Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Day Apart and Tornado in TAMPA!

Sarasota, FL        High:  74     Low:   55

When you are full time RVers, it's not often that you spend the day apart, unless you have totally different interests. You usually go everywhere together, hike together, eat out together, sit outside and enjoy the weather together. Sometimes, if you are in a busy park, you'll go off and do your own thing for a little while, but not usually for the whole day. Sparky likes having time to herself, and Eldy is really great about trying to do things on his own now and then to give Sparky her space, even if it's just to hop in the car to go explore the area by himself. Yesterday, Eldy went to a baseball game at the Jet Blue Stadium in North Fort Myers with Vic Matthews of Traveling with the Big EZ, while Sparky spent the WHOLE DAY doing her own thing. (And just what did you do, Sparky?) You'll see in a minute....

Somehow the fellas snagged tickets right above the dugout for 30 bucks each.

Not bad! Eldy's favorite team is the St. Louis Cardinals and they were playing the Boston Red Sox. Sparky is partial to the Boston Red Sox as she spent her very early years there. The Red Sox seem to be the favored team with so many eastern snowbirds here. The game was a runaway. The Cardinals WON! Woo-hoo! says Eldy. He said the stadium is wonderful for a minor league park, one of the nicest he's ever been in.  Guess it's a replica of the stadium at Fenway Park in Boston. Well, duh! The Jet Blue Stadium here in Florida is the Boston Red Sox spring training site, so the stadium down here should look like Fenway, and it does. Eldy and Vic had a great time, and Sparky had a great time messing around, because that's what she did.

She was SUPPOSED to get a whole bunch of crafting done because the park's craft show is Saturday, but Sparky is not the most efficient at time management. She manages to waste a LOT of time because her attention span is so short, she flits from one thing to another. So here's how her day went...We were supposed to have visitors around 6:00 last night, so Sparky needed to clean a bit. So she started with that.

10:30--get out the ordeal in itself. Extricate the hose from behind the sofa, buried in a bunch of stuff. Vacuum the bedroom and hallway...Sticky stuff on the floor. Wash the floor. Spots on the carpet. Spot treat the carpet. Geez, there are those key fobs sitting on the dining table which have been there for two days, better get those finished.

11:00--Sew the buttons on the key fobs...

11:30--couple of phone calls to friends...text Eldy, he says better turn on the weather radio. There's a tornado watch...find the radio, that took a bit. Find the batteries for the radio. That took awhile. Set up the radio,  that took a bit of doing. Gotta get the S.A.M.E. code from the internet to set up the radio. Check!

12:00 PM--hungry, fix some lunch, listen to the weather, nothing ominous for Sarasota, according to the weather radio..HOWEVER--TV says tornado watch till 3:00 PM. Wind picking up....Nothing Sparky can't handle...Head outside and stow the bikes under the slides, fold up the chairs in case weather gets really nasty....

12:30 PM-back to is on--oops! forgot to turn it off, better check email..gee, there's a couple of crafting videos on You Tube I've been wanting to watch. Maybe I'll sit and watch those for a bit..(uh-oh, bet we reach our data limit this month, worries E.) Oops! the hose is still out, still need to vacuum some more before putting that away....

1:30 PM---more cleaning, a couple of stink bugs or palmetto bugs show up...ugh! Get rid of them, back to cleaning the living room...Hide some junk in the cupboards (a couple is coming over this evening because they want to see our rig and hear about our travels) gotta make the rig look more "roomy" by hiding some of Sparky's craft junk! No more places to "hide" stuff! Oh, well, it is what it is....

2:00 PM, check in with is going well, it's raining hard in Sarasota, not so much where Eldy's at....wait for the rain to subside....head down to the mailroom to check for mail, run into a friend from pickleball. We chat for awhile...

2:45 PM...better get back to on some jewelry, find some baskets and ways to display stuff on Saturday...check!

3:15 PM....Knit for a bit....

