A Writer’s Grave, Turtle ICU and the Year that Was

December 28, 2011

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I can’t believe another year has come and gone! One of the fun things about blogging is you can look back on the year and see what you’ve accomplished, where you’ve been, and what you’ve learned. Although I didn’t travel as much this year, I still had amazing experiences.  Here are a few of my favorites:

No. 1:  Cross Creek, home of Pulitzer Prize winning author, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings…

with a visit to her gravesite.


No. 2:  Turtle ICU at the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet

No. 3:  Gander Mountain Firearms Academy, in Lake Mary

No. 4:  Dinner at the top-notch Blue restaurant in Flagler Beach.

No. 5:  Deep Sea Fishing out of New Smyrna Beach

I finally tried a Florida avocado, made a Clove Orange, devoured a champagne truffle and tasted the best Muffaleta sandwich ever.  I learned about armadillos, LandLubber grasshoppers, and Herculean trees.

And I’m not through with Florida yet.


Fishing for Dinner

November 16, 2011

Groupons are great for getting you out of your comfort zone and into something you know nothing about. Back in April we bought a Groupon for a 7-hour fishing trip out of New Smyrna Beach. With only a few weeks left to use it or lose it, we finally signed up.

The Pastime Princess is 100-feet long and can accommodate 150 passengers. On Saturday though there were only 73 of us, including many last-minute Groupon users like ourselves. We arrived at the dock early and picked out our spots on the back rail.  

After a fun, yet cool, cruise out, we lined up like little soldiers all around the boat and waited for the Captain to give the order. When he did, I let my hook down, careful not to  cause a backlash in my reel. Then I waited. It wasn’t long before everyone around me started pulling up Sea Bass after Sea Bass. Although they had to throw every one of those back, at least they were catching something.

I have been fishing maybe 2-3 times in my life, all here in Florida, all off of Matt’s boat.  If I recall correctly, I caught three pinfish at a mooring buoy on something called a sabeki line. Here, however, I wasn’t having much luck. I resigned myself to admitting that I am indeed my father’s daughter and my brother’s sister. When we were young and visiting Florida, my Dad and brother would go out on a boat like this one with my Uncle Jim and cousin Jimmy.  My uncle and cousin always caught fish, but my Dad and brother never seemed to have much luck. I guess it’s in the genes.

At the third fishing site people continued to catch fish right and left of me, starting with a high schooler named Brenda who brought in the first keepable fish of the day– a Trigger fish. Others brought in cobias the size of  small children.

Finally I felt the nibble and reeled my line in as fast as I could (which wasn’t very fast but was unbelievably clumsy). My first catch of the day was a small grunt.  We threw it back in. After that I caught a few Sea Bass, and another grunt. My only claim to fame on the boat was being the only person to catch a Lizard Fish, which no one wants to catch, much less eat. 

By now everyone was catching huge Red Snappers but these too, unfortunately, had to be returned to the sea. Then Matt landed not one, but two, Lane Snappers. Finally fish we could keep.


Once back at the dock, the crew swiftly and expertly cleaned everyone’s catches.  We felt lucky to have something to take home for dinner when so many others didn’t.

I think we’ll be doing this again.

Pier Escape

May 11, 2010

The more time I spend in freezing cold air-conditioned offices during the week, the more I desire to be outdoors on the weekends.  Then again, the outdoors provide the extreme opposite and instead of shivering I’m sweating.  Sometimes, however, I get lucky and the outside temperature and humidity ease off.  Last Sunday was one of those days.

We headed out early and after a short hike ended up in the quaint Flagler Beach area about twenty miles north of Daytona Beach. The area was mostly full of locals tanning on the beach, surfing, or fishing off the 806 ft. long pier.  For $1.50 per person, we walked out on the pier, checking out the fishing gear and people on each side.  Men, women and children lined the rails, their fishing rods dangling over the side.


Once at the end of the pier we patiently waited as old salts as well as a boy of about 11 stood watching their poles for a sign of a catch.  One guy eventually traded in his small bait shrimp for a larger squid, saying “go large or go home” as we looked on.  A lot of hopeful thinking goes on at the end of that pier.

We didn’t have to wait long before two fishermen reeled in small Bonnethead Sharks (which look like tiny Hammerheads).  We watched as they used their needle nose pliers to pull out the hook, then toss the sharks back over the rail to the waves below.  This was followed by two catches of Black Drum large enough to keep, fillet and eat.  Patience really does pay off.

Birds of varying types sit in wait for leftover bait or discarded fish parts.  These guys, however, seemed content just watching people pass by.

We’ve visited the pier several times now.  During these past visits we have seen manta rays, eagle rays and turtles all around the pier.  Right whales are often spotted in this area also. 

In addition to the pier, there are a few small restaurants and shops to peruse, local artwork and a cozy coffee house.  A few nice nature walks are close by also.  I always feel like I’m on a mini-vacation when I visit these few blocks right on the ocean.  There is a feel of small town here.   No overwrought commercialism as in Daytona, no advertising gimmick or alcohol-themed event such as Spring Break.  You come to Flagler Beach because you want to, because you like to, anytime of the year. 

At first I considered adding the pier experience to my list of 50 Things to Love About Florida.  However, I love the overall experience.  To be more precise, I love the feeling of being on vacation, even if just for a day, and even if just 20 miles from home.  There are many places you can go for these mini-vacations, or escapes, for one or two days in Florida.  That’s what I love about this state, and that’s what I am putting as number 4 on my list.