Friday, December 31, 2010

Warmer Weather--Finally!

The "Boys' Club" Fort DeSoto campground
Usually, I try to find something for us to do each day 'cuz I have a short attention span, so I'm always looking for visual stimulation of the FAMILY kind...parks, preserves, museums, art, etc. I'm still not used to being retired and sitting still, so I'm still needing activities until I get more acclimated to being retired. I can only sit and knit for so long! I like to read, but I just am not into books right now. I am making progress, however, as I'm now starting to watch birds. Can you tell by the number of bird photos that are starting to show up on the blog? Not sure if that's considered progress or an admission of age, but it's a great hobby when you have lots of time on your hands.  There's hope for me yet to slow down and relax. BUT, while we are physically able, I prefer to bike, hike, and visit stuff. There will be plenty of time down the road for reading, bird watching and lots more knitting!

It's starting to warm up...Here's Eldo yesterday:

Here's Eldo today:

Got fish? I can wait...
If you look closely or click on the photo of Eldy relaxing, you'll see a heron close by. Here he is, close up. The bird is actually only a few feet from Eldy. This heron sat all afternoon waiting for us to give him some fish, at least that's what we thought. What's funny is, when Eldy put his feet up and settled in for an afternoon nap, the bird sat back on his "haunches" and feet. When Eldy closed his eyes to take a little nap, the bird proceeded to do the same! Every time I tried to get a photo of the heron's eyes closed, he opened them, just to check to see what I was doing. If I got up to go back to the RV, he didn't budge. I went back and forth several times but he just stayed put. Finally, when we both left, he gave up and moved on....but he seems to hang out here every day, just a few feet from us, waiting and watching for an opportunity.

Here he is later today, and somehow he got his fish...we don't think he caught it, because a kid said he threw this dead fish towards a big bird, we think this heron, and the heron thought he'd hang onto it. We didn't see him try to eat it, he just strutted around with it for awhile....
dinner time?

One more bird story...Eldy and I were sitting outside, enjoying the nice weather, and Eldy says, "Come've got to see this bird with the really long legs." I grabbed my camera because I had never seen an egret quite like this one, with legs quite so long. Just as I was starting to take the photo, out comes a lady with a red Christmas bow and places it on the bird. The bird is sort of bobbing around giving her a hard time and not standing very still but at this point, I'm thinking, "WOW! This is a really tame egret!" Then I realize, duh, the bird is FAKE! I laughed and commented to her how fooled we were. She said, yeah, they've been putting this bird out and the real egrets come and try to mate with it! Guess the bobbing and weaving of the bird on metal legs looks like a mating dance. I took a photo of it anyway....silly people! (meaning us!)

I would like to wish all our readers a VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR! We are heading out this evening for a fun night of dancing at Silas Dent's in St. Pete's Beach...should be fun! Be safe and be careful! Best wishes for a healthy, happy new year....Eldo and Sparky

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Howard's Home IS his castle!

After reading about Solomon's Castle in Ona, FL on Nick's Blog and on the website Roadside America, we weren't that far from it, (about an hour) so we just had to check it out. If you have never visited Roadside America web site, you've just got to read about the crazy and weird things out there to see right in our very own country and probably in your very own state. Sometimes they are ugly, sometimes they are weird, sometimes unusual, funny or all four! Only in America can you see all this weird and wacky stuff!

Solomon's Castle is the home, workshop and galleries of a well known artist named Howard Solomon and is open to the public. It's not exactly easy to get there. Howard says he's so far out in the country that be sure you have a full tank of gas before starting out to come see his home and studio. The next thing he tells you is they are so far out in the middle of nowhere, you can arrive there by helicopter!

