six of us Carthaginians were still very much friends since meeting 42 years ago. Even though most of us are now orphans and are considering what to do in retirement.  Most have children they raised and who have left home, and many have suffered some type of tragedy.   And, we still share common values. Seems I uncovered another reason the decision to attend Carthage College worked out pretty well.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge and Thomas C. Hemling

Title “Adventure Before Dementia” tune by The Wardens (Here is a link to their site, could not find individual tunes. They are one of our favorite Canadian groups.)

 

 

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Circling Lake Superior. Installment #1. Two Harbors!

Head North to the Lakes.  You won’t regret it!

We camped on our honeymoon and  Tom is kayaking again!

Almost thirty-seven years to the month, Tom and I honey-mooned in this part of the north. Our wedding took place in a field on a farm in Illinois.  It was a covered-dish affair.  Tom was working as a chemist in Chicago and I was teaching at the University of Dayton in Ohio.  We were too busy to take our honeymoon right after our wedding, so we postponed it until August of 1982.

I won’t show you a pic of the campground.

Our trek so far has taken us to a flood-ravaged RV stop in Story, Iowa.  It is one thing to read about the flooding, it is another thing to see what it does to people’s property and business.  Whispering Oaks was a mess.  We wondered if our RV would sink into the land that was water-saturated.

 

 

 

What a nation!

Hinckley, Minnesota was waiting for our arrival at the Grand Casino Hinkley run by the Ojibwe tribe. These Native Americans have it all together.  They have created a clean and well-run campground with lots of space to walk, bike, or play golf.  It takes me one hour to walk around the perimeter of the site.  They manage the landscape and buildings to perfection! We don’t gamble but we do enjoy the space they have created for other gamblers.

Such a creative moment with the Amish!

We know Hinckley well. Our favorite restaurant, Firestorm, had gone out of business.  In the parking lot of the Fire Museum, we bought pastries, once again, from an Amish family.  The town itself is sinking into the ground, like so many other small rural villages in Minnesota.

The Slewfoot Women!

On a Sunday evening we visited the local St. Paul Lutheran Church to hear the Slewfoot Family perform. Their music seemed as if came from another time and place.  All eight children, including the mom, played string instruments with a flute here and there. The children’s ages ranged from 25 to 8. And all were home-schooled.  The girls wore long home-made dresses with knee socks.  The boys looked more normal.  I kept wondering if they were part of an intentional community or “Children of God.”  I did not ask.  In between singing high-pitched tunes that sounded like they were from Appalachia, they danced jigs with tap shoes.

Talented but in a very different way.

The Slewfoot Family performed 220 times last year in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  I wondered if the older children went to college. I wondered if any of them could separate themselves from the family, ever.  Apparently, none of the children have full-time jobs.  They are proud to announce that they don’t have internet at home or a Facebook page.  The father works and supports all of them.  I am still thinking about those children and that family that lives in a Minnesota town of 350 people!

Twin Harbors was only a hundred miles away from Hinckley.  On our way we drove through Duluth.  This is Bob Dylan territory.  Duluth is situated on a huge hill across from Lake Superior.  The town and port are stunning.  It is a destination! Thirty-seven years ago, there was only a two-lane road that went from Superior, Michigan to Duluth, Minnesota. Now there are highways piled on top of each other.  On our way to Minnesota 61, we traveled underground.  If you ever have a chance to visit Duluth, do it!

Two Harbors Lighthouse from a Kayak!

Two Harbors has grown up. It used to be just a gas stop on the way to natural wonders, now it is a welcoming town.  The city has its own RV campground and just enlarged it to accommodate modern RV’s.  They knew what they were doing when they created Burlington Bay Campground that overlooks Lake Superior.  What a place! We are sitting on a hill, with lots of space around us, looking at the water.  You can’t find a better campground than this one!  The facilities are stellar!

#13b in Burlington Bay. Our resting spot for a few days.

Tom and I had planned to stay in Bozeman, Montana next summer.  We fell in love with the town last summer, but the campgrounds around it were less than desirable.  They pack RV’s on top of each other.  We found a spacious and open campground about forty miles from the city.  Forty miles is a long way to travel if you run out of milk or bagels.

Need a quiet moment?

