Monday, May 30, 2011

Keep Calm & Get Your Beach Cart On !

Loaded up for a day @ the beach.  Who's gonna carry all this stuff?

It is very common to overhear a conversation between vacationers on the beach discussing the fantasy of how awesome it would be to live on the beach one day.  We've all had those conversations.  Funny thing is, once you do live here weeks can pass without a day at the beach.  Work, family commitments, rainy weather & lack of leg shaving can all prevent that spontaneous quick trip to the beach.

  I can always tell the newcomers from the beach old timers. The locals are the people who arrive at the beach loaded up like a pack mule.  They know how the tropical sunny conditions can turn on you quickly without the proper shade & hydration.  Choices have to be made as to what to bring with carrying it all on & off the beach in mind.

My bare minimum list would be:   chair
                                                   bottle of water
That's about all I can carry by myself. That was until I got the best Christmas present ever this year from my hubby - THE WONDER WHEELER.

The Rio Wonder Wheeler beach cart
Now I can practically camp on the beach.  I can load my Wonder Wheeler beach cart up with all the extra things that make a day at the beach even more enjoyable. My small cooler filled with ice cold drinks & snacks fits perfectly on the bottom.  My umbrella & sharks tooth shovel slide into a pocket on the side.  As many as 4 chairs slide over the bar on the front. Beach bag with sunscreen, camera, cell phone, hat, baggies for shells, shell bucket, noodles, & OPS (other people's stuff) go into the mesh holder.
The perfect spot on Gasparilla Island State Park on Boca Grande

All the comforts of home

The wonder wheeler travels easily over hard or soft sand due to the wide back wheels.  The entire beach quiets & stares in wonderment as I pass by with my loaded beach cart. The sight of the Wonder Wheeler is an"ah ha" moment for most loaded down beach-goers the first time they see one.  They usually amble by for a closer look followed by the inevitable "Where did you get it?". I patiently answer their questions knowing that I am making the beach a better place one wonder wheeler at a time.  Finally, after a day of shelling & sharks tooth hunting, floating with the noodle, chilling in my chair under a nice shady umbrella it's time to make my way off the beach & go home all made easier by my new beach buddy Mr. Wonder Wheeler. 
Power noodling on Boca Grande

 Credit: Simone @ Doberman's by the Sea

Friday, May 20, 2011

For it is in giving that we receive. - Francis of Assisi

The best view to end the day with - Blind Pass Beach - Englewood, Florida

Who doesn't like getting presents?  The best gifts are those unexpected ones. It's not your birthday, it's not Christmas, hubby didn't screw up and is trying to get back into good graces. I love the gifts that have some thought behind them. 

Here in Englewood the beach is just a hop, skip, & a jump away.  It's very tempting to blow off housework, grocery shopping, or even call in sick well to work and head to the beach.  Most of my circle of friends know that as the afternoon wanes & 5 o'clock rolls around, the family is fed, & the sun is getting ready to set;  there is a spot on Blind Pass Beach in Englewood that has become our gathering place. You don't have to text the where, just that you are there. So there we congregate in our circle of beach chairs talking about whatever and watching all our kids romp in the surf, pick up shells, & shark's teeth.
A storm blew through Saturday night

A recent storm & a low tide (I'm smiling) Prime time for us beachcombers

The high winds a few days back brought quite a bit of flotsam up on the shore.  It was also a very low tide so there was lots of shells and critters in the exposed sandbar. One of my friends was there with her two sons. Brother Gee is 12 yo & Brother Dubya just turned 10.  Both  love animals of any sort.  Between the two of them they have a bona fide zoo - mice, gerbils, a water dragon, 2 chameleons, a variety of snakes, a cockatiel, rabbits, chickens, ducks, a pig, a fresh water fish tank, & a salt water fish tank. Oh and of course - a dog.  This doesn't count all the animals they have hatched from eggs they have found or squirrel babies fallen from nests & have been bottle-fed that have gone on to live in the woods on their property.
Brother Dubya , a hose pipe, & the dawg. Better than video games I'd say.
(credit: Momma AreGee)

Brother Gee's salt water tank. He can tell you the science behind every animal & ecosystem. What a great way to learn about his world.  His biggest wish is to go snorkeling in the Keys.

The banded tulip shell is home to a crab, a sponge, & an anemone

Back to the gift.  I get a phone call from Brother Gee who wants to thank me for a crab I found him in the low tide the previous night.  It turns out there was an anemone hitch-hiking on the shell which earned me several bonus points with him.  He in turn had a gift for me. So I popped over to visit and was presented with a 3 inch megalodon.  (That's a big honkin  shark's tooth for you fossil novices)  Brother Gee is a really special kid.  He is a cross between Steve Irwin the Crocodile Hunter & St. Francis of Assisi.  He has the skills of the crocodile hunter & the heart of St. Francis who had a very spiritual relationship with animals & all created things. 
Brother Gee is an experienced fossil hunter.  After the Saturday rainstorm he made a beeline straight for the dirt pile to see what the rain had uncovered.

