Tuesday, February 28, 2012

and a chilly girl friend

The seagull maintained a wary presence on this deck railing as it pressed its luck on finding a morsel of food from nearby restaurant guests.

That's Sue (right) during lunch at Waldo's seaside restaurant on a sunny but windy and chilly day recently.  Waldo's is part of the Driftwood complex featured on the blog in mid January.

While we have an occasional chilly day, snowbirds usually are grateful when we see hometown weather reports this time of year.

A not-so-balmy 60 degrees in Vero Beach always trumps temps in the middle teens back home as were reported on this day.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dick and Dee Weeks with lady friend Sue Brooks (above) touring a car show...


There were about 40 of them sprinkled around the McKee Botanical Gardens that day; the kind of machines that make aging men salivate over a disappearing youth.

There were GTOs and Bonnevilles and 57 Chevys and a Shelby Cobra flanked by an artistic sculpture and adoring fan (right).

The gardens are 18 acres of lush, semi-tropical beauty in harmony, that day, showcasing blooms and Hemi engines with radiant fervor.

One fellow above paid close attention to a display sign while another male fan seemed, by his hand position, to be enjoying another distraction from his more youthful days.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The McKee Botanical Garden is located about a mile north of our Florida digs and will be getting more of our attention.  We became members one recent weekend while visiting a mixture of its natural beauty, an ongoing display of ourdoor, artistic sculpture and a one-day display of muscle cars.

Please stop by Saturday and enjoy our outing with Syracuse friends, the Weeks.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Miniature Variety

Finally, the weather conspired with our social calendar to allow us a round of golf.

This course, within walking distance of our camper, is like a grand ole’ lady—showing lots of wrinkles, however.

In its younger years the course must have been a dandy.  It is 36 holes of challenging design combined with an artsy, jungle motif.  It makes good use of the gently rolling terrain.  Streams full of BIG goldfish meander along its fairways and artificial pools—now dried up—offer additional fairway challenges.

In the upper picture Sue is putting in a cave-like structure which has a nice waterfall flowing above her back, outside the little window.  Even here there is evidence large decorations once graced the design.   Now, only rusty iron fittings and hanging wire remain.

The puddle of water in the middle photo is evidently from a recent rain, likely trapped in the fairway depression by a failed drain.

Note the rotted wooden steps in the left foreground of the lower photo and the absence of landscaping detail in the patches of bare ground.

Here and there around the course rotted wood has been replaced by treated lumber or the newer, resin-based material creating a pattern that seems totally dependent on the availability of scrap.

Elsewhere, old rotting ropes were showing the ravages of sub-tropical humidity and the sun had bleached colorfully painted tee markers.

The young man at the desk was politely apologetic when he inquired if we would be returning.  “We fix whatever we can as often as we can; almost daily,” he lamented. 
It’s the old business conundrum of not having sufficient revenue to keep the place in tip-top condition which leads to even less customers and revenue, and on and on….

The clubhouse is nice and offers lots of other recreational amusements like batting cages and a large, indoor arcade.

In spite of its evident deterioration, it was a fun way to spend an hour or so on a warm and lazy afternoon. 

We’ll play it again, and again; no doubt.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

At Sebastian Inlet State Park

This little treasure along Highway A1A between Vero Beach and the Sebastian Inlet memorializes the violent destruction of a fleet of Spanish treasure ships, some just off-shore of the present-day museum, in a 1715 hurricane.

The fleet had been launched several years earlier, sponsored by Spanish King Phillip V who was desperate to bolster the kingdom’s treasury during the war of the Spanish Succession between 1701 and 1714.

He also was desperate for another important reason; his new wife was demanding a queen-sized dowry before she would consent to consummating their marriage.

So, the king’s ships traveled the world as far as the orient purchasing and plundering riches.  The vast fleet rendezvoused in Havana where the collected treasures were stowed on 11 ships and launched on their trip home, taking advantage of favorable currents along the coast of what is now known as Florida.

Spain used warships and forts to protect the treasure ships from pirates.  But, she could not protect them from hurricanes.

In 1715 a storm sank the fleet over a 100 mile stretch of shoreline between Sebastian and Fort Pierce.  700 crew members and passengers were lost at sea and 1,500 survivors struggled to shore. 
Within weeks salvagers arrived from Spanish headquarters in St. Augustine and from Havana to attempt to recover the treasure.  They were joined by natives, English pirates and assorted privateers of various nationalities who flocked to the area to retrieve—or steal from each other—as much treasure as they could.

Less than half of the material originally listed on the ships’ manifest reached the Spanish treasury.  The rest lay hidden in the coastal sea until one of the sunken vessels was found in 1928 near Fort Pierce. 

The next clues to the location of the treasure appeared in the 1940s when artifacts were uncovered at a site south of the Sebastian Inlet.

Major new discoveries still are being made along the Treasure Coast, often after later hurricanes wash away beaches, keeping very much alive, the hopes of modern treasure hunters.

