Travel Florida: I Was Only Going to the Post Office

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Copyright Rosemary Carlson 2017

And not the Post Office above! The Post Office you’re looking at in the picture is the original post office on Pine Island, built in 1902. I didn’t mean to visit it today, although I meant to visit it eventually. I just meant to go to the new Post Office, near St. James City on Pine Island, to mail something and pick up mail. I asked the postal service worker if the post office was open on Saturday. He said no and proudly explained to me that only one post office on the island is open on Saturday and that is the original Pine Island Post Office in Pineland, another community on the island. He instructed (instructed?) me to run on down to Pineland, another small Pine Island Community, and take a look since he knew I was new to the island. How could I refuse?

Off I went to Pineland, just about a ten mile drive. I turned off the main Pine Island road and found myself with palm tree farms on one side of the road and a mango plantation on the other side of the road, both crops grown on Pine Island and with stories of their own. After driving about three miles and fearing I was lost, I rounded a curve and literally had to screech to a halt. There, in front of me, practically in the middle of the road was the building you see above.

So I went inside. This little building could tell a lot of stories. It is only there because in the late 1800s there was a freeze that took out most of the orange groves in northern Florida. Many grove owners moved south and bought land to establish new groves. A grove owner, Minta Moore, came to Pine Island in 1902 when only about three dozen people lived here. That family bought acreage for orange groves and established the first Pine Island post office in a community they established and called Pineland. The original lockboxes are still in that little building and they are combination boxes.

The postal service worker is new. She, like me, came to Pine Island on vacation. She’s from Delaware. She loved it so much that she applied for a job at two of the Pine Island post offices. The little old post office at Pineland hired her. She was thrilled to move here. She, like me, has no family in the area. No friends in the area. Like me, she felt the magic of Pine Island. So do many people here.

We like to keep it a secret so I’m only telling you.

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Travel Florida: Weather and Hello, Mr. President

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Yea, I know. What in the world does my trip to my home in Florida and the Florida weather, in March, have to do with President Donald Trump? Having a home in Florida makes Donald Trump and his budget, recently sent to Congress, even more personal to me than it already was.

So when I got here, I was greeted with a chorus of, “Have you heard about the weather?” Well, no. I guess I hadn’t been paying attention. Seems there was something called a subtropical low sitting off the coast of South Carolina that could give us some trouble on my island in the sun. A little bit of a storm if it came our way. I’m, frankly, still not clear if it is coming our way or not, but the weather in Ft. Myers has been awfully hot and the Gulf is awfully warm. My answer was that tropical storms/hurricanes don’t happen in March, do they? The answer is, “Not usually.”

This wouldn’t be a tropical storm, but a subtropical storm, something I’m not very well versed in as a newcomer to this Land of the Tropics, but it would involve rain, wind, and even a storm surge. The words “storm surge” are not something a person living near the coast ever wants to hear.

This all makes me furious with our President. Being a finance person at heart (well, with part of my heart), I have studied every line of Trump’s budget. As you probably know, he wants to slash the budgets of many federal agencies and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is one of them. The agency that studies and predicts hurricanes and other tropical weather systems among many other things.

He wants to DO WHAT??? Cut its budget? You have got to be kidding me. Those were some phrases I uttered, among others, when I realized how personally this particular budgetary line item affected me all of a sudden. We simply can’t let him do that……that was my first thought. My second thought was not fit for human consumption.

NOAA’s budget hasn’t been cut yet and, hopefully, those of us on the coast will be warned in the usual manner if and when it is necessary. But, what if Congress passes Trump’s “heavy on defense spending” budget with its cuts to these vital federal agencies including, but not limited to, NOAA? What, someone tell me, is there going to be left to defend?

Certainly a rhetorical question.

Travel Florida: The Trip to my Margaretaville


It is a trip that should take three days when you are dragging a UHaul and have a cat and dog with you. For the latter reason, it took us a little over two days. We didn’t want to stress the cat and dog. It turns out that it didn’t – stress the cat and dog, that is. It did stress us. Almost 1200 miles under those conditions is daunting. When you have a portion of your worldly goods with you and the welfare of two little creatures on your mind, it’s more daunting. When you spend the trip wondering if you’re doing the right thing, it’s stress on top of stress. Such were the conditions under which I traveled from Kentucky to South Florida to move into my new little home, to live there part time. I arrived earlier this afternoon. Tonight, I’m still so ramped up that, as usual, I can’t sleep.