Carcharodon megalodon, Agassiz, 1843 

His grandpa found these huge teeth 

Brother Gee's private collection aka big jar of shark's teeth

A whale vertebrate

Fossilized wood

Brother Gee not only reads about arrowheads - he finds them as well

 Brother Gee was playing on a big dirt pile in his back yard and just saw something sticking out that piqued his curiosity so he dug it out.  Voila - my shark's tooth. Yeah, part of it is broken off but it's perfect to me.  A gift from a young boy who sees the beauty in creation that most of us adults miss. I'd look at the dirt pile and see work.  Brother Gee sees the wonder in a pile of dirt - cool rocks, fossils, arrowheads, and big shark's teeth.

You're never too old to have a treasure box & this is going in mine.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May you always have a seashell in your pocket & sand between your toes

Dr. Stephen Leatherman - His office is the beach
(credit :
When planning a destination that involves surf, sun, & sand thousands of  travelers  turn to the experts for advice. In this case "America's foremost beach expert" Dr. Beach.  Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman aka Dr. Beach is a Professor and Director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University. He's a scientist.  Dr. Beach is a  really smart & really educated guy who has parlayed his passion for the outdoors into a super nice gig travelling the world & ranking the top beaches. 

He announces his annual list of best beaches every Memorial Day weekend. This May 30 will be his 20th anniversary. Dr. Beach has developed a 50 point rating system that covers all aspects of a great beach from water clarity, sand softness, & the size of breaking waves to the smell, the amount of wildlife, & accessibility. Dr. Beach is as we say - da man.
The Florida BeachHunter (left) & Dr. Beach

Blogger & journalist David McRee (aka Florida BeachHunter) recently joined Dr. Beach on Little Gasparilla Island to get a first-hand look at how the good Doctor does his thing.  David is another guy with a passion for the outdoors who's job requires him to wear his beach trunks & lots of sunsceen. 

David's Blog the Beach is a terrific resource when looking for information on Florida beaches. He gives you pictures, video, & scientific info on the water clarity, sand conditions, amenities,  & accessibility.  David also points out where the best beaches would be if you are interested in kayaking, snorkeling, or just a quiet getaway. Between Dr Beach's top 10 list & the Florida BeachHunter's best places to do whatever it is you want to do - choosing a beach destination is easier than ever or maybe harder with so many tantalizing choices.

Now I don't have a snazzy moniker and I am still waiting on the Colombia Sportswear folks to get back to me on my offer to represent the official sharkstooth/shelling line of beachwear-thing but I some opinions of my own to share that are not based on one drop of scientific data.

 I too have a list of my own best beaches -  For shelling. My criteria for a good shelling beach is pretty simple.  I'm looking for  shells & lots of them. The sand & water quality aren't a big issue for me.  Good shelling is usually at low tide so the smell is a moot point. Accessibility & amenities have kept quite a few self-professed shelling fanatics from joining me on many a shelling excursion.  The wading out to sandbars, midnight low tides, & lack of potties have thinned the crowd out. For you fanatical shell lovers out there this list is for you.  
#1 Blind Pass on Sanibel-Captiva Island

#2 The 10 Spot on Bonita Beach

#3 Tigertail Beach on Marco Island
#4 Barefoot Beach - Bonita Springs
#5 Honeymoon Island - Dunedin Beach(credit:

Honorable Mention -
 Stump Pass on Manasota Key

(the shells are hit & miss but the sharks teeth are the best evah!)

 I doubt my favorites will make Dr. Beach's top ten list but that's ok. My list is limited to the beaches I have frequented in my neck of the Florida woods.  Thanks to my blogger shell sistah's Pam of i Love Shelling, Rhonda of Shellbelle's Tiki hut, & Carla of Love Letters From the Sea for their posts.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

M-O-T-H-E-R "M" is for the million things she gave me, "O"means only that she's growing old, "T" is for the tears she shed to save me, "H" is for her heart of purest gold; "E" is for her eyes, with love-light shining, "R" means right, and right she'll always be, Put them all together, they spell "MOTHER," A word that means the world to me. --Howard Johnson (c. 1915)

My 74 yo Mother (GG) has not embraced technology although she is winking at it from a distance. GG had the cassette tape-thing down pat then I threw her a curve ball by gifting her a cd player. After several sessions of me instructing her she got pretty adapt at playing her new cd's except for one incident where she listened to the same song over and over and over all night long because she hit the wrong button.

