Monday, December 31, 2012
Last thoughts on the Big City
The past week started with our Christmas celebration at Jenny's. She bought us new lawn chairs, just because one of ours had broke. Now I know it might not be a big deal to some but our old chairs had a unique history. One of our Texas friends had found them by a dumpster and given them to us as a token of thanks for a small favor,(we took pictures at their 60th wedding anniversary Texas party).
The basic rule of our lifestyle is that you get rid of anything you haven't used in a year, unless it treasured. The other rule is that when you buy something you discard a similar item for a net zero gain. Its a hard rule and we don't always follow it but a rule none the less and so we tossed the old chairs.
So today we are packing up and preparing to head to south Texas.We expect to run into rain but thankfully we are too far south for snow. I look forward to the birding, canoeing, and fishing in St Charles Bay, (where the population density is about one whooping crane family per mile), and of course I look forward to seeing our Texas friends. Clear skies.
ps Oh and Jenny got a new nursing job so we will be back here next year.
Sunday, December 23, 2012
The Week before Christmas, Wrapping, Movies, a Parade, and a Tree
Merry Christmas to All!
Our blog has been kind of silent, and that happens when you get nice and comfortable. It’s not that you’re not busy in fact the week has been quite full as we did more wire wrapping, went to the Hobbit movie, cheered the park’s bicycle parade, and helped Jenny decorate her Christmas tree.
Besides doing a repair wrap on Jenny’s ring, I concentrated on bracelets. They take quite a bit of time and at last I have developed a clasp style that is consistently simple and effective. We try to make everything from scratch, that’s one of our selling points for our work. Anyway I made a blue lace agate and a Colorado Amethyst cabochon and wrapped them both in silver.
Sometimes I get lucky and when we showed the Colorado piece to Eric, Jenny’s boyfriend, he pointed out to me the large backlit eagle pattern, frozen in stone. He made me think a bit about how I don’t always give the stone the thought that I should, although the patterns aren’t always visible until you do the final polishing.
We also went to the movie, The Hobbit, and it gets our thumbs up rating! If you do go to the movie, the scene where the party is around and in Rivendale is almost exactly like parts of Alaska. Watching the waterfalls cascade is a lot like driving into Valdez, Seward, and Hyder. Now I have to find the book and read it again as it has been at least twenty years since I last reread it.
Our park association put on its bike parade and it quickly divided into two groups. The Harley group moved ahead and the golf carts and pedal bikes made up a safer rear. Regardless of the float type it was obvious that everyone enjoyed their participation. It was really funny as we collected a lot of thrown candy, which is much better than the piles of beads we get at Mardi Gras.
Saving the best for last, we helped Jenny decorate her Christmas tree. I was surprised that she actually found a good moist tree, and we all helped to cover it in bulbs. It’s kind of an international tree as the top is decorated with a fan she bought while in Thailand.
So it’s been a busy week. It doesn’t seem possible that we have been here for almost two months and that we will leave for Texas on the first. Now if we can just find some sharks teeth and figure out how to wrap them……… Clear skies
Saturday, December 15, 2012
The Ringling Brothers Museum, Sarasota, Florida
We have been blessed to travel and to see so much. Often we concentrate on nature especially birds and fishing and bears. Today Jenny suggested we travel to Sarasota to see the Ringling Brothers Museum. I groused a bit, after all the entrance fee was twenty five dollars each, but it turned out to be money well spent!
From the first, we were treated to an incredible display of a miniature circus that was simply huge. The figures had all been carved in a period of over fifty years and the attention to detail was evident in each one. There was even a display of trained horses, with you might have guessed, carved horse manure
Lions and tigers filled one tent and everywhere you looked was a specialty tent covering all aspects of the Greatest Show on Earth! Even tented restrooms had not been forgotten. The Big Top was a huge tent that encompassed a three ring circus.
The next part of the building contained some of the parade vehicles that the circus drove through the town. My favorite was the steam calliope that contained thirty two whistles and its own steam boiler. In another part of the building a practice wire walking strip was laid out and while it looked easy it took us both more than several tries before we rang the bell.
Another building had the actual private rail car, that Ringling lived in and conducted business while moving from city to city. It was the largest rail car I have ever seen and the restoration was amazing with the same attention to detail.
The walkway next took us past banyan groves and Mable’s Rose garden. A little further we entered her secret guardian, after passing a banyan grove where a teacher was giving her students the what for about some inappropo comment, (that brought some memories back).
