Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Downside of Being a Full Time RVer...

I really do like our peripatetic lifestyle, but there are times when it sort of sucks. We have been away from the Pacific Northwest and our family and friends since early last September. In the meantime, life goes on without us. Sometimes I feel like we are really missing out on some important events.

For example, Monday this darling little baby boy was born. His name is Ryan Patrick and he is my great-nephew. His parents, Jared and Becky and sister Ellie, all live in Spokane, Washington. By the time we get back to that part of the world early next summer, he's going to be half-grown...

We also got news today that the husband of one of my former AHEC colleagues had passed away. I would love to be able to be there and just give Judy a big hug. I know that many of our other colleagues will be at the services, but it would be nice to be there.

I guess this may be part of this time in our lives. There was a funeral last month and a couple more in the coming weeks that we have or will have missed. I can send notes to grieving families, but it's not quite the same as being there.

It was really warm in Florida today -- our thermometer outside of Auntie Violet read 96 degrees this afternoon. So far, we haven't turned on the AC -- we open all the windows and turn on the fans -- but it was like a sauna in here when we got back from a quick trip to the grocery. This was the view in the sky as we headed home --

I got a bit of flack last night from Bill about my use of the word "fanatic" to describe his and Leslie's relationship with all things Disney in my blog. He thought perhaps "enthusiast" might have been a better word. BUT, after what happened today, I stand by my original comment! They got up a little after 4 AM to be at Disney World by 6 AM to get the special ears and t-shirts that were being sold today to commemorate Leap Day. They came home this afternoon for a short nap and to show us the shirts, then went back to spend the evening and the rest of the night at the Park. Leslie is on a mission to go on every ride in the Park before it closes tomorrow at 6 AM (the Park is open 24 hours celebrating Leap Day).

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Quiet Day at Mouse Mountain

It is eight PM and we are all sitting outside enjoying the beautiful warm evening. We are trying to decide what we want to do while we are here for this coming month. One of the reasons we decided to come back to the Orlando area was to join our Disney fanatic friends at Disney World. When we were here before, it was during the holidays which is entirely the wrong time to be at the Park with all of the crowds. The pricing system for tickets is rather strange. The best deal seems to be a ten-day pass. It would work well if we could scatter the ten days over the month, but the way it works is you have to use the ten days within a 14 day time period after the first day of use.

We also are thinking about going to Universal Studio to the Harry Potter show. We'd like to maybe go to Crystal Springs to kayak with the manatees. Then there's the Kennedy Space Center. And knowing us, we'll need to plan for some "down" days in there as well.

While Bill and Leslie went to their workout with their trainer this afternoon, I got started on the 2011 book work. I cannot believe I have been so lax this year -- the only month I actually had done was last January! I got another month done, but I am sure the rest will go faster as it took me a while to get back up to speed with the software.

We really need to think about a major grocery shopping trip, maybe even a Costco run. I made salads for dinner with the last of the green stuff in the refrigerator. I grilled the last two steaks in the freezer and the last package of sweet potato fries tonight. It was so nice out that Bill and Leslie sat outside with us to eat. And to think that last night at the same time, it was pouring rain!

Monday, February 27, 2012

On To Mouse Mountain

This is how close we were parked to the oak tree by our site at Ja-Mar RV Campground! Forry had done a slick job of backing in (good guidance, you know...) --

He couldn't go back any further without losing a mirror and he had to be back that far in order to have room for the slide to go out --

We got pulled out just fine (me holding my breath and urging him to drive straight out) and then drove out the back exit to the Brethren Church parking lot where we hooked up Toad.

We waited until we were there to pull out the compressor and add some air to that back inside dual which ALWAYS seems to lose a bit when we are parked.

We had a pretty straight forward trek halfway across the state back to the Orlando area and the Mouse Mountain RV Campground, arriving there a bit after 1:30. We were just finishing hooking up water and electricity and putting out the slides when our friends Leslie and Bill came over to visit and welcome us to the park where they having been staying for the past four months.

