Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Our Last Week in Florida Before Heading West

We celebrated Christmas on the 26th as our Jen and Eric both had to work, So we gathered at their house on the day after Christmas to exchange gifts and share a Christmas feast, (below is a peach tart I made with peaches we last fall),. Their friends Chad and Brandy also joined in n the festivities and the only one who didn't seem overjoyed was Jen's cat Melanie, (she didn't seem to like her Christmas bonnet).
Chad also mentioned that we needed to play golf before we left and so two days later we we teeing off at a beautiful golf course, the Tides, located in Seminole, Florida. Not getting into the scores lets just say I had a few good holes and its always neat to have the chance for bird watching while looking for my golf ball in the numerous ponds and palmetto groves.
After dinner we relaxed and talked about next years plans. Ours are pretty much the same as this year, First we will head to Texas with a brief stop at Betty's Rv in Louisiana. Then after sawing rocks in Texas we will return to Louisiana and finally head north and west to our place in Wyoming.
During the summer we hope to do a few new mountain  man shows, but not to many and to look for petrified wood in some n Wyoming locations, (new ones for us anyway).Next year we hope to finally attend the Balloon Fest in Albuquerque before returning to Florida.
But for now its the Gulf Coast as its too cold to be up North. Our son called and told us it was -29 below and that was the temperature and not the wind chill. Matt and Patty live about 45 miles away, as the crow flies, from our summer place. So today is packing time. Clear skies

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Special Prayer of Thanks to the Firemen, A Fire in Our Rv Park

There are so many people who we all owe thanks to, the police, the emts, and of course to the brave firemen who risk their lives every time they are called out. Waking up early, I  heard sound like a gun going off and wondered who was shooting at 2:30 am.
A short time later I heard a louder explosion and then another and thought of fireworks little realizing what I would see when I opened the door. As soon as I did I saw the fire engulfing motor homes and fifth wheels parked in storage, not far away.
Waking Renita I thought we might have to evacuate but the firemen, police, and emts had already arrived and were fighting the flames trying to keep it from spreading to the rest of the rigs in storage and nearby occupied units. As my eyes adjusted  I saw others outside watching and did see a motor home pull out to get away from the flames.
Luckily the rigs were all empty and the fire was contained. It burned one motor home, ( a forty plus foot Winnebago),, a camper van, a fifth wheel, and a park model and again all were empty. A north wind had blown the smoke away from us and so we along with others who had been closer closer were all safe.
Later we went went to Sunday services and we thanked God for the brave firemen who responded and contained the raging fire. All the firemen were safe and they did their jobs, hopefully they realize they are hero's to the rest of us.
A special Merry Christmas for all who work today making sure we are safe and watching over us. Clear skies

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Christmas Parade in Roberts Park, 2014

This years flu shot didn't work for us and so for the past week we have sat at home and recuperated.

At least it wasn't as bad as past flu's have been and so I was able to grab one of our cameras and run outside to take images of this years Christmas Parade at Roberts Rv Park.
We are pretty much recovered and so its time to finish a few things for Christmas. Merry Christmas, Seasons Greetings, and many blessings to our family, friends, and readers. Clear skies
(ps We got an early Christmas present as our niece had a healthy baby boy! Congrats to the new parents and proud grandparents)

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Maderia Beach Boat Parade, 2014

We looked down on the gathering boats, all moving like a electrified swarm of ants, as they jockeyed for position. The Christmas Maderia Beach boat parade was starting at John's Pass and we wanted to enjoy the merrily lit boats, (if you are in the area you really should view one of the Christmas boat parades).
The boats were all wired and we mean really wired with some pretty neat themes. One even towed a large rubber ducky and its captain seemed determined to be the first in line. Finally the boats arranged themselves in order and motored in line to the east before turning into one of the many canals and disappearing from our view.
We were watching the parade from a new friends condo balcony, (thanks Mike), and I steadied our new camera against the railing. We had finally saved up and bought a new cannon camera and telephoto lenses for our Christmas present, and hopefully we will be smart enough to figure out how to use it.
The night imaging setting takes four images, one after another and then merges them together, during this time you really don't want any motion and of course the boats were moving in a parade. Nothing ventured nothing gained and so holding the camera against the railing I took multiple images hoping for some good ones.
It wasn't the first boat parade we have tried to capture but before the images always contained squiggly lines as the motion and darkness was too much for our old cameras to handle. After uploading the images we then used Picasso to crop the images, (the last image is original and has not been manipulated), before adjusting the images and readying them for our blog. Merry Christmas and  of course clear skies

