A Travellerspoint blog

Baseball and Mermaids? (Part one)

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Waaay back in June we visited our first Jacksonville Suns Minor League Baseball game at Bragan Field. The field is near the centre of town, and only about 40 mins from us. For as low as $7.50 you can sit on the grass and enjoy all of the action of a favourite American pastime. Although now highly controversial, one of the greatest baseball players of all times, Alex Rodriguez or ARod, was once a Jacksonville Sun!

For our first game, we had tickets next to the dugouts and we had a great view of all the action (and the fireworks!) and we were even able to meet the Suns' mascot, Southpaw (southpaw means a left hander in baseball speak). Carys loooooves Southpaw! Every Friday night there are fireworks at the ground, there are always giveaways, jumping castles and games for kids and some nights, there are even concerts. The Suns are always a great family night out and this year we watched a few great games, including the 2013 All Star game. Might fit a few more games in before we come home too!


A week after our Suns game, we travelled south to St Petersburg, an outer suburb of Tampa and home of the Tampa Bay Rays Major League baseball team (amongst other things). We stayed in a beautiful old hotel right on the waterfront but close to the ballground. Tropicana Field is the only Major League park to feature an artificial surface and all-dirt base paths. Being a fully enclosed stadium, 'The Trop' is never washed out and when the Rays win, the roof is lit orange in honour of the major sponsor Tropicana Dole Beverages (a soft drink company who sub specialises in orange juice). The Trop also has a touch tank full of cow nosed rays that can be fed and touched prior to game time!


The view from our seats. The touch tank is located under the Hess sign to the right of the scoreboard. It is closed and covered just before play but if a Rays player hits a ball into the tank, the Rays will donate $5,000 to charity with $2,500 going to the Florida Aquarium and $2,500 going to that player's charity of choice. The ray tank is maintained by the Florida Aquarium which is not for profit.


Sometimes after a game, concerts are held on the outfield and it was getting pretty noisy, hence Carys is covering her ears.

Yay, Rays win!!

Posted by dinige 11:54 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The Atlanta Braves, 'tailgating' and a party

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I know, I know, it's been a long time between posts. We've been pretty busy with family visiting the last few weeks and I'm still about 3 months behind in my blog. I'm hoping to get another post or two out this week.

So, way back in June we travelled back to Atlanta for an Engagement party, or as Americans call it, a Couples Shower for Nige's youngest brother Aidan and his Fiancee Megan. The trip from Jacksonville to Atlanta is a fairly straight forward 6 hour drive but this time we decided to break it up with a trip to a famous Georgian BBQ restaurant called The Smokin' Pig. Carys loves ribs and like me, Homer Simpson and millions of others, she thinks the pig is a magical animal!

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Other than the Engagement party, we also were excited to visit our very first Major League Baseball game at Turner Field. The Atlanta Braves were taking on the San Francisco Giants and we were watching the game with Aidan, Meg and Meg's parents Steve and Julie. It took a whole lot longer than we were anticipating to actually make it around the ground to our car park so our intended 'tailgating' session was very rushed but we still did it, in about 3 minutes! To elaborate on tailgating, no, it does not involve driving ridiculously close to the car in front of you, nor does it involve road rage. For Americans, tailgating is a favourite game day pastime.




For our first visit to the ground, we wandered around the ground to see what we could see. Apart from a large number of food stands (or concessions), there were pitching cages, face painting and souvenirs. At most ball grounds, you can ask for a special memento of your first visit and on this occasion, we received a certificate.



The Giants won the game, the car park emptied quicker than we thought and about an hour later we were back at the house.

Party day arrived and although we weren't able to see more of Atlanta as planned, we were able to have a snack and a drink or two at a popular watering hole with only 130 beers on tap. We returned to suit up in our best luau gear and help finish setting up. Carys and her little buddy Alden had a fantastic time blowing bubbles, dancing with monkeys, swimming with sharks and jumping on crocodiles/alligators. Steve Irwin would be proud of them!



Before Carys turned in for the second time that night, she taught Daddy all about another favourite American game, Cornhole (aka bean bag toss), a must for any party so I'm told.


After another great weekend in Atlanta, it was home time and we stopped at a souvenir shop for a leg stretch. The main claim to fame for this shop was apparently pecans and fruit. Inside we found more interesting things, like the biggest pack of fireworks we've ever seen and a few other oddities normally found in our travels through parts of Asia. Fireworks go boom!!



