A Whale of a Time

Aug 14, 2010 Pleasant Bay, Cape Breton, NS

After the captain fiddled us a tune we were on our way and on the lookout in Pleasant Bay:

We spotted a pod of pilot whales, my favourite. Google images here.

The whales were shy and mostly kept their distance.

Once in a while they surprised us with a closer look.

Two popped up beside the boat and swam right under us then disappeared.

Captain Jay heads back to the harbour.

Pleasant Bay is one of the best whale watching spots in Nova Scotia.

-P

Rock Bottom

Feb 24 - Mar 1, 2010 Leebo's Rock Bottom Bar that is...

The bar is aptly named and, at once, a highlight and lowlight of our visit to Chokoloskee Island. Though the bar is little more than a rough screened in porch--wrapped in plastic (seriously)--with a concrete floor, three picnic tables and one mobile propane heater to hover by, it offers some of the best live music around.

Leebo, the owner (second from left) charmed me from the start. "We got kissed by angels. Twice," he said as he pointed out the dimples in our cheeks. Derek (far right) has awesome jiggy dance moves that I could never hope to grasp. I tried.

Leebo's Rock Bottom Bar is the kind of place where the owner/bouncer/guitarist has to cut his own cousin off the drink and show him the door, where the father of a toothless ultimate fighter named Tank shares his bag of popcorn with the entire crowd--all eight of us, where dogs are welcome, and where locals bring their own Tequila Rose to shoot back by the plastic pill cupfuls.

One of my favourite things about Chokoloskee Island is the view from our campsite. Constant activity: a big stretch of rippling water, pelicans, fishermen, kayakers, etc. An osprey snagged a big fish right in front of our site, and that was a sight!

Just as delightful, the Havana Cafe across the street.

If you have the chance, try the huevos rancheros, even if it's not on the menu. It was on the menu one day then scribbled off the menu the next after the owner mother and cook son argued about the dish. However, if you talk nice to the server, she'll sweet talk the cook and you can still have some. :)

We drove the Tamiami Trail to Clyde Butcher's gallery of photography. On the way we saw comorants drying in the mangroves, egrets, vultures, a "wild hog bbq" at a rundown fire station, and gators.

More Chokoloskee Island to come...

-P

Homosassa Springs State Park, FL

February 3-6, 2010 We took a boat to "The Fish Bowl", the biggest fish bowl we've ever seen. In the underwater observatory, we were the fish in the bowl. :)

These gentle, vegetarian giants wander from snack to snack in the fishbowl.

This 10-footer spun and spun and spun around the viewing station.

Caretakers supplement the manatees's diet of sea greens with vegetables, like lettuce, and vegetable pellets. Each manatee eats about 10% of it's body weight each day: 200 pounds of lettuce! That's a lot of salad...

It seems they have three modes: eat mode, play mode and relax mode.

This 6+ footer swam to the shallows until its belly could rest on the sand so they could sun their back.

Because it's been unseasonably cold in Florida for the past few months, Florida is experiencing their largest "manatee kill" ever. The placid mammals just can't handle the cold. Sad.

These ominous gators fare better:

A boardwalk trails through the park by a large waterfowl pond as well as birds of prey, native mammal and reptile exhibits and more, including an obviously not native hippopotamus left over from a circus. Florida residents balked at the plan to euthanize the hippo when the circus closed. Now it's a naturalized Floridian citizen.

Flamingos:

Egrets:

Sandhill crane:

The one redeeming quality of Nature's Resort RV Park (there's nothing "resort" about it) is across the street: Marguerita Grill which features margaritas as big as our heads and interesting eats.

And that's our Homosassa experience.

-P

Manatee Springs

January 31-February 3, 2010 Manatee Springs State Park

I've wanted to see manatees for years, and this was the best view of one:

I know, you can't really see it. The light spot in the centre is just a glimpse of its back. We heard them more than we saw them. Every few minutes a telltale snort revealed the position of a breathing manatee.

All but one of the park's gentle giants are difficult to spot in the dark water. This one (easily an eight footer) has a buoy-like tracking device tied to its tail.

Even though we caught just a glimpse I was thrilled. :D

We walked the boardwalk under cypress and tupelo trees in search of more manatees down the spring and by the shores of Suwanne River. Instead we found huge sluggish fish, cormorants drying their wings in the sun and black vultures haunting the leafless trees.

