Monday, November 4, 2013

THE BOAT HAS BEEN DELIVERED!



I awoke this morning at dawn, snuggled in my Captain’s arms, and lay quietly listening for some sound of recognition. It always takes a moment when we are on a journey and going to sleep somewhere different each night.  Are we under way? In a port or harbor? At a dock or at anchor?  Wind screaming through the roller furling masts, or sighing through the rigging?  Waves crashing or gently lapping against the hull?  Weather forecast calm or foreboding? 

I heard the human like screech of a Blue Heron.  And slowly the lovely realization washed over me….we were safely secured to our dock at our winter port of Fort Myers Beach.  I whispered to Gary “Baby, the boat has been delivered!” and we pulled each other close in a celebratory hug.

Back in 2008, we were self-proclaimed live aboard cruisers, but Don Dunn requalified us as Boat Deliverers.  When we departed Port Clinton that September five years ago, we were not just following the winds and our dreams.  Gary had a Captain’s job waiting for him in Miami, and with Don’s help, we delivered Tessa to our mooring ball in Key Biscayne, ready to report for duty.

Since then, our cruising life has been a series of boat deliveries.  From Key Biscayne back to Put-In-Bay, for Gary’s position at West Marine and mine at the Put-In-Bay Winery.  Then PIB back to Fort Myers Beach and jobs at West Marine and the Nauti Turtle Restaurant.  Then back to PIB for both of us to join our friends David and Jessie Hill in opening and operating the Topsy Turvey Island Grill at the Wharfside for the last two summer seasons.

We have become seasoned “Loopers” with very specific, experienced advice to the newbies.  “Never have a deadline.  It will always get you in trouble.” And that it has done for us, every single time we try to nudge Mother Nature and Murphy’s Law along!  Throughout our entire five years of looping and cruising, we have neglected to heed our own sage words of wisdom and have paid the price, all in the name of an agenda. 
This trip south was an exception.  We let Mother Nature call the shots and were rewarded with a beautiful journey filled with many new cruising memories.

The best part of the trip was having Chas with us to St. Augustine.  There is always a void on Tessa when he departs, but we persevered down the Intracoastal to Daytona Beach and Halifax Harbor. We docked next to two large power yachts who had earlier teased us on the radio about being a slow moving sail boat.   When they pulled into the nearby slip, I told the cocky New Jersey Captain that they didn’t sound like just a bunch of guys with short sticks on the VHF.  Our dock neighbor on a sailboat next to us ducked down below his companionway stating “Oh boy this could get ugly!” 

The next evening we took a dock at the Titusville Municipal Marina, with a great waterfront Tiki Bar within walking distance. We left there at dawn to make fast tracks to blow by Vero Beach and the horrible memories of no-see-ums associated with that anchorage.  That night we made it to Fort Pierce City Marina which has become a favorite stop.  Great ship store, great people, and a GREAT Tiki Bar.  Gary had to drag me away the next morning, with intentions of making it to the Lake Worth Inlet to position for an outside passage.  Here we docked at Riviera Beach Marina with….another great Tiki Bar!  Oh how we love Tiki Bars after long, tedious navigating days on the Intracoastal!

We were surprised, relieved, and so thankful that the weather cooperated for the ocean passage down to Port Everglades and Fort Lauderdale. We listened to other cruisers radioing bridge after bridge (all seventeen of them!) on the Intracoastal and rejoiced that we had smooth sailing out on the Atlantic.   Dare we begin to believe that this trip may continue to be ENJOYABLE and COMFORTABLE???

We anchored in Lake Sylvia nearby the Bahia Mar Marina in the heart of the Fort Lauderdale Intracoastal, where we had plans to meet up with David and Jeannie, friends made while working at Topsy Turvey’s Island Grill. Spent a very pleasant evening visiting with them on Tessa in this very well protected anchorage. 
Next port - Dinner Key Marina in Miami, where we docked next to our friends Angie and Ed aboard their motor yacht Sanctuary.  We shared a wonderful evening and meal and caught up with each other’s lives since we were together last winter.  This dock was way to rich for our cruising kitty, the highest dockage we have ever paid, so we developed Plan B.  There is a beautiful, completely protected anchorage called No Name Harbor at the tip of Key Biscayne.  Here, we decided, we could comfortably wait out the high winds and waves out in Hawks Channel.  

