First in line for takeoff..

Pull those seatbelts tight, we are first in line for takeoff.  The flight attendant on our Southwest flight announced to the relief of all of my fellow passengers.   Florida beckons, once again.  Escaping the cold for some fun in South Florida.  Fourteen days to pretend we made it.  Six days in the Keys, the rest in Weston where I play in a 45 year and older lacrosse tournament at this time each year.
As I write this the sun is rising above the Virginia Capes.  I like the window seat.  The sunshine feels good on my face.  Along for this adventure are my DW, DS1 and DS3. The middle child is house sitting.   Look for more posts this week from our trip

Back in November I worked as a poll worker during the most recent election.  The day was boring due to low voter turn out. One funny (maybe not, if you give this story any thought)  happened late in the afternoon.   A women came in to vote carrying one small child and guiding another slightly older child by the hand. Neither child wanted to be there.  Cranky would best describe their behavior.  The mother signs in and takes her voting slip over to the voting booth.   She handed me her slip and I tried to smile as the children got louder.  The older one says in a loud voice “NOT THE CLOSET MOMMY!  NOT THE CLOSET!”
Hmmm. I just kept a neutral face while everyone in the polling place looked on.
That statement comes up now and then in conversation. Seemingly at the oddest of times.

Some psychiatrist will put their child though college with that child.

Namaste

Lunch at Keys Fisheries, Marathon, FL

Lunch at Keys Fisheries, Marathon, FL

 

Checking off another concert..

This past weekend we (DW and I) were in Scranton to see DS2 perform in his last undergraduate Marywood Wind Ensemble concert.  We arrived Saturday afternoon and grabbed DS3 from the clutches of his GF who happened to be A. In Scranton (she lives on Long Island), and B. Heading back to Long Island as we arrived. I must have missed the memo that she was in town.  The concert went well. After the concert I took some pictures of the seniors and the conductor. The Drop Box link to those pictures can be found here.

After the concert and before dinner we went to the Best Western to check into our room for the night. We have stayed at this hotel dozens of times over the last five years. It is relatively cheap, clean enough and not far from Marywood. This time when we arrive the hotel was in chaos. People everywhere, cars parked in the wrong places, just crazy busy. I got my room key and headed to the room. I opened the door to the room and was overpowered by the stench of cigarette smoke. Somehow we were given a smoking room. We don’t smoke. I called the front desk and was told that since we booked through Hotwire they could put us in any room they wanted. And, there were no other non-smoking rooms available. Sucks to be you, have a nice day. Not!

I called Hotwire and got them to cancel the room and book us into the Holiday Inn near the Wiles-Barre – Scranton airport. The hotel was a little further out of town, but it was a step up in cleanliness and customer satisfaction.  Dinner was at Cooper’s Seafood Restaurant with DS2’s GF and her mom who drove drown from upstate New York for dinner.  The food was fine and we had a table out of the way and had plenty of time to talk and visit without the hustle and bustle of the main part of the restaurant.

Sunday morning we went back to Marywood for mass. DS2 plays his trumpet during mass. After mass we went to lunch with the same crew as the night before except for DS3 who “did not know what time” to be there. He stayed in bed Sunday morning. Enjoy college life son, the real world is waiting for you!  The drive home was uneventful except for the various people that seemed blinded by the lack of bad weather and did there best to occupy our space on the highway while we were using it.  Go figure!

Thanks for reading, enjoy the pictures!
Namaste

Passing the time..

Life seems to have settled down during the last two weeks from the go – go -go last few months.  Vacation season for us is mostly over and the spring gardening season is trying it’s best to not arrive.  Last weekend it rained for three days with our northern neighbors getting snow. Maybe we can ship some of this excess water to California.  They have quite the drought going on out there.

I have been back to playing lacrosse on Monday and some Wednesday nights. Monday nights are far more competitive than Wednesday nights. The real attraction to playing on Wednesday is that DS1 also plays. Sometimes we are on the same team, some times not. Playing against him makes my game better.  This past Monday night I scored three goals in the last fifteen minutes of the game. I spent the first 45 minutes trying to catch the ball and not succeeding. Something clicked during the last fifteen minutes and I caught the ball and scored three times. The rest of the “older crowd” was excited for my success.

