Our Winter in Florida

This was the first year that Dave and I spent the winter away in warmer climate which, as many of you know, was mainly in the state of Florida.  Our time here in Florida has flown by and, shortly, we’ll be making our way back up north to Indiana to take care of doctor appointments and visit our friends during the month of May.

Spending Christmas and New Year’s in Florida was a first for both Dave and me as neither one of us had experienced winter holidays in shorts and short-sleeves before.  To say that it was a bit foreign to us is a bit of an understatement.  However, with the weather that Indiana and much of the north had been experiencing, we were quite happy that we were in the land of sun.  We had our Christmas dinner at the RV clubhouse and enjoyed a feast of turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls, vegetables, and various desserts.  The best part though was getting to know a lot of the wonderful people that we’ve met in the park.  The park put on a New Year’s party at the clubhouse that was a lot of fun and we met up with our friends, Arlene and Barry, and the four of us danced the night away.

Dressed up as Elvis and Priscilla Presley at the NY's Eve Gala.
Arlene and Barry dressed up as Elvis and Priscilla Presley at the NY’s Eve Gala.

Our original intent when Dave agreed to coming to Florida first, was to fulfill my wish of buying annual passes to the wonderful world of Disney and spending lots of time at the various theme parks at Walt Disney World (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom), the water parks (Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach), and Disney Quest at Downtown Disney.  We have explored each park numerous times, attended various shows/concerts and, of course, we’ve ridden the various thrill rides numerous times.  Dave, however, is way more adventurous and daring than I am, as he loves the roller coasters.  My thrill of a ride is more in the way of “It’s a small world.”  Yeah, I’m a wimp when it comes to thrill rides, I freely admit that.

We’ve also explored various venues outside of Disney World, like the Webster Flea Market that is located in Webster, Florida, about 42 miles northwest of Clermont, Florida.  For those of you that have never been to the Webster Flea Market, let me just say that if you decide to go, wear some very comfortable walking shoes!  The flea market is HUGE!  It takes up 35 acres of an 80 acre compound consisting of open air markets and you can find literally anything……produce, flowers, bakery items, jewelry, plants, boutique items, furniture, musical instruments, electronics, hardware/tools, pets supplies, crafts, clothing, even seafood!  Well, you get the picture!  The flea market is open every Monday, year round, rain or shine.  There are two days during the year, Presidents Day and MLK Day that the number of vendors almost doubles.  There are two restaurants on site, as well as numerous snack vendors.  Dave and I got the best deal of the day when we went, two huge all beef hotdogs and a can of soda for $3.

Arlene, Barry, Dave and I attended a free concert in Kissimmee to dedicate the new Kissimmee Lakefront Park, which is along the shores of Lake Tohopekaliga.  The park offers a three-mile paved trail for walkers and joggers, as well as basketball courts, BBQ grills, fishing pier, horseshoe pits, picnic areas with a large pavilion, playground, volleyball court, and boating access.   . Talk about a beautiful and LARGE park!  Wow!  The evening that we attend the concert was cool, but we bundled up and enjoyed the music.  The people were pretty well behaved and the kids there had a blast.  The residents that live in the area are truly blessed to have that park.

Old Town, which is located about 10-miles east of Clermont in Kissimmee, offers an amusement park and outdoor shopping located.  The amusement park offers a bit of everything, such as kid-friendly rides, go-karts, bumper cars, lazer tag, a haunted house and an arcade.  For those that are truly brave (and I mean TRULY BRAVE!) they offer the Slingshot which catapults riders vertically at over 100 miles per hour into the sky, just over 300 feet into the sky above Kissimmee and Highway 192.

They even have a ride called The Vomatron which, believe me, if you went on it you would vomit.  According to their website, “In the 1960’s President Kennedy set NASA to a task to put the first man on the moon.  The astronauts had to undergo a vigorous training program to prepare them for the rigors of outer space.  NASA built machines which placed the astronaut’s bodies under extreme pressure.  The astronauts coped well, but the machine struck terror into their hearts.”  The Vomatron is based on the machine all of the astronauts feared at Cape Canaveral.  The ride is powered by six huge electric motors and rotates a giant 200 foot arm at speeds of up to 70 mph.  These rotations throw the capsules, located at the ends of each arm, into extreme spins putting up to 4 g’s of force upon the riders.  Then, just when you thought it was over….it goes in reverse!  The worst part is that there is a fast food restaurant at the base of the Vomatron which only offers outdoor seating complete with table umbrellas.  Um, no thanks!!  I’d prefer not to be rained down upon, if you know what I mean.  They have another death-defying ride at Old town, which unfortunately we don’t know the name of but, it too is a wild ride.  The riders essentially lay horizontally in a “basket” that they are strapped into, rappelled backward about 200 feet (or more?) into the sky, and then let go.  The “basket” then flies back and forth through the air several times.  If you would like more information on the Vomatron and the Slingshot, go to www.oldtownslingshot-vomatron.com.

