Florida Keys – Post #5 Turtles

Let me prepare you………….this post is going to talk and look at turtles in very diverse ways.

Let’s start with the Turtle Hospital.

Doing some internet research before leaving home, I came across this facility, having daily tours. After our few challenges with finding hotel accommodations, reservations became a priority (for anything) so we pre-booked this tour – glad we did, otherwise we would have missed out.

Before going I knew more education was needed to get me grounded. Here’s a few fun facts:

  • they have inhabited the oceans over 200 million years.
  • adults are believed to live longer than 75 years.
  • they can sail/swim through oceans up to 25 mph.
  • turtles spend most of their time in the ocean while migrating thousands of miles in their lifetime.

It was the first state-certified veterinary hospital in the world for sea turtles, opening in 1986. The site was originally a hotel that has now been turned into the turtle hospital. Those working on site or on internships can stay in the small (former) hotel rooms. The Turtle Hospital has been equipped with up-to-date medical equipment, donated by hospitals and doctors.

But it hasn’t all been easy.

Let’s get started. The 90 minute tour includes an educational presentation………..talking about the seven species.

After a short walk by their operating rooms, we headed outside for a walking tour behind the scenes. We first came upon these large tanks and these turtles.

And this guy who came up for a few breaths of air. OR, maybe he was checking us out!

An example of their work was this turtle. There was damage to his shell and subsequent buoyancy. He’s being rehabbed with these weights (green blobs) on his shell.

They have four major goals at the Turtle Hospital.

  • Rehabilitate sick and injured sea turtles before returning them to the wild.
  • Educate the public.
  • Conduct and assist research with a variety of universities and research facilities.
  • Work and support Environmental legislation for sea turtles.

We walked to the back of their property to this large sea pool, kind of an in between transition space before being released.

And also got the opportunity to feed the turtles.

Since this was a hospital they didn’t really talk about ‘nesting’ so here you go.

The females come to shore after mating and most amazingly go relative to where she was hatched years ago. Her hind flippers dig a hole in the sand, where she deposits 100-150 soft, rubbery ping-pong ball shaped eggs. The female turtle goes back into the water and may nest up to 6 times in a season.

The eggs are left to hatch on their own. After about two months, all the clutch of eggs hatch within 2-5 days and then burst through the sand and scamper towards the ocean with the sun reflecting the water as a beacon. They are in a frenzy to get into the water and a safer haven as nearby animals and birds are quick to pick up their presence. Only 1 in 1000 hatchlings make it to adulthood.

Before leaving the Turtle Hospital we found these on the nearby docks – iguanas.

A bit further up the Keys, we honored a pre-vacation request from Eric – lunch at the Green Turtle Inn.

In 1947 Sid & Roxie Siderious purchased a roadside establishment along the roadway to Key West. It has been designated as a heritage monument.

It gained wide-spread reputation for great food, a comfortable night’s rest and a location to eat something harvested from the local waters – turtles.

Hurricane Wilma (2005, at one time a category 5 hurricane) created the latest metamorphosis and while still casual dining, it has a more sophisticated and innovative menu serving modern Keys classics and southern staples. On a side note it one of the few Islamorada restaurants that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Started with smoked fish dip – of course.

I had an a.w.e.s.o.m.e mahi fish sandwich and fries. Hard to see the fish, but it was cooked to perfection. I forgo eating the bun and stuck with the fish, bacon and tomato. Fries were mighty tasty also. I had plenty to share.

No surprise that Eric ordered the turtle chowder but got a beet salad to round out his meal.

Since the ‘theme’ of this post is about turtles, let’s end on a note for their preservation. What can we do?


Florida Keys – Post #4 State Parks

Lest you think all we’re doing is eating and drinking………..we’ve taken some time to visit several Florida State Parks which are definitely out of our normal driving realm being in the keys. Let me preface with saying there are more State Parks than what I’m blogging about, but we only squeezed in four during our time in the Florida Keys.

First up – Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park.

It is the southernmost Civil War fortress with construction begun in 1845. The fort stayed on active duty status through 1947 with the facility encompassing 87 acres.

The fort is named after our 12th president Zachary Taylor, shortly after his sudden death in office.

The fort was used at the outset of the U.S. Civil War with orders to prevent the fort from falling into Confederate hands. It was heavily used again during the 1898 Spanish-American War, WWI, WWII and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Upon some construction work, a discovery was made. Turned out, it was the location of the largest cache of Civil War era cannons. At the time it was easier to use them for ‘fill’ than to haul them away.