For our fellow RVers: We had an excellent site and excellent sights at Yellow Jacket RV Resort. That's the bus peeking out of the bushes on the right.

A nice view of the Suwannee:

-P

New Orleans Aquarium: Part 2

December 15, 2009 If you can still squeeze through a tire and don't mind looking a bit ... warped, you can be part of the exhibit and get an insider's look at life in a tank.

Okay, this is kind of neat, kind of gross:

Visitors can feed little fish and scraps to stingrays, which is a little gross to begin with. Grosser than that, the stingrays have really big, spongy mouths and they basically swallow and suck a whole fist to get the little morsel. Yick!

Yep, that entire slippery smile slurping your hand ... Bleck!

But better than a hand in an albino alligator...

... or a nurse shark. They suck too: they suck in dormant fish and other bottom feeders off the ocean floor. Nurse sharks are bottom dwellers found in tropical waters. Their days are spent huddled on the bottom in groups. At night they head out solo in hunt of prey. Here they presumably feel camouflaged amongst the oil rig pipes.

Above, the more active inhabitants circle and circle and circle.

-P

New Orleans Aquarium: Part 1

December 15, 2009 Another curious penguin:

The penguin handlers hand-feed the penguins twice a day.

A few of the penguins become attached to their caretakers. The one below nuzzled his handler then just hopped into his lap to cuddle while the guy recorded the number of fish each penguin ate.

The wing bands provoke pity, certainly, but they do serve a function. Each penguin's name is embossed on their band so their statistics can be recorded.

The little guy on the right below is molting. When penguins molt they can't swim. Molting takes about a month so this wee one will waddle around, left out and embarrassed, 'til his feathers grow in again. All together now: "Aaaw...".

More cuteness:

Not cute and poisonous:

Hideous and also poisonous:

They're as thick as Arnie S's biceps, and the person the latter are attached to is, perhaps, also considered poisonous in a certain state...

And just funny:

It says, "Harold, where are we? Why can't you ever ask directions? No, you just have to let us drift and drift. Sometimes I think your brain is jelly."

:D

-P

Tennessee Aquarium: Part 3

December 7, 2009 Sea otters. Lloyd's favourite animal.

Wee, poisonous frogs:

A seriously old tortoise shell.

Younger tortoises. Indian Star Tortoises.

Catfish kiss.

Just a sight I liked on the way out:

-P

Tennessee Sealife: Part 2

December 7, 2009 This is a cuttlefish. I think he looks like a wee hippopatamus with no legs. Technically, they're mollusks, not fish. They can rapidly change colour to camouflage or communicate with other cuttlefish. Tell me that's not cute.

Seahorses are poor swimmers, but they are majestic creatures.

It does look like he's missing a little fish jockey...

Did you know it's the male seahorse that incubates the eggs in his pouch?

"The eggs then hatch in the pouch where the salinity of the water is regulated; this prepares the newborns for life in the sea. Throughout the male’s incubation, his mate visits him daily for 'morning greetings'. The female seahorse swims over for about 6 minutes of interaction reminiscent of courtship. They change color, wheel around sea grass fronds, and finally promenade, holding each other’s tails. :D Then, the female swims away until the next morning, and the male goes back to vacuuming up food through his snout." Wikipedia. But the smiley face is mine.

The yellow guy below is a seahorse, but what's more interesting are the gold and black fish to his left. They drift and swim vertical, in a pack--a strange sight.

Most seahorses can camouflage with colour, but some are built for pure deception like the one below that was difficult to discern in seaweed, and its green partner more so.

We saw seahorses of all colours and some as wee as a thumbnail and some a foot long. The seahorse exhibit was my favourite of them all.

-P

The Sealife of Tennessee

December 7, 2009 The Tennessee Aquarium is "the highes rated aquarium in the USA".

I took a lot of photos--all in wide angle, unfortunately, which means lower quality and poor memory (mine). I'd like to show you anyway. It might take a couple, three posts so here we go.

This is a freshwater stingray. I didn't know freshwater species existed. The one below has the company of several others including a bright orange and black ray and also fish that couldn't care less about them.

Can I get that for you?

Okay, not sealife, but cute, right?

That's a blue spotted ray below on the left in the tropical touch tank. All of their barbs are "removed". Wonder if that hurts...

I touched a ray. They feel like a warm, soggy mushroom. The fish on the right is a guitar fish.

We are especially adore penguins. They have such character. They waddle, socialize, dive and play. They're nonstop entertainment.

