Volunteer: Underwater Archaeology in Florida. Part Two

Answering My Questions?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reproduction of a skeleton found at Windover.

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

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

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

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

Bundled skeletons.

Were people sacrificed at the Windover mortuary site?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Were there other pond sites?

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

Key Marco

Artist’s conception of Key Marco.

One of the artifacts that survived.

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

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

Huge statue found in the river near Hontoon.

Below are some of the artifacts that survived.

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

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

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

Fort Center

Artist’s conception of ancient Fort Center.

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

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

Here is another drawing of Fort Center.

Manasota Key in the Gulf of Mexico

Artist’s conception of the key.

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

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

Employment of Modern Technology

How do archaeologists find the underwater sites?  Archaeologists employ:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Underwater Archaeology in Florida. Part One

Florida is Beyond Anything I Could Have Imagined

Volunteer and Discover!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Underwater Archaeology

Here is a diver laying out a grid underwater.

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

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

Holding a basket of bones.

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

 

 

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

Why is the spring so deep?

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

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

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

Investigating Ponds

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

I learned so much.

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

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

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

Power Point Presentation

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

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

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

Some of the images were borrowed from the net.

 

 

 

 

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Coping with Covid: At Home and Somewhere Else

Strategies That Calm the Mind

One of my favorite bays, Agate Bay.

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

Nature can be a Haven

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

Taken in Two Harbors.

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

Camp in the Open Air

Grand Marais on a clear day.

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

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

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

Who is making the Pizza in Grand Marais?

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

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

It was not easy to walk on this beach.

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

Tettegouche State Park

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

A quiet moment!

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

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

Here are our bicycles. Notice Tom’s Kayak.

Back at the Campground

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

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

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

Beauty Surrounds you when you Camp!

I made a friend!

Enjoy the flowers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Staying at Home is not so Easy

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

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

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

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

Tom beginning to paint his office a creamy pumpkin.

Tom’s office shines now!

The mantel before paint!

The hearth room with a Florida hue.

New Food

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

Really, Cranberry and Wild Rice bread was good.

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

Breathe in Fresh Air

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

Tom takes care of it and I feed the fish.

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

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

Our new card!!!

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Hiding Out in Two Harbors, Minnesota

A Most Unusual Summer Excursion

There were signs everywhere!

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

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

Where is Two Harbors? 

Follow I 35 north until you hit Minnesota 61.

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

Aerial View of Agate Bay

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

Why vacation in Two Harbors?

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

Two Harbors is a Gem!

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

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

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

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

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

Who is this happy guy? in a kayak?

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

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

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

 

 

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

Tourist Attractions Abound

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

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

Two Harbors Light House

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

What a jumbled mess!

Duluth

This is from the net!

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

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

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

Bob Dylan Has a Street Named After Him

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

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

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

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

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

Along Lake Superior.

Have a seat!

Don’t venture too close!

The waves rock you to sleep.

Watch for deer and ground squirrels.

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

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

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

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Reflections on a Planet filled with FRIENDS!

The People of the World are our Friends

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

The Twilight Zone

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

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

Roseville, Michigan

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

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

Saint Louis University

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

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

Lebanon. No wonder my friend left.

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

Remembering Colleagues

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

Religions of the World Visited UCM

St. Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent. Belgium

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

The Swami

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

Travel is the Best Medicine

The beauty is beyond words. The Taj-Mahal

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

The Hassan II Mosque. Glorious!

And our response is that every country is our favorite.

The Beauty of other Cultures

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

The Tunes in our Minds

Puppet show in Vietnam.

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

Senso-ji Temple

DeLaval and its People

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

We are thankful every day!

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

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

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

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

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Make it Shine! Obsessed with Beauty!

Renew on the Cheap!

I have done similar designs.

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

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

Obsessed with Beauty!

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

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

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

Refresh and Enjoy

I love the blues and teals.

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

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

Brightening Hardwood Floors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sealing Dull Tile or Stone Floors

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

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

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

 

Renewing Furniture, Cabinets, and Anything that has Wood Scratches

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

I don’t recommend using this today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Current Strategies

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

 

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

Painting on the Cheap.  Hints!

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

This is a great and versatile roller.

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

These rollers are about four inches.

 

 

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

 

 

Save Those Bags

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

Coronavirus Blues

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

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

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

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In the Middle of the Night

Life is different now for all of us. 

Homeless person on the Indian Lagoon in Titusville.

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

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

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

Clean, Repair, Clean

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making the Property Shine

What a cool Florida color!

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

New, clean look!

Creative Activities

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

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

Like a child …

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

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

Meanwhile…

Hillary loves to be groomed!

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

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

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

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

 

So beautiful! Granny Smith apples!

Social Distancing

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

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

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

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

Harriet is Gone

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

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

In the Middle of the Night

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

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

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

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

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Shock and Awe! Homes at The Great Outdoors!

Are We Living on Another Planet?

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

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

Finding Our Paradise

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

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

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

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

Real Estate Mania

Usually these homes have only two bedrooms.

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

Which Property to Purchase?

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

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

First Glance, it was Ugly

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

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

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

Opps. This guy forgot to stop.

Walking the Walk.  The Hurricane Home!

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

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

So here goes with the photos:

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

Another phase one.

Phase Two.

Almost Finished.

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

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

Coronavirus Pals

Twinkers the Great!

Hillary, Madame President, is in charge, ALWAYS!

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

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

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

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Hunkered Down in Cass County, Missouri

Enjoying our space in Florida!

A Crispy Home

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

Leaving Florida was Painful.  Politics and Ignorance pushed Us!

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

Politics and the Health Crisis

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

Florida Systems Failed

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

Merritt Island National Refuge

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

TGO Illusions

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

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

Campgrounds were Shut!

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

The Lonely Trek to Cass County

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

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

Campground Blues

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

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

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

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

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

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

Graceland has Lost its Grace (One of our Stops)

This sign was in good repair.

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

In front of Graceland.

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

A faded and torn Elvis.

The only campers here were permanent.

Gas on the Road

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

Stay safe.

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

 

 

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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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