Farewell Florida! Hello Gaffney


Our favorite alligator came to say goodbye.

This little frog did not want us to leave.

I thought she was a dead fish surfacing. No, a great Manatee pleaded with us to stay.

Heavy hearts waived to Florida!  We did not know if we wanted to stay or go!  Tom had booked us in at the National Freightliner Service Center in Gaffney, South Carolina, so we headed north.  The local Freightliner center damaged our RV and treated Tom poorly.  We were not going back.  Several neighbors told us about the stellar service at the Freightliner National Center in Gaffney, so we headed north.  No time to stop on the way!

Attached to a seat belt, Hillary slept on the top of my seat for the trip.


Converse College (A few miles from Gaffney)

In the 80’s Tom found a job as VP of a Lube Company when I was teaching at Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.  Converse was very expensive and attracted wealthy southern young ladies to its doors.  It was a treat teaching in a Women’s College.  But I soon found out that I missed seeing males in the classroom.

While at Converse we purchased a home in Cowpens, SC.  The setting was peaceful and gorgeous.  On three acres backing up to a farm (with cattle), the house had an expansive family room that housed floor to ceiling windows. Three one-hundred-foot extension cords were needed to use our leaf blower on the driveway.  Didn’t they make gas blowers back then?

It was still a beauty! Look at that driveway!

We decided to find the old house.  It was still beautiful.  But the whole area had lost some of its grandeur.

The Peach

There is nothing better than breaking into a fresh peach in South Carolina, so rich, so juicy!  Farmers sell their goods along the road and offer you a bite of their melon-sized fruit.  Located on Peachoid Road, Gaffney built a water tower and honored the farmers with a huge peach.  It glistens day and night.  You can see visitors stop and worship the beautiful structure!  Awestruck! We followed.

Strawberry Hill, the Stouffer’s Outlet, and Hamricks

Regularly we made it down the road to Stouffer’s Outlet in Gaffney when we lived in Cowpens.  The store was gigantic, and we usually bought enough food for a month.  Our favorite frozen treat was chili.  We knew we had to find the outlet and relive the experience.  But it was lost.  The coordinates were correct.  Then we noticed this tiny store that boasted Stouffer’s.  Could it be?  Yes, it was, but the experience was not the same.  We did purchase a few frozen items at about 50% off.

Normally we sample local ice cream wherever we travel.  Strawberry Hill Retail Store called out to us and did not let us down!  They sold desserts and local fresh food.  Sitting in rocking chairs out in front of the store, we knew that we would return.

The best!

Hamricks is one of the best discount brand-name stores in the country.  (We think!) Arriving about mid-day, there were hundreds of very vocal people shopping in the aisles.  We bought a lot of stuff.    Weary-eyed because the store was so huge, we left and wished that there was a Hamricks near us.

No Miracles in Asheville or Hendersonville

Part of the trip to Asheville was beautiful–until they started working on the Interstate.

Tom had this idea that we should move to the mountain towns of Asheville/Hendersonville and sell our home in Missouri.  We had always loved Hendersonville when we lived in South Carolina.   Cool breezes kept the sweltering summer heat away in both towns.  A real estate agent found us.  Tons of research later, we were investigating homes.

We dreamed of living on a mountain top.  So did millions of others.  The areas we remembered were gone.  They were replaced with torn up interstates, downed trees, houses built on top of each other, and two-lane roads where locals gunned their engines and waited hours to make a turn.

Shangri-la it was not.  Almost every home needed extensive renovation.  Since Covid hit, people have been flocking to the area and buying up everything.  Houses that were still on the market were at the bottom of the heap and the prices were hefty.  Demoralized we left the dirty and grungy mountain roads for Gaffney.  We felt more at home there.

Lands of the Cherokees

Gaffney is in Cherokee County.  While I do not know if my father’s family was part of the Eastern Band of Cherokees, our names are on a book of Cherokees in Oklahoma.  On the way to Asheville/Hendersonville, N.C. we stopped at a Welcome Center.  I was grateful to see that North Carolina acknowledged that the land we were standing on once belonged to Cherokees who had lived on it for (as they say) 10,000 years.  For a split second I was very thankful to have a heritage that was so historic.

Cowpens Iron Furnace 

Taken from the net.

Click here:  http://schpr.sc.gov/index.php/Detail/properties/12044

As usual, we investigated local tourist sites while waiting for Freightliner to service the coach.  Online blogs and tourist reports told us of an iron furnace site just down the road from the National Park-Cowpens Revolutionary Battlefield.  Creeping along a gravel road, we located a stream and parking lot.  Even with a cement marker, but there was no furnace.  It was a 19th century grist mill with a dam, trough, and wheel.  Where was the furnace?  I emailed a local historian for help but not a word has come back to me.

The site was restorative.


Freightliner Gravel Days in the Country

Freightliner Factory Service (and training center) was a jewel of an experience.  They serviced the chassis of our RV, by changing  the oil in the engine, generator, and checking tires, replacing filters, and lubing everything.  They even balance the coach.  Newmar, our RV manufacturer in Indiana, services the house built on top of the chassis.  The very odd thing about the Freightliner site was that all the motorhomes were parked on gravel with only an electric hook-up, no water or sewer (unlike Newmar).  Million dollar Class A motorhomes were sitting on a dusty, almost forgotten parking lot in the country waiting for Class A service. Huh?

Treasures You Overlook

We are no longer Missouri residents, but it is our home.  We had forgotten how beautiful and peaceful Loch Lloyd could be.  The minute we backed up into the driveway, the house welcomed us! (And a few neighbors!)

“There is no place like home. No place like home….”

Do everything possible to keep safe in this pandemic!  

The software problem still exists with WordPress.  I am still debating what to do.  Creating this blog was like pulling weeds!  Problems pop up every minute or two!

The beautiful fields of Gaffney.

As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

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The Many Faces of Florida

Adventures in La La Land

Boat Dock Mt. Dora

Mount Dora is a very unusual place.  (I had an Aunt named Dora!)

Mt. Dora BeautyHave you ever heard of mountains in Florida?  We were amazed at the hills as we approached Mt. Dora.  Mt. Dora stands about 266 feet above sea level.  The Mount Dora golf course picked the most rugged terrain!  We were golfing sideways on some holes.  To give you a perspective, Merritt Island is three feet above sea level and Titusville is 10 feet above sea level.  Miami is 6.5 feet above sea level and Kansas City is 909 feet above sea level.  If you find yourself in a hurricane in Florida, head for the hills!

Masonic Temple Sign

I wondered how the hills developed.  According to geologists a sinkhole could develop anywhere in Florida.  Some areas are more prone to losing foundations than others.  Here is a website that discusses the sink holes.  Click here:

In simple terms the mountains are due to the erosion that produces sinkholes.  As the earth opens up it pushes some land up.  This, again according to geologists, occurred millions of years ago. So, the land that is pushed up is usually sand.  I noticed a lot of shells on the golf course and wondered if there were shell mounds in Mt.  Dora.  There is evidence of the Timucuan indigenous people but no one seems to be interested in shell mounds.

Great Thai and Japanese Food

Mount Dora reminds us of Westin and Arrow Rock in Missouri.  It has the same 19th century feel with dreamy houses, lots of shopping, festivals galore, and great Thai food!  And… it is surrounded by lakes!

Yellow vegetable curry

Vegetable Curry for you!

Bento Box

Bento Box for Tom!

Tavares the Administrative Center for Lake County (Home of Mt. Dora.)

The architecture was interesting.  This building looked like the colosseum in Rome

Taveres Administrative Bld

Lake County Seat in Tavares

(I think they were going for a parthenon image above?)

Camping Reservations in Florida

Since Covid hit, it is almost impossible to make reservations at state campgrounds.  Millions of people are hitting the online sites at the same time.  We have tried several times and each time we have failed to get through to book a site.

Trimble.  An Orange County Park

Trimble park map

A friend of Tom’s recommended investigating Orlando’s city and Orange county parks.  They number over 140. He found Trimble Park which is near Mount Dora.  It had an opening for three days in the middle of Spring Break.  How lucky we were!

Entering Trimble Park makes you feel as if it is Halloween.  Spanish moss drips off everything creating a very gloomy entrance. It is small, only 15 spots on the lake.  Our space was advertised as 75 feet long,  but it was barely 40.  The coach is 41 feet.  And our surge protector would not work in its outdated electrical structure.

RV Parked At Trimble

At first, I wanted to escape Trimble.  Who wants to fight your way to a lake through Spanish moss dripping with flying things, and beaty alligator eyes watching you? 

Sitting on the Dock

But as we began to explore the park, we recognized its treasures.  Some of the trees were at least 15 feet or more in circumference.  I wrote the park and asked about indigenous ruins and the trees.  The park supervisor (who remained nameless) answered (Post is edited.),

Trimble Trees

(See that blue dot on the right.  That is me!)

