…it was a low-key saturnalia. No need to hide in a cabin in the mountains so we didn’t have to participate in the runaround and various family obligations–this time, they’re all 3000 miles away. Still, I’d yearned to get out of dodge, because Sunshine’s working most weekends and this was our first opportunity to go do an overnight somewhere where we’d never been.
Originally, I wanted us to head down to Tampa/St. Petersburg, but we couldn’t really find anything on VRBO.com that suited us (and to be sure, I’d started looking really, really late), and I was loathe to get a hotel room that allowed dogs because I didn’t feel good about leaving the dogs in the hotel room whilst we went about our touristin’ and gamblin’ (Tampa has a Hardrock casino).
So, after lots of hemming and hawing, we ultimately did nothing and stayed home. It’s probably for the best, considering that just a few days later the CR/V started having problems that led to almost $2k in repairs (!!!)…
However, xmas day itself, I insisted that we do something, so we headed out on a long drive: down through Gainesville, then west out to Keaton Beach. Gainesville, because Sunshine might be taking a glassblowing course there (and she wanted to take a dry-run on the drive), and Keaton Beach because it’s one of the few “black” sites on the Clear Dark Sky map (meaning very little light pollution, ideal for astronomical observing and astrophotography).
Gainesville is a dirty little downtown dominated by University of Florida. Really, nothing remarkable, but it was a tough time to really judge its character (considering it was xmas day). Still, we got to see exactly where Sunshine’s lampworking class would be, and get bearings on the drive.
Then we beat it west, stopping partway so I could grab this shot. (Note that it was a grey, dingy day, and that any color that shows in the following images is a testament to both my camera and my post-processing skills.)
Getting into Keaton Beach turned out to be very mundane: it is one amongst a whole string of sleepy little gulf towns, really just a collection of houses on stilts that served as waystations for boats and their owners. Several of the homes were available for rent — good to know for future astronomy events — and there definitely was such a low density of people that the local light pollution could very well be nil (although I have my doubts, as there were many more houses and businesses than I was expecting for a “black” site). Still, we could certainly be out there for any future long weekends, and the dogs would be very happy.
Here’s Sunshine puttin’ her toes in the Gulf of Mexico for the first time (“It’s cold!” she’s saying):
(Again, I apologize for the washed-out and muted tones: it was a deeply grey and ugly day for shooting.)
Keaton Beach itself:
Here’s me, doing the same as Sunshine:
And heading out of Keaton Beach, I got one quick (almost) sunset shot off:
(Note: regular readers — what’s left of you — may notice that I’ve started posting the pictures as smaller images. This is in response to the number of complaints I’ve gotten about how the bigger inline images can’t really be seen without scrolling, especially when I’m shooting portrait mode. I’m doing this in preparation of a redesign that will happen some time down the road, as one of the reasons I’ve stopped posting is that I’ve realized I’m bored with the layout and haven’t been driving traffic because I’m not proud of it. So: there will be changes. But more of that in a bit. Until then, thanks for sticking with me… Cheers, -k)