It’s Still Winter

Snow on Kingsway Dr 02-09-2016Don’t let those warm days fool you. Winter still has a few tricks up her sleeve. I went to bed uncharacteristically early Monday night because I didn’t want to start a fire to take the chill off the basement where I work. I woke up around 3 in the morning craving a snack and saw that it was spitting snow. When I went to bed around 4, it was coming down pretty hard and blowing across the street.

This was the view outside my car windshield this morning. (Florida Friends, you can click on the photos to make them larger. They will NOT radiate cold through your computer monitor, so it’s OK.)

A look to my left

Snow on Kingsway Dr 02-09-2016My jacket and stocking cap were in the back seat, though, so I punched the button that should have opened the sliding side door. No luck. I guess enough ice had formed to make the door think there was some kind of obstruction and it wouldn’t play nicely until the van warmed up a bit.

I let the motor run for a few minutes to let it and my heated seat chase the cold away. My side windows were fairly clean.

And, a look to the right

Snow on Kingsway Dr 02-09-2016The yellow 1977 Datsun pickup truck is still in the driveway. We sold it to a young couple who are going to fix it and drive it around Cape, but they are busy closing on a new house. I told them they could leave it here until they had a driveway of their own to park it in.

It’s funny how many people use that as a landmark when giving directions.

I see the forecast for Wednesday night calls for a 22% chance of snow. I hope it gets cold enough to freeze the ground. I need to order another load of firewood.

Smelterville Fire

Smelterville FireFires have been on my mind today. I woke up to news that Athens’ uptown area had been hit by an early-morning fire that did serious damage to four or five businesses in buildings dating back to the late 1800s. The Union, a bar that had been a popular university watering hole since the 1950s, appears to have been the most serious casualty.

The city’s “uptown” is very similar to Cape’s “downtown.” They are both constructed of buildings that adjoin each other and that are over 100 years old. Once a fire gets started, it’s easy to lose a whole block.

This fire was a lot smaller. It was in Smelterville, but I don’t recall any details.

It might have been January 1966

Smelterville FireI found a Missourian invoice where I billed the paper $5 for a fire on January 29, 1966, but Google doesn’t have the microfilm for that day on file, so I couldn’t look up the story.

Based on the way the water sprayed on the fire has already frozen, it sure LOOKS like a cold January day.

Going back in

Smelterville FireIt appears the only thing saved up to this point was a dresser. I don’t know if that was all that was salvageable in the house or if they hadn’t started their overhaul work yet. There’s another shot that shows a fireman with a pike pole getting ready to enter. That’s what they use to tear into walls and ceilings to see if there are any fire extensions.

I’ll never forget another fire I worked not far from there.


Pursuing the Wild Pine Cone

Mary Steinhoff w pine cones 09-14-2014The temps in Cape have gotten low enough for enough days that the concrete basement walls are starting to radiate cold. Mother lit the first fire of the season this morning.

I was editing photos all day, so I didn’t know that it had eventually gotten nice outside. The temperatures were mild and there was no wind. I told Mother is was a perfect time to replenish her pine cone supply. (I mentioned last winter how well pine cones work as fire starters.

When we cruised by Jackson City Park earlier in the week, we saw a couple of our regular trees were dropping cones, but they were a lot smaller than last year.

Like an Easter egg hunt

Mary Steinhoff w pine cones 09-14-2014We found a tree down near the river that filled two five-gallon buckets in about 20 minutes. Then, we went looking for a park Brother Mark thought might have some trees. We pulled into a parking spot and hit the mother lode. I started filling my bucket again when I noticed Mother wasn’t in the van.

She didn’t want to be left out of the fun, so she had snatched a bag and a grabber and started working the tree on the other side of the parking spot.

The grabber she’s using is similar to this one on Amazon, but available locally for not much more.

Two 13-gallon bags full

Mary Steinhoff w pine cones 09-14-2014In not more than 20 or 30 minutes of actual picking, we managed to fill two 13-gallon trash bags with fire starters. Based on the number of cones high up in the trees, it looks like there will plenty to last the winter.

