Welcome to the UltraEscape

No home, no car, no worries. On the road since 1996, a TechNomad couple share their travel secrets and adventures.

Easter Palm Trees

Easter Sunday. The alarm ring at 5:30 A.M. We rose early to experience the sun rise over Atlantic Ocean. It's only about a 30 minute walk on the seashore to the Jacksonville Beach SeaWalk Pavilion. (We attended the Seafood Festival the evening before at the pavilion and are looking forward to the Blues Festival in April.)

The Easter Sunrise Service was underway when we arrived. The sky was still black with a few stars visible and the moon was full. We listened to the service and music as we watched the sky brighten until the red orb of the sun finally appeared through the low laying clouds. We were not alone. There were hundreds of families on the beach celebrating the dawning of a new day.

After returning to the cottage, I ignored the computer and spent the rest of the day with brush in hand. My acrylic painting of palms and hut now has pillars that are attached to the roof, the front post is longer to give the impression of space behind it and with the purchase of a roll of blue painter's tape, my lines are relatively straight.

Now, I need to get a spray bottle...I remembered to wet the canvas before attempting the longer palmetto fronds of the palm trees, so the acrylic paint went on smoothly. But I was so engrossed in the act of painting, I forgot to apply water before painting on the main fronds. The result was sketchy fronds without substance, not to mention the fact that they are from two different species of tree!

As with every location we visit I always learn something new. Since we arrived at our vacation rental in Florida, I have researched the differences between a porpoise, a dolphin and a shark. Today, I looked up the proper name for the type of palm trees I am attempting to paint.

Yes, my palm fronds are indeed from two different species of tree...one is that of the royal palm or coconut palm. The two trees look very similar from a distance. The other tree is the sabal palmetto, commonly known as the cabbage palm. Do you know the difference? One has long slender, fringed fronds, the other has a long stem with a fan configuration at the end. That is the image I am trying to capture.

Oh, and next time I pick up my brush, I'll wear shoes and either raise the painting on the easel for standing or lower it for sitting while I figure out how to correct the palm tree problem. That way I may avoid the aching back and sore feet that resulted from 8 hours of getting lost in the act of painting.

Oh, well. Learning is what it's all about.

Weekend Exploration and Friendship

After a month at the beach we ventured out this weekend. On Friday, Dan walked down and picked up a weekend rental from the local Hertz company. Then we spent the afternoon laying in supplies for the coming month. We mainly purchased items to large or bulky to carry. We also slipped in a visit to the movie theater, to see "10,000 B.C".

Saturday was exciting. We meet up with my lifelong friend, Jane and her husband at the Jacksonville Airport. Even though we can go years without a word, when we see each other it's as if only a day has passed. Everyone should have at least one special friendship like this...

Their plane from Michigan was delayed by a 1/2 hour. No problem. We found comfortable rocking chairs in the center court area between the three concourses where we were entertained by a very talented local musician playing Kenny G type music while we waited. We quickly spotted them as they exited the concourse. They reported that the plane was delayed due to high winds in Atlanta...we later heard on the radio about the horrible tornadoes that hit the area and saw the damage on T.V.

After visiting and making plans for the up coming week while we enjoyed ribs at Sticky Fingers, we armed our friends with maps downloaded from the Internet and they headed south on 95 for their time share at the World Golf Resort. We took our map and headed out to find the Amtrak terminal to pick up tickets for our next adventure. More about that in April...

Sunday found us on the road to the World Golf Resort and the home of the Golf Hall of Fame. According to Wikipedia, the Golf Hall of Fame is unusual among sports halls of fame in that a single site serves both men and women. It is supported by a consortium of 26 golf organizations from all over the world.

Grande Villas at World Golf Village®, a Bluegreen® Resort, is a country-club style vacation residence with every comfort and amenity. The resort features spacious one- and two-bedroom villas that make you feel right at home in a carefree setting overlooking the 17th and 18th holes of the famous Slammer & Squire golf course.

We picked up our friends and headed to St. Augustine, the nations oldest city. We wandered the historic cobblestone streets, paused for pictures in front of the oldest school house, visited over crab cakes at OC Whites established in 1790, sampled ice cream at one of the quaint shops and then headed back to the resort for a quick swim, followed by a soak in the hot tub. It was nearly 10 p.m when we returned to Neptune Beach.

To soon the weekend was over and the car returned until our next adventure.

Bikes, Sneakers and Trivia

Last evening, we got out the bikes and peddled down the well marked bike lane to the Jacksonville Beach city center area.

We secured our bikes to the bike rack conveniently located in the adjacent parking lot and entered Sneakers Sports Grill. It was originally partially owned by the famed right guard of the Jaguars, Tony Boselli. During the NFL season, a local TV station broadcasts their Jaguars Show from here.

