Sunday, February 19, 2012

Good Bye to our "forever friends" Larry & Juanita

Sunday, 2/19/12 - I can't believe I have fallen so far behind on the blog, I mean not that we have done anything that exciting but still.......

However, we spent all day Saturday with our good friends Juanita and Larry who we met in an RV park last November in Fort Lauderdale. Because of my hectic schedule for the rest of February and they leave for home, Georgia on March 1st.....this was our farewell day and we made it a good one.

We left our house about 9:30 am and headed for downtown St Petersburg. about 15 minutes from our place. They have a wonderful downtown area that Will and I had visited last week but they wanted to see it and we were happy to go again. We started off at the Pier, which has a $3 all day parking and a great aquarium building at the end of the pier that you can go up to the observation deck on the third floor. The bad news was we still had the "coastal fog" in the morning but the good news - it had finally stopped raining and Saturday turned out to be a beautiful day.

They have a great narrated, downtown loop trolley which for seniors only cost 25 cents....and what a deal it is. Some of the sights on the tour they talked about were the Historical Vinoy Hotel, with a Dale Chihuly chandelier hanging in the ballroom (more on that later), the Chihuly Museum, Salvador Dali Museum, beautiful old churches and a vibrant, lots of business and people downtown and much more.

Because this was Saturday there was a terrific Farmers Market going on downtown, so we decided to get off the trolley and wander around, listen to the music, have some lunch and check out the booths. The music was an Irish group....which Larry really enjoys, actually the first day we met them they took us to dinner at an Irish Pub. For lunch the three of them had bratwurst sausages and I had Cuban beans & rice. For dessert, I bought a bag of Kettle Korn....a perfect ending and we all indulged.

After we decided to walk up to the Vinoy Hotel to peek at the Chihuly chandelier in the Grand Ballroom, but sadly were told the ballroom was NOT available due to functions all day however we could come back at 11 pm and take a look at it. When was the last time Will and I were up at 11 pm NOT!!!!!! I actually tried to bribe a hotel worker to take my camera in there and take a picture but he said he could loose his of course I relented and we walked around this beautiful, old hotel just admiring the place.

Just across the street was the Chihuly Museum, which I had toured last Thursday when we were in St Petersburg. Will wasn't interested so he waited in the park across the street sitting on a park bench while I was thrilled with the unbelievable collection they have there. Juanita really wanted to see it so we sent her in, while the three of us waited in the park for her. She also loved it and it was a fabulous collection of Chihuly glass works. Every since seeing it for the first time at the Arizona Botanical Gardens I have just loved his work and have now seen it in Tacoma, WA and Nancy's apartment building in New York City had a Chihuly chandelier hanging in the lobby. A real treat and if you ever get the opportunity....take it.

After St Petersburg, Larry wanted to take a drive over the Sunshine Skyway bridge which is just south of St Pete's on I-275. This is a beautiful bridge, painted bright yellow that replaced the original bridge a few years back. So we drove over the toll bridge and when we reached the other side, turned around and came back.

We then decided to head over to Gulf Blvd and drive along the Gulf of Mexico while heading back to our house. We started out at St Pete's Beach and then headed into Treasure Island. These are all beach towns located on the Gulf of Mexico and are very touristy and crowded. We then decided to stop at John's Pass Village & Boardwalk - which we had already visited but were ready for a second time. Lots of restaurants, tourist shops, and an ice cream store every 20 feet or so. Honestly, we have never seen so many ice cream shops in one place before. We walked around and looked at the boats, the people and then Will announced, "he was buying dinner" and now we started looking at menus. We finally settled on Bubba Gumps. Now I have always been sort of a snob about this hokey it must be but honestly we had a great dinner and the service was excellent. The guys had fish & chips, which they said they fish was delicious & called Hoki. Juanita and I had Mahi Mahi fish sandwiches which were also delicious and then Larry treated us all to an Edy's ice cream dessert. It was quite a food day that's for sure.

