Fruitland Park to St Augustine, and back

Monday morning we piled everything from Lance and Janice's van back into our Jeep, tucked our swimsuits into a corner, and drove to St. Augustine, where they have a timeshare on a beach-front condo. It was over a 2 hour drive and we stretched it out more by stopping at Steak and Shake for breakfast. Randy got us to the coast around noon. After meeting Janice's family, we donned swimsuits and went to the beach. The water was cool - I thought it would be warm in June but apparently this is a little too north for that. So we eased into it, getting used to the temperature. Randy, of course, loved it. 
Janice and her grand-daughter Hannah joined him out beyond the surf while I stayed a little closer to shore. We all got plenty wet, though. When it looked like it was ready to rain, we headed in. And got rained on as we walked back to the condo. 

We said our goodbyes and Randy drove back to Fruitland Park. Shorty doesn't like thunderstorms, so we tried to beat the rain back home. We didn't make it but we got there right after the storm started. And relaxed at home while the storm rolled by.

An accident on the way to St. Augustine

We had a lovely breakfast at Rae Rae's, then had time for a quick trip to the Marion Market. You can't see much of the Marion Market quickly, so we just walked through one area - enough time for Janice and I to each discover something we had to have! Then we went back to the house where they loaded up their van and drove east, to St. Augustine, to join the rest of their family on vacation at the beach.
That was the plan. But a few minutes after they left, they called us. Someone had sideswiped their vehicle and it wasn't drivable. We hurried over to where they were to find, thank God, they were OK, but the car was not. The front left quarter was smashed and the driver's door wouldn't open. The driver's window had shattered into a million pieces and Lance and Janice were covered in tiny bits of glass, from their hair to inside their shoes. Lance got a gash on the back of his left hand and his left arm got hit with enough glass that it looked like a road rash from a fall. The paramedics checked them over and asked if they wanted to go to the hospital. But without severe injuries, they preferred to avoid spending hours in an ER room. So we transferred everything from their van to the back of our Jeep, and we all sat inside the Jeep to wait for the State Police to show up. The Sherriff's department was already there, but they didn't seem to think they could do anything. Eventually the State Police showed up, talked to both parties, checked both vehicles, checked the side marks on the road, and still wouldn't take a position on who was at fault! It was obvious from the damage to both cars and the skid marks that the other car had crossed the center line, hit Lance's car, then swerved back. But the woman driving the other car said that Lance hit her; then she changed her story to say she had swerved to avoid hitting an animal. She had insurance but her license had been suspended for unpaid tickets. So there is no telling how all that will end up, but the important thing was that Lance and Janice were not seriously injured. But they were badly shaken by the experience so as soon as the police released everyone, we took them back home to apply bandages to the external injuries and beer to the internal ones. We were all pretty exhausted by the drama and stress, so for dinner we picked up fried chicken from Publix and made an early night of it.

Saturday with our newest old friends

For breakfast Randy fixed French Toast, eggs and sausage for everyone. Rain was forecast for the early afternoon, so we went out for a boat ride right after breakfast. Shorty was happy that he got to come along.
We cruised up the lake as far as Haines Creek, and turned in there. The creek was very pretty as usual, and full of an unusual number of fast-moving fishing boats. And we saw a couple of little baby alligators, less than a foot long, as they swam across the creek and to hide in the lilies. Momma Gator was probably nearby but we didn't see her.

We got back home by noon and the rain hadn't arrived yet, so we drove Janice and Lance through The Villages. We went through Spanish Springs Town Square and Sumter Landing Town Square, where we walked along the lake. 
By then we were ready to eat again so Randy took us to Eaton's Beach. Randy and I ordered exactly what we had last time - shrimp and grits, and mac and cheese. These are good enough for a repeat; maybe someday we'll try something else, but not today!  

After lunch we walked downstairs to the beach; they may have brought in all this sand, because it's only here in this one spot.  With a beach-ball net, big shade umbrellas, noodles and beach toys available, it's a great place to play.  But we were full of good food and didn't want to get hotter than we already were, so Janice and I settled for wading in the water and burying our toes in the sand.
Later we went out to the Browntown Village Square to join Pete and Donna, listening to music. The band was pretty good and the dance area was full of grownups line-dancing and little children making up their own dances.

When we went back to the house, Pete and Donna showed up as Lance was warming up his the banjo. Pete didn't bring his bass guitar so he used one of Randy's guitars and they entertained us with wonderful music.
They sounded great, and Pete broke the bass player rule of never smiling!

More Company!

