Gold Looper Reunion…

Well you cannot keep a Looper away from the water for long so on 1/13/13 we set off by van for the Gold Looper Reunion which was to be held on Hutchinson Island, FL at the Marriott Resort. This would be an opportunity to gather with couples who have completed their Loop and share stories and break bread.

On our way down we had plenty of time as retired folks should never get in a big hurry. We used to travel when we had jobs and had to adhere to a strict schedule, so if we saw something interesting along the way we usually had to just pass it by. Now I can try to convince the Admiral that it might be a worthwhile side trip and mostly she agrees.

Our first stop was tinged with sadness. One of Jan’s old roommates, Frances Goliveski, had lost her battle with cancer while we were in Canada. She was buried in Valdosta, GA and we detoured our first afternoon to attempt to visit her gravesite. With the help of a kind local lady and her daughter we found the Valdosta Hebrew Congregation Cemetery on a rise at the rear of the local cemetery. Frances’ family had owned a small department store and were well known in the community. We lingered awhile and left the traditional stones on the plot to indicate someone had visited. Jewish custom provides that the headstone not be erected for eleven months and perhaps we will return for that ceremony.

We ended our day in Ocala at the La Quinta Inn. We got used to staying in LQ’s when we had Daisy because they welcome pets and we got tired of smuggling her into other places. Once at a Holiday Inn in Vidalia, GA, a man in the elevator told Jan, “Pardon me madam but do you know your towel is moving.” She would wrap Daisy in a towel to sneak her out to take a walk.

The second day we decided to leave the Interstate and travel the back roads and I had a bucket list item to check off so cross-country we went. Our first stop was an investment in our future. I say ours but Jan says it is not in her planning so in case she goes first I need a backup plan. That meant I needed to see The Villages, America’s Friendliest Hometown. You have probably seen their ads on late night TV. It is where old folks go to stay young.

We found and drove around The Villages where 93,000 young at heart people live. Not really sure it is our cup of tea but at least I saw it.

Next we were on to check off another bucket list item. For more years than I can remember I have seen billboards along the highways for the Ron-Jon Surf Shop, “One of a Kind”, yet I had never been there. I intended to visit while we were on The Loop but it did not happen, so we made our way to Cocoa Beach and checked into the LQ on the ocean with a beautiful balcony view and set out to the Ron-Jon store a few blocks away.

What a place! Everything you need for surfing under one roof. What, you didn’t know I was an old surfer? Here is the picture to prove it.

I purchased a Ron-Jon T-shirt and we went to dinner at the Sunset Grill right across the street from the Sunrise Diner. There was a bit of excitement about as soon as we sat down. A couple of ladies had parked their Honda CRV next to the building. It was a five speed manual transmission and they left it in neutral. Apparently when they came inside the CRV decided to take advantage and leave on it’s own. It rolled backwards across the parking lot and slammed into the side of a parallel parked Tahoe! It was a rental so the driver was not as upset as he might have been. Of course he thinks the rental company will just deal with the CRV’s insurance carrier and he can walk away. I did not disabuse him of this notion though that is not how it works.

On the third day we traveled on A1A all the way down the east coast. It was slow but scenic. And along the way we traveled along the Treasure Coast where the 1715 Spanish Plate Fleet was wrecked in a hurricane. There were ten ships carrying tons of gold, silver and jewels. This loss bankrupted Spain and created a place where modern day treasure hunters still find valuable treasure. If it is on the beach in the State Park you can keep it, believe it or not. If it is in the water it is the exclusive property of the leaseholder who purchased the salvage rights from the state. Of course many small boats are anchored out there claiming to be lobster fishing! The state gets 25% of all recovered and it has been in the hundreds of millions. We found all this out by stopping at the McLarty Treasure Museum where for $2 each you can get a treasured education. Money well spent.

For lunch we ended up in Vero Beach and got those Best Thing Ever chocolates found nowhere else on earth and ate at my daughter’s eatery. We spent a week here on the Loop waiting to repair our props. Remember?

The Marriott Hutchinson Island Resort was really swank and we met some interesting and friendly folks there. None of them were people we had actually met on our Loop but still we enjoyed the gathering. On a side trip Thursday we visited the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum. This was also a treat to follow the origin and development of this elite fighting force.

Found a great little breakfast spot on our way out at Jensen’s Beach.

On the way home Friday we decided to stop off at the Magic Kingdom for a couple of days. How stupid can we be? Arriving at Disney World in a misting rain we first got in a wrong lane and ended up at the Hollywood Studios when we needed a hotel. After extricating ourselves we made it to the Carribean Village only to discover that you just do not drop into Disney on a holiday weekend and expect to get a room. So cancel Disney and off to Leesburg to visit Jan’s aunt and uncle Dr. Bill and Jean Elmer. We had a wonderful dinner and caught up on all the news. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Tavares, the city where we had attended the Wooden Boat Show on the Loop. We got the last suite available as a major antique furniture show was in town. Sheer luck I guess.

On Saturday morning we met Jan’s Aunt Peggy, who is 88, for breakfast at the Cracker Barrel in The Villages. What an interesting lady. She drives her car, lives alone and is sharp as a tack. Jan should live about forever so I probably can forget The Villages.

We finished up our trip home by searching for the basis of one of Jan’s family history stories. You can read about that side trip on another entry called A Place In Time or Little John and the Rattlesnake.