Sunday, March 31, 2013


A celebration and sunrise service with the Vero Beach, Florida Treasure Coast Assembly of God Church this Easter day morning.  Congregants and guests sing praise to Him (top) on this anniversary of the resurrection then closed the service with a seaside baptism.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

And it's Singing Carillon

"Fifty acres of ferns, palms, oaks and pines fashion a lush backdrop of flowering foilage and the spectacular seasonal color of azeleas, camelias and magnolias showcase an ever-changing work of art," in this National Historic Landmark located in Lake Wales, FL.

The 50 acre garden was established in 1929 by Edward Bok.  When Bok immigrated to the US from the Netherlands at age 6 he did not understand the language or the culture.  He went on to become a highly successful publisher and Pulitzer Prize-winning author.

Empowered by his success he purchased the site on high land near Lake Wales, developed it and presented his prize to the American people as a gift for the opportunities our country had given him.

More than 23 million visitors have since enjoyed his creation which features not only the carillon but also a delightful visitor's center and a 1930's Mediterranean Mansion.   The visitor's center (above and left) proclaims the location as being "America's Taj Mahal".

The carillon was dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge and features world-class carillonneurs playing its 60 bells in twice-daily, 30 minute concerts.

The Pinewood Estate mansion features self-guided tours of its grounds (right) with guided tours of the interior available by a seperate fee.  We were pleased to discover Bok honored our membership in Vero Beach's McKee Botanical Garden with free admittance to their facility.

Another enjoyable feature of the grounds is called "Window by the Pond"; a small, three sided structure open on the side away from the pond so visitors can enter and view the pond's wildlife without being observed themselves.

Today the 50 acres of lushly landscaped gardens are surrounded by working fruit orchards bringing the site to a total of 130 acres including a newly established 1.5 mile nature trail.

While discussing the garden's wildlife with a staff member, he mentioned gopher tortoises then invited us to accompany him along a maintenance road not usually available to tourists where we found the one on the right enjoying the afternoon's sunlight.

Occasionally life grants you a bonus.  This garden is one of them.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Geocaching Continues--

Ground Zero for this cache is in this shady little rest-area where Sue is searching along the intercoastal waterway in Sebastian, FL.  On this day's outing we found 11 caches out of 11 on our hunt plan and set the stage for cache number 700 to occur on my next outing.

While searching in the Sebastian area we encountered The Pirate Ship Calypso--and another cache--on the Pirate's dock where miscreant visitors, and sometimes those who fail to find the cache, are subjected to punishment in the wooden stocks below.

One of our finds later in this day's hunt involved a "Nano" sized cache.  That's it in my hand below.  It is a tiny, hollow cylinder about 1/2" in diameter and 3/4" in length with a magnet embedded in its base.  The magnet allows it to be placed on any steel surface.

We even find some of these down here attached to, say, the trunk of a tree deep in a palmetto scrub field.  The cache hider simply runs a steel screw with a large head into the tree and presto, a magnetic nano like the one pictured below is stuck to a very un-magnetic location making it, indeed, a challenge to find.

For my photography enthusiast friends, you may be surprised to know all the pictures in this posting were done with my little Canon, $100, point and shoot digital camera.

Cache #700 was found a few days later when a new geocaching friend and I ran another successful string of finding 11 caches in a row in the Indrio Savannah Preserve south of Vero Beach.  If you know of Sue's fear of snakes you will understand why she chose to skip this particular expedition.

...alligator's too.  That same geocaching friend and I recently encountered this gator in the northwest corner of the Oslo Road Conservation Area just a chip shot north of our FL winter home.


Saturday, March 23, 2013


Spring training season has not been very kind to the New York Mets.  They had a lackluster 7 win and 8 loss record in mid-March when we watched a game at their Springtime home field in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

That game did not help any either.  They suffered a 9-1 drubbing at the hands of the Detroit Tigers.  Detroit was looking like they could repeat play consistent with their World Series appearance last year.  Mets fans sitting near us were not quite as hopeful.

Their brand spanking new stadium has not fared much better in the economic arena either.  Last season their park was known as Digital Domain Field.  That disappeared when the sponsoring firm of that name went belly-up and reneged on their payments to the Mets for naming rights through 2018.  They owed the county $100,000 for this year and owed the Mets a similar amount.

Before the Digital deal, the Mets had a similar contract with Core Communities which named the stadium Tradition Field after one of its real estate ventures.  But, that deal collapsed after Core failed to make its payments.

So,as spring training season approached workers busied themselves removing all signs and traces of the Digital outfit and returned the name to Tradition Field until another sponsorship deal can be arranged.

The TV cameraman (above) is providing his feed to the Mets home office in New York city.