Through Facebook, Randy connected with a friend he knew  as a child. Janice's family used to live near Randy's family, and for a few years all the children hung around together. They haven't seen each other since then, but Janice and her husband Lance were planning a trip to St. Augustine and were able to swing by here for a couple of days! To celebrate the event Randy made a special 4 layer cake with strawberry filling between each layer. To keep the strawberries in place, he piped a rim of chocolate frosting. 
Then he covered it all with vanilla frosting and topped it with an edible picture, copied from an old photo of them when they were 3 and 2 years old. The lady at the store who made the picture top cut the edges off in a very weird manner, so Randy had to hide that with extra frosting!
Before having cake, we enjoyed one of Randy's awesome prime rib dinners. When we were too full to move, we retired in the living room. Lance got out his banjo to play for us - he has been playing professionally since he was 9 years old and is really excellent.
He has several banjos at home; for this trip he brought his 1935 banjo, which is a beautiful thing. 

Good day on the boat (any day on a boat is a good day)

Pete and Donna's daughter Diane is visiting her parents this weekend, and today we all were able to go out on a boat ride together. It was a little overcast but as humid as it could be. The guys did the technical stuff like driving and navigating.
The ladies kept busy talking and sunning. To each their own, according to there skills!
We cruised up Lake Griffin to Harris Creek and went along it a ways before turning back. As usual, big white herons were out fishing and generally being gorgeous. 
We didn't go as far as the lock because we planned to eat lunch in Blue Heron Cove, which is at the top of the lake. There is a little restaurant there called Pirate's Oasis, where according to the menu their motto is "A Small Drinking Village with a Big Fishing Problem". We ordered chicken quesadilla and fish-and-chips, and the guys got Indiana Pork Tenderloin sandwiches. These are less than half the size of the tenderloins we get in the Peoria area, but it's nice to find a place around here that serves them! We had a good time and found a new motto of our own inside the bar:
After lunch while Randy put gas in the boat for the return trip, we took some pictures. Donna and Diane are photogenic,
but as usual, Donna just couldn't behave! She kept laughing at the skeleton's rear; Diane could only close her eyes and shake her head.

Church food and Restaurant Food

It's been a busy week. Randy fixed 2 meals for the church - the Wednesday night dinner and the Saturday's Men's Breakfast. Since he fixes everything from scratch, he was at the church on Tuesday and Friday also. Everything went well, of course! By Saturday afternoon we felt like taking a drive, just to get out. We went through Lady Lake, Belleview and into Ocala before we decided to turn around. Along the way we looked at a few furniture stores for a new mattress. We had tried to buy a Sleep Number bed but when it was delivered on Tuesday, all of the parts weren't there. Our sales person hadn't been straight with us so we called off the deal. We didn't find a mattress Saturday but we found something else good - The Mojo Grill in little Belleview.
We ordered a Cuban sandwich and a Pulled Pork sandwich and split them. It was one of the best Cuban sandwiches we've had, and the Pulled Pork was even better. We would definitely make the trip back here for the Pulled Pork!

Our little alligator is growing up fast

Now that it's raining every day, the water level is finally raising in our canal. Pretty soon the young alligator who rests on the exposed bank on the other side of the canal will have to find another place to lie. Recently he got all the way out of the water and we realized he's a lot bigger than we thought. Fortunately he's still very shy of people.

Finally - a sunny day!

Aaron only had one half day left in Florida, and to our amazement, the sun finally came out! No rain in the forecast, so we had a quick sausage-egg-cheese muffin at home, then started up the boat! Our canal is a beautiful jungle now but the water is opaque because of all the run-off in it; we couldn't see anything below the surface. Fortunately Randy avoided the snags. 
As we came out of our canal and into the entrance to Lake Griffin, one of the alligators who lives here was in residence. He wasn't the biggest one and he was shy; I could only take pictures from a distance before he disappeared in the lily pads. 
We cross Lake Griffin and headed down Harris Creek Canal. This is another forested canal, although it's wider and clearer than ours. 
It's a beautiful place to be on a boat.
Shorty enjoyed himself, splitting his time between me, Randy, and Aaron. He doesn't know Aaron will be leaving today; he sure is going to miss his buddy.
Where was I during all this? Holding down the couch!
When we got back, we picked up Pete and Donna and went to Oakwood for lunch. The daily special - sandwich, side and drink - was all we wanted. Their pulled pork and sweet potato fries are pretty good. 

And then, unfortunately, Aaron had to take off. We had a great time and hope he will be back soon!

Guest Bathroom - final day!

