Holy Cow!

I think this is the last sight-seeing post for our Bradenton trip.  Sadly the month is coming to a close and we’re in wind down mode.  At this point we’re trying to finish a few chores with the RV, and start cleaning up for bug out day on Tuesday.

Craftiness

I did manage to work in a crafty day with friends Barbara & Patti at Whim So Doodle in Downtown St. Pete.  This fabulous craft store let us camp out and be creative all day on Saturday for free!  Buy something as a thanks if you are in the area.  I finished 10 cards and a few of you with upcoming birthdays will see my handiwork.

Dakin Dairy Farm

I’m sure you were curious about the name of the post.  Holy cow seemed appropriate since we went to a dairy farm with 2400 milking cows.  That doesn’t count the calves, heifers and other animals.  My family will probably think I’m crazy paying money to tour a dairy farm, but the farmers in the family raise beef cattle and not dairy cows.

We bought our tour tickets and then wondered if it was worth $15 each.  Oh yeah it was!  We had a grand time and each got in touch once again with our inner child.  Visiting those kids a lot these days.

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Eating the Green Salad

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Moooove on looky-lous!

The first part of the tour was on a tractor drawn hayride.  The guide explained what goes into the feed and these cows were chowing down.  It has silage, hay and a bunch of other things approved by the farm nutritionist, and all grown on site.  Yes, these cows seem very well cared for.  There are too many cows to name them all, so they have numbers.  6647 is not sure about the likes of us.  Actually they were pretty curious and we even shared the cooling water mist spray with this lot.  I covered up my camera for that part.

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Getting ready to race

For the next part of the tour, we disembarked from our hayride and made a stop at Squealer Field.  You guessed it – pig races.

My money was on B&W (he had a name, but can’t remember it, so B&W – for black and white of course).  He started out behind, but came up from the rear for a photo-finish win.  Alas, no photo since I was in the moment.

The farm hand says they train the pigs to race by starting out with kids chasing them around the racetrack.  At the end of the race they get fresh milk to drink.  After a while no kids are required, just milk at the end.  The pigs are super excited to race, so guessing they really like the milk.

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Sweet Baby

With the race complete, we turned our attention to the calves.  Soooo sweet and happy to see us.  I think these sweeties were only a few weeks old.  Turns out we weren’t the attraction.  The giant bottles of milk we got to feed them were just the ticket.

These guys had some good suction and the guide said to hold on tight or they’d take the whole bottle away.  I fed one, too, and it was definitely two-handed feeding.  Little piggies.

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Mohawk Man

There’s also a petting pen with sheep and goats.  The sheep were sporting interesting haircuts this day.

Next stop, the picnic pavilion so we can make our own butter to put on crackers and drink with our fresh chocolate milk.  I can’t tell you the last time I drank chocolate milk and it was yummy.

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Shake it Baby, Shake it!

Our tour guide provided a mason jar full of fresh heavy cream and we took turns shaking it up.  We got past the whipped phase and almost to a solid chunk of butter.  We then spread the lovely stuff on saltine crackers and plotted our purchase in the country store.

Back to the cows and now the milking area.  Just so you know, the dairy cows produce up to 8 gallons of milk a day – each!  That’s a lot of milk given that they do have 2400 cows to milk each and every day.  They accomplish this in 3 sessions per cow per day.

The Ladies Getting Milked

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Overflow Maternity Ward

From the milking area, we could see a field across the way.  Turns out the covered maternity area was full and this is the overflow.  Lots of ladies in waiting and these gals were likely to calve within 24 hours.

Once the calves are born, they stay with mom for the first two weeks or so.  After that, they go to another farm to raise them up until they are either 4 months old or 400 pounds and then they return.  They’re now at the heifer stage and aren’t truly cows until they give birth.  The cows are all artificially inseminated so we didn’t see any bulls around.

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Baby Cheeses – Just 6 months old

Dakin Dairy Farm just started making their own cheese.  Oooh, this caught our eye during the tour and we got to sample some of the cheddar and mozzarella curds.

We also saw the processing area for the milk.  This is the only dairy farm in the state of Florida that processes its own milk.  They pasteurize, homogenize, package and ship right from this location.  They were bottling this day and we got to see the gallons being filled.  My picture stunk, so nothing to show for it.

Our last stop was the cafe and gift shop.  We purchased fresh white milk, chocolate milk a huge chunk of butter and mozzarella.  (I’m going to try my hand at fusilli al telephono)

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Hay bale symmetry

Our day on the farm was truly fun and I highly recommend it for the young and old if you are ever in the area.  (About 25 minutes East of Bradenton, just off 70)

I’ll leave you with the hay bale photo.  I liked the big stack for the shapes and texture.  Did you know one of these babies weighs 1000 pounds?  Yep – a lot of hey for a lot of hungry gals.

The next two months in DeLand won’t be nearly as much fun, but I’ll keep you posted.  See you on the way.

Dog Day Afternoon

It is hard to find a place for pups on the beach.  So hard in fact, that we’ve never managed to take Jackson to the beach.  We can’t say we’ve tried terribly hard, but they are verboten most places.  (Pat the proof-reader does not like my word verboten – means “forbidden” in German.  Just the right word I think and it stays!)

Imagine our surprise when we found a great dog beach at Fort De Soto State Park.  We knew what we had to do.

The Preparation

This outing required re-evaluating the planned junkets since we only have so much time left in Bradenton and still a pretty good list of places we want to go.  Something had to give.  We already tabled the Weeki Wachee visit until next year when we are camped closer.  (They have mermaids there and yes, we’ll tell all about it in 2017)  I also made the executive decision that although a few other state parks in the area sounded cool, they are likely similar to Myakka River and the interior Florida views we’ve seen in spades.  Finally, I really wanted to get to a lighthouse and had the one on Captiva Island on the list, but just not feeling like making the drive.  So scratch those and pencil in the Jackson day at the beach.

