Author Archives: sftbalmm

A New Direction?

Never in a million years could Don imagine that he would take this path in his life, and yet, here he is. It began innocently enough.

When we were preparing to embark on this full time lifestyle, one of the things we had to do was downsize our possessions. That was easy enough but we also had to consider how our hobbies would play into this. I was into scrapbooking. Don coached girls softball and dabbled in golf, fishing, and music, more specifically, he played guitar and sang, mainly for his own enjoyment.

It was obvious from the very beginning that I would cease my scrapbooking when we moved into the Suite Pea. After all, where would I store a roomful of albums, stickers, photos, and all of the other supplies that made my hobby possible. In its place I took over this travel blog that Don had started a few years back.

Don retired from his coaching, sold his guitar, downsized his fishing gear, and loaded what remained of it and his golf clubs into the pass-thru. It didn’t take long into our traveling for him to realize that he seldom used his clubs nor rods and tackle. Thus all they were doing was taking up valuable storage space. So what to do to alleviate boredom on the road? He could only spend just so much time napping and reading. This was when he decided to pick up a guitar again and as fate would have it, we just happened to be parked in a little COE outside of Nashville. What better place to shop for a new guitar.

Over the ensuing few years Don honed his picking and strumming. Don’t get me wrong, he’d always played the guitar well, ever since he was a little boy. As a young man he played gigs in bars and special events both solo or with a band, but with a job transfer to another state and a growing family, those days were put behind him. Now, being retired and having time on his hands, he was back at it again. Then, just for fun he started writing his own tunes and lyrics. At some point, he put them on YouTube and somewhere along the way a radio disc jockey from A1A radio heard one and contacted Don. This started the ball rollin”.

He started playing more gigs. He made a few connections. The next thing we knew, he had a recording session scheduled with Pirates Cove Studio. Which brings us up to the present.

We originally had made plans to meander around central Florida for a while before making our annual pilgrimage north to see family. Instead, we found ourselves on the Eastern Shore in Lower Alabama, an area we’re both familiar and comfortable with.

On the day of our arrival we met with friends Kenny and Connie, who were also passing through, at Lambert’s Cafe for dinner. Lambert’s is known far and wide for its delicious southern-style cuisine and “throwed rolls”. A visit to this region wouldn’t be complete without at least one meal eaten here. Don spent the next two days practicing his music, as he was due in the studio at 9 AM sharp Friday morning.

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Come Friday, Don was up before the roosters crowed. He swore he wasn’t the least bit nervous because he felt he was well prepared, but he was excited. As was I for him. When Don arrived at the studio, Danny Taddei, the owner, operator, and fellow TropRocker, made Don feel very comfortable. He gave Don the grand tour and explained the process to him. It was a long day for the two of them, Don didn’t return home until almost six that night, and they still had more work to accomplish.

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With the weekend off, the three of us took a road trip. Since we were only 1.5 hour’s drive away from Biloxi, MS, we took the opportunity to check out an RV park we were considering as a future wintering spot. We’re glad we did! Although the ratings and reviews were high for this particular park, it really wasn’t our cup of tea. We felt the sites were way to close together for anything other than a short stay. Besides that, the park wasn’t a good dog walking park and the surrounding area appeared seedy, if you know what I mean. The trip wasn’t a total loss though, the world renowned Shed BBQ restaurant was a mere 19 miles away.

This was our first time eating at The Shed and I’m glad we were forewarned about what to expect. The place is…how should I put this, …a dump. But OMG the Que was by far the best we’ve ever had! If you don’t know by now from reading this blog, Don and I are foodies and we love good barbecue. We’ve tried some of the best BBQ joints in Texas, Kansas City, Memphis, and the Carolinas and let me tell you hands down, The Shed has them all beat.

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Don’t let The Shed’s appearance scare you off. This bbq joint has won the GRAND WORLD BBQ CHAMPIONSHIP, their sauces & rubs have also won numerous awards. They’ve been featured on The Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, & Best in Smoke, as well as Live with Regis & Kelly & the Travel Channel’s Man vs Food. Numerous magazine articles have also featured The Shed Barbeque & Blues Joint.¬†So, with this portfolio, how can you go wrong?

