Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Good Life

Yesterday we made a memory. Denny and I drove down to St. Pete's beach with cousins Ken and Bonnie to visit another cousin, Wanda. (There are lots and lots and lots of Denny cousins--an intimidating bunch all. Okay, not really intimidating, but a bunch!)

Right off the bat we all fell in love with the view from the windows of Wanda's tenth floor condo on the beach. She tells us that she can watch the sunrise over the Boca Ciega Bay out her bedroom window/balcony and then watch the sunset over the Gulf from the living room balcony. Okay, now I officially hate her. (Kidding again) She does have an incredible view from up there.

After having a yummy slice of homemade cinnamon streusel coffee cake and catching up on all our doings, it was time to walk down to the lovely Don Cesar hotel. Built in 1928 to resemble a hotel in Hawaii, the Don Cesar was a popular place for many notable names in the 30s until the death of its founder, the Great Depression and WWII took its toll on the economy and the fortunes of the hotel. The hotel was saved from destruction by a group of conservationists and reopened once again as a luxury resort in the 1970s. As you wander its hallways you can almost hear faint strains of violins and harps in the background. There are several wonderful shops and boutiques on the ground floors and lunch at the Sea Porch Cafe is a true treat. We wanted to eat outside, but the wait staff claimed it was too windy at the time. Darn!

After a leisurely lunch we wandered back to Wanda's place for happy hour glasses of wine and cheese and salsa dips. Hours more reminiscing went on and reluctantly we finally left for the 45 minute drive back to our campground. What a great day!

Florida's Pink Palace, the Don Cesar hotel.

Looking north from Wanda's tenth floor condo at the St. Pete beach.

Looking south down the St. Pete Beach coastline towards the Don Cesar hotel.

One doesn't "eat" at the Sea Porch Cafe, one "dines". Lovely.

Ambiance out the wazoo--I'm such a classy broad! There was a lovely mahogany bar to the left of the piano, but my photo was too blurry to post. A reason to return!

Denny, me, Wanda, Bonnie and Ken. Fabulous company, great friends. Everyone should have relatives like this!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Lot of Nothing

Yep, I've been neglecting the blog. I have to admit, as a tourist area, Port Richey stinks. For miles in either direction, US 19 is nothing but a non-stop strip mall. There are no white sand beaches, no places of historical interest (in the immediate area--I'm not talking St. Pete here), no fascinating museums. Shuffleboard is big, though.

Denny and I have been walking, reading and doing odd maintenance/fix up/replace things type jobs around the tin can. Living in a compact space for six years means everything is subjected to a lot of wear and tear, especially when you move that space a couple of hundred miles every week or so. It's been unseasonably cold here with several rainy, dreary days so there's been little desire to go out and search for something to do.

Today we're driving down to St. Pete's beach to visit family and perhaps walk the beach. The weather forecast is for rain, natch. If we get out there, I'll get pictures. I've got to look for beach glass for Vicki's collection.

And the picture? An air plant, which is a type of bromeliad. It looks like it may bloom soon.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Later Than Usual Lazy Sunday

Despite being here near the coast for a week, Denny and I haven't seen much of the Gulf of Mexico yet. As the crow flies, we're probably very close to it, but there isn't a lot of public beach access nor a lot of beach at all around here. I've been having a broken tooth worked upon and we've had some maintenance/repair issues around the rig and truck that have taken our time and energy. Standard stuff, nothing major or expensive, but things that needed to be done. Next week the two of us are heading to St. Pete's Beach to visit Denny's cousin who is spending the winter here and the week after that we'll be visiting his former sister-in-law, so we might actually see a little more water.

We did take one morning to drive to Hudson Beach, thinking we'd wander the beach and look for sea shells. Hmm, it really wasn't the kind of "beach" we're used to by our many stays at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina or at St. Augustine, Florida. We need to find some sand!

Since we're near water, this Sunday's theme will be bodies of water in Florida.

This is Hudson Beach. The rocky beach isn't conducive to lying out on a beach blanket enjoying the sun, so the city fathers created a sea wall and filled the area behind it with a little sand for people to bring their lawn chairs and stretch out in the sun.

The waters of the Gulf of Mexico are so calm compared to the Atlantic Ocean. The water is also clear enough that you can see to the bottom for quite a distance out from the shore.

