Event: Sarasota Chalk Festival

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The Sarasota Chalk Festival is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, except for being held in Venice.  Every year artists gather from all over to create incredible, temporary works on a side runway of the little Venice airport over the course of a single weekend, alongside local food vendors and musicians.  This year’s theme was Love & Peace, so there were many hearts and peace signs, peace hand gestures, several appearances by the Beatles, lots of lion & lamb symbolism.  Some of the work was based on classical art, some was original, but it was all amazing.  They start on Friday so I went on Sunday figuring they’d have a lot done by then and they did, but most were still working which is really the point.  The festival is more about the performance than the end product.

Also during the festival have 3D pavement paintings; these are done in a distorted style that gives them a three-dimensional aspect when viewed from just the right spot.  Bring a fisheye lens if you have one, if not, they usually had tripods set up with little fisheye viewer things that you could look or photograph through to get the effect.  The artists will even let people walk out onto the pieces to have their pictures taken within the art.

The same one again, from the designated spotwith the fisheye lens.
The same one again, from the designated spot with the fisheye lens. The viewing tripod is visible at the bottom of the frame, next to my unfortunate shadow. :/

Entry cost $10 for adults, $5 for students and was free for kids under 13.  They also sell multi-day passes but I don’t remember how much those were.  Besides the professionals there was an area where anyone could draw and the little kids were having a lot of fun with that.  The only complaint I had was that it was crowded, go early or even on Monday if you can swing it and don’t mind not seeing the artists actually working since I think they’re basically done by then.

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Museums of St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg is one of a handful of pretty little cities out on the peninsula between Tampa Bay & the Gulf of Mexico.  With beautiful beaches & palm-lined streets it’s been a tourist destination since the beginning of tourism.

The Museum of History is on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier, which juts out into Tampa Bay & is currently closed for construction.  It’s a small but interesting museum, $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, $9 for children, military, & students (this was the first place I got a discount with my student ID!).  Their permanent exhibits include an Egyptian mummy, general area history, aviation, a few signs about pirates, and for some reason two rooms filled with nothing but autographed baseballs.  When I went in April they had a shipwreck exhibit on that showed models & artifacts as well as the technology involved in finding the wrecks & retrieving small bits from them.

Just around the corner is the Museum of Fine Arts ($17/adults, $15/seniors/military, $10/children/students), which holds many works from some of history’s greatest artists in its permanent collection.  After viewing ancient pieces from all over the world, I found myself in the presence of three genuine Monets.  Unlike most art museums, they welcome photography in their permanent collections.

Event: Live Oak International

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Every year in January horse drivers & jumpers come to Ocala from all over the world to compete at Live Oak Farms.  It’s become quite a festival, they have food trucks, vendors, even the Budweiser Clydesdale were there, all hooked up doing laps around the show ring.  It was a lot of fun except for the woman sitting next to me during the jumping saying “You can do it horsie! Oh that’s OK you’ll do better on the next one!”  It was the horse show equivalent of those people who talk to the characters during movies.

Gallery: Hearst Castle

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I visited the Hearst Castle in the summer of 2006.  Right on the coast of San Simeon, California, it’s a spectacular building built by newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst.  Finished in 1947, the house became a hangout spot for some of the biggest celebrities of the day.  As ever, I was fascinated by the architectural details.  Having been built at a time when one could order antiquities out of catalogs, the gardens are filled with genuine ancient Egyptian statuary and other relics.  The zoo that once graced the grounds is mostly gone, but there’s still a handful of animals roaming the property, if you’re lucky you might see a small zebra herd wandering around loose.  Most tours are $25 and last about an hour, although there are some different options on the website.  If you’re not sure, visit the free museum down the hill and decide then if you want to take the bus up to the house itself.

This Month in Awkwardness

I signed up for my classes and got my books, then one of the professors emailed saying we needed a different edition of the book than what was on the university’s book list, then they cancelled one of my classes and didn’t tell me, then I decided to do a history minor and switched out the class with the wrong book for a different class altogether, then it turned out that one didn’t fulfill the requirement I thought it did so I changed everything up again, then I returned two of my books and ordered three different ones.  So basically I’ve done everything twice.  But for the moment I think I have everything under control.  Amazon is my friend, their textbook rentals are almost always cheaper than USF’s, sometimes drastically so.

