"I was born lost, and take no pleasure in being found"
- John Steinbeck























"Your life is what has happened to you while you were busy making other plans."





















"The Sure Sign of Life is Death.  Why Else Would humanity Thrive So Hard To Leave Its Mark on This World"

- Unknown

















The journey of life as as much in ones self as the roads one travels

























"To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don't grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float."
- Alan Watts



























"I Have Learned Something About Creating Art.  People Do Not Want to Hear What You Are Going To Do, People Want To Hear About What You Done Did."

- Unknown


























"I like to think that one of the best brews is the one handed to you by a new friend"
~ Mark Stephens






























What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?
































"You step into the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might be swept off to."
~ J.R.R. Tolkien






















The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.





























"....I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move."
~ Robert Louis Stevenson




























"My needle always settles between west and southwest. The future lies that way to me, and the earth seems more unexhausted and richer on that side."
~ Henry David Thoreau
















A Birth Certificate shows that
we were born
A Death Certificate shows that we died
Pictures show that we lived!




















"No matter where you go, there you are"
~ Buckeroo Banzai

When we realize our insignificance in this world,
it some how relieves the pressures from society to succeed - 
Cindy Bonish 04/07


Pat's July 2010 Blog

If this is your first time here, you might want to start from the beginning of our fulltime Journey with our Past Blogs

If You Don't Know Me Yet, Click Here to Read Pat's Bio


Saturday July 31st - Longest Day of Driving EVAR

Rather than bore you with the more than 1000 miles of roadway we traveled today, I'll simply reflect on random things that crossed my mind while we traveled from Southern Georgia to Iowa.

* Driving for long stretches of time would be impossible, or majorly mind numbing without Satellite Radio.  Today alone made the two year subscription worth its minimal cost. 

To have so many stations to chose from depending on what mood we were in, never lose a station if we were listening to a news program or a story on one of the talk programs, and be able to jump from 80's big hair bands, to B.B. King Blues, Outlaw Country or throw in some Reggae when that itch arose was simply wonderful.

* The Southern States are infatuated with fireworks!  Every exit boasts of the largest display in the south, the biggest selection and the best bang for the buck.

* Having a Styrofoam cooler inside the cab of the truck is probably the quickest way to drive an otherwise laidback couple completely insane.

The night before we were getting ready to leave, Cindy had packed an older cooler we had with food and drinks to keep inside the cab of the truck with us.  By the next day when we were getting ready to leave, she checked the cooler to find all the ice had melted and the bottom of the cooler was nothing but a few inches of cold water.

Rather than bring a useless cooler with us, we have a few of those cheap, gas station Styrofoam coolers guests always leave behind in the motel rooms.

She loaded all the food up in one of those and we pulled out to get on the road.  The noise the lid makes when scratching against the Styrofoam base is the equivalent of nails on a chalk board.  Riding like this for a few hours, we were both ready to kill one another.

We also learned that gas stations only sell these annoying coolers.  Stopping at numerous stores told us Styrofoam must be very inexpensive to produce, because it's the only type of coolers every store we stopped at had.

We finally found a Wal-Mart which I thought would have a larger selection, but being as the South is breaking records this summer with the latest heat wave, it seems cooler manufacturers are having a record breaking year with sales.  The shelves were empty with only a few soft-sided coolers to choose from other than a smallish Coleman that would have to make due.

I hate the soft-sided models because they usually wont keep ice for longer than an afternoon picnic.  This small Coleman would suit us fine and we swapped the goods from the little annoying noise maker to our new quiet, red sided savior.

* Seeing the way people pack their weekend camping gear is very humorous.  Roof Top Boxes not properly bolted down so they're catching the wind off the windshield and bouncing on the roof makes me wonder if people read directions or even have a clue?

Pick-up trucks loaded down with what looks like an apartments worth of furniture covered by a flapping blue tarp and a hardware stores supply of bungee cords is always good for a questionable look.

Those cargo baskets that slide into the rear receiver were loaded down with so much gear, the front end of the vehicle looks like it's hovering inches off the ground.  It makes me wonder how there isn't more accidents with loads strapped down like this.

These sights made for plenty of good laughs and made me think of what people might think of as we pass by when we have our camper in tow that usually has the motorcycle on the back, the kayaks on the roof of the truck, the bikes on the front of the camper and multiple items strapped in random places.  I was just happy that today I wasn't one of those people.

* Mitch Fatel is probably one of the funniest people I've ever heard in my life - That link should be clicked only by adults and those wanting a good laugh

* When driving along not paying too much attention to anything other than the roadside beauty of the Smoky Mountains, and you look in your rearview mirror and see a motorcycle that has one of those headlights that flashes from regular to bright at an obnoxious rate, it makes me want to punch that guy in the head for scaring the crap out of me thinking I'm being pulled over by a cop.

* On that same note, but a different topic, songs should not allowed to have sirens mixed in with their background beats.  This results in me slamming on the brakes, turning down the radio and looking in all my mirrors to see where the emergency vehicle is, only to have my wife laugh at me for hours.

* When another vehicle drifts into your lane, all the while with you watching but the wife only notices at the last second, it's always your fault and you'll get yelled at like you're doing something wrong

* Taking photos of the goofy faces your wife makes while sleeping in the passenger seat will result in a very hard punch to the side of the head when she looks through the camera later in the day

* I can not even begin to imagine how gross those massage parlors along the side of the highway must be on the inside!  Can you imagine sitting around a campfire with one of the massage therapists, if they're even certified, and hear the stories they have to tell...YUCK!!!

* I dont consider my truck to look very EXPO worthy.  I mean it's basically a stock F-250 with a Camping Lab RTT mounted up top.  It has a light bar on the front with two Light Force lights and a bunch of stickers plastered all over the tailgate.  Maybe the stickers makes it EXPO....HA! HA! 

But what I'm getting at is I was surprised by the amount of passing motorists who pull up beside us throwing the peace sign or smiling with their thumbs up.  What surprised me even more is when passing through the Hood, even the gang-bangers and Brothers stop what they're doing and wave or throw their hands up pumping their fists and smiling from ear to ear.

* I know this has been talked about alot, but this trip really drove home how comfortable and user friendly a very lightweight, self contained trailer would come in handy for long distance road trips.  I'm talking about a Casita, Scamp or something like an Oliver.  Oliver's being really nice, but way too much money in my mind.

To have a made up bed available at any time during the day would have been a dream today.  We passed through numerous rain storms that made us pull over to wait them out due to the zero visibility.

Without a trailer in tow, we simply had to sit on the side of the road and stay trapped in the truck.  If we would have had a self contained camper, we could have killed two birds with one stone and while waiting out the storm, we could have made lunch, napped or use the bathroom which would have saved time from having to do these later in the day.

