Don’t Judge a Bird by its Beak

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Me Feeding Flamingos at Flamingo Gardens in Davie, Florida

It is a cold morning (by Florida standards).  I arose before dawn and watched the sky transform from black to gray.  That’s not as much of a sacrifice as it sounds.  Dawn arrived at 7:07 am.  Rain pelts the windows in front of me and the ships moored off the Atlantic coast are barely visible.  The weather lady on tv just said “the temperature will struggle to reach 70 today.”

Can you feel my pain?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.

It is a good day to reflect on the week’s high points and low points of trading some January days of ice & snow in Missouri for balmy days in the sun in Florida.

First, the good.

I manned up, looked fear right in the eye, and let flamingos eat directly from my hand this week.  While flamingos are unquestionably beautiful and have never personally threatened me, their beaks are long and pointed and look like they could sever a finger with little difficulty.

Maybe they could if provoked, but the flamingos at Flamingo Gardens in Davie, Florida were gentle and patient.

Inspired by an intrepid 10-year-old girl ahead of me, I placed a quarter in a vending machine and received a fistful of pellets in exchange.  A row of flamingos lined up patiently waiting in front of me.  Placing a pellet in my hand, I extended it to a large flamingo.  It very gently nibbled the palm of my hand until it secured the pellet.  No pinching, no biting, and no aggressive jostling among the flamingos to compete for the pellet.  I methodically went down the row until each flamingo had politely & gently nibbled a pellet from my hand.  I then repeated the process until my pellet supply was depleted.

Flamingos – I am impressed!  You are surely the most polite birds I have ever encountered.  Not at all like the duck who spewed a 12-inch circle of semi-liquid poop near my shoe later in the day.  NO PELLETS FOR YOU, Mr. Duck!!

A less pleasant memory occurred on a visit to the food court at Sawgrass Mills Mall yesterday.  First, let me say that my wife and I have been eating at Chinese restaurants ever since David Leong began his successful quest to make Springfield, Mo. the “Cashew Chicken Capital of the World”.  I am confident with a Chinese menu.

Stepping up to the food line at Asian Chao, a Food Court eatery at the Mall, I proceeded to order what I thought was a two-entree meal for $8.99 which my wife and I planned to share.  As the server pointed to a rib, I nodded ok.  Same for a shrimp dish.  Though we normally go for orange chicken and bourbon chicken, what the heck!  We are on vacation.  Why not experiment?

Well, I can give you one reason.

When the checker totalled up my plate and added two drinks, the bill came to $26.38. And that fortune didn’t even include a fortune cookie!  My single  rib was $11.99.  I now understand why God borrowed one from Adam.  Shrimp was $3.99 extra as were the two egg rolls.  I’m guessing even the well-mannered flamingo’s might have gotten a mite peckish when presented with that bill.

On the bright side, I learned a valuable lesson.   Don’t hesitate to utilize the words “IS THAT INCLUDED FOR $8.99?”  when ordering a meal from Asian Chao.  And, after reluctantly paying the tab, I also decided what my given name should be had I been born Chinese:

Me So Dum

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The menu said $8.99 for two entrees.  Which entrees made a big difference. I could have fed a lot of Flamingos for $26.38

 

 

 

 

Home of the Sunset* (*Sunset not Guaranteed – Your results may differ)

Promptly at 7:30 am yesterday my wife and I climbed aboard a 45-foot long tour bus.

Destination – Key West

We were greeted by Tour Guide Felipe and driver Ivy.  We took our assigned seats in Row 3 and headed south.  4+ hours later we climbed off the bus after having been given thorough instructions on things to do and the importance of returning to the bus no later than 7 pm.   I marked our location on Google maps – 813 Caroline St.

As we were getting our bearings, we were startled by a nearby rooster crowing.  Throughout the day, we shared the sidewalk with chickens, tourists & Key West residents of every size, shape & description.  According to the FloridaRambler.com, like Key West residents themselves, the chickens are “historic, colorful, sort of wild, a little noisy and occasionally annoying.”

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Key West chickens on patrol

First stop – Pepe’s Cafe.  The oldest of nearly 500 restaurants, Pepe’s opened in 1909.  A sign out front advertised “NOW OPEN UNDER OLD MANAGEMENT”.  The service was a little grumpy.

Me:  Could you repeat the specials?

Waitress:  All of them???!!!

