2012 - 2017 Travel Map - Now in Crawfordsville Indiana

Pinellas Bike trip to Gulf, Lost Wallet, and more Disney planning


April 27 Saturday, 2013   


It’s starting to get hot here now. The temperatures are just shy of 90 during the day and 68 at night. We went to the pool yesterday and the water temperature was 89, not very refreshing.  We are moving into Florida’s wet season now.  This is the weather I remember from the last time we were at Disney World in, we think, 2002.  It would be a beautiful sunny day and then in the afternoon all hell breaks loose for an hour.  Then the weather goes right back to the way it was, bright and sunny.  We are hoping it is not too hot at the end of next month when the grandkids get here.

We started the week, last weekend, still recuperating from the busy schedule when our friends were here the week before.  By Tuesday we were ready to go on another bike ride.  We took the Pinellas Bike trail that starts in Tarpon Springs just a few miles south of where we are here in Lutz.  The trail runs along the Gulf of Mexico and ends after 41 miles in Clearwater.  We rode just 7 miles to a nice restaurant at a marina and had lunch.  After lunch we headed back to our start in Tarpon Springs.

Cool how they used RR crossing signs as town limit signs on the trail.

Every few miles the trail has water fountains.




The restaurant where we had lunch.

Gulf of Mexico in the Background.  This before I knew my wallet was gone.
When I ride my bike I always put our truck keys and my wallet in the saddle bags on the back of the bike.  This trip was no different.  So when we got to the restaurant I took out the bike lock cable and my wallet.  I put my wallet on the seat of my bike until I could get the lock cable on the 2 bikes and around the rack.  Patty was helping me by pushing the bike in to the rack so I could get the lock locked.  You might have guessed by now, the wallet stayed on the bike seat while we went in to eat.  We were there about an hour when the check came. That is when I realized I had left the wallet on the bike seat.  We could see the bikes from our table when I stood up, no wallet on the seat!  I rushed out and checked the ground and again in the saddle bags, no wallet, damn!  When I got back to our table and was just deciding to go to the office to see if anybody had turned it in, a couple came up to me and asked if I had lost something.  After telling them yes, the woman pulled my wallet out of her pocket.   This couple was also biking and we had passed them on the trail.  They remembered us and our bikes so when they arrived to have lunch they saw the wallet and took it to keep it safe.  I find this absolutely amazing!  What are the chances that one, they remember us, 2 they stopped to have lunch at the same place we did.  We stayed a little while longer until they ordered and then we took the waiter aside and paid for their lunch.  We didn't let them know we were going to do this and we left before they knew we paid.

Just waiting for someone to pick it up.

This is the second time in the past 3 months I lost my wallet this way.  The first was in Davie Florida.  I was carrying groceries in both hands and needed to get my truck keys out.  I sat down the groceries and then took my wallet out of my pocket that was on top of my keys.  I put the wallet on the back of the truck and left it there as I drove down the road.  The wallet stayed on the truck for over 3 miles!  I turned around and went back to look for it just a little further down the road when I realized it was gone.  A guy found it in the middle of the road and called me to return it.  I had already canceled all of the credit cards and was in the process of figuring out how to get a new South Dakota Driver’s license when the guy called.  Anyway, it just goes to show that most people are good people and I am very complacent about my wallet.

Thursday we went for another bike ride of about 9 miles.  It was time to have the oil changed in the truck and we needed to get a bank check to send in for renewal of the RV and truck registration. Patty has a bank account with PNC so we found one within 4-5 miles of the Ford dealer so we could bike there while the truck was being serviced.  It really is great that Florida has so many bike/hiking trails.  Seems you can go everywhere on these trails.  It was a nice ride as the trail was wide enough for both us to ride side by side.

We went through one of the brush fires they have here in Florida.  The smoke was blowing across the bike path near the Ford dealer.

We went out to eat at the Bonefish Grille.  The Bonefish Grille is a Florida chain.  This was our second time and the food is pretty good.  We really wanted to have King Crab legs though.  The Bonefish Grille didn't have they so we just had regular fish.  For the past 4 months Publix has had King Crab for $18/lb, which is a very good price.  We had them once down in Davie a few months ago and just now wanted them again.  We have been to 3 local Publix and none have them now.  We are now on somewhat of a mission to get King Crab.

