Monday, February 28, 2011

And MORE AVA Walks!

Well, I still don't have any new pictures. I usually do NOT carry a camera with me when I do an AVA walk - as it is, I have my cell phone, a little rag (for wiping the sweat out of my eyes when it's 85 degrees!), usually a power bar (in case I get hungry!), my ID and some money (also in case I get hungry - obviously that is a BIG concern of mine!). If I have Brandi with me, I have to carry some doggie treats. And of course I have to carry my directions and map. So, since I'm not a pack mule, I usually leave the camera behind. Plus, I have this weird sort of feeling that if I'm not visiting a location with Dave and actually making it a specific destination point, I can't "claim" it by taking pictures. It would be like taking pictures of a wedding that you happen to come across but you don't know the bride or groom. I know - it's really weird - but it seems like "cheating" to take pictures of places I just did a quick walk through. A lot of RVer's have those maps of the USA on their doors or slide-outs or whatever, and they put the sticker of the states they've visited onto the maps - that way you can tell how widely-traveled they are. I like those maps and want to get one, but I don't feel like you can "claim" a state if all you did was spend four hours driving through it - I told Dave we don't get to put that state onto our map unless we've actually camped in the state and visited at least a few locations there. Kind of the same logic, right? (Don't blame me - this is another of those things I think I get from my mom!).

Okay, having exposed another part of the unseen underbelly of my psyche, let's move on. So I'm REALLY proud of myself - I've done two more AVA walks within the last three days - and at 10K per walk, that gives me some minor bragging rights. On Saturday, Dave and I did go ahead and drive over to Daytona Beach. OK - I kind of get it now - that IS a pretty cool place! The beach is very nice (although personally I thought the beach at Cocoa Beach was actually prettier - and the pier was much cooler). But I think what kind of sets Daytona apart is how the whole "biker" thing is incorporated into the beach thing. There is one street, called Main Street (!), that is basically lined with biker bars - there's Boot Hill, Dirty Harry's, Froggy's, Shark's Lounge, etc. And then, over the bridge and back on the mainland, the main road running along the water (Beach Street) is lined with motorcycle dealers, bike shops (like the Trike Shop) and other biker-related stores. But it isn't "nasty" or anything - it's just a LOT about motorcycles. The bars weren't very full yet - Bike Week is still one week away - but there were still a lot of bikes parked in front of them. The beach is really nice - there's a really cool bandshell and boardwalk at one end, and at the opposite end of my walk route the beach was opened up to auto traffic (just like at New Smyrna). It wasn't very windy at all, so Dave enjoyed having his bike - he rode for miles on the beach, which he really enjoys. And I had a great walk - very nice route with lots and lots to see.

I was a little nervous before the walk because I've still been having a little trouble with a some muscle or joint discomfort - kind of in my hip or upper thighs - I can't quite pinpoint it but by the end of my New Smyrna walk I was definitely limping. So I was very happy to find out that I had no trouble at all with the Daytona Beach walk. Therefore - why not do another, right? So on Sunday I left Dave home to fish, and I took Brandi with me to do one of the walks I thought would be a little less appealing to Dave - in this case, the "Lakes" walk in Orlando. For one thing, I had to drive pretty much into the middle of Orlando on I-4 - LOTS of traffic, which right away made it one to exclude Dave from! Secondly, I could tell from the description of the walk that it was primarily in an older residential area, with probably some smaller lakes and parks - probably not Dave's favorite type of route for biking. So Brandi and I went and we did GREAT. The walk was almost exactly how I pictured it - think of walking around East Grand Rapids and coming up on Reeds Lake and sort of multiply that a few times over. Actually, I think I counted about eight little lakes that were incorporated into the route. One of the lakes was a little larger than the others and had a nice sidewalk completely circling it - and on one side there was an outdoor craft fair/marketplace/etc - so LOTS of people. At first Brandi wanted to jump on all of them, but we had a little "discussion" about that (which involved me stepping on her front paw - not hard, but enough to make her squeal a little) and I couldn't believe how much better she was the rest of the time. And then on the other side of this particular lake there was some type of music festival - Greek or Latvian or some such thing - and there were REALLY a lot of people in that area. But Brandi did really well - she kind of left the people alone, but still had a hard time ignoring the other dogs - and there were about a MILLION of them! I had to hold her really close to me, but we got through it. But then we got to another little lake which had a bridge going over to an island, and I noticed a few people were letting their dogs run free. I stopped a young couple to ask about that and the girl told me that it was sort of an unwritten thing, but most people did let their dogs loose on the island - so OFF went Brandi's leash. She fell in LOVE with this couple's dog - Louie! - and they just ran and played and went into the water and had a BALL. It was SO fun to be able to let her run loose - and (somewhat to my amazement) when they finally called their dog to leave, Brandi came right back to me - SHOCK! Fortunately we were well over three-quarters of the way through our route, because she was exhausted after that and the SECOND we got back to the car she curled up in a ball in the back seat and fell sound asleep - it was pretty cute! So - 20K in two days - not too bad!

When I got home, Dave was frustrated because he had just gotten done fishing and decided to watch a basketball game and wouldn't you know it - we have MORE TV-type problems - AGAIN! GGRRRHHH! I'm not EVEN going to talk about it! But we decided to go into town and get a drink (or two). We decided to stop at this little bar we had noticed before, called Dale's Ales. We THOUGHT it was just a small little brick-faced bar, but when we pulled in we realized two things - #1: there was a really big "courtyard" behind the bar and #2: this was definitely a biker bar. There were dozens of bikes parked out back, with a live band (who were actually VERY good). So Dave and I go waltzing in and we are literally the only ones there NOT dressed in jeans and boots and black T-shirts (or halter tops!). It's kind of funny in a way - bikers like to think of themselves as sort of non-conformists but I don't think I've ever seen a group that conforms so strictly to a dress code! But we wanted a beer and we liked the sound of the band, so we stuck around for an hour or so and had a couple of beers and "people watched". There was a couple sitting right next to us who were... how should I say it? Making out???? Like I HOPE they had a condom in there someplace! And, believe me, they were NOT young and it was NOT attractive! Yikes! But we were fine - no one bothered us or anything - but on the other hand, I DID decide that it would NOT be a good idea to get out my camera and start snapping pictures. So after we spent our allotted one hour there we came on home - it was fine but I'm not thinking we'll necessarily go back there again. We were laughing about that Marrisa Tormei line in My Cousin Vinny ("oh, yeah, like YOU blend...!") and so we decided to WATCH My Cousin Vinny - it seemed appropriate and it really IS a funny movie!

Today (Monday) was fun too - I had put our names down for the two-hour narrated boat trip that leaves the park a couple times a day. The boat holds maybe 50 or 60 people and goes up the St John's River. The guide was excellent - VERY knowledgeable about the plants and animals on the river! He was one of those guides with a really pleasant speaking voice and very easy to understand (believe me - that is not ALWAYS the case!). We saw gobs of alligators, lots of different types of birds (including TWO bald eagles - that was a treat!) and he also pointed out a lot of different plants that we didn't know about. It was a very nice trip - we would recommend it to anyone in the area.

We continue to be amazed at the weather - I really don't think we've had a day that wasn't in the 80's since Cindi and Glennda left (sorry, girls!). When we compare this to the AWFUL weather we had literally week after week last year, it's unbelievable. I talked to Henry (at Kerkstra's) today and he told me there was snow on top of a quarter inch of ice up at home. We're so thrilled to be here, especially now that we begin our countdown - only about five weeks left - gulp! But - here we are - and we'll continue to do EVERYTHING we can to enjoy every minute that we have. Love to all back home!

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