St. Pete’s Beach Florida

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Michael had talked with us about taking a cruise as kind of a high school graduation present. To be honest I had no desire to take a cruise and I still don’t. However Julie being the voice of reason she usually is promptly stated how inexpensive it would be to feed Michael on a cruise as to a traditional vacation, she now had my attention.

Our trip to Florida began back on November 24th 2017 “Black Friday” as I booked our cruise online with Carnival Cruise Lines. We would fly into Tampa Bay the day before, relax at our resort by the pool with drinks and set sail to Cozumel Mexico the next day.

Fast forward to February 2018 as I received an email from Carnival stating that they had changed our port from Cozumel to Havana Cuba  I re-read the email a dozen times to make sure I was reading it properly and each time I became more upset. I approached Julie about it and she was equally annoyed. We stewed on it for a few days and came to the conclusion that it might not be all that bad. So chatted with the boys and they seemed on board as well. Heck if there are palm trees Michael is all set.

Several days later Julie being the researcher she is began diving into the specifics of traveling to Cuba. First our enhanced drivers license would not work and we would need passports. There is an additional $500. Next she discovered due to the relationship with the United States, Cuba would require us to purchase additional visa’s to even get off the boat, another $300. Then once off the ship we would not be permitted to roam freely and would have to be with a tour group. Even with the tour group you couldn’t breakaway. For example if Tourist A wanted to visit a certain shop or restaurant everyone would have to visit the same place, another $600 for the tour.

So on top of the flights, Cruise, hotel cost we would add another $1,400 to our trip. We were not happy to say the least. So we talked about it and decided to cancel the cruise. We had put a $600 deposit down the day of booking and the remaining was due by June. I contacted Carnival and they returned $400 of the $600 and we decided to just visit Florida instead since we already had the flights paid for and at least the first nights hotel.

I’ve never personally used Air BnB, VRBO or Home Away so I jumped online and began to search places near Tampa to stay. Long story short I found a great condo in St. Pete’s Beach only a 5 minute walk to the beach, two bedrooms, two full baths, kitchen, living room and a back patio. I contacted the owner and our dates were available since it would be August. Let me just say the the cost of the condo for 4 nights and a car rental was just under a $1,000. I didn’t know what to expected when we arrived at the condo since I only saw pictures of it online. We opened the door and the place was awesome, clean and comfortable. Definitely felt like a home away from home.

The goal for this vacation was to have fun and just relax and and not try to cram 4,000 pounds of shit into a 5 pound bag running around here and there. This actually felt like a vacation. We visited the Tampa Aquarium, took a guided kayak tour of Florida’s Shell Key Preserve, enjoyed a lot of food, beer & ice cream, went to a Waterpark with my cousin whom I have not seen in several years and relaxed a bit on the beach. I even read two books. Heck I barely took any photos.

Julie the boys and I had a great time and Michael has expressed possible interest in living in St. Pete’s during next summer.

Cheers!

Along the Gulf of Mexico in Florida’s Shell Key Preserve August 10th 2018, © Joe Geronimo

Exploring the Mangrove tunnels in Florida’s Shell Key Preserve August 10th 2018, © Joe Geronimo

The placid waters of Florida’s Shell Key Preserve before the wind kicked up August 10th 2018, © Joe Geronimo

Julie relaxing on treasure Island Beach St. Pete’s Beach, FL. © Joe Geronimo

Lagoon jellyfish at the Tampa Aquarium, © Joe Geronimo

Getting ready to board our plane in Tampa, FL to return home, © Joe Geronimo

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Alone on the Shield: A Novel by Kirk Landers

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“I hope you get drafted, I hope you go to Vietnam, I hope you get shot, and I hope you die there. Those words, spoken in the anger of youth, marked the end of the torrid 1960s college romance of Annette DuBose and Gabe Pender. She would marry a fellow antiwar activist and end up immigrating to Canada. He would fight in Vietnam and come home to build an American dream kind of life—a great career, a trophy wife, and a life of wealth and privilege. Forty years later, they have reconnected and discovered a shared passion: solo canoeing in Ontario’s raw Quetico wilderness. They decide to meet again to get caught up on old times, but not in a restaurant or coffee shop—they agree to meet on an island deep in the Quetico wilds. Though they try to control their expectations for the rendezvous, they both approach the island with a growing realization of the emotional void in their lives and wonder how different everything might have been if they had spent their lives together. They must overcome challenges just to reach the island, then encounter the greatest challenges of all—each other, and a weather event for the ages. Alone on the Shield is a story about the Vietnam war and the things that connect us. It is the story of aging Baby Boomers, of the rare kinds of people who paddle alone into the wilderness, and of the kind of adventure that comes only to the bold and the brave.”