This part of the trip was simply idyllic. Tessa relaxed in the beautiful turquoise harbor while Gary and I accomplished numerous boat chores left unattended while under way.  Gary, who is never comfortable at anchor, exclaimed “I could LIVE here!”  We took long walks into Key Biscayne village, reminiscing of the winter spent here in 2008.  Never have we so enjoyed being weathered in!  

Three days later, the party was over, and it was time to continue the journey south to Marathon.  We intended to anchor at twilight and rest up for the last leg of the trip to Fort Myers.  Late that afternoon we checked the weather and saw big bad winds out of the north forecast for the following evening, and the next three days after.  “Nooooo” I moaned. “We do not want to spend four days, and four hundred dollars for a dock in Marathon!  We need to get HOME!”  

“We could just keep going overnight and be home before the front comes through” Gary tentatively suggested, acutely aware of my disdain of overnighters. It was a beautiful calm evening.  We were on the home stretch.  “OK, let’s get this over with!” I agreed. We have never made a better call.


The star filled sky looked amazingly unnatural, like a Planetarium visited on a high school field trip.  Gary pointed out lights that appeared to be underneath the glass like surface of the water, following along beside us.  “What are they?” I whispered.   “It’s the reflection of the stars on the water” he softly answered, and we both were simply awestruck, and so very, very grateful for the beauty of this last unforgettable night of our long journey home.      

Saturday, October 26, 2013

St. Augustine! OH YEAH!!!



Sunday, October 13
Loud music accompanied our arrival at Dudley’s Marina in Swansboro North Carolina late Sunday afternoon.  “It’s the annual Mullet Festival!” the dockhand informed as he caught our lines.  Chas and I couldn’t wait to see a festival of southern guys sporting mullet hair styles. Or was it all about the fish?
We scurried across the bridge into town, but everything was just closing up.  A friendly patron of the local watering hole informed us “You didn’t really miss anything.  No hair, no fish!” It was mostly a festival comprised of junk food and crafts.  Darn!

Our plan was to rent a car Monday in Swansboro, drive back to Great Bridge for our Jeep, then follow each other to Chas’s home in Sanford for a brief layover.  Gary and I were happy for the opportunity to see our wonderful Daughter-in-law Kerry and our “grand dogs” Maggie, Bell, and Gracie.  It took us a while to warm up to the newest addition to the family, Sonic the Hedgehog.  Still not so sure about Sonic….
Wednesday we departed Swansboro for an anchorage near Camp Lejeune.  All evening we could hear the very nearby helicopters doing take-off and landing exercises.  Chas fell asleep feeling as though he was back in Iraq or Afghanistan. 

A stop in Southport North Carolina is always a favorite, but we made it a short one in order to take advantage of favorable conditions out on the Atlantic. Captain Gary and Chas were confident we could do a comfortable overnighter, maybe even two, and make it all the way to St. Augustine on the outside. That would be a dream come true! 

Their confidence was contagious.  The seas were calm, winds light and variable.  I pictured Mother Nature thumbing through her logbook of cruisers.  “Hmmmmm…looks like I was pretty rough on Tessa last spring.  Maybe it’s time to cut them a break.”  And she most certainly did.  

Storms built first to starboard along the coast, then later to port out at sea.  Chas took a picture of the storms surrounding Tessa, with sun breaking through straight ahead, right on our course.  After the first uneventful overnighter, Gary and Chas presented several options where we could go inside….or keep going on the Atlantic.  My new best friend Mother Nature was cooperating, so I was all about continuing outside to avoid the South Carolina and Georgia Intracoastal hassles. My dream of St. Augustine was slowly becoming reality. 