When it came to pulling over for the night, the camper would have saved us another hundred dollars spent on a motel room that we simply slept in for a few hours to get off the road.

I'm always shopping Craigslist for items too good to pass up, so the next time I come across a lightweight camper, Cindy has already given me the go-ahead to snatch it up and start on a super lightweight EXPO worthy trailer.

This idea was cemented in when the day started getting uncomfortable due to how long we'd been in the seats.  We started looking for a spot to pull over around 11pm.  At 3am we finally found a motel room and by this point we were walking zombies.

Apparently the colleges in Southern Iowa go back to school next week, so every motel was sold out with parents and U-Hauls loaded with their kids junk.

We even tried to pull over thinking we'd set up the Roof Top Tent in a rest area.  That was till we got out of the truck and hit the humidity.  We sat in the truck just napping for a few minutes, but both woke ourselves up when the sweat was running down our foreheads just sitting there trying to sleep.

The night ended in some roadside motel with the A/C set at a frosty level.  I think I was asleep before I hit the pillow and dreaming of the next trailer build.

Friday July 30th - On The Road Again

After a few crazy days of packing, packing, cleaning and packing, we've finally left Cedar Key.

We were supposed to pull out yesterday afternoon, but a delivery of a new photo case was a day late which held us up one day.  Not that big of a deal, because if we would have tried to actually leave yesterday, I think we would have gone crazy with how hectic it would have been.

By leaving today, we were able to clean up the rooms, do all the laundry and get things exactly how we wanted them around the house so when we return, we wont come home to a mess.

We didn't pull out of Cedar Key till almost 5pm, so we only drove till around midnight before we pulled over just shy of Atlanta to grab a motel room for the night.

We both commented on the lack of towing the camper and how easy it makes it to pull over where ever you want, when ever you feel the need.

We drove through a few rain storms that cut visibility down to nothing, but pulling over would have been too boring, so we just trudged along.  If the camper would have been in tow behind us, we could have simply found a parking lot to sit in and wait out the storm while playing cards, working on the computers or simply taking a nap.

I guess we are learning the costs of traveling light weight and without all the comforts we're used to.

Finding a motel is a whole story in and of itself.  Rooms are either cheap, smelly, moldy and nasty, or clean, but outrageously expensive.  We're not going to spend $150 for one night to sleep in a clean room when we're not even checking in till midnight and planning on leaving early in the morning.

We finally found a Comfort Inn that was only $80 for a King Suite and include breakfast.  I can handle that without an issue.

It also makes me realize why we keep our rooms sold out so often.  Considering they're spotlessly clean, affordable and offer a beautiful view, I think they're a great bargain when compared to what other places offer.

During the daylight hours of driving, we stuck to the backroads which offered cool views of small farm towns and eclectic communities that we love to pass through.

Once it got dark, we tried to put some miles behind us and jumped on I-75.  This is one thing we hate to do, but knowing we have to be in Minnesota on Sunday to meet some friends, we cant really drive at our usual snails pace the entire way up north.

That will have to wait till we get up there and the real vacation begins. 

Monday July 26th - Frantically Getting Ready to Leave

The past few days have been a mad house around here.  Between a full motel, with two complete turn-overs that were back to back, trying to get the house in order so we can have someone else stay here while we're gone, and trying to pack everything up to leave, I'm ready to fall over from exhaustion.

I think it's funny how we can live somewhere for over 7 months now and the place is just fine for the two of us to live in.  But since we're going to have a friend watching the apartment and our dogs while we're gone, Cindy has decided that the bathroom needs to be painted, the apartment has to be completely gone over, reorganized and we need to make it look livable for her.

It's fine for Cindy and I, but if someone else is going to come in, then it all has to be completely redone.

A few days ago we got a phone call from a friend who had been out all morning Shark fishing.  He called and simply said "Grab that camera of yours and meet me down at the dock.  You're never going to believe what we have in the boat."  He then hung up the phone.

Cindy and I jumped in the truck with the cameras and drove down to the docks where the local fisherman pull in.

There was a small group gathered around the boat and as we walked up, we saw the top half of a monster Tarpon.

I asked what the heck happened to the other half and he said "As we were pulling in the line, we felt a tug, then it went slack.  We never got to see the shark that bit it in half, but we know it was the biggest one we'd ever ran into!"

Left Over Top Half of a Monster Tarpon

Now this photo doesn't do it justice and I knew just showing the photo of the tarpon cut in half wouldn't work, so I asked him to hold up the fish so you could get a size comparison.

Just the top half weighed in over 100lbs and the thing was easily 4' long.  Think how big the shark was that must have swam up and in one bite, took the entire bottom section of this giant tarpon!  I'm now scared to get in the water.

Then we had Hurricane Bonnie which was downgraded to a simple Tropical Depression.  Very uneventful she was and as she passed by, we never even saw a drop of rain.

One thing we did get was some amazing clouds and some of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen in my life.

This was what you saw if you looked West

The last 3 nights in a row have been simply jaw dropping.  Words dont describe the cloud formations and colors the sky dazzled us with.  If the sunset wasn't amazing enough, each night as we sit out at the tiki bar and watch the sun go down, on the other side of the road we have a full moon coming up at the exact same time.

And this is what you saw if you looked East

You know it sucks when the hardest decision you have at the end of the day is which direction to look to see such beautiful scenes.

So we're planning on leaving at the end of this week, but that's only if everything goes as planned, and we all know plans NEVER go the way they're supposed to without some sort of monkey wrench being thrown in?  Wish us luck and stay tuned to see what the month of August brings us.

It's going to be great to be back on the road and interesting to see how we handle not having the camper with us.

Sunday July 18th - I Think My Brain is Fried

This heat is getting to me.  Trying to clean the rooms this morning was unbearable.  I think I took 3 cold showers today and sweated through every piece of clothing that touched my body.

If I didn't look so gross with my shirt off, I'd simply go topless and save on the amount of clothing I'm piling up in the hamper.

We had all 5 rooms check out this morning, so between Cindy and I, we had a busy day of laundry, cleaning and work around here.  I'm not sure if I ever fully recovered from yesterdays heat exhaustion and heavy drinking adventure.

By the time the sun set, I was getting ready to call it a day when I noticed some big storm clouds rolling in from the South.  I watched for awhile till I kept seeing lightning bolts zig-zag out of the storm front.

I ran inside and grabbed my camera, lightning trigger and tripod and headed out to the dock.

One of our guests was out there enjoying the storm and Tom and I sat and talked for a few hours.

We talked shop about traveling, life in Florida as he's a native and sailing.  Tom has dreams just like mine of packing up a sailboat and spending a few years island hopping around the Caribbean.

