Peace River Botanical and Sculpture Gardens

This afternoon we visited the Peace River Botanical and Sculpture Gardens in Punta Gorda, a little over an hour south of Sarasota. 

Roger, a 1963 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and retired CEO and Chairman of the Board of McDermott International, one of the world’s largest off-shore oil companies, which also, at the time, was the parent of the Babcock and Wilcox Companies, and Linda Tetrault began with 27 acres of uplands and wetlands. They conceived the idea of creating botanical gardens with world-class sculptures and an art gallery, while still preserving the natural environment and formed the Tetrault Family Foundation to fund and develop this project.  In doing so, this foundation will be providing the people of Charlotte County Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens.

As the facility opened just six months ago, many of the botanical plantings have not yet matured.  

Staghorn Fern

Staghorn Fern Leaves

Spinich Plant  (edible flowering plant in the family Amaranthaceae native to central and western Asia. Its leaves are eaten as a vegetable when cooked.)

Ponytail Palm  (a member of the lily family, it has a unique feature in the swollen base of the trunk, which is where it stores a reserve of water making it highly tolerant to drought. The texture of the trunk looks and feels like an elephant’s foot from which  clusters of long strap-like leaves arch and droop gracefully from the trunk giving the impression of a  tropical palm.)

Pineapple Plant



Julie's Pride Hibiscus

Fashion Star Hibiscus

Caijun Maiden Hibiscus

Cathedral Oak  (a variety of Live Oak, prevelant throughout the Southeastern United States)

Leaves of the Cathedral Oak are more like those of a Jade plant than those of the broadleaf oaks we are used to in the Northeast

Barbara Krast Bougainvillea

Banana Tree

Immature Bananas

African Iris

A wide variety of palms

However, the sculptures are magnificient, expecially those depicting people which look so life-like.

"Fluer"  –  A 9-foot stainless steel fountain with water spilling over the top edge

"Tree Trellises"  –  Each of these three rebar sculptures stands 20-foot tall, has a 22’-foot diameter canope at the top and is planted with a different color of climbing bougainvillea.

"The Wave"

"Yellow Andy" Worhol

"The Ostriches"  –  Originally a computer-generated, graphic design, the Metropolitan Ostriches first took physical shape when an Italian government official decided they would be interesting placed among the cypress trees in Chianti Sculpture Park. The graphic design was created in aluminum and then painted. They have been seen in Pievasciata, Province of Siena, Tuscany, Italy – and are now at their permanent home, greeting guests, here at Peace River Botanical Gardens

"Glass Fronds"  –  Composed ot plate glass, anodized  aluminum and stainless steel, these 13-foot high and 6-foot wide scuplurte presently resides on the Tetrault's private residence .

which is slated to become the home of the Peace River Gardens' Art Museum

"Keel"  –  Constructed of 23 individually scuplted lava rocks.  Despite one of its components weighing over 5,000 pounds, it is located in a patch of upland marsh.

"The Thinker"  –   Its design was suggested by August Rodin’s “Thinker” but made more contemporary by clothing him in casual jeans, running shoes and a ball cap. The original Rodin is a nude.  The stone table top and cube benches are rough cut Carrara marble, from a quarry in Tuscany, selected by the artist. These sculptures are a lovely invitation for guests to sit and take in the scenery.

"Rondelet"  –  A highly polished aluminum kinetic sculpture with circular forms that shine, spin and oscillate in even a very light breeze … reflection nature all around it.

"Steel Palm"  –  The Garden's signature sculpture was designed in 2010 and fabricated and installed in 2012. The primary material is COR-TEN® steel, which is intended to rust to a patina over many years of weathering in the sea air. The base and lightning electrical grounding are covered with river stones.  The sculpture is eighteen feet tall and is positioned at the highest point in the Sculpture Garden.

It's design was taken from a 50-million-year-old stone palm frond fossil.

This enables visitors to gain different perspectives as they approach it from different directions and distances.

