This Place Bugs Me!

Christmas, Kennedy Space Center

Christmas 2013 at KSC

We are not finished with some great things from St. Augustine but you’ll see why there’s an interruption in a moment. For our second stop in Florida we moved about three hours south to Sebastian Inlet SP near Vero Beach. It had still been “cold” in St. Augustine so we welcomed the warmer temperatures or at least I did!. We’d be here for Christmas so Steve put up our tree again. This time he hung it from a tree branch with a bungee and spread the base further. It looked very good.

However we quickly discovered a problem. No-see-ums were everywhere! Chari reacts quite strongly to any insect bite with huge welts that last a week. Steve usually doesn’t react very much and 10 minutes later you wouldn’t know he’d been bitten. Not so here. Even Steve was showing welts. Within a day or so my legs and to a lesser extent my arms and torso were covered with bites. I was forever scratching. My legs looked like I’d walked through poison ivy. I was going to take a picture but then thought it was too gross looking. Now other people seemed to tolerate them. Bug spray and repellent didn’t work. Steve seemed to become immune after a few days. Not Chari. She was miserable the whole time. So instead of doing a lot of outside activities we stayed inside. With regret as it is a nice park we put this on the DO NOT RETURN list.

Adding insult to injury Chari’s computer took a bath. I was sitting under our awning which was only halfway extended due to some tree branches. All of a sudden condensation from having had the A/C on at night came rolling down. All over me! All over my open laptop. Quickly mopping up the computer everything seemed to work so I thought I’d dodged a bullet. About an hour later the keyboard stopped working. To make a long story short my computer has been in the repair shop for about a week. Working on the iPad for photo editing and posting to the blog leaves a lot to be desired. Steve’s working on a book on our May – December 2012 travels. So even batting my lovely hazel eyes at him and a “if you really loved me you’d let me use your computer” look goes unnoticed.

I notice it but I don’t acknowledge it!

We got to see the METLIFE blimp fly over just before New Years. We guessed it was down here for the Orange Bowl. Cute Snoopy character on the front but you might not be able to see it as all we had available was the iPhone.


Snoopy In The Skies

We did check out another park, a county park called Long Point, when we kayaked there. We didn’t notice any bugs so if we return to the area we’ll stay there. While kayaking we watched two osprey hunting. They’d dive and grab a fish but often they came up empty. We could have watched them for hours.

A Loaf Of Bread, A Hunk Of Cheese And Pasta For Dinner.

A Loaf Of Bread, A Hunk Of Cheese And Pasta For Dinner.

So Now For Some Fresh Citrus

So Now For Some Fresh Citrus

Without the computer I’m falling behind on the blog. So if you see things posted later that seem out of order hopefully you’ll remember why. We did go to Ft. Pierce to the Farmers Market on Saturday where we bought some great cheese, bread and citrus. We also bought an organic bug spray advertised for no-see-ums.. That didn’t work either. Also in Ft. Pierce is the UDT (underwater demolition team) and SEAL Museum. Steve has “volunteered” to do that entry.

Our Christmas present to each other was a trip to the Kennedy Space Center with a behind the scenes tour of the VAB (vehicle assembly building) and launch pad. There is so much to see we were glad the tickets were good for a week. We made a second trip up to see the IMAX movie Hubble 3D, take the Shuttle Launch Experience and to finish the exhibits. We attended a lecture by a retired shuttle astronaut, Sam Gemar, and had a photo op with him. When a little girl asked him what his favorite food was in space, he answered “shrimp cocktail”. The reason for this is that the taste buds loose sensitivity in space so spicy foods taste better. Between weightlessness and no taste buds maybe I could finally loose weight! On the way home from our second visit we stopped at the Astronaut Hall of Fame as our KSC tickets covered admission here as well. Both at the Space Center and at the Hall of Fame we became aware that only a few other folks were probably alive when all of this was happening. Once again we find ourselves seeing our lives in a museum. Was it really that long ago? Anyway, consider this a coming attraction notice for a video.

Kennedy Space Center, Christmas, Florida, space exploration.

Coming Attraction For Our Video

blog, Homeless and Loving It, NASA, astronaut, space shuttle

Chari and Steve With Space Shuttle Astronaut

You all know we call our RV the DreamChaser. So when we saw that one of the next generation shuttles by Sierra Nevada Corporation was being given the same name we wondered, is this what RVs will look like in space? In the early years NASA did all of its own engineering. Now that will be in the private sector and NASA will rent vehicles as needed for missions. This model is a 1/3 scale model.

Dream Chaser In Space

Dream Chaser In Space

Within 48 hours away from Sebastian Inlet SP, at our next park, Lake Louisa SP, I finally stopped itching (and yes you could also put a B in front of that). Oh, you have no idea how good that feels!