The dog beach does allow dogs off leash if they are within the owner’s voice command.  Jackson is a very well-behaved dog, but we’ve never worked with him off leash and frankly don’t trust him as far as we can throw him – 100 lbs that he is.  We are not fans of those retractable leashes, but decided that extra 10 feet or so would be just enough for him to frolic in the Gulf while still being under control.  Off to Pet Supermarket we go to get a new leash.

Towels?  Check.  New leash?  Check.  Gallon of water and water bowl?  Check!  You’d think we were taking a newborn on the first outing.  Someone in actual swimwear to take Jackson in to the water?  Check.  That would be Pat since I was likely a cat in another life and prefer that my water exposure be limited to the shower.  I always was a lousy Floridian.

The Outing

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Best. Day. Ever.

Jackson has been in rivers and lakes a few times – on the 6 foot leash – but this was a whole other ballgame.  He loved it and bounded in to get the ball we threw.  They romped, they played, they walked on the beach and I followed them around with the camera.

It was another stunner of a day with breezes and a cloudless sky.  Perfect even in early afternoon.

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My boys and the bridge

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I had this foot shot in mind when we went and have to say it turned out perfectly!

This is a great beach and was practically deserted on the Wednesday when we went.  It was also very cool to be so near the shipping channel.  We were able to boat watch in between ball throws.dsc00334

So far so good – we’re counting this as a successful trip……

The Aftermath

Jackson is suddenly not so keen about going into the water.  If fact, will not go in.  He has one potty moment on the beach and I clean it up.  We decide he’s had enough and just in time.  We get off the beach and on the trail back to the fenced dog area just in time.  It seems that Jackson swallowed too much salt water.  Anyone who has ever had a colonoscopy and drank the “stuff” knows what this means and I’ll say no more.  Also, no photos to share and you are grateful.

Not only that, but Pat’s sore ankle is flaring up again and by the evening he can barely walk.  And we didn’t win at bingo this time.  We’re saying a 50-50 day, but the happy well outweighed the unhappy.  We joked that we spent and hour on the beach and it took 2 days to recover.

The good news is that Jackson is still good with river water and we think we’ll stick to fresh where he is concerned from now on.  That retractable leash will work there, too.

Stay tuned for the next post where we go somewhere without the dog!  See you on the way.

 

Tarpon Springs & Other Tales

We took another drive over that beautiful Skyway bridge on a gorgeous day on the way to Tarpon Springs.  This town is “world famous” and boasts to be the sponge capitol of the world.  I wanted to make the day trip since I remembered it from a visit with mom & dad once upon a time.

The Working Docks

Of course the visit with my parents was soooo long ago when I was a child.  The walk along the docks jogged my memory and the boats moored along the way was what I remembered.  Lots and lots of sponges, too, in all sizes and textures.  Smooth, spiny, bowl-shaped, you name it.

Just a little bit of history for you.  Turtle fishermen accidentally found the beds when they had their nets fouled by sponges.  The commercial sponge industry was founded in 1890 and according to the Tarpon Springs tourist map “was considered the largest sponge port in the US” by 1900.

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Catch of the Day

Before we took the dock stroll, we stopped off at Dmitri’s for a Greek lunch waterside.  It has been lovely breezy weather – finally – and we took advantage sitting close enough to dip our toes in the water.  Hummus and gyros were the fare of the day and delicious.  We think the little Greek restaurant in DeLand actually has the best hummus, but we had to try some here.  (Second place would have to be that Mediterranean restaurant in New Brunswick, NJ close to the Rutgers campus)

A nod to my good buddy Sandra and best blog commenter so far.  We would have eaten at your fav – Rusty Bellies – but I didn’t realize it was here until too late.  Next time.

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Statue in memory of the spongers of Tarpon Springs

This was the only official-looking historic item on the dock, so figured I’d better take a picture.  Here are a few other fun shots, too –

We decided not to take a boat cruise and just keep it low key and stroll along.  Made our consumable souvenir purchase of Greek spices from The Spice & Tea Exchange.  Also got some Florida Sunshine spice blend that is hopefully good on our fish tonight.  Ice cream is always in order, so we stopped for some orange creamsicle flavor and it was delicious.  One of those flavors that takes you back.  I remember those orange push-ups when I was a kid and it was just like that.

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral

Before we left town, we took a short drive to the Greek Orthodox Cathedral.  I do love old, grand churches and this one has spectacular stained glass windows.  The outside is fairly unassuming, but inside – wow!.

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Spectacular sacred space

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St. Nicholas

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Clouds and Angels

The ceiling with the clouds and angles was so unique.  We were there at the right time for the light filtering through the stained glass.  The prayer books were in Greek and English, so definitely true to the Greek community here.

Ant Tales

Thought we had the ant problem licked, but alas, it’s not so.  I uncovered Jackson’s food (been keeping it in a giant ziploc bag), and within an hour, they were all over it.  Now I think they are coming in through the heating ducts.  Of course we haven’t used heat since the beginning of the year, so it’s a good vantage point for them.  I sprayed them good and so far haven’t seen them again, but Pat is not willing to declare victory yet.  We probably won’t truly be rid of them until we head home.

Tank Tales

Those pesky tank sensors are still acting up.  We also thought this problem was solved with a good back-flushing in both tanks.  I find this to be a scary endeavor since you’re putting water into the tank from the exit point.  Pat does this part while I stay inside and monitor the sensors and holler when it reads full.  Good communication is key since we don’t want to overfill and have a potty surprise.  We really, really don’t.  So far so good and the sensors read empty after the dump.

This morning though, the grey is saying full again and really can’t be.  Maybe toothpaste gooey stuff?  We’re not sure, but still working the problem.  For those of you who don’t RV, this is so very common.  We were just feeling smug that it hadn’t been an issue for us until this trip.  Guess we aren’t above that one after all.

