A Great Weekend With Friends

As I noted in my last post, I had a really tough week last week. Fortunately, I had made plans to meet up with my Largo friend on Saturday, so I had something to look forward to after work. Turns out, I was ambushed in the best way for a birthday celebration with all of my friends in Largo!

The Surprise

I was supposed to meet my friend at her place in Largo at 10:00 am, so I headed out at 9:15 thinking that would be enough time. . . Well. . . my geographically challenged status ensured I would get lost, and I did. I ended up in Tampa, where I called my friend to tell her I would be late. Since we were going to Tampa (she had told me that much), I guess I was the advance guard or something. I passed MLK Boulevard 3 times, I think, so I was probably going in a circle (story of my life). Finally, I put her address into my GPS and I was on my way in the right direction this time. Of course, I was at least half an hour late, but I made it.

When I got to her place, my other two friends were there, as well, along with Sponge Bob  (he’s the birthday mascot for this year, so I knew he’d be going back home with me). We were all headed to Tampa, except for Sponge Bob. I got to open my birthday card from my friends, which was a dancing pickle (no idea)! I love pickles, so this was certainly appropriate. Along with the card was a small box, which I was not allowed to open just yet. We headed out, with one friend saying, “you should be worried, but you know we love you.” Okay, so I was worried. One gift had been an hour on a flyboard, while another gift was a hot air balloon ride. At this point, I had no idea what they had dreamt up for me!

By the time we got to Busch Boulevard in Tampa, I was allowed to open my gift, which was a Fun Pass to Busch Gardens! I was really excited about it, since I’d been wanting to go but couldn’t justify the $60-$80 cost for a day. Now I could go as much as I want until December 31 — the gift that keeps on giving! We parked in the lot and got on a shuttle to the park.

Busch Gardens is awesome, divided into different areas, including Morocco, Nairobi, Pantopia, Congo, Jungala, Serengeti Plain, Egypt, Bird Gardens, Stanleyville, and the Sesame Street Safari of Fun (for kids). All of these areas have their own theme, and of the ones we visited, I loved the Morocco area (as the pictures will show). It is so big, though, that we didn’t make it to even half of the areas. We didn’t ride any rides, but we did see lots of animals and drink lots of iced tea (it was a very hot day). My friend wouldn’t let me spend any money myself, so she bought me a drink that included free refills all day on the day of purchase, and .99 refills every other day. I also indulged myself by having an apple funnel cake — I mean a huge apple funnel cake — and I couldn’t even come close to finishing it. I ended up begging my friends to help me finish it, but even with their help I threw half of it away. (Note to self: unless you’re starving to death, do not get a funnel cake! Even then, think twice about it).

We were on our way to the water rides at the opposite end of the park when we were waylaid by a thunderstorm. All the rides were closed down during the storm and the crowds piled into any area with a roof to wait it out. We ended up at a carousel, so I got a couple of pictures of that. It amazed me how tortured the horses on this carousel looked, and I wondered if they had always looked that way. Spooky!

Carousel 2 Carousel 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the pictures from the rest of the park (the carousel horses kinda creeped me out. . .).

Travel Pic

 

 

 

 

 

Toward Something

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dragon Mosaic

 

 

 

 

 

Baskets in the window

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bottle Display Blue Door

Bush Lodge at the Lake

We left around 4:30 because we had had two thunderstorms come through, and my friends had already decided to take me to Olive Garden to continue the day — yum! Despite the funnel cake, I wanted some real food, Olive Garden style. Back to Largo we went (and, of course, I’d already been this way that day), to Olive Garden, where there was no wait!

I’m not sure what happened, but we turned into those people you don’t want to sit next to at a restaurant — laughing, talking a lot, and just being generally obnoxious. Well, it wasn’t that bad, but I would’ve hated sitting next to us. And we had a ball! It might have had something to do with the drinks (although we only had one each), but we were on a giggling roll. . . It was the perfect ending to a perfect day (if you don’t count my getting lost, that is). So we’re going to do it again this Saturday — yay! I want to ride rides and see the rest of the park.

On the Home Front

So back to work on Sunday. . . It wasn’t too bad, but I realized I had to get a wireless headset; I had just destroyed my third wired one, so I had no music — again. I think there were around 30 sites to do that day per team (I’m my own team), so I didn’t finish up until 2:30 or so — again. When I walked in my RV after my shift, I nearly fell back through the door as Sponge Bob rose up to greet me and I had forgotten he was even there. I can imagine how my birds feel about him hanging around in the living room.

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On his last legs — teehee!

So our plan now is to let Sponge Bob go to his demise. He’s helium-filled, so we thought it would be great to let him go over the Skyline Bridge. I was going to drive across, roll down my window and push him out, and then film him floating away. However, it occurred to me that I could actually cause accidents by doing that, as drivers might crane their necks to see what was floating above the bridge and end up falling off of it. So I think I might just let him go in the park. I don’t think Mylar balloons are nearly as dangerous as regular balloons to the wildlife. And who knows? Someone might find his deflated body, refill him, and take him home with them.

One observation: I’ve determined there’s a disorder that camp hosts develop (aside from ADD), which involves being able to spot trash and cigarette butts from a mile away, and feeling the urge to pick them up; I realized this when I went to Walmart, actually (no surprise, I’m sure — what a filthy place!). Palm fronds lying on the ground is another red flag, and I find myself thinking about bringing the golf cart around to get them — outside the park! Hopefully, I’ll get over this, but if not, I guess it’s another possibility for future employment.

Spent the day — my 56th birthday — at the beach. It was a perfect day, and the water was just cool enough to be somewhat refreshing so I popped in and out when I felt the need. I also watched a crew set up to film a commercial. I heard it was a deodorant commercial, or an underwear commercial, but whatever it was, I finally asked them if they were setting up for a sunset shot — and they were! So much for the deodorant commercial, since the heat on the beach would have been the perfect environment to test it, but a sunset doesn’t have any association at all with deodorant. If it was an underwear commercial, that really doesn’t make sense, either. So I guess I’ll just wait to see what comes out of it (fat chance, since I never watch TV). I kept waiting for the ‘talent’ to come out, but they never did — divas! While the crew sweated in the hot sun, the talent must have been in the air-conditioned RV I saw as I walked to the beach. Rank hath its privilege, I guess. . .

Have a good week, all!

Dog Days of Summer

Well, I have about as much energy as a slug right now. It was my first day off this week, and I’ve spent it in my RV working on my jigsaw puzzle.

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What a bear this has been!

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a really difficult puzzle, but I’m making good progress on it. Once it’s done, I won’t allow myself to start another one until winter (or maybe in October . . .). It takes up a lot of my time that would be better spent doing something more productive. Beats the heck out of video games, though!

