Sunday, 23 February 2014

Way Down Upon the Suwannee River...

Hooked up and left Ft. Pierce Thurs. 20/02/14 bright and early.  When we first got to the Treasure Coast area we thought we would run out of things to do and be bored for the last part of the month.  Boy, we were wrong! New to this life and squeezing a cruise in took up a bunch of time.  We have learned to slow down very well it seems.  When we were working a month lasted forever, now our first month has gone flying by and we didn't get to a few of the things that we wanted to do.  We don't really know what happened here, could have been proximity to the Bermuda Triangle, old age setting in or just a total lack of responsibility, but we were never bored here and we don't know where the time went.  Well time marches on and we are the misfits that can't or don't want to keep up. 

Yellow Jacket RV Resort is where we are headed off to for 4 nights.  Near Old Town in the northwest of Florida.  This is a slice of old Florida on the banks of the beautiful Suwannee River.  At $20 bucks per night with our Passport America 50% off discount, it is a bargain.  It is the type place I like, rustic sites but with all the amenities, wifi, cable, nice pool, hot tub and boat rentals.

 Our Site
 Looking down the road

On Sat. we rented one of their boats for a day of exploring. The Swannee is fed by more than 200 springs and meanders 396km(246mi.) across the state, actually starting in Georgia.  Heading up river from the park, our first stop was Manatee Springs State Park.  This park lived up to it's name as we did get to see a few manatee.  What really stood out was the abundance of wildlife in the stream along the boardwalk out to the river.  Standing at one look-out we could watch large fish swimming upstream, birds spearing smaller fish with their beaks and then flipping them in the air to eat them head first and dozens of turtles basking in the sun, all along with the manatee.  There was more going on at any one time in this 100yds. of stream  than I have ever witnessed anywhere in nature.

 Detra ahead on the boardwalk
 Turtles in the sun
Looking for alligators
Our boat on the Suwannee

We then headed down the river to see what we could find.  There is very little development along this stretch, in fact most of it is wildlife refuge, but it is not great land to build on either.  We ended going more than 15 miles down to the town of Suwannee. 

The view of your fearless explorers
"What is behind us is not before us"

This is where the river ends and spills out to the Gulf of Mexico, so we had to go and see it for ourselves.  Sure enough, the Gulf is right where the explorers before us had found it.

 Mexico straight ahead!
Anyone remember how to get back?
There was a hiccup in our Olympic viewing plans as the local NBC feed didn't show the USA/Canada game on Friday.  We headed out to find a nice place to watch the game. And what a place we did find!  Bubba's Place!  We could see the neon beer signs from the highway and thought they must have sport fans watching the big game!  We opened the door to stale cigarette smoke, spilt beer and 10 locals right out of central casting.  It was dark and dirty and no place for tourists, we sat down at the bar.  There were TV's, but Bubba's patrons were watching reruns of AFV and discussing how that stuff can happen to anyone with an ATV, a chicken and hog with an attitude at their cousin's wedding.  We asked the bartender about changing the channel on our side of the bar over to the game which she did.  I will say something for Bubba, he has ice cold beer and his happy hour starts at noon.  We settled in and cheered for Canada to wup ass... I mean prevail in this hockey contest, while everyone else in the bar switched over to Jerry Springer.  There were many things posted on the walls at Bubba's, the biggest sign said, "ANYONE WHO STARTS A FIGHT WILL BE THROWN OUT AND BARRED FOR LIFE!  There was a baby picture of Bubba that said "This is Bubba and this is his place".  The big white board over the bar with the heading "Banned for Life" had more than fifty names, a disturbing number of them women.  It turned out to be a fine place to watch Canada battle the US to a 1-0 win and earn a spot in the gold medal game. 

We got lucky for Sunday morn as they were showing the final game on the local station. Up at 6:45 to watch CANADA WIN GOLD!!!!!!... All is right with the world.

 Proud to be Canadian
We are starting to work our way over to Texas on no particular schedule, except by sometime in March.  We are struggling with trying to move at a more leisurely pace, we always gobbled up as many miles as we could in the past and old habits die hard.  Now that we know how quick time can go whistling over our heads, we better get started now, or maybe start the next day. (See, we'll get the hang of this)..  We do want to spend a month in or around Corpus Christi area before working our way back to Canada.  That's the plan, but like the Swannee we will go where the current takes us.


Monday, 17 February 2014

How relaxed can one be? or Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams

Our good friends Dean & Laurie had a great idea one crisp fall day.  Why don't we join them on a 4 night cruise to the Bahamas aboard the "Enchantment of the Seas"?  Seeing as we could be any where we wanted during our first snowbirding winter, we thought it was a great idea.  Now that we are footloose and fancy free we are kind of like Pirates, minus the raping and pillaging.

Well Detra and I fell in love with cruising back in '98 when we took a Mediterranean voyage through time and history.  Since then Detra will jump on any excuse or opportunity to get her sea legs working again.  Royal Caribbean has been the line of choice for the four of us, although Norwegian was also fantastic on our "Meet Super Storm Sandy" east coast excursion that Detra and I took 2yrs. ago. 

