Thursday, February 26, 2015

Strawberries and Manattees!

Yesterday Tom and Cheryl wanted to take a run over to the Tampa area, to visit one of their favourite stores, Costco! What better to do than make a day of it!

First off we headed up to Plant City! It is kind of a neat place, and is home to the Florida Annual Strawberry Festival! It actually starts today, and goes till the weekend. Did not matter to us, we found some strawberries anyways!

We decided to stop in and visit the famous Parkesdale Market, just to the west side of Plant City. Now, why do I call it famous when most of you probably have never heard of this place, and don't really care anyways...right? Well check out who shops at this market!

Yes, that is President Bush and the First Lady, visiting the Market, back in 1984. And if you look below, looks like the President brought his appetite!


Yes, President Bush is eating a Strawberry Shortcake, which this market is famous for. If you are ever in this area, you have to stop! I took the above pictures of the President from pictures that were hanging on the wall inside the Market.

So, we had to try it out... even though it was only 10:30 A.M. Did not matter when it comes to Strawberry Shortcake!

Here comes Tom above, with a little snack on his tray. They sell them here for $3.75 and they were pretty good. Judy and I, shared one, as did Tom and Cheryl. They were "Primo"

Now, guess who else has been here to check out these strawberry shortcakes????

Ya, that would be President Obama talking with the owner... don't know what year he came here though.

As you can see above, this place is all decorated up to celebrate the Strawberry. They grow them right on the grounds here...

As I walked into the Market and Restaurant, I got a big chuckle out of the sign above... I think they were serious about this, as all their products were out in the open.

We stopped at a local Winery, where they produced Beer and Wine, but for some reason, no pictures... We just wanted to check this place out, as it was still in the morning, so no taste testing! Would not go good with the strawberries...

Next we headed off to Apollo Beach.

This is a nice area of Florida, on Tampa Bay, which leads out into the Gulf of Mexico.

Apollo Beach is home to people with a lot more money than you know who here... These houses above, are right on the water. Vacant lots here sell for $800,000.00, and then you build your home... so, kind of gives you an idea!


We came to visit the Apollo Beach, Manattee Viewing Area, located beside the Power Plant which serves Tampa. This is a coal fired power plant, and dumps warm discharge water into the canal you see above. The Manattees have made this canal their own personal hot tub!

There was about 150 Manattees in the canal yesterday, enjoying the warm water during the winter. They only come for the heat, as there is no food here for them. They feed out in Tampa Bay. The Power Plant has embraced them, and made a big conservation area here for them. People flock here to see the Manattee. The canal water was over 80 degrees F. yesterday, with only 2 of 4 power units working. It goes above 90 degrees when all 4 are working. Great spot if you are a Manattee!

In the past year, they have built this new viewing tower, which allows you to see all around the area... we had to climb up, just for something to do!

That would be Judy and Cheryl in the centre of the picture, taking a picture of me, taking a picture of them of course...

They had to build a huge walkway over the everglades to get to the tower... this is 1/2 of it!

This is a view of the power plant from atop the tower... we had a great time here, as it was overcast, but very warm, so it was nice walking around.

This is not a pictures of the Brandon Costco Store, but you get the drift... we spent a while, buying up some of the bargains that they offer... stuff we could not live without apparently! Filled Tom's big GMC Truck to the brim! All that that did, was make us hungry!

So, we headed just up the road to the local Brandon Outback Steakhouse! Had a great Steak Dinner, including soup and dessert for only $12.00! Phew... what a day!

Till tomorrow...


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Flywheels and Darth Vader????

We certainly welcomed back the nice 75 deg. F. temperatures here again with lots of sun! Things are still not good up in Tennessee or Ontario where the kids live, but I guess they are young and can handle it...right?

This morning Judy and I decided to take a run over to Avon Park, to take in the huge annual Flywheelers Show. This is quite an event here in Florida, and lots of people attend. There is a big interest still in very old steam type engines, and flywheel tractors. This is a 4 day event, and they all come in their motorhomes and 5th wheel trailers and camp out.

We are approaching the ticket booth to get in above... $7.00 each. The Show had a huge market place where people were selling and buying various parts, and anything else you can imangine. This event took up over 50 acres of land... so what you could do, is for $20.00 a day, rent yourself a golf cart to drive around in all day!

This is what the Fly Wheelers is all about, a great big old steam engine...

