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Monday, May 23, 2016

Into the depth's of the earth

Sue and I about to enter the depth's of the earth
I have never gone spelunking.  Although frankly the idea of caving has always appealed to me.  The idea of seeing something unique, or something that very few others have seen fascinates me.  However I learned long ago, when I explored an underground pipe system with some friends as a young man; is that I hate being wet, cold and in the dark.

So given the chance to take a rare free weekend and go caving in Florida's only open air cave, I would jump at the chance.  Sue and I drove about five and a half hours north into the panhandle of Florida.  Some 40 million years ago Florida was covered by a shallow sea, and this resulted in limestone being deposited.  The limestone is raised up and then water seeps into the limestone, slowly dissolving the limestone and creating a cave.  This is known as a Karst formation.   

These caves can take million of years to form and each one is unique in it's own way.  They grow and change, admittedly very very slowly, over time.  Each one can, and often does, support a fragile ecosystem.  As such very little of the cave was open to the public, and my few attempts of photographing it, do not do it justice.  You can see the full album of the caves on my Facebook page  (please note there are two different albums).  

nom nom
We also decided to explore the nearby town of Marianne, Florida a bit as well.    The panhandle of the state was the first part of the state that was "truly developed" as plantation owners in Georgia and Alabama expanded southward into what was then Spanish territory in the early 1800's.  

As such the town had a variety of historical buildings and styles throughout it.   From the Spanish influenced post office building to the antebellum southern style of the early to mid 1800's.  The rest of the state would be developed after the Civil War when the railroads started to push south along the coasts. 

Sadly we went exploring on a Sunday morning/early afternoon and the city was pretty much empty and shut down.  Still though we managed to find a few things of interest and plan on making another trip somewhere different soon.  

It feels good to be getting back to exploring my adopted state and all it has to offer.  

"straws" and an example of "cave bacon" in the upper right corner
a pool filled with water, so still it appears as glass would

Example of the Spanish style I love so much

Not technically Antebellum but lovely still

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The return of the rainy season and other meanderings

Their is a 70% chance of rain today.  A slightly less chance of rain tomorrow but the chances of me getting wet are almost guaranteed.  I've an unwritten rule when it comes to riding.  Anything above 45% is a crap shoot and I'll take the car everywhere.  It looks like I'll be driving to work most of the week.

I don't mind riding in the rain, in fact I rather enjoy it as long as I feel "relatively safe."  Riding in wet weather requires a special type of skill, and I'm glad that my motorcycle riders training class was held during a rainy miserable cold weekend.  I learned not to be afraid of the rain.  However if I can avoid it I will. 

Florida however has two seasons basically.  The "dry" season which most people refer to as "fall and winter" and the "wet" season, which generally is the spring and summer.   Our hurricane season generally runs from June 1 to November 30th and it's that weather pattern that delivers the rain.

Well my adopted home of Zephyrhills is inland enough to avoid storm surges and other flooding, I'm still not looking forward to living through my first hurricane, the last hurricane to touchdown in Florida was Wilma back in 2005.  Although there have been a variety of tropical storms that have caused damage in Florida.   The difference between the two is basically organization and wind speed.

It's only a matter of time the experts say.

Does no one wave anymore?

Let me paint you a picture.   It's a sunny day, the lone scooterist is heading down the road enjoying how a horse wants to race him to the far fence post.  Their are only a few fluff ball clouds in the air and all is right with the world.   Across the way comes a few bikers, a small group of 5 or so fellow travelers.

I throw out my hand giving them the peace sign above the road, wishing them safe travels down the road.  It's ignored.

Ok...whatever.   I'm okay with that, who knows what is going through the mind of another rider?  Or what they have to deal with.   Ah, a sports bike!  I throw out my hand again and say "Peace to thee my bother of the two wheels."

hmmm.....that is not the peace sign he is giving me back, but at least its a wave.   

All jokes aside though I'm not sure when or how the wave fell out of favor.  I generally try to wave at every rider I see, as long as it is safe to do so.  For what ever reason I've only been getting the wave back about 50% of the time.  

I get it to a great extent.  I'm on a scooter and not a "real bike" even though Kimmie is more than capable of either keeping up with, or blowing away most cycles on the road.  I also understand that now that the weather is fair we are getting more garage queens out on the road.  Bikes that never see the light of day unless they travel from pub to pub on the weekend.  Maybe I'm not worthy of the wave in their opinion?

I can also understand a new rider might be a little reluctant to take their hands off the handlebars even for a moment, and the wave is not exactly covered in class work when you get your license.

Still hard is it to throw out your arm in greeting?    We should be more friendly to each other.

To the Northern Hinterlands!

Sue and I are talking about taking the car north this weekend.  Up into the counties on the Nature coast that we are not familiar with.   Taking a picnic basket, our swim trucks and spending a night in a hotel somewhere.  Well I've no issue pointing our wheels in that direction, I would rather go with some sort of destination in mind...but the best finds are always the unexpected pleasures one finds on the side roads.

The problem that I'm having is that there does not seem to be much in the way of anything between Brooksville and Tallahassee.  

I suppose we may find a little out of the way restaurant, or some town holding a local festival.  More on that later, but it's a good change of pace.  Considering all her medical issues and so forth, I'll take what ever good days I can.

I wonder how many wineries there are bestrewn here and there?  My wine fridge is getting a little empty.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Finally getting down to St Pete's

I woke up this morning and it was 44 F (or a tad shy under 7 C).  It was going to warm up and quickly, so if I was going to go for a was when I wanted to get going.