“This is our grand-dad tree, it boasts a 15′ 11-1/2″ diameter, has multiple limbs that reach 30 yards in length and is the focal point as your drive to the end of the main park road. It is a southern live oak, and many years ago its age was guessed at over 100+ years just based on the diameter of the trunk. This tree has withstood Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Jeanne and most recently Irma in 2017 and never budged in those tremendous storms.”  I think the tree is 500 years old.

Trimble Park Tree #1

As I wandered about the park, I kept wondering why the city purchased the land in 1978?  As we learned while visiting Mt. Dora, Lake County just down the road has a thousand lakes.  Why did a county so close need another lake?  I wonder if there are indigenous ruins on the property.   The supervisor could not speak to the Indian presence. 

There is no swimming at any of the “alligator lakes.”  And as you can see the water is polluted.

No Swimming Sign Trimble

I think I would pass up camping at this park again, but I would advise anyone to spend an afternoon exploring the ancient spaces.  Take bug spray!  (Why would I not camp here?  Huge cockroaches fell out of the trees and invaded our RV.  I think we have finally eradicated them.)

Spanish Moss

Covid Tourism

Long ago I decided that the only vaccine for me was Johnson and Johnson.  While camping at Trimble,  J&J vaccine became available the following weekend.  We both tried for an appointment and finally Tom landed one near Panama City.  It was the last available vaccine appointment in the state.  He made the appointment.  Panama City was about 360 miles away.  We started figuring the costs of an 800-mile round trip just for a vaccine shot.

Yes, you guessed.  We went for it.  We expected to do a little touring around when we arrived and before we left.  The catch was that we had to find a place to stay.  Tom found one at a wharf, Gulf Oaks RV Resort.  (Don’t Camp here!) So, off we went.  I began remembering the hurricane that hit Panama City and Mexico Beach a few years back.  What had we done?  What kind of shape was the city going to be in after only two years after the hurricane?

Gulf Oaks Sign

Upon arriving to a dilapidated RV resort that did not take credit cards and had no check in building, we became stuck in the sand.  Wrecked by the 2018 hurricane, new owners were trying to rebuild the place with sand.  What a mess! (I decided not to take pics of the the place because it was so bad.  I felt as if I was invading people’s lives and did  not want to feature their poverty.)

We tried for hours to dig out the wheels that had gone so deep in the sand that the bottom of the motorhome was on the ground.  Several people tried to help.  Finally, the manager(?) called someone (a friend) to tow us.  She said that there was only one tow truck in town that could pull out a big rig.  When the guy arrived, he knew the landscape and told us to park some place else.  He asked for $300.


(This pic doesn’t look so bad but we could not budge the RV.  The wheels just spun with the back of the unit on the ground.  We were on a hill facing forward.)

We finally chose a spot to stay for two nights.  As Tom pulled the RV forward the wheels began to sink again.  Quickly moving it back, we were able to stabilize the coach.  Upon leaving, Tom had to back out because we could not turn.  As he backed out, the wheels went down.  What an experience! We fear other damage to the RV and will find out on our way home when we stop at a Freightliner RV Service Center.

Hurricane Ruins 

The beach houses are gone!

Mexico Beach Land for Sale

During our stay in Panama City, we explored Mexico Beach, Tyndall Airforce Base, and Panama City Beach. (Driving from Panama City to Mexico Beach was a shocker.  The land was burned and churned up.  We saw these signs everywhere.)

Near Panama City Blasting Area

Coast Guard assesses damage during overflight of Mexico Beach, Fl

A Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin aircrew from Air Station Miami assesses the damage of Mexico Beach, Florida, from Hurricane Michael, Oct. 11, 2018. After a storm passes, the Coast Guard focuses on saving lives in the impacted area and responds to hazardous environmental threats. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Colin Hunt)

Hurricane Michael, at a category 5 with 160 mph, hit most of these areas in October of 2018.  Mexico Beach was obliterated.  They didn’t even have phone service. Insurance claims exceeded $6 billion dollars.  Fighter jets that were damaged at the Airforce base, cost over $6 billion.  Hundreds of buildings were destroyed on the base.

Mexico Beach a messBoth Mexico Beach and the Airforce Base are still recovering.  The sights are mostl pitiful.  I bet it will be 25 years before they come back to normal, if ever.  Apparently the owner above does not have enough cash to tear the buildings down.  You wonder if he/she was killed in the storm?

New Homes in Mexico Beach

(There are some bright spots on the beach.  I think these were selling for $500K.)

Panama City was also hit.  Signs are still dangling.  Tree tops are gone.  Churches are boarded up. Steeples lay on the ground.   Large parcels of land are empty.   We lunched at an Oak By the Bay Park where all the Oak trees are gone.  It is a city gasping for air.

Panama Beach was not hit by the hurricane.  On Florida 98 you could see exactly where the hurricane passed.   At one point on 98 mammoth trees lined the streets again.   Panama Beach is a spring break Makkah and filled with hundreds of hotels and busy people taking selfies and sunning themselves. The smell of tanning lotion filled the air as we escaped.

A Publix with a Heart (They are now at the center of scandal regarding Gov. DeSantis.)


A Lynn Haven Publix was hosting the vaccine event.  We were 400 hundred miles from home and my appointment was at 3:00 PM.  Tom encouraged me to call and they graciously changed the time to 10:00 for me.  I went in early and I was the first one to get the shot at 9:00 a.m. How wonderful they were to me and to us.  Now we would make it home before dark!  And we would not have to find another campground to stay for the night!

Cost of the vaccine shot:  $325 for gas.  $300 for towing.  Gulf Oaks will not respond to us regarding payment for the towing.  (I bet they do not have liability insurance.) Food for three days was about $100.  So, a free vaccine cost us $725.  Go figure!

One of our Last Moments in Paradise this Year! We will be heading back to Missouri soon!

I am calling this photo, “Seafood by the Sea.”

Oak hill

Please protect yourselves from this awful disease.

Please accept my apologies regarding the design and layout of the blog.  I am unable to create what I want to create in this primitive software. And there are extraneous paragraphs that I did not create.

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

Posted in Camping, Coping with Covid, Coronavirus in Florida, Covid Tourism | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Springing into Florida. Please brake for Alligators!

I call these Fuller Brush Flowers. They are everywhere.

Never met a Palm Tree I did not LIKE!

Florida landscape is enchanting!  Besides the myriad of Palms swaying in the wind, colorful bushes and flowers add to the splendor.  It is said that there are twelve species of Palms that are native to Florida, but I have seen scores of different types of Palms.  They must be vacationing in Florida!

Bird of Paradise flowers are grown in many yards.

This is a bottle tree reminiscent of those in Louisiana! They keep away bad things!
How gorgeous these are! They are about four or more feet tall! I believe they are a variety of Yucca!
One of my favorite Palms!
A woman tends this yard every day. This is only one of her plantings!

Love in the Ponds!

Flowers are blooming but the hearts of alligators are pining for mates. This time of year we see a lot of them. Here are two pics of visitors.

Back yard visitor!
This little friend stuck his head out to say hello!

The Flowers are Hot!

The Alligators are Hot!

And the housing market is so hot it is burning up!

RV homes on our street sell within a couple of days. Million dollar houses sell in a week. We visited about five new developments in New Smyrna (Yes, that is a biblical name.) in an area called Venetian Bay last week. The cost of the houses ranged from a couple of hundred thousand to a million or more. We took a tour of two zero-line homes that were built back to back. See below.

They are not condos but look like them. Cost is about $300K and they were very nice. Constructed of cement blocks and energy efficient, we thought they were priced well. The only problem is that the views are of dirty ditches and cement.

The front of one of the homes. They were quite inviting.
The homes we toured actually shared a wall. This photo I took shows a little grass in between homes.

The Hot Story!

So many people want to move to Florida that building supplies are running low. The agent we talked with said that he could not sell any more houses because supplies to build new ones were not available. A gated higher-end area reported that all the lots were sold and they no longer had models. Building materials have gone up more than 179%.

Sugar Mills in Florida

Yes, sugar cane was processed at these mills. Slaves did the dirty work and risked their lives to process the hot syrup. But most of the sugar did not end up on the table. It ended up in bottles of Rum! Who da’ thought! And that is what made the business so tasty and successful.

We discovered this mill in New Smyrna.

Henry Cruger and William dePeyster owned this mill and a nearby saw mill around 1830. After researching this mill for quite a while I could find little information online about it.

These iron vats were steaming once upon a time.

Florida has done a great job of preserving many historical sites. The above mill was burned down in 1835-1836 by Seminoles who had been attacked by the American government. Its founders fled. A local farmer appropriated much of the machinery left behind.

