Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Trip

On Tuesday, December 23, we took off in the RV for Cortez, FL. This is on the Gulf coast, between Tampa/St. Pete and Sarasota and only about 120 miles from home. We had been to Holiday Cove RV Park before, a couple of years ago, but it was quite different now. They have done a complete makeover, including brick pavers on every site. It’s beautiful, but in the process they had to remove most of the trees which were large and gave plenty of shade. It was sad to see so few large trees left on the property.

Our friends, Gary & Mary, arrived shortly after we did. We had a drink and munchies and then walked to dinner at the Seafood Shack. Outstanding food!

On Wednesday, the four of us went to the Ringling Museum in Sarasota. Yes, Ringling as in Circus. Our first stop was Cà d’Zan, the mansion they built right on Sarasota Bay. It’s a beautiful house, fashioned after those in Venice, Italy. It was to cost about $100,000, but ended up at $1.5 million. Wow! This is the front of the house.

This is a photo of the rear of the house, taken from the terrace. You can definitely see a Venetian influence.

And a view of the terrace and the bay from the side of the house.

Here are our friends by the banyan tree outside the mansion.

From there we went to the Circus Museum. There were costumes and some props, but mostly wagons and even the private train car used by John & Mable Ringling when traveling.

And we HAD to have a photo of this:

Our next stop was the Museum of Art. Julian and I walked through very quickly as we were getting very tired. But when we got out into the courtyard, we had to slow down. It was beautiful.

I crashed when we got home as my back was really bothering me from being on my feet so much. Plus, Julian and I walked three miles that morning before we left on this excursion. Not the brightest thing to do, but … what can I say?

After some rejuvenation, some cards, some appetizers and some drinks, we all headed out to dinner at the MarVista Pub. We’d eaten here on our previous trip and it was even better than we’d remembered. We ate outside, overlooking the water and really enjoyed it all.

On Christmas morning, Julian and I drove the mile or so to the Gulf beaches and did some fishing. We had a great time and the weather couldn’t have been nicer. Yes, we each caught a fish, but neither one was large enough to keep. But here’s Julian working it.

We spent the afternoon relaxing and then played cards, etc., with our friends. We brought food to make for dinner, assuming that it would be difficult to find a restaurant open on Christmas Day. We ate very well and really enjoyed each other’s company.

On Friday our friends went to the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. Not being a fan, Julian and I opted to go to the South Florida Museum. It could be called small, but it had very nice displays and exhibits. The wildlife dioramas were particularly good.

They also have a small aquarium where Snooty lives. He is the oldest know manatee anywhere and has lived his 60 years at this aquarium. We got in on one of their presentations and met all four of the manatees staying there right now. The other three are passing through, getting rehabilitation before being released back into the wild. But Snooty is the BMOC and demands attention. He’s fed by hand and here’s proof.

We also went to the planetarium while there. It was a great production, but we both felt it was way over our heads (no pun intended). It was called Extreme Planets and talked about finding new planets and stars and how they do it. Mind boggling!

We walked a couple of blocks to a restaurant in the middle of the marina. It was another beautiful day in Paradise and it was great fun to look at all the boats, many of which were for sale. They were into the Christmas spirit and we particularly liked the decorations at this gate to one set of slips.

We ate on the terrace behind the building in this picture. We had another yummy meal while enjoying the view of the Manatee River.

After reading and relaxing in the afternoon, the four of us again ventured out to dinner. We picked the Anna Maria City Pier Restaurant. We had eaten here 2 years ago, too, and it was no less wonderful this time. We have to quit eating like this!

After a great breakfast just across the street from the RV park, we “broke camp” and headed back home. We’d had a great time and a very happy Christmas week.

Here’s hoping you did, too!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Thanksgiving Trip

On Wednesday, November 26, we took off in the coach for several days in Ft. Myers Beach. We have been there before, but this was our first stay at San Carlos RV Park & Island Resort. This was a fairly small park situated right on Hurricane Bay, a waterway separating the mainland of Ft. Myers Beach from San Carlos Island. The photo on the home page of their web site shows how it's all laid out.

Our neighbors, whom we've traveled with frequently, also joined us there. The guys spent every free moment fishing the waters directly behind our coaches. One morning, this heron decided he wanted some of the fish the guys had caught. We shoo-ed him away repeatedly, but once our backs were turned he actually got his beak down into the bucket and took off with the largest fish that was in there!

