Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cedar Key Museum State Park

Cedar Key State Park Museum is a Florida State Park located at 12231 SW 166th Court. The museum building has displays and dioramas explaining the Hurricane of 1896, the railroading days, the industries of Cedar Key (cedar for pencils, palmetto for brushes, and shipbuilding), Cedar Key's involvement in both the Civil War and Seminole Indian War, manatees, the wildlife refuge, and more.

The St. Claire Whitman house, which depicts Cedar Key life in the 1920s and 1930s, is a focal point of the museum. It commemorates the life of Whitman (1868-1959) who lived in Cedar Key most of his years...

...and is furnished as when Whitman lived in it from 1930 to 1959...

It features artifacts collected by Whitman during his life in Cedar Key, including exhibits on the Timucuan Indians, antique glassware, old bottles, an immense collection of seashells, artifacts from the pencil manufacturing days as well as the fiber broom and brush manufacturing days, and photographs and documents of old Cedar Key.

There is a short nature trail where you might view gray squirrels, doves, mockingbirds, Blue Jays, woodpeckers, and green tree frogs. John Muir ended his "1000 mile walk to the sea" in Cedar Key, and a sign commemorates this 1867 trek and his starting the Sierra Club in 1892.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cedar Key Railroad Trestle Nature Trail... a delightful .6 mile trek (round-trip) along a narrow spit of sand with estuaries on each side, and represents the right-of-way used by David Yulee's Florida Railroad (later known as the Atlantic Gulf and East India Transit Company) running from Fernandina Beach on the Atlantic coast to Cedar Key from 1861 to 1932. Native vegetation and wildlife quickly reclaimed the land into the 1990s. Realizing that mushrooming development would impinge on this piece of local history and pristine natural habitat, the Florida Nature Coast Conservancy gained easements and volunteers built and now maintain the trail.

Placards identify dozens of plants along the trail, as seen near my knee. This lovely red plant is the Coral Bean -- something I learned from the placard. Also of interest, it relates how the Seminole Indians used the plant for medicine for their dogs, but as it is poisonous to humans, they strung the bright red beans as beads for themselves. Amazing what you can learn while trekking a trail!

Suddenly, as you round a bend, the spit of land ends, and posts are all that remain of the trestle that took the trains to the downtown of Cedar Key, and in fact, over a mile farther into the Gulf to Atsena Otie Key where the Faber Pencil Company loaded freight cars with cedar slats to be made into pencils.

Several rest benches dot the trail and occasional breaks in the trees allow views of waterfowl and fishermen in the estuaries. Turn off the main road (Highway 24) onto Grove Street, and about 50 feet later you'll see spaces for about 4 cars to park on either side of the start of the nature trail.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cedar Key, Florida - Park Place Rental Condo -- Loft Unit 327

We've been in Cedar Key directing the refurbishing of the condo unit for the last week. The entire unit has been repainted, the old carpeting has been replaced, and all the furniture is new -- sofa couch, a pair of recliners, entertainment center, large screen television, DVD/VCR player, stereo, floor lamps, Euro-top mattress set, drapes, and bathroom furnishings. Ellen has also been adding decorations, "tchotchkes," and decorator items to give the place her "signature" and make the unit feel more "like home" to guests.

The unit is on the third, or top floor of Park Place, and has a loft bedroom on the fourth floor. The condo offers about 700 square feet of living space and endless views out to the Gulf of Mexico. The unit is air conditioned and heated, and cable television and high speed wireless Internet are provided.

The living area flows into the kitchen area and both flow out to the balcony which overlooks the park and ocean front. The queen sofa couch and two recliners offer a conversation area, reading area, or...

... view of the new entertainment center with 32" Sanyo television and DVD/VHS player for your viewing pleasure. There is also a stereo CD player and radio, books to read, decks of cards, and board games.

The kitchen has a dinette set, refrigerator/freezer, double sink, 4 burner cooktop, microwave, toaster oven, toaster, cooking utensils, flatware, glassware, dinnerware, double sink, coffee maker with coffee, sugar and sugar substitute, and non-dairy creamers, pots and pans, utensils, and cutlery set.

