January 29, 2016: A Visit to the Dallas Arboretum
Return to the Index for 2016


December 29, 2015 - January 18, 2016
Winter Trip to Florida


 

We left Dallas a couple days after Christmas to spend New Year's and the first half of January down at the condo in Fort Lauderdale. As these trips to Florida have become so commonplace, we tend to take fewer and fewer pictures, and so there is less and less need to divide up the drip day by day. Rather, I'll continue doing what I've done for the last few years- just divide the photo album page by topic, pretty much regardless of when the picture was taken.

 

Getting 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 twelve of the last thirteen trips, Zack, our Snowshoe cat. This trip will be his 13th 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.

We usually get away from the hotel in Tallahassee 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. This 14-mile stretch is kind of neat, mostly because of the long bridge that crosses the St. Johns River as it opens out into a large lake southwest of the city. (It narrows as it approaches and flows around downtown Jacksonville to eventually empty into the Atlantic. Anyway, Fred sometimes takes pictures as we cross this bridge, although this time he took them with his phone and they didn't turn out as well as they have on previous trips. I almost didn't include them, but if you want to have a look, just use the clickable thumbnails above, left.

I-295 connects up with I-95 south of the city and we simply take that south for another kind of boring 300 miles down to Fort Lauderdale. Sometimes, we stop for gas again before getting to town, but this time we drove straight to the condo, where we find ourselves arriving between three-thirty and five.


About the only other thing much worth photographing as we make the 2-day trip is Zack, when we have him with us, which is pretty much all the time as of late. Zack is an excellent traveler- except perhaps for the second day when he seems to know that the destination is coming up that day (either Fort Lauderdale or Dallas).

He spends most (actually, almost all) of his time snoozing in either my lap or Fred's, and when he's asleep he is at his most photogenic. We used Fred's phone again to take a few picture him on the way; these pictures are at right.

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 Tuesday, December 29th, and arrived in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday 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.

 

The Fort Lauderdale 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. Doug used to do just artwork involving gourds and feathers, and it all had a "Native American" theme, but he has branched out, and now does artwork with an oriental theme as well. He divides his time between Fort Lauderdale in the winter and Colorado in the summer, traveling to art shows and to the galleries that have his work.

At left you can see one of Doug's customers, Fred, and Doug himself. Below are clickable thumbnails for two more pictures that I took of the artwork that he does:

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.


(Mouseover Image Above for Player Controls)

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. You can see what this is like if you'll use the player at right to watch the one movie I made at the Fair.

As usual, all the restaurants and stores seemed busy, even though, for the first time in a while, the weather was very cloudy (which is why today's pictures aren't as good as some we have taken in the past. Even so, we took quite a few pictures- more than we have in the past- to show the extremely wide variety of arts and crafts that are available. You can focus on the type of art you like in the sections below, where I've grouped our pictures by those types.

 

The Crowds at the Las Olas Art Fair

In this section, let's look at some of the pictures Fred and I took of the Art Fair in general- the booths, the crowds and the surrounding buildings along Las Olas.


As we walked the entire length of the Art Fair, there were a number of general scenes that seemed worth a photo. Sometimes, where Las Olas is narrow, and the booths take up almost everything but the sidewalks, it can be tough to move around. But then if you are simply trying to walk from one end of the street to the other, you would certainly not want to walk through the fair. So most of us are moving slowly, browsing all the vendor booths.

The three interesections involved in the fair route offer a chance to bypass the particularly slow walkers, if you want, and they are also the locations usually given over to the larger sculptures and all of the commercial booths (insurance companies, car dealers, the local newspapers and a couple of radio stations) are. There are usually also at least two or three musicians performing and selling their CDs. Anyway, click on the thumbnails below to see some of the general crowd pictures we took during the two days of the Art Fair:


Of course, what the many vendors are hoping for are sales, and while we hardly ever see lots of people carring away lots of merchandise, we assume that most people conclude their transactions like we do- buying things and then coming back at the very end of the day to pick them up. That's what we did this year for the few purchases that we made.


