April 10, 2016: A Visit to the Dallas Arboretum
March 6, 2016: Dallas Blooms! (At the Arboretum)
Return to the Index for 2016


March 9-28, 2016
A Trip to Fort Lauderdale


 

For our second Florida trip this year, we left Dallas on March 9, intending to stay about 2 and a half weeks. This is a good time of year to stay a long time, as Fred's watering chores have not kicked into high gear. We also want to go to the St. Patrick's Day Parade again this year, as we did last, and it will be held on Saturday the 12th. 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 thirteen of the last fourteen trips, Zack, our Snowshoe cat. This trip will be his 14th 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, fill up with gas just down the street, and a few minutes later are going northeast of downtown on US-75 to I-30. As he often does, Fred took a couple of pictures of downtown as we passed.


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By ten or so we are on I-20 heading east towards Shreveport. Today, there have been severe thunderstorms along our route, and the rain got so heavy out by Terrell that I actually considered going home and waiting until tomorrow. But we pressed on and after a half hour or so the rain lessened considerably, and we were able to get back up to speed and on our way to Shreveport. There, we take a bypass around town to connect up to I-49 south, which we usually reach about one in the afternoon. About three hours later we are at the intersection with I-10 in Layfayette, and we turn east on I-10 about three-forty-five.


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It only takes an hour or so to reach Baton Rouge, and there is usually a backup that can stretch for four or five miles west of the Mississippi River Bridge. This bridge, which is still the same three lanes in each direction that is was when it opened in 1968, has seen its daily traffic total rise from some 30,000 vehicles to over 105,000 vehicles each day- many of them big rigs. Heading up onto the bridge this afternoon, Fred took a couple of pictures out the front windshield.

It wouldn't be so bad, three lanes each way, if it weren't for the poor design of the approaches on either side. Heading east, two highways merge right at the foot of the bridge, and the traffic coming in from the right to join I-10 is mostly local traffic, and it will need to exit to the left into Baton Rouge on the other side of the bridge. So there is lots of cross traffic. Coming off the bridge to the east, all of the traffic continuing on I-10 (which is most of it) has to funnel down to just one lane as I-10 joins I-110 coming from downtown. Experienced drivers, like us, know that the right lane, which is marked as exit only to Washington Street, can actually be used almost to that exit, where it is almost always easy enough to slip back into the I-10 lane in front of a truck or car that doesn't keep close to the vehicle ahead. Just having two dedicated I-10 east lanes heading into the merge with I-110 would probably eliminate 80% or more of the traffic jam that is pretty constant all day long.


From Baton Rouge, it is about 90 minutes to get across Louisiana and to the Mississippi border. This presumes, of course, that you use I-12 to bypass the dip I-10 makes down through New Orleans; this Interstate is the only Interstate Highway in the nation that both Fred and I have traveled the entire length of. It branches off from I-10 just east of Baton Rouge and rejoins I-10 just north of Slidell, Louisiana.

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 at 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.

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've taken so many pictures of him before that we rarely take them anymore.

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).

I-295 connects up with I-95 south of Jacksonville and we simply take that south for a 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- depending on how bad the rush hour traffic is on I-95 that afternoon. Actually, it was particularly bad today, so I got off the freeway, went east to Dixie Highway and drove that south for the final fifteen miles. There are quite a few stoplights, but it's a major local street and at least you're moving.

Our custom is to unload everything at the condo, get Zack squared away 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- just long and quite boring in sections.

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 St. Patrick's Day Parade

On Saturday, the 12th, Fort Lauderdale held its annual St. Patrick's Day Parade. This will be our third time at this particular parade; more often than not it corresponds with our March trip down here, and we attended it in 2014 and 2015.

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:


As you may already know, the condo is situated just a block off Las Olas and two blocks from the Cheesecake Factory, so getting to the staging area for the parade took all of ninety seconds.


Today, the staging area began just a block from the condo, so the block east of the Cheesecake Factory, seen behind Fred in the picture at left, was being used for some of the parade entries to line up.

Fred and I snapped a few pictures as we walked along Las Olas down to the beginning of the parade route, and here are some of them:

Down by the Cheesecake Factory, the new Icon Las Olas is finally being built on the site of the old Hyde Park Market. The market was actually torn down over a decade ago, but the new skyscraper has been tied up in litigation over the site. Right beside the new Icon Las Olas is the Stranahan House, one of the oldest structures in Fort Lauderdale; its owners thought that it would be more than overshadowed by a 40-story skyscraper literally five feet from the house, and in that they were probably right. They wanted the site of the market to become a park, which would have helped them, of course, but, even though I like visiting the Stranahan House, I didn't think that their case should trump the rights of the folks who bought the market and the property it was on. In a photograph that Fred took, looking west along Las Olas from in front of the Cheesecake Factory, you can see the Icon Las Olas going up. The Stranahan House is to the left, just out of the picture.

