Wind Beaten

Holy wind! The drive north through Oklahoma and Kansas, right through Iowa and to Illinois kicked our butts gas mileage wise. Not only has the price of diesel skyrocketed, the winds continuously throttled our trailer, crosswind for ¾ of the journey. Compared to our average fuel mileage towing of 18 mpg, we averaged 15 mpg with the winds. Egads … It may not sound like much of a drop, but when travelling 2000+ miles @ US$4.19 a gallon average for diesel fuel, I certainly take notice! At least we made it safely to Sycamore, Illinois, where we were hoping to spend a few days with our dear friend Barbie June. Feels good to be ‘home’.


The Twilight Wernig Zone

Welcome to the Wernig zone. Once you enter, you’ll never want to leave. This earth isn’t real, all this is a mirage. Or so it seemed.
We were invited to join Nate, his wife Amy, their daughter Zan, Dayna and a gathering of other friends for a pasta dinner unsurpassed in its deliciousness. Nate LOVES to cook, and skilled he has. Mad chef skillz. We rode our with Brandi and Lee, thinking that the 75 minute commute was better shared, especially when coming and going together from the same residence. We brought along our wash kit, just in case we had the chance to grab a quick shower before returning home. When we left, the dz was sultry warm with sunshine abundant. And, when it was time to return with Brandi and Lee, we opted to stay overnight, catching a ride with Nate to the dropzone in the morning. Comfy warm and inviting defined their beautiful home. Laughter consistently bounced off the walls. Nate’s high energy and Zan’s excited peals of laughter made our stay unbelievably inviting. When the morning arrived, we were savouring the freedom of no boundaries or pressing tasks. Nate decided to take the day off and we played inside as the temperatures outside rapidly dropped.
As so was our week. With each passing day, we decided to stay yet another. Intense cooking sessions made for a delightful feast each and every evening. 4 days and 4 nights of relaxation, shopping extravaganzas at the HEB plus, excellent ‘lasagna’ conversations, beard dyeing, twirling, dancing, napping, marathon computer / writing / blogging, meeting Aidan (Nate’s son), mad acrobatics with slaDE and Zan plus movie sessions plus wicked late night meals, which made for a reluctant departure from the Wernig household.  The fact that temperatures dipped down well-below freezing (raining at times but profusely always cold) each and every night made for an easy decision to stay ‘just one more night’.

Nothing like home

The weather was miserably cold and rainy from the day’s beginning, and the beer light was turned on quite early, considering all the tandems had been turned away and most skydivers had either packed up shop to go home or had declined to even show up, with the carry-over from yesterdays shifting weather front. Another day of no-jumping meant more time to hang out with friends and catch up on the year we’ve just had.

Being the social drop zone that Skydive Houston is, an invitation to Nate and Amy’s house for their traditional Sunday dinner gathering was offered and we happily accepted. An entertaining laughter-filled evening with friends was had. So happy to be back, experiencing the growth of this new burgeoning home for Skydive Houston.

Gastronomical Delights

Our last full day with visiting our friends Patrick and Ann Egan here in Sarasota. And the adventures continue! Morning yoga enlivened our waking bodies before attending to a piece of citrus heaven.

We made a trek out to Mike’s homestead (Patrick’s brother) … 10 acres of burgeoning citrus trees waiting to be plucked of their lush and season-heightened fruit. We must have picked 40 lbs (1 full grocery bag and knapsack filled to the brim) of organic oranges, madarines, grapefruit, tangerines and lemons. Juicy and seedy lusciousness which undoubtedly has proven to be the best and sweetest citrus I’ve ever had the pleasure to savour. The trick will be to see if we can eat them all before they perish! Vita-Mix a.go-go. We however need electricity for Vita-Mix creative concoctions, and our next shore power stop won’t be until our weekend Houston arrival. I do believe that the fresh citrus pickings will survive for a few weeks. I must admit, this truly has been the most delightful end to our Florida stay-cation.

It’s been an incredible culinary delight over the past week, with succulent (and more often than not seafood) dishes either cooked or ordered each and every day. What a gastronomical treat! It truly feels as if we have been on vacation, with our retired hosts spending the week showing us around the city, by car, beach and boat. Today, we wanted to offer a decadent meal offering in return. When in North Carolina, we were gifted with a Venison roast that has been waiting patiently in our freezer for the opportunity to be slow-cooked. Today was the perfect day.

The garden out back of our host’s home was filled with fresh herbs that adorned our creation …. oregano, thyme, rosemary, coriander, and a hot chile pepper gave the stewed concoction a remarkable kick. A can of beer, a swig of wine and water with garlic and red onion provided a gravy of complete decadence that excelled beyond my best culinary masterpiece to date. Patrick offered a Mexican pot of pinto beans to the mix. 9 hours of simmered preparation led us to a meal of incredible taste bud divinity. A beautiful savoury spread, with plenty of leftovers for the journey ahead has completed our week of heaven in Sarasota. We’ll be back … the question, as always, is when!

On the road again tomorrow …. I so need to get back to my normal routine of earlier meals with will-power and fervent detox dedication. I swear I’ve gained 15 lbs just in the past 3 months!

Life is a Beach

More beaches to explore with Siesta Key and Turtle Beach  … parasailing, shell collecting, siesta fiesta (afternoon power nap), tube dude searching, Thai food savouring. All with the great company of our friends. It’s been an amazing week, and I’m somewhat sad to leave! Having an open invitation leaves me satisfied that more exploration and discovery is in order for our next visit.

Skydiving memories

Interesting how years can pass since seeing an old friend, and when meeting up by chance, it seems as if time has stood still somewhat.

