We moved on to the Orlando area, home of DisneyWorld, SeaWorld and Universal Studios. We arrived on St. Patrick’s Day so of course we had to celebrate, as well as celebrate on our guests birthday! What a great day to have a birthday.
Meet Mr. Sand Crane. He apparently hangs around the area because when we walks thru the Wendy’s “drive thru” he gets French fries.
We had the best time just “catching up” with old friends who we’ve traveled with several times. We spent the day with Margie and Emmit, where we picked some fresh oranges (Emmit owns an orange grove) and some delightful little fruits called “loquats” (not sure of spelling).
We also got some amaryllis from Margie.
Before leaving Orlando, we enjoyed a dinner and a show at Capone’s. We were seated at table 13 with Rig #13! What are the odds of that happening?
The show was hilarious.
Especially when our Bob was invited onstage! Click on the link below:
A very distinguishable laugh kept coming from the balcony and of course the actors had to engage them. Come to find out, they were “Newfies!”
What a great night!
Arriving in Titusville early, we had a pizza party with special guests, Ron and Kay, followed by a travel briefing.
Since 1981 the Kennedy Space Center’s shuttle landing facility serves as the primary landing site for all space shuttle missions. The first space shuttle, Columbia, launched from Kennedy Space Center on April 12, 1981, with astronauts John Young and Bob Crippen aboard. This began the new era of “reusable” space shuttles.
Pictured below is the vehicle assembly building. Hard to believe that after they assemble the shuttle that they can get it out of that building. The tall, tall doors take 45 min. just to open!
This year one of the “transporters” was out of the building, so we got to see it up close and personal. They were also moving it, so we got to watch it move, how cool is that!
We were able to see the launch tower they will be using to launch the missile to Mars, below left, and a “crawler” (launch platform) which was built in the 1960s and was used for the moon launch. It was also used for the space shuttle project and will also be used for the Mars project.
Before leaving the complex, we hopped on the Space Shuttle Flight and Landing Simulator. We were able to view the launch control center for the Saturn V, which sent Apollo 8 astronauts into orbit around the moon.
It was exciting to sit there and imagine what it felt like to be in the control room at that time. Watching the original film of the first landing on the moon sure brought back memories.
Our final night in Titusville, many of us went to the Dixie Crossroads Restaurant for a LEO.
Great food! Great company! Great time!
We decided to have a travel briefing and play our dice game once we arrived at the campground.
What fun! Watching the guests trying to “politely” take their turn at ripping into the box.
The following day was a first class motor coach tour of the yacht capitol of the world.
The city of Miami also has an interesting architectural style. Check out the Burger King below.
The old Pan Am building is now the city hall.
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens was gorgeous.
James Deering, a millionaire, began to plan his house on Biscayne Bay in 1912. He was only able to enjoy several winters there as he died in Sept. 1925. Who was James Deering? In 1902, in a deal brokered by J.P. Morgan, the Deering Harvester Company merged with the McCormick Reaper Company and others to form International Harvester, the largest producer of agricultural machinery in the nation.
The gardens were beautiful. It’s impressive that a bachelor did all of this.
And the view of the Bay was magnificent.
Our lunch stop was at Bayside Marketplace, which is a beautiful mall on the water, with a HUGE banyan tree.
Continuing our bus tour after lunch, we were all in awe of this beautifully tree lined street.
The owner of this house with a coral yard; no grass to cut.
And look at this beautiful house MADE of coral.
We made our way to Little Havana and stopped at Domino Park, which we found pack with players and observers.
There is also a very good fruity ice cream parlor next to the cigar store.
Before leaving Miami, we stepped off the bus to experience the beautiful white sand in South Beach.
We were pleasantly surprised and impressed with Miami. It is not at all what we expected. Until we made our way home in the rush hour traffic….
Miami/Ft. Lauderdale is exciting. Lifestyles of the rich and famous.
Our last day in the Ft. Lauderdale area, we took a narrated boat cruise and saw the homes of PetSmart and Sunglass Hut, Johnnie Weissmuller.
Below are some of the mansions we saw.
Below left was Al Capone’s house. He used the one in the back and his security used the one in the front. The house on the right can be rented, which they do for models and photography shoots.
I think everyone was drooling as we passed each house, or should I say mansion?
The Jungle Queen Cruise not only showed us beautiful homes, but also provided a wonderful BBQ dinner
and show, starting out with a juggler, magician, storyteller, and dancers.
