Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Griswolds at Wallyworld

Today and yesterday we've been enjoying the things to do here
at Disneyworld.

Yesterday we went to Epcot.
We started the day with a bus that runs inside the campground and took us
to the depot where we switched to the bus that would take us to Epcot.
About 20 minutes total travel time and we were at the gate…  not bad.

Once inside we did a few of the attractions…  the lines were not long at all.
Our longest wait was about 20 minutes.
For the more popular attractions we had taken advantage of "Fast Pass" where you can
pre-reserve a time slot - show up at that time and not have to wait on line.

Our favorite of the day was Soarin a simulator type attraction where you feel as if you
are flying in an ultralight over many scenic areas of California.
Kate liked it so much that maybe…  just maybe… we'll have to get an ultralight.
Since I'm a pilot it's not as crazy as it sounds.

Heading over to the World Showcase we started our 
Round the World Photo Shoot.

We had Mittagessen (lunch) in Germany.

We had Ice Cream Cones in France.

While eating our cones we noticed this family…
Everyone was on their cell phones.
The kids were playing games on the phones.
We thought… hummmm  come to Disneyworld to play games on the cell phone.

As a Resort Guest (the campground is part of the "Resort") we had unlimited
use of all the transportation modes…  Water, Bus, & Monorail.
We've been taking advantage of this efficient system since we arrived.

On the way out of Epcot we took one more shot.

Last night for dinner we went to the Artist Point Restaurant in the Wilderness Lodge.
It required a short (7 minute) boat ride from the beach here.

The Restaurant features the foods of the Pacific Northwest - Salmon on a Plank
being their signature dish.
Not being real fish lovers we both opted for the Fillet.

First was the Smokey Portbello Soup.
With Shiitakes, Chive Oil and Sourdough Croutons.
It was delicious!

(sorry about the photos - used the iPhone in low light)
Next was the fillet.
Tender, medium rare and perfectly cooked.
Served with Root Vegetable Silk, Kale Fondue, Marble Potatoes, 
Broccoflower, crispy Shallots, Vidalia Onion-Cabernet Demi-glace, 
and Horseradish-Boursin Cheese Compound Butter.
It was heavenly.

It was the best meal that we've had since we dined in Napa.

I finished up with a berry cobble with homemade black berry ice cream
and Kate had the Vanilla Bean Creme Brule Trio.
We both had French Press Coffees.

Then a short boat ride back to the Ft Wilderness Marina placed us on the dock
just in time to watch the nightly fireworks show across the lake at
the Magic Kingdom.   The fireworks are accompanied by music and are in sync.

The perfect end to a great night.

This morning we were back on the road at 9am - this time catching the bus
over to Disney Hollywood Studios.

We had a couple of venues that we wanted to hit and then planned on just
winging it and seeing what the day brought forth.

One of our plans… much to Kates chagrin - was Tower of Terror

We would up riding the Rock & Roll Roller Coaster instead…
A metal coaster with several inverted sections.
Kate kept her eyes closed and was a tad under the weather when we got 
off so I thought it best to forego the Tower and its 10 story drops!

Soon she was back to her usual self and striking a pose in front of this Caddie.

We enjoyed several more attractions…  we especially like the simulator type
rides both in Epcot (Soarin) and here in Hollywood (Star Wars)

After a quick lunch we decided to hit the transportation system and visit some of the
resort properties.   Each one has a different theme and we thought it would be fun.

We jumped a bus to Epcot where we caught the Monorail to the Transportation Center.

From there we jumped a Riverboat to Magic Kingdom.

From Magic Kingdom we hopped a water launch over to the Grand Floridian Resort with
continuing service to the South Seas Resort.

At the South Seas we got in the spirit and had some Mai Tai's and Pina Colada's
at the Tiki Bar by the Pool.   Pretty Nice!

(Hey - it's 5 O'clock Somewhere)

After touring the property and seeing the hotel we headed back toward the Marina
to catch another ferry.

We stopped for this shot with the pool behind us.
You can see the Magic Kingdom Castle off in the distance between us.

Walking around the pool you can go thru this tunnel where a waterfall cascades.
Really nice place.

I thought I'd show you a few of the different ferries.

This one took us from Magic Kingdom to the South Seas Resort on the far
side of the Lagoon.   Just in the distance you can see some of the Grand Floridian Resort

This is the one that eventually took us from Magic Kingdom back to
Fort Wilderness - the Campground.
Again - The Grand Floridian is in the Background.

