Saturday, December 6, 2014

Well, It's About Time, and Here's the Rest of the Story....NC Trip

Sparky is FINALLY ready to finish her North Carolina tale, and to shorten things up, will just give you the highlights instead of drawing it out. Life got in the way of blogging these past few weeks, so best to move on, right? And besides, the HOLIDAYS are coming and FAMILY is coming for a visit, so Sparky better hurry up and git 'er done!

OK, where was she? Getting ready to go on the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, specifically the Deep Creek area. The Deep Creek area is where some of the Cherokee and their leader, Tsali hid out in the rocky areas at the headwaters of Deep Creek to avoid being forced to relocate to Oklahoma (Trail of Tears), and where later, one of the larger mountain battles of the Civil War was fought. There are some nice easy hikes and some LONG ones in the Deep Creek area. They are 1)the Juney Whank Falls Loop, .7 mile loop hike, 2) the Three Waterfalls Loop, a 2.4 mile loop hike, #3) Deep Creek Indian Loop, 4.4 mile loop, #5, Indian Creek/Thomas Divide Loop, TEN mile loop, #6) Deep Creek Noland Divide Loop, 17.9 loop hike...whew! and #7) Indian Creek /Sunkota Ridge Loop--12 mile loop.  Sparky took a couple of easy hikes and photos of some beautiful waterfalls....The area was absolutely gorgeous, shady and still green......
We bought a waterfall book at the park visitor center, well worth it! The Wayward Traveler's Guide to Waterfalls and Back Roads-- Franklin, Highlands, NC and Clayton GA Edition, which also covered waterfalls in Cherokee, Bryson City, and Cashiers NC. very close to where we were staying. This book had directions, ratings on the falls, unique lodging and dining, short hiking trails and much more. It was 5 bucks!  We spent the week visiting and hiking short trails listed in this book....Sparky went to one where after you hiked about a mile, the trail ended at the falls where you could walk behind them! Cool!  Some waterfalls not to be missed: Cullesaja Gorge area with the Cullesaja Falls, Mingo Falls and Soco Falls. There are over 1,000 waterfalls in North Carolina, one of the most beautiful states in our nation, in our opinion.

Sparky hiked, Eldo rested (broken rib healing time)....Sparky hiked the Water Rock Knob Trail...a VERY steep first hike in the week, and about had a heart attack, it was so steep...She realized very quickly how out of shape she was...Whew! But the view! The views were spectacular all week long.....

Sparky decided she was going to hike the Appalachian Trail! And she did! For about two miles....the Trail runs through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can pick up the trail at Newfound Gap Road at Newfound Gap. The AT runs for 72 miles through the national park. Sparky was excited to be on it and would love to do it again for longer distances.....Newfound Gap is the high in the middle of the park, about 4,000 feet up, and the Newfound Gap Road is the only road across the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Here's the part of the trail Sparky got on....

We were very lucky to see elk at the Oconoluftee Visitor's Center in the park the week we were in the area. We saw them two nights in a row, then they quit coming on their dusk visits to the visitor's center.

We heard stories from the rangers about dumb tourists who got too close to them. (Sparky, did you take notes? Were you paying attention? asks E., with a smile)

The male of the herd was AMAZINGLY huge and definitely had his harem with him.....We heard the elk bugling the first night, and saw two males lock horns! This particular male charged a car last year because some lady insisted on driving too close to him when he was crossing the road. He lost an antler ramming her car, they said. Because it was the rut season (October), the rangers were really on high alert with this guy in the meadow with his females and were shooing people away from the sidelines whenever the Big Guy moved.
We didn't see any bears this week....But they must be around....This was at our rental cabin...

Eldo is sort of glad about that, as Sparky was on a few trails by herself this week. But no worries, mate....there were lots of other people on the trails, too! We saw scenery after spectacular scenery....Many fabulous waterfalls and of course, the mountains....
View from our deck of our rental cabin


Above the clouds at one of the overlooks!


