"Forget past mistakes. Forget failures. Forget everything except what you're going to do now and do it."
– William C. Durant
Man, I don't know about you, but this quote is a breath of fresh air for me. I can tend to focus on the past and do the "shoulda/coulda/woulda" speech in my head all the time, but then I remember that I am forgiven and loved, and find the strength to move forward. I know a couple of you out there are struggling right now so I am hoping that these words from William Durant give you some encouragement.
Ok, so let's talk about Daytona. First off, Steve and I stayed in a campground in Port Orange and I must say, this area is quite nice. We were close enough to the track (7 miles) so our post-race commute was a non-event, but far enough away from the tourist areas that we enjoyed a nice, quiet week (except for the occasional train that ran right behind our campground at all hours of the night!!!!! Jeez Louise those things are loud).
Our first couple of days here were lovely. We visited the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse that sits right on the end of the end of the island of Daytona Beach Shores. This lighthouse was built in 1887 and is the tallest in Florida and one of the prettiest we've seen so far on our trip. Steve and I climbed the 198 steps to the top (whew!) and were rewarded with a spectacular view of the Atlantic ocean, the shores of Daytona Beach, and the beautiful homes that line the Halifax River. We learned that this lighthouse, interestingly enough, is not owned by the state or federal historic societies, but by the community that surrounds it. These people were responsible for restoring not only the lighthouse but the entire compound that surrounds it and served as the lighthouse keeper's home and work environment. This dedicated lighthousekeeper walked up those 198 steps every day carrying 5 gallons of kerosene to fill the tanks that provided the light source behind the third order Fresnel lens. Trust me, that was one in-shape dude. That is until he died of a heart attack about half way up the stairwell.
The beach in Daytona is quite interesting. First of all, it is quite large and extends back from the shore a great deal. Cars and trucks are allowed to drive and park on the beach in several places along the shoreline. Steve and I went down to the beach to watch the surfers and to fly our kite. What a blast that was. Our kite is about 6 feet across, brilliantly colored, and has these really long tails that make it an interesting kite to watch. As we were flying the kite, the Goodyear blimp came floating by which was cool as it was hanging pretty low and looked as though it was right next to my kite (but it wasn't). That was really fun. I don't know how long it's been since you've flown a kite but it has been many many years for me. What an enjoyable experience that was and I can't wait to do it again.
We also made time for some wildlife experiences. Next to the lighthouse is the Marine Science Center, whose chief reason for existence is the rehabilitation of marine animals and birds that have been injured by boats, fishing lines, and cars. It was interesting to see that, once again, there were a number of bald eagles with broken wings being rehabbed. We saw this when we visited the Punta Gorda facility a couple of weeks ago and I am wondering how so many of these birds get injured. They are absolutely huge when they are in-flight - - their wingspan is about 6 feet - - so you can't miss them when they are flying around. We also visited the Blue Spring State Park to see the manatees. This park has a natural spring that flows from underground. This water remains a constant 72 degrees throughout the year which is why the manatees flock to this area during the colder winter months. While we were there we were blessed to see 5 manatees and a baby manatee floating aimlessly in the water. The water in the river that is fed by the spring is crystal clear and the colors were spectacular. Steve tried to capture that with his camera but the pictures don't really do it justice. If you are ever in the area during the January-March timeframe, I highly recommend visiting this state park.
Before I get to my comments on the race events, I want to tell you about the drive-in church we went to Sunday morning. This was a total hoot. This church is a converted drive-in theater (hence the name). The pastor of the church stands out on the balcony of a large building in the front of the drive-in and performs the service. We tuned our car radio to the specified station and heard the whole message. That was really strange but fun. Men walked around during the offertory and collected the donations. Unfortunately, we could not participate in the communion ceremony because they ran out (apparently there are a lot of race fans who go to church). This service had a full choir and an organ and piano accompaniment. I can't see doing this every week, but based on the financial information contained in the bulletin we were given when we pulled in, this is a very popular method of worship in Daytona.