New Companions

Here are my new kids, Bert and Chloe, which I picked up at, of all places, the flea market! From the looks of my sofa, over which their cage hangs, they already feel right at home. I put them there so they could look out the window and at least feel like they were outside. Bert’s been singing a lot, while Chloe just talks to herself (a bird after my own heart). They still get agitated when I approach their cage, but I expect them to get more comfortable with me as time passes.

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Chloe and Bert

 

Continuing Ant Wars

As predicted, the ants are back. I am so sick of ants! This time, they are attacking from the rear primarily, although I’m not sure why (no food in my bedroom, which is in the rear of the RV). I tried spraying ant killer back there, but then realized that I could end up poisoning my birds, so I’m trying to come up with another solution. There are no ant trails, so I have no idea where the problem area is.

The last straw came yesterday, when I finished my shift and came back home, stripped off my clothes (which are always filthy!), and laid down on my bed for a quick nap before my shower. I woke up half an hour later to find an ant walking across my bare butt! (For those of you for whom this is TMI — sorry!) (For those of you with prurient interests, get your minds out of the gutter!). I’m now freaked out and I’ve decided to get some sort of perimeter defense to put around the outside of my RV. Suggestions would be welcome!

It’s Official!

Tomorrow, I will be going to get my Florida driver’s license and registration for my car. So I guess I am officially a Florida resident. Now I guess I’ll have to get a job next. I told the rangers I won’t be able to come back to work here by myself, for the reasons I mentioned in my last post. They didn’t realize I was taking the same number of sites to clean as the couples here, and it’s really just too much work for one person in this heat. On the other hand, my work here is making it possible for me to stay in Dunedin — the high-rent district — for the winter. And if I can work at Amazon for 5 weeks I feel like I can do anything for a period of time.

I have been weighing my options for a job, though. I have thought about becoming a park ranger, given my love of the outdoors, but it sounds like a very competitive process here. The test is only given every six months or so, and I’m not sure how many people are hired per test. But the work is varied, which I prefer, and it’s a career field I think I would enjoy. I’m sure a master’s degree might be overkill for the job, but the couple I work with and I were laughing about the fact that we have master’s degrees and we’re picking up trash. What a bargain for the park, because we definitely do a master’s-level job of it!

Here’s a few pics I’ve taken this week, for your enjoyment.

Even Better Sunset
An even better sunset, I think
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Night heron drying itself at the dump station
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A scene that appealed to me

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The last shot is a rose that was left on a picnic table at a site I cleaned, and I hoped it was from an appreciative guest. Have a good week, all . . .

 

Random doings and the downside

Another week in paradise — almost. . . While I believed I’d finally adjusted to my schedule and the heat, this past week was a set-back. I’m not sure if I was fighting off a virus or what, but I was wiped out nearly every day I worked. I’m hoping for a better week next week.

Beach Time

I finally made it to the beach last week. It was my first time there, since I can’t get in the sun after working, so I save sun time for when I’m off. One of the other camp hosts had picked up some abandoned beach things from a site they had cleaned, so I ended up with a beach umbrella and a couple of boogie boards. I took the umbrella with me, along with my water, my Ipod and headphones, a notebook and pen, my beach towel, and sunscreen (always).

I went to the North Beach at Ft. De Soto, which is a really nice beach, and laid out my stuff. The beach umbrella was difficult to secure (probably why it was abandoned), so I just stuck it in the sand and hoped for the best. It was a nice day, but I was a bit concerned about the clouds around.

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I checked my cell phone for the weather, and it showed a sunny day, so I didn’t worry too much about it. I was enjoying laying in the sun finally, listening to my Ipod and periodically writing in my notebook. I was still watching the weather, and saw this in the distance:

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Well, so much for a sunny day. As the wind picked up and I felt the rain come in, I saw my umbrella laying behind me — inside out — and decided to start gathering up my things. Below was the view from the beach as I walked to the snack bar for shelter from the rain.

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I waited it out, and finally the rain stopped and I went back to the beach, along with the other intrepid souls who knew that the rain doesn’t usually last long here. When the sun became too hot for me, I waded out into the ocean (flesh-eating bacteria be damned!) up to my neck and then waded back to my spot on the beach, refreshed. At that point, I was ready for a nap, so I packed up my stuff and headed back to camp.

Another Day, Another Dollar

It’s interesting what you can pick up while cleaning sites here. The other day, I bagged nearly a 12-pack of Yuengling Beer that was unopened. I picked it up and put it in the back of the cart, where it promptly was buried under a big pile of brush that I picked up from other sites. As I bounced along, I noticed the distinct scent of beer, so the next site I stopped at, I checked to see how the Yuengling was doing. Unfortunately, there were a couple of cans that had holes in them and were leaking, so I put those in the trash. I came to another site, where someone had left beer pong balls. Awesome, now I could play beer pong with myself! Actually, those went in the trash. . . I was now down to 6 beers, having lost more to the bumpy roads and brush punctures.

By the time I got back to the dumpster to get rid of the brush and trash I’d picked up, I was down to 3 beers, and the back of my cart smelled like a brewery. I had hoped to have a stash of beer for visitors, since I don’t drink beer myself generally, but I suppose I should feel lucky that I had a few to store at least. I had also picked up a citronella candle someone had left, which was fortunate since I needed one but hadn’t remembered to buy one yet.

The Downside

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I want to accomplish and, to be honest, I’m not sure. I am still enjoying my adventure, but I do have concerns. One of the issues I’m having as a single camp host here is doing everything alone. When I was staying at RV parks, I had people around who were, often, long-term and I often met people to chat with. Because this is a county park, there is a two-week limit per month on stays, so campers here are generally here only a few days — just here to enjoy a vacation with the family and sometimes with their local friends, and not interested in meeting other campers.

The camp hosts I work with are very friendly, but there is no socializing. I heard they are more social in the winter months, but I suppose the heat is not conducive to get-togethers in the summer. So I end up bugging the rangers in the camp office when I have the opportunity. Fortunately, they are a friendly bunch, and very funny. Still, this job would be much more enjoyable if I had someone to work with. My friend from Largo came to visit one weekend, and she stayed overnight on Saturday and went to work with me on Sunday. That day flew by, and was so much more enjoyable than previous days.

Now, at the suggestion of a friend, I just listen to my Ipod while working, which helps to keep my mind occupied and helps me feel less lonely. This job is very physical and dirty, so I destroyed one of my earbuds when it fell into the dirt and I stepped on it. The second set isn’t faring much better, getting caught up in my equipment and in the limbs I pick up, etc. My next step is to get a wireless headset. . .

In any event, I’ll work through this like I have through everything else. I am nothing if not adaptable (as I am finding out about myself).

