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Tybee Marsh

Tybee Marsh

Getting out of town was the transition I needed into retirement, again. I’d been out for five years, accepted a job again for almost two – and now I’m “really” retiring, at least from earning a living. There are many things I want to devote time to.  But it’s always been hard for me to separate from my last job because of the effort I devote to it. It’s always consumed me, occupying most of my thoughts and energy. I’ve never been one who could do a 9-6 and consider work finished; it’s always come home with me. Leaving the area was the physical and emotional separation I knew had to be done.

BusSo we dug our motor home out of hibernation, Mr. Bus “he’s” called, and got him ready for a relatively short jaunt to Tybee Island, off the coast of Savannah, the charming historic southern town about 7-1/2 hours from home.

Tybeemarsh3Tybee has the wildness I love – vegetation is rampant and most of the island is uninhabited by people, but lush with marshland and meandering rivers throughout. And, of course, the Atlantic Ocean kisses the shores. Here zoning prohibits high-rise anything – hotels, apartment buildings, condo developments, retail establishments. Three stories high are all that’s allowed and it’s that low-density commercialism that makes the island so attractive. Homes are eclectic ranging from small ramshackle dwellings to modern and expensive abodes overlooking the ocean or the marshes and lived in by residents of equal diversity.

TybeePaintedHouse1

 

TybeePaintedHouse2

TybeePaintedHouse7

TybeePorch        On morning walks with my vivacious Bella dog we discover secret “private” gardens that we explore (sshhh) and meet colorful people who live in happy, bright houses eager to swap backgrounds. As one older hippy tells me, many Tybee residents are retired professors and artists – or as he puts it

misfits who move to the island of misfits.” My kind of place!

We wander past Nancy’s house, a modest cottage in need of some TLC with impressive gardens. Tall plants of every kind populate containers peppered throughout her side yard of maybe half an acre. In the back are two greenhouses where she’s busy potting new plants. She’s been working on her yard for years, she tells me, as she names each plant she points out. Some are dripping with flowers while others tower overhead with large leaves – all plants shaded by enormous live oaks throughout. As we tour the garden she apologizes for sweating, explaining that her “prissy” sister-in-law would be mortified by the way she looks.  She loves kissing Bella and announces that her 19-year-old cat had just died, and, though the island is crawling with cats, she went to the shelter to find a new one to adopt. She invites us back later for an iced tea.

TybeePaintedHouse6Later, we wave to an older woman sitting in her moo moo sipping a beverage on the front porch of her charming purple house perched in the middle of an island of grass separating two roads. I explain to her that her house is our landmark for getting on the correct path to the campground. She’s used to that since many people driving by know her, evidently, well known home.

It is on our regular jaunt on a path through the park where we meet Jim, a man of 86 who lives in the nursing home around the corner. He was tooling through the park on his motorized scooter as he does everyday. One leg is amputated at the knee, the other leg is swollen and bruised, a byproduct of circulation problems he tells me. The twinkle in his eye tells of his joy for living – even in a nursing home. I’m curious about that life. I tell him that my father also lives in a nursing home – a beautiful, well appointed one that he hates.   He says that enjoying life was a conscious decision he made a few years ago after caring for his infirmed wife for a long time. When she died and his health declined he knew he needed to move somewhere that could take care of him. So he chose this facility on Tybee which is not as nice as my father’s yet he says it’s fine.

He moved in “with a chip on his northern shoulder” until he had an epiphany lying in bed one morning. He decided he didn’t want to be angry anymore, dissatisfied anymore, instead he wanted to enjoy the rest of his life.

 

So he decided to. And that’s when his life changed. He’s the president of his “block” and on the residents’ advocacy committee and friendly with his aides and nurses. He loves them and they love him. He talks to other disgruntled residents about how easy it is to change one’s attitude and then life can become joyful again. It requires accepting this stage of life and choosing to make the most of it. And voila, life changes. He says many residents ignore him. I wish Jim could talk to my father; maybe my father would ignore him too. I guess sometimes people don’t know how to change their attitudes.

BusDrivingTomorrow morning we head for home after a week here on Tybee. We’ve looked at houses here, for fun, to see if there’s something we would fall in love with. I have. So far, my husband hasn’t. He tells me it’s just a fantasy for me, that I’d be bored here after a while. Maybe he’s right. Maybe he’s not. I know I’d love to be friends with the eclectic people I’ve met.

On to more retirement living ….

