Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spring training in Port St. Lucie, FL (above)

Washington National's 6' 4", 220 pound pitcher Steve Strasburg (below) delivers one of his mid-90 mph pitches during a 2-0 losing effort to the New York Mets at their spring-training home ballpark one recent Tuesday evening.  That victory broke a Met's 10 game loosing streak as they stumble toward their season opener April 5th.

As I watched young Strasburg I wondered if he ever would achieve the immortality of, say, Bob Feller from my childhood memories of the Cleveland Indians.

Would any of these 20-something players ever rise to the level of a Mickey Mantle or Sandy Koufax or other Indian stars from the 40s and 50s like Rosen, Boudreau or even Larry Doby, the first black player to don a Cleveland uniform.

I couldn't believe the stunning voice of the young lady who sang the National Anthem and had goose bumps when three World War II veterans were celebrated as--with aging arms--they bounced their pitches across the plate to the delightful respect of the fans.

We had marvelous seats high along the first base line near home plate.  They cost $16.50 each.  Add 6 bucks for parking in a mowed field and another 6 bucks for a program.  Food, however, was, well, affordable; 3.25 for a hot dog and 4.25 for a sundae.

It was easy to understand why a boatload of major league teams do their Spring work in Florida.  That night, the first day of Spring, it was 73 degrees as we stretched into the 7th inning.

Field rules appear to be a bit casual at this level of play.  That's a member of the Met's bullpen staff lounging in fair territory along the left field foul line while the ball is very much in play.

Even the cheap seats behind the distant, outfield fence (below) have the tropical ambiance of palm trees fluttering in the warm evening breeze.

The stadium measured 338 feet down the lines and 410 to straight away center field; not far from major league standards.

...just like the game we enjoyed that night with our up-state NY friends Dick and Dee Weeks; with whom we avoided any comments about the relative merits of our state's big league teams.

For you photography enthusiasts the image of the pitcher was done from my ticketed seat with a 200 mm f/2.8 Canon, series L lens with an exposure of 1/15 second at f/13 and ISO 100.  I used my knees and elbows to form a tripod for the otherwise handheld shot.

The act of throwing a baseball nearly 100 mph is a fairly violent activity and the streaks in the photo create the illusion of motion by recording the amount of movement in the pitcher's body during that fairly long shutter speed.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dinner for five--in our camper--

To offer a classic understatement; Sue is not noted for her interest in practicing the culinary arts. one wag noted recently when he called his wife and inquired what she was making for supper and she replied "Reservations."

That would be Sue.

In fact when we bought our first camper one of the conditions she imposed on our friends the Hatfields--the previous owners--was the camper be delivered to us with the oven inoperative.  Yes, inoperative as in not working.

Her reputation for avoiding working kitchens found its way to our very good Florida friends, Dick and Dee Weeks (on the right in the above photo).  Imagine Dick's hilarity when, after Sue invited them to dinner, she had to borrow one of their pans.

That's Dee's sister Eva waiting for her turn at the smorgasbord table

Sue also imagined her son Mike Brooks and family from Mt. Vernon being amazed if they ever see this picture.

"Mom cooking? a camper?  ...a real meal?"  ...Mike might be sputtering with wrinkles aplenty on his forehead.

So, there she is Mike. the five of us prepare to sit down to a pork and kraut dinner with lots of trimmings.

Regardless, this home-cooked dining episode is not likely to become routine.

As she was fussing with the dishes she quite casually inquired,  "Where are we going for lunch tomorrow?

Saturday, March 24, 2012


The site for this lighthouse was chosen in 1853 and a young lieutenant in the US Bureau of Topographical Engineering named George G. Meade was assigned to do the design work.

The structure is perched on a hill with an elevation of 46 feet.  The hill was recognized as an unusual land feature in this part of Florida but it was not until restoration work in 1999-2000 that archeologists discovered the hill actually was a burial mound for a Native American colony dating to 700 AD.

The site overlooks the outlet for the Loxahatchee River (shown above) and the Atlantic Ocean in the near distance.  The lighthouse was designed to warn mariners of the dangerous shoals in the nearby coastal area.

Today, there are 34 steps to reach the top of the mound then 105 more in the spiral climb to the light's lantern room.  The lighthouse towers 108 feet above ground level.

There are small landings at the tower's windows where visitors can rest during the "arduous" climb.  Folks who succeed in the ascent are offered a certificate attesting to their "survival".

