Making The Best Of It

Frog fountain. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida

So what do you do when you’re in Florida for a cruise and the cruise is cancelled?  Well, for Kathy & me, we find something else to do!  We had already been planning to visit our friends Bill & Cathy, who spend the winter in a community near Lake Wales.  Our original plans called for us to visit them after our cruise, so we called them and said, “guess what?”  They were somewhat relieved that we would not be coming to visit them after having spent a week on a Covid-infested cruise ship, even though we had planned to take a test after getting off the ship.

Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida

We were able to shift our motel reservation to a week earlier than our original plan, then take a few days there to decide what to do with our newfound time (and money).  Since the cruise line cancelled the cruise, they are going to refund all of our money PLUS give us the equivalent amount in credit toward a future cruise.  A deal for us – we get a few days in Florida and still get a free cruise in the future!  Some strings are attached, of course, but nothing we can’t deal with.

Photo spot. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida

We decided to play tourist in Lake Wales while we were there.  We visited the Bok Tower Gardens, a relatively famous landmark that we had heard about but never visited.  We stopped by the Florida’s Natural Visitor Center and learned about the history of Florida Orange Juice.  Who knew?

Door detail. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida
The Singing Tower. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida

So what to do?  We looked at the weather forecast and decided that it was just going to be too cool to head to a beach resort somewhere.  Yes, the temperatures were forecasted to be in the upper 60s to low 70s, which is warm if you are coming from Minnesota or Canada, but for us thin-blooded North Cackalackians it just wasn’t warm enough!  We settled on a few days in St. Petersburg, another town we had heard about but never visited.

The Dalí (Salvador Dalí Museum). St. Petersburg, Florida

Over the course of three days in St. Petersburg, we visited the Salvador Dali’ museum, the Chihuly Glass Collection at the Morean Arts Center, and generally wandered around town exploring.

Glass works by Dale Chihuly at The Chihuly Collection at the Morean Arts Center, St. Petersburg, Florida
Glass blowing demonstration at the Morean Glass Studio, part of the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg, Florida

On our way home we stopped by Ocala and visited the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing, and were even treated to a “Big Daddy” sighting!

Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida

We’re home now and watching an assortment of winter weather passing through the area.  Yes, it might be warmer if we had stayed in Florida, but it is nice to be home in our house any time.  We’re well stocked and shouldn’t have to leave the house for a few days.  So it can snow/sleet/freezing rain all it wants – the sun will probably be back out tomorrow then it can be almost spring! 🙂

Skyline from the Teak Restaurant on the pier in St. Petersburg, Florida

An Unexpected Turn

The Helical Staircase in The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida

Kathy & I were halfway to Tampa, FL last Friday, and in fact had just crossed the Florida state line, when we got a message that our cruise, which was scheduled to depart the following day, had been cancelled.  Well, dang it!

All was not lost, of course. We rearranged some plans, made some new plans, and salvaged a few days of sunshine.  We returned home this afternoon just in time to hunker down for a winter storm.  But we figure better here in our own house than somewhere else!

I’ve got stories to tell, but it’s late and cocktail hour is underway.  More to come as I develop my film!

Things We See

Gridwork on the canopy of the Solarium area of Harmony of the Seas

When we travel I seldom go anywhere without my camera.  Even in our hotel at breakfast I sometimes manage to find some interesting things to aim my camera at.  One morning on our recent cruise I walked around the ship, looking for interesting little scenes.  The car I posted at Christmas was an obvious subject, but sometimes it is the not-so-obvious things that make the most interesting photographs.  I’m often aware of people looking at me and wondering what I am taking a picture of.  Sometimes they ask.

Gridwork on the canopy of the Solarium area of Harmony of the Seas
Pool deck on Harmony of the Seas
Sculpture on Harmony of the Seas
Sculpture on Harmony of the Seas
Sculpture on Harmony of the Seas
Royal Promenade of Harmony of the Seas
Royal Promenade of Harmony of the Seas
The Daytona, Autograph Collection hotel in The Shops at One Daytona, Daytona Beach, Florida
The Daytona, Autograph Collection hotel in The Shops at One Daytona, Daytona Beach, Florida
Zoltar. Boardwalk on Harmony of the Seas
Zoltar. Boardwalk on Harmony of the Seas

A Very Good Year, All In All

Welcome to Texas (Kathy’s Photo – I was driving!)

