Sunday, January 30, 2011

my life in outline form

I. Running.

A. Remember how I signed up for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon on May 15th? I’m at the point in my training plan where my long run this weekend was eight miles. Victory! I did half on the treadmill, and half out on the roads. My first outdoor run here in Vermont in a while. What’s this white stuff on the ground?

B. And WTF?! I know, I’m spoiled after a week and change vacationing in Florida.


II. Reiki

A. I just gave Best Beloved a full-on head to toe Reiki treatment on the shiny new massage table.

B. Modifications for future treatment sessions: I need a bucket under the headrest to catch drool.

III. Other current addictions

A. The Stieg Larsson trilogy. Kevin’s read the whole thing; I’m halfway through the third one, and we’re live-streaming the Swedish movies on Netflix. It’s important to have a hobby.

B. Peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies made with one part whole wheat pastry flour, three parts dehydrated peanut flour. Gee, why’m I gaining weight? I can’t figure it out. Mystery.

Friday, January 28, 2011

third time’s the charm

It took us another whole day to get home – the Philly airport was closed yesterday (!) – but here we are at last, safe and sound.

It’s good to be home.


The cats apparently agree.


Nice icicles, huh?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

in which our heroine capitulates to consumer society

Last night I was dreading today.

  1. Airports.
  2. Icky Airport Food.
  3. All Those People. 
  4. Bad Weather.
  5. Likelihood of Turbulence and Consequent Motion Sickness. 
  6. Long Drive from Philly Airport to Southern Vermont

This morning, before the alarm went off, I lay in our most recent hotel room bed and spent a while waving my magic Reiki wand over the day. Here’s how it played out:

  1. Airports. Flight cancelled due to nastiness in Philly! We rebooked for tomorrow.
  2. Icky Airport Food. Icky Theme Park Food!
  3. All Those People. No change here! 
  4. Bad Weather Flawless and I mean, FLAWLESS, weather.
  5. Likelihood of Turbulence and Consequent Motion Sickness. Theme Park = Roller Coasters! Thus, no change here! 
  6. Long Drive from Philly Airport to Southern Vermont. Whew.

Yep, Southwest cancelled our flight and we rebooked ourselves for the same flight, tomorrow. Before I tell you about our fun-filled day at Universal Studios theme park, can I just sing a brief song of praise to Southwest? Unlike other airlines whose privacy I will respect by not mentioning their names except for their initials, which are “USAirways”, when you face a cancellation from Southwest, they are happy to let you rebook from your cellphone while you wait in the customer service line in the middle of the terminal. Furthermore, rather than making you burn through your precious allotment of minutes (not to mention your even more precious capacity to endure hold music), Southwest offers this cool call-back option: you punch in your phone number, and they call you back in X number of minutes, right when they said they would.

So anyway. Facing an extra-shiny, sunny day in Orlando, we figured, why not take out a second mortgage on our home and give it to Universal Studios? Those guys don’t have enough money – let’s all pitch in.

Theme parks, as you might have guessed from my occasional forays into nature and whatnot on this blog, are not exactly my preferred way to spend time. Mind you, I’ve been to plenty of ‘em down here, due to a six-year binge attending Lotusphere in the late 90’s. Lotus (and then IBM once IBM swallowed Lotus whole (*burp*)), would rent out one of the theme parks for conference attendees. That was fun. Still, though: I’m not really into artificial set pieces. The real world is too fascinating and beautiful for me to stomach the fake stuff.

Except when it comes to … (cue the trumpets…)


Hogsmeade, aka “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter”!


Drool. I’m not proud; I love the Harry Potter books. This theme park within a theme park just opened recently, and from what we’d heard, it is in such demand that the drill is, you go to the park first thing in the morning, and then they tell you, “come back to the Harry Potter section at 4:00 pm – the lines should have died down a bit by then.”

Well for some reason – because it’s a Wednesday after winter break but before spring break? Because Orlando was drenched in torrential rains last night? Because the moon is in Scorpio today? Who knows – the park was, relatively speaking, practically empty today. We were able to do a couple of the rides in the Harry Potter section with absolutely no waiting whatsoever. In fact, we might have enjoyed one of the rides even more if we had had to wait, because it would have given us more time to enjoy the inside of Hogwarts Castle, which was extremely cool.




