Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Singing Tower

Listening to the Bells
Singing Tower
The Bok Tower Gardens are located in central Florida on one of the highest points of land in the area. Although it is called Iron Mountain, it is actually more of a hill, but for Florida it provides a beautiful location for this National Historical Landmark. Built by Edward W. Bok the publisher of Lady’s Home Journal, the tower and surrounding gardens were built in the 1920’s. The 250 acre site contains many different gardens containing rare and endangered Florida plants, and trails and roads allow you to wander through the site.

Although not originally part of the gardens, a neighboring estate
built by Charles Buck of Bethlehem Steel as his winter get-a-way has been added and it was an excellent guided/self-guided tour. This Mediterranean style mansion is spectacular, with hand carved doors, all different as well as a different patterned tile floor in every room. One interesting feature is the main staircase which has a different hand-painted tile pattern on every stair riser. As we are down here in Florida escaping the cold north, it was interesting to see how the rich and famous “snowbird”.

Main Stairway in Pinewood Estate
The centerpiece of this beautiful garden is the 205 ft. Singing Tower. Made of different marble the tower has a pink tint, and contains beautiful sculptures and art-deco windows allowing the music from a 60 bell carillon to reach most of the park twice a day. Pools, including a reflecting pond that allows the entire tower to be reflected in the water surround the tower. Originally Mr. Bok wanted Pink flamingos living in the park to coordinate with the pick marble, but they were unable to survive the cold of central Florida.

Surrounding the tower are numerous comfortable benches allowing guests to sit and enjoy the daily concerts by world renowned carillonneurs. On our visit we got to hear Polish carillonneur Anna Kasprzycka. A very pleasant way to spend a beautiful Florida afternoon; sitting in a garden with carillon music drifting through the trees and flowers.
Beautiful Palm in the garden

Part of the Children's Garden
Beautiful Tile Floors in Pinewood Estate

Wildlife in the Garden

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Friday Night Fish-Fry

Just across the road outside the gate for the Park here in Lakeland is an American Legion, and we heard that they had a pretty good Fish-Fry every Friday night.

Fish-Fry at the legion
One day at the swimming pool while chatting with some other residents, we asked about this event and got some difference of opinion.

“Make sure you get take-out; otherwise you will have to come home and burn all of your clothes! That place is SO smoky!” one lady said rather dramatically.

That however was not the only opinion. “Nonsense, it’s a fun place and the fish-fry is excellent!” responded another swimmer who then added “Crazy woman!” as she turned and got out of the pool.

Well, with such a diversity of reviews on the fish-fry, our only option was to go give it a try. First we stopped in to check on timing and discovered that although the legion was a “Smoking Location”, it did have a “No Smoking” room, so our clothes might survive the event. As well we discovered that following the Fish-Fry there was entertainment with a
country singer.

Timing our arrival to take advantage of both the dinner and the singer, we discovered the place was very busy and Regis asked if she could sit beside two men at the end of one of the tables, and was given permission so long as she got rid of me. Fortunately these guys were actually friendly aging bikers and once they discovered I rode a motorcycle we all got along just fine.

The fish-fry was excellent and the entertainment was great. Aggie (Regis’ mom) would have loved it. Unfortunately, we enjoyed it TOO much and stayed long enough that the gates were closed when we tried to get back into the park. We had forgotten to bring the remote and had to stand around looking like friendly Canadians and wait for another resident to come out and open the gate – the downside to a gated park.

Monday, April 17, 2017

TOO Loud!

I like car shows, but discovered that they are not all equal. Driving home from an outing one day, I saw a poster on a light pole promoting a car show that was not too far away. Cars, Motorcycles, and “sound” the poster said. I saw, “Cars” and “Bikes”, but did not really focus on that “Sound” category.  I should have!

And it only had an AM radio
There was a1965 mustang, three motorcycles, and 10,000 speakers (A guess . .)

It seemed that the “Sound” category was all about how many speakers you can cram into a vehicle, and how loud you could play Rap music. For example, take a Ford Superduty F350 4X4 pickup truck, fill the front door panels with speakers, same with the back doors, use the entire rear seat area for the amps and controllers, add a hydraulic lift on the bed and fill it with speakers, finally fold out the bed sides and fill them with more speakers. There were four of these rigs. Or take a vehicle that no one likes, such as a Chevy astro-van  or an old Dodge caravan and fill it with speakers. Four door cars are not popular with customizers, but are perfect for “Sound” customs. You can fill all four doors with speakers, open all four doors and blast your music.

