Saturday, November 17, 2018

Florida Trip 2018

Florida Trip 2018
November found us traveling to Florida. We visited several areas in the state other than the northwest corner that had seen so much damage from Hurricane Michael. We hope to return in the future to see more. The weather was perfect and we had a great time.
 American Police Hall of Fame & Museum
“Founded in 1960, the American Police Hall of Fame and Museum is the nation's first law enforcement museum and memorial dedicated to American law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.”

 “Dedicated to the law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice, the Memorial serves as a place of remembrance for many families and friends.”

 We really enjoyed our time here learning about the history of law enforcement. The memorial was another one of those hallowed ground experiences that we find ourselves on during many of our adventures.

 Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
“The refuge traces its beginnings to the development of the nation’s Space Program. In 1962, NASA acquired 140,000 acres of land, water, and marshes adjacent to Cape Canaveral to establish the John F. Kennedy Space Center. NASA built a launch complex and other space-related facilities, but development of most of the area was not necessary. In1963 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed an agreement to establish the refuge and in 1975 a second agreement established Canaveral National Seashore. Today, the Department of Interior manages most of the unused portions of the Kennedy Space Center as a National Wildlife Refuge and National Seashore.”

 “…the Refuge provides a wide variety of habitats: coastal dunes, saltwater marshes, freshwater impoundments, scrub, pine flatwoods, and hardwood hammocks that provide habitat for more than 1,500 species of plants and animals and 15 federally listed species.” 

 This was the perfect start to our outdoor adventures in Florida. We saw wildlife and landscape that prepared us for the rest of the trip. It was great to see the eagles, osprey, alligators and more!

St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park 
“The St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park is the only place in the world where you can see every living species of crocodilian! But that’s not all. We also host a wide range of other animals, as well as birds, reptiles, fossils, and more!”

 I had been here several years ago and enjoyed it. This time was even better as there seemed to be more educational and historical emphasis than I remembered. We had a blast with the entire experience and went through the lagoon portion twice to see all of the alligators there. 

 Old St. Johns County Jail
“This historic jail served the city of St. Augustine from 1891-1953. Visitors can take tours of the jail during the day or night, experiencing history as inmates in period dress guide them through the women’s cells, men’s cells, and the maximum security cells where only the most dangerous criminals were kept.

 The Old Jail's unique history is full of fascinating stories about individual inmates that once occupied the cells and the sheriffs (and their families!) who lived just across the hall from them.”

 This was a fun time right in the middle of St. Augustine. Our tour guide did a great job and we really enjoyed the time there. It was nice being able to spend some time after the tour exploring the jail area. 

St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum 
“The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, Inc. is a private, non-profit museum dedicated to its mission “to discover, preserve, present and keep alive the stories of the Nation's Oldest Port as symbolized by our working St. Augustine Lighthouse.” 

 “The Museum today serves 225,000 visitors each year. The Interpretive Division provides docent-led guided tours that are free with the cost of admission, on the hour between 11 am and 4 pm each day. This includes a tour of artifact conservation areas featuring artifacts from historic shipwrecks. Ship modeling, Heritage Boat Building and interactive exhibitions use visual, audio, tactile, and kinesthetic learning to share information with everyone.” 

 "Visitors can climb 219 steps up the historic lighthouse to see a breathtaking view of St. Augustine and the waters of the oldest continually occupied European port city in the continental United States.”
 Such a great educational and historical place! And we got a good leg workout in going up the 219 steps to the top of the lighthouse. It was great!

 Castillo de San Marcos
“A monument not only of stone and mortar but of human determination and endurance, the Castillo de San Marcos symbolizes the clash between cultures which ultimately resulted in our uniquely unified nation.  Still resonant with the struggles of an earlier time, these original walls provide tangible evidence of America’s grim but remarkable history.”

We enjoyed our time here walking around the Castillo and learning about the history of the area. You never know what you might learn along the way. 

 “The oldest masonry fort in the continental United States, the Castillo de San Marcos is a large Spanish stone fortress built to protect and defend Spain's claims in the New World. It's a National Monument and, at over 315 years old, it's the oldest structure in St. Augustine. It's also one of the main attractions visitors to St. Augustine come to see.”

