Jan 17-24 - Venice, FL
Last fall, we bought into a package that gives us the choice of 10 RV Resorts scattered around Florida, where we can stay for up to 7 days before having to move on. And we can return to any park as often as we like, provided we stay out for 7 days between stays. Venice was our first stay under this package, and our first stay at an RV park that is primarily a residence park. Lots of permanent "park models", lots of folks who stay multi-months, or even all year long. Rambler's Rest at Venice, FL is neat - on the banks of the Myakka River, several miles of paved internal roads great for biking. As we arrived, the parking lot where we're supposed to stop while registering was overflowing with ladies dressed in purple, wearing red hats. The resident Red Hat Club meeting was just ending, and there must have been at least 50 ladies. We just stopped, and waited, and watched. Fun.
Our mail delivery from South Dakota was waiting for us when we arrived, and included something we've been wondering about - a jury duty summons. Actually, Judy got a mega-summons - a six-month term on the Pennington County Grand Jury, starting in early March. Winter in Rapid City has never been part of our plan. After conferring with our residency agent (who said none of their clients had ever gotten a Grand Jury Summons before), Judy called the court office and explained that while we were residents of South Dakota, we were also full-time RVers . . . . and the lady said "Say no more! Full-timers get a free pass!". Whew! Now, if we get a month-long jury call in the summer, we'll probably go. Rapid City is nice when it's warm. They pay $10 each day you report, plus $50 each day you actually serve, plus mileage. Probably not mileage from Florida, though.
Venice is supposedly the shark tooth capitol of North America - it's said you can find more shark teeth - recent and fossilized - on this beach than anywhere else. Something to do with this part of Florida having spent much of the last several million years underwater. Well, YOU might be able to find them, but we couldn't. Between cold snaps and rain and other things we did, we got to the beach only twice, with nary a shark tooth to be found. But we did have a wonderful lunch at Sharkey's, a seafood bistro on the Venice fishing pier.
After being relieved from jury duty, we treated ourselves to a day of play, which was both fun and interesting. Our first stop was for lunch, where a lady across the aisle had an allergic reaction to mushrooms in her omelet and was attended to and finally transported by several vehicles with flashing lights. We went from there to the beach, where a dredge was busy doing whatever dredges do. And we didn't find any shark teeth. Bet the dredge found some.
We then headed to the Ringling Circus Museum in Sarasota, which is part of the entire John Ringling museum complex. We just wanted the circus part, but had to buy rather spendy tickets to the whole place, even though there wasn't time to see it all. Didn't plan that very well. Anyway, much of the museum is devoted to a spectacular model circus. One guy has spent the last 50+ years building this model of a Ringling Brothers circus visiting Knoxville, TN sometime in the 1930's. The model is huge (3800 square ft, in 3/4" to the foot scale), covering one whole floor of a rather large building. Interestingly, when Howard Tibbals began building it, he asked for permission to use the Ringling Bros name on his models, and it was denied. So the model is of the "Howard Bros" circus. Mr Tibbals says that painting just "Howard Bros Circus" rather than "Ringling Bros, Barnum and Bailey Combined Circuses" saved him several months just in the lettering. Pictures abound within the slideshow. Lest you think of Mr Tibbals as some weird eccentric with woodworking tools, he also gave the museum $4 million dollars to build the building to permanently house his model. Took a year to set it up, as he insisted on doing it all himself. And he keeps adding things. Except for the model circus, the rest of the museum is pretty ho-hum. The circus museum in Baraboo, WI is much more complete, and much more interesting. As we finished our tour, a monsoon struck. Bunches of water. And in typical Florida fashion, 20 minutes later it was all gone, and we walked back to the car in relative dryness.
And then we went for pizza. At a wonderful place called Roaring 20's Pizza and Pipes in Ellenton, FL. We can't decide whether they built a pizza place inside this huge pipe organ, or built this huge pipe organ around a pizza place. Huge pipe organ - as in 42 ranks, 213 stops and several hundred other music-making gadgets. All the bells and whistles, literally, and all surrounding the eating area. And yes, it's a Wurlitzer. The organ was originally built in 1930 for a theater in Oakland, CA, (which closed in 1931) and has been expanded several times as it's been moved from place to place. We managed to stretch our dinner out to experience two performance sets. Wow! The showstopper was a much-requested rendition of "Chattanooga Choo-Choo", and the organ makes a most wonderful locomotive sound you have to hear (and feel) to believe. And the pizza was pretty good, too.
On Sunday (Jan 20) afternoon, our computer died. The screen had been acting up, and finally just went black. After a couple hours of meditation about the situation, we headed to the local Staples and managed to find a almost exact replacement - a brand new Dell Inspiron 1525 - at an acceptable price. Took over 20 hours to reload and configure, and we had to buy some software because the versions we had didn't work on Windows Vista, but we're pretty much back to normal now. Or at least as normal as we ever get.
From here, we move south 50 miles to the Fort Myers area, where we'll spend two weeks (in two different parks). The highlight of those weeks will be the couple of days we'll spend with Ira and Anna across the state in Fort Lauderdale before they board a cruise ship. We haven't seen them since April. Too long..
There are about 45 pictures in our slideshow for this week. You'll find them here.