Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Manatee Observation and Education Center in Ft Pierce

Yesterday, Valentines Day, we decided to take a ride to the nearby Manatee Observation and Education Center.  On our way out of the campground, we took a ride to the end of the maintenance road to see if there were any alligators enjoying the warm morning sun.   We found one.

The Manatee Observation and Education Center is a waterfront wildlife and nature center in the historic downtown of Ft Pierce, Florida. Just west of the Atlantic Ocean, the center is along the saltwater Indian River Lagoon where freshwater Moore's Creek provides a resting place for manatee. The main attraction here are wild manatees that enjoy the warm waters of this unique "helped by man" area.

Manatee, known as "sea cows" are the gentle giants of salt water. They are endangered and frequently injured by boat propellers. They are harmless to humans.

During winter, as many as thirty manatees congregate in this part of Moore's Creek to keep warm. The manatee, a mammal, needs warmth when water temperatures drop below 62 degrees. Fort Pierce's Utilities Authority has a power plant that uses Moore's Creek's freshwater to cool pipes in the electrical plant. The water warms as it cools the hot pipes and then returns into Moore's Creek some 7 degrees warmer than when it was pulled into the facility.  The Manatees love it.

We arrived at the Manatee Observation and Education Center mid-morning and the sun was nice and warm. We took Lexie and Ozzie through the waterside area in their new stroller.

Lexie (L) and Ozzie (R) in their "new-to-us" stroller. 
Ozzie feels "real men" can ride in pink.

This is the covered walkway overlooking Moore's Creek where Manatees can be seen.  We didn't see any from this side of the creek so we walked across the pedestrian bridge where they were feeding around the boat docks.

We saw several Manatees here. Some adult and some babies. 
Unfortunately, we were not quick enough with the camera to get a picture of any of them. 
That's a sad commentary since the manatees move so slowly.  Nevertheless....we didn't get a single picture.
After spending some time looking at the manatees in the water, we stopped in to see the education center and gift shop. We were allowed to take the babies into the education center where they were welcomed and got lots of "ooohs" and "awwws".
A manatee skeleton.  The bones are solid --  no marrow in them.
We picked up a loose rib bone and it was very heavy.
The education center had a "touch tank" where we spent several minutes looking at the strange salt water creatures and enjoying a visit with one of the volunteers.

Marcia took lots of time giving us an up close look at everything in the tank.

This is a live conch coming out of the shell for a visit.

I had heard about the invasive species of animals being found in the waters of the Atlantic. The education center has a tank of several lion fish that we could see up close. 
No picture of the lion fish but here's the information about them.
We also saw a link eel but I forgot to take a picture of him.

One last stroll along the outdoor observation deck and another picture or two. 

Moore's Creek 

Here are a couple of photographs I took yesterday when we took a ride south of the campground -- down to Jensen Beach.  We both really enjoy the Atlantic beach side of Florida.
Somewhere along Jensen Beach.

My three babies. 

We've signed on to stay three more nights at Savannas Recreation Area Campground. We're still not sure which way we'll go when we leave here...

Friday, February 10, 2012

Time At The Savannas, the Navy SEAL Museum and Vero Beach

The Savannas Recreation Area is 550 acres of wetlands along the Indian River Lagoon in St. Lucie County, Florida.  Savannas protects and preserves a habitat for several endangered species animals and could be the last most unique and pristine wilderness area in the United States. We're camping here in Savannas Recreation Area's Campground.
Entry from Midway Road, Ft. Pierce
We drove from LaBelle through the Lake Okeechobee area where we saw lots of campgrounds along the north shore.
One of the many campgrounds we saw passing through Okeechobee County.

Our site is on one of the canals of the Indian River Lagoon which is a huge saltwater estuary. I haven't seen an alligator yet but I'm absolutely sure they are here and we're extra careful to protect Lexie and Ozzie on their walks. 
The canal and marsh of the lagoon is less than 20 feet from the rear of the coach.