Beach Art

Strolling along the Canaveral National Seashore

Breakfast on Indian River

There are more pics in this blog than words. This is because the company who owns WordPress decided to shake down users. They took away the software that I had been using for almost a decade. Two graduate classes prepared me to work with WordPress software. Now that is gone. If you understand the construction of websites, you will understand Plug-ins. Now we must purchase a Plug-in to enable the old software for a cost of $300, a new purchase of a premium (costly) theme, and more. They have replaced it with a cranky, unresponsive “Blocks” software. And, they have taken away my administrative abilities with the site.

My first reaction to this breach of our relationship was hysteria. It is not like we haven’t paid other fees they charge us. What was I going to do? I have three websites and the cost would be more than $1500 to maintain them yearly. One website alone has more than 120 posts.

I could find another “free?” blogging website but, then, it could happen to me again. (While they say it is free, you create it yourself.) They could take away the software. I thought that I should start copying all of my work to save it? I could create the blog in Word with pics. Save it as a PDF and then send it out to people. The problem is that there are many people who follow this blog on the web that I do not know. And web presence would vanish!

I kept looking at the software and thought I would try to use it. It is clumsy and annoying, but I managed to write this blog. Hopefully my skills will improve.

As I have said to a few people in Florida, I understand why the government wants to control the Tech Giants–because they control us!

Hope all of you are safe. Hopefully this awful pandemic will leave us soon!

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

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Bring Your Lawn Chair! Okeechobee is Waiting for you!

Lake Okeechobee is Waiting for You!

Here is the Lake!

Commercials with guys hawking Okeechobee RV living dot online space.  He’s happy!  His life is good! You should be his neighbor.

Silver Palms RV Resort

One of our neighbors at TGO recommended visiting the upscale Silver Palms RV Resort.  We signed on to a three- day special for people who might be interested in purchasing a lot.  Silver Palms RV Resort was clean, well-kept, gorgeous,  and the landscaping made you feel as if you were in an arboretum or your own special island.  People were welcoming and it was a quiet.  TGO is aging and we thought we might like to live in a community that was newer and younger in many ways.

This is my photo.

But the city of Lake Okeechobee is very small.  With only about 6,000 residents, it provides little entertainment, shopping, volunteer, or tourist activities.  Official tourism sites claim that more than 1.3 million tourists trek through their town.  Where do they stay?

Another view of Silver Palms from the net.

Heading south out of Okeechobee toward Lake Okeechobee you will find the answer.  The main road in the town of Okeechobee ends at the lake.  Some websites say that there are 120 RV or mobile home resorts in and around Lake Okeechobee.  We turned right on Florida 78 and there were rows and rows of RV parks, Mobile Home parks, and RV resorts.

The map would not populate all the hundreds and hundreds of resorts around the Lake.

I made a list and then threw it away!

Turning left on Florida 78 heading toward the Seminole Battlefield Historic State Park we ran into a Mobile Home Depot.

That was a first for us.  I was looking forward to the Park because I hoped to tell the Seminoles’  brutal story. Upon arrival we found no one,  no literature,  no explanation of anything, and a nice sidewalk that led to locked restrooms.  Florida seems to have trouble maintaining its zillion parks.

At least there was a sign!

There was not much to do in Okeechobee.  While the town is so small, it has a Walmart, the fashion store Bealls, and a super-duper Publix with quite a few restaurants.

Air Boat Rides

Tom found a site that offered air boat rides.  At TGO we hear airboats almost every night in the St. John’s National Wildlife Refuge.  They are loud and annoying.  We wonder what they are doing out in the marshes all night?  But we leaped and booked to passage on an airboat on Lake Okeechobee with one of the locals. They assured us that there would be social-distancing.

Our cruise ship at Lake Okeechobee.

You would never know that airboat rides originated from the desolate site on the lake.  We could not find a terminal.  Finally, someone yelled at us and said  that he was the airboat guy and two other people are coming with us.  His boat was moored along a grassy portion of the lake.  We had to slip down a muddy hill to take our seats on the airboat.  Our guide provided us with headsets and seat belts.  Throughout the ride he talked and sometimes vented to us.

Into the jungle.

The Lake looks like a Swamp!

Within seconds of strapping down, the pilot headed straight through grass that was over 8 feet tall.  It reminded me of the elephant grass in Sierra Leone.  Where was the water?  Throughout the hours we spent on the lake we woke up many alligators and birds that seemed to dwarf me.  We could not see any fish. It was an exciting and unusual experience.  Do this once if you get a chance.

We are in the back seat and don’t know these people.

We were booked at the Everglades National Park earlier this year.  Unfortunately, our RV needed repairs and we had to cancel.  One of the things we were looking forward to was an airboat tour in the Everglades.  Okeechobee stepped up and made it happen for us.


Okeechobee Lake is very shallow and is less than six feet in most places.  (Most websites say it is nine feet deep,  but it is very low at the moment.) Several spots were less than a foot deep.  There is a canal that runs through the middle of it with five locks. Built in 1937 after the terrible hurricanes of 1926 and 1928.  The floods killed many people living around the lake.  You can travel from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico in that river/canal. Kayakers love it.

Cycling Around the Lake!

This is the bike route.

If you like to bike, the levee or berm that circles the lake after the floods is 140 miles long.  You can peddle all around the lake.  One of our friends has biked on top of the levee.  It was unappealing for us because of the smell, dirt, and low water in the lake. Perhaps it is better at other places you can enter the lake!

Here is one link in the road.

Okeechobee is situated in the middle of the state.  In a little more than an hour you can reach the Atlantic (Palm Beach) or the Gulf of Mexico (Fort Meyers).  It is a good place to land if you want to explore Southern Florida.

Okeechobee is waiting for you.  We are happy we met her!

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

Posted in Camping, Camping at TGO, Camping in Florida, Exploring Florida, Florida, Retired in Titusville, Rving across America | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Pandemic Creativity in Florida (Updated)

Keeping Sane While Being Cooped Up!

My addition to the creativity. Both were steel grey and seconds.

He just appeared one day.  There was this man sitting outside his Class C motorhome chipping away at wood.  I walked by his rented site every day.  Soon there was a table and wood statues with a sign “4 Sale.”  The carvings were gorgeous.

Turns out that his name is Herbert.  Trained as metal sculpture artist, he said that he can’t work in metal at TGO because he needs a lot of tools.  His first home was in Vienna, Austria. (WOW, at TGO!)  Migrating to the United States in 1970, he held a lot of jobs.  One of them included creating a home for boys.  For years he lived on  boats that ranged from sailboats to yachts. Life was sometimes perilous because he had to fight drug smugglers in the Caribbean who wanted his boat.  In tense situations when smugglers were trying to steal his boat, he shot a machine gun in the air.  He claims he never shot anyone.  The machine gun kept him and his family alive.

Says he sold his last boat to purchase the RV.  Carving statues supplements his  gas budget for their next adventure out west.  Sometimes he spends from 50 to 100 hours on one statue.  But he is happy and loves his work.  Who would have thought that I would run into a person at TGO whose first home was so far away!

Only recently did I discover that Herbert was an author.  You can find his book on Amazon.com

Sparkling Giants in the Sky

Look how small that two story house is compared to the pole. The house is just across the street about 75 feet.  Notice concrete slabs on the ground.

Have you ever thought of a telephone pole as a work of Art?  Here in Florida, they are replacing 40-foot wooden poles with handsome concrete poles that are six stories high.  There is a metal tip on the end that acts as a lightning rod.  They say that most telephone/power poles are really only (at best) 32-34 feet high because six feet of the pole is in the ground.  (I am sure that these statistics change for area to area.)

The new concrete poles weigh 8,000 -10,000 pounds and must be installed with a crane.  At the moment they are erecting them at TGO.  The equipment is so heavy that they have to place concrete slabs on the ground, so the cranes do not sink.  The poles are supposed to withstand winds of 145 miles per hour.  Florida Power and Light is spending about three billion dollars to upgrade the entire electrical system.  We feel safer.

I could not find a recent video about the installation of the poles.  Some of the older concrete poles were shorter and weighed less than the recent ones they are installing.  Here is an interesting video!

Driveway Art

This is my favorite paver  pattern. I bet it is expensive.  You can see that bricks on the right are deteriorating and need to be cleaned.

Across TGO people love to decorate their driveways.  Some are painted with designs and others use all types of pavers to create interesting patterns.  Painting the driveways takes several days.  First there is cleaning and prepping for the first two coats of the foundation paint.  Then there is mapping of the design, and finally they spray paint the driveway with a variety of textures.  For a couple of years, the driveways look stellar.  Homeowners must clean them every year or they turn into a dusty dirty mess.

