Sunday, December 10, 2017


ORMOND BEACH, FL - - To hear the weather forecasters,  you'd think we were set for the Halifax River to freeze over.  To most Floridians any temperature below 60-degrees calls for hunkering down.
     Unlike most folks we enjoy it brisk.  Saturday morning our breakfast walk got rained out.  Saturday evening the Christmas parade in OB actually started on time...probable because it was high 40s with a steady breeze.
    It was today, Sunday, we were waiting for.  Clear skies and 40-degrees when we left the house at 6:10am.  No problem since we have plenty of cold weather gear from our travels.  However, the fingertips always take a hit no matter what gloves you wear.
     Always interesting to listen to the folks at Rivergate discuss 'how cold was it when you left the house' among each other.  And the the sly looks at us when they realize we walked to breakfast.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Getting up there

Denali, highest point in North America with low lying clouds
ORMOND BEACH, FL - - We worked in Denali National Park in summer 2007 as shuttle drivers and sometime tour guides.  The mountain, at 20,310',  creates its own weather so that in nearly five months on site Denali showed a clear profile less than 10 times.  The rest of the time it was ringed with clouds or totally obscured.  On a 90 mile (one way) day-off shuttle trip to the base we passengers  started out catching glimpses of the mountain early but by the time we reached Wonder Lake (30 miles from the base) Denali was so socked in by weather you didn't know anything was there.
     You might think Denali rates an entry on the list of the highest points in the world.  Sorry, there over 400 peaks higher led by Mt. Everest at 29,029.  And nearly all of those are located within 20 degrees (north or south) of the equator.  Denali, located at 63 degrees (latitude) is an anomaly.
     Our summer in Alaska  was full of "wonder" and Denali was just one part of it.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Catching an early flight

The elusive female zip liner

Nap time with a tree trunk pillow

Yellow crowned night heron grooming itself

Try this next time you are doing shadow puppets
ORMOND BEACH, FL - - A few weeks ago we did our every-so-often trip to the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine.  Thursday we went back.  This time not only were there only a few visitors, but the slim bird population encountered on the previous visit had apparently headed home early for the holidays.   However, we did catch a glimpse of the rare 'female zip liner' zipping past.
     The normal residents  (gators) can't go far.  The ones who weren't napping were waiting.  You don't want to fall into their territory.  

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

An antidote for 80 degrees

April 25, 2007; Alberta, Canada
ORMOND BEACH, FL - - December will roll in a day from now.  But instead of cooler weather, we have sunshine and 80 degrees.  However, we can check the photo archives for something a bit cooler. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

"The usual??"

ORMOND BEACH, FL - - We have a favorite breakfast place which we  head to nearly every Saturday.  It's about a 2.5-mile walk each way which can be invigorating at this time of year since we leave the house at 6:10am.  The usual suspects arrive at about the time we do when a waitress clicks the"open" sign on.  There are usually 10-12 regulars along with us.  The reason people keep coming back is that the food at Rivergate (especially the drop biscuits) is very good, the prices  reasonable and everybody is  friendly.
     Rivergate Coffee Shoppe has been around for more than 25 years,  according to one of the 'seasoned waitresses.  We have been regulars for nearly 12 years and the faces of the servers are pretty much the same.
     You know you're 'back home' when it's your first time back in five months and the waitress asks:  "You having the usual??" 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Toy soldiers on guard

ORMOND BEACH, FL - -  Saturday (11/18) we chose to head to nearby DeLand for their annual Fall Arts Festival.  As this is mid-November the city already had some of their Christmas decorations out.  Our favorite, for a number of years, has been the larger than life toy soldiers.  They are always nice and gleaming in their uniforms and located on a few street corners like they are on guard.  They fit in  nicely with the festival.
     A special attraction (on which we could find no information) was a troupe  of silent performers.  Two were on intricately constructed metal stallions which they 'rode' while on balancing stilts and pacing just as a steed would do. Additionally, they could manipulate the neck/head of the animal so that it appeared very real. The horsemen were in  colorful outfits with multi-colored plumes of feathers and had 'legs' which appeared to be in stirrups. Two colorfully dressed attendants led the horsemen and enhanced their movement. 
     Unfortunately, the troupe was heading in a direction which had them back lit.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

