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Vacation is over, so time ….

Vacation is over, so time …. Vacation is over, so time ….

Vacation is over, so time to get back to work. Thanks to #1 son, Mark, for filling in for me. Think I need to take some more time off as I sure enjoyed some of the tidbits he seems to have stored away some place in his head. It’s like the trip back from the Honor Flight to Washington, D. C., a couple of years ago. One of the Honor Flight staff thanked me for letting them use Mark to help with the unloading and loading of wheel chairs at the monuments as we made our way about the city. I told him, “He’s the best I got.”


I was really looking forward to the trip as I wanted to compare Florida, a state I had never visited before, with Texas, where we spent 19 winters. Actually there was little to compare. Well, there are the homes wrapped in plastic to get rid of the bugs, but not anything else, since Florida was green grass and palm trees while Texas was mostly sand, but what else do you expect on one of the barrier islands that dot the coastline along the oceans around the world.

There was one other thing, but only in name, that was kind of the same. Seems we headed to Texas in 1998, not knowing where we would be staying. Florence did have a travel newspaper that Mark had brought home when he had visited there the winter before. Florence picked a name out of the hat and our winter was spent living in the Malibu Inn. While it might have sounded nice, it was pretty well rundown and was finally torn down a couple of years before we quit going south.

So it would only seem natural when Florence’s nephew, Kent Smith and his wife Susan, picked me up on a Saturday morning in their Chevrolet Malibu as we made our way south.

Let’s just say it was a delightful trip as I got to spend all the time riding in the back seat taking in all the sights. As I told them, it was a great trip and I never had to yell once. They also agreed it was pretty nice not to have to yell at the passengers in the back seat either.


Like so many trips I have been on before, you visit some place you have never heard of before. Once you are home again that town shows up in the news. Such was the case with Cookeville, Tennessee. It was a bit off the path between here and North Fort Myers, but Susan had a son living there and we stopped to have lunch with him on the way down. I must have fallen asleep as I woke up and noticed we weren’t driving on a freeway. Just a two lane road where, if you weren’t going up a hill, you were going down and turning left or right just to make it through the hills of Tennessee.

We weren’t home a week and the news came about a tornado that had ripped through Tennessee, among which were towns of Nashville and Cookeville. Fortunately, Susan’s son made it through the storm, but was busy helping his neighbors who weren’t quite so lucky.

ÓÓÓÓÓ It is a long way to drive, but we stretched it out into three days. Kent timed it so we drove through Atlanta after dark to avoid the traffic. It was raining on the way down, but I did recognize the Coca Cola signs and the marker for BMW stadium, so those were signs we had made it through the city.

Of all the states we drove through I would say Georgia was the best. Hills, but no mountains like Tennessee and Kentucky and rolling farmland instead of the flatlands of Illinois, Indiana and Florida. Georgia is also very agricultural with peaches and pecans, cotton, peanuts and pines as some of their main crops.

Susan had been born and raised on a farm in Florida, so it was interesting to hear about farming in the Sunshine State compared to Wisconsin. We were heading to North Fort Myers, which is on the west side of the state and didn’t really see much farming except for the grazing cattle now and then.

In addition, of the welcome stops and weigh stations, Florida also has Agricultural Checking Stations. I don’t know what they are checking for, but it was an extra stop for truckers.


In Texas, most of the Winter Texans either live in condos or mobile home parks. In Florida, the common place is a gated residential park. Old Bridge Square, where Jackie and Bob live, is one of those parks with about two hundred double wide homes, many on a channel of the Okeechobee River which flows into the Gulf of Mexico.

All the homes are double wides with generally a sun porch on the side. Since it is a gate community, there are many rules and regulations. By the way, I found out they are simply called Snow Birds compared to the Winter Texan handle we had in Texas.

The park is some forty years old, but well kept and home owners have a problem we don’t have here in Wisconsin. The homes have no basement and I’m not sure what they sit on. However, humidity takes its toll and Bob has been busy all last winter, and so far this winter, replacing the flooring and windows.


Jackie’s other cousin, Charlie Forss and his wife Sandy, or Sam, as we call her, also live in the park so it was easy to visit back and forth. Charlie is the son of Florence’s sister Rose and Kent is the son of her sister Rita. Since both sister’s names start with an R, like in Robert, I believe that makes them extra special. They sure did a great job of making me feel like some kind of a celebrity. At least I found it very difficult to do any work, or spend any money while I was there. Charlie even went so far as to bring his recliner over for my use. I did discover that it was his old one, since he had replaced it with a new one in their home. Nothing like next-to-the best for a Packer fan I guess.

Next week I get into more of the details of the trip, like two trips to the ball park to watch the Twins in spring training.