Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tootling around town...

While Jack and I settled in at Vero Beach for a couple of weeks, we ventured along the coast a few times to enjoy the "Atlantic Ocean side" scenery.

Driving around town, we happened to notice a beautiful painted turtle statue at the edge of one of the beach parking lots, then another at the nearby park, and another across the street! My ever-ready-photo-driver quickly found places to pull over so I could jump out to photograph these beauties. They were not signed and there were no signs or information anywhere around them to tell you who, what, when or why. When I got back to the RV, I looked them up and found a small bit of info. A total of 52 artists were invited to participate, back in 2005, in a Vero Beach fundraiser. These are the remaining sculptures that didn't get auctioned off. I only found a few of their sculptures (there seems to be 13 left). It's a shame the Chamber doesn't honor them with appropriate signage.

Just down the coast from Vero Beach, is the town of Jupiter and the 1860 Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum. It's a pretty lighthouse; a no longer working one, with their museum in a restored World War II Naval Housing Quarters building. It sits right on a nice quiet beach, where Jack enjoyed watching the nearby bridge open up for the local yachts to pass through to the other side! Nice of them, don't you think?

Besides the beautiful houses (and they are plentiful) and the beautiful beaches (again, plentiful) they have sooo many beautiful trees, shrubs, flowers etc. I'm constantly going "ohh, ahh, look!" as we drive along. Once in awhile, we come across a street that both of us go "ohhh my!" and we have to stop and admire...here's one such street...

Then, after all that, we come back, poor ourselves something cold to drink, pull up a chair, prop up our feet and get back into our current book while we enjoy the soft breeze and wait for the sun to set. Ahh, life is good...

...kicking back in Florida, Marie

Monday, March 19, 2012

Things that make you go hmmmm...

Sitting in the passenger seat of our rig allows me the opportunity to be the "observer". I get to just look all around and enjoy the scenery, check out what's along the roadside, who's driving by, etc. This carries over to our truck when we are tootling around town, or even when we are just taking a walk. I love looking all around, seeing how people live, work & play. But sometimes, you have to ask yourself, "what's up with that?"

A couple of cases in point...

On a drive along the Pensacola coast, we were enjoying the beach-front houses that the rich enjoy, then all of a sudden, THIS house appeared! One of those OMG moments that made me say to Jack, "What's up with that house? Turn around, I've got to see that house again! That's worth a picture!" See if you agree...

As we were driving along the I 4 in Tampa, we passed this little sight, no explanation, no sign, except that there was an Airstream dealership nearby (lots of info in research tho)...

When we were in Kissimmee, we were in need of a Post Office, following the signs, we wound up in a small town called Celebration. As we drove in, I noticed how pretty the houses all were, neat, clean, all with front porches, green lawns, cute flowers around the fronts. Once parked and packages mailed, we decided to walk around the little town. Everything was so "picturesque". We stopped to have lunch and while waiting, I picked up the local (free) newspaper. As I began to read, I saw that the entire town was governed by a HOA and a very strict one at that. All through the paper were "friendly" reminders, like telling them that they know it's spring and people want to start planting flowers, etc. but to 'remember' to get approval from the board first. Everything, and I mean everything, had to be approved by 'the board'. We started calling it "Stepford town" instead. (doing the research for this, I found that we were not the only ones!) It gave me the chills. I couldn't really capture the "essence" but here's a few pictures...

This one happened so fast that I was only able to get it in "two shots", but worth the effort, don't you think?

Of course there are always those times when we see something that happens so fast that I can't get my camera out in time, two of our favorites...the motorcycle pulling one of those cute, tiny teardrop trailers and along the I 4 westbound, a high transmission power line pole reconfigured to be Mickey Mouse.

Well, we are off to Vero Beach, which is the Atlantic Ocean side of Florida. We've done the Gulf & the Central, now we shall see how the "Treasure Coast of Florida" fairs!

...on the road in Florida, Marie

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales Florida

The Kiss of the Sun for Pardon, The Song of the Birds for Mirth, You are Nearer God's Heart in a Garden, Than Anywhere Else on Earth... so the poem goes. So very true at this lovely place.

Edward W Bok
was the editor of the Ladies Home Journal for thirty years (1889-1919). An immigrant, he was compelled to leave the world a better place, in 1929 he established these gardens for the American public. The 205 ft marble and coquina Singing Carillon Tower is the focal point of the garden, with tile mosaics, animal carvings and custom iron-work. We were lucky during our visit to be there when a visiting carillonneur played. Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr designed the gardens to be contemplative and informal woodland settings with acres of ferns, palms, oaks and pines with flowering foliage and the seasonal color of azaleas, camellias and magnolias. It was truly peaceful. As you drove through the entrance you past acres of orange groves, so from the very beginning sweet scents filled the air, and lingered throughout.