I like trains

Saturday morning special
ORMOND BEACH, FL - - Skagway, Alaska.  Gold rush country.  It's mid-August in 2006.  We're tour guides and drivers for a company called Frontier Excursions.  Our lodging was quite close to the railway tracks which the  White Pass & Yukon Railway utilized for their tours.  Normally they used diesel power, but on Saturdays they brought out one of their "old" steam locomotives.  The chuff-chuff-chuff of the engine as it was building up a head of steam and the whoo-whoo of the whistle are easily remembered. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

How to get to outer space

Falcon 9 booster rocket only moves slowly on Earth
ORMOND BEACH, FL - - We had an unexpected bonus to our lighthouse tour (see previous blog) as we were leaving Cape Canaveral.  A Falcon 9 booster rocket was being returned to the SpaceX facility.  SpaceX or more correctly Space Exploration Technology Corp. is a private enterprise on CC launching payloads into space, and soon, to the Space Station.
     Elon Musk, the individual behind Tesla automobiles, is also the "father" of Space X.  The key is reusable rocket make the business viable and save money.  This is very new technology.
     This booster was utilized in  an October 30 launch from CC.  After a four minutes-plus burn the booster uncoupled 20-plus miles above the Earth.  Now for the hard parts:   return to Earth, don't burn up in the atmosphere and touch down upright on a 'barge' out in the ocean.  In order to do all this, the rocket performed a "flip" so that it was descending with engine thrusters forward.  The rocket is then 'steered' to the barge and the small landing pad on it.
     The only thing remotely comparable might be fighter jet pilots landing on an aircraft carrier. is a good website to check for more info.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Cape Canaveral lighthouse

ORMOND BEACH, FL - - The Cape Canaveral lighthouse isn't the only one on a military base, but it is the only one owned by the U. S. Air Force.  Located on Cape Canaveral Air Force station,  an installation within the Kennedy Space Center.
     The only way to reach the lighthouse is to take a guided bus tour which encompasses driving by a number of launch pads.  Interesting, but you don't get a chance  to stop. We did spend an hour at the lighthouse.
     This is the third build and location.  Number one (1848) was right on the ocean's edge.  Great idea except for erosion from storms.  And while it apparently had a good light with a visibility of six miles,  the shoals the light warned against were 11 and 13 miles off shore.
     In 1868 the move of the lighthouse to a safer location was completed.  Nice try.  In 1894 it was moved nearly 1 mile inland and constructed of brick and steel.  At 151 feet and fitted with a Fresnel lens this seemed to do the trick.
     Fast forward over 100 years to  the space age.  With the lighthouse location in the vicinity of launch complex 37,  a new challenge arose...rockets blasting off in to space were literally shaking the delicate Fresnel lens apart.
     In 1993, a high-powered searchlight was installed and the Fresnel lens was turned into a museum display at the Ponce de Leon Inlet lighthouse.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The view from the Exploration Tower

Size matters
ORMOND BEACH, FL - - Tuesday was a " Let's get away" day.  So wew went to do a tour of the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse (more in the next blog).  The end of the tour was at the Exploration Tower in Port Canaveral.  Seven stories up (on the roof) you had a really good view.  Note how huge the cruise ship looks to the expensive yacht passing by.

Monday, November 06, 2017

A tale of two sailboats

Looks like this sailboat escaped extreme hurricane damage

Until you notice the river is on the other side of the trees

This sunken sailboat is pinned against a fishing pier
ORMOND BEACH, FL - - On our recent trips along the Halifax River we've noticed that  Hurricane Irma broke up a lot of  piers and walkways plus sunk a number of boats that couldn't reach safe shelter.  In the top two pics, the sailboat is intact and floating.  Just how it got into this location appears to be a mystery.  The boat rests in a land-locked body of water very near the Halifax River where it should be.  Did high tide combined with wind and storm surge wash it in?
     The bottom pic is of what's left of a sailboat which was rammed by the elements into the park's main fishing pier.  It had a nice metal mast, but that was being salvaged / stolen just before I shot the photo. 
     So who has the better story to tell the insurance folks...the owner with the sunken boat or the guy with a reasonably intact boat but the challenge of trying to move it back  into its logical location - - the river.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Spot the photographer in the bushes