Park Place has 2 wooden decks at ground level -- one at each end of the building -- and both have charcoal grills for your use. In addition, City Park across the street has pavilions, picnic tables, and more grills.

Also on the main floor of the condo is the full bathroom, as seen here, which includes a hair dryer...

The loft bedroom has a retractable privacy screen if someone is using the sofa couch below, and the queen bed sports a new Eurotop mattress set by Serta. You'll find plenty of countertop space, drawers, and a closet for your things, and the television with VHS player and window mounted air conditioner both have remote controls...

Here's the loft over the kitchen, as seen from the balcony...

...and the view of the living area from the loft...

The hall closet has room to hang clothes, room for storage, and also has an iron and ironing board.

The balcony offers a relaxing locale to sit, catch the cool Gulf breeze, and savor the views of the park, beach, and beyond...

Below is a map showing Cedar Key's location. Click the "X" to remove the word bubble, and then you can click the "+" and "-" to zoom in and zoom out on the map.

View Larger Map

If you visit our homey condo, please read the comments written by guests over the years in the guest books -- and please sign it, too!

Park Place has a website here that provides info on the rental costs.

Ellen maintains a site about the rental condo and links to Cedar Key amenities here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Biking Florida's Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve

I always thought "scrub" was a derogatory term for lousy land, but from my time in Florida, I now know it denotes a disappearing and vital ecosystem. In fact, sand pine scrub is one of the oldest ecosystem types in Florida. Eons ago, when sea levels rose and inundated much of what is now Florida, these upland habitats were surrounded by water, forming desert-like hilltop islands, upon which many species of plants and animals developed unique adaptations to the harsh, dry environment of the scrub lands.

In short, scrub habitat refers to a plant community characterized by the dominance of shrubs, in contrast to forests (which are dominated by trees) and savannas and prairies (which are dominated by grasses.) Furthermore, Florida scrub environment is harsh, for without a canopy of trees, summer temperatures are hotter than in other plant communities. Rain water rushes through the deep, sterile sands as fast as it falls, and fires sweep through the bushes, burning the scrub to the ground. The loose sands are shifted about by wind, abrading and sometimes burying small plants. Hence, only the toughest plants and animals can survive.

These rare and unusual species are found nowhere else in the world. Currently, from 40% to 60% of the plants and animals in scrub lands are so rare they are threatened or endangered. Unfortunately, since scrub land is high and dry, it is also well suited for homes or agricultural uses, so these prime lands have been over-developed faster than any other ecosystem in the state, and two-thirds of the original scrub land in Florida has disappeared, exacerbating the wildlife habitat problem. And scrub land is also vital to man because it acts as recharge areas for the water table, making its survival all the more necessary and valuable.

Florida therefore is preserving these areas, and today we biked a bit of the multi-purpose trails at the Cedar Key Reserve (5028 acres) open to hikers, hunters (in season), equestrians, and mountain bikers. The Reserve has 2 access areas with small parking lots -- one on State Route 24 just west of the intersection with County Route 347, and the second on Route 347 just north of Highway 24. Both are only a handful of miles from the city of Cedar Key.

The trails allow a dozen or so miles of mountain biking. Areas as seen below travel nicely, where the uneven surface is solid and of dirt and grass and pine needles. But be warned -- the biking is extremely strenuous due to frequent lengthy sections of treacherous white sugar sand which make pedaling tricky and very slow-going.

Forested sections are also traversed, though the open areas predominate. The scrub is dominated by species such as sand live oak, myrtle oak, and Chapman's oak, rusty lyonia, and saw palmetto, and the reserve is home to the Florida Scrub Jay, Southern Bald Eagle, osprey, and various other birds, as well as turkey, feral hogs, bobcat, deer, foxes, gopher tortoises, and alligators.

