Tuesday, March 6, 2018

February Activities; Chassahowitza River; Raccoons, Manatees and Vultures; Florida Trail Work; Mavis Pittilla; Gator Bites; Scrubbing Floors

Goodness, how time flies. Seems like just last week we returned from our 2017 Messages of Hope Summer Tour. Now it's only three weeks until we get underway for our 2018 voyage. Since I'm working on trip planning and taxes this week, I'll make this post short. Well, I promise to try...

The weather here in Florida has been very warm, so we got our kayaks out and visited a new stream, the Chassahowitza River. It is a beautiful river, but make sure you visit mid-week. Weekends are likely to be insane with hundreds of visitors in power boats, kayaks and canoes.

This blue hole marks the outlet of a fresh water spring that delivers 72F water out of the underlying limestone, which is cut with underground channels and caverns like a block of Swiss cheese...

This photo shows My Lovely Bride (MLB) in her red fiberglass kayak, watching some locals patrol the waterfront...

This raccoon (Procyon lotor) family is out looking for lunch... there were four of them, but hard to catch in the same frame. We were only 15 feet away, and they must have been used to humans, because they didn't appear at all frightened of us.

As we finished up our paddling adventure, Suzanne had a Close Encounter of the Manatee Kind... there were several Florida manatees (Tritrechus manatus latirostrus) grazing on sea grasses near the kayak takeout. 

This manatee decided to scratch his (her?) back on Suzanne's kayak. These docile mammals can live to 60 years of age. 

A manatee mom was nursing her calf right alongside or kayaks... it was a tender moment, to be sure.

Manatees also nibble on marine algae that adheres to boat hulls, which cuts down the hull cleaning that we had to do after our paddle!

These 50 or so turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) were circling in spirals above the river - making me wonder if they knew something about this old paddler that I didn't... fortunately, I wasn't their mid-day repast!

I got out in the woods on a Florida Trail Association (FTA) work hike with a dozen or so other volunteers. The recent hurricanes had knocked down thousands of trees, many of which fell across the Florida National Scenic Trail. It was a great day to be out in nature and helping clear some of the debris from a small segment of the 1,300 mile Florida Trail, which runs from Lake Okeechobee near Miami to Fort Pickens, close to the Florida-Alabama state line.

Back at home, Suzanne gave a talk to The Villages Energy Meditation Group, and had a standing room only crowd at Miona Rec Center. 

We made a fun trip "off campus" to St. Petersburg to visit our great friends Anthony and Annette Baker aboard their recently acquired 1996 Kadey Krogen 42 trawler. A2 (their nickname) were previously sailors, having cruised their 1990 Morgan 42 sloop Magnolia up and down the East Coast and to the Bahamas for several years. 

Then they sold their sailboat and "went to the dark side", and are now on a "stinkpot" - actually a beautiful power boat that they are restoring to perfect Bristol condition. We envy them their new ship and their lifestyle...

While with Anthony and Annette, we made a side trip to Mazzaro's Italian Grocery and Deli in St. Pete - if you haven't been there, it's as close to a real Italian grocery as you can find in Florida. There are also some statues outside that are quintessentially "Dago"... I can say that word without offense because my grandmother's side of the family were d'Antonios, from down near Naples (Italy, not Florida!). I wanted to make an offer on this statue and put it in our front yard in The Villages, but was told in no uncertain terms, "No, Ty, we don't have room for her in the car!" Darn... I thought about suggesting that I leave Suzanne there at Mazzaro's for a couple of hours while I drove her home, but common sense and self-preservation prevailed... Sigh...

Back to Suzanne's events - this is Rudy standing by (under) the book table. I normally man that position, but thought that I could train Rudy to sell books and CDs. He's very personable, but hasn't quite picked up on using an iPad. There is hope though, and the ladies all love him!

At home in The Villages, we often meet people with "interesting" pasts. This car's license plate caught my eye - one wonders whether the owner was a Russian spy or is named Kim or Kacey...

This time of year it's common to find hundreds of American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) in our ponds. They actually form lines (here we see a pelican phalanx) and herd small fish into the shallows where they are easy prey. In the summer, these beautiful birds can be found as far north as Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada.

Recently, Suzanne's radio show, aired every Thursday afternoon and archived for those who miss it live (see https://www.suzannegiesemann.com/radioshow/) featured a discussion of finding the silver linings after a loved one's passing. When the show ended, we went outside to see this brilliantly illuminated cloud formation, and couldn't miss the significance of the timing.  And speaking of good timing, Suzanne is taking advantage of having a special guest in town, medium Mavis Pittilla, to interview in person in this week's radio show episode ...

Over the past week we have been fortunate to have Suzanne's friend and colleague, Mavis Pittilla, and her partner Jean Else, visiting from Manchester, UK, to teach Mavis's popular mediumship class. As part of their Florida indoctrination, we took them to Gator Joe's, a lakeside restaurant (okay, a "dive") on Lake Weir. 

The sunset view was stunning, but this seemingly serene photo belies the reality of the noise and music inside the restaurant. 

We convinced Mavis and Jean that they had to try some gator bites (small pieces of deep-fried alligator tail) and hush puppies. The latter were better received than the former... but Mavis was impressed by the alligator jaws on a side table.

Our good friends Lois and Elaine joined us that evening, and have also been showing Mavis and Jean around the area. All the gals walked onto the beach for a photo op with this big gator (I assured them he was concrete, and everyone made it to the cars with all limbs intact...)

Finally, I have to thank our dear friend Irene Vouvalides, who was made famous in Suzanne's latest book, Still Right Here, for her daily cleaning of the boat decks by using her feet wrapped in washcloths. (Yes, Irene also does this at home, and has the cleanest floors in Hilton Head, SC!) We were having dinner guests over one night, and My Lovely Bride was getting her nails done and visiting Her Lovely Mom Ruthie, so I decided to scrub the floors. I took a note from Irene's playbook, and scrubbed and dried the floors using my feet! Spectacular results, and far less strain on my back than using the scrub brushes that MLB left for me to use. Whoops... I was just kidding... Smack!!!!


  1. Every time I think Florida's too terrifying to live in (hurricanes, sinkholes, poisonous everything, rhino-sized gators, Yankees), I fall in love with it all over again. Those photos of the Chassahowitza, blue hole, and manatees. Oh my. So, so pretty. Reminds me of kayaking into Three Sisters late one afternoon. There were 3-4 dozen manatees settling down for the night, the bright green floor of the spring illuminating them to perfection. Apparently, it being manatee bedtime, one couple, a boy and a girl, had something else on their minds. This being a family blog, I can only allude to what they did -- call it "frolicking" -- right beneath my kayak. My entire boat flew up and out of the water, and I, alas, flew out of the little boat, landing in the drink. I've never paddled so fast. What was beautiful from inside my kayak -- sleeping manatees and that frisky pair -- was terrifying beneath my feet. Mike jumped in to help me out, got me settled, then felt a touch on his leg. A little manatee was bumping him with its nose. He didn't move a muscle and the little creature inspected him head to toe, nudging him over and over with her nose. So sweet.

    Great update. Beautiful pix. And a reminder for me of happy times. Well done, you.

  2. Lynette, LOVED your beautiful comments and your risque manatees story. Glad it was reminder of fun and happy times with Mike. He must have been a great guy.