Where do I start? Well, Howard has been creating since he was 9 years old....he is now 75. Just about everything he has made is made from recycled parts of machines, discarded metal and all kinds of "stuff".  The castle's outside walls are made of metal printing plates. He's had different "stages" of creating where he focused on beer cans for awhile, (plenty of drinking jokes from the tour guide on that one!), brake shoes, oil drums, etc. There are over 80 original stained glass windows in the castle, of Howard's designs. There is a "Boat in the Moat" restaurant with good home cooked food. There's Howard's lighthouse as well, along with a gift shop. Not only is Howard quite the creative artist, he has the personality of a standup comedian. We didn't get the honor of having a tour with Howard himself, but our tour guide was so fast and furious with the one liner jokes and puns about Howard's titles for his creations, I couldn't remember any after we finished the tour! Lots of laughter can be heard as one tour after another goes through the castle, the titled creations are VERY witty! The tour guide even gave us a tour of the living quarters of Howard's castle. The kitchen wall was the only "plain" wall in the castle. Here it is:
"Plane" wall, ha ha
Another one of my favorites was the "picture window" by the dining room table...tons of old Kodak cameras under a beautiful stained glass window of Howard's creation. Ta dump dum dum....

Not only is Howard an inventive and creative sculptor, he uses many different mediums for his creations. Howard has copied some of the great masters' paintings but done them in WOOD pieces. Here is his version of "The Scream".
It was a VERY enjoyable tour today...
On the way home, we saw a "U-Pick--Grapefruits and Oranges"...had to stop for that one. In all the Florida driving we've been doing, we've yet to see a fruit stand with Florida's OWN oranges and grapefruits. So stop we did, and pick we did...we're in orange and grapefruit heaven right my little $12.00 Proctor Silex juicer going every morning till we run out of fruit.  Location? Corner of Florida Highway 64 East and Cty. Road 675.  Cheers!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Pier

The day we went north to St. Petersburg to see the Chihuly glass, we saw a structure at the end of the pier in the harbor, called appropriately, "The Pier", overlooking Tampa Bay. So we decided to check it out. There were supposed to be some cool shops in there, five levels of 'em, an aquarium, and three restaurants. It also had an observation deck and some catwalks for fishing. As it was a cold day, we thought maybe there would be something interesting inside to look at. Just as any attraction is one thing to someone, it's something else to another, it's all a matter of opinion. We walked down to it and checked it out inside. It seemed to be an older shopping complex and kind of dated. There is an aquarium on the second floor, and it was quite small, so we didn't pay admission to go inside. The shops on the first and other floors were your usual tourist type shops--clothes, candles, crystal stuff and knickknacks. It's a small space for each shop, so when the main aisle gets crowded, there's not a lot of room to move either in or out of the shops. There are benches for seating so guys can sit down and take it easy while their gals shop. We ate a snack at the Cha Cha Coconuts Tropical Bar and Grill (love that name!). It was a family place and it was busy today. Food was good, great snacks! If you want a better place to shop, there are many beautiful stores out away from the pier on the main avenue around the museums and the harbor. They looked expensive, however! We are not shoppers, so we tend not to even go into stores unless it's an outlet mall and we are looking for something specific. Now, knitting and craft stores, that's another story as Eldy will tell you. It's hard to keep me out of them.

We got a kick out of this fortune telling booth, but didn't try it out. There is some movie jogging my memory that has this same Zoltar, the fortune telling guy in it, but I can't for the life of me remember which movie it is. If this looks familiar to anyone, please let me know....Remember the old photo booths that you would jam into with one or more of your friends and get your photo taken for a buck? (or less in the old days). They had one of those, too! Costs $5.00 now to do that...I almost dragged Eldy into the booth, but we were ready to go home. The next time I see one, we're gonna do it!
Tomorrow we are going to Solomon's Castle, an interesting anomaly in Ona, Florida. It's a castle in the middle of nowhere, built by a sculptor with a stand up comedy sense of humor. Thanks to Nick's Blog, and Roadside America for pointing us in that direction. We'll see you at the castle!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

