April 4, 2015: A Visit to the Dallas Arboretum
March 6, 2015: A Visit to the Dallas Arboretum
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March 12-29, 2015
Our Spring Trip to Florida


As you have undoubtedly noticed thus far, since Fred retired, our trips to Florida have become something of a scheduled routine. We tend now to take four or five trips each year. The first is usually over New Year's, and the second is about now- sometime in mid-March. The third tends to be in May, before it gets really hot and dry and Fred needs to be home to keep his plants watered. The fourth trip comes just after the summer heat has broken, which is usually late September. And finally, if we do make a fifth trip, it is in November and we are home for Thanksgiving. Last year, we didn't make that November trip, opting instead for our trip to South America.

We have timed this trip so we can be here in Fort Lauderdale for the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade, which will be the major section of pictures for this trip.


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 nine trips, Zack, our Snowshoe cat. This trip will be a milestone for him- his 10th round-trip to Florida with us.

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 Thursday, March 12th, and arrived in Fort Lauderdale on Friday the 13th.

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.


Boat Traffic on the New River

As I have said many times before in this album, one of the best (if not the best) attributes of the little condo here in Fort Lauderdale is that it is right on the water. Not the ocean, of course, or even the Intracoastal (it would be worth a heck of a lot more if it were down there), but something possibly even better- the New River. This tidal estuary runs from the Intracoastal west right past Riverview Gardens, through downtown Fort Lauderdale and the Riverwalk and then for miles further on.

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Beginning just a quarter mile east of us, the river is lined with homes that have boats, and from downtown further west, it is lined with more homes with boats, boatyards that service them and marinas where they are kept. There are numerous canals that come off the river, so the number of boats is much larger than one might think.

The upshot of this is that there is always a lot of boat traffic passing by Riverview Gardens, as boats head out to the Intracoastal or the ocean, or return from there. And because there are boatyards upstream, some of these boats are very, very large. These large ones are often towed (as you can see here and here), not because they aren't working, but because the river is so crowded and some of the turns so tight that no captain wants to be responsible for damaging his yacht or someone else's. One Friday morning, I happened to see one such boat being towed downriver, and you can use the player at left to watch a movie of as it is towed by Riverview Gardens. It is also interesting when large yachts meet each other, as this case where we have a large yacht passing the Jungle Queen.

Of course, watching all this traffic is what drew Grant to this particular condo in the first place. It has its own dock from which one can view the constant parade. One day while we were here this time, we were sitting down on the patio near the dock, and I took a series of photos, beginning by looking east towards the ocean and then panning across in front of me until the last picture looked west towards downtown. I stitched these together into a panorama of the New River as it passes Riverview Gardens, and you can see that panorama in the scrollable window below:

Most of the largest yachts that pass by are charters; someone built or bought the boat not for his own use, but to rent out by the week or month. These yachts range from 150 to 250 feet long, and can charter for $50,000 per week and up. Their cost is often $10 million or more. Many have their own websites. From 80 to 150 feet, the boats we see may or may not be privately-owned, and their costs can range from a million dollars upwards. Here are a couple of craft we saw that fall into this category:

The vast majority of the boats that pass by, though, are relatively small craft- maybe 25 to 50 feet in length- and of all different kinds. It gets real repetitive to take lots of pictures of these smaller craft, but here are some clickable thumbnails for pictures of a few of them:


The Fort Lauderdale St. Patrick's Day Parade

We have seen one other St. Patrick's Day Parade here in Fort Lauderdale- and that was last year. So we thought we would time this spring trip to see another one. The parade was actually held on March 14th, the Saturday after we arrived.

From the condo, we walked north across Southwest 4th Street and through the passageway next to the Levinson Building- that ten story building we can see from the condo all the time. The passageway is lined with four fountains, each of which has a cement seahorse, each lit up with a different color. Very neat. Then we walked west along Las Olas Boulevard towards downtown. (We passed a little art gallery that always has a monkey sculpture out front.

We passed the American Social Club where we often have the half-price burgers on Monday night, and then down past the Cheesecake Factory to the staging area for the parade.

Downtown Fort Lauderdale has changed dramatically in the years since we've owned the condo here. At left are come clickable thumbnails for a few of the downtown pictures we took.

The staging area for the parade begins about at the Cheesecake Factory. There is not nearly enough room for all the units right there on Las Olas (unless they closed the street most of the way to the beach). So what they do is use the side streets near the Kinney Tunnel, which runs under Las Olas at this point, and funnel the units into the main parade route as they are ready. Below is an aerial view of downtown showing you how the parade is staged and what its route was.

