Saturday, March 26, 2011

March 20-March 26, 2011

We're Back!
We're Back in the saddle again!
Even though we are still making some loops, we reached our turn around point, Key West, and are heading home. Looks like a Snowicane in Nevada City.
Heading back along highway 1.
A drawbridge in Miami.
After we get here to Jonathan Dickinson State Park, William sees that Reserve America was not truthful about the two campgrounds. One is next to the river and has lots of vegetation. The other is up on a rise that is part of a burn that got out of control in 2006 and has very small vegetation. But both campgrounds are described as having no screening vegetation.
We also are intrigued by a parasite that we have seen in Death Valley and now see here in Florida. We saw it on the roadside bushes on Grassy Key and now here in the park.

Dodder is a very versatile parasite to live in such widely variable climates.
We were taking pictures of dodder when William took this picture of me with Flagler's RR in the background. He developed Palm Beach. There would not have been much Florida without Flagler.
The night before we decide to go on the River tour to the Trapper Nelson Interpretive site before we drive to Disney World. We awoke at our usual leisurely time of about 815 and I call the number for the tour times. I should have called the night before as the tours are 9, 11, 1 and 3. We need to make the 9AM tour on the other side of the park. Leah would have been proud of me as I cram my hat onto unbrushed hair. We are there in time and after paying for our tickets William rushes back to the RV for our coffees and something to eat. A slice of bread and a cup of coffee is better than nothing.
The tour is worth the rush. Only one other family is here, grandma and grandpa, daughter and 2 grandchildren 11 and 7. The guide on our flat bottomed boat is very knowledgeable about the river and we see lots of birds, 2 alligators, turtles and a mother and baby manatee. I add pied-billed grebe, anhinga, great blue heron and great blue heron (white phase) to my Bird checklist. I already had osprey checked, but I did see a chick in the nest. Sharp eyes. Did you know osprey nests can withstand hurricanes?
The Trapper Nelson Interpretive site had a ranger led tour. Trapper Nelson came here as a young man from New Jersey in 1928. By the 30's he settled on the Loxahatchee river and his main income at this time was from trapping. He continued to buy property by paying the taxes on abandoned properties until he had almost 1000 acres.
He became famous in the area and people started to visit so he developed a zoo of wild animals and a tour for people who came out to visit. He built houses with indoor plumbing and propane lights.
He died in mysterious circumstances at age 59. He was found dead of a shotgun wound to the chest. The death was ruled accidental or intentionally self inflicted. But really, who knows? He was especially liked among the town ladies.
Our Florida map blew away in the parking lot while I fixed us a nice brunch before we took off. This adds a bit of spice to the trip.
We manage to find our way and also Mount TrashMore.
The phone GPS takes us the wrong way in the park, to a Disney Hotel rather than Fort Wilderness campground, but the gate man sets us straight. The check in line gets us in the mood. There is wifi in select locations in the campsite or we can try to struggle with a cable modem. We try the cable modem but it does not work for us. William got in a bicycle work out taking the modem back and forth.
Epcot is our first choice in Disney World as they are having their annual flower and garden show. I don't know what I expected, but it was not this. A majority of the show is character topiaries. They did have a few locations with presentations on aspects of gardening, but it was not much. We did enjoy Epcot for itself though. Lots of bump bump rides with a strong green conservation message. I was pleased with all the live exhibits of plants and animals, better fish than in the Aquarium in New Orleans. In a full day we saw and rode everything in Epcot except Soaring and the 45 minute Ellen Degeneres movie about energy. We missed the fast passes for Soaring. They were all given out. But we were told about the ride and since it was all about California we felt we had been there, done that. We are green level astronauts and car test track drivers. We also had dinner with the belly dancer.

Disney may be the reason few Americans travel abroad. You are presented with a sanitized, safe version of different countries. You don't have to bother to go any where else, just come to Disney's version of the World.
We have been here once and won't come again. But we met people who come twice a year. I don't know why.
This was a long day and we arrive back at the RV exhausted and are right to bed without even downloading any pictures or journaling.
I had originally thought I wanted to go to the Magic Kingdom for our second Disney day, but after looking at the brochure I see that it is just a larger, fluffed up version of Disneyland. We did Disneyland when Jon was 3 and Val was 6, so we don't need to go again. So I pick Animal Kingdom, since now I know it will not be all animatronics. We did the Kingdom just right, too. Rush to get in line for the Safari first while the animals are still up in the morning. Then rush to get a fast pass for the river ride and the mountain ride. Fill up the time in between with train rides and animal adventure trails and we were worn out for the day. Animal Kingdom compares favorably with an animal park that we went to once in Southern California with the children and is better than any zoo. I would have liked one more waterfall on the white water rapids and managed to survive the Yeti mountain. The tree of life is really impressive. We had managed to find a reasonable seat for the mid day Mickey Safari Parade
and ended the day at the Lion King Show. Dinner was at the Rainforest Cafe. Good food, but loudly filled with animatronic screaming monkeys, trumpeting elephants, and jungle drums. We were supposed to be calling cousin Mike Elias. It would have been funny to call from the restaurant and put the phone on speaker.
We find our way to Universal Studios RV parking and begin our trek to the Wizarding World. The Harry Potter part of the park is just one of the islands in the Islands of Adventure. I hear someone ask how to get there and they are told to just follow the crowd. So true. Although I have to smile as I come through the gate and past the train, the place is wall to wall people at before 10AM.