The plants of the Florida Scrub have one advantage. In Florida, where exotic introduced species are a constant problem (from water hyacinths and hydrilla to Brazilian pepper and melaleuca and a hundred species in between), the scrub has been immune to the invasion of foreign weeds, thanks to thriving in such harsh conditions.

Plants and animals whose natural occurrence is restricted to one area are said to be endemic to that area, and such species are called endemics. There are no fewer than 40 species of plants that are endemic to Florida scrub, most of which are considered Endangered or Threatened because their distributions are so small that they are vulnerable to extinction.

Once acquired, the scrub preserves have to be managed. Since many are surrounded by roads, subdivisions or agricultural lands, managers cannot depend on natural lightning-set fires to reach the scrub, and without periodic fires, the scrub oaks grow into trees, and the unique scrub plants and animals are shaded out. Prescribed fires, set by trained land managers, are necessary, but often resisted by neighbors.

Here is the state's web page for the Cedar Key Scrub Reserve.

An excellent source for more info on Florida's scrub is FloriData.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Die Hard Cubs Fans Vision of Heaven

Several years ago Dennis Mascari went to visit his father at a cemetery and came up with the idea to construct a special place for special people: Die Hard, lifelong Cubs fans.

Beyond The Vines is his inspiration and will offer Cubs fans "Eternal Luxury suites" in the form of a niche to hold a funeral urn of loved ones' ashes. Ivy will be planted, a pathway will be constructed in front and around the wall using original Wrigley Field bricks, and four retired Wrigley Field box seats and a bench that was once in the Cubs' bullpen will be installed for visitors to sit on while honoring their deceased relatives and friends. Finally, a stained glass window replicating Wrigley's scoreboard will be installed.

According to Don Babwin of UPI, each of the 280 niches in the wall, dubbed "eternal skyboxes," will have an urn emblazoned with the Cubs logo...

... and a bronze baseball card with a photograph of the deceased fan dressed up in a Cubs hat, jersey, or full Cubs uniform. The individualized baseball card will include the dead fan's statistics -- date of birth, date of death, and maybe their favorite Cubs game and favorite Cub. Cubs games will also be broadcast on speakers at the wall so nobody, living or dead, will miss an inning. And if this idea appeals to more than 280 Cubs fans, the cemetery has set aside enough land to add a left-field wall topped by stained-glass rooftop scene and a right field wall topped by stained glass scene depicting the bleachers and the elevated train that runs behind Wrigley.

Here's the progress thus far...

This unique Chicago Cubs Cemetery is on the grounds of the Bohemian National Cemetery, 5255 N. Pulaski Avenue about five miles northwest of Wrigley Field. Interment in the Chicago Cubs Cemetery costs $1,295 for those already in urns, though the "Grand slam package" which includes cremation services will cost as much as $5,000. Numerous "options" will be available.

Muscari says, "Having grown up here in Chicago, I learned as a young man that Wrigley Field is not really on Clark and Addison Streets, it’s on the corner of Hope and Faith. It’s a green oasis in the middle of the city."

Very true, but it also has a well-worn alley behind it called "Frustration and despair!"

To continue the longstanding rivalry with the South-siders, Muscari relates: "Somebody asked if I could include White Sox fans on the back side of the wall and I simply told them no. Cub fans have been through enough. I want these people to be able to rest in peace."

For additional information, including rates and contact info, go here.

I've been wintering away from Chicago for 4 months and hadn't heard this story, so many thanks to my blogging friend, Goldenrod, for informing me of this developing story, even though she's a die hard Astros fan!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Biking Florida's Withlacoochee Trail

Yesterday we biked 23 miles on the Withlacoochee State Trail, the longest of Florida's multitude of paved rail-trails at 46 miles. We began at the northern terminus. The trailhead lot can be reached off US Highway 41, one mile south of Dunnellon, turn right onto Martinelli, drive to the end, turn left on Magenta to the lot. The 12 foot wide trail is paved, has shaded rest benches at regular intervals, and has an equestrian trail running alongside it. The mileage to each end of the trail is painted on the pavement every mile.

