Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Why is it Wal-Mart seems to insist on posting their slowest, most antiquarian cashiers in the express lane.
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I arrived early at the walk-in clinic and sat by the front door to read my book until the clinic opened.  Naturally, the door was locked and the lights were off.  Soon, a lady customer arrived, walked past me and tried the door.

Then, apparently noticing my presence, inquired if I was in line.  I assured her I was which temporarily diverted her away from my choice place in front of the door.  Soon, she was back and tried the door again.  It still was 15 minutes until the facility opened.

I took another look at the clinic’s sign—to be sure its specialty was medical, not mental.

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"Congratulations" to Comcast—the local cable TV outfit—for earning the position of lousiest business establishment in Vero Beach.  It would be fitting punishment if their executives were sentenced to having to deal with their own telephone representatives on a daily basis.

Monday, March 28, 2011


We were walking to our car after a recent train-ride visit to Miami when this fire truck arrived to deal with a very near-by problem.  We were grateful for our good fortune and sad for the commuter who would return to find this loss.  Please stop by someday soon and we will tell you the story of our shopping and munching romp in the big city. 

Not sure when that story will appear, however.  After all, we still are on vacation schedule--and, when you take a vacation in the middle of retirement, calendars are not terribly important.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Gilbert’s Bar House of Refuge, Stuart, FL

Imagine for a moment, the east coast of Florida being sparsely populated.  

That’s the way it was just 135 years ago; except for black bears, jaguars and mosquitoes in swarms they had to be physically whisked away before entering a dwelling—or even some primitive sleeping accommodation.

Sailing ships of that era plied the coast with maritime commerce sometimes foundering in storms and plunging their surviving crews onto a desolate shoreline where they were exposed to the above terrors of insects and animals plus starvation and thirst.

Further north, the young country’s coastline was then more populated and a predecessor to the US Coast Guard, The US Life-Saving Service, was handling the rescue service for shipwrecked mariners.

Because of the continual loss of life and property due to shipwrecks along Florida’s desolate coastline, the government in 1876 constructed 10 houses of refuge about 26 miles apart up and down the coast.

They had no lifesaving crews like those at stations farther north, but were manned by a keeper and his family and kept stocked with clothing, food, water and medicine for shipwrecked mariners who found their way to one of the houses.
After storms the keeper and his family would walk the shoreline as far as possible from their house searching for shipwreck victims.

In 1915 the lifesaving service and the US Revenue Cutter Service merged to form the US Coast Guard and the Gilbert’s Bar house became coast guard station #207.

During World War One there was a crew of five stationed there.  During World War ll German U-Boats were torpedoing shipping along the coast so a lookout tower and other buildings were built on the property.

Today, this House of Refuge near Stuart, Florida is the only one of those ten houses that survives.

It sat empty after the war until 1953 when local officials bought the building and 16.8 acres of land from the US Government for $168.  In 1955 what is known today as the Historical Society of Martin County went to work to preserve the building for use as a museum.

In a pleasant irony it still maintains its role of being a place of refuge—this time and continuing to this day as a refuge for sea turtles.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Visitors enjoy displays at the Gilbert Island House of Refuge on a barrier island near Stuart, FL.  This facility was constructed in 1876 and was a forerunner of today’s US Coast Guard.

As I pondered its history it occurred to me I entered the coast guard for four years of service just 82 years later. 

Please stop by Saturday and we will share the story of this historic refuge.

Meanwhile, quips about the age of the author will be ignored. < Smile >

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fort Pierce, Florida

The museum volunteer’s voice broke with emotion as he asked me if I recognized any connection between him and the men in the US Navy SEAL, Medal of Honor Memorial I was pondering.

“The second man from the left is my brother,” he said with quiet modesty.

And, his voice broke again as he shared the story of his brother’s heroism.

I watched his eyes tear as his consciousness wandered from me and he became one with his warrior brother and the story of his gallantry.

The SEAL Museum is in Fort Pierce because that is the location of the very first US Navy “Frogman” training facility which was launched there at the beginning of World War II.

“Frogmen” have evolved into the most elite commando force in the world, the US Navy SEALs.  The mission of the museum is to preserve the legacy and history of those SEAL teams.

The volunteer tour guides are quick to point out only 8,000 men have successfully completed Seal training out of over 60,000 who have tried—exclusively males and exclusively members of either the US Navy or US Coast Guard.

