Lost A Couple of Days…..

It’s been another of those weeks where my time at the computer was “parsed” between being at meetings/events and handling other obligations.

We did spend Sunday though at the annual Rum Renaissance Festival put on by the Burrs, who moved the festival this year up to Fort Lauderdale to the Broward Convention Center. It’s a nice location being only a couple of miles from the airport and having three hotels within a 10-minute walk. The Hilton is at the marina which gives an extra treat if you enjoy seeing boats coming and going.

Since it was the first year in the new location, there will no doubt be some changes based on experience and feedback. There are only one or two suggestions we will make. Anyway, the festival had 70 vendors, some interesting seminars, music to relax to, and plenty of fun people to talk to. Hubby is more the run drinker than I am, but the way we actually became involved is because when I spun the character of Chris Green off to create the series featuring her – Deadly Doubloons, False Front, and Georgina’s Grief – I decided to make her a lover of sipping rums. In searching around to include different rums in the stories, I found http://www.robsrum.com and didn’t realize at the time a friendship would develop from that initial inquiry. It can indeed be a small world.

 

Ah, A Tale of a Tail….

There are certain puns one cannot resist and this is such an occasion. I’ve posted before about geckos and so forth as part of living in South Florida. We have a wide variety of them and do enjoy watching them outdoors. When we get one in the house we always try to gently return them to outside even though that doesn’t always meet with success.

I couldn’t get closer for a shot of this one, but part of his tail is missing. In actuality, I saw him several days ago and much more of the tail was gone. This is their defense mechanism to allow escape from predators and the tail will eventually grown back. This particular gecko hangs around in the flowering shrubs by the front door and so has a fair amount of foliage to hide in which I imagine is what happened when perhaps a bird went after him. I’ll keep an eye on him (well, okay, I guess it could be a her) and see if he is still around as the tail regrows.

By the way, if you haven’t been into the short story archives on my website, there is one entitled, “A Gecko in the Umbrella”, you can enjoy:

https://charliehudson.net/stories/story200604.html

Soggy Weekend….

I always have great sympathy when people have worked hard to plan an event, especially an outdoor one, and Mother Nature intervenes. The official hurricane season is not supposed to begin until the first week of June and we all know that it isn’t really until later we have to start paying attention. Except this is one of those unusual years when the first named storm, Tropical Storm Alberto, apparently doesn’t follow the calendar properly. It began as a possible “depression” and gained in its movement toward us. Not surprisingly, with the memories, and quite frankly damage, from last year’s storms still fresh, many people are a bit concerned as to if it is a portent. Allegedly not even though it isn’t following the standard pattern. Some of the planned events have been rescheduled and some of the smaller ones will probably be cancelled with sighs and shakes of heads.

One of the drawbacks to South Florida and the Keys is indeed the outdoor nature of our attractions. Once a small craft advisory goes into effect, diving, fishing, scenic cruises are pretty much shut down as is strolling through the national parks and frequenting outside dining. Since some restaurants have limited indoor seating, that can have a definite impact. This can be the time to catch up on movie-going, wandering through the malls, and discovering the different museums.

I will be getting caught up with a number of tasks today and tomorrow is probably okay since the event I am scheduled to attend is in fact at the Seminole Theatre. I’m not certain how fast the storm will be moving and it could be out of this area before tomorrow afternoon. Ah well, at least we won’t have to put water in the pool for a few days.

 

Underwater Favorites……

Juvenile Spotted Drum

I think divers are much like birders when it comes to certain aspects. There are the regular species you encounter depending on your region. You enjoy them and for some people even the “ordinary” bring a pleasure others don’t necessarily understand. Or perhaps it’s a combination of a setting such as forest, park, meadow, a back yard with bushes or feeders. Underwater is similar in that you can have reefs of different variety such as “patch”, “walls,” “finger”, artificial like shipwrecks which may be like the title of my non-fiction book, Islands in the Sand. The geographic location of those types of reefs dictates what species of marine creatures you will find just as the geographic location of bird habitat dictates what species of birds are seen. Yes, you do have migrations, more so among the bird population I think. There are absolutely known marine migrations which is why you get great white sharks cruising through Florida at times.