Last year, Fred and I got separated, and he returned to the condo ahead of me. This time, we thought that we wouldn't even try to stay together, but just find spots where we could watch and photograph the parade. But walking through the staging area, where I made my first movie, we were together, but when we passed the Cheesecake Factory and began looking for spots along the parade route where we could stand, we did go our own ways; that is where my second movie was made. You can use the players below to watch both these movies.


For my own part, I found an observation spot on the south side of the intersection of Las Olas and Third Avenue. At the intersection, the barricades widened out, and I knew that many of the marching bands and other parade entries that involved a performance of some kind would probably stop in this intersection to do their thing.

I've marked my location on the aerial view above. (I did eventually move down to Andrews Avenue to get a few final shots, but almost all of my pictures and movies were taken from the Third Avenue intersection.

Interestingly, there were fire trucks parked on both sides of Third Avenue, and they had their ladders fully extended to form kind of an arch above the intersection. There was an American flag attached to one of them. Just for amusement, I took three pictures arcing overhead, and tried to stitch them together into a vertical panorama. I should have taken a picture of the other fire truck, but it would have turned out to be upside down. To see what I saw, use the scrollable window at left to scroll all the way down to the bottom, and then you can move up and across the arched ladders.

When the parade began, I got into "documenting mode", and tried to take a photograph and/or movie of each of the major (and many of the minor) entries in the parade. I didn't photgraph every politician riding along in a car, but I came close. I took so many pictures, that they would, when combined with those that Fred took, create such a big page that it would take an unacceptable amount of time to load. So I have broken the parade into sections, and I'll create a page for each one. To join us in watching the parade, just click the link below. It will take you to the first of the parade pages, and each of them will give you a link to the next as well as a link back to this point. If the parade doesn't interest you, just skip on down to the next section.

 

 

I hope you enjoyed watching today's Fort Lauderdale St. Patrick's Day Parade as much as Fred and I enjoyed photographing it for you. But while I found out later that Fred had returned to the condo, I wasn't quite done, as I wanted to have a look at the "Irish Festival going on a block west of me.

 

The Irish Festival in Bubier Park

I'd read earlier that there would be something of a festival going on in the small park a block west of me, and I thought that as long as I was here I'd go over and have a look. They had the same festival last year, but neither Fred nor I happened to know it was going on, and so we didn't attend. If you would like to see what the festival was like, just click the button below. From the page for the festival, I'll give you the option of returning here to see the rest of our Florida pictures for this trip.

 

 

I hope you enjoyed wandering around the Irish Festival with me. You can just continue down this page to see the pictures from the rest of our Florida trip. You can also have a look at some additional scenery.

 

What Else? Boats, Boats and More Boats!

Of course, Fort Lauderdale being known as "The Boating Capital of the World", you would expect that a fair number of the pictures we take when we are down here are of exactly that- boats. This wouldn't be true were it not for the fact that the condo is located right on the New River, which routes a parade of watercraft of all kinds right by the front door.

 

The Water Taxi

One of the neat aspects of the condo, and one that helps provide a lot of activity for us to watch, is that the Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi stop is right next door to Riverview Gardens- right across the parking lot from our living room window. So when we are sitting using our laptops at the table, the activity at the stop is always right in front of us.


You have seen pictures of the next-door Water Taxi stop before- at least if you've looked at more than one or two of the album pages devoted to our trips down here to Florida. At left is a good picture from this trip. The view looks upriver from the living room window. Our parking area is in the lower right corner and you are looking upriver from Riverview Gardens.

On the right side of the river are some of the older condominiums and apartments (ours is the oldest in this area), and on the left side are private homes. The home of Fort Lauderdale's former mayor is the white house at the extreme left of the picture. The river turns right at the top of the picture, and then makes an S-shaped set of curves around by the Cheesecake Factory and the new Icon Las Olas (more about that later) and then into the downtown "canyon" where multiple new high-rise condos and buildings have been constructed in the last fifteen years.

In the distance are new, low-rise condominiums that happen to be located right on US 1 (Federal Highway) on the south side of the river and, in addition, a couple of high-rise office buildings and also the large Nu River Landing condo complex- all of these on the south side of the river.