Summers can destroy concrete driveways in Florida.  Pelting hot rain with intermittent scorching sun turns concrete to dust.  Honest!  One of the first things we did at our hut was to put a solvent-based acrylic sealer on the aging driveway.  We have gray stamped concrete that looks like pavers.  Upon arriving this year, most of it was gone.  We will have to do it again.  I don’t think the previous owners had it sealed for many years.


Some people opt to take out all of the concrete in their driveways and replace it with pavers.  This is a job for strong mighty people because they have to jack the concrete into pieces and carry it off.  Then they have to dig down further to add the pavers.  Of course, there is the same problem here.  If you don’t spray the pavers with bleach regularly they turn black and ugly.

These pavers are deteriorating near the street.

One of our neighbors just had his painted.

Prepping the driveway. Look at how they protect his home and the curb with paper. First Coat!

Finished Driveway

I asked the workmen if he was going to paint bricks around the edges.  They told me that he wanted it plain.  It could have looked like this below.

The driveway could have looked like this one.

Busy Bee Art.  The Sawdust Club and Hobbyland

On site TGO has designated certain buildings for people to create Art.  The Sawdust Club charges a fee to participate.

Building is their theme.   Most people join for a while so that they can use all the tools to complete a renovation in their home.  Their ad in our “Happenings” newsletter reads, “We offer a full woodworking shop, 3D printer and scanner, a lathe room, and a metalworking room.  Selected hand and power tools may be borrowed for 48 hours.  Sawdust Club Members have helped other TGO groups by  making items they have needed.”

Hobbyland hosts all sorts of people doing everything from carving to quilting.  The building is not as busy right now because of Covid, but last year I was invited to join a few times as I passed by the place.  You will find people weaving, rug hooking, sewing, knitting, scrap-booking, crocheting and more.  To keep insanity at bay, I have also indulged in creative projects.


This is where all the creativity takes place, Hobbyland.

Home, Home on the Range!

I am not much for pounding, sawing, or risking my life for creativity.  I usually paint.  Here are a couple of things I have spent using my Covid time.

This is a door stop that began as plain cement. It swivels now.  As I painted, it just emerged.

I brightened up the number on our driveway with some shimmering gold paint.

Next blog will take us to Okeechobee in the heartland of Florida!  At the moment we are residing our hut with new hurricane windows.

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




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Ormond Beach and the Mystery Mound!

Beware!!! Archaeology is discussed ahead!!!!!  You might want to turn back!

Playing in the Sand on Ormond Beach!

Tom and I have been exploring plantation ruins along the Eastern Coast of Florida.  Recently we stopped by the Dummett  Sugar plantation off Old Dixie Highway on our way to a mound in Ormond Beach.

They spelled the name incorrectly!

Not much is left of the Dummett Sugar Mill. It looks like it has been vandalized.

Here’s the Mystery Mound! or is it Mounds?

I had read about a mound that was discovered in 1982 (thereabouts) next to the Halifax river.  We found the very small indigenous burial mound where it is reported that over 100 people were buried.

You and I could have built this in a day.

I thought that it had to have been diminished in size based upon our visit to Cahokia, Etowah, and Crystal River mounds.  Something didn’t seem “right” about the mound!  I kept reading about it and all the sites said virtually the same thing about it.  Was it a fake or a joke?

The almost unreadable sign.

Finally, I found a report about a 1934 excavation of the Ormond Burial Mound that was published in the 1950’s.  (They ran out of Federal recovery funds in the 1930’s and did not publish the findings of the mound that was excavated. Of course!) Here is a link to the report.

The report was informative but left out important data about the skeletons and how the  people died.  The more I read, the more I thought that the mound we visited was a fraud.  In the report the archaeologists said that the mound was “obliterated”  and used for fill dirt, so a house could be built upon it.  Huh?  And the mound seemed so much larger in the archaeological report than the one next to the river that we had visited.  The report also suggested that the mound was on the Eastern not the Western side of the river and about 1.3 miles south of the bridge.  The small mound was only 1000 feet or less from the bridge.

I decided to contact the Ormond Beach Historical Society.  Gratefully, they clued me in on the mystery.  There were at least two mounds named “Ormond.”  The 1934 report was not about the small mound next to the river.  In addition, they sent loads of information that helped me to put both mounds into perspective.

There is even a timely video that explores the mounds, in much the same way we did, and they discovered the same information. How interesting!  The older guy at the end of the video walks 1.3 miles from the bridge and concludes that the original mound was in that vicinity.  But, notice, the houses are newer.  They were not built in 1934.  So the mystery continues.  See:  A Tale of Two Mounds created by some retired folks.  It is fun to watch.  

Small Mystery Mound-To the West of Halifax River

I created this image for you so you could see where the mounds are/were located.

To me the mound is still a mystery.  Researchers don’t know who was buried here.  The burials could have begun about 1200 years ago and ended around the 16th century.  Only a small area of the mound was excavated with bones seemingly placed in a semi-circle and perhaps bundled together.

What is most interesting about this site is that a community effort saved it from becoming a foundation for a home.  Two young boys found bits of bones and pottery in the trenches being dug in the street for utilities.  After several months, the city bought the property and volunteers began to excavate the site.  As I understand it, they could not find a trained archaeologist who had time to lead the dig full-time.  A short report was filed about the site. I  wonder if the mound was originally much longer and wider.  We will never know because the sand is gone.

This is a slide taken from a presentation on the Tomoka mounds just north of Ormond Beach.  This is near Ormond.

Mound Two.  The missing Mound.  East of the Halifax river or on the Peninsula.  The 1934 Report!

This is a more interesting mound to study because the archaeologists analyzed several levels/strata of sand and shells.  While several pits had been dug in the mound by fortune-hunters, the burials remained below those pits.  They were untouched.  The slide above might help you to locate Ormond.

If you have  never read archaeological reports, the following slides might seem very odd to you.  They capture one slice of the mound or a stratum.  Archaeologists take off one level of dirt/shell at a time.

Have you ever seen drawings by archaeologists? Here is one of the pits in the 1950’s report.

Mounds like this one dot the shorelines all along the Eastern coast of Florida.  One of the members of the Ormond Historical Society sent a presentation to me that demonstrates that there were at least ten mounds north of the Ormond mound sites.  This means that there were thriving communities of people living along the shores for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

This is a wonderful study that took a long time. They discovered these mounds just north of Ormond.

Florida locals dug away the shell mounds and used them for their roads and as foundations for their homes.  Some say it was good fertilizer.  So, they quickly began to melt away.  You wonder what happened to the skeletons in the burial mounds.

Skeletons arranged in a circle found in the same strata or level in the mound.

I have read that the Timucuan indigenous peoples,  who lived in the Ormond area, created circular fenced villages.  They also socialized and performed rituals in a circle.  I thought it was a bit shocking to see skeletons arranged in circles with heads facing out and toes pointing toward the middle of the circle.  (You have to look really close in the image above to see the skeletons.)  Were they dancing or socializing in the next life?  You begin to wonder. 

What caused all of the people to die at the same time? Were they killed in a war?  Was there a pandemic? Were they sacrificed?   Did a hurricane kill them?  Some archaeologists suggest that the bones were stored and buried long after people died. But they do not speculate about the circle.

Another interesting issue in this mound were the skulls.  Several were found without their bodies/skeletons. Why? Were they decapitated? Were they spoils of war? Were their skeletons stolen or lost?  Did someone misplace their bones?  We will never know because the answers are hidden under a home somewhere on the beach.  And I am guessing that the remains are under a high-rise hotel today?

John D. Rockefeller Loved Ormond Beach

The Casements house overlooks the Halifax River. And from it you can walk to the Atlantic Ocean.

A handsome and determined John D. Rockefeller. He is said to be the richest man of all time?

When you hear the name Rockefeller, you think of money.  You think of mining.  You think of gas. You think of the Standard Oil Company.  You think of charitable giving.  We came across some of his businesses in Montana a few years ago.

And while he amassed wealth beyond our imagination, he chose to spend his winters at Ormond Beach at an unassuming home called the Casements.

Right across the river from the Casements is the Eastern mystery mound and a gorgeous boardwalk that takes you under the Granada/Rockefeller Memorial Bridge and out into the Halifax River.  What a treat!

Our Pals Keep Us Sane!

Hillary and Twinkers offer a bit of humor and comfort in these times.

Coming Attractions!

This is the end of our little jaunt to Ormond Beach.  Since then we have visited Okeechobee, explored a lake on an airboat, and discovered very creative people at TGO where we live.

Below is a pic of the Addison Canal that crosses TGO.  Hundreds of gorgeous white birds are spending their winter with us. It is always a welcome sight!

Be safe and take care of each other.

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

Many thanks to the Ormond Beach Historical Society.  They responded to me quickly with great help!




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The Taking of Land in Florida (And the Militias)

Warning!  History Ahead!  Prepare Yourself!