St. Augustine beach is a walking beach, with a stretch of sand that goes for miles. Unfortunately, the campground here no longer is in the member park system--we think they may have sold out to condo developers.

The Tolomato River as seen from the St. Augustine lighthouse. I love the fact that the waters in Florida always look so blue.

Lake Okeechobee has been severely affected by the drought and that affects the fishing there also. It's an amazing body of water that is so huge, and yet so shallow.

I realize this isn't a picture of Floridian waters, but it did come from the Gulf. This horseshoe crab shell was near the edge of the sea wall at Hudson Beach. Such an aptly named creature.

And this is a real horseshoe crab that I almost stepped on in the Gulf waters near Carrabelle, Florida many years ago. I didn't know whether to be scared by it or awed by the sight--a little of both, I think.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I Wonder

Does it mean something when you realize that gray clouds have rolled in and thunder is starting to crack while you are alone in the swimming pool doing water aerobics and suddenly you notice two black vultures staring at you intently from about 75 feet away?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

One Last Jab Florida snowbirds. Then I swear I'll quit (okay, unless something else tickles my fancy)

I've sure gotten old! I've had two bypass surgeries, a hip replacement, new knees, fought prostate cancer and diabetes. I'm half blind, can't hear anything quieter than a jet engine, take 40 different medications that make me dizzy, winded, and subject to blackouts. Have bouts with dementia. Have poor circulation; hardly feel my hands and feet anymore. Can't remember if I'm 85 or 92. Have lost all my friends. But, thank God, I still have my driver's license.

I'm off to do some water if only I could find a tricycle.....

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Rare Bird

The quality of these pictures isn't too great because I had to take them surreptitiously so I wouldn't startle these migrating birds of Florida. Known as the three wheeled silver topped snowbirdicus, these colorful creatures travel from northern climes in late December and early January, settling into the coastal areas of Florida to enjoy the warm temperatures and readily available nesting spots known as RV parks or mobile home parks. Seen singly and in pairs, chirping happily throughout the day as they swoop through their parks, occasionally flocking around swimming pools or shuffleboards courts. Friendly, curious, sometimes raucous, these happy birds demand the right of way on resort driveways but give a nod or a wave to acknowledge the existence of the slower pedestrians sharing the roadway as they toodle on their way.

Years ago after my father passed away I asked my mother if she'd be interested in moving down to Florida to avoid the sometimes harsh winters of Ohio. She replied that "Florida has too many old people" and that she would never move there. Well, Florida does have a lot of old people, especially in the winter months and the slower lifestyle of the senior citizens here is one of the reasons Denny and I tried spending the winters in Arizona--it just seems like the RVers and seniors who spend their winters in the west are a more active breed. You just don't see trikes out there--golf carts, yes--trikes, no. So when we pulled into our campground yesterday and the ladies above were pedaling towards us we just had to grin at our stereotypical thoughts and resolve to ourselves to deal with it for the next three weeks. I've got a broken tooth that's going to need a crown so I'm getting that repaired here and then we'll move on. Ideally to find a pickleball court and a campground where people walk or jog but don't ride trikes. Because if the folks in Florida are too old for my mom, they have to be too old for Denny and me!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Lazy Sunday on Peace River

Whew! For a Lazy Sunday, I've been busy! I edited my RV Heaven post of a couple days ago to include a couple of pictures from the show. Friends Don and Vicki covered my rear for me by taking a few pictures of the rigs blogged about, so re-check that blog.

For today, the pictures are a review of our week here by the Peace River. We had a little problem with trees in getting our satellite signals, we've had rain when Denny and I went to the RV show and the winds actually managed to blow our larger satellite dish off line by shifting the tripod yesterday. But, we've met a lot of new people, played pickleball for the first time, took Brian and Judy geocaching to introduce them to yet something else to spend money on (heh), were intrigued by new RVs and Judy and I got crafty. A pretty busy week.

As soon as we were set up on our campsite, Judy and Biscuit came to visit. Patches did not appreciate a 5 month old Yorkie puppy in her house!

Brian wasn't so sure about geocaching, but he does like history, so this "virtual" geocache that took us to the Pioneer Museum worked for him.

Pretty pink flower, right? Notice the little brown balls on the same branch? Sticky, nasty burrs that got caught up in the fur on Biscuit's face, so that I had to pick them all off since it was my idea to walk the nature trail. Sorry, Biscuit!

