Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Some of my Favorite Things....

I recently found a website that is 'Awesome'--
and it inspired me to share a few of my favorite things with you...

Family!  Nephew, Mark, and his wife, Mary, came down from Minnesota to experience a little of Florida's sun and the company of brother, Don and myself.  We did a sightseeing trip in the Villages then another the next day at Don's place.  There is no company better than family.

Oldtimer's being kids! The villages boasts some 60,000 residents and all of them have a golf cart--or two.  Some carts are dressed up like the fancy hot rods these old geezers wanted as teenagers.  And here's a short video that will make you want one too:

Small towns that preserve their great old houses.  This town is Mount Dora where I had 'steak and kidney pie' at the local tearoom.  The waitress informed me that the kidneys in the pie were actually mushrooms because we Americans 'won't eat kidneys.' Yep, kidneys are not one of my favorite things.

Personalized mail boxes.  I think home delivered mail is going to disappear one of these days and these boxes will go too.  I will be sorry to see them go.

Small towns with great views.  This is in the heart of Mt. Dora.  The town sits on the edge of a very picturesque lake.

My little RV.  I can park anywhere, I get great gas mileage and the RV didn't cost more than my house back in Tucson.
Clean bathrooms in RV parks.  Overall the bathrooms and showers have been great.  Sometimes they are unexpected places to meet your neighbors.  I was in the one above one evening when the room filled up with ladies attending the bingo game and pot luck next door in the club house.  I was in my stall and had just stripped down and was preparing to enter the  shower  when some idiot (me) stepped backwards into the curtain and brought the whole rod down.  I found out two of the ladies were from Illinois as they helped me rehang the rod.

Alligators in raincoats!

Quiet little RV parks with good shade...

Lazy streams..
Walking bridges...
And Spanish Moss.

And Sigh Me when she sees a squirrel.

Oh!  Let me at him!

Oh Shucks!  there he goes.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Kennedy Space Center

I expected to spend only a few hours here but ended up spending the entire day.  To start, the complex had a kennel for Sigh Me.  She wasn't happy about it but the 85 degree day would have been too much for her in the RV.

I would like to be able to name all the buildings and rockets  that I took pictures of but I don't remember.  The one above is part of the assembly area.

The Kennedy Space Center sits in the middle of Cape Canaveral and is surrounded by the Merritt National Wildlife Refuge.

This is called the 'Rocket Garden'. I kept thinking that Jamie and Aunt Louise would have really enjoyed seeing this.

The size of the rockets is what strikes you as you walk around them.

Two astronauts sat inside this capsule for 14 days (!) as they circled the earth.  They were not even able to straighten out their legs.  I will think about that the next time I  complain about the RV being too small to live in.

This is actually a mock up of the shuttle.  The actual shuttles were inside some of the buildings. They were being decommissioned in preparation for their trips--one to Houston, one to LA and one to remain at Kennedy. They will be on display in a few months.

This is the part of the tour that moved me the most.  It is the actual computer command center for the Apollo program that led us to the moon.  A re-inactment stirred up all my patriotic emotions and made me very proud of my country. I like to believe our greatest achievements are in the advancement of science and knowledge and not in the promotion of war.  (Am I living in a fairytale world?)

This is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

 Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed their Lunar Module(LM) on the Moon on July 20, 1969 and walked on its surface while Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit in the command spacecraft, and all three landed safely on Earth on July 24. Five subsequent Apollo missions also landed astronauts on the Moon, the last in December 1972. In these six spaceflights, 12 men walked on the Moon. These are the only times humans have landed on another celestial body.[3]

I wish I could describe how big this is.  The rocket, in all its stages, was laid out in this building from base to module and it was awesome!

How many miles to the gallon?

What an era to be born in!  Did Columbus feel the same pride?  What will bring the same feelings in the future?  And how long from now?

If you have never heard Carl Sagan's, "The Pale Blue Dot" then here it is from YouTube:


It is wonderful and says it all.

This is a moon rock.  And I touched it!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Cape Canaveral Wildlife Refuge

I have learned that my niece, Jean Larson, is a poet and has just published her first book of poems, "The Superior Life".  The following is one of her poems, written for the boundary waters of Minnesota but it also reflects the experiences I am having:

The Superior Life
by Jean Larson

I wish for nothing more than this cobble beach, this sun,
these pines, this necklace of air

When we suffer we put it on again to Be..

whole & healed.  To remember the feeling
of our Selves.  This smooth tumbled stone in my palm.

 I left Deland and headed for the east coast for a few days.  Along the way I learned that the Kennedy Space Center wanted to maintain a large area around the launch pad that is 'human-free' so they created a wildlife refuge.  What a neat idea!

