Friday, July 31, 2015

July in Florida

Posted from Wickham County Park, Melbourne, FL
(Click on Pics to Enlarge)

I can't believe it's been so long since my last post.  With that being said, we've been in the state of Florida for about a month now.  We made our way to several spots in FL for the specific intention of seeing some friends I had worked with prior to retirement.  I'm very happy to say that we accomplished that goal.  The downside to all of this is that we're in Florida in July.   That means hot, HUMID, and thunderstorms nearly every day.

We moved over to the Orlando TT preserve just south of Clermont and stayed there from June 25th to July 9th.  Our friends John and Mary Potter have retired to a beautiful community just north of Clermont.  We were able to visit with them and to see their beautiful new home and to have dinner at their home one evening.  Thank you again John and Mary.

The Trilogy community they live in currently has 3 pickleball courts and their members are growing in ranks since beginning play not too many months ago.  Karen and I played many times with John while we were in the area.

For all of our pickleball folks back in Arizona, here's proof that Karen and I actually play together from time to time.

As I mentioned above, Trilogy is a very nice community with great facilities.  After our Sunday morning games we were "forced" to have lunch at the Magnolia Grill restaurant on site. Very nice!
(Please excuse the blurriness of the picture. The waiter was a bit shaky with the camera)

We moved further south on July 9-16 to the Ft. Myers Beach area and stayed at Gulf Waters RV Resort.  This is an ownership resort and I'm sure it is quite busy during the winter months, but there were probably only 10-15 rigs in the park while we were here.

The resort has very well-maintained facilities and even 4 pickleball courts, but we didn't see one person playing during our entire stay.

The main reason we dropped down to this part of Florida was to visit with Ellen and George Motley, co-workers of mine in my prior life. They re-located to Cape Coral a few years ago and live along a canal with access to the Gulf in a beautiful home.

After touring their home we jumped in the car and headed to Nervous Nellie's Restaurant on the waterfront at Fort Myers Beach.  Great food and great company.  It doesn't get much better than this!  I would highly recommend  this restaurant if in the area.

The Fort Myers area has a single-A advanced minor league baseball team and readers of this blog know that we like to attend minor league games when possible.  The Fort Myers Miracle (farm team for the Minnesota Twins) were pitted against the Clearwater Threshers. The Miracle play in one of the nicer venues we've seen at Hammond Stadium.

Of course, true to form, we jinxed the home team and they were defeated 3-2.  It was a very enjoyable evening nonetheless.

We had wanted to visit Sanibel Island and Captiva Island before leaving, but the days we had planned to go, the rains killed those plans. Maybe on another visit. At the suggestion of George Motley, however, we did make it up to Lover's Key State Park. This park is located north of Ft. Myer's Beach and is situated on the Gulf with plenty of backwater for canoeing, kayaking, hiking or biking.  We took our small bikes and rode some of the trails on Black Island.

I wish that we had reserved more time to do some kayaking in the park.  The bird population was abundant for folks who like to engage in that activity.

Before leaving Lover's Key we had a chance to walk along the beach for a short while.  I ventured into the water, but Karen preferred to stay on the beach. The beach in this area is not the sugary sand consistency we found in some parts of the Gulf, but rather is composed of very small bits of shells ground by the pounding of the surf.

After Ft. Myers, we headed back up to again stay at the Orlando TT preserve from July 16-July 30. The reason was two-fold.  Since we are TT members, it costs us $0 to stay for another 2 weeks (after annual dues, of course) and we wanted to visit more with the Potters.

We again played a "bunch" of pickleball.

John told us about a local donut shop named "Donut King".  I know it seems somewhat counter intuitive to exercising and sweating while playing pickleball, but we had to give it a try.

I'm very happy to say that we purchased only one doughnut each.  I will have to tell you that this place's doughnuts are the "crack" to sweet addicts.

Before rambling on too much longer, let me mention a device I tried out.  I've had back problems for several years now. The sciatic nerve pain comes and goes, but I also learned a few years back that I had an "old" fracture to one of my vertebrae.  It's just something I tolerate as the pain comes and goes.  I was watching a television ad one evening for the Teeter Hang Ups inversion table.  I figured I'd give it a try since the local Dick's Sporting Goods store had one in stock.  I'm sure it works for some folks, but after several weeks I returned it to the store for a refund.  It really didn't seem to do anything for me and as a fulltimer in an enclosed space it takes up a bunch of room.  I'd love to hear from other users of this device, however.  Just my findings!

In looking back over this post, it's truly a conglomeration of a bunch of unrelated topics, but I wanted to get "caught up" with our blog.  Did I mention that July is probably not the best time to visit Florida.  If I didn't, let me say it again.  It's darn HOT and HUMID this time of year.

