Tarpon Springs Florida home to historic Sponge Docks

During our travels in Florida over the years we have been fortunate to enjoy Tarpon Springs, Florida, a quaint and pretty town north of Clearwater and Tampa on the Gulf. When we were actively engaged in Flea Market business in Central Florida, Tarpon Springs became one of our favorite spots for R&R.

Statue honoring the Greek sponge divers. Note the sponge diving boat tied to the dock.

Tarpon Springs is famous for the Sponge Docks where diving boats still sail to the sponge beds and hard hat divers collect the sponges. This industry began here in Florida in 1905 when John M. Cocoris from Leonidion Greece started the now flourishing sponge business.

Sponge diver in a beautiful tile mosaic

Memorial to the founder of Florida’s Sponge Industry

 

 

 

 

 

Dodecanese Blvd. is the main street that houses multiple shops and businesses. The shops offer everything from fresh tea and spices, hand made cigars, souvenirs, freshly caught fish shops and of course several shops selling sponges collected by the Greek divers.

Locally collected sponges of all sizes for sale

Also of note in Tarpon Springs are the marvelous Greek Restaurants! Talk about authentic Greek cuisine, you’d have to go to Greece to get any cuisine that is more Greek. We have enjoyed several restaurants and bakeries in this wonderful spot on Central Florida’s Gulf Coast.

We have not yet seen any reports of Tarpon Springs suffering damage from Hurricane Ian. We hope that the Sponge Docks and the town were spared.

The Berlin Wall in Rapid City, South Dakota

Original wall sections, note the tank trap in foreground

Having just seen some of the statues of US Presidents in downtown Rapid City we continued just driving around checking out the town. Sher spotted a sign in a park next to the convention center that said “The Berlin Wall”. There we found a memorial to the history of the divided city and the ultimate fall of Communism and the tearing down of the wall in November of 1989. Remember Reagan’s speech to the Soviet leader? “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

There are two sections of the original Berlin Wall displayed along with information filled plaques, signs and even old tank traps that were once used at Check Point Charlie, the only gate between East and West Berlin during the times of the divided city.

Original sign from “Check Point Charlie”

If you travel through the Rapid City area on your way to Mt. Rushmore, take a few minutes and go see this memorial. It is worth the time.

Wyoming’s Ten Sleep Canyon

The scenery in Wyoming is absolutely stunning. On one of our trips West we were driving in Wyoming on Highway 16 through the Big Horn Mountains. We were heading from Buffalo on our way to Yellowstone National Park. On the way we found ourselves climbing up to and descending from the Powder River Pass (elevation 9666) which was frankly at times a white knuckle affair!

Blue skies over the rocks

Massive limestone cliffs

 

 

 

 

 

We soon came to beautiful and awesome Ten Sleep Canyon. The glacially formed cliffs had nearly vertical walls that we later learned were popular for rock climbing. There were wide shoulders to the road which enabled us to stop and take in the view.

Sher enjoying the break from mountain driving. The exit from the canyon is in the “V” in the distance.

Just past Ten Sleep Canyon is the little town of Ten Sleep, Wyoming. With a population of about 250, it is at the junction of Nowood and Ten Sleep creeks. Historically it was a Native American rest stop, called that because it was 10 days travel, or “10 sleeps,” from Fort Laramie (southeast), Yellowstone Park (west-northwest), and the Indian Agency at Stillwater, Montana (northwest).

Texas Hill Country’s Jester King Brewery

This is a post that Sher wrote back in February, 2020 just before we cut short our time as Winter Texans and headed back to Indiana before COVID struck. We just found this and somehow it never got published. So…Here it is.

It was a special treat for us to visit Jester King Brewery while we were in Austin, TX because our last name is Jester.  So, of course we had to buy some beer with our name in it!

Enjoying our beer under one of the heaters

It is located at a beautiful 165 acre ranch in the Texas Hill Country.  It is so welcoming and a fun place for all ages.  Since we are retired we were able to visit when it opened at 4pm, so they weren’t super busy.  We had had a late lunch, so we weren’t hungry but their pizza looked delicious and by the looks of people ordering it I think it was a favorite.  We were there on Maj’s birthday and  we already had reservations in town with our family in Austin, or I would have suggested we have dinner there.

The kitchen/food bar

The spacious and comfortable seating area

 

 

 

 

 

They had many choices of beer, but it was easy for us to choose one we wanted try, the Jester-King one!  We, also, bought a bottle to bring home.  How we could we turn down a beer with our name on it?

Had to have it!

We had fun and it is on our recommended places to visit.  The bartenders were exceptionally nice and so friendly and helpful in answering our questions.  They have an outdoor covered area for seating with heaters, and a bonfire outside when we were there.

