Sherri, Nathaniel, and Baba Ghanoush

Shortly after I place the add in Craig’s List: Used RV for Sale, we get an e-mail: We are VERY interested in your Fleetwood Pace Arrow, that goes like this:

              Hi there.
My husband and I are looking for an RV and live right up on Big Coppitt.  We’d like to know if we could come and take a look at your Fleetwood this week.  We are moving out of the Keys in mid- to late-June to embark on an adventure across the country and are hoping to buy an RV within the next couple of weeks.  We checked out your blog and it looks like you’ve been living the life we are hoping to start on!  🙂
             Thanks so much and looking forward to your reply!
             Sherri
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 Maybe after all Baba Ghanoush will continue her exciting travels with adventurous people aboard.
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Here is how Sherri and Nathaniel showed up to see Baba Ghanoush for a first time:
Nathaniel and Sherri

Nathaniel and Sherri

Turns out Sherri and Nathaniel are the right guys for Baba Ghanoush. A young couple with three cats: Tigger,  Stinky Pete, and Fink, they are off to New Mexico to learn about sustainable house design and alternative building methods,  harvesting electricity from solar panels, wind generators and hydro turbines, rain water harvesting, filtration and storage; to help build an off-grid self-sufficient community, a complex of  greenhouses, gardens and homes powered by sun and wind and a truly sustainable organic farm using renewable sources, all part of a project called The Solar Ark. I will devote a separate post about it, it is mind-blowing.

Nathaniel and Sherri telling us all about The Solar Ark Project (inside Baba Ghanoush, after many beers)

Nathaniel and Sherri telling us all about The Solar Ark Project
(inside Baba Ghanoush, after many beers)

Sherri, a marine biologist, environmentalist, and teacher at the local college in Key West, and Nathaniel, with a Civil Engineering knowledge  and a building background, plan to eventually build an alternative off-grid college with a program focussed on sustainability, where students will participate in building the campus themselves and will learn everything from history of sustainability to solar and wind power, natural medicine, canning and preserving foods, composting, etc learning not only theoretical but also all the practical skills needed to build and support various alternative green-energy installations. The college will be off-grid politically too: no accreditation, no student loans (which Sherri believes are evil).

Sherri

Sherri

The System uses people, it is not made FOR the people,“ she tells her students. „In the Capitalist system, people are not important. Capital is. You are nothing but creators and distributors of capital. You work to make money and your life revolves around spending it. It is all wrong. We are exhausting the planet’s resources and nobody cares. The way we presently live in the USA is so screwed up. I want to change things.“

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Nathaniel studied Civil Engineering in college and when he asked if he could combine his Civil Engineering studies with Environmental Engineering, they told him he couldn’t. Had to choose one or the other.

Nathaniel

Nathaniel

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But isn’t the whole point combining these two fields for a better future of building and housing? It’s ridiculous. We have the knowledge and the technologies at hand, we just refuse to apply them and use them for better purposes. All we need is around us. All is interconnected. I am in love with the idea of having a garden, collecting water, and raising chickens,“ he told us.

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We stayed up until 2 a.m. talking with Sherri and Nathaniel that first time we met them, drinking beers in Baba Ghanoush (they instantly fell in love with her and decided to buy her). And it was not enough. So they came back the next day with a bowl of delicious garlic-filled baba ghanoush and pita chips, and we now spend every possible free minute together: at our boat, or at their pool, or at their parent’s house near the river. As a matter of fact, they were just here today again; brought us a bike, gave us a canoe, an underwater film camera, two pairs of sunglasses, books, fishing gear, four limes, and bunch of other things they will not take on the trip. And they are not planning to come back here. They also promised us an aloe plant and a bunch of herbs we will take with us on the boat.

Neith, Sherri, we are absolutely inspired by you guys and so proud that Baba Ghanoush will be a part of your journey!

Way to go, Baba Ghanoush!!!!!!!!

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Pix from the pool party

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Sherri, Viktor, Mira

Sherri, Viktor, Mira

Maya and Viktor

Maya and Viktor

Ivo, Nathaniel, Sherri, Maya, and Viktor

Ivo, Nathaniel, Sherri, Maya, and Viktor

Nathaniel, underwater with beer

Nathaniel, underwater with beer

Nathaniel, Sherri, Maya, Viktor, Mira

Nathaniel, Sherri, Maya, Viktor, Mira

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Used 1988 Fleetwood Pace Arrow For Sale

Time to sell Baba Ghanoush. We cannot possibly take her with us on the boat around the world, can we?

