Sunday, December 31, 2023

Flying for the Holiday

December 22-28, 2023                                            Most Recent Posts:
Reisterstown, Maryland       Gamble Rogers: Sunrises, Sunsets, Rain and Wind
                                                                St Augustine is a Great Walking Town

I moved from Gamble Rogers to Alafia State Park in Lithia Florida on Monday December 18th but this post is not about that.  Alafia will be the next post.

This post begins with my flight to chilly Maryland from warm Florida on Friday December 22nd.  The things we do to see our loved ones. <smile>

20231222_133705Everything went as smoothly as possible in terms of getting from Lithia to the Tampa Airport, getting the car parked with my prepaid $78 parking spot, taking the tram to the terminal and finding the gate.  I was at the gate before anyone else.  Tampa is well organized. Not so lucky on the return.

I wore an N95 mask for fear of covid and airports and airplanes.  Also not so lucky on the return but that’s later.

I flew Frontier Airlines which I would NOT recommend.  The only thing they have going for them are the cute animals on their tail fin.



At first, Frontier appear to have the most reasonably priced seats until you discover that the price of the ticket is just the start.  There is a separate charge of $69 to carry a bag on, EACH WAY.  So add $138 to the “reasonable”.  If you want to select your seat, that’s another $35 EACH WAY.  Or you can take the luck of the draw, which is what I did, and you will find yourself in one of the last 3 rows.

We left Tampa and 2.5 hours later arrived in Baltimore.  Despite refusing to pay, I had a window seat though it was in the very very back of the plane,  row 26.  You know what being in the very back means – close to the bathroom, last one off, likely death if the plane crashes.


The interstate looked like it was all lit up for the holidays.  Looks much more attractive from the air than from the ground.


Carrie and Celia picked me up at the airport.  It was wonderful to see them.  I was tired and it was late so other than hugs and bed time reading, the fun started the next day.  Colin looks quite worried about catching this Gingerbread Man.


The next morning, Carrie and I hit the bakeries for Christmas morning pastries.

First we went to Simon’s Bakery and even though it was only 9am, we found the shelves somewhat sparse especially as concerns my favorite sticky buns.  But we made do.  LOL!!



Simon’s dates back to an 1886 storefront in South Baltimore.  Its owner George Simon died in 2022 at age 90.  He had taken over the bakery from his father and his daughter and son took it over from him in 2020.  The work was such long hours and so hard that they decided to close the bakery at the end of this year if it did not find a buyer.  But luckily it did so we could get our pastries from them again.   Not many locally owned and run bakeries left any more and for anyone who has tried grocery store pastries, they aren’t even in the ballpark.

This is an actual mixer used in the early days of the bakery.  Can you imagine?


And a wall lined with molds


Then to bakery #2, Bethany’s,  for cinnamon rolls “as big as a plate” only to find out that a man in a sweater, shorts and flip flops had bought the last ones.  Upon query from Carrie we learned he had graying hair and two children were with him.  Too funny!


On that morning out we did some stocking shopping and had breakfast at Ashland Cafe.  Sadly I apparently took no pictures at Ashland.

Back home it was time for games.  Here we are with Duck Duck Goose.  We also played numerous rounds of Sorry, Connect 4., Slap Jack, Old Maid, and Bingo over the days I was here.  As I discovered too many times in putting this post together, I did not take pictures of any of those.  Amazing given the amount of time we spent playing.


We took several walks/rides down their cul-de-sac.  The weather was often in the balmy 50’s so I was the only one freezing.



I was very surprised to receive a package at Carrie’s from my friend Pam in Charlottesville.  She sent me a box of my favorite chocolates and this WARM jacket which I ended up wearing almost every day.   Thank you Pam!!


My favorite of the games is this one person sound memory game SIMON.
Celia looks a bit disconcerted with it here.


I admire Matthew in his comfy attire.  Gotta love it!  He and Carrie were watching the birds at feeders outside their window during a few minutes of rare down time.  He doesn’t like to have his picture taken so my phone camera distracted them.


But later they got all dressed up for an equally rare date night and dinner out.  Nana plays babysitter.


There were trips to two parks.  One was a very nice relatively new set of metal play/climbing structures and slides.


