Saturday, February 24, 2007

Busch Garden Album

The "gorilla my dreams" consults with the real thing (or a reasonable facsimile) over the Busch Gardens map about what to see first

This is what you would see if you were going to swim up behind an alligator and bite HIM!
This little birdie captured my attention. All the people are outside the fences. All the animals are inside the fences. But this guy just sits ON the fence and can go where-ever his options are the best. There are lots of fences here, and there needs to be fences here. But it sure feels like it's a lot more about keeping the people away from the animals than the other way around.
I got a real "charge" out of this elephant!
Timbuktu! Finally I know where it is. It's where my parents always said they would send me if I was ever naughty. I never was! Although I can't prove that.
I loaded up my Land Rover and I'm all ready to go on safari. An "extra," the safari takes you by truck out onto the "Serengeti Plains" for an interactive experience with the critters that live out there. Unbelieveable!
No matter where you go to see animals in this park, there is always a world class roller coaster looming on the skyline...

This one, Shiek-Ra, plunges into water at 70 miles an hour.
By now I'm sure we hold the record for seeing more 4-D movies in a year than anyone ever has before. We have the stupidness self portraits to prove it! This time we saw, "Pirates"
I call this picture feeding the Lorys, "Scream Like a Girl." Which by the way is what I would do IF I were to go on the really big roller coasters- which I won't! Maybe something with a water shoot at the end suitable for kiddies!
Love the Giraffes! They seem to like us too- whether or not you have a piece of lettuce in your hand- although that helps.
This guy came over to the truck to plant one on Marilyn
Nothing like a Giraffe a few inches from your camera lens for a nifty shot or two...

They really did like Marilyn best. (me too)..even though there were about 12 other people in the safari truck with us.
I know it's not an action shot but I thought it was a pretty classic zebra shot
At the Hippo environment, you can see them above and below water at the same time. There were two adults and one young one who was nursing under water- you won't see that every day in Florida!
These Mayan Cyclids share the big pool with the Hippos. I like all animals but fish get top billing with me!
I went to the animal fair,
the birds and the beasts were there.
The big baboon,
by the light of the moon,
Was combing his auburn....
Oh, shucks, no baboons,
but just about everything else and way too much to talk about here. We had two glorious days and would have gone again if we had more time. What a great place.
As aways, click on photos to enlarge them and use back arrow to return to blog.....

Monday, February 19, 2007

Diving Into Tarpon Springs

One of my all time favorite Florida places is the sponge dock in Tarpon Springs. There you can learn just about everything there is to learn about the sponge industries, the Greek hard hat divers and Greek food as well. For a compulsive shell and sponge collector it is a place to fight the addiction! But since we have little more space in the coach I was on my best behavior and settled for a picture in the hard hat suit instead of that new shell and sponge- one of each of which I had my eye on!!! We came here many times in the past years to buy sponges for the art store back in Maine. While we always love coming here, this day trip had the extra added bonus of meeting up with Marilyn’s little sister Elizabeth and her husband David, who were down for a week visiting his side of the family. Their trip was waylaid by lousy weather and their luggage was waylaid by lousy air line service but they were in good spirits and looking great to us when we met them at the sponge factory. We had a really nice Greek lunch at Hellas (you gotta go there- opa!) I couldn't help but wish that other little sis Julie could be down here as well. I so very much want to see the three girls together under happy circumstances; they are all very special to me...
Check out the pictures of the Two Greek Beauties, the Two Old Ships, and Greg in full diver’s gear- you decide which is which!!! ( Just kidding)

A Day at the Florida State Fair

On a cold and blustery winter day- yes, we have those in Florida too from time to time- we ventured off to the Florida State Fair in Tampa. Considering the weather conditions, the place was packed. In large part we went to see the animals and the farming end of things but it was a disappointment in that regard for the most part. They did have a Florida panther and black bear there to see, but in truth, they are a lot more fun to see in the wild- which we have, though many who lived here a lot longer than we have did not. There were more food booths than I have ever seen at any fair anywhere and the steak-on-a-stick was the prize of the day @ 8 bucks a stick so I’m some glad it was tender and tasty. Considering what we could have eaten there, we done good!
Above are a few photos from the fair: “cold day, hot dog”, “swinging in the wind”, “hanging around upside down” and “steak on a stick off the stick.”