This segment of the trail parallels Highway 41, but even when the road is near the trail, trees block most views and mask traffic noise. Similarly, few houses back up to the trail, and trees are the most abundant objects seen. The trail is a succession of gently rising and falling hills which cumulatively make for a nice workout through the scenic terrain. Enjoy spotting the gopher tortoises that populate the sides of the trails, often scurrying into their burrow when you approach.

This lovely 1/2 mile trail takes you to Central Ridge District Park...

About mile 13 (from the south) you'll see and a path with a sign saying "river" which in about 100 feet takes you to the namesake river seen below.  It's well worth the side trip!

Inverness is a nice section of the trail since there are several lakes alongside the trail (seen below) and two very nice parking lots with facilities.

This trail map depicts the entire 46 mile trail. I've biked the middle section in the past and have photos and info here. I have also biked the southernmost segment as reported here. (You can enlarge this map by clicking it.)

The Florida State website has info and a trail map here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Biking Cedar Key, Florida

Yesterday we biked 13 miles through Cedar Key, traveling nearly every street in the town. Cedar Key is actually several islands (keys) connected by bridges, so we biked three or four different keys on the route. Below are some of the sights we encountered. Like many coastal communities, electric golf carts are prevalent, and hence this sign...

The bridges to the key with the airport had a couple fishermen, and they were being carefully watched by this Great Blue Heron, which basically was begging for food, a successful ploy...

Three planes were parked along the single runway, and Ellen claimed this beauty as hers...

This classic Edsel was parked alongside a residential road in a color I don't believe I've seen before...

One surprise to us was the number of hills (albeit short ones) we encountered while biking these ocean-front keys, giving us a decent workout despite the short mileage. We had spent the day swapping out old furniture for new furniture and getting all organized, and it felt good to get outdoors, enjoy the 80 degree day, and bike the town.

Adventures with Words: Oxymorons #1

oxymoron |ˌäksəˈmôrˌän| noun

a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction (e.g., faith unfaithful kept him falsely true).

ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from Greek oxumōron, neuter (used as a noun) of oxumōros ‘pointedly foolish,’ from oxus ‘sharp’ + mōros ‘foolish.’

  1. open secret
  2. larger half
  3. clearly confused
  4. living dead
  5. alone together
  6. Hell's Angels
  7. found missing
  8. liquid gas
  9. deafening silence
  10. seriously funny
  11. freezer burn
  12. extinct life
  13. genuine imitation
  14. exact estimate
  15. only choice

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Having just spent several days mountain biking on Florida's Panhandle, I got to wondering how many such "panhandles" there are in the United States. What's your guess? I mentally counted six.

First, I guess we should review what a "panhandle" is. This folksy term derives from its similarity to the handle on a cooking pan and the term is generally confined to the United States. Paraphrasing the entry in Wikipedia: A panhandle is similar to a peninsula in shape, but unlike a peninsula it is not surrounded by water on three sides, but rather is a land region surrounded on three sides by land regions not of the same jurisdiction.

So how many are there in the USA? The answer is 10 -- Alaska, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Maryland, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Eastern West Virginia, and Northern West Virginia. Here's a map to demonstrate:

So, how many did you get?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Peer Pressure

Gerry lived on Marshfield Avenue and his house was across the alley from ours. He was one of my few buddies not gleaned from school, church, or scouts, because he attended St. Andrews Catholic School a few doors away at the corner of Addison and Paulina, whereas my other friends and I attended Hamilton Elementary, the local public school.

Gerry had lots of neat toys and things. He lived with his mom and grandmother, his father having died some years before. Gerry and his mom lived on the ground floor, at alley level, and I always thought that must be a bit weird, having cars and people right outside your windows so much of the time. His grandmother lived on the upper floor, and as I recall, she owned the building.

Gerry was a year or two older than I was and oh-so-much more streetwise. Perhaps that was part of his allure. That and all the neat stuff he owned. For example, he had a new bike, one with three speeds and handlebar mounted hand brakes, much nicer that my hand-me-down bike from cousin Norman which had one speed and coaster brakes.

