|Spring Adventures 2007|
Early April 2007 found Lionheart back at the dock of our friends Jerry and Sistie Sheppard in Pompano Beach, Florida. We actually arrived before they returned from their spring cruise down the west coast of Florida. Now these guys are the "Closet Loopers" whom we met in Canada last year while traversing the Trent Severn Canal. While they never joined the AGLCA (the Looper organization) nor did they buy a burgee or T-shirts, they did complete the Great Loop when they crossed their wake somewhere in Florida this spring. Being the rugged individualists that they are, they have formed a new and exclusive group (2 members only) called the Great Circlers, or something like that. In any event, when they finally arrived with their boat, they graciously parked it at a neighbor's dock, allowing us to keep Lionheart at their dock while we did some land traveling. As any boater knows, a free dock is not to be sniffed at and we consider ourselves very lucky to have such generous friends. And, I should mention too that they are very funny and love to cook and eat. Now what's not to like about that combination?
When the Sheppards did arrive home around April 10, it was by car. They had left their boat, Why Knot, in Ft. Meyers on the west coast of Florida with the intention of going back to it in a week or so to bring it across Florida in the Okeechobee Waterway which actually crosses Lake Okeechobee and ends around Stuart, Florida on the east coast. Stuart is one of the major starting points for the Great Loop cruise because the Okeechobee cuts through Florida about half way up the state and cuts off the longer trip down to Key West and then back up the east coast. Since we started the Loop in Key West, after arriving there via the Panama Canal and Caribbean, we finished the Loop in Key West. The other factor was that Lionheart has too deep a draft to traverse the Okeechobee except in very high water. Since Florida has basically had a drought for the past several years, the Okeechobee is very low and not passable for deeper draft vessels.
After the Sheppards arrived, we basically partied for a week on the their dock, having a wonderful time catching up on our various adventures over dinner every night. Everyday found up making necessary purchases, repairs, and installing all the new goodies the Captain had ordered delivered to Florida. By mid-April we were ready to leave Pompano Beach and start our land cruising adventure in Florida.
Bright and early April 16, the 4 of us and Nikolas loaded into our small sized rental car and headed west. First stop was at the Pompano Pet Lodge, a 5-Star Pet Resort, to get Nick settled into his 3-story luxury cat condo. It was very nice, with a penthouse, master suite with scratching post, and a poop deck. The plan was to give him a little vacation from the boat while we did the same. After a successful drop-off, which only garnered a kind of dirty look from the boy, we headed for Ft. Meyers on the west coast via US 75, also known as Alligator Alley. The road takes you straight across the state, through the Everglades (Great Cypress National Preserve). Somehow I had envisioned big cypress trees draped with Spanish moss (which is really not Spanish at all but an air plant in the pineapple family), and a swampy woodland including plenty of alligators. Alligators yes, beautiful swampy woodland, no. The swamp is mostly flat. No cypress trees (at least not near enough to the road to see) but there are some low trees and enough heavy ground cover that one is sure one would not want to go for a walk in these woods. Alongside the road on the north side is a sluggish canal and that is where the alligators hang out in pretty big numbers, sunning themselves along the banks. Thankfully, there is a big fence between the roadside and the canal. Still, having a flat out there would not be a good thing!
Once in Ft. Meyers, which is a lovely old city, we dropped the Sheppards off at Why Knot, which was docked in the city marina, so they could continue the final leg of their Loop and we headed north and east to Orlando by way of Lake Okeechobee. We drove through flat farming country parallel to the Okeechobee Waterway and made it to the Lake in about an hour. When the Seminole Indians populated this central area of Florida, Lake Okeechobee received the runoff from the Kissimmee River Basin to the north. The lake flooded every spring, providing water and soil through acres of sawgrass, down the peninsula and out to the sea. This changed in the 1930's when the development of South Florida demanded an end to the annual flooding. The Army Corps of Engineers then built a series of levies, dams, and canals to control this situation.