One of our favorite excursions of the week was the Roaring Forks Motor Trail--a 5.5 scenic drive through the park near Gatlinburg and a spectacular drive full of breathtaking vistas and canyons. Sparky took the Grotto Hikes trail there, awesome waterfall where you can walk behind it...Sparky reveled in the variety of trees, the beautiful colors, the crisp fall temperatures, she was in 7th heaven! Eldy enjoyed it, too, but Sparky more so....As you can see...

There was so much to see and do in the area, we decided to come back next fall and do some more! And that is that, folks, the quicky version.....Sparky now has to catch up with what we've been doing since we've been back home.....We'll be back soon.......


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sparky Attempts to Cook Thanksgiving Dinner, A Big Turkey and All

No, Sparky did not try to cook her company...If you've been following our blog, you know that Sparky hates to cook. And if you've been following a few blogs of full time travelers, a lot of RVers like to eat out, including Sparky! So when we came off the road, we didn't have a lot of cooking supplies to bring to our house when we settled down...No big deal...Sparky still hates to cook, we still eat out quite a bit. But---Thanksgiving was coming, and Sparky invited some full time RVing friends to come over and share our dinner table with us, since our families couldn't be here....She had to scrounge for the right supplies to cook a relatively big dinner for the first time in YEARS!

The pressure was on...Eldo didn't help much with motivation...(HEY, now, wait just a cotton pickin' minute! I cleaned the whole house, vacuumed and did the toilets and all! complains E.) He sure did and thank you, dear! How he DIDN'T help was to say, "Are you sure you want to do this?" Sure, I'm sure...I think! So off to get the stuff---green beans and all the fixings for green bean casserole, a big honkin' turkey, a 20 pounder....geez, Costco's, don't you have anything smaller?  Uh, ok...a twenty pound fresh Butterball turkey. Except it was partially frozen...Oh, says Costco...We freeze 'em in about an inch in so we can keep them in the store all week for early bird (yuck, yuck) shoppers. Hmmmmm, let's see, what else? Gravy--What, you are not making gravy from scratch, Sparky? C'mon, guys, you know Sparky doesn't cook....It's Heinz gravy in a jar....check. Shop Smart Magazine put out by Consumer Reports says that's one of the best tasting pre made gravies around. Sparky knows what she is doing. Pumpkin pie from Costco's--humongous! That sucker was 12" in diameter! check.  Whipped cream, the REAL stuff! (But in a can, clarifies Eldo.) But it's real whipped cream, not Bird's Eye, clarifies Sparky. Yeast rolls....and no-o-o-o-o, Sparky did not make them, Hawaiian King did. Stuffing....and YES! Sparky did make this from scratch. (AHEM!) Well, sort of...Good Old Pepperidge Farm pre made bread cubes BUT---Sparky added apples, celery, onions, extra bread cubes and chicken broth...check. All right...now the turkey....The bane of Sparky's existence today....

It was a battle...that twenty pound turkey was like forty pounds! Sparky wrestled it out of its wrapper and proceeded to try and unlock the tucked in drumsticks from inside the bird which was still partially frozen, but Sparky thought it wasn't. Sparky remembered from a previous Thanksgiving time where she didn't know that you were supposed to remove the giblet bag and the neck from the turkey before cooking, so she knew she HAD to get that stuff out of the bird. Twenty minutes later, Sparky was sweating and swearing, but the bird was defrocked. The bag of stuff was OUT! Ok, get the bird into the roaster, which was barely big enough to contain the bird.  Hmmmmmm....which way is the bird supposed to lay...which side is breast side up? Sparky wasn't sure....And she had heard somewhere that you should cook the bird for the first hour upside down, then turn it right side up for the remainder of the cooking time. Whichever side was up, Sparky decided to go with it. She was going to let it cook for an hour, then turn it.