I might wish the day had been sunnier; then these outdoor crowd pictures would have been better, but I have only picked the best of them to include here. So below are clickable thumbnails for the rest of our crowd pictures:

 

 

 

 

NOTE:
I have some additional pictures of some faces in the crowd at the Art Fair, and you can have a look them if you click the link below:

Faces in the Crowd

 

Ceramics

Although it's not the major category of art at the fair (I think paintings of various types are most common), there are always some vendors who deal in ceramics- either ceramic sculpture or things like dishes. A year ago, we got Prudence a set of ceramic wine glasses and a ceramic wine cooler designed for outdoor use in her new sunroom.


I thought the ceramic figurines at left were among the most fanciful items at the Art Fair, and I did see a lot of traffic in that particular artist's booth both days we walked by. The pieces were very, very intricate and also very colorful. I thought about getting one but, as with many of the things we see here, I have no place where that style of piece might go.

Here are clickable thumbnails for some of the other different ceramic art pieces that we saw at the Fair this time:

 


 

Sculpture / Freestanding Art

There are always quite a few artists here that do sculpture of one kind or another. But it is never classical sculpture out of marble or something like that; it is always glass or metal or something really creative.


Take the sculpture at left. It looks like it was made of wire mesh- and it was. But the artist first makes a wax figure and then carefully wraps wire around it to form the entire body.


He leaves spaces between the wires that run both up and down and left and right- forming the mesh. When the figure is entirely wrapped, he heats the sculpture and all the wax drains out- leaving the figure made of wire. Very clever I thought.

If you look at another view of the artist's booth, you can see more of the sculptures. The ones outside all seemed to be of human figures in dance poses, but inside his booth there were other wire sculptures- of animals and of fanciful shapes. They were all created with the same process. A couple of the figures were a couple of feet high, but most of them were twelve inches or less.


Some of the sculptures that are on exhibit at vendor booths are quite large. These are usually exhibited at either end of the Fair- either in front of the Cheesecake Factory at one end of the Tuscan Grill and Northern Trust at the other. The large iron figures at right were in the intersection by the Northern Trust- at the eastern end of the fair. I liked these figures, intended for outdoor display- particularly the giraffes.

Down by the Cheesecake Factory were some other large sculptures. These were made of metal and colored glass, and I thought they were really neat. Very colorful.

The rest of the sculptures were either fairly small and in the artist booths, or larger and on the sidewalks near the two intersections totally spanned by the Fair. Here are pictures of three interesting kinds of sculptures that we saw in the artist's booths:

 

And you can click on the thumbnail images below to see more of the wide variety of sculpture offered by the artists at the Fair:

 

Eclectic Mixed Media

Every time we visit the Art Fair, we always see something new and different. There's always painting and photography and jewelry and such, but there always seems to be something new, there always seem to be artists that have a totally different take on either their genre or their medium or both.


Take this artist, for instance. I guess the genre would be sculpture, since the pieces are three-dimensional, but they incorporated beautifully-painted pottery, beads and other decorative elements, and sometimes fabrics or leather. The result is pieces that the artist told us are one-of-a-kind. Working with the materials she happens to have on hand at any particular time, she creates individual pieces.

Purses, figurines large and small, vases and pieces that defied description; she had a wide variety of them for sale. I must admit that I was drawn to them because they were so colorful, but once again I had no place in either Dallas or Florida where any of them wouldn't fight with the existing decor.

At another booth, the artist specialized in decorative mirrors; actually, she made the surrounds for the mirrors, and you could specify the shape and size of the mirror. Then you'd have a mirror cut to fit.

