Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Florida in August

This seems to be the hottest month.  John once had the theory that being near the ocean would keep us cool.  However, that does not take into account the fact that during the summer months the waters of the ocean get as warm as the temperature on land, so there is no cool moisture in the air to bring the temperatures down!  Our usual plan is to be quite a distance north to avoid the heat which we are feeling now.  That was not possible this summer because our daughter, her husband and child are living here and their second child is due any day now.
At least it is not dry here, the frequent brief rains keep plants and trees blooming so, despite the heat, we are still in a tropical paradise.  Down the road from where we are parked is the Dunedin Tree Arboretum.  Walking through this beautiful park a few weeks back we found a most unusual mushroom.  It certainly looks like a flower, but has all the earmarks of a mushroom.
It is impossible to stay inside all the time and keep one's sanity.  Yesterday, with our very pregnant daughter and her son Nathan, we drove over to Lowry Zoo.
We were surprised to see penguins outside in the 90 degree plus heat.  In the St.Louis Zoo they are in a building kept quite cool with air conditioning.  We soon learned that the penguins here enjoying their swim are from the southwest coast of Africa.  This breed of penguins, the ones still in the wild, are in high risk of extinction due to pollution and habitat loss.
Despite this being the hottest time of the year, it was interesting that out of the three times we have been here, we saw the most animals this time.  Or at least it seemed that way.  Checking out the people who were staring at him is a meerkat, another animal from Africa who loves the heat.
Most of the wallabies in their pen, however, were seeking relief from the sun.  Before we left the zoo we were treated to the sight of a Macaw Flyover.  We always seemed to miss that event in the past when we visited the zoo.  The sight of about 8 macaws flying over us was quite beautiful because of their bright blue and yellow colors.  It was almost as good as a Blue Angel show!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Day Trip South

John and I finally took a break from house repairs ( on our daughter's house), as well as babysitting.  Our plan was to drive to Sarasota, Florida, but we were a bit uncertain about going that far as thunderstorms were predicted there by late afternoon.  On our way south we stopped at the DeSoto National Memorial Park.  It is about 5 miles west from downtown Bradenton.
According to park information this reconstructed area is noted as being "perhaps the site" where
Hernando de Soto landed in Florida on May 30, 1539.   Born in 1500, de Soto was by this time a very successful conquistador.  By his twenties he had become rich from Incan plunder which enabled him to purchase the needed supplies and equipment needed for a foray into north America.  After arriving in Florida he left 100 men (he had a total of about 700) at a camp near the lading site to guard their supplies while he traveled northward into Florida.  De Soto had dreams of finding more silver, gold and precious gems in our country than he had found in South America.  It all came to nought, the mission was doomed by his unfamiliarity with the land, hostile Indians, and his strong desire for wealth.  The explorer died three years after landing in Florida.
Above is a granite monument to De Soto, which was placed in the park in 1939.  He and his men are at least credited as being the first to share information regarding the American land and its first people.  He had chroniclers along with him, their written narratives as well as archeological artifacts has helped us to learn of his explorations.  Surrounding the memorial are gumbo trees, some of the largest in the country.  They are often used as living fence posts in Cuba and the West Indies.
The largest one is dying from some black fungus.  There is a sign near it saying "Respect my space".
Our goal for the day was a botanical park in Sarasota.  However, we found this smaller one at Durante Park in the town of Longboat Key.  Not much there, but we found a colorful grove of hibiscus trees- all with differing colors of blooms.  While walking around there, in the heat of the day, we realized it would be foolish to tour a larger garden because it was just too hot!
We did make it to Sarasota, and while driving around in the downtown area we came upon this statute.  It was created by Seward Johnson in 2006, titled "Unconditional Surrender".  You may remember it, a picture taken in 1945 after the Japanese surrendered.  It is of a a sailor and his girlfriend ( a nurse) reuniting with a passionate kiss in Times Square.
That was our day trip.  Mostly what we gained from it was that we needed to return.  Sarasota has gardens, and museums to explore- but only when the weather is a bit cooler!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Safety Harbor, Florida

