Well I can already tell that I'm going to get great topics for posts by wintering down here in sunny Florida - the retirement capital of the US !! You just have to think of all the crazy things that oldies can get up to and you'll see my point. But more of that later...................
Today is the start of our 6th full day here in Buttonwood Bay and I've seen quite a bit of the town of Sebring which is just 5 minutes drive up US27. We're in south central Florida about 90 miles from Orlando to the north and say, 160 miles from Miami to the South East. This puts us within relatively easy distance from places like The Kennedy Space Centre, Daytona Beach, Tampa, Cyprus Gardens, Busch Gardens, The Everglades, Disneyworld, Universal Studios, Seaworld.......oh just about any attraction you can think of it Florida !!
It's hit the mid 80's every day we've been here so far and drops to a more pleasant temperature during the night so sleeping isn't a problem. Most days we've gone into Sebring as for the first few days we were still in the process of setting up camp and so needed to eat out at local restaurants and grocery shop for fresh food. Now the trailer is looking more shipshape with most things in their proper spaces and we can cook and feed ourselves just nicely, thank you very much.
Living in a 5th wheel for 5 months (or 3 in my case) might seem like a sort of hardship compared to, say, being in a motel room or even your own house but I can assure you it's not. We have cable tv, wi-fi internet, a dvd recorder, a 300 CD player, a vcr, 2 laptops, a printer, a portable dvd player for individual use, 2 mp3 players and just about every other electronic goodie going. The trailer has a recliner chair for each of us, a 6 speaker surround sound system, full kitchen setup, dining places for 4, a microwave oven, shower and toilet facilities, beds for the 3 of us, air conditioning which is certainly needed here and a furnace for when it gets cold (not likely to be used for this trip). We've also got our outside chairs and a bike each and we're on a waiting list for renting a golf cart. So when I might type that we're camping here in Florida, it's about as far removed as possible from the traditional term that we'd use back in the UK. No tents and sleeping bags for us !! We like our luxuries.
I mentioned in the previous post that avoiding oldies in their golf carts is one of the few routine occupations here in the park........or community I should say. Actually it's a retirement community so the word 'occupation' is never used. These golf carts, which just about everyone has here for zipping around the park - visiting with friends or just to get to the heated pools, rec rooms, library, tennis courts, crazy golf or any of the other places and facilities free for residents - usually come as ex golf course models but it's obvious that many are brand new and even customised.
Even some of the pets here are retired and don't bother to walk much on their own. I know cats like to be pampered at any age but I'd never seen one happily seated on a golf cart before I came here. The superior look it gave me as it passed by left me in no doubt that walking for any other purpose than for exercise in Buttonwood Bay is seriously frowned upon. Don't you just hate cats with attitude ??!!
Speaking of pets, did I mention that Pixie, the long haired miniature dachshund, is with us ? Well she is and she has her own bed in the trailer too - although she does prefer to sleep on top of me most nights !
She has settled in well although she still has to meet any other doggie residents and has spent almost all of our 6 days here inside. We've not got started on any routine walking or anything as we're easing slowly into life here and so she has yet to go walkies.
She does like to read though and when Dennis got the Sunday papers, she got to read parts of it even though she seems to have a unique reading technique and prefers a sideways view. They say every dog has it's day and Sunday seems to be hers.
Yesterday I went out exploring the park and came upon a small expanse of water near the main lake.........Lake Josephine...........which the park borders. There were 3 'wading birds' in the water and this is as good a time as any to admit that I'm no animal expert and if I see and photograph any wildlife here, I'll not have a clue what it is. Well I might recognise an alligator I suppose and if a herd of wildebeest rushes by me, I'm confident that I'll know them too.
So I've no idea what these birds were called and as I got off my bike and crept slowly towards the water's edge like some wannabe David Attenborough, I assumed they'd fly off at any moment. Not so. I managed to sit on the grass and it was one of those classic occasions when you look at a creature through a lens or binoculars and suddenly see it filling your view. I knew I had a zoom lens but I wasn't zooming at the time and yet this one bird was getting closer and closer !! Excitement turned to slight panic as it had a beak that could perform open heart surgery and it's eyes were locked onto me. It looked pissed.