On the plus side, the farther we drove down the Florida peninsula, the happier I got. I love South Florida. The more tropical it looks, the better I like it. This from a girl with a Swedish background. It got hotter and hotter until, by the time we reached St. James City, Florida, our destination, it was truly hot. Around 89 degrees today with humidity to match, though not as humid as at the height of summer here. I call this place Margaretaville. Let me explain.

I stopped at a convenience store on the road leading to the bridge that goes off to my island and, before I left the store, I was giggling out loud at the cast of characters in the store. An older, very jolly guy, in an orange tank top and white short shorts, strumming Beach Boy songs on his guitar….inside the store. No, not Jimmy Buffet, but close. The girl behind the counter recognized me from my last visit only a month and a half ago. She asked me what I was doing back and when I told her we’d bought a place there, she came out from behind the counter hugged me and told me how much fun we’d have. She was decades my junior. A large sign was posted over the counter saying, “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!” Believe me, I was more than ready for five o’clock and everything that went with it! Everyone in the store was talking about the manatees and their babies hanging out at the docks and how many nesting pairs of bald eagles had been spotted this season. The latest gossip was that Justin Timberlake, and stretch limo, had been spotted at the local Winn-Dixie. 

Each of you who knows me personally and well, already knows what a kick I got out of all this! 

On we went the few remaining miles to our little place in the sun. No critters were lodged inside to be chased out! But since the sellers had left, it had been locked up and the inside was hotter than the gates of hell. The A/C is still roaring full steam ahead. You see, when you leave your place in far South Florida in the summer and you are as close to the coast as I am, you normally don’t leave on the power. Why? If a hurricane comes your way and you get wind damage, you don’t want your place to burn down as well, so everyone cuts off the electricity when they leave. Who am I to question the wisdom of that?

As the neighbors spotted the UHaul, some of them started appearing in the yard. Some with a bottle of wine. Others with a mixed drink to stick into our hands. Some with the latest news. So many people on this island are from somewhere else and everyone gets along famously. Gives me renewed faith in the human race. 

As we went to work on the beginning phases of unloading our stuff from the UHaul, I found myself smiling. I love this place! I’m so glad to be back! Stay tuned for the Adventures in Margaretaville…..uh…….Pine Island yet to come!

Travel Florida: A Second Home


Tomorrow is the day. If you had told me a year ago that I would have a second home in Florida, in a spot in Florida that I love, I would have told you that you had lost your mind. Now I do have a little second home in that special spot in Florida and plan to spend six months a year there and six months a year at my home in Kentucky. Wow. I never thought I’d say that. It could be that, some day, I will live on my island in the sun full-time. That is down the road a bit.

I leave tomorrow for the long journey to Ft. Myers, Florida and it will be long since we are taking a UHaul with us. It has been quite a few weeks around the homeplace in Kentucky. Sorting and packing. Thinking. Wondering. Talking to friends near and far. This having two homes thing is no easy task. Two of everything? Not quite!

Our home in Florida is tiny. I’m not interested in having a large home there. I don’t want “stuff.” I’m over “stuff.” I’ve become a minimalist. So we are taking personal stuff, household stuff, my writing stuff, and that’s about it. Oh yes, the dog and cat, of course. I don’t want to dust. I only want to cook small, healthy meals. Then I want to walk out the door and go to the beach. Or walk my dog. Or ride my bike. Or go to Matlacha, the coolest little town on the planet and an artist’s colony at that. The home of the famous Bert’s Bar and Grill, written up in Southern Living as the place to get the best grouper sandwich in the world and they knew what they were talking about. I wonder if that old, respected Southern publication knew that the front room of Bert’s Bar is filled with pool tables and bikers? That makes me smile every time I walk in!

So tomorrow we head toward my island in the sun and start the moving in process. Having lived in Kentucky all my life, living on the Gulf Coast of Florida is going to be a really new experience. This isn’t just the Gulf coast. It’s an island off the Gulf Coast and about 3/4 way down the peninsula. It’s tropical. Below the frost line. It has alligators! And hurricanes! Believe me, that isn’t all. It also has the most beautiful, big birds you’ve ever seen. Dolphins to swim with. Plants I’ve never seen before. The wetlands. Incredibly nice people from all over the world. The best part? I feel free there and I’ve always wanted to feel free.

