Florida Tuesday Oct 31 We drove 3.5 hours to Jerilyn and Charle Morgans. Charlie used to drum for Elton John for 15 years and is one of the best drummers in the world. They are going to be moving to Nashville in the new year. We parked in their driveway and prepared for tomorrows meeting with Perry. We chatted with Carol, who is Jerilyns Mom and she and Don live next door. Wednesday – Saturday Nov 1-4 We met with Perry and then did a big presentation at the Sports Club. Myron and a whole bunch were there. The rest of the days we spent walking the area and going to Waika Springs on the Saturday for a hike with Charlie, Jerilyn and the dogs. We also fought the ants as we had made a mistake of putting down one of the jacks on an ant nest in the driveway in a crack. Thousands of sugar ants decended on the motor home and we spent hours and hours vacuuming them up until the bait we had put out took effect. One evening we had a nice chicken dish and the others Rick made his specialty artichoke dish and I made the East Indian spicy dish. Saturday evening we got inventive and decided to make truffles from the Trehlose sugar and they turned out superb. Sunday Nov 5 We left Jerilyn and Charlies in the afternoon and headed to Fort Wilderness Park, Disney. It took most of the afternoon and late evening to get all set up as the dish didn’t work so we asked to be moved from the first location. We ended up getting a much better site and off to the showers we went. Ahhhhh, nice hot and massage heads. We arrived back to get ready for tomorrow and planned to go to the Magic Kingdom. Monday Nov 6, 2006 We awoke early so that we could take the dogs out before we left for the day. Upon arriving back, Rick saw a trail of ants crawling along the ceiling around the slide. An hour later, it appeared we had all under control again as far as the ants were concerned. We headed off to the Magic Kingdom which was a boatride away on an island. We arrived about 10 in the morning and the weather was about 80F and overcast. Our first stop was Mainstreet USA and then Tomorrowland where we took in the transit authority ride around the area, the Carousel of Progress and Buzz Lightyears Space Ranger Station. Then we rode the train and went to Mickeys toon town fair where we saw Mickey and Minnie’s houses and stopped for lunch of smoked turkey leg which was delicious. In the afternoon we took in Frontierland and saw the Country Bear Jamboree and then it was off to Liberty Square. Here we saw the Hall of Presidents, rode the riverboat and toured the haunted Mansion. Then it was time for the parade of all the characters and as we were heading out of the park, the stage show was on at Cinderella’s castle so we watched this. It was all songs and skits to do with dreams and to never let a dream die. We arrived back at the motorhome in time for supper, took the dogs out and then rode our bikes down to the beach to watch the 8PM fireworks which were spectacular. Tuesday Nov 7th Today we finished the Magic Kingdom with Adventureland. We took in the Pirates of the Carribean, The Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, the Enchanted Tiki room and Splash Mountain. We also took in the Jungle Ride which took us down the river through the jungle with a bunch of animated animals on the shore and water. Then we boarded the monorail and headed to Epcot. Our first stop here was Spaceship Earth which took us through an animation of communication. Then we headed to the Universe of Energy with Ellen Degeneres as she goes back to the dinosaur era. This was really neat because the whole theater moves (the seats) and transports you on a track through time. Then it was off to the Mission Space which is a new ride and we took the green simulator to Mars. We had lunch at the China Culture area and took in the display and sensearound film on the reflections of China and the dynasty tombs. Then we were off to see the Seas with Nemo and friends and the aquarium displays with fish and manatees. WE took in the Living with the Land which was a boat voyage through fish farms, land and greenhouses including hydroponics. Next was circle of Life which takes the Lion King and shows the destruction and what is happening with pollution and progress in our world. Then we took a journey with Figment and then we went to Honey I shrunk the Audience in 3D which was fabulous. In the afternoon we were in a tropical rainstorm and good thing we had our rain ponchos to put on or we’d have been drenched. Rick went on the Test Track which is the longest and fastest attraction in Disney history which is a behind the scene rollercoaster type track in a GM test plant. The car reached speeds of 65 miles/hour. Then it was time to hop the monorail and bus home where our chicken dinner in the crockpot and the dogs awaited us. Wednesday Nov 8th We got up early to arrive at Epcot park for opening at 9AM and went immediately to the Soarin ride. What an awesome idea for a ride, it is like being a bird flying over all kinds of scene from open water to mountains etc. We had the first row and what a feeling. Then we took in turtle talk with “Crush” which is one of the characters from Nemo. The premises is teach people , especially kids, how they can take care of the oceans of the world, as the worlds animals have the same basic needs as humans. We then toured the countries and went on the Viking boat ride and the Mexican