Thursday, April 25, 2013

Disney's Hollywood Studios and a Barbecue with New Friends

Near Clermont, FL

On Tuesday (after a rest of a few days) we decided to venture out to Disney World again. This time we decided to visit Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Just inside entrance gates
We enjoy getting a glimpse into the world of film making and the "behind the scenes" activities associated with it.  Although this isn't really a busy season yet, the crowds were still pretty heavy.  The weather was great, so I think everyone was thankful for that.  We've noticed that at the beginning of the day everyone looks so fresh and anxious to get into the parks and get going.  By the end of the days, however, both kids and parents are really dragging.

We began our day just shortly after 9:30 AM today and left shortly after 9:00 PM.  Even with as much fun as we had, it still makes for a long day.

We always take the "Backlot Tour" when we come here.  Not only is it on a slow moving tram, but the old
Back lot prop
used props in an area called the "boneyard" are pretty interesting.  Many times, these props are re-purposed and used again on sets.

I sometimes wonder how families can afford to
come to Disney.  Not only are tickets expensive, but so is the food.  Here's a look at one of the cheapest lunches on the menu.  For $33 you got 2 drinks, 2 desserts, 2 turkey sandwiches on ciabatta bread with fries.

I really enjoy the "art of illusion" created in the
making of films.  Here I am standing in front of a huge painted facade intended to show tall city buildings.  The skillful painting of the "buildings" really fools the eye into thinking that the buildings are tall and 3-dimensional. With me in the foreground, you can get an idea of true scale, however.

Several streets of famous cities such as New York,
Chicago, and San Francisco have been constructed for the film making folks when going to the actual locations are not possible.  Every building  in the following collage is a facade only.

I really wanted to get a chance to ride the "Tower of
As close as I got to the "Tower of Terror"
Terror" today, but we ran out of time.

The nightly closing show at the park is called
Fantasmic.  It uses lasers projected onto sprays of water, pyrotechnic effects, and special lighting explore the imagination of Mickey Mouse.  On certain nights (Tuesday being one of them) the show is only at 8:30 PM.  Since it seems as though everyone in the park wants to see this show, early arrival is important.  At times, the amphitheater actually fills to capacity.

We've seen the show before, but it was excellent
again!  No matter what you think of Disney, I think that the Disney Company does this type of amusement park better than anyone.

Last night we got together with four other couples
(L) Bill, Marianne, Kathy, Terry, Donna
we recently met at the Thousand Trails Orlando park and had a barbecue at the site of Marianne and Rich.  All of the couples were fulltimers and we loved listening to the many interesting stories they had to tell.  The food was excellent as always, but the newly made friendships were even better.   Marianne and Rich, Bill and Kathy, Terry and Bob, and Donna and PeeWee I hope to cross paths with you guys again in our travels.
(R) Karen, Rich, Bob, PeeWee

Thanks again for stopping by to take a look!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Biking the West Orange Trail

Near Clermont, FL

One of the great things about blogs is the information exchanged between blog writers and readers.  On  April 18th one of the comments we received from Steve and Joan was about things to do in the Clermont-Winter Garden area.  Since these areas are only about 10 miles north of us we decided that today was a good time to get our road bicycles out of the Honda Fit and take them for a spin.

 In doing a bit of internet research we found that there is a bicycling trail up in that area called the West Orange Trail. The trail runs from Killarney Station (east of Clermont) to the terminus at Apopka (22 miles each way).
Frequent Sign Posts
Just a Bit Out of Killarney Station
Bike Trail thru Center of
Winter Garden
We began at the Killarney Station and headed east thru Oakland, Winter Garden,
and stopped to for a picnic lunch at the Apopka-Vineland Outpost.
 The round-trip distance today for us was approximately 27 miles.

For anyone interested in bicycling, this trail is an excellent place to ride.  The trail is asphalt the entire length and approximately 14 feet in width.  It is in excellent condition and you only cross a couple of "real roads" the entire length of the ride, so families with small kids could also comfortably use the trail.

We wanted to take a look at the Oakland Nature Preserve, but no bikes are allowed on the trails leading thru the Preserve or on the boardwalk leading toward Lake Apopka, so we decided to pass for now.

A big thanks again to Steve and Joan for pointing us in this direction!  We had a very nice ride.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Moving to Orlando TT, My Birthday, Epcot Center

Orlando, FL

If the blog title seems to suggest that we’ve been fairly busy since I posted last Saturday, then it would be accurate.

We left Wickham Park on Monday and drove a whopping 77 miles to the Thousand Trails Preserve west of Orlando, near Clermont, FL.  The last time we were here was back in 1991 when we owned a 19 foot travel trailer.  Suffice it to say that the area has changed quite a bit in 22 years. 