Here's another view of the water. It was really beautiful there.

We had dinner at Snug Harbor Restaurant on Thanksgiving Day. We had requested a table near the window, which we certainly enjoyed. And the food was excellent. We'll have to eat there again on a future visit.

On Friday, we all went into the beach area of Ft. Myers Beach, on Estero Island. We had a great lunch overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. The weather was awesome and the food was pretty good too.

Afterwards, Julian went to the fish cleaning table to fillet all the fish that had been caught.

The birds were plentiful, snarfing up all the left-overs from the cleaned fish.

They seemed pretty used to people and let me get some really close shots.

We returned home on Saturday morning. It was a fairly short trip, but we sure had a good time.

Now it's time to plan our Christmas outing! Stay tuned!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

South Carolina, Georgia and ...

Our next stop was in North Myrtle Beach, SC. We stayed at Briarcliffe, a very nice campground a mile or so off the beach.

This RV resort happened to share a boundary with Barefoot Landing, a large outdoor mall with lots of shops and restaurants. When we took our morning walks, we wandered throughout the mall and easily did about 2.5 miles each time.

We did a lot of exploring of the various fishing piers all over the area. One day we drove north into North Carolina. We didn't find the perfect place to fish, but we did find a great lunch.

We were able to find a great sports bar where we could watch the Sunday Denver Bronco games. This place even had individual TVs at some of the booths. So we were able to see and hear it all, one win and one ugly loss.

We went gambling a couple of times, once on the SunCruz ship which we didn't really enjoy that much. The second time, we took the Big M. It's a smaller boat, but much nicer. Plus, we actually made money on this jaunt, so we really did have a good time.

After talking with a guy who was working on the landscaping at Barefoot Landing, we found the place he recommended for fishing. It's a public park with boardwalks out to the Intercoastal Waterway. So we took our fishing poles and gave it a try.

We both got several bites and Julian actually caught a couple of crabs. But in the end, we didn't bring anything home. We really did enjoy the time spent out there, though.

Another day we went to the beach and tried surf fishing. Julian has good form, don't you think?

Julian did catch a fish, but it was too small to keep. Seems to be the story of our life! We also tried fishing from one of the piers on another day, but that proved fruitless as well.

On October 2, we got up early and headed south again. Our next stop was at King George RV about seven miles north of the Florida-Georgia border. It was a very long drive, but uneventful.

We took a drive to Jekyll Island, a place I've wanted to see for quite some time. It turned out to be a really beautiful place - one that we will return to again one day. We had lunch at the restaurant on this little pier and it was very good.

We drove to another part of the island where we found this fishing pier.

It is made of concrete and was so inviting! One of the fishermen out there commented that we "would be back". He said once people see Jekyll Island, they always return. I know he's right in our case.

Our neighbors drove their coach up to stay in the same park for the weekend. So on Saturday, the four of us went to St. Mary's for the Rock Shrimp Festival. We got started with a parade - not unlike those we'd seen in other small towns earlier in the summer.

I don't know if the main target of this photo is the dog or the hottie walking towards the photographer (aka Julian).

There were booths with all types of arts and crafts, but interestingly there was no place to actually buy rock shrimp - the thing that the festival was about! However, we did get some in our dinner, along with peel-n-eat shrimp, fried fish, cole slaw and hush puppies. It was all pretty good.

That night I shot this picture from the restaurant where we had our final dinner out.

It's a fitting final photo as it really was the sunset of our trip.

We drove the remaining 180 miles or so, and arrived home at about 12:30pm on Sunday, October 5, 2008. In 109 days, we drove through 12 states and about 3500 miles.

So, until next time, happy trails to you all.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Coastal Virginia

On 9/11 we drove about 170 miles to our next stop in Virginia Beach, VA. Our route took us south on the peninsula from Delaware, through Maryland, into Virginia.

And then we took the Chesapeake Bay Bridge onto mainland Virginia. This bridge is 17.6 miles long with two mile-long tunnels in the middle. The bridge itself was not a big deal. As you can see it is two lanes going each way. And it wasn’t very high up off the water, so I wasn’t all nervous about that part of it.

The real FUN part were the tunnels. The four lanes of divided bridges came together into two lanes of very narrow tunnel. This photo was taken shortly before going into the second tunnel.