After a short visit, they departed for dentist appointments while we opted for much-needed naps (after all we had been up early getting ready to go!) Upon their return from the dentist -- and a couple of fillings later -- we went with Bill and Leslie to Steak n Shake for hamburgers (I had a really delicious portobello burger) and milkshakes.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Quiet Sunday

One of the days when we were out riding our bikes, exploring Ja-Mar Travel Park, we discovered that the church in the back corner by the exit was a Church of the Brethren, Gulfview Grace Brethren Church. Pleased the find a member of the Anabaptist church family so close, we decided to worship there this morning. The sanctuary of the church was also the gym, with the baskets pulled up out of the way. They have an attendance of about 270, mostly older folks and from the talk we heard, many of them snow birds.

This afternoon we started packing things up, getting ready for tomorrow's move. As we were folding up the bicycle and tricycle and the chairs and storing them away, I couldn't help but be happy that we will be staying at Mouse Mountain RV Park, our next park, for a whole month and wouldn't have to do it again during that whole time!

We did get a bike ride in around the park earlier, between rain showers. We've had several rainy days, almost every other day. We have one nice sunny day, then a chillier one with intermittent showers. The rain has been nothing as intense as the thunderstorm last week, but there has been enough to leave puddles on the street.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Bay Area Renaissance Festival

Our plan today was to drive back down to Tarpon Springs and spend a bit more time birding, but the best-laid plans of mice and men...
Our friend Leslie messaged me that they had discovered that there was going to be a Belly Dancing Competition at the Renaissance Festival in Tampa at 3 o'clock this afternoon, and did we want to join them? (Bill and Forry had both complained that there was no belly-dancing at the Greek restaurant we went to last week...) The Faire was about an hour's drive for us and we arrived about the same time as Bill and Leslie.

Leslie has been working on her Renaissance/Steampunk costume for some time now. We had seen pieces of it, but this is the first time we've seen it all put together --

I really like the hat she found for it --

The Faire is held every year over about a two month period in February and March. It is an interesting mixture of costumed and uncostumed people with many takes on what costumes might have been appropriate for a medieval era. These folks were part of the "Queen's Court" dining.

We listened to some troubadours --

And a harpist --

And a fairy fiddler --

 All before we got to the competition that we had come to see --

There was a competition for Juniors. Some of whom were REALLY good!

Of course, the young ones were really limber and agile --

The Senior competition featured some incredible costumes --

A couple even complete with swords --

There was lots of shimmying and shaking going on --

This lady was described as a "Goddess" dancer. I think that meant she was older...

There was a troupe of competitors from a dance school --

And even a pair of "Goth" belly dancers -- who were actually very good.

This is another of the dancing pairs --

And as you can see, all were carefully watched by the man in my life --

At the end of the show, we were treated to a couple of the "professional" gypsy dancers who have their own stage and show at the Festival --

The Festival had horses and jousting competitions, though we didn't have a chance to watch any.

This lady had been giving rides to little kids earlier --

I liked the way she (or someone) had braided her horse's tail --

There was a wandering knight and his lady --

And a Saracen?

Before we left, we went to the "Washing Wenches" show --

You really didn't want to be sitting too close to the front as these two washer women shared a bit of their wash water with the crowd --

Don't you just love the hairdo? to say nothing of the blacked out teeth...

Our dear friend Bill added to the hilarity by bringing them a beer -- after they had teased him about bringing one to Forry.

And  then there was this long-eared fellow with the strange helmet --

We had never been to a Renaissance Faire before and it was an interesting experience. In the four hours or so that we were there, we only saw maybe a quarter of it. It's sprawled out over quite a large wooded area with at least five different stage areas. There are lines of tents and vendors of all kinds of costumes, jewelry and art as well as lots of food. There were magicians and jugglers, mud wrestlers, singers, and I don't know what else. There are people who make the faires their hobby and spend their time following them similarly to the Native American PowWow circuit.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Circus Parades

We spent a quiet "rest-up" day at home today, so I thought I'd share some more of the pictures I took at the Ringling Circus Museum in Sarasota. These are all pictures of the very detailed models of the circus parades. This one is one of the band wagons -- the ladies on their wagon are a bit risque'. I wonder if anyone was even looking at the players in the band. (The models are displayed behind glass with a mirrored wall behind them, so it looks as though they are all doubled...)