Gerry also had some great Lionel trains and accessories. I had one locomotive and a few freight cars and a caboose, which at Christmas time would run around an oval Dad mounted on a board and sitting under the Christmas tree (photo below.) With only two switches, all I could do was send the train on a slightly longer outside loop, and later, with another switch or two received as Christmas presents, I constructed short sidings. It was a pretty neat setup, I thought -- until I saw Gerry’s! He had a whole section of a spare room for a permanent layout, sporting several locomotives and tons of freight cars. He also had the expensive and ultra-cool passenger train set -- a streamliner -- complete with three engines, one facing forward, one center unit, and one facing backward, all pulling a large number of lighted passenger cars. He also had crossing gates, various train stations, and what seemed like a ton of houses and other “city” amenities.

Oh yeah – he also had all the neat operating cars for his freight train. I had a boxcar or two, a dairy car, a flat car with barrels and logs Dad had fashioned in his basement workshop, a crew workers car, a caboose, a bumper car that reversed direction when it hit something, and when I got the operating boom car with two cranes to put derailed cars back on the tracks, I thought I was hot stuff. But Gerry had the operating log dumping car with the platform which loaded logs onto the car, and the dairy car with its platform where milk barrels vibrated up an incline into the car, then through the car and back down the other incline to the loading platform, and the cattle car with platform where the cows loaded themselves onto the train from the corral. Besides the bumper car, he also had a trolley that reversed direction. And he had the crane car with operating boom and hook which we used to put cars back on the tracks after one of our many manufactured spectacular crashes. We played with those cars for hours!

Gerry also introduced me to his friends from his school – older kids also and far more daring than the guys I usually played with. I recall one summer when a new warehouse or factory was being constructed a few blocks from our houses. When the forms had been placed for the footings and foundation walls, we would explore the “caves” created by the forms, crawling around on hands and knees several feet below ground level, up and over and around forms, rarely seeing the sky from our underground labyrinth. Our daring escapades frightened and exhilarated me, especially when chased by some security guard or construction worker.

Another of Gerry’s pastime brainstorms was collecting leaves in the fall – from the catalpa and oak trees in front of my house and the varied color maple trees up and down the block -- and putting them in paper bags from the two local department stores on Lincoln Avenue – Wieboldt’s and Goldblatt’s – and then walking into those stores with our loaded bags. We’d go into the pay phone booths and leave a bag in each, and while walking home, construct elaborate stories about harried shoppers pausing to make a call, who upon discovering the closed bag left behind by some other equally harried shopper would surreptitiously carry their illicitly acquired extra “gifts” home, only to arrive and discover disappointedly that a bag of leaves was all they had acquired! What delicious and juvenile fun we had!

Then one day, Gerry announced his latest and most audacious plan. We would go down the block to the grocery store on the corner and each shoplift some item. I was aghast at this thought! I had been raised with weekly church services and Sunday School attendance and certainly knew that stealing was wrong, but my first hardcore experience with peer pressure was not one I could stand up against, so with much trepidation and fear, I accompanied him to the store, where I picked out a candy bar or two to pay for and stuck a can of shaving cream inside my coat. Knowing I was going to get caught but still unable to stop myself, I followed Gerry to the checkout counter where I was personally known by the owner’s wife, and we each paid for our “purchases” and left with both our purchased and non-purchased items.

What a relief! I had made it outside. We ran down the block to the alley by our houses and I quickly sprayed the shaving foam onto the St. Andrews gymnasium wall and discarded the empty can into a nearby garbage can, anxious to be rid of the incriminating evidence. I was a nervous wreck but couldn’t let Gerry know, of course. I made some lame excuse that I had to go home and did so, going to my room and pretending to be engrossed in some long-forgotten activity, while my insides churned with fear that the doorbell would soon ring and Mrs. Store Owner would announce to my Mom and the world at-large that a master criminal resided within this apartment.

