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Happy Holidays

Travelogue - January 3, 2010
"I reject your reality
and substitute my own."
- Adam Savage (as seen on Peter's t-shirt)

It was a mystifying summer in Wyoming - sorrowful and bewildering. Winding down, we spent Thanksgiving in the warm company of friends (see our hosts, Gary and June, below right) and that was a comforting finale. All things considered we're glad this year is nearly over. Along with many folks around the world we've been holding our breath, looking forward to a new and, presumably, better year.

Launching Rick

Gary and June The week after Thanksgiving we locked up the house. Rick and Goldie and I enjoyed our leisurely and very scenic drive through the glorious vistas of southwest Wyoming, leaving the blowing snow behind us.

We spent that night at a motel near the Salt Lake airport. I don't say we "slept" there - every time anyone walked down the hall Goldie pelted across my body and raced to the door to stare at the sliver of light beneath it.

There was a surprising amount of foot traffic down the hall all night. Just think, without Goldie's help I would be ignorant of that fact.

Our flight the next day was eventful. I gazed out the window and Rick pretended to be absorbed in his book, a not-so-subtle attempt to discourage the chatterbox seated next to him. When the plane encountered turbulence 15 minutes before landing Rick was reluctant to give it up and before he knew it he was queasy. Rather than throw up in public he passed out (this is his pet theory). I held him upright by the scruff of his neck with one hand and buzzed the attendant with the other. She called the EMTs who raced to meet us at the gate.

For Motion Discomfort Fellow travelers who had begun to irritate us after four hours - the chatterbox in the aisle seat, the young woman behind Rick who delayed turning off her laptop on approach, the loud-voiced businessmen in the rows ahead - offered assistance:

The guy in the aisle seat cheerfully took it upon himself to fan Rick's clammy brow with his SkyMall magazine. The laptop woman leaned forward to offer impossible suggestions (put his head between his knees... not feasible in coach). The businessmen glanced back sympathetically and murmured not a word of complaint when the attendant asked everyone to remain seated after landing.

We arrived at the gate before the EMTs did so passengers were directed to disembark, which they quickly did. Rick decided he felt fine and that this was all ridiculous, and he gathered our bags and joined the stream of travelers exiting the plane. I gathered Goldie and my purse and bumped along in his wake, stopping at the door to tell the attendants that their "medical emergency" had just run past but thank you very much for everything. By the time Goldie and I caught up with Rick he was explaining himself to the concerned EMTs. I didn't hear all of the conversation but I did hear the word "barf" about eight times.

While the EMTs were checking Rick's vitals and evaluating his bizarre theories I ran to the ladies' room. And at the next sink was the young woman with the laptop. I thanked her for her assistance and she explained that her laptop wouldn't shut off when she'd tried and I said I was sorry for glaring at her and she said she hoped Rick would be okay. People can be so kind.

The officials eventually released Rick and a cheerful Delta representative (an Ewan McGregor look-alike in a holiday red blazer) escorted us to our connecting flight. We made it to Lu's house by midnight with no further incidents.

And the next day Rick was 100% as usual. For which we are grateful.

Launching Sea Gator

Beaker with bugs No worries with Sea Gator. Her care and feeding become easier each year as we are building on our efforts and good maintenance of the past.

Rick reports that he did startle a sleeping frog on its perch atop the deck brush. Is it the same frog whom I found on the brush last year? We also harried a number of wasps, lots of no-see-ums, and some strange creatures that proved to be seeds which had germinated in wet corners on the deck during the summer! Sort of creepy, and very interesting.

Sea Gator's stainless steel railings and bimini frame were particularly unblemished this year, but our progress slowed on the day I tried to fold back the bimini frame and it got away from me. I should have just let it crash down but instead I tried to catch it and the fingers on my right hand got crushed in the hinge. Yow! I hopped around on the flybridge shaking my hand in the air. That never works. Neither does clamping the injured hand in one's armpit and rocking, but I tried that, too. C'est la vie.

The next day my hand looked like it belonged on a Muppet. Fortunately we were almost done prepping so I held my own until launch time.