By this time it was dark so we turned the girlfriend, GPS on and asked her to take us home, which she eventually did.....after we got lost a couple of times. We didn't get home until about 8 pm but had a wonderful day with our new "forever friends" - Juanita and Larry. We have so enjoyed our time with them and know our paths are destined to cross in the future. Enjoy your beautiful, new RV and we can't wait for you to "come West."

The blog will be taking a short vacation until after the first of March due to the fact that daughter Nancy will be working in the area and I am sure I will be spending some time with her. Also when I check back in March I will have turned 70 years old......can you believe it??? I can't, how did this happen....but this February Leap Year month will be my 70th birthday. Much love to all our family and friends and HAPPY BIRTHDAY, caw.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Beautiful Beaches along the Florida Coast, Gulf Side

Tuesday, 2/14/12 - A Happy Valentine's Day to all....I can't believe I haven't written in such a long time. Actually, the weather has been VERY COLD here and all we did is sit in the RV and try to keep warm, not much to tell. I mean, for Gods sake, this is Florida, you don't expect to wake up and have it in the LOW 30's. But finally, the nice weather is back so we ventured out on a great ride along the Gulf of Mexico.

We are about 10 miles east of the ocean so we took a "right hand turn" and headed West down Ulmerton Ave which dead ends right into the Gulf of Mexico. Highway 183, which is Gulf Blvd, runs along side the ocean and "back in the day" you could probably ride mile after mile seeing the ocean. Unfortunately today....what you see is lots of motels, hotels and condos which sit on the ocean front. But it was a beautiful day, high 70's and the wind was moderate. There are many public beach access spots you can stop at and walk down to the beach and that is what we did.

The first town we came to was Indian Rocks Beach and we parked and strolled down the beach. Much to my delight there were seashells (my new passion) all along the NOTHING like fabulous Sandivol Island but enough for me to get my "shell bag" out and start picking up shells.

Our next stop was a public parking lot, with facilities and we paid the 1 hour parking fee and walked on the beach and then drug our chairs and TV tray down to the ocean to have lunch. Who knew that would be a BIG mistake, I mean it looked like the perfect setting. However we did NOT know about the "thieving seagulls." After we sat down and got our food out and were just admiring the whole scene we noticed a flock of seagulls (wasn't that an 80's music group?) flying over and all around us. Not only that, they started to "dive bomb" us for our food. So they settled down and just as I put my lettuce wrap "sandwich" to my mouth this seagull dive bombs me from behind and takes it out of my hand. It happened so fast I didn't know what actually happened. I jumped up, scared to death and tryed "shooing them away." Now mind you, we never threw food out to feed them.....they are just thieves. Then as Will was finishing his lunch he unwrapped his Snicker Bar & had it in his hand and from behind.....just like before....the bird flew in and took the candy bar...right out of his hand! Ok, that was enough for me, I put the food back in the ice chest and then they flew away. It really was a great beach (besides the birds) more shells, few people and beautiful scenery.

We then continued South down Gulf Blvd for the next beach, Madeira Beach where John's Pass Village & Boardwalk are located. John's Pass seems to be a tourist destination and recommended by one of our neighbors here. It turned out to be a very fun "touristy" place with lots of shops, restaurants, ice cream places with a boardwalk that you could walk along. We parked in the parking garage across from Hooters....a good place to remember where you are parked! We headed down the boardwalk and watched the Dolphin Sightseeing boat being loaded with tourist and what was really extraordinary, were the amount of pelicans that were there and then low and behold....we saw 3 dolphins playing right there at the wharf. It was so neat to be there at that exact moment as we were able to get pictures of them all. We continued walking along the boardwalk, spotted a great ice cream shop, decided to finish our lunch with an ice cream. Even the guy serving said, watch out for the seagulls, they will steal the ice cream cone out of your hand. We sat outside the shop, under an umbrella (hiding from the gulls??) and met some very nice people from Indiana and spent 30 minutes talking with ice cream, them beer! Lots and lots of retired people down here and today they were all at John's Pass.