The river continues through downtown, past the now almost-deserted RiverFront Center complex and past Old Fort Lauderdale to Sailboat Bend- the major turn in the river right in front of the Broward Performing Arts Center and the Science Museum.

The mechanics of the way the Water Taxi works are interesting. The Water Taxi has essentially three different boat sizes. The largest is used mainly during "season" in the winter when traffic is at its heaviest. These double-decked boats, some 60-70 feet long, are also used year-round on the Fort Lauderdale-Miami route along the Intracoastal Waterway. We did not happen to take any pictures of one of these craft on this trip. We did, however, take a number of pictures of their medium-sized craft:

In the medium-size category, the Water Taxi operates closed and open craft. They try to schedule the closed type when the weather is threatening or when it is very hot (as the interior is air-conditioned); the open type appears more often on sunny or temperate days, which gives visitors more of an interesting experience.


Years ago, when activity upriver at RiverFront Center downtown was much, much greater than it is now, the Water Taxi ran one of these two categories of larger boats all the way upriver from the Intracoastal Waterway stops to the stops at RiverFront Center and at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts and Science Museum stop. But since the activity there dropped off so much, and since relatively few people use the Water Taxi to go to downtown office towers or high-rise condos, the most popular stop by far on the entire system is the one next door to us, which services the entire Las Olas shopping and restaurant area (the condo is just one block south of this famous Fort Lauderdale street).

Since it doesn't pay for the Water Taxi to service the additional stops upriver with one of their large craft, they have a third size- a small, covered runabout- that is used here and elsewhere on their system where traffic is not great. As you can see in the very first picture above, they have pretty well timed the boats so that if someone wants to go all the way upriver, they just get off a large boat at the stop next to us and transfer to one of the smaller boats- and there is usually one waiting, or within a couple of minutes of arriving.

For many years, the Water Taxi has been the only game in town as far as an aquatic transportation service is concerned. Grant and I rode on it in the late 1980s; Ty, Scott and I took it to Miami one time; and Fred and I have used it a few times as well. Over the years, the cost has gone up significantly- from a few bucks per trip or $8 for an all-day pass to the cost today (which is $26 for an all day pass, $16 after 5PM; there is no longer a "per-trip" charge).


In the last year or so, Fred and I have begun to see a new player in the market. The new, pink boats that we have seen on the river are part of a "hop-on, hop-off" system, which simply runs a few of the medium sized boats up and down the New River and along the Intracoastal, inviting passengers to simply flag them down like actual taxis.

I understand that their fee structure is a bit different; they do have an all-day pass which is a bit less than the Water Taxi, but they also allow a per-trip payment, which is a lot cheaper if all you want to do is take a watercraft from point A to point B and back, one time during a day. I have gotten this information from another Riverview Gardens resident, but can't swear to its accuracy.

But the Hop-on Hop-off taxi does use the same stops as the older service does, and occasionally you will see them stopped together. I might mention that the stop next door to us is actually city-owned property, for there used to be a street that crossed the river here on a turn-bridge (that's why there is a small park on the opposite side of the river and why SE 9th Avenue continues on the south side of the river, running through the Rio Vista neighborhood). The turn-bridge and pavement were taken out many years ago, long before Grant and I came down here for the first time in the mid-1980s. Here are some other pictures featuring the Hop-on Hop-off taxi:

 

Private Watercraft on the New River

Far outnumbering the Water Taxis on the New River are the myriad private (and other commercial) watercraft that daily parade by the condo. The traffic is heaviest on weekends, as you might expect, but even during the week, small pleasure craft and huge mega-yachts run up and down the river, and there is always something to look at.


Sailboats are more of an unusual site heading up and down the river. Grant always used to say that sailing required skill but that powerboating wasn't. Oh, he could very much appreciate the craft themselves, and the skills that pilots would need to move the larger yachts around, but he had fairly little respect for weekend yahoos who just zoomed around in motorboats. But there are quite a few sailboats that we see docked upriver, and to get out to open water they, like all the other boats, have to come down the river. They always do so under power, though; there is not nearly enough space in the the river for even an experienced sailor to tack back and forth with the wind.