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On Monday Don & Danny were back at it. It was another long day in the studio. I on the other hand had my own issue to deal with. The furnace thermostat wouldn’t kick in automatically and once it was manually started, it wouldn’t shut off. Fortunately we are in one of our club parks where we are on a first name basis with the resident RV repairman. Pat Buie’s honest and does good work. He came out right away and took care of the matter for us. Thankfully it was just a little corrosion and Pat got it cleaned up and back operating efficiently.

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Tuesday, our last day in LA, Don’s back in the studio. Hopefully his recordings can be completed up to the point where Don’s vocals and strumming will no longer be needed. In the meantime I will prep the Suite Pea for her morning move.

So what is the next phase for Don? We really don’t know. It may not lead anywhere at all but one never knows unless one takes a chance. He doesn’t have any illusions about this, he just thought it’d be nice to be sitting on a beach somewhere and hear one of his songs played on a local TropRock station. Now that would be awesome!

Here’s lookin’ at you kid…….

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It’s A Wrap

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In just a matter of days, we will be wrapping up our time spent wintering in Punta Gorda. We’ve greatly enjoyed the time we’ve spent here, and the new friends we’ve made but the past two months have been pretty hectic and I think we are both ready for a break. I don’t believe we’ve moved at this pace since we both retired from working. ūüėÜ

So what have we been up to? Lots! Besides activities here in the park, Don has played a few gigs in area campgrounds and at a local restaurant/music venue. He’s also spent some time tweaking a couple of his songs and writing a new one. His rendition of Amazing Grace, My Chains Are Gone that he performed for chapel was enthusiastically praised as was the music he did for the fundraiser revue sponsored by the park’s choir.

 

 

We celebrated two birthdays, mine, and Beau Bear’s 2nd, and Don and I observed our Valentines Day wedding anniversary by attending a dinner dance. Then followed it up a few days later by going with longtime friends Brenda and Bogie on a sunset cruise.

 

 

 

 

We dined out (a lot), with old friends, with new friends, with Beau, or occasionally just the two of us.

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New friends, Judy & Ron, & Connie & Kenny with us at Blue Tequila. The margaritas here will kick your butt.

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Old friends, Carla & Mardy, & Janet & Dennis with us at Hurricane Charly’s.

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It’s strawberry season in Florida! I’ve made several of these for pitch-ins lately & they are always a big hit.

The beach called out to us a few times and we answered. Once to the beautiful aqua colored water of Boca Grande but more often to Sanibel Island’s shell strewn dog friendly beaches. Beau loves his beach time as much as we do.

 

 

During the short period when we experienced cooler weather, we visited the waterfront park near the power plant to count how many manatees we could see. I never tire of watching these amazing creatures.

 

 

Twice we met up with family to attend Detroit Tigers Spring training games. My uncle Lloyd has a Winter home in Haines City, not too far from Lakeland where the Tigers play. While my cousin Karla and her husband Larry were in town visiting him, we drove up to join them for a game. They also came down our way to see the Tigers play the Tampa Bay Rays at the Rays Sports Park. It was nice spending time with family. I have to say this one thing though, I believe it’s going to be a very loooong season for Tiger fans. ūüėę

 

 

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Big guy on the left is cousin Larry, then Don, me, uncle Lloyd, & my cousin Karla

And we found some time last Monday to finally get around to visiting Myakka River State Park. The canopy walkway had been on my must do list for a time. The walkway is suspended 25′ above the ground and extends 100′ through the hammock treetops. At the end of the suspension bridge is a tower that rises 74′ into the air. The view from the top is spectacular.

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Myakka River (notice the gators sunning themselves on both sides of the river banks)

 

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Hammock at Myakka River state park

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The suspension walkway

 

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74′ tall tower on the suspension bridge

 

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View from the top

It’s always fun to view alligators in their natural habitat and the Myakka River was very accommodating during our visit. Gators were lined up on both sides of river bank basking in the warm sunshine.