Another mixed-media artist used common articles that people had discarded to creat various kinds of little robot-like figures called "Bitti-Bots". These were pretty amusing, and I would have photographed the ones inside his booth, but he had a little sign requesting no photographs in the booths. I did take a picture of the three that he had up on top of his tent:

I think I mentioned that at the intersections, you might have a car dealer showing off a new car, or the Sun-Sentinel signing up new subscribers, or other commercial stands that weren't actually selling artworks. One that we hadn't seen before was a booth for GEICO Insurance, and I could not resist taking a picture of Fred and the GEICO gecko. Here are some more examples of the mixed-media artwork we saw:

 

The mixed-media offerings were an extremely eclectic bunch. You might think you were looking at a painting, when it was actually a photograph enhanced with three-dimensional elements. Or it might be fancifully-decorated tiles or something else.


I particulary enjoyed seeing these weirdly-shaped wall clocks. They came in all shapes and sizes- mostly in the shape of various animals. I happened to chat with the artist who told me that she can make a wall-clock in any shape a customer might want, and in a color scheme they might care to specify; this would seem to solve the decor problem.

Click on the thumbnails below and you will see the wide variety of these very colorful mixed-media artistic offerings:


 

Glass

Glass was the basic element of many of the sculptural and ceramic types of artwork, and a couple of the painting genre examples as well. But there were some artists who worked primarily in that medium.


Art glass is always represented at the Las Olas Art Fair; a couple of years ago, I bought a piece to give to Greg for Christmas, and last year we got a piece for Prudence.

I like art glass; it is often very, very colorful and you can usually find a piece that will fit into any particular decor. One of these days, I'll probably get a piece or two for myself. Here are clickable thumbnails for the other three pictures we took of various artists' art glass offerings:


 

Photography


There are always a few artists at the Fair who use photography as their primary medium. Either the photographs are simply enlarged, or they have the colors modified or they are enhance in some other way, but the result is something that looks like a very detailed, very intricate, very precise painting. You can see some of these photographs in the left-hand booth in the picture at left. Next door are actual paintings.

Here are clickable thumbnails for two more artists and their photographs:


 

Paintings

By far the most common offering at the Art Fair are paintings, which I guess is what most people would immediately think of when the term "art" is used.


Some of the paintings are pretty traditional, using traditional media such as pastels or oils. Others use additional media to set themselves apart. The vendor at this booth does something different. He does have paintings on display, but they are either not finished or are just examples. When you select one of his pieces, he actually inserts you into the picture by painting your face in as one of the subjects whose face, up until the time he completes the piece, has been blank.

The scenes depicted in the pieces are less than serious, but that doesn't distract from the fact that the pieces are unique, since at least one of the faces in each one will be your own. Interesting concept, I thought.


Here is another interesting take on the traditional painting. This time, its the way the painting is done. Most of the paintings and prints that we saw were on canvas, but these are originally done on fabric, which can be very hard to do. Once the painting has been completed on the fabric piece, it is then either mounted on painting board or stretched onto a frame of some kind.

Some of these pieces of art used multiple levels of fabric, giving many of them a three-dimensional quality.

The one thing I noticed about the paintings offered this time at the Art Fair (and a characteristic that I think has been true in each of the fairs we have been to) was that they were, for the most part, very, very colorful. Whether this is because of the location (South Florida is a colorful place) or for some other reason, it means I like quite a few of them. Here are clickable thumbnails for some additional artist's paintings that we saw:


You can see what I meant by "colorful" if you look at the artwork being offered in the booth at right. This particular artist's "hook" was that almost all his paintings included flowers or blooms that gave the impression of pointillism, although the pieces were not really painted that way.

Here are more clickable thumbnails for pictures of the many painting types artists were offering this weekend:

 

 


Not only were the styles of painting all over the map, but the subjects were, too. From cartoons, to landscapes, to portraits to abstracts- just about every class of subject matter was represented.