What is described as "...a magnificent, first-order Fresnel lens" was made in Paris.  When revolving, the bulls-eyes in the lens produce a repeating cycle of two flashes of light followed by a brief period of darkness; the light's signature display.

The lighthouse commenced operation in July 1860.  It was extinguished in August 1861 during the American Civil War and remained dark until June 1866.

The light was electrified in 1928 but it was soon found the electricity supply was not as reliable as the original, oil lanterns.

Public tours of the still-operating lighthouse and its grounds have been offered by the Loxahatchee Historical Society since 1994.  That's historical society volunteer John with Sue in the lead photo above.

The light now operates automatically by electricity with a stand-by generator and a bulb which, itself, has a stand-by that automatically changes when the operating bulb fails. 

Remember the young Lieutenant Meade who did the design work for the light?  He went on to the rank of General and was credited with the defeat of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

A visitor begins his descent from just below the lighthouse lantern room (above).

Thursday, March 22, 2012


That's my lady Sue with friends Dee and Dick Weeks (from left above) enjoying a trolley ride in Fort Pierce, FL recently.  We were in town to enjoy their weekly bazaar in the downtown, waterfront park.

A day or so later, Sue and I headed to Jupiter for a tour of their historic lighthouse.  While fussing around until the guided tour began I was interested in the lone fisherman on the town's inlet who appears to be casting for the wayward jet ski invading his fishing spot (below):

The target avoided capture in this view.  In fact, I noticed no reaction whatsoever to her dramatic escape from danger.  Actually, distance is compressed by a strong telephoto lens thus making the almost-victim appear much closer to the hunter than was actually the case.

Just minutes later, high atop the lighthouse I noted this view with the two young folks in the background apparently more interested in exploring each other than their historic venue:

The lighthouse story will appear Saturday without any more foolishness.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

and a new blog schedule

The colorful, large spider above is the female.  That's her male consort upper right.  Not hard to guess who rules that household.

*          *          *

When I started the blog five years ago this past January it was published daily for most of its first year.  That schedule then was relaxed to several times weekly.  Now, as retirement rolls along, it is time to relax our publishing schedule a wee bit more.

We are hoping to do one feature story weekly.  With any luck it will arrive every Saturday, likely in a photo-story format just as it has been over these years.

Additional postings will be made during the week as noteworthy events present themselves.  Don't be alarmed if that does not happen too often.  In those instances, we likely took another week's vacation--in our ongoing celebration of retirement.

< Smile >

We'll do our best.  Photography has been a passion I've enjoyed most of my life.

That passion remains.

The ORCA story Saturday was the first in our new, weekly format.

Stories under production at this very moment include the Jupiter, FL lighthouse, an airboat ride, a spring-training baseball game with the NY Mets who do their annual, tune-up in nearby Port St. Lucie and, a deep sea fishing outing.

Who knows what else will turn up.  Or when.  That's the fun of it.

Please stay tuned.



Saturday, March 17, 2012


...captures the photographic attention of my morning's companions, Larry and Sandy while we did a self-guided hike of the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area; just around the corner from our winter digs in Vero Beach.

Known as ORCA (with a whale-sized smile) it is 336 acres of protected land along the inter-coastal waterway which has recorded 220 species of birds and 132 different, sub-tropical plants.

A unique feature of the area is the two impoundments of 132 and 52 acres respectively that create coastal wetlands by a system of dikes which are flooded during mosquito breeding season.  Salt marsh mosquitoes will not lay their eggs on standing water thus preventing mosquito production without using pesticides.

The area features a couple miles of hiking trails in its jungle-like environment and an elevated pier which gives visitors a splendid view of the wetland foliage and brackish water inlets.

The area, however, is showing the ravages of little maintenance while suffering budgetary constraints in these difficult, economic times.  In the photo (left) you can see the roof of the display structure has nearly decayed away and the graphics have faded from the harsh environment and the disgusting work of vandals.

A sign at the entrance advertises guided tours each, seasonal Saturday but the tours have long been abandoned and the sign stands uncorrected.

A fairly long hike is required to arrive at the site of the "Largest Slash Pine in the World," where visitors now find only the decaying trunk of what was once a majestic tree with a pathetic sign that proclaims "Awesome Pine, You are here" like a bad joke.

The sign also points to an "Historic Quarry."  At that trail's end we found not a "quarry" but what Ohioans would describe as a Vernal Pool; a depression that fills with water in the Spring and creates a breeding environment for many creatures.

