Saturday, April 28, 2012

* Gasp *

We got up that recent morning in Statesville, NC and it was 49 degrees.  That was downright polar to us after spending the last four months in Vero Beach, FL.

Long pants and socks felt entirely foreign after frolicking the winter away in sub-tropical weather with shorts and sandals--everyday.

"Should we turn around," I mused?  Sue raised an eyebrow and nodded a silent "Yes".  It was a tempting but fleeting thought.

Statesville is just north of Charlotte and was our overnight stop enroute Ohio.

Later that morning we were near Beckley, WV on I-77 and decided to stop and explore the highly touted Tamarack facility; a very modern outlet for the state's artisans.

Sue and I both had been curious about the place (above) but in our combined 130-plus years of life's travel, had never found it convenient to stop.

It's worth the hour or so to visit.  The facility is clean and modern; worthy of being a venue to showcase the people's art and crafts.

As a nice touch, about a half dozen of the state's artists work in permanent residence there.  Their studios flank the perimeter of the circular facility and allow visitors to see creativity in progress.

"That's one I can remove from my 'bucket list'," Sue chimed as we headed to the site's fuel service.  They have what looks like a fine restaurant too.

The trip home was uneventful--except for the half dozen or so predictable idiots whose maniacal driving was a disaster waiting to happen.

It was a thousand plus miles of watching sandy soil change to red clay then the rich brown humus familiar to Ohioans.

Palm trees morphed into pines--much to my chagrin--but it was interesting to note increasingly less leaf development on the deciduous trees as we rolled north.

I felt like a stranger in my own home as I was unpacking and reassembling myself.  I couldn't find my scissors, for example.  After four months of having them in a camper's drawer, I orbited my kitchen/dining area pondering their location in my Ohio digs.

Finally I remembered.  Glad no one was watching!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

We interrupt our concluding series of stories still scheduled on the end of our snow-birding season to bring you this breaking news event.

Now there's a quaint concept!

Century Link, my local excuse for a telephone company, roared into first place as the largest pain in the a** during this season's recently ended snow-birding experience.

Here's what happened:

In December I inquired about putting my DSL (digital internet service) on vacation hold while in Florida from mid-December to mid-April.  "Certainly, Mr. Wolf, we can do that for you," the gal chimed to my inquiry.  "Many folks do that when they are extended vacations," she enthused.

"Great," I said.  "Can you restart it automatically on a specified date," I continued.  "No," she intoned, "but just give us a call several days ahead of when you want your service resumed."

Winter came to a sunny end for us in mid-April and I called them to restart my DSL service on April 20th.

I was curtly informed they had mistakenly terminated my internet service rather than putting it on vacation hold as I had requested and, consequently I would have to start over with a new Century Link account.

That doesn't sound too horrible until you think of the bazillion friends, family and vendors you will have to advise of your change of email address.  I would have to move from my previous Embarqmail (dot) com service to CenturyLink (dot) com.

That's not acceptable," I replied.  "You made the mistake, not me."  "Sorry I cannot help you," they replied.  "Then, please transfer me to your supervisor," I requested.

"One second please," they answered and I was treated to never-ending music.  No one ever came back on the line.

I then contacted them via their web site's, "Contact us" service.  Their email response said they couldn't help me with this problem and they offered another 800 number and my very own "Case number."  That was on April 18th, the day before our departure; effectively putting this problem behind my tasks of preparing to close up the camper for another season.

We got home on the 20th and on the 21st I called my newly assigned 800 number.

After wading through about a dozen levels of their automated "Customer service" I was informed "...their offices were closed.  Please call back when we are open."

After I quit hitting my head against the wall I wondered if these fine folks could visualize putting that at the beginning of their recording for calls like mine.  "Not likely," I concluded.

BTW I remember their corporate genealogy from the days of their being the Mansfield Telephone Company, then United, then Sprint, then Embarq, and now Century Link.

Doesn't appear being a loyal customer all those years carries much weight with this current crop.

Please stay tuned.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Folks who know my lady realize she tends to get seasick while watching sunlight sparkle through an aquarium.

As you can plainly see above she and good friend Dee Weeks (left) are boarding an airboat of all things.  The event was on Blue Cyprus Lake, a 6,500 acre body of fresh water near Vero Beach.  It is the origin of the St. John's River which flows north from the lake to Jacksonville, FL where it dumps into the Atlantic.

The event was launched when my daughter TJ bought us a Christmas gift certificate of two rides with the Florida Cracker Airboat Ride folks.

How could Sue balk at that generosity?

