Tampa Florida

photo of Siesta Key beach

A photo story of the sunshine state, Florida

Photography by Gary Wonning

Tampa is a city on Tampa Bay, along Florida’s Gulf Coast. A major business center, it’s also known for its museums and other cultural offerings. Busch Gardens is an African-themed amusement park with thrill rides and animal-viewing areas. The historic Ybor City neighborhood, developed by Cuban and Spanish cigar-factory workers at the turn of the 20th century, is a dining and nightlife destination.

The Tampa waterfront is beautiful in the evening.  The Hillsborough River runs through downtown with many restaurants, nightclubs, and hotels on either side.

Twilight in Tampa

With its perfect mix of historic architecture and modern landmarks, Cuban and Spanish culture-infused flavor, vibrant business districts and beautiful waterways, Tampa is a wonderful place to work, play and unwind.

Tampa Bay Front

Tampa is  a great city for all ages and tastes, offering hotel accommodations that fit any budget and catering to everyone from the families to outdoor adventure seekers to foodies and wine connoisseurs. Once known as a melting pot, Tampa remains a welcoming place for those seeking fun, opportunity and a chance to try new things.

Growing up on a dairy farm in southeastern Indiana, Gary traveled very little until midlife, when the opportunity became available to him.

Grabbing his camera and a bag full of equipment, he began his vision quest traveling to most areas of the United States and several countries abroad.

Along the way he collected several thousand photographs that he wants to share with everyone.


Gary decided the best way to accomplish his goal was to publish photo documentaries on the various areas of the world he has visited.

What will follow will be several photography books, who knows how many will wind up in his collection.

To contact Gary:




Tampa Florida

Tampa Florida Puzzle
Tampa Florida Puzzle by lifejourneysimages
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Tampa, located on the west coast of Florida is about half way between the northern boundaries of Florida and the southern coast. With a population of about 350,000, Tampa is part of the larger Tampa Bay Area which stretches from the New Port Richey area to Venice and Englewood,  has a population of about 4 million people.

Tampa small

Tampa Waterfront

The area was once inhabited by the Safety Harbor Indians and later the Seminoles. After being briefly explored by the Spanish in the early 16th century, there were no European settlements until 1819 when Florida was acquired from Spain.

The town grew slowly until the arrival of the cigar industry, the railroad, and the discovery of phosphate in the late 19th century.

Tampa night

Today the area offers everything a larger city might provide, every major professional sport is represented in the area, although the closest professional basketball team is  in Orlando. Theater,amusement parks, fine restaurants abound, not to mention the many world class beaches, all make the Tampa Bay area a desired location for not only visiting but living as well.

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Gary has been a writer/ photographer for over 20 years, specializing in nature,landscapes and studying native cultures.Besides visiting most of the United States, he has traveled to such places as Egypt,the Canary Islands,much of the Caribbean. He has studied  the Mayan Cultures in Central America, and the Australian Aboriginal way of life.Photography has given him the opportunity to observe life in many different parts of the world!

He has published several books about the various cultures he has observed.

For more information and a link to his hard cover and Ebooks,and contact information: please check his website.www.commonsensejourneys.com

Your comments appreciated

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Day 16: Back Home

Because we were able to leave Washington  D.C. four hours early, we will get home much sooner than we had planned. Arising just after day light we are already in Florida, approaching Jacksonville.

Meeting two fellow travelers in the dining car, we find they are indeed from Jacksonville and are traveling to Winter Haven for the day and back to Jacksonville on the evening train.

Leaving Orlando , we are on the home stretch,as we approach Lakeland it has   begun to rain. Hope it’s not raining in Tampa when we get there.

Sunset on a great trip

The train has to turn around and back into the Amtrak station in Tampa to prepare itself for the return trip to Washington D.C. This little fact allows us enough time to grab lunch in the dining car prior to our departure.

From there it will be an Amtrak bus to Sarasota, these aren’t too bad , as Martz is the contracted carrier, they are much better than Greyhound.

As we arrive into Sarasota, I begin to wonder if our car is still there. We had parked in a city garage for no charge. I wondered if the guy who told us it was OK to park there really knew what he was talking about. It seemed too good to be true, but I figured a towing bill would be no more expensive than paying parking fees for sixteen days.

