Pigging out at Pigfest: Polk County

We were introduced to a new event yesterday, the Lakeland Pigfest, a place to enjoy a warm January day with friends and family while feasting on delicious barbecue.


According to the festival website, the goals of the event:

  • Raise money for local charitable organizations
  • Create a relaxing event for all walks of life
  • Eat some world class barbecue!

From the size of the crowd and from the food we tasted, I’d say they met their goal.


Ribs by the bones, wings and pulled pork sold in sample sizes made it possible to try quite a variety of food. I’m proud to say none of us succumbed to any of the fried selections. No fried Oreos. No fried strawberries. No fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. No fried bananas.


That doesn’t mean we skipped the sweets. We just stuck to strawberry shortcake.


The Lakeland Pigfest is held at Tigertown on Friday night and Saturday. If you missed this year’s event, mark your calendar of January 2017 so you can pig out.

(Thanks, John, for sharing your pictures.)

Car Camping: Levy County

While investigating accommodations and transportation options for an upcoming trip to Iceland, I discovered several companies in Iceland that rent campers, but these are not typically the motor home vehicles available in the U.S., but instead vans or even cars that transform into rustic sleeping quarters. Since this seems like an interesting way to see the maximum amount of the Icelandic countryside, we decided to test our ability to “car camp”.


Our Suburban seemed like a perfect camping vehicle. So we packed the bare essentials: sleeping bags, pillows, a single burner with fuel, cook kit, ice chest, battery operated lantern, a leatherman tool, and an inflatable mattress to covert the back of the SUV into a sleeping space.


The campers in Iceland have been modified to provide storage space under the sleeping platform something we couldn’t duplicate, so the front seats turned into the holding spot for our gear.


After setting up camp at Manattee Springs State Park, we enjoyed the park the rest of the afternoon watching a dozen manatee in the spring run as well as a number of birds.


Just before sunset we came across deer in the woods bordering the campground and then watched the sunset from the bank of the Suwannee River.


We purposely chose to camp on a very cold night, with a low of 25°, to see how we’d fare in temperatures similar to what we’ll experience in Iceland. Sleeping in our car camper proved to be a success. We stayed toasty in our sleeping bags and decided our clothing choices appropriate.


Only our car battery failed the test, unable to start after a cold night spent outside the garage. Fortunately AAA came to our rescue.


We’ll complete a couple more test runs to iron out details regarding packing, but a camping van is in our future travels.


TBT Lesson #86

Today is the 30th birthday of my nephew, Matt. This special only child status didn’t last as Matt became the big brother to seven siblings, five brothers and two sisters…most of whom will be able to share this milestone birthday.

Happy birthday, Matt!


TBT Lesson #86: Remember, your Mom always has your back.

Ginger Ale Spring = Creepy

Florida’s home to nearly four dozen major, publicly assessable springs. However, there are numerous smaller springs throughout the state. Located on Markham Woods Road just north of State Road 434 is Ginger Ale Springs, one of the creepiest places I’ve seen.  The first clue? The green creature tucked in the corner of the sign marking the path to the spring.


The main pool of Ginger Ale Springs is enclosed in a circular concrete wall. A large sand boil and several smaller one are visible. The water cascades out of a rectangular opening in the side of the wall flowing into a sandy stream to the Little Wekiva River.


It’s hard to concentrate on the beauty of the spring once you notice the dolls, toys, stuffed animals, plastic flowers, clothing and signs adorning many of the surrounding trees.


There were too many faces staring at me to want to remain near the spring for more than a few minutes.


When I saw this open mouthed, wide-eyed mask peering at me from across the spring run, I’d had enough and turned to head back toward the car.


How can such a lovely spring to be home to so much creepiness? Maybe Ginger Ale Spring should be added to the list of Florida’s unusual roadside attractions.

Don’t Forget to Play


It’s good to see so many people have discovered something I’ve known for years. Coloring is a great way to relax. There have been numerous stories about the popularity of adult coloring books this past year, and if you check the current list of best selling books on Amazon, you’ll find that half of the top twenty titles are adult coloring books.

As a college student, instead of spending all my time buried in textbooks at the end of every semester, I’d go to the store and buy coloring books and crayons and then devote as much time to coloring as to studying. After their initial surprise subsided, others joined in the coloring breaks providing much needed stress relief during exam week.


