Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I headed for the festival enjoying visions of Huckleberry Fin and his pal Tom Sawyer in their idyllic days along the Mississippi River

This festival, however, wasn't exactly a festive time for the frogs

The longest line we saw was of folks waiting for their helping of fried, frog extremities.

There were a few carnival-type rides there too but about the most exciting ride for us was the pedal-powered trip we enjoyed from our parking area to the festival grounds.  That's lady friend Sue (above) along with friends Dick and Dee Weeks arriving at the festival gate...

...whereupon we immediately commenced a tour through rows and rows of commercial tents with a wide variety of surprisingly nice products.

Sue bought two computer mice decorated with acrylic encased sea shells and Dee contributed to the carnival economy with the purchase of two nice shark-tooth necklaces.

There even was a pirate selling spiced pickles among other flavorful veggies.  He warned Sue he would have to alert the Pirate Protective Agency if she told anyone of his secret recipe.

I felt sympathetic for the folks patrolling the grounds in their frog suits on a near 80 degree, sunny Florida day.

My companions cajoled me to ride the carnival's mechanical bull; you know those contrivances you sit on like a rodeo cowboy while it bucks and spins until you fly to somewhere in an adjoining county.  They assured me they would use my cameras to take nice photos of the event.  

I carried a second camera that day with a telephoto lens hoping for some nice super-detailed photos of folks enjoying frogs.  Turned out that wasn't to be.

The enforcers of those enterprises were carefully protecting frog booths from photographers who failed to pay their $5 or $10 for a critter photo--the advertised ransom appearing to be related to the size of the critter.

We left the carnival and headed for a highly recommended, local restaurant, The Marsh Landing.  That turned into a delightful experience.  The restaurant building, now beautifully restored, began life as the home of a huge real estate business capitalizing on a Florida land boom which ultimately crashed after a huge flood then the depression in 1929.

While leaving the restaurant I shouted an "O-H..." to the gal running the adjacent gift shop.  She recognized my cue with a rousing "Ohio!"  I had learned earlier she was from Reynoldsburg.

Curious about the restaurant?  See the link below.  I was too, especially the origin of its name.  But, none of the staff I talked to, nor the many historical photos on display, nor their web page answered my question.

Regardless, I will be watching for my next opportunity to feast at that fine establishment.

Marsh Landing

Monday, January 30, 2012


American Bald Eagles have been nesting near the intersection of US 1 and Indrio Rd., south of Vero Beach but appear to have abandoned that site this season.  A local observer believes new lighting in the nest area has caused the birds to move away from their old site.

We were not successful in locating the new site but did find this solitary adult perched in a mature pine growing in a scrub pine, dune area just north of the old nest. 

A nest adjacent to our RV parking area also is active again so we will be keeping our eyes on both locations as the season progresses. 

We did not disturb the above bird.  The photo was taken from about 150 yards distance.  It simply sat quietly and observed our brief visit.

The photo was done with Canon's 70-200 mm, f/2.8 image stabilized, L model lens and fairly severely cropped to create the relatively close appearing distance.  You can do that with this very high quality lens, carefully, hand-focused.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Saturday we drove from Vero Beach 105 miles to Lakeland for the Florida Winter Square Dance Festival.

Just before Lake Wales we saw a roadside caution sign which read:  Jaguars Crossing.

Don't remember ever seeing a sign quite like that in Ohio, or anywhere else for that matter.


We stopped at a Wendy's in Lake Wales and ordered lunch.  When we finally got our order it seemed like dinner time.

On the bright side, they were just a wee bit faster in service than our local Wendy's.


We rolled back into Vero Beach just after dark and I had a clown on a motorcycle riding my tail and blinding me with his bright headlight.  I reached up and toggled the rear-view mirror on Sue's new Chevy Cruze to its night position and that gesture immediately launched an emergency call to OnStar.

If you grasp the little lever behind the mirror to make such an adjustment your thumb lands squarely on that little blue button.

I wondered which gee-whiz-kid in GM's engineering department came up with that brilliant design while Sue talked our way out of OnStar's insisting on sending something with lots of flashing lights our way.

And so it goes....

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Musical Comedy

The phrase “Full Monty” is a British term meaning “complete”, or, like popular US slang, “going all the way.” “It also became known to mean ‘taking it all off’ “, according to the director’s notes in the playbill for the production of this name we recently and very thoroughly enjoyed at Vero Beach’s Riverside Theater.

