Wine Walk and more family time

We got together on Dan’s dad’s birthday (Makena already did her blog post, since they share the same birthday) for a nice dinner on the river in New Smyrna Beach.  Dan’s brother Gary, his wife Julia and youngest daughter Jasmine joined in.

On Friday, the seven of us went on the evening Victory Casino Cruise out of Port Canaveral, Florida.  The campground we are staying at organized an outing, and we  went along with the group.  The owner of the campground was able to get a group rate of $21.00 per person, which included admission to the cruise, a delicious buffet dinner, and $20.00 in match play.  The cruise ship has to go out to international waters before you can begin gambling, which takes about 35 minutes once you leave port.  They offer everything that you would find in a regular casino.    Unfortunately, we have no big wins to brag about!

Dan's mom and dad

Dan’s mom and dad

sunset on the cruise

sunset on the cruise

On Saturday (3/22), we met up with Gary, Julia and Jasmine for the Wine Walk on Flagler Avenue in New Smyrna Beach.  Dan’s parents had their end of season dinner at their condo, so they did not join in.

New Smyrna Beach

New Smyrna Beach

For $25.00, you receive a souvenir wine glass and 20 coupons for wine sampling.  The walk goes from 1pm – 7pm and covers 12 businesses in the thriving downtown of New Smyrna Beach.  The weather was perfect and it appeared several thousand people were also doing the walk.  It was a great way to see all the wonderful shops and restaurants on Flagler Avenue, and to sample many great wines along the way!

cheers!

cheers!

You received a map of downtown with all the participating establishments.  Each place had a list of the wines that were available to sample.  Each sample required 1 – 5 tickets, depending on the retail value of the wine.

lots of choices

lots of choices

studying the wine menu

studying the wine menu

There were many choices available, from whites to reds, ports, and several sangrias.  Several of the places made their own version of sangria, using mangos as the main ingredient.  We all agreed it was one of our favorites.  So if you like to make your own sangria, try using mangos as the fruit.  It was very refreshing!

Dan, Julia, Jasmine, Gary

Dan, Julia, Jasmine, Gary

And there was even some entertainment along the way.  We had never seen a baby grand piano on a peddle cart before.  He was very good, and a lot of fun to listen to.

piano peddle cart

piano peddle cart

father-daughter time

father-daughter time

Flagler Avenue

Flagler Avenue

The ladies at the Galleria De Vitro were having a lot of fun handing out samples.  They said life is short, so you better enjoy it!  And they certainly were!

Galleria De Vitro

Galleria De Vitro

And of course there were the usual ‘touristy’ signs.

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Not sure what Gary is trying to tell his friends…

hmmm?!

hmmm?!

lots of choices

lots of choices

making new friends

making new friends

a sangria siesta?

a sangria siesta?

We kept track of the wines that we liked, and will take our list with us when we go shopping. It was a lot of fun, and they are doing another walk in April, in case anyone happens to be in the New Smyrna Beach area.  It was a great way for the downtown businesses to bring a lot of people to the area.

On Sunday, we (Dan’s parents, Gary, Jasmine, Dan and I) played golf at Cypress Head in Port Orange.  Julia opted to keep Makena company at the condo.  It has been over a year since I last played, and it showed!  I donated a few golf balls to the pond.  But on a positive side, we finally saw the Florida Scrub Jay.  We learned about these on our birding tour, but did not notice one until Sunday.  We did not bring our camera along, but this is a photo from the internet that shows what they look like.

This is the only species of bird endemic to Florida, so we were excited to finally see two of them.

After golf, we all met up with Julia and had a nice dinner together, on their final night in town.  It was a fun, busy week getting together.  And they seemed to enjoy getting out of the cold and snow.

Quote for the Day: “Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages.” – Louis Pasteur

 

 

Kayaking and family time

Dan’s brother Gary, wife Julia and youngest daughter Jasmine flew down from frigid Minnesota and Iowa for a “Spring Break” and some sunshine.  They are staying just up the road in New Smyrna Beach, where Dan’s parents rent a condo for a few months to also escape the cold and snow.

While we were at the condo, Dan noticed a familiar site in the sand.  Can you guess what this is?  Hint, it was on March 14th…..

Happy Pi Day!

Happy Pi Day!

Yes, some creative math geeks spent their day on the beach making the “Pi” symbol, and wrote out a decimal approximation for Pi.  Spring Break gets pretty wild in New Smyrna Beach!!

