Sunday, March 29, 2009

Life's a Beach!!

Hi all - Dianne here.   We spent three relaxing beach days at the Lighthouse Beach on Sanibel Island with the Gemmers and the three dogs.  Dogs are allowed on this beach if constrained on a leash and, of course, cleaned up after.   All three dogs had a wonderful time.  My two dogs mostly slept, but Jasper did enjoy frolicking in the ocean on the long leash one of the days.  Chaplin kept his reputation as a chick magnet.  Sophie the Puppy was quite a hit, as she is wherever she goes.   She was a good pup and had some nice naps on the beach when she wasn't meeting and greeting all the women and children within a 2-mile radius!    Disclaimer to any PETA members who might read this:   Sophie was not actually drinking beer - just posing!!

Every trip to the beach required a stop at Pinocchio's Ice Cream shop on Sanibel Island on the way home.  Pinocchio's features homemade, Italian-style ice cream in unique flavors.   They are famous for their "Sanibel Crunch" and "Dirty Sand Dollar" flavors.  "Sanibel Crunch" was kind of like butter pecan, except made with vanilla ice cream, coconut, and 

deluxe mixed nuts.  "Dirty Sand Dollar" also had nuts, but also crushed and whole malted milk balls.  The combination was delicious!!   Roger enjoyed "Double Dark Chocolate" which was very dark and chocolate-y.   The two other flavors I enjoyed were "Purple Cow" (Raspberry ice cream with chocolate chips) and "Gator Stew,"  which was colored green with some pistachio ice cream mixed in with the vanilla, lots of nuts, and bits and pieces of Reese Cups.   Two weeks of eating large meals with our friends, ice cream, hors d'oerves and wine did not help my diet plan at all!!   It's going to be back to reality from now on.   But it sure was fun while it lasted!!

As you can see from this photo of our camp site, there was zero privacy and no atmosphere at the Groves RV park, other than FRIENDLY neighbors.  But first, I'll let Roger describe our fun times playing shuffleboard and bocce ball with Chuck & Cindy at the Groves RV park.  (When in Rome, do as the Romans do....)  

Roger here....  I had not played shuffleboard since I was a kid.  I always thought it was kind of fun, but have not had the opportunity to play for many years, and I always thought it carried the stigma as a game for "older" folks.  Since Dianne and I are now in that category (not including Chuck and Cindy who are MUCH younger), we all thought it would be fun to have an afternoon of games (shuffleboard and bocce ball).  The courts were outstanding and extremely well maintained.  

Dianne and I took on Chuck and Cindy in both games.  I am now pleased to report two major upsets in the shuffle/bocce world.  Chuck and Cindy are both athletes.  Cindy coached nearly every women's sport at the high school where she taught.  They raised two sons who are also athletes.  You can imagine our surprise when Dianne and I won the shuffle board game.  Dianne has come into her own and has finally found her sport.

None of us had ever played bocce ball before.  Chuck googled the rules before we checked out the equipment.  What fun!  It is an interesting game that Dianne and I could play again when the opportunity arises.  Chuck and Cindy won the first game.  Amazingly Dianne and I won the second game due to unexpected (and very lucky - no skill involved) four point swing at the end of the game.

These upsets were of the magnitude of a 16 seed beating a 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.  Gotta go Sports Center is calling Dianne for an interview.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Friends in Ft. Myers + New Puppy for "Auntie Dianne"

Hi all - Dianne here.  We've been here at the Groves in Ft. Myers with camping friends from home for a week now.  When we planned this two weeks with our friends, Chuck & Cindy, we chose this RV park for its location, because it allows dogs, and has wi-fi (Chuck needs it for work).  The sites are pretty small with no privacy, but it has a GREAT laundry facility and the location is perfect for us.   It's very near Sanibel Island and Ft. Myers beach.  An unexpected bonus is that the folks staying here this winter (many in park models) are just as friendly as can be.  Maybe the friendliest bunch we've met so far!   I think this has something to do with the fact that they DO allow dogs here, and we all know how wonderful dog lovers are!!

This is the first chance we've had to update the blog, as we've been busy socializing with our friends, Chuck & Cindy, from home while they are down for a two-week vacation.  

 Cindy had been wanting a dog for quite a while (thanks to camping with us and our dogs in the past).   For her birthday recently, Chuck surprised her with a new puppy!   Little Sophie is 13 weeks old, and is a cross between a dachsund and a Boston terrier (called a "Dachston" or "Bodach", depending on what you read).  Of course, "Auntie Dianne" promptly fell in love with her new little four-legged "niece" and these photos will explain why.  What a cutie!!

We've taken turns cooking for the four of us. 

 These photos were taken at their Montana Fifth Wheel site, complete with Indiana University flag, chair, and trash bin. 

 Of course, we had to dig out our Purdue flag

 with OUR Purdue trash bin in response to that, especially since the NCAA tournament is the focus of attention this week.

   The outdoor TV at OUR site has gotten a lot of use as we watch the tournament games in the beautiful Florida weather.  Go Boilers!!   Roger is VERY excited that they are now in the Sweet Sixteen.  

The four adults plus three dogs piled into Chuck's big truck and drove to 

Barkingham dog park outside Ft. Myers on Buckingham Road.   This is a very nice dog park with separate areas for large and small dogs, agility equipment, and even on-leash "doggie trails" outside the fenced area.  The dogs had a great time running, chasing, fetching, and just sniffing around. 

  Little Sophie ran and played with Jasper and Chaplin.  She quickly learned how to get a drink from the doggie water fountain and socialized well with some new doggie friends that day at the park.

 As you can see

 from the last two photos, all three dogs were "dog tired" on the ride home from the dog park!