Me:  How much is the scallop salad?

Waitress:  I don’t know.  Probably about $14  (Note:  On our bill it was $16.50)

On the bright side, the food was great.  And if I have to choose between good service or good food, I’ll take good food every time.

After lunch we walked Duval Street, advertised as the “longest street in the world.”  At 1.25 miles in length, it is not actually the longest street in the world, but it is the only street in the world that allows you to walk from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean.

Located in Key West’s historic “Old Town”, Duval Street has lots of ways to take your money.  My wife found a Key West Pandora charm for her bracelet at a nice store named Artisans.  The charm had Key West and a picture of a rooster on it.  Allysa, the lady that helped us was extremely nice.  My wife likes to buy a charm to add to her bracelet each time we travel.  Going on 47 years of marriage, the bracelet is getting heavy enough that her left arm that sports the bracelet is approximately twice the size of her right.  Note:  If she gets mad at you, watch out for her left hook!

Upon reaching the Atlantic Ocean, we stopped at the marker for the “Southernmost Point in the United States.”  At that point you are closer to Cuba than you are to a Walmart.

Circling back toward the Gulf of Mexico on Whitehead St., we passed the haunts of former Famous Key West celebrities Harry Truman and Ernest Hemmingway on our walk to Sunset Pier.

As we arrived at the pier and took a seat, a great band was playing the old Johnny Cash hit “One Piece at a Time.”

Though the day had been mostly overcast, when we arrived at Sunset Pier the sun was visible on the western horizon, framed by the sails of those who prefer to watch the sunset from the water.

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An “Almost” Sunset from Sunset Pier.

After the sun disappeared,  I clicked on my iPhone GPS and we headed to where we were to board our bus back to Fort Lauderdale.

After a great day in Key West, tour guide Felipe did a headcount to make sure everyone in our group had made it back.  He then darkened the interior lights and our driver Ivy began our 4 1/2 hour trip north.

Key West residents sometimes refer to their home as “the smart end of Highway 1”.  With wintry blasts hitting the northeast and the temperature a balmy 75 degrees in Key West, I tend to agree.

Except when unwelcome visitors like Hurricane Irma come to town.

 

 

 

Just Me and the Man ‘o War on Shore

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I awoke this morning to the sound of the wind and the surf pounding the beach outside the sliding glass door to our  balcony.  Not unusual, but the sound is usually a lot more muted on the 17th floor.  Even though the temperature was 70 degrees at 7 am, the gale force winds made it seem chillier.

I don’t expect any sympathy from my friends & family back in Missouri.

When I made it down to the beach in the afternoon, the lifeguard stations were sporting TWO warning flags that tend to discourage beachgoers.  First was a red flag indicating a significant danger from the water itself – a strong current that might carry swimmers out to sea.

There was also a purple flag.  That one was new to me.  Not any more.  A purple flag indicates a clear and present danger from marine life.

Like sharks.

On our third day in Florida my wife and I and our friends from Osceola, Mo. attended a short seminar on how to LIVE LIKE A LOCAL.  Before it started, we were gazing into the clear blue waters along the shoreline from the meeting room on the roof of the hotel.  There was a single swimmer in the water.  Not far from the swimmer we saw a large, dark shadow moving purposefully toward the unsuspecting swimmer.  I thought we might witness a “How to get eaten like a local” moment.  As the swimmer spotted the shadow moving toward him, he began to move purposefully in the OTHER direction.  The shadow didn’t follow.  We suspect it was a harmless manatee, aka “Sea Cow”.

During my walk I discovered the reason for the purple flag.  Washed ashore by the heavy surf were dozens of Portuguese man-of-war.

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One of Many Portuguese Man-of-War I found washed ashore on Fort Lauderdale Beach

According to Wikipedia, ‘the long tentacles of the man-of-war can deliver a painful sting which is venomous and powerful enough to kill fish or, rarely, humans”.  The article said the sting is excruciatingly painful and that even a dead man-of-war on the beach can deliver a sting.

I enjoyed my barefoot walk along the beach despite the red & purple flags hoisted at the lifeguard stations.  The wind was greatly stirring the waves which made them even more beautiful and the Portugese intruders stranded on the beach were a lot easier to spot and avoid on land than in the water.

The only thing that has caused me bodily harm on this trip has been a rogue chihuahua.