I have been visiting my deceased MIL’s house about once a week for the last few months.  I start her car, walk around the house making sure that the doors and windows are all intact.  So far so good.  Visiting there is like living through a post apocalyptic movie. By that I mean on December 23, the world stopped at her house. The calendars all say December. The towels in the bathroom are of the Christmas motif. The decorations, such that they are, Christmas. On her dresser is a birthday card for one of her grandsons. He would have received that card on Christmas.   Next to that card are several cards that the daughters would have received at Christmas.  The car sits in the driveway. It has not been off the street where she lived since at least December 3. The clocks are all on Eastern Standard time, Daylight Savings time never arrived.   The whole scene is just plain eerie.

This weekend we are on the road again. DS2 has his last Wind Ensemble concert as a Marywood University undergraduate.  Graduation is on Mothers Day. It is hard to believe how fast time passed since I took him to the university to audition for a spot at the school.

Pictures, I have a few.. (sung to the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody)..

Namaste

 

Funny how a weekend can come together..

This past weekend was one of those serendipitous collections of moments that often happen in my life.  I hope to get 75 points in Word with Friends for that word some day.  This weekend was one of those where the journey and the destination were both the key. And the best part of the weekend was that I got to share it with my DW.

This odyssey started the week before when I saw a Tweet from Mac McNally detailing that there were tickets still available for his show in Annapolis, MD at the Rams’s Head. I get emails all the time from the Rams’s Head, I don’t remember seeing that Mac would be playing there. I sent my DW an email asking if she was interested.  We do communicate via email often. It works because she will check her mail at some point and she may not check her phone. I can send the email from work and follow-up in person when I get home.

Well, I got no reply from her. I figured, oh well. She has been overwhelmed these past few months since her mom passed away and I am trying my hardest to make life as easy as possible. A week went by and the tickets are still available so I asked her, any interest? She said yes, let’s go! I bought the tickets on-line and figured that was it for the weekend. I booked a hotel on Hot Wire so we would not have to drive home after the show.

The week before the concert we started looking at Chevy Captivas on-line. The Captiva once was a Saturn Vue but now has come back re-styled and re-engineered with a better engine and drive train. This small SUV is only available for fleet sales. Fleet sales = rental car companies.  We drove one for two weeks in Florida and liked the size and style. As we looked on-line most of the cars were 2013 models with 20 + k miles.  We found one in Delaware that was a 2014 with 12 k miles at the same price as the 2013 models and the car was at the top trim level. Heated seats, remote start, sunroof, navigation.. the works.

Since we were driving to Annapolis (going through Delaware) I figured we could stop by and see the car.  I traded emails with the dealership and my insurance agent. In the midst of this, we looked to who was playing college lacrosse in Baltimore Saturday. It turned out that John’s Hopkins and Syracuse were playing at Homewood Field.  Homewood  Field is one of those places that you have to visit if you are a college lacrosse fan.  It was decided that we would get up early, drive to Delaware, look at a car. Then travel to Baltimore for a noon time gave and end the day in Annapolis for the Mac McAnally show.

The car purchasing went well. The car was as advertised and the dealer did not try anything shady. So we parked my DW’s green minivan in the dealership parking lot and headed to Baltimore with the new wheels. We arrived at Homewood Field midway through the first quarter. Visiting Homewood Field is a bucket list check off for me. Always wanted to go, was not sure if we would ever get there. The game was excellent. Syracuse won to the disappointment of the home crowd. Excellent venue to see a game.

We ate lunch in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore. Outdoors in the sun. Not bad after the cold winter we had.  While we eating lunch, a couple walked up to us and inquired about my OWU lacrosse jacket. I play on the OWU alumni team even though I never attended the school. I know someone who did and that is how I got on the team. We talked lacrosse for a few minutes, compared who we knew (a lot of people).  They were at the Hopkins vs. Syracuse game that day as well. Small world.