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One other delight on this day was the sighting of a pair of Sandhill Cranes with their offspring. ūüėć

 

 

 

In between all our outings this past week, we’ve also been preparing the Suite Pea for her usual Spring travels north. Don has cleaned and treated her roof, and given her a good washing. He’s still in the process of sanitizing her fresh water tank and reorganizing her pass-thru. I had the Pea’s carpet professionally cleaned, defrosted the freezer, cleaned the screens and AC vents, and did some minor rearranging of the interior cabinets. Our plans are to roll out the Monday morning following Easter. Hopefully most of the Snowbirds will have left the day before.

Until next time, here’s lookin’ at you kid…….

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An unusual looking sunset

 

 

 

 

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Call Us Crackers

We were up and moving extra early Monday morning with last minute items to pack and a pup to shuttle off to a nearby pet resort. I had qualms about leaving Beau overnight but I just couldn’t see any way around it. It was going to be a long travel day for us and we had no idea what to expect when we arrived. Nor did we know if we’d be gone one day or two. Our destination was Green Cove Springs, Florida.

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Green Cove Springs pier on the Saint Johns River

It meant driving 4-5 hours, not including rest area and meal stops, from the southwest section of the state to the northeast portion. The purpose was to set ourselves up as Florida residents, get the truck and Suite Pea plated, ¬†and be issued new drivers licenses. We had previously declared South Dakota as our domicile. We’ve been very satisfied with SD and with our mail forwarding service, Dakota Post, but for convenience sake we decided to switch to Florida. We spend so much time here anyways.

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Waterfront park

When I Mapquested Green Cove Springs I was delighted to find it was located right on the St. Johns River. St. Johns is a premier bass fishing location! You see, back in another life, Don and I both once fished in a bass club. Don even fished in Redman and Bass Master tournaments. But that was all before our youngest daughter had us traipsing all over the country playing in travel softball tournaments, causing us to sell our bass boat. Being road gypsies, we always keep our eyes open for areas while we are traveling that just might entice us to eventually settle there. I’ve wanted to explore the towns along the St. Johns River for some time, for that very reason. Twice I’ve made reservations at riverside RV parks and twice they’ve been canceled due to a hurricane. Once with Hurricane Matthew and again this past Fall with Irma. I had hopes of spending a little time exploring but unfortunately that didn’t happen. Things went so smoothly that Don opted to return “home” the same day.

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First stop on our list was to pick up our new No Fault auto policy. We’ve had State Farm auto insurance since we got married, longer for me. When I contacted our agent to make changes to our policy I was informed that they could no longer insure us. It seems in Florida, State Farm requires us to have an “actual” address. As full time RVers we didn’t qualify but the agent did tell us who could insure us.

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Clay County Clerk’s Administration Office

Next stop was the Clay County clerk’s office. We thought we were going there just to take care of the title paperwork for the RV and truck, then go to the local DMV to plate them and get our new drivers licenses. We were pleasantly surprised to find we could take care of everything right there in the clerk’s office. Unlike our South Dakota drivers license, our Florida one lists our RV plate number as our address instead of our mail forwarder’s address. It does give the city in which our forwarder is located though.

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Our Save The Manatee plate. It’s something we care about.

Having completed the process we decided to tour our new “home town” and stop by St. Brendan’s Isle, our mail forwarding service. We found Green Cove Springs to be a very charming river town ¬†with lovely old homes. We stopped at the park and walked out onto the pier before departing. Don was amazed at how wide the river was. He did say he’d like to return to explore the cities up and down the river in the future.

Later, we stopped for dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Silver Springs where the waitress informed us it was margarita Monday. Hmm, half price margaritas huh? We’ll have two. It’s just what we needed to toast our new state of domicile.

It was late when we arrived back at the Suite Pea. Our common goal was to crawl into our nice comfy bed and sleep. Everything in the truck could keep for tomorrow. It felt so good to finally have that task done.

Here’s lookin’ at you kid…..

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The standard Florida plate for the Suite Pea. We had our choice of it stating Clay County, The Sunshine State, or In God We Trust.