Off and on the rest of the week we have been planning the Disney vacation with the Grandkids.  We are making a fairly detailed plan that can be modified as we need to.  The thing about Disney is that it is very big with a lot to do.  If you don’t plan you just wander around seeing things that are easy to do/see.  We didn't know this but the weekend we are there it is Gay Days at Disney from Thursday – Sunday.  We aren't too much concerned about gays but we are about the extra people creating big lines.  The good thing is that Gay Days is centered in one of the parks each day so we just need to avoid that park on that day.  Another reason for the plan.  We have made a few meal reservations months ago for the more popular restaurants so we sort of need to be in the areas where the restaurants are on the days we have reservations.  Even if our schedule goes out the window, we still can use the plan to be aware what we need to do or where we need to be.

Tomorrow we are going to the Blueberry Wine Festival in Tampa.  We are still trying to get a good deal on a dinner cruise and we want to go to the beach on Caladesi Island State Park.

Stay tuned!

New Bike Trip and Friends Visit From NJ


April 20 Saturday, 2013  

Since the last post after getting my bike fixed we took the bike trip over to Honeymoon Island.  We also have continued the pace of eating out.  Last week we ate at home just a couple of meals which is not typical for us at all. 

Last Saturday we finally got to a West Coast beach in Florida.  We loaded up our bikes and drove 24 miles to a strip mall just 2 miles from the causeway that leads to Honeymoon Island State park.  It was a beautiful day with just a few clouds and a light breeze coming of the Gulf and temperatures in the in the low 80s.  One of the things we really like about Florida is the numerous bike paths.  Florida really makes it easy to be outside.  We parked in a closed bank parking lot and got our bikes ready to ride.  We packed a collapsible cooler with water and a freeze pack to keep it cold and then we were ready to go.

Honeymoon Island on the left.  We biked the causeway in the center.

Ready to go!


Patty has new mirror.
Our path crossed the 41 mile long Pinellas bike bath that runs from Tarpon Springs to Clearwater.  We plan to bike some of that before we leave the area.   Once past the Pinellas trail we headed out on to the 2 mile long causeway that connects the mainland to Honeymoon Island State park.  The causeway was very scenic as we had the deep blue Gulf waters dote with palm trees on both sides of us.  There are small pull off areas along the causeway for people to stop and enjoy the beach for free.  These areas were hopping with people.  There is a small draw bridge near the center of the causeway where the path gets a little narrow.  More on that on our return trip back to the truck.

On the causeway.

Free beach along the way to the island state park.





Just into the park we met up with this turtle.

The bike path ends at the entrance to the state park.  It cost $2 each to enter the park on a bike; not bad.  The traffic in the park is light and the speed is slow so it wasn't a problem biking there.  The island park road is about a mile long with beach parking lots along the south side.  At the end of the road there are several nature trails for hiking.  We decided to continue our trip on one of the nature trails.

We locked our bikes up on a guardrail near the entrance.  While getting the bikes locked up I felt a familiar burning on my toes.  I was standing on a fire ant nest.  In fact there were nests all around the area!  I seem to find these ants where ever we have gone in the south.  Anyway, after shaking off the ants we proceeded down the walking/hiking path in to the woods.  The area is mostly slash pines that mostly just grow in Florida and cabbage palms.  It also looks like they are trying to get rid of invading plants by burning them off.   We walked about 2 miles round trip on the trail.


Fire ant nest!

Osprey Trail

Osprey nest.

Slash pines on Osprey Trail.

Prickly Pear Cactus in Bloom.


After the hike we went over to the main beach and had a beer and a snack.  Then we decided to take a walk on the beach and get our first feel of the Gulf water.  The sand there is hard packed like Daytona Beach making it very easy to walk on.  We walked at the edge of the water for about ½ hour before deciding to head back.