The audience participation was pretty cute.
What sports they were!
Ending our evening with a fire thrower.
Next stop, Disney, here we come!
Beautiful drive day to the Florida Keys.
One bridge after another.
A little about the formation of the Florida Keys. Below is a photo of the “beginnings” of the Florida Keys yet to come. These trees growing in the waters are protected. Their roots grab the sand, coral and whatever else is in the bottom of the waters. They continue to grow and gather deposits, eventually producing “the island.” As you drive over the 42 bridges that connect the Keys down to Key West, you will see clumps of these trees out in the waters. One day they will connect to what is now the Florida Keys.
That is if a hurricane doesn’t come in and destroy it all, like the hurricane did to this railroad bridge years ago.
I tried to take photos that showed just how pretty the water is with its blues and greens.
Photos just don’t do it justice.
Arriving in Key West, we had a much-needed ice cream party. YEA! AGAIN, I forgot to take pictures. Trust me when I say the banana split party was a blast. Vicki and Nick joined us in Homestead (forgot to mention that) so after 3 years, she finally got to enjoy the Keys with Adventure Caravan (she broke down on that trip and missed the Keys). Our “locals” Jack and Gail came over with trolley maps and booklet about the Keys and give us some tips on where to park in their crowded town. We also got to reunite with Rusty and Charita from our Alaska trip. LOVE KEY WEST. What a treat!
Where else can you find two love birds perched on someone’s ladder of their RV (unbeknownst to the RV owners). And an iguana (I’m sure that’s not what they are, but that’s what I call them) perched in a tree?
Our first morning in Key West was spent on a one hour guided tour with Grace as our guide. What a hoot she is! Not only did she tell us all about the history, and what’s what and what’s where, she was VERY entertaining.
Key West is the only place where you’ll find the end US Rt. 1 – 0 mile marker and begin US Rt. 1 North – 0 mile marker at the same intersection, opposite sides of the street.
If you have never driven to the Florida Keys, remember one thing. Plan plenty of time because there is only one road in and one road out, Rt. 1, which means a lot of traffic. In the cities the road is 2 lanes, but otherwise, it’s only one lane. The Seafood Festival was going on the day we drove down to the Keys, which made for a lot of stop and go.
Another notable marker is the bouy that marks the “most southernist” point on Key West. You are only 90 miles (or should I say 98 miles) from Cuba, and more than 100 miles to a Walmart.
In this area, there are many things named “the most southern,” like restaurant, house, bar, store, etc.
The trolley ride around town is the way to go. The drivers point out all the interesting sites. Below left if the largest and oldest hotel, Casa Marina.
The hotel was built by Flagler, who came to the Keys and built the railroad to make the Keys
more accessible. He partnered with Rockefeller and together they formed a small company, “Standard Oil.”
In case you didn’t know, Key West if full of Roosters and hens. This is this is first time that we saw a family.
Some of the houses are called eyelash houses. Notice the roof comes down to cover the top windows. This is to allow the windows to be opened during the rain.
I snapped the photo below to show the cute “gingerbread” decoration, which were used back in the day to display your livelihood, such as the ship’s wheel on this particular house. As I was looking at my photos on the computer later that night, I noticed the high heeled shoe hanging from the utility wire. I THOUGHT I WAS BACK IN NEW ORLEANS AT MARDI GRAS.
The dancing couple has been replaced with the kissing couples on Mallory Square.
We passed the remnants of one old cigar tobacco warehouse. Only one steel door remains. The fact that it had steel doors was the only reason the crop did not burn up in the 1886 fire. In today’s market, millions of dollars would have been lost.
Our sunset dinner cruise was amazing.
Sights always look much different from the water. Reminded me of when we owned our boat. What a beautiful view.
Food, music and great company
Are we having fun yet?
And what a magnificent sunset!
All the beer, wine and mixed drinks you could drink, made for an interesting ride back to the campground by Trolley. Hmmmmmmmm
Bill got the party started by blowing the Conch Shell. And what a sound it made! I think all of Duvall Street heard it.
Yep, you got it! Our driver stopped for ice cream. Grace is the BEST! Course, she was outnumbered.
We provided a low country boil for our last meal in Key West. Bill cooked it to perfection. We were a little nervous since we had a Cajun amongst us, but he said we passed the test. We got a thumbs up!
