Tuesday, January 26, 2010

wildlife park & st. augustine...

In the morning we began our journey back north. We traveled up along the coast and made it to Homosassa Springs.
We wanted to stop in at a beach, but couldn’t seem to find one.... i looked up on the internet what’s doing around the area
and found a wildlife park.  Jay indulged my pleading and so we walked around the park.  It was small, and relatively nice,
although the wildlife park we went to  in San Diego was much better.

What was nice, was the pier they had jetting out over the water. There was several manatees hanging out & then one
came right over to the pier!  It kinda checked us out & hung around for 5 minutes! So beautiful.

After we left the wildlife park, we journeyed over to St. Augustine. I had been a looonnngggg time ago, when my parents
brought me when i was 8, and I remember loving it. I really wanted Jay to see it too.  I found a room just outside the old city.
We crashed for the night & enjoyed the city the next day, Sunday.

We decided it would be best to see the city from a tourist train. A narrated 2 hour trip telling you all about the history of the city.  St. Augustine is the oldest city in America. It was found by Ponce de Leon back in 1513. The Spanish tried for years to colonize the city, but in the end, it was taken by the French. The entire city used to be walled in, there was a moat surrounding it.  The walls and most of the buildings in the city were made using a mixture of crushed shelles called coquina rock, the fort is invincible to cannon fire.

There was also a very rare tree that our tour guide took us to... it is a living oak, with a live palm tree growing out of it! It is said that if you kiss your sweetheart under that tree, your love will last forever.
So, we kissed!

Then, there is another tree over by the Fountain of Youth, called the Old Senator.... this is a live oak that they have core-dated & have found it to be over 600 years old.
It was a very amazing city!!! If you're nerdy, like us.... you'd love it!


We ate lunch at a place called Hooked on Harry's... we sat outside in their walled in patio. I had grilled Mahi fish tacos with red beans and rice, and Jay had grilled chicken with goat cheese and sweet corn grits! How Southern! it was delicious...   Once we finished lunch we continued our journey up north.... next stop, Myrtle beach!

siesta beach....

After leaving St. Pete, we headed south to visit one of Jay’s friends.  He wasn’t getting home from work until after 5, so we stopped in to Siesta Beach to spend some time at the ocean.

We parked in the parking lot & headed towards the beach.... it was a good thing we could hear the ocean & feel the sand under our feet, because we certainly couldn’t see the water! The fog was so thick, you couldn’t see the ocean waves until you were right next to it! Crazy!
We strolled along the beach, lgetting our toezies in the surf.  I was hoping to see some dolphins, but there wern't any.
There was tons of birds though: brown pelicans and seagulls, white ibis,  royal terns  and oystercatchers.

We enjoyed walking the beach; the sand was soft and white and lots of people were walking along the shore.

We got to Jay’s friends place around 5:30 on Friday night.  We met his wife and daughter
& hung out for the evening.
We crashed in their driveway, sleeping in our kick-ass van. We left in the morning to continue our vacation.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

st. pete beach

Once we left visiting the manatees, we searched the internet for some good beaches.... friends told us that we should check out St. Pete Beach, so i went onto the trusty website that has been awesome in helping us find good rooms at cheap prices...http://www.roomsaver.com/
they list prices, ammenities, and obviously locations.... So, we found a place called The Postcard Inn on the Beach  http://postcardinn.com/
this place was awesome! very eclectic inside, retro feeling, and very "beachy". The floor is cement that they have polished down, then spraypainted silver flowers on the floor, but not all over the floor, the flowers had movement and faded in and out.... very cool. keeping that in mind for future projects!

(The bridge is what we had to cross to get over to St. Pete--it was HUGE!)
The front desk staff were friendly and helpful. We had room 222 which was on the second floor and overlooked the courtyard, which is full of trees that are lit up with lights and hanging lanterns.
They have an outdoor pool, outdoor pooltables and a bar that is directly on the beach!

After checking into our room (also very retro and simplistic) we took a hot shower and headed out to get some grub.
But first, we had to go out to the beach! We walked thru the bar area and out to the surf. We couldn't see the waves, but we could hear them! took a self pic while out there! yeah, we're in love....

Since there is a bar on the beach, we got a drink! Jay and I each had a chilled shot of Patron Silver. http://www.patronspirits.com/  absolutely perfect!!!
We struck up a conversation with our bartender, a sweet girl who just moved to St. Pete Beach in September from Maryland. She was full of positive energy and excitement and proud of herself for moving down from her "safe zone".  It was wonderful to talk with her. We had the bar to ourselves, because Florida people felt that it was "cold" out! Ppfft! what do they know about cold.... hehehe.
They had just built an addition onto the bar, and it is customary to write your name on the walls, so jay wrote: Jay and Coaly, Wicked Sticky Designs, 2010.  but we forgot to get a picture! So, you'll just have to go and see it for yourself!

