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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Florida's Triology of the Sea

During my recent trip to Florida the family decided to spend a few days at the beach before we plunged head first in the madness the sunshine state had to offer.  We spent sometime on the beautiful Anna Maria island.

Now, I am the first one to admit, I am terrible at nature photography.  I tend to take pictures of animals in their stuffed or fiberglass states.  I do however love the ocean and all the wonderful creatures the fill it.   The Anna Maria city pier turned out to be a wonderful place for my mountain family to see the creatures of the Ocean.

As we walked up the pier we saw numerous schools of rays frolicking.

The rays even played a game of tag with some local children.

And we saw a freaking DOLPHIN!  I know that to those who live in Florida, or other locations near the ocean, this may not be that exciting of an occurrence, but for someone who grew up in Northern Indiana seeing a wild Dolphin is like seeing a unicorn.

Okay, as amazing as this experience was, I admit that is a sucky picture.......Let me see if I have a better Dolphin picture in the vault.........

That's better!

Now, the excitement didn't end with the Dolphin fin sighting.....

As we watched a large group of fishermen and fisherwomen unsuccessfully waiting for fish.  Then suddenly a woman pulls a freaking shark out of the water.


The shark plopped up onto the dock and thrashed around and snapped his tiny little evil teeth as children screamed.  No one seemed to know exactly what to do, until a grizzled toothless fisherman emerged from the crowd and grabbed the shark by the head.

The shark whisperer gently removed the hook and freed the shark.  But not before screaming at a kid that incorrectly referred to the shark as a hammerhead and posing for this picture.

Of course, I had now seen a Dolphin and a shark in one day.  There was only one creature missing: Florida's elusive Manatee.

Last time we were in town we were desperately in search of Manatees.  We asked the hotel clerk as well as local waitstaff.  They all told us that there was no specific place where you could just got and expect to see a Manatee.  We felt like big dumb tourists.  I mean, it was kinda of like someone coming here to the mountains and asking where is the exact location they could go see a black bear chilling out.

My wife posted our sadness on Facebook and a friend who was from the area told us that there WAS a place you could go to and expect to just see a Manatee.  Look behind the 7-11, she told us.   We drove behind the 7-11 and before we even got out of the car we saw manatees playing in the bay.

We returned the home of 7-11 Manatees, and once again, were greeted with my favorite miniature sea elephants.

I was thrilled to have seen a wild Dolphin, a wild shark, and a wild Manatee all in the same day.  But these particular Manatees were not feeling particularly generous and this time we only got a few views of their noses and flippers.

Let's see if I have any better Manatee photos in the vault.

Here is a picture I took of a Manatee in Wisconsin.......

That is taken at the wonderful Milwaukee Public Museum.

Wait a minute, did someone kill and stuff a Manatee?  Suddenly I feel kinda sad.

The Carpetbagger

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Breaking News: Florida's all out Attack on the Tourist

I just learned some shocking news from Roadside America.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife commission has banned the sale of taxidermied alligators posed in "unnatural" positions.

I consider this a direct assault on the American Tourist.  This new law is insanely restrictive, especially for a state whose gun laws are slightly more lax then Deadwood's.

Preserved alligator parts have been a long time staple souvenir for the Florida Tourist.   Especially, the Gator Heads that can be found at virtually any Florida tourist trap.

The official law reads:

Forbidding the sale of stuffed baby alligators that depict “an unnatural body or body part positioning.” That could mean human poses, including standing upright or waving. 

Meaning such roadside wonders like this would be outlawed.

Found in a Roadside Florida Fruit Stand

Or these wonderful Gatorbillies found at the Everglades Gator Park.

These classy little gator ash trays could very well become a thing of the past.....

Thank God Louisiana would never pass such a ridiculous law, or we would miss out on such wonderful displays as this......

At Jazz Funeral gift shop New Orleans, LA
 As well as this half man/half alligator "Rougarou" at the New Orleans Voodoo Museum.

And of course, how could you have a discussion about posing alligators in "unnatural positions" without talking about John Preble of the Abita Mystery House

John has made posing Alligators into unnatural positions into an art form.  Just take a look at some of his amazing work.

The Carpetbagger

Please feel free to email me at
And don't forget to check out my Flickr Photostream and my Youtube Page

Friday, April 18, 2014

Tarpon Springs Florida, Sponge Capitol of the World

Hello everybody, the Carpetbagger here, for the first time making a post from the road!  I am currently in the great sunshine state of Florida, where I was hoping today to check a roadside attraction off my list: The notorious Spongeorama.

But first off, we partook in a family ritual.....The Florida Welcome Center.

In addition to getting our traditional complementary dixie cup of Orange Juice........

They had added some other tourist photo ops!

You could get your picture with "The Original Tourist" Pounce De Leon.....

Or Pounce De Leon farming oranges......

Or with an astronaut (allegedly Florida has some connection to the space program)......

Or a Florida Postcard.....

To top things off they have this crazy machine that allows you take a picture of yourself with your head in an alligator's mouth....

Check it out.....

Now then, Spongeorama has been near the top of my "list" for years, but I have never been able to manage to hit it.  Spongearama always looked like an amazing stop to me.  It was an oddly specific museum: The history of Sponge Harvesting, plus it had tons of creepy moldy old mannequins.  This time we decided that we would drive an hour out of our way to finally see it.  We drove through hellacious thunder storms and made it there a half an hour before closing.   I was stoked.   I saw a plywood cutout of a old timey diver beckoning me from an alley some some sort of 19th century pervert.

As I ventured into, the dank, wet smelly alley signs continued to draw me in....

Finally, I made it to my Emerald City, the wondrous roadside attraction that is Spongeorama.....

Me and my daughter happily charged in to see the fabled museum.  A lady stopped us at the door and squirted some foul "Sponge Lotion" into our hands.  It was disgusting, but I happily rubbed it into my palms to be a sport.  As we skipped back to the Sponge Museum the lady crushed my soul as she said, "Museum is closed".  I looked at her in shock.  She simply shrugged her shoulders and rolled her eyes.  "When will it be open?"  I asked.  "Tomorrow" she said.  Sadly, we were stay 1 1/2 hours away.  "Museum is flooded" she said.   Apparently, tomorrow there would be a scheduled unflooding.

I moped out into the streets of Tarpon Springs a crushed a defeated man.  With Spongeorama being a bust, I explored the streets of Tarpon Springs.  Apparently, Tarpon Springs is a Greek Community in Florida.  Their primary industry is sponge diving.   In fact they actually erected a statue to the Sponge Diver in the center of town.

Apparently Sponge diving is a difficult and dangerous proffesion, but that is all I know, because I wasn't allowed to watch the much ballyhooed movie, or see the museum......Regardless, the rest of the town was littered with imagery of the revered Sponge Diver.....

The sad rejected Carpetbagger had nothing to do, but to entertain himself by taking pictures of tug boats....

Oh yeah, and there is this disturbing mural of a Mermaid making love to a Dolphin.....

The Carpetbagger

Please feel free to email me at
And don't forget to check out my Flickr Photostream and my Youtube Page