4:00 PM....Hungry! (AGAIN? wonders E.) Eldy doesn't understand how Sparky is always hungry. He can get by on two meals a day, but Sparky has to eat about every four hours or she gets CRANKY! Make a a magazine...

4:30 PM text Eldy...How's the game going? Cardinals are winning...Hm-m-m-mmmm...what should I do now? Trying to figure out some other quick crafts, maybe some sewing stuff. Just don't have enough inventory for Saturday...Go through bins, boxes, and shelves trying to get ideas....found my kayaking hat which I was looking for the other day for HOURS! How in the world do you lose a hat in a 400 square foot motorhome? That and a bunch of other things that keep disappearing only to show up when you least expect it in a place you never expected!

5:30 PM..maybe there's something on the computer in the way of ideas...check craft sites, better work on blog a bit...Sparky sees spammers are really hitting her blog again...old posts, what's up with that? Delete junky comments which start out with poorly written compliments about our blog. "I really like your brussels." Hunh? And then they go on to promote their own website at the end...some guy from Golf Cart Rodeo or Finding do they find us? Who knows? Deleted about 30 anonymous spam comments but they keep coming every day and on OLD posts...

6:30 PM--Eldy is back!  "Did you get a lot done, hon?"  Well-l-l-l-lllll...yes and no....  :-)

Found out last night that Tampa had a tornado!!!!! Actually, a water spout that moved to land...once it hits land, it's officially a tornado..It did some damage--a couch ended up high in the air on top of a street lamp or something, but the tornado didn't even make the classification chart. Well, actually, it was classified as an EF-O on the chart. Winds 65-75 m.p.h.  So up north, we probably would have classified that as a "high winds" storm front. Sort of like when the Florida weather forecasters say "winter is returning to the area" and they are talking temperatures in the sixties! :-)

See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Jazz Jammin' at Ocean Blue

Sarasota, FL       High:        Low:

Got up this morning and there's a TORNADO watch for Sarasota. You're kidding me, right?  Nope! That same bad boy storm that hit Texas with snow is coming our way. But the worst of it is to the north of Sarasota, so we'll probably just get a ton of rain. Which is good, because they sure need it here....In the three months we've been here, it has hardly rained at all. Eldy is supposed to go see a baseball game today with Vic, of Travelin' in the Big EZ, but hopefully, the storms will pass through before the ball game starts.

Photos today are from Sparky's iphone. She REALLY needs to start carrying the SLR everywhere. No clue how to adjust the reddish tinges on the color photos from her little point and shoot. Tried the white balance settings and none available for that particular club lighting with the halogen bulbs. Tried filters, tried compensating for the color cast, but nothing worked. So we have a little mix of black and white and color photos today.....

Last night was Jazz Jam night at Ocean Blues, and once again, the place rocked with some of the best jazz players in Sarasota. Steve Arvey, Shane Chalke, and special guest Koko Ray were there along with some other top notch folks but we didn't catch their names. Picture a cozy supper club, an attentive friendly, funny bartender, the lights dialed down low, lots of wood, long bar tables to be able to sit and watch the musicians up front and a bottle of Miles Davis Bitches' Brew. The label is an actual Miles Davis album considered to be one of the most revolutionary jazz albums of its time. It wasn't ours, Shane had it brought out so we had fun trying to take artistic photos of it. :-) Where's that big ole honkin' SLR when you need it!?

Sparky and Eldy are starting to get to know some of the regular musicians, and really enjoying talking to them about their music and their careers. Eldy talked to the drummer, Brian, for quite a while. Brian, the drummer, used to play with Tom Rush, a well known folk singer. He talked to Shane Chalke, the trumpeter, about his buffing career at Blessings in Elkhart. Shane had a BEAUTIFUL silver trumpet with beautiful engravings on it, that was specially made for him in Oregon. Shane has been playing for 45 years. Sparky guessed he started about the age of 10. Yes, he did...He was fantastic!

Koko Ray, rocked the house with his saxophone and flute playing skills. A couple of times during the night, he played TWO saxophones at the same time! WOW! Koko was a big dude with a big sound, and did he make that sax sing! He reminded Sparky of the beatnik generation.....Remember them?