He's years ahead of me since he already owns a sailboat and has it outfitted, but we talked about various islands we've visited in the Virgin Island Chain and which ones we like the best.

When the storm petered out, we said our goodnights and headed into bed.

I really like my new lightning trigger if you couldn't already tell.

Saturday July 17th - Helping A Friend and Going for a Boat Ride

I got a call early this morning from a good friend Heath Davis.  He asked if I could give him a hand moving a boat trailer across town and swapping out the axle springs.

Heath is a great guy and one who has helped us out tremendously when it comes to feeling very 'at home' here in Cedar Key.  For someone who's family history dates back to some of the first white settlers here in this fishing village to accept Cindy and I as locals, I feel blessed to help him any time he asks.

Heath is pretty funny when it comes to the way he does things and I always get a good chuckle when being around him.

The boat trailer was one that he had just purchased and the old axle mounts were rusted all the way through.  One of the dual axles was completely rusted off, so that one we lifted up and put on top of the trailer.

The other axle that was somewhat mounted, was loose, but still holding on by a few rusty pieces of metal.

Heath got out some bailing wire and started to wire it up.  I laughed asking if he was seriously only going to use that small gauge wire.

He just looked at me and in that heavy southern drawl, said "Now Pat, if we dont lose an axle while driving down main street, this isn't going to be all that fun is it?"

We pulled into his driveway without losing the axle, and Heath looked disappointed that we had limped through town without causing a ruckus.  The rest of the morning was spent swapping out the old axle springs with new ones which included all new hardware.

Heath Throwing a Cast Net

This was a learning experience for the both of us, but I wont go into detail with the two hundred trips we made between the hardware store and the auto parts store to find the few bolts and hangers that werent included in the package.

Lets just say that over the few hours this took to have installed, Heath and I lost precious amounts of bodily fluids due to the 98 heat we were working in.

I was home by noon and almost too hot to eat lunch.  The motel was completely full today, so all Cindy and I had to do was go through the rooms to give them a once over and we'd be done for the rest of the day.

Heath had invited us out for a afternoon boat ride where he wanted to show us some areas that we have never been to yet.  He has a unique boat that is custom built on an Airboat deck, but with an outboard motor rather than the obnoxiously loud giant fan normally found on these boats.

This allowed us to get into some seriously shallow areas, but do it without the noise that normally disturbs all the birds.

He showed us some really cool areas and brought us to a Civil War battle field that most people would never know existed.  I enjoy hanging out with people who can tell you history about anywhere you are and it usually has something to do with a Great Grandfather or relative who has passed on this information first hand.

Today was one of those days that was almost too hot to enjoy.  Unless the boat was moving, your body started sweating instantly.  Even when skimming across the water at a high rate of speed, it was like we were standing in front of a furnace and the air hitting us was scalding hot.

There wasn't enough water in the cooler to put back in my system and the beers were getting warm so fast, that unless you shot-gunned them, they were warm within seconds of opening.

While idling through the channels in town, Danny and Uncle Jerry called us over saying they were frying up fresh mullet and had a pile of shrimp they had just pulled out of the smoker.

That right there folks is some good eatin'

We pulled the boat out onto the new trailer, well old trailer that has new springs, and limped it back to Heath's house.  One thing neither of us had thought about was to check the tires before we put the boat on the trailer.

So as I pulled the boat out of the water, the tires came out riding on the rims because they were both dead flat.

Remember we live in a small town that was filled with visitors and fellow boaters.  As we drove through town at a very slow rate, it was like we were in some parade due to all the people yelling and waving trying to let us know both our tires were flat.

Luckily Heath only lives a few blocks from the marina, so we just drove slow and waved at everyone smiling and laughing inside the truck.

Back at the motel, two guests who have stayed with us multiple times now had invited us to have dinner with them.  Chris and Holly were grilling up some ribs on the BBQ and Chris was eager for us to try his secret rib sauce.

Chris's Daughter enjoying her Ribs and her fork....LOL

While sitting out back sipping on some cold refreshments and gobbling up delicious ribs, we all talked photography, Florida summers and just life in general.

I'm not one who cares for ribs all that much, but Chris's were the best I've ever tried.  I would be a rib lover if I could have that sauce on a regular basis.

Once the sun hit the horizon, we excused ourselves so we could shower and change before heading back into town where we had made plans to meet up with Heath and Jolie.

We started the evening at the Black Dog where it was super comfortable inside because they're one of the few bars in town that uses their A/C.

The girls were itching to go across the street to Brian's Big Deck so they could dance, so us boys finished up our beers and made the long trek across Dock Street. (In reality you could probably throw your beer across the street, that's how close the two bars are...LOL)

The Big Deck was packed and the dance floor was hopping.  I sat watching for a few songs, but since I'm not much of a dancer, I snuck out and went back to the comfort of the Black Dog and their Air Conditioning.

Heath and the girls came back after awhile so they could cool down with me, all poking fun at my Yankee tendencies of being too soft to stay out in the thick Florida heat.

Call me what you want, but I dont enjoy standing around sweating through my shirt when I'm not even doing anything but standing there drinking beer.

After numerous trips back and forth between the two bars, it was late in the evening and time to head home.

Heath and Jolie live within walking distance, but I offered them a ride since we'd have to be passing their house on our way back to the motel.

When we pulled up to Heath's house, Cindy was getting out of the back seat to move up front where Heath was sitting and when Heath opened his door, he looked in and said "Oh Lord, your wife is facedown on the curb!"

I had thoughts of her coming up with a missing tooth again, but we found out that Jolie had opened the door to their house and the dog had escaped.  It was under the truck and Cindy was crouched down trying to get it out.

Thank God!!  We all laughed as she handed the dog back to them.  We headed home where I cranked up the A/C, drank a few pitchers of water before going to bed with a big smile from all the fun I had today.

Thursday July 15th - Testing the New AEO Lightining Trigger

If you've been following our blogs for any length of time, then you know how much we enjoy storm photography.  I love trying to capture a passing storm especially when Mother Nature is throwing electrical currents through the air.

Up to this point, I've always relied on dumb luck to be able to catch the lightning bolts and I've been somewhat successful, or you could say really dumb and lucky.  My technique was to simply turn the camera to manual focus after I had set the focus to where I wanted it.  I would then point the camera in the direction of where the storm was and hold it tightly against my chest.

When ever I would see a flash of lightning, or anticipate another strike, I would start pressing the shutter button and hope I'd catch the bright white flash hitting the ground.

This usually resulted in hundreds of wasted images, but since its digital, it's not like I'm wasting anything other than my time, and the cameras shutter life.

Well a few weeks ago, after hours spent on the computer deleting images where I had missed the hundreds of lightning bolts we had watched pass the Low-Key Hideaway in one of our typical afternoon storms, I started looking for a lightning trigger.

