Plan B, anyone?

Now that the predicted snowfall has arrived, postponing my early-morning drive to my Jump Start Your Heart exercise class at the Good Sam Health & Wellness Center, I’m forced to move into Plan B. Of course, if the snow finishes up at some point later today, I can still get to the gym and work on closing all the rings on my watch!

Back to Plan B. (I really don’t have a “Plan B,” but it sounds cooler to say that I do!) 

Since we’re pulling out of our driveway no later than 7 a.m. next Tuesday to begin our month-long winter vacation, there is much to do right here at home: getting clothes pulled out and ready to pack, etc. Not to mention getting the house in order and making arrangements for someone to take in the  mail and check on the place a few times a week.

Our first stop will be in Muskogee, Oklahoma, on Tuesday evening, culminating a 10-hour drive. The next morning we’ll continue on to Bastrop, Texas, to visit some relatives for a few days and explore the area and make a trip to see the Alamo in San Antonio at some point. This portion of the trip will be my first visit to all of these places. Looking forward to it. 

After our Texas stay, we’ll load up once more and point our way eastward to Florida. We’re not sure just how far along we’ll get after leaving Texas that first night out, but we’ll have an enjoyable journey as we go. Our daughter lives in Cape Coral, and we’ll spend time there before swinging back up to Longboat Key near Sarasota for a week. As we did last year, we’ll follow that by traveling over to the other coast and spend another week in Daytona Beach. 

Pondering “Plan B” from my writing desk

As it always tends to do, time will fly by way too quickly, and we’ll be making the long drive back home the first week of March. But that’s way off in my mind at the moment, as I write this at my desk and glance out at the white that has suddenly shrouded everything. I’m thinking that part of my “missed” exercise will now come in the form of shoveling the driveway! So it goes…Anyway, on with Plan B!

2023: Another chance?

It’s another year, and another chance to do things better—or at least do them in the first place!

I have been attempting to prod myself into getting back to writing—finishing a complete draft that has been simmering in a Scrivener project for too many months—or merely having enough interest and discipline to carve out at least an hour each day to WRITE SOMETHING! It seems as though there’s always something more important to attend to, which usually isn’t true at all. Is it a mental “thing?” Without a doubt!

Lately, I always seem to get the feeling that there’s not enough time in a day to get things done, and, consequently, I procrastinate and really fail to accomplish anything. At night, when I’m lying in bed, ideas and topics cascade through my mind, and I think how wonderful they would be to write about when I’m next perched at my desk and laptop rarin’ to go. Of course, the next day dawns, and the verve of those nocturnal “gems” has flown off to wherever thoughts such as those fly off to. Ever try re-capturing bits and pieces of “night thoughts” the morning after? Next to impossible. Like dreams, which are so real and alive while they’re occurring, they leave little, if any, traces of their existence later on.

In self defense—or maybe it’s just rationalization on my part—these past couple of years have left me a bit overwhelmed with so many medical issues and strange happenings in my family. Unexpected deaths and critical diagnoses have so often taken the bloom off the carefree feeling of everyday life. Most days, my thoughts have spread themselves out in concerns for everything but my own happy pastime of writing. In other words, maybe it’s hard to truly be motivated to do things when my heart and mind just aren’t in it!

Perhaps now, having written this, I’ve unexpectedly answered my own question as to why I have not been an eager beaver to finish that piece of fiction when real life’s plot and characters are right there in front of me. For better or worse, I’m certain that everything will work out for all of us. (said warily…)

The joy of upgrading my wardrobe

’Tis the Season…

Yep. The hectic pace of trying to get things finished and all ready for the Christmas holiday is no different from years past—although we keep telling ourselves that this year we’re going to simplify and not stress over minute details. Of course, it never seems to happen that way as “The Big Day” looms and edges ever closer, and we realize that we’re still behind schedule!

Nope. There’s still the last-minute crunch of making sure everyone is accounted for in the gift cavalcade and the timing of placing online orders so there will be no delays or lost items. We have found, however, that this ordering stuff via the Internet is a pretty reliable and painless method to do things. 

I’ll do anything to avoid having to go into a store of any kind—especially in these waning days prior to “The Big Day.” Even in the good old days when stores and other businesses had an abundance of workers, I never relished Christmas shopping live and in person. And now, the experience can only be far worse. 

My wife coerced me recently to go with her to a popular department store that had great sales going on, as she wanted me to upgrade my wardrobe, etc. (Believe me, it needs massive upgrading!) I agreed—kicking and screaming—but I did end up with some nice “sale” shirts, fleeces, and a sweater. 

All was moving along swimmingly until we approached the check-out line. As my luck would have it, the line stretched back and back and wound hither and yon, and there were just two check-out people, who appeared in no real rush to move things along. You know the type. They have to converse with all folks and take their sweet time completing the transaction, not to mention the invariable need for them to phone the manager or some department head about some problem or question encountered.