After only spending one night in Two Harbors, we knew that we would be coming back.  Tom booked us here next year for two weeks.  Why is Two Harbors so much better?  The temperatures are cool, and the mosquitos are few.  There is plenty of room to walk our beloved canines.

Dream, dream and you will find a cottage by the sea.

We are camping next to a beautiful lake.  I can walk down to a historic lighthouse and mesmerizing port in about twenty minutes.  We can bike to state parks.  Tom can kayak on the lake.  There is a golf course across the street and a Dairy Queen only a minute away.  Restaurants and businesses abound about one-half mile from the campground.  And, there is a grocery store only two minutes away.

Gorgeous! Split Rock Lighthouse

During our visit to Two Harbors we tried to visit Gooseberry Falls State Park but could not find a place to park.  Tom recalled that this had happened to us in the past.

We went on Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.  (Admission was $10 and $8, but it was worth it.) We have visited lighthouses from Maine to Oregon and more, but this lighthouse was different.  The Minnesota Historical Society has created a video about its history and restored the grounds.  Who would have thought that so many ships and people died in the waters of Lake Superior before the lighthouse was built?  The renovated lighthouse has been made it into a spectacular place to learn about maritime activities.

Take a walk with us!

There is a walkway of a thousand steps (hyperbole) down to the lake and plenty of other opportunities to hike.  An old forgotten tramway habited this pathway.  If you are not in shape when you start the descent, you will be when you go back up the hill.  The wooden steps reminded me of Shinto shrines dedicated to Amaterasu in Japan where wooden steps circled around a hill that displayed a shrine at the top.  The steps were a form of meditation.

Nice place to live if you want to be alone!

So much work was involved in maintaining the lighthouse that three families were employed to take care of it. ( In an old photo, there were six houses on top of this hill.) Thus, three houses were built for them.  Supplies had to be brought in by boat until highway 61 was built.  What a treat to visit this place!  Thank you, Minnesota!

Tomorrow we are heading toward Kenora, Ontario in Canada to catch up with some of Tom’s classmates. Then, we resume the trek around Lake Superior.

Tom sends greetings from his kayak on Lake Superior.  How does he take those photos?

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

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Ain’t Nothing Better Than Kansas City Music. From Tom’s Dashboard!

Six Weeks of Fantastic Music in Kansas City

Since semi-retiring our world has become filled with music listening and performing.  Marla studied music history, theory and piano, and I have become a student of guitar technology.   Stellar events engage us and teach us about the power of music.

Uptown Theater – Randy Rainbow

Here’s Randy!

We were under some pressure to leave the palm trees, ocean, and warm weather of Florida because we had tickets for the Rainbow event. Mr. Rainbow creates fantastic musical parody videos. We have enjoyed him on YouTube (click on YouTube for an example) and decided to take in the show in spite of the price exceeding our usual $15 limit. Randy Rainbow’s vocal talents match his creativity and humor. There was exceptionally high energy in the audience even before the show started and it only increased once Randy came on stage. Before he sang one note, the audience gave him a standing ovation.  We found a community!  Money well spent. (If you worship Trump and associates, you might want to skip the video.)

BB’s Lawn-side BBQ

BB’s is a barbecue dive, serving up blues six days a week.  Not sure where the lawn-side fits in, unless you’re counting the outdoor dining that overlooks the asphalt and gravel parking lot. For a $3 – $5 cover charge, you get your fill of Blues at BB’s.

BB’s:  Brandon Hudspeth and Randy McAllister, “Magic Men”

Randy and Brandon

Brandon is my guitar instructor when he’s around, but he travels extensively with Randy McAllister and others. They make a great duo with Brandon on guitar and vocals, and Randy on harmonic, vocals and drum. What a voice! (and that’s singing with a sore throat). They play mostly original work with some adaptations of blues standards. Now if I could just become infected with Randy’s voice and Brandon’s guitar skills, I might be able to set up on the street corner….

BB’s:  Fiona Boyes,  “Strong Women Everywhere”

One of the many guitars that Fiona played.

What a character!

BB’s  monthly calendar is a mix of 10-12 different local, mostly male bluesers, so when the schedule showed a female blues musician from Australia we had to take in it. Fiona is a one women band, playing a variety of guitars, tapping some foot drums and singing. I am not sure how to exactly classify her music other than its clearly rooted in the Delta blues. Her energy was over the top,  so she clearly was not suffering from any sort of jet lag. Turns out she was the lead guitar instructor at the Pinetop Perkins Blues Camp in Clarksdale, MS,  I attended in June.

