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..



Day 301, Now what do I do?..

Tonight’s blog will cover Sunday’s trip from Charlottesville, VA to New Jersey.  Or at least that is the plan. This blog writing sometimes takes on a life of its own.  A little bit of Wednesday current events first. Today DS1 worked his second day at his new job at the tree farm/nursery.  The high point of the day was learning to drive a stick shift. His learning vehicle? Why a tractor, of course. It is a farm. He seems very happy so far with the job. We (his parents) wish it were closer to our house. But he is working, and that is a good thing. He is off tomorrow to take his college class. Monday he has an interview with a company that expressed interest in him back in January. The put his resume away while he finished up his degree.

Sunday morning the day started out rainy and wet. The forecast on the tv the night before showed a huge storm all the way from the Carolinas to Boston. There was no way the storm would pass the area of the game before Monday morning. We decided to skip the Sunday (championship game) and head home around noon time. The roosters were quiet I guess due to the rain. The horses, were out in the rain. The goat was still inside. I cooked breakfast again and we cleaned up and left the farm heading north and east.

The drive back to 95 took about an hour. When we finally got to 95 we looked down at the highway as we approached the on ramp and saw the traffic stopped, all three lanes as far as the eye can see.  We skipped the on ramp and pulled into a local business to work the GPS into finding another way home. We went east a few more lights and got on US 1 headed toward Washington, DC. Talk about a traffic light every half mile and people everywhere. Not exactly what I was looking for with 240 more miles to go. After about 15 minutes on US 1 we were sitting at a long traffic light. I checked the maps app on my phone and the traffic layer showed that the problem on 95 was south of where we were. We cut back across to 95 and joining the northbound traffic.

The drive itself was not awful. Visibility was bad, but we saw no accidents the entire time we were on the highway. We stopped in Philadelphia to return the rental car and then went over the bridge into New Jersey and drove the last 60 miles home. Why a rental car? Our family van gets 18 miles to the gallon. The rental car got 28 miles to the gallon. With all the miles that we drove and the fuel cost saving of the rental, the rental was almost paid for by the increased fuel economy. And my van has 150,000 miles, the rental car had 16,000.

During the ride home, as I wrote about the other day, we plugged the laptop into my phone and watched the second half of the championship game. Tonight I watched the entire game on tv. We saved the game on the DVR.  Another funny story about the ride home is when we entered Pennsylvania we needed to fill the tank so we could return the rental car. I got off at an exit that showed several gas stations near the ramp. The first gas station was closed on Sunday. The second station did not take any credit cards.  At the third station the first pump  I tried did not work. The second one worked like a charm. In this area south of Philadelphia and north of the Delaware state line, people like me driving around are few and far between. Just the facts..

When we got back into town we were too tired to cook so we went and had Happy Hour food at one of the local bars. We met up with the parents of one of the high school lacrosse players that my youngest played with last year. Their son has two more years to play in high school. It was interesting to catch up on some of the stories from this year. I miss being involved with the team, but my children have graduated and it is somebody else’s turn.

 So the title tonight, what gives? We did not see any references.  When I was 23 years old my father died of a heart attack. He was 5o years old. When I talked with some of the people he spent his last day with, one of them told me how they had talked about his family, his children and his life. It was like he was reliving his life (flashing before his eyes?) as it were.  In honor of that story and maybe to try to understand that experience, I decided back in June to write about being 50. Add a few stories from the past and record this year’s events as I saw them.  I have now outlived my father by about a day or two. So, what do I do now? I asked my DW that at dinner tonight. The kinda funny joke to that is when DS1 finished his last college lacrosse game, he looked at both of us and asked the same question.  I told him at the time that we had never done this before, but whatever we did we would do together.



Day 298, Virginia III..

Have you read enough about Friday yet? I told your there was lots to write about. This will be the last post about Friday. Tomorrow I will write about Saturday and Sunday.  The reason we went to Charlottesville, Va. was not to visit a farm. You might not believe that. We did indeed go to see four of the best men’s college lacrosse teams in the country play. When we got to UVA and started looking for a parking spot near the stadium it became clear that something more than lacrosse was going on. After we found a parking space and walked up the field complex we saw that the ACC was having it’s  Track and Field Championships at UVA at the same time. There were people and athletes everywhere.

The track and field championship was free to get in. The mens lacrosse championship was ten dollars for Friday night and ten dollars for Sunday’s championship game. While we waited for the will call window to open we went into the track meet to have something to do. The stadium and the track complex are next to each other. There are no gates or fences between them. If you had known this you would have gone a little early and watch some track and field and then walked over to the lacrosse stadium and watched those games. We live and learn.

