Search This Blog

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Take Me Out to the Ball Game!

Hi Blog!  This is Eileen reporting in from Bright House Field in Clearwater, Florida - spring training home of the Philadelphia Phillies.  This has long been on our bucket list.  For Tom, it is a chance to see some Spring Training games.  For me, it is a chance to come to Florida in February and enjoy some fun in the sun.  We attended our fist game on Tuesday, February 26th against the New York Yankees.  Here is Tom standing at the entrance to the field with Kathy and Dave.

The Phillies got off to a slow start, but Kath and Dave kept cheering them on.  The Phillies came back from behind to win 4 to 3.  Tommy Joseph, the Phillies up-and-coming Catcher, was Tuesday's hero smacking a two run homer to put the Phillies ahead for good.  The stadium is very nice and has a Tiki Bar in left field. Dave was also excited to finally get a Tony Luke's pork sandwich without waiting two hours in line!  We are also going to try all 100 beers from Beers Around the World!

On Thursday, we made our way to our second game against the Atlanta Braves, thanks to Tom's new Garmin (my Christmas present to him).   (Mind you, we weren't sure we would make it on time because it took over three hours to register the Garmin and get the software updates.)

I took the opportunity between innings to go down and let Cole Hamels know how much my daughter, Jen, likes him.  Here he is posing for a photo.

This game was a real slugfest.  We got to see singles, doubles and homeruns - oh my!  The final score was 10 to 5. After the game, Kathy and I went down to the field to meet the players on their way to the clubhouse.  I was able to get a baseball signed by none other than - Tommy Joseph!

Here we are sporting are new Phillies Spring Training wear!  Eat your hearts out Flam and Ingo!

We have one more game left to go on Sunday.  So far we are two for two!  Let's go Phillies and make it a three game win streak!

Chat at you later,

(Guest Blogger)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Just Another Day in Clearwater

 Today was just another day in Clearwater.  Wawa is opening 5 new stores in the Tampa area, and Tom took us up to the one opening today.  This was a very special event.  We got to meet the REAL "Wawa Shortie" and the real "Wawa Goose": 

 A local high school jazz band provided music, and it was really well done.  Eileen and Kathy got into it with some line dance steps:

 After the Wawa Grand Opening Extravaganza, we stopped by Sea Dog Brewing Co. for some brews and lunch.  Here are Kathy and Eileen getting their brew on:

After a restful afternoon (Eileen crossworded, Kathy helped, David puttered, and Tom napped), we all headed over to Clearwater Beach for a Sunset Segway Tour.  The tours are run by a woman named Jean who worked with Eileen and Kathy's brother Steve at XM Radio, and she knows Steve!  Lots of XM stories were swapped.  Jean was kind enough to take a couple photos to prove that - not only did we all Segway - but we all Segwayed over the huge Clearwater Beach Causeway Bridge!


We toured through an older section of Clearwater Beach, and down to pavilion on the Bay:

It was getting chilly and on toward sunset, so we sped home on our Segways, and made it back to the beach in time for this spectacular sunset:

After rounding the evening off with a scrumptious dinner at Frenchy's on the beach, we headed home to warm up and chill out.

Good Drinking Starts @ Wawa?

I think @ Sea Dog Brewing Co.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Around and About Naples

 Today we took two bike rides.  This morning's ride was about 20 miles - 8 miles into the city of Naples, then maybe 4 miles around the city, and 8 miles back.  We first peddled to the beach and found a pretty, white-sand public beach.  There were a goodly number of people sunning on the beach --

 -- but many more just walking around and sightseeing.  Just onshore from the beach are some spectacular houses peering through the palm trees:

Perhaps the most famous landmark at the beach is the Naples pier, from which the photos above were taken.  Lots of people strolled up and down the pier, and there was even a wedding:

From there, we cycled into Old Naples (sometimes called "Old Historic Naples").  For the life of us, we found nothing old or historic about it.  Mainly we saw crowds of people in extremely expensive restaurants.

We cycled over to the shopping district, fully expecting it to resemble the shopping districts in Boca Raton, Palm Beach, etc. - and it does.  However, we were surprised to find more reasonably priced restaurants, and most with very good food.  We picked Altins Cafe and Grill, on 5th Avenue.  It features brick oven pizza, although David had a chef salad and Kathy had a veggie wrap. 

We couldn't help noting and enjoying a special sign in the cafe's window:

We commented on it to one of the cafe staff, who told us that her daughter made it specially for the cafe.  We thought it added a personal, colorful and highly unique touch!

Riding back from Naples, we had a chance to photograph a mixed-use retail-commercial-residential development on the water, which resembled, to us, the sort of preplanned communities that one sees, for example, at Mt. Tremblant in Quebec (although this was on the water):

Our eyes were drawn to an unusual spectacle on the water.  We weren't sure at first what we were seeing, but realized eventually that it was a person wearing a jet pack, hanging and moving just above the water on a tether hooked to a boat following, with a jet ski attending alongside for safety:

As we biked back down the Tamiami Trail, we saw and couldn't resist a mini-golf center.  Here's Kathy showing her fierce competitive style:

 ...and David with his calm, cool, collected touch:

All in all, the ride was a lot of fun, but very warm from the sun.  When we got back to the campground, we took a swim to cool down, then had a quick dinner, and set out by bicycle again to the Eagle Lakes Community Park, about 4 miles from our campground.  It features a beautiful, natural lake and wildlife preserve.  Friends at the campground had told us that, at sunset, birds flock into the preserve to roost in the trees, and the the numbers of birds are breathtaking.

