Clean Thoughts

I don’t just like being in a clean environment. I actually like to make it clean.

It is my great joy and satisfaction to scour a dirty sink and make it shine again.  When I clean the dust and grime off my windows, inside and out, and look through the glass like it’s not even there, I feel like I’m honoring the beautiful view. I love washing dishes with warm, soapy water. I like sound of the washer and dryer working away on laundry day.  I love sweeping the corners where “stuff” collects. When I dust or scrub a baseboard, and the cloth comes away really dirty, I’m thinking “good, this needed to be done.”

The funny thing is – I’m not a fastidious perfectionist when it comes to keeping my own house clean. My philosophy is “have fun getting it dirty, so you can have fun cleaning it up.” So often being productive is messy, and there are those times when I know it’s right to focus on people and relationships instead of chores. But when there is a cleaning project to be done, and a few hours to devote to it, I’m your girl. Give me a rag and count me in.

When I clean, I feel like I’m making the world new. In fact, I think I got this whole love of clean places and things from my creator who specializes in cleaning up and restoring just about everything. It’s part of wanting everything to work the way it should, and of course, it doesn’t if it’s full of sludge, and hardened, crusty dirt. It’s like wanting to see clearly instead of looking through glasses with oily fingerprints. It’s like wanting to wear your favorite black outfit without cat hair and lint all over it. We have that sometimes irritating but irresistible desire to have clean stuff.  I think we get it from God, you know, like being “made in his image”.

Today I helped clean house for my aunt and uncle who are expecting company this weekend. My aunt is in the rehab hospital and my uncle spends most of the day with her. I had their condo all to myself and enjoyed washing the sheets, making the beds and giving the “womanly touch” to the bathrooms and kitchen. That’s what my uncle calls it, “womanly touch”.

I was also thoroughly disgusted with the salt and road grime on my new-to-me truck so I ran that through the automated car wash. (It is TOO COLD to wash cars any other way right now).

Mom cleaned the refrigerator – something was beginning to smell funny. I would have to say that she also has a certain affinity for dirty jobs and doesn’t shy away.

I helped the husband shave whiskers off his face and got him spiffed up.

And now our supper is over, the dishes are put away and the counters cleaned. It feels like we are ready for whatever comes next – relaxing, enjoying the weekend, making a few new messes…

I don’t know why I felt like I needed to write about this, except that it is one of those ordinary, everyday things that we often pass by without proper enjoyment. Sometimes I’m tempted to think that some work is meaningless because it just has to be done over again, but I guess the fact that it has to be done a lot means that it has importance.  And if I enjoy throwing away the junk mail today, lucky me, I get to do it again six days a week!

I’m thinking that work can, and should, be enjoyed. I hope there will always be something I can do, just sayin’…

Labor Day “Up North”

I’d be interested to know what Labor Day means to you, besides a long holiday weekend, if you care to comment. I had to look it up, and as the article mentioned, it is a strange holiday with no specific rituals attached. I tend to think that all important holidays have deteriorated into excuses for eating and parades, but this one actually did start that way. Who knew?

I will tell you one feature of my new life “up north” that has to do with labor. I often think that I have inherited a few work genes (not work jeans) from my dad and his love of machinery. One of his jobs in his later years was mowing the fields and yards around the Par Place condominium development. I live here now and the grass is still growing and needing to be mowed.

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I have not yet named this fine machine but I will have to since we seem to be getting intimate.

A couple weeks ago my brother gave me a lesson on the lawnmower, knowing how much I miss mowing grass at the oneacrewoods (in Florida). What could be better than a oneacrewoods? How about a 20acrewoods? I don’t really know how big this property is but it took almost five hours of mowing today and I didn’t do it all. It is a neatly planned development of condos, most of them are duplex but a couple are single houses. In addition there is my brother’s yard and the area around the barn. Last but not least there is the nature path around the wetlands which is kept mowed short for easy walking. Much of this property used to be a golf course, so there are some fields and open areas to mow as well. When it’s all done it looks absolutely beautiful.

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Part of my brother’s yard used as a soccer field (before I mowed it).