Ok, now on to race events. Steve and I had planned to see the Gatorade Duels, the Nationwide race as well as the Daytona 500. We had awesome seats for all three races, which was nice. The Duels were interesting, but honestly, I wouldn't go again. There is very little real racing going on because most of the contestants are already officially in the Daytona 500. The purpose of this race is really to determine how they line up and who of the "go or go-homers" will make the big race. So, this event was nowhere near as exciting as I had expected it to be. The Nationwide race, however, was awesome. There were a lot of crashes, which were expected, and the finish was very exciting. The final lap's crash occurred right in front of us and both Steve and I so fixated on the flying cars around us that we almost missed James Buescher's #30 car eeking out the win, which was the first of his career. That was really cool and is what makes racing the exciting sport it is.
The Daytona 500, however, was more of a marathon than a race. For the first time in it's 54 year history, the Daytona 500 was not run on Sunday afternoon. the rain came in early in the morning and persisted all day. Steve and I drove to the track after the drive-in church and sat in the parking lot waiting for the rain to stop or a determination made by Nascar officials that the race would be postponed. When it finally looked like we would get a race in, we headed to the buses that took us from parking lot 7 to the track. We brought our rain ponchos just-in-case, but it truly looked like the rain would stop and we would get a race. No such luck, however, as the rain came pouring down just as Steve and I got to our seats. We were able to put our rain ponchos on but that really didn't help me. For some reason, the slacks that I was wearing were acting like sponges. The only thing hanging out below my poncho was the lower half of my calves and my feet, but my pants absorbed water from the bottoms up and by the time I got to the truck, both pant legs were soaked up to my thighs. It looked like I went swimming in my pants and boy was that cold. Steve and I headed back to our trailer because it was just a short jaunt down the road. We changed our clothes and watched the weather and waited for the "all clear" so we could head back to the track. Later in the afternoon the rain had stopped and they began to dry the track, but by the time we got to the parking lot, it started to rain again and the rain was then postponed until Monday at noon.
So Monday comes and so does the rain, which caused Nascar to again postpone the race until 7:00 that evening. COOL. A Daytona 500 night race. Now that's exciting. So Steve and I headed back to parking Lot 7, which by this time we began to feel like we should be paying property taxes on since we had spent so much time there. Fortunately, this time the race actually gets going. Surprisingly enough, the stands were packed. We thought we would be able to change seats to ones closer to the finish line. We figured a good number of people had to head back to their real lives on Monday, but NOOOOOOO. The place was truly full, which was cool. Our seats were awesome. We were in the top row of the grandstands in the Weatherly Tower which afforded us a view of the entire track and especially an unobstructed view from turn 4 to the start/finish line. The evening was a perfect temperature and there was no rain in sight so Steve and I settled in for what we thought would be an exciting race. Right off the bat on lap 2 there was a crash that took out one of our favorite drivers (Trevor Bayne) and after that, the race was rather dull. Honestly, I hate to say it but I was bored, right up until the time that Juan Pablo Montoya slammed into the track drying truck that was out there cleaning up some engine fluids left on the track by another driver. There was a yellow flag flying which means all the drivers slow down. Most of the drivers will pit to refuel, get fresh tires, etc. so there's really nothing exciting going on during a yellow flag. This time was and exception because Juan Pablo was cruising around the track trying to get back to the lead pack so he could line up properly for a restart and lost control of his car. SLAM!!!! Right into the back of the jet dryer, rupturing it's fuel tank. This caused a huge fire which burned long enough to damage the track surface. The odd thing about this wreck is that it took forever for the fire trucks to get over there. I think everyone was in shock because who expects a cleanup truck to get into a wreck. So, given what we knew would be a huge delay, Steve and I took off and decided to watch the rest of the race from home, which turned out to be a good decision because the race didn't end until at 1:00 a.m. If we had stayed we wouldn't have made it home until 3:00 in the morning. There was a sizable crash in the closing laps that caused our brother-in-law Yog's two driver picks for this race to spin out allowing our driver (Clint Bowyer) to move up on the track and finish 11th, thereby giving us 5 points in our Nascar pool. Thanks Kyle and Tony!
Well that's it for Daytona. We're packing up and moving on to Bushnell, Florida. We will be there until March 12 as our plans are to catch the NHRA Gatornationals and some Tiger Spring training games.
Chat with you later kids.
