Monday, October 29, 2007

9-15 October 2007: the Home Front

Our home base in Crystal River, Florida is a lot we own in Nature Coast Landings, an ownership RV park up near Citrus County's northern border. It has proved itself a perfect solution for our lifestyle: a safe place to leave our rolling home when we return to the boat and a pleasing place to roll to stop every once in a while when we are back. To the northeast of us is a county park with birding trails we enjoy walking -- around a quiet lake or along the barge canal -- as well as a boat ramp and a bike trail to the Gulf. The villages of Inglis and Yankeetown are just across the bridge in Levy County; Dunnellon and the Rainbow River, with its lovely kayaking are to the East; and Crystal River with its famous springs and manatees and associated water activities is to the south. And last but not least, the whole area has proved to be a fine area to ride motorcycles with many miles of roads through rolling rural countryside, dotted here an there by friendly watering holes and restaurants.

The lots in NCL are well spaced, and now that construction is complete the landscaping is filling in as individual owners have built decks and planted trees and flowers. For the most part our tentative efforts in that department fared pretty well through the long, hot, and reportedly dry summer. The new maple looks good (although not quite as good as those belonging to some neighbors who had irrigation!), and the Knock-Out roses and Mexican petunias were bushy and full of glorious color. The ligustrums, however, looked pinched, with leaves about half the size of when we left them except for clumps of full-sized ones. I suspect they lost leaves to drought and regrew these smaller ones. At least they are alive which is more than I can say for the wax myrtles. Our lot had three wax myrtles planted across the back by NCL that were full and bushy when we left. Upon our return, only the one in the lee of our shed was alive! Very sad. All up and down the park, this was the story – survival here, failure there. The wax myrtles throughout seemed hardest hit. However the silverthorns, also planted by NCL but which we moved back against the fence, are all thriving. My other gardening effort before departure was grass, and from across the street our "lawn" looks pretty good. Only when you walk across it do you see the sandy patches where it just won't grow.

The good news is the wifi is up and running . at least it is now without a lot of users online. Hopefully it can stand up to the job.

Don and I had about a week to hang loose at NCL. Only a few of our neighbors were back, so things were pretty quiet. We used the days to unpack, to walk in "our' park and ride the motorcycle here and there, but our style was somewhat cramped as we couldn't find the key to our storage shed! Fortunately, our neighbor Dale, still home in Missouri had the spare, but we had to wait for it to arrive in the mail.

The highlight of our first week at NCL was the arrival on a beautiful cool Saturday of the kids for a one-day visit. Derek ha to make a run up as far as New Port Richey for work, and he suggested he, Tiff and Kai make a day trip of it. In every way this was a perfect grandparent experience; everything that we imagined, in fact, when we bought the place. The kids arrived mid-morning with all of Kai's favorite paraphernalia – his bike, his scooter, and his soccer ball – to which we added our Colts Nerf football and several golf clubs. NCL, especially NCL with few people around, make a great playground, especially for the bike. Kai is mighty cute pedaling heartily away, especially with his bike helmet, now several sizes too small, sitting on top of his head! Don and Derek had conspired to raise the training wheels about an inch, so there were a few "smokes" when the bike teetered unexpectedly. Kai takes his "smokes" – whether crashes on the bike, trip-ups when he is running flat out, uncaught balls on the noggin or in his face -- all with amazing aplomb. He rolls to his back, stares at the sky for a few moments, and then picks himself up and plunges into the activity all over again! Rarely does he cry.

After the first round of sports, we borrowed a golf cart from neighbors for a ride around the park. Then we drove around the corner for a "hike" in "our" county park, on the hunt for turtles in the lake. After that we barbecued hamburgers for lunch, and after a suitable digestive break we went swimming in the club pool. This, I am embarrassed to admit, was our first time at the pool, which I had promised Tiffany was heated. We found a thermometer that claimed 80 degrees, but it sure felt brisk. Derek and Don were wimps and stayed dry, but Kai, Tiff and I braved that briskness. Kai is at that stage of his swimming lessons where he will boldly jump into the water under assurance that someone will catch him. He may trust his receivers, but he doesn't yet trust the water enough to get properly horizontal, and therefore squanders all his energy in the inefficient bicycle motion. He does kick on a kick board, and he knows how to do the Spiderman creep along the poolside until he reaches steps or a ladder. He even impressed us by hoisting himself up over the side of the pool once or twice, something I never managed until I was big enough to touch bottom!

This day distilled the reason we interrupt our cruising and come back to the US. Kai's joie de vivre runs full bore until, of course, he runs out of steam. And here's the good news: when the kids come for a day trip like this, they pack up and go home leaving the old folks to peace and quiet! What could be more idyllic?

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