Dean & Laurie flew in from the frozen tundra of the north a day early and stayed in a hotel close to Port Canaveral.  The port is only an hour and a half drive up the coast from us here in Ft. Pierce.  Plans were made to meet-up at the Schooner bar, it's on deck 6 if you must know, right after muster (evacuation drill). 

This cruise will be remembered as the "Sun, Surf and Champagne Tour".  If you knew Dean, you would know how he can be a terrible influence on me.  We have been friends for over thirty years, attending each other's weddings, birth of children and every New Years Eve, the ones I can remember and the ones I don't,( see I told you he was a bad influence.)  They had brought a bottle of bubbly to celebrate the birth of Logan (He is so cute!).  Dean and Laurie being frequent cruisers/ travelers get perks thrown at them all over the place.  Waiting for them in their cabin was another two bottles of champagne from the cruise line and their thankful travel agent. 

If you have cruised, you know the food is always delicious and plentiful (I put on 4lbs. this trip).  The entertainment was excellent onboard and there is always something to do if you want, or plenty of places to do nothing if that's what you prefer.  If you aren't having a good time on a cruise it's not anyone's fault but your own. (unless you're aboard one that has some kind of outbreak or breakdown, which we choose to ignore). 

The Enchantment of the Seas

Our first stop was Royal Caribbean's private island CocoCay.  Laurie and Detra were looking at excursions the night before when a sign on the counter started calling out to Laurie.  It was a private cabana in a VIP section of the island that included snorkeling, floating mats, loungers in and out of the sun, an exclusive lunch buffet just for us special people!  It also included, to go along with the theme of the cruise, was...wait for it...a bottle of Champagne!  The four of us are more the "warrior vacationers".  "We can sleep when we get home" type of travelers.  This idea of sitting on a beach for a day was foreign to all of us, but the idea stuck in Laurie's head as the thing to do, so we were "all for one and one for all!" ( I know the muskateers weren't pirates but at least they had swords.) 

We tendered the mile over to the island, across the most beautiful blue water I have ever seen, on the boat "Ship to Shore 2".  We walked around a dozen shacks selling different shirts, towels, beach bags and bobbles.  It was a very nice little island with beaches and trails to explore but we headed for the VIP section.  There we met Wendel, "Keeper to the gates of Paradise" as I will forever remember him, Wendel is Bahamian living on this island four weeks at a time with one off to go back home to see his family.  He was very personable, full of info and insight to the life on the island.  He gave us the pick of several cabanas, we decided on Cabana #7, on the ocean beside the channel for the tenders come in and out.  We would watch the jealous throngs drooling over our very own tropical oasis from the appropriate distance,so as to not bother us VIP's. 

Cabana #7 and our ship at anchor

Our servants brought us a cooler with water, the now required champagne on ice and a nice fresh fruit tray.  All this watching people work made us very thirsty so Dean and I partook in our first beer of the day. We began to understand how this relaxing on a beach thing works.  Detra & Laurie went off to float in the surf while Dean and I talked about going snorkeling, it was decided that we would think about it over a couple more fancy beer with limes in them. 

My view from our cabana

Lunch was served from 11 to 1 and had a great selection of salads, fruit, sea food kabobs, BBQ ribs, jerk chicken along with gourmet burgers and hot dogs. (Sorry I was too hungry to take pics)  After it was back to work thinking about snorkeling over a couple of cervezas.  I can honestly say I can't remember being more relaxed than that next couple of hours.  A full stomach, cold beer, the sea breeze, the shade of thatched roof and the company of good friends.  We nodded off.  When we woke from our naps we went for a float on calm seas and decided that the snorkeling would take more energy than we would care to exert, we went back to lounging in paradise. We hopped on one of the last tenders back in time to have nap and shower before our evening show and dinner.  Life is great.
Detra and I had our honeymoon in the Bahamas those many years ago aboard my Uncle Norm's 60' yacht, so it was fitting we were returning by sea.  Freeport is where we spent our first trip together, this time it was Nassau.  We rented a car to explore the island on our own. After learning where to go from the tour operators trying to sell us trips in buses with others, off we went.  Driving on the left side of the road in a car designed for the right side was strange but we did manage to see all we wanted on the island without a head on collision.
Caves used for housing and hiding pirate treasures.
 We drove over to see Atlantis, the luxury resort with water park, casino, aquarium and shops.  There is a harbor for the well heeled, full of yachts, one of which was actor/ director Ron Howard's mega yacht called Imagine... and his tender called Imaginary. 
A day at sea and we were back in Canaveral on Friday.  We had great time with Dean & Laurie, eating, watching live performances and relaxing it couldn't have got better unless the Van Den Waldo's showed up. (Inside joke)  Oh, and we did managed to drink three of the four bottles of champagne. 
I think we are going to like retirement.
Sea Dog Scott


Sunday, 9 February 2014

Hockey, Biking, Fishing and armchair version of Hemingway

Detra and I had a great time at Leafs vs Panthers game this past Tuesday night even though our Buds lost.  We had fantastic seats right next to the Panther's locker room tunnel.  Detra is a goalie nut and two of her favourites were playing Tim Thomas (Panthers) and Jonathan Bernier(Leafs).  She fist bumped Thomas on his way by and I'm sure that gave him the edge in the game.  We were very close to the action.  The force of the checks and pace of the game at ice level is something to experience, TV can't give that feeling of energy on the ice. 