As I constructed this story the local paper arrived with an article headlined, "Self-Interest, Audacity of Lawmakers is Astounding."  The writer concluded their self-interest knows no bounds; "The only members of the public they truly are committed to serving is themselves."

He made the point of their scandalous perk of nearly free medical insurance as opposed to what folks in the private sector must pay--if they have any insurance at all.

Eliminating that perk alone would be a helpful step toward restoring funding for preservation and enjoyment of essential areas like ORCA.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


A late night snack was on the mind of this wading bird in the inter coastal waterway at the end of Royal Palm Pointe, in Vero Beach.  There is a small, city park on the shoreline offering this nice view of the Merril P. Barber bridge which spans the waterway and its channel, outlined by the colorful, lights on the left.

The photo was done with an exposure of 6/10 second, f/4 and ISO 3200 with a Canon Rebel T3i digital SLR camera perched firmly on a walkway railing.

Mark and Nancy Meinzer are enjoying artful columns decorating the park's shoreline while my lady, Sue Brooks, walks by in the background (below).

Saturday, March 10, 2012


A dramatic, holographic presentation (above) took space center visitors along for the historic 1969 landing on the moon; one of the featured venues at the visitor's complex for our gateway to space exploration. 

The lunar landing module remained on the moon while an artistic view of the starry sky, nebulae, a spiral galaxy, the sun, earth and the space station celebrated this early achievement in space after--in the above view--the lander's module returned to the service vehicle orbiting above the lunar landing site.

Another dramatic venue at the space complex was the Saturn 5 display of the largest rocket ever built.  The rocket's five massive engines (left) dwarf visitors walking below.

Our visit to the complex included a bus ride to the observation gantry for the 39 A and B launch pads of the Apollo program, in addition to the Apollo/Saturn 5 center located near the Vehicle Assembly Building where those massive rockets were assembled and made ready to fly.

My tour of the center was rattled by noting all of the programs were done in the present tense while our current space shuttle flights to the International Space Station have now been stopped.

We have abandoned our capacity to resupply astronauts and supplies to that historic, scientific platform that orbits overhead, about 17 times each day.

We have left that mission in the hands of the Russians and their Soyuz spacecraft--with its checkered history of recent, safe launches.

NASA's base of operations for some of the most amazing achievements of mankind now has no mission--except for an occasional military or civilian satellite launch.

Yet, the dream is still there; to return to the moon and fly to Mars.  Maybe.  Someday.

Mark Meinzer enjoys a peek at the model of the Space Shuttle with its launch gantry (above).  The control room for the Saturn/Apollo launch program is pictured below, treating visitors to an animated view of an actual Saturn launch.

US Astronaut deaths in the space program are memorialized at the space center (above) and include the loss of 7 astronauts in the 1986 Challenger disaster, 6 who died in the 2003 Columbia shuttle disaster, 5 in training flights and 3 who died in a fire on the pad in Apollo 1 in 1967.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Square dancing friends Mark and Nancy Meinzer (above) from Mansfield enjoy a "Whispering Seat" sculpture on display with many other artistic creations at this popular garden in Vero Beach.  They recently spent a week visiting with Sue and yours truly.

Nancy is whispering in the tube and Mark can clearly hear her remarks, transmitted without amplification through the pipes circling between the blue mouthpieces--cleverly presented as blooming flowers on their metallic vines.

The lower photo shows the world's largest table in the Hall of Giants, a building constructed by an eccentric philanthropist in the style of his other local creation, The Driftwood Inn, featured on the blog in January.

This table also was featured on the blog (in early January) when it was festooned with colorful little Christmas trees made of scraps of wrapping paper.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Last year we rode this train system from West Palm Beach to downtown Miami.  It was an efficient and cost-free way to zip through the insanity of the area's dense population and traffic.

After this year's experience I will personally install a gernade in the shorts of the person who proposes another such trip.

We arrived at out departure station in advance of the recommended time to obtain tickets and board the train.  Our train arrived at the station on time...and departed for Miami while many of our group were still in the abysmal line waiting for the processing of our tickets.

We caught the next train an hour later, very grateful we were not held up for a second hour, which, at that time, was beginning to appear quite likely.

When you arrive in the Miami area you have to negotiate a transfer station where you board the Metrorail system which takes you into downtown where a people-mover, elevated rail system meanders to the various downtown attractions.

This transfer process was just as pathetic.  A train load of folks were hearded to three automated machines; two for cash purchases and one for credit card use where the proper documentation could be acquired to ride to your chosen destination.