While all of the attention has focused on adults coloring, there are plenty of ways to bring play back into your life.

  • Build a snowman or sand castle (pretty popular this weekend)
  • Toss a frisbee
  • Play with a pet
  • Go to a playground and swing
  • Play a board game
  • Ride a bike

It’s so easy to get in the habit of zoning out in front of the television or computer screen, but participating in play helps you forget about work and other adult responsibilities. Play fuels your imagination and relieves stress. It can even help you connect with others and be more energetic.

Who wouldn’t want to swing on one of these?

Recognizing the benefits of play, the city of Boston built a playground especially for adults with glow-in-the-dark swings, corn hole, ping pong, bocce and a giant Jenga. What a great idea!

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw

Stay young and make time to play.






Finding February Fun

It’s time to start planning day trips and weekend getaways for February. There are plenty of special events occurring throughout the state focusing on food, drink, art, music and even a Civil War battle re-enactment. Time to add one or more to the calendar.


Alright, so the first is actually in January, but there’s still time to rub elbows with pirates in Tampa.

January 30 Tampa Gasparilla Pirate Fest

Start the day with the historic pirate invasion followed by the Parade of Pirates along Bayshore Boulevard. A day of cannon fire amid swashbucklers. Something everyone should experience at least once.

February 4-15 Tampa Florida State Fair

For twelve days, Tampa will showcase a carnival midway, fair food (especially anything deep fried), livestock exhibits, a Student Chef Cook-off, a People’s Choice Burger Contest and of course live entertainment. Sound like fun? Then spend a day at the Florida State Fair.

January 30-31 and February 5-7 Alachua County Fairgrounds Hoggestowne Medieval Faire

Looking for a different Floirda festival? A production of the City of Gainesville Department of Parks and Recreation, the Hoggestown Medieval Faire, in its 30th year, has become an educational and entertaining tradition in North Florida. The Alachua County Fairground will be transformed into a medieval marketplace the first weekend in February as well as the last weekend in January as it hosts dancers, singers, artisans and magicians. You’ll even find jousting events as well as a living chess match as part of the festivities.

February 12-13 Olustee Festival

Civil War buffs should enjoy the annual Re-enactment of the Battle of Olustee held at the  Olustee Battlefield State Park. Hundreds of re-enactors bring to life the largest Civil War battle in the state of Florida. The festival also includes an arts and crafts show, food, entertainment, and both pony and train rides.

February 13-15 Coconut Grove Arts Festival

Can’t wait to see the 2016 festival poster!

If you’re longing for a little south Florida sunshine, you may want to schedule time to visit the Coconut Grove Arts Festival. With nearly a mile of art, food and fun, this three day festival is a terrific way to enjoy art on a warm winter’s day.

February 20-21 Clearwater Sea-Blues Festival

What’s a festival in Florida without seafood? The Sea-Blues Festival combines fresh seafood with music to provide a spectacular weekend in Coachman Park. Best of all, this is a free event. So pack a lawn chair and head to Clearwater.

February 24-28 Miami South Beach Wine and Food Festival

Looking for a star studded event? Then this one may be for you. Sponsored by the Food Network, its celebrity chefs can be found cooking on South Beach during the festival. This year’s the 15th anniversary of an event known for featuring internationally renowned talent as well as focusing on the best of the best wines, spirits, food, and of course, fun.

February 27th Miami Nine Mile Music Festival

This festival could be named “Everything Marley”, as this year’s performers include Stephen Marley, Damian Marley, Julian Marley and Skip Marley. But what says reggae better than Marley? This charitable musical festival, started by the mother of Bob Marley, celebrates the music he made famous with a full line up of artists who carry on reggae sound.

Get out your calendar and start making plans!

1 Down; 15 To Go

On Sunday, January 17th, we completed the first item on our 16 in 16 list by attending the Jackson Browne concert in Gainesville at the Curtis M. Phillips Center. Before the concert began, John took this picture of the stage set up with twenty guitars and a grand piano. There was no doubt that we were in for a special night.


Once on stage, Jackson Browne explained that he didn’t have a set play list for the evening, but instead would be using the instruments on stage as a sort of juke box for the evening selecting an instrument and then playing something it inspired.