It stopped a few yards away as if to say....ok, pal, it's your move now. I decided not to make one. I held my breath and clicked away and couldn't believe my good fortune - ironically the bird was now so close to me that I didn't need the zoom lens. A woman was standing on the other side of the water and she called out to me that this was very usual and had to be that this was a mother bird and she was protecting her babies from me, or at least making sure she was between me and them. This seemed to be the case as when she realised I was no threat (apart from maybe taking inferior photos of her family), she was happy to look around and finally she waddled back to the water. Ok she was not a waddling type bird but on those long thin legs, she still looked like the bird equivalent of Charlie Chaplin.
It's too early to tell if they are there every day or if this was a one off, but at least I got to see and photgraph them this time. There were a few smaller birds on the water but compared to these big ones, they didn't merit my time.
I'm not sure what other wildlife to expect to see here. There are definitely alligators in the area and I REALLY want to see one of those suckers......at a distance of course. Anything else will be a bonus.
Further on I came upon a squirrel who was busy at the base of a palm tree eating a nut or some such item. Once again it wasn't phased by my stopping and getting my camera ready and it posed nicely for me.
Squirrels are the commonist critter here. I'm used to black ones back in Houghton Lake but these are gray squirrels. Spotting their colour is as far as my expertise goes.
They scoot up and down the palm trees and forrage around the houses as they know that oldies are predisposed to dropping food - either by design or mistake. The squirrels don't care.
They just see oldies as a walking meal ticket and I saw a few bounding after a golf cart the other day. In any other context it would have been seen as slightly threatening behaviour but here, it was like watching meals on wheels in action !!
On I went on my bike ride of exploration and came to a sort of inlet or canal which led into Lake Josephine. Numerous boats and pontoon craft were moored along the canal sides and it made for a very pretty sight as sunset was rapidly approaching. A few men were at the point where the canal met the lake and were fishing - without much success as far as I could see. I asked one what kind of fish they'd catch and he said bass.
On the approach to the lake, they've built a lovely wooden pier with a sort of gazebo affair at the far end. I'm sure it has a 'proper' name but I don't know it. Hoping that no illicit oldies type romancing was going on out at the pier end, I went out to take some photos looking back at the canal and also be there for the sunset.
Glad to find myself all alone in the gazebo, I set up and took this shot - where the fisherman is standing is the entrance to the canal or inlet. The main body of the lake is to the left of him and to the right of the closest golf cart is the start of the wooden pier.
All set with where we are now ??? Good.
Then came sunset and a sad end to my bike ride of exploration. I suffered for my art ! Sunset brought out the mozzies and other biting flying critters and as usual they found the taste of fresh British (dare I say PRIME) meat much to their liking. Every photo I took rewarded me with more bites and what really annoyed me was that most of the shots were rendered useless as the flash would go off and I'd get dozens of white blobs on the images - insects caught in the glare of the flash.
If I turned off the flash and used a longer time exposure, I could feel the bites while trying to keep the camera steady. In the end I gave up and left the mozzies to feed on some other poor soul.
This wasn't even the shot I wanted but it's the only one that I got with no flash enhanced insects on it. I thought I could digitally remove them but there were just too many of them to make it worth the effort.
So I'm left with about 30 itchy insect bites on arms and legs (and one on my forehead, thanks a bunch) and only this photo to compensate me. I've kept a few of the duff ones to remind me how I suffered to get them......and will continue to suffer for a week or more yet.
Don't tell me it's dangerous being a war photographer. Try taking sunset photos near water in Florida, pal !
I rode back to a lovely waiting 'home made' supper and settled down for an evening of tv watching and internet surfing with my bloated legs elevated on my recliner footrest.
Yes life is pretty good down here and when the itchness wears off and I'm not scared for life, I'll enjoy it all the more.