Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June 29, 2015

Day #25
     On Sunday, June 28, 2015, at 10:21 am, an unmanned cargo ship launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.  The ship was headed for the International Space Station, and was carrying 4,000 pounds of experiments, a replacement spacesuit, a camera to record meteors streaking into Earth’s atmosphere and the first of two docking adapters that would serve as parking spots for future crew capsules being developed by Boeing and SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies).
     Two minutes into the launch, the cargo ship disintegrated, scattering debris into the Atlantic Ocean.  This was the third ship launch to fail to get the supplies to the ISS.  It’s reported the 3 astronauts in the Space Station have enough supplies to last until October. 
Lovell, Glenn, Shepard
at Kennedy Space Center

The launch pad in the distance where
an unmanned cargo ship disintegrated
2 minutes after launch
     This month (July, 2015) 3 new astronauts are scheduled to join the other 3 at the station, and, at this time, it doesn’t appear this failure will delay that mission.
Brody and Drew
Inside a capsule

Atlantis completed 33 missions from October 3, 1985 thru July 8, 2011.
     We arrived at the Cape the next day.  Business and everyones' lives were going on as usual.  I’m ashamed to say that I live so close and have not visited the Kennedy Space center in many years.  It certain has changed and reminds me of Disney World on a small level.  You buy your tickets for the tour and attractions you are interested in.  You wait in line (not near as long as at Disney).  The presentations were excellent and the boys (even Richard didn’t fall asleep during the 3D movie about our space journey) were interested in the productions and information.  They loved the place where they were treated to a liftoff simulation.
      It was a long day, but nice, peaceful rains came and went and cooled everything off.
Charlie Brown, Schroder, Linus
and Snoopy at the Kennedy
Space Center

Tired fellows ready to leave the
space technology overload and
hit the pool
     When we got back to the campground, I took the boys to the pool so papa could take a much needed nap.  There were three teenagers in the pool (1 boy and 2 girls).  I could not believe the topic of their conversation (which girls had sex with whom)and the language it was in.  They couldn’t have been more than 14 or 15 years old.  I can tolerate a slip once in a while, but had Richard been there, he would have yanked that boy out by his ponytail and shook his braces out of his mouth.
      I let the first time slide by, but the second outburst of the F word and a loud announcement of what part of his anatomy one of the girls had kicked him in, I stood up.  He crawled out of the water and slowly made it to his feet and slowly made his way to the restroom.  He had to go right by me.  I glared at the young man and dared him to ask me what I was looking at.  However, he made a wide path around me and kept glancing at me to see if I was going to make a move.  He knew exactly why I was staring a hole through him, and I had the feeling he thought it was better to just keep going.  
     He went into the bathroom and didn’t come out until they locked up the pool.  I don’t know if he was scared of me, or if he’d truly been hurt.  As a mother and grandmother, I did wonder about the last part, but I was too disgusted by his behavior to go into the restroom and inquire.  :-)
     As some of you already know, we made it back to Jacksonville earlier today (June 30, 2015).  We were welcomed by a typical heavy-duty thunderstorm.  After the rain stopped, we packed up the boys, and took them back to the waiting arms of their parents.  The boys were glad to be home.  Lacking 2 days of being 4 weeks away from home is a long time for little ones, but I have to tell you, they had a great time.  None of them cried to come home, but were glad when it was time.  They really are good kids, and they made the whole trip really enjoyable.
     I want to thank all of you who have followed along with us and commented and "liked" the posts.  In the four weeks I've been posting, I had almost 2,000 page views.  That makes it well worth the work it takes to do a blog.  Thank you.
Until next time,

Sunday, June 28, 2015

June 25-26, 2015

Days #21 & #22

    We left Key West behind and moved to Marathon.  The City of Marathon is known as the Heart of the Keys.  We stayed in a really nice campground, except for the herd of iguanas, which I believe are following me.
     I have a writer friend, Mary Stella, who lives in Marathon and works at the Dolphin Rescue Center which was founded as a nonprofit corporation in 1984 by Jayne and Armando Rodriguez.  They wanted to ensure the dolphins had a home for life if they could not be released back into the wild.  The center has established a unique education and research facility.
      At the center, they have Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions. Over half of those living there were born at the Center, but other members have either come from other facilities or were rescued, rehabilitated and deemed unreleasable back into the wild by the Government.  They now have a home at Dolphin Research Center forever.
      I got to visit with Mary while Aunt Gail went with Hickory, Dickory, and Dock to have an up close and personal experience with the dolphins.
Brody swimming with the dolphins