We felt absolutely victorious tied up to the St. Augustine Municipal Marina dock! Even though there are many miles ahead of us, we are finally back in FLORIDA.
Monday, Chas flew back to North Carolina for a job interview, so Gary and I have been on our own since then. I sure miss hearing them talk (aka argue and debate) electronics and Perkins issues for hours in the cockpit, while all I had to do was read and relax.  But as long as my bff MN and I continue to feel the love, we will be fine. Next stop Miami this weekend of October 26/27.  South Florida turquoise waters are beckoning!

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Adventures Continue



As we crossed Currituck Sound’s calm peaceful water yesterday, it was hard to imagine how the same body of water could have been mean enough six months ago to break our spirits.  We admitted defeat. Mother Nature was the victor and she sent us packing to Put-In-Bay via rental car, leaving Tessa behind, secured at Atlantic Yacht Basin just south of Norfolk on the Intracoastal Waterway.

The dreaded Albemarle Sound, which beat us and Tessa up for several horrible hours, was equally as cooperative yesterday, only dishing out light winds and chop.  We made it to Alligator River Marina just before dark, and glided right to the dock instead of the three hair raising attempts last spring while 30 knot winds drove Tessa every which way but in the slip. The dockhand remembered that struggle, when it took five guys playing tug of war with Tessa to get a dock line secured.  He proclaimed Gary a trained professional this visit.  

How, we wondered, could it have been that bad to make us surrender?   And then we began recalling the voyage of last spring……

From the very start this trip was a challenge.  Strong south winds kicked us in the teeth when we departed Fort Myers the first of April, prompting Gary to turn back to our dock without even a discussion.  Five days later, the winds diminished slightly and we made a run for Marathon. The wind became favorable for sailing, but when Gary tried to unfurl the headsail, it was totally locked up.  No sailing in our immediate future was a big disappointment, but not a deal breaker to make Marathon.

Ahhh, the beautiful turquoise water of the Keys, this trip churned up with frothy white caps on top of choppy waves. Strong winds blew straight out of the north, our heading. Nothing dangerous, but uncomfortable enough for us to duck into Marathon instead of fighting an overnighter. In addition to the roller furler, the Autopilot had also now decided to freeze up, so a stop in Marathon would enable us to address both issues at a dock near a West Marine.

Five days, $500 bucks in dock fees, and a couple grand dropped at West Marine later, the winds subsided and we continued north, now ten days behind in our six week schedule. The day was glorious.  Beautiful water, great wind direction for sailing, picture perfect.  We should have taken a picture, because it was the last day of good weather for the remainder of the trip.  

We sailed through the night comfortably, but when the sun came up, so did the north wind and waves.  For the second spring in a row, we had to use the Fort Lauderdale Port Everglades inlet and continue the journey on the Florida Intracoastal to avoid adverse weather on the Atlantic. Our plan to stay outside (on the ocean) all the way to St. Augustine was blown away, literally!

While entering the inlet, when a GPS is critical, the Garmin decided to blink off. At the same time as sheets of rain decreased visibility to “right in front of your face”.  Things were not going well for Team Tessa.
Captain Gary kept his cool as we began the Florida Intracoastal Bridge Hell.  A little cruising trivia...there are 69 bridges on the Florida Intracoastal from Fort Lauderdale to Georgia.  39 of which have to open for boats to pass through. Many of which, Gary suspects, are run by bridge tenders who have a running competition for who can do the meanest things to delay boaters progress. 

I am the VHF operator on Tessa.  Gary is convinced that a female voice has its advantages.  Somewhere in Florida, I decided that our VHF wasn’t transmitting properly.  I also noted that we weren’t hearing VHF chatter, except for the stronger Coast Guard transmissions. Something was definitely wrong with the VHF. We switched to the handheld radio, which seemed to be working fine. 
 
