Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Snow Bird Extravaganza

This morning I finally managed to catch this beautiful male Eastern Blue Bird that lands on our clothes line many mornings.  Up until now he has disappeared as soon as I head for my camera.  But this morning he was all mine.

 In Lakeland they have an annual Snow Bird Extravaganza which is basically a trade show pitching 50+ living, health insurance, tourism, etc. to the snow birds in Florida.  However the ads showed some Canadian entertainment that we were interested in seeing.  And the price was right.,,,,,,,free!!

So this morning John & Judy picked us up and we headed off for another day of adventure.   We took in the trade show and got a little visit with this possum.

 As we wandered through the exhibits I noticed this man sitting at a table.  Walter Gretzky.  I recognized him immediately and asked him for a photo op.  I got autographs for Joe and the kids also.  Being Joe is a great Oiler's fan and Wayne Gretzky was a big star there for many years.  His father is an ambassador for hockey and such a nice man.

 We headed into the theatre to watch the entertainment.  Leona Boyd put on a great show for us.  She is a fabulous guitar player.  Born in London, England but went to University in Toronto and still calls it home.   She is known as the "First Lady of the Guitar".

 Michelle Wright was up next and gave us some beautiful country and western songs.  She was born in Morpeth, Ontario which she says is a little town of about 500.  Two songs I recognized were "Nobody's Girl" and her newest song "Strong".

 Then it was John McDermott who is a Scottish-Canadian, born in Scotland but raised in Willowdale, Ontario.  He sang some beautiful Scottish songs with a finale of Danny Boy sung acappella.  An incredible voice.

When the show was finished we were greeted by high winds, rain and really nasty weather.  But we headed to Chilli's for a lovely dinner to finish off our day.  Another day in paradise.  Even with bad weather it is better than back in Canada right now.

Until next time - safe travels. Sounds like bad weather everywhere today.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Kayaking the Peace River

The weather here in Polk County Florida has not been very good for the past month.  Cold and windy with frost many mornings.  Not like the weather at home for sure but not great weather for doing many of the outdoor things we want to do.  But this morning arrived bright, warm and beautiful.  We have not had the kayaks in the water since we arrived early December so today we packed them into the back of the truck and headed to the Peace River.  John and Judy joined us and we had a beautiful day paddling.

The Peace River originates north-east of Barstow in Polk County and flows south 106 miles to Port Charlotte and the Gulf of Mexico.   We drove to Fort Meade and put in at a pretty little park and headed down river.


 We came across a large cypress tree across the river.  There was a spot a couple of feet above the water level that we managed to manoeuvre under.  Here is Tom coming through.  You had to lay flat to get under.

We paddled down river until we came to an area that was too shallow to get through.  We turned around and headed back upriver to the park.  The current was not very strong so most of the way was pretty easy going.  When we got back to the park we decided we had not had enough yet and decided to continue on upriver.

This eagle was watching us as we passed along.
 A couple of turtles sunning themselves on a fallen tree.
 Again we arrived at a spot that we were not able to go any further.  So we turned around and headed back downriver to the park. 4.8 miles of paddling today.  A pretty good workout!!

We did not see any alligators today but we did meet these two young fossil hunters on the river.   You can find all types of fossils including shark teeth, mammoth teeth, camel, dolphin, mastodon, you name it.  The only thing they say you will not find here is dinosaur fossils.  This couple were looking for shark teeth and say there is a quit a market for them.   Nice friendly kids.  Most people down here are very friendly.

We got home tired but headed to the pool for a nice relaxing swim and a hot tub to finish off the day.  So happy the warm weather has finally arrived.

Until next time - safe travels.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Highlands Hammock State Park

One of Florida's oldest parks, opening in 1931 in Sebring.  During the Great Depression, just prior to WWII, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) developed additional park facilities and the beginnings of the botanical garden. They have 9 hiking trails one of which is an elevated boardwalk that traverses an old-growth cypress swamp.

The CCC was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942. The project was developed during the Great Depression to provide work for young, unmarried men across the USA as part of Roosevelt's NEW DEAL.   This New Deal was designed to provide unskilled manual labour jobs related to conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by the government.  The CCC was developed to provide jobs to young men to relieve families who had difficulty in finding jobs.  In nine years 3 million young men participated in the CCC which provided them with shelter, clothes and food plus a small wage of $30 per month ($25 of which was sent home to their families).