Sea Gator's launch went without a hitch and we motored gently to tie up at the long dock. All American Boat Storage is a nice place to store the Gator and it's fun to see Pete and Emily and the folks each year.

Foggy morning cruise Afloat at the long dock a few problems manifested themselves: the upper helm readout of the depth sounder is fried, you can't see a thing. I would have to run down to the lower helm station and call up numbers at any dicey spots on tomorrow's cruise to la Marina. Also the auto-pilot compass was completely hysterical, what's that all about?

What the heck, we know where we're going.

The next morning, Fee picked us up at the house at 4:50 a.m. We stopped at Dunkin' Donuts for necessities then Fee drove us the 45 minutes out to All American. Thanks, Fee!

Rick and I tiptoed through the boat yard in the foggy pre-dawn dark, feeling our way around puddles and through gates. When the sky began to lighten we fired up Sea Gator's engines and pushed away from the dock - not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. But we did see a wild boar tripping through the woods!

The morning was foggy and still as we slipped along the creeks, ripples rolling off our bow into the cattails. The trip across Charlotte Harbor was perfect and magical, the fog lightened so we cruised in an island of sunshine surrounded by mist. We arrived safely at La Marina by 10:30 a.m. So far, so good!

Care of Goldie

Goldie's stitches Meanwhile, after a summer of pilling, poking, prodding and wheedling, Goldie required an additional intervention for her health. Just two short weeks before we left home she underwent surgery to correct her hyper-thyroid condition. Unfortunately the surgery was unsuccessful and she endured it for naught. She was morose with her little shaved neck and stitches, right (notice how a cat's skin bears the same colors and patterns as the overlying fur), and now what? We followed the recommendations of Dr. Ernie and my brother Dean and made a plan.

We took Goldie to see Dr. Andrea Bivens DVM as soon as we arrived in Florida, and within a day Goldie was scheduled for treatment at - get this - the Cat Thyroid Center. We'll check her in at the Cat Thyroid Center in Ruskin on December 29, and she has to stay there at least two days until she's no longer radioactive (!?!). It's unnerving, but Dr. Ernie claims the treatment is the "gold standard" for hyperthyroidism. In both people and cats, as it turns out. I'm trying to not be afraid for her.

Several days later we received the Center's information packet in the mail, including their "Gourmet Feline Restaurant" menu.

My task is to select Goldie's favorite foods to entice her during her incarceration (the more she eats, the more she eliminates and thus the quicker she can be released). The categories for Dry Kibble and Moist Canned Foods were easy, and I didn't hesitate to splurge for "Tuna can juice" while I was at it. Then came the category Market Fresh Entrees. But... she... she's a cat! They anticipated me with this note:

"Sorry, Fresh mice, lizards, frogs and other small animals are not provided as feline treats due to the humane ethics of Dr. Hal Ott."

Sign at the Cat Thyroid Center Dang.

Well, remembering how our friend June cooked a turkey for Prudence when Pru was sick, I selected the "House Specialty: Chicken, boiled and served warm with broth." The Chicken Maven of Worland would have encouraged me to select "Chicken Livers, medium" so I did that, too.

I was on a roll, so in honor of Memere Lu in Florida and Grandma Millie in Oregon I put a check mark at "Shrimp, steamed and served au jus" and "Scallops, small succulent variety served with a dash of cream," respectively.

I still waffle (ooh yeah, better pencil in "Waffles and creme freche") about crossing things off, but who am I to deny her any new culinary experiences?

Consider that she might like waffles. Then consider that the Center also instructed me to bring some unwashed laundry (socks or Tshirt) for Goldie to sleep with. This is supposed to entice her to come home?! The whole thing could backfire. She may come to realize that I've been treating her like a cat and decide to resent it.

That would be a tough situation for everyone. Well, her treatment is not until the end of the month so we'll throw ourselves off that bridge when we come to it.

Decking the Gator and Decking the Halls

Rick installed a new battery charging system. If it works he will write an article to tell you all about it. He is also installing a new depth sounder, which comes just in time as the readout on our existing sounder bleated its last just as we edged up to la Marina.

High tide at la Marina While he is slaving in the engine room I've been oiling and buffing the acres and acres of interior teak woodwork. I feel and look as though I've been marinated in teak oil, but the wood is glossy and well-protected, and the effort is therefore warranted.