When living on board, life is much easier when there is a place for everything and everything is in its place. MY place for the handheld was on the seat cushion next to wherever I was sitting.  GARY’s place for the handheld, once, was on top of the Garmin enclosure at the helm.  The enclosure that we often grab onto when moving about the cockpit area. Which I grabbed onto, and knocked the only properly working VHF radio on board onto the sole, where the impact caused it to QUIT WORKING. 

Another point about living on board.  When things go wrong, it gets very, very quiet.  So after long moments of silence, Gary suggested I put it on the charger to perhaps restart it. Which did indeed work! 

Just south of Daytona Beach, heading for our marina reservation for the evening, I happened to look aft and noticed excessive exhaust steam or smoke.  “Take the wheel” Captain commanded as he rushed down below to the engine room. I heard loud noises and saw frantic movement from below.  Not good.  Suddenly, he threw what resembled a fire hose out of the cockpit over the side of the boat, and water began rushing out of it.  Definitely not good.

“Call TowBoat US and tell them we are taking on water!” Captain shouted from below.  I did, several times, but did not get a response.  I then hailed a passing trawler and asked them to begin relaying my transmissions, as our handheld signal may have been too weak.  They also hailed TowBoat US with no response.  But our knights of the water, the Coast Guard did. Then we began the inane litany of questions unrelated to the emergency.  Do we have our life vests on, blah blah blah, until their final request for our TowBoat US membership number put me over the edge.  “TELL THEM THE CAPTAIN IS IN THE ENGINE ROOM PUMPING OUT WATER AND CAN’T GET TO HIS WALLET RIGHT NOW!”  Really, Coast Guard???????? 

Gary determined he had control of the situation and next instructed me to call off the Coast Guard and hail the marina to see if they could haul us immediately.  They could not, but directed us to another marina that could. Gary navigated us right into the haul out slip and within less than ten minutes, we were high and dry in their boatyard.  In less than five minutes after that, we were sharing a much deserved cocktail with the yard workers. Shortly after that, Gary addressed the packing gland around the propeller shaft, which he suspected was the problem.

Next morning we launched, pulled up to a dock, and went to West Marine, Gary’s normal M.O.  Upon our return Gary was disturbed to find water in the engine room again.  Where was it coming from???  By process of elimination he discovered the plug came out of the heat exchanger and water was coming from it, not from outside of the boat.  Problem solved, after sustaining severe damage to the cruising kitty, off we went toward Georgia.  

Georgia delivered its own set of issues. Very skinny water with dramatic tidal variations, a couple of groundings, followed by big sounds to cross with much bigger winds than predicted, as always.  We both dreaded crossing St. Andrew Sound, as we had a bad experience the last time we crossed.  It is wide open to the Atlantic and with the wrong wind conditions it is treacherous.  And we were experiencing the most perfectly wrong conditions.  Upon our approach, Gary calmly suggested that we do a practice run with our safety harnesses and jack lines by hooking securely on INSIDE THE COCKPIT. OMG I was scared because I suspected this was something more than a safety drill. The Captain was exercising extreme caution.  But we made it with Tessa kicking and screaming amidst the wind and waves.  I think even she was starting to lose her patience with this day.  And then it got worse.

I had made reservations the day before at the Brunswick Landing Marina, where Chas and Kerry were to meet us the following day to do a leg of the journey north.  The dock master was confident we would have no problem getting into our assigned slip, even though they would be closed and not available to grab our dock lines.  Now, after getting spanked all day, my confidence level was shaken.  I called again, reminding them that it was REALLY WINDY and was there ANYONE around to assist.  “Just point your bow right between the pilings and you’ll glide right in” she assured me in a nice southern drawl. 

Well, we did not glide into the slip. Driven off course by the wind gusts, from the perfectly wrong direction, we were driven into the slip sideways!  Gary manhandled the helm, I ran fore and aft fending off pilings, nearby dockers came running to help, and eventually the chaos ended. 