The play is about six out-of-work steel workers who are driven to make some cash in order to save their families, their homes and their self-respect, and they choose to become male strippers.  What follows is nearly two hours of hilarious, poignant, very, very professionally staged scenes that celebrate the strength of the human spirit.

It features the actors and behind-the-scenes folks alike who dazzled the audience with a staccato of smoothly transitioning scenes framed by an eye-pleasing montage of sets.

There are splashes of visual sizzle as the play delighted its evening guests who wondered just how the obvious conclusion of “taking it all off” might be presented in this very tasteful, family environment.

It was handled masterfully as the actors did a dazzling choreography of undressing until exquisite timing had them reaching nudity at precisely the same time the audience was blinded with a blast of light from the play’s illuminated name.

This acclaimed facility is known as a professional producing theater.

It was easy to see why it enjoys this artistic acclaim.


That’s lady friend Sue (top) approaching the palm lined entrance of the theater in a city park on its barrier island while (below) patrons are dazzled by a terrific light sculpture in the lobby.   We were unable to share any views of the stage or auditorium because theater officials are fussy about such things and we respected their wishes.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

and fun with friends

While we enjoyed the antics of always-hungry seagulls, we felt really blessed when a dolphin or two swam within 20 feet of our dining table on a restaurant pier in Sebastian that recent day.

As the big fish enjoyed a gentle frolic in the boat basin it shared a smile when it porpoised its sparkling length above the water's surface.

I'm sure we smiled back.

It was one of those magical days when good friends, in the comfort of their mutual presence, shared the routine tasks of the day with the unhurried pace of our advancing age.

While younger folks hurried about we paused to enjoy those two bald eagles perched unseen by most in the nearby oak tree.

While our friends the Weeks handled the chore of enrolling with a new doctor in their winter digs, Sue and I loitered away some time in the nearby shopping center then returned to the waiting room until our friends were paroled from their task.

Even the quiet conversation shared in the waiting room was silently recognized as a blessing of friendship.

After lunch we headed for Merritt Island to see what we could then reversed course for home as we noted the time already passed that day.  That island deserved more attention than we could bestow in the waning hours.

Highway A1A courses easily down the barrier islands from our Melbourne location so we drifted along that route hard beside the coastlines of the ocean and the inter-coastal bays.

Cormorants perched lazily in the restful sun and ospreys peeked from their fussy nests here and there above our route.

We passed the Sebastian inlet on our return route and I wondered where our dolphin dining companions had gone.

Yup.  Life truly is good.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


The queue for purchasing movie tickets is located outside the theater in this Vero Beach facility.

They do things like that in Florida.

Inside, the building is very similar to the more modern movie houses in Ohio; complete with the vividly lit walkways and the deep red material  adorning the walls.

The interior photo was done as patrons began to fill seats for a showing of War Horse--a show with dramatic war scenes and extraordinary "acting" by the animals.

Movies are an occasional diversion for us when weather conditions or a relaxed social schedule make them a good alternative.

Otherwise I would prefer a nice romp on the beach.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

On a Sunday in Fort Pierce, FL

Our waitress told us, as we were pondering our lunch offerings, "You should have been here just a bit earlier--and enjoyed the biker church service.

She said something about the beer flowing and I wondered if she was talking about communion.

Actually, we've enjoyed many visits here.  It's kind of a cross between Key West and Woodstock.  Regardless of the casual ambiance the food is very tasty and the behavior has always been civil but, well, a bit casual too.

It is located on Highway A1A along the ocean shore and on the way to numerous beaches where we have enjoyed shelling and hiking and just plain loitering--the nautical variety.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lady friend Sue Brooks enjoys an expansive view of the Atlantic Ocean from the deck of the unique, Driftwood Inn in Vero Beach, Florida.

to a tourist mecca

The Driftwood Inn, Vero Beach's oldest landmark, is the creation of an eccentric, Indiana plow salesman who wandered into Vero Beach in 1914 to peddle his wares.  Impressed by the town's then raw beauty he decided to make his home here.

His name was Waldo Sexton.

He had a passion for collecting the unusual and began constructing his family's oceanfront retreat from whatever he could scavenge; scraps from a demolished barn, discarded planks along the roadside, and, ocean-washed timbers--driftwood.

There were no formal plans.  His construction technique was to shout instructions to his helpers while eye-balling the work's progress.

His project was described as "...the most parallel, just about square and close to level...wooden melange," with "...the most dramatic result you'll ever find."

Just as important to Waldo as the casual construction was the "fixin' up" of his showplace decorated with art, artifacts, antiques and just plain junk he collected.

