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.





Swingers? Not exactly..

Life is funny. Sometimes you have to work for the stories that you tell, other times, well, they come to you. Last night we ate dinner at Geiger Key Marina and RV Park.  They bill themselves as “The Backside of Paradise”. This is another of those places that you probably won’t find in a tourist brochure. You should add them to your Lower Keys places to eat. How did we find them? There in lies the story.

About a year and a half ago I started following Barbie Wilson on Twitter. She is the “Sunrise Queen of Key West” @barbiedoll0087 is her Twitter name. She posts a picture of the sunrise and some sunsets from Key West every day of the year.  I fantasize about living in Florida, so this is my way of living vicariously though her pictures. Especially on the cold winter days in New Jersey.

When we came down to Florida last January we, (DW, DS3 and I) met up with her at the Hogfish Grill for lunch.  It was a leap of faith by both of us since we had “met on the internet”. Lunch went well and we have continued to trade twitter messages of the last year. Usually with her posting some epic sunrise or a Key West picture of some sort and me favoriting or commenting on the picture. I’m sure she has quite the following of people around the world that enjoy her pictures.

Last night we arrived at the Geiger Key Marina to meet Barbie for dinner. She was working until 8 pm at the KW Urgent Care.  We arrived first and grabbed a table.  I told the waitress that we were waiting for Barbie to arrive to eat. She gave me the strangest look. I said, yes we know Barbie, I met her on the internet.  The waitress’ look was priceless.  You see, Barbie’s husband running a fishing charter company called Knee Deep Charters out of the same marina. They know her quite well.

Not wanting to cause Barbie trouble at the marina (small town, people talk), I explained our story.  This allowed the waitress to relax a bit. She looked at my DW and I and said, “Maybe I should not say this in front of the kids (DS3 and his GF), but I thought you guys might be swingers..  Umm, we laughed. No, just tourists!  We are in the Lower Keys and that kind of thing probably goes on.  The comment still has us laughing this morning as I write this.

This morning Barbie texted me that the manager of the marina called her to apologise for the swinger comment and that the waitress was in trouble with management.  I told Barbie that we though the evening went great and were not at all offended. 

As a sad  note that gives this blog post a unhappy ending, the waitress lost her job this morning.  That sucks.

Sometimes the stories come to you.



Enjoying a nice warm breeze..

Greetings from Sugarloaf Key, Florida. We are sitting in the screened in second floor porch watching the water and relaxing. Dammit, we are relaxing!  Really, it is all good.  We flew down Sunday into Fort Lauderdale and had breakfast then drove south to the Lower Keys. We wanted to try to make it for the sunset celebration in Key West Sunday, but that would have ment that we could stop nowhere on US 1. Driving straight through skips some of the fun of that drive. So we stopped and acted like tourists.

Monday we went into Key West in the afternoon. In the morning my DW and I went out and kayaked in the bay for an hour or so. Sun screen is mandatory for us visitors from the north. DW3 and his GF went for a bike ride. Today they said they want the kayaks. It is 10:30 am and they are still asleep. They might miss their kayak chance again today..

Key West was fun. We went to the Smokin’ Tuna to see Scott Kirby, a favorite Key West musician. The only problem was that his scheduled changed between Friday and Monday and he was not there. We had a few beers and a cheeseburger. The beer was cold and the burger was fine. Then we walked Duval Street for a while and ended our walk at Mallory Square. We watched some of the street performers and the crowd as we waited for the sunset.

The clouds and some rain changed the sunset viewing plans of the tourists yesterday. I got some pictures before the rain blew in. We may go back and try again tonight.  Dinner was at the Hogfish Grill on Stock Island.  Here is a tip, if you find yourself in Key West or the Lower Keys, eat dinner at the Hogfish Grill on Stock Island, you won’t be disappointed.  And yes, the neighborhood you drive though appears a bit sketchy, but you will be ok.

Here are a few pictures and we will check back in later in the week.

Thanks for reading!


Creepy dreams..

This blog will (not so boldly) go where no blog has gone before. I’m unsure about publishing this, so if you get to read it, then it turned out as “publishable”.

As an avid reader you will no doubt recall that I have been riding my bike for the last month as part of a Tour De France challenge.  The tour and the challenge are over and so is the getting up at 5:51 am to go ride. I have set my alarm the last two morning, but turned it off and gone back to sleep.  This morning after turning off the alarm, I went back to sleep and experienced a creepy dream. Hopefully by writing it down, I can figure out what it means. And no, I don’t usually remember my dreams.

A bit a background to make the dream “make sense”.  My first real job back in the day was working in a wholesale seafood company as a truck driver (in North Jersey).  After two years I was in charge of production at the business until I left for a different job after 5.5 years of employment. My next reasonably long-term job was in the wholesale fish market in Philadelphia where I worked for 13 years. I met quite a few characters in the fish market being that the work hours were from 3 am to noon time five days a week.  I went to computer school after 13 years of the fish market and left the seafood industry in 2002.