Boy, the trombone player was rockin' with his playing--that big slide moving up and down and all around, he really got into it, body and all!
We love Jazz Jam Mondays at Ocean Blues....Sarasota is rated very highly for its jazz venues, considering its size population. No shortage of talent here!  We'll be back to Ocean Blues again, that's for sure! On Saturday nights, they have Oceans 11, a band of 11 jazz musicians. We'll be checking them out...stay tuned...heh, heheh.....

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Another Sarasota Hidden Gem or Two

Sarasota, FL        High:  83      Low:  67

We were out and about today, looking around and exploring...We had a little help from Brenda Wilson of Keller and Williams Realty...She was just giving us a better idea of what individual neighborhoods are like in Sarasota, Bradenton, and Lakewood Ranch. One of the places she took us to in between house visits, was a place called Jigg's Landing. Jigg's Landing is located on the Braden River Evers Reservoir, which was formed by damming the Braden River, a tributary of the Manatee River. The lake has trophy bass and speckled perch waiting to be caught.

It's an old fish camp that has been renovated, preserved and upgraded into a beautiful waterfront park with cute little cabins true to the originals of 1944, a boardwalk and observation deck, an "Astro turf" type playground and a wonderful  floating "EZ dock/EZ launch" for kayaks.

Four little cabins are available for rent, and are very rustic in nature.

Two single beds, a nightstand, two chairs, screened windows and doors, electric ceiling fan and light. NO bathrooms or kitchen, but the restrooms and locked shower facilities are right next to the cabins.

Sparky will definitely be back here to kayak. There were tons of shorebirds and all kinds of little birds flying around. We saw an osprey and its nest close by.

You can kayak right to the Braden River, Brenda said. It was gorgeous!

Off to see some more houses...We are getting to know the neighborhoods a lot better around Sarasota. It's fun to see the distinctive styles each neighborhood has. Late this afternoon, we knew that Steve Arvey, our go- to- acoustic/jazz/blues guitar player was playing at a unique place called Linger Lodge.

Brenda had told us about this place, how unique it was. Linger Lodge is a 1940's fishing/hunting lodge restaurant/ RV campground from the 1940's. It sits right on the Braden River.

Steve Arvey, one of our favorite Sarasota blues guitarists was playing there this afternoon from 4:00-7:00. We're getting to know him his music well and love hearing him sing and play.

He played some wonderful low key blues/fishing songs/old folk masters songs mixed in with a lot of other stuff today. Just the perfect music for sitting in the screened in porch of Linger Lodge, called one of the "weirdest" restaurants in the country, says Al Roker, the weatherman for the Today TV show. Forbes Magazine says it's one of the "top ten most unusual" restaurants in the country. We could see why!

Taxidermied-if that's a word Sparky can use as a verb-- Floridian animals everywhere in glass cases, fish hanging from the ceiling all over the place and the biggest gator we've ever seen with a fake leg hanging out of its mouth. There's a story to the restaurant's beginnings and about the gator, a tall tale on the tall menu.
Lots and lots of hunting and fishing STUFF/wood paneling everywhere....
How's the food? Expensive for the size portions you get, and just average, we would say. Entertainment? Above average!  Atmosphere? Above average! It's worth a visit to see it and hear who's playing and to see the campground setting where it's located. Very reasonable prices to stay at the Linger Lodge campground, but bet it's a mosquito haven, we would guess.
A limpkin (?) in the river grasses behind the restaurant
Another great day spent looking around, exploring, and seeing Sarasota. Love it!

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Celery Fields in Sarasota

Sarasota, FL         High:   82     Low:  67

A quiet weekend...Most of the time we spent either looking at more houses and subdivisions, some being in the Parade of Homes that's going on in Sarasota this week, or relaxing back at the rig. After having an early supper at the Der Dutchman Amish Restaurant on Bahia Vista Road in Sarasota, wonderful as always, we decided to explore the Fruitville Road area some more. By the way, if you visit Der Dutchman, one of THE BEST, freshest buffets of Amish style cooking we've ever had, be sure to go before 4:00 PM. The line starts out the door around 4:00 PM. If you don't mind waiting, you can rock on the front porch until your turn to be seated.