Then we drove to Annapolis and killed an hour before heading over to the Ram’s Head for the show. After we parked the car we were walking to the club when some guy said “Hey OWU”. I turned my head and the man introduced himself (class of 84). We talked lacrosse and who we knew (deja vu) and then went into the venue. Safe from OWU lacrosse people.

The show was excellent. Mac is the six or seven time CMA Musician of the Year.  He is also part of Jimmy Buffett’s band and a music producer. We sang along with every song and enjoyed a few craft beers at the same time.  A few days later I tweeted Mac’s daughter to tell her about the show (not expecting a response) and she said that Mac enjoyed the show as well.  Seeing Mac is a check off on my bucket list.

Two in one day!  Watch out!

Here are a few pictures from Saturday. I did not bring my big camera into either venue since I was unsure about camera policies and walking back to the car with the camera sucks.

Thanks for reading this long post, I lived it and dammit it was great!

Namaste

Tampa trip wrap up..

I think I have covered the entire five days in various blogs. As I look back I have missed a few things that may be of interest.  Missing from the Clearwater, Florida is a video that I shot of a street performer.  Here is that video

Monday we traveled home from Tampa to Philadelphia. When we landed in Raleigh – Durham Airport we found out that our flight from RDU to PHL was cancelled. We learned this as we stood on the jet way waiting for our  gate checked luggage to arrive. We flew on one of those regional jets that have no overhead space. While we are waiting one of the passengers that had flown first class was complaining that his bag did not come up in the first group. He said, I’m flying first class!  The gate attendant was not impressed.

Seems he was traveling to PHL as well. I said my flight to PHL is cancelled, he said same here. Then a college age girl came up the jet way and asked about the flight. Cancelled I said. She said why?  I told her that I don’t know why. And really, what difference does it make? You won’t be able to convince someone to un-cancel the flight. The most important thing at that point is to find the next flight before your fellow passengers do. There are not an unlimited number of seats.

I called the Delta 1 800 number and went into a queue, call me back in 10 minutes. I looked over at the counter and saw the attendant finish up with all the customers that had been standing there. I walked over and explained my problem. She took care of my re-booking and gave both of us 20 dollars for lunch and dinner since we were going to be stuck for a while.  We went to a white table-cloth restaurant and ate good on Delta’s dime.

The flight home was uneventful as was the drive to the shore.  I hope you enjoyed the trip, we sure did!

Namaste

 

Tampa Sunday..

We went to Davis Island in Tampa to look at houses and eat breakfast. We had eaten at our hotel the previous days and wanted something “better”  We ate at an Irish Restaurant on Davis Island. We ate outside at a picnic table. My meal was slightly interrupted when the children that had been eating decided to play Frisbee in the parking lot. They could have used more adult supervision since the Frisbee hit me in the back of my head while I was eating.  I don’t think the parents even knew. Hum and smile, throw it back and keep eating.

The homes in the area start at 775 k and go up. This is a pretty exclusive area and near Tampa General Hospital. I would image that a fair number of the doctors and administrators live there.  But, we can dream, and dream we did. By the way, the most recent lottery tickets were a total bust!

We drove north after eating and touring Davis Island with our final destination being Crystal River, Florida. We were told about an excellent fish market and seafood restaurant. We did not have anything planned and we had a nice new rental car, so we went for it. The toll road had a plaza every 10 to 12 miles (60 mile drive). Maybe they could charge a little more and not make us stop so frequently.

While driving we looked on Trip Advisor (my DW, not me, I was driving) and discovered that the restaurant got bad reviews. We stopped by anyway and found the fish market closed and a line at the door to the restaurant. The top rated seafood restaurant was just up the road so we changed plans. The top rated seafood restaurant was in a mall food court. Really! We went in and walked past and kept going. They need to vet these reviews a little better. We did get some ice cream before leaving the mall.  On the way back to Tampa we purchased a Sun Pass for the car. Sun Pass is like EZ Pass in the north-east. You pre-pay the tolls and can drive through the toll plaza without stopping.