No pictures with either of these last two tales.  I know you are relieved.  I have two more posts coming quickly to get caught up.  Stay tuned for Dog Day Afternoon and Holy Cow!

See you on the way!

The Ringling – Part 2

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is quite a legacy and I’m glad we saved this for last.  As you might recall from Part 1, John Ringling amassed a fortune estimated to be $200 million.  During their marriage, John and Mabel made a fortune, but also made trips to Europe and to New York auction houses to acquire art.

Apparently they studied up and made some amazing purchases that included paintings, tapestries, furniture and sculptures from the likes of Rubens, Rembrandt and Rodin.  Their favorites were Baroque and quite a bit from Italy, but most were stunning in size and beauty.

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Museum Courtyard

To round out the rags to riches story of the Ringlings, Mabel passed away and John seemed to lose his business focus.  In addition, John made a $1.7 million purchase just weeks before the stock market crash of 1929.  In spite of all that, he was determined to keep the collection together for Mabel.  When he finally passed away, he had a mere $311 in the bank.  Make that a rags to riches to rags story.  Since the Ringlings never had any children, John bequeathed the museum and art collection to the State of Florida and on Mondays it is totally free!

There is a tremendous amount of art history and information at the museum, but I’m only going to show you what looked good to me.  That is art after all – what speaks to you, right?

The Cherubs

Oh my, how I just love all the little cherubs.  Apparently John and Mabel did, too.  We were enthralled by the first gallery full of Rubens tapestry paintings.  There are 7 of these in the world and 5 are here.  Talk about jaw-dropping.

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The First Rubens in the gallery – with me for scale

The Rubens gallery had bigger than life paintings and plenty of beautiful cherubs.  It was an amazing collection of religious art.

The paintings are of tapestries within tapestries with the little cherubs holding them up.  Such an interesting technique and took me a bit to see it.

Isn’t this little imp the best? He’s holding up Aphrodite’s robes

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Finally, one more painting with beautiful cherubs.  So rosy and roly poly.

The Old and The Interesting

We realized after walking through several galleries that we were face-to-face with these old masters.  Literally we could have touched them if we wanted.  The Rodin sculpture was in a case, but most pieces were just out there.

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Sculpture from 1490

Can you even imagine art that has survived for 526 years and is just hanging on the wall in front of you?

I know the pictures don’t do justice to the art, but this particular Madonna seemed to be looking directly at you know matter where you stood in front of the painting.  Phenomenal work.

“Boy with thorn” along with the most beautiful harpsichord I’ve ever seen.  It was covered with intricate paintings like the one below it.

My Other Favorites

That cow face detail was amazing.  Didn’t expect to see a cattle drive in the collection.

Not sure why I liked this one so much.  The face detail was so specific and again – big, big, big.  John Ringling really liked the large epic paintings.

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Lamentations from Rembrandt

Actually, they think several of Rembrandt’s apprentices assisted with this painting.  But wow!  A Rembrandt right there on the wall in Sarasota.

Sculpture Garden

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Lygia and The Bull

Pat asked the docent if this was a form of torture and sure enough it was.  Lygia was tied to the bull as punishment for her faith.  She was saved before being killed by the bull.  A gruesome story, but the work is so detailed and unique that you just can’t help but stare.  This is right in front before you enter the museum.  They don’t know why or how John Ringling acquired this piece.

Sculpture Garden Favorites

The statue of David is the centerpiece in the garden.  I really liked Atlas and the hot pink bougainvillea framed all the sculptures.

And the Turtle

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With all the artsy stuff, I had to include something completely unrelated.  This guy was hanging about in the pond by the museum.  An alligator snapping turtle with his own dragonfly hitchhiker.

See you on the way!

Fort De Soto Park and Other Musings

I really thought I could go out of order and present The Ringling – Part 2, but my orderliness compulsion just won’t let me.  (I can’t skip to the end of a book either.) We went to Fort De Soto Park before the art museum, so you’ll just have to wait for that post.  It’ll be soon.  I promise, since we absolutely loved it.

The Campground

We’ve been told by more than one friend that we just have to camp at this park.  It is a county park and wasn’t on our state park radar.  After our visit, we’re ready to come back and stay a while.  We saw manatees in the canal and also enjoyed some bird and fish watching as we scouted out the best campsites.

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I’m not sure what kind of bird this guy is, but he was giving us the evil eye since we interrupted his fishing.

And speaking of fishing, it must have been a very good time indeed.  The fish were jumping wildly.  As you can see – even two at a time!  I just had to focus the camera and click a few times to catch this double jump shot….

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The Bridge & The Birds

I do love bridges and the Sunshine Skyway is a beautiful sight.  This day we drove across it to get to our lunch date with Iris & Paul, followed by the trip to Fort De Soto Park.  Great views of the bridge along with the seagulls working hard at fishing.  They were dive-bombing, very quick, and hard to photograph.  There’s also a ferry that goes to Egmont Key from here and we’ve decided we’ll be back for that trip before the month is out.

The Fort

On some level I’m sure I realized that a real fort would be there, but wasn’t really expecting to see canons and fortifications.  They are there and apparently were built starting in 1898 for Tampa Bay as a result of “defense considerations linked to the Spanish-American War”.  You learn something every day.

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Yep, real canons here and rifling ones, too.  From our Fort Pulaski schooling we know that means they had some serious range.  It’s crazy since they look like they are aimed to shoot straight up.

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Gulf of Mexico from atop the Fort

We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day and enjoyed quite the view.  There’s a dog beach at this park, so stay tuned for a day with Jackson.  He’ll be so surprised!

Vulture Update

I’m sure you were intrigued by the vulture sign from the Myakka River State Park post.  Here it is again to refresh your memory –

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Only vulture sign I’ve ever seen

I thought I’d give you an update that we learned from some other folks who visited.  There is a flyer that is given out at the park (that we did not get the day we went), and it explains what the vultures actually do to vehicles.

