Monthly Archives: December 2013

New Year’s Day and the Dumb Lights

Nature making a much better job of pretty lights than yours truly. Portuguese Man-of- War at sunset at Henderson Beach FL
Nature making a much better job of pretty lights than yours truly. Portuguese Man-of-
War at sunset at Henderson Beach FL

The embarrassing wreath I described in this post had been consigned to a dumpster, but I hadn’t given up on the puddling and exasperating lights.

We had made a carelessly arranged Santa’s grotto by plugging in a string of lights and hanging them ’round the bed – the bed that is in our sitting room/dining room which is in the kitchen. The soft glow of the little lights had a kind of artless charm.

But our cozy grotto had to be dismantled each time we moved campsite, which was frequently, as we had neglected to make reservations at this we-now-know busy time of year.

Who wants to go camping for Christmas? Quite a few people as it happens. Those who want to get away for Christmas and those who want to get away from Christmas. And us, because we’d nowhere else to go.

New Year’s Eve was spent at a campsite where you would not choose to go intentionally and the lights did not put in an appearance.

Sunset on the  boardwalk. Nature comes up trumps again.
Sunset on the boardwalk. Nature comes up trumps again.

On New Year’s Day we arrived at Henderson Beach State Park on the Gulf coast near Destin. It was a sunny but sheltered site where we could pull out the awning. When I say we, I mean I busied myself with the awning and Plan C for the lights while Jimmy fiddled around with inconsequential things like unhitching the trailer from the car and plugging us in to the mains and water.

With the awning extended and pulled down where I could reach it, I wrapped the lights around one strut, strung them across the top of the awning and then down and around the other strut. I hadn’t anticipated needing to open and close the door, so had to take down and rearrange all 46 feet of lights so I could raise the awning a little.

That accomplished I waited for darkness. Very pretty.

The next day thunderstorms were predicted and as we were going out for the day we had to furl up the awning. So the lights came down. But never mind. I strung them through the bushes next to us. Very pretty.

The next day the park ranger came to our site to tell us that we couldn’t hang the lights from the vegetation. But never mind. I took them down and strung them along the washing line next to the trailer. Very pretty.

The next day we had to move the trailer to another site within the campground. Of course the lights had to come down. At the new site . . . well the washing line post was a long way from the trailer, but I hung them up anyway, looping them right across our campsite so they were dragging on the ground.

They looked stupid.

But never mind, it was Twelfth Night, so I took them down.

Admiring the sunset instead of fretting over Christmas lights.
Admiring the sunset instead of fretting over Christmas lights. Notice the nasty stinging little Portuguese Man-of-War still twinkling appealingly on the wet sand.

Happy New Year to all my friends, relictives (haha) and bloggy pals.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy, prosperous and peaceful new year.

‘Twas the Day Before Christmas . . .

Being so far from friends and family, I find it hard to get into the Christmas spirit.

Suddenly on the 24th of December, I was overwhelmed with the urge to decorate – less to do with sitting in a Wal-Mart parking lot, more to do with it being my last chance to buy pretty lights. Our campsite was miles from anywhere and a later change of heart on Christmas Eve would not be appreciated by himself.

Normally she who hesitates is lost but Jimmy sensed the battle raging in my tiny mind and nudged me into action. “Go on. See if they have any lights left.” It doesn’t take much to convince me to shop.

Wal-Mart had hundreds of strings of lights left. As I fretted about the oversupply of cheap merchandize, waste, want and greed, I reduced the U.S. problem of overstocking by picking up two strings of 100 lights each, a nasty, scrawny, fake wreath and a big red bow – total purchase – $8.00.

As we drove “home” to our ocean front campsite at Hunting Island, South Carolina,

A Christmas-y view
Our Christmas view

I strategized best use of my meager haul – two 23-foot strings of lights and a wreath best viewed from a distance. I would wrap the wreath with one string of lights disguising its hideousness, hang it centrally on the awning which was furled up against the trailer and drape the other lights across and down either side. It would look wonderful.

I manhandled a fistful of bulbs round and through the sad little wreath, mangled the red bow into place and attached a twist tie. With “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” rockin’ around in my skull as it had been ever since the morning when himself had put the CD on to cheer me up, I stepped outside to find that a) it had got dark, and b) the top of the awning was completely out of reach.

In times of crisis, when I am about to plummet into misery, Jimmy comes through and suggested he back the car up to the trailer so I could stand on the tailgate.