The other was a more rustic nature oriented play space allowing for a lot of creativity.  It also had a nature center, a story book story board path and trails.



She’ll have to settle for Canada Goose since she’s not quite Turkey Vulture.





This wall of various kitchen pots and pans with numerous utensils and drum sticks was so clever and noisy though not obnoxiously.  All 4 of us the variety of sounds using different utensils on different pots and pans very interesting.  With effort you might even be able to play a tune.

And then it’s Christmas Eve and the kids get to open a few presents that came through the mail from close friends and the annual matching Christmas PJs from Nana.


I’m still trying to get them to figure out a way to hang the stockings “by the chimney with care”.  The weighted ones don’t work.  I think large cup hooks screwed in under the mantle and removed after Christmas is possible.  I don’t think the holes would be visible.


Celia is reading the tags looking for presents to pass out.


Like her mother, Carrie loves books and I think she got at least 4 this morning.  One from me and three from Matthew and Santa.   I got a book, the Margaret Renkl I was hoping for – Thank you Carrie.  And the kids also got books of course from Nana.


Celia’s major delight turned out to be the doll and sets of clothing that I got for her.  She changed the doll’s name several times over my visit but it ended up being Emily Rose Sophia Iwanowski.   Now that’s a mouthful.


Colin has opened books and legos.


Emily Rose Sophia’s clothes must be changed multiple times before breakfast.


Carrie reading one of the books I got Colin, The Day I Became a Pirate which is a great story.


After the family Christmas with the five of us,  Matthew’s extended family arrived and the cooking and assembly of a HUGE amount of food began.


Presents for 30+ people takes quite a long time.  The kids go first given their patience levels.


It’s quite a loud, noisy, joyful gathering.


After the food, things seem to slow down and the scratch off begins.  Matthew’s brother Mark gives everyone two lottery tickets each year and brings the cash to pay out if you win.  These scratchers are serious and someone won $200 this year but I can’t remember who it was.  It wasn’t any of the 5 of us.  Unfortunately this year none of us won anything but we did last year.


As the day winds down Matthew and UJ (Uncle John) seclude themselves in a small front parlor for a quiet game of cards.


At the end of the day is a selection of delicious desserts.  UJ’s daughter is a pastry chef so they are amazing.  You can see the cheese cake but there were many more and UJ brings several flavors of home made ice cream.   These people know how to put on a Christmas dinner.  

But at this point, as you can see, we were all pretty stuffed and over done.


The day after Christmas we made an effort to hike it off with a walk to the stream that borders their property.





Did I mention that I wore my new jacket everywhere?


Of course there was the clean up efforts mostly done by the adults but with some help from Colin.  Hope he’s still wanting to do this in about another 7 or 8 years.

December 27 (1)

The next morning it was over and I had to say goodbye.  That’s always the hardest part so I never take any pictures.


I left on Thursday the 28th.  Carrie took me to the airport in the morning and was leaving a couple of hours later for a New Year’s family gathering in West Virginia.  A subset of the Christmas crowd will be there.

She obviously has more energy than I.  I’m lucky to have had enough to deal with the return trip which was not so terrific.

This was largely due to Frontier Airlines  but one difficulty was my own fault.  My part was that somehow I had misplaced my two N95 masks and had to use my unfiltered Winnie the Pooh.   Hope he provides good protection.  I’m amazed at the number of people I know who have gotten covid and RSV in the last 10 days.

When I got to BWI my flight was not on the flight lists.  No one I asked seemed to know why there was only one Frontier flight listed on the large board.  My boarding pass had no gate listed.  I finally found someone who knew which concourse Frontier flew from and said the flight board there would have mine listed.  The problem everyone talks about, the TSA check, was no problem either way.

Through TSA, at concourse D, the flight was not on that flight board either.  I asked numerous people there.  No one knew anything.  So I headed to the gate for the only Frontier Flight listed which was going to San Juan.   Hmmm would I rather go to San Juan?

When I got there, that flight was delayed.  There was a huge line and back up of people and no way to ask the Frontier workers why my flight wasn’t listed.  So I sat down and waited.  This is why you have to arrive 2 hours early.

