My earliest recollections picture my father at the wheel of his 1949 Ford woodie barreling through the pine barrens to the south Jersey shore. I'm a mere toddler sitting in the back of the wood-sided station wagon taking in the sights and sounds on our summer vacation to a seven-mile-long island.
Sharing a narrow spit of land with its sister town Avalon, Stone Harbor is set at the southern end of Seven Mile Island. Residents like to say, "it's cooler by a mile." And, it really is. The island juts out into the Atlantic Ocean about a mile further than any other New Jersey beach towns.
While boardwalks, carnival rides, and over commercialization symbolize most of the Jersey shore towns, Stone Harbor has stayed relatively sprawl-free. The beach is the star attraction. Beachgoers over age 12 must carry beach tags, sold in daily, weekly or seasonal increments. In part the fees help support healthy living sand systems full of trees, shrubs, and plentiful reed grass with roots that fan out beneath the dunes. Dynamic systems that grow and shrink, the island's mighty dunes rise to more than 40 feet in some places and are the first line of defense during the worst North Atlantic storms. Paying for nature's gifts won’t seem so bad once you relax on the soft, wide stretches of white sand.
Thanks to a historically tight grip on development, Stone Harbor remains a quiet and upscale residential seashore town. The borough attracts a summer population of upwards of 25,000 people, but that pales when compared with other Jersey shore resorts. Tree and flower shaded streets are lined with multi-million dollar Victorian and American Foursquare-style houses. Occasionally, you'll spy small single-story cottages, dating back to the 1940s. Flashes of candy colors pop up all over the island. A mere three blocks wide, summer homes have dominated Stone Harbor for as long as anyone can remember.
Newly minted Triple Crown champion Justify saw his stud value skyrocket with his gate-to-wire victory Belmont Stakes. The muscle on muscle chestnut three-year old colt with a big white blaze joined Seattle Slew as the only undefeated Triple Crown winners and became the 13th horse ever to win the Triple Crown comprised of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 9.
ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell reported the Belmont Stakes (Grade-1) victory pushed the value of Triple Crown winner Justify to an all-time record $75 million.
ESPN and the New York Times previously reported after the Preakness that an agreement was in place for the owners of Justify's breeding rights – WinStar Farm with 60 percent, China Horse Club with 25 percent, and George Soros' SF Bloodstock with 15 percent – to sell them to Coolmore Stud for $60 million with a $15-million bonus if the son of Scat Daddy were to win the Belmont.
WinStar Farm CEO Elliott Walden has denied that a deal has been made. The New York Times said that it may not be official until September so that Justify's owners can take advantage of tax laws dealing with capital gains. Rovell writes that Coolmore can put a higher value on Justify than other stud farms because it has the capacity to stand the superstar at both its Ashford Stud in Kentucky and in Australia during the southern Hemisphere breeding season. WinStar has stood some of its stallions in the southern Hemisphere but does not own a stud farm in Australia. The highest previous stallion deal, Rovell writes, was the $70 million Coolmore paid to acquire 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus.
The Space Coast Symphony Orchestra will open their 2018-19 tenth anniversary season with On Broadway. The concert takes place Saturday, June 16 at 7 p.m. at the Scott Center for Performing Arts and on Sunday, June 17 at 3 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Vero Beach.
Selections from the greatest musicals of stage and screen will be represented, including The King and I, Hamilton, Phantom of the Opera, South Pacific, Chicago, Beauty and the Beast and Grease. Featured will be a special suite of music from The Beatles, which includes hits such as "All My Loving," "All You Need is Love," "Blackbird," "Can't Buy Me Love," "Come Together," "If I Fell," "Lady Madonna," "Let It Be," "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da," "Something," "Yesterday," and much more.
Conductor and Artistic Director Aaron Collins is a past recipient of the Richard A. Stark Award for cultural leadership, awarded by the Cultural Council of Indian River County.
"I predict people will not be able to restrain themselves," said Collins with a laugh. "Because this music makes you want to burst with song. What better way to kick off our season than with Broadway and the incomparable Beatles?"
Advance tickets for On Broadway are $25 for adults are available through the orchestra website at www.SpaceCoastSymphony.org or at the beachside and mainland branches of Marine Bank & Trust. Tickets at the door are $30. The SCSO is one of only a handful of orchestras nationwide to perform year-round. On Broadway is free for those age 18 and under or with a student ID. For more information, call toll free 855-252-7276 or visit www.SpaceCoastSymphony.org.
