Don’t Worry About the Gators

When Meghan heard we were going to Lakeland to spend some time with three month old Gracie, she sent me a text: Please tell me you’re not taking Gracie to Circle B Bar Reserve.

The Circle B Bar Reserve is the location of one of the most watched videos of the past couple weeks. You know, the one in which a massive alligator crosses the trail with onlookers gawking in the background.

 

Meghan knew we’d recently explored this area on visits to Lakeland and have even said it would be a great place to take Gracie for a walk on a future visit.

The Reserve is a great place for bird watching, and we’ve enjoyed walking on several of the park’s nine trails. It’s also an area with bicycle trails, fishing and picnic facilities so there are many reasons for a return visit; but rest assured, while we’ve been known to wander in swampy areas with gators bellowing in the background, we would NEVER let Gracie or Johnny get too close to a gator. (Close encounters with gators, moose and bison with our children will not be repeated with grandchildren.)

 

 

TBT: 16 in 16 St. Petersburg Daycation

As part of our 16 in 16, we decided we wanted to go on more day trips. Short daycations within a couple hours of home.

The first of these trips took place in St. Petersburg. On a warm and sunny February day we rode the city trails and visited several of the museums, starting on the trail behind the Morean Center for Clay. Since I “don’t do traffic”, I was somewhat reluctant to ride in the city. Fortunately, a concrete barrier divided the trail in the city from the traffic, so it was no problem.

We rode past Tropicana Field, through downtown, to the bay  toward Treasure Island until we reached an end of the 17 mile trail.

But we did more than go for a ride, we stopped at the Chihuly Collection at another of the Morean Arts Centers located on the city’s waterfront. A 20 foot sculpture located outside the center ushers guests into the building that was specifically designed to display the glasswork.

Our bundled ticket included a visit to the Morean Galleries as well as to the Glass Studio and Hot Shop which turned out to be an especially enjoyable part of the day.

A day of bicycling and art…just one of many successful daycations of 2016.

And a visit to St. Petersburg made our list for 17 in 17. This year it’s a visit to the Dali Museum. Who knows? It may turn into another daycation.

16 in 16:

  • Jackson Browne Concert
  • St. Petersburg Daycation

Keep an eye on Matthew

I hoped this year would be the one year I wouldn’t write a post about hurricane preparation, but as the path of Hurricane Matthew moves the storm closer to Florida and the southeast United States, it’s time for another reminder to watch the news and make some preparations. So here’s a quick list:

1) Fill your cars with gas.
2) Make sure you have plenty of water. You might want to freeze some bottles in case you lose power.
3) Charge your electronics.
4) Check propane tanks for your grill and/or camp stove.
5) Check the batteries in flashlights and radio.
6) Go to the ATM and get some cash.
7) Stock your shelves with enough food requiring little preparation. (Enough for about three days.)
8) Watch the weather forecast daily to determine if additional preparation is needed, especially in securing your home and planning for pets.

The effects of Hurricane Matthew are only a couple of days away so it’s time to plan (see It’s Hurricane Season…It’s Time to Prepare from 2013 or the website of American Red Cross for more tips).

Stay safe and keep an eye on Matthew!

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Mom

TBT: Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall

Last year the Disabled American Veterans sponsored the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall in Lady Lake for three days. The purpose of the traveling exhibit is to allow people to pay tribute to those who sacrificed their lives during the Vietnam War in locations near their home. With over 20,000 veterans living nearby in The Villages, Lady Lake is a popular location for this exhibit.

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The Traveling Wall is a 3/5 scale of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., standing six feet tall at the midpoint and stretching almost 300 feet from end to end. We were among the thousands of people who took time to visit during its stay in Lady Lake last November. Just as in D.C., volunteers assisted visitors in locating the names of family and friends listed on the panels of the wall so they could pay their respects.

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Flags, flowers, pictures, letters, and other mementos lined the base of the wall by the third day when we visited, many providing stories of those lost so many years ago.

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The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall is making another stop in north central Florida this weekend, this time in Dunnellon. It will be located at Ernie Mills Park, 11899 Bostick Street, arriving today and on display until October 2nd. Don’t miss it!

Weeki Wachee: Minus the Mermaids

In the summer of 2014, we set out to visit as many of Florida’s springs as possible. So of course, we took a trip to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. We planned to canoe down the river starting at the park, but we found that even on a weekday, it wasn’t possible to rent a boat for a paddle without a very early start.

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Since all canoes and kayaks were rented when we arrived (at about 10:00), we decided to do the next best thing and go in the park to see what the mermaid show was all about. Our verdict: not much! The bubbles between performances were more entertaining than the mermaids, not only for us, but for the children in the audience as well.