The abstract artwork at left was done in acrylic and paint; I liked the colors, but they were just a bit too abstract. Below are clickable thumbnails for the last of the pictures we took of the wide variety of paintings and painting styles at the Art Fair this time:

 

 


 

Zack in Fort Lauderdale (for the 13th time)

It is really a pleasure to bring Zack with us to Florida, and this is his thirteenth trip down here with us. We don't mind leaving Lucky and Tyger at home, since they keep each other company and we have good folks like Lynne who can look in on them. We don't think that either of them would have enjoyed a second trip down here, but Zack seems to get along quite well making the trip with us.


So what does he do when he's here? Well, he'll play with one toy or another (he particularly likes galloping across the floor and across the sofa as I swing a plush toy around at the end of a string until I get dizzy) and we take him for walks (pictures of which you have probably seen on the pages for earlier trips. But mostly, he sleeps (as cats are wont to do).


He'll sleep just about anywhere- on the vacant chair at the table or on the table between our two laptops, where he usually lies so his head sticks out at one end by the window. There are clickable thumbnails below for pictures of "Zack at rest".

A favorite place for him to be is lying on my mousepad looking at me as if he is totally unconcerned that he is preventing me from doing much of anything while he's there:


It's nice to have one of the cats with us, and so we are lucky that Zack is such a good traveler. Fred tells me that when he takes Tyger up to his house, a drive of only an hour, the tabby meows all the way there.


Some of the time, when Zack gets up on the mousepad but doesn't lie down, he is wanting to get in my lap. He'll sit there looking at me until I slide back enough that he can take up position there. One morning, that's what he was apparently doing, so I picked up my camera to make a movie of the process. It didn't turn out exactly as I expected, and you'll see if you use the player at left to watch the movie.

I have just two other pictures of Zack from this trip. One I took while he was on the table, and it turned out to be a pretty good close-up portrait of our handsome little snowshoe. The other is one of his odd poses, one that he does here, on the arms of the sofa, or at home up in the media room up on the back of the sofa there. He will lie on his stomach on the sofa arm or back and let one paw fall down on either side, with his head down on the furniture. It makes him look as if he is plumb tuckered out, and we call it his "ennui pose". He kind of did the same thing one day here, so I grabbed my camera to take this picture of Zack and Fred.

 

Boat Traffic on the New River (Installment 34)

One of the attractions of Riverview Gardens is its location right on the New River, and the attraction of the river is that there is almost always a lot of boat traffic going up and down- lots of normal-sized boats to watch and some really big ones to ogle over. Most are power boats, but you will usually see the occasional sailboat as well. We always take quite a few pictures involving the river traffic, and this trip was no exception.

Here are some of the pictures of boat traffic that we took this time:

(Click on the Thumbnails to View the Full-Size Photos)

I usually take a few movies, too, for the still pictures don't really do the river traffic justice. Two of the movies I took while I was sitting down by the barbecue grills under the canopy right next to the Water Taxi stop. One of the large taxis came in, docked, unloaded, reloaded and departed while I was sitting there, so I made a couple of movies of the process. (Each one starts off a little fuzzy as the camera tries to adjust for the bright sunlight, so when you use the movie players below, give each one a few seconds to clear up:


The Water Taxi Docks

The Water Taxi Departs

I made another movie of one of the larger boats being towed upriver, and the other, smaller boats having to follow it or get out of its way. These mega-yachts are usually being taken up to one of the boatyards or large marinas upriver. And then I took one more picture from the canopy area looking downriver. The movie player and picture are below:


A Large Yacht Being Towed Upriver

 

At Riverview Gardens

We always take some pictures around Riverview Gardens, although we didn't take that many right at the condo this time. I did take a series of four pictures from over by the Water Taxi stop, and I put them together into a panoramic view of Riverview Gardens and the New River:

Riverver Gardens is an old complex that was originally apartments. It turned to condominiums in the 1970s, and when it did, a few folks started renovating their units. This moved slowly until the 1990s when many of the original owners had died or left, and the new, generally younger owners started changing everything out. My unit is a good example; we renovated it when we bought it, installed central air in the late 1990s and then did a major renovation in 2006. Most folks have changed out the original windows and doors as well. So the complex looks pretty much the same, but most of the units are quite nice inside.