We had some very high tides in December. Last year's lows dropped Sea Gator's keel in the mud, and this year's highs nearly brought the fenders to the tops of the pilings, right. I had to carefully plan my trips back and forth to stock and load the boat, because there was no hope of clambering aboard with an armload when she was this far above the dock!

I got up to take this photo at 2:30 a.m. As you can see the dock was completely submerged and water was lapping at the bottom step. "High" tide was still an hour away, but I knew the lines and fenders were OK so I didn't get up again.

Meanwhile, Lu asked me to pen the names of her grandchildren and grand-nieces on their Christmas stockings. My Beaker-finger wouldn't allow me to do so, so I opted instead for something easier which turned into a whole project with a life of its own, and which was very fun.

About halfway through the project I realized that, had I known this day would come, I would have married into a family with a tradition of short names like BOB or TOM or SUE. It's too late for that, so here are the finished stockings emblazoned with the family's long names, below right.

Rick and I sorted and folded and stored the hurricane screens, squeaking periodically when clusters of old bug carapaces crackled out from the folds and the brackets. Blech.

Care of Lu

Christmas stockings Everything else became unimportant on a Monday evening, when Rick's mom experienced a critical health emergency. During that day she had been alternately lethargic and elated. We watched her with growing unease.

That evening Rick asked his mom what time the mall closed, and she didn't know! Alarmed, we rushed to her side.

I asked her: How do you feel? She didn't know.

Can you tell me what is going on with you? "I don't know anything."

Do you know who I am? Kindly, she shook her head, no.

I pointed at her son, Do you know who he is? She looked toward him, then turned back to me apologetically, "I don't know anything."

Rick quickly ran to fetch a neighbor, then he dialed 911.

Our thanks to Jane, Lu's next door neighbor, who is a retired R.N. and who responded calmly, and to her husband Tony who was a steadying presence. Thanks to local EMTs who arrived literally within minutes, installed a glucose IV and brought Lu back to herself. Thanks to the ambulance crew who brought her safely to Charlotte Regional Medical Center and to the staff there who cared for her overnight.

Thanks to Sea Gator's various peccadillos and the unsettled weather - because of those we were still here at La Marina and able to respond. Otherwise the story would have ended differently.

Well. By the end of the week, Lu was back home and getting her feet back under her. She followed up with a visit to her doctor for revised recommendations, and a very productive trip to the dietician at the Hospital. Soon Lu was following new guidelines and feeling much better. Within a week she was herself once again.

Care of Carl

While all that was going on in Florida, on the opposite coast in Oregon my dad had lost his footing on the ice and, when he hit the pavement, chipped a bone in his hip. Strangers came to his aid, and he was soon recovering at home and maneuvering well on his crutches. Time - and a good pair of crampons - will resolve the problem brought on by uncertain footing.

Dad will be glad that Rick and I weren't hovering while he was trying to recover. I get the impression that we tend to be overly zealous in our care of loved ones.

Shake Down

Rick's siblings were eager to get here for Christmas, to reassure themselves that indeed all is well with their mom.

Denise's husband and kids happily visited their dad/grandpa in Tampa while she came down to La Marina several days earlier than planned. We were all very happy to see the lovely Denise, and certainly by then Lu was happy to have me and Rick OUT of her FACE. So we left mother and daughter to make their holiday plans, and we departed for a short shake down cruise.

Shipboard duties We cruised into the late afternoon sun, and slid Sea Gator to anchor in the Bayou at Boca Grande just as the sun set behind the mangroves. Rick set the kellet in the dark and we settled in for some peaceful nights and cold sunny days.

Goldie smoothly resumed her shipboard duties (snoozing in the sun, watching birds, snuggling on the furniture, strolling the decks).

We were happy to see our old friends Don and Gillian of Seven Miles An Hour fame. After ten years afloat they had sold Jazz and were now exploring land-based adventures - including spending all last winter touring New Zealand and all this winter basking in luxury at Boca Grande. The photos of our day together are a hoot: out of 13 photos, there is not a single one where all subjects are looking at the camera. So I'll put this one in the travelogue because three smiles, and four out of six eyes open, is the best we can do.