Much more frequent are the powered craft, and these range from the very small to the extremely large. The smaller ones are all private craft; I would say that the smallest commercial or charter craft are 70+ feet long. But we can sit at the dock or under the canopy across the parking lot and count on seeing at least one boat every few minutes even during the middle of the afternoon on a weekday:

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As for the larger craft, some of them are commercial, like the Carrie B or the Jungle Queen, ferrying tourists around, while others may be private or commercial in a different sense- available for charter. Many times these huge charter boats are towed up and down the river, either because its safer or because the craft is being repaired. These larger craft are often the subject of my movies:


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The variety of craft on the river is really actually pretty incredible. Oftentimes, we'll be sitting inside the condo when Fred will notice something particularly huge or interesting going by, at which point I will grab my camera and go outside for a picture or a movie. Other times, we might be sitting at the dock in the evening when something interesting comes by.


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That movie at left was taken in the evening from the dock; I didn't have my camera but Fred had his phone.

Sometimes, its not so much the craft that's interesting to watch, but the folks aboard. Here are more of the different watercraft that ply the river; notice that they are not all engine-powered:

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I never get tired of watching all the boats. I keep telling myself that one Saturday or Sunday, I will camp out at the dock and photograph every boat that goes by, just for fun and to see how many there actually are. Certainly I have a multitude of such pictures on these pages already, but I hope you don't tire of enlarging at least a few of them each trip.

 

Around the Neighborhood

As we often do, we took a few pictures around the neighborhood in which the condo is located, and a few of those are worth including on the album page for this trip.


In previous years, I've had pictures taken on the same landing below our condo that you see in the picture at left. I included this picture so you (and I) might compare them over the years.

Construction in the neighborhood continues. Completed now is the apartment building three block away on SE 8th Avenue- the Amaray Apartments. Just going up now (after a delay of more than a decade) is the Icon Las Olas, seen here behind the Stranahan House and with the Las Olas Grand in the background.


The Amaray Apartments

The Icon Las Olas

We don't take as many such pictures as we used to, simply because we've been here so often. But two more are worth including. One is a nice evening picture looking down the New River, and the other was a picture I took of some divers who were called to the Water Taxi stop to locate the metal loading ramp that vandals had pushed into the river the night before. They found it, and it was hoisted up (you can see it sitting behind the onlookers) but they were still attempting to find a missing piece:

Two other pictures to include were a couple that Fred took of some beautiful tropical blossoms we passed on the day we attended the St. Patrick's Day Parade. You can see them here and here.

 

A Bike Ride to the Beach

Another thing we don't do as frequently as we used to is to ride our bikes over to the beach. It's a nice ride, but really the only thing to do when we get there is to people-watch. So we usually incorporate such a ride into one of our rides up to Holiday Park to throw the Frisbee. On this particular day, I took my camera with me, and when we got to the beach at Las Olas and A1A, we traded off taking pictures of each other:

I also took the time to take a series of photographs panning from A1A to the view north to the view southeast out to sea so I could stitch them together into this panorama:


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Some Miscellaneous Pictures and Movies

Zack didn't want to be left out of the album for this trip, especially since it was his 14th here to Florida. We took quite a few pictures of him (he is so photogenic) and he picked out a selection of them to include here:


Our friend Brent Whitley had Fred and I over for dinner one evening during our stay. Brent has been doing some renovations at his house, including the installation of a new kitchen (a project that is almost complete but not quite).


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We'd told Ron when he came to the condo for lunch that we'd be at Brent's that evening, and he asked me to take a couple of pictures so he and Jay could see what Brent had done with his new kitchen. I took a few pictures and a movie with my phone, but it can be temperamental with pictures, although the movie turned out well.

For the final pictures we took here in Florida this time, we can record the visit that Leroy and Rick made to the condo when they came down from their house in Okechobee to have dinner with us and Ron and Jay. Before we went to dinner, they came by the condo and we sat at the dock for a while. Fred and I each took a picture, and each of us was flanked by Leroy on our right and Rick on our left:


 

The Trip Home

We had a really nice time in Florida (as we always do), and knowing that our friends Cynthia and Lynne are looking after the stay-at-home cats makes it immeasurably easier. Sadly, though, we had to leave on the 27th for our return. The only photos worth including from the trip home we took as darkness was falling and we were coming into Mobile, Alabama, from the east, crossing the long Bay Bridge that dives into a tunnel just before reaching downtown. I was driving, so Fred took a still picture of Mobile and a movie of our trip through the tunnel:


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The next afternoon, as we came back into Dallas, Fred got a nice picture of downtown as taken from the US 75/I-40 connector, and you can see that picture here.

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


April 10, 2016: A Visit to the Dallas Arboretum
March 6, 2016: Dallas Blooms! (At the Arboretum)
Return to the Index for 2016