As the bus stops at our destination ,we disembark and begin walking to our car. Cool, the car is still here! I caught a break. And so ends a sixteen day adventure, all is well!

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Explorer: Hernando de Soto

Sharkeys Pier Print
Sharkeys Pier Print by lifejourneysimages
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Hernando de Soto

Born in 1496, just four short years after Christopher Columbus’s historic journey to America, Hernando De Soto soon followed in his footsteps.
Desoto monument marker In May 1539 de Soto one of the early Spanish explorers landed nine ships with  620 men, and 220 surviving horses at Shaw’s Point near  present day Bradenton,  Florida,which he named Espiritu Santo after the Holy Spirit. The ships carried  priests, farmers, craftsmen,engineers and merchants. Although a few came from  Cuba, most were from Europe and Africa,and many brought their families .Very  few of them had ever traveled outside of Spain and many had never left their tiny  home villages.

 Hernando de Soto National Monument Near Bradenton Florida.

For the next three years, De Soto lead many expeditions  into what is now the southeastern United States. In the  search for gold and a passage to China, de Soto traveled extensively through what is now the Carolina’s, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and  Arkansas. There is now much evidence that de Soto and his men traveled through Kentucky,entered  Indiana near present day Evansville and ventured as far north as Chicago, turning back south through Illinois and Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.

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Many battles with the American Indian tribes were fought, often times causalities among the native Indians would be in the thousands. Many times de Soto and his men lost supplies, horses, and equipment .Starvation, disease, and hostile natives were thought to be just  minor inconveniences, as the promises of riches was greatly exaggerated. DeSoto was expected to colonize the area for Spain within four years and as a result his family would acquire great wealth from the mother country.
The wealth was never realized, however, because of his vast explorations, de Soto was the first documented European to reach the Mississippi River.

De Soto died of a fever on May 21, 1542 in the Indian village of Guachoya on the banks of the Mississippi River. Although many of the natives doubted this, de Soto had convinced the Indians he was an immortal sun God ( as a ploy to gain their submission without conflict).

To ensure their safety after his death, his men concealed his corpse by hiding it in a blanket, weighted it with sand and then sank it in the middle of the Mississippi River in the dark of  night.
Even though De Soto failed to find the riches or a passage to China,his impact was greatly felt in America. They brought horses and pigs to the new world, the pigs being the ancestors of the now famous razorback hogs of the southeast. Where would Arkansas be without their Razorbacks?

As with many of the earlier explorers, some of the negative influences were the swapping of disease, the Europeans brought with them small pox, and received in return syphilis and tobacco.

His explorations as well as those that followed opened the western hemisphere to others and eventually paved the way for the formation of a new country where freedom and prosperity would be available to every one who would desire it.

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 Gary has been a writer/ photographer for over 20 years, specializing in nature,landscapes and studying native cultures.Besides visiting most of the United States, he has traveled to such places as Egypt,the Canary Islands,much of the Caribbean. He has studied  the Mayan Cultures in Central America, and the Australian Aboriginal way of life.Photography has given him the opportunity to observe life in many different parts of the world!

He has published several books about the various cultures he has observed.

For more information and a link to his hard cover and Ebooks,and contact information: please check his website, http://www.journeysthrulife.com.

Your comments appreciated

church and state

There has been much debate over the years about what the founding fathers meant about the separation of church and state. In recent times there has been much disinformation about how they actually believed, especially George Washington. In this short Ebook the author tries to explain how they actually felt.

Florida State Birds

The Florida State Bird  – The Building Crane

Florida has long been know to be the native home to many birds not found anywhere else in the United States, among them include the Egret, Osprey, Wood Stork,and Herons of many varieties.

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Probably one of the most unusual is The Building Crane which has been unofficially adopted as the state bird.

These birds, the origin of which is unknown, have begun to be spotted everywhere! No one knows for sure where they came from,there was no record of them before the 20th century, but common belief is that they might have been smuggled into the state in a RV piloted by a Snowbird, another common inhabitant during the winter months.

