Part Two-Down by the River

We’ve been using Myakka River as a base to explore Sarasota and the surrounding area. Sarasota is home to the Ringling Museum and estate. The museum houses a large art museum as well as a circus museum. We spent two afternoons wandering the grounds.

The Circus Museum houses an immense scale model of the Ringling Circus as it would be set up in the 1930’s. It is the creation of Howard Tibbals and his life’s work. These photos do not do justice to the detail and care that went into creating the model. Must be seen.

Lots vintage posters on display

The grounds of the estate are on Sarasota Bay. The park like setting offers beautiful gardens and art for viewing. David is spending Winter in Sarasota this year.

Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads

Part of the museum’s new Asian wingDetail of Ringling’s home

We met up with Bruce and Loretta to check out Sarasota’s Saturday farmers market. We had a fun morning. Through the miracle of Facebook we connected with a high school classmate that Pat hasn’t seen in thirty years or was it fifty. We spent an afternoon catching up. Pat and ConnieJeffery

The last time we were in this part of Florida was 1980. Needless to say things have changed.

The Legacy Trail is a newer rails to trails bike path that runs between Sarasota and Venice with a side trail along the Intercostal Waterway to Caspersen Beach.

We made a quick stop in Venice to get silly.

But wait!!!–We still have another week in this area so watch for another post from West-central Florida.

Down By The River

After a lovely stay near the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay we’ve moved south and inland to Myakka River State Park. Site 13, Big Flats Campground

We were happy to get a spot at this popular campground. There are lots of birds here but by far the most common are Black Vultures.

It turns out that Site 13 backs up to a stand of palms where they come nightly to roost. Every night at sundown they swarm into the tops of the palms to settle in for the night. The real issue here is they stink. At times it feels like we’re camping next to a chicken coop. But, there’s lots to do and we don’t spend a great deal of time in camp.

Fortunately, there are lots of other birds and wildlife in the park. Sandhill Crane

Black-crowned Night-Heron (juvenile) And lots of these

A large prairie-river system dominates the park.

There’s plenty to do in and around the park. In the park there is birding, biking, hiking and a canopy walk.

The Park is situated near Sarasota, Siesta Key and Venice. Our plans include a visit to each of these areas.

We decided to take a drive and spend the day on Siesta Key. The beach here has been rated best beach in Florida based on the sand quality. It’s very fine and white and draws a lot of people to the beach.

We’ll be here for one more week. The adventure continues…

Holding Down the Fort-part two

When we travel we tend not to linger in one spot to long. We’ve been at Fort De Soto ten days which has allowed us to more fully explore the area and connect with old friends and family.Bruce & Loretta with Pat

We connected with some former Rochesterians who have taken up residence in Bradenton. We spent a lovely afternoon touring the area with a stop in Sarasota.

The beaches, the bike paths and birds make an extended stay at Fort De Soto worthwhile.

Pat’s brother Mike and his wife Donna came over to camp with their grandson Maddox.

Being at the beach doesn’t get old and we’ll miss walking the beaches at Fort De Soto and watching the sun set on the Gulf of Mexico.

We are getting ready to move down the coast to Myakka River State Park just south of Sarasota. We won’t be on the Gulf but we have a new area to explore.

Holding Down the Fort – part one

Part of the mortar battery that defended Fort De Soto. The Fort was built on the Gulf of Mexico after the US entered into the Spanish American War.

The Fort is part of a larger park that includes a campground. We’ve been here before and love the beaches and the biking as well as easy access to St. Petersburg and Tampa.

This is South Beach on Tampa Bay. At the southern most end of the beach you can observe a number of nesting Osprey. A four mile ride takes you to the more popular North Beach on the Gulf of Mexico.

This long expanse of beach is great for hunting for shells, people watching and birding. Our haul. We saw these fishermen as we walked the beach.

