Posts Tagged With: Vacation

Hunting for Shark Teeth!

The weather has been beautiful this month – 80 degrees, sunny – and is perfect for outdoor adventures  and explorations. One of our New Year’s resolutions was to have more adventures and an item on our adventure to-do list was to hunt for shark teeth. Yesterday, September and I jumped in the car and road-tripped down to Venice, Florida to get our hunt on. Just 50 minutes south of St. Petersburg is Caspersen Beach, located in Venice – Shark Tooth Capital of the World!


I had done some research online and Caspersen was said to be the best beach for finding loads of prehistoric fossilized shark teeth. Forgetting that this is Florida’s “snow bird” season, we were not the only ones on the prowl for buried treasure. The beach was full of grannies and grandpas hunting in the water and in the sand for teeth. Not even kidding, we were probably the only people there who were under 65! While I had read that the best way to find teeth is to use a “Florida Shovel” aka a wire basket on a stick on it (retailing for nearly $30!), September thought we could do just fine with our dollar store pasta strainer.

September looking for shark teeth with our strainer. Ha!

September looking for shark teeth with our strainer. Ha!

I was very reluctant at first and afraid of looking like a rookie but the more crowded the beach was, the more makeshift devices we saw! While I had read that the teeth are usually found along the water’s edge, Sep overheard a man explaining that the teeth are everywhere – in the water AND in the sand. Once you realize what you’re looking for, the teeth can be found in the sand right under your beach chair!

Sep dug around in the sand like an archeologist on a mission!

Sep dug around in the sand like an archeologist on a mission!

Apparently, the teeth on the beach are fossils some thousands (millions, maybe?) years old. They range in size and while we only found small teeth, we spoke to a woman who combed the water and found one tooth that was nearly 2 inches!

Our loot

Our loot

Next time, we’ll come prepared with a heavy duty sifter and search the water for larger teeth. Hopefully the water won’t be as cold for September!

September doesn't like to go in the water until it's in the 80's (at least!).

September doesn’t like to go in the water until it’s in the 80’s (at least!).

Growing up in Michigan, I used to swim in the Lake when it was in the 60’s – so the cooler Gulf temperatures don’t really bother me. I climbed the rocks and waded in the water collecting and sifting through sand.

A rock covered in soft, fluffy seaweed. It felt like carpet!

A rock covered in soft, fluffy seaweed. It felt like carpet!

You can’t beat a warm January in Florida and we thing winter is a great time to be a tourist in our own state. We’re excited to go back to Caspersen Beach and find more shark teeth. Who knows? Maybe they’ll make their way onto some Top Knotch Gear paracord survival bracelets!




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Travel Tip Tuesday




Happy camping tips, courtesy of REI.

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Grand Canyon Reflection

September’s aviator sunglasses make such a great backdrop for photos. This is a reflection of the Grand Canyon that I snapped on our road trip!

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

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Travel Tip Tuesday

Today’s travel tip: How to make postcard travel art!

I love postcards. September might even say that I am obsessed with postcards. I love sending postcards, receiving postcards, and collecting postcards that catch my eye. I was at a store about 6 months after we moved to Florida and purchased 15+ postcards to send to my family. The cashier looked at me like I was slightly insane and asked where I was from (she thought I was a tourist because I was snatching up so many of the colorful cards.) While I was too embarrassed to tell her that I had been living in the area for half a year, I fibbed and said I had just moved a few days ago….. then I B-lined out of the store.

So it was no surprise that while on our recent road trip, September found me at the gift shops at the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park, eyeing the racks of….POSTCARDS!  This time, though, we had a new approach. We decided to get a stack of touristy cards for our friends and family (which we still have yet to send to them) and for us, we picked 3 vintage cards to use as wall art!

Use postcards as wall art!

Post cards are inexpensive, small (so they’re easy to pack) and a great way to commemorate a trip. We already had the frame – it was just sitting vacant collecting dust. Now, we have a fun piece of art that will always remind us of our road trip through the southwest. This whole project cost less than $1!

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Destination: SAN FRANCISCO!

The drive from Truckee to San Francisco was quick and easy  – only 3 hours. And we avoided any navigational surprises! We passed Napa Valley on our way but we’ll save the wine tours for another trip.

Wine truck!

We arrived in Mill Valley Friday evening and were greeted by September’s wonderful family – many beers to follow.

Mill Valley is just north of downtown San Francisco, on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The weekend that we were in San Francisco also happened to be the busiest weekend in the city. The America’s Cup (sailing race) was taking place in the Bay, it was Fleet Week (U.S. Navy) and the Blue Angels (fighter planes) were in town, and there were numerous street fairs in the different neighborhoods. So much to see and do! Saturday morning, we took the ferry into downtown San Francisco to explore for the day. Our first stop was the Ferry Building – a ferry terminal/indoor marketplace lined with unique and local shopping stalls.

