Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Back to the Garden State

January 15 - 25, 2015:

A direct flight from Fort Myers to Newark arrives on time and no turbulence.  My Baggage arrives also and no issues with car rental, all good !  Always shaky getting into a strange vehicle and having to jump right into the frying pan, that would be the New Jersey Turnpike at night.  They didn't explain and I didn't read the contract information that explains how the built in E-Z-Pass works.  Actually I didn't even know I had it so when I pulled into the non-EZ Pass toll lane and it told me to Go, I was very confused.  EZ Pass is great and so are many of the modern technological innovations in todays cars, but it is also so refreshing to get in my 38 Dodge where I know how everything works and how to fix it if it doesn't.  There is something to be said for that ?

My grand daughter Sierra gave me a warm welcome which was a little surprising to me, it's been a long time and I expected her to be a little shy.  The Christmas tree was still up along with all her presents so I sort of had a second Christmas.  She showed me all her Christmas presents along with many many other stuffed animals, toys and books.  She seems to be brilliant, knows more at 4 years than I did at 5-6.

Sierra doing letters

Christmas Tree

Jeremy and Sierra in front of tree

Volcano built be Jeremy and Sierra erupting

My first order of business was to check out the old 38 Dodge in storage.  The car has been sitting in a dark, unheated storage space and has been run once or twice in the past year.  I always expect the battery to be dead, the tires flat and the brake fluid to have leaked out.  I sprayed some either down the carburetor, hit the starter and it fired up on the first turn.  I pumped up the tires, took it for a ride and all seems normal.  It is amazing, who ever restored this vehicle did an amazing job !  Oh, that would be me !

We went to a place on Saturday called Jer-Z-Jump which is an indoor jumping park for children.  It was pretty crazy with children running and jumping everywhere having much fun.  Sierra had a ball !

Wacky Duck game

Sierra on slide

We watched the amazing comeback of the Seattle Seahawks over the Green Bay Packers. My son Jeremy's girlfriend Christina came with us to a favorite local pub, City Streets, where we met Jeremy's step sister Stephanie.  Sierra had a great time running back and forth between our table and Stephanie's seat at the bar.    

Grand daughter Sierra has taught me all about the Disney "Frozen" characters, princess Anna, Elsa, Prince Hans and Swen.  We also watched a BBC production called the "Gruffalo"  a few times.  I actually find it to be very entertaining, well done, educational.  I even understood most of it.

Frozen book

Jeremy, Sierra and I went for a ski day at Camleback Ski Area in the Pocono mountains of Pennsylvania.  She has been Skiing several times now, was nervous at first, but by the time we left was wanting to do it herself and go up to the big hill. My ski boots no longer fit me and were killing me just to walk or stand in them.  As a result, I mostly watched the action on the bunny slope, which was entertaining especially when a totally out of control girl plowed straight into the fencing next to me at about 15 MPH. 

Jeremy and Sierra

Camelback ski area

Me, Sierra and Jeremy

Jeremy and Sierra

I had a doctor appointment with my old primary care physician for a routine physical.  Everything turned out good, except for slightly off cholesterol and blood pressure.  Well I guess it's not really that good ?  I'm blaming it all on the Christmas holiday eating binge.  I have had borderline issues with blood pressure all my whole life.  Now I will start taking pills and monitor it a little closer. 

I have been looking all over the country this year for "corn" flavored Thomas English muffins.  They were a favorite of mine in New Jersey prior to RV'ing full time but I haven't been able to find them anywhere in the country since then.  Anyhow they still have them here in NJ to my surprise ?, (a couple of packages are going in my luggage) .  I also went to my favorite local Guatemalan bakery for their sweet rolls, another local favorite of mine.  I've been very bad, I had a Porkroll and cheese breakfast sandwich at the Hightstown Diner.  Also a Tastykake pie, remembering my old friend Chris Kimble who's father had a Tastykake delivery route.  At his house there were always boxes of Tastykake pies and cakes to snack on.

