Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Woman That Got Me Started: Kay Francis Perkins

Kay Francis Perkins died after a long illness on January 24th, 2018 in Orlando, Fl, at the age of 80 in her home of 51 years.

Kay lived a long, adventurous life and was the proud head of a large extended family. The grace with which she carried herself through her days, was something admired by all. She was always more interested in the other person and left everyone wishing they could be more like her.

She left home at an early age to be an Air Force wife, not knowing that the title of homemaker was a moniker that ill-described the life she would end up living. She raised four children with her husband, while traveling the United States, often moving every six months. That turned into seven years of raising the children on her own while her husband was held as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam. During that time, she went from wife and mother, to activist, to the point of speaking before the National League of Families and traveling to the Paris Peace Talks in 1969.

In 1973, she was re-joined by her husband, Glendon, and they spent the rest of her life together, traveling the world, this time for fun. During this period, she entertained and was entertained, to the point of dining with the President of the United States. She loved Europe and the Smoky Mountains, and she preferred to travel in style, enjoying quiet times with a good book, a cup of tea, and her dogs.

After her children grew up, she attended college at UCF and then went on to teach at the local Naval Training base, helping young aspiring submariners overcome the stress of Naval School.

In mid-life, she had a battle with Breast Cancer and that fight turned her into an elder athlete. Her passion became Water Aerobics and we all watched in amazement as she got an even brighter sparkle in her eye as she got stronger and stronger over the years.

Her family grew over the years and was filled with grandchildren and great grandchildren. All of them wishing for just a little more time with Granny.

Then, Parkinson’s came, an illness Kay knew well. Her father had died from it before she was 22 years old. She stayed tough, going to events, joining dance groups, becoming an expert on the disease, and preparing her family for her eventual passing.

Kay somehow maintained an elegance and grace that seemed more befitting royalty.

She is survived by her husband; Glendon, children: Ed (Pam), Paul (Dawn), Cindy (Jeff) and Steve (Lori), 12 grandchildren, 8 great-grandchildren and her brother; Floyd Kinney.

Her greatest wish was to be remembered as someone that loved their family more than anything else in the world. She kept a daily journal until she could no longer write. Her last entry was "Be brave, have courage, and love life".

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The First Freezing Camping Trip of the Year

Here we are again, camping in Florida, that strange place where your fingers and toes are numb from the cold one day, and you're sweating in shorts and flip flops the next. In winter time, that is, there is nothing but sweating in the summer, and that is why we love the unpredictable weather of our winters. This weekend, we burned through a truckload of firewood and boxes of hot chocolate, while re-telling our heroic adventures. It no longer matters how many times we've told the same stories, they get a little better each time. Pretty soon it will reach the point where I'm telling about how I taught the Hawaiians how to surf, Steve was the one that really found Osama Bin Laden, and Donald Trump came to Paul for business advice.
I'd really like to add new relatives to our camping group, but no one seems eager to join...

We have added bicycling to our list of activities that must happen on the trip, and I have learned that no matter how cool Steve's trike looks, it takes me about twice the effort to get around on it. He has a bad back, so he is just glad to have a machine that he can ride in comfort. I think I will stick with my fat tire bike that only takes about 1 1/2 times the effort of a normal mountain bike. We rode the whole campground area and that takes more than an hour. In the ride this time, we discovered that although the park was totally booked that weekend, we were almost the only ones there. We did notice that the park ranger kept coming to check on us, perhaps because he knew we were the only ones smart enough to know how much fun it is to camp in a tent when the temp drops below freezing?

In our favor, the wind died down to nothing and at dawn the water was a mirror to the sun breaking through the clouds over the ocean. The only thing better than getting photos of this sunrise was the clear sky on Friday night. I have never, anywhere, seen so many stars in the sky. In fact, this was the first time I was able to see clouds of stars. My very first thought was to add a telescope to my list of things to pack. I'm still not really sure how a telescope could improve the site I beheld that night.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Frozen Floridians and Accidental Magic: Part 5

Finding heaven on top of a mountain when it's below freezing is not easy to do. In fact, out of the whole trip, the thing I dreaded the most was trying to get through the night of extreme cold that was forecasted. I expected something similar to what I had experienced in the cold before, only worse. I imagined spending over 12 hours in a sleeping bag, trying to find some position that would result in me feeling comfortable enough to get any sleep at all. The first night of the trip was bad enough. We woke up in the morning to gray skies and a howling wind that went ;right through our jackets. It wasn't any fun packing up and I kept making mistakes that resulted in me pulling everything out of my backpack to put one thing away. My fingers weren't working right and my brain was only a little bit worse. I was reaching hard inside me to find what it was about backpacking that kept me coming back. It sure wasn't this part. Paul and Chase thought it was a good time to get going, and my thoughts of having a nice cup of coffee and bowl of oatmeal were put on the back burner.
It was a mere 15 minutes later that we encountered one of the strangest things about hiking: the weather changes frequently in the mountains. Somehow in the dark, we had found the single most exposed, freezing cold spot that there was. Not long after we departed our camping spot, we found ourselves on the sunny side of the mountain and peeling off layers of clothes. We were already laughing about the cold night and looking forward to the bright blue sky and the great feeling of doing anything but shivering.

If you have read any of my writings about backpacking before, you know I have this thing about meeting people 3 times and becoming old friends. That happened on this trip, and we became quick friends with a guy and a girl in their 20's that had driven up from Jacksonville. He was a seasoned backpacker and she was a tall athletic person that was up for anything. And that is why we kept bumping into them on the trail. They could go quicker than us for a while, but the girl would have knee issues and we would come across them resting for a bit on the side of the trail. We'd stop and talk and finally found that we all had the same destination in mind. She asked if we minded them camping with us that night and we were delighted to have the company, plus Paul would get some new companions that still had not heard all of his stories.
It was a perfect day, but I was worrying anyway, because everybody we met on the trail was talking about the deep freeze that was coming that night. Me, with only a fishing buff on my bald head, thinking about how far it was to safety and wondering why in the world I thought it was smart to leave my gloves at home. Paul was feeling great. He was certain that changing his eating habits had cured him of the many aches and pains he had experienced on previous trips. In fact, he and Chase were racing ahead most of the time, while I hung back, hoping that the little tweaking feeling in my right knee wasn't going to turn into something worse. It was getting the point that any mistake I made, stepping on a root and sliding or coming off a loose stone, made me want to yelp. Yes, this was not a feeling you wanted to have deep in the woods when the temperature was destined to drop into the 20's.

However, the day ended on a high like I could never have imagined. We found the campsite, and oddly enough, it was right in the middle of the trail. Not only that, there was a stream running right next to the lean-to. (By the way, normal for the Appalachian Trail is the campsite is half a mile off the trail and the water is even further away). By the time it got dark, there were 7 of us. 7 hikers that were crazy enough to be out in weather like this. 5 of us squeezed our tents into the lean-to that was built for 4 without tents and we didn't mind at all, but that wasn't the good part.

Paul, is a great believer in minimalism. You carry what you need, you eat what's easy, you don't do anything you don't have to do, except smoke a cigarette about every 30 minutes....and do not try to find the logic in that....but, he never builds fires on backpacking trips. You eat, get in your sleeping bag and wake up the next day...the night is not your friend.

But...nobody ever taught the young guy from Jacksonville those things. He built his girl the best fire ever, and the rest of us helped a little bit and enjoyed it a lot. We sat around that night for hours, trading stories and learning about how we were all drawn to do this outdoorsy thing in a bit of an extreme way.

I've had a lot of fun in the woods, but there's nothing much better in life than a big fire right when you need it....now I remember what keeps me coming back.