We continued walking around, me searching always for postcards and then found a great outdoor bar/restaurant that had live music.....a Canadian singer (really good) and his karaoke machine. We wandered in and found a couple of bar stools under a "thatched roof umbrella" and listened to the music. Because it was "happy hour" Will has his 7/7 and me my diet coke and sat there for over an hour just enjoying the music and the many, many old folks that were also enjoying themselves. I even found me a couple of other "old ladies" to get up and dance with. A great day and then we had to find the car and then have the girlfriend GPS, see if she could find her way back to the RV. Lucky for us.....she didn't do happy hour and before you know we were headed home. We got home about 4:30 pm - dead tired, faces sunburned but both agreed we had a great day. Much love to all our family and friends.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Florida Botanical Garden & Heritage Village, Largo, FL

Wednesday, 2/8/12 - Less than 10 miles from our RV park in Clearwater is a 170 acre park where the Botanical Garden & Heritage Village are located in Largo, FL. They are open Wednesday thru Sunday and NO ADMISSION is's that for a deal.

We packed up our trusty ice chest with lunch and headed out about 10:30 am this morning and found a parking spot first in the Heritage Village. There are more than 30 historical building on the grounds of this 21 acre living-history museum. They are all buildings from the early days in Pinellas County (which we are in.)

Of the buildings there, several have volunteers that staff them and give tours on the 1/2 & 1 hour, in period costume. The first tour we took was of the House of the Seven Gables a 1907, 13 room Victorian home of an upper/middle class winter resident. (One of the first snow birds!)

We also had a tour of the McMullen-Coachman Log Cabin built 1852, which is the oldest existing structure in Pinellas County. In this 3 room log cabin the Mrs. had & raised 11 children and was also a mid wife, who birthed 60 children in this home. YIKES...

We also enjoyed the Walsingham House (1915) which was a physician's home and office. The volunteer on this tour was an tall, elderly gentleman with a white coat & stethoscope around his neck showing us all of the Doctors equipment, the instruments, X ray machine & my personal favorite - a birthing chair. This guy did a great job in explaining everything.

However, Wills personal favorite was the H.C. Smith Store (1915) which was an early neighborhood grocery store with service garage in the back and a barbershop. I could hardly get him out of the garage to move on. It was filled with old tools, signs, 2 old donated cars and it has been the project of the Pin-MAR Antique Car Club. As for the barbershop, you just can't get an "old barber" out of the shop.

The rest of the place consisted of an old Bandstand, Church, Schoolhouse, a Beach Cottage and many more. They have done a wonderful job in preserving these building and have lots of volunteers there working. We had our lunch at a picnic table inside the grounds of Heritage Park and afterwards moved onto the Botanical Gardens which are located "next door."

The Botanical Gardens are 150-acre garden that have many themed areas and lots of herbs, palms, roses and more. After crossing over a bridge into the Gardens we wandered through out the different areas. Of course, there were not many flowers blooming but the place is beautiful and so well cared for. Some of the different areas we went into were:

A walled area called the Wedding Garden with a gazebo and seating area for weddings plus very special topiaries. Palm Garden a variety of all the palms grown in Florida, Herb Garden, showing medicinal, kitchen herbs, Butterfly Garden, plants that encourage butterflies. There at 15 more different sections in the Botanical Garden, which of course, we wandered through all of them.

By 3:30 pm we were exhausted and didn't know if we could make it back to the car, which was a good walk back to, but of course we did and really enjoyed our day. Thank you Florida, for a wonderful FREE day in a very special place but most of all - NO rain & the sun was back out. Much love to all our family and friends.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Tampa's Historic Latin Quarter - Ybor City, FL

Monday, 2/6/12 - Today we visited Ybor City, FL (pronounced EE-bore) with our friends Larry & Juanita. They have a friend, Mike who works in Ybor City and invited them into have lunch at the famous Columbia Restaurant, established in 1905 and they invited us and that's our specialty, "tagging along."