Eventually, the woman next to me asked if I was going to Tampa as she was too.  We commiserated until the almost unintelligible announcement was made by the Frontier personnel at this gate 4 that Tampa would be boarding at Gate 5 which was not directly next door as one would expect but at the other end of the concourse and around the corner.

PXL_20231228_181242425.MPOnce on the plane, a miracle in itself,  I was told by the friendly flight attendants whose pictures I took to use when I do my reviews and complaints, that as I had not purchased “personal assistance” service, they could not help put my bag in the overhead bin which was at least a foot above my head. 

Good thing I have gray hair and wrinkles at least today.  A nice passenger did it for me.  I was a bit sorry he did as I would love to have seen what would have happened if he had not.  They can’t fly the plane with a bag in the isle nor can anyone get past me.

AND interestingly after I took his picture, he was able to get my bag down for me when we arrived.

Who is responsible for all this trouble?  BWI boards or Frontier?  I suspect the boards only carry what the airline gives them so I’m absolving BWI for all my problems and irritations.

I managed to leave Carrie’s at 10:45 and arrived back home at 6pm to find Winnona just as I left her.  I’d achieved my goal, I’d gone to Carrie’s without any serious mishaps and arrived back before dark.   Looking forward to  several quiet days of doing nothing!!

My nothing and other days at Alafia River State Park will be the subject of my next post.  Hope you had happy successful holidays and met all your goals!!!

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Gamble Rogers: Sunrises, Sunsets, Rain and Wind

December 4-December 18, 2023                              Most Recent Posts:
Gamble Rogers State Park              Saint Augustine is a Great Walking Town 
Flagler Beach, Florida                             Nights of Lights in Saint Augustine

This post covers my entire two weeks at Gamble Rogers.   It is long and heavy with pictures.  I hope you don’t mind and will plow on through it.   BUT the reward for me is that I am now caught up to the present.  YIPPEE!

And if you do make it all the way to the end could you let me know if you find the outdoor pictures too dark.  I am having trouble with my camera.

On to the blog post. . . .

Pretty sure I’ve mentioned that David and I came to Gamble Rogers for the first time in 2011, stayed on the ocean side with an amazing view out our movie screen front window.  Here it is, that blast from the past our front window view from Site 11 Ocean side.


We continued to come back nearly  every year.  We didn’t mean to spend all our winters in Florida but  once David began being treated at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa it became necessary.


After his death I discovered the damage the salt had done to the under carriage of Winnona and moved myself to the Riverside for her sake.   So now I walk over to see the ocean. 

I’ve really wanted to spend a winter in Texas and  in Arizona  now that I can but following the weather there has really discouraged me.   Still I want to spend at least a year in the west to see the things we never got back to do and possibly revisit some of the favorites from our travels.  Unfortunately most of those are National Parks which are now so over run that I fear I would not like them nearly as much.  Any advice would be welcome.

PXL_20231205_132442572.MPSo here I am at Gamble Rogers again, in the pull through site I’ve had the last couple of years.  No privacy but I do meet more of my neighbors.

This picture of the awning out is from the first day I arrived.  I soon learned that would not be possible with the incessant wind during my stay.

I was up most mornings for the sunrise, walking over to the beach before to see the dawn color begin.



When the sun broke through and sent the clouds up, they look like cotton balls.
That’s the Flagler Beach water tower in the distance down the beach.

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I saw this fellow nearly every morning.  Today he’d found a crab and had just dropped it when I took this picture.


I took the nature trail each morning in the dark, starting out with a flashlight to guide me through the forest to the walk over to the ocean side.  

Passing the entrance sign at O dark 30.


These pictures were taken on my trips back after sun rise and on many other walks on this trail which is my hands down favorite.  And I think it would be even if it weren’t the only hiking trail actually in the state park.

This is my favorite section with the wind blown trees making a tunnel to walk through.



Lots of fungi.  Each day I seemed to see different ones.


Orange was a popular color for different mushrooms


What fun to spot this geocache one morning.  Of course I signed my name.





With all the rain we had, the resurrection ferns on the right side of the low parallel branch were looking green and alive.  I think they are so interesting the way they pop back to life from appearing totally dead.

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Here they are standing up bright and shiny.


This is what I find after my great hike in the afternoon.