We drove around the western shore of the lake until we arrived at the little town of Okeechobee. There we walked out to see where the levee, beach and shoreline used to be. The lake is so low now that there are miles of shoreline that are a 1000 yards from the water. As it turned out, the water was too low for Why Knot to cross, even though they draw 1-1/2 feet less than Lionheart, so they turned south and made their way around the tip of Florida. We left the shore of Okeechobee and headed to Orlando where we had reserved a hotel room for a week to visit the many sights of Orlando and to enjoy a room big enough for 2 beds, a table and chairs, a shower larger than Lionheart's 2 heads put together, and still room to walk around. As my Dad would have said, "We were livin' in tall cotton." You have to realize, this was not the Ritz-Carlton, however, for a boat dweller, it was a lovely change of space!
We had an absolute blast at Walt Disney World. We started with the Epcot Center. Just driving to Epcot through the huge park environment that is Disney World was amazing. There are a number of resorts around all the park attractions which include golf courses, lakes, and a Town Center much like the Irvine Spectrum. Once at Epcot we went on every ride of interest to us. Actually, we loved the Soarin' ride so much that we stood in line twice and rode twice. I understand that ride is also available at the California Park in Anaheim and we both highly recommend the experience. Just fabulous! In the late afternoon we took the monorail around Disney World and once again marveled at the huge hotels and beautiful grounds. We got off at the Grand Floridian Hotel which has been built to resemble the beautiful Del Coronado Hotel in San Diego. Looking out from their main bar onto the grounds revealed several swimming pools, a beach, and acres of manicured grounds. Back at Epcot for dinner and then the truly amazing, or perhaps awesome is a better word, light and fireworks show. It was an hour of absolute magic staged in and over the central lake of Epcot. By the time the show ended and we hobbled to our rental car, we had had a 12-hour, magnificent day and we were just exhausted! However, the next day found us up and out to the Animal Park by 10:00 AM. This too was a beautiful park and much more crowded with families with young children. We lucked out and got on the one big roller coaster ride in that park. There was a long line so we got passes for later in the day and then, as luck would have it, some people with extra passes for that very time gave us 2. Yup, we liked it so much that we stayed all day so we could ride it a second time using our own passes. We were not so lucky with the Safari Ride for which we waited over an hour. It was another hot and humid day with not as much inside entertainment as Epcot, so we left at 6:00, after our second ride on the Yeti. (I think that's the name of the ride. For sure it is the name of the monster that jumps out at you and shakes the world.) Another great day at Disney World.
The next day we visited the MGM-Disney Studio Adventure Park. Once again, we had an absolute blast. The major rides there are the inside fast roller coaster that is supposedly a limo ride to a concert, and the Tower of Terror. We liked both and loved the fact that they were inside, therefore, air conditioned. We really enjoyed the 2 special effects shows we saw. One was a car racing demonstration that was just fantastic. The other was the Indiana Jones show. We ate dinner at a very good rendition of Farmer's Market in LA and stayed for the evening light and fireworks show. Again a fabulous display of imagery and fireworks focusing on the Disney characters, both good and evil, all orchestrated by a sequined mouse whom we all know and love. While touring the history of Walt Disney's life and works exhibit, we learned that Mickey was originally "Mortimer" Mouse. However, when Walt told his wife his name, she suggested something less monumental, thus "Mickey" was born.
