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Neighborhood Walks

Welcome back to #TravelThursday. Longtime readers of my blog – going back to its debut here on WordPress some 15½ years ago – may remember a series of blog posts under the heading of “The Major’s Walk-A-Thon”. It’s where I revealed and described my various neighborhood walks – mostly at dawn. They were dedicated to the memory of my Dad – who lost the ability to walk on his own in 2007 – and eventually passed away from the devastating effects of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

16 months into my fantastic journey (salvation in Christ) I began neighborhood walks to get healthy – physically, mentally, and spiritually. The walks were mostly over 1 mile in length, and up to 2, 3, and even 4+ miles. They were confined to the dry seasons here in South Florida – generally from October to May. They were “power walks” – with a pace of between 17 and 18 minutes per mile.

Season 1 was 2007-2008, and it was a shock to the system, as I had never done such a thing before in my entire life – walk to get fit. It was well-documented here on my blog. At that time in my life – I was slowly rebounding from the worst physical shape of my life. (I actually quit drinking less than 2 months earlier.)

I’m now approaching the end of Season 16. That’s right – 16 seasons of walking. So far this season I’ve walked around my neighborhood 27 times. That’s the 2ND-most number of walks in a season (surpassed only by Season 8 – 2014-2015). Those 27 walks include 8 in my longtime Homestead neighborhood (or the nearby city park) – and 19 in my new Sebring neighborhood. (My new 55+ neighborhood is near-ideal for such walks, and many of my neighbors are doing it too. I need to keep-up with them.)

So far this season I’ve walked a total of 37.80 miles. That’s the 4TH-highest number of miles (surpassed by 2014-2015, 2015-2016, and 2016-2017).

This season is not yet complete. We’re still getting (weak) cold fronts up in the Florida Heartland, and those cold fronts are still delivering the refreshing 60s into the region at dawn, and low humidity during the day and into the early-evening hours. Eventually it’ll get too consistently wet, warm, humid, and buggy to walk, so I’ll just be resting-up in preparation for an early debut to Season 17 come September !

Next #TravelThursday it’s all about the miles – on my car. Let’s keep traveling together.

All rights reserved (c) 2023 Christopher M. Day, CountUp

Blogging Driving Travel Home Geography

Carnival Jubilee

Welcome back to #TravelThursday. A couple of days ago I observed exactly 2 months in my beautiful new dream home in my dream neighborhood in my dream part of Florida. I closed on it (officially became the owner) on March 16TH, and I actually purchased it on February 16TH, so that marks 3 months since I first walked-in to my new home and almost immediately decided that it would be mine.

But this week’s edition is not about that. It’s about a cruise that I took with my parents exactly 19 years ago this week. It was a 5-nighter out of #JAXPORT (Jacksonville Florida). (My parents lived in the area at the time.)

Over the course of 32 years (1991-2023) it was my only cruise out of Jacksonville. It was on an old Carnival cruise ship – the Jubilee – that was in-service from 1986 to 2004. In fact she was sold to an Australian cruise company just 3 months after our sailing.

I don’t remember much of anything from that cruise, and I have no photos of it – mostly because I didn’t take photos back then before the smart phone era. I don’t even remember the ports-of-call. Maybe Nassau ?

It was 1 of just 3 cruises that I went on with my parents. It was the middle cruise. (The first one was 13 years earlier when we all went on our very first cruise ever. I instantly fell in love with the idea of cruising, and I continued on with 23 more cruises after that first one in 1991.)

I’ve been telling friends recently that I probably won’t be booking any further cruises at this time. This past January I was on the newest, biggest, and best that Carnival has to offer – their brand-new Carnival Celebration – and I documented it for 6 weeks in a row here on #TravelThursday. It was perhaps a perfect ending to my cruising experience. Now that I have 2 homes and a 30-year mortgage on my new home – I’m on a budget now. I’ve declared a spending freeze of sorts. I need to figure out how to live my life with less than half the money I make today once I retire at the end of the year.

As for travel opportunities I really want to explore more of Central and North Florida – and into Georgia and Alabama – and the Carolinas – on a series of road-trips. I’ve conquered the sea, and now I wish to explore the land. I want to visit with some good friends along the way.

Next #TravelThursday I’m not driving – I’m walking. Let’s keep traveling together.

All rights reserved (c) 2023 Christopher M. Day, CountUp

Blogging Christian Church Driving Geography God Home Travel

Sebring & Beyond

Welcome back to #TravelThursday. Last week I revealed that I had recently spent 4 days and 3 nights up in scenic Highlands County Florida.

I activated the start of a dream that I’ve been dreaming (and blogging about) for the past 7 years. That dream is to relocate and retire near Sebring (the county seat). Shortly upon arrival in Lake Placid my Real Estate Agent and I drove to my dream neighborhood where we toured 5 condos. I selected my favorite one (which was the last one we toured), and I made a purchase offer on it. It was quickly accepted by the seller. I am now 15 days into the 30-day closing process, and everything continues to work out smoothly so far.

My new home is absolutely beautiful and clean. It was love at first sight upon entering it. I had to contain my excitement for it. It’s a 3-bedroom / 2-bathroom 2ND-floor condo in a 55+ active-adult gated-community. It comes fully-furnished, and the furniture is newish. I met the husband-and-wife owners of the condo. They bought it in 2022, and they refurbished and modernized it. They were pretty much done with that, so they put it on the market a couple of months ago. (I had been tracking it online since the start of the year.) They will continue to live in the neighborhood, buy vacated condos, refurbish them, and sell them for a small profit. (The husband is a retired Civil Engineer.)