Up to this point, I had only dreamed of being able to afford one because they're way out of my price range.  There is just no way I can afford a device that costs upwards of $500 when its something I'll only use for storm photography.

After doing a Google search and coming up with the typical over priced units I would normally find, I found a thread where photographers were talking about testing a new Lightning Trigger that had only recently hit the market, the AEO Lightning Trigger.

One of the Better Bolts I caught on this Test Run

They were all giving it glowing reviews and the price was what I thought was very affordable $130.  Now that might seem steep if you live in an area where you get a good storm once or twice a year, but if you live in Florida like we do, then afternoon lightning storms are a daily occurrence.  Something tells me I'll get some serious use out of this device this summer alone.

Tonight was the first time I got to use it and I was totally amazed.  It was great to be able to set the controls on the camera to what I thought would be the right settings, you never really know because you cant predict how big the lightning bolts are going to be, but I set it up to what I thought would work, mounted the the Canon 5D atop my tripod, turned on the AEO Lightning Trigger, grabbed a glass of smooth red wine and sat out on the dock watching the storm pass.

The trigger is super sensitive and with any flicker of light in the clouds, it snaps the shutter.  I realized right away that I was going to be deleting a ton of photos still because many of the lightning flickers were simply that, small flickers where you would never see a bolt come crashing through the clouds.

But what it allows the camera to do is capture the big bolts that I cant anticipate.  This is where it's worth its weight in gold.  Those are the ones I would usually miss or only catch half the strike.  I'm not worried about deleting lots of wasted images, I can do that right on the cameras viewing screen, but anything that looks like it might be useable, I save and wait till I can look at the image on the larger computer monitor.

My Favorite Shot from the night - Cindy agrees it was money well spent!

I'm not all that interested in using photos of the clouds light up, I want a big, scary bolt of lightning spider webbing across the sky.  Over the course of a few glasses of wine, where I was able to go back in the house to use the bathroom, apply more bug spray and talk with Cindy all the time leaving the camera doing it's work, I was very impressed with the device.

I did catch a few good images, but this is still the trial and error stage.  I was changing my settings on the camera after every few shots because it seemed if I had it set on one setting, a huge bolt would come hitting the ground and completely blow out the frame due to being too bright for my current settings.

I'd change the settings and the next few bolts would be little tiny strikes that would leave the frame too dark to see anything other than the lightning strike.

So what I learned is I need to figure out a setting that will work no matter how big the lightning bolts are, and then I'll be able to simply leave the camera pointed in the right direction and watch the storm pass by. 

Tuesday July 13th - Something Completely New To Me

This morning I had a chance to experience something completely new and different to me, and something that ended up opening my eyes to how small of a town I live in and how tight-knit the family structure is here in Cedar Key.

While out on the airboat the other night with Danny, he asked what I was doing on Tuesday morning?  I'm always intrigued when Danny asks me what I'm doing because it usually means he has something interesting on the agenda.

He told me that the annual Oyster Relocation or Planting, as they call it, was scheduled and if I wanted to witness something really funny, I should come along.

Of course I'm always interested in seeing new things and especially if its something that is a ritual to the town I live in, of course I would like to experience it first hand.  So Danny picked me up in his airboat at the back of our dock early this morning and brought me out to where a bunch of other boats were busy working the oyster beds that line the back bayou behind our place.

What I learned from asking a few different people is oysters grow just about everywhere around here, but they only grow thick and harvestable in the areas where the water stays deep and flows with a regular current.

So once, sometimes twice a year, the State of Florida pays the local fisherman to collect clumps of oysters from the areas that become exposed during low tide, pile them in bins inside the boat and move them to areas that are deeper and where they'll mature faster so they can be harvested.

By doing this in a controlled manner, they can basically keep the oysters growing at a harvestable rate without over-harvesting them.

This is a very labor intensive job, but the one thing that surprised me was the collection of people I watched performing it.  Remember that its summer break, and many of the kids are off from school, so lots of boats had young kids out working with their parents.

Fisherman had their wives with them, their sons, daughters and many of the boats were captained by women with women as deck hands.  This was something I wasn't expecting to see, but after witnessing it first hand, I hold a much deeper respect for many of the people I saw around town but never would have guessed them to be out working the waters like I watched them do today.

The boats themselves varied as much as the crews on them did.  Many where Carolina Skiffs, which is the choice boat around these parts due to their solid build, shallow draft and open deck that allows work to be performed on the decks like I watched this morning.

Some boats were make shift vessels that looked like something that floated out of a Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde type of laboratory.  Some were the traditional Bird Dog style boats the clam and oyster fisherman have used for decades and others were the noisy, obnoxious airboats. 

The airboats could race back and forth hauling twice as many loads in half the amount of time, but the big Bird Dogs could come in every so often loaded down with 4 times the amount the small airboats could handle.

If the boats themselves were unique and different, the crews manning them were even more colorful and fun to watch.

Some of the fisherman were big and burly, just the way you imagine a mean old sailor to be.  Others were skinny with tattoos and tanned muscles ripping at the skin from years of solid backbreaking work on the ocean.

Young men were on almost every boat and it cracked me up to see some dressed like they were headed out on the town in designer shirts and sunglasses while the next kid on the boat would be in dirty jeans with a worn out shirt, yet they all busted their asses just the same.

Kids as young as 7 years old were throwing clumps of oysters overboard while the next boat over would have a seasoned fisherman pushing into his golden years.  Women that looked good enough to be on any fashion magazine cover were working beside a woman that looked like a linebacker for a pro football team.

When I first arrived on the scene, Danny explained what was going on so I wouldn't be so confused.

The clumpers, the workers picking the oysters from the shallow areas, were busy piling the razor sharp crustaceans into tall piles that could later be packed into the boats.

Once the whistle was blown, starting the days event off, the boats would race from the shallow areas to the drop off point where they'd have to be checked in by officials before they'd be given the signal they could dump their loads into the designated spot.

They would then have to take their ticket, which would say how many bushels they had, to the State Official who was standing near bye on a sandbar so it could be recorded which would tell them how much they'd be paid.  Each boat was limited to 400 bushels, so some were done within a few loads, others would make many different loads working twice as hard to reach their limit.

Waiting in Line to get their ticket stubs validated

One fisherman had his boat rigged up so he could dump the entire length of the boat in one swing of a long lever before he'd be headed back to have it reloaded.

One man Assembly Line when it comes to dumping Oysters

The mayhem only lasted for a few hours time.  They have to time it perfectly enough that they can harvest the oysters from the exposed clam beds during low tide and be off the beds before the tide comes back in and covers the beds back up.