St. Petersburg Sights

Persian style,  on the ceiling
Off to see the wizard...uh, nope! Not unless I get some tickets to go see The Wiz, a Broadway show, but I digress......Off to see St. Petersburg, Fl! It's cold again today...the high was 48...time to find something interesting indoors.  I checked out the Chihuly glass exhibit at the downtown gallery on the waterfront on Beach Drive in St. Petersburg. This is a permanent exhibit. I'm not much into art museums, but for some reason, this glass art amazes me, and I just love to see it. Dale Chihuly is a modern, (still living) glass artist and his creations are beautiful. He is a talented glass blower himself, but he needs a team of glass blowers to help him complete his designs that are on such a grand scale. He is the master designer of all things glass...He lives in Seattle, WA and has displays all over the world. I guess the hotel Bellagio in Las Vegas has Chihuly glass among many many other locations. Again, you can't take photos or even have your cell phone out to check the time at a gallery like this..a lady was chastised for taking an emergency phone call from her daughter while in the gallery. I guess they thought she was going to whip out her cell phone to take photos of the glass. So today's photos are from the web. 

They really were this beautiful!
Chihuly has different "series" of glass creations--baskets--self explanatory,  persians-- which are often mounted on walls and ceilings, seaforms --which are more delicate thin walled soft colors of glass basket styles, chandeliers, nijama floats--which are incredible large glass balls, and more. One of my favorites is the fiore which is a spectacular garden of glass with all kind of tubular and bulbous shapes in the most incredible color blends. One of the distinctions of his glass work is the way he has contrasting "lip wraps" on the edges of the glasswork, like the black on the pink seafoam example above. And the way they light the glass, WOW! The exhibit lights truly add to your visual experience. These photos are from the web....this bottom one is one of the displays I saw at the St. Petersburg exhibit hall today.

One of the interesting things I learned was that he has a team of about 30 glass blowers at any given time and overall, he employs about 100 people. These glass sculptures are truly a team effort. Some of his tubular structures of glass ( like the example shown above) are so long or tall, that he is not able to manufacture them in his home state studio in Washington. He was going to build his own annealing kilns to make these, but the kilns require so much electrical energy, the power company told him he would have to build his own substation! I don't think so! So he takes his team to Finland every couple of years (sounds like a whole lot more fun to me) to complete these tremendous projects. Apparently, Finland is more willing to help Chihuly (an American) realize his artistic dreams than our own government. Price of admission? for a senior (over 55) $13.00 A chance to see a modern artist's works to challenge your senses? Priceless! Another cool thing about viewing this exhibit is, you can purchase an additonal ticket for not much more for the "Hot Shop"/ Glass Studio at the Morean Arts Center a few blocks away from the main exhibit...there you can go observe artists creating glass sculptures and hear the commentary on how they do it. You can actually have the experience of blowing glass as well. I did not do that tour today, just the Chihuly glass show. This was a spectacular experience and well worth the expense, in my opinion! Off I go tomorrow on another adventure with my Eldo....

Monday, December 27, 2010

Gale Force Winds?

We knew there was a storm coming in last night after midnight...what we didn't know what the amount of wind that came with it. According to the Beaufort Wind Scale (which I learned about in my middle school teaching career assisting LD students in 7th grade science class--I learned a lot I didn't get the first time around--thank you Mrs. Miller!) we've got "near gale force" winds--this scale is a nifty old school chart that standardizes wind speed based on conditions at sea. It was invented by a guy back in 1805 and they still use it today in an updated and more modernized form. Winds starting gusting so badly last night about 2:00 AM  that my brain was rattling in my head on my pillow from the vibrations of the coach and I'm not kidding! Those awning toppers make a tremendous racket in a wind storm as any RVer will tell you. Neither Eldy nor I was getting much sleep, so we decided to pull in just the bedroom slides....that makes for a cozy little tight compartment, and it was much quieter. We slept much better once the slides were in. When the bedroom slide is closed, the bed is all the way up against the dresser drawers, so if you have to get up in the middle of the night, you have to climb over the other person to get out. Eldy was the first one up this morning..."Unh!" Grunt. "Oh!" "Uh!" "Sorry!" That's Eldy climbing over me to get out of bed, accidentally squishing me as he climbs over, (he's the earlier riser of the two of us) We don't worry about the wind too much, we weigh a TON! (the coach, guys, the coach!) Seventeen tons, as a matter of fact. But we do worry about the awning toppers, which could rip or tear in a severe wind storm.....when in doubt, pull in the slides! Many people have left on this side of the park where we are or are requesting to be on the other side away from the bayou..smaller units like camper trailers and popups..we can totally understand that.

