Travel

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Lost in the Mangroves in the Old Inlet

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Indian River Panorama HDR

So far it had been a great week in Florida. I had gotten out on the kayak for at least one paddling trip each day. In some cases, twice. Doesn’t hurt when you’re staying at a place with a boat ramp right into the Indian River.

This was our last full day in Fort Pierce, and we were going to jam it full of activities. The morning started with a trek out to the Saturday morning Farmers Market in downtown Fort Pierce. We got some vegetables, did some people watching, and Laura was even able to find a cool hat to wear in the Mini Convertible out on the artists section of the market.

Fort Pierce Farmers Market-2
Fort Pierce Farmers Market-3
Fort Pierce Farmers Market-1

When we got back from the market, Laura and Amy headed out for some shopping, and I headed out on the kayak. Most of my treks had been averaging about four miles, and I was determined to get at least one long trip in. (more…)

Gadding about in Florida – Part Two

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Kissimmee Prairie-016

Kissimmee Prairie

This is one of those weeks when I forget when I did what. We’re continuing our travels in Florida, mostly kayaking, but getting out and doing some other exploration.

I’d been out paddling most of the morning Thursday morning, but by the afternoon it was time for something different.  All of us loaded up in the car and headed to Kissimmee Prairie on the interior of the state. (more…)

Gadding about in Florida – Part One

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Indian River Paddling-002

Indian River near Fort Pierce, Florida

We’ve been spending a few days down in Fort Pierce, Florida, at Laura’s sister’s place. Amy had to go away on business, so we cam down to keep her mom company. I brought toys. The Subaru was loaded with more camera and kayak gear than luggage.

Every morning I’ve been getting up and down a short paddling trip before the heat and afternoon thunderstorms hit. I’ve also managed to get in an evening paddle.

I brought the Tsunami because it handles rougher water with ease and is quick enough that I can go some distance. First trip out I headed out to the spoil islands. The morning was clear with a light breeze. The water was relatively flat.

Indian River-003
Indian River-004
Indian River-007 (more…)

Tybee and Bonaventure

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Bonaventure Cemetery-10

Bonaventure Cemetery

This weekend is our monthly outing with Lowcountry Unfiltered. Since our river was down below Savannah, I decided to head down on Friday and do some exploration ahead of time.

My plan was to leave as early as possible, check out the Savannah waterfront and some of the old homes, then check out Bonaventure Cemetery. In the evening I planned to have dinner at the Crab Shack on Tybee Island.

Unfortunately, traffic didn’t cooperate. It was Friday before Easter week, so it seemed like everyone was heading south. I didn’t get down to Savannah until afternoon. The city was a zoo, and I’d had enough traffic, no matter how historic and scenic. I decided to drive on out to Tybee, since I hadn’t been there in a long time. (more…)

Day Trip to Cataloochee

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Catalochee Overlook

Cataloochee Valley, North Carolina

Keith had the day off, and wanted to visit the Cataloochee Valley in North Carolina. The weather looked like it was going to be spectacular, so Wednesday we collected Ken from Clemson and set off toward the Great Smokey Mountains.

Cataloochee Valley is a remote settlement on the eastern side of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Originally a Cherokee hunting area, the valley was settled by the Colwell (later Caldwell) and Palmer families in the early 1800s. Livestock roamed the valleys, and hunting brought in more commerce. By the early 1900s nearly 800 people lived in the valley. Tourism increased in the valley for hunting, fishing, and the spectacular scenery. In 1922 the Great Smokey Mountains National Park was established, which included the Cataloochee Valley. Residents were granted lifetime leases on their properties, but many decided to leave.

