Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Tom and Rufus

This was my favorite picture of the day – I had to lead with it!

Our friends, Tim and Denise, were getting some work done on their RV at Alliance Coach in Wildwood, FL this week, so me made plans to meet up.

Denise loves the movies, Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2, so she wanted to visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium where the movies were filmed and the stars, Winter and Hope, still live.


Winter's Home



Dolphin Tale: Inspired by the Amazing True Story of Winter

Swimming free, a young dolphin was caught in a crab trap, rescued and transported to Clearwater Marine Hospital, where she was named Winter. Damage from the crab trap rope causes her tail to degrade and, without a tail, Winter’s prognosis is dire. It took the expertise of a dedicated marine biologist, the ingenuity of a brilliant prosthetics doctor and the unwavering devotion of a young boy to bring about a groundbreaking miracle – a miracle that might not only save Winter but also help scores of people around the world.

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is not so much and Aquarium that you are used to seeing, but more of a rescue and rehabilitation facility that gained attention after it was featured in the movies.

When we arrived, several trainers were working with Winter and Hope.

Trainers with Winter and Hope












Winter and Hope

Later, we spotted them playing in the pool by themselves,


and they were having a grand time – pushing the float around in the pool and showing off their skills.

Hope doing tricks on her own

Winter was moving around pretty well, too, even without her prosthetic tail.

Winter's missing tail











We watched Ricky’s (a.k.a. Rufus) antics with his trainers


– he wasn’t very cooperative, he had no intention of climbing on top of that crate!


Trying to get Ricky to cooperate

We watched while some kids tried their hand at feeding stingrays,

feeding stingrays

and visited the sea turtles, too.

Sea Turtles

Sea Turtle











After visiting all the the animals, we took a boat shuttle across the bay to downtown Clearwater, where another facility offers a “behind-the scenes” view of the Dolphin Tale movies.


It was a chilly ride across the Bay!!


Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure contained several movie sets and many costumes and props from the movies.

Movie Set



We walked through the exhibit, and Denise explained many of the scenes from the movies – helpful, since Tom and I had never seen either movie!


Winter was the star, but there were some scenes where she did not act as herself, and a mechanical dolphin was used in her place.




Mechanical dolphin

Mechanical Tail










One interactive exhibit included in the movie adventure was the Hurricane Experience.

In the Hurricane Experience


The exhibit included footage from the hurricane scene in the movie, along with the sounds . . . and the wind!

We didn’t chicken out, but the wind and shaking floor felt like a real hurricane!






Experiencing the hurricane

We finished exploring the Dolphin Tale Adventure just in time to catch a ride on the trolley back to the main Aquarium – avoiding another chilly ride on the boat!

It was a fun day, although even with a Buy One/Get One Half Off coupon, it was a little pricey for what it offered – $33 for Tom and I.  WE enjoyed spending the day with Tim and Denise, though,and were glad we could meet up.

From the Aquarium, we continued to Clearwater Beach, where it was still a little chilly, so not too crowded.

A quiet day at the beach

Clearwater Beach











Several people recommended Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill for dinner on the beach, so we decided to give it a try.

Frenchy's Rockaway Grill

The food was pretty good, and not too expensive, considering the beachside location. 

All in all, we had a good day, and I’ll leave you with one more picture of Tom’s buddy, Rufus.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Legacy Trail and Siesta Key


The triple crown of Friday adventures – physical activity, a beautiful beach, and yummy food – it was a full day!

We started out with our bikes on the Legacy Trail in Sarasota,

Legacy Trail

where we met up with Bill & Linda.  At Oscar Scherer State Park, we took a pit stop,

Pit Stop at Oscar-Schearer State Park









Campground Loop


and a detour to ride through the camping loops and check out the sites.  There are a few larger sites that we could fit our RVs on, but the roads were pretty narrow and there were lots of overhanging trees that make the guys nervous.

On our way around, Tom and I spotted an RV that we recognized – fellow RV-Dreamers, Sherry and David.  We stopped for a quick hello, and to get caught up from when we saw them last in Minnesota in the summer of 2014.  It was nice to see them doing well!

We continued as far south as Roberts Bay in Venice,

Roberts Bay

and then turned around before reaching the US-41 bridge. 

We stopped for a few snacks at Laurel Park,

Laurel Park

Snack time at Laurel Park










and then continued back to the parking area, for a total ride of 19 miles.  It was a beautiful day for a bike ride, and really didn’t even feel like we rode that far!

Ready for a bike ride

It was close to 2pm by then, so we quickly moved on to part 2 of our agenda.  We loaded the bikes back on the Jeeps, and headed out to Siesta Key Beach.

Arriving at Siesta Key Beach

Siesta Beach

Siesta Key Beach was voted the #1 beach in the US.  It certainly is a beautiful beach, with soft, super-fine sand,

Siesta Key Beach

and the sun gives the water an inviting turquoise tint.

Siesta Key Beach

After the obligatory photo op,


we walked to the water’s edge and walked along the beach.  There weren’t many people in the water, but the gulls were enjoying it.












Even with the cooler temperatures, it was a beautiful day at the beach.


It was a nice beach, but the 4 of us Michiganders weren’t quite sure why it rated the #1 spot . . . we have more of a preference for some of our Lake Michigan beaches.

Still a great place to spend the afternoon, though!

Beautiful afternoon at the beach

We were all getting a little hungry, so it was time to head into the Village of Siesta Key and look for a spot for dinner – there were plenty to choose from!



We browsed several cute tourist shops – including this little beach shop that Bryce would have loved – long boards, board shorts, and lots of other beach gear! 


We checked out the menus of most of the local restaurants, and finally decided on the Siesta Key Oyster Bar (SKOB), where they had live music and an interesting menu.



It was “Crustacean Happy Hour, so Tom and Bill each ordered oysters – Tom ordered his Rockefeller style, but Bill had his raw . . . YUCK!

Linda and I passed on the crustaceans, but the guys enjoyed them!


Walking through the village, we spotted these cute little beach buggies offering free rides . . .

Beach Buggies











although we didn’t enquire to see if it really was a free ride . . . we have our own beach buggies!

Our Beach Buggies

Driving back towards Sarasota, I spotted the setting sun over the Gulf, so we located a roadside park where we could stop and watch the sunset.

Sunset Cruises

It was pretty, although the clouds had moved in and blocked most of the setting sun.

Sunset_Jan 27th










Pelicans at sunset

Tom made a new friend from Denmark, though,

Tom found a new friend from Denmark

and I enjoyed watching the pelicans flying in formation.












January in Bradenton has been a great start to our winter 2017 travels, and we’re looking forward to more new adventures in February as we move on from here!