We don't have rain today...just a nasty wind, there are whitecaps but no foam spray, you can barely walk down the street without being blown to one side, the trees and low bushes are being blown almost sideways during strong gusts and it's 49 degrees. Ok, quiz time...what's the classification on the Beaufort Scale? (Hint: the temperature is a bit of unnecessary information!) Just wanted to see if you were paying attention, the answer is right up on top! (Once a teacher, always a teacher)  Sigh.... says Eldy......

Where's Eldo going to take us today? To the movies! We haven't seen a movie in a theater for quite some time....I think we're going to see True Grit. We'll let you know what we think of it later today. Heck, we can see true grit on the motor home and car--sand and salt from the wind!....ok, it's later, and we liked it...Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin were in it, along with an outstanding young actress we've never heard of...Hailee Steinfeld. She was excellent and held her own against the major stars. Jeff Bridges seemed to mumble his lines a lot, or else my ears are not what they used to be. Or let's just say the sound man didn't do his job here 'cuz I heard a couple others complain about the same thing on the way out of the theater. One interesting side note--this little theater in St. Pete's Beach serves alcohol--wine and beer at the movies! Geesh! It was a little disconcerting to hear glass beer bottles careen down the aisles as people got up from the movie and bumped them with their feet. Interesting concept, serving alcohol, I'd say. If the movie is crummy, does that mean there will be more drinking? Hmmmm.... As the weather was rotten today, the small movie theater, The Beach Theater, in St. Pete's Beach was packed. I would have had a glass of wine because the soda machine didn't work, but they ran out of wine..The guy who took the tickets was also the projectionist...I think they were a little overwhelmed today. Tomorrow is more cold and wind, we're going to check out the permanent display of Chihuley glass in St. Petersburg, and the Pier, which looks interesting from afar. What? No photos today? Well, after an hour of trying to upload a video of the palm trees on our site blowing sideways, I gave up! don't know what's the matter with camera, or the mac or the format..rats! No photos today except for the birds lined up at the Fort DeSoto little bridge for loose fish that might get away from the anglers! You know, birds are smarter than you think. I once saw two little sparrows trying to set up a nest in my rafters of my garage back in Fremont, IN. Every day they built a nest, and every day I tore it down because it was right over my car and whenever I opened the door, the messy nest and bird droppings came down on me. This went on for what seemed about two weeks. Every time I tore it down, I heard a mad chattering from the little birds up above. it was almost like they were saying, "Now see here! Quit tearing our hard work down and leave us alone! We have every right to be here! She did it again!"  "Well, we'll show YOU!"  If you read Birds and Blooms, a great birding magazine, people report these "conversations" a lot. I'm not crazy....really!  Anyway, doesn't it look like these birds are saying, "Hey, big guy, have you gotten any?" "Nope." "How 'bout you?" "You did?"  "Where's the guy that's got fish?"    Yeah, I know, it's what old retired people do, imagine bird conversations....(sigh, she's really going around the bend for sure, says Eldy)                          See you tomorrow....
Where's the beginning of the line?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Kayaking at Fort DeSoto

One of the big birds
It's sunny, 69 degrees, and the water looks calm, at least by our campsite at the bayou...Christmas Day afternoon, Eldy presented me with a gift of a kayaking rental for a couple of hours and off I went! I rented a kayak at Fort DeSoto "tiki hut" where they rent both kayaks and bikes. You can do a sit upon, or a sit in. I prefer the sit in..The guy told me the last group that went out spotted 5 dolphins diving and playing! I thought, great! That's the one thing I haven't seen yet since I've been down here. I was excited and hopeful!..It started out being a very calm day in the channel heading out to the keys....once I got out there, the wind really picked up. There weren't any whitecaps yet, but I noticed the flag at the welcome center blowing straight out, the wind was at my back....but I never pay much attention to wind direction...I figure, OK, I'll get a little more exercise coming back in than going out. HA! I got a LOT more exercise coming back in today...I didn't see the dolphins today, but I did see four BIG pelicans sitting up in the trees as I passed by, I was carefully gauging the poop drop distance between them and me....that's some BIG poop, let me tell you! You don't want to be under those guys when they let loose, that's for sure! On I paddled for awhile. I saw an osprey almost directly above me sitting in a branch. He was quite close but didn't want me to take his picture. Lots of egrets and herons of different types sitting in branches. After awhile, when the wind is making the waves splash over the bow, it's time to either get closer to shore, or turn back. I decided to turn back AND hug the shoreline.....that's when the fun began! It was a STIFF headwind all the way back, even into the little channel where I had breezily passed thru an hour and a half earlier....uh, duh, Jeannie, the wind was at your back, remember?

