Monthly Archives: June 2015

Rain, Rain Go Away! (Please!)

Well, a week’s gone by since my last post. First things first … Frank is doing okay. He and I both appreciate the messages of support he received before his visit to the vet.

It was quite the ordeal. Without going into details, it turned into a two day affair instead of just the one we were planning on. He’s on some additional medication – his lungs have been damaged a bit more than originally anticipated, so he’s on some meds to help with that. But his liver was showing much higher levels normal and since the lung meds were going to elevate them even further, he’s been placed on some meds for his liver, too. The vet also prescribed valium to help with his nerves … and thank God he did, because we’ve had nothing but thunderstorms since he was released from the vet’s office!

frank in alabama

When am I getting off this effin’ leash, dammit???

For most of the weekend, Frank stayed pretty quiet in the tent. He was having problems walking until probably Tuesday morning, but those problems have gone away. One thing he HASN’T had any problems with has been his appetite. He’s been chowing down on his food the entire time. Even the vet mentioned that he had a “healthy” appetite. A dog after my own heart. :o)

No, the two biggest problems both have to do with the same thing – keeping him from getting excited so his heart doesn’t race and he isn’t breathing too hard. First problem – he thinks he’s just fine and is straining at the leash, wanting to see, smell and pee on everything. Second problem – the aforementioned thunderstorms. According to the valium prescription, I need to suddenly developed omniscience, because I’m supposed to give him his pill a half hour BEFORE a storm. What I’ve had to start doing is routinely looking at the live weather radar Accuweather provides. It’s helpful when it comes to a front coming through, but not so much with the pop-up storms we’ve been experiencing. Quite frankly, it’s been hit or miss with getting him dosed on time so as to avoid any issues.

alabama storm

This was a helluva storm!

On Sunday, things got so bad, the county sheriff came through the campsite, telling us we needed to leave the tent and get in the car, that a bad cell was coming through with high winds and hail, and that a tornado had touched down 20 miles away. I’ve added a few shots of the sky from that night – first of the storm as it passed to the east and second, of the spectacular sunset in the west.

On Monday … after lounging around the campsite in the morning … we wound up getting in the car around mid-afternoon when a storm came through (Frank feels more secure in the car than the tent). We drove around a bit and when we arrived back to the campsite, there was about a half-inch of standing water all around the tent. Fortunately, the tent camp through like a champ – everything inside was totally dry! I’ve left a really positive review on Amazon as a result.


Despite the storms, we’ve seen some gorgeous Alabama sunsets!

Tuesday saw us driving back down to the Gulf coast – this time, on the west side of Mobile Bay. Sure as hell … we drove into a thunderstorm. Fortunately I had brought the valium and saw the clouds in time that I was able to get Frank to take half a tab BEFORE he went into “terror” mode, when he refuses to do anything but pant. Interesting observation – Frank is one stubborn son of a bitch when he’s afraid. He won’t listen, he won’t easily accept comfort – he is totally consumed by his fear. I guess he and I are exactly the same. What’s worse though, is that I’m capable of reason. Of logical thought. And I’m no better when it comes to dealing with my fears. Go figger.

Ferry Master Frank

Ferry Master Frank! He loves feeling the sea air on his face.

Wednesday, another drive, another thunderstorm … and this was after being awoken around 2:45 in the morning by a huge clap of thunder! I feel so bad for Frank. Hopefully this stops once we make camp at our next stop on the Louisiana / Texas border. Frank did enjoy the ferry ride we took across Mobile Bay though. I let him stand on the car door and feel the wind on his face. Once again, it’s easy for me to say he’s a dog after my own heart. I love being out on the water!  Once we landed, we stopped briefly at Fort Morgan, one of the two forts guarding Mobile Bay during the War of 1812 and the Civil War.

bridge sign s

I remember the events of the civil rights movement from my youth. Anyone else?

About the only way to fight the storms and the heat is to head out in the car (which has put me over on my gas budget for the month). Today, we drove up to Selma, to visit one of the centers of the civil rights movement during the 60’s. This year marked the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” attack at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which was followed by Dr. King’s march from Selma to Birmingham, which begain two weeks later. I couldn’t help but notice the irony of driving up Jefferson Davis Highway on our way up from Mobile.  The visit was made even more poignant by the sad event in Charleston, where I spent the last year before embarking on this journey.  In some ways, we’ve come so far.  In other ways?  Not so much, unfortunately.

edmund pettus bridge s

Site of the “Bloody Sunday” police attacks 50 years ago.