By Friday we were theme parked out, so we drove over to Cape Canaveral and visited the Kennedy Space Center and we were really awed by what we saw and learned on the general tour which we took that day. We started by walking around the main NASA exhibit grounds, looking at examples of the rockets that led from WWII to the current Shuttle Program. We stood about a mile from the main launch site currently in use. We learned about how the launch vehicle and the shuttle are prepared in a massive building and then moved (ever so slowly) on a special "crawler" on the "crawler way" from the building to the launch pad. All of this is on a barrier island at Cape Canaveral, so you are taken on a bus from the NASA Center across a causeway to the work areas which are close to the launch site. The launch pad is 3 miles from all of the buildings so that they don't get blown away by the launch itself. In order to protect the birds and wild life that might be close to the launch pad when they are ready to go, they broadcast an ear-splitting claxon which clears the area and saves the birds and bunnies. Of course, since it is a swampy island environment, there are alligators around but they don't have water close to the launch pad so the gators don't have a problem. We were so impressed with everything we saw in one day, we decided it was worth another trip from Orlando to see the Astronaut Museum and the historical tour. Indeed, it was worth the 45 min. drive each way to tour the abandoned launch pad where the Apollo 1 astronauts were lost in an awful fire. The launch pad that sent the Apollo astronauts to the moon. We saw the beach house where the astronauts partied and still do. And we saw what now appear to be primitive bunkers where the launch crews sat when the early rockets, bearing monkeys and then men were sent up in the early 1960's. Most of all we were impressed with the enormous amount of scientific data has been generated by the entire space program. While there are currently a number of nations contributing to the construction and manning of the new International Space Station, the good old USA has been the unqualified leader in the continued exploration of space. We were once again acutely aware of the vision, courage, and sacrifice of the scientists and astronaut scientists who have worked their whole lives to take humans into space and to explore the universe. While Sputnik started the race, the Russians have pretty much dropped out. China and India are just capitalizing on all that has been learned as a result of the American drive to explore, and the Arab theologians appear to be more interested in living in the Dark Ages than taking advantage of science and technology. We left the Kennedy Space Center proud to be Americans and glad that John Kennedy had a vision that accomplished so very much.
Back in Orlando, we visited the Magic Kingdom, toured the Town Center, and attended Circ du Soliel. By the end of 7 days of magic, we were ready to leave the theme parks behind and visit some other historical sights on the west coast of Florida.
On April 24, we drove to Sarasota and visited the winter home of the Ringling Bros. Circus and the home of John Ringling, Ca de Zan. This home is built in the Hearst Castle tradition but on a smaller scale. It is right on Sarasota Bay and looks like a Venetian Villa. John Ringling was a dedicated art collector. He built a separate museum to house his collection on the grounds of Ca de Zan. We were impressed by his collection of 17th and 18th Century Dutch and Italian paintings. Also on the grounds of the estate, which are now owned and operated by Florida State University, Sarasota, is the Ringling Bros. Circus Museum and a scale model of the circus at a performance stop. The whole day zipped by as we enjoyed a virtual trip to the history of the circus and one of the main men behind the Ringling Bros. That night we stopped a little further down the coast in Naples and the next morning headed back across Alligator Alley to pick up Mr. Cat and return to the boat.
On May 1, we headed for the Ft. Lauderdale airport to fly to California for a visit. This time we left Nick in the care of the Sheppards. While he was invited into their home for the duration, he opted to stay on the boat at the dock. Sistie and Jerry graciously let him go off boat and explore their yard until he turned up missing, causing them to search by foot and by car for hours. Of course, he showed up later, coolly meandering out of the bushes, oblivious to the panic he had caused, and thereby he lost his license to roam.
Our visit to California was brief. The major purpose was to attend the graduation of Erik Miller from Woodbury University. Erik is the young man whom the Captain has mentored since Erik was in 8th grade. This partnership was formed through the Jump Start Program which pairs mentors with young people who show scholastic potential but need some extra help to continue to achieve in school and life and, hopefully, to attend and graduate from college. When Erik graduated from high school and was accepted at Woodbury, Richard promised to attend his graduation. Who knew in 1996 that he would be on the east coast when it happened? Erik graduated after completing a 5-year course in architecture. The ceremony was very impressive. The speaker was the CEO of Countrywide, Angelo Mizolo, who made a very impressive address to the Class of 2007. Seeing Erick walk across that stage and receive his diploma was a special moment for us and a huge achievement for him and his family.
We tried to see as many friends as we could but concentrated on visiting the kids and grandkids. We stayed at Rich and Lesley's home, so we had some good times with CT and Riley. They both attend Polytechnic School where Rich spent grades 7-12 and is very active with the alumni and parents groups. CT is in Grade 2 and Riley is in Kindergarten. It's fun to visit their classrooms and help with their homework. Lesley is working on her Ph.D. and Rich just bought a cosmetics company so they are managing to stay busy while we are away.
We spent a day with Dennis and his family at the L.A. Zoo. Zachary was 3 in March and Jillian will be 1 in June. Zack is very interested in animals and everything that happens around him. Jillian was not yet walking but she was a willing rider in the family "safari" wagon and loved to be carried by Mom or Dad. Unfortunately, they are so young, and we have only seen them 2 times since we left on our adventure, so they hardly know us. Missing our family is really the big downside of cruising. However, it's wonderful to see them when we can and see how great everyone is doing. Wendy is working as a nutritionist in a dialysis unit and Dennis has a new job at The Aerospace Corp., located by LAX. Needless to say, they are managing to stay busy as well.