Fast forward to the dream..

The setting was the fish business in North Jersey. I had been “away’ from the company for a while (years?).  My job that morning was to go into NYC with the market truck and get the fish for the day. The dream starts with me pulling into the yard at work with the truck loaded with fish. I walked into the back of the business and met one of the owners of the Philadelphia fish market where I had worked. He told me he was going home early and that I was in charge. Then he took me outside and pointed out the fleet of blue vans in the yard and said that work would be slow and that we should use the vans for deliveries that day.  (Have I lost you yet?)

Back inside I go for a walk through the building to see what is there since I had not been in the building for many years. As I am walking from one section to another I notice that I am not wearing shoes. I am barefoot on the cold, wet, slimy floor. Hmm, I notice this and wonder where my shoes are. (A self-aware dream?)

I walked into the fresh crabmeat cooler and see the guy who ran the crabmeat cooler in Philadelphia, working at the fish business in North Jersey.  I picked up a can of fresh crabmeat looking for something “nice” to sample. I pulled the top off the container and it contained a nail clipper, some screws, nuts and bolts and underneath that, crabmeat. I did not tastes it since the metal objects were in the can. The guy working there said they were ‘samples”. The next package I picked up was a combination of fresh mozzarella and fresh crabmeat.  In one package. The pieces of crabmeat were big, pinkish red in color (should be white), but they tasted good.

I walked back out to the production area to watch the owner of the business walk by without acknowledging my presence. I looked down and now I had socks (not sure of the color, maybe white) and flip-flops. Standing next to me where three guys looking to buy fish. We rarely had walk up customers in North Jersey but always had them in Philadelphia. As I was looking to write down their order I could not find a pencil, pen or paper. What I found was stubs of pencils, pieces if pens, damp paper and a fine-line highlighter that did not write too well. (Pretty realistic)

I slid open the window to the billing office to ask for a pen, paper and a price sheet and the guy in the office was also a former employee from Philadelphia. I said hello since we had not seen each other in years and put my hand out to shake his hand. He stuck out his hand, the hand shake was awkward, limp-wristed and not really sincere (from his side). I told him to shake my hand like a man, and he did.

So, no price lists were available, no paper or pens to share.  Just get the work down. I turned back to the customers and one of them was holding a bag with salmon in it. He said I have three salmon that weigh 27.1 lbs. I took the broken pencil and started the order: 8/10 salmon – 27.1 lbs.  Looked at the paper and the writing was bad. Tight, small block letters like a really old person who was having trouble with arthritis might write. This was disturbing since I had written the words. My handwriting isn’t the best, but it certainly is legible.

They also wanted some flounder fillets and some frozen shrimp.  I went over to the production table where there were tubs of various fish fillets waiting to be packed. The flounder fillet was a little past its prime. I flipped a piece over and smelled it. Fair, saleable but not something I would take home to my family. I wrapped up their 5 lbs of flounder and returned to the order table where I was writing up their order. They open the package and decided they did not want the flounder after all.  The customers that I was working with were a composite of several frequent customers during my days in Philadelphia.

Then I woke up, glad to be in my bed, not back in North Jersey in the fish business.

What does it all mean? I don’t know. It was just so vivid. I can still see some of the scenes in my head almost 6 hours later.

No pictures (just in my head)


More events and efforts..

Odd title. Sometimes I just don’t know where they come from! Time for the bullet points, here we go..

  • DS1 had the July 4th off, worked July 5 and 6. Went fishing on the beach July 7. He did not catch dinner. Thankfully the Shop Rite has lobsters on sale this week.
  • DS3 was in Long Island visiting his girlfriend. He got back home Sunday, July 7 at dinner time. His girlfriend, her friend and DS3 went to the Warp Tour at the Arts Center for a few hours. Then they came here for dinner and to sleep. DS3 worked on Monday, the ladies went home around 1 pm (back to LI)
  • DS2 spent the weekend in Austin, TX. Thank you to his cousin for providing a couch and someone with local knowledge (and a car). DS2 returned home Monday around dinner time. He was back to work today.
  • DW is sick. Nasty, coughing, fever (like I had in May) sick. It started Saturday and by Monday morning it was full-blown. She will hopefully return to work on Thursday.
  • Me, I have been riding my bike everyday. I am part of a bike riding challenge during the Tour De France. The challenge is to ride each day the riders in France ride. So far so good. I played lacrosse Monday night and had a goal and an assist. Tonight, I went to yoga without my DW (sick). I was the only male in the class. I think they were surprised that I went to class without her.
  • The garden is starting to produce. We have picked cucumbers, tomatoes and blueberries. Hopefully by next week we will have enough cucumbers to start making pickles. We also should have yellow squash for the weekend.
  • The next scheduled organized ride will be Sunday, July 28 in Millerton, NY.  Check out
  • It has been hot for the last two weeks.
  • We went to Barnegat fireworks this year. A mile walk from the car to the dock (each way). I guess I needed the exercise.