I think I was home 3 hours after I left, and I felt exhausted just from watching them work so hard, I cant imagine how tired all the folks involved must have been.  This is back breaking work no matter which side of the job you're on and everyone involved was covered in a thick layer of muck from working in the oyster beds.

What really made me feel good about the entire thing was to see so many families working together as a family unit.  Kids out working with their parents, brothers working with their siblings and when one boat would be finished with their load, they would go help another fisherman so they could reach their limit in the allotted time frame.

Even though it was somewhat of a race, everyone was looking out for one another and even though there were 30 boats all drifting in a narrow channel with a strong current, with all the occupants on the boat working like a fine tuned watch, there were never any arguments or yelling between competitors.  It was just good hard work and a day in the life of a fulltime fisherman on the Gulf of Mexico.

Handing off the ticket to the boat captain

Passing down the tradition to your daughter

Giving the Boat a wash down at the end of the day

Friday July 9th - A Long Day on the Water

After yesterdays adventure, Cindy and I went to bed early last night knowing we'd be up this morning way before the sun to go back out for round two.

I told you that yesterday was more of a scouting mission.  Today we weren't going to waste our first few hours circling the island looking for the right light.  This morning we knew right where to be to get the sun breaking the surface, right where to head to once the sun got up and gave us that beautiful golden light photographers search for.

Yesterday we probably would have stayed out longer, but Cindy hadn't brought food or drink with us, even though I had told her to.  Nope, she thought sleep was more important, so she waited till I was loading the cameras in the truck before she came running after me so I wouldn't leave her behind.

After seeing what she saw up-close, this morning she was waking me up.  She had a cooler packed with food, a dry bag packed with towels, a thermos full of strong coffee and she was the one getting me up.  Remember it was 5am when she was doing all of this.  So I'm thinking Cindy was bit by the Camera bug again, and she couldn't wait to go back out.

Plus, Cindy was trying a new lens I picked up awhile back, a Sigma 50-500mm and alot of her photos turned out blurry from yesterdays experiment with it.  It's quite the long lens when it comes to how far you're zoomed in, it weighs over 4lbs and without being image stabilized, you need to be rock steady to have your images come out tack sharp.

Try hand holding a 4 pound, 500mm lens from a boat that's moving, and you tell me what you come home with.

Today I was brining her a monopod to rest the Bigma (This is photography speak for the nickname this lens carries) on, and she was willing and wanting to give it a second go around.

Pulling out of the marina at 5:30am, we were simply using the stars to navigate from.  The sky had a very soft glow to it so we could at least make out the channel markers and the water was again, a pane of glass.

As we idled away from downtown Cedar Key, Luz looked back from the front of the boat and said "You know you're going to do something GOOD when you forego sleep this early in the morning be out on a boat!"

She was 100% spot on.  We have our entire lives to sleep away, but if you want to see the really good stuff, the stuff lasting memories are made from, you have to get up before the sun, and many times be out well past that time the sun goes back to sleep.

We found our giant piece of driftwood we were looking for which told us we were in the right spot, and with big stingrays scurrying away from us just under the surface, we hit the shoreline and exited onto the beach.

Cindy grabbed the Canon 5D and asked for a towel and said she was going to go sit and watch the sun come up.

Luz and I were watching giant schools of Amber Jack fluttering just under the surface of the calm water.  Luz has grown up on the water, so of course she thinks she's the next Bass Pro Shops Fisherman of the Year.

Before we could let Cindy off the boat, she was pulling out her cast net telling me to get her into the middle of that school of fish.

So with Luz standing on the platform on the front of our skiff with cast net in hand, I was racing out to put her in the middle of a giant ball of fish.

Her first throw she landed it right on the school and pulled in 2 Amber Jacks.  She was telling me she needed the fish to use as bait so she could cast her line for Redfish while Cindy and I were shooting birds (With our cameras that is!)

Once Luz has her bait, we went back up to the beach so she could go walk the empty shores with Cindy and watch the sun pop its head over the horizon.

I'll let Cindy explain the sunrise, because she was paying attention to it, me on the other hand was watching the stingrays, the sea turtles and all the schools of fish that were going about their daily life on the Gulf Coast.  All I could think was "What is going to happen to this if it's covered in oil?"

Once the sun was up and the light was getting good, the girls climbed back into the boat, Cindy poured some hot coffee and we motored over to where we knew the birds would be.

Its hard to explain the magnitude of birds that use this quiet island as a refuge.  You know it sucks as a photographer when the hardest part of taking pictures is to try and isolate only one bird in the frame.

There are Too Many Different Kinds of Birds to Name in this One Shot

Many times, when I'd be on a bird, in the background there might be 4 or 5 other birds that are mucking up the background of the shot.  I'm being sarcastic here, but it does make it hard to get good shots if you're trying to simply get one species of bird in the frame.

Pulling up to the section of island that we would spend the next few hours at, the birds dont even really care that we're there.  They fly around us in flocks so big its like a cloud has passed over and blocks out the sun.

Hundreds of hundreds of birds in one flock.  The sheer sound alone is enough to scare you even though you know these birds are harmless.

The baby pelicans, which until yesterday none of us had ever seen one before are now old news.  There are so many of them, and they're so loud you'd think you're on a pig farm and its feeding time.  The sounds they make are just too weird to be coming out of such a small bird.

Adult Brown Pelican Feeding a Baby Pelican

When you see one of the adults come back to a nest, you wonder why the parents would even put up with it....but then again as any parent who has raised a teenage child knows, there are many nights you wonder this same thing.

The young birds who cant hunt or fish for themselves rely on their parents to bring them back food.  When the adults come back with a belly full of food, the young birds go crazy attacking the adult to give them the fresh catch.

The adults have to regurgitate the food back up and the young birds are jamming their long bills way down the throats of the adults.  Its amazing they dont tear apart the throats of the parents.

Watching this from a safe distance but looking through a very long lens makes you feel like you're standing beside them in the nest.

Today Cindy was having much better luck with the Bigma now that it was attached to a monopod to steady the long reach the lens offers.

That is until you have our little Hammy (Luz) who cant sit still in the boat for more than 2 seconds.  Cindy would turn around and say something like "Ok, how about we all just sit still for a few minutes and not move around?  Can we try this."  She would say all of this in the sweetest of voices that Cindy Bonish can come up with.

It would last for about 5 seconds and as her and I would be looking through our lenses, we'd both lose focus because the boat would start rocking again.  We'd look away from the viewfinders to see Luz moving across the boat to grab her fishing pole or get something out of the dry box.

I finally started laughing and said "Luz, I hope you realize Cindy is doing everything she can do to not throw you off the boat right now!  If I was to be moving around right now, I'd probably have already been beaten with the blunt end of her monopod or thrown overboard"

Luz just laughed and said "What, I'm barely moving?  Why are you saying that?"