Anyway, one of the reasons our Key Largo reefs have an abundance of marine life is they have had increased protection for a couple of decades now. We don’t have the spectacular corals found deeper in the Caribbean, but we also aren’t over-fished. Among my favorites are angels, tiny blue chromis, yellow-headed jawfish, puffers, spade fish, spotted drums, trunks, midnight parrots, and file fish. Those fall into the category of regularly seen, but not quite as ordinary as squirrel fish and yellowtail snappers. On the non-fish side, I always look for sea cucumbers, anemones, tiny shrimp,  and do enjoy seeing lobsters. Everyone always wants to see eels, turtles, rays, sharks, Goliath Groupers – the “big stuff” for our region. While we have all those, you simply never know if you’ll see one or not when diving. The more often you’re in the water, the greater your chances obviously.

The point to travel to other dive destinations is in general to see creatures you don’t have here. Fiji was a great example. On the drive from the airport to the resort, the driver was proudly pointing out tropical features like palm trees and hibiscus – hardly anything new for us. Underwater though were amazing masses of soft corals and so many species native to the South Pacific such as “unicorn” fish.

The only disadvantage of our local reefs are they tend to be out where a boat is required instead of places where you can just gear up and go off the shore. But the sheer volume of marine life and good dive conditions throughout much of the year is why people come.

Key West Spots….

Hubby and I made our way to Key West yesterday to spend the night for the first time. Friends we’ve not seen in many years had a port call for a few hours and we linked up at First Flight, a restaurant and brewery previously known as Kelly’s Caribbean Restaurant and Brewery. With parking the issue it is, I booked us into a small inn about a 25-minute walk from the center of town. The mostly open air place was good and we all had a great time getting caught up. Hubby and I paced ourselves a bit since we intended to remain in the center and have dinner at another place. We did wander to Mallory Square after, but with sunset scheduled for almost 8:00 p.m., we didn’t want to bother with it. We did, however, go into Sloppy Joe’s for a drink and some excellent music.

Before leaving the inn, Hubby suggested I take the umbrella to ward off rain. Rain that wasn’t actually predicted except maybe a brief shower. That turned out to not be the case. It did start as a light shower and for a little while seemed as if it would move off. We were on our way to the A&B Lobster House and close to a CVS. Since the small umbrella we had wasn’t really doing the job, Hubby took shelter under an awning with some other people and I popped in to buy another umbrella. The deal with any umbrella, however, is it doesn’t do much to shelter your legs or your shoes, especially not when there are apparent drainage problems with the streets. On the other hand, the restaurant we were going to was closed-in rather than open air like many of them. A higher end place for sure than First Flight, but an excellent meal and the rain had slowed to a drizzle by the time we left. It did stop within a short time as we walked back.

So Much in Orlando…..

Dragon Atop Building in Diagon Alley, Universal Studios Park

The other day someone was startled to learn the number one vacation destination in the U.S. is Orlando. For anyone who hasn’t been in a number of years, it may seem incredible, but the fact is between Disney and Universal Parks, they just keep adding more to what they already have. That doesn’t take Sea World and a few more notable, smaller, theme-specific parks/attractions into mind. In addition to theme parks, there are like ten museums, art galleries, more shopping than most people can manage, and it has become quite the “foodie town”. The convention center is huge and people who attend conventions often pick up the literature about what all there is to do and decide to return for vacation.

As I have mentioned before, when we go to the big dive trade show every other year, we usually tack on 1-2 extra nights to do either Disney or Universal and true, it’s combined with business, but it is still a deliberate choice. Hubby is already thinking granddaughter can enjoy Disney younger than I was planning (age 7), but I think I’ve convinced him 5 is a bit young and we’ll settle on 6. Even with that, you literally can’t see all of Disney in less than a week unless you go solid all day every day. Universal isn’t quite as bad, but you do need two very full days. A real issue is wait time for the really popular or new rides and people often don’t have the ability to go at non-peak season. Not surprisingly, they do a very brisk business with the add-on charges for the pass that allows you to be in the Express (or whatever the term is) lane.

