Friday, April 19, 2024

Returning home from Florida

Because we were so tired, we slept until after 6 am. Mark prepared a pancake and bacon breakfast. Mary and Cindy walked the dogs and Mark and I set off in a kayak. We weren’t even out of the canal when the two fishing rods we were taking fell into the water. Although the water was only five feet deep, we were unable to retrieve them with a treble hook like we did on Tuesday.

We went back to the dock and gathered gear then went to a couple of points on nearby islands to fish. We had no live bait, so I threw a white artificial minnow and Mark used a white shrimp imitation. Mark caught and released a small redfish but had no other bites. In one small cove we saw redfish feeding and cast into the school many times without getting a strike. Across the bay we saw several porpoises in a feeding frenzy. Because we hoped to leave for Tampa by 12:30 we paddled back to the dock where we washed saltwater from our gear and stowed everything. Mary and Cindy had done laundry after walking the dogs and Mary had us mostly packed. We had a snack of chips and salsa then threw our backpacks in Cindy’s Highlander and headed for Tampa.

Cindy was planning on us having our afternoon meal at Columbia Restaurant in Tampa but they didn’t have a table available until after 3 pm so she suggested U Le Le Restaurant and made a reservation for 2:15. We parked in the lot for the restaurant and walked in a little after 2 pm.

Mary's chicken and risotto

Mark had the restaurant’s signature hamburger that he reported was excellent. Cindy had a soft-shelled crab sandwich that she said was good but not exceptional. Mary had fire grilled chicken with saffron risotto, and I had a shrimp po boy and a honey porter. The meal was very good and the décor of the restaurant in and old water treatment plant was interesting.

The drive from the restaurant to Clearwater Airport (PIE) was only 30 minutes despite heavy traffic. Mark dropped us off at the airport and we said our quick goodbyes. We always enjoy spending time with them and look forward to seeing them when they visit us in late May.

Shrimp po boy

Because we have TSA Precheck, we got to security quickly. A man in front of us couldn’t understand why he couldn’t bring a soft drink through security then a forgot that I had a water bottle stuck in my backpack and had to dump it.

As we boarded the aircraft, I couldn’t help but notice a large section of foil tape on the wing above. I joked to the passengers behind us that Allegiant was using duct tape to attach the engine.

The flight to Cincinnati was about 30 minutes late but we sat in the small terminal at PIE until it was time to board our flight. The flight was fairly full but was smooth travelling. We arrived at CVG a little after 8:30 and made our way to the shuttle area by 9 pm. It took some time to reach the desk to arrange for pickup, but the van arrived within 30 minutes or so, returning us to the Hyatt in Florence. We were back at the house before 11 pm and were happy to be home after the great visit to Florida.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Marguerita Grill

After a breakfast of omelets with ham, peppers, onion and cheese, Mark and I drove to Strickland’s Convenient Store for three dozen live shrimp.

Mark with a ladyfish

One the boat was loaded with our gear we headed out into the Gulf before 8 am. Mary and Cindy walked the dogs around the neighborhood. Mark used the Florida Marine Tracks software on his new Lowrance navigation device to stay in deeper channels with fewer hazards. He had to purchase this GPS in addition to the Garmin that came with the boat because Florida Tracks is not yet compatible with Garmin. We went through a lot of very shallow water including the spot near the Live Shrimp boat where we hit a rock earlier in the week but this time with no problems. Even though we were well out in the Gulf of Mexico, the water was still less than 6 feet deep.

Mark with a fish on

We caught a large variety of fish including catfish, sea trout, redfish, pufferfish, lizardfish and ladyfish. Only one sea trout was suitable for eating so we put it in the live well. We had a little trouble with the Minn Kota trolling motor. It would work perfectly for about 20 minutes then would shut down. After waiting about 15-20 minutes it would work fine again. The motor has a two-year warranty so Mark will contact customer service next week to see what the problem might be.

By 2 pm we started back toward the house stopping at a spot where we had luck fishing when we were there on Tuesday. We caught a few more fish then came back to the house where we cleaned the one legal sea trout then got ready for dinner.