BB’s:  Jaisson Taylor

Jaisson is one of Marla’s favorite Blues players.  He can hold an audience spellbound, especially with his rendition of “Candy Man.”

A Real Talent, Jaisson!

Knuckleheads :  Igor and the Red Elvises

High energy is the name of the game for Igor!

If you have never been to Knuckleheads try taking in at least one show to check out the venue — and to people watch. Knuckleheads is on many musician’s bucket list. Its KCs leading honky-tonk. We have followed the Red Elvises for about 8 years and Marla has written a biography of Igor’s life, Igor and the Red Elvises. In Florida, we took in two of their shows, and now one in KC. (They are returning to KC in September.) Marla received a shout out from Igor and a signed drumstick from “ Jasmin,” the beyond great drummer. Always an entertaining show with such high energy and clever lyrics you almost miss the exceptional musical talent. Since the latest show I am thinking about acquiring a red bass balalaika, but that is another story.

The Gin Mill on 135th:  Levee Town with Randy McAllister.

Levee Town

This is a new venue that has no cover charge and is only eight miles from home, so we had to check it out. Music is offered four nights a week including a jam session on Thursday evening. Levee Town is Brandon Hudspeth’s group that plays mostly original blues. “Do-Si-Do with the Devil,” is a startling picture of a love-hate relationship. WOW!  They have a new CD coming out later this year. The Gin Mill is upscale compared to BB’s or Knuckleheads, although the food menu needs some improvement.  Don’t order the Mac N’ Cheese.  The joint was full for this show, as Brandon and Levee town have a strong local following. Randy added energetic harmonica playing to the mix.

New Theater Restaurant:  Buddy Holly

We did not realize how many of their songs we knew!

What a show! This venue is a buffet dinner theater. Given our musical interests we decided to take a chance on the Buddy Holly musical performance. Don’t go for the food – very average. This show, however, was over the top. It showcased Buddy Holly’s fantastic but short-lived career. The Beatles were inspired by Buddy Holly and the Crickets and took the name “Beatles” to mimic them. “Hello Baby ….”  Neither of us had ever really followed the Big Bopper or Ritchie Valens, friends of Holly.  Their performances kept Marla out of her seat screaming like …

First Baptist Church Jazz Vespers 

First Baptist offers a free Jazz program the third Sunday of every month. (Free, but a collection plate is passed, and you have to sit through a short sermon). We have enjoyed two  shows this past month.

First Baptist:  Millie Edwards

Millie is the preeminent gospel singer in town. Her mesmerizing voice and connection with the audience is unforgettable.  When she sings “His Eye is On the Sparrow,” your mind melts with the Infinite.  She is truly an amazing singer and entertainer.

Millie can take you to the stars with her music.

First Baptist:  Charles Williams Trio

We were aware of Charles Williams’ stellar piano skills from his work with the KC Jazz Orchestra, performances with Spirituality & All That Jazz, and with Eboni Fondren, so this show was a must see. The Trio played 90 minutes of mostly instrumental Jazz. Keys, bass and drums never sounded so good. Charles, a humble and gentle 63-year-old, is a KC legend on keyboard and has played around the world.

Marla was really happy to see that Williams played on a high-end Yamaha keyboard.  Her first Yamaha keyboard was 77 keys.  She thought that it would be enough.  It wasn’t. Middle C is not in the middle and when playing you feel like you are falling left.  Also, the Yamaha had keys that were really easy to play without much resonance.  Almost five years to the date,  Marla bought her second keyboard and it is a high-end Yamaha.  It has weighted keys and resonates just like her Baldwin piano. She knew the moment she touched the keys that it was the one for her.

Unity on the Plaza:  Spirituality & All That Jazz

Jameson is on the left and his dad, Jim Mair, is on the right! WOW!

This is the longest running Jazz Gig in KC, Tim Whitmer leads a jazz quartet made of highly talented musicians. Their show, on the first Wednesday of every month, typically features guest artists. Last month the multi-talented Kathleen Holmen from St. Joseph joined on vocals, piano and trombone (yes trombone). Jim Mair’s 12-year-old son, Jameson, also joined for three songs on trumpet. This is always a bargain at eight dollars, but ask for the non-senior discount.

