January 28 - February 1, 2015: A Visit to Ruckman Haus
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December 29, 2014 - January 13, 2015
Our New Year's Trip to Florida


This year, as we did last year, we have decided to spend New Year's in Florida. We used to spend the evening with our friends in Plano, but they've gotten out of the habit of doing much for New Year's. Because our friends Ron and Jay in Florida like to have us over for dinner that evening, and seems to be becoming a tradition to spend that time in Florida. So we usually leave a few days before the end of the year, after Christmas is over and everything is put away.


The Trip to Fort Lauderdale

If you've been through more than a year or two of this photo album, you are undoubtedly familiar with our route to Florida. Years ago we used to fly, but that has gotten to be such a hassle (and a good deal more expensive) that now we drive. This allows us to take all kinds of things with us- including, in the last seven or eight trips, Zack, our Snowshoe cat.

The trip is routine; we stop at the same places to eat and to stay- almost without exception. And it's an easy route, too. Getting out of Dallas is easy if a bit congested, sometimes. We usually leave about nine-thirty, and by ten or so are on I-20 heading east towards Shreveport. We usually turn southeast on I-49 about one in the afternoon, reaching Lafayette and I-10 east along about three-thirty. Baton Rouge can be very slow if we don't get through there by four-fifteen or so, and then it is another 90 minutes to get across Louisiana to the Mississippi border.

Mississippi and Alabama are an hour each, so we are heading east from Mobile about six-thirty or seven. This puts us north of Pensacola right about dinnertime about eight. After dinner, we have about two hundred miles to go to get to our usual motel in Madison, Florida, about halfway along I-10 between Tallahassee and I-75.

The next day, we usually get away from the hotel about nine or so, we cross I-75 forty-five minutes later, and are stopping for gas just west of Jacksonville by eleven or eleven thirty. Then we take I-295 around Jacksonville to the south, going through Orange Park and picking up I-95 south about forty-five minutes after stopping for gas. Then it is a straight shot, just about 300 miles, down I-95 to Fort Lauderdale, where we usually find ourselves arriving between four-thirty and five-thirty.

Our custom is to unload everything at the condo, get Zack and the laptops all set up, and then retire to the dock for a celebratory frozen drink. Then it is usually dinner at the Floridian. I wish we had transporter technology, but the drive is not a hard one- although sections of it can be boring. We left Dallas on Monday, December 29th, and arrived in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday the 30th.

We have been here to Florida so many times that we have pretty much photographed everything worthwhile anywhere nearby. The pictures we take now are just candid shots around the condo, at the dock or perhaps at an Art Fair or other event that occurs while we are here. So I've begun the practice of just grouping the pictures for these Florida trips by topic.


New Year's Eve with Ron and Jay

Ron and Jay were again kind enough to invite us over for New Year's Eve, and we arrived at their house in northwest Fort Lauderdale about eight o'clock. Jay is an excellent host, and even though he has been having some health issues, he put on quite a nice spread for us.

You can see the knee brace that Jay is wearing in the picture at left of Jay (left), Ron and their two chichuhuas, Amelia and Chloe. Jay had some neck surgery last year, and there have been a number of problems and complications with it. There are times when he feels very little like doing much at all, and we certainly understand when we don't get together.

But we see Ron and Jay frequently while we are here in Fort Lauderdale, and enjoy that very much. We had a very pleasant, if low-key evening, watching the televised celebrations as so many folks across the country do.

We took our leave a half-hour or so after midnight, eschewing a stop on the way home at Scandals.


Boat Traffic on the New River

One of the best things about the little condo in Fort Lauderdale is that Riverview Gardens is right on the New River, and the living room window of the condo has an unobstructed view of it. This means that we can watch the boat traffic from inside (nice in the summer), going outside when something really interesting goes by.

The fact that there are numerous boatyards upriver from us means that large boats go by frequently, and because there are extensive canal-lined residential areas upriver as well, small boats pass by even more frequently- particularly on weekends.

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The boatyards take very large craft, so every day there are boats 100-200 feet long going up or down the river, often, like the 140-foot "Waku" (a multi-million-dollar yacht available for charter), towed (not because it's malfunctioning, but because the turns are tight, and no captain wants to be responsible for a collision). I went outside with the "Waku" passed and made the movie you can watch with the player at left.

