June 13-15, 2016: A Visit with Jeffie in North Carolina
May 9-14, 2016: A Trip to Big Bend National Park
Return to the Index for 2016


May 17 - June 2, 2016
A Trip to Fort Lauderdale


 

For our third Florida trip this year, we will once again be taking a new cat (actually, two new cats) to Fort Lauderdale for their first road trip. We just acquired Bob and Tobisina from Fred's Mom's house, and while Tobisina will eventually live with Nancy out in Grapevine, we thought that they were so young that we should keep them together for a while and let them get adjusted to life without their mama. We left Dallas on May 17, intending to stay about 2 weeks. 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.

The big event on this trip was, of course, the two kittens we had with us, and so most of the pictures from this trip are of them. Some of those pictures will be on this page, but most of them will be on this year's Pets page.

 

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. He gets a rest this time as we have two kittens with us- our kitten Bob and Nancy's kitten Tobisina.


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. By ten or so we are on I-20 heading east towards 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 Lafayette, and we turn east on I-10 about three-forty-five.

The stretch of Interstate highway between Lafayette and Baton Rouge is probably the worst 50 miles of the entire 1400-mile trip, although the condition of the road is offset by the scenery. The road is particularly bad around Breaux Bridge; one of these days, they are going to have to bite the bullet and repave this stretch of one of the most heavily-traveled Interstates in the country.

Between Lafayette and Baton Rouge we have to cross Henderson Swamp, the Atchafalaya Basin and a couple of waterways, and I-10 does this on a 20-mile bridge that only alights on dry land twice- once at Butte LaRose and the second time at Whiskey Bay. This is the main east-west highway in the southern United States, and this bridge is one of its two bottlenecks.


Once you are on the bridge, there is nowhere to go if there is an accident and the road is blocked; fortunately, this has not happened to us. The only remedy is to use one of the crossings that have been built every couple of miles; these are only used in the event of such a blockage. I asked Fred to photograph the sign for Whiskey Bay; I think it's a pretty neat name for a town. I always expect that the next exit will be for Margaritaville. Here are some scenes from our drive across the bridge:

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It's only 50 miles from Lafayette to Baton Rouge, but it often takes 90 minutes, as there is often 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.

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.

Zack has always been an excellent traveler, which is why we took him with us so often. The little kittens were, too. They hardly made a peep unless they were hungry, and then whoever was riding shotgun got out the milk bottle and fed them. The only problem seemed to be that they both jostled intently for the nipple, so much so that we had to trade them frequently, and whoever was driving had to kind of hold onto the one who wasn't sucking the bottle at the moment. Aside from that, they spent most of their time curled up with each other.

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 stay there, now, even though the two inns that we stay at on the way to and from Fort Lauderdale are not among Red Roof's newest or best kept-up.

On the first day of our trip, we took lots of pictures of the kittens- and one movie. Keep in mind that Bob is the darker, grayer, and smaller of the two; Tobisina was the first-born and consequently the largest. Maybe kittens are boring for you, but if not, watch the movie below and go through the slideshow for the best of the many pictures we took; use the forward and backward characters in the lower corners of the pictures to do so.


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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. Today, the weather turned stormy in early afternoon, with threatening clouds and periods of rain. Fred passed the time taking a couple of pictures of Bob looking out the window, and a movie of Bob and Tobisina tussling:


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But mostly, after a bit of tussling or moving around the car, Bob just fell asleep.

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 wasn't particularly bad today, so we arrived pretty much on schedule.

We unloaded everything at the condo, and got the kittens squared away and fed again. We had brought a small plastic container to use as a litter box, but as young as the kittens were, everything they consumed got used up in growth, I think, and they didn't need the litter box for a couple of more days. By that time, I had constructed one out of a one-foot square and three-inch deep cardboard box. I had to put a cutout in one side so they could get in and out. We got the laptops set up and then went down to the dock for our customary frozen drink to celebrate our arrival. Later, we had 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. Of course, the new thing this trip is the kittens, and I will put some pictures of them here as well, but many more of the pictures will be found on the Pets page for this year.

 

New River Boat Traffic

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.

One of the neat aspects of the condo, and one that helps provide a lot of activity for us to watch, is that the Las Olas stop for the Water Taxi (the busiest stop on the system) 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. I am sure you've seen pictures of the Water Taxis before, and we didn't add but a couple more on this trip. Both these views look right out the living room window and upriver past the Water Taxi stop:

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 pictures. The river turns right at the top of the pictures, 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.