One of the cash machines was out of order and the credit card machine appeared to be working intermittently.  Instructions for passengers were virtually unrecognizable and the security guy, whose task it was to sort out the mess, began his English lessons earlier that morning.

When we inquired about the noticeable deterioration in service a hapless clerk said "...the politicians have made some changes." 
Downtown Miami can be seen in the distance of the lead photo at the Tri-Rail/Metrorail transfer station.  Our travel group included Mark and Nancy Meinzer who were visiting briefly from Mansfield and we joined long-time Bellville friends, Dick and Jan Shafer and 5 other couples from their winter digs in Vero Beach.

Sue and Nancy are in the foreground of the little photo, top right.  Dick (green shirt) and Jan are on the left in the next lower picture.  Mark and Nancy are enduring some kidding (bottom photo) about the sign between them which reads, "Elderly and Handicapped."

Saturday, March 3, 2012

the ninth annual PowWow

Smoke is used as a cleansing ritual in ceremonies preceding the "grand entry" for participants celebrating American Indian culture at the Vero Beach fairgrounds while a chief and a young "squaw" enter the parade circle.

About 50 Native Americans in the regalia of their ancestors celebrated their history and culture with marvelous costumes and visually poetic dance to the delight of a capacity audience.

As they circled the show ring in preparation for presenting their colors (native flags and the US flag), they invited all veterans in the crowd to join their ceremonial march.

I did and it was an experience punctuated with patriotic shivers as I moved slowly around the ring and pondered the meaning of these devout natives saluting the veterans of ancestors who themselves were responsible for enforcing the removal of these historic tribes from their land.

As the march concluded the Indians formed a receiving line and shook the hand of the veterans and thanked us for our service.  More often, the handshake was followed by a softly sincere hug.

Each of us was given a small, cloth sack which I learned later contained tobacco, "a substance Indians revered as they revered our service to our country."

I enjoyed the private scene of the "cowboy" sharing thoughtful comments with his "Indian" son prior to the ceremony.

I chuckled at the cultural clash between the modern cigarette and the  squaw in her historic regalia.

I left the arena that day with a richly enhanced sense of brotherhood with these folks whose ancestors suffered the loss of their land at the hands of ancestors of mine.

Thanks also to long-time Bellville friends, Dick and Jan Shafer who introduced us to the Vero Beach area a couple of years ago and accompanied us on this special day.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

and a ride to the beach

Just like the white lines in the above photo, many main roads around Vero Beach have bike lanes.

However, the town also has lots and lots of aging snow birders (like this bike rider) and riding a bike on the road's surface can be hazardous.  In fact our very first advice at the bike shop last year was ride on the sidewalks. 

That's largely how this ride was accomplished.  It was about 2 1/2 miles from our RV park on the sidewalks along US 1 into downtown then a right turn on 17th Street's sidewalks to the causeway bridge in the above photo--and another couple of miles east to the beach.

Largely folks are courteous and readily give way to pedestrians.  I'm not too sure that civility is always extended to bikes.

As a matter of fact, I also yield to pedestrians by stopping until they have passed by on the sidewalk, as I was doing one time this day--when a bicyclist buzzed right between us.  The lady pedestrian in this case seemed to appreciate my courtesy all the more.

In another incident a panel truck motioned me to cross a very busy continuous turn lane which gave rise to a howl of blaring horns from a couple of big SUVs behind him who were entirely put upon by this 3 second delay in their endless pursuit of personal gratification.

Vero has two of these bridges over the inter coastal waterway which passes about directly beneath my bike in the top photo.  You can judge a bit how high this bridge is by noting the pontoon boat below and just to the right of my bike's seat.

The little photo top right is looking straight down from my bike's parked location.

Sue bought an older, conventional bike earlier so I began to search for a ride for myself.  You can imagine my delight when I encountered this recumbent in a bike shop at a relatively modest price.  The original owner couldn't ride it according to the salesman and it isn't a popular design down here so I benefited from it's being a little showroom worn.

It's a Sun Easy Rider just like my bike back home, but a noticeably smaller model.

I did both bridge climbs on the middle chain ring and in third or fourth gear--about in the middle range of the bike's 24 speeds.

In fact, I almost caught up with the kid who blasted between me and that lady pedestrian.  About half way up the bridge he began to walk and push his bike.

I'm really kind of glad he beat me to the top and was long gone when I crested the hill.

The conversation might have been a bit lively--about like my animated, lip gestures to the horn blaring SUVers.