I’m also given pretty free reign to weed the flower beds and berms, use the trimmer, and other yard tools as needed for various projects. There is a diesel Gator for hauling tools and brush and a zero turn mower that is probably twice as big as my Toro down south. All of this pleases me very much and helps me feel at home. Yard work has always been like therapy for me so I guess I’m going to be getting emotionally healthy, at least until winter sets in. And on the subject of cold, guess what? I was outside working all afternoon and never broke a sweat. That’s right, it’s not 90 degrees and humid.

The nature path, nicely mowed

So, happy Labor Day to all! May your labor be satisfying and balanced with a sufficient amount of rest. That’s what is happening here in Hayward, “up north”, because I’m going to start a fire in the back patio fire pit and sit around having supper with my family. A good day…

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Rain-R-Shine PVC Cement

After my last cement post I got requests to write about mortar, and grout but in writing as in life, you don’t always get to choose. Sometimes the subject chooses you.

 This morning, getting ready for the day, I turned on the bathroom faucet and nothing came out. This always is cause for alarm because we have a complicated water system with a deep well and a submersible pump way down there somewhere. A leak anywhere in the house or outside the house causes the system to shut down to save the pump. The leak has to be found and fixed or we have no water, and our renter in the next house has no water because we are on the same system.

For years I have had the rule that the woman of the house does not take care of the water system. The husband is a physicist, which is like a science expert and the water system needs an expert because it is a chemistry nightmare. I stay away from it. But I needed water so I started hunting for the leak.

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The culprit leak, white sand and mud bubbling up from the depths.

I found it out in the yard. There was a big puddle for a clue. Oh funny, it was right where the cement truck had made a big rut while backing up.

I knew this was going to be my next project.  I do kind of understand the pipes, valves and spigots that are all over the place and I am the person in our family most likely to survive digging and bending over a hole without serious back injury. I have never subscribed to the “learn one new thing every day” mantra because I prefer doing things I know how to do already, but an occasional new thing keeps life interesting. Doing this new thing would save me money – that’s what it’s all about.  This girl can fix a broken pipe.

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Oh yes, it works even when the parts are wet.

I found the broken pipe down at the bottom of the hole that I dug. A trip to the hardware store and a couple of conversations with the plumbing guys made the job sound pretty easy.  The plan was to saw out the broken part of the pipe and attach couplings and an adjustable repair thingy. The new parts had to be glued on and the primer and glue were the special ingredients to this recipe.

I’m happy to say it went well when we turned on the water to test it. I feel pretty confident about PVC gluing now and can hardly wait until the next irrigation leak. I’m not an expert plumber yet but I did good on this project (I’m also quite experienced with toilets, but that’s another story or two, or three.).

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My fuzzy photo of finished pipe repair. I got a little messy with the blue glue. Wanted to make sure there was enough of it.

Oh Cement

I don’t think I’ve ever written about cement before. You might not think you have any interest in cement, and believe me, I didn’t either. But I feel smarter about it now, and you can never tell when being smarter about cement will come in handy.  Anyway, it’s part of my life and I have to write to relieve the tension…

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Gravel was my temporary fix for these sections that had to be removed.
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Who would have thought these two smooth, patches would be so much trouble? Who?

 I’ve spent a lot of time this week trying to get cement to replace the gravel patches in the driveway. I drove into a couple yards where I saw cement trucks and big piles of sand coming and going, but evidently regular people like me do not just come into these places and order a few yards of cement. In one there was no office, only huge trucks honking at me to get out of the way. In the other, there was an office but the person there had no idea what prices were or whether my project was something they would stoop to do.

I finally called a contractor, one whose ad said no job was too big OR too small. Most people would have done this first, I know. The initial quote for the work was $1200, just from my description of it, adjustments to come with the final proposal. I don’t think he was talking about adjusting it down. I am so tired of everything costing in thousands of dollars. Whatever happened to hundreds? I keep hoping to save money by doing some of the work myself which is why I don’t call contractors except as a last resort.

My friend who was pressure washing the house (it’s a Florida thing), heard me gasping about the price, and immediately started talking me into hiring his cousin instead. “We do it tomorrow, if you like. Less than that, and we do it tomorrow.” And to be truthful, it was good to hear that it would cost less, but hearing that it would be done tomorrow was the clincher. I cancelled the other contractor and hired Higinio.

