Forts, Family and Feathered Friends

We left our inland camp and set up shop near the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. Fort Desoto County Park is a favorite of ours. It offers miles of biking trails as well as Bayside and Gulf beaches.

Site 165

We’ve stayed in this park before but this site is the best we’ve had here. It is reasonably secluded with a water view. The park is very popular so we feel quite lucky to have nabbed this spot for two weeks.

This Great Egret visited most mornings
Another visitor-a Little Blue Heron

Speaking of visitors, Pat’s brother Mike and his wife Donna camped at a site near us and Shelly’s sister Ellen and her husband Rory booked a condo on St. Pete’s Beach for a sibling meet up.

The Tampa-Saint Pete area has a plethora of small breweries. Of course we needed to check a few of them out.

Part of the fun of camping at Fort Desoto is the bird watching. Most of the birds are common to Florida but are uncommon to northerners. We did get to see a bird uncommon to the area, a Reddish Egret. It’s the first time we’ve seen one. We didn’t get a good picture but enjoyed watching it foraging in the shallows.

Osprey reside throughout the park.

While out viewing some Osprey nests we ran into some other bird nerds who told us about an upcoming birding event, Raptor Fest. The event took place at a bird rescue facility with lots of birds on view.

Barn Owl
A pair of rescued Screech Owls

Most of our time was spent biking and walking on the beaches.

Our family visits overlapped which made for a fun family stroll along the water on a windy and overcast day.

Mike and Donna
Rory, Shelly and Ellen

After Mike and Donna returned home the rest of us ventured over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to Sarasota for a matinee performance of Circus Sarasota.

This is a one ring circus that takes place under the “Big Top”. The performances include many outstanding international acts. Circus Sarasota comes highly recommended.

Some of the monkeys at the circus

We spent a couple of afternoons wandering around Saint Petersburg.

Florida humor?

We love being able to see all the flowers and greenery during the winter months.

We always enjoy meeting new people when we travel.

Saint Petersburg is home to the Dali Museum. An interesting building housing interesting art.

It’s always fun to meet family on the road and it sure makes time fly by. Our two weeks went by in an instant. Time to move on.

State Forest or State Park ?

Finding a place to camp in Florida is an exercise in planning and persistence. Myakka River State Park near Sarasota is one of our favorites. When booking spots for our current road trip we thought we snagged a spot at this popular state park. Turned out we booked a spot at Myakka River Forest Preserve. The Forest Preserve provides beautiful secluded spots with no power or water while the State Park has electric and water. Whoops.

Our confusion gave us an opportunity to put our new solar panel into service. It worked great. The campground only has 10 camp spots and is very quiet. Our location gave us access to many miles of hiking and biking trails.

Our stay offered lots of opportunities to observe the wildlife. We saw baby feral pigs, Sandhill Cranes and a Bobcat.

In addition to wildlife and birding opportunities we got a chance to checkout the surrounding towns of Englewood and Punta Gorda.

Englewood Beach
On the Espalade in Punta Gorda

As nice as the State Forest turned out to be we really wanted to spend some time at the State Park. This is where persistence pays off. After checking back with the park a spot turned up as a result of a cancellation. We were able to get a spot for two days.

Site 1 in the Big Flats Loop

The reason to be here is the easy acces to birding and biking.

Little Blue Heron
Roseate Spoonbills, Limpkins, Black Vultures and Cormorants
White Ibis feeding at sunset

We also saw a large group of white pelicans (rare to us) , raccoons, red shouldered hawks, wild turkeys, more wild hogs and of course, lots of alligators. With all that wildlife viewing our two day stay just flew by.

Here We Go Again

It’s been awhile since we added anything to our blog. We decided to spend more time at home in Buffalo this year. However, we did drag the Tincan down to Florida in October to avoid winterizing or driving through a blizzard.

We’ll start this years travels in Florida before we head West. We are always looking for new spots to checkout as we travel so we began our tour of Florida at a spot new to us-Wekiwa Springs State Park in central Florida north of Orlando.

Of course the main draw here is the crystal clear spring.

A lovely boardwalk takes you through a swampy area to the Springs.

The campground is nestled into a sand pine woods with lots of hiking and biking trails.

Pat’s sister Carolyn and her husband Ed drove over to the campground for a bit of a ramble through the woods.

We didn’t know what to expect at Wekiwa Springs but we’re pleasantly surprised by what the park had to offer. Next time we’ll stay longer.

We left Central Florida and headed East to the Melbourne Beach area to Long Point County Park, another new destination for us.

The neighbors (Wood Stork and Brown Pelican)

The park is on a spit of land that juts into the Indian River and is surrounded by mangroves. The park is a good base from which to explore the surrounding area, Sebastian Inlet and the towns of Vero Beach and Sebastian. Plus it is only a mile from the Atlantic Ocean.