(You wish )

Best fishing spot on our way to St Petersburg

Best fishing spot on our way to St Petersburg

We started this journey in the beginning of November 2012 leaving home in search of the perfect boat, driving this suspicious-looking motor home from marina to marina all around Florida, living in city parks, marinas, and parking lots, never going near expensive over-regulated  campgraounds.

Laundry time ...in the beach showers...

Laundry time …in the beach showers…

The motor home we named Baba Ghanoush. Her spirit was free and adventurous. She was our home and vehicle, our indestructible spaceship and comfortable refuge, our whale in whose belly we felt safe. We ended up loving her as a person. We took care of her.

The Historical Washing of Baba Ghanoush

The Historical Washing of Baba Ghanoush

But now „home“ is Fata Morgana, our boat, and Baba Ganoush is ready for new owners. Only, I worry a lot about her future and I wish the new owners will treat her with love and respect, as we did. We don’t want to just sell her to anyone. There is a criteria to be met by the candidates. They better be good or else.

Early morning exercises, Cape Coral, Florida

Early morning exercises, Cape Coral, Florida

We moved all our stuff from Baba Ganoush on the boat and are mentally ready to sail. Only, the boat is not ready yet and we feel kind of stuck here in the boatyard still working on the keels, still waiting for parts we ordered to arrive . Two weeks ago, we were sure we would be in the water in a few days. Now, we are not so sure any more… Everyone keeps asking us When are you going to splash? And frankly, we don’t know. Maybe in a week, maybe in a month. Whenever Fata Morgana is ready.

In the meantime, Baba Ganoush has been emptied and is ready for new adventures.

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The Nudist French-Canadians in Miami

After the Boat Show in Miami, and after our RV gets out of the auto service center, we start looking for overnight spots in safe areas in Miami while negotiating the catamaran in Key West and all the details around the contract and the sale.

The first night we sleep undisturbed behind a Publix store, and the next, in front of a 24 hour Wall-Mart in Hollandale Beach where we discover in the morning a small yellowish ticket on the windshield of our sleeping Baba Ghanoush saying “ No commercial vehicle parking between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. : fine $104.“  Baba Ghanoush IS NOT a commercial vehicle, she is an RV (Recreational Vehicle) and as a matter of fact, we were not parked, but stopped (people inside the vehicle). Next, we freak out, we find the police department, and we gently fight over definitions with a nice policewoman, who finally gives up, says, you are nice young people, and don’t do that again, and indulgently acquits us of all the charges. Great!

Now, back to finding a safe overnight free parking spot in Miami area for a 32 feet 1988 suspicious-looking RV…

It’s getting dark and we pull over behind another Wall-Mart in another part of Miami and just like that, accidently, the most amazing sight unfolds before our perplexed gazes. Baba Ghanoush stops abruptly, facing a population of  about twenty vans and campers of all sorts: big and small, new and old, almost exclusively with Quebec registrations, stationed in the most remote corner of the parking lot. There are also a few commercial tractor-trailers parked between the campers, a few permanent vans where homeless locals live, and some mini-busses. Not a single normal car. It looks more like a campground than a Wall-Mart parking lot.

In the middle, between the campers, there is a group of tanned men in their sixties wearing nothing but shorts and sandals, holding beer cans, staring at us, their conversation interrupted.

Bonjour, we greet them friendly in French-Quebecois, but it’s hard to break the ice. We join the gang for the night, instructed on which spot to park. We obey. We are not absolutely sure what is going on here, but we feel safe, among compatriots. We sleep.

This little off-grid campground, whose precise location I am not going to reveal as I now feel very protective of it, exists for many years. Its unknown French-Canadian founding fathers first settled here decades ago and each year spend six of the harshest Canadian winter months in Miami, near shopping and near the beach. More precisely, near the nudist beach, as these are no ordinary snowbirds, but nudist snowbirds, who don’t pay for campsites in crowded over regulated campgrounds. I absolutely admire them, and I can’t believe the local authorities are letting it happen. Maybe there is a reason why no one disturbs them and the police car slowly passes trough a few times a day with no objections. Living in the area half the year, they are supporting the local economy by spending their Canadian pensions in near by stores and restaurants. Plus, they occupy only a fraction of a humongous parking lot in back of Wall-Mart, which, if the no overnight parking rule was enforced, would remain deserted and unused anyway. Thus, they don’t bother no one and no one bothers them. I think, that’s the way it should be.