Often dubbed a rolling work of art, one of the delightful aspects about owning a wood-sided station wagon is nearly each one comes with a story. Here's mine.
With my father at the wheel of his 1949 Ford woodie our family is barreling down the White Horse Pike through the pine barrens to the south Jersey shore. I'm a mere toddler sitting in the back taking in the sights and sounds on our summer vacation to Avalon. Who knew Dad was so cool, piloting a woodie?
The wood-sided station wagon has long been an iconic part of American automotive culture. In their earliest days they were known as depot hacks, bussing guests and luggage from railway stations to an upscale hotel, country estate or dude ranch. Film star Clarke Gable owned several Deluxe models to cruise through the farmland and small ranches of the San Fernando Valley. The Beach Boys and Jan & Dean (the chart-topping "Surf City") sang about woodies evoking memories of sun-splashed beaches and magical summer days.
Check out that woodwork. Clad in perhaps rare bird's-eye maple and framed in white ash, the panels were fitted and mitered with the perfection of a Chippendale highboy. They boasted intricate finger-jointed framing. Basswood created handsome longitudinal roof slats. Polished and lacquered, woodies satisfied the need for stylish transport of people and parcels.
Back in the early 20th century a four acre spit of land was a thriving bird rookery in the Indian River Lagoon just below Sebastian. Beautiful herons, egrets, spoonbills and pelicans were so plentiful it was hard to fathom that these birds might soon disappear.
Then came the plume hunters. They stalked the local birds for their dramatic colorful plumage coveted by the booming New York City millinery trade that produced fancy hats for the most fashionable ladies of society who were in a frenzy over feathered hats.
After a while Sebastian boat builder Paul Kroegel had seen enough. He developed his own conservation plan by positioning both his small sailboat and his 5'6'' frame between him and the faster boats of the bird hunters. He wore a big hat and carried a double-barreled 10-gauge shotgun to make his point. After President Roosevelt signed an executive order establishing Pelican Island as America's first National Wildlife Refuge, Kroegel was named the first refuge warden and remained in the area protecting the population of birds until his death decades later.
A little more than a century later England had its own astonishing endangered bird tale. Skillfully told by author Kirk Johnson, The Feather Thief (Viking, 248 pages) reads like a classic crime thriller, the story of an unlikely thief and his even more unlikely crime that weaves together a British museum break-in, the development of evolutionary theory, endangered birds, greed and the clandestine underworld of fly-tying masters into a spellbinding tale.
In 2002 when Elon Musk revealed his idea of making rocket flights comparable to air travel many folks in and outside of the aerospace industry thought he was more than a bit looney.
Fast forward. On May 11 SpaceX successfully launched its most modern Falcon 9 rocket delivering the first Bangladeshi telecom satellite into orbit. The first stage booster landed approximately 11 minutes after liftoff on a drone ship floating 340 nautical miles down range of Cape Canaveral in the Atlantic Ocean. It was the 25th successful landing of a booster rocket by the Hawthorne, Calif. company.
The enhanced version of Falcon 9 is called Block 5. Musk sees a host of new milestones for SpaceX, including launching and landing the same rocket twice in 24 hours – as early as next year.
"We expect [Block 5] to be the mainstay of SpaceX business," Musk said in a teleconference with space reporters a day before the launch. “We still need to demonstrate it. It’s not like we’ve done it. But it can be done.”
Famous for beautiful women, IKEA and the Spotify music service, Sweden is reveling in its latest pop culture star. He goes by Vinnie the Dreamer. Standing just 30 inches tall, the handsome chestnut miniature horse with a blonde mane and tail is starring in a wildly popular series of television ads for the ATG Swedish gaming company that returns profits to the equine industry. Young or old, few can resist the charm of the miniature horse.
"He's all the rage in Sweden," says Johnny Dent, who bred the 6-year old "mini" at his Dent Family Miniature Horse Ranch in west Vero Beach. "He narrates the TV spots. I'm told he learned to move his lips on cue when the trainer tapped his rear hoof. Some people actually think he can talk like Mister Ed. When they take him to the racetrack each week, he needs a bodyguard. He's a rock star over there."
The pint-size horses tend to be very willing, sociable, and extremely smart with big-size personalities. Not ponies, they have long slim legs in the same proportions as a regular-sized horse – just smaller. Too little to ride, minis work eagerly when hitched to a cart where they can pull four times their own weight.