Thanks for dropping by to take a look!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Exploring the Crystal River, FL Area

Posted from Ft. Myers Beach, FL  (Click on Pics to Enlarge)

After leaving Cedar Key we drove a whopping 48 miles (about 1 hour) and landed in Crystal River, FL. We stayed for the next week at Quail Roost RV Campground. The CG is about a 10 minute drive from the water and met our needs for a nice place to stay and explore the area.  Being as it's summer time in FL and the temps are climbing, there were very few other guests staying in the campground.

Our initial intention was to scout out the area for places to launch our Sea Eagle and to do some paddling on the water.  When we heard the warnings about "flesh eating bacteria" in the unusually warm brackish waters, we decided not to tempt fate.  Again, our chances of contracting this were probably similar to Karen catching rabies from the cat bite, but we just didn't feel like pushing our luck.

So, what to do.  We decided to drive around and explore the area some.  Our first stop was at a small place named Ozello Community Park just south of Crystal River.

Looked like a very nice place to launch boats, kayaks, canoes, etc.

Our next stop was at Fort Island Gulf Beach Park.  As this was a Sunday, the parking lot was packed.  Nice area, but this beach is actually on the inland waters and not directly on the Gulf.

Heading back toward Crystal River we stopped at Fort Island Trail Park.  Very nice boat ramp area here, a place to picnic, and the entrance to Crystal River is only a very short distance away.

It's now about mid-afternoon and those large palms offering shade look very inviting.

Back in the city of Crystal River, we stopped at Hunters Spring Park.  This is definitely NOT a place to come on the weekend.  It was pretty hard to even find a place to park.  This area is popular to launch a kayak or canoe and travel to Three Sisters Spring nearby. The spring is crystal clear and frequented by manatees during their season.

As you should be able to tell by now, there are a lot of parks in the surrounding areas.  A short drive takes us to Crystal River Preserve State Park.  There literally was no one here as it was late now on Sunday afternoon.  Again, a nice spot to drop in a canoe or kayak.

The point where the State Park joins the Crystal River had benches to watch the boats travel up and down the river.  It was a very peaceful area.

Another launch site in the State Park was near Mullet's Hole. Somewhat off the beaten path, but you'd never have to worry about a crowd in this area.

All of these kayak launch areas eventually lead into the Crystal River, but I would have just been satisfied to paddle the back waters and watch the wildlife.

Photo Courtesy of Trip Advisor website
All of this "exploring" can work up quite an appetite.  There are many, many restaurants and places to indulge in fresh seafood in this area.  I didn't get any pictures of the food, but one such place we tried was named the Blue Gator Tiki Bar and Restaurant up in Dunnellon, FL.  Just a short 15 minutes drive from our campground and the food was very good and fresh.  I had steamed shrimp and Karen had crab cakes.  Very tasty!

As always, additional pictures for today's blog are available on our Google+ Web Album.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Kayaking in Cedar Key, FL

Posted from Clermont, FL     (Click on Pics to Enlarge)

This is our last blog from Cedar Key.  I decided to hold it until the end because this was one of the "funnest" activities we did while in the area.

To set the background a bit.  We have a Sea Eagle Paddleski inflatable boat which we have enjoyed many times in the past.  We were going to use it to do some paddling around the Cedar Keys area.  After taking a look at the waters (especially at low tides) and speaking to several of the kayak rental shops, I felt that the very sharp marine growth might not be too good for the Sea Eagle.

Ok, what to do now.  We still wanted to do some kayaking.  I went online and checked out all of the kayak rental shops in the area.  One in particular received very good reviews and the price was more than right.

We decided on Cedar Key Paddling. They rent kayaks and also lead tours.  The small business is run by a husband-wife team and they couldn't have been more accommodating.  They will deliver the kayak to one of seven locations around Cedar Key and pick you up pretty much anywhere you agree upon.  We rented a tandem kayak for $25 for the entire day.  They will even pick you up at one location and transport the kayak to another location for launch.  I highly recommend them.

We decided that we wanted to paddle from Cedar Key and travel to Atsena Otie Key.  This is a distance of only 1/2 to 3/4 mile each way and the water lies on the protected side of the key.  We put in off G Street near low tide so that we could come back during high tide.

It was a beautiful day with very little wind and almost no waves. Atsena Otie Key is off Karen's right shoulder.
Atsena Otie Key is only about 6/10 x 5/10 of a mile in size.  For such a small key, however,  it has quite and interesting history. Here's a wikipedia link if interested in learning more.

When we arrived on Atsena it was still low tide.

