Trip to Marathon, Florida

We have been so overwhelmed with medical appointments and issues for the past six months that we have not had time for a trip to the keys for a look around. We’ve been here for about a week now and will head back north on Wednesday. This is not the time of year to visit the Florida keys. It has been hot. Even though it seems bearable with a nice breeze, I can feel the sun burning my skin.

I was craving seafood and had to go to Sparky’s for fish tacos the first day. Another day, we ate Hogfish sandwiches at Keys Fisheries. Today we ate with Jim and Bettye Chaplin at Burdines. Tomorrow, our last day, we are going back to Keys Fisheries for more hogfish. My stomach leads the way.

We have stayed inside (in the air conditioning) in the heat of the day, and I have caught up with my Florida Keys Concert Association ticket sales records.

I do have a few pictures to share.

Our RV lot looks kinda bare with the small RV and no car, screen room or patio furniture. Hurricane Irma stripped a lot of the mangroves bare of leaves. We still have some behind our site, but it is not the lush jungle it was before Irma blew through.

This is how the mangroves look behind the lots between ours and the ocean.

I was dismayed to see this “castle house” under construction down the street. I should have taken a picture of the other side. It has a large bas relief shield with dragons on it. Fanciful maybe, but not fitting with the island vibe at all. I made some snarky remarks about it to Andy the first day.

We took a drive through our favorite picnic lunch spot, Oceanfront Park, behind City Hall. It was damaged beyond use and the picnic pavilions on the water’s edge have a plywood barricade in front of them. We have been going down to the waterfront in our RV park to sit and watch the ocean.

This iguana was on the rocks across the canal from us.

Iguana

One day, there were seven or eight crabs on the rocks below where we were sitting. They are super skittish so I was lucky to get any pictures of them.

Crabs

I just love those bright red legs!

Crab
Black Mangrove Blossoms

The Black Mangroves behind our pad are in full bloom, but you have to look closely to notice. The blossoms are tiny.

Another day, it started raining on us as we walked to the waterfront. We turned back, but the rain came harder. We took shelter under the castle house under construction. As we waited for the shower to pass, Andy said I can’t complain about the castle house anymore.

The photo does not show it, but it was raining hard at that moment.

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May 1, 2019 – Venetian Gardens Park

It was as perfect a day as days can get for lunch and a walk in the park. And, we didn’t waste it. This grill was in front of our parking space

Looks as though there was some excitement at this picnic grill recently. Having seen all the stuff people put in barbecue grills up in Big Creek, I surmise that it could have been just about anything.

For some reason, I can never remember the name of Limpkin. We see several every time we take a walk in the park and then have to look it up again. Limpkin. Limpkin. Limpkin.

Limpkin

There were three or four of what I call odd ducks roosted at the water’s edge. Surely there is some Mallard in there.

Odd Duck

This Purple Gallinule walking across lily pads was most entertaining. By the time it disappeared into the grasses, it was running.

Purple Gallinule

The Red Heron, not to be confused with a red herring, looks a lot like a Little Blue Heron, except for the red neck and head.

Red Heron

A Great Blue Heron was standing majestically along the shore as we walked by so, of course, I took some photos. The most interesting one was when it stopped being majestic and scratched its chin.

Great Blue Heron

The Gallinules were abundant and active today. Their feathers were iridescent in the bright sunshine.

Purple Gallinule or Moor Hen

I saw this egret catch a frog. Swallowing the frog was a different story. We stood and watched for a long while as the egret seemed to have succeeded only to spit it back out and start over.

Great White Egret with Frog

The problem seemed to be the frog’s front legs which kept sticking out at the top of the egret’s beak.

It was a dexterous trick to spit the frog out and flip it around to a different position.

The egret’s throat was bulged out. I was feeling a great deal of pity for the poor frog. I hoped it was dead early on.

Poor frog. We watched it go in and out of the egret’s mouth until we got tired of standing there. We walked on and did not see whether the egret ever got its lunch down to its stomach or not.

I have never seen a gallinule with wings spread like this. This photo will make a great addition to my bird-butt collection.

Purple Gallinule

There must have been some pest annoying it. We saw a lot of flapping and scratching before moving on.

The red heron was just a shiver of feathers the moment before I snapped this picture.

Red Heron
Venetian Gardens Canal

At one point a gallinule seemed to be fussing at us as we began to cross a bridge. Then I spotted a nest in the weeds. There were at least two black fuzz balls in there, but I could not get a good picture of them. Ah, spring! I love babies.

On the far side of the bridge, a newly-hatched Common Gallinule/Common Moorhen was out of the nest and on the lawn. Two siblings were at the edge of the nest, not quite ready to conquer the grass.