 St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum
 “The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum offers an exciting and educational museum experience that transports you and your family back in time over 300 years to Port Royal, Jamaica, at the height of the Golden Age of Piracy.”

 What a fun time we had here! This is one of the newer museums in town, but we had fun learning about the history of pirates. We would do it again.

 The Schooner Freedom
“The Schooner Freedom is St. Augustine's Premier tall ship.  76 feet of steel, Freedom was built in Norfolk, Virginia and brought to St. Augustine in 2001 by owners Captain John Zaruba, and his wife, Admiral Sarah. Freedom is the only schooner charter vessel between Charleston and the Florida Keys.  With nearly 2400 square feet of sail, she is an honorable testament to naval history and to the blockade runners of the early 1800s.  The Schooner Freedom is a gaff-rigged topsail schooner, and a highlight to any Saint Augustine vacation. Family owned and operated, love, grit and honor is poured into every crevice of this ship, and it shows in our Captains' and Crews' vast knowledge of sailing history and their deep passion for the ocean. If you don't happen to catch Captain John on a sail, chances are one of his children, Sydney or Jack, are on board as first mate. Come for a sail on board, learn about the unique history of our nation's Schooners and beautiful Saint Augustine, the nation's oldest city. Hoist sails and enjoy a drink on the waters, you won't regret it.”

This was incredible! We enjoyed the sunset sail a great deal. There is something cool about being aboard a schooner with the wind in your face as you tack and jibe across the water. The captain and crew were incredible and the time flew by. We would definitely do this again if we are in the area.  


 The Florida Aquarium
“The Florida Aquarium experience is designed to take you on a journey, starting with a drop of water from one of Florida's many freshwater springs, all the way out to the open waters of the Florida Keys. Sights include a large simulated wetlands environment located under a tall glass atrium, shallow bays and beaches, and a coral reef ecosystem encompassed in half a million gallons of natural seawater.”

 We enjoyed our time here at the aquarium as well as time in Tampa. The street car will get you to all kinds of cool places. The aquarium is one of those cool places to go and explore. 

 Tampa Historic Streetcar

 American Victory Ship
“Welcome aboard the American Victory Ship and Museum, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization! As one of only 4 fully-operational WWII ships in the country, the American Victory Ship is a true American icon and is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places. Anchor your place in American maritime history by experiencing an unforgettable voyage of discovery. Come aboard and witness virtually the entire ship including cavernous three-level cargo holds, radio and gyro rooms, hospital, galley, weaponry, steering stations, flying bridge, signaling equipment, wheelhouse, mess halls, crew cabins, lifeboats, the Captain's quarters, cargo equipment and the engine. Enjoy rare artifacts, exciting exhibits, uniforms, medals, documents and photographs. It's all right here throughout nine decks and our 455'x109' cargo vessel.” 

 “We are a world-class, shipboard, maritime museum dedicated to honoring the men and women who built, sailed, protected and provided service, worldwide, through the American Merchant Fleet since 1775 during times of peace and war. The American Victory Ship and Museum is a mighty beacon to veterans, active military and its community. It transports you back nearly seven decades to when brave sailors fought the harsh seas to reach their comrades around the world servicing in the United States Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard, carrying ammunition, goods, cargo, equipment, materials and troops necessary to defend our county. As the "unsung heroes" of numerous conflicts and the military, the merchant marines experienced the highest percentage rate of casualties of any service.”
This is right behind the Florida Aquarium making it a convenient place to spend some time. We enjoyed it and the history of the maritime marines. It helped that I was able to provide a bit of a tour based on my own time in the US Navy.

 Tampa Electric's Manatee Viewing Center
“Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach delivered reliable electricity to the community for 16 years before the commercial operation of Big Bend Unit 4 in 1986. That year, people started seeing manatees in large numbers in the power station's discharge canal, where saltwater – taken from Tampa Bay to cool Unit 4 – flowed, clean and warm, back to the bay. When Tampa Bay reached 68 degrees or colder, the mammals would seek out this new refuge. The Manatee Viewing Center was soon born. Today, Big Bend's discharge canal is a state and federally designated manatee sanctuary that provides critical protection from the cold for these unique, gentle animals.