The next day the Calvary arrived to save the day.  When Chas is on board, Tessa is charmed.  Usually.  Except on this trip.  We have turned that Perkins key and pressed start without fail for 22 years, but on that day we got nutthin! The starter had nutthin left to give.  Gary and Chas put their heads together and explored all options, finally our only one being to rent a car and drive to Macon Georgia to buy a rebuilt one. The four of us packed into a compact rental car and off we went on a Georgia road trip. After our return to Tessa that evening, the two of them worked for hours installing the replacement so that we could depart early the next morning. Another delay and another severe dent in the battered cruising kitty sent us moving on.

We experienced two uneventful fun days and one calm peaceful night at sea toward Southport North Carolina.  I am not a fan of overnighters but proclaimed that if they were all like that one, I could go around the world. Soon after that the wind and seas kicked up for a rough time getting through a skinny break wall into the marina. Mother Nature had me fooled for a minute there. 

Southport was a whirlwind of fun after Nick and Lynne James drove all the way from Port Clinton to celebrate Lynne’s birthday with us on Tessa.  We all went to Sanford to see Chas and Kerry’s new home, then it was back to Tessa alone again. I was dreading what was looming on the horizon.  Days and nights on the North Atlantic with just the two of us for moral support.  We have done it before but it absolutely does not get any easier, because the conditions are unpredictable and usually less than desirable.  Not to mention the fact it seemed that everything that could go wrong had gone wrong so far.

At this point in the journey, the pressure increased steadily every day because we had lost so much time dealing with weather and mechanical issues that we were way behind schedule.  We committed to being back to work at  Topsy Turvey Island Grill by mid-May latest, and the probability of that happening was very doubtful. 

We progressed ever so slowly northward expecting each new day would be better than the last. Conditions had to be due to improve, and sooner or later the strong north east winds had to diminish. David sent a text from work. “When will you be back? We are very busy!” We were stressed out and were so anxious for cruising to become comfortable again.  But comfort was not in our future.  

However, Albemarle Sound was.  We stood on the break wall the morning of our intended crossing, clothes whipping in the stiff Northerly breeze, and watched the whitecaps pounding southward. “Screw it!” Gary snapped. “Let’s go have breakfast!  We’re not going today!”  I knew it was my comfort that he was concerned about, and I knew if it wasn’t for me he would go.  So I sucked it up and convinced him we needed to go.  “It’s not going to be any better tomorrow or who knows when.  Let’s just get it over with!”
The wind howled and the waves crashed over our cockpit enclosure for nearly seven hours. We were tired and beat up but we put it behind us.  Neither of us remembered Currituck Sound from previous trips but this crossing made a big impression.  The relentless wind and waves tried hard to push us out of the narrow channel, the depth alarm beeped and beeped, but Captain Gary persevered.  We tied up at Atlantic Yacht Basin and listened to the weather forecast. The Meteorologists predicted five more straight days of 35 knot northeast winds, waves 7 to 10 feet on the Atlantic.  

 My strong, confident, optimistic Captain, has loved nothing more than being on the water with Tessa for 22 years.  “I’m done” he said in a soft, sad, defeated voice.  I put my arms around him and cried.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

What Dot does in Ft. Myers Beach, stays in...NOT!


My Mom!  My crazy wonderful wacky Dot!

I knew it would be tough to enter your Powder Blue Palace after just saying goodbye at the airport.  I took a deep breath, opened the door, looked for you at the table, and couldn’t breathe. It hurt that bad.
I grabbed my phone and tearfully dialed Nick James for some emergency cheering up.  He reminded me that I go through this every time we part, and his advice is always the same.  “Sit down, have yourself a good long cry, and then cheer yourself up with all the memories.”
And OH BOY did we make some memories this year!

Gary had the RV decorated with a beautiful flowering bromeliad and tacky flamingo palm tree lights (his Christmas present from Jon and Jaci) for the start of Dotfest 2013.  This immediately turned in to Foodfest 2013 when you received a “Welcome to Fort Myers Lobstergram” from Cuzzin Debbie and Mike. 
Can you still taste the delectable crab cakes, crab claws, lobster claws, and jumbo shrimp? The three of us had such fun evenings planning what to eat next!