It was definitely hot the day we visited and w.i.n.d.y.

Another line of defense was a moat. The photo above is looking towards the Gulf with the photo below faced the city.

There was also a sprawling beach of sand & pebbles and nearby breakwaters teeming with tropical fish. Next visit, we’re definitely going to spend a few hours relaxing here. It looked awesome and attendance was limited with the capacity of the state park, so it didn’t appear it would get overrun. Basically the park ranger (and said parking spots) limited the number of guests coming in. The beach area is the sandy, curvy area on the right of the photo below.

Second park visited was Bahia Honda State Park – a few miles above Key West in the lower keys and covers 524 acres.

Bahia Honda means deep bay in Spanish and it is close to the end of the 7 mile bridge. The channel at the island’s west end is one of the deepest natural channels in the Keys. Look at the beautiful blue turquoise waters. BTW this is looking west.

While the visitor center was closed, this sand sculpture was outside of the building. Definitely took someone a lot of time. Both sides were very detailed.

Part of the park was the railroad bridge topped with the original oversees highway. Obviously damage has occurred through the years and it is no longer traversed.

The state park was founded in 1961 and covers virtually all of the uninhabited island.

BUT………I saw people at the top of this bridge trail and HAD to make the climb.

Seeing this at the top……………………not really surprised since there was a huge gap seen in an earlier photo above.

Being at the top of the bridge trail was also a chance to get a great shot of the beach area.

Digging deeper via the internet about this state park, I also found some interesting info about a rare butterfly, called Miami Blue. I read nothing about it while at the park. It was thought extinct as a result of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, but was discovered in this park in 1999. Research along with propagation of the species is ongoing to spread the butterfly.

Going further up the keys we stopped at…………..

John Pennenkamp Coral Reef State Park. This is the first underwater park in the US, established in 1963. The park is 25 miles in length and extends three miles into the Atlantic ocean.

Original plans in the 1930s was to designate the reef off Key Largo for protected statue and incorporate it into the National Everglades Park. Opposition from various sources stopped the plan that included the Key Largo reefs although the national Everglades Park was established. It wasn’t until the 1950s that citizens became concerned (again) about the destruction (I read the reefs were being hammered, chiseled and even dynamited for coral souvenirs) that another push was made to save the reefs. The man which would eventually be the assistant editor of the Miami Herald, John Pennenkamp, teamed up with others for the fight. In 1960 the reef was designated as federally controlled and protected area. When land and access to US 1 was acquired in 1963, it became a State Park.

Everyone here is planning on snorkeling and/or taking their glass bottom boat to see the reefs. Not me. I had a very bad experience in the 1980s and to this day get panicky if I put on a snorkel and mask. We drove around the park and found a quiet lagoon and this sign. We worry about alligators in central Florida, now add in the American crocodile down south.

They have this fabulous 30K gallon saltwater aquarium and six smaller aquariums along with a natural history exhibit about the park’s biological communities and ecosystems. A theater shows nature films and videos. And it was closed……….for renovations. Really? Really! Could that have been down months ago when no one was traveling – just saying. Yep, not much time was spent in this park when we visited.

The last state park we visited was the Dagney Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park. Yikes! That was a mouthful. Parking is outside of the entrance.

It was established in 1982 when land was acquired by Florida Conversation and Recreational Lands Program. The park occupies about a third of the island of Key Largo, covering over 2400+ acres. It is home to 84 protected species of plants and animals. It’s the largest track of the tropical hardwood hammock in the US. Two animal species are only found on Key Largo: Key Largo Woodrat and the Key Largo Cotton Mouse.

The name honors a local environmental activist who from the 1970s – 90s led several environmental organizations that fought to stop development that was planned – Port Bougainville – a planned community of 15 hotels and 2000+ condos. Google it – I did and went down a rabbit hole reading more and more articles about it.

Okay, now I need to admit something. Until I read the plaque after getting home……….never knew this was named after a female. Oops.

As seen in the first photos above, parking is all outside of the archway and the park is pretty much self-service – no park rangers stationed here. It is about the nature trails – approximately 6 miles with several loops involved. There were several signs like this posted along the trail, but this one stuck out – Poisonwood. Yep, it’s a pretty bad tree. People have been known to go to the hospital from a rash after rain water dripped off the tree. People also been affected by burning smoke from this tree. It does have some good qualities as noted below – food source.

