Saturday, March 31, 2018

Spring Break :: The Great Manatee Adventure



I mentioned a couple posts back that the primary focus of our trip was to find manatees.  To prepare for this, I did a lot of research on the elusive sea cow.  Manatees are seasonal mammals and inhabit the waters of Florida in the winter.  They are so regular in their migration that they actually have dates.  November 15 - March 31 is "manatee season" and during this window, you can see them pretty much everywhere where the water is warm, mostly natural springs.

Up the coast from Tampa a few hours is the Crystal River.  The Crystal River is home to a few manatee hot spots called Three Sister's Springs and Homosassa Springs.  I knew on our trip we would have a few opportunities to find manatees, but our most sure fire option had been the zoo and that was a total bust.  Needless to say, I was a little uptight as we travelled up, basically Redwood Road (lots of stop lights, small businesses and languages other than English) towards Three Sister's Springs.  It was, after all, the last day of the season.

On the drive up, near to our destination, we saw a giant manatee sculpture at a building called the Homosassa Wildlife Reserve.  Right then a light bulb hit me and I remembered that when I had asked at the zoo where their manatees were, they told me that they were at this place.  So, regardless of how Three Sister's panned out, I knew we had one more shot.


We got to the visitor center at Three Sister's Springs with a little bit of bad news.  In January, they had 400 manatees.  The week before we were there they had about 40.  Today, they had a report that there were three, but no guarantee that those three would still be there.

Oh no!

We decided to buy the tickets and ride the trolley anyway and I was so sad on the ride over because I was disappointing my kids and myself.  But, we all must soldier on.  We got off the trolley and onto the boardwalk to walk around the most beautiful springs.  Crystal clear blue water, beautiful tropical trees and birds, it was really cool.  Because it was the last day, the springs were not crowded, only a handful of people and some swimmers and snorkelers in the water.






But, guess what!  The three manatees were still there - a mother and calf and a big guy down the path a little.  Oh victory!  The glare on the water was bad and without my polarized glasses, they were incredibly hard to see, but they were there and pretty magical and strange looking.

We just watched them for a while...Elliott and I timing the breathing to see their noses and begging them to come closer.  They didn't.  But, it was still pretty cool,

We got back on the trolley, back to the car, found some excellent cheese steaks in literally the middle of nowhere (go figure) and then headed back to Homosassa Springs to try and find a few more.  Of course, we were running late and barely made it to the Nature Reserve in time but man alive, it was worth it.

This nature reserve felt like a land before time.  Really, it did.  Or, maybe like we were on the set of Jurassic Park and were going to get attacked by raptors.  It was green and lush and full of injured animals that could not be released back into the wild: black bears, eagles, red wolf, Florida panther, bob cats, alligators who were missing legs, vultures and other crazy birds, a 58 year old hippo named Lou and manatees.  The 2 zoo manatees were there and 2 others who are permanent members of the reserve AND huge - like 12 feet long.  We were able to watched them and it was just the coolest.  On of the best parts of our trip and I was so glad I remembered what they'd told me at the zoo.







We ended the day with tacos and an outlet mall, because Ross, because Banana Republic.

It was a great day!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Spring Break :: Beach and Baseball

I'll be the first to admit, that in most aspects of my life, I am a total snob.  When you grew up with my grandmothers and aunts, and watched Martha Stewart daily on TV as a kid, you sort of turn into someone with high expectations about things.

One thing my expectations are very high with regards to, is beaches.

We stayed in a cute little village called Safety Harbor.  If it wasn't for the heat, and the cicadas and the humidity, it would be a perfectly adorable "small town" to live in.  I could own a shop on main street and be perfectly content.

Safety Harbor is only 6 miles away from Clearwater, Florida.  Clearwater is significant this year, because Clearwater beach was voted the "BEST BEACH" in the United States.  So, obviously on our day dedicated to sunning ourselves and playing in the sand I wanted to go to the best beach.