We sat on the grassy knoll right on the 50 yard line. They have a bleachers on one side and a grassy hill on the other. Everything is general admission. The games were excellent. Unfortunately the home team lost in the second game.  Both games were broadcast on ESPNU and ESPN3. My DS1 said he saw us on the sidelines of one of the games. We have them saved on the DVR. We might watch some of the games during the week especially if the reruns continue.  Food and water/soda/Gatorade were available for purchase during the game. There was no alcohol allowed in the stadium.  Water was 3.50 a bottle. We wished we had brought some in with us from the car.

After the game we drove back towards the house getting off an exit early to do some grocery shopping. We needed a few things for the morning.  After our grocery shopping we continued to drive back to the farm. There are very few street lights out there in rural Virginia.  I am used to living here in New Jersey where there are too many street lights. After we got back to the house my DW went to bed and I wrestled with the alarm (as written about in part two). One of the ways I attempted to quiet the alarm was to put black electrical tape over the motion sensor in the bedroom. Note to self: that does not work.

Here are some pictures from the game. I also shot some video during the second game. That can be seen by clicking here.




Day 298, Virginia trip part II..

Yesterday we left off with me doing some stupid things before heading out. And my DS1 deciding to lock up the house when he won’t turn of the lights when he leaves a room.  All is well that ends well.  What that means is that we got down to the house in Louisa, Va early enough to check out the house and use the bathroom before continuing onto to Charlottesville for the two lacrosse games. At the farm we met Amanda. She appears to be the “manager” of the farm. She may have been 20 years old, at best. We also met a 10 ish year old male child who did not introduce himself to us. I don’t know his name. Other than these two, we only saw horse, dogs, goats and chickens.

Having done a few wine tastings over the weekend, we learned about descriptions that may or may not be applicable. A description of the farm might include words like “earthy tones, and fragrant bouquet” The truth is that the horse and the goats do their business wherever they want. We were ok since the temperatures were not to warm and the breeze seemed to blow in the right direction.

There will be lots of pictures of the house and farm at the bottom today.  The house looked like it was the farm owners house. The front porch looked out onto one of the pastures where the horses were kept. The walls were made of logs. It was a log house. Like lincoln logs, just real and better constructed. The house consisted of two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The master bedroom was huge with a huge bed and a on-suite bathroom. The other bedroom was set up as an office with a pullout coach providing a second bed.

The entrance from the back porch puts you into a mud room. From there you proceeded into the house. The mud room contained a shower stall, a toilet, washer and dryer and a slop sink. All things you might need access to without actually entering the main part of the house. The kitchen had a stainless stove, and dishwasher. The counters were marble. The whole decor worked the country, modern theme. I guess.

There was a breakfast bar and a formal dining room table. The kitchen was open to the living room. The pictures down below will better illustrate the layout and look of the home. One quirk that we encountered when we got there was the alarm would beep every minute or so. I thought maybe this was because we were moving around and once we got settled in one place, like sleeping, that the noise would stop. The instructions from the landlord were quite clear about not using the alarm.  We left the house going to the game in the afternoon hoping that the beeping would resolve itself by the time we returned home..

You know it did not resolve itself. But, it did not get any worse! I called the landlord at 11 pm to ask for guidance since I was sure my DW would not be able to sleep through that noise. He did not answer. I figured Amanda, across the farm, probably had less experience with alarms than I did. I opened the front panel and tried to reason my way through the problem. I was tired, not my best reasoning time. I pushed a button to term the chimes off. This turned them on. Opps, wrong way. The beeps every minute continued.

I pushed a button marked Silent. That was what I was after, this turned the alarm to silent, the beeps continued. I hit the Status button, the alarm panel displayed a status of Phone Failure and the beeping stopped.. That God!  I figured we would be out at 1 am looking for a hotel or sleeping in the car.

The pictures below are of the house and the grounds. Enjoy!


Day 262, First fog then sun..

This morning started off with some serious fog, again. The weather looked like this would be day three of the crappy weather. That would have ment that I would be indoors painting. Around 10 am the sun came out. Yea, baby!  I did not want to paint today. I am thinking that next weekend will be “get it done and get on with your life” for  this round of painting.  Instead of painting, DS3 and I worked in the garden. He went first to get a hair cut. I don’t know why he does not get  a discount. They use a zero attachment and buzz his head. How long can that take? They don’t even shampoo his head. He likes it short and short hair is a requirement for ROTC.