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. Every manner of craft imaginable goes by- wave boards, jet skis, kayaks, dinghys, the very common 25-foot open cruisers, 40- and 50-foot liveaboards, sailboats (most of them in the 40-foot range), large 100-foot yachts (like the one in the picture at left), the Jungle Queen and other large, plain craft operated for dinner cruises and other events.

Fort Lauderdale being the "Boating Capital" as it is, and with all the money that is here, you might also expect to see extremely large yachts, and of course you do. We are fortunate in that the boatyards where these yachts are serviced are upriver, and so they are always going up and down right by the condo. Many of these "mega-yachts" exceed 200 feet in length. Most of these huge boats are not privately owned, but are owned and operated by various consortia as charters. When we see one of these we often look it up online; most have websites where they can be reserved at charges that can exceed $50,000 per week!

What often happens is that Fred and I will be in the condo at our laptops when Fred, who faces the river, spies a particularly large craft coming downriver. If he points it out to me, and I have time to get my camera, I often go outside to make a movie. I do this frequently, but won't bore you with all of them. Here are a couple of those movies from this trip:


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Sailboats are more of an unusual sight heading up and down the river. Grant always used to say that sailing required skill but that powerboating didn't. Oh, he could very much appreciate the craft themselves, and the skills that pilots would need to move the larger ones around, but he had fairly little respect for weekend yahoos who just zoomed around in motorboats. When sailboats come by, they are always under power; the river is not nearly wide enough for even an experienced sailor to tack back and forth with the wind to make it up or downriver.

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At left are some pictures of some of the larger craft that we spotted going up or downriver. The reason most of them are of boats going down the river is that Fred is the one who alerts me to them when they come around the bend from near the Cheesecake Factory and downtown. When they are coming upriver, by the time Fred sees how big or interesting they are, alerts me, and I find my camera, all I would get are shots of the rear of the boats as they pass the Water Taxi stop.

When we are at the dock in the evenings, or when I take a book and go outside during the day to read, there are always boats going by- of all the descriptions and in all the categories that I mentioned above. I have said it before, but the little condo Grant had us buy 27 years ago has turned out to be in exactly the best spot- not only in our complex but anywhere on the river- for viewing New River boat traffic.


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One morning, after I filmed a large yacht going by, I continued the movie to show you some of the area around Riverview Gardens. I kept filming as I walked back to our front door, and I even went up to the top floor to get a glimpse of the new Icon Las Olas rising above the trees.

In the distance you can see the 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 movie also pans across the rear of the shops on the south side of Las Olas, the street where the Art Fair and the St. Patrick's Day parade are held. It is neat being just a half block from the busiest street, and most walkable street, in town.

I just have two more boat pictures, one of an interestingly-colored boat and another showing the variety of traffic that uses the New River on a daily basis:

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 seeing at least a few of them each trip.

 

Other Pictures Around Fort Lauderdale

Other than the boats and the upcoming kitten pictures, we didn't take many this time. A few we took sitting down by the dock.


The picture at left was taken one evening while we were sitting at the dock, and on another evening, Fred captured this view looking upriver at Nu River Landing. Sitting at the dock in the evening is always a pleasure. A couple of days later, Fred got a picture of The Amaray, the new apartment building that has gone up three blocks northwest of Riverview Gardens. It is finished, and models are open and we are already seeing some lights in the tower at night.

One other evening we went with Ron and Jay to the Islamorada Fish Company, which you may recognize as being the restaurant that is usually attached to one of the huge Bass Pro Shops. There is one a few exits down I-95 towards Miami, and Ron and Jay like to go there. In the middle of the dining room is a three-story aquarium; we had never gotten a picture of it before.

On the afternoon that Leroy and Rick came down from Okechobee, we went to a small theatre that was putting on a play called "Party", a play by a gay playwright that tells the story of a single evening's party attended by a group of friends. It was enjoyable, in the small room where the set, a living room, was facing an arc of perhaps 50 seats on two levels. I took two pictures with my phone, one of the set before the play started, and one at the end when the cast posed for photographs:

On another afternoon, I was sitting down by the river under the canopy when one of the many large lizards that roam around the area came by, and I was lucky enough to get a couple of pictures:

Finally, on one other night down by the dock, the "Romantic Venice" gondola came by. It is docked up in downtown, and people rent it by the hour to go up and down the river. Ostensibly, there is a gondolier, but the craft is actually motorized with a fairly quiet electric motor. I guess the ambience is OK. As I understand it, you can bring your own food and drink or they can supply it; most times we see it in the early evening. On this particular night, a bird perched on one of the outboard motors at our dock looked as if he wanted a ride; you can see Fred's photograph here.

