The Traveling Steve's

Happy Fourth of July! Summer of 2023

It’s actually now the 6th of July, and I’m quite a bit behind in posting. On the last post we were on the Mariner of the Seas, and since then we’ve been enjoying the hot Florida summer, mostly at home. We did made a short trip to South Florida earlier in June, down to Melbourne, St. Lucie, and Vero Beach, browsing at some 55+ communities along the way.

We looked at several communities, mostly new Del Webb over 55+ communities, which offered similar house models and all with excellent community centers. We’re considering this for the future, but for now we’re content with our home in Orlando, especially after seeing some of the small lot sizes and nearly $1 million price tags by the time you add in options and a pool. Plus especially in Port St. Lucie, high property taxes of 2.1% annually (the highest in Florida), plus annual Community Development (CCD fee), and HOA fees (HOA fees are expected at these nice communities, but not all places have annual CCD assessments), and our current house on a 1/4 acre lot, with no HOA or CDD fees, with taxes about 50 – 60 percent less than some areas and our house is actually perfect for us, but unfortunately lacks a community center.

We do want a place at some point with a nice community center, however, and Del Webb’s are among the best we’ve seen so far.

We did stay in Melbourne one night after a day of looking at homes, at the Hilton Melbourne Beach oceanfront which was very nice. We could have stayed here longer if we had planned it better, but this was more or less a spur-of-the moment weekday trip, and we wanted to get down to Vero Beach to have a look, and see our friends and former neighbors Kenny and Mary, so we only stayed in Melbourne for one night.

View from our room on the 8th floor, corner room.

Nice Junior Suite at the Hilton Melbourne Beach, overlooking the ocean.

Melbourne Beach; a quieter and more rustic Florida beach than most.

In anticipation of one day “downsizing” the house as DOS calls it, and (“upsizing” as I call it), we started the arduous task of decluttering our house, and clearing out our “apartment”, which is an off-site storage bin we’ve had for over 5 years, and is costing us nearly $500 a month. Most of the junk, ie. stuff in the bin is old Halloween props and old Christmas and other holiday decorations we no longer use, along with some things which are in decent condition and we donated.

DOS cleaning out our “apartment” storage bin, with a lot of help from a junk removal service.

It felt very liberating closing out the “apartment”, and now we have to do more around the house, although here it’s boxes of travel souvenirs, travel brochures, maps, boxes of ticket stubs and hotel room keys, mugs, way too many wine glasses, Disney memorabilia to donate, cases of candles (we used to use real ones at Halloween/Christmas and even have 2 full size wedding candelabras LOL!). I told DOS all the mess actually started with candles, and his prior obsession with after Christmas sales at 75 – 90% off, which also includes wrapping paper, fake snow, animated characters etc. The real candles are to hot to use around the house (not to mention dangerous), plus several suitcases, spare Christmas trees, more Halloween, Christmas and other holiday decorations, books, enough Santa hats and stockings to supply the elf workers at the North Pole, CDs, old work stuff, you name it, not to mention all the stuff DOS brought from his home in Sarasota, and I brought back from my parents house in Virginia a couple years ago. WOW, I figure with our upcoming travel schedule, it will take a year to go thru everything!

Anyway, I’m doing ok now health-wise, although I’ve had a bit of a problem with my ankles this summer, to the point of it being painful just to walk. I’ve always had flat feet, but lately the Planters factiitis has really flared itself on my ankles, so I’ve been to the Podiatrist a couple times this summer seeking relief, coupled with another Specialist for arthritis in my knees. It seems like one area of the body clears up and then moves onto the next part! I did loose muscle mass in my legs from being in the hospital and recovery so long late last year, so I’m trying to exercise a bit without “overdoing it” as Steve (DOS) constantly reminds me.

My flat and swollen feet. This week it’s the right foot, although sometimes it’s the left. Ouch!

I did go to Fleet Shoes to get some new sneakers. I like Fleet Shoes, and have been there a couple of times previously. They scan your feet, and work with you, trying to find the best and most comfortable fit for your measurements, noting the arches, pressure points etc. I’m now wearing some New Balance wide-shoe toes, with an orthotic, so hopefully that will help. I’m also getting fitted for a newer custom Ritchie Brace for my right ankle in a couple weeks at Hangar Clinic when we get back from a couple short upcoming trips.

Besides my feet, I go to my regular weekly to bi-weekly checks at my primary care Doctor’s office for my INR readings as I’m on Warfrin (Coumadin) which requires regular testing via a quick blood prick on one of my fingers. The medicine is then adjusted if needed, depending on the numbers. One week it got as high at 4.5, but now it’s a much better 2.4, which is in the normal range for an artificial valve replacement. (The numbers can fluctuate based on diet such as certain foods such as green vegetables, cranberries and grapefruit juices, some medicines and supplements, alcohol etc). It’s best to maintain a constant level of greens daily, such as salads, but that can be complicated when eating out a lot. I also go to Quest Labs once a month for a routine blood test, especially checking for potassium and creatine levels.)

Other than that, my Cardiologist says I’m doing fine, although over the months he’s added Entresto and Jardiance to my cocktail of daily meds. Jardiance was initially for diabetics (I’m not), but it is also used for heart disease now. I’m now going back to my Cardiologist every couple of months now for awhile, (my choice out of precaution) and eventually every six months, which is what he recommended. I have to watch my salt intake, which is easy when I’m home, but much harder than when we go out to eat, but I always ask for no added salt at restaurants when possible. There’s always some delicious temptation though . . . and I have a weakness for pizza in moderation of course.

Extra thin flatbread appetizer pizza for DOS and me at BJ’s restaurant.