We walked down the main pathway and found this arbor area. Can I say this park looked deserted, felt deserted and was so empty, kind of felt creepy.

I was able to grab this quick photo of our walk. It was a nice wide, paved trail. I’ll also admit……….we didn’t walk very far. This day the keys were hot, muggy and with all of the trees, not much air movement. We reached the arbor area and said ‘We’re good’.

We did several r.e.a.l.l.y cool things later in the week and they will be in a post – very soon.


Florida Keys – Post #3

Quick shot from our balcony before spending the day at Key West. While I didn’t exactly see the sunrise, I enjoyed some time watching the water and wildlife while others were getting ready.

Breakfast was pre-determined, by me at least. I had read about Blue Heaven and their reviews and was looking forward to some awesome pancakes. Spoiler alert – they were totally awesome. 🙂

The restaurant has been in existence since 1992 with the building being at least 100 years old and the first incarnation had them selling alcohol and spirts to Key Westers. The property has hosted cock-fighting, gambling and boxing.

The second floor has been a dance hall, bordello, art gallery and a playhouse. Although not used for the breakfast crowd I wandered around and got a few shots of the upstairs.

We had a 30 minute wait for our table and the ‘waiting area’ is across the street in an off-shoot of their business ‘Andy’s Cabana’. Adrienne and Eric started with a bloody mary. They both said their drink was a healthy pour of spirits. Another one of those and they would have had a different view of Key West. I ordered the coffee in the center.

Pretty much to the minute, we were called. Looked like one of their blue angels had a bloody mary……….

Their restaurant business began with (1) no money down, (2) some gardening tools and (3) mom’s church cookbook. The husband and wife team planned and executed a lunch soup counter. They eventually expanded into breakfast and lured one of their brothers to initiate a dinner menu. The rest they say is history.

We had awesome weather the morning we visited. The experience would have been very different if seated inside.

And YES, I ordered the pancakes along with a scrambled egg and their locally made sausage.

Eric was a copycat and ordered the pancakes with blueberries. He pretended to eat healthy by getting granola w/fruit and yogurt.

We had several visitors running around the area. Eric doesn’t look too thrilled with their company.

Which now kind of gives a reason for finding this grill outside of the restaurant.

I couldn’t resist this shot. Just part of the decor……….

We did a L.O.T of walking during our day in Key West. Ultimately we tracked 10 miles walking this day. One advantage versus driving is you really get the flavor of the area seeing the houses and neighborhoods.

Mid-afternoon we needed a break and snacks.

This building is one of Key West’s most impressive and historic – the birthplace of Pan American World Airways. The first tickets were sold out of this building in 1927.

Pan Am was the principal and largest international air carrier in US from 1927 – 1991, when they collapsed. Originally their business plan involved air mail and passengers serving between Key West and Havana, Cuba. The airline was credited with shaping international airlines with their widespread use of jet aircraft, jumbo jets and a computerized reservation systems.

It was a pretty cool place and they get decent marks for their menu. Like most places in Key West, majority of seating was outside.

We had some brews and snacks.

A bavarian pretzel, deviled eggs and fried jalapenos kept us going.

Adrienne had a few requests. She wanted to see the end of US 1, mile marker 0.

Which is also the beginning of US 1, mile marker 0.

Another stop to whet our whistle. This brewery opened in 2015 and was the largest brewery in the Florida keys.

One more request from Adrienne was to see the ‘Southernmost point of the continental USA, 90 miles to Cuba’. It was established as a bonefide tourist attraction in 1983 by the city. It is 18′ above sea level. Google says it is one of the most visited and photographed attractions in the US. Possibly that’s true – we had to wait in a line just to get a photo. Man – have these people be at Disney? The line was organized and self-owned – and it worked.

It was soooooo hot as we were waiting in line (really? really!) we needed something to cool off. Luckily there was this place: Southernmost Bar.

To close out our day in Key West dinner was at Conch Republic Seafood Company.

Another fish dip started our meal. By the end of the week, I can see us possibly getting tired of ordering fish dip – but not just yet.

Another bowl of conch chowder (Eric) – to quote him ‘It was the best he had during the trip’.

Eric’s meal was yellowtail snapper with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed veggies.

And what did I get…………………..yep, grilled chicken caesar salad. I’d had enough seafood for awhile. I needed something a bit lighter and greener. It was a wise choice. While the grilled chicken was a bit dry…………bottles of hot sauce on the table remedied that situation.

