Sunday, December 4, 2011

Lights on the River

The weekend after Thanksgiving was truly a joy due to the Jacksonville Boat Light Show. If you get a chance pop over to the regular blog and read how the event almost didn't happen. As usual click each photo for a better view and be sure to enjoy the video.

The show began with a long blow of a horn and the slow entrance of the first boat. Kids squealed with joy and adults were pretty close behind them.

Each boat owner had their take on decorating for the event. And, some really made you smile. White's Fish Camp was one of them.

Another was the boat with a gator chasing Santa. Only in Florida would such a thing happen!

But, I think the winner was the Son's of Norway and their Viking ship.

To add to the feel I have done a video where you can view a good number of the ships sailing down the St. Johns River and watch the Son's of Norway in action.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

How Blue Are The Angels!

I had planned to do this post near Veteran’s Day, but no matter, photos of the Blue Angel Air show are great anytime. The local naval air station was hosting the event and despite a cold (for Florida), overcast day I grabbed the camera and jumped at the chance to go. As usual, click each photo for a better view.

The Blue Angels are a flying team known for their precision flying and the planes, even when standing still, give the appearance of being built for speed.

Seeing them in formation just before take-off for the show was impressive. One could only imagine the treat that was in store.

While we waited for the air show to begin, there were numerous planes on display and we did a walk-about. There were loads of kids (both young and old)who had the same idea which produced some very exciting moments just standing on firm ground.

The Navy pilots were more than patient as they answered questions about their planes and allowed others to take photos. This young woman seems to have hit the jackpot and landed a photo with two pilots.

I particularly liked the "Swamp Fox" chopper because it has such a mysterious history of being able to do so many things almost unseen. The airman inside offered a short history in guerrilla warfare which is where the name originated.

With very little coaxing, he was willing to smile for my photo next to some of the chopper's equipment. I didn't tell him, but he does look like one of those guys with the "right stuff."

A big treat for the crowd following the precision flying of the Blue Angels was when the pilots took time to sign autographs. There were truly a friendly sort and the kids just loved it!

I know people come to the air shows to see the precision in air flying but I was particularly taken with the pilot of the "Fat Albert" transport plane. The plane is huge so it does not do split second fly-byes, but take a good look at this guy and then view the video of his landing maneuver below. He is able to land this big baby on a dime and then make a U-turn that most of us cannot manage driving our much smaller cars.

It was heady stuff indeed and a wonderful way to spend an afternoon!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Anyone Want a Beer?

I had planned to visit the Budweiser plant here in Jacksonville during the month of October and do an Oktoberfest post. But, time and tide were against me. I took the tour only in November. As usual, click each photo for a better view.

As you take the factory tour the thought that jumps out at you is the story of beer and Budweiser is a German and yet uniquely American tale of immigrants who came to this country looking for a taste of home who transformed it into something completely different.

Adolphus Busch was a German immigrant who through a love of beer, making connections, and being a skilled promoter transformed American beer. He had the good fortune to meet and marry Lilly Anheuser whose father owned a brewery. The old man helped him finance his own brewery which was first named Anheuser and Company and later when the old man died became Anheuser-Busch.

Busch had the foresight to analyze and use the tools of the day. As the railroad transformed America, he looked for a beer that was lighter in color and taste that would retain its special quality no matter where it was shipped using the Bavarian bottom fermenting process. Pasteurization and a network of ice houses near railroad stations, allowed him to distribute better than anyone.

Once he had established his network, he set about promotion after promotion to keep the Anheuser-Busch name out in front of as many Americans as possible, right down to announcing that Budweiser was America' s favorite beer. One of his most famous promotions was the distribution of "Custer's Last Fight" as a lithograph after acquiring it in 1888. Saloon keepers wanted it and agreed to carry his beer to get it.

He used all kinds of ideas to promote his beer and perception became reality in the minds of the people. This made Busch a wealthy man and a force in the brewing industry as a result.