He had a special fondness for bells and accumulated many "...still abundantly apparent" at the resort; now a combined time-share and traditional hotel with a restaurant, pool and outdoor, beach-front dining area.

It originally opened in 1937 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.

A cannon from an ancient warship works as a silent sentry in the courtyard of the Driftwood Inn (above) while guests enjoy their ocean view from the inn's outdoor dining area.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wind driven, ocean waves roar shoreward toward the Driftwood Inn in Vero Beach, Florida while lady friend Sue Brooks enjoys the scene while dressed snugly against unusually chilly weather in early January.  Saturday we take a look at the history of this architectural phenomenon.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Sue Brooks and Dee Weeks stroll through the show arena of the county fairgrounds near Vero Beach during a huge, antique sales event recently.  I now call the arena the 104 Building.

That's how many minutes it took us to thoroughly examine just this part of the show.

I pointed out a beautiful, 4 foot model yacht and suggested to Sue we could share the cost of the little boat and add it to a growing nautical display in our camper.  In fact, I noted, we could split the model in half length-wise so it would better fit our display.  That way we would only have to buy her half.

She did not appreciate my sense of humor.

In the lower photo Dick Weeks and wife Dee, our friends from Syracuse, NY, examine a huge display of Hummel figurines.  I asked Dick why they didn't purchase one.  "Our display at home is full," he quipped.

My vote for the most unusual item on display at the show was a nicely polished, hardwood, baptismal sink.  The sign invited viewers to inquire about the price.

I didn't have the courage to ask.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


I started out the other morning to do a blog story on the local bus service and watched the buses leave as I was hoofing it their way.

Evidently I was misinformed by the well-intentioned folks who told me their schedule.

Then, later that same week Sue and I headed downtown, hoping to do a blog story on their 1st Friday of the month Art Walk.

The only "artist" we saw engaged in painting when we arrived was the fellow on the right who was redoing the exterior wall of a local sporting goods store.

He thought it rather funny when I shared that news with him.

There was one 14th Avenue studio mildly populated with finely dressed folks enjoying their tea and pastries while being "seen" downtown with the artist whose work was on display.

"The place to be seen" was how the local columnist had previously described the two-block art walk.

How nice.

We did find a splendid, artsy gift shop open where Sue found a delightful gift (left) for a friend soon to celebrate a birthday.

Later we found our way to other amusements, but, now armed with good bus schedule info I hope to salvage that story with a future expedition.

We'll see.

Friday, January 13, 2012

...and, life is good!

Lady friend Sue Brooks casts a gee-whiz grimace toward Terri Garafolo who can be imagined to be wondering what bit her toe as we romp in the surf at Cocoa Beach, Florida yesterday.

Terri, who lives in Savannah, GA, was visiting Mansfielder's Dave and Mary Ann Lenahan and Sue and I drove up to spend a day with them.  All of us have danced together with the Johnny Appleseed Squares, our Mansfield, OH square dance club.

A wee bit of silliness continued to prevail as the five of us splashed our celebration of the 80+ degree, January day in sunny Florida.  The photo was done by Janet from Windsor, NY who readily volunteered to photograph our mini-expedition.  She and a friend were enjoying the sun as we passed by.  Janet's son lives in Cocoa Beach and she was here for a short visit.

Our marvelous day was capped with a fine dinner at the Lobster Shanty in Cocoa Beach where we were rewarded with this also delicious sunset as viewed from their outdoor dining area--looking across the Banana River, part of the area intercoastal waterway.

Life is good, indeed.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


The above scene lingered into 2012 as we celebrated New Year's Eve at the clubhouse on the pond at our digs in Vero Beach.  Christmas decorations even lingered until January 5th in the clubhouse, and, a huge, Christmas star remains aglow at a neighbor's abode just across the street.

At our collective ages there does not appear to be much reason to hurry.  Ever.

That's Sue (below) taking a peek at Vero Beach's public marina on the intercoastal waterway.  The bridge in the background is the northern of two that serve the city's traffic from the mainland to the barrier islands.  If you look closely between the pilings in front of Sue you will see a Zodiac-style boat.  They are commonly used to ferry folks back and forth to shore who live aboard their boats while anchored in the waterway.

The main channel for the waterway is hidden from view by the island greenery.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


I wandered the aisles of a Vero Beach grocery store and it quickly became apparent the cost of living could be higher here than in Ohio.

A tub of “I Can’t Believe it is not Butter” was priced at $3.81.  I remember that being about $2.50 back home.