Posted by dinige 13:05 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Ginnie Springs

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One of the special things about Florida is the number of State Parks which include a high number of natural, freshwater Springs. Late one morning, we decided to travel to Ginnie Springs, about an hour and a half drive away from us. Ginnie Springs is a privately owned section of the Santa Fe River where visitors can scuba dive, snorkel, swim, canoe or tube their way along the river or float into one of the springs. River tubing is very popular here and it is simply sitting on an inflatable tube and letting the river drift you to where you want to go. Usually, people go in big groups, tie their tubes together and take drinks with them for a fun day or afternoon. We decided Carys would get bored pretty quickly if we just tubed so we'll try that another time.

We did hire a canoe though for a paddle up the river. Carys has never been in a canoe before and this was also her first time wearing a life jacket. She was very happy to watch us lug the heavy canoe to the river and after a few sleepy tantrums, we finally made it onto the water. The water was beautiful and cool (72 deg Fahrenheit / 22 deg Celsius) but for me, the temperature was freezing! If you know me, then you'll know I like my swimming water a nice, warm, Nth Queensland temperature!



Our paddling was interrupted but a little shower of rain and this was a good opportunity for Carys to practise her paddling skills near the bank, under a nice shady tree. Although it was a bit wet, it was still pretty hot!


Whilst sitting under the shade, we spied our future tube, big enough for all of us and an esky! This will be great on the local creek at home.


We spied plenty of fish and even some turtles basking in the post shower sun.


We headed back towards one of the springs to return our canoe and dip our toes in the water. It was difficult to get a decent photo to show the colour difference between the springs water and the river water because of the lateness of the afternoon but you can get an idea from the website I posted at the top of this entry.



Nigel went for a swim but it was too cold for Carys and I so we stayed near the stairs and watched the fish swim around our legs. We finished our afternoon at Ginnie with a play in the park before heading home.


Posted by dinige 14:51 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Feeling the wheels and a visit to Maximo

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After a busy trip away and a few quiet weeks at home it was time for another adventure. One of the local charities organised an event called 'Feel the Wheels' to benefit the Children’s Museum of St. Johns, a facility which will provide a safe, fun, comfortable place full of hands-on experiences. This event is held once a year and children of all ages are able to see a multitude of vehicles up close.

The first thing we saw as we parked the car was a huge rescue crane attached to a red fire truck. Carys couldn't wait to get in the truck and turn on the siren! This siren wasn't being used on the red truck but later on we had a go in the pink firetruck (or maybe the yellow one).


The fire trucks weren't fast enough for Carys so next up she checked out a race car but this time she couldn't see over the dash. I'm sure she made car noises though!


The race car kept us occupied for a little while but Carys (and Daddy) wanted to check out something faster.... the Sheriff's helicopter!


Next up after the excitement of 'not Daddy's 'copter' was something a little more sedate. We had some lunch and while Daddy was donating blood, we investigated the blood bus. We explained what happens when someone gives blood and we looked at the machines the the blood flowed though. The nurses were a bit shocked that Carys was so interested and calm! We left Daddy in the air conditioning and went to look at a luxury minibus, a dinner train/tram, the mobile library and an R/V or two. Carys loved the beds on the R/Vs and didn't want to get off. I managed to convince her to ride some bikes but she wasn't too excited about that either; Something big and yellow caught her attention. A bobcat! It was pretty hot by this time and we had to wait in line for a while which is why she doesn't look too excited. Dig, dig, dig!


After a wheely fun time, we travelled to the St Augustine Alligator Farm, home to fellow Aussie, Maximo, a 15 foot Saltie who grew up at the Cairns Crocodile Farm. There was plenty to see at the farm, including Albino alligators, Galapagos turtles, various bird exhibits and even a zipline for the adventurous (maybe next time we go!).



Mmm, nothing like walking around an Alligator Farm with 700mL of Margarita on a hot sunny day!


We visited Maximo at feeding time and the viewing area around his enclosure was packed. Maximo had a special guest with him, his lady love Sidney who was busy protecting her clutch of eggs in one of the corners. Carys was fascinated by this and still talks about Maximo and Sidney every few days. He even came to visit us and gave us a special smile.



Before leaving, we couldn't help but find Nemo. Again.


Posted by dinige 15:28 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Some quiet time at home

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After our busy time in Bruges it was back to normal at home. We filled our time with daycare, library storytimes and a special 'show week' at The Little Gym which showcases all that the children have learnt in the term to family and friends. Carys loves her time at The Little Gym, singing LG songs and practising her moves at home until we can go back again.




We celebrated our show week performance with some dress ups at the prop booth...stylin'!


Also during this period, Carys received her very first bicycle for being such a very good girl on our big trip away. Her choice was of course, a Dora the Explorer bike, complete with Backpack and Map!


Daddy had some very important study to do one weekend so Carys and I headed into town to explore the waterfront and also the Museum of Science and History, where we made a new friend and played some music before heading home for the day.



See you next time!


Posted by dinige 19:23 Archived in USA Comments (2)

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