Roger here....  For all the people who know me, you probably know how stressed I was over the Purdue games.  Our satellite did not work here due to an unfortunate tree :(.  The good news is that Cindy got a call from mutual "HSE" friends who now live on Ft. Myers Beach.  We managed to find an establishment that had the March Madness feed so that we could see the Northern Iowa game.  Our friends' daughter was a Purdue grad so the atmosphere was great, especially after the bar (establishment) filled with other Purdue fans.   Last night's game was also, NOT ON TV in the south.  I managed to keep track of the game with the updated scores on the upper left side of the screen (very frustrating), and did get to see the end of the game.  My brother was able to attend the games in Portland.  (He and his family live there.)  SWEET SIXTEEN.  GO BOILERS!!!!!   
We have another week with the Gemmers in Ft. Myers before we pick up our daughter and granddaughter on the way to Disney.  We will have some great updates from Sanibel Island and other locations before that happens.  Did I say, Go Boilers, beat UConn?  

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Collier-Seminole State Park

Hi all - Dianne here.  We spent three short days at Collier-Seminole State Park outside Naples, Florida.   As we suspected, there were too many trees for us to have satellite coverage, so we "roughed it" without satellite OR TV for the time we were there.   The only local channel we were able to get was a fuzzy FOX station; that was good enough for us to get our weekly fix of American Idol.  We did miss having internet access, but there is a lot to do there at Collier-Seminole, so we were certainly not bored.

The park rangers there are very proactive, putting on lots of programs. They were all very, very helpful and friendly.  I give the staff there an A+!   

We took the dogs hiking on a trail, then took ourselves in the SS Minnow on a canoe trail through the mangroves.  I'll let Roger elaborate on that a bit.  In fact, we enjoyed it so much that we did it two days in a row.

Roger here...  On the first full day we did a one-mile hike with the dogs.

  Dianne took some interesting pictures of the red-barked Gumbo

 Limbo tree, as well as the red fungus (maybe lichen) that lives on many of the trees.

  Later in the day we took our first excursion on the

 Blackwater River that flows through the park.  Before the paddle trip we registered with the park rangers so they could send out a search party if we did not return.  The river, which is affected by the tides, is truly "black" due to the tannins in the water - lots of  jumping fish and other creatures in the water that we could not see.  (Note from Dianne - at the very shallow points where we could see the bottom, it was obvious that the water was surprisingly clean and clear, despite the dark color.  The bottom just looked like sand with a scattering of leaves which had dropped from the trees.  

Also, the SS Minnow was actually cleaner after our trip than when we had it in the Caloosahatchee River.  It hardly had to even be wiped down.)  

At the launch area, the river was pretty wide.  However, after about a quarter mile it 

narrowed into a winding, deep, somewhat narrow stream through the mangroves. We soon found ourselves totally alone as we criss-crossed up the stream.  In one section the sky disappeared under a complete cover of mangroves - much like paddling in a cave.  Deep in that section, we saw a small set of eyes protruding out of the water.  We thought it might be a snake, but upon closer inspection we confirmed it to be a baby alligator.  We knew it was newly hatched because it still had its yellow stripe.    We made it about a mile and a half the first day

 before turning back shortly after seeing the baby gator.  It kind of creeped me out.  Dianne, however, was very brave.  The paddle trail is 13.5 miles long and eventually dumps into the Gulf.  Obviously, due to the ridiculously small gator, we barely put a dent in the trail.

When we checked back in with the rangers at the end of the trip, they assured me that if we encountered a gator, that it would leave us alone unless we harassed it.  (Right, like I'm going to harass an alligator in an inflatable kayak!).  They encouraged us to go again the next day and to go further, which we did.  On the second day we  paddled for about four miles and had a great time - a very different experience than Sugar Creek in Indiana.  We intend to go kayaking a couple more times before we leave South Florida.

Dianne already mentioned how nice Collier-Seminole State Park is.  While wandering through the park, we took a couple shots with the dogs as we clowned around at the Barron Collier monument.  

We also took some shots of the "Walking Dredge" display 

that was used to build the Tamiami Trail Highway (US 41) through the Everglades and Big Cypress Swamp, linking Tampa and Miami and opening southwest Florida to travelers. 


We had some time to lounge around the campsite.  There was actually wildlife viewing at the site with dozens of gray squirrels (kept Jasper on his toes, Chaplin just slept), lizards, and about thirty kids in tents with their fathers on a weekend outing.  (Dianne here - there wasn't a mom in the bunch.   It wasn't the boy scouts, because there were both boys and girls, of all ages.  They had a great time, and I dubbed the group the "Good Dads Club.")   We did not get a shot of the tent city across from us, but I am really pleased with the picture of the small lizard

 that I got on a tree at the exact moment that he extended his very red neck in a mating ritual.  

The park had an ice cream social on the last evening we were there. 

 Dianne made sure that Jasper and Chaplin were able to partake - vanilla ice cream, their favorite.

Dianne again - Our site at Collier-Seminole was not spacious by any means, but the activities there made up for it.   Another interesting aspect of the area here is that it is one of the few sites where royal palm trees are indigenous to the area.   They are interesting to view up close; the trunks on the mature trees look like concrete.   The younger palms have stripes and green areas. 

  I am including a photo of a tree from one of our hikes, but I'm not sure you can get the true effect. 

  Charlie the cat wasn't very happy at Collier-Seminole; because of the dirty sand everywhere on our site, I KNEW the first thing he would do if we let him out on his harness was roll around in it and then his fur would be a mess.  At least whippets don't normally roll in the dirt, and even if they did, their fur is so short we could just wipe them down.   With Charlie it would have been a major issue.  

Check back in a few days and we'll get caught up and describe our fun days here at the Groves in Fort Myers with our camping buddies, Chuck and Cindy, and their brand new puppy.   See you then!