Outside BB&T Center

Opening Face-Off!
 (yes we were this close)

Hemingway had the "Running of the Bulls" in Pamplona. In my version of the great writer/sportsman I have the "Running of the Bulldog" a few times a day.

Hemingway went deep sea fishing on his launch the "Pilar",  we will be going on the "Lady Stuart" a party boat out of Stuart FL.  They have good luck catching all wide variety of fish. I have also picked up a surf fishing rod to play out The Old Man and the Sea, alas from the safety of the beach.


I've had the white facial hair like "Papa" longer than I'd like to remember, but not dashing good looks.   

While on a cruise a couple of years ago we visited his home in Key West,FL

 Where he did his writing...

and where he did his drinking, Sloppy Joe's
The Olympics are starting and being a Canadian in the US I will get a different experience than I'm used to.  Coverage here is on NBC and understandably  focused on the American atheletes.  We will have to search to follow the Canadians
These are the hardships great sportsmen, like Ernest and I, endure to have a life of adventure.


Sunday, 2 February 2014

Man it's HOT!...sorry didn't mean to rub it in... he, he, EH!

 We have been enjoying great weather since we've been here.  We did have two days of steady rain this week, but other than that it has been very nice. 

Settling into life in one spot for a month has been very relaxing.  We have fallen into some routines, get up in the morning, throw on some shorts, a little web time with coffee, take the dogs for walk, go for a bike ride, breakfast, decide what to do that day and do it.  Walk the dogs when we get back (Abby is looking at us as if to say, "Enough with the walking already!").  Dinner, a little TV or stream the hockey game and we can call it a night.  Sounds a little boring when I write it out, but OH!BOY! it feels good so far!  I'm sure we will change things up as time rolls on.  Being new to this we have a lot to learn about what will work to keep things interesting.

We spent an afternoon at Vero Beach, window shopping and site seeing.  It's a nice little place to spend a little time and a lot of money if you are so inclined.  The shops around the city center cater to people with much better pensions than this new retiree.

The Navy UDT-SEAL Museum took up another afternoon.  Fort Pierce,FL is where the first navy specialists were trained at the beginning of WW2.  It was very interesting to see the technology that was used and how it changed over the years.  There was a Veteran there answering questions, who prepped the beaches for landing before D-Day.  The stories and what these guys did to clear channels for landing craft was unbelievable.  Between swimming in at night and mapping the beach and obstacles the Germans had put in the water, to blowing things up under cover of a navy ship barrage.  Displays were throughout the building and grounds right through to present day equipment( or at least recent, these guys use the latest, greatest and top secret stuff available).  I just eat this stuff up.



Actual life boat from Capt. Phillip's ship Maersk Alabama.  (I'll let Tom Hanks tell you the story.)

It has been great getting  back on the bicycle again, I didn't seem to have time or motivation back in Oshawa.  I've really missed it since I stopped commuting to GM 4 years ago.  When I left Winmar at the beginning of September, I started  to put a few pounds on. (Thanks for not noticing or keeping it to yourself if you did.)   I've been averaging about 15km a day on the bike, plus all the walking Detra and I have been doing I've already dropped 6lbs.  We enjoy being more active and feel better for it. This is one huge plus to this lifestyle and one that helped to make our decision to fulltime.  Love it!

We have tickets for the Leafs vs. Panthers on Tues. Feb. 4!  Watch for us 5 rows from the ice, just to the right of the Panthers bench.  We will be sporting leafs jerseys and big grins.  We have watched all Leaf games for years up until we left Canada.  Then as soon as we leave they go on a 6 game winning streak that we weren't able to see.  When we stream the next game they lose :(  I hope it wasn't something we did.)

We went to The Treasure Coast Pirate Festival today.  They a have clubs that are like civil war  re-enactors, but for pirates.  Being pirates they are free to act loud, drunk and unruly (toned down as it is a family event).  Costumes were very good and there was a camp you could tour that they were living in for the weekend.  These people put a lot into this and look like they have a great time together scaring kids and causing havoc.

                                     This air boat was stunning the pic doesn't due it justice.

Headed over to Fort Pierce Inlet State Park for a bicycle ride after the Pirates.  We bought a new comfort bike for Detra as her mountain bike wasn't cutting it for longer rides.  She has been riding a lot longer (over 4km at a time already) with the new bike, so it will pay health dividends down the road. ( pun intended).  The park was ok and we ran into some wildlife along the way.

Sweatin' in the sunny south,
(sorry, slipped out)