Our apologies to those of you that start your work week by reading our weekly updates but, like the Daytona 500, it is under a rain delay. The Monday forecast doesn't look promising either. That's the bad news. The good news, for us anyway, is that we'll get great seats when the Great American Race gets underway.
"When you cannot make up your mind between two evenly balanced courses of action, choose the bolder."
– William Joseph Slim
Interesting quote this week, don't you think? How many of us have always chosen the path of least resistance instead of what could have possibly been a more challenging or fulfilling possibility, simply because we were afraid of the unknown? I know that I have been guilty of that a few times in my life and often wonder "what if". Anyway, just wanted to give you some food for thought this morning.
Good morning, by the way. Today is moving day for us. We're headed to Daytona Beach to enjoy some NASCAR time. Yeeee Haaaa!!! But first, let me catch you up to what we've been up to this week.
First, Steve and I played golf again with Deane and Dave. I am happy to report that all is right with the world and my golf game went back to its usual sucky level. Man, I was on such a high from the first game but alas, not a performance that I can say developed a trend. Oh well. The only thing positive that came from this golf experience is that THE GIRLS BEAT THE BOYS AGAIN. By 9 strokes this time and the loss means that Deane and I got breakfast made or us while we were in the Florida Keys. We also played Bingo here at our campground. None of us won anything but we had a great time.
Speaking of the Keys, we went there for 3 days (Wednesday through Friday). We traveled through alligator alley on the way and saw a ton of wildlife. Huge alligators, bald eagles, osprey, and a number of other really interesting birds. No snakes or panthers, however, which I guess is a good thing. Anyway, we were staying at a lovely 2 bed/2 bath, full-kitchen condo in Islamorada that was right on the water. We spent our first day pretty much driving and checking out Islamorada and eating some good seafood. Since our hotel was right on the water, we went out to the pool, pulled up a lounge chair and were blessed to see a beautiful sunset over the Keys. AHHHH, life is good. Speaking of which, have you seen the clothing that uses the phrase "Life is Good" and has stick figures doing various things like playing golf, laying in a hammock, fishing, etc. They are sooooooo cute. Anyway, . . .
The next day we headed to Key West for the day. The drive between Islamorada and Key West was 82 miles of some incredible scenery - - beautiful flowers and palm trees, and the water - - man oh man the blues and emerald greens that you travel over while heading South are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. As you know, the Keys are just a bunch of tiny little islands that are attached via a causeway called Highway 1 (aka the Overseas Highway). What you may not know is that this highway actually continues north all the way to the top of Maine. Steve and I have talked about that being one of our RV adventures - - taking Highway 1 (or A1A) from beginning to end. One of the pics this week is a sign of Mile Marker 0, but I digress . . . .
Key West is an interesting little island with a ton of history. It was the center of cigar manufacturing, participated in the civil war, interestingly they were on th Union side whereas Florida was on the Confederate side. It had one of the most complicated and expensive railways leading to it, and was almost completely destroyed in the hurricane of 1935. It is also a place for which "shipwrecking" was an actual industry. Here is a website that will tell you all about the history of the island since it is too long for me to add in this update: http://www.keyshistory.org/keywest.html. This website will give you the story of the railroad built by Henry Flagler: http://www.keyshistory.org/flagler.html
The four of us arrived right around lunch so we took some time walking Duval Street where all the cool shops and restaurants are. We stopped in the famous Sloppy Joes for lunch where two very momentous things happened - - one is that Ernest Hemingway used to hang out here, and the other is that this is where my daughter and son-in-law had their wedding feast after getting married on the beach in Key West. It brought back a ton of really happy memories for Steve and I and also provided us with a huge laugh - - read on:
Steve noticed that there was a webcam in the bar and texted our daughter Jill to check it out. She then texted back to him and indicated that she could see the stage via the webcam. So Steve went up to the stage and pretended to be looking at the CDs that the guitar player was selling and then texted Jill to see if she could see him. She texted back "I can only see the guitar player and a fat guy in a blue shirt." Sadly for Steve, he WAS the fat guy in the blue shirt. Man did we laugh about that. By "we" I mean everyone but Steve.
After lunch, we took a 90 minute trolley ride around the city and learned all about the historical points of interest on the island. We stopped at the southernmost point of the U.S. for a picture, of course, and found one of those wooden cut-out things that you stick your head into and then take a picture - - know what I mean? Anyway, the wooden cut-out thing was A FAT GUY IN A BLUE SHIRT. Needless to say, Steve couldn't pass that one up. My poor daughter. I am afraid she will be hearing about that one for quite a while (which cracks me right up).
The next day we were scheduled to head back to Punta Gorda but stopped to go on a glass bottom boat ride out to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. This is the largest coral reef in the United States and second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Here is a link to the website so you can check it out for yourself, but needless to say, this was a very cool thing to do. http://www.pennekamppark.com/photos/ For all you scuba divers out there, Key Largo is a dive hot spot so consider it for your next dive vacation. I know that Steve and I are for sure.
Anyway, Steve snapped some pictures from our glass bottom boat. We saw parrot fish of various colors, a moray eel, clown fish, and various other colorful beauties. The coral itself is alive and is also very colorful. Watching the plant life gently sway back and forth in unison with the waves and current of the water and the beautiful fish swimming in and around the coral was so relaxing. We were even blessed with the opportunity to see a nurse shark in the wild as it swam next to our boat as we motored back to the shore. What a great time that was.
Yesterday, we spent time with our Aunt Bonnie again. She came over to our "house" for lunch and a game of Mexican Train. It was really nice to have her there and she was genuinely surprised to see how nice our new home is. We enjoyed our time with her and will miss her until we see her again in the fall when we cruise through Michigan/Ohio on our way southwest next winter.
So, I have to go now and pack up the house so we can hit the road. Steve and I plan to visit Kennedy Space Center while we are on the Atlantic side of Florida. We have two other Nascar events that we are attending in addition to the big race on Sunday. The Duels are on Thursday night (which looks doubtful given the weather forecast) and the Nationwide race is Saturday afternoon. Both of those will be fun but the big race on Sunday is what we're really most excited about. Hopefully our next blog won't bore you non-nascar people to tears . . . . . . .
Once again the lovely and charming Leigh Ann has correctly identified the Mystery Item as a corn sheller. If you'd like to see one in action, click here. She didn't know what is was so she googled the name on the device and found the answer. Let that be a lesson to the rest of you.
Leigh Ann will be savoring her victory while enjoying a Key Lime Mojito Cooler that she'll mix up from her prize. Lauren and I went all the way to Key West Florida to find a prize worthy of the contest and rest assured, when we have the next "mystery item" contest we'll be equally determined to seek out just the right prize.
Just so you know, there's enough mix in Leigh Ann's prize for an entire pitcher so if you call to congratulate her, she may offer you a glass.
We hope all is well with you. We are doing great down here in Punta Gorda. The weather has been absolutely unbelievable. I mean -- I've worn white twice and it's only February 12. :) Seriously though, there is just something so uplifting about a palm tree. I am not sure what it is, but every time that I look at one, I just get this great sense of relaxation and peace. Click here for a picture of a palm tree and tell me if you get that same feeling.
We started our week with a visit to the summer homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford in Fort Myers. WOW. Talk about a beautiful place. First, you are greeted with the country's second-largest banyan tree, which was absolutely cool. If you haven't seen a banyan tree, it is the weirdest thing to look at. The branches of the trees emit these vine-like root systems that hang down from the branch and make their way to the ground. When they reach the ground, they start to form a new tree trunk. Steve and I saw the largest one in the U.S. when we visited Hawaii with our parents a few years ago. These trees are a great source of rubber and grow very fast. It is for these two reasons that Edison had imported this tree from India. He was doing experiments in his Florida lab to find a domestic source for rubber. This banyan tree was four feet tall when it was planted in 1925. As it stands today, it takes up nearly 3/4 of an acre of space.
We toured the homes of these two great gentlemen and they were as you would expect - - quite grand. The surprising thing was that they were not huge homes. Each was slightly more than 3,000 square feet, but the furnishings and surrounding landscape were befitting of these two champions of industry. And the view - - yeah, you can imagine they had the best money could buy. I found the birdhouses very interesting. Mina Edison loved birds and Thomas Edison loved cats. The only way Mina could enjoy her birds without the cats of their household having a total feast on a daily basis, was to put the houses on the tops of poles out in the water. This way, she could enjoy the birds without the birds having to worry about being lunch plate special #5.