I’ve traveled a lot in my life. Florida wasn’t my favorite place,, but I’d only been to the most commercialized parts of Florida. Finding this island was like finding a jewel in a box of rocks. It’s a little bit of Old Florida and not much of Old Florida remains. The only other places I’ve ever had any interest in living were overseas. Portugal, which I love. Ecuador. Maybe Panama. My island in the sun is the best.

Another thing that is close by is this small airport with one flight a day to Lexington, KY. Better yet, a cheap flight. When I want or need to, I can fly back to Kentucky to see my family and friends. But, for the time being, I’ll still be in Kentucky six months a year – in the summer.

I’ll be writing about my experiences right here on this blog so check back. I’d love to do this with all of you!

#weekendcoffeeshare 03/18/2017

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Stages in our Lives

Good morning and welcome to the #weekendcoffeeshare! It’s been cold this week, especially cold for mid-March. I have both Arabica and Robusta coffee for you today! Also decaf, of course. I have some special black tea, a flavored black currant tea and a darjeeling tea. So pour a cup of whatever you want and join me in my writing room!

I have something on my mind that I’ve been thinking a lot about. I’ve been thinking about the stages of our lives and how we pass those different stages. I’m thinking about this as I think I’ve entered a different stage in my life over the last few months. Have any of you ever been aware of entering a completely different stage in your life?

I’m not sure I know exactly what’s caused this…..what can I call it…..revelation to occur, but something has. I find myself wanting to change my life. Not completely change it. I will still be a writer. I will still value my friends. I will still, essentially, be me. But I don’t much like the current version of “me.” I’m tense, stressed, and under constant strain. I don’t have the life I want to have.

As many of you know, I’m going to be moving to Florida on a half-time basis and that is the only thing happening in my life that feels right to me. I feel the need to make a radical change in my life. Florida feels right. I don’t like the commercialized, touristy parts of Florida, but where I am going, it’s “old Florida.” What I want to do is sell my house in Kentucky, and soon, and move to Florida full time. I don’t want to waste any time doing it. The money from the house will be put in the bank. It will not be used to buy a comparable house.

Not only that, but I want to drastically downside. I’m not interested in “stuff” anymore. Almost out of the blue. By stuff, I mean the trappings of prosperity such as furniture, household goods, clothes, and such. Also housing arrangements. I want to live in something very small. I can’t take care of a large place anymore and just don’t want to. I have no interest in anything large. I want a small home, very small, with little in it. I want to be able to walk out my door and to the beach in the morning and not worry about my house or anything in it. I want to buy it with a very little bit of cash.

Have any of you ever felt like this? Am I losing my mind? 🙂

I’m going to accomplish this by first buying something a little larger than we already own in Florida. Not large. Still very small. Maybe under 800 square feet. I want minimalist furniture and little of it. This means selling almost everything I have, which is fine with me. I’ve lost any emotional attachment I had to it. I’ll have to have an antique dealer help me. Until I sell everything, it will be put in storage and sold from there.

I want to be free of the trappings of success and prosperity. I want to be just me, with my family and dog and cat and very little else. I love to write and will write my novel….and another after that….and another after that. I’ll keep up with my blog and write magazine articles. I”ll spend a lot of time enjoying myself on my island in Florida, hopefully entertaining friends occasionally.

Maybe the stress, strain, and worries…..and nightmares……will cease. I hope so.

So come with me on my journey to change my life. It should be interesting and will start very soon.

Thanks for coming to my #weekendcoffeeshare!

 

#SoCS -3/11/2017

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A lot on my mind today, though I won’t write about all of it. Too much. Still getting ready for our move to the Southwest Gulf Coast of Florida. We’ll live there six months of the year and at our home in Kentucky the other six months. I’d rather be in Florida! It’s hard to live in two places and harder still to pack up about one-third of my house to make this move in late March. Time is short. I only have about two weeks until it’s time to leave.