The trip back was just as scenic as was the trip into the park.  However, at the drawbridge where the path narrows, there were many walkers making it difficult to bike past them.  Then, one large guy on a trike with one of those hat umbrellas on his head came the other way forcing Patty into the guard rail and she went down on her left knee.  This time she only had soft tissue injuries and was able to complete the trip back to the truck.  We got her cleaned up and it seems that was well and would just need time to heal.  Whew!

That was a great day!  Our total trip of biking and hiking was 12.5 miles.

Sunday was cloudy with a little rain so we did some domestic stuff.  We got some groceries, beer, and we rented a steam cleaner for the RV carpets.  

Monday our friends, Cindy and Rob, from New Jersey arrived to spend the week with us.  We are centered in the middle of the 3 biggest nudist resorts in Florida and probably the best known in the country.  We have Lake Como directly next and behind us.  It is the oldest being built in 1941 and the cheapest to visit.  Next to Como is Paradise Lakes about a mile away.  Paradise lakes is a little more expensive but have many more amenities.  Then there is the nudist flagship for the past few years, Caliente.  Caltente is a short 6 miles north of us on US41.  Caliente is expensive with lots of amenities and attracts a somewhat younger crowd.  We managed to get a visit to each of the resorts over the 4 days Cindy and Rob were here.  A good time was had by all!



More wood carvings on the nature trail at Lake Como

Wood Carvings at Lake Como Nature trail.

Great picture of Patty at Paradise Lake Resort.

Cindy and Rob.

Caliente Resort. View form our dinner seating.
We found this nice Dahon folding bike at Lake Como that had a free sign on it.  This is now Cindy's new (to her) folding bike. We will bring it up with us to NJ in June.

It was interesting that the week wore us out.  It felt just like being on vacation as were our friends.  We are now used to doing stuff on a much slower time frame.  We don’t need to rush to do things on any real schedule most of the time.  We really didn't feel it until after they left and this morning.  We feel like we used to after we were on vacation.  We need to recover too!  Thanks to Cindy and Rob for a good time and letting us join their vacation.
  
Next week we are planning to bike the Pinellas trail  and at some point make it to Caladesi Island State Park.

Stay tuned!

Caliente, Bike Maintenance, and Wings


April 13 Saturday, 2013   

In the last 10 days we have gone out a lot for us.  We went out 4 times for dinner, once for lunch and one breakfast. This last Thursday we accomplished going to the last of the big three resorts here, Caliente.  We went on Thursday as it is ladies night.  Drinks are free for Patty and they are ½ price for me.  It’s a damn good thing as a half price glass of wine is $3.75!  It is, however, a big glass of wine, but still!  We had dinner which was a little better than average food.  Service was slow though.  After dinner we went to the 3 bars they have.  To our surprise, there were a lot of 20 something females at the bars (with 50 something dates).  This is not the usual experience at other clothing optional places we have been.  So, the total cost for dinner, dancing, and drinks was $130. Not too bad considering!

This is the only picture I have at Caliente!  The pictures were too dark.  This is interesting as  there is a feud between Caliente and the Woods Resort just behind this wall.  All we heard it that the Woods got the land ahead of Cliente which made Caliente mad.  Seems very childish! 

Last Tuesday we went out to a local landmark, the Columbia.  It is a local chain with 5 restaurants in the Tampa area that serve Cuban cuisine.  We went to the one on the boardwalk in Clearwater Beach.  This restaurant chain was started by Cuban immigrants over a hundred years ago in Tampa.  The original family still own and run the place.  The food was just OK but it was a nice dinner out.  Probably wouldn't go back though.  The restaurant is located on the sound side so there is no sunset which we wanted to see.  In the coming weeks we are going to do dinner cruise in the Gulf so we can see the sunset during dinner.


Us at the Columbia restaurant.

Our waiter making sangria at our table.  It was very good!

