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A special series (a theme week plus) whereby Jenni and I have our honeymoon and Site du Jour of the Day goes out on the road.
(990315) Lovers Key / Carl E. Johnson State
Lovers Key / Carl E. Johnson State Recreation Area
Fort Myers Beach, Florida, USA
Early on Sunday the 28th of February, a special Site du Jour of the Day announcement went out to readers. This message told of a wedding the night before and explained a two week stop in Site du Jour of the Day episodes. By the same time on Monday, many readers had replied with encouragement and congratulations, thank you all so much. There was an unfortunate, yet hilarious typographical error in that special announcement involving the word business and a stray "h". Rest assured that the word in question will be permanently removed from the spell checking dictionary. It still has us both laughing and as Jenni remarked when I told her about the error, "At least you didn't use my last name."
Traditionally the wedding trip starts shortly into the reception but as many of us with friends and family who live in distant places have found, it's nice to see them occasionally. Many of our guests had ventured from colder climates, so we took them to one of the finest beaches this part of Florida has to offer. Originally planed for Sunday, the run was delayed a day because of rain. Once two parks, a county run recreation area and a smaller state operation, the two combined. If you ever make it to this part of Florida, a trip to the Lovers Key / Carl E. Johnson State Recreation Area is a must. This page at the Florida State Parks site is maintained by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in Tallahassee and shows much of the beauty at the park. Accessible by foot or on trams operated during regular hours, mangrove estuaries and back bays give a reasonably unchanged look at the workings of a barrier island. Wildlife is galore and families will find it a fine alternative to the more commercial stretches of Fort Myers Beach to the North and Bonita Beach to the South. Not nearly as raw as it once was, the beach still retains much of its character and charm. Everyone in our excursion had fun, including a brother-in-law who several years earlier had given me a hard time over crawling around in the Northern Michigan woods looking for fossilized coral rocks known as Petoskey stones. He found sea shells for the folks back home and beat me to the punch by drawing a parallel.
The rest of this site looks at the state park system and as we found out later in the trip, Florida has a lot of different natural features which are being preserved and enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. A vacation in Florida should include at least one day at any of the historic and/or beautiful parks find one to your liking at this site. (Back to top of page)
(990316) FLA USA
Florida Tourism Industry Marketing Corporation
Tallahassee, Florida, USA
Up to the big day we were uncertain where our travels were going to lead. Surprising the folks back in Michigan was an idea seriously being considered. We both have family there and if the weather cooperated we would venture North. A client working for VISIT FLORIDA suggested keeping our honeymoon adventure in the state and with there being so much to do here it seemed like a plan. Commenting later on how many people spend a great deal of time and money to get here for vacation, keeping our trip at home was a natural. Using the extensive information available at the VISIT FLORIDA site and the Official Florida Vacation Guide in printed form, we pretty much decided that Florida was the place. The not-for-profit Florida Tourism Industry Marketing Corporation is currently funded by tourist tax dollars, specifically a $2.00 per day rental car surcharge and they have done a fantastic job. The site reads in English, German, Spanish, French and Portuguese language versions and offers a tour of Florida, attraction information, weather data, travel tips and maps. The Official Florida Vacation Guide is available, sent out by mail and there is even a chance to win a changing monthly trip celebrating Florida's heritage and culture. Simply complete a survey and it could be yours. All local bias aside, everyone we would encounter in the service/tourism industry was pleasant and friendly, making our stops as nice as could be. A trip to Florida comes highly recommended and the VISIT FLORIDA site is useful beyond compare. (Back to top of page)
(990317) The Home Plate - Lakeland Tigers
Lakeland, Florida, USA
Detroit Tigers Online
Birmingham Internet Group
Birmingham, Michigan, USA
On Tuesday we hit the road for Orlando, up Interstate 75 to the almost completed, new and improved Interstate 4. I-4 has been a nightmare for years, especially the stretch connecting Tampa and Orlando and as much traffic as the highway carries it was almost a pleasure to travel on the road this time. Noting before we left that Spring Training games started on the 3rd of March we figured a stop in Lakeland would be worth the time. Neither of us had ever seen the facility where our hometown baseball team has trained since 1966, other than on television and radio of course so we stopped and had a look see. No real activity to speak of but Joker Marchant Stadium was in perfect shape for the season opener the next day. The Detroit Tigers and the City of Lakeland have the longest relationship of any team and Spring Training city in Major League baseball. In 1934 the team started training there and for almost as long, Lakeland and more recently the complex itself have been known simply as Tigertown. The excitement of Spring Training gives way to a season of A Ball when teams in the Florida State League take over Tigertown and other stadiums throughout the state. Part of a large farm systems for Major and Minor League teams, the ball players working at this end of the game are among the hardest working in the sport. Taking in a Tigers game during a recent trip to Michigan was a disappointment on a certain level here are guys who are the best in the system and the babies don't even dive to make a catch. To top it off, it cost $100 for four of us not even counting the beer! Thinking how back at home in Florida I could see baseball being played by kids who were hungry and on their way up teams like the Lakeland Tigers slugging it out against local favorites and Twins affiliate, the Fort Myers Miracle (http://miraclebaseball.com/) keeping the game enjoyable and hardly predictable like it can be at the top. A lot more cost effective for the fans too I might add.