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Just me and the Portuguese Man-of-Wars (and a lot of sea weed) on the beach

 

 

Nature Walks Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

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Everglades Gator eyeing me from a few feet off the paved visitor trail

As vacations go, this has been a good one.  It’s chilly in south Florida today (upper 60’s) but the weather has been perfect since we arrived a week ago.  Back home in Missouri, it has been less than perfect thanks to Winter Storms Gia & Harper.

We have visited two beautiful parks this week trying to maximize our time outdoors.  First up was the Everglades National Park near Homestead, Florida.  It was teeming with wildlife.   We witnessed numerous species of birds, turtles and fish.  We also saw a couple of manatees frolicking in a river and a few dozen gators sunning themselves on land or cruising the river as kayakers paddled by unaware.  On our nature walk we encountered several gators relaxing in the sun only a few feet off the trail, seemingly oblivious to our presence other than an occasional sideways glance.

Despite their inert appearance, we never let down our guard when near any creature that thinks it is higher on the food chain than us and has the teeth to back it up.

Unlike Missouri boat ramps, Everglades boat ramps have gators monitoring the activity.

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We were unmolested by the Everglades gators, though a pickup pulling a boat passed us and threw up a rock that cracked our rental car windshield.

I did experience a traumatic event at a different Florida park not far from our hotel in Fort Lauderdale.  The Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is one of my favorites when we visit south Florida.  Bordered on one side by the intracoastal waterway and the other by Highway A1A and the Atlantic, it is a chunk of natural Florida mere steps from hotels and multimillion dollar mansions.  I was hiking among huge banyons and mangrove trees on a nature trail at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park while images of a large cottonmouth snake that someone had posted pics of on-line were on my brain. Each root crossing the trail looked like a snake and each vine suspended from a tree brought to mind the giant Burmese Pythons the State of Florida is currently paying professionals to eradicate.

As I came around a bend in the trail, I encountered not a snake, but an elderly lady leading two small dogs on leashes with a Chihuahua trailing behind leash-free.  As we passed on the trail, we paused momentarily to exchange small talk. That’s when it happened.  To quote FDR, “I was suddenly and deliberately attacked.”  While I was distracted, the unleashed chihuahua darted over and bit my shin.

“Did he just bite you?” the woman asked.

“Yes, he did.”  I responded, torn between remaining calm while also wanting to dropkick the sneaky chihuahua that had penetrated my defenses and my leg..

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Hugh Taylor Birch State Park Attack Chihuahua.  Don’t let that innocent look fool you.

“Has he had his shots?” I inquired.

“Oh, yes!” she responded, as a small spot of blood appeared on my left shin.  “I’m so embarrassed!  You bad dog!” she said to the miniature attack dog, who I hope is rabies-free.  I suspect that dog is probably more up-to-date on its shots than I am.

But now what Margo Kaufman once said makes perfect sense to me.  She said “I asked my Vet  what kind of dog he’d get.  He told me ‘I’d get a Chihuahua because when it died, I wouldn’t care’.”

 

 

 

Gia – It’s So Good to See Ya (In the Rearview Mirror)

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Dawn from inside Lambert Airport in St. Louis with Winter Storm Gia quickly approaching

Six months ago I decided it might be nice to miss a little of Missouri’s January weather and booked a getaway for my wife and I in Fort Lauderdale.  Though we prefer road trips, I booked a couple of tickets departing from St. Louis on Southwest Airlines at 8:45 am on  January 11, 2019.

Little did I know when I booked the tickets that we would have unexpected company from far away arriving at our house that same day.

Winter storm Gia began her journey in the Pacific, spreading extreme winter weather across the midsection of the U.S.  Check-in time for her arrival in St. Louis was noon, January 11, 2019.

We actually prefer road trips to flying, but this time I’m glad we made an exception.  First, it is hard to outrun a winter storm in a car.  We’ve tried before and came up short.  Second, my wife has more metal in her from her hips down than most cars leaving the assembly line these days.  Successfully getting through the metal detector usually involves her being the recipient of some serious groping.  We secured “KNOWN TRAVELER NUMBERS” through the TSA a few years ago which have helped.  We are now able to retain most of our clothing & footwear when passing through the metal detector.   AND, the post-metal detector groping of my wife after she invariably sets the metal detector beeping has decreased from the “Honeymoon – First Night” level to the “In a Relationship” level.