We had a hungry crew. There was not much left. Vicki offered to make us a shrimp salad with some of the leftovers and I can’t wait to taste that. We finally remembered to get a photo of Bill and I with Rusty and Charito, who was on our Adventure Caravan Alaska trip.
Well, after a horrendous rain storm passed through in the middle of the night, it’s time to move on. I thought about all those poor tent campers as it poured rain and thundered and lightening.
We left beautiful Ft. Myers extra early to give everyone a heads up on the alternate route. What a beautiful drive! It took us right through the panther refugee. Camera ready, but guess what?! No Panthers…..
Beautiful day, beautiful views and arrived at the Miccosukee Indian Village & Museum .
The museum was interesting and so were our guests.
And then again, so was the staff.
Everyone got into the act with the alligators.
This year we noticed they taped the mouth of the baby gator before allowing us to hold them. Wonder why, hmmmmmm……..
The “Alligator Wrestler” was amazing.
Notice photo top, right. This particular alligator is new to the show and kept trying to run away. He was not real happy about being the center of attention.
Some of these shots, we had to get fast because he only did it once! I DON’T BLAME HIM. This particular guy had a scar on this face, which is why he has a bit of a beard.
The Village was informative and interesting.
We learned about the Miccosukee culture, “then” and now.
Next was the airboat ride!
What fun that was being in the wild with the alligators, turtled, fish, and birds.
R.F. Orchids Farm has more varieties of orchids than we knew existed. They are growing in pots, on trees, everywhere you look.
The vanilla orchid, picture below, is one everyone will know about. Our guide explained how the vanilla bean is formed from the orchid. When it blooms, the flower dies after one day! No wonder they are so expensive.
My favorite is the turquoise orchid that is like our wisteria
Tasting Scorpion wine …….Vicki talking to a bird……what a fun tour!
Coral Castle is an engineering marvel that has been compared with Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Egypt. It was built by Ed Leedskalnin (1887-1951), a 5 ft. tall 100 lb. Latvian immigrant, without any help, using only simple tools excavated, carved and moved tons of coral rock with only a 4th grade education.. Ed built the coral castle monument for Agnes Scuffs, the only love of his life who told Ed the day before they were to marry that he was too old for her. He was 26 and she was only 16. He left Latvia broken hearted and finally settled in Southern Florida around 1918-1920. He was a very private person and no one ever saw him working on the castle. The walls are composed of huge stones, the largest weighing 29 tons. Each section of wall is 8 feet tall, 4 feet wide, 3 foot thick and weighs approximately 13,000.
The tower (below right) contains approximately 243 tons of coral.
The upper level is Ed’s living quarters, with his tools in the lower level.
The castle includes furniture of all sorts (below left), bathtub (below right)
Pressure cooker made from the rear end housing of a Model T Ford (above left) and Polaris telescope (above right).
He even figured out how to make a mirror out of the rock so he could shave.
The most amazing of the castle is the 9 Ton Gate. It is approximately 80 inches wide by 92 inches tall by 21 inches thick. It weighs approximately 18,000 lbs. What is so remarkable is that Ed found the exact center of balance, which enables the gate to be moved with the push of one finger! The gate has been probed, measured, and x-rayed by many engineers and scientists. To date NO ONE has come forth with an acceptable explanation of how Ed did it.
In 1951 Ed became ill, put a sign on the door saying “going to the hospital.” He took a bus to the hospital in Miami where he died in his sleep 3 days later.
Next, on to the Bonsai Gardens for a demonstration on how to bonsai. But Bill could not resist a tree out front. It’s the only tree I’ve ever seen perfect for back scratching. Those are thorns all over the tree truck and branches.
We got there early enough to catch someone trying to “catnap”
Guess we are wearing them out.
Our guide studied under a master for 20 years. When asked when he would be considered a master, he replied, when I die.
This year we got a treat. We were able to watch how they “bonsai.”
We were told to bonsai, the first thing you learn is patience. I want one, but you have to cut the roots and repot once a year. Too much TLC than I can give.
We provided a Taco Salad night for the caravan and what a treat that was!
Followed by Bingo.
Our motor coach bus tour included highlights of Tampa Bay where we saw Tampa University Campus. Within the campus is a beautiful building that was once a hotel from the late 1800s, Tampa Bay Hotel. Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt and the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, known as the “Rough Riders.” They used this hotel as headquarters and came to organize an invasion force for Cuba. Colonel Roosevelt later became the 26th President of the United States.