Looking up the canal to the north behind our coach.
We also have an owl who frequents the group of trees just in front of us. We can hear his screech in the night. Our 5 a.m. walks are particularly worrisome knowing that old owl could swoop down and snatch one of our babies. It's still dark when we take our morning walk. We carry our big walking stick and stay close together.
Looking to the south behind our coach.
Along with the American alligators in The Savannas there are sandhill cranes (we have a regular pair here), great blue herons, hawks, osprey, gopher tortoises, bobcats and river otters.  Area activities include an abundance of fishing and bird watching. There are several nature trails here along with canoe and kayak rentals.

We took a drive north up US 1 to Ft Pierce and ran upon a pleasant surprise.  We happened upon the Navy SEAL Underwater Demolition Team Museum which, surprisingly to us, is the birthplace of the Navy's Frogman program. 
We never knew any of this!
It was early in the day when we arrived. So early, in fact, that the museum was not open. We enjoyed walking around the grounds displays. Here's some of what we saw.
It's just after 9 a.m. when we're there.
The dogs got us up this morning at 4:45 so it's late to us.


UH-1B Helicopter -- The Huey, nicknamed the "Seawolves" saw extensive use in Vietnam.
 They provided rapid insertion and extraction of personnel as well as rapid fire power.
Stationed in the Mekong Delta these heavily armed gun ships and their four man crews were always on call for SEALS.

Underwater Delivery Vehicle.
Not for me!

The Patrol River Boat (PBR) was used extensively on the shallow rivers in Vietnam. They typically patrolled in pairs and served to insert and extract personnel. It could operate in as little as 9 inches of water.

The SEAL Wall of Honor and Memorial Fountain.
That's a Frogman statue on top -- Flippers up.

This Special Operations Craft (SOC-6) was the 6th of 40 made and used in Operation Desert Storm. 
It easily reaches 100 knots and cruises at 40 knots fully loaded.
"Fully loaded" is a crew of 3, 9 passengers, thousands of rounds of ammunition, two 50 Caliber machine guns,
a grenade launcher and a mini gun.  I'm impressed!

Inlaid bricks border the sidewalks at the museum.
The center one here gives a good indication of just how difficult it is to successfully complete SEAL training.

This Apollo Space Capsule was a training module for the Underwater Demolition and Recovery Teams.
Gemini and Apollo astronauts were always safely transported from the capsule after splashdown,
 to the hovering helicopter by SEALS.
This is an Iranian gun boat, made in Sweden and armed with Russian weapons. It is one of two sunk in Operation Earnest Will in the Gulf War.  One of the sunken boats was recovered from 100 feet of water and the other was captured adrift.
They served in SEAL training before being sent to the museum.

The museum building was being painted so the name on the building is obscured -- and there's a painter on top of it.
Our next stop was to bury our feet in the dirty, coarse sands of the Atlantic, which we both love. The SEAL Museum is very near the beach so we took a short walk over.
Lexie and Ozzie had to stay in the car.

A nice new walkway through the sea grape leads to the beach.

A rare photo of me, the official blogger and photographer.

The day is overcast and windy.

From Ft Pierce we continued to ride north until we reached Vero Beach which turned out to be a beautifully quaint area.  This is one of the few Florida cities we've never visited.
One of the many parking, shopping, eating, boardwalk and beach areas.
Like many cities with painted statues (bulls, pigs, cows, guitars, etc.)
we've seen in our travel, Vero Beach has turtles, I guess.

Nice boardwalk and beach area.

Unmanned lifeguard tower.

Every time I see this sign, I think of my old Jimmy Buffet album by the same name.
We stopped by Pizza Hut for a calorie, fat and cholesterol-filled buffet next, then a stop at WalMart to walk it all off before we came home.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Back To The Future: LaBelle, Florida

The house where Wayne's brother lived.
It was nicer back then and the grass was not dead. 

A Little History

Twenty-eight years ago Wayne and I spent a good bit of time in the tiny southwestern Florida town of LaBelle, located between Lake Okeechobee and Fort Myers. 