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Finding a Hero in Pinellas

I’ve had a “to do” list of a few things that I was bound and determined to carry out as part of our motor coach touring of the country. Since our initial run up the Eastern seaboard to Pennsylvania and back (visit the parents, show off the new coach to family) we have mainly been hanging out hiding from winter in Florida and seeing our home state first so to speak. We haven’t really had a chance to knock much off the list at all. So yesterday was a great day as number one on the official list was accomplished- and wonderfully so!
From our area base at Tampa East, we traveled perhaps some 30 miles or so to Pinellas. Our mission for the day, was to try to locate Col. Neil Coady. Back in WWII, Neil Coady and another fellow POW of my dad’s by the name of Fred Puckett carried him on a forced march in the snow from one Stalag to the next. When he was shot down in his B-17, my dad’s back had been broken so he was in pretty tough shape to begin with. Finally the march became too much for him and he fell to the side of the road where, presumably, the enemy would either just let him die or perhaps even worse, sic the dogs on him. And as dad recounts it, he was prepared to die that day. He certainly did not intend to become an additional burden to the other guys who were marching in the worst of conditions just to stay alive. But Neil Coady was having none of that! He and Fred picked up my dad and carried him along, arm over shoulder, feet dragging when they could not walk. A slice of bread he had along the way, he put on my dad’s chest when there was an opportunity to rest and he told my dad, “Don’t worry. It will be there when you wake up.” It was.
But my aim is not to tell their story- only enough of it for you to understand that what I was doing was looking for the man who saved my dad’s life. And along with that, I was looking for the man, without who’s heroics in the war, I would never have come into the world at all myself.
I was a bit apprehensive when we pulled up to the address where we hoped to either locate Neil or learn of his condition and whereabouts. We were arriving unexpected and unannounced and surprise visits are not always the happiest of meetings. A strikingly attractive woman answered the door and I introduced myself to her and began to tell her why we were knocking on her door. My name had apparently not registered anything in particular (nor should it have) but as I started to explain that Neil Coady had carried my dad as a prisoner, her eyes lit up and I could see that she had heard the story and knew exactly what I was talking about. We were invited in immediately.
Inside stood Neil Coady (US Air Force, Col., retired). First order of business was to shake hands and thank the man for everything he had done for my dad….and of course my mother and my sister and me. Immediately I was passed the fear that he may already have gone the way of so many of the WWII vets and departed this world already. For Air Force men, the Wild Blue Yonder has always and will always be special, but no hurry to take that final flight! I entered that house that day with no preconceived idea of what I might learn or what I might see. But standing before me was a man, now in his mid-eighties, who I will tell you, in order for you to have some measure of the man at this age, immediately reminded me of both Ronald Reagan and Charleton Heston. Handsome. Strong and fit looking. Sharp and alert and articulate and instantly recalling “those days.“ Not looking nearly old enough to have done what we know he did for my dad. It was easy for me to see that this man could have accomplished all that he did.
I asked permission to take a couple photos. Granted. I asked if he would mind if I got my cell phone so we could call home and he and my dad could speak together. Granted.
We got to know each other just a bit. No desire to overstay any welcome. Saw some pictures and looked at walls of framed medals and uniforms and military memorabilia. Put my parents e mail and phone numbers etc. into the Coady’s computer for safe keeping. It felt like home to me. And in a way, I suppose it is.
Col. Coady: My family and I salute you, sir!

Col Coady and his wife Elisabeth reside near the base where he was stationed many times when in the states. If you are interested in the base or the area, try the following link:

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Doggie Beach and DNA

I like the way this expression begins (although I do not profess to know who “They” are) so I use it from time to time:
THEY SAY…that after a while owners begin to look like their dogs! There is evidence to support this, but I’m not too sure it should be considered a universal truth. Just to play it safe though, we did make arrangements to get a good looking dog! Hey! You can’t be too careful!
But I never heard “them” say that if you have a dog long enough it will start to pick up some of your favorite hobbies and want to do all the things you like to do. But now there is evidence of that as well- so if it turns out to be a truism, then I will become the “They” when other people start to use the expression.
Anyone who knows me at all, knows of my love and fascination with all things oceanic, but most visibly “shells”. Where-ever “She sells seas shells” I am shopping! Nothing appeals to me more than walking along a new beach looking for, picking up, selecting, and dragging home new sea shells. Our home, no matter where we make it, is a shell shop of sorts. But while Abby has always loved walking on a beach (after all, she grew up on one in Honduras) and playing in the water, she has never in the past expressed any interest in shelling. That is until now. And so on one of our recent day trips to Doggie Beach near Lover’s Key State Park in Bonita Springs, Abby started to express an interest in shells. And yes, I have the pictures to prove it. When I started to photograph, admittedly I didn’t know what was about to unfold, but I became more and more fascinated by the process as it did. First we found a few shells ourselves and held them for Abby to smell. Then she was off to find a few of her own. She evidently could locate them under water (as long as they were showing well), then paw them to a place where she could pick them up with her mouth. And whether or not you choose to believe she carried her shell back to coach….or not…it IS here and a proud part of the “Coach Collection.”
That’s MY dog! Even have the DNA in a bag from time to time to prove it!