Later that day we met up with our very dear friends and former neighbors - - Dave and Deane. We just love these people. They are a total blast and we have been anxiously awaiting our time with them. Our first meeting was dinner at the Village Oyster Bar down on Fisherman's Village in the Port Charlotte bay. What a cool place. It has great restaurants and a ton of really cool shops. The food here is great but the service that night left a lot to be desired. It took forever to be served and even longer to get our check so we could pay the bill, and when she finally brought it, she acted as though she was doing us a favor. Has anyone besides me noticed that service in this country has gone downhill? It seems that more often than not I am disappointed with the attitude I experience from the service person I am dealing with - - and don't get me started with those automated customer service phone things (Press 1 for sales, Press 2 for Customer Support, Press 3 if you mistakenly think you're actually going to be serviced by a human being, Press 4 if you want to wait on hold FOREVER - - you know the drill). Anyway, I am determined to stem the tide of this and return the sour expressions I receive with smiles and kind words. Maybe in some small way, I can make a difference. I don't know. But I'm off topic so . . .
Next, Steve and I played golf for the first time in ages. Dave and Deane are snow birds and live in a golf community during the winter months so they are pretty decent golfers. The four of us had a great time because we played a scrambles - - girls against the boys - - and the loser had to do the dinner dishes. So, while Steve and Dave were doing the dishes (meaning, Deane and I won our scrambles - - and by three strokes I might add) Deane and I cruised around their neighborhood checking out all the other houses. Steve and I are thinking about possibly settling down somewhere south and Florida is one of the places we have on our list of possibilities. We really do enjoy not having to deal with winter. I mean seriously, I wore white already this year . . . . Anyway,
While here in Punta Gorda, we also are spending time with my Aunt Bonnie, who is also a snow bird down here in the winter. Her and my Uncle Bob have a house up in Gladwin where the extended Klott family hangs out in the warmer Michigan months. My Uncle Bob passed away last June and this is Bonnie's first trip to Florida without him, so we were happy to see that she's doing pretty well adjusting to her new life here. Bonnie, Steve and I spent the day together by first attending the Southwest Florida Heritage Festival. We had a great time watching a civil war re-enactment, tasting freshly churned butter and eating elephant ears (with cherry topping) and learning about what it means to be a "cracker". After the festival, we visited a wildlife refuge and saw animals that were injured and being nursed back to health. It was really sad to see some of these animals with broken wings and missing legs trying desperately to move around inside their cages. The saddest thing to see were the two bald eagles that each had a wing missing. Seeing these majestic birds reduced to hopping around in a cage was very hard to see, but it's nice to know that there are people in this world who dedicate their lives to help them recover and lead a somewhat decent life. This wildlife rescue organization is funded completely by donations, so needless to say, we made a contribution.
Our last wildlife encounter for the week was going to Manatee Park and seeing the manatees swimming in the discharge waters of the Florida Power & Light facility down in Fort Myers. Apparently, when it is cold, these wonderful animals head to this spillway because the water coming from FP&L is very warm. It was sad to see that some of these manatees had propeller scars on their backs. I can believe that this would be a frequent occurrence, though,because of the number of waterfront homes in the area and the incredible number of boats in the area.
Lastly, Deane taught Steve and I how to play the game Mexican Train. Man, is that fun. We had a great time playing that game and look forward to playing it again soon. This coming week Steve and I are playing golf again. You fellow golfers know how this is - - you have a good game and you get so excited that you want to play again, mistakenly thinking your golf game is actually decent until you play again, and your game goes back to sucking wind. Also, we are heading to the Keys for a couple of days with Dave and Deane, so look for some great pictures next week. We will also be spending some more time with Bonnie before we head to our next destination - - THE DAYTONA 500. Oh man, I just cannot wait for that. For those of you in the northern climes, the Daytona 500 always means Spring is just around the corner - - so hang in their folks.
Thanks everyone. Please know that you are always on our hearts and in our minds. Especially those family members who are struggling right now. I ask that you keep my Uncle Arnie Klott and his family in your prayers. He is suffering from cancer and some difficult heart issues right now and every prayer on his behalf would be very much appreciated.
