May 11 – Home At Last

This past Wednesday we were able to get together with Ken and Gloria Simonsen, RV friends from our winters in Naples. One of the joys of our RV lifestyle are the many wonderful and lasting frinedships we've made.

Leaving Hilton Head Island on Thursday morning, we were glad to be heading west and not tied up in the nearly 5 miles of mostly commuter traffic heading over the bridges and onto the Island.

Then, again,we spotted one couple who seemed to be making better time than the frustrated morotists caught in the line of traffic.

Our drive to Wade

was uneventful, although we did notice several signs which had been bowled over,

althogh there were no wheel/skid marks, making their demise a mystery.

Then there was the SUV which passed which looked like it had contracted a case of sticker measles.

Our afternoon and evening was spent in the shade of a huge oak tree.

Friday, we drove just over 200 miles to Ashland, VA.  Along the I-95 corridor the results of First Lady BIrd Johnson's highway beautificaiton program were in full bloom,

Other flowers were not planed by humans but battled their way through man-made walls to further brighten otherwise boring sections of the highway.

Most everyone has experienced lane closures while driving.  As frustrating as the delays might be, when you pull over into the merge lane … only to have car after car shoot up past you in the lane you just exited can raise one's ire and result in a series of silent epithets about the offending driver.  However, one pick-up truck pulling a trailer just ahead of us finally had enough

and pulled out blocking those inconsiderate drivers from speeding past only to cut in to the merge lane at the last moment.

This evening we are settled into a campground in Ashland Virginia in which we almost always stay on our last night before returning from a sourthern RV trip …

and where we've met several other people returning home from trips to the Carolinas, Georga and Florida.

As you may have read in prior posts, we have had maintenance issues from time to time, most of which were successfully resolved by fixed site or mobile service operators.  The RV on one side of us obviously has had a bad experience with one such RV dealer (one with whom we have had generally good experienes).

With the threat of rain along our route home, we left the campgorund early, got gas locally and were on the highway by 7:05 this morning.

Spotted a vintage GMC truck

before hitting traffic just south of Washington … albeit the "crash" was not on I-95 and the traffic brike up before we even reached MD-295.  It appeared to be one of those frustrating situation where by the time you reach the end of the traffic holdup there is no apparent reason for it.

Debbie's only "old barn" photo of this trip.

We did love one overhead sign all along I-95 in Maryland; apropros as tomorrow is Mother's Day

Tightly gripping the steering wheel and laser focused on the road and traffic while crossing the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore,

I missed a bird nest in the middle of a high-tension wire tower

and lone sailboat headed beneath the bridge.

However, our only real slow down was in Philadelphia where four lanes of traffic were being squeezed down to just two.

All in all, this was the quickest trip we've ever made from Ashland, VA to Langhorne.  Once home, however, we still faced a 3 hour challenge of unloading food, clothes, other things we take with us but don't leave aboard and, of course, our supply of wine!

Without question, there is no better way to see and experience North America and "on the ground" and the best and most ecconnomical way to travel that way is by RV!  With this trip now history, our RV travels have covered more than 90,850 miles over the course of 1,368 days and taken us to 29 states (all at least twice), with a side trip to Hawaii, and ten of Canada's provinces and territories. Along the way we have met so many interesting and wonderful people, some who have become life long friends.

Yet, we have just scratched the surface of the literally thousands of places of interest to see and learn about. 

Oh yes … when we left Florida we were dealing wiht 80o days.  The weather for the next few days here in Langhorne is for RAIN and temperatures in the 40os and 50os!

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May 7 – RV Repairs … and an evening with Bob, MJ, Mark and Terre Newbert

We were on the road early this morning headed back to Savannah,

where the traffic laws

are strictly enforced.

Our destination was Roberts Truck Center

to have the Check Engine light and the slow starting issues with our Ford V10 engine diagnosed.  When we'd made the appointment yesterday afternoon, we'd been told that they were extremely busy and it might take all day just to squeeze us in for a preliminary computer diagnosis but any necessary repairs could not be addressed until at least the following day!  Ugh!

