Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Florida Guest Blog by Kaia

Dianne here: Long-time readers of our blog will remember occasional "guest blogs" written by our granddaughter, Kaia. I'll write soon to add additional photos and commentary, but first, here's Kaia's installment for this visit:

Hey this is Kaia!
Guess what, my grandparents came........again! haha
So i guess it is my job to tell you what we did! Well first we were at
Shady Acres, which i wasn't a big fan of, nether was mea-maw and pop-pop.
But i guess it was kind of fun - i mean it had a dog park, who doesn't like that, but still it was kind of a bore.
My grandparents already had wonderful guests: Chuck and Cindy Gemmer.
They were very nice people and let me tell you, when it comes to cooking food, they know what they're doing! Okay well lets not talk about that.

So after a few weeks, the Gemmers went back to Indiana and mea-maw and pop-pop went to W.P. Franklin lock and dam. It was very beautiful. One weekend i didn't spend with my grandparents. My friends came to my house: Anna Vaca, and Cheyanne Cobrera. Then, i went to the motor home and i was waiting to see them as i was in the car.

There was a dock and it wasn't finished yet but i had fun walking on it anyway.......ha ha! Then, one day when i was on the dock, i dropped meamaw's shoe! Me and poppop had to kayak to go and get it! It was her fav. shoe, so we had to get it. Luckily we did find it.

Then on friday, i had a friend stay over at the motor home:

Cheyanne Cobrera.

1st meamaw picked us up at school. Then she took us to blockbuster to get bandslam, new moon, and beetlejuice. we didn't watch beetlejuice though we watched bandslam and new moon. Cheyanne and i were in meamaw and poppop's room.

It was fun! We stayed up until 5:00!

In the morning, we had chocolate-chip muffins!

YUM!!! They were delicious!

Then, we went kayaking!

i went first, because cheyanne was afraid. Then she finally went after i came back with poppop. While cheyanne

was kayaking, i was in my own world.....haha! i was actually acting like i was at a concert.

Then when cheyanne came back we took a picture together.

On Friday we went to the dog beach.........after cheyanne left of course.

Jasper kept chasing me in the water hahaha it was fun! Cinnamon

couldn't be trusted, because she almost ran away.

Chaplin did run away. :-( until i found him. :-) YAY!!!

Well, thats all you have to hear and i'll i have to say: Again, recycle, stay in school, make sure travel with whippets is your number 1 website and well....peace! $upercheeee$y* and if your wondering what super cheesy is, it's my signature alright $upercheeee$y*

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Franklin Lock Corps of Engineers CG - Back in Paradise!

Hi all - Dianne here. Well, Roger and I traveled less than an hour to our next stop, one of our FAVORITE places to camp in all of the U.S.!

Last winter we lucked into a terrific camp site at W.P. Franklin Lock Corps of Engineers Campground outside Fort Myers, Florida and spent two glorious weeks. At the time we vowed to come back, but didn't know when that would be, since at the time we had no plans to return to Florida any time soon.

All that changed last August when our daughter and granddaughter moved from Indiana to Fort Myers. There was NO DOUBT where we would try to stay while visiting them!
Like many state parks, the Corps of Engineers campground has a two-week limit.

This particular Corps of Engineers campground is pretty small, and VERY hard to get reservations in the winter unless you get lucky on your computer the instant one becomes available. It is unusual in that in addition to RV sites, there are a few boat sites as well, where folks can stop on their way east or west on the Caloosahatchee River and tether their boats for an overnight stop.

We wrote extensively about this place last winter (Feb. of '09) and took many, many photographs. (Some of you might remember getting tired of all our sunset shots last year!) Anyway, if you want to learn more about this place, you can click on "Franklin Locks" in the sidebar and it will bring up last year's blogs.

It is so easy to just while away the hours here, watching boats go through the lock, fish jumping, and the many and various birds, or just watching the water. The sites are large, private, and have covered picnic tables and concrete and gravel patios.
No full hookups, but with a little water conservation we can make it about a week before having to unhook to go "dump."

Amanda and Kaia are continuing to visit us most evenings after work and school. This Wednesday we had a special treat when our friends, Jay and Nancy, drove up from their Naples condo to spend the day and evening.
We hadn't seen them since we were in Indiana last summer and it was SO good to see them. They are only in Florida for a week this trip, so we were thrilled that they made time to come visit. They had recently purchased an inflatable kayak to keep at their summer lake home,
so Roger gave them a demonstration of inflating and then took each of them out to get a taste of kayaking. Nancy
especially enjoyed it and agreed with me that it is SO much easier than canoeing.

