Friday, May 11, 2012

Florida, Spring 2012

We have recently returned from a week away in Florida, re-charging our Vitamin D levels and enjoying a brief break from the routines of work.

Our outbound flight from Seattle took us through Minneapolis and we got good views of the Downtown area as we approached.  Situated in the state of Minnesota it is clear why the state is known as the  ‘Land of 10,000 Lakes’ – the city was surrounded by dozens upon dozens of lakes and forest.


Our onward connection to Tampa was uneventful.  We arrive at the house we have rented for the week situated about 40 minutes North of Tampa on Floridas quiet Gulf Coast.


View of the back of the house with the large lanai which is very common in Florida and is a large mesh ‘cage’ which surrounds the pool and patio keeps insects and bugs out.  You can still enjoy the sun on the patio or have a meal on the deck without being pestered by flying biting things.


The large pool was a lovely temperature for a refreshing dip in the 90F(31C) daytime weather and is one of our ‘must-have’s’ when we have a vacation home in a sunny destination.


The adjoining spa could work those back muscles and then formed a small waterfall into the pool…..very pleasant !


The shaded patio with new bar-be-que were great for grilling and eating meals on the deck.


Mature trees on the left side of the house and a large tract of greenbelt on the right provided great bird habitat, quiet and privacy.


The house backed onto the Oak Hills golf course, aside from the occasional frustrated golfer plucking their ball out of the rough it was a nice green backdrop.


Video of early morning sun rise over the backyard and the chirping of birds to wake you up !

Inside was a spacious living room with flat screen TV.


A large dining room which with the great weather through our stay we didn’t actually use…..would be perfect for a large Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner though !


A kitchen more than sufficient for the two of us on our stay.


As well as the typically sumptious master bedroom with large ensuite and doors opening onto the pool deck.


Anyway, that`s enough of the Realtor`s tour !

By the time we arrived at the house on our first evening it was quite late and we didn`t much fancy cooking right away so with the wonderful aid of the internet we quickly found our nearest (and it turns out excellent) Chinese take away, the imaginatively named Golden Wok.


Most days we would either have lunch or dinner at the house, typically grilling with salads and bread or potatoes. Once particular lunch of note was David`s fresh made bruschetta with a nice cold beer.


Aside from the multitude of birds and squirrels we also spotted a rabbit on the golf course and then one day while we were having lunch this tortoise ambled along the embankment behind the lanai enroute from somewhere to somewhere.  He kindly paused for a moment for us to take a photo before continuing on his way.



We also spotted one of the reasons why you have lanai`s in Florida, this is one of their truly evil looking bugs.


Florida is definitely not a state to use public transit so we hired a car to get around.  This 2 month old Nissan Altima from Alamo served us well.



We were a little unsure of the security of having such colourful out-of-state license plates until we realised every other car was a snowbird from the NE – lots of New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan cars in the state.


We visited nearby Pine Island State Park which is a small penninsula jutting out into the Gulf surrounded by golden sandy beaches.




The coastline in this area of Florida is mostly rural and unspoilt but absolutely pancake flat.


Pine Island State Park.

One day when we were returning from the Hudson Port Richey area we saw a lot of smoke billowing across the highway ahead of us.  There was a constant stream of sirens, police and fire trucks racing to the site, it was obvious whatever was burning had only just started.




A couple of blocks further on and we can see flames licking up behind a warehouse


Staff at a builders yard are frantically moving their trucks out of the way.


Another short distance and we were somewhat surprised to see flames right beside the road.  We figured it was odd that they hadn`t closed this section of Highway but as we later discovered this bush fire had flared up so quickly with the warm breezes that they were only just getting their act together as we passed the scene.  They did subsequently close the highway for the remainder of the night.



That evening we saw the bush fire reported extensively on the news, initially reporting a 45 acre blaze and then raising it to 100 acres.



The fire came perilously close to residential areas.


Thankfully nobody was hurt in this fire but as the news continued to report several other bush fires that had started in neighbouring counties in the last day or two the summer fire season must be tiresomely long in these warm dry climates. It certainly makes us grateful for the very short fire season in the cold and damp Pacific Northwest.

Actually, the take on the weather by the reporters on the evening news is the absolutely polar opposite to what we are used to in Vancouver.  The weather guy would announce hopefully that there`s a `20% chance of rain tomorrow` then when tomorrow comes and goes without a drop of precipitation he`s all apologetic and hopeful `with another 20% chance tomorrow`and so the forecast continues.  During Jan-Apr in Vancouver replace the word `rain` with `actually seeing the sun at somepoint` and the forecast is the same !

We also spent a very fun and childish day on the rides at Busch Gardens which was beautifully quiet on this mid-week early May day.

Another local jaunt was to the county seat of Brooksville which has some degree of history although perhaps sliughtly jaded dues to its links with slavery.  Oh well, at least it has a little history and a few nice preserved buildings in the downtown, including the Hernando County Court House.



The colourful Downtown of Brooksville.





After a very relaxing week of reading, enjoying the pool and sun and not a lot of high culture it was time to make our way back home.

We arrived home late Friday evening and the following morning caught the ferry to Bowen Island to collect Mojo who had checked into the fabulous Bowen Island Dog Ranch.  The Dog Ranch offers boarding for dogs whose owners dislike the idea of kennelling their dogs but need a home for them when travelling.  While they have their defined sleeping area, they sometimes bunk up with other dogs they know and get along with and during the day largely have the run of the 5-acre double fenced property.  The numerous staff are fantastic, caring and enthusiastic including providing photo updates of the dogs adventures while you are away on their Facebook page, remembering Mojos buddies from previous visits and letting us know when they were hanging out together again.  The dogs leashes are handed back when you check the dog in and not used in the duration of the visit.

Of course, all this personal attention costs……..over half the price of our 4 bedroom pool home for the week but hey, he is family too right !  Our reward, a delighted and exhausted Mojo is handed back to us who we know has had a blast and been well looked after plus knowing the next time we go away and check him into the Dog Ranch, he will be as excited to see Scott & Karen the owners on arriving as he is us when we pick him up. 

Truly a dogs home away from home !

Mojo in the car on the ferry back to Horseshoe Bay.

Mojo coming home

That evening he received his welcome home present, an apparently indestructable toy from a pet store in Tampa.  It lasted a couple of days. Welcome home Moj !

Mojo home

Now, back to the grindstone.  At least we brought the good weather back with us….a sunny week ahead is forecast, with a greater than 20% chance !

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