And now, for a sampling of Hogsmeade’s shopportunities…



We went on one ride here that utterly defeated me. Have I mentioned how prone to motion sickness I am? Any discrepancy between my eyes and my body completely untethers me. I’m the only person I know who can get nauseated standing on a street corner while cars drive by. It’s pathetic, I know. I actually LOVE roller coasters, though – I just have to be near the front. Or so I thought. It turns out that I can only tolerate slower, less twisty rides with longer sight lines. 

This crap?


Totally beyond my capacity.

I’m sure it looked cool when the two cars swooped right by each other, but I wouldn’t know. I had to keep my eyes closed the entire ride. Grrrr! But at least that’s better than this ride – which I did not attempt – over on the other side of the park:


Upon closer observation…


Do you really want to get on a roller coaster that has a net underneath it?

One last thing, before we head out in search of dinner. This is the Dr. Seuss portion of the park:

You cannot tell me that hallucinogens were not involved here.



Tuesday, January 25, 2011

wipe that smile off your face

Would you rather spend $40+ per person to look at enormous rockets and astronaut suits? Or would you rather see this guy, for free?


I’ll take the gator, any day.

Mind you, as I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been to the Kennedy Space Center before, and yes, the sight of the Saturn V rocket that launched the Apollo missions to the moon took my breath away. But on a beautiful warm, windy day, knowing that tomorrow we’ll be journeying through sleet and freezing rain all day on our way home to sub-zero temperatures, we elected to visit Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge instead. We drove around the Black Point Wildlife Drive, a…

7-mile, one-way drive follows a dike road around several shallow marsh impoundments and through pine flatwoods.  This provides an excellent place to see waterfowl (in season), wading birds, shorebirds and raptors. Alligators, river otters, bobcats, various species of snakes, and other wildlife may be visible as well. 


The highlights…


This beauty is a male Anhinga.


A Great Blue Heron.


A snowy egret. Black bill, black legs, yellow feet.


Great egret. Yellow bill, black legs and feet.

Conveniently, these two posed near each other so you can see their relative size:P1040223

And now, for a total coup – the Wood Stork! (What we had expected to see at Corkscrew the other day.)


It was fishing – rummaging around with one foot, and dunking its long beak into the bottom of a road-side ditch.



We proceeded to a manatee observation deck – presumably a location where manatees congregate to observe tourists – but saw only more egrets and pelicans.


No complaints.

Monday, January 24, 2011

on the several varieties of pelican

I lied; there’s only one kind of pelican here today - Pelecanus occidentalis. The immature kind, which is this lovely brown…



…and the mature ones, practicing their synchronized grooming ballet.

“My Turn.”


“Your Turn.”


“All Together Now.”


We’re also featuring pelicans in the surf today…


…as well as flying pelicans.


I took an embarrassingly large quantity of photos of a guy paddling out in the surf, thinking he was a pelican. Whoops.

We also have Kennedy Space Center stuff off in the distance.



I’ve visited the Kennedy Space Center before – at the tail end of a business trip in 1998, when a bunch of us were fortunate enough to watch the Endeavour come in for a landing from a distance. We may visit it tomorrow; stay tuned.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

we’ve been in florida

Coming to you live from…where are we? oh right – Cocoa Beach, Florida – it’s…the musingsfromdave roadtrip!

We have been On Vacation for like, a week now, but honestly, it doesn’t feel like it. That’s because my neural programming assumes that “vacation” means Go Somewhere and Don’t Leave It, whereas we’ve been on the move nearly every day since the moment we left home last…um…Monday.

Day One: we drove to New Jersey and visited with Kevin’s mom. Hi, Joan!

Day Two: I attempted a run. FAIL. Cold, cold rain and slush – conditions for which I was too wussy not prepared. In the afternoon, we drove to Kevin’s brother’s house outside Philly. The big news in that household was the recent addition to their family: two days previously, their brand-new guinea pig had unexpectedly given birth. Apparently she’d gotten knocked up at the pet store. Utterly scandalous.   guinea pigs



Lizzie. Oh, to be eight!

I gave Lizzie the pre-Panasonic camera and she was pretty psyched. I coached her on telling stories through pictures, and she was off and running. I believe the only thing standing between her and a blog of her own at this point is the name of the blog; suggestions welcome.

Day Three: we flew from Philly to Orlando, rented a car, and drove to my aunt Susie’s house. She took us out to dinner, and thus began the complete pigging out and indulgence fest that has characterized every day since then. (Blurp.) I scouted out locations for a run, but discovered it was going to be tough: she lives in a very small gated community surrounded by eight-lane roads with no sidewalks. Her condo is within sight of a small lake that has bald eagles nesting along it, but I couldn’t get access to it: gates, locks, etc. and believe me, I was prepared to jump over fences to get there, but it wasn’t going to happen. Grrrrr. I consoled myself by playing with her completely adorable cat instead.