Supermoon

I did manage to get out to take shots of the supermoon on Sunday. One of the rangers had suggested I go to the Bay Pier at Fort De Soto to get it rising over the bridge, but I determined I probably should have gone to the Bayway to get it from that angle. As it was, I caught it over a shrimp boat out in the Bay, which was a nice touch, I think.

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While I was trying to get the perfect shot of the supermoon, I turned around to observe the sunset for the evening, and this is what I saw. . .

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I realized I should have stayed to get the sunset instead of the supermoon, darn it! Well, aside from the numerous no-see-um bites, it was an enjoyable outing. Until next time. . .

No Sewer Hook-ups??? and Other Considerations

It’s really nice at Ft. De Soto, and I’m finally settling into my routine. That is, I don’t feel like I’m half-dead when I get off work anymore — whew! I still get a nap in almost daily, but I don’t actually have to. There are some things, though, that are not so nice, although they’re not deal breakers. Alligators running free in the park would be deal breakers, but these are not.

Inconveniences, Sorta

I was here before, for 3 nights, and it was a really good experience. Staying for several months is a bit different. There are no sewer hookups here, which is a small price to pay for paradise (albeit a steamy one), but I didn’t know how difficult it is to use as little water as  possible. I like using water — for everything! And I didn’t realize how much I used, for just a couple of quick showers, dishes on a regular basis, tooth-brushing, hand washing, etc. I always watch my gauges for my holding tanks — both of which are 35 gallons — even though I hear from other RVers how notoriously unreliable they are.

So when my gray water gauge showed the tank was full, I assumed it wasn’t really — until the water backed up halfway into my bathtub/shower. . . (Note to self: when the gauge shows a full tank, believe it!) Fortunately, a couple of camp hosts generously offered to let me use their portable dumper (can’t remember what they’re actually called at the moment), which keeps me from having to retract my awning and slide, secure everything, and drive to the dump station to empty my tanks (not to mention backing back into the site).

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Portable dumper . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, this portable tank holds 35 gallons and requires the user (i.e., me) to empty the tanks in my RV into it and then pull the portable tank to the dump station to get rid of its contents. Yes, it is just as messy as it sounds (at least when I do it). Remember, it holds 35 gallons, which means it’s extremely heavy when full. I wrestled with it for 30 minutes to get it filled, pulled to the golf cart and hooked up, and then driven to the dump station to dump it. The other issue is that my tanks are each 35 gallons, which means I can only empty half at a time of each. . . Well, the last time I dumped them, I tried to get them both emptied into the portable tank to save myself a trip, with disastrous consequences. Suffice it to say, that’s a chore that will take me some time to get used to (or not, as the case may be).

I now rarely take a shower in the RV, and I try to do dishes in a dishpan, which I sometimes empty into the bushes when I’m done. The restrooms here are fairly nice — not necessarily as clean as I would like, but nice. The showers are decent, with great water pressure, but sometimes you’re not alone in there. . . I took a shower once in the park restroom and after I got soaped up I happened to look behind me and there was a snake — not a big one, mind you, but a snake nonetheless. I think it was a baby. It was curled in the corner and I had just completely missed seeing it when I got into the shower. After my initial shock, since I was already soaped up I figured I’d just finish my shower and then report the snake to the rangers. Unfortunately, I also discovered that the shower was filling up with water, and the snake was now floating in my soap. Okay, shower over! I got out and dried off as quickly as I could, dressed, and went to the camp station to report the snake — along with the clogged drain in the shower. The next day, when I went back, the snake was gone, but the drain was still clogged.

Ants!

The other issue I’m having is a problem with ants. Given the sandy nature of this park, it’s not really a surprise that there would be lots of ants. I started seeing them about a week after I got here, and they started getting progressively worse in the RV. I went to buy some ant poison, which didn’t appear to work fast enough, so I started spraying them with tub and tile cleaner (the spray variety, not the foaming kind). It worked just as well as the bleach counter top spray I used to use at my house, but the ants kept increasing in number. So I got out the heavy-duty ant and roach spray and started shooting them on the cabinets and the ceiling.

Finally, in desperation, I soaked a couple of cotton balls in tea tree oil and put them in the cabinets where the ants were concentrated. That actually worked, and I haven’t seen ants in my cabinets since. I consider it winning the battle, not necessarily the war. I am ever-vigilant for the next attack. Every once in a while one will show up in my bedroom — either on the wall, or on my arm (no idea how that happens). That has so far led to a couple of sleepless nights wherein I kept feeling things crawling on me and assumed they were ants. They weren’t (I turned the light on a couple of times to check). Unfortunately, this is either a sign of my overactive imagination, or encroaching paranoid schizophrenia (just kidding!). What a shame I can’t convert that into a career, huh?

The Good Stuff

Lest anyone think I only grouse, I wanted to include some pictures I’ve taken from time to time to show what the place is really like. This is only in the campground. There are two beaches, an old fort, and (I hear) a lighthouse on Fort De Soto proper, which is on the Gulf of Mexico, as well as on Tampa Bay.

Fish Thieves
Fish thieves!

This guy was laughing because the birds kept stealing the bait from his bucket. You rarely see a fisherman around here without a sidekick — either an egret or a heron — and the birds always get fed. This was on the Mullet Bay Bayou, where most of my pictures are taken, actually.

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Lone tree on the Bayou

I just liked the shape of this tree, which is also on Mullet Bay Bayou. The views here are really spectacular. I was just cleaning a site one day and thought this would make a good picture.

Another Morning Shot
Another morning shot from a different perspective

This was taken from the entrance to the campground (around the camp store), and I loved the clouds that day. In fact, the clouds most days are amazing . . .

Great tree
Very old tree

I have no idea what kind of tree this is, but I loved its filigreed look. This is also at the entrance to the campground.

Morning in the Bayou
Another beautiful morning on the bayou

This is another shot of morning on the Bayou. Love it! This is what I see before I head out for work. . .

A Bigger Sunset
A really big sunset

I liked the clouds in this one, but I have to say that I like the look of the mornings around here better than the evenings. I’ll keep trying to get the quintessential sunset shot, and then I guess I’ll have to put them up for a vote. In the meantime, there’s another one out there right now! Gotta go!

 

 

 

 

I’m Baa-ack!

Okay, after my trip to Kentucky and Montreal, I’m back in Florida, working as a camp host at Fort De Soto (a county park), in Tierra Verde, Florida. It’s really gorgeous here, but hot as blazes. I was warned about the Florida summers, so I knew what to expect. What I didn’t expect is the fact that I wouldn’t be able to stand the sun after my shifts, Thursday through Sunday. They’re only 5 hours long, but sheesh! By the end, I’m a wringing wet mess. . .