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Yum-yum, Eat-um-up.  Someone had a sense of humor putting this flyer together.  Naturalists don’t seem to know why the vultures eat rubber, but there you have it.  They do it, so be warned.

My Ladies

It hasn’t all been sight-seeing the past week or so since the rally.  We have managed to get some RV chores done, too.  We ordered Sirius XM Radio for Lucy and Pat installed the antenna for that along with the wi-fi booster on top of the RV.  It involved drilling a hole in the roof so he only wanted to do that one time.  Jackson was very distressed about that and barked madly.  I’m sure he’s thinking – “What?!  I have to be vigilant against roof intruders, too?!”  Loving the new radio and listening to the Road Tripping channel to get us in the mood to roll again.

Pat also installed a new motion-sensor porch light which is grand.  We frequently get back after dark from dog walks and it is nice to be able to see all the steps getting in.  He also reinforced the back ladder since it had a good bend in it from coming in contact with the eaves of our house (PC for Pat backed into the house once).  Seriously, I think this is the only reason I don’t get more grief for backing into things in Bitsy.  (Yes, tree and car for me, so I guess I can’t say much about the house).

We’ve also been battling ants and malfunctioning holding tank sensors.  We’ve had ants at one other spot, but this time they are after Jackson’s food.  We baited and sprayed and thought we had them licked, but found some more this evening.  The battle wages on.  As for the holding tank sensors, they say full when we know they are not.  Pretty sure we just need to slosh around a bit, but sitting still for a month doesn’t lend itself to sloshing.  We’ll backflush and then get plenty of sloshing on the way home in November.  Meanwhile, we’re just dumping more frequently just to make sure.

And now for my ladies.  This is the best upgrade in my opinion.  We decided that if we couldn’t figure out a way to take our favorite artwork with us, we’d just have to give it up.  Art does not belong in a storage unit.  I was sad about that since I was sure my Bellet’s would not fit on any of the RV walls.  I had a brainstorm, however, and took the canvases out of the frames.  The canvases themselves aren’t that big and fit perfectly on the walls.

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Favorite Bellet by front door

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My ladies in the bedroom

Now when I wake up in the morning, I see my ladies!  Perfect.

That’s it for now.  I’ll be back soon with art, art and more art.  See you on the way.

The Ringling – Part 1

We’re still sight-seeing and catching up with friends new and old from our Bradenton Horseshoe Cove home base.  The weather has finally turned cooler with a lot less humidity and we are very happy with that.

Our next outing takes us to The Ringling in Sarasota, home of the Museum of Art, mansion of John & Mabel Ringling as well as the circus museum.  This excursion came highly recommended and it is so far one of our favorite places in the area.

A bit about the Ringlings since this place is much more than just clowns and trapeze artists.  John Ringling was one of 5 brothers who founded the “Greatest Show on Earth”.  John started out from modest beginnings, son of a German immigrant harness maker.  Mabel was born in Ohio in a farming community.  John became one of the richest men in American and was thought to have amassed a fortune of $200 million dollars.  The two of them loved Venice, Italy, fine art and Sarasota.

The Grounds

The grounds are just lovely and we spent quite a bit of time on the paths before venturing into the circus museum.  One of my favorite trees can be found  on the grounds and I first saw one in Sarasota years ago.  It’s the Banyon tree and I’m enthralled with it because it just has to be the inspiration for the Baobab tree in Saint-Exupery’s “Little Prince”.  (Of course if you Google Baobab, they are nothing alike, but my childhood memory is different.  I stand firm in my Banyon/Baobab connection.)

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Pat at the Banyon Trees.  Aren’t they just awesome?  Like they got too hot, melted and ran down each other.

Mabel established a rose garden and we stopped to smell quite a few.  I’m always disappointed by a beautiful rose with no smell, but most of them did not disappoint.  Here’s my artsy shot of my shadow as I take a picture of the lavender roses.  My mom had a bush with roses that color and you don’t see them very often.  Also loved this perfect mix of orange and pink roses.

There is also a great playground and that normally would not attract our attention, but there were these unique swings.  I just had to try one out and convinced Pat he needed the same experience.

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Our peaceful swing

These swings were like laying in bag bowls so you were swinging looking straight up at the sky.  The rest of the place just fell away.  Ahhh, so peaceful and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

Ca’d’Zan

John & Mabel Ringling built a home on 20 acres of land on Sarasota Bay and named it Ca’d’Zan or “House of John” in the Venetian dialect.  It was a Venetian Gothic style home that cost 1.5 million dollars.  Now before you scoff at that figure, remember this was in the roaring twenties and that was a flat lot of money.  Also a time of excess and people were in spend, spend, spend mode.  Sound familiar?

The home is on a breath-taking view of Sarasota Bay.  On this day it was closed, but we were happy to stroll around on the patio.

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Saved you a seat…

They had statues decorating the grounds and I was particularly fond of the lions.  Took this shot of sailboats on Sarasota bay from a distance as we continued out stroll.

 

Circus Museum

I didn’t expect to love this part, but came away with a new appreciation of the circus.  Think about what it takes logistically to schedule and move 100 rail cars filled with animals, performers and everything to support them.  Now picture this move taking place every single day.  First wave of rail cars arrives at 3am for setup and before the last performance is over that evening, that same wave of cars is packing up and moving to be in the next town by 3am to do it all again.

The circus in the 20’s was the ultimate entertainment and schools and businesses closed down so everyone could go to the show.  They saw exotic animals and unbelievable feats, parades and bandwagons.  We laughed thinking about where the “get on the bandwagon” saying came from.  Everyone was on it, you know!