Today the finishing touches were put on the bathroom - grouting the walls and shower pan. Aaron uses a blade to push the grout into the seams and any little crevasses.
Then the final cleanup started. It took two complete rinses to clean all the excess grout away.
And the results were every thing we hoped for!
Since they got done a little after noon, we had time to take a trip. It wasn't raining (yet) but it was very overcast, so we hesitated to take the boat out. Instead we drove to Alexander Springs Recreation Area, part of the Ocala National Forest. 
Swimming is allowed here in a designated area, so the guys donned swim trunks and got in. They didn't dive in - the water is shallow at the edges and is only 72 degrees. That's way too cold for me, but Randy loves any water.
Some picnic sites have ants; this one has vultures! These big black birds stayed a few yards away from people, but were happy to jump up on unoccupied picnic tables to see what was going on. They're not pretty, with their wrinkled skin and fuzzy hair, but I like them anyway.
One of them found something, and suddenly 3 or 4 vultures swooped in and started fighting for the scrap. They mean business: one vulture tried to take off (perhaps with a scrap in his beak) and another one grabbed a mouthful of his feathers and pulled him back!
When the guys were done swimming, we drove back to Leesburg and headed to Oakwood for ribs. But the rib discount isn't valid on Thursday. The ribs are not bad but the portions are small, so we don't think it's worth full price. Instead we went to Mom and Dad's, where we have tried to go previously only to find they were too busy. Tonight we got in, and found out why they are usually busy. The bread is served with a small bowl of olive oil, seasonings and diced dried tomatoes. I don't like tomatoes but I ate most of this and asked for more! I ordered the ravioli while the guys ordered the seafood pasta with mussels, shrimp and scallops. They both agreed it was excellent!
A little later we went to Mystic Ice Cream. The interior is really fun, with lots of old LP covers and 60's art on the walls, but their claims to fame is that they have the good sense to put liquor in their ice cream. That was enough to tip me over into a food coma, but the guys still had enough energy to go for a bike ride. 

Guest Bathroom - day 5

We went out to Rae Rae's for breakfast; they make great biscuits and gravy, corned beef hash and glazed blueberry biscuits. It's a great way to start the day, especially a rainy day. And it rained all day long today.  Back at home, the guys finished the shower walls.
Although the sides of the shower would accommodate a whole tile, every tile there had to be trimmed, to make the tiles along the back look like they were full tiles that folded around the corners. This is a lot more work, but it’s a great look.
Then, as the shower walls dried, the guys worked on the shower floor, or "pan".  They measured and cut all the individual pieces and laid them out before adding mud, to ensure a good fit. 
Aaron decide that the shower drain height wasn't up to his standards, so he adjusted that before continuing. When he was happy with that, they worked on the ledge at the front of the shower. Tiles don't come in the right shape for the ledge, so they cut each piece, rounded the edge, and sanded it smooth.
It took a lot of mud and a lot of care on each piece to make sure everything was perfect.
Next Aaron started troweling mud on the pan, shaping a smooth floor with just a little slope towards the drain. Then he laid the trimmed floor mosaic sheets down. 
And just like that - we had a new bathroom! The final grouting will be done tomorrow. 

It was time to relax with a Rusty Nail - equal parts of Drambuie and Scotch. I don't care for it, but the guys seemed to like it!  For dinner Randy whipped up a side dish of Fried Rice.
The main dish was scallops and shrimp, cooked on salt blocks. This method of cooking gives a great flavor to the meats, and it's very hard to overcook on salt blocks. 
Randy served this with the vegetables and broccoli in cheese-and-cream sauce from yesterday, fresh guacamole and fried rice. Great meal!

Somehow we all over ate, so afterwords we just watched TV and took turns throwing tennis balls for Shorty. He loves to chase them, but won't bring them back, which makes it hard to get in a game with him. Good thing he's cute!

Guest Bathroom - day 4

Randy fixed Oatmeal with bananas and walnuts for breakfast, and then the day's work started: tile the shower walls. The shower isn't a big space and the tiles are long, so almost every piece needs to be cut. 
And every tile had to be check for level because a tiny bit off would exponentially throw off the upper tiles. 
A couple of times the guys went outside to look for the alligator. Only one of the little ones was here today, hanging under the dock across the canal.
We fixed a quick lunch of meatloaf sandwiches and Rural King chips before starting again. Our walls aren't thick enough for an inset soap dish, so Aaron fashioned one for me out of tile. Which means, of course, more cuts in the wall tiles.
One row above the shelf the decorative pieces went in. First the pencil line,
and then a row of small tiles with decorative pieces set in. That called for some more tricky cuts.
 But it's looking good!
It kept raining on and off all day. We need rain, but now I could do with a little sunshine. Our local Blue Heron was here during much of the day. He doesn't let the rain bother him too much; just sits it out and occasionally opens his beak for a drink.
Randy fixed prime rib for dinner, so we wouldn't have gone out anyway, even if it hadn't been raining. NOBODY fixed prime rib as good as Randy.
He added baked potatoes and broccoli in a heavy cheese-and-bacon sauce - perfect! The guys had brought a few wines with them from their trip through Kentucky. We tried the Winzewald Gluhwein, a red wine that, to my surprise, I really liked. So did the guys. And they liked the after-dinner Amaretto, too.