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The Only Woman… (Day one)

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The invitation said; “Family event” suitable for man, woman and child…

When I told Lucy about the “Florida Land Rover Club” get together planed for a weekend to off-road around the Citrus Recreation Area… she was all in. Turned out she had a wonderful time even though she was the ONLY woman in the woods. Needless to say, she was treated like a very attractive queen…

Lucy and I don’t like to hurry- unless we have to. In this case a sedate, leisure pace was in order. Stops to prowl around were allowed. We weren’t expected to arrive at the campground until late afternoon…

… We like to “travel light” (tongue in cheek) so we only loaded the “bare” essentials… As usual our oldie but goodie 1996 Land Rover, Discovery, was the ideal vehicle for our varied needs. The vehicle is wonderful, both traveling at seventy miles an hour on the interstate and crawling along at five miles an hour on the nastiest trails we can find…

We drove several hours before our first stop just North of Lakeland, Florida in Polk County.  Gator Creek Preserve is a clean, well maintained park with some awesome hiking/biking trails and a large covered pavilion. Perfect to enjoy a couple of Lucy’s delicious homemade sandwiches. Sierra the wonder dog was ready for a break too…

Since this was to be a four-wheel drive off road adventure we did not carry our mountain bikes or Nordic trekking poles. It was really to hot to hike anyway. I set a waypoint in our Garmin 276C GPS for a return trip to explore the entire trail system… Due to the recent rains from tropical storm Debby, everything in the park looked lush and green…We finished our midday meal, saddled up and resumed our trip. Sierra went right to sleep…

It took a few minutes to explain to “Sierra” the wonder dog that she had to ride in the back. Once she was settled back on her fluffy bed – she fell right back to her normal travel routine – SLEEP. While often taken for a Spitz or a Pekinese, Sierra is actually an American Eskimo Dog. She is the perfect size and personality for us. She has a wonderful spirit for adventure. As long as she does not lose sight of Lucy, she is a happy dog. (Sounds like me)…

As luck (and our GPS) would have it, we were routed right past Lucy’s favorite hot-dog restaurant “Coney Island Drive Inn“. This wonderful eatery is located in Brooksville Florida on Highway 41. Lucy lived in Brooksville with her parent and spent her senior year of high school at Hernando High. Lucy and I married in 1968 and our first trip to Coney Island for a delicious foot-long Coney Dog was in 1968 – go figure. Nice people, and a dog friendly patio. Sierra even got her own bowl of ICE water…

Since we didn’t encounter any more – must stop – food joints… we finally arrived at Holder Mine. Trip organizer Aldous Cosmo Gitles was already set-up in a prime campsite and we settled in right next door. Beer was on ice and the huge Oak trees made setting up in their stately shade quire pleasant… “Cosmo” as his numerous Land Rover friends call him, is always the perfect host…

Turned out old friend “Jeep Jockey” Don and his sweet little dog “Maggie” were set up nearby. Don recently bought his new Heartland Edge and a gorgeous fire engine red Jeep to tow it with. Don is a commercial crabber from Largo, Florida and he surprised with some hot, fresh, just out of the fryer soft shell crabs. Deeeeeeelicious. Thanks again “Donmeister”…

Since Lucy was the “Only Woman” I had plenty of assistance setting up camp. Lets just say she never had to ask for anything more than once… The “Guys” made her feel right at home and much “loved”.

Everyone was anxious to hit the trail. Soon as our “City” was built and gear was stowed… Cosmo yelled out “LINE EM UP!” and we were off in a cloud of dust…

It only took a few minutes and a few miles, before Alex stuck his Rover. Then the real fun began. It’s why we all came. ;O)  Tree straps ready, winch grinding and he was quickly and efficiently underway again. A fantastic bunch of guys driving some incredible British Iron and some of the best trails in the state. It’s on………..

The rains had the trails in excellent condition. Dust was minimal. Another great, FLRC trail-run complete, we returned to camp to prepare our evening meals. Great food and big a big fireside planning session for our next full day of off-road adventure…

Our campsite was fantastic. A constant breeze and tons of shade. The night time temperatures were so cool we actually slept under our covers. The moon was bright, the fire flies were abundant and the stories around the campfire went on and on… Another great day and—– I got to sleep with “The Only Woman”

Spokesman, Dave

To be continued:

$12.50 a can!