No one will notice the dents and rust . . .
You might think they would organize this so that each vehicle would get a chance to “perform” and someone would judge which system sounded best. No, they set all the vehicles in a big circle and everyone tried to out “Loud” everyone else. Now even this might not have been so bad if somehow the music was coordinated, but everyone had a different rap song that best showcased their system, and it was pumping. Ok, you get the picture. I kept thinking I wanted to hand someone a copy of Jimi Hendricks “Purple Haze” and see how these speaker systems really worked. Play that LOUD!

There were some custom cars, but most were in the “Gangsta” style. Big, long and bright with huge wheels and extreme low-profile tires. Most had hubcaps that did not spin when the cars were moving, but contained motors that spun them when the car was stationary. Although not my style, I tried to have an open mind, and appreciate some of the quality work done on some of these vehicles. There was some really beautiful detail work, but some were more about the drama than the quality.

I wonder how “Wild Thing” by the Trogs would have sounded?
No room for cargo in that truck.

Yup, a Chevy Astro-Van

I think it used to be a Buick . . .

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Going To School With Frank

Florida Southern college has the largest concentration of Frank Lloyd Wright designed structures in the world. The president of the university in the 30’s, commissioned wright to design the College of the future and in 1938, construction began on the Frank Lloyd Wright designed campus. Today almost 80 years later, the Wright designed campus remains a spectacular sight, but the college is struggling to maintain the buildings which were designed for a dry California and Arizona climate. In many places the damp and rain of Florida had shown some weakness in the otherwise beautiful designs.

Water Dome
I discovered a simple self guided tour was available and I picked up a brochure that allowed us to explore at our own pace. Although a few buildings were labeled “Open to the Public”, all the buildings are part of a collage campus, so it was actually easy to get into most buildings to explore on our own.

Most buildings share common themes, of triangles, and circles and are constructed with unique interlocking concrete blocks with coloured glass inserts, and copper accents on the roof. This coloured glass can be seen throughout, and one kind administrator, invited us in and turned out her office lights to show us the light coming through the glass pieces. All of the buildings are connected by over a mile of lovely covered Espanades, providing shade and shelter to students moving between buildings.
Design by Frank Lloyd Wright

Central to the entire campus is the water dome, a 160 ft water fountain that under full power created a complete 45 ft high dome of water. Unfortunately, the technology did not exist in 1948 to actually make it work, but in 2007, it was restored and can now create the dome Wright envisioned.

These buildings, almost 80 years old, still look spectacularly modern, and are a tribute to one of the architectural geniuses of the century.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Good Day for Gators

Florida Tourists
Florida is known for it’s Alligators, but many people who visit the state only get to see them behind bars or fences. Today we went to Circle B Bar Reserve, and got to see LOTS of gators in their natural surroundings – and we did not get eaten.

The Circle B Bar Reserve is a 1200 acre game preserve that used to be a cattle ranch, but has been allowed to return to it’s natural Florida swampland habitat. The reserve is famous for its bird life and alligators. We were taken here on a previous visit to Lakeland and thoroughly enjoyed it, so decided to go again. Last time
we saw an alligator in the lake and one other sunning itself on the shore. This time we probably saw over 15, including one Huge one. There is a raised trail running beside the lake with a swamp on the other side, and all except the one really big gator were in the swamp, but you could easily see the paths they used to cross the trail from the lake to the swamp. Most of them were hard to see, as they were covered with the green weed covering the swamp water, but once you focused on one, you knew what to look for and it became easier to pick them out. These alligators are really in their natural habitat and there is nothing separating you and them. Signs warn you to give animals the right of way, and I watched a video of one large alligator crossing the trail I had just walked
A BIG Ol' Gator!
on. Fortunately most looked pretty well fed and lazy in the heat of the day, so we did not actually run into any unfriendly gators.

Although observing the gators in their natural habitat was the highlight of the walk, the reserve is well known for it’s amazing bird life, but finding rare birds is easy – you just find one of the devoted “Birders” on the trails and sight down their massive camera lens pointed at the birds. They are always more than happy to explain all about their particular photographic prey.

All in all, a good day for gators!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Outside the Fence

A nice sturdy wall
The house we are renting is located within a “Gated Community”, so although there is no armed guard at the entrance, it is completely fenced and is a nice safe, secure community. It seems to me that everyone feels comfortable here, and folks are out walking at all hours, and everyone gives you a wave and a friendly greeting.

However, as we sit out in the lanai sipping a cool beverage, we look across the street and can see behind the houses there to dwellings outside the fence. I could not help wonder what was behind the fence. The dogs should have given me a clue . . . . There are lots of dogs here in the park, but there must be some by-law limiting their size, because they are all friendly little things, while I can hear dogs occasionally from outside the fence and they all sounded a lot bigger.