With their long history in both Lakeland and Detroit, it was kind of ironic that our first visit to Joker Marchant Stadium was at the very start of the last season the Tigers will be playing at the old ballpark on Michigan Avenue in Detroit. Over a hundred years of baseball history on that lot and the almighty Dollar has all but put an end to that. Sure it's a business and Tiger Stadium is an odd bird even if it one of the last two remaining Golden Age parks in the game. But the game itself is about tradition and moving the team to a new stadium next year to make way for another Detroit parking lot (betcha!) goes against the grain in my book. With that in mind, a stop at Tigertown gave a little purity back to the game for us we talked about listening to games on the radio all of the way from Florida during the tail end of winter and as luck would have it, there we were taking it all in. It was a good first stop. The featured sites provide stats and additional information about both Tigers teams, including history, photographs and promotions throughout the year. Be sure to look at the Ballpark Construction Camera at the Detroit site while you are there. (Back to top of page)
(990318) SeaWorld Florida
Orlando, Florida, USA
Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc.
Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
A benefit of living in Florida has always been the huge number of amusement parks within a short driving distance. That they are open year-round helps out a lot, especially during the winter months when the temperature is a bearable 70º F. There are four SeaWorld Adventure Parks; California, Florida, Ohio and Texas all host one of the most unusual ideas in family entertainment to come along in years. Operated by the Busch Entertainment Corporation, a subsidiary of the Anheuser-Busch Company (http://www.anheuser-busch.com/) known world-wide for making beer. The parks combine trained marine mammal shows with environmental education opportunities. Staff members are called Educators and the company provides better than average benefits and tuition reimbursement programs to encourage and reinforce the title. At SeaWorld of Florida visitors will see manatees, killer whales, otters and sea lions, sea turtles and even get the opportunity to feed and touch dolphins. The Terrors of the Deep is an amazing tank where a moving sidewalk takes you through " the largest collection of deadly sea creatures in the world!" Sharks, barracuda, eels and pufferfish swimming over and around the 240 foot long, clear rayon tunnel. It would not be a fun place to find oneself without that barrier in place. If you haven't ever been to SeaWorld it's hard to imagine the draw, but once you have experienced the live shows, animals, landscaping, exhibits, rides and free beer you'll wonder why you waited so long. Much has changed with these four parks since they opened, especially since their acquisition by Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. in 1989. We always enjoy a day a SeaWorld because it doesn't have that zoo feeling, it's something a lot more entertaining and genuine. The rescue and research work being done at the facility and by the staff lend to that credibility. This site contains lots of swell information about the different SeaWorlds and other parks in the family, be sure to look at the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Environmental News section for current projects and partners. (Back to top of page)
(990319) Waltopia...The "Real"
Paul Williams Design
New York, New York, USA
A Visit To Celebration
Sylvia L. Oliande and David E. Brady
Los Angeles, California, USA
A stay in Orlando is not complete without going to one of Uncle Walt's parks and since neither of us had been to Epcot we figured that we should. My experience with Disney's Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow dates back to a History class in 1978 hearing a teacher carry on about how wonderful it was going to be. He was going to be there the first week it was open. After a winter vacation we spent the next week learning all about World's Fairs and "the genius of Walt Disney." Part international exposition and part science fair, Epcot has pavilions and glitz, commercial buy-ins and eleven micro-countries with "cast" members from the actual countries staffing the attractions and shops. A great opportunity for visitors to meet people from Canada, Mexico, the British Empire, Italy, Japan, Germany and China to name a few. What struck me as odd was how people would travel thousands of miles to Disney World just to hang out in the pretend version of their homeland at Epcot. Incidentally, Orlando is the second most visited place in the world next to Mecca. We Americans with our varied cultural heritage seem to appreciate the chance to fool ourselves into thinking we are back in the land of our ancestors while at Epcot so something is being done well there. The food and drink, goods and entertainment coupled with the cast members help with that illusion to be sure. Speaking of beer many people I have talked with about Epcot have beered their way around the world. We couldn't justify paying $87 a beer for brands we had already tasted and opted not to see the park that way. I did eventually have a Norwegian beer, one I had never heard of up to that point. I was so impressed with it that I cannot remember what it was called.
Epcot started out differently than it is now. Back in 1966, a few months before he went into his deep freeze, Uncle Walt told the world that " the heart of everything we will be doing in Disney World - will be our Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. We call it EPCOT. And EPCOT will always be a showcase to the world for the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise." It was planned to be a covered city like the ones seen in the science fiction books. As it happens, things didn't quite work out that way. The official Epcot site pales in comparison to Waltopia...The "Real" EPCOT, which is a far more interesting and frightening look at the original concept. The Disney propaganda machine does offer Family.com: Disney Magazine - Epcot in a Day (http://family.go.com/Features/family_1998_08/dmag/dmag88epcot/), a guide to touring the park with children written by Kim Wright Wiley. If a trip to Epcot is being planned you should have a peek.
