Monday, January 31, 2022

Microadventure #5: Ruskin and Apollo Beach with Christine and Kellie

Say what you will about Facebook, but I find it an awesome tool for staying in touch with friends from around the world.  Just like in Microadventure #4, I, once again, discovered an old friend was in Florida.  This time, the friend was Christine, someone I'd met in 2017, the year I was working at Mutual of Omaha. Christine was vacationing on her own in Tampa.  I gave her a call and found out she only had one day left of her vacation and she'd made a new friend, Kellie, at the airport, who she had plans to meet up with.

Two friendly, single, independent women make perfect Microadventure Buddies! I asked if I could tag along, and received a welcoming thumbs up!

We all met at Kellie's beautiful new home in Ruskin, FL, which turned out to be exactly the half-way point between Sarasota (where I'm staying) and Tampa (where Christine was staying).  

The Gulf Coast is going through a bit of a cold, rainy, cloudy spell right now, so the weather wasn't exactly the tropical paradise that one would hope for, but still nice, compared to the weather most of the rest of the nation was experiencing.

Our adventure started with a lovely hike at the Wolf Branch Nature Preserve in neighboring Apollo Beach, FL


I just love those big trees with their draping Spanish Moss creating romantic canopies. Bailey, Kellie's dog enjoyed the expansive trail, too, and was always ahead, scouting the way for us.

Our next stop was the Manatee Viewing Center, offering up more pretty walkways, gift shop, an opportunity to pet stingray, and, of course, the main attraction - a manatee viewing area.  The manatee are supposed to be more observable during rainy, cold days, but, unfortunately, we didn't see any.  However, I discovered, you can use Webcams to see them via your computer from anywhere, too!  This worked a lot better than the live viewing! They were all over the place!

You can zoom in and adjust your camera, so it's very cool!  

However, of course, being there in person was very fun and I loved seeing all the stingray swim by in the stingray petting area.

Our final stop was the Sunset Grill and Beach Bar, a cute lunch spot on the beach.  You can't go to Apollo Beach without going to the beach, right?  Even though it was a bummer that it was a rainy day, it was fun to listen to the live music and enjoy some warming seafood bisque soup.

Awesome Microadventure!

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Microadventure #4: Geoff Coe's Wild Images at Sanibel Art Show


This week's Microadventure was a spontaneous trip to see an Art Show in Sanibel with Becky.

On Friday morning, I saw a post on Facebook from an old colleague from the Sun days, Geoff Coe.  I knew Geoff was somewhere in Florida and I'd seen many of his posts with his stunning photography.  In his post, Geoff said he would be at this art show on Friday and Saturday from 9-4pm.

The weather was a lot cloudier and colder than usual, and the forecast for Saturday was even worse, with rain predicted. If we were going to go, the sooner the better!

Lucky for me, Becky is an up-for-anything kind of gal-pal, and she generously offered to make the 2+ hour drive with me to go see the show.

It was wonderful to see Geoff again after so many years and hear about his business, Geoff Coe's Wild Images. The photographs were amazing and stunning to see in person.

Geoff's booth was very busy. I found out he'll be in Sarasota, too, a couple of times this summer, so I'll get to see him again!

Unfortunately, the weather was too cold to get out to the beach, but I still had fun having the afternoon with Becky. Even though I've been living with her all month, Becky and I have each been so busy, we've hardly had any time to do something together! It's always good to get some one-on-one time with the wise and wonderful Becky Burns.

After enjoying our fill of the art show, we meandered next door to a very fun and funky restaurant, Island Cow, for an early dinner before heading home.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Microadventure #3: Mini-golf at the Fish Hole in Lakewood Ranch

Every day is a sweet adventure here in sunny Florida so it's hard to choose just one to blog about. However, since one of my "requirements" for a microadventure is that another person is with me, and John invited me to play miniature golf tonight, it's my pick for  Microadventure #3!

We met up at The Fish Hole in Lakewood Ranch, a winsome little town about 20 minutes North of Sarasota.  The evening air was clear and beautiful, in the mid 60's (while back home in Colorado it's a frigid 27 degrees.)

The decor was full of whimsical fishing gear and signs and even a little bell to ring to show you were having fun. We were the only patrons in the whole place so we had the sole attention of Aaron, the helpful kid at the front desk! It was as though we were royalty or celebrities having a private party in this colorful, bright attraction! No lines, no kids, no waiting, no worries!

Each hole featured a different type of fish with facts and information about the fish. You know how I love themes and the whole place was very fishy!

But, of course, the game here is putt-putt golf, not fishing. John brought his custom-made putter and he said that putter has been in many-a-mini-golf-course. 

He shared the putter with me and it must have brought me good luck because it was the best game of mini-golf I've ever played! I even got a hole-in-one on two different holes! 

John was ahead of me for most of the game, but we ended up with exactly the same score! 26 each - only 4 over par!