Can you see the creature of the tree? I'm thinking he looks like the big white doggie-like creature in the "Neverending Story" movie. What do you think? This tree sits beside the nature trail in our campground.

No these folks aren't looking for "Stumpy", the three-legged alligator that lives in the river here. They are seining for fossils, finding sharks' teeth and bone fragments among other things. Sharks' teeth in a river????

The Peace River which runs along the perimeter of our campground here in Wauchula.

If this tri-colored heron and white ibis were comfortable searching for fish in the river, I can only assume Stumpy wasn't around.

A bad picture, but this is the result of my crafty-ness yesterday. Now I have something fun to wear while playing pickleball!

Friday, January 18, 2008

RV Heaven

What happens when you have over 1300 recreational vehicles, over 350 booths with people selling everything from RV supplies, to RV lots, to insurance, Russian diamond jewelry, cookware, RV insurance, vibrating chair pads and oh, so much more? You have the Florida RV Supershow. Over 17 acres of motorhomes, fifth wheels, travel trailers, toy box haulers, conversion vans, truck campers and pop-tops, interspersed with booths advertising various campgrounds, membership organizations, insurance,blah blah blah, strolling entertainers and troubadours, free handouts, door prizes and pricey mediocre food vendors.

And what did the distaff half of the RV Vagabonds do? She forgot the memory card for her camera and therefore didn't get a single darn picture of the whole extravaganza. ARRRGGGHHHHH. We spent five hours there and only looked at some of the vendors booths and fifth wheels--we didn't enter a single $500,000 motorhome, or a $5,000 pop top, or peer into anything that wasn't a fifth wheel. We must have climbed up and down one hundred sets of entry steps and saw trailers with fireplaces and glossy marble floors and stained glass windows and bunk beds and mother-in-law bedrooms (a second bedroom in the rig) and double refrigerators and 42 inch HD TVS.

We saw expensive trailers where the designers had obviously never sat in the rigs they designed, because they put a big desk top along one wall and then sat a 42 inch TV right on top of it, so you couldn't put a desktop PC or even sit at the desk with a laptop without blocking half the TV screen for anyone else sitting in the room. Yes, you could pay over $100,000 for a trailer with a useless desk, or furniture that was upholstered with material that was so dark and drab that you'd have to have all the lights on inside in broad daylight.

There were manufacturers that obviously had listened to their customers and had started building their units with the consumer in mind. Yay for them! Cupboards were well placed and spacious, electrical outlets were convenient, desktops had holes in the surface for computer/printer cables, kitchens had enough counter space. If a load of money dropped into our laps tomorrow, Denny and I would seriously consider buying a new Landmark Augusta fifth wheel--made in Elkhart, IN with Amish made cabinetry, this manufacturer gathered a round table of fulltime RVers and asked them what they wanted in a fifth wheel and then implemented some of those suggestions. It's a nice rig.

Denny and I had enough after five hours and dragged our tired rear ends to the truck for the hour and a half drive home. We had free tickets to return anytime over the next three days, but once was enough for us at that distance. What we discovered is that while it's nice to look and compare, we're pretty darn happy with what we've got now. That is, after we get a whole house vacuum cleaner, a new refrigerator so I'm not defrosting it every ten days, and a new pocket door to replace the one that is delaminating. That's going to be a lot cheaper than buying a $80,000-$100,000 fifth wheel, right?

This is the kitchen area of the fifth wheel I would buy. Note the abundance of counter space which would allow Denny to make his wonderful pies. Sink, stove and refrigerator are all close together for ease in cooking and clean up. I like it.

This is the kitchen of a fifth wheel that costs three times as much as the one I want. Do you see anything here that you'd pay $227,000 for?

A large percentage of fifth wheels have nice desk areas. This one in the Landmark Augusta has a fireplace (out of sight to the right of the frame) under the desk. Me, I'd replace that with a cupboard for storing of files and computer "stuff".

Someone always pulls the "WOW" factor at these RV shows. This is the bedroom of the Gulfstream Tourmaster in the 45 foot long motorhome. What you are looking at is a very large TV inset into the bottom of a king-sized Murphy bed. Across the room is a pair of lounge chairs. That's right, the bedroom is a "lounge" during the day. Now, Denny and I like to watch the news in bed at night, which is not-so-doable if the TV is under the bed when you are lying in bed. RV manufacturers--what are you thinking when you design these rigs?