However, nothing in his American journey could have prepared him for January 16, 1920, the beginning of Prohibition. For years he had worked to keep those forces away from the production of beer and never imagined they would get national legislation passed. But he and his son, Busch Sr. who assumed leadership of the company, had diversified into other areas which kept the company going during those years.

I have often wondered how the famous Clydesdales became the emblem for the company and learned it was tied to Prohibition. Busch Sr. surprised the old man in 1933 with the famous bright red hitch complete with Clydesdale horses as a gift to mark the end of Prohibition. I guess there was still a bit of the little boy in Adolphus because it became one of his prized possessions.

That too was turned into a marketing wonder. He made big productions of the horse drawn hitch showing up at all manner of places to deliver beer to famous people. So much so that the Clydesdales are an international symbol of the company.

And now, into the 21st century the company remains a power house. But, is now owned by a Brazilian-Belgian brewing company, InBev, with several major brands.

The end of the tour leads you into a nice little "Hospitality Room" where you are allowed to sample new types of beer the company is developing as well as current brands. You really do have to view beer from a totally different perspective knowing what you now know about the formation of the company.

Anyone want a beer?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Butterflies in October... Oh My !

I recently purchased a new camera and wanted to test it out. After giving it some thought, what better place to put it to the test than the Butterfly Museum! It had been awhile and driving to Gainesville should make for a grand adventure. As usual, click each photo for a better view.

I have featured the Butterfly Museum before so I will omit background detail and simply say that it is a great place to experience living in a rainforest and interact with some very beautiful creatures.

As soon as I walked into the rainforest I ran into this guy.

He flew away and then returned so I could capture a front view as well.

In addition to butterflies the museum is truly a living rainforest with all kinds of plants, and is loaded with these little birds. There seemed to be more of them since my last visit.

The new camera has a super zoom that really came in handy as I got a shot of these two beauties.

I realized that close-ups will be easier in the future because I was able to get up close and personal with this one.

I almost felt like I had won the lottery with this particular shot. It seemed that the butterflies almost knew they were on display and went out of their way to accommodate me.

In fact, a few people in the museum started calling me the butterfly whisperer because they started following me around. It was the strangest feeling as they sat on my blouse and I was almost afraid to move. A woman standing near by took this picture of my predicament.

I particularly liked this one because you are able to see the detail in the butterfly's body. One of the guides explained that the red coloring on some is an indication to predators that they are not a good meal. It seems they can eat a poisonous bug and convert the toxin into the coloring as a defense. Amazing!

This guy just flew into sight and sat there.

But this one is truly my favorite because the stem of the flower adds to the visual excitement of the butterfly enjoying a sip of nectar.

And a fitting close to the day was this guy who worked in the museum, and decided to get into the spirit of the event. Life is good!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

To Study War No More...

I heard the news over the weekend that the President had decided to declare the war in Iraq officially over and was in the process of removing all troops from the area.

The thought of our troops coming home brought to mind all the men and women who would not be returning and I decided to visit the local Veteran's Memorial Wall. As usual, click each photo for a better view.

What I find particularly poignant about this wall and the one in Washington is the list of names. So often we think of wars in grand scale but somehow forget the individual who was a son, a daughter, a father, or a brother. Here was a chance to reflect person by person, to really see the human cost of war.

I stood for a moment and just touched the carved names of people I would never know personally, but in my own way wanted to honor. Touching the names somehow gave them life and helped me imagined them alive and vibrant.

My hope for the future is that each family connected with those names somehow finds peace in knowing that their relative meant something to someone who just wanted to stop for a moment and remember them as they lived. Someone who prays that we will study war no more...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Robert Frost wrote that good fences make good neighbors and since the purchase of the house over eight years ago, I have been talking about replacing the fence that faces my corner lot. As usual, click each photo for a better view.

I promised myself I would do it during the Spring this year but the time passed without movement on my part and the fence remained. Now the prospect of the Florida Winter approaching and the fence almost falling apart forced me to take action.

