CenturyLink Sports Complex

CenturyLink Park

CenturyLink Park

The field

The field

I missed the day on which tickets to the Red Sox spring training games at JetBlue Park went on sale and those tickets go very quickly. So when I realized that I couldn’t get any JetBlue tickets I turned my attention to the CenturyLink Sports Complex, the spring training home of the Minnesota Twins. While I am more definitely not a big Minnesota Twins fan, they do play the Boston Red Sox quite a few times each spring as they both have spring training facilities in Fort Myers. I was able to get onto the Twins ticket web site the day tickets went on sale and scored two games between the Twins and the Red Sox.

The first one was on March 11 which is early in spring training. That means you see a lot of minor league players trying very hard to make it to the “bigs”. So I didn’t expect to see the Red Sox opening day lineup. But, worse, this was a “split squad” game – the Red Sox played a game at JetBlue and a game at CenturyLink on the same day. So there was probably one “starting lineup” player on the Red Sox squad – catcher Christian Vasquez. The Twins showed up with a full squad, including Joe Mauer, and crushed the Red Sox 13-0. So not a great baseball game for a Red Sox fan.

But I got my first view of CenturyLink Park. It is smaller than JetBlue, but very nice. It has a quaint, turn-of-the-century look about it. And it was a bright, sunny day. So I had a good time watching the Red Sox getting drubbed.

“Gone Tomorrow” by Lee Child

Dell Books, 2009, Dell Mass Market Edition, 2010

Yes, another Jack Reacher novel. I like them. This is the 13th in the series.

The initial premise is very simple: Jack is riding a New York City subway train in the wee hours. There are six passengers in the car, including him. Four of the other passengers are the sleepy, glazed-eyed characters that he would expect to see in the middle of the night on the subway. But the sixth passenger – a woman – has all the earmarks of a suicide bomber. He could have gotten out at the next stop and been done with it, but that wouldn’t have been Jack Reacher. So he confronts the woman as gently as possible. She is distraught, no question, but what does she have in the bag? Is it a bomb? Nope – it is a gun, which she pulls out after a brief conversation with Reacher, points it at him, then turns it on herself and blows her head off.

Suicide by gun on a late-night subway? Pretty unusual. Reacher is not particularly interested at first. But then the FBI and some Washington spooks show up to interview him. They seem to be convinced that the woman passed something to him – a memory stick – before she cast off her mortal coil. She didn’t, but Jack was intrigued. What the heck was going on?

The plot deepens and becomes more sinister the longer he looks into it. Without giving too much away, I will tell you that it involves a guy running for the US Senate, secret Delta Force operations in Afghanistan and Muslim terrorists. As usual it is pretty much a Reacher-against-the-world situation where the feds are trying to arrest him even as the terrorists are trying to kill him. In the end he has to single-handedly take down a 19-person (or is it 20?) terrorist cell.

But Reacher can do it, no fear. He survives to move onto his 14th novel.

Great fun and one of the best Jack Reacher novels that I have read.

9 out of 10.

Casino night

Roulette!

Roulette!

Yet another fun night at Gulf Waters – Casino Night. A ticket ($15) bought $5000 worth of betting bucks and 5 raffle tickets. You could use them at blackjack, slots or, as I did, roulette. Two hours of play, then trade in your bucks for more raffle tickets ($1000 per ticket). About 40 prizes – some worth upwards of $300 – were donated. Jett and I ended the night with $7000 – loss of $3000, just like a real casino. I did ok betting on 0 and 00 and got 35-to-1 hits on 33 and 28, but 11 was a total bust, as was 22 and 24. Oh, well.

So we had a total of 17 raffle tickets. You might think that we would have one one of the 40 prizes, but you would be wrong. We walked out of the “casino” empty-handed. Just like a real casino.

Casino Night crowd

Casino Night crowd

Raffle

Raffle

Gulf Waters RV Resort

Our view at dusk

Our view at dusk

It is official: we are spoiled. We will never again stay long-term in an RV park as nice as the Gulf Waters RV Resort. This place is a piece of heaven. We are about 6 weeks away from completing our 5-month stay and we love the place more every day.

Ah, Gulf Waters! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

  1. The sites are wide and wonderful, with great landscaping.
  2. The communal facilities (community center, swimming pool, recreational facilities and laundry/bath building) are all first-rate.
  3. The activities – sports (golf, tennis, corn-hole and pickle ball) and games (e.g., Bunco and Hand-and-Foot) can keep one constantly amused.
  4. The wildlife (e.g., waterfowl and eagles) are constantly entertaining.
  5. The food (e.g., the Thanksgiving buffet, the New Years’s Eve dinner, the Valentines Day dinner, the daily lunches, Tom’s incredible breakfasts and Donna’s homemade soups) is consistently delicious and the Tiki Bar with its $2 drafts is always a pleasant social scene.
  6. The people – the staff, the owners and the other renters – are all friendly and welcoming.

