It’s Game Day

Yes, it’s International TableTop Day, a day set aside for day-long celebrations of TableTop gaming. Not familiar with the term TableTop games? Well it describes all games played around a table as opposed to those using some sort of gaming device.

Card games, Dice games. Board games. All examples of TableTop gaming.

Events are planned not only throughout the United States, but throughout the world. John and I have never participated in an official event, but instead have pulled games off the shelf and played them at home.

This year we’ll be on the road, and not in a location where we can attend one of the events planned by a game store, restaurant or other group; but we’ll be playing games somewhere.

So what games did we pack in our luggage for TableTop Day (as well as for other down times during our travels)?

Hanabi and Japur, a couple of card games. Zombie Dice and Pass the Pig, both played by scoring points by pressing your luck with one more roll. And Qwirkle, a game of mixing, matching and scoring tiles.

What game will you be playing today?


TBT: Old Faithful

With eruptions coming seventeen times daily, Old Faithful is one of the most recognizable sights in any of our national parks. No more than we had pulled into the parking lot, than this world famous geyser began erupting more than 100 feet into the air. Of course, we all ran to get up close and snap a couple of pictures.

With eruptions occurring every hour to hour and a half, we grabbed an ice cream cone and waited for a repeat performance. This time we got an even closer view and enjoyed feeling the mist from Old Faithful’s spray.


It seems perfect to post this picture today since we will soon be in Iceland, the home of the world’s first “geysir” (to gush in Old Norse) documented in print. Soon the pictures of Old Faithful will be accompanied by those of Geysir, Strokkur and other features of the hot springs of Bjarnarfell.

Grab a Tarp!

In the summer of 2005 we were greeted at Everglades National Park with the Skeeter Meter registering HYSTERICAL. Needless to say, our visit was a short one as we detoured to Sanibel.


This year’s visit in early April, the Skeeter Meter registered BEARABLE, and to be honest I didn’t get a bite. No need for a bug jacket.


But this year, there was a new sign:


Tarps? As I looked around the parking lot, tarps were draped over most of the cars. The tarps are needed to protect vehicles from the black vultures.

What’s the problem?

The black vulture, the gray-headed cousin of the turkey vulture, is causing damage to vehicles–often trucks and SUVs –parked at boat ramps. Windshield wipers, sunroof seals, and rubber or vinyl parts are at particular risk. Most of the time, perching black vultures do little or no damage. However, in some cases, the destruction can be extensive. The vultures can tear out rubber seals, peck pieces out of truck bed liners, and scratch paint with their claws.

So before hiking the trail, we secured tarps on our Suburban to avoid any damage.

Yes, the Everglades is a one of a kind place and habitat to amazing wildlife; but it’s truly a WILD place. Where else will you find a Skeeter Meter, bug suits in the gift store, reminders to cover your car with tarps and warnings about both alligators and crocodiles?

Signs of South Florida

Like most communities, South Florida welcomes visitors with attractive signs pointing out their unique qualities.

But warnings seem to come at every turn.

Especially warnings about the native plants and animals  Who knew stripping leaves was a problem?

And there are plenty of signs reminding visitors to protect themselves from the wildlife as well.

Then some can only be classified as strange. Pets in the bath house? A dwarf forest?

And Robert certainly wants everyone to know he’s here.


Signs everywhere.

Bedbug Awareness Week?

Did you know this week has been designated Bed Bug Awareness Week? That’s right, April 24-30, time for everything related to Bed Bugs.

This seems like the perfect opportunity to share a delightful fact about bed bugs I learned last summer. Bed bugs aren’t relegated to beds and hotels. Airplanes can also be home to these creatures. A fact I found out after being bitten by bed bugs on a flight from Houston to Portland.


I never saw a bed bug on the plane nor did I feel a bite, but shortly after landing and before reaching our accommodations I developed hives that continued to spread for days.

The unbearable itching lasted four days but they sapped my energy for weeks. To be fair, I can’t prove bed bugs caused my discomfort, but there are numerous reports of bed bugs on planes, and it makes sense. If a passenger picked up the pests at a hotel, it’s quite possible to carry them onboard in luggage.

I haven’t flown since, but I have four round trip flights scheduled in the coming months. I don’t know how to prevent being bitten on a plane, but I know I will make sure I leave as little skin exposed as possible to avoid another unhappy start to a vacation.


The NPMA recommends the following bed bug prevention tips when traveling:

At hotels, pull back sheets and inspect mattress seams, for telltale bed bug stains. Inspect the entire room before unpacking, including sofas and chairs and behind the headboard. Notify management of anything suspect and change rooms or establishments immediately.

If you need to change rooms, don’t move to a room adjacent or directly above or below the suspected infestation.

Keep suitcases in plastic trash bags or protective covers during your stay to prevent bed bugs from nesting there.

When home, inspect suitcases before bringing them into the house and vacuum them before storing.

Wash all clothes – even those not worn – in hot water to eliminate any bed bugs and their eggs.

What’s Happening in May?

Fleet Week Port Everglades – Port Everglades; Fort Lauderdale

May 2-9


This annual event makes it possible for 12,000 lucky people who manage to get one of the coveted reservations to tour active Navy and Coast Guard ships at no charge. Tour a nuclear submarine, an amphibious assault ship, a destroyer or a Coast Guard Cutter. Unable to get a reservation this year? Add it to your 2017 calendar now.