Our early start allowed us to arrive at just three minutes after their 8:00AM opening time

However, we were pleasantly surprised when we were greeted by the service manager, Adam, who immediately assigned a senior technician, Kerry, to see if he could evealuate the problems we were experiencing with our motorhome's engine.

After just under four hours of meticulous, checking and double checking various computerized analysis and results

Kerry confirmed our Check Engine light problem was due to a faulty O2 Sensor.

Fortunately, they had a replacement O2 Sensor in stock,

after which it took only minutes to install.

Meanwhile, we had determined that our 6-7 year old chassis battery was not holding a charge and was likely the culprit where slow starting problems were concerned.

Thus, we decided to repalce it with a new maintenance-free battery..

With sincere thanks to Adam and Kerry, in less than four and one-half hours after arriving, we were heading back to our campground.  Not only was the Check Engine light gone, but the engine started right up and seemed to run much smoother.

This evening, we had dinner at a local Bluffton restaurant

with two of my cousins, Bob and Mark Newbert and their wives.

(l to r)  Dick, Bob's wife MaryJane, Mark's wife Terre, Debbie, Bob and Mark

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May 6 – Jacksonville, Hilton Head and some RV Issues

We got an early start yesterday morning and, as it was a Sunday, the traffic was relatively light.  All went smoothly up unitl we stopped for gas in Dade City.  However, shortly after leaving the gas station we noticed a "Check Engine" warning light on our dash.

We pulled in at the next rest area and browsed through the Ford V10 engine manual … and determined that as the warning light was steady and not blinking we were likely OK to continue on our way, which we did.  We also discovered that our problem was mild compared to seveal other motorists we passed.

As the corpuses on our windshield could attest to, the lovebug mating season was underway and pairs of them were flying

Meanwhile the weather forecast of rain moving across the I-75 corridor proved accurate, first we some intermittent light rain

followed by a torrential downpour droping visibility to less than ¼ mile.

We arrived safely in Jacksonville

and with some trepidation, turned our engine off, not knowing if we'd have trouble stariting it.  As a result we opted not to put our jacks down or slides out, as retracting them in the moring would be impossible without the engine running.  While hooking up the electicity, I noticed that I had somehow negelcted to close the cap to our gas tank when we'd filled up … likely the casue of our Check Engine light.

Last evening we met my cousin Lindsay and her husband Phil, whose wedding we'd attended a year ago this past March, for a wonderful dinner.

This morning, a fellow RVer I met told me he had an auto code reader, which when plugged in could diagnose a car, truck or RV's problems. The code read "2629", an O2 sensor (Greek to us).  However, we were able to reset the Check Engine light so that it did not reappear, and the engine started right up with no warning light.  So, I canceled the trip to a local Ford dealer I'd made for later this moring, and we continued our northward journey through

and on to

Although no rain today, we saw far too many ambulances racing in the opposite direction with lights on and sirens wailing.

Meanwhile, the lovebugs continued to take aim at our windshield

and, unfortunately our Check Engine light reappeared, again just after filling our gas tank (although I had secured the gas tank cap this time).  And by the time we reached our campground on Hilton Head we also noticed an odor.

Once in our site,

we faced a nearly hour long effort cleaning today's accumulation of dead lovebugs off the front of our coach.  Walking around the park we noticed some other recent arrivals cleaning the front of their RVs, while other people appeared to ignore those on their units.

After several calls, we found a Ford truck service center where we could get an appointment for tomorrow morning, although we'll have to backtrack to Savannah … assuming the coach starts, we can pull in our slides, retract our jacks and get underway.

Other than that, it was an uneventful day which ended with a glass of wine and dinner.

 

 

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May 4 – Our Last Week at Sun N Fun

With most of the park's "residents" having headed north and formal activities over for the season, this last week in Florida has been noteworthy for its lack of any major adventures … although we still try to get our morning walk in before it gets too hot.  We have had dinner with Debbie's brother and wife Kate and my cousin Sandy and husband Jeff. I got two of my planned three rounds of golf in, one with Jeff and the second with friend Tom Briggs.  Unfortunately, my second round with Tom was cancelled when the day after we played he ended up in the ER at Sarasota Meoirial with a mild heart attack.  Two stints later, he's home and recovering.  He's hoping to be back on the links by next week.

Meanwhile, we noticed a slow drip beneath our hot water heater … which then turned to a steady flow of water!  With such repairs beyond my area of expertise, we engaged Charlie Hortobagyi (Tip Top RV Service)

After pulling the heater, it beaacme evident that there was a major and unrepairable crack in the unit.

Fortunately, he was able to order a new unit with overnight delivery.  Watching the installation process, I was glad I was the "gofor" and letting someone who knew what he was doing position and connect the electricity and propane to the new heater.  I then had Charlie order two gas compression cylinders for our bed.

After several hours working along side of Charlie for several hours, I noticed his tee-shirt, which read;

Baruch

College

NYC

Not only does his duaghter attend Baruch, but our son, Scott is a tenured professor at the school.  Small world!

Late that afternoon, a strong thunderstorm rolled through.  As the sun began to reappear in the west, a faint rainbow appeared.

The sun also provided some dramatic backlit cumulus coulds

and silhouettes of palm and other trees.

Yesterday, while we were storing our grill, outside chairs and tables, mounting our bikes to teh back of our Jeep and beginning to clean the inside or our motorhome, we were having the exterior washed and waxed.

We've planned our trip north, during which we will be visiting some friends and family, such that our last day thru Washington DC, around Baltimore and WIlmington and thru the center of Philadlephia will happen on a Saturday, thus avoiding the otherwise awful commuter traffic.

 

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April 28 – Solomon’s Castle

On the recommendation of Max Rodriguez, a really good friend and one of our morning walking buddies, we took a trip to Solomon's Castle today,

located about as far off a major highway as you can get in Florida.

The bearded stranger arrived in the Hardee County hinterlands in 1972, his life's work packed into three moving vans. The cattle ranchers and citrus farmers didn't know what to make of him at first. Painfully thin with fidgety hands, the man told jokes like he was Henny Youngman and Milton Berle combined. He was Jewish and from New York. The natives wondered about his intentions. Rumors swirled.

"Howard was different," says Dean Murphy, who was a boy living nearby when Howard Solomon arrived 42 years ago. "Before, it was all farmers and ranchers, redneck types. And here comes Howard, an artist with a totally different way of life. People had all kinds of off-the-wall theories about him. They wanted to know what he was doing."

Solomon had been living in the Bahamas. A friend told him about Hardee County because it had everything that Solomon wanted: Warm weather, open spaces and cheap land. He set up shop on the edge of a swamp and began building a house with his own hands.

With constant tinkering, it grew into the 12,000 sq.ft. Solomon's Castle and has become a roadside attraction near the town of Ona, about 50 miles east of Bradenton. The castle is covered in a shiny skin of repurposed aluminum printing plates, pressed to look like chiseled stone.

The broad, sweeping brick walkway that leads to it is impressive,

until you discover that the "bricks" have simply been painted on poured cement. He made a crude, handmade stamp; the whole process only took a couple of hours. The "tiles" on the interior floor were made in the same manner.

Whereas other men fight and die for their castles, Howard Solomon fights to keep from laughing at it.

A Bed of Flowers

The structure features multiple towers and turrets, a dungeon, a drawbridge, a lighthouse and a wide moat, where Solomon has built a 65-foot-long replica of a Spanish galleon.

The ship's interior houses the Boat in the Moat, a restaurant run by his daughter Alane and her husband, Dean – the same Dean who, in 1972, was a boy when Solomon came to town.

Framing the entrance are two suits of armor, one black and one white, representing

"Knight Light"  (Day)

"Night Knight"  (Night)

The castle is packed with decades of Solomon's uncategorizable art: Unfortunately, pictures are not allowed inside the castle so the following interior pictures werre lifted from the Internet.  Is is worth noting that all of the items were made from "repurposed" discarded items. 