Mark's coconut shrimp

Mark drove us the short distance to Marguerita Grill where it was a special event honoring veterans and first responders. We ordered margaritas and listened to the announcements inviting anyone who isn’t proud of America to leave by the back door which is at the Halls River. They then played Ray Charles’s “Hit the Road Jack”. Wait staff distributed small American flags and asked everyone to stand for Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA “. Representatives from a veteran’s charity came around to each table selling drawing tickets for several prizes. Mark recognized them as the couple we saw at the hardware store yesterday.

Stuffed local flounder

Mark had coconut shrimp, Cindy had a steak, Mary had the Aspen crab cakes and I had stuffed flounder. We all enjoyed our meals and the atmosphere at Marguerita Grill.

Once back at the house, Mary and Cindy continued their cribbage games while Mark and I watched an episode of Master Distiller challenging contestants to make a ginseng moonshine. By 9:30 we were all ready for bed.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Lunch at the Museum Cafe

After waking at 5:30 we did our morning language lessons and had hot beverages. Mark and Cindy were up not long after us. Breakfast was cold cereal then Mary and Cindy took the dogs for a morning walk while Mark and I launched kayaks to fish in the Mason Creek area and around the islands. We caught a few fish using the live shrimp that we bought on Tuesday morning. Mark’s bubbler kept them oxygenated and lively. We also used plastic baitfish imitations and plastic shrimp baits pulled behind floats that rattled and clicked to sound like feeding fish. We caught some small sea trout but mostly catfish.

We returned for lunch and drove to the Museum Café near the Yulee Sugar Mill in Homosassa. The small building includes a printing shop, framing shop and a museum of typewriters, adding machines, Linotype machines and printing presses of all ages. The owner, Bocat, has a ton of personality and an infectious smile. In addition to running a printing business and restaurant, he is a musician and painter.

We all had the Cuban sandwich special with various sides. I had yellow rice and black beans which was very good. The Cuban sandwiches were quite good although we have had better in southern Florida near Tampa or Miami.

After lunch, Mark and I installed a motorized wheel on his boat trailer which will allow the boat to be positioned in the garage when they leave for the summer. We were surprised at how easy the wheel was to install and use. It appears to work well in moving the trailer. The motorized wheel mounts on the trailer tongue and takes the place on the standard front wheel on boat trailer tongues. Because Mark didn’t have a ½ inch drill bit, we had to run into the Ace Hardware and found the bit quickly as well as some double sided mounting tape to place a garage door opener at the front of the garage. When we were leaving the store, a young couple saw us and suggested that we go to Marguerita Grill tomorrow night since the proceeds were going to veterans and first responders. We were already planning on going there on Thursday evening so we said we would.

Wyze security camera

Once the wheel was installed, we positioned several Wyze battery cams at the front porch, in the family room and on the front of the garage. We struggled to find a place with a strong Wi-Fi signal since the garage is constructed of block and has a steel roof. Mark also bought Wyze solar panels to power the cameras. The cameras had to be repositioned three times before settling on one of the front porch posts providing a clear view of the driveway and boat trailer.

Mark made a salad with marinated chicken breast with toasted garlic bread for dinner which we all enjoyed. After dinner, Mark and I took a kayak out to fish in Mason Creek out toward the Gulf. We took the last of the live shrimp for bait and were pleased that his small Bucket Bubbler was keeping the shrimp active. We cast around some of the small islands catching a few catfish in the brackish water. Mark’s pole anchor worked well in the shallow muddy water. When we were leaving, I pulled the pole out of the mud and the kayak tipped completely over, spilling us and all of our gear in the shallow water. Although the water was shallow, the mud was very deep, and we struggled to get on the bank even though it was just a few feet away. Once the kayak was righted and our gear loaded, we rinsed as much mud off us as we could and continued fishing. We paddled across the bay and caught several fish including a large ladyfish that gave Mark quite a fight including several jumps into the air. We caught an undersized redfish and several catfish. Mary and Cindy paddled out to see the sunset and visited with us briefly. By then, the no-see-ums were out, and we had washed most of our insect repellent off when we capsized so we paddled back to the house with the ladies.

