Saturday, March 31, 2018

Ft. DeSoto County Park–St. Petersburg

Gulf Beach

Another week went by, and we were ready for another new biking excursion.  Bill and Linda had bikes at Ft. DeSoto before and really liked it, so we made plans to go there on our last Friday in Bradenton.

Fort DeSoto is a Pinellas County Park, across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge from us in Bradenton.  There’s a campground there, as well as beaches and fishing piers on both the Gulf side and Bay side, and miles of biking trails.

Ft. DeSoto map

We headed out early on Friday morning, crossing the bridge,

Crossing the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

and met up with Bill and Linda at the Fort parking lot.  We got the bikes off the Jeeps, and did a little exploring around the Fort first.

Fort DeSoto Cannon


Fort DeSoto was an active fort during the Spanish-American War, protecting Tampa Bay from the Spanish.

This prisoner doesn’t look Spanish!!

Prisoner Tom

Artillery storage built into the hill overlooking the Gulf of Mexico at the entrance to Tampa Bay.

Ammunition Storage Rooms

After exploring the Fort, we got on our bikes and started along the bike path.  We rode east from the parking lot, past the Museum and rode through the campground loops.  The campground is really nice – I can see why it’s really popular.  The sites are large, and many of them overlook the water.  They have water & electric hookups only, but are very nice.

From the campground, we continued on past the East Beach to the end of the trail, where it overlooks Tampa Bay and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Bayside Beach

Sunshine Skyway Bridge

We took a little break, enjoyed some snacks, and then rode back toward the North Beach.  The wind was behind us in this direction, and gave our pace quite a little boost!

The beach looks like it sustained a little hurricane damage this fall,

The beach at Ft. DeSoto

but the sand was soft and the water was crystal clear blue!

Did somebody bury the lifeguard?

We walked along the shore, and saw lots of people with large collections of sand dollars.

LOTS of sand dollars

We talked to the people who had collected these (they were from Mchigan – small world!), and they said that you just had to get out to the sand bar, and along the outer edge there were hundreds of sand dollars just laying there, on the sand!

Sand Bar

The sand bar didn’t look too far away, but there was a bit of a current running between the beach and the sand bar.

We saw lots of kids swimming across!

Swimming to the sand bar

We would have loved to cross and get our own sand dollars, but none of us had packed swimsuits!  Tom was tempted to go anyway!

We talked to a group of college kids that had just swam back across to the beach, and they showed us their collection of sand dollars and even shared a few with us – nice kids!

Lots of sand dollars to be collected

It was a nice beach, and we were tempted to come back another day.

On the way back, the Great Blue Heron had given up on catching his own fish on the sand bar, and was hoping to score a treat from some fishermen!

Great Blue Heron looking for food

Great Blue Heron

We got back on the bikes, and rode back to the Jeeps, for a total of about 13 miles for the day.  Not bad!

Before leaving the park, we took a walk on the Gulfside Pier.

Gulf Pier

At the Pier

There were lots of people fishing on the pier . . . and plenty of birds waiting for opportunities for food!

Snowy Egret

Great Egret

We watched the guys on this fishing boat cast their net around the pier – they were looking for bait fish.

Catching bait fish

Casting the net

Bill & Linda headed back to the RV Park then – they wanted to get back in time for the Bon Voyage dinner – but Tom and I had dinner in St. Petersburg before heading back.

The sun was shining on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge as we crossed back over it!

Crossing back over the bridge

It was a wonderful day, and another great biking excursion!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

St. Patrick’s Day Fun

A couple years ago, Tom’s wedding ring had gotten very thin and cracked, and we had it repaired and resized by having a piece of gold added to it in the area of the crack.  Last month in Kissimmee, he felt like it was developing a crack again in the same area, and then one afternoon in the pool, the piece of gold fell out of the ring.  We actually managed to find the little piece of gold in the pool (amazing!), but Tom couldn’t wear the ring anymore.

Tom couldn’t decide if he wanted to get it repaired again, or trade it in for something new, so we took it with us and went to a few jewelry stores in Sarasota.  Wow – gold has increased in price in the last 25 years!  We ultimately decided to leave it with a jeweler who said he could re-shank the ring, re-size it, and thicken it up in the back so it wouldn’t wear through again.

We left there feeling pretty comfortable, although the repair bill was going to be almost as much as I paid for the ring originally!  That was until Tom started checking online reviews of the store we left it with!  None of the reviews were current, but non of them were positive, either . . . uh oh!  He called a few more places, and without seeing the ring, they all said they would perform the same repair, and in the same price range . . . but several of the reviews complained about the timeliness of repairs from the other shop.  We only had a couple weeks to work with, so we were hoping that we wouldn’t have that trouble!

Tom lost a little sleep over it, but we decided to wait the week that they said it would take, and see what happened.  As it turned out, they called us two days later and the ring was done!

Since we needed to go back to Sarasota to pick it up, we decided to make a full day of it, and go to the beach at Lido Key after we picked up the ring.  The ring turned out great, and you can’t even tell that it was repaired!  We were really happy, and we made sure to go into Yelp and leave a positive review so that future customers don’t have the same sense of unease that we did.

We also made an appointment at Safe-Lite to get a chip repaired in the Jeep’s windshield.  They were booked in the morning, but we were able to schedule it for the end of the day so we could stop on the way back from the beach.

View of downtown Sarasota from the bridge

Downtown Sarasota

With that business taken care of, we were ready for a day in the sun!

We arrived at the Lido Key Beach.

Lido Beach

It was beautiful . . . and fairly crowded in the area we were in.  We found a spot of vacant sand, and settled in.

Busy day at the beach

I got my book out and started reading, and after a few minutes, Tom decided to go for a walk on the beach.  It was a great day and I was enjoying my peace and solitude, but after an hour or so I began to wonder where Tom was!  I went for a swim to cool off, and then started walking along the shoreline to see if I could find him.

Before long I spotted him, walking and talking with some guy on the beach!

They split up, and Tom and I continued to the far end of the beach.  It was much less crowded down there.

Less crowded area

Still beautiful!

Beautiful beach

We walked and enjoyed the beach . . . and the water.

Boats on the water

Beautiful day at the beach!

It was a beautiful day!

We had to leave by 3:30 to get our windshield chip repaired, then went home to clean up and feed & walk Casey.

We had heard about a St. Patrick’s Day celebration in downtown Bradenton with a live band and food trucks on Main Street.  We thought it sounded like fun, so we headed over to check it out.

There were a couple blocks on Main Street closed off for the food trucks and vendors, and the band was set up at the end of the blocked off area.  They were on a break when we arrived, so our first stop was at the food trucks.  We saw somebody walk by with a pizza that looked really good, so we went in search of that truck.

We found the portable pizza oven,

Pizza oven

and placed our order.  Tom went in search of drinks while I waited for the pizza.


YUM – it was really good pizza!

Tom got his green beer later!

Tom got his green beer

We made our way back up towards the stage when the band returned, and found a spot on the sidewalk to stand and listen.

The Gamble Creek Band

Gamble Creek Band

They sang mostly country, with a little bit of southern rock mixed in, and were REALLY good! 

This little guy was enjoying the music, too – he was so cute in his kilt!

This little guy in his kilt was so cute!

It was a fun evening – great music, interesting people-watching, and a beautiful warm evening!  We ended up staying until the band finished for the night!  We really enjoyed it!

Great concert!

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.

Fullscreen capture 3222018 92848 PM

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!