Hammocks & Donald Trump

PB nike ride 01-17-2015Road Warriorette Anne and I took a nice bike ride on a coolish Florida Saturday. I paused to take a photo, then looked on the other side of the causeway that leads from the West Palm Beach mainland to the rarefied island of Palm Beach. There was a young woman reading a book suspended in a hammock between two palm trees. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)

I abandoned Anne to get a closer look. A lot of bike tourists like hammocks because they are light and pack up very small, but I always thought of the big, heavy ones I remember from kidhood.

Two heads pop up

PB nike ride 01-17-2015When I got within range, TWO heads popped up. I wasn’t expecting that.

I didn’t get their names, but I DID get the name of the hammock, which packs into the little square pouch hanging from the front of the hammock. It ends up about the size of a softball. They said this was an ENO, I didn’t know enough at the time to ask if it was a double or a single, but I’m guessing it’s a single.

Lots of favorable reviews

The reviews for the Eagles Nest Outfitters SingleNest Hammock on Amazon are almost universally favorable. The women said it’s a snap to put it up and it doesn’t harm the trees. What I didn’t know to ask them was if the straps that go around the tree came with it. From the comments I read online and the photo of the hammock, they look like they are accessories. The doggone straps cost almost half as much as the hammock, and probably could be rigged on your own, but these sure looked easy to use.

By the way, if you order one after following those links, I get a tiny piece of the action at no additional cost to you.

Just south of the huge Kapok tree that is now off-limits to the public, darned if we didn’t see another young woman hanging between two palm trees along the Lake Trail. Her hammock was a no-name from the Dominican Republic, but it looked and performed like the ENO. She said she likes to stretch out in it to study.

Big pile of sand

PB nike ride 01-17-2015The public beach in Palm Beach was covered with huge piles of sand that had to have been close to three stories tall. Kids and adults were clambering all over them. This little girl was playing Queen of the World.

I was afraid she was going to take a tumble, but she enjoyed taking a step, feeling the sand slide out from under her, then rinse and repeat all the way to the bottom.

Donald Trump missile strike?

PB nike ride 01-17-2015On our southbound leg down Flagler Boulevard in West Palm Beach, we spotted some strange contrails.

Donald Trump has been in the news lately because he filed a $100 million dollar lawsuit alleging that Palm Beach International Airport is deliberately flying planes over his property in Palm Beach. Considering that the airport has been there longer than Trump has been alive, and that the property, Mar-A-Lago is almost directly east of PBIA’s main east/west runway, it should come as no surprise to him that jets, including his own personal jet, take off or land that way, depending on wind direction.

Figuring that his suit will probably be thrown out as having no merit, I thought maybe he had decided to take out a few jets to send a message. The vertical trail looks like it’s coming from about the right spot to have been launched from Mar-A-Lago.

Kapok Tree Blocked

PB Kapok Tree 01-17-2015You know from yesterday’s manatee post that Road Warriorette Anne in in town for a few weeks to escape the cold in Texas. Saturday morning, she walked on the beach with Wife Lila, then in the afternoon she suggested we do one of our favorite bike rides – the Lake Trail in Palm Beach.

It’s about a 19.33 mile round trip from the house to the Palm Beach Inlet, and I haven’t been on a bike in so long I’m embarrassed, so I wasn’t disappointed when she said, “Let’s just go to the Kapok tree by the Flagler Museum and call it a day.” (That made it a 10.35 mile ride.)

The first thing we saw when we rounded the corner by the big tree was a gate over the walkway, some fresh fencing and a sign that said “NO PUBLIC ACCESS.”

Palm Beach doesn’t care much for us

Sarah, Matt and Malcolm Steinhoff with kapok tree in Palm Beach 11-09-2008Palm Beach isn’t fond of outsiders (who don’t have ostentatious wealth). They make it difficult to get access to the beach, and parking is expensive and closely monitored. Forget about parking on side streets. So far as I know, there are no public restrooms in town (although the guys and gals at the fire stations will give you a break if you ask).

Still, restricting access to a landmark like the Kapok tree, which was seen by Henry Morrison Flagler’s guests as they were pulled by it in Afromobiles at the beginning of the 20th Century, is a particular affront. It must have just happened, because everybody who came by, including parents who wanted to let their kids climb on it, was surprised and outraged.