Miniature horses are bred for superb conformation and outstanding dispositions. The result is a beautifully proportionate tiny equine that is suitable to a variety of uses: as pets, show animals, and a form of therapy for disabled people and even guides for the blind. In the show ring, minis compete in halter and conformation contests and in performance events from obstacle driving and jumping to chuckwagon racing and equine agility trials. Minis can hit speeds of 25 mph, turn on a dime.
For the past fifteen years I’ve been a contributing writer to a variety of national & regional magazines, prominent daily news-papers and websites. I have written about an array of topics such as arts & culture, chefs, food & drink, business entrepreneurs, travel, history, thoroughbred racing, and the animal and natural world.
I'm currently a regular arts & culture contributor to WFIT's website (the NPR radio station in Melbourne.), Vero Beach Magazine and Florida Today newspaper on a number of topics. Over recent years my work has been published regularly in Blood-Horse, Long Island Boating World and The Hunt and PA Equestrian magazines.
I am a regular contributor to the websites JustLuxe.com and SeeTheSouth.com. JustLuxe is an online magazine featuring the best of luxury lifestyle and travel, while SeeTheSouth features truly unique southern destinations. My travel articles also regularly appear in Florida Today, Long Island Boating world and the Delaware County Times, a major daily newspaper just outside Philly.
I've also contributed a variety of articles to the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, the Delaware County Times, and the Montgomery County Newspapers. I have been an Arts & Culture correspondent for Newsworks, the website for WHYY-TV (PBS in Philadelphia). I have been a correspondent to ESPN.com, America's Best Racing, the Paulick Report and Thoroughbred Racing Commentary.
After spending the past two decades in Wilmington, Delaware, my wife Jane, our Toller retriever Smarty and I have moved to Melbourne Beach, Fla. Located on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River, Melbourne Beach sits on the southern end of Florida's "Space Coast." The famed coastal highway A1A runs directly along the Atlantic. Melbourne Beach (pop. 3,000) offers unspoiled beaches with sparkling blue-green waters and thousands of beautiful seabirds and long-legged shorebirds.
Head north 35 miles on A1A and you arrive at Cape Canaveral, for decades our nation's gateway to exploring and understanding our universe. Today, Cape Canaveral is a hub for many of the most exciting new private space projects such as SpaceX, the rocket and spacecraft company founded by Elon Musk (manufacturer of Tesla vehicles). Upwards of 30 launches are planned in 2017.
Back down to earth traveling on two-lane A1A south from Melbourne Beach's compact business area brings you to a series of secluded and undeveloped natural beaches. Bonsteel Park's two-acre beach provides an excellent vantage point to catch glimpses of passing dolphins, while the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge is recognized as the most important nesting area for loggerhead turtles in the western hemisphere. It's also home to the gigantic leatherback turtles.
Nearby is Sebastian Inlet State Park which connects the Indian River Lagoon with the Atlantic Ocean. Its jetty break is recognized as one of the surf world's high-performance hot spots. Three generations of world-class surfers have surfed here, including 11-time world champion Kelly Slater. The 600-acre park is also celebrated for world-class fishing, and plenty of seabirds and wildlife.
Through my writing over the past decade I have traveled to spectacular destinations such as Lake Tahoe, Calif./Nev. and Sun Valley, Idaho; Cody, Wyoming/Yellowstone Park; Saratoga Springs, the Adirondacks, Saratoga Springs and Rhinebeck, New York; Port Clyde and Monheghan Island, Maine; Avalon and Stone Harbor, New Jersey; Middleburg, Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia.
Other travel adventures have included Tampa and St. Petersburg, Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, Florida; and St. Simons and Jekyll Island, Georgia. My travel articles thoughtfully explore the history of the region along with museums, music and the arts, chefs and restaurateurs, wineries and craft breweries, outdoor and sporting adventures as well as profiling intriguing personalities of those regions.
In addition to my writing career I owned a marketing company where I represented a diversified list of clients in the areas of publicity, marketing and business development-- such as the famed Baldwin's Book Barn, Thoroughbred Charities of America and the Kahunaville restaurant chain. In another life I was the founder, publisher and editor of Life Sports Magazine.
Along with Jane and Smarty I look forward to writing about new adventures in Melbourne Beach, the "Space Coast" and other Florida destinations. That's Smarty below with his pals Willie and Nelson.