For those of us that like to keep our fee on the ground, Old Town offers Car Cruises four nights of the week.  Wednesday night offers street dancing to the music of “The Dukes” which covers songs from the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Friday night, beginning at 4:00 p.m., is Muscle Car Night featuring American-Made Muscle Cars from 1964 and newer and American classics from 1988 and older.  Saturday night, (cars start arriving at 1:00 pm) is the Classic Car Cruise which features 1979 and older hot rods, street rods, and antique cars with a cruise down the center of the square around 8:00 p.m.  Sunday, beginning at 4:00 p.m. is the Shown N’ Shine featuring show quality trucks, jeeps, or SUV’s.  Live music is from 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm and the best part is that the Car Cruises are all FREE!  There is no admission at all, so it’s a great place to take the whole family too.  If you’re in the area and want to check out Old Town, or the Car Cruises, their website can be found at www.myoldtownusa.com.

 

Cars being displayed at the Old Town Car Cruisers show.
Cars being displayed at the Old Town Car Cruisers show.
Car Show 2
Cars being displayed at the Old Town Car Cruisers show.

 

In January, the four of us (Arlene, Barry, Dave and I) took a drive over to Tampa and attended the Florida RV Super Show.  Oh, my-gosh!  What a huge event!!  The weather was extremely hot that day and we spent the entire day (9:00 am – 5:00 pm) trying to see as many new RV’s as we could, as well as visit the numerous vendors that were onsite selling their wares.  Incredible!  Dave and I picked out four Class-A motor coaches that we liked the best, should the Queen Mary ever give up the ghost on us. The four that we chose were a 45-foot Monaco 45DUKE, a 40-foot Fleetwood Discovery, a 45-foot American Coach Tradition, or the 43-foot Newmar Dutch Star.  We’d definitely need to win the lottery first though.  Brand new, the Fleetwood Discovery is listed at just slightly over $300K and the Newmar Dutch Star is just slightly over $424K.  Unless, some generous soul out there would love to give us a nice monetary gift? 😉

The best part about winter is that everyone wants to escape the cold, so where do they head to?  Florida!  Our daughters, Lisa and Kathleen, came down in January to spend a few days with us.  Unfortunately for them, (but fortunately for us), their flight was affected by the Nor’easter and they were forced to extend their stay by three days.  We enjoyed going to Animal Kingdom and Epcot with them and spent some time playing cards Pankoski style.  Thankfully when it was time for them to depart Florida, the weather in Pennsylvania had quieted down.

In addition to our daughters visit, several of my former colleagues were in Florida to escape the Indiana weather, so Dave and I were able to have lunch with them while they were down here.  It was so nice to visit with Jim, Rita, Steve, Pam, Kathy, John, Margie, Robin, and Ben.  Jim even introduced Dave and me to Gator Bites!  No, not the kind where the ‘gator bites you, but where you get to bite the ‘gator in the form of a fried nugget.  And to pre-answer some of you, yes, it tastes like chicken.  J

With Dave’s birthday and Valentine’s Day being in the same month, we have always tried to celebrate both events at the same time, such as dinner out, a movie, or celebrate in some other way.  We decided this year to celebrate Disney style and we booked dinner reservations for the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review at the Fort Wilderness Campground, followed by a knee-slapping sing-along around the campfire with Chip and Dale.  For those of you that don’t know it, I’m a HUGE Chip and Dale fan!  Those two rodents are the most under-rated Disney characters in my opinion.  Mickey’s got nothing on them!!

 

Yep, I'm grinning from ear to ear.  Chip and Dale are my favorites!
Yep, I’m grinning from ear to ear. Chip and Dale are my favorites!

 

Getting a hug from Dale.
Getting a hug from Dale.

 

A few weeks ago Dave and I went to the Kennedy Space Center which is located at Cape Canaveral, about 74 miles west of Clermont, and we were so glad that we did.  What a totally awesome experience we had!  We had a perfect day weather wise to go and we spend the entire day drinking it all in.  There is SO MUCH to report on that it would literally take me hours to write about.  If you are planning a trip to Florida, we highly recommend that you take a day (two if you can) and tour the Kennedy Space Center.  You won’t regret it and we bet it will be one of the highlights of your trip!  Information can be found at www.kennedyspacecenter.com.

 

This wall, with a quote from John F. Kennedy, greets visitors as they enter the Kennedy Space Station.
This wall, with a quote from John F. Kennedy, greets visitors as they enter the Kennedy Space Station.

 

One of the many buildings on the Kennedy Space Center complex.
NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building.

 

One of the rocket launch pads.
One of the rocket launch pads.

 

This barrier, and several just like this one, sits at the base of the rocket.  When the rocket is ignited, these walls deflect the flame from going outward.  The blackened area is residue from the flames.
This barrier, and several just like this one, sits at the base of the rocket. When the rocket is ignited, these walls deflect the flame from going outward. The blackened area is residue from the flames.

