November 15, 2015: A Visit With Guy to the Dallas Arboretum
September 25, 2015: Steve Lee Visits Dallas
Return to the Index for 2015

October 17 - November 2, 2015
Our Fall 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.



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 ten of the last eleven trips, Zack, our Snowshoe cat. This trip will be his 11th 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 new motel in Tallahassee- the Red Roof Inn. We used to stay at a Super 8 in Madison, but we had to kind of smuggle Zack in and out. We learned, however, when we were planning our aborted trip to Washington DC last May, that all Red Roof Inns are "pet-friendly", and don't charge a fee for pets. So we have begun staying at the one nearest to Madison- about fifty miles west in Tallahassee.

The next day, as we were getting ready to leave the hotel, we happened to notice an interesting car in the parking lot, and we just had to take a picture of it. We usually get away from the hotel about nine or so, we cross I-75 ninety 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 three-thirty and five.

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 Saturday, October 17th, and arrived in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday the 18th.

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.



Boats! Boats! More Boats! Yachts! More Yachts!

Over the years, the one characteristic of the Fort Lauderdale that has been most enjoyable (other than the fact that it is in Florida) is its proximity to the New River which, even more perhaps than the Intracoastal Waterway, provides a constant parade of boats- large and small- that one can watch. I suppose that was very much in Grant's mind when he suggested that we purchase it, but it has certainly provided a steady stream of entertainment.

As I may have mentioned before, the New River goes from the Intracoastal some miles inland. Upriver, there are not only scads of homes on canals that are thick with docked boats but there are also a number of marinas and boatyards where the large yachts are kept and worked on. Some of these yards and marinas accept boats that are hundreds of feet long.

So sometimes, as in the picture at left, the larger yachts are actually towed upriver by tugs on the front and back. I guess that this may be sometimes because the boat is having a problem, but I think that more often the boat's owner or pilot doesn't feel comfortable moving such a large boat through such close quarters; in downtown, there are boats docked on both sides of the river, and unless you're a pretty decent pilot you run the risk of hitting one of them.

The most common craft, though, are the boats in the twenty-foot to forty-foot range, and these are easily navigated up and down the river. The Water Taxi is also a common, three-times-an-hour sight, and so the river often looks like this. So we have megayachts as well as craft that are not so "mega".

I always find the tugging procedure kind of interesting, and one afternoon when a large yacht came by being tugged downriver, I took a still picture and a movie of the process. Below, the still picture is on the left and the player you can use to watch the movie is on the right:

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While the vast majority of the craft that go up and down the river are either the Water Taxi or private craft or larger charter yachts, there are also the occasional work craft, this this barge. We also see fuel delivery barges go upriver to replenish the fuel pumps at the various marinas, and there are occasionally dredging craft that pass (as the New River has to be continually maintained as the water doesn't flow fast enough to wash silt out to sea.

So it's always fun to watch the boats. Here are clickable thumbnails for some of the other river pictures from this trip:




We have pictures of Zack from every one of his eleven trips down here, and this one was no exception. He is extremely photogenic.

Zack can usually be found on our computer table or in the chair beside it- at least when we are sitting here. One day, when he laid down between our laptops, Fred put the earphones on him and took the picture at left; funny, I think.

But when one or the other of us is sitting on the couch, Zack is almost always in the lap that is created, snuggling up and marking us on the chin. He does that all the time, and we joke that he has short-term memory problems. One evening, Fred took a series of pictures of him in my lap; here are clickable thumbnails for a few of those pictures:



At the Condo

We took some miscellaneous pictures around the condo during our stay. One set we took only because two things happened. First, we drove Fred's new car down here- its first long road trip. It's a Hyundai Elantra GT, and has all the bells and whistles. The other thing was that while it was parked in our space, someone parked a red Mazda 3 (the similar car in the Mazda line) right beside it. The contract of red and and black was interesting, and Fred took a whole series of pictures. Here are the best two:

Something else new is the new condo building that's gone up nearby- about two blocks away diagonally to the northwest. It's been interesting to watch the building get taller, but now it's topped out and they are starting to work on the inside and finishing the outer skin. Below left is a view from just outside the condo door, and to its right is a zoom view in the same direction.

In the picture at right, look two-third of the way up the building and you'll see some men doing the outside finish-out. If you can't see them clearly, just click on them and I'll help you out.

Beyond that building, at the corner of Broward and Federal, there's an apartment building that's been there for a while, and both of us think it's color scheme would be great for Riverview Gardens:

While we were here, Florida was experiencing some of its highest yearly tides. These have gotten slowly worse in the past decades as the sea levels have begun a slow rise. We also had a storm off the coast and the moon was fairly close in its orbit. All this exaggerated the levels of water in the New River, which is quite tidal. On one morning, I looked down from the second-floor balcony on the river side of my building and I could see that our dock was partially under water. This has happened before in the last year, but this was somewhat worse. I asked one of the older residents here whether this had happened before; she said yes, but only for the first time a couple of years ago. Across the river, the water was coming up over the seawall, and we took a couple of pictures of that:



Out and About

I have a few pictures to include here that we took while we were out with friends or otherwise away from the condo itself.

