November 2015 Homossa, FL – Peace River, FL

3 – 17 November, 2015

Homosassa, FL has several attractions that makes staying here enjoyable. Tomorrow I am leaving Homosassa to travel to Wauchula, FL where I’ll park my RV on the Peace River for three weeks. Tom Mason and I ride bicycles each morning and try to kayak in the Homosassa River when we can. The Manatees only arrived on the 15th as they are leaving the colder water in the ocean and coming up the rivers to the warmer spring heads throughout Florida. These flowers are seen each morning as we bike ride through the park:

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Homosassa River

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Five of us from the Homosassa River RV Park visited the Riverside Crab House Restaurant for dinner. A small Island visible from the restaurant sported monkeys! Then the sunset from the deck was just awesome. I had ‘Shrimp and Grits’ from the menu. A very spicy but tasty meal!

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We learned of crabbing at Pine Island Beach near Weeki Wachee, Tom loaded all five of us (Tom, Jane, Paula, Tina, Cindy) into his van and we went with the intention of catching dinner.

The Motley Crew 11-5-15

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Luckily we caught 5 crabs. One crab did indeed fight for its freedom! The crab grabbed hold of my finger and was attempting to crush the bone! That hurt for another day. But once steamed and eaten all was good! Of course the beer to wash the crab down helped too.

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Crab fresh from the Gulf 11-5-15 1

Old town historical Homosassa features a Veterans Memorial as well as the Old Yulee Sugar Mill. There is a park across the street from the old Sugar Mill and next to it is a restaurant/lounge called the ‘Mill’.

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Sugar Mill

Veteran memorial

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On November 12th I celebrated my 63rd birthday starting the day riding a bicycle with a friend. After breakfast I left Homosassa, FL to spend a long weekend in Rainbow Springs State Park. The Rainbow River is the clearest and cleanest river I have ever seen. A couple of days ago Cindy Shannon and I kayaked several miles from the spring head to Swampy’s restaurant where we enjoyed an adult beverage and an early dinner. Being with friends, sharing dinner and having calls from all over the nation wishing me a happy birthday made that a truly awesome day.

Rainbow Springs is now a Florida State Park but at one time it was a zoo and a rodeo. Tarzan scenes were filmed at Crystal Springs and elsewhere, not here but the 60’ falls and head spring pool and waters are an awesome sight to see.

Rainbow Springs

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The Rainbow River is a crystal clear fresh water river that is home to all kinds of birds, fish, otters and turtles.

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Walking the nature trails at the Rainbow State Park Campground found us some interesting plants.

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And these two ladies (Patti and Cindy) are showing us how to scare a Florida Black Bear!

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Each evening we would gather at Jane’s Motorhome to prepare dinner and talk the night away around the fire.

Jane's fire pit

Cindy and I finally made it to the Homosassa Wilderness Park that is just a mile or so down the road from us. It is a zoo type environment for rescued animals.

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These Manatees weigh as much as 3,600 pounds! In captivity they eat lettuce but have no way to work off the fat. In the wild a Manatee weighs as much as 1,500 pounds. We watched as volunteers scrubbed the algae off of each Manatee. In the wild the algae that grows on a manatee while they are in fresh water is killed when the Manatee returns to the salt water of the ocean. The barnacles that collect on their skin is naturally removed when the Manatees enter fresh water in the winter. These mammals require warm water to survive.

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Of course no visit to Florida is the same without an alligator or two!

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The resident panther.

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American Bald Eagles

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Red Wolf

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Owls

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Flamingos! What would Florida be without the Pink Flamingo?

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Now onto the Peace River in and around Wauchula, Florida!

18 November 2015

I drove a couple of hours south of Homosassa to arrive at Wauchula and the banks of the Peace River! Cindy Bulechek and I visited Peace River to hunt for Megladon teeth in March 2011 and loved this locale!

I initially settled into a spot that I couldn’t quite get level and as I checked into the front office to give my site assignment I learned that I could use the open sites on the river. Yep, jerked up everything and moved lock, stock and barrel to sit on the Peace River where I can launch my kayak directly from where my RV is parked. There are lots of roads here to ride my bike for exercise as I will need breaks as I complete my book while here. I’ll miss traveling with friends, but at least I won’t have any of the drama associated with traveling with others.

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What wonderful view of the Peace River from my campsite!

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I’ll keep a close look out for the alligators and snakes as I go to my own private little beach to fish and launch the kayak!

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The Peace River as seen from my chair in the campsite!

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The campsite is finally set up. Bicycle ready √, Kayak out and ready √, Carpet down and table cloth on √, Awning out and power hooked up √, Cold beer from fridge! √, LIFE IS GOOD!

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20 November 2015

I’ll never tire of being around nature. Each day I’m amazed by the abundance of butterflies, birds, flowers, green trees of all kinds – Palm trees, large pine trees covered with hanging moss. I was able to prepare one of my favorite meals, Korean Kalbi BBQ Ribs and grilled veggies!

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The Thousand Trails RV Resort at Peace River is a beautiful park with lots of color.

