Summertime, and the livin' is . . . hot and sticky and buggy.
Visions of cool weather dance in your head. Dreams of faraway places shimmer as heat waves cook the soles of your feet. Thoughts of something refreshing tantalize the taste buds.
It's time for a midsummer break. We turned to the Web for relief, looking for adventure, good food and minutiae to help pass the time until the kids are back in school or the weather gives us a break.
If you have suggestions of Web sites to ease the summer blahs, send nominations to techtimessptimes.com. Here are some of our favorites:
It's hard to imagine anyone recommending camping in Florida this time of year but that's just what the folks at the Great Outdoor Recreation Pages (www.gorp.com) proposed when we searched for summer getaways. Camping at Clubhouse Beach in Everglades National Park made its list of top 10 beaches.
"There's hardly a better feeling: You zip open your tent and push your toes into the sand, with the ocean staring you in the face," editor Rich Beattie writes on the site. "Birds and insects are the only creatures making noise. Welcome to the Everglades _ backcountry."
The Everglades? In the summer? "No way," laughed the Times' Jeff Klinkenberg, who recently was honored by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors for his coverage of Florida nature and culture. "It would be where you send your worst enemy." As Klinkenberg notes, the 'Glades insects are legendary.
However, GORP offers other beach camping suggestions, including sunrises in Maine, sunsets in Hawaii, biking in California and swimming at Perdido Key, as well as non-beach ideas.
At this point, you might be thinking, "Right, a beach vacation for Floridians." But what do you really know about beaches? They are more than sun, sea and sand, and the Bergen County (N.J) Technical Schools' site (www.bergen.org/AAST/Projects /ES/BS/BeachFactsSN.html) offers an interactive map that explains how beaches work. Click on the water and you get an explanation of wave action, for example.
Surfrider (www.surfrider.org/stateofthebeach) gives its assessment of how our beaches are faring, including water quality and coastal development.
And check out the Center for Shark Research at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota (www.marinelab.sarasota.fl.us/ TILDErhueter/sharks/shark.phtml) to learn about shark myths and attacks.
Others willing to brave Florida's outdoors may want to check the state Department of Environmental Protection site (www.dep.state.fl.us/parks/) for a list of state parks by region and activity, and the Division of Forestry (www.fl-dof.com/Recreation) for recreational opportunities in state forests.
Florida can offer some refreshing recreation, such as canoeing and kayaking (www.paddlefl.com and www.macroplay.com/local/node.jsp?cid=14&sid=7); tubing down the Ichetucknee River near Gainesville (www8.myflorida.com/communities/learn/sta teparks/district2/ ichetucknee/tubing.html); and checking out cool Florida springs, as shown in photos at www.floridasprings.com.
If getting away from the state is more to your liking, Times travel editor Bob Jenkins offers these suggestions: www.fodors.com, to customize a miniguide to 99 destinations; www.zagat.com, 20,000 reviews of restaurants; and www.whatsgoingon.com, international listings of events and festivals.
If a getaway isn't possible, maybe a dose of cool will do.
Chill Factor (www.chillfactor.com/cams/) is an online magazine devoted to skiing and snowboarding. It has a collection of Webcams showing snow and mountains, with an emphasis on Australian locales. At Snoweye.com (www.snoweye.com), users can select from 1,561 Webcams in ski resorts in 31 countries.
To get really cold, ponder some fun facts about Antarctica, courtesy of the University of Chicago's Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica (astro.uchicago.edu/cara/ outreach/coldfacts.html). A sample: "So, how cold is it? In the winter, the temperature at the South Pole averages about -60 degrees C (-76 degrees F). That is as far below 0 degrees Fahrenheit as shirt-sleeve weather is above it."
The California Institute of Technology (www.its.caltech.edu/ TILDEatomic/snowcrystals/) offers spectacular photos of snow crystals and snowflakes, which are much better to view than shovel.
We'll drink to that?