To add to that, there was the inevitable shopper, already at the check-out counter, quibbling over the price and the discount that was owed her. Indeed, she spent several torturous moments fumbling and rummaging about in her purse, satchel, haversack, or whatever it was, in search of her store card and the coupons showing proof of her additional 20% discount. The bag that served as her purse looked like something that might have traveled on a stagecoach back in the day! 

Eventually, (yawn!) things were resolved, and we moved along a bit more speedily, and purchased my updated wardrobe things and scurried out and to the parking lot. 

Damn, the cold air was a deliciously refreshing relief after the steam bath inside. I think I even said to my wife that this was the last time I’d go into a store during the lead up to Christmas. 

Yep. That’s what I said.

Nope. She just laughed.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The winds of November…

I’m writing this on a gray and chilly November morning, and yet the landscape/yard crew is mowing one last time and rounding up any stray leaves. It’s definitely a sign that our glorious fall has finally given up and turned things over to winter’s grand entrance! We were “blessed” with our first actual snow accumulation yesterday, but the ground and streets are still too warm for any serious trouble to occur.

With Thanksgiving exactly one week away, it seems entirely natural that the colors have given way to to drabness and other hues of gray and faded brown. And it’s time now to get those books I’ve been meaning to read from their spots on the shelves and settle in for early, dark wintry evenings.

It’s a good time of the year! It makes us appreciate the spring that waits just a few months off. The days of shorts, t-shirts, and light, comfortable shoes have given way to flannel, fleece, and hoodies! But the best thing about the seasons is they always return in their duly designated time frame.

Whether or not this is our favorite time of the year, we have no choice (unless we change locations!) so we might as well enjoy it! Happy Thanksgiving, all!

October is…

October is one of my very favorite months of the year, mainly because it’s the month where the “dog days” of summer are well over with, and the dark chill of winter’s reign is still a ways off, and once in a while we’re treated to those special Indian Summer days—periods of unusually warm and pleasant weather in late autumn.

It’s the month when the furnace gets its first re-awakening as the first frosts and freezes re-appear, letting us know that the cycle has wound its way around again.

It’s a time for sweatshirts and long pants and bundling up for the grandsons’ Friday night football games and splendid Saturday afternoons in Memorial Stadium in Champaign for Fighting Illini football!

October is, without a doubt, a month of resplendent colors. Gold, yellow, red, and rust adorn the maples, oaks, and various other trees and bushes throughout the great Midwest, providing a living bonus for those of us who are fortunate to call this part of the country home. At the same time of this explosion of brilliant colors of OctoberIMG_8626IMG_8628, those same leaves begin to leave their branches and fall—slowly in the beginning, but ever increasing as the month grows late and the winds of autumn increase.

By October, all of the outdoor furniture and decorative accoutrements and plant vases and pots have been cleaned and stored safely away until their resurrection next spring. 

October is a month when we are content to be inside much sooner, as the afternoon sun fades away much more quickly and the outdoor lights are set to come on earlier than before. There’s a contented quiet now as darkness settles over the neighborhood.

The feelings of Halloween begin to whirl and swirl around in the imaginations of both young and old, and the days grow shorter. I find time to enjoy all over again, the tales of Irving and Poe.

Thumbs up for October!

Where have all the bloggers gone?

I know I don’t post as much as I’d like—despite promising myself so many times that I would—but I’ve noticed an odd thiIMG_6437ng in recent months: The blog community to which I have been a member for several years, has fallen on quiet times! Maybe it’s just me—it probably is—but the amount of notifications that blogs I’ve chosen to follow, have all but dwindled down to the occasional one…all from the same couple. Of course, I’m happy to hear from them, but I’m curious as to what has become of all of the others. 

My first inclination is that they have abandoned their blogs, or they have changed over to another site or format. Whatever, I do miss reading the thoughts and ponderings from them.

And then I think maybe it’s something on my end that has clouded them out—for whatever reason—and I’m just not “hooked up” with them anymore. I know that WordPress has changed from when I started this whole thing and began to get comfortable with writing and posting on its site. As such, I haven’t really kept up with much of the “new” formats and blogging protocols since the many changes came about, and, perhaps, that could have a lot to do with the lack of “traffic” that comes across on my blog site.

Regardless, I find creating posts a wonderful and challenging exercise in stringing together my thoughts when the spirit moves me, even if I do miss so many of those previous readers, followers, and commenters.

If any of you are still out there, give me a shout! Many thanks…

Fleeting summer and Grandpa’s wise words…

It seems as though it was just May and a nice summer lay ahead. But somehow June slipped in and the days and nights flew off the calendar like so many scattering birds flushed up by a nosey hunting dog! 