Ybor City is a historic cigar city in Tampa that has many wonderful shops, restaurants and cigar shops where they sell and roll cigars on Seventh Ave. Actually we ventured into one of the cigar shops, while waiting for Mike, and the most expensive cigar they sell is $32.00 EACH from Nicaragua. Now that could be an expensive habit!! This area is really a hot spot at night, club after club line this avenue and I can't imagine what it must be like at night. Mike says, "don't go."

Shortly before 12 noon the five us headed across the street to the Columbia Restaurant for lunch. It was founded in 1905 and is Florida's oldest and the worlds largest Spanish restaurant. It started out as a small corner cafe known for its Cuban coffee and authentic Cuban sandwiches, frequented by the local cigar workers. The outside is gorgeous with Spanish tiles decorating the entire front of this place and inside is equally beautiful and very large and takes up at least a city block. We all had specialties of the house...Cuban sandwiches, salads and soups and all was delicious.

After saying our good byes to Mike, which by the way received "2 caw pictures" with Derek & Mariano. He suggested we ride the Teco Line Streetcar which ran about 3 miles with about 8 stops. We passed by the Florida Aquarium, the Tampa Bay History Center and got off at the Port of Tampa stop and walked around and then hopped back on to go back to Seventh Avenue to walk the rest of that street to where our car was parked.

After we started down Seventh Avenue it started to rain and I mean pour, thank goodness for the awnings in front of the shops. We went into Le France, a men & woman's shop and Larry purchased a beautiful hat for himself. While waiting for it to be sized and pressed we were hunting for an ice cream shop (which we didn't find) when I heard someone call out my name real loud.....Carole. I turned around expecting Derek or Mariano....but it was Simon and his wife Celine who are French Canadians from Quebec. Simon speaks wonderful English and Celine speaks none but is taking English lessons. We are all staying at the same RV park and I met Simon at the pool yesterday and we had a great conversations about RV travels in the USA. They are new to RV travel and have a C class and tow a scooter and want to see a lot more of the USA. The six of us visited for a short while there on the Avenue and they invited us to their place in Quebec where we could park our RV on their property, about 15 minutes outside of the city. Thank you so much and we hope to take you up on your invite someday.

After Larry picked up his hat we headed back to their car, still raining, and headed for our RV park in Clearwater, to be dropped off, which was only about 45 minutes in heavy work traffic. It was a very fun day and we were so glad we got to see that part of Tampa as I doubt we would have on our own. Much love to all our family and friends.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Greeks & Sponges in Tarpon Springs, FL

Saturday, 2/4/12 - Our friends Juanita and Larry invited us to meet them at Tarpon Springs this morning which is half way between where we are in Clearwater and them in Port Richey. Now we knew nothing of this place and were absolutely delighted to find out what an interesting place it was. Tarpon Springs became an important center for sponge diving when Greek divers came to the area in the early 1900s. Most of the original buildings are restored and still in use. There is much more to the town but we stayed in the "tourist section" - Dodecanese Blvd, a street that is filled with a sponge museum (which honestly was very fascinating) and so many places to buy every kind of sponge PLUS Juanita & my personal favorite......tourist trap shops, one after another to wander in and out of and touch everything. Will and Larry decided to have a cup of coffee which freed us up to take off and wander through the shops.

As the town is made up of mostly Greek families that have been in this area "forever" they had lots of Greek restaurants to choose from. We wandered into one of the shops and asked one of the ladies there which Greek restaurant we should try and she said, "hands down, go to Mykonos Greek Cookery, absolutely authentic Greek food, not fancy but my family eats there." Well, when we met back up with the guys, we gave the restaurant report and headed for Mykonos. She was right, not fancy but crowded with a line waiting. We got right in and then the big decision. I had a vegetarian stew, potatoes and all types of veggies, Larry had a stuffed eggplant and Juanita a stuff pepper & tomato... all were delicious. Of course poor Will who wanted nothing to do with Greek food, but went along, as the good sport he is, ordered a hamburger and fries. Who knew they would serve a hamburger on Peta bread. and make homemade style fries. Who knows if it was authentic but it sure was delicious. We didn't have room for dessert - baklava, but did manage to buy one for each of us (excluding Will) to take home.

