Monthly Archives: February 2013

Anticipating one thing, finding many

predawnlightbybrucestambaugh

The predawn light at 6:38 a.m. on Feb. 1, 2013 on Main Beach, Amelia Island, FL.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I stood on the beach bathed in the pale pre-dawn light. I had gone there to photograph the sunrise over the ocean.

The air was chilly, but unusually still for the seashore. The Atlantic shimmered, uncharacteristically placid. With the tide in, the waves rolled gracefully onto the shell-strewn shore.

I wasn’t the only human on the beach at 6:45 a.m. A few other brave souls were also out before sunup. A silhouette jogged in front of me. Another walked the water’s edge towards me in a hitched gate.

earlyjoggerbybrucestambaugh

An early jogger zipped by me in the half-light along Main Beach, Amelia Island, FL.

All the while, I snapped away, capturing the thin orange line that divided the dark violet sea from the turquoise sky. I wanted to digitally document the gradual, subtle color changes of the new day’s sun.

We few humans weren’t alone as the sky slowly brightened along the beach.

Groups of first year shorebird chicks scurried at water’s edge, probing and pecking for food. Careful not to get their tiny feet wet, they darted at the ebb and flow of the frothy wavelets.

youngshorebirdsbybrucestambaugh

Young shorebirds feed at the ocean’s edge.

Not far off shore, Northern Gannets fished for breakfast in their dramatic style. They circled with their long pointy white wings marked black as ink at the tips, and then plunged into the seawater. Satisfied, they again ascended and started the process all over again.

A little further out a pod of dolphins arched in and out of the water. Their fins revealed their foraging path.

faceoffonthebeachbybrucestambaugh

A gull and a Willet faced off on Main Beach in the early morning light.

A lone Willet snagged a snail from beneath the sand. Seeing an opportunity for a freebie meal, a Ring-billed Gull unsuccessfully chased after the skinny-legged bird. The Willet swallowed the morsel before the gull could steal the bacon.

Flocks of Black Skimmers winged just above the ocean surface, their lower beaks breaking the water in their feeding. They were out of sight in seconds.

By now, the lady with the gimp caught up to where I had stood for 20 minutes. Seeing that I had a camera, she berated me for standing pat, and beckoned me to where the water lapped at the firm sand. It was there that the best color reflected in the receding water and against the few clouds in the northeast sky.

pastelskybybrucestambaugh

Clouds to the north beautifully reflected the rising sunlight.

As we admired the pastel radiance together, a whale broke the water. This unexpected find disappeared and our eyes searched until the first of many waterspouts blew high into the air.

humpbackwhalebybrucestambaugh

Birds circled above the Humpback Whale, making it easier to follow with the naked eye.

The blow spouts drew my attention to a congregation of gulls circling above the whale like an avian tornado. They simplified our whale watching. Just follow the birds, and glimpse the whale. I later learned that it was a Humpback Whale, my first ever whale sighting.

Amid all this activity, I continued to snap picture after picture of the ever-changing sunrise. Just as the sun finally peaked above the horizon, yet one last gem sparkled.

I would have missed it if it hadn’t been for the older lady from New York. She pointed out the sun’s low-angled rays glistening in the crest of the waves as they broke upon the shore. They were golden jewels in an aqua crown.

I remembered seeing the effect in paintings and thought the artists had overdone it. Now I knew they hadn’t. In precious minutes, the bejeweled waves disappeared, replaced by white-capped cousins. The sun was ablaze, bathing the seashore with its warming light.

I had gone to the beach to take pictures of the sunrise. I left enriched with so much more.

jewelsinthewavecrownbybrucestambaugh

The jewels in the crown of the waves made the sunrise even more spectacular.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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Remembering a friend who loved and lived to teach

grandcanyonbybrucestambaugh

The Grand Canyon was just one of many places Paul Sauerbrey introduced me to on our trip “out west” in 1970.

By Bruce Stambaugh

My old friend, Paul Sauerbrey, introduced me to four of our most notable presidents. I met the much larger than life-size George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

That was July 1970. I was 22 years old and still wet behind the ears. I went with Sauerbrey, which is what he preferred to be called, and three students on what he termed his annual trip “out west.”

paulsauerbreybybrucestambaugh

Paul Sauerbrey

Prior to this, I hadn’t been west of Toledo, Ohio. Sauerbrey’s introductions on that journey certainly didn’t stop with presidential memorials. He opened my world to travel, whetted my appetite for geography, and showed me first hand just how big and marvelous this great country is.

