Wednesday, December 22, 2010

On the road....

There's not a lot of stitching going on around here...

On Sunday, December 12, Tom and I drove to Florida to see our families. Our trip was long overdue because of my recent back problems. We decided driving would be better than flying because it would allow for more flexibility and for resting when necessary. While it was great to see our families, it was emotionally draining to see the toll aging is taking on my father and even more so on Tom’s mother.

We first went to Jacksonville where Tom’s parents live. Coincidentally, Tom’s brother, Jim, was in the area on business. I think Tom’s father was particularly delighted to have both of his sons with him at the same time. (Jim is quite a cook, and he brought with him some delicious Brunswick stew.)

Because of Tom’s mother’s immobility and heath issues, we seldom left their house. (I think I went out twice during the three days we were there.) One of my outings was on Tuesday night when my friend Melody took me to dinner. How wonderful it was to see her again! Her friend Ellen also had dinner with us, and the three of us caught up on old times. Ellen was in the very first class I taught, Call of the Sea, at Rae Iverson’s A Stitchers’ Gathering in Louisville, Kentucky. Several years later both Ellen and Melody were at my A Needleworker’s Sampler Huswif class in Treasure Island, Florida. Ellen told me she’d see me next in late February when I’m in Sarasota, Florida for a Fruit of the Vine class.

I took with me my Elizabeth Mears sampler, which is in progress. I also took photos of the stitched panels for Miss Trenner’s Needlework Academy boxes and the companion needleroll so Melody and Ellen could get a sneak preview. I think they like what they saw. (Hope so!)

After Jacksonville, Tom and I headed further south to visit my father. Daddy lives in a retirement home in downtown Orlando.

The weather in Orlando was absolutely beautiful, so one afternoon we walked over to Lake Eola, which is only a few blocks away from where Daddy lives. As children we went there and marveled at the large fountain with its changing light colors. The park has certainly been improved over the years, but the fountain in the middle still remains a focal point.
We didn’t take a photo of the fountain but you can see one here.

We left Orlando Saturday afternoon to begin our drive home. Depending upon how often we stopped, we knew it would take us two or three days to get back to Cincinnati. Little did I dream that our first stop would be just north of Orlando at Blue Spring State Park. The park covers over 2,600 acres and has the largest spring on the St. John’s River. The spring, with its constant 73 degree (23 C) water, is a winter home for manatees.

Hmm…you may ask, what is a manatee? Manatees, sometimes known as “sea cows”, are large aquatic mammals. Adults are usually 10-13 feet long and weigh between 800 and 1200 pounds.

Manatees spend the warm months in the ocean but seek warm water during the winter, so the 73 degree water of Blue Spring is ideal for them. They live an average of 50 or 60 years and have no natural predators, but are endangered. Their “enemies” are motor boats, which kill some and injure many. We could see propeller scars on the backs of many of the manatees.

December seemed to be an ideal month to see the manatees. In fact, the park ranger told us that they had counted 284 manatees that morning. Heavens knows how they count them!

Here are some photos we took of the beautiful park and some of the manatees. I think the photos speak for themselves.
Besides seeing lots of manatees, we saw lots of birds and lots and lots of fish along with a couple of turtles and an alligator. Blue Spring really is a nature lover’s paradise.

Below is a photo Tom took of a painting in the visitors’ center. It gives you a better view of manatees than what we were able to take “in the wild”.
According to folklore, sailors sometimes mistook manatees for mermaids. What do you think? I think the sailors must surely have been hallucinating or had way too much to drink. Regardless here are some stories of mermaid/manatee sightings.

I think you can find everything on the internet….here's also a link to a You Tube video so you can see the manatees “in action”.

Here are two more photos we took before leaving the park. I don’t know about you, but there is no way I would get anywhere near an alligator, especially in the water.

I asked Tom to take the next photo so you could see an example of one of the magnificent Southern Live Oak trees in the area. I think that these are perhaps the most magnificent trees. They are native to the southeastern US and get their name “Live Oak” because they remain green throughout the winter. The gray things that you see hanging from the branches are pieces of Spanish moss.
As we continued our trip north, the temperatures steadily dropped and we began to see snow. First on the mountain tops in Tennessee…
and by the time we reached Kentucky, the ground was completely snow-covered. Luckily our neighborhood “snow angel” had cleared our driveway. (Perhaps on another day, I’ll tell you more about him. Everyone needs a “snow angel” in their neighborhood, right?)


April Mechelle said...

Thank you Ellen for sharing your pictures and info on the Manatees. They look so gentle. I am with you on the sailor thinking they were mermaids. They were drinking to much rum. lol. Glad you had a great visit. Merry Christmas !!

Patty C. said...

I'm glad you enjoyed your visit
The pictures are beautiful
Merry Christmas

Margaret said...

I'm glad you got to visit your parents in Florida. We get to see the manatees when we visit my in-laws in Florida as well. I have a hard time believing the whole mermaid thing. lol! Have a wonderful Christmas! Hope your back is feeling 100%!

Jules said...

It sure sounds and looks like you had a wonderful visit down this way. Your pictures are just beautiful! Keep gaining more strength and have a wonderful holiday!!

Sandra said...

Great to hear about your trip Ellen, the photos are amazing.

Babs in Alabama said...

So glad your were able to travel and see your family, not to mention all the beautiful sites. I had to share with you that when my first born daughter first learned to walk it was around Lake Eola. I actually got lost there and had to follow the buildings to get my bearings. I was there only a year but I still remember how dd is 44 years old :)
Merry Christmas,

Nancy said...

I'm sorry the trip was emotionally draining for you, but it looks like you captured some beautiful moments with nature. I have always thought Manatees are so cute! A very Merry Christmas to you and your family Ellen! How lucky you are to have a snow angel.