There are two specific locations (directly in front or in back of the sculpture) from which its individual components perfectly align to appear as if a singular piece of sculpture, rather than being comprised of fourteen stem-and-blade components  … ranging from 1,200 to 2,200 pounds each … independently mounted one behind the other.

Amazingly, these blades move even in light breezes.

"Man in Red"

"Next Summer"  –  A life-like bronze and steel structure located in the lower pond.

"New York City Slicker"  –  Sculpted in bronze and stainless steel, this piece appears to float in the upper pond.

"Monument of Fire and Harmony"

"Bibi on the Ball

Intersperced are large, realistic paintings of native flowers.

Yellow Bougainvillea

Variegated Ginger

Bottle Brsh

White Magnolia

Near the Garden Community Center building

there is a nature pond

where a few water lilies are beginning to bloom.

There are also two boardwalks over dense marsh area, one takes you to the future Art Museum area and the other

out to a gazebo on the Peace River.

where you can sit in almost complete silence!

One thing we noticed was the absence of birds other than a single Mockingbird.

While we really enjoyed our visit, in a few years when the flora has had a chance to mature and the gardens have been expanded and art museum opened, this will be a "must do" place to return to!

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Chris and Melanie – End of Sailing Season

Over the past couple of weeks, many of teh winter's activities have been winding down as people slowly begin their migration back to their homes to the north.  My radio-controlled sailboat racing has been among the casualties with our last races this past Sunday.

Aside from spending time with Ken and Cheryl, we have had a chance to get together with cousins Sandy & husband Jeff,

who has been recovering from knee surgery and Chris and wife Melanie who ventured down to Sarasota yesterday from their home in Reddick, FL.

Some facial treatments to address far more sun damage to my face than I'd imagined has kept me off the golf course for the better part of the past two weeks.  However, with friends Tom Briggs and Jim DeCarlo, we played at Lakewood National today … at least until the heavens opened up dumping the most rain we've seen in some two months.  However, it did give me a change to test out a golf tee my gransdon Jake

had carved especially for me.

Also heard that grandson Ben, a freshman at Bloomsburg University,

slammed his first Collegiate home run this past weekend!



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Royal Lipizzaner Stallions – Corvettes – Polo – Recent “Doings”

A quick factoid … this past Thursday was our  1,200th day of RVing … in just shy of 80,000 miles we have traveled to 49 states (no tunnels or bridges available for driving to Hawaii) and 10 of the 14 Canadian provinces/terrirtories.  We've been privleged to reconnect with friends and family across North America; visit so many famous and iconic states, provincial and national parks; experience interesting places and sites most people have never heard of; try activities we'd never previously attempted; and meet so many wonderful and remarkable people.

Without question, there is no better or cost-effective way to truly see and experience our country than with and RV!

For the past several weeks, we've enjoyed warm and sunny, but windier than normal, weather.  While we both walk "with the ladies" when we've nothng on the morning's docket, Debbie continues her "classical stretch", yoga, water aerobics and various line dancing classes.  I have played a great deal of golf, tried lawn bowling, and continue Sunday afternoon radio-controlled sailboat racing.

I have also had opportunites to be the "offical" photographer for a choral group's performance here at Sun N Fun

and to "shoot" a 50th anniversary celebration at Bahia Vista Estates, a community owned by the same company as Sun N Fun and where our best friends, Ken and Cheryl, live during their winter months in Sarasota, at which six coples were recognized.

Unfortunately, Ken broke his arm playing golf last week, requiring surgery and the insertion of a rod in his upper arm.  We joined Cheryl during her wait while Ken was in surgery and recovery.  When we finally got to see him, Ken looked amazingly good, albeit a bit still out-of it due to the anesthetic which hadn't worn off.  The loving wife she is, Cheryl helped him finally get some food

to which one of his good friends remarket, "Milk it for all you can!".

Yesterday, Debbie had lunch with daughter-in-law, Krista's mother, Karen … where she was reminded about the Royal Lipizzan Stallion shows just 15 miles from us.  Checking online, we discovered that there was a training session open to the pubic on today.