A quick look at the site map and I know I am only interested in one ride. So off we go through the crowd to Hogworts as quickly as possible. No fast pass here and the wait time already says 75 minutes and stretches way outside the confined loop area. There is no choice but to get in line as it isn't going to get any better. The best time to visit this park would be midweek, no school holidays, with a hurricane threatening. Maybe then you would actually be able to enjoy the castle tour that is a rushed through preliminary, after suffering in line for an hour, to the thrill ride itself. A swooping up and down round and round ride as if on a broomstick with Harry in the lead. It is a great ride, but it is less than 10 minutes. And you have to stop and get out of line right near the ride and put your purse in a crazy locker. If you are going to this park don't take a purse. Wear clothes with cargo pockets that button or zip or wear a compact fanny pack that buckles tightly and zips closed. Don't shop before going on the rides either, no shopping bags allowed.
With the main attraction over, I am not interested in the dragon or hippogriff open air roller coasters, we look around. There are lines to get in Olivander's. This is just a store. Since I am not interested in purchasing a wand we move on and just window shop.

There is no line at HoneyDukes so we go in and look at the candy. I purchase a small box of Bertie's Every Flavor Beans to give to Leah. There is a huge line to get Butter Beer, but I ask the doorman at the restaurant if they sell Butter Beer inside and he says they do. So we get in line for lunch. I order Cornish Pasties with salad. So unauthentic. They are too small, too mechanically made. The crust is too flakey. The filling is mush and the flavor is wrong. Tomato and cumin in a pastie? The butter beer is a nice dessert. Too sweet to be anything else. Another look around and good bye to Harry Potter. I wish Disney had done this. They would have done a better job.
But this bit of a street has added hugely to Universal's profits I hear. We wonder through the rest of the Islands of Adventure. It looks like themed carnival bits with various themed roller coasters. We are back at the van in early afternoon and figure out how to get to Cousin Mike's.
They live in an older part of Orlando and their house is not too hard to find. We have plenty of time to wash up, change and visit before dinner. Cousin Dick and his wife Joan are down for part of the winter in their RV nearby from Indiana. So there are six of us out to dinner at a lovely French restaurant with a Cajun touch. Great food, great conversation, Mike and Merle are great hosts.
Deep sleep in a soft high bed. Must have been the same mattress I got for our guest room.
Since I actually remember the street name of the house where I lived in Orlando when I was in sixth grade, Mike looks it up and since it is very close offers to drive us there. This is from Orlando Before, Before Disney. The house has been remodeled. The one car garage is now a room. The place looks scruffy enough to be a rental. It is no longer at the end of the street, but two houses further down, the street ends at the Greenwood Wetlands. Mike and Merle figure out what school I walked to and drive the route and there it is. Cherokee School. I didn't remember the name, but the school is the same.
Time to say good-bye to Cousin Mike and Merle. It has been a most enjoyable visit and we are glad that since they have a son in Walnut Creek, they will actually take us up on our offer to come and visit.
Off now to Kennedy Space Center. We are advised numberless times during our visit that no tax dollars are spent on this visitor center. It is run by a concessionaire. We get on the bus for the tour. Highlights are the fact that the last flight of the Space Shuttle is set up to go and seeing a full size actual Apollo rocket.

We are here in quite a nice RV park north of Titusville, whose wireless does not reach to this end of the park. Maybe better luck with the internet tonight. This will be a long blog post.
Lake Harmony RV park is lovely. I wish I had brought my fishing pole as you do not need a license to fish in this private lake. I have given up on ever connecting to the internet. The connection is OK but my computer does not recognize the network even though I entered the password. I am connected to an unidentified network with no internet connectivity. I blame the changes to my computer that the Disney tech had me make. Maybe if we ever get to Colorado Cyndi or Jon can fix it.
On our way up from Florida we stopped at Jekyll Island for a tour of the winter cottages of the Gilded Age millionaires who were members of the Jekyll Island Club.
The club had some 50 members with names like Rockefeller, Morgan, Goodyear and Gould. They wanted to have a private club for hunting and family outings. Now we have seen where the wealthy lived January through March. They lived in Newport, RI. for about 3 months in the summer and the rest of the year in places like New York.
The Jekyll Island Club survived until 1942. The truly wealthy survived the crash of 1929 just fine. It was the small investors who were wiped out. The truly wealthy had no problems during the depression. It was the workers who suffered. How similar to now is that sounding. But with the start of WWII the club had trouble hiring enough help. They decided to suspend operations until after the war. But the younger generation did not like Jekyll Island any more and were not keeping up with the dues. When the governor of Georgia found out that Jekyll Island was behind on its taxes he confiscated the property for the state.
It still costs a bit to stay in the hotel. More than $200/night. I am sure the restaurant is equally pricey. We bought a roasted chicken at the Winn Dixie in Brunswick. We got southern smoked, but Mexican chickens are better, not factory raised.
William had a good connection, so we knew I had a problem. We managed to revert to an earlier version of my set up and that worked. It will take forever to finish this blog post, but I will try.


chessracer said...

Wow, a real action-packed week... loved that you were able to visit your childhood home and school there in Orlando. Can't wait to see you guys when you get to Colorado.

Mimi said...

Love you sweetie. My home town was Orlando Before Disney. That town is long gone.