Our favorite was Far West Fungi – a mushroom shop.

All kinds of ‘shrooms!

We also thought this one was funny:

Tasty salted pig parts. Enough said.

We perused the various vendors and restaurants, coffee shops and book stores and eventually decided to do brunch at a Mexican café – Mijita. We sampled the fish tacos and the veggie tacos. And I had a delicious margarita made with fresh lime juice. It may have only been 11am in San Fran but it was happy hour somewhere!

Veggie tacos (above), fresh margarita, fish tacos (below)


We walked around the city, taking in the hustle and bustle, getting lost in the crowds. There was so much to see and do, and not knowing our way around at all made for a fun adventure. When in doubt, follow the crowds. We did just that and found ourselves in the heart of the America’s Cup races with the Blue Angels flying overhead!

Coast Guard boat shooting off water cannons

Happy Fleet Week!

The Blue Angeles air show

San Francisco’s weather is very different from Florida’s, obviously. It was 60-65 degrees when we were there (we’re used to 80+), so we were a little chilly. When the fog lifted, it was beautiful in the sun!

So warm in the sun!

We walked about 2 miles to Pier 39 (a fun tourist trap), to do some shopping and see the infamous San Francisco sea lions!

The sea lions sit on the docks in the sun. They’re VERY noisy, like to fight and don’t smell so hot. But it was great to see them!

We even listened to the Navy band!

It was a little cold in the shade

We caught the ferry back to Mill Valley and deemed it a successful first day of exploring the city. It was nice to be off the road and back in a house – we always have such a great time relaxing with September’s extended family.

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Road Trip Birthday

Wednesday was September’s birthday and this year, the theme (in light of our much-anticipated adventure) was:


I had to get a little creative with the decorations (license plates, maps, etc.) but we had a good time.

Happy Birthday sign I made from a bunch of old maps!

I bought Sep a new iPad for her birthday – it will be perfect for our trip! We’re just about packed, we have tons of snacks, our camera batteries are charged, audiobooks are downloaded and Bunny’s ready to have the house to herself for the week. We can’t wait to hit the open road and explore the southwest & California! Only 14 hours until the adventure begins!


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Impromptu Road Trip!

Road trip across the southwest

In both of our families, September and I are known as adventurers – up for just about anything, the crazier the better. So when September’s aunt & uncle needed their car and dog (the fluffy, enthusiastic pup Raffles) delivered from Sarasota, FL to San Francisco, CA, they called US to make the road trip!

On Saturday, Sep, Raffles and I will spend 6 days driving across the southwest U.S. The trip alone is nearly 3,000 miles and takes over 41 hours… excluding pit stops, detours and must-see sites (which I am a sucker for).

Our itinerary:

  • Day 1: Tampa –> Gulfport, Mississippi (588 miles; 8.5 hours) – Point B on the map above
  • Day 2: Gulfport –> San Antonio, Texas (600 miles; 9 hours) – C
  • Day 3: San Antonio –> Tucson, Arizona (870 miles; 12.5 hours) – D
  • Day 4: Tucson –> Kingman, Arizona (300 miles; 4.5 hours) – E
  • Day 5: Kingman –> Yosemite Village, California (520 miles; 8 hours) – F
  • Day 6: Yosemite –> San Francisco, California (200 miles; 4 hours) – G

We’re stopping at things like the Alamo, Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park (and if we have extra time, Joshua Tree National Park) but we’ve got some 30 other sites that are off-the-beaten-path…. sites like the world’s largest rocking chair, a 25-ton tiki head and a house made completely of beer cans, that are just too wild to pass up. At Roadside America, we searched for cities on the various legs of our trip to see what bizarre, strangely awesome, roadside sites we’ll pass. There are TONS!

Time will surely be a limiting factor on this trip but we hope to move quickly (seeing as much as we can along the way), so we can gain some free time at the end of our journey to enjoy the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. Neither one of us has traveled the southwest U.S. before and we’re so excited and grateful for this amazing adventure!

Be sure to follow along – we’ll be posting regularly with pictures, videos and fun updates! (Thank goodness for the mobile WordPress app).


Photo courtesy of

Please note: Our online shop, Top Knotch Gear, will be “on vacation” and we will not be processing orders until we return. If you have any questions/requests regarding gear, please direct them to us via email. Thanks!

