Fall Has Arrived

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first day of fall
View of Turtlehead Lake
Cook County, Illinios

Even though it was the first day of fall, the leaves have already begun to change in southern Cook County. Soon this lake will begin to freeze over and take on an entirely different look.

Not looking forward to the rain, wind and cold, but the colors are spectacular in the Fall.

Afraid of Nothing

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baby turtle
Baby turtle
Northwest Indiana

Here's a little guy Danny found right by the lake shore. It looks to me like he's really young. He's not even in his shell - I guess he's not afraid of anything! I certainly hope he makes it through the winter.

I used to see many more turtles around the lake, but in recent years, I've been lucky to see one or two a year. Let's hope this is the start of something good and these little guys stick around for a while.


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waiting for me to return...
Waiting for my Return
Treasure Island, Florida

This poor bench is waiting all alone for me to return to the beach next summer. It's funny how people don't get to the beach early in the morning, it's a picturesque time on the west coast of Florida. Of course you're going to say that a sunset is the perfect thing to see at the beach, but you'll notice how vibrant the sky and water are when the sun is at an extreme angle behind you.

The fish, birds and other wildlife are awake and busy looking for food, fresh and well rested from the night before. Often, you'll see sea turtle tracks in the sand leading from the Gulf to a freshly excavated nest.

Morning is a great time to experience the beach.

Sun's Rays

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sun rays
Sun peeking out from behind a cloud
Treasure Island, Florida
June 2007

Empty Beach

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Beach Chairs and "Umbrellas"
Treasure Island, Florida

An early morning walk found most beach chairs unoccupied along the white sands of Treasure Island, Florida.

A long, wide beach, Treasure Island can be loaded with visitors but still have an open feel, and appear to be empty.

Remember Those We Lost

Remember those who lost their lives and loved ones on September 11, 2001

New Roof for the Old Barn

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new roof
Workers Replacing the Roof
Door Prairie Barn
LaPorte, Indiana

A crew of roofers spent a few days installing a new cedar shake roof on the 1860 Door Prairie barn in LaPorte. This barn looks fairly small from the road, but if you enlarge the photo you can see just how large the barn really is.

It's nice to see this barn getting some care before it's too late.

Orange Sky

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clearwater sunset
Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico

June 2007
Clearwater Beach, Florida

Sparkling Clearwater Beach

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pitch in
Garbage Cans on Clearwater Beach

Sparkling......at least that's what it used to be called. Now it looks more like an advertisement for Waste Management.

The little motels that created the atmosphere of Clearwater Beach have mostly disappeared over the last five years. A few still remain, but for how long? High priced condos are going up everywhere, the beach walk is construction is underway, and almost everything that defined Clearwater Beach is gone (I'm surprised they aren't building a new pier - one they can charge $40 to walk out on).

I hope the number of garbage cans on the beach is only temporary until the beach walk is complete. Perhaps they moved the cans from the parking lots onto the beach until things are done. It sure looks bad with a can every 25 feet along the beach. Who took over the management of this little island? If the idea of change is to attract higher class, higher paying tourists to the area, they're in for a surprise. These high class people must really be slobs if they need to have so many trash cans on the beach. Were they littering too much? Was there really so much trash on the beach that someone figured they would put a can every 25 feet so people won't miss the cans?

I can hear it now, a little boy visits the beach for the first time. Instead of gazing in amazement at the Gulf of Mexico, or the sugar white sand, he says, "Look mommy, lots of garbage cans!" Certainly not what I want to see on a beach that was once rated a Top 10 city beach.

And don't get me started on the fact that the sand is getting compressed by the stupid motor vehicles used by the city and the umbrella rental company. The sand used to be soft, now it's turning into a hard packed beach similar to Daytona.

So sad....

Mass Transportation

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7 Horse Power Mass Transport

Horses and riders line up for judging at the LaPorte County Fair, LaPorte Indiana.

Big Guns

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desoto gun
Six Inch Armstrong Rapid Fire Gun
Fort DeSoto
St. Petersburg, Florida

A not so well know park around St. Pete Florida is Fort DeSoto. The fort is located on an island called Mullet Key at the entrance to Tampa Bay. This large park has a well preserved fort from the Spanish American War with the only 12 inch seacoast rifled mortars in the United States. Four of the seacoast mortars are on display, along with two of the above pictured Six Inch Armstrong Rapid Fire Guns.

One of the best beaches in America is located on the north end of the island. Plenty of sand and water are available for leisure activities, along with miles of walking paths and long fishing piers. A small museum displays several period uniforms and items of everyday military life on the island.

A great view of the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay can be found on top of the sand covered fort, so it's worth the climb up 50 stairs.

Lunar Eclipse

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Lunar Eclipse
Lunar Eclipse
4:30 am August 28, 2007

Got up a bit early to witness a full lunar eclipse in the southwestern sky. At 4:00 am, I noticed a shadow at the top of the moon but I waited 30 minutes until more of the moon was covered before I grabbed the camera. Here you can see the moon is 3/4 immersed in the earth's umbra or shadow.

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Lunar Eclipse
5:00 am August 28, 2007

In the second photograph, you can see how the moon turns red when most of the light is shaded by the Earth. Some light from the sun is scattered by Earth's atmosphere, so the moon does not appear completely dark - it takes on a coppery brown color when fully immersed in the earth's umbra.

Unfortunately, the setting moon dropped out of site behind some trees so I began to move the camera, but not before clouds began to obscure the view.

I'll just have to wait for the next lunar eclipse six months from now on February 20-21.