Sunday evening found us back in Tampa for outdoor yoga. Hixon Park in downtown Tampa is where they have a free yoga class on Sunday evening. The park has a terraced area that the students can lay their mats on and the instructor is at the bottom. This was really cool. Check this off as another great, free, outdoor yoga venue.

Here is a Drop Box link to all the yoga pictures.

I will post a few down below.

Thanks for reading and enjoy!

Namaste

 

Tampa Saturday..

The current (one of the) joke around our home is to say to the other person “How about we go to the Farmer’s Market in Ybor City on Saturday?” This is a good line to make the other person smile if they are having a particularly bad day.  Just don’t over use it! So you can guess that the Saturday when we were in Tampa we went to the Farmer’s Market in Ybor City. It is like most farmer’s markets, except that this one is in Florida.

We headed out of our room into the fog (second day in a row) and headed across Tampa to Ybor City. Ybor City is the Cuban and Latin quarter of Tampa. They used to have factories producing cigars in Ybor City. Then most of the industry left and the area went to hell. Over the last ten or 20 years the area has been revitalized.

This particular Saturday also was the Annul Ybor City Flan Festival. In addition to the farmer’s market they closed the streets and the food vendors and such came out to hawk their wares. We happened upon the Flan Festival last year. This year we planned to be in Tampa the same weekend as the Flan Festival. What is Flan?  Here is a Wiki link that should explain it.  We skipped the flan but we collected beads and some of the local foods.  It rained for about ten minutes. Typical Florida weather, the rain starts and stops whenever.

Here is a link to the Drop Box folder containing all the pictures from Ybor City.

Here are a few highlights from the morning

Thanks for reading

Namaste

 

 

More vacation stories to tell..

This vacation has taken almost three weeks to gel into a couple of blog posts. Why?  The trip to Fort Lauderdale, the Keys and Weston back in January had a pretty good running commentary. This vacation was done without a computer. I used my Droid phone to check email and really just stayed off the grid.  This was about connecting with my DW, she has had a tough few months.  As you remember her stepfather passed away a week before Christmas. Two days before Christmas her mom went into the hospital and she passed on January 3.  A rough month following a bumpy fall.

The Tampa trip was scheduled in October as a way to celebrate our 29 th. wedding anniversary . Who knew at the time that the need for a few days to connect would be so pressing as they were (and are) this winter.  The previous blog entry Small Steps covered several topics including the first day in Florida where we spent the afternoon on Clearwater Beach walking in the Gulf of Mexico (the water was cold) and experiencing the sunset.

Today we will go kayaking on the Hillsborough River. We used the same company this year as last year. Why re-invent the wheel if it works?  Canoe Escape rents kayaks and canoes for river trips.  Friday started out foggy on Tampa Bay. Our hotel was right by the bay and the fog shrouded the highway until we got about 3 or 4 miles east closer to the center of Tampa.  The drive to the canoe place took about 20 minutes or so.  When we got to the park, the sky was still overcast, but the temperatures were in the mid 70’s. And yes, a touch of humidity was in the air (more than a touch).  We were the only customers in the park during our rental and orientation.  Last year we kayaked on a sunny Saturday and the park was jam-packed.

The river was quiet. Just my DW and I in our kayaks drifting downstream. If you wanted to paddle, you paddled. If you wanted to drift, your drifted. There is enough current to keep you moving without the danger or excitement of rapids and white water. We did hear a few odd things as we kayaked down the river. Looking to either side we saw alligators, lots of bids and quite a few turtles. No people or building were visible from the water. We heard a dog barking off to one side. And later we hear the backup siren that some trucks make when backing up.  The noises were out-of-place in the dense forest.  We traveled 9 miles on the river. I took quite few pictures and some video as well.

We stopped on the way home at a farm stand where they make fresh milk shakes with local strawberries.  The shake was outstanding.  After we got back to Tampa we went to a fish market looking for dinner. We found stone crab claws, locally made smoked fish salad and Hog Fish. We ate the stone crabs Friday night and the Hog Fish Saturday night.  There is nothing like fresh seafood for dinner!