After this wonderful meal, we spent some time yesterday over at the Celery Fields just behind the Fruitville Road Sarasota Library Branch. There's a wonderful park over there, a place to walk or bike on some gravel trails, a beautiful gazebo boardwalk, and an observation mound to climb. We had heard that roseate spoonbills could be seen there some times. Sparky jumped at the chance to go looking for some. They are one of her most favorite birds. Eldy sat at the gazebo for a bit while Sparky scanned for unusual birds or gators. (Plenty of gator signs are at the park). No gators, no spoonbills today....

This couple was using the mound to train for some kind of hike, we think. Up and down, up and down they went and around several times while we were there. Sparky was going to climb to the top to see what kind of view there was, but decided to do it another day. Just watching this couple wore her out!

The celery fields were producing big yields back in the 1920's. Now the fields are part of a big (300 acres) watershed project that helps control storm water runoff. The Celery Fields are the county's biggest primary storm water collection zone. There's an amazing number of species of birds here--over 200! Sparky was reading the board about some of the birds you see there, and a limpkin was one of them, along with bald eagles. We see an occasional limp kin just outside our park in the drainage ditch when we drive back and forth on Fruitville Road. We didn't know what they were until we read the board at Celery Fields.
courtesy of the web
The county has restored over 100 acres of wetlands, making this area a wonderful place to bird watch. More than 20,000 aquatic plants and trees have been planted. There are marshes, deep ponds, and canals, all a part of the water system. It is just beautiful!

On the way home, Sparky glanced out the window just as we were coming around the back side of the celery fields, when she saw what looked like a bald eagle. It was! This was the first bald eagle sighting rather close up that Sparky has seen! Woo-hoo! She thinks it's rather unusual that he (?) was on the ground. Since his head wasn't totally white, she thinks it was an immature bald eagle? Why is it always the case when Sparky sees something really cool in nature, she doesn't have her SLR camera with her but her dinky little point and shoot????
This is the best she could do, as he took off after we started driving around the little road coming closer to him.
Wow! What a wingspan!

We really enjoyed our visit to the Celery Fields today, it's just a hop, skip and a jump from Sun 'n' Fun to get there. It would be a great bike ride excursion, and Sparky will probably try that one day next week.

See you later!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Where's Eldo?

Sarasota, FL      High:   80   Low:   61

He's at the Sarasota Farmer's Market... Can you spot him?
Good job! Too easy, right? We'll have to try that again sometime in a bigger crowd.  :-)

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Sarasota Farmer's Market.  Always terrific produce....These turnips were bigger than softballs!

Great music....
Eldy says that the three guys in the back are playing flugelhorns. He LOVES to look at musical instruments to see if maybe they came from his company that he worked for and made horns for so many musicians over the years. The middle flugelhorn is copper plated. It was beautiful!

A bazillion flavors of POPSICLES if you get too hot and thirsty...Strawberry balsamic basil? Ew-w-w.

The setting where the Farmer's Market (off Lemon Street) is located is wonderful...

Everything from beautiful flowers....
to focaccia for sale....

Great arts and crafts to look at, and more.. Here's the "more". This guy was a former educator. He was doing the marionette thing and the elephant was playing the piano...What retired teachers will do for money....Hm-m-m-m....That gives me an idea... (uh-oh! worries E.)