 Meanwhile, as the Tampa Bay area is changing and growing, so too is Big Bend station, where Unit 1 will be converted from coal-fired to natural gas combined-cycle technology. This means cleaner land, air, and – with more than just the manatees in mind – water. One thing that won't change is the clean, warm water that comes out of the power station into the discharge canal. The manatees are sticking around!
 Inside the MVC's environmental education building, colorful displays immerse you in the world of the manatee and its habitat. Others show how Big Bend Power Station generates electricity for the community in an environmentally responsible way. See some of the power station's beneficially reusable byproducts. Inspect actual manatee bones and piece together puzzles. And before feeling the blast of a hurricane in the center's simulator, find out more about hurricanes and how Tampa Electric prepares for and responds to major storms.”
 Lots of good educational information and great viewing areas. They are definitely providing a safe harbor for the manatee during cold water periods. We did not see any manatees here though we had seen some in the Merritt Island area. 

 Big Cypress National Preserve
“Big Cypress National Preserve is a diverse landscape, where one can see cypress and mangroves, alligators, and panther tracks all in one day! Just like the diversity of the land, the National Park Service manages for a diversity of activities within the national preserve that national parks typically do not allow.”
 “in the 1960s, plans for the world’s largest Jetport, to be constructed in the heart of the Greater Everglades of south Florida, were unveiled. This project, and the anticipated development that would follow, spurred the incentive to protect the wilds of the vast Big Cypress Swamp. To prevent development of the Jetport, local conservationists, sportsmen, environmentalists, Seminoles, Miccosukees, and many others set political and personal differences aside. The efforts of countless individuals and government officials prevailed when, on October 11, 1974, Big Cypress National Preserve was established as the nation’s first national preserve.” 
 “Big Cypress National Preserve - By the Numbers
·     Established October 11, 1974, Big Cypress is America’s first national preserve.
·      The preserve is 729,000 acres. That's larger than Rhode Island.
·     Approximately one million visitors visit the preserve each year.
·      The preserve is a freshwater swamp ecosystem. It provides the largest contiguous acreage of habitat for panthers in south Florida.
·      The preserve has one of the largest fire management programs in the National Park System, burning roughly 60,000 acres each year.”
 This was really a great place to visit and take some time to explore. We did some hiking as well as touring in the car. We saw all kinds of birds and several alligators. The different landscapes were interesting to explore. We could have spent more time here as well. 

 Reptile World Serpentarium
“Reptile World Serpentarium's unassuming cinder block and stucco building, which opened in 1972, houses an impressive collection (over 80 species) of snakes from around the world, ranging from the familiar and innocuous to the exotic and deadly. Often listed among the top ten deadliest snakes in the world you will find a splendid 13+ foot King Cobra, a beautiful Black Mamba and all four of Florida's venomous snakes on display. All told, there are six species of cobra and 11 kinds of rattlesnakes. There are also snakes you may never see elsewhere, like the brilliant pea green East African Green Mamba and its less startling but nonetheless beautiful West African cousin. The snakes are housed in modest glass-fronted enclosures along a darkened corridor. Snakes are the main course, but there are also several species of lizards, a Nile Crocodile, a 14-foot male gator (Pete, and yes, he does know his name) lounging in a shallow, sometimes murky pool with his mate (and sometimes their babies), a passel of iguanas and a pond full of turtles as well as some tortoises.”

 “If all Reptile World Serpentarium had to offer were its snake displays, it might be recommended only to the certified snake fancier, but this is a working venom factory. Though there may be only 50 snakes on public display at any given time, behind the scenes are hundreds of venomous snakes just waiting to be "milked" for their valuable venom. Reptile World Serpentarium ships this precious commodity worldwide for use in medical and herpetological research. The regular "milking" of these dangerous snakes is done in public and makes Reptile World Serpentarium more than just another snake house.”

 It seems that we love reptiles and this keeps us exploring all kinds of fun places. This was a fine end to our touring of Florida. The stop was educational for sure. There were several reptiles to see. The venom extractions were very interesting and it was good to see how they go about this process. 

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