(Click the Thumbnails to View the Full-Size Pictures)


Every other evening or so we have a frozen drink down at the dock, usually about 7PM. Of course, its winter, and so it is getting dark then. This means that the few pictures we took during these evening libations are a bit dark, but I wanted to include a few of them nevertheless.

 

Throwing the Frisbee in Holiday Park

When we are here, we alternate between going to the gym one day and throwing the Frisbee the next. Sometimes we adjust that, if it is too windy or raining or something, but that is usually the plan.


We throw the Frisbee about a mile north in Holiday Park, and we always ride our bikes up there. We prefer the soccer fields in the southeast corner of the park, but when there are teams playing there, as there were today, we go to a spot over by the Playhouse and Auditorium on the west side of the park. That's where we were today. I happened to have my camera with me, so I had the idea I might make a movie of the activity from my point of view, but while I found I could film and catch at the same time, filming while throwing was quite another matter. Anyway, I tried three movies, and you can use the player below to watch the best of the lot:


 

The Riverview Gardens Neighborhood

The area where Riverview Gardens is located is known as Beverly Heights- the area just east of downtown. Las Olas runs through the Heights from east to west, and the area is bordered by the New River on the south, downtown on the west, Broward Blvd. and Victoria Park on the north and Colee Hammock on the east. We've taken a few pictures of the neighborhood this time, one of which was a panoramic view looking north to west taken from the balcony outside our condo unit:


There is a lot of new construction in the area. The Icon Las Olas just west of the Cheesecake Factory has finally broken ground, and they have begun work on the lower part which will be the parking garage. There is not much to see there yet.


Over on SE 8th Ave, about three blocks catty-corner from the condo, the new 30-story Amaray Apartments has topped out. We walked over there one cloudy day, and stitched together three pictures to get the tower all in to one shot. That's it at the left. From another angle, I did a closeup of a worker halfway up the building- not a job I'd want.

On two occasions, I took some other pictures, mostly looking north and west from the condo. One set was taken on a sunny morning (and in one of them you can see my car parked in its space by the trees:

(Click Thumbnails to View)

There was also one morning I just couldn't sleep, and so I was up very early. I noticed how the sun lit up the highrises downtown and in the neighborhood, so I took a series of pictures of the same buildings in this different light:

(Click Thumbnails to View)


 

The Trip Home

We left Fort Lauderdale on the morning of the 17th, and followed the reverse of our route down. It takes us literally all day and almost 700 miles of driving (Fort Lauderdale to Jacksonville: 320 miles; Jacksonville to Pensacola: 360 miles) to get out of Florida. As a matter of fact, when we finally enter Alabama, we are over halfway home.


In the winter, it gets dark before we get out of Florida, which is a shame, because the bridge-tunnel at Mobile is an amazing engineering achievement best experienced in the daytime.

The buildings of downtown Mobile are usually lit up in different colors to suit the season; it is a handsome city at night. As we were coming across the Mobile Bay Bridge and approaching the tunnel, Fred made a movie with his phone. You can use the player at left to watch it.

Following out normal schedule, we typically eat dinner in Gulfport, Mississippi. This leaves us a manageable 160 miles before we stop for the night in Layfayette, Louisiana.


In the morning, we have a comfortable drive home- 200 miles up to Shreveport and then another 200 miles over to Dallas. We usually arrive home between 2:30 and 4PM, depending on how late we sleep in Layfayette.

As we came into town on US 75, Fred got out his phone and took a series of pictures of the north part of downtown Dallas. I have put the best of these pictures at right.

This was a long trip to Florida; in the winter, Fred can be away from his house a good deal longer, as there is rarely a need to worry much about watering to keep things alive. But it was a very pleasant one, as all the trips Fred and I take down there seem to be.

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



January 29, 2016: A Visit to the Dallas Arboretum
Return to the Index for 2016