You said you wanted nothing more than to sit on the patio each day and “soak it all up.” I loved hearing you shout “HI!” to all the park passersby. No one is a stranger to my Dot! But you know what I loved the most of the quiet days we spent together? Singing along together to the romantic oldies on that great radio station we found.  I hadn’t heard you sing in a long time and that memory will always warm my heart.
 As happy hour approached each day, the continuous parade of Ebb Tide friends began.  You must have been really ticked that I told RC you couldn’t have your highball until you finished a red solo cup of water first! She never let you forget it, did she?   It was so great to watch you sitting in the afternoon sun with such wonderful friends, laughing about anything and everything. 

Did I mention quiet days?  Well, there was NOTHING quiet about Sundays!  Gary would wake you up shouting “It’s Sunday Mom!” And you would shout back “DEK DAY!”. Who would have thought that you would get such a kick out of a local biker bar? We started going there for the $10.00 pitcher and pizza deal, but you had more fun listening to the roar of the Harleys and watching the camaraderie of their riders! What better way to spend the day, hanging out with Shirley and Bill, listening to Tequila Tom on the guitar, eating pizza, and sucking down Mimosas, huh? But this last Sunday, in front of Cuzzin Debbie and Mike, you took it a whole new level. We have to keep re-watching the video Debbie took of you climbing on the back of a Harley to believe it really happened. OMG Mom!

January flew by and soon it was time for the arrival of The Golden Child!  Wasn’t it great for him to visit for an entire week, and have him all to yourself for three days while we were in Key West?  We almost didn’t want to go to Key West; you two had so much fun planned! But first we had fun at the Ebb Tide pool party.  David got to meet all of your friends and see how Snowbirds rock out an afternoon!
We had a tough act to follow when he departed. Going to see Gatlin not once but twice?  Going to the Beach Pub to sit with your feet in the sand?  Did you really participate in a Walker Race?  After about the fourth or fifth “I miss my David” comment you made the day he left, I sent him a text joking that you were starting to annoy me, but I felt the same way.

How will we ever forget the Ebb Tide Horse Races?  It was hard to imagine how it all worked until we got there and you and your boyfriend Mikey jumped into the first race!  Everyone was laughing as he pushed your wheelchair to the next space upon each roll of the dice.  You didn’t win that race, but you won the next two you were in, and we all cheered as you crossed the finish line.  That’s my Mom!

Next performance by you and Mikey was the water balloon battle at our third pool party of the season.  Was that really my Mom giddily throwing water balloons at the most handsome man in the pool? I shouldn’t have been surprised. 

Speaking of pool parties, our last one didn’t go so well, did it?  You were not thrilled with Bill when he slid over to the table next to us, where two younger women were sitting.  As we were leaving, you looked back over your shoulder and in a disgusted tone snarled “See ya later Bill!” Then promptly wheeled away, whispering to Vicki “Men are so fickle.” 

You and Bill made up in a hurry when he offered to take us on a sightseeing adventure to Sanibel and Captiva Islands.  He was such an excellent chauffeur and tour guide, telling stories of his times spent there.  The grand finale was lunch at the Lazy Flamingo, where we slurped the best oysters ever.  What a great day we had.

Gary and I loved having you supervise us as we worked on Tessa projects at our dock.  Our boat neighbor Tom was quite taken with you and soon became overprotective, in my opinion.  Just because I left you in the Jeep for a few minutes (well maybe ten or fifteen) one day while waiting for Mother Nature to decide to rain or not, he claimed it was abusive.  “Did you at least leave the windows cracked?” he demanded to know. “Did she have any fluids?” Caring neighbors are overrated.

videoAnd now, the GRAND FINALLY OF MEMORIES!  Gary and I ran into a Charter Fishing Captain at Lani Kai happy hour, and before one drink was consumed, you were goin fishing!  Secretly we were all hoping that you caught a fish.  At least one fish.