I attended a Florida Public Archaeology Network’s volunteer archaeology lab at Weedon Island Preserve.  We were doing a rough sort of shells and other material gathered from one of their midden, or ancient trash pile, excavations, which basically amounts to sorting out someone’s 1,000-year-old dirty garbage.  It was interesting though, I guess they count or weigh all the different kinds of shells and from that they can tell what the group’s nutrition was like.  Based on the ear bones of fish they can actually tell things about the environment when the fish was alive, like the water temperature.  After the lab I went through their museum and out on one of the many trails in the preserve, although it wasn’t the one I had intended to hike.  The prize of their museum is a dugout canoe that sat in the mud for 1,000 years, and they had a really good exhibit around it.

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Crossed Off the Travel Map:

Weedon Island Preserve, St. Petersburg, Florida – a beautiful nature park with strong archaeology programs.


Added to the Travel Map:

Glastonbury Abbey, Glastonbury, England – possibly the oldest Christian church in Britain.

Roskilde Viking Ship Museum, Roskilde, Denmark – they’ll even teach you to sail one!

Barboursville Ruins, Barboursville, Virginia – burned-down mansion designed by Thomas Jefferson.

These Last Couple of Weeks in Awkwardness

I’m pretty much ready to register for classes next week, right down to which sections I want, which of course means panicking about other people snapping them up before I can get them.  One is already gone, I’ve got enough options to cover for it but if my whole system breaks down I might completely lose it.

For any of my fellow/future college students who might be reading this, I’ve included some links below.  Anyone who signs up with my links gets themselves and me entries for prize money.

Scholarships.com – $1000

Noet – $500

Fastweb – $500

PowerWallet – $2500 sweepstakes that doesn’t really have anything to do with college.

Since I haven’t written anything interesting lately, I’ll leave you with these two photos from when the American Spirit got stuck on a sandbar in the channel between Mackinac & Round Islands while there was a storm going on off to the south.

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Added to the Travel Map:

Splendid China, Kissimmee, Florida – abandoned theme park.

Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales, Florida – a botanical garden with a carillon, which is apparently a musical instrument using huge brass bells.

Great Blasket Island, Kerry, Ireland – abandoned settlement.

Bunker 42, Moscow, Russia – top-secret hideout built for Stalin himself.  Now you can play laser tag there.

HM-69, Everglades National Park, Florida – A decommissioned Nike missile base.

North Rona Island, Scotland – ruins & whatnot.

Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven, Scotland – ruin on a cliff.

Some Random Amount of Time in Awkwardness

A couple of weeks ago I said goodbye to Mackinac Island and made my way to Tampa, with visits to friends and family along the way.  I spent one night each in KOA cabins in Clinton, Tennessee and Calhoun, Georgia, both of which I would recommend to anyone traveling through the area.  The one in Calhoun gives out fresh baked cookies and has free-roaming peahens, a small petting zoo, and a pond – stop into the office for a dish of goat and/or duck food, both are 50¢.

I revisited an interesting spot in Tennessee – a crazy looking tree at the UT Arboretum in Oak Ridge.  It grows sort of outward instead of upward, and it’s easy to climb under the branches and have a cozy little fort in the middle.

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I haven’t done a whole lot since I got here – mostly I’m just trying to get all the stuff done that needs to be done before I start school in January.  I did find out that “dark tourism” is a thing this week.  Apparently it’s on the rise.  I don’t know why the sociologists are so surprised by this.  My own travel map is chock full of battlefields, prisons, and various other places that I guess could be considered “dark”.  Every single place in the additions section just on this post is some sort of abandoned ruin, and I tried to add a bunch more only to find out they were already on there.

Happy Halloween!


Geocaching:


Added to the Travel Map:

Mallows Bay, Maryland – bunch of scuttled ships laying around.

Ungru Manor, Ridala Parish, Estonia – an abandoned ruin.

Train Cemetery, Thessaloniki, Greece – hundreds of rail cars left to rot.

Parc Montsouris, Paris, France – a park with an abandoned rail line.