Founded in the 16th century for the exclusive use of the Hapsburg Royal family of Austria, the Royal Lipizzan's are unquestionably the rarest, most aristocratic breed of horses in the world. The pride of the Hapsburg Empire, the Lipizzan breed was first established by Archduke Charles at Lipizza (now part of Yugoslavia).

 Only a few hundred have ever existed at any one time. Indeed, it is a contemporary miracle of sorts that this precious bloodline is not extinct, having barely been saved by General George Patton from the Russian advance during World War II. The Lipizzan's celebrated escape was recounted in the Walt Disney movie
Assisting Patton in the clandestine mission to rescue the regal Lipizzan's, Colonel Herrmann and his father, Colonel Ottomar Herrmann, Sr., smuggled the horses out from far behind enemy lines, riding at night and hiding by day. "We moved out into the night with nothing," recalled Herrmann, "only a handful of horses". The Lipizzans' they saved under the protection granted by Patton, were "more precious than jewels", he declared.
Colonel Herrmann, joined by two subsequent generations of Herrmann's, created an American renaissance of classical equitation's. His family maintains a 200 acre ranch in Florida to ensure the propagation of this extraordinary breed.
 All Airs Above the Ground, originally outlined by Xenophon the Greek, derive from defensive horsemanship created for war and predated-dated the birth of Christ by some 400 years. These spectacular leaps and plunges were originally meant for use by mounted riders to inspire terror in the hearts of foot soldiers.
That this nearly lost art remains alive, is due in very large part, to the commitment of Colonel Herrmann, scion of the Herrmann family, and historically among the world's greatest trainers of this rare breed. In a lively and informative narrative throughout the presentation of his remarkable stallions, the history, evolution and contemporary application of this most sophisticated horse and rider training is recounted. It is repeatedly noted that extreme patience and, most particularly, love are the requisites to such highly schooled animals. Herrmann epitomized the master of classical European equitation.
Today his family
(l to r) his daughter (Gabriella), great-grandaughter (Chloe)  and granddaughter (Rachelle)
carries on Col. Hermann's tradition.
The show is excellent and the Gabriella's commentary provided context to the history of the ranch and information on the horses they train and, in some cases, rescued.
The show opens with the parade of the colors and crowd singing our National Anthem
Chloe with the Shetland she has been training
These horses use rear kicks in fighting
Chloe's shetland
Shetland rescued from the circus … now 40 years old
Normally, foals are born a dark color which changes over time to the white color typical associated with the breeds
Two year old stallion whose coat will not change to white
Two mares … the one Rachel is riding will not chang her color to white
Once their horses are no longer able to perform, they are able to live a life of equine lunuxry for the rest of their days at the ranch
The Corvette Club of Venice (FL) held a rally at the Lizzipan Ranch this morning. 
The cars ranged from some of the earliest models
up through a 2016 version.
We also noticed that the Corvette logo has changed over the years.
Having packed a lunch, we looked for a place to eat after leaving the horse ranch … and found it at the Lakewood Racnh polo fields.  Unfortunately, the game was in the final "chucker" and the play at the far end of the field.
We hope to get back another Saturday and watch and try to learn .about the game.
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Skippering a Radio-controlled One-Meter Model Sailboat

Today I had the opportunity to skipper a one-meter radio-controlled model sailboat.  These are one-class boats … meaning that their length, height, keel length and weight, maximum sail area and many other measurements are the same for all boats. 

They are radio-controlled … with the hand-held controller operating two servos in the boat to control the rudder and sails.

One of the sailing "regulars" gracioulsy had offered me the use of one of his two boats for the afternoon

The field included eight boats … with me being the only novice skipper. 

While I was consistently very successful in being one of the first boats across the starting line when the horn went off,

I most often found myself falling behind by the time we rounded the first marker.