We got to the staging area just before the parade began, and took a few candid shots of the units getting ready. There are clickable thumbnails below for some of these pictures:

The parade began right after we got to the staging area. I wanted to do my documenting thing, so I rushed ahead of the first unit to try to find a good vantage point from which I could see each of the units go by. This turned out to be right by Bubier Park. I, of course, lost Fred (not his fault) so we spent the morning taking pictures independently.

In showing the parade to you, I thought I'd go unit by unit, but as it turned out there was no practical way to record the name of each of the units, and so I had to give up on that idea. After the lead-off unit, I will just group the best of our pictures and movies into groups that seem reasonable, and choose the best of our pictures if we both photographed the same thing.

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Kicking off the parade was the New York Police Department Fifes and Drums Corps. I got down to the museum, near the end of the parade route, ahead of this first unit, so you can use the player at left to watch my movie of them as they passed by.

Fred was closer to the starting point for the parade, and got some pictures of the Corps assembling and then starting off down the parade route. There are clickable thumbnails below for some of his pictures:

Following the Corps were a couple of (I assume) New York policemen in an odd three‑wheeled car, the purpose of which I had no clue. (Maybe it's actually used by the New York Police, but more likely it just appears at events like this.)

So let's take a look at some of the many pictures and movies that Fred and I took here at the Fort Lauderdale St. Patrick's Day parade this morning. As I said above, we'll just group them by type of unit.

Every parade, it seems, has lots of self-important (or actually important) folks riding in convertibles or some other interesting vehicle; sometimes it's the vehicle itself that is interesting- like the one at right. So let's start with old or unusual cars. Here are clickable thumbnails for some of the pictures we took of interesting automobiles:

In addition to all the automobiles, there were lots of trucks and other vehicles too.

Most of the float-like entries were pulled by large pickup trucks, but there were some stand-alone trucks, golf carts, military vehicles and other truck-like entries. While these might not be particularly photogenic, each was interesting in some way. There are clickable thumbnails below for some of the pictures we took:

There weren't a great many marching bands- actually only one. There were two other musical units. One was the lead unit of the NYPD Fife and Drum Corps that you've already seen.

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Another was a marching band from the Fort Lauderdale High School. I made a movie of them, and you can use the player at right to watch it.

The third was the Black Pearl Pipes and Drums unit from the Florida Firefighters Association. They were another bagpipe unit, in keeping with the theme of the parade. I did made a movie of them, too, but it did not turn out well enough to include here. But below are clickable thumbnails for some of the pictures we took of the Black Pearl unit and of the high school band:

Of course, most parades have their share of floats, but this parade was nothing like a Thanksgiving or Christmas parade, with floats that take months to design, build and decorate. Most were small affairs pulled by a pickup and sponsored by various civic organizations and government units. One had something to do with Irish fishermen:

The others were from organizations all over the map, including a number of unit sponsored by branches of the Armed Services or local governments. Here are clickable thumbnails for a wide selection of these float-like entries:

One common aspect of some of the entrant units was that they involved animals- mostly horses, but also at least one bull, some alligators and even (in a connection to St. Patrick's Day so tenuous that I am unable to discern it) some camels.

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One of the units in the parade was a group of Fort Lauderdale mounted police; I have seen them frequently operating down along the beach. I made a movie of this mounted police contingent, and you can use the player at left to watch it.

But there were lots of other units that involved animals- including the aforementioned alligators and camels. We took pictures of quite a few of them, and there are clickable thumbnails below for some of these pictures:

One of the more colorful units was this little six-car train, shown here in the staging area. When it came by me, near the end of the parade, it had no one riding in or on it, and I was not sure who the sponsor was.

Other of the entrance were very unusual- not because of what they were, but because they were in a St. Patrick's Day parade. For example, there was a whole contingent of Star Wars characters- Ewoks, sand people, Imperial storm troopers and even Darth Vader himself. I have no idea what they were doing in a St. Patrick's Day parade. (You should note that the storm troopers were wearing kilts, though.)

Below are clickable thumbnails for some additional pictures of the Star Wars characters:

As with many parades in small cities and towns, there were a great many groups of various kinds who put on some green clothing and marched in the parade. Some carried signs to let you know who they were; others didn't. Some were large groups, but some were quite small. I've grouped all our pictures of these types of groups, and there are some clickable thumbnails below for them:

As with any big gathering like this one, there were also a great many opportunities for Fred and I to take candid shots of people who were actually watching the parade; sometimes, we tried to be a bit artistic.


Here are clickable thumbnails for a good many of our candid shots from the parade:

You can also have a look at some additional scenery.

We had a good time watching the parade, and compared notes when we both got back to the condo in the early afternoon.


