Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Summertime 2009

So we're past the halfway point in our summer break-from-school time. A little poignant, but Gayle and I are already thinking about the coming year and the new crop of 3rd / 5th graders. This is the week between stuff -- last week was 5 days away from Orlando for both of us, and next week Gayle is teaching summer school to rising kindergarteners while I'm doing some house projects.
Last week Gayle went to Manhattan with Emily for 5 days. While Emily had seminars for plays, Gayle visited museums, parks, and buildings. And went to two Broadway plays. They also had some sight-seeing time together, notably riding in a pedi-cab around Central Park, touring the Cloisters, and a boat trip around the Statue of Liberty & a tour of Ellis Island.
I brought Gayle to OIA Wednesday morning about 5:15 AM, got home, hopped on the motorcycle, and rode north to the Great Smoky Mountains. I spent a delightful three days in the mountains enjoying God's Creation and some really fun "twisties"! I covered the Cherohala Skyway, Route 28 / Fontana Dam road, US 129 / The Tail of the Dragon (318 curves in 11 miles), the Foothills Parkway, Little River Road & US 441 in the national park, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. My rain gear paid for itself several times over -- stopped for a couple of thunderstorms and drove through rain / clouds several times. I had temps in the 50's on Saturday morning when I was near 6,000 ft elevation on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Got back early afternoon on Sunday, and picked Gayle up at the airport in the evening. Traveled over 1,500 miles!
We enjoyed our time away, and were glad to be back home again, safe & sound!

Rt column pictures:
#1 Broadway outside Gayle & Em's
#2 Ellis Island
#3 Statue of Liberty
#4 Brooklyn Bridge
#5 Manhattan from the top of the
Empire State Building
#6 Pedi-cab & driver who took
Gayle & Em around
Central Park

Left Column pictures:
#1 Rob @ the state border on the
Cherohala Skyway
#2 Fontana Dam
#3 Tree of Shame @ Deal's Gap, NC
at the beginning of the Tail of
the Dragon, an 11 mile run from
NC into TN w/ 318 curves
(Those are bike parts from
accidents along that road!)
#4 along Little River Rd in the
Great Smoky Mountains NP
#5 Rob & bike @ an overlook
on US 441 in GSMNP
#6 along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Travel, Teaching, & Liquid Sunshine

I took a picture of mom after her knee replacement surgery, after she came to Brookcrest for rehab. She looked good and the reports this week are that she's making good progress. My 5th graders made get well cards and they came in the mail on Saturday before I went back to Florida. Mom enjoyed the messages! Spent the week in Michigan with brother Tim & Pat. It was good to get caught up with them again, and be there for mom.
This week has been full -- 20 parent / teacher conferences nested within the busyness of the last full week of school. I ended the week with a sore throat and a cold. Good thing we have a long week-end; my voice is in the basement.
And then there was / is the low pressure system (non-tropical) that stayed like Fay last year. This time pretty much everyone in Central Florida got soaked. Daytona and Flagler County had over 24 inches of rain, and it's not done yet. We have had over 16 inches of rain and we expect a wet Saturday. I already got soaked running from Home Depot to the car this morning. No riding today...maybe Gayle and I can go for a breakfast run Monday morning.

No ducks yet, but beaucoup frogs! Finally the brush fires are out and things are greening up again.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Solo Run

I took a 5 hour cycle trip to Leesburg, which is about 50 miles NW of Orlando. The town is hosting a bikefest, and thousands of bikers came out today. It was a beautiful day for a ride -- low 80's, low humidity, and a nice breeze. Drove on the Florida Turnpike to get out of Orlando, and got down the road quickly. Took a county road north from the Turnpike through Howey-In-The-Hills (love that name!) to the Yalaha Bakery. This is a German bakery that has a loyal customer base because of the great pastries, tortes, breads, and Danish that they put out. I enjoyed a raspberry Danish and coffee in the outdoor seating area.
The numbers of bikes in and around Leesburg was awesome! I got to park in the middle of Main Street; the sides of the street were already full before 10 AM. Lots of interesting bikes; the bikes show the personalities and priorities of their owners.
I took a scenic route back home along the west shore of Lake Apopka. Rode through towns like Astatula, Ferndale, and Montverde -- old Florida, beautifully scenic drive. Under six hours total, 115 miles, great little trip!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Spring Break Trip

We left Monday morning for the West coast of Florida and Cedar Key. This unique little town is on several small islands / keys in the Gulf of Mexico and is part of the Cedar Key National Wildlife Refuge. Temps were in the low 70's, blue sky, and no wind -- a beautiful day to ride! We had a leisurely ride west on the Kawasaki, staying off the interstate & turnpike. Took US 27 north to Leesburg and then state road 44 all the way to the Gulf and Seven Rivers. We stopped at the Crystal River Archaeological State Park; there are a number of Indian mounds along the river several miles from the Gulf and the tidewater region. Interesting, informative little park. Coming in to the park we saw a couple of wild hogs and their 6 piglets along the access road to the park, and when leaving a bobcat loped across the road! Another 30 miles north and 25 miles west to Cedar Key.
We stayed at a condo rental recommended by our lower division principal, The Island Place, right on the bay. Sat on the porch, read a book, and watched the birds & fishermen for a while. We ate at seafood restaurants both evenings...shrimp, grouper, and clam chowder! On Tuesday we took a 3 hour tour (reminded my of Gilligan's Island!) by boat around the keys to see the birds. Our guide was very knowledgeable and we enjoyed ithe trip immensely. Saw over 2 dozen different species of birds and I got 12 new ones for my life list. Marbled godwit; Forster, Royal, & Caspian terns; oystercatcher; black skimmer; dowitcher; long-billed curlew;semi-palmated plover; whimbrel; laughing, herring, & ring-billed gulls. As well as many white pelicans, 3 pairs of bald eagles and one young one, and pods of dolphins. Our guide also talked about the tidewater region, grasses, trees, migratory habits of birds, the local multi-million dollar clam industry, and the reason that Cedar Key was first populated -- J. Eberhard Faber harvested the local red cedars for his pencils.
Had about an hour of light rain while coming home this morning, but we were warm & dry by the time we pulled into the garage. Saw deer, wild turkey, a small burrowing owl, and while we were stopped along a road in the Ocala National Forest a Sandhill Crane walked by across the street. 335 miles and 42 MPG!
By the way, we have dozens of flowers on the grapefruit tree, as well as 3 orchids in full bloom -- 2 purple & white phaelenopsis and one Miltonia (with the Calvin colors).
Smaller shore birds & White Pelicans
I caught this dolphin in mid-jump as he was playing in the wake behind our boat.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Week-end Fun