We made it to the gate area 90 minutes in advance.  My wife was still in a good mood, which is no gimme after she goes through security.  One time in Kansas City they claimed they found gun powder on her shoes.  Later I discovered they test for nitrates, found in gun powder, but ALSO found in plant fertilizer.  My wife is no stranger to plant fertilizer.  That time ended up in a little room with 3 TSA agents who subjected her to their “pretty sure you are a terrorist” treatment.  Her mood had declined precipitously by the time she rejoined me at the departure gate

I was thrilled to see our plane already at the gate when we arrived.  As we took our seats, I noticed a beautiful red sky in the east. “RED SKY AT MORNING, SAILOR TAKE WARNING!”  Bad weather was imminent.  Our phones began to beep frequently with weather warnings & school closings as Gia approached St. Louis.

As my wife made a final bathroom visit before boarding the plane, a young woman wearing a “BUDWEISER KING OF BEERS” sweatshirt and carrying a cute toddler with a giant red bow in her hair sat down next to our seats.  I wondered if perhaps traveling with a toddler had helped solidify her fondness of Budweiser.

We boarded right on time.  By 9 am we were airborne.

Winter Storm Gia could kiss our contrails.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honestly, It’s Not For Everyone.

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Nebraska’s slogan when we visited in 2008.  It has been replaced (the slogan, Not Nebraska) twice since our 2008 visit.

The State of Nebraska recently made the news.  Nebraska Tourism officials paid a Colorado firm $450,000 to come up with a new State slogan.  They were discontented with their old slogan “VISIT NEBRASKA, VISIT NICE” after Nebraska came in dead last on a list of states tourists were interested in visiting.

They came up with . . . DRUM ROLL . . .

“Nebraska: Honestly, it’s not for everyone.”

In these days when everything is over-hyped, I appreciate and admire honesty.

But my wife and I really enjoyed our visit to Nebraska, a great state to visit for people who love American history.

In 2008, my wife and I followed the Oregon Trail from Independence, Mo. to Oregon City, Oregon.  Night three found us in Hastings, Nebraska.  When we travel, I always try to negotiate to get the very best room rate possible when searching for a motel.  After the desk clerk in Hastings quoted me a price, I asked if that was the best she could do.

“Are you here for business or pleasure?” she asked.

“Pleasure” I responded.  “My wife and I are here on vacation.”

“SIR” the clerk responded without hesitation.  “NO ONE comes to Hastings for pleasure.”  I may have lied to an innkeeper a time or two in my life (nope, no pets) but this was not one of them.  She gave us the business rate anyway.

Though we traveled mainly off the beaten path, my wife and I enjoyed visiting the historic sites in southern and western Nebraska.  After leaving Missouri, Oregon Trail emigrants turned right at Gardner, Kansas and headed north to Nebraska.  In Nebraska, they turned left and followed the Platte River most of the way to Wyoming.  Along the way are some amazing historic sites, including (but not limited to) Fort Kearny, Chimney Rock, Ash Hollow, and Scott’s Bluff.   I had no idea western Nebraska was in the Mountain Time Zone before that trip.  (Possible new slogan: Nebraska – There is so much to see, it takes two time zones!)

Our first stop was in northeast Nebraska at Rock Creek Station, famous for being the site of James Butler “Bill” Hickok’s first gunfight.  On July 12, 1861, Rock Creek Station employee “Bill” Hickok took offense when local bully Dave McCanles proposed the nickname “Duck Bill” for Mr. Hickok.  That was a reference to Bill’s rather large nose and protruding lips.  Mr. McCanles also made ill-advised observations about Mr. Hickok’s “girlish build and feminine features.”  This peeved Mr. Hickok a great deal.  Mr. McCanles and two of his companions, James Woods and James Gordon, all died of wounds received in the ensuing gunfight.  There is no record of anyone else ever suggesting a derogatory nickname for Bill after that.

So, there’s that, Nebraska!

How about:

“Nebraska: We put the “Wild” in Wild Bill Hickok.”

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Wild Bill Hickok – What are you looking at, punk?

On July 21, 1865, Wild Bill had what is thought to be the nation’s first one-on-one quick draw gunfight.  It occurred on the public square in my home town of Springfield, Mo. after Wild Bill had a run of bad luck in poker. Though warned not to, Dave Tutt had the temerity to go out into the public square wearing a pocket watch he had won from Wild Bill in a poker game.  Mr. Tutt became an early resident of Springfield’s Maple Park cemetery as a result of his poor decision-making in that matter.

