Necessary Stuff, And More Adventures

Finally got my taxes done — and I get money back! Good news for my bank account, but it definitely makes me thankful for the internet (without which I could not have done my taxes). I’m in a park now that has no free wifi, although it’s always questionable whether you can actually access the free wifi even when you have it. I’m using my 8 G monthly allotment from Verizon, which is pricey, but at least it works very well. The only problem with it is that I don’t have enough bandwidth per month to watch movies or anything. I probably used up two days’ worth doing my taxes! I’m going to be investigating whether there’s a better deal out there. After spending several hours at Starbucks trying to upload 12 pictures to my website, I decided Starbucks does not have good wifi. Fortunately, my friend in Largo offered to let me use her place to do my uploads (20 minutes, tops), and I even have my own key!
Speaking of my friend in Largo, I promised I would talk about our trip to Tampa for picture-taking. We started out in Ybor City, just outside Tampa, which began as a cigar-manufacturing center and is now considered Tampa’s Latin quarter (where cigars are still hand-rolled). Although the streets were deserted when we got there in the morning, it was a beautiful day, sunny and warm, so we had high hopes for our shoot. We stopped in to a restaurant for crepes and coffee (first shot of the day) since neither of us had eaten yet and then headed out with our cameras. 
First Stop — Espresso!
Old Building, Cigar Sign
Fabulous Tattoo Parlor!
Centro Ybor
Urban reclamation
We walked around Ybor for a bit, but then decided to take the trolley to Channelside, which is an area in Tampa alongside – of course – the channel. It’s also the place for cruise ships to dock and take on passengers. 
On the Trolley
Channelside, with a cruise ship in the distance
Sculpture in the park, overlooking the channel and Harbor Island
It’s a very popular place, apparently, and overlooks Harbor Island with its neat rows of condos. We had a very nice walk, and took a few pictures. 
Harbor Island from Channelside
Interesting Sculpture at Channelside
View from the Garage
Great doorknob, huh?
Waiting for the trolley
Overall, though, we decided that neither of us felt particularly inspired on this shoot, so after walking around for 5 or 6 hours, we decided to head back to Largo.
I finally got a bike – a 7-speed, with front and rear suspension and a tush pad (absolutely essential!). My first ride was 10 miles, and I loved it! I rode along the Pinellas Trail in Dunedin for a bit, then rode along the gulf, stopping at parks periodically to see the sights. Hammock Park (named for the trees, not the thing you lie in) is off the Pinellas Trail, and it’s a beautiful park in the middle of Dunedin. The paths were great for biking, and there were orange trees everywhere! I stopped at one point to try some (not allowed, I hear, which makes it that much better). I got lucky with the first one, which was sweet and juicy, but the second was really sour and I couldn’t finish it. It occurred to me there that we women just can’t resist forbidden fruit! I didn’t have my camera with me on the ride, but I do want to go back and take pictures of the park when I move the RV back to Dunedin. Here’s a shot from my ride along the gulf. . . My kind of place!

Taken with my cellphone at an outdoor bar on the gulf

Weaver Park is on the gulf, and it’s one of those parks just off the road with fabulous views. There are usually shore birds there, and there’s a nice long pier that juts out into the gulf, often containing fishermen. My sister and I had gone there while she was here to catch a shot of the sunset:

Sunset from Weaver Park
My final stop before heading back was Dunedin Brewery, where I had a beer and people-watched for a while. Apparently, this is the place to go in Dunedin, although I wasn’t sure why, aside from the craft beers. I was in no hurry to start back, but it was getting to be late afternoon. My legs were tired by this time, so I was a little more slap-happy on the way back and had difficulty getting off the bike when I stopped. All-in-all, though, not bad for my first bike ride in over a year!

More Out and About

I’ve done a bit more ‘getting out’ this week, including going to the Florida Botanical Gardens and Heritage Village in Largo, and then shooting with a friend in Ybor City and Tampa. I’m still not on a schedule that I like, but I’m working on it . . .

The Florida Botanical Gardens was a step up from Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg, and it was free, as was the Heritage Village. The layout was more interesting at the Botanical Gardens, and there was more to see (minus the birds). It was just a nicer place to walk around, and also has the bonus of being right next to Heritage Village.

Some of my pics from the Botanical Gardens:

I loved this view!

 

Weeping Bottlebrush — delicate

Water Lilies

Can’t believe these grow here wild. . . Bird of Paradise

Banana Flower?

Passion Flower

And more from the Heritage Village:

Old Florida

Room with a View

Dunno — just liked it. . .

Next was St. Patrick’s Day, and I got together with friends for that — fabulous meal, Irish Coffee at Cricketers in Dunedin, then back for an equally fabulous dessert!

My St. Paddy’s Day Garb

 

Authentic, right down to the colcannon and soda bread!

Almost too pretty to eat!

I’ll cover the Tampa/Ybor City shoot in the next blog, along with my first ride on my new bike! And please feel free to let me know what you’d like to see in this blog. . .

Out and About

My new park is definitely a step down from my previous park. I’m 7 miles to the nearest beach from here, and the street nearby is busy and noisy. I just got on my roof yesterday and swept it off, since it was covered with oak tree droppings (those acorns have not let up since I got here over a week ago!). I’m ready for spring cleaning; Baby apparently hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned in several years, judging from the grime I saw up on her roof. I’ve decided to wait, though, until I’m not under an oak tree to accomplish that task.
So on to more interesting things. . . I had bought a year membership to the Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg on Groupon, and I went to activate that. Sunken Gardens is a nice botanical garden right in the city of St. Petersburg, and it was great to finally get out and see something new for a change. The best part of that membership, though, is there is a whole list of botanical gardens I can get into for free with my membership card, and there are discounts or free admission available for other places that I’d like to see, as well, such as the Lowry Zoo and MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry).
I got to Sunken Gardens around 1:30, and I had filled out my application and completely walked around it by 2:30. It’s not a big place, and I was only moderately impressed. While it felt like an oasis in the middle of the city, it wasn’t enough to hold my interest for more than an hour. Here are some of the photos I took there. . .

