Black Friday Getaway

American White Pelicans

Away from the malls, far from the madding crowds we went today. Anne and I took Dave and Maren to the Riverlands for some birding. It’s supposed to rain all weekend, so we took advantage of this interval of relative dryness to get outside. It was a grey day, but most of the birds that we saw were roosting and not on the wing, mitigating the day’s slowed shutter speeds. It is prime pelican season, but a little too early for eagles or swans. Our first stop was at the Audubon visitor’s center, where there were a couple of old guys running the array of spotter scopes. They had spotted a lone Bald eagle for us. Getting out and walking around we saw the pictured squadron of pelicans. We also saw a pair of Kestrels that are apparently regulars. We also saw a raft of scaups, of the lesser or greater variety and no other birds of note. Except we finally saw one Trumpeter swan. Swan is the loneliest number that you ever saw…

We ducked over to Alton, Illinois for some lunch at Just Desserts, where because life is both short and uncertain, you always order dessert first. The building where the restaurant is located is historical enough that Abe Lincoln once frequented it too. I hope that with what eventually happened to him, he also ordered dessert first. Then it was back to the Riverlands. We wanted to take Maren to the Confluence. Where the two great rivers meet at the point of Ted Jones State Park. She had even worn her rubber boots for the occasion and was prepared to plant one foot in the Mississippi and the other in the Missouri, but the road was closed due to flooding. We tried again, circling around to Columbia Bottoms, but were flooded out there too. It was then high time to head home. Passing the exit for Galleria, I noticed that traffic was backed up onto the highway. I hope that all those shoppers were having as good a time as us today.

Anastasia State Park

Anastasia State Park Gulls and Terns

We got up early, had a quick HoJo breakfast, checked out and headed across the Bridge of Lions to Anastasia State Park. Located on one of the barrier islands that protects St. Augustine, when we arrived it was not yet open. Rather than wait, we doubled back to the lighthouse, which also was not open, but at least afforded a quickie photo-op. The park was open, when we returned. It was low tide and the beach was a football field length wide. The above action shot can only begin to enumerate the multitude of water fowl that were present. A bicyclist had flushed them. He was setting up a cross-country race course for later. We also partook of the more inland waterways that the park had to offer. We saw an osprey fishing in the distance, throwing up spray with each dive, but it was comparatively dainty to the pelicans, who when performing their own version of this maneuver sounded like they were belly flopping into the water.

We next hit the road and promptly ran into Daytona 500 traffic. I think that a fair number of the racers were late for their starting times and were striving to make time up on the highway. It was a zoot city. They passed, as did Mar-a-logo and Miami. Siri threatened us with a massive accident related jam on the bridge to the keys, but by the time we arrived there was only a minor gaper block that was caused by party boat revelers on the side of the highway.

We landed on Key Largo, ready to commence our Florida vacation proper. We upgraded from last year’s motel. Its dock featured shark and barracuda, both of the baby variety, but scary enough to some of the other tourists. We did the sunset thing, but it was cloudless and uninspiring. We ate at a convenient fish house, just across the highway. The seafood was great, the sides adequate, but the crux came at dessert, key lime pie naturally. It was fantastic, but with such a statistically inadequate sample size (one), can we really state this? We need more data. Such is our mission that among the hundreds, nay thousands of the key’s lime pie purveyors, we will discover the best key lime pie. Tourists in the millions have adopted this quest, but we shall succeed. God rest my fork!

Courting Colors

Great Blue Heron in Spring Plumage

Cardinal pitchers and catchers reported this week for spring training in Florida. Where did we leave those baseballs last year? Spring can’t be that far away. Yesterday, it supposedly warmed up some and Anne and I got out on our bikes. Our own form of spring training. It was brisk. It was too cold for Anne to wear her new three-quarter length bike tights and had to wear old full length ones.

The week of rain that we’ve had has left the bike path inundated. Orange cones were placed at the most egregious spots. They’ve never done that before. I’m not sure how helpful they were. The spots that were still flooded were self-evident. The ones where the water has receded were only of passing interest. Bicyclist have a real advantage over pedestrians at these spots. We can glide through the water, with pedals held level and not get wet. I could see where runners had cut cross-country and churned the soggy grass into mud.

We saw the pictured Great Blue Heron near Jefferson Lake. It is resplendent in its nuptial plumage. Is this another sign of spring or is fluffing its feathers, because it is cold? The bird allowed us to approach quite closely. Although, as you can see, we were being eyed even more closely. We are the bird paparazzi after all and shall not be denied our pics.

Later that day we had gyrotonics and we’re feeling it afterwards. We’re starting to get the hang of these exercises, which means less time is spent instructing and more time is spent doing. By the end of our period, I welcomed conversational asides, because they gave us a rest break. Maybe two exercises is too many.