We met for lunch at the Loose Caboose and later had a very wonderful dinner at their rented condo in Boca Grande, where they treated us to a slide-show of last winter's adventures in New Zealand. They had had a wonderful time and the photos were exquisite. Then we four strolled through the moonlight to the Community Center, where Don and Gillian and Rick settled in for a free movie and I continued on several blocks to join some friendly folks discussing common problems and common solutions. I saw many familiar faces there and felt welcomed and at peace. What a perfect evening in every way!

Don, Gillian, Pat After the meeting I followed my flashlight beam back to the Community Center and located Rick in the theater. The men snoring loudly in the row behind us weren't really a problem because the movie had subtitles, and I decided that I couldn't tell what the heck was going on merely because I had joined the storyline 90 minutes late. Darned thing wouldn't end, though.

When it finally did end we rendezvoused with Don and Gillian in the lobby. Gillian exclaimed "Thank goodness that's over!" All around, everybody chuckled in agreement. It was a fun moment.

Thanks, Don and Gillian! Thanks for all your shared experiences and shared wisdom (and recipes!). The four of us said our good-byes that evening. Rick and Goldie and I had to depart, because the Collards would be arriving soon...

Cruising with the Collards

Arrive they did! On Christmas Eve morning, Denise kindly ferried Norm's family to Boca Grande. We rendezvoused downtown with Denise, Norm and Myra, and their kids Jeffrey and Miranda. We all grabbed coffee and breakfast sandwiches to-go from the Boca Grande Baking Company and walked through the sleeping town back to the bayou.

Miranda, Goldie, Jeffrey Rick ferried the Collards across to the boat in Bump Head, then we did a quick introductory/safety tour and fired up Sea Gator. Maneuvering out of the bayou anchorage isn't quite as iffy as coming in, but still we were reluctant to screw up in front of honored guests! Fortunately, all went well, and we motored out with no problems. Yay! Onward to Charlotte Harbour.

It was a fairly blustery and rough day for a crossing. We all stayed up on the flybridge, dressed as warmly as possible. It was great to spend time with Norm and Myra. We have always enjoyed their company and it was good to catch up with everybody's doings.

Miranda enjoyed feeling the sea breeze whipping through her lovely thick hair - she perched atop the deck box to get the best view and best air, until we turned northeast and waves splashed hard enough on the bow to spray her clear up there. She laughed, what a good sport, and found a new place slightly more protected.

Jeffrey wisely sat facing forward next to Rick, keeping his tendency to motion sickness under control until the very LAST possible moment. Just minutes away from the sheltered canal waters, a trip below was too much for him. But his family took good care of him and he rebounded like a trooper! Soon he was his cheerful self again and was great company as we slipped through the quiet calm canals.

Above right, Goldie emerges briefly from her PFD locker to gaze at the mangroves. She, Miranda and Jeffrey were very gentle with each other.

As I prepared dock lines both kids joined me on the bow and we had the best view in the house for the last thirty minutes before docking. When we came around the last corner, Lu was out on the porch to greet us and she met us on the dock to catch our lines. This was fortunate because at the last moment a gust of wind came and swung Sea Gator's bow hard into the piling CRUNCH and beyond my reach. Whew! It was a relief to deliver our passengers to their Memere relatively safely and in good spirits.

The Festivities

More siblings and their families arrived and soon Lu had a full house. Including two rambunctious four-year-olds! What a hoot. For them, everything was exciting and at full speed and full volume. They were a crackup.

the Family Wisely, I woke up early to join some friendly folks for discussion for an hour each morning, and no doubt that greatly increased my threshold for decibels.

Everybody chipped in and soon Christmas dinner for 26 (you heard me) was prepared and served and consumed and stowed away. It was a Christmas miracle!

Here is the gang. Unfortunately, Bruce and Rita had departed early for their long drive north. But seven families are represented.

The next day most of the ladies went for manicures and pedicures. It sounded like great fun, but I was exhausted and fearful of the consequences after a renewed bout of vertigo among strangers so I stayed put.