Cindy brought Luz over to her lens and said "Here, look through this and try and take a photo."

Luz looked through the camera and said "WOW!!  Look how close you are to the birds!"  Cindy then moved on the boat which started it rocking ever so gently, but any movement means that you lose the bird in the viewfinder and she then said "Now try and snap the shutter on that same bird you were just looking at."

Luz said "Heck, I cant even see the bird anymore let alone get the camera to focus on it."

It was then that Luz understood what we'd been asking for her to do....SIT STILL!!!

In all honesty, this whole conversation was said as a total joke because we all know to ask Luz to sit still would be the equivalent of asking Congress to stop wasting tax payers money, or BP to stop the oil leak....see where I'm going?

After a few hours spent on one side of the island, I think we saw more birds than most people will see in their entire lives.

We moved around to another side of the island to see what was over there.  We spotted a Golden Eagle sitting right along the shore line and I got a little worried as the boat drifted to within 20 feet of the giant.

If you've ever seen one of these birds up-close, they resemble a tree stump with 4 inch long talons at the bottom of the stump.  When it opens its 8' wingspan to take to flight, it's downright scary as it flies over you.

It could hit you in the head with those talons and probably tear your head right off the shoulders if it wanted to.  Luckily for us, Luz was talking so fast and loud, it didn't want to come our way and flew the opposite way....Just Joking Luz.

We found a nice white sand beach on the backside of the island where the girls got out to relax in the shade of a palm tree.  I know, life is hard for the fulltime photographer :)

We had picked this spot because yesterday on our reconnaissance mission, we had spotted a few nests that the parents never left.  They just sat still on the big nests all day.  I wanted to check to see if any of the babies had been born yet.

As I sat watching through the lens, I kept watching one parent who was moving around alot and kept poking its head down between it's belly.  I heard the primordial sounds of something screaming at a very high pitch and soon watched a ugly little bald head pop its head up from the nest to take its first look at this world it had just been hatched into.  Sort of sounds like me waking up in the morning....LOL!

Cindy napping in the Shade of a Palm Tree on Seahorse Key -
Life is hard for the fulltime photographer

While we were all sitting there, I told the girls to look on the beach walking towards us.  There was an immature Ibis walking down the shoreline with a broken wing.

It walked right up to the front of the boat and just sat there looking at us like it was waiting for us to do something.

Of course the motherly instinct took over in both Luz and Cindy and they jumped from the boat with a towel to go rescue the injured bird.

They wrapped it in a towel and brought it back aboard the boat.  Luz opened up her water jug and stuck it near the birds long bill.  Once it realized what it was, it drank half the jug down.

Cindy and Luz nursing the wounded Ibis - Once it drank the water, it because so much more active and life like

We tore a piece of fish from the Amberjack that Luz had caught earlier and the bird gobbled it up.

Luz called our friend Diana who works on the island and is known for rescuing any injured animal.  She told us to bring it around to the University of Florida Dock and put the bird in one of the large empty water tanks under the pavilion.

As we were motoring around the island, Cindy started screaming as a dolphin right in front of us broke the surface and came clear out of the water. 

I was trying to stop the boat, grab my camera and focus on the jumping dolphin as Cindy was screaming out the amount of times it would jump clear out of the water.  I heard her count off 1....2....3....4....on number 5 I grabbed the dolphin in my cameras focus screen and watched as it jumps a good 4' out of the surface, spun in the air and landed with a big splash.

I never pushed the shutter button for some reason.  I think I was just too amazed at how far it had jumped out of the water.

That was a cool sight to see this close.  We didn't even have to pay the entrance fee to Sea World.

Once docked at the Research Center, we put the bird in the big holding tank and headed back for home.

Diana was actually out on a boat with a large group of Marine Biologists who were working the waters in the area searching for marine life to study.  We later found out that when they got to the research center, they inspected the bird, taped up it's wing and feed the hungry little bird gobs of food.  It probably hadn't eaten in days when they told us the amount it gulped down.  Shrimp after shrimp, buckets of water and they told us it's now walking around her house healthy and energetic.

Hopefully Diana can nurse it back to a healthy state and release it back onto the protected island.

By this point it was almost noon and we had a full house tonight.  So we headed back to the Marina and went home to do some work.

Cindy got the rooms prepped while I mowed the yard, took out the trash and did some more things around the motel.

Around 6:30, I met Luz and our friend Tonya back at the marina where we were headed back out to watch the sunset.

Tonya owns a local business where she makes yard ornaments out of local materials.  She mixes concrete with the shells and driftwood found on the surrounding islands and sculpts them into amazing pieces of art.

I wanted to try and check out this one section of the island at sunset, where the sun would light the pelican nests with good evening light while the girls combed the beaches for unique shells that Tonya could use in her art.

I dropped them off on a sandbar and headed around the island to the opposite side.

Now I should point out a few things right now.  When we left the marina, we were 20 minutes in front of low tide.  The tides are really big right now and hitting a low tide around Cedar Key can mean hours of being stuck on a sandbar.

We just barely made it out of the marina due to the shallow water.  We watched a V-Bottom boat in front of us have to get out and push themselves out due to hitting bottom.

We were in a flat bottom skiff, so we can usually idle along in about 10" of water.  We barely scraped out but once out, we motored out into the deep channel and headed towards Seahorse Key.

We were all watching birds walk along the exposed grass beds and I commented that this was the shallowest I've ever seen the waters.  Almost like the time we went out with Danny and we were 7 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico and hit a sandbar so big we got out and walked around for a few hours.

This evening, you could have walked from Seahorse Key to Atsena Otie Key and hit maybe thigh deep water at the deepest point.

The two islands are a few miles apart from one another just so you get the scope of what I'm talking about.

We actually had trouble getting to Seahorse Key because of the huge grass bed.  We saw a very shallow cut between the two deep channels and idled through there only running aground once.

One thing every boat has in Cedar Key is a long push-pole so when you hit bottom, you pull out the push-pole and simply pole yourself through the shallow waters.

Once on the other side of the long, exposed grass bed, we made it to the island and I dropped the girls off on the deserted beach.

I told them I'd try and make it around to the other side and I'd be back in a few to pick them up.

This is the same beach we had pulled right up onto this morning.  We're now about a 1/4 mile away from the trees with exposed sand the rest of the way

This didn't take long.  I hit the channel, made it around to the opposite side of the island and realized I had another exposed grass bed about 3/4 of a mile away from the shoreline I wanted to be at.

So I simply motored back around in the channel and found the girls wandering along the beach finding treasures.

We sat talking as the birds flew home to Seahorse Key for their nights safety the island offers.