The horror/glory of the original Epcot lives on in the community of Celebration, Florida. Located just South of the Disney compound is the nearly perfect new-old town. When we were driving by on I-4 two days before, I explained to Jenni that it was essentially residential Disney. "Why?" she asked. All I could answer was "some people are (expletive deleted) Disney in the head." The town almost commands that sort of contempt. A woman I know who lives in Orlando has nothing nice to say about Celebration and says that the opinion is quite common. A Visit To Celebration is just a part of the small world known as Sylvia's Magic Kingdom (http://www.primenet.com/~dbrady/oliande/) and it details David & Sylvia's exploration of the community. The entire site provides a true fan's perspective of the Disney empire. That Sylvia L. Oliande writes for the Daily News in suburban (?!) Los Angeles and has worked for the Los Angeles Times helps out.
Overall, Epcot is worth visiting. We didn't see everything and will probably be back just to see how well the corn, kale and cabbage being used for ground cover in the park hold up in the blistery heat of summer. (Back to top of page)
(990320) Kennedy Space Center Visitor
Delaware North Companies
Buffalo, New York, USA
Kennedy Space Center Home Page
KSC Homepage Development Team
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and the Kennedy Space Center are two separate entities that overlap in a big way. The Visitor Center Complex is the tourist end of NASA's launch facility and is operated under contract by Delaware North Companies. From Central Florida, the Kennedy Space Center is only about an hour drive and in that it is the most publicly accessible part of the US Space Program it is a must see. Admission to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is free but taking at least one of the tours is a must. The Apollo/Saturn V Center houses the stages of a Saturn V rocket and explores our quest for the moon. Ideally suited for first time visitors and families, the tour also includes stops at the LC 39 Observation Gantry the older Observation Gantry where your tour driver will make sure you can identify Space Shuttle Launch Pad A and Launch Pad B with just the slightest glance by the time all is said and done. The freshly painted Vehicle Assembly Building is also a stop and with any amount of luck you are bound to see at least sections of the Space Shuttle being prepared for launch if not the whole crate ready to go. Also new is the International Space Station Center, providing visitors an excellent look at NASA's largest project to date. On this trip we were fortunate enough to take the Historic Cape Canaveral Tour which includes a stop at the Air Force Space Museum. This leg is often closed due to activity and launches by the Air Force so it was a treat to finally see the richest part of the Kennedy Space Center. Better suited for individuals with an understanding of the nearly 40 year history of NASA, this tour may find younger children bored to tears but for purists it is the way to go. Without press, military or contractor clearance, this is as good as it gets for the average person, but we managed to see quite a bit more than we had expected to. Seeing what are now considered low-tech launch facilities but the whole program in a perspective for us that we would never imagined. It certainly was a matter of flying by the seat of your pants in the early days of NASA.
Kennedy Space Center Home Page takes visitors around the world even deeper into the program and facility over the Internet. Spending hours at a time at this site would be too easy and with pointers to everything NASA the team responsible for these pages have done a comprehensive job to say the least. The Visitor Center site and Complex give you a cotton candy view of Kennedy Space Center and these pages offer the science and technology actually there. A lot has happened at NASA in 40 years and the history sections here are probably the best place to go once the current news has been digested.
For souvenirs, a mandatory stop both at these sites and in person is The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Space Shop (http://nasa.viamall.com/) (SdJotD 980324). Everything from clothing to educational video tape programs can be purchased here. While we were there, Jenni was looking for an Apollo 13 mission patch for my buddy Jeff Stachowski. Jeff owns the domain Apollo13.com (http://apollo13.com) and we figured that he could sew it on his book bag or something and be cool. Jenni asked the young man in the crew suit covered with mission patches where she could find the Apollo 13 patches. He looked at her and said "I don't work here ma'am." The kid was very embarrassed when he glanced down and realized just how silly he looked. He probably couldn't wait to tell his friends that he was mistaken for a real NASA employee. He wasn't the only geek there that day . (Back to top of page)
For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology
Manchester, New Hampshire, USA
As it happens, our visit to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (http://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/) coincided with an interesting event. The Kennedy Space Center Regional of the 1999 FIRST Robotics Competition was well under way and the geek kids were everywhere. It was a magnificent sight, students so excited about science and technology working together to build and pit robots against each other in a series of non-violent events. We had Rock-em Sock-em Robots growing up, and these kids get to spend three days at NASA? It simply isn't fair. Since 1992 FIRST has held Robotics Competitions and the method and challenge changes every year. Announced on January 9, 1999, details of the competition called for a first at FIRST allied competition. In a series of random qualification matches each team was ranked and pared up with another team to compete against a similar team. By the time all was said and done the kids had planned and built some fairly sophisticated robots and learned about team work and cooperation. The random factor alone provided a handful of surprises. At one point the competition was delayed while the judges stopped to figure out a work around for an out of bounds situation. I have to admit that it held my interest a lot longer than I thought it would. Outlines for the competition can be found at the site along with pointers to individual team sites (http://usfirst.org/teampages.html). The 1999 FIRST Robotics Competition National Championship will be held at Epcot, in Orlando April 22-24 and should be wonderful.