Long Point is a short drive to Sebastian Inlet where surfers come to test their skills.

The area is also home to numerous micro breweries. We’re always up for tipping a few pints.

The Walking Tree Brewers specialize in Strong Ales which are aged in whiskey barrels.

The real purpose of this stop was to check out a portion of the Florida Coast we’ve never seen.

From here we moved further down the coast for a short stay at Jonathan Dickson State Park in Jupiter. We’ve been to this park in the past and it’s a favorite. It has good mountain biking and hiking trails. The stop also gets us a visit with one of Pat’s high school friends Lynne.

It rained and was chilly during our stay but we still made the effort to check out the beach at nearby Hobe Sound.

We had an unexpected bonus during our stay in Jupiter. Earlier in the month we made contact with our roommate Jim from the early 1970’s. We spent an afternoon in West Palm Beach catching up on the last 45 years.

The weather wasn’t the best but hey nothing froze and we didn’t have to deal with the snow back home.

We’ll be leaving the East Coast for fun along the Myakka River.

The Long Way Home

We decided to return East by way of Nebraska and Iowa. Our first stop was North Platte, NE home to the Bailey Yard and the Golden Spike Tower.

The observation deck of the tower gives a commanding view of Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard. They claim to be the world’s largest train switching yard.

The yard covers 2,850 acres and is eight miles long.

The repair shop services 300 locomotives every day.

We left North Platte and headed down US 80 to checkout Lincoln NE.

The Nebraska State Capital Building was built between 1922 and 1932 of Indiana limestone.

Sage advice as you enter the capital building

Entry door detail

Nebraska is the only State with a unicameral legislature. Since we were there on a Sunday, not a whole lot was going on. We did manage lunch at an excellent brewery and a visit to two small museums.

The Sheldon Museum is a small contemporary art museum on the University of Nebraska campus with an excellent collection.

Lincoln is also home to the International Quilt Museum.

The Museum was featuring quilts of India…

…and Liberia

We entered Iowa on US 80 but quickly left the Interstate in search of a few roadside attractions.

We made our way to Elkhorn and it’s working windmill.

The large Danish community purchased the windmill from Denmark in 1970, had it disassembled and shipped to the US. It was reassembled using volunteers and is the only Danish windmill in the country. Shortly after it left Denmark its government outlawed the practice.

No trip through Iowa would be complete without a visit to Audubon and the world’s largest concrete bull, Albert.

As we headed to the Cedar Rapids area for an overnight stay we went through Templeton, home to one of our favorite rye whiskeys.

Sadly they were closed.

Cedar Rapids was a pleasant surprise, good restaurants, interesting architecture, friendly people and an excellent independent bookstore.

Our ultimate destination was Chicago to spend some quality time with these buggers.

As we always do after a long trip, we stopped at the Airstream Factory in Jackson Center OH for some routine maintenance. While they were working on the Tincan we took the opportunity to bag another state high point.

While we love the “road trip lifestyle”, it is always nice get home in time to enjoy summer in Buffalo. We have a few short trips planned over the next few months BUT we are taking a break from the blog until our next trip south. Visit us in Buffalo soon!

Home at last!!

The Other Utah

We continued along US70 toward Moab to meet up with our Denver friends Barbara, Roger and Genevifka. US70 enters Utah through the San Raphael Swell, a ruggedly beautiful area.

We arrived ahead of our Denver friends and did a bit of touring in Canyonlands National Park.

The plan was to hook up with Barbara and Roger and two other families at Dead Horse Point State Park. We were unable to secure a camping spot in the park so we booked a space @ the KOA in Moab.

We had a blast with these intrepid campers.

And a Big Apple Getaway

Our nephew Keegan was selected to be part of the Whitney Biennial. We weren’t going to miss an opportunity to celebrate with him and his family.

Ellen, Rory, Eamon and Keegan

“Blue Door”


“Incoming ”

The work is amazing. The photos don’t really convey the complexity of these paintings.

Detail from “Outside”

Ellen, Kitty and Larry

We took the NYC Ferry from Manhattan to Red Hook to visit Keegan and Eamon’s studio. The ferry is a great way to see the city and couldn’t be easier.

Studio Eamon

Pat, Rory and Keegan

A rare photo of Shelly and sisters Ellen and Andrea.

After a whirlwind four days it was time to fly back to Denver to pick up the Tincan and continue East.

This is what greeted us in the morning. No matter, the road beckons.

Are You Lonely Tonight?