There’s only one dessert to order when you’re in Key West – key lime pie. I really didn’t need more food, but who can resist this pie? At least we shared it amongst the three of us which took away some of the guilt – but not the over-stuffed feeling.

The phrase ‘Conch Republic’ was seen throughout Key West. Conch Republic – what is that? In 1982 Key Westers protested the US Border Patrol roadblock and inspection point on US 1, prior to driving into the keys. Vehicles were being stopped and searched for narcotics and illegal immigrants. When their complaints went unanswered they declared their Independence day on April 23, 1982 when they seceded and created the micro-nation for the city of Key West. Its turned into a tourism booster and one more quirky Key West thing.

I opened the post with a sun-rising photo and let me close with the sun setting while sitting on our balcony.


Florida Keys – Post #2

LOTS of places to stay in the keys, especially if you want to spend LOTS of your dollars. Many of our prior vacations we rented through VRBO or AirBNB but not this time. We’re moving around, not staying in one place so we had to go the more traditional route. BTW – if you haven’t tried that route, do it at least once. I think I like it better than ‘tradition’. First selection was SugarLoaf Lodge. It’s 17 miles north of Key West.

After checking in parking was along the backside of their one building, housing 31 rooms. It had been owned and operated by the Good family for almost 4 decades.

Front side faced the water, gulfside.

Rooms were nothing fancy, but adequate. We weren’t planning on spending any time in the room, except to sleep.

Unfortunately their restaurant and tiki bar was closed on Sundays & Mondays. Morning coffee was pretty basic, but available!

Dropped the bags and headed further south for our first night in Key West. Eric found a really cool place – Hogfish Bar & Grill. VERY low key and local, no AC, all seating was open-air, but covered – thank goodness – with lots of fans. Yep, also considered a tiki bar.

They’re not kidding about finding this place. it was hard to find even with knowing about it and (trying) to follow google maps You drive past a trailer park neighborhood that looked fairly rough before coming up to an unpretencious building with parking roadside under overgrown bushes & trees.

Shots of their menu are below.

Waiting for our fish dip to arrive we had some local brews.

And then came the smoked fish dip – absolutely yummy, it had a slight kick which we all enjoyed.

Eric and I both ordered the hogfish & chip basket. G.R.E.A.T. choice. Asked Eric why I had never seen hogfish available elsewhere and he said it’s a reef fish, not commonly served in seafood restaurants. If I ever see it again on a menu – I’m in!

He started with a bowl of conch chowder before the fish & chips arrived.

This sign always makes me chuckle – even if I’ve seen something similar before. Keeping my fingers crossed that no hurricane starts up even though we are in ‘the season’.

Somebody had waaaaaay too much time on their hands. Not sure if the truck runs, but would definitely be scary if it did. This was sitting across from the bar.

Time to go SOUTH! We headed for Mallory Square.

This is where everything starts and the phrase ‘See you at sunset’ embodies the spirit and history of Key West. It started in the late 1960s with local acts trying to make a few extra bucks and gathering happens about two hours before sunset – 8:24 pm when we visited. Basically, its a large area where everyone gathers couples and families alike. There’s the potential to see magicians, jugglers, psychics, local musicians, artists and food vendors. LOVED this vendor. If it could have gotten a video it would be much, much, much more impactful.

The guy was serving coconut water, straight from the coconut. He handled his machete like a pro and (being somewhat theatrical) had the coconut ready for drinking in 4 strokes of his tool.

Here’s my shot when we first arrived.

And here’s Adrienne’s photo (with her I-phone 11 – Eric?).

And that’s why we came.


Headed towards the Florida keys!

KEY WEST OR BUST!!!! We figured it had been at least 20+ years since we’ve been in the keys and the time was right to head back to the southern toe of the state.

It’s definitely a haul to get down to the very last key.

It all starts with the Florida turnpike. Since we were on the turnpike for such a long time, I got interested in its history. Man! You could do an entire blog post just on the turnpike!

Sooooooo, here we go.

The years following WWII Florida experienced unprecedented growth in population and tourism along with a revitalized citrus industry after a hard devastating freeze. These things combined for a reason to build a better road to connect parts of Florida, top to bottom. There was an individual considered the ‘father of the turnpike’ (Thomas B. Manuel) and was chairman of the turnpike from 1955 – 1961. His belief and dedication to this mission won over many of the current-day detractors and the idea of a turnpike was hotly debated in the legislature. Ultimately he was able to convince all but 4 to pass legislation for the road.