 

 

Here is a link to all the pictures from the river.

Enjoy!

 

Namaste

 

Climbing back in..

Hopefully. I have been thinking a lot lately about blogging, or actually my lack of blogging.  I just have not been motivated. We came back from vacation and I seem to be trying to get back into that easy rhythm of life.  It has been cold here in New Jersey and just today we had another snow storm forecast.  We have pretty much missed the heavy snow down the shore. But if you travel 35 miles north to where I work, the snow piles are abundant. And I guess when I get back to the office on Monday, there will be even more.

Our vacation ended on Monday, January 27 instead of Sunday, January 26. I guess I did not look to closely back in August when I booked the trip. The reason we had (really, had to) stay was that our flight from Florida to Philadelphia was scheduled to stop in Chicago. And Chicago was closed due to weather. Who in their right mind decides to layover in Chicago in late January?  We tried and failed.

We spent the last night in Fort Lauderdale at the Riverside Hotel on East Los Olas Ave.  This is one of the trendy, hip areas of Fort Lauderdale.  We got a decent deal on Hotwire. The hotel was of the art deco style. The lobby was beautiful. They had a heated pool on the New River so you could lounge in the pool and watch the boats go by. The pool of course had table service.  What else would you expect?

We walked around the Las Olas Ave area window shopping and eating brunch at a restaurant called Vodka. Expensive, but good. Dinner after an afternoon by the pool was at a street side table at the hotel. The food was excellent, but expensive.  We were a little out of our league.  The only downer of the night in Fort Lauderdale was that I left a cash tip for dinner and the next day when I checked the charge, a tip had been added to the credit card charge.  It took two or three emails to resolve that. But the restaurant reduced the charge back to the correct amount.

Since coming home I have worked, and I mean worked. Everything that would have been done if I had not gone away was waiting when I came back. I played lacrosse several times. Each time I have scored a goal or two. Tuesday and Thursday night yoga with my DW has pretty much rounded out the week. Last Saturday I drove to Scranton to have dinner with DS2 and DS3.  My DW was on call for work and could not attend. She enjoyed a quiet evening of Olympics and her blanket.

Here are a few pictures from the last day in Florida and the last three weeks in New Jersey.

And, we head back to Florida next week for some more sunshine..

Namaste

 

Shark Valley 2014..

Yesterday my DW and I went to the Shark Valley National Park in the Everglades. Here you are the visitor and the residents are free to roam. The residents are alligators, turtles and many, many types of birds.  Last year I visited this park by myself and wrote about riding a bike among the alligators.  We decided to ride the tram this year to have the experience of listening to the guide talk about the area and the animals. On a bike you can take as much time as you want, but you don’t have the guide to explain and point things out. If we go next year, we will ride bikes. We saw quite a few of the residents. I took quite a few pictures, some of which I will share at the end of this blog.

A few important things to keep in mind if you choose to visit this park.  The park is in the middle of nowhere. The park has a small parking lot that generally is full by 10 am. You can park on US 41 and walk the 200 yards into the park. I am not sure what they charge walk-ins. Cars are charged 10 dollars per car. The best months to see the alligators are December through April. Once the air gets hotter than the water, the alligators will spend more time in the water and less time along the road getting some sun. The sun will warm them up in the winter months.  Take the tram ride at least once.  The bike ride is a flat 15 mile loop with at least one of the directions into the wind. Judge the wind before heading out.

After the ride he had a burger at a Miccosukee Indian restaurant. We were not very adventurous and had cheeseburgers and fries. The food was fine for road food. There were quite a few competing air boat ride stands along US 41 during the drive. The Miami Beach Travel Guide has this page about what you can visit in the area. After our late lunch we drove back to the timeshare and caught the sunset.  Dinner was pizza at a local pizzeria that had 8 different craft beers on tap. We got to sample all of them. It was a pretty neat concept for a generic pizzeria. The food was fine, maybe a little heavy on the garlic.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the wildlife pictures..

Namaste

 

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