Sunday, October 27, 2013

The World Champion is... the St. Pete Shuffleboard Club!

On Friday Mrs. Ephemera had the day off so we skiddaddled over to St. Pete to catch the final matches of the World Championships of shuffleboard. I had watched the feverish preparations via Facebook by Christine Page and other members of the St. Pete Club as they readied the facility for this international event. I saw the teams at the opening ceremonies with flags and uniforms and it reminded me of when Orlando hosted both World Cup and Olympic soccer in the 1990s. I also enjoyed posts by Jonathan and Ashley of the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club in Brooklyn. Playing shuffleboard in Florida in their youth, this pair of New Yorkers got the idea to start a shuffleboard club in Brooklyn after being inspired by a visit to the St. Pete Shuffle.

So I was psyched by the end of the week and a bit annoyed when I couldn't find a place to park at the club because of the large crowd on hand. The grandstands were packed but Mrs. Ephemera and I got seats near the top behind the ladies competing for the women's championship. The crowd was obviously shuffle-knowledgeable as they groaned at near misses and applauded at precisely-exectued shots. It was near perfect weather as the eight competitors dueled it out on the slick St. Pete courts. I was amazed at how little effort it appeared to take to make the disks travel from one end to the other. Properly-prepared courts make the game require much more finesse. Mrs. Ephemera liked the quick pace of play as the players at this level didn't waste any time agonizing over strategy – they knew exactly where they should send the puck on every turn.

At the end of the match good sportsmanship was demonstrated, and the winners received applause from an appreciative crowd. Later that evening there was an award banquet for the tournament's participants across the street at the Coliseum, formerly a venue for big band dances and other early 20th century recreational past times.

I was thrilled to meet the folks from Brooklyn who had contacted me last year when they launched what I thought then was a long-shot at ever getting off the ground. But the club opens in early December and hopefully Mrs. E and I can get up to New York and see if those Yankees can really shuffle.

There was fantastic Friday Night Shuffle after the tournament with shuffleboard cake, an art show and live music. The place was jam packed with families, hipsters, and even some of the international competitors decked out in their fancy clothes from the banquet. The energy level at the St. Pete Shuffle is always amazing, and on that night the place radiated joy and excitement. Kudos to the folks who made it happen.

Our efforts to get shuffleboard re-booted for a new generation in Central Florida are going well. The Sanford Shuffle was also held Friday night and they had a good turnout. The second Orlando Shuffle is this Saturday and I expect a good crowd. And the active club in nearby St. Cloud is also trying to welcome new players to their facility. This game that seemed to be fading away seems to have a new life thanks to committed people in St. Pete, New York and Central Florida. Come out and shuffle with us, won't you?

The Championships

Packed grandstands, just like the old days

This calls for a ruling by the judge!

Ladies' Champion!

Men's Champion!

Friday Night Shuffle

Shuffleboard cake in honor of the championship

Shuffleboard in Central Florida

Fourth Friday of the month

First Saturday of the month

Monday, October 21, 2013

Paddling through Florida's newest state park: Silver Springs

When I heard that one of the results of Silver Springs conversion from privately operated attraction to publicly operated state park was a new kayak trail, I couldn't wait to try it out. The route, formerly closed off for the jungleboat cruise, is now open for canoes and kayaks.  You can launch your own kayak for $4, or rent one for $20 for 2 hours. They also have 3-person canoes for rent. Electing for convenience over economy, I left my kayak at home and was glad because the folks running the kayak operation were helpful and considerate.

Here's the launch site for the new paddling trail, it's near the south end
of the Silver Springs parking lot.

The trail does a loop that is less than 1.5 miles long and takes 
between 1 and 2 hours to complete.

The water has good visibility but you may not always like what
you see, in this case rampant algae.

Many of the sets from the jungle cruise still remain;
this appears to be an Indian village.

There are some wonderful trees along the trail, this live oak
dwarfs the re-created fort.

Birdwatchers will enjoy this paddle quite a bit. I followed this Little Blue Heron all the way down the run. I saw four alligators, but none of them was very large.

Like on my previous canoe trip up the Silver River,
I saw a good number of fish like this gar.

I also saw some decent sized bass.

I think the water clarity in the Silver River was better
than on my previous visit in May of 2012.

The conditions were far from pristine, however, and I saw ample evidence of compromised water quality.

The glass bottom boats have been restored and rides
are offered for an additional charge.

The great thing about paddling up to the springs is that you can spend as much time over the springhead as you like, at least until the next glass bottom boat comes.

The iconic Horseshoe Palm seems to be thriving.

I sat over the spring basin for some time once the tour moved on. Sadly there is no longer a surface boil or any noticeable current at all from these first magnitude springs.

At the left are the statues from past 
film production at the spring.

The spring basin is still one of the most stunning natural wonders in Florida.

Healthy looking eel grass in the spring basin.

Overall I had a fabulous morning at our newest state park and would recommend it to anyone who is a lover of the Florida landscape. The old attraction part of the park is still very much a work in progress and I am hopeful that it will soon be a vibrant, vital enterprise for Marion County. It is also my hope that the water quality can be improved and the spring will be restored to it's earlier grandeur. It is one of the Florida's brightest gems and to continue to let it lose its luster would be sacrilegious.