It was opened in stages from 1957 to 1964 going through eleven Florida counties. Total length was 309 miles stretching from Miami Gardens to Wildwood. Construction began July 4, 1955 and they use the slogan ‘The Less Stressway’. It was built on a northwest-southeast axis.

You might notice in the photo above another nickname for the toll road – Ronald Reagan Turnpike. In 1998 the legisture decided “he was one of America’s most beloved presidents and a true world leader”.

We couldn’t believe we saw this paper ticket. We got off for a brief time and had to grab this before getting back on the turnpike. We’re accustomed to transponders or coins. In the 1990s congestion was so bad in Miami and the Orlando metropolitan area they both went to coin. Now we’re (central Florida) strictly electronic either by transponder or license plate photo.

Research says the turnpike averages 6.7 cents per mile. Service stations (8) are about 45 miles apart and we were stuck in the middle when we needed to jump off thus picking up the paper ticket. Okay – I’m done.

Lunch was on our agenda and we googled top resturants in/near Homestead, FL prior to leaving home. Havana Spice was highly rated.

The cuban bread looks so simple yet is so tasty. We didn’t really need the plantain chips, but, we did. There was nothing left on the plate OR in the basket either.

What else could I order but a cubano sandwich. Easily the best cuban sandwich I’ve had. What made it special??? The roasted pork sandwiched in with the ham, cuban bread and cheese – and then pressed. There was a garlicky aoli that was part of the sandwich – yum.

Eric also had pork, but in a different way. He had more of an entre’ with black beans, rice and fried plantains. Both of us had waaaaaaay too much food. If we had been home, there definitely would have been leftovers for another meal.

Don’t think I mentioned the decor – very kitschy. We were lucky enough to sit outside under cover from any of the short-lived passing rain showers.

The car pictured above is part of their charm. There were a number of older cars parked around to give you the ‘Havana’ feel.

This guy watched us eat our delicious lunch.

Dessert?!? This was something we had already planned while still at home. We headed to Robert is Here. It was a short 5 minute drive from Havana Spice.

It is a family institution that has (seriously) grown and expanded since the last time we were in this area – 20+ years ago. Have I mentioned that already? Truly, it was a corner fruit stand where all the locals picked up their fresh groceries and the fruit stand made shakes out of the excess fruit. They still have plenty of fruit and veggies. Here’s a small sampling.

Interesting story about the name ‘Robert is Here’. Google it. And yes, Robert is still working, he’s the one in the dark green shirt.

So you’ve seen a few shots of the fruits, now take a short look at their products. They have row after row after shelf after shelf with their own bottled product. The shot below is a small snippet of their items.

Along the front of the market, they had buckets and buckets of sunflowers. Loved them!

Let’s get to the REAL reason we came – the shakes…….actually we all ended up with smoothies! Ha! The smoothies were sweet enough. I can’t image how sweet the shake would have been. It was a process as you can see on the sign.

Walking to the front of the market, there was a l.o.n.g. line, just to order your desired drinks. I wandered off and heard someone say ‘that’s didn’t take long’. I’m sure that Eric was ready to turn around and keep driving but he had come to the same conclusion just watching the line. We ultimately ended up with three different flavors. Mine was the bright orange cup in the center (mamey sapote). Eric’s was the creamy cup on the left (guanabana) with Adrienne getting a mango smoothie.

Back on the road, we continued south. We expected traffic and we got it. 😦 Luckily we had stretches where 4 lanes existed and we could pick up the pace. Eventually we got to the source of this back-up ……….gawkers checking out a group of boaters on the water. Really people?

Regardless, we made it to our hotel with plenty of time to drop off bags and still head all the way to the bottom before sunset – next post!


Crystal River – 1st 2021 trip!

Ahhhhhhhhh finally back to one of my favorite spots in Florida. It’s been so long, Eric had a lot of work to do on the boat, getting it up to (my) boating standards. Don’t kid yourself – he LOVES working, cleaning, waxing, cleaning, waxing the boat.

Weather had the potential to be dicey, but it looks like any storms will have passed by the time we arrive. Driving through them with the boat on the trailer wasn’t a lot of fun – just saying.

Yeah!!!! I’m back on the water.

We usually pack lunching items while on the boat and today was no different. Our choice of lunch was not the norm………tuna salad – yes, crackers – yes, fruit of some sort – yes, oysters – not usually. Don’t forget the cookies in the upper left corner of the photo. Sit them on top of the deck for a few minutes and YUM, they taste like they just came out of the oven with ooey gooey chocolate chips.