river of time boat. We went through Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, American Adventure, Japan, Morocco, France, UK and Canada. In the American Adventure we saw the animated characters of Mark Twain and Thomas Jefferson who took us through the American History in a theater. The robotics were extremely lifelike as they could could walk, bend, move and talk. In France we saw the film of the French country including the city of Paris. Canada was a 360 degree imax film on all of Canada, very well done by Disney. It opened with the RCMP Musical ride and they all surrounded us. We had lunch in the sunshine seasons restaurant and headed home by 3:30. We rested up , had supper and returned to Epcot for the spectacular “Illuminations, Reflections of Earth”. A breathtaking fireworks display and lights set to symphony music over the lake. Thursday Nov 9th 2006 We took it easy in the morning and cleaned up ants in the afternoon and headed to MGM for the afternoon and evening. We took in India Jones live stunt show, Rick did the Star Wars flight simulator, The Great Movie Ride through classic movie scenes, saw a live play performance of Beauty and the Beast and then headed over to the Fantasmic show. I saved seats as Rick went and picked up supper of smoked Turkey legs. The place was full to capacity in the outdoor theater that seated 10,000 people. The show was half an hour and it had spectacular fireworks, music, live actors and video footage. The host was Mickey and he was up against every villan ever produced by Disney. Mickey won of course. Then we headed to see Streets of America which was a great surprise because they had it all decorated with thousands of lights on each building for Christmas. We ended the evening with the 3D Jim Henson Muppets which was hilarious. Friday Nov 10th We headed out early after running the dogs to finish off the MGM and arrived in time to see the Lights, Motors, Action show which is a high paced auto stunt show where they showed us the stunts and then the special modifications the cars had.. The cars could go just as fast backwards as forwards, they could lock any wheel, the cars could split in two and any of the wheels could propel the car. Next we took in the Disney MGM backlot walking /tram tour which showed us more special effects and the costumes as well as a scene with explosives. Then we went on the set of Narnia, the witch the lion and the wardrobe and saw the special effects there. Then we took in One Mans Dream which was the life of Walt Disney, from humble beginnings and the creation of Mickey Mouse in 1928. He had many near disasters financially in his life, but his big dream was to inspire families to have fun together. We had lunch and then continued on to see the Voyage of the Little Mermaid theatrical performance which was extremely well done. We finished off the afternoon by seeing the animation of bringing the characters to life, from first thought to finished character in The Magic of Disney Animation. As we heading out of the park, the car parade was just starting so we watch it of 20 minutes. All of the cars from the Disney era were in it from the new movie Pixar, to the Power Rangers etc. We headed out on a bus to Animal Kingdom and took in the Kilamanjaro Safari and the Pangani Forest walk where we saw birds and gorillas. Then we boarded the Wildlife Express Train which took us behind the scenes of the park and up to the animal Conservation Station. Then it was time to head home as the park was closing and it was 6PM. We arrived home and thankfully, there were no ants to vacume up. Looks like we have them at bay for the moment. Saturday Nov 11 We headed back to Animal Kingdom for the day. The first ride we took in was Dinosaur and it was an extremely bumpy rocky, jerky ride which I hurt my back and neck on. Then we went on the Kali River Rapids which was a fun ride down a river and we got wet. We watched a bird behaviour show at Flights of Wonder which was funny and informative, The 3D presentation of It’s a bugs Life in the Tree of Life with Flick and Hopper. We went around the tree of life which was a tree that has hundreds of animals incorporated into the man made bark of the tree. We took in the musical theatrical performace of the Festival of the Lion King which was excellent. Pocohontas and her Forest Friends was a show on how people can impact the forest in a good way,. We took the train to Planet Watch and saw the films on conservation. Sunday Nov 12, 2006 We cleaned up and caught up today and toured the park on our bikes. In the evening we headed out to the Kingdom to take in the fireworks over the castle. It was the most phenomenal display of fireworks we have ever seen set to music and about 10 minutes long. Monday, Tuesday Nov 13, 14 We stopped in to see friends, Carol and Dan in Lake Wales. They have a house but it is in a golf area so we parked in the recreation area complex for 2 days and it worked perfectly for us. Beautiful walking trails around the golf course and recreation area. Monday we had roast pork at Dan and Carols and visited. On Tuesday they toured us around the park and showed us the showhomes and then we went down to Lazy Daze RV and looked at the motorhomes. I bought a massage pad for my back and does it ever work great, both shiatsu and rolling massage. We stopped at a rib place called Manny’s for supper and the ribs were excellent. Nov 