Take care all.
P.S. We have another mystery picture. If you can guess what this is, contact either Steve or I and you will receive a prize.
"Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you sit down quietly, may alight upon you."
– Nathaniel Hawthorne
First, let me begin this blog by saying "HAPPY BIRTHDAY DADDY!"
My dear Dad is 81 years old today (February 7). He has suffered through a number of difficult issues in the last few years - - the death of our beloved mother, heart problems, shoulder surgery, and yet he's still going strong. Our dad is always there for us with a helping hand or sympathetic shoulder to cry on and my sisters and I love him very very much. So I wanted to take this opportunity to let you all know what a great guy he is. This quote above reminds me of him because he is always looking on the bright side of life and finds a way to be happy, no matter what life circumstance befalls him. Even his crazy dog Sandy makes him happy!!!
Ok, now on to our journey. This past week we were in Sorrento, Florida at one of the best KOA's we've ever been too. It's Wekiva Springs RV Resort and we highly recommend it. The park is huge (800+ sites) and has a spring-fed water feature right in the middle of it. This KOA also has a great clubhouse and pool as well as a nice river to kayak, fish or canoe through. They provide a number of activities, which we took full advantage of with my mother-in-law Connie who visited us this week.
We had a great time just hanging around the campground and playing Bingo, getting some sun, talking with our fellow campers (many of which were snow birds from Ohio and Michigan who stay there for the entire winter). Let me say this about Bingo, IT IS A TOTAL RIOT. I won $32 too which didn't hurt my feelings either. Connie enjoyed herself as well and Steve and I spent the week pointing out all possible boyfriends for her at the campground. Alas, she was not interested in any of them, but hey, we tried. :)
One of the things that we did was visit an attraction called the "Holy Land Experience." Steve and I visited here a few years ago when it was just beginning and I must say that they have done an excellent job of building it up since then. You enter through stone gates into a recreated Jerusalem street market. Throughout the park are very interesting stops that are all Biblically themed. As you know, I am a seminary student so, of course, this is a place that I would enjoy, but Connie was particularly interested in visiting it.
Our first stop was learning about the wilderness tabernacle of the Israelites as they wandered through the desert those 40 years. This was very interesting to me because I have always been fascinated by this structure and to see one recreated really caught my attention. From there we went into a room that had a long table set up for the Last Supper. we were handed small communion cups and a piece of unleavened bread. Then a character portraying Jesus came in and shared the bread and wine with us. Next, we saw a stage production of three Bible stories - - Daniel in the lion's den, Peter walking on water, and Peter escaping from prison. This production was very well done and Connie loved it. After lunch, we checked out their new glitzy auditorium, then attended a recreation of The Passion. A hugely emotional experience to say the least and while it was difficult to watch at times, I am happy that I experienced it. This is a story we hear a lot about during the Easter season, but to see it recreated with real people right in front of you was very impactful. While waiting for the production to start we noticed a little boy about 2 years old jabbering in that baby talk and waving his arms about. Then he stood up in his stroller and started "preaching" to the crowd. It was fun to watch this little guy go on like a TV minister. Lastly, we went through the wax museum that depicted several scenes from Jesus' life. I must say, this was exceptionally professionally done. The costumes were gorgeous and the scenes, combined with the corresponding Scripture that would appear on the wall within the scene, made the displays very interesting. My mother-in-law loved every minute of our visit there and that made Steve and I very happy.
Other than that, we pretty much just hung around the campground and played putt putt. Steve and I had such a great time at the Congo River Miniature Golf that we took Connie there with us and played again. The final score - - Lauren 58, Connie 57, Steve 56!!! She did great and she only played putt putt once before in her life and that was years ago! You go girl!!!!
So that's it for our past week. We loved having Connie with us for a week and are looking forward to her visiting again soon. From Sorrento, we head to Punta Gorda for two weeks to visit our friends Dave and Deane Luce and to see my aunt Bonnie Klott.
Until then . . . . . . . . . . . later gator!!!!!!!
P.S. It's 84 degrees as I write this. What temperature is it where you are?????????????????????????