February 2 Traveling to Florida

The first two weeks of the year were spent in Houston, mainly taking care of Jonny. He really took off once he started walking. I had thought the RV might be too small for him once he was moving around, but instead it was more like a great big playpen. We had to put a gate across the steps out to the door, but other than that he had free range and we could always see him--no crawling into other rooms to get into mischief. :-) He had two teeth when we were there, and Rebecca tells me he now has six so they are coming in fast. We miss him a lot now that we are gone.

Sweet Jonny

Playing with his airplane

We had a very scary incident one night before we left. Rebecca, her Aunt Jane, and Jonny were in the house, and Riley and I were headed out to the RV to get ready for a dinner out with friends when we heard what we thought were firecrackers. I looked across the street and saw a man standing by a van holding a rather big gun (think AK-47). I asked Riley if he thought that was real and went inside the RV. About that time, there were more shots so I looked out the back window. The man by the van got in and drove off but the neighbor across the street came walking down the driveway and was shooting down the street and someone was shooting back. Both Riley, who was still outside, and I called 911, and police started arriving fairly quickly. They cordoned off the street both ways. We had to give up our dinner date as the police wanted to talk to us as witnesses. Evidently some armed men had been trying to break into the neighbor's home and rob them, so the neighbors starting shooting at them. In all the shooting, one of the robbers was fatally shot. I was not happy that Riley was outside during all the shooting, but he had stayed down behind a big pecan tree. The next night some guys, some of the same ones who got away the night before, drove by shooting into the air. Understandably, the neighbor has moved out. Although I heard that a nephew of his moved in, so they must not have thought it was too dangerous.

Around Christmas Malcolm had given us notice that he was moving out of the Thornton house by the end of February. Since the house will need some work at that time, we decided to leave Houston a couple of weeks early so we could make our trip to Florida and be back by March 1st. Riley's townhouse is still not rented--some problem with a water leak that hasn't been fixed has been holding things up. Riley is pretty frustrated and thinks we should sell both places, but it is such a bad time to be selling property. I guess we will look into it when we get back to Houston.

We stopped by and visited Mom and Nancy as we were leaving and Mom was having a very good day. I talked to her about Jonny and about Malcolm moving and asked what she thought about my selling the house, and she was responsive. She told me I was just full of all sorts of news. :-) I was happy she wasn't falling asleep as I droned on. Nancy has said that Mom has continued to do well since we left town.

Riley and I took a coastal route to Florida. We enjoyed going to several wildlife refuges in Louisiana, although we did not see the new birds we had hoped to see. The cypress swamps are just amazing. I don't think I'd want to live next to one--mosquitoes! The Mississippi and Florida panhandle beaches are just beautiful--white quartzite sand. We have not been having the sunny weather that I had expected all the time. Some days are sunny, but far too many have been rainy and overcast. Bad weather seems to be following us. Riley assures me that the latest bout will pass over us today and tomorrow will be better. We'll see. We realized once we got into Florida that we had not taken a single picture and I blame this on the weather.

On one of our good days we visited Wakulla Springs in the panhandle of Florida. It is a beautiful place that has been used as a location in movies--a couple of Tarzan movies and "Creature from the Black Lagoon." We saw a Yellow-throated Warbler near the parking lot here. We took a boat tour on the Wakulla River and saw lots of birds and alligators. It was actually quite pleasant.

White Ibis at Wakulla Springs

Alligators & Cypress knees on the Wakulla River

We have also visited Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, which over the years has pretty much turned into a zoo. Riley and I had been here before (1994) and I didn't remember it being quite like this. It was as always a good place to see manatees for sure. They have several resident manatees and a fencing arrangement that lets wild ones in if the water outside the springs gets too cold. They have a lot of native birds and it was interesting getting such close-up looks at them--several owls that we have yet to see in the wild, as well as Whooping Cranes and Wood Storks. Owls in the wild are fairly elusive, we have seen only a few.

Whooping Crane at Wildlife Park

Wood Stork at Wildlife Park

We are now in the Sarasota area waiting for a prescription of mine to get mailed to us as well as for the rain to stop. Riley has an uncle and aunt, Gene and Dorothy, who come here (Siesta Key) from Minnesota every year, basically for the months of February and March. We spent yesterday with them and had a very pleasant time. We went picnicking at a park at the north end of the island and later looked at pictures of their recent trip to Argentina and Chile--very beautiful. Dorothy fixed dinner for us and then we went to the movies and saw "It's Complicated." Since we are all Meryl Streep fans, we enjoyed it. Tomorrow when/if the rain is gone, we plan to go over to Myakka River State Park where I hope to see more birds and a lot of beautiful scenery. Today we are hiding from the rain. :-)

Dorothy & Gene
Love to all,
Margie & Riley

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