20 Years From Now...

"20 YEARS FROM NOW," Mark Twain said, “you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than the ones you did.”THIS online journal is dedicated to our next 20 years!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Turpentine & Blue Herons

John's morning walks usually end up in or near St. Andrews State Park. It's fascinating to see the Blue Herons. This guy was literally standing only five feet from John. I guess he spotted the camera and decided to pose for the picture. :)

Before this area of the Panhandle became a beach destination, the land and forests were a source of income for landowners. Turpentine was a major commodity and this building is a testament to that past livelihood. Inside is the remains of a turpentine "still".

The raw gum or resin was collected from the trees (mainly pine), much like syrup is gotten from maple trees. A cut was made in the bark, but on a specific side of the tree. Each year they cut another side of the tree so as to extend it's years of productivity. 

Once the raw gum was collected, it was boiled in the still.

Then cooled in the round wooden container to the right.

When the trees no longer produced turpentine, the owners, wanting to get the greatest return for their land, cut down the timber using saws like the one below.

Those years are now just a memory, but this state park exhibition provides an idea of what it once was. 

(Disclaimer: If any of the above is inaccurate or false, I take full responsibility. John explained it perfectly because he reads every single word of every single sign, AND because he can remember it to-the-letter for decades to come. Meanwhile, I'm the opposite. It's usually in one ear and out the other... besides, science never was my forte. But I try!)

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Rainy Day Adventures

Two rainy days out of 27 isn't so bad, but it still happens. Yesterday morning the sky opened up and we decided to go exploring. We headed west toward Pensacola Beach. It's 93 miles (150 km) to our west. 

Before we'd even cleared the Panama City Beach limits the rain became torrential. It was so heavy John pulled over to the side of the road to let the worst of it pass.

In Destin our jaws dropped as we passed by the Emerald Grande and Harbor Walk Village. You have to see it with your own eyes to grasp the scale of this complex!

We continued on to Fort Walton Beach and from there it was a hop, skip and a jump to Navarre. There we  crossed over the causeway to Navarre Beach and the Gulf Islands National Seashore.

That's when the landscape took on an other-worldly appearance. We left behind the man-made goliath structures and came face to face with Mother Nature's under-stated glory. Just sand, water and sky!

Btw, that's SAND, not snow drifting across the road!

Although the sign says the road is prone to flooding, the old route is buried under the sand dunes to the right. 

Pensacola Beach is a much smaller community than PCB, yet it has its very own version of the London Eye! It also has these impressive looking condos, but they're situated on the outskirts of the community and seemed to be out of place to us.

With a few stops along the way, it took us almost three hours to reach our destination. Having missed lunch we chose to refuel at Peg Leg Pete's.

John ordered the shrimp and I opted for the catfish. Both were fried to perfection and FRESH, FRESH, FRESH! By this point it was almost 4PM, and time to head home. Once again the complete isolation and raw beauty of the place was amazing. 

Mid-way between Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach, John pulled over, and headed toward the Gulf of Mexico.

But, it's a LONG way...

A really long way!

Can you see him above? He's that tiny speck on the right hand side of the photo. 

Thank goodness for this bench parked right in front of the van!

We drove most of the way back in the dark, but the full moon shone down on our little adventure. While it was spectacular, we're both kind of hoping it'll be our last day away from the beach...at least until we head north to Boston for Christmas!

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Monday, 26 November 2012

Wingin' It

The title of this post pretty much sums it up. We're in Paradise at Latitude 30 and wingin' it. Just to prove I'm not making that paradise stuff up, the sign below proves it! It's on the street side of the third level covered parking area.

Around noon today we stepped onto the balcony and spotted the trimaran above. Named "Wingin' It" it pulled up at front of our condo...at least we thought so at first. Then, we realized the three crew members on board just wanted to have lunch and a brew at Schooners.

I've mentioned the restaurant/beach bar before and how it's right next door, but I'm not sure anyone realizes exactly how close it really is. Here's another view. Our condo building is literally within INCHES of the front  door!

Speaking of the building, here's another view of the main entrance. The walkway leads to the three-level parking lot, and the building itself has 22 floors.

The gardens next to the sidewalk are lovely...

As are the ones leading up to the front door...

And guess what? There's not a single snowflake in sight! 

Pretty good for November 26th...and just wingin' it. ;-)

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Saturday, 24 November 2012

Wastin' Away Again in Margaritaville

Feeling the need for a Saturday outing, I suggested we tour Pier Park. Although we've been there a number of times, we've never browsed the 124 shops that include JC Penney, Target and Dillards.