Ty swimming with the dolphins


Brody getting a kiss from either Cayo or Gypsi
not sure which

Kiss for Drew

Drew dancing with the dolphin

Giving instructions for the dolphin to jump

Dolphin jumping

Ty getting a kiss
      Gail and Ronnie left us the next morning to go back to Virginia.  We stayed another day in Marathon and took the boys to the Turtle Hospital.  It is the only state-certified veterinary hospital in the world for sea turtles.  Many veterinarians volunteer their time to take care of the turtles.  They have up-to-date medical equipment which has been donated, including an ambulance.
My Bahama Richard reading all
about the Turtle Hospital and
its patients

     They treat a variety of ailments at the Turtle Hospital, such as: flipper amputations caused by entanglements from garbage, fishing line, and trap line, shell damage caused by boat collisions, intestinal impactions caused from ingestion of foreign materials as plastic bags, balloons, food wrappers, and fishing line. Every sea turtle brought into the hospital is rehabilitated and released as soon as possible.
     The most common surgery is for the removal of debilitating viral tumors.  This affects over half of the juvenile population of the green sea turtles.  I was really impressed with this facility.  I was amazed at the different tanks that held turtles in different stages of healing and hearing all the attention each patient gets in the Turtle Hospital.
     One thing I found interesting (and a little funny) was a thing that happens to some of the turtles that are struck by a boat propeller and cracks open their shells.  If this happens air fills the inside of the shell making it deformed.  Because of this, the turtle cannot dive to the bottom where his food is and starves to death or since he is floating on the surface, he can be hit by another boat.
    The first turtle to come to the hospital with this condition was in 1989, and he is still there.  His posterior bobs on the surface.  Because of that injury, he became known as “Bubble-Butt”.  When turtles come in with this condition, they fiberglass weights to their shell.  The weights offset the floatation problem.  If the turtle has overcome the problem when the weights fall off, he can then be released back into the water.      Unfortunately, Bubble-Butt's rehabilitation measures failed to correct his problem.  Since fiberglass is only semi-permanent, his weights eventually fall off.  He remains at the hospital where his weights can be replaced as needed.
There was a bunch of them
I thought they were so cute.

This isn't the original Bubble Butt,
but you can see how its backend
floats on top of the water.
     I'd be willing to fiberglass weights to my posterior if it would help with a bubble-butt problem.  :-)
     The Turtle Hospital is quite an impressive operation and took about 1 and ½ hour to go through the whole place.  I do recommend it.
My sweet little Ninja Turtles
Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo

Until next time,

June 22-23, 2015

Days #19 & #20
     For 2 days, Gail, Ronnie and I toured Key West on a Conch Train.  We learned a lot about the history and who lived in what houses.  I love that kind of stuff.  We could get off and on and another one would be by about every 15 minutes.  The heat was horrendous.  We broke it up into 2 days.
     Richard took Athos, Porthos, and Aramis to various places of interest on the island.  The visited the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory.  According to the website they “experienced an impressive collection of flowering plants, colorful birds, cascading waterfalls and trees that set the stage for the "flowers of the sky." Witnessed a variety of some 50 to 60 butterfly species from around the world, along with over 20 exotic bird species, all under a climate- controlled, glass enclosed habitat.”
     I have to take their word for it because Papa didn’t take any pictures because of an activity we lovingly call “herding cats”.  ‘cause sometimes there is too much going on to think of everything.  They say it is lucky if a butterfly lands on you.  Brody had two on him.  With his dare-devil ways, he needs all the luck he can get.
     They also went to the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center.  It’s a natural history museum that exhibits plants and animals of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.  They had a really big time there.  Again, no pictures.
     I asked the boys what else they did with Papa those two days and they said shopped for t-shirts, went to the Dairy Queen, waded in the Atlantic Ocean, waded in the Gulf of Mexico and swam in the swimming pool.  All in all, they didn’t miss grandma for one second.
     The Harry S. Truman Little White House was the winter White House for President Harry S. Truman for 175 days during 11 visits. The house is located in the Truman Annex neighborhood of Old Town, Key West.
I like this picture I pulled from the Internet.
     The house was originally on the waterfront when it was built in 1890 as the first officer's quarters on the submarine base. In 1911 the home was converted into a single-family dwelling to house the base commandant and additional land was filled in front of the house. The waterfront view was eventually blocked by a new building at the station.
     In November 1946, President Harry S. Truman had finished 19 months in office, but was physically exhausted. His doctor ordered him to take a warm vacation. Truman arrived in November, 1946. His second vacation came in March 1947. After that he visited every November–December and every February–March. Changing technology allowed the President to communicate with multiple political or world leaders at one time and he could summon staff to Key West for a meeting in three hours flight from Washington. Most importantly, Truman realized that where the President was, the White House was.
      We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, but it is worth looking online.  The furniture and how it is set up is the exact way it was when Harry Truman was there.
     I did two more things without the kids, and they were my favorite things.  Not because the boys weren’t with me, J but because they are near and dear to my heart.
     First, we visited Ernest Hemingway’s house.  As a published author, I loved seeing his office where he completed several of his many novels.  His estate is also known for polydactyl cats, which are born with more toes than usual on one or all four paws.  Hemingway loved these cats and even today there are approximately 75 direct descendants of Hemingway’s cats.  They are all named after famous people and they are everywhere.
This cat is on the counter in the gift shop.  We had to step
to the next register so she could nap.  LOL

Hemingway's Office.  That is his
actual typewriter.  Loved it!
     Ernest (I’m sure he and I would have been on a first-name basis) had 4 wives.  His second wife’s father gave them the house in Key West.  Pauline wanted a swimming pool, but Ernest said they couldn’t afford it.  Since boxing was one of his passions, he proceeded to build a full-size boxing ring in the back yard. 
     While he was in Europe on assignment, word came back to Pauline that her hubby had been messing around on her.  She had the ring removed and a swimming pool built at the cost of $20,000.  Ernest returned home as the concrete around the pool was drying.  When Pauline told him how much it cost, he gave her a penny from his pocket and told her she might as well take his last red cent.  Pauline walked over to a wet place beside the pool and stuck in the penny.  It is still located there today.
One of the largest pools in Florida

Ernest's "Last red cent".
     Ernest and Pauline collected two things during their travels—chandeliers and birthing chairs.  They are all over the house, along with beautiful pieces of art.  He received the Medal of Honor for his wartime photography and had never been in the military.
One of many beautiful light fixtures
in the Hemingway House

Birthing Chair

Birthing chairs from Ernest and
Pauline's collection
     My second favorite thing--I love a good ghost story.  One evening, Gail and I took a walking tour through the streets of Key West and were told of the different ghosts and the homes or buildings or cemeteries they hang around.  It was all very interesting.  We saw the house where the famous Robert the Doll lived with his owner Robert Eugene Otto.  The doll is supposedly possessed with a mischievous (sometimes mean) spirit.  He was the inspiration for the 1988 movie Child’s Play about Chucky the Doll.  He is on display in a museum there in Key West.  I have no desire to go see him.
     But my favorite part was the cemetery behind the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.  There are only a few graves left there since one of the major hurricanes brought several caskets out of the ground and floated them down Duval Street, which, btw, probably isn’t the weirdest thing to ever go down Duval Street.  Still left in the cemetery are 8 graves of little kids who died (I believe it was in a fire) and are buried there around an angel statue.
     Since it was nighttime, the gates were locked.  The guide told us to go up and down the iron fence and snap random pictures.  You wouldn’t probably see ghosts with our naked eye, but they had a funny way of showing up in the pictures.  I went to the right and tried to snap several pictures with my phone, but it wouldn’t take any.  I gave up, went to the other end and snapped away.  When we were through there, everyone started looking through their pictures.  No one had anything, but I had three streaky ones that I didn’t think had taken at the right end of the fence.  But there they were.  The picture I am posting below, has a streaky thing in the shape of a person, but if you look to the left, you can see 3 small figures dressed in white, looking like kids.
Picture taken through the iron gate surrounding
the St. Paul's Episcopal Church cementry.  Please notice
main figure in front and 3 small figures in white
looking like children.  Yikes!
     We had quite a time in Key West.  I don’t have time to write about everything, but these are the highlights.  Hope you enjoy.
Until next time,