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Today I chose to kayak on the Peace River and then to hunt for fossils. The absolute peacefulness is difficult to explain as I paddled up river for an hour and a half against the strong current of the river. The 20 minute ride back to my campsite was surreal as I was able to capture some photos.

Floating down the river I have an ‘other world’ sensation as if I am in a prehistoric place, waiting for the Jurassic Park effect of ancient reptiles to emerge from the murky waters of the Peace River! Now if the waters of the Peace River were as crystal clear as the Rainbow River all would be better!

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And then I see my campsite!

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The view from my campsite!

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21 November 2015

A day of learning for me! Carl, an old time fisherman from the RV Park is an older tall lanky man with an unknown accent. He comes through my campsite on his way to the Peace River and his favorite fishing spot. I was fishing on the small beach just below my campsite and there was a fisherman in a kayak just across the river and across from the location Carl had gone.

Carl’s favorite fishing hole is a place where the water is still on the outside corner of a bend in the River. He has to fish from a muddy shore where someone has placed a board to give some ground support. I keep hearing ‘I got another one’ over and over. As the Kayak fisherman is leaving, empty handed, he tells me that the fish are only biting where the water is calm.

Carl finally finishes his day of fishing and as he approaches me he tells me with his broken English that he has too many fish. I ask him what kind of fish he has caught. He tells me that he has caught many Tilapia. I thought Tilapia was some kind of exotic South American or Hawaiian fish. I see Tilapia on the restaurant menus and in the stores but always pass them by as I have little experience grilling fish other than Salmon.

He is lugging a 5 gallon bucket of water with his fish, a chair and a large tackle box. I offer him a ride, he tells me he is muddy and I tell him that is what a Jeep is all about and I drive him to his RV site where he lives year round.

I have a couple from St. Petersburg, FL tent camping a couple of sites down from me. This young couple take their fishing poles and radio to my little beach and set up shop to fish. I already have my fishing pole prepared and while I only have red worms instead of night crawlers I head to Carl’s fishing spot. Once there I balance myself on the board in the mud and cast out my line. I lose the bait a couple of times until I learn how to judge when I have a bite on the line. I finally catch a very large Tilapia that I am able to bring onto the muddy tree lined shore. It is here that I lose him! He has broken my line and is sporting the hook in his upper jaw. He begins to flop around and I let him go into the water rather than wrestle with him in the mud.

I notice that there are lots of bubbles coming up to the surface and that they are moving away from me and my now lost fish toward the other side of this calm bay. When the bubbles stop I notice the nostrils of a large alligator pointing toward me just 20 or so feet from me. I cast out my line a couple of times but then give up the ghost and leave the alligator to the fish!

Later Carl rides up on his bicycle and brings me his largest fish stating that he has cleaned them all and shared them with his friends.

Little does Carl realize that he has opened Pandora’s Box! With this huge headless fish in my refrigerator I go where we all go to find answers in today’s world – GOOGLE. Yep, I watched YouTube videos on how to clean and fillet Tilapia and then the different methods of grilling and baking. What do I have to lose? So I get out Carl’s Tilapia and begin to fillet it. I don’t have a fillet knife but I’m able to do a decent job on this fish. I’m looking forward to placing these two fillets of Tilapia on the grill tonight. A little olive oil, Penzy Fish seasoning and a little Garlic powder should do the trick.

My tent camping neighbors were still fishing on my beach and I told them about the alligator. As we looked out, we see that the alligator is about 6 feet long and is moving away from the bay. So this couple go to Carl’s fishing spot and catch three good sized Tilapia that they give to me. Yep, I’ve cleaned and filleted them for a shared dinner.

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Dinner was rained out and we tentatively plan on a lunch of fish and grilled veggies for tomorrow. I can hardly wait! I’ve not cleaned my own fish and filleted them before. Another new experience.

23 November 2015

This is Thanksgiving week and my face book page brought up a memory of me in Camp Eggers in 2012 celebrating Thanksgiving with Mario Sto Domingo and Mark Farrar. So much has happened since then that I want to express my thankfulness for all that has happened in this past year.

This time last year, 2014, I was in Seattle with both of my daughters after returning from Kabul, Afghanistan in October. Emily and I made a cross country drive from Indianapolis with a stop in Albuquerque to visit my son Jeff. Alexis had been diagnosed with breast cancer just days after her 29th birthday for the second time and was scheduled for surgery to remove the tumors. The surgery was successful and after her port was put in place we departed Seattle for Indianapolis where we all could share the Christmas Holidays.

I am so thankful for the support from so very many people. Financially Alexis was devastated and received such generous support through her gofundme website: https://www.gofundme.com/Alexiskc as well as from checks sent directly to her.

While I am thankful for her recovery through the surgery, chemotherapy and radiation I am most thankful for her twin sister Emily. Emily proved to be such a strong and valuable care provider for Alexis that I was able to reach out and overcome the PTSD that I was experiencing from Afghanistan. Emily remained with Alexis in Seattle, putting her life on hold, to care for Alexis as she underwent months of chemotherapy.