Ditto on Sunday. A trip to the amusement park was out of the question. By the time most of the other adults and their children decided instead upon the G-WIZ Science Museum in Sarasota, I had set my heart on a beach-walk and Rick and Lu had set their hearts on a day of football in their respective recliners.

Louise and Myra and I returned to Boca Grande for a sunny conversation-filled day. Although we are sorry to have missed the extra visit with cousins we had a wonderful time, an excellent lunch and good conversation. Here are Louise and Myra on the beach, with the Gulf behind them.

Louise, Myra Unbeknownst to me, my cousin John S. and his family were visiting from Albuquerque and were also on the beach that day. How could we have missed them? It's a small world but, alas, a really big beach.

On another brisk sunny day, Rick and Louise and I walked from la Marina to downtown for exercise and lunch, and Rick enjoyed catching up with Louise on that long stroll. The group gatherings are a treat, but the person-to-person visits are our favorites. Thanks, Louise!

Goldie Goes to the Cat Thyroid Center

Meanwhile. On the morning of Tuesday, December 29, Rick and I folded a reluctant Goldie into her cat carrier and ferried her up to Ruskin. The folks at the Cat Thyroid Center were very nice. They ushered us into the thyroid center parlor and offered coffee and donuts. I was permitted to examine Goldie's assigned cage and we were shown the entertainments - an aquarium and a bird cage placed for her amusement. We were assured of the staff's undying devotion. The assistant dialed up the "bird songs" CD and the marketing director helped us pass the time with pleasant and diverting conversation.

At last we were shown into an examine room and Dr. Ott performed a thorough study of Goldie's X-rays. He palpitated her abdomen, felt of her throat, listened to her heart for a very long time, and studied, compared and discussed her blood test results. At last he pronounced her healthy and therefore a good candidate for "radioactive iodine (I-131) injection" treatment. He answered all of our questions and we were reassured.

At the Cat Thyroid Center We returned to the parlor and again were pleasantly diverted. The staff took a series of "family photos": Dr. Ott holding Goldie, the three of us with Dr. Ott, the three of us together, left.

Then everyone stood around, waiting until I was emotionally prepared to put Goldie in her cage. This took an inordinately long time because I myself was standing around wondering, why is everyone standing around?

At the same time I was thinking: If they quit pandering to me, the presumed half-crazy ailurophile... if they eliminate the coffee and donuts and diverting chit-chat, the kitty wall paper, the leopard-print cushions and cross-stitched cat decor... if they forego the steamed shrimp au jus... if they dispense with the tropical fish and the traumatized canary... are they actually capable of just taking care of my sick cat?

Well, recognizing that our options are limited I signed the necessary papers, swiped my aching credit card and bid a fond farewell to Goldie. Goldie demonstrated her annoyance by hissing and spitting at her cage but "mother knows best" so I lobbed her in there, fluffed up the smelly t-shirt we'd brought for the purpose, and resolutely shut the cage door.

An hour later, Susan very thoughtfully phoned to assured me that the treatment had been carried out and that all patients - including Goldie - were sleeping comfortably.

It's very chilly on Sea Gator without Goldie.

Muscle Cars and Muscle-Propelled Kayaks

It's also very quiet at la Marina without the other four teenagers, two youngsters and six adults. Norm and his family have returned north, Denise and her family have gone west, and Lu and Louise have gone to Pasadena to see the Tournament of Roses Parade.

1962 Chevrolet Impala Nathan picked up the slack at his best volume but it just wasn't the same. So one day he, Mike, Laura-Lee and Rick headed out for some excitement at the nearby Muscle Car City Museum.

Housed in a former WalMart, the Museum had something for everyone. There were acres of gleaming paint and chrome, stock materials for those doing restoration work, and quite a crowd enjoying the sights.

Rick came home impressed. "They were primarily General Motors' muscle cars and they had an outstanding collection of early Corvettes. Of course I got to see examples of my very first car, a 1962 Chevrolet Impala! Also my old 1967 Camaro."

Rick had restored the '62 Chevy himself before he even had his driver's license, and the Camaro he kept completely "stock". These were labors of love.