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Beauty & the Beasts

Real snakes were used to form the restaurant's name

Real snakes were used to form the restaurant’s name

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A couple of months ago when we were parked in Sarasota, our good friend Becky suggested going out to eat at Linger Lodge. According to her the atmosphere alone was worth the visit. I researched the restaurant on line an learned it was named by Forbes as one of the ” Most Unusual Restaurants in the World”. Al Roker calls it one of the “top 5 weirdest restaurants in America”. So of course my interest was piqued. ¬†Unfortunately the lodge was closed for repairs, probably due to Hurricane Irma. Right around Christmas I learned the lodge and its adjoining campground were once again open for business. I updated Becky and we planned our visit.

imageLinger Lodge, located in a bend of the Braden River in Bradenton, began as a canoeing and fishing camp in 1945. The place is reminiscent of days past with its “Old Florida” look and feel. Huge Live Oaks dripping with Spanish moss and Resurrection plants amidst lush vegetation of native palms, vines, and ferns. It was purchased by Frank and Elaine Gamsky in 1968. Frank Gamsky, a veterinarian and amateur taxidermist, filled the lodge with Florida critters of all sorts. All taken from the camp’s original 100 acres. All except for the rare and unusual ones like the Alaskan Fur Fish, the Walking Catfish, and the Turkey Rattler, just to name a few.

 

Turkey Rattler

Turkey Rattler

The story has it that while protecting a group of school children from a large rattler, Frank was bitten by the snake. Before rushing off to the nearest hospital he threw the snake into a freezer. Eight weeks later he stuffed the snake! It is still on display in the lodge along with a photo of Frank’s swollen hand.

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Displays greet you on all four sides of the lodge restaurant as soon as you enter but one particular item drew me immediately. A 16′ gator! Yikes!! When I first heard the story of how the alligator came to be mounted on the wall, I didn’t believe it. However I have been assured it is indeed true. Here’s how the tale goes…..

On a warm and humid summer evening, Ol’ Mike was boatin’ on the murky waters around legendary Braden River…not too far from the Linger Lodge. The night seemed unusually still, when he spotted two ruby red eyes piercing the dark air just above the waterline. Before he knew what was happening, a long tail whipped across the bow and knocked him plumb into the dark water. An enormous hungry gator grabbed hold of his leg and dragged him down into the blackened depths for dinner. It was a formidable fight, man against beast, as the gator rolled over and over with the leg in his jaws. While one leg was about to become the gator’s first course, on Mike’s other leg was strapped his favorite huntin’ blade called Big Boy. In a flash, Big Boy did his work and the gator’s jaws opened up for the last time. It didn’t hurt none that Ol’ Mike was 1945’s Gator Wrasslin’ Champ of the State of Florida. Coincidentally, the same year that the Linger Lodge was founded. The 16 foot trophy of that fateful night hangs on the wall at The Lodge….

16' gator at The Linger Lodge

16′ gator at The Linger Lodge

I will say I’m glad we went. The decor and history of the place is very quirky and interesting even if it did give me the heebie jeebies¬†and we did enjoy the opportunity to get together again with Steve and Becky. The service was slow though, very slow. We sat for quite sometime before anyone came to take our drink order. Normally one of us would’ve been peeved waiting for that length of time but the conversation was going strong, so it was just a minor nuisance. I really can’t say how good the food was as my anxiety chose this moment to ¬†flare up and I lost my appetite. I didn’t think to ask Steve or Becky what their thoughts were but Don said his meal was just so so.

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Steve & Becky with Don & I at Linger Lodge

After chapel the following morning Don suggested we take a Sunday drive to someplace we hadn’t been to before. We debated between a couple of destinations before deciding on Boca Grande. We’d been told the island beach was not only the closest one to our location but that the surrounding area was beautiful as well. That is an understatement!

Boca Grande is a small upscale beach town on Gasparilla Island. Being on the west side of Florida, it boasts the sugary white sand and aquamarine colored water the Gulf is known for. In spite of the threat of rain and the sky being overcast, the scenery did not disappoint, the water views were stunning.

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Our first stop was Gasparilla State Park and the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse. The 1890 lighthouse is the oldest structure on Gasparilla Island. The light, still used for navigation, also serves as a museum and is open for touring. The surrounding beach is perfect for sunbathers but no swimming is allowed because of dangerous rip currents. For swimming it’s best to go to Boca Grande Beach near town. Only drawback to these beautiful island beaches is they are not dog friendly.