Approaching the mansion, the Moorish influence dominated the outside, and again the details were the same quality we had grown to expect. Inside the carved furniture and wall hangings, all spoke to a circus theme. Unlike the Broadmore of Rhode Island, which was a mere copy of castles rooms in Europe, the mansion here was unique and a delight to the eyes.
We rested a bit in the large patio and I suggested to Renita that we should do a similar stone pattern for our patio in Star Valley. I could see it, at least in my mind’s eye, another project for the next few years taking form. Heading back to the entrance we saw a garden filled with bronzes and it turned out to be surrounded by the art museum.
After enjoying the bronze figures and fountains we entered the museum and it was so huge that we knew another trip was in order. We did explore two of the wings, but we never did justice to what we saw. Renita and I both had the same favorite painting , the Blue Madonna. The colors were so vibrant, reminding me of the beauty of azurite, surrounding the Blessed Mary.
Too soon we had to leave. What I had thought would only take a few hours, really needed a few days to explore and again we plan on returning. If only we had enough time, which is a typical retirees lament that working stiffs simply don’t understand. Clear skies.
I would like to add a special prayer for the children and the families in Connecticut. May the Blessed Virgin take the children into her loving embrace and may God give comfort and solace to the grieving families. I truly believe that we will all be reunited with all our missing loved ones, when we all pass beyond the veil.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Boat Parades, Maderia Bay and Johns Pass
Eric invited us over to his condo and so we waited on the patio, which over looks Johns Pass. Renita and I kept stepping outside as we waited for the boats to start. Johns Pass was actually the end location for the parade as it started in waterways near Maderia Bay.
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
A Return to Weeden Island Preserve
The canoe stuck in the sand and I knew I had to get out as surprise; it was my end that had stopped our momentum. I got out and started to push the boat when Jenny warned me of a resting stingray and so I remembered to shuffle my feet.
Soon the front stuck and Jenny waded out to the entrance of the mangrove tunnel. It was obvious the tide was too low to run the mangrove tunnels and so we waded back out into the deeper bay. We passed by night crowned herons and little blue herons, oh and lots of American ibis.
Entering the main bay we decided to head backwards down the Weeden Island markers. The first markers were easy to find but one eluded us and we couldn’t find our way into the mangrove canopy. We headed back out into the bay disappointed but hoping to return when the tide arrived.
The wind was still as we canoed to the end of Goose Island. A lone kingfisher perched on a low branch of a high dead tree and it was soon joined by an Osprey, although it alit on the highest spot. The tide had started moving and we headed back.
Jenny suggested we try the trail again and she was right as the water was now deep enough. Gliding past the previous keel marks we paddled into several hidden coves and finally found the passage into the mangroves. The trial marker post was there but the trail sign itself had disappeared.
The next numbered sign beckoned and we were able to ride the tide into small inlets. Spotting several flocks of northern shovelers I remembered how our friend Marty had lamented the lack of ducks. Perhaps they were all hiding in these places. It was the only place we spotted any.
Renita sighted the first rosette spoonbill and Jenny pointed out another pair. They were really a bright pink, spring colors really, and I wondered if the bird spring was this early in Southern Florida. Great and little blue herons waded as we silently slid past.
Entering the main tunnel maze we thankfully found the signs guiding us through the black mangrove maze. We were actually moving in waterways carved as part of an old mosquito control program. Countless black crabs covered the trees lower branches and the tide increased its speed.
It was so nice to stop paddling and simply ride the tide. Birds were everywhere in the deep foliage as the surreal passage continued. Passing the trail overlook we entered a place where we fought the tide and the rowing became difficult. As the waterway narrowed, it increased the tides velocity, almost halting us in our place.
Luckily the way broadened and so we continue on until we spied a familiar bay. We were back at the start of the trail and there were more stingrays, as well as the first one we had spotted. It had been a long paddle for us, maybe seven plus miles, instead of the trails four mile length.
It felt good to have returned to Weeden Island Preserve and to finally have finished the entire trail. Besides that, we had shared another paddle with our daughter Jenny. It had been a day of birds and water and jumping mullet, a day of riding the tides, and sometimes battling them through the mangrove canopy. It had been a day well spent. Clear skies.
Saturday, December 1, 2012
Christmas Lights at the Botanical Garden
It was fun to walk along the lighted ways. The light displays were quite the sight, as were the plants that they were hung on. There was even a tree called a Christmas Ornament Tree that is covered with flowers, but the blossoms hadn't yet opened.
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Working Wire and Stone, Teaching the Basics
We talked with the people at the RV Park here and decided to offer a wire wrapping class. It didn’t really matter if anyone took the class as I needed to work some stones for our classes in Texas. So we were pleasantly surprised when six people signed up for our class on making a wire wrapped cabochon pendant.