Pictured above are two different species of Building Cranes. There are many different types, depending on the environment in which they live.

Although they can be often spotted in rural areas, their most common habitat is most likely to be the more urbanized parts of the state. The various climates of the state doesn’t seen to affect them , as they are seen in the north as well as the south.



Some experts attribute their sudden increase in population to the increase  of snowbird numbers, as  the building cranes are more numerous in parts of the state known to attract  snowbirds, although this is scientifically unproven!

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Because of their long legs, many believe they are part of the stork family, their diet is undetermined as no one has actually seen them eat anything, this fact alone should make them very eco friendly!

Politically they seem to be fair and balanced, as you can see from the photos, some lean to the left, and some to the right. The offspring are called Chads. When the little fellars are born , being they are so high above the ground, they cling to their mothers until adulthood, thus they are called “Hanging Chads”.

All in all  the building cranes seem to be a welcome addition to manhood and every effort is being made to preserve the species.


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Cincinnati Reds Spring Training


After many years, the Cincinnati Reds are leaving their roots behind and moving to Arizona for spring training.
Having grown up in southeastern Indiana, I remember listening to the “Reds on Radio” with Joe Nuxhol, from the time I was knee-high to a grasshopper.
It was always nice to hear how warm it was in Florida while we were enjoying our last blizzards of the season in the mid west. It gave us hope that spring would be coming soon.

The Reds have been coming to Florida for as long as I can remember, with the last several years being spent in Sarasota, Florida.

I had the opportunity to attend their last game which was played on March 29th, 2008.

There is nothing like a spring training game, it has a personality of it’s own, there is a small town atmosphere that isn’t available at the larger parks.

Ed Smith stadium has a picnic area adjacent to the ball park, where the opportunity is found to enjoy a hot dog, hamburger,and soft drink while meeting folks with ties to the Cincinnati area,  Northern Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky.

Many conversations included  comments that it just wouldn’t be the same in Arizona, many expressed the opinion that they would not go to Phoenix, many of the fans have winter homes in Florida and it just wouldn’t be practical for them to make the journey to Arizona.

So, while 4,500 loyal fans enjoyed a 8 to 4 victory over the Tampa Devil Rays,  and a spring training record attendance of over 90,000, the Reds bid farewell to Florida and headed north to begin the season in Cincinnati, with next year’s spring training slated for “The Valley of the Sun”.

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Sunshine Skyway Bridge Tampa Bay Florida

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Sunshine Skyway Bridge

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge, spanning Tampa Bay, is the world’s longest bridge with a cable stayed main span.

Construction began in 1982 after an ocean freighter struck the old bridge during a severe storm. The south bound lanes collapsed into the bay killing 35 people.

The people  killed in the collapse included a Greyhound bus of college students and people headed for work.

The pilot was cleared of any wrong doing due to the fact a storm had blown in with blinding rain, the freighter was blown off course and there was nothing the pilot could do. The bridge had several “close” calls preceding this and as a result, protective barriers protect the new bridge so there can be no repeat of the tragedy.

Upon completion  in 1987  the bridge is now  5.5 miles long and has a vertical clearance of 193 feet, enabling most freighters and cruise ships to pass under it’s span.

The bridge  cost $244 million to build and connects St. Petersburg, Florida with Manatee county, it being part of the I-275 freeway is an important part of the local transportation network.

The bridge is considered to be one of the top ten bridges in the world and the flagship bridge for the State of Florida.

The remaining sections of the center span of the old bridge were torn down and removed, both ends of the bridge were preserved and now serve as a rest park and fishing pier,enabling fishermen and sightseers to enjoy many content filled hours on the  longest fishing pier in the world.

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The author has been a writer/photographer for over thirty years. Specializing in nature and landscape photography, as well as studying native cultures.

His travels have taken him to most of the United States, as well as Australia, Belize, Egypt and the Canary Islands.

He has studied the Mayan culture of Central America as well as the aborigines of Australia. Photography has given him the opportunity to observe life in various parts of the world.

He has published several books about his adventures.

For more information, please consult his website,www.journeysthrulife.com.

Your comments welcome

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