Another oddity. This is a "loft" in a travel trailer. I guess it would be good for going to NASCAR races and parking in the infield to watch the race and party.

My thanks to Don and Vicki for providing these pictures to cover for my senior moment in leaving my camera's memory card at home when we went to the Florida RV Supershow.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

In A Pickle...ball

Pickleball. Funny name. It's hot stuff on the list of member campground activities, though. The game? Like table tennis on a tennis court. Badminton with oversized ping pong paddles and a wiffle ball. But dang if it isn't fun!

Our first day here in Wauchula Judy asked me if I thought I'd like to give playing pickleball a try. What the heck, I thought. Ahh, but there are rules for how you serve, where you stand and can't stand--psh! Lots of stuff to remember for an old broad who has gotten lazy and has the eye-hand coordination of an elephant (and the corresponding grace on the courts). But...with a little practice I could see the attraction. Brian told me that the average age of a pickle ball player was 78 (?!?) but he might have been pulling my leg. Then again, a lady wandered up to the courts today that probably WAS 78 years old, so maybe not. And she was good.

So now, if I want to continue to do this, I need a paddle at $43 (check it out at and balls at $15 a dozen. And a bag to carry my paddle and balls, and maybe fingerless gloves to grip the paddle better and a viser to keep the sun out of my eyes and........

My instructor Kathy serving the ball ("think bowling, Linda, think bowling") and friend Judy as her partner (standing in front of the white van). They are not only good at the game, but very patient with a clumsy beginner. Thanks, ladies!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Mystical on a Misty Morning

This morning Denny and I will move on. Friends Judy and Brian are already settled in at our next campground and we can't wait to see them because it's been a long time since our paths have crossed. There may even be some water aerobics in my future!

Darb had one of those "what are you" surveys on his myspace today that appealed to me. Here is the result:

You are The Moon

Hope, expectation, Bright promises.

The Moon is a card of magic and mystery - when prominent you know that nothing is as it seems, particularly when it concerns relationships. All logic is thrown out the window.

The Moon is all about visions and illusions, madness, genius and poetry. This is a card that has to do with sleep, and so with both dreams and nightmares. It is a scary card in that it warns that there might be hidden enemies, tricks and falsehoods. But it should also be remembered that this is a card of great creativity, of powerful magic, primal feelings and intuition. You may be going through a time of emotional and mental trial; if you have any past mental problems, you must be vigilant in taking your medication but avoid drugs or alcohol, as abuse of either will cause them irreparable damage. This time however, can also result in great creativity, psychic powers, visions and insight. You can and should trust your intuition.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Then and Now

The headline of one of the articles in this morning's Dayton Daily New was Great Blizzard of 1978 Brought Heavy Snow, Blizzard of Good Deeds.

Back in 1978 Denny and I hadn't met yet--he was a detective with the police department and I was a stay at home mom with a 9-month old son. He has memories of going out on the street assisting people, while mine are of calling my elderly neighbors to check on them and see if they needed anything, while Darby and I stayed warm and snug in our home. Our alley was covered with ten foot drifts of snow so my car was inaccessible and Darby's dad had to abandon his car out on the main roadway and trudge home from work that day, but we had food and power so we were fortunate.

The southern part of Ohio rarely gets weather like that, but a couple years ago while we were back in Ohio for Christmas we had that 21 inch snowfall in 24 hours. Which is precisely why Denny and I decided to spend our winters where the ambient temperatures allow for shorts and tee shirts in January and our bedroom windows can be opened to catch the nighttime breezes.

Eventually we got out to shovel the sidewalks, which was much easier to do in my 20s than it is now in my 50s. And yes, the Christmas lights were still up around the porch.

A much preferred method of being outside during the winter months is wandering the streets of Tombstone, people and cowboy-watching.

Geocaching has taken us pretty far afield and keeps us active when others back east are still bundled up against the cold. These are the mountains within the Rockhound State Park near Deming, New Mexico.

Quite frankly, I much prefer having to watch for rattlesnakes while geocaching in the desert near Apache Junction than shoveling snow.

Here we were working our way towards those rocks at the top of the picture to find another geocache in the Rockhound State Park in Deming, New Mexico. And on the way back to our campground we treated ourselves to a wine tasting at the nearby St. Clair Vineyards.

