Florida

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Today we took our boat out of Beach Marine and headed up the Intracoastal. The boys were looking forward to a new adventure.

Underway

We headed west on the St Johns River toward Jacksonville and we’re soon approaching the Dames Point Bridge.

Approaching the Dames Point Bridge

We had crossed this bridge plenty of times in the car, but this was our first time traveling under it.

Dames Point Bridge

Along the way, there were a lot of little barrier islands to explore, so we tied the boat up to one and Cindy snapped some pictures while the boys did a little swimming.

Barrier Island

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Boating season has officially started! Today, the boys and I took Charlie out on the water for a few hours…

On the boat

It seems like it’s been forever since we’ve felt the wind and spray in our face…especially Alex!

On the boat

It was GREAT just being outside! It got a little cloudy and we got a few sprinkles, but that didn’t put a damper on our fun!

On the boat

On the way back to the marina, Adam took the wheel for a bit…

On the boat

while Charlie daydreamed…

On the boat

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ALL ABOARD! With gold tickets in hand and the boys dressed in their pajamas, we boarded The Polar Express in Tavares, Florida, for our trip to the North Pole…

Polar Express Tickets

Today’s experience was our Christmas gift from the boys’ Godparents, Chris and Sherrie, and is based on the more-than-30-year-old Christmas classic, The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsberg, and the 2004 animated movie directed by Robert Zemeckis.

Prairie Dogs

Each car in the train had it’s own steward (ours was named “Hannah”), who directed all of the show’s activities, including the conductor visit, the hobo, the reading of the story by the author, singing Christmas carols, and the hot chocolate song complete with dancing waiters in the isle. She also punched the tickets, of course…

Steward Hannah Tickets Punched

When we reached the North Pole, Santa joined us and presented all the kids on the train with “the first gift of Christmas,” a silver bell…

Santa

The whole experience lasted just over an hour and was well worth the two-hour drive to Tavares! Although Adam questioned: 1) why the trip to the North Pole only took 30-minutes (“because the movie was two-hours”); 2) why, upon reaching the North Pole, there was no snow; 3) why Santa’s gray mustache wasn’t white like his beard; and 4) why he couldn’t have more hot chocolate.

( sigh )

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Last night my inlaws (Junior and Linda) evacuated Sarasota with Linda’s daughter and her family. They arrived at our house last night. Hurricane Irma passed over Key West as a Cat 4 storm and entered the Florida penninusla around Marco Island as a Cat 3. At 5 a.m. this morning, she’s a Cat 1 and headed up central Florida.

Hurricane Irma Cone

The wind has been picking-up since about 2 a.m. and is whipping pretty good now. We have a couple of minor leaks, but nothing too serious.

Leak

UPDATE: 8:00 a.m.

Irma is coming through the panhandle now and is somewhere around Lakeland, Florida. It’s still a Cat 1. The wind is really gusting outside, but I’m just sitting here sipping coffee.

Hurricane Irma Cone

UPDATE: 8:00 p.m.

Well, the day is coming to an end. Our evacuees laft after the wind died down (about noon) and headed back to Sarasota. Although we were on the wrong side of the storm, we really dodged a bullet. The original predictions for this storm were pretty bad. As it turns out, we didn’t even lose power. I can’t say the same for a lot of people in NE Florida, though. There are a lot of folks without power and there was a lot of flooding along the river.

Hurricane Irma Cone

Overall, we had very minor damage. A couple of leaks, my pool pump isn’t working (think it might be the capacitor), and the wind pushed over my Big Green Egg…

Big Green Egg

Feeling very fortunate.

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So, it’s the first total solar eclipse to be visible from the continental U.S. since 1979 and the first to cross the U.S. from coast to coast in 99 years. The next one that will be visible from the continental U.S. won’t be until April 8, 2024…

The total eclipse was viewable in the U.S. along a path from Oregon to Charleston, S.C. In North Florida, this is what we got…

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Well this morning, we started the second leg of our vacation, traveling down A1 to Key West…and in Florida, this is where the road ends.

Where the road ends

of course, it’s also where the road begins…

Where the road begins

We’re staying at Hilton’s Grand Tree Resort; it’s in a good location and pretty close to everything!

Grand Tree Resort

It was a pretty night in town and we couldn’t come to the Conch Republic without visiting Jimmy Buffet’s original “Margaritaville”…

Margaritaville

and after we enjoyed our Cheeseburgers in Paradise (and Margarita’s for mom and I)…

Cheeseburger in Paradise

we ventured down the street for a bit of sightseeing. This is where we encountered the nice man with a parrot…

Parrot Parrot

Parrot Parrot

Parrot Parrot

And how can one visit the southernmost tip of the United States without getting a picture in front of the marker?

Southernmost Tip of Florida

Tomorrow we’re looking forward to some more fun in the sun!

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Today we begin our 10-day summer vacation. We arrived this afternoon at our resort in Palm Beach Shores. After unpacking and grabbing a quick bite to eat at the Cabana, we strolled out to the beach. I arranged for some chairs and umbrellas that should be up and ready for us to spend the next few days soaking-up some sun!

Palm Beach Shores Resort

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Yesterday was the boys’ last day of school and Sumer Vacation has officially started. I had some work to do in SW Florida, so Cindy and the boys were able to join me. As usual, while I worked, they soaked-up some sun. And since we were only a few miles from Lido Key, well…

At the beach

The boys had a great time in the water…and Alex even got in a little body surfing!

At the beach At the beach

This is Florida Living!!

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Today, the Tiger Scouts in Den 1 are meeting at the Bryan-Gooding Planetarium for an Astronaut adventure! This is Adam and Alex first visit to a Planetarium and they’re pretty excited…

Astronaut

after the show, the Tigers worked together on various science experiments…

Science Experiments

and even stood in a hurricane machine that generated 79-mph winds…

Hurricane

A fun day. We’ll be back again for more planetarium shows!

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Well, the boys’ Spring Break is in full swing. This year, we decided to do a “staycation”, which means, essentially, a vacation in our own backyard. We’ve spent so much time traveling recently, it’s nice to just relax and take it easy.

Today, the boys and I took a quick trip to the Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, just outside of Starke.

Camp Blanding

Camp Blanding is the primary military reservation and training base for the Florida National Guard, and covers about 73,000 acres. It’s named after Lt Gen Albert H Blanding, who is among the most distinguished military figures in Florida’s history. He commanded the 31st Infantry Division and was appointed by FDR to serve as the Chief of the National Guard Bureau. During WWII, he was the military adviser to the Florida Governor.

Not that the boys were too interested in any of that. They wanted to see the heavy equipment on static display, like…

The C-47, which the 101st jumped out of in “Band of Brothers”…

C-47

C-47

A Sherman Tank…

Sherman Tank

and a Howitzer…

Howitzer

An amphibious vehicle, the DUKW, otherwise known as the “duck”…

DUKW

A field ambulance…

ield Ambulance

and a “Huey” Medivac Helicopter…

Huey

These static displays are part of the Camp Blanding Museum and Memorial Park. Located in one of Camp Blanding’s restored World War II buildings, the museum catalogs the history of both Camp Blanding and the Florida National Guard. The boys thought it was interesting, especially the Army uniforms and the weapons on display. Of course, I would’ve liked to have spent a little more time reading the history behind some of the displays, but the boys (being 8-years-old) were more into the “stuff” than the “substance”.

We’ll need to come back when they’re a little older. There’s a lot of military (and Florida) history on these grounds and within these walls…

Flag

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