We had headed off to visit this park yesterday afternoon and the volunteer at the museum gave us this very interesting little history lesson.  We decided to take a walk on that one trail he had mentioned with the boardwalk and what a great spot that is.  I am going to have to borrow pictures from John's blog as my camera has decided that it is a pos and is not going to work.  Time for a replacement!!!

The first part of the walk has been upgraded to facilitate the handicapped but soon we came to the spot where the boardwalk narrowed and one hand rail disappeared.  This is where the wheelchairs turned around.  These are cypress trees you see in the picture above.  Lots of snakes and alligators in this swamp but today it was chilly so they were all hiding.

This is a view across the cypress swamp.  A beautiful park and one that we will definitely return to for a day trip in the near future.

As we headed north towards home our stomachs indicated that it was time to kick the diet again tonight and stop for dinner.  T'his has been a bad week for the Biggest Losers.  We had been out to The Hotel Jacaranda in Avon Park the night before with John & Judy's motorcycle club for a great buffet dinner.  A beautiful old hotel built in 1923.  But last night it was the Cang Tong Chinese & Sushi in Sebring.  In this restaurant there is also a Japanese grill which is something Judy had on her bucket list to do.  And a great pick it was.  The young fellow that cooked up our meals in front of us put on an excellent show and the food was great.

As he was cooking up our fried rice he turned it into a heart, with a cupid's arrow through it and a flame - called it "heart burn".

Back to the park and Tom and I headed over to watch the evenings entertainment at the club house.  Last night it was Todd Allen Herendeen.  He performed tributes to Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and others during the first half of the show.  The second half was a tribute to Elvis.  He was very good.  The times just keep on rockin' at Rainbow.

Again no pictures but hope to update this when the rainbow website posts some.

Our calendar is just so damn full and I don't know where the time goes.  I could really get used to this.  Until next time - safe travels.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Westgate River Ranch Rodeo

Just a 45 minute drive from here is the Westgate River Ranch and they hold a rodeo every Saturday night all year round.  Off we went, stopping at a restaurant on highway 60 called Jay Bee's for dinner.  This restaurant was recommended by one of our new friends at the park.  The place is in the middle of no where and it was packed.  It turned out pretty good.

From there it was about 15 miles to the ranch.  What a great spot.  They have all the amenities you could want.  A full service dude ranch.  Horse back riding, an airport, a golf course, zip lines, mini golf, mechanical bull, restaurants, saloon, bungee jump, petting zoo, camping, lodge, park models, docks, air boat rides, etc. etc.   They raise their own bulls on site for the rodeo.  We took a little drive around to take a look.  It was dark when we arrived so may have to take another trip in the day time to get a better look.    1700 acres of facilities for your enjoyment.

We watched a young lady try out the mechanical bull.  She hit the deck pretty quick.  Judy thought briefly about giving it a try but wisely decided otherwise.

There was bull riding in the arena.  As we were waiting for the action to start we were talking to a young cowboy in the stands.  He told us that we got a horn in the face two weeks ago at this rodeo.  His right cheek was broken, his nose was broken and the left check was shattered.  He has a steel plate in his face and has to stay off the bulls for a year.  But he said he loves the sport and will be back on another bull as soon as his doctor gives him the go ahead.  Nice young man.  He soon headed down to the gates to give the cowboys a hand with the action.

Trick riding, a calf scramble for the kids and of course the patriotic carrying of the flag.  My camera doesn't do action shots very good so my pictures are few and poor. But you will get the idea.

Sadly the second last bull rider got caught up in the rigging and got trampled pretty good.  They cancelled the final ride so they didn't have to move him.  Strangely there was not ambulance on site????  (Taylor where are you???)  They were still working on him when we left and we met a fire truck and ambulance on the highway as we headed home.  Sure hope the young lad will be okay.  These kids know the danger they are in with this sport but it sure doesn't stop them.