During his two hours on stage, Jackson Browne sang and played music spanning his career of more than forty years to an enthusiastic, if not young, crowd. We happened to be surrounded by people we knew…parent’s of former students, former colleagues, friends from church, even though we went to the concert as a couple; and we all joked that we weren’t as old as those other concert goers.


As you can tell, we weren’t in front row seats, but having attended several events in this venue, there really isn’t a bad seat in the house (so long as photographing the event is not a priority).

One of the final songs of the evening was Take It Easy, made famous by The Eagles, but written by Browne; and in fact, he said most people associate Glenn Frey playing and singing this song and sometimes wonder why he is playing it. That resulted in a discussion on the way home of the Eagles concert we attended in 2013. How strange to wake up the next morning to hear the news that Glenn Frey had died. A good reminder that there’s no time like the present to buy tickets and attend concerts.

You can watch Jackson Browne’s performing Take It Easy two nights later from his Clearwater concert by clicking here (the picture gets better after about 30 seconds).

The Quilt Trail

One of the best things about riding bike trails is stumbling upon something unexpected, and that’s exactly what happened when riding the Nature Coast Trail from Fanning Springs to Trenton. As we approached the historic Trenton Train Station, I noticed what looked like a “barn quilt” painted not on a barn, but on a business, across the street from the station.


The watermelon and sunflower pattern certainly is appropriate for this portion of north Florida as watermelon was a crop commonly transported on the railway connecting Trenton to Jacksonville. And then look what we found on the other side of the railroad depot.


Not just one, but a series of quilt patterns painted on the old brick building and information about the Trenton Quilt Festival, an annual event since 2014


Each quilt is accompanied by a plaque with an explanation about the pattern as well as historical information.



Displayed on the building housing the Suwannee Valley Quilt Shoppe is a patriotic collection of painted quilts.


Even though I’m not a quilter, I couldn’t resist stepping inside the quilt shop to take a peek and found the walls inside covered with more works of art as well as a cafe serving soup, salad, sandwiches, quiche and pastries.


Down the street, even the local florist participated with what else? A flower basket quilt


While we saw over a dozen of these painted quilts, we barely scratched the surface. Barn quilts, actually painted on barns, can be found hiding in fields throughout Gilchrist County.


And while Florida’s first Quilt Trail originated in Trenton and Gilchrist County; Live Oak, Branford, White Springs and Madison are all home to additional artwork on a barnless quilt trail. To learn more about the 2016 Quilt Festival, click here to check out there website.

TBT Lesson #85

Snow has dominated this morning’s news. Stories about a blizzard moving toward Washington, DC and historic snowfall expected in the northeast part of the country are not only part of weather reports, but they’re making news. Then I saw online that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is closed to visitors today due to snowfall.

These reports reminded me of a quick trip we took to Smokemont Campground in the Smoky Mountains in 1989. With a five year old, two year old and a three month old, we drove our camper to North Carolina so the girls could see snow for the first time. Well, at least so the older two could play in the snow.

Snowballs, snow angels, a small snowman and a chance to enjoy all the fun associated with snow…guess we’ve always been a little crazy when it comes to travel.


TBT Lesson #85: Even kids who grow up in Florida need to play in the snow.

Nature Coast Trail: Gilchrist County

Our first daycation of 2016 included a 22 mile bike ride on the Nature Coast State Trail. We started the ride at the trailhead just off US 19 in Fanning Springs, south of Fanning Springs State Park.


From the trailhead we rode about three miles toward Old Town to the Suwannee River Bridge (just had to make a stop on the old bridge on the famous river) before turning back to pick up the trail to Trenton.


This portion of the trail was clearly labeled with mileage markers, something I appreciate, and bordered rural neighborhoods, farmland and Trenton Elementary School. Of course we had to stop at the school to check out their recently renovated 1930s gym.


The next leg of our ride took us to Trenton where we stopped at the Train Station for a quick snack before visiting the quilt museum and then heading back to Fanning Springs.


Somehow we we managed to avoid riding in the rain and then concluded our Gilchrist County adventure with a picnic lunch overlooking Fanning Springs where we were surprised to find a half dozen manatee swimming in and around the roped off spring. A nice bonus!