Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Best Kind of Therapy is Beach Therapy

So they say.....There should be a lot of happy, mentally healthy people living in Florida on the coast, right? Well, that's a topic for another day...There have been a ton of articles in the local newspaper lately about how Florida's mental hospital/clinic funding has been cut and how dangerous the repercussions have become....Scary....

Back to more positive vibes for the day, BEACHY vibes...How about the Siesta Key Crystal Classic sand castle competition last weekend? It was FABULOUS! Not only is Siesta Key one of the top beaches in the nation, but it has AMAZING crystal sand quality, which happens to be a HUGE attraction for sand sculptors. They LOVE Siesta Key Beach and come in each year to build the most amazing ephemeral sculptures which are----(WAIT! says E. You'd better explain what ephemeral means...Not everybody will be on board with that...) Sparky just had to throw out a big word for today...Her vocabulary has been declining a bit since she's been working so much at school with kindergarten and first graders. Not that kindergarten and first graders shouldn't learn big vocabulary words, it's just that Sparky is on a different wavelength when she is in the lower grades. (AHEM! The blog, Sparky, the blog? In case anybody new is reading, Sparky has ADHD, and it seems to have kicked in high gear lately, explains Eldo.)  Ephemeral sculptures last only for a short time, the wind and rain will start eroding the sculptures almost immediately.

The process is really cool to build these....The sculptors get their sand really really wet and pack it down to get rid of air pockets. They use all kinds of cool tools of their own design or from other sources. After they carve, spray, smooth, cut, and define their designs, they spray a solution of water with less than 1% of Elmer's Glue mixed in to keep the surface smooth so there is a tiny bit of protection against the elements and drying. As far as the designs, there is no theme like the Chalk Festival, (see previous post just before this one) the artists just wait for the sand to "speak" to them and look at what they came up with!

And then they hope for good weather...It was a terrific weekend...Not too hot, no rain, light wind...There were about 12 sculptures in a roped off section of the beach. It costs 5.00 to get in to get closeup views of the sculptures, otherwise you can walk around the perimeter and get some pretty good glimpses of the artwork.

Here is the first place winner for 2015.....A cathedral with arms around it. Entitled "Tender Loving Care"...
The detail was amazing!

There were some kind of "out there" sculptures....This one had something to do with the mind....(Looks kinda like the way Sparky's brain operates when she's crafting a bazillion things at once, laughs E.)
And there was a fabulous traditional, well, not really, sand castle.....
Sparky loved the little drip castle trees along the edge....
Here's another view -- you can see another sculpture through the portal arch. There was even a little fire in the castle fireplace at the front entrance.

And Sparky thinks the sculptor might have added a last minute touch(?) in reference to the attack in France as it was unfolding the same weekend as the contest.....

 This one was a little strange....But beautifully done....
Here is another one, the title had something to do with "when I grow up, I wanna be...."
The details were so defined...Sparky wishes she could have seen the sculptors at work to see how they did it and what tools they used. See the detail on the shorts of the large dragon?  But she got there the very last day of the exhibition and the very last half hour due to work.
There was live music, and even an amateur competition ...This person did a wonderful job!

Not only was the Chalk Festival and the Siesta Key Crystal Classic going on on the same weekend, there was the Medieval Renaissance Fair this past weekend also. Sparky might still make it to that. It's the last weekend for it.....Thanks for stopping by today.........

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

An Amazing Fall Festival....

Every year about the second week in November, there is a big weekend where the Chalk Festival takes place AND the International Siesta Key Sandcastle competition happens on the same weekend. WOW! Sparky's favorite of the two is the Chalk Festival. It used to be held in Sarasota, and the festival leader didn't get the best help from the city as far as support and assistance, so she moved it to the beautiful city of Venice, where it begins at the Venice Airport grounds. It is the ninth year for the festival. Tens of thousands of people show up to see incredible pavement paintings in chalk. Ten dollars to park your car at the airport where the festival begins, then free bus shuttle service to downtown for more artwork.