We walked around the park, watched the peacocks wandering, and took a few pictures. We decided to pass on the water park…too crowded and not really our idea of a good time anyhow. However, we decided we would definitely return so we could paddle down the river.

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So last month, a couple of weeks after school started, we got up at sunrise and drove to the park. We were certainly there early enough renting one of the first canoes of the day, and I’m so glad we were turned away on our first trip.

Without a doubt, this paddle qualifies as my favorite of all time. The water was absolutely beautiful. The color, the clarity, the fish, the quiet…perfect. There’s no way we would have had the same experience on that July day two years ago paddling and dodging other boats.

Upon our return to the rental facility, we were asked if we saw any manatee in the run. Apparently, they had been making regular appearances. No, manatee. Only otters. This brought oohs and aahs from the staff since it’s unusual to spot otters on the river. We not only spotted them, but watched them dart in and out of the brush along the bank between their sliding through the crystal clear water.

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My first impression of Weeki Wachi Springs State Park: This isn’t anything. My impression this time: We’ll return so we can spend more time paddling on the river. I much prefer the otters to the mermaids!

#BikeYourParkDay

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Happy National Public Lands Day! As a way to explore our parks and other public lands, Adventure Cycling Association encouraged cyclists to get outdoors and go for a ride. Cyclists were encourage to ride in a national or state park, monument, or historic site, river, seashore, recreation area, preserve, forest, wildlife refuge, or parkway.
Last year on this date we were riding on the carriage roads in Acadia National Park, but this year we’re staying close to home (actually close to Orlando) as we await the arrival of Grace, our first granddaughter.

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This didn’t stop us from participating in the Bike Your Park Event. We just rode the West Orange Trail, one of our favorites. And since we were riding on a Saturday, something we rarely do, we were able to enjoy Winter Garden’s Farmer’s Market.

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We also enjoyed stopping in their Visitor’s Center where we purchased some orange juicers like the ones we enjoyed as children and picked up information on Winter Garden’s upcoming music festival. Looks like we may be able to take advantage of this event the weekend of October 7-9 on a future visit with Grace. (I’m sure she’ll be here by then…right?)

What’s Happening in March?

There are so many special events taking place in the month of March. It’s time to add one or more to your calendar.

March 5th Ocala

3rd Annual Habitat for Humanity Strawberry Festival – The 3rd Annual Strawberry Festival is the place for everything strawberry…shortcake, ice cream, pancakes and of course, flats of strawberries for sale.

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March 5th-6th Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park (about 15 miles south of Tallahassee

151st Battle of Natural Bridge (re-enactment) – Military camp, artillery demonstrations, Civil War Dance with the highlight of the weekend, the 39th Annual Re-enactment of the Battle of Natural Bridge taking place on Sunday at 2:30.

March 11th-13th St. Augustine

St. Augustine Celtic Music and Heritage Festival – Irish Tenors, The Celtic Ladies, Whiskey Tasting and a Parade are only a few of the events scheduled to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day. (Discount tickets available until 2/29…so hurry and get yours now!)

March 11th-13th St. Pete

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – Located along the waterfront in St. Petersburg, street racing, music, food and exhibits will entertain for the weekend.

March 13th Miami Little Havana

39th Annual Calle Ocho – The internationally known block party celebrates Hispanic cultures on Miami’s Calle Ocho (8th Street). Latin music, street dancers and food booths will bring the 19 block strip to life.

March 18th-20th Marco Island

Marco Island Seafood and Music Festival – A weekend celebration of music and your favorite seafood including: grouper, crab cakes, stone crabs, shrimp and chowder.

March 18th-20th Safety Harbor

Bloom N Chalk N Art Festival – For those who can’t wait for the the Venice 3D Chalk Festival to return, here’s your chance to stroll along Main Street in Safety Harbor the sidewalk chalk creations by international artists.

March 25th-27th Amelia Island

Florida International Dog Surfing Championship – A chance for dogs to show their stuff on the waves of northeast Florida. Billed as a dog lover’s dream.

 

 

Urban Camping

It’s not cheap to stay in Miami in February. What with all the snowbirds and events like the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. But we were determined to cheer on the Canes baseball team the final weekend in February as they hosted the Gators, without spending a fortune.

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With no state park campgrounds in south Dade, John found a county park, Penny and Larry Thompson Campground. The reviews looked good and he remembered his aunt and uncle camping there in the ’60s and ’70s so we decided to give it a try.