FIRST is a non-profit organization concerned with keeping youth involved in the sciences and engineering. In addition to the annual robot competitions, the work with LEGO building blocks for the younger kids and have recently opened FIRST Place, for hands-on learning by students and teachers in Manchester, New Hampshire. (Back to top of page)
(990322) Castillo de San Marcos
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
United States National Park Service
St. Augustine, Florida, USA
St. Augustine can be a very romantic place to visit, with the old city and its charming shops, the fresh breeze coming off of the Saint Johns River and Atlantic Ocean and more often than not, a lot of sunshine. That is assuming you don't go on the last weekend of Bike Week which is held to the South at Daytona Beach every year. Finding accommodations for the night was difficult and costly and outdoor activity had the looming whapwhapwhap of motorcycles around every corner. From what we saw in St. Augustine, the average age of the male Biker was about 45 with the women perhaps ten years younger. Jenni heard two of these tough guys talking at Castillo de San Marcos, "I thought this place was cool when I was a kid, but this place is even cooler than I remember." Another case of geek-out. Judging from the graffiti we saw scratched into a wall and dated 1880 it can be that sort of a place for people.
Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest surviving European fortification in what is now the United States and the city itself claims a similar distinction. Restored to much of its former glory, Castillo de San Marcos is considered by many to be the centerpiece of Florida History. Having flown under the flags of Spain, England and the United States the masonry structure has protected the interests of three countries and was also used in the Civil War. Needless to say, a lot has happened on this spot since the first permanent settlement was founded by France in 1564.
To visit the fort is enough, but to explore the history of the area leads to many surprises. One of these is the nearby Fort Mose National Historic Landmark marks the site of the first Free Black settlement in North America, see The Fort Mose Homepage (http://www.oldcity.com/mose/) for more information. (Back to top of page)
(990323) Access Jacksonville
The official site for information about the City of Jacksonville, Florida
City of Jacksonville
Jacksonville, Florida, USA
Located at the end (or beginning) of Interstate 10 and Interstate 95 is the city of Jacksonville, part of the city is there anyway. At one time, Jacksonville was the largest city in the United States. Encompassing over 840 square miles, it is only smaller now than Barrow, Alaska and that shouldn't really count because the Barrow City Limits have a lot of water in them. Jacksonville too has water, some of the nicest beaches in the state of Florida, and the St. Johns River. That this water provides easy access to the Atlantic Ocean attracted early French settlers back on the first of May, 1562. The French Huguenots were later run out of their town by the Spanish up from St. Augustine who had claimed the area half a century before. The US Navy has a carrier base at Mayport, home port for the USS John Fitzgerald Kennedy and proving to this day that the region has strong military importance. The drive up from St. Augustine is a nice one, I-95 is the quickest route, but US1 and the legendary A1A will provide more sightseeing opportunities. We ended up in Jacksonville after not being able to find lodging in St. Augustine the night before our visit to Castillo de San Marcos. We drove back down and enjoyed the day, heading to Jacksonville again after seeing the fort and the original Ripley's Museum which, believe it or not, has no site available.
The evening was spent having dinner with members of Jenni's family who have lived in Jacksonville (or South Georgia as I like to call it) for better than twenty years. Fort Myers to Jacksonville is a nine hour drive so even though we live in the same state, we don't get to see each other often enough. It was that night we decided that Michigan was not going to be in our travel plans because of a winter storm about to dump what would end up being nearly two feet of snow on the entire Eastern Great Lakes Region. Maybe, just maybe, Memphis would meet us at the city limits later the next day. Heck, we had a whole week left.
Access Jacksonville is a great site for people living in or wishing to visit Jacksonville. You'll find information about the financial climate of Florida's banking center, plus topics including business and history. With all there is to do and see in the only true Industrial city in the state, a site like this is worth a look before arriving. Once you get into town don't worry too much about that smell, it's only the paper mills. (Back to top of page)
(990324) Florida's Capital County
Leon County, Florida, USA
Leon County Management Information Services (MIS)
Tallahassee, Florida, USA
The Official Guide to the State of Florida Legislature
Legislative Information Division
State of Florida
Tallahassee, Florida, USA
On Sunday our plans to head North were spoiled by the weather. Even Memphis was taking a beating and the winds were blowing in the odor of the paper mills, which we both had assumed were still located in Jacksonville. (According to the webmaster at Access Jacksonville (http://www.itd.ci.jax.fl.us/) (SdJotD 990323), the paper plants moved out of town years ago). Winds blowing that hard from the South meant a cold front was working its way down, it didn't look like we were leaving Florida after all. Instead we decided to head West on Interstate 10 to see the Florida State Capitol at Tallahassee. Northern Florida is very beautiful, the topography and vegetation differing greatly from what we see on a daily basis in the Sub-Tropics back at Fort Myers. Hills, deciduous trees and acre upon acre of undeveloped land. Even though we were on the Interstate highway, we still managed to enjoy portions of the area's National Forests and by stopping at rest areas and walking around. The air was cool and the sky clear making the novelty of pine cones nearly as big as our heads that much more profound. The combination of those hills, the lakes, trees and countryside reminded us both of areas in Northern Michigan and Minnesota on a perfect summer day of course.