Highway 50 runs through the middle of Nevada to the Utah border. The Highway starts in Carson City and passes through five towns (two have gas stations) before leaving the state. As a result the road has earned the title of “Loneliest Road in America “.

We took our time moving through Nevada, being sure to top off our gas tank whenever possible. These small towns had their heyday in the late 1800’s during the area’s mining boom. The town of Eureka at its height had population of approximately 8,000 people, currently about 600 people live there.

Opera was how miners entertained themselves in the 1800’s

At one point in it’s history Eureka had a daily newspaper. It’s former home is now a museum which documents the the town’s history including the newspaper’s.

The only remaining 5 hole outhouse in Nevada.

Our next stop was in Ely – one of the larger towns on the highway, population 4,060. We set up camp just outside of town at the Ely KOA.

The KOA was surrounded by mountains with miles of trails to explore.

We spent a few nights on the road and met lots of friendly locals and fellow travelers. Our main goal was a visit to Great Basin National Park. We arrived on a Saturday and set up camp just outside the Park in the town of Baker, population approximately 385.

The Tincan made some friends in Baker.

Where else would you eat when your on the road? The food was excellent.

The Great Basin is one of four deserts in the US, the driest (an average of 10 inches of rain a year) and highest (5,000 plus ft in the valleys) it extends from the California border in the West to the Wasatch Mountains in Utah to the East. It stretches North into Oregon and South below Las Vegas with the mountains getting as high as 13,000 ft.

The Basin began life as a large shallow lake 500 million years ago. 40 to 20 million years ago volcanoes erupted spewing lava and ash throughout the Basin. Over the past 25 million years the Basin has stretched 50 miles East to West thinning and cracking the Earth’s crust. This resulted in North-South faults with uplift along these faults forming a series of mountain ranges and basins.

Great Basin National Park is home to two groves of ancient bristlecone pines. They grow at an altitude of 10,000 ft and with snow still deep and the last six miles of road to the trailhead closed-we had to content ourselves with this example in the visitor center.

Bristlecone pine is among the longest lived life forms. Some trees live thousands of years, the oldest being 5,000. We hope to go back some autumn to see these elders in their home.

The other big attraction @ the Park is the extravagantly decorated Lehman Cave. We signed up for a tour. The cave was unusually wet this year and the formations were glistening.

In spite of the snow we did manage to get some hiking done.

The Great Basin gets water from snow melt that percolates to an underground aquifer or runs to low spots in the landscape. It doesn’t leave the Basin via rivers or streams. Residents have been in a decades long fight to keep their water local.

The sun sets on the Great Basin and we continue East.

In the Footsteps of John Muir

The mountains are calling and I must go.

….John Muir

The Yosemite Valley was formed 30,000 years ago when glaciers scoured the landscape. When the glaciers receded 14,000 years ago they left behind granite cliffs, waterfalls, meadows and the Merced River.

We set up camp about an hour drive from the Valley. This meant getting up early so we could get into the park and secure a parking spot. Even in the off season this is a very busy park. On the upside, we did get drive down this spectacular canyon every morning.

The park is large and the Park Service provides a shuttle service for visitors. We brought our bikes to avoid wasting time waiting at shuttle stops.

Biking allowed us to get around the Valley and maximize our time there.

Upper Yosemite Fall

Lower Yosemite Fall

The trail to the top of Upper Yosemite Falls is a grueling 7.2 mile round trip hike. We opted not to go to the top but aimed for a more modest destination-Columbia Rock. The trail switchbacks up the face of the mountain for 2 miles and provides excellent views of the valley below from a rock ledge.

There are many ways to experience the Park. For those wishing to be pampered there is the Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly The Ahwahanee). Built in the 1920’s the place oozes rustic elegance.

Not far from Half Dome is the trailhead for Vernal Fall.

The exceptional snowfall this winter has supplied a lot of water to the valley. Rivers and creeks rage and the waterfalls are roaring.

On our bikes we where able take in many of Yosemite’s iconic sites.

Half Dome

Bridalveil Fall

El Capitan

We left Yosemite and headed north to Chico to spend a few days with our friends Will and Carrie.

Chico is home to Sierra Nevada Brewing. The original micro brewery?

Carrie grooms and shows English Cocker Spaniels.

Photo courtesy of Will

Chico is not far from Paradise where the Camp Fire raged. We took a ride up to check out the recovery efforts.

The fire was 100% contained on November 25th 2018. The devastation was astounding. These few photos don’t come close to conveying the scope of the devastation. The cleanup has started but has a long way to go before they can start rebuilding Paradise.

We had a fun visit with Will and Carrie. They are wonderful hosts and it was nice to relax and chill for a few days-BUT-soon it was time to turn the Tincan toward home. The road beckoned us east on Route 50 through Nevada.