My Return

To start at the beginning, I got back on a Tuesday evening and went to the storage area to pick up my RV. It was, as I expected, hot, having been closed up for over a month. And I had a dead plant — no surprise — but the kitty litter worked like a charm to keep the moisture to a minimum and keep the odors down. Thanks to my Montreal friend for that tip!

The biggest problem was that my house batteries were dead — dead as doornails — and I couldn’t even get my generator started with help from my car battery. So I just hopped in, hooked up my car, and headed for Fort De Soto for an overnight with no reservations.

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Coming into Ft. De Soto

When I got to De Soto, with a relatively easy travel period, I stopped in the parking lot to see if I could get my house batteries charged with my car (duh!). That was a bad idea, and I feel ridiculous for even trying it. I was using jumper cables to try to charge something that I wasn’t going to ‘start,’ so it didn’t work.

Clouds over Ft Desoto
Clouds over Ft. De Soto — the view from the parking lot

I decided to just head to an available site for the night to hook up to electric. I found a pull-through site, which worked out very well because I didn’t have to unhook my car. I plugged the RV in, but skipped hooking up the water since I knew I wouldn’t be there for more than one night; as a camp host, a site was already reserved for me, but I didn’t know which one it was yet. . . I don’t even remember that night because I was thoroughly worn out. I set my alarm for 7am to meet with the volunteer coordinator.

When I woke up the next morning, my batteries were fully charged, so I felt ready for anything. I went out to check out the site I was in and noticed a couple of night heron nests above me. I tried to get some shots of them in their nests, with less-than-acceptable results (gotta have willing subjects, I’ve found). I had gotten up early thinking I needed to be at the office by 8am, so I headed out to meet my new supervisor. Unfortunately, the volunteer coordinator was nowhere to be found, and the office didn’t open until 9am. I went back to my temporary site and finally met up with a couple of  camp hosts who came by in their golf cart. I introduced myself, and they told me which site I was supposed to be in (they had a list) and said they’d get the site ready for me.

As I’m preparing to move, I noticed just how much the herons did not like me under their nests, as they had left ‘gifts’ for me on the hood of my RV — an assortment of excrement! I moved to my new site and it began to rain — pour, actually — so I hoped I wouldn’t have to tackle the heron poop by hand (odd phrasing, that). Truth be told, I wasn’t going to anyway.  I’ll be here for four months, and I’m sure it’ll rain enough in that time to get rid of whatever the herons can dish out.

I finally went to the camp office after waiting unsuccessfully for the volunteer coordinator to meet me at my site, and the rangers there called him on the radio to meet me at the office. Finally, I was official, with shirts, badge, and . . . a golf cart!

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My very own golf cart!

My permanent site is on the water — score! It’s just a short walk from my RV to the ‘beach’ on Mullet Key Bayou, and it’s awesome here. I wouldn’t start work until the next morning, so I went back to my RV to start unpacking my car. I had raided my storage facility while I was in Kentucky, and now I had to find places to put things — including my large keyboard (with stand), an amplifier for my guitar, and lots more kitchen things. Technically, I should get rid of some things to fit the new ones in, but I can’t seem to figure out what to get rid of. I need it all! So I am now officially — in appearance, at least — a hoarder. . .

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My backyard: the water is just beyond the trees. . .
First day on the job

I arrived bright and early — 7:45 — for my first day of work. I went with two other camp hosts to see what I was supposed to do. I already had an idea what my duties were, but the hosts I went with were very thorough — good people to train a newbie! The work is relatively straightforward, and everyone on the shift gets a list of sites they need to clean in their 5-hour shift. The duties include cleaning the grill, sweeping the picnic table, picking up trash, checking that electric and water are turned off, raking the site, and basically picking up anything left behind, such as left-over firewood.

After observing for one site, I was on my own. Now, I should point out that everyone familiar with Florida summers has warned me about them: extremely hot and humid, to the point of being dangerous. Combine that with working outside and not being in the habit of drinking a lot of water, and I am a disaster waiting to happen. I learned a lot that first day, but by the end of it, I looked like a chimney sweep, ringing wet and covered from head to toe in dirt and dust. I walked into the camp office at the end of my shift, and one of the rangers asked, “What’d you get hit by?” I answered “grills” and he just shook his head. I hate cleaning grills. . .

After the first day

The second day was somewhat better, but I was still beat — and filthy! The other camp hosts told me it would take a couple of weeks to get used to the routine, so I was hoping for the best. On their advice I started bringing a cooler with me, in which I put a couple of ice packs, a couple of bottles of water, an apple or banana, and salted almonds. This seemed to work out better, but I was still completely wiped out at the end of my shift. Hmmm. . . maybe eating is the answer. I don’t eat breakfast normally, but I tried taking a bowl of granola mixed with yogurt and fruit with me. By the time I got around to eating it, though, it was like concrete and I couldn’t finish it. So I tried taking a fried egg sandwich with me, which worked out better but it was a hassle frying up an egg before I left in the morning. So. . . I’m still trying to come up with the perfect portable breakfast. Suggestions are welcome!

Morning on Mullet Key Bayou
Morning on Mullet Key Bayou

As I mentioned, I hate cleaning grills, particularly in the tent section, where they’re apparently used as fire pits as well as for cooking — I even found marshmallow remnants on one of them! They’re often covered in baked barbeque sauce and full of coals, with some having spilled out onto the ground in front of the grill. And sometimes they’re still smoking, which makes them somewhat hazardous to clean. I had a bad grill day one Sunday (which is a very busy day for camp hosts as the weekenders leave to get back to work on Monday). On that day, I ended up having two or three grills with live coals, and my coal bucket was getting full — and heavy! I scooped the coals into the bucket and heaved it into the back of the cart, finished the site and went to the next one. On the way, I noticed that the bucket was smoking, which meant I had a fire starting, apparently. I stopped at the next site on my list and looked into the bucket to see what was going on: one of the pieces of wood in the bucket had caught fire from the hot coals. Since I already had a pile of very dry palm fronds in the back of the cart, I grabbed the bucket and lifted it out of the cart, setting it on the ground. When I started cleaning, I saw that this site also had a full grill, also with live coals. I  grabbed the bucket to get it to a coal bin to dump, but it was too hot for my — rubber-palmed — gloves. I didn’t have time for it to burn itself out, so I got my water bottle out of my cooler and put the fire out with it. By the end of this day, I was filthy — again — and completely wiped out. One of the other camp hosts noticed how dirty I kept getting and he asked what I was doing to get so covered in dirt. I told him it was just from cleaning grills, and he suggested I stand to the side of the grills to clean them rather than in front of them. What a novel idea! I’ve been cleaner after my shift ever since — not clean, but cleaner.