I must say these were the longest single mile sections of road I think we’ve ever traveled. Even going at about 35 mph, it felt like we were careening out of control - with cars coming directly at us! There was a walkway with a railing on the passenger side and I just knew we would lose the mirror on that side of the coach. But in the end, all was well. I’m sure if we’d been in a car it would have been no big deal, but we weren’t and it was.

Then we drove through miles of Virginia Beach city streets. That part of the state seems to be highly populated. But in time we reached our campground, which was very nice. This was the view to the rear of the coach.

We went to the beach at Virginia Beach which had a boardwalk. Only it was cement, not boards, and it was almost all hotels, not fun little shops like we’d enjoyed in Rehoboth Beach. But we did find a great place to eat. (Don’t we always?) And I had the best crab cakes on earth, I think.

There was a great beach there, too. It was very broad and we did walk it some.

Another day we drove to Sandbridge Beach, a little hole-in-the-wall town just a couple miles up the road from where we were staying. We walked a couple miles on the beach.

We checked out the fishing pier. We drove around the town and then headed back to the coach for a fairly lazy afternoon.

We had booked a “party boat” fishing trip for Thursday, but the weather turned bad and we decided not to go out in the wind and rain. We started to go to the Farmers Market, but Julian’s glasses broke and we headed out instead to find a place to get them fixed. Once that was accomplished, we headed back to the beach area and found another place to have another really good meal.

Our week there went really fast. Even though I don’t have many pictures to share, we did have a great time and enjoyed the area very much.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The First State

We took two days to drive from the Finger Lakes to Rehoboth Bay in Delaware. After having to re-route our drive due to excessive highway tolls, we spent one night in a Wal-Mart in Exton, PA. The good news was that this store was a part of a very large shopping mall. We walked over for dinner and found some really great food. It helped wipe out the aggravation of the re-routing process.

Then it was on to south Delaware. Again we re-routed to avoid tolls. (What’s up with these people?) But it turned out to be a lucky thing. One of the first things we saw was this gas station with the lowest prices we’d seen since leaving home. So of course we filled up.

Before getting to our destination, we found even lower prices. Go figure!

We had lunch just a couple miles from our destination. Julian had one of the best soft-shell crab sandwiches he’s ever had. I guess we really do eat our way across the country.

We were able to choose our site at Leisure Point. We found a really nice one with lots of shade and a view of the river.

We were in the back of the park and it was very quiet and relaxing here. Not many people in this section, probably because it was past the high season. But that was just the way we liked it.

The season opener for the Broncos happened to be on ESPN, which we had with our cable package. However, it didn’t start until 10:15pm - WAY past our bedtime. So we bought a cable and a video tape for the VCR and taped the game. The hard part was spending a day out and about without hearing the outcome. But we did that and watched it in its entirety on Tuesday night. What a game! We were so glad we got to see it.

We drove to Rehoboth Beach that day. We walked a mile or so up the beach and then back on the boardwalk. It was a great place.

They had these signs all up and down the boardwalk with all sorts of great facts which we enjoyed reading.

The next day we drove to Lewes (say loo-iss). This was a cute little town, but very little and not nearly as fun as Rehoboth Beach had been. So we then drove to Dewey Beach. This was even smaller, with not much to do. We had lunch and then headed back to the coach.

We were only here for three nights. It went quickly. But we really did have a good time.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I ♥ NY

Our next stop was Indian Village on Canandaigua Lake, one of the finger lakes of western New York. This is a private park of about 98% park models. You can’t stay here if you don’t know someone who spends the summer here. We are friends with a couple who live in our development in Florida who come here every summer. In fact Jean was raised in the Canandaigua, NY, area.

Larry took Julian out in the boat to do some fishing one of the first days we were there. They brought back enough fish for a great dinner for all of us. It was all very yummy.

On the first Saturday that we were there, the little community center a couple blocks away was holding a silent auction. I can’t remember who would benefit, but we went over and bid on several items. I got a local T-shirt, Heidi got some home-made treats and Julian got some wine. Everybody wins!

We met the couple next to us on the very first day. Jim and Carol were very nice people who also live in central Florida. They, too, enjoy gambling and Carol told me about the local casino on our first day there. So we had to go try our luck. We went there three or four times over the 18 days we were there. No we didn’t have any spectacular luck, but we didn’t spend everything, either. The NY Lottery runs the casinos and we kinda got the feeling that they were a bit more rigged than some places. If you were dealt two pair, you got two pair, even if you threw away one of the pairs. But we did have fun.