Here are a few pictures from the last week, enjoy!


Vacation Day 12..

Yesterday was Day 12.  I am almost caught up.

Day 12 was January 24, 2013.  I had been thinking about kayaking all week. It’s been breezy here in South Florida all week. I think when the weather is cold up north, the wind blows down here.  My two choices for kayaking were Key Largo (85 miles away) or Matlacha (120 miles away). Yes, I could have found kayaking in Fort Lauderdale or Miami and not driven the distances. In the end, I decided to drive to Matlacha to kayak. The company there Gulf Coast Kayaks does kayak fishing along with regular kayak rentals and eco tours.

I discovered that I needed to arrange a day in advance for a guide to go fishing. Since I did not know that, they gave me the kayak, a fishing pole, some hooks and some advice. I purchased live shrimp from the bait shop across the street. The owner loaned me a live bucket to keep the shrimp in. He just wanted it back when I was done, no charge. I ate a quick-lunch and headed out on the water.

The first spot I was told to fish in was near some crab pots about 150 yards off the shore. I anchored up and fished for about an hour or so. I caught a catfish and small skate (looks like a sting ray).  I moved the kayak a few times at the first stop, but I did not catch any “eating fish”. I moved about a quarter-mile away to some boat docks and tried tossing my shrimp under the pilings, no bites.

So I paddled across the bay to the mangroves and anchored up in the mouth of the mangrove cove. The bay and the sun were in front of me and the tide and wind were pushing the water in to the mangrove lagoon behind me. I figured there might be fish waiting for the tide to send them a meal, so I fished there.

I caught two Sheepshead. They could be eating fish if you wanted to eat them. They have small mouths and are very good at stealing your bait. I had fun. It was quiet, there was not much boat traffic and even though I was not catching many fish, they were biting at least.

I was unprepared for pictures since I left the timeshare without zip lock bags and the kayak company did not have a dry bag.  The kayak guy had a container with a screw on lid that I put my phone and car keys in. Water proof, not water tight. There were no problems with either my phone or the keys, they did stay dry. I shot a HD video with my camera phone. It is hosted on You Tube.  Click here to see the video.

After getting out of the kayak at sunset, I shot these picture of Matlacha. It’s a funky town. Enjoy!



Weekend wrap up..

I skipped writing last night.  Duh, no kidding.  Saturday was quiet. It rained during the overnight and into the morning. I escaped yard and garden chores due to the rain. Then the sky cleared, but I had already gotten into a new book. Several hours and a short nap later, the book was done. During that time my DW went into work (she was on call) and DS1 stopped by. He was delivering plants to LBI and stopped by for lunch. The evening was quiet as well. DS2 worked the afternoon shift. DS3 worked the 2 to 11 shift. Me, I goofed off all day.  Our next door neighbors had their annual kids birthday party in their yard.  I’m getting less and less kid tolerant in my old age.  The kids running around after 9 pm all blowing whistles was the worst.

Sunday started out cool. The weather (except for the rain Saturday morning) was great all weekend. The temperatures got into the lower 80’s with tolerable humidity. At night the temperature got down to the middle 60’s. That makes for good sleeping weather with the windows open.  Breakfast was eggs for most of us. DS2 brought home venison from NY when he was there back in June. He leaves for school in a week, so I figured I better cook his venison before he goes back. When he was up in NY they had venison, left over salt potatoes and eggs for breakfast. We just happened to have left over salt potatoes. I cooked him a NY breakfast. He says it was like the meal he had up there.

I did my yard and garden work today. The rain only postponed the work. I picked lots of cucumber and some tomatoes. My DW and I made salsa that she freezes using the tomatoes. The cucumbers will probably go to work since I think we are overstocked with pickles.  DS1 had the day off. Part of his day was spent fishing off the jetty in Barnegat Light. He showed me a picture of a small bluefish that he caught. The fish went back into the water after the picture. DS2 is working the evening shift again. DS3 is also working the evening shift.

Dinner tonight was stone crab claws from Georgia, fresh Bronzino (a Mediterranean sea bass), lobster meat and yellow rice. My DW made the rosemary vinaigrette that went on top of the fish. The fish turned out good. DS1 was the only person home to eat with us. There is a plate waiting for DS2 when he gets home from work tonight.  DS3 has asked if he and his girl friend can use the hot tub tonight after he gets off work. Hmmm. I told him as long as they are done by 11:30 ands quiet, everybody has to go to work tomorrow. Should be interesting. Her mother wants a picture of me and her daughter tonight. I guess she does not belive that DS3’s parents are home..