TT Orlando is a very large campground, but because most of the snowbirds have already headed back north and because many of the kids’ spring breaks are over, we were able to get a 50-amp site without too much difficulty.  We’ll be here for 2 weeks before beginning our westward trek culminating in late June at the Escapade National Rally in Gillette, WY.  Between leaving here and arriving in Gillette we honestly have no schedule planned.  We’ll just start west and stop and see things as we’d like.

Gopher Tortoise Leaving Nest
Protective Enclosures throughout
the park for the Turtles

Got a "Happy Birthday" from many passersby today

Tuesday was Steve’s birthday (the big 55) and Karen surprised me by decorating the coach and making an excellent birthday cake for me.  Thank you so much!

We didn't have "55" candles in the rig!

Wednesday we decided to make a trip over to see the “Mouse”. Specifically, we went to Epcot Center for the day.  We were last in the Disney complex back in 2005 when we purchased “non-expiring, park hopper” 7-day tickets. We still had 5 of those days left on the ticket, so we went to Epcot on Wednesday and will probably use 1 more day next week to visit one of the other parks.

I am very glad that we purchased these tickets 8 years ago at the locked in price at that time.  For anyone who hasn’t been to Disney World in some time,  IT’S EXPENSIVE!  A single day ticket for an adult now costs $89.00 plus tax.  I will be the first to admit, however, that I love to visit the mouse.  The second thing which I discovered is that neither of us are as young as when we visited years ago.  By the end of the day we were both pretty worn out. I think Disney does an excellent job at running a theme park.

Epcot Center is currently showcasing the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival.  If you enjoy vibrant flower colors and beautifully manicured topiaries and gardens, this is the time to see Epcot.

On a closing note in this “catch up” blog, I’d like to say thank you to everyone who takes the time to take a look at our blog. Last Sunday we passed the 10,000 view mark.  That still impresses the heck out of us, because when we started this blog it was just to notify a few friends and family members of our whereabouts and what we were doing.

On a final quantitative note, we also picked up our 500th GeoCache. 

GeoCache Find #500!

We began “officially” GeoCaching thru the site back in 2003.  The first couple of years we did a bunch of geocaching and found the first couple hundred caches in no time at all.  We got busy after that and the caching slowed, but now that we are visiting many new and different areas we decided to pick up the GeoCaching “habit” again.

Thanks to all for AGAIN taking a look!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Kennedy Space Center (KSC)

Melbourne, FL

Entrance to Visitor Complex
Over the past few days we had a chance to visit the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on Merritt Island, FL.  We had toured there about 20 years ago and the tour and complex have changed quite a bit since then.  The basic ticket allows entrance to the Visitor Complex and a bus tour of certain areas of the space center. The Visitor Complex includes the Rocket Garden,
Rocket Garden
two IMAX theater presentations, the Astronaut Memorial, exhibits on Early Space Exploration, a Shuttle Launch Experience "ride", the Astronaut Encounter, and a trip to the nearby Astronaut Hall of Fame.  The Astronaut Hall of Fame may be visited on a separate day within 7 days of the ticket's first use.

 If all of this seems like a lot to do in one day you'd be correct.  The Visitor Complex is open currently from 9-5 each day and the Astronaut Hall of Fame from noon-5 each day.  We arrived shortly after 9 the first day and we were still unable to see everything in the Visitor Complex.  We came back on a second day to view the Astronaut Hall of Fame.

Part of the Visitor Complex tour includes a bus ride out to the Vehicle
Vehicle Assembly Building
Assembly Building.  The bus tour  is narrated, but the basic ticket does not include a stop at the VAB.  (I believe it did when we toured years ago.)  Much of this part of the tour includes a stop at the Apollo/Saturn V Center.  This was very interesting and chronicles the space program thru the years.  Whenever you choose to do so, you can re-board the bus for the ride back to the Visitor Complex.
Saturn V Rocket
Astronaut Transport Van
LC-39 Launch Pad

Upon arriving back at the Visitor Complex we attended a short Q&A seminar at the "Astronaut Encounter".
Past astronauts rotate speaking engagements here.  Our astronaut was Edward C. Gibson, part of the Skylab III mission.  This was the final Skylab mission and was the longest manned space flight at that time. Dr. Gibson was very interesting and his short talk was well worth attending.

The second day was spent at the Astronaut Hall of Fame.  Very interesting to learn about the early years of the space program up thru the space shuttles.  Emphasis at this complex is on the early years of the US space program.
We were somewhat disappointed to see a lack of more information on the space shuttle program and especially very little information on the loss of the Challenger (1986) and the Columbia (2003).

The complex is constantly changing and new exhibits being added.  This summer a huge addition will be the opening of an exhibit dedicated to the space shuttle Atlantis.  Atlantis was the last shuttle ever flown by NASA in July, 2011.  The space shuttle program was officially ended in August, 2011.
Future Mars

We had a great visit to the Kennedy Space Center and would highly recommend it to anyone even remotely interested in the US space program and its' evolution thru the years.