After Selma, Frank and I visited Monroeville, home of Harper Lee. Of course we drove through a really bad thunderstorm on the way back to Mobile. I had stopped to take a picture of a rainbow and Frank decided that would be the best time to freak out a bit. He got down on the floor on the driver’s side and refused to move. I had pulled off in a driveway to snap a quick shot, not thinking I’d be all that long. As I’m trying to get him to move, I realize that I’m blocking the entrance to a state prison, and people are having to maneuver around me to get in and get out. Frank, that wasn’t the best time to go all “stubborn” on me, my friend! Fortunately, we were able to get out of there before anyone came out with guns drawn to find out exactly what the hell was going on out there!

So now we’re back at camp, sitting in the car while it rains around us. In a little while, we’ll head on inside. I’m running out of places to visit in Alabama. I have no idea what we’re going to do for the next three days … all of which are supposed to include afternoon and evening thunderstorms. I’m looking forward to the motel stay in central Louisiana on Monday night.


Posted by on June 25, 2015 in Travels


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A New Week, A New Camp

Well, here we are in our new camp … but it’s not where we originally intended. More on that towards the end of this post, along with another wonderful act of human kindness. Also, a special request for Frank comes at the end.  But first, here’s what’s happened since our last post on the 12th.

Go West Young Dog

As we broke camp in Georgia, Frank was looking west and wondering what’s on the horizon.

Frank and I started breaking camp in Georgia on Sunday afternoon. It was actually easier than expected. I started pulling stuff out of the tent a little after noon. Once the storage boxes were out on the picnic table, I re-organized everything … I was even able to find room in the boxes for some items that had just been thrown into the car when we departed Charleston. By 6pm, everything was in (or on top of) the car except for the canopy, the airbed, the tent and the two tarps (the one inside and the one under the tent). Oh yeah, the spacebag stuff was all vacuumed and sealed, but since they ride in the roofbag, I left them in the tent until everything else was in. The canopy came down once the sun started setting.

I had wanted to get out of the park by 9am. We didn’t quite make it – I started a load of wash before finishing the breakdown and wound up having to wait for the dryer to finish (mostly because I was too tired to walk the football field to change it over from the washer in the midst of all the other work). But by 9 oclock, I had everything broken down and in the car ready to go. As an aside – for any of you novice campers out there, one of the best “little” things you can do is lay down a tarp inside the tent – one that matches the tent’s footprint. By grabbing the tarp at each corner and then carefully pulling it out, you take any grass, leaves, twigs and other crap out along with it. No need to sweep down the tent floor when you take that approach. (If I’m telling you something you already know, my apologies.)

Anyhow, once that was all done, Frank and I drove over to the bathhouse (Frank’s a wonderful manager, by the way – he closely inspected everything as it was being done. Like most managers, it only added about 20% to the time it would have taken to actually complete the task if he had managed from a distance. But he kept as close to me as possible throughout the entire process.) I changed everything over to the dryer … while we were waiting for that to finish, I secured the roofbag with the tie-down straps (much thanks to the guy at the Charleston Home Depot for suggesting that approach instead of the rope and carabiners I was planning on using) and got a shower. We headed out of the park at 9:45am. With stops, I figured a 6 1/2 hour trip, with breaks to stretch our legs (one of the longest I had planned for the first leg of our travels). That would put us arriving around 4:15.


Ah, the life of a Chief Navigator (when the Pilot has a Garmin)!

As we’re driving, I’m thinking ahead and contemplating setting up camp around 5pm when I looked at the Garmin. It had us arriving at 2:45. Huh? I’m thinking, “Okay, well, it’s not taking pit stops into account.” But that’s when it hit me – we were gaining an hour by moving into Central Time! HOO-RAH! I turned to Frank to ask him why HE didn’t let me know that … I mean after all, he’s the chief navigator on this little trip of ours. But Frank had decided that since we bought the Garmin, his navigating skills weren’t going to be quite as necessary as originally planned, so he was zonked out in his bed. All that management of his must’ve tuckered him out!

