Urban Camping

It’s not cheap to stay in Miami in February. What with all the snowbirds and events like the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. But we were determined to cheer on the Canes baseball team the final weekend in February as they hosted the Gators, without spending a fortune.

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With no state park campgrounds in south Dade, John found a county park, Penny and Larry Thompson Campground. The reviews looked good and he remembered his aunt and uncle camping there in the ’60s and ’70s so we decided to give it a try.

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For $17 a night (tent site), we paid less for our two night stay at Penny & Larry Thompson Campground than the daily $35 parking fee in Coconut Grove where we usually stay. And with nearly 300 sites, a community center, pool, showers and a laundry, it provided more facilities than we needed.

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We set up in the area designated for tents in less than thirty minutes and then we were ready to hit the road for a night of baseball.

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The campground is carved out in a residential area, and while it’s a little farther west than we’d like, at such low rates, how can you complain? We won’t be camping here in the summer months, but we’ve already scheduled another three days at Penny & Larry Thompson Park in April.

 

Daycation: St. Petersburg

In January, we checked off the first item in our list 16 in 16 when we attended a Jackson Browne concert. On Monday, February 22nd, we finally found the perfect day for another of the planned events for 2016 when we spent the day in St. Petersburg for a Daycation.

We waited for a warm and sunny February day because our plan was to bike ride the city trails and visit several of the museums. We started the ride on the trail behind the Morean Center for Clay, one of the museums on our list and rode in to the city. I was somewhat reluctant to ride downtown because I “don’t do traffic”. Fortunately, a concrete barrier divided the trail in the city from the traffic. We even had stop lights to make for a smooth flow downtown.

Traveling past Tropicana Field, through downtown, to the bay and then before the end of the day toward Treasure Island until we reached an end of the trail due to construction, our 17 miles on the bike met our goal for the active part of the day.

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Parking at the Historic Seaboard Train Station, our first stop was a tour of the Morean Arts Center for Clay.

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Here we were surprised to find the center closed on Mondays, but when a staff member realized we’d driven two hours, she permitted us to walk through the facility where artists were working in the shared spaces. Actually, we enjoyed looking at the art outside as much as the displays inside the center.

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From the train station we rode our bike downtown to see the Chihuly Collection at another of the Morean Arts Centers located on the city’s waterfront. A 20 foot sculpture located outside the center ushers guests into the building that was specifically designed to display the glasswork. The price of admission includes a docent led tour, but we decided to enjoy on our own instead of traveling from room to room with a crowd.

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Next, we stopped for lunch at Fresco’s Waterfront Bistro with margaritas overlooking the water.

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We purchased a bundled ticket which included a visit to the Morean Galleries as well as to the Glass Studio and Hot Shop with our ticket to the Chihuly Collection. Unfortunately, the Morean Galleries were in the midst of changing out the exhibit so we saw more cardboard boxes than art. Next time we’ll know to call ahead since this information is not provided on their website.

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But while the galleries were a disappointment, the highlight of the trip was the time spent in the Glass Studio and Hot Shop where we sat in bleachers watching David Sturgeon create a piece of glass art with the assistance of the narrator, Jeremiah. For fifty minutes, the glass was shaped, colored, twirled, heated, cooled, heated, cooled, and heated and cooled some more until the piece was completed.

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A successful daycation of bicycling and art. We’ll be back.

Costs: $106

  • Gas $16 (about 8 gallons at $2/gallon
    Tickets for Chihuly Collection, Glass Studio and Hot Shop $40 (tickets for two)
    Lunch $50 (2 margaritas accounted for half this cost)

Tuscawilla Art: Round 3

Unable to attend the the event introducing the newly installed sculptures at Tuscawilla Park last week, we wandering through the park on a cloudless day that provided a beautiful backdrop for the art in the park, starting with the piece “Recycled” which shone brightly in the sun.

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Is this home plate standing on home plate? I’m not sure. And why the raised arms?

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I love the contrast of the individual welded metal blades of grass swaying among the Spanish moss.

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And the “Square Wave” provided an alternative to our usual selfies.

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Each of the sculptures includes a plaque with its title, artist, a brief description and a QR code or phone number which provides additional information about each piece.

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An insect? I’m not sure. It sure it different than the Big Bugs currently at Harry P. Leu Gardens.

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“To Hear a Grove Sing” is a history lesson in the form of a sculpture telling the story of the citrus industry in Florida.

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A wave wrapping around the lake. I love this piece.

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I even found a piece of art that complimented my shirt.

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The “Oak Leaf Seat” creates a dilemma since the leaf clearly invites you to take a seat, but the signs indicate that visitors are not to climb on the artwork.

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I love seeing artwork in parks and other public places, but at Tuscawilla Park, the natural beauty of the trees and lake only enhance the pleasure of spending a day in the park.

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This year’s Tuscawilla Sculpture Stroll Celebration will take place on March 12th, a day to add to your calendar, but if you don’t make it on the 12th, don’t miss it. What a wonderful way to take a walk and enjoy art in the park.

Lake Apopka Loop Trail: Orange County

A couple of weeks ago we rode the Lake Apopka Loop Trail, a new bicycle trail for us. Starting at Lovell’s Landing, the trail follows the road for a short distance before reaching the crushed stone trail which bordered the lake.

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While overcast, the weather was otherwise perfect, cool with light wind. Several reviews of the trail made mention of the need to bring bug spray because of the mosquitoes, but our February ride proved to be bug free.