Yep, sometimes they're like that
Yep, sometimes they’re like that

There are days where we’ve had up to 40 sites apiece to clean, which is probably statistically impossible, but I give it my best shot. Fortunately, the other camp hosts have been really good about checking on me to see where I am, and taking some of my sites when I get behind. Rushing, I’ve noticed, rarely works out well. On one day, I was pulling a piece of fishing line out of the dirt, but it was resisting. I was, as usual, in a hurry so I yanked it out of the dirt and it flew out and wrapped around my neck. There I stood, with fishing wire around my neck, a weight hanging down from it in front of me and, when I checked, a hook hanging behind me (not, thank heaven, in my eye — my mother’s worst nightmare).

Such is the life of a camp host. If this wasn’t such a beautiful place, I might think I’d gotten myself in over my head. But I’ll be here until the end of October, when I move north (of here) for the winter. In the meantime, I’ll keep y’all posted on the goings-on. . . It is time for my nap — until next week!

On Hiatus

Okay, I haven’t found time to do a even a small blog, so I’ll be doing one next Wednesday (or Thursday, since I’ll be in Montreal by then). Sorry, for those of you waiting with bated breath for my next one. . . Have a great week!

Back In Kentucky

I’m back in Kentucky with my family and friends for the month. It’s odd how foreign it feels here after only 4 months in Florida (I couldn’t remember the freeway system on my way up from Elizabethtown). I’m definitely a gypsy while I’m here, with no home to go to and relying on the hospitality of my family for a roof over my head. Needless to say, I miss my home, which is securely parked in Florida behind a gate.

I wanted to talk about my visit with my family in Florida, and a second trip to Sawgrass Lake Park, which was very, very interesting. I took my sisters there to see alligators (which we did), and my friend came along to take photos, having not been there for quite some time. Unfortunately, the pictures I took are in my RV in Florida, so I’ll have to revisit that trip after I get back in July.

My sister drove back with me, and we have a fairly uneventful trip. Our only problem was with the hotel room we got in Georgia. We had planned to stop for the night at a place with a pool, and have a beer and relax — hopefully in the pool. Unfortunately, our room was next to the office, and we ended up sitting on the stoop outside our room having our beers. The worst part was when we tried to go to sleep later that evening. There were people pulling in to register, and lots of loud talking outside our door, so I tried to turn on the radio (couldn’t find a station), thought about turning on the TV just for the noise, but then decided to turn on the fan. That worked, and we finally got to sleep (it had been a long day, with 9 hours of driving).

The next morning, we got up and went to have breakfast (waffles were included!) before heading out. The coffee was not good (weak), and my flipflops kept sticking to the floor — not a good sign in terms of cleanliness. Still, the waffles were good, once we figured out how to work the waffle iron, and we just stopped at McDonald’s on our way out to get decent coffee.

Approximately 5 hours later, we were in Elizabethtown, and I had no cell phone access, but unlimited internet access — yay! I stayed with my sister in E-town for two nights, where we finished a 500-word jigsaw puzzle, and then drove up to Louisville to my other sister’s apartment, where I am now.

My time here will be spent with family — my granddaughter’s dance recital next weekend in Ohio, our annual 4th of July family reunion — and with friends, including a trip to Montreal in the middle of June. I am looking forward to all of this, particularly seeing my sons and their families. It’ll be a busy month, but I’ll have an even busier month when I get back to Florida. In July and August, I’ll be a volunteer at Ft. De Soto County Park in Florida, so I’ll enjoy the rest while I’m here.

That’s it for now. Have a great week, all!

 

 

 

 

Another Road Trip

This is a good week — my brother and sisters are here, along with my nieces, nephew, and the two boys. I am very happy to be visiting with my family after 5 months in Florida, all of us enjoying the sun and the gulf beaches. While rain was predicted for the past 3 days, we haven’t seen a drop of it — perfect weather!

Failed Trip to Crystal River

Prior to the weekend, my friend and I had decided on a road trip to Crystal River, hoping to see some manatees but just wanting to get out and shoot pictures again. We started out with high hopes — and lots of food prepared by my friend. She hadn’t been to Crystal River for 10 years or so, but she remembered it as a place that was worth the trip.

We drove the hour and a half to Crystal River, but we had difficulty locating the actual recreation area for some reason. We stopped at a couple of places (gas stations, chamber of commerce) to ask where the area was, but everyone told us that you had to have a boat to get to where we wanted to go. Needless to say, we didn’t have a boat, but my friend didn’t remember needing a boat to get there.

So we drove back and forth, asking everyone we could for directions to the area she had visited previously. Apparently, things had changed in 10 years. You really did have to have a boat to get to the island, except a few times a year, and the whole area had apparently  become so commercialized that my friend didn’t even recognize it anymore. We were, at this point, losing patience — and time. We stopped in one final place to ask again about getting to an island at Crystal River, and a clerk we talked to told us about another place neither of us had heard of: Rainbow Springs. She recommended it highly, and we decided to skip Crystal River and head to this new place. Crystal River is no longer a place either of us wants to visit.

Ahhh, Rainbow Springs

Rainbow Springs was another 20 minutes to half hour away from Crystal River, but wow — what a beautiful place! The parking area was very large, and it was easy to find a spot with shade from the very hot sun on this day.

The walk up to the entrance was really well landscaped, with waterfalls and a creek (all manmade).

Waterfall
Entrance waterfall

There was quite a line on this Saturday at the entrance, so apparently we were the only people who hadn’t heard of Rainbow Springs. Entry was $2 per person, which turned out to be a real bargain. The place was beautiful! The walkway led to views of the springs, and then to the large grassy area that held crowds of people engaged in picnicking, grilling, and sunbathing.

Picnic area
Great lawn — picnic area

We had brought our cooler of food with us from the car, and we decided to eat first, drop the cooler back off at the car, and then walk around taking pictures. We had noticed that alcohol was not allowed in the park, so we decided to forgo the bottle of wine; but we had a great meal and then packed up the cooler and took it back to the car. We then started following the path around the park, first to the waterfalls.  There were several of them, but I only got a good picture of one (we were playing with the shutter speed to blur the water, but the best blur of water resulted in a blurred photo).

Waterfall Vignette
Waterfall vignette

Even though the water features in the park were manmade, they were beautiful — someone did a great job creating them. The next stop was the butterfly garden, which was situated next to what used to be a rodeo arena (the park has had several uses through the years).

Used to be Rodeos
A gate left over from the rodeo arena

In the butterfly garden, once again, I couldn’t capture a butterfly, but I did get some potential butterfly perches:

Orange Flower
Couldn’t find this online. . .
Beautiful Purple Blue
Don’t know what it is, but I love the color!
Aloe in bloom
I don’t remember seeing an aloe bloom before.