Until next time - safe travels.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Fun and Games

Wednesday Judy and I headed into Winter Haven for a girl's day of spa and shopping.  Got a hair cut at Cuttin' Up Salon.  First time at a new salon which is always kind of scary.  But Vanessa was quick and gave me a cut that made me very happy.  Anyone in the area check them out at 6990 Cypress Gardens Blvd.

Lunch at Panera Bread was excellent.  Healthy and fresh and inexpensive.  At home lunch at Panera would have cost a whole lot more than it does down here.

Then off to get pedicures and I got my nails done at a little shop called Best Nails & Spa at 7170 Cypress Gardens Blvd.  They also did a good job and we pranced from there over to Walmart next door where Judy got a hair cut and we did some shopping.   It was a great afternoon.

When we got home John headed out with their RV for an oil change at Lake Wales which is about 15 miles from here.  His 10 minute oil change turned into a 24 hour oil change.  At 11 pm Judy and I drove over the Lake Wales to rescue him.  A tow truck had to be called to pull the rv out of the bay so they could close up. We watched as the operation took place.  When they finally got it pulled out they just coasted it into the parking lot for the night.  They had screwed up something and were not able to start the rv and they had killed the batteries trying.

 John and Judy spent the night with us and headed back to Lake Wales early the next morning.  It ended up they had to get AAA to tow the rv to Barstow where someone who knew what they were doing got it going for them.  They arrived back at Rainbow at about 6 pm last night.  It must have been a pretty stressful time for them when you understand that they are full timers.  That rv holds pretty much everything they have in the world.  Sure glad they have the problem resolved and they are back home again.

Last night we headed over to the club house to watch a performance put on by The Van Dels.

They put on a really good show for those that are familiar with the 50's and 60's music, which is most of the people in this park.  I did recognize many of the songs but they were not anything that I would be singing along to.  The one in the middle, Glenn Bowles is also an Elvis impersonator.  He did an Elvis segment in the show which was really good.  That, for me, was the best part of the whole show.  However, if you are into that genre of music and get a chance to see these guys you should go.  The tickets were only $10 each so how can you beat that for a couple hours of entertainment.

I tried out Facetime on my new ipad yesterday.  Had a great chat with Taylor at work.  She is sitting emergency service for a crew that is building a bridge out in the middle of no where.  She gave me a tour of the snow drifts around where they are working.  Man they have a lot of snow!!  She has to leave home at 6 am to get to the job site and can't leave until they are done for the day, which she said is normally about 5 pm.  Then she has nearly a 2 hour drive home.  Luckily she can drive the company medical truck back and forth to work.  Love my new ipad!!  Love that I can see my beautiful granddaughter in real time from so very far away.

Today is laundry day.  I am hoping the rain is over and the sun will shine.  We have not seen the sun for a few days now.  Until next time - safe travels.

Didn't get this posted last night.  We got delayed by an invite to John & Judy's for dinner and to watch a movie.  It was "Fast & Furious #6"    The star, Paul Walker, was killed in a car accident on Nov 30, 2013.  Ironic that in these movies he drives and crashes fast cars over and over again.  In real life he dies as a passenger in a Porsche driven by a friend.   Very unfortunate.  Is is survived by a 15 year old daughter.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Had to have one!!

Got my new ipad air today.  Having fun trying to figure out how it works.  Funny when you buy a $5.00 pos you get a whole manual to tell you how to use it.  You buy a high priced electronic item and you get a piece of paper with about 6 lines on it.  Go figure!!

Currently I can connect to the internet through wifi at home.   I will have to buy an internet program  if I want to use it on the road.  That is something to think about in the future.  The biggest advantage for me currently is being able to text with my kids and grandkids.  They all have iphones.  Yahoo!!  Already tested it out on Twyla this evening.  Works great.

The temperature where they live will be 5' F tonight which is much better than the -25', - 30' or - 40' they have had.  They had to clear the snow off their house, garage and barn already this winter.  Hockey was cancelled tonight as they were concerned about the snow load on the roof of the arena.  A crew is coming out to clear it off tomorrow.  She says that barns, garages and  riding stables are falling all around them. They have more snow this winter than she remembers ever having.  Welcome to Alberta!!!