Of course we had to run all over to find a set of tools but we did find good flush cutters and some really good flat nose and round nose pliers. I also was able to saw and grind some more pretty stones into tear drop and oval cabochons and so we set up at the recreation hall and students started to show up.
We have learned a lot since we taught our first class and so we had the students pick their stones and wire. I had also brought different shaped stones and of course most of the students picked free forms, which are not so easy, and so we were in for it.
Luckily we had also brought some of our own wrapped free forms and each person found an example of the shape they were trying to wrap. It gave them a pattern for the frame and bindings and that helps a lot. Quickly they had their wire cut and twisted, ok not so quickly, and the next step was to teach them how to make precise bindings.
Our students were quick learners and they all did a really great job! Framing and capturing the stones also went great and the time flew by as noon approached. Everyone was proud of their pendants and as others stopped to watch we soon had another class scheduled for next week. Oh and this week’s students want to learn how to make rings!
Monday, November 19, 2012
Treasure Island Sand Castles
There were ten artists who entered the competition and ranged from locals to artists from all over the USA. Among the contestants, one was from South Padre Island and another from Washington State. There was even an artist from the Netherlands, and so you could say it was an international field.
By the time we arrived on Friday the sand had already been prepared and the artists were all busy, using trowels, paintbrushes, and wooded carving sticks to create their ethereal masterpieces. We walked around and took lots of images as each seemed to be locked into their own private world as they ignored the gawkers and the constant photography from cameras, tablets, and cell phones.
Of course we also had to visit the vender booths, however the first vender got into a tirade about the election and so we shook our head and moved on,(We have tried to adopt the Escapee rule, which is to avoid discussing politics or religion, as nothing is ever solved and people usually seem to get upset). There were some booths that actually had local art and one booth featured unique shadow boxes with butterflies and dragonflies, all made out of locally collected sea shells.
The weather was a lot nicer, when we returned on Sunday. Parking at Jenny’ house we enjoyed a nice walk along the beach and found quite a few more people at the carvings. Prizes had been awarded and it seemed so subjective as I couldn’t see a lot of difference between the works. They were all beautiful and you wonder how they kept them together as the sun and wind dried them out.
Two of the carvings were somewhat political, but I suppose that is to be expected. The first place carving depicted bulldozers destroying the rain forest and had a characature of a rich person guiding it all as he breathed oxygen from his own private and enclosed terrarium forest. Money stuffed his pockets, need I say more?
I really didn’t have favorite but the Mermaid was clever as the back side suggested she had walked away from her image, or at least that’s what I thought. Several depicted human hearts and another depicted a beautiful woman, with her backside showing the devil inside. I never thought of a beautiful woman, as necessarily being a devil, as evil seems to me to transcend sex.
So we enjoyed the walk around the carvings and we even looked for the shells artists but they were closed up, maybe they sold all their works. Returning home we passed a huge flea market and we made the mistake of stopping, but that’s another tale for another entry. Clear skies
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
The First Week In Largo, Florida
Our first order of business was to see Jenny and she invited us to an Alaskan salmon and hog fish cookout, Of course we supplied the salmon and her friend Eric, the hog fish. Cooking over a charcoal grill was kind of different for me but the fish turned out great .
It was so nice to meet her friend Brandi and also to meet her family as Brandi has been a huge help during Jenny's first year as a RN here. The young people are all new scuba divers and it almost made me want to get certified, but I think I will just stay with the snorkel.
The rear stabilizer jacks on our fiver have jammed and so I spent a frustrating day removing the whole assembly. Of course I can't find anything but a full new assembly and at six hundred bucks, that's just too much. So my next order of business is to find a welding or metals shop that can replace the worm gear or at least clean up and repair the part.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
The Manatees of Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River, Florida
There are manatees everywhere. I look ahead as Renita points out the brown shape of a sleeping giant and just then a mother and calf swim right next to the canoe. I gently paddle the canoe and I tell myself to be careful so I don’t touch the massive creatures. Ahead one lies sleeping and I propel the canoe towards it as Renita snaps image after image.
The joke we tell people is that we carry the canoe so we can find our truck in large parking lots. It does seem ridiculous at times as we can go for long stretches of time between uses. However just when I think it’s foolish to put up with the hassle we find a place like the Crystal River and the boat presents us with an unique chance to see wildlife up close.