On the Saturday before Labor Day, the lake residents work together for what is called “Ring of Fire”. This turned out to be an awesome evening out on the lake in Larry & Jean’s boat. We got out on the lake by about 7:30pm and did a bit of a tour of the south end of the lake. There were some beautiful houses out there.

As darkness was falling, some residents started shooting off fireworks. (I’m told this is technically illegal, but that wasn‘t going to stop us from enjoying it all.) And then the “Ring of Fire” part kicks in. Everyone all around the lake lights up flares placed at the edge of the water.

It was so cool. It was like this in every direction, all around the lake. The picture doesn’t give the full effect, but hopefully, you get the idea.

But wait, there’s more! We got even luckier. As we continued to move around the southern part of the lake, we were suddenly VERY close to a barge which had been running without lights (also technically illegal). There was a second barge close by that appeared to have a bunch of people in party mode. Then, all of a sudden, without warning, the first barge fired off some fireworks. One of the other ladies in the boat was nearly knocked off her feet in surprise.

And it just kept going. This was a professional display.

And the best part was that we were literally RIGHT underneath the whole thing! My neck was getting tired by the time it was over, but it was worth it. We later found out that it was a wedding of a son of one of the wealthy residents of the lake. How lucky we felt to be right there and enjoy his “party”.

We walked many of the morning we spent here. The area was so pretty. Here’s a shot of the lake from one of the roads we walked.

This church was on our walking route. It was also right across the street from the community center where we had participated in the silent auction.

It seemed that there was always something going on in this little community. Our first night at Indian Village, they had a pot luck, which we attended. The afternoon after “Ring of Fire”, the owner of the park threw his annual “end of season” bash. He supplied all kinds of food and even drinks of about anything you could want. It was a really nice party.

Next to Donna is Jean in yellow and Larry in orange. (Better pic to follow.)

Another evening we had roast beef dinner purchased from the Middlesex fire department. I think about 14 of the residents, including us, gathered at Larry & Jean’s to eat. We called in the order and drove over to pick up the food. It was delicious.

We spent most of Labor Day on the lake. This time we headed to the north. It was a bit incredible to see the houses on the west banks of this lake. Jean had said that the east shore was millionaire’s row. The west side was billionaire’s row. And I could believe it.

We went all the way to the docks and resort area on the north end of the lake. We docked and everyone had “NY reds”, very good hot dogs with everything on them. It was a great lunch and a really fun trip.

Did you know that New York has wineries? Lots of them? This Finger Lake region has tons of them, maybe hundreds, of every size you might imagine. Over the course of our being there, we visited 12 of them - and barely made a dent!

The first one we visited was the most impressive, though we didn’t know it when we walked in. We drove to Naples on the south end of Canandaigua Lake. There were two there, the largest was Widmer Winery. We were lucky enough to have gotten there just as the tour was beginning. What we didn’t know was that this is where all Manischewitz products are produced. That was an interesting process: the entire area is in a locked cage and there is only one key, held by the rabbi who oversees every aspect of the production. We bought some of their Cream Peach and it was gone WAY too fast, very yummy.

Another day we drove to Seneca Lake where we went into several more wineries. Some had really beautiful grounds.

The entrance to one led right through the vineyards. We could easily see the grapes still on the vines.

Jim and Carol invited us to join them on a trip to the wineries around Keuka Lake. Heron Hill Winery had a particularly pretty building.

And this is the view from Bully Hill, and we did buy wine here.

Our last big outing was a trip to Letchworth State Park with Jean and Larry. Jean grew up very near this park and knew it very well. It is called “The Grand Canyon of the East”. This is Upper Falls and the train trestle that is still used. That’s Jean and Larry with us in the photo.

This is Middle Falls. (We didn’t make it to the Lower Falls.)

This is also Middle Falls, with some of the canyon walls, looking north. It was really pretty there.

And the canyon heading south.

From the park, we went into Castile (say cast-ISLE). We had a great lunch in a little restaurant that had been owned and operated by Jean’s mother some years ago.

Things you’ll learn today: In New York, the town of Chili is pronounced chie-lie. Nunda is noon-DAY. The definition of “upstate New York” is anything north of New York City. I guess that’s pretty much everything BUT New York City. Go figure! But, now you know.

We had a great time during our two and a half weeks in New York. We also met a number of really nice people who summer in this park. It was a great experience and we thank Jean & Larry for inviting us to share this great place with them.