One hour later....time to flip it. Easier said than done. No big forks in the house...."ELDY....We got a problem. I gotta turn the turkey and I don't have anything strong enough to turn this bird over." Eldy to the rescue...Two big BBQ forks coming right up! That man is a lifesaver. Sparky thinks she will keep him....For many other reasons besides just that one.

Even with two big forks, Sparky stabbed, jabbed, and cajoled the bird into flipping over....But he got severely scarred in the process. This bird is NOT looking very well....Did Sparky think to tie the drumsticks back together? Nope!  She had so much trouble lifting this heavy bird that she got Eldy to flip it. Back into the roasting pan he went, with the drumsticks sticking out everywhere and getting jammed in the weak little rack that comes with the roaster to hold the bird, and the lid barely on the pot. Sparky put a can of jellied cranberry sauce on the lid cover to help hold it down, not realizing that an aluminum can conducts heat, and the jellied cranberry sauce would start to liquify.
As that thought occurred to her, she grabbed the can off the lid, and promptly burnt her hand...But that didn't deter Sparky....On to the green bean casserole which came together nicely and without any problems...except Sparky forgot to put them in the oven near the end of the turkey cooking cycle and had to microwave them at the last minute, which made for soggy French fried onions on the top.

On to the mashed potatoes! Sparky is fearless and courageous, is she not?  No potato masher in the house, anywhere. "WHERE IS THE DAMN POTATO MASHER?" Sparky is muttering under her breath. She is frantically looking for it, this could be bad...Sparky swears she had one last Christmas. (Yep, folks, that's the last time she made mashed potatoes says E.) Eldo swears every year that you can't make mashed potatoes unless you use a big honkin' electric mixer which we do NOT own, and Sparky is bound and determined every year to prove she can make lump free mashed potatoes WITHOUT the electric mixer. (And she does, says an always surprised Eldy.) Now, mashed potatoes this year without the hand held ancient potato masher which she has had for years? This might be a problem! Sparky whips out the whisk and proceeds to whisk the hell out of the potatoes with great success, only to have globs of potatoes flying every which way, which she frantically grabs off the counter, because the company is here by now, and Sparky doesn't want anybody to know she is having a few, minor issues in the kitchen and that they might get hit by flying mashed potatoes.

"Anything I can do for you, Jeannie?" asks the ever delightful Suzette Kurfis, while her husband, Larry, and Eldy traded notes on various topics. "Oh, no, everything is under control, thank you, though..." responds Sparky. Ok, the potatoes are mashed, the green beans are nuked, the two layers of Hawaiian King sweet rolls got burnt on the top, Sparky quickly threw the burnt ones in the trash and oh, my god....Look at this turkey....Suzette said it looked like the turkey was having a gynecological exam.....Ya think it's done? My sister said you know if it's done by wiggling the legs. Sparky wiggled one leg and it disintegrated. She got 'er done, all right!
WELL! Actually, once Sparky carved up the turkey....(HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, that's everybody laughing at Sparky's hack job), the dinner was pretty darn decent...The turkey was moist (Sparky put pats of butter under the skin on the turkey) and really pretty good! The potatoes were lump free, AHA! Another notch under Sparky's belt, and the green beans were ok. We had wine, we laughed, we shared RVing stories,  the company was great, and...(Uh, Sparky forgot to take a photo, folks...) Oops! So here is our delightful company from a previous pickle ball photo....

And Sparky is already thinking about next year's Thanksgiving Day dinner----Cracker Barrel take out. (SIGH........) That big sigh is from Sparky's better half.....Sparky heard from Sparky, Jr., out in Texas, that Cracker Barrel does a terrific job of Thanksgiving Day dinner...Like mother, like daughter.....What can I say....except,

"Happy Thanksgiving!"

Life Gets in the Way of Blogging Sometimes....