When everything else fails, food comforts (sometimes too much food comforts too well, but we won't go there).
Barbecue (nothing like standing over a grill in 90-plus-degree heat), a refreshing drink, watermelon and ice cream can combine to ease some of the discomfort. Then again, some of what we found gave us second thoughts.
Let's start with lemonade, which is no longer a simple concoction of lemons, water and sugar. The All Inclusive Lemonade Cookbook (www.geocities.com/Napa Valley/5255/cook.html) includes Aunt Frances' Lemonade (just the name sounds cool), Orange Lemonade and Fiesta Lemonade. But we grimaced at Chocolate Lemonade (add a third of a cup of chocolate syrup to frozen concentrate . . . ).
The Florida Citrus Web site (www.floridajuice.com/florida citrus/recipes/index.htm) includes recipes ranging from Citrus-Ade to Tropical Slush among its offerings using homegrown products. At www.popsoda.com, people can find regional drinks they left behind when they moved here.
As we refresh ourselves with a nice drink, we can concentrate on the main course. Even in Florida summers, barbecues are popular. The Web overflows with barbecue sites that offer tips, recipes, sauces and spices.
The Florida Barbecue Association site (www.flbbq.org) seems a bit skimpy. But one can go to the University of California at Berkeley (soar.berkeley.edu/recipes /sauces/bbq12.html) for a recipe for "Juicy Florida barbecue sauce."
Other barbecue sites that caught our attention, if for nothing more than their names: www.fiery-foods.com/fffs/; www.satansbreath.com; www.barbequeman.com; www.barbecuen.com; and www.bbqgalore.com.
Watermelon is a rite of summer, and the National Watermelon Promotion Board (www.watermelon.org) offers facts (the world record is 65 feet, 4 inches), fun (Camp Mini-Melon for kids and teachers) and recipes (from beverages to jams to salads and entrees). More recipes and carving tips can be found at www.fabulousfoods.com/recipes /salads/fruit/melonbasket.html.
For dessert, Americans love cool: Each of us consumes 23.3 quarts a year of ice cream, ice milk, sherbet, ices and other frozen dairy products, according to the International Ice Cream Association posted at MakeIceCream.com (www.makeicecream.com /icecreamtrivia.html). Vanilla is by far the top choice, with chocolate a distant second.
The University of Waterloo (www.cgl.uwaterloo.ca/ TILDEsmann/IceCream/l-business.html) in Ontario has links to ice cream sites. But competing with Chocolate Lemonade for the strange food award is a product from EuroDelite (www.stormpages.com/eurodelite/) _ ice cream that takes longer to melt . . . and stretches. The pictures are worth more than 1,000 words.
Blame the weather
We can't escape without concentrating on the weather itself.
In our search for cool, we came across a good weather site, Weatherdesk.org (www.weatherdesk.org/cams.shtml), an easy-to-use site with loads of information including maps, radar and satellite images.
We also found extreme heat facts at the government's www.fema.gov/library/heatf.htm and Weather.com's www.weather.com/ safeside/heat/facts.html, as well as some particular to the Sunshine State at www.50states.com/facts/florida.htm.
The National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska (enso.unl.edu/ndmc/) lets you know just how bad the drought is here, as well as other dry spots, as does NOAA's site (www.drought.noaa.gov).
When we get our traditional thunderstorms, lightning safety comes to mind (www.lightningsafety.com), as does tracking lightning strikes (www.flamedia.com/lightning/light.htm).
Of course, the mosquito could be the official state bug of summer. The American Mosquito Control Association (www.mosquito.org/mosquito.html) can tell you all you want to know (maybe more) about the insect.
But the Mosquito Power Trap caught our eye at www.mosquito-zapper.com, a company on St. George Island in the Panhandle.
It offers an array of products to rid our lives of the pests. The company claims mosquitoes can't resist the Power Trap, but you might: It costs a cool $359.
_ Times news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Dave Gussow can be reached at gussowsptimes.com or (727) 445-4228.