Saturday, February 1, 2014

Marco and Naples

Find the dolphin?
Collier Seminole State Park is an old, OLD state park.  Remember our last visit here?  We wrote about the HUGE black “walking” crane that was built in Grand Rapids Michigan and was used to dig the miles and miles of deep, wide canals that were dug for the fill dirt to build the Tamiami Trail as it crossed the swampy Everglades.  The crane is still there – welcoming visitors to the park.  The boat ramp and picnic area seems to be the newest and best-kept space with shelter covered picnic tables and spacious parking lot.  The cement boat launch and adjoining canoe/kayak launch are used a lot. Except by one particular couple from Ohio – we watched them unload their armload of canoe gear and head to the stack of up-upside down canoes. Just about the same time, we noticed a slim dark shape slither into the water and move away from the shoreline.  After a very short “discussion” – they gathered their gear and returned to their car.  A teeny, tiny, 4-foot alligator kept them from a sunny afternoon exploring the waterway?  Sheesh!

While the boat area was welcoming, the campground was still overcrowded.  There were at least 6-8 campsites squeezed into an area that would be considered one at EG Simmons!  Luckily we had a corner site!   The “facilities”, while clean, were slipping in their conditions.   And the dump station stunk!!   But  - - we were near to the beaches on Marco Island and Naples!   On Marco Island we found our parking spot at the hotel complex where we’ve parked in the past.  This year there was an attendant and we just told him that we were going to “Stilts” the bar and grill there on the beach.  We strolled thru the open bar seating area and calmly opened the gate leading over the dune to the sprawling white sand beach.  The beach was full of sun worshipers from the north, piles and piles of white shells and a splattering of Fighting Conch Shells.  I tried my best to only gather the empty ones but I must confess – some that were still occupied ended up in my bag.  Besides all the beach walkers and sunbathers we passed a mammoth flock of  “bad haired” terns with their windswept look of black head feathers. Another group of strange looking birds sat huddled in the soft sand.  There were hundreds of Black Skimmers - strange looking birds that have red bills that are tipped in black.  Their lower beak is longer than their top beak.   Too bad that H forgot to bring his camera.   In Naples we found the fishing pier but the parking spot we located was at least a half-mile up the beach.  We needed the walk and it was a beautiful afternoon.  

  A pallet of bright colored beach umbrellas populated the white sand, along with a plethora of even more sun worshipers - all facing the brilliance of the hot sun.  The fishing pier stretched far out in the gulf, over ever deepening shades of aqua blue water.

  It was lined with hopeful fishermen and several dolphins danced and dove all around the long wooden path.  Pelicans floated near the collection of bobbers, hoping for a bit of a snack.  Up on the roof of the shelter was a lone “bad hair” Tern who didn’t seem concerned about all the folks passing so close to his perch on high. 

We are no longer heading south. The next part of our venture will lead us towards the rising sun.  We’re heading east across the Everglades!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sarasota,- Punta Gorda, Fl

On our last day at EG Simmons, Bud F and H were tossing about as to where we should spend our day together.  Ybor City, St Pete, Tampa and the beaches were ruled out.  It was too cold and windy for the beaches.  Plus, H and I had just been out to Anna Marie Island.  We had picked the best day weather wise and we had parked at the public beach.   Last year we had brought Raegan’s Flat Stanley with us and had taken lots of pictures of him there on the wide white sandy beach.  This year the “powers that be” were “reconstructing” the beach. 

Anna Marie beach 

  That meant they had fenced off most of the beach and were bulldozing and sucking up more sand from the gulf bottom to rebuild what had washed away.  We walked way south along the bright orange snow/sand fence and finally found waterfront sand and waves to walk thru.  Can you imagine – I ONLY picked up 4 shells to bring home!  We even climbed aboard the free island trolley and rode out to the Historic Anna Marie Fishing Pier.   It was a blue sky and gentle aqua sea day so the pier was full of tourists and fishermen!     But, I digress - back to my story about our last Saturday!  Neither the Franklins, nor we had ever been to the Ringling Circus Museum down in Sarasota.  H found that tickets were $20 for seniors but Bud’s sister and husband were members and graciously offered us FREE tickets!  WOW!   After a trip to Sun City Center to pick up the tickets we headed down 30 miles to Sarasota.  
Under the big top

You MUST go see this “museum” if you ever get to Sarasota!  This magnificent 66 acre campus includes immaculately manicured gardens, the new Circus Museum, the original museum, an art museum, the historic Osolo theater and the elaborate Italian architecture structure called “Ca’D’Zan” (House of John) which was built from 1924-1926 at a cost of $1.5 million.   The Circus museum has a school gym sized room that houses a miniature Circus setup that starts at the railroad yard, unloading the carved 6-inch elephants!  The glass enclosed diorama winds thru the room and the circus goes thru the setting up of the tents and finally the intricately carved Big Top with performers doing ariel acts above lions and tigers!   It took 50 years to build this awesome display!   The other Circus building includes John Ringling’s private railroad car and the famous human cannon truck.  Displays trace the history of the circus from the late 1800’s to the 1960’s.    

John and Mable Ringling bought their parcel of paradise on Sarasota Bay in 1911.  They had enjoyed traveling abroad; especially Italy and they wanted their palatial winter home to reflect that love.   Our tour led us past vibrant red velvet furniture and gold covered pillars and up an Italian marble staircase to the private quarters.  From the upstairs balcony the open rooms below looked like a fancy dollhouse display.    The ornate renaissance style Museum of Art was John’s private museum built in the late 1920’s and houses his collection of Rubens and other 1500/1600 artists.  At the end of the central courtyard is a bronze copy of Michelangelo’s David from Naples Italy.   The circus museum was a great way to finish up our stay in Ruskin!!!

The art Museum courtyard
On down Rt 41 thru Port Charlotte to Punta Gorda, it was back to Alligator Park to use our Passport America discount for 3 nights.  From riding our bikes thru the park, the majority of residents are from Michigan, Indiana and Iowa!   Saturday in Florida is Flea Market Day!   We rambled thru Flea Master’s down in Ft Myers and also hit another that was set up in the parking lot at the Shell Factory.   I even found a gnome that needed a new home and a fresh coat of paint!

Sunday was MY day to spend with Emily!  My dear friend from home winters in Pt Charlotte and attends Englewood Church of Christ.  Such a friendly, outgoing southern gospel group of Christians!   I felt right at home and enjoyed the music and the message!   She and I spent a relaxing afternoon at her home before I called H to have him pick me up – at Joann’s Fabric!   The weather has warmed up since we’re 70 some miles south of Tampa Bay but we’re heading down farther.  Tampa Bay was long pants but now it is Capri time!