Experiencing our nation through its environments, animals, people and history.

Galatians 5:1

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Jingle Bells, Sabbatical style

State to state, one more state
Honking as we go...
Oh what fun, it is to ride
In the Winnebago, oh!! (repeat)

Dashing down the freeway,
with the games flying everywhere...
Sunshine in our eyes,
Blue skies everywhere! (ha ha ha)

Watch out for that roadkill,
there's gators in the ditch...
No homeschool today, cuz,
the pencils rolled away!! (Yay!!)

State to State, One more state...
Honking as we go....
Oh what fun, it is to ride
in the Winnebagoooooooh!!!

(an original, by the Kalers. Wish we could sing it for ya but we are having video upload issues! HUGS)

Merry Christmas!

You know "Everything's mini in Winnie" this year, so before we do our Sabbatical style Christmas blog (which will be late, we have no sense of time....) here is a little bit of the holiday magic, Disney style!!
(nice big tree)
(and a whole lotta lights!!)
Merry Christmas from the Kalers!!
We have our own version of Jingle Bells that we will post for you soon...
Enjoy the last bits of 2009!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Everglades National Park

HI Friends!! We know its getting close to Christmas, and we hope you all are staying warm and enjoying the holidays. We are still soaking up the sun in southern Florida, exploring as much as we can until we move up to colder climates next month. Our latest little adventure took us to the Everglades National Park, which covers the expanse of Southern Florida. You know most National Parks boast great mountain peaks, but this one.... is more like a river of grass that comes from Lake Okeechobee all the way down to the Keys. It has an amazing array of wetland birds, and of course, alligators abound. We actually have a gator family that lives in our camp right now, and its been a little intimidating riding our bikes around, knowing there are gators in the river. Well this park was the perfect place to learn more about our friend Stumpy and all the challenges Floridians have forced on his habitat.
We went on a ranger walk along one of the many boardwalks in the park. Did you know that 800 people move to Florida a DAY? Might be an old statistic, but goes to show the growing number of people here and thus the need to redirect water from Okeechobee over to the populated coastal communities (Ft Lauderdale, Miami, Tampa, etc.). The result is a lot less water flowing over the grasses, and a lot less birds, and the entire habitat disrupted by unnatural water cycles. They are currently undergoing a plan to reestablish this as a natural environment, but it now survives on "life support" with water being pumped in.
This is a cormorant, one of the many birds that hang out here and make themselves alligator food!
We observed birds and especially liked the Wood Stork, one of the endangered species here. Did you know gators eat about once a week? They are cold blooded reptiles, so they come out to sun themselves warm, but if its too hot they stay down in the water. It was pretty hot when we were there, so we saw a lot swimming. They swim with their tail and let their legs just hang on the side. But if they need to run on land, they can go faster than a panther!!We also spent some time listening to sounds in the environment... which ones are natural? Which ones are the result of humans? You could try this at home... see how often you hear a wild animal versus how many times you hear a car.
Part of our learning included taking a pledge that we would be people who try to protect animals in thier natural habitats, and help educate others. Here is Jo, reading his pledge to one of the gators that he thought "liked him.."
"I will tell people about what I've learned, and continue to explore the natural wonders of our world!"
(Amen to that!)

Friday, December 11, 2009


So, The Bahamas are actually an independent country, part of the Commonwealth under Queen Elizabeth (just like Canada), with their own representative in government and thier own money. We were so happy to ask for Bahemian change, we got to collect some really cool bills and coins. They have ocean animals on all their coins and they even have a half-dollar bill!!
Our next port stop was in Nassau, which is the capital of the Bahamas on Paradise Island. Nassau is where many rich Americans have thier "vacation homes" and where there are tons of resorts. We spent the day out on the public beach next to Atlantis, where we enjoyed the laid back atmosphere, met more people from Seattle (who said it was in the teens, sorry guys!) and had fun playing with new friends.
Then we took a boat trip out to another snorkeling place. We had so much fun yesterday, we had to do it again!
We went out to a little cay that is supposedly owned by Eddie Murphy, though it is a deserted resort since the economic hard times. The water was a bit deeper here, about 8 feet.

Jo got in completely this time!
We all took turns playing with our ebay underwater camera. So....
(you know how that goes. )
The fish were really fun to watch! They were bigger out here...

After JJ's ray encounter, imagine our reaction when we saw this!!
(Just kidding). After our snorkel, we went and checked out the Atlantis hotel and aquarium..
Where JJ got to look at rays at a more comfortable distance!!

oh... sigh, good-bye, Nassau!!
Good times.


That's right, the Bahamas are part of the Carribean Islands, in the West Indies, and its all subtropical climate down here. Amen, SUNSHINE!! Man, if we haven't been spoiled yet on this trip, we sure are now!! The Bahamas are made up of 29 islands and about 2000 keys. The name might come from the Spanish "Baja mar", meaning shallow seas. Our first stop was at the Grand Bahama Island, which has the second largest city: Freeport. The ship offered several expensive "shore excursions" but we are way too wise (cheap) for that, so we made our way off to find a local taxi...
Funny, they found us! What, did we look like tourists or something? Was it the boogie board slung over our back, or the snorkels already donned on our children??
No matter. We got a great deal to a private snorkeling beach...

Where there was a lagoon about 2-5 feet deep all the way out to some rocks, or islets. The surf was breaking beyond the islets and it was like "the drop off" (much deeper), so we pretty much stayed in the lagoon. It was a perfect opportunity for our first real snorkeling adventure!! (you know we had been practicing.... everywhere....)
Jo: My mask was getting water in it so I used the goggles and snorkel. I liked being on the boogie board cuz I didn't have to swim much, just a little!
Shayna: There was coral, shells and seagrass all over the bottom. There were tiny bright fish swimming through the coral. I loved the blue ones with the bright spots, they looked like Christmas lights! Out toward the rocks there were larger fish and big schools of them.
This is "brain coral" that you could find on the bottom. Coral is alive, so we had to be careful not to stop and step on any of it.
JJ: When I was swimming out near the rocks, suddenly a ray swam up to me. I saw its bulging eyes and long wings out to the side. He was about 5 feet away, looking right at me!! I was yelling at my mom through the snorkel, when she looked she saw it swimming away. It was blue and had spots, it was an eagle ray!
After that I was ready to come back to the shore!!
We were able to find some "sea biscuts" and other cool shells. (You were allowed to collect them as long as they didn't have any creatures living inside!)
Jo: This is Bahama Bear!!! After awhile me and dad went back out and we didn't go very far, but we did see some cool things! At first we went over something bumpy and we thought is was a rock. But then we noticed it had eyes. So we went back and saw it was a ray! It was mostly buried in the sand so we couldn't see what kind it was. We watched it for awhile. The ray was probably thinking "that sure is strange coral!! Or really wierd fish!! Oh, its humans, better swim away!!"

JJ: I never knew the Rays would get me this far!!!


HI! Happy Birthday me...!!
Look, here is Greg trying to age me even more by saying I'm 83...

(that would be backwards signing 38, uhm uhm....)
We took off on our cruise from Port Canaveral... it was a cool and breezy day, but after seeing more manatees, a sea turtle, and dolphins as we were pulling out of port, we knew we were up for a special trip!! It was rocky on the way out the first night, but a little seasickness was easy to forget, the silly boat had everything!.. restaurants, water slide, dancing, kids programs...

But of course we were really after the scenery and the EDUCATION of it all. I mean, we were so clueless we didn't know if the Bahamas was a territory, a country, did they have thier own money, or what? We were very soon to find out.... right after our first lesson: look at that sun!!
And that water sure looks good!
(more soon)