We spend a few days there, trying to fit in, accidently breaking some of the unwritten rules and regulations, like: taking someone else’s overnight spot, running the generator too close to the neighbor and thus ruining his atmosphere, using the water from the little water pump near the fence for washing our Baba Ghanoush in broad day light, and having too much fun at that same water pump taking late-evening cold-water bucket showers. Next time we’ll know better.

The Historical Washing of Baba Ghanoush

The Historical Washing of Baba Ghanoush

We spent a few great days there. We met new friends.

Marcel helped us fix an electrical problem with our RV and took us to a nice park and a pizza buffet; Stephanie from Switzerland introduced us to her dog Mapuche; Nicole thought me how to do crochet and how to make beautiful knitted handbags out of plastic bags; and we spent the last evening before heading off to Key West sitting in our folding heavy-duty camping chairs, under the parking lot lights, sipping warm beer, and sharing funny stories with Alex and few other guys until midnight.

A handbag made out of Dolarama plastic bags.   -by Nicole Cloutier

A handbag made out of Dolarama plastic bags. -by Nicole Cloutier

Evening socializing at the Wall-Mart French-Canadian nudist campground.

Evening socializing at the Wall-Mart French-Canadian nudist campground.

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Maya’s Corner

I am so happy, I got a flute from a guy named Phil.  And I keep practicing but it is really hard and I loose my pacience. But I know with practice I will be an expert someday. Phil has at least a dozen flutes and he plays them at the beach at sunset. He has all kind of sizes and some very special ones. There is one made out of turquoise. Mine is wooden and has a bison on it and strings made out of bison skin. Phil lives in a very very big RV with his wife Margie in Turtle Beach. Thank you Phil!

Maya and Phil at sunset, Turtle Beach

Maya and Phil at sunset, Turtle Beach

Sometime ago I was on Skype with Anne-Sophie, a very good friend of mine from back home. I always call her Anne-Sou for short. She speaks French. Back home, we play a lot wii, we ride our bikes and we do sleepovers. Me and her together we have a huge imagination. I miss my old friends and Anne-Sou… I love meeting new people and making new friends, but the worst part is every time we meet new awesome people they go away like after three days or after e few hours, or we go away.

In Turtle Beach, Mia was my new best friend for a week. Me and her were always together. In the pool we were splashing, playing with balls in the water, it was so fun! The second day after we met we thought about a sleepover. So we asked her grandma, and she said yes, and my mom said yes too! So we rushed to our RV and we packed up my PetShops, Bubba, my teddy bear, and my swimsuit. We planned what we were going to do at the sleepover all the way back to her condo. There, we had popsicles and we went back to the pool. After, we played PetShops all day and a bit of the night. Mia always sleeps with crossed legs and she sleep-talks. It was so funny. We wake up, and first thing’s first, we play PetShops.

Maya and Mia

Maya and Mia

The last day before Mia left, our families got together for dinner and Mia and me made a performance: Clown Act, Goblin, Ballet, Shower, and Restaurant. It was funny.

A bad thing happened:

We were supposed to meet Bear Grylls at the Boat Show, but the stupid RV broke down so we couldn’t see him. It was going to be the best day of my life but it turned out to be the worst day of my life… And I am pretty upset to write about it because it reminds me.

The drawing Maya made for Bear Grylls. (It's him standing next to a volcano)

The drawing Maya made for Bear Grylls. (It’s him standing next to a volcano)

The message on back of the drawing.

The message on back of the drawing.

But every time something bad happens, something good happens too. If the RV haven’t broke down I would meet Bear Grylls, but I wouldn’t meet Jasmine. She is my other best friend for a few days. Nickname- Jazz. She made me dice nail polish, white with black dots, and glitter nail polish on my toes, rainbow color. We watched movies together. Once we watched a really scary horror movie, so scary I almost peed my pants.

Jasmine and Maya

Jasmine and Maya

Dice&rainbow nail polish designs by Jasmine.

Dice&rainbow nail polish designs by Jasmine.

Next subject:

Two dogs wrote to me. Their names are Joppe and Tango. I like Joppe because he is funny and he said he can pee when they tell him to. Tango is cool too, he likes eating and he even eats carrots. I really wished I had a dog too.

I sell pot holders $2 each and two for $3. And it is $2 minimum, which means you can give $3 or $4 or more if you want to, but I am not forcing you. I don’t buy them, I make them out of my shirt sleeves and they can be pretty handy sometimes. I was thinking to buy me a skateboard with the money, but now I don’t know what will I buy, I am still thinking about it. I only sold one for $2 so far. I also found lots of seashells at the beach and I was thinking to start selling them too.