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On my birthday I was lucky enough to have Forest, Shawna and Mazie as my back door neighbors.   Sadly they were only here for one night on their way to Long Point Park near Sebastian Inlet further south.  Given the temperatures here, I think it’s a smart move but unfortunately for me, I’m locked in.   Pay no attention to the shorts,  He’s from Alaska and she’s from Michigan.  They think a high of 61 is balmy. 


To celebrate becoming even older, I ordeedr my favorite pizza from my favorite pizza guy.   This is Rocky’s Special with double anchovies and when I picked it up, for my birthday he put even more on it and gave me two brownies for dessert.

Now you see why he’s my favorite.


Sunset over the river



The next morning back over on the sunrise side of things, the winds were starting to pick up.




This Snowy Egret and a few friends were at the water’s edge.


I was very shocked when I walked by him after taking scores of pictures and he did not fly away.


In fact he just walked right toward me.  I suspect he’s fond of the fishermen who frequent this spot and no doubt share with him.  How could you not with those golden slippers.


Somehow they never seem to get bowled over by the waves like we do.  They just fly away.  Wish I could.



On Saturday the park sponsored a kayak tour so I signed up.  I think perhaps there were 8 kayaks and a paddleboard.


These two were guarding the No Wake signs where our inlet met the river.


They didn’t seem very successful at getting the boats to slow down so we could cross over to the mangroves.


But ultimately we all lined up in a parallel line and made a dash for it across the choppy water.


Calmer waters in the mangroves.   Mangroves are wonderful not only for kayaking in but they stabilize the coastline by reducing erosion caused by storm surges, and hurricanes.  Mangroves protect water quality by removing nutrients and pollutants. And of course like all plants they breathe out oxygen.


Mangroves provide nursery habitat for many fish and shellfish.    They provide shelter and serve as nesting areas for coastal birds such as little blue herons, great egrets and brown pelicans. Many birds depend on mangroves for part of their seasonal migrations. Even dead mangroves play an important role, providing roosting areas for bird species.

As you can tell, I am a huge Mangrove fan.


I caught this picture of the kayaking  dog for my friend Pam.  Apparently he’s been doing this for years and loves to go on the water.


Back on land the next day, I was trying to walk down the beach at high tide for sunrise one morning when I saw a great selfie effort further on down the beach.


These two were jumping up over and over to get the picture.  I had to use my zoom to get this.  I then walked as fast as I could to get toward them to volunteer to take their picture but they had either given up or got what they wanted and were out pacing me down the beach.  Still  I love it!

On Sunday, another neighbor Robin who rode the paddle board yesterday and I went out again.  She took her two little chihuahua mixes.  It was amazing that they stayed right on the front of the boat.  Robin says one likes to push the other one in but it didn’t happen today.



Even though I had locked my boat up at the dock so I could go any day with little trouble, this was my last paddle here as the rains began this evening.  This day was beautiful as you can see.


This is Robin’s dog water bottle that she brings for them.  I’d never seen anything like it.   This too is for you Pam.


One evening when I hadn’t gone out for sunset but  should have,  this class A pulled into my view.

December 11 (2)

Isn’t it GREAT!   The owner wasn’t outside when I was and the next thing I knew, the rig was gone.  Really would have loved to hear the story.  Have any of you ever seen this rig? 


Wish I’d known he was going to leave so soon, I might have knocked on his door.


Once the winds picked up, walking on the water front became a calculated trip.  The forest walk over was great and if I walked with the wind one way and through the ocean side campground coming back, it worked.

But by Tuesday I needed something to do besides fight the wind, work on the blog, the puzzles and read.    So, and this will totally shock all who know me, I went to the Daytona Outlet Mall.


The winds here are buffeted by the buildings.   My flannel pajamas of MANY years are becoming threadbare and replacements on line seem extremely expensive to me at $75 and up.



So I walked a few miles around going in and out of stores like Columbia and Old Navy Outlets and found not only warm flannel pajamas for $12 (I bought 2 pair)  but a great fleece jacket for $14 and a pair of quick dry UPF 50 hiking pants that actually fit me for $16.

Can’t really say it was a good time but it was definitely a successful trip.

What else did I do on extremely windy days?

