Monday, 24 February 2014

Daytona 500

We headed off to catch the bus to Daytona Beach yesterday morning to take in our first experience at the Daytona 500.  The traffic was really backed up as we neared the track and we didn't arrive until almost time to get to our seats.  We had booked this trip through the resort and the information about the seat locations was incorrect.  We were not at turn one where we could see Pit Row and the start-finish line.  We were away on the backside of the track.  But what the hell - we are here and we are going to have fun!!

The flyover was awesome!!  Six jet fighters came roaring over our heads and across the track.

 The race got underway and we got to watch about 33 laps of action.
 Here is my #18 - Kyle Busch - as he flew past our seats at almost 200 miles per hour.

 Then the sky opened up and the rain started to come down.  They brought out the big guns to try to keep the track dry.  The semi has huge air compressors on the back blowing jet force air into the small white blowers being pulled by the pick up.  Quite fascinating to watch actually.

But to no avail.  It got worse and we headed downstairs to try to get out of the rain.  Again to no avail.  The bleachers are all made of steel.  They are not solid structures so the rain just poured down through the bleachers to the thousands of people standing below.  Then we get an announcement that everyone is to clear the bleachers, seek shelter, there is a tornado heading our way.  

Oh man, seek shelter - there is no shelter.  Judy suggests we try the washrooms.  Surprisingly there are not many people seeking shelter in there.  They are made of cement block and are the ONLY solid structures in the entire park.  If a tornado is going to hit this is the only safe place to be.  So we stood in the washroom for an hour or more.  At least we were out of the rain.  

The tornado moved north of us and the rain continued so by about 4:30 we headed over to the bus to see what was going to happen next.  Most of the people had already returned.  I guess they thought a bus was a safe place to be in a tornado???  We waited for the balance of our group to return and then left for home.  We arrived back at our resort at 8:30 pm, got into some dry clothes and had dinner.  By then the rain had stopped and they had gotten the race back underway.  We headed over to John & Judy's to watch the balance of the race on tv.

Sadly the Daytona 500 was one of the things on our bucket list and we got rained out.  Maybe we will have to give it a try another year.   So until next time - travel safe.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Sebastian Inlet

This morning we all headed out for our morning walk around the park before loading up the kayaks and our lunch to head over to Vero Beach which is on the Atlantic side of the state.  We were motoring east on highway 60 when someone came honking up alongside of us.  Yikes we were short one kayak!!!  It had come loose and did a nose dive onto the pavement at 60 miles per hour.  We headed down through the medium and headed back to see if it was still there and secondly if it was still intact.  Sure enough the highway crew were just loading it into their truck when we got back about a mile down the road.  They said it was laying in the middle of the highway.  Thank God it did not cause an accident.  And kudos to Pelican Kayaks.  They make one damn strong kayak.  A few scrapes and bruises but it is still in one piece.

Sebastian Inlet State Park, from the file picture below, is an where the Atlantic (bottom) has access to the inland lagoon area.  We put our kayaks into the water where you see the white area on the left and paddled across the inlet over to the area on the right. Around the islands and the mangroves.

A little history on the Sebastian Inlet shows that prior to this inlet being dug out that the water quality on the  lagoon side into which the Sebastian and Indian Rivers flowed was diminishing .  Algae blooms were killing the fish and the oyster populations were disappearing.  Starting in 1872 attempts were made to open an inlet from the Atlantic Ocean into the lagoon.  Over the years many attempts were made but failed.  The sixth attempt in 1905 managed to open a channel but it filled in with sand before long. By 1914 the lagoon system was nearly a dead body of water.  There was much fighting over whether or not the inlet should be cut.  But after two more attempts the inlet was opened in 1923 and in 1924 the jetties were built from rock to keep the sands from filling it in again.  Those rock jetties only lasted until the first big storm when they were washed away.  They were eventually replaced by granite rock which is much denser and have become permanent.  This has opened the lagoon to fishing, sailing, etc and allowed the waters to be flushed and cleaned.

So today we put the kayaks into the water and headed across to the north side of the inlet.
 A fair hike across the open water.
 On the north side we paddled through some mangrove.  Saw some sting rays and lots of fish jumping out of the water.
 My three buddies following along behind me.  I was the leader of the pack today.
 Tom was having a little rest.  Just rockin' and rollin' on the waves.
 After about 2 1/2 hours on the water we headed back.  It was a tough paddle on the open water going against the waves and into a fairly strong wind.  But we made it back and saw some hermit crabs wandering around near shore.
 And this star fish was there to meet us also.
 Tom and John got the kayaks loaded up and ready to hit the road.
 We drove north across the bridge and pulled into a stop where we could access the Atlantic Ocean to take a nice long walk on the beach.  After all that time in the boats we needed to stretch our legs.