Other times there are kayakers, and every few minutes the ubiquitous Water Taxi. Here are clickable thumbnails for a selection of this trips New River pictures:


Night of the Iguana (well, daytime, actually)

One morning I was sitting under the canopy by the Water Taxi stop when I was surprised by the most colorful iguana I have ever seen on the property. Unlike his normal green cousins, this one was orange and black and about three feet long, head to tail.

I didn't have my camera with me, which was a shame, for the iguana was the most brightly-colored I had ever seen here. I watched it as it crawled a few feet away from the chair I was sitting in and then leapt up into the branches of one of the trees that line the fence between Riverview Gardens and the Water Taxi stop.

Lots of folks waiting for the taxi were taking pictures. So, unbeknownst to me, was Fred, who'd spotted the iguana from the condo and started taking pictures with his zoom lens.

That's how I come to have the picture at above; I cropped it out of one of Fred's best pictures, and turned it 90° so you could see it better. (At the time Fred took the picture, the iguana was vertical, climbing up into the trees.) The lizard was really neat, and since then I have been on the lookout for it.


The Las Olas Art Fair

Sometimes, our visits here correspond with the Las Olas Art Fair, an event held three times a year (January, March and October) where Las Olas is blocked off and a whole bunch of art vendors set up booths along both sides of the street. It extends from the intersection by The Cheesecake Factory (located above the Kinney Tunnel that takes US 1 underneath the New River) right at downtown Fort Lauderdale four blocks east to the Colee Hammock canal that goes under Las Olas.

This time, the fair was held on the weekend of the 4th and 5th, and we went to walk along the fair on both days. It is always interesting to see the wide variety of arts and crafts offered, and perhaps every other fair we end up buying something for ourselves or for a gift.

We were pleased to see that our friend, Doug Fountain, had his booth set up, and we stopped to chat with him for a while. Below are clickable thumbnails for some of the candid photos we got at the Art Fair this afternoon:

The Art Fair has been going on, three times a year, for at least twenty years, so I assume that the artists sell enough, or make enough contacts at the event to make it worthwhile financially, considering that they have to pay the operator of the Fair their share of all the expense of putting it on.

The various businesses that line Las Olas (the Rodeo Drive or Fifth Avenue of Fort Lauderdale) also benefit from the steady stream of potential customers walking along the Fair route. As usual, all the restaurants and stores seemed busy.

Not only is the art neat to look at, but there are excellent opportunities for people-watching as well. The best example this afternoon was the dark-skinned woman we encountered who was walking along carrying a skunk. She was accompanied by her husband, who photographed her whenever someone came up to talk to her about her rather odd pet. She didn't seem to be in the business of charging folks for a photograph; I just think she liked the attention. Fred tells me that skunks can have their smell glands removed, and I assume that had been done to this one. You can see her and her pet at right.

We enjoy the Fair and often time our visits so that one will be going while we are here.


Zack in Florida

This trip to Florida was Zack's 9th trip with us; he has become quite a fixture on these trips. He is a very good traveler, waiting for the second day of the trip in either direction to let us know that he is ready to get where he is going. Mostly he sleeps. And it is fun to have an animal with us in the condo.

What does Zack doe when he is with us? Well, with no brothers to play with, we have to take their place and give him some exercise. Another of the ways we do that is to put him on his leash and take him outside for a walk. Zack prefers the quiet of the interior courtyard, but I like to take him over to the Water Taxi stop to acclimatize him to people (and to garner the amazed looks when people see a cat on a leash).

We spend a great deal of time at our laptops, and Zack can often be found on the table, sleeping between them or looking out the window. That's the picture at left. He is a real lap cat (more for me than for Fred), and helps me work on my photo album. Fred got a nice picture of him doing that- just click here.

We took a good many more pictures of Zack this time, but I'll put those on this year's "Pets" page (which you can reach via the Index for 2015).

This was another good trip to Florida. They are getting routine, but that doesn't make them any less fun. I just wish they would hurry up and invent transporter technology.

You can use the links below to continue to another photo album page.

January 28 - February 1, 2015: A Visit to Ruckman Haus
Return to the Index for 2015