Space Coast

Christmas is so yesterday… we left Christmas, Florida for a campsite closer to the ocean, and closer to the Space Center.  It’s called Manatee Hammock, but we haven’t seen a manatee yet and I am pretty sure one couldn’t get in a hammock!  (OK, in this area, a hammock is a stand of trees growing on land a maybe only a few inches higher than marshy areas around them.)

 

Running around the lake

Adjacent to the Christmas RV park was a road that led past a large pasture, then into a heavily wooded area, and finally around a small lake and a picnic table.  It was a great place for a morning run.

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Vulture Banquet

When I was walking the road near the lake I saw a vulture with a black head. I read later that they are called Black Vultures. This one was tearing at something. As I got closer another one arrived. I couldn’t see what it was, but thought it might be a turtle. 

I ran the road by the lake and back to the gate and saw several vultures. After I did the run again I was nearly back to the gate when I heard a plane overhead. Only there was no engine! I heard a vulture soaring over me! At the gate I saw a bunch of vultures with many more coming. They tore that poor turtle to shreds. You can notice that they don’t share well!

At first sight it didn’t smell too bad. But by the time they had pulled all the pieces out it really stunk. So though I don’t like vultures because it seems sad that they eat such yucky stuff that they can’t have feathers on their heads, I do like that they erased the stink in short order. And I enjoy watching them soar.

By Cherryl – video with my iPhone

 

Cows and Egrets

Cows and egrets seemed to pair up in the pasture.  Most every cow had an egret within a few feet, and if a second bird came to join the two, the first egret would angrily shoo it away.  It seems that they like the insects that fly out of the grass as the cow grazes.  The cows enjoy having the pesky insects removed, the egrets enjoy the free meals.  An unlikely match that seems to work well.

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Christmas Tree Trimming

The RV park in Christmas was nice enough, and very quiet… at least the campers were quiet.  It must take a lot to keep it looking nice, because there were several workmen who really liked their big machines,  always washing buildings, trimming trees, repairing roadways, or using leaf blowers to clean up the lawns.  So in the daytime you could usually hear some sort of big machinery running.

One guy was going to trim some trees… Trimming trees in Christmas should be interesting, so the drone and I watched him… I’ve sped it up considerably to make it slightly more interesting…

 

Jungle Critters

You see some strange creatures in the jungle, including this somewhat modified El Camino.  Don’t ask me why I put it in this blog; I’m not sure myself!

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In the Water Again!

We finally found a place to launch the kayak! Just a short trip along the coast, but we saw lots of Cormorants, Pelicans and a Great Blue Heron. The GoPro is not a wildlife camera… by the time you recognize a bird in the wide angled picture, it’s flying off.  So it just looks like we were out chasing birds.

 

Space Center

I had high hopes for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center. KSCVC for short. Or maybe just KSV.  Anyway, we’d been told it was worth at least two full days.  Well, we’ve spent a couple admittedly shorter days, and are not anywhere near finished.  Really a fascinating place! A bus tour takes you by many famous sites, like many launch pads, the huge crawlers that move rockets around the base, and the iconic VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building).

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A moon rover and its instrument panel:

 

A copy of a Mars Rover made of Legos:

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OK, we didn’t see a Space Shuttle launch, but here is a picture of a picture.  Again, amazingly huge and complicated.

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They say the Space Shuttle consisted of about 2 million systems to make it successful, and over 400,000 people worked to make it happen.  I agree that’s pretty sophisticated… but it makes me wonder about the human body.  There are over 30 TRILLION cells in a human.  Each cell has several little “energy factories” and “machines”, to support the functions of that cell.  They are surrounded and protected by a cell wall that actively transports molecules in and out, selectively, as needed.  Then these cells are grouped together to form more complicated structures yet, that we call organs.  There are physical, chemical, and electrical networks to coordinate the functions of these organs.  All these organs are surrounded and protected by yet another organ, which we call skin.  All these trillions of cells are constantly regenerating and repairing themselves.  And yet most folks think this complex system just evolved, almost accidentally.  Could they also believe the Space Shuttle could just have appeared?  It certainly did evolve, from the beginnings of the manned Mercury capsules, through Gemini and Apollo programs, but with the intelligent energy driven input of half a million brilliant minds.

 

My Space Adventure

After a brief bit of encouragement from John Glenn (Who you may remember as the first American to orbit the earth), I was given a space suit (Just my size!), and after a brief EVA (Space walk) I was able to set foot on the moon!  And I have the pictures to prove it!

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PS: a bit of an apology: my beautiful camera tried to commit suicide by jumping from the back seat of the Suburban onto the ground.  It has spent this last week in the Canon hospital, and should be back with us Monday.  In the meantime, all pictures were taken with the iPhone or Drone.

We Drove Till Christmas!

Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park

We really enjoyed Hanna Park.  It feels like a jungle, there is a lot of space between campsites, and it is just beautiful!  Here is a quick bike tour of a bit of the park:

 

Hard at work

This is me working in my “cubicle” to create weekly blogs…

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Wildlife

Well, we haven’t seen any alligators in the wild yet, but we haven’t given up!  Lots of wildlife here is very tiny – including flying insects that like to bite Cherryl!  But some are nice to look at:

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Some others are not as noticeable, but pretty interesting:

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Kingsley Plantation

Zephaniah Kingsley was an interesting character, full of what today we would call glaring inconsistencies  –

He was a slave trader early on.
He owned over 60 slaves to work his plantation.
He married Anna, one of his slaves.
He married a few others, too, simultaneously, making him a polygamist.
He set Anna and their four children free.
He was a pioneer in ethical treatment of slaves.
He still felt slavery was natural and right.