After strolling through the garden, listening to the bells, Jack and I enjoyed a beautiful lunch in their casual cafe and just sat and listened to the birds sing and the butterflies flutter...no hurry about the day for anyone...life is good.

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

...kicking back in Florida, Marie

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Adventure Begins...

These were the words scribed above the entrance to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter as Jack and I stepped across the much anticipated threshold of Universal's Islands of Adventure in Orlando Florida. I admit it, I am a big Harry Potter fan. No getting around it, I was hooked with the first book and feverishly anticipated each book and movie as it came out. I have been looking forward to visiting "Harry Potter Land" as Jack kept calling it, ever since I knew we were going on this trip! It's taken all my patience to wait this long, but we finally made it!

...and all I've got to say is, WOW! Entering Hogsmeade, you came right up to the Hogwarts Express Steam Engine at 9 3/4, with all the hustle and bustle you would expect. Muggles everywhere! It was crowded, it was crazy and it was fun! We joined right in on the madness of the shopping and the picture taking and the laughter. Kids of all ages, little ones and old ones just like me! We all were enthralled. It was great!

Moving on, the "Islands of Adventure" really had a lot to offer! We had a blast at each one of them. It was fun to go to a theme park you've never been to before; each thing you come to is new and a fun surprise! Super heros like Spiderman and the Incredible Hulk were there, then over at Toon Lagoon we got to see Popeye & Olive Oil and even Betty Boop came out for picture taking (all the Dad's got in line for that one!). We got soaked on the Jurassic Park River Adventure (thinking it was a "calm" ride) but laughed it off as we goofed off at Seuss Landing with all their adorable characters. At the Lost Continent we watched The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad Stunt Show and the Poseidon's Fury show to rest up a bit.

It was a full, long day as we pulled our tired bodies home...boy, having fun is exhausting!

As the day ended, our bodies might have felt "old", but our spirits sure felt like a "kid" again!

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

..kicking back in Florida, Marie

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Baseball...Texas style!

We have the wonderful good fortune of having a dear friend on the Houston Astro's staff. Their team spring trains in Kissimmee Florida, so we made a point of hooking up with him during our Florida stay. Lucky for us, the Astros had a couple of games while we were in town, and Stretch was generous enough to invite us to watch.

What fun! The first night we came they were playing against Philadelphia. Now, that's where Jack is from, so I teased him that he would be torn on who to root for, "no problem" he said, "it's the Astros all the way!" And we did! We were surrounded by Phillie fans, but that didn't stop us from cheering our team on! It was pretty tight all night, tied up in the 9th, so had to go into over-time, then the Astros decided "enough was enough" and hit one over the fence! Great way to end the game!

Thursday was a bit different though. They were playing against Toronto, and the Blue Jays lead from the very beginning, and didn't let up. When we met Stretch for dinner after the game, I asked "What happened?" He said "some body's got to win, and some body's got to loose, that's the way the game's played." I like that. ;-) 'tis true, 'tis true.

We really enjoyed watching the games though; more than during the regular season. The problem with the regular season, is that they have to lag so much between each play & inning because they are being televised and they have to allow time for all the commercials = boring. Minor League ball & during Spring Training, you don't have that, and additionally, you have smaller stadiums that bring you closer to the field, giving you that intimacy that makes you feel like you are part of the game.

When I was a teen, the Padres were a Minor League team, and played in Lane Field, what would look like a "community park" to people now a days. We sat in wooden bleachers and were just yards away from the field of action. It was great! We knew every player, and it felt like they knew us! It's what you did on Sundays, picnics and baseball! It didn't cost you your week's paycheck, and you didn't sit a mile away and it didn't take an entire day to watch the game.

While we waited for Stretch outside the player's locker room, we watched the fans gather for autographs. It was so cute to see the children get so excited whenever a player would come out. Another thing that's different (for the good) is that now there actually were more little girls than boys waiting for those autographs! Baseball HAS come a long way baby!

Fond memories...thanks Stretch!

...kicking back in Florida, Marie

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tampa - Then & Now

Tampa - Then: Cigars were once the city's mainstay, and brick & frame factories provided employment for Spanish, Italian and Cuban immigrants who labored at long tables hand-rolling tobacco leaves. Ybor (pronounced E-bor) City remains today a culturally rich and vibrant community, keeping these influences alive.