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The bellows of gators could be heard throughout the ride and several of the large creatures laid in wait along the trail’s edge. Not only were signs posted with the traditional Florida alligator warnings, but yellow “In case of emergency” signs were posted at regular intervals as well.

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At the four mile mark, we stopped for lunch at the picnic pavilion located near the old pump house before continuing another five miles down the path.

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The trail provided great views of Lake Apopka, Florida’s fourth largest lake which is rebounding after being poisoned by pesticides. Not only can alligators be found in abundance. The area is known as a birding destination.

In fact, the 4th Annual Lake Apopka Wildlife Festival Birdapalooza was held in early February, and while we saw a variety of birds, most were camera shy making it hard to photograph many. But there was no shortage of birders with binoculars, check lists and cameras with massive lenses…the tools of the Birdapalooza crowd.image-82-683x1024

The most interesting find on the ride was the skeleton of a large gator just feet from the trail. Can’t help but wonder what happened to this big guy.

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The Lake Apopka Loop Trail was a nice, although rough, 15 mile out and back trail, but there’s talk of connecting it to the West Orange Trail which would make it possible to ride around the 50 square mile lake. That would be quite a ride.

This is My Father’s World

Recently, the hymn “This is my Father’s world” plays in my head when we’re out enjoying nature. As the words say:
and to my listening ears
all nature sings, and round me rings
the music of the spheres.

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This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
his hand the wonders wrought.

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This is my Father’s world,
the birds their carols raise,
the morning light, the lily white,
declare their maker’s praise.

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This is my Father’s world:
he shines in all that’s fair;
in the rustling grass I hear him pass;
he speaks to me everywhere.

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Words from:

The United Methodist Hymnal Number 144
Text: Maltbie D. Babcock
Music: Trad. English melody; adapt. by Franklin L. Sheppard

Rag Arm

What good news! All of the Hurricanes’ home baseball games will be televised this season on ESPN3.

That meant we were able to watch the opening game of the season on Friday night as the Hurricanes took on the Rutger Scarlet Knights. And in attempt to emulate the Mark Light Field experience, we made milk shakes.

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A black and white for John.

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A rag arm for me.

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Not quite same as at the ballpark, but a good way to prepare for the real thing next weekend in Miami when the Hurricanes host the Gators.

Big Bugs Everywhere

On January 15, the Big Bug Invasion took over Leu Gardens. An army of enormous ants meet visitors as they enter the gardens.

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Created from natural materials, the creatures lurk around every corner.

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Despite the fact the insects may stand over twenty feet tall, many remain hidden among the plants.

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While others, like the lady bug remain in the open, ready for photo ops.

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The 200 pound assassin bug was quite a specimen.

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But I have an affinity for spiders and this one camouflaged among the bamboo may have been my favorite sculpture.image-67-683x1024

The Big Bug Invasion continues at Harry P. Leu Gardens in downtown Orlando until April 15 so there’s plenty of time to get acquainted with the garden’s newest inhabitants.

 

Sawgrass Island Preserve

Unfortunately, due to illness, I was unable to accompany John on a first time ride at the Sawgrass Island Preserve last week. We’ve passed this trail numerous times on our trips to visit one of our daughters in Orlando, but only recently stopped to get a quick look in anticipation of a ride later in the week.

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In the parking area, a sign indicates the trail can be used by hikers, cyclists and horseback riders. The trail travels to Lake Yale, located south of SR 42 about ten miles from Weirsdale, and according to John is well used by those on horseback making in less than a desirable surface for bike riding.

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Nevertheless, he said he would return to Sawgrass Island Preserve on foot, especially near dawn or sunset as it appears to be a prime location for observing wildlife. And of course, since the area is also part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, birdwatchers may also enjoy hiking in the trail.

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Sorry I missed the ride, but I can see an early morning hike on the horizon.

Pigging Out at Pigfest: Polk County

We were introduced to a new event yesterday, the Lakeland Pigfest, a place to enjoy a warm January day with friends and family while feasting on delicious barbecue.

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According to the festival website, the goals of the event:

Raise money for local charitable organizations
Create a relaxing event for all walks of life
Eat some world class barbecue!

From the size of the crowd and from the food we tasted, I’d say they met their goal.

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Ribs by the bones, wings and pulled pork sold in sample sizes made it possible to try quite a variety of food. I’m proud to say none of us succumbed to any of the fried selections. No fried Oreos. No fried strawberries. No fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. No fried bananas.

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That doesn’t mean we skipped the sweets. We just stuck to strawberry shortcake.

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The Lakeland Pigfest is held at Tigertown on Friday night and Saturday. If you missed this year’s event, mark your calendar of January 2017 so you can pig out.

(Thanks, John, for sharing your pictures.)

Land Bridge Trail

Anticipating a rainy afternoon, we set out for a hike close to home with Meghan and Jon at the Cross Florida Greenway on Saturday. We followed the orange trail for a little more than a mile to the Land Bridge where the trail crosses I-75.

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The most notable feature of the well marked trail was the large trees. Several of which partially blocked the path.

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Upon reaching the bridge, we stopped for a quick selfie before returning on the somewhat longer blue trail.

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The blue trail was similar to the orange trail. Well marked, tree-lined, narrow, flat and easy. A good place for walk on a cool February morning before the afternoon rain.

Thanks John and Meghan for sharing your pictures.