On an Alabama Trek

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Time is 8:02 AM (my pedometer reads 425 steps)

As I do most of the time, I walk down nine stories in anticipation of the known and unknown of what lies ahead.

In minutes I’m at the beach. The sun is bright. The sky is blue with wispy white streaks. The air is brisk, but the wind is strong – much stronger than I hoped – plus I am walking into the wind.

Within a few minutes, I cross into Florida. There’s the Flora Bama. (1,100 steps)

 

The sand is packed. I’m close to the water, but wearing shoes. I start a 15-minute stretch of familiar landmarks: Pharaoh, the Green-Eyed Lady, and Olives.

Time is 8:18 AM (2,072 steps)

Pharaoh stands guard over the beach. He tells me, “You can have my crown if you make it.”

Suspicious of his offer, I nod as I walk past.

This is something I wanted to do last year, but didn’t – and to think the weather was better then.

 

Conditions haven’t changed, but it’s early.

There she stands – “Green-eyed lady, ocean lady. Soothing every waves that comes. Green-eyed lady, passion’s lady. Dressed in love, she lives for life to me.”

She always wonders where I’m going and when I’ll return.

I smile at her presence as I walk by.

 

There’s that cool sand sculpture I saw the artist doing yesterday!

Several days ago would have been better because it was warmer and less windy – but the fog would limit the view.

The sand is no longer easy walking. I look for hardpan.

There stand the Olives.

Time – 8:34 AM (3,941 steps)

 

The next landmark is the USS Eden aircraft carrier with a flight deck at the end of a stretch of houses.

Head down, I maintain my pace into the wind. I encounter company for a short distance.

 

Time – 8:53 AM (2.5 miles/4 km) at Eden, a typical turnaround point

Eden is not a carrier, but a proud falcon or eagle perched to display its wings – much like the eagle on the back of a US quarter.

 

After Eden is a string of 6-7 houses, followed by a long stretch (2.5 miles/4 km) of no housing units for it is a Florida state park. My next destination is the first tall tower.

 

Fortunately, I know the locations of the bathrooms.

My pace is slower than normal. The strong headwind is a factor.

The sand remains difficult, so I continually search for a packed surface.

I’ve walked this lonely stretch before. I could listen to a podcast, but I want to conserve my battery.

The tide appears higher than normal, so low tide must have been earlier than I thought.

Should I turn around?

…. but then I find a stretch of packed sand that delays the decision.

Time – 9:52 AM (12,525 steps) 5.5 miles/ 8.8 km

At Windemere, the first tall condo outside the state park. I’ve been here before. I stop to empty my shoes, drink water, rest, check my phone, and think.

Walkers assure me that better sand lies ahead.

Before continuing, a man passes where I sit, and he turns left as if he will serve as my guide. I chose to continue to where my feet have not gone before and to reach the point at the end of the national shoreline.

 

The sand is better here, but the wind seems a bit stronger.

Condos are a few stories taller than our location – but not as wide. I marvel at the beauty of the expansive, curved balconies.

 

The man continues to serve as a guidepost as he walks ahead of me.

A collection of pastel houses are sandwiched between condos. For whatever reason, I smiled.

I imagine the first part of my destination lies ahead – and the man still sets a good pace and direction – but I’m gaining on him.

Time – 10:30 AM (12,525 steps) 7.1 miles/11.4 km

I enter the Gulf Islands National Shoreline. The sand is hard and level.

 

A half mile into the national protected area, I catch the man. We talk.

I asked the location of the point. He says, “Another 5-6 miles.” (98-9.5 km) – I laugh and think about Pharaoh’s words.

Time – 10:50 AM (16,284 steps) 7.1 miles/11.4 km)

One mile into the national shoreline we turned around. This is near the location where I thought the point would be – but little did I know it was still so far away.

We separate as I stop at the pavillion for restrooms, eating a banana, rest, water, texting my wife, and emptying my shoes.

Lunch is about 45 minutes away – a place just before the long stretch of the state park.

Ahhh … the wind is finally at my back.

Lunch was wonderful – a plate of red beans and rice.

Before heading back to the beach, my windshirt comes off to expose my arms.

The wind is at my back, but soon I notice a chill on my neck. My windshirt goes from my waist to my neck. Much better.

The state park stretch is generally lonely. I’m tired. I chat to two fisherman about their day.

I keep my eyes focused ahead for the next landmark.

I finally pass Eden as the eagle stands proud.

Olives appear as a martini toasting my survival.

The Green-Eyed Lady smiles with approval and my safe return.