The previous day, Jimmy had zigzagged the trailer back between awkwardly positioned pine trees and abandoned it in the woods. Now he had to back the car in the dark through the same trees, picnic tables and numerous pieces of lawn furniture, bringing the car at a 45° angle to the center of the awning so I could step on to the rear quarter bumper. The bumper needed to be within six inches of the trailer.

I needed to be behind the car to guide Jimmy in – either between the car and the trailer for precision signaling, or standing off to the side for safety. The former seemed the better option for marital harmony as the accelerator on the automatic gearbox has a kind of all or nothing touch and visions of, not sugar plums, but a bashed in trailer danced in my head.

With minimal screaming, the car was maneuvered into place and Jimmy heaved me up onto the bumper with my hands full of wreath and lights. Arms stretched up to fullest extent and holding the wreath in place, I attempted to attach the wreath to a canvas strap on the awning, using one hand for the twist tie. Put a plastic bag on a table and try to twist tie it closed with one hand and you will grasp (or not) my predicament.

Much grunting and sighing on my part and stoicism on Jimmy’s part got the fortunately lightweight wreath tied to the awning. It only remained to drape the attached lights over the awning. Jimmy offered to back the car twice more to each end of the awning but my nerves were shot from the first backing episode and my holiday spirit was waning. I wasn’t willing to risk damage to the bodywork of the trailer for the thrill of some cheap twinkle lights. His caramel chocolate bar Christmas Eve present wouldn’t make up for a big dent.

We improvised by using the awning hook to try to thrust the lights into place, but try as we might the lights just wouldn’t stay up. Neither of us could reach to tie the lights up. I couldn’t see what I was doing anyway and it was getting late.

The lights hung dejectedly from the dumb wreath in a stupid twinkling puddle on the ground.

I took it all down, the scraggy wreath was stripped of its lights and hung back up while the car was still acting as a step stool.

My stunning display
My stunning display

As I wound the lights up, I cautioned Jimmy, “Be careful of that fire ring” – a three foot across, eight inch high steel ring and barbeque grill.

“What fire ring?”

Well wouldn’t that have just made it a Merry Christmas if he had run over it and burst a tire?

It was right in front of the car and I don’t know how he backed the car into position without seeing it in the first place.


Pelicans – Fishing and Falling Out of the Sky

Such fun to watch pelicans fishing. Here they are scanning the sea before takeoff:

Pelicans, Destin FL

Cruising for victims:

Four pelicans, Florida

Lift-off for a better view:

Four pelicans, FloridaThen something inexplicable happens. Pelicans become so excited on spotting their prey that they lose control of their wings and fall out of the sky like they’ve been shot. Splash!

Fishing pelican, Florida

It’s amazing they ever catch anything.

How Do You Teach a Dog to Surf?

Mallory   Square on the western tip of Key West is the place to take sunset photos and the jetty can be six people deep on a busy night. Photography is guesswork with camera held high or you can just take a nice orangey picture with a stranger’s head in the foreground.

The first night produced the aforementioned head silhouettes. The second night we arrived half an hour before sunset and waited as people queued behind us to take pictures of the backs of our heads.

Sloops, catamarans, trimarans and schooners sailed back and forth on the shimmering sea as the sun descended and the blue sky transformed to peach and violet.

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The sea lost its twinkle as the light faded and the sky intensified to gold, then a deep burnt sienna. Disappointingly, there no clouds to create a dramatic effect.

As the sun touched the horizon, the color was rich but uninteresting until, exactly on cue, a flock of pigeons took off from the shore filling the bold, but plain, sun and sky scene.

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Perfect picture opportunities abound in the Keys.

I took a series of boring photos of geckos,

just because they were there, my camera was in my hand and any wildlife makes my shutter finger twitch. There is ‘G’ on the campfire ring, ‘G’ on the fence, ‘G’ on a post, a close up of ‘G’ showing his lizard skin and long lizard toes and a digital close up of ‘G’ showing his yellow-rimmed black lizard eye. One little ‘g’ ventured onto the picnic table next to me. With my eye to the viewfinder I pressed the shutter button, but when I lowered the camera, he was gone. Missed him. A quick glance at the small camera screen confirmed it.

When I downloaded the pics to the laptop Leaping Lizards! there he was in full stretch – legs thrust back and tail up for balance – halfway between the picnic table and the fence.Gecko, Long Key FL On our way to visit a wildlife reserve, we pulled off the road to stretch our legs and admire a wide expanse of water with its birdlife. It was windy but the water was calm, just right for a novice windsurfer. Dazed from the heat I didn’t realize at first that the tentative windsurfer had a passenger.