To wear the Trident symbol of the US Navy SEALs candidates have to complete the most rigorous physical and mental challenges known in the world of training for special forces soldiers.

This museum contains the artifacts from all our nation’s wars where the SEALs have quietly gone about the accomplishment of their deadly missions.

An artifact of one fairly recent event brought the reality of their service to the level of making a visitor’s skin crawl.  The lifeboat from the super-cargo ship Maersk Alabama is on display on the museum’s grounds. 
That was the event where Somali pirates held the captain of that ship hostage under grueling conditions and SEAL sharpshooters ended the ordeal with precision and fatal sniper fire.

My interlude with the warrior’s brother passed quietly and he smiled as he comforted me with the news his brother was very much alive and well, and enjoying his ranch in the mountain foothills of Idaho.

LT Tom Norris’s citation for conspicuous gallantry describes his ground rescue of two downed pilots from deep within enemy controlled territory of Vietnam over a three day period in April of 1972.

I found myself thankful to learn life had gone on to treat this museum volunteer’s, gallant brother kindly.

Dick Cleckner and Sue Brooks begin their tour of the SEAL Museum with a look at a high-speed boat used in river and coastal warfare (top).  A bronze casting (lower) of a navy SEAL in scuba equipment swims on a pedestal at the outside memorial to all SEALs who have lost their lives in combat or training for combat.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


On a recent return visit to the Fort Pierce jetty with friends Dick and Elaine Cleckner we encountered a couple of fellows cleaning their catch with predictable and chaotic interest by the same pelicans featured in a recent blog post.

These opportunistic critters scrambled and squawked their way in an effort to catch every little morsel of fish remains tossed their way--while this many again of their bemused companions watched the gyrations from the nearby, rip-rapped shoreline.

That's yours truly on the left with lady friend Sue Brooks, Dick and Elaine.  Our friends are full time Florida residents.  The Fort Pierce inlet is visible, then the jetty topped by the Atlantic Ocean just above Elaine's left shoulder 

Sunday, March 13, 2011


I think of flea markets as a red-neck form of beach combing.

Participants come in every form, and manner of dress.  And, no matter which way you meander through such venues there is always the chance something you simply cannot live without lurks around the next corner; or so they say.

There are two of these extravaganzas near here; one in Melbourne and the other in Stuart.  We did them with good friends Dick and Dee Weeks on back to back days recently.

I’m not sure when I will completely recover.

By far the larger of the two is the B & A Flea Market in Stuart which bills itself as the “Treasure Coast’s oldest and largest.”

It’s the kind of place you need to take careful note of where you park your car, and you can see the entire place in about three or four hours—if you use a nuclear powered skate board.

A very popular product in both venues was cell phone cases.  They had thousands of them; mountains of them.  Four bucks for your choice.  I saw enough of them for everyone in the US to have one—for each day of the week.

The Stuart location redeemed itself with a very spiffy nautical shop.  A bit pricey but loads of very nice products oozing the ambiance of the sea.

I wound up with the purchase of a shark-tooth necklace on a piece of rawhide.

Gives me the urge to find a beach where I can kick sand in some bully’s face.

Well; that might be a slight exaggeration.

That’s my lady Sue Brooks in the top photo pondering her soon-to-be next treasure in Stuart.  In the lower photo, Dick and Dee Weeks prepare to launch their Melbourne shopping adventure.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Beaches around here frequently are populated with little blue “balloons” like the one pictured above.  Locals tell me these are the carcasses of jelly fish which have been washed ashore in the high tide.

They are sprinkled along that tide line and inflate as the sun expands their gasses, filling their delicate bodies like 2 inch by 6 inch or thereabouts, oblong sausage skins.

Often there are hundreds of them sprinkled along that generally narrow high-tide line and they are not to be trifled with—even in this state of decomposition.

They still are capable of inflicting a painful—even fatal—sting with their venom.  They are concentrated into swarms or “blooms” by ocean currents and can number as many as 100,000 in small areas.

Only a tiny percentage of critters in those blooms wash ashore and only some species are a nuisance to humans.

Are these particular creatures a problem?  I do not know but I certainly didn’t touch one.

I do know we have done lots of splashing and shelling in the surf along beaches with lots of them visible ashore without any painful encounters.

These creatures are neither vertebrates nor fish so some folks are a bit fussy about that popular name which has been around for about 100 years—preferring to call them jellies or sea jellies.

