Back in the saddle again

We’ve finally left Florida and are back on the road again. Jim got the green light to travel from his doctors. In fact, they removed all restrictions. The cardiologist said his heart looks perfect and that this is the best repair he has ever seen! Jim is still in recovery and slowly getting back to normal.

Exhibit of paper art at Cornell Museum in Delray Beach

Exhibit of paper art at Cornell Museum in Delray Beach. These dogs were life sized.

In our last week in Florida, we had a couple worthwhile adventures. One was attending a food and history tour of the area in which we rode around on a bus viewing historic buildings, learning about the history of different neighborhoods, and tasting samples at numerous restaurants. Had we done this at the start of our time in Florida, we would have eaten out a lot more, so it was probably good news to our budget that we didn’t know about all the good dining until we were leaving. On another day, Megan took advantage of rare flat calm conditions to put back on the snorkeling gear and swim about 300 feet off shore to a reef. She was rewarded with seeing a sting ray, a group of barracuda, a 10-foot nurse shark, and numerous other large fish. It’s always a bit unnerving to be in the water with creatures that are your size or larger, but she kept a respectful distance and enjoyed the awe of their presence.

9/11 Memorial. This giant fountain is the footprint of one of the twin towers. It was a moving tasteful memorial.

9/11 Memorial. This giant fountain is the footprint of one of the twin towers. It was a moving tasteful memorial.

We are currently in New York, where we came to spend some time with Megan’s brother, Adam. The weather has been wonderful, with highs in the 70s. It is such a surprise coming from Florida to remember that one can spend time outside without sweating profusely and being uncomfortable. We have enjoyed New York City for the walking, the parks, the constant fantastic flow of humanity, the sights, sounds and smells (some of them). Megan and Adam did some sightseeing: a tour of the Statue of Liberty, visiting the beautiful 9/11 memorial, walking the High Line, shopping, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. A special thanks to our friends Ben and Tina who put us up and pointed us toward fun things!

Storm King Art Center. Check out the kid jumping under the central statue

Storm King Art Center. Check out the kid jumping under the central statue

Megan also visited Camphill Village, where Adam lives. It is an incredibly special place, a mostly-self-sustaining farm and home for people with special needs and gifts. We spent multiple days exploring the Hudson Valley. The highlight was Storm King Art Center, a 500-acre sculpture park. We also visited a county fair and had a great time watching people, pig races, and horse pulls. It was a welcome contrast to time in the city.

Next week we’re finally crossing the pond on our way to Europe. Stay tuned!

Exhibit of paper art at Cornell Museum in Delray Beach. These women were life sized.

Exhibit of paper art at Cornell Museum in Delray Beach. These women were life sized.

The pizza oven imported from Naples at a stop on our food history tour. It is about 1000 degrees in the oven. They only burn oak and are able to cook a pizza in 90 seconds! It was delicious.

The pizza oven imported from Naples at a stop on our food history tour. It is about 1000 degrees in the oven. They only burn oak and are able to cook a pizza in 90 seconds! It was delicious.

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

View of the Statue of Liberty from the pedestal

View of the Statue of Liberty from the pedestal

Looking up under the skirts of Lady Liberty, you can see her support "hose" and the spiral staircase that leads up to the crown.

Looking up under the skirts of Lady Liberty, you can see her support “hose” and the spiral staircase that leads up to the crown.

Manhattan skyline

Manhattan skyline

A building project in Brooklyn that had 3-6 cranes working on it every day

A building project in Brooklyn that had 3-6 cranes working on it every day

Brooklyn Botanic Garden is full of amazing plants

Brooklyn Botanic Garden is full of amazing plants

Adam, Megan's brother, climbing the lookout at Ferncliff Forest

Adam, Megan’s brother, climbing the lookout at Ferncliff Forest

View of the Hudson River Valley from the lookout tower in Ferncliff Forest

View of the Hudson River Valley from the lookout tower in Ferncliff Forest

Draft horses testing their strength at Ulster County Fair

Draft horses testing their strength at Ulster County Fair

Four-horned sheep seen at the Ulster County Fair

Four-horned sheep seen at the Ulster County Fair

Adam in line to ride the ferris wheel

Adam in line to ride the ferris wheel

Megan and Adam riding the Ferris Wheel at Ulster County Fair

Megan and Adam riding the Ferris Wheel at Ulster County Fair

Storm King Art Center

Storm King Art Center

Storm King Art Center. Adam under the Three Legged Buddha by Zhang Huan

Storm King Art Center. Adam under the Three Legged Buddha by Zhang Huan

Storm King Art Center. Four Corners by Forrest Myers with Megan and Adam in the cube

Storm King Art Center. Four Corners by Forrest Myers with Megan and Adam in the cube

Storm King Art Center had a couple rock walls by the talented Andy Goldsworthy, one of Megan's favorite artists

Storm King Art Center had a couple rock walls by the talented Andy Goldsworthy, one of Megan’s favorite artists

