November 22-26, 2016: My 70th Birthday and Thanksgiving in San Antonio
October 1, 2016: Guy at the Nasher Sculpture Center and Thanksgiving Square
Return to Index for 2016


October 15 - November 2, 2016
Our Fall 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 almost all of our trips, one or another of our cats. In the fourteen trips up through our Spring trip down to Fort Lauderdale, that cat has been Zack- our Snowshoe cat. As you may have already seen, his string of trips was broken in May when we brought our new kitten, Bob, and his sister, Dora (who belongs to Nancy, our good friend in Grapevine) down here with us. Dora is with Nancy now, and so this Fall we have decided to bring Bob, and give Zack a rest from traveling.

The trip is routine; we stop at the same places to eat and to stay- almost without exception. This trip was the first exception in a long time. We were invited to stop in Natchitoches to attend an anniversary dinner given at the home of our friends Justin and Gary- an party celebrating the 100th year that their house, Soldini House, has been in the Normand family. No matter who you are, the chances are good that you have seen their house- even if you have never even been to Louisiana. You can find out why, and also take a look at the pictures that Fred, myself, Justin, Gary and at least one photographer took during the evening, if you visit the website of historic Soldini House at "www.soldinihouse.org".


Fred and I left Natchitoches after supper, which threw our schedule off; we left Natchitoches in the early evening, following our normal route of I-49 to Layfayette and then heading east on I-10 towards Baton Rouge. Because we were later than usual, there wasn't the usual traffic tie-up at the Mississippi River Bridge, and we made good time. From Baton Rouge it was a 90-minute trip to Mississippi, another hour to Alabama and then a final 45 minutes to Mobile, where we spent the night. We have continued to stay at a Red Roof Inn when we have a cat along, since they are all "pet-friendly".

We got away from the Mobile hotel about nine in the morning, and continued east on I-10. It was 45 minutes to the Florida state line and then a fairly boring, six-hour trip across the Florida Panhandle to Jacksonville. 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-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 found ourselves arriving a good deal later than usual- about 7PM. Since we weren't particularly hungry yet, I did a short stint on the recumbent bike while Fred did email and surfed the Internet, and then we had our traditional frozen drink down by the dock and, following that, our traditional welcome dinner at the Floridian.

Below is an aerial view of the area of Fort Lauderdale known as "Colee Hammock", which runs from US 1 on the west to Himmershee Canal on the east, and from SE 2nd Street on the north to the New River (Tarpon River on some maps) on the south. On this view, I have marked some of the landmarks that will be mentioned on this page:

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 (you will see one of those) or other event (like Halloween, which you will see this time) 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 October 22-23, the second weekend we were here, 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.


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.

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.

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.


Doug, Fred and Doug's Friend Bill

Doug's Booth at the Art Fair

There are two types of pictures that we usually take in and around the Art Fair. One category are general photographs of scenes along Las Olas. These pictures (and movies) usually show what the Art Fair looks like in general, although some of them may focus on one or more particular booths.

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I have taken the best of our pictures of the Fair in general and put them in a slideshow; that show is in the window at left. To move through the slides, just click on the backward and forward arrows in the lower corners of each picture; the numbers in the upper left corner of each image will tell you where you are in the show.

In these pictures, you'll see the booths, the people, and the buildings along the five blocks of Las Olas that are blocked off for the Fair. 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. 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.

Of course, what the many vendors are hoping for are sales, and while we hardly ever see lots of people carrying 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.

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Of course, there is always a lot of interesting artwork of all kinds at the Art Fair. There does not seem to be a predominant medium or type at the Fair- there is everything from traditional wall art (done in a variety of media from pastels to photographs to acrylics), to glasswork, to jewelry, to textiles, to sculpture, and so on. There are simply too many media to count.

One thing that most of the works share is color. Perhaps because it is Florida, the colors tend to be bright and varied, no matter what the medium.