We broke out some bottles of our Texas Hill Country wines that we'd saved for this day, and spent a relaxing afternoon wining and cheesing it on the patio, watching the water and boats and getting caught up on each others' lives and kids. (The four of us have been friends for more than 40 years, were in each others' weddings, so we are technically more like family than friends.) Those blog readers with good memories will remember a prior blog when I explained that it was Jay and Nancy who set Roger and I up on a blind date; the rest is history!

Amanda and Kaia joined us for a delicious steak dinner. I can brag on it, because Roger did all the grilling. We used some of our Cooper's Texas BBQ rub and sauce that we'd purchased on our "authentic Texas BBQ excursion" in Llano, TX last December. Costco came through again with some high-quality beef, and the result of mixing the two was exceptional! I just had to get a photo of the steaks grilling
and of Roger, the grill master, acting silly with Kaia.

More silliness ensued as the evening wore on, with Kaia jumping in the air
for the camera and even talking her mom
into joining her antics. Nancy used my camera to get some good shots of Mandy and Kaia together.

Today Roger and I are resting up for Friday night, when Kaia and her little friend, Cheyenne, will have a sleepover here in the RV with us. Once we have recovered from that, we'll blog again!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bonita Dog Beach - Ft. Myers, Florida

Hi all -- Dianne here. The "doggy express" truck (Chuck, Cindy, Roger, Me, Jasper, Chaplin, and Sophie) spent two glorious days at the dog beach on Lover's Key near Bonita Springs, Florida last week. We had such a good time after our first visit that we went back again the very next day! Roger and I plan to return with Amanda, Kaia, and Cinnamon with our dogs. (Chuck and Cindy are now back in Indiana after a long drive home).

The dog beach is an off-leash beach. It is a peninsula surrounded on three sides by shallow water.

We were even able to let Chaplin off his leash for a while. (He's notorious for being an escape artist). I tried to get a photo of Sophie at the dog beach, but try as I might, she was too busy running, chasing, and playing from one end of the beach to the other, so that I couldn't get a photo of her that wasn't a partial-dog blur.

I did manage to get two great shots of Jasper as he raced through the shallow water.

He loves the water, even though he is definitely not built for swimming. He couldn't help himself from running into the surf each time another dog chased a ball or frisbee into the water.

Only problem was, Jasper's fur is so thin that he then got chilled from the wind and had to be dried off and covered with a towel. This would last until the next dog led him into the water; then the whole process was repeated.

Chaplin hates the water.

He spent his time flirting with the pretty girls on the beach, sniffing dog tails, and begging for dog treats from a kindly couple who brought a large bag of them to distribute.

We packed a picnic lunch both days. You eat lunch at your own risk at the dog beach! One german shepherd almost got Roger's sandwich right from his hand as he lifted it toward his mouth to take a bite.

There were dogs of every size and shape,

from tiny chihuahuas to pit bulls and mastiffs, but all got along well, at least while we were there. I always kept an eye on my dogs, however, just in case.

A lot of folks drive up in their boats and let their dogs jump off, swim to shore, and play at the dog beach for a while.

There are a few things you need to be aware of if you go to this dog beach: First, there are no facilities other than one porta-potty. Second, depending on the tides,

the walk-in area might be covered with water. Both days we walked in on dry sand and exited by wading through ankle-deep water. At high tide, parts of the peninsula beach become submerged, so keep tabs on your chairs and mats. We left both days before 3:00 because the

beach started to disappear.

This beach also is not a place to try to lay on a blanket, unless you want some sandy paw prints on your back. There's not much point in bringing a book, because there is so much action that it's just fun to sit and watch.

The funniest incident of the day occurred right after the scariest moment. Sophie, who was in constant motion, took off on a run to the land-locked part of the peninsula which leads to the parking lot. Chuck, Cindy, and Roger ran off to try to catch Sophie, while I stayed on the beach with our dogs to keep them from following. Chuck did catch up with Sophie; she had run to Chuck's truck. I was sure glad to see them coming back down the beach with Sophie, because the parking lot is off of a busy road.

While my attention was on Chuck, Cindy, Roger and Sophie's return, a large golden retriever (we named him "John Dillinger") walked up to Cindy's beach bag, stuck his head completely into the bag, and pulled out a gallon-size Zip-Lock bag of Milk Bone dog biscuits. He then proceeded to run down the beach with it in his mouth! I immediately jumped up, but I couldn't grab the bag in time. Everyone sitting on the beach was laughing at the sight of the big retriever running down the beach with that bag of dog bones in his mouth, followed by Chuck and I running after him as fast as we could go (it's hard to run fast when you're laughing)! We never did get the dog bones back. "John Dillinger" was smart enough to take them into the water, rip the bag apart, and then scoop up the dog bones from the surf as though they were minnows. I did manage to retrieve the ripped-apart plastic bag and gave it back to Cindy, minus its treats.