Boy, you can say that again! Sparky has been VERY busy subbing and soaking up hugs from her little elementary students, making a TON of stuff for her little shop on Etsy, http://etsy.com/shop/JeanBeanGifts , having long lost relatives stop in for a visit, going over the rest of her photos from the NC trip, meeting up with RVing friends, Merikay and Craig, who were just absolutely a delight to be around.....


having RVing friends from Sun 'n' Fun stop in for Thanksgiving, (Sparky's pickle ball playing fiends, er, friends Suzette and Larry Kurfis, assembling care packages for her daughter serving in the military, and running around doing a little shopping for the holidays....

WHEW!

Sparky will be back shortly, she promises!  Until then....Thanks for the encouraging words to keep blogging from some of our friends (Hello, Barb, nice to hear from you!)....Sparky will keep on blogging...... And we will leave these thoughts your way.....


Have a wonderful holiday today with your and your loved ones....with your family and friends...We count our many blessings of continued health and abilities to travel and for being able to have a nice home in a warm place.  We say prayers for our friends who are not able to do that, or who are experiencing health difficulties, or who are in difficult relationships or situations, and we pray that the coming year will bring some blessings to those who aren't as fortunate.  Bless you all, and Happy Thanksgiving......

                                 Sparky and Eldo    a.k.a.    Jeannie and Eldy

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Exploring Cherokee, North Carolina

Our first day out of the cabin, we did some exploring....We wanted to see the town of Cherokee, home of the Eastern band of the Cherokee Indians, town population of about 2100. Not a big town, but BIG in the sense of the cultural history of the Cherokee. The area is rich in history, song, dance, native regalia and of course stories--the stories of how things came to be, fascinating stories.......The city offers the Harrah's Cherokee Casino, an 18 hole Sequoiah National Golf Course,  a large arts and crafts cooperative called the Qualla Center, along with the town being the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with over 800 miles of terrific hiking trails. There's a LOT to see and do here in Cherokee. The Visitor's Center is staffed by members of the Cherokee tribe.

One of the first things that caught Sparky's eye were the bilingual signs everywhere, in English and the Cherokee language. And then, she saw the bears.....they were all over town. Sparky wanted to see REAL bears, and that never happened this week, but that's ok, these Cherokee bear sculptures done by native artists, were very cool....There were quite a few up and down the main street from the visitor's center, which had this cool decorated van parked there. It was very interesting to learn about the Cherokee Bears...
The brown bear with all the symbol markings is called the Pottery bear. The bear with the red hat is the Sequoah Bear, who represents the Cherokee leader named Sequoyah, who was a Cherokee silversmith. He completely created a Cherokee syllabary, which made reading and writing in Cherokee possible. This was the only time in recorded history that someone designed a system that was effective in creating a group of literate people from previous illiteracy and Sequoyah was the man responsible. The Cherokee quickly adopted this system and became more literate than their European counterparts in the area! The black and white bear with the turquoise stripes celebrates this syllabary. He's called the Language Bear. There are approximately nineteen bears located throughout Cherokee, NC....You can find out more about the bears at the visitor center. 

There's a wonderful Museum of the Cherokee Indian in town....Sparky went and saw that this week...
You need a Kleenex to walk through the museum-- the stories of the treatment our native Americans is appalling and upsetting, and not covered very well in American history. A very dark time in the history of our country, and Sparky learned a LOT about what happened in the course of events that led to the Trail of Tears, the eviction and march of the Indians to the west.

The Qualla Arts Cooperative was just beautiful....Cherokee arts and crafts (right up Sparky's alley, explains E.), finger woven scarves and belts, wood and stone carvings, dramatic masks, and beautifully woven baskets of all shapes and sizes. NOTHING made in China, it's all authentic. It's one of the oldest and leading Native American arts cooperatives in the United States. The showroom and gallery are free and open to the public.

Cherokee has two big events that are open most of the year. One is the Oconaluftee Indian Village which depicts life in the 1760's for the Cherokee. It's open from May 1 thru early October, and this year it closed October 18th, so we didn't get to see it. Performances there called "A Time of War" demonstrate the struggles between the Cherokee and European settlers. Bet that would be interesting! Another special event is called "Unto These Hills". It's an outdoor drama that depicts 11,000 years of Cherokee history. It was also closed for the year.