When people are trying to help me get jobs done at a good price, I always end up feeling sorry for them when unexpected things come up. I think it took a little longer than they had anticipated for them to remove all the gravel that had been put in the holes. Under the gravel were huge tree roots, the troublemakers that had ruined the previous cement, and they had to be chopped out. I wish I could say they had some handy machines to help them, but no, it was muscles and an ax. They worked nearly a whole day prepping for the cement, which was due to come at 5 pm, only to find it delayed until the next morning. In addition to feeling sorry for them sweating all day in the heat, now I had to feel sorry for them coming back another day.

At 9 am a huge truck was waiting at our drive. I held my breath as it maneuvered down our narrow drive and through our yard, backing up to the holes. It was interesting to watch the truck combine everything on site and slide it into place. Interesting also to watch how the men floated it, troweled it – all those things that they do to make it look good. The holes were filled, the tools were washed off, and the truck was pulling away. It was then, making a tight turn that the wheels ran off the cement drive and cracked it in a brand new place. I heard the pop and saw the edge sink, along with my hopes of not spending too much money on this job.

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The last minute disaster, entailing another couple hours of hard work.

And then I felt sorry, because the men had to saw away the broken edge of the drive, remove the concrete chunks, build a form, place the wire and mix 11 sacks of Sak-crete by hand to do the repair. Oh cement, you are so much work.

It is now done. One more job crossed off the list in getting the oneacrewoods ready for sale.  It ended up costing what the original contractor had bid but was done much sooner. It was good to learn about mixing cement by hand – actually not too hard, kind of like mixing pancake batter. I think I could do small cement projects if I had to…  if I could lift the 80 lb. sacks of Sak-crete.

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Oh cement, you are so much work.

My time is your time.

A somewhat philosophical recount of a fairly common day.

Frankly, I do not want to be in charge of my schedule. I am often an idiot when it comes to knowing what is important to do, urgent to do, not needing to be done and all that. Knowing this, a long time ago  I made a deal with God for him to figure out what I should be doing and in return I would just do it and be okay with whatever. This works well for me, especially in all those out of control situations where I pretty much have to hope God has it figured out, because it makes no sense to me.

People say I’m always so calm, and that really is the secret.  This is always my message to myself as I sit gridlocked in traffic, as I wait for the husband to get ready for things when we’re already late, when I lose hours of writing to an errant computer.  I say, “my time is yours, use it, waste it, end it – I’m not in charge and thank you!”

But there are some days that are… tests, yes, tests. God wants to see if I mean it.

We are in the process of selling a condo that we’ve had since right before the real estate bust. Right before, meaning that we bought high and have been paying people to rent it ever since. Under water, they call it. Our realtor told us yesterday that the light in the kitchen was out and we had a showing coming up. I knew I needed to buy some buy some fluorescent bulbs and tend to that little chore, in case this buyer might just be the one to set us free.

I guess I left home in kind of a hurry, having not thought things through. I got to the hardware store and mentally pictured myself trying to change the light on an eight foot high ceiling.  I had forgotten a ladder. The apartment was empty – no chairs or anything to stand on. Going back home just seemed like such a waste of time when there was a store full of ladders right in front of me. So I bought bulbs, and a ladder.

Arriving at the condo and climbing the three flights of stairs (no elevator), with my ladder and bulbs, I felt pretty smart. This was not going to take long at all. I would be done well before the showing time.

So, I got the ladder open, climbed up and got the plastic lens off the 48 inch fixture. I thought it would just hang on the side while I took the bulbs out – the way the ones in our garage do.  A minute later as I wrestled with the stupid tubes the lens fell to the floor and got quite cracked up.  I did finally get the bulbs in and they did work. But the wrecked lens was a whole new problem.

I went first to the association office to see if perhaps they stocked things like that lens for common repairs. No luck though. They sent me to another hardware store that they had heard carried them. Crossing town, I arrived at the store, and started looking for replacement lenses. I had taken pictures of the fixture and thought I was picking out and purchasing a lens that fit. Maybe, I should have brought the broken lens to compare. That would have been a good idea.

It was the wrong one. That became apparent, after about five minutes on the ladder, struggling with the stupid fixture.

I spent another half hour going back to the store. There was one more possibility, and though it looked a bit small, it was the only one.  Pay again, drive again, climb stairs again, and finally on the ladder again, I ascertained that it was not the exact size either. I made it go on anyway. I just hope I never have to take it off.