The board sailed smoothly out to sea, the ‘captain’ tacked ever so carefully edging his way around the mast and then sailed smoothly back to shore. The little guy at the front of the board, no wait, he has four legs, I thought. It was a dog – a black Labrador! He stood stiffly balanced on the ‘bow’ and as the sail filled with the wind bringing the board up to speed after the tack, his tongue lolled out and flapped pinkly in the wind. He was having a whale of a time. You would think this is one tall tale too far without the photographs.

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Capturing these photos takes no particular talent, just a camera to hand with the lens cap off. Cute and crazy photo ops are everywhere in tropical Florida. And if I’d been quick enough I would now have evidence to prove why the chicken crossed the road.

Of the thousands of photos on my hard drive, that is the one I really wished I’d taken.

Oh, and how do you teach a dog to surf? I have absolutely no idea.

Why Did The Crab Run Away?

Surf walking for exercise in the Florida Keys, I missed the opportunity to snap “piggy-backing” crabs as I’d left my camera behind. Mr. Crab, in six inches of water, reared up on his hind legs, claws thrust aggressively at me, while another set of legs clamped Mrs. to his undercarriage. He must have been all of four inches across to my five-and-a-half feet, but he was ready to take me on to defend his wife. While I was deciding whether to laugh or back off, he took the initiative and scuttled away, still in position with Mrs., possibly to get it on with her under cover of the sea grasses.

You caught me! I'm embarrassed now.
You caught me! I’m embarrassed now.

The camp site at Long Key afforded many of these marine life views as the ocean bottom sloped off so shallowly. Other people waded out several hundred yards to waist depth but I would only go to a depth where I could still see my feet clearly. Stepping on something bitey or squishy or stubbing my toe on a rock or coral is not my idea of fun. And why bother when I could amuse myself for hours in shin deep water?

I would pass the same people each day and smile and wave, or stop to chat. As I passed a mangrove tree I was called back to it with, “Did you see the frog?” A frankly artificial looking frog was sunning himself on a limb. “I’ve seen you with your camera. I thought you might like to take his picture.” Indeed I would. Not until I looked at the picture on the computer screen days later did I notice that the tiny frog, perhaps an inch and a half long, was wearing weeny “black rubber gloves.”orange and black frog on a mangrove tree, Florida Keys

Moments after the rubber-clad frog encounter, I turned to see a snipe in stealthy pursuit of lunch. Wading slowly through the shallow water, he would plunge his head in, come up and Gulp! What was it? Too quick for me. I snap, snap, snapped with little hope of getting a decent shot as I was shooting into the sun but with the potential to take hundreds of photos and the delete function to get rid of my duds I carried on. What I caught was Mr. Snipe dangling a little crab in his long beak, the sunlight shining right through it, twinkling like a tragic Christmas tree ornament.snipe with crab, Florida Keys

Squadrons of pelicans flying overhead became “5 3 2 squadron” or “5 4 2 squadron”

 . . . . or 5 5 4 squadron . . .
. . . . or 5 5 4 squadron . . .

to denote their formation and numbers or “Oh, look!” when there are too many to count. A single flying pelican was a “squadron leader.”

“Please tell me you are not going to take another picture of a pelican (or heron, parrot, cormorant, egret or ibis),” himself begged. I couldn’t help myself.

Several hideously large insects and spiders we were unable to identify were captured from a safe distance with a zoom lens.

Alligators were photographed in the same way. You can count their teeth in the photo knowing I haven’t knelt down in front of them as it appears, but was standing on a boardwalk, behind a railing, six feet up and twenty feet away.

Fancy a wrestling match darlin'?
Fancy a wrestling match darlin’?

Donkey Horrors

Innocently driving the Needles Highway in South Dakota we were ambushed by hungry, panhandling burros.

panhandling burros, Needles Highway, SD

Cue the creepy Psycho shower scene music:

Give us a cookie or we’ll bite your ear off!

panhandling burros, Needles Highway, SD

How did I know they wouldn’t bite my ear off? I didn’t.

I’m an idiot.

Donkey Delights

Hee haw! Hee Haw!

I think it’s so hilarious,

To see you climb a rock,

Where it’s so precarious.

Wild burro, Monument Valley, Utah

I promised lilmisspoutine that I would post some cute donkey photos and as the above is none too flattering here are some cuties from Monument Valley:

Wild burros, Monument Valley, Utah Wild burros, Monument Valley, Utah Wild burro, Monument Valley, Utah

After an extensive 15 second search on Google, I have determined that donkeys and burros are the same creature. If you know differently, oh never mind!

I’ll be back in tropical weather on Monday. Please excuse my butterfly mind.