Keep on Keeping On

The sky is overcast and the air has a wet feel to it, a reminder of the downpour last night. The grass and surrounding trees and bushes have a deep green look to them, happy and healthy from the rain. I can hear multiple frogs all around me, some behind, some in front, and a few to the sides. They are loud and I smile, thinking about how happy they are about the wet conditions. I know that in a few hours when the sun comes out, they will quiet down so for now, I enjoy their talking. I am sitting inside the camper, whom we have named KoKo (keep on keeping on), at the kitchen table, drinking some warm coffee and listening to some gentle music. I awoke this morning at 4:55am with Kyle as we do every morning. He leaves for work around 5:15, so we wake up, make coffee, he has a quick breakfast and then we say our goodbyes. I then go about my morning routine. I meditate for 20 minutes, do yoga, and then either go on a run or a bike ride. This morning I went on a bike ride. It was incredibly peaceful. Because of the rain last night the air is cooler, I even found myself a bit chilly in shorts and tank top. I pedaled down the road, observing the grayish blue of the sky, and watching as the sun would poke through from time to time casting a light on the tall Florida pines. I took deep breathes, gulping in the cool, fresh air. I smiled and stopped my bike for a moment when the sun was shining on a small sliver of the dirt road. I made my way back to the camper and sat down at my computer by 8:15am, in order to start the rest of my daily routine. Usually I spend 3 hours writing my book, but this morning I thought I’d do a blog update before I continue with my book. After 3 hours I take a short break, taking some time to stretch or lay out in the sunshine for 15 minutes. I then do some remote work for a couple hours, before diving back into my book. The day passes quickly when I follow my schedule, and I am making great progress on my memoir about the river trip. Not only am I doing great on my word count goals, but I feel really good about it. Kyle will be home from work around 3:30pm and that is about when I stop writing for the day. Often I finish around 3pm, and then I go sit outside for the last thirty minutes, reading, napping, or just laying in the shade observing my surroundings. Kyle is finding great success at his job and is very much liking it. He likes the people, enjoys the work, and is always positive about his days. His days are filled with a mix of design work, prototyping, and problem solving. He spends some time out on the factory floor, but mostly in his office utilizing the design program he went to school for and the company’s drafting table. I am so happy for him because he is doing something that he loves and has always wanted to do, and he is getting paid to do it!

We are absolutely loving the Airstream life. We have stopped staying at paid campgrounds, not so much because of the money, but because we found them congested, full of people, the sites too close together, and didn’t enjoy the paved roads running right by the camper. So now we are staying at a variety of campgrounds provided for free by the Southwest Florida Water Management District. We can stay at each place for 6 nights before needing to move. There are so many places that we alternate so we only visit the same place about once a month, and they are all within 20 minutes of Kyle’s work. This is a different type of Florida than I have ever known. It is rugged, overgrown, completely private and isolated, wild, and filled with endless wildlife. Each day after Kyle gets back from work we go on an outing. Some days we go canoeing, others we go bike riding, and last night we simply went on a long walk. Each of these camping areas are located within thousands of acres of land, and they have miles and miles of trails. Altogether, just in this Southwest area of Florida there is over 449,000 acres of untamed land! On Monday after Kyle got home from work we hopped on our bikes and rode 3 miles down an over grown dirt trail until we came upon two lakes; one on each side of the road. You can only get to this lake by foot or bike, so it does not seem a very popular spot to hang out. Kyle and I were the only ones there and it was a magical evening. We pulled our bikes up to a grassy area and went and stood on the edge of the smaller lake. Kyle went to the edge of the lake to get his hair wet, and what he thought was limestone was actually clay and the ground he was standing on broke and he slowly slid into the lake. I watched the whole thing happen and it happened in such slow motion that it almost looked like he meant to go swimming, but he did not. It was quite comical, but we also knew these were fresh water lakes in Florida, so quickly got him out before any alligators came along. Kyle dried off a bit in the sun and then we walked to the bigger lake. I found a small trail that led to this overlook of the lake (this time it was actual stone!). We laid out our towel and cracked open the cold drinks we had brought with us. There we spent the next couple hours, just lounging, chatting, and watching the numerous alligators and turtles that were moving slowly through the water’s surface. The alligator to our left was a baby alligator, and the one to our right was much larger. We giggled at the turtles as they poked their heads out of the water and would quickly dive back down. The nearest road was miles away and nearest development even further. We were surrounded by water, trees, grass, and sunshine. We would have stayed all night, but knew it was time to get back and make dinner as we get in bed quite early due to the early wake up. We made our way back the 3 miles and I cooked us dinner. I made chickpea pasta with red sauce and pan fried brussel sprouts. We set the table in the kitchen as there were too many mosquitos to eat outside. A candle was flickering in between us as we enjoyed our meal together. We sit down across from each other each evening and have a nice dinner together- taking our time to eat slowly and discuss a variety of topics. No phones or distractions, just the two of us and whatever yummy meal we made.  Kyle is my best friend and I feel so grateful I get to spend my afternoons and evenings with him every day.