I had only minutes to spare, so I folded the new ladder quickly and made my way down the stairs for the third time. The last thing on the agenda was waiting in the “returns” line at the first hardware store with the ladder. I really didn’t need another ladder.

It was almost like one of those jokes about how many blondes it takes to change a light bulb, except it was minutes (too many of them) and I have gray hair. I haven’t heard how the showing went, but I know they had light in the kitchen. I did my part.  And I remained calm, and accepting, maybe…

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Has nothing to do with the story but is a picture I like to look at to keep myself calm, because it’s really pretty. 

 

 

Going Again: Cambodia, Days 5 and 6

Our whole team was in place this morning and we were able to meet after breakfast for prayer and discussion. Good news, the missing bag was found at the airport and is now back in our possession. It had a lot of medical and dental supplies in it so we are thankful.

A couple of brave souls, Mike Hunsader and Julia Dietz, decided to go have dentistry done. Phnom Penh is reportedly becoming a destination for affordable dental work at much less expense than in the U.S. They both returned feeling positive about their treatment.

The other major activity was meeting the children of PE5 at Central Market for shopping. It has been a traditional outing for many visits and the children really look forward to being able to look for a special item, bargain for the price, and come away with their item. Everyone gets to choose something they need or want, even the house parents and cooks. Common items are jeans, bags (purses), shirts, belts, shoes. Almost everything can be had for under $10.

Central Market is a large place, not airconditioned for the most part (of course) but covered. We encountered some rain on the way over, and the kids were slightly damp too. After an hour shopping we were all wet from one thing or another, mostly sweat. It  never ceases to amaze me how the house parents can get all 20+ children transported to meet us, keep track of them all while they shop in this labyrinth of a marketplace and remain fairly calm and placid during it all. We help, of course, but the kids are so well behaved and actually keep track of themselves, and watch out for each other. They are easy to spend time with – often coming up for a hug or holding hands with us as we walk.

Just like in the United States, modern malls are competing for shoppers and as a result, the Sorya Mall near Central Market, where we usually have taken the kids for pizza, was being remodeled. It is just a short walk from the market and the kids have learned how to ride escalators and eat fast food there – not necessarily the best eating tradition but a real treat for the kids nonetheless. But today it was a mess.

Most of the entrances were boarded off and construction on almost all of the six floors meant that the place was open to air and quite warm. The escalators were working however and we rode them to the top story to the Market Grill, which was still open for business. Business would have been nearly non-existent for them had we not come.

They were unprepared for our 30 orders all at once, even though we had warned them and checked the menu ahead.  The next hour and a half was a comedy of sorts as they passed out drinks, French fries and chicken. They ended up with two meals that no one had ordered and a great deal of confusion. But a little confusion never seems to dampen anyone’s mood here, and we all got fed, eventually.

Another area of construction was the riverfront park where we usually had taken the kids to spend time walking and seeing the sights by the Imperial Palace. Our substitute for that activity was an amusement arcade on the 6th floor of the mall, close to the Market Grill. The kids love all the game machines and seem to know how to play them – or maybe they just catch on more quickly than I do. They each got a dollar’s worth of tokens to spend and managed to have fun for another hour trying to outwit the machines. It was a loud place since each game had its own loud music, bells and noises. I have to admit, I felt really old, with a bit of sensory overstimulation going on. I was glad when we called it a night and rode our tuk tuks back to the hotel.

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We are gathering at Central Market
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Traditional “after shopping” picture with PE4. Me – white haired one in back row, middle… haha.

Day 6 was nearly the same outing with different people and having done it the day before helped everything go a little smoother. The restaurant made a great effort to get us served more efficiently this go round, and the arcade was actually kind of fun.

I think I had a case of dehydration the night before that kept me from feeling my best. That is something we really have to watch out for since it is so hot everywhere we go. Even though I am from Florida with a climate similar to this, I realize how much time I spend in air-conditioned spaces. It is amazing to me that even with the heat, most people here do not dress to stay cool. A combination of modesty, and not wanting to be tanned, has them in long pants, long sleeved shirts much of the time, head coverings and jackets or wraps of some kind. I don’t know how they can do it.