Welcome Home

At Bonita Imperial Estates, where we spent two of the “annual duty” weeks in Florida, there is a terrific dog walking area down by the small branch of the Imperial River where it crosses under the high tension lines headed south to Naples. In that area of the park there are mostly “park models”- a euphemism for trailers and doublewides. In some parks they are not terribly special dwellings but here they are upscale, nicely landscaped and well cared for. It’s a pretty little park actually. On our second to last day there, I spied this “temporary lawn ornament” which I thought immediately rated a picture and a word or two, even though I had no clue as to the circumstances under which it was constructed. So on the way back from a nice walk with Abby, I stopped by and asked permission to take the picture. It turns out, the owners of this property had just returned from a cruise and this ornament was the neighbor’s way of celebrating their friend’s return. We had a good laugh together over the story they told and I asked where they had been cruising. And once again, I find that the world gets smaller as I get older- they had been to Roatan, where we lived on the beach for 5 mostly wonderful years. Like any island I suppose and especially those in the Caribbean, there is a downside to living there, but it is certainly kept in balance by the incredible beauty and kicked back comfort that surrounds you day to day (at least on a good day). And the food is great!
So this was a warm if unusual welcome home in the park. And as a result of the process, we were “welcomed home” in conversation as well.

The Gundys of Bonita Springs

Our check in at Imperial Bonita was a bit strange. We had phoned them twice before arrival to add a couple days to our stay- owing to the fact that Marilyn contracted jury duty while we were in town. But imagine the confusion when, upon arrival, the office staff told us we were NOT checking in today.
“Yes! We are!
“No, you’re not!
“Yes, we are. Trust me.”
“No. Really. You called to make changes. Remember?”
Long story- short: As unusual as the name Gundy is, there was, in fact, another Gundy due to check into the park in a few days. There was also an entirely new office staff on the job. Add to that, that our site was 160 and the other Gundys were assigned to 61 and our stays would overlap by a day or two only. It was the Perfect Storm of Confusion for a few minutes, but then the light came on and the picture was clear.
First time we tried to find the other Gundys, they were out so we left a card on their Fifth Wheel, with an explanation. A couple hours later they showed up at the coach by bike. We had things to do; they had plans, but we had a whirlwind chat session and managed time for a quick photo together. So while we are not REALLY the Gundys of Bonita Springs, we all were for a day or two and that was quite fun.
So introducing in the photo with us, Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Gundy! Hope our paths will cross again and we can get to know each other better.
It’s a family thing!

Sunday, February 4, 2007

And Speaking Of Fishing...