Howard had a great sense of humor. Not only are the titles of many of his works very funny; but the narrative that goes along with the tour, most of which came from Howard himself, is filled with one pun after another and jokes galore.If you visit one of the short You Tube videos

you can get a first hand vies of the inside of the castle and hear some of the clever descriptions (admittedly, like with all puns, some will make you smile while others may elicit a groan)

Note (above) the wooden relief reproductions of several Picasso paintings

Above animals made with discaraded wire coat hangers

Lion copied from a statue

Chair made from over 80 "empty" beer cans

Howard's work includes several three-dimensional recreations of Norman Rockwell's art. The photo below shows Howard's rendition of Rockwell's cover from the July 8, 1939 Saturday Evening Post entitled "100 Years of Baseball."

A tractor made from an old gasoline jerry can. The fenders are made from a frying pan cut in half.

A Woman with motorcycle chains as hair, pieces of exhaust pipe for arms, and an automobile differential cover as a hat.

After a friend gave Solomon a large chandellier, and finding no place in the castle to hang it, he built a six-sided foyer with a vaulted ceiling

then added two large stain-glass windows

and a three-sided entrance door

Stained-glass window in the kitchen

Living and dining room

With a collection of vintage cameras on the sill, Howard Solomon called this his "Picture Window"

There is a sculpture of a rhinoceros made from five oil drums; carved reliefs based on various masterworks, such as Pablo Picasso's Woman in a Hat; all manner of wooden gnomes based on puns (the "gnome on the range" model, for example, sits on a kitchen stove); objects fashioned from rusty brake shoes, old gears, lawnmower parts and other junkyard debris.

"The common thread of my art," he said "is I have to keep my hands busy."

Physical labor, for him, has been therapeutic. His wife died soon after he moved to Hardee County – he has since remarried four times – and his work on the castle helped him cope. After a first heart surgery, he rebuilt his strength and stamina by building the galleon. Ten years later, after a second heart surgery, he came home and built a four-story lighthouse.

For Solomon, the connection between creating and well-being has existed since he was a child. School was excruciating. He just wanted to make things. His second-grade teacher informed his mother that he was retarded. He moved to a different school, but it didn't matter. He wasn't mentally handicapped. Just bored.

"I was expelled from high school in the 10th grade, and the punishment was they sent me to an industrial school," he says. "That was a lucky break. I learned to be a machinist and a draftsman. I learned about woodworking and sheet metal. But before I graduated, they expelled me because my true calling was being a comedian, and nobody recognized that but me."

There is even humor at the

Throughout the castle are some 80 stained-glass windows, all of which Solomon made himself.

There is a series depicting nursury rhymes … can you figure them out?

The nine planets

The twelve signs of the Zodiac

The Nina and the Pinta

Because Howard bought the antique pre-1935 (the year he was born) vehicles

as an investment and because he was so busy creating all his sculptures, he didn't have time to restore or tinker with them. Therefore, they all had to be in reasonably good condition and not require any further restoration, and they all had to run.

One limited edition Model T in the collection (prodcution no. 11) is identical to another (production no. 19) allegedly sold for a staggering $4.5 million!

Most of the works in the second building are transportation related. The following photo shows Howard's last work completed just before he passed. It is a train engine whose boiler is covered with old, copper printed circuits.

Around the property, there is a short nature trail along a river

and many flowers.

Adjacent to the Solomon Caltle property is a pasture which puts to rest the contention that cows, ponioes.donkeys, horses and other farm animals cannot co-exist in the same pasture.

The long drive through mostly cattle country drive was well-worth it …. other than it is currently "love bug" mating season.  By the time we got home, the front of our car had removed several hundred copulating paris from the gene pool!

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April 26 – A Surprisingly Busy Week – Remembering Ken Grenier – Visiting Family and Friends

Late last week, I received a text from Ken's daughter, Kim, who sent a picture she'd run across of he and I taken early last winter.  As it is the last photograph of the two of us, I will treasure it always!

