Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Palace-Hopping Back to Florida

Driving into the rain in Tucson
Leaving California was hard.  Walking out the door of my newly married daughter's apartment and sharing that final extra long hug... It was all I could do not to snatch her, stuff her into the back seat with the cat and screech away leaving her Groom standing there with his jaw dropped...

But finally we let go, knowing that it could possibly be more than three years until we physically meet again.

We drove off and I fought back tears as I tried to shake it off and enjoy the changing landscape.  The temperatures went from the mid 60's to 109° within two hours as we backtracked over the mountains and through the dessert leaving California and my little girl behind.

I had to think of the future.  Hers and mine.  She is starting a life of adventure with her Navy husband, traveling and seeing new sights.  No time to miss her mother.  I... well I will be doing the same.  Returning to our own life of adventure with Caribbean dreams coming closer than ever... thankful that we aren't returning to a house now empty of her presence.

While we were in California I received a message from a couple who have been following our blog since we left Texas.  B & C (to protect the innocent) invited Bruce and I to come and stay with them in Tucson.  After a short phone conversation during which I decided that they were NOT crazy ax murderers luring their next victim to peril... we agreed to stop and stay the night in Tucson.

We arrived just as a summer storm began to blow.  There were quail running around in the cactus garden and a bunny fled the driveway as we pulled in.  B & C came out to welcome us in and we enjoyed getting to know one another a bit as the skies opened up driving rain nearly sideways outside.  The thunder is really LOUD out here!

It was so nice being able to relax and stretch out in the home of new friends after a long drive.  Jezabelle never missed a beat as we let her out to explore the spacious surroundings.  B & C have a soon-to-be-boat-cat as well and we talked a lot about that too as our cats glared at one another.

We went out to dinner and Bruce and I answered all of their questions about cruising and prepping to cruise.  We hope to be following THEIR cruising blog very soon...

In the morning when we began to gather our things to leave, Jezabelle was nowhere to be found.  Suddenly she hides under the bed when she had been totally at home in this Palace.  Evidently she's learning the signs of imminent departure and wants no part of another ride in the car!  She LIKES Palace life...

The back yard.
We found her and set out once again, this time a short hop to Bruce's brother's home in Deming NM.

This was our second visit to Deming and Jezabelle was right at home.  She strolled the halls of this Palace with confidence and settled right into her previously chosen spot.

The short drive from Tucson left us with time on our hands.  We took a drive around to check out this cute little town.  The cost of living is low here.  Goods and services are cheap... but to me, the cost is very high.  You must be willing to live out here in the desert with very little to do.  The views are lovely but unless you can be content entertaining yourself... pass on life in the desert.

We found a tiny Mexican food place down the road and picked up take-out to eat back at the Palace.

After dinner we enjoyed the view from the topmost deck as another small rainstorm crept over the distant hills at sunset.

Evidently this is "monsoon season" here in the desert.  I don't know if I would call rain two days in a row a monsoon... but whatever.  It sure made for a gorgeous view.

Tiny strip of rainbow over the far right mountain

In the morning... refreshed and relaxed we packed up ( again), retrieved Jezabelle from beneath the bed... and hit the road.  We were TEXAS BOUND!

As we passed this sign I could feel Texas.  I wondered if it would always feel like "home" to me... even though our home is now wherever our boat happens to be.  My guess is that it will.

I didn't get pictures of our time in Texas for whatever reason.  I was just living in the moment and enjoying time with old friends.

Our first stop was at the home of our old BYC friends, Bill and Jan.  We hit the ground and were at once whisked down the street for a neighborhood get-together.  Bill and Jan had lived on this street for decades and had a group of long time neighbors who met once or twice a month for dinner.

How Cruisers drink white wine...
They were celebrating the end of summer with a "what I did this summer" game.  We all wrote down what we had done and then shared it with the group.  We felt like we had swooped all the prizes with our story and quickly became the object of many questions...  We kind of felt like some low level celebrity...  But it was fun answering all of the questions and got our heads back in the Cruising game...

After a delicious dinner (main course was King Ranch Cod - YUM) we walked back to Bill and Jan's house where we continued catching up.  Like true friends, we just picked up as if we had never been apart.  We really miss our old BYC friends and have found none like them in our travels.  We are so lucky to have these people in our lives.

One of the long-standing jokes in our Club has been that Bruce and I are light-weights when it comes to closing down the house.  We were usually the first ones to leave any gathering, slinking off to our beds before the real fun began.  But this time, we sat around the kitchen table and talked and laughed until finally it was BILL who said he was ready to call it a night.  Thankfully we followed him upstairs and fell into the soft comfy bed that was waiting for us in their daughter's old bedroom... There were posters on the walls and when we turned out the light we were delighted to see the ceiling covered with glowing stars.