 

The Kittens in Fort Lauderdale

Bringing both kittens here to Fort Lauderdale was a good decision. They were really good for each other; they played together, ate together and slept curled up with each other. I think that giving them this time to bond was good for their development; certainly now, in early August as I write this, they are both well-adjusted and still very loving with each other. At this very moment, they are both here in the study with me, asleep, as are Zack and Lucky.


You can see them here in the little "house" that they like to sleep in. Kittens this young prefer closed spaces; adult cats can curl up just about anywhere- even in the middle of the floor. At the left of their little box house is the litter box I made for them. We had brought a plastic tray to use, but they had quickly outgrown it and were scratching too much litter out of it. The one I made for them was probably 18x14 and lined with plastic to prevent leakage. It must have been well-made for we still have it and use it when we take them somewhere.

For the first week or so that we were here, we had to bottle feed both of them, but sometime at the beginning of our second week here, when they were about five weeks old, we started them on some wet cat food, putting it in low dishes that they could eat from easily. But following advice that we found online, we did not do an abrupt transition from the goat's milk; as a matter of fact, we were still giving them some for about a week after they returned.

The kittens were, as kittens usually are, an absolute joy to have around, and having two of them was just right. With only one, either Fred or I would have to be playing with it constantly- just like giving a human baby lots of stimulation. But with two, they could play with each other oftentimes, even though we still played with both of them ourselves. They got a LOT of exercise, running around and tussling with each other.


The kittens were inseparable; the only time, it seemed, when one of them was more than a couple of feet from the other was when they were playing chase. Other than that, they were always doing stuff together.

Even if I just sat on the floor, as I am doing here, they would come and play on me or curl up and sleep. While I usually wear shorts around the condo, I had to start wearing jeans, because they had the surprising habit of trying to claw their way up my legs when I was sitting on the sofa, and little kitten claws can really dig in to exposed flesh. One time I was standing up, and Tobisina started to climb my leg, but she inadvertently got inside my jeans leg before I knew it. I was quite a sight, jumping around trying to get my jeans off to get her out; she was for all the while digging in and holding on. I thought about getting bicycle pant clips, but as they grew quickly in size, getting inside the jeans became impossible.

Speaking of size, when I took the kittens to the vet for the first time, Tobisina was 10 ounces, and Bob was a little over 8. That doesn't sound like much difference, but it meant that Tobisina was about 20% bigger, and when you are that small, the size difference was very noticeable. Being the first in a litter has its advantages. Tobisina was the first to do just about everything; it took Bob a couple of extra days to master the same skills. We tried to compensate by giving Bob just a little bit more food than we did her, and he began slowly to catch up.

NOTE:
I might point out that now, when they are a little over three months old, Bob has surpassed his sister in size if not in skills. The last time Fred and I weighed them, Bob was 4.5 pounds, outweighing his sister by a pound. He has also become an even darker grey, while her tabby marks are becoming more prominent. Their eyes have also changed to their final color; they were blue originally, as most kitten eyes are, but now both sport golden green orbs.

The last comment I want to make has to do with names. Fred originally used Bob's full name, Blu Tux Bob, but quickly realized that this was simply too long. So while his official name at the vet is Blu Tux Bob, we both call him Bob. As for Tobisina, Nancy chose that name in honor of her beloved male cat, Tobias, who was killed by a coyote many months ago. She was so inquisitive and did so much exploring, however, that I thought Dora (as in "Dora the Explorer") would be a better fit, and that's what we started calling her. When we delivered her back to Nancy on our return, and explained why we were calling her Dora, she paid us the compliment of agreeing that it was a better choice, and her name became, officially, Dora Tobisina. I suspect that, Dora being a kid's character, that she will once again become Tobisina as she gets older.

We took lots more pictures of the kittens during our two-week stay, but I am going to put the bulk of them on the Pets page for this year. You can get to it via the Index Page for 2016 (reachable with the links at the top and bottom of this page) or, if you are anxious to see the pictures, you can just click HERE.

 

The Trip Home

We had a really nice time in Florida (as we always do), and knowing that our friend Lynne was looking after the stay-at-home cats made it immeasurably easier to deal with the new kittens. Sadly, though, we had to leave on June 1st for our return. We had taken enough kitten pictures on the way down, so we refrained from doing the same thing on the way back.

We got back into Dallas on the afternoon of the 2nd, and planned to return Dora to Nancy tomorrow.

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



June 13-15, 2016: A Visit with Jeffie in North Carolina
May 9-14, 2016: A Trip to Big Bend National Park
Return to the Index for 2016