We have a very small place in Florida. Really it is just a base camp until we find a house to live in. It’s enough for now. It has virtually no storage and very little closet space so I’m going crazy figuring out what to take with us. Anything we take, we leave as we will go back in the winter for our first six month stay. We won’t start looking for a house immediately. We want to spend several six month time periods there to see how we like it on a long term basis and through several seasons.

I’ve been under so much strain that I’ve been grinding my teeth in my sleep and have developed TMJ! M;y dentist is making me a mouth guard that I have to wear when I’m sleeping. Isn’t that crazy!? If we can ever get moved and get settled, it will be wonderful to live on our island on Florida’s Creative Coast.

I am managing to get in some writing. I probably shouldn’t be writing as much as I am. Writing soothes me and I do some of my best writing when under stress. Sometimes, when I’m writing, I’m thinking of how I should be packing boxes. I should write something about packing boxes! As I’m sure most of you know, moving is a huge job.

I guess we will sell our RV. We won’t need it now that we have a place to live in Southwest Florida. I am glad we’re going to sell it. I am not much of an RVer!

Something great has happened recently. I’ve been able to hook up with a good friend that I had lost touch with over the past couple of years. Wendy and I have been good friends for years now. We drifted apart for awhile, but she is back in my life and I couldn’t be happier. She is smart and funny and she makes me laugh. I’m so happy that she is back in my life and I hope she will now always be in my life!

Have a wonderful week!

#SoCS

 

#weekendcoffeeshare 3/11/2017

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Good morning, everyone! Come right in and let’s drink a hot beverage together! In honor of Mardi Gras which is happening right now in New Orleans, I have a special ground pecan praline coffee for you this morning. Also a french roast. The very special people of New Orleans would love both! I also have a couple of specialty teas. I am a tea drinker, of course. There are often Mardi Gras Tea Parties held in New Orleans and a favorite tea there is Mango Sunny Passion. It’s here for you to enjoy this morning! Grab a cup of whatever you want and let’s go to my writing studio and chat!

I’m so glad to see and talk to all of you this morning. It seems we’re having a Mardi Gras coffee and tea party! I hope everyone has been well this week and successful at whatever you have attempted. I ended the week very tired. As you know, we are trying to accomplish a move to Florida for six months a year. We leave for what is called the Florida Creative Coast in just a couple of weeks with a UHaul and it’s a lot of hard work to get everything boxed up.

I also have things to do for my house in Kentucky – to get it ready to leave. I am working on these things way too hard and, last night, I hit the wall and crashed. Got some good sleep and I feel a bit better this morning. I think it inspires me that the part of Florida to which we are moving is called the Creative Coast!

Writers have to read as we all know. I got a book this week on the Southwest Florida Gulf Coast. It is fascinating to read about the flora and fauna – so unfamiliar to me. I hope to write a lot about it. I’m going to have a couple of cameras with me at all times and do a lot of exploring. I’m excited!

The reason that this part of Florida is called the Creative Coast is because our area is partly an artist’s colony which will be to my liking. Many writers and other creative types live where I’m going to live.

How is your writing going this week? I’ve been fairly prolific and the good news is that I’ve gotten several thousand words written on my novel. Some of the chapters weren’t making sense to me and I did some rewrites as well. Moved some stuff around. Now, I think it’s in good shape. I know most say that you shouldn’t edit as you write but I can’t NOT edit. I don’t edit for grammar, but I do edit for content. I’m using two voices in the novel and that tends to be hard for a first-time novelist like me. I am using the voice of both the protagonist and the antagonist. I have to constantly re-read and work on that.

It’s been such a warm winter in Kentucky, but Mother Nature decided to drop some real winter weather on us here in mid-March. It’s 29 degrees here this morning.

On top of everything else, I’ve had a sick puppy to nurse back to health this week. My little dog is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. They tend to be a bit fragile. She rolled off the couch (they are a little silly!) and hurt her back. So, off we went to my very good vet. Several hundred dollars later, Betsy is doing just fine. I think her back is healing as last night, for the first time, she started to play again. Cavaliers are such wonderful, docile companion dogs! I’ve had many breeds of dogs in my life, including pound puppies, and Betsy has the best temperament of any dog I’ve ever had.

I hope the writing muse is with you. Tell me how you’re doing in the comments. I’d love to hear about YOU.