Those of you who have followed me for awhile are aware that I hold money quite tightly and the prospect of paying almost a thousand dollars to replace just one side of the yard really forced me to take on yet another project.

The decision to take action required enlisting the aid of my niece with her truck and a visit to my favorite project place, Lowes. I thought about just replacing the fence with the type of fencing already there but opted to go for complete privacy with "board on board"... and away we go!

Deciding to do the job by myself was truly a leap of faith but I felt like Archimedes ("Give me a lever long enough and I will lift the world") as I planned out how to move the panels into place to remove the old panels and replace the new.

A dolly helped tremendously in that I could single handily move what had taken two of us. My neighbors watched with great interest as one by one each panel was moved into place.

A clerk at Lowes made a great suggestion that I use screws rather than nails to prevent a year from now having to return to hammer protruding nails back into place and I followed it. I used my trusty drill to first bore a hole and then followed with 3 1/2 galvanized screws which made the job go fairly quick. I now understood why guys spend so much time in hardware stores, because the right tool really does make the job easier!

My neighbors thought I was genius and I did not want to dispel that belief and tried to look smart while I sweated to the oldies.

In no time I had covered almost half of the length and felt pretty good about my progress. Notice the prized bird feeder which I came to hate as I moved the panels and had to maneuver around it.

And now comes the really fun part. In any job there is always something that slows you down or makes the job much harder than you anticipated. In this case it was rotted posts. I took the lazy man approach and left in the existing posts and simply (that is a great word, "simply") decided to replace the posts that were rotted through. This required digging a couple of holes that nearly broke my back. But, I got it done.

The people who put in the original posts seemed to have planned for them to last a lifetime by the amount of concrete they put around them.

I started at nine in the morning and finished at five that evening but with great pleasure stood back and admired my work. One neighbor drove by and remarked that I had done a good job and made a decent "handyman", to which I gave him a shake of the drill which indicated: "Keep moving if you hadn't offered to help!"

I will return later to replace the gate, which requires more detail work than just replacing the panels. But, sunny-Girl and I really enjoy our new found privacy and board on board also acts as a great noise buffer.

Despite the sore muscles and the aching back, I saved myself closed to $500 based on the price I was quoted. And, as I enjoy the complete privacy of the new fence continually marvel that Frost really was correct that "Good fences do make good neighbors!"

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

For the Love of Marjorie and Cross Creek

Is it possible to be in love with someone you have never personally met? I found out a few weekends ago that it really can happen. On the trip to Tampa back in June of this year, I passed a sign that pointed to the Marjorie Rawlings Museum and made a mental note to return and visit Cross Creek. As usual, click each photo for a better view.

There is something about the way she described rural life in The Yearling, and Cross Creek that made me enjoy the works of Marjorie Rawlings. And, Just before arriving at the museum I stopped at Locloosa Lake Park and understood the beauty of the area she loved so much.

This panoramic view of the lake gives a sense of the wild nature of the place she found so fascinating. I stood there for a long while to just take it all in and try to see it as she might have.

And, by chance I encountered a volunteer at the museum and realized I had found someone who was truly in love with someone who lived sixty years ago.

He lovingly described how he and others worked to keep the sense of Marjorie alive in the house and their work was rewarded with a feeling that at any moment she would walk out of the back of the house and welcome you in for a great Southern meal.

The barn sits there with her apron waiting to wrap around her to do the small chores that the place requires.

I fully expected to see her walk out of the back of the house ready to drive off into town in her car that has aged but not grown old. He knew so much of her habits he really brought her to life.

The kettle sits on a tablee ready to brew a fresh pot of coffee for the latest round of writing.

And the view out to her garden I'm sure let her know that life on Cross Creek was never far away.

This final view from inside the house as he described her routines took me back to the lazy days of country living and you understood why she loved it here and how much he loved her.

Rawlings may be physically gone but her essence is lovingly cared for by those who love her, and the rural feel of Cross Creeks lives on.