After he returned from his hair cut, I had removed the weeds from the main vegetable garden. He worked on the side garden while I cleaned up the mess that I made. Then we went to Home Depot and got 800 lbs of top soil. 20 bags x 40 lbs each. We loaded this into my mini van and drove home. At home we drove the van across the front lawn and backed the van up to the garden on the backyard. This is one of the advantages to having a crappy front lawn. You can drive your car on it and not worry.

After unloading the dirt we went back to Home Depot for 400 lbs more of dirt and 400 lbs of cow manure. We repeated the first trip dispersing the bags across the gardens. Then, you guessed it, back to Home Depot. Did you buy your Home Depot stock yet? We rented the biggest rear wheel tiller that they have. We put that in the mini van (who needs a pick up truck) and stopped at Wendy’s for lunch and drove home. I tilled my neighbor’s garden, our main back garden, the side garden and some of the front lawn. Each year I till a portion of the front lawn. Then I seed and water, trying to grow grass.

After I was done tilling the ground we returned the tiller and bought 10 more bags (400 lbs) of dirt, some pansies and headed home. My DW put the pansies in flower boxes on the front porch. The extra dirt went in the side garden where there is a lot of clay. We have only been working this garden for two years and it needs some time (and dirt) to get more productive. During one of our trips my neighbor stopped us to chat. He told my son to go back to college. He figured out that the reason we were working today was because I had a helper for the day.

Dinner was Steak Dianne and corned beef. An odd combination to say the least. My DW does not like corned beef. DS3 and I do. We had mashed potatoes and a cheap Merlot to complete the meal. We watched some college and professional lacrosse on tv. Tomorrow morning , early, we are heading back to Scranton. We should be there in time for Mass. Then we will have lunch with DS2, move DS3 back into his dorm, grab a cup of coffee and head back to New Jersey.

Tonight’s pictures are from today’s garden work. Enjoy!



The lost idea, now found in post 100..

For my 100 th post I have hopefully pulled out all the stops. This one has been sitting in the finish me pile for awhile.

Sunset over a Lake

The poem, The Cremation of Sam McGee was first told to me many years ago my Boy Scout leader, George Gimble. Maybe poetry is not your thing, I can’t say it is mine. But the story behind the telling of the poem is where the magic resides.  To get you to click on the link, I have copied the  first stanza of the poem, here goes..

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
    By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
    That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
    But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
    I cremated Sam McGee.

Ok, how can you resist that opening stanza?  The poem was written by Robert W. Service in 1907. 

So, lets set the stage for this story. The back story if you will. I was in the Boy Scouts from age 11 when they would take me until after the age of 18 when I aged out. The scout master of the troop was a man named George Gimble. George lived with his parents and two sisters when I met him. Over the course of the years his parents passed away as did one of his sisters. One of his sisters may still be alive today. The sisters were world-famous concert pianists. I remember seeing posters on the wall of their house announcing the piano concerts featuring one or both of the sisters. George never married. He was a chemical engineer for General Foods in White Plains, NY for most or all of his life.

So, as one of the ten children in our home, having the ability to escape for a weekend, a week at summer camp or three weeks back country camping in Canada, was priceless. I took advantage of every opportunity I was presented with to go camping and get out of the house.  One of those opportunities was a yearly three-week camping trip into the back country of Algonquin Provincial Park, in Ontario, Canada. To be eligible for these trips you would need to be of a certain rank and have volunteered your time during the year for the various troop fundraisers. The trip took us by canoe about 100 miles from end to end. We would canoe in from the most tourist accessible boat ramp and canoe and portage until we were about as deep as we could go in the park and still get back to civilization in ten days.

The term “portage” means in this context to pick up your canoe and hike a mile or more over land to the next lake. As you might imagine (or not), not all of the lake were connected by water. Each portage would require at least two full round trips by each person to get all the canoes and supplies across. The backpacks were military grade, waterproof monsters that really dug into your back. Some days carrying the canoe was a better trade-off (if you got a trade-off). Everything we ate or needed except for water was carried in the canoes and backpacks. Towards the end of the trip, the food and provision packs got quite light. There were no garbage cans so you either burned your trash or carries it out.   Obviously there were no bathrooms, sinks, cell phones. This was before the age of iPod s and mp3 players. If you had a Sony Walkman, you came from a wealthy family.