Patty’s cousin Lee came for a visit last Sunday.  He has lived here in Tampa for the past 10 years working for a local TV station.  We had a nice visit and then went to another landmark restaurant in the area called Skippers Smokehouse.  This place was started by three military guys from Desert Storm.  They become friends while stationed in Alaska and decided to start a fish take out place in Tampa when they got out.  The fish take out place became a large restaurant with a stage for entertainment.  The place reminds us of the Le Tub in Hollywood FL on A1A.  They both expanded with materials that were just laying around.  The restaurants are also built around the existing trees giving them a real relaxed feel.   This place is not about the food; however the fried mushroom appetizer was large and very good.  We will go back for Grateful Dead Thursdays.




We also went out for happy hour with 10 of our neighbors to the Bonefish Grille.  It’s a Florida chain that serves seafood.  Good food and relatively cheap with great service.   

I am going to change the subject to biking and my bike needing repair.  The last time we were out I noticed that my left pedal was broken.  The pedals that come with cheap Wal-Mart bikes are made of plastic as was mine.  I bought two new metal pedals on Amazon which arrived last Monday.  Yesterday we planned to go biking on Honeymoon Island in the Gulf after I changed out my pedals.   Ah, but the original pedals were really stuck together as the metals were aluminum and steel.  I used tons of WD40 with no luck.   I went to the store and picked up a narrow wrench to get better leverage which finally worked!  Now, for the really ugly part.  I just couldn't get the left pedal to thread into the crank arm straight.  I got the right pedal in with no problem.  So now instead of going for a bike ride we were off to the bike repair shop.  At least that was a good experience.  The bike shop, Carrollwood Bike Emporium http://cbebikes.com/, took me right in and rethreaded the crack arm.  The total cost was just $16 and took 15 minutes from the time I walked in.  I should have had them do the entire job and then we might have been biking instead of driving around and me cursing at the bike!

Mark's bike repair shop.

Mark's bike at a real bike shop.

Yesterday was the chicken wing competition here at the park.  There were 8 entries and we didn't place in the top 4!  We entered the contest when we arrived here 4 weeks ago.  Ever since then we have been trying to perfect a good recipe for wings.  We started with our old recipe which is a traditional Buffalo recipe except we grill the wings.  I like the wings to be somewhat dry so I experimented with re grilling them after rolling them in the Buffalo sauce.  There were other subtle changes also like cooking them slow on indirect heat.  Last week we came up with a pretty good wing.  At the last minute I added a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.  They were great or so we thought.  Now we needed to make 3 times as many wings for the competition.  We slow cooked the wings then rolled them in the Buffalo sauce and then rolled the now wet wings in parmesan cheese.  Then we put the wings back on the grill to give some crunch.  They turned out just OK in our estimation.  The problem was that the wet wings picked up way too much of the cheese which overpowered the wing taste.  Next time we will roll them in the cheese after the sauce has dried some on the grill.

Today or tomorrow we are planning to bike on Honeymoon island in the Gulf of Mexico.  We are going to park on the mainland side of the causeway and bike to the island about 2 miles over the bridge.  Then we will bike around the island and take in the views.
Monday our friends, Rob and Cindy, from New Jersey arrive for the week with us.   Hope the weather holds as it has been somewhat rainy the past couple of days.  The weather reports are routinely wrong here In Florida.  Seems that bad weather just appears out of nowhere.   Anyway, the prediction is for very hot, 90s with high humidity!,  We shall see.

Spring rain in Florida
 
Random picture of an old train station in Lutz.

The Breakfast Nook where had a great breakfast.  Note the sign about alligators.



Stay tuned!

Day at Lake Como & Observations


April 3 Wednesday, 2013   

This should be a short post with many pictures.  Ok, it is no longer a short post.  I always start with just a bit to say and then a brain dump occurs.

Just a little about the area we are in in Florida.  This area of Florida is known as the most nudist friendly place in the country.  There are many resorts and loads of communities that cater to the nudist environment here.   We happen to be in one where we are now in Paradise Pines RV Park. The main resorts here are Caliente 8 miles to our North, Paradise Lakes 2 miles east, and Lake Como which is the oldest (started in 1941) and closest to us.  We want to visit all 3 while we are here and maybe more than once.

