Saturday, February 26, 2011


One of life's pleasures is visiting old friends.

Sue and I recently enjoyed a hat-trick of such visits in the Port Charlotte area of Florida’s west coast.

Longtime friend Dave Richardson and his wife Cathy (above) are shown along the canal behind their home with their yawl-rigged, sailing vessel Essay partially visible behind them.  She is 38.5’ in length and displaces 15 tons. 

Essay does.  Not Cathy.

They bought the boat in the Houston area in the summer of 2004 and lived there in a motel and later on the boat as they prepared to sail her home to Port Charlotte, FL.  That trip was a sail of nearly 1,000 miles.

Dave doesn’t remember how long it took but quipped, “Cathy really liked marinas.”

The crew included son Joe from Houston to near New Orleans, then Cathy from there home plus Cathy’s Yorkie Dweezel.

Sailing adventures since have been mostly around the huge Charlotte Harbor and one very special romp to the Bahamas from early November 2005 to March 2006.  On that trip they went over with two other boats but returned solo.

It was a challenging experience Dave mused,  “… beating into a narrow channel between two islands in the Bahamas after the crossing from Marathon with no engine and the port rail in the water so far the waves were sloshing against the cabin windows.”

The engine failure turned out to be a faulty oil line.

Dave describes his most pleasurable sailing experience “…heading south in the Gulf of Mexico on an all-night sail watching big, fierce Orion chase little Mars across the night sky and over the horizon.”

He continues to regard the buying, restoring, and sailing to the Bahamas as a highlight of his life.  “I still smile everytime I look at the old boat.”

Dave first appeared on the blog last summer when we visited Schoenbrunn Village near New Philadelphia, OH together.  My friendship with Dave dates back to our mixed doubles golf league era when the children were just growing past needing baby sitters.  He owned and published the Bellville Star in those days.

Pat Haas, Sue Brooks, Dave Weinberg, Pat’s husband Dick and Dave’s wife Cheryl are shown in the lower photo.  This view is in the lanai of the Haas home in Punta Gorda with the screened pool behind that and their canal in the background.

Pat was in the medical office management field with Sue for many years and Dave and I worked together when I was doing commercial photography for his employer, the Gorman Rupp Co.  Dave’s wife was a few years behind me at Mansfield’s John Simpson Jr High School.  Small world!

The canal systems of both the Richardson’s and the Haas’s connect to Charlotte Harbor then the Gulf of Mexico.  The Haas’s enjoyed boating on Lake Erie for years and had a boat in FL as well.  Fogeyisms understands there may be another Haas boat in the future.

We tip our hat to their collective and marvelous hospitality!

Friday, February 25, 2011

or so we were told

Folks lined the beach near Vero Beach, FL as far as the eye could see in both directions for Thursday's shuttle launch--all to no avail.  The time for lift-off came and went, and we saw and heard nothing.

Later I talked to a neighbor in our RV park who had driven more then 2 hours north to be close to Titusville and the launch pad and they enjoyed seeing about 2 seconds of flight before the shuttle disappeared into the clouds.

He also said the launch direction was to the East, not South down the coast toward us as most folks expected.  Hence its course of flight did not pass anywhere near our partly cloudy skies.

I guess our reward came in the form of avoiding the neighbor's 5 hour trip home in the massive traffic jam.

Meanwhile I had amused myself with a more commonplace form of local flight:

Photo data:  Canon Digital Rebel XTi camera with Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom lens at maximum focal length, 1/4,000 sec., exposure at f/5.6 and ISO 400 with camera operating in manual mode.

This shutter speed was fast enough to avoid camera movement and stop the bird's flight action and the aperature allowed sufficient depth of field to assist with sharp focus.  I used manual mode and focused by hand because in auto focus mode the camera was confused by the background waves and clouds.  Focus was a bit more challenging in the lower photo with the bird flying toward the camera.


Monday, February 21, 2011


We spent yesterday visiting a few stores, a shell-shop, alligator hunting and brunch munching with our friends Dick and Dee Weeks whose summer digs are up near Syracuse, NY.

Our new(er) camper has arrived and Sue is busy fine tuning it.  New carpet will be installed in the next two days and she is zeroing in on some replacement furniture.

That’s her pictured above in a spiffy shell-shop in Fort Pierce.  Being as close to the ocean as we are things here have a decidedly nautical ambiance.  Her purchase was a little lighthouse we will use as a bathroom door stop.

The alligator hunting occurred in a canal-laced, Ft. Pierce city park.  We didn’t see any but they are routinely found there according to locals.  Officials simply put up a sign here and there warning of their presence—and that seems to satisfy the pedestrian safety requirements.

In our roaming about four big, burly motorcycles thundered by us; three Harleys and the other sporting a symbol I didn’t recognize.  Three of the four riders were not wearing helmets.  Care to guess which three?