Actually, she did quite well; better than I expected.  The only casualty was my left leg where her grip dug into my leg muscles in direct proportion to the boat's velocity.  I expect a quick recovery.

Alligators, lots of alligators, were the featured attraction of the ride.
This handsome fellow chose to do a bit of formation swimming with us before great respect and a strong sense of self preservation caused us to do a discrete course change away from his basking territory.

Our very capable boat captain, Lawrence Kyzer, explained the alligators depend on environmental factors to regulate their body temperature; basking in the sun to maintain their favored 82 degrees of body temperature, allowing them also to digest their food.  When the water temperature reaches 82 degrees they usually stay submerged to enjoy that thermal benefit.

He estimated the gator in the small photo was 10 to 11 feet long.

I thought the one swimming with us was at least twice that size, but most males do not grow much over 13 feet.

Kyzer's 20 foot vessel was powered by a 400+ horsepower Lycoming aircraft engine capable of propelling it, lightly loaded, 60 to 70 mph.  His dad taught him to operate an airboat when he was 5 years old and he's been doing it ever since; owning his own business the past 7 years.

His vast experience was quite obvious as we glided some 6 to 8 miles across the lake and its system of canal-laced wetlands.

We were treated to close peeks at several Ospreys (above) and saw one nice group of very colorful, Purple Gallinules (next lower).

This marvelous event took place April 13th; just days before our scheduled return to Ohio.  There is some chance we will be square dancing in Ohio by the time you read this.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


We launched ourselves that evening to have dinner at the Riverside Cafe, a joint that advertises itself as being the only location in Vero Beach where folks can dine while watching a sunset over coastal water.  That may be true.  They are on the East side of the intercoastal waterway.

Guests are looking across that waterway toward the setting sun.

The major problem with that, however, is the sun sets behind the Miller-Barber bridge (above) from the restaurant's viewpoint; a source of considerable chagrin to this photographer looking for a dandy sunset photo here.

We considered that problem just another of the evening's anomalies after restaurant prices drove us to burgers and wraps rather than steaks; after I was delivered french fries instead of the potato salad ordered; after I had to chase the waiter down and physically apprehend the mustard he failed to deliver, twice; and, getting refills of our drinks, which was about like pulling a shark out of the nearby waterway with an ultra-light spinning rod.

That series of culinary misadventures, as you might imagine, led to considerable discussion about my hypothesis that today's standard of excellence in this country is mediocrity.

Since the compositional problem with a sunset photo also became evident during our meal we wandered through nearby Riverside Park and enjoyed the approaching sunset sparkling through the American Flag at Riverside's Veteran's Park.

There, we also encountered a squirrel doing an amazing pantomime of thirst at the drinking fountain it was finding inaccessible.  I got the hint and splashed handfuls of water onto the fountain's concrete pad whereupon the little critter hastily solved its thirst problem in spite of my very nearby proximity.

True to the evening's form, it failed to express its appreciation.

And so it goes!


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Vero Beach Style

Not too many major-league styled ballparks feature trees (above) shading the seats around the infield.

That's the way it is at Hollman Field, the former spring training facility for the Brooklyn and LA Dodgers in Vero Beach.

In 1948 the Brooklyn Dodgers arrived in Vero Beach with over 600 players and 26 farm teams to establish their then new Spring Training facility.

In 1953 the above stadium was dedicated.  There was no outfield fence or wall.  A grassy mound still surrounds the outfield adorned with Royal Palm trees and they were then in the field of play.  Outfielders would chase up the mound and around the palms, and fans seated there, for any ball that reached that distance.

A fence was built, ending that charming activity, in 1988.

Fans still have ready access to the player's dougouts where the youngster (above) receives an autograph from the NY Met's catcher before a recent game.

The Dodgers left this facility in 2008 and moved to Glendale, AZ.

On March 31st this year, the Met's triple-A affiliate team, the Buffalo Bisons played the New Orleans Zephyrs, a triple-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins, in an exhibition, fund-raiser before 2,000 local fans--the first pro game since the Dodgers left.

It was fun for me to munch my ballpark hot dog and re-kindle childhood memories from the 1940s and 50s of Dodger greats and hall-of-famers Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella, two of my most treasured baseball cards of that era.

Names of former Dodger greats like Gil Hodges and Sandy Koufax also came to mind as I squeezed into my shady seat to avoid the sizzling Florida sun.

Today, the stadium and surrounding sports complex is re-inventing itself.  It is now known as the Vero Beach Sports Village and new construction is providing four new softball/little league fields and a milti-purpose field to facilitate football, lacrosse, soccer and rugby events.

