Saturday, February 23, 2013

"It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times" - Yep, That's February!

Well, I've been back from Florida for over a week now and we still have snow outside which is highly disappointing as I gave explicit instructions for it all to be gone by the time I returned from Orlando! Perhaps I didn't say it loud enough as it's threatening to snow yet again tonight.  Enough already!

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At least I've got some warm memories of my trip south two weeks ago which included a meet-up with the on-her-way-to-svelte Barb in Saint Augustine where the weather was absolutely gorgeous! It was great to see Barb again even though it was a quick visit before she had to make her way back to Georgia and Morgen and I went in search of spiral staircases.

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We found our first batch of stairs - all 219 of them - at the Saint Augustine Lighthouse and Museum which, with a tower that's 165 feet tall, is a pretty good hike but we took our time and made it to the top for some absolutely gorgeous views of the area.

Normally I'm not keen on having my photo taken but I figured that climbing all the way to the top of my very first lighthouse was an auspicious enough occasion to have a photo snapped for posterity.

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After climbing back down those same 219 stairs and touring the rest of the museum and grounds, we made our way south in need of some lunch after working up a good appetite and then followed that up with a nice stroll along the beach.  The photo below is Crescent Beach which is a very, very wide expanse of sand!  It was an absolutely gorgeous day to be there and I wish we'd had more time to spend but there were more spiral staircases calling our name further down the road in Ponce de Leon Inlet.

On our way there we passed this guy who seemed to be having a good time advertising Mulligan's.  Hey, these days a job is a job so good for him for being enthusiastic about his! 

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Arriving at Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse - Florida's tallest at 175 feet - we knew that this one was going to be even more of a challenge than Saint Augustine was as even though there are only 203 steps, they are much steeper and narrower. But Morgen and I were there to climb to the top so climb it we did !

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It's a little hard to really get a good view of the stairs from this angle but this was taken from almost the top looking back down.  The higher we went, the narrower and steeper the stairways got but again, we took our time and managed to make it to the top of the tower without being too out of breath!

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Again I decided to forego that whole wrong-side-of-the-camera-lens thing and have my photo snapped while out on the balcony. It was a lot breezier there than it was in Saint Augustine and, with a narrower balcony deck, it was a lot skeerier, too! But again the views of the surrounding area were more than worth it as well as the chance to say, "I did it, I did it!"

Back on solid ground again once we had navigated the very steep stairs which were trickier going down than they were up, we had just enough time to check out the Fresnel Lens Exhibit before it was closing time.  I have to say that I was in Fresnel Lens Heaven seeing that 16-1/2-foot tall First Order lens in person!  What a magnificent piece of craftsmanship!

After our big day of climbing not one but two very tall lighthouses, Morgen and I took it easy on Wednesday and went to go see "Lincoln" at the local movie theater. I hadn't had a chance to see it yet and was so glad that Morgen didn't mind going to it again as I thought it was very well done.  We finished up our night with appetizers and dessert at The Cheesecake Factory which was quite delicious and a real treat!

On Thursday, even though the forecast was threatening rain, we went to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure where I had a great time getting turned every which way but loose on several rollercoasters, became totally drenched on the Jurassic Park Adventure Ride, and had a chance to glomp onto Iron Man a little bit! Our last ride of the day was a spin on the Caro-Seuss-el because I just can't pass up a carousel - even if there's nary a horse to be found!

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Unfortunately my time in Orlando seemed to fly by and all too soon it was time to come back to Connecticut and the realities of February which has included more snow, temperatures that are way too darned cold, and  all the other the things that make February a rather sad month for me like the one-year anniversary of my good friend Cyndi's passing on the 17th and the ten-year anniversary of my father's death which is coming up tomorrow.  I'm having trouble believing that it's been that long for either of them.

