Saturday, March 28, 2015


A web search for the above name for this popular Florida attraction will take you to a page where it trumpets itself as a thrill pack of adventures in zip-lining, horseback riding and motorized coach rides.  Ho hum.

But, believe me it is all of that and more.  A lot more!

On our visit we did the "motorized coach" attraction and promptly encountered horses enjoying rainy-day pastures of immense freedom; horses that were the direct descendants of their Spanish ancestors from the state's colonial period and before.

We intruded on mama alligator and three of her offspring (red arrows).  See the yellow vertical stripes.  They were very much in their wild habitat.  We humans were properly confined to an elevated platform on a smooth-running but clunky looking swamp-type vehicle being piloted by an extremely knowledgeable and just as friendly lady naturalist, Leslie (right).
We chugged our way, bouncing merrily over rutted tracks winding through thousands of acres of pristine natural habitat known as the Allan Broussard Conservancy.  

"The mission of the conservancy is to preserve and protect the fragile eco-systems of Florida's native wilderness to provide a permanent protective habitat for wildlife, to maintain the historical ranching operation and to educate the public about the importance of conservation and the preservation of our unique ranching heritage."  
We rambled through hundreds and hundreds of acres of active ranch land then crossed a magical divide into a wilderness of 3,200 acres of undisturbed natural ecosystems: longleaf pine, wiregrass and palmetto flatwoods, slash pine and sable palm flatwoods, dry and wet prairies, scrub cypress domes, a variety of hammocks, a blackwater creek and sloughs.

We enjoyed seeing this whitetailed deer lounging in her piece of tranquility.

We enjoyed the exquisite horsemanship demonstrated by this very patient equine while the rider cracked her whip so intensely its tip broke the sound barrier and left the cloud of vapor in the foreground of her head.

We disembarked from our jitney and wandered into our own sense of Nirvana via a hammock with indescribable, natural solitude.  Where Leslie...

...put scholarly meaning to the raw beauty of Florida Forever.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Please stop by Saturday and see this young equine lady who was then suffering a "bad" hair day.  She is part of our story on Florida Forever, a terrific attraction near Orlando which carries the meaning of tourist "attraction" to an entirely new level.

Please enjoy our account of a 4,700 acre facility which has the mission of preserving the native, natural, unblemished eco-system that we know as the state of Florida; where I learned a reddish colored lichen is evidence of air quality of the highest order.
...where, while we didn't see any, the elusive Florida Panther, roams a range his ancestors from antiquity would recognize with enthusiasm. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


I saw an automobile recently with Ohio antique auto license plates.  It qualified for that lofty status by being more than 25 years old.

I soon will be 75 years old.

Wondering, by Ohio BMV standards, what that makes me?

Friday, March 6, 2015


The Grassy Waters Preserve near West Palm Beach, FL is the setting for the first picture above.  We were in the process of logging an Earth (Geo) Cache there in the company of Brad and Wendy Smart from the Syracuse, NY area.  Sue is in the yellow Capris (left), and Wendy's hubby is pondering a lunker Largemouth Bass in the background.  The Smarts winter in VB and are potential geocaching enthusiasts.

The pier at Venice, FL is the setting for the second photo.  That's Sue on the left and long-time friend Pat Haas, now of Punta Gorda, FL looking for fossils and shark's teeth in this shelling hot-bed on the Gulf coast side of the state.

Note the apparent difference in water color; rich blue's to the left and right with a green hue dominating under the pier; all in the same body of water.  Naturally all that water is the same color but the blue is perceived as a reflection of the sky while the pier is blocking the water's view of the sky.  Obviously things are not always as they appear.

We wrapped up this evening with dinner on the rooftop of Punta Gorda's downtown Wyvern Hotel.  This is a view northbound along US 41.  Southbound this highway rumbles through Ft. Myers then swings East to Miami enjoying the name Tamiami Trail as it sluices across the Everglades.

We also welcomed Pat to the ranks of Geocaching this day.  She participated in finding 2 conventional caches and two Earthcaches on her inaugural outing.

For you photo enthusiasts, all three of these pictures were done with a *Gasp* cellphone.  