Did you know that Florida sided with Great Britain in the 1776 Revolutionary War?  Oh no!! Did you know that Florida became a US state only in 1845?   Did you know that Florida was part of the Confederacy that left the union of the United States? Oh no!!

The Culture of Florida and “The Taking”

When visiting the beaches in our many treks to Florida over 30 years, we met a lot of people who seemed to be just like us.  I really thought that Florida was a Mid-western state.  Duh!

After living in central Florida for a while, I kept feeling that the people around me were very much like my relatives who live in Kentucky and Tennessee.  They looked like them.  They dressed like them.  They worshipped in the same type of churches.  And they spoke like them.  After studying the history of Florida, I discovered that I was correct.  Many people from the Southern States moved to Florida when the land was virtually free and brought their culture with them.

In 1862 the Florida Homestead Act gave light-skinned people options, after they attempted to force the original owners to leave.  Light-skinned people could choose property that was 65-160 acres and farm it for five years, then it was deeded to them.  Or, after six months they could purchase the land for $1.25 an acre.  Even today, when we moved to Florida, we were given a break on our real estate taxes, calling us Homesteaders, even though we did not buy a plantation! And they also give seniors a discount!

Florida’s history is troubled. The Taking of the Land.

Early in the 16th century Spain took Florida as its own and brought slaves to tame the jungles.  About two hundred years later, the Brits took over the same land.  They built the King’s Highway that went right past the Bulow plantation. Then Spain took it back. And finally, in 1821 United States took it as their own territory.

Of course, the history is much more complicated than this with a lot of war and fire and brimstone. The point to all of this is that whenever a new country took over Florida all of the lands exchanged hands.  There was a taking.  Whatever country was governing at the moment thought they had the  right to give it or sell it to someone else.  So, fortunes were gained and lost as the politics raged on.  In the end all of the plantations on the East coast succumbed to what is termed the second “Seminole” war.

The Bulow Plantation.  The story is long and sad. 

Tom and I visited Bulow Plantation located near Ormond, Florida.  I was particularly interested in the site because in the history of Florida text that I read no mention was made of plantations along the Eastern coast of Florida.  We expected to discover a lovely house with gardens and people who reconstruct the past.  What we found were the remains of a steam-powered sugar mill and ashes.

Artist’s conception of the plantation based upon archaeological mapping.

Visiting this plantation was a real eye-opener.  We have visited many historic sugar mills in different countries but had never seen such a large one here at the Bulow site.  It was built like a fortress with naturally compressed shells, called coquina.

One shot of the mill. It was huge.

John Joachim Bulow, a very young boy, inherited this plantation at the death of his father in 1823.  Employing 200 slaves his father had cleared the land and then suddenly died two years later.  No one knows if he or his son built the scores of structures that were housed on the plantation.

There were 46 slave residences and 12 other buildings including a sawmill, engine house, blacksmith’s shop, and sugar mill.  The main house was 42 feet by 62 feet, about 2600 square feet on one floor.  Court Records and Census data reveal that John was the wealthiest man in the area.  He owned 193 slaves which was more than four times greater than any of his neighbors.  His plantation encompassed 5,000 acres.

Here is John!

Not much is known about John.  We understand that he never married, was schooled in Paris, and friends had different opinions of him.  Some said he treated the slaves brutally and others said that he really liked to party.  In any case, he was very successful in spite of his faults.

This is a wonderful list of plantations on the East coast of Florida. the map will help you identify the location. Notice the Dummett plantations.

When the U.S.A. took over Florida as a territory, it began a forced removal of the local indigenous peoples. Or, you could say that it declared war on the Seminoles.  Plantation owners had a good trading relationship with the Seminoles until then.  So, when an American militia forced its way into the area, the Seminoles revolted.  (We understand militias these days, don’t we?)

In 1835 the armed American guard (known as the Mosquito Roarers) chose John’s plantation to become their headquarters. John fired a cannon at them to try and protect his home.  He was outgunned.  The USA Brigade confiscated his property and put him under arrest.  His punishment was to stay in an outhouse for a year. (How could anyone do this?) Next, they built a fort and began occupying all of his buildings and consuming the resources of the plantation. Meanwhile Seminoles amassed large forces and threatened the newly built fort after being occupied by the militia for only one year.

The fort was built right in front of the plantation. Wonder who lived in the house during the seige?  Betcha it was the Major!

In 1836 under heavy armed guard the USA militia escorted local citizens including John to St. Augustine to protect them.  The Major of the militia would not allow John to take any of his belongings with him. (He must have left all of his papers, money, and treasures in that house.  Can you imagine the cruelty John experienced?) I wonder if some of the Militia stole his belongings?

When the military left, the Seminoles burned down all of the plantations and other buildings but did not touch the slave homes. (I think I would have kept them and lived in them for a while.)  I can just imagine all the looting and carousing that went on.  And while history claims that the Seminoles destroyed the properties, it would seem reasonable to me that the slaves assisted them in the destruction.  Many runaway slaves and other freed slaves joined their ranks.   They were known as the Black Seminoles.  To this day they do not know what happened to all of those slaves.

This was a photo from the net.

Seminole lineage is difficult to trace.  Some say they were Creeks who broke away from the main tribe, or “wild ones.” They resisted the Brit invasion and continually fought for their land and independence.  Eventually the United States stopped the war against them and allowed them to live in peace in Florida.  They won!

When John arrived in St. Augustine, he made claims against the United States because of his losses.  They were ignored.  He died one month later.  No one knows where he was buried. His sister inherited the property but was never given a dime for all the destruction the militia did to it.  The rest of the story is too long to rehearse here.  Eventually the State of Florida took over the property and created a state park to tell the Bulow story.

I am continuing to research the plantations and may have more for you later!

The Clifton One-Room School on Merritt Island

This little 1890 Clifton Colored school has caused some issues in town.

Recently the Park Ranger who manages the Visitor Center on Merritt Island National Refuge just north of Canaveral, asked me if I would research one room schoolhouses on the Refuge. The Park Ranger’s  request actually propelled me to study other communities in Eastern Florida.  That is when I found the Bulow plantation. Notice on the map above that lists the plantations that there are two that belong to the Dummetts. The younger Dummett went on to create a famous orange plantation on Merritt Island.

NASA purchased around 80,000 acres of northern Merritt Island between 1962-1964, and even more acreage earlier.   The US government came in and offered people a stipend for their land and demolished almost all the structures.  Although some residents claim they were never paid for their property, and others say they were underpaid. (Here we have “the taking” again!)

Merritt Island, before 1962, was a thriving community with farms, beach homes, churches, restaurants, schools, and a great hunting, boating, and fishing tourist industry.  Now it is all gone. But instead we have the extraordinary National Merritt Island Refuge and Canaveral National Seashore.

A few years ago, remains of a one room schoolhouse were discovered with a trunk inside of it.  That school was known as Clifton Colored School (see above), built around 1890.  People were surprised that it had survived the wrecking ball.   Today there is a growing interest in the stories and lives of the people who once called northern Merritt Island home.

Interesting photo of an early settler on Merritt Island.  I think he is on the beach because there are no trees around him!  He is dressed  like my Uncle Homer.

My assignment was to discover how the Clifton school was constructed on the inside and what type of latches were used.  In addition, I was to locate other one room schools in the area.  It was a daunting task because museums and most libraries were closed.  But I did uncover a few one room schools on the Refuge and in Brevard County.  Eventually I will share the results of my research with you.  Here is a look at a few of the pics I discovered.

One of my favorite old photos on the island. Do you see the water behind the shed?

Another palmetto-thatch home. This one is on land away from the water.

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

These days Hillary captures how we feel about everything. We have hopes for a “better” America soon!




Posted in 19th century architecture, Abusive Politics in Florida, Florida, Forts, History of Taking the Land in Florida, Merritt Island, One Room School houses, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Florida. The Good. The Bad. And, The Ugly!

Holidays at The Great Outdoors.  The Good.

TGO is a remarkable playground for adults at Xmas time.  Inflatables dawn the yards of one entire street while Christmas lights blind you on another.  It is an unusually happy time of year for the old timers. They decorate their golf carts and dance around the resort.

It felt like you had traveled to a shining star world.

Neighbors across the street.

Across the street our neighbors were enjoying a good (gas) fire.  They looked so warm and happy.  I had to share this with you.

Sebastian Inlet Retooled.  The Great.

Here is a bird’s eye view of the Inlet. We are camping on the right.

One of our favorite places to camp is Sebastian Inlet.  The water, beaches, sky, and birds are stunning.  It is a great place for fishing, boating, kayaking, walking, biking, and people watching.

What can I say?

There were more cameras than fishing poles on this day!

How would you like to camp in this? Looks like he packed a lot of dishes!

