14 in 14

Bass, beaches, biking…sunrises, sunsets, snook…hatching turtles and good food…words to describe the adventures in 2013. January 2013 started with John and me sitting on the porch creating a list of things we wanted to do over the course of the year, and by the first of December when we’d checked off the last of the items on our 13 in 13 list, we started discussing plans for 2014.

The making of the 2014 list became an event of its own. Both John and I created lists of ideas and then on January 1st we sat down together and revealed our ideas, one at a time, ready for further discussion and negotiation to determine which items would be included on our official 14 in 14 list.

Surprisingly, four ideas appeared on both of our lists and three of those made the final cut. Several of the ideas morphed into more elaborate plans than originally imagined, and after a couple of hours of discussion we agreed on the 14 adventures for 2014.

So what’s on the list?

  • a trip to Birmingham
  • another sunrise sunset trip, but with different beaches than those from 2013
  • visits to several springs throughout Florida
  • manatee
  • shark teeth and a boneyard
  • a parade, pancakes, and paella
  • a triathlon

I know that’s not 14, but it’s more fun to keep a few under wraps.

January 2nd, we hit the road and visited Fanning Springs State Park as the first stop in 2014 and penciled in dates for the events that will occupy our time this year. Can hardly wait!

Fanning Springs - 14 in 14 begins!
Fanning Springs – 14 in 14 begins!

13 in 13: Mission Accomplished

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We started 2013 by creating a list of 13 things we wanted to do in 2013. A quick summary includes beaches, bikes, a bride, and balloons.

Weather presented challenges as we watched both the Atlantic sunrise and Gulf sunset between thunderstorms, packed the tent and left a campground at 10:00pm due to cold, biked and looked for hatching turtles in the rain, and fought the wind at Emily’s wedding.

So it should be no surprise that our final adventure, a post wedding getaway, began under tornado warnings threatening to delay holiday flights along the east coast. However, while we left drizzly Orlando and arrived in NYC under a flood watch, we avoided any flight delays and only experienced light rain throughout the first day of our trip. Of course the temperature remained in the 30s all five days, but we were prepared for the cold.

We feel that a post wedding getaway should be a required budget item when planning your daughter’s wedding. After Meghan and Jon’s wedding we spent a long weekend in North Carolina relaxing and enjoying the fall leaves (of course it snowed in October).

Our original plan this time: a long weekend at the beach relaxing on Sanibel Island. That all changed when I made an off-hand comment about going to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. In a matter of hours we booked plane tickets and made hotel reservations. For the final adventure the Macy’s Parade balloons would take center stage.

9/11 Memorial

Inflating the balloons

VIP viewing of Macy’s Day Parade

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IMG_1455More NYC fun

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Times Square announces FSU v UF result
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Walking the High Line

A wedding and a great post wedding trip – quite a November! Can’t wait to create the 14 in 14 list on January 1st!

12 Down; 1 To Go

John and I did not agree as to whether or not Emily and Brian’s wedding should be included on our list of 13 in 13. I felt the list was “our list” of fun things to accomplish in 2013. John however, felt that despite the fact that we didn’t schedule the wedding for this year, since it’s a major event in our lives and the lives of our family, it needed to be included.

As hard as it is to admit, John was right. How could we leave off an event as important as our daughter’s wedding?WeddingAirplane

And on Saturday, November 9th, we pulled off the twelfth item on our list for 2013. The transformed airplane hangar at the Apopka Airport provided the perfect location for a wedding attended by 120 friends and family.WeddingParty

The couple exchanged their vows outside shortly before sunset and then the festivities began in the hangar that had been altered the previous two days from an industrial storage space to a magical reception hall. A beautiful day. A beautiful wedding. A beautiful couple starting their life together.

 

Six weeks left in 2013…twelve down; one to go to accomplish all thirteen items on our 13 in 13 list. It’s been quite a year!

(I love dates with patterns like today…that’s why I posted at 9:10 on 11/12/13!)

 

11 Down; 2 To Go

Last month we walked and rode the beach in Fernandina observing the sea turtles nests hoping to see hatchlings emerging. While we were not successful in July, we studied the dates on the nests and looked at our calendar to determine when we could return for a second attempt.

Since many of the eggs were laid between June 20th and June 30th, the weekend of August 23rd seemed like time to try again. Another bonus, the tides during this weekend would allow us to ride our bikes on the beach so we could cover more territory. We made reservations, packed our bags, loaded our bikes on the car, and took off Friday afternoonIMG_0742

in the pouring rain. Another weather impaired 13 in 13 adventure.

We arrived slightly before sunset so we were unable to check out the nests and their progress Friday evening. Our plan…get up at 5:30. Begin riding north on the beach by 6:00 (in the dark since sunrise was at 7:00). We rode to Ft. Clinch, past the pier.

