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

 

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/Sarasota Saturday afternoon..

Saturday morning we spent in Tampa at the Flan Festival and the Ybor City Farmer’s market. You can read about that here. Saturday afternoon we drove south to Sarasota, Florida to visit the distillery at Drum Circle Distilling. This is the company that makes Siesta Key Rum. Their website can be found here.

The distillery has a tasting room and also gives tours. What could be better than free rum and a tour?  Nothing that day for sure.  While we were there they had a camera man video taping the tour to be used in a promotional video.  My DW and I are in the video which I will post below. We are in the video in seconds 20 -23, in the tasting room talking to the owners.

The rum was good. I wish it were available in New Jersey near us. The only liquor store that carries the rum is in Union, NJ which is about 80 miles from home. The best rum was the spiced rum. The aged rum needs a few more years to age.  Here is the video.

 

http://youtu.be/7d7Bgcy8nr0

 

The crazy part of the afternoon was that the rental car would not start.  The battery was dead while we were in Sarasota. I called Allstate Roadside (we have with our cars at home) and they came out and jumped the car for free. The car, which we rented from Dollar Rent A Car, was a 2012 Altima with 41,000 miles. The tires were beat and the body showed the miles. When we picked it up at the airport there were not many cars to choose from. Next time I will walk back inside and get something nicer. Really, 41,000 miles at a major US airport in your rental fleet?

When the mechanic opened the hood we discovered that the positive terminal on the battery was corroded. I have never, ever, had a battery that corroded on any of the cars that I have owned over the years.  The mechanic removed the negative terminal and cleaned that (it wasn’t too bad). He went to take the positive terminal off and the connector started to bend. Then next stop after bend is break. He stopped working on the terminal and just jumped the car. He advised that we don’t shut it off and return it ASAP! Nice, huh?

We drove the car back to Dollar after talking to them on the phone. We picked up a 2013 Impala with 7000 miles. That is the kind of mileage I would expect at a major US airport from a major car rental. Shame on you Dollar Rental!

Here is a picture of the battery terminal on that car

2014-02-22 14.58.46

Here is a link to the Drop Box containing the pictures from the distillery tour.

Here are few distillery pictures.

Enjoy and Thanks for Reading!

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

 

Small steps..

The accepted wisdom is that all journey’s start with one small step.  I have often found that a good kick in the seat of your pants is another way to get a journey started. So far, this journey has been of the small step variety.  What journey is this that we am embarking on?  If you have been a constant or an intermittent reader, you won’t be surprised by the next few sentences.  Last month we (DW and I) went to Tampa for five days to escape New Jersey and this colder than normal winter. While we were in Tampa, we bought a Sun Pass for our rental car.

Oh, big deal, a Sun Pass. What is a Sun Pass? It is like an EZ here in the North East except it only works in Florida (I think). Basically you can go through the toll plaza without stopping and the electronic tag is recorded and your account is debited for the toll. Nice and easy.  How many times have we been in Florida and not had a Sun Pass? Without it, the car rental agency helps themselves to your credit card to pay the tolls. With an “administrative fee” attached.  No more of that fee for me.

The next step was having my DW looking into what she would have to do to get a Florida nursing license. All they want is money (surprised?)  Send in you fee, provide proof of a valid nursing license from another state and a copy of your finger prints and you too could have a Florida nursing license.  Small steps.

The final step for the last two weeks was to look at a few hospital websites for job openings. We have also spent a few hours looking at real estate listings near the hospitals. Next week we will speak with a builder in the neighborhood and get an idea of upgrades and fixes that will allow us to sell our current house.

There you go, a plan in action. This blog will be a forum for the journey.

Pictures?  Sure, here are a few from Clearwater Beach, sunset time.

Here is a link to all the Clearwater Beach Pictures via Drop Box

Thanks for reading

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

 

US A1A..

Thursday morning we dropped the kids off at the airport and then went to Grandpa’s Bakery for breakfast. This restaurant was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  The food is excellent. You get a few samples of some baked good to eat while looking at the menu. After we ate the plane had taken off towards Philadelphia and we were free to explore.  We wanted to stay near the airport in case something went wrong and we had to go back and get them.

We drove to Hollywood Beach and walked the boardwalk. Two miles each way, no hills or snow!  We walked some of the walk on the beach near the water until my DW’s pant legs got wet from several waves. As you can imagine, I took some pictures. The Margaritaville Resort was under construction this year. Last winter the lots were vacant with a sign announcing the arrival of the building. Maybe by next January, the construction will be completed. I don’t image that we can afford to stay there, but we certainly can walk the grounds and have a cocktail.

After our walk we continued down A1A into Miami. We found Joe’s Stone Crab restaurant. This is another place we certainly can’t afford. We can buy our own stone crab claws and the mustard sauce recipe is on the internet, so why should we go there? To rub elbows with the rich and famous, I guess.  We stopped for gas near the American Airlines Arena where the Heat play. In the gas station we saw filling up, a matte black Lamborghini. Talk about awesome. And when the driver was done fueling up, he gunned the engine for all of us who were watching.

We drove around Miami some more and found our way behind the airport where we discovered the Lala Seafood Market. I will admit to being a fish market groupie. My DW will attest that I will stop in random fish markets to see what is for sale. I did spend the first 20 years of my working years in the seafood business. We purchased a fresh Hog Fish and some fresh white shrimp. The lady working the market did a good job filleting and skinning my fish. The entire transaction was done by us in english and her in spanish. Neither of us spoke the other’s langauge. I don’t know if she enjoyed our visit, but we did.

The fish got marinated in the juice of a fresh lemon and some fresh garlic. After an hour I added the fish to a frying pan with a little bit of olive oil.  I used a cajun seasoning to give the meal a little bang. The fish and shrimp turned out good, no leftovers.

Thanks for reading and here are some pictures from the day.

Namaste

 

 

Birds in paradise..

So they say that having a bird “poop” on your head is good luck.  Whomever said that was probably watching and chuckling not trying to clean up the mess.  We were leaving the Islamorada Fish Company after eating a late lunch when I was blessed by a bird. The target zone may have been the top of my head but the landing zone was the side and my shoulder. I hope that the stain comes out of that, guess the color, white shirt. We did enjoy our late lunch/early dinner. It was raining yesterday in South Florida. We sat at one table under their tiki hut and had to move when the rain started to seep through the thatch roof. It seems the roof is scheduled for repair sometime soon.

We were back in Key Largo yesterday to go shooting. Last year DS3 and I shot a few different types of pistols at the indoor range at Kiffney’s Firearms. Last year my DW decided to watch, this year she decided (without much prompting) to give the shooting thing a try. We had an instructor that walked us through using the weapons safely. DS3 and I had different .45 pistols. My DW choose a .22 pistol.  The instructor watched us for a few minutes and left DS3 and I alone to do our thing. He spent about 10 or 15 minutes making sure my DW was comfortable with shooting and loading her weapon.

We had fun. Nobody got hurt and everybody left the building with a smile and some stories to share. DS3’s GF decided not to shoot and watched us through the glass.  I will add a picture of my DW and her pink target. She did quite well.  I posted the picture on Facebook and her friends and co-workers had fun with the picture and her going out shooting with the boys.

Last night in the Northeast there was a big snow storm. The two kids were supposed to fly home today. From looking at the storm and flight cancellations, we decided to change the flight to Thursday to let the greater Philadelphia area have another day to clear the roads.

Keep warm and thanks for reading!

Oh, anybody want to stop by the house and shovel out the driveway?

Namaste

 

 

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