Friends in Warm Places

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My old friend, I recall

The times we had, hanging on my wall

I wouldn’t trade them for gold

‘Cause they laugh and they cry me

Somehow sanctify me

They’re woven in the stories I have told, and tell again

My old friend, I apologize

For the years that have passed

Since the last time you and I

Dusted off those memories

The running and the races

The people and the places

There was always somewhere else I had to be

And time gets thin, my old friend

— Tim McGraw

This was a week for catching up with more friends.

We left St. Augustine and headed over to Vero Beach on the eastern coast of Florida. Where we were happy to catch up with Michelle and Reggie St. Amand for a couple of days of food, fun and remembering when they were young and crazy in Hartford. I actually learned a thing or two about young Bob! A big thanks to them for having us over (beautiful house) for food and laughs. We hope to see you on the flip side, as we head back north in the spring!

While in the area, we parked in the yard of Summer Crush Winery in Ft. Pierce, a Harvest Host location. This part of Florida wasn’t nearly as busy as I was expecting, there was a lot of farm land and traffic was not bad. The folks who run the winery were wonderful Harvest Hosts, and we bought a couple of bottles of their wine as a thank you.

After two nights in Ft. Pierce, we headed further south to another Harvest Host location, Bedner’s Farm Market in Boynton Beach. Again, I expected lots of development and traffic, but once you get off the interstate, the area is loaded with wealthy gated communities and farms. When we arrived on the Saturday before Thanksgiving in the middle of the afternoon, Bedner’s was, well, bedlam! What a business this place does! It’s a farm market not unlike our local Botticello’s in Manchester, only the building is about three-times the size and is all enclosed. Inside, there are aisles of fresh produce, locally made products and even some wines. The biggest difference between Bedner’s and Botticello’s is that people use shopping carriages in Bedner’s! It was a challenge to find my way through the maze of carts and people, pick up a couple of organic apples, some local honey, etc., just to make my thank-you purchase. Bedner’s is obviously THE place to shop for Thanksgiving!

We parked our motorhome in the back “overflow” lot as directed by a staff member, and then we headed out to visit friends Lynette and Glenn who now live in Fort Lauderdale. We last saw each other for breakfast at Chez Ben around September when they were heading home from visiting family in New England. They have the cutest little bungalow in the Sailboat Bend section of historic Fort Lauderdale. The area is gorgeous with arts-and-crafts cottages and bungalows, narrow lanes, and small neighborhood shops and restaurants. We walked over to Riverside Market & Cafe for some lunch. This market has a cooler filled with a mind-boggling selection of domestic and international beers and a couple dozen more on tap, so we enjoyed a beer and lunch. Lynette said they have the best French fries, and she wasn’t lying. They were like the hand-cut fries at the local fair, only skinnier! Mmmm! I needed the walk back to their house after that meal! We are really glad we got to visit. Hope to see you again when we’re closer to you in February!

So, we keep forgetting to take pictures when we visit friends, so here’s a substitute picture from last year when we ate a different meal together – Paella in Mallorca, Spain! LOL

Another move brought us to Arcadia, Florida, where I sit writing this after having Thanksgiving dinner with about 200+ neighbors. For a mere $4 per person, the park’s social committee buys and cooks enough turkeys, stuffing and gravy to feed an army. The attendees each bring a dish to share and everybody digs in. There were the basics plus regional specialties like corn casserole and sweet potato casserole and yes, Carolyn, even something containing jello, fruit and marshmallows. The best part of dinner, though, was meeting the people at our table. Believe it or not, the couple to my left, Karen and Al, were from East Granby, CT! They are full timers with their house back home on the market. Across the table from us, Mike and Lorie are part-timers from Ontario, eh? We had some really great conversations tonight and wish we could stay longer just to get to know these folks better.

An RV Park Thanksgiving. I managed to get at least one person with a terribly unflattering mouthful of food in each photo … my apologies!

Janlyn and I had the opportunity to save a gopher tortoise from the middle of the road while out running errands. It was walking straight down the center of the street, so we ushered it to the side. Back in the car, we turned the corner and saw another tortoise happily munching flowers beside the road. And then another! The neighborhood was loaded with gopher tortoises!

Janlyn saves the day!

Arcadia also brought us close to other friends. Gail and I worked in the same department at Aetna for years and years, but we really got to know each other best in spin class, where we often rode bikes next to each other. Gail introduced me to her special green earplugs (because the music in class was SO LOUD that we couldn’t stand it). When she retired, she gifted me with a bag full of them. It was great to catch up! By the way, Gail had a panther in her driveway recently! Hearing that made coyote sightings back home pale in comparison!

Jeri and Jerry live about 40 minutes away in a beautiful Venice, Florida, gated community where we visited them last year. This year, they came to see us and sit around the campfire. We went through two entire bundles of wood while we talked and learned about places to see in the area. Jeri and I met riding bikes with the Connecticut chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club, and we are organizational kindred spirits … we both love to plan, organize, read maps, etc. It’s funny what brings people together. Jeri’s still biking like a trooper and organizing rides. More power to you!

Again, we were having so much fun we forgot to take a picture! So, I stole a photo of Jeri and Jerry from her Facebook page! LOL

Based on advice gleaned from both Gail and Jeri, we took a day trip to Sanibel Island where we visited a couple of beaches. It is a beautiful place, Sanibel, but so much traffic! After that, we drove through Fort Myers Beach and then visited Manatee Park in Fort Myers. The manatees apparently love to gather there because the adjacent electric plant keeps the water temperature quite warm. Unfortunately, all we were able to see were the backs of a couple of manatees as they quickly surfaced before sinking down into the dark water again. Hopefully we’ll have better luck with manatees before we leave Florida.

Returning from Fort Myers, we pulled into a Publix supermarket parking lot and were puzzled by a man walking through the lot with two large goats on leashes. Bob had to go meet this Florida Man. The fellow said he had just stopped in to get some bananas for his goats because they love bananas. He was looking for his car in the lot as he needed to get his goats back to his Winnebago. Yes, the goats travel in his motorhome just like dogs. When he found his car, it just happened to be diagonally behind ours, so we watched as he opened the door and his goats jumped into the back seat! If I live to be 100, I’m not sure I’ll see anything stranger than the Florida man with his goats at Publix!

And, so, it’s time now to move on. Heading a little bit north to The Villages, almost six square miles of active retired people like us, all equipped with golf carts. We took a look at the approximately 11-page booklet of activities and clubs and it’s mind boggling. I started to write a list of things I’d be interested in doing on my first weekend, and the list is so long that we could probably only actually do ¼ of them! The next month sure will be interesting!

I’ll end with this – our attempt at a timed photo on the beach … we had the camera on fast-motion video by mistake!

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