When you were “in country” you were isolated from the rest of the world. If anything important happened, you might find out if the people traveling in had information and they shared it with you. On one of these trips we learned five days after the fact that Richard Nixon had resigned. We learned this from fellow travelers on a portage two days before the end of our trip. Days came early in country and night-time came early as well. We had few flashlights, batteries were heavy and after 10 days they were mostly burned out. Camp fires were an every night routine.  Food was cooked over the fire, dishes washed in the lake. Bathrooms dug in the wood before it got too dark.  There was a real sense of comrade between the travelers. I guess the shared hardship and overcoming those hardships truly built a team. This is one of the premises that we learn about when studying the building of teams that combine varied different team members.

Each night, maybe most nights, after the dinner chores were done, we campers would gather around the campfire for warmth and light. While it was the first three weeks in August, the chance for snow was not out of the question. Nor was the chance for 90 degree weather, either. As a matter of fact, I saw both during the four years I made that trip.  So, time to set the stage…

We would be sitting around the campfire, maybe eight to ten campers including the Scout Master. Being the young adults that we were, there certainly would have been some chop busting and talk about girls and such. The sun would have set. The sky, absolutely filled with stars. The loons would be calling each other across the lake. Click on the loon calling link and close your eyes, imagining that you are sitting by a campfire in the wilderness of Canada. You have not seen anyone else for two days of paddling and portaging. The fireflies are dancing in the woods and the stars are shining, I mean really shining, up above. The loons keep calling. The the scout master says, “Boys, I’m going to tell you a poem, written about the Canadian wilderness by a man called Robert W. Service.  Each of us are attentive, since anything new and different  ruled the day.

After the poem was over we would sit and watch the fire, imagining what it had been like to be in th Yukon during the turn of the century. Then the talk would resume about girls and cars. Slowly we would hear off to our tents, the next day was coming fast.


The Origin of the Species or day 36..

Time for the deep discussion about the origin of the species. Tough topic to discuss, you never quite know who might read your blog. Just the other day somebody from Perth, Australia “liked” my blog! Wow, so much for writing for me, an audience as it were. DW upon hearing that I dreamed up tonights blog while driving to work, said I was deep. Hmm, good thing, I asked? She said that I was me. Ok, I can roll with that. Enough fluff, on with the words..

The origin of the Lime Guy species. You did not think I had insight into where mankind came from, did you? Please, there are a dozen people on the street corners in all the major city’s willing to tell you that. No, this is the where, did the Lime Guy moniker come from. Well boys and girls, everybody get comfortable around the glowing computer screen, Uncle Lime Guy is going to tell you a story.

The story takes place in a small, slightly rural (at the time) town in Southern New Jersey, not far from Long Beach Island. There in this small town live many hard-working families. Some, found work in the local business, some, like our hero, traveled great distances each day in the dark of night for their employment. Shhh, quiet down, you won’t be able to hear the story.  As I was saying, our hero was a daily traveler to a distant land know as Philadelphia. This great city was actually in a different state, across a great river that could only be crossed by paying the trolls three dollars each day.   Our hero worked in the Philadelphia Fish market each day from three am to noon time. Then he would travel back across the big bridge (for free when leaving Philadelphia) and travel through the woods back to his small home and family near the ocean.

As was tradition in this town, and many other towns, Friday was the day to travel to the local beer, wine and spirits store. This local merchant started selling a fine imported beer from Mexico called Corona, yes the one in the clear bottle. It has been around for quite some time.  Each bottle of Corona was destined to have a slice of lime (yes, the green-skinned, slightly sour fruit) inserted into it before our hero would consume it. Now the local merchant had no idea where to procure the special limes needed for this beverage. This is where the Lime Guy got his name.

Our hero suggested that he bring limes back each week from the big city and sell them to the merchant, ensuring that all the customers could have limes in their Corona.  Hands were shaken and commerce commenced. As the children of the Lime Guy got older, they would occasionally travel to the merchant and help their father deliver the limes. As each child was introduced to the staff they were also given names like Junior Lime Guy, Mini Lime Guy and Junior Lemon. By this time the Lime Guy had added lemons to the items he delivered. Now and then the wife of the Lime Guy would need to make the delivery due to sickness or other reasons. She became know as Mrs. Lime Guy.

So that boys and girls, is the Origin of the Species. 

I hoped you like the story, embellished, but every word is true.   Oh, and the car is dead. Transmission needs rebuilding. Between 1500 – 1800 dollars. The car only cost 800.00. Off to the junkyard tomorrow.

Today’s picture is from our party last night for DS1. He was twenty-three on July 28. Enjoy!

DS1 birthday, 23 years old