Last week Tom DeMasters, gifted KC singer and guitar player, headlined the night at  Unity.  He easily took us back to the sixties and it felt as if Elvis had not left the room!

Tom DeMaster’s teaching Tom Hemling a few chords and scales.

Holmeswood Baptist Church Community Chorus

Marla got us started on this. We continue to enjoy meeting and singing with this group.  The Chorus has weekly rehearsals and performances at senior centers and nursing homes about twice a month. The chorus is 40 mostly retired people, and about half are members of the Holmeswood Baptist Church. The music we perform is a mix of secular and non-secular, show tunes, gospel. We get to sing, socialize, and bring a little entertainment to others. What a great experience!

Loch Lloyd Turkey Vultures

The Vultures

Neighbor Charley German suggested forming a jam band. He has a very sophisticated music studio on the lower level of his home. Several neighbors have jammed there about 3-4 times. The five other jammers (besides me) have  performed in groups around town. I am a beginner-intermediate on guitar but took a chance to join the group.

Typical jam session goes this way:   Someone suggests a song and a key, and away we go hoping to match the chord changes and rhythm. The music is mostly folk-Americana-country.  I have never heard of half of the songs.  They haven’t thrown me out yet, but they might have my microphone turned off when we record. I am playing acoustic rhythm guitar(strumming) or singing vocal harmony (harmony = off key). I haven’t mastered doing them together yet.  Plans are to send in an audition tape for the Porch Music Festival in KC in September. Stay tuned.

Our next blog will originate from our trip to Canada.  Hopefully the scenery will be wonderful.

As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge and occasionally by Thomas C. Hemling.

 

 

 

Posted in BB's Lawnside BBQ, Blues in Kansas City, Igor and the Red Elvises, Jazz, Jazz in Kansas City, Kansas City Blues Scene, Knuckleheads, Music, Music in Kansas City, Musicians in Kansas City, Randy Rainbow | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Tom’s Dashboard: The Good Life is Now!

Maybe I’m just jealous.


Pinetop Perkins Foundation Blues Workshop

We returned to the scene of the crime.

No photo can capture the essence of the Shack Up Inn.

Those of you who read “www.motoringwithmarla.com” recall that in 2018 I attended a harmonica camp in Clarksdale, MS,  birthplace of the blues (sort of). You also recall that since retiring from full time employment I have a thing about guitars. We just completed 5 days at the Shake-up Inn in Clarksdale for the Pinetop Perkins Foundation Workshop: Masterclasses in Piano, Guitar, Harmonic, Bass and Drums. I was keen to improve my guitar skills, but funny — I missed that word Masterclasses when I signed up.

So, who is Pinetop? He was a blues pianist who originated in Clarksdale and toured with Muddy Waters before enjoying many years in a solo career. He died without heirs, but surprisingly for a blues artist he had a lot of money. He set up a foundation with two goals: 1) to enable upcoming young blues musicians, and 2) to help with medical needs of older blues musicians.  What a great guy!

Bob Margolin

“I wonder if they wrote a little something about me.”

The musical director for the workshop is Steady-Rollin Bob Margolin, also a former member of the Muddy Waters band and now a solo artist, record producer, etc.  What a talent and what a character! Bob Margolin is a damn good musician and band leader.  He is also clever, witty, and perceptive, and one of the sweetest guys around. When we shook hands when leaving Ground Zero, he apologized for not having time to coach me on proper palm muting of a Chicago Blues lump-de-lump. How many Grammys and blues awards does he have?– and he is apologizing to me?  If you would like to check out his web site, click here.

Sophisticated Guitar Players

The Pinetop Workshops are targeted to the young and the young at heart. This year was no exception There were forty-two participants, with about five of us over the age of 25. There were 18 people in the guitar workshops. I was the least young by about 40 years.

But what about skills? These kids could play. From the ages of 10-22 years, they could play blues solos all over the guitar. And they had the equipment. Pinetop offers scholarships to cover the workshop fee and housing so I assumed it was a program to help the disadvantaged. (au contraire)  These kids had $500 to $2500 guitars, and $1000 amplifiers. Several in the group were already professionals. Many were repeat offenders. They had been at Pinetop workshops several times in the past.  Pinetop is grooming these kids to be the next stars. They came from across the USA and the world, including France, the UK and Japan.