We wound up taking a few more stops on the road, the longest being at a McDonalds just across the Alabama state line where we sat in the parking lot enjoying lunch, a couple of McDoubles for me, while Frank had his standard McDonalds fare – a plain hamburger and small fries (he begrudgingly shared his fries). That put us arriving at Meaher State Park around 3:45pm. It took a little longer to check in because the state had installed an entirely new reservation system after I had made our reservations back in January and our booking had been kept separately. That worked to our benefit as you’ll see in a minute.

The gal at the entrance booth gave us our map of the park and directed us to where the tent site was. When we got there, I was stunned – to call the tent area a “debacle” would be an insult to debacles everywhere! Ten sites that were more run down than an abandoned ghost town. The sites were surrounded by grass that was almost knee high. The sites themselves had huge rocks instead of fine gravel where you were supposed to set up your tents. And most of the picnic tables were rotted out.

We drove around the loop three times (it was easy to understand why there weren’t any other tent campers) and then sat in the car. To repeat, I was stunned, but I knew there was no way we could stay here for one night, let alone two weeks.

I pulled out the phone and did a quick google search for “campsites mobile al” and called the first one that came up. They only offered RV camping. I asked the fellow if he knew of any tent campsites in the area that would be nice. “The only one I know that’s nice is Chickasabougue Park,” he said. “Gesundheit!” was the only thing I could think of saying, and after we both laughed, he spelled it for me. After thanking him for the suggestion, I found a website with a description of the park along with their phone number. When I called, a Mr. Gadsen answered the phone.

“Mr. Gadsen, I’m sitting here at Meaher State Park. I made reservations to camp here for two weeks and now that I’m here, there’s no way I can stay. It’s in horrible shape.”

“Oh, Lordy! I know what they have over there. Son, you can’t stay there! You needs to get yourself over here to Chickasabougue Park. Trust me, you’ll be very happy with what we’s got.”

He said the park was about 20 minutes away from Meaher. “I’ll try to be there in about 45 minutes … I need to make arrangements to get a refund.” Mr. Gadsen said he’d see me when I arrived.

When I went back out to the gate and told them how unhappy I was with the campsites and that I wanted a refund, the gal told me, “You know, it’s our policy not to give refunds.”

I told her, “Well, MY policy is to get refunds whenever I arrive at a place and find it’s been misrepresented as to quality and condition. There’s no way I’m staying, and I’m not willing to donate money for you to fix the place up for someone else!”

She had to make two phone calls, but she finally got someone to agree to give me a full refund.

Frank and I met Mr. Gadsen at 5:10pm. He ushered me into the office, but not before I read the “Hours” sign on the door, which said they closed at 5pm.

“Mr. Gadsen, it’s after 5 o’clock … did you stay here on my account?”

“Yes sir. You told me you were coming, so I waited. That was the right thing to do!”

Stunned again … but this time, for a good reason. All I could think of saying was, “God bless you, sir.”

“God bless us all,” was the reply. “Now, I’m not gonna do a full checkin. Give me $20 to hold as a deposit. We don’t take credit cards, so tomorrow morning, you gets you some cash and come back by the office before noon. I’ll do a full checkin then. I’m gonna put you in campsite 3, which is right across the road from the facilities.”

Not only was this guy a saint, he was a mind-reader too! No football field trek to the loo this time!

Frank and I did a partial setup. I got the tent up, the tarp and tent carpet in and the airbed inflated. I was so tired, it was all I could do to make the peanut butter sandwich I had for dinner (and while it wasn’t quite the same as a McDonald’s burger, Frank ate his kibble and gravy once he realized that was all he was going to get!)

So there you have it. Another day, another act of human kindness. This one was huge. I feel like it was an act of Divine providence to have found this place.  Oh yeah … $125 for two weeks, less than half what Meaher State Park was going to cost.  WOW!

I’ll stop here – I’ll include a description of the place, along with some photos, in our next post. Frank and I are headed down to the gulf coast to visit a dog beach down there. I want him to enjoy himself today. Tomorrow is when he has to go in to the vet’s office for his immiticide shot. He’ll be there all day – from 8am to 5pm. They’ll give him the shot in the morning and then have to keep him for observation. I guess it’s a pretty serious injection and there’s some risk involved.