Day Four: I thought about running along the eight-lane-highways-with-no-sidewalks. FAIL. We lounged around most of the morning, which was quite peaceful, and then drove around the pavement-and-mall phantasmagoria that is the Orlando metropolitan area, in search of a pair of glasses for Kevin. Victory! In the evening, my cousin and his family came over for dinner, and we got to meet the next generation of the family. Once again, I repeat: Oh, To Be Eight Years Old. It’s a swell age.

Day Five: We drove to Naples. By now I was feeling pretty much ungrounded and disconnected, so no sooner had we dropped our luggage in the hotel room than I headed out for a run – your basic three-miler. Whew. We dipped our toes in the Gulf, and found a place to grab some dinner. We parked the rental car between two Mercedes in downtown Naples. Are there any Mercedes in southern Vermont? I don’t think so.

Day Six: We visited with my grandmother – my sole remaining grandparent... And then we went to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Ahhhhhhhh…heaven. I could have taken eighteen million more pictures, but it looked like it was going to rain any second, and then there’s the matter of my incredibly small bladder. Sorry, TMI, I know. Without further ado…

2.5 miles of boardwalk take you through six totally separate ecosystems. I completely spaced out on photographing the first one – sorta like a general wetland – and finally woke up to take this one of the zone that lies between the wetland and the swamps. These are slash pine.


Then there is the cypress swamp itself – two kinds: swamp cypress, and bald cypress…


I’m pretty sure this is a swamp cypress. They are as old as 200 years; the bald cypress are as old as 600 years.


Again, not sure which kind – I think swamp, though, because this is early on in the boardwalk tour…


Here’s a wee little epiphyte, just getting started.


Check it out! “Blood Lichen”!


Spanish moss, at the baby stage before it’s dripping several feet off the branch.


This is a reflection in the water.


These odd humps are the “knees” of bald cypress. The cypress are shallowly-rooted, and it’s thought that these “knees” help stabilize them in hurricanes. This sanctuary includes the largest and oldest virgin bald cypress forest in North America.


Some more bald cypress knees. Onwards to the birds!

First off, we saw no wood storks. (Corkscrew is famous for its nesting woodstorks.) The water levels were a bit too high and they haven’t come by yet to build their nests. Ah well. Plenty of other beauties were out and about, minding their own business, though…including this Great Egret.


Yellow bill, black legs. These were nearly hunted to extinction for the sake of their feathers, which were popular in hats around 1912 – 1917 or so – in fact, the Audubon Society, which owns and runs this sanctuary, was founded in part specifically to protect this species.

Brief digression into strangler fig territory…


OK, back to the birds. Next up, white ibis.


Incidentally, I apologize for the crappy resolution – I had the camera set to “Stupidly Small File Size” by mistake.

And now for the herons. I’m no expert, but I believe these are both Little Blue Herons. I don’t mean, “young great blue herons”, I mean “little blue herons”. Its own species. Do you see the heron? Upper left hand corner?


Behold, the power of zoom:


This shot’s slightly clearer…


This guy, incidentally – as were all the birds – was very patient and calm, completely untroubled by us camera-totin’ tourists. And the humans, I have to say, were extremely well-behaved and super-quiet all along the 2.5 mile boardwalk trail. That was very gratifying.


Here’s the other little blue we saw. It was busy hunting.


It’s snarfing something down in this shot – I missed a shot of it with its dinner in its beak, alas!

Next up, the female anhinga. (The all-dark ones are the males.)


Here’s a male, drying its wings – yeah, it’s completely out of focus, but I thought I’d include it to contrast it with the female…



Boardwalk heaven.

To conclude Day Six, we had dinner with my cousin Stephanie and her new beau. Yay!


Day Seven (today): I got up at O Dark Early and went for a run in 40 degree weather (remember, this is southern Florida we’re talking about). It was the week’s long run – 7.6 miles. Victory! Then, we visited with grandma again, and then drove right across the middle of the state on local roads to get to the Atlantic.

I’ll conclude this Awfully Long Post with one last Nature Photo.


A female and male Homo sapiens. The female is sporting vacation-plumage head gear, while the male is adorned with the non-duct-taped variety of eyewear.