Visiting capital cities is a travel obligation, most of us learned where they were as school kids so seeing them years later is kind of a perverse payback. Florida's capital seems out of place in present day Tallahassee, not because the city doesn't embrace it but because the rest of the state is so far away from it. Located between St. Augustine and Pensacola it made perfect sense putting it there when the two were the only sizable settlements in the territory. Florida's Capital County shows off the civic pride of Leon County and provides pointers to hundreds of different sites in the area. As the home of the Florida State University and the State Government there is always something going on in Leon County. Because of the distance between Florida cities and the less than perfect honesty with politicians in the past, Florida has what are known as the Sunshine Laws. Essentially a process of advance notice on hearings and a wide open policy elevating freedom of information to an almost silly position. Quick and unfair deals have become old way of doing business here, or so it would seem. Online Sunshine is a site detailing the daily adventures of the State Legislature. As the nation's third most populous state it can be pretty busy some days. The old Capitol has been beautifully restored after nearly being razed twenty years ago. Sitting in front of the new complex as it does, it makes for an interesting monument to the rapid growth experienced here during the last one hundred years. For photographs of the Florida State Capitol, both current and historical see the page maintained by the Florida Department of State - Historical Resources Division at (http://dhr.dos.state.fl.us/flafacts/capitol.html).
After spending the afternoon in Tallahassee we got back on I-10 and continued West. Crossing into the Central Time Zone was strange enough, but after living so close to the Gulf of Mexico for so many years it was odd to still be in Florida and be driving for so long into the sun. When it set directly in front of us we started to work out the coming week. By the time rain announced the cold front we had a plan. (Back to top of page)
(990325) National Museum of Naval
National Museum of Naval Aviation
United States Navy
N.A.S. Pensacola, Florida, USA
Pensacola Visitors Information Center
Pensacola Area Chamber of Commerce
Pensacola, Florida, USA
Our plan was to head to New Orleans. We were after two things, food and music. Arriving in Pensacola on a Sunday night didn't leave us with much to do even with gaining an hour by crossing into a different time zone. We found a room, ate dinner and stopped at one of the local Wal-Marts (http://wal-mart.com/) to fill up the cooler with soda-pop and gather additional supplies. Back home in Lee County all of the Wal-Marts had been replaced by the bigass variety a few years earlier, so it was charming to shop in one of the regular size stores again no need for bread crumbs that night!
Pensacola is the westernmost city in Florida and the original home to Naval Aviation. Try as I might, Jenni didn't really find the idea of spending a day at the National Museum of Naval Aviation as exciting as I did. Having burned off any possibility of visiting the museum on this trip I knew better than to push the issue. Although the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (http://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/) (SdJotD 990320) proved to be an enjoyable day for both of us, this particular stop might not have the same appeal and it was a long walk home.
If we had stopped at the Pensacola Naval Air Station to see the National Museum of Naval Aviation and its collection of planes and helicopters we would have learned about the history of Naval Aviation. Touted as the most visited museum in Florida and one of the top three largest air-and-space museums in the world, the National Museum of Naval Aviation apparently has a great collection. Since 1914 when the Pensacola Navy Yard achieved the designation of being the first Naval Air facility in the United States, countless pilots and crew members have trained and been stationed at the station. To read and/or share recollections be sure to visit a section of this site called ReadyRoom Talk (http://www.naval-air.org/rdyroom.htm). Had I known it at the time, telling Jenni that the Skylab Command Module is on loan to the museum might have helped my cause. Maybe if it hadn't been so cold and rainy that day. Maybe another time.
The Pensacola Visitors Information Center is operated by Pensacola Area Chamber of Commerce and the site hosts a monthly calendar of events and champions local attractions. A few points of interest include The Pensacola Museum of Art which is housed in the former city jail, and The Wall South Veteran's Memorial Park. Honoring veterans of all wars, the park has a replica of the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in Washington, D. C. Making Japanese, German and Spanish language versions of the site available was a good idea. With all of the things to do and see in Pensacola I'm sure that we will be back someday. (Back to top of page)
(990326) Welcome to Mobile!
