March 29th to April 5th, 2005
We started to the
airport about 3:30 A.M. The good
news was that we were in Florida by 10:30 A.M. Florida time, so we had a share
of the day to do some things and acclimate from 40 degrees and brown and dingy
to 80 degrees and green and tropical.
We stayed in Orlando,
close to the action of the city and the traffic.
I am not one who relishes driving in traffic jams and highway congestion
but sometimes you just can’t avoid it to do the things you want to do.
We walked around the area a bit, and then drove to a very nice park
called “Wekiwa Springs State Park”.
The park has a beautiful pool area, crystal clear, built around the
springs that flow in, and it was quite beautiful.
We walked along a boardwalk in the lush vegetation ever so different from
what we had left in Minnesota. There
were lots of large palm trees down close to the walk that were a reminder of the
two hurricanes that had gone through the area.
We ate at a very good
Italian restaurant on the way home. I
have this pact with Joan that we avoid any chain restaurants when we are on
vacation, which is sometimes difficult to do.
You get on some of those built up strips of highway, and you can just
predict all of the eating places you will see, and it takes some searching to
find something local.
On Wednesday morning we
headed to the Epcot Center, the only Disney attraction we intended to visit.
day was beautiful with full sun, and temps in the low 80’s.
We walked around Future World for quite a while, and went on a thrilling
ride called. “Mission-Space”. All
of the warning signs they had before the ride was almost enough to scare anyone
from going on it. Neck problems,
back problems, fear of enclosed places, heart problems, high blood pressure,
etc….it said to avoid the ride. Well,
we finally got to the ride itself, and we entered the “module”.
It really was quite thrilling! We
could watch the screen as we blasted off, and could actually feel the “G”
forces and motions that matched the screen.
We also had the feeling of floating in space for a bit too.
Not sure how they did it, but it was exciting!
From there we headed to
the World Showcase area where
many nations have large exhibits about their nations.
went on some more rides, ate, looked around, and watched some of the
performances from the various nations. The temperature got to 86 later in the
It was crowded but things moved pretty well, but I was ready to go in the late afternoon, so we headed out. In the parking lot we ran across some people who had been searching for their car. They couldn’t remember quite where they had parked. Luckily, we did.
we headed to the Kissimmee area. This
pronounced Kis-SIM-ee. There
was lots of road construction that slowed us down considerably.
We headed to a nature sanctuary area that had been set aside in exchange
for large tracts of land that had been developed. “Mitigated Land” was the official title of the area.
We went for a long walk, about three miles, through native short palms
and other flora.
Again, it was a beautiful sunny day. Both
Joan and I used sunscreen to prevent getting sunburned.
We went to downtown Kissimmee and ate at a little café on a side street.
It was near several antique shops so went in to a number of them. Joan found
some jewelry with rhinestones that she liked, and bought a necklace and
earrings. Then the electricity went
out in the area, so we headed out of town!
We went by a massive flea market so we stopped in for a while, and went
through several buildings. Joan
found a watch she liked, but that was the only purchase we made.
The temperature rose to 93 degrees, with full sun, a bit of contrast to
We had a nice relaxing
evening meal not far from our motel after another busy day.
April 1, we headed for a tour of the Kennedy Space Center.
We had made reservations for the “Close Up” tour, so we got to see
sections of the center that the regular tours do not see.
is really an impressive place. The
size of things dwarfs one. It was
interesting to see the actual sites that I had seen on television so many times.
The buildings are massive. We
saw the launch pads, went into the building where different sections were being
readied for the space flight in May, and went into a building where they
displayed the massive Saturn 5 rocket displayed horizontally.
It went on for what seemed to be a city block. One can just imagine the
ground shaking for miles when one of those blast off.
We touched a moon rock.
Think about that.
That evening we
ate at a very nice Chinese restaurant, and had a meal of seafood, of course. I
had a shrimp curry dish that was just excellent.
Saturday, April 2
brought a morning of rain. It was a warm rain, but rain nonetheless. We headed
back toward Kennedy Space Center and went to the Astronaut Hall of Fame.
Since both of us have grown up with space exploration from its
beginnings, it was interesting to see some of the artifacts from early flights.
I have a real interest in Apollo 11, and have autographed pictures of the three
astronauts on the wall of my den, so I took particular interest in that.
You probably know that
the Space Center is in the middle of a gigantic nature preserve, and that during
a blastoff people are kept at least 3 ½ miles away from the actual blast site.
Well, when there is not a launch scheduled this preserve can be visited,
so that’s what we did. Did you
also know that there’s a lot of alligators in this area?
They figure about 5,000 of them. Additional
security, they call it. The weather
cleared, and the sun came out.
One of the
points on the map said that it was a manatee viewing area, so we thought we’d
check that out, and sure enough, there they were, right in front of us!
They are a massive creature, so slow moving, surfacing periodically for a
gulp of fresh air, but otherwise, just grazing on the bottom of the river.
The water was very clear, which made viewing quite interesting.
We had seen manatees in murky river water before and hadn’t really been
able to observe them.
From there we went to
the National Seashore, and walked the beach, collecting a few interesting
shells. It was breezy, but
comfortable. From there we headed
north to St. Augustine, a city that dates back to the early 1500’s.
We went to the “Old
Town” area and indeed that is what it is, with very narrow streets, lots of
little shops, and a quaint atmosphere that shows the Spanish influence of the
area. We walked over to Fort
Castillo de San Marcos, which is made of massive walls that are about 15 feet
thick and made of a material that isn’t damaged by cannonballs. We toured the various areas, and watched them shoot a cannon
over the bay.
There was a local art
show in the park, so we walked through that also, and headed to our motel.
We ate at a place called the Gypsy Cab Company and had another great
seafood dinner. From there we
headed back into St. Augustine and the Old Town, and went on a walking “ghost
tour” in the dark.
We had a young lady as our tour guide who took us to various sites that
were supposedly haunted, including two cemeteries. She had some interesting
tales, and told them well, so it was a fun evening.
The next morning was
another lovely sunny day. We drove
to Anastasia State Park, and walked the beach for a while, and a few of the
trails. They had a massive hill of
old shells that were deposited there by a Native American culture very long ago.
That took a lot of shells.
From there we went
to a place called Alligator Farm and Nature Preserve, and it was much nicer than
I had anticipated. It was very
clean, they had very well designed displays, and lots of wildlife.
walked around for several hours looking at the alligators, the egrets,
spoonbills, and wood storks.
Next we went over the
Bridge of Lions to St. Augustine and visited the Fountain of Youth.
Yes, we drank of the fountain, and I even bought a small bottle to bring
back with us.
It was interesting to see the places you learn of in your childhood.
The area is set up for tourism, of course, and it’s amazing the strange
souvenirs one could buy if one were so inclined.
I settled for my little bottle of water.
Our last trek was
back to the Old Town section and to a part of it where re-enactors played the
role of people from the early days of St. Augustine.
There were carpenters, blacksmiths, housemaids, etc, all of whom were in
Our last day was
spent driving back to Orlando, returning the rental car, which was a Chevy
Malibu that worked out just fine, and getting on the flight back home.
We got back early afternoon to mild temperatures, but still the dinginess
of an early spring in Minnesota. We
had some minor problems and inconveniences on the trip, some trouble with one of
the motels, but none of that could sour the fun times we had, adventures we had
had, and the beautiful scenery we had enjoyed.