This year's festival theme was "Eat, Drink, and Be Merry." At the airport, there is an emphasis on the art of 3D which Venice is becoming renowned as far as the largest demonstration of 3D chalk art drawings. The one they did last year, of a shark, held the Guiness Book of World Records for awhile. For these record holding chalk paintings, they used Sherwin Williams paint to preserve the painting. Sparky saw a little girl posing a few minutes before this couple and she was being coached to pretend scream while they took her photo. It costs 5.00 to go up on a viewing platform to get the full effect of the 3D artwork.

And here is this year's 3D attempt at the Guiness Book of World Records....A 22,000 square feet of runway pavement artwork titled "Feast of the Gods".
This year they added some music venues with local and regional bands, and a "senior vertical wall" where senior citizens could do their own chalk graffiti without having to get down on their aging knees. Sparky and Eldo declined to participate in that. :-)

After viewing some cool 3D artwork on a smaller scale.....

Sparky and Eldo hopped on a free luxurious bus shuttle to downtown Venice to see more artwork. The shuttles ran back and forth constantly. It was great not to have to stand and wait for another bus when ready to return. No set schedule, just coming and going as soon as a bunch of people got on the bus.

The street was beautiful....The colors were eye popping. The artists work 12-14 hours days over a period of about three days to create this amazing art.

You can see the grid markings as this painting was being worked on. The artist works from a smaller gridded drawing on paper or tablet, kind of like those "learn to draw anything" art courses from years ago, where some of them used grids. Anybody can copy lines inside a single square and then color them, right? HA!

The artists' talents were amazing!

The artwork goes up and down West Miami Avenue in the heart of Venice....

There were so many wonderful photographic moments....It was hard to pick out the photos for the blog today! Sparky loved looking at the artists' tools of their trade....Oooooohhhh, so many pretty colors!
And this funky chalk holder....with the funky drawing underneath.....
Another shot of an artist close up, Sparky loves the colors from the photo and in his hands compared to the kids' shirts and hands...

Here they are, hard at work....You are right there, just a few feet away, so you can ask questions if you want to...We just watched in awe while they created.

The details of the eyelashes on this one were the conversation of the day from the bystanders...
Most of them wear gloves while they work....And they aren't afraid to get down and get dirty!
Like this gal.....

A fabulous day in downtown Venice today....Sparky leaves you with this particular shot from another angle, it's her most favorite of the day.... Come back soon and see the sandcastle competition, the blog will be back sooner rather than later! :-)   Bye for now......

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Last Day in Colorado...WOW!

We checked out of our condo in mid morning, and decided to hit the Rocky Mountain National Park at the Estes Park entrance and spend the rest of the day there while we waited for our late night flight back home to Bradenton. We hadn't seen elk on our first visit there, so we thought we'd check out trails along Trail Ridge parkway, go back to the Alpine Visitor's Center so Sparky could hike "Huffer's Hill" again, and hang around till dusk to look for elk.....

At the visitor's center, we heard it had snowed at the Alpine Visitor's Center. Hot diggity dog! Sparky was rarin' to get up there. She had her ski headband and lightweight parka ready in the car. But first, check out some trail heads and the Continental Divide trail marker....No snow here....

The trails looked beautiful....We didn't have our poles and hiking shoes on so we just took notes for next summer in August when we plan on returning....
Sparky loves the wood carved signs....
We saw mule deer cross the road....

As we climbed higher, Sparky saw snow on the sides of the road. We were almost to the top of the park, Alpine Valley. STOP THE CAR, Eldy! SNOW! Quite a bit of it. Well, compared to what we see in Florida anyway, haha. Oh, boy!