There was no reason to rush away in the morning with only a short drive to College Station, TX ahead of us.  We sat and visited some more until Bill's workday started to encroach upon our chat time...  We packed up and were loading the car when Bill said "I have bad news".

He had noticed a screw in our tire.  Luckily for us (we lead a charmed life-I'm tellin' you) there was a Discount Tire just up the road.  We limped over there with our cat and our car loaded down...  They took one look at the screw and told us they would have to replace the tire.

We had purchased these tires at Discount Tire back in 2011 with the road hazard warranty.  The new tire, rotate and balance cost us $37 and about half an hour.  Suddenly we were on our way again!  Hooray!  Next stop, College Station and the home of our dear friends, Mark and Brenda.

We treasured every moment driving through the country backroads of Texas.  The hills, the green grass, the lush trees...  All so very different from our surroundings of the past two years.  When we pulled into the driveway, Brenda came out and gave us the biggest, fiercest hugs we'd had in a long time. She hustled us into the house and showed us to our room...  Another Palace!  We don't deserve such riches!

Jezabelle had to stay in our room this time.  There is another cat living here... Bizzy.  And she doesn't like visitors of the feline variety.  So Jezzer's time in this palace was not as much fun as ours, but at least we didn't have to look hard to find her when it was time to go...

Ridin' in the PO-Laris
But before that, we enjoyed every bit of our visit with Mark and Brenda.  Again as it is with old friends, we fell right back into step.  We caught up on all the family news while we took a ride around the neighborhood on the PO-Laris...

We dined like royalty (Brenda is a fabulous cook) and visited with our friends until (again) THEIR bedtime.

Brenda took us on a tour of College Station and the A&M campus the next day and then in the evening we got to play with little Hess...

Hess is their grand baby.  Daughter Sally, and her husband Matt arrived in the evening and Hess became the entertainment.  He is the smartest little kid I've ever seen and looks just like an angel.

Light at the end of the tunnel...almost there!
We considered staying another day, but there was a storm brewing that was threatening the Florida West Coast.  Tropical Storm Erika was moving towards our boat.  We had been watching it for some time and it looked like we would be spared, but possibly a lot of rain would fall... again.  We decided to move on to our next (and final) stop before Florida so that we could be ready to spring if need-be.  In the morning, we said our goodbyes... next stop, Fairhope, AL.

Once again we were welcomed into the home (another Palace) of our friends.  This time, Cruiser friends we had met way back in our first few months of cruising.  We are anxiously awaiting Jerry and Sally's return to Cruising life after some extensive upgrades to their boat and hope to do some Buddy-Boating with them in the near future...  but for now, they're On-The-Hard.

Shrimper on a placid Mobile Bay
While Jerry slaved away on boat projects, Sally whisked us off to Mobile Bay and the Fairhope Yacht Club.  Ever lucky... we happened to time our visit to coincide with a Ladies-at-the-helm race and Sally's friend Jack needed more lady sailors!  

We motored out to the start line where we floated, glad of the bimini, and watched the dolphin roll and play while waiting for the other boats to arrive.

You can see the wind beginning to ruffle the water's surface
The wind was light-to-non-existant and we wondered if the race would be postponed.  Back in Corpus Christi, most of our races began in the late morning... this race started in the mid afternoon.

The folks at FYC know this bay and expected the afternoon sea breezes to pick up... and so they did.  Very. Slowly.

We started the race with just enough wind to move the boat.  I think our start was actually pretty well timed.  It was difficult for me to tell as there is only one mark at the start which boats must take to starboard within 200 yards. (?)  Whatever... it must work for them.

Bruce is very good at sailing on other people's boats.  As soon as he boarded, he took note of where everything was and how it was run to the cockpit.  He made himself invaluable as trimmer and never stopped tweaking sails throughout the race.

It was Ladies Only at the helm for this race and resident C.Y. was there first.  Sally did an impressive job of gently and softly talking her through the start and got her on course to the next mark.  You could tell that C.Y. was nervous but Sally was right there at her side guiding her all the way.

First time racing with Sally!  
There were three marks and then the finish and the winds continued to slowly increase through the final leg.  My turn at the helm came last so I had the best winds.  We ended up a tiny tad short of the last mark and had to do a short tack... to the invisible mark (to me) but finished the race in 5th place as we later learned.

Photo courtesy of FYC
After the race, we all gathered at the Club for munchies and introductions to many of Sally's friends.  The Club is very nice and was newly built after complete destruction of the previous clubhouse by hurricane Katrina.