This is another fanciful band wagon. Unfortunately you can also see me in the mirror...

The costumes for both humans and animals were very elaborate. We saw a life-size brocade elephant cover similar to these that was on display. It was very big -- and heavy!

These beautiful matched horses were costumed as winged creatures pulling a wagon. Can you imagine how much work it must have been to make those costumes, then pack them up almost daily to get ready for another show in another town?

Having watched the chaos of attempted ostrich racing in Arizona last year, I marvel that these birds were actually trained to pull a wagon as well as being ridden.

This is another band wagon pulled by matched dapple grays --

I had to use a pretty wide lens to get a picture of this entire hitch of a dozen matched white horses pulling yet another band wagon --

It is my understanding that all of these models -- and this is just a sampling -- were actual replicas of circus parades. I think the era of the parade from the train station to the circus grounds must have been something else again. I was grateful that these model builders at least gave me a glimpse of what it must have been like.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tarpon Springs

We met our friends Bill and Leslie in Tarpon Springs today and spent the afternoon exploring this interesting very Greek seaport. We met at Mykoros, a Greek restaurant, where we had some great Greek lemon chicken soup, spanokopita, gyros, and calamari.

From there we strolled down Dodecanese Boulevard which is the "main drag," full of really neat shops. We stopped at The Spice and Tea Exchange where I bought some wonderful varieties of sea salts and seasonings (bought some jalapeno salt for Brother Pat!). We found a shop that had Hawaiian shirts on sale and bought a couple more for Forry; stopped at a some soap shops and bought a few smelly things; bought Forry a frozen slice of Key Lime pie; and enjoyed watching the crowds of tourists.

Towards the end of the Boulevard we found the Tarpon Springs Aquarium and spent a few fun hours checking out their exhibits and watching the interaction with some of their critters. They have a rather large salt water aquarium stocked with local fish like this tarpon --

Or this brightly colored small tropical one --

Or this spiny rock lobster --

They also had five LARGE pythons and a boa constrictor, all of whom had either been someone's pet or had been found in the area around Tarpon Springs. (Neither of these kind of snakes are native to Florida. They are all pets or the off-spring of pets who have either gotten away or been turned loose.) The young man brought this Burmese python out to play with those us who were there. He lifted her head and part of her body over to the ledge of the tank behind him and she crawled the rest of the way out --

Everyone got a chance to pet or touch her as she made her way out --

I was surprised at how you could feel the movements of her muscles as she crawled along the ledge. (That is a big moray eel in the tank behind her.)

Another one of the staff brought this five-year old alligator out to be petted --

This fellow -- so ugly he's cute -- with the small shell and big head is an Alligator Turtle. He's estimated to be 25 or 30 years old and weighs about twenty pounds --

After watching all of those critters, we needed some sustenance, so stopped at one of several Greek bakeries for some treats. One really must have some baklava when you are hanging around the Greeks!

Tarpon Springs is famous for its sponge industry. Divers from Greece settled here to hunt the sponges in the Gulf of Mexico. They use diving suits with helmets to go after the deep ones, so Forry had to pose in this oversized one --

We visited the small museum that was part of the Tarpon Springs Sponge Factory and watched a rather old movie about how the sponges were harvested, then cleaned and prepared for sale like the ones below --

You can't be on the coast without checking out the sunset. We drove out to Howard Park to see it, but it wasn't very good tonight. There are still too many clouds left around from yesterday's storm.

But even when it's not spectacular, sunset on the beach is always nice. We waded in the warm water a bit, then headed back into town for more Greek food.

Leslie and I had some very tender lamb shanks for dinner at a restaurant called Mr. Souvlaki, while Forry had some Greek sausage with peppers and onions and Bill had an interesting dish the restaurant called Greek chow mein.