Eric has been keeping some on ice these past weeks from a local purveyor and thought they would be the (perfect) thing for our lunch on the boat. Perfect for who??????

There were enough leftover for a mid-afternoon snack once we returned to King’s Bay Lodge.

Seafood Sellers continues to be our restaurant of choice and dinner that evening had some of the usual items ordered.

Fried tomato chips and grouper sandwich – yum!

If you’ve read any of my earlier Crystal River posts – there’s only one thing on the menu that Eric will order, if available………………..crayfish.

All washed down with a locally brewed beer.

It was a bit chillier the next morning.

Saw this eagle in one of the slow zones we pass through. My photo isn’t the greatest, but if I had the latest I-phone………………think how much better it would have been.

We got a quick photo of me with my first snook – not a keeper.

Before hooking this puffer. LOVE their puffiness.

Each of these keepers were hard-earned: 3 trout and 1 mackerel.

This white egret was very persistent as Eric was filleting out catch. He/she was bound and determined to steal one of our fish – he was not successful.

Always a great day on the water when you catch (keeper) fish and are with good friends.

Eric and I were able to extend our stay for one more day. This enabled us to (1) have one more meal at Seafood Sellers and (2) catch a few more fish – black sea bass (top) and a grunt.

Always LOVE coming to this area and catching fish makes it sweeter.


FL Tankful – Cocoa

Seems like we’re making trips to the ‘other’ side of Florida and visiting parts of the east coast – which hadn’t happened in a number of years.

Destination Cocoa – 70 miles and 1 hour and ten minutes later…….we arrived.

While Cocoa was our ultimate destination we were ‘technically’ heading to Port Canaveral since our restaurant of choice was Seafood Atlantic.

The sign above indicates it was established in 1984 but there’s history. It was a multi-step process. Their roots were in commercial fishing 1984 and they fished & marketed their catch domestically and internationally. They buy from over 200 independent commercial fisherman in four Florida counties. That’s pretty cool!

In 1994 they opened their retail market. They had lots and lots of good looking fish they day we were there but alas it’s hard to buy fish when you can catch your own. 🙂 Our catch is very different, but waaaaaaay fresh.

They began serving in 2009 cooking the fish you find in their retail market. Here’s some idea of what’s cooking.

While these bikes would n.e.v.e.r. be our choice of transportation, behind the fence was the outside seating (which is your only option). The place was advertised as ‘casual, outdoor, waterfront open-air dining. Yep, good description.

The oysters were a big draw for this locale and accompanied by a bloody mary and coke – guess which one was mine. Wowser – look at all of the extra ‘stuff’ in the bloody mary – that’s a meal in itself!

Another top draw was the smoked fish dip. It was very yummy. Eric got a bowl of chowder before his meal arrived.

Eric’s selection was ‘sizzling scallops’ while I got the grouper sandwich. We both really enjoyed our choices. Alas, chips not fries came with my meal as that choice was pat of their menu. At least they were great chips.

One last photo before heading to our Cocoa destination. With the sun beating down, none of my photos were good. This was the best of the lot.

First stop……..Dirty Oar Beer Company. Loved their mural on the side of the building!

They opened in 2017 and their name identifies with the area. The oar (paddle) is used for mixing grains but is remiescent of a boat paddle and the seaweed ties into the area’s waterways.

Three indiividuals (NY, VT and NJ) moved to the area for family/friends/job and when at a time became unemployed, their wives pushed them forward with their dream as they enjoyed craft beer.

One beer each before our next destination.

BUGNUTTY. What a great name. Just saying it is fun. HAD to look up the meaning and found this:

>Being in a state of overwhelming emotion (drinking great beer – I added that 🙂 )

Their brewery is in a former 1932 Buick dealership and the owners/operators have a combined 50+ years of experience in brewing. Their goal is a complete experience with beer, pub grub, 12′ screen, live music and great service.

We had a few brews before ordering their HUGE preztel. If a place has fish dip or pretzel – we’re in!

This was another nice drive to one of our Florida’s coasts – not too far – yet enough of a drive to feel like you could ‘get away’ even temporarily.


FL Tankful – Titusville

Sunday, sunday, what to do on a Sunday? Let’s drive east to the Atlantic side of Florida. We ultimately decided to head towards Titusville, Florida. Many years ago we drove here practically every weekend to kayak fish………………..but once we got our boat the kayaks sat unused in the garage. With our destination locked in, I dug a little deeper into the history of this special part of Florida.