We encountered hundreds of critters scurrying across the beach, but they were ghost crabs, not turtles.

We came across a number of horseshoe crabs.IMG_0745

Then in the distance we saw an adult turtle on the beach. Maybe we’d see one laying eggs. IMG_0759

But to our disappointment, we found that a boat propeller had sliced its shell. No egg laying turtle. A dead one.

On our way back down the beach we stopped at every nest, noted the date, and looked for evidence of activity for a return later that evening. Many of the nests, especially in the park, had been covered by screens. Something we’d never seen before, an effort to protect the eggs from a predator, possibly a fox.

Not discouraged by the lack of hatchlings we decided to attend two excavations that evening before an evening ride in which we’d see if the nests we’d identified as promising were beginning to hatch.

The excavations eliminated two of the nests we’d identified since the turtles had emerged from them three days earlier. The Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch volunteers don’t remove the stakes after the hatch instead waiting for three days at which time they complete the excavation.

During the excavation the volunteers dig out the shards as well as any unhatched eggs. Since about one third of the excavations produce an unhatched turtle, we were hopeful that we’d see at least one hatchling make its way to the ocean. The first excavation produced 121 hatched shards and the second 79 with only about a half dozen unhatched eggs in each nest. No live turtles remained in either.

We continued with our plan riding north checking nests but didn’t notice any changes from our earlier ride. As the sun set we headed south to check out our final prospect only to find it surrounded by onlookers and a volunteer, red light in hand, explaining the hatching process.

The sand “boiled” with activity as the turtles made their way to the surface. We joined twenty or thirty people patiently watching the nest for about thirty minutes when the first turtle emerged. Once the first one escaped the nest, dozens of others quickly followed. The nest emptied in less than a minute and the hatchlings fanned out toward the ocean.

We provided a human shield to block the light from the condo behind the nest and serve as a barrier to a couple of hatchlings having difficulty orienting toward the ocean, but eventually all made it to the water.

I expected this to be a slow journey to the water, but in less than ten minutes no turtles remained on land. I can hardly believe how lucky we were to not only see the turtles hatch, but to see the hatching process.

The only disappointment…no pictures. No lights permitted. No flash allowed. I did try to take pictures without a flash…nothing! But the experience is better than a picture.

Eleven down! Two to go!

10 Down; 3 To Go

The first weekend of August we checked off number 10 on our list of 13 to do’s for 2013. Meghan, Jon, Emily, Brian, Sarah, and Daniel (and Willis and Luna) all came to spend the weekend at the lake for the 3rd Annual Family Weekend.

We started this tradition as a way to insure that we had one weekend together as a family. With the girls starting their own households, they need to spend time during holidays with their new family and friends. It may also be difficult to schedule time away from work at Thanksgiving, Christmas, or other holidays, especially when more senior employees get first shot at vacation time.

Early August is a perfect time since nothing happens during this month. No holidays to compete for time off from work. No special events pulling us in different directions. No school commitments (at least not now). And, a great time to spend at the lake.

We don’t spend every minute of the weekend participating in planned activities. Instead, some swim. Some sail. Some run. Some walk. Some read. Some hang out on the porch. Most play games. All made pizzas, ate homemade ice cream, and went bowling.

This year we also celebrated Danny’s signing with Stetson and spent time with extended family. A nice bonus.Dannny

We really haven’t established any set plan for our family weekends…just getting together is enough.

I didn't add Your Nightmare...
I didn’t add Your Nightmare to this picture!

They’re Hatching!

Ten years ago we participated in a turtle walk in Brevard County and watched a loggerhead turtle deposit more than 100 eggs in the nest she prepared. For over an hour we watched her drop the eggs, cover the nest, and then lumber back to the Atlantic where she finally managed to swim away from the curious onlookers.loggerhead

One of my goals for this summer (and another of the items on the 13 in 13 list) is to witness sea turtles emerging from their nest. Thousands of nests have been built with tens of thousands eggs waiting to hatch. Since nesting began in early May and the average incubation period is 55 days, turtles are emerging along the coast of Florida.

While the Atlantic coast between Brevard and Broward counties contain the largest concentration of nests, we’re headed to Amelia Island for our first attempt this summer. The website for Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch details a nest summary which includes the date created, location, and excavation information. They’re hatching!

Hope to see this soon!
Hope to see this soon!

With a little luck we’ll witness the hatchlings emerge from their nests. I’ll keep you posted!

9 Down; 4 To Go

We’ve checked off another item from our 13 in 13 list. We applied for passports. Although we don’t have plans to travel out of the country this year, we set a goal to at least get our passports this summer so we’ll be ready.

It’s unlikely we’ll actually use our them before next summer when we’re planning to spend a few days in Canada following a vacation in New England, but I’d sure hate to miss an opportunity to go to Greece or Australia or Costa Rica because I’ve put off getting a passport.