Boca Grande Lighthouse

Boca Grande Lighthouse

Next stop, Gasparilla Island Light. This light was originally located in Lewes, DE. Built in 1888, it was later moved to its present location in 1927. The park like area offers an easy paved walking path around the light structure and out onto the dunes.   Signage along the pathway offers information on much of the visible plant life found here. After leaving the light we made a quick pass through the historic part of Boca Grande. We were searching for a dog friendly cafe in which to have lunch but the rain chose that particular moment to come pouring down. So, we called it a day and returned home to the Suite Pea instead. We are already planning our return.

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Gasparilla Island Light

Until next time, here’s lookin’ at you kid…….

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Christmas Traditions

When Don and I married we each brought with us our families Christmas traditions. There was some give and take but we blended them as best we could. The pace was often hectic with three young children in tow but somehow we always muddled through. Within three years we once again had to revise our holiday traditions when our company transferred us to Indiana.

Our first Christmas in Indiana happened only two months of our moving there. While most of the other thirty individuals who were transferred with us were making plans to return to Michigan for Christmas, Don and I made the decision to stay put. Indiana was now our daughters home and we strongly felt that they needed to make holiday memories of their own right there.

We decided one tradition we would continue in our new state was going out and chopping down our Christmas tree. There’s nothing quite as heavenly as walking in from the crisp outdoors into the smell of fresh cut pine. I located a Christmas tree farm in the gently rolling hills of beautiful Brown County. We then loaded the girls and the dog into our old suburban to make the hour’s drive south.

Perhaps I should mention that the great room of our first Indiana house had a 24′ tall peaked ceiling. ¬†That year we brought home a 16′ tree. Combine that with the one foot tall speciality tree stand we purchased, you can well imagine just how¬†HUGE¬†this tree was. Thankfully the tree farm had wrapped it so getting it into the house wasn’t¬†too¬†difficult. We brought it right in the front door, up the stairs, then over the bannister to the floor below. Only the front of our tree was decorated that first year as we didn’t possess enough ornaments. In the eyes of our youngest though, it was still a wonderful sight to behold.

This was also when we began the tradition of dressing up in our finest togs to dine out in a fancy restaurant. We always followed this up by attending communion and Candlelight service at our little Methodist church. Now, let’s go back to that first Christmas tree.

The day after New Year’s is our official detrimming the tree day. Don brought in our tallest step ladder and started working from the top down while the girls and I made our way upward to meet him. We put everything lovingly back into their tissue filled boxes then stored them away in the garage. That’s when it hit us. How were we going to get this monstrous tree out the door. It was too tall and to heavy to lift up out of its ¬†stand. The lower branches having spread out several feet around the tree’s base were not going back out the door from whence they’d entered. That’s when Don was struck with a brilliant??? idea. Returning from the garage with his chainsaw in hand, ¬†he raised the two front windows, removed the screens and storms, then went about dismantling the tree in sections with pine needles and sawdust flying all over the living room furniture and carpet. All the ruckus drew the neighbors on our little cul de sac out in front of our house to gape.

That tree will forever live in our memories and those of our neighbors. From the following Christmas and beyond, our trees were of the standard size.

The traditions we started on that first Hoosier Christmas all those years ago remained with us long after our daughters had families of their own. They continued  until our first Christmas as full time RVers.

Our first year on the road we returned to Indiana for Thanksgiving instead of Yuletide. Our oldest put up their tree early that season so we could hand out our presents while gathered round it. On Christmas Eve, mom and our daughters families held their traditional family get together while Don and I celebrated Christmas in a new and memorable way.

We spent that first Christmas in the quaint¬†“Old Florida”¬†town of Cedar Key where we ¬†joined in the townspeoples customary festivities. We attended our first ever Christmas boat parade. We were so enchanted by it that it has become a yearly, dare I say it, tradition. Afterwards we were invited to join in the town pitch-in at the city park and watch Santa arrive via airboat. We got the biggest kick out of seeing the youngsters run down the beach to greet him as he jumped off the boat clad in fishing waders with helper clams instead of elves to assist him in handing out candy canes and small gifts to the children. Although it was great fun and an experience we’ll long remember, we missed not being with our grandchildren and they with us. We made them a promise, barring any unfortunate circumstances, we would never again miss spending Christmas with them.

