A Month with Friends

Tonight finds us at a hotel just a few minutes away from the Jacksonville  International Airport, taking account, sorting and repacking one last time before our flight to Ecuador and the beginning of our two year adventure.  We’ve been on the road for exactly thirty days, traveling down the eastern seaboard, visiting friends and family that our preretirement schedules prohibited us from seeing as frequently as we should have.  They have so graciously opened their homes, shared meals with us and entertained us.  And they have been the most wonderful local tour guides, highlighting the best of their communities and opening our eyes to the beauty of this region.  It has been several decades since Donna or I had undertaken an extensive road trip and we were thrilled to see the natural grandeur that abounds in this country.

Our first Sunday away from home we celebrated with a New York Times newspaper, a long forgotten ritual, and lattes outside under towering pines at our friend Janet’s house,  a few blocks from the ocean in Dewey Beach, DE.   That first week of official retirement we just chilled.

In Rockville, Maryland we stayed with Sue and Kent in the center of town.  They had moved down to the DC area several years prior.  Rockville is such a great example of what urban living should be like.  Homes above shops and restaurants, with a small city park to anchor it all, creates a thriving community.  A day exploring the National Portrait Gallery with Sue was a real treat and it is so much more than just a collection of paintings of old white guys.

Driving through the mountains of West Virginia, we headed to Parkersburg which sits on the mighty Ohio River.  Cheryl and George, who held their wedding reception in the backyard of the parsonage, live in the Julia-Ann Square Historic District, which features several blocks of lovingly restored homes of local industry titans, from the 1860’s through early 1900’s.  A trip down the Ohio River on a sternwheeler paddle boat along with Martini Monday were highlights of that happy stay.

Our son Bob has lived in Charlottesville, Virginia since graduating college and has fallen in love with this town and surrounding region.  We had great time with Bob and Samantha, visiting several wineries on the Jefferson Wine Trail and later walking along the lively pedestrian mall in the center of this wonderfully diverse university town.  Sadly as we walked back to the car one night we happened across the curbside memorial to Heather Heyer who was killed by a car purposely driven into a group counter-protesting against white supremacists.

Lynn and Mike graciously let us stay in their future retirement home in South Carolina, which they’ve hardly had the chance to enjoy just yet. Lynn’s suggestion of a day trip to Greenville was a delightful experience.  Greenville has to be one of the prettiest small cities in the United States.  The city park encompasses a river which flows through the center of town and has a pedestrian suspension bridge over it.  Once bordered by industrial revolution-era factories, these buildings have now been revitalized into restaurants, hotels and chic shopping stores.

 

Off the beaten track in St. Marys, Georgia, we chilled with Mare and Bob, retired pastors and friends since Donna’s days at seminary, as the heat index hit 104F.  We did venture out to eat seafood, explore the waterfront and find a decommissioned nuclear submarine thrusting forward from the earth.  A visit to a gun range turned out be surprisingly enjoyable.  It helped that I was able to hit the target.  Finally I tried some Gator and it doesn’t “taste like chicken”, but it’s just as tasty with its own more distinctive flavor that is quite enjoyable.

“There is so much more to Daytona Beach than the 500 race and Spring Break” as Donna and Jeff, old friends and migrants from Doylestown, say.  And they are right! From St. Augustine to Cape Canaveral, this part of Florida was a delight to explore.  A boat ride along the intercoastal waterway was especially fun, with sightings of manatees and dolphins, as were visits to the Marine Science and Rescue Center at Ponce Inlet, to view sea turtles being rehabilitated, and The Kennedy Space Center (NASA.)

Thanks again to all our friends for a wonderful month of experiences and memories.  Our journey begins today as we board our flight to Quito, Ecuador!

Till later,

Craig

Departure – Two Days Ahead of Schedule!

 

Wow! Where to begin.  There were so many stages to planning our exodus, but it all came to together in the final weeks before our June 30th ETD. Coordinating the sale of two cars was a huge concern and turned out to be easier than expected.  Fortunately for us one of our friends agreed to buy Donna’s car in the beginning of April, and hold off on taking ownership until the last week of June.  We sold my car at the end of May.

Regardless of the wonderful goal our downsizing and move supported, it was stressful.  What to keep, what to sell, listing on Craig’s List and Facebook Garage Sale Pages, having buyers come to the house, the no shows.  Selling the dining room table, around which many wonderful occasions were celebrated, left an unexpected angst.  And ultimately with what’s left, will it all fit?  Marking out the dimensions of the container on the garage floor helped to visualize the packing space I had available to me before the Pod was dropped off.  As larger pieces of furniture made their way into the garage, serious discussions were had about what we really need/wanted to keep.  In the end three loved, antique East Lake chairs (very uncomfortable) were willed to our sister-in-law and two press board bookcases didn’t make the cut.

My Tetris skills developed from loading a USPS truck for Sunday Amazon delivery during many Christmas seasons were fully utilized.  Boxes were packed heavy and to their fullest.  Side to side and top to bottom, every empty cavity in the Pod was filled until it required multiple hands to hold the bulging load in place as the last tie-downs were secured and the door was slammed shut on June 28th, two days ahead of schedule.

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On June 30th, we had our feet in the surf at Dewey Beach when the Pod people called to say our container was picked up.  It is going to be like a time capsule when we open it again.

Many thanks to family and friends for timely boosts and heavy lifting.