Tom Paddling

This year we made a couple of day trips from Sebastian.  One of them was to an ancient indigenous shell mound.

I don’t believe that the people chose to leave. This is a myth written by the conquerors.

Wealthy people built upon this mound which was at least 40 feet above sea level on the Indian River. Later, an heir to the Coca Cola fortune created a fantastic mansion and grounds which were eventually sold.  The site morphed into a two-year college and then a technological school.  All failed.  Finally locals from Jensen beach persuaded the powers-that-be to save the site.  They raised funds and turned it into a splendid park.  What  a treat to explore the grounds.  The mansion is situated right on Indian river with a sand beach, fishing pier, wooden walkway, and more.  Local museums surround it.

Just dream!

You can read a history here:

On Jensen beach we discovered the perfect waterfront retirement homes.  They start at about $169,000. No one was at home here.

Tiny Houses, about 6-800 square feet.

Birds of a Feather.   Royal Tern.  The Good.

What a lady!

Oceans are fickeled.  One day when the surf was very aggressive, we met a Royal Tern.  She was facing the ocean.  Nothing worried her.  Waves would lap at her feet and the wind could have blown her away.  She stood looking out at the ocean. Other birds ran away from the foaming surf. She stood strong.   What was she looking for?  Who was she waiting for?

My next life will be lived as a Pelican.  The Good.

Marla the Pelican

The glorious American White Pelican can stand up to five feet tall.  Oddly enough, at UCM, when I was a professor, I was given the password of “Pelican” for our mainframe.  White pelicans often are mistaken as white swans.  With a wingspan of 9 feet, they fly at least 48 miles per hour but do not dive for their food like other pelicans.

Sebastian Inlet borders 100 year old  Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge.  The first of its kind.  Search for white pelicans.  I have seen photos of thousands of pelicans sitting together in the Refuge.

Today we were watching hundreds of birds swarming around Sebastian Inlet as the tide came in.  Brown pelicans were following dolphins and feeding frenzies occurred around the dolphins.  What a sight!  The only time I have seen birds swarming like this for food is at the back of a cruise ship dumping garbage.  (Yes, they are not supposed to do it, but they do.)

Earlier Day Trip to Flagler Beach, the Millionaire’s Beach.  The Good.

You park within a few feet of the ocean.

Henry Flagler founded Standard Oil and built a railway system that connected all the land on the East Coast of Florida all the way to the Keys.  He used slave and prison labor to build it.

His preeminent hotel “The Ponce de Leon” is now Flagler College, a gorgeous property in St. Augustine.  Flagler beach is a natural wonder for all people.  There are six miles of uncrowded beaches, with no houses or huge condos to block your view.  You can park within ten feet of  a sandy beach.  No wonder it is so popular.  The state RV park on Flagler beach is right on the ocean!

How to win a  reservation in a State Park! The Bad.

Our goal by tripping to Flagler was to explore a possible camping spot in Florida, and we were successful.  Since we are senior Florida residents, we can camp at any Florida campground for half price.  That means, that we can camp on ocean front property for as little as $14 a day, providing we can make a reservation.  Recently we managed to get through the Reserve America reservation system to stay at Florida’s Curry Hammack Campground between Key Largo and Key West in the Keys next November of 2021. Rules state that you can only reserve a spot 11 months ahead.

The first day we tried to make a reservation at Curry Hammack there were two campsites available.  I was using my computer and Tom was using his phone.  You have to get your electrode through the system by 8:00 a.m.  There is a clock that shows the seconds on the site.  By 8:01 you can’t book a reservation.  We lost the race, no reservation. The Bad.

Curry Hammack

On the second day, there were four campsites open for the day we wanted to start camping.  Each one of us hit the keys at 7:59 and 59 seconds.  Tom chose the best site which was ocean front.   I chose a site that was not fronting the Atlantic Ocean. I thought we might win a reservation because everyone else would go for the best site. And I was right, we won.  While we won’t be on the front row, we will be only a few feet away from the water.

When we decide to book Flagler, it will be the same scenario. With our digital devices on super “dooper” high, we will hit the buttons and hope we win a spot.  There are two campgrounds at Flagler, one on the Indian River (Intra-costal highway) and one on the ocean.  We will try for the river.

Walmart Blues.  What were you thinking girl?  The Ugly and Bad.

Grocery shopping can send you to the ER.  Armed with a mask and gloves, I enter chaotic space only after I find and push a heavy, rusted basket across potholes into the Walmart arena.

Get out of the way girl!

Entering Walmart space makes you shiver.  Gridlock is the name of the game.  Beware of the banana snatcher and an old woman with a cane.  Regularly large pallets and employees working pickup– smash into your cart.  People on motorized vehicles snip your toes without blinking an eye.  Today three different men used their carts as weapons and pushed me out of the way.

Carts can hardly move through the sky-high stacks of groceries sitting everywhere.  Shelves are often empty and choices are minimal.  This might account for the frenzied behavior of people who have an East coast accent!

Get out of the way girl!

I have not seen blood on the floor, but all the same you take your life in your hands when you enter Walmart.  Sometimes whole families and their ancestors block aisles that you have to avoid.  Rude and self-centered customers reach over your cart to grab goods that fall on you and into your cart.  Or they open a door and hit your face while you are looking at the same frozen food.  Some people are polite and say “excuse me” when they push their cart right in front of you.  Yuk! Even people in wheel chairs mow you down.

And yesterday, all of the cold storage displays went down.  There was no meat, no frozen goods, or… What a mess!  We opened our blackberries today and mold covered them.  Wonder why?

Girl, you are too slow!

Self-check-out is hazardous too.  Machines stop working.  Customers push your cart to inform you to go faster.  Usually, after  I finish checking out, I realize that I have forgotten items in the blocked aisles.  I never go back!

Florida’s Revenge.  The Ugly.

Dumping the grey and black tanks. Yuk!

Campers understand that hooking up to a sewer system is a necessity when you are staying at a campground for longer than four days.  Florida state campgrounds do not invest in sewer systems.  So, at Sebastian we were hooked up to water and electricity and the water had nowhere to go but into our holding tanks.  They fill up quickly if you are taking showers and washing dishes.

So, that means that we have to pack up everything, as if we are going to leave, and dump our tanks.  We have to clean the floors so the slides will not scratch the tile, and pack breakables.  Then, after dumping, we return to our site to push out the slides and level the coach.  Sometimes the park sites are so small that it takes 15 minutes just to back into it properly. Then, Tom has to hook up the water and electricity and we unpack the breakables.  It feels like you are on a day trip to a DUMP station.

Low and behold, fire ants.

To prevent the use of water and the filling up of our grey water tank, (so we don’t have to dump) sometimes we do the laundry at the bath house.  (We have a washer and dryer on board.)

While waiting for a load to finish, I kept getting bit.  I figured it was only gnats.  After all, I was standing on concrete.  In the middle of the night, I discovered that fire ants had stung me between and on top of my toes.  They even bit the bottom of my feet.  I did not see the ants but apparently, they enjoyed me.  The sting of a fire ant leaves pustules that itch like poison ivy.  In fact, these little guys made me itch from head to toe. I had to take an antihistamine.   The bite/sting lasts for weeks. Would you like to see my toes?  The Bad.

Fire ant stings.

The Great.  Here are a couple of gorgeous moments at Sebastian Inlet. 

The sky was on fire.

Take a moment and sit here and be thankful for the sky.

I hope all of you are staying well and trying to avoid the lethal politics.  Some days we feel as if we are out of our minds.  We don’t enjoy living like hermits who have taken vows of silence.  We get out but we look like masked intruders who are doing surgery.  Stay well and hope for a better 2021.

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

Here is a fella we see often on the golf course. I just took a photo of another one whose head was at least three feet long!  Alligators are endangered because hunters would kill dozens of them at a time.

Thanks to the web for a couple of the photos above.

Posted in Camping, Camping at TGO, Camping in Florida, Sebastian Inlet State Park, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Follow that Dream … to Florida

Yankee Town, Crystal River, and the Gulf Coast are Waiting for YOU!

At the end of the road, you will find this sight!

General area of Crystal River.

Yes, there is a road named, “Follow the Dream Parkway.”  It heads out to Bird Creek Beach on the Western shores of Florida–Gulf side.   On the way to this more than remarkable place, we saw signs claiming that Elvis had walked the path.  Little did we know that, it was right here on this very road and in the town of Yankee that the movie “Follow that Dream” was filmed.

Crystal River Archaeological Site  (Click on the title to view a great video.)

This is a photo of the 30 foot high mound on Crystal River.

We have been planning for months to visit the Crystal River shell mound.  The more we studied the beauty of the area, the more we knew we had to extend our stay.  During the holidays we sprint out of town.  Cooking and socializing with scads of people is not the game we like to play, and this year with Covid hanging over us, we knew we had to leave.

