Thursday, March 19, 2015

Biking the Withlacoochee State Trail

Post by Henry

It’s Florida’s longest paved bike trail at forty-six (46) miles long, and since we’ve been here in the area we’ve biked the entire length.  Twice.  Sort of.

Withlacoochee State Trail

We’ve done the trail in ‘sections’ – usually 7-10 miles each.  Since the Withlacoochee State Trail is a linear trail,

Withlacoochee State Trail Map

we have to ride out to a point, then turn around to get back to our car, therefore, our sections are actually 14-20 miles.  So that’s how we have ridden it twice.  Ninety-two miles!

Mostly it’s a ride through the countryside alongside forests, swamps,

Swamp along the trail

pastures, lakes, and small towns.

Inverness Depot

In the towns you can access bike shops or treat yourself to a fresh strawberry milkshake at a local place like this.  Yes, we did!

Home of the BEST Strawberry Milkshakes

There are benches and/or picnic tables along the trail to stop for breaks and even restrooms at some of the trailheads.

Friendly Cowboys on adjacent Horse Trail

There are also 266 bluebird houses

Bluebird House along Trail

along the entire length of the trail that were built and installed by one man.  

Click here for birdhouse story

We’ve seen some wildlife like deer, black snakes, gopher tortoises (a Threatened species),

Florida Gopher Tortoise 

and various birds and hawks.  The best was a Swallow Tailed Kite flying above.

(Fuzzy) Swallow Tailed Kite

There was almost one LESS squirrel as I still don’t know how I avoided running one over as it darted across in front of me!

The Withlacoochee State Trail is highly recommended, should you find yourself in this area of Florida.  See the scenery and get your exercise at the same time!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Ft. DeSoto Celebration!

Post by Loretta 

This morning we said our goodbyes to our Montana friends, Bob and Maureen, as they journey to Texas to visit family.  We were fortunate to have them as neighbors while here at Sumter Oaks and we had several memorable days of paddling, biking, eating, and visiting with them.  Since they are going to be in the West this summer, we are looking forward to meeting up with them in a few months.

Henry’s long time friend, Jack,

Jack and Henry

recently got married and he and his bride, Josie, invited us to their wedding celebration. 


It was held at Fort DeSoto State Park close to St. Petersburg, Florida, which is about an hour and a half drive from us at Sumter Oaks.

We made a quick stop at the new Trader Joe’s in St. Pete and purchased a gift card for the newlyweds.  This was a super nice, more spacious Trader Joe’s.  This Trader Joe’s happened to be just around the corner from where Henry first worked in beer distribution, so we rode by the building, which is now a carpet store.  We also rode by one of his first apartments…a ride down memory lane.

Now, on to Fort DeSoto State Park and the celebration! 

Along with the invitation, Jack and Josie provided a detailed map of the park that led us straight to our destination.   We arrived right on time – 12:00 noon.  The pavilion was located directly on the Gulf of Mexico, so the setting was idyllic, with lots of palm trees and ocean breezes.  The pavilion itself was HUGE and reminded us of a spaceship. 
Ft. DeSoto Pavilion

Josie had told us that she was preparing all the food herself (!!) for an anticipated 150 guests (!!!) and had family that came from all around the country to lend a helping hand with food prep and decorating.  Although it was a rather gusty morning, they pulled it all off beautifully.  The tables were lined in white with burlap and blue ribbon table runners, topped with blue mason jars holding baby’s breath and white roses. 

White Rose in Mason Jar

The tables also held chips, salsa, guacamole, peanuts, and candies for snacking.

 Two grills were going with grilled herbed chicken. 

Grilled Herb Chicken

A spread fit for a queen was served, which included an orange dressed salad, mint pasta, vegetarian burgers and dogs, Greek salad with shrimp, green beans with feta cheese, and of course, the groom’s cake and wedding cake.  

Groom's Cake

Wedding Cake
My Feast

A catered affair could not have been any better – it was all excellent!

Jack and Josie are also both talented musicians. 

Josie and Jack

Their music is one thing that brought them together.  They are known in the St. Pete area for their music jams and perform frequently at local establishments.  So, they have many musically talented friends and this was a big part of the celebration.


Live music was on stage throughout the celebration, including a set by the hosts themselves!  Guitars, bongos, saxophones, harmonicas, and many beautiful voices entertained all afternoon into the early evening.  What a treat!
More musical talent

We feel privileged to have been a part of Jack and Josie’s special day and wish them a lifetime of love and happiness.

Happy Couple

More fun coming up tomorrow! 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Tarpon Springs

Post by Loretta

Do we want to go for a bike ride – for the third day in a row?  We can’t go paddling because a strap broke that holds the kayak in place on the rack on the HHR, and the new one hasn’t arrived yet.  Do we want to go for another hike?   How about going to Tarpon  Springs and the beach?  Now we’re talkin’!

The weather is supposed to be in the mid 80’s today and Tarpon Springs, which is about an hour or so South of us, is a place we haven’t visited yet.  It is a Greek community and the town is noted for the Greek divers that gather the sponges from the sea.  Sounds intriguing.

We could either park and walk or ride bikes around town, as we saw many people doing.
Adorned Bike
Adorned Bike Two

The Pinellas Trail goes right through town between lanes of traffic.  Since it appeared to be small enough to check out on foot, we decided to walk.

The Greek influence is everywhere you look.  The local meat shop,

A Real Meat Counter

the restaurants, the olive oil purveyors, the sponge offerings, even the business signs and boat names reflect the Greek heritage.

Greek, anyone?

Our main objective was lunch.  We looked at a couple of places, but Henry had one place in particular in mind – Hella’s Greek Restaurant. 

Hellas Restaurant

When we arrived, it was packed and people were waiting, so we got on the waiting list.  While waiting, I went to check out the bakery section of the restaurant.  

Bakery Items

I Can Taste it Now!

All bakery items were fresh baked on site and were all so tempting, beautiful, and smelled heavenly!

I ordered my favorite – a fish sandwich and Henry ordered a Gyro.  I’m sure I should have ordered a Greek meal because everything was authentic and how often do you get that chance?  I gotta work on that.  Henry said his Gyro was the best he had ever eaten and my fish sandwich was fresh and hot. 

After lunch we walked to Spring Bayou, 

Spring Bayou

which is a beautiful semi-circular park and is another area manatees gather during colder weather.  Since it was in the mid 80’s, we did not see any sign of manatees, and a local said the water was too warm for them now.

We continued walking along the red brick roads, browsing a few local shops and along the waterfront. 

Capt. Jack

Mattie Fay
Traps and Bouys

We strolled along a couple of residential streets.
Cute Yellow Cottage

Look at that Porch!

Times Gone By

The locals practically insisted we visit St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral.  Inside, there were candles burning and one lady said she was there to light a candle and say a prayer for a new baby coming into the family.  The ceiling was highly arched and had ornate paintings, chandeliers, and stained glass windows. 

In His Presence


The pews were wooden.  You could feel the reverence here, and I think it would be nice to attend a service.

Back to Hella’s Bakery for Tiramisu and espresso.  For energy, you know.

We found our way back to the car and made a swing by the Howard Park Beach.  It was rather crowded and it appears that kite boarding is a popular sport here. 

Kite Boarding

Looks like a lot of fun, but would wake up with lots of sore muscles in the arms, back, and legs! 

Finally, we went by the B-21 Wine Store and picked up some beer at a really good price for Henry.  They had the best prices we have found so far in Florida, so he stocked up.

Now to fight the traffic back to our Home on Wheels!

Oh, and this is the full moon last night.

Full Moon on March 4, 2015