While I'd like to blame the BOAT, the problem was the SKIPPER who all too often pushed the rudder contorller joy stick to the right when he wanted to trun left, and visa versa, and also had no sense that a gentle touch on the joy stick was far more effective than the gorilla-touch I was employing.  As a result, I found myself often going in cicrles or sailing far off the course causing me to loose time I would never be able to make up.

The net result were four last place finishes, long after all of the other boats were across the finish line!

Then the owner of the boat I was using took the controls and began to muse about whether the rigging was properly set.  At the same time, another gentleman offered to let me try his [yellow] boat.

The results for the two races using the yellow boat were a FIRST and a THIRD.

Afterwards, several people suspected that the boat I was originally using was not properly balanced, causing part of the problems I was having.  However, it also took me several races before I began to get a feel for just how sensitive the rudder joy stick was and to remember which way to push it to make the boat turn in the desired direction. 

As a dear friend told me when playing golf, "Remember, it's the Indian not the Arrow!"

I am looking forwrad to sailing again next Sunday!










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Model Sailboat Racing

Having sailed for most of the first 50 years of my life … owning six different sailboat, sailing in college and bareboating in the Caribbean … , I was intrigued by the Sunday afternoon model sailboat races held on Sun N Fun's Lake Ibis.  While there are apparently many classes, today's races were for identical, 1-meter (10 lbs.) boats… modeled after America Cup boats of the past.

The boats are controlled by a unit which looks not too dissimilar to those used for computer games.  The right-hand joy stick controls the sails while the left controlls the rudder.

Regular sailiing rules apply, with boats jockying for the most favorable posiiton

to enable them to cross the start line as quickly after the countdown reaches zero.

Then, like any other sailboat race, they must navigate upwind, crosswind and downwind legs, in this case aound four buoys forming a rectangular course, and try to cross the finish line ahead of their comeptitors.

I have been invited to partipate in next Sunday's races and am already looking forward to it.




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Marietta Museum of Art & Whimsy

This afternoon, we visisted Sarasota's Marietta Museum of Art & Whimsy,

where an eclectic collection of paintings, stain-glass, sculpture, unusual wooden furniture and other art is on display.

The only disappointment is that 35mm and other cameras … other than cell phone cameras … are prohibited, making taking pictures in often highly contrast lightting a challenge.

Marietta Lee,

Founder, Curator and President of Marietta Museum of Art & Whimsy, Inc. began her education in Kentucky with an Associate of Science in Nursing and Emergency Medical Care, followed many years later, by a Master of Science in nursing from the University of South Florida. She loved helping people and the excitement of Emergency Room nursing as well as being an RN/EMT/Paramedic.  One dark night, while volunteering for the Jessamine County Rescue Squad in Kentucky, she and her partner were called to the scene of a small airplane crash. All 5 people were dead. There was no one to assist. It changed her life forever. The next day, as she scratched out shadows and images of the plane crash, she soon felt her spirits lift.  At age 32, she found a whole new direction in life through the process of making art.

She earned a Bachelor of Art from Eastern Kentucky University in 1981, moved to Florida in 1984, and earned a Bachelor of Fine Art from Ringling College of Art & Design in 1991. As a student, she visited many renown art museums and soon realized that women's artwork and humorous art were under represented. It just didn't seem fair. "If I could change one thing in my lifetime, this would be it!"  The seeds of change were planted.

She loved going to outdoor art shows and discovered a variety of American artists with fresh, colorful, creative and upbeat ideas. There was a sense of freedom and pride in their work.  They were true small business entrepreneurs. An artist herself, Ms. Lee, thought it would be fun someday to bring all these people together to display their work for everyone to see.

Family tragedy struck in 1994 when her father had a stroke. She spent the next 10 years involved with her parent's medical care. During this emotionally difficult time, she realized how important it was to get a short respite of 1 or 2 hours, looking at plants, talking with friends, and visiting museums to continue this care. It was also apparent that many of her Baby Boomer friends were tackling these same issues. We all have parents.  By 2004, both Mom and Dad passed.