Quetico Provincial Park: is a large wilderness park in Northwest Ontario Canada, known for its excellent canoeing and fishing. This 1,180,000-acre park shares its southern border with Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness which is part of the larger Superior National Forest These large wilderness parks are often collectively referred to as the Boundary Waters or the Quetico Superior Country

Derecho Storm: A derecho is a widespread, long-lived, straight-line wind storm that is associated with a land-based, fast-moving group of severe thunderstorms. Derechos can cause hurricane-force winds, tornadoes, heavy rains, and flash floods.

My thoughts: I absolutely loved this book and I didn’t want it to end. Kirk Landers writing is wonderful, energetic and exciting. Yes, this book is about canoeing and wilderness. Two things I am passionate about but isn’t that why we read? If you have an afternoon or two I highly suggest picking this up to read. Sorry no spoilers here! Except I never want to experience a derecho storm while on the water, it would be catastrophic..

Cheers….

Alone on the Shield by Kirk Landers.

Small Disaster at Oakley Corners

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The dog and I woke early this morning traveling to Oakley Corners State Forest in Owego, NY under a thick blanket of fog. Undeterred our plan was to hike and have breakfast along the back side of the pond. The trail was still a bit muddy from the heavy rains this past Friday. Making our way under a canopy of trees and filtered sunlight the woods were alive with song as an owl hooted away in the distance while other birds provided the chorus.

The dog was in all his glory, kind of a dog Disneyland complete with a waterpark. We came upon the pond and immediately he went swimming, snorting and sniffing and loving life. I reached into my pack and pulled out my camp chair setting that up first. I wanted to use my new twig stove again but the leaves, pine needles and twigs were still damp. Poking around looking for my fire starters I realized I forgot to pack them. This wasn’t starting off well. I tried getting a fire going to no avail. It was just to wet and damp.

Disappointed I couldn’t use the new stove I did however remember to bring my Jetboil system as backup. Soon enough water was boiling and coffee was brewing. Now time to break out my new 8″ fry pan and cook our breakfast. This mornings delicacy would be salmon filet and bacon. I could see the dog licking his chops already. The Jetboil fry pan has folding handles and a plastic plate that clips to the bottom as well for easy storage. Glancing over at the dog I set the fry pan on the burner and all of a sudden smoke starts to billow from the pan. I was like what the heck! Then I noticed I set the pan on the burner but never removed the plate. Oh I was pissed to say the least and melted plastic was everywhere.

I was frustrated as the dog peered at me with the look of hurry up and get breakfast cooked, I’m hungry. I finally get the melted plastic cleaned up, pan back on the burner and warming. Reaching into my cooler pouch I pull out a bag with a Tbsp of butter and our season salmon filet. I open the bag and put the butter and fish in the pan. The butter goes sliding right out of the pan and onto the ground. A quick thinking dog snatches the butter. I couldn’t help but chuckle. I mean what else might go wrong!

Finally the fish and bacon were cooking and the dog kept inching closer with those please feed me eyes glaring at me. I sipped my coffee as the aroma of breakfast waft through the air. After we ate my fury compadre felt he needed another swim. Packing our stuff up and doggie finished with his swim we were back on the trail. It was about another mile or so back to the car and we were on our way home. Windows down and a wet dog hanging his head high!

Despite my little mishaps I had a really fun morning just being outside., cheers!

Along the trail at Oakley Corners State Forest Owego, NY August 5th 2018. © Joe Geronimo

Pond at Oakley Corners State Forest August 5th 2018. © Joe Geronimo

Wet dog at Oakley Corners State Forest in Owego, NY August 5th 2018. © Joe Geronimo

Melted and ruined plate from my Jetboil fry pan August 5th 2018. © Joe Geronimo

My Thoughts: The VW Camper Van

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It was a cold and drizzling afternoon back in April along Broadway in downtown Saratoga Springs, NY. My wife and I were in town overnight for a film festival as we darted in an out of the local shops. My wife can never pass up a bookstore and rightfully so. We came upon the Northshire bookstore and immediately went in, spending about an hour browsing. I’ve never been a really big book reader but the older I get I find myself enjoying it more. I’m very selective in what I read but that is part of the enjoyment. Anyway I came across this book “The VW Camper Van” a biography by Mike Harding. It was $7.98 so I figured what the heck. As a car guy I had always been fascinated by the camper van. As a matter of fact I stopped to look at one for sale along route 4 in Woodstock, VT last summer. In all honestly I think it would be neat to have one a trek across the States with it. In 2022 Volkswagen will be releasing a brand new all electric van. Hopefully my 2007 Ford will hold on until then??????

