Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The REAL Blue Springs State Park

Three years ago, I thought I went to Blue Springs State Park. Come to find out we did not having had the name wrong. We actually went to Wekiwa Springs west of Orlando. This time we did make it to Blue Springs State Park, after arguing with Melissa that we had been here before. What's in a name anyway? So we arrive on a record breaking hot day in Florida and the place is packed. 105 degrees in the morning...who knows how hot it got in the afternoon. Melissa picked us up some inner tubes to use to float on down the spring's current. The water was a cool 73 degrees and was the perfect balance to the scorching heat above the water. We saw giant longnose gars in the water below us that was exciting to some, frightening for others. We were stunned by the amount of activity among the peoples visiting the springs. Again, there were all kinds of people, but more rural Floridian's than city folk. We saw a 19 year old get yelled at by her mother for crying because she did not want to leave, 22 year old small town crooks, dealers with their 15 year old girlfriends, and two young men with speedos doing gymnastics in 105 degree weather. It was a lot to take in. Down by the water it was a different scene. There were disgusting acts of public affection by 13 year olds, and screaming girls cruisin down the river on top of Uncle Piggyback. If you could settle into all the noise and block it out, the Springs is a beautiful and relaxing place to take a dip a find relief from the heat aside from the ocean. It is hard not to romanticize about the large shade trees above that are dripping with spanish moss as the current gently carries you downstream within the forest.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ahhhh....Florida. It's Bananas.

When you arrive in Florida, outsiders should be welcomed with a Florida Vacation Kit to help you blend in with the natives. The number one item would be a nice simple pair of Reef flip-flops...or "slaps" as they are called by the surfer I am told. The thing should be a blindfold for when you plan on driving in a car in Florida. The blindfold will first of all, disallow you to see how fast you are going so you are free to go 105 MPH, second, it will make it easier for you to cut other drivers off and third, it will provoke you to ride up on the driver in front of while continuing to drive 105 MPH. Also, it may be necessary to disconnect the wiring to your blinkers, because evidently, those are not necessary in Florida either. Just git on over whenever you fell like it. After all of these things have fallen into place, you can be sure that you will be able to blend in with the natives. That is of course unless your pasty white New York skin is flashin in the sun and chances are, there is nothing that can save you there. So onto the vacation part. I was so anxious to get out of the airport that I made a wrong turn and ended up getting lost..inside. Melissa was getting hollered at by some security patrol officer guy about parking in the pick up zone while waiting for me and had to keep circling the airport terminal while I was inside doing circles inside the airport trying to escape. After that was said and done we were off to the Mall so that I could pick up my new pair of Reefs, then we were off to Sarasota for a weekend of white sand and ice cream. "Did we eat ice cream twice in one day?" said Melissa. Maybe, who knows. The first night we arrived late to our hotel in Venice after shopping in Orlando and dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. The following day we got up at went to Siesta Key, the second best beach in America. It was amazing. A little crowded, but clean and pleasant. The people did not bother me at all surprisingly. Not like Daytona Beach with its disgusting trash (people, car exhaust, and garbage). Parking was free at Siesta Key and the sand was like bleached flour. So soft. After a mild sun burn we went back to the hotel to shower down and venture where the wind blew us. We ended up on St. Armands Circle which was once owned and designed by John Ringling of the Ringing Brothers Circus. We ate at the historic Columbia restaurant, had smoothies at Ben & Jerry's, and ice cream at Kilwin's. Down on the beach, I found my first sand dollar, and witnessed an awesome couple taking erotic shots on the beach. It included a thong, a really skinny man, and a very chubby woman. You can probably guess that it couldn't have been the skinny man in the thong. That was nothing compared to the muscle man in the vanilla colored speedo, or the two young men at the springs doing back flips with speedos on. It takes all kinds here in Florida. The following day in Sarasota we went to the John & Mable Ringling Museum. The grounds consisted of a Museum of Art, Circus Museums, Historic Asolo Theater, a Rose Garden, and large grounds with an amazing cluster of banyan trees. To finish off the tour was the home of John and Mable known as the Ca d'Zan Mansion. It was no Biltmore, but it was beautiful and well cared for by the Florida State University. I have been wanting to visit this museum since I heard about their museum internship program a few years ago and was very pleased to finally make it here. I was in the excellent company of my best friend of 18 years and was glad that her museum endurance was up to par with mine. It was very hot and draining but the cool air of the museum buildings was easily obtainable.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Off the Wagon West, Call It Plan B

Road fatigue left me unwilling to spend time staring into the eyes of a computer to record the last 600 miles of my day during the final week of my trip. Let's just say that it was an awesome experience. By now everyone knows that Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons never materialized before my eyes, yet they remain in my mind. "One day I will make it out there" is the saying that remains. As a result of a winter storm that closed roads to these places of grandeur, after spending a teeth chattering night at Rocky Mountain National Park, Adrienne and I decided to head south like the snow birds and camp out at Mesa Verde National Park. Luckily it was just opening that weekend and we had a place to camp with showers. If we still did not have any heat to warm our camper, we would at least have the sun. Mesa Verde as it turns out is a very beautiful place. The "ancestral puebloan" ruins were amazing. The Rangers make you want to become one, there are lizards, petroglyphs (carved images into the sandstone), pictographs (painted images in the sandstone), a lot of fire damage, and tons of canyons. I had the chance to climb a three story ladder out of some ruins, and also got to learn a really cool word, "sipapu."The only canyons that we have here in New York are gorges and places that they like to call "the Grand Canyon of the East" which at this point, I have discovered that there must be approximately a dozen places in this area that are dubbed that. From the taste of the southwest that I did experience, I am assured that these dubbed places can't compare and have no business being referred to the Grand Canyon in any shape or form. Isn't Letchworth State Park beautiful enough to stand on its own without comparison to that giant gorge system in Arizona? I think it is. And as far as I am concerned it makes far more sense to compare the Chimney Bluffs in Sodus, NY to the Badlands. Again, that is just me, but I have been there so I am an expert. ha. As we would have it our plans to visit the Four Corners National Monument led to yet another Plan B. Within 18 miles of the place there was a sign along the road that informed us that the monument was closed due to reconstruction. They have to close down a concrete slab in the middle of a Navajo Reservation? Huh? Oh well, so much for visiting Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado all in one sitting. Ahck, I was close enough. Seeing the Sleeping Ute Mountain was good enough for me. That I found to be quite impressive. As Adrienne's father might have said, "That Sleeping Ute is surreally real!" Unfortunately I could not get a decent picture of due to the phone lines that they probably could have put on the opposite side of the road, but that's what I get for taking pictures from moving vehicles. I had to do a lot of that along the way, and ending up capturing far more bug guts on my windshield than anything else.