We stood proudly with Sally, Jack and C.Y.  to receive our very nice FYC coasters as our prize for the day... and then rushed back home to get cleaned up for dinner.

We arrived back at the Palace just in time to greet guests Mary and David (avid Blog Followers :) ) for a delicious steak dinner and much talk of cruising.  Mary and David are planning some short term cruising this fall and we hope to see them out and about.

The following morning we made a quick trip out to see Encore and take a look at what has been keeping Jerry so busy for the past three months.

He has single handedly re-painted the hull and put a new bottom job on the boat (and many other things).  In the heat. Working tirelessly.  Every. Day.  I don't know how he's doing it frankly.  Thankfully he is almost done and the boat looks great.

Next we had lunch at Wintzell's Oyster House with old BYC friends, Lynn and Susan.  They live nearby and we visit them every chance we get.  Lynn has done some cruising in the past but now has gone over to the dark side... he sold his sailboat and bought a sport fisher.  But... we will forgive him because he practically INSISTED that we all come out fishing with him the next day.

Bruce and I had planned to leave for home in morning... but when opportunity knocks... we would be silly to say no.  With the end of Encore's time in the yard looming, Jerry was unable to take off to play... but Sally, Bruce and I got up early and met Lynn at the boat near Orange Beach, AL. and set off for some time on the water.

Riding on one of these boats is very different from what we're used to on our sailboat.  We could see forever from up on the top deck.  The breeze in our faces and the gorgeous views around us reminded us of why we live on the water.

I didn't know how much I had missed this until we got out there.  I'm just happier on the water than anywhere else and my grin just would not stop as we motored out onto the smooth waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Once out to the reef, the helm somehow came to me.  Lynn was busy on the back deck with fishing stuff and Sally was content to take pictures.

It was fun driving the boat.  Lynn told me to follow the previous tracks and go from one point to another on his GPS... easy peasy.

It was a glorious day.  The water was blue and the waves were small.  We followed the reef and did a loop around the offshore weather buoy, then out some more.  I think we went about 16 miles offshore in total, then turned around and retraced our path.

We caught five Bonito.  Not what we were looking for, but hey, at least we caught SOMEthing!  But to me, it wouldn't have mattered.  We were out on the water and it was a grand day.  Just after noon, we turned towards shore.  Lynn took over the helm and we all drowsed as we made our way back.

The wind was dying, the water was flat calm as we breezed along up high like on a magic carpet.

Back at the marina, it was HOT!  Really hot.  And almost airless.  The oppressive Florida humidity and lack of wind almost did us in.

Being boaters ourselves, we tried hard to get Lynn to allow us to help him put the boat away... but he said "I've got my system" and that was the end of that.

What a gracious host he is.  This day was another of those in which we consider ourselves the luckiest people on earth.  For having such friends, and for opportunities falling into our laps when we least expect it... we are rich.

All good things must come to an end... After more than a month of road-tripping, and visiting with friends and family.... it was time to return home.

One last time we loaded all of our stuff into the car and hit the road.  I think Jerry was ready to see us go... as he watched our loading process from a safe distance.

(these photos taken by Sally)

Where to NOW???
I don't know how we made it across the entire US and back with all of this stuff... and a cat.  I think the cat has more gear that WE do!!!

It has been a good trip.  If we hadn't been traveling with cats, we would most likely have flown.  Sadly, we left Jetsam back in Texas, now past the point of no return... I will admit that it is easier traveling with only one cat.

Jetsam seems to be adjusting and settling into life back at our townhouse with my Mom (another palace).  Jezabelle is a fabulous traveler and just makes herself right at home wherever we happen to stop...

If we hadn't traveled by car, we would not have had the opportunity to impose upon visit with so many of our old (and new) friends along the way.  We would have had horrible jet lag instead of stopping in every time zone to allow our bodies to adjust slowly and naturally.  We would not have seen our beautiful country and the vastly different landscapes.

Upon arrival back at the boat, Jezabelle rushed to the companionway and zipped down the stairs.  She found our solar panels taking up her spot on the bed, so she settled right down on her settee next to it.  

Our pre-trip preparations were well worth it.  The boat had no new smells and no mildew.  Everything was clean and ready for our return.  The air conditioners had kept the air dry and both of them were still working.  The fridge and freezer started right back up and started cooling again.  Relief.  I had half expected to return to disaster.

We re-installed the solar panels and Jezabelle reclaimed her customary place on the bed... without Jetsam.  (Now is when we will REALLY miss her.)  She was home.  We are home.  Back safely to our own Tiny Palace on the water for good and ready to resume our Caribbean Dream.

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