The Springs themselves were gorgeous, and a huge draw for those wanting to cool off. We had, once again, forgotten to bring water with us, and it was, as I said, a very hot day. I swear I thought I was melting at one point, but then I decided I was baking instead. The Springs were calling our name!

Swimming Area
Swimming Area of the Springs

We went over to the swimming side and I had to go first, so I hemmed and hawed until I finally just leaned forward from the dock and fell in. That was, in short, a real rush, but it was necessary in this heat. My friend went next, but forgot to take off her sunglasses first. Here’s the crowd that gathered to help her find them in the water:

The Search
The search is on!

Just about the time my friend had given up on finding her sunglasses and we were packing up to move on, one of the searchers came over with them. What a great bunch of people. . .

Having cooled down, we continued our walk around the park. Here is my friend enjoying the scene and probably taking a very good shot. I thought she added a nice touch to the scene.

Photographers Paradise
A photographer’s paradise

The park was so full of plants and gorgeous water features that we had a hard time leaving. Here’s another couple of shots just for grins and giggles. . .

Red Flower
Side-lit flower
Rainbow Springs View
Just a pretty view
Dragonfly on a stem
Dragonfly on a stem
Portrait of Rainbow Springs
Rainbow Springs Portrait

Reluctantly, we headed out, planning to go to Skeleton Key to catch the sunset. On the way south, we passed through a town that reminded my friend of the best hotdogs she had ever had — and it was a kitschy place to visit, anyway, so we doubled back to find this hotdog place. We GPS’d it, which meant it took twice as long as normal to get there, but we finally arrived:

Coney Island
Coney Island Hotdogs

Yes, it was just as interesting inside as it was out. I ordered a footlong coney dog, and my friend ordered a regular sized one. They came out pretty quickly, but we took some inside shots while we waited.

Kitsch
Pure Kitsch
Inside the Dog House
Inside the Dog House

Unfortunately, the hotdogs weren’t as good as my friend remembered, but at least the ambiance was interesting there! By this time, it was too late to go to Skeleton Key (the sun was already too far gone), so we headed back home.

The next day, my brother and his wife, daughter, son-in-law, and grandsons came in to stay for the week south of me. My sisters and other niece flew in on Tuesday, so I’ve been very busy with family. I’ll post about our activities (primarily beach time) next week. Thanks for reading!

 

 

Close Encounters, and Other Natural Phenomena

Another beautiful morning! I just had a visitor – a tiger butterfly – who landed on a plant a short distance away and opened up his wings and. . . sat there. What a nice surprise, since I’ve been chasing butterflies since I got here and can’t get one to sit still long enough to snap a shot. I knew the minute I got up to get my camera he would be gone, so I sat and looked at his markings and thought ‘I’ll just enjoy the moment.’ Some things in life are like that: beautiful and fleeting. You just have to enjoy them for what they are because they won’t last. . .

Eagle Lake Park

I finally made it to this park, which I had passed many, many times on my way from Largo to Dunedin and kept promising myself I’d stop in sometime. Since I had an appointment to get my headlights de-hazed in Clearwater, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to visit before the appointment. It’s another county park (Pinellas County is full of them!), and it looked promising from the outside. Off of Starkey (or Keene – same road), just north of East Bay Boulevard in Largo, it’s obviously a draw for joggers and walkers, with good reason. The trees provide shade, the paths are well-kept, and there are nice surprises to enjoy. The first one I came to was a pond full of lily pads!

Now, everyone who knows me knows I can’t resist a good picture of a waterlily, and there were beautiful specimens here. The first thing I saw, though, was an egret among the reeds, hunting for food. I tried to get a shot of her, but I couldn’t get a clear one because she was behind the reeds (note to self: stop relying on auto-focus and use manual!). So I moved on to the bridge to get some shots of the waterlilies. I’m always trying for the quintessential waterlily shot, but I haven’t figured out what that is yet. If you want to see what I have so far, take a look at my photography section, under flowers, and let me know which you prefer!

Waterlily
Waterlily
Waterlily Closeup
Waterlily Closeup

I wandered down the path for quite some time before I started wondering why this was called Eagle Lake Park. There was no lake! I ran across a couple more wildflowers. . .

Wildflower
Some sort of orchid? Never saw one growing on a shrub. . .
Another Pond Flower
Yellow water lily

Finally, I headed back to my car and drove farther along the road to another parking lot. Ah! There it was! It was a small lake, but it was full of tortoises and turtles. I got some shots of those, along with a picture of a small heron.

Green Heron
Green heron — shorter than blue heron
Turtles sunning
Turtles sunning themselves
Tortoise Swimming
Tortoise hoping for food
Reflected Detail
Pitted Stripeseed, I think. . .

The heron shot was somewhat blurred (again, auto-focus), but I enjoyed the serenity and beauty of the lake before I had to head out for my appointment. Two hours later, and with some shopping under my belt, I had perfectly clear headlights – woohoo!

Weedon Island Preserve

My next trip was to Weedon Island, which is on Old Tampa Bay. It had been on my to-do list ever since I had gone to Sawgrass Lake Park and found that Weedon is in the same vicinity. Getting there, however, was another matter. . . I put the name into my GPS and finally got a location, but it seemed to be in the opposite direction I needed to go. Still, I followed the directions, and ended up in a semi-residential area with no park in sight! Okay, never mind the GPS, which is, apparently, an idiot (as am I for following it!). Next, I put the location into my cell phone and those directions sounded more like what I expected. So I followed the new directions until I ended up at a cul de sac in a more high-end neighborhood, with, again, no park in sight. Damn! No matter where I drove, the cell phone kept routing me back to the cul de sac. To top it off, the cell phone was dying, and my car charger had quit working. There had been very few places to stop along the immediate vicinity, but there had been a golf course, so I drove back there and went into the clubhouse to ask where this damned park was. The gentleman in the clubhouse gave me directions that were easy to follow and I headed out again for the Preserve.

I finally found it, although I missed the road to the nature center and ended up at a circular area with a bunch of people with kayaks. I followed the circle around, and on the way back I saw the sign for the nature center and turned in – whew! I parked and went into the center. The brochure I picked up states that the Preserve is “approximately 3,700 acres on the shores of Old Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg, [and] combines a rich cultural history with the environmental wonders of sky, land and water.” Needless to say, the park is huge! I looked at the pictures on the bulletin board, and one was of a very large diamondback rattlesnake, sunning himself on the sidewalk outside the center. That was a bit of a shock to see, but I thought that it was likely taken in the winter, and with the current heat the snakes were probably staying cool in their beds rather than sunning themselves.