Oh yeah – wanted those long legs once upon a time.  A little spindly though.  Pat needs to get on that bandwagon.  He was very interested in the mechanism for shooting the guy out of the car cannon.  Apparently a closely guarded family secret so alas, he still doesn’t know how it works.

The Ringling’s traveled in style in their custom rail car and I think they were onto early RVing.  They lived very comfortably in high style in a small space, and traveled to new places almost daily.  Ahead of their time!

We were really enthralled with the hands-on portion of the museum.  I think it was meant for kids, but such fun!

Pat tried to get in the clown car.  I made it, but my legs might never be the same.  How do you like our acrobatic poses on the center ring horse?  Genius exhibit.

Finally this is where we get kicked out.  Pat and I are sitting on two little stools watching a video of a clown in rapt attention.  He is face-to-face explaining the how and why of clown make-up.  We got to the red nose part when we were informed that they had closed and we had to leave.  Looking around, we realize we’re the only ones still there.  Good times.

Thus the part 2.  We didn’t have time to see the Museum of Art, so that’s for our Monday adventure.

Other Outings

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Here we are in the new toy.  Not.  This belongs to our new RVing friends Calvin and Renee.  They were gracious enough to let us give the Smart Car a spin before dinner out.  How about that.  Bitsy is the BIG car and we drove!

We were also treated to another great dinner at O’Bricks in Bradenton by old friends Barbara & Mike.  Love that Murphy’s on tap and fun company.  Iris & Paul treated us to a superb lunch at Hawker’s in downtown St. Pete.  Great Asian and we shared some really tasty dishes.  Pat and I can’t remember the last time we were this social!  We need to spend more time where our friends live.

Stay tuned for The Ringling Part 2 and keep these signs in mind…

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If you can tell what’s yours and what’s not, that’s half the battle.  See you on the way.

Myakka River State Park + The Rally

I need to do a little blog catch-up since we’ve been busy rallying this past week.  We did squeeze in another sight-seeing trip before the start of the festivities so figured I’d start with that day trip.

Myakka River State Park

Just east of Sarasota is a great state park that boasts lots of hiking and even a canopy trail.  This was on my list of places to see long before we came over in October.  We had a great visit, but boy was it wet.  Only the road and lake front were not underwater due to all the rain that came down even before Hurricane Matthew.

Flooded trailhead and no biking – no way!

If we had our water shoes we would have tried it since the trailhead was the only way to access the canopy trail.  Everyone stopped, got out, surveyed the nice brown river water and got back in their cars.  Ah well, not our lucky day for hiking.

We headed on down the park road to the end with the restaurant, gift shop (on pylons!), and the lakefront.  Some very interesting signage, too.

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I’m sure there’s a story behind this…..

How do you like these vulture chums?  We found ourselves doing the vulture voices from Jungle Book.  “Wha’ you wanna do George?  I dunno.  Wha’ you wanna do?”  I’m not sure what they do to the vehicles unless maybe dead things land there?  They were very attentive though.

The lakefront was inviting and it was a beautiful day in spite of all the water on the roadsides.

We saw some fishermen coming in to the dock and they were throwing in the towel.  Too windy and rough on the water.  You know what they say though – a bad day fishing beats a good day working.

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Another trailhead

Checked out another trailhead, but no go unless you have waders like these busy Ibis.

Back to the car we go and on the way I’m mesmerized by the Spanish Moss waving in the trees like heads of hair.

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Waving Moss

The best stop in the park was at the birding trail walkway.  Finally – a place not under water.  And there truly was something to see.dsc00248

Pat watching the Great Blue on the birding walkway

Pat spied the biggest fisherman on the water and he was busy, busy.  Here’s what he caught (the bird, not Pat):

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Great Blue Heron and The One that didn’t get away

This guy was so very focused on some fish we saw popping up in the water.  We didn’t see him actually catch it, but watched him work on eating it.  He flung it around and around in his beak squashing it the whole time.  I’d say similar to chewing on it (except he has no teeth) and getting it ready to swallow.  This was a very long process and the fish got less and less floppy, but we lost interest and didn’t see the actual swallow.

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Showing off those beautiful chest feathers

This Great Blue was just beautiful and seemed to be showing off the goods since he didn’t have a fish to attract attention.  We were close enough to see the feathers ruffling in the breeze.

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Purple Hyacinths

Of course a flower picture to round out the boardwalk views and back in the car we go.  Loved the drive through this park and of course that interior Florida look I’ve talked about.

The pictures don’t do justice to the moss canopy road.  We got out and walked a bit since this part was also dry, and then headed back to Lucy at the RV park.

Living the RV Dream Rally

We weren’t sure what to expect since this was our second rally and the first one did not wow us.  That one involved 750 rigs crammed into a fairgrounds with temporary services.  So temporary that we had unreliable power and couldn’t leave Jackson in the RV and go anywhere.  Ah, but this one was sooo different.

Everything we hoped for and more.  We met some great new RVing friends – fulltimers no less, and also connected with some other folks who want to buddy up for the Alaska journey next year.

The seminars were exactly what we needed.  Learned a thing or two from Geeks on Tour and I hope to really improve my Google mapping skills due to their expert instruction.  TechnoRV was also a great resource and hoping to improve the wi-fi experience as we travel with the booster we purchased.  This is good for the blog, too, since we try to use other people’s data and save our own.  Our self-imposed limit is 4 gigs and you can rip through that pretty quickly.  Especially with my photo uploading penchant.

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Roger “Hurricane” Wilson – superb Blues Guitarist!

Friday night’s entertainment was perfect with blues guitarist Hurricane Wilson.  I have two new CDs – one of his entire performance that night.  Great blues and everything from Simon & Garfunkel, Crosby Stills & Nash, RVer’s National Anthen and more.