One afternoon, we were walking on Las Olas, and we saw one of the two passenger-powered mobile bars that make their way from Las Olas out to the beach and elsewhere around town. You may have seen these before; they do look like a lot of fun, although if there is a lot of drinking going on, I would think that folks' energy would flag. I took a picture of one of them as it passed, and you can see that picture at left.

My good friend Ty Ferel happened to be visiting Fort Lauderdale while we were here, and we got a chance to meet up with him for supper at the Floridian Restaurant down the street. I had not seen him in person for quite some years now- not since he moved to Palm Springs about five years ago. It was very good to catch up with him at the restaurant (where I took the two pictures you can see here and here) and to have him come back to the condo that he had such a large hand in creating. It was a pleasure for both of us to see him again, and I hope it it not another five years before we see him again.

Walking back from the Floridian the night we met Ty there, we saw in one of the art galleries on Las Olas an interesting piece of artwork featuring a glass Buddha that we thought Greg might be interested in, so we took a picture of it. (He wasn't, as it turned out.)

Finally, on Saturday afternoon the 24th, our friends Rick Hawk and Leroy Trehern, who live in Okechobee, came down for the afternoon to see us and also Ron and Jay. We spent some time at the condo and then had dinner at a nearby Olive Garden, where that picture was taken.



Halloween in Wilton Manors

On Halloween, we had dinner with Ron and Jay at their house; we would be leaving the next day to return to Dallas. On the way back from their house, we stopped in Wilton Manors, America's largest gay-run city, to walk along the blocked-off Wilton Drive where the Halloween celebration was in full swing.

Wilton Manors is a separate city but almost surrounded by Fort Lauderdale. Only on the north is it bordered by the City of Oakland Park; Fort Lauderdale is east, south and west of it. It has its own mayor and city council; the mayor has almost always been gay and the city council predominately so. But it is a safe city, well-patrolled, with a majority of homeowners wo take excellent care of their properties. Because of this, the city is now about 30% straight singles and families, but everyone seems to get along quite well. Wilton Drive is the main street through Wilton Manors, and there are perhaps ten or twelve gay bars along its length, catering to a wide range of tastes. But all of them are honestly-run, out in the open and, save perhaps for Friday and Saturday nights, so quiet that driving along the street the average person wouldn't know they were there.



The Halloween Festival is a long tradition in Wilton Manors; I'm told that this year was about the Festival's 25th. Wilton Drive is blocked off from Five Points on the north through The Crossroads on the south. There are street vendors, performance stages, contests and such, and all the restaurants along the street stay open well into the morning.

As with many such Halloween Festivals (gay or straight or both), it is a time for the creative and inventive to show off their talents, and for the rest of us to do something minimal as to costume and come out and admire those with more panache. Certainly there were some amazing costumes this evening, worn by gays and by straight couples and individuals. Some were obviously one or the other, but other costumes were so elaborate that it was impossible to tell what, exactly, was underneath.

A couple of good examples are at left, and there are clickable thumbnails for pictures of more of the participants below:

Walking along Wilton Drive, both Fred and I were impressed with the creativity and work that must have gone into many of the costumes that we saw. We were far, far away from just purchasing the costume-du-jour from a local shop; some of these folks must have worked for weeks on theirs. I was sorry that my phone didn't do a good job on many of the pictures; perhaps I don't know how best to use it in low light. Sadly, I discarded many of the pictures I took, and even some of the ones on this page are way below my usual standard.


Straight (I think)

Down by the Crossroads, there was a performance stage set up, and there were all manner of contests and presentations going on. There was also, of course, music at both ends of the drive; the restaurants and bars provided more to the noise level. But it was a neat celebration and no one seemed bothered by or antagonistic to the revelers. Below are clickable thumbnails for more of the pictures that I took this evening:



The Trip Home

The three of us had another great time here in Fort Lauderdale, and it was with reluctance that we headed home on November 1. We just reversed the route shown above, except that we had dinner in Gulfport, Mississippi, and stayed the night in Layfayette, Louisiana. As he often does, Fred got out his phone as we came into the city and took a picture of downtown Dallas as we passed by on Central Expressway. We arrived home on the afternoon of the 2nd to find, to our relief, that no disasters had occurred.

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

November 15, 2015: A Visit With Guy to the Dallas Arboretum
September 25, 2015: Steve Lee Visits Dallas
Return to the Index for 2015