In 2006, Marietta Lee founded the Marietta Museum of Art & Whimsy, Inc. named in honor of her Mother, Grandmother, and Niece. At first, it was a non profit, private operating foundation in Connecticut. The museum immediately began collecting artwork.  However, it was difficult to find a location for the museum in her old hometown of Guilford, Connecticut.  So, she turned her attention back to Sarasota where she still maintained a residence and knew so well of its diverse cultural appeal and reputation as an art friendly community.
Within a short time, in 2008, she purchased the present Museum site in Florida. In 2009, she returned to Florida as a full time resident and founded the (Florida) Marietta Museum of Art & Whimsy, Inc., transferred all museum assets from the Connecticut organization to the Florida organization, and terminated the Connecticut organization. She then began work on a huge remodel of the Sarasota Museum site including the wonderful gardens.
When she began this  museum, she was thinking of Baby Boomers but it also quickly became a Grandparent Museum! Not specifically a children's museum, but a great place for grandparents and parents to teach their children about museums.  A place to enrich our lives with all the colors and sensations of art.  

"Initially, I wanted to create a friendly environment where people, especially adults, could relax and forget their problems even if only for a brief moment, to slow down, smell the roses, and enjoy the present."  It has become a Smiley Place.

As you exit your car in th eparking lot, you are confronted with some of the excellent, entertaining and brightly painted sculptures …

which then continues as you near the museum building.

Once inside the museum … whose collection is predominatly from local artists … is changed every summer.

Even the Men's

and Ladie's rooms are decorated.

Among the hundreds of items on display, there was only one with a political bent … a urinal high on the wall in the Men's room with a photo of Jane Fonda's Hanoi Jane" picture serving as a target.

The interior patio and garden area was also filled with more fun and interesting sculptures.

Little Jack Horner


An incredibly carved wooden loveseat made from a single piece of natural wood

Two surprisingly comfortable benches made of welded horseshoes

And, even American Nauturalist William Beebe's original Bathysphere

Walls:                            1” thick Cast Steel

Window:                      3” thick Fused Quartz

Weight:                        2.25 tons

Entrance Hatch:        400 lbs.

Cable Length:            3,000 feet

Cable Weight:            1.35 tons

Period orf Use:         1930-34

Deepest Descent:      3,028 feet in  1934  (a depth record not broken until 1949)

There is no way anyone could get either of us in this device … even when welded to a permanent stand!

While we have no "bucket list" we are continually amazed about the number of things to do and places to visit just in west central Florida.

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A Neal Diamond Tribute by Keith Allynn

This eveing we joined Ken and Cheryl at their community's pot luck dinner and entertainment, Keith Allynn's "A Neal Diamond Tribute".

Keith Allynn has entertained audiences for over 23 years.

At the tender age of 14 he began his career in a stand-up comedy crowd warming up for such acts as Robin Williams, Chris Rock and Tim Allen.

At age 21 he discovered his musical talents performing an Elvis song at karaoke. The crowd went crazy and Keith was hooked! Soon he became an Elvis Tribute Artist where he performed and competed for several years. In 2004 he was voted on by Graceland as being a top 10 Elvis Tribute Artist in the World.

Later wanting to impress a girl who loved Neil Diamond, Keith called her on the phone and in his best Neil voice sang her “Hello Again” from the “Jazz Singer”. That became her song, she became his wife and he became The Diamond Image.  Featured recently in the documentary film, Diamond Mountain, Keith’s success as a Neil Diamond Tribute artist continues to soar, with multiple Branson Show Award titles including Tribute Artist and Tribute Show of the Year, multiple Trip Advisor certificates, and bookings coast to coast,  all while performing Tuesday through Friday  in Branson, MO March through December.

While not necessarily a Neal Diamond fan, Keith's renditions were excellent while his humor and rapport with the audience made for an outstanding evening.

He explained the reason he is always willing to pose for photos is to ensure that people don't end up posting pictures of him with his mouth gaping or his eyes shut.


