January 14- 31, 2013
Holiday Cove RV Resort
Okay. I can’t quite believe it has been more than two weeks since my last post. One easy explanation for this long gap relates to my new hobby of knitting. I find it almost impossible to knit and type at the same time; so far, the knitting is winning. There is a weekly knitting group here at the park and the leader of the group is a master knitter and patient teacher. I am a bit obsessed to learn as much as I can before leaving here. Predictably, she starts the neophytes with the “idiot’s dish cloth pattern” using peaches and cream cotton yarn. My first dish cloth required quite a few repairs of dropped stitches. The second one was much better. My goal is to start an easy scarf this week. I am finding it quite satisfying to have this creative outlet. Being in a group with women who are knitting gorgeous things makes it even more inspiring.
Vic and I have continued to participate in the weekly bike rides organized here at the park. The last two were especially enjoyable as they took us to places we had not been before: Bean Point on Anna Maria Island and Joan M. Durante Park on Longboat Key. Both of these rides were about fourteen miles long at an easy pace that included a lunch break in a scenic spot along the way. We were also blessed with perfect weather on both trips as we had very little wind and sunny days in the high 60s or low 70s—a contrast to many of the chilly and windy days we have had here in the last two weeks. (We have a sun shade with globe lights attached to our awning that we have had to take down two to three times per week! Vic keeps threatening to leave it all packed away and then out it comes again. Sweet man that he is as he knows I like the cozy atmosphere the sun shade adds to our patio.)
Back to the biking trip: The Bean Point trip required that we travel on several side roads to avoid the skinny bike lanes heading north on Gulf Drive to the end of Anna Maria Island. The good part is this route gives you a chance to see a lot of the homes in the area and some other offbeat places, but I definitely prefer to be on a bike trail or sidewalk that allows bicycles.
Bean Point is a lovely secluded little beach that Vic and I would not have been likely to discover on our own.
The best part of the day was sighting these three dolphins that were cavorting around together like Flipper. Too bad I wasn’t able to catch them doing their tricks. They put on quite a show.
The Durante Park trip was probably my favorite so far as most of the route follows the shoreline of Longboat Key. They allow bicyclists to ride on the fairly wide sidewalks along Gulf Drive with one caveat: you have to have a bell to warn pedestrians. I recently learned they can ticket you if you don’t have a bell, but Vic remedied that need. We now both sport classic chrome revolving bells in addition to new cell phone holders which are quite handy when using the Runkeeper App to track our progress.
Durante Park has a lovely pavilion where we stopped for lunch with the bike group.
Another big highlight for us was getting to spend some time with blogger friends Mr. and Mrs. Heyduke better known as John and Sharon of On the Road to Retirement fame. They have been spending the past two months down in Bonita Springs but came up this way on their way to the Tampa RV supershow. Our friends Mike and BJ hosted them overnight and we had the pleasure of having a meal together the day before the show. We have been lucky to hang out with them in Fort Myers, Las Vegas, and Oregon and were thrilled to see them as it had been over a year since our paths crossed again.
The next day eight of us headed off to the show. The good news is none of us found a new motorhome that we couldn't live without. We picked up a few good show specials for RV stays that we hope to use and took advantage of the exercise in walking well over five miles taking in all the latest and greatest RV displays and accessories.
Another adventure that stands out was going to see the training of Royal Lipizzaner Stallions with Suzi and Dave of Beluga’s Excellent Adventure. Suzi and Dave used to own horses, so it was especially great to have Suzi help us understand the nuances of what we were seeing in the training ring. She wrote an engaging post about our visit there called Beautiful Day that explains some of the key distinctions that comprise this “high school” movement of classical dressage best be described as an equestrian ballet.
Vic and I loved the venue itself, a ranch out in the old Florida countryside out past Fruitville Road in Myakka City. The training sessions are open to the public every Thursday and Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. All they request for an entrance fee is a donation for those able to do so.
Aside from being quite impressed with the horses themselves, we found the matriarch, Gabriella, the emcee of the show, to be quite charming. Not only did she deliver an excellent narration of the horses’ history, her family’s legacy in owning these horses, and explanations of their training techniques, she expertly demonstrated several of the moves herself.
