Saturday, February 27, 2021

Motorcycle Ride to Okeechobee Flea Market

 When we take the bike and see big black clouds overhead in Washington, we start looking for shelter.  Here in Florida, we have big puffy clouds nearly every day, but they seem to just drift by without drenching us.  

Even big black clouds aren't too concerning.  I thought you might be able to see the thermometer gauge.  It registered a steady 83 from when we started at 10 a.m. for the entire 50 mile trip to Okeechobee.  We were happy when the clouds covered the sun from time to time.

We had spotted a big flea market when we went down to the park and decided to come back to check it out.  Fortunately, the limitations of the bike trunk kept me from buying big potted plants - or much of anything.

This was a good thing as I am a farmers' market junkie and can't seem to stop myself from loading up on all the beautiful fruit and veggies.

We are just days away from deciding to head back to Washington, so stocking up on fruit and veggies is definitely not something I should be doing.

There is a city wide park in the median between the four lane highways through the city.  I wanted to stop at the butterfly garden area, but by the time we left the flea market, the bike told us it was 86, and the clouds were gone.  We took a different highway back to the house, which was nearly identical in length, but that went west and north instead of east and south.  All roads seem to lead to Okeechobee. Great ride - thankful for sunscreen and a few clouds - hard to believe we are still in February.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Lake June Scrub Forest State Park

 Another day, another motorcycle ride, another State Park!  We're making an effort to visit all of the state parks near us.  This one, like many we have visited, was neat and tidy, and we were the only ones there. 

As with all state parks, I learn a lot by just reading all the signs!  This park has a beautiful low bank waterfront on Lake June, which is one of the largest of the many lakes around Lake Placid in the center of Florida.  

The town of Lake Placid can be seen across the water, but the entire Southwest side of the lake is wild and undeveloped, enclosed inside the park.  The clear water looks shallow and with a sandy bottom.  Tempting for a swim, but the possibility of alligators and snakes keeps me swimming in the pool.

We saw a lot of birds, and some evidence of feral pigs rooting in the mowed areas at the park, but no signs of other animals.

When riding a motorcycle, you can't be too concerned about fashion, and I've begun collecting hats to cover my "helmet hair".

Monday, February 22, 2021

Highland Hammock State Park

We took the tram tour of Highland Hammock State Park today.  We couldn't have picked a better day.  The temperature was around 75 degrees with a warm breeze - so not hot enough to be uncomfortable, but warm enough that lots of alligators and turtles were out sunning themselves

While no Florida tour is complete without lots of alligators to photograph, this tour gave us lots of information about other animals and birds in the park, the history of the park, and identification of trees, shrubs, and flowers as well. It is the first Florida State Park, and many of the buildings, bridges, and trails were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930's.

This 960 year old oak tree is an example of the CCC creativity.  They realized that deciduous trees decay from the core out and they tried a new method of preserving seven trees in the park.  First they created an opening into the center of the tree large enough for a small man to enter the core of the tree and remove all of the rot from the center of the tree and the large branches. Then the cleaned area was sprayed with antifungal solution.  To complete the process, the entire cored area was filled with concrete.  Many years later a large treated branch blew off in a severe windstorm and the  branch lying to the side of the tree is mostly concrete.  New branches continue to sprout from the original tree.

There are several complete eco-systems within the park - cypress swamps give way to pine forests, and some areas are grassy prairie, others are areas of mostly saw palmetto.

The park is constantly working to remove invasive species such as feral pigs, armadillos, and other animals and water hyacinth and other plants.  So far they haven't found any evidence of pythons, but they are vigilantly looking for any signs of them as they have been found quite close to the park.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Lake Okeechobee Bike Trip

For our motorcycle ride today, we decided to head down to Lake Okeechobee, which is about 50 miles away.

We started in the upper left quadrant of this map at our winter home in Lake Placid.  It was the coldest day we've had since we got down here in December, so we began the day with helmets (which aren't required in Florida) and jackets and with the heated seats turned on.  The sky was clear blue and the sun was out, but a north breeze was gusting, and the temperature started at 58 degrees.  

Heading east on Highway 621, we traveled through the caladium fields where things are beginning to grow.  Caladium bulbs are sensitive and have to be planted when nighttime temperatures are consistently above 65 degrees.  For everything you want to know about caladium, visit the website of the largest grower of caladium bulbs in the world Happiness Farms Inc. located in Lake Placid, the caladium capital of the world.
The waterways in Florida are numerous - every road seems to have a large drainage/irrigation ditch on at least one side - sometimes both, and a variety of wildlife abounds - from water fowl to alligators, turtles, and snakes, to human fisherfolk.

The city of Okeechobee is much larger than we expected.  If you are just trying to see the lake, good luck.  There is a huge berm around the entire lake, so you pretty much have to find a park or be in a boat to see the lake.  The main fishing pier and park in town has  a large boat ramp, rest rooms, a large parking lot, and a fishing pier with lots of room to fish and nice benches for seating.

We stopped to talk to the fishermen to see what they were fishing for and what they were catching, and they told us these were "Crappie".

When looking out across the lake from the pier, the vastness of the lake becomes apparent.  It is the largest fresh water lake fully within the United States.  Our motorcycle trip was 147 miles according to MapQuest, and from just looking at our circle and the size of the lake, it looks like the lake must be around 150 miles around.  We've taken a boat into the lake in the past, and it felt like being on the ocean where you couldn't see the shores, and yet it was shallow enough that we needed to pay attention to staying in the channels.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Back into The Blogosphere

 We've been busy this past year in spite of the rest of the world shutting down for the pandemic.  Since our default setting has been "social distancing" for most of our lives, not too much seemed changed for us.  We did have to modify our restaurant visits.  We have had several cars and trucks and had never eaten in any of them over the years.  Suddenly, we found ourselves eating out of a paper bag in the car, balancing food in our laps.  NOT FUN!  But work around the property continued as usual with the possible exception of doing a lot more of it.  My garden expanded quite a bit, we put in new fence lines, and Ron cleared about another 3 acres to mow.

If you have to move to a smaller house, it's nice to have a better view.
We realized things had changed when we the original "fourteen days to flatten the curve" seemed to develop a life of its own and we were facing a winter of truly being shut in.  Neither of us does too well with being shut in.  Then the looming election presented new possibilities and risks for our life, and we decided we should sell our main home while the market was good and we could still see a tax benefit from doing that.  That began a very hectic couple of months with a quick sale, and a huge move.  You never realize just how settled in you are until you try to move everything you own.  With us, it wasn't so much about clothes, furniture, and housewares, but tools and equipment too.

Our move left us still with the prospect of a winter inside for two people who live mostly outside and who are easily bored.  So we found ourselves looking for new adventures to keep us occupied. 

So we ended up in Florida for the winter with a pool where I can swim outside every day,

with a drone to experiment with, and a new motorcycle to explore central Florida where we ended up.

So my enthusiasm to start blogging again was somewhat diminished when I discovered 737 comments on my blog - 99% of which were SPAM, about half in Chinese and Arabic.  Yikes!  I diligently reported every single one as SPAM and deleted about a hundred individually before I found I could do multiple at once.  Still, three hours later I am just finishing and wondering if it would be easier to just delete the entire blog and go see what I can do with the drone.