So, we now have visited 2 of these resorts by adding Lake Como yesterday.  Lake Como is just a 10 minute walk from our site.  We decided to spend the day at Lake Como and headed off from our site at 11:30 am.  We each had small backpacks with a towel, sunscreen, flashlight, and our Kindles.    The entrance fee is just $12 each the first time you go and they give you a second day free.  Just can’t beat that! 

Our plan was to get the free tour and then pay to stay the day.  We had lunch in the Bare Buns cafĂ© with Bloody Marys and a couple of appetizers.  The food was good but the service was slow, no big deal though as we entertaining ourselves with another “day trip” couple next to us.  




  

After lunch we went for a hike on the many nature trails around the resort.  We were only going to walk a short while but we ended up walking for 1.5 hours!  Part of the trail system is a golf trail.  We had never seen this before.  It is a series of holes that you use to practice your shots.  It looked to us that you could use all of your clubs even your driver here.  It just wouldn't be game of golf but you could do all of your shots. This is a big resort!  



Our Rig is in the middle back.  Picture was from the trail at Lake Como.


This is one of the BIG RV lots in Paradise Pines where we are.  I took this from the Lake Como Side of the fence which is the only way to get a sense of how big this site is.


Carving at the entrance to the Golf Trail


Driving range part of the Golf Trail.  The balls are supplied, just need to retrieve them.


One of the other lakes at Lake Como Resort.


My attempt at an artistic view at Lake Como.


Lots of wood carvings on the trails.


Looks like Smokey and Boo Boo.




Just a bit scarry!


This seems a little bit like Alice in Wonderland with a pill.







After the hike, we went to the heated (85f) pool and vegged for a while.  The view from the pool toward the lake in the background was fantastic and the water was perfect to cool off in and relax.  We stayed around the pool for about 2 hours and a had couple beers from the bar which was very nice after the long walk. 

Next we headed to the Butt Hut Bar  for a couple glasses of wine and get to know the locals a bit.  When asked, we told the bar crowd that we had just come from the Seminole resort near Fort Lauderdale.  Several said that a couple had just come in from there on Monday to move to Lake Como.  It turns out that the couple is John and Christiana who we grew to know well while we were at Seminole.  It is a small world.

A mom Bass watching over here egg nest.

A rainbow in the lake jets at Lake Como.
By 6:30 we were getting hungry so we went to the restaurant and had dinner.  The food again was good but service was slow.  And again, we made friends with the people at the tables on each side of us.  At one of the tables was a couple who run some of the entertainment at the bar on Friday nights.  After hearing that Patty sings they want her to come this Friday night to sing in the bar at their jam session.  We will probably do just that this Friday night.


Now on to a couple of observations I made yesterday. 

First, I made an observation about retiring in your mid-50s.  It seems we are a very small group in this day and age.  It also seems that a lot of the early baby boomers we meet, people now in their late 60s and early 70s, retired when we did, also in their 50s.  They have already traveled like we are doing now.  They have mostly quit traveling now, like 10 years ago, and settled into an RV resort with like minded other baby boomers their age.  Most just leave the RV in the resort and travel back to the north as snow birds.  Now, a few are looking to move on to a small house somewhere.   Since our retired age group is small and that probably won't change until we are in our mid-60s, we will probably not be following that path.

Another observation, a little funny, from yesterday at the bar in Lake Como.  A very bubbly woman in her 50s came in to get a drink to go and a shot of Tequila.  She told the bar she was leaving tomorrow to go back to Wisconsin.  Saying your goodbyes is very normal here right now as the snowbirds are in the process of leaving this month.   Someone asked her, when did she arrive at the resort?  She replied “last week”!  Patty and I looked at each other and were thinking the same thing, we now think in weeks much in the same way we used to do in days.  That short of a stay, we may not have known she was ever here!  We remember when a vacation of 2 weeks seemed like an eternity to us.  We also remember that we often felt like we needed a vacation when we got back from a vacation.

It’s off to the pool to get some sun and make more observations.

Pictures of the Renaissance Festival we attended last Sunday in Tampa.






This could be a good look for me as we RV around the country.


We had a brunch at the festival.  It came with 2 mimosas!

Parade

May Pole


Stay tuned!