Together with three friends of Kens, we'd planned a memorial round of golf at Mission Valley Country Club, the course where Ken played his last round of golf, on his 75th birthday, Friday, April 19th.  Unfortunately, inclement weather

forced us to postpone our golf date until Saturday.

(l to r) Dick Newbert, Jim DeCarlo, Don Haviland and Tom Briggs

On one hole, we had a resident spectator just off the fairway.

Perhaps Ken was watching us and helping me to my second best round in more than a year. 

Now, another "What is it?" quiz.  This is a common item you'veno doubt seen.

See below for the answer

 

Over this past weekend, we received two pictures, the first from Doug who was surprised when Ben arrived home from college for the day.

(l to r)  sister Calleigh, Ben and brother, Will

The second was from Scott who is spending his kids' spring vacation at Hilton Head.

(l to r)  Sean, Krista, Scott and Kira

Sunday evening we went to Siesta Beach for the weekly Drum Circle.

Some people dancing or gyrating in the "circle" clearly want to be noticed

What some girls can do with hula hoops never ceases to amaze us

This guy is a "regular"

While still entertaining, perhaps as it is past the winter season and school spring breaks, it was a bit less entertaining than in past years,

With clear skies, we knew this evening sunset would be something short of colorful and therefore headed home for a glass of wine before the sun dropped below the horizon.

This past Tuesday, we visited with my cousin Chris and wife Melanie

at their beautiful ranch in Reddick, in the heart of Florida's "horse country".

Yesterday, we took another road trip north, this time to Dade City to visit with John and Leslie Wilhelm,

one of the wonderful RV couples we caravned with to Alaska in 2011 and with whom we have stayed in regular touch since then. 

Sadly today, we also learned that another of our caravan friends, Dave Normingotn, whom we were hoping to see in June, has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and is facing surgery.  We all wish him a speedy and full recovery!

Returning from lunch at a local Italian restaurant, we stopped at the Spring Lake Community Center,

a 80 year old building which was built in 1939 by the WPA (Works Progress Administration) from materials in the local Spring Lake area, the building originally served as a community center and cafeteria for the Spring Lake School. The school was closed in 1967 and used as a storage facility until 1999. Many of the descendants of the founding families still live in the Spring Lake area today. It was designated a National Historical Site on October 20, 2009.

Then situated on a barren hill just off the road

Internet photo

stood the impressive Most Holy Trinity Seminary complex.

Gateway to the Inner Courtyard

After a little research we discovered it was organized as a rebellious center for the training of Roman Catholic priests according to pre-Vatican II standards. The sole motive of its foundation and purpose of its functioning is to preserve the Roman Catholic priesthood, not only with regard to the validity of Holy Orders, but also with regard to the orthodoxy and proper training of Roman Catholic priests. The need for such a seminary is dictated by the doctrinal, liturgical, and disciplinary devastation which has been wrought in countless souls as a direct result of Vatican II and its subsequent changes.

The Seminary professes that Vatican II and the doctrinal, disciplinary and liturgical reforms which have proceeded from it are substantial alterations of the Catholic Faith. It professes that these heretical, evil, and blasphemous reforms can in no way proceed from the Roman Catholic Church, since she is infallible in her doctrines, her disciplines, and her liturgical worship. The Seminary therefore professes that the members of the Novus Ordo hierarchy (including and especially the Vatican II “popes”), despite any and all appearances of authority, are not true Catholic popes nor true Catholic bishops, and do not possess the authority to rule, for they are the authors of the doctrinal, disciplinary and liturgical abominations which have invaded our holy places. The Seminary professes that they are false shepherds, and ought to be denounced as such.