I grabbed a map and went to the vending machine to get water (which I had, once again, forgotten to bring with me). After hitting every button on the machine for water, with no result, I went for the Sierra Mist and got one. Time to head out. I looked at the map, but couldn’t tell where anything was, so I took the first path I came to, just outside the nature center. Here is a picture of flowers along the way:

Indian blanket flower
Florida wildflower — Indian blanket flower

My goal was to get to an observation tower, but the first thing I noticed about the map was that the path names on the map were different from what I was seeing on the signs (what there were of them, anyway). There was something called the “Boy Scout Loop,” but that wasn’t on the map, and then I saw a sign for the “Main Road.” I decided just to wing it and kept following paths as I found them. It was a nice walk, but I really wanted to find an observation tower! Interestingly, no one I asked on my walk seemed to know where one was (there were actually two in the park, according to the map), so I just kept walking. The most compelling part of the park were the mangrove swamps. Mangroves are fascinating trees, and I kept taking pictures of them to try to convey the feel of the environment. I had noticed little black bumps on the trunks of the trees, which I discovered were mangrove crabs! Here is one I blew up to show what they look like (click on it to enlarge, then double-click to enlarge further).

Mangrove Roots and Crabs
Mangrove Roots and Crabs
Along the Mangrove Swamp
Along the Mangrove Swamp

After 3 hours or so of wandering around, I ended up at the main road (so that’s why the path was called ‘Main Road’!). I started walking  until I came to another path leading back into the woods. I took that one because it was really hot out by this time and any shade would be a relief. As I entered the treed area, I noticed a potentially good shot on my left, so I laid my camera bag on the ground to change out the telephoto for the wide angle lens. I stood back, took the picture, and then began gathering my things up to move on. One of the things you hear constantly on the paths in these parks is rustling, which is usually the numerous lizards that are always scuttling away from the path. I said aloud, “don’t worry – I’m not here to hurt you” and I closed up my camera bag. As I walked away, though, I heard a louder sound, like something falling in the leaves. I looked back, and there was a snake staring at me. My first thought was, ‘damn, I just changed out my telephoto lens!’ and I leaned in a bit to see the snake’s markings: diamonds… I had spent the day convincing myself that snakes wouldn’t be out in this heat, so I hadn’t worried about running into one. Well, I was wrong, and the snake wasn’t moving, so after standing there staring at the snake, and him staring back at me, I decided I’d better get moving myself. Of course, I started noticing numerous snake trails in the sand of the path and began thinking every root in the path could be a snake. . . Great! That snake just totally blew my peace of mind. Here’s a part of the path at Weedon…

On the Path at Weedon
Path at Weedon

Still, my goal was to get to an observation tower, so I decided to head back to the nature center and start again. I checked the map and, sure enough, I had taken the path away from the observation towers (directionally challenged as I am) and found the one I should have taken to begin with. I followed that for a while, and, lo and behold, there was the tower. I climbed it to get a few pictures, and found that you could see Tampa and St. Petersburg in the distance. Clearwater was there, too, but it was too far away to get a good shot. The fishing pier was below, in Riviera Bay, but the sun was really brutal by this time so the exposure was difficult, and I just wanted to get back to my car after hours of walking.

St Pete from the Tower
St. Petersburg from the Weedon Observation Tower
Tampa in the Distance
Tampa in the distance, and the vastness of the Preserve
Fishing Pier on Riviera Bay at Weedon
Fishing pier on Riviera Bay at Weedon

I took the path back toward the parking lot, and as I neared the nature center I ran into this fellow, heading into his hole:

Tortoise Hole
Tortoise trying to get away from me

I found one of his cohorts a short distance away, munching on the grass. I actually got a picture of a tortoise tongue!

Tortoise Eating
Tortoise Tongue! Click to enlarge.

I enjoyed my jaunt at Weedon, but I noticed on the trail map that they recommend you bring certain things to the preserve. One of them is a cell phone (remember: mine was dead), and I figured out that, should you be bitten by a snake, you would need to call for help immediately. A diamondback rattlesnake is the most venomous snake in the U.S. (as I found out when I looked it up after my return), and apparently there isn’t much time after a bite to seek help. I found a picture of one on the internet, and, yes, the one I saw looked just like it!

Diamondback Rattlesnake
Diamondback Rattlesnake photo from Wikipedia

So I lived through my first snake encounter – whew! I hope it’s the last one, but I know it won’t be. With my penchant for parks and nature, I’m sure I’ll even run into an alligator some day (hopefully not literally). By the way, the photo at the top of the post is the one I stopped to change my lens for. Worth a snake bite? I think not. . . I’m tired, so that’s it for this week. Stay safe!

Wow — Road Tripping

It was a very full weekend! And what a great time! My friend and I drove down to Stump Pass, went to the Casey’s Key drum circle on Nokomis Beach, visited Myakka State Park, and ended up at the Sarasota Bayfront. I ended up doing absolutely nothing but processing photos afterwards, and I have some good shots (to follow).

Stump Pass

What a fabulous place this was! It’s aptly named, given the enormous number of tree stumps and other assorted driftwood laying around. It’s now a state park, and parking is limited, but worth the 10 minute wait for a space!

Stump Pass View
Stump Pass Personified

If you enjoy stark scenery, as I do, you’d love Stump Pass. There are areas inaccessible to visitors, reserved for turtle and shorebird nests, but we didn’t see any nests in them. We walked for miles down the beach taking pictures of all the driftwood, and periodically shorebirds (except seagulls — I am no longer a fan of seagulls, particularly when they try to steal my sandwich!). We were fascinated by the driftwood covered in seashells, thinking that someone had come along and decorated, but then we realized that the ocean had been the artist! Here’s a thought: Mother Nature is the true artist; photographers are merely the conduit by which her art is made known . . .

Lineup
The lineup — minimalist art
Natural Art
Mother Nature’s art
Beach Antlers
Beach Antlers
Young Shorebird
Young bird
Gray Heron on a Stump
Heron on a perch

We walked to the end, where there was a large shorebird nesting area, but also a good place to take a dip. There, we stalked a blue heron, who was none too happy with us. . . But he stuck around long enough for me to snap this shot:

Blue Heron Surveying His Domain
Blue heron surveying his domain, just in front of the nesting area

I took this shot of my friend arranging her gear, after we had taken a dip in the inlet.

Stump Pass Shooting
Stump Pass in the — hot — afternoon

We then headed back to get ready for the next stop: the drum circle! Unfortunately, we had not brought any water with us (which we realized as we started back toward the car — several miles away, I think. . .). The longer we walked, the thirstier we became, with our tongues sticking to the roof of our mouths, and incessant thoughts of water. I looked out over the gulf and thought: this is a desert, not a beach! All this water, and nothing to drink!