Dan was able to dust off the golf clubs and golf with his parents and brother last Friday.  Julia and I joined the foursome later for a delicious dinner (we had to do the “early bird special” of course!).  Saturday we had a quiet family day, with a long walk on the beach.  Unfortunately, Dan and I both ended up with multiple blisters on the bottom of our feet from the hot sand (yes, I know those of you still wearing winter boots have no sympathy for us!).   Dan’s mom fixed a delicious dinner and fresh strawberry pie, and we had a competitive card game of ‘hand and foot’, which the guys won.  Sunday Dan and I just rested our very painful feet!

Monday (3/17)  we again got together for dinner and cards, and Jasmine flew in late that night.  On Wednesday, Gary, Julia and Jasmine joined Dan and I down in Cocoa Beach, on a 2 hour Kayaking Tour on the Indian River, with Island Time Kayaking.  We had seen this tour offered on Groupon, and the price ($25.00 for 2 people) was right.  Neither of us had ever kayaked before, and we both wanted to try it out.

We all agreed that the kayaking was a lot of fun, but the “tour” was rather lacking.  We would not recommend this tour company for kayaking.  Part of the problem was the location, and the other was our tour guide.  Despite the tour company’s advertising manatees, dolphins, and 300 species of birds, we saw 2 birds during the 2 hours.  Our tour guide was lacking in customer service skills (we shouldn’t have to ask him what his name is), and really seemed dis-interested in the tour.  Our first stop on our “tour” was to look at an old fence post that previously marked the border of the Kennedy Space Centers property.  We stared at it while he went on about how the tug boats and cargo ships pollute the water.  He spent about 20 minutes giving us his views on healthcare, and people who have purchased a trip to Mars. Then he paddled off to go check out a new boat that was on the dock by Sea Ray, and with 30 minutes left in the tour, he paddled back in and told us we had 30 minutes to ourselves to do what we wanted!

We certainly would love to go kayaking again, and may look into one of the inflatable Sea Eagle Kayaks that many RVers have and love.  You can certainly get a nice workout when paddling upstream!  And we have seen many photos from other blogs of nicer places in which to kayak in!  It was a very relaxing time.

The brothers

The brothers

Gary and niece Jasmine

Gary and niece Jasmine

Julia

Julia

floating along

floating along

Dan getting a workout

Dan getting a workout

This is the new yacht that Sea Ray is apparently testing out, according to our tour guide.

Sea Ray's new yacht

Sea Ray’s new yacht

The two birds that we saw on our tour.

turkey vulture

turkey vulture

unknown bird

unknown bird

After our tour, we headed down to Cocoa Beach, to catch whatever rays would soak thru our Broad Spectrum SPF 50 lotion!  There were many families and spring breakers enjoying the beach.  We discovered a nice restaurant right on the beach, where we had a great dinner, and some tasty “foofy” frozen drinks!

foofy drink time

foofy drink time

Quote for the day:  “The mark of a successful man is one that has spent an entire day on the bank of a river without feeling guilty about it.” – Chinese Philosopher

The U.S. Space Walk of Fame Museum

Dan and I have always had a fascination with the Space program, so we stopped in at The U.S. Space Walk of Fame Museum in Titusville, after we finished our bird tour at Merritt Island.  The museum, which has free admission (yea!), is crammed full of memorabilia from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Shuttle missions.  Currently, the museum is in an old building, and is literally bursting at the seams.  In talking with the volunteer on duty, they just signed a lease for a new building, that will have about 7,000 square feet of exhibit space, compared with the 1400 square feet they have now.

Many of the items have been donated by employees from the space center, as well as the astronauts.  While we were there, a woman came in inquiring about donating memorabilia her father received while working at the space center in the 60’s and 70’s.   They were very eager to receive her late father’s collection, and she was happy it would be enjoyed by the public for years to come.

Below is a photo of the recovery suit worn by Virgil “Gus” Grissom after the Gemini 3 flight.  Grissom was the 2nd American to fly in space.  He was set to command the first manned Apollo mission, but was tragically killed when fire erupted in his spacecraft on the Launchpad in a training mission on January 27, 1967.  Crewmates Edward White II and Roger Chaffee were also killed.

Gus Grissom

Gus Grissom

This is the hatch and frame that was recovered from Mercury Capsule #4.  This was a suborbital flight, by Gus Grissom, that lasted about 15 minutes and was uneventful until splashdown, when the hatch cover blew.  Grissom was saved from drowning, and the capsule sank into the Atlantic Ocean.  It was recovered in 1999.

space hatch

space hatch

various memorabilia

various memorabilia

NASA used a high-speed camera (pictured below), capable of taking 4,000 photos per minute, to check rocket and missile engine performance during tests and during lift-off of the rockets at the space center.  The camera was attached to a drive motor below the camera, and is about 3 feet tall with the motor attached.

high speed camera

high speed camera

They had a nice model of the space shuttle on the launch assembly pad.

model of space shuttle launch pad

model of space shuttle launch pad

This museum had a lot of interesting facts and figures for the math geeks.

lots of math involved in the space program!

lots of math involved in the space program!