Luz told me she had just gotten off the phone with Danny who was coming out in his airboat to bring us to the side we wanted to be at but was landlocked right now.

Dam It Luz!  Why do you always bring Danny out from his work to shuttle us around the island?  I feel bad because we're always bothering him when we get stuck, we run out of fuel or have questions on directions as to where we're going in the boat.

This man is a walking Topo-Map when it comes to getting you to where you need to be, especially if it's low tide and you're about to get stranded far away from shore.

Before I could talk her into calling him back to tell him not to come out, he's pulling up in the air boat.

We tied off our skiff to a channel marker and the 3 of us climbed aboard the airboat.

We were soon roaring across the exposed grass beds like we were on some sort of magic carpet that was powered by a Chevy small block.

I know I've said it before, but it needs to be said again because of how true it is, "Everyone HATES airboats unless they're on one!"

Danny pulled us up to the shoreline where the nests were just as the sun dipped below the horizon.  We were about 20 minutes too late, but the airboat ride was worth it anyways.

Now remember, we're walking deserted beaches with a group of people who has lived amongst these islands their entire lives.  All of this stuff is new to me and the things I point out that are just amazing rarely impresses them.  It's all second nature to them and they've seen it millions of times.

But tonight when I looked up at the dark blue sky, one of those blues so deep you feel like you could swim in it, my jaw dropped when I saw the flock of birds soaring above us.

I pointed to the sky and gasped "OH MY GOD!"

Everyone else looked up and said something very similar to my expression.

Above us was the largest group of birds I've ever seen in my life.

Magnificent Frigate birds were circling and riding the currents the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico were heaving up at them.  If there was one bird, there were a thousand.  I'm not lying when I say it was something you'd see in a National Geographic Special on migratory birds.

None of my photos could capture the amount of birds in the sky and show how big the flocks were, so you'll just have to take my word for it, they were immense.

Even Danny, who doesn't get impressed by ANYTHING, looked up and said "My God, that's a lot of birds!"

As we climbed back onto the airboat, Danny fired it up and pulled us out onto one of the grass beds that was probably a square mile in size.  He stopped the boat and got off and asked "Ok, who wants to drive the boat?"

He told us that the grass bed creates a buffer and you cant flip, hurt or do anything wrong to the boat.  Before he could finish his question, Luz was in the drivers seat with her foot on the throttle pedal and pumping the stick that controls the big props.

We were soon flying over the surface doing donuts, big S-Turns and listening to Luz scream like a young school girl on the playground.

Next was my turn.  Normally I dont ride anyone's motorcycle, drive their boats or try their toys as I'm too broke to fix anything I might break.  But Danny reassured me that I couldn't hurt the thing, so I wasn't going to miss the opportunity to pilot an airboat.  Something I'll probably never get a chance to do again.

Once you get the hang of driving the boat around and feathering the stick to control the turns, its a blast to drive.  Sort of like operating a bulldozer on ice...LOL

I was having too much fun and finally stopped and told Danny "You know Cindy's gonna kill you after letting me drive this thing!"

He just laughed and said "No, Cindy's gonna kill you when you come home with a new Airboat!  All I did was let you drive it!"

Tonya took a turn driving and by this point, we were about 45 minutes behind the sunset, so it was getting pretty dark.  But really this is my favorite time of the day.  An hour after the sun has gone down, it's still light enough to see everything, but the heat has gone away and we're far enough out in the Gulf that there is a real strong breeze to keep any bugs away.

Danny just shut the boat off and we all sat around listening to stories about fishing, claming, oystering and life on the Gulf of Mexico.

I swear, i could sit and listen to his stories for days on end.  I never get tired of tales from people I look up to.  Someone who has grown up on these waters, survived storms, Government control of their fishing and their way of life and the wild tales of pulling in sharks or sleeping out on the water while waiting for a tide to come back in, it's the life of a true adventurer and one I've always admired.

After an hour of just sitting around talking, the stars were out so bright it was brighter than when the sun had just gone down.  Plus our eyes had gotten full adjusted to the darkness by this point, so it was wild to watch the dolphins, turtle heads popping up to check us out and the birds float over us by the thousands.

Does Life Get Any better Than This?  Miles out into the Gulf sitting on a Pane of Glass

Danny ran us back to our boat that we could now safely navigate back in because the tide had flooded back in enough to give us enough depth that we wouldn't run aground in the dark....and since the skiff has no running lights, hopefully we'd be able to make it in without being pulled over by the Coast Guard.

Danny was kind enough that he kept 50' off to the side to of our boat but right beside me and would guide me to where I needed to be so I wouldn't hit any of the real shallow spots, that or any of the channel markers that werent lit.

We made it back to the marina without incident and it was now almost 11pm.  I had been out on the water since 5:30am and was just climbing out of the boat some 17 hours later.

I was beat tired and ready for bed.  I came home, washed the thick layer of salt water off my body and looked at my cameras which resembled something that was pulled from a bombed out building.  They're covered in a salt spray, coated in mud from the prop wash coming off the airboat and have scratches and dings all over their bodies, much like I do.

Amazing Canon doesn't supply us with equipment to test out for them!  I know their R&D department doesn't do as harsh of testing in a years time as I put my cameras through on a daily basis.

My Favorite Image of the last few days!

If you'd like to see some of the images we captured from these past few days, check out the Birds of Cedar Key Gallery.  All of these images are available in various mounting options and sizes.  Let us know what you think and come back often as the galleries are always being updated with new images.

Thursday July 8th - Birds and More Birds On Seahorse Key

One of the islands that makes up the Cedar Keys is called Seahorse Key.  It's the island that has the historic lighthouse on it, and it's also the island that is closed from March thru the 1st of July because it's considered a Bird Rookery.

In all our travels, a question was asked a long time ago about a baby pelican.  One night sitting around a campfire, I'm sure drinks were involved, someone asked what a baby pelican looked like?

No one could answer the question.  The next day, I popped the question in a photography forum that has an entire section devoted to bird photography.

I asked if any of the photographers, and this forum has some of the best bird photographers in the world, if they could post up a photo of a baby pelican.

Not one could say they've even seen one, let alone have photos to show off.

So I started asking locals about this same question and Danny, our fishing guide who always takes us out on the Gulf waters told me the other day, "Pat, I've found a nest that has some baby pelicans in it, and I cant wait for you to see it."

So this morning, with Danny's information as to where the nest was located, Luz, Cindy and our friend Scott Dombrowski from Maine climbed onto the boat around 6:30am just as the sun was peeking over the horizon to head out to Seahorse Key.

The water was as smooth as a pane of glass and the mornings air had a nice cool breeze in it.  I piloted the boat across the calm waters till we came upon the shallow shores of this tropic, deserted island.

