January 13 - February 9, 2020:   Punta Gorda, Florida

After our month in the Florida Keys, we headed back to Muthu's place in Punta Gorda. 

 

The first thing we checked out was the Back 40 to see how the mango trees had grown.  HOLY COW...the trees were full of blossoms and baby mangos!  Remember, Muthu has over 60 mango trees...if all of these mangos make it, he is going to have a TON of mangos - YEAH!  In the pics below, the little row balls at the end of the flower head are a mango and that is a Love Bug who helps pollinate the trees.

When we stayed at Muthu's in November, we had started helping with the retaining wall in the backyard.  Cindy and Muthu completed a lot of work on it while we were gone, and had one section and some corner pieces that needed to be completed.  So that was our first priority, to finish the retaining wall. 

As you can see Karma (Golden Retriever) and Padma (English Cream Golden Retriever) were our supervisors and quality control  : )

As you can see once it was all completed it was quickly planted with pineapples, tomatoes, flowers, rose bushes, and more.

During our time in Punta Gorda, we were fortunate to get to see my Aunt Marilyn and my cousin Nancy.  They flew into Tampa for a long weekend to celebrate Marilyn's birthday and see relatives on her side of the family.  We had not seen Marilyn for about a year and a half (she lives in Rupert, Idaho) and we had not seen Nancy for about 15 years (she lives in Half Moon Bay, CA). 

We crossed the Sunshine Skyway Bridge into St. Petersburg, then into Tampa and picked them up at their hotel and then crossed another bridge over to Clearwater.  The Skyway Bridge is lit up at night on the top and underside and was amazing to see.  Pictures cannot do it justice!

We enjoyed a great lunch at Palm Pavillon in Clearwater with Marilyn and Nancy and then enjoyed walking around the downtown area and being silly.

We were joined on the Clearwater Beach by Marilyn's niece Debbie and her son Toren.  We enjoyed catching up and watching the sunset on the Clearwater Beaches. 

And...I should say that the sand at Clearwater Beach is AMAZING!  We have never seen or felt anything like it before.  It was pure white and as soft as powdered sugar!  Yes...powder sugar.  I wanted to bottle it up and take it home!

THANK YOU MARILYN, NANCY, DEBBIE, AND TOREN FOR A FANTASTIC TIME!!

On the way back to Punta Gorda, Craig and I saw a Skyline Chili Restaurant.  WHAT??  This is a Cincinnati based chain and it is in Florida?  SCHWEET!  Of course, I had my 5 Way Chili and Craig had his 2 Coney Dogs.  YUMMMM...

One of the days, Craig and I met a former Micron co-worker Kathy.  She lives in Fort Myers, FL which is just 40 miles South.  We have not seen Kathy for many years.  We enjoyed a nice lunch with her, her mother, and two grandkids.  Prince Craig in his throne : )

 

THANK YOU KATHY FOR MEETING WITH US !!!

After meeting with Kathy, we were so close to Sanibel Island so we headed that way to ride our bicycles around the island. 

What a neat little island.  It took us three tries to find a coffee shop that was open which turned out to be the local grocery store and they had amazing cookies.  So we sat and people watched while enjoying our snack and then headed off to ride around the island.

We made it to one beach for about 5 minutes, but did not have time to explore.  So...we will definitely go back here and do some beach combing ; )

On this trail, we rode just a little ways down it to see what it was like.  We kept waiting for a gator to come out and take a bite out of our leg or tire ; )

On the bicycle path, we stumbled upon this cool cemetery.  As you can see there were about 10 grave sites and people were buried from 1889 to 1961. 

We made it to one beach for about 5 minutes, but did not have time to explore.  So...we will definitely go back here and do some more cycling and beach combing ; )

Muthu's birthday was in January, so we celebrated with homemade Indian food and cake.

A few days before that, we wanted to thank Muthu and Cindy for their hospitality and celebrate his birthday, so we attended the NFL Pro Bowl in Orlando, FL!

We arrived early enough so we could tailgate and watch the stadium fill. 

Before the game started, they had 5 paratroupers representing the US Flag and branches of the military; introduced the various Mascots and Cheerleaders; introduced the NFC and AFC players; sang the National Anthem; had 4 A10's flyover; and fireworks.

Once the coin was tossed, the game got underway.  We did not realize there are different rules for the Pro Bowl.  And...no kickoffs anytime during the game. 

It was definitely a different feel from regular season or playoff games we have attended in the past.  Those are aggressive and competitive.  The Pro Bowl was laid back, players were more casual and it was almost like flag football.  Don't get me wrong, they tackled, however frequently they just pushed until the whistle blew vs. throwing each other to the ground ; )  It was a good game and fun to watch.

It was great to look at the players on the field and see helmets from the different teams.  And what was really cool to watch was the interaction between the players.  Since they were relaxed and not playing a Division or Superbowl game they actually smiled, joked, laughed, etc.  They looked like they were having fun and it made me think they were playing for the love of the game, not the money or win.

Speaking of wins...the AFC won the game.

And...I could not resist adding the picture of the kid playing his game during the game ; )  As you can see, he was not into the football game very much  : )

Muthu flew back to the DC area for work and Craig flew back to Boise for some real estate business, so once again that left Cindy and I with the doggies to cause mischief.  We spent our time getting caught on up on house /trailer stuff, thrift stores, farmer's markets, etc.