No trip to SoCal would be complete without seeing Joanne. This time we met the youngest Mayne, another Zack! He is the son of Chris and Joyce Mayne and he is just adorable. Another little Trojan makes the scene. As we tried to drive Rich's Audi, we realized that auto technology has produced vehicles that are smarter than we are. This beautiful silver car is capable of locking you out, while you have the key in your hand. It tells you where to go, and it shows you a map of how to get there. One week is not enough to master a car of this quality. When we get back and go to buy a new car, I will endeavor to find one that is not as technically advanced as this one. As for driving his Porsche: All I can say is the Captain couldn't even get the gas cap to open! Thank God for cell phones!
While ripping around in the Audi (between calls for instructions from Rich) we managed the see our pals, the Feslers, the Noguchies, the Knopfs (ever so briefly), the Nolls, Joan, Vici, Elaine, Ro, and Penny. It was great to have a little catch-up time with each. We also saw some doctors and caught up on our mail, finding out that we had been cancelled by our health insurance. Gadzooks! How does this happen while you are on auto-pay? Well, it can. I must say health insurance can be a big problem for travelers. Just one more reminder that we are cruising and this is not a lifestyle that is easily dealt with by the phone answering computers of this age of technology. Give me a good old fashioned insurance agent any day!
On May 9, we flew back to Pompano Beach to rescue the Sheppards from the escape antics of Mr. Cat. We were planning to cruise out of there on May 10, but weather got in the way. Lots of high wind and thunderstorms kept us at the dock until the 15th. Our delay allowed us to celebrate Mother's Day with a fantastic lobster dinner. Our plan for leaving included Why Knot buddy boating up to the Chesapeake, however, mechanical problems kept them at the dock, waving us away and planning to catch us up the road. I am writing this page in Washington, DC, on June 29, and they have not caught up yet! I don't know if it's something we did, or Nick did!!!????
We are spending a month (we think) in WDC, then back down the Potomac and into the Chesapeake where we will cruise as the wind and sights beckon. We always love to hear from family and friends, so please call or e-mail us.
Dinner on the dock with Jerry, Sistie and neighbor, Marion. A feast and good times for all!
The Locks on Lake Okeechobee control the depth of the lake when there is not a drought.
Our first trip to Disney World. We had an absolute blast!
The Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral was the highlight of our land cruise in Florida.
John Ringling's home in Sarasota.
This miniature recreation of a real circus is unbelievably large and detailed. We were amazed.
In California, we took in the new Richard Sera Sculpture at the new concert hall at OCPAC.
Riley, on his trampoline or anywhere, is constantly in motion.
Charles Thomas celebrates his 8th birthday with Dad and friends.
Ice cream cake and Mom.....what's could be better?
May 5, 2007, Erik Miller graduates from Woodbury University with a degree in Architecture. His final project is on the right. It's a model of a renovation of the LA Coliseum. Congratulations to Erik and family. We are very proud of you.
A day at the LA Zoo with Wendy, Jillian, Dennis and Zachary. A great day for Grandma and Grandpa.
Penny, Ro and I have celebrated our birthdays together every May for years. We missed in 2006 but got to renew the tradition in 2007. It was sure great to see them both.
Happy to meet Zack Mayne.
This is a picture of Sue at the Dana Point Chart House where we met Tom and Edna Noll for dinner. Being technologically challenged, I obviously deleted the Noll photo but I wanted to commemorate the event anyway! It was a great to see them that evening.
Dinner at El Cholo with Mary, Dave and Joanne.
Back in Florida and back on the Intracoastal Waterway, May 15. A fond farewell to our friends in Pompano. North to the Chesapeake!
Completely tired out from his land explorations, Nick assumes his "cruising position" on the saloon couch. I am sure he is thinking about those fine iguanas on the dock and the birds raising a squawk every time he went "off boat". A great cat vacation adventure.