Monday, January 30, 2012

Homosassa Springs and area

Florida has some soft, soft sand and I found it.  Thank goodness for Coach-Net Road Service.

The Yulee Sugar Mill ruins, now a state park, is located in Homosassa Springs.  At one time sugar cane was a common crop in the area and each plantation had its own sugar processing mill.  The mill opened in 1849 and provided sugar, syrup and molasses to the confederate soldiers.

Part of the process was cooking the juice, squeezed from the sugar cane, through a five step or kettle process.  The juice would cook in these kettles, being hand ladeled from the largest to the smallest, each kettle getting progressively hotter.  By the time it reached the final kettle it was a syrup.  After being cooked, it was cooled in large wooden vats.  As it cooled it would crystallize.  Sugar back then was not white, but brown.

North of Homosassa Springs was Crystal River and Three Sisters Springs.   Because the water all around this area is warmer than the gulf, even if only a few degrees, the manatees gather during the winter months. Some of the more inhabited areas are roped off to people and boats.  Manatees are protected and you are not allowed to chase them, harrass them, touch them, feed them or bother them in any way.  If you are snorkeling you are not allowed to dive down to look at them.  If you are kayaking, don't float over top of them either.  You are subject to fines of up to $1000 for bothering the manatees.  But there are still people out there snorkeling and we paddled close, just tried to give them some distance.  There are supposed to be around 500+ in the Kings Bay area of the Crystal River alone.
Manatees, commonly known as 'sea cows', are large, slow moving mammals which live in water.  But they are air breathers and come up every few minutes for air.  They are either used to people and ignore them, or they are unaware of us, I'm not sure which, but these didn't even seem curious about all the people and boats.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Visiting Oklahoma and the grandkids

I spent three weeks in Oklahoma, visiting kids and grandkids.  The hands on science museum was visited not once, but three times.  And I always love going to the zoo.  All too soon it was over and I flew back to Florida.  Here are a few of my favorites memories.
Only 3, but that girl knows what she wants.

Loves to climb and play outdoors.

The science museum has a simulator.

and you can see what is happening inside from a video screen.

They are experiencing the simulation of returning to earth.

That is one big table.

This fighter jet cockpit was most popular.

They love me.  They even made me these wonderful pipe cleaner glasses.

He could have spent the entire day building dams and redirecting the water.  

At home the computer keeps his attention.

What is it about boxes that captivate kids?

He's practicing to be the next big rock star.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Key West and the End of 2011

One advantage to being retired military or retired DOD is being able to stay at the many military bases around the country.  My favorite is Trumbo Point at Key West.  Boondocking just a mile from downtown Key West, it's easy to walk down to Mallory Square every evening to watch the sun set, or it's only a short bike ride over to the beach.  
One more item to check off on my bucket list.  

You are about 600 feet behind the boat and about 300 feet high.

All too soon it's over and they reel us in.

This osprey was raising her 2 chicks in the campground.  You sure knew when they were hungry.

The next few pictures are some of the highlights of Key West.

The name says it all.  No tables, no chairs, just a walk up bar.

I haven't been on all of it, but I imagine I traveled 80% of it this past summer and fall.

This is where it begins.

And of course there were the beaches.

I took the picture from the back side rather than stand in line for 30-45 minutes.

You can't miss Mallory Square

Sometimes as many as 5 or 6 street performers are going at once.  You can wander from performer to performer.

Even his dog gets into the act before it's over.

Live music every afternoon and evening.

We spent one afternoon just listening to the music.

The only country bar in town.

This was our first stop on New Years Eve.

Not many people dancing but everyone wanted to ride the bull.

We decided to wander to see what else was happening and found CNN was covering the 'dropping of the shoe'.  The streets were packed.

Yes, that really is someone in the shoe and it will drop to the ground on the last 10 seconds of the year.

But at the other end of Duval and down on the waterfront was the dropping of the wench on a pirate ship.

She made it down safely and we rang in the new year.

Wishing everyone a wonderful 2012.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Marathon, FL, for ChristmasI

I have always wanted to swim with the dolphins, so I visited the Dolphin Research Center in Marathon.  Although I really didn't swim with the dolphins, I did get to shake flippers with one.  This guy had been with the center for only 9 months and he is about 2 years old, still a youngster.  He was found in the oil spill off Louisiana.  In fact, BP not only paid for his vet care but pays part of his upkeep now because of their responsibility of the oil spill.
This facility has been here since the 1960s.  How many remember the TV series "Flipper"?  Well, the show was filmed at this location and most of the 22 dolphins are descendants of the original 5.
Joel, Tom C and Max went charter fishing one day.  

Each caught at least one fish.

Tom made all the arrangements and I think everyone had a good time and the boys provided our Christmas dinner the next day.

This is the one that got away.  Max fought this fish for over 45 minutes before it got loose.  The captain estimated the fish could have been as large as 200 lbs.  

About 2 miles along the Seven Mile Bridge is a small key called Pigeon Key.  It was the home for many of the workers who built the Flagler railroad from Miami to Key West back in the early 1900s.  It is now a state park and National Historic site.  You can take a ferry to the key or walk out the 2 miles on the old bridge.  But the entrance from the old bridge had been shut down by DOT the week before so we didn't get to visit the island itself.  It was a nice 4 mile walk though.

Part of the new Seven Mile Bridge.  The old bridge sits along side and most is not accessible at all is rotting away.  The original bridge was completed as a railway bridge in 1912 and revamped for autos in 1935.  It was replaced by the newer bridge in 1982.

At No Name Key is the No Name Pub.  At one time (before Facebook and the internet), if you didn't know where it was, you probably didn't go there.  But times have changed and they are now of Facebook and Twitter and every GPS has the coordinates.  

They still have good food and the inside walls and ceilings are covered with money.  Darn, they wouldn't even let me use some of the money from the wall to pay the tip!

On Deer Key and Big Pine Key they have Key Deer.  They are the smallest deer in the world and  are only found here in this location.  Since there is nothing to gauge the size by, you will just have to take my word, they are only about the size of a Labrador dog.

Christmas Day we didn't have the traditional ham or turkey.  No, we had us a fish fry.   I must say, Tom C fried up some of the best fish I've ever eaten.

While Tom cooked, the rest of us sat around and ate and visited.

Spent the day after Christmas at Bahia Honda State Park.  Finally got my new kayak in the water too.  I even paddled in both the Atlantic and Gulf in one day.  On one side of the highway is the Atlantic and the other is the Gulf, so all I had to do was paddle under the bridge and I was able to paddle both.

Bahia Honda is known for its great beaches.  In fact, I think the travel channel lists this as one of the top ten beaches in the U.S.

On Christmas Day we visited Sombrero Beach and guess what?  The Grinch was there.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas.