Letting Go of the Wheel

Very often I get in the car and just drive. No destination and no objective-just to see what I can find. I can’t tell you how many times I have come to an intersection and thought “Hmmm…..I wonder what is down here?”, and turned down the road. Often I stumble across some amazing stuff.

Well, that is what happened with an old house(built in 1931) in Okeechobee a few weeks ago. I randomly turned and at the end of the street was an old house that had obviously seen a better day.

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I took a few pics and discovered that the house was badly damaged due to a fire. Since there were Christmas decorations around and a spot on the wall that looked like where a tree had been, I surmised it was a Christmas tree fire.

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I spent some time taking pictures because, regardless of the “FOR SALE” sign in the yard, I knew that the building was not salvageable.

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My first visit was March 7th. On March 19th, I was out that way again and the house was gone. The bulldozers had done there work and all they left was the “FOR SALE” sign.

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I am glad that I followed the steering wheel that day and got to take the last photos of what was once a home.

 

Everybody needs a little time away

I just realized that it has been a couple of weeks since I posted an update. So what have I been up to?

I was asked to contribute to a project. I have kept my head down doing research and writing trying to be responsible(I know out of character, lol) and get stuff done by my deadline. Well, I finished my part, now I can get back to goofing off.

I sent my camera back to the manufacturer for some warranty work. Happily, it has been fixed and on it’s way home. I have been borrowing a camera for a few weeks and I am grateful to have it, but I will be happy to have mine again.

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Lastly, my daughter was home for Spring Break. I loved getting to see her. Dinner at Crawdaddy’s. Crawfish, oysters and muscles. And lunch at Archie’s for burgers all round.

IMG_8620 Photo-0245 Now time to get back to the regularly scheduled program for me. You know, swamp wandering and wildlife chasing.

Eagle Family Feud.

I was driving home yesterday and passed a pair of eagles on a pole. It wasn’t until I got home and looked through the pictures and noticed that it looks like someone is in trouble.

Perhaps he forgot to take out the eagle trash, or was paying a little too much attention to the sparrow next door or stayed out too late with Harry Hawk and Fred Falcon. Whatever it was, I bet he won’t do it again.

IMG_8302IMG_8309IMG_8308IMG_8310Maybe it is just my imagination,or maybe I am a little off, but I am just laughing and laughing. Someone certainly is not sleeping in the nest tonight. Looks like a long night on a branch ahead.

The Pitfalls of Life Through the View Finder

Does anyone remember the old Atari game “Pitfall”? You know, the one where the intrepid adventurer(Pitfall Harry) swings over alligator pits on vines, dodges quick sand, explores caves and hurdles snakes in an effort to reach the treasure chest in the end and avoid the pitfalls. That is sometimes how I feel. Sadly, I am much less graceful than ole Harry.

I have always had an interest in photography, but put it aside for a long time. In the last couple of years, I have picked up a camera again and taken it along as I explore my world. Not so much from the artistic side, but more to show people the way I see my home state and why I love it.

In an effort to get closer and better pictures of animals, places and buildings, I realized that I have been playing my own version of the game. Here are a few examples.

As I was trying to get closer to this osprey, I was so focused on him, that I nearly walked off a 6′ seawall. That would have been a great video, but a long ride home crumpled and bleeding.

Chance of Death Scale:Eh

Chance of Broken and Bruised Scale: Most definitely

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Now, that was a close call, but I have developed a special bond with the large reptiles of South Florida. Well, I don’t know if “bond” is the word-more like I keep trying to get closer and they try to decide if I would taste better with ketchup or hot sauce (everything is better  with hot sauce).

Chance of Death Scale: Moderate to Very Possible

Chance of Wetting Shorts: Very High to Likely

DSCF0248 DSCF0250I am a history geek and love old buildings. The smell of old wood and the lives of the people that have past through them provide an irresistible draw for me. However, often there is a reason and old building is abandoned and condemned. Neglect and nature can quickly take a toll. Collapsed ceilings, weak floors, mold, sketchy paint flakes and the likelihood of the random homeless encounter add to the possibility that I will be staring in my own “Mayhem” commercial.

Chance of Death: Little to none

Chance of Falling through the Floor: Probable

Chance of Inhaling Mutant Mold Spores: Extreme

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So, let’s see. I covered falling off stuff, alligators and dark abandoned places. What am I forgetting? Oh yeah, SNAKES! Rest assured that I am not out hurdling vipers, but I will grab a picture or two if they sit still long enough.  Most of the time, they are harmless. For instance, this little guy was cold and wanted us to just leave him alone. He got his picture taken and was left to be on his way. However, I am always on the lookout for his larger, grumpier relatives.

Chance of Death: NAH!

Chance of a Cool Medivac Helicopter Ride if I get Bitten: Without a doubt.

Chance of Crying like a Small Child after being Bitten: 100%

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It makes me sad to say, I have yet to find a gold bar or diamond ring or even a bag of money for that matter. What I have found is a few good stories, seen some amazing scenery and made some new friends. Maybe one day I will find a pot of gold, but with my luck it will be on an alligator’s back in an abandoned barn buried deep in some snake infested swamp. I think I can hear the theme from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” playing in my head—I gotta go!

Doing a little catching up.

I’ve had some irons in the fire lately and have been trying to focus, so my wandering has been a little limited. However, I have done a little so here is an update.

I went to the Battle of Okeechobee Re-enactment a couple of weeks ago. I try to go every year because, well, I like history and the food is good. The battle itself, which was fought on December 25th, 1837, was the largest of the 2nd Seminole War. You can read a post I did on the battle here:

The Battle of Okeechobee

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My camera is at the manufacturer getting a little repair work, or as I call it some spa time. So when I was out wandering last weekend, I came across an old house that I thought was just in need of some love, but when I got closer I discovered that there had been a fire. Probably from the Christmas tree. It was sad wandering around the debris.

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Well, now we are all caught up. More to come!

 

Eagle’s Eye View

I have been having some luck lately stumbling across eagles in various places.

Maybe they were always there and I never noticed, but I don’t remember seeing them anywhere when I was younger. The only time you might have caught a glimpse is on the way to the Keys.

I saw two at McCarty Ranch Preserve on Saturday. They were far away, but they were there.

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Yesterday, on Indian River Dr., I saw another sitting on a nuclear warning siren.

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Saturday, I did a little bass fishing. This is not my best thing. In fact, I’m terrible at it. Needless to say, I did no bass catching. So I took sunset pictures instead. Yep, I’ll be that guy!

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A Little Time for Me!

Well, ok, I take a lot of time for me, but Tuesday I had some stuff to take care of early and decided to spend the rest of the day roaming around town.

Nothing special, but it is nice to just get out and soak in the world around you.twitter coyote-3twitter coyote

I sat on the tower at the Savannas Recreation Area and listened to the wind blow across the grass for about an hour. Then I stopped at another county park to just stretch my legs some. This place has some bamboo growing. When I am there, it makes me feel like I am of in some tropical jungle somewhere. Silly I know, but I still love the bamboo.

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There are some old river beds in this area and even a stream or two.

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After all this excitement, I seized the opportunity to take an afternoon nap. In all, not exciting and no rare animals, but I felt pretty good about it.

Close to Home

I spent a rare weekend moderately close to home. While it was not some long wandering road trip type weekend, I sure did see some cool stuff.

Friday’s plan was to tackle some research and get stuff done. Well, life threw up some of it’s little road blocks, so I bagged the whole thing and went to the beach. I mean, no sense in beating my head against a wall when it is beautiful outside.

It was a little windy and cool, but when I got there, I was the only person on the beach. I find this to be absolutely glorious. I walked a little and found a place behind a dune where I was protected from the wind and the sand was warm. I put my headphones on and laid back in the sand. No blanket or towel, just the warm sand. The Eagles began playing and I took advantage of my solitude and started belting out my stellar renditions of “Take It Easy”, “Witchy Woman”, “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, etc.

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After a while and some very strange looks from the seagulls, I decided to get back to the world. Imagine my surprise when I stood up to discover about a half dozen people within about 20 yards of me. Standing there, they all turned to look at me and some began to chuckle. Apparently, the beach was crowded with music critics that day, but I don’t care because my buddies, the seagulls, were squawking and singing along.

Saturday morning brought cool temps and clear skies. One of my favorite local musical groups, The Humdingers, was playing at the Ft. Pierce Farmer’s Market and since there is a vendor there that sells the best gyros, it was a win win for me. Good music and good food, although it was crowded, but well worth it.

Next headed south to Jupiter and made a visit to Busch Wildlife Sanctuary. I you have never been here, it is worth the time. The sanctuary’s primary goal is to rehabilitate injured wildlife and restore them to the wild. The animals that are kept at the sanctuary are not able to be released for some reason. Admission is free and they have donation boxes spread around. If you need something cheap and easy to kill a couple of hours during a weekend, this is a great place.

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Then it was off to see another local(ish) favorite group of mine, Uproot Hootenanny, at Artigras. Boy am I glad I went. The some of the artwork was amazing and again the music was awesome. So a win for me again.

Sunday morning found me out early and headed west looking for wild stuff. I finally got a picture of something I have been trying to catch for a while now. Coyotes are shy by nature and it is rare to see one much less get one to sit still long enough to get a picture taken. Well, I saw this one cross the road and after a little pursuit, got a chance. Of the 15 pics or so I took, this is the only one where it is not moving or running away.

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I also found an eagle just hanging out on a pole. I will stop and take photos of eagles every time I see them. They just make me smile and I remember a time that you rarely saw an eagle.

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After this, since the air was cool and the sun was out, I decided to go see if the gators were hanging out on the banks of a local storm water area. Not as many as last time, but a couple.

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Following a little afternoon nap, I finished the day out at McCarty Ranch Preserve doing a little late afternoon bass fishing. It was slow, but landed one fair fish. All in all, it was a good weekend and I was never more than an hour from home.

Off to plan the next adventure.

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Sarasota National Cemetery

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It has been a while since I drove to Sarasota, so imagine my surprise as I passed the Sarasota National Cemetery. I was a little confused because I could not imagine that I had not noticed it in the past. After some reading I discovered that it was not dedicated until 2008. So I had not missed it, it wasn’t there.

Never having been to a national cemetery before and considering the enjoyment I get from exploring cemeteries, I had to stop, pay respects and get to see a national cemetery for myself.

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As I drove in the gate, a bald eagle flew past the car, over the small lake and into the top of the tallest pine tree bordering the property. There he stayed for the duration of my visit. I could not help but feeling he was watching over this place and these people. To be honest, his appearance in that place was a bit emotional.

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Double Eagles Patriot Plaza

Patriot Plaza is a large outdoor auditorium. Lining the sidewalk there are numerous pillars depict the dedication and sacrifices of the men and women in the Armed Forces. The images are etched into the inside of the block making it visible from both sides. I will only post a couple here, but the rest will be in the photo album.

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Also, there are posts that have pictures from various times in history showing scenes from history. If you click the pictures, you can read the description and the photographer on each. Notice these are not watermarked because they are not mine, but I hope to one day take a photo as powerful as these. Again I will only post a couple here and the rest will be in the album.

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After being overwhelmed by the photos and stories I began to wander among the tombstones. For someone like me who has bouts of O.C.D., the perfection of the alignment was soothing. I don’t know how they get them that perfect. I can only assume that there is a dedication to making it right for those that are buried here.

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Overall, this place is immaculate. The grounds are perfectly manicured. I laid on the ground to take a couple of photos while under the auditorium and did not get any dirt on me. The people that take care of the people who protect us are certainly doing a fine job. Sadly, the one unmistakeable fact of this National Cemetery is, at 295 acres, there is room for many many more men, women, sons, daughters, mothers and fathers.

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If you are in the area, I highly recommend you stop and visit this place. For more information you can visit Sarasota National Cemetery

Myakka River State Park.

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I drove over to Sarasota on Sunday to visit Myakka River State Park. I have been reading about it for a while and decided to go before the thermometer climbs back into the unbearable range. From Fort Pierce, where my adventures begin, It is about 130 miles to the park through the middle of the state, so it is not a bad drive.

Myakka River State Park is one of the largest parks covering nearly 58 square miles. From the mid 1800’s through the early 1900’s it was a cattle ranch then bought by the state during the depression and converted into a park.

First time visitors are directed to the visitor center inside the gate. It is a great old building built by the C.C.C.(Civilian Conservation Corps.) as a horse barn when the park originally built. Take the time to stop and look around. Also, watch the short film that tells you about the park and where things are located.

The first thing I did after arriving was go to the Pink Gator Cafe. I needed lunch, it was a long drive. The cafe is located at the end of the road in the park. Honestly, I was expecting microwaved and prepackaged food. What a surprise! The food was fresh, made to order and very good. Combined with an overlook of the lake and it was a great experience.

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This is the same area that you can rent canoes, buy tickets to the lake tour, catch the tram, picnic, get souvenirs or just watch the wildlife. I did get a laugh at a hitchhiker on one of the tour boats.

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Next, I have really been looking forward to seeing the canopy walk and the tower. I was not disappointed. The canopy walk is a short walk through the tree tops leading to the observation tower. At 76 ft., the tower provides an amazing view of the park. I could have stayed up there for a very long time, but it was a bit crowded and I had plenty more to see and do.

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Here is the view from the top of the tower.

Next I walked a bit of the Meadow Sweet Ranch Trail. Found some interesting stuff while wandering off the main path.

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Then out to the bird walk which is a pier out over the Upper Myakka Lake. S0050408 DSCF0416

Over all it was a great day. If I had one complaint it would be that there were a ton of people in the park, but it was a beautiful day and worth the drive.

Get more info and plan a trip by visiting the website: Myakka River State Park

See more photos in the photo album.