Pharaoh nods in approval, then sheepishly smiles as a reminder that the crown is still his – but my walk is slower than normal.

I stop again to visit a sand sculpture done by an artist I talked to yesterday. (This is a morning picture)

 

There’s a log – I stop to sit, remove my socks and shoes that I stuff into a bag.

Ahhh … the sea refreshes my feet. My pace get faster. I hear the steady bass drum of my steps.

The Flora Bama tempts me to stop for a celebratory drink, but I press on to Alabama.

A final foot splash in front of the condo. I wave to my wife on the balcony, head inside, find the elevator for the ride to the ninth floor.

I stand at our door checking the final stats.

Time – 2:20 PM (38,185 steps) 16.8 miles/27 km

An interesting day – and I imagine the rest of the day will involve several thousand more steps.

As for the point that I did not see, hopefully next year – but then I will drive to the national shoreline, park the car, then start the trek to the point and back.

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On Reminiscing

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For those desiring applicable background music while reading, just click the video.

 

Sometime during the first half of my teaching career, I recall a conversation at the lunch table when another teacher asked about the best years of life. Some answered about having young children. I noticed a puzzled look of one lady (with 2 boys) who said, “You are crazy. The best years were in college.!” Then I (with no kids) turned for a high-five. Her answer didn’t surprise me because she was a huge college sports fan – a loyal follower of her Purdue Boilermakers.

My time at Bowling Green State University on the flatlands of northwest Ohio forged many of my best friendships. Those days began in September 1971, and I know if I need them today, my fellow Falcon friends would be there for me.

My first college roommate (Steve) and I now live 850 miles (1368 km) apart. We were friends throughout our college days, best man at the other’s wedding, and even collaborate on this blog (using his photos).

One day this past December, Steve sent me several texts with images. He said he was going through his files (deleting and filing) and wondered if I wanted them. It stirred memories that made me smile, which established the reason for a blog post.

 

First all, look at that hair!

This had to be fall of our sophomore year (1972, 19 years old). Steve was either still a journalism major at the time or was taking a photography class (an important hobby to him then and now). He asked me if I could be the subject of a collage he had to do for a class, so sure – that’s what friends are for – and the image above was the final product.

Bill, another friend throughout college, is my chess opponent. After graduation, he returned to his hometown near Buffalo, New York. We stayed in touch, then I discovered that he died in a car accident. He was very active and respected in his community – such a deep lose for them. Bill was also one heck of an athlete!

Yes, I was a member of the Falcon Marching Band for 5 years. (The sun always shines on the Falcon Marching Band.) I served as a squad leader for 2 years, plus I ended up meeting my future wife through band.

Two years before she came along, I had a crush on Diane – (who I think is) the curly haired lady, who was a twirler in band. We never dated, and her time at BG was very short – and I don’t think I ever saw her again. I loved my time in marching band, and wrote about one of my unexpected band moments on this past post (2011).

 

Sandy is another long-time friend and one of the best I’ve ever known. We met through Dwain, (her cousin) a fellow band member who happened to live beside Steve and I our first year. Sandy and I are sitting in a basement food area in my quad. She was in the group of us who hung around together all the time in college, and have stayed in touch ever since. Steve actually married a friend of hers who is from the same hometown. Sandy lives about an hour from me, while Dwain and I are about 300 miles (483 km) apart.

This post was about reminiscing back to a wonderful time – all stimulated from a collection of photographs from the distant past. For me, college was about being away from home with a degree of independence – life on my own while still having a home for the holidays, breaks, and the summer. Yes, a good transition toward the next step in life. Cheers to long-term friendships.

Special thanks to Steve for initiating this post by simply sending me the image. Now it’s time to enjoy a fitting song by Queen.

On a Return Home

Greetings from my home in Cincinnati. We recently returned from a 6-week stay as snowbirds on the Alabama coast, the place where I kept my little corner of the world in full swing. Travel time returning home (Friday and Saturday) is the reason for not having a weekend concert and for my absence – but Aretha is still schedule for this coming weekend … and the opening song is set!

That my walking beach to the west (and 2 miles/3.2 km to the rocks)

 

The weather during our stay wasn’t the best – but as I always say, no matter how cold it is in Alabama during our stay, it’s warmer than home! January had cold, but that was when Cincinnati (and many of you) were gripped by bitter cold. Plus, the only snow we saw was on news reports. Of the three years in Alabama, this year was probably the worst – and the first year without a good streak of sunshine – but hey – the overall weather was better than home.