After we finished, we strolled on Main Street which was lined with plenty of shops and dinner restaurants to choose from. Everything looked clean and new and very Disney-esque.  Straight from a fairy tale!

We ended up choosing a Mexican restaurant, eating out on a patio and enjoying the musicians and all the delightful smells, sights and sounds of the beautiful evening.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Microadventure #2: Venice, Florida

I am having so much fun here in sunny Florida! Every day is a "microadventure" but the one I'm going to blog about is my Saturday excursion to Venice, Florida!

Venice is a quaint little beach town about 30 minutes south of Becky's townhouse in Sarasota. As I mentioned, the challenge I've set for myself with these microadventures is every week to see a new place with another person and blog about it.

For this adventure, my "other person" was a very handsome and sweet Bumble date, John, who was an excellent tour guide as he's lived in Venice for many years.  

We met up at Centennial Park on Venice Avenue. John showed me this super-cool Kaleidoscope Spinning Flower Pot!  Check it out!

There was 60's music playing at the gazebo and an older couple was dancing out in the park. It was like a scene right out of Norman Rockwell. John said that music is often playing in the park and I made a mental note that I wanted to come back to hear more.

We were both hungry, though, so we left the park to eat at T.J. Carneys, a yummy pub with a fun vibe. The elegant woman who showed us to our seats looked to be in her 80's, still with plenty of pep in her step! John ordered up a French Dip, and I, still motivated by my January healthy eating goals, had a delicious "Summertime Salad." Ah!  How awesome to have "summertime" in winter!

After lunch, we strolled the quaint shops along Venice Avenue, full of beachy treasures. I loved browsing and admiring the decor in beautiful shades of teal, pinks, and blues.  There were all sorts of unique finds, like some cool aqua jelly-fish-shaped lampshades!

Unlike most guys I know, John didn't mind shopping at all..  he was even the one who suggested it! He especially enjoyed this store that was full of shells and sharks teeth! He was very knowledgable about the different types of shark teeth and it sounds like he's quite the collector! He told me that the best beach to find shark teeth was nearby Nokomis beach.

Venice Avenue not only had super-cute shops and restaurants, but the streets and outdoors were filled with whimsical painted mermaids and seahorses. I asked John to get one of me posing with the pretty purple mermaid to send to my sister (she likes mermaids like I like flamingos.)

And speaking of flamingos...   you KNOW I had to get a picture of this guy, still dressed up for Christmas!

When we got to the end of the downtown row of shops, John told me that the beaches were just a little bit further!   We both went in our own cars, caravan style, with our phones on and John still being a personal tour guide as we headed for Venice Beach and Fishing Pier.

The weather was perfect..  sunny and in the 70's. Everywhere I turned, there was beauty -- in the sky, the shore, the water, the pier. 

This gull was proudly holding a shrimp he'd caught for photo-snapping tourists like me! At one point, he dropped his shrimp, and John retrieved it and he picked it right out of his hand as though he were a pet bird.

Our final stop was Nokomis Beach. John had some other errands to run, so this is where we said our goodbyes. It was close enough to sunset that I wanted to stay and enjoy the beach a little longer. I didn't find any shark teeth, but the beach was just full of beautiful shells, perfectly in tact!

I never get tired of looking at this scene. It fills me with a sense of awe and peace. 

When someone asks, "What is a perfect day for you?" I would have to answer it's a day like this one! 

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Microadventure #1: Myakkahatchee Creek Trail


Positive-Thinking Walkers at Oak Park in North Port, FL

This year, I'd decided my 2022 project was to have at least one "microadventure" a week and blog about it.  What is a microadventure, you ask? Well, Alistair Humphreys, who coined the phrase, describes it this way:

A microadventure is an adventure that is short, simple, local, cheap – yet still fun, exciting, challenging, refreshing and rewarding.

Though Alistair's microadventures seem to always involve overnighters.. often without even tents! .. mine are going to be walks, hikes, or excursions in different locations.

Admittedly, this doesn't seem like much of a stretch goal since I've been in the habit of walking daily for years now.  My criteria is, though, that I have to go to new places with someone else AND I have to write about it! That means, I can't just do my standard 5-mile neighborhood walk every day and call it done.

Since I'm relatively nomadic for the winter, it also might be a challenge to be able to find someone to go with me.

As I wrote about once before, one of the first things I do to make new friends when I'm exploring a new place is to find a Meetup to join.

Marianne from the Sarasota Walkers group hosted the perfect Meetup event for my first microadventure of the year: 


Positive thinkers need support in these times. Please join me for a discussion + hike/walk every Sunday at Oaks Park in North Port. We'll gather at the picnic tables for intros and a 30 min guided group discussion. Afterwards, we walk/hike the Myakkahatchee Creek trail in North Port's lush urban Wilderness. 2 miles RT, rated EASY PACE/EFFORT but more demanding than walking on level pavement. Not for folks with limiting balance issues. Wear closed-toe shoes.