Maya's Pot Holders

Maya’s Pot Holders

When i am pretty bored I go swinging for like half an hour or more and I also sing when I swing. I sing about what will happen in my life or what already happened, or what I’d like to happen.

I love traveling. I loved the Everglades. It is fun to see all the trees and gators, it’s so cool.

I also like when my dad makes freshly squeezed orange juice. My dad is my favorite member of the family, he takes good care of us.

My favorite guest from the trip is Mia and this guy named Ray. He is awesome! He brings us lots of pizza and he has amazing stories. Once, when he was 17, he needed to go to California with an airplane but he ended up in Spain instead! It is a long story but a good one. He gave me awesome cookies! I gave him one of my pot holders.

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Mi Casa Su Casa

We leave Turtle Beach, direction: Miami Boat Show 2013, right?

We get to South Beach February 13th around 7 p.m. and our old RV (Baba Ghanoush) stops in the middle of Michigan Avenue, not far from the Convention Center (where the boat show will start the next morning), coughs, gasps, and, without any particular reason, dies. We push her large lifeless body away from the middle of the street to the side, in front of a fire plug (the only free parking spot near by). We sleep there, with one eye open, waiting for the police or the parking enforcement guys to show up any minute. Plus, it is humid and hot as hell, it’s South Florida…

The next day, still no parking ticket, the manager of the near-by building complex passes by and we tell him about our misfortune. We tell him not more than a few confused hurried words, trying to explain that we don’t want to take the parking space in front of his buildings, but we are kind of stuck. And than the most surprising thing happens: the manager, Azael, who doesn’t know anything about us except that we have two kids with us, invites us to take shower, use the laundry and even sleep in one of the vacant apartments of the building, furnished, luxurious, with two big bedrooms. For the first time in almost four months we sleep in normal beds! For the first time in almost four months we take showers in a private bathroom, and not in the beach, marina, campground, or sailing school public showers! For the first time in almost four months we have a private clean toilet, and we don’t have to run to the park, Walmart, or any other public restroom! And running water, and electricity, and a laundry machine! All those things people usually don’t even think about, made us so happy. We stay there for three days.

After three days and a few unsuccessful attempts to fix the RV problem ourselves, Baba Ghanoush gets transported to a service center by a tow-truck for $350. It’s Saturday, the service center is closed on Sunday and we have to wait until Monday or maybe Tuesday before we will see her again, running. So we are homeless again.

We go back to the apartment for two more days, before our Baba Ghanoush is finally resuscitated, for a total of $1, 035.

Bad things are always sudden and unpredictable and tend to occur in the worst of moments. But thanks to our RV’s little fit, we got to meet Azael, his beautiful wife Sonia, and their three kids, Shaun, Jasmine, and Kevin, who thought us a lesson of kindness and humanity.

And the boat show?

Well, that’s another story.

Azael and Sonya

Azael and Sonia

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Friends from Turtle Beach

We are on the move again after a full month staying in Sarasota’s Turtle Beach. We absolutely loved this secluded quiet place, away from the crowds of tourists down in Siesta Key. The park became our home and all the people we met there became our friends and temporary neighbours.Some are from the local community, others, visitors like us.

Toma, from Russia, now married to an American and living in Sarasota

The most avid fisher-woman I’ve ever seen, full of energy and laughter. With a contagious smile on her face and strong accent, she would tell us stories of horror and unimaginable endurance from the Second World War in Russia, where Nazi bombs killed all of her family, and she survived for years living in a hole dug in the ground, starving. She knows the value of proteins and she celebrates every fish caught on her hook.

Toma with a fish

Toma with a fish

John, born in Montreal, Canada, now lives in Texas

He would tell us the funniest stories in the morning, passing through the park on his way to his 6-mile walk. We hope to see you again soon and here some more of those stories! Say hi to your daughter back in Montreal, and thank you for the fish!

Jan and Tony, from California, now live in Sarasota

Authentic Californian hippies, they thought us how to fish for flounders and sharks. And with reggae music running through their veins, and ours, we spent together a crazy evening at O’Leary’s Tiki Bar down in Siesta Village. Road Block, a surprisingly good reggae band, plays there every Friday between 6 and 10 p. m. and the place is packed with dancing people.

