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).

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.

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 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. . .

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 . . .

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
Lots of colors!
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!


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

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 . . .

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!


Missions Accomplished!

This morning is absolutely beautiful! Low humidity, sunshine, cool breeze – what more could anyone ask? My week didn’t start out that way, though . . .

The Move

I packed up and moved from Dunedin last Thursday – fairly uneventful, but I had to fill up my propane and gas tanks for the first time – oh my! The propane cost somewhere around $55, and the tank was still half full! Fortunately, propane lasts a long time. The gas tank worried me, since it holds 55 gallons (at 3.65 a gallon is. . . oh, whatever!). My main concern, though, was finding a gas station I could fit in and get out of with no difficulties (just part of the logistics of this lifestyle). Pulling my car, I ended up taking up both gas tanks at the station, but the fill-up only came to $100. I wasn’t sure whether that was because my card would only allow $100 at a time or I actually was full, but the gas gauge showed full when I pulled away. So far, so good!

A half hour later I got to my destination, and the office was closed for lunch. So I sat in the parking lot, listened to music, and made myself a sandwich while I waited (ah, the benefits of taking your home with you!). Finally, the office was open, so I checked in and then followed the park maintenance guy to my space – very nice, with trees (plenty of shade) and very level. However, one of the maintenance guys said, “you have a tire that’s really low!” I thought he meant really low, so I continued backing in and got parked. Then I took a look at the tire.  ‘Really low’ actually meant flat! I had a flat tire!!! In the RV world, tires are everything, so I immediately started thinking, ‘OMG, I’m going to have to buy another tire – that’s $500 down the tubes’ and ‘maybe I’m not meant for this lifestyle’ and other assorted doomsday scenarios. . .

It occurred to me, though, that I had just had tire valve extenders put on before I moved (along with a new toilet, which is another story), and I had heard that they can often leak. So I called my insurance carrier to get someone out to take a look. The girl asked whether I had a spare, which I did, but when I said I thought I might just need air, she said they didn’t cover filling the tire with air – only a tire change was covered. So I had her send someone out to change my tire.

The guy gets here within half an hour with a very big truck (a tire change on an RV is no small matter), takes a look at the tire and says, “your tire valve extender is leaking.” Yay! He takes off the valve extender, which is just dangling, as it turns out, and tells me to leave the outer extenders off so I don’t end up with another flat (apparently, the outer extenders always leak). He fills the tire and leaves without charging me. Sometimes I believe I live a charmed life! My tire has been fine ever since, and I’m no longer thinking I’ll have to give up my nomadic existence. . .

Park Visits – and Another Issue

It rained for the first two days I was here, and I was preparing for a bout with depression when Florida came back and it was gloriously sunny and breezy! My friend and I decided to check out a park she had heard about, called George C. McGough Nature Park. It was a beautiful place, actually just down the street from me, and it was full of turtles and had some owls, too! I had noticed my camera bag was damp when I put it in my friend’s car, but I didn’t think anything of it until I pulled the camera out of the bag and tried to take a picture. . . My lenses were completely clouded over and I couldn’t see anything through either of them! Crap! I thought for sure my camera was ruined, because when I checked my camera bag, there were actually water droplets in it. I racked my brain trying to figure out where the water had come from, and then realized my camera bag had been sitting beside my slide in the RV. Another big thing you had to worry about in RVs are leaks, and I apparently had one!

So my friend and I were sitting on a bench in the park checking our cell phones for a camera store open on Sunday, and every number we tried to call was either out of order or rang without an answer. I started fooling with my lens, as I could see the moisture inside it, and extending it to let the moisture out. Fortunately, the condensation circles became smaller and smaller, until the lens was finally clear. Hooray! No trip to the camera store today! So we continued our walk and I only periodically thought about the leak problem. . . It’s odd how one disaster averted can take your mind off a larger looming disaster. . .

We bought turtle food and walked to the turtle pond and immediately were inundated with turtles, all climbing on top of one another to get to the food first. . . Here are the pictures from the park, including the most adorable owl I’ve ever seen. Well, actually, I had never seen an owl up close before, but I know an adorable owl when I see one! Just click on the pictures to see them larger. . .