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One little tip I would offer about camping anywhere – don’t shop at the concession

Even though we packed very, very, carefully we did overlook two critical items; marshmallows and MOZZIE SPRAY. “No worries” I thought “I’ll just cycle over to the little campground store and buy some.” Well… they had no marshmallows, but the did have repellent. Twelve fifty a can seemed quite pricey, but I think the park had made a deal with the mozzies. “You keep biting the campers and we will split the profit on the spray.”… I bet I won’t forget that item on future trips…

We had a great nights sleep – no mosquito bites – and we arose early, for coffee, breakfast and a bike ride to the springs. The temperature was unusually cool, but her “Majesty” still enjoyed our thrift store fan….

During our four decades of camping, we have tried many, many, different ways of producing our morning brew. We tried all of the “tips” for making simple “Cowboy Coffee” and it sucked. We went from fancy – Coleman stove top drip coffee maker to a paper cone sitting on top of our mug. Nothing we have previously tried makes better coffee or is easier to store and clean-up than our  Aerobie, “Aero Press” coffee maker. This light weight little brewer just never fails to please… I might nickname it “Lucy”.

Since I unfortunately suffer from the “Big 3”; Type II Diabetes, chronic kidney disease and ultra high Triglycerides we eat very healthy meals. I enjoy the “new vs old” combination of cooking gear. On the one hand our Primus “EtaPower” stove is the latest and best in fuel saving efficiency, but we choose to cook our vittles in our, 50 year old, “Wagner”, cast-iron skillet… Everything seems to taste better when prepared and consumed outdoors…

We enjoyed our coffee and breakfast of turkey bacon and O.O.C. eggs and then we loaded up the bikes for a leisurely ride to the cooling Wekiwa Spring. Of course, we cleaned up and organized our campsite, before we departed. The ride is basically a two mile nature trail. Tons of birds, squirrels and even a couple of browsing deer. We arrived early and had no problem scoring a ringside seat on one of the many comfortable benches, located around the perimeter of the crystal clear spring. The entire park was spotless and free of any type of litter. As many of the novel writers say.. “The water was gin clear”…

Lucy was anxious to get in the water, but she found it a little colder than she anticipated. “I can’t feel my body.” she yelled “I am numb all over.” Bad news for me. The springs is large enough to accommodate a large number of people and never felt crowded. People of all ages and many nationalities were enjoying Mother Nature’s swimming pool…

My Pentax “Optio WG2” underwater camera, had no problem capturing Lucy’s floating image. We can’t wait to return to this pristine place with our grandchildren…

The “Swimmin Hole” is huge. Definitely room for everyone. Shady parts for people like us and lots of sun exposure for the “thong clad” sun worshipers.

Do not leave your bikes at home. Two-wheel travel is the best way to get around on the smooth pavement of the park roads. Traffic is light and motorists were careful. There are nine miles of off-road trails for those wishing to explore the natural world – off the beaten path…

To be continued on day three.

All the best from,

Spokesman Dave

Kayak Delivery and tenting at Wekiwa Springs

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When we recently sold “Stillwater” our twenty foot long, three cockpit kayak the owner said “Will you deliver it to my grandfather’s house, if I pay for your gas?”… Thought for a minute and replied “Heck yes.” I just figured Lucy and I would make it a fun road-trip with a couple of stops along the way…

Packing complete the night before… we were up with the morning sun…

Set the Garmin GPS on “Back Roads” and with full cups of coffee we were on our way.

Road conditions were perfect and traffic was nonexistent. We drove for a while on the “Florida Cracker Trail”. The recent rains had everything looking like the “Emerald City”. We love the low and slow byways that take us through quaint towns and offer constantly changing points of interest. I find the Interstate Highway a path of last resort. Lower speeds equate to less fuel consumed and less stress on our brains…

I thought Sierra – our cute little American Eskimo Dog – was growling in the backseat. I listened carefully and heard it again several times and then realized it was not Sierra. Turned out it was Lucy’s stomach. “Are you hungry?” I inquired… Receiving a positive response we started looking for an appropriate lunch spot. Just over the next hill the perfect spot appeared. A shady parking spot for the Land Rover and a cool, shady, outside deck that was dog friendly…

Food was delicious and our waitress made me feel right at home…

The Butcher Shop – right across the street made us think about our daughter Aimee. She and her Fiance’ have opened “Heaps Meat Processing” in Hartsell, Alabama. They are already very busy providing meat cutting services to the local populace…