Artist’s conception of Crystal River Mounds.

Crystal River was home to  Indigenous peoples who have vanished.  They left evidence of their friends and family who had passed on, and built huge mounds along a gorgeous river that was near healthy springs.  Those mounds took many years to build.  Some archaeologists argue that this was a meeting area for celebrating the dead and the performance of religious rituals.  No one really knows how it was used.

Besides mounds where people were buried with important (maybe personal) objects, there was a large, long presentation area–like a stage in a sports arena.  Some of the areas at the site have been bulldozed by contractors who used the shells for construction.  In one film  about the mounds, the park ranger asked us to imagine paddling down the river in a canoe.  All of a sudden, high above the water travelers would see these huge mounds with buildings on top of them.  Brightly colored flags and, perhaps, music would have greeted the traveler.

Another artist captures Crystal River. The area is much larger than depicted here.

In Turkey, we ran into very large circular areas called Caravanserais.  Travelers could stay overnight, purchase food, and keep their animals in a holding area below the rooms or out in the plaza.  I  wonder if some of these archaeological sites served the same purpose.  They always have a huge open area in the middle of the mounds.  Archaeologists find virtually nothing in the plaza or open areas.  I also wonder if these sites were a little like Las Vegas for the locals?

Unfortunately the museum was closed due to Covid.  Here are a couple of photos (taken from the net) of artifacts found at the site.  Wish we knew who created them!  Archaeologists link the culture and artifacts with several groups of cultures that go East and North as far as Cahokia Mounds near St. Louis and in Illinois.

Three Sisters Springs 

This place was a treat.  It is home to hundreds of Manatees during the winter months.  The water stays a good 75 degrees and Manatees love it.  We have a National Park pass but it only gave us a discount here.  In order to visit the springs and hiking trails next to the Crystal River, we had to board a bus.  No automobiles are allowed, there is no parking outside the springs, although walkers and bicycles may enter.  We did not know exactly how to locate the entrance to Three Sisters so we took the bus. Normally we would have hoofed it.

I could not capture the very blue. clear water here. Even more beautiful than this pic.

Rangers and volunteers have built a boardwalk all around the area.  We walked it twice because the views were stunning.  A few manatees were sunning themselves as we followed them.  One negative note here is, as the day marched on, snorkelers dominated the springs.  It was almost as if we came to see them snorkel.

This is not my photo but people snorkeling soon filled the area. Notice how close they are to the Manatee.  We heard that you could touch the Manatees if you had a mind to do it.

Tom paddling toward Three Sisters that can be accessed by water.

Touring Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

It is not exactly a zoo.  The wildlife park houses (mostly) creatures indigenous to Florida.  Panthers, Bobcats, Red Wolves, Birds of Prey, Shore Birds, and even Black bears greeted us.  Along the way  we viewed a very active Hippopotamus.  What cute eyes!

Many of its inhabitants have been injured.  There was one large bird that had been there for 30 years.  Below are a few of the intriguing sights. The park is well-maintained and visitors use a boardwalk to reach the inhabitants.  Some of the areas were closed due to Covid.

Such a bright and spunky guy!


The closest I have been to a Manatee–the water cow!

The Town:  Crystal River

Tourists had invaded the town when we arrived.  They were everywhere and most were not practicing social distancing or wearing masks.  The main drag on Citrus Avenue sports several small shops.  Some of them could only hold 3-4 people.  One of the most interesting things to me was William Mickey who was painting a mural just outside the town square.  Talent is his middle name.  After offering an appreciation for his work, I mentioned that it was a bit idealized.  He agreed and said he was going to work harder to make the mural and his love for the area more realistic.

An idealized manatee on the loose.

Can you imagine doing this?

I explored Crystal River while Tom paddled around.  Here are a couple of fun shots.

Go Fish.

The sun is in my eyes.

The Sugar Mill

While touring around in Homosassa, just south of Crystal River, we ran into a Sugar Mill.  On the island of St. Croix (Which we love and considered purchasing a condo.) we visited several mills but none of them had a huge iron engine like this one.  It seemed to be much more advanced than those on St. Croix.

Do you know that sugar mills did not only produce sugar.  They produced molasses and syrup that eventually was magically turned into “Rum.”  So the mills were important to the locals!

It was a beautiful setting.

Notice the huge iron wheel and other metal objects. In the foreground are metal vats.

Fort Island Gulf Beach

Boardwalk and fishing pier. This is one of my favorite photos from our Crystal River adventure.

We were not sure we wanted to take the nine mile trek from Crystal River to Fort Island.  But, oh, what a ride it was.  The road is built on top of tiny islands with water and grass on each side of you.  Were we in the Everglades?  No!  I have a sneaking suspicion that the military did the work on this one.  I searched for its history and could not find it. Also,  I spent some time thinking I should straighten this photo but apparently it is straight with the horizon.  The tilting is an illusion? Tom says that the boardwalk is not straight.

A blue haze and sky greet you when you arrive at Fort Island Beach.  The sky melts into  the water.  Where were we? on some distant watery planet?   The experience was very eery and beyond expectations.  Walking the beach we discovered a well-built fishing pier.  Then, we waited for the sun to show its magnificent face.  Such beauty!

This is beyond …

Discovering Florida is a bonus that we had not anticipated when we moved here. Every day we gaze out our porch and see alligators, birds we can’t name, fire ants (ouch!), and huge turtles — no snakes or black bears yet.  The other night we heard cows bellowing and on an evening walk, a bobcat stared us straight in the eyes!

Quiet moments on our porch.

Hope all of you are well.  It seems that the Covid hurricane is upon us.  Stay safe and keep busy somehow.

Next report will be on Sebastian Inlet.

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


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War in Heaven: Mother Nature and Politics in Florida

Wake up!! Mother Nature is in Charge!

Heading south can be a real high!  Traveling at warp speed (65 mph) from Cass County, we reach the mountains in a couple of days.  Even though we have traveled this way numerous times, it is always a spectacle — we love and fear.  Down-shifting is the name of the game when we reach a summit and barrel down hill.  In 2016, Tom broke a tooth in Colorado trying to keep our RV on the road of a very steep mountain.

Mother Nature and Florida.  The War!

Can you believe it?

Last year, we painted the gutters and etc., on the outside of our little “hut.”  We also painted inside the screened porch.  When we left,  all was gleaming and happy.  Upon arrival this year, we found mildew and mold  had taken up residence.  Neighbors said it was the hotest summer they had experienced with lots of rain.  This stuff was too much for me.  But, Tom jumped right in and began washing everything by hand.  He has his own formula for mold removal.

My hero!

Our Palm trees had also evolved into an unsightly mess.  Again, Tom jumped in and began trimming them.  Many neighbors hire people to do this.  Often, I am amazed at his abilities to do all of the maintenance we need. When he was finished, there was a pile of debris next to the street that had to be removed with a forklift.  WOW!

Could you trim these trees?

Food from the Gods

In between days and days of cleaning (inside and out), we headed to Indian River to order take out.  At Dogs R’ Us, Tom ordered his first hot dog of the year.

This would send me to the hospital.

For the past two years we have passed by Moonlight Drive-In and did not stop.  This year we were up for a little action and decided to dine at the old-fashioned drive-in.  It was a different experience but I am not sure we would return.

Playalinda Beach on the Canaveral National Sea Shore

We took another break from cleaning and headed to the beach.  No words can describe its beauty.

This trip to the beach was on the day of the tropical storm. You could actually see rings of the (hurricane) in the sky.

Our first catch at Playalinda.

Fiat Madness and Storage.  DMV Blues in Florida

There are only two cars that would fit through our double doors on the screened porch (for storage while we are gone).  We could not find a Smart Car, but did uncover a gorgeous 2017 Fiat POP.

Here she is!

The owners of the Fiat were like angels from another time and space.  Tom found the car online in August in Sarasota, Florida, and told the owners we could not pick it up until the end of October.  After some negotiations and good will, they agreed to hold the car for us (with a down payment) until we arrived.  Other offers came in, but they stood by us!

Pick up and execution of the title was easy.  Terry and Myron graciously gave us a tour of their very lovely home (to die for).  Then, we headed the 175 miles back to Titusville.  I had not driven a stick shift for many decades.  I was surprised at how much I loved it.

Government Hell

About a day later, I took all the paperwork for the car to the DMV.  No, I could not license or title the car.  I think they did not believe that the car had only 1022 miles on it.  They made up excuses about how the numbers were placed on the title, the lack of Tom’s name, and more.  Tom even had to sign a Power of Attorney.  I told the office person that he was outside in the car but she would not have it.  What a mess!