The Seminary proposes, as the solution to the aberrations of Vatican II, the complete rejection of this council as a false council, including its decrees and enactments. The Second Vatican Council manifested itself to be a false council, and devoid of the assistance of the Holy Ghost, by the fact that it promulgated doctrines which were previously condemned by the Church. The heretical nature of this council is confirmed by (1) the doctrinal interpretation given to Vatican II by Paul VI and his successors in their decrees, encyclicals, catechisms, etc.; (2) the series of abominations perpetrated by Paul VI and his successors against the First Commandment of God, in the form of ecumenical ceremonies which constitute false worship, even to pagan deities in some cases; (3) the alteration of the Sacred Liturgy in such a way that the Catholic Mass has been replaced by a Protestant supper service; (4) the tampering with the matter and form of the sacraments so that many of them, but most notably the Holy Eucharist and Holy Orders, labor under doubt or invalidity; (5) the promulgation of disciplines, especially the 1983 Code of Canon Law and the Ecumenical Directory, which approve of sacrilege against the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Matrimony, and which demonstrate heresies concerning the unity of the Church as their theoretical basis; (6) the scandalous mockery made of the Sacrament of Matrimony by the granting of annulments for spurious reasons, constituting an abandonment of the sacred doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage; (7) the fact that Paul VI and his successors are in communion with manifest heretics, have openly declared themselves to be in communion with non-Catholic sects, and have recognized an apostolic mission in schismatic and heretical bishops, all of which destroys the unity of faith.

Our traffic on rush hour trip home was better than we'd aticipated … until we got stuck in traffic backed up

from a car fire.

Over the course of the past two days, I have had a chance to "shoot" several species of aquatic birds.  The first was a gourp of four very young (they are still unable to fly as their wings have not yet developed) Pekin Ducks.

The Pekin or White Pekin is an American breed of domestic duck derives from birds brought to the United States from China in the nineteenth century, and is now bred in many countries, and in all continents.

Today,I took another early morning trip to the Celery Fields.

Here I was able to observe several dozen types of birds, including:

Great Blue Herons

Purple Gallinules

Rosette Spoonbills

Blue Herons

Baby Boat-tailed Grackles

Great Egrets

As each day passes, more and more people are leaving for their homes across the eastern US and Canada.  Just this morning, Daniel and Traci, headed for Georgia and ultimately Indianapolis.  The good news, however, is nearly all of our old and new Sun N Fun friends will be back in 2020!

We'll begin our meandering trek north toward Pennsylvania a week from Sunday, May 5th.

Now, did you figure out what the photo quiz was?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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April 19 – The Sailor Circus … “The Greatest Little Show on Earth”

The clear highlight of this past week was our trip to last evening's opening night of the Sailor Circus

with new RV friends from Sun N Fun, Traci and Daniel Wray.

in its new $4.35 million arena.

Celebrating its 70th year and nicknamed “The Greatest Little Show on Earth”, the show featured sixty students (aged 8 to 18) in various stages of training, including just six high school seniors, who have spent years training in the circus arts. 

Sarasota High School got its nickname as the “Sailors” because its athletic teams used to travel by boat to compete against other schools up and down the Gulf Cost.  The circus started in 1949 as a gymnastics class at the school and its history was celebrated in a 1952 documentary short film that was shown in theaters across the country.

Today, the Sailor Circus is the longest-running youth circus in the country, with students training in over 30 circus arts disciplines.  It is considered a sport for students between 4th and 12th grade in Sarasota County schools who train 20-30 hours per week. 

Past editions of the circus have appeared across the country, including on the National Mall in Washington DC, and in several international venues.

The instructors boast a host of well-known performing circus professionals … and graduates have worked for such top aerialists as Nik Wallenda and others look forward to performing with Circus de Soleil.

The music accompanying each act covered the curcus' seven decades since its fonuding.

As you scan through the following pictures, it is important to remember, as we had to during the performance, these athletes are school-aged children! 

 

As each of the acts, without exception, were carried out with near perfect precision.  Again, it was easy to forget these performers were not professional but teens and pre-tens!

 

 

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April 17 – Naples to Visit Wendy Manley

Yesterday we drove to Naples to visit with Debbie's close and long-time friend, Wendy Manley and her friend Brian. 

Debbie rode shotgun in my cart while Wendy, Brian and I played a round of golf at the Esplanade course under a near cloudless sky and 80o temmperatures.  Great dinner of lamb chops and wine capped a great day.  We stayed overnight and drove home late this morning.