We walked around town...got a bite to eat at the local Burger King...And saw this guy in there...Now that's something you don't see every day in your local town Burger King!
Cherokee does their best to bring native American stories, dance and regalia to the public if the public doesn't choose to go visit some of the sites. They have story tellers and dancers on the main street in several different mini stage locations ready to regale you with stories and lore. There are also many native, touristy shops along the main drag. We didn't go into any of them, that just wasn't our interest while we were there.

As we continued out of town, we headed to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park to explore the park, something we did almost every day we were there..Sparky quickly picked up some GREAT books at the visitor's center...Hiking books, waterfall books and more....More about our NC travels next time...See you on some beautiful trails and waterfall sites!



Monday, November 10, 2014

A Beautiful Place to Rest.....A Tribute to Our Military

Sparky started this post before we went on a trip to North Carolina and between subbing and the trip, it accidentally got posted as a partial post. Oops! Here's the final version with the beautiful photos to accompany it. Thought this might be an appropriate post to put out in honor of Veterans' Day.

Over the summer, we had heard about the new Patriot Plaza over at the Sarasota National Cemetery, which was dedicated this summer, so we decided to head over there to see it.....The National Cemetery is relatively new, started in 2007. It's a pretty 295 acre park in Sarasota county, along state road 72, and 4 miles east of interstate 75. It's along the way as you are driving towards Myakka River State Park from exit 205. The cemetery is open from sunrise to sunset and there's no admission charge.

It's a beautiful, active cemetery....We were especially interested in the Patriot Plaza, a 2,800 seat amphitheater with outstanding sculptures, structures, artwork, historical photographs and amazing mosaics and interrelated symbolism of the military and their families. It's amazingly beautiful, as a cemetery should be......We studied each part of the plaza carefully, as there are many stories and themes throughout...Here are the sections of the plaza and a little bit about them....

The Main Mosaic--Night to Day, Here and Away.....
The mosaic is located at the front of the stage inside Patriot Plaza...Made of hand cut glass and ceramic mosaic, it is 50' by 3' and is an imaginary landscape of earth, air and water. It symbolizes all five branches of the military carrying out their work around the world. The landscape changes from night to day and then back again to night. It's a symbol of the time differences many military families experience. Sparky can relate to this very personally as her daughter is on her second overseas tour of duty and when it's daytime here in FL, it's night where she is. It's always a struggle to be able to find the time to talk.....

There is a line of military ribbons that runs the whole length of the mosaic, ribbons that are awarded to distinguished service men and women--The Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Distinguished Flying Cross and more. There are blue stars and gold stars...The blue are for the service members currently serving, and the gold stars for those who die in service. These stars are seen in the main mosaic and on the two mosaic towers that are near the center stage.

There is more symbolism....Laurel leaves signify valor, courage and achievement. Near the stage are two mosaic towers that repeat the themes of the stage designs.

The Guardian Eagles at the West Entrance....
The two bronze eagles welcome visitors at the west entrance to Patriot Plaza. They look like they are standing guard, and they represent the military's role as guardians of our freedom. They are seven feet tall and quite impressive! There is one at each side of the wall, here is just one.

Testimonies.....
These are Cherokee white marble from Tate, Georgia....They consist of 16 white marble tablets that are 8'6" tall and 8" deep. They are very personal stories about being in the service and/or what it's like to have a family member in the military. Each tablet has a window cut out, and a thick glass plate imprinted with a photographic image. Below the image, there is an engraved drawing and text of a personal story. The stories span generations of military service implying that the military has always and will be a life challenge for families.

Witness to Mission.....
Forty-nine photographs are mounted on 22 rectangular pieces of white Georgia marble. These are like a photographic collage or collection of sorts of the military experience since the Civil War. The photographs were culled from over 1,000 military subjects since the camera was invented. The final 49 are all about ordinary people who served and made sacrifices for their country. The way the columns are arranged with intimate spaces in-between invites you to step in and truly become more involved.
Throughout these marble panels are the themes of conflict, rituals of burial, celebrations, technology through time, military life and work, how the military has changed over time, the US military around the globe, and the family circle of support.