A post office was created in 1858 in this area and the town was called Sand Point. Henry T. Titus arrived in 1867 intending to build a town on land owned by his wife, a daughter of a prominent planter.

Local history says…………………….Titus challenged Captain Clark Rice to a game of dominoes to decide the town’s name. Titus won. The town was incorporated in 1887. I found this nearby mural of Titus.

Our first stop was dictated by lunch plans. Internet search made the decision Pier 220 Seafood &Grill.

Who can argue with a view like this………………LOVE it!

You had your choice of indoor and outdoor seating. Hmmmmmmm, what to do, what choice do we make? Outside of course! Great place to motor up in your boat and tie up while eating.

We started with a few drinks while waiting for our food. Coke for me and lagers for Adrienne and Eric. Can’t forget the water to keep hydrated.

Smoked fish dip was our appetizer of choice. The ‘chips’ were a little different. Probably not the best fish dip we had ever ordered. Eric also ordered a cup of chowder.

Meals were good. Fish tacos for me with Eric ordering fried shrimp.

A walk to the end of the pier helped our food settle.

Found this guy sitting on the railing. Not too many people nearby to bother him (her?).

PIer 220 is a GREAT location with good food.

Now, how to spend the rest of our afternoon?????? Stop at a nearby craft brewery in historic downtown Titusville. Yep, used to be a hardware.

Playlinda Brewing Company

You can still see remnants of its former life as a hardware.

Our drink selections were very colorful. Left to right: Scrub Jay Lemon Wheat (mine), Playa Porter (Eric) and Blueberry Lemonade beer (Adrienne).

Ginny’s –

A shot of their beer selection.

They had a small menu and a smoked salmon fish dip was a starter of choice. Definitely a step (or two) up from the day’s first fish dip,

Something different caught my eye……….

Nice presentation but the sweet pretzel at Ten 10 Brewing Company in Orlando is waaaaaaaay better – just saying. It wasn’t so bad that we didn’t eat it. 🙂

Last selections before heading home: Robonaut Red Ale on left, Nitro St. Katie’s Irish red at right.

I enjoyed my selection enough to bring some home for future enjoyment.

We all agreed, heading east to the Atlantic coast was a nice change while still enjoying the water – one of Florida’s greatest attractions.


FL Tankful – MKR

Exploring in Florida requires a tank of gas and interesting destinations. Let’s see where we can go. The truck has a full tank and we’re headed north. This day included several cool spots to see a bit of real Florida and of course………..lunch. Curious what MKR stands for?

M = Marjorie

K = Kinnan

R = Rawlings

Although born in Washington DC, she spent a number of years in Florida and some of her most widely read and best known works were written in a tiny rural town called Cross Creek. Her and her husband purchased a 72-acre orange grove and she brought national fame to the area with her writing. Now, the farm is a Florida Historic State Park.

She wanted solitude and a chance to save their marriage, however 5 years later they divorced. The community became her solace and although initially hesitant to accept her, she eventually made friends. Indeed, some were included in her books. Her farm has a number of buildings still standing. This was the main house for living and entertaining.

To the right of the main house are the bedrooms.

The kitchen was in the back and alas, no photo. A barn still stands and when tours start up again, the guided tours meet here for a brief introduction before going inside the house.

LOVED the chicken coop, but no chicks inside.

Her most famous novel was The Yearling. In 1938 it was the best selling novel in America. The small community cashed in on the name with a local restaurant serving Southern cuisine as their specialty.

Opened in 1952 it is definitely off the beaten path. They serve food that rural Floridans have hunted, fished and prepared. Fish dip and a cold beer started our meal.

This was followed by fried pickles. Whoever thought of that?! Don’t know how it happened but we had them a number of years ago and if they are on a menu, they are usually ordered. The paper doily was an interesting touch.

We had varied selections. Mine was blackened catfish and fries.

Eric ordered the fried catfish with collards and zipper peas.

Adrienne’s selection was free-range venison with her selected sides being zipper peas and collards.

The restaurant has a number of dining rooms with very eclectic furnishings – very woodsy and rural looking. Loved their bulletin board with (mostly) antique Florida postcards.

A trip to this part of Florida, usually includes a stop at another natural highlight – Paynes Prairie State Preserve. It has the distinction of being the first such preserve in Florida opening 1970.

There were herds of wild horses and bison roaming and still exist today. I saw one bison.