Hours later (it seemed) we came upon a walkway from the beach leading to the parking area and suddenly [cue angelic chorus] — there was a vending machine! We were scrambling for money. I had some change in my purse and managed to cobble together $1.50 for a water, while she found out that the machine, although it was set up for it, did not take credit cards and neither of us had anything smaller than a $10.  So we shared the water I bought and headed back to the car. Whew — disaster averted, again.

We headed back to the room to get more gear (flash, primarily), stopping at: Big Lots to get chairs for the beach and a bottle of wine, along with plastic wine glasses and a tray for our food; a liquor store to get a wine opener and some deli stuff — fish spread, crackers, salami, and cheese; and finally a grocery store to finish the spread (grapes, more cheese and something else I can’t remember. . .).

Casey’s Key Drum Circle

After stopping by the room (which was very nice, by the way!), we drove to Nokomis to the beach, where the parking was practically non-existent. Apparently, the drum circle had become a lot more popular since my friend had last been there! We hauled our stuff — food, camera gear, chairs — down the road to the beach and walked out to see this:

Gathering on the Beach
Casey’s Key Beach

It was amazing! I’d never seen so many people, including hippies, on the beach before! There actually was a circle where people — including children — were dancing. It was a perfect evening, beginning to cool down and displaying a beautiful sky. We set down all our stuff and started taking pictures. Here are some from the drum circle:

Open to All
Equal opportunity drumming
Colors
Lots of colors!
Intense
Intense focus
Commence Dancing
Dancing to the beat
Drums and Hula Hoops
Drums and hula hoops

I got this picture of two beautiful little girls, whom I assume will grow up to be hippies, too!

Young Participants

Then, I focused my attention on the sunset, which was the purpose of the drum circle.

Watching the Sunset

In Focus

Sunset Approaching

After a frenzy of picture-taking,  we sat in our chairs, drinking wine, eating food, and just soaking in the atmosphere. At sunset, someone blew on a queen conch shell, which signified something, although I don’t know what. I highly recommend that everyone go to the drum circle at least once, for the experience. It’s every Saturday night at Casey’s Key, so there’s no excuse not to go!

As darkness fell, we headed back to the hotel, hoping to be able to take advantage of the Tiki Bar, but it was closing when we got there — at 10pm! There was a wedding reception going on, and I believe most of the hotel guests were associated with that, so there wasn’t much business in the pool area. Actually, this was probably a good thing, since we were both exhausted from the day and ready for bed. My friend practically fell asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow (with her Kindle still on), and I read for all of about 10 minutes before turning out the light.

Myakka State Park

The next morning, we woke before 8 and made coffee, and my friend went to sit out by the pool. It was Mother’s Day! We went to get our continental breakfast (complimentary) in the restaurant and ended up meeting the owner of the hotel, who was a very nice British gentleman. My friend was offering him advice on marketing his hotel, since we really liked it and couldn’t understand why it wasn’t more full. We then returned to the room to get ready to head out. We cleaned our camera gear, but my friend was still so tired that she ended up spraying sunscreen on her telephoto lens instead of air — oops! Fortunately, she didn’t actually hit the lens with it, so there was another disaster averted!

We got on the road and headed for Myakka State Park. It’s a huge park, with two lakes and a river running through it. We parked at the entrance to the Canopy Trail, where the suspension bridge and observation tower are located.

Suspension Bridge to Lookout
Suspension bridge from below
Suspension Bridge
85′ of suspended animation
Lookout Tower in Myakka
Observation tower in Myakka
Myakka River from the Tower
View from the tower

We walked to the meadow next, where I took shots of a butterfly — 23 to be exact — without getting a single one that wasn’t blurred! My friend got one, so I laughed it off and took pictures of more stationary objects . . .

Meadow in the Park
Meadow in Myakka Park
Wildflowers in the Meadow in Myakka
Closeup of the wildflowers in the meadow

We then drove around the loop to get to the lake. It’s very wild in this park, with alligator signs everywhere. They offer bike and kayak rentals there, along with airboat tours over the lake and tram tours through the park.

Canoe Rental at Myakka
Canoe rental at the inlet to the lake
Myakka Inlet
Inlet to Myakka Lake
Myakka State Park
Looking over Myakka Lake
Moss covered Tree at Myakka
I LOVE Spanish moss!

We stopped in the general store at the lake and I bought a new hat, like my friend’s but a different color. . . Hats are, I’m finding out, quite necessary here, but only if they’re woven for ventilation.

We then headed out to go to our final destination — Sarasota! As we left the park, though, we ran across this!

Dead Alligator
Alligator closeup

Needless to say, had he not been dead (and yes, we checked thoroughly before taking closeups), I would never had gotten a shot like this. I guess it was in poor taste, but we joked as we left about the dead alligator being a decoy to draw unsuspecting tourists to their doom — as dinner for the waiting alligators — and that this one had ‘taken one for the team.’ Ah, well. I was just glad my friend had noticed him lying there!

Sarasota

Well, this is getting long — sorry! — so I’ll wrap up with our last stop in Sarasota, at the Bayfront.

Bayfront
Beautiful welcome to the Bayfront!

We lugged our food with us again, and had a picnic on the grass at the waterfront. My friend went to the nearby tiki bar and got herself a beer and a glass of wine for me, and we sat and ate and enjoyed the beautiful weather. This was our view from our picnic spot. . .

Picnic at the Waterfront
Picnic at the waterfront

There is a lot to see in Sarasota — and we were just at the Bayfront! I loved the trees there, although I don’t know what they were.

Tree
These trees are fascinating, and they’re everywhere down here!
Interesting Palm
This is a type of palm that shall remain nameless because I’m out of bandwidth to look it up!
At the Waterfront
There are a lot of lazy trees here, that just lay down, probably because of the heat . . .

At the end of the Bayfront we found this fountain:

Dolphin Fountain at the Waterfront
Dolphins — or porpoises?

And across the bay was this place, which I thought might be nice to live in if I ever get off the road, and win the lottery . . .

Condos
Yeah, I could live here. . .

Then we drove to another parking lot and toured the sculptures. These were my favorites:

Uprooted Tree
I think it was an uprooted tree (reminded me of Stump Pass)
Sarasota Waterfront Art
Steel gateway to the Bay

We were supposed to go into downtown Sarasota to shoot, as well, but we were both exhausted from the two days of activity so we decided to head back home. My final picture was of the Sarasota County Courthouse, with its fabulous Spanish architecture.

Sarasota Courthouse

So that was my weekend, in a rather large nutshell! Talk to you later, and have a great week!