Bellies full we resumed our trip to drop off the boat as Sierra snored in her crate. The scenery just kept getting better and better. We both love central Florida…

In only a little longer we safely delivered our cargo. The Land Rover seemed happy to be free of the one hundred pound load on it’s roof rack. I know the new Owners will have many wonderful waterborne adventures in their new craft… Mission One accomplished we resumed our travels toward our reserved campsite at Wekiwa Springs State Park. We were really looking forward to setting up our brand new tent and heading for a swim in the seventy two degree, crystal clear spring…

Oops. One more stop on the way…

Lucy was hungry AGAIN sooooooo… another pit stop. This time for a large, chocolate malt milkshake. She made me get one too…

Finally…

New Kelty Green River Four all set up and gear stowed. Time for a bike ride to the spring. I was very happy to be finished driving. Seven hours behind the windshield…

“Mee Mee” Lucy spotted the wheelchair assist, for getting into the cool water and immediately thought of our incredible granddaughter, Alexis Jade Spencer. Alexis is wheelchair mobile due to cerebral palsy. She loves to swim and this convenient lift will be fun for her to try… Once in the water she swims like a Mermaid…

Even though the waters of the spring were beckoning, we were both so tired we decided to return to camp to prepare a healthy supper and enjoy our polar plunge first thing in the morning… We were lulled to sleep by a gentle rain falling on the roof of our tent and enjoyed the best nights sleep we had had in months… To be continued.

Part Five: “Rusty” Restoration

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Sorry we have been off line for a while.

When we last spoke, Rusty (aka Voyageur) was on his way to Pam’s Motor City. We had high-hopes for Pam’s but it turned out bad. She called “Pat’s Body Shop” (owner has 44 years experience) and he said “No way.” basically he said it was not repairable and mixed in a lot of other problems. Bottom line was – they did not want to tackle the job. Said there was a lot more rust than I thought there was.  I never met the man or spoke to him. Pam assured me that he had a lot of “Up North” experience with salt damaged vehicles and it was an impossible task. Disappointed to have still another dead end, I pressed on…

The staff at Pam’s was very courteous and it was not their staff that turned it down. They don’t do any body work. I did schedule a four wheel alignment for my Land Rover.

Fearful of all the “Additional rot and rust that the body man said I had… I opted to pay $75.00 to have it towed fourteen miles to my next to the last hope “The Cobra Shop”. I had a previous visit with Mike and he was pretty sure they could do the job… Colonial Wrecker took it to Cobra… The grille and bumper are at home in my shop.

Lucy and I arrived while Mike was out picking up a sandwich, so we visited with Becky, until he returned. I spent some time inside “Rusty” retrieving a few more items that we would need on our Land Rover trip to Ocala, next week. Just a few minutes later Lucy tapped on the window and said “Mike is here…”

By the time I stepped out of Rusty”, Mike was already laying on his back under the front end. Mike spent some time examining the damage and then slid out to discuss what he saw. He indicated that the damage appeared to be exactly as I first thought – confined to the frame horns, forward of the spring perches. He explained how he would do the repairs. He spoke with a rare depth of knowledge and confidence. Mike went a step further and indicated that he couldn’t be one hundred percent positive until he had it inside and up on a lift. He seemed quite sure that there was no additional rust damage. He will be calling us first of next week with a thorough diagnosis, treatment plan and estimate.We are very optimistic…

“Worst come to worst”…

A few of our friends have asked us, “What will you do if “Rusty” just can’t be fixed?” Good question – answer – get over it. We will not let any problem that can be fixed, or was caused by money, steal our joy. Having a sick child, personal injury or loss of a limb could certainly dim our outlook. Anything else is just a MINOR set-back. As long as Lucy and I are together and our children and extended are healthy and happy… nothing else really matters. If I am with my Lucy, I am happy. It doesn’t matter if we are camping in a forty three foot, Cass-A, motorhome, Rusty, or sleeping in our Kelty Green River tent. We have chosen to enjoy every moment of our lives and to be grateful that we are a couple. While Paul was in prison and could have been killed at any time, his worried followers sent a representative to visit him, to discover his condition and offer their support. He told his followers “Don’t worry about me.” He went further and said I will honor the Lord in my Life or in my death. It doesn’t matter which.”