Seems Wild Bill never got over being a little touchy about being disrespected.

He could take a lesson from Nebraska.

The Lure of the Appalachian Trail

Our Summer Vacation – Day 13 continued

On our drive from Valdosta, Ga to Amicalola Falls State Park, my wife and I passed through Cordele, Ga.  Inside the Amicalola Falls State Park Visitor’s Center is a display honoring a man from Cordele, Gene Espy.

In 1951, at age 24, Mr. Espey became the second man to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.  The display contains the equipment he carried, much of it military surplus.

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At 50 pounds, Mr. Espy’s equipment is 20 pounds heavier than today’s hikers carry

Here is a list of the items he took.  None were high tech or ultralight or carbon fiber.

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In 2008, Gene Espy published an autobiography titled The Trail of My Life: The Gene Espy Story.  Earlier this year I purchased a copy of that book on-line.  When I opened it to begin reading, I was surprised to find Mr. Espy’s autograph and the inscription “Best Wishes and Good Hiking to Eric”.  It was dated Sept. 10, 2009.

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I also have the book written by the very first A.T. thru-hiker Earl V. Shaffer.  Mr. Shaffer completed his hike in 1948 after serving in the South Pacific during WW II.  His best friend had lost his life during fighting on Iwo Jima and Earl Shaffer’s goal was to “walk the Army out of my system”.  His book is titled Walking With Spring – The story that inspired thousands of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers.  

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In 1955,  Emma Gatewood, aka “Grandma Gatewood”, became the first female to thru-hike the A.T.  She was 67, wore Converse All-Star tennis shoes and carried a shower curtain for shelter.  Prior to her hike she told her family she was “going for a walk”. Grandma Gatewood ended up hiking the A.T. multiple times and also hiked the Oregon Trail.  She once said “I get faster as I get older.”

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Speaking of fast, on August 28, 2018, Karel Sabbe (age 28) set a new speed record for hiking the A.T.  Mr. Sabbe, a dentist from Ghent, Belgium, completed his hike in 41 days, 7 hours, 39 minutes.  That’s an average of over 52 miles a day.  The previous record was 45 days, 12 hours, 15 minutes, set by Joe McConaughy in 2017.  The average successful thru-hiker takes about 5 months to hike the 2191 miles thru 14 states from Springer Mountain, Ga. to Mt. Katahdin, Maine.

You can find the link to his story here:

https://www.runnersworld.com/news/a22865359/karel-sabbe-breaks-appalachian-trail-speed-record/

When Earl Shaffer, the very first thru-hiker, started his hike in 1948, he encountered a family having a picnic in the Georgia countryside.  Seeing Mr. Shaffer carrying his backpack, the husband asked “Howdy, where you headin’?”

“To Maine” replied Earl Shaffer, eliciting shock from the couple and their small son.

Finally the wife spoke up.

“Y’all mean to say you are walkin’ all the way to Maine, over the mountains, all by yourself, and carryin’ that thing?”

“Yes Ma’am” replied Earl.

The woman shook her head, chuckled, and said “I’m glad I got sense, Mister. I’m glad I got sense.”

Since Earl Shaffer’s hike in 1948, over 15,000 hikers have successfully thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail.

Earl started his book with a verse he wrote

There’s a lone footpath along the crest                                                                                                     of the Appalachian Chain,                                                                                                                 On the cloud-high hills so richly blest                                                                                                      with sun and wind and rain.

Today’s hikers typically inspire themselves with a shorter, less romantic verse”

No rain, no pain, no Maine.

Unable to resist at least a short hike before leaving, my wife dropped me off at the top of beautiful Amicalola Falls.  As she drove back around to the bottom, I hiked a mile thru woods, over rocks, and along ridges back to the Visitor’s Center.

Then it was west, winding through the hills & hollers of north Georgia, to I-75.

One more night on the road and we were home.

We had learned a lot, made some great memories, and lost a friend during our journey.

After 8 different beds on a 14 night road trip, it was good to get back home.

Without bedbugs.

