Thursday, March 21, 2013

“Already today sixty five miles”

Ulla sat on a sunny bench in front of the library, her Adventure Cycling maps spread in her lap, a fully loaded touring bike leaning on  its stand. It was late afternoon and the Big Lagoon campground nearby was full, the next, 15 miles ahead on the Trans America trail, likely packed with Spring Breakers and Snowbirds delaying their return from Florida to the blizzard ravaged Midwest. It was windy.

 …”but I have from the back mostly today.”
“There are no campsites.  I have called them… and I have already today sixty five miles.”

Having Y chromosomes, Al blurted out the solution before being asked, before proper introductions, and well before courtesy would require.

“This is easy.  We have a campsite in the park across the road –- #34.  You can follow us. I’ll talk to the gate guard…”

IMG_8164Soon we we had stowed our books, Ulla her maps and we were through the gate and pulling up to the Airstream.

“Airstreams!  I love them.  They are the only ones I recognize.”

Nodding toward the 2BIKES car tag she asked, “Two bikes? Is that motorbikes or bicycles?” 

We learned quickly the Ulla faces life head on and it’s is doubtful she had too many qualms about being kidnapped by two geriatric Hell’s Angels, but there was just a little relief twinkling around her eyes when she found herself with fellow bike tourers.  Even better, they have a well provisioned Airstream.

We set about tidying the trailer for our guest while she assembled her tent and gear with practiced ease. 

“First tent, then person,” she declared as she headed for the showers.

At the picnic table we shared a meal partially from each of our larders followed by desert in the trailer as the temps headed for the Thirties. We learned that she is Austrian, living in Switzerland, speaks perfect English with delightful British idioms and has crammed three lifetimes of experience into her fifty one years.  Rock climbing, Alpine mountaineering, trips all over Europe (and where else?), bike tours on both coasts of the US and  now this solo trans continental trip. We traded stories into the night and there was so very much more to tell.


In the morning we lingered too long over breakfast, the oldsters clucking that “You should eat more; you have a lot of miles to ride.” 


And lingered a little more discussing handlebar geometry.  Ah, Gearheads --  the eternal bonds we forge.

At nine thirty she mounted up and peddled West toward Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan and the Dauphin Island Ferry.  Tomorrow, Bellingrath Gardens and on to more adventures. 

IMG_8175 IMG_8177

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Catchin’ UP


Lizardfest is a all age girl’s Volleyball tournament in Pensacola. Our favorite thirteen year old made us proud and the whole team played like champs.  We were camped at nearby Big Lagoon State Park and hosted another lovely grand girl for a couple nights.  The temperatures crept over 75 for a few days and we made the best of it . 



IMG_8050Nearby Gulf Shores State Park has a network of bike trails interlacing the “Backcountry” through wetlands and Live Oak forests.  The low areas are recovering nicely from a big fire 2-3 years ago   The fire line held on the North so the big trees  were saved. We rode two days and got our mileage up without harm to Patty’s shoulder.  The trail surface is newly paved and there are lots of trailside rest benches and PORCH SWINGS!



At one rest stop, we were introduced to Geo Caching by a biking couple poking all around the pavilion.  We had a great time pondering the clues,  crawling around  and giggling.







Patty is all over this and will be studying her new Apps.


There were a few low techIMG_8047 surprises as well.  A snarky Cottonmouth Moccasin who was holding up traffic at an intersection.  He was returned to a less hostile environment, not that he was particularly appreciative.




Further along the trail, a protective Alligator Mama was sunning with multiple babies  on her back


But mostly it was smooth sailing through pretty country among families and boomers enjoying the day.










The Blue Angels are back in Pensacola after 125 training flights in the California deserts.  An huge crowd turned out but not for a full show “just turns and arrivals” as the new team got its bearings and timing down in the home town.  It was chilly and a big wind pushed across the airfield.  We huddled together, Minnesotans standing stoically in shirt sleeves while  most of us returned to the parking lot for all the layers we could  find.








