26 July, 2015

Summer 2015 ... Part Four: Florida

It was great to get home and sleep in our own beds! For a few nights, at least.

Our cats, Cari and Emma, were so excited to see us again. We're so lucky to have Sunny, a super special soul, who comes to check on them, plus Louise, our neighbor, who helped out, too.

The reunion wasn't for long. We arrived home on Saturday, July 4. By Monday, Courtney was off on an airplane. On Tuesday, he came back home, and Wednesday we were back in the fun bus heading to Florida. Whew.

First stop ... Fleming Island, the Grandparents and the pool!
That Friday saw us off to Camp Shands (Boy Scout Camp outside of Gainesville, FL). We were there to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Order of the Arrow ... plus my  handsome husband was one of 10 gentlemen that were awarded the Centurion Award for the North Florida Council. This was for his amazing leadership and program initiatives. Way to go, Courtney!
While there, we got caught in a rainstorm (the girls and I took shelter in a camp tent), rescued a frog from the bathroom, tested out a tipi, toured camp and of course enjoyed the company of friends.
We stayed the night in Gainesville and the next morning took a quick drive to Ichetucknee Springs to go tubing. Well, the drive was quick - but the wait to get in took a little while.

We were all a little tired when we woke up, so we took it easy and didn't leave the hotel until 10am. It seems people start to line up before the park opens at 8:00am. Oh well. It wasn't that long of a wait. And it was well worth it.
Here's what we looked like after getting loaded-up with our tubes and my boat - one tube had to be smushed into the back of the mini van. (Yes, Courtney got me a boat! No cold feet or hands on this trip.)
We started at the mid-point and spent about an hour-and-a-half on the river. We'll definitely do this again - maybe even with some time spent in the swimming hole.

Once we got out and got back to our car, we were all famished. A quick stop for lunch and we were off driving again. This time to St. Petersburg and visiting with the Tantes. What was another special treat for me was remembering the times that I used to come to St. Petersburg to visit my grandparents.

As soon as we could, we were off to Pass-a-grille Beach at St. Pete Beach.
The water was so warm - I even went in! It was Nazeriah who was the one that opted out of going into the water. The rest of us stayed in, until we had a few too many close-enough encounters with stingrays. It is stingray season and you are supposed to do the "stingray shuffle" as you walk out into the water.

I had never really thought of what the name of the beach meant - it always was just Pass-a-Grille Beach. Chayton, however, was very interested in figuring out what it means. Here's what I found:
"According to legend, it is thought that Pass-a-Grille derives its name from the French Passe aux Grilleurs, which means "the passageway of the grillers" in honor of the fisherman who used to grill their catch of the day on the shore when the island was still a post for pirates." --Tampa Bay Times
Maybe it was the first ever drive-through for pirates? Who knew?

Who better to wait to go see the new Minion movie with then the Tantes?
Of course, they were all decked out. Chayton had planned out his outfit the week before ...

Next up, a visit to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. We have all been fans of the dolphins Winter and Hope since watching the movies Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2

If you aren't familiar with the story ... Winter was rescued as a baby after being tangled up in crab trap ropes. Unfortunately, the ropes were around her tail in such a way that they caused her tail to degrade. Fortunately, the people at the Aquarium stuck with her and came up with a solution (through much trial and error) of creating a prosthetic tail. 

Talk about an inspiring story. Since then, Winter has become a symbol of courage and perseverance to millions - both able and disabled. (This is "told" in the first movie - with a little creative license.) The second movie showcases the appearance of Hope (another dolphin pup rescue) and how she actually helps to rescue Winter. 
Top tank view of Winter (top) and Hope.
Chayton watching Winter from below deck.
The star - Winter
I think we were all happy to be able to see them and the other animal stars from the movie/aquarium - but you can tell that the Aquarium really did start out as an animal rescue/rehab hospital. They just aren't prepared for the influx of visitors. 

Even though I say that, they do have some great processes in place (marketing, signage, human herding & touch points, etc). But they need more space. Good news - they are going to get it! Here's the info on their expansion.
Petting and feeding Manta Rays
On the bus to the second location - a wonderful exhibit of props and
info about the movies. Plus, it's indoors and air conditioned!
 Of course, if you make it to St. Petersburg, - you have to go to the Dali Museum. So off we went! Not only did we get to see Dali's work, there was a special exhibit on Michelangelo da Vinci and how he influenced Dali.
Finding the hidden pictures in his work.
Up close this is actually a large painting that features his wife Gala.
From further away - it looks like Abraham Lincoln.
The mustache!
 More beach time.
A visit to Haslam's Book Store. I think I could spend a day (at least) in each section ...
Another wonderful thing about our trip - were were able to spend some time with a UU community: church on Sunday and volunteering to help provide a meal to people in need on Friday night.
And then it was time for the sad goodbyes. :-(
That is, until next time!