Mobile Convention & Visitors Corporation
Mobile, Alabama, USA
Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District
Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District (SMPDD)
Gulfport, Mississippi, USA
When we left Pensacola on Monday morning, the storm system responsible for all of the snow was continuing to provide more rain. Crossing the Florida / Alabama line boosted our optimism we were finally going somewhere! Interstate 10 wasn't all that busy heading West, vehicles towing motorcycles back to where they live when they're not at a bike week somewhere and like that. We recognized a few from the day before which provided a little excitement. Commercial traffic picked up just outside of Mobile and as we crossed the bridge over Mobile Bay things started to slow down. I-10 goes right through Mobile and even under it at one point. The tunnel has a name I'm sure, and someday I'll find out what it is. Like the tunnel at Fort Lauderdale, Florida this one seemed out of place being so close to the sea. Mobile looked like an interesting enough town and to later find out that the Mardi Gras celebration as we now know it started in Mobile changes my opinion of the place. Especially to discover that the prizes of choice aren't beads, but can be had by chanting "Moon Pie! Moon Pie!" (http://www.moonpie.com/) to the passing floats. Mobile will celebrate its tricentennial in three years and it's bound to be some party. Find out more about these things with a visit to Welcome to Mobile!
Mobile is about the same distance from Florida as it is from Mississippi. As we crossed the Alabama/Mississippi line Jenni and I started talking about different states we had been to. Somewhere before learning the capitals of the fifty states we learned how to spell most, if not all of their names. Based on how much fun many of us had learning them, I theorized that Mississippi is probably the second state kids learn how to spell after the one they live in. If anybody knows of some spare grant money floating around The State of Mississippi - Official Web Site (http://www.state.ms.us/) proudly displays the logotype for the state, branded on license plates and souvenirs this fine example of typography is worth seeing and the pointers at the site are great too.
The most obvious thing we noticed after getting back on the road after a quick break at the Mississippi Welcome Center was the damage left behind by last year's hurricane season. Billboards ripped apart, trees down and other large pieces of debris showing the path and rage left behind by the storm that barely missed us here in Southwest Florida. Hurricane Georges came ashore here in September and there was no mistaking it. Closer to the Gulf of Mexico was Biloxi and the lure of the casinos. It was not enough to change our travel plans, perhaps on the way back. Also at Biloxi is Keesler Air Force Base, home to the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron (http://www.hurricanehunters.com/) (SdJotD 980928). These men and women have the task of flying into the eye of a storm to collect data and observations when it's still out in the Atlantic Ocean. If there was a possibility of ending up in Biloxi I figured that it couldn't hurt to start talking up a visit to the base during lunch in Gulfport. Gulfport gets its share of storms and people continue to stay there year after year. You won't readily find hurricane recovery listed at the site for the Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District but I'm sure that it happens. One of the largest organizations of its kind in the US, the Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District helps to maintain healthy conditions for people and businesses in fifteen counties which make up the region. Of interest at this site are sections pertaining to mapping and demographics, unemployment aid and assistance plus oversight of care for the elderly. Not exactly a tourist site, it does present a look at the people who live there and the troubles facing some of them. You'll find quality pointers here as well. Leaving Gulfport, the enthusiasm which was such a large part of the morning had returned. We were almost in Louisiana. (Back to top of page)
(990327) New Orleans Online
Featuring Radio Free New Orleans!
New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
The rain wasn't going to let up, contrary to the forecast by the National Weather Service earlier in the day. Really no surprise, March is a weird month for weather around the Gulf of Mexico and the fronts either whisk right through or linger on for days at a time. This particular system was sticking around and it unfortunately set the tone for our visit to New Orleans.
Interstate 10 crosses Lake Pontchartrain, a body of water formed by and a part of the delta created by the mighty Mississippi River. To give you an idea of the size of the forth largest inland lake in the world, the longest bridge in the world runs North and South across it. At twenty three miles long, there is a stretch eight miles long where no land is in sight. We weren't in town long enough to cross the toll bridge and in retrospect that was our problem. Dirty and rusty to the core, the city was nothing like we imagined it would be. If the sky was clear our first impression could have been different, but that's hard to say. Itching to turn around and head back we resisted the urge initially. Seeing a place from the highway never gives a fair representation, and if the area was that nice to begin with, a major thoroughfare would never have been constructed there. So we exited our old friend 10 and looked around.
Still not impressed after an hour it was back on the Interstate, stopping at a visitor center operated by Hospitality Enterprises (http://visitnola.com/). With all the hope we could muster we went in to see if we were just missing the charm of the city. The staff suggested we at least see the French Quarter and Garden District again before leaving and quickly changed the subject when I asked them what other parts of Louisiana we should see. After all, we were miles from home and here we were. Recognizing that they either didn't know enough about the other places, or were so convinced that the hard sell on New Orleans was the way to go I asked about finding a room for the night. "Good luck" was the sentiment as it was explained that the NCAA Basketball Tournament started later in the week and a convention for 25,000 people was also in town. We thanked them and figured another spin (in the rain) around downtown wouldn't hurt. Back on and off of 10 we stopped at the places suggested, spending another hour doing so. At the same time, Jenni and I asked each other "seen enough?" and we had. Mr. Bumble got back on 10 and after running out of landmarks exited again to turn around.