What I loved most about this book was the history and how the Volkswagen Bus all started in the bombed and burned out ruins of postwar Europe. How the camper van culture evolved and is still evolving. I did not realize how popular they still are across the pond. One downside to this book was that I felt the middle portion of this book dragged on a bit and the author was just trying to fill pages. I had to set it down for a bit and read another book in the interim. However the fun soon enough returned and I thoroughly enjoyed the read. Some of the English words made me chuckle as well. You don’t hear the words Bloke or Lorry often here in the United States. It was a fun read and I recommend it if you happen to see it or can get it at your local library.

Cheers!

1969 Volkswagen Bus converted transporter Lake George, NY September 4th 2016. © Joe Geronimo

The Start of my Day

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It has been well over a year since I’ve graced the waters of Long Pond in Smithville Flats, NY. I had planned to go there early this morning to canoe, catch the sunrise and have some breakfast. But my overall motivation was to try my new “Twig Stove” made by Solo Stove. The Solo Stove “Lite” stands 5.7″ tall by 4.25″ wide and weighs in at 9 ounces. I also purchased the Pot 900 with it as well.

Driving north along route 12 I encountered pockets of fog and had wondered if Long Pond would be shrouded in mist as well. Fortunately it was not and there was just a light rolling fog hovering over the waters surface. The landscape was quiet except for a few bird songs and a playful beaver. Out on the water watching as the sun turned the sky into a painter’s palette of color. Soon a fisherman with an electric trolling motor glided past and a restless camper had awaken and stepped to the shoreline to greet me. Slowly I continued paddling along the quiet waters making my way back as I was craving some coffee and breakfast.

With the recent rains everything on the ground was still damp making starting the fire in my stove extremely difficult. I had to improvise and all those coffee receipts stuffed into my glovebox came in real handy. Finally a fire was born and I fed it a healthy diet of small twigs and bark and soon enough I had boiling water. This mornings food of choice would be Good To-Go oatmeal, it was different than your traditional oatmeal as I enjoyed the sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds it had in it along with the rolled oats.

I sat by the waters edge enjoying the morning before cleaning up and heading home.

Cheers!

Sunrise on Long Pond Smithville Flats, NY July 29th 2018. © Joe Geronimo

Finally a fire is warming my new Solo Stove Lite. Long Pond Smithville Flats, NY July 29th 2018. © Joe Geronimo

Water is boiling in my Pot 900 along the shore of Long Pond Smithville Flats, NY July 29th 2018. © Joe Geronimo

Enjoying my morning along the shore of Long Pond Smithville Flats, NY July 29th 2018. © Joe Geronimo

A Kodachrome Evening

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It was August 2009 and we were vacationing in western Maine at the Sunday River Resort in Newry. A spectacular evening was upon us as we had just finished dinner and the boys wanted to go fishing, driving a few miles east to North and South ponds in Greenwood. Locals had told us that fishing from Johnny Bridge Road was good, so here we stood. The boys were becoming professional weed fisherman and dad an expert lure changer. Another cast another clump of weeds. Well when they reeled up this clump it began to move only to reveal a small mouth bass. To say Michael & Max were ecstatic would be a slight under statement. It would be the perfect ending to a beautiful evening with my boys.

Max & Michael Greenwood, ME August 2009. Kodachrome 64, © Joe Geronimo.

A Beacon of Light

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This past weekend Julie, the boys and I made a quick overnight trip to Long Island to visit family. Every time I visit which isn’t all that much I am quickly reminded as to why I left, the traffic is disgusting. However there is one bright beacon of light we do enjoy, Fire Island Lighthouse and National Seashore.

Cruising the Ocean Parkway is another favorite of ours. It is several miles out of our way but surely makes up for it in beauty and lack of heavy traffic. Pulling into parking field #5 before arriving at my sister’s home we found it surprisingly uncrowded for a Saturday. It was quite windy along the shore making it feel as if we were in a sand blaster. Undeterred we hiked around for about an hour or so taking in the sights, sounds and smell of the ocean, we had a wonderful time. Next visit we hope to alot more time in order to hike to Kismet, Saltaire and Fair Harbor.