Saturday, June 27, 2015

June 21, 2015

Day # 18
Key West

     A beautiful Sunday morning dawned and the whole tribe was up and ready to go watch Gail, Ronnie, and brave, little Brody go parasailing.  Believe me, Grandma wasn’t happy, but Ty said flat out no, Drew was on a fence about it, but finally said no.  Brody was about to have a stroke begging to get to go.  Grandpa signed him up and away they went.
     Brody said he saw a sting ray when they got close to the water.  I asked if he had fun and he said yes.  I asked if he’d go again, he said he wasn’t sure.  J
Ronnie, Brodster, Gail
Also known as crazy people
     While that was going on (they were too far out to see them) I took a short walk to the old Customs Building.  It is a four-story building once used as a post office, district court and customs.  It is adjacent to the U.S. Naval base and has been the site of several historical events, most notably the inquiry into the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana harbor in 1898.
     In 1932, the building was transferred to the US Navy.  When the Navy no longer needed the building, it was abandoned and sat unused for twenty years.  The State of Florida acquired the building and leased it to the Key West Art & Historical Society.  There are two floors that mix together two centuries of history, art, people, and events.
Customs House now serving as Key West
Art and Historical Society
     I didn’t have time to go through the museum, but there was the neatest exhibit done by J. Seward Johnson, an American artist noted for his life-size cast bronze sculptures.  I recognized the name, but not sure where I’d seen his work before.  I think it was in Chicago some years ago, but not sure.  Anyway, I remember being impressed with his talent, and I wasn’t disappointed by this display.
Even the suitcase looked perfect

These two were on a second-level
balcony.  They were so realistic
at first I thought they were real.

This one had to be about 20 feet tall
It stands in front of the gallery
     Later in the afternoon, Wynkin, Bynkin, and Nod went with Grandpa and Uncle Ronnie on an excursion out to sea, but not in a wooden shoe.  They glided over the surf at high rates of speed on jet skis.  I guess after parasailing, jet skiing was the most natural next step in death-defying stunts.  Grandma needs wine and lots of it.
Ty was still smiling here, but shortly after this, he and Uncle Ronnie
flipped on their sides.  I think Ty enjoyed that.  He groans when you
mention it, but he also has a big smile.  :-)
     Where we ate dinner was in an open restaurant called the Stoned Crab.  In Jacksonville we have many places to eat that extend over the water, and there are alligators swimming around the decks.  This place had sharks doodling around.  Crazy.
Jaws.  Several of them.
Until next time,

Friday, June 26, 2015

June 20, 2015

Day #17
Key West
     One of the strange things in Key West (and believe me, there are many) is the chicken population.  They are everywhere.  The beautiful, colorful, strutting roosters grabbed my attention right away.  I have a kitchen and dining room full of everything roostery.

Famous Key West Rooster
     The roosters, hens, and baby chicks are seen everywhere, even crossing the streets of Key West whenever and wherever they chose.  It is said that the population began growing when killing a chicken for Sunday dinner no longer happened in the average household.  Most of the backyard chicken eventually flew the coop into the streets.  Also, when cock fighting became illegal, many were turned out to take care of themselves. 
Beautiful rooster

Mama and baby chicks.  So cute.
     At one point, the city hired a chicken catcher.  That didn’t seem to work out.  So, the chickens are now protected by the city, and it is illegal to pick them up.  Dang it.
     My brother-in-law, Ronnie, is retired military.  He got us onto the base, and we stayed in the base campground.  It was right on the Gulf of Mexico.  Right outside our door was a seagrape tree.  I didn’t know until we had left there that the grapes were edible.  I would have tried one.  Someone told us they are really good.  Right next to that tree was a tall coconut palm tree.  At several places along the streets they sold coconuts with holes drilled in them and a straw stuck in to drink the coconut water.  Heavens to Betsy, they were everywhere.  I really wanted to try one, but had too much going on to get around to it.
Seagrape Tree

