Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Catching up

Okay, I'm back from a little vacation, and I realize that I totally reneged on my promise to post a few things from the road. Sorry. Here's a few tidbits to get back up to speed.

Naples golf - It was my first trip to Naples, which happened instead of the trek buddy Pete Thrane and I usually take to Myrtle Beach. To be candid, the results are mixed. On the plus side, the weather is fantastic. October/November weather in Myrtle can be a little iffy, but everyone assured us that the 80 degrees and sunny skies we had almost every day in Naples was pretty standard stuff. The one day it was "cold" was when it only got up to about 72, and the locals were feeling the chill, breaking out the sweatshirts.

From a golf standpoint, there are a number of beautiful courses in the Naples area, but accessibility is an issue. Most of the courses are private, and we were fortunate enough to have a couple of contacts that helped us get on to some very nice courses, but without those contacts, it would have been tough sledding. We tried to fill in some schedule gaps by using the internet to find some public or semi-private courses, and it was really tough. Anything public seems to be somewhat older, with less than ideal conditions, or they have a "resort course" layout that is not particularly interesting.

The high point was a private club called Heritage Palms, just north of Naples in Ft. Myers. We were able to get on via the good graces of old friend Joe Quinn, a former legislator and retired judge that I have known since the 1980s. This was a very interesting design, in immaculate shape, and we're really, really grateful to the judge for getting us on. As DFLers go, Joe's a really, really good guy!

The one public track we played that we found worthwhile was called Panther Run, northeast of Naples. We liked it well enough that we played it a second time, and it was open enough that we ended up playing 36 holes, with a sit-down lunch in between, in about 7-1/2 hours. And along the way, we made the acquaintance of this local:

All in all, we determined that while the weather is certainly nicer, there is a lot more access to affordable, quality golf in Myrtle Beach, and it seems likely that we'll head back there next year.

Speaking of wildlife, I learned that the Florida Panthers hockey team is called that because there is actually a band of Florida Panthers. Turns out there are only a couple hundred of them, but most are located in the area between Naples and the Everglades. Lots of cool info can be learned by going to

The main road towards our resort had a couple of "Caution: Panther Crossing" signs, but I never saw one.

Then, via text message on the second day of the trip, came this announcement from home:

And, for some reason, I can't get the audio to work, but what little Annie is saying is "Opa, we're having a baby!"

Which is how I found out that The Smartest Little Girl in the Universe and grandson Sambo are getting a sibling next May, grandchild #3. Congrats to daughter Corrie and husband Sam!

While in Ft. Myers, I got my first look at Hammond Stadium, where the Twins have spring training. Nice looking ballpark that is part of a big complex. The Roy Hobbs tournament was taking place, which is sort of the World Series for 35-and-over baseball players.

And speaking of baseball, I flew in and out of Tampa, and my hotel was just down the street from George Steinbrenner Field, the spring training home of the Yankees. I stopped in to look around, and found a couple dozen guys involved in a "fantasy camp" which involves middle-aged guys paying $4,000 to come down and hang around for a week with former Yankees, playing a few ball games, drinking a

lot and listening to stories. (Most team, including the Twins, run similar things.) There weren't too many big-name Yankees around, but Cecil Fielder (now known as Prince Fielder's dad) was coaching first base. That's the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' stadium across the street.

Of course, the whole Penn St./Joe Paterno scandal broke while we were there, and Pete's legal mind was fascinated by it all. He foresaw a number of things that I didn't see coming, such as the Big Ten stripping Paterno's name from the championship trophy, and the possible downgrading of Penn State's bond debt by the ratings agencies. I still don't know what to make of the whole mess, and I don't really have the stomach to learn much more.

Also in the news, we learned that the Solyndra scandal just gets worse and worse. Now it turns out that as the company was failing and planning huge layoffs in October of 2010, the White House put pressure on them to delay the announcement until after the election. Nothing like playing politics with taxpayer dollars.

Finally, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street crowd and their wanna-be copycats, I'm thinking of starting my own protest, which will be known as "Occupy Sanibel Island." A few friends and I will sit on the beach, drink rum punch and refuse to leave until the tides stop rising and falling. It might not turn into a crime wave like the other "Occupy" encampments, but at least we'll have a point.

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