"John" wasn't through for the day, though. About an hour later Roger got a good photo of him rummaging through another person's beach bag, searching for loot.

Like I said before, don't bother to bring a book to the dog beach!
There is far too much canine entertainment to need one.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Kayaking on the Estero River X 2

Roger here....

We recently made two kayaking trips on the Estero River, just a couple miles from where we are parked. Our friends, Chuck and Cindy, joined us.
We both have Sea Eagle inflatable kayaks that are great to
transport in the motor home (not sure how we could transport hard shell kayaks without an elaborate rack system on the already-full car) and surprisingly simple to inflate. The whole inflation process utilizing the foot pump that came with the kayak only took about ten minutes. I have asked a couple kayaking pundits
if these kayaks would do well in certain types of settings and they tend to turn up their noses, a bit. However, having paddled both types, I can detect very little difference.

Trip number one...
We launched the kayaks from Koreshan State Park. Cindy was a little (maybe a lot) nervous about alligator encounters.
I assured her that alligators are no more attracted to soft-sided kayaks than hard-sided kayaks. I then mentioned that it was the people inside the kayak that they are attracted to :-). I really did not think that we would see any alligators in the brackish water, and tried to assure Cindy of this. The river did not seem to have any banks for alligator "sunning" that were not infested with mangroves
- at least at the launch site. The warning sign at the launch site did little to calm Cindy's nerves.

It was a perfect day for kayaking. There seemed to be little or no flow to the river. The temperature was in the lower seventies (no sweating that day). There was no wind to blow us around. The park ranger at the gate recommended that we paddle upstream first until the river closes in. So that we did. We passed by numerous gigantic live oak trees that were draped with moss
and covered with ferns and epiphytes (air plants). We encountered the impressive bamboo stand
that we had walked through on a previous visit. As we passed through the historic section of the park where the Koreshans once lived, we got pics of the ever-present bougainvilla
and an urn in a garden area filled with flowers. We had seen these same plants on our hike a few days prior.
The mangroves and palm trees were everywhere. As the river narrowed it had the feel of a jungle - I guess that it is a

Lots of wildlife (no gators)...
We got a good shot of a green heron. (Dianne here: I think it's a little blurry, but in my defense, we were in a moving kayak....) It was creeping along a log, ready to lunge for a minnow in the water. The minnow didn't have a chance. We also saw a few turtles
and got a decent photo of a pair sunning on a log. AND, the highlight of the trip - a manatee swam in front of, around, and under our kayaks.

We were near the end of our trip when Dianne very calmly said, "I'm not kidding, there is a manatee coming right toward us."
Initially, it appeared to be a slow-moving lighter spot in the dark and brackish river. As it got closer we were able to see it move through the water and appreciate its size. We calmly hung around the area where it was swimming, being careful not to do anything that would bother it. The manatee rewarded our patience by raising its head for air numerous times. What a calm and gentle creature! Being so close to it was a surreal experience.

Trip number two... The first trip was so cool that we decided to do a second paddle on the same river, only this time heading downstream toward the gulf. We knew that the distance would be three miles. We have paddled further than that many times and did not think it would be a difficult task in the calm, slow-moving, waters of the Estero River. WE WERE WRONG. We did not take the gusty winds of the day into account.
The river widened significantly as we paddled by huge houses, retirement parks and marinas. THE WIND WAS IN OUR FACES DURING THE ENTIRE FIRST LEG OF THE TRIP. It was so strong that any time we stopped paddling to rest, we were blown backward. No rest for the weary as we struggled on. A couple of times we were passed by excursion boats filled with relaxed people. They seemed to be enjoying our struggle. A little bit past the evidence of civilization, the flora thinned and the land became more sandy. The gulf, our goal, had to be just ahead! But every time we turned a corner, the only thing that awaited us was a wider, and windier stretch of river. We had to be so close, but our collective will (maybe it was just me) to get to the gulf eventually dwindled and we turned back for a much quicker return trip to the launch site. Sorry, no pictures this time - too busy paddling to get the camera out of the dry box. The good news - three hours of great exercise!
The first order of business after returning from our trips was to take the dogs for a walk and let them do what they do best, lounge in the sun.
They are always so excited to see us. In the last photo, Jasper is showing his enthusiasm for Cindy's return by hopping on her lap. Those sharp toe nails, bony legs and lethal wagging tail always enhance the experience of our over-sized lap dog!