Son Matt played in its huge roots when he was a little boy, and he brought HIS son, Malcolm, and Sarah there for a family portrait in 2008.

Photo gallery of the Kapok tree

It didn’t take long to come up with a representative sample of photographs showing people enjoying the tree. I’ve posed out-of-state bike tourists with it, and photographed scores of kids (and adults) marveling at the living landmark. There was almost always someone there when I’ve ridden by it.

Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the gallery.

Swimming with Manatees

DCIM100GOPROGOPR2176.Road Warriorette Anne is back in Florida for a few weeks fleeing cold weather in Texas. For the record, that is NOT Anne. She took time off from her travel schedule to swim with manatees in Kings Bay in the Crystal River on Florida’s Gulf Coast. She bought a video of her experience, and I pulled a few frames out for this post.

Here is her account:

I’m not crazy about the cold

DCIM100GOPROGOPR2162.The night before my manatee swimming experience, I was actually pretty stressed out. I was excited, certainly. But the forecast was for 36 degrees at 7:15 a.m., which was the time we were due to arrive at the boat dock for our short ride to Kings Bay, where all the manatees were lounging in the relatively warm waters of Crystal River.

I am not a person who enjoys cold weather. Scratch that. I am a person who despises cold weather. But I had decided earlier in the day that if I was indeed going to honor my reservation, made before this rare arctic front swooped into west central Florida, I was going to do it cheerfully and have fun. A stop at the Goodwill store in Perry, complete with purchase of a cheap coat and blanket to keep me warm on the boat ride out and back, sealed the deal.

But the alarm was set for 5:45 (leaving time to eat breakfast before the boat ride), and I am ALSO not an early morning riser, so that was additional cause for anxiety. DCIM100GOPROGOPR2168.Not to mention I had driven 540 miles that day (and 525 miles the day before that), so I had a bit of white line fever running through my veins, I admit.

But I digress! It’s all about the manatees. Once I saw my first manatee in the waters of Kings Bay that morning, everything else slipped away. In my experience, it’s such a transporting experience to have a close encounter with another species, especially in their own habitat. [Editor’s note: that’s why she visits me.]

Although there were large areas of water cordoned off with buoys where visitors can’t enter, the manatees very often leave these sanctuary areas and come “visit” you! They are curious and just come right up to humans again and again.

My coat and blanket kept me warm on the boat ride out, and since it was such a cold day, maybe just 14 to 16 guests were in the whole area. Our guide told us the previous week (the holiday season) there were as many as 200 people in the water at one time. Which meant anytime a manatee was spotted, it was positively swarmed by humans, all with grasping hands and cameras, etc.  I was definitely feeling there was an upside to the cold weather by this time.

Watch the video

The manatees’ whiskers were softer than I thought they’d be, but their skin is quite tough. Their wrinkles feel funny and it’s darling the way they almost always turn over to have their tummies scratched. I had two wonderful encounters; one was on camera, which you can see on the video, and one all alone, when I got nose to nose with a cow who came up for a close look. Then she turned over for me to pet her tummy, which I did; but then she slowly began twirling around and around, mesmerizing me so that I just kept my hand on her while she quietly rotated.

Violated the two-hand rule

Anne titleOur guide happened to be filming when I had my second special encounter. A cow came up to me very close and then actually reached toward me with both fins. It was the dearest thing. Something within me wanted to respond in kind, so I reached out with both hands to sort of cup her face or perhaps touch her fins, I’m not sure which. I wasn’t really thinking, just reacting to her gesture. But apparently there’s a “one-hand” rule, which I didn’t recall hearing, despite closely watching the video about procedures before departure. Whatever, I did actually get to touch her with both hands before I got caught and it was very meaningful to me (and maybe to her because she reached out first!) so I don’t care about getting caught!

Two hours with the gentle giants

DCIM100GOPROGOPR2208.Our small group of six that left from The Plantation Dive Shop stayed in Kings Bay for close to two hours, having multiple encounters with the gentle giants. The only time I was truly, bitterly cold was when we got out of the water. Then we were all actually shaking so hard that we spilled lots of hot chocolate as we tried to drink it to warm up.

But every one of us agreed it was totally worth it.

Swimming with manatees has been on my bucket list for quite a while. If it’s on yours, go do it, and don’t be afraid to pick a cold day.