Helping our daughter and her husband get settled in their new home has taken up a great deal of our time since we have arrived in Florida.  The weather has also been quite interesting.  The first week or so it was quite warm and humid.  It was uncomfortable being out side until the sun started going down, and then the mosquitoes would dive down for their blood-sucking feast on any human found outdoors.  In the past week the weather has cooled down to the eighties, but now we are dealing with torrents of rain.  However, there have been nice breaks from that and on Friday John and I ventured out under over-cast skies to tour Safety Harbor.  The town is due east of us along Tampa Bay.  Local Indians were the first ones drawn to the area because of its five mineral springs.
A mural on the side of the Chamber of Commerce building depicts the history of Safety Harbor.  In 1539 Hernando de Soto named the springs Espiritu Santo, or water of the Holy Spirit. 
Our tour of the town took us to the oldest live oak in Pinellas County.  It is estimated to be 300-500 years old.  Its girth measures approximately 20 feet.  The tree is named for Dr.S. Baranoff, who in 1945 purchased the Safety Harbor Sanitarium.  It was an 18 acre health facility which included the five mineral springs.  The sanitarium is now gone, replaced by Safety Harbor Resort and Spa. 
 As we were gazing at the majestic tree I saw a man narrowly miss a low-hanging branch of it which stretched over the fence.  My guess he was playing Pokemon Go, as there were others nearby who seemed to be equally equally engrossed in their smart phones.
Our walk took us to Marina Park down by the harbor.  A wonderful floral smell was in the air, we attributed that odor to several trees which had beautiful pink blossoms.
We also walked out on the pier where locals informed us we could find manatees. We first saw dolphins off in the distance in the ocean, and, by patiently scanning the ocean, we did eventually see a manatee with her calf.  Again we saw people on the pier staring into their smart phones.  I felt like shaking them and informing them that while they were glued to their electronic devices they were missing out on seeing some awesome scenery.   Well, as my mother would say "each to their own".

Monday, August 1, 2016

Jamestown, Virginia

Jamestown is part of the historic triangle where the birthplace of America occurred.  It is located 10 minutes from Williamsburg and about a mile from the original settlement.  It is the area where London's Virginia Company sent the first settlers to the sandy shores of the James River.  For a variety of reasons we were able to tour this area more easily than Williamsburg.  We arrived there a when it was a tad cooler in the morning hours.  And even Nathan enjoyed the cool walk through a forest, on a boardwalk over marshland.  Our first stop was a recreated Indian Village.
 Virginia was settled in the midst of a Powhatan Indian chiefdom in 1607.   We stepped inside a reconstructed tepee which had a low-lying bed and fireplace.  Furs hung everywhere from the ceilings and walls.  We saw actors, dressed as Native Americans, active around their homes and fields.  From there we took a path down to the river's edge where several ships sit in the harbor.
We were able to tour three life-size replicas of the 1607 ships- Susan Constant, Godspeed  and Discovery.  The smallest ship held only 21 passengers and seemed to me as having very cramped quarters for a 4 and a half month ocean voyage from England.  The other two ships were a bit larger, carrying double that number, and accommodations were a bit improved.  I did not know that ships back then had brick fireplaces.
From the harbor we walked to the wooden palisade of  Jamestown Settlement's recreated colonial fort.  The  "public" buildings were built first, and they included store houses, a guard house for the military, and a church (at this time the Church of England was the only choice for the settlers).
Pictured above is the alter area of the church, on which the Lord's Prayer as well as the Ten Commandments and Creed are posted on the back wall.  Here we encountered an elderly man dressed in period clothing.  He was not the cleric, but said that he was the assistant to the first resident governor of the Virginia colony, Lord Del a La Ware.  An interesting side note here is that the government of the colony moved to Middle Plantation (Williamsburg) in 1699.
Actors dressed in period clothing were available to answer questions regarding the first colony.  I noticed tobacco crops growing outside of the settlement and learned how important that crop was to the first settlers.  John Rolfe grew the first crop in 1619,he and others quickly became rich exporting it to England.  The settlers also learn how great a crop it was also for their own use and chose to grow it over such boring crops as beans and corn.  A law was soon passed limiting how much tobacco could be grown.
After seeing the outdoor exhibits in Jamestown we moved inside to the rather extensive galleries inside which chronicle the nation's 17th century beginnings in Virginia.  While I stayed back with Nathan the rest also were able to also see the recreated archaeological site down the road.   So much to see, but in general it was quite hot outside.  Melissa and I chose not to see Yorktown in the afternoon because of the brutal heat and Nathan needed to rest.  Yorktown is, as a tour brochure notes, where "America became of age".  At this place is the battlefield on land and sea where we won our independence from England.
We have now moved to Florida, and are residing in the Clearwater area.  Our daughter Melissa and her husband have moved their residence further north up the coast.  We are assisting them get settled in their new home, and their second child is due later this month.  This blog site may be quiet for awhile now, but you never know.