“Look, we have a new Pope”


The volunteers at the Naval Air Museum are a national treasure –- Navy men who tell the stories of the  aircraft and  devote thousands of hours to restoring them.  Out on the flight line, volunteers narrate the show and fill in history of the “Blues”.  Each one has a rich repertoire of gags to keep us entertained in the quiet moments.  Today, one moved close to the gallery  and asked,

“Does anyone have any questions?”

He didn’t wait for hands and immediately pointed to Patty.

“No madam, each of the pilots are married.  If you want a hot pilot, you have to get ‘em when they are in flight training.”

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ocean Springs

IMG_7972Davis Bayou Campground is in the western (Mississippi) District of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Most of this segment is offshore in a string of barrier islands accessible only by boat (in warmer months). Emphasis here is on the bayou and estuarine environments. There is a wonderful Visitors Center with those plastic critters the park service is getting famous for and another rich complement of friendly, informative volunteers.
Between sprinkles we walked short interpretive trails IMG_7937and visited the gator holes. We watched a juvenile Osprey so proud of his 10” fish that he flew from tree to tree for over an hour without eating it. The Adult just gave up and flew away.

The town of Ocean Springs has a lot to offer, especiallyIMG_7942 huge spreading Live Oak trees. The city fathers have their priorities; if the limb is only seven feet off the street, then trucks will just have to find another way.


Earlier the Azaleas were bloomin, but it was still cold.
 Today I stop whining about the weather. “The weather is what it is. That’s it!!”  I have spoken.
It helps that the last couple days have been GLORIOUS -- Sunny, warm, a little breezy.
Each morning, like mostIMG_7966 campers here, we visit and pay homage to the resident gator.
Then it’s off for a ride.

Lately we have had great rides around the park, into lovely Ocean Springs and along the Beach drive where some of the great homes are coming back.  Today we climbed the Biloxi bridge (just for the glory) …


…and rewarded ourselves with dinner at Salvetti’s (best chicken Parm EVER -- seriously Ever).

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Different Kind of Drizzly

In nearly three years of Airstream voyages our magnetic poles have been grandchildren  at opposite ends of the country.  The steering currents we have followed have been clear mountain streams, white sand beaches and BIG TIME LADIES TENNIS.  Patty’s  playing days are behind her, but she follows her girls with a fan’s fervor and a mother’s pride. If one were to block out the weeks of Grand Slam tennis, there would be little time left  for ‘Streaming and Patty understands this, but it never hurts to find a cable connection when the finals week promises appearances by her special favorites.

So it was last July that we found ourselves at the lovely Penn Wood Airstream Park shortly before Wimbledon’s second week. There was the usual joyful meeting and greeting but first things first.  I set about tweaking cables, tightening cables, replacing cables holding my mouth just right,  but the report from inside the trailer was.


Now that  phrase  might have passed into obscurity as another Pat-ism if it hadn't absolutely tickled our neighbor, the lovely Ellie. After repeating “different kind of FUZZY” several times and falling into extended gales of laughter, she proceed to set things right. Now it is always useful to have a Nurse Midwife, Cornell researcher, wife, mom and post-doctoral Airstream restorer at hand when things mechanical need attention… so I followed instructions and hooked the cable to a different post. Marital BLISS returned. 

I mention this today because we seem to have returned to the Florida Panhandle just as the Sun disappeared .  The windows may be open here at Davis Bayou near Ocean Springs MS, but the same windy, dreary, wet weather has returned.  This morning it was declared


This morning's Radar. That little blue dot on the beach is us.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

I Must Go Down to the Seas Again

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.
                                                                         John Masefield

We had turned North from the Gulf Coast for a few days at home in Montgomery.  It was a time for sorrow and relief.  When the family fell back into normal rhythms, there were the  same questions: “So when are you leaving THIS time?”  “How long?”  “ Don’t you ever get tired of old what’s his name?”
I had no answers, but of a night I swear I heard these mumbled cadences repeating like a far off drum beat as I tried to fall asleep….  Patty, I imagined, was mumbling in her sleep, voicing her preferences and perhaps giving evidence that she spent way too much of her youth among English Majors…

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is
a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