 

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Everglades National Park, Florida

Everglades National Park, Florida (Photo credit: ajsadeh)

My favorite road visits are through National Parks, millions of acres of pristine wilderness stretching in all directions as far as the eye can see.  No honking horns, high-rise buildings or fast food franchises to jar you alert to human “progress.”  Just by standing still and breathing softly you can become tuned to the world of nature where tiny creatures scurry the ground usually invisible to our awareness.

The terrain at the different parks is as vast as the parks are large and I love being ensconced in the uniqueness of each one. Everglades National Park isn’t what I expected, but then my expectation was based on some fictional combination of alligators and swamps.  Yes, they’re both there but not in my Hollywood-esque

imaginative screenplay.  At least not the part I saw.  Had I taken a canoe ride through back country I might have experienced a different world.  But the one I saw on land bordering sloughs and sink holes and various grasslands and woods was rich with all sorts of species, including alligators.

Just along the Anhinga Trail in Royal Palm I counted 8 species of birds, including some rough-looking vultures, co-habitating in the slough with turtles, schools of fish and alligators of all sizes.  They were intermingled throughout a pond dotted with mangroves, willow reeds and something called Air Trees.  And the thriving ecosystem was abundant with babies of all kinds.  It amazed me that so many animals, some of whom were predators, could live in such harmony together.

there are baby egrets in this mangrove who were just fed by mom

There had to be dozens of visitors ambling along the boardwalk trail elevated a few feet above the slough’s water surface and yet everyone was whispering, allowing nature to do all the talking.  We all weaved our way through weeds, trees and grasses, as though this boardwalk grew here with everything else.  It was a glorious interaction with a thriving world just doing its own thing.

Another unworldly elevated boardwalk trail is the Pa-hay-okee Overlook across the “River of Grass” so aptly named for its paradoxical sensibility.  What looked like a meadow with tall reeds was

actually water with grass growing in it.  Had we stepped into it we would have sunk.  Here the dormant Cyprus Trees tower over its’ grassy neighbors creating a moody environment that inspires visitors to stop in our

tracks and just stare at the elements comprising such a picture.  There is some ground on which darts all kinds of creatures foresting for their food in this unique world.

There are a variety of trails inviting spectators to experience the 9 different ecosystems unique to the Everglades, which like other ecosystems around the world are starting to diminish.  Urban and suburban sprawl contribute to a change in water flow, endangering many species in this glorious spot on earth stretching 1.5 million acres of southern Florida.

It’s vital we continue to protect these earthly treasures.  They’re our precious heritage.

Which National Parks speak to you?

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Woods hold a secret

and whisper heartfelt whimsy

while I walk her path.

Trees line her walkway

while fallen needles cushion

steps that leave no trace.

 As winds blow  her leaves

 light teases through canopy

 creating shadows.

 There’s something about

 the smell of greens in nature

that beckons spirit.

It’s fresh yet musty

a paradox in action

the very nature of life.

It’s the woods alone

that breathe life into my soul

it’s my heart, my need.

Breathe deep, sit silent

as the secret whistles through

the sounds are revealed.


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Exploring the places no one visits is what I like best about RV life.  Campgrounds tend to be tucked away in rural settings where there’s room for acreage at reasonable prices.  It’s unusual to find a site inside a populated city so, for example, in Jacksonville, FL we’re staying in Yulee, FL.  Huh?  you say?  Exactly.  We actually could have gotten closer in to city limits but Yulee happens to also be where there’s a Yamaha dealership to get new tires for the motor scooter, so Yulee is where we dropped our power line.  And Yulee is where I went exploring on my bike.

We’re not in a fancy campground, to put it mildly.  This place has just 60 sites, the majority of which are occupied full-time by people who the ad calls “retired.”  My guess is they’re unemployed – either on disability or for some other reason.  And this particular campground is a cheap place to call home.  I wave to them on my jaunts with Pogo and stopped by for a visit with Gail whose small bus is parked across from ours.

Knuckles, a McCaw from Brazil

Knuckles and Hanna were the draw for my visit.  They were climbing all over Gail’s doorway enjoying the cool breezy morning.  Neither would let me pet a back or head, which is a real

Knuckles let me get closer

Hanna, the grey cheek parrot hanging upside down in the door jam

now she's closer and right side up

disappointment when you’re a pet lover who has to pet.  Gail, herself, is a weathered looking woman whom I guess to be 5 – 10 years older than me.  She doesn’t work either although she looks quite able-bodied to me.  She was cautiously friendly, at least enough to tell me about her beautiful McCaw and grey cheek parrot.  She’s lived here 18 years but just bought her very used bus a few months ago.  Before that she says she’d stayed with someone.  I left it at that.  Since our visit we wave as we both go about our independent business.  That seems to be the way of this campground.  It’s a neighborhood, of sorts, where everybody just minds their own business.  As I walk around I imagine the individual lives that take place inside their small fiberglass or tin confines and I realize that everybody has a story.  (I think that’s a good subject for a book or a documentary).

