This weekend we welcome autumn after surviving another Florida summer with its heat and humidity. Having spent years in the high altitude dryness of the Rocky Mountains, the coast of southern California and the coolness of the Pacific Northwest, adjusting to the humidity of the South has been a discipline of my will. But it's been six years since bidding adios to Denver, so I'm okay with this sticky climate (as long as there is air conditioning).
|I-70 traveling west into the Rocky Mountains,|
a very familiar sight to residents of Denver
This past week we went on an adventure. We've done some exciting things together (and maybe surprising, considering our age) over the nearly two years since Gary and I met -- riding an air boat, zip lines, kayaking, bicycling, bocce, road trips to Illinois, Minnesota, Charleston, and Christmas at Daytona Beach.
However, this summer the daring activities were put on hold because Gary was recovering from an adventure of another sort: four broken ribs. Now he is recovered and September is here, so the daring activities resume!
In mid-summer the Outdoor Adventure Club of our +55 Active Adult Retirement Community went to Catboat Escapes in Clermont. We could not go but made a note to ourselves to keep it in mind for a later date.
|us in our boat before launching|
This place is well over an hour's drive south of us. The freeways to get there are often heavy with the traffic racing to Orlando, so we planned to get up at "o'dark early" to get ready and out the door. As it turned out, we both must have been excited because we woke up an hour sooner than planned, got our coffee, watched the news over breakfast, and still got out the door before the sun was up.
|sign on the Catboat property|
We arrived in plenty of time to make a stop for a muffin before meeting up with our guide for instructions. Grace is a beautiful young woman who grew up on the very lake where we launched and was very knowledgeable about everything we saw and experienced.
|Gary wearing his hat|
|me with my snug-fitting visor|
We had been told when we made our reservations on-line to expect to get wet, so in this picture (below) you see Gary's red water shoes. That indentation below his feet got filled with fast-rushing water once we got moving, so yes, we got wet but the water temperature was perfect and it felt very good.
|Gary's water shoes, expecting to get wet!|
It had been years since I last wore my water shoes. When I unpacked them in preparation for this trip, they were cracked badly (very badly) so I threw them out and wore the Keens sandals that I wear for bicycling (and used to wear for mountain hiking). They are constructed for wet and dry and held up perfectly for boating.
While I'm on the subject of wardrobe, Gary wore shorts and a T-shirt, and I wore my black spandex biker shorts with a yellow-green T-shirt -- wanting to ensure I could be easily seen if I ended up in the water. Catboat Escapes provided a simple float vest that we could inflate easily if necessary. It was not bulky at all and although I am not a good swimmer, I felt safe with it. We both wore sun screen and due to the warning we would get wet, I left my hearing aids at home.
|our guide's boat|
We were told Grace would lead us in her boat through a canal leading to a large lake. We progressed through that with Grace pointing out flora and fauna of interest, and sharing an occasional memory from her childhood of growing up on that very lake.
|one of the lakes we toured|
We learned alligators were certainly out there but unless they are in the illegal habit of being fed by humans, they usually are hiding along the water's edge. Gators are not normally attracted to humans unless they are being threatened, or have come to expect food from them. I did not know that, so my fear of them was eased [slightly] with that information.
|Cypress tree -- one of many|
The Cypress trees were not only thick along the water's edge, but some stood out in the middle all alone. This fascinates me. These trees are very old, some 800 to a thousand years!! We learned that although the water may look dirty, that is actually a red tannin that the Cypress trees give off, like a "tea." We could see it easily behind our boat, where the motor was churning the water.
|red tannin from the Cypress trees |
colors the water
We saw birds, water lilies, lily pads, Spanish Moss draped from towering Oak branches gently swaying in the breeze -- it was absolutely beautiful and such a far cry from the dry arid climate of my past. I found it to be entrancing.
This picture (above) was taken by our guide while Gary was driving. But shortly after that, we [very carefully!!] traded places so I could drive.
There was no steering wheel, but the driver has a stick on their right side to move forward and backward to regulate the speed. Then between the two of us was another stick that steered us to the right or left. Gary was able to manage both of these easily but when my turn came, just dealing with the speed was enough for me to handle, so he did the steering.
We were in the biggest lake when this picture was taken. At the last we were given about 20 minutes to ourselves, free to putz around slowly or to cut loose and FOR ME to go "full throttle" at high speed with the wind and water in our faces. At times we hit the wake so hard that I couldn't see a thing through my water-splashed glasses. But we were out in the middle with other boats so far away that it was not a danger. The prediction of getting wet was thoroughly fulfilled but we didn't care at all. In the meantime, Gary was screaming like a girl!! (not!)
|our hair blew all over|
We were told at Christmastime the homes along the canals and lakes do a fine job of decorating with lights (although the thrill of getting wet may lose it's appeal if the weather is not summer-like). Most (if not all) of the houses have their own boat docks and some are large enough to have furniture, barbecue grills, and other water toys. All the houses looked large, which would be necessary because you would need to expect guests in such a fun place.
The cost for this adventure was about $100 for each person for two full hours of action, education, and pure fun -- money well spent.
Our fun started at 9am, so shortly after 11am we were back in our car and heading home with a stop at Burger King for lunch and also the cemetery to visit the graves of our dear ones, since it was on the way.
We both are so happy together and thankful for our relationship but at the same time we remember with gratitude the many blessings of our late spouses.
People told us the sting of grief would lessen over time. That is true, but there will always be a tenderness as we think about them.
Until next time, grace and peace.
The joy of the Lord is my strength.