Meanwhile, loyal fans continue to support the troubled stadium which also serves as the home field for the Mets Grapefruit League minor league teams.  The view above shows fans lounging in right-center field of the 7,000 seat stadium.

The view below is along the left field foul line and reflects the tropical ambiance enjoyed by fans in this sparkling facility.

However, not only did the Mets loose the game we attended, their starting pitcher hit two batters, threw three wild pitches and gave up 3 hits, 6 runs, 4 bases on balls and had zero strike-outs in his two-innning performance.

To add insult to their day, the Mets loaded the bases in the home-half of the 8th inning for their first rally of the day, and, with two outs, their batter--struck out.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A mystery in Lake Wales, FL; well, sort'a

Here's the story:  When visitors drive down a residential road in Lake Wales they actually are driving in a bowl in a geologically significant range of sand and limestone hills, which were islands from two to three million years ago, when sea levels were much higher than at present.

As they approach the white line mentioned in the sign it appears they are traveling downhill.  When the driver stops the car, puts the transmission in neutral and releases the brake, the car will roll backwards--apparently up hill in defiance of the law of gravity.

Local promoters have taken advantage of this phenomena and created an attraction which has enjoyed national media attention.  A local grade school has jumped on the bandwagon, adopted a cute little character known as Casper as their mascot and has been named Spook Hill Elementary.

Here's what really happens as you approach the white line with your car:  A "gravity hill" also known as a "magnetic hill" and sometimes a "mystery hill", a "mystery spot" or a "gravity road" is a place where the layout of the surrounding land produces the optical illusion a very slight downhill slope appears to be an uphill slope.  Thus, a car left out of gear will appear to be rolling uphill in such cases. (1)

...and here's the explanation:   The most important factor contributing to the illusion is a completely or mostly obstructed horizon; without a horizon, judging the slope of a surface is difficult as a reliable reference is missing. Objects one would normally assume to be more-or-less perpendicular to the ground (such as trees) may actually be leaning, offsetting the visual reference.

While it appears you are traveling downhill approaching the white line in this instance, you actually have bottomed out in your approach and have, unnoticed, begun to travel slightly uphill.

So, when you reach the line, neutralize the transmission and release the brakes you will roll backwards because you actually are facing up hill...not downhill as it appears.

Actually there are hundreds of gravity hill locations around the world.

As you ponder this remember, optical illusions can be powerfully deceptive.  Stand between two railroad rails and look toward the horizon for example.  The rails will appear to converge.  So, our eye is telling us one thing while our brain knows the rails are parallel and always will remain apart.

In the case of our spooky hill our eyes are telling us one thing while the experience of rolling backward is proving what you "see" is not necessarily true.

As for the tale of the 'gator and the Indian chief mentioned in the sign, you'll have to take that up with the town's story tellers.

(1) Another explanation.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


How many times have you seen someone leave a public restroom without even a passing nod to washing his or her hands?  They just zip up, slop the door handle and go.

That leaves you with no option but having to grasp the same, soiled handle--with your freshly washed hands.

I know it is impossible to teach hygiene to such clods so why do the country's building codes or health departments not make it mandatory that patrons be able to exit public restrooms without grasping handles contaminated by such non-hygienic heathens?

Change the hinges so you can bump your way out the door without touching it.

Or, at the very least, provide paper towels for protection and a place to dispose of the towels as you make your escape from the challenges of such poorly designed facilities!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Florida Style

After launching Joe's boat under a sparkling sunrise we headed across the twin reservoirs of Stick Marsh and Farm 13, 6,700 acres of freshwater near Fellsmere, FL some describe as " of the hottest bass lakes in the country during the past decade."

Joe is my neighbor and friend, Joe McNary, (above) uncovering the navigation console of his well equipped, Key West, 186 Bay Reef fishing boat; the numbers denoting the boat's 18' 6" length.

After a slicing ride across the smooth water surface Joe secured the 125 horse Yamaha engine and allowed the gentle wind to drift us across the surface, fine tuning our fishing location with his hefty, 82 pound thrust, electric motor.  We were fishing in about 4 feet of water with the bottom laced with stumps and wood debris from the days before the impoundment was created in1987; ideal cover for our quarry, the lake's noteworthy Largemouth Bass population.

As a newcomer's luck would have it I boated the first fish, a modest sized bass.  Joe soon followed with a much larger bass, then a fish similar to my catch--earning him the then position of having the largest and the most fish in the boat.

Since I had the first one, that made the score 2 to 1 in his favor.

Can you tell the competition was friendly, as it always is on such occasions.

