Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Hiding From Snow

With the house sold and 99% of the b/s that goes with that out of the way, we settled somewhat into the mission for the winter- hiding out from the snow. At the time of this writing, that turns out to be not such a bad idea as new England has 20 inches or so on the ground in places and the west coast where son Derek lives has been hammered by a 100 year storm complete with heavy snow, lots of rain, and major flooding with as much as 9 feet of water on top of as much as a 20 mile stretch of major highway there near Seattle. Yuk. All of which makes Florida in the high seventies and low eighties under clear skies kind of nice. Recent hurricanes are now just a memory. And since human memory has serious limitations (we're good at forgetting what we don't wish to remember), I suppose people will always seek the comfort of the Florida sun in the winter.

Much of our "hiding" time has actually been devoted to reorganization. Reorganization of the coach. Of the car. Of our lives now that the house is a goner. It's an interesting challenge. Figure out what you really need, what you really want. Then figure out where to put it, where to store it. And make it all so that changes can be accommodated as need be. Flexibility is a key aspect of life on the road, and one that requires constant attention and, well, flexibility. Just about finished now are the adjustments to bill paying, year end paperwork, changes in insurance necessities. Our more than ample (most months) supply of wireless air minutes ran short last month for the very first time; that's how much time was required to be on the phone(s) on a daily basis to get things switched from a home base to a "homeless" base.

But while there was plenty of work to get done, there is always a little time to play as well and so here is a look at some of the fun stuff we do in between work missions:

A Day At The Beach: Caspersen Beach Park, located just south of Venice Beach on the Gulf Coast

The beach and park are widely known as a great place to swim, surf and sun bathe, but it is also a fantastic place to dig, pick, rake, and sift for shark's teeth. The offshore reefs are constantly coughing up fossilized teeth as the reef erodes and the storms wash the teeth to the shore. It's been a favorite pastimes of mine since the days when my family traveled to Scientist Cliffs on the Chesapeake Bay for much the same activity. I have thousands of teeth in my collection by now. Hey, a guy can never have enough teeth! But on this trip we found a creature of a different color. This large (lobster size) critter is a hermit crab. He ditched his shell (temporary housing) of a good size conch shell and was off to find a new one. There were some divers in the area who were helping him with the process. It's rare to see hermits outside the shell- but pretty cool!

On the Chesapeake, we used to stand in the surf with our backs to the sea and let the water do all the work washing the teeth up while we just looked down and grabbed them as they passed between our feet. But down here, we rake them in a wire scoop, sift them in the salt water and then spread them out of the beach to pick and choose and separate. Below, I'm the raker...

and Marilyn is the picker.

We often stop for the day after a hundred teeth or so. The sun can get pretty hot even this time of year and sunburn is NOT your friend....There are lots of types of sharks in the sea. There are still more that are now extinct- some of whom have left a few of their teeth behind for us to collect. This collection from the day at the beach is representative of several types of sharks. The largest and long, narrow ones are from the Sand Tiger. That large one to the left is from a regular tiger shark. There are also some dusky, bull, and lemon shark teeth in the mix. You can enlarge the picture by clicking on it to take a better look if you like. Clicking your back arrow always brings you back to the blog. There's a quarter for reference.

I had a Day On The Gulf as well. Captain Larry, at the helm, and mate Jim made the trip. Bobber Boy Rick was on a business trip to Arkansas. It's a great fishing team. We actually always catch fish and we always have a good time doing it. Every day on the water is different. You never know what the Gulf will offer up on any given day. Big sharks (they KEEP their teeth), Grouper, Cobia, Red Fish, Snook, Jacks, Snapper. Those of you who followed the trip to Alaska will know that there are no Halibut in Florida- but they do have some gigantic sting rays which are similar in size and shape to some extent and we sure hooked a bunch of them on this trip. I'm guessing the smallest were in the 50 pound range and the largest more like 70. What's fun about them is that they LOOK a bit like halibut as they are coming up off the bottom to the boat. They are edible, but these guys went back about their merry business none the worse for wear.

A word about the Captain, alias "Lucky Larry". Fishing with the guy is great! But I'm suggesting that none of you play cards with him. Ever. He wins. Not just some of the time. All of the time. No, he doesn't cheat- he's just either that good OR that lucky; hence, the name. And speaking of lucky, if Larry has purchased a lottery ticket for the week already, there is absolutely no reason for you to go out and get one.....He will win that too. Marilyn and I once went to a dance with a group of our friends, but Larry and Carol were out of town so could not go along. There were ten raffle prizes to be given away for the event. I suggested as a joke that we each buy a ticket for ourself and one for Larry so we could tell him when he got back that for once he did not win. However, the joke was on us, as Larry won two of the ten prizes even though he himself never even bought a ticket and was not even there that night. Some people have all the luck!

Having Jim on board your boat adds a lot to the mix. Not only is he a million laughs a minute, he can fix anything with an engine. On more than one occasion, he made miraculous repairs to our I/O that got us back to the dock when all odds were against it. He can even get engines that won't run -running temporarily without parts. Now that's a skill you like to have on board when you're fishing up to 25 miles off shore for sure.

As for the missing Rickster, man that guy can sing dirty sailor songs!

A day of Rays:

What hiding from snow? Marilyn defrosted the freezer and made a snowball for Abby on a hot day in Punta Gorda. Given the choice between the snowball and the "antler chew", the snowball comes in first with her every time. Not what I would expect from a dog born in Honduras, but that's the way it is. I guess I really shouldn't be all that surprised. As a pup on Roatan, she used to take ice cubes out of her bowl and try to bury them for later...
In Alaska, we had tried to get the opportunity to smoke our own fish. And while we might have been able to give it a try a time or two- it just didn't work out the way we had hoped. So now back here, with a freezer full of fish and clams, we got ourselves an early (and ONLY) Christmas present- an electric smoker, just the right size to fit in to the coach "basement." On our first try, we made some hickory smoked salmon, halibut and almonds. Maybe a tad dry, but excellent flavor none-the-less and surely good enough to be really looking forward to the next batch once this one gets gobbled up.
A couple weeks at Peace River has helped us settle back into some kind of Florida routine. A river walk in the morning in the early fog is a wonderful experience. Just keep eyes open for gators and snakes per signs posted. (It really is no big deal- just a precaution on the part of the Preserve).

Peace River Still Life! A noisy squirrel in a Live Oak, a spider web (can you say "Charlotte's"), some fog and a bit of Spanish moss.
Like all places we have been, each has a beauty all of its own. Peace River Preserve is loaded with Classic Florida images.

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