 She has a cell phone that she forgets to charge and a tv that has 3 remotes.   I set her up a facebook account so she could keep in touch with her grand kids & some old high school friends but she never uses it. Just like the email lesson we had previous to  facebook she thinks if she hits the wrong key on the keyboard she will blow up China. 

GG has taken a shine to one perk of using the Internet - Bill pay.  GG hates to pay a bill any earlier than she has to.  I think she just doesn't like giving up her money any sooner than she has to. On the day of the bill's due date She usually races out the door to drive to the post office trying to get her envelope out on the last pony express to Discover or Allstate hoping it at least gets postmarked on time. This all changed the first time I offered to pay her bill online.  Click, click, click tap click - all done! as GG stares in wide-eyed wonder over my shoulder. She now pays most of her bills online vicariously through me. Happy Mother's Day GG. You know how to pick your battles.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

We die daily. Happy those who daily come to life as well. ~George MacDonald

Crop Circles - formations, usually found in grain crops, where the crop has been mysteriously found laid flat, in patterns, that did not exist in daylight the previous day. I find the phenomena fairly interesting although I suspect there is a prankster out there somewhere with too much time on his or her hands. There are lots of folks who think aliens are sending us secret messages through the crop circles.  What could they possibly want from us? Goggle translate needs to catch up with this one. 

A while back I was night shelling on Little Hickory beach and came upon some odd formations in the sand.  It was a super low tide and I was walking on the sand bar.  There were curly cue patterns everywhere in the sand. Crop circles came to mind - is this a secret message to be decoded or just some shell out gallivanting looking for food or running from a predator? 

The Olive Shell gives new meaning to meandering, gallivanting, mosey, & ramble. (Picture courtesy of  i Love Shelling blog)

Although a common shell on the Gulfcoast the Olive shell is actually one of the prettiest shells.  It's glossy shell with it's brown markings make it a nice addition to any collection. The size ranges from very tiny to 3-4 inches in length.  As the olive shell tunnels through the sand it keeps the shell polished.
Lettered Olive picture from Blog the Beach
Lettered Olive Shell
Oliva sayana Ravenel, 1834

So I will keep pondering the olive shell crop circle thing.  I love to find the deeper meanings in things. But if I get a message that says "Quit your job & move to the beach"... I'm on it!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

“Crush: Cuz we were like, "woaaaah.", and I was like, "woaaaah." and you were like, "woaaahh..."” from Finding Nemo

The coolest sea turtle evah!

One of the most marvelous sites you'll ever see on the Gulf coast of Florida is a sea turtle crawling  up the beach to make a nest and lay her eggs.  The female turtle uses her flippers to dig her nest and deposit about 100 ping-pong sized eggs.  She then uses her flippers to cover & camouflage the nest then returns to the sea leaving behind her brood to hatch on their own in approximately 8 weeks.  Most turtle babies hatch at night.  They depend on the moon & stars over the Gulf of Mexico to guide them back to the water. 

 The trek from the nest to the beach can be treacherous for the hatchings due to predators like raccoons, fire ants, & sea birds, beach furniture and sand sculptures, & artificial lighting from condos & street lights.  In an effort to help the turtle population grow most coastal communities have laws in place to limit the environmental lighting from May 1 through October 31.  This puts a damper on one of my favorite pastimes - night shelling but the trade off is well worth it.

Last October I was in the right place at the right time.  A turtle nest hatched in the daytime about 50 yards up the beach from me.  I got a first hand look at the struggle the turtle hatchlings face from the get go.  First they have to crawl in the direction of the water not the road.  Then heading for the water they have to make their way across the sand climbing over sand castles, holes left by umbrellas in the sand, and other debris left by beach-goers. All the while sea gulls are circling overhead.  No wonder the odds are 1 in 1,000 sea turtles makes it to maturity.

There are turtle patrols organized through Mote Marine that cover the Manatee & Sarasota County beaches. These volunteers walk the beach every morning looking for new nests.  They are also looking for obstructions in the sand that could hinder any hatchlings from a clear path back to the sea. 

What can the everyday beach goer do to help?
*Pick up trash
*Fill in any holes on the beach
*Remove furniture from the beach
*Observe silently from a distance if you happen to see a nesting turtle
*Use a red-filtered light to see at night

On April 22 the first Kemp's Ridley sea turtle nest was found on Sanibel Island.  Another nest was reported to the north on Anna Maria Island on April 27.   So turtle nesting on the west coast of Florida has gotten an early start. With just a little extra care, concern, and awareness we can help the population grow for the future beach goers to enjoy.

Another blogger is talking  turtles today.  Stop by and see my shell sistah Pam @ i Love Shelling.