So when we visited the Crystal River Preserve and Visitor Center we asked about paddling opportunities. There a young man told us of two of his recommendation, The Three Sisters Springs and another launch site on the west side of Kings Bay.
The next day we headed for the Three Sisters Springs and it was really wild as we passed the Kayak Shop and launch site twice before we saw the store. It was right in the middle of a busy shopping area and it seemed so out of place, that Manatees could be so near to a busy highway.
The store owner, Mary, told us the etiquette of paddling near the giants and informed us of new regulations. These were a ban on disposable items, like sandwich bags, in the springs themselves. She told us it was only a ten minute paddle to the mouth of the springs and so we launched and started to glide past trees laden with swaying beards of Spanish moss.
Small bluegills and a school of mullet swam by us. Needlefish were everywhere and we soon spotted a hunting snowy egret. An anhinga flew by and landed in a canal as it prepared to fish. Passing houses, we turned several times and there were divers ahead. Could the manatees be that close?
A guide boat was anchored near the opening and a volunteer paddled over on her paddle board. She answered our questions about the spring’s access and cautioned us about the soon to be closed area that was choked with brown shapes.
Entering the narrow springs opening, Renita exclaimed her delight as a manatee passed right under our boat, in water clearer than that in a glass of tap water. A little further in we saw two divers and then another manatee approached the canoe, almost touching us but silently diving beneath.
School of fish swam unconcerned and the springs themselves consisted of three deep areas where the water rose bubbling up through white sand. We canoed back to the canals and then headed towards Kings Bay, again past houses, avoiding all the divers and the other manatee gawkers.
A tour boat told us that there were over fifty manatees in the bend ahead and I am sure he was right as there were sleeping forms and snouts everwhere we looked. I worried that we would startle one and it would upset the boat, but they always knew about us and dove safely as we neared.
One large barnacle encrusted giant lay on the surface Renita reached out and almost touched its side. It didn’t seem concerned and we had been told it was ok, as long as we didn’t harass mothers and calves or tagged individuals.
It seems like everyone with a boat has a manatee diving business and there were four pontoon boats that disgorged their clients. We were told it was a quiet day and we even had the springs to ourselves, (We were told there would be hundreds of divers during Thanksgiving and Christmas break). We paddled through the canals and again there were manatees everywhere.
After three hours we reached the parking spot and pulled the canoe from the water. It had been a magically day and it only cost five dollars, three to park the truck and two for the use of the private ramp. Renita said it was the best five bucks we had ever spent and I silently agreed. This is a comeback to place and if you ever want to see manatees up close, this is the place! Now if I had a wet suit, to go with my mask and snorkel………. Clear skies
From Livingston,Texas to Crystal Springs, Florida
So I was tired and sore and we checked into a Passport America park that didn't honor it on holidays and here they consider Halloween a holiday. Tired, we paid fifty one dollars for a night and I will never stay at Lakeside Rv Park again.
From there we drove two hundred miles to the Escapee Park at Rainbow Plantation in Summerdale, Alabama. This park is one of Renita's favorite parks with large grassy spots and interspersed oak trees. Again, the skp parks are such a refuge for weary travelers and of course we got our hugs.
The next day our goal was Beaver lake Campground, in Quincey and it was twenty bucks for full hookups. The park itself was basically a grass field with no amenities and again overpriced but we are back east. At least the Florida roads are a dramatic improvement.
Our next stretch was a short bit on Interstate Ten and then we headed south on the Florida Georgia Parkway. The traffic dropped off and it was a pleasant drive down a beautiful road. We stopped for the night at Rock Crusher Rv Park, in Crystal Springs Florida and it is so beautiful here that we are staying for three nights total. Its the prettiest private rv park we have ever stayed in during five years of full timing and is much like a state park. With the Passport America discount it is only seventeen dollars a night and that's a deal!
We are going to try and get a paddle in before we finish our south bound trip in Largo. Florida. There we plan on spending about two months as we visit our daughter. It will also give us a chance to sit and get ready for the Texas shows. Clear skies
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Fredericksburg and Livingston, an Unexpected Show
We left Balmorhea and headed east and of course we had a strong crosswind. Luckily it finally calmed and we were able to make it all the way to Fredericksburg. Checking into the RV Park, the park assistant told us about the weekend’s two festivals and so one night turned into two.
Our first trip was to the Fredericksburg Trade Days, and it was about what you would expect, a large flea market. We did find one shop that did wire wrapping, using copper and aluminum wire. Much to our surprise we ran into a vender we know who specializes in selling his families Native American Jewelry. He was definitely the top end of the market and he must do ok as he does all of their fall and early winter shows.