As we left the museum, Sue quipped, "The movie never said whether the king ever managed to consummate his marriage.”

We chuckled.

 As if punctuating the meaning of the memorial, a storm boils toward the museum's boardwalk as we concluded our visit.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A boardwalk meanders through the foliage of the barrier island behind the McLarty Treasure Museum and treats visitors to a view of the sea where a Spanish treasure fleet was sunk in a 1715 hurricane.  Please stop by Saturday and enjoy a story of our visit.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


You have to know how deathly afraid of snakes Sue is to appreciate her courage in the above photo.

This day we slithered between the strands of barbed wire beside a gate on an access road that appeared to be a dike-like pathway between the little stream in the left of the above photo and an expansive area to the right most folks would regard as a swamp.

We joked about the unseen population of surrounding snakes while Sue mostly ignored us.  Warning signs about poisonous snakes we encountered later confirmed our suspicions.

We were in search of the new nesting site for eagles who apparently were disturbed from their previous home just to the south--one of whom was featured in the story of January 30th. 

We did find the new nest quite a bit east of that current trail and apparently close to where we saw the earlier bird.  That took us back to the trail of our January 30th outing where we subsequently found the nest well hidden in the high pine foilage and barely visible from the trail that offered the closest access.

It's not likely to be a good photography candidate.

Regardless, our 2 mile, round-trip hike was a refreshing outing in an eco-system very strange to we northern visitors.

Anywhere you hike in Florida, informed folks will maintain a high degree of awareness.  American alligators, feral hogs, poisonous snakes and an occasional jaguar all are possible encounters. 

As we enjoyed our walking expedition it was fun to joke about only needing to be able to run faster than the slowest person in our group in order to insure one's personal survival.

Can you imagine that discussion in our geriatric group?

and, our neighborhood

On the day of the Indrio Savannah hike we later drove into a neighborhood that borders our RV park on the south and enjoyed the above peek of an eagle feeding its young in this nest between our park and that neighborhood of fine homes.

We can see this nest from very near our camper but the view is less obstructed from the opposite side as shown above.

Note also, the smaller picture is the full frame done with a 200 mm lens on my digital SLR camera.  I do not like to ever get close enough to these nests that I might become worrisome to the birds.  And, the closer you get the more your shooting angle is elevated until you are seeing only the underside of the nest.

Better to stay back, enjoy this viewing angle, and, enjoy the degree of enlargement possible with a quality lens on these cameras with a large megapixel capability.

The larger image was cropped and enlarged out of the middle of the smaller one thus making it appear I was much closer to the nest than I actually was.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

and another peek at a Cocoa Beach sunset

Our expedition that day started at a memorial wetland near Melbourne then continued to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  That island also hosts Cape Kennedy and the nation's space-launch complex near Titusville; about 50 miles or so north of our winter digs.

All critters featured in this story were seen on the refuge's Black Point Wildlife Drive, a seven mile, self-guided auto tour described by the NWR folks as "...one of our best wildlife viewing areas" or in the nearby Haulover Canal.

We agree with the NWR assessment--wholeheartedly! 

The refuge all 140,000 acres of it, was established in 1963 when NASA created Kennedy Space Center.  330 species of birds have been seen there; both year-round residents and migrants who find the refuge a delightful rest stop.

The Manatee photos below were done there in the canal.  That is the face of a Manatee at snorkeling depth immediately below:

...and this is the south end of a north-bound one.

This playful dolphin also enjoyed swimming with pleasure boats transiting the canal:

There were thousands and thousands of ducks on the NWR's water courses; joined in this view by very colorful Roseate Spoonbills:

We capped this delightful outing, accompanied by our friends Dick and Dee Weeks, with another fine dinner and a spectacular sunset at the Lobster Shanty in Cocoa Beach.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

My favorite Florida pastime

Tuesday’s photo was of Sue Brooks at the John Brooks (no known relative) Park south of Fort Pierce, FL as we were exploring our way south toward a favorite shelling beach;  the “dog beach” near the Port St. Lucie power plant on the outer-banks.

I was armed for the first time that day with my Susick Seashell Sifter acquired during our Florida “off-season”.   It is a nicely engineered, 6 inch or so wide, mostly triangularly square, plastic basket with ¼ inch, square holes.  You drag it across the sandy bottom toward yourself, then shake it just below the water surface which clears the sand and smaller debris; revealing whatever treasurers you might have uncovered.

The nifty little rascal in the above photo is a West Indian false cerith about 3/8 inch long and 1/8 inch in diameter; my smallest find of a complete shell that day.  It is lying on a dime in the picture.

My beachcomber’s guide to “Florida’s Seashells” regards this find as relatively uncommon.

Even more delightful was the Lion’s-paw (right).  My guide book says, “Lion’s-paws are impressive and rare enough to be a quest shell for many beachcombers.  While bits and pieces of these are fairly common, “whole shells are an unusual find.”