I was one of the fortunate ones. For many years, Sauerbrey used to take summer excursions from Killbuck, Ohio to the West Coast. He would go with families, students, and other teachers like myself. Having already been to the same places, his main purpose was to teach us first hand about America’s extensive topography and the country’s many cultures.

Sauerbrey got as much pleasure out of observing our initial reactions to encountering the numerous noted locales as he did visiting the places himself. In the space of three weeks, we experienced a diversity of venues, from South Dakota’s Badlands to Southern California’s Disneyland, from Yellowstone National Park to the Grand Canyon.

The trip changed my life. It gave me a perspective on the vastness and beauty of our country that I may never have had if Sauerbrey hadn’t asked me to go along. I’ve been traveling ever since.

There was nothing pretentious or shallow about Paul Sauerbrey. He either liked you or he didn’t, and you definitely knew where he stood, too.

bighornsheepbybrucestambaugh

Paul Sauerbrey got as much excitement out of watching his travel companions making new discoveries, like these Big Horn Sheep, as he did seeing the scenery and wildlife himself.


Sauerbrey was a dedicated and respected teacher. He taught elementary school for 43 years without ever missing a full day of school.

Sauerbrey was an exacting teacher. He was especially particular when it came to English and math, two of his favorite subjects to teach. He could diagram a sentence with the best of them, and expected his students to do the same.

Some thought him a bit too strict of a teacher. As a friend and peer, he simply and rightfully had high standards. Students who could not meet those lofty requirements sometimes found themselves in the doghouse with Sauerbrey.

sauerbreyandkidsbybrucestambaugh

Paul Sauerbrey with our son, Nathan, and daughter, Carrie, when they were youngsters.

To be sure, Sauerbrey had his faults. Don’t we all? He loved to teach and lived to teach. That’s what really matters. In a way, he still is teaching.

Each year several high school graduates benefit from Sauerbrey’s generosity, foresight and commitment to education. He donated a majority of his estate to the Holmes County Education Foundation.

In the 20 years since his death on Feb. 13, 1993, scores of students have been awarded scholarships to assist in the cost of their college education. Sauerbrey saw the importance of having a college degree, especially for students from a rural area. Many students who have received a Sauerbrey Memorial Scholarship have been the first in their family to attend college. They have become doctors, directors, lawyers, educators and first-rate mechanics.

Knowing that fact alone would have made Paul Sauerbrey extremely happy. I can imagine the smile on his face. It’s just like the one he had while watching me recklessly scramble to the top of a rock formation to get a better view of four great stone-faced presidents.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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Repeat vacations aren’t so bad after all

beachwalkingbybrucestambaugh

Finding just the right spot to relax on Main Beach, Amelia Island, Florida in January is not a problem.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I used to question the wisdom and practicality of vacationing twice in the same location.

Perhaps my personal wanderlust interfered with my empathy for the travel preferences of others. With so many places to visit locally, regionally, nationally and globally, I reasoned why would anyone want to return to the same place year after year?
Surely the urge to explore and discover had to be greater than the certainty of returning to the same destination at about the same time each year. I’m rethinking that opinion.

I am in a transitional period of my life, intentionally between full time employment and true retirement. I’m enjoying the freedom that comes with a flexible schedule.

harborsunsetbybrucestambaugh

The harbor at Fernandina Beach, Florida offers many a scenic sunset.

I still like visiting new locales, seeing new topography, meeting new folks. I am also beginning to more fully appreciate the contentment of familiarity. I realized that fact recently while my wife and I bathed in the glow of another incredible sunset over the harbor at Fernandina Beach, Florida.

For someone who practically calls Lakeside, Ohio his summer home, it should have been obvious to me. I guess I considered our Lakeside stints more tradition than vacation. Silly me.

We had found Amelia Island almost by accident last year. It was an overnight stop on the way to our true vacation destination, Sarasota, Florida. We liked the island so well we spent two more days there on the way home. We were hooked.

ameliaislandcharmbybrucestambaugh

Charming homes line the streets of Fernandina Beach, Florida.

We loved the island’s charm, its beautiful beaches, its commitment to wildlife habitat preservation, its rich history, and the diversity of activities it offered. We had only skimmed the surface last year. We needed to return to further explore this intriguing community.

Last year the weather, like most places in the country, was exceptionally warm for northern Florida in January. We walked the nearly vacant beaches in t-shirts and shorts. I birded the island’s preserve. We dined on locally caught seafood. We were in paradise instead of Ohio in January. It felt marvelous.

This year we returned to this magical destination for two weeks in order to dig deeper into the island’s many treasures. The weather couldn’t match that of 2012, but we had fun nevertheless. Cooler mornings warmed into pleasant days. Shorts and sandals were only appropriate a couple of days this time around.

eganscreekgreenwaybybrucestambaugh

Egans Creek Greenway offers biking, hiking, fishing and birding on the north end of Amelia Island.