Today, Cataloochee is almost as remote as when the park was established. The only way into the valley is over one of two twisting dirt roads. In the 1970s there was a plan to pave a way in, but by the 1980s that was abandoned. The valley is very much like Cades Cove on the western part of the national park, but without the constant crowds. In 2005 a herd of elk were introduced to the valley, and those, along with the scenery and trout fishing serve as the main draw for tourists today. (more…)

25th Anniversary Cruise

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Cruise Sunset

For our 25 Anniversary we wanted to do something special. We had talked about going to New York and catching a a play, or perhaps doing something else. Eventually, we decided to do a cruise to the Bahamas. It was somewhat last minute, but we were able to book a cruise on Royal Caribbean leaving from Port Canaveral with the perfect itinerary. We would leave on our anniversary, December 27th, and would return in time to get home before the madness of New Year’s. We had considered seeing in the new year on a ship, but combined with our trip to see family in Florida, it would be a bit too much.

I’ve been on lots of boats, but we’ve never taken a cruise. Truth be told, we have been avoiding it. We like to control our own destinies, and big cruise ships seemed like large crowded vessels that would send my agoraphobia into overtime. So, a shorter three night tour seemed like a good way to get my feet wet, so to speak.

Our itinerary would take us from Port Canaveral to Nassau, where we would spend a day. We would then travel to Coco Cay (actually, Little Stirrup Key, but Royal Caribbean renamed it when they bought the island), then we would return. We booked three excursions – a glass bottom boat ride in Nassau, kayaking in Coco Cay, and an Eco Boat Tour, also on Coco Cay.

This was our first tour, but I’m resisting the urge to document every detail, as I normally do here. Lots people of been on cruises, so I won’t belabor the point. However, I will start right off by annoying people with a vacation slide show:

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From DC to Home

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August 17-18, 2013

Saturday morning we checked out of our hotel and headed out to Reston, Va, to visit our niece, Katie. Glynda and Houston joined us, and we had a great brunch of blueberry pancakes. After our visit, Laura and I were ready to hit the road toward home. We punched in “Home” on the GPS, and for some reason it started routing us back toward Charlottesville.

Traffic was appalling, especially on the two lane roads. At one point there was a huge backup behind a traffic light. We decided we needed to get back to an Interstate. That was easier said than done, though. Traffic was horrendous everywhere. We finally made it back to I-95 after a full morning of driving, only to find that we were still just a short way from Washington. Traffic was no better on the Interstate.

We were able to push through until we got to the Raleigh area, then found a place to stay for the evening. The next morning we pushed on through and got home without incident early afternoon.

It was a great road trip, and a chance to get to know our Mini a bit better. I took a ton of photos. If you are so inclined, here is a slideshow of the entire trip…

Segway Tour of Washington

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Washington DC - Segway Tour

August 16, 2013

We had missed our morning reservation for our Segway tour, but I was able to get it re-booked for an evening tour. Determined not to miss this again, I rousted Houston and Jeannie from the International Spy Museum and herded them toward the Metro. We arrived at City Segway Tours 45 minutes early. I didn’t mind getting there early – it gave me a chance to get off of my aching feet. I had been walking for three days straight, and was ready for a rest.

I wasn’t sure how many would be on this tour. The other tourists began to gather, and it looked like a fairly large group. The time came, and we first viewed a training video that showed us all the ways we could fall off of these things and get hurt. After the video we were divided into smaller groups and introduced to our guide, Christine.

Meeting Christine (more…)

Missed Connections, Zoos, and Spies

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Time to Die

August 16, 2013

As it turns out, lots of our family and friends were going to be in the area. We had met with Laura’s former student on Wednesday evening. Houston and Glynda were driving up with a truck load of furniture for my niece, Katie, who was expecting her first child. She and Aaron live in Reston, Va. Our friend, Jeannie would be in town, traveling on business. With so many of us in the same place, we decided we needed to get together. Houston made us reservations for a 10:00 am tour with City Segway Tours. We would spend the afternoon in more museums, and then join Glynda, Katie, and Aaron for dinner.

We were going to divide and conquer. Laura wasn’t up for a Segway tour, so she was going to head to her favorite spot in DC, the National Zoo.