Glad I captured the storm cloud

 

I always say these 6-weeks are for my alter ego – a time with minimal obligations – a time away from normal routines – a time when I can focus on walking the beach as much as possible. How much did I walk during the 43 full days? Here’s the tale of the tape:

  • 911,867 steps covering an estimated 405.3 miles (652.3 km)
  • 21,206 steps averaged per day
  • 17 of 43 days over 10,000 (but less than 20K); 24 of 43 days over 20,000 steps (but less than 30K), and 2 days of 43 over 30,000 steps

 

I was hoping to lose some weight during the 6-weeks south. Then again, I know we will go out 2-3 times per week. Good news is that we were able to limit the snacks that my wife’s father enjoys. Bottom line is 8 pounds lost and my waist feels smaller.

Walking also means composing more beach walks. I don’t have a final count on the number of drafts, but it may be the most ever. I think over 40.

I love sunrises, but given the weather, I didn’t see many achieving the wow factor.

 

On the worst weather days, we like to go to a theater. This year we saw Vice, The Upside, and The Wife.

TIP: When at the beach, if you see something interesting, take a picture and then send it to a marine biology department at a local university.

Outside cylinders of tube worms

 

My wife is a prolific reader – but I read two books this time: both by diplomat Madeleine Albright – The Mighty and the Almighty and Fascism: A Warning. Reviews in the future. I’ll post reviews in the future.

On one of the questionable weather days, we visited the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. It’s very well done – and free. Compared to the US Air Force Museum in Ohio, it’s much smaller.

For the record, we only dance a few dances one evening – so it will take some time to regain ballroom form.

Outside our front door looking to the north at the intercoastal waterway

 

We were pleased with the gas mileage of our Subaru Outback. Over the 2800+ miles (4510+ km) covering 6 weeks, the Outback’s gas mileage was 31.4 miles per gallon.

As after arriving at home Saturday afternoon, Sunday provided a small dose of snow, Monday deliver the first of a two-day punch of frigid, plus I ordered my first hearing aids, AND began prep for Tuesday’s colonoscopy. Such a great way to return home! Hooray – no polyps! Next colonoscopy in seven years!!! – but a busy return has slowed my blogging presence.

We enjoy the Flora-Bama – truly a regional institution with national acclaim. (past post) The bios of some of the musicians are impressive. For instance, the only way we know Neil Dover is that he proceeded our favorite duo – so we typically only heard 15-30 minutes each time. Interestingly, his degree is in opera! He’s written a great song about this quirky musical palace. The lyrics and the video are perfect. Enjoy Neil Dover with FloraBama Time.

On a Beach Walk: No. 32

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Today is my birthday – February 17th – which is a good day to reflect on my life. I think about different people.

I think about my mother. A kind, gentle woman who came to America at age 26 with a 3-month old, knowing only my dad, and not knowing English. In time she learned the language well enough to converse with customers, visitors, friends, family, and neighbors.

I think about growing up in a small town in the rural Appalachian part of Ohio. Different times there then than today. I had wonderful friends in that isolated, small world. Good times with good people in a good place at a good time.

I think about my college days – a four-hour drive from home – a place that providing great times and a beginning for my career. The place that I established many long-term friendships. The place where I met my wife of 40+ years. Yes, we are called Falcon Flames.

I think of my teaching career – such an important, challenging, difficult, frustrating profession. My career was one of two halves – time when I thought I knew how to teach and times when I knew how to teach for learning. (past post?)

I think about my years in training development. Wish I could have done more of it – then again – I needed the last half of my teaching career to guide it.

I think about 40+ years of marriage – the ups and downs – the travels, hobbies, events, and friends – the love, support, growth, and challenges.

I think about all the people I’ve encountered in 65 years – family, friends, neighbors, classmates, co-workers, professionals, fellow church members, medical professionals, my students, dancers, cruisers, and many more. I’m steadfast in my belief that the most important decision people make in their life is the people one chooses to be around.

I think about the new world of the cyber-connections I’ve made with fellow bloggers. Many wonderful people from most US states (if not all), and from all the world’s continents. You have confirmed my belief that the majority of the world is good.

I think about those who died during my journey. From Effie, a fellow third grader, and (of course) family and friends. Those from accidents, natural causes, illness, and violence – and now I am 6+ years older than my mother when she passed.

Reflecting is an important thing to do. My birthday is a good occasion for looking at life – and the beach is as good as place as any for it. After all, walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Beach Walk: No. 30

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

I look out over the water thinking about my life – especially my mortality. At age 65, my life is more than half over. Probably considerably more. Will this be my last year visiting this beach or will I have 20 more visits? I don’t know. None of us know – but only time will tell.