#23: Adventures in RV Travel – February 16, 2017

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The End of the Road

Hello everyone! Tonight, I’m writing you from our home in Kentucky. It’s exciting that now we have two homes, one in Kentucky and one in South Florida! I do love both places. The pictures above are of each place — Kentucky on the left, then South Florida. Both beautiful places to live for very different reasons.

Our RV trip to South Florida, then to the Florida panhandle, couldn’t have been more wonderful! In South Florida, we got to have a wonderful, month’s long, vacation. But, even more important than that, we got to buy a small place of our own on an island that we’ve loved for almost ten years. We love the island, the people, the environment  there. It’s a true “Jimmy Buffett” lifestyle. I feel like I’m living in Margaritaville when I’m there!

Then we got to visit the Florida panhandle for the first time. The panhandle may have the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen this side of the Caribbean. Nothing can top the beaches of the Bahamas and the Virgin Islands, but the Florida Panhandle comes close. Of course, our viist to the Panhandle was largely to see our friends, Marty and Phil, and we enjoyed that so much.

We did have one mechanical problem with the RV. For me, RV’s are like boats! It’s always something. Some small problem and there was one trip, one time (to New England in the RV) when there were several BIG mechanical problems. This time, for those of you who are RVer’s, it was the donut gaskets and my traveling companion replaced them within a couple of hours.

One WARNING to all of you RVer’s. Before you schedule a stay at a RV park, ask them if they allow you to make small on-site repairs if need be. The RV park at Carrabelle Beach on the Florida panhandle did not allow such small repairs. The RV park at Pine Island on the Florida peninsula did. It makes a world of difference if you have a problem. We had to find a parking lot as we left the panhandle and an owner who would let us stay for a while in order to make our repairs.

It was sort of a long, hard trip home. We spent a lot of time on two-lane roads, leaving the Panhandle and getting back to the Interstate where we needed to be. A good bit of that time was at night. There are very few services, these days, on two-lane roads since most services are found around the interstate highway system. We had to drive long distances to find places to stay. We were grateful when we had made our way to the interstate. Since we started our trip home late one night, we spent that night on the road and then another night, fairly close to home. We got home in the middle of the day today.

All of you RVer’s know what it’s like to unload an RV after a month long trip! It is not for the faint of heart! We have not nearly finished but we have stopped for the night. I’m going to have to get accustomed to the cold again before I can be out at night in what passes for a Kentucky winter this year. It’s 38 degrees here tonight.

I will look back on this RV trip as a huge highlight in my life! Part of the fun has been writing these blog posts almost every night for all of you. I’ve enjoyed knowing you experienced it with me. We will be traveling more and I will always include you in my travels!

#21: Adventures in RV Travel – February 10, 2017

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Carrabelle, St. George Island, and Appalachicola

Above are pictures of Carrabelle Beach on the panhandle of Florida. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Yes, we have been a lot of places today! We started out the day at Carrabelle Resort RV Park. Early on, we took a drive about 20 miles away, over the bridge, to St. George Island. It’s 14 miles from the RV Park to the bridge to St. George and it’s a four-mile drive across the bridge. A beautiful drive on a beautiful day across the Gulf. We drove around the island a bit and visited the lighthouse. Quite a lighthouse which has been rebuilt since the original one fell after a hurricane. It was very old. This one is very sturdy and built to withstand hurricanes.

Then, we took off on the ten-mile trip to Apalachicola, again a gorgeous drive. It’s a quaint little town and we were looking for a good restaurant to take our friends, Marty and Phil, to tonight when they arrived from Tennessee. We found several. I also think we found some interesting shopping. Marty and I will make a return trip or two and check it out. I think I’ll like this interesting little town.

I’m still not crazy about Carrabelle Resort RV Park, but for those of you RVer’s who like a lot of peace and quiet and don’t mind doing most of your own cooking, you may like it. I’m a little more high maintenance, I guess. And I don’t particularly like a lot of peace and quiet! 🙂

Marty and Phil arrived tonight and we had dinner in a very good, rather frou-frou restaurant in Apalachicola. Everyone liked their meals very much. They had a very long day and after a rest, we will see each other tomorrow!

Below is the St. George Island Lighthouse.

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