I headed out early, seeking breakfast in the Foggy Bottom area so I would be on time for our tour. I found a coffee shop down from Washington Circle, and watched the foot traffic. It was quite a mix of people – students, professors, and professionals all going about their business. I decided that I need to find me a coffee shop in downtown Greenville where I can occasionally go to watch traffic, now that I’m retired.

As I walked toward our rendezvous point, traffic around GWU increased. It was obvious that students were moving back in. They were wheeling big blue carts the sidewalks with clothes and other belongs. at the plaza near the Segway place I got another cup of coffee, and watched a long line of students outside of a financial aid place.

I checked in at City Segway and got settled, waiting for Houston and Jeannie. The time got closer and closer for the tour, but no brother had arrived. Houston called, and somehow had gotten messed up on the Metro. There was no way he was going to make it on time. Fortunately, I was able to get us rebooked for a 6:00 pm tour that day.

Houston and Jeannie arrived at the Foggy Bottom stop about 10:20, and I met up with them outside the stop. I left them to go visit museums on the Mall, since Laura and I had done that yesterday, and I headed out to meet Laura at the Zoo. We made plans to get back together in the afternoon.

Laura had already been at the zoo for awhile when I got there. We visited the big cats, elephants, and most of the major exhibits.

Cheetah at Washington Zoo
River Otters at Washington Zoo

Once again I had left my big camera back at the hotel. I thought I would be riding Segways this morning, and didn’t want the extra weight. Even so, I have an aversion to zoo photography. There is something about photographing animals in captivity that just doesn’t seem right to me, sort of like the cliche of shooting fish in a barrel. I would much rather try to photograph animals in the wild. I find that MUCH more satisfying.

As nice as the weather had been the day before, today it was getting downright hot. With all the walking we had done yesterday and the day before at Monticello, my feet were very tired. I was glad when we got back on the Metro to meet up with Houston and Jeannie.

Our rendezvous point was the International Spy Museum. Laura and I got there first and went into the museum store. I picked up a CD entitled “Music to Spy By”, with classic spy themes from James Bond, Mission Impossible, Man from U.N.C.L.E., among others. Houston and Jeannie joined us shortly, having visited the Natural History Museum.

The spy museum is a tourist trap, but it’s a cool one that actually does have some good information. This was our second time visiting, and Laura and I really wanted to get to some of the exhibits that we missed the first time.

The Spy Museum tends to play more toward the romantic side of spying, both real world and in fiction. There is quite a bit of gadgetry on display. However, they do have some realistic details as well. There are extensive video displays. I would have loved to have viewed all of them, but with the crowds and time limits it’s just not possible. Fortunately, they do have a YouTube channel where many of the videos are available.

James Bond Aston Martin
Enigma Machine

On the lowest level the Spy Museum had an exhibit entitled “Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villians”. There were displays from all of the movies, along with the villains’ evil ploys and the henchmen they employed. It was quite a bit of fun.

Fifty Years of Bond Villains
Gustave Graves Jaguar

We were able to see much more on this visit. Next up, though, was our rescheduled Segway tour, and I was determined that we weren’t going to miss it this time.

Museums, Butterflies, and Long Views

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Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

August 15, 2013

In the last post I forgot to mention dinner. One of Laura’s former students, Scott Moore, is an attorney with the National Science Foundation. Once we got settled into our room we headed west on the Metro to meet Scott at his office at NSF.

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We had a fantastic meal at a local wine bistro. I had scallops and Laura had butterfish, whatever that is. It was one of the best meals of the trip, and we’ve had some good ones. Laura and Scott caught up, and Scott told us about his work at NSF.

The next morning we got up fairly early and headed to the top floor of our hotel for breakfast. The hotel restaurant had spectacular views out across the Potomac and north toward the National Cathedral. It wouldn’t be the last long view that we had today. After a good breakfast a nice view of the city we set out. Our plan was to visit some of the Smithsonian museums, and see what we could find.

I had turned on the Field Trip app from Google on my iPhone. As we approached the Rosslyn Metro station it beeped to let me know that this station’s escalator was the second longest in North America. The longest one was somewhere else in DC.

Abandon All Hope (more…)

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