After lunch we wandered up and down the street, stopping to listen to live music that was being played outdoors in the old Sponge Exchange, where in the old days the sponges were brought to be sold. Walking along the pier of the Anclote River where you can go out on cruises of all kinds even a sponge diving exhibit tour. Gosh, before we knew it the day had flown by and it was 4:30 pm and time to head back to our cars and head home. Today the weather was beautiful, back in the 80s with lots of sunshine. We had a wonderful time and were so lucky to discover Tarpon Springs. Much love to all our family and friends.

Friday, February 3, 2012

It's cold in Clearwater, FL

Friday, 2/3/12 - Actually, we arrived here in Clearwater on Wednesday and have done a sum total of nothing except hit the nearest WalMart which is about 3 miles away. Wednesday and Thursday were beautiful and I even laid in the sun for several hours but today was cold. I mean the temperature never got out of the low 70's and we never saw the sun. Will had to wear his flannel shirt all day. Now you Fresno Folks will be glad to hear....they predict rain most of next week. I guess the ending part of the trip is preparing us for heading home.

Gosh, I don't know why I even started a blog entry tonight as there is nothing to report....I finished one book and started another and Will actually started a book today with 500 pages...everything you ever wanted to know about Nancy & Ronald Reagan. So tomorrow the sightseeing beings in this area as we are meeting our friends Juanita & Larry in a town, Tarpon Springs that is near us. Much love to all our family and friends.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

We arrived in Clearwater, FL

Tuesday, 1/31/12 - Our last day in Puenta Gorda in this wonderful park, Sun N Shade. Boy, if I had it to do over I would have stayed 2 months here and 2 weeks in Miami. As much as we loved Larry & Penny Thompson RV park and our wonderful friends.......we LOVED Puenta Gorda and the small town pace, activities and the RV park. Actually, it has just been a great experience in all of the places we have been in Florida and especially the many, great new "forever friends" we have made.

Our last day was spent with me sunning at the pool for 3 hours.....a great hot dog dinner for Will at 5 pm (rating: an 8 out 10) and an RV Maintenance Seminar at 6:30 pm that was very interesting and lots of good information.

Wednesday, 2/1/12 - Well it's MOVING DAY today.....destination - Clearwater, FL which is approximately 2 hours north of us and still on the Gulf side of Florida. We said our good by's to our next door neighbors....Buck, Will's good early morning friend and Peter, of the musical group, Cheeky Monkey.....and Peter here's hoping our paths cross in Santa Cruz, CA someday!!!!!

We got a pretty early stop and enjoyed the ride up I75 and then crossed over to 275 and then over the Sunshine Bridge....painted bright yellow. We then found highway 19 North which is where our new RV park is located and then girlfriend, GPS started "drinking" again and went crazy. We decided to stop and fill up with gas at a Shell station while we figured out where we were (call the park!) and while attempting to get gas....our debit card was declined! We then spent the next half hour on the phone with the credit union in Clovis to find out what the problem is. Finally, they got it figured out and we were able to fill up with gas - $3.51 unleaded, regular - $130 worth. Then found out where we needed to go and found the new park within 15 minutes.

It's a pretty nice park, Travel World RV in Clearwater, lots of park models and LOTS of French Canadians....the first person I spoke to didn't speak English....they say the park is half and half....French & "others?" We did meet a nice English speaking couple behind us - Bob & Sylvia from Newfoundland. But tomorrow we will start exploring around the area and find out what they have around here.

Actually, I am looking forward to daughter, Nancy coming to Clearwater/Tampa for Spring Training about the middle of February, then the fun begins. I can't wait.

On a sad note: Elraine's husband, Kenneth passed away today at 3:15 pm Fresno time, please keep their family in your prayers. Kenneth was a wonderful husband and great friend and LOVED the SF Giants, I will always regret he never made it to Spring Training in Scottsdale, AZ - his one dream in life.