The buildings are painted in tropical pastel colours and the detail of one store caught my attention.

We stopped at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Restaurant for lunch, and no, I didn't have a Margarita--much to John's surprise!

Later, we spotted the Grinch and one of Santa's helpers.

I still can't equate the holiday season with palm trees, but I'm workin' on it!

One final note. Today is our daughter's birthday. We wish her all the best and send out love. Hugs!

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Friday, 23 November 2012

Routines & Such at Latitude 30

The American Thanksgiving marked our 3rd week in paradise, and we're finally settling into a routine (of sorts). It begins pretty much as it does anywhere--with piping hot cups of coffee as we ease into the day ahead.

This week I was determined to devote the mornings to writing. I'm thrilled to announce I began the first draft for a new mystery series I've been thinking about for the better part of a year (or longer). I also penned some future posts for my AKA blog. They'll begin in January, as 2012 is pretty much a done deal. I'm participating in the Mystery We Write Blog Tour from Nov.26th through Dec. 11th with 15 other mystery authors, and shortly after that I'll feature local author Patricia C. Lee to celebrate the release of her second book, Destiny's Present. (I've read it and give it 5 stars.) The good news is that after months and months of not having either the energy or inclination to write new material, the fact that I'm setting aside a block of hours to just write "unplugged" is an amazing feeling. It makes me smile almost as much as my new winter boots!  

Meanwhile, John continues to explore. Yesterday he returned to Shell Island and probably felt rather small compared to this freighter. It's just one of many that frequents the Panama City harbor.

He snapped a pic of what lies behind all those rocks...

And spotted a squadron of pelicans.

Once he arrived, he had Shell Island to himself.

Not another human in sight, but he did spot three rays in the water. Look closely, they're the dark blotches just below the surface.

Then, he gathered up some large and impressive shells. He even brought two back for me. Isn't that sweet?!

We've got plenty to be thankful for. Not just today, but every day.

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Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Shell Island Nature Preserve

Shell Island is a barrier island located just east of St. Andrew's State Park and is only accessible by water. John kayaked there yesterday, and took these amazing photos.

For over 300 years, Shell Island has attracted visitors to its unspoiled shores. 

Early Spanish Conquistadors who sailed these waters in search of treasure and safe harbor reported seeing thatched-roof villages and tall Indians along beaches of sparkling sands.

Today it is best known for its seven and a half miles of pristine beach, clear water, and many types of shell not often found on the more developed shores of Panama City Beach.

Its coves provide a natural sanctuary to dolphins, crabs, turtles and fish.

Another perfect day capped off by a glorious sunset in paradise at Latitude 30!

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Monday, 19 November 2012

Raccoons, Helicopters & Kayaks

Sunday afternoon John and I walked to the rocks at the end of the peninsula, but forgot the camera. Today I made sure to grab it before I headed out.

One of the reasons we usually turn left when we hit the beach is that St. Andrews State Park offers a more natural setting compared to the row of high rise buildings that stretch as far as the eye can see to our right.

The pavilion below is at the far end of the peninsula and inside the park. It marks the site where in 1942 the US Army established a Temporary Harbor Defense overlooking the entrance of St. Andrews Bay to protect the area from German submarines that were in the Gulf and Atlantic. The installation consisted of two 155 millimeter guns mounted on concrete "Panama mounts". The site was inactivated on Jan. 14, 1944 without a single shot being fired.

The view from inside the pavilion (below) shows why this site was chosen to safeguard the bay.

On the beach I spotted an egret.

Then, I twisted to face the rocks and spotted this guy...

He (or she) is the reason I wanted to bring the camera. Yesterday we spotted three raccoons, and the park ranger explained they've stolen fishing bait, snacks, and even a cell phone and camera on occasion from whoever sits on or by the rocks. 

I actually had to take a few steps back away from the little guy who did not seem at all wary. Although there's a sign advising people not to feed the wildlife, it happens all the time. Which probably explains why a nocturnal animal shows itself in the light of day. When these two helicopters flew overhead, I flinched more than the raccoon! 

On the way back John met me in his kayak. He went kayaking this morning while I did the grocery shopping, but just can't seem to get enough. He's always smiling whenever he's in it. 

And sometimes he get's downright giddy!

And why not? I'm smiling, too. Why? Because these are my winter boots. 

Like 'em? ;-)

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