 

 

Backward, Turn Backward, Oh Time in its Flight

Our Summer Vacation – Day 11

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I-75 From Fort Lauderdale to Naples – aka “Alligator Alley”

Our last morning in Fort Lauderdale was a whirlwind.  Packing the cars, taking a headcount, checking out of the condo where we had spent a great week – then it was another two-car parade to the Fort Lauderdale airport where we dropped our son and his family off at the curb.

They would be sleeping in their own beds that night.

My wife and I were headed back to 1959 by car.

When my wife was a kid, a summer road trip was an annual event.  Along with her Mom, Dad and two brothers, my wife vividly recalls exploring the United States by car.  One of those trips, circa 1959, included a visit to Weeki Wachi, a roadside attraction north of Tampa on U.S. 19 featuring real, live mermaids.

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The underwater theater at Weeki Wachi Spring

The Weeki Wachee Mermaid Show was the fulfillment of the dream of former Navy Frogman, Newton Perry.  In World War II he taught Frogmen how to navigate underwater.  After the war, he scouted out pretty girls and taught them how to be mermaids with the aid of air hoses concealed in the scenery.   Newton Perry’s typical mermaid could drink Grapette, eat a banana, do the ballet – all with a smile – twenty-feet under the surface of Weeki Wachee Spring.

My wife never forgot that.

On Day 11 of our vacation we hoped to end up at Weeki Wachee, now a Florida State Park, but still featuring daily mermaid shows.

To get there, we would have to navigate “Alligator Alley”, the nickname for the stretch of I-75 that traverses south Florida from Fort Lauderdale on the Atlantic to Naples on the Gulf of Mexico.

That actually sounds more treacherous than it was.  Alligator Alley passes through the Everglades and Big Cypress National Park.  Though there is no telling how many alligators saw us, we didn’t see any alligators.  That might have changed had we been unlucky enough to have a flat.

Though the alligators didn’t slow us down, road construction, traffic signals and beach traffic did.  By mid-afternoon it became clear we would not make it to Weeki Wachee before its 5 pm closing time.  Since the next day was Sunday, the park didn’t open until 10 am.

Weeki Wachee would have to wait.

My wife wasn’t overly disappointed.  What she REALLY wants is to take our 8 year-old granddaughter to see the mermaid show at Weeki Wachee and pass those memories to the next generation.

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Though the Weeki Wachee sign states “You’re Probably In Time For the Show!”, we weren’t

Whenever I revisit a spot I recall fondly from my childhood, a poem by Elizabeth Akers Allen titled “Rock Me to Sleep, Mother” sometimes comes to mind.  That poem opens with the following lines:

Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight,                                                                            Make me a child again, just for tonight!

The rest of that poem is a little dark, but I love those first two lines and imagining what it would be like to go back and experience life as a child again for a single day.  The closest I’ve come is experiencing life through the eyes of a child, first our son, and now our grandkids.

We ended up spending the night in Valdosta, Ga.  In 1967 I spent a night there prior to taking Army Basic Training and before the U.S. Army generously furnished a very large comfortable room for me and 23 other guys.  The thing I most recall about Valdosta from that night was having to spend $8 for a room.  My budget for that trip was $3-$5 a night.

Oh, yeah – one other Valdosta memory!

Doc Holliday was born there.  Despite that fact, when I was making a reservation, the national Marriott reservations desk person had never heard of Valdosta.

“Where?” she asked.

“Valdosta, Ga” I replied.

“Never heard of it!” she responded.

“Ever heard of Doc Holliday?” I asked.

“Yes” she said, unconvincingly.

Well, Doc Holliday was born in Valdosta” I informed her.

She found us a room.

And it made the eight bucks I paid in 1967 sound really cheap.

With apologies to Elizabeth Akers Allen:

Backward, Turn Backward, Oh time in its flight.                                                                            I I want a room for 8 bucks, just for tonight!

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Doc Holliday inadvertently suggests the only activity I might actually beat him in.

 

 

 

 

 

My Least Favorite Night of Vacation

Our Summer Vacation – Day 10

The last night of vacation is traditionally my least favorite.

2018 was no exception.

It was time to try to pack up everything we brought, plus the souvenirs we bought, into our suitcases and eat up all the leftovers in the refrigerator.  I know, I know.  You are not supposed to be sad that it’s over.  You are supposed to be happy that it happened!

As Forrest Gump might say “I guess I’m always a little of both”.

Check-out was 11 am sharp the next morning.

It was time for some last minute pictures to help us remember the fun we’d had during the week.