Cheers!

Julie & I at Fire Island Light and National Seashore July 21st 2018. © Joe Geronimo

A beacon of light, Fire Island Light stands proud along the Atlantic Ocean July 21st 2018. © Joe Geronimo

Pops on the River

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After a 25 year absence “Pops on the River” returned last evening to Binghamton, NY. You couldn’t have asked for better weather in order to celebrate a triumphant return. With low humidity, temperatures around 78 degrees under cloudless skies.

I have been living in Binghamton for 24 years and have not had the opportunity to witness this event. To be honest I was 23 when I moved here with my interests more in beer, women and Rock N’ Roll. So I probably wouldn’t have went anyway. Times and tastes change a bit. Don’t get me wrong I still love Rock N’ Roll!! When I heard “Pops on the River” was returning I was extremely excited and could not wait to attend. I had seen pictures, read stories from years past of crowds approaching 50,000. Last nights event didn’t come close to that number but I would say several thousand lined the riverwalk, the Court Street bridge and rooftops. However the images of past did show a very large crowd on the water in all sorts of watercraft.

My wife, son Max and I decided to paddle our kayaks and canoe a short distance down the Chenango river to take in the show from the water. Arriving at the launch there were about a dozen or so cars parked who had the same idea as us. The current was mild which made for a real nice paddle and we were setup right before showtime which was 8PM.

There were many kayaks, canoes and homemade watercraft as well. There was even a pirate ship. However the custom float complete with drunk guys right next to us the entire evening were very entertaining. They were fixated on pillaging a later from that pirate ship I mentioned. During the Binghamton Philharmonic’s final score of “Pirates of the Caribbean” one jumped in the water and swam over to try and acquire a lantern. It didn’t go so well, but again was extremely entertaining. As a matter of fact one of those  drunk guys tried to help my son Max get his kayak unstuck from a rock once we were leaving, only to flip him over. It was hysterical!

The music was wonderful. My wife and I enjoyed it very much and Max I know he enjoyed it because he plays in his high school band and loves the music as well.

The evening was capped off with an amazing fireworks show and sitting in the river we had front row seats. Hopefully Pops on the River will return again in 2019!

The firework show was 10 minutes long and spectacular so please watch the video, cheers!

Max, Julie & I paddling down the Chenango river to “Pops on the River” Binghamton, NY July 19th 2018. © Joe Geronimo

Enjoying the music of the Binghamton Philharmonic during “Pops on the River” Binghamton, NY July 19th 2018. © Joe Geronimo

Max paddling around before the start of “Pops on the River” Binghamton, NY July 19th 2018> © Joe Geronimo

Enjoying an evening listening to the Binghamton Philharmonic during “Pops on the River” Binghamton, NY July 19th 2018. ©Joe Geronimo

Raquette Falls: NFCT Waterway Work Trip

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In 2011 I was searching “The Google” and discovered the Northern Forest Canoe Trail and immediately I was enamored. I spent several days reading about the organization and decided to become a member. Seriously what could be better, a 740 mile waterway strung through the Adirondacks of New York and northern New England with a small portion reaching over our border to the north. It was intriguing and even a bit intimidating. Miles of rivers, lakes, streams & ponds. Flat water, whitewater, portages, oh my!

As my interest grew I noticed the NFCT had what they called “Waterway Work Trips” scattered over the trail. Usually about 6 every summer and they would use staff, interns and volunteers to work and improve the trail. I was hooked! Sadly over the course of the past several years my schedule and their schedules never seemed to workout. However this year the stars would align under clear skies and I was able to register and volunteer. July 6th, 7th & 8th I ventured along with four other volunteers to the 1.25 mile Raquette Falls canoe carry along the Raquette river near Tupper Lake, NY.

July 6th: We would meet our staff and interns at the Axton Landing boat launch at 3PM, load our canoes with our camping gear and paddle 6 miles upstream to Raquette Falls. Here New York State DEC Ranger and Raquette Falls “Outpost” caretaker Gary Valentine would be waiting to greet us. Our campsite was nestled beneath far reaching pines that towered towards the sky. Once set up Gary met with us to go over some rules and safety precautions. NFCT Staff and Interns had been on site since the previous Friday. Dinner this evening would be some sort of chicken stew that was absolutely delicious, followed by an attempt at blueberry cobbler in a dutch oven set into the coals of our camp fire. To be honest I think it turned out great.