Finally, us normally unlucky ducks really made out like bandits this past week.  We won $127 at Bingo – me on the hot ball no less!  I didn’t even know what a hot ball was until then so I don’t think we were totally popular with the regulars.  My mother-in-law says we better watch our backs.  But that’s not all.  I won a set of the rally host’s books, Pat won a grill set, AND I won a $100 Walmart gift card.

So two thumbs up on the whole rally experience and we might consider another one sometime.

Delightful DeLand

I mentioned before that we took a quick trip back home to board up for Hurricane Matthew.  We had stalled long enough on the return. Finally took another trip back after the rally ended to open the house back up and mow the lawn.  We’re so stupid.  Thinking we’ll just drive up, and I’ll mow the lawn while Pat whips down those shutters and all the plywood pieces.

We turn the corner into our subdivision and Uh-oh!  Piles and piles of tree debris line the streets.  Just what will we find at our house?  The neighbors had told us via text messages that we had nothing but a few branches and some sticks.  Some sticks – well try millions and some not so small.  Honestly we were quite lucky since we didn’t have a tree down on our house like some.  It did take me all afternoon to clean up to be able to mow, however.

I didn’t take any pictures since the worst of the damage had been cleaned up, but most places still have a pile of debris out front – homes and businesses alike – waiting for the claw truck to come along and take it all away.  Hopefully all gone by the time we return again.

Back to Horseshoe Cove

Honestly this place has really grown on us.  The people are super friendly and we love walks to the private island every morning.  Just goes to show that initial impressions aren’t always correct.

It’s still hot and we wish Summer would go away.  Our consolation prize is the lovely flowers.  Yep, I found another hibiscus to share.  I think this yellow one comes in second only to the bright red one.

Politics

Now that I really have your attention, I’ll share something funny.

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Don’t vote for Boo-Berry or Frankenberry!

I truly don’t want to discuss politics at all, what with the crazy election season that is upon us, but saw this in the grocery store and couldn’t resist.  It’s been so long since I had Count Chocula that I bought a box – family size no less – and have just about polished off the whole thing.  Nothing like a good jolt of sugar and marshmallows with your coffee in the morning.

More October Vaca

We have just about 2 weeks left before back to house-selling reality.  Lots more places to see on our list and no less than 3 dinner excursions and one crafting day scheduled already!  I’ll be sure to post all about it.  See you on the way!

My Favorite Part of Florida

Back to regularly scheduled programming around here and clicking through our list of places to see on the West Coast of Florida.  Before I tell you all about our latest outing, I’ll wax poetic just a bit about my favorite part of Florida.  I’ll give you a hint – it isn’t the beach or the attractions.  Actually my favorite part of Florida is the interior.  I know, not exactly specific, but I’ll explain.

I dearly love a drive filled with pastures, 100 year oaks draped with Spanish Moss, orange groves, crops (most of which I cannot identify), even the pinewood forests, rivers and springs.  The interior of Florida is filled with those views and what I remember from my childhood.  This was truly going to Grandma’s house in Bushnell, FL.  Lots of farming, cattle, those big ‘ole trees and you can’t get there on the big roads.  Nope. This requires two lanes and maybe a flashing light every now and then.  Towns like Astor, Sorrento, Mount Dora, Howey-in-the Hills, Yalaha, and Sumterville just to name a few.  No big places and nothing much to see except those relaxing interior Florida views.  We made that drive to all the family gatherings and although most of the groves have been replaced with neighborhoods and the turnpike has an exit, most of the rest is still just the same.  Ahhhh.  This is the Florida I love.

Solomon’s Castle

There is just such a nostalgic drive going from Bradenton to Solomon’s Castle in Ona, FL.  When they say it is in the middle of nowhere, that is no joke.  Not a thing there except the castle and interior Florida.  It is just like I remembered the Grandma drive – even the orange groves were there.

We picked Solomon’s Castle since it is listed as a Weird Florida destination and we even found it on a list of 18 places you must see in Florida.  Also it is only about 45 minutes from our current home base at the RV park.

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Solomon’s Castle

A picture right off the bat so you can see this place.  This was Howard Solomon’s dream and he built all the buildings on the 90 acre property and filled them with his art.  He was a sculptor, woodworker, made stained glass pieces and liked to use what everyone else termed “junk”.  He started this project back in the 70’s and it has grown from there.  Apparently this place has been showcased by the BBC, CNN, PBS, and Animal Planet to name a few.

The outside of the castle is covered with shiny plates that were used in the printing press for the local newspaper.  Lots of them!  If you go, take the tour since it is narrated by plucky guides using Howard’s own script.  The man was just full of puns and you just have to shake your head at what they say.  Sadly, Howard passed away just in August, but leaves quite the legacy.

Solomon’s Art

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Breaking Out Sculpture

I’m not that into sculpture, but marveled at the clever use of the scrap parts in this one called “Breaking Out”.  This has everything from motorcycle parts to part of an oil drum.  You can sort of see a fish sculpture on the wall behind it and that one is made all from the bottom of beer cans.

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Woman With Hat all made of inlaid wood pieces

I really liked this rendition of Woman with Hat.  Apparently Howard copied many famous paintings using inlaid wood pieces.

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Picture Window

The photo doesn’t show this well, but the windowsill is full of vintage cameras.  Thus the name “Picture Window”.  Told  you – lots of puns.  I think his stained glass pieces appealed to me the most and this one is made inside an old flywheel.

We also got here in time for lunch at the “Boat in the Moat”.  Mr. Solomon built this ship replica and it is over 60 feet long.

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Boat in the Moat Restaurant

Lunch was ok, but the best part was the really old bob-tailed calico cat that showed up right after we sat down.  This rheumy-eyed gal sidled up to me and appreciated all the head rubbing I would give her.  I was really missing my kitty, so it was nice to pet her for a while.

Castle Grounds

The grounds were full of lush flowers and of course I took a few flower shots so share.

A few shots of those old oaks I mentioned.  They are loaded with Resurrection Fern and moss.