After our drink we headed out for dinner to a place reccommended by the bartender: Snappers Sea Grill   http://snappersseagrill.com/

Our waiter, Pat, was fabulous! Attentive, but not pushy. Gave us suggestions and described ingredients. We decided to be adventurous and get the Gulf to Bay Oysters, which are cooked, sauteed with spinach,boursin cheese, bacon and carmalized onion, finished with a spicy harissa sauce. Neither of us have ever eaten oysters, but Pat assured us we would enjoy them.... and he was right! Delicious, they arrive on a hot silver plate sitting attop a bed of rock salt, so that when you put the oyster in your mouth, you get a tiny bit of salt to accompany the oyster. Perfect.

Then for dinner, Jay got the Wasabi Crusted Tuna and I got the Coconut-Cashew Crusted Mahi-Mahi.
OMG.  Presentation was fantastic, so i took picures!!! I can't even describe how good our meals were. I would recommend both!

 Back at the hotel, we got a good night's sleep on a very comfy bed. Continental breakfast in the morning, and then we headed out! Next stop, Venice Beach!

visiting the manatees

So, once we left Jimmy's place, we headed down to Apollo Beach to visit the manatee scantuary at Tampa Electric... check out the link... http://www.tampaelectric.com/manatee/

This place is awesome! and totally free!!! A haven for manatee, which need warm water to survive, there was about 60 manatee's hanging out, looking like large rocks while floating, then gracefully lifting their heads to the surface to take a gulp of air... only to submerge again. There were all kinds of other animals hanging out, too.... A heron was standing in the water and we watched it catch a fish & eat it! very cool....
Jay looked below where we were standing too & saw that there were hundreds of fiddler crabs all over the beach!
We stayed for about an hour or so, then headed to our next destination.... St. Pete Beach! 

Friday, January 22, 2010

made it into tampa

We left Erik and Stacey's place on Monday afternoon... after the girls taped the pictures that they made for us on our windows! Thank you, Julia & Kayla!

We made it into Tampa by 5:30 that night. I met Jay's dad, Jimmy & then we made some dinner on the grill. Jimmy gave us a tour of his place, he showed us all of the amazing things he did, custom cabinets, lighthouse lamps, hockey helmets made into light fixtures and or course his cat, scrappy.
(Jimmy calls him scrappa dappa) he is a real mellow cat and seems like a dog in cat's clothing! Then Jay & Jimmy caught up on old times and photos... Jimmy has done everything in his life! It was fun getting stories that i've heard from Jay straight from the horses mouth!

The next day Jay was helping Jimmy work on his "hotrod". It's an 89 camaro and Jimmy just loves it. Jay was hoping to get the thing running, but to no avail. We wanted to rent a scan tool, but they don't rent them out down here... you have to buy them for $90. So we bought some fuses to see if that would help, but with the limited tools it just wasn't working out. But it was nice to see father & son working on the car together.

There is a Big Cat rescue about 4 miles away from Jimmy's place & there is a walking path called the Upper Tampa Bay Trail that you can take to get there, so Jay & i headed out to see the cats. The trail meanders along a swamp that is home to several alligators, ducks, turtles and heron. We wanted to see an alligator, but none were hanging out. bummer.
So we walked, and walked, and walked..... apparently it's quite a bit longer than 4 miles when you walk along the trail! We never made it to the big cats but we walked about 8 miles!
Along the path there was a ranch with horses eating in the field. I "clicked" to them, trying to call them over.... and one did! He stopped his eating and came right over to the fence to see what i was "clicking" about! funny...

The next day was beautiful! We wanted to go searching for alligators again, so Jimmy came along with us to see if we could see any.
We were walking along the edge of the swamp (the sides are very steep)and we were chatting, camera out but not really ready. Then Jimmy saw one! As he turned to tell us that there was a gator sitting there, the gator smacked himself into the water. We just got a quick glimpse of him before he swam away, but he was a biggin! About 10 feet long, and god knows how much he weighed....i was able to get some pics of him swimming away. Very cool. Glad we didn't get eaten!

We continued along the water, looking for more gators. We saw plenty of turtles and ducks and heron, but no more alligators.
We did see some unusual ducks, however... they had red masks on their faces like roosters. I started quacking at them.... and they came right out of the water, up the steep incline and right over to me! How strange! I'm like Dr. Doolittle!

When we got back to Jimmy's place, we played some darts. None of us have played in YEARS... but we all did surprisingly well! And it was a lot of fun! jay played jimmy and jimmy won, but just barely, a real close game...(jay says he let him win) and then jay and i played and it was neck and neck most of the game, we were both shooting for the bullseye and decided to eat dinner, so by default I WIN!! ha ha ha! it was a real good time and we are definitely getting a dart board when we return...

after dinner, we all hung out and watched a movie, Behind Enemy Lines, it was surprisingly good and it was nice to just chill out and spend some quiet quality time together.

the next day we got up and had some breakfast. after breakfast we started getting all of our stuff together, packing the cooler and getting ready to hit the road. this was a bittersweet moment as we were excited to see what was ahead for us, but we were having fun with jimmy (my favorite father-in-law) and was difficult for us to leave.
jimmy helped us pack our van, and then we all posed for pics in front of it and said our goodbyes. Upon leaving we both had a feeling of sadness, mixed with excitement, kind of an odd feeling, but we must travel on...