Colorful Citrus Box Labels

Colorful Citrus Box Labels

After ten days my computer with what they called a new top case is back and working great. When we drove over from Orlando to Vero Beach to pick it up, we stopped at the Citrus Museum. It’s a small but very interesting place and the docent gave us a free tour. Here’s a piece of trivia for you… did you know that 75% of the grapefruit grown in the Indian River Valley are shipped to Japan! Don’t order it over there though unless you are ready to pay $15-20 each! After the tour we know why our favorite oranges, Honeybells, are so expensive. If they tried to use mechanical pickers or even pluck them the skin breaks off from the stem leaving fruit exposed. So they must be hand cut from the tree. Oh, but they are so sweet and juicy! The docent gave us directions to Poinsettia Growers processing plant where they have a small store. Crab from the factory in Cape Breton to fresh Honeybells from the grower in Florida. Can you believe this life?

Henry Flager And The American Riviera

Henry Flagler, St. Augustine

Henry Morrison Flagler

When Henry Flagler arrived for the first time in St. Augustine in 1873 it was a very small town. He saw potential for it to become a winter playground for the very wealthy families of the Gilded Age. A winter version of Newport was what he had in mind. How did he know what would attract the oh so very rich? Henry Flagler was one of them. He made his money as an original partner with John D. Rockefeller in Standard Oil. His legacy remains strong in St. Augustine today, one hundred years after his death. He is called the Father of Florida Tourism and it all began right here.

Henry Flagler came to St. Augustine seeking a better climate for his wife who suffered from tuberculosis. They enjoyed the area but found the accommodations below par and the lack of good transportation even worse. His wife died in 1881 and he remarried in 1883. Returning to St. Augustine  he set out on a new venture to create a city with all the luxuries the rich could want and then some. He remained on the Standard Oil board but devoted all of his time and resources to developing a resort town. He bought up railroads from New York to Jacksonville. Then he extended the rail lines to St. Augustine and eventually to Key West. He built a 2 story railroad depot to receive his guests. He wanted the land a small church occupied. After several unsuccessful attempts to purchase Grace Memorial Methodist Church he offered to build them a new church if they’d move. He didn’t want the city jail near his new resort so he offered to build a new one if they’d move it one mile outside the city limits. He began construction on the Ponce de Leon Hotel in 1887 and opened for “the season” in 1888. No expense was spared. The rotunda ceiling was painted by the same artist who later did the Library of Congress rotunda, windows in the dining room were designed by Tiffany and since electricity during construction was so new, Thomas Edison headed the team to provide it. You would suppose he chose a well known architect to design the hotel. No, he chose a firm who had never done a large public building. He chose well as the firm went on to design the Senate and House Of Representatives Office Buildings and the New York Public Library.

Entrance Hall of Flagler College

Entrance Hall of Flagler College

Rotunda Ceiling of entrance Hall

Rotunda Ceiling of entrance Hall

Ponce De Leon Hotel

Original Safe With Picture Of Ponce De Leon Hotel

Student Guide For Flagler College Tour

Student Guide For Flagler College Tour

Exterior Detail

Exterior Detai

Drainspout Detail

Drainspout Detail

Exterior Of Flagler College

Exterior Of Flagler College

Tiffany window

Detail of Dining Room Tiffany Window

Tiffany Stained Glass

Dining Room With Full Length Tiffany Windows

View Of Women's Salon

View Of Women’s Salon

Thomas Edison Clock

Onox Fireplace With Thomas Edison Clock Above

For his guest’s recreation he built the Alcazar Hotel across the street complete with the largest indoor swimming pool, bath house, gym and ballroom. This hotel also served as residence for those who could not afford the (in today’s dollars) $250,000 per season price tag at the Ponce de Leon. Remember the lovely pictures of St. Augustine’s city hall in our holiday lights post? That was the front half of the Alcazar Hotel. The Lightner Museum is housed in the rear half. We’ll tell you about that soon.

You can tour the former Ponce de Leon hotel, now the Flagler College campus, on a student led tour. We rate this as a top “must see” when in St. Augustine. There is a great deal of symbolism in the architecture. Four themes run throughout: Spanish, Celtic, nature and religion. Henry Flagler was a very religious man who believed only God could create perfection so he had intentional imperfections designed into several places. The most jaw dropping room for us was the original dining room with the Tiffany stained glass windows. Students still use this as the cafeteria. Certainly not anything like my college dining experience! There are even four original chairs interspersed amongst the copies that can be used by the students. The Tiffany windows were appraised a few years ago at $130,000,000. They represent the largest private collection of Tiffany stained glass in the world. The Woman’s Salon is a museum in itself with portraits of Henry Flager and his third wife. Since she was 37 years his junior, he had himself painted younger and his wife painted older. Life before Photoshop!

Just a few blocks from the college is Grace Memorial Church where a parish member was available for a short history lecture and questions. Definitely worth a stop. Henry Flagler also built several other churches, a post office and a hospital. Eventually he moved to West Palm Beach. We plan to visit the Flagler Museum there.

All of this sightseeing made us hungry. We mostly ate at camp but one evening we did try a local spot called O’Steens. This is a small diner style restaurant that has been a local favorite for 40  years. We were lucky and beat the crowds. Waits of over an hour are not uncommon at peak periods. A local specialty is a tomato base clam chowder with datil pepper sauce. Spicy and delicious just the way we like it. We both had their special plate size meals and it was more than enough. Only order the full size meals if you are really, really hungry.

Without Henry Flagler, Florida might not be the vacation Mecca it is today.