Notwithstanding the lure for kids/teens, there is plenty for adults to enjoy, and that’s why Disney will have special annual events such as the Garden Show and the Food and Wine Festival. There are a number of places that put together coupons and other savings for visiting Orlando and it’s not a bad idea to check these out before making plans. Visits are expensive and especially if you go in for the “extras”.

 

A New Addition To Check Out….

REEF is the short name for the Reef Environmental Education Foundation established in 1990 in Key Largo with a variety of programs set up for children through adults. Although the yellow “Keys House” office on the median between the highways at 98300 Overseas Highway could be overlooked, it’s more noticeable now thanks to a recent grant, some talented individuals, and work of the staff.

The 1913 building is in fact the oldest house in the Upper Keys, and as is the case with many historic structures, handicap accessibility is limited and space can be tight for some of their popular gatherings. That has changed with the new Interpretive Center opened in December 2017. In order to best utilize the space that provides wheelchair accessibility, two modular sections were brought in and adeptly joined together to become a multi-functional room for interpretive displays and classes. The impressive “wrap-around” interior mural is far greater than simply decorative, however. Stephen Frink, Key Largo’s internationally known underwater photographer, provided a series of his images and Jim Hellemn of San Diego used his incredible techniques to take the images and create a floor-to-ceiling seamless journey through different local underwater environments. Thirty-three species of fish are displayed in the sections of Shipwrecks in Service, Biodiversity in Barrier Reefs, Patch Reefs and Predators, and Important Inshore Habitats.

The fish and turtle featured are what REEF focuses on in the local area surveys.  The center is open during regular hours of 9:00-5:00, Mon-Fri. Their on-going and some new programs will be posted to the calendar as soon as they are scheduled.

The exterior of REEF also had a make-over with some notable features. One of the original wooden cisterns has been restored as a reminder of the days before pipelines were in place. A Native Plants Trail has interpretive signs about flora and fauna. This wide, wheelchair-accessible path dotted with a few picnic tables, curves around the office building. Other plans are to install an electric car charging station and a solar-powered telephone charging station.

If you aren’t familiar with REEF, their mission statement is, “REEF conserves marine environments worldwide. Our mission is to protect biodiversity and ocean life by actively engaging and inspiring the public through citizen science, education, and partnerships with the scientific community.”

Although fish surveys scuba divers and snorkelers participate in is a major program of REEF, there are workshops and events open to anyone who cares about marine conservation. If you’re in the area, set aside some time to stop by the center for a leisurely stroll to enjoy the mural of our “fin friends” and chat with the staff.

For more information log onto http://www.reef.org;Tel: (305) 852-0030.

A Meandering Day of Fun…..

Burr’s Berry Stand as one of the stops of the Redland Rallye. (Photo from Rob)

Okay, back to pleasant topics. Saturday will be the annual Redland Riot Rallye. Rob and Robin Burr, along with son Rob, Jr. and I’m not sure who else, will greet teams at Historic Cauley Square on Dixie Highway, (Hwy 1). Redland is the large agriculture area that was carved out in the latter part of the 1800s by pioneering families who figured out how to work the difficult, but excellent soil. As I have mentioned in previous posts, the intense summer climate here means there are two distinct growing seasons. “Winter crops” are fabulous strawberries, tomatoes, corn, etc., that give way to exotic tropical fruits of mangoes, avocados, papaya, etc. A number of families and farms shifted from edibles to ornamental plants and there are side-by-side nurseries with hundreds of varieties of palms, beautiful flowering shrubs, orchids in all shapes and sizes. Not surprisingly, fruit stands/markets grew  up over the years, most of which are seasonal. The density of foliage in Redland causes much of this to be obscured from public view and not until you turn into a place do you see the growth. Thus, there is almost a “hidden Redland”.