I would appreciate your prayers and good wishes for Frank, please. I don’t know what I’d do if something were to happen to him.


Posted by on June 17, 2015 in Travels


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Random Photos

Frank on a picnic

Now if I could just get rid of this lead …

This morning, I was doing some work while enjoying the fresh air.  Frank decided he wanted a bit of attention and in two seconds had hopped from the ground to the seat to the top of the picnic table … and then hung out there for a couple of hours.  I think he likes the full shade, combined with being high enough to survey the totality of his domain!

I awoke to him head-butting me … that’s his favorite way to wake me up (especially since he no longer has a wall from which to scootch the C-pap’s plug from with his tail).  Once awake, he’s at the door to the tent, telling me its time to get up. Yesterday morning,  I threw a sock at him, to get him to knock it off – instead, he caught it in mid-air and shook it violently about a dozen times, only to let it fly right back at me!  His other new trick is to stand for a few moments on his back feet while looking out the windows of the tent.  He doesn’t get much of a look, but he seems to enjoy it, as he does it once or twice in each direction.

This morning, we have new neighbors to the west … a couple of families with about a half-dozen kids.  Three of the girls took a special liking to Frank, and he just ate it up.  When he finally got down from the picnic table, he sat as close to their campsite as his lead would let him, begging for some attention … and of course, they obliged.  Right now, he’s back under the picnic table … heat of the sun and all.


Pretty impressive cloud formation!

Here’s a photo of a cool cloud formation I shot last night.  I’m amazed we didn’t have rain … just some pretty fierce winds.  Today is the first day we’ve not had better than a 50% chance of thunderstorms in the last week and a half.  It’s just hot and humid.  Man, I can’t wait to get to Colorado!

I’ve taken to looking at the live radar for Cordele, GA every afternoon around 5pm … there have been quite a few days that I’ve cleared the picnic table and gotten Frank and me into the tent just in time for the first drops of rain.  Frank is still quite disconcerted by the thunder and lightning.  A couple of nights ago, he hunkered down in the small space between the airbed and the wall of the tent, with his own bed on top of him.  I’ll feel him jump up on the bed in the middle of the night, when he feels its safe to come out.  Sometimes he’ll let me hold him – not this particular night, though.

The fisher kingLastly, here’s another of our neighbors, who stopped long enough while fishing for me to snap this photo.  The wildlife here is wonderful … so many species of birds – more than I’ve had a chance to photograph.  I’m glad to report though that we’ve yet to run into any gators so far. Knock on wood.

All-in-all, it’s been a great first two weeks.  It’s gone by a lot faster than I thought it would.  I am significantly more relaxed than when we arrived.  Last night presented a bit of a challenge though.  Some young RVers arrived in camp and set up right on the other side of the road from our tent.  Quite the partiers … quiet time is supposed to start at 11pm, but they kept it up quite a bit later than that.

I have to say, I took some perverse pleasure in grinding an extra bit of coffee this morning while sitting at the picnic table around 7am this morning.  Even better was the fellow walking his dog, who decided to great Frank with a few loud “Hello’s”.  (The dog, not the man … I felt that needed to be said!).  Mr. and Mrs. Party didn’t show their faces until close to noon and both had that “hangover” look on their faces.  Hopefully they’re not too late tonight.  I may have to start in with a bit of guitar playing around 9am.  I still dont have “She Talks to Angels”.down … I need all the practice I can get!  ;o)


Edit – I no sooner posted this than the General and his family came by for dinner, along with a couple dozen of their closest friends. They stop by every morning and evening, although not always with a contingent this size.  As I sit here typing, they’re all walking around the grass between our campsite and the one with the two families just to the west.  I continue to be amazed that Frank is content to watch them all from a distance.  The only interest he showed was when I tossed a handful of his kibbles to them the other day.  I dont think he was too happy that I was sharing his grub!

dinner time

It’s dinner time! Let’s go vist Frank and Jeff!


Posted by on June 12, 2015 in Travels


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It’s the Little Things in Life …

No, I’m not talking about a 4-corner bed with a quilted mattress (my airbed feels just fine, thanks). I’m not talking about enjoying a sit-com while relaxing in a recliner. I’m not even talking about a loo that isn’t a football field away (although there have been times over the last 10 days I’ve secretly cursed the woman who led me to believe that all the buildings in the campsite had bathroom facilities).

The little thing I’m talking about is … a simple cup of really good coffee!

I love coffee. I wouldn’t consider myself a connoisseur. Sure I had been buying whole beans and grinding them, but it was just something I was doing to treat myself. It’s not like I’m a snob about it or anything.

When I made plans for my journey, I decided to bring the coffee grinder and the coffee I had lying in my freezer (I bought some online a while back and hadn’t gotten all the way through it). I also decided to bring a little appliance to heat water instead of a coffee pot. The little “logic” voice in my head said, “You’ll have other reasons to heat water … bring the appliance instead of a coffeemaker”. Well, that little voice evidently didn’t reside with the coffee-drinking part of my psyche, because if he did, he would’ve been tied and gagged and the coffee drinkers would have been screaming, “COFFEEMAKER! BRING A COFFEEMAKER!”

I had thought about … *gulp* … instant coffee and just couldn’t bring myself to that. Larry suggested coffee concentrate – he uses one from Trader Joes. Sounded like a great idea, except they all needed to be refrigerated and I was already tight on cooler space. Plus the shipping via Amazon Prime once I was one the road would have been slighly more than the coffee concentrate itself! Another reason that was a no-go.

I finally read two articles in succession. The first one talked about making your own concentrate. I thought about that for a while until I read the second one – making your own “coffee bags” using a coffee filter and dental floss, and using it the way you’d use a tea bag. I opted for the latter.

As I’m writing this, the coffee-drinking psyche is going off on me full bore again – “Coffee Bags??!!??!! Are you freaking kidding me????”

Simply put, it didn’t work. It didn’t work at all. First off, I need coffee just to become aware in the morning. There’s no way I can tie up a filter full of coffee using dental floss without first having a couple of cups of coffee. I wound up making 10 of them:

1 worked … and I used that term loosely. It worked, if you didn’t mind a bit of grind in your morning beverage
3 fell apart completely
4 wound up not having enough coffee in them to work
2 found themselves at the bottom of Lake Blackshear after I heaved them in anger, packed Frank in the car and drove the 8 miles one-way to Cordele and the nearest McDonalds. (Frank didn’t complain as he likes Egg McMuffins.)

So last Friday, I ordered a “Brew-A-Cup” single-cup coffee filter system off Amazon and had it shipped to me here at the State Park. It arrived yesterday. This morning, I had two of the most satisfying cups of coffee I’ve had probably in the last 20 years.

It’s the little things.

(Mental note to self – make sure you verify that the bathrooms are relatively close BEFORE you pitch your next camp, okay?)


Edit:  Not 15 minutes after I finish writing this post, an old high school buddy, Mike in Houston, writes, “A coffee press might be your best bet.” on my Facebook feed.  Arrrgh!  Mr. Logic says, “We don’t have room for that.”  The Coffee Drinking Group are screaming, “Yes! Yes!  A Coffee Press! Yes! Yes!”

I think my head is going to explode.


Posted by on June 11, 2015 in Musings


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How I Spent My Monday Afternoon

I don’t know if any of you have checked out my Songs page.. I used to play a pretty mean guitar … did coffee house stuff when I was in college for a short while, church socials and the like.

My fingers took a big hit about four years ago or so.  I was one of the lucky “1 in 3” folks that contracted shingles (I HATE those commercials) and it was centered in my upper left torso.  I have to say that I wouldn’t wish shingles on my worst enemy – the pain was excrutiating. It felt like someone was ramming a broomstick into my armpit and the entire left side of my upper body was wracked with pain.  The worst thing was that I suffered long term nerve damage as a result (again, I was one of the lucky “5%” of all shingles sufferers who experience permanent nerve damage).  I still don’t have full feeling in my left hand … primarily my ring finger and pinkie.

I tried picking up a guitar during the months immediately after the pain started to dissipate and couldn’t play worth a damn.  All THAT did was contribute to my depression getting worse.  When I left New Jersey for Charleston, I didn’t even bring my guitar with me.