Off we went to the Deerfield Beach International Fishing Pier, a mile down the beach.  It is a perfect setting for family pictures.  I captured several of my son and his beautiful family.  I wanted to make sure I got at least one picture in which they were all looking at the camera and smiling.

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Four out of five smiling was the best I could do

In baseball, four hits in five at-bats is a heck of a game.  Taking family pictures, four out of five smiling is about par for the course.  In every picture, our three-year-old grandson stood with his mouth wide open.  When I asked him later why he did that, he offered the following explanation:

I SAW A TREE FROG!

So much for Grandpa’s expertise with a camera, although if you want memorable, it definitely fills that bill.

As it turned out, their Mother, Maria, had already captured one of my all-time favorite pictures of my grandkids.

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For me, this picture sums up perfectly our week in Boca Raton and the good times we shared.

I don’t know if any of the kids were smiling.

All I know is that it brings a smile to my face every time I see it.

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The 2018 Reece & Strobel Family Vacation attendees, less me taking the picture.  In 2019, Grandpa Strobel (second from left, standing) plans to increase the number to 18, including 9 grandkids under age 12.

 

 

Getting to Know the Boca Raton Town Center Mall – From Auntie Anne’s to Zumiez

Our Summer Vacation – Day 9

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Entrance to Town Center Mall

On Day 9 of our vacation we took a break from the outdoor activities and spent a little time indoors at the Town Center Mall in Boca Raton.  The Town Center Mall is a gigantic 200+ store mall where we had to park at the far reaches of the parking lot even on a Thursday afternoon.

Boca pandoraFirst Stop – The Pandora Jewelry Store, not to be confused with Pandora’s Box, a totally different business which markets a monthly “relationship enhancement subscription box for couples.”

A few years ago, I purchased my wife a Pandora Charm Bracelet.  Ok, maybe she purchased it, but I’m pretty sure I was there.  Now, whenever we travel, she has an excuse to visit a Mall that has a Pandora store so she can add a charm to her bracelet as a keepsake of our journey.  When we are dead, our daughter-in-law is going to inherit a charm bracelet with a lot of shiny pineapples, sea shells and palm trees on it.

As my wife and granddaughter headed to Pandora, my grandson and I chose a different venue:  Auntie Anne’s pretzel store.  There are actually two of them in the Town Center Mall.  We were just as happy with a large lemonade and a box of warm cinnamon sugar pretzel parts as my wife and granddaughter were picking out a new charm.

Whereas malls in mid-Missouri might feature a new pick-up or an all-terrain vehicle on display, the two Florida malls were considerably more upscale.  The Galleria Mall in Fort Lauderdale had a Rolls Royce on display.  Sticker price – $384,0000.  The Town Center Mall has a Tesla sales location with pricey – but not Rolls Royce pricey – energy-efficient vehicles on display.

While even the Sears store in Jefferson City bit the dust, the Town Center Mall offers such Specialty stores as Pea in the Pod maternity store, Everything But Water designer swimwear, a Papyrus fine paper store and a Mont Blanc fine pen store.

boca auntie annesEverything from A (Auntie Anne’s Pretzels) to Z (Zumiez Cutting edge clothing, shoes, accessories, and gear for skateboarding, snowboarding, and surf lifestyles for guys, girls, and kids).boca zumiez

In 2007, the Town Center Mall made the national news when 3 people were kidnapped at the mallboca police & murdered.  One of the cases involved a mother & young daughter who were found bound & shot in the head inside their SUV at the Mall.  Though that case was featured on America’s Most Wanted it remains unsolved.  At no time did I feel uneasy while walking around the mall (other than looking at the prices).  I suspect a few rich people may have looked at me sideways and clutched their purse a bit tighter as we passed.  Now there is a police substation right in the Mall.

The truth in advertising award at the Mall goes to Junk de Luxe, advertised as “first and foremost, about a certain kind of hip, urban attitude. An uncompromisingly urban cross over style, making its presence felt on the biggest catwalk of them all: the street”.

boca junk deluxe

It was time for us to take our junk back to “the street”.

Actually, “the beach”.

The Town Center Mall was impressive, but we’ve got Malls in Missouri.

It was time to get back to the reason we drove 1300 miles to get to south Florida.

The hypnotizing, awe-inspiring, timeless beach.IMG_0202

 

 

 

 

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