Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Playing the fifth hole
Lu the Hippo
Bald Eagle
Great Horned Owl
Wood Duck
Whooping Crane
Roseate Spoonbill
Florida Panther
Black Bear

We are in Homasassa, located in an area known as Florida's Nature Coast. There are a few beaches but, generally, the area is mostly forest and sawgrass along the gulf with almost no roads to the coast. We are at the Turtle Creek Campground on the fifth hole of the golf course. We visited the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park which is on a spring fed stream of very clear warm water making it an ideal habitat for manatees. There is an underwater viewing area to see the many fish that come into the stream. We also saw a number of native Florida species and one honorary animal that we had not seen before. The honorary animal is Lucifer, the hippo, who was there when the state took over the park which had been a private endeavour. He was made an honorary natural species so he could remain. Some of the birds we saw for the first time were the roseate spoonbill, whooping crane, flamingo, wood and fulvous whistling ducks. There were black bears, which are common in this part of Florida and many other animals we have seen in other places throughout the state. We have really enjoyed the large variety of flora and fauna we have seen in the last three months. We visited Terry and Donna Weir, snowbirds we met previously in Niagara Heartland this summer.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Spring Training

Pirate City
Jason Bay
Neil Walker
New Manger New Hope
Hitting Practice
Skyway Bridge
Old Bridge New Pier

Since we have been enjoying summer weather for the last three months we felt it was necessary to train for the spring weather we will be having when we travel along the gulf coast and across Texas in the next couple of months. To get this training we went to Pirate City in Bradenton to watch the team prepare for the season. The weather cooperated by being overcast and threatening rain typical of the spring weather we will see on our travels. It really was a neat experience to see the players up close and personal. We have always enjoyed baseball and have wanted to see spring training for a long time. Just like every other spring, the Pirates are undefeated and anything is possible. The practice was not much different than what Peton and Yanni did in the Wash High gym but the facilities were just a little better. I sent Nanc to get autographs while I took pictures. We had a great time and the players were for the most part very friendly. On our way to Bradenton we crossed the new Sunshine Skyway bridge over Tampa Bay. The last time I crossed the bridge was 40 years ago when I was in the army and it was a draw bridge. I sat on the causeway for two hours because it was so hot the bridge was stuck in the up position and fire boats had to be brought in to water it down to cool it so it would close. After the new bridge was built, one of the neat things they did was turn the old bridge into a long fishing pier.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Tarpon Springs Area

Sponge Boats
Sponge Diver Statue
Flamenco Dancers

Why are these guys smiling?

Rosemary, Pete, Jim & Nanc
Lee & Mary
Pinellas Trail
Howard Park Beach 2/17/08

We are near Tarpon Springs and still enjoying the Florida weather. While we have itchy feet and want to get travelling again, we are going to wait until the first of the month so we will, hopefully, have warmer temps as we head west along the gulf coast. Tarpon Springs is a community known for its Greek culture and the sponge trade. It has many Greek restaurants and shops selling more kinds of sponges then I knew existed. Rosemary, who worked with Nanc, and her husband Pete, who is Greek, are vacationing in the area. They joined us and shared their knowledge of the culture and the area restaurants for a couple of different dining and entertainment experiences. We listened to Greek music and enjoyed watching a belly dancer in Tarpon Springs. We also went to the Columbia, Florida's oldest restaurant (1905), in Ybor City near Tampa, to dine and watch flamenco dancers. We visited and had dinner with Lee Dunn and his friend, Mary, who live nearby. We always say we meet new people everyday but it is great seeing old friends. We went to the beach at Howard Park which is accessible by a causeway and is on a small island in the gulf. We also rode on a great paved rails to trails bike path that goes from Tarpon Springs to St. Petersburg.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Fort Myers, Edison, Ford

Seminole Lodge

Edison's Little Office

The Mangoes

Banyan Tree

Edison's Model T
We visited Fort Myers and toured the Thomas Edison & Henry Ford Winter Estates. The grounds include the homes and offices used by Edison and Ford during their stays in south Florida, a large variety of plants and a museum. Both of these homes were much simpler in style than others we have toured. Edison's home, Seminole Lodge, was really two houses that are mirror images of each other and joined by a pergola. They had wide porches and French doors to allow air to flow through the houses. Edison had a generator that provided electricity since there was no power in Fort Myers at the time the houses were built. There are 13 individually styled brass electroliers that were patented and manufactured for the Edison Company. On the grounds was an office and garden located on the site of Edison's 1886 lab which was moved by Ford to Greenfield Village in Michigan. There is also a swimming pool constructed with portland cement for which Edison held a number of patents. These houses have all the original furnishings since they were owned by the Edison family until 1947 when they were deeded to the city. Ford's home, The Mangoes, was a simple bungalow with one wing for guests and another for two servants. The living room furniture was light wicker that could easily be moved so the room could be used for square dancing. The stove was electric which was rare for the early 1900's. They also had two old Fords on display. The large variety of plants on the grounds are part of the quest by Edison, Ford and their friend Harvey Firestone to find a domestic source for rubber. Of all the plants they brought in and experimented with the greatest producer of latex turned out to be goldenrod. The tree that fascinated us the most was the banyan tree. It was four foot tall when it was planted in 1925 but today it is the largest in the United States covering over one acre. The museum displays a number of the more than 1000 products on which Edison held patents. The car on display was the Model T that Ford gave to Edison. It was updated several times because Edison refused Ford's offer of having a new car every year. On the drive back we stopped at Fort Myers Beach to enjoy another great Florida sunset.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Naples Area

Mangrove Trees

Shelling Position
Marco Island Beach

Red Shouldered Hawk
Find the Anhinga

Cypress, Sawgrass, Pines
Old Growth Cypress Trees & Walkway

We are now spending a couple of weeks at the Endless Summer RV Park in Naples. The weather continues to be absolutely spectacular with warm sunny days and cool nights. We have the windows open all the time and have not really needed the AC at all. This may affect our decision about where we are going to spend the winters. We have been tracking the weather in south Texas and Arizona and it is not nearly as warm and sunny as it has been here. We took a boat tour of the Ten Thousand Islands region of the Everglades. It was totally different from the other part we were in with a lot of water and mangrove islands. We got to see bottlenose dolphins that came right up to the boat. We spent one day at the beach on Marco Island, a great place to collect shells. We also went to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary that has a stand of old growth cypress trees and many different birds. They have a two mile walkway that goes through the pine forest, the sawgrass and cypress swamps. There are many very wealthy areas here with a large number of homes and condos many of which are built around golf courses. On Marco Island the shore is lined with high rises over twenty stories high. Old Naples has many beautiful homes in quiet neighborhoods and a neat downtown area with shops and restaurants. The population more than doubles when all the snowbirds are here. We have found that Florida offers something for just about everyone with people spending the winter in RVs, park models, double wides, condos and houses.