Hours later, uncaught and un-condemned, and realizing I had probably successfully accomplished the dastardly crime, I was overcome with relief -- which quickly gave way to overwhelming self-loathing for what I had done. I knew it was wrong. I had been raised better than that action showed. Gerry and I never discussed this event, never replicated it, and I never heard him brag about it to friends, so perhaps he, too, felt ashamed of our transgression. I thought of paying secretly or outwardly for the can of shaving cream, but I did not have that vast a sum of money at my disposal. I would like to report to you that I confessed my transgression to my parents and somehow made amends for my wrongdoing, but I didn’t. However, I did promise myself to never permit myself to be placed in such a compromising position again, and to this day I can report that I have never stolen another thing in my life.

And I guess, in retrospect, the fact that I have kept that secret promise is some small evidence of a lesson well learned.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Trivia #2

1. The ingredients of what food product was the subject of the world’s first consumer protection law?

Beer. In a 1516 decree called the Rheinheitsgebot, or purity law, Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria mandated that beer have only three ingredients—barley malt, hops, and water.

2. How many passengers could be seated inside the stagecoaches operated by Wells, Fargo and Company?

Up to nine. There was also seating on the roof—unless there was too much luggage.

3. Which two states have official donuts? What kinds of donuts are they?

Louisiana, the beignet; Massachusetts, the Boston cream donut.

4. What is the only mammal with a true shell?

The armadillo.

5. Why does New York’s Penn Station bear the name of another state?

It wasn’t named for Pennsylvania—it was named for the Pennsylvania Railroad, which completed construction of the original Penn Station in 1910. The railroad also operated Penn Stations in Newark, New Jersey; Baltimore, Maryland; Cleveland, Ohio; and, more fittingly, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

6. Why were the Academy Award ceremonies postponed in 1968?

For the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr. The ceremonies were delayed on only two other occasions—following a devastating flood in Los Angeles in 1938, and after the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.

7. How many sides are there to each honeycomb cell in a beehive?

Six. The hexagonal cells are molded from beeswax secreted by worker bees.

8. What are the triffids in the classic 1951 sci-fi novel and 1963 cult horror film The Day of the Triffids?

Plants—fierce, mobile man-eating plants that can kill with a single swipe of their poisonous stingers.

(from Page-A-Day Calendars)

Mountain Biking the Twilight Loop... Florida's Apalachicola National Forest is a magnificent ride. This loop is the second and longer of the two loops at the Munson Hills Offroad Bicycle area, the other being the adjacent Munson Hills Loop which I reported on here. Both trails appear on this map (click to enlarge.)

Both trails traverse a rare environment that represents sand dunes from a shoreline formed here a million years ago. The sandhills form a foundation for a towering longleaf pine forest sporadically intermixed with sinkhole ponds and wetlands, and the bike trail often dips down into the sandhills through hammock ecosystems of oak, cherry, sassafras and other hardwoods, but the climbs are gentle. This 10 mile loop singletrack trail traverses the pine forest and the ocasional brief hardwood forest sections delivering mostly easy pedaling and endless gorgeous scenery...

The local white "Sugar Sand" is encountered frequently, and the few deeper sand areas are longer in length on this trail than on the Munson Hills Trail, so care must constantly be taken to avoid a spill, especially when rounding a blind curve or topping a rise. Several shallow ditches are biked through -- normally fun to speed down -- but here they have an accumulation of deep sand at the bottom, so don't go too fast...

...because, apparently, not everyone makes it all the way around the loop...

You reach the trailhead from the Tallahassee - St. Marks Trail parking area located just south of Tallahassee, Florida. Take Monroe Street/Woodville Highway/State Route 363 south of town, and then just south of Capital Circle (US Highway 319) is the large parking lot on your right. It's well marked and obvious. Ride the paved trail 1.25 miles south and you'll find the well-marked entrance to the Apalachicola National Forest off -road bike area, also well marked -- which is a singletrack trail for a tenth of a mile to the mountain bike trailhead with kiosks of information including a map of the 2 trails. (There is no car access here -- you must bike from the lot mentioned above.)