This is a favorite place and we’ll definitely  be going back the next time we are in Austin.  And, getting pizza!

Some favorite portraits of birds

Here’s a few photos we got of some of our feathered friends.

Young robin right out of the nest

Starling parent, bottom, feeding youngster, top

Red bellied woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker

Immature White Ibis

Female Pileated Woodpecker

Brown Pelican

We have always enjoyed birdwatching and found it exciting to see various birds as we have traveled the country. When COVID hit, stopping our travels, we also began to enjoy birding in our own backyard. We both were surprised at how many different species visited our home.

 

If this old tin barn could talk


Tin roofing? Yes, of course. However you don’t often see tin siding on a barn. This old structure needs a little TLC, at least a paint job! You can see at the peak of the roof the overhang indicating that originally there was a pulley and rail for loading loose hay into the barn. This old barn has been around for a long time.

Squirrels show up everywhere

Seems that we run into squirrels where ever we go. And it also seems like they are always eating or looking for something to eat.

Hey! Is that corn over there?

“Mmmm…grapes are good!”

Cherry tomatoes. Yep, they are good.

Glad I remembered where I buried this nut!

Some people like to watch squirrels and like them around. Others can’t stand them. It has been said that squirrels are just rats with a great Public Relations Department. What side are you on?

A bright blue iron bridge

Normally old iron truss bridges are painted in shades of green. Not this one, Shelby County Bridge #117 on CR 600 S. Bridgehunter.com has a 2010 photo showing a rusty green, but a 2016 shot shows a shiny bright blue paint job.

Approaching on CR 600S

The first bridge over Conn’s Creek at this location was a 16′ tall Pratt through truss built in 1892. Ironically it got a new concrete deck in 1912. The irony comes with the historic and horrific disastrous flood of 1913 which washed this bridge away. The original concrete abutments and wingwalls survived the flood and now support the replacement 7-panel, riveted Warren pony truss bridge. This bridge was built in 1925.

Looking at Conn’s Creek through truss

Truss outriggers and abutment and wing wall

Riveted hip connection

Diagonals, side rails and deck grate

You can see all 7 truss panels and deck grate

It is quite a visual as you approach this bright blue iron bridge. Like referenced above, you usually see green iron bridges, not blue. This is, however, a very nice bridge that spans a pretty little country creek.

For those of you interested in truss design details, HistoricBridges.org describes the design and structure: Concrete abutments and wingwalls support the single-span Warren pony truss. The riveted structure extends 87’6″ in seven panels. Its all-interior verticals are manufactured from pairs of angles riveted together with stay plates and reinforced with external sway bracing. Its diagonals are made from a pair of angles (doubled in the outer panel) also riveted together with stay plates. The I floor-beams are riveted to gussets and the verticals above the lower chord and carry the concrete deck. The weight and varied size of the diagonals, the placement of the floor-beams, and the integration of knee or external sway braces into the verticals indicate a late stage in the design of all-riveted Warren pony trusses.

 

Polygonal barn built in 1910 in central Indiana

In 1910 a Mr. George Rudicel constructed a rather unusual barn. It has twelve sides, thus the name polygonal. The cone shaped roof is capped with a polygonal cupola and it topped by a square smaller cupola. There is also a large dormer facing the road. This barn was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. It is on CR 700S in Noble Township, Shelby County.

As seen from County Road 700S.

Note the face of the dormer matches the polygonal angled panels

Christmas Star on top

Round barns were designed for dairy farming, and were not useful for general farming use. By the late 1920’s round barns had fallen out of favor: there was an ag depression after WWI, and easy  to construct prefabricated barn packages were now available. There were 226 round barns in Indiana but 100 of these have vanished from the Hoosier countryside. Many round barns have been restored and are well maintained. The Rudicel barn, aka locally as the Montgomery round barn, is in need of maintenance and a good coat of paint.

 

Statues of the Presidents in Rapid City, South Dakota

It was in 2000 when a furniture maker and businessman in Rapid City,  South Dakota brainstormed an idea that resulted in yet another attraction in this historic South Dakota city of 70,000. Don Purdue envisioned a City of Presidents with life sized bronze statues of each President of the United States located on street corners along two main streets.

Andrew Jackson

Martin Van Buren

Calvin Coolidge

Ronald Reagan

Dwight Eisenhower

JFK and his son

These statues have very different poses, all of which relate to things common to that president with the goal of humanizing the statue, not dwelling on any political themes. They are all at street level and visitors have great photo ops. Go ahead, sit on Lincoln’s lap or stand next to FDR as he gives the “date which will live in infamy” speech. Trump’s statue has been commissioned, but has not yet been finished nor final location determined.