Now, Way Key, which is where the town of Cedar Key is located is majorly developed.  Nothing compared to much of surrounding Florida, but a metropolis when you compare it to these little deserted islands that surround it.

As we were idling along right along the shoreline, it sounded like we were in the middle of the Amazon Jungle.  The calls, screeches and screams coming from the tree tops were enough to send chills up your spine.  If you were to wash up on this island in the middle of the night, you'd think it was haunted it sounds so scary.

But to see the tree tops loaded with thousands of nesting birds, it makes you fully aware why this island is closed off for much of the year.

The birds were fighting and cackling for position to reach the top of the tree and gain the hierarchy as to who ruled the roost this morning.

Except for Luz, who never stays quiet for more than 2 seconds, we all sat quiet just listening to the sounds of nature as Red Fish broke the surface, hungry Pelicans dove after the schools of Mullet, and Dolphins jumped all around us.

It was like we had left any civilization far behind us, even though we were only a few miles away from the hustle of a busy marina where the boat ramp was loaded with fisherman heading out for their daily chores.

We found numerous pelican nests, one with a new born pelican screaming like it had just taken its first breath outside the egg shell.

We watched as a big, fat black Raven came flying along with an egg so big in its beak, it could barely hold it while flying.  We saw fresh Bobcat prints along the shoreline and the entire time, had to keep ducking from the birds that aren't too afraid of us humans who were invading their space.

Egg Stealer with a big breakfast

Now remember, we're only walking along the shoreline, but up until a few days ago, humans were off limits to this island, so they dont take too kindly to us approaching their turf.

The entire morning was spent just in awe at the amount of birds we watched fly around us.  Magnificent Frigate Birds, Ibis, Osprey, Roseate Spoonbills, Pelicans, Baby Pelicans by the dozens and Cormorants by the hundreds got used to us floating just off shore as Luz poled us along and Cindy, Scott and I snapped away with our cameras a buzzing.

When the beautiful morning sunlight finally climbed too high in the sky, ruining our good light, we turned North and headed back towards the marina and a warm breakfast.

As we were coming back into Cedar Key, a pod of dolphin started jumping out of the water in front of us.  Like a little kid, Luz stripped off her clothes as she was screaming for me to get her closer to them so she could jump in the water and swim with them.

I tried to get her closer, but I think the dolphin were on to us and turned and swam away at a high rate of speed.

It doesn't matter, we had witnessed something few humans get the chance to see.  In a few hours time, we counted and photographed more birds than most people will see in their lifetime.

It was a good day, and by the time we pulled up to the dock, it wasn't even 10am yet.

Gotta love days like today!  Thanks Luz.  Another box checked on the long list of life's challenges.  Today was a wonderful day, but we all agreed it was more of a scouting mission.  Now that we know where all the nests are, know the right light and how close we can get before we either spoke them, or aggravate them (Something we didn't and dont want to do), we plan on going back many more times in the next few weeks.  Stay tuned.

Oh, and if that wasn't a good enough day for you, I was talking to our best friends up in Minnesota who we're planning to visit while we head up to the U.P. Overland adventure trip this August this afternoon.

Derrick tells me that the weekend we'll be visiting, he scored us V.I.P. Passes to this years WE FEST, which is a huge weekend long concert.  Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, Kid Rock, Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Montgomery Gentry and the list goes on and on.

This is going to be one hell of an amazing August!!  Thank you Derrick and Thank You Miller Lite!!

Adult Pelican with a young baby below it in the nest

Male and Female Magnificent Frigate Birds -
Male is the one on the Left with the red pouch on it's throat

Monday July 5th 2010 - Surviving the Holiday Weekend

The 4th of July holiday weekend has come and gone, the parties have all ended and we all still have every digit we started the weekend with.  This is a good thing.

Despite the nasty weather we had this celebratory weekend, Cedar Key was still packed with people and the Low-Key Hideaway was sold out the entire time.

This is a good thing and I'm hoping everyone who came to visit had a wonderful time and enjoyed themselves.  I know we sure did.

Yesterday, we went out with Jarrod and Stephanie, a local couple who was going to bring some of our guests out to go scalloping in the Gulf of Mexico.

The guests decided they didn't want to go due to the inclement weather, so Cindy asked if we could take their spots on the boat?

Our friends, Fonda and Juergen are back in Cedar Key to visit for the weekend, which also happens to be their Anniversary, so they came along for our first go-around at scalloping.

Now I've eaten alot of scallops in my time, but never have I gone out and snorkeled through the shallow grass beds to try and pick them up on my own.  Come to find out, I'm not that good at finding them, but Jarrod and Juergen were great and kept coming back to the boat with pockets full of them.

Starfish in one hand, clam in the other - Notice the dogs nose in the corner of the shot waiting to eat it

Of course we never got anywhere near our limit because everyone on the boat was eating them as fast as the boys could bring them aboard and get them shucked.  With dark storm clouds all around us, a nice tropical breeze to keep the biting bugs at bay, we had a great day on the water and never even got a drop of rain.

Jarrod holding up a fresh scallop

Before we left to head out onto the water, Jarrod brought out some fuzzy little animals for Cindy to play with.

Remember awhile back when I posted photos of Cindy with the baby raccoons that Stephanie had just found, well now they're little bundles of energy that love to climb all around you.

Isn't that the cutest thing you've ever seen!

It was hilarious watching them play with Jarrod's dog that just wanted to pick them up and carry them around.  They'd climb around on your shoulders licking your ears and and sniffing around every nook and cranny on your face.

Back out on the water, we were exploring one sandbar when Jarrod starting saying "Wow, this sandbar is filled with sand dollars!"

Notice the amount of Sand Dollars atop the life-preserver

One after another, he just kept pulling up the brown sand dollars.  If there was a market for these things, we'd have been rich people.  The young girls were bummed when Stephanie made them put all of them back in the water.  I was thinking the girls thought with their mesh bags filled to the brim, they were going to be wealthy.

Last night we all hung out on the dock behind the Low-Key Hideaway watching the fireworks that were being lit off in downtown Cedar Key.  It seemed that everyone had a few of their own mortars, so no matter which direction you looked, you were watching explosions over the water.

Then, like it was planned this way, within seconds of the grand finale being lit off, the sky opened up and dumped buckets of rain down on the town.  Maybe this was a good thing as it would guarantee no fire would be started from a stray fire cracker or bottle rocket.

We all scurried into the house and sat around talking till the exhaustion caught up with us and we all went off to bed.


Photo Gear We Use  -  Solar Tips, Fact's and Trick's we've learned while on the road 

Camper Check List - A list of things we do before leaving camp.  Again, this isn't gospel, but its a good start for those who might not already have a list made up.


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