The application process was fairly painless. We just needed our birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and application form DS-11 which can be completed online at the website of the U.S. Department of State. We located an office in The Villages which processed the applications for both of us in less than thirty minutes. They even took the required pictures. Now for the bad news: the cost. The application had to be accompanied by a check for $110. In addition, a $25 execution fee and a $9 fee for the photograph made the total cost of the passport $144 per person. We decided against the passport card since that required another fee of $30.

I’m looking forward to getting my money’s worth out of my new passport.

By the way, it was raining…I think we’re batting a thousand on facing weather challenges when completing 13 in 13 list items!

8 Down; 5 To Go

fireworksWe checked off another of the events on the 13 in 13 list last week. Again, the event occurred despite being weather challenged. We planned to invite a few friends and family members to join us on the 4th of July to enjoy the fireworks displays of our neighbors.

For the last seven or eight years John and I have watched fireworks from the comfort of home since several residents on the lake set off fireworks that rival those of many local communities so we decided we should really share the generosity of our neighbors.

A simple plan…hot dogs, beans, potato salad, pie, cobbler, homemade ice cream…entertainment provided by neighbors. Nature provided some fireworks in addition to those we expected, but that didn’t stop us.

I think we’ve proven weather will not prevent us from having a good time, but I have begun to plan ahead for more weather challenges as we complete the final events on our list.

Barbara, my roommate at WCU, joined us for the 4th!
Barbara, my roommate at WCU, joined us for the 4th!

7 Down; 6 to go

When we developed our 13 in 13 list back in January John insisted upon adding a visit to Bokeelia during our next trip to Sanibel. I admit that I hadn’t heard of Bokeelia and wasn’t sure why he wanted to include it on our list, but he didn’t question my desire to do the sunrise/sunset trip or to look for hatching sea turtles so I didn’t question the Bokeelia decision.

As it turns out Bokeelia is one of the communities located on Pine Island, another of the barrier islands off Florida’s southwest coast. We started our time on Pine Island by heading to Saint James City where we ate lunch on the porch of The Waterfront. I didn’t expect to see Sanibel just across Pine Island Sound from the restaurant.  In fact, if we brought the boat to Sanibel, we could’ve taken a 30 minute boat ride to Pine Island as opposed to spending over an hour in the car.

After lunch we headed to the other end of the island to Bokeelia, a quiet community with a fishing pier, a restaurant, a campground, and a few cottages and inns. It looks like a perfect place for relaxation.

Pier at Bokeelia
Pier at Bokeelia

We decided to explore the island further and found Pineland. This is the place on Pine Island where we’ll return. The Tarpon Lodge is the picture of “Old Florida”. With waterfront views of Pine Island Sound, the restaurant and lodge provide a perfect location for those interested in fishing or boating. In addition, visitors can explore nearby pre-Columbian Mounds of the ancient Calusa.

We encountered a couple other surprises on Pine Island:

The island’s decorated power  poles painted by local artists. More fun community art.

The fishing community of Matlacha which welcomes visitors to Pine Island is the home to many brightly painted art galleries, boutiques, and seafood restaurants…a place to spend a couple of hours exploring. We did enjoy the homemade ice cream at Great Licks.

I’m not sure if we will make it back to Pine Island and Tarpon Lodge before the end of the year, but if not, we’ll include it on our 14 in 14 list!

6 Down; 7 To Go

One more of the items on our 13 in 13 list accomplished! For almost forty years I’ve wanted to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic and set over the Gulf of Mexico on the same day. Living in Florida, this shouldn’t be that difficult, but it’s something I haven’t gotten around to until this summer.

I admit that it didn’t turn out exactly like I pictured it. Last week we woke up at 6:00 in Miami to view the sunrise on the beach. Of course, we were awakened at about 4:30 to the sound of thunder and pouring rain. When we headed to the beach for the 6:20 sunrise, it was still sprinkling and cloudy, but at least the lightning and thunder had subsided. I hoped for a clear day and a beautiful sunrise but had to settle for watching the sun peek through the clouds.

The second half of this quest took place on the Naples pier. We arrived in Naples a little after 7:00 that evening. An angry sky met us as we approached the pier. We walked out on the pier. The wind whipped up the waves. The lightning flashed. The rain began to fall. Deja vu!

I reminded myself that regardless if we could see it or not, the sun would set and we would be there. But, just as it did in the morning, the thunder and lightning stopped and the rain ended about 15 minutes before the time of the sunset. From the Naples pier we witnessed the sunset and took pictures to document the fulfillment of another item on our 13 in 13 list. Again we saw a glimmer of the sun set behind the clouds.

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Lesson learned…mission accomplished…even if it’s not exactly as pictured.