15, 16, 17 We headed down the I-95 to Boynton Beach, Fl and arrived at the John Prince RV Park. What a beautiful location with biking trails, walking trails, lagoons and birds everywhere. Bob phoned and picked us up and took us out for Mexican supper at a nearby restaurant. We met the neighbors, John and Maureen and headed down to the beach bonfire with them on Friday night. There was a DJ playing all the oldies music from the 70’s and a huge bonfire on the beach. Then we stopped in at a local pub on our way home and listened to a band while we sat outside in the warm evening air. Saturday we met with Bob, Rita, Clarence and Margie to discuss the next months events. In the mornings we take the dogs out for their exercise and they must be kept on a leash which for the first time in our lives we follow. There are alligators in the park which eat dogs or anyone stupid enough to go in or near the water. We were lucky enough to see 2 huge 12 footers on Friday, the first we’ve ever seen in the wild. The birdlife is spectacular especially early in the morning or at dusk so its nice to go out with a pair of binoculars. There is a resident turtle that is usually down by the shore and today it was up on the grass so I got a good look at it up close. We finished off Saturday evening with a 10 mile bike ride around the park on the bike trail. Nov 18-Dec 1 We spent the time visiting and having fun with Bob and Rita and Clarence. Rick did presentations as the Rotary for Bob and we walked the loop and rode our bikes and got to know the area. Its been very hot and humid 85F and its been hard to sleep it doesn’t cool off at night. The good thing is we can be in shorts and T’s all the time. Saturday Dec 2, 2006 Got up early and went fishing with Bob. Now this was quite the experience as Bob’s little boat had to navigate through a channel from the inner canal out into the open ocean. The turbulence was much worse than expected and the waves on the ocean were about 5-6 feet. The boat was airborn at a few places and we definitely shouldn’t have been out there. Needless to say, the dogs were scared and they weren’t the only ones as Rick and I were extremely nervous the whole trip. Going back in and up the channel was more hair raising than the exit had been as we were going against the tide. The motor almost stalled and we ended up going sideways and were close to flipping at one point. At the last second, the motor caught and we slowly made our way up the channel against the raging current. After all that, we didn’t even catch a fish! We went up the inland canal to see Manatees but there were none around so we walked the nature trail and saw the mangroves. Later in the day we went back to Bobs for a delicious backed Grouper and sweet potatoe supper on his deck while the rain was falling lightly. It was a beautiful, calm moonlit evening and the temperature was about 75F. Sunday Dec 3 2006 We spent the day reading and relaxing after our nerve wracking experience yesterday. Then in the evening we walked the loop with the binoculars and sat on the edge of the river as the sun was going down. Lots of fish were jumping and we watched an alligator as it cruised the river. Dec 4-20 Spent the days walking the loop, siteseeing in the area and a weekend trip over to Sarasota with the motorhome. Clarence and Rita had us over for an Italian supper at their home which was delicious. Then he took us up the inner canal all the way to West Palm which is the richy area where Donald Trump lives. We saw colorful Iquanas in the park , the smaller ones are green and the large 5 footers are a brilliant orangy rust color. It’s the pre-launch of the skincare in North America and people are going nuts over the results from these products on their faces. We played bocci ball and squirrel toss and had fun tournaments with these games . Thursday Dec 21, 2006 Today was get everything ready to move day. Laundry, groceries and cleanup. Then we headed over to Bobs for a delicious supper of Shrimp, Baked King Fish in Bobs special coating, Sweet Potatoes, Broccoli salad and Keylime pie. Rita and Clarence, Bob and Norma and Rick and I and Jaida and Dixie all had a wonderful time. Friday Dec 22 We said goodbye to our new friends in the park Maureen and John, Diane and Henry, Eve and Helen and Larry and Shirley. We traveled down the south turnpike and headed off onto the backroads, arriving in the afternoon at the Everglades National Park on the Southern tip of Florida. We toured the visitors center and saw displays on the wildlife of the Everglades. The largest alligator on record was caught in 1830 and was 18 feet long. By the 1970’s alligators were brought to near extinction and finally protected. There numbers have come back now and they are still protected. Alligators are dark colored, almost black and live in fresh water only, Crocodiles are olive green and live in salt water and brackish water. Both can grow to 12 feet in length. They eat fish, birds, small animals they can catch on the side of the water such as raccoons. They are opportunistic feeders meaning if they can catch it, they’ll eat it. All of the ponds. Lakes and rivers are out of bounds for swimming or wading. Due to increasing urbanization with 900 people / day moving to Florida, the Everglades are in danger of vanishing forever. They drain and dyke the water flow that is the lifeblood of the 50 mile wide 10 inch deep