John had won our "Biggest Loser" contest and decided that he would use his winnings and buy us all dinner one night.  Well tonight was the night.  We stopped at the Olive Garden in Vero Beach for an excellent meal before driving home.  What a guy!!  Thanks John.

A perfect day from start to finish.  Hope your day was as good as ours.  Until next time - safe travels.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Anyone for a Hike?

The past two days have been filled with good old exercise.  Monday morning Judy and I headed to the clubhouse for the walking class.  The walking class is held 3 days per week in the park.  There are usually around 40-50 people that attend and we power walk for 3 miles.  It is a great workout run from tapes of Walking with Leslie Sansone.  After that I headed to the pool to swim some lengths before attending an hour long water aerobics class.  After lunch Tom and I headed to the Mosaic Park which is out in the Fort Meade area. A stop on the east side provided us with a beautiful spot where we could put in the kayaks on the Peace River.  But it is looking like the river may be a bit too low for paddling right now.  But a great place for future activities.  

 On the other side of the road they have built a boardwalk throughout the area with a few stops with views of the Peace River. Here are the stairs that take you down from the parking lot.
 It is a great walk through the park.

We drove home through the historic part of Bartow.  We have driven through this city via the highway but have not actually looked around.  A stop at the Dairy Queen was a nice finish to the trip.  We arrived home in time for our neighbors, Dwayne and Marilyn, to give us a shout to come over for happy hour.  Dwayne was the one that told us about the Mosaic Park so we had to thank him for the tip.

Today it was back to the walking class for another 3 mile hike.  A beautiful day again  in paradise so we decided it was a good chance to check out the Highlands Hammock State Park in Sebring.  We had stopped in there a month or so ago but only took one short hike.  So Tom and I headed there today to give it a better look.  There are 8 trails in the park.  We walked 5 of them, skipping the little ones.  Plus walked the perimeter of the park..  About 5 miles all together!!!  

 This was on the Cypress Swamp Trail.  We walked this on the last time we were here.  The water looks just like a mirror!!
 This boardwalk only has a rail on one side.  Kind of makes you watch your step for sure.

We saw a water moccasin snake, some turtles and some deer in the park.  Unfortunately the battery on my camera died before we got to see any wild life.  We were pretty much worn out by the time we got back to the truck and headed for home.  This time another neighbor, Jim & Shari called out for us to join them for happy hour.  We do have some really nice neighbors.  Home for dinner and to rest up after all that walking.  But it was a beautiful day to spend in the great outdoors.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Until next time - safe travels.  

Friday, 14 February 2014

The Royal Lipizzan Stallions

The breed can be traced back to AD 800 and by the 16th century the ancestors of today's Lipizzans were highly sought after as war horses and horses of prestige for the rich and powerful.  There is a long history of how this breed was nearly destroyed many times over the centuries but there was always someone there to rescue them.  The latest rescue happened during WWII.  "Operation Cowboy" was a rescue mission performed by the American army.  They rescued 1200 horses, including 375 Lipizzaners and 400 Allied POW's from behind enemy lines.  General Patton arranged for the horses to be moved to safety and this was the basis for the Walt Disney movie "Miracle of the White Stallions".

Colonel Herrmann and his father were part of that rescue.  After the war he created a 200 acre ranch near Myakka City, Florida where he bred, raised and trained Lipizzans.  His descendents still run this ranch.  In the winter they invite the public to come and watch the training and to get up close and personal with these beautiful animals.  In the summer they travel and perform across the country.  When the horses are too old to perform anymore they "retire" on the ranch and live the rest of their lives just taking things easy.

They start to train the stallions in the ring alone on the long lead.  Stallions by nature will fight other stallions for dominance.

 Then they train them in tandem with another stallion.  Lipizzans are born black and as they age they turn white.  This young stallion is about 7 years old and still has the dark mane and tail.  Eventually he will be pure white.

 They train them with a rider.

 And without.  Lipizzans have a history as war horses.  They would raise up on their hind legs so their riders could see into the distance for the enemy.

 They were trained to kick and were used as the weapons before rifles were invented.   Since they have to train the horses to not kick while working with people it is interesting to see how they then have to teach the proper signal  that will allow them to kick.

  This fellow above is all four feet off the ground.  He is totally airborne when he performs his kick.

 And this fellow is giving us a bow in thanks for the applause.

 After the show we headed into the pasture to see the mares and then into the stable to visit the stallions.Bella is actually a male - he is retired now after a long working life including time with Ringling Circus and Barnum and Bailey.   The average life span for these horses is 31 years.

John got this picture of me having a long chat with Bella.  I could not keep my hands off these horses.  They are so beautiful.