They're curious too. The little one below floated above and let me snap all the photos I wanted.

Shark alert!

PLEASE, please, please, Mother Nature, never let me see a shark this close in real life:

Ditto, but dazzling.

The aquarium has a large jellyfish exhibit lit by black light. "Jellyfish" is a misnomer; we should call them sea jellies or just jellies.

These are upsidedown jellies. Lazy jellies. They just stretch out and wait for food to come to them. Bet you know some creatures like that...

The jellies below just look confused. They bump and roll around.

An elegant species:

This one should appear here almost life size. It gives a little light show.

This is where I tell you that I have in fact eaten "jellyfish". I don't recommend it.

It was dinner with an important Asian client. He ordered. And, hey, I like to try new things...

Actually, I never wanted to try sea jellies.

They served it cold, in strips as long as shoelaces. What does it taste like? Well, first you have to chew it for days, well, for what seems like days because it has the consistency of jello left out in the sun to dehydrate for ... oh, say ... ten years! Anyway, you chew and chew and chew (and so on) and it never softens. In fact, it never tastes like anything after the jelly sauce dissolves, which you don't really taste because your mind overrides all tastebud abilities: I'm eating jellyfish! Gelatinous zooplankton!

Was it cooked or raw? I have no idea. So. You chew 'til the chunks can be safely swallowed without instigating a gag reflex and you gulp it down like you're famished. I'm convinced it can't really be digested anyway so why extend the epicurean anguish?

Yeah. Don't eat 'em if you can help it.

-P

The Sealife of Tennessee

December 7, 2009 The Tennessee Aquarium is "the highes rated aquarium in the USA".

I took a lot of photos--all in wide angle, unfortunately, which means lower quality and poor memory (mine). I'd like to show you anyway. It might take a couple, three posts so here we go.

This is a freshwater stingray. I didn't know freshwater species existed. The one below has the company of several others including a bright orange and black ray and also fish that couldn't care less about them.

Can I get that for you?

Okay, not sealife, but cute, right?

That's a blue spotted ray below on the left in the tropical touch tank. All of their barbs are "removed". Wonder if that hurts...

I touched a ray. They feel like a warm, soggy mushroom. The fish on the right is a guitar fish.

We are especially adore penguins. They have such character. They waddle, socialize, dive and play. They're nonstop entertainment.

They're curious too. The little one below floated above and let me snap all the photos I wanted.

Shark alert!

PLEASE, please, please, Mother Nature, never let me see a shark this close in real life:

Ditto, but dazzling.

The aquarium has a large jellyfish exhibit lit by black light. "Jellyfish" is a misnomer; we should call them sea jellies or just jellies.

These are upsidedown jellies. Lazy jellies. They just stretch out and wait for food to come to them. Bet you know some creatures like that...

The jellies below just look confused. They bump and roll around.

An elegant species:

This one should appear here almost life size. It gives a little light show.

This is where I tell you that I have in fact eaten "jellyfish". I don't recommend it.

It was dinner with an important Asian client. He ordered. And, hey, I like to try new things...

Actually, I never wanted to try sea jellies.

They served it cold, in strips as long as shoelaces. What does it taste like? Well, first you have to chew it for days, well, for what seems like days because it has the consistency of jello left out in the sun to dehydrate for ... oh, say ... ten years! Anyway, you chew and chew and chew (and so on) and it never softens. In fact, it never tastes like anything after the jelly sauce dissolves, which you don't really taste because your mind overrides all tastebud abilities: I'm eating jellyfish! Gelatinous zooplankton!

Was it cooked or raw? I have no idea. So. You chew 'til the chunks can be safely swallowed without instigating a gag reflex and you gulp it down like you're famished. I'm convinced it can't really be digested anyway so why extend the epicurean anguish?

Yeah. Don't eat 'em if you can help it.

-P

Newport, OR Photos

October 4, 2008 - Outdoor Resorts We passed a psychedelic VW van, scullers in the river, strawberry farms, elk signs, autumn-tinted trees.

Small Bus

Newport Murals

More Murals

Kissy Kissy

We heard the sea lions's raucous a half mile away. They are lazy and ornery.

Sea Lions on the Docks

You can buy fresh crab off the pier the size of soccer balls.

Newport Harbor

Local Fish Shack

A Face for Everyone

View from Greatest Campsite to Date (out the front window)

View of the Newport Lighthouse

Great Beach