Common Moorhen with Chick

It is about the size of a newly-hatched chicken.

Moorhen Chick

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a turtle with so much moss on its shell.

Fuzzy Green Turtle

Some water lilies at the edge of the lake are in such shallow water that the flowers do not sit on the surface. This one was about a foot above the water.

April 15-16, 2019 – Daytona Beach, Florida

We went on a vacation! A short vacation. Three nights at the beach. Though, some might argue that you can’t take a vacation when you are retired; we are always on vacation. We did vacate our house and stay in a resort. Son Mike had been staying with us for a few days while working on brother Paul’s house to get it ready to sell. The night before we were to leave, and Mike to return to Virginia, I got an email saying we got a free upgrade from one bedroom to two bedrooms. So, we invited Mike to stay a few more days and go to the beach with us. I didn’t have to twist his arm

Ocean Walk is right on the ocean boardwalk in downtown Daytona Beach. I did not like the news that our unit was on the sixteenth floor. I’d rather stay on a floor where I can jump out the window, if necessary. Since I am not really hung up on it, I didn’t complain. The view was nice. When I looked down from our balcony, the people were small. It took two photos to capture the pool deck. To the left, a kiddie pool, a hot tub, and a resort pool.

To the right is a “lazy river” stream for floating in inner tubes. I wanted to try that. Then there is another hot tub and another resort pool with a tall spiral sliding board. There are also several more hot tubs close to the building that do not show in these pictures.

The historic Daytona Beach band shell adjoins the resort.

Daytona Beach Band Shell

Here is some of what Wikipedia has to say about it:

The Daytona Beach Bandshell is an amphitheatre in Daytona BeachFloridaUnited States. It is located at Ocean Avenue, north of the junction of Main Street and Atlantic Avenue. On March 5, 1999, it was added to the U.S.National Register of Historic Places. On April 18, 2012, the AIA‘s Florida Chapter placed the Daytona Beach Bandshell on its list of Florida Architecture: 100 Years. 100 Places.[2]

In the 1920s, residents of Daytona Beach considered this area to be run-down and held discussions on ways to improve it.

In 1936, WPA workers began construction on this community-use project that was to cost Daytona Beach $84,000, the federal government $184,000, and be completed in 1938. Originally known as “Broadwalk”, common usage gradually changed the name to the boardwalk.

The first facility constructed was the 48 foot by 114 foot natural coquina rock bandshell which seats 4,500. This was begun in September, 1936, and was completed in time for the first program to be presented on July 4, 1937. Open air concerts, as well as other programs, are still presented in the bandshell. The other structures in the boardwalk area are a clock tower, kiosk, concession facilities, restrooms, subway entrances (now closed), and an elevated walk from Earl to Ora Streets.[3]

There is a nice lawn between the band shell and the city clock tower.

Daytona Beach Clock Tower

There are an ancient roller coaster and this charming hall filled with game machines.

Daytona Beach Amusement Hall

I took this photo from the pier where we went to lunch at Joe’s Crab Shack.

Daytona Beach

We watched a Life Guard Truck arrive on shore, but we could not figure out who they were saving. The bartender told us that there were 72 rescues the day before. Apparently, rip-currents are a big problem here.

Mike and Andy on Daytona Beach Pier

We had walked past the food trucks on the way to lunch and saw a film crew filming a woman showing her food at a table. Mike asked someone on the way back and was told that it was the Food Network filming a show about doughnuts. Mike decided to buy a doughnut but changed his mind when the woman told him it was five dollars.

Food Trucks on the Boardwalk at Daytona Beach

This is the Wyndham resort, two buildings connected by the basement and lobby levels.

Wyndham Ocean Walk
Daytona Beach

This is part of the view from the elevator lobby on the street-side of the hotel. The Intracoastal Waterway is in the foreground. The large, battleship gray structure behind the two buildings in the background is the Daytona International Speedway grandstand. I zoomed a lot.

This is the view of the beach and ocean from our balcony.

The second day, I spent a few hours on the balcony taking photographs of the pelicans flying by. Sometimes they were below us, sometimes they were above us, and sometimes, usually when I was facing the other way, they would come zooming by at eye level.

Pelican Over Daytona Beach

Andy had the best time laughing at me facing the wrong way and missing the photo-op. I caught him when he wasn’t laughing. He must have just closed his mouth.

We were so high that we were level with the airplane towing advertising banners for restaurants.

Later, I took a few gull pictures while we were sitting on a bench on the boardwalk.

It was a lazy and pleasant vacation.

April 8, 2019 – My Tiny Farm

Andy suggested that I post some photos of my garden. And, since I was beside myself when we got home last fall and found most things around the house half dead, showing the current health seemed like a good idea.