Once again our family’s Christmas traditions were revised and have continued to be tweaked each year, but the one thing that has remained constant through all the years is the love and joy found in the fellowship of family and friends.

                                                            Happy Holidays! 

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To Blog or Not to Blog, That is the Question

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¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†The path to Beau’s happy place

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I’ve recently been doing some mulling over in my mind as to whether or not I will continue writing ¬†this blog much longer. I’m finding it harder and harder to motivate myself to do so since our lifestyle has been leaving me so uninspired lately. When we first ventured out on the road everything was so new. We were visiting new places, exploring new sights, trying new restaurants, etc. As of late though, I feel our lives have become pretty mundane. Except for the fact that we periodically move our home on wheels to a different town or state, we’re not living any differently now than we did when we lived in a stick and brick abode. I can’t for the life of me imagine anyone cares to hear (again), where we dined, with whom, who we’ve seen perform, what beach we’ve visited, or any of the other daily minutiae of our lives. Maybe after nearly ten years of writing posts, four years at this site and six on blogspot, it’s time to just take a little break. So I will just leave this here, step away, and try to decide which direction I’ll choose to take. Until then, here’s looking at you kid…….

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Recent visitors to the pond, an egret & a wood stork

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Punta Gorda

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The Suite Pea has landed. For the winter season that is. We arrived in Punta Gorda on the first of the month and thus far it’s made a pretty favorable impression on us. We’ve found only one ding, although we are only 4 miles from the ocean, we are a good 37 miles away from the nearest beach, and approximately 46 miles away from a dog friendly one. So when we go, and we will, it’ll be an all day excursion.

We’ve barely made a dent into exploring the locale. We do know there’s good music venues nearby and some pretty good eats too, many of which are puppy friendly. We also discovered the weekly farmers market on our first Saturday in the park. It’s not huge but it’s adequate. Along with the usual bounty of fruits and vegetables, there are bakery, popcorn, fresh fish and seafood, eggs, coffee, honey, and tea kiosks. There are handmade trinkets of all kinds, painters, soap makers, and musicians. There’s a hotdog peddler, a smoothie stand, and best of all a crepe maker where we are quickly becoming Saturday morning regulars. A couple of other places in the area have piqued our interest as well but I will leave those gems for a future post.

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Our site for the season

As far as the park goes we are very pleased with it and with our site. We were aware going in that Alligator Park had a large clientele of returning Snowbirds. So much so that some years there are no openings for newbies. We were fortunate. I called first thing in the morning of the first day after their seasonal renewals were due. The manager told me I was the first caller, even so there was only 4 sites available out of 164. We made our site selection using only the online park map and we are quite pleased with it.

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Park entrance looking toward the clubhouse

The RV sites are paved with a lengthy attached paved patio area. ¬†Most are 30′ wide X 80′ deep, a few are larger. ¬†Each has a nice grassy area with at least one palm tree. All are full hookups. The park does a nice job of maintaining them. Ours also has an attractive white privacy fence at the back end separating us from a neighborhood.

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RV sites

The facility is an ownership park with separate sections for modular homes. In the past when we have stayed in other ownership parks we found that the RVers and owners don’t mingle. Sure, they say the functions are open to everyone but when you attend you’re often not made to feel welcome. That isn’t the case at Alligator Park. Everyone has been very welcoming and friendly. People often stop by our site just to say hello and to make sure we”re aware of park functions. Several of the park’s homeowners were once RVers here themselves. Also, it is much more welcoming to visiting grandchildren and bigger dog breeds than the vast majority of other 55+ parks.

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Early morning on the lake

We can’t complain about the amenities either. There’s a huge pool that goes from 3.5′ to 8.5′, which Don likes, a good sized laundry, a lending library, a mail room, a large air-conditioned clubhouse, and a 25 acre lake that hosts activities on and around it. Because of the park’s layout it’s great for walking and biking in as well. There are a few dings as far as we are concerned, first, the laundromat is set up to accept credit cards only, I don’t like that. I prefer cash. Secondly, there isn’t an off leash, fenced play yard for the fur babies, just an on leash dog walk area. However we did locate two very nice dog parks nearby and utilize them regularly.