20231213_115200I tackled a project I’d been putting off.  I have TPMS (tire pressure monitors) on all 10 of my tires and a handset inside so when I am driving I can see the pressures on the tires on Winnona and the car.  

Two of the monitors on Winnona stopped reading on the way down here.  Nothing wrong with the tire pressure, I checked.  So I read the manual, bought new batteries and set out to change them.

  Of course nothing went as planned.  I couldn’t get the screws out of one even with WD 40 and a couple of other lubricants.  The camp host couldn’t either but on the other one, changing the battery didn’t work.  So I called the company and they had a couple other hoops to suggest I jump through.  I was tired and opted to order two new sensors.   The whole set up, like everything else – Me, Winnona, the new to me car, is old so I’m not surprised at having to replace them.

20231213_095357A more inconvenient problem appeared when I went to check for tools for the TPMS job.   I found that the water pump had a drip leak. It must have just started since there was hardly any water but it was wet in the bin where it shouldn’t have been.  After attempting to figure out where it was coming from and with the aid of a mirror, of course it is in the back of the water pump and difficult to see even with the mirror .  I’ve put a pan under it to catch the water for now and when I get somewhere I can have someone look at it I will.

I’d really welcome any water pump advice that might save me the ever increasing cost of RV techs.

Not sure how old it is.  I imagine I could look through my records and track that down.  It is also possible that David has a spare since there are spare hydraulic solenoids and other parts in the bins.   I really do HAVE to make an inventory.   But I will tackle all this after the holiday.

Instead, I worked on the bird puzzle.



The Comfort of Crows: A Backyard Year by Margaret Renkl | Goodreads

And read my book  Margaret Rekl’s The Comfort of Crows.  

I got it on my kindle from the library but after finishing it, I want to start all over and read it seasonally.  I want my own copy, in hardback.   Isn’t the art work exquisite?  Her brother does all the art for all her books.

It’s $28 for the hardback too high for me but I know that it will drop when the paperback comes out early next year.  I’m not really buying books any more.  In fact I’m trying to read up the library I already own and pass them on. BUT there are some books I just have to own and keep and her books are among them.  I already have Late Migrations, also wonderful.

As the winds continued, the waves picked up and the shore became littered with debris.


Including this man o’ war.  He’s beautiful but I understand you DO NOT want to get stung by him.


Another thing I did was to update the living room rugs and pillows which are now 13 years old.  The pillow covers were tearing and the rugs wouldn’t go with the lighter ones I replaced them with.  I did keep an even darker entry rug so the dirt won’t show.





I began another  puzzle but as it was almost time to move on, I haven’t made much progress.  As you can see the pieces are TINY.  I have never done one with such small pieces so we’ll see whether I have the patience or not.


The pieces are only slightly larger than my thumbnail and I have small hands.  I know folks do 1000 and 2000 piece puzzles whose pieces are probably smaller than this but even this one may be beyond me.  We’ll see.  
I need  Sue and Mo?


The heavy rains continued with heavier winds rocking the RV at 25 mph.  I brought my slides in over night.  The skies continued to darken and the winds to increase.  The waves were rolling.  Nobody was surfing.  Red flags were up


It didn’t seem to bother the pelicans unless they were getting out of dodge.

Another thing you can do in the wind is laundry.  So I did and when I came back from switching the load from the washer to the dryer, I found I had yard birds


A group of Ibis had moved in.  I guess they like the wet ground and all the puddles from the rain.


Twice on my walks over to the ocean side I had run into Patti first and then Patti and Dan.  In talking, we discovered that we have an amazing amount in common and I was SO sorry to be leaving the next day.  I hope we can keep in touch and meet up again.  They are from the Linville area of the North Carolina Mountains.  How I wish I had known them the summer I spent a month at Bear Den which is very near them.

Patti & Dan (2)

Finally after 5 days of this wind rain business, it rained furiously and the coach rocked all night long.  The slides were in.  It was so loud it woke me several times over night.   And then it was over

Next morning I had water front property and it was time to leave.


I’ve moved on to Alafia River State Park.  I’m posting from there and will be leaving tomorrow to fly to see my family – Carrie, Celia, Colin and Matthew.

I wish you all a wonderful WINTER SOLSTICE.  The light is returning.