So Sunday afternoon, leaving sunshine and azalea blooms, we headed South into wind “like a whetted knife”   watching our MPG’s drop into the single digits.  Ocean Springs Mississippi was 200 miles away and campsites at the National Seashore were First Come/First served. We were fortunate to book the last slip in the harbor and nestled for the night among tall ships and a few proud shiny ones. What followed was…  
a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

Imaginative Friends

Today is a quiet day at home catching up with  cyber friends while Patty industriously bakes cookies.
Glenn is a top tier musician who chooses the Nomad life; the last few weeks have found him converting an old Falcon into his mobile residence of the future (and celebrating the Grammy for a project he contributed to.)
I first followed cyber friends Tara and Tyler while they rode their bikes around the world and today I caught  up with their progress creating a Vermont homestead.  All three write well, take beautiful photographs and, more importantly, live thoughtfully and well.

So, in a quiet afternoon waiting for our eldest grandchild to appear, I have learned quite a bit about painting a vehicle with bed liner and picked up a few tips on building a straw bale house.  Doubtful I will ever use either skill but there have been thoughts to consider…
When Glenn was asked what experience he had to  tackle a complete rebuild of the Falcon –- inside, outside and engine conversion –- he admitted that as a young clarinetist, he was in college before he could even trim his reeds, but  

Fortunately, while Mom and Dad never taught me how to swap out an engine, they did see to it that I could read, write, speak clearly, think for myself, and perhaps most importantly, believe that I could accomplish anything I want in life through hard work and determination. Take note, all you parents – do this much and nothing more, forget whatever new age hooey the "experts" are pushing these days, and you too will be Hall of Fame parenting material.” 

Tara has been visiting the Common Sense Farm and …

“The human kids we met at Common Sense Farm were just as cute as the caprine ones. They were all friendly and inquisitive, rugged and healthy and happy. They were the type of children, who, if dropped off in the middle of nowhere without their parents, would probably create a Swiss Family Robinson style shelter, and hunt for food using bows and arrows crafted of sticks and stones.”

My options today (after reloading the Airstream for another departure) were:
  • Wash it
  • Watch some mindless “reality” TV or sports
  • finish the taxes
  • Scour the AIRFORUMS for insights profound and trivial.  OK, I did some of that
  • or spend a little time “visiting”

In a little while I’ll be caught up with my friends and Patty will have some warm cookies.  As usual, we will share.
“These are great! They remind me of Christmas.”
“Thanks. I AM the Powder Sugar Fairy…. How are Tyler and Tara?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Lack of Commitment

The Snowbird’s Creed:  “Seek 70 degrees and Squat.”
Our commitment to the creed is being daily questioned and our sanity may be next.  In over a month on the road as “Snowbirds” we have seldom touched sixty degrees, and now, in Northern Florida, the little freeze warning buzzes nightly on the iPad.   Here at beautiful Fort Pickens Campground in the Gulf Islands National Seashore, the water is emerald green and the surf flattened by stiff winds from the NW.  We are enjoying new friends and old, but mostly INSIDE the trailer.

There has been the usual “Billing and Cooing” and not all of it by the Two Bikes Crew.  Click HERE  to see the Blue Herons nest building just at the edge of the Campground.

Osprey love is also in the air all around.  Many of last year’s nests were hit by the big winds, and we expect a heavy construction season. Lately the winds have been high and the temps low, so the Osprey have just been showing off.  Good thing since the Blue Angels have been canceled…SHORLINE NAVAL LIVE OAKS

Seeking shelter we visited both the refurbished exhibits at the Fort Museum and the Visitor Center in the Naval Live Oak segment of the park.

And the food?  (Thank you for asking.) The eats were a nice balance of our homemade  items, “flash fried” seafood from Peg Leg Pete’s and Greek style seafood from the Aegean Breeze. On both occasions we were joined by new friends and had a great time.  Note to self:  Sometimes effusive praise of the cute little toddler gets you a hug and a smoochy kiss, a reward in itself, but when the cutie is the chef’s grandson, heaps of fried Calamari may appear at your table.  Thanks Stavros. 


Gated Community :  On our way out today we couldn’t resist a little spin through the fortifications.