Around the Condo

I have mentioned before that the Fort Lauderdale skyline has been changing dramatically in recent years, and that change is ongoing. For one thing, the controversy and legal wrangling over the piece of property across from the Cheesecake Factory where the Hyde Park Market was years ago has been resolved, and they are, apparently, going to finally build the new Icon Las Olas.

We won't see that building from the condo until it gets to ten or fifteen stories, but there is another new condo going up on the other side of Las Olas and one block north, and we can see it in our view from the condo (see the picture at left); it is the new tower beyond the Levinson Building. We think it is going to be about twenty-five stories.

The pictures we took around the condo this trip were all of Zack, who is often asleep behind my laptop. Sometimes, Fred will take Zack out for a walk. When he does, he usually takes him to the seating area at the north end of the property and right on the river where he can read his book in the shade. You can see a picture of Fred and Zack here.

When I take Zack for a walk, I usually take him either to the Water Taxi stop (to try to acclimatize him to strangers) or out into the interior courtyard, which he much prefers. That's where I took him one afternoon when I took my camera and extender with me. I got some nice pictures of him, and you can click on the thumbnails below to have a look:


At the Dock

It is our tradition, at least every other day, to make a frozen drink at the end of the day and take it down to the dock to relax. This is more enjoyable in the summer, when it is not only light later but also warmer, but it is always pleasant.

As you can see in the pictures at left, by the time we get down here around six-thirty, it is already dusky at this time of year. Still, it is always fun to watch the boats go by (more on weekends than on weekdays), take in the sunset and take comfort in the fact that, at least in winter, it is much colder most everywhere else.

Fred took another picture this evening of me with my drink.


A Bike Ride to the Beach

Most of our friends assume that when we go to Fort Lauderdale, we spend a lot of time at the beach, and I suppose that the first ten times we went down there, we did so. Once I had my melanoma in 2004, though, I almost eliminated just sitting in the sun- which is just what you do at the beach.

So now, we maybe go to the beach only once or twice on each trip, and that is almost always on our bikes, and often as part of a big circle that takes us to the beach and then to Holiday Park to throw the Frisbee.

That's what we did today. With Fred carrying the Frisbee, we biked to the beach, then north to Sunrise Blvd. There we head west back over the Intracoastal and almost to US 1 (Federal Highway). But we turn south into a residential neighborhood and continue west to the park.

When we are done throwing the Frisbee, we go south through the nice neighborhood of Victoria Park, across Broward Blvd. and then through Colee Hammock and back to Las Olas and the condo.

You have probably visited other Fort Lauderdale pages, and perhaps have seen the details of how we get to the beach from the condo, but in case you haven't, here is the route:

We hop on our bikes at the condo, and go east on SE 4th Street to the end and turn north to Las Olas. Then we head east. We pick up a bike lane at SE 15th Ave. We cross the canal at the east end of Colee Hammock, and then we are on a beautiful stretch of Las Olas with the Las Olas Isles (artificial fingers of land- some of the city's most expensive real estate- on which sit many of Fort Lauderdale's most expensive homes) stretching to the north and south. These beautiful streets are lined with bougainvilleas and palms. Eventually, we head up the incline and over the Las Olas Bridge to the beach, going all the way until Las Olas dead ends at the northbound lanes of A1A.

We've taken many pictures along this stretch of Las Olas before. Today, Fred took a couple more one of some flowers and one of a cute sign on the side of the little kiosk in which the bridge operator stays.

This being mid-March, Spring Break is in full swing, and beaches from Daytona to Miami are full of college kids (and younger) who flock to the Florida shore or to California. That's why, even on a weekday, the beach was busy, busy, busy.

This makes it good for people-watching, as we walked our bikes northward on the sidewalk along the undulating sea wall that separates the sand from the street. Below are clickable thumbnails for some of today's beach pictures:

When we pass Sebastian Beach, we usually start riding in the bike lane again as we head north to Sunrise, the next street that has a bridge over the Intracoastal. There, we turn west, go over the bridge and continue on towards Federal Highway. There is another canal to cross before we can turn south into residential streets and get away from busy Sunrise.

We play Frisbee in the southeast corner of the park, on one of the many soccer fields. Almost all the time, we are there at times when there is no one playing soccer, but during the school year we try to avoid the late afternoon after school, when soccer teams are often using the fields. The field is a great place to play, as you can run all around without watching where you are going, since there is nothing to run into.

Well, that's about it for our pictures from this trip to Florida. The rest of our stay and our drive home were pleasant if uneventful. We normally pass through Jacksonville around two or three in the afternoon, and by sunset at this time of year we are heading west on I-10 somewhere west of Tallahassee. When the weather is nice, there is often a beautiful sunset ahead of us.

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

April 4, 2015: A Visit to the Dallas Arboretum
March 6, 2015: A Visit to the Dallas Arboretum
Return to the Index for 2015