Tons of organic fruits, vegetables and meats...We stopped to talk to a farmer from Green Pasture Natural Meats. Sparky, being a big red meat eater, knows she is in trouble if she doesn't start thinking organic or cutting way back on the beef. But she was intrigued by this farmer's booth. We talked a bit. He's written a couple of books, and told us a little bit about "wet aging" meat. Sparky is thinking he is Tim Brown (?), of Green Pasture Natural Meats here in Sarasota.. He was sponsoring sales of organic beef from the Beulah Farms in Leicester, N.C. He passed out an article that talked about the benefits of grass fed beef vs. grain fed beef. Beulah Farms uses no harmful chemicals, pesticides or hormones and produces superior meat products. He had Sparky talked into buying a steak right here and now! (She knows, she knows...shouldn't be buying red meat at all! chides E.) But he'll eat it right along with me, laughs Sparky. But we had some other plans and weren't headed back home so we're going to head back next week and get some beef.

You never know what you are going to see and learn at a Farmer's Market...If you didn't go this past Saturday, then you missed getting information from these beautiful "ladies" about the Drag Queen Trolley Follies.
Every other Saturday, starting March 2, for 21.00 a person, you can ride a 90 minute trolley ride with Eartha Quake and Velvet DiSaronno and be entertained with jokes, songs and trivia. You can bring your own cooler with your favorite beverage and have a great ole time! Sparky is going to try and get Eldy to go, but if he won't, she'll get a gal pal to go.....He's still thinking about it.....

The Farmer's Market is great for people watching, too! A study in contrasts....

The creativity of some people is amazing! How about these toothless sharks made entirely from palm trees?

Or how about these young kids that formed a band called the "Garbage Men"? Check out their instruments...They actually sounded very good-- For young guys playing cereal boxes, trash cans and push popper toys!

Sarasota Farmer's Market has something for everyone! Check it out.......Every Saturday from 7:00 AM to 2:00 PM....Maybe we'll see you there!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Shark's Teeth and Sharky's

Sarasota, FL     High:  81    Low:  65

We're back to the really warm temperatures again...That's ok as long as the beach is nearby, there's a pool or something to keep cool! Sparky and Eldy headed to Caspersen and Venice Beach this afternoon to look for shark's teeth again. That's supposed to be a couple of the best places to find them in the area.
What Sparky WISHES she could find!
If you are REALLY lucky, or have diving or snorkeling gear, you can go further out the shore line and perhaps find a MEGALODON tooth... a prehistoric shark's tooth. They are BIG, REALLY big teeth.
courtesy of the web
Here's an idea of just how big the ancestors of today's sharks were....
courtesy of the web
It would be nice to find a regular shark's tooh, just one, but for some reason, Sparky was not able to find one today. She didn't have a strainer or special gadget net to help sift the sand. There's only so long you can stoop over and over without your back bothering you without using one of those long handled sifter/rakes everybody uses. Here's a newer design called the Susick Sea Shell Sifter. Say THAT ten times really fast! Maybe Sparky will get one for next year when we come back next December. Twenty-two bucks isn't too bad, but there are cheaper ones out there. Sparky would like to find some sea glass as well as shark's teeth. Sea glass is getting harder and harder to find according to local shops that sell jewelry pieces made from it.

After an afternoon of sea shell, shark's teeth hunting, it's customary to head to Sharky's on the Pier, the only restaurant on a pier in Venice, FL. We were in for a special treat today...We met Pam and Vic Matthews, fellow bloggers that write Travelin' in the Big EZ at Sharky's for supper.
view of the Venice pier from Sharky's on the Pier
Sharky's has great atmosphere as it's right on the beach. They are in the middle of expanding the restaurant so it's a little congested at the moment and restroom facilities are not quite up to snuff. But you can check out the menu here:
                                    Sharkey's menu

Pam and Vic also have a Phaeton, so we traded stories about all kinds of mishaps, adventures, silly stuff and important stuff like tips on dealing with the things on our rigs. We hit it off with them right off the bat, and it wasn't long before Eldy and Vic were talking baseball and making plans to get together soon to attend some spring training games. Pam and Sparky have LOTS in common, both being outgoing, chatty, retired teachers and both like to kayak. Eldy and Vic couldn't get a word in edgewise between the gals, so they had to turn to sports to get their own conversation in.  :-)
Vic and Eldy
And here we are, having a GREAT time!
Pam, Eldy, Sparky, and Vic
We really enjoyed meeting them and hope to spend some time with them again before we both head out in different directions in April....Thanks for driving to meet us, guys!