This one is running between the Contemporary Resort and Magic Kingdom.

The Contemporary Resort is a stop on the Monorail route.
It actually runs thru the hotel.

At the top of the Contemporary is the California Grill Restaurant.
One of the finest restaurants in Disney World.
You can have an upscale dinner while watching the fireworks.
We had actually scored one of the very hard to obtain reservations during the fireworks,
but have decided that we just need to give our waistline a rest.

We realized today that one could actually come to Disney, stay in a Resort Property, 
and really have a grand time visiting the other resorts..   hitting the bars, pools, and restaurants,
without ever actually setting foot in the theme parks.

If you are not visiting Disney with Rug Rats the parks lose a lot of their appeal.
We might come back here to do just that.
I'm sure we will cause I've put it on my ever growing list.

Well tomorrow we are back on the road.
I have to say we had a great time.
It actually felt like a real vacation for two days.

A couple of days of Fantasy, food and fun.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The fleecing begins.

Yesterday we sadly left our beautiful spot on Key Largo and headed North.

While there we enjoyed some visits from the local wildlife.

A snowy egret stalks his morning meal.

A White Ibis strikes a pose

A rare chlorine walrus comes up for air

Packed up and ready to leave I took one last parting photo of our beautiful site.

Then we were back on the road.

Our next port of call was Vero Beach and a quick visit with
 my Boss Jeff and his wife Cheryl who were down from Upstate NY
getting a well deserved mid winter thaw.

It was such a fast visit and we had such a good time that we totally forgot to
take a single picture…  Sorry folks.

We got to spend time with them and their Australian Labradoodle Lilly,
who is 8 months younger and shares lineage with our Lucy Doodle.
Cheryl does an amazing job keeping Lilly well groomed.
Compared to our two Desert Rats Lilly was in a class by herself.
Well done Cheryl.

Confucius said: "Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life"

In my 20th year at my job, I am blessed to have a great boss, 
work with great people, and am able to do my job while traveling and writing.
What more could one ask for?

This morning we packed up again and moved a short 90 minutes north
and now are at Fort Wilderness in Disneyworld.

Checking in is unique in that you don't' even have to leave the truck.

It seems more like a State or National Park Campground than a commercial park.
The price tag however SCREAMS Disney!

Our site is large, full hookup, and private.
Cable included - I have my Satellite dish out regardless.

After we settled in we decided to check out the nearby locales.
Staying in a WDW resort gives us unlimited "complimentary" transportation so we
decided to start trying to squeeze out our moneys worth.

Down to the Marina we trecked, where we caught a water taxi to the Wilderness Lodge - a
large hotel reminiscent of the Great National Park Lodges.

A quick self portrait in front of the Lodge.

Inside it seems a lot like the Old Faithful Inn.
I'm sure it was the inspiration for the architect.

Sitting inside felt like home…  Like we were in Yellowstone.
When you walk outside into the humidity and see Palmettos however,
 you are snapped back to reality.

I took a few minutes to relax in the lobby and enjoy some people watching.

While visiting the Lodge Kate picked up her very own Mickey Mouse Watch!
Now if I can get her to wear it and her glasses...

Tomorrow we will visit Epcot and then back to The Wilderness Lodge
for Dinner at the highly acclaimed Artist Point Restaurant.

The Restaurant theme is based upon Pacific Northwest cuisine and wines.

Can you say Yum?

Tuesday will be Magic Kingdom.

We should have some fun pictures and things to report tomorrow.

See you tomorrow (if we still have any money left)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Keys

We are now spending a few days in the Florida Keys.
Last night we stayed in Boyds Campground in Key West
and tonight we are in a brand new RV Resort in Key Largo.

Driving the Keys is an experience in itself.
Made up of hundreds of Islands stretching from Key Largo the Keys
reach out 125 miles to Key West where the road ends and then another
60 miles to the Tortugas which are accessible only by boat or seaplane.

The route thru the Keys - US 1 follows the route pioneered by Henry Flagler
and the Florida East Coast Railroad in the early 1900's. 
Building of the railroad is one of the great engineering marvels of the 20th Century.

