Saturday, November 26, 2011

Inside Solomon's Castle

We headed out early this morning for our planned ride to Solomon's Castle with our new motorcycle friends, Patty and Fran.  Even at 9 a.m. on another beautiful SW Florida day, we could ride without coats.  When we stopped to pick up some other friends of Patty and Fran, Ron and I also ditched our helmets.  We are so accustomed to riding with helmets in Georgia and Washington, that we rarely ride without them.  However, it could be addictive!  There is nothing like the feeling of wind in your hair even when it leaves it in a hopeless tangle.
Jerry and Monique had just taken delivery of their new bike, and it is a beauty!  They are from Quebec, the bike is made in Quebec, but it is much less expensive to buy it in Florida.
Our caravan included four bikes and one car.  Nine adults and two children all headed out for the castle.
Fran is an excellent guide as he knows every road and how they interconnect, so we were able to take mostly rural back roads and still go in a pretty straight line to Ona, where the castle is located.
Howard Solomon, the owner and artist responsible for all the amazing art both inside the castle and out, mingles with the guests.
Waiting for our tour to start.
 Every piece of art is made of some recycled material.  Many are put together from tiny pieces of discarded wood, like the large piece in the middle, and the one to the left on this wall.
 These animals are all made from old wire coat hangers.
 The chair in the corner is made entirely from beer cans.
 Lots of famous paintings have been reproduced using metal, wood, and assorted other materials.
 The painting in the middle is a Norman Rockwell cover for The Saturday Evening Post.  If you enlarge the picture, you will see the original cover to the right of the art piece.

 This dragon is made from oil barrels.

 Notice the toenails of the elephant - clam shells.  Tusks are manatee ribs.

 The artist and his wife's living quarters.  They have two rooms that they rent out - we didn't see those.
 Back door.

This is the only "Plane Wall" in the house.  The tour is really interesting and worthwhile, but every single piece of art comes with a punny name, which is almost painful at times.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Motorcycle Ride to Solomon's Castle

We met some other motorcycle riders last Saturday and Patti and Fran told us about a neat ride to Ona, Florida, to Solomon's Castle.  We originally planned to ride with them to see the castle today, but they had unexpected visitors and had to beg off.  So I went on line last night and found an address and directions using MapQuest. I printed the directions, and about 10 a.m. this morning, we headed out under cloudy skies with the temperature hovering near 80, for the middle of Florida.
Most people think of Florida and see beaches, Disney World, Epcot Center, and the big cities of Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale, Naples and Miami.  However, the interior of the state is something entirely different.  Lots of cattle ranches, saw palmetto jungles, orange groves, tomato and sugar cane fields, and swampy ground.
This longhorn steer, like most cattle, has his own cattle egret.
The miles of orange groves mean lots of big trucks on the main roads filled with oranges.
That are hauled to this big orange juice facility
We ended up taking an extremely circuitous route to Solomon's Castle, because we missed our first turn onto County Rd 661, and found ourselves on 661A (definitely not the same road!) where we wandered around in a orange grove maze for quite a long ways.  We came to several dead ends before we finally popped out onto the real 661, still about 20 miles away from our destination.  Since we had gone about 95 miles, we were determined to find the castle, and suddenly, we saw a timeworn sign where we could barely make out the words "Solomon's Castle" and finally knew we were on the right track.
It's kind of hard to tell what it is constructed from because the entire exterior is sheathed in what looks like a heavy tinfoil.  All of the windows are lead glass, created by the owner over the years.  
We never took the castle tour because we are still planning to go back with our new motorcycle friends this coming weekend, and have saved ourselves for that.
Here is the article I found about it on line before we went:
Roadside America Story about Solomon's Castle which gives some more information about the owner and how it all came to be.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

New Motorcycle Friends - Englewood

The man in the center is Padre, group leader.
When we went to Burgerking the other day, we met Dave, who was there on his Gold Wing bike.  We introduced ourselves, and after chatting for a while, he invited us to join his group for a ride on Saturday.
The group is perfect for us!  No membership rolls, no commitments, no dues, no guilt.  The leader, Padre, is the minister of the Methodist church in Englewood.  He added our name to his ride list, so we will get word when a ride is planned. 
We arrived about 10 minutes before the scheduled start of the ride.  About 50 bikes were already there, and about 25 more arrived before we headed out for the first stop at the Englewood WalMart.
Where we all lined up bikes in front, riders by the wall, to have a picture taken.  WalMart was presenting a check for $2,500 to the Helping Hands charity that the group supports.  A ride in two weeks will again add to the coffers of the charity.

We then rode out King's Highway nearly to Arcadia, back along Charlotte Harbor, and out to Gasparilla Island, where the final stop was lunch at the Riverside Bar and Grill.

We discovered a few new roads and lots of new friends on a perfectly lovely day for a ride.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Stump Pass, Englewood, Florida

We knew we had to get going early if we were going to enjoy a morning boating.  By afternoon, the sun can be brutal, so we had the boat in the water and left at 8 a.m.
Of course, it took two towels to wipe the seats down because of the heavy dew.
Stump Pass, at the end of Manasota Key is one of our favorite beaches.  You can drive to the park, but it is over a mile hike to the pass, so the beaches at the pass are lightly used.
The birds like it here too!  The tide was going out, leaving lots of area for birds to find food.
There are protected sandy beaches on the bay side of the island where we can nose the boat up on the beach and walk across to the gulf.
It is a very short walk across to the gulf beaches.
We could see the clouds to the north, but it was perfectly clear to the south.
We opted for the channel between mangrove islands instead of the intercoastal waterway for our return trip.

By the time we got back to the dock around noon, it was getting really hot and all the clouds were gone.  Nice to come in where we have A/C.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Florida Critters

We live in a bird sanctuary here in Englewood, so we often spot a pair of Sand Hill Cranes, but this is the first time they have come directly to our house to visit.  
Yesterday we went out to lunch at a local restaurant that sits on a small lake.
The first thing we noticed was this sign.  Of course, it piqued our interest, and we walked around the deck that overlooks the lake.
What's this I see?
It almost looks like the alligator is lurking waiting for the egret to come closer.  However, as soon as the alligator spotted us, it came over next to the deck and nearly sat up begging for food.
Soon we could see two alligators, several turtles (some really huge - probably a couple of feet long), and a horde of fairly large fish.  While we worried a little bit about going to jail, we might have accidentally dropped a french fry or two over the edge.  Surprisingly, we never fed the alligators.  The fish are much faster, and the turtles are somewhat faster than the big fat lazy alligators.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Boating in Lemon Bay

Captain Ron - boat spic and span and engine running smoothly, sunny skies, smooth water, perfect day in SW Florida.  We took our first boat trip on November 9.  Lemon Bay is a great place for bird watching.  Even an amateur can identify the big water birds.
Great White Egret
Immature little white heron on dock on left.  Yes, it is blue, but it will change to white as it matures.  It is the only bird with greenish bill and legs and blue feathers that looks like an egret or heron.
Flock of white ibis
We also saw tons of anhinga, crested cormorants, great blue herons, 
brown pelicans, seagulls, and a couple of dolphins in Lemon Bay.
Just about a perfect day for cruising the intercoastal waterway.