We went to the Bay Hill Invitational on Saturday. Weather was partly cloudy and rather windy for Orlando, but it did get warm! We sat by the par three 7th green and watched all 31 pairs in the field go by. One double bogey, 6 bogies, and 6 birdies! Tiger Woods parred the hole...huge gallery following him. We watched the end of the day on the 18th fairway, about 150 yards from the green. Saw the last 10 pairs go by. Tiger stuck his second shot in the grass along the water and couldn't find it. Had a half-dozen people, including a cameraman, looking for the ball. He ended with a spectacular putt for a bogie 5...amazing player!
We had a bonus just after 2 PM -- a sonic boom from the re-entering space shuttle rattled the trees! We saw the contrail of the shuttle heading east. That was special, seeing the launch and the re-entry.
And we actually had some rain Sunday! Just a quarter inch, but much needed. Central Florida is waaay behind the annual average and really dry. We've had some brush fires already...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Think Pink!

Gayle's third graders were involved in a great project this week-end. A mom in the other 3rd grade class, Angela Petrucelly, died of cancer several weeks ago. Her daughter, Victoria, was in Gayle's kindergarten class 3 years ago. Victoria and her friend Jesse, who IS in Gayle's class this year, decided several months ago that they wanted to sell pink lemonade to help raise awareness for breast cancer to help her mom. After mom died, it turned into a fund & awareness raiser for cancer and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center here in Orlando. They picked this week-end because Jesse lives across from the Henry Leu Gardens and the Leu Gardens has its annual plant sale. They knew that many, many people would be in the area! So both classes of 3rd graders and a great many others got involved. Weather was great! TV stations came, the head of the Cancer Center stopped by, Chik-fil-A donated lemonade and lunch for the kids, people were generous, and the kids raised a whole lot of money. Victoria had said that she hoped they would make "$50." Waaay beyond that! Way to go, kids!

Victoria is on the left in the pink hat; her good friend Jesse is on the right.

Teachers & parents a-plenty!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lunch, Launch, & Auction

We took Friday afternoon and all day Monday off from school to enjoy a visit with Uncle Hank & Aunt Marideen Holtrop. They were in Central Florida for 2 weeks at a condo with some friends, and we caught the back end of their trip before they went back to Michigan. We showed them around school and downtown Orlando, and had lunch across from Lake Eola at some outside tables of a restaurant. Weather was perfect -- low 80's and low humidity.
On Saturday night Gayle and I attended The Christ School annual Mane Event dinner & auction. The theme was Night of Stars and the challenge for attendees was to dress like a movie star. I forgot to get a picture of my lovely Gayle - she really got into the dressing up - borrowed a designer dress from a neighbor across the street, found a great pair of fancy high heels to wear, and simply looked like a million bucks! The best I could do after the fact was to get a picture of her shoes...Her 3rd grade quilt was the highlight of the evening; it went for $2,700, the highest bid item of the night! Gayle and the head of the auction held it up on the stage during the bidding. Two of the 3rd grade dads went after it like bulldogs; I think the bidding went on for 10 minutes! I was really proud of her work and the benefit she brought to our school.
On Sunday we enjoyed sharing Conway Community Presbyterian Church with the relatives. After an early supper - grilled chicken, broccoli, & sweet potato fries - we drove 45 minutes east to a small boat launching ramp / park on Hwy 50 at the St. John's River for the evening launch of the shuttle. This area is in the middle of a huge grassland where the river meanders, giving over a mile of clear viewing toward the coast. Sunset was about 7:35; the launch was right on time at 7:43. We had a great view for 20 miles away! And after a few minutes we could hear the rumble of the rocket engines! The sunlight on the exhaust trail was spectacular, and because the shuttle went toward the north we saw the complete arch of the exhaust trail.
We waited at the ramp parking lot for about a half hour and then watched the International Space Station track from NW to NE about 30 degrees up in the northern sky for about 3 minutes. If you go to the web site, you can find your way to the ISS sightings page and key in your specific location. Sightings are always up to an hour before sunrise or an hour after sunset. Sometimes the trees or clouds get in the way of sightings, but once you've seen it you'll go back for more. It reminds me of the time mom got us boys up to see the ECHO satellite one late summer evening...
We took Uncle Hank & Aunt Marideen to the Henry Leu Gardens this morning -- what a bargain! Free on Monday mornings. We shared the park with a LOT of young moms; it was story hour and then they pushed the babies around the park. Another beautiful day, sunshine and low 80's, a real chamber of commerce special. Lots of camelias and citrus in bloom, but the roses were done and trimmed back. Many different kinds of amarylis in bloom, which sort of made up for the lack of roses.
We're taking the relatives to the airport mid-afternoon. They should be back in West Michigan at 8:30 tonight. A great week-end! So good to see the relatives again!