river that is know as the “Sea of Grass” Saturday Dec 23 The day was another hot one and humid around 85F. We rode our bikes in the late afternoon when a breeze had picked up and went to looking for birds and wildlife. We went to the area where the Florida Panther is but didn’t see any. There are approximately 50 of them left and they are very elusive and rare to see. The evening was beautiful and we had a fire under the star filled sky. It is the dry season here in the Everglades so there are very mosquitoes. There are a few no see ums but pose no problems sitting outside. Sunday Dec 24, 2006 Another beautiful day with the sun shining and a slight breeze. We set off with a picnic lunch after running the dogs in the campground as they aren’t allowed on the trails with us in the National Parks. We headed down the 38 miles towards Flamingo campground and took in the interpretive trails along the way to learn about the Everglades. The highest point in Florida is about 14 feet above sea level which has allowed the Everglades to form. Even a few inches difference in elevation makes a huge difference as to what can grow in the different areas of the park. Pinelands was all about the Long Pine trees that grow at about the 8 feet above sea level area. They are a different type of pine as they grow about 120 feet tall and only have branches and pine needles on the upper ¼ of the tree. Down below grow the saw palmetto and other low shrubs about 5 feet high. All is kept in check by fire which allows the pines to grow and mature as they are adapted by nature to withstand fire due to their special bark and no lower branches. Pa-hay-okee overlook took us around a boardwalk to overlook the sea of grass. There were wading birds and alligators. It looked very much like the savannah of Africa with all the grass and a bit of trees popping up here and there as far as the horizon. On the way into the lookout, Rick spotted our first alligator in the grass just off the road a little ways by a culvert. We stopped and got some pictures and video footage as the alligator moved back into the culvert to stay cool. There were lots of little fishes swimiming around the culvert and in the little creek but the alligator didn’t’ reappear. Mahogany Hammock trail was a boardwalk that took us through the oldest living stand of Mahogany in the US. Some of these trees are 500 years old and were saved only because its was too much work to slog through the sea of grass to cut them all down and use them for lumber. It was at least 10 degrees cooler in the shade of these massive trees and completely different from the sea of grass and pinelands we had just come from. We stopped at some of the kayak areas and will do them as we move down to Flamingo next week. For supper we had BBQed shrimp with garlic butter and a big fresh salad for supper. Then later we roasted chestnuts on the fire. It was another perfect evening with no breeze, warm weather and lots of clear stars and a quarter moon. We had noticed little muddy footprints on the walls and fixtures in the bathroom and little turds deposited around. This always happened at night. I decided to see what was making the prints and around 10 PM went into the lighted bathroom. There was a bunch of scurrying as I enter the door and started to laugh. There were about 10 little frogs of every description on the wall, the toilet, the sink and the walls. One frog was in the garbage container and was holding open the swinging lid with his foot watching me. When he noticed me watching him, he let go of the flap and the garbage swung shut. These little frogs would gather every night for a party in the bathroom with unlimited bugs coming into the lights as there was no limit to the food available for them. Come morning, all that was left was little footprints to show where they’d been the night before. Monday Dec 25, 2006 Today is Christmas and its another beautiful day. We started the day outside with breakfast and a walk with the dogs. After phone calls we decided to drive to Royal Palms visitor center and take in the Anahinga trail. Now this was interesting. Birds of all types were feeding in the area. Blue, Green and White Herons, Iris, Anahingas, Cormorants etc. Then there were the alligators and because it was a hot day, many were out of the water on the shore sunning themselves. We saw turtles and nesting birds, all from the mile long boardwalk loop up across the water. We returned home to a delicious supper of kubee wraps done on the fire. The rain started so we sat under the awning to the sounds of crickets and rain. We ventured out in the rain and I’m sure that we were the only ones out in it. What a gorgeous ending to the day. Tuesday Dec 26 French toast and fruit for breakfast and off Rick went to Homestead to pick up supplies. I took Jaida up the road in the park after walking Dixie and her around the campground. After a quick cooldown in the lake for Jaida its was time for lunch and then a 30 km bikeride through the everglades. We got caught in the rain and got soaked on our way home. Rain here comes down in buckets and then its gone. In the evening we asked Martin and Elana if they’d like to come with us in the dark to see the Anahinga trail. We set off about 7 in the evening with about a ¼ moon to light our way along the trail with our flashlights. The alligators eyes were phenomenal to see, little glowing orangy yellow embers