What an amazing story behind this breed and what amazing horses.!!  Wish my little Karmen was here to see this.  She would be in her glory - my horse loving Grand!!.  If you love horses check out their website  The price was right - just a donation.

Until next time - safe travels.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

The Florida State Fair

Wednesday was going to be a beautiful day. Only a 30% of rain and that was to be in the evening.  We had made plans to head over to Tampa to attend the Florida State Fair.  John and Judy had gone last year to this fair and highly recommended it.  So we joined them to give it a go.

 We arrived at about 11:00 and met up immediately with Judy's brother Howard.  He and his wife are also escaping the snow and spending a couple of months in the Sarasota area.  Howard pulled in right before us and saw us pulling in.  How is that for good timing!!

The fair grounds are very pretty.  Not like the fairs that I remember at home.  There were many attractions for us to check out.  There was a sea lion show, pig races and a circus.  The circus was a pretty good show with clowns, motorcycles riding in a big steel ball, dog shows, etc.  There were  two huge camels that came out and walked around with two llamas and a black stallion. They didn't put on much of a show but they were sure interesting to watch.

 This lady worked the trapeze for our entertainment.

We had some really greasy fair food for lunch and then headed over towards the livestock area.  We moved through the Moooturnity tent to look at all the farm babies.  Calves, goats, lambs, piglets,  chicks hatching.  You name it and it was there.  They also have an ongoing maternity ward with cows giving birth for the educational entertainment of the public.  I felt sorry for this poor cow laying on a floor of straw on a stage calving with all these people standing around watching.  I guess they have pregnant cows all lined up ready to keep the show on the road.

Of course there were all the food vendors and the midway to keep everyone entertained.


We were on our way to watch the equestrians when we heard an announcement over the loud speakers that there was  severe weather heading into the area.  We were being advised to head to the permanent buildings to take cover.  The vendors were told to secure their signs and goods.  The rides were stopped.  The horses were all taken to the barns.  So we headed off to the expo center to seek shelter from the storm.  Not long after we got into the building the sky opened up the rain poured down and the wind came up.  We wandered around in the expo center looking at the displays for about an hour hoping the storm would pass.  But it just kept up.  Rather than spend the entire evening in this one very crowded building  John finally got brave enough to run for the jeep.  He soon arrived at the main gate to pick us up.  What a guy!!

We stopped in Lake Wales at Chili's for dinner on our way home. The rain continued through most of the night.  Our neighbors told us that the wind had been really strong in the resort during the late afternoon also.  They said the trailers were rocking and the palm trees were bent over.

Too bad the weather had to turn on us but we did manage to see a lot of the displays and shows that we wanted to see.  All in all it was a good day.

Friday, 7 February 2014

The Maple Leafs Win

Part of our holiday deal with John  & Judy was that if we went to a Leaf's game they would come to the Daytona 500 with us.  John is a HUGE Leaf's fan.  I don't think he ever misses a game.  So last night was our part of that agreement.  The Leaf's were playing the Tampa Lightning Bolts at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.  After stopping for dinner at Ruby Tuesdays we headed over early to the Forum so that we could check out the pre-game warm up.  John & Judy are both decked out in their jerseys.  Thanks John for lending me this photo.  I figured I took it so I can borrow it for my
Judy & John - Leaf's fans!!  I would think so.

The Lightning Bolts
 Judy had arranged for the tickets and the parking.  So convenient!!  The seats were up high and we had a perfect view of the entire ice surface.

The warm up  - what an awesome tv screen !!
 They have lightning bolts going off all the time..  Part of their theme and quite eye catching.  This little guy is a member of one of Tampa's minor hockey club.  He skated out during the lightning bolts with his illuminated hockey stick.  What an experience for this little guy.

 The game started out slow and I was thinking that it was going to be a boring game.    But by the midway point in the first period Toronto came to life and kicked butt from there forward.  They put the Lightning Bolts to bed with a 4-1 win.


You would have thought this was a home game as there was more cheering for Toronto than for Tampa.  The place was full of Toronto jerseys.   Just shows how many Ontario people are down here in the winter and are out to cheer on their team.  Unfortunately the comments you hear in the crowd are mostly about Rob Ford.  Hate to think that all Canadian's are being painted by that pathetic paintbrush.  There is so much more to Canada than a crack smoking Toronto mayor that should be in kicked out of office and even better in jail.

Thunder Alley outside the forum

Was a midnight by the time we got back home.  A good game and a good day.  Thanks John for FORCING us into a Leaf's game. It was fun.  Had a great time.  Go CANADA!!! I don't care what team it was - we beat the USA!!  I really do love going to watch a game of hockey.  Both of my Grands play hockey and it is awesome to watch them play.  Just wish I could do it more often.

Until next time - safe travels.