My parents have come to visit us a couple times on Sunday mornings. They bring their two dogs and we hike, make breakfast, and just enjoy each other’s company. Last time they came we celebrated both of their birthdays. They brought a little pool for the dogs and Marley very much enjoyed it. I love when they come to visit and we always have a wonderful morning.

A couple weeks ago we bought a 17 ft. canoe because many of the places we stay have a river. It is either the Withlacoochee River or Hillsborough River depending on where we are. The last place we stayed had the Withlacoochee River running right by it. We canoed 5 of the 7 days we were there, and it was absolutely amazing. The river is small and shallow, so there aren’t any power boats and of all the times we canoed, we only saw one other boat. There are cypress trees surrounding the river and sometimes right in the middle of the river there is a big cypress tree. I love the roots of the cypress trees and Kyle and I are always fascinated by their reflection on the water. The water of the river is so calm and glass like that the reflection has a depth to it that I can’t articulate. I can see every tree, every leaf on the tree, every pattern on the leaves of the trees – all in the water’s surface. It’s almost as though you can look at the river’s surface and if you didn’t know it was the river, you would think it’s the actual thing. Kyle and I quickly found a rhythm together on the river. Spending so many months in Solvi rowing down the Mississippi has given us a connection with rivers and with being in a small boat together. We paddle well together, not needing to communicate with words, but navigating just fine through the sometimes very narrow passages of the river. One day we took the river as far North as we could, until we quite literally ran out of water. We reached a very narrow passage between tall grass and pushed our way through. We then pushed our way through another area of grass on the water’s surface, until we came to one last open area in the river. But then we couldn’t see an end to the grass in front of us, so we decided we had reached the end. The river is so quiet, so peaceful and we feel we have the entire thing to ourselves. Just us and all the alligators and catfish. There are alligators everywhere- ranging in size from baby to full grown. They are very scared of the canoe so the moment they spot us they slide off the shoreline or log or wherever they were basking. If we see one swimming in the water in front of us we will stop paddling to try and observe it because we know as soon as it sees us it will dive down. Sometimes we’ll be paddling along and an alligator we didn’t see will surprise us when it splashes into the water. Kyle and I are fascinated by these living dinosaurs and have a lot of respect for them. We also know what they are capable of so proceed with caution when navigating the river and if we ever get out of the boat, do so carefully. Two different nights I packed us a dinner and as soon as Kyle pulled up from work we loaded the canoe in the truck and headed to the canoe launch. We then paddled as far as we could the other direction, and eventually the river was blocked by large trees. So there we floated, surrounded by tall trees, dense overgrowth, and some random water plants floating on the river’s surface. I moved to the middle of the canoe where I laid out our dinner. Kyle sat in his seat and I sat cross legged in the floor of the canoe. We had a picnic and sat quietly, barely talking in order to preserve the tranquility of our surroundings. One night we had veggie sandwiches with carrots and hummus and another night we had veggie tacos with chips and salsa. Both nights the food was delicious, the setting incredible, and the energy was filled with love and gratitude.