Coconuts right outside my window
     I’ve always considered myself a country gal.  I don’t want a snake or an alligator for a pet, but I don’t come close to having a heart attack should I come across one.  We have plenty of wildlife in our neck of the woods.  Deer, armadillos, raccoons, box turtles, snakes of all varieties.  I haven’t packed up and moved out yet, but please do not make me come into contact with, or even look at a lizard.
     Okay, I’ll admit that over the past 12 years, I’ve had plenty of confrontations with geckos.  I’ve even, since the GEICO gecko came along, grown a little less freaked out by them.  I’ve been pretty proud of that fact.
     While we were in the Florida Keys, I came face-to-face with more iguanas than I even realized existed.  They are not indigenous to Florida.  No, they came here just like the Burmese pythons.  By people who had them for pets, but no longer wanted them.  Evidently, they are fertile creatures.  THEY ARE EVERYWHERE!!  Everywhere, I tell you, everywhere.
This little beautiful is about 18 inches long.
     If I sit at the picnic table outside the bus, they sneak under there and sit there looking at me until I feel their evil stare.  If I recline of the chaise loungers on the sandy area at the front of the bus, they go under my chair and touch my butt, which apparently sticks through the plastic slats.
My special place when the iguanas
are elsewhere.
     Evidently, they don’t speak my language.  Get the H%&* out of here or scram bud, doesn’t compute in their brains.  I can tell that by the way they look at me.  Their eyes move in a strange way.  “Don’t roll your eyes at me,” also goes over their head, which, btw, is pointy.
     Finally, I hid out in the bus so they couldn’t find me.  I was looking out the window when I saw a gigantic iguana run up my coconut tree.  I swear I think it had a saddle on.  Yikes.  Still gives me chills.  I stayed inside mostly because I had a headache.  It went away after we left the Keys.
Brody took my picture while I was
suffering with a headache.
Until next time,


Thursday, June 25, 2015

June 19, 2015

Day # 16
     Back in the early 1980’s, John Davidson hosted a television show called That’s Incredible!  One of the stories he told was about Edward Leedskalnin (1887-1951), a Latvian American, strange little man who built a stone structure now called Coral Castle.  The story goes that on the night before Edward was to marry his “Sweet Sixteen” in his home country of Latvia, she ran off with someone else.  He moved to America, but came down with allegedly terminal tuberculosis.  He claimed to be healed, and that magnets had some effect on his disease.
     Edward spent more than 28 years building Coral Castle for the woman who jilted him with the hope she would come to America to see it.  It is said he worked mostly at night because he refused to allow anyone to view him while he worked.  If anyone came by, he would charge them 10-cents and then take them on a tour.  Even then, he wouldn’t tell them his secrets.
Chairs made of coral
Ty, Brody, Drew

9-ton gate on ball bearings
that will move with only one finger
     The structure is comprised of numerous stones, mostly limestone from coral, each weighing several tons.  There are many features and carvings in the castle. Among them are a two-story castle tower that served as Leedskalnin's living quarters.  The walls, consisting of 8-foot high pieces of stone, an accurate sundial, a Polaris telescope, an obelisk, a barbecue, a water well, a fountain, celestial stars and planets, and numerous pieces of furniture. The furniture pieces include a heart-shaped table, a table in the shape of Florida, twenty-five rocking chairs, chairs resembling crescent moons, a bathtub, beds and a throne.  The boys had a good time climbing on the furniture.  My favorite thing in the castle yard is the 9 ton, precision-balanced, 8-foot stone that serves as a huge gate.  It will swing around by pushing it with one finger.
     When Leedskalnin became ill in November 1951, he put a sign on the door of the front gate "Going to the Hospital" and took the bus to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.  Leedskalnin suffered a stroke at one point, either before he left for the hospital or at the hospital. He died twenty-eight days later of a kidney infection at the age of 64.
Edward Leedskalnin
flanked by Brody who is doing his
Leedskkalnin imitation
and Drew.
     Online there is a lot more information about the history and building of the castle.  If you are interested, please read more about it.  I’ve found all the info worth the time to read it.
Richard and his baby brother, Ronnie
Coral Castle

Ronnie and his wife Gail
at Coral Castle
Be sure to check again tomorrow night.  I plan to tell you about the interesting and fun places we visited  during our 5 days and nights in the HOT, but exciting Key West, Florida!!  We hated to leave there, but the cheeseburgers in paradise were adding extra pounds to all of us.   And suddenly, it's 5 o'clock somewhere took on a whole new meaning. 
Until next time,