What do we like about Fort DeSoto? Lots of of them is all the birds that are nearby and not afraid of you...we have one of the few sites on this side of the campground where there is an open space in the hedges. Where we sit to relax, we can see the water's edge and the sand where the shore birds come walking and wading for fish. I wish I had my camera today as I was sitting at the picnic table. I happened to look sideways, and there is a great blue heron a struttin' his stuff, casually taking a walk passing right by the break in the hedge. He wasn't more than just a few feet away...He reminded me of a guy struttin' along with his hands clasped behind his back, looking downwards a bit...shoulda had my camera sitting right next to me---the head was a bobbin', the way he picked up his feet and carefully put them down, he kind of looked like he was pacing or on a mission and muttering to himself....too funny!  I did get a photo of this heron right at the water's edge in front of our site later in the day, with the sun setting.  He wasn't afraid of us at all, he must be used to the people walking the beach....Hey! I think this was the same bird walking by me earlier!
Out near the front entrance of the park, where people like to fish on the little bridge, herons and egrets line up for some extra helpings...
Line up, fellas!
Got fish?
I'll get my own, thank you!

This cormorant got his own, a pinfish. Here's another bird below on the back side of our site by the bayou, I think it's an egret waiting for us to hurry up and get by so he can get back to fishing....we'll see what sights we can see tomorrow....I really want to see some dolphins! But the weather is supposed to get up to only the low fifties and windy...might be a good day for an exploration trip to St. Petersburg rather than getting out on the water. We're not sure what we will do, that's the great thing about full timing, you can be much more spontaneous in your decisions each day.  See you then....
Florida's hunchback, the egret

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Florida style

Our site at Fort DeSoto County Park, St. Pete's Beach
We are settled in....whew! Photos today are of our site, our tree and another typical site on the water...We managed to decorate a little for Christmas on the outside today, but we did not have the same kind of palms to wrap the lights on, so we had to try and decorate the palm bushes near the coach a little 4 1/2 foot tree for inside the house and since I couldn't find my tabletop tree with the ornaments the last time I went into the storage shed, we got a new tree. I ended up crocheting some new ornaments and using Florida shells this year...I think it looks kind of cute! I found a pattern for a crocheted pair of skates using jumbo paper clips, a pattern for a gingerbread man, and a pattern for a snowman face. These were the perfect size for a smaller tree. Then I hit Kelly's Shell Shop in Naples for some slices of sea shells and sand dollars and I think they make GREAT ornaments for a truly Florida tree. Now all I need is some pink flamingoes! Not really, just kidding on that one! One of my other favorite things to do to make a tree look more sparkly, is to take metallic curling ribbon, curl the pieces and just throw them on the branches...voila! An inexpensive Christmas tree!
Nite lites

An empty site, but not for long!
Being that it's just the two of us this year, Christmas Eve brought back lots of memories. Last year at this time, we went to a local bar in Tiera Verde with my oldest daughter who was visiting us. We stumbled upon a local tradition that had been going on for over 30 (?) years, that of sing along Christmas carols with a great piano playing maestro. It was really fun!  I wish I could remember the name of the bar. I think it was Billy's Stonecrab Restaurant.  However, this year we just stayed in and tracked Santa for awhile on his journey on the Norad web site. What a  great site for kids and their parents...Here's how that tradition got started a long time ago...Boy, how times have changed!