That adage that time flies faster and faster as we age sure seems all-too-true. Since June is my birthday month, it has always held a special significance for me. A great time of year it has always been. Baseball is finally in full swing, the weather has finally shed its winter/spring chill, and shorts and t-shirts are the normal fashion.

 Remember when we were kids, and time dragged on and on, and we couldn’t wait to be older and do the things that older kids and adults got to do? Way back, a long, long time ago, I remember my grandpa’s off-hand remark he said to me one day: “Don’t wish your young days away. You’ll be old before you know it!” Of course, I laughed and didn’t really give his words any more thought during all of those younger days that I often wanted to “hurry along” and not dwell in that moment too long.

As I write now, I realize that I’m even older than Grandpa was when he offered his advice all those years ago. And having just added another year to my existence back on June 11, I would enjoy being able to jump back every now and then to those summers when I was playing Little League and Pony League baseball, and spending all the other hours goofing around with friends and kindling a summer romance that would usually be long over with at the start of school in September.

Now, looking in the rearview mirror back to those long-gone days, I realize that I was really wrong to assume in thinking that the time dragged on and on and on. In reality, they came and went way too quickly! It would seem that I didn’t really appreciate everything at the moment and missed out on some things. I realize all of that now and readily agree with Grandpa’s words. If he were here today, I’d let him know that!

Starting Our  Route 66 Journey—In Segments

By Mark Anderson

It had been a long-standing dream of mine to drive Route 66 from its beginning in Chicago to its end in California, and in September of 2017 my wife Carolyn and I set out on that wonderful adventure from our home in Cortland, Illinois. However, we began our journey in “stages” prior to hitting the trail for the long haul.

Because we reside relatively close to Chicago, we found that it was simple to break the Illinois portion of the trip into three segments, picking up each time where we’d stopped on the previous drive. (Day 1-Chicago to Dwight; Day 2-Dwight to Bloomington-Normal; Day 3-Bloomington-Normal to Staunton.) We were accompanied by John Weiss’s New, Historic Route 66 of Illinois (8th Edition), an easy-to-follow guide which made each of our segments in Illinois interesting, fun, and on track.

By doing it this way, we could make a “day” out of each segment, enjoying—unhurriedly—the many places and historic spots along the old highway. And so when we were ready to get out on the Mother Road and drive it the rest of the way to Santa Monica in September, our starting point was in Staunton, a short distance to the Chain of Rocks Bridge and the Mississippi River.

I had been eager to visit the Chain of Rocks Bridge, having never done so before, and I was particularly interested in seeing the odd sharp turn it makes near the Missouri side. Unfortunately, because the access to the bridge was closed to access, we could only see the bridge from a distance as we crossed over the I-270 bridge, westbound to St. Louis and beyond. 

I was disappointed but knew that sometime down the road I’d be able to get to the Chain of Rocks Bridge, which we did in June of 2021, where we actually got to drive over and back on the bridge with our group, The Route 66 Association of Illinois, during its annual Motor Tour weekend.

Once we crossed the river, I had a feeling that our journey was now “officially” in play! So many miles and unfamiliar territory lay ahead. It was a wonderful feeling of freedom on the open road with so many little towns and nooks and crannies for us to see and enjoy on The Mother Road!

Half the fun…

“Getting there is half the fun!”

I’ve always put lots of credence in this old adage of travelers from ages past, and our recent journey from Sarasota to Ormond Beach proved just how true it remains.

Our wonderful couple of weeks at Sun Outdoors Resort in Sarasota had ended, and we were off to the last leg of our Florida winter vacation: The Cove on Ormond Beach, over on the Atlantic Coast, right up next to famous Daytona Beach. And as is our preference, we wanted to avoid any and all major highways and/or Interstates (I-75 & I-4) in getting over and up to Ormond. Besides, there were so many roads and towns and countryside we’d never passed by or through on previous trips, so what better reason than to wend our way through those places on this trip?

And so on this sun-splashed February Florida morning, we set out on a drive that Maps indicated would take about 4 hours. Not bad, since we couldn’t check in before the late afternoon, anyway. 

Soon, we were northbound on nearby Lakewood Ranch Road, through one of the newer developments in the Sarasota/Bradenton area. So much of the previous cattle and horse country has been swallowed up into residential communities, and this is just one of the major ones. 

Before long, we were on U.S. Highway 301 and continuing on past Ellenton, Sun City Center, and Riverview. A quick stop for coffee and a light breakfast “to go” and we were headed on toward the outskirts of Tampa, where we’d split off northeasterly toward Zephyrhills and hook up with Highway-471 north through country that I call “Old Florida.” 

Clicking off the miles, we entered an unexpectedly delightful—arrow straight—stretch of road that took us through Colt Creek State Park and not far from Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve. Traffic was light, and all was right on this day! 