I was using a new grabber. I was in Ace Hardware to pick up some odds and ends when I saw a bright yellow whatsit that looked interesting until I saw an $18.99 price tag on it. Then I looked again and it was marked down to either $3.99 or $4.99. The one Mother is using has rubber grippers that would make it better for picking up things off top shelves and doesn’t require as much force to use.

My fancy yellow one would pick up two or three cones at a time and has magnets in the end (which didn’t help with pine cones). It also had an annoying squeak that silicone spray should fix.

Stopping in Clermont

Florida Citrus Tower 05-16-2014_5717Clermont, with its Citrus Tower and House of the Presidents, has been a stopping point since our family trip in 1960.

It was only logical that the Road Warriorettes Curator Jessica and Bike Partner Anne make a pit stop there on the final leg of our trip.

Built in 1955

Florida Citrus Tower 05-16-2014_5663A handwritten note on the elevator wall gave some interesting stats. An elevator ride to the top cost us $6 a head. (If Miz Jessica had slouched a little more so she looked like my granddaughter, we could have gotten her the ride for the $4 kid rate, but she’s too honest. There was no senior discount, because EVERYBODY in Florida is a senior.)

A gazillion citrus trees

Florida Citrus Tower 05-16-2014_5674When the Steinhoffs stood atop the tower in 1960, a sign proclaimed that we were looking out over a gazillion citrus trees, and the smell of orange blossoms washed over us.

When Post reporter Gayle Pallesen and I went up in the tower in 1990 when we were doing a story on U.S. 27 from Little Havana in Miami to Havana, Florida, in the Panhandle, we looked out over a gazillion dead trees killed by a series of disastrous cold fronts that moved through in the ’80s. The only smell was smoke from burning trees that had been bulldozed and piled up.

The landscape today is covered by gazillions of homes and businesses. There is no smell of orange blossoms.

With binoculars or a telephone lens, we could barely make out a square-shaped building on the horizon that we thought was the VAB at Cape Kennedy.

Mineola has been developed nicely

Florida Citrus Tower 05-16-2014_5682That’s Lake Mineola to the west. A bike trail starting there ties in with the West Orange Trail that goes all the way to Apopka. The development along the lake has done a nice job of integrating the homes into the surrounding hills and making it a very bike / pedestrian / jogger-friendly area. I’d love to sit on one of their porches looking at the sun set over the lake in the evening.

Click on the photos to make them larger.

A little green left

Florida Citrus Tower 05-16-2014_5678There’s still a little green left to the south. The highway is U.S. 27, which was once the main path to South Florida from the Midwest before I-95 and the Florida Turnpike were built.

The Penny Drop

Florida Citrus Tower 05-16-2014_5688I told Curator Jessica that I’d spot her a penny to drop over the edge.

“I can’t do that, it might kill someone,” she protested. [She, obviously, hasn’t read the debunking of the penny-dropped-from-the-Empire-State-Building urban legend.)

She and Anne took turns dropping coins down a conduit that goes all the way to the base of the tower. With their ears to pipes on the side of the box, they could hear it spin and ding all the way down. It doesn’t take much to amuse them.

House of Presidents

Florida Citrus Tower 05-16-2014_5680Southwest of the tower is a large white building looking a little worse for the wear, which is to be expected, because it was here in 1960.

Its website calls it the The Presidents Hall of Fame, but the sign on the front of the building still says House of Presidents. I recalled the tickets were a bit pricy, so we opted to stay on the outside.

“Like a 70’s porn star”

Jessica Cyders - House of the Presidents 05-16-2014I photographed Anne with Washington and Lincoln behind the wax museum when we passed through in 2013. Miz Jessica, though, made a beeline for Theodore Roosevelt.

“He looks like a 70’s porn star,” she remarked. I wisely opted not to ask about her expertise in that area. I’m sure her interest was purely academic.

She enjoys making period costumes, so Anne and I were edified about the benefits of crotchless pantaloons and why the cancan was such a scandalous dance. Between Jessica and Anne, who wrote Kiss and Tell: Secrets of Sexual Desire from Women 15 to 97, this Missouri boy got quite an education on our road trip.