Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Lipizzaner Stallions and some excitement at the RV Resort

Lipizzaner Stallions

Last week we heard that the training facility for the Royal Lipizzaner Stallions was nearby, and that they perform shows on Thursday and Friday afternoons, and Saturday mornings, so we made plans to go to the Saturday morning performance.



The Lipizzan breed of horses was established in the 16th century for the exclusive use of the Hapsburg Royal family of Austria.

Lipizzans were used by the Austrian Army in battle, and during World War II, the horses were captured by the Germans and slated to be killed.

With the help of General George Patton of the US, Colonel Herrmann rescued the Lipizzans from behind enemy lines and smuggled them out of the country.


Colonel Herrmann relocated to the United States, and brought the royal breed of horses with him, where he established a 200-acre training farm, and where his daughter continues to train these beautiful horses today.

Memorialoutside the stable

We walked through the stable and watched as the horses were readied for the performance.


The baby












Duke was available for photo ops, but he seemed to be more cooperative with the little kids than he was with adults!  We found out later that he’s retired from performing, but he still asserts himself as the “Sentinel”, or alpha, in the barn.






We found some seats on the shady side of the bleachers, and waited for the show to begin.  Soon it was time for the Star Spangled Banner,

Star Spangled Banner

and the show began.

The first demonstration was dressage, where the stallions exhibited their beauty, grace and precision in the ring – alone and in pairs.

Zack showing his stuff

Tandem Team

Tandem Team



This horse with the long, flowing grey mane is Achilles – he’s one of the younger, feistier stallions, and he’s making attempts at replacing Duke as the Sentinel of the group.

He was such a beautiful horse, and definitely our favorite to watch – so graceful and strong!


We learned that the grey mane was a sign of a younger horse – as they get older, their coat and their mane turns white.  This horse is older, and also more controlled in his actions.


He was rewarded for his stellar performance.

Rewards for his performance










The next demonstration was “Airs Above the Ground”, a spectacular display of leaps and plunges that these stallions are known for, derived from battlefield strategies used by mounted riders to inspire terror in the hearts of foot soldiers.



The first maneuver we saw was Levade – where the horse rises on his haunches from a standstill position and tucks his forelegs under him as he maintains a 45 degree angle.







Next was Courbette, where the horse does several jumps on his hind legs while holding his forelegs off the ground.

Impressive talent

The last maneuver was Capriole, where the horse leaps from all four feet and, at the peak of elevation, strikes out violently with his hind legs.













This demonstration was incredible, and the crowd was in awe of these strong and graceful creatures.

He took a bow at the end of the demonstration.

Taking a bow

One of the more surprising things we learned was that the Lipizzaners are actually brown or black when they are born.  Each year when they shed their winter coat, the next coat comes in lighter, until they are eventually white.

The next horse to come out to the ring was the baby – he’s just 11 months old, and although not officially training yet, he does go out with some of the oldest stallions so that they can show him how to behave.

He doesn't like the entrance


He didn’t like walking under the arbor at the entrance to the performance ring, but she was eventually able to coax him through it.







Baby has some work to do

He received a treat for his good behavior.

Rewards for his performance











In the last performance of the day, 4 stallions came into the ring together.  There was some competition between some of them, especially from Achilles, but no fighting . . . and they said that sometimes there is fighting!

Beautiful horses













When they finished, the four horses lined up to take their bows,












and the newest generation of horse trainer came out to lead the largest of the horses back to the stable.


She’s so small, and handled that horse like an expert!

This was a great show – well worth the $5/person that they charge – and we highly recommend it if you are in the Bradenton area!

Whew – that was just the morning!

On the way back to the RV Resort, we spotted a sign for U-pick strawberries, so of course I made Tom stop . . . it turned out to be a hydroponic farm, and we had no idea what that meant, but we went with the owner into the field so he could explain it.

He handed us a basket and 2 pair of scissors after having us wash our hands . . . that’s new!  I thought these might be “greenhouse” grown, but they weren’t – the plants we out in the sun, just not planted as you typically see.

Hydroponic Strawberries

Bryce's Birthday strawberries


These containers are made out of styrofoam, with irrigation built in, and one plant per section.  Runner are cut off so that all of the nutrients go to producing fruit.  These strawberries were planted on September 29th (Bryce’s birthday!), began producing fruit at the end of November, and will continuously produce fruit through June.

The really cool thing is that you don’t have to bend over to pick them – so easy!



We were instructed to cut the strawberries of the plants with the scissors, leaving a long stem on the berry.  He claimed that this would increase the sweetness of the berries and their longevity in the refrigerator.

They were certainly beautiful – no bruises on any of them!

Beautiful berries to pick from

We picked about 3 pounds of berries – a little pricey at $4.50/lb., but they were delicious.  I will also say that they have held up amazingly well . . . I still have some in the refrigerator, and they look as good today as they did the day we picked them!

Three pounds of berries




On Saturday afternoon, we joined several friends at the pool for a pool party – the park hired a DJ to provide music, and everybody brought appetizers to share, and their own drinks to enjoy.  It was a beautiful afternoon!