But, because sometimes he dislikes crowds more than me and because it was Good Friday Ross decided to try and outsmart the "best" beach and head down the coast a little bit to another beach, Belleair beach.  Same coast, same sand, same beach right?

WRONG!  So, so wrong.




We parked.  We paid for parking and we walked onto the sand.  But, it wasn't sand, exactly.  It was more like walking on millions and billions of crushed up, sharp sea shells that jabbed into our tender, winter feet like shards of glass.

But ,we soldiered on and that soldiering on lasted about 40 minutes until my pouting was significant enough to get us back to the "best" beach.  The boys were doing their best to play in the water.  Quinn was doing his best to dig a sand castle, but it wasn't what we had expected.  Being spoiled by Huntington Beach and Crystal Cove, and Laguna and Dana Point....ruined me for rough sand and shells.  I want what I want.


We dusted off the sand, loaded into the mini van, and drove back up the coast to fight the crowds at Clearwater.  We found a place to park and ended up on a small patch of perfect beach.  No shells.  White sand.  Clear water shallow enough for the boys to wade out past their waists and still touch the bottom.

It was perfect!  Picture perfect actually.  The sand was white and soft as flour.  It's like it was just melting.  I could have played with it all day.  There was also lots of good people watching, sunburn getting, and sand to be buried in.

We were all happy and relaxed and having a great time.






Later in the evening, once we were all cleaned up, we headed to a MLB game, The Tampa Bay Rays against the Boston Red Sox.  Tampa plays in a dome, and none of us had ever been to a fully enclosed dome before.  It was dated, and old, and and felt a little like we were in a spaceship hotel, but it was fun.  Bonus for Ross and Wyatt - unlimited refills on Diet Cokes and popcorn!  I lost count of how many times we filled up that dump cup.  The game was a snooze fest.  The corridors of the stadium felt like a hotel and to get to our seats, we rode elevators, though we did find a ramp to walk out on when the game was over.

We aren't really baseball fans, but we had a good time.  Unlimited popcorn and cokes for the win.




As a side note - we try hard to keep our kids fairly coke/caffeine free.  But, there are two exceptions: 1) when you are with grandma and mom and dad don't know and
2) on vacation.  Funny enough (ha, ha), Wyatt drank so much diet coke on our spring break trip that I'm surprised he didn't turn a shade of amber.  Man, that kid is a guzzler.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Spring Break :: Desitnation? Tampa, Florida

Earlier this year, we decided that we needed a trip for Spring Break.  It's our 15th anniversary on April 19th, and initially Ross and I thought it would be fun to take the kids to Puerto Vallarta, where we went on our honeymoon.  But, airfare was a little too steep, and the rush to get the kids passports a little too daunting so we gave up on Mexico for another day.

Instead, with the inspiration of Grandma Judy, we decided to head to Tampa, Florida to find some manatees, enjoy some sunshine, and spend some time far away from all our distractions.  Generally, when we travel, we pack our itinerary so full of activities that we are not only exhausted on the trip, but absolutely wasted when we get home and jump back into real life.  For this trip, we agreed to take a more relaxed approach and it was definitely the right decision.


The trip started with a red eye on Thursday night/Friday morning from Salt Lake to Tampa that left at 12:10 am.  We managed to get everyone through security awake and then Quinn fell asleep sitting at the gate waiting for the flight.   Ross carried him onto the plane, and he slept the entire flight, just flopping around every 20 minutes or so.  The rest of us?  Not so lucky and when we landed at 6:21 Tampa time (4:21 am our time) we were pretty tired.

Once we landed and got our bags, we each took turns changing in the bathroom into some more weather appropriate clothes and took an UBER to the Toyota dealership to rent our vacation mini van.


Then, we headed to the zoo.

The top priority of our trip was to find manatees.  We knew the zoo had a few and that you could see them swimming in the water - Quinn and I had done our research.  We toured the zoo and saw some animals we hadn't seen before - some howling monkeys, a Florida panther, pygmy hippo and baby and okapi.  Of course, we saved the manatee for last and of course, they were not at at the zoo.