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Annual Sun N Fun 50th Anniversary Luncheon

Each year, Sun N Fun, our winter home in Sarasota, hosts a wonderful complementary luncheon for all couples who have or will be celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary that year …

This year, there were 224 couples attending who were married 32 differenct states and several Canadian provinces and who have 222 children, 214 grandchildren and 55 great-grandchildren.

Thirty-seven couples have or will celebrate their 60th anniversary this year … with one couple having been married in 1951 when I was 9 and Debbie was just 5! 

After a delicious lunch we were entertained by very-talented Charlie Romo, a 21-year old singer from New York, who sang many songs from the 50s and did excellent renditions of Bobby Darin and Tony Bennett.

For us it's now 51½-plus … and counting!

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Florida Championship Hydrocross Jet Ski and Formula-2 Powerboat Races

After the Sun N Fun Homecoming Parade and lunch, we headed to the Bradenton waterfront along the Manatee River with Ken and Cheryl and Joe and Jeanne (friends from our 2011 Alaska RV caravan)

to watch the finals of the Florida Championship Hydrocross Jet Ski and Formula-2 powerboat races.

This was a new experience for all six of us as we'd never seen them other than on television.

First were the jet ski races where the qualifers accelerated to more than 70 mph along the straightaways.

The winner had jumped out to a big lead and was never threatened

Then came the Formula-2 powerboats whose speeds on the straightaways of the rectangular course exceeded 120 mph.

The Quallifiers

Unfortunately, one of the boats had a mechanical breakdown and couldn't compete

As in competitive crew racing, the boats are held at a dock until the moment the starter's gun sounds to ensure a fair start.

Once the gun went off it was an all out sprint

to the first buoy.

By then, the white No. 2 boat had taken an early lead …

while the other boats tried desparately to catch up …

but to no avail as the white boat soon began to lap several of its competitors

and ended up crossing the finish line and taking the checkered flag well ahead of any other boat.

Aside from the race, my fascination with people-watching and recording their poingnet moments continued unabated.

    Uncle Sam

A young girl with her dog

A Disabled Navy Vietnam Veteran

Long hair …front and back

Two young girls timidly petting police horses

and my favorite

A dad carrying his tired daughter

All in all … a great day later capped off by another glorious sunset.

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Sun N Fun’s Answer to the Macy’s and Rose Bowl Parades

Each year Sun N Fun, our winter campground in Sarasota, schedules a "Homecoming Parade" in early February.  Groups (i.e., the PIckleballers, Tennis Players, Theater Players, Woodshop, Veterans, etc;) and even individuals get together and decide on a theme … as corporations and cities do for major national parades in which they participate.  As golf carts are the most popular mode of transportaiton around Sun N Fun, they are often decorated and become the centerpieces of group "floats".

In the past, we've missed this event so made a point of sitting accross from the park's Lake Ibis

along the parade route … and by invitation at the home of one of the women I (just one of two men) walks with several mornings a week

Our lovely host, Linda

Many of the people whose homes border the route don't just ask you to bring a chair to sit in, they put out an incredible spread; fruit, meatballs, chicken tenders, chips & crackers, salsa, hummis, desserts, water, soft drinks and even burbon!

The parade was, as usual, lead by a color guard of U.S. and Canadian veterans.

followed by another groupd of vets carrying Old Glory.

Just a few of the groups and individuals …

Korean and World War II Veterans

Vietnam Veterans

A League of their Own

There's no crying in baseball!

The Wizard of Oz

A horse of a different color

The Woodworking Group

These woodwokers turn out some incredibly amazing products

Pickleball Players – 101 Dalmations


Model Sailboat Racing Club

My Fair Lady

Tennis Players – Cleopatra


The parade was great to watch and it was obvious that the several hundred participants had spent a great deal of time and had  a lot of fun preparing for their "big day" along Lake Drive.  we will be sure to take it in again next year!

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