He started his plantation on Fort George Island (Near present day Jacksonville) when Florida was owned by Spain.  The Spanish allowed free Blacks to own property and gave them pretty much total freedom.  It was when the U.S. took over Florida that trouble started – rights of free Blacks were taken away and it was considered bad form to marry a Black person.  Zephaniah eventually moved his family to Haiti, where they could remain free.  He remained in Florida tending to business here.  Yep, and interesting character indeed.

His home is considered the oldest plantation house standing in Florida.

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The barn now serves as a museum and lecture room.

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The Slave houses were made of Tabby, a concrete made with sand, oyster shells and water.  It was course but durable…  now 25 of the original 32 are in ruins. One has been restored, the rest have been torn down.

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Ferry Ride

We took a short cut across the bay from the Timucuan Preserve area, where the plantation is, to a spot close to our campground.

 

 

Christmas in Florida

Late in the week we drove till we got to Christmas, Florida.  I was fully planning on that being the funny part of this week’s blog – Christmas in Florida already!  Unfortunately, I was also planning on getting some pictures here today… but it rained most of the day.  So all you get to see now is the sign and a few palm tree trunks lit up.  Maybe next week!

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Music by bensound.com

Back to JAX

Denver

The last couple of weeks have flown by… Last week I was too tired to put up anything but the cool Sandhill Cranes… Now for a bit that was missed…

Our headquarters while in Denver has been with good friends Lonnie and Laura.  They hare awesome hosts!  We took a few drone shots one day, and then that night we got snow, so a few more drone shots the next morning.

 

Ft Collins

Saturday afternoon was spent in Ft Collins with more dear friends; Giny and Joe.  We took the drone out to play in the middle of nowhere.  My phone/drone interface wasn’t working well, so I don’t have much worthwhile footage, but we had fun!  Here is a picture that proves, at least in Joe’s case, we never really have to grow up!

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Eastward Bound

I decided that because we had two months worth of luggage, including all our SCUBA gear, we would get a big rental car. (See above). However, that Chevy Tahoe seemed far bigger than we needed.  Since we were planning on driving all the way to Florida, when a light flashed on saying it wanted its oil changed, I offered Hertz to swap cars before we left Denver.  I figured we would get a slightly smaller car for the trip.  They were happy to swap, except they didn’t give me smaller… they moved us up to a Suburban.  Same basic vehicle, just about 2 feet longer!  Funny.  We had plenty of room and grew to like the big old thing.

 

Lincoln

We spent a few days in Lincoln with Cherryl’s family – Jeanne, Steve and Mom Joanne. We even got to see Crista, Josh and William: niece and her family.  No pictures though, so maybe it never happened. 😉

 

Atlanta

The next weekend was spent in Atlanta… I have several places I want to see in Atlanta, and we did none of them!  We had a relaxing day driving in the country, soaking up views of pretty forested areas, spring flowers, and even a few animals.   I had no idea Atlanta could be so beautiful! So we will return!

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We drove to Buford Dam – like most dams, a beautiful lake on one side, a river on the other.  Both sides were filled with people boating, fishing, or looking for wildlife.

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This little guy was with a few others just out of the park.

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About one hour out of Jacksonville, Florida, we were driving our cool big Suburban, when the peace was shattered by the sound of an explosion!  The left rear (portside aft) tire blew, and did it very dramatically!  But no problem keeping it in control; we just pulled off and tried to get the tire changed.  The problem was getting the spare out from under the truck… once we got the trick figured out, it was pretty easy.  A nice guy stopped to help us, and he had a hydraulic jack that saved us using the Chevy’s jack. A nice welcome back to Florida!

 

Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park

This is a wonderful campground!  We’re glad to be back!  We’ve spent some time getting paperwork caught up, doing some trailer maintenance, and even some resting up.

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We haven’t gotten the kayak in the lake here yet, but we’re anxious to go alligator hunting!  There are hundreds of birds hanging out on the little islands in the lake, and great fun watching them this evening.

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Here is an Osprey diving for dinner…

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His take out order is here…

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And now he has to show off by flying it past all the neighbors.

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And so ends another week…

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Seeing the Sandhills

Every year, for about 4 or 5 weeks, from late February to early April, Sandhill Cranes migrate through Nebraska.  The Smithsonian estimates there are about 500,000 coming through; about 80% of the entire world’s population of cranes!  They rest up here, and feast on leftover grain in the the fields before flying on north.  The Platte River is a great spot for them, and just happens to be along I80 where we were working our way east, back to Florida.  So we made a small detour and got to see a few thousand… and hear them! They fill the air with their interesting noises.

Sunset is when they start looking for a place to spend the night – best time to see and hear them, not the best for close-up photography.

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It wasn’t like the sky was dark with so many birds, like Carlsbad Caverns is with the bats in the evening, but large formations of cranes were flying around everywhere.

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The following video clip is really just so you can hear their fun cries!