A friend of my parents moved to New Orleans eight years ago and calling him was suggested when we talked to my parents that morning. From a pay station I called Tom and as luck would have it, we were only two blocks away from his house. He was a gracious host, laughing when I told him about our newfound understanding of why the old Blues men had the blues. A common reaction to his fair city. His ex-wife passed away two weeks before back in Michigan and his duties with Mardi Gras kept him in New Orleans. Their relationship had gone way sour so he didn't attend the funeral. I believe that a visit with someone from the old neighborhood may have helped him to work through his troubles. The man clearly had the blues.
Our next trip to New Orleans will see the city as a sole destination, the mind set needed is far from where we were that one day. The history and culture still appeal to us but we have a more realistic view of the place now. A week is needed to visit, and reservations are a must. We'll be back, but after not being able to get out of town fast enough it won't be any time soon.
New Orleans Online is the ideal site for making the plan and arrangements necessary for a visit to New Orleans. The highlight of this site for me is Ron Cuccia's Radio Free New Orleans. RealAudio streams of programming that features different styles every day of the week which include traditional New Orleans Jazz on Mondays, early Rock & Roll and Rhythm & Blues on Tuesdays, Cajun and Zydeco music on Wednesdays, Contemporary Jazz Thursdays, Friday Funk-day, Piano Day on Saturdays, and even Gospel Sunday. " broadcasting from the Pleasure Center of your Brain," RFNO is a beautiful example of the pride New Orleans has in its culture and heritage. Tune in to the short overview stream and hear why. (Back to top of page)
(990328) The Saito Disney Index
The Saito Family
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
As we left Louisiana the rain stopped. Unable to find a room we headed back to Pensacola and found a place to stay at midnight. In the morning all disappointment from the day before had lifted. Back on Interstate 10 we took a small detour to see the Chatahoochee Dam. More of an excuse to say we'd been in five states in the past day than anything except maybe the silly thrill of crossing back and forth between the Eastern and Central time zones a couple more times, the trip a quarter mile into Georgia was pleasant. It also allowed us to stay behind the (not so cold anymore) front and the rain it produced. A stop in Tallahassee for lunch kept us going as we headed East on I-10, and then South on Interstate 75. I was ready to go home and didn't mind driving. I-75 was a clear shot and from Gainesville we could be home by the early morning hours. Not wanting to end our trip on the let-down we experienced with New Orleans, Jenni made the terrific suggestion of seeing Disney's Animal Kingdom. To Orlando we went.
Disney's Animal Kingdom is the most recent park at Disney World, part zoo and part Disney Magic I was hesitant at first but Jenni was keen on going. We eventually found a room in Kissimmee right next to Old Town (http://www.old-town.com/), a "Shopping, Dining and Entertainment Attraction." The room was old and overpriced but it put us not too far from the main gate at Disney World.
By ten the next morning we were on the tram in the parking lot at the park. Resisting the urge to actually ask the parking attendants about it, I couldn't help but notice the similarities between their yellow and white striped shirts over yellow trousers and our old friends B1 & B2 of Bananas in Pajamas fame (http://www.abc.net.au/children/bananas/default.htm) (SdJotD 980904). Knowing how downright polite Disney cast members are I only pointed it out to Jenni voicing my concern that Uncle Walt is probably trying to buy the other ABC as well. Once inside the park it became clear that this was Disney at their best. The attention to detail and tricks learned after forty years of imagineering show. By the end of the day Disney's Animal Kingdom had become our favorite of all amusement parks anywhere. The zoo aspect is there but in the guise of a photo safari and even though a few animals have died, the birth total is higher so it looks like the worst part is over. The Asia land was being previewed while we were there and with a water ride and slightly more traditional zoo exhibits it looks as though Busch Gardens in Tampa may finally have a real competitor. The Tree of Life is the icon of this Kingdom, a fifteen story man-made tree with 320 animal shapes carved into the massive trunk. It's amazing.
The Saito Family have created an excellent Disney fan site, and their Disney's Animal Kingdom Virtual Tour and Disney's Animal Kingdom Resources pages make the official site; Walt Disney World - Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park (http://disney.go.com/DisneyWorld/ThemeParks/disney_animal_kingdom.html) look pathetic. You'd think the folks at Disney would eventually figure this part out. Before visiting Disney's Animal Kingdom I didn't see how people could return to the Disney parks every year but with this one I can. A little time spent at this site will show you why.
Heading out of the park back to parking area (Peacock 4) on the tram, B1 & B2 had at some point changed clothes and were wearing more conventional Disney garb. A family consisting of two grandparents a daughter and granddaughter were riding with us. They were from Texas and in the course of conversation Lyle Lovett (http://www.mcarecords.com/artists/artist.asp?artistid=46) and his new album, a collection of songs written by Texans came up. Grandpa immediately commented that "Lyle Lovett is ugly, double ugly in fact." I slowly turned to the man and said "Well sir, no offense but you're ugly too." They all laughed as if they got the joke but it was clear they didn't. So as not to really offend the man in front of his family I explained that in a song he wrote Lyle sings about a girl who was so ugly and how the band says "Well you're ugly too." I hope that he bought the album just to find out what had happened.
