Late December 2004

Where the Last Day of 2004 Finds Us

- Literally, it finds us still in Lakeland, Florida, a long way from Ottawa, Ontario where we started the year. It finds us both retired, warm, and comfortable, whereas at the beginning of the year we were both still working, cold, and looking forward to a minimum of two more months of Canadian winter, something I feel my life has finally escaped the icy grip of.
    So, 2004 turned out to be a milestone year in the lives of Sandra and myself and a very good year indeed for us. We miss the family and friends, but we'll be seeing all of you again in 2005. We'll also be seeing many of the places we've always wanted to see but never had the time before now, so while Sandra and I have retired, our cameras will be working overtime.
    Anyway, Sandra and I both wish you the best for the New Year. May it be happy and prosperous for you.

We Visit an Old Friend

- Five days ago, the day after Christmas, December 26 (of course and also known as Boxing Day in Canada), saw us getting up earlier than usual (for Sandra anyway) and heading west for the long awaited visit with Bill, a former employer and long-time friend, who retired to the Tampa area a few years ago.
    Unfortunately, Bill has had a series of heart problems the last number of years and I thought he surely was not long for this world, but when he greeted us on arrival we saw a visage of someone not pale or wan, wheezing or panting, but tan and looking as hearty as he ever has, albeit a bit more gray on top. So I suspect these tales of health issues were all just a ruse to get us down here to visit and in reality he will outlive me and everyone else he knows. If you know Bill, you know he's just too ornery to do otherwise and considering the recent tragedy in Asia and the near proximity of Bill's house to the Gulf of Mexico, the odds are higher that a tsunami will get him than his heart will fail.
    Anyway, we also met Mary, his lady of choice down here and he soon after took us all out for a Sunday brunch at a very busy restaurant by the beach on the Gulf not far from his house.
    After that we returned to his place and got caught up on all that had happened since our last meeting, which was so long ago neither of us could remember exactly how many years ago it was. Then after a meal of Mary's culinary delights we parted company and headed back to Lakeland.

Latest Travel Tool

- Before we left Ottawa a friend gave us a software package called Route 66 because he thought it would be an ideal travel tool for us and it did indeed turn out to be quite useful. Route 66 is a comprehensive map of both the US and Canada that shows not only every street and road in these countries but many campgrounds, restaurants, hotels, and other enterprises as well. It is completely searchable by entering whatever or wherever you want to go and it gives you a map of it. This is far better than any map or atlas printed on paper could ever be.
    However, another traveling friend highly recommended we get a GPS system, something that had kept him from getting lost many times when traveling in unknown territory, which is about all Sandra and I have been doing for months. GPS, if you don't know, stands for the Global Positioning System and operates through a system of satellites that orbit the earth and if you have a proper receiver will tell you where you are anywhere in the world, whether on land or sea or in the air, to within a matter of a few feet.
    So, GPS is very cool for travelers, but until yesterday we hadn't found a GPS system that looked like the best one for us. Then I saw Microsoft Streets & Trips 2005 with GPS Locator at a BestBuy here in Lakeland and at $130 thought it was worth trying. The only downside I saw to it was that it works only with Microsoft Windows but Sandra's laptop is a PC and since she does most of the navigating when I'm driving, this limitation wasn't a real problem, although I always prefer buying software that has versions for both Mac and Windows.
    Anyway, we bought it and installed it and it worked fabulously. Its display is much like Route 66's but with GPS which not only tells you where you are, but tracks you and can even tell you how fast you're going and shifts the map as you travel along. Most cool.
    And as a bonus, I tried installing it into VirtualPC on my Mac laptop (VirtualPC being a PC emulator that will run Windows software on a Mac although more slowly) and to my great delight, not only did it run and recognize the GPS receiver, it runs almost as quickly as it does on Sandra's PC laptop.
    Then I wondered if Route 66 (which takes far fewer system resources) would work with the GPS receiver, but although Route 66 claims to have GPS capability it failed to recognize the receiver. Pity.