I know not everyone is able to share this sentiment, but from my perspective, 2021 was actually quite a fantastic year.  I admit that we were quite fortunate to have not faced a lot of the trials that impacted others.  Luck, circumstance, perspective and attitude make a huge difference, of course, as do flexibility and acceptance.  Kathy & I are happy, positive people with a good outlook on life, a sense of adventure, and it doesn’t take a lot to make us happy.

Evening light at Sandy Bay in Rockport, Massachusetts

What matters to us most are three things: (1) are we healthy?, (2) are our family and friends healthy and safe? and (3) can we pay the bills?  The first two have gotten a little complicated lately, but we deal. The “New Normal?”  Nah, that’s just Life.  And in the words of (Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon made famous by) Mr. Sinatra, “as funny as it may seem, some people get their kicks stompin’ on a dream. But I don’t let it, let it get me down ’cause this fine old world, it keeps spinnin’ around.”

The town of Oatman, Arizona is famous for its wild burros (and tourists) roaming the streets. A Route 66 attraction.

This is not intended to be a political or philosophical post, but I think what gets a lot of people down is that they pay too much attention to shit that doesn’t affect them.  Kathy & I remain peripherally aware of current events, just enough to know what big things are happening in the world.  We spend very little time on (anti)social media, stay mindfully aware of and avoid the hysteria boobytraps that lurk there.  Yes, we’re aware of all the boogeymen (and boogeywomen?) out there, but for the most part the idiot politicians, celebrities and bazillionaires (real and imagined) have very little direct impact on our life or our happiness.  And hand wringing about things that are out of our control is pretty much pointless.  Play on!

The Motel Safari on Historic Route 66 in Tucumcari, New Mexico

We’ve traveled, mindfully and – where necessary – carefully.  We drove over 22,000 miles, visited 12 new states, met some new friends and caught up with some long-time friends.  We even took our first cruise in nearly 2 years.  And I took over 16,000 photos – not quite as much as 2000 but almost!  Some of the precautions and protocols inspire a forehead slap or an eye roll.  But if it needs to be done to do what we want to do?  Roll with it and move on.  Complaining about it just makes you look like another idiot – not the image we want to present to the world.

The Blue Swallow Motel on Historic Route 66 in Tucumcari, New Mexico

So anyway, I took some photos.  I don’t generally feel the need for a “My Year In Review” retrospective, but it is sometimes interesting to go back and look at what I saw and aimed my camera at.  I don’t try to a “Best Of” or even a “Favorites” post, because as we discussed on Joe’s Blog a few weeks ago, the selections tend to change every time we look.  I’ve long contended that for most people the quality of the memory is more important than the technical quality of the photograph.  Which is why you see so many cell-phone-out-of-car-window photos, selfie sticks and other various head scratchers.

The “Cadillac Ranch” near Amarillo, Texas on Historic Route 66

I chose a group of photos that show my year.  I didn’t even limit them to 21 (as in the year 2021).  Some of them are pretty good technically, some of them might even be OK artistically.  But mostly they say, I was here and this is what I did/saw/felt/experienced.  And ultimately it doesn’t get a lot better than that.

Kathy & I send our sincerest wishes to everyone for a healthy, happy, amazing and fulfilling 2022!