Our drive up to a small town named Bevilles Corner passed quickly. There, we worked our way eastward on Route-27 to Leesburg and enjoyed the many lakes of all sizes. No wonder this part of Florida is such a popular area for sporting folks!

About 11 miles out of Leesburg, we connected with Highway-19 and rolled on through Umatilla and Altoona and joined State Highway-40 near the town of Astor a short time later. This, we soon figured out, was the “homestretch” of today’s trek.

We reached our destination within the hour, and The Cove on Ormond Beach was an easy find, after we crossed over the bridge on Granada Avenue with a welcoming view of the blue Atlantic beyond.

Our studio apartment on the 7th floor was perfect for the two of us, and our week sailed right on past, to say the least. Walking the beach, sitting by the pool, and eating at some wonderful restaurants were definitely highlights. One day we kept our Florida tradition alive by spending it up in St. Augustine, just an hour away.

Like every other part of our Florida vacation, time went way too quickly, yet we were both “ready” to get back home to Illinois, taking our wonderful moments and memories along to remember forever!

Sitting here on a cold and rainy and dreary afternoon in May, I realize that all of the places where we stayed and spent time on this trip were all terrific, but the getting there was still half the fun! 

See you on the road…

Sarasota: Sunshine, Beaches & Delicious lunches

Our month-long getaway trip to Florida continued after we checked out of the Charter Club of Naples Bay after a delightful week’s stay there with our friends, Barb and Bill. Sarasota is about 120 miles north, so we had a nice leisurely drive up the Tamiami Trail, passing through familiar spots such as Fort Myers, Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, Englewood, and Venice. It was a good “moving day” as it was overcast and rain predicted to set in for the afternoon and into the next morning.

IMG_8067Our next residence was the large and popular Sun Outdoors RV Resort just a few miles east of Sarasota, conveniently located near I-75. The place is truly amazing! Not only is it a wonderful spot for those with RVs of all shapes, styles, and sizes, but it has an abundance of Park Model Homes for rent, which is what we had for our two-and-a-half week stay. 

The place has been there for quite a while, and has been maintained perfectly over the years. This was the first time for us to stay here, and we weren’t certain what to expect going in. As it turned out, we weren’t disappointed in the least. From the moment we checked in and found our nice park model home with an excellent location, we felt comfortable and ready for a pleasant stay.

Late that week, we were joined by Carolyn’s brother, Skip, from North Carolina, and our niece, Kim, from Nebraska. They’d spend a week with us, and it was fun having them join us for our daytime jaunts and tasty lunches at someplace different each day.

It was an easy choice to make for our first lunch that week as we decided on our favorite place to eat in IMG_7132Sarasota—Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar. Carolyn and I never miss having a grouper sandwich here whenever we’re in or near Sarasota. Kim was familiar with it—in fact, she’s the one who introduced us to it many years ago—but this was Skip’s first time there. It has been a long-standing tradition that we eat there. As always, we weren’t disappointed!

During the course of the week with Kim and Skip, we visited other familiar places and also discovered some places we’d never known of previously. One favorite was to beautiful Siesta Key and its beautiful Beach with the white, powdery sand and endless blue skies and sunshine overhead.
IMG_8020 Another traditional place we always stop at—at least once, often more—is Mixon’s IMG_8040Groveside Market, just north in Bradenton. There’s always cold, fresh orange juice to sample, and the orange swirled soft-serve ice cream cone is a must. 

The four of us enjoyed discovering a spot we’d never been before: Anna Maria Island, near Bradenton. We patiently worked our way through the long, slow line of traffic out to the causeway and to the island and were rewarded with another lunch at another new establishment. The name alone was worth the stop: The Ugly Grouper. It was good to sit under the open-air roof of rusted galvanized steel and enjoy the shade and refreshing breeze that made the Florida heat comfortable.

Of course, when we weren’t out enjoying our old haunts around Sarasota/Bradenton, we spent many delightful hours right there on the Sun Outdoors property. The huge pool and surrounding deck could accommodate many, many people, old and young alike!

Another day for lunch, it was time to visit the Sarasota Brewing Co. Bar & Grill. Kim had left us the day before, and Skip would be leaving the next day, so it was just Carolyn, Skip, and me for that day’s lunch out.

What was surprising about this out-of-the-way establishment was that it was a fine place with a wonderful cold IPA brew and one of the best burgers I’ve ever had! We shall return.

After Skip pulled out to head back home the next day, Carolyn and I continued to enjoy our one remaining week at Sun Outdoors. And after our time was finally up at the RV resort, we packed and took care of all of the “check out” tasks and were on our way to the next leg of our Florida trip: Ormond Beach, over on the other side of Florida, near Daytona. Getting there was half the fun, as they say. I’ll tell you about that next time.

See you then…IMG_8035