Food and Wine on Pine – Anna Maria

May 7 (May 8 in case of rain)


Anna Maria showcases its best food, wine, art and music at Food and Wine on Pine. For only a $5 admission guests receive a glass of wine and a buffet tray. Then purchase food tickets for $1 each and start sampling…food and drink can be purchased for 2-10 tickets. Warning: This is a cash only event so get some green before you make your way to Pine Avenue.

Papio’s Kinetic Sculpture Parade – Key West

May 13-15


Join the inaugural event of human-powered, family-friendly, art-inspired float parade through the streets of Key West. This is not only a parade for viewing, but one in which you can participate. With an entry fee of $15, anyone can enter their own Art human powered Art Bike in the 1.5 mile parade.

Forgotten Coast Paddle Jam – Apalachicola and St. George Island

May 20-22


Three days of water based activities including a 3-mile, 6-mile, and 14-mile races for kayaks and standup paddleboards. In addition, there will be boat blessings, live entertainment, exhibitors and outfitters, and what else but a BBQ competition.

Tupelo Honey Festival -Wewahitchka

May 21


What could be more old Florida than a festival for honey in a place called Wewahitchka. Featuring plenty of local honey products and the crowning of Miss Tupelo, plan to spend the day listening to music, eating and playing.

Florida Folk Festival – Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park

May 27-29


This three day celebration takes place annually on Memorial Day weekend at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park. The state’s cultural heritage is the focus of the festival, celebrating everything from storytelling, the art of pine needle basket making, square dance, native plants and animals, and Florida foods. It’s also the site of the annual Fiddle Contest.

What do you have on your calendar for May?

Triathlon Florida Keys Style

Ever since we completed the Tamiami Triathlon, an event sponsored by Everglades National Park to encourage visitors to enjoy hiking, bike riding and kayaking in the Everglades, we’ve found more ways to create our own versions of triathlon for non-athletes. No competition or entry fee or awards, just our own plan to bike, hike and paddle.

We didn’t set out to do a freestyle triathlon in the Keys but after kayaking, snorkeling and then hiking over three miles in Key West, we knew we had to bike ride to make it complete.


We started the morning sailing with Danger Charters where we snorkeled in sponge beds and kayaked around Mule Island.

When the boat docked and we disembarked, it was off to Fort Zachary Taylor where we explored the old fort.

This turned into a three mile city hike by the time we traveled from the dock to the fort to Blue Heaven for a little key lime pie snack and then back to our car.


On the way to Long Key State Patk to set up camp, we decided to add a bike ride that evening to catch the sunset on the opposite side of the island – a five mile round trip ride to exit the park and get to an open area for sunset viewing.

Even without a medal, it felt good to accomplish another triathlon and a full day of actively enjoying our surroundings.



Say Yes to the Conch Fritters

Alabama Jacks, located in “Downtown Card Sound”, or more precisely on Card Sound Road between Homestead and Key Largo is one of those seafood dives that receives a lot of attention due to its unique location. This isn’t a place you just stumble upon since Card Sound Road is a toll road which can easily be avoided by taking US 1, the preferred route to the Florida Keys.


Emeril’s Florida, Food Paradise’s Manliest Restaurants, the Food Network’s Bobbie Flay, Guy Fieri’s Diners Drive-Ins and Dives and even Kathie Lee Gifford have all sung the praises of Alabama Jacks, touting it as one of the state’s best beach shacks (although not on the beach), seafood dives or biker bars.


This rustic, open-air bar and restaurant claims to serve the world’s best conch fritters, and on that front I whole heartedly agree. Unlike the bite-sized fritters usually served, Alabama Jacks’ fritters look like fritters. Two large fried pieces of batter filled with conch and other yummy ingredients.

On a Monday afternoon, the crowds were light so there was no waiting and we were served quickly at our table overlooking the mangrove lined waterway behind the restaurant.


While we thoroughly enjoyed our conch fritters at this highly recommended eatery, I would not encourage anyone to wait two or more hours to be seated as is sometimes necessary on weekends. Stop in for a fritter and a cold drink on your way to or from the Keys, but go elsewhere for dinner. There are so many places to get really good seafood in south Florida, but I can’t say that Alabama Jacks is one of them.


If you do go, avoid the weekend crowds and make sure you’re there early since they close at dusk before the influx of mosquitoes.


TBT: Are we having fun yet?

I hope the expressions on the faces of our daughters reflect their exasperation with one too many pictures rather than boredom on vacation.

In 1994, we spent two very full weeks exploring as much of Colorado as possible. In a car rented in Denver, we visited the Garden of the Gods, Rocky Mountain National Park, Dinosaur National Park, Pike’s Peak, the Olympic Training Center and so much more.


We rode bikes, hiked on trails and climbed on the rocks…one of their favorite activities (although you’d never know from this photo). Maybe this site was a little too historical. Enough with the education.

Posing in Key West

After spending six hours on a sailboat, the sun obviously affected my decision making.


Instead of walking directly to a restaurant to get something to eat and drink, I got side tracked by all the crazy photo opportunities.

Posing with cigars and the statues located around the grounds of the Weston.


Finally, hunger took over and ended the picture taking detour. But, there’s really no place like the Florida Keys for such nonsense.