Tonight’s pictures were lifted from Face Book.  The captions will explain what they are about. Enjoy!



Day 281, Back on my laptop, again..

I am back to working on my laptop again tonight. Part of its rehabilitation was running a check disk on a reboot.  This took 18 hours to complete. Can you imagine paying someone for those 18 hours of the computer just doing its thing? I did not have any interaction during that 18 hours, but if I was doing this for a client, it would not have been worth the cost of my time. Fortunately the computer is working again and no, I can’t type any better as a result.

In the plus column for computers today, also, goes the kids computer owned by my brother the weatherman. He had a what I guess was a moment of frustration and pulled the power cord on his computer a few weeks ago. After that he got the famous blue screen of death. I was able to get the computer up and running today, but many of the Windows files were corrupted and I figured a fresh install on a new hard drive would make more sense than spending 50 or more hours trying to get the current hard drive rehabilitated. I got a new hard drive from Best Buy and loaded Windows XP.

I reattached the old hard drive and loaded the drivers for the new hard drive off the old one. This worked pretty well. Then I did a few hours of Windows updates and loaded the usual basic programs. Tomorrow I just have to put the new hard drive in the case and close it up. Then back to my brother next week.  I enjoy solving these problems but it can be very frustrated when I can’t.

Children, DS1 had class today and then he went for an interview with a company that owns a tree farm and plant nursery in Williamstown.  DS2 had an eye doctor visit since he was almost out of contacts and his eyes had been reshaped during surgery last year. He should (hopefully) be all set. DS3 went to the dentist today. He also stopped by the bark and biscuit to let them know that he was interested in working there again this summer. They were happy to see him and said to check in again in May. My DW worked a full day. I worked from home and kept myself busy.

Tonight’s picture is of  DS1 in August 2004 when and his best friend went blue fishing on the Miss Barnegat Light with me. In this picture he is holding one of the bluefish he caught. Check out the hair.  Enjoy!


Day 274, A simpler time..

I had a stressful day at work. How I hate to even say that. The worst part of my day was eating at my desk and working at the same time while being pressured to drop what I was in the middle of and take care of somebody elses problem. Well, I finished my work first, then I solved their problem. It was sunny and reasonably warm for the end of March and I was stuck in the office all day. Tomorrow I am working from home so they will have to try a little bit harder..

Tonight I am going to post some pictures from 2003. It was a simpler time in all of our lives.  The captions will explain what the pictures are of. The pictrues from Florida are from when we rented a  house on Pine Island (Gulf Coast, west of Ft Myers) for two weeks around Easter time. I hope you enjoy the glimpse to a simpler time. Boys, enjoy!


Day 214, still sunburned (and proud of it?)..

Sunday evening here in New Jersey. My youngest told me that the weather would be nice today. Hmm, I don’t remember seeing 50 degrees.. or 75 degrees for that matter. It is all a matter of what you are accustomed for your part of the world at any time of the year.  It was sunny today. The temperatures must have been decent lately because the garden hose was not frozen so I could clean the hot tub filters after being away for two weeks.

DS3 left for school this morning. He drove his brothers car back to Scranton. If you remember three weeks ago, DS2 was recovering from retina surgery and did not feel confidant driving 200 miles back to school. He is doing much better. The gas bubble in his eye continues to dissipate. DS3 has a very close hair cut, nearly bald. He was sporting a slight beard when I got home last night. I continue to ask for a picture to post here. There is more hair on his face than on the top of his head. Tomorrow morning at 6:30 am he has PT and the face must be clean. DS3 has slept in for six weeks and getting up tomorrow morning will probably be difficult.

DS1 has reclaimed his position as an only child. He was an only child from 1988 until 1991 when DS2 was born. In this instance I don’t think he is enjoying being the only child (child = butler). He will be helping out when needed. My DW continues to work on her Masters college work. She has been a bit overwhelmed by the amount of work that has been assigned. We are trying to help her by taking some of the chores she would do around the house. Also providing that afternoon latte, a nice smelling candle and flowers don’t hurt. But, in the end, she has to do the work, comfy surroundings or not. I am very proud of her to take this step.

Me, I slipped back into domestic mode today. We had breakfast, then went food shopping. I went shopping for other stuff that was needed while my DW did school work. I made blueberry muffins for this week’s breakfast. Tonight we had filet mignon smothered in crab meat covered with hollandaise sauce, a baked potato and a salad. Also shrimp and fresh mozzarella. My butler helped by peeling the cooked shrimp and cutting the cheese (pun intended).

The pictures today will include the head shot of DS3 with the short hair and the slight beard. Not the best picture, but what he sent me to work with.  The other pictures are from my fishing adventure Friday afternoon. If you click on any of the pictures the slide show will open. Enjoy!


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