Just as we were about to move out of our wonderful camp ground here at Dauphin Island, on the gulf coast of Alabama, we discovered it had wireless! So Peter went off to the local United Methodist Church service, while I try once again to do the 'wrap up' on Florida. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog entitled "Alabama Bound" which will chronicle some of our fascinating adventures here.
The purpose of this epilogue, however, is to introduce you to many of the people with whom we shared the Florida chapter and who we earnestly want to thank for the time and attention they gave us.
The greatest 'thank you' for the nearly two months of our explorations here go to Sue & Bill Eberhart. Their hospitality allowed us to make their place south of Ocala our 'home base", while we cross-crossed the state gulping down new experiences. .
Here is brother Bill shuttling me on an errand.
Next up are the Knudstrups, Mary (my niece - Sue & Bill's youngest daughter) and her terrific family .. Carolyn, Camille, Marie and father Mike. Mary's a nurse and Mike's a professor of psychology at the college in Lakeland, where they live. They opened their home to us and shared some of that wonderful citrus you see on the tree behind them in their back yard.
He rushed straight into K-Mart and bought one for himself.
Great relatives on Peter's side include the Charltons, who share summer fun with us at Pen Lake. Bill is Peter's first cousin through his Dad. In the winter, he and Diane enjoy living in Maple Leaf Village (near Pt. Charlotte, Florida). Guess where the members of this retirement community hail from? Diane cooked us a gourmet breakfast, which we were thrilled to share with son, Greg and his family, down for Christmas from Huntsville, Ontario.
Thank you, Charltons, one and all, for this great winter reunion!
Cathy Feaster is another 1st cousin of Peter's, this time on his mother's side. Remember Virginia, the cousin in New Jersey famous for her quilts? This is her younger sister who lives in Largo. Our overnight visit was the first opportunity to ever spent time with Cathy, and we were delighted to get to know her better.
Cathy, you were wonderful to us! So glad we all hang on the same Penney Family tree! And thank you for a very special Sunday morning service with you and your faith family, the thriving congregation of Anona United Methodist Church. (pictured below)
The real sponge industry, however, is on the Gulf side, at Tarpon Springs.
The gentlemen below represent two generations
of Greek fishermen who have made their livelihood
in the sponge industry at Tarpon Springs, since the Greek
sponge fields were destroyed by disease.
Sponges are very susceptible to red tides.
And just north, at New Port Richey, we had the fun
of meeting Connie Cote, a cousin and former babysitter
of my birth son, Ethan Allaun Spooner. As it was just
prior to Ethan's birthday, we cooperated together in a
joint email birthday card.
for sharing important history with me,
and a delicious dinner with us.
Let's stay in touch.
Above are the warm, aqua waters of Manatee Springs State Park.
Wouldn't it be neat to see a real manatee here in its winter quarters?
It's a mana-tee-hee! Hi, Peter!
Here is an actual family of manatees at the mouth of the river.
Below, you will see we met some folks from another era ...
They may have lounged in this chair.
And surely some of them came to dinner down this famous
You've got it. We met them at
the excellent Titanic exhibit in Orlando.
You can visit them too, when you come,
without an audience with 'the mouse' and his originator.
for managing to avoid the preverbial family vacation
to Disney World .
But, we have to admit .. we had a ball.
Next door at the Canadian pavilion, we were glad to meet up with some northwoods friends of ours. Our national exhibit was wonderful too and like Joe Canuck, we felt proud to be Canadian.
Below are the friendly young Canadians who host our pavilion.
Not far from Orlando, we encountered some of these people ..
We celebrated their histories at the Astronaut Hall of Fame
and marveled at the sheer size of their rockets.
At Port Canaveral, Elizabeth had an important reunion with Dr. Jim Honig for the first time in over 40 years. She lived with him and his family for a time during high school, providing child care for his three small children. Both were immediately able to recognize one another, and there was a lot of story to catch up on.
A trip out to Nassau for the day was our Christmas gift to each other. We toured the island on scooters, fun for all ages.
Tim introduced us to the fabulous Atlantis resort, which we toured. Filled with amazing underground acquariums, art, sculpture and archetecture, it is a wild dream of Atlantis rising, come to life.
But we also saw the real Bahamian places .. like the markets:
Back in town, Frederic and 'Tu' were glad to see their machines back in one piece, and invited Tim to stick around for a Bahamian New Year's Eve party called 'Junkaroo'. It was an offer almost worth jumping ship to experience. We had seen significant parade preparations being made, and costumes coming out - like the one below.
But a New Year's Eve party was also being planned back on the ship .. a great way to bring in the New Year with Tim.
So, to each and every one of you ..
BLESSINGS IN THIS NEW YEAR WE'VE ALL BEEN GIVEN!
WE CELEBRATE YOUR LIVES .. A CONTINUAL GRACE TO US.
(And stay tuned!)