We toured the local history museum, lunched outside at most restaurants, and collected perfect seashells of all sizes and colors. I hiked the paths through Fort Clinch State Park and Egans Creek Greenway enjoying the flora, fauna and breath-taking vistas and spring’s emerging pastels.

My epiphany came while I hustled around the boardwalks at Fernandina Beach’s harbor photographing yet another sunset. A patron sitting at a table of a dockside restaurant hailed me, wanting to know if this was my first time on the island.

ameliaislandstateparkbybrucestambaugh

Amelia Island State Park, at the southern tip of the island, is a great place to relax, walk or fish.

When I innocently replied that it was not and then read the man’s surprised facial expression, it hit me. To him I must have looked like a child on Christmas morning as I dashed around trying to get different angles of the ever-changing colorful sky.
I had taken many, many sunset shots last year. Yet here I was plying for more. Lightning struck. I recognized why people did repeat vacations.

I was relaxed, happy, appreciative, satisfied, if not downright blissful. Amelia Island, Florida in January 2014? Why not? It could become our traditional winter vacation.

beachchairsbybrucestambaugh

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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Oh, the places I go and the people I meet

snowymountainsbybrucestambaugh

A Manhattan-like traffic jam occurred in the snow-covered mountains of Virginia on our way to Florida.

By Bruce Stambaugh

My wife and I love to travel. It’s a common interest that we’ve had since we met nearly 43 years ago.

We feel fortunate to be at the station in life that allows us to travel when the opportunities arise. Of course we enjoy the various places we visit. We also like the people we meet along the way. We encountered a cast of characters on our latest trip to Florida.

walkingthedogbybrucestambaugh

Walking the dog along Main Beach is a common sight on Amelia Island, Fla.


We have learned that a tank of gasoline will take us to Wytheville, Va., where the gas conveniently happens to be cheaper than most locations. We make it a regular pit stop if you get my drift. This go-round there was only one problem. The previous day’s heavy snow had brought down rural power lines. With no electricity, the pumps weren’t working.

I asked the kind clerks behind the counter where the closest station was with power. They said we had passed it seven miles back. I asked about further south, the direction we were going. They said they knew that Hillsville had power, and indeed that’s where we refueled.

We learned from a brief visit last winter that our destination, Amelia Island, Fla., had equally friendly and helpful people. It didn’t take us long to prove that correct again this trip.

excellentfoodbybrucestambaugh

The food was delicious and the staff very helpful at Kelley’s Courtyard Cafe in Fernandina Beach, Fla.

After settling into our rental lodging, we went to the Happy Tomato Café in Fernandina Beach, Fla. for a late lunch only to discover that the eatery had closed for the day. Not to fear. A staff member came out and steered us to a competitor just down the street. We weren’t disappointed.

The waiter at this café was kind enough to direct us to the local grocery store. His directions were perfect.

On my first long walk on Main Beach on the Atlantic coast, I was photographing a flock of wintering gulls and skimmers. A middle-aged couple and their teenage son apologized to me for disturbing the birds and making them fly. I told them they actually had helped create the picture I had wanted, some birds on the wing, others on the sand.

In further conversation, the couple and their son revealed that they were lettuce farmers near Jacksonville, and rattled off local restaurants that purchased their produce from the local farmers’ market. I indicated that we had sampled the fare of several of them.

outdoorrecreationbybrucestambaugh

Bike riding and para-sailing are just two of the many outdoor recreational activities on Amelia Island, Fla.


Later an elderly man walking his dog on the beach struck up a conversation with me about surfers and para-surfers he had seen. In our protracted discussion, I learned much about the man’s long, productive life as a government contractor.

At the Amelia Island History Museum, it was volunteer guide Paula’s turn. A retired social studies teacher, she was ideal for the job. She rattled off more information than my brain could absorb. I’m glad she didn’t give us a pop quiz at the end of her lecture.

At the Maritime Museum on the waterfront, Don was equally congenial, though more laid back. Retired Navy officers are like that. We spoke as if we were long lost friends. Now we’re just new ones.

rosesfromreedsbrucetambaugh

In Savannah, Ga., Nate made roses from reeds.


On a day trip to Savannah, Ga., we met Nate, who made roses out of reeds for his living, which was modest by any standard.
“Just call me Peanut,” Nate said. And so I did.

My wife and I savor our travels together. We enjoy the outgoing people we meet even more.

harborsunsetbybrucestambaugh

Sunsets are spectacular over the harbor at Fernandina Beach, Fla.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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