 

 

Dealing with it (termites)

Encountering the twists and turns of life is an inescapable part of being alive, of sticking around, of aging, of “dealing” with it. I’ve been dealing with it all day, “it” being my own restlessness first, then the selling of property that has been kind of a millstone around our necks for years, add in the rain and wind outside, a couple of difficult emotional relationship dialogues, and preparation for the fumigation of our house starting Friday morning. I feel old and numb.

But I’m not going to cry. Instead, I’m going to write about our termites.

I discovered them when I was in the storage room looking for things to give away. Some boxes next to a wall were covered in termite evidence, looking a little like a pile of pepper. When the inspector came he found the tiny holes in the wall where the termites had been pushing out their tiny balls of … poop, feces, whatever you want to call it. One small corner of one small room has only one HUGE remedy.

Our property consists of two houses designed for generational living, connected by an enclosed breezeway. We have no generations willing to live with us at present so we rent out the other house, and use the breezeway for storage. The wall that the other house shares with the breezeway is where the termites live. Or maybe it’s only one of the places they live because they hide and generally chew very quietly so there’s no way of knowing where else they are. They are dry wood termites and eat very slowly, but having discovered them we had to do something. We are thinking of putting our house on the market and an inspection would undoubtedly reveal their presence. They are not a positive selling point.

The big (HUGE) remedy is fumigation. Do you know what that is? It’s a unbelievably large tent that will cover both houses and garages. It’s made with tarps held together with supersized clothespins and held in place at the bottom with weights. It holds in deadly gas that is pumped in and left for 24 hours. It’s a gas chamber for everything living inside. The workers have to be so careful that no people or animals are in the house that if there is one door, one closet, one chest, one refrigerator that they can’t open and check, then they can’t continue the procedure. Once ready, the whole house is locked up so no one can get inside. When it’s over, no one is allowed inside until tests show that the gas is gone (and I’m kind of wondering where it goes? And why are we not worried about that?)

My job today, and probably tomorrow, is readying the house, mostly the kitchen. All food that is not factory sealed in glass, plastic bottles or metal cans has to be double bagged with special bags provided to us, or removed from the house.

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It’s a mess here, no kidding.

I suppose this is a blessing in disguise, kind of a dry run for packing to move.   As the minutes turned into hours today, it really did help to give the job that redeeming feature.  At first reckon, I could imagine filling three bags from the cupboards, another two for things in the freezer, one for the refrigerator and maybe one for medicines and vitamins. I was only wrong by about a dozen bags. I’m not done yet either.

Oh my goodness, I decided to throw away the yucky protein powder from five years ago and the slightly rancid smelling flour.  I combined the three partial boxes of salt, the two bags of sugar and the multiple boxes of tea and hot chocolate. I threw away the jar of candy sprinkles (where did it come from?) and the half melted 50th birthday candle. No one is going to be fifty again in my remaining cake baking years. It’s strange how I keep finding more food too, in strange places. I can’t even talk about it.

What if I forget the candy bar in my back pack and it harbors deadly gas and I find and eat it next month and die? Yeah, what if? See why I’m a little restless today?

But I have one more day to deal with it – tomorrow, well, that’s after we go to the husband’s early morning doctor appointment, and after we sign papers with the realtor, and after I find a place for the husband and I and the cat to go live for three days while the termites are being gassed. Life… just sayin’.

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things H

Horses

This will be a short post because I can’t think of a way to explain the irrational love that I (and many other women) have for horses. I liken it to the way that a man will throw money at something like a boat that is seldom used, for I seldom have time or opportunity to be with my horse.

I have been scared near to death on a horse,

injured on a horse,

frustrated nearly to the end of patience by a horse,

money poor because of a horse,

and yet I love horses.

And though, unlike boats, they can get sick and die, also unlike boats they are living and can love you back. They are a bit like people – some handsome, some not so much, some with great personalities, some a little cranky – all kinds of apt comparisons. If you’re at the right end, they smell really nice, like fresh hay and they have wonderfully soft noses. That’s some of it, but like I said, it doesn’t really explain it all.

I have posted this sequence before but it was fun (funny) and I love to relive it.