A hike in a new park AND a discussion about positive thinking? I hit gold! Walking and positivity are two of my obsessions! And even though when people talk about "in these times" they're referring to Covid, I'm still reeling over the Superior fire, so this was a welcome reprieve.

Marianne led the discussion, starting with introductions and a name-game where each person has to repeat the names of everyone who went before them. (I love those kinds of ice-breakers and memory is another one of my interests.)  She then gave us all a hand-out about optimism with tips and things we can do to be more optimistic. These were all related to brain health which I'm always talking about such as learning, trying new things, and developing healthy habits.

Of course, walking and being in nature are two of the best things you can do for your health, so after our short discussion, we were on our way!

The Florida trails are different from those I'm used to in Colorado.. they are typically flatter and the plants and wildlife is different. This trail was lush with palm trees and some small streams we crossed along the way.

Though it was a bit humid, I marveled that I could be taking this hike in January with shorts when back home in Colorado, a snowstorm was going on.

My favorite part, though, was meeting new people. Most of us were retired and several were snowbirds and semi-nomadic, like me.  I finally remembered to hand out my little "Carpe Diem" business cards I'd made up, and I even got some new Facebook connections and texts!

Marianne called yesterday and asked if I might be interested in leading the discussion at an upcoming Sunday, and I said, Absolutely! I'm going to talk about Everyday Joy on January 16!

Saturday, January 01, 2022

Gratitude for John

On New Years, one of my traditions is to write Gratitude letters.

This year, I have such a massive feeling of gratitude that I decided to go public.

I blogged once before about my housemate, John, but he’s private and humble, so I rarely blog or write about him.  However, without him, I wouldn’t have my beautiful house.

Nine years ago, when Scotty went off to college, I’d planned to downsize because I wouldn’t be able to afford the mortgage without child support. Still, I loved my house, so on a whim, I put an ad in  John was the first person who looked at the place. He measured the garage to make sure his truck would fit, and promptly said he’d take it!

That was the day I struck gold.

When Scotty came home for winter break that first year, I told him:

“Scotty, it’s AMAZING having John here. He’s clean, he helps me, and he even pays me!”

Scotty laughed and said: “Just the opposite of me, eh, Mom!”

I have thought about moving to a warmer weather place, but I’ve always said, as long as John wants to live in my house, I’ll stay. I love my Superior home (I’m not being snobby, by the way. The town is named Superior.) 

John putting up Christmas lights!

While I wouldn’t use the adjective “superior” to describe it, I would say that it’s “perfect” thanks to John. He always works so hard in the yard keeping it beautiful and well-maintained.  I can’t tell you how many times I sit out in my backyard, just marveling at the beauty and my luck at having John as a housemate.

John mowing my lawn (as I lazily sit in my hammock swing.)

John’s house maintenance isn’t just about the yard. He keeps the whole house clean and safe. I have to own up to my own negligence with the smoke detectors (it is very hard for a short person to change the battery in those annoying chirpers!) But John usually changes those batteries before they even chirp. And in the rare times they do chirp, HE’s the one that gets up in the middle of the night to change the battery. (This may be partly because I completely ignore the chirps.)

John does so much maintenance around my house, that most people assume he’s the home-owner.  When neighbors need help, he’s the one they call. I fully admit, he’s so much better at any kind of work than I am. If he weren’t around, my house would probably look like a run-down, broken old shack.

John shoveling snow from my driveway

But my gratitude for John extends beyond home maintenance. He protects the house. His personality is one that epitomizes a sense of strength, confidence, and security - it’s no wonder he was promoted to Louisville’s Fire Chief.

I always feel safe when he’s around and I can easily travel, knowing my house is so well protected.  It was even a little joke for me to say, “I never have to worry about my house burning down as long as John is around.”

A couple of days ago, I saw an email informing everyone that there was a fire near Target and asking all Superior residents to evacuate. (I guess the Inferior ones could stay.. Haha.. I have to throw in those “Superior/Inferior” jokes whenever I can.)

John called me twice..  The first time he told me that it was looking bad and I might lose the house. I could tell from his tone that things were serious.  The fires were burning very close to my neighborhood and if the wind blew the wrong way, that would be the end. A couple of hours later, he called again, this time with the news that the house was still standing and he was cautiously optimistic.

I know the firefighters were dealing with 100+mph winds and impossible challenges. I can’t imagine how frustrated they must have felt, seeing these homes burn in their own neighborhoods. It would be like doctors operating on family members and having to watch as some of them died.

I know that my house could have burned to the ground like so many others despite all the firefighters’ best efforts. But it absolutely would have burnt to the ground if those firefighters hadn’t been working diligently through the night, stopping the spread the best they could.

My heart aches for the people who lost their homes, but it is overwhelmed with gratitude for the firefighters and especially, John.

John, you are a hero. I'll never have the words to be able to thank you enough.