To get to the Twilight Trail, you turn left on the first blue blazed trail (which is the Munson Hills Loop) and go about 25 yards to a left turn onto the white blazed East Connector Trail. It runs .6 miles to the blue blazed Twilight Loop.

A second access to this trail is through the J.Lewis Hall Park in Woodville which is just a mile or so south of the parking area mentioned above. Park by the washroom building, and then bike the grass between the washrooms and the baseball field fence to the trail access shown below...

You can't miss the short fence sections seen above. A short .1 mile access trail gets you to the Twilight Loop.

Worthy Quotes #22:

Success and failure are equally disastrous.
–-Tennessee Williams

Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.
-- Arthur C. Clarke

Fall seven times, stand up eight.
-- Japanese Proverb

You do what you can for as long as you can, and when you finally can't, you do the next best thing. You back up, but you don't give up.
--Chuck Yeager

No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helps you.
--Althea Gibson

Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.
--Cesar Chavez

Love cures all, except poverty and toothache.
--Akwasi Agyeman Ahmed

The best way to lose weight is to develop an orthodox belief in some religion that doesn't allow any fun.
--Gregory Nunn

Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream by night.
--Edgar Allan Poe

If pro is the opposite of con, what is the opposite of "progress?"
--Paul Harvey

Monday, April 20, 2009

Senate seat on sale for only $1900...

(Click to enlarge)

Biking Florida's Munson Hills Mountain Bike Trail

The Munson Hills Off-Road Bicycle Trail offers a scenic and challenging ride through some of the most varied terrain in the Apalachicola National Forest of Florida's panhandle, the largest of Florida's three national forests at 571,088 acres. This rare environment represents sand dunes from a shoreline formed here a million years ago. The sandhills form a foundation for a towering longleaf pine forest sporadically intermixed with sinkhole ponds and wetlands. The bike trail often dips down into the sandhills through hammock ecosystems of oak, cherry, sassafras and other hardwoods, but the climbs are gentle. The local white "Sugar Sand" is encountered frequently, but the few deeper sand areas are short in length, so if you keep your eyes open and your pedals turning, you'll be fine.

You reach the trailhead from the Tallahassee - St. Marks Trail parking area located just south of Tallahassee, Florida. Take Monroe Street/Woodville Highway/State Route 363 south of the town, and then just south of Capital Circle (US Highway 319) is the large parking lot. Ride the paved trail a mile or so south and you'll find the well-marked entrance to the Apalachicola National Forest -- a singletrack to the mountain bike trailhead. (There is no car access here -- you must bike from the lot mentioned above.)

Here you'll find a kiosk with a map showing the 2 loops and their short-cut and connector trails (photo below - click to enlarge.) The Twilight Loop is a second trail here.

The loop pictured above on the right is the Munson Hills Loop and is advertised as a challenging 7.5 miles in length. If you take the cutoff, the ride is 4.5 miles long. The left loop is called the Twilight Loop and is 9.5 miles long and my report is found here.
The lovely longleaf pine forest stretches before you and offers long, beautiful views as seen here...

... and the denser hardwood sections offer occasional variety of scenery...

The loops and cutoff trails are well marked with signs...

... and all connector trails have white blazes on the trees, while the loop trails sport blue blazes. A double blaze warns of a turn. The trail is scenic and is labeled as "challenging," probably due to the sand areas and the multiple ascents to high areas (though this is Florida, so we're not talking huge elevation gains!)

Biking Florida's Tallahassee - St. Marks Trail

The Tallahassee - St.Marks Historic Railroad State Trail was Florida's first designated state trail and follows the abandoned railbed of the old Tallahassee - St. Marks Railroad which operated for 147 years (1836 to 1983.)

The paved trail (above) runs for 16 miles to the coastal community of St. Marks, and an unpaved equestrian trail (below) runs adjacent to it.

A parking area and full-service trailhead -- parking, washrooms, maps -- is available south of Tallahassee on Monroe Street/Woodville Highway/State Route 363, just south of Capital Circle (US Highway 319.) Mountain bikers can park here, bike the paved trail a mile south, and reach the start of the Munson Hills Mountain Bike Trails of the Apalachicola National Forest.