Having easy access to Tampa and St. Petersburg opens up lots of restaurant and museum options. We love ramen and when we travel we always check out the local ramen offerings. We found a winner in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa with Ichicoro Ramen. St. Petersburg has a number of world class museums, a Dali Museum, the Chihuly Collection and the Florida Holocaust Museum. Our first stop was the Chihuly Collection that is part of the Morean Art Center.

We then spent an emotional two hours in the Florida Holocaust Museum. We’ve not been to a Holocaust museum before. A very powerful experience. They had one of the cattle cars used to transport Jews to concentration camps in Poland(120 people per car). The rails that it sets on come from the Treblinka Concentration Camp. We were struck by the timeline of events from 1933 through 1939. It was chilling to realize how civil rights were stripped in a slow and steady progression until the final solution. It was a somber reminder of the need to remain vigilant to any erosion of our rights — but the stories of resistance and survival were inspiring.

Country Living

This is our first visit to Alafia River State Park about 40 minutes east of Tampa. It’s a small quiet campground with an abundance of bird life and miles of mountain bike trails. Site 25

The river and ponds support a wide variety of water birds. Every evening a couple hundred egrets gather in the reeds across this pond. It’s quite a sight to see them arrive and leave each day.

Florida is basically a flat state but it has a surprisingly challenging trail system. This park is a former phosphate mine that created new landforms when they excavated the phosphate. A branch of the Alafia River runs through it and several small ponds developed after the mine disrupted the area. The trails are built and maintained by volunteers from the Swamp Mountain Bike Club.

So far we have mostly stuck to the easy trails but Shelly tried a more challenging one today and will try a few more.

A familiar reminder that we’re in Florida.

A day in Ybor City

Ybor City is a section of Tampa known for it’s cigar producing past. Today it draws people to the area for its restaurants and cigar cafes.

In its heyday, worker social clubs dominated the city’s social and political life.

A wonderful Cuban bakery. Highly recommended.

The area around Centennial Park supports a large population of feral roosters and hens.

A pretender to the throne of the Plant City Strawberry King.

Gamble Rogers Recreation Area at Flagler Beach

This park is named for a Florida folk singer who was camping at Flagler Beach and lost his life there while attempting to save a drowning man. In honor of his heroism they renamed the park for him. Site 42

The park has two camping areas, ocean side or riverside. We were set to stay ocean side but the cold and wind had us moving to the larger more sheltered river side campground.

The park’s location allowed for more time with family and a chance to explore the marine scrub forest.

The curiously twisted trees are Sand Live Oak which are surrounded by Saw Palmetto.

While it was REALLY WINDY– we did walk the beach to enjoy the many shore birds as well as the surf and sun.

The river side campground had lots of bird watching opportunities. Without binoculars we had a hard time identifying what we were looking at. A quick trip to Daytona Beach solved that problem.

On one of our hikes we ran into this guy.

We also also came across this unusual fern like plant called a Coontie. Early settlers in Florida made arrowroot starch from the root of the plant. At the center of the plant a cobb like structure develops that produces a bright orange seed.

We saw a fungus growing under one the same color as the seeds.

After a few days at the beach we where ready to move on to Alafia River State Park with it’s 17 miles of mountain bike trails.

A week at the beach.

We’ve been here before but it’s always fun to come back. Anastasia State Park, just south of Saint Augustine, has four miles of undeveloped beach teaming with wildlife. The campground is tucked into a live oak hammock not far from the beach.Sea Urchin, Site 76

The first few days were a wintry mix of fog, wind and rain. We took a short walk on the beach but couldn’t see much of anything. We were guided by the sound of the waves.

On the plus side of inclement weather, we had a chance to catch up on the movies we’ve missed as well as check out some local restaurants.

A fabulous gumbo from Catch 27 in Old Saint Augustine.

While this may look like soap suds we’ve been assured they are not. This is the result of the wind and waves pulverizing zooplankton and phytoplankton.

The sun eventually arrived with moderate temperatures that allowed us the opportunity to ride and hike the beach.

We met up with Shelly’s sister Andrea and her family, Jeff, Jack and Emily, for a walk on the beach.

Monday we pack up and move down the coast.