Jan and Tony at the beach

Jan and Tony at the beach

Ivo with Desi Adams from Road Block in O'Leary's Tiki Bar

Ivo with Desi Adams from Road Block in O’Leary’s Tiki Bar

Candis, Harley, and Mia

On vacation from Fargo, Candis, Harley and their grand-daughter Mia, 7 years old, practically adopted Maya for a week, as Maya and Mia became best friends. They have rented an apartment in Tortuga, a condo near our park. The girls activities that week included: constant swimming in Tortuga’s heated pool; playing PetShops in Mia’s room; a legendary sleepover at their place; a very improvised dinner at our place in the park (with  a shower curtain for a tablecloth, foam dishes, plastic cups and no knives for the turkey and sausages I grilled on the BBQ); another dinner at their place with Mia’s parents, who came for a weekend to get Mia. Harley, who is a professional jazz musician and can play on various instruments, played the clarinet for us, and the girls performed last-minute choreographed dances and skits, and we all got cheek muscle pain from laughing too much.

Mia and Maya, drawing at the pier in our park

Mia and Maya, drawing at the pier in our park

Mia, Maya, and Candis

Mia, Maya, and Candis

Ray, lives in Sarasota

As a way to escape the daily boring routine, Ray delivers pizzas from a restaurant two evenings per week with his flaming-red convertible Jaguar. We met him thanks to Wally, to whom he brings food Tuesdays and Thursdays. He started bringing us delicious pizza from the restaurant that didn’t sell the night before, as well as salads, chilli, even crab cakes, and other masterpieces that he makes himself.

The first time I tried a salad he made, I felt (like the one who escaped Plato’e Cave to discover the real world outside the cave) struck and enveloped by light. I then realized with nostalgia, I’ve been living in some sort of a salad cave all my life… But most of all, we enjoyed ray’s incredible stories and company. Thank you Ray!

Ray's Crab Cakes...Yum!

Ray’s Crab Cakes…Yum!

Anna and Lucas from Bavaria, Germany

One day, they parked their car next to our Baba Ghanoush in the park and stayed with us for two unforgettable weeks. Nineteen-years-old, just out of high school, beautiful intelligent kids, they are touring Canada and America for a year before going back to college, sleeping in a car, cooking their own food on a small portable propane stove.

We thought them to fish at the beach, we trained at sunset following Lucas who is a track-and-field athlete, and, with two more Canadian friends who came to visit us for a few days, we went to Fort Desoto Park and we made sand sculptures.

Maya and Anna painting

Maya and Anna painting

Lucas training with Ivo and Viktor

Lucas training with Ivo and Viktor

Laundry time ...in the beach showers...

Laundry time …in the beach showers…

Fun time with Anna, Lucas, and Ivo

Fun time with Anna, Lucas, and Ivo

Anna and Maya working on a sand sculpture, Fort Desoto.  -photo by Lucas

Anna and Maya working on a sand sculpture, Fort Desoto. -photo by Lucas

Mira's sand sculpture

Mira’s sand sculpture  -photo by Lucas

We also grilled things on the BBQ and partied in the park, together with Wally, almost every night, around Ivo’s fires „made from scratch“ out of dead wood and dry  palm leaves.

BBQ time with Maya, Ivo, and Anna

BBQ time with Maya, Ivo, and Anna  -photo by Lucas

Once, Wally wanted to have roasted lamb like the one he had in Crete years ago, and so he makes me take a pen and paper and write down the necessary ingredients: a boneless leg of lamb in a net from Publix; mint jelly for coating the meat; elephant garlic cloves; a specific type of charcoal, and a Key Lime Pie for dessert. We get the stuff and Anna and I rub the meat with olive oil and salt, poke wholes all over and stick in slices of garlic everywhere. Then, we wrap it in foil and we forget it on the grill for about three hours. Best lamb all of us ever had!

I also made salad with the free vegetables we get from the market every week. (Same as in Saint Pete, we volunteered to help a farmer in Sarasota’s Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays, and he gives us, for about half an hour of work, three-four boxes full of Fruits and veggies. There is enough for all of us: our family of four, Anna, Lucas, and Wally for a week!)

Half an hour worth of produce.

Half an hour worth of produce.

After dinner, at about 10 p. m., Wally calls a 24 hr. Walmart, electronics department and wants to buy new two-amp speakers for his laptop, which we got for him from his storage. We listen to Wagner’s Flight of the Valkyries, full power, and it’s past midnight! The following days and nights, the park echoes with Wally’s favourites: Pavarotti, Leonard Cohen, Bob Marley, Willie Nelson. I can’t believe no one complains or calls the police. I guess everyone likes the music, we do. In any case, I promise myself we’ll get Wally some nice headphones soon.