They were right.  We saw cormorants by the dozen, anhingas, heron, ibis, egrets, storks, not to mention a wide variety of smaller birds.  Here is a photo of some of the birds.  Note the cormorants in the naked trees in the left background, and all the birds swimming in the water in the left foreground:

Here is another photo of the cormorants, along with all kinds of white birds in the trees behind them:

As the sun went down, the birds and trees became silhouetted in a sepia sort of color which had tones of red, orange and blue.

The sunset itself was impressive:

...and another with more cormorants in yet more trees:

The moon happens to be near full and was rising as the sun set.  With clouds in the foreground, lit by the rosy sunset, the moon added its grace to the scene:

By the time sunset was past, the moon reigned gracefully over the palm trees and blessed the approaching night:

We set off home on our bicycles and it was dark before we reached our campground.

Paddling Isle of Capri

Hi Blog.  Friday, February 22nd, was our first full day in the Naples area.  We decided to do a little kayaking.  Naples Kayaks offers kayak rentals in five different locations.  We chose the Isle of Capri since there were lots of bays and mangrove forests to paddle around.

Here is a copy of the topo map they gave us when we set off.  Having kayaked through mangrove forest with Toni and Jim, we were prepared to the adventure.  With compass and GPS in hand, we set out to create a loop through the forest. 

Outlined in red is the approximate route we took. Afterall, it wouldn't be a mangrove paddle if we didn't run into a few dead-ends.  No need to share all the gorey details.

The woman who checked us in and went over the route with us told us not to expect much in the way of wildlife.  Boy was she wrong.  As soon as we paddled across the bay to the entry into the mangroves, we spotted a bald eagle sitting loud and proud on a perch overlooking the entrance into the smaller bay.

As we traveled further into the forest, we spotted this lovely snowy egret perched over the creek waiting for little fishies to swim by.  I don't know if you can see just how brightly colored her feet are.  It is sort of a cross between lime green and florescent yellow.

The trails through this mangrove forest were a bit wider than those we encountered in our last paddle.  Here is Kathy making her way under some low hanging branches.

Back out in the bay, we watched an osprey catch a fish and take it up into a tree to eat.  While we were watching, we held our kayaks very still so Dave could take a photo.  Meantime, something must have been hunting under the water, because schools of fish began jumping and bubbling around out boats trying to hide behind them for protection.  We did eventually see a school of dolphins, but only later after we had finished and returned our kayaks.

After about three hours, we brought the kayaks back to the beach right next door to the Capri Fishhouse and Tiki Bar.  Oceanside dining at its best!

We had two hours until sunset, so we took the opportunity to drive around Marco Island.  While pretty in a plastic manicured Florida kind of way, it was not our cup of tea.  No public beaches or parking lots.  Loads of designer shops.  It was like the rich folks wanted to keep the whole place to themselves, but in the process, they destroyed what makes West Florida near the Everglades so beautiful.  So, we went back to Capri Island and went out on the dock to have a couple beers and watch the sun set.

We weren't the only ones enjoying the sunset.  Here is Mr. Heron patiently waiting for supper.

Now for the big show.  Many of the restaurant patrons came out on the dock as the final minutes approached. We met some folks from Bucks County, PA who were down for vacation. They were just as excited as us to meet folks who weren't from Michigan (or Quebec)!

Saturday we plan to ride our bikes around historic Naples.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cracklin' Jacks and All That

Well, we've passed nearly 24 hours in our campground in Naples, Florida, and we've packed a lot into this short stay so far.

We decided on Thursday after arriving to bicycle 3 miles to Cracklin' Jacks, a little shack of a restaurant up the road that advertises Bayou food. 

Well, the food is genuine bayou, but it wasn't cheap and it's VERY popular.  David had the Bayou platter:  alligator tails, frog's legs and catfish - all fried with a Kentucky batter.  Kathy had broiled grouper.  We both shared a pitcher of really good sangria, and shared numerous veggie sides ("vittles") that were very tasty though salty.  Here's Kathy surveying the table:

This morning we took our usual campground walk.  The campground is small, but very lush with trees and foliage.  The squirrels are little pirates and they love to tease the cats through the windows.  Take a look at the prior post of Eddie & George and you'll get an idea how the campground is landscaped.

We extended our walk south along a bicycle path and ran across the following sign:

I think we'll heed its warning.  This place is perched on the western edge of the Everglades.  Chuck, our neighbor, who has the same brand/model fifth wheel as we have, told us that campers have encountered panthers around the edge of the campground - and one camper even opened a dumpster to throw out trash and encountered a young black bear inside!

We walked out back of the campground, along a dirt road, keeping these wildlife stories in mind.  Didn't encounter anything except our shadows:

Eddie& George Wake Up in Naples, Florida