The Workshops

Our talented musician teachers!

So, what is a workshop anyway you ask?  I assumed the classes would be mostly blues guitar lessons, while learning new skills/techniques to move from basic to intermediate, to advanced.  Not exactly.  Each of the three days followed the same format.

Morning session starting at 10:00 AM  (no early start for musicians) was a “How to be a Musician/band member session” featuring life and storytelling from Bob Margolin, Fiona Boyes (more on Fiona later) and Anson Funderburgh. It was interspersed with blues music of a particular style with everyone given a chance to solo.

Memories

When Bob Margolin had the stage, he recounted a story of the Muddy Waters Band opening for Eric Clapton on a 10-week European tour.  Bob arranged for Muddy to meet Eric. He said he had the photo on his phone but couldn’t find it. Yours truly happened to have Bob’s “Chicago Rhythm Blues” book with the photo of Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters and Bob Margolin. The book was circulated. I now have the book with Bob’s autograph on the photo. (sweet)

The Drill

To start the morning sessions, the 18 guitarists, sat in a circle, 2-3 inches apart, guitar in hand, plugged into their 50 to 100-watt amplifiers. Everyone was warming up, or showing off with different riffs simultaneously, with the amps gradually getting loader and loader until the session started.  The wonder of the event is that 15 teenage boys sat with their guitars slung across their shoulders for ninety or so minutes while listening to life lessons talk from elders without banging on their guitars.

In the afternoon, we broke into three groups for 2.5 hours of hands on blues guitar skills lesson. I was in the 3-person, entry level group. We learned 8 and 12 bar blues, ways to add some ornamentation to the 12-bar blues, and a little slide guitar.

Each evening was a jam session, with the Friday session on the stage at Ground Zero. Ground Zero is Mecca for blues artists, and has been voted the best Blues Club in the nation.  If you have the skills and the means, blues artists must play at Ground Zero once in their life. I have now done it twice!

Fiona, Fiona, Fiona

Fiona Boyes was the director of the guitar workshop. She hails from Australia and plays a broad range of blues styles on a collection of guitars including cigar boxes.  Fiona is described as Bonnie Raitt’s evil twin sister. That may apply to her guitar style, but she was gentle, caring, humorous, and inspirational in managing the workshop filled with “guitar heroes.”  She managed the program with a smile on her face and a wink in her eye, adapting to the situation when demanded. She is a strong woman in a field of men.

My Thoughts (Photo below is from Ground Zero)

This youngster  was 11 years old. He played and sang, “The Homework Blues.” WOW!

 

So, am I jealous of the youngsters?

Tom’s debut on stage at Ground Zero.

 

I grew up in a lower middle-class family. No money for any kind of camps or any instruments. But I was able to get a great education, have a fantastic career,  travel the world, and share the experience for the past 38 years with the most wonderful companion I could imagine. (“Is he kidding?” says Marla.)

No reason to be jealous, right. But if I could only manage to get my hands on an Eighty-five-Watt Fender Twin Reverb….

As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge and Thomas C. Hemling

Our next posts will probably come from the great country of Canada.

 

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Flashbacks and The Monkey God

Ciudad Blanca, “the White City”

A couple of years ago, I read a review of Douglas Preston’s, “The Lost City of the Monkey God.” Since I had studied archaeology, and even taught it, I wanted to read about the new archaeological find in Honduras.  The book sold for about $25 and I usually don’t spend that much money on books, so I ordered it from the library.  But I was 150th on the list to read it.  Of course, I gave up, but I saved a clipping of the review.

Recently I went online to find the book again and “low and behold” it sold for about $3.00 on Amazon.  This was right in my price range.  I promised myself that I would read the book while Tom was practicing guitar at the Pinetop Perkins Workshop in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Lidar creates a 3-D image!

The story of discovering and then plotting this archaeological dig using Lidar technology was fascinating. Lidar technology is used by our military for a variety of secret missions.  It can penetrate/see through anything on the earth’s surface to several feet below.

Mosquitia is an area in Honduras that has been lost for at least 500 years.  (The locals believed in a legend of a huge lost white city in the jungle.)  It is so remote that when the scientists began to explore it, they found no human beings.  Animals were not even afraid of the team, presumably because they had never seen humans.

The “FIND!”