Thanks for taking a look!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

8 Days in a County Park?

Melbourne, FL

Are we really staying for 8 days in a county park in which we had no previous knowledge?  Yes, and we are loving it!  We are currently staying in Wickham Park, Melbourne, FL. This park is part of the Brevard County Park system. I haven't been to any of their other parks, but if this one is indicative of others, then I would give them a big thumbs up.

This park is pretty large for a county park and is truly a multi-use park. There is an equestrian show ring and

walking ring, along with several rows of stables.
One of the Horse Stables

Workout Area

The paved road throughout the park winds its' way through large pines, palms, around several ponds, and is
perfect for walking, running, or bicycling.  There are several gravel trails which branch off of the pavement for further hiking, mountain biking, and horse riding.

The park is loaded with activities.  There is a disc golf course.  A very large enclosed dog park.
Swimming allowed in one of the larger ponds.  Volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, children's playgrounds, and even a small amphitheater for outdoor concerts and events.

Going in after another GeoCache

Since I usually check for GeoCaches when I arrive in a new area, I was amazed to find out that there are probably 35-40 GeoCaches within the boundaries of the park.  We haven't found all of them yet, but we're trying to find a few every day. Karen isn't usually too eager to go into heavy underbrush areas down here in FL.

All of this, but I haven't even spoken about the campground yet.  There are now approximately 130 camping sites for both self-contained units and some for tenting.  Almost all are FHU sites.  The pedestals have 20, 30, and 50 amp electrical connections.  All of the utilities worked well.
 Although many of the sites are located under towering pine and palm trees, we chose a site out in the open to make certain that access to a clear sky for satellite reception would be possible.  No cable here.

If you're thinking that it sounds as though we like this park, you'd be correct.  It's very relaxing here and a great place to just get out and walk around.

Thanks for dropping by to take a look!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

End of the TRVN Rally and Moving Down the Road

Melbourne, FL

The Tiffin RV Network Rally in Brunswick, GA ended officially on Saturday, but we decided to stay until Sunday before moving on to our next destination.

Once again, we had a great time at the rally. This is our fourth TRVN Rally and we’ve enjoyed each. We
love meeting new friends and catching up with friends we’ve met in past years. Saturday was a beautiful weather day and a group of bicyclists gathered together to take a group ride over on St. Simons Island.

 We gathered near the post office in the middle of
town and rode up to the Fort Frederica National Monument and back. (I covered the Fort in a previous blog, so you might take a look at the April 4th blog if interested.)

The bike ride was comfortably paced along sidewalks
and bike paths. We met several new friends on this ride alone. Like I said, always a good time at these rallies.

Time to head down the road again, so on Sunday morning we packed up and headed south to Melbourne, FL. The drive was about 4 hours and we had an easy time of it as most folks were heading north along I-95. There were plenty of snowbirds leaving FL for the winter, or now that spring breaks were finished, a great egress of folks were leaving for that reason as well.

We’ll be spending a week at Wickham County Park in Melbourne, FL. The park is very nice.
(More on the Park with pictures in tomorrow’s blog.)
We came to Melbourne to visit with my Dad and his wife who live here and to do some “touristy” exploring
at the nearby Space Center. After a visit with them at their residence we went out to a local Chinese restaurant for dinner.  Very good, but very plentiful!

Thanks for dropping by to take a look!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

St. Simons Island and the Tiffin RV Network Rally

Brunswick, GA

On Wednesday before the TRVN Rally actually got underway we took a drive over to St. Simons Island to visit Fort Frederica National Monument, an area administered by the National Park Service.

The first British settlers landed in this area (of what is now Georgia) on February 18, 1736.  They established
the town of Frederica on the southern end of the British colonies near an area contested by the Spanish.

Fort Frederica was established to protect the town from invasion by the Spaniards both from the land and sea. The town began to decline when the war with Spain ended in 1748. Today not much remains of the fort and town other than a few ruins and earthworks.

There is a beautiful garden named the Wesley Memorial Garden and a very old Christ Episcopal Church nearby. 

The Reverand John Wesley conducted services by the first church inside the walls of Fort Frederica.  The
church has a very old cemetery surrounding today’s building and was very fascinating to visit.

The TRVN Rally officially runs from Wednesday thru Saturday. I can’t believe that we are already half way thru it.  We’ve had a great time thus far and as always have eaten way too much!

This morning began with a discussion of modifications and a general “how to” on several items common to many different coaches.  Several very knowledgeable speakers led the discussion and then took questions from the audience. I always learn from these discussions.

Later Karen and I attended a class on Picasa (the Google picture organizing program) and we picked up a few more helpful tips there to assist with the preparation of the blog.

It rained on and off throughout most of the day, but didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits.  Tonight's dinner was “potluck” style and the variety and quality of the foods were excellent.  I don’t believe anyone can leave our meals still hungry!

Does there seem to be an underlying theme throughout the rally? Could it be that RVers love to eat? I believe so.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!