We bathed and got clean clothes then watched an episode of Moonshiners on Philo before turning in.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Fishing in Mason Creek

We woke early and did our language lessons and ate the breakfast burritos that Mark made with eggs, boar sausage, onions, peppers and potatoes wrapped in flour tortillas and grilled.

I called Rex to wish him a happy birthday and update him on our trip. It is always good to chat with him.

Mark's shallow water kayak anchor

Mark and I ran into Strickland’s Convenient Store, a bait shop near the boat launch and bought three dozen live shrimp. The man at the shop warned to keep the shrimp in saltwater rather than the brackish water of the canals. Mary and Cindy walked the dogs in the neighborhood as we prepared a kayak for fishing. We left out in a kayak with Mark In the front and me in the back. We caught several fish, mostly catfish but one or two small redfish. I was impressed with the shallow water anchors that Mark had made for the kayaks. These poles were made of ¾ inch conduit with a metal spike to hold the kayak in the muddy bottom.

We came back to the house around noon and had sandwiches of deli ham and several varieties of corn, potato and plantain chips. We relaxed for a bit then prepared Mark’s boat for fishing.

Small Mangrove Snapper

We left the dock behind their house at 2 pm and started out toward the Gulf of Mexico. The tide was low, so we proceeded slowly in the shallow water. We hadn’t gone far when we felt that the boat had struck a rock. We knew that the prop had been damaged from the shaking that we felt. After we got in deeper water, we switched to the electric trolling motor and checked the prop on the 115-horsepower engine to find that large chunks of metal were missing from the aluminum propeller.

We fished in several areas and caught a number of fish including catfish, redfish, mangrove snappers and even a stingray. Although we sprayed with a natural insect repellent, we were bothered by biting flies, so we decided to end the trip.

Replacing the propeller

Before we started back, Mark backed the boat into a grassy. About the time we were backing into the spot, the trolling motor battery showed up as dead. We used a push pole to guide the boat to a spot where he could access the motor’s lower unit. Mark lowered the power poles which really helped to stabilize the boat while he worked on replacing the propeller.

Damaged propeller

Because Mark was prepared with all the tools and supplies needed for a propeller replacement the job was completed in just a few minutes. We continued to the house under power from the outboard motor and new propeller. We tied up at the dock and cleaned the boat from the fishing and prop replacement.

We came in for a dinner of pan-fried redfish with a garden salad that was excellent. Mark had caught the redfish before they came to Kentucky for the eclipse last week.

Cindy & Mary kayaking

After dinner, Mary and Cindy left in a kayak to watch the sunset from the bay. After we helped them launch, Mark and I walked the dogs through the neighborhood then came back to the house. As we waited for Mary and Cindy to return, Mark had a line in the canal with a live shrimp for bait. While the ladies were getting out of the kayak Mark briefly sat the fishing rod down and looked away. At that instant a fish got on the hook and pulled the fishing rod over a 4-foot-high railing and into the canal.

Once Mary and Cindy got the kayak unloaded and rinsed Mark and I threw a treble hook into the canal and snagged the line from his lost rod. We got the fishing rod out of the brackish canal water then started hand lining the end of the line. We pulled up a large tree branch with the line wrapped around and a catfish on the hook.

We released the catfish, untangled the lines and rinsed the saltwater from the fishing gear that had gone in the drink. We all had a good laugh over the incident then went in for showers and dessert of cake and ice cream.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Flight to Florida

We left home a little after 9 am driving to the Hyatt Hotel at Florence Kentucky. We had used our usual to arrange for parking and shuttle to the airport. In the past, we used the Hilton at Florence, but the Hyatt was a dollar per day less than the Hilton. We also had some points that we used to help bring the fee down some. The location of the Hyatt was very convenient, but the check-in process was a little convoluted. We hope that it will be easier now that we are “in the system” at the hotel’s parking vendor.