On Dec. 24, 1955, a call was made to the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. However, this call was not from the president or a general. It was from a girl in Colorado Springs who was following the directions in an advertisement printed in the local paper – she wanted to know the whereabouts of Santa Claus.
The ad said “Hey, Kiddies! Call me direct and be sure and dial the correct number.” However, the number was printed incorrectly in the advertisement and rang into the CONAD operations center.
On duty that night was Colonel Harry Shoup, who has come to be known as the “Santa Colonel.”
Colonel Shoup received numerous calls that night and rather than hanging up, he had his operators find the location of Santa Claus and reported it to every child who phoned in that night.
Thus began a tradition carried on by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) when it was formed in 1958. Today, through satellite systems, high-powered radars and jet fighters, NORAD tracks Santa Claus as he makes his Yuletide journey around the world.
Every Christmas Eve, thousands of volunteers staff telephones and computers to answer calls and e-mails from children (and adults) from around the world. Live updates are provided through the NORAD Tracks Santa Web site (in seven languages), over telephone lines, and by e-mail to keep curious children and their families informed about Santa’s whereabouts and if it’s time to get to bed.
Each year, the NORAD Tracks Santa Web Site receives nearly nine million unique visitors from more than 200 countries and territories around the world. Volunteers receive more than 12,000 e-mails and more than 70,000 calls to the NORAD Tracks Santa hotline from children around the globe.
This year, children and the young-at-heart are able to track Santa through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and  To follow us on any of these Web sites, type in @noradsanta into the search engine and start tracking. 
NORAD Tracks Santa has become a magical and global phenomenon, delighting generations of families everywhere.

Merry Christmas everyone! Have a wonderful holiday season and a Happy, healthy New Year!  Eldo and Jeannie

Friday, December 24, 2010

Fort DeSoto County Park

downtown Naples, the newer part
It's only 2 1/2 hours from Naples..down I-75, then I-275, then a couple more turns and here we are! fort DeSoto is a chain of five interconnected islands or keys. It used to cost in the low thirties to camp here with water and electric. It's now a little higher. Many of the sites are on a bayou. You are much more isolated from your neighbors here because of the lush tall palms which have flourished here for many years. The older overgrowth is what can cause problems for bigger rigs if you are not careful..we started out in site 202 which we had reserved when we were still back in our smaller Challenger. We didn't realize what a difference almost three feet longer makes along with four slides instead of three, AND they come out is where teamwork is of the essence and patience or lack of, can make or break your relationship TEMPORARILY...Fortunately, I met Eldy in his later years, and according to his kids, he has mellowed a LOT. So we are still on solid ground after quite an ordeal getting into the site today.....(I wasn't worried, folks!) And by the way, I have mellowed a lot, we're a good match...

Now Eldy and I make a great team when it comes to backing into a site....but site 202 had an overhead tree with an L shaped angle in the front that threatened to take out our side mirror or the awning topper,  and a palm tree sticking out on the other side that was going to do some serious damage to the roof, had I not stopped Eldy in time. I managed to guide him in but it was so narrow that if we had even tried to get our slides out, we would have had no room to get out and walk around. Back down to the office to sheepishly explain that we did not realize how little room we were going to have with a different coach. They were kind enough to offer us another site, #218. We drove around to it in the car, checked it out, it seemed to have LOTS more space on each side if we got the coach in. Back down we come, and we proceeded to work it, work it, work it together. In and out Eldy went with the RV....."Back up, WHOA!" Tree branch. Yikes! .."Go forward, go forward, turn, now forward, NO, BACK UP!" Uh-oh! "STOP!!" I'm frantically waving with my hands all over the place, pointing left with one hand, motioning to back up with the other which means, turn your wheels and back up at the same time...I need signal man flags like they have for aircraft carriers! Sometimes he can't see me in the mirrors. As soon as I disappear from sight (moving around to the other side to check for obstacles) he stops until he can see me again, which is a good thing, because we would not be "roughing it smoothly" as Tiffin says, if he ran over me! It was a very difficult half hour getting him into the site with room for the slides on both sides. We would get all the way in only to discover that the other side slide didn't have enough room...pull forward, back up, pull forward, back up...We finally got it! It must be very funny to anybody watching to see all the gestures and gyrations I go through to tell him which way to turn the wheels, but our little system seems to work well for us. We tried walkie talkies for awhile early on, but it took me so much time to figure out WHAT to tell him to do, it was easier to make hand signals instead. But I bet it's comical to watch! We are almost thinking that we've gotten too big for many of the beautiful sites that are on the water after today's struggle to get in and situated....Eldy's glad we aren't moving for 12 days! We'll have photos of the Fort DeSoto campground are a few leftovers from Naples...sigh! I miss it already! And folks, it's 57 degrees with a stiff wind blowing hard the kids back in Indiana say, "We don't want to hear any complaining!"