Rob, who is of the seventh Deep South Dade Burr generations put together the Redland Riot Rallye in 1992 as a way to introduce people to these places. It is set up to be a day of leisure, of exploration followed by a fun party at Schnebly Winery and Brewery, a beautifully landscaped operation that has flourished through the vision and hard work of Peter Schnebly and his family.

The process is pretty simple. Each car (or whatever vehicle you choose) is a team. Sign-in is 10-11:00 at Cauley Square where you are provided a map and a card with questions to be answered at the fourteen stops. The Rallye ends at Schnebly where the cards are turned in not later than 5:00 p.m. There is a prize for the winner and plenty of fun to share.

Our schedule has prevented us from participating and once again, Hubby won’t be available, but I am going to make at least part of it this year. Here’s the link to learn more. www.RedlandRiot.com

Decorating For Christmas…..

We keep our decorations up until after Three Kings Day, 6 January

I do and always have appreciated people who go out of their way to decorate for the holidays. By the way, that does not mean I like having Christmas items in the stores next to Halloween, but that’s not the point of this post. I’m fine with using Thanksgiving weekend for decorating, although we rarely start before the second week of December. We’re pretty modest in our efforts, especially compared to those who have all sorts of outdoor lights and displays. Back when we had a spare artificial tree, we did put one on the front entrance. When that one finally became rather ragged-looking, we didn’t replace it and Hubby decided he wanted to swap to a live tree in the house. We do also have a cute table top “Cajun Tree” given to us years ago by my sister-in-law. It has miniature alligators, crawfish, and bottles of Tabasco as ornaments and there have been a couple of times it was our main tree if we travel over the holidays.

Having room to store a lot of decorations is one issue. More to the point though is having to rearrange so much stuff to make room is one of the real reasons I limit what we do. The other is I’m fine with taking a few hours to get everything up. Spending at least a day and maybe longer for the elaborate lights, etc.,. isn’t anything we want to deal with. During the many moves we made in the Army, Hubby’s final assignment was in Puerto Rico and that was where we learned about Three King’s Day (Jan 6th). It’s a very big holiday throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America and that became our new point for leaving decorations in place. I do admit if we had the space (as does my sister), I would have multiple small trees so I could do themed decorations for each one. We’ve put together quite the collection of scuba, ocean-themed and tropical ornaments and that’s generally what winds up on the tree.

Hubby was scheduled to teach a scuba course today and his student had to cancel so top of his to-do list is going in search of a tree at one of the places where it is also a fund raiser. Sometimes they sell out early, but that’s where he likes to start.

 

Not Exactly Bucket List….

It’s NASCAR Championship weekend again which means the largest influx of tourists we have at one time every year. (As in thousands) Helicopters buzz in and out to bring VIPs directly into the Speedway. The truck championship is tonight, the Xfinity Car is tomorrow night, (I think it’s a night race), and the Monster Energy is Sunday afternoon. As I have previously posted, I did go with Hubby to the races twice and then gently and lovingly explained to him that now having had the experience, it really would make more sense for me not to go. He loves everything about it – the pre-race events, the entire race, and so forth. By this, I mean getting to the Speedway at like 10:00ish in the morning and staying until the race is over. He simply can’t have as good a time if I am with him. I have something good to eat for when he comes in and we both enjoy our weekend more. The past few years, he’s taken photographs for the newspaper and for his own pleasure.

This year is special though. The newspaper arranged for him to have actual press credentials which are much more tightly controlled for this weekend than for the rest of the year. This allows him access he normally can’t have and it’s perfect for him. He has all these new lenses and what have you and is even planning to have a second camera with him for tomorrow and Sunday. Quite honestly, I don’t know how he lugs all that around at one time for hours on end, but it’s part of the whole deal. As we discussed this morning, it’s a “bucket list” type thing even if he doesn’t have the $10,000 camera lens to go with it.