Later I met the cleanest guy in the world in the men’s room of the local Golden Corral.  He stepped away from the urinal, finished tucking and headed for the door.  Then he stopped abruptly—I thought to wash his hands.  Nope.  He grabbed a piece of paper towel and used it to pull the exit door open. 
Now that I think about it, I guess that protects those of us that follow him about the same as if he practiced civilized, restroom hygiene.


Friday, February 18, 2011


Beach scenes at sunrise and sunset are popular subjects for snowbirds.  The above was one of a series of shots done on Tybee Island near Savannah, GA where we visited with square dance friends Terri Garafolo and Bill Moore and danced into the New Year on our way to Vero Beach.

Our winter digs are in this owner occupied, combined mobile home and RV park festooned with Spanish Moss and palm trees everywhere!  Our rent is about $540 monthly including all utilities but TV and we intend to leave the camper here year-round for a $50 monthly storage fee.  We have enjoyed a very warm welcome with new friends and have been immersed in the park's social activities.

Geriatric silliness was enjoyed with Dave and Maryann Lenahan, Mansfield square dance friends who winter in Cocoa Beach. We shared a day with them, located between Melbourne and Cape Kennedy, then, on another occasion celebrated an afternoon and evening of dinner and square dancing in Vero Beach.

It is amazing how quickly Ohio's arctic-like weather is forgotten while romping in the surf under sunny skies and 80 degree temperatures.  Yes, snowbirds get a little smug about such things--but we try not to be too obnoxious while watching yet another polar storm pummel the northeast.  < Smile >

A little more silliness happened that night when our park had a "Crazy Hat" event in the clubhouse.  Here Sue and I are adorned with our Johnny Appleseed tin hats, compliments of the kitchen of Dick (shown rear) and Dee Weeks, our new friends from near Syracuse, NY.  Ironically, the lady who won the contest was another RVer--from Delaware, OH.

Recent events also included a dinner visit with Mansfield area square dance friends George and Judy Osborne and Butch and Betty Hoke.  We met up with them in Ft. Lauderdale where they were about to be launched on a Caribbean cruise.  And, as I write this, we soon will be enjoying a visit with numerous Ohio friends in Port Charlotte.  Stay tuned!


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Somehow, any mention of sharks in close proximity to any beach makes me nervous.  This sign was encountered near Vero Beach shortly after a recent, barefoot romp in the surf.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The cruise ship Majesty of the Seas - Nassau, visiting Key West.

Key West, Florida

One of my favorite cities in the US, Key West has been quirky since its founding.  The first European to visit the island of the same name was Ponce de Leon in 1521—better known for his search for a Fountain of Youth, itself cleverly hijacked as a tourist attraction by the folks in what is now St. Augustine, FL.

The island of Key West and its tiny town changed sovereignty many times during its early history.  Today, most residents of the town refer to themselves as Conchs although the true definition of a “Conch” applies only to someone of European ancestry who emigrated there from the Bahamas.

In 1982 the city briefly declared its “independence” as the Conch Republic in protest over a US Border Patrol blockade of US 1 in response to the Mariel Boat Lift which was thought to be bringing Cubans illegally to the US.  That blockade caused a traffic jam of 17 miles and paralyzed the Florida Keys which rely heavily on tourism.

There is a Conch Republic Independence celebration every April 23rd to this day.
Another celebration has happened nightly as long as most residents can remember.  That is for sunset on the wharf near Mallory Square.  Thousands of folks will crowd the waterfront to enjoy nature’s daily spectacle while also enjoying countless vendors and entertainers like jugglers, musicians, and an escape artist, just samples of the night’s playbill on our visit.

A must see on any visit to Key West is the monument describing the southernmost point in the Continental US.  It proclaims itself just that and is located only 90 miles from Cuba.  The problem is, it is not the southernmost point.  That point is located on numerous parcels of nearby land not readily accessible to the public.  So, this very popular monument is a fairly innocent corruption of the truth.

Another neat signpost is the southern end of US Highway 1 and mile post zero on that heavily traveled road that stretches from FL to Maine.

One of the best known dignitaries in the island's history was the author Ernest Hemingway whose home remains a popular attraction.  Cats descended from the author's brood continue to roam freely on the grounds, much to the delight of visitors.

So do relatives of his brood of chickens which wander freely all around the town, and they are protected from harm under severe penalties of local ordinance.

No visit to Key West would be complete without a refreshing stop at Sloppy Joe's Cafe on Duval St.  Food and beverages and music abounds and a ship's bell is rung energetically with each generous tip for the crew (above) while yet another cheering crowd celebrates another days' end on the wharf at Key West, USA. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Our camper is residing on one of the lots in our snow-birding, mobile home park that was previously occupied by a home that was destroyed by a hurricane several years ago.  We enjoy the shady, live oak tree in the backyard festooned with Spanish Moss.  The aging camper, truck and occupants all weathered the 1,200 mile trip from Ohio in grand style.