Cindy's daughter Sara and her husband Lee come to visit (they live in St. John).  I had not seen Sara since she was in high school and she has grown into an amazing women!  It was really fun to visit and catch up with them. 

Lee was getting Karma some exercise by skateboarding outside of the fence and having her run on the inside of the fence.  As you can see, she was a tired doggie and her tongue is HUGE! 

During their stay we visited Manasota Key Beach and went shark tooth hunting : )  FUN!  Sara and Lee found two pretty good size teeth that were about the size of your thumb nail - score!

Lee, Sarah, and Cindy cooked an amazing dinner of fresh Pistachio Encrusted Wahoo that Lee had caught while spearfishing, homemade pesto from Cindy's garden, and veggies.  WOW...

SARA AND LEE, IT WAS GREAT VISITING WITH YOU !!!

One of the days, Cindy and I traveled up to Homosassa, FL to kayak with the manatees.  Oh holy cow, what a VERY cool experience!  The day was perfect temperature and sunshine and we saw a TON of manatees!

Before paddling, we ate lunch at the launch site and watched manatees about 30 feet away.  We then paddled up Crystal River and saw quiet a few manatees along the way.

After turning around and heading back, this is where the holy cow comes in...we came across a group of about 8-10 manatees that were courting/mating.  The group including a few small (if you can call these small) babies as well.  A tour boat was there and had a few swimmers in the water with the manatees.  We watched as the manatees gathered around the swimmers and played.  They would chew on the ropes of the boat and turn over to have their belly rubbed - just like a puppy dog!

10 feet away there would be a group courting.  They would surface, flip their tail out of the water and make a big splash and ruckus.  By this time we were among the spectators in other kayaks and the manatees would swim around, under, and beside you.  We could actually touch and pet them from our kayaks!  They felt like an elephant or walrus (not that I have touched either of those, but...it is like what I would imagine they felt similar - smile)

I have to admit it was a little intimidating when they would swim under the kayak because you could see them and I kept waiting for them to surface and tip me over.  They can get up to 3,500lbs and 13 feet long!

Manatees are very docile and their teeth are more like a brush vs. sharp.  Since they are herbivores, their diet is sea grass so there was no chance of getting eaten by one ; )

The pictures and video below do not do justice to the experience.  I gave up trying to get some good pictures and just enjoyed the experience ; )

This was an unforgettable experience, however, the manatees greatest enemy is humans.  Usually from accidental boat encounters.  They are endangered and protected so hopefully the efforts in place will help the beautiful manatee survive!

On our drive back from Homosassa, Cindy had her first Skyline Chili experience ; )  YUM!

After Craig came back to Punta Gorda, the three of us took a day trip and went back to Sanabel Beach for some beach combing.  My parents had visited this beach in the past and said it was a great spot for shells, so...that was our mission! 

Our first stop was to Blind Pass Beach.  WOW...there are a ton of shells on this beach!  It is a good thing we are in a trailer and I cannot take a lot of them.  Otherwise, I would have loaded up and figured out all kind of craft and decorating projects for them ; )

Our second stop was to Bowman's Beach.  Not as many shells on this one, but there were still a lot and they were a little larger in size. 

While Cindy and I walked both beaches hunting for shells and other treasures, Craig set up a 'home base' and spent his time gazing out at the water or basking in the sun all the while contemplating life and his next projects : )

As you can see we ended up with a nice collection of shells.  Since I am limited in space, I only took about 10 shells from the batch we collected ; )

After beach combing, we stopped at Sun Harvest Citrus for some refreshing orange samples and orange ice cream.

 

And...the tourist pictures  : )

We ended the evening at Red Robin so Craig could partake of his complimentary February birthday burger.  Yes...we ate dessert before dinner...again ; )

What a fun and relaxing day of beach combing for treasures!

Below are pictures of Karma and Padma playing (or sleeping) with some stuffed animals that I picked up at the thrift store for them to play with.  Karma loved carrying them around and giving them haircuts, face lifts, lobotomy, etc. (basically tearing them apart) and Padma was not sure what to do with them.  In one of the pictures you can see her giving the stink eye to white pony ; )

Cindy got Karma an exercise ball from the thrift store and...it lasted...maybe 5 minutes  : )  It was so hilarious watching her run and chase after the huge ball!  She would try to wrap her legs around it and get her teeth into it but it was so big.  Even though it lasted a short time, it was worth it watching her play with it!

We had a great time in Punta Gorda staying at Muthu's place.  His place is in such a great location for day trips North or South and even though we are in the country, we are close to Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, and other towns for quick trips.

This made it easy for Craig and I to get ready for our trip to Puerto Rico.  Pack, quick trip into town for items, repacking, and repacking again.

Cindy and I had fun while the boys were gone and there is still so much left to explore and do.  We will save that for when we come back in April after Puerto Rico.

Our last night before flying out to Puerto Rico, Cindy, Craig, and I made chicken satay, rice, salad, and home made sugar cookies.  We enjoyed eating dinner outside on the patio with the fire burning and watching the Full Snow Moon.  Yes, this is a real thing and not just my name ; )

 

THANK YOU MUTHU AND CINDY for letting us crash at your place, hanging out with us, and letting us enjoy the puppydogs!

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