July 7th: I made the mistake of packing in 100 degree weather in an air conditioned house. I would find myself unprepared for Friday night. During the night the temperature dropped to 41 degrees under clear skies. I would find myself very cold and had a bad nights sleep. I woke about 5AM, tossed and turned in my tent for a bit and then headed to Gary’s cabin for coffee. Two other volunteers soon arrived and we chatted for a while before breakfast. I had mentioned my unpreparedness and Gary quickly offered me an additional sleeping bag, problem solved.

After breakfast we would hit the trail to finish up work that had already been started earlier in the week. We would be working on the “Vista” trail. Paddlers usually make two trips over the canoe carry. Carrying gear and then returning for their boat. The “Vista trail is a narrow muddy trail that parallels the Upper & Lower Raquette Falls. These sets of falls and rapids span just over a mile. Often paddlers will take the Vista trail on their return. We would assist in finishing a stone stair case, wooden steps and several bog bridges. We would brush several spots and define the trail even more. There are many more improvements that will be made over the coming seasons. There will even be a reroute towards the Upper Falls end of the trail. Although it wasn’t as hot and muggy as earlier in the week the mosquitos and deer flies were out in force. We would go through bug spray like Motely Crue used Aqua-Net…

Later that afternoon after we finished work for the day it was time to hit the cool waters of the Raquette river before dinner. This evenings meal would be burritos and smores for dessert. Later on we all would wander to Gary’s cabin and sit on his screen porch. We talked, told stories and listen to Gary’s record collection. By 10PM I was tired and made my way back to my tent and settled in for the night and I slept like a baby.

July 8th: Back to Gary’s for coffee and then breakfast. Afterwards we would be back on the trail doing the final touches on our work. We were back by noon to break camp and have lunch. After lunch I would load my canoe and make the 6 mile paddle back to Axton Landing. Once I had my car loaded it was time to make the 5 hour journey back home.

This experience was wonderful and exceeded my expectations, and I enjoyed every minute of it. The group of staff, interns and volunteers worked hard and extremely well together making the work flow smoothly. I hope to volunteer next year on another NFCT “Waterway Work Trip”.

Cheers!

Paddling upstream along the Raquette river passing Stoney Creek. © Joe Geronimo

Paddling upstream along the Raquette river at the Palmer Brook Lean-To. © Joe Geronimo

Paddling upstream along the Raquette river heading for Raquette Falls. © Joe Geronimo

We’ve arrived at Raquette Falls. © Joe Geronimo

Making blueberry Cobbler at Camp. © Joe Geronimo

Morning Coffee. © Joe Geronimo

New York State DEC Raquette Falls “Outpost”. © Joe Geronimo

Work along a stone staircase on the “Vista” trail Raquette Falls. © Joe Geronimo

Putting the finishing touches on a wooden staircase along the “Vista” trail at Raquette Falls. © Joe Geronimo

Lunch break at the upper falls of the Raquette river. © Joe Geronimo

NFCT staff & interns taking in the beauty of the upper falls Raquette river. © Joe Geronimo

The air temperature was very cold and the warmth of the water flowing over the lower falls of the Raquette river made for a foggy morning. © Joe Geronimo

The sun is burning off the remaining fog along the Raquette river. © Joe Geronimo

Our final night at camp and we’re making Smores. © Joe Geronimo

Hanging by the fire on our final night at camp. © Joe Geronimo

Paddling downstream along the Raquette river headed for Axton Landing. © Joe Geronimo

My Thoughts: “Upwards” The Story of the First Woman to Solo Thru-Paddle the 740 Mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail

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What can I say, I loved this book! I myself have a passion for the Northern Forest Canoe Trail and have paddled small sections of it. Laurie’s writing is inspiring and invokes the true passion of the water, wilderness and human spirit.

When our world seems bleak at times Laurie’s adventure, her faith coupled by friendships both new and old, along with the many trail angels she encountered have restored my belief that their is still good in our world. I loved the sense of small town America. The hospitality to a weary traveler. Communities taking care of strangers or better yet strangers looking out for strangers.

I was hooked from the beginning and looked forward to reading it every day. I am by no means a fast reader but this gives me the time to savor such an adventure. An adventure I often romantisize about.

I truly enjoyed reading this and highly recommend this book. Sorry no spoilers here!