Categories: Adventure, Backpacking, Extreme Vacation/Adventures, Family, Florida, Hiking, Landscape Photograph, Mountains, Nature, Outdoors, Packing, Parachute Cord, Paracord, Photography, Planning vacation, Rock Climbing, RTW, Survival gear, Top Knotch Gear, Tourist Site, Trails, Transportation, Travel, Travel Photography, Trip planning, Uncategorized, UNESCO World Heritage, World's Largest | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Florida’s Hidden Treasure

Just when we feel like we’re familiar with where we live and have developed a routine, this great state of Florida shows us what more there is to explore. With an abundance of bays, freshwater streams & rivers, the Gulf of Mexico and even the Atlantic Ocean, water sports here are endless. Kayaking is one of our favorite activities – a cooler of Yuengling, a bright blue sky and miles of quiet mangroves make the perfect retreat. But recently, we’ve discovered the majestic underwater world through snorkeling Florida’s natural springs.

For my 25th birthday, the two of us decided to have an adventure and explore Crystal River, FL – about 2 hours north of St. Petersbug. At 6am, we slithered into wetsuits and hit the water with our Captain.

In the winter, she told us, the manatees congregate in the rivers because the water is warmer than the Gulf. In the winter, there are 500-600 manatees stuffed like sardines in all of the river canals, eating, sleeping, floating, playing…. there are so many manatees, “you could walk across their backs.” We came at the end of the season when the manatees have moved back into the Gulf of Mexico but we still saw 18 of the gentle giants feasting on seagrass and floating lazily through the water!

Swimming face-t0-face with these animals was incredible. They were so focused on eating that we could get just inches from their faces and they would hardly notice we were there. The ones that weren’t eating would just float in the water, resting, sleeping – they are very lazy animals – which made for great photo opportunities.

The last stop on our snorkeling adventure was an area called Three Sisters Springs – 3 natural, underwater springs accessible only by swimming or kayak. The hanging moss and clear, turquoise-green water made this remote spot absolutely breathtaking.

Three Sisters Springs

At first, we snorkeled into the springs. We treaded water in place as we took in the view. This tropical lagoon was one of the most beautiful sites I have seen since snorkeling in Thailand. There were fish everywhere! Underwater, the sand was bright white and seagrass swayed with the currents. The springs looked like giant craters with fish hovering over the openings, relaxing in the warm bubbles. Fallen trees were suspended under the surface and as September swam over the springs to explore, I couldn’t believe how tiny she looked compared to the vast world underwater. Unfortunately, we don’t have a waterproof camera but trust us, it looks just as beautiful under water as it does above.

After our snorkeling tour, we rented kayaks from our hotel and paddled back to the springs to take more pictures. September took a nap on the kayak as I sat quietly and absorbed the scenery, quietly planning a future excursion back to this hidden oasis.

Crystal River made for a wonderful adventure! The manatees were gentle giants, the springs were beautiful and the getaway was relaxing. We’re already planning our next trip and we can’t wait to go back!

Categories: Adventure, Florida, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, SCUBA Diving, Snorkeling, Summer, Top Knotch Gear, Tourist Site, Trails, Travel help, Travel Photography, United States, Water, World Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Why We Love Florida

Moving to Florida (we bought a beachside business on the Gulf) has been absolutely fantastic. Besides having a great starting location for our travels with easy access to the Caribbean, Mexico, Cuba and Central America, it’s warm even in the winter, we get an abundance of Vitamin D, there are palm trees and grapefruit trees in our back yard and the wildlife is awesome. We’re both from the midwest (Michigan and Pennsylvania), so the tropical flora and fauna are very exotic to us. (How often can you just pull off at a roadside park and see live gators!?). If you have never been to Florida or are looking for great location for a getaway, we highly recommend the Sunshine State. Oh, and stop by our shop – Beach Snoballs – on Treasure Island – we’d love to meet you!

This is a picture I took while we were moving into our new house – I found this little guy crawling on our mailbox!

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Backpacking, Beach, Beach Snoballs, Explore, Family, Florida, Food, Landscape Photograph, Nature, Ocean, Outdoors, Photography, Planning vacation, Plants and Flowers, Top Knotch Gear, Tourist Site, Travel, Travel Photography, Travel Tips, United States, Water, Wild, World Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Life’s a Beach

Check out this treasury on Etsy called Life’s a Beach! It’s all beach-related art by artists from all over the world! Excited for summer yet??

Categories: Adventure, Art, Beach, Black and Blue, Bracelet, Etsy, Explore, Family, Gear, Jewelry, Landscape Photograph, Ocean, Outdoors, Photography, Pinterest, Plants and Flowers, SCUBA Diving, Top Knotch Gear, Travel, Travel Photography, Water, white and blue, World Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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