For those of you aware of Sue's decided lack of enthusiasm for cooking the following photo might come as a bit of a surprise.  It certainly did to me;  although I really enjoyed the spaghetti dinner that is shown under construction.


We still do not know if the oven will work.  That it be permanently disabled was one of her conditions before we purchased the camper from our square dance friends Dick and Rose Hatfield--all in good humor, of course.

This segment concludes with a photo of the laundry facilities featuring a nice view of the campground's 2 acre, centrally located pond.  We have been made to feel extremely welcome here, have made warm friendship with two very special couples from upstate New York and quite likely will leave the camper here for a modest storage fee so we do not have to tow it back and forth for our stay here next winter.

Concluding with a confession; domestic chores like the laundry are often a shared exercise in maintaining domestic tranquility; which is occurring quite to the surprise, I am sure, of those folks who were placing bets on how long we would survive life confined to a domicile of about 200 square feet of living space. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


You’ve never heard “Look at Us” by Vince Gill arranged quite like this. 

Their music is Country, Gospel, Blue Grass, Polkas and a little bit of whatever, tickling the ears of an always delighted audience, every Friday night in Vero Beach—south by God, Florida.

It’s an old time jam session those nights.  We’ve enjoyed as many as 24 musicians thumping and strumming and gently encouraging their instruments like fiddles and juice harps and dobros and dulcimers,

…and a host of guitars and banjos and a keyboard and an accordion and a harmonica or two.

That’s Ken Wichiowski, from Wisconsin and his home-made stump fiddle, right.  His creation sports a ring of cymbals on top with an ooga horn and a couple of percussion gadgets flanking the stringed portion of his instrument composed of a beer serving tray with strings made of screen door springs.

He launches his tunes with gentle thumps from what looks like a short piece of wooden dowel pin.

The semi-official director/conductor of this orchestra is an affable West Virginian; Carl Parsons who was more or less stumped when I asked what the name of the group was.

Turns out someone at one of their performance venues once asked the same thing—and got the same curious look.  “Make up something,” Carl smiled to that inquisitor and he came up with Smokey Mountain Gospel Tunes.

So, that’s what they go by when someone needs to know something as silly as their name.

The group grew out of a tri-state dulcimer organization in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia.  They’ve been playing regularly in the clubhouse at our winter digs in Vero Beach for the past 12 years.

In the top photo 24 musicians sit in an elongated oval and this particular evening played to a full house of more than 50 enthusiasts.  Sometimes there are 12 or 9 or whatever number of musicians and a bit smaller audience.  Who knows!

In the lower photo Ken Anderson from Connecticut coaxes pleasing-to-the-ear tunes from his washboard which fits somewhere on their seating chart between the lead guitar and the percussion section.  Both Al and Ken are now full-time Florida residents.

Carl will launch the show by gently strumming his guitar and announcing this tune will be in the key of “old”.  They don’t worry much about technical stuff.  In fact, most of this orchestra does not even bother to read music.

Then, each player, in turn, will lead into the next song and those tunes will grow smoothly in depth and sweetness to the ear as each instrument comes alive.

Their music flows naturally, from countless years of musical experience…and love for sharing their always-impromptu show.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


From 2000 to 2005 the port of Savannah was the fastest growing seaport in the US.  In July 2007 their port authority announced a record year of business and then being the fourth busiest container terminal in the country.

Its extensive facilities for oceangoing vessels line both sides of the Savannah River near downtown, 18 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean.

The Garden City Terminal, operated by the port authority, is the largest of its kind on the US Atlantic and Gulf coasts.  It has more than 9,600 feet of continuous docking space and more than 1.3 million square feet of covered storage.*

The ship pictured above was outgoing and the bridge into downtown Savannah from the north is visible in the background.  This ship is fairly small in size by today's standards. 

*Wikipedia; Port of Savannah

Pictured above and below is the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in the historic district of downtown Savannah.
Its congregation was formed in the late 18th century by French citizens fleeing a revolution in their own country and in Haiti.  Their church became a cathedral in 1850 when a diocese was established there.

A fire in 1879 destroyed much of the structure but it was quickly rebuilt and reopened in 1900.  Another major restoration took place in 2000 and today it is a major place of worship and the seat of the diocese that includes 90 counties in southern Georgia. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011


This pair of Bald Eagles can be viewed nesting four lots east of our camper and 100 yards or so to the south in scrub land that extends from our RV park to the inter-coastal waterway.  One of the nesting pair is shown; likely headed to the eagle grocery store while its companion remains alert on the nest’s rim.

Sue and I bicycle-explored a neighborhood on the south side of the nest and made a friendly acquaintance with a homeowner there.  I now have permission to photograph the nest from his back yard and will share other nice pictures that may become available as this nesting season progresses.