These violas were not here last fall; they were half dead when I bought four plants at the hardware store a few weeks ago. They give me such joy; it must be the purple.

Viola

The jasmine was half dead when we got home last fall, but has revived nicely. It is loaded with blooms, and the fragrance is heady, especially when there is a little breeze.

Jasmine

The front of the house does appear to have some landscaping when seen from the street. One delight of Florida is that there are at least a few blooms all year long. In Maryland, the azaleas bloomed in the spring for a few weeks. Here in Florida, we always have some flowers.

I walked out onto the golf course to take this picture of the back of our house as the golfers see it.

My messy herb garden is just outside the bedroom. I have failed in my attempt at an artful herb garden. One mistake I made was to plant the mint in the ground rather than a pot (my book says to plant them in a pot set into the ground to keep it from spreading). I don’t think that would be completely effective, based on how my potted mint spread out to the cement slab in Marathon.

Herb Garden

I have never used sage much but had to plant some to go with the Simon & Garfunkle song, Scarborough Fair.

Sage

I use basil more than anything else and have learned to make some Killer Pesto by tampering with Mark Bittman’s recipe in How to Cook Everything. My secret: more pine nuts, more parmesan, and more garlic. I don’t puree all the pine nuts either, as I like some texture. I also throw and a handful of basil into my frozen spaghetti sauce when I heat it.

Basil

I need to start making iced tea and using more mint in it. The mint is overwhelming the basil. Iced-tea season has not begun yet.

The herb garden has chives, oregano, rosemary, sage, cilantro, parsley, basil, thyme, and an overabundance of mint.

The row of Lantana outside the screen room was three-quarters dead last fall. I didn’t think it would survive. The Lantana in front/north of the house is a quarter of the size of these mounds.

Lantana

In case you are not familiar with Lantana, here are some close-up pictures of the blossoms. They are about as big as the circle formed by touching your forefinger to the tip of your thumb. Each one seems to be unique in the color arrangement.

Lantana
Lantana

My Lantana is pink and yellow, but it comes in other colors. A yard on the next street over has a large bed of brilliant red/yellow/orange ones.

This is my farm on the back/south side of the house. We jokingly refer to it as the “south forty – – – – – square feet” even though the measurements are not entirely accurate. I started the red and green bell pepper plants with seeds from grocery-store peppers. I started the onions from sprouted onions in the pantry. Only two of my grocery-store tomato seeds germinated and those plants are not doing well. I bought three more tomato plants from a garden shop, and all are producing abundant blooms and tomatoes. I made a marigold border to make it more attractive.

Onion
Small Tomatoes
Beefsteak Tomatoes

It would be nice to get to eat some of this before we leave on our summer trip. I’m hoping for some hot weather to ripen those tomatoes.

April 7, 019 – Hickory Point Park in Tavares, Florida

We picked up several Lake County Water Authority park brochures at Bourlay park the other day. Hickory Point Park was the most surprising. We have driven past this park so many times, but it never occurred to us to turn in and explore it. The brochure hinted at what we’ve been missing.

We cruised by the boat ramps and parked in front of the biggest picnic pavilion I have ever seen. It is two floors high with screens and balconies all around.

Hickory Point Park Picnic Pavilion

The pavilion is available by reservation for picnics, weddings, and any other sort of event. There was a large party underway to the left of the front door. We went straight through and out the back door.

When we exited, the scene was beautiful. There was a small pavilion to the left and the right.

I turned to look at the pavilion from the lakeside. Lovely.

Andy continued out to the fishing pier.

I followed as Little Lake Harris was coming into view.

Here is an aerial view of the pavilion from the brochure.

I was surprised by the number of boat slips. You can see the Howey Bridge in the back right, where we have driven by so many times.

I turned back again to admire the Bald Cypress trees and Spanish Moss along the shoreline.

The side piers have large decks on the end. The gap in the trees in the background is the gateway from Lake Harris to Little Lake Harris. Venetian Gardens and downtown Leesburg are on the far side of the large Lake Harris.

We enjoyed the sun, breeze, and views for a while and then walked back to shore and followed the shoreline to the nature trail. The loop trail is a mile long and the first third of it is a boardwalk through a swamp.

It’s a jungle in there.

Andy spotted this turtle resting on a branch next to the boardwalk.

Turtle

I saw a fine lizard on a tree trunk on the other side of the boardwalk.

The boardwalk made a lot of twists and turns.

There are also a number of wide spots with benches to stop and rest or just admire this wild place.

There are many Bald Cypress trees and several ones are quite large. The photos just don’t show it.

Bald Cypress Tree

I love baby leaves and saw many of them along the trail.