The Common Theme outside the Fence
Today with nothing serious planned, I set out to actually see what was outside the fence. I walked out to the entrance, exited at the gate and went along the front wall/fence to the road running down alongside the park. The road started out paved, but quickly regressed into a dirt track. There was a strange mix of houses, mobile homes and deserted properties. The common theme was “NO TRESPASSING” and “BEWARE OF THE DOG”. On my walk, I met a few of those “outside the fence” dogs behind sturdy fences or chained out front, and they all made a point of reinforcing the “No Trespassing” signs on their fences.

My curiosity satisfied, I now know what is outside the fence, and I am happy to sit in the lanai with my beverage and wave to the other residents going by in their golf carts, and pat their friendly little dogs when I walk around the park.

Not our Rental!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Wind on the Gulf

Visiting Debbie
Today we drove to Gulfport to visit an old friend. I taught her son in grade one when she helped me rescue a Christmas Concert, and Regis has book club with her.

Although it was a HOT 33° at one point, there was a strong wind blowing in off the Gulf, so it made for a pleasant day. After visiting and going out for a lunch on the waterfront, we headed back to Lakeland via the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The last time we crossed this beautiful bridge it was to discover everyone in St Petersburg wearing wool hats and gloves when we came for a few “Beach Days” during March Break many years ago. Needless to say we did not spend much time on the beach that year.

Today as we crossed the causeway leading to the bridge we noticed a large group of Para
A good Day for sailing
surfers enjoying the windy day. We found a convenient access road to the beach and we were able to stop and watch them up close. It was really interesting. They would stand in the water’s edge with their kite high above them, and when they found a free area of water, they swung the kite and took off across the water out into the Gulf. Some of them allowed the kite to lift them high into the air where they spun and then came back down, skimming the waves.

One of the most amazing kite surfers we were told was a 14 year old, but Regis did wonder why he wasn’t in school (Once and Vice Principal – always a vice Principal).

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Rebels on Three Wheels

If you have been reading my posts for a while you might recall a post I did back in 2014
about the amazing Golf Carts from “The Villages” in Florida. This year we went back to this interesting community to visit Joe & Gloria, good friends we met on a river cruise.

The Villages grows by aprox. 20 people every day and now has a population of about 115,000 people. It is a thriving 55+ community because every house must have at east one occupant who is over 55 years old. It is certainly an interesting place. Check out more about TheVillages at

This year our friends showed me that the Golf Cars are not the only interesting means of transportation in the Villages. We went to visit one of the ‘Village Squares” where the “Village Wingers” were holding a gathering. Not happy with modified golf carts as a means of transportation, these ‘Senior Bikers” ride Honda Goldwing motorcycles. Now the Goldwing is the ultimate touring machine, and many have covered hundreds of thousands of miles, but these ones lead a more sedate life. I asked one rider where he rode and he said he made one trip out of state, but mostly his ride was used to go out to dinner once a week within The Villages community itself.

The other interesting thing about these Goldwings was that there were more with three and four wheels than just two. Some had serious trike conversions and had full differentials driving two rear wheels, but many featured a two out-rigger wheel kit to support the machine but retained the original motorcycle drive wheel. Considering that probably all these riders are over 55, and a lot looked older, I suppose, bad knees, hips and other ailments we all get as we get older make these options a wise choice to keep these Village “Rebels on three wheels” still able to hit the road and feel the wind in their hair. More power to them – keep on riding!

Street Sculpture

We left Nova Scotia for the warmth and sunshine of Florida for the month of April, renting a house in Lakeland, a community about 45 minutes inland from Tampa Bay. We “got out of Dodge” just in time, sandwiched between a snowstorm the day before our exit and another a few days after we left. Now settled in Lakeland we have pretty consistent hot, sunny weather, and I must admit, I am enjoying the heat.

After a week of driving south and visiting friends and relatives along the way, I am trying to get back into my daily walks. Today I looked at Google Maps and decided I could walk from the house to downtown Lakeland. It was a pleasant walk with convenient sidewalks and lovely lakeside walks – obviously where the name “Lakeland” comes from.

I have been to Lakeland previously, actually visiting with the good friends who we are renting the house from, and on the last visit, I was taken downtown to see the Lemon Street Sculpture garden. On this trip I wanted to go back and see it once more, and managed to find my way back easily. The Sculpture Garden is a three-block long street side display of sculpture installed on concrete pads under trees. I enjoyed wandering among the interesting sculptures in such a pleasant setting last time and was pleased to note that all the sculptures had been changed and were all new. The natives of Lakeland obviously just take this interesting exhibition for granted as I was alone in wandering among the  artworks, and people seemed to find it odd that I was so interested in them and taking photos. The one street person sleeping on a bench in the area actually got up and left as my interest in the sculpture was disturbing his resting place.

I have attached a few photos of the sculptures.