Thursday, March 22, 2018

Robinson Preserve & DeSoto National Memorial–Bradenton, FL

Robinson Preserve

We’ve been wanting to get out on a biking excursion (especially since we still have our bikes!), and hoping to find some new areas for riding, so last Friday we made plans with Bill and Linda to load up the bikes and head over to the Robinson Preserve in northwest Bradenton.

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The Robinson Preserve is one of several preserves between downtown Bradenton and Anna Maria Island.  It’s former farmland that has been converted to its natural state of salt marsh and coastal marine sanctuary.

There are several biking/walking trails in the preserve, as well as kayaking on the inland waterway and Perlico Bayou, all the way out to Tampa Bay.

The trails also connect to the bike path along Hwy 64, which takes you out to Anna Maria Island.

We parked at the main entrance and headed out on the main trail around the preserve.

Boardwalk Path

It was a perfect day for biking – temps in the low 70s, full sun, and just a light breeze – and the preserve is very beautiful.  

Linda and I had stopped to take in the scenery, and a lady offered to take our picture.

Linda & I taking a break

When we caught up to the guys, Tom was like, “Where did you go?”  Just taking pictures and talking to people (that’s usually his deal!! – the talking part, anyway!)

Tom waiting for us to catch up

We followed the trail out to Hwy 64 and into the Perlico Preserve.  We rode the gravel path around a pond, where the county had constructed a rookery for birds out of old telephone poles.


Man-made Rookery

Apparently, it’s not too popular with the birds yet . . . I think the poles look too low and close to the water!

We continued along 64 to the bridge to Anna Maria Island.

Bridge to Anna Maria Island

We briefly considered crossing the bridge on the bikes, but traffic was pretty heavy and we getting hungry for lunch and hadn’t brought money on the bikes with us.

We returned to the preserve along the same paths, and stopped at the Observation Tower on the way back to the parking lot.  From the top of the tower, we had a great view of the inland waterway, Tampa Bay, and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Nice view of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

What a great day!


Arriving back at the parking lot, we had ridden a total of about 11 miles.  Not a back ride, considering we hadn’t been out on the bikes much other than short rides around the RV Park.

Just down the road from the preserve is the DeSoto National Memorial, so we stopped in for a visit before heading over to Anna Maria for lunch.

DeSoto National Memorial


This location marks the spot where in May, 1539, the Spanish Conquistador, Hernando DeSoto, landed and began the Spanish occupation of Florida.

At the time, this area of Florida was home to the Uzita Indians, and the national memorial has displays to preserve their history, as well.

Indian Camp

Indian toolsNot sure what this one was used for, but it was pretty cool – made from a turtle shell attached to the leg of a deer.

Indian mask

Spanish Weapons

Spanish tools

Too big

The interactive area of the display – trying on the gear. 

Too big for Tom’s head!


Bill and Tom had fun with it, though! 

Do they look ready for battle??

Ready for battle

We looked around, visited with the Rangers in the Visitor Center, and on the way out Tom struck up a conversation with a guy and a monkey . . .

Guy & monkey

The next thing I knew, he was becoming a tree for the monkey --

just stand really still . . .

Telling Tom to stand very stillMaking friends with a monkey

OK, that was interesting!

We were all getting pretty hungry, so we decided to drive over to the Moose Lodge at Bradenton Beach on Anna Maria Island, where Linda & Bill are members, and enjoyed lunch at the beach.

What a great view!

Nice day at the beach

It was a great way to end a wonderful day!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Enjoying Spring Break with the kids


Bryce and Hannah escaped the cold and snow of Michigan to spend a week with us in warm and sunny Florida – good choice – they had a beautiful week!

We kept them fairly busy . . .

Watching the Lippizaner Stallions perform


Such beautiful, amazing horses!



One of the most interesting things we learned about the Lippizaner Stallions is that they are born black or dark brown, and turn white as they age. 

The new baby!

New Baby

One of the younger stallions came out to demonstrate the early training process – he was pretty feisty!

They're born black or brown

The shows they put on here at their training facility focus on the history of the animals and the family that brought them to the US, and demonstrate some of the skills that they were bred for, and what they now use in their shows.  Each day is different, and you really never know what you are going to see. 

Tom and I came last year, and were really impressed.  On this day, one of the trainers was not there, so they could not perform everything they usually do, and a very new trainer was filling in the empty spot.

Three Generations

Gabriella’s 9-year old granddaughter participated in the show with her mother and grandmother, and did a really good job!

Exploring the Riverfront area of downtown Bradenton



Riverfront Marina


Their vacation is off to a great start!


Enjoying a tropical vacation!

Silly Bryce!

Bryce is going to play in the sprinklers!

A day at the beach on Anna Maria Island

Sunday was another beautiful day, so after church we packed up lunches and headed out to Anna Maria Island to spend the day at the beach.

So beautiful!



The kids were looking forward to getting a little color . . .

At the beach

they were successful, but Mr. “I don’t need no stinkin’ sunscreen” got a little more than he planned on!  He was still whining when we dropped him off at the airport!

It was an amazingly beautiful day!

Great day at the beach


During the week, I got back to work and the kids were on there own for a couple days – they did some hiking, and some window-shopping at St. Armand Square, and Bryce had gotten tickets to a Tigers – Pirates game for Hannah’s birthday.  The Tigers lost, but the kids had a fun afternoon!

On Monday, Tom and I went to the Ringling with our friends Bill & Linda, for an evening of music on the bay.

Back patio of the Ringling


It was a beautiful evening, and the music was very good!



What a beautiful sunset over the bay!


Roadtrip to Gainesville and Paynes Prairie State Park

On Tuesday, we all took a drive up to Gainesville to visit the University of Florida – Bryce is interested in their Physical Therapy School.  After our visit and tour, we stopped by Paynes Prairie State Park to look for alligators and wild horses at the Alachua Sink.

Alachua Sink

Paynes Prairie - Alachua Sink


I had seen online that the trail beyond the boardwalk was closed due to high water, but we were amazed at how high the water was, and how different it looked from when Tom and I were here last year!

Last year, the sink was just a small pond surrounded by marshland . . . and we saw tons of gators hanging out around the banks!

Alachua Sink

Alligators all around the edge of the pond

We didn’t see a lot of gators, but the ones we saw were really big!

Spotted a gator


We sure were glad the gate was closed at the end of the boardwalk, with this huge gator hanging out just a few yards away!


Had to make the kids pose with a gator!

See the gator!!??!!

On the way back along the boardwalk, the wild horses were hanging out in the water.


Watching the horsesWe watched them for a while, until they ran off . . .

Running off

Everybody was hungry by then, so we took them to an eclectic little pizzeria in Gainesville – they have really good pizza and really good salad!

It’s definitely an interesting place . . .

Water Fountain

Trophy Wall

One more photo op!

Satchel Pizza

On their last evening with us, we went to dinner at Cody’s Roadhouse with our old neighbors, Harriett & Rita.  It was a delicious dinner with great company!  Hannah had a birthday while she was here with us, so after dinner, she was treated to a birthday brownie sundae and the typical embarrassing rousing version of “Happy Birthday” from the wait staff!


We loved having the kids spend their Spring Break with us, and hope they had fun, too!  I think they did!