Tampa is a city known for outside activity, hence a beautiful river walk.
After spending a few hours in Ybor City,
the Cuban area, which was a big cigar making area in its heyday, we stopped at a wonderful Cuban bakery.
Our vegan couple even found something to purchase.
Cuban in the afternoon, Greek in the evening. Off to Tarpon Springs to learn about sponges.
We viewed a short film on how sponges are processed, and took a sponge boat tour where we witnessed a diver, dressed in “ancient” diving attire, dive for sponge.
The sponges are normally black or orange when they are gathered from the waters. Above right is the sponge that was just harvested.
Pictured below is a restored sponge boat.
Dinner was at Dimitris on the Water. A wonderful Greek restaurant with a best manager ever, George.
He greeted and entertained us while we dined. Always making sure the guests are happy. He is a character!
And when they bring out the Saganaki, everyone yells OPA!
Last year on our free day, we visited the TECO Manatee Viewing area. They are plant eaters, chewing with their teeth, which are all molars! A manatee will eat up to 10% of their weight in one day.
There is no predator of the manatee, except for watercrafts, debris in the waters,
The odor you smell from the manatee’s mouth (if you happen to get up close and personal) comes from the lungs and nose. They only breathe through their nose, not their mouth. The photo below shows a manatee surfacing to breathe.
At our driver’s meeting, we included a strawberry shortcake/ice cream social with Plant City strawberries. Sharon and Rick Gilbert joined us and I can’t believe I forgot to take photos!
Not only is Lazy Days a beautiful park, it is interesting. Check out the unique café below.
On our way to Ft. Myers, we stopped at Thomas Edison/Henry Ford’s winter homes, located on the Caloosahatchee River. Edison purchased his property in 1885 and Ford purchased his property in 1916, pictured below. The Edison’s enjoyed their stays until 1947 when Mina deeded the Seminole Lodge to the City of Fort Myers for $1. (An interesting fact about all his patents – over 1,000 – he is the only person to have 1 patent per year for 65 consecutive years!) All of the original furnishings are on permanent loan. The city also had to plant the palm tree that she imported from Hawaii along McGregor Boulevard, hence Ft. Meyers is known as “Palm City.”
Edison was given a tree, Banyan tree, known as the “walking tree”, pictured below left. They call it a walking tree because as it grows, it seems to plant new roots and appears to be walking. Below right is the 7 foot deep swimming pool complete with a high and low dive. Yes, it was only 7 foot deep! Hope they didn’t dive into it.
Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone worked together in 1927 to form the Edison Botanic Research Corporation. The laboratory was completed in 1928 to support their endeavor of producing and manufacturing a quick growing, domestic source of natural rubber.
We had our first sighting of a banana tree in bloom. Have you ever seen one?
Sanibel Island was only a 20 minute drive from our campground, depending on traffic could be much longer. Sanibel and Captiva are known as the shell capital of the world. What beautiful white beaches.
We ended our stay with a BBQ dinner. Vicki Digby and Nick Verduzco will join the tour the following day but joined us for the BBQ since they live in the area, along with several previous guests who also live in the area, Beth and Lee Behrhorst, John and Jo Moore, John and Susie Nicklas, and Jennifer Instep. Like I said before, we just love our AVC friends!
We followed dinner with a scrumptious birthday cake to celebrate all the March birthdays.
Followed by a much needed travel briefing. Just prior to our dinner, we found out that the brush fires near Naples spread to 6,000 acres and closed I-75. Our alternate route turned out to be a beautiful, calming drive, right through the panther refugee.
Ending our evening with Rock Racing. We had our “king of rock racing” Gerry with us.
Tomorrow, on through the smoke…
Ocala is a beautiful area, home of 1,200 horse farms! Who would have thought. Ocala Horse Country Carriage Co & Tours provided us with a horse drawn wagon ride and lunch. Our “team” driver, Kimie, was also our step on guide on our Ocala City Highlights bus tour.
What a wealth of information she is and very entertaining. She was actually from Philadelphia and moved to Ocala at age 14 with her family to continue their horse business. She pointed out all of the big “millions of dollars” horse farms, gave us a lot of the “local tidbits” about the goings on of the divorces and sales of the farms. There are only a few areas in the world that are big horse country, Ocala, Kentucky, England and France. The abundance of limestone in the soil, which give the horses the nutrients they need to build strong bones (like calcium does for us), is the reason these areas are used to raise horses. Ocala has the largest population of horses per capita than any other place in the world.