This book is full of adventure that keeps you spellbound.  Preston describes the thickness of the jungle, their primitive make-shift sleeping arrangements, and details of attempting to chart what Lidar had uncovered. His descriptions are more than marvelous. The group did find a million-dollar cache of artifacts that are now housed in Honduras.

As I followed Preston and all the Ph.D. specialists, Honduran military, politicians, scientists, and more, I began having flashbacks.  I experienced many of the same things they had experienced on my first trip abroad to Sierra Leone, West Africa when I was 21 years old.  The trip was a way for me to scout  Africa to determine if I would take a job offer.

The mud was 6 inches deep.

Preston painstakingly describes machetes cutting holes in the overgrowth that looked like green tunnels. He said that it was like night inside of these pathways.  On a safari in Sierra Leone, my hosts did the same thing.

I did not even understand what the word “safari” meant. I thought we were just going into the bush.

Beautiful Colobus monkey!

As the locals cut through the cane and huge vines in Sierra Leone, we came to a small clearing.  We looked up to hear and see Colobus monkeys (white-faced monkeys) screaching down at us.

Preston describes similar white-faced monkeys that circled their camp. The animals were gorgeous.  All of a sudden, I heard a pop and one of them fell to the ground.  I screamed! What is happening?  The locals told me that they were hunting meat for the tribe.  I will never forget those monkeys falling from the trees.  They hit the ground with great thuds and looked like humans as they lay their writhing in pain.  I was sick!

The jungle is dangerous.

I was told not to step on any green snake because its venom would go through my shoes.  Preston describes meeting a fer-de-lance (supposedly one of the most- deadly snakes on earth).  It can shoot its venom six feet and burn through snake guards on your legs.  In the jungle, it is highly unlikely a person could be saved, even with anti-venom.

The Cobras or Puff Adders looked like this!

I did not step on a green mamba, but I came within inches of three Puff Adders or Cobras.  I was walking back (by myself, how silly) from the local village and wanted to see what was in the valley.  As I stepped toward the edge of the path, I heard hissing, and looked down to see three Cobras ready to strike.  My heart beat so fast, I could not breathe.  I stepped back slowly and stayed away from that side of the path.

Parasites

At the end of the book, Preston describes how almost everyone came down with a potentially fatal and disabling parasitic disease.  It seems that they had been bitten by sand fleas that deposited the parasites in them. The book goes into detail about how millions of people have this disease and it has made its way into the United States.  Gone untreated, it can disfigure and eventually kill a person. But treatment can cost into the tens of thousands of dollars which most people cannot afford.

All of the archaeological team developed skin ulcers that would not heal, and after much research it was discovered that they had a rare form of leishmaniasis.  Leish, like malaria, is a disease that you will have for the rest of your life.  It can go dormant, but in times of stress, it can return and devastate a person. Preston has the disease and was able to go through the grueling medical therapy needed to attack it.  It is dormant now, but he has to get checked every year to determine if it has returned.  Others were not so lucky.

When I went on the safari, I was not told to wear protective gear or clothing.  I wore open-toed sandals and shorts.  At the end of the trek, my arms and legs were full of bites. I do not remember anyone sharing Deet spray with me in the 1970’s.  I also developed ulcers on my legs.  I don’t know if they were parasites or not, but it took about a year for the problems to go away.

Hiking down an unknown and un-named river.

Africa was known as the “White Man’s Graveyard.” 

Before Jimmy Carter’s administration changed the rules, the CDC required everyone traveling to countries in Africa to be immunized.  Today the CDC can only recommend. Back then, you could not return to the United States without the following shots:   hepatitis Ahepatitis Btyphoidyellow feverrabiesmeningitispoliomeasles, mumps and rubella (MMR)Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis)and more.  I spent about six months traveling all over Ohio finding places that would give me the shots. Today the CDC recommends even more immunizations.  I think these shots protected me?  No one should leave the country without consulting and following CDC guidelines!  It might save a life!

Like Preston, I had to take quinine tablets while in Africa.  When we could find it, I also drank quinine water.  I was lucky because I did not contract Malaria, even though I had many, many mosquito bites.

Preston, tells his story, like a child in a new world.

