Posts Tagged ‘Florida’

The Possum Monument in Wausau, Florida, the Possum Capital of the world.

Quite Tasty

These days I often scratch the itch of my wanderlust soul from the comfort of my living room recliner, but it’s large enough so that my canine companion Scamp — who thinks 45 pounds is the perfect size to be a lap dog — can curl up with me.

 From this seat, books and the internet take me all over the world. This morning it was to Wausau, Florida, a small town of only 400 where possums supposedly outnumber humans, and which is home to the Possum Monument.

Erected in 1982, the monument’s inscription reads: “…in grateful recognition of the role the North American possum — to be technical correct possums only live in Australia, America has the opossum — played in furnishing both food and fur for early settlers and their successors.

 Possums were also a great source of protein for residents during the Great Depression, the article said.

On reading that, I remembered the time in the early 1940s when my dad went hunting and brought home a possum for dinner. My grandmother cooked it with sweet potatoes, and as I recall the meal was pretty tasty.

If you want to taste for yourself, you should visit Wausau on the first Saturday in August, which is the day the Florida Legislature designated as Florida Possum Day when possum and sweet potatoes will be on the menu.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

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 “Hear! Hear! Screamed the jay from a neighboring tree, where I had heard a tittering for some time, “winter has a concentrated and nutty kernel if you know where to look for it.” — Henry David Thoreau.

The pier through the trees at Manatee Hammocks RV Park in Titusville, Florida. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

Florida scrub jay -- Photo by Pat Bean

I’m sitting by a bank of third-floor windows looking out past naked tree branches at a dull Chicago day in which snow has been forecast.

It’s quite different from the Texas Gulf Coast I left behind. According to today’s weather report, it’s 77 degrees and raining in Lake Jackson. I hope someone remembered to shut the windows in my RV and turn on the air conditioner for Maggie.

Actually I’m sure they – my son, Lewis, and his wife, Karen – did. Karen just texted me that Maggie had a nice walk this morning and shared their steak dinner yesterday evening.

I left Maggie behind to fly into Chicago for a week to visit my youngest son, Michael.

Thinking about my two-and-a-half-hour flight from one climate to another got me thinking about the winters of my past.

Oranges just outside my RV door. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I grew up in Dallas, where we might get a bit of snow that stayed on the ground less than a day. Then there was Texas’ Gulf Coast where the world stayed green through the winter, and a rare half-inch of snow maybe once every 10 years shut down schools.

In January, 1971, I moved to Northern Utah, where I didn’t see ground beneath the snow that year until early April. I took up skiing and came to love the snow.

Since retiring in 2004, winters have mostly been spent on the Texas Gulf Coast, although I did spend one December in Guam, and one entire winter in Florida.

That winter in Florida, while my friends back in Utah were buried in snow, I was seeking out shady spots – and getting a good look at my first Florida scrub jay, a bird that can be found only in Florida – and only in one small portion of the state.

I saw the bird on a tour that was part of the Titusville Bird Festival. For the week I spent in this area adjacent to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, I stayed at the Manatee Hammocks RV Park. It was a delightful place where I could pick fresh oranges just outside my RV door.

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“All things share the same breath – the beast, the tree, the man … the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports.” Chief Seattle

Travels With Maggie

If you want to see wood storks, Pine Island is the place to go. One of these, perhaps the same one, sat in the top of the tree that help shade my RV from the Florida sun. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I spent a month on Pine Island, exploring such nearby places as the west side of the Everglades, Audubon’s Corkscrew Sanctuary and Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which were all wonderful places.

But if I wanted to see birds, which of course I always want to do, all I had to do was look out my RV window.

I was especially fond of the word storks that haunted the Dumpster area of the large RV park where I stayed. The also visited me and Maggie at our RV site.

Bean’s Pat: Ruthless Scribblings: 12 (and a half) rules for writing http://tinyurl.com/7bmd3d7 Some good things for writers to remember.

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A break from Travels with Maggie and our journey from Texas to Idaho to post a photo for the weekly photo challenge. 

The photo below was taken on Merritt Island in Florida. It was a spectacular place to watch birds. 

Northern Pintails: Heads or Tails — Photo by Pat Bean

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decided to do. You can act to change and control your life, and the procedure, the progress is its own reward.” — Amelia Earhart.