Mary was able to secure a very good price for our tickets to St. Petersburg – Clearwater Airport (PIE) but the hidden fees were more than we expected. We expected the usual taxes and terminal fees. However, Allegiant has a “Carrier Fee” that is $22 per passenger per segment adding $88 to our total. We learned that Allegiant makes this fee “optional” to not be subject to certain Federal regulations, including a tax. The fee applies to all reservations made by telephone or online and can only be avoided by booking a flight at an Allegiant desk at an airport. This can only be done within one hour of a departing Allegiant flight. Although we were sore over the hidden fee, the flights were still significantly less expensive than Delta or other carriers. We just wish that Allegiant would be more transparent about the fee.
We booked through OneStopParking for $5 per day which was less than at the Hilton where we usually park. We also had some points that we used to help bring the fee down some. Check-in was very different from what we were used to at the nearby Hilton at the Turfway exit. We had to scan a QR code and register. The shuttle was running a little late but was ok since we were very early, and we arrived at CVG well before 11 am. We had already checked in for our Allegiant flight and had boarding passes on Mary’s phone.

We went through the TSA Precheck line at the airport quickly using only our driver’s license to go through security. We walked around the airport for about an hour then ate the snacks that we brought at the gate before boarding our 1 pm flight.

We both read during the 2-hour flight but two of the ladies behind us were loud talkers, but we were able to tune them out. The landing at St. Petersburg (PIE) was a little rough but the flight was fine otherwise. Mark and Cindy picked us up outside the airport and we drove about 1.5 hour to their house in Homosassa.

We stopped at the Homosassa Walmart to get two rolls of polenta and a few other grocery items then continued to their house.

Mark made an excellent meal of polenta with a wild boar ragu and a garden salad. We had some ice cream for dessert. I was surprised by my early birthday gift from Mark which was a one-year freshwater and saltwater fishing license. I hope to put it to good use this week as well as next winter.

After dinner, Mark and I took the kayaks out in Mason Creek to fish some. We tossed soft plastic shrimp imitations along the edges of mangroves and caught some small redfish and catfish, but none were large enough to keep. We saw a couple of porpoises playing in the bay and watched a beautiful sunset from the water.


Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Saying goodbye to Whittingtons for now

We woke at 4:30 am to get Mark and Cindy to Cincinnati Airport. Mark’s flight to Boise, Idaho was at 8 am but Cindy didn’t flight to Tampa until 3 pm. Mary dropped Mark off at the airport then she and Cindy went to several of the outlets in Northern Kentucky then had lunch at Izzy’s in Florence. Cindy seemed impressed with the reuben sandwich and the kartoffelpuffers (potato pancakes) from Izzy’s. Mary dropped Cindy at the airport around 2 pm.

We were very happy to have them visit. They enjoy doing the kinds of things that we enjoy and are just fun to be around. We look forward to seeing them in Florida in less than a week. They are promising to return to Kentucky in late May.

While they were away, I took advantage of the warm day to mow. I cut the front and back yards as far as the stream but didn’t mow in the field or in the back garden. After mowing, I showered and watched an episode of Gunsmoke.

Mary got in around 3:30 and started preparing for our Master Gardener’s meeting at 5:30. We called the Extension Office to confirm the availability of the room and learned that we needed to go over 4:30 to get the room before the Extension Office staff left for the day.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Total Solar Eclipse

We slept until nearly 6 am then had more of the breakfast casserole for breakfast. We packed lunch and some snacks to take for the 2024 total solar eclipse viewing. Mark and I loaded lawn chairs in the car and we left a little after 8 am. We drove up I-75 to Cincinnati where we picked up I-275 then I-74 West into Indiana. 

We were planning to find a place in Greensburg, Indiana to see the eclipse since it would be in the range of totality. When we were about 30 minutes from Greensburg, we stopped at a rest area on I-74 near Batesville, Indiana. There were a number of people sitting in lawn chairs and preparing to watch the eclipse. We decided that the rest area would be an ideal spot for us so we picked a spot to put the lawn chairs. 