We had a lovely day today up in the 70's and a few laps in the pool were on the agenda followed by one of our great hot tubs.  But tonight the wind has come up again and the temperature is supposed to drop to 36' over night.  Almost freezing............and they call this place Frostproof!!!  Oh well we are not shovelling snow!!!  In a few day the weather will be back up to the temperatures we expect in Florida.

Judy and I headed to the clubhouse today to take our first pool lesson.  When we arrived the place was in darkness.  The teacher never showed up.  Just like the first day of school???

We stayed and banged the balls around for an hour.  We do need lessons............badly.  Hoping that next week he remembers that the holidays are over and shows up to billiard school.

Until next time - safe travels!!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

The Challenge Continues

Last Sunday it was decided that the four of us, John & Judy, Tom & I would go on a weight loss program.  The incentive $100 to the one that loses the largest percentage of weight by Valentine's Day.  Today was the end of week one.  Overall we lost more than 11 pounds.  Not bad.  Judy had the largest percentage for this week.  We will see what next week brings.

Today the sun came out and the temperature rose into the 80's.  We headed back to the Circle B Bar Reserve again today to take a tram tour of the area.

 This brought us into the far reaches of the 1267 acres to see more of the topography and the wildlife.  The earliest property maps in 1927 show this as a wet area connected to Lake Hancock.  Over the next 70 years the wet lands were drained and the land became a cattle ranch.  Lake Hancock is the second largest lake in Florida but only about 4 feet deep.  Without the wet lands to help filter the water plus the run off from the cattle, etc. the lake became extremely polluted.  In 2000 the property was purchased by Polk County and turned back into a wetland.  Slowly the lake is being cleaned but it will take a long time.  There is reported to be over 4,000 alligators in Lake Hancock.  Not a place you would want to take a dip on a hot day like today.

The birds were out in full force today.  This Anhinga is perched on top of a couple of soft shelled turtles drying his wings.  This is a water bird and water birds have natural oils that enable their feathers to repel water.  This allows them to take flight directly out of the water.  But an Anhinga has no oils.  When they are finished feeding in the water they must dry their wings before they are able to fly.  You will see them sitting on rocks, logs (turtles) or hanging in a tree with their wings spread out.  Thus the nickname - batman bird.

I won't bore you with a bunch of bird pictures as I did several when we were here last week.  But I can not get over the incredible old oak trees.  Our guide told us these trees were planted by the ranchers to provide shade for the cattle and are about 90 years old.  They are covered with Spanish Moss which is beautiful but looks so spooky.

Because of all the rain we have had recently there is a beautiful fern growing on all the oak trees.  It is called the Resurrection Fern.  It will only last a few days and then will disappear again.  It makes these trees look very lush.

The Spanish Moss may look very interesting and our guide told us that it was used by Henry Ford as the stuffing for his car seats way back in the 1920's.  Until it was found that the moss is full of chiggers.  They are so tiny they are almost invisible but have an awful bite.  That may have been the first vehicle recall in history.

Internet pic---this is NOT me!!

This is what the wet lands look like today.   So pretty and lush looking.

A great way to spend an afternoon.  Until next time - safe travels.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year

New Years Eve was spent at the Clubhouse here at the park.  Tom and I danced up a storm and welcomed in 2014 with a whole bunch of our new park neighbours.  

The pool at night
Some of the decorations at the Clubhouse

Today we want to wish all our family and friends the very best in 2014.  Hope it is the best yet for everyone.

We started off the day with some laps in the pool and a visit to the hot tub.  Helped to take out the kinks from the dancing last night.

We watched the last of the 2014 Winter Classic hockey game in Ann Arbor, Michigan between Detroit and Toronto.  Snow was falling but the crowd of over 100,000  were bouncing in the stands trying to keep warm.  The game was tied at the end of the game and Toronto won in a shoot out in over time.

 John was on the edge of his seat and I am sure the entire park could hear his cheer when the final goal was made.  Judy served up a big pot of chilli before the four of us headed to the Clubhouse to shoot a few games of pool.  I am thinking of taking lessons starting next week....I need them... badly.

We hope you had a fun New Years Eve and a wonderful New Years Day.  Look forward to a fabulous year.  Take care of each other.  Until next time - safe travels.