Friday, February 22, 2013

So Many Wonderful Things to Do Around Here....

Sarasota, FL      High:   82     Low:   63

Well, we've covered a LOT of ground here in the three months we've been in Sarasota, and we've got one more month and few days left to go...We've been to the Marie Selby Botanical Garden, the Ringling Museum, Myakka River State Park, some great restaurants, the Farmer's Market in downtown Sarasota, the Red Barn Flea Market, the Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach, Casperson Beach for shark's teeth, explored Amish cuisine as Der Dutchman Restaurant, played disc golf at Lakeview Park, took some day trips out of our RV park to see surrounding areas....We've seen Nick Wallenda walk the wire in downtown Sarasota, ridden the Legacy Bike Trail, hiked through the Canopy Walkway at Myakka River State Park, biked to Longboat Key, visited the Marietta Museum of Whimsey, and attended the drum circle at Siesta Key at least 5 times. If you missed any of these, just type them in the search line, and they SHOULD come up. What's left to do?

Well, for starters.....Spring training at Ed Smith Stadium, kayaking some bodies of water around here, checking out the Sarasota Bay Trail...Sparky has a nice guide that she started looking at...
There are TWELVE waterways to explore in Sarasota. Paddling trails are in blue, hence the "Blueways" highlighted on the maps inside. This guide covers EVERYTHING you need to know about the following trails:

the Sarasota Bay Trail, the Lido and South Lido Trails, the Phillippi Creek Trail, the Neville Marine Preserve Trail, the South Creek Trail, the Dona Bay/Roberts Bay Trails, the Caspersen Trail and the Lemon Bay Trail. There are more, this is just a sampling....Each paddling trail has detailed directions to launch points. Each trail description suggests short trips, navigational notes, and paddling tips. Points of interest while on your trip are included for each trail, too as well as nature notes. All this in this beautiful, comprehensive color guide that was FREE at the welcome center in Sarasota.

Sparky's been so busy getting exercise (five pickleball games today!) and crafting, there are still lots of other things left to do on her Sarasota bucket list that are calling to her:

the Mote Aquarium, Spanish Point--a historical place, Robinson Preserve--a terrific place to bike, hike and kayak....the Sarasota Baywalk--a 4.5 acre wetland with boardwalks, Quick Point Nature Preserve--a 34 acre nature park with trails, boardwalks, tidal pools and scenic vistas. Sparky wants to go on a Myakka Safari Tour or a dolphin tour put on by Mote Aquarium. We want to explore Anna Maria Island's an art colony and a glimpse into "old Florida" without the high rises and urban clutter. We want to go see Nokomis Beach and their drum circle on Wednesday or Saturday nights...Sparky wants to check out the celery fields where they say there are roseate spoonbills....Eldy wants to golf--with over 60 golf courses, he shouldn't have any problem finding one he likes this coming month. We think we'd like to see a polo match, just to say we did! Ten bucks gets you in on Sundays in Lakewood Ranch. The Lippizan Stallions are in the area, too, but we saw them last year. They are well worth the trip distance to see them perform and how they are raised. It's free but they hope you will give a donation to help care for the horses, who are magnificent animals.

Ya think we have enough cool stuff to do coming up? Yup! And who knows what else Sparky will think of!? Cheers!
Eldy at Woody's River Roo Bar and Grill Ellenton, FL