The night before Anna and Lucas left, we took group portrait, 30 second exposure, with Wally asleep as a background. We miss you Anna and Lucas!

Mira and Anna, with Wally asleep

Lucas and Anna, with Wally asleep

Lucas and Anna, with Wally asleep

Anna and Anna, with Wally asleep

Anna and Anna, with Wally asleep

Ivo, Anna, Mira, and Lucas, with Wally asleep

Ivo, Anna, Mira, and Lucas, with Wally asleep

We love experiencing a place as opposed to just visiting it for a short period of time. Our plans are to return to Turtle Beach and our friends after visiting the boat show in Miami, and a catamaran for sale in Key West.

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Communitas. Genesis

The strangest thing. A small and almost unstructured community has come into existence right here, in the park.

A spontaneous and fragile birth of a tiny fruit-fly nymph: Dolania Ephemeroptera.

First, a family from Switzerland in an RV tentatively joins us for a few unforgettable days. Next, a young couple from  Germany travelling around North America by car decide to stay and stick with us for an undetermined period of time, hopefully longer. And recently, a woman with a dog currently living in a car, are often to be seen around. An intense and unfamiliar spirit of solidarity can be detected here, early in the morning, at noon, and late at night. As well as in between-time. It is defined, I believe, by the uncertainty of future outcomes. In other words, we are all staying here until they kick us out, or until we choose to leave, whichever comes first. But Wally says they wont because it’s up to him, and every time this sounds reassuring. Wally is the mayor (here in the park). He is not really a person, but a place. An icon and a legend, Wally is our nucleus. I will write more about him, as well as each and everyone of them in my next posts.

The Family from Switzerland

After two days and nights of undisturbed squatting in the park’s parking near Turtle Beach in Florida, a small rental RV joins us. Michele, un italiano vero, Claudia, his beautiful better half, and their kids, the six-years-old twins Laura, and Fabio, decide to move on the other side of the campground’s fence next to our Baba Ghanoush, where the grass is greener, the sky is bluer, there is no fees, no structure, no order (no showers, no electricity, no full hook-up).

Laura, Claudia, Michele, and Fabio at Turtle Beach, Florida

Laura, Claudia, Michele, and Fabio at Turtle Beach, Florida

They are on vacation from Switzerland, travelling all over Florida. We quickly become friends. Together, we are driven by the irresistible impulse to have fun. At the beach or (when the Red Tide is raging there) somewhere else. We play volleyball, we play football (the Americans wrongly call it soccer  but we are all with European roots); in the evening, in our park, we have BBQ and lots of vino. The kids, like innocent shamans, are playing with burning sticks near the lake. Fabio and Laura, who only speak Italian and some Swiss-German dialect which to me sounds as beautiful as butterflies, are teaching Viktor and Maya a song which they now only remember in their dreams. How is it possible that kids of different languages always find a way to communicate? Isn’t it magical?

Their feet covered with grey dirt,  fingers sticky, eyes heavy with sleep, the kids are transported into their beds in the campers. Tomorrow they will continue the game.

Around the fire, Michele continues to sing gently, and we all join in, the songs of Adriano Celentano, Toto Cutugno, and Al Bano and Romina Power. The night will never end.

A few days pass, and our new friends have to continue their journey. Departure is the saddest part of every friendship. We didn’t have enough of each other and yet it is time to say goodbye.

Who will sing to us Felicita now, Michele?

When will you play with Maya again, Laura?

Who am I going to photograph now, and how are we ever going to play football without you, Fabio?

When are we going to savour again the best spaghetti with tomato sauce, Claudia?

We miss you, guys…

Laura, Maya, and Fabio

Laura, Maya, and Fabio

The men washing the dishes at the beach showers.

The men washing the dishes at the beach showers.

The Unstoppable, Unbeatable, Football Legend: Fabio

The shy but ambitious Fabio. Before the game.

Fabio, a frail little guy, but feisty.

Claudia and Fabio playing football (soccer-am.)

Claudia trying without any chance of success to score a goal against Fabio

Two players: Maya and Laura, trying to outrun Fabio. Impossible.

Ivo is trying to take the ball. from Fabio. Ha-ha! Better luck next time, Ivo!

Ivo is trying to take the ball from Fabio. Ha-ha! Better luck next time, Ivo!