The trip from Disney World to Fort Myers was painless. We stopped in Bradenton for something to eat and then again at a rest area in Charlotte County to look at the sky full of stars. We seemed to have upset the rent-a-cop patrolling the facility as we started for a darker spot near the tree line. He seemed relieved when we explained that we simply wanted to get a better view of the stars. With recent wildfires and sightings of "bobcats and rattlesnakes" in the area he asked us not to get too far away from the parking lot and lights. Still amused by my wiseacre comment earlier in the evening I almost made a remark about the scorpions and how they often crawl up into the cabs of running pickup trucks especially the kind security guards sit in all night. He was armed so I saved it.
Nearly 2,100 miles in eight days and a whole lot of Florida (and other places) behind us, our wedding trip was one to remember. Thanks to everyone who sent along good wishes and comments. Also for allowing me this indulgence. Regular episodes will start again on Monday and as always, your suggestions are welcomed. (Back to top of page)
the travel search engine
Iain Gaynor and John Bentham
Outlaw Media Ltd.
St. Annes on the Sea, England
Coming out of writing a two week-long travelogue, I have learned how difficult it can be to find information about travel destinations using conventional search engines. With specific sites in mind it became necessary to use as many resources as possible and results were often mixed. Kasbah was suggested late last week but having already established a working pattern I waited to try this site out. In a sort of Compare and Discover method, Kasbah was put to the test and the results were impressive. With over 60,000 hand picked sites in more than 230 countries, many of the pointers I'd seen using the other method were indeed listed. Missing was the overwhelming number of non related sites no Real Estate or commercial/industrial sites showing up in the results. Add to that a list of over 400 reviews of popular Internet travel sites and Kasbah put itself over the top. The interface used to search the database is nearly flawless and the results are consistent, no matter what corner of the Earth strikes your fancy. The work of food and travel journalist Iain Gaynor and John Bentham, managing director of Outlaw Media, Kasbah offers in-depth coverage of places you may never have heard of, it's that good. Kasbah cuts to the chase when it comes to finding solid information for travel and leisure, it could even be used for research and school reports. A highly recommended tool. (Back to top of page)
ABC News Internet Ventures
New York, New York, USA
Bellevue, Washington, USA
The first two hour segment of TheCentury aired last night on ABC television here in the US and it was fantastic. Expecting to see a documentary chronicling the century by starting at the top, the show and its producers provided a surprise. Rather than take a whirlwind tour through the ages and compile hundreds of thousands of hours of footage into twelve, the series is broken up into six two hour-long stories sharing a common theme. The quality of the footage and interviews used are both very high, although that may be a downside. ABC never comes out and says that the topics presented are the most important of the century, instead they may have been chosen because of the amount of available media. The first show covered Charles Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic, and a rather one-sided account of the race to the Moon. Future episodes will look at the Atomic Bomb, Adolph Hitler, World War I and the Vietnam Conflict, Elvis Presley and Martin Luther King, Jr., the Cold War and FDR and finally the trouble the US Government found itself in with Iran. Hardly the history of the 20th Century, but certainly entertaining television. The History Channel will run another fifteen hours of programming when this is done and somehow I get the impression that it may be the series to watch.
The site however is a different story. With video and audio clips from many more events, the overview is wider and the material spread out in several different headings in time line fashion. The index page changes daily and lists events which occurred on that particular day during the century. Even here though the limited view of the century _as remembered by Americans_ is limiting and one comes away wondering if additional resources from around the world couldn't have been tapped into for this project. Of course you can purchase the series on video tape, the book, the audio book and probably even the commemorative plates and spoons at some point. The classroom tie-in may be the project's saving grace, a great deal of information is available to students and teachers. The material for education looks darn good.
Even though there is still another year and nine months until the end of the century this site and all it covers is impressive enough to visit every day. Peter Jennings did a fine job with the series and if possible you should see at least one of the episodes between now and April 10th. While so much more could have been done with this project it really isn't all that bad for commercial television. (Back to top of page)
(990331) Jane's Information Group
News: Defence, geopolitical, transport and police information
Jane's Information Group Limited
For anyone interested in the hardware being used by both NATO and Yugoslavia in Kosovo, this site for Jane's Information Group Limited is important. Jane's publishes well known titles which include Jane's Fighting Ships, Jane's All the Worlds Aircraft, Jane's Defence Weekly, Jane's International Defense Review, Jane's Airport Review and Police Review. Acting as a clearinghouse for unclassified information, in a special report Jane's presents a round-up of the entire situation including historical and geographic data. Suggested by Len from Fort Myers who wrote "Included is the Yugoslav Army Order of Battle (read this and you will see what NATO is bombing and why!) as well as a complete list of which countries are contributing what kind of aircraft." In the one hundred years since Jane's All the World's Fighting Ships was first issued, military intelligence agencies have come to rely on the work started by John Frederick Thomas Jane. As Len pointed out in his message, so too have " all British schoolboys!". (Back to top of page)
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Copyright 1999 Edward J. Pelegrino. All rights reserved.
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Updated April 7, 1999
This Archive has been opened
March 21, 1999.