During that time, Wayne's brother and his wife lived and worked here. Wayne was living and working in Tampa back then and I visited with him from time to time.

The courthouse where we got our marriage license.

The brothers were close and it seemed natural, back then, that we would decide to marry here.

Now it seems strange somehow, but it is a fact nevertheless.

Our marriage ceremony was arranged with the pastor at one of the local churches.

The church where we married.

A trip to Ft. Myers, twenty miles away, and a pair of matching gold wedding bands was purchased. A stop at the hospital there for blood tests and then back to the county courthouse in LaBelle for the marriage license.

By late afternoon our simple but beautiful wedding was underway.

So many happy years follow...

Fast forward to February, 2012...

We're spending a week at Whisper Creek RV Resort here in LaBelle. Unlike Naples last week, there are plenty vacancies and the price is quite reasonable.  Most of our time is spent relaxing, walking the dogs, watching movies, the Super Bowl and taking care of miscellaneous chores.
We're in a new part of an old campground.
Stick-tights are a problem and we have to brush the dogs often.

This is us. The Glenn is an area of lots available to purchase.
 The sites are large and have 50 amp service. 

LaBelle has not grown at all, it seems, and there's really nothing here -- except citrus.  Many huge trucks, heaped over with citrus, travel nearby Highway 29. The weather has been uncommonly hot and muggy.  Daytime temperatures have been in the mid-80's and the nights are in the 60's.  We've enjoyed sleeping with the bedroom window open.  While the solitude here is nice, it's a little remote for more than a week, so we'll be moving along soon.
The long horn cows made us think of Texas.
I don't know why the grass is brown here. Dry conditions, I suppose.

Not sure yet where we're headed when we leave later this week but there's plenty of winter weather left north of here so we'll settle in some of our other old haunts.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Naples: Crown Jewel of Southwest Florida

Exquisite sunsets, incredible shopping, a record number of championship golf courses, white sand beaches and home to some of the most luxurious waterfront estates in the world. That's Naples.
Campground entry.
Home for this week is Lake San Marco RV Resort, north of downtown along US 41. A pleasant, age 55+ community of regular winter residents with a small portion of RV travelers mixed among them. We were able to book just one week in this reasonably priced, well managed campground. Demand is great here in season without regard to the economic strain being felt around most parts of the country.  We're not exactly rubbing elbows with the rich and famous, but we're in 'Sweet Napoli' and that's all that matters.
Our site is on Harbor Cove Street.  It's a dead-end, paved street that makes for good dog walking.
The campground is pleasant, convenient and tidy.
The weather is near perfect, high 70's daily, 60's at night.
We took several day rides around town. We both had forgotten just how lovely Naples is in winter.
This is a typical home in one of the most desirable sections of town.

The Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club is a landmark.
It's been here since 1946 with buildings and golf course strewn across a huge area of Naples.

This is where we lived the first year we lived in Naples (1989-90).
The small balcony to the right (upper left corner) was off our master bedroom. It faces the Gulf of Mexico beach.
The front of our condominium looked over the intracoastal waterway.

This is a shot of the pool, along the intracoastal waterway, where we lived.
Beyond the pool and chickee hut is a boat dock from where we used to catch fish. 

Along Bayshore Boulevard, these buildings are on the Gulf beaches.

Our old home again.  It's on Bayshore with the beach in front, intracoastal behind.  It's a 55+ condominium.

More residences along Bayshore.

In case anybody wonders why Naples is such a popular destination....

More condominiums with dockage along the intracoastal.

Homes along the intracoastal waterway.

Drooling yet?

A day isn't really complete without a few shots of the babies.
They were completely unimpressed with Naples and just wanted a walk, followed by a treat.

We'll be moving on after just one week as the campground can't accommodate us any longer, though we'd like to stay on for another week.  Lake San Marino has just a few sites long enough for our rig and they've all been reserved for the remaining winter months.