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Gainesville/Ocala – Some Family Time

January 18, 2013

Florida – Friday and Saturday, January 11 and 12

I took care of the dentist appointment this morning – I was happy they were able to fit me into their schedule. On the drive to the dentist, I noticed a good potential walking area, so on the way back, I thought I’d stop and get a couple miles in. It was such a nice area that I ended up walking nearly 6 miles! The road I had been on went right through a big nature preserve, so not only was the sidewalk by the road a nice walk in itself (and there was a scale model of the solar system), but there were a couple boardwalks leading into the preserve. One led to more trails in the forest, but it was pretty damp so I didn’t walk on those, and the other boardwalk led to a pretty little neighborhood with tidy bungalow style homes and quiet streets so I walked around there too. And then I walked back on the other side of the street, and there were more trails off into the woods that were fairly dry. I came across a class out on a field trip and they were all running to look at something, and there was a big black snake. But I bravely continued on! I ended the walk in a park, and heard some music that I couldn’t quite place, only to discover it was coming from an ice-cream truck that had pulled into the park, and had a line of happy kids and parents buying treats. After walking nearly 6 miles, I joined the line and got a frozen strawberry fruit bar which hit the spot – I can’t remember the last time I bought something from an ice-cream truck!

I went back to Toni’s for a while where Tula had been just fine – she seems pretty happy here and she loves her Toni, so I’m happy things worked out that I’m still on this side of the country instead of potentially leaving Tula in a kennel out in San Diego, which was my original pre-hurricane plan. It involves extra flying for me, but it’s worth it. By this time my brother had arrived at his property in Ocala, and my dad was getting in shortly to spend a few weeks there to get out of the cold South Dakota winter. We all met up in Gainesville for a nice dinner, and then Tula and I went to Ocala for the night to spend a little more time with them.

On Saturday my brother had some errands to run, and my dad just wanted to stay put after 3 days in the car from South Dakota, so I went back to Gainesville and picked up Toni so we could go to the Santa Fe Teaching Zoo where I was going to make my animal-related donation. Toni has taken some of her patients on outings to this zoo, and says it’s a wonderful place that is run by student volunteers from the Santa Fe Community College, which is rated as one of the top community colleges in the country, with several unusual programs like the zoo and a planetarium. I really enjoyed the visit – they have a nice selection of animals in really nice habitats, including some I’d never heard of. Aside from some distant traffic noise, you’d never know the zoo was right near I-75. It was warm and shady and green, and fun seeing all the animals. The student volunteers were all around – working and cleaning habitats and answering questions. We got to the kookaburra cage, and I couldn’t help thinking about the old “Laugh, Kookaburra, Laugh” song and I wanted them to laugh. Then one of them plucked up a grub or worm and went over to taunt the other, and before we knew it, the 2 of them were in full-out “laughing” mode – I’d never heard anything like it! It’s loud and raucous and it did kind of sound like laughter and it was the best part of the visit! It’s not a big zoo, but it was a very enjoyable place, and they had volunteers out by a donation table near the entrance. So I made my donation and they were pleased about it, and told me the animals all say thank you too! Then Toni and I headed back to Ocala. She visited with her grandpa while I started the sorting/packing process for the next month. I tried to take everything out of the van to make sure I got everything that I’d be needing for the next month. It took a bit of time, but I eventually felt somewhat organized. Then the 4 of us headed out for my bon voyage dinner at a steak house – I don’t typically get steak on the road anyway, and certainly won’t be having any in the South Pacific! So we enjoyed our dinner. I stayed at Toni’s tonight, so that Tula would already be there when I leave in the morning. I was up pretty late, getting everything packed neatly, and taking care of some paperwork, mail and financial stuff.
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