Soaring Osprey

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An Osprey flying over Lake Tarpon

An Osprey is seen here gliding along Salmon Bay on Lake Tarpon. These majestic birds seem to have taken a liking to Anderson Park, Tarpon Springs, Florida. We saw at least four flying and hunting during our short walk through the park.

It's Vintage Transportation Day!

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Chattanooga Choo Choo
Hanging around the Chattanooga Choo Choo

Here's a photo of the Chattanooga Choo Choo Holiday Inn around 1978. These old cars are used as guest rooms, and the interiors are quite opulent. This part of the Hotel takes on the feel of an old train station and you can almost hear Mack Gordon and Henry Warren's famous 1941 song by the same name.
The song, featured in the movie "Sun Valley Serenade," depicts traveling from New York to Chattanooga, but was inspired by a trip on a small wood burning 2-6-0 type engine from the Cincinnati Southern Railroad. Back then, most trains traveling south passed through the super hub of Chattanooga Tennessee.

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Small Steam Engine
Hawthorn Melody Farms 1965

A small amusement park steam engine is shown above pulling kids and adults alike in Vernon Hills, Illinois at the former Hawthorn Melody Park. The 75 acre amusement park was built and run by Hawthorn Melody Dairy. The park later became the Cuneo Mansion and Gardens and is open to the public today.

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NASA Tour Bus 1971

During the height of the space race, we visited Cape Canaveral to tour the space museum and the launching pads of the Saturn rockets. I can remember traveling on this bus and wanting the tour to be over so I could check out the exhibits and the gift shop. We still have our plastic astronaut figures we purchased there - my kids play with them almost everyday. I can still remember picking them out of a barrel in the gift shop.


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Don't Molest the Alligators!
Sign along Trail

I remember this sign from a while back, the first time I visited Anderson Park in Tarpon Springs, Florida. It's at the beginning of the trail that leads along the shore of Salmon Bay, part of Lake Tarpon. This trail winds around the heavily wooded shore of the lake, but has several man made peninsulas that are used for picnic tables. The area is raised about 12 inches off of the surface of the water using railroad ties, so I guess the alligators can't climb it, or don't want to. We kept an eye out for any gators that were hiding around the trail and the entrance to the picnic areas. We were able to spot a few alligators that were quite close - about 3 feet from shore - but they were only about 4 or 5 feet long.

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Just Hanging Around the Shore

I wouldn't be concerned with the alligators if I didn't have the kids with me. I'm too big to be considered a food source, but they might think differently about the kids.

Glistening in the Sun

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Glistening dragonfly
Blue Dasher Dragonfly

A male Blue Dasher Dragonfly rests on a stick over the water in a Cypress swamp near Tarpon Springs, Florida.
The swamp and nearby lake were teaming with wildlife in June when we visited.

Blue Dasher dragonflies rarely sit still, they are almost constantly patrolling for prey, females and other insects invading their space. Reaching speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, dragonflies are among the fastest insects alive; they can travel up to 80 miles in a single day.

Harmless to humans, the dragonfly cannot bite or sting people, but they are deadly to other insects and very beneficial to the ecology.

I was lucky this guy sat still for a few seconds.

Do Not Feed the Animals

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do not feed
These guys were hungry!

A little fun at Anderson County Park in Tarpon Springs, Florida. This park sits along the shore of Lake Tarpon, and is home to lots of wildlife. Alligators, osprey, turtles, egrets, cranes, and countless other animals and insects can be seen while walking along the trails.

How's this for a big grasshopper?
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This is one of my favorite places in Florida to spend a couple of hours. The trails go right along the shore of the lake so many alligators can be seen hunting in the shallows, then it goes inland through a small bald cypress swamp.


Birthday Party

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chris 8yrs
Blowing out Eight Candles

Christopher is 8!
Here he is at his birthday party last weekend getting ready to blow out the candles. Of course, Danny had to run up and blow one out before anyone!

Have a great birthday!

Big Run Wolf Ranch

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arctic wolf
A Rare Arctic Wolf

The Big Run Wolf Ranch held an open house last Saturday. A rather large crowd gathered to see the collection of wolves, lynx, raccoons, skunk, horses and bear. There were opportunities to pet some of the animals and even take a photograph with a wolf pup.

The newest addition to the family is the little Cougar. Only a few weeks old, his first public introduction went over well as the people all moved in closer to get a good look at the little guy.

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baby cougar 2
New Baby Cougar

Normally closed to the public, the Big Run Wolf Ranch has several open houses a year where the public can view the animals and talk to owner John Basile, a licensed animal handler and educator.

CN Tracks, Lockport

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tracks meet
CN Railroad Tracks

Who says parallel lines never meet?! In the case of this railroad track, I can clearly see them touching!

This track runs next to the historic Illinois and Michigan Canal and needs to be crossed when entering from Lockport's Dellwood Park.

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Maintenance Truck

While crossing a railroad culvert over Fraction Creek at the point where it empties into the I and M Canal, I was careful to be aware of trains since there is only about two feet of concrete between the tracks and the 12 foot drop into the creekbed! I heard a soft noise, looked up and the maintenance truck appeared. I've heard stories of some railroad workers who don't like to see people on the tracks, so I prepared for him to stop and tell me to get lost. But, he simply waved and passed by.

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tracks spikes
close up of tracks, ties, baseplate and spikes

Looking through the creek just under and around the tracks, I found lots of railroad spikes and quite a few discarded baseplates, most likely from recent maintenance as the tracks appeared to be in excellent condition.