It was only 11 am when we arrived and the eclipse wasn’t predicted to start until after 2 pm but Mary and Cindy would take a walk then Mark and I would take a walk around the rest area. The temperature was warm but there was a nice breeze that felt really good. We chatted with a man near us with a solar telescope and digital camera. Two older ladies visited with us and took snapshots of our group. One of the ladies is from Union, KY near Florence and the other is from Beattyville in Eastern Kentucky. Both were very pleasant.

We watched as the moon covered the moon starting at around the 5 o’clock position then covering the sun little by little until the sun was completely covered. As the coverage approached totality colors looked odd, perhaps warmer. The sky grew increasingly darker and we saw the “diamond ring” effect as the last of the sun’s surface remained exposed. Totality lasted for three minutes making the sky eerily dark and the air temperature became much cooler.

I-74 westbound rest area near Batesville, IN

After totality, we loaded the folding chairs into the trunk and drove the short distance west to the Batesville exit where we got back on I-74 eastbound. There was a good bit of traffic but it moved. Police cars were parked in each turnaround on I-74 to prevent U turns on the interstate. There was a slight slowdown where I-74 joins 275 then where 275 connects to I-75 South. We made a quick stop at Costco in Florence, Kentucky for a few items that we can’t get at Sam’s Club then continued south to home. In all, the return trip took only about 30 minutes longer than the trip west this morning.

We had pulled pork and coleslaw left over from Saturday for dinner then watched a couple of episodes of Moonshiners on Philo before going to bed.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Hiking at Buckley Wildlife Sanctuary

Mary made an excellent breakfast casserole from a recipe for Holiday Scramble that her friend, Dawn, gave her. The mix of eggs, sausage and cheese was excellent and we all enjoyed it. While the casserole was baking, I put a pound of bacon in the oven and we had a few slices with the casserole.

Sampling bourbon at Castle & Key Distillery

Mary, Cindy and I went to the early service at church then came back to the house and changed clothes to go for an outing. We drove to the Glenn’s Creek area near Frankfort where we stopped at Castle and Key Distillery in the old E. H. Taylor Distillery that had sat vacant for many years before the recent renovation. The grounds at Castle and Key are beautiful and we walked around the botanical trail then bought a flight of bourbons made at the distillery. I believe that everyone preferred the wheat whiskey over the other offerings.

Castle & Key Distillery

We drove the short distance to the Glenn’s Creek Distillery in the former Old Crow Distillery. We didn’t go into the distillery but just turned in the parking area. Our hike for the day was at Buckley Wildlife Sanctuary, a privately owned property. We put a donation in the box then selected one of the longer hikes taking us through the wooded areas and meadows. There wasn’t much elevation change making the hike easy. We pulled some invasive garlic mustard plants as we walked. Once we returned to the parking area, we sat in the bird blind and watched the large variety of birds at the feeders. There were several bird identification books in the blind and pictures lined the walls of some of the birds that are frequently seen from the blind.

Hiking at Buckley Wildlife Sanctuary

After leaving the nature preserve we drove to Woodford Reserve Distillery. We hadn’t scheduled a visit so we briefly walked around the visitor center and gift shop then came home.

Mary made her popular Schmidt’s meatloaf recipe with spätzle, Caesar salad and a few stalks of asparagus from our garden. We watched some episodes of Swamp People and Serpent Invasion on Philo before going to bed.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Visiting with the Ferrells

We had Kodiak cake pancakes and bacon for breakfast then Mark and I went to the Community Garden to pick up a load of compost. We put about half of the near ton of composted leaves in the raised bed at the back of the house and left the rest in the bed of the pickup to use once we return from Florida near the end of April.

Mark and I went to Planet Fitness for a 60 minute workout, Mark did the elliptical trainer and I did the treadmill. From there we went to Rural King and Lowe’s to look at materials and supplies for a drip irrigation system that we are planning to put in for the blackberries, blueberries, apple trees and asparagus. Neither place had all of the items that we will need so I decided to order everything from Amazon. We will need ¼ inch soaker hose, drip emitters and a collection of T and elbow fittings. The controller that seems to fit our needs is an Orbit with 4 timed circuits.