You can't fall off a cliff, but you might go for a swim

Yellow-crowned nightheron...badly back-lit
ORMOND BEACH, FL - - Sunset Park is about 3 miles from where we live.  It can be good for bird photos if you look hard enough.  Lydia spotted a bird we seldom see, much less just hanging out.  Fortunately the walkway close by didn't get a beating from Hurricane Irma unlike the rest of the piers / walkways at the park.
     You could get a good angle for a shot right from the walkway (as I did). Unfortunately the light was bad (see above).  So my intrepid partner decided to go bush.  Check out Lydia's shots on Flicker at:

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

High in the mountains

ORMOND BEACH, FL - - This is another edition of my blog on where we go to get pics.  We're on a trail high above a glacial pond fed by chunks of ice and run-off from the surrounding glaciers in Jasper National Park (Canada)  This is Mt. Edith Cavell, a favorite place for pics and hikes.
      Lydia is using a 70-200mm lens on her Canon 7D camera body.  It's a great multi-purpose lens for many situations.  I have the same set up which allows me to take photos of a subject on the edge (of the trail) while I can stay in relative safety.
     As I've stated before, agile and fearless plus a lot more descriptive words have been dropped from my vocabulary.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Out at the farm

On a cool morning it's nice to have a heat lamp to warm things up.

I'm one sexy looking Knobbed Hornbill

Don't make fun of my big webbed feet

These guys have fluffy cotton-like fur around their necks

An alligator chorus

The Marabou Stork has a large air sack beneath its chin
ORMOND BEACH, FL - - The Alligator Farm in St. Augustine is usually very crowded in the spring  So it was interesting to have some space to photograph some of the locals.  And yes, I did forget to get the info on some of these fancy folks

The waiting game

ORMOND BEACH, FL - - It's early in the season to have lots of migrating birds and way early for any nesting.  So the birds who really like the habitat the Alligator Farm presents just hang out.  The crowd here are Ibis (white) and Roseate Spoonbills (red-ish pink).
   And so we wait for some action ... like wing flapping or actually moving to another perch.  Or maybe fighting over territory.  Anything!  But no.
     However, the alligators were having a ball...or rather a grunting contest.  Lots of alligators, lots of grunting.  Practicing for mating season although it's still a couple of months off

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Along for the ride

Everyone needs a mascot...that's been around a while.
ORMOND BEACH, FL - - We've been home a week and I'm ready to go again.  But medical appointments and air conditioning to battle 80% humidity and higher temps well keep us here a while.
     Anyway, for those who are keeping count here's a short tally:
     Duration - -  Leave OB 5/08 & Return 10/15
     Trip Mileage  - -  15, 135 miles
     Route     - -   18 states / 2 Canadian Provinces
     House sit       Tucson, AZ - - 3 weeks
                           Poulsbo, WA - - 3 weeks

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Southern Comfort

No, this is not a college president's mansion

The Aberdeen, Carolina & Western rolls past a closed furniture factory

RICHMOND HILL, GA - - This is it.  We're on the way home. Five months and one week after leaving.  Are we happy that we'll be back in Ormond Beach tomorrow?  Hard to answer.  I know that about two weeks from now we'll be ready to go again.  It takes about that long to check out the new restaurants, new businesses, new construction and get frustrated by high humidity and temperatures to match.
     Anyway...  The top pic is the house we looked after for the past two weeks.  It was purchased by Lydia's  great grandfather in 1903.  Four bedrooms and a sun room were eventually added.  With only the two of us in residence, it was pretty empty.  It's owned by a member of the extended family and serves as a gathering place for get togethers.
     I realize I used a A,C&W train shot in my previous blog post.  But, hey this train is heading in a different direction.  And I like trains.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Just the thing for decorating the front yard

The perfect front yard decoration...