It's a rare free weekend where I literally have no where to go or anything to do.   It being a weekend I wanted to avoid the beaches, but slowly a plan formed in the back of my mind.  How often did I want to get pictures of Kimmie down by the water?  How often have I said I was going to do that then not?

Of course that meant going over the Howard Franklin Bridge, (275 - see map below) which I did once before and thought for sure that I would get killed on it.  However riding in daylight, coming home in daylight....that's another story right?  Plus it's been a while since I rode that bridge.  I'm much more experienced now.

After a hardy breakfast of fruit loops and coffee off I went!

St Petersburg is actually a large city in it's own right.  It's on the other side of the Tampa Bay, and truth be told their is no real easy way to it.  The city only has one overland route to St Pete and three connecting bridges.  The Howard Franklin is always a mess, the Gandy is more to the south of the city and apart from the main city of Tampa.

St Pete is the home of the Tampa Bay Rays, of the MLB.  I was tempted to go get a photo of the Rays stadium but they had a game and I wasn't going to get involved in that mess just for a photo.  It is also the home of the Rowdies's, my beloved soccer team.  Their stadium is actually open on one side allowing the view of the bay, making it one of the more picturesque stadiums in the country.

As I drove up and down the main drag of St Pete, the aptly named Central Ave, I was reminded again why I love city life.  All those little restaurants, art gallery's, and various book stores waiting to be explored.  A variety of people, colors, smells and sensual experiences.  All waiting for me.

Their were a few places I wanted to go but due to construction near the new pier, which used to be an inverted pyramid, originally built in 1973, was being rebuilt.  So I headed down towards the Dali museum and the home of the Rowdies.  It's close to the pier and right across the street from the yacht club.

The Dali from the parking lot

Another view of the Dali

Kimmie with St Petersburg in the background
Sadly I was unable to get a good picture, but you can see a pod of dolphins at play
Might as well enjoy the Farmers market

And some good music
And enjoy a wonderful lunch under the trees
Not only a famous book store, but its said that Jack Kerouac haunts it
Happy Mother's day!!!

Overall I could not think of a nicer way to spend a Saturday, just wandering about and seeing what I could see...and realizing that I had just barely scratched the surface of this place.  How I wish I would have stopped and taken pictures of the many murals I passed!  That I barely touched all the wonder that is Florida and life in general.

It's days like this that make riding wonderful.  It's days like this that make life worth living.  At the end, when I finally did pull into my home I logged 124 miles.  In the end though it was not the mileage that excited me, it was the smiling faces of little kids, the wonderful sandwich I had with homemade bread and artisanal cheese while sitting under the trees, letting the cool breeze off the water kept me comfortable all day.

Sometimes I forget that I live in paradise, when the weight of the world is upon me.  Sometimes it's nice to be reminded of that fact.  Funny how a bike ride to somewhere can do that.

Friday, May 6, 2016

An interesting read

I am linking a interesting article from the Motorcyclist magazine to this page.

More than a few woman have been nice enough to encourage my blogging efforts and either maintain a blog or simply ride.  So I thought I would share this wonderful little gem.

The rise of woman's motorcycle riding groups.

As for me?  Well I have a few rides planned for the weekend.  :)

Monday, May 2, 2016

Scooting about Winter Haven and Lakeland

 I've been riding a lot lately.  Running back and forth not only to my job but whereever else I can go as well.  I am not traveling far, at least I'm out and about on Kimmie.  

It's hard for me to believe that the last group ride I was on was back in August 2015...yet, there it is.  I would once again be riding with the same group.  This time we were planning on meeting up in Lakeland and then take what I supposed would be a long circular route to Winter Haven for brunch.   

Kimmie and Rob's Vintage 125 Vespa
Again it occurs to me how very little I actually know about this state.   I remember visiting the Winter Haven area as a kid, where we went to a amusement park and I remember being impressed by a Water Skiing show there...this park later morphed into Legoland.  Other than that I knew next to nothing about the area.  

So the day started off well, with a ride promising to teach me a little more about my adopted state.  It also promised to be another in a series of hot, dry days which had me reconsidering my commitment to ATGATT.  However safety always comes first.

The group ride actually ended up just being a gang of two.  All the gang members where named Robert.  Although we did meet up with Rob's friend Andrew for brunch in Winter Haven for a bit..  He's an interesting guy with interests very similar to mine when it comes to home gardening.  His home is also directly influenced by the work of Gene Leedy, which to a geek like me was pretty cool.  I didn't take pictures however, I'm a big fan of privacy.  I may be all over the net, but that is my choice.  I wasn't sure how Andrew would feel about me wandering about taking pictures of his home.

A mural in downtown Winter Haven
Again I was impressed by the beauty of Lakeland, with its public spaces and wide open views of its various lakes.   Winter Haven also impressed me, with its attempts to revitalize its downtown area (signs of building construction where everywhere) and its various lakeside views.

As a fan a unusual buildings, I would have been happy to go in search of Leedy's work but we were here to ride.  The roads around Winter Haven were just twisty enough to make the ride fun, and the town has various lakes (50 in total) within it's borders meaning that where ever we road had a water view.   Many of these lakes were connected by canals.   

Over all it was a good ride out and I put about 117 miles on Kimmie.  

A mural painted onto a tree in Lakeland

Another mural

Public art in a public park