Blondes are Smarter than Lawyers

A lawyer and a blonde woman are sitting next to eachother on a long flight. The lawyer asks if she would like to play a fun game. The blonde is tired and just wants to take a nap, so she politely declines and tries to catch a few winks.

The lawyer persists, saying that the game is a lot of fun. "I'll ask you a question, and if you don't know the answer, you pay me only $5; then you ask me one, and if I don't know the answer, I will pay you $500."

This catches the blonde's attention, and to keep him quiet, she agrees to play the game. The lawyer asks the first question. "What's the distance from the earth to the moon?"

The blonde doesn't say a word, reaches in to her purse, pulls out a five-dollar bill, and hands it to the lawyer.

Now, it's the blonde's turn. She asks the lawyer, What goes up a hill with three legs and comes down with four?"

The lawyer uses his laptop, searches all references. He uses the Airphone; he searches the Net and even the Library of Congress. He sends e-mails to all the smart friends he knows, all to no avail.

After one hour of searching he finally gives up. He wakes up the blonde and hands her $500. The blonde takes the $500 and goes back to sleep.

The lawyer goes nuts not knowing the answer. He wakes her up and asks, "Well, so what goes up a hill with three legs and comes down with four?"

The blonde reaches into her purse, hands the lawyer $5 and goes back to sleep.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Ernie Haase and Signature Sound...

... is another of my favorite Gospel groups. Ernie sang tenor during the final 10 years or so of the great Cathedral Quartet as I posted here. Upon joining the quartet, Ernie met George's family, was smitten by one of his daughter's, Lisa, and married her. After the Cathedrals retired due to health issues of the two founders, Glen Payne and George Younce, Ernie decided to begin his own group, and with the assistance and guidance of his father-in-law, George Younce, he created Signature Sound with superb bass Tim Duncan, lead Ryan Seaton, and baritone Doug Anderson. The photo below shows them performing with guest singer, George Younce.

I had the privilege of attending a live performance in a small church in Lake Zurich, Illinois, in the early days of Signature Years. A couple of my buddies in the tenor section of my community chorus knew I loved the Cathedrals and told me Ernie and his new group was coming to their church, so I attended and was blown away by their performance, instantly becoming a fan. I met the four fellows after the concert and purchased their available CDs.

They are now regulars on the Gaither Homecoming Tours and we got to see them live again at the Orlando "Lovin' Life" Homecoming in February as I posted here.

Ernie, Doug, and Ryan are all Indiana natives and huge basketball fans. All three are over 6 feet tall and often play hoops to relax when on the road. Tim is a Mississippi native and not over 6 feet tall. It surprises many when first hearing him that such a huge rich bass sound comes from his compact frame!

Here is their rendition of "Then Came the Morning"

Here's a clip with their previous piano man, Roy Webb, who was a master at supplying humor along with his marvelous accompaniment...

While on a Gaither Homecoming cruise last month, they performed a medley to honor their friends, the Oak Ridge Boys, combining "Jesus, Come and See Me" (the Oaks first Gospel hit), "Y'all Come Back Saloon" (their first country hit), and "Elvira" (their biggest hit.") Ernie says, "Here we are out in the middle of the Caribbean singing on the Gaither Cruise. We had a whole concert to ourselves one night and we did some Oak ridge Boys songs. The sound is a little distorted but you'll get the gist."

And here's the title song from one of their albums, "Stand By Me" with Bass Tim Duncan singing the lead...

Their first DVD release soared to the top of Billboard Magazine's music video chart as well as the Christian Contemporary Music video chart, and they received two 2008 Dove Awards for their second DVD release in the categories of Southern Gospel Recorded Song of the Year and Southern Gospel Album of the Year ("Get Away Jordan").

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Signs of Spring Abound

Tent caterpillars are active...

Dogwoods are in bloom...

Pink returns to the forest...

...and bird song again echoes through the greening trees. I love spring!