There was a 50′ observation tower that was a nice climb.

A nice relaxing day seeing the natural side of Florida.


Asian Food Foray

Wow! Really getting into world culture with some food weekends. Recently, we had an ‘Asian’ week of food. YUM!

So let’s define Asian food. Nope, you can’t. Its not that easy. Found this definition on the internet.

I knew that simply saying ‘Asian’ food was a misnomer and Eric is not a purist with his cooking. Let’s just say we’ve (1) consumed food at home with Asian influence and (2) visited a f.a.b.u.lo.u.s dumpling restaurant that WILL have numerous repeat visits.

Let’s start at home……………

Our home Asian dining started with Eric visiting Lotte Market. LOVE this place – almost as much as Lucky’s Market. Still shedding a tear for Lucky’s. 😦

He started our night of Asian influence with Miso soup – from scratch. It was tasty. Not something I’ve ordered when we were out, but it was a nice start. A little glass of sake accompanied our meal.

LOVE a salad with ginger dressing. Visiting a friend years ago, she served this dressing and we asked for her recipe. Yep, straight from a bottle. Can’t do better. It’s the only one we’ve seen in Publix, but no need to search for another brand.

Iceberg lettuce, grated daikon radish and ginger dressing = a very simply but delicious salad. The chopsticks are not for decoration. It has taken me quite a while and I am by no means proficient. During my 6 months in China, I refused to ask for other utensils. If I think about the chopsticks too much, disaster. If I just pick them up, dive in and eat, things go waaaaaay better.

This next thing wasn’t my favorite: sea scallops with a pepper-based sauce. It’s a texture thing – I didn’t like it, but I tried it.

The main event of our evening were these bowls. While similar, Eric catered to my tastes.

Ginny’s bowl (L) Eric’s bowl (R)

Ginny’s – starting at top center, going clockwise: sliced cucumbers, diced white tuna, shredded daikon radish, diced salmon, sliced cucumbers, chopped tuna, avocado and diced yellow tail.

Eric’s – starting at top center, going clockwise: kombu seaweed, salmon, avocado, white tuna, shredded daikon radish, tuna, sliced cucumbers, yellow tail and scallops in the middle. Sprinkled with flying fish eggs (orange stuff).

Dessert had nothing, I mean nothing to do with Asian cooking, but was my request: fried fruit pies. Full disclosure, they were supposed to be peach pies from last year’s Florida peaches we froze. Alas, it was not to be. Ask Eric what happened to the peaches………….. Therefore, at the last minute, Eric had to drive to the grocery store to get pie filling. I requested cherry pie filling and OMG, these fried fruit pies so, so, so delicious.

Another evening we had fried rice, similar but different than our previous renditions. Here was the inspiration. See Eric – tearing pages out of magazines do serve a purpose!

LOVED the thought of putting an egg on this dish. Our fried rice ingredients were bits of pork, sliced carrots and one and half yellow onions. Add a (healthy) drizzle of sirachi sauce and here’s your finished product. Going forward, soft-cooked eggs will always be included.

Now, time for our restaurant dining……………….

Our Asian restaurant choice started with this article seen in The Orlando Sentinel. Soup Dumplings are one of my best memories of living in Shanghai. They’re special. Any time we hear of a place in Central Florida with them, we stop by. Thank you Amy Drew Thompson, Orlando Sentinel food writer.

Before leaving home, the morning started with a Bloody Mary, topped with an oyster. Notice there’s only two, not three. I did not partake. Adrienne was the third for this Asian food adventure.

Shanghai Lane restaurant, located on west Colonial Drive in Orlando. Even their sign has the soup dumplings. 🙂

Another reason this was the real deal – we were the only non-Asian patrons. Just like in China, we ordered a variety of dishes and they arrived sporadically. First to appear was the fried rice. It looked so good, another family nearby decided to order it also.

Next came the star of the show – SOUP DUMPLINGS. We got 2 orders of the pork dumplings (they always come 6 to a tray).

This looked good, especially when the nearby table got it, so Eric went up to add it. Fried bread. Yep, it was fried bread. Probably not going to be a repeat. Fried bread.

This next item was featured in the paper and seen above – fried pork dumplings. They were okay. Hard to eat with chopsticks. Definitely would order more of the soup dumplings – just saying.

Our final order arrived and it was another reminder of our time in China – fried pork cutlet, exactly like we used to get at Din Tai Fung.

Look at those happy smiles!

We’ll be back!