 

This piece of impressive machine, which is HUGE, is a pair of tracked vehicles called the "crawler," is used to transport spacecraft from NASA's Vehicle Assembly Buidling along the Crawlerway to Launch Complex 39.  They were originally used to transport the Saturn IB and Saturn V rockets during the Apollo, Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz programs.  They were then used to transport Space Shuttles from 1981 to 2011.  Each one of these crawler's cost $14 million each .  They travel at a speed of 1 mph loaded (2 mph unloaded) and takes about 5 hours to go travel 3.5 miles.
This impressive machine, which is HUGE, is actually a pair of tracked vehicles called the “crawler,” (nicknamed “Hans” and “Franz”) that are used to transport spacecraft from NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Buidling along the Crawlerway to Launch Complex 39. They were originally used to transport the Saturn IB and Saturn V rockets during the Apollo, Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz programs. They were then used to transport Space Shuttles from 1981 to 2011. Each one of these crawler’s cost $14 million each . They travel at a speed of 1 mph loaded (2 mph unloaded) and takes about 5 hours to go travel 3.5 miles.

 

The rockets on Atlas Spacecraft.
The rockets on Atlas Spacecraft.

 

NASA 11
The Atlas Spacecraft broken down into sections. You cannot believe the enormity of this thing. Amazing!
NASA 12
The Atlas Spacecraft broken down into sections. You cannot believe the enormity of this thing. Amazing!

 

The Atlas Spacecraft broken down into sections.  You cannot believe the enormity of this thing.  Amazing!
The Atlas Spacecraft broken down into sections. You cannot believe the enormity of this thing. Amazing!

 

The Apollo Space Capsule.
The Apollo Space Capsule.
NASA 14
The Apollo Space Capsule.

 

 

One of the Space Shuttles.  I was standing quite a ways away from it in order to get the majority of it in the picture.
The Atlantis Space Shuttle. I was standing quite a ways away from it in order to get the majority of it in the picture.

 

The Indianapolis News from July 21, 1969.
The Indianapolis News from July 21, 1969.

 

Bio of Virgil "Gus" Grissom from Mitchell, Indiana.  Sadly he lost his life in service to the nation and the space program on January 27, 1967.  He was 40 years old.
Bio of Virgil “Gus” Grissom from Mitchell, Indiana. Sadly he lost his life in service to the nation and the space program on January 27, 1967. He was 40 years old.

 

One of the many plaques and tributes to the astronauts who lost their lives.
One of the many plaques and tributes to the astronauts who lost their lives.

 

STS-107 was the 113th flight of the Space Shuttle program, and the disastrous final flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia.  It launched on January 16, 2003.  It's seven-member crew was killed on February 01, when Columbia disintegrated during reentry into the atmosphere.
STS-107 was the 113th flight of the Space Shuttle program, and the disastrous final flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia. It launched on January 16, 2003. It’s seven-member crew was killed on February 01, when Columbia disintegrated during reentry into the atmosphere.

Last week we drove to Melbourne, about 92-miles southeast of Clermont, to attend the 2015 Melbourne Air and Space Show featuring the Blue Angels.  We couldn’t have picked a hotter day to attend, let me tell you!  We were sitting out on the tarmac in 90-degree weather for about 6-hours, but we enjoyed every minute of the show.  Prior to the demonstrations, spectators were able to enter the MV-22 Osprey and the USCG SAR, which both were pretty cool.  There was a little boy with his dad in front of us as we were going through the Osprey, and that kids’ eyes were HUGE trying to take everything in.  Air demonstrations included that of the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor, F-16 Viper and the U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey.  Civilian acts included the GEICO Skytypers and Michael Goulian.  While Dave enjoyed the Skytypers, I was in awe of the F-22 Raptor, the F-16 Viper and the MV-22 Osprey.  The USAF Heritage Flight and the Blue Angels rocked as well.  The sonic booms that these aircraft put out were unreal!!  My only regret is that I didn’t take ear plugs with me as I had to stick my fingers in my ears to keep out some of the percussion as they flew over.

MV-22 Osprey that was on display.  Dave and I had the privilege of walking through this impressive machine.  Later in the afternoon, it participated in the air demonstration.  Very impressive!
MV-22 Osprey that was on display. Dave and I had the privilege of walking through this impressive machine. Later in the afternoon, it participated in the air demonstration. Very impressive!

 

One of the Navy's aircraft.
One of the Navy’s aircraft.
Amazing.
Amazing.

 

This thing was LOUD!
This thing was LOUD!
On display.  A 407MRH.
On display. A 407MRH.

 

The Blue Angels flying over.  Totally awesome!!
The Blue Angels flying over. Totally awesome!!
You can tell that our two fur balls are exhausted from our travels so far!
You can tell that our two fur balls are exhausted from our travels so far!