The neighborhood’s homeowners’ association requires a background security check and vote before being accepted as a resident. (They will find absolutely nothing in their investigation of me.)

If all goes well then the final closing date should be during the week of St. Patrick’s Day, and I will drive back up there to be physically present for that, and be handed the keys to my new home. I’ll also have a trunk-load of personal belongings with me, as I will begin moving-in that same day.

It’ll be a slow and gradual relocation from South Florida (Miami-Dade County) to South-Central Florida (Highlands County). I don’t retire for another 9 months, so on most weeks I’ll live and work down south from Sunday mornings to Wednesday afternoons, and I’ll live and work up north from Wednesday evenings to Sunday mornings. My commuting distance will be 186 miles, and that’s about a 3-hour and 20-minute drive. Each drive northward will be another haul of my personal belongings. Eventually the drives will be less-frequent, and I’ll spend more time in Sebring than not.

I’m looking forward to the change in lifestyle, and the change in region. This will be the first time since I lived in the United Kingdom 35+ years ago that I’ll be living in a rural area (versus suburban). I’m moving to a 1,106-square-mile county with a total population of just over 100,000. Right now over 100,000 people live within about 5 miles of me. (Over 2.7 million residents call Miami-Dade County home.)

Sebring will also be the first time in exactly 30 years – and 2ND-time in my life – that I’ll be relocating to the city / area of my choice. Back in March 1993 I relocated to Melbourne Florida – because I wanted to. 30 years later I’m relocating about 100 miles away from Melbourne – because I want to.

I can’t believe that this is finally happening, and I owe it all to my Lord + Savior Jesus Christ. It’s easy to claim that these were my plans for many years, but these were really God’s plans for me. He guided and directed me to the Florida Heartland. I preached about that this past Sunday. “Sebring & Beyond” was the title of my sermon.

Next #TravelThursday I’ll tell you all about my 2ND visit to the main office of the Sebring Historical Society. I’ll be serving with them soon. Let’s keep traveling together.

All rights reserved (c) 2023 Christopher M. Day, CountUp

Blogging Geography Home Travel Weather

My Carnival Celebration Vacation 2023

Welcome back to #TravelThursday. Last week I wrote about my day visiting Charlotte Amalie St. Thomas U.S.V.I. – where I spent most of the day enjoying the cruise ship docked portside. That was Day 5 of my 7-day cruise aboard the Carnival Celebration from Sunday January 08TH 2023 to Sunday January 15TH 2023.

This week it’s on to Days 6, 7, and 8. That was Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – with Sunday being debarkation morning. That’s always the saddest part of any cruise – having to leave it all behind after all of those fun days aboard. This was the newest and biggest cruise ship that I’ve ever sailed on – with the most passengers (6,000+) and crew (1,700+). As a local in Miami-Dade County Florida I always strive to get off the ship as soon as I possibly can – if only to avoid as much traffic as possible between the port and my home – about 32 miles. (That 32 miles is a long and rough 32 miles that usually takes anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes.)

But also I wish to get off the ship early to avoid prolonging the inevitable. Why hang around for a couple more hours when I can put a cap on the fun and look back at all of the great memories had and great people met.

Days 6 and 7 were fun days at sea sailing west-northwest from the U.S. Virgin Islands back to Miami. The ship took a more southerly (than usual) route back (along the north coast of Cuba) due to ferocious winds north of us in the Bahamas caused by an unusually strong Arctic cold front that had made its way that far south. Winds were actually gusting up to 50 MPH at times against the starboard (right) side of the ship, but surprisingly the big ship handled it well. I could barely feel the motion of the ship, and that was a great thing, as I can easily get seasick when the ship gets a rockin’ and a rollin’. As we traversed the north coast of Cuba we lost the heat of the tropics and we plunged into the cold air of the north with temperatures into the 60s and wind chills into the 50s. (When we arrived en Miami early on Sunday morning – wind chills were well into the 40s !)

This was another excellent Carnival cruise. Why sail any other cruise line when I usually enjoy a fantastic experience on Carnival ? I feel like I’m returning home every time I board a Carnival cruise ship – old or new. I know what to expect, and I enjoy every possible minute of it. Carnival specializes in activities and things to do and see from early in the morning until early the next morning. I think they do it better than any other cruise line. Their customer service is the friendliest at sea.

As for my next (17TH) Carnival cruise – I’ve been looking – but I haven’t booked yet. It’ll likely be out of Port Tampa Bay (the closest cruise ship port to my new home) – or Port Canaveral – a little further away. (Carnival sails out of both ports, but with not as many ships as PortMiami.)

I may skip a year of cruising in 2024, or maybe I’ll wait until later in the year to do so. My income will change dramatically next year since I’ll be retired instead of employed, so I’ll need to assess my budget once I reach that milestone in my life.

And speaking of which – I spent 4 days and 3 nights up in Highlands County Florida last weekend, and I activated the start of a dream that I’ve been dreaming (and blogging about) for the past 7 years. That dream is to retire near Sebring. Last Thursday morning with my Real Estate Agent I toured 5 condos in my dream neighborhood, selected my favorite one, made a purchase offer on it, and it was quickly accepted by the seller. I am now 8 days into the 30-day closing process, and everything is working out smoothly so far. I’ll write more about that – next – #TravelThursday.

All rights reserved (c) 2023 Christopher M. Day, CountUp