The nearby neighborhood also has a lot of character populated with folks who wear their lives on their homes.  Take a look and see what I mean.

This guy's yard was crammed with treasures

more treasures

This fellow had a chicken coop in the back, ducks running around the yard, vegetable gardens surrounding and bird houses everywhere! Seems to me he's self-sustaining.

miniature dogs everywhere, some of whom loved my loving!

This house was right across the street from...

this house! Go figure...

And THIS house had a GIANT ocean toy on its side yard

These houses are not destination sites for the typical tourist, but for me they offer much fodder for imaginings.  What do these people do?  How do they spend their lives?  Do they socialize with their neighbors?  Why the overwhelming trend for miniature dogs? How often, if ever, do they make it into the city since we’re 16 miles from Jacksonville’s northern city limits?  Endlessly fascinating questions for me.  Rick calls them my talk show questions.

Everywhere we go there’s an opportunity to visit sights on nobody’s destination list offering a taste of how some locals live and usually not the wealthy ones.  The areas farther away we visit in the car – like this community near a large State Park and the Amelia Island beaches.

gorgeous live oaks border the street with homes tucked away in the back

trees with moss dripping from branches

And of course no ocean side community is complete without a walk on the beach and long connections with the ocean.

say hello to Rick

and me

wish I'd seen said turtles

ocean front lot for $275k right on Amelia Island beach! Any takers?

The whole package offers a rich experience that journeying in an RV can provide.  We pack up, hit the road and drive for 3, 4, 5 hours with no destination in mind except a general direction and a plan to stop when Rick’s tired of driving.  And wherever we land, people live there.

What sparks your imaginings?

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Things go wrong in a bus, that’s what my husband’s always telling me.  They break.  And he’s right.  Something is always happening in our 36′ long traveling house.

Sunrise at Tybee Island, GA

Yesterday we pulled into our campground space in Jacksonville, FL and while unhitching the car discovered that the pull bar attached to the car had broken.  The knob was missing and now it wasn’t locking into place anymore; we’d been towing the car with just one locked pull bar.  Had to have happened somewhere between Tybee Island, GA and here – just a couple hours south.  So here we sit until the guy at the shop ascertains whether it can be fixed for under $200 or discarded for a new one that will cost a whole lot more.  I vote for the first option.

That’s the latest mishap and might even have been caused when Rick backed up the rig for a couple feet with car attached – a BIG no no.  Now we know why.  Make no mistake, this RV stuff is NOT a cheap past-time.

So for fun, and because the shop guy was nearby, we decided to visit an RV show that just happened to be in town this weekend.  It’s always fun to see lots of buses and compare their interiors.  Plus there are many Class C’s (with the overhead sleeping cab) and 5th Wheels (the kinds you tow with a pick-up truck).  They all have a variety of lay-outs that can truly overwhelm the senses. And, of course, that’s what happened.  After a while they all blend together, making it impossible to remember whether the wood floor interior was in the same rig that had the huge walk-closet.

But one really caught our eye.  It was the mother-lode of Class A’s, (the bus looking rigs – like the one we have) 42 feet long with marble floors, Corian counters, gorgeous cherry wood cabinetry, leather-ish furniture and a cove ceiling rimmed with the same wood.  He was a real beauty; more kitchen counter work space than any other we’d seen.  Full size frig/freezer, dishwasher and washer/dryer — both of which we’d have taken out, opting for the extra storage space instead.  Just loved this Winnebago Tour coach.  It’s interesting to see how the interior designs improve each new year, addressing consumers’ wishes and complaints.

New rigs now have 3-4 slides, walls that slide out from the sides of the vehicle adding more width to the living space once you’re parked and settled in.  Our current bus has 1 slide.  This one has 4!  If he’d been 36′ rather than 42′ we might have succumbed to an impulse.  But he is just too long.  Once you add a car on the back you’ve got about 54′ feet rolling along highways.  Too long and too heavy for some older campgrounds and National Parks.  Not necessary.