I am thankful for the strength of my niece Robin as she battles a Chronic Pancreatic disease that has drained the strength from her but has renewed a spirit that makes her such an amazing role model for others suffering digestive diseases.

I am thankful for those who supported me as I searched for inner peace after 3+ years in Afghanistan. Colonel Ken Rodgers, Major General Harold Greene’s chief of staff in Kabul, joined me at Arlington National Cemetery to pay respects to our ‘boss’ and friend Harold Greene. I was honored to sit in the grass by the General’s gravesite and be able to share stories of our relationship with this wonderful leader and man. We visited Sergeant Major Wardell Turner’s gravesite as well to honor two of the nicest and effective leaders I’ve had the privilege to work with.

Ken Rodgers also invited me to attend a memorial dedication ceremony at Aberdeen Proving Grounds where he and MG Greene worked together prior to Afghanistan. It was there that I met Sue Meyers, MG Greene’s wife. I was privileged to share a few moments with her telling her of my experiences with the General and how he inspired everyone he met.

I am thankful to the other ‘battle buddies’ for their contributions in my journey of healing. Gina Parker took me to the sites in Wash DC and the Vietnam Wall memorial.

My LMI co-workers had a mini reunion also – Thanks Amanda McDaniel.

Cheryl Korver and I explored historic Virginia and I housesat with her rescued dog for a couple of weeks while working on my book.

Don Sheehan and I shared a few meals and I met some of his family and friends. Don and I explored Mount Vernon together and enjoyed learning the history of George Washington from his home.

Dana Pennell, Maile Parker, John Gruehl, Liz Grahm, Don Sheehan and others met for a mini reunion of those that worked together at the Nato Training Mission/Combined Security Training Command in Kabul, Afghanistan and Camp Eggers.

I was present at Maile’s wedding and met even more battle buddies from Camp Eggers.

Alex Chowdhury welcomed me into his home and reunited me with John Gruehl and I finally met Norma, John’s wife.

Jennifer Long and I explored off-roading in my Jeep at a New Jersey state park while spending a long festival weekend together. Paul Saunders showed me the Newport, RI that he grew up in and honored me with his wife as we celebrated the 4th of July.

I am thankful for the communications with the leadership from Kabul. Mark Peterson, Todd Schafer, MG Semonite and others.

All of these associations helped me to overcome the extreme grief I was experiencing after my friend and boss, Harold Greene was killed in action. Wardell Turner and Chaps helped me through the next couple of difficult months in Kabul and then on Thanksgiving, 2014 SGM Wardell Turner was killed by a Taliban IED.

I’m thankful that I have been given the opportunity to travel the United States and experience firsthand the beauty of our great nation. I have met many fellow travelers wishing to maximize their appreciation for this country we call home. I continue to meet with other battle buddies in my travels – Eric Mehler in Anacortes, Washington, Mary Eileen Earl traveled with me for 10 wonderful days as we visited Yellowstone Nat Park, Grand Tetons, Little Big Horn, Crazy Horse, Mount Rushmore, Badlands, Rocky Mountain Nat Park and Denver. Karen Reed and her family hosted me and showed Mary Eileen and me the best parts of the Rocky Mountain Nat Park.

I am so very Thankful that I am an American, that I can freely travel the roads of adventure within the borders of this diverse and wonderful nation. The world is at war with terrorism and nowhere seems to be safe. I have armed myself and I’m prepared to help protect the homeland on our own soil if it is necessary. I’m hopeful that our government leaders will make the decisions necessary to protect the citizenry of the United States and build upon our way of life, re-establishing the values and lifestyle that made us a great nation in the past. In my humble opinion America has deteriorated in the past several years and the patriotism and work ethic that built this great country must be found again within the hearts and minds of us all. GOD BLESS AMERICA!

29 November 2015

Thanksgiving has come and gone. The campers that came to the Peace River RV Resort for the holiday weekend are packing up today and departing. It will be nice to have some of the quiet and solitude back.

I finally broke down and visited the doctor. On my birthday I stopped too quickly while on an early morning bike ride which caused me to fall on my right side where I rolled on the ground to prevent scrapes. I decided to visit the doctor because as the pain has subsided and I have stopped my physical activities of biking and kayaking, I have a ‘gurgle’ in my lungs when I bend over and I still have a shooting pain when putting pressure on my left arm. So I learn that I have ‘Displaced right seventh rib fracture laterally’. I’m not certain what th at means other than I have a broken rib. Apparently there is nothing to do for it but to take it easy so that is what I’m doing.

I grilled three batches of veggies to for my side dish on Thanksgiving and this crowd seemed to have enjoyed it!

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I did visit the Pioneer Park, Cracker Trail Museum just a mile or so down the road.

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Unfortunately it was closed but I was able to walk around and see the buildings that have been located on the grounds.

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Train

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There is also a Wildlife Refuge park on the grounds.

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I think this is supposed to be a scorpion but I’m not sure!

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As the Peace River is going down after all the rains I’m hopeful to go fishing for Tilapia today. There are snakes and a 6’ alligator at my fishing spot so the water has to be down enough to be safe! But the sunshine is out, there is only a slight breeze and it is to be 81 degrees today.

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