Bananas do grow on trees!

Chalice Vine Flower

Not sure, but I thought they were pretty

Flamingoes!

Hello Baby

This bird liked the phrase “Hello baby,” so I used that to communicate with him — and he said it back to me! He worked his way around the cage to me and was sticking his leg out of the cage toward me, but I didn’t trust him to not bite me if I took the bait.

Couldn’t find the name of this, but I thought it was cool. . .

I love yellow!
Of course, I hadn’t eaten yet, and I was hungry by this time. I kept smelling something really good in the air in the Gardens, so I thought I’d find out where the smell was coming from. Unfortunately, there was no cafe or other eating establishment in Sunken Gardens, but there was a Carrabas next door. That was not in my budget, so I decided to go home and fix myself something to eat. 
That plan was short-lived when I passed a sign on the way back for Sawgrass Lake Park, a Pinellas County park, and turned off to see what it was about. I am soooo glad I did! The park was somewhat dirty (trash strewn throughout the waterways), and while the sign stated that it was under restoration, I determined they really needed to do some clean-up of more than just the ecosystem . . .  Still, I was amazed at everything I saw there. Here’s a link to the website: http://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/recreation/areas/sawgrass.html.
The diversity in this park is amazing, and I could have stayed for a lot longer than I did, but I decided two hours was enough. I got pics of things I’d been trying photograph for quite some time, so I was happy with my day. 
My first alligator pic!

Anhinga drying feathers

Anhingas are diving birds, so they don’t have oil on their feathers, like ducks do, to make them buoyant. Instead, they have to dry out their feathers between dives, which is why they always look like they’re ready for flight (or enjoying the morning, as I noted in a previous post). Below is a successful dive:

Anhinga with fish

Raccoon having lunch (apparently, I was more interesting)

Roseate spoonbill — at last!
This has to be one of the funnier looking birds I’ve seen. His bill looks like it is just stuck on his face, and it reminds me of the cartoon where Daffy Duck’s bill is knocked around his head, coming to rest off-kilter. All in all, it was a productive day — now to process my pictures!

These pictures aren’t on my website yet, but I have updated it to include a few Florida pictures, and wildlife shots. The site is http://sherrylevasseurphotography.com. Enjoy!

Nature Calls

My personal space

I moved from my old RV park, where I was getting way too comfortable, to Fort De Soto, near St. Petersburg. It was really beautiful there, and very relaxing. For some reason, though, it took me a couple of days to relax. After almost taking out my exhaust on the day of the move (got too close to the curb when leaving Dunedin), I was really in no mood to drive. I got set up in my site at Fort De Soto around 5:30, but I had gotten up at 4:45am to get down here to line up for a walk-in site for the weekend, so I was beat. After climbing up on my roof to install my digital antenna — not as difficult as it sounds — I was ready for relaxation, a shower and bed.

This was my first time in a real Park (this one is Pinellas County), and I have to admit I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. The previous sites I’d had were in RV parks with lots of people, many of whom are fulltime residents. Campers can only stay in these Parks for two weeks at a time (same with state parks), so no one really knows anyone else. Lots of waving, but no real connections. That takes some getting used to. . . After three days, I was on the road — again!

My next stop is in Largo (no, not the Key, just the city near Clearwater), where I’m staying for a month. It’s not the best park I’ve been in, but it’s definitely acceptable. There’s a pool and activities (in which I don’t generally participate), and the people here seem nice enough. It was a bit difficult getting here, as my GPS kept telling me I had to make a U-Turn to get into the park. Yeah. Try making a U-Turn with 40′ of vehicle mass behind you. So, I improvised and turned at a light, driving down the road trying to find a spot large enough to allow me to get turned around.

I found what I thought was a good spot, but the exit was suboptimal (i.e., too small); I bumped my way back into the main road, causing my drawers to fly open and my dishes to crash to the floor (broke two of my Corelle plates, but the melamine survived!). I had some cleanup to do once I arrived, but at least I arrived relatively unscathed. . . As usual, I had someone from across the street come to help me back into my site (after a local worker almost guided me into the tree on the right). I’m now being pelted continually with acorns from that tree (I could swear it’s the local squirrels), but at least it’s shady here.

My Largo Site

Somewhere in March, I’ll need to look for my next site, which will probably be for a month if I can find one with that availability (it’s still high season here). The weather is getting warmer, and the snowbirds generally leave in April or May. After April, it’s easier to find a site, and cheaper, too! But that brings me back to my dilemma: how to travel without spending a lot of money.

I’m fairly certain I’ve lined up a Camp Host position in Ft. De Soto park for July and August, and possibly for longer, so that will definitely save me money. And I’m happy to be able to explore the area more by staying there longer. Camp Hosting is how many RVers handle the expenses. Not all of the positions pay, but you always get a free spot. I also volunteered to provide updated photos of the campsites to the website manager, but I haven’t heard back about that offer. . .

Here are a few shots of Ft. De Soto, since it’s a lot more scenic than my current area:

Flying Egret (I spooked him)
Near Ft De Soto Entrance
Fishing Egret

Until next time. . .