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Tampa Bay Hotel

Its finals week for our daughter and so she invited us to ride along and visit her campus at the University of Tampa, (she is pursuing a masters of nurse practitioner, ), There she took us on a quick tour and we wandered around the campus admiring the beautiful buildings and tranquil setting. It reminded me of the years I spent in school and seeing her stress out reminded me again of how glad I was that that stage of my life is over.
As she headed off to her pretest study session, we decided to take the tour of the Tampa Bay Hotel. The hotel was built by Henry Plant, (a steamship line and railroad baron), who designed and built one of the most unique buildings we have seen in our travels.
Building a huge gothic style hotel, it was 1891, he topped the hotel with minarets. Each minaret was finished by crowning it with a crescent moon finial. Upon arriving at the hotel, Teddy Roosevelt with his rough riders, is said to have exclaimed, ‘What the heck is that’, (I cleaned it up)?
Inside, the hotel was furnished by Henry Plant during a trip to Europe and is a classic example of the conspicuous consumption of the nineteenth century super rich. The hotel was only full during the Spanish American War, when it was used as an officer’s quarters. Afterwards it fell empty and went into disrepair before being saved by the City of Tampa and purchased for a price of one hundred thousand dollars, (it cost three million to build).
Much of the building is actually being used by the University of Tampa, with the northern end having been turned into a museum. The Museum was holding a Christmas Stroll and so paying the special price, (discounted to eleven dollars each yikes), we strolled along from exhibit to exhibit. Having been handed a brochure with little information we returned to the entrance to discover that for an additional two dollars we could rent a wand that would tell us about each numbered stop.
The wand helped to explain the purpose of each room but we were still disappointed at the lack of information on much of the exotic furniture and artwork. A lot of the furnishings had disappeared when the hotel fell into disuse, but many of the pieces there looked to be from Spain, (Toledo?), and England, (there was a room filled with Wedgeworth ceramics which was properly labeled and explained).

As we strolled from room to room we admired the craftsmanship and the exquisite details of each museum piece. That to us was the real value in our visit. It was a unique place and we were glad we had taken the time to take the Christmas stroll. Clear skies.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Best Ride In Florida isn’t in an Amusement Park