in the water was all that could be seen as the flashlights hit their eyes. We walked the boardwalk and a huge 12 foot alligator followed us. Good thing we were 6 feet above him on the boardwalk. We saw about 30-40 alligators along with the birds who were bedded down for the night in the treetops. Wednesday Dec 27 We took the dogs out in the morning and then headed out on our bikes up the Old Ingram highway for a total of 31 kms. The birds were spectacular and we followed an old overgrown road along the sawgrass and the everglades. We didn’t see any alligators . We went down to the picnic table out by the pond in the evening and it was gorgeous with the moon shining on the water and no wind in the air. Thursday Dec 28 We went to the ranger talk at Anahinga Trail which was very informative. Having read about the Everglades we knew a lot of what she was saying. One interesting feature she talked about was the snails in the hammocks that were taken in the early 40’s because of their beauty. Each hammock produced different snails and they were a real collectors item with highly decorated shells. Once the snails had been taken from an area, the hammock was burned so that no more could be collected, making the shells that had been collected more valuable. The birds of the Everglades were almost wiped out due to the fashion of putting feathers on womens hats. Hundreds of thousands of birds were killed and the populations have never recovered. In the afternoon we biked down to the research station and along the pine trail. Friday Dec 29 We got up early and I walked the dogs down by the pond and up the trail before it got hot. Then we packed up our stuff in the truck for a day at Biscayne National Park. The water was too choppy to go snorkeling on the reef so we visited the visitors center and saw the displays on the park. 90% of this park is underwater as it is a marine sanctuary and protects the reef along south Florida. We watched a film on the 1992 Hurricane that wiped out the land area of the park which has since been completely restored. We had a picnic lunch by the bay and watched a couple take their 2 dogs in life jackets out for a day of snorkeling in the seagrass beds. The water is chrystal clear and they say all types of fish and invertebraes can be seen. We’ll come back and do this tomorrow. We stopped and chatted with Tom and Judy who own a Country Coach and spend 4 days/week tenting over on one of the islands as camp hosts for a couple of months each year. Then we picked up fresh fruit and vegetables and had a fire with Martin, Elana, Joe and Liz and Bill and Karen. We finished off the evening with a walk in the moonlight with the dogs. Saturday Dec 30 2006 We packed up the kayak, lunch , snorkel gear and the dogs and headed to Biscayne Bay for the day. On the way we stopped at the racetrack . We could hear the cars racing but couldn’t get up to the fence to see them. We ran the dogs in the big fenced parking lot which must have been 40 acres of parking. Jaida loved it as she was free and we loved it because we didn’t have to worry about alligators getting her. As we entered the park we went up the canal where a fellow had told us a mother Manatee and her 2 calves were usually spotted. We saw them and got pictures, this was our first siting of Manatees. The are on the endangered list as there are only about 500 of them left in the world. Then it was off for a kayak through the bay. As we were going through 2 little islands, I looked beneath us and a Manatee was about 3 feet below the boat. What a thrill. We stopped and tied the kayak to a Red Mangrove tree and ate our lunch while watching 5 Manatees eating their lunch of Manatee grass in the bay. Then we kayaked to the shoreline and went snorkeling. We were surprised at how warm the water was, we only had bathing suits on and we were fine in the water. We snorkeled 2 different locations and there were crabs, fish and other invertebraes in the grass. The evening was topped off with a fire under the sky as we watched the big white fluffy clouds roll by as there was a bit of a wind picking up. We burned some of the long pine and its no wonder it doesn’t kill the tree in a forest fire. They burned and burned we never added more and they were still burning in the morning. The tree pieces started off about 6 inches across. They burn better than the ironwood in the Baja. Sunday Dec 31st, 2006 The last day of 2006. We took the dogs out and then headed out after lunch to walk the Snake Bight trail to the ocean and ended up on a boardwalk. The tide was just coming in and there were wading birds feeding in the distance. Along the trail were zebra butterflies, cactus and alligators. Then it was off to Flamingo where we took in the visitors center and looked for crocodiles. We saw one over by some trees just off the marina. I bought a book about Marjorie Stoneman who was instrumental in saving the Everglades and having it named a national park. She died in 1998 at the age of 108 years. We ended the day with a walk around Eco pond and saw the pink Roseates which are an endangered wading bird. The birds in the area are not plentiful since many of the different birds from the area died in the hurricane in 2005 and their numbers haven’t recovered yet. We spent the evening with a fire and walk around the park in the moonlight. Then we toasted the 2007 New Year with the Times Square bunch on TV.