Clearwater’s Chemistry

Clearwater, a beautiful Florida coastal city, has much to offer and has a chemistry all its own but the chemistry I speak of in this post is that which we humans find with others.

Joyful children delight visitors at cultural center.
Joyful children delight visitors at cultural center.

We have spent the past ten days in Clearwater being quite the social butterflies, so much more than normal that this little introvert is going to need some alone time to decompress (lol)!  Don’t get me wrong, our time spent here catching up with old friends and meeting new ones has been fabulous!    It seems that many of Terry’s former high-school friends have settled around the Clearwater area so there has been many a get-together, with good food and drink, thanks to the efforts of high-school chum Norm.   Our waistlines have suffered a bit from all this fun but we have been rewarded with many pleasant memories.  Good friends Doug and Donna  migrated south for a vacation to escape the frigid temps of Ohio and their daughter Kelley joined them, getting a break from the Windy City winter.  And we caught up with two couples we shared many laughs with at Amazon.

Terry's high school buds & spouses - Dawn, Rick, Terry, Jim, Doug, Donna, Joyce & Norm
Terry’s high school buds & spouses – Dawn, Rick, Terry, Jim, Doug, Donna, Joyce & Norm
Amazon buddies - Jim, Sharon, Rich, me, and Pat
Amazon buddies – Jim, Sharon, Rich, me, and Pat

For those in the RVing community, there is always a level of excitement at the prospect of meeting someone whose blog you have followed for some time. We were very pleased to have met a couple who have been on my “must meet” list for a long time.  As time passed I thought we were going to be two ships passing in the night and I was feeling a bit sad but the stars aligned properly and a brief window of opportunity presented itself.  Emails were exchanged; plans made; and we found ourselves heading over to Cortez to have lunch with John and Pam Wright of Oh, The Places They Go.  They were as delightful as I knew they would be and we walked away feeling like we were catching up with old friends instead of meeting for the first time.  With the hopes of meeting up again near DC later this year and discussion of hiking out west together, the day ended on a perfect note.

Me, Pam, and John
Me, Pam, and John
John & Terry on the beach at Anna Maria Island
John & Terry on the beach at Anna Maria Island

I had a similar experience several days earlier with another blogger friend, someone I have followed for quite a while, a brilliant landscape photographer who took time out of his busy schedule (in Clearwater on assignment) to have coffee.  What started as a quick cup of coffee ended 2.5 hours later, having covered quite a bit of territory outside the photography realm, as I promised myself I would not harass him for tips.  Ok, since photography is his passion, he generously shared a few tidbits with me, for which I am most grateful. 🙂  For those who haven’t guessed by now, I met up with none other than the talented Rick Braveheart.   If you have yet to see his work, I urge you to go here and check it out.  I promise you will not be disappointed.   As we were saying our goodbyes, I asked for a photo and a quick selfie was taken with Rick’s iPhone.  I avoid close-ups of myself at all costs so sadly Rick’s arm just wasn’t long enough for me to proudly display a photo!   You are just going to have to trust me that there was a chance meeting. 😉

All of this socializing has got me wondering about why we connect so strongly with some?  Common ground is one reason that brings us together initially, which seems to be obvious in the RVing world.  Those who have a wanderlust for travel, a love of nature, enjoy the same recreational activities; i.e. hiking, biking, kayaking, photography, seem to gravitate toward one another.  But there is that certain something that transcends the similar interests after you meet, the comfortable silence in-between the conversation when you know you have met someone special.

As many of us do, I have a diverse group of bloggers I follow.  Writers, artists, photographers, international travelers…the list goes on.   What draws us together, satisfying that desire to learn more about the person behind the computer screen, half a world away?  Since we will most likely never meet face-to-face, yet we are drawn to one another, I believe that the chemistry between others cannot be explained by science alone.  It feels more like a spiritual connection to me, familial, déjà vu, a sense you have known that person before.  Experiencing this kind of chemistry with others rejuvenates me and as I get to know them better, whether virtually or in person, I feel I discover another little piece of me. 🙂

Just a few of our fine feathered friends we saw while in Clearwater:

Honeymoon Nesting

Some may think we have been married far too many years to be considering a honeymoon, but that is exactly what we did recently.  While we didn’t do much nesting while on said honeymoon, I must admit to being a teensy bit of a voyeur, watching those who were nesting. 😯

If you winter or live near Dunedin, Florida (just outside Clearwater), you may have guessed that we spent a day visiting Honeymoon Island State Park, a mere three miles from where we are staying at Dunedin RV Resort.  On a recent sunny day (it is raining and blustery as I sit here typing 😦 ) we hopped on our bikes and headed to Honeymoon to check out what the hype was all about.

Biking the nature trail,on the hunt for osprey
Biking the nature trail, on the hunt for osprey

An unusual name for a state park, its origins began as Hog Island until 1939, when New York developer Clinton Washburn, coupled with LIFE magazine, held a contest for newly married couples.  The winners received an all expense paid two-week honeymoon in a romantic palm-thatched bungalow on Honeymoon Island.  Although the bungalows were abandoned at the start of WWII, the name of the island stuck.

Today you can bike the island, kayak around the 4-mile shoreline, throw a line in the water, or grab a beach chair and umbrella and soak up some rays on a white sand beach, lulled by the rhythmic melody of the waves.

Just another day at the beach!
Just another day at the beach!

You can choose instead to do what we found to be the most exciting, walk the 2-mile nature trail to spot osprey and eagles nesting.  This is the time of year where mom and dad are busily feeding and guarding their chicks so there was much activity on the nests and the osprey’s high-pitched whistling was an ongoing symphony as we walked along the path.  With so many nests in this section of the park, it is tough to decide just which one to focus on.  This is a place where one need not wonder if they will see wildlife, rather how many.

Osprey thrive on the island but they are not the only predators you may see on your visit.  At the far end of the nature trail, behind a protected fence, a pair of bald eagles guard a nest housing two chicks.

A magnificent regal bird guarding the nest.
A magnificent regal bird guarding the nest.
Mom feeding her two chicks
Mom feeding her two chicks

We spotted an elusive great horned owl hanging out in the canopy of a pine tree at the 3/4 mile mark.  Looking like a football wedged in the branches above, further investigation revealed a beautifully colored predator.  No nest has been spotted this season, a disappointment to those who protect this island.

Hanging out in the canopy above.
Hanging out in the canopy above.

One final gift delighted us as we diverted our eyes from the sky to the ground right at our feet…the gopher tortoise.

I am much easier to photograph, don't you think?
I am much easier to photograph, wouldn’t you agree?

We had heard there was a shy little armadillo shuffling around in the brush but unfortunately he eluded us.  Having had a fruitful day of voyeurism, we headed back home with huge smiles on our faces.

Honeymoon and its neighbor, Caladesi Island, were once part of a large barrier island, split into two during a brutal hurricane that hit in 1921.  The waters running between these two islands are known as Hurricane Pass.  We hope to kayak over to Caladesi Island during our stay, weather permitting.   Timing for the paddle is tide dependent…too low and you are stuck in the mud and oyster beds and too high, you cannot squeeze through the mangrove canopies.  Sounds like great fun.  Wish us luck!