When I visited Sierra Leone for the first time, I could not believe my eyes.  People lived in straw and mud huts and I stayed in them.  While the jungle was thick, parts of Sierra Leone were green and lush, other parts had no grass at all.  There were no roadside stops on the way to the interior.  The roads had to be managed by huge trucks.  There were no bridges over the rivers.  Like Preston, I had never seen a monsoon rain come across a valley.  It was so thick you could not see through it.

As I traveled in Sierra Leone, the sound of drums followed us everywhere we went.  Women were naked from the waist up and men bathed and defecated in very dirty streams. Downstream piranha feasted on dead animals while the Rhinos sunned themselves.  None of the locals wore shoes.  Wild animals beat at the barred windows where I stayed every night.  And nights were very long because we only had one hour of light created by a gas generator.

I was raised by parents who talked about white and black people.  In Sierra Leone, in a market in Freetown, I saw hundreds of shades of color.  The people were so beautiful, beyond any humans that I had ever seen!

I was a child in a new world too!

As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

Click Here for article in National Geographic.

P.S.

Most of the images were taken from the net.  National Geographic has good articles online about this archaeological adventure.  But, the book is more than about archaeology, it describes big business and how Honduras was torn apart by wealthy men in the United States who did not want to abide by the rules of any government.  It is a sad story and a story that keeps unfolding at our borders today.  In a very real way, WE the United States, created the immigration problems that have devastated Central America.  Read his opinions!

 

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Flip Flops in the Sun!

Silver Alerts, Thongs, and the Real Florida

Imagine yourself standing on the bank!

Visiting Florida in the winter can’t be beat.  Living there for two or three months can be a culture shock.  As Tom says, “Drivers in Florida click on their turn signals and forget them.”  Silver alerts abound.  News of missing seniors regularly flashed on the Interstate.

I have a theory. Remember the hippies, counter culture, and free love children of the sixties who dined on LSD for lunch?  Well, I think they all moved to Florida.  But now, they are in their seventies and eighties and well-worn.  We wondered if they had been out in the sun too much.  They still wear bell bottoms, long hair, and tie-died t-shirts.  As one couple in a multi-colored limping bus said to me, “If it walks and talks like a duck, it must be …”

Igor and the Red Elvises performed near us twice! They were in Cocoa Beach and Orlando.  Our favorite band!

A Love Affair with the Sand

It is amazing to watch beach-worshippers disrobe in cold weather while the locals are wearing sweatshirts.  While walking down A1A in Cocoa Beach, waiting for a concert to start, a naked woman passed by us.  Well, we thought she was naked.  We think she was wearing a thong and nothing else. It was 68 degrees or less.

Pardon me Boys ….?

Do you see that LSD in their pockets?

Florida is on the East Coast and counts more than 100 million visitors every year.  It took Tom and I several weeks to get used to the break or is it brake neck speed and lack of manners of people in the stores and on the highways. Shoppers would run right into you because you were walking too slow or were in their way.  If they wanted something, they would lean over you (touching or pushing you) and pick it off the shelf.  They rarely said, “excuse me.” While walking in a parking lot, they might try to run you over or trip you on the way to a door!  (How do you take a photo of this?)

Not in my back yard. We did not want to camp near this!

Are we Nuts?

This is only a small slice of the things we donated to SPCA. They were old and full of dirt and grease.

After considerable hunting over a few years, we finally settled on purchasing a “hut” (They call them executive suites.) at the Great Outdoors RV Resort (TGO).

This is a small map but you can see how large and open TGO is. The brown areas are roads.

The negotiations were painful because two couples owned the hut and were at war.  They had ignored maintenance on the hut for years while fighting.  Many things had to be fixed.  We knew of several before we bought, but others surfaced after the purchase.

We spent about three weeks scraping grease off everything, donating most of the dirty items in the hut, and painting the inside.  I spent six hours just trying to clean the windows in one room.  We had to throw out very expensive blinds because we could not get the grease off of them.

How about tearing out the siding and fixing this mess!

It took five buckets of water to clean a 10×10 room.  We also had to have the roof fixed, rotted wood replaced, a shower re-grouted, a fan installed, other electrical work plus the installation of overhead lights.  There is more to do next December.

 

 

Have you Ever Owned Palm Trees?

Small view of the hut and our RV.

Our hope was to find a very large double-driveway, open space, and room for our beloved canines.  Tom plays the guitar and I wanted a place for my keyboard.  RV’s can become very tight in rainy or cold weather.  We needed a bit more space.