So we’re now back home in our 16 year old Mr. Bus, cozy and comfy.  I still love him; he’s got everything we need.  Except a working tow hitch.  Grrrr…

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If only I could bottle the smell of salty air and marry it to the white crests of waves crashing to shore, I’d be able to visit my favorite sanctuary more often.  Relive Tybee Island beach with me …

Something about the ocean draws everybody in; well, almost everybody, other than my husband. He’s not the beach, bike, walking kind.  We’re a perfect pair; while I take out my bike and tool around the island, stopping for a long walk along the beach – he stays in Mr. Bus to organize stuff and shop for supplies and groceries.  My text to him sums us up:

Me:  “sitting on the pier, staring at the ocean and eating my apple.  Life is good.”  

Rick:  “found Wal-Mart.  Life is good.”  

Not kidding.

Tybee Island feels a bit like Cape Cod with its casual, unassuming style and its understated store fronts and restaurants, though its beaches are better for walking.  They seem to stretch forever, encouraging miles of wandering without bumping into rock jetties or “private property keep out” signs.  And today was a glorious cool one for the occasion.  Some pelican looking birds kept dive bombing into the waves and came up chewing.  Guess it was time for lunch and the fishing was good.

A number of people seem to live here full-time as neighbors congregate for updates on each others’ lives.  Many of the tourist shops are still closed, readying up for high season business.  And lucky for me that included ice cream parlors, preempting the testing of my willpower.

It’s a great island to bike.  Generous riding lanes line the main drag through town – highway 80- and narrow neighborhood streets meander in front of charming, colorful houses – Jimmy Buffett kinds of houses.

Island kitty

 Of course I had to stop along an alley to visit with this sweet young girl just spayed, her belly still shaved displaying big raw staples as souvenirs.  She couldn’t have cared less as long as sunbathing was available and some good loving from a stranger.  I’ve never met an animal I didn’t love.

My favorite stops in Mr. Bus are always the natural ones: national parks, oceans, woods, lakes, forests – that’s where I want to be.  I can hear myself think and my heart fills with joy.

A million ideas pop into my head and now with my cool iphone4S I can record them for playback in lieu of taking notes.  I love the snapshots of life and imagining what people do with their days and their lives in this home town – whichever home town it is.

Our bus offers that.  Slow travel.  Rich, vibrant travel.  I always say – where ever we go, people live lives there.

Tomorrow we play in Savannah.  It’s Rick’s BIG birthday so he gets to call all the shots.

Stay tuned …

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It wasn’t the best start for an extended trip, but then every adventure in the bus includes some kind of mishap.  My husband’s always telling me that we’re driving a house down the road and things are bound to go wrong.  Luckily he can fix most anything, or get the right people who can.  So I may be inconvenienced a bit, but never have to fix the problem.

Today we discovered (I say “we” but really mean “he” since I never drive) that the battery for Mr Bus was “low.”  That translated into meaning the steps into the coach wouldn’t lower and the stabilizers wouldn’t level.  But both were over-ridden when we turned on the generator to power up everything.  Ok.  No problem.

Then in the middle of a busy I75 heading south the side view mirror flew off.  Oops – now you can see the cars in the right lane, now you can’t.  Meanwhile, we’re a 36′ long bus, close to 30,000 pounds, towing a car;  it’s kind of important to see who might be in the right lane before moving over.  Luckily the top half of the mirror was still intact, so hubby “just” needed to lean far over the steering wheel to see, best he could, who might be in his blind spot.  OK then, no biggy, for me that is.  Now that we’re in for the night he’s off in search of an RV supplies store to buy a battery and a side view mirror.  This is day one of our multi-week trip.

All that said I love our Mr. Bus.  He’s not fancy by today’s standards and he’s a 12-year-old diesel pusher.  But he’s roomy and comfy and loaded up with the works:  frig/freezer, microwave, convection oven, coffee maker, toaster oven, 2 TVs and full bathroom.  Usually, everything works just fine.  And we get to travel around and taste slices of life from spots we decide to call home for however long we feel like staying.  It’s the best.

Tonight we’re south of Atlanta.  Tomorrow we’re headed to Savannah.  Why not?  It’s a very cool city and I hear the ocean calling my name.  After that?  Don’t know yet.  Visit and find out!

So for the next 6 weeks my blog will be about our travels.  Can’t wait.  Hope you stay with me and enjoy!

What are your thoughts about RV travel?

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