Thursday, September 25, 2014

More Port Canaveral, Florida

This is the second of four posts about the Cape Canaveral/Cocoa Beach area. There is so much activity and things to do, plan on spending several weeks in the area and you won't be bored. I'll make this post brief, followed by an overview of the area and finishing with the Kennedy Space Center and a rocket launch. We really loved it.


I tried to put these two pictures together as best I can. We were enjoying the beach and saw several of these guys cruising up and down the sand. I really would have liked to try my hand at this because it really looked like fun.

The kite pulls you along the sand on a small four wheeler. You steer it by manipulating the cables attached to the kite. They were fast!

Nearby in Cocoa Beach, Ron Jon's Surf shop offers surfing lessons, personal watercraft rentals and lessons and pretty much anything related to water sports. Their complex spans almost 5 acres.

Just another Disney cruise ship leaving port. 

Compare it's size to the  sightseer ship passing by on it's starboard side.

This Navy chase boat was headed out of the harbor indicating something was headed in.

The Coast Guard boat below slowly cruised around in circles.

Notice both boats have machine guns on their sterns.

This was a visiting submarine showing the Canadian flag. It was escorted into port by the US Navy and several tug boats.

I did not see any other markings other than it flying the Canadian flag.

Here's a view of our site at Jetty Park. As you can see, there is ample room between the sites. Ours had a rental cabin on one side and tons of room on the other.

We parked the towed on the left side which left us a lot of room on the passenger side. We put up the screen room behind the coach. You can see it directly behind the car. Also, if you look closely, you can see an access gate directly behind the Equinox. This gate led to the fishing pier. No fishing license was required.

Merritt Island is an interesting place. Originally part of a land grant to a nobleman by the King of Spain around 1605, it was known for it's prolific plant life. A lot of it's growth came in the mid 19th Century as citrus became it's main crop. While it's home to nearly 37,000 people, it is not a city. Cityhood was voted down in 1988 by a 77-23% margin.

Most of it's growth came about with the space race in the 1950s and 60s. The Kennedy Space Center is on the north end of the island.  

This guy's included just because I thought he was cool. Call it his fifteen minutes of fame.

 Next up, Kennedy Space Center....Stay tuned

Monday, September 22, 2014

Cape Canaveral, Florida

We planned on visiting Cape Canaveral for a week. When we arrived, there was so much to do, we extended our stay for an additional week. Finally, we found they were going to have another rocket launch, so we extended for another two days. Our campground was just steps from the beach on the back side and faced the coastal ships harbors on the other. This provided us with views of the outgoing ships, casino cruises, cruise ships and even several arriving and departing submarines. Finally, we were able to watch two rocket launches from our site!

Cape Canaveral contains a ship port, Port Canaveral, which is home to several large cruise lines serving the Bahamas and the Caribbean. The Port has two large turning basins for the large ships and is also home to the Trident Submarine base of the US Navy.

Approaching Port Canaveral, we could see several large cruise ships waiting for departure.

Jetty Park and Campground is owned and run by the Cape Canaveral Port Authority. It is on a point surrounded on two sides by water, the ships turning basins and the Atlantic Ocean. Full hookups, laundry facilities, large sites and a separate section for tent campers. There is also a camp store, restaurant and lifeguard facility. The sites are large, staff is friendly and the campground is immaculate.

One of the ships that depart twice daily is the 321' Victory. This unique ship is outfitted as a gambling venue. For $25/ea. you can enjoy a 5 hour cruise, dinner, site seeing and even gamble a bit. It has the latest in slot machines and features most all table games. Dinner was enjoyable, I brought a book to read and I even won some money on the slots.

As we left the port, I snapped this photo of the Florida shoreline and Cocoa Beach.

Since gambling is not permitted in the State of Florida, the Victory cruises outside the State limits into International waters. All gambling is shut down until the ship reaches this area. When the ship heads back to port, all gambling ceases and we all enjoyed the time topside on the decks. They also provided a fantastic duo that played a variety of songs and instrumentals.

We enjoyed the warm sunshine as we arrived back into port. All in all it was a very relaxing day. It was nice that they provided you with lots of other things to do besides gambling. I would recommend this cruise to anyone visiting this area even if you don't gamble.

Here's another picture of the Victory coming back into port. Obviously this was taken a few days after our trip. This picture and the ones below were taken from our site at Jetty Park.

Carnival Lines, Princess and Disney are three of the predominant cruise lines that sail out of Port Canaveral. Looking at the picture of Mickey on the smokestack gives this away as a Disney Cruise.

Debi, sitting in our campsite watching one of the Carnival Cruise ships sail past. It was really interesting seeing the ships come in after dark with all the lights on.

Ever wonder how those BMWs, Mercedes and other vehicles get to the U.S.? This is the Car Carrier, Morning Charlotte. It was built in 2007, is 650 feet long, 104 feet wide and has a carrying tonnage of 60876 tons. Now that's a big boat!

Our third day in the campground, we knew something was going on. The Port Canaveral Police showed a presence, deploying several police cars adjacent to the harbor. There were three Coast Guard boats with manned machine guns as well as several US Navy runners also equipped with manned machine guns. We discovered it was time for the nuclear submarine to head out to sea. 

We weren't sure why all the fuss, but we found out later that this was an Ohio Class Nuclear Sub SSBN. Each SSBN submarine is armed with up to 24 Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The cruise missile submarines carry up to 154 Tomahawk missiles with either conventional or nuclear warheads. This was one mean submarine.

Their port is based at Port Canaveral.

