"" Writer's Wanderings

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Migrating Back Home

The trunk of the car was packed without an inch of free space and the back seat of the car was loaded with what didn't fit in the trunk. It didn't seem like we had collected anything extra and actually had eliminated some things when we had Christmas with our Florida kids. Somehow it just didn't all go back in as easily as the first time. But the trunk lid closed and the doors all shut and so we started out heading north. Our trip home will take us on a different route than usual to allow us to visit some friends along the way and see a couple of spots we want to explore. 

Our first stop was Marco Island. We took the Tamiami Trail route (Route 41) west to Marco. Along side the road for much of the way is a canal and I started counting the alligators I could see. I know there were a lot more than the six I spotted in the water but they are hard to see as you are moving along. The Miccosouke Indians have a large reservation in that area. There is a village you can visit that I'd like to come back to some time and see. 

In about two and a half hours we were entering Marco Island. The landscaping was beautiful. When we met our friends for lunch, they told us that the town had received an award for all their trees. It was not quite as populated as I expected but then we didn't really spend a lot of time looking around. We enjoyed lunch and catching up with each other since our time together on our 2015 World Cruise. 

From Marco Island we headed up I-75 to Sarasota for the night. We arrived around 4:30 and checked in. After looking around on TripAdvisor and Google Maps, we settled on going out to St. Armands Key to find a place to eat. In some ways it reminded us of Fernandina Beach but a lot busier. We found a nice place called Tommy Bahama's and enjoyed a great light dinner. 

A stroll was in order since we'd spent most of the day in the car and we headed west to the beach. We lingered long enough to catch the sunset over the Gulf. The event was shared with several hundred other people who gathered on the beach to watch. A Florida sunset is an event every night. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Last Look At Mama Osprey

Two weeks ago we made a pass by the osprey nest we watch each year near Key Largo. Mama was sitting on the nest but we saw no little ones. We'd heard there were some in the nest but it was raining and I think she may have been sheltering them from the rain.

As we made our way past the nest on our trip north heading home, we stopped for a last look at the nest and were rewarded with at least one young one. It looked to be a osprey teenager, still in the nest but looking over the side wondering when it was going to fly. Mama was nearby, still vigilant, still protective. Not too unlike a human mom with a teenager.

Hopefully the osprey couple will be back next year too and building a new family. We'd love to watch them grow again.

Friday, March 24, 2017

A Rose By Any Other Name

As we rounded the corner of our condo unit, we noticed it immediately. Beautiful red blooms on a plant we'd never seen bloom before. They were gorgeous and I wondered how they had developed and bloomed so quickly. I'd not seen any kind of buds on the plant but not being a native Floridian, I had no idea how the plant cycled. We admired it a moment and took a picture.

The next day we passed by the plant again and I was disappointed to see that the blooms were already fading. Well, I thought, it must not bloom for long and with the warm days and no rain perhaps the blooms just couldn't survive long.

The next time we passed the plant, it was blooming again. I marveled at its resilience and fortitude. Maybe someone watered it, I thought.

Then on my way back to the condo, I saw the answer to the resilient plant. The couple whose door is right next to the plant were putting blooms on the leaves of the plant. They were caught in the act! They were taking blooms from the bottle brush tree near our parking lot and putting them on what they said was a yucca plant.

"Shhh!" they said together, a finger to their lips. "Our friend has never seen a yucca plant with these kind of blooms before."

"Neither have I," I said. "And I took a picture! I thought it was a beautiful blooming plant."

We all laughed and I went on my way shaking my head. Duped! Wonder how long their friend will believe it?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Florida Keys - A Little History

It was a Sunday afternoon. We finished our last Sunday brunch at our favorite place, Snapper's, and instead of heading back to the condo, we decided to drive down to Islamorada to the museum we had been told was there featuring a history of the Keys. Halfway there we wondered if it had been such a good idea. Traffic heading south on US1 was backed up as often happens on weekends and then we remembered there was also a seafood festival going on down the way as well we took a deep breath and kept on. It took twice as long to get to the Islander where the museum is located but we finally made it.

There was also an art show going on at the Florida Keys History and Discovery Center and much to our delight because of it, the entry fee to the museum was waived. We smiled, thanked the receptionist and began our self tour.

There are not a lot of artifacts but there is a sampling of items from the very earliest inhabitants right up to the modern day. Tales of tribes, then Spanish fleets (many of which were shipwrecked in a hurricane), then the settling of the area and the real expansion as the railroad came to be.

That was what interested us the most, the building of the railway. The man largely responsible was Henry Flagler who we discovered had a connection to Ohio and Cleveland with his association with Rockefeller and Standard Oil Company. The railroad was finished in 1912 and was followed by an overseas highway that was finished in 1928 that allowed travel to Key West without having to ferry your car.