After settling down to watch some TV after a late dinner, we thought the day’s excitement was over . . . but we were wrong!

We started hearing sirens (which isn’t unusual, the Fire Station is just down the road), but there were a LOT of sirens.  I commented to Tom that something big must be happening.  After a few minutes, and more sirens, I started seeing the reflection of red flashing lights on the side of the RV across the road from us . . . apparently, the something big was in the park. 

We still didn’t know what was going on, but assumed it was a medical call (there are quite a few older residents in the park).  A few minutes later, we got a text from our friend Rita, who said we were missing all the action – there was a park model on fire across from them!

We went out to check things out and, although they had the fire out by then, it was still a pretty active scene and they were still spraying water on the trailer.














Fortunately, nobody was hurt and the 3 neighboring trailers only received minimal amounts of heat damage – the fire did not spread to them.  It could have been much worse if it had been windy that night!

It looked even worse the next day!













We heard that the cause was determined to be an electrical problem . . . and also that the guy did not have any insurance.  Apparently, on an older unit like this, insurance companies won’t write policies on them – that’s really unfortunate!

I think that was enough excitement for one day!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Beautiful day on Anna Maria Island

Coquina Beach

It’s been a busy week for me at work, with lots of meetings and training sessions, so on Friday we made plans to get out and do something fun and active, to take advantage of the beautiful weather we’ve been having.

Along with our friends Bill & Linda, we loaded the bikes on our Jeeps and headed out to Anna Maria Island for the day.  Our tentative plan included some bike riding, a hike and walk on the beach, and an early dinner somewhere on the island.

The beginning of the bike path

Pit Stop

After a quick pit stop, we headed out on the bike trail.

Coquina Bike Trail


It was a beautiful day, and there were plenty of people walking and riding on the trail, as well as lots of people on the beach.  The bike trail followed the beach for a couple of miles – a beautiful setting – but it could have been a little wider and in better shape.  It was still a nice ride, but we had to dodge quite a few people.





The beach looked beautiful, and so inviting!!

Beautiful day at the beach

Coquina Beach

I was starting to regret not just planning a beach day!

We reached the Jetty at the far southern end of Anna Maria Island, and stopped to soak in the beauty of the beach and the emerald green water.

Sailboat at the Jetty

Anna Maria Island Jetty











The bright sunshine, the cloudless blue sky, and crystal clear water – what more could you ask for!?!


Bridge to Longboat Key

Beautiful Water



Having reached the end of Anna Maria Island, we decided to cross the bridge to Longboat Key and continue on.  There was no more bike trail, but we did have a nice wide sidewalk that was in better shape than the bike trail!

Gulf of Mexico Drive


We rode for several miles through the mostly residential area of the island.  The business district of Longboat Key was still over 8 miles away, and we weren’t really up for that long of a ride (it would have put us at a total of almost 30 miles, round trip), so we opted to turn around, since there wasn’t much else to see in the residential area.




Biking on Longboat Key

Back on Anna Maria Island, we reached Leffis Key, which was our hiking destination for the afternoon.


It’s a small hiking trail and boardwalks through the mangroves along the bay side of the island.


There were several observation decks along the water, where we saw birds, fishermen, and the surrounding islands and mainland.

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron



Watching the fisherman

We could even see the Cortez drawbridge that we crossed on our way to the island.

Cortez Drawbridge

It was a nice little hike to break up our day.




From the highest point on our little hike, we had a nice view of the bay.

Overlooking the bay











We finished our ride back along the bike trail, and then had a few snacks in the picnic area at the beach before walking along the water.

The water was a cool 68 degrees – similar to Lake Michigan in late June!


Beautiful, though . . .












We enjoyed a nice walk in the sand, and picked up a few shells . . . didn’t find any sand dollars, though.

Walking the beach

There were some clouds moving in, but it was still a beautiful day . . .


Beautiful day at the beach











After 11 miles of bike riding, a mile of hiking, and another mile on the beach . . . we were all getting a little hungry . . . actually, really hungry!  We loaded the bikes back on the Jeeps, and hopped onto the trolley to ride to the other end of the island for dinner.

After talking to some locals on the trolley, we decided to give the Rod & Reel a try.  It’s a small seafood restaurant on a small pier about a 1/2 mile away from the last trolley stop at the Anna Maria City Pier . . . more walking!  OK, not too far . . .

Going to dinner

We were ahead of the crowd, and got seated right away.  Food was good and the prices were pretty decent, too . . . good choice!

After dinner, we enjoyed the view from the pier before heading back to the trolley stop.     Egret























We had hoped to make it back to the beach for sunset, but we just missed the trolley as we arrived back at the city pier, and had to wait about 30 minutes for the next one.

We made due with the sunset there.

Anna Maria Historic City Pier, with the Sunshine Skyway in the background.

Anna Maria Pier & Sunshine Skyway Bridge

Sunset_January 13


A beautiful ending to a beautiful day!