Neither Vic nor I knew much about these horses except that they were used in Austria during wartime and were coveted among the royals. We learned they might have become extinct during WWII had it not been for General Patton who helped save the some of the breed from a Russian advance. The story of Patton’s rescue of the Lipizzans was retold in a Disney movie called The Miracle of the White Stallions. Not only was the bloodline in danger of disappearing, but the horses’ performance of Airs Above the Ground was also in danger of becoming a lost art. Fortunately Colonel Hermann, who assisted Patton in saving the horses, took it upon himself to become the “world’s greatest trainer” of this breed and it is his family, the Hermanns, who carry on this tradition today on their 200 acre Florida ranch.
After our visit to the Lipizzaner Ranch, we had a delightful meal at a little restaurant in a strip mall on Holmes Beach called Eat Here. This place is the little sister of the highly acclaimed and super-pricey restaurant called the Beach Bistro. Supposedly, some of the dishes are quite similar but much less expensive at Eat Here. Vic, with sincere apologies to his mother and me, says their meat loaf was the best he ever tasted. I had a delicious seafood stew accompanied by a glass of Willamette Valley pinot noir from Lange Estates (a winery we have visited before). Suzi and Dave had been here several times before so they enjoyed hearing all of our rave reviews while they also made their meals disappear before our very eyes.
We have also been able to share some memorable meals with our friends Mike and BJ and Steve and Diane who are just a few blocks away at a nearby RV park. Mike made some amazing BBQ ribs for us one night. His secret is to cover them and cook them low and slow, then finish them with sauce on the grill. l made fresh grouper for the group one night using one of my favorite recipes from Chico Hot Springs: pine nut crusted halibut with mango salsa. If you make this, don’t skip the addition of the port wine cream sauce. With pine nuts so expensive, I have successfully substituted pistachio nuts or almonds. The true key though is the quality of the fish. We are sure lucky here to be right across the street from two seafood markets with fish right off the boat.
Last weekend, we spent a lovely afternoon Saturday at the St. Armands Circle Art Festival in Sarasota with Suzi and Dave. Suzi and I enjoyed ducking in and out of booths oohing and art at some of the creative offerings while Dave and Vic mostly visited outside the booths, patiently accompanying us in our quest for something we couldn’t live without. I came dangerously close to making three or four purchases, but managed to talk myself out of it each time. Suzi, on the other hand, fell for a object d’art that I also considered: decorative birds made out of gourds, feathers, and pods each with his/her own distinct personality. Sorry, no photos. Suzi and I both were chastised for breaking the no photos rule at one booth, so we mostly refrained from taking pictures. I did sneak in this one of a pelican with a dragonfly on his bill.
On our way home, we stopped for adult refreshments at the Dry Dock Waterfront Grill on Longboat Key. Suzi and I were all caught up in taking photos of shore birds and the colors of the dusky sky reflecting in the water.
Our table by the water was so relaxing and picturesque that we both commented on how this experience was one of those where you couldn't help but feel perfect contentment. Pretty sweet to be able to slow down enough to have that awareness and share it.
Last Sunday night, Vic and I drove to have dinner at my cousin Linda’s home in South Sarasota. We hardly knew each other growing up, but have reconnected since we have been coming to Florida. Our parents’ have passed on so it seems particularly sweet to keep our family connections alive. I can always feel our mothers smiling down at us as they would be so happy we are deepening our friendship at this stage of our lives.
That brings us to the final day of the month--our last day here in Cortez until we return in March. I can’t help but feel like the past two months slipped away too quickly but it’s all good. Gotta keep that Zen feeling of staying in the moment where all is well—especially with all the rain we have been experiencing this week. Actually, the rain makes me a little homesick for Oregon; Vic, not so much!
But with rain comes rainbows, one of nature's blessings. I want to end with a short update on my nephew’s condition. Thank you for your kind words and prayers on my previous post. Last week, his inoperable tumors were diagnosed as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The better news is the oncologist says it is treatable with chemo and radiation. He goes back in the hospital for more tests before beginning treatment next week. Please join me in visualizing his complete recovery from this serious health challenge. Namaste.