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Cyndi and I at Lake Tahoe in April of 1997
Dad and one of his radio-controlled models that he built
Then, as if February couldn't be sad enough, last Saturday evening one of Morgen and Eyad's beloved fur-kids - Peter Pete - threw a blood clot and passed away the following morning following emergency treatment that could only ease his suffering and not prolong his life. I was happy to have had the chance to meet the little fella before his untimely death but that just made it all the more heartbreaking as Pete had rather reminded me a bit of Tesla and I quite enjoyed watching his interactions with Little Isis.  Morgen and Eyad are both still hurting very badly from this sudden loss so if you've got a moment, please send them a good thought or two.  For my money, I've got no doubt that Peter Pete has found his way to Cyndi as she was quite the cat magnet and he'll be well looked after in heaven but I know the guys would rather have him home with them.

Photo Credit:  Morgen's Facebook Page
Finally, to end this post on an up-note, today I launched my very own photography website where I hope to maybe occasionally sell a print or two - hopefully at least enough to cover the nominal monthly hosting fee! was designed by Eyad and I think that he did a phenomenal job!  It's very user-friendly for any potential customers and it's also easy for me to upload new photos and keep the content fresh.  Until March 3rd, I'm offering a coupon good for 20% off the entire purchase which includes free shipping in the United States - not a bad deal if I say so myself!  Should you find yourself over there and want to help a poor starving artist out (or at least help finance my next batch of wanderings!) use coupon code TAKE20OFF and I'll do just that!

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go back to wishing that this month - and winter - was over already as I try desperately to get my hands warm enough so that I don't have to wear finger-less gloves well working on the computer!  I hope that your February has been good to you! 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Goodbye Cold Weather, Hello Warm!

Hmmm ... last year at this time I was out in California visiting my good friend Cyndi for what, most sadly, turned out to be the last time ever as she passed away shortly after I came home. This time, I'm going to Orlando to visit Morgen with the hopes that it won't be the last time I go to visit a friend in a sunny climate during the worst of winter.

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And boy howdy did we get the worst of winter the other day when Storm Nemo decided to make its way into New England! In spite of all the references to Disney's Finding Nemo, the storm was actually named for Captain Nemo, also known as Prince Dakkar, a fictional character invented by the French science fiction author Jules Verne who appears in two of Verne's novels; Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870) and The Mysterious Island (1874).

The character of Captain Nemo is what's considered an antihero who simply roams the depths of the seas in his submarine, the Nautilus, and personally I would have preferred he remain doing just that rather than coming to the surface and landing in our backyards where in Norwich, Nemo deposited about 25 inches of snow.  Ugh.

Granted, it was quite pretty in places when all was said and done but dang, was it ever a bear to shovel and some folks still aren't dug out.  Needless to say, road crews have been overwhelmed and it's been a real mess but alas, 'tis New England in the winter and sometimes these things happen.

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Of course, I would have been happier had it happened after I got on my flight to Orlando so I could have missed all of this but no such luck. The storm actually ended up pushing my flight back a day so rather than winging my way to sunny Florida last evening, I'll be leaving tonight instead.  In about three-and-a-half hours as a matter of fact!

I was going to leave my Nikon home this trip and just use my iPhone for a few photos here and there but when Morgen made mention of the fact that there were a couple of pretty cool lighthouses not too far from his home, that plan went right out the window.  Tomorrow we'll be driving up to Saint Augustine to spend the night there and as an added bonus we'll be meeting my friends from Massachusetts, Walt and Juli, for lunch at The Floridian before they catch their delayed-flight back to Boston.

As an added, added bonus - Barb is going to drive down from Valdosta and not just join us for lunch but she's booked the room next to ours at the Casablanca Inn On the Bay and will be spending the night also!  I predict there will be some wine-drinking on our balconies and lots of laughter to go along with it!

I've got to say that it's pretty darned cool that I get the chance to visit a friend and add in even more friends while enjoying some warmer weather all at the same time.  You can't beat that with a stick or - as the case has been the past few days - a snow shovel!

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Hopefully by the time I get home on Friday, all of that up there will be gone or at least reduced to a more manageable level!

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to finish packing and then I am outta here!  Oh ... and don't let me forget some sunscreen!