The last horse from Ocala to win the Triple Crown, Affirmed, was in 1978. In order to win the Triple Crown, a 3 year old horse has to win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont all in the same year. These races are just a few weeks apart and the horses have to be transported from Kentucky to Maryland to New York to compete against other horses who may not have run in a previous race, and beat them all. They would have to truly be a fast horse.
Kim explained how horses gain and lose value in breeding. It was interesting to see the breeder’s auction area right across the street from the Ocala Airport. This makes it convenient for someone to buy horses and fly out.
One of the farms we passed is owned by someone who started a small pet food company, which later became “PetSmart.”
The house is in a U shape, has an indoor swimming pool, which converts into a basketball court with the push of a button.
John Travolta is a “local” and regularly seen shopping at Kohl’s and Walmart. He is a night person, so his sightings are usually late at night, like Black Friday. He picked Ocala to settle in because it has the largest privately owned airport and he is able to land his plane without complaints. The property was owned by the Vanderbilt’s, who built the airstrip, but was eventually sold and is now a development. Pictured below is what we could see of the development (which was not much). The white wall to the right in the background is the sound barrier for the airport. Pictured below right you can see some of the airstrip, Jumbolair. We understand Travolta can hop out of his plane and in a few steps is in his house.
We had lunch on the farm
while Kimie saddled up the team.
We met her partner, who is the son of one of the stars on Mountain Men. So of course we lined up to get pictures with him.
She gave us a world-class horse-drawn wagon tour of the Ocala thoroughbred farms.
It seemed like every time we passed any horse in the pastures, whether it was on the bus or in the wagon they looked up at us. I can only think, they must be very curious.
The afternoon was spent at Silver Springs where we rode the glass-bottom boat and saw the underground springs (below left) and a cedar wood tree lying next to a boat artifact which they believe belonged to the Spanish settlers.
Silver Springs’ became popular after Hullam Jones invented the glass bottom boat in 1878. He installed a glass viewing box on the flat bottom of a dugout canoe, creating a window to an underwater world of fish, turtles, crustaceans and fossils more than 10,000 years old.
Film crews have been attracted to Silver Springs since 1916 when silent movies were filmed in the park. Many movies were filmed but it wasn’t until the 1930s when Tarzan, starring Johnny Weissmuller, made filming in Silver Springs a popular location. Six Tarzan movies, the Sea Hunt TV series, Horror movie “Creature From The Black Lagoon” were filmed here. The list goes on, including “Smokey and The Bandit 3.”
When television became popular in the early 1950s, Silver Spring became a location for some of the national talk shows and series: “The Jack Paar Show,” “You Asked For It,” “The Arlene Francis Show,” “SeaQuest,” and soap opera – “One Life to Live.” Even commercials like, Johnson & Johnson, DuPont, and Wrigley’s chewing gum.
Recent years, National Geographic and the Discovery Channel have filmed in Silver Springs.
We stopped at the Yuengling Brewery for a tour.
It is the oldest privately owned brewery. They distribute on the East Coast; they cannot produce enough to distribute to Western United States, but they are expanding.
It was interesting to learn that “keg” beer preserves the flavor the best, then cans, then brown bottles, then green bottles. We also learned that if the bottled beer is exposed to sunlight, it can change the taste of the beer in 10 minutes, and not for the good.
We ended our day with a social.
This was not just any social. We enjoyed the company of 3 couples who we have traveled with in the past.
We love all our friends we’ve made thru Adventure Caravans!
What was of particular interest was this ceramic bottle that was buried in the sea for many years. It is still sealed and has never been opened, so they don’t know what’s in it!
The Tin Can Camper, built on an original 1923 Ford Model Truck chassis. They were called the tin campers because they camped by night, eating store bought food along the way; food from metal cans.
We sure have come a long way!
After our day of touring, Bill and I, and Ted and Linda, jumped in the car and drove out to see “Bradley’s 1927 Country Store.” It stands today as it did in 1927, run by 3rd and 4th generation Bradleys.
They ship their product all over. Their trade, plain and simple, is selling the best, old fashioned, country smoked and fresh sausage. We had lunch on the front porch and enjoyed the beautiful weather.
We ended our day with our trip meeting, social and “name” bingo. What a hoot watching everyone run around getting their cards signed.
We had many winners and excited for the next night of games.