"Home"....Two curved walls...One has a nest with an adult American eagle and an eaglet...The nest signifies the soldier's home, and although it is understood the eagle learns to protect its home, it may have to leave some day in order to protect freedoms. Did you know the eagle became our national symbol for its loyalty and courage to protect its family?  From the cemetery website, Sparky learned that while in their nests, parent eagles "ball up" their talons so they won't hurt their young. They use their wings to protect their young from harm. There is more symbolism in the empty nest on the other wall, but you'll just have to come to the Patriot Plaza to learn more about the rest of these marvelous and beautiful installations....

This is truly one of the most beautiful cemeteries we have ever seen...And if you are ever in he Sarasota/Bradenton area, this is something you shouldn't miss.....Thank you to the Patterson Foundation who funded and sponsored the construction of this beautiful ceremonial amphitheater. It's a treasure we are lucky to have here in Sarasota.....

God bless all who served and are currently serving......Thank you.....

Friday, November 7, 2014

We Gotta Get Out of This Place....

"If it's the last thing we ever do...." The Animals.....

It's been a long, hot summer....hotter than normal they said...Sparky decided after hearing all about the Georgia Mountains and the lovely summer temperatures from Karen and Al, that we needed to take a trip. For some reason, she wanted to go to North Carolina really badly after having brief exposure to this beautiful state last spring. It wasn't too far of a drive, according to Eldo--about 10 hours, so we decided to look for a rental cabin in the mountains.

So Eldy started researching and researching. This actually started months ago. Sparky and Eldo wanted to be in a cabin in the mountains, in the Great Smokies or the Blue Ridge Mountains. Know how many cabin rentals there are out there to peruse? A bazillion! Ok, not a bazillion, but there were an awful lot of conditions, requirements, deposit information, fees, photos and other "stuff" to wade through and that's where Eldy excels. Sparky would look at one set of photos, and say, "Oh, yeah...let's get that one!" (She would settle for the unknown and probably end up hating it if she settled for the first one, explains E.) Eldy would say, wait a minute, it's too far from the park, or the photos aren't clear enough, or babe, it costs too much....Ok.....We kept looking....or rather, Eldo kept looking and looking....We looked at a TON of cabins, and finally started narrowing it down to the Cherokee/Bryson City/Asheville area, and the northwest corner of the state. We worked with Yellow Rose Realty Company, a smaller rental outfit than most in North Carolina out of Bryson City, NC,  but the level of service and accommodations were outstanding and we would prefer to work with them again!

We found a cabin called "Nelson's View". Eldy said he wanted to be in the mountains with a view, and boy, were we! We were four to five thousand feet up and the drive was up a narrow winding gravel road that was one lane wide. It took 20 minutes to get up to the cabin from the main road. Another 20-25 minutes to get to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Reviews said you needed to have four wheel drive, and since our CR-V has all wheel drive, we had no problems. We used first and second gear a LOT this week! Here's the thing...if you want to rent a cabin in the woods, you just can't see it all on the website...There are pictures, but there is so much more involved with whether you are going to be happy with your choice! You need to know what kind of roads lead to the cabin, gravel or paved, whether they are steep roads or gentle inclines, how far the nearest grocery store is (not an essential in the Sparky/Eldo realm of travel, haha) and you have to try and get a feel of the layout of the cabin just by a few photos on the internet. How far are you going to be willing to drive to the destinations in the area? All these things need to be considered. We thought while we were in the area, we would go investigate some more cabins and were glad we did...More about that later....

The view from our cabin was probably one of the best in the area. This was the view every night off of the upper deck.