After lunch we headed to the Gourd Show. It’s a gathering of Texas Gourd artists and if you haven’t seen what artists do with gourds, you really should go see. One artist told us one carving and glazing took her almost two years and another insisted I pick up her stunning carving of an Indian Women on a horse. As I looked inside I saw a price of $15,000 and I almost had another heart attack as I carefully set it back on its stand.
The next morning we drove to Livingston, Texas and Rainbows End where we got the SPK hugs and welcome. It’s so nice to go to a park and feel like your home with friendly welcomes, hugs, and smiles everywhere you go. That night we went to the Ice Cream Social and to our surprise David and Cathy sat down. Unexpected meetings are part of our lifestyle and it was so nice to be able to catch up on both our travels.
It turned out Tex Fest was starting and so we also able to register for a spot a Market Day, (thank you Kelly). So the first night was spent finding our displays getting ready for a new show. The next day we got set up and of course we had to take turns seeing what else was on sale.
One table had beautiful dichromic glass and another featured handmade wooden jewelry. We actually sold a nice cabochon and not expecting anything we soon sold a mammoth ivory pendant. It was our first mammoth ivory sale and I breathed a sigh of relief as you never know how people will react to your work.
We sold some other pendants and even had another mammoth ivory sale. It actually turned out to be one of our better shows and now I wish I had bought more mammoth tusk. I guess it’s better to run out instead of having too much and we still do have more in the storage space. Hmm, maybe we need to go back to Alaska in2014.
So here we are till Friday when we shall head south to Interstate Ten and then east as we plod on to Florida. We both look forward to seeing our daughter but with Florida being a contested state, we aren’t excited about the constant political commercials. Clear skies
Saturday, October 20, 2012
Balmorhea State Park
Avoiding purchasing any rocks, we took off for Balmorhea State Park. There I wanted to stay for two nights and unwind a bit by swimming in the huge natural spring fed pool. Being a Texas State park, you buy a park pass which is a good deal if you spend some time in Texas, (you also get four coupons for fifty percent off one nights camping).
After getting adjusted to the cool water I saw a soft shell turtle and quite a few catfish, before finally spotting some Comanche pupfish. They were kind of hiding at the bottom and were difficult to spot. Mexican Tetras, another minnow, were everywhere and when I entered a shady spot the minnows surrounded me. Flashes of gold highlighted their tails and it was really a great way to unwind from a long days drive.
To add to our enjoyment the Orionid meter shower is taking place and so I went out early and even saw a few of the falling stars from the old tail of Halley's Comet. They are few spots in the USA with as fine a dark clear sky, but thats what you would expect deep in the heart of Texas.
What more could we ask for with diving, more rocks for our fifth wheel, and a meteor shower? Clear skies
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Benson, Telescopes and Tombstones
Benson, Telescopes and Tombstones
After nice visits with friends in the Phoenix area, we left for Benson. I had originally planned on staying at the SKP Coop but the office was closed so we went to Butterfield Resort. This place is on the top end of our budget, but they do have a beautiful telescope, a sixteen inch Meade, and it is a really nice park.
So when we arrived the desk told us that the telescope was broken so I told her that I have worked on telescopes and so we made a deal. If I could fix it we would get a free night. Soon after we setup up the manager showed up and we went to see what the problem.
We never did figure out why the scopes computer drive went screwy, (some theories but we didn’t want to recreate the problem), but I did suggest that the scope should be polar aligned and when that selection was picked the scope soon was back to normal. That night we got a private star party and it was really amazing to be able to quickly see Messier objects, as quickly as you could give the scope commands and move the dome cover.
The manager offered us a job doing star parties but Florida calls and we would rather do rock. It did turn out that the managers, Mark and Leanne also do lapidary, make jewelry and so we spent a pleasant afternoon showing each other our collections and our work. How funny to think that they operate a telescope, do star parties, make cabochons and jewelry, and that his first name is Mark!
Anyway we stayed an extra day and decided to visit Tombstone. Now the town itself isn’t much, basically a series of tourist shops, but the graveyard was a real hoot. WE had to try to keep a straight face as we read how the residents had been murdered, hanged, killed by Indians, or just plain died from gunshots. One poor person was killed while playing cards so all you card players out there be aware of your backside!
New friends are one of the joys of traveling and so we had a nice time in Benson and plan on spending more time here again. However the road beckons and we need to cover some miles as we need to stop in Livingston, Texas before driving the final thousand miles to Florida. There we plan on hanging out till late December, when the shows and our wire wrapping classes will call us to Texas. Clear skies
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