Loved this tree and the Resurrection Ferns on the branches.  Pat volunteered to pose with my tree for scale, so showing you both renditions.

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Mighty Oak

And the big daddy of trees.  This is my interior Florida that I love.

Dairy Queen

This is going to seem like a big jump, but stay with me here.  We weren’t the only ones who had a good day.  After dinner, we took a trip to the Dairy Queen drive through for a peanut buster parfait.  I handed over the money and the young man says “Do you want a pup cup?”  Say what?  I had no idea what what it was, but sounded like a good thing for Jackson and free, so said “sure”.  Turns out Jackson scores himself a cup of ice cream before we even get ours.

Gratitude

Finally, the homily this evening had a sentence that spoke to me.  The priest said “Gratitude is a practice”.  Yes, so true.  So, I’ll practice a bit and tell you all how grateful I am for all your great comments, supporting my blog, and following along with us on this journey.  You guys are the “big” things and pup cups are the “little” things, and we’re thankful for them all.

Off on a new sightseeing adventure tomorrow, so stay tuned.  See you on the way!

Riding the Storm Out

Just thought I’d do a quick post for our friends and family following along on the Iverson adventure.  We left our Bradenton oasis and Lucy so we could go back to DeLand to put up our storm shutters since the category 4 Hurricane Matthew predictions were looking too bad to ignore.  Although we acquired the shutters 10 years ago after the infamous 2004 & 2005 hurricane seasons (Charlie, Jean, Frances, Wilma and Katrina – just to name a few of the worst) we hadn’t needed them since.  Back at that time, we were slowly putting together our hurricane supplies and purchased enough shutters for the key windows – front windows including our large picture window and the the ones for Ethan’s room.  The rest were to be covered with our stash of painted plywood.

Over the years, the plywood stash was pilfered for one project or another leaving us with a hodgepodge of wood.  At least we had enough bits and pieces to cover everything.  The process took longer than expected.  Doesn’t just about everything?!  We had to drag all the pieces out of the shed, figure out what went where and stage it for assembly.  Fortunately Pat had a very nice diagram and numbering system for the windows and pieces.

My main job was to hold stuff while pat put things in place and drilled.  Some previous holes just didn’t match up.  My theory is the house shrunk or at least that big picture window frame did.  I was also wingnut girl handing them over at just the right moment.  It was also time to put away all those little piles of things so they don’t blow all over and cause damage.  You know, the flower pots, garbage cans, bag of mulch, that sort of thing.  We waged war with a hornet’s nest & builder ant convention and were really glad that the catamaran was no longer in the side yard.

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Front windows with real storm shutters

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Side windows with the wood hodgepodge

Pat says we looked like the Clampetts with 4 different pieces of wood on the back window and I think 5 pieces at last count in the front entryway.

We stayed overnight to finish up the job and then beat a not-so-hasty retreat back to Bradenton.  That 3 hour drive turned into 5 hours with the mass of humanity all trying to leave the East coast headed for the West coast.  At least we were able to get gas without too long a line which made the 10-15 mph crawl on I-4 a little less stressful.

Good news though.  Our great neighbors report no damage, just a few sticks and branches in the yard.  Also, they were only without power for about 24 hours.  That’s a long 24 when you’re in it and thankfully we were not.

We rested up the past two days in the comfort of the AC and I even managed to keep a lunch date with Barbara since the storm was a non-event over this way.

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Sunset over Horseshoe Cove

We’ll resume sight-seeing for the next 2 days, then enjoy our rally through Sunday.  After that, we’ll trek back to DeLand to take everything down and see what we think about the food in the freezer.  Heard a really good trick to tell if your food thawed or not.  You put a cup of water in the freezer and freeze it.  Then you put a quarter on top.  If it thaws the quarter will be on the bottom and you’ll know the food is no bueno.  Of course we learned of this trick after we were back here.  We’re going to use the ice bin as our guide and will let you know if the frozen pizza survived.

We certainly hope everyone else made it through the storm as well as we did and had no damage or injuries.  Also hoping this is the last time we have to prep for a hurricane.

See you on the way!

 

Bradenton in October

On the road again so we can officially ignore all the “sell-the-house” chores.  Of course on the road this time means a one month stay in one place – Bradenton, FL.  We’re trying this out to see how we like that time frame with wheels, but not putting them to use.  Pretty sure that we have a long enough “must see” list of both people and places to make a month stay doable without getting bored in the same location.

Horseshoe Cove RV Resort

We started out planning a one week stay for the “Living The RV Dream” rally to meet some like-minded people and learn a few things at the seminars.  The RV resort then offered a deal for the month that we just couldn’t pass up, turning the trip into the month-long junket.

A bit about our “spot”.  We arrived on October 1st and were a little confused about our site.  It has been our experience that the paved driveway is the place to park the RV.  So, we see this fairly short driveway and Pat gamely backs Lucy in.  The orientation didn’t make sense with our next door neighbors within literally arm’s length or the picnic table on the wrong side.  Luckily one of our neighbors came out and noted that normally the RVs go in the grass and the cars go in the driveway.  Ahhh!  That does makes more sense in this case.  Ok, but before you think we are totally stupid, let me say that there were no similar RVs in the area to give us a clue.

I’m simply going to report the news here since we have learned that RVing comes in many forms with very strong opinions about what “is” and what “isn’t”.  I don’t want to step on any toes here, so I’ll reflex to the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words and give you two.

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Lucy and neighbors to the West

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Lucy and neighbors to the East

Hopefully you can see why we didn’t catch right on to the parking protocol.

Since we’re here through Halloween, we did a little decorating with our Skel-a-mingos and baby mingos.  Spiced up our little corner a bit don’t you think?

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Happy Halloween!