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Manatee Mania

Sarasota, FL     High:  81    Low:  61

We'll get to the manatees in just a minute...Before we got to see them, we went to a Del Webb community this afternoon, not too far from Sarasota, called Southshore Falls in Tampa. Del Webb' Southshore Falls is a 24 hour gated, over 55 community with a VERY active lifestyles commitment to their development.  Southshore Falls is an oasis in the middle of a rather nondescript community outside its gates. It's located between Ruskin and Apollo Beach right on highway 41. The Del Webb community has tropical landscaping everywhere, lakes, nature preserves, and walking trails. It has a beautiful 14,000 square foot clubhouse with a lagoon style pool, resistance pool, putting green, state of the art fitness center and more.....
Del Webb clubhouse greeting area
There's a library, a ballroom, bocce ball, crafts room, pickleball courts, tennis courts, and an active internet cafe where they serve free coffee every morning. There are LOTS of clubs in the community, everything from crafts to biking. It's a great location--25 miles from the Tampa airport, 20 miles from downtown Tampa, and you can hop on I-75 in six minutes to get anywhere. There are four golf clubs within a short distance of the community. We enjoyed looking at it today....We're still looking and exploring, still RVing...don't worry!
View from electric power plant up high
The Big Bend Power station in Apollo Beach is a known area for some of the best manatee viewing when the weather has been cold and the Gulf temperatures drop below 68 degrees. It was about five minutes from the Del Webb development, so we stopped by. When it's cold out in the Gulf, the manatees come into the discharge canal where the waters are warmed from the electric plant. Sometimes there can be as many as 300 manatees in the canal, but today there were only about 50 or so.

The manatees started coming into the canal back in 1986 when the Big Bend station opened. The discharge canal is now a federally and state designated manatee sanctuary. They have a wonderful boardwalk viewing platform to see the manatees up close and personal.
We saw lots of action today....Sparky thought maybe it was mating season with all the roiling waters and showing of fins, flippers and close encounters with each other!
It turns out that this was entirely possible, as Sam and Al, two great volunteers with lots of interesting information to share, said that manatees can mate at any time. Sparky peppered them with questions, so many that one of the guys said, "If you have any more questions, we're gonna have to start charging you to answer 'em."  :-)

The fellas said that most of the time the manatees are alone out in the Gulf, so when a BUNCH of them come into the canal, it's PARTY time, and the hormones get going! We saw lots of tangled up manatees having some kind of fun!
And some were just relaxin'....rolled over on their backs, like, "Hey, I'm in Florida..I've got nothing better to do than hang out here and chill." Or warm up, as the case may be.....Or relaxing after an encounter with the mate of choice.....In case you can't tell, this one is on his back and stayed there gently rolling back and forth on his backside.....

We saw them up close...It was cool! A mama and her babies....
A face only a mother could love......
We saw severely scarred manatees....
We learned about some bad practices...People letting manatees drink from water hoses at their docks. A great photo opportunity, and Sparky admits she would be the first one taking a photo of that, but that makes the manatees get familiar being around boats and that's what causes them to get hurt. Manatees have no known predators, man is their worst enemy. It was really sad to see how badly injured some of these manatees had been.....

We saw a buoy boogeying across the water. Eldo said, "Do you see that? That buoy is moving fast! Then we saw a line attached underwater to the tail of a smaller manatee. A buoy tracker system was attached to his tail. He was recently rehabilitated from cold stress and turned back into the waters. They want to keep track of him for awhile.

At the viewing center, you can see an educational display of the role Tampa Electric plays in conservation of energy and protection of nature and the manatees....the center also has a skeleton of a manatee inside, and a hurricane simulator, and a pretty butterfly garden! And then, there's the Tidal Walk...a trip along a boardwalk out alongside the discharge canal....Visible signs accompanied by an audible narrative talk about the life in the tidal and berm areas....
We saw some BIG tarpon hanging out by the boardwalk as we walked to the end and back....
A wonderful ending to a wonderful day and it didn't cost a dime! (Uh, she didn't tell you that it cost me dinner for two at Woody's River Roo bar and grill in Ellenton on the way home, chides E. But they do have a fantastic fish dip and great sandwiches at moderate prices. Just sayin'....)

Tampa Electric doesn't charge a thing for you to come see the manatees..Pick a day when the weather has been cold for a few days and the Gulf temperatures have dropped below 68 degrees. There's a cold spell (60's for you Floridians) coming in the next week, that might bring more of them into the canal. What a wonderful opportunity to learn more about them! Don't miss it!   Bye for now......