Mother Nature provided quite a show while we were there. This picture doesn't do this rainbow justice. I had to take a video of it in all it's majesty. This was a complete arch, which is a rarity, but then it became a twin rainbow and both were complete arches. It was unfortunate I didn't have a wide angle lens for my camera.
This guy pretty much sums up how much we enjoyed Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Hollywood/Miami Beach, Florida

We headed north from Key West along the eastern coast of Florida. After much research, we decided on spending a week or so at a County park in the City of Hollywood which is just north of Miami and south of Fort Lauderdale. We felt it would be a perfect place from which we could explore everything along the coast. 

Leaving the "Keys", we headed North on US Hwy 1.

Traffic was very light even though it was a little after 11:30 AM.

As we approached Miami, traffic increased but not by too much.

About 3 PM we finally reached Hollywood, Florida. I looked for the Hollywood sign on the hill but realized there are no hills in Florida!

We chose the Broward County Park, Topeekeegee Yugnee park as our home for the next week. I don't make up these names which is why I posted this picture. Notice the county doesn't even use the name...they call it simply T.Y. Park.

It's a beautiful park set alongside a large lake with a 2 1/2 mile jogging/hiking/biking trail around the lake. Our site was a pull in overlooking the lake.

Hallandale Beach is a small, 4.5 sq. mi., city, just north of Miami.  It is home to Gulfstream Park and Casino and the Mardi Gras Casino and greyhound racing track, home of the World Classic. It also houses a sizable financial district, with banks and brokerage houses. It is known as one of Florida's fastest growing cities.

Without a doubt, Fort Lauderdale had the nicest beaches we've seen in all of Florida. The sand was clean, the water was clear and the temps outside were just perfect. Enough of a breeze blowing to keep the humidity in check.

Another 'lizard' to aggravate and tempt Jasmine.

With the day as pleasant as it was, we decided to have some fish and chips at "The Deck" restaurant, overlooking the Atlantic.

I loved the look of these towers. They have character. I'm not sure how many condos were there, but they all had wonderful views.

In nearby Dania, this wooden roller coaster sits dormant. Named the "Hurricane" when it was completed and open for riders November 1, 2000, it claims it's the 'largest wooden roller coaster in Florida'.

However, mysteriously, on April 26, 2011 visitors arrived to find the coaster closed and locked. It now sits vacant and unused but no one seems to know why.

As many of you know, I love seeing skylines. This is the Fort Lauderdale skyline just before nightfall.
Just north of Fort Lauderdale, is Lauderdale By The Sea, the city's rich cousin.

Key West, Florida

After eight relaxing days at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which is the only State Park on the keys with full hookups, we were ready to head south towards Key West and the southernmost point in the United States. We had checked out most of the camping facilities in the keys and decided on Bluewater Keys as our next stop for a week. We found the camping in Key West itself to be overpriced and in some not so nice neighborhoods. Florida rated Key West as 'very high' in crime statistics. Bluewater Key Resort is only 9 short miles from Key West so we chose that as our home base. Key West downtown consists of many shops and restaurants while outside the city core you can find shopping like any other midsize town in America. The downtown core has a pier, shops and restaurants all within walking distance of the city owned parking lot.

Another one of the keys....

This is a portion of the old overseas highway. It's no longer meets safety standards but because of it's rugged construction, it's also too expensive to destroy, so it is slowly succumbing to Mother Nature.

Looking out over the Atlantic Ocean from Bahia Honda State Park. Unfortunately, they only have two spaces large enough for a 45' motor home.

Welcome to Paradise, Key West, Florida.

They have a Mickey D's here as well as several Starbucks. This picture was taken along the main road into Key West with the City owned marina on the right and major shopping centers on the left.

The highlight of the downtown core area is of course, the marker delineating the Southermost Point in the Continental United States. Here, we are only 90 miles from Cuba. Unfortunately, the curvature of the earth prohibits one from actually seeing Cuba from this point.

The Key West Lighthouse was originally built in 1825. Fourteen people perished when the lighthouse was destroyed in 1846. It's original keepers, the Mabritys' served as keepers for 32 yeasr before being fired at age 82 for making statements against the Union in the 1860s during the Civil War. The current lighthouse was built in 1848 and continued operation until decommissioned in 1969.

The downtown core contains many shops, restaurants and diners, Jimmy Buffets Original Margaritaville being one of them. Other notable places to visit are the Earnest Hemingway Home and the Harry Truman Little White House.

Presenting NASCRAB.....for an exciting night of Hermit Crab Racing. Dale Earnhardt look out!

Ah! but the Irish know how to have a good time.

At the intersection of Whitehead St. and Fleming St. in Key West, you'll reach the End of US Hwy 1, a 2,369 mile highway that stretches southward from the Canadian border in Maine.

Across the street from the above, we find the Start of US Hwy 1. From this point northward, this hwy encompasses 545 miles through the State of Florida. It will eventually end again at Fort Kent, Maine.

Alongside Hwy A1A, in front of a Savings and Loan office we spotted this huge replica of a Manatee. This nearly extinct mammals are fun to watch. They simply lumber along and don't bother anyone. It is because of their enormous size and quiet personality they were nearly hunted out of existence. They are now a protected species in Florida.

Nothing says 'kick back' like a giant wooden chair adorned with the "Southern Glass Slipper"...the flip flops.

The entrance gate to Bluewater Key. 

I posted pictures on the Big Rig site of which there is a link on the opening page of this blog, so I won't bore you with them here.

Many people gather on the public pier in Key West in the early afternoon until after sunset. This pier has everything from folks selling jewelry and signs, to street vendors and entertainers. Fun time for all, and you get to watch the sunset.

What better way to watch the sunset than go on a sunset cruise aboard a catamaran?  Music, food and fun were provided on all three of these boats.

The Cat above and these two schooners provided an evening of entertainment as well as a romantic setting at sunset.

We watched the sunset from the pier.
"Nuff said" Retirement is awesome!