This is typical of the many streets inside this event, and actually led to a quick exit for Judy and I, as there were simply way too many golf carts, ATV's, and small tractors driving around, it was hardly safe for walking. I am not sure why they do this, but they do. All you can smell as well is the exhaust from these vehicles, so it is not a real pleasant experience walking around.

We did make our way over to the North East corner of the property to take in a bit of the tractor pull contest. It was a blast to watch. They had a kids event under way when we were there, and some big kids pulling as well. I took a few videos below which are short, and kind of wild to watch.


This young gal did a terrific job on her tractor, beating many of the other kids that were pulling. You have to pull a big sled behind your tractor, with a sliding weight on it, that moves forward on the sled the further you pull it. They just keep pulling until the tractor stalls out, then they measure your distance in feet. The first video below is of one of the kids pulling...

Next we have a couple of the big boys doing some pulling... the winner actually pulled this sled over 279 feet!

The tractors above, both had V8 engines in them of course... they could probably take these over to Daytona this weekend and run the 500!

We did very little walking around the market area due to the traffic problems I spoke of earlier. We decided just to leave, and had a plan B for more daily entertainment!

Just a short 20 minute drive north is the Town of Bartow. They have a Historic Section of the Downtown, and they were holding the 2nd Annual Si-Fi Show. WHATTTTTT you say?

I knew I was safe when I saw R2D2 and the Storm Troupers guarding the entrance to the show! It is amazing how many people dress up as various Super Heroes and make a weekend out of it! I though maybe Judy had a bit too much wine one evening when she found this show on the internet as a potential activity for this weekend. Well, I must admit, I did get a kick out of going. There was not entry fee, so I feel we made up some of the $14.00 at the Fly

I was now real safe with Superman and Wonder Women (???) on site for added security....

Now, above is a time machine. I did not dare take a seat in that nice red chair, for fear of being sent back to 19XX whatever! Or, maybe I could have vaulted into the future!

Now, my iPhone 5 totally missed the auto focus on these two AMC DeLoreans above... I bet it is hard to find 2 together anytime now... Hey, did they not take one of these "Back to the Future..." ???? Hhhmmmm.....

They had a few cars on display, why, I am not quite sure... That is the General Lee right above, and I am not sure what the meaning of the VW was... Any guesses?

And then it happened... all of a sudden in the distance, this dark cloud appeared, and it appeared all was lost, as non other than Darth Vader was coming down the road....what to do???

Thankfully, Judy calmed him down, and told him to smarten up or she would call Yoda! Yes, he even made that deep Darth Vader breathing noise you hear in the movies...

That just about wraps up another wild day in Florida, hope you had a good one...

Till tomorrow...


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Nothing but cold, snow, ice...

Poor old Ontario, and lots of other places in Canada and the U.S. are deep into a cold winter... Yesterday I blogged about Gwenny and Charlie playing up a storm on Facetime for us... I failed to grab screen shots of all the fun, but Kristina did, and fed me a couple...

We could not stop laughing as the kids tried to run around the house without banging into things...

They had another snow day in Tennessee today... Just a bit of snow shuts them down there as they cannot clear it.

So, with no school again today, Paige and Emmie were back to sledding on the driveway! Great way to spend the day.

We might even get a little bit of frost here in Frostproof in the next day or two! How can that be you ask? Too much cold air pushing down from the north, that is how! Does not happen too often though...thankfully. It will keep all the citrus farmers busy!

This is the last thing they want to happen!

Till tomorrow...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Driveway sledding...

Tennessee gets very little snow in the winter, and it is probably a good thing! They cannot handle big loads of snow there... Yesterday they got a couple inches of the white stuff and the Hollinger Clan made the best of it.

Shawn and Jenn bought a home with 4 acres of land on top of a mountain in a Johnson City Sub-division. They could not get their car up the driveway, so had to park at the bottom and walk up. Today, they all decided to embrace the snow and do something very "Canadian..." Check out the Youtube video that Shawn posted. Keep in mind, this is all filmed on their driveway, and the best part is at the end!


This morning Judy and I had a great Facetime session with Charlie, Gwenny and Kristina. The kids were showing us how they play...crazy!

Give them a couple empty boxes and they are good for hours! It is cold up there, but they are having fun and growing! Good to see them, and Kristina looks great, as she is near the end of full term! Good luck Kristina...we love you!

Till tomorrow...

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Speed Week in Daytona...