Gooooooooooooooooooooooal

All of us

All of us

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Morning. Routines. Our Life in the City Park. Part 3

Our Saint Petersburg mornings in the park are filled with little routines. They begin very early with other people’s little routines which wake us up. You see, we don’t sleep in a campground like any normal tourist family with a motor home, but in a city park next to a swimming pool, the only free place we found where overnight parking is not forbidden. Early swimmers come here around 5:30 and inevitably start splashing and cheering next to our sleeping Baba Ghanouche. She wakes up reluctantly, shakes the morning dew and the little yellow seeds brought by night birds off her back, and gracefully drifts through the quiet purple city towards her daytime spot at Demens Landing Park, about a mile away. This is all the distance she traverses back and forth in a day lately.

Lotus and Hibiscus(a fictional physically impossible morning exercise)

Lotus and Hibiscus
(a fictional physically impossible morning exercise)

There I make myself a coffee and watch another sun slowly emerging from the sea. Viktor and Maya are still sleeping or just about to wake up and ask for breakfast. Maya tells me the ending of her dream, she never remembers the beginnings.
A bird made a wish and Jackie turned into a bird. I ate one popcorn, only one, and blew on a dandelion. She became Jackie again. She was crying and she gave me a hug.
Jackie is a new friend but a truly good friend, especially to Maya. We will miss her one day when we leave…
Ivo is already near the piers exercising. Ringo the cat is keeping him company. Soon I join them as well. We believe that physical exercising in the morning is a good way to start the day.

Lotus and HibiscusReincarnated

Lotus and Hibiscus
Reincarnated

The January breeze caries smells and sounds of seas and palm leafs. The air is already hot but fresh. Back in Canada, it is snowing for sure…

One would think that besides the occasional jogger or an early dog walker, there is not a living soul in the park. But it isn’t so. Saint Petersburg is invaded by hyperactive skinny squirrels and they proliferate in high concentration here in Demens Landing. The last squirrel census for this park alone came up with a number in the thousands, but since then they have surely multiplied. Squirrels have babies 6 times a year! And with tender dedication they teach their young the same bad manners. Thus, the savage traditions of trash cans scavenging for leftover french fries, of stealing the peanut butter  and jelly sandwiches from absentminded picnickers, of fiercely chasing each other up and down the palm trees emitting peculiar heartbreaking cries, are inevitably passed down the generations.
After we finish jogging and exercising, I find a 20 dollar bill all wet from the night, stuck on the wooden pier. I enjoy finding it, although I am also sadly conscious of the fact that as soon as I find it, I start loosing it, cent by cent, the same way we loose everything else that we ever find, including friends.
Next, we go back to the motor home dodging hysterical squirrels on the way, and prepare for sailing.

Ringo arrives

Ringo arrives

RingoReads about catamarans and drinks coffee

Ringo
Reads about catamarans and drinks coffee

RingoPurring

Ringo
Purring

I can do two pull-ups! It is tough being tough

I can do two pull ups!                                                                                                                                                                                                   This is a good exercise for the arms, chest and back

This one is for the back and shoulders

Hanging with arms spread.                                                                                                                                                                             This one is a good exercise for the back and shoulders

A morning egret on the rocks near the pier in Demens Landing.

A morning egret on the rocks near the pier in Demens Landing.

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Our Life in the City Park. Part 1: Overview

Demens Landing Park St Petersburg Florida.Photo by Bill Cobb, SkylineScenes.com

Demens Landing Park St Petersburg Florida.
Photo by Bill Cobb, SkylineScenes.com

Demens Landing is the name of the city park in Saint Petersburg, Florida where we live since a month now. Baba Ghanoush, our motor home (the name in Bulgarian actually means Granny Ghanoush, I forgot to mention this earlier) showed up one day in late November with all her majestic glory of a barbaric matron, provoking a mixture of admiration and suspicion, and stopped next to the playground, at parking A, which is the park parking, and all citizens are allowed to park there for free „from half an hour before sunrise until 11 p.m.. No overnight parking.“ (a sign explains)

The park is located in the hearth of downtown Saint Pete, between the municipal Marina and the Sailing Center (that is why there is also a parking B which is only for boat owners from the marina). The way Baba Ghanoush is parked, she is facing the Gulf of Mexico and all beautiful sunrises to the East, the Municipal Marina to her left (port), the Sailing Center to her right (starboard), and Down Town St Pete with its museums and galleries, cafes and restaurants, and souvenir shops behind her, strewn on Bayshore Drive and Beach Drive. If you walk out of the park and onto Bayshore Drive, you will see the extravagant shape of the Dali Museum building to your left (south) and the Museum of Fine Arts to your right (north). In between is the luxurious Yacht club building, and further north is the pink Renaissance Resort and Golf Club, next to Vinoy park.