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For $17 a night (tent site), we paid less for our two night stay at Penny & Larry Thompson Campground than the daily $35 parking fee in Coconut Grove where we usually stay. And with nearly 300 sites, a community center, pool, showers and a laundry, it provided more facilities than we needed.

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We set up in the area designated for tents in less than thirty minutes and then we were ready to hit the road for a night of baseball.

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The campground is carved out in a residential area, and while it’s a little farther west than we’d like, at such low rates, how can you complain? We won’t be camping here in the summer months, but we’ve already scheduled another three days at Penny & Larry Thompson Park in April.

2 Down; 14 To Go

In January, we checked off the first item in our list 16 in 16 when we attended a Jackson Browne concert. On Monday, February 22nd, we finally found the perfect day for another of the planned events for 2016 when we spent the day in St. Petersburg for a Daycation.

We waited for a warm and sunny February day because our plan was to bike ride the city trails and visit several of the museums. We started the ride on the trail behind the Morean Center for Clay, one of the museums on our list and rode in to the city. I was somewhat reluctant to ride downtown because I “don’t do traffic”. Fortunately, a concrete barrier divided the trail in the city from the traffic. We even had stop lights to make for a smooth flow downtown.

Traveling past Tropicana Field, through downtown, to the bay and then before the end of the day toward Treasure Island until we reached an end of the trail due to construction, our 17 miles on the bike met our goal for the active part of the day.

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Parking at the Historic Seaboard Train Station, our first stop was a tour of the Morean Arts Center for Clay.

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Here we were surprised to find the center closed on Mondays, but when a staff member realized we’d driven two hours, she permitted us to walk through the facility where artists were working in the shared spaces. Actually, we enjoyed looking at the art outside as much as the displays inside the center.

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From the train station we rode our bike downtown to see the Chihuly Collection at another of the Morean Arts Centers located on the city’s waterfront. A 20 foot sculpture located outside the center ushers guests into the building that was specifically designed to display the glasswork. The price of admission includes a docent led tour, but we decided to enjoy on our own instead of traveling from room to room with a crowd.

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Next, we stopped for lunch at Fresco’s Waterfront Bistro with margaritas overlooking the water.

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We purchased a bundled ticket which included a visit to the Morean Galleries as well as to the Glass Studio and Hot Shop with our ticket to the Chihuly Collection. Unfortunately, the Morean Galleries were in the midst of changing out the exhibit so we saw more cardboard boxes than art. Next time we’ll know to call ahead since this information is not provided on their website.

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But while the galleries were a disappointment, the highlight of the trip was the time spent in the Glass Studio and Hot Shop where we sat in bleachers watching David Sturgeon create a piece of glass art with the assistance of the narrator, Jeremiah. For fifty minutes, the glass was shaped, colored, twirled, heated, cooled, heated, cooled, and heated and cooled some more until the piece was completed.

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A successful daycation of bicycling and art. Not the first of the year and certainly not the last.

Costs: $106

  • Gas $16 (about 8 gallons at $2/gallon
  • Tickets for Chihuly Collection, Glass Studio and Hot Shop $40 (tickets for two)
  • Lunch $50 (2 margaritas accounted for half this cost)

 

Tuscawilla Art: Round 3

Unable to attend the the event introducing the newly installed sculptures at Tuscawilla Park last week, we wandering through the park on a cloudless day that provided a beautiful backdrop for the art in the park, starting with the piece “Recycled” which shone brightly in the sun.

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Is this home plate standing on home plate? I’m not sure. And why the raised arms?

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I love the contrast of the individual welded metal blades of grass swaying among the Spanish moss.

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And the “Square Wave” provided an alternative to our usual selfies.

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Each of the sculptures includes a plaque with its title, artist, a brief description and a QR code or phone number which provides additional information about each piece.

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An insect? I’m not sure. It sure it different than the Big Bugs currently at Harry P. Leu Gardens.

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“To Hear a Grove Sing” is a history lesson in the form of a sculpture telling the story of the citrus industry in Florida.

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A wave wrapping around the lake. I love this piece.

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I even found a piece of art that complimented my shirt.

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The “Oak Leaf Seat” creates a dilemma since the leaf clearly invites you to take a seat, but the signs indicate that visitors are not to climb on the artwork.

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I love seeing artwork in parks and other public places, but at Tuscawilla Park, the natural beauty of the trees and lake only enhance the pleasure of spending a day in the park.

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This year’s Tuscawilla Sculpture Stroll Celebration will take place on March 12th, a day to add to your calendar, but if you don’t make it on the 12th, don’t miss it. What a wonderful way to take a walk and enjoy art in the park.