A trace of snow on Wednesday evening into Thursday morning.  I actually miss the snow, so beautiful, as long as you don't have to work or drive in it.  Then on Friday night into Saturday morning a combination of 4-5 inches of snow/ice/rain fell.  I actually shoveled the sidewalk out front.

View out front door in Hightstown

Thursday evening was a train ride to Newark to a hangout in Newark near NJ Transit headquarters where a few retirees known as the OBC (old bastards club) get together once in a while to relive our glory days.  The stories get better very time they are told !  I'm afraid the OBC is about dead due to lack of interest, it was just my old pal Tom and I. I rode to and from Newark on NJ Transit's Multi-level rail cars which brought back memories from when I was a project manager on their acquisition. NJ Transit is not maintaining or cleaning them particularly well inside, true to form.

NJ Transit train pulling into Princeton Junction

I'm feeling really old as I go over to Village Road East near Dutch Neck where I grew up. It was all open farm fields back then which over years has been transformed into solid housing developments. The one holdout was the Grover Farm, but since Mr. Grover died the house is now torn down.  They have put up a monument in front of the property identifying it as the boyhood home of Thomas Grover who was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for valor after being killed in action in Vietnam. The grade school nearby is also named for him.  It's strange to see something like this for someone that you used to work and play with when growing up. I also rode to the nearby Schenk farm, now restored as the Schenk Farm historic museum where I used to work for Wilton Schenk carrying irrigation pipe in the potato fields during summers.  I always knew that house was very old and special, but at the time didn't appreciate it as being historical. There are many old farm impliments  in front of the barns donated by local farmers. Many looked familiar to me and some that I think I may have even operated.  It's strange to think of stuff that you once used as having historic significance.

Thomas Grover monument

Driveway to the Grover Farm

Our farm would be in there somewhere

The old Schenck homestead

Might be the last Potato digger in Dutch Neck area

I had the 38 Dodge out 3 times during the week and the office managers at Uncle Bob's storage, who couldn't be nicer and were excited to see the car again.

On the road again

Friday night to Pete's Steak House in Hamilton, NJ with Jeremy and Christina to see Ernie White and Tom Reock perform, two of the finest musicians in the Trenton, NJ area.

Jeremy and Christina

More family times on Saturday with my sister Doris and brother-in-law Dave Boss visiting.  Then to the movies to see "The Sniper" which was thoughtful and interesting, but equally sad and depressing.  The thing that I came away with, which I already knew, was the cold blooded horror of the killing all for the sake of religion once again.  We then had dinner at "Fridays", then to "Tavern on the Lake" in Hightstown for a pretty decent country bar band.

Jeremy, Sierra and me

That's me, brother-in-law Dave, sister Doris and son Jeremy

The forecast looks like a serious snow storm is coming Monday, I am getting out just in time, perfect timing ! 

Back to Tucson, Twinkles needs me !


Friday, January 16, 2015

Fort Myers Florida

January 8-14, 2015:

A rainy morning (again) for my flight from Tucson to Houston and Fort Myers.  My scheduled arrival is 10:30 PM, I have flown into Ft. Myers many times, but always in the daytime, it's a beautiful flight when you come up the gulf coast and circle in over the beaches and into the airport.  It will be much different at night, but I expect the lights of Ft. Myers will also be spectacular.  I am not a relaxed flier, even though I have done lots of flying in both good and bad conditions, in small and big planes and even helicopters.  I was hoping for a calm clear weather day, instead it is windy and raining, where is my dramamime ?

It seems as if everyone now qualifies for some type
of priority boarding

Actually the flights were all fine except for that center seat on the second flight from Houston to Ft. Myers.  It was torture !  I found my way to my daughter Jessica's house and was in a comfortable bed by midnight.   I might add that the bedroom is about half the size of our entire RV.  In the morning I was able to look around and marvel at the size of a real house again. 

The screened in pool and hot tub is okay too !