I ponder about the future of my life in a realistic way: future travels, future health, future concerns, future thrills, and more.

I wonder who will take care of us when we are elderly (assuming we need it). We have no kids. Each of us have one younger sibling that provided us with two nieces and two nephews. We certainly can’t see any of them stepping in – especially because they may have their parents to watch over.

I don’t worry about what would my wife do if I passed away first. She’s strong and will figure out what is best for her.

I occasionally wonder about what I would do if her life ended before mine. Would I stay in the area or move? Would I spend more time in Italy to engage my Italian roots? Would I enter a new relationship? I wonder about accepting someone’s baggage so late in life and them accepting mine.

Given my life’s ups and downs, I wonder who would attend my funeral. Then again, a time will come when I’m no longer a thought to anyone – and that’s OK.

I wonder about everlasting life. Yes, I believe in God – but I don’t worry about what if that leads to nowhere. After all, what is there to lose?

Given the ups and downs in my life, I wonder who will attend my funeral. Then again, the time will come when I’m no longer a thought to anyone still alive – and that’s OK.

Even though life has many ups and downs with a future that is unknown, walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Reflective Return

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Greetings! I hope this find you in good health and spirits – and thanks for returning after my late-spring/early summer blog break. Yes – I missed my interactions here! After taking some time away from my little corner of the world, I eased back to the blogs by visiting.

Vacationing was the reason for my time away – but I did draft and edit some future posts. After all, some readers anxiously await more beach walks. Also almost ready are a short story, several dance posts, a true story about food lines, and a challenging series about religion in the United States. I hope to unveil a new header with the next Opinions in the Shorts.

Amidst a combination of excitement, unknown, and low expectations, my wife and I embarked on a never-done-before journey – a bus-trip tour vacation.

We flew to Las Vegas a day early, then became part of 33 vacationers from eight different US states and 3 foreign countries for a 15-night tour of US National Parks and Monuments. Yes – Americans from Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas joined vacationers from Australia (6), New Zealand (4), and South Africa (2) to be led by a guide from Colorado and a bus driver from Arizona.

After a short, evening orientation and social gathering, the group boarded a bus that would log over 2800 miles (4500 km) over 2 weeks at about 7 miles per gallon. Except for one two-night stop, that meant a different hotel every night – yes – essentially living out of a suitcase for 2 weeks.

Given my wife and I had only previously visited Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, and Denver on this itinerary, we were excited to see the national treasures and the land connecting them. We were also apprehensive about a group tour on a bus – let alone the ambitious undertaking of the time and miles involved in our initiation into bus touring.

Four conceptual thoughts are prominent in my mind as I reflect about this trip.

(-) The US National Parks are special places. I combined two quotes by John Muir and Stephen Mather that express my feelings. Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike – and this can happen through the US National Parks – not only our best idea, but our best ideal.

(-) Whether the vast grassy plains of eastern Wyoming or the desert areas of Arizona, Nevada, and Utah, the USA has a lot of land that remains wide open, Seeing miles and miles of land without a house in sight stimulates a variety of thoughts.

(-) The early history and struggles of the national parks still rings today. Same arguments – different players about federally protected land and land use for business development.

(-) But this point hit my the hardest: How little I know about the American Indians native to the land. Right here, right now I admit it – and I’m ashamed of it and unfortunately believe the same is true for the vast majority of Americans.

Meanwhile, it’s good to be back. Do you have one particular post I need to visit? Here’s a song to start northern hemisphere summer.

On Beach Walk: 23

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I like walking the beach as it is good for the body, mind, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

The sand is smooth from the earlier winds, yet the water is a gentle ripple. The cold night developed an eerie sight of fog-like strands wisping across the water and out to sea.

 

The large cloud bank in the distance appears as a catch basin for the wisps, yet the horizon is a mere midst of fog.

I see myself as walking on the water. The wisps representing my past touch me as I travel to the unknown. Yes, I see my future in this image – no matter if a minute, an hour, a day, week, month, or years – the future whatever and whenever if may be.

I don’t know my future – none of us do. The future as it centers around a bountiful collection of questions beginning with who, what, when, where, why, and how. A mixture of good and bad – fun and serious – happy and sad. Yes, I also see the wisps leading me to all the unknowns as I travel to all the tomorrows of time.

As the beach walk ends, the air was warmer – the wisps were few – yet the future just as much of an unknown as ever. Time will tell all.

My future is what I ponder on this day. Even though unknown walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.