The place is not perfect. There are a few things that could be improved:

  1. The water is very hard and a bit brackish.  It is tolerable, but if it was any worse we would have to use bottled water for our coffee.
  2. There is no dog park.  There is, however, a pretty nice one just about a mile away.
  3. It is expensive.  It is cheaper, as everything is, in the off-season and owners pay much less – after the initial investment – than the renters.  But as renters we paid about $60 per night.  That is a budget-busting sum which is even more painful when RV parks just a few miles inland are charging half that, or less. At $60 per night we should get maid service and a chocolate on our pillows.

But we knew it would be expensive before we booked the stay.  We regarded it as a 5-month luxury and we are not disappointed.  You generally get what you pay for and that is certainly the case at Gulf Waters.

The view from our patio

The view from our patio

Our RV from the back

Our RV from the back

Our patio

Our patio

Our patio resting spot

Our patio resting spot

The pool

The pool

The bath/laundry building

The bath/laundry building

Neighbors to the east

Neighbors to the east

Entrance

Entrance

Neighbors to the west

Neighbors to the west

Our site from the pond

Our site from the pond

Laundry

Laundry

Office

Office

Site landscaping

Site landscaping

Community center patio

Community center patio

Community center

Community center

Piano/library

Piano/library

Dog walking area

Dog walking area

Tennis court

Tennis court

Tiki bar

Tiki bar

Bunco

Bunco about to start

Bunco about to start

Organizer Betty judging the prizes

Organizer Betty judging the prizes

Jett and I learned yet another new game last night – Bunco.  This is a game played with 3 dice.  You can read the rules if you like, but it can be learned in about 2 minutes.  We played with a group of 50 players at Gulf Waters RV Resort.  There is money involved – a $5 per couple entry fee and prizes to the 3 people with the most wins, the person with the most buncos and the person who got the last bunco of the evening.

Fun, but, once again, we won nada.

“Nothing to Lose” by Lee Child

Delacort Press, 2008

I love the Jack Reacher series, as you probably know.  Nothing to Lose is the 12th in the series, of which I believe I have now read 10.  They are all good, but after a while certain themes reappear.  In this case the reappearing theme is Jack-Reacher-against-the-town, a theme that appeared in the first Reacher, Killing Floor.

The town in this case is Despair, Colorado, just a few miles west of Hope.  Reacher was just traveling through, on his way to California.  He left Hope and walked to Despair. Where he was promptly arrested for vagrancy and run out of town.  Well, you just don’t do that to Jack Reacher.  Back in Hope – and in the arms of a sympathetic female officer of the law – he starts wondering why Despair was so unfriendly, so uninviting. Inquiring minds want to know.

NOTE: There is no such place as Despair CO.  I checked because I wanted to put it on the itinerary for the next west coast trip.

Turns out the town has a secret. Or two. Or three.  It is a company town, run entirely by a 70-something born-again preacher who owns a metal recycling plant that is the only industry in Despair.  And, in addition to recycling old and totaled automobiles, the plant also recycles old and damaged Humvees and tanks under contract from the Army.

All of which Reacher learns in due course when, after being warned to never return to Despair again, he returns about a dozen times, stirring up various kinds of trouble and singlehandedly taking out the entire 6-man Despair police force and burning down the police station.  A one-man wrecking crew, that Jack Reacher.

On one of these numerous return trips he finds that all 200-plus residents of Despair have been deputized and they have formed a human cordon around the town, just to keep Reacher away.  No problem for Reacher – he just sneaks through the cordon, then sneaks back out again.  There ain’t no town big enough to take on Jack Reacher. No sir-ree.

Anyway, it is preposterous and ridiculous and great fun, with a big ending that results in the recycling plant being destroyed.  And then Reacher kisses the lady cop goodbye and continues on his way to California.  Just a little interruption in his itinerary.

8 out of 10.

The plan for the Third Trip North (TTN)

The plan for the TTN

The plan for the TTN

I previously described our plan for moving about New England this summer (i.e., the NET), but we need to get back to New England before we can begin executing that plan. So this describes our plan to get back north.