Sparky just HAD to make a snowball and throw it!
It was in the thirties at the top of Alpine Valley.....Many people chose to stay inside and look at the beautiful view from within....
Bet the staff made this snowman....Sparky wanted to add a sign, "Florida or melt!" But the chances of this snowman melting any time soon were probably nada, as cold as it was up at the top and the winter weather coming. The park was getting ready to close down the visitor's center within a week or two, we could tell. They were shutting down some of the services inside.

Sparky wanted to climb "Huffer's Hill" again....just to get the exercise and to help her sugar levels plummet, which they did the last time she hiked it. Just goes to show, you really need to get aerobic exercise to help get those sugar levels down. Lately, the only time she has levels in the 90's (high average end) is when she really gets her heart pumping. So off she went again....And here's a repeat of that heart stopping, (just about), awesome WOW view at the top looking down at the visitor's center, just because it's so cool--taken with the iPhone 6S.

Sparky did it! Twelve thousand feet up! Eldy would have done it too, but he was having more trouble with the altitude and Sparky wouldn't let him try it.

After hiking and getting a bite to eat, we headed down the other side towards the meadows where the elk congregate every night. Eldy had to stop the car again so Sparky could make another snowball. Hey, it's the closest she has been to snow in four years! Gotta enjoy what little there is of it!

bull elk on the hillside
By this time, it was getting to be late afternoon....We drove around the park visiting several meadows, no signs of elk yet. They were still in the woods up on the ridges next to the road....Eldy spotted a bull and his harem of three females up above the road side. We decided to sit and wait.....and wait......and wait.....Cars came and went. We stayed parked on the side of the road right next to the meadow. The bull and harem waited patiently on the hillside, munching away on grass shoots. We waited some more. Sparky was getting impatient. (She's not very good at just sitting in the car, explains E.)

Finally, she couldn't stand it any longer. She was going to get out her knitting and pass the time that way. Just as she started to knit, Eldy shouted, "HERE HE COMES! HERE HE COMES! THERE HE GOES!" And the bull passed right in front of the car ahead of us. He just bounded out of the woods from up above, and two females bounded down the hillside right behind him, dodging cars that were still moving in the roadway! Sparky missed the shot because she was looking down and couldn't get the camera out and going fast enough. :-(   Boy, when they decide to move, they GO! That bull had had enough of the passersby, and decided to make his move. It was thrilling to see them come by us so close and so fast!

After watching them head into the marsh waters, we headed out of the park. Just as we got to the Estes Park ranger station/entrance, we saw more bulls....Sparky wasn't going to miss any more chances to get some wildlife photos! This bull elk passed nonchalantly by a small group of people who had stopped, thus starting an "elk jam" right along the roadside. Nobody was coming or going on either side of the roadway. He had definitely "tangled" with some brush and was wearing a crown of grass shoots on his head. Didn't seem to bother him a bit. He regally paraded right by us, not giving anybody the time of day. He was just a few yards away from us!

And off he went, on his way to who knows what?

We hated to leave....We saw another bull with his harem hanging around some park buildings near the exit. He was definitely interested in a female and was following her around. But she wasn't interested at all. We heard some bugling from a male while we were there. Rut season was just starting to get under way, the rangers said. But it was time to head out of the park. Regretfully, we left the park and immediately, we saw ANOTHER bull elk in the front yard of a resident's house, just sitting and enjoying the late afternoon light.

Went a few miles down the road and TWO more BULL elk were nibbling and antler tussling with low tree branches. WOW! What a day of wildlife!

It was a terrific trip! We loved our stay in Breckenridge, Colorado, and we hope to come back for the whole month of August next year to hike and bike and explore even more. We sure packed a lot in in four days and it was a great way to explore the area, and to find accommodations that we knew we'd be happy with. So, until next time......Happy Trails and safe travels to you!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Colorado Trip Day 2 and Day 3

The second day, we went exploring into the town of Breckenridge, formerly an old mining town before it evolved into the bustling ski resort town it is today. The population is only about 4500 when the skiers are not around, so the amount of restaurants, pubs and shops is quite amazing.....They have artful duckies all over town...sort of a theme like Yellowstone has painted bison, Chicago used to have cows, Cherokee, NC has bears...fun stuff like that...