some kind of duck at Sugden Park, Naples
Tin City area Naples

ducks coming or going?  at Sugden Park, Naples

Hibiscus beauty on our Neopolitan Cove site

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bye-Bye Naples, Here Comes St. Pete's Beach

Our was our site at Neopolitan Cove
We leave Wednesday for St. Pete's Beach. We had no idea that we would love Neopolitan Cove and Naples as much as we did, or we would have stayed longer....the managers here are super friendly and super helpful. It's like being with family here. When I did a little Tastefully Simple snack party one day, they chatted it up, put up flyers for me, and encouraged people to come, and they did. The party was much more successful thanks to them. Thanks to Wilma, Janine and Ralph for making our stay so wonderful! When we left, Wilma gave me some homemade granola! Yum!
Our patio "screen"
We're going to miss a lot of things here...the beautiful flowers, especially all the hibiscus that bloom so easily here, the beautiful city, all of it clean and beautifully landscaped no matter where you go in Naples, the great temperatures for this time of year, low to mid seventies....the beaches (although we didn't spend much time at them), Sugden Park just down a couple of blocks with its nice bike path all around its own Lake Avalon....and it has its own beaches! We're going to miss the great food--Ron's Pizza downtown old Naples (REALLY good pizza), El Rincon, some of the best Mexican food I've ever eaten--tacos served with salsa and chips, pica de gallo, rice, and refried beans all for $9.00 for a great lunch--located in a tiny little restaurant on 41 close to Airport Pulling Road. We're going to miss the alligators (yes, really!), the Everglades, and Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. I'm going to miss my little knit shop I discovered that's a block from the Neopolitan Cove. I ended up going there three days in a row to get help with some knitting projects and to learn some new techniques. The ladies in there wear their hand knitted creations every single day. I started going just to see what they had knitted and were wearing.....there's so much more to see in this beautiful city...we'll be back definitely!
Corn tortilla tacos at El Rincon, the best!

Knitting with Nancy shop on highway 41 next to Neopolitan Cove
what you see at along the Lake Avalon bike trail at Sugden Park, in the city!
Kelly's Shell Shop, by Tin City

It's five o'clock in Naples, says Eldo

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Bert's Bar and Grill

Cute shop in Matlache
After taking care of laundry and some things this morning, Eldy turns to me this afternoon and say,"Wanna go somewhere?" And I say, "Sure! Where?" And he says, "Matlache"....(Mat-la-shay) and I say, "OH, YEAH!" Matlache is one of my favorite memories of Florida with my mom and sister (my mom passed away in 2008)...she lived down here in the winter with my sister and her husband at Pine Island. I would come down for a visit, and we would visit Bert's Bar and Grill and sometimes Moretti's in Matlache. These are two of our favorite restaurants on the water where we would hang out and watch the dolphins, or listen to live music. There are some other great places to hang out in Matlache and the St. James City area.....So off we went...It's just as I remembered...cute little stores with funky Florida colors...the bridge where the dolphins hang out is under major construction, so no dolphins sighted today. But we did have a great cheeseburger in paradise at Bert's and because we weren't coming back to the area, we had dessert at Moretti's (which is now the Toucan)....yum!
One of my favorite desserts
My guy, Eldy
There's some great kayaking in this area...I remember one year kayaking by myself on the last day I was visiting my sister about two years ago and I hadn't seen manatees or dolphins out in the waters despite going out two times during my I was coming back into the bay area near the bridge, I said a little prayer..."Please God, let me see just a little bit of nature today..." and I look down into the water momentarily, sighing because I hadn't seen anything, and a huge manatee is swimming along side my kayak....Holey Moley!  Then I paddle a little further, getting close to the bridge in Matlache, and darned if TWO  dolphins didn't surface and jump into the air and dive back down....THAT was really something! I'll never forget that!  No kayaking today, just some great memories revisited of my mom and Florida....Thank you, Eldy, for taking me to Matlache and making new memories with me......
Another Matlache shop