A large area of the swamp was covered with these tiny plants. I don’t know what they are.

Boardwalk Through Cypress Swamp

I saw plenty of ferns and one area was covered with them.

Ferns
Heart-shaped Leaves

Two Ibis flew across our path and landed in the swamp. There must be something they like in the mud because they were digging down with most of their beaks buried.

We crossed a small road and saw a citrus grove to our left. A sign said, “Stay on the Trail”, so we did not explore the grove.

Citrus Grove

The elevation changed and we were in an upland forest. It smelled like fall with the leaves covering the trail.

The trail followed along the swamp.

Ibis in Swamp

We passed a storage yard with a long boat shed. There were all kinds of small boats stored there and also a good number of police vehicles.

Andy with a Walking Stick

Eventually, we came out of the woods and a large group of eighteen volleyball courts. Only one was occupied by four people who seemed to be practicing. Andy admired the uniforms.

I took more pictures of baby leaves as he watched volleyball practice.

The loop took us right back to the picnic pavilion and our car.

April 5, 2019 – Construction Equipment

For months now, we have been watching earthmoving equipment in the field across the golf course, preparing for the next section of homes. Today, we saw a piece of equipment neither of us had ever seen before.

The ground is not perfectly flat so it took us a long time to figure out what they were doing. It moved extremely slowly. Almost imperceptibly so. The only hint was the continuous line-up of cement trucks pulling up to it.

The cement trucks poured their cement into a big red scoop-looking thing at the front. Usually, the machine would stop for reloading, however, in this photo, the cement truck was delivering cement while backing up at the same rate of speed as the machine. Skills there.

I was proud that I figured it out, or maybe just guessed correctly. They have no paved the streets in that section. The only reason I could come up with for the scene was that the machine was pouring and forming the cement gutters that line our asphalt streets. Eventually, they moved to a spot where we could see the cement gutters and confirmed my theory.

These two Sandhill Cranes were foraging along the golf-cart path with no concern for all the noise and activity nearby.

April 3, 2019 – Bourlay Historic Nature Park

I have a goal of exploring all the parks in this region and today it was Bourlay Historic Nature Park right here in Leesburg. Buddy Bourley III donated this 88-acre property to the Lake County Water Authority in 1999 to honor his parents. Buddy is a descendant of Evander Lee, the founder of Leesburg. The land was first settled in 1843 by Leesburg’s first homesteader, Thomas Robertson. However, he moved away and the town was named after Lee, who moved to the property in 1857.

This old “Cracker House” was moved to the property and serves as the visitor center. A cracker house is an old house from early settlers in Florida. People still refer to Florida natives as crackers or Florida crackers.

Bourlay Historic Nature Park Visitor Center
Visitor Center Interior
Cracker House Kitchen
Founder of Leesburg Evander Lee with wife

Our next stop was a park information kiosk.

These beautiful, fragrant, and bee-laden flowers are growing on a small tree (or large shrub) next to the kiosk.

We walked along a trail to this chickee (palm-frond roof) stage with benches for the audience.

It is right next to Lake Griffen.

Coral Bean

This pier was just a few yards farther along the lakeshore.

I stopped to take a photo of this anhinga before we startled her away. Sure enough, she took flight just as we stepped on the first board.

Anhinga

We continued on out the pier.

Pier on Lake Griffen
View to Left
View to Right
Pickerelweed

We sat in a corner bench built into the pier railing and watched a group of osprey fishing.

Waterlily Leaves

We watched one osprey swoop down to the water’s surface but didn’t think it caught a fish. Then, it flew by right in front of our faces with a fish nearly as big as the bird. Of course, it was yet another fantastic photo opportunity missed. Neither the camera nor I were fast enough to get the bird focused and in the frame before it flew by. I did get another one searching for a fish though.

We also spent a lot of time enjoying this small grebe diving in the lake. It only spent about three seconds on the surface before the next dive, so it took a number of tries before I got this picture.

Grebe

This is the old Bourlay house on the lakefront. It was built in the 1930s. It is now occupied by the person who takes care of the property. Nice job perk!

Here is a wider view showing the lake behind the house. The house and yard are surrounding by fencing and No-Trespassing signs.

We continued on past the house parallel to the shoreline and came upon a heavily-laden tangerine tree. I picked one and peeled it. Andy thought it was over-ripe. I thought it was tasty.

Tangerine Tree

I learned that Bald Cypress grows all over Florida except in the Florida Keys.

Bald Cypress Branches

I looked and looked, but could not find the name of these flowers.

I found these with Google Images and they have a dozen names. I’m sticking with Spiderwort.

Barn

I admired this shiny magnolia leaf on the ground in the parking area.