The park has their own private island that is in the Braden River and forms a horseshoe shaped cove, thus the name of the place.  You can only get to the little island by a walking bridge, which is perfect for Jackson walks.  He can feel like he’s trail-doggin’ it like in the state parks.  (that’s our term for when he is on point on the trail)

The first view of the river is from the covered deck complete with a nice wooden swing. Nicely shaded if you wait until about 10:30am to hop on.  The second view is the cove from the boat dock.

Of course I can’t help myself with the flower pictures, so a few of those from our own private island.  It really feels like that to us every morning since we see maybe one other person over there.

Can you tell I really like hibiscus flowers?  Red is the best color of course.  I especially appreciate Bird of Paradise growing wild since we tried hard with one in our yard and never achieved one single bloom.

Out and About

Let the sight-seeing begin!  Actually, first up is a social outing with our good friends Barbara and Mike at O’Bricks Irish Pub for dinner.  This is a favorite place I’ve been hearing about from Barbara for quite some time.  Delicious food and I indulged my dark beer love.  Had me a Murphy’s stout – on draft no less.

We also managed to find Barbara’s favorite Mexican place all on our own – Poblano’s.  Merely a stone’s throw from our digs, so we’ll likely go back since Pat was most pleased with the Mexican fried ice cream.  So far this trip gets high marks in the food category.  Our last trip won the worst Mexican food prize and so far this one wins the best.

Anna Maria Island

We have quite a list of places to visit while we are in this part of Florida and decided to start with Anna Maria Island.  Lovely spot indeed and fun see how the other half lives.  Some pretty swanky places and quaint spots, too.  We hopped out at the Anna Maria City Pier and got some good pictures and drank in that salt air smell.

There was a bit of a fish kill, so salt wasn’t all we smelled, but not too bad.  It took me a while to figure out that I was looking at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in the distance.  I love bridges about as much as lighthouses.  And birds?  Well, let’s say I have a fixation there, too.

Storm clouds were definitely brewing, so we made tracks back to Bradenton right through a complete monsoon.  Wowee – driving rain, lightning and thunder.  We got back to poor Jackson wedged under the passenger seat of the motorhome.  He needed his happy pill for sure.

Mixon Fruit Farm

As a native Floridian and one who has seen her share of orange groves, it seemed a little silly to be off to take a tram ride through one.  But, I couldn’t pass up the tram ride part and figured I might just learn a thing or two.  Pat agreed it was a funny thing to be doing, but we both really enjoyed ourselves.  The tram tour is about an hour long and goes through the groves which include all kinds of citrus fruit as well as other fruit trees.

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Pat poses with the tram – mostly against his will

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Variegated Lemon Tree

The trees are still working on producing all that great fruit, so not a lot to see as far as the crop goes.  They mostly grow Valencias that won’t be ready to pick until later in November.  Not a big deal since we’ve seen our share of fully ripe fruit on trees.  Hearing about the growing process was pretty interesting.

Didn’t know that citrus trees don’t need a lot of water and are planted on raised beds so the excess water can run off.  With all this tropical rain we’re having, that is a very good thing.  Also, this particular grove is owned by the third generation of the Mixons and some of the original trees dated back to the 19th century.  I took a shot of the variegated lemons since they are apparently pink in the middle and I hadn’t ever heard of those before.  Easy pink lemonade!

In addition to the grove, the farm also partners with Wildlife Inc to provide space for rescued animals.  Animals are treated and rehabilitated and used for educational purposes.  This part of the tour was an unexpected treat.  I got to pet the striped skunk, Burmese Python, American Alligator, and feed an apple slice to a feral pig.  What a day!

J.J. the feral pig loves him some apple slices.  Anyone who wanted to could feed him one through the fence.  He took it so nice and gently just like Jackson takes bones from our hands.  He had his little tusks and everything.

I pet the tail end of this guy who weighed about 60 pounds.  They do python hunts in the Everglades each year since they are an invasive species.  They caught somewhere in the 60s this past year.  Huge, huge, huge!

I pet the alligator of course and we learned about the special membranes over their eyes.  They use them like goggles when they are swimming.  It apparently helps them to see quite clearly when hunting underwater.  Also pet the striped skunk and it was pretty soft in a livestock fur kind of way.  They also had a red-tailed hawk, horned owl and even a chicken.  Not sure how the chicken ended up in that menagerie.  Also tortoises and lots of iguanas of all sizes.

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Tortoises pigging out on salad

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Just sitting here with my tongue hanging out….

After the tram tour was over we got ourselves the famous orange-swirl ice cream cones (totally yummy and highly recommend) and took a trek out to the Koi pond.  You know if I’m petting everything I can that I’m a sucker for putting a quarter in the fish food dispenser, too.

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Koi feeding frenzy

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Yellow guy is HANGRY!

This yellow Koi’s gaping mouth made it in just about ALL my shots.  He’s determined to get his fair share of the food.

What’s Next You Ask?

Lots of places to visit on our list like the Ringling Museum, Solomon’s Castle and Myakka River State Park, but we’re taking a day to do chores around here.  We’re also going to stay close to the RV since the storms just totally freak Jackson out – with or without medication.  And we seem to be in that everyday thunderstorm pattern right now.

In fact, we’re keeping a very close eye on the weather in general due to Hurricane Matthew.  Seems a force to be reckoned with.  We’re not super concerned about any issues on the West coast of Florida, but our sticks and bricks home is on the East coast which may be in the cross-hairs.  No one really knows, so we’ll just keep checking the weather updates and see.

More touring to come and more people to see – looking forward to more Barbara time, Iris and hopefully Patti, too.  Oh, and there is that rally that started it all, taking place next week.  Thinking this month is going to fly by.

One favor to ask, please.  Check out the new and improved 2016 travel map tab and tell me what you think.  I’m still in search of the best format for that showing where we go without investing a ton of time in it.

Hope all is well with you and yours and see you on the way!