...Or maybe you're partial to a red caboose

A 90-car freight train rolls through Aberdeen

100 yards from where we are staying you can hear the whistle and feel the rumble of a long freight
WEST END, NC - - Things are very quiet in West End where we are staying...except when a freight train rumbles through.  We've seen the 4-car style; the 13 car style and, once in a while, the 80-90 car version.  About a mile away is a siding with 4 locomotives  of a 20 unit fleet for sale.  The Aberdeen, Carolina & Western company was incorporated in 1987, taking over the operations of the former Norfolk, Southern Railway. It runs 150 miles of track from Aberdeen to Star, NC and is the largest privately held short-line / regional freight carrier in NC.  The AC&W connects freight with CSX and other regional freight networks.
     Aberdeen is about 12 miles away. It has more rail traffic and is the headquarters of the Aberdeen & Rockfish RR.  This 47 mile short-line / regional freight does most of its business between Aberdeen and Fayetteville (home of Fort Bragg, army base).  What A&R lacks in length it makes up in a long and colorful history, having been founded in 1892.
     NOTES:  The 'side door' caboose sits in front of the A&R company headquarters.  'Rockfish' comes from the name of a creek the track runs along or maybe from a small town which used to be in the area...nobody's really sure.
     It's raining outside, a nice October shower.  Leaves are falling like a light snowfall.  There are vast forests of pine trees all around as turpentine was big business over 100 years ago.  However, we are surrounded by a good amount of hardwood trees  with lots of leaves.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Staying cool

There's nothing like a big jar of iced tea on a hot day
HOT SPRINGS, NC - -We were rolling down a back road in NC looking for interesting things.  The Smoky Mountain Diner in Hot Springs fit the bill.   Good food, lots of iced tea...although they used Ball jars instead of Mason jars.  And, as we were eating on the back porch, an older couple showed
up in a two person horse-drawn buggy.  I've seen tractors parked at places (out West) but never a 1-horsepower / four-wheeled mode of travel. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

When in doubt...BBQ

The BBQ cookers are smokin'  I'm ready
NEWPORT, TN - - Wednesday was another fairly long day on the interstate.  Luckily, we seem to be able to find a  BBQ spot nearly everywhere we travel.  Does that mean BBQ lovers have migrated all over  or have more cooks decided to try something different??  Who cares as long BBQ becomes more popular. 
      The Gigglin' Pig satisfied on all levels.  And, best of all, we're now entering(NC)  real BBQ country.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

I-40 sights in Arkansas and Tennesee

This farmer wanted to provide the folks whizzing by with a bit of sculpture

Big wheels keep on rolling

The Bass Pro Shops pyramid in Memphis...we're on the Mississippi River bridge
HOLLIDAY, TN - - We just keep on rolling at about 400 miles per day.  Tennessee is a wide state so we may not make it to Noroth Carolina tomorrow.   

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Resting while the world thunders by

Time to watch the 18-wheelers roll by

Synchronized residents of a wind farm
CONWAY, TX - - We've departed our campground near Santa Fe, NM and we are on the way back to FL by way of NC.  Our final night turned into a thunder and lightning show.  Naturally, Sunday was bright and sunny.
     We stopped at a rest area on I-40 and decided to dry out.  Farther down the interstate the land had sprouted wind farm after wind farm doing their electric-producing dance.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

There are road runners then there are ROAD RUNNERS

Wylie coyote wouldn't tangle with these flyers.  
SANTA FE, NM - - Actually, the road runner is the symbol of the Rail Runner commuter train system.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hot today, green chili peppers when roasted

Red hot

Chili love on your license plate
Getting all roasted up
SANTA FE, NM - - You can get your roasted green chili peppers fresh from the grill (drum) at Whole Foods store in Santa FE.  We hit town yesterday and headed to WF this morning for their breakfast buffet.  While we were eating, we could see  an employee filling  two heated rotating drums with large green chili peppers.  He then watched as they roasted while spritzing  them with water.  As soon as they were finished they went on sale.  

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Ouray to Durango


...the clouds are rolling in...

...and the rain turned to hail at 10,000'
DURANGO, CO - - Last night, we watched a big black bear raid a dumpster about 30 yards away from our campsite at 1:30am.  We were leaving Ouray this morning anyway, but apparently this omnivore is a regular visitor to the neighborhood.
     After an extra coffee stop to fuel up for the up-and-down, twisty 75 miles to Durango we took off.  It was one of those days when the weather was a bit unsettled.  The sun was nice, even the dark clouds rolling in weren't bad.  But the rain turning into hail which lightly covered the road as we crossed one of three 10,000' or better passes was a bit much.
     So tonight we've opted for a dry spot with a nice sized tv.  We don't always 'rough it.'