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Since our arrival we’ve visited 2 of the music venues. The first was a well known ¬†spot called Center Court at Fishermen’s Village. It was just the two of us out for an afternoon of entertainment and lunch. The second venue is a popular waterfront restaurant in downtown Punta Gorda called Hurricane Charley’s. It hosted the Songwriters After Party with 2 of Don’s favorite TropRockers, Cory Young and Donny Brewer. He HAD to be there. We hooked up with friends Mardy and Carla for this afternoon outing. Mardy is a musician too. It was a lot of fun.

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The four of us at Hurricane Charley’s

 

The last music scene we took in was The Lighthouse at Stump Pass. We were invited by Mardy and Carla to go listen to The Gummy Sharks, a band that Mardy once played drums for. The Gummies played some original scores but most were old rock or Motown tunes. They’re pretty good and I really enjoyed their song selection but the thing I liked most about this place was the setting. The water setting was gorgeous. Another bonus was watching dolphins swim up through the pass. They are such a delight.

Until next time, here’s lookin’ at you kid…..

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Spotted this banyan tree downtown & couldn’t resist a photo

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The Bucket List

Thanks to our friend Steve, Don was able to check an item off his bucket list.

For many years Don has stated emphatically that one day he would like to try his hand at salt water fishing. It happened that Steve recently developed an issue with his ear that at times became enervating. He decided to take a week’s vacation of rest in hope that his condition would improve and what better way for a person to rest and relieve stress than to fish. Steve asked Don if he’d care to join him. Would he ever!

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The fishing boat

They met with the boat captain early Friday morning and headed out into Big Sarasota Bay and the Intercoastal Waterway where they spent the better part of the day fishing. Don said they caught several but not all were keepers. He named a few but couldn’t recall all the varieties they’d reeled in as he is unfamiliar with salt water fish. Something he’d like to remedy in time. All I know is he had a really good time. When he returned home he sacked out for a couple of hours, too much sun, waves and fresh air perhaps.

Evie's at Spanish Point Restaurant & Tiki in Osprey.  STAFF PHOTO / NICK ADAMS

Evies of Spanish Point

Other than sitting out on the patio and enjoying the sun’s warmth, we’ve utilized the pool and done more socializing. Thursday afternoon we met Don’s old boss Mike Oaky and his wife Sue for lunch at Evies Spanish Point Restaurant & Tiki. It was a very pleasant afternoon and the conversation never lagged. That evening Steve and Becky invited us over for dinner. They have an absolutely lovely home. It made Don and I wistful for a house of our own again. Steve made smoked chicken for dinner in his smoker that was utterly delicious and Becky plied us with mango pie for dessert that was yummy. Steve is a HUGE Civil War/ Gettysburg buff. Don too is fascinated by ¬†both, so Steve had to have Don see is Gettysburg man cave which even I have to admit was pretty awesome. Steve is a walking encyclopedia on the subject, had he not chosen to be a minister, he’d make an excellent Gettysburg tour guide.

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Kim & I

I also had the opportunity to meet up with one of my dearest and oldest friends, finally. I missed seeing her when she was back in Michigan this past summer. Kim did go by the property to see dad and Don but I was in Indiana at the time due to our youngest having gall bladder surgery. We met for lunch at Old Castle Tavern in Ruskin, a halfway point for Kim and us. Of course the few hours we spent catching up just wasn’t enough. Hopefully we can do it again on our return trip this Spring.

Today is our last full day in Sarasota. As usual whenever we’ve been parked in one place for a while, we spend our final day cleaning and prepping to move. As I told Becky, that alone makes it the perfect reason to dine out. We asked Steve and Becky to join us for one last meal out before leaving. They agreed to meet us at Yoder’s Restaurant where we spent a very enjoyable evening with good food and endless conversation. It isn’t goodbye though, we will meet up again once we get settled in to our winter headquarters in Punta Gorda.

Here’s lookin’ at you kid…….

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Blackened Grouper

Please forgive me blog readers but I was suppose to include this recipe in my last post. A fellow blogger had requested Don’s blackened grouper recipe that I had mentioned in one of my previous posts. So here goes. This is for you Ingrid.