So the angels had to sign special documents that verified the mileage.  I put the documents in the mail on October 27. I thought they would reach Sarasota in about two days.  It took them almost two weeks to arrive.  These documents were sent during the time that the Post Office was ordered to slow down the mail. (Attempted Voter Suppression verified by a retired Postal chief.) Terri signed the documents and they finally got back to us in two days on November 12.  (Yes, after the election.) With all the documents in hand,  I went back to the DMV thinking they would throw me out the door again.  They did not, and now I finally have a license for the Fiat.

At last….

Election Insanity

Our favorite outing for a few weeks was town hall in Titusville, always weighed down with paperwork.  We have never seen the screaming and yelling and hoopla that was going on around the government buildings.  There was music.  There was dancing.  There were conga chains. There were balloons.  Flags were flying and posters were  being thrown around.   Madness at best!  And, there were thousands of signs around the city buildings.

And, there was another kind of insanity in the parking lots around town.  People were angry and they displayed their anger on their cars.


Moments of Wonder

Tom pedals his bicycle with friends once a week.  I don’t follow because I can not keep up the speed.  So, we started to get my bike ready for me to ride when, what do you know? There was an animal living inside of it.  We tried to get it out, but it still might be in my bike somewhere underneath the seat.

Is it a gecko or a frog?

This is one of the scores of mysterious beings around our house.

Our beloved canines have become spoiled while living in the RV.  Twinkers thinks that she should have a bowl of salad too!

She was too close!

Birthdays are the Best!

We celebrate our birthdays in October and November.  Tom wanted an apple pie.  It was my first homemade pie baked in the convection microwave.  Wow!

Space Critters

We regularly feel the earth move and thunder shakes everything that is living.  I would love to show you all my pics of the launches from the Space Center.  Here is one launch that was particularly large.  It is taking astronauts to the space station!

We are standing in the driveway in front of our house. The launch lit up the sky!

Notice the little white dots.  Those are planes circling the event.

Next week we are visiting the Crystal River Archaeological Park on the west coast of Florida!  I will report later.

Stay safe and follow CDC guidelines.  Life is perilous these days!

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




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Georgia On Our Minds!

The roads to Florida are rife with bumps, cranks, cracks, and jumps.

While RVing across the United States we often need a break from being thrown into the air by unkept interstate highways that have been abandoned by governments. Georgia offered us some interesting sites to investigate and rest our aching muscles. 

I spent almost every summer of my childhood visiting Aunt Thelma in Rossville, Georgia. We would visit mama’s folks in Pine Knot and Williamsburg, Kentucky and then head south to visit my father’s relatives in Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee and Georgia. This annual trek lasted until my mother died about 10 years ago.

Visit Etowah Mounds (Not far from my dad’s people.)

We have vacationed in Georgia many times but never knew there were so many interesting historical sites. Here is a brochure that will show you the way: https://gastateparks.org/online-travel-guide

One of the several mounds at the site.

Etowah Indian mounds was our first stop. (They were huge! Six stories high!) While studying underwater archaeology, I discovered that there were shell mounds all over Florida and the world. Then, after visiting Cahokia Mounds right outside St. Louis, I found that mounds are also found throughout the United States.

Artist’s conception of the mound city.

Fascinating aspects of this archaeological site were that there was a moat/canal around the whole village.  And right above the moat the indigenous people  built a wooden fence. Look at the drawing above.  Etowah was built on a river and the people dug canals so that the water would move around the complex.

 Notice at the top of the painting that there are small holding ponds and people residing outside of the main compound. The moat and small lakes are still visible today along with the canal they dug to divert water. What an engineering feat of people who lived over 2,000 years ago! (The mounds were constructed around 1000 CE.)  This canal/moat would provide close access to water, but more than that, it could flush away human waste.  The following link adds additional material about the mounds: https://lostworlds.org/etowah_mounds/

Photo of the canal that still exists today.

The stylized art was similar to Poverty Point. And they both considered  copper to be a precious metal.

I discovered Etowah while studying artwork at Poverty Point Indian Mounds in Louisiana. Poverty Point is at the top of my list to visit  on our way home in May.  Some of the finds were similar.   Two sculptures were also found in a pit below one of the mounds at Etowah.

This is not a happy couple. They remind me of finds in ancient Sumer almost 6,000 years ago.






Houses or public buildings were erected on the top of the mounds. It must have been awesome!

This site was abandoned around 1550 CE, about the time of the Spanish invasion.  Who knows if the Spaniards killed and looted the site or the people died of smallpox/other diseases?  Several burials were found beneath a mound. Like almost every other archaeological site, people had looted the mounds before the archaeologists arrived.   It was a rewarding day to walk around the site, think about the people who lived here so long ago,  and explore the moat/canal and mounds.  The museum tells its story quite well.  Visit it someday, if you can!

Visit New Echota.  The Cherokee Capital in 1825. (Click for a video.)

Here is a copy of their alphabet.

Tom and I have visited Sequoyah’s cabin  in Oklahoma.  It is odd that the tourist site never mentioned that he lived in Tennessee, (near my father’s home), and then moved to New Echota.

 Sequoyah created an alphabet for the Cherokees.  In New Echota they printed a newspaper in both English and Cherokee. (My brother told me that there is a tourist center featuring Sequoyah along I75. The Eastern Band of the Cherokees claim it is his birthplace.)

The Cherokees dominated land throughout the South and Eastern Atlantic coast.  Eventually they lost it while battling the Europeans who thought they deserved their land.  Remember that mythological belief of “Manifest Destiny?”

Building where they printed the Cherokee newspaper.

Image of Sequoyah.

Having lost parcels of their land,  Cherokees decided to create a capital that was approved by the U.S. Supreme Court.  This meant that they could govern themselves apart from the United States.  They were their own state, so to speak!

I was very interested in New Echota because my grandmother Selvidge was Cherokee.  This makes me one-quarter Cherokee.  While I have not lived in a Cherokee community, both my mother’s family and my dad’s family lived on and near Cherokee land.  When I researched how the Cherokees lived, it was the same as my parents.  Selvidges are listed in the book of Cherokees in Oklahoma and were makers of long-rifles.

This was my favorite home. The only one that was not torn down. Hand-built by Samuel Worcester, a congregational minister in New Echota who followed the Cherokees to Oklahoma.

Worcester loved  the Cherokees. He helped in the printing office and translated for them.

The very stately courthouse.

People began to build homes in New Echota.  The well-organized town even had its own court-house and tavern.

Inside the courthouse. It reminded me of the courthouse in Philadelphia.

Light-skinned people did not like the success that they saw in this little town.  Someone said that they found gold near New Echota.  The Cherokees took the case of ownership to the U.S. Supreme Court and won but Georgia decided it was time for them to leave. Georgia declared all contracts with the Cherokees to be null and void.  Light-skinned people overran their lands.

The President of the United States and the military drove the people off of their land.  Here is a quote from History.com: “President Martin Van Buren sent General Winfield Scott and 7,000 soldiers to expedite the removal process. Scott and his troops forced the Cherokee into stockades at bayonet point while whites looted their homes and belongings. Then, they marched the Indians more than 1,200 miles to Indian Territory.”  They forced them to walk to Oklahoma.  This began what is known as the “Trail of Tears.”  Many Cherokees died on the way.

Here they are!

A better portrait.

Three wealthy Cherokees (Notice, they are wearing clothing.) knew that the Georgia government was going to take their city and destroy it.  One night they made a deal to sell New Echota to the Federal Government for $5 million dollars plus receive all of the land that is now Oklahoma.  (They did not know that other indigenous peoples were living in Oklahoma.) Those men were executed.  Who received the $5 million?  Most of the other Cherokees wanted to stay at New Echota, so the business men were probably killed by them?  Who knows?

Very quickly, Georgia platted the land and gave it away to light-skinned people so they could find the gold? Wonder if they killed any of the Cherokees?  They tore down almost everything they found in New Echota.

The Beauty of Indigenous Peoples

We have visited hundreds of indigenous archaeological sites all over the United States.  It never fails to amaze me that educated people almost always portray the indigenous as scantily clothed.  It seems that they all bought their loincloths from the same tailor. I love it when I discover portraits of early indigenous peoples  that do not show every part of their body.  The following portraits, with several others, were on a wall at the New Echota museum.  Gorgeous!

A Creek Warrior!

Unknown at this moment!

Last thought. Can you read the Cherokee name for Women?

Hope you have all survived the election and Covid.  My next blog will explore the return to our southern home in Florida.  

Thanks to the images I found on the net to use in this blog.  I am truly grateful for the talent and work of others. 

Be safe and sane, if you can!

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

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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!


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.


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



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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


Posted in Holy Land Experience, Orlando, Religious Sites in Orange and Brevard Counties, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.


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

Posted in Exploring Florida, Exploring Titusville, Merritt Island Natural Refuge | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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!