Every once in a while you get lucky. Maybe it’s when you are looking for a place to spend the night and you find a beautiful park that you had never visited. Maybe it’s a fish or a pretty rock, yeah I know what you are thinking, “He needs a life.” Or maybe it’s just that you catch everything just right like today when we caught an incoming tide.
Sitting in the fifth wheel we realized that November was already gone, (and it went as fast as time does for retired people), and here we hadn’t been kayaking. So today was supposed to be in the eighties and one of our favorite places to paddle was only fifteen minutes away.
As I loaded the kayaks and gear Renita was busy packing our lunch, cameras and, dry stuff into our waterproof bags. Half an hour later we were on the water and she told me that she had looked up the tides. Low tide had been at eight thirty and the tide was coming in, so we hoped we could enter the black mangrove tunnels.
As we entered the small lake, sign post number three was being guarded by a rosette spoonbill, a double crested cormorant and a Louisiana/Tricolor heron. They seemed a little upset that we were bothering them during their afternoon siesta but as a paddled past they simply turned and watched me go bye before posing for Renita’s camera.
We knew that we had gotten lucky as the shallowest spot of the tunnels is at that spot and we were even luckier as the tide was rising and flowing into the tunnel’s mouth. It wasn’t very fast but it was rising and so Renita and I were both again riding the tide through the tunnels at Wheeden Island.
At places the tunnels narrowed and the mangroves closed in but we only had to occasionally grab a branch and push off as we silently glided by. Small mangrove crabs turned toward us and warned us of their might by holding out a large orange claw.
American Ibis skittered back and forth in the low bushes before leaving their perches to walk away from the danger they felt we represented. Taking turns leading the way I got caught sideways and Renita soon drifted out of sight, but she stopped at the next tunnel entrance and I soon caught up.
Passing by the ninth signpost the tide was now against us and so we had to paddle our way through. It still was easy going as it wasn’t rushing in and so we moved quickly against it by keeping a steady rhythm, left and right and left and right.
Finding an overhanging tree we tied off and stopped for lunch. A solo paddler in a canoe went by and then a fisherman casting as he/she peddled a Hobie kayak. I had long since put my pole way, for me anyway it was too nice a day to be bothered by fish during our tunnel travel.
Finishing lunch we moved from shaded tunnel to open water and then back again and now the heat of the afternoon made the tunnels a welcome relief. Too soon we left the last tunnel and now two long open water stretches awaited us. The wind picked up a little, as if to say that our tunnel riding had been too easy. Still the kayaks moved swiftly into the wind as we both found our kayak’s easy rhythm.
The last open water stretch was behind us and only a couple of turns were left until we reached the takeout point. I count the tunnels as an old friend and for a while we both had been transported into a special place, a place without traffic jams and crowds of people, a place of peace. The best ride in Florida isn't in an amusement park but riding through the black mangrove tunnels at Wheeden Island. Clear skies.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sifting for Sharks Teeth, Caspersen Beach, Florida

When Jenny told us that she had to have her new truck serviced, it gave us a perfect opportunity to hunt for sharks teeth. So after dropping off her truck at Sarasota, we picked her and Eric up, loaded their beach gear and snorkel equipment, and headed south to Caspersen Beach.
Renita and I had both been waiting for this day! We had made a screen sifter, from a gold mining rock sorting sieve, by reducing the opening size with a piece of quarter inch galvanized screen. So along with that sifter and, another we had purchased in South Dakota, we grabbed our pails, beach bags, and shovel.
Loaded down with too much gear, not unusual for us, we hiked a ways down the beach before finally deciding on a good starting spot. It reminded us both of carrying all our gear when we had gone gold prospecting north of Chicken, Alaska. At least here we didn’t have to worry about bears!
As soon as we got started Jenny and Eric found a small sharks tooth. The shark’s teeth here have weathered out of the Peace River Formation and the beach is famous for all the finds that have been made, (one tooth actually sold for ten thousand dollars)!
Scooping sand and shell fragments into the sifters, we worked quite a bit of material and while we found some teeth they seemed few and far between. Jenny donned her snorkel gear and braved the cold water and occasionally we would see her go vertical as she would dive to investigate an unknown object. While she found some interesting rocks, the best place for divers is about a mile offshore and so she retuned back to shore to work the sifters.
Taking turns we got better at spotting the sharks teeth and by lunch we all had added to our collecting sacks. We hadn’t found any larger specimens but what the heck we were finding teeth with our equipment, (people often ask us if we find all the rock we work and while we do find some we also trade, barter, and buy).

It does not matter if your fishing, fossil hunting, or prospecting, it’s really all about the hunt. It’s an added bonus when you actually have some success.  Too soon the phone rang and the dealership had finished with her truck. Tired we rinsed off the sand and loaded our gear. It had been a great day on the beach and we definitely hope to return here again. Clear skies

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sandcastles 2014 a Night View

Its always fun to walk on a beach and so every year we attend the Sandcastles event on Treasure island. This year we walked down and viewed the sandcastles durng the day and then returned after dinner to view the castles in projected light.
Many of the sand carvers had been here before and we could see the styles of familiar artists. We were concerned about the winds and oncoming front but the artists applied a white glue water mixture to hold their creations together.
We all had our own favorites and while they hadn't yet presented any awards/ribbons it really didn't matter as they were all beautiful in their own way. My favorite was a carving made by a Mexican artist but there were others that were Renita and Jenny liked best.
Regardless it was a nice day and a nice stroll down the beach. Anytime we get a chance to view art enriches our day.  I think I will just let the sandcastles do the talking. Clear skies