We signed up for sailing lessons and for the One Year Unlimited Sailing program at the Sailing Center, which means 6 days of sailing per week, between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on a 18-feet keel boat, the four of us, for a total of $500, showers included! Unlimited sailing+ unlimited showers, how cool is this! (For us the access to showers is of great importance right now, as we are not in a campground and we are not plugged to water, and so we are not using the shower and toilet in the motor home.)

Since we became members of the Sailing Center, we go out sailing every day, except Mondays, when the Center is closed, and except all those days when the wind is over 20-25 knots and they don’t allow us to take the boat out. (Thanks goodness they don’t allow us, because if you ask Ivo, he would try his skills even in such powerful winds, no matter how rookie we are.)

We come and park in Demens Landing usually before sunrise, around 6 a.m. The kids still sleeping, I make myself a sweet coffee boiling it in a small coffee-pot on the stove, the old-fashion fay, and watch the sunrises, all of them inexplicably anticipated and surprising. We go out, me and Ivo, sometimes only Ivo, sometimes the kids come too, whoever feels like it, and we do some sit-ups, squats, pull-ups and push-ups, as well as 15-20 min jogging. We greet people walking their dogs, jogging, older couples taking a walk: every day the same people. There is the fat bold guy and his trainer exercising near the bench; the very short latino woman doing some  bizarre dance movements while walking fast around listening to her music, suddenly shouting some cheerful words in Spanish; a couple who lives on a boat and their two dogs, one of which thinks is a bird, and probably has hollow bones, as she can jump so high after a Frisbee, she looks like she has been catapulted when you watch from a distance. There is  also a sleepy blue heron and an white egret greeting the sun on the shore or the piers, lots and lots of skinny hyper-exciter squirrels running up and down the palm trees or checking the garbage cans for leftover french fries, and Ringo,the cat, curled up in the middle of the sidewalk, finishing his unfinished slumber. Ringo also lives on a boat at the marina and I don’t know if he takes any drugs or it is just his character, but you can literally walk over him, or if you are a dog, you can bark all you want at him, he doesn’t care; he will not even look at you. He is now OUR CAT, as the park is OUR PARK, the herons are OUR HERONS, the park toilets are OUR TOILETS, and the playground is MAYA’S PLAYGROUND, where she plays for hours, waiting like a spider for little kids to arrive and a chance to play with them.

We also have a place: a small Police Memorial granite statue near the waterfront illuminated at night with benches around that have electrical plugs on them, where we sometimes go to charge and mode our i-phones, or plug our lap tops and write for the blog, because, guess what, we don’t have plenty of electricity in the motor home, as well. This place is OUR OFFICE. I brought from Canada my bread-making machine and one of these days I might bake some bread in the office, then it will become a bakery as well. But we don’t want to abuse the park hospitality too much. We now know all the park staff, we told them who we are and why we are in the park almost every day, and they are all friendly and nice with us, greeting us every time they see us. We offered them to volunteer and help them with the cleaning and maintenance of the park, as we now have a strong feeling of responsibility towards it, but they declined politely. Still, Maya went out yesterday and collected all palm leafs fallen after a windy night, piling them on the corners near the garbage cans.

Our morning rituals over, we gear up and we go sailing for two to four hours in different directions, practicing tacking, jibing, docking, man overboard, anchoring, as well as just going in a straight line towards a fixed point, trying to have a perfect sail’s position to wind. Every time the sea and the wind is different and every time we have a different experience, this is why we don’t want to miss a day of sailing.

After sailing we do all kinds of other activities: studying, reading, going to the public library not far away to use internet, fishing, cooking, playing tennis, taking walks on the beach or in Vinoy park, or around the city, enjoying life. I will write more detailed accounts of our activities later on.

A bird's view perspective of the park with points of interest.

A bird’s view perspective of the park with points of interest.

1- the usual parking spot of Baba Ghanoush

2- our restrooms

3- Maya’s playground

4- our fishing pier

5- our office (this is an older picture and here the Police Memorial is not build yet)

6- the Sailing Center&showers

7- our new friend Jackie’s 60 feet long houseboat

8- Gulf of Mexico- we sail through here

9- the Municipal Marina office

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