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Ghost want to go for a ride? No? This looks like a belt and I think I need it to be tight. Don’t be holding your breath now…
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Yeah, I’m on. Nice horsey, you knew that’s what was happening so don’t act all surprised. Nice horsey, let’s go.
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You are so pretty and white. I am red and blue. We look so red, white and blue together. I make you look good, don’t I? Smile for the camera please.
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Round and round the track we go – and you lift your feet so pretty.
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We are so cool, and I am still firmly in the saddle and hoping to stay that way.
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Good ride Ghost. Now let’s get back to the barn before something bad happens…
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Whaaa!!! Getting off is supposed to be the easy part! Gimme my shirt back!
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That was embarrassing. I’m outta here. Don’t pretend you’re sad.

Today’s Brain Health Moment

Considering that the brain is the consistency of soft butter (eeek…) and any blow to the head can jostle it against the skull, not to mention that the skull is not indestructible itself, I decided that today, before my ride, I would dig out the old bike helmet. This is also part of my heightened awareness campaign.

The thing is so awfully uncomfortable that I went to the internet to see if I could figure out a better adjustment. Of course there were many good tutorials there, but I still couldn’t quite be satisfied. This is my helmet.

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Title is good. At least they mean well…
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Just poly foam, that’s all. Might make a good container for an orchid plant…

Amidst all the instructions on knob turning, strap shortening and pad fitting I discovered my helmet is the simple version – no knobs, no stabilizing strap, no pads. Pretty much no protection. I wore it anyway, just in case it might ward off a falling tree limb or something. It makes me look like a serious biker, kind of.  Lol.  I will be putting a new one on my Amazon wish list.

Here are some more of my rules for sharing the roadway with whatever is out there.

  1. Always assume you are invisible to everyone especially cars driven by the very young or very old. Everyone.
  2. Signal your intentions clearly, especially when there is someone who needs to know.
  3. Always know who is behind you – use your mirror.
  4. Aim for intersections with stoplights to cross busy roads.
  5. If there are two or more cars waiting to do something at an intersection, stop, feet on the ground and wait it out.
  6. Wear a helmet, don’t wear floppy things that will get caught in gears or wheels.
  7. Check tire pressure and brakes before starting out.

Can you think of more? I need all the help I can get.

What a Wonderful Morning!

I’ve been home for two weeks in a row now which seems unusual to me. I’ve been riding my bike for exercise almost every day and have logged 40 miles this week – not a lot for an avid biker but for a late middle age woman, it’s not bad.  I have almost established a habit for my Saturday bike ride. My motto is “twice the distance at half the speed”. It makes for a relaxed and interesting ride since I plan to explore a bit or go somewhere different each time.

I live in a city that is full of mobile home parks and they are wonderful places to ride.  On the weekend, there is almost no traffic to worry about once you enter a mobile home park and when you do meet someone they most likely are walking or riding in a golf cart, they wave.  Saturday rides are not just for exercise, they are for calming the mind, stirring curiosity, and enjoying the sunshine and breeze (when you ride a bike there is always a breeze…). Come with me.

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The traffic was intense on this street…

There are a thousand ways to do pretty much the same type of housing. If you don’t believe that, you need to ride through a mobile home park to convince yourself it is true. I’m not a big fan of mobile homes to live in myself, but I love to look at them, at their porches, their landscaping, their ramps, their weird colors, roof lines, windows. The mystery house of the morning was the usual basic shape but the street side had only a garage door. Both other visible sides had no entryways. What’s with that? There is a reason hermits don’t go to mhp’s to live, mainly that they are very social places and people live to decorate their entrances with pink flamingoes, flags, name signs and plants. But no visible entrance? I couldn’t figure this one out.

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On to the next attraction – the champion camphor tree. Pictures do not do justice to its hugeness. Nature always inspires me and I am in awe looking at this tree. The sign explains.

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Bradenton was on national news lately with heavy rains that flooded the area. This next picture shows a drainage ditch that filled to overflowing and did flood the parks that I rode through.

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Can you imagine water rising to cover the road? It did.

Commonly there is a fence of some kind around each park, but if you know where to find them, there may be gates or walkways connecting one to the other.  I crossed a shaded wood bridge over the ditch to the next park.

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Doesn’t it invite exploration?

Without having to cross any major roads or deal with busy traffic, I finally made my way through a small golf course to this destination. I love shakes…

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One hour, ten miles – it was a great ride. Getting out and doing something active, just for the fun of it, is important for people of any age. I find it is essential for me. It made a wonderful morning, on a wonderful day.

Do you sense this need? What do you do that meets it? I’d like to know.