Night time in Rockport Harbor in Rockport, Massachusetts. Pardon the noise – ISO 12,800!
Our first view of the rocky Maine coast on Dyer Point near Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Early morning in Boothbay Harbor, Maine
The Maine coast off Ocean Point near East Boothbay, Maine
Pemaquid Point Lighthouse near Bristol, Maine.
Waiting for sunrise atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, Maine
Fall foliage along SR 112 near North Woodstock, New Hampshire. In White Mountains National Forest
White Sands National Park, New Mexico
Freezing conditions at the top of Mount Washington, New Hampshire
“Welcome to Roswell” art installation. Roswell, New Mexico
Prada Marfa is a permanent sculptural art installation by artists Elmgreen and Dragset, located 1.4 miles northwest of Valentine, Texas, just off U.S. Highway 90, and about 26 miles northwest of the city of Marfa. The installation, in the form of a freestanding building—specifically a Prada storefront—was inaugurated on October 1, 2005. The artists described the work as a “pop architectural land art project.”
Big Bend National Park in Texas
Quoddy Head Lighthouse in Maine, at the Easternmost Point in the continental US
The Very Large Array at the
National Radio Astronomy Observatory near Socorro, New Mexico
Titan Missle Museum near Tucson, Arizona
Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid, New York
The George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York, on the estate of George Eastman
Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona
Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument near Coolidge, Arizona
Hoover Dam from the
Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge
over the Colorado River in Nevada
Nassau Harbour Lighthouse at the entrance to the harbor in Nassau, Bahamas
Hackberry General Store along Historic Route 66 in Hackberry, Arizona
Burma Shave sign along Historic Route 66 approaching Seligman, Arizona
Historic Route 66 in Seligman, Arizona
My very first view of the Grand Canyon. From Grand Canyon Village near the El Tovar Hotel, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Desert View Watchtower area of Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The Lawrence Lowell Telescope, which was used to discover the planet Pluto at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument in Arizona
Wukoki Pueblo at Wupatki National Monument in Arizona
Twin Arrows, an abandoned roadside trading post located along I-40 in Arizona between Flagstaff and Winslow
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona
Riding the Sandia Peak Tramway to an elevation of 10,378 feet.
Christ of the Ozarks statue in Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Sunrise on the beach on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
The Narragansett Towers along Ocean Street in Narragansett, Rhode Island
Morning along the river in Mystic, Connecticut
Historic submarine “USS Nautilus” at the Submarine Force Library and Museum in Groton, Connecticut
Map of US-60 through the Salt River Canyon between Show Low and Globe, Arizona

Cars On Cruise Ships

Jaguar XK120 in the Royal Promenade of Harmony of the Seas

Many of the larger Royal Caribbean ships have an inside area known as the ‘Royal Promenade.’  It’s actually an indoor space lined with shops, restaurants and bars.  Often there is a British pub, and to go with that theme there is usually a sports car parked somewhere along the way.  Such was the case on Harmony of the Seas.

Jaguar XK120 in the Royal Promenade of Harmony of the Seas

If my research is correct, this is either a 1954-ish Jaguar XK-120 or a really nice replica.  In the “correct” color, too! 🙂  It seemed to be missing some key components, such as door handles and a license plate holder, and I couldn’t tell if there was a motor in it or not.  And of course the cockpit was filled with Christmas presents so I couldn’t check out the interior!  It may be a replica but was still a pretty sweet car.  You could keep all those boxes and give me the car, and that would make for a pretty nice Christmas gift! 🙂

Jaguar XK120 in the Royal Promenade of Harmony of the Seas
Jaguar XK120 in the Royal Promenade of Harmony of the Seas
Jaguar XK120 in the Royal Promenade of Harmony of the Seas
Jaguar XK120 in the Royal Promenade of Harmony of the Seas
Jaguar XK120 in the Royal Promenade of Harmony of the Seas
Jaguar XK120 in the Royal Promenade of Harmony of the Seas
Jaguar XK120 in the Royal Promenade of Harmony of the Seas
Jaguar XK120 in the Royal Promenade of Harmony of the Seas

Out Of This World: Kennedy Space Center

United States Astronaut Hall of Fame and Heroes and Legends Exhibit Hall at Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral, Florida

It had probably been 30 or so years since we last visited Kennedy Space Center, and wow have things changed there.  Whenever it was, the shuttles were still flying and the visitor center consisted of just a few buildings with basic exhibits and some people in space suits walking around.

United States Astronaut Hall of Fame and Heroes and Legends Exhibit Hall at Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral, Florida

Since then, the facilities have been expanded greatly.  KSC has gotten their own space shuttle – Atlantis – housed in an amazing building complete with a shuttle launch simulator, replica of the Hubble telescope and play area for kids.  It’s a real multimedia attraction and very popular.  After watching an introductory video on a nearly 360 degree screen, the screen opens to “reveal” Atlantis in her in-orbit configuration, complete with open cargo bay doors and robotic arm extended.

Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit at Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida
Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit at Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida
Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit at Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida
Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit at Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida
Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit at Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida
Hubble Space Telescope replica at the Atlantis Exhibit at Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida

For me the highlight, other than Atlantis, was the Apollo/Saturn V Center, dedicated to the race to the moon in the 70s.  The Apollo era was the height of my space geekness, having been a little young for the Mercury era, interested and impressed by the Gemini period then fully engrossed during the Apollo era.  For some reason I don’t remember much about Apollo 13 but do remember the Christmas greetings from Apollo 8 and staying up all night to watch Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.  And the Apollo/Saturn V Center captures that history in all its glory.

Saturn V Rocket at the Apollo/Saturn V Center at Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral, Florida
Apollo 8 Firing Room at the Apollo/Saturn V Center at Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral, Florida
Apollo 14 capsule on display at the Apollo/Saturn V Center at Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral, Florida

Getting to the Apollo/Saturn V Center requires a bus ride with reservations required but not available to make until you are on site. We arrived early enough to get an early time, spent several hours there including lunch, then returned to the main part of the center to visit Atlantis and the Heroes and Legends exhibit which includes the Astronaut Hall of Fame.  The bus ride goes past the humongus Vehicle Assembly Building, where the Saturn V rockets and the space shuttles were assembled and which is still used today.

Friendship 7 (John Glenn) control room at Heroes and Legends Exhibit Hall at Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral, Florida

We spent the better part of the day at the space center and barely had time to see everything.  In fact, we didn’t get to the IMAX movie or several of the smaller exhibits.  They recommend two days for a visit, which may be a bit much for most, but I could see it.  It is definitely worth the time for anyone passing through the area.

After the space center it was on to Port Canaveral for a night before our cruise!

I’ve added a gallery of more photos from Kennedy Space Center on my Adobe Portfolio website.

Back At Sea!

Sky Princess departing Cozumel, Mexico at sunset

Kathy & I spent last week on our first cruise in nearly 2 years, aboard Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas out of Port Canaveral.  It felt good to get back on the water and we had a great time.

There has been a lot of sensationalistic reporting in the media about cruising, with much hype around the occasional rare but real report of some kind of outbreak.  Covid is only the latest hand-wringer.  I’ve said for years that cruise ships have been among the cleanest places we’ve visited.  They have always been very vigilant about cleaning in an effort to reduce the spread of all kinds of passenger-borne bugs.  A report of an outbreak of any kind is fresh meat for a media looking for anything to wring their hands over.  Yes, it happens.  But relax.  It was fun.  Yes, we had to take a Covid test before we left home.  Yes, we had to wear a mask on occasion.  But we have to do that at home anyway, and it was a lot warmer in Cozumel than it is back here in NC! 😉

We paid a visit to Kennedy Space Center before the cruise.  I took a few photos and will have more to share over the next few days.

Gridwork on the canopy of the Solarium area of Harmony of the Seas

A Treasure Trove Of Memories

The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont

As promised in a previous post, here is a selection of my photos from the Vermont Toy Museum in Quechee Gorge Village near Hartford, Vermont.  The museum’s website is down, possibly due to the recent AWS issues, but I got the following from Atlas Obscura:

Nestled above a charming general store near the Quechee Gorge, the Vermont Toy Museum’s vast collection of dolls, action figures, lunchboxes, yo-yos, and matchbox cars is a hidden treasure right off the White River Junction. Around 100,000 toys are housed inside the museum. 

The museum’s items largely came from members of the local community. They were collected and compiled decade-by-decade, which displays the evolution of toys and games from the 1950s to the present day. Though it’s unknown who operates and maintains the museum, it’s closely watched by the employees at the downstairs Cabot Cheese Store and the antique mall next door.

The museum also houses an intricate model train exhibit that takes visitors through the four seasons of the Green Mountain state for only a quarter. This museum’s tireless attention to detail, nostalgia, and cozy atmosphere make it a must-see for travelers on Route 4.

The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont

It was a fun visit.  A place we might have spent a lot more time, but just like the camera museum in Staunton, Virginia, there is only so much time…. 😉  As it was, we spent a lot of time saying things like, “I had that!” or “I remember those” or “the kids had these.”  Fun stuff!

