.All Trips / Florida / North America / Southeastern USA

A gallery of gators — Florida’s Everglades National Park

098 Everglades , Alligator

There’s sometime viscerally disconcerting about looking into the eyes of an alligator.  Dark, non-blinking, but clearly focused on you, it sends a shiver up my spine.  Something being tickled in the primitive parts of my brain — prey intuitively recognizing a successful killing and eating machine that has survived for millions of years.  They sure look menacing with those armored bodies, powerful tails and dozens of sharp teeth, like the apex predators they are.

My instincts make me back off and keep a good distance, and that’s good advice for everyone — stay at least 4 m (13 ft) from alligators (and crocodiles) because over a 2 meter distance there’s no faster attack animal on the planet.  You won’t have a …

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.All Trips / Florida / North America / Southeastern USA

A visit to the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida

kennedy-space-center-florida-2013-004

The Kennedy Space Center is one of my favorite attractions in the United States. It highlights some of the greatest technological achievements of our species and is testament to one of the most significant advances of human civilization — mankind leaving its earthly home to travel to the moon. It was President John Kennedy’s challenge to the nation to get a man to the moon and return him safely to the Earth before the close of the 1960s, a goal accomplished by the landing of Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong on the moon in July 1969.  I was very young during those halcyon days of space travel but remember vividly the great successes (and some heart-breaking failures) of the …

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.All Trips / Florida / North America / Southeastern USA

The Tampa Bay Automobile Museum — a fascinating collection of fine cars!

Tampa Bay Automobile Museum 2013 244 1936 Panhard Dynamic

One of the great pleasures of traveling is discovering those special places — gems that aren’t necessarily very famous or perhaps are off the beaten path, but still so very worthwhile visiting.  So it was with the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum which I had the pleasure of discovering during a recent visit to Florida.

Situated in a light industrial area just outside of Tampa in Pinellas County, the museum abuts a factory run by the owner of the wonderful car collection I’m about to share with you.  The factory is Polypack (manufactures packaging machinery) and its owner is Alain Cerf.  Mr. Cerf is an immigrant from France, a man with obvious exquisite taste in cars and the means to indulge …

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.All Trips / Florida / North America / Southeastern USA

A visit to the Everglade National Park: Shark Valley’s “River of Grass”

012 Everglades Shark Valley Bobcat Trail 012 Alligator

This is the last in a three part series highlighting a visit to Florida’s unique Everglades.  The first part discussed the Cypress forests of the Everglades and the second part highlighted the coastal mangrove forests near Everglades City.  Today I’d like to share with you a great example of the major component of the Everglades, the “River of Grass” — tens of thousands of acres of partially submerged sawgrass.  Within this flat landscape are some small islands on which grow cypress, palm and gumbo-limbo trees.

The Everglades is characterized by a broad shallow river flowing from Lake Okeechobee into Florida Bay.  This river averages 40-50 miles (75  km) in width, 6 in (15 cm)  in depth and flows very slowly, …

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.All Trips / Florida / North America / Southeastern USA

Everglades City, Florida: Mangroves, Manatee, and the Sea.

Everglades City 2013 019 airboat pelicans

This is the second in a three part series on Florida’s unique Everglades ecosystem.  The first part focused on the Cypress forests of the Everglades, which you read about here. This post deals with a visit to the coastal Everglades.

Everglades City is a small town (population 400) in southwestern Florida abutting the ocean to the south and Everglades National Park to the east.  The town is situated towards the southern end of the Everglades.  In this region, the “River of Grass” has transitioned to a coastal mangrove forest.  Mangroves thrive where the water is brackish and saw-grass can’t survive, and mangroves are ecologically important because they helps anchor the land and keep it from eroding during …

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.All Trips / Florida / North America / Southeastern USA

Florida’s Everglades: Big Cypress Bend boardwalk at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park

Florida Eveerglades Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk 2013 009

The Everglades is a fascinating and unique place — a broad shallow river slowly moving to the sea and covering a large portion of southwestern Florida in a thin layer of water.   Mostly the Everglades is characterized by its “River of Grass”, endless acres of saw-grass (run your finger along it’s edge and you’ll see how it got its name).  I’ll be writing about my visit to Shark Valley in Everglades National Park soon, Shark Valley being representative of this “River of Grass” ecosystem.  The mangroves are another face of the Everglades found along the coast, where fresh and salt water mingle, and we’ll also be discussing Everglades City which is in this region in a future post.

Today …

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“Pic of the Week”, January 10, 2014. Space Shuttle Atlantis, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Kennedy Space Center Florida 2013 111 Atlantis Shuttle Display

Like many older folks, the Space Shuttle Atlantis moved to Florida after being forcibly retired after 30 years of loyal service.  Having completed 33 NASA space missions in its career, Atlantis has a new home and will have l-o-t-s of visitors.

The Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit opened June 2013 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, Florida.  At the robust cost of $100 million (not counting the value of the shuttle orbiter itself), the attraction and five story building housing it is fascinating, captivating and well worth seeing.  The 90,000 square-foot building is a highlight of any visit to the Kennedy Space Center.  Unlike the theme parks in nearby Orlando, Fla., this attraction is real and part of …

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“Pic of the Week”, August 30, 2013. Saturn V Rocket, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida

2013-035-August 30a.  Kennedy Space Center.  Apollo Rocket

I sometimes forget that most people alive today were not part of the exciting age of space exploration in the 1960s and early 1970s.  While I was just a boy at the time, I’m glad I experienced this truly fun and historic decade, especially as a fan of science fiction.  The stuff that we’d read about for years was now happening in real life — almost like a dream coming true!   People were traveling into space, actually going to the moon and, perhaps more remarkably, safely returning to Earth.  I vividly recall watching the Apollo 11 lunar landing and seeing the grainy footage of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin bouncing around in the low gravity of the moon — the …

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