We requested a seat outside in the "open air" patio area that faces 1st street. The garage doors (walls) were open, the breeze cool, the noise level just bearable and the drinks overly large. It was happy hour and instead of two drinks we each received one very large, tall glass.

While we munched on Spinach and Artichoke Dip served with nacho chips, we watched the traffic go by, listened to the younger crowd behind us note with amazement that one set of their parents we still together after all these years, they actually went to prom together. Wow!

And we played trivia...Well, actually it was pretty sad. The monitor that displayed the questions was mounted in a corner and the glare interfered with our ability to see the questions. Right. Then on the rare occasions when we actually knew the answer, I was so slow locating the correct number on the blue, portable keyboard we ended up with just under 1000 points per question anyway.

In the end we decided we really need to watch more TV. How do we know who Sponge Bob practices boxing with? It wasn’t until we were ready to leave that I discovered I could have changed my answers at anytime! We came in third, out of the three teams participating.

We were back at the cottage before dark. However, I am still wondering, "Is it possible to get a DWI when peddling a bike?"

Seagate Exceeds Goals

It's been a month as of today, that we discovered Seagate Cottage, our vacation rental. We have extended for another month and are seriously thinking about returning next year. The place exceeds all of the goals we set for our first extended stay:

Goal 1
The ability to do without a rental car. There are many shops, banks, restaurants and stores nearby. Walking is good exercise and when you don't have a car there are no excuses for not taking the opportunities offered.

Goal 2
Convenient public transportation. The bus stop is a block away. The bus runs every 1/2 to 1 hour. The route passes by most of the businesses we need for daily living. Great for walking to store and returning with grocery bags.

Goal 3
Lots of opportunities for exercise. There are miles of flat beach to walk with lots of interesting sights only a block away. There are bikes and biking lanes. In fact, some streets have more pedestrian travel than auto especially on the weekends. There are stairs to negotiate.

Goal 4
Lots of friendly people and opportunities for socializing; especially now that it is spring break for many areas. Bukket's in Jax beach or the Lemon Bar in Neptune Beach seem to be the local hangouts.

How are we doing? Well, we are not losing any weight that we can notice. Inches? Maybe. Mental health? Great. It is a great place to relax, work on personal projects and write. Our energy levels are up.

Projects for the coming month? Work on that farmer's tan now that the weather is warming up. Continue to share computer time with the goal of eventually reducing the number of computers we travel with. Continue to exercise, eat right and keep the budget in line by eating in.

It's always good to do a quick review and see where you stand. Are your reaching the goals you set for yourself?

Evening Endeavour

The alarm was set for 2 A.M. The early evening forecast was promising. Several stars were already visible. We were excited. Tonight the space shuttle Endeavour was scheduled to fly at 2:28 A.M.

The plan was in place. Listen for the alarm, get up, slip into something, walk to the beach, compete with each other to see who could spot the most shooting stars until flight time. We had been told we should be able to see the shuttle as it streaked into space from anywhere on the beach.

Then reality set in. No one set the alarm. Not a problem. I awoke at 1:30 A.M. only to discover that cloud cover obscured the sky and not a star was in sight. Oh, well. We rolled over and went back to sleep.

The NASA photos of mission STS-123 are spectacular. Maybe next time.

Palm Trees in Acrylic

The severe weather on Friday kept me from the beach. It was actually a good thing. With drawing pencil and paint brush in hand the creative urge struck. That is until the light on the sun porch gave way to to the gloom.

Actually, my first drawing project came about several days ago due to a search of the Internet. It's been nearly 20 years since my last serious art project. Needless to say, I have forgotten much of what I studied, practiced and taught then.

My search took me to a basic drawing site. Using the basic shapes of a circle and rectangle I captured the shape of a wine bottle, not exactly great art but it was a start. The site also talked about the basics of using acrylic paints.

Starting at square one with a color chart/wheel I applied paint to paper. Actually, I discovered I don't actually like the feel or effects of the paint on the paper (Canson, Canva-Paper) and graduated to a small 16X20 canvas panel. With any luck it will fit in the bottom of the suitcase when we hit the road again.

My project is taking shape. I blocked in the background sky, sea and sand. Then came the foreground palm trunks and lifesaving building. What I learned... Remember to use a straight edge or tape when painting straight lines and pillars should always be attached to the roof... Oh, well.

The next step is to practice palm leaves on paper, straighten out my mistakes, work on the details and then decide if the boardwalk should be included.

Do you have a favorite site or blog that teaches art basics? What is your favorite medium?

A Walk on the Beach

It's only a block to the Atlantic from our Seagate Vacation Rental. I really enjoy my morning walk as I playing tag with the waves, face warmed by the sun, a gentle sea breeze pushing at my back; the scream of the gulls dulled by the rush of the surf. There is always something unique to enjoy.

In my pocket is my camera, my pedometer and cell phone. Some days I finish my morning coffee as I walk. The hard part is leaving the beach to return to reality and the computer.