Low Tide On Atsena Otie Key

This was the first spot where we came ashore to explore the deserted beach.  There are really only two spots on the Key which has any semblance of a beach and that you are allowed to swim. We didn't do any swimming, but just enjoyed looking at all of the sea creatures along the beach was interesting.

By the time we returned to the kayak, the tide was returning.  This was good for us because when it's high tide on Atsena, the key is split in half and you can kayak "thru" the key from one side to the other.  Atsena is rich in bird life.

As we are prone to do when adventuring for several hours at a time, we brought our lunch cooler with us.  Lunch on the beach was very enjoyable, but we also wanted to trek inland.

The trail leads inland to a cemetary and to the small remains of one of the commercial businesses which occupied the key in the past. We had been warned by several of the area guides (and by our kayak rental folks) not to attempt this without being properly attired as the mosquitoes were likely to carry us away.  Of course I didn't believe this and started walking.  That lasted all of about 30 seconds before I made a hasty retreat back to the beach.

We had a great day paddling over to Atsena Otie Key and exploring some of its' wildlife and interior section.

Here's a short video of us once on Atsena Otie Key. 

                (Best viewed in full screen and 1080i resolution.)

As always, to see more pictures than included in this blog, take a look at our Google+ Album.
Thanks for dropping by to take a look!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Cedar Key Museum State Park and Suwannee River Boat Tour

Posted from Clermont, FL   (Click on Pics to Enlarge)

I'm still playing catch-up with our blog postings.  As I looked back at our pictures, I didn't realize how many fun things we had a chance to do while visiting Cedar Key, FL.

On one particular day we wandered over to the Cedar Key Museum State Park. Remember, Cedar Key is geographically pretty small, so it's easy to get everywhere in just a few minutes.

The State Park is pretty small compared to other Florida State Parks and it mainly houses articles and documents collected over time by St. Clair Whitman. Mr. Whitman had a very nice collection of Florida mollusks, as well.

Mr. Whitman's house is on display at the museum. After his death, the property on which the house sat was sold and the house was due to be demolished.  The people of Cedar Key banded together and moved the house to the present site in 1990.  Since that time, it has been restored to the 1920's and 1930's period.

There was literally no one at the museum on the day of our visit. Here's a few pictures of the inside of the Whitman House.


Cedar Key's first museum

The museum can be fully visited in about an hour and the price is right at $2 per person.
To view more pictures about the Cedar Key Museum State Park visit my Google+ Album.

On another day we signed up to take a boat tour from Cedar Key to the Suwannee River.  We decided to use Tidewater Tours as online recommendations looked pretty good.  Here's the description from the Tidewater Tours website:

The Suwannee River Tour travels northward along the shallow coastline for approximately 13 miles before entering the world famous Suwannee River.  At this point the ecosystem changes rapidly from a primarily salt water/estuarine environment to a primarily fresh water river/swamp ecosystem.  The route then extends approximately six miles up the river, including excursions into some seemingly enchanted waterways which narrow and run off the main channel.  Plant and animal sightings vary according to the season.  The shallow, near-shore route to the Suwannee River is tide dependant and not always available.  This tour takes approximately 3-to-4 hours.  The cost is $45.00 + tax per person.

We are generally fans of boat tours, but we left somewhat disappointed in this one. It began ok, but engine troubles made for a long, slow trip up to, and back from, the Suwannee River. I belief the entire tour was about 5 1/2 hours by the time we finished.

Fortunately, it was a beautiful day. Here we are leaving from the marina at Cedar Key.

These guys are everywhere in this area. I guess he's not too superstitious about the channel marker number. 

After a lengthy ride to the mouth of the Suwannee River we finally saw a few osprey nests.

We took on fuel at Miller's Marina near the little town of Suwannee.  There were no snacks or drinks onboard, so folks were anxious to see what what available in the little store.  Answer: not much!

This smart couple was prepared and brought along their own little cooler. They could have paid for their tour had they decided to sell a few of their items.

Here's our little group preparing to shove off and head up some of the small tributaries leading into the Suwannee River.

Once you get into the smaller branches of the river it is very quiet and serene.  The entire area is protected, so no commercial or residential development will destroy this fragile area (at least for now).

We did run across this group who were having a nice day of paddle boarding (until we showed up, that is).

Don't let me give you the impression that we didn't enjoy the tour, however.  It turned out to be much longer than anticipated, but that was due to engine problems with the boat. Certainly the scenery was beautiful!

To view more pictures about the Suwannee River tour visit my Google+ Album.

Just one more blog dealing with our Cedar Key visit.  That involved kayaking over to Atsena Otie Key, but I'll save that for the next blog.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!