Sunday, January 20, 2008

An Epilogue on Florida

Hello everyone! Yes, you are still very much on our minds and in our hearts...

Just as we were about to move out of our wonderful camp ground here at Dauphin Island, on the gulf coast of Alabama, we discovered it had wireless! So Peter went off to the local United Methodist Church service, while I try once again to do the 'wrap up'
on Florida. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog entitled "Alabama Bound" which will chronicle some of our fascinating adventures here.

The purpose of this epilogue, however, is to introduce you to many of the people with whom we shared the Florida chapter and who we earnestly want to thank for the time and attention they gave us.

The greatest 'thank you' for the nearly two months of our explorations here
go to Sue & Bill Eberhart. Their hospitality allowed us to make their place south of Ocala our 'home base", while we cross-crossed the state gulping down new experiences. .

Here is brother Bill shuttling me on an errand.

Sue and I had fun together getting ready for Christmas.

Next up are the Knudstrups, Mary (my niece - Sue & Bill's youngest daughter) and her terrific family .. Carolyn, Camille, Marie and father Mike. Mary's a nurse and Mike's a professor of psychology at the college in Lakeland, where they live. They opened their home to us and shared some of that wonderful citrus you see on the tree behind them in their back yard.

They accompanied us into Tampa to welcome Tim off the plane from Alberta
on December 17th.

Camile entertained us with true prowess on her 'wave board'.

Here are Carolyn and Camille coaching Tim in some of the finer points.
He rushed straight into K-Mart and bought one for himself.

Great relatives on Peter's side include the Charltons, who share summer fun with us at Pen Lake. Bill is Peter's first cousin through his Dad. In the winter, he and Diane enjoy living in Maple Leaf Village (near Pt. Charlotte, Florida). Guess where the members of this retirement community hail from? Diane cooked us a gourmet breakfast, which we were thrilled to share with son, Greg and his family, down for Christmas from Huntsville, Ontario.

Thank you, Charltons, one and all, for this great winter reunion!

Cathy Feaster is another 1st cousin of Peter's, this time on his mother's side. Remember Virginia, the cousin in New Jersey famous for her quilts? This is her younger sister who lives in Largo. Our overnight visit was the first opportunity to ever spent time with Cathy, and we were delighted to get to know her better.

Cathy, you were wonderful to us! So glad we all hang on the same Penney Family tree! And thank you for a very special Sunday morning service with you and your faith famil
y, the thriving congregation of Anona United Methodist Church. (pictured below)

You also meet the strangest people ...

This is Mr. Sponge, wharf resident at Key West.
The real sponge industry, however, is on the Gulf side, at Tarpon Springs.

We enjoyed walking in this area and a dinner out on the docks.

The gentlemen below represent two generations
of Greek fishermen who have made their livelihood
in the sponge industry at Tarpon Springs, since the Greek
sponge fields were destroyed by disease.
Sponges are very susceptible to red tides.

And just north, at New Port Richey, we had the fun
of meeting Connie Cote, a cousin and former babysitter
of my birth son, Ethan Allaun Spooner. As it was just
prior to Ethan's birthday, we cooperated together in a
joint email birthday card.

Thank you, Connie, for the chance to meet you and your family,
for sharing important history with me,
and a delicious dinner with us.
Let's stay in touch.

Above are the warm, aqua waters of Manatee Springs State Park.
Wouldn't it be neat to see a real manatee here in its winter quarters?

Cool! It appears that one is surfacing!

It's a mana-tee-hee! Hi, Peter!

Here is an actual family of manatees at the mouth of the river.

Below, you will see we met some folks from another era ...

Do you recognize them?

Here are place settings from their tables.

They may have lounged in this chair.

And surely some of them came to dinner down this famous

You've got it. We met them at
the excellent Titanic exhibit in Orlando.
You can visit them too, when you come,
downtown at the Science Center.

... And we suppose no visit to Orlando is truly complete
without an audience with 'the mouse' and his originator.

For years we have harboured a kind of stupid self pride
for managing to avoid the preverbial family vacation
to Disney World .

But, we have to admit .. we had a ball.

Where else could you meet a 'lego family'.
These carolers outside the U.S. exhibit at the Epcot Center were so outstanding, that they raised every available body hair. The harmonies were intricate, with 'keys' frequently changing, and all participants had absolutely perfect pitch.
Their spontaneous concert was a serendipitous moment for us.

Next door at the Canadian pavilion, we were glad to meet up with some northwoods friends of ours. Our national exhibit was wonderful too and like Joe Canuck, we felt proud to be Canadian.

Below are the friendly young Canadians who host our pavilion.

Not far from Orlando, we encountered some of these people ..

We celebrated their histories at the Astronaut Hall of Fame

We tried on their courage ...

and marveled at the sheer size of their rockets.

At Port Canaveral, Elizabeth had an important reunion with Dr. Jim Honig for the first time in over 40 years. She lived with him and his family for a time during high school, providing child care for his three small children. Both were immediately able to recognize one another, and there was a lot of story to catch up on.