1967 Camaro Rick and Mike bemoaned the cars they and their friends had owned, abused, and callously discarded back in the heady days of their youth - and which are now worth a mint restored (the '62 Impala, above right, recently sold for $36,500; the '67 Camaro, left, sold for $34,500). Ah well. The follies of young men and cars.

Any regrets at not keeping those early cars? "Nah. Back then, I couldn't wait to get rid of my Camaro for a more fuel efficient, although exploding, Ford Pinto! Ha ha."

Predictably, the Pinto was totalled one day. Rear-ended at a stop sign. Rick was not disappointed that it didn't explode, though I assured him a fireball would have made a better story.

Laura Lee, Nathan, Mike Ever the optimist, Rick described his future project car: "Once we build a garage I'll get a '64-'67 Corvette Stingray. For my project in retirement." That's an excellent plan, for what else will he do with his time when he's not inventing anchor alarms and repairing fiberglass decks and installing new depth sounders?

Next, the family vetoed a trip to "Gatorama - Florida's Original Alligator & Crocodile Adventure" in favor of a sunny beautiful day outdoors. We rented two double kayaks at Grande Tours in Placida, near Gasparilla Island. Young Nathan was reluctant to venture onto the water, having had a somewhat traumatic experience previously, but these were perfect conditions - calm sheltered shallow water - to get back up on that horse.

We had a wonderful afternoon toodling along in the quiet bays and byways, looking at the shells and grasses below, the mangroves sheltering the banks along shore, the blue skies above.

Kayaking with white pelicans The only excitement happened when we returned the kayaks to their launch and in trying to assist the gentleman coming in behind us Rick and I nearly dumped him in the drink. Unlike our rentals, his masted ocean kayak had a pronounced keel which teetered on the landing ramp. Oops. Sorry mister.

We headed up to - you guessed it - Boca Grande, for a walk on the beach. Below right, Uncle Rick shows Nathan how to make his feet sink in the sand. Then we returned to Placida for dinner at The Fisheries Restaurant. Back home Laura-Lee and I stayed up until midnight determined to finish the jigsaw puzzle we had all begun days before. That was nice, too. I am blessed with fine brothers- and sisters-in-law.

Mike's family departed early the next morning to return to the stormy north, and Rick and I sped from the airport straight up the interstate to Ruskin. Time to fetch Goldie!

Radioactive Cat

Nathan and Uncle Rick Goldie was the last cat remaining in the Center, and when we arrived Susan had just returned her to her cage after a cuddle. Goldie was annoyed with me, she grumped around in her cage for a minute before coming out to let me gather her up. Then she bitched and barked in the carrier when we put her in the car. This is new behavior, or new volume anyway - apparently there was a rather loud Siamese in the Center and Goldie learned to mimic her cries. Wow! Good job, Goldie.

Other than the hollering, Goldie was returned to us safe and well and unharmed. The Center claims a 98% success rate, so unless we learn otherwise at her follow-up appointments we feel confident that they do indeed know their job and CAN take care of a sick animal as advertised. Thank you, Susan and Dr. Ott!

Our instructions are simple but not easy: Don't hold Goldie for more than 5 minutes a day, and don't let her linger around your neck.

This is difficult. She is so stealthy, often she'll be on my lap purring and being petted before I realize she is there. On Goldie's second day home I snoozed in a recliner with crutches propping up my foot - don't ask - and awoke to find Goldie curled up on my chest. Last night she jumped up on the bed a half-dozen times; each time required waking up, lifting her off and putting her on the floor near her blanket.

It is not restful, but within a few days all should be back to normal.

Happy New Year!

Late last night Lu returned from Pasadena, aglow with the wonders of the Tournament of Roses Parade: the floats, the sights and sounds and all the wonders they saw there. She had a great time and she is really glad she went.

Rick and I represented the family at the neighbors' annual New Year's Day party, and it was good to meet new neighbors and renew acquaintances.

This week we'll try to get this Travelogue out, get some actual Work done, some boat improvements done, etc. And then we'll just have to see what happens next.

Among things that won't happen is me getting Christmas cards in the mail. It just is not in the cards, so to speak, and I am sorry about that.

Nevertheless, we wish you all the best for a joyful, peaceful, fun-filled New Year!

Pat, Rick and Goldie

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