Monday, January 18, 2010

jacksonville continued...

Our friends, Erik and Stacey have a super-comfortable bed for us to sleep on!
A sleep number bed! Aaaahhh.... so, we had a wonderful night’s sleep & when we woke
in the morning, the girls, Julia & Kayla were drawing us picures, waiting for us to wake up!
A couple of real cuties, they gave us big hugs, then helped Erik make cinnamon rolls for us
to have for breakfast. Stacey was at her weekend job, teaching gymnastics & cheering at the YMCA,
and wouldn’t be home until 1:30. The girls busied themselves by making a "snowman"! Erik got in the picture, too.... it looks like he has bunny ears!
It was raining that morning, so we had to wait for the rain to stop before the girls could go outside to
PICK US BREAKFAST!  yup! Erik & Stacey have a pink grapefruit tree in their backyard! It’s loaded with hundreds of grapefruit!
The girls and Erik picked about 15 & we cut them up & ate them,  no sugar necessary!
Then Erik juiced a dozen & the juice was scrumptious! No preservatives here!

When Stacey got home we ventured out to see a bit of Jacksonville... (i think we were trying to be convinced to move here, as Erik even showed us an apartment that his friend is renting!)
The apartment is right near the beach, so we went down & walked around, even though it was pretty chilly and windy out.
Walking back to the car, the girls held our hands (collective awwwww...). In the car i sat in the middle in between the two girls & jay sat in the way back. While driving back to the house, Kayla said..."how's him doing back there? is him ok?"  too cute!!!

We got back to the house and got ready to go out to dinner... Stacey's mom was generous enough to watch the girls overnight so that we 4 could go out & enjoy our time without worry.
Erik and Stacey took us to a Brazilian steakhouse called  Tento Churrascaria:

WOW! we ate a fabulous meal! and we ate, and ate, and ATE! a delicious bottle of Red Zinfandel wine, then followed by kahula mousse pie, a snifter of Glenlivet 12 year for jay and a snifter of Gran Marnier for Erik (which he shared with me!).... Stacey is 6 months pregnant, so she had diet coke! boo!
We finally rolled ourselves out & went home for a few hours of chatting.... we covered everything from recycling, jobs, children, dogs, aliens and several conspiracy theories! I do believe, we may have solved all the world's problems in that one night!

The next day, Sunday, it was beautiful out! Bright sunshine and a soft breeze, it felt amazing on sunshine-parched faces! Stacey and I went to get the girls from her mom's place, while Erik brought Jay to the parts store to fix the EGR valve.
Erik had a big day in store for him.... he works at CSX (the train company) and every year at the local zoo they have volunteer day to drive the zoo train.....Erik applied & got accepted to be the volunteer train conductor for the day! He and the girls were very excited!
Jay & i were hoping to join them, but since the van needed fixing & it was beautiful out, it was smart for us to stay & work on it.
As is the case with working on older vehicles, things can happen that cause delays.... and, of course, that's exactly what happened.  A bolt was stuck in the lower part of the intake manifold. While Jay was trying to drill it out, the bit broke inside the hole! Not a good thing.....

so, many hours later, after Erik and Stacey & the girls had returned, Jay & Erik finally got the thing back together. Jay was not able to replace the EGR valve (because he never could get the bolt out), but he was able to clean up the old one & get it back in working order.... so, in doing so, he saved us $175! ...... i have an amazing husband!!! <3
That night, we ordered pizza & enjoyed a few cold beers. Hanging with friends makes working on an old van way more fun!

keep on reading & sending your messages! i'll follow up with more later....
coaly gallant*

Sunday, January 17, 2010

arriving in Jacksonville to visit friends...

We continued on thru Georgia & i found a wonderful place that i want to make sure that we stop and visit called the Savannah Wildlife Refuge! Sounds awesome, so when we get there, i'll make sure to write all about it & post pics!

Just before we made it into Jacksonville, we decided to stop & get gas & pick up some wine to have with our friends that night. We pulled into M&T Liquors.... and they have a DRIVE THRU! had to take a picture! apparently, this is quite popular all over the south, but it's new to me, so i found it interesting.

We finally made it into Jacksonville at our friends' house around 10:45 on Friday night....this is what we saw when we pulled in:
WICKED STICKY PARKING ONLY! how sweet is that! we don't even have a marked space at the shop that we rent!                       Thank you, Jacksonville Hendersons!