These can grow to a maximum size of 6 inches across.  This specimen is 3 1/8”.

My collecting project is to finish filling the tubular glass base of a table lamp for our camper.  The collection (below) will do that and is representative of the variety of shells commonly found on area beaches.

With that project done I hope to refine my technique with a more selective harvest while enjoying the surf breaking across my legs and the breeze quietly pushing billowy cumulous clouds across the deep blue sky.

Of course the surface view on the beach can be very pleasant as well.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Saturday, February 4, 2012

One of several buildings in the Indian River County (Vero Beach, FL) Administration complex is shown in all its sub-tropical delight (above) while immediately behind this opulent building is the main hub for the county's bus system (below) where a collapsed sign greets passengers, and in the lower view, the only amenity is a pair of portable toilets lumped in the corner of the hub's parking lot while passengers wait--as the sign directs--before boarding their buses.


I caught the bus at its stop at a shopping center located within walking distance of our RV park on the south edge of town and was whisked into the bus line's hub in the central business district about 25 minutes later.

There are 14 routes in the system and their bus-stop signs literally cover this large county's area.

Sue was on an out-of-town junket with our friends, the Weeks, so it was an ideal time for me to go exploring.

The service is known for its reliability and departed on time.  At the hub my plan was to change buses to a line that ran north completely out of the county between Sebastian and Melbourne.  There I could loiter a bit along the inter-coastal waterway in Sebastian then catch a later bus back to Vero and, with another change, back to my starting point.

While the system's--known as the GoLine--equipment is modern and apparently well maintained and the drivers were, without exception, friendly and courteous, I was astonished to find a nearly bare parking lot for the "hub" rather than a nice building with amenities common to modern public transportation.

Surely there would at least be a shelter from the rain with a few flush toilets and a place to rest while waiting for one's departure.


The county building (above) is a dandy but the bus facilities around back were a slap in the face to the GoLine's customers.

It was evident those folks were given consideration that mirrored their, evidently, modest social class.

The first hint was the complete absence of modern, "droid" type cell phones.   Clothing was not exactly designer inspired.  These were the working folks and I suspect many of the bus customers were not inclined to vote.

Politicians in control of the purse strings tend to be aware of such things.

Regardless, I noted our driver on the Sebastian run knew her passenger Edward who swapped greetings with fellow passenger Rich.  These folks were regulars.

The driver even had her lunch handed to her through a window and had 6 minutes to consume it before the next scheduled departure.  It was delivered, compliments of her husband who I met later and who just happened to be in the area.

Forget the class limitations and enjoy the civility.

On the way back to my starting point I noticed a very modern, artistic even, covered bench, gaily painted, at a bus stop.  I wondered what political big shot lived nearby.

I was riding with Valerie, a 50-year resident of Vero Beach and we discussed the dismal facilities at the downtown hub.  She summed it up cogently by noting, "When it rains we get wet."

Below is a view at the hub looking East.  That is the only bench that was in view in any direction and it was occupied by a person who appeared to be homeless.

Actually, he could have arrived there by bus.  The service is by donation.

Thursday, February 2, 2012



Our fifth anniversary occurred on the 15th of January and I failed to take notice.

I launched this effort shortly after cousin Bob Wolf introduced me to blogging by involving me in a family blog he had then created.  Soon I found myself dominating his creation so I launched my own.

Believe it or not by the 15th of January this year I had published to the blog 1,093 times--posting items that inaugural year on a daily basis.  That began to turn into more work than pleasure so I have been publishing on a more relaxed schedule ever since.

For me, as a former journalist and professional photographer, the blog is a marvelous outlet for those creative urges that yet remain in this aging body.  I make no effort to track readership.  While folks have inquired about advertising on my blog I do not intend to ever go there either.

This is a fun thing to do and any focus on readership or commerce would destroy that.

Since photography is my favorite hobby I enjoy republishing my favorite photos of the year as a year-end item.  There I often add technical comments for readers who also are photography enthusiasts.

I enjoy doing pieces I usually call COMMENTERRY.  That is a convenient outlet for my urge to editorialize on life's events but usually I restrain myself which makes the content more like a journal of life's experiences.
One of my favorite poetic efforts was published in January 2007 entitled "Frost on the Window Pane". You can go there quickly buy typing "Frost Window Pane" (without the quote marks) in the search box top left and clicking on the little search icon.

In fact, if you know a name or some key words you would like to find simply use that search function.  Similarly, remember to click on any photo and you should be able to see a larger version.

Another way to quickly navigate to older articles is to click on the year of publication in the right column of each blog, then click on the month you think the story you are interested in appeared.

The occasional comment posted on the blog, or, much more often expressed personally to me, is ample reward for these modest efforts.  In fact, it is often a matter of complete amazement to me that folks participate at all--an event for which I am always truly grateful