The cabin was so "up north", Sparky loved it. It was decorated heavily with "stuff"...vintage cookie jars up high on shelves in the kitchen, native American artifacts, the shelves and bookcases were decorated to the max---very rustic. Exactly as we pictured it might be....

The furniture was overstuffed lounge chairs and couches and had the definite cabin look. Knotty pine
paneling was the standard everywhere. (Sparky LOVES knotty pine paneling.) Unfortunately, the furniture, lighting and furnishings were a little outdated...one analog TV, for example, but hey, we didn't come to watch TV, right, Eldy? (Right!)

It was comfortable and livable. There was also a wonderful wood burning fireplace, and the excellent seasoned firewood came with the rental. The cabin had a little woodshed out back with plenty of firewood. We had a fire almost every night. Temperatures were in the fifties and forties some nights. Day time temps were in the sixties and very low seventies. Sparky was in 7th heaven!

All bedding was furnished along with towels....Here's the master bedroom with a queen size bed...

There was another bedroom with twin beds on the same upper floor and a third bedroom and bath downstairs. It had a very complete kitchen with everything you could possibly want to cook with...
HahahahahahahahahHHAHAHAHAHA...What's so funny about that, you ask? as Eldy is rolling on the floor laughing so hard... Anybody reading this blog knows Sparky HATES to cook. Sparky was forced to cook a few meals as it was quite the trek down the mountain road to get to the grocery store.

The cabin was clean and neat, we were very happy with it. And that view.....sigh......

Time to plan some activities for this week! We will spread out the blog a little bit and tell you the highlights in the next few times.....




Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Anna Maria Island City Pier and Other Sightings

We love the city pier. We go there once a week just to see what wildlife we can spot and what possible fishing stories we might hear....An old codger today made a quick comment about the fishing while we were standing and watching boats come in and seeing them scoop up HUGE amounts of bait fish into their boats, which were idling next to the fishing pier. And then he launched into the coolest thing he had seen in the 40 years he's been coming to the pier to fish and people watch. And that story was......

There was a boat that came in near the pier (this took place quite a few years ago, but it's still the old codger's favorite memory of the city pier) and it was obvious that the fishermen were novices and the boat was severely underpowered. A small freshwater motor and too big a boat. Well, the guys on the boat landed about a 450 pound hammerhead shark right near the pier. They hauled it in the boat with some kind of grappling hooks and the shark got MAD. He started thrashing so hard all over the deck of the boat that all their gear went flying overboard, and one of the fishermen went flying overboard along with all the stuff. The guys on the pier were laughing their heads off!

He said he saw a pair of dolphins one time catch a decent size fish and play with it, tossing it into the air, rolling over on their backs and just have a grand old time with that fish. The game lasted for quite awhile, he reported.

We've seen a school of rays, a mama manatee and her baby swim right under the pier, an aging dolphin swim close back and forth, back and forth along the pier. We've seen all kinds of birds get caught and trapped in the fishermen's hooks, even a ray one day...and today, a pair of dolphins swim so close to the beach, had we been out wading in the water, we probably could have touched them. Sparky couldn't run out to the rocky jetty fast enough to catch a photo as they leisurely swam away....

But she did see a persistent snowy egret trying to get an elusive fish out of a rock hole...
                               "Hey, c'mon outta there. I know you are in there somewhere!"

Sparky saw some cool oystercatchers...Aren't their eyes really distinct looking? Gives a whole 'nuther meaning to "red eye flight"......

We're really excited! By the time you read this, we will be in North Carolina at a cabin in the mountains in the Smokies....Sparky is really excited about going hiking! Eldo will have to take it easy. He took a spill on his bike and fractured a rib a few days ago. One of those things where the tire caught the edge of the sidewalk as he was crossing from riding in the road and transitioning temporarily to the sidewalk to avoid interstate traffic. The tire quickly twisted and down he went, luckily on the grassy shoulder. But still, a rib was fractured from an encounter with the handlebars and he is now recovering. No bike riding for 6-8 weeks, the doctor said.

See you in the mountains next time!