Some of the artists have little signs up asking passersby not to take photographs, but most of the booths don't, so I always get a selection of photographs of many of the artworks (up close if I can). Today was no exception, and we took quite a few photographs. I have taken the best of these and put them in the slideshow at right. As usual, you can use the little backward and forward symbols in the bottom corners of each picture to move through the show, and the numbers in the upper left corner of each image will track your progress. We hope you enjoy looking at some of the artwork at the Las Olas Art Fair!

I also took a couple of movies at the Art Fair- one of the afternoon crowds and one of some moveable art; you can watch these movies with the players below:


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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.


There are myriad private (and commercial) watercraft passing the condo daily; 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. Usually we take quite a few pictures, but we have taken so many over the years that they have become repetitive. The pictures we took this year were mostly to show how high the high tides were while we were here. Here are thumbnails for a few more of these boat pictures:


(Click on Thumbnails to View)

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 is a movie of one large yacht being towed down the river (it is not disabled, but no captain wants the responsibility of running into something on the crowded river) along with a picture of one of the new water shuttles:


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The "Hop-on, Hop-off" Shuttle

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. As I said, sometimes the really big boats go by (mostly because of the boatyards upriver). One night when were having a drink and watching the sunset, Fred caught a monster yacht being towed upriver.


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The Sunset

 

Going Up?!

Fort Lauderdale is in the midst of something like a building boom- particularly downtown. Numerous new low-rise condos and apartments are being built along Federal Highway between Las Olas and Sunrise, and, as we reported on our last trips here, ground has finally been broken for the new Icon Las Olas and it is under construction; it is already one of the tallest structures in town.


The Icon Las Olas will be, by all accounts, a luxury condominium; it is on the site of the former Hyde Park Market right on the New River just west of the Cheesecake Factory and the Kinney Tunnel. When completed, it will be 45 stories high and the tallest building in Fort Lauderdale. It will contain 272 units beginning at the 9th floor; the ground floor will be retail space and restaurants, the next 7 floors will be parking, and the 8th floor will house most of the building amenities.


At right is another picture of the Icon Las Olas under construction; that picture was taken from the middle of SE 4th Street right by the condo (looking west):

We have watched the building rise on our last three trips here. The foundation took quite some time, as pilings had to be driven and the construction had to work very close to the Kinney Tunnel.


At right is an artist's conception of the completed tower. This view looks south. The major street at the left of the picture is Federal Highway (US 1) and you can see it coming up out of the Kinney Tunnel under the New River as it heads south. Las Olas runs east-west at the bottom of the conceptual view.

One day while we were here, we were coming north on US 1, and Fred took a series of three pictures as we came north and descended into the tunnel itself. I think it is interesting that you can tell where, approximately, these pictures were taken by matching the picture to the conceptual view. Here are three clickable thumbnails for those pictures:


(Click on Thumbnails to View)

The other building that has been completed recently is the Amaray apartments; that building is located a block north of Las Olas and two blocks west of Riverview Gardens. It is another luxury building, but it is not on the river. The picture of it was taken as we walked around the Art Fair.

 

Around the Condo

As we usually do, we took some pictures this time of the river and various scenes around the condo. Here are some of them:


Looking Upriver from Riverview Gardens

Looking Downriver From Riverview Gardens


Looking Northwest Across Downtown

Looking Upriver from Our Balcony


The big house across the river has been bought, painted and had the entire back yard sod replaced and all the trees trimmed.

Our wooden dock surface has been replaced with artificial TREK boards that should last pretty much forever.


The picture at left, taken from the Art Fair near the Kinney Tunnel, shows part of downtown, with the Sun Sentinel and Bank of America buildings.


The picture at right was taken from the river end of our second-floor balcony, and shows the nearby office building on Las Olas and the Amaray apartments in the distance. It is finished, and models are open and we are already seeing some lights in the tower at night.