Goliath the owl
Goliath the owl
Its a Turtles Life
It’s a turtle’s life
Turtle Pileup
Turtle Pileup

My friend and I then decided to get something to eat, and I suggested Buffalo Wild Wings (she had never been there – can you imagine?). We both had forgotten to eat before heading out, so I have no idea what time it was when we stopped, but we had a very enjoyable lunch/dinner of nachos, hot wings and chips and cheese. We then decided to go to Lake Seminole Park, which is another beautiful county park! This one had the ‘Do Not Feed or Molest The Alligators’ sign, which I still find hilarious, but we didn’t come across any of them to even consider feeding or molesting them. Instead, there were many, many shore birds and lots of trees covered with Spanish moss. Here are some pictures from that visit.

Ugly bird
Turkey crane
Playing around on a wave runner
Wave runner!
Osprey Chicks
Curious osprey chicks
Moss-covered tree
Moss-covered tree
Duck and ducklings
Duck and Ducklings
White egret
Snowy white egret, or great white egret
Golden hour shot
Golden hour at Lake Seminole
Damselfly — check out its eyes!
Dancing heron
Dancing heron

I finally checked the slide for leaks the next day. Unfortunately, I have no idea what I’m looking for, short of a gaping hole! So my neighbor came over to check for me, brought her ladder, and got up to see if she could see anything amiss. She did find some cracks where water could get in, and I noticed that my slide seal was deteriorating a bit. My neighbor (a very nice, capable woman) filled the cracks with caulk and checked around a bit, offering me advice about what supplies to have on hand to take care of problems. Hopefully, the caulk will take care of the leak, but I’m hoping that there won’t be any rain to test it out…

Now to the big project. . . In a previous post, I had written about losing one of my fan covers on my way up to Dunedin from Largo. I ordered some new ones (new and improved) from Camping World, and they arrived in huge boxes the day before I left to come here. I loaded the boxes up in my RV to move and decided yesterday to install them. I read over the instructions at least 10 times and finally got up the courage to tackle the installation. So I got my tools together – a drill, screwdriver, ruler, and pencil – and headed up the ladder to the roof. I had already removed the remains of the previous cover, so I read the instructions once more and started working.

The first fan is close to the edge of the RV, so I had to brace myself to keep from falling over the edge. It’s kind of awkward to get to that side of the fan, so I had to contort myself to get the latches in place, pencil in where I needed to drill, and get the drill situated to drill straight into the fan wall. Well, I couldn’t even get the pencil lines drawn at first because my hair kept falling in my face, and my glasses kept falling off my face – sheesh! So back down the ladder I went to get something to put my hair up, and get a pair of glasses that weren’t so loose. I climbed back up the ladder with the necessary changes made and started again. I got as far as getting the pencil lines drawn and the holes drilled when I lost my screwdriver over the edge. Back down the ladder I went to retrieve the screwdriver, when I realized I needed a wrench also. . . So I had a couple sips of coffee and smoked a cigarette and went back up the ladder with the screwdriver and wrench to continue working.

Once I had the latches installed (after much measuring and remeasuring), I noticed that this cover was more elevated than the old one, and my neighbor suggested I needed some caulk to seal the edges against the RV roof. She offered to show me where the nearest Home Depot is, and off we went in the car to get the caulk (rope caulk, which I didn’t even know existed, but useful stuff!). After much searching around, we found the caulk and headed back to the RV park. I wasn’t sure what I was doing, so I ended up botching the caulk application. My neighbor came over to check on my job and redid the application – ah, so that’s how it works!

By this time (3 hours later!) I was starving. I decided to put off the second installation until after I had something to eat – and a nap, since I had not gotten to sleep until 4am and woke up at 7:45. So I ate and, after calling a friend back, laid down to take a nap. I slept for about an hour, but I woke up feeling really bad so it took me a while to get moving again. Finally, I felt like I was okay to get back on the roof, so I climbed up the ladder and – lo and behold – knocked out the second fan cover in 15 minutes with no problems! Didn’t even have to read the instructions again. . .

Here’s the picture of my new fan covers, the cover in front is an old one — nice improvement, huh?



This weekend, we are definitely going to Stump Pass and the Nokomis drum circle – no rain predicted! Have a great week, all!