We will leave Ft Myers Beach on April 14 and expect to arrive in Massachusetts on May 5. We will cover the 1,673 towing miles in 8 hops:

  1. Ocala, FL – 3 nights. We leave on a Friday and don’t like to travel on weekends, so we will spend the weekend in Ocala and leave on Monday.  This will be a chance to see what Ocala – which is “horse country” – has to offer.  We may check out the Gypsy Gold Horse Tour and/or the Silver Springs State Park.
  2. Savannah, GA – 3 nights. We like Savannah and are looking forward to spending a few more days there.  We will get a good meal, for sure, and will likely explore its parks more, but we might also check out the Cathedral of St John the Baptist.
  3. Myrtle Beach, SC – 4 nights.  This is mostly a beach break. We have booked an RV site right on the beach!  But the park also has numerous activities and amenities and we will check them out.  I would also like to look into Broadway at the Beach which sounds like a fun shopping/entertainment area.
  4. Roanoke Rapids, NC – 1 night.  This is just a stopover and we may do nothing more than eat and sleep. But if we have a few hours we might check out the Roanoke Canal Museum and Trail.
  5. Lorton, VA – 7 nights. This is a week to reconnect with Jett’s family.  I expect there will be family dinners and cookouts, but we should be able to get to Mount Vernon.  I have never been there.
  6. White Haven, PA – 1 night.  Another overnight.  If we find time to do some horseback riding we will do it at Deer Path Riding Stables.
  7. Bristol, CT – 2 nights.  We are hoping to have some time with my brother, a CT resident.  But we will be staying at Lake Compounce, an amusement park, which might be interesting in its own right.  Another interesting option is the New England Carousel Museum.
  8. Plymouth, MA – 24 nights (the first of 7 stops in the NET). We will be in Plymouth to see family (my other brother) and to check out graveyards (mostly of Jett’s ancestors).  But we will also reconnect with other friends and family in the Boston area and will get some deferred chores taken care of.

The TTN will be the first of four long trips we will make in seven months, the others being the New England Tour (NET), the Second Trip West (STW) and the Second Trip East (STE).  All told, we will be towing over 10,000 miles. But we will also be visiting all 16 states that we have not yet visited.  Our travel map (the lower 48 anyway) should be completely filled in by October 2017.

Elvis impersonation

The tiny stage

The tiny stage

Chris Olson

Chris Olson

No, not me… Chris Olson. He came down to Ft Myers Beach to give us a pretty darn good Elvis impersonation show in the Gulf Waters community center. A crowd of almost 200 were thoroughly entertained for 2.5 hours. Despite being from Minnesota and completely Nordic, Chris sounded very much like The King and kept the crowd both entertained and involved. A good time.

This was another example of the park’s entertainment being very good. Better than expected. In every case – New Year’s Eve, Valentines Day or just the occasional Hump Night DJ – the music has been consistently excellent. Whoever is selecting the acts is doing a very fine job.

The plan for the New England Tour (NET)

The New England Tour

The New England Tour

In summers past we have picked one RV park in the Boston area and stayed there for the entire season. This has many advantages, most notably the ability to form friendships and get some significant discounts. But this year the season will be shorter as we will be leaving New England on August 1 to head out to Wisconsin for my 50th high school reunion. Also, as a result all of my genealogical research over the past year, I am keenly interested in visiting gravesites of both my ancestors and Jett’s. These two factors led to the decision to split our time among a number of campground in the three months we will be in New England. We have selected 5 campgrounds in MA and 1 each in NH and ME. We have dubbed this bit of traveling – and it is not much, travel-wise – the “New England Tour” or simply NET.

We will arrive in New England on May 5. Our initial destination will be Plymouth, MA. The full itinerary is:

  • Pinewood Lodge Campground, Plymouth, MA – 24 nights.
  • Normandy Farms Campground, Foxboro, MA – 11 nights.
  • Beach Rose RV Park, Salisbury, MA – 14 nights.
  • Sea-Vu West, Wells, ME – 7 nights.
  • Saddleback Campground, Northwood, NH – 9 nights.
  • Minuteman Campground, Littleton, MA – 9 nights.
  • Pine Acres Family Campground, Oakham, MA – 14 nights.

We have stayed at Normandy Farms, Saddleback, Minuteman and Pine Acres previously and look forward to return visits. Pinewood Lodge, Beach Rose and Sea-Vu West will be new and we have high hopes.

The tour will consist of 6 hops, the longest being just 82 miles.  Just over 300 miles total.  The roads will be mostly interstate freeways or local roads that we have traveled before.  the most adventurous hop will be from Sea-Vu West to Saddleback – that will traverse some local roads the we have not seen before. But not long and not difficult.