As we were leaving Lowes, Cindy called to say that they had picked up lunch from Dave’s Blazin’ Barbecue. They brought brisket, pulled pork, slaw, corn pudding and a variety of sauces to Ferrell’s house. Ian’s parents, J. K. and Deanna, were visiting from Maryland and planning to go on west on Monday to view the total solar eclipse. The meal was fantastic and everyone had plenty to eat with lots of leftovers.  Mark and J.K. were college pals so they were glad to see each other again.

Murphy and Chester

After lunch we came back to the house and didn’t do much in the afternoon. We walked out back to check on the asparagus bed and to see whether trees were blooming. Thompson's dog, Murphy, walked back with us and met Laudin's miniature horse, Chester.

No one was hungry for dinner after the large lunch so we had some snacks in the evening then watched the western movie, Open Range, before turning in.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Rhonda Vincent at Renfro Valley

We had omelets with peppers and ham for breakfast then Mark and I went to Planet Fitness for some exercise while Mary and Cindy played cribbage and looked things up on

Rhonda Vincent and the Rage

We had an early dinner of sausage casserole with some of the Cajun seasoned wild boar sausage that we all enjoyed. We left around 5 pm for Renfro Valley for a bluegrass concert by Rhonda Vincent. Mary got excellent seats for us in the center of row N in the New Barn Theater. There was a long line to get in but, once the doors opened, the line moved in quickly. We were surprised that the concert was not sold out. We had seen Rhonda Vincent and the Rage at a free concert in Georgetown Park in the summer of 2021 and they always put on a great show. When we had been to Renfro Valley for John Anderson, Emmylou Harris and, just last week, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, all seats had been sold.

The Creekers at Renfro Valley

The opening act was The Creekers, a local band from Leslie County, Kentucky. They had two guitars, electric bass, a violinist, banjo player and a Cajon box which is a percussion instrument that is played while being sat on. They were really good and performed some of their original music as well as some traditional bluegrass favorites. We teased Cindy because she was critical of a lady a couple of rows in front of us who was using her phone to record her son in The Creekers.

Rhonda Vincent

Rhonda Vincent was outstanding as always. She is the consummate entertainer and played many of the songs from her new album along with several of her hits.

On the way home we stopped at Buc-ee’s around 10 pm for a bathroom break. We didn’t buy much but enjoyed walking through the large travel center with 120 gas pumps outside and several food bars inside. We were home a little after midnight, turned in and slept well.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Cincinnati Museum Center with Whittingtons

Cast of a Pompeii resident

We picked Whittingtons up at the Cincinnati Airport (CVG) in Northern Kentucky around 11:30 and drove to the Cincinnati Museum Center where we purchased tickets for the special traveling exhibit on Pompeii. We had seen this display of artifacts before but it had been a number of years and we were interested in the items of daily life that were on display. The timeline and videos of the eruptions that covered Pompeii and Herculaneum with ash, lava and other volcanic were of special interest. There were several recreations of people, pets and items that had been covered by volcanic debris and left in as they had died in 79 AD.

When we left the Pompeii exhibit we went to the service desk and renewed our membership and purchased tickets to the museum and the Omnimax film on volcanoes. We walked through the Cincinnati history museum and the Museum of Natural History as well as the ice cave before going in the surround theater for the film on an explorer, Carsten Peter, studies and photographs active volcanoes.

Hofbrauhaus Schnitzel

After leaving the museum we went to Hofbräuhaus in Newport, Kentucky where we all had different types of schnitzel. Mary had the Bayern Schnitzel, I had a Jager Schnitzel, Mark had a Parmesan Schnitzel and Cindy had the Bayern Jager Schnitzel. Mary had water, Cindy had a cider, Mark had a Weissbier and I had a Dunkel. Everyone enjoyed the meal.

We came home and watched a little television and visited before turning in.