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Another Day on the Water, Waves and Fresh Fish for Dinner

Alan stopped by after pickelball and you could tell by his grin that he had a fish story to tell. He had taken his grandson out and they had gotten into fish so big that they lost all of them, They had went out nineteen miles to a reef and had then saw a group of boats about a mile away. Going over there they watched a boat land a thirty pound grouper and when they lowered their lines they were soon on a fish themselves.
Now they never did land any of the big fish they had on but they had found a spot and when he invited me and another friend, Tim, we both jumped at the chance to catch some black grouper. Two days later we had a live well full of fresh bait, pinfish and mullet caught with our cast net.
Now it all depended on the size of the seas and sadly we soon found ourselves in five footers. It was obvious that it was simply unsafe for us to continue so we headed to a pass with protected water and tried our usual drifting techniques.
As the day wore on we caught and released some small black sea bass and the usual grunts. Suddenly we saw pelicans and birds diving on a spot and as we neared it we could see fish chasing bait, Greenbacks were being driven into the air by a school of small bluefish and into the beaks of the feeding birds. Just a soon as we arrived the frenzy stopped and of course we had no bites.
Shortly after a new frenzy took place so we decided to continue fishing the pass. Drift after drift followed and finally Tim caught a nice keeper Atlantic sharpnose shark, As soon as it was landed Alan set his circle hook on a large bonnethead shark and we actually had fish in the live well.
Feeling left out we tried another drift and it was my turn as I felt a weight on my cut mullet, set the hook and actually landed a really nice southern flounder. On the same pass Tim landed a nice keeper black sea bass and surprise surprise we all started to discuss our favorite ways of cooking fish!
We didn't add any more fish to the live well but it didn't matter. Mother nature had thrown us a loop with big waves but when you can't fish for one species then go after another. The day turned out to be a five species day with good friends, good stories, and fish for the table. Clear skies

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Quiet Day on the Water, Fishing for Flounder

After pickelball, we met the other players at the clubhouse. It was get acquainted day at the rv park and free coffee and doughnuts always draws people out of their homes. One of the persons we met, Alan, asked me if I liked to fish and invited me to go out on his boat, fishing for flounder.
Of course I jumped at the chance and a few days later we were launching his boat at the Fort Desoto boat ramp. Now Alan is an expert walleye and salmon fisherman and I could see right away that I was in for a treat. Just by watching him it was obvious that he knew how to handle a boat.
Now if I could only meet my part of the bargain. That was that I had told him how the flounders were migrating to the Gulf for their spawning run and how you could usually find them alongside passes.
So we headed to Bounce Pass, between North Beach and Shell Island. Turning sideways he shut off the engine and we both cast jigs tipped with gulp towards the sandy shore, (it was an outgoing tide and not the best tide to stack up the fish), A couple of minutes later Alan set the hook and fought in an undersized flounder. Continuing to drift with the outgoing tide we both had more bites, but kept missing them until Alan hooked and landed one of the ugliest fish in the ocean, a sea robin, (known affectionately in Texas as a mothers in law fish).
Somewhat resembling a lion fish he avoided the spines and released it unharmed. Now it was my turn to pull in another sea robin, and for several drifts that's all we landed. Still Alan did catch another small flounder and so we tried other drifts. The tide went slack, never good for fishing, as it seems to us that the best fishing is with moving water. Still we caught quiet a few small grunts, destined for the bait box, (cornbread for dinner again).
Trying other places the fish refused to cooperate so the day turned into the usual dues day, which is a day where you have to pay your dues before you finally figure out the local fish. Still it was a really nice day in Alan's boat, a day of sharing fishing stories and talking about the differences between fishing for salmon and walleye on the Great Lakes, and my techniques for fishing the western reservoirs.
Clears skies