I feel the same as Paul. I am doing all I can to make “Rusty” roadworthy and safe. At the same time, I am not “Leaning on my own understanding.” I am “Acknowledging Him in all my ways and trusting Him to guide my path.” In the first chapter of James, Christ said “Consider it all JOY my Brethren, when you encounter various trials, for these shall build endurance.” Thank you Lord for the freedom of your love and the security of my salvation…

Stay tuned,

“Spokesman” Dave

Forty Four Wonderful Years

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On June 1st 1968 Lucy ignored her women’s intuition, threw caution to the wind and said those two fatal words “I Do”…

It was with trembling heart, weak knees and last-minute-thoughts of “what am I doing?” that Lucy walked, slowly and haltingly, down the long, satin covered isle, accompanied by the traditional – wedding march – to her waiting destiny. She felt her father’s hand grasping her arm. It was as if he was trying to hold her back. She was his baby. Lucy thought “Oh Lord. Please protect me from this over sexed, clingy, kind of nerdy man.”  I have spent the last forty four years trying to prove she made the correct decision…

I will never forget the joy that I felt when she first came into view. I couldn’t see her until she left the lobby, entered through the curtained French doors and began slowly gliding toward me. It truly felt as if my world had been changed forever, just by the sight of her shy, veil covered, smile. I just could not believe that this incredible woman, so much beauty, so many talents and so much hope and promise for the future, had agreed to happily hitch herself to my shooting star. It was there and then that God issued me my most daunting challenge. If HE let this marriage continue, I must promise to spend every remaining moment of my life making this woman feel; loved, safe and most of all… content. It has been the most rewarding challenge that I have ever agreed to… I pray every day that I have been worthy.

“You may kiss the bride”

An important note: Lucy’s gorgeous, floor-length, wedding gown was, lovingly crafted for her by my mother – Evelyn White Crook – of St.Petersburg, Florida. Evelyn continued to practice her craft up until a few years before she passed away at the age of one hundred four years.

Minutes seemed like hours as the minister led us in our wedding vows. The seriousness of the entire procedure brought tears of joy to my eyes. My voice shook as I repeated my parts of the vow. I pledged in front of God and man to follow every stanza. Was it possible? Did I really hear Lucy say “I do”. I had imagined hearing the words many times and often woke in extreme happiness, after having heard it in my dreams. This time it was real and it was forever. I get tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, all these years later, when I recall how I felt when the pastor addressed the entire wedding group and said “I now present Mister and Misses David Crook”. Nothing before it or sense has ever filled me with a greater level of JOY. “Thank you Lord” I silently prayed…

Stronger every day

As I watched my new bride, awed by her beauty and femininity, as she posed for the photographer, I thought with great certainty that no man could love a woman more than I loved my Lucy on this somewhat surreal, scary, emotion filled day. I was totally wrong. I have loved her more and more each day. Lucy has truly given me a reason for living and an amazing purpose filled life. Her enthusiasm for everything she attempts and loyalty toward everyone she loves, has set the mark for my personal life-goal each and every minute of my existence…

Divine Intervention

Our first meeting, whirlwind courtship and eventual marriage was truly divinely inspired. We met in a “Kinder, Gentler” time. Romance was rampant. Doors were opened and gentlemen gave up their seats on public transportation. Men rose when  a lady entered the room. Boys asked girls out, shaved and put on clean clothes before their date and paid for everything. It was a privileged to have the lady agree to spend time with the lucky gentlemen. As was the custom I asked Lucy’s father for her hand in marriage. He reluctantly agreed and asked me only one question “Do you love her?” “With all my heart and soul” i joyfully responded….

Not a “trophy wife”

To suggest that Lucy was a “trophy wife” would be wrong. The title would indicate that in some competition – the most difficult I could have ever attempted – I had “won” her. That would be totally and completely false. Nothing I could have ever done or will do in the future would ever make me worthy of “winning” my Lucy. I know in my heart and feel certain in my spirit – Lucy was a “Gift” from GOD. Only the Lord in his infinite knowledge and loving spirit could have ever allowed me to spend my life with such an amazing woman. Every breath that I take. in Lucy’s presence makes my life more wonderful and insures my ability to find joy in every circumstance I encounter and love for everyone I meet.

Corny? Perhaps. I don’t care. If you don’t know what I mean, think I am over-the-top or just don’t get it I am sad. You just haven’t found “your” Lucy. Thank you Jesus…

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