I have been getting some exercise in our pool, which in Florida a pool is more or less a requirement as it’s so hot here. We have solar heating for the pool, which I had to turn off as it the water got up to 94 degrees! Now it’s a comfy 88 to 90 degrees F, which feels much better than the 98 degrees or higher outside temperature, which is nearly 100F/38C.

Swimming a bit and cooling off in the hot afternoon.

We actually welcome the late afternoon thunderstorms which cools things off a bit, and provides a natural light show. In the pic below, it is starting to rain and I’m yelling at DOS to come inside before the lighting strikes and thunder booms! Central Florida is the lightning capital of the US after all, and specifically this area near Disney (about 45 minutes from our house) leads the way. Who knew it was so close to the Mouse? If you hear thunder, get inside immediately!

Anyway, here are some miscellaneous pics of our summer happenings since my last cruise post in no particular order:

We had a nice Fourth of July weekend at home, which was actually preferred instead of traveling over a busy holiday weekend like we used to do before we retired. We lit up the house with our Red, White, and Blue lights (actually Christmas lights we leave up year round and turned off, except for Christmas and other holidays which we light up with the respective colors.) The pool also has an alternating Red, White, and Blue setting.

We had a couple neighbors over for a swim and barbecue on July 3rd, and had a great time into the late evening. There was also a Super Moon on display this night (actually for 3 nights in a row) which happens when the moon is closest to the earth during a Full Moon cycle, perhaps three times a year. The moon looks so much brighter and appears larger due to the closer proximity to earth.

On the actual Fourth of July, we had a quiet night at home, with only a small arsenal of neighborhood fireworks banging out and flaring the skies with color this year.

Back in the house, we watched a couple firework shows on TV, including “Fireworks across the Country”, and our favorite, “Fireworks Over Texas”, which had a live Country/Rock band performing to the masses in downtown Houston. “Fireworks Over Texas”, especially had a very patriotic feel to it, followed by their firework display which was 10:30 Eastern, (9:30 Central time and live from Texas.)

Now we’re just catching up around the house. We are going away for the next couple weeks on two separate trips. Tomorrow we’re heading down to Vero Beach to see our good friends and former neighbors Kenny and Mary, and on Tuesday we are going down to Disney World, as my brother and partner are coming down to celebrate his 65th birthday at EPCOT.

At Disney World, we’ll be staying at the Swan Hotel once again (by Westin), which is on the Boardwalk adjacent to EPCOT. It’s an excellent hotel in a terrific location. They’ve added another Swan Hotel next to it since we’ve been last, but here’s a pic of the original hotel from a few years ago.

I doubt DOS and I will even go to the theme parks this trip as my ankle has been bothering me a fair bit (and it’s lots of walking), plus we have a couple nice dinners planned off property, which we will Uber to with my Brother Andy, and his partner Art. They are going to EPCOT only, basically to celebrate his 65th, and also as a historic memory for them as that’s where they were when he celebrated his 40th birthday, 25 years ago. That was also the summer I moved to Orlando, and I went to dinner with them at the Rose and Crown put in EPCOT way back when in 1998.

Besides this weekend, we have several longer trips coming up, and which I’m hoping my feet will cooperate for me. For my birthday on August 2nd, we will be in Sarasota for the week, preceded by a short 4 night cruise later this month on Virgin Voyages, Scarlet Lady. Yes, we are both newbies to Virgin Cruises, and figured a short four day cruise on them is a great way to check it out, without a huge commitment of time and money should we not like it.

We’ve seen so many YouTube videos of Virgin Voyages, and we’re actually excited to try it out. Every video we’ve seen says it’s totally different than a traditional cruise ship, (in a good way) and it’s not as ‘risqué’ as people envision the brand; just much more casual and the food is supposed to be wonderful, although I’m not a foodie, (i.e. I prefer meat and potatoes without fancy sauces) so we will see! Plus it’s an adult’s only (18 plus) cruise line with no kids, splashy water slides, zip lines, bumper cars, rock climbing walls etc, but they have a room full of retro arcade machines (i.e. Pac Man and others) that are totally free to play!

In early September we are flying to Vancouver, BC, once again for a 10 night Alaskan Cruise on Princess Cruises. Yes, we were on a Princess Alaskan cruise a year ago, which also left from Vancouver, when I had my heart issues. Midway thru the cruise, we had to depart the ship (after I spent two nights aboard in the ship’s hospital), in Ketchikan, where I was then airlifted that evening to Washington State, ultimately for a 12 hour open heart surgery three days later. We ended up being in Seattle for an unplanned 2 months between the month hospitalization and a month in a hotel in recovery/therapy.

Eerie photo of DOS and me from Sept 2022 in Vancouver. A week later I would be in the ship’s hospital and then airlifted from Ketchikan to Washington State.

Let’s hope this September trip I can finish the Alaska cruise from last year and not wheeled off the ship in a stretcher.?

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Not the preferred way to debark a Princess Cruise ship in Ketchikan, Alaska last September 2022.

Finally, assuming all goes well on the Princess Cruise, we are booked on a 34 day Seabourn cruise in mid-November, which leaves from Athens and ends in Singapore, with some amazing ports along the way. We stop in Ashdod (for Jerusalem), Egypt (Luxor), Petra, a transit the Suez Canal, and several more stops including Dubai, Mumbai, and others before ending up in Singapore just before Christmas. It will be our longest cruise yet, so we will see how we do with the shorter Alaska and Virgin Cruises first. Here’s a photo I downloaded from Seabourn’s website with our future ship, the Encore.

So anyway, I hope everyone had a wonderful July 4th celebration, and are having a fantastic summer. Stay cool and well hydrated with plenty of water. Thanks for keeping up with us, and may God Bless America!

I

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