A trip out to Nassau for the day was our Christmas gift to each other. We toured the island on scooters, fun for all ages.

Tim introduced us to the fabulous Atlantis resort, which we toured. Filled with amazing underground acquariums, art, sculpture and archetecture, it is a wild dream of Atlantis rising, come to life.

But we also saw the real Bahamian places .. like the markets:

Fun in the sun with a son.

Back in town, Frederic and 'Tu' were glad to see their machines back in one piece, and invited Tim to stick around for a Bahamian New Year's Eve party called 'Junkaroo'. It was an offer almost worth jumping ship to experience. We had seen significant parade preparations being made, and costumes coming out - like the one below.

But a New Year's Eve party was also being planned back on the ship .. a great way to bring in the New Year with Tim.

So, to each and every one of you ..



(And stay tuned!)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Florida - a Photo Essay

A picture says a 1000 words.
How about 1000 pictures?
The last part of this section
is now in a new upcoming blog chapter, marked 'epipilogue',
as I lost it completely here in the
last moments before publication.
"Love and Hate" .. our relationship with
technology. God give us strength.

* * * *

To begin, meet some of the natural inhabitants of Florida.

Ibis everywhere .. nearly like pigeons from our parts ..
It was in this 'air boat' that we toured the Everglades, and saw...

Spoonbills. Did you know Flamingos are not native to Florida?
We didn't .. but the resident pink Spoonbill looks a lot like them.

Nevertheless, flamingos having been imported from Honduras and the Caribbean,
are residents now.

a seasoned Floridian fisherman

Sadly, some creatures of the sea never make it ..

Then again, some do ...
This wonderful sea horse washed up in the surf.
Usually the seagulls pluck their eyes out immediately,
but Tim found it first, stunned and disoriented.
After nursing him along for a couple of days in a pail with seaweed,
he revived! Last seen happily swimming away
in inner coastal waters.

So, back to our air boat ride and the first of many
subsequent sightings of Mr. Alligator.

Here he comes ..

"Oh no , you don't!"

This was our driver and the owner of that hand you just saw.

Brave Peter, even if he has been tamed.

Years ago I was told a story by a friend who as a boy
was sent out to the end of a dock to allow
his parents time to visit with friends. He was given a pole,
a string and a ham sandwich.
Angered at his elders and not liking ham,
he tied the sandwich to the string on the end of the pole
and dangled it above the water.
Up came a huge head to have a look.
It was the first time anyone had seen a manatee
in this canal in decades.
Ever since hearing that story, I've wanted to be with a manatee.
We got my wish fulfilled at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.
Here the ranger is offering carrots to this grazing, lovable herbivore.

"Yum. Romaine! My favorite! But don't feed me in the wild
unless you wish to pay a huge fine or spend the night in jail."

"Aren't I beautiful?"

Meet Lulu. When this formerly private animal park
was taken over by the state, a decision was made
to keep only those animals indigenous to Florida.
Obviously, Lulu didn't qualify, but after 30
years, she had become a local favourite.
So, in response to many petitions,
late Governor Lawton Chiles, in 1992,
insured Lulu's continuance at Homosassa Springs,
by declaring her an honorary resident of Florida.

"Way to go, Lulu!"

And, wherever there are shells, there will be ...

a Shell Collector.

What is Florida if not a place of beaches?
This state has the longest coastline
of any in the U.S. and we have
covered much of it.
So, come with us to the beach!

Meet the gang on Jetty Park beach at Pt. Canaveral.
It was a day of wild surf.

Peter takes a morning stroll.

Tim's first day on the beach with us after
flying into Tampa from snowbound Alberta.
This is Lido beach on Longboat Key

Later on Turtle Beach at the southern end of Siesta Key,
a great beach for shells!

And, of course, with Tim, we had to hit the hotter spots.

"Oh, those hot Gulf Stream waters..."

"and those hotter east coast girls!"

"Mom, long retired from bikinni days."

Later, we visited the (in)famous "South Beach" at Miami.
What distinguishes this beach is the street life ...

so retro and art deco!

Catering to the young ...

You literally walk for blocks through the midst of life.

And vendors are in abundance

And always, the machines ...

And the traffic!

Tim is gone now and life has calmed down.
How about the crystal quartz sands of Ft. DeSoto - on the west coast?

The girls are even here.

Beautiful Clearwater Beach

Heading out to Howe Park on an isolated 'spit' at Tarpon Springs

* * *
We return now to the east coast again at New Smyrna...

These guys have the fastest legs in the world .. running
into the surf, picking up tiny bits of food
and dashing off before the next wave gets them.
And now to the famous Ormand and Daytona Beaches
"Birth Places of Speed" and home to the 'Daytona' races before
the current NASCAR 500 track opened in 1959.

The scene years ago, racing up the beach
and back down route #A1A

Daytona today still allows cars on the beach, even our RV'!

The famous pier at Daytona

Peter's great pic from the pier...

Not 'Charles Atlas', but pretty cute.

And finally at Anastasia State Park beside St. Augustine...

As children, both Peter and I loved our bikes ...
and still do!

And always, those amazing sunsets...