What I did not expect were the tales of destruction and stories of survival of the Cat 5 hurricane that came through the Keys in 1935. Between the winds and the storm surge much of the area was totally devastated. It compared in force with 1992 's Hurricane Andrew which was also a Cat 5 but because of the area around Miami and Homestead that was affected cost much more in damages.

All in all it was worth the traffic jam and sparked a lot more interest in the history of the area. I have some reading to do.

Friday, March 17, 2017

It's Another Birthday

It’s a simple math problem. How many decades are in a century? First you have to know that there are a hundred years in a century and a decade is made up of ten years. So there are ten decades in a century. Today I turn 7/10 of a century old. To put it another way, I’ve lived for seven decades. Or I’m beginning the eighth decade. Any way you look at it it’s a long time.

I don’t mind too much. Every day that I’m vertical and can put one foot in front of the other I’m thankful. It’s been an interesting experience, this aging thing that is. It was a shock a while ago to look into the mirror and wonder if I might be turning into a Dalmatian. Since I’ve always been an outdoors type person it was only logical that I would eventually get age spots. I hoped that they would look like freckles but that was not to be. Yup, more like a Dalmatian.

I always heard that gravity was the enemy but now I know it firsthand.

A new acquaintance, Arthur Ritis as one of the characters in my novel says, is letting me know he’s around. Some days a little more than others.

I still have all my teeth! If I were a horse that would be worth something. I even have all my wisdom teeth much to my dentist’s dismay. He finally tired of me saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.”
We have a rule around our house. We don’t discuss our meds, the number we have to take or what our newest ailment is with others. That’s old people talk and even though we have both reached that seven decade mark, we don’t need to bore others with our aches and pains. Theirs are probably worse than ours anyway.

As I lathered up my legs the other morning to shave I wondered if I would still be doing this in my eighth decade (should I be so lucky to make it that far). Shouldn’t there be a cut off year where shaving isn’t necessary? Haven’t I reached that yet? 

Of course one of the things that bothers me the most is being called elderly. It hasn’t happened to me personally yet but every time I see a newscast that talks about someone in their sixties and labels them elderly I want to shout, “No! Not elderly!” Old or older maybe, but elderly just adds insult to injury. Does seven decades qualify? I hope not.

So, I’m getting older. I’ll go kicking and screaming into the next decade and be thankful that I can kick and scream although I can’t kick as high as I once did and screaming never got me anywhere. And I’ll be thankful that I have someone to share this next decade with for as long as we can. At seven decades though we don’t take out long warranties for anything we buy.

Did I mention I got a bit wiser along the way? A little more wisdom is the greatest gift of counting more birthdays. You tend to understand a bit better what’s important and what really isn’t. Age—not so important. Enjoying the age, yes.

Now if I could just remember where I put my keys, my sunglasses, and oh yes, what was your name?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Oh Those Cruise Excursions!

You're taking a cruise, hitting all those wonderful ports that attracted you to the cruise you booked but have you thought about what you are going to do when you get there? Of course the cruise line will encourage you to book their shore excursions ahead of time and that's not a bad idea. Just be sure to do your homework before you choose your excursions.

Go over the excursion list, read the descriptions, then get to your browser and search engine and plug in the destination to see what there is to see in each port. You may find that you can do the excursion on your own for half the price. (Just remember that you will be responsible for getting back to the ship on time. If you are not with one of the ship's excursions, they will not wait for you. Instead they will leave you passport with the shore authority and wave goodbye to you as they pull out. You will be responsible to get to the next port on your own.)

Once you have either booked a cruise excursion through the ship or on your own, you might want to remember a few things as you begin your excursion. First up is to dress appropriately. I've seen it more than once. Someone who thought their strap on sandals were good for hiking and climbing on trails. Read the description of that excursion and forgo fashion for comfort and safety. And while your are reading be sure to note whether or not you are responsible for your own lunch or snack and plan a little pocket money to take care of it.

Don't take valuables with you. Flashy jewelry, expensive watches, unnecessary electronics only attract those elements of the community that spot and target tourists. You become a magnet for pickpockets and thieves. Leave the valuables in the safe in your stateroom.

It is unlikely that you will need your passport. Take a photo ID with you like a drivers license. If you are concerned that a problem would arise where you might need the passport, take a copy of it with you. It's always good to have one anyway in case your passport is lost or stolen. Many cruise ships keep your passport on file to make immigration go more smoothly in many ports so having a copy of your passport is just an all around good idea.

Another alert for thievery is pulling out a large wad of cash or opening your wallet to expose the fact you have a large amount of money. Don't take more money ashore than you think you will spend. And if it's going to be more than $50 you might want to use your credit card instead. If it's in a country with foreign currency, the best exchange rate will be used by your bank when it's processed.

The key is to travel as light as possible. Use a small backpack or shoulder bag that you can carry unencumbered but can hold a bottle of water, an umbrella or rain poncho, your camera, and small essentials you may need like sun block and a small bag of snacks. Being prepared isn't just a good scouting motto.

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