Here are a few more items with which you can make your own comparisons:   Large Grade A eggs were $2.19 a dozen, Heinz Ketchup, 32 oz., was $3.19, a 15 oz., can of Del Monte peas was $1.43, and a 7 oz., box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese was $1.69.
Ground beef in this Publix store was $3.69 a pound.  Publix dominates the local grocery market but shares it a bit with Win Dixie.  Wal Mart has a presence here as well.

Naturally, costs were considerably lower if you use the store’s brand.  The Publix box of macaroni and cheese sells for 79 cents.

On the other hand, Bryer’s ice cream sells for $6.17 in the shrinking, 1.5 quart size at Publix.  I remember that selling for about ½ that price at the Mansfield discount store.

In fast foods, a Big Mac sandwich costs $3.39 and Wendy’s charges $3.69 for their single burger with cheese.

Gasoline was about $3.20 a gallon for regular during this period.

Herb Tunis, who, along with wife Karen, serves as our RV park host, says he finds the costs here similar to their Delaware (state) home except for the local 7% sales tax.  They don’t have sales tax in Delaware he explained.

The local sales tax compares to 6.75% in Ohio.

Without doing serious math, Sue felt the local food costs were about 10% higher than at home.

Our Syracuse, NY friends, Dick and Dee Weeks, make good use of coupons, bulk purchasing, and “buy one, get one free” deals, for another example.  They find they do as well here as at home.

In casual conversations, some local folks believe prices appear to be higher here during the winter when the supply of snow-birding tourists is ample.

Other folks just shrug when I randomly inquire about local prices.  Judging by the more than ample quantity of very pricey automobiles on the road around here, I do not find that surprising.

However, when scenes like the above photo are commonplace as they are here, enduring a wee-bit higher cost of living somehow becomes a lot more tolerable.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Just a mile or so north of our winter digs in Vero Beach is the McKee Botanical Garden where last week visitors were treated to their first-ever, after dark peek at this luscious, 18 acre piece of tropical real estate. 
In 1922 a local land company purchased 80 acres of tropical hammock along the Indian River and seven years later the McKee Jungle Gardens was born.  With the help of a landscape architect the basic infrastructure of streams, ponds and trails was designed.

Native vegetation was augmented with ornamental plants from around the world and the work grew into an acclaimed collection of water lilies and orchids.

By the 1940s more than 100,000 tourists were visiting the gardens each year but, by the 1970s attendance dwindled due to competition from new attractions and the garden closed its doors in 1976.

The land was sold and all but today’s 18 acres were developed.  The remaining acreage sat vacant for 20 years then, in 1995, a local land-trust purchased the remaining acreage for 1.7 million dollars.  Close to $9.1 million was raised to purchase, stabilize and restore the garden which held its formal dedication in 2001.

This season’s inaugural “Nights of Lights” event featured 400 walkway luminaries with 100 additional, floating luminaries leading visitors through a visual treat of spotlighted ponds, plants and sculptures.

A rustic building known as the Hall of Giants contained a mahogany table; at 35 feet in length, the longest piece of solid mahogany in the word.  It was tastefully adorned by 190 conical shaped “trees” fashioned by the staff from scraps of wrapping paper (pictured above).

More than 1,000 folks were expected to enjoy the three evening walk in the park such as shown in the small photo top right.

We, along with friends Dick and Dee Weeks, were happy to be among them.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


We were shopping in the Vero Beach Sam's Club yesterday and noted their large display of navel oranges on sale.

They were grown in California.

We found that very curious, but, as I learned later, adverse weather in the late 19th and early 20th centuries shifted the dominance of orange production from Florida to California.

It still doesn't seem right.

Speaking of adverse weather; we awoke this morning to a temperature of 42 F.

That doesn't seem right either.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Second graders at Mansfield Christian School recently read the book "Flat Stanley".   This book is about a young boy of that name who is squished "as flat as a pancake" when a bulletin board falls on him.  Stanley is very, very flat but otherwise just fine.

The story goes on to tell there are advantages to being flat.  Stanley can slide under doors or go down into sidewalk grates to do some exploring.  He even can fold himself up small enough to fit in an envelope and be mailed to some far-off place for an exciting vacation.

Sue's co-worker Sarah Conn (before Sue's retirement) has a second grade daughter at Mansfield Christian, X'zaria Murphy, who colored the Flat Stanley pictured above and mailed him to Sue in Vero Beach where we took him on his adventure to one of our near-countless beaches.

Flat Stanley asked us to share this picture with X'zaria and to wish everyone out there a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!!