I had this experience today. I ran in to an old time skydiving friend from my packing days at Lake Wales. We’re going back 15 years +. We’ve had no contact since then, be it via email or facebook or life in general. But one look at Jeff Dudley upon glancing at his face, I knew instantly who he was and the connection we once had (I was a packer dating an amazing man and Jeff was the drop zone airplane fueler / handyman / load organizer dating a sweet girlfriend of mine, back in the day of carefree and frivolous fun). It was if time had stood still and a flood of flashback memories tickled my brain, and I was transported back in time to a period of so much happiness and adventure. If I remember correctly, Jeff was the one who had indoctrinated me in to the Muff Brothers skydiving club, member #1245.

Jeff himself hadn’t changed a bit. And reliving memories of a time when life was dramatically different (yet strikingly similar) is fun and fulfilling for me, seeing how far I have come. Times like these have me feeling blessed for what I have, for the good dear friends I have made and kept over the years, whilst appreciating my life and husband even more. A walk down memory lane is awesome, especially when it brings kindred spirits together after such a long time. A lifetime away really.

BTW: What is a Muff Brother, you may ask? The initiated skydiver:

Must dock on a dive which includes at least one “Muff Brother” while wearing a pair of muffs.
As a “Muff Brother”, you are entitled to “MUFF DIVE”, cut in on beer lines, and are required to out skydive everyone else on the load.
The card one receives is good for ONE FUNNEL.

High rolling in Orlando

slaDE~ and I met Said Ismail about 6 years ago at the Wind Tunnel in Eloy Arizona. I was recovering from my injured wing, and had yet to get back in to skydiving, for fear of not being fully healed. The prospect of testing the strength of my shoulder was tempting with the wind tunnel at our doorstep. And then Said came along, heard my story, and offered me 5 minutes of time for free in the tunnel, sharing in his block. What a heart-warming and most generous offer! Complete strangers became instant friends that day, and ever since, both slaDE and myself have kept a nice connection with our roving French friend. Upon hearing that we were in Orlando, Said insisted that we be his guests. Several days were spent exploring Orlando and the Real Estate jungle as we accompanied Said and Sara on their adventures as they whirled and twirled their magic. For once, I am at a loss for words to describe the richness of our time as slaDE and I were whisked through parts of Florida in the yellow Chevy ‘Transformer’ Camaro.

Said and Sara are ‘tea people’. We savoured so many different brands of delicate herbal teas. I was in heaven :). Lots of yummy food, wines, chocolate covered popcorn, burritos and Thai soups.

Creating New Beginnings

“We build too many walls and not enough bridges.”
~ Isaac Newton

“Love builds bridges where there are none.”
~ R. H. Delaney

Who said that you had to build just bridges in order to create new beginnings?? Today, slaDE and Michael built a ramp for our newly-minted Canadian friend Minna. It was incredible to witness these men creating a harmonious and accessible living environment for a brave woman in a wheel chair. We actually met Minna in a covert moving operation this summer, but it was a brief encounter focused on achieving a goal for a friend. However, our time here in Florida brought us together again, and for this I am forever grateful!

Minna is awesome. And incredibly inspirational. Her story? She has been in a wheelchair since 2005 and on August 6, 2007, Minna made her first skydive EVER. Since then, she has become an active base jumper, sprint kayaker, road racer, adaptive rower and sponsored athlete with a fantastic story and vision to convey. To me, this is a pretty impressive feat which displays much courage and determination. And to think that Minna has ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly called Lou Gehrig’s disease) is unbelievable. This disease apparently neither slows Minna down, nor does it hamper her enthusiasm, vitality and persistence in and for life. From what I’ve witnessed thus far, the slightest bit of fear that Minna may have towards any aspect of her life is quickly overcome with belief in herself, in her passions, persistence and drive to be the best that she can be, for her two children and for herself.

I have much to learn from Minna. I’m very grateful to be here in Florida for another 3 weeks to get to know her better, exploring the depths of compassion and friendship, delving in to understanding my own believed limitations and fears in life.

“Every life has a story, every story has a lesson.” ~ Oprah

Being Where We Need to Be

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides,
that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

~ Kahlil GibranThe Prophet

An emotional day of new beginnings, spontaneous road trips, closure and endings. Today we were exactly where we needed to be. Offering support and aid when nothing else could be said or done. When a family member in our skydiving community passes from the surly bonds of this earth, we all grieve, knowing that for those left behind, the pain is greatest. For the dearly departed, their spirit is free and they’ve been granted eternal wings.

Rest in Peace David. Thank you for the breathtakingly beautiful sunset tonight.

Fiery sunflower

High Flight

by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air….
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor even eagle flew—
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Bill: Moments of true happiness

Bill!One brilliant thing about Summer being over is the fact that our dear friend (my boyfriend) Bill is not as busy with his travelling nomadic ways and hence is available to spend more quality time with us / mE! Oh what a blessing. In the case of Bill, 80 something is the new 40, except when it comes to energy levels. Otherwise, Bill is ever keen to participate in any activity that we can dream up, spending quality time together before he heads south to Mexico for the winter.

A month ago, when the leaves were splendiferous in all their glorious vibrant technicolours, Bill sashayed through the leaves with us over by the Talisman, lending to a very colourful afternoon. And just last week, Bill was my date at a tremendously inspiring evening of music and stories focused on the plight of the homeless. Bill and slaDE~Despite the candid somber topic, it was actually an uplifting and emotionally charged venue with Tim Huff reading from his book ‘Bent Hope‘ and other very talented musicians and authors exploring the topic and Tim’s writings through voice and song. Hearing Bill’s wise viewpoints on such serious topics is always of great interest and always leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy, knowing the friend that we have forever found in Bill.