To make the seasoning:

1 1/2 T. paprika, 1T. garlic powder, 1 T. onion powder, 1 T. thyme, 1 t. black pepper, 1 t. cayenne pepper, 1 t. oregano, 1t. salt

Combine all ingredients together in a small lidded container & shake vigorously to blend. Generously coat both sides of 2 fillets, set aside.

To cook the grouper:

Place large cast iron skillet atop gas grill to get hot over medium-high heat. ¬†When a drop of water to pan sizzles, it’s ready. Add 2 1/2 t. each Canola oil & butter to pan. Add fillets, cook approximately 4-5 minutes on each side until fish is done. Fish should be flaky. Do not over cook. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Bon Appetite!

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Fun in the Sun

WARNING: I’m about to inundate you with morning beach walk photos. Indulge me please.

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With only one week left, our¬†month long visit to Sarasota is coming to an all too soon. We feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface of things to do and see in this area. One thing is for certain though, we really, really like this town and have enjoyed ourselves immensely.

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Stormy morning

We haven’t spent nearly as much time just sitting on the shore as we thought we would. This may be due to the fact that every morning we head over to beach at daybreak and walk 2 to 3 miles. What a wonderful way to start a day! We could get used to this.

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We’ve also made some progress this week. First, the air in the laundry room is back up and running. Also the park’s pool filtering system has been repaired. We are once again enjoying a refreshing dip in the afternoon. However we are no longer the only ones here, the snowbirds are beginning their seasonal migration south. Each day new ones arrive.

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Notice the rainbow

Secondly, Don had figured out what the problem was with the Suite Pea’s AC. It wasn’t the AC at all but our surge protector. Apparently ours went bad as they are prone to do eventually. Since Don removed it off our electric cable we haven’t had anymore issues with our system shutting down. We don’t like being plugged in without the protection it affords us but there isn’t a Camping World conveniently nearby where we can pick up a new one. That will have to wait until we get closer to Fort Myers. Don stated he’s pretty confident in the park’s voltage though.

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And lastly, our Ford lemon¬†is once again¬†fixed after spending the better part of three days in Sarasota Ford’s service garage. We had the AC modulator replaced and a few “corrections” made from our last air filter change. Not wanting to drive all over town in our tiny foreign rental car we opted instead to tackle some chores on the rig and while Don worked on his music, I read or napped.

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Friday evening we met up our friends Becky and Steve at O’Leary’s Tiki Bar & Grill for dinner and music. What a fun place! The food was good, the band Impulse Reggae was outstanding, the setting and atmosphere perfect. It’s one of those places we would return to again and again.

Saturday morning after our beach walk we opted to linger a while longer and soak up some rays. Around 11 the sandy expanse started getting a little too crowded with weekenders so we decided to return to the rig. Don spent the rest of the day working on his music while I went out to do some Christmas shopping. I like to be finished by Thanksgiving so I can just kick back, people watch, and enjoy the festivities without stress. Somehow I tweaked my back in the afternoon while treating the black tank, fortunately icing, Ibuprofen and muscle relaxers helped me to bounce back by Sunday afternoon.

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People from all walks of life enjoy a beautiful beach

Crowd is gathering for the "Drum Circle"

The crowd gathers for the “Drum Circle”

Steve and Becky came by the RV park at 5 to meet Beau then to take us with them to Siesta Key Beach. Becky said we needed to experience the¬†Drum Circle¬†at least once. She said it was a great venue for people watching. Boy oh boy, she wasn’t kidding. The drums were awesome and some of the “characters” were quite entertaining to watch. The little ones seemed to love it. They were running around, blowing bubbles, hula-hooping, or pretending to be butterflies. After about a half hour we all decided to go into the village to grab a bite. We chose Gilligan’s Island Bar & Grill where we each ordered a Big KaHuna burger. Gilligan’s is yet another very cool, beachy place with a band. Dinner always lasts longer than usual with the four of us since we never run low on conversation. Afterwards, Steve suggested a stroll through the village to walk off our meal which we did until the stores closed up shop. Another fantastic evening spent with dear friends.

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A small section of the drummers in attendance

Until next time, here’s lookin’ at you kid…….

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