Not a big trip, but the variety of places should make for an interesting summer.

R.I.P. Grace (2001-2017)

Grace, ready to roll

Grace, ready to roll

Jett and I put our beloved Grace down yesterday. As always, it was a very difficult, heartbreaking decision. She wasn’t in pain, she wasn’t dying. But she wasn’t living, either. Life had became a constant trial for her. She never fully recovered from her first bout of vertigo in December 2015 and became even more unstable after a second attack this past December. Two nights ago she awoke me at 2am with a panicked look in her eyes. I thought she needed to relieve herself, so I took her out, in my pajamas. She did, in fact, pee immediately, but she continued to be panicked. She fell over, twice, as I walked her. When I got her back to the RV I had to spend some time comforting her. A bad dream? A sense of impending doom? I don’t know. But it was obvious that she was living the final days or weeks of her life.

She became incontinent about a month ago. We tried a variety of diapers. None worked and she hated them all. Jett and I had, after her second vertigo attack, checked out veterinary options as we knew that her end may be near. After the 2am panic attack we talked about taking her north in April, knowing that she would have to be put down shortly after we arrived. Jett pointed out – correctly – that with her instability, having her travel 1,500 miles would be cruel.

So yesterday morning we decided that Feb 15, 2017, would be The Day. Jett called the vet and we made a final trip to the ocean, which Grace has always loved, before heading to the vet. One of my fondest memories of Grace was of her first encounter with ocean surf, in Rockport MA. She raced into the surf, barking and biting the waves, trying to herd them. She had a grand time.

She didn’t have a grand time on her final trip. She stepped in, but there was no joy. She panted, she stumbled and almost seemed to say “Yeah, nice ocean. Now let’s get this over with.”

She was, as always, a lady in her final minutes. The assistant – a total stranger – scooped her up to take her to another room to insert the catheter. She didn’t struggle, didn’t complain. When she came back Jett and I spent a few moments hugging her and telling her how much we appreciated her years of friendship and companionship. I told her to give Cha-Cha our love, should she happen to see him on the other side. She kissed me.

Then she went to sleep. Gently, quietly. Sadly.

What was it that endeared Grace to us? Well, she made an indelible impression the moment we met her. She was a 3-month-old ball of fur that we met in a shelter. She was one of a litter of seven or eight. Her siblings were all sleeping, but she was running circles around them, nipping at their paws, trying to get them to play. I was a bit dumfounded when Jett said “I want THAT one!” I said, “Are you sure? You don’t think she is a little too… crazy?”

But Jett was in love and, of course, I had to agree. I picked Cha-Cha who was 2 months older, much larger and much quieter. At the suggestion of the shelter staff, we put Grace in with Cha-Cha, to make sure he wouldn’t be aggressive toward the smaller dog. We needn’t have worried – Grace immediately started nipping at his paws and he backed into a corner, totally cowed. From that moment on, Grace was Alpha Dog in our pack.

Jett picked the name “Grace” in honor of a beautiful Irish song. But it was totally the wrong name for her. Dynamo, Cyclone, Chaos… all would have been more appropriate. But we stuck with Grace. She and Cha-Cha became best friends and they had 12 years together. When we lost Cha-Cha we got Rusty. But Grace merely tolerated Rusty; she was never close to him. I think she missed Cha-Cha.

Back-seat driver

Back-seat driver

Grace loved to travel, so she picked the right parents. She accompanied us on all of our RV journeys to date – over 17,000 miles. She dipped her paws into the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Gult, as well as the Mississippi River. In her younger years she would claw at the window whenever we passed an 18-wheeler. Or, if there was no traffic to watch, she would look over my shoulder at the road ahead. She knew when it was a “travel day” – her eyes got brighter and she had more bounce in the step.

She loved the water, too. Salt water, fresh water, clean water, dirty water – didn’t matter. If there was water, she was in it. When we had the house in Massachusetts we would put a kiddie pool in the back yard and she would be in and out of it all day. There was joy on her face whenever she was in the water.

In the last year of her life she developed a couple of quirks. The shower in the RV became her refuge – her preferred place to nap. She liked the shower more that she liked the sofa or the bed. And tables… she developed this affinity for tables. She found ways to entwine herself in out TV tables. Odd. But endearing.

The final days were very, very sad. We will miss her. But I take comfort in that, in her final moments, she did, in fact, prove that we gave her the right name. She died with grace.

Swimming

Swimming

Dog beach in Charleston

Dog beach in Charleston

In the shower

In the shower

Under the table

Under the table

Her final photo

Her farewell photo