Almost forgot!  I have completed processing my photos from our New England trip and have posted them on my Adobe Portfolio site.

The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont
The Vermont Toy Museum, located in Quechee Village, Vermont

State Number 49: New York

Mirror Lake in Lake Placid, New York

Growing up in western Pennsylvania, I had actually visited New York many times prior to this most recent trip.  I went to Peek’n Peek to ski, visited Buffalo, Corning, Watkins Glen, Troy and even Lake Placid.  But those visits were all before I started getting serious about photography, and many of them, including Lake Placid, were Before Kathy, and I wanted to take her there.  While I had some photos that would have worked – they’re our rules, after all! – we decided that another swing through the state would be the right way to do it.  Plus we wanted to visit the Finger Lakes.

Departing Burlington, we swung around the south shore of Lake Champlain, crossing into New York near the town of Moriah.  Moriah’s claim to fame is as the home of Johnny Podres, 1955 World Series MVP for the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Your trivia for the day. 😉  The rain and fog were still with us, but as we drove north and west the skies finally began to clear.

Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid, New York
Lake Placid Olympic Ski Jumping Complex in Lake Placid, New York

Our first destination was Lake Placid, and we arrived there in time for a late breakfast and a few photos of the fall color on the lake.  We didn’t stay long, since we had a long day ahead and didn’t want to linger at the beginning.  Also, the town was in the process of some major road work in town.  Main Street was torn up and loaded with piles of dirt, rocks and road equipment, rendering the normally picturesque town pretty rough looking.  Another technicality is that the lake in town is actually Mirror Lake, and that Lake Placid is out of town to the north.  We did stop to see the Olympic ski jumping site on our way into town, but didn’t try to take a tour.

Reflection of fall color on the Raquette River on SR 3 near Piercefield, New York

Leaving Lake Placid and heading west through Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake, we crossed a bridge over the Raquette River near Piercefield and were greeted with a lovely park overlooking the river, complete with still water reflecting the fall color of the trees along the riverbank.  The skies were clearing but still mostly cloudy, providing us with ideal conditions for photos.  It made for one of  those unplanned stops we were glad to have taken the time for.

Morning on Seneca Lake at Plum Point Lodge near Himrod, New York
The Glenn H Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, New York
The Glenn H Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, New York
The Glenn H Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport, New York

Our ultimate destination was a lodge on the west shore of Seneca Lake, one of the Finger Lakes and central to the Finger Lakes wine region.  I had a chance to do a little early photography before heading out to explore the area attractions.  We visited three wineries, bought souvenirs at two of them, visited a distillery and the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport.  We took a boat cruise on Saranac Lake out of Watkins Glen.  That was the seventh boat cruise of our trip – do you get the feeling we like boat cruises? 🙂

The George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York, on the estate of George Eastman
The George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York, on the estate of George Eastman
The George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York, on the estate of George Eastman
The George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York, on the estate of George Eastman
The George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York, on the estate of George Eastman
The George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York, on the estate of George Eastman
The George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York, on the estate of George Eastman
The George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York, on the estate of George Eastman

One of our days there was dedicated to a drive to Rochester, where we visited the George Eastman Museum and, most importantly, met up with two of our long-time photo buddies Paul Maxim and Ken Bello.  We had lunch  with them and Ken’s wife before driving along the shore of Lake Ontario through Webster (Where Life Is Worth Living) and ultimately returning to our lodge.

Sodus Bay Lighthouse on the shore of Lake Ontario at Sodus Point, New York

New York made for our 49th state visited.  Number 50 is Hawaii, and we have plans to visit there in February.  After that?  We’ll have to see, but there is a lot more of this country we want to see, we have friends to visit all over, and we might want to see a little bit more of the world. 🙂

Heron Hill Winery near Hammondsport, New York
Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery near Hammondsport, New York
Atwater Winery near Watkins Glen, New York
Finger Lakes Distilling Tasting Room near Watkins Glen, New York
Hector Falls along SR 414 near Watkins Glen, New York
Village Marina on the south short of Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen, New York
The Schooner “True Love” sailing on Seneca Lake, New York
The US Salt plant on Seneca Lake, New York from aboard Seneca Spirit with Captain Bill’s Cruises

Photographs and stuff!