I mentioned tying some flies in the last post. That sort of came about from thinking about and reading about our dream of traveling in the coach to Alaska. While we may or may not be able to pull that notion off this coming year, we surely have established that as a goal. So it WILL happen, we are just still not too sure when. Too many variables with “properties owned” that have us concerned about the wisdom of trying to manage them from that much of a distance. But that’s another story.
Not too long after pulling into Bonita, we got out the Alaska Planning magazines and began diving in- realizing that the time to plan was NOW or there would be no shot at a successful trip at all. And not long after the intense research began, I developed a powerful hankering for a taste of the smoked salmon that I was reading about catching and preparing. I was sitting outside under the awning when this thought came over me and I mentioned it to Marilyn, not so anyone would do anything about it, but only to demonstrate that the “getting into it” mode was in full gear. She got up moments later from her chair and came back into the coach. I didn’t think anything of it and read on. But a few minutes later, she came back out carrying a platter with some Rosemary Triscuits and smoked salmon. Back quite a while Derek and Karin had sent us some of the highly prized smoked salmon from the Seattle area where they reside. It is some truly choice material, and we always save it for special occasions only. And especially since I didn’t even know we had it with us on the coach- this was one! It was the perfect snack at the perfect moment and believe you me it was finger-licking good.
A couple days later, we picked up the mail from the house where Sandy and Waylon are holding down the fort. In snail mail from my parents there was the cartoon pictured above. How appropriate. My dad likes almost everything in life, but given a ranking sheet he might be likely to put fishing dead last. Didn’t matter! He signed on when I was knee high to a grasshopper kind of age to take me to Canada on a fishing trip with Doc Zackon and his boys of the same age (Doc was my collie’s veterinarian when I was a kid and he and his family have become lifelong dear friends). Dad was willing to do this for me. That does not imply he was thrilled with the concept, thinking he more than likely would observe nature whenever and wherever he found it and be happy with that- leaving the fishing to me. It was the fist time either of us had taken a fishing trip of any consequence, and as best I can remember the last as well. There were many marvelous adventures; they just didn’t zero in on the fishing end of things. On my ranking sheet of life, fishing comes in number one! Well, maybe number two, but it’s a darn strong two, and we ani’ta gonna discuss number one.
When we got to the fishing camp, the others all rented boats and headed right out. They knew what they were doing, or so it seemed to me. We did not. I recall our boat was a lot like the one in the cartoon in both size and stature. We did not venture far from the dock at first, and if you study the image well you will get a good sense of what happened all day long on day one. The anchor was dropped on the edge of the weed bed just off a small island. In the front of the boat I caught yellow perch after perch. It was not the Great Northern Pike we had traveled there to find but they were good fish and the absolute best for shore lunch. Skin-on perch fried in pure bacon fat in a coffee can on an open fire- now that’s good! In the back of the boat dear old dad had not a bite. I encouraged him to move his line closer to mine, explaining that the spot where the fish were schooling up can be quite specific, but to no avail. After a long time of this pattern playing out, we finally decided that to be fair we should just switch places in the boat. We did. And within minutes I was catching fish after fish in the back of the boat and dad, well, it didn’t go a whole lot better in the front of the boat for him.
Now let’s make this clear: my dad never quit at anything in his life! Not at scrapping his way through the financial hardships of getting a good education in the Depression, not at Army Air Corp flight school where he became a B-17 pilot, not in prison camp with a broken back and no food, and not under the political pressures of running his beloved Reading Public Museum. But on this one day, he did ask me to row him to shore while I “caught a few more” so he could do some birding and investigating on the island.
By later in the week, we had learned some of the lessons of the Canadian Wilderness and were both catching all the fish we could handle.
They say all fishermen are liars. Well, personally, I resemble that remark! But I think I must have this story pretty close to right, otherwise why would my parents send me this cartoon in the mail some 45 years after it happened.

Reader's Rebellion?

Whoa! There’s a reader’s rebellion afoot. I’ve been getting nods and prods to get going with the blog already - too many log ins only to find nothing new “on the wheels.” Well, don’t give up on me just yet people, but if I had to write every day about what we are doing right now, we would ALL be bored to tears, and who wants to deal with that?
We are in the general area of “home.” We were in Punta Gorda for a week and now Bonita Springs for two weeks and then back to Punta Gorda for a short stay before getting back on the road. What we are doing is this: the mundane but necessary tasks that sustain life - doctors, dentists, veterinarians (for Abby, not me, silly) - all crammed into one short block of the year. Preventive maintenance if you will. We are also doing our part to sustain the union- jury duty for Marilyn (already did my time) and year end tax preparation for 2006. Why is it that it takes much of the next year to figure out what happened to you last year? Especially since by the time you figure that out it is always too darn late to do anything about it. The old expression would be, I believe, water over the dam. Here in camping world, I suppose we would say that a leak in the sewer connection can’t flow back into the hose. You get the picture. It all stinks.
Anyway, I’m bored doing all this stuff so I can be darn sure it would be a lot worse for all of you hearing about it. I have not yet reached the age where all I do is talk about my health, although that day is probably sneaking up on me faster than I would care to admit.
So please take another week or so off from following the adventure and then pick it back up once there is something with a bit more flare to get in to.
There has been a plus hiding out in Florida so far this winter as the rest of the nation has had brutally cold weather in places that don’t usually get it, so from that standpoint I suppose, better to have been here. We are, none-the-less, ready to get going again as the Spring begins to break in the south. I did start tying a few flies. It kills some time between appointments and stimulates the mind into thinking about what might be next.