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Observation tower in the Everglades and my granddaughter, Keri. -- Photo by Pat Bean


And round we go -- Photo by Pat Bean

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Wood storks right out my RV was a common sight during the month my RV spent on Pine Island in Florida. -- Photo by Pat Bean

  “The real fun of traveling can only be got by one who is content to go as a comparatively poor man. In fact, it is not money which travel demands so much as leisure, and anyone with a small, fixed income can travel all the time.” Frank Tatchel, “The Happy Traveler,” 1923

The view from my RV's rear window at Cade County Park near Sturgis, Michigan. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

Several people have asked me lately, how I can afford my life on the road. My response is that the way I do it is probably cheaper than maintaining a house, for sure if you have a mortgage or pay rent.

I have a basic budget for food, entertainment, gas and lodging of $60 a day. It was $50 seven years ago, but both gas and RV park fees have increased since then.

A daily break down might be $30 RV park, $20 gas (My small RV gets 15 mpg and I don’t do long drives), and $10 food. I rarely eat out.

However, a week’s stay some where saves gas money for things like a trolley car tour, a bookstore purchase or museum fees. When my budget is strained, I simply sit more.

Staying at a state park that has RV hookups, which is my overnight lodging of choice, usually costs only about $20, which gives me some leeway for commercial parks that might charge $35 a night, and I’m running into more and more of these lately.

For safety reasons I don’t skimp on choosing a clean, populated, lighted park. An emergency overnight stop for me is a Wal-Mart parking lot, which I only have used one time in seven years, and that was to escape traveling in a sudden storm.

I didn’t choose my way of life to sit in a parking lot. I want a view and a place to hike.

A squirrel viewed from my RV when it was parked at my son's home in Lake Jackson, Texas. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Free winter parking at my kids’ homes, where I can usually hook up to their electricity, usually saves me enough to cover the cost of regular maintenance for my RV. The bonus here is that I get to spend time with loved ones.

In addition I’m serving as a campground host at an Idaho park for four months later this year, where in exchange for some part-time chores, I get a free campground site with a lake view and free utility hookups. The money I save during this time will be used for more on-the-road adventures.

Living in a 22-foot home (which I bought when I sold my home) where everything has a place, also means I save money simply by not buying things. It’s amazing how much money you can save this way, even on clothes when the space to store them is tightly limited. I basically live in pants, shorts, T-shirts and tennis shoes.

Not counted in this breakdown are my monthly expenses for health and vehicle insurance, and my phone and air card bill for my computer. I do all my money transactions on the computer, and thankfully have an angel of a daughter-in-law who forwards my mail for free.

Except for an occasional credit card bill to cover emergencies, I have no bills.

So there you have it. Frank Tatchel was right. It just takes a bit more money these days than I suspect he was talking about in 1923.

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 “Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.” — James Bryant Conant

These two turtles claimed a pond at Queen Wilhelmina State Park in Arkansas as home. -- Photo by Pat Bean

 Travels With Maggie

 My youngest daughter collects turtles. I gave her one made out of St. Helen’s ash for Christmas that I picked up last July when I visited the volcano. I’ve also given her carved wooden turtles bought during my Africa and Galapagos Island trips a few years back.

 Finding turtle replicas as I travel is not hard. You can find them in any souvenir store and being hawked by local, enterprising street venders. I guess my daughter isn’t the only turtle collector out there.

Having something to collect is part of the fun of traveling. In my earlier days, after realizing I didn’t want a lot of dust collectors around my home, I started a collection of Christmas ornaments. I reasoned I could get them out once a year, enjoy the memories they brought to mind, and then put them away.

 When my home became a 22-foot RV, I passed the collection down to my daughter. It was a good choice because I still get to recall my past travels when I spend Christmas with her. 

These two turtle made their home beside the Anhinga Trail in Florida's Everglades. -- Photo by Pat Bean

 Today I collect books and pictures as my souvenirs. The books I give away after I’ve read, and the pictures I keep stored on my computer. A recent perusal of these photos made me realize, in my own way, that I was a collector of turtles, too.

There’s something about the composition of light on water and turtles on a log or rock that prompts me to reach for my camera. I’ve got pictures of the sea turtle I swam with in the Caribbean, pictures of giant tortoises, the land version of the turtle, taken on Isabelle Island in the Pacific Ocean, and numerous pictures of turtles taken all across America.

So what’s your favorite souvenir to bring home from your travels?

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