Saturday, February 28, 2015


We had just finished logging an Earth Geo-Cache at the Grassy Waters Preserve near West Palm Beach, FL--my 3,000th cache log--when this young alligator frolicked by our boardwalk vantage point.  I liked to think it was joining our genteel celebration.

The 23.5 square mile preserve itself is celebrated for being a pristine remnant of the once great Everglades ecosystem and serves as the fresh water supply for the city of West Palm Beach and associated municipalities.

Earth Caches are my favorite part of this marvelous activity called Geocaching.  Regular caches are some sort of hidden container which includes a log to be signed.  The latitude/longitude of the cache is posted on the internet and we use hand-held GPS receivers and/or smartphone apps to find these often elusive rascals.  The signed log proves the success of our search.

Earth Caches are mostly prominent geological sites around the World and we find their parking area or trailheads with similarly posted coordinates.  In place of signing a log we usually must answer questions from information found only at the site to satisfy the cache producer of our actual visit.

Our direct reward is a little smiley posted in our personal, on-line caching history, but the far greater reward is enjoying the successful search for cache containers hidden around the globe in places we likely would never otherwise visit.  Earth Caches done seriously and with a touch of scholarship are a learning experience far in advance of the more usual human pursuit of staring at a TV.

By the way, there are more than 2.5 million active geocaches around the world including likely an astonishing number in your home area.

Another reward is like the thrill of seeing a wild, live alligator without it's being restrained behind a steel fence at your local zoo.

Did you notice the fish sneaking behind the cavorting gator?

For the scholars in the crowd we estimated this young Crocodylia/Alligatoridae/Alligator mississippiensis to be about 3 feet long. You certainly are well advised to give these creatures a respectfully wide distance.  An adult can grow to more than a ton in weight, have from 74 to 80 teeth, and their bite can crack a turtle's shell.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

At the McKee Botanical Garden, Vero Beach, FL

We are lucky, indeed, playing with Lego bricks as a child continued into the present day for Sean Kenney who is now one of only 14 LEGO, Certified Professional artists in the US.

"As an adult with a desk job, Kenney would come home, loosen his tie and play with his LEGO bricks.  One day, he literally hung up his tie, left the office and devoted his life to merging his interest in the visual arts with his love of LEGO toys," the exhibition brochure explains.

The humming bird and flower above were created by hand-gluing 31,565 pieces over an internal structure of steel rods and plates which provide support for the large works.  This piece is 64" x 32" by 77".

Surrounding the support structure, each sculpture is constructed entirely from LEGO bricks.  For this exhibit Kenney and his team used  four gallons of glue.  The rose contains more than 41,000 pieces and is 30" x 30" x 82" tall on its green stem.

The American Bumblebee contains 16,300 plus pieces and "flies" in the exhibit area while suspended on a stout, wire cable.  In addition to glue an organic welding agent is used to connect the components, like wings, legs, etc.  The agent liquefies the joining surfaces allowing them to bond and solidify changing the pieces into one continuous solid.

Kenney uses only the basic, rectangular and flat LEGO bricks for the sculptures and only in readily available colors.  With few exceptions there are no special colors or shapes.  He often works with architecture and drafting software in his artistic process.

The lawn mower is made with 13,700+ pieces while Mother bison (below) contains 45,143 pieces while her calf has but 16,229.  Momma is just over 4 feet tall at her shoulders.

For those of you in the area, the exhibit will continue through April 12, 2015.  For those of you in the more polar latitudes--sorry!

Monday, February 23, 2015

The giant lily pads (above) are not real at all.  They are made of LEGO bricks, those marvelous toys kids love to play with to this day.  Turns out one of those "kids" of yesteryear converted his childhood passion into his artistic career.  He and 13 other folks are "Certified Professionals,"  not LEGO employees but are recognized by the LEGO Group as trusted business partners.

New York artist Sean Kenney is one of them and is the only independent artist in the world that has produced steel reinforced, fully glued outdoor-grade LEGO installations, like the ongoing display at the McKee Botanical Gardens in Vero Beach, FL.

The exquisite craftsmanship is clearly visible (right) in the base of a table lamp constructed of the blocks and available for sale in the garden's gift shop.  $800+.

Tune in tomorrow and enjoy the rest of this story.