 

 

 

 

 

Tis The Season …

Flagler Blvd Xmas decorations 11-13-2014Road Warriorette and former bike partner Anne, who abandoned me to move back home to Texas, arrived for a West Palm Beach visit Thursday afternoon. I got her settled in at her motel, then we went out for a great dinner, visited bike partner Osa, stopped by another of Anne’s friends, then headed up Flagler Drive where we spotted this house all set for Christmas.

The palm trees – and the balmy 70-degree temperature – gave an indication I wasn’t in the Midwest.

Pining for the ocean

Anne’s a Texan by birth and inclination, but she did admit to pining for the ocean. I turned right on Southern Blvd., and took her for a ride along Palm Beach. When we got to one of the few places you could park and get public access to the beach, I told her she could get and and frolic in the sand and surf if she liked, but I preferred the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Ocean.

When we left, I asked if she’d like to go to the north end of the island to the Palm Beach Inlet. That’s like asking if bears fertilize the forest.

“Don’t fence me in”

When we got to the inlet, there was a chain holding the gate to the small park closed. I put my car in park with the four-way flashers blinking and let her out. I assumed she was going to stand at the gate and look out toward Singer Island’s lights across the water.

I heard her humming “Don’t Fence Me In,” a rattle of the fence and she was gone from sight. She never did things like that when she was a Floridian.

“That’s not a happy sound”

On our way back to the motel, I told Friend Anne, “That’s not a happy sound. I think I’ve got a flat tire.”

Indeed, the left rear tire was flat.

Maybe I can give it a shot of Fix-a-Flat or pump it up with my portable air compressor, I considered. The only problem was that I had taken all those options out of the car last night when I unloaded it, but hadn’t replaced them. Plan C was to put the doughnut spare on, something I really hated to do since the Honda jack is the worst piece of equipment ever devised.

I had just started attacking the problem when a car pulled up behind us. It was Patrol Officer Larry Ferguson of the Palm Beach Police Department. I figured he’d run our tag, ask for ID, shine his flashlight around inside the car, then leave us in the dark when we came up clean. (Well, I knew I would come up clean. There’s no telling what Friend Anne has been up to in the Lone Star State.)

It turned out Larry was a nice guy who went way beyond the call of duty. I’m going to write a letter to the chief telling him that Larry is a great representative of his department.

How to have a fun evening in Palm Beach

Ken Steinhoff - PB PD officer Larry Ferguson -Anne Rodgers 11-13-2014Here are few of the things that happened:

  • I didn’t have the jack on the frame properly so it slipped off.
  • The doughnut spare was flat, so I called Wife Lila to bring my tools and compressor. Larry offered to take me someplace to get it aired up, but I said it was such a hassle to jack the car up that I’d rather leave it on the car and bring the compressor to the tire.
  • Lila arrived, we hooked up the compressor and it hummed away in the humid air for several minutes. I was beginning to regret having that second glass of tea with dinner.
  • Larry felt around the rim, felt air escaping and said the tire was so flat it had lost its bead and would NEVER fill up.
  • We jacked up the car again, removed my spare, and put put on Lila’s spare (we drive the same model van). At some point, my jack twisted and became inoperable, so we had to switch to Lila’s jack.
  • We offered Larry an opportunity to escape, but he pitched in fighting the jack. helping lift the tire onto the studs and making sure Anne had tightened the lug nuts properly. Wife Lila didn’t get a shot of me toiling away with sweat splashing off my forehead, but she did capture me in a supervisory role.

Things that put the jolly in the evening

With Thanksgiving coming up, I should give thanks for a few of the good things that happened.

  • Patrolman Ferguson, a native of West Palm Beach who moved back here after serving as an officer in Washington State, was not only a tremendous help in getting us through our tire difficulties, but he was also a genuinely nice guy who was fun to talk with and who gave us an interesting perspective about how the area had changed since he was a kid going to Twin Lakes High School.
  • Wife Lila showed up with everything needed to get me back on the road. I’m glad my flat happened in Palm Beach and not in Nowhere, Ga.
  • Anne provided help and moral support once I explained to her that we were in Florida not Texas: “No, Anne, it didn’t ‘throw a shoe.’ We don’t have to call for a blacksmith.”

Buying two REAL jacks to replace those Honda pieces of junk will go to the top of my to-do list tomorrow.