Any way you look at this phenomena it certainly is unlike anything you are likely to see while shore fishing in Ohio.

That is Dick Weeks in the left background of the above photo along with his wife Dee from the Syracuse, NY area and my lady, Sue Brooks in the dark top.  Dick and Dee have become delightful friends and pleasurable companions during our snow-birding visit to Vero Beach.  This photo was done on Bathtub Beach near Stuart, FL.

Monday, March 7, 2011


These birds are part of an opportunistic squadron that hangs out at the Jetty Park off Seaway Drive in Fort Pierce, FL just south of Vero Beach.

These wee bit lazy rascals spend their days loitering around the fish cleaning benches where a tasty meal of scraps is assured anytime fisherman with sloshing buckets and fillet knives appear.

Most of their counterparts of this American Brown Pelican species dive for their meals of live fish in coastal waters. 

Pelicans are large birds with pouched bills.  These of the brown variety weigh about six pounds and have a wing-span of about 6 feet. 
Their more adventuresome pals often are seen soaring on thermal, wind currents due to especially strong breast muscles which can hold the wings rigidly horizontal for 100 mile gliding commutes to feeding areas.

Naturally, a bit of a nap is always enjoyed after munching the latest meal.

Friday, March 4, 2011


We meandered up highway A1A that day, roaming the outer islands from Vero Beach northward toward the Sebastian Inlet.  That’s a pretty coastal road but sadly, plain folks are denied even a peek at the ocean most of the way.

The shoreline is infested with opulent homes, expansive landscaping and walls creating a beach-side enclave most travelers can only imagine.  But, here and there are found slivers of public access, culminating in a large state park near the inlet where the highway spans the cut between the ocean and the intercoastal waterway.

It was on that beach we found Pedro netting for bait fish (above).  My Spanish was worse than his English so we just shared a smile while pantomiming small swimming fish.

Surf casting is a very popular form of sport fishing on Florida’s beaches.  The really serious fishermen equip themselves with little wide-tire carts that carry their tackle, coolers, and bait.  That’s the A1A highway bridge over the Sebastian Inlet in the background.

Sue usually busies herself with capturing some sunshine on a beach blanket while I go in search of seashells in the pounding surf.  I often wonder if the little sea shell is disappointed when it is examined then discarded.  Such musings are allowed geriatric snowbirds while splashing in the bathtub-warm surf on sunny February days.

When the shelling proves less than bountiful I usually wander back to the truck and retrieve the camera to continue my visual exploration.

This is the Sebastian inlet from the sea (right) where fishermen crowd the pier (background) and the seawall (foreground) while a steady stream of fishing and pleasure boats roam by and by.

We had the pleasure of watching several, very colorful sea turtles cavorting in this inlet while seagulls squawk about most everything and pelicans dove into the surf for their lunch.

This could really be habit forming!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


God’s Middle Finger by Richard Grant

Just 20 miles south of the Arizona-Mexico border the Sierra Madre Mountains begin their dramatic ascent; climbing to nearly 11,000 feet and extending for 900 miles.  The rules of law and civilized society are unknown in this vast wilderness which is also home to the cave dwelling Tarahumara Indians—world renowned extreme-distance runners with footwear made from discarded tires.  The book is a fascinating peek at a unique and uncharted piece of the world.

Across America by Bicycle by Alice Honeywell and Bobbi Montgomery

Two retired, mid-50s ladies live their dream by bicycling 3,600 miles from Oregon to Maine.  They chose this northern route to avoid summer’s heat and carried everything they needed on their bikes—unassisted by a chase vehicle.  This story of their challenges, their thrills and frightening experiences is a delightful read.

The Lion by Nelson De Mille

Another heart-pounding, could-not-put-it-down read from this master story teller.  A grizzled but wickedly humorous New York City cop partners with his wife, an FBI agent, in an anti-terrorist thriller against a one-man killing machine.  The plot ricochets around Manhattan like an escaped guided missile and includes an up-state skydiving episode that will leave you breathless.  Outstanding.

Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier

In wandering along with this author it appeared he wasn’t sure if he was a travel writer or an historian.  It took him 176 pages until he got started on his major trip through Siberia which ended in the fall of 2009—the last of his five visits to that forsaken land over a 16 year period.  It was fair as travelogues go but his book redeemed itself overall in painting a portrait of that enormous hunk of Russia.