The manatees had been moved to a new location because their enclosure is currently being remodeled.  I was steaming mad - mostly because this was our surefire sighting location.  But, like my mom would do, I asked some questions and found out where the manatees had been moved to (Homosassa Bay Nature Reserve) and kept that in the back of my head.



We finished at the zoo, jumped into our van and realized that yes, in the Florida heat and humidity (it was about 80 degrees out), the AC in the mini van was not working.  It was a pretty sweltering drive across the bay from Tampa to the town we were staying in, Safety Harbor, but our cute little airbnb was nice and cool when we arrived.

While the boys watched TV and I crashed out, Ross managed to find a close Toyota dealership to fix the van AC in just a couple of hours.  We had dinner, uber'd to the van, hit the grocery store, watched the sunset and called it a day.




Thursday, March 01, 2018

Edward John Huber - Obituary

Edward John Huber, Jr., 88, passed away peacefully at his home in Magna, Utah on February 21, 2018.  He was born April 4, 1929 to Edward John and Ethel Meranda Huber in Salt Lake City, Utah.  He married Geraldine (Jerry) Eccles on March 19, 1951 in the Salt Lake City LDS Temple.  They proudly reared eight children in their Magna home of 60 plus years.  Jerry passed away, January 22, 2011.

As a youth, Ed was a member of Scout Troop 1, Wells District, where he achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.  In March 1946, he was one of the first scouts to register and participate in a six day trip down the Colorado River.  He graduated from South High School in 1947 and from the University of Utah in 1951 with a degree in Mechanical/Civil Engineering. He was a member of the University of Utah football team, 1947-1948.

He was drafted in 1951 during the Korean Conflict and stationed at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, army intelligence, Signal Corps of Engineering lab.  As a young engineer, Ed was part of the initial crew with W.W. Clyde that surveyed the area for the building of the Glen Canyon Dam. Ed was a successful businessman as owner/operator of Huber & Rowland Construction and Huber Construction.  He managed construction projects and developments throughout Salt Lake County and oversaw the construction of at least four LDS chapels in the Magna community.  Ed was a member of the local draft board during the Vietnam War and was a trained docent for the LDS Church History Museum.

Ed was a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  He served as Bishop of both the Lake Ridge 3rd and the Lake Ridge 4th Wards.  He was known to many as “Bishop Huber” for most of his life.  He held other positions in the church, most recently a Gospel Doctrine teacher.  He was a faithful home teacher and the doctrinal expert in the family.

Ed and Jerry were a team whether it was knocking down a wall in the house for a new addition, building a swimming pool in the backyard, taking their family on vacations, throwing parties, or buying Christmas gifts.  They taught their family the importance of faith, education, commitment, and rolling up their sleeves to do an honest day’s work. They dedicated their lives to serving their family, their church and community.

With a sharp mind, Ed was determined to live this life as long as he could.  Never was there a tougher man who beat the odds.  He diligently kept the memory of Jerry alive and his family close together.

He is survived by his eight children – Jackie (John) Sudbury, Judy (Karl) Petersen, Cindy (Evan) Wood, Chris (Jerry) Stoker, Geneil (Steve) Stapley, Dee (Liz) Huber, John (Lori) Huber, Ed (Jennifer) Huber – 25 grandchildren (their spouses) and 15 great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife, parents, and brother Glen James Huber.  The Huber Family extends their deepest appreciation to Margaret Armstrong for her tender care and service to Ed since August 2017.

Funeral services will be held on Monday, February 26, 2018, 12:00 p.m. at the Lake Ridge LDS Chapel, 3151 South 7700 West, Magna, Utah.  A viewing will be held Sunday evening, February 25, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m., at Larkin Mortuary, 260 East South Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah and on Monday morning, 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. at the chapel prior the service. Interment at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park.

(Grandpa's obituary was originally written by Haley, then edited by Judy and Cindy)


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