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gators Galore and More

Air boat in the Everglades
Freeloaders, uh, birds, along for the ride
You'd think we'd had our fill of alligator sightings, but nope! Not yet! We're still seeing them and not always looking for them either. Today we wanted to see more of the Everglades. There was a reasonably priced boat tour, a catamaran that goes out from the Everglades National Park. When we got to the park, the boat was very full and it was going to be an hour's wait. We decided to head down to Speedy's airboat tours. They claim to go thru the grasslands instead of just the water, unlike some of the other tours. Well, they don't call themselves "Speedy's" for nothing! These guys LOVE their jobs as demonstrated by the way they pilot the boats. We were expecting a sedate boat ride, a naturalist's commentary on the Everglades, and a slow boat to China type tour. Wrong! (That's the national park tour) This was the hang onto your hats and seat rails, as you are going to be swung around every open marsh pond, leaving a monstrous fan-tail swoosh behind you, each one bigger than the last! It's a good thing they provide ear protection because these boats are LOUD!  Even with ear protection...No commentary to speak of, just a fabulous ride into Everglades country, seeing gorgeous scenery, marshlands, mangroves, and beautiful birds. We saw pelicans land on a competitor's boat, (they obviously must feed them.)  Bet that can get messy sometimes for both boat and passengers! We saw an osprey tear into some fresh prey...we saw a gator about nine feet long, but nothing like the ones we've been seeing along highway 41 around Everglades City and highway 29....

Mangrove tunnels
There had been quite a bit of rain a couple of days ago, so the water level was good for the ecosystem....we drove quite a bit through heavy mangrove tunnels that were just absolutely gorgeous. They seemed very healthy and were growing like crazy.  It was a beautiful sun shiny day, in the 60's, but you actually needed a jacket to stay warm today. At some points, they drive the boats FAST! which adds a little wind chill factor in, lol...At the end of the tour (about an hour) we got a great tip from the captain to go see gators safely. Instead of gawking along highway 41, which is a dangerous stretch of road with no place to pull off, pull into the Big Cypress Bend Nature Preserve, and check out the Turner River Road Scenic Drive. It's a left turn off highway 41 South past state road 29.

This drive has a boardwalk at the beginning of it, and we saw some incredible things...the usual gators, a BABY alligator that tried to crawl through the observer fence into the parking lot but then backed his way out after getting stuck for a moment, many herons, and an anhinga (the black bird that spread its wings constantly to dry them out before he can go fishing again). It was beautiful!

Where's my mama? I know she's in here somewhere!

But nothing tops the five or six alligators that we have seen every day in the same spot sunning themselves along the canals along highway 41 just north of state road 29 as we drive back to Naples. Nor can it top all the herons, ibis, egrets and hundreds of variety of birds that camp out on that same stretch of canal around the Everglades City area.  For some reason, this is the right time of year to see all the alligators and birds on this highway, and there are a TON of them. You just need to make sure the driver isn't doing the sidelines watching, you are! Either way, highway 41 or the Big Cypress Nature Preserve, it's truly awesome to see all this nature for free!
Cool bird seen at the Big Cypress Nature Preserve

OK,  I've saved the best "baddie" for last...thank goodness there was a fence between us..this is only about a 4X zoom in at that! And I DO mean it this time, see you LATER, alligator!

The baby alligator's mama, we think!