LEARNING A NEW CAMERA

In preparation for an African Safari coming up in June of this year we bought a new camera with an optical zoom of 60X. We don’t want to get too close to things that may eat us; yet we want to bring home our digital trophies. While biking on Alligator Point with our friends Chris and Tessa we had a good opportunity to try out the new toy and to get advice from the Duke and Duchess as they are very knowledgeable in photography.

We spotted an unidentifiable Hawk (?) perched on a low piece of driftwood near the shore.

the hawk about 100 yard away at 60X zoom
the hawk about 100 yard away at 60X zoom

The  grass in the foreground would not allow auto focus so we moved closer trying to find a clear opening through the grasses.

A better shot through less grasss
A better shot through less grasss

Unfortunately we could not find a clear shot so even though the area was clearly marked to not enter as it was a protected dune area, our enthusiasm led us to avoid the signs and climb up the nearest dune to get the shot that would positively identify our hawk; of course after looking around for any park rangers ready to enforce the law.

Our clearly illegal shot!
Our clearly illegal shot!

We were still not able to identify this fowl until we cropped and enlarged the shot

The rare and elusive Florida Wood Hawk!
The rare and elusive Florida Wood Hawk!

Upon return to our home we read the manual and learned how to manual focus the camera.

EXPLORING ALLIGATOR POINT

A somewhat chilly Great Blue Heron
A somewhat chilly Great Blue Heron

Alligator Point located south of Tallahassee on the Gulf Of Mexico is a cornucopia of wildlife. Birds abound of all variety along with deer and even the Florida Black Bear who augments his acorn diet with trash can fodder when he can. We never saw a bear but did see many overturned trash cans, ours even had claw and tooth marks from his unsuccessful attempt.

As usual, we brought our bikes and cycled the length of the point several times looking not only at the varied wildlife but also possible homes and home sites.

White Pelicans on an oyster bar at low tide
White Pelicans on an oyster bar at low tide

 

 

A day trip took us to Florida Caverns State Park near Marianna about an hour west of Tallahassee.

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Years ago, when Eric was at FSU he and a friend explored these caverns simply by crawling down a small opening in the ground. Today that is not permitted but there is a great tour by park rangers.

Beautiful Wakulla Springs
Beautiful Wakulla Springs

We also took a day trip to Wakulla Springs which is another fantastic place to view wildlife.

Big Ole Gator
Big Ole Gator
A moma Manatee and her calf
A  Manatee and her calf

If you like wildlife this part of Florida must be on you bucket list!

 

 

 

Living VRBO

Often when we travel we stay in a Vacation Rental By Owner which we find on the web at vrbo.com. The object is to determine a place that is interesting to visit and then go online to see what there is available. Most of the ones we have used are stand alone homes, some have been condos.

We wanted to spend a few weeks on Alligator Point, Florida which the locals claim as “Florida’s Forgotten Coast”. Much of Florida has more than its share of traffic and this part of the Sunshine State is certainly the exception. It is located 30 miles south of Tallahassee on the gulf and no one accidentally goes there. Some never find their way back!

On realtor.com we saw a home in Panacea, Florida that was absolutely perfect for us, even though we are no where near ready to purchase a home. We wanted to check out that area for future reference. Last time Eric had been there was 45 years ago when he was a student at Florida State. It has changed little in that passage of time.

Panacea (cure for all ills), had no VRBO’s but nearby Alligator Point had a number of them available. After viewing them on line, reading reviews by previous guests, and talking with the rental manager  we selected a place named “Point of View” which was located directly on the bay 600 yards from the Gulf of Mexico.

IMG_0720Point of View is a 3 bedroom, 2 bath stilted home overlooking the bay. We wanted 3 bedrooms because two couples who were our neighbors in Louisville, Kentucky were going to visit us to help us explore the area.

The key to living VRBO is to make it your home for the time that you are there. We have stayed in many VRBO’s in several countries. One of the first things we do is check out what we need to make it feel like home to us.

Flowers on the dinning room table and in the living room are often the first purchase. While the kitchens come fully equipped some fall short of what we like to have available. In one we bought a knife sharpener, another a crock pot. It is important to ask the owner a lot of questions to make sure you are getting what you expect.

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Most owners will also negotiate the posted price especially if you are staying longer than one week.

The VRBO concept allows us to have the privacy we enjoy, the space we enjoy and at lower cost than most motels. We unpack the suitcases and fill the closets and drawers with our stuff and settle in.

Not exactly tourists; we are temporary residents who get to know the cashiers at the local grocery stores and even find favorite waitresses in places we go for lunch. We will typically eat breakfast and evening meals at our home and have lunch while we explore.

By the way, we loved the home in Panacea, it was everything the online photos indicated and far more, but we did not buy! The adventure continues…

The Great American/Canadian Diaspora

Each year hundreds of thousands of American and Canadian citizens abandon their homes and migrate south for better climate.

Some for theFullSizeRender (3) last time.

On January 1, 2015 Karen I left Cincinnati and turned south on I65 joining other vehicles carrying Michiganders, Ontarians, Qubeckers, Maniacs, New Yorkers and others from across the northern tier of province and state headed south for escape from winter.

Our trip was a bit different as our first destination was the Court House in Green  Cove Springs where we turned over the title of our car and received new Florida license plates, took an eye test and got new Florida drivers licenses after they took a cut off the corner of the PA licenses and then registered to vote in Clay County Florida.

The folks at the court house were very efficient; after all, this was not their first rodeo! It only took about 1 1/2 hours. We had already acquired Florida auto insurance so we were in good hands there and we had the required two pieces of mail from a financial institution and a utility company (cell phone of course) showing our Green Cove Springs address.

We are now Floridians!

FullSizeRenderHeaded west from Green Cove Springs we checked Trip Advisor and found a great restaurant called “The Blue Roof Grill” in Lake City along I10 en route for our next VRBO, a 3 bedroom beach house on Alligator Point which will be our resting place for the next two weeks.

IMG_0720Previous neighbors from our time in Louisville will join us there for the last week. We will be in Florida and Texas between now and April when we set sail for Barcelona.