We enjoyed most of our day here, starting with their Saturday Morning Market, where we met the most wonderful, knowledgeable cigar dealer! Who, of course, helped us select just the right ones for our special people! ;-) Later, Jack got to chat with a woman who was hand-rolling them, asking her all the details on how & what. We had lunch at the "famous" Columbia Restaurant. I couldn't wait to try my first Cuban food! Ate their traditional sandwich and their special "1905 Salad". Ummm. Beautiful place with incredible tile work everywhere. We met several artists, and one in particular that is pretty well known and I wish I could have bought one. His name is Arnold Martinez, and he uses tobacco, coffee & wine as mediums in his gorgeous paintings. He was absolutely charming, explaining his technique and how he got started using these ingredients.

From there, we quickly went off to see the Henry Plant Museum in Tampa. Henry Plant (1819-1899) the acclaimed "King of Florida", was founder of the Plant System of railroads, steamships and hotels. He built the the grand Tampa Bay Hotel, the nation's only Victorian railroad resort, between 1888 & 1891 as a winter resort. He wanted it to be one of the most fanciful creations of America's Gilded Age, and he succeeded. It's now part of the University of Tampa.

Tampa - Now: Frustrating. One of the things Jack and I have enjoyed while driving in other parts of Florida, is how great their signage, direction and maps have been. Not so with Tampa. Just the opposite. AAA Guidebook was just as frustrating in that it gave vague directions, and in several instances incorrect & incomplete information. Once case in point, was a trip to the Baker & Co General Store. A "must see" by AAA. First of all, it was in a very run down, "shady" area of town, then their "bursting with items" left a lot to be desired. Seems their 10,000 sq ft/ 3 floors, were "slimmed down", but "if we wanted to go over to their warehouse, down the street, we could..." No thank you.

Next on our "must see" list was the "Tampa Riverwalk" - so, I'm excited, thinking that it's going to be like the one in San Antonio! Well, after an hour of driving around and around, with pure determination to find this dang thing, because no signs, or when we finally would see one, it gave a slight arrow, then nothing to follow up with, we stopped someone. He turned out to be a nice young man working for the Convention Center and had a downtown map! Showed us where the Tampa Riverwalk was, and that many parts were "still under construction, but you could still walk there". When we told him we were looking for shops and food establishments, he pointed out one across the way and said that was the best one (I got the feeling it was the only one on the walk). We went there.

As we sat along the river, we did enjoy the scenery of downtown Tampa & the sunset, but the wind nearly blew us out of there, so we decided to find somewhere else to eat. Reading in my "trusty? guide, I saw a place that sounded like good Italian food nearby, so we went in search. Well, "in search" we did, around and around, again! Signs, and directions lacking or only making it worse. When we finally did find the place, there wasn't any parking, and we were to tired to eat! I offered Jack the rest of my earlier sandwich, and I was just ready to call it a night...if we could just find our way back out of Tampa! Ugh.

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

...kicking back in Florida, Marie

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sun, Sand & Seashells = Beach Bliss!

Some days are just made to take slow, to enjoy and savor each moment. This day was one of those days. The sun was shining (and no, it doesn't every day in Florida!), the wind was light and the beach was nearby. I had read that the Sanibel Beach was "known" for it's beautiful beach, especially it's quantities of seashells. Sanibel Island also has a lighthouse, which made two great reasons for a day's visit in my book! So, off we went!

First things first, lighthouse pictures. Now I must say, I've seen a number of lighthouses in my time, all shapes and sizes, wood, metal and cement...but nothing like this one! Pipe! Pretty basic, I'd say. They sure weren't into "fancy"! Pure function.

That done, time to hit the beach! Oh, what a joy! Soft, soft sand, and oh so warm water! Having been living near the Pacific Ocean all my life, wading through the Gulf of Mexico water was pure heaven. Clear, clean, warm...and shells. Thousands and thousands of shells! It was like someone took buckets and poured them out onto the sand. I can't remember seeing that many shells since I was a small child...and that's what it made me feel like again, a child! So much fun, picking through them, selecting the unbroken ones, finding the ones with more color, or pure white, making sure I get plenty for each of my grandchildren. It was hard to stop!

We even got to watch an Osprey tend her nest nearby. Florida puts platforms out for them to build their nests on, it's really quite wonderful to see.

As usual, we ended the afternoon with a lovely meal, looking out at the sea, watching the boats sail by...life is good.

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

...kicking back in Florida, Marie