 

Bob in Fort Lauderdale

We enjoyed bringing both Bob and Dora here in May, but now that Dora is with Nancy, we brought Bob by himself. He has just had his two surgeries- one to ensure that he doesn't father any kittens himself, and the other to ensure that he stops scratching up the furniture. (Sadly, he, like Lucky and Tyger, never learned how to use a scratching post.) Bob is an even better traveler than Zack; he is very quiet, goes into his carrier almost on command, and spends most of his time sleeping in one lap or the other or in his carrier.

I am going to put most of the pictures of Bob from this trip on the "Pets" page for this year, but here are a selection of photos to record him on this trip to Florida:


Ah! An exact fit!

I don't know who was imitating who.


The Picture of Relaxation

Must Be the Smells

"I'll Practice Later"

Out for a Walk

 

Halloween in Wilton Manors

On this trip, we were fortunate enough to be here on Halloween, which was, in fact, our last night here. Halloween is festive in lots of places, I'm sure, but nowhere much more so than on Wilton Drive in Wilton Manors- right in the middle of America's only gay-run city.

We had actually been at Ron and Jay's house for our last dinner with them, and on the way home we stopped and found a parking space along 26th Street at the north end of blocked-off Wilton Drive. Then we walked the length of the street party just to admire the costumes and take in the experience. I am sure there were a few thousand folks there; certainly at times it was hard to move through the crowds. But we did, and took quite a few pictures. Most are self-explanatory, so I have put them in the two slideshows below. As usual, you can move through each show using the little "backward" and "forward" symbols in the lower corners of each picture, and the numbers in the upper left corner of each image will track your progress through the show. I hope you enjoy looking at some of the incredible costumes!

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Walking along Wilton Drive, the activity was pretty incredible, and it was also apparent that a lot of guys and gals had put a lot of effort into their costumes; we saw some pretty inventive and some pretty complicated outfits. The selection in the slide show at left don't really do these efforts justice; you kind of have to be there.

Below is another slideshow with more scenes from the Halloween street party:

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There wasn't a lot of light for movies, but I did take a couple when I thought I wouldn't be able to get a decent picture:


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"The Piano Man"

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Wilton Drive Performance Stage

We enjoyed walking around Wilton Drive very much, but had to head home to pack for our departure tomorrow.

 

The Trip Home

Monday night was Halloween, and we left to return to Dallas on Tuesday morning, November 1st. We followed the reverse of our route coming down here two weeks ago.


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A Warranty Runs Out

About seven years ago, as Fred and I were returning from a trip to Florida, we happened to be crossing the bridge at Mobile Bay when I made a movie of the odometer on my 2002 Hyundai Elantra turning from 99,999 to 100,000; perhaps you have seen that movie. We go back and forth to Florida so much that a very high percentage of the odometer miles on that car were racked up on those trips.

The same has been true of the replacement Hyundai Elantra that I purchased in 2011; most of my driving miles have been back and forth to Florida. In an unusual coincidence, we were only about thirty-five miles east of that same bridge when the odometer on this Elantra also turned over 100,000 miles. I would not have been surprised had that even occurred somewhere on a Florida trip, since 8 out of 10 miles on that car were on one of those trips, but I thought it pretty unusual that the two events would occur only 35 miles apart.

Anyway, I saw the turnover coming, so I got out my little camera and made a movie of the event, and that is the movie at left.

Bob, Fred and I stayed at the LaQuinta in Lafayette; the Red Roof Inn where we have been staying because Bob is welcome has gotten seedier and seedier, and I discovered that many LaQuinta motels, including the one in Lafayette, are also "pet friendly". So it is our new "go-to" motel for the return trip. We arrived back in Dallas on Wednesday afternoon, after another enjoyable trip to South Florida.

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



November 22-26, 2016: My 70th Birthday and Thanksgiving in San Antonio
October 1, 2016: Guy at the Nasher Sculpture Center and Thanksgiving Square
Return to Index for 2016