Let’s just say this is not the New Year we expect. Certainly, every journey begins with an intention and a destination, and we started on our winter travels with both. Loading our Ford F350 diesel truck with everything we need for the next 3 ½ months, we hang our sole Christmas ornament over the mirror and leave Newtown early Christmas Day. We make great time—no tractor trailers and few cars on the road—and we arrive without incident late in the day in Jonesborough, TN to pick up our 12,000-pound 5th wheel trailer.
Our first destination is to visit with older relatives in St. Petersburg, and our intention is to get to Key West in time to see our son Mark’s robing ceremony as he is officially sworn in as a county judge on Jan. 5. We are right on schedule. It’s our plan to spend 5 days in St. Pete, two months in Key West, and a month in Austin while enjoying cozy living in our 5th wheel trailer. (Remember the old adage, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him you have a plan?”)
Descending the Great Smokey Mountains, our truck signals engine trouble. We stop at the Ford dealer in Ashville, NC but can’t get immediate service, we stop again in Anderson, SC and learn the problem is serious – we must stop and do expensive repairs. Richmond has written a short piece on that part of our saga (click to read it).
Delayed for 3 days, we depart Anderson in a rental car, after hiring a professional transporter to bring our rig to Key West—our trip to St. Pete postponed—and our truck still in the shop, but now consigned to Anderson Ford’s used truck lot or auction.
Our first weeks here in Key West are full of babysitting our charming 5-month old granddaughter Virginia Elouise
as her mom starts back to work part-time, getting the rig cleaned up and settling in, and enjoying the Key West ambiance. While temperatures tumbled into the single digits in the north, we were layering our too-light tropical clothing and running our gas furnace to ward off the unexpected chill of temperatures in the 50’s.
Staged in the “ceremonial” largest courtroom, Mark’s investment ceremony is appropriately formal and impressive, with allusions to many sectors of Mark’s life, as well as his 13 years here in the Keys prosecuting criminals for both the State Attorney’s Office and the US Attorney.
The photos show posting of the colors by a Florida Highway Patrol squad from Miami, oath of office by the 16th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge, presentation of judge’s robe by the county bar association, accolades from a former student when Mark taught Constitutional Law at Dickenson Law School (now the attorney for the Coast Guard here in Key West) and his colleagues at the Prosecutor’s Office, presentation of the gavel by State Attorney Dennis Ward, enrobing and escort to the Bench by his partner-in-life Cristiana Spottswood, Esq.—and Mark himself speaking with modesty, good humor and generous acknowledgement of everyone present.
In mid-January the days turn warmer (in the 80’s some days), our babysitting routine settles into a nice rhythm. We enjoy the relaxed shirt-sleeve lifestyle of the Keys. It’s movies at the Tropic Cinema, hogfish and beer at the Hogfish Grille, live theater (up to five choices on any given night). Richmond putters about restringing blinds and doing maintenance chores. He works online with the Fair Districts PA organization providing tech support to volunteers all across Pennsylvania.
I cook in our one-person kitchen, and we enjoy fresh wild-caught fish and Florida produce. I participate in phone conference calls to stay connected with Pennswood Villiage friends.
I arrange for our Air B&B stays in St. Pete and in Austin and Richmond books the storage space for the RV in Christmas, FL where it will remain until we return to Key West next winter. We’ll leave the hauling to a professional driver from Orlando. Richmond says, much as he liked driving our big rig, he won’t be unhappy to zip around in our Prius. The way opens for us, and life is good.