I usually go the Bass Pro Outfitters store when in Ft. Myers and always buy a pair of Red Head cargo shorts.  That trend was repeated Friday morning and then I visited the old Ft. Myers downtown area.  I remember when I first started coming to Ft. Myers around 1988 or so the downtown was really run down, half empty, almost deserted.  They have slowly resurrected the downtown and it is now attracting crowds again, very nice to see. 

Seems king of rude ?

Fort Myers downtown

Edison Theater

Interesting clock

Interesting Fountain

The weekend was a huge soccer and football weekend.  Morgan's team, the Scorpions, had two games on Saturday and one game on Sunday in a soccer tournament.  In between games on Saturday we went to Naples, Florida, did some shopping and had lunch, then watched the pro divisional football games. After soccer on Sunday we went to Koreshan State Historic Site for a walk and the very popular farmers market there.  It was then back to the house for the Dallas Cowboys versus the Green Bay Packers game.  My son-in-law Jerome is a huge Dallas fan who was extremely unhappy with the outcome due to the very controversial Dallas touchdown that was reversed.  I saw more football this weekend then I have seen in the last few years combined and I don't understand the silly penalties and rules in the game. There are way too many meaningless, petty, questionable penalties that change the outcome of the game. 

Granddaughter Morgan in action

Morgan on defense

Future Soccer stars

Granddaughter  Mallory practicing

Daughter Jessica and Mallory at farmers market

Mallory and Morgan with turtle who lives in the mound

Mallory, Morgan and Jessica

I had to get into at least one photo

I returned to  Koreshan Historic Park on Monday to explore it further.  It was a communal Utopian society established in the early 1900's when this was a fairly uninhabited wild part of the country.  Amazing how things have changed in such a short period of time.  The settlement was established by the charismatic Dr. Cyrus Teed in Estero, Florida in 1894.  It was based on communal living with shared property, celibacy and equality for women.  Dr Teed had a "illumination" during a laboratory experiment involving high voltage current.  The practitioners believed that our world existed on the inside of a giant hollow globe floating in space.  Dr Teed appointed eight women as the "planetary Court" governing council who lived in luxury rooms in a separate house.  On the death of Dr. Teed his body was kept in a bathtub as they expected him to come back to life.  After a week the county coroner demanded that he be buried.  The community slowly died off but much was saved and eventually turned over to the state.  Several great old buildings remain and there is a scenic hiking trail amidst tropical foliage along the Estero creek.

Model of the hollow globe with our world on the inside

A ride out onto Sanibel Island to Ding Darling Nature Preserve on Tuesday.  Ding Darling was a famous cartoonist and avid conservationist who used his art to save much Florida birdlife and native wetlands.  He was instrumental in getting the nature preserve  protected from developers on Sanibel Island.  If it weren't for him the entire Island most likely would be solid condo's and wealthy estates.  I hiked the Indigo trail there putting in about 5 miles.

Lots of birds and bird watchers

I need to look this one up, it's common

Came across a nice snake also

Appears to be a Blue Huron

Close up of a leaf

School children art in visitors center

Wednesday I was off to Fort Myers beach although it was far from beach weather.  I walked on the beach for a while, then had lunch at "Nervous Nellies" restaurant with it's excellent view.

Fort Myers beach

You can always watch the remarkable Pelicans

Another beach view
Afterwards I stopped at the nearby "Lovers Key State Park" for a walk along the coastline.  It is one of the nicest primitive beach areas and has many hiking trails.  In places there are no virtually no sign of human habitation, very refreshing.  The area around Fort Myers is constantly expanding and filling in with development, one day there will be no open land except for parks and nature preserves. 

Sea Oats are beautiful

A Plover

Many trees being overtaken by the sea

An Osprey on nest

Great roots

We all went to a school open house in the evening where Mallory is likely to attend next session. School has certainly changed since my last visit, so much technology now, so many special programs, sports, arts, internet access.  The kids have tools to become so much smarter now, but with it comes more pressure and stress to succeed.  Is it better ?

Back in school

Next stop is Hightstown, New Jersey,