Overall, we are amazed with the life we have created. Nothing is as we thought it was going to be right now, and nothing went according to the “plan”. But we kept on keeping on and allowed the universe to reveal its path and we followed it, trusting that everything was working out as it was supposed to. Our days are quiet, calm, and reflective. We spend so much time outdoors and even when we are inside the camper, all the windows and doors are always open, only screens separating us from the outside. I am breathing fresh air 24/7 and feeling that I live in nature. When we’re together we aren’t distracted, and we are fully present, often times just sitting quietly and listening and observing the natural world around us. Sometimes we will watch a movie before bed, but as soon as we turn it off, we can hear the coyotes singing in the distance, the frogs croaking, and the bugs chirping. It’s like a symphony of wildlife. Last night it was a downpour, so we just laid in bed next to each other holding hands, listening to the raindrops on the aluminum roof of the airstream and the thunder so loud that we could feel it in our chests. It’s cozy in KoKo and we are very thankful for her and all she’s provided thus far. Life is good!

And now it’s time for me to get back to my book, but first a quick update for those who have been asking about Sirocco.

Kyle and I had flights to Georgetown, Exuma, Bahamas for July 17th through July 20th. However, in order to be allowed into the Bahamas we needed a negative Covid test within 10 days of our flight. So we got the tests, and then waited and waited and waited for our results. They didn’t show up in time, so we cancelled those flights and bought me a ticket to go by myself on Monday, surely our test results would show up by then. But no, they did not. So we had to cancel that flight and now the 10 days had passed. So we scheduled another Covid test for me, and I was again going to try and go by myself the next week.. but then the Bahamas closed their borders to the United States. SO regardless of tests or flights, I would not be going to the Bahamas. This was extremely disappointing and difficult to deal with for the first hour after we found out. We had gone through so much logistical rigmarole by this point that finding out the borders closed was quite demoralizing. However, Kyle and I have a view on life that everything happens for a reason and that the universe has a plan, so we quickly changed our viewpoint, said our thank you’s because while it is not clear to us yet why we didn’t make it to the boat, we know it’s for a reason. But! That didn’t change the fact that Sirocco was still just sitting at anchor by herself and we are getting deeper and deeper into hurricane season. So yesterday I reached out to the person who we were going to rent a mooring ball from in hurricane hole 3. Within an hour two locals had picked up Sirocco’s anchor and towed her to her mooring ball using Skiffs. So she is now located in hurricane hole 3, the furthest hole in and the most protected. She is secured to a mooring ball that has been professionally installed and is checked every couple months. On top of this, we met someone via the Georgetown Cruisers Facebook page who is located in hurricane hole 2, right next to hole 3, and he will be staying on his boat for the rest of the season. He offered to keep an eye on Sirocco for us and to stay in touch. He even went and took pictures of her yesterday on her mooring ball for us so we could see her all secured. There are still a few logistics that we are working through because we are going to have her bottom cleaned and then are going to pay someone to go aboard and clean a few things up, remove her sails, triple her mooring ball lines, and double check that everything is battened down for any potential storms. As I’ve mentioned before, when we left Sirocco we thought she was only going to be alone for 13 DAYS. It has now been 5 MONTHS. So while we did a good job preparing her to be left alone, we didn’t do what we would have done had we known a pandemic was going to come through and separate us! So that’s why we want to have a few more things taken care of. Fortunately we already have someone lined up to clean the bottom, and to take care of the things onboard. We also have two different people looking after her, and feel that considering the circumstances, she is in the safest place there is to be. SO after a couple stressful days, we are feeling incredibly relieved and even more thankful for all the people in Georgetown who are helping us while we feel so helpless here in Florida. This has definitely been a situation filled with learning and growth, and mostly what I have learned is to let go. We have done everything in our power to keep our floating home safe. Kyle and I put so much time and money and love into that boat, and we were just starting to truly enjoy her when we got separated. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s also shown us that things always turn out as they should, and that people all over the world are good, and that asking for help from strangers is okay. So until we can be reunited with Sirocco, we will just keep on keeping on 😉

In the first photo the closest red circle shows where Sirocco was anchored and the furthest red circle shows where she was moved. The second photo is her safely at mooring in hurricane hole 3:

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“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.” -Douglas Adams.

With love,

Flipper