Breckenridge has a beautiful city park in the heart of downtown....The Blue River runs through it, and the mountains form the backdrop.  There are many sculptures in the park and even one stone sculpture is in the Blue River. This is a view through a rock sculpture in the center of the park.

There is a beautiful Victorian home section in town. What would a visit to Colorado be without seeing log homes? There are hundreds of beautiful log homes dotting the hillsides.

And there are some terrific little shops as well....This candle shop was beautiful...The artist was making the candles in the front window of the shop. Being a fellow crafter, Sparky had to check it out.

There were excellent restaurants, too many to check out in four days! One we enjoyed was the Columbine Cafe for breakfast. Any place that has breakfast burritos and more than one kind of them on the same menu, is all right with Sparky. And anything that has big wooden timbers, paintings of moose, bears and other Colorado wildlife on its walls makes it a great place. Eldo liked his biscuits and gravy. We looked at many restaurant menus there, trying to pick a different one each day for dinner. The restaurants were mostly moderately to expensively priced, so we conserved our budgets and decided to explore more next visit. We visited a Mexican restaurant while we were there, (meh!) and had snacks at two bar/tavern places. Colorado has GREAT beer choices, reports Eldy. :-)

Where this flat place was, Sparky does not remember!
After checking out the town, Sparky decided she was going to do a bike recreational path that ran from Breckenridge to Frisco, a neighboring town a distance of 9.5 miles away. The elevation change was from 9.050 to 9,600 feet. Not too bad. She decided to ride there and back. For 20.00, (coupon in a local brochure giving 20% off) she rented a Specialized bike, a quality hybrid bike for four hours. That should be enough time. Sparky saw this cool stained glass in the window upon entering.

The trail is rated as "easy" in local biking magazines and brochures. HA! Easy for somebody acclimated to 9,500 feet up in the Colorado Ten Mile Mountain Range! BUT--the guy at the bike shop said it's downhill from Breckenridge to Frisco, so that made things easier. Sparky thought, OK, if she was feeling badly, she would just call Eldy to come and get her after 9 miles making it to Frisco. Off she went.....Piece of cake to get to Frisco. Well, maybe not a piece of cake, but it was doable. BUT---#1) it is NOT flat all the way there, there were several hilly places and one pretty good sized hill on the way to Frisco.

 And there were some road hazards. She hoped her brakes were good ones! They were....
 The scenery was FANTASTIC!
 The scenery was AMAZING!

The scenery was AWESOME!

Thankfully, there were places to rest and stop which Sparky took advantage of. This rest stop was almost at the top of the biggest hill to climb towards Frisco, and the mountains are just past this rest stop around a curve.

And Sparky kept going....Till she hit Frisco....Right before she entered the turn around to come back on the same track, she saw a cute little red fox with black sox...He just trotted across the road like nobody's business and kept a movin' on..No time for a photo for him! Time to turn back.

Sparky got about half way back, and the legs started to give out...No cramping, just tired and rubbery and refusing to work. She stopped for some rest and water. She stopped to take photos.
Sculpture on the bike recreational path
"I can do this...I can do this..." But this was a new experience, biking in the mountains. She soldiered on. The legs got weaker. Breathing wasn't the problem, the legs were. She stopped again....This was a cool lawn and garden center with LOTS of metal and wood sculptures.

She thought about calling Eldy and asking him to come pick her up. Nope..."I can do this...." It was VERY difficult the last three miles. She really got an idea of an athlete's exhaustion levels, those who run marathons and Iron Man competitions and stuff like that. Sparky stopped many times. But she finally made it! NINETEEN miles in high elevation. Woo hoo!

Stay tuned for our last day in Colorado, with one more visit to Rocky Mountain National Park....It was the best as far as seeing wildlife.....