Of course I explored every bit of it and saw wild boars, an armadillo, several manatees, alligators and lots and lots of birds..all while, what my friend Jayne calls,  'Cadillac Hiking'. What is that? you ask.  Cadillac Hiking is covering dirt roads, rugged terrain and out-of-the-way places while driving instead of walking.  I think it should be an Olympic event.  I would surely get the gold medal.

From everywhere in the refuge you can see the Space Center in the distance.

The Atlantic Ocean was calm and restful this morning.  And this time I actually got out of the RV and hiked.

This guy was catching fish--quite a few actually, but none very large. I don't think he cared.

I took this dirt road because the Wittman's recommended it and without the recommendation I probably would not have tried it.  By the way, how do the reptiles, critters & fowl know it's okay to move in?

 These guys are sure not endangered anymore.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Deland or De Land--a really pleasant stop

On my way over to the east coast of Florida I made a stop in Deland.  I had two was to spend time at the local library doing some genealogy research for Aunt Louise (Looking for ancestors named Hatchett) and to say hello to the very nice couple above, Wayman and Barbara Wittman.  The Wittmans are friends of Donna Mae and they winter in Florida every year. They have been RVing for years in a lovely Airstream and were able to tell me of some of their favorite stops and if I visit them all I will have to extend these travels for at least another year.  It was a lovely two days with very nice company.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, WAYMAN!

Near the RV park and tucked away on an out-of-the-way road was an orange orchard where I could stock up on some of those unbelievably sweet Florida oranges I am always craving.  The lovely people that run the orchard (above) were so enthusiastic--they kept plying me with samples from their favorite trees.  I am sure they knew my addiction..."Come here little girl and try this luscious Valencia."  They were diabolical--I may have to go back there and get another fix.

The RV park sat on this lovely little river.  It was noted for being a good place for fishing.

Now I wonder why there isn't a national fishing license for vagabonds like me.  I would love to catch my breakfast from time to time but I would have to buy the pole and all the gear, find a place  to store it  (no small matter these days) and then buy a license for each state I enter.  It's kinda like my driver's registration renewal.  It took 6 wks and a visit to a Florida police station to convince Arizona they should take my money without me driving all the way back there.  But they warned me--"Just this once!"  So I may have to find a new state of residence or go back to Arizona next winter when registration comes due.  Hmm.. We'll see. So why not a National Registration for vagabonds like me?
Other headaches:  No library card and my health and dental insurance are very limited while out-of-state.  There are pluses since the last time my family and I traveled extensively--ATM cards, internet and cell phones.  So some progress in the last 30 years.

While standing on the bank of that river I looked to my left and saw this...

These guys were just hanging around looking at the same view and totally unperturbed that I was standing there too.

What do you suppose he's thinking?  "Hmm, sure glad I have a National Fishing License."

Monday, February 20, 2012

A belated Valentine story

This is about Donna Mae (my husband's sister) and Dale Reishus, a happily married couple for nearly 60 years.

They came from the same small town in Minnesota, fell in love while still in high school and became engaged when Dale joined the Navy during WWII.  While serving on a ship (coincidentally named USS Dale) Dale kept a diary of his experiences and poured into this journal his feelings for Donna Mae, the girlfriend back home he had nicknamed 'Smiley'.

When Dale left the ship at the end of the war to dash home to his 'Smiley', he forgot his diary.  It was hidden away in a spot so remote that it wasn't found again until the ship was decommissioned in the early 2000's.  One of the crew working on the ship found the diary, and through various clues in the book was able to locate Donna Mae.  Dale had died several years earlier so imagine, if you can, the emotions Donna Mae experienced when she received for the first time and read this very personal account of the love Dale  held for her throughout a very long and frightening war.

Donna Mae has donated the diary to the Library of Congress and it is there for anyone to read--and it is a love story worth reading.  As I read a copy of it the entry that most struck me was how  eagerly Dale awaited mail from the US.  Letters came months apart but when they arrived it was a lifeline in the unbelievably grim backdrop of the war in the South Pacific.

The inside cover has a picture of 'Smiley' and you can see how she got the nickname.

Newspapers have done stories about the diary and it's long journey plus the governor's wife had Donna Mae to lunch one day.

'Smiley' and her sailor at their 50th wedding celebration.  Altogether they had three children and 6 grandchildren and Donna Mae now lives in a suburb of Minneapolis.

I wanted to blog this on Valentine's Day but couldn't get the Internet to behave for me.  But the story is timeless and inspirational.