This is being driven by a joint venture with Minor League Baseball and former Dodger President Peter O'Malley and associates.

A blemish of rust pains the Tommy Lasorda Lane road sign at Vero Beach's former Dodgertown complex.It and the crumbling concrete of its once proud baseball stadium are mute testimony to the decay of that storied facility.

I have seen the minor league baseball stadium of the Altoona (PA) Curve.  And, Fogeyisms just a few weeks ago featured the Spring Training facility for the NY Mets in nearby Ft. Pierce.

Judging by the quality of those modern, baseball stadiums, Vero Beach will have to do something similar if it ever hopes to attract another major league affiliate.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Sue and I went to a boat show in Riverside Park recently.

If you look closely (or click on the photo to enlarge it) you will notice the advertised price for this spiffy launch is $179,990--and, it is basically a nicely tricked-out fishing boat.

We were quite surprised. 

Sue was even more so when she looked at the sign on the very next boat to the left of this one (below) and exclaimed, "Good Grief!  Look at the price on this one."

I chuckled when I responded, "I think that 321...figure is the boat shop's phone number."

I got a sheepish grin in return.

How about this slick, catamaran sail boat rig wrapped around a kayak?

I enjoyed watching this future skipper giving this spiffy red-trimmed rig with its dandy Bimini top a very close inspection.

There's an old saying about boats which goes something like this, "If you have to ask the price you cannot afford the boat."

So, I walked by this string of five dandy Yamaha outboards and kept my mouth shut.

I checked a local dealer later and found these 250 horsepower beauties would retail a tad over $20,000--each!  That doesn't include the boats they are hanging on.

Sue wandered along pondering the house in Ohio and the one in Florida she could afford for the price of some of these boats.

I was thinking more along the line of one of the kayaks.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"Good Morning America" dawn breaks over the harbor at Ft. Pierce, FL and the crew readies the Ft. Pierce Lady (top) for her morning's fishing on the Atlantic.  Captain Wayne Bushnell (left) handles radio chores as the 70 foot vessel slides out the causeway.

The aging, wood-hulled vessel served many years as a ferry in Maryland before her conversion to a fishing boat 6 years ago.  The captain had a crew of two to help with ship handling duties and, most importantly, to help with the 28 or so fishermen and ladies in pursuit of their whopper for the day.

Whopper in the sense of a very large fish, or, more likely, a fishing tale of similar proportions; my good friend Dick Weeks and I among them. 

The sea buoy about 6 miles out was reporting just 3 foot waves with a 7 second period that morning.  "Small waves with 7 seconds between crests should make for a nice ride this morning," Capt. Bushnell assured us.  A fisherman is lost in his thoughts (left) as the vessel's rumbling pair of diesel engines churns the sea into a whipped-cream froth on its way to our first stop some 10 to 12 miles out, northeast of the harbor.

It took about 20 minutes to clear the harbor and an hour to reach a piece of the reef out there where soon we were fishing with stout poles and 6 ounce sinkers presenting our cut bait hooks to a potential population of fish about 80 feet below, most with names I had never, ever even heard.

With line the thickness of toothpicks and stretched down about as far as some Ohio ponds I fish are wide, I was amazed to be able to feel a fish when it hit my terminal tackle.  "Those sea bass are very aggressive," a crewman told me.

The hair on my arm stood up when a 6 to 7 foot hammerhead shark swam slowly past our lines, its triangular shaped dorsal fin gleaming in the sunlight.  It seemed to be reminding us we were not necessarily welcome creatures in its territory.

These boats carry the unflattering name "head boats".  That's because fishermen and ladies line the rails around the deck, shoulder to shoulder and, amazingly, rarely tangle their lines in pursuit of their dream fish.

That's a sea bass in the bottom photo being enjoyed by the 11 year old Wisconsin lad who had just reeled it aboard...just like the half dozen or so like it I had caught during our 2 hours on the fishing grounds.

As you can see it is nearly 3 feet long.

Did I mention whoppers earlier.  That's mine.

These scrappers ranged about 10 to 12 inches and all were tossed back because they were not in season.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Pelicans tend to their morning ablutions as the rising sun peeks under the South causeway bridge in Fort Pierce one recent morning.  My friend Dick Weeks and I were about to launch on our first-ever, salt-water fishing adventure on the Fort Pierce Lady, a fishing party boat that home ports there.

Please stop by Saturday as Fogeyisms spins that yarn.  It may be a whopper.