Destroyed by Hurricanes on several occasions during construction, Flagler was
unstoppable and in 1912 - 82 years old and blind - Flaglers' dream was realized.
Upon reaching Key West he said "now I can die happy"
He died one year later.

The railroad continued for over 20 years until the great hurricane of 1935
destroyed miles of track and killed hundreds of veterans who were working on
the railroad as part of the New Deal.

After this the railroad was never rebuilt and instead the right of way was turned over
to the state of Florida to be used as a roadway.

Many of the original bridges were modified (they needed to be widened) to handle
automobile traffic.

The Bahia Honda Bridge (below) is a great example of such a modification.

The rail traffic was carried on the lower deck just above the cement pilings.
The roadway was later added at the top of the bridge trusses so that it could extend over the sides.
The bridge approaches gently sloped up to allow the traffic to climb up onto
the top of the bridge trusses.

7 mile bridge (below) is the longest bridge on the overseas highway.
The old railroad bridge can be seen to the left

Pigeon Key - in the middle of 7 mile bridge is bypassed by the new bridge.
Once known as one of most beautiful rest stops in america,
a ramp from the 7 mile bridge led travelers onto the key.
It originally served as a work camp during rail road construction.

After Transiting back east the length of the Keys
we stopped for two nights at Point of View RV Resort in Key Largo.

The view from our site.

Another view from our site.

The pool area.

The Pool at sunset

Yep…  this place is pretty nice.
A guy could get used to hanging out here but unfortunately
my wallet is not large enough.

We'll stay here tomorrow and then we head back north up the east coast of Florida.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Miami - aka Girls on Film

On Sunday we moved from Tampa over the the Southeast Coast of Florida.

On the way south we met sailboat buds 
Bobby and Lesley for Brunch at a Cracker Barrel on I-75..
Bobby & I owned the same sailboat models…  only a few hull numbers apart.

They had just arrived back in the US after bringing their boat back from the
Caribbean after 7 years.
They were on the way to pick up a new puppy….  an exciting day for sure.

It was a quick visit but always nice to see them.
My last time visiting with both of them was Christmas eve on their boat in Grenada..
I had just arrived from a month at sea sailing a 50' Sailboat from Spain,
 the beers and Shepard Pie we shared was a welcome respite.

Here in the Miami area we've been staying at an RV Park outside of
the Metro area in Farm Country.

While here we have been visiting with our Sailboat Buddies
Hayden and Radeen who are doing their winter cruise on their sailboat
and have been spending the last month in the Coconut Grove area at Dinner Key.

Dinner Key is an historic area and once served as the base for the 
Pan American World Airways flying clipper seaplanes that serviced Latin America.

The old terminal building is now Miami City hall.

Many of the old hangers and the ramps the clippers used to exit the water
are still here.
Much of the area is now part of the City Owned Dinner Key Marina.
A huge expanse of docks and mooring fields.

This weekend was the world renowned Coconut Grove Art Fair, this
year being the 50th anniversary.

There was amazing displays presented by artists from all over the world.

Some examples

Then today we shifed gears.
It was time to rub elbows with the rich and famous and head over to
Miami Beach.

For those of you who are not sure of the geography…

Miami beach is separate from Miami.   It is across Biscayne Bay on
a barrier island.

On the map below you can see Miami to the left and Miami Beach to the right.

Collins Ave is the main beachfront road that runs north/south.
In south beach it becomes the world famous art deco district.

The Art Deco Architecture coupled with the brightly colored buildings 
creates a festive feel.   The thumping music and the throb of Lamborghini's passing
by tells you that you are in a special place.
A place where the rich and famous come to play and be seen.

4 of the not so rich and famous…
But a great group none the less.

South Beach is the scene of many photo shoots.

Many famous models got their start along these streets and
Keeping with our theme of the day…
Girls on Film..
we did our own photo shoot with a couple of very special models.

Splendor in the Grass...

The Girls of Havana...

The Girls of the Fountain...

They came, they saw, they conquered.
We'll call it a wrap and go to print!

The Doods are always a big hit wherever they go and today was no exception.

Now - they are passed out in the Dog House from the strenuous work 
of a South Beach Photo Shoot.  They'll sleep well tonight.

Sadly - once again it was time to say goodbye to Hayden & Radeen.
We had a great time and as usual..  it passed way to fast.
Way to fast….
See you down the road my seafaring friends.
We are off to the Keys.