This year’s Valentines Day campout wasn’t what either of us expected. I was to be on the Florida Trail, and was afraid that I was not going to get to spend it with Sandy. Once I was back home, we talked about backpacking part of the Florida Trail across Three Lakes for Valentines Day. But I thought it was silly we’d spend so much time driving alone in separate cars to set up a Valentines Day hike.
Instead, I suggested, why not take the new VW Westfalia camper on its maiden voyage? We’d drive it towards Gainesville and use it as a base camp to check on hikes for our next book, Five Star Hikes Gainesville and Ocala, including some Florida Trail sections along the way. A working holiday…
Now here’s where the plan goes astray. All because I went and looked at a cool old sailboat in December.
Having lived on a sailboat in my past, I still dream of doing it again. Only this time on a smaller more manageable one and sharing the experience with Sandy. Every once in awhile I find myself visiting forums about small livable sailboats. In December while visiting a site about what I believe may be our future home on the water, I noticed that many of the questions were being answered by one person. Time and time again, I would read him explain repairs and upgrades to new or dreaming future owners. I saw where he had given his phone number to someone in an offer to help. Looking closely, it was a very nearby area code!
So I sent an e-mail, explained who I was, and what I was hoping to do, while asking for an opportunity to see his boat. Yes, I’m intentionally leaving out the make and model, so you’ll have something look forward to read about in the future.
When the time came, I met them at the dock. There in the slip was the nicest of these sailboats that I have ever seen. With his wife, we climbed on board for a wonderful tour. The boat had two cabins, separated by a small but roomy center cockpit. Plenty of room for the three of us to spend the next couple of hours visiting.
Stay with me, we’re almost to the part where our Valentines day plans get changed.
As I was telling them of the years I spent working on the Space Shuttle program, they said “you might know our neighbor.” Mind you, Kennedy Space Center was its own little city, with thousands of people in hundreds of buildings. When they told me his name was Dennis, the story became even more twisted. After leaving KSC over two years ago, I had heard that my friend Dennis had inherited his grandfather’s hunting cabin in the Ocala National Forest. With no way to contact him, I left them my card and asked them to give it to him the next time they saw each other.
Now here I am, picking up our VW camper from the garage to bring home for our Valentine’s Day trip when the phone rings. It’s Dennis, and he’s up at the property. So instead of heading for Gainesville, we headed off to meet him there. And oh, what a workout our Westy got on the jeep road leading to his hunt camp!
When we arrived, I had an added surprise. Another old friend was visiting Dennis – who just happened to be someone I had worked with for years on the early Shuttle landing crew, and had been in the Boy Scouts with back in the 1970s.
We never did get to the Florida Trail. But it rained, so Sandy didn’t mind at all.