Instead of turning up the thermostat, here we're geocaching outside of St. David, Arizona. The scene you see is an area featured in some of the John Wayne "McClintock" movies. Far off the beaten track, it's an area we never would have discovered by ourselves.

Sitting outside to watch the sun rise in March is not something I would do in Ohio, but in Needles, California I was comfortable in a sweatshirt and jeans. Need I say more?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Mermaids or Manatees?

Our very first winter as full time RVers was spent in the area of Homosassa Springs, home to the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. I can't really say that I had ever heard of manatees at the time, but after visiting the park the first time, I was hooked. These huge, gentle and oh-so-ugly creatures glide at the blinding speed of 1-2 miles per hour through the crystal clear waters of the Homosassa River, eating anywhere from 100 to 300 pounds of vegetation a day, depending on their size. It is believed that early sailors who claimed to have seen mermaids actually saw manatees. Makes you think they had either been out to sea too long or that they had really ugly girlfriends back home, doesn't it?

The park has made some improvements since we were there last; there are new trails and exhibits and a lot more volunteers available to answer your questions about the park and the animals there. One of the newer paths leads to an area of the river outside the park where you can see wild manatees feeding or resting peacefully while people in kayaks (some are "watchers" who make sure the manatees are not disturbed) and boats sit quietly watching them. The manatees within the park are rescue manatees--those that have been injured by power boats and brought to the park to heal.

The park has a new reptile house with a variety of snakes. While I'm not a fan of snakes, I have to admit the coloration and pattern of the skin of some of them, especially the venomous snakes, is quite striking. I passed on taking pictures since the building is dim and I didn't want to disturb the snakes by using a flash.

The wild animal exhibit area is pretty much the same, although there is a new pavilion with a huge movie screen for lectures by the park staff. There are talks given on the alligators and hippo in the park, the manatees and one given on the wildlife. You can spend several hours here easily and there are many areas where you can eat a picnic lunch or buy something at one of the park's restaurants or snack bars.

Seniors with AARP memberships or folks who are AAA members get a discount on the entrance fee. The cost for the two of us was just over $15, which isn't bad for an afternoon's entertainment.

This is probably the best shot I got of the manatees. The bright sunlight on the crystal clear waters of the Homosassa River made it difficult to get a snapshot that you could see. This lady (there are only females in the refuge) was surfacing to get some air. This is a mermaid???

The preserve has an underwater observation tank in the middle of the Homosassa Spring, a 35 foot deep well of 72 degree water. Manatees need warm water to live as they will die of hypothermia if the water is 68 degrees or less, just like humans.

The rescue manatees within the park are well acclimated to humans and sometimes seem to show off. This gal liked to roll on her back as if asking for a belly rub and even waved her flippers at the crowd. How can something that's so ugly be so cute?

This is a zoom shot of a wild manatee that could be seen in the waters of the river from an observation deck on the edge of the park. Female manatees travel in a group, surfacing every few minutes to breathe and then sinking below the surface to rest or feed.

This cormorant sunning himself on a "no boat" warning sign in the river seemed to be telling me not to take his picture. Cormorants have to spread their wings in the sun to dry themselves off after diving in the water to catch a fish because they don't have a lot of oil on their feathers to keep themselves from getting waterlogged.

You have coveys of quail and prides of lions; would this be a flow of flamingos?

Where's the beginning and where's the end of this fellow?

Isn't he just the most gorgeous color? Denny and I passed a yard where someone was selling plastic flamingos wearing tiny little Santa hats--I was SO tempted to get one! Everyone needs a bit of Florida kitsch, right?

The clear waters of the spring-fed Homosassa River allows you to easily see all the fish below the surface.

These are the Florida Key deer. They are much smaller than normal deer so that they can survive the heat of Florida and live within the smaller confines of the Florida Keys. These are two bucks. That's male deer, not their price. (boo!)

We weren't the only ones watching the wild manatee. This osprey sat long enough for me to get his picture and then soared off in search of food.

When you think of storks, you think of the Vlastic pickle cartoon character or storybook storks that bring babies. In truth, they aren't really all that attractive close up.

A very much endangered whooping crane. In the children's education center a display explains how baby whooping cranes are raised and trained to migrate by humans who dress as cranes to imitate adult cranes. It's a fascinating story.

These three female manatees were eating leaves and vegetation that had been caught by the fencing that separates the park from the rest of the river.
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