About then something grabbed my artificial bait, a 5 inch rubber worm, and zoomed away making the drag on my reel sizzle.  Joe cleared other lines and maneuvered the boat, keeping me in an advantageous position while the very aggressive fish (or was it really a fish) crossed under our boat then around the stern and back toward open water--time after time--in search of its freedom.  (Photo above by Capt. Joe)

It was enormously strong but not violent in its escape attempt--similar to an experience I had had years ago when I hooked a fairly large turtle in Ohio's Knox Lake.

This battle went on for 10 minutes then 30 minutes with no let-up in sight.  At about 40 minutes of this aquatic tug-of-way I suffered a fouling of line on my light action spinning reel.  We continued the fight spooling and unspooling line--at the fish's discretion--as an hour of this battle approached.

Joe opined it could be a bowfin.  Whatever it was I was thinking of it as nuclear powered.

Then, the contest ended abruptly when my fouled line parted and the strain disappeared.

While I was enjoying some deep breathing exercises, Joe soon had something hit his artificial bait and while he reeled that fish toward the boat his bobber disappeared after another fish hit the shiner (live fish bait) on his unattended pole--immediately bending the rod holder down and sending his rod and reel flying into the water.

Joe instantly dropped his hand-held pole into the boat with a nice bass flopping around still hooked, while he and I turned our attention to recovering his pole which was disappearing toward the murky bottom.  Then, his bobber reappeared and while Joe maneuvered the boat I was able to catch the line under the bobber with his boat hook.

Joe held that line while I quickly unhooked the bass flopping on the deck and tossed it back into the lake then turned my attention to grabbing the tip of his rod which had reappeared in the murky water, finally pulling it free of the weeds and getting in safely back aboard.

In the middle of this commotion I announced our apologies to a nearby fisherman for encroaching on his area, explaining our attempt to retrieve our "stolen" rod.  He waved his forgiveness while Joe breathed a sigh of relief that his expensive rod and reel had been retrieved.

All this occurred in a lake where, nearly every time I looked I could see an alligator, often several, patrolling silently across the water; while rumbling sounds like distant thunder appeared to come from shorelines where Joe thought large male gators likely were defending personal territory.

By then it was past noon and dreams of a relaxing beverage began to dance in our heads.  Joe offered we should continue until the next fish was boated and I quickly agreed, and somewhat quickly, hooked another bass.

That made a fitting conclusion to our outing, I had the first and last fish and Joe scored the largest and the most in our unannounced and informal competition; resulting in an appropriate 2 to 2 tie.

We shared a smile and a fist bump in quiet celebration of our unforgettable day on the water while I also celebrated the fact Joe had invited me along.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

At the Brevard Zoo, Melbourne, FL


Saturday, March 2, 2013


It was a crossroads community in rural Florida with lots of hope one day, a long time ago.   Earlier it was known as Jackass Junction.  That name came from the fact local ranchers were known to ride burros to town to visit the Desert Inn, then the local brothel. 

As the 1950s approached, the Florida legislature felt a name change was due in light of the construction of Florida's Turnpike through the center of the community in 1957.

After all who would want a turnpike interchange known as Jackass Junction.

The result, it is believed, was renaming the town to its present day Yeehaw Junction.  Yeehaw comes from the Seminole Indian language and means "wolf", referring to wolves that once inhabited the area.

That new turnpike crossed a main east-west highway, SR 60, which travels today like an arrow from Vero Beach westward to Tampa.  The turnpike also nearly paralleled US 441, then a major thoroughfare linking the Orlando area with Miami.

The state's tourism industry and population were burgeoning back then.

I can remember crisscrossing the state in private and corporate airplanes in the 1970s and seeing new allotments being constructed, everywhere.  The new turnpike brought such enterprises as the sparkling Tourist Information Center (above), now a weed infested vacant building slowly eroding under the ravages of intense sunlight and storms.

And, it remains easy to still find those empty allotments complete with paved roads and sidewalks with fire hydrants sprouting from the weeds all over the state.

Today the tiny town of Yeehaw Junction claims a population of 240 souls counted in 2010 by folks who fuss with such details.  But, the Desert Inn and the tourist center are closed, leaving local commerce in the hands of a truck stop and a convenience store still doing business at the intersection.

Even the sign recognizing the Desert Inn as being on the National Register of Historic Places seems to be getting tired as it lists beside an abandoned addition project in the inn's back yard while traffic, these days, just whistles by in pursuit of pleasure in Florida's more glittering tourist venues.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Retired Florida Folks Style

About 10 of us gathered on the north side of our mobile home/RV park hoping to see this morning's launch of the 2nd commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station.  Lots of folks passed by, their curiosity aroused by our gathering on this gloomy, 59 degree morning including the young lady in white Capri's (center) who was walking laps.

The launch was successful and the space craft achieved orbit shortly after it's 10:10 liftoff.

Our attempt to see it was not, however, due to the low overcast.  The launch site at Cape Kennedy is about 60 miles north of our park.