At the encouragement of a couple of friends though, I decided to give it another shot.  I bought a used guitar and started playing again. At first, it was incredibly frustrating.  I play a finger-picking style of guitar that involves a lot of chording, and it was my chording hand that was impacted.  I decided at first to try songs that weren’t quite as intricate and started strumming more instead of “picking” songs.  After about 5 months though, I found that I was able to play some of the old finger-picking songs … nowhere near as well as I had in my past, but what are you going to do, right?

Anyhow, I posted some of them for a few old friends in Dallas that I knew were guitarists (primarily the two “Mikes” … if you guys are reading this, I can’t tell you enough how much your encouragement has meant to me).

What’s interesting (at least to me) is that when I look at the songs I posted, most of them have to do with “inner pain” … whether it’s regret, moving on, relationships ending, wishing you were somewhere else, etc.  I have to say that I don’t know many happy songs.  I think I used to, but I honest to God don’t remember.

My buddy Mike in Houston suggested today that I try to add some new songs to my repertoire, so today, I worked on one that I’ve wanted to learn how to play since I first heard it performed acoustically a few years back.  I never tried … until today.  That’s how I spent my afternoon – sitting on a picnic table, watching an online tutorial while not only trying to learn a new song but trying to use a pick – something I haven’t done in at least 35 years (everything I’ve done since I was younger involved some form of “plucking” the strings with my fingers.

So here’s a rough … repeat, ROUGH version of the first verse of “She Talks to Angels” by The Black Crowes.  Very rough (did I say it was rough?)  I haven’t tried to play harmonics in years, and I suck at it. But overall, I have to say that this was one of the most enjoyable afternoons I’ve had in I don’t know how long!

What’s really funny is that while I was focused on trying to get the strumming right, I wasn’t paying attention to anything.  I looked up after about 15 minutes to see three ducks, sitting in a little group less than 20 feet from the picnic table, watching me play.  When I finally stopped, all three of them just turned and waddled back to the lake and swam away.

Everybody’s a critic!  Thank God Frank doesn’t mind me playing.  ;o)


Posted by on June 8, 2015 in Poetry


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“Dootie” Calls …

Forgot to bring this up this morning …
June 7, 2015
Memo to Frank

My dear buddy,

Please let me know BEFORE you climb into bed that you’ve rolled in some unknown animal’s shit.  I didn’t appreciate making that pleasant little discovery this morning, okay?  It’s not just that I had to include an unscheduled trip to the laundry in the day’s activities. Not everyone appreciates the subtle enjoyment of that feeling the way you do.

Got it?  Great.  Thanks!

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Posted by on June 7, 2015 in Musings


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They’re Baaaaaack

Hey Kids

Hey kids! What’s happening?

I’m not sure what’s going on here … either we just happened to pick a campsite that’s a “Goose favorite” or they’re just infatuated with a dog who pretty much leaves them alone to do whatever they choose without worrying about being chased!  We have more than 30 of them in the water, climbing up onto shore and taking over the grassy area to the west of our campsite.

They landed right in front of the tent and then proceeded to work they’re way over to the grassy area.  ON the way over, one or two of them stopped and stared at Frank, who was totally enjoying the parade.  I am amazed that a member of the “hound group”, who are basically hunters, has shown no desire at all to proactively check them out as they pass by!

geese takeover 1

Don’t mind us … where just hungry and looking for some grub!

If this visit goes like the last two or three, they’ll work their way back into the water about 50 feet down shore and then swim their way to parts unknown, only to return later this evening.  Here’s another shot of a few of them as they make their way onto shore.

Aside from our winged friends, we seem to have the park mostly to ourselves.  It’s early Sunday afternoon and everyone’s lit out to prepare for their work weeks. We’ve seen a couple of new arrivals but for the most part, the place is empty.  Frank and I took a little walk around the campground this morning, but right now, it’s just too hot to do much of anything except watch the geese frolick about.  I think we’ll turn on the Red Sox game in a little while and enjoy the sounds of baseball mixed in with the sounds of nature.  All in all, a pretty restful and relaxing afternoon is in store!  (Except for this Yahoo in his flat-bottomed boat who comes by about once every 45 minutes … and who feels everyone on shore should listen to the country music he’s blasting from his sound system. Geesh!)


Posted by on June 7, 2015 in Travels


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