Phew, it has been a very busy weekend, as we ended up joining Tom and Cheryl, and made a trip over to Daytona International Speedway on Saturday. Tom and Cheryl are big time NASCAR Fans, and after our very wet and short visit to Daytona last year, they wanted a redo!
I took this picture of the famous walkway to Daytona which spans over Highway 92. We drove our car over, and you park off site for free, with a shuttle from the parking lot to the Speedway. This was a much better arrangement than last year, when we took a bus trip over.
Chery did a great job arranging seating for us this year. We did not want to attend the Daytona 500 as that day at the track is simply crazy, and the tickets are inflated in price. Instead, we opted for Saturday, the start of Speed Week, and 2 races on the Schedule. One of them was an ARCA Race, with is up and coming drivers,and the feature race last night was the Sprint Unlimited, which was a 75 lap (2 1/2 miles per lap) sprint around Daytona. The plan worked out great, as we were able to see all the big name drivers, and pay a lot less for tickets.
These are our seats, which are located in a section of the new Grandstand just being built. The view was great, check below!
We were sitting across from the end of pit road, on the front stretch of the track.
Above is the view of the track during the ARCA Race at 4:00 p.m. yesterday. We could see all around the whole track. A great day for racing, other than a little cool, but that is why you have a sweater and coat with you! OK, so do you want to see a 10 second flick of the cars running by our seats...just check below!
Just before the first race started we were walking around the various shops and displays on the grounds, and Judy came across a Daytona Promotion Tent. She filled out a quick survey form, received a ballot, and when they check it, she had won! OK, what did she win. Well, it turns out, that Judy received 2 passes, to attend the infield pre-race introductions for the feature race that night, on the Grand Stage. Hey, it all sounded good to me. There is only about 12 people that win this, out of thousands that attended yesterday.
Here we are, just beside the main stage, getting ready.
We no sooner got up there, and they set off all these fireworks to get the party started! They allowed us to take pictures, however we were not allowed to use a flash, so I took a bunch of blurry pictures I am going to show you anyways, as some are pretty cool. There were 25 top NASCAR Drivers in this feature race, and we got to fist pump and high five all of them!
Now, remember this, Judy and I are not big fans of auto racing, we have heard the names, but don't really know who they are. Thanks to Tom, for putting names to the faces you will see below...
First, I will start with a video I took at the start. I do not know who the first driver introduced is, but the second one is Dale Ernhardt Jr. probably the most popular of all the current drivers. Now, to warn you, there is no sound... just some funny noises on these videos. That is due to camera operator error. I had my finger over the mic hole on the camera and did not know it. I was using Judy's camera. But you do get the picture!
Here are some of the drivers I got pics of... not all of them... too many.





KYLE BUSCH (Cheryl's Favourite Driver)


Another of the big name Drivers attending, and Racing, was Danika Patrick!

That is a picture of Danika above, on her Merchandise Trailer. They all have these big trailers, and sell merchandise at the events... as you can see, hers was popular! I took a video of Danica, as I gave her the fist pump! She is certainly not very tall, and was pretty dynamic on the stage with all the other drivers being guys! Check out the video...

Again, sorry about the sound on those videos... rookie error! Heck just for the heck of it, here is another video showing the cars, with a lot of sound as they zip around the track!

While we were down on the track, we got to get up front and personal with the pace cars, supplied by Toyota. It was a blast to be right down on pit row where all the action takes place during the race.

Judy wanted to actually walk on the track, and we got that chance on the slight curve on the front stretch of the track right at the start/finish line.

Check out the angle on this slight turn in the track! You could not walk up the actual corners of the track due to the steep inclines...

Above is the famous "Daytona" sign on the grass infield. You could not walk on it as it looked so good, however during one of the four accidents during the race, one driver slid right through the sign sideways!

I had never seen cars wreck at speeds of over 200 miles. It is crazy to watch... hard to believe no one gets hurt most of the time. I am sure the wrecks are a big part of the draw of fans to this type of racing... also to see 25 cars to by you at over 200 mph just inches apart, is something to behold. I need a bigger engine in our Chevy Cruze!

While we waited for the opening ceremony, I took a pic above, of the FedEx pit stop. They all have these special units you see above, housing all the tools and supplies they need during the race. You have to be fast to change 4 tires, and fill a gas tank with gas at Daytona. These guys do it in about 12 seconds!

So, after 75 thrilling laps around Daytona, they handed the hardware to Matt Kenseth in the Dollar General car! It was a great race, and we all enjoyed it, even if it meant getting back to Frostproof at 1:30 in the morning!

Jeff Gordon won the pole position for this coming Sundays 500 race! I hear he is retiring this year... maybe a Daytona Win will change that!

Till tomorrow...