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April 14 – Myakka State Park – Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

With scheduled activities winding down here at Sun N Fun, we are increasingly on our own for the balance of the month to do some things time has now permitted over the winter.

Earlier this past week, we revisited Myakka River State Park.

Prior to 1850, the Myakka River was the Asternal River on English maps. A Seminole Indian reportedly told a surveyor in the 1850s that the name of the river was "Myakka." The translation of the word Myakka is unknown.

Between the 1850s and the 1930s, cattle grazed on dry prairie: a vast land of grasses, forbs, palmetto, and other low shrubs with thousands of scattered wetlands. In 1910, Bertha Palmer, a progressive business woman from Chicago, came to Sarasota and bought a vast amount of land. A few years later, she purchased acreage farther inland than her initial real estate purchases and tried her hand at cattle and swine ranching. Meadow Sweet Pastures was located very near the Myakka River, where she introduced fencing and dip vats to Florida ranching. In 1918, Mrs. Palmer passed away.

Shortly after, the Great Depression struck America. President Roosevelt signed into law the New Deal, a government program intended to boost the economy and spirit of the American population during these dark years. One program funded was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Over 17,000 acres of the Palmer estate was purchased by the Florida government to develop Myakka River State Park. Myakka is one of 8 Florida state parks developed by the CCC during the 1930s.

The entrance road into the park winds its way through a tunnel of mostly live oak, many draped with Spanish Moss. 

Despite its name, Spanish moss is not a moss but a bromeliad—a perennial herb in the pineapple family.  Most bromeliads, including Spanish moss, are epiphytes. Epiphytes grow on other plants, but do not rely on them for nutrients. They take nutrients from the air and debris that collects on the plant. Spanish moss has permeable scales that “catch” moisture and nutrients.  Spanish moss was given its name by French explorers. Native Americans told them the plant was called Itla-okla, which meant “tree hair.” The French were reminded of the Spanish conquistadors' long beards, so they called it Barbe Espagnol, or “Spanish Beard.”

We took a poontoon boat ride

out on the lake

but the sightings of alligators was minimal as it was extremely windy which kept the gators mostly hidden from view, with only occasional glimpses of their eyes and noses.

However, there were other sightings including hundreds of vultures,

Great  Blue Herons.

Egrets,

Killdeer,

and a Rosette Spoonbill.

The lake is also a playgournd for fishermen, both traditional

and net casters.

From the lake we could see stands of cabbage palms (note the dark lines at the base of the trees which represent how high the water gets during the summer rainy season.  The staining is caused by the heavy concentration of tannin in the water).

In the distance, we saw the smoke from the controlled buring which was taking place in the north end of the park.

We then took a "train" ride

through the uplands areas of the park.

Although much of the park's areas were once cattle pastures, only around 100 acres still reamin open.


Today, most of the park is covered with live oak and a variety of species of plams … there is only one small area where pines grow.

In some areas evidence for prior controlled buring was apparent..  It was interesting that many of the trees which show signs of buring at the base were very much alive above where the flames had apparently reached.

It was on this excursion that we got our first real look at an alligator

as well as many deer,

wild turkeys,

red shoulder hawks

and even wild pigs

which they try to trap our as they are an invasive animal which can do considerable damage to the forest floor.

 

This afternoon, we joined Debbie's brother Dick and wife Kate at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens where The Hydramatic,

a local band playing soul, funk and R&B with a unique style and arangements all their own was performing for several hundred in attendance..

We parked ourselves in a open gazebo about 100 yards away from the performers but close to beautiful views overlooking Sarasota Bay.

As during past visits to the gardens, we were able to enjoy the diversity of flowers, trees, cactus and other flora.

While a relatively tame location, we did spot some wildlife.

Anole

Tri-colored Heroon

Gulls soaring over the Bay

Black racer snake

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April 10 – Dinner with Sandy and Jeff

This evening, we had dinner wit Sandy and Jeff

at a great and intimate German restaurant

 

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