Olana

Olana

Olana, the home of artist Frederic Edwin Church near Hudson is now a museum

Olana, the home of artist Frederic Edwin Church near Hudson is now a museum

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The adventure continues

An afternoon of boogie boarding at our local beach

An afternoon of boogie boarding at our local beach

Regarding what we call ‘Jim’s Little Problem’ or ‘Megan’s Big Problem,’ Jim was discharged from the hospital a couple days ago and is doing quite well. The surgeon fixed his mitral valve by removing excess tissue from one of the leaflets and inserting a stabilizing ring around the valve. Post-surgery Jim did experience, like many after heart surgery, some atrial fibrillation but that has responded well to medication and will likely not appear again. One of the doctor’s largest concerns with all heart surgery patients is lung capacity; in order to get at the heart for surgery, they have to deflate your lungs. After surgery, they spend as much time listening to and watching the lungs as they do the heart. Patients can be at risk of pneumonia, lung damage, and breathing problems. Jim had some fluid in his lungs that has cleared and likely was caused by a small puncture to the lung during surgery. Using an incentive spirometer to measure lung capacity, Jim had no problem hitting 4500 mL before surgery; the device tops out at 5000 mL. A few hours after surgery, Jim was able to get 1500 mL (more than the nurses expected) and has been steadily increasing that; today is able to get 2750mL and improving at a daily rate of 250 mL. Every day, he gains back more strength and energy as well. He has few small incisions and an impressive collection of bruises to show from the experience.

Downtown Tampa as seen from our hotel room. The Convention Center, in the foreground, was modeled after a sternwheeler.

Downtown Tampa as seen from our hotel room. The Convention Center, in the foreground, was modeled after a sternwheeler.

Prior to Jim’s surgery, we took one more sightseeing trip in Florida, across the state to the Gulf Coast. We hopped on the Amtrak and got off in Tampa. We didn’t know anything about Tampa before arriving and were pleasantly surprised. Downtown Tampa has a beautiful skyline and is very clean, compact, with a lot of cultural sights, public art, and parks. Tampa’s economy was built upon trade with Cuba. After the embargo, the city set itself up to be a financial capital and now has national and regional headquarters for many banks. We enjoyed the unique architecture and an excellent exhibit on Poseidon at the Museum of Art. We took a harbor tour where we not only enjoyed excellent views but learned a lot about the history and culture from our guide. We explored the Tampa Bay History Center and learned even more about history and culture. High quality exhibits told the complicated violent story of European explorers and native Indians in a pretty balanced way. The explorers often faced similar odds of surviving as the Indians (the Narvaez expedition began with 600 men and only 4 survived). Centuries later, some of the Seminole people hid out in the swamps for decades, evading attack, capture, and deportation to reservations.

Tampa's Museum of Art had fun modernist architecture, like this walkway and giant hole to the sky.

Tampa’s Museum of Art had fun modernist architecture, like this walkway and giant hole to the sky.

We also visited the neighboring town of St Petersburg, across the bay from Tampa. St Pete (as the locals call it) is charming. We saw old houses with large trees, well developed neighborhood communities, a high density of museums and other cultural centers, good restaurants and even a tasty chocolate shop. We enjoyed a free dinner at ‘Porch Party’ put on by the Museum of Fine Art and were awed by the scope of their collection (from all over the world, spanning centuries, and including many masters). We did laps and dives in the large municipal pool. We also visited the Gulf Beaches which were quite a bit tamer than the Atlantic beaches. White sand, calm warm water, a shallow bank. It was neat to see a nesting colony of  Black Skimmers and a large dolphin swimming in about 4 feet of water right through where we had been about 15 minutes earlier.

We stayed in this neighborhood in St Pete. Larger trees were draped in Spanish Moss.

We stayed in this neighborhood in St Pete. Larger trees were draped in Spanish Moss.

You can see more photos from these adventures and others we didn’t write about here on the Pictures tab.

Banyan tree in St Pete.

Banyan tree in St Pete.

This is one of our favorite buildings in Tampa. The slot is on both sides, reminding us of an enormous regular screw. Note the osprey on the left.

This is one of our favorite buildings in Tampa. The slot is on both sides, reminding us of an enormous regular screw. Note the osprey on the left.

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Another of our favorite buildings in Tampa (and reminded us of the building in downtown Portland with all the composers on it). Check out how the corners and reflections look like Xs.

Another of our favorite buildings in Tampa (and reminded us of the building in downtown Portland with all the composers on it). Check out how the corners and reflections look like Xs.

Sunset with a thunder cell in Tampa

Sunset with a thunder cell in Tampa

Downtown Tampa skyline, as seen from Kiley Garden.

Downtown Tampa skyline, as seen from Kiley Garden.

The thing with red pointy parts is a Spiny Orb-weaver spider. They are everywhere.

The thing with red pointy parts is a Spiny Orb-weaver spider. They are everywhere.

The town of Palm Beach hosts this beautiful living wall.

The town of Palm Beach hosts this beautiful living wall.

Wild airplants are common here  but still feel like a miracle to discover. This one was right above the sidewalk and in full bloom.

Wild airplants are common here but still feel like a miracle to discover. This one was right above the sidewalk and in full bloom.

The Sandoway House Nature Center in Delray Beach had an exhibit of 100 shark jaws

The Sandoway House Nature Center in Delray Beach had an exhibit of 100 shark jaws