He assured us that you could step right onto his pontoon boat, no problem. Gary had to work that day, so your bestest friends Tom and Barb came along.

Captain Greg casts our lines toward the dock pilings searching for Sheepshead.  Before my line made it in the water, you snagged the first keeper of the day.  “Yea Dot!” everyone cheered.  Then you caught another and another.  Dot 3, Lori 0. 

Next we went further out in the bay and began drifting for any variety of fish, with Mackerel being the most desirable catch.  Tom and Barb took turns reeling fish in.  Tom, Barb, Dot, lots of fish, Lori 0.
Before I had a chance to redeem myself, Captain announced last drift.  I heard him whisper disappointedly to Tom “I really wanted Dot to tangle with a Mackerel.” 

“WHOA!!!” you screamed as your body did a quick 90 degree turn.  ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZING went your drag! 

“REEL IN!” Captain Greg shouted to Tom, Barb, and I as he fired up the outboard to turn the boat toward the direction your whopper was swimming.  Away you cranked, laughing with determination.  Slowly he began to rise to the surface, Captain Greg dipped the net expertly under the thrashing fish, and you had landed a two foot long Spanish Mackerel! With a little help from Dad coaching from above, David said when he saw the picture.

We celebrated with a fish fry to feed the masses of Ebb Tide and you basked in the glory of still being the queen of the rod.  I was so proud of you my fishermother!

One evening Gary was working late, so you and I joined the Ebb Tiders at Parrot Key for Happy Hour.  The hour turned into hours as we celebrated together, and it began to feel chilly.  I ran back here to the RV for your jacket, and as I approached the Parrot Key entrance, I had to do a double take.  You were on the dance floor with Danny! I believe the last time you danced was at Amy’s wedding. “Oh Danny, I hope you are holding on tight” I prayed.  By the time I caught up, you were slow dancing with Dano.  At that point my phone rang with Gary’s usual check in to see if we needed anything as he headed home.  “Just get home fast Honey!” I pleaded.  “I have lost total control of this situation!”
Gary hightailed it to Parrot Key in time to wheel you home as you sang “GET DOWN TONIGHT!” all the way to the RV and all the way to bed. We just shook our heads in wonder.  Where did THAT come from?
Just this past week, you were over at Dano and RC’s visiting, when Danny showed up at our door asking “Can we take Dottie to Parrot Key for Happy Hour?” I groaned and told Gary “You go. I’ve had enough!”
  All too quickly the days of March ticked by toward your departure, and way too soon, it was time to plan your farewell happy hour. We invited your closest friends Tom and Barb, Dano and RC, and Danny.  At 4:00 sharp, they were all here.  And then came two more neighbors carrying lawn chairs.  And then two more.  By the time Gary pulled up from work, he exclaimed “Wow!” There were twenty chairs in a big circle, everyone talking and laughing at once,  in honor of YOU!  You announced you were going out with a bang, and that you did!  Lots of tears and hugs later, everyone departed….but returned Friday morning for one final farewell as you climbed into the Jeep.

We were confident you would be perfectly fine flying the two hour non-stop trip to Columbus, but it is always stressful to deal with airports.  Security went fine, next stop ladies room. There was an announcement that a ladies hat with a blue flower was left at security.  Ooops! “Mom, you stay here and finish up and I’ll run back to security” I said as I hustled away, grabbed the hat, and ran back.  Now we were very short on time before boarding.  I opened the door and said “we have to hurry” and out we went when I suddenly realized that you were pushing your own wheelchair instead of sitting in it! OK, I guess I was more nervous than I thought!  But we laughed all the way to the gate!

The attendant came to take you and another lady to the gate and I stopped him with a request.  “Jerry, could you please advise the flight attendants that Mom can have no more than five drinks on this flight?”  Laughter erupted around us. Then he was wheeling you away from me.  As I was desperately trying not to sob out loud, I heard you say to the other wheelchair lady “Wanna race?”

Race on, Mom!  Race on!