Update from Lakeland

- As mentioned as a possibility below, we did indeed get the other campsite in the campground, packed up, and moved to it today around noon. So we will continue to be in Lakeland, Florida until January 3, 2005 at which point we will start our journey westward, probably with a first stop in Montgomery, Alabama to visit someone there and continuing from there to the bayous of Louisiana for photos.

Latest from Lakeland

- Yesterday the day dawned clear but cold (3°C/39°F), however things quickly warmed up when the sun arrived.
    First thing we did was go to the campground office and see about extending our stay here. We were due to leave tomorrow (Dec 29) which would've put us on the road over New Year's, and driving on a holiday weekend seems like a good thing to avoid, especially one traditionally involving people drinking as is usually the case for New Year's, so we decided to stay here in Lakeland if possible. The campground is booked up but we were told a few days ago to keep checking because cancellations happen all the time.
    And, as it turns out, there looks to be a cancellation on a spot that we can move to either later today or tomorrow and we can stay on it until after the New Year's weekend. And even better, this new spot is enough closer to the wi-fi router's location that it looks like we might be able to access it from in the RV, which is always a joy.
    So, if all goes as planned we'll now be in Lakeland until January 3, 2005.
    With that business taken care of and the weather finally being conducive to shooting photos after 2 or 3 days of rain, Sandra and I continued our exploration of the area, ending up on a boardwalk going through a nature reserve along the Peace River south of here.
    Photo above shows Sandra on this boardwalk. Click on it to see a zoomed-in larger version of her.

Merry Christmas to All

- Tomorrow is Christmas and we'll be busy a good part of the day with our fellow campers at a big pot luck dinner being held at the rec hall of the campground, so I took our annual family Christmas portrait this morning and here it is on the left.
    You probably noticed it's a bit different from years past when Sandra and I posed somewhere in our living room in Ottawa, usually around the fireplace in some way.
    Well, no fireplace this year, although I was hoping for some sun but had to settle for temperatures mild enough to wear shorts and short-sleeve shirts, albeit in all honesty it wasn't warm enough to be really comfortable dressed like this if you didn't keep moving at doing something.
    I'm not complaining though. The clouds and on-and-off drizzly rain we've had the last couple days is all we got of the weather system that dumped over a foot of snow on a lot of the USA this week, so I'm quite happy with things as they are here.
    We are scheduled to be in Lakeland until December 29 and with the weather like it has been we don't know yet whether we'll extend our stay here or move even further south (assuming we can find a campsite which might be quite difficult) or take our chances with the weather and start our trek westward. I mean even Texas had snow this week. Yeesh!
    Anyway, who can complain when the worst problem facing one is where to go next! A Merry Christmas to all.

A Cloudy Rainy Day in Lakeland

- But the photo above of Sandra feeding the birds at Lake Morton (click on it to see a zoomed-in larger version of her) is what the weather has generally been like here during our stay so far in Lakeland.
    This is a far cry from the snowstorm that just moved through Ohio and my heartfelt sympathy goes out to everyone socked in by all that white stuff. Look on the bright side though...all the dreams will likely come true for those who were dreaming of a white Christmas. Speaking only for myself, I'll take a green one any day, although I have to admit that while people down here try their best to put on the traditional Christmas face, it just isn't the same when seen while wearing short-sleeves.

This 'n That from Lakeland

- Nephew Nick has requested more photos of us, so here's another of Sandra, sitting on a bench in Hollis Gardens last Sunday. Click on it to see a larger zoomed-in version.
    We've just got back from a walk in a local nature reserve, which was interesting for all the live oak trees we saw with Spanish Moss hanging from them, but with few sightings of fauna in the wild.
    Today as I'm sitting in the campground lounge in short-sleeves writing this, the Weather Channel is playing on the large-screen TV and giving updates on a rather nasty snowstorm currently moving through Ohio. Sounds like winter has definitely arrived up north on this second day of winter. Well, at least the days are getting longer now.


Updated Monday, April 2, 2007

Copyright © 2004 by Gordon L Wolford .
All rights reserved.



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