And even something of interest for radiology geeks!  The lunar EVA spacesuit boots that Neal Armstrong left on the moon were x-rayed on July 7,1969, 9 days before the launch of Apollo 11.  The radiograph was done to insure there were no foreign objects in the boots which could compromise the integrity of the spacesuit.

x-rays used to document history!

x-rays used to document history!

The Space Center has it’s own fire department, and they had several displays in their honor.

fire fighter suit in the 60's

fire fighter suit in the 60’s

The museum had a tribute to the crews of the 2 Space Shuttle missions that tragically ended.  The Space Shuttle Challenger blew up just 73 seconds after the launch on January 28, 1986.  I remember hearing about this during a Physics class in college (UW – Eau Claire).  Our professor was visibly upset and released class early and we all went over to a cafeteria to watch the news on television.  (life before the internet, where we had to ‘wait’ for news!) Dan was doing his student teaching in Marshfield, Wisconsin when word came in during an algebra II class. This shuttle launch was one of the most widely viewed live space events, because Christa McAuliffe, was on board.  She would have been the first teacher in space.  The space shuttle program was grounded for 3 years after this catastrophe.

Challenger Crew

Challenger Crew

On February 1, 2003, all seven members of the Space Shuttle Columbia crew perished when their shuttle disintegrated upon re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere over Texas and Louisiana.  Again the shuttle program was put on hold for 2 years.

Columbia Crew

Columbia Crew

The photo below is a giant rotary dial phone used in the control rooms.  It’s hard to tell from the photo, but it is about 8 inches high by 10 inches wide.  Amazing how much technology has shrunk the size of phones today!

a giant phone

a giant phone

NASA used these giant Lithium Chloride Batteries on 3 Titan missile missions.  One battery has a 250 amp hour capacity, and was the first lithium battery used of this capacity.

a big battery

a big battery

The photo below shows a mission control room, and the museum has on display several of the actual control panels from this room.

photo of mission control

photo of mission control

control panels

control panels

control panels

control panels

Overall, we enjoyed this museum, even though it is in very cramped quarters.  We were the only 2 people visiting at the time.  We look forward to coming again some day, after they move into their new building.

Quote for the day: “Looking down the road, space exploration and the benefits it yields – in medicine and information technology – should not be overlooked.” – Bob Barr

Happy Birthday to me and Grandpa Stu!!

Keeping my peeps informed!

Keeping my peeps informed!

Today is my 7th Birthday, so my mom is letting me post again!!  I share my birthday with Grandpa Stu (Dan’s dad).  He turns 77 today!  And since we are both in Florida, we were able to share some cake together!!!

Grandpa Stu and I

Grandpa Stu and I

My parents have always let me have a small lick of a piece of cake for every birthday that I have had.  So when I saw the little piece on the table, I was very excited!!!

Yummy!!

Yummy!!

And my grandparents bought me a stuffed hamburger toy, which I was able to “destuff” in under 2 minutes!!

Stuffed burger

Stuffed burger

My grandparents also took me for a nice long walk, which I always enjoy!  But before we drove up to visit them, I did get to go for a walk at our campground.  My mom was a little afraid on our walk, because she saw an alligator by our campsite. She just stopped, and then my dad started laughing.

I'm not afraid

I’m not afraid

Turns out the new owners of the RV park have been busy putting out all kinds of decorations around the park, including a fake alligator.  I wasn’t afraid at all, and told the gator to stay away from my football!

And even though today starts “March Madness” with non-stop basketball (Go Bucky!), football is still #1 in my heart.  So no birthday would be complete without another game of football!

I love to play!

I love to play!

 

Now for those who are wondering about my “people age”, it is a myth that one dog year equals seven people years.  A dog’s age varies by their size and breed.  Since I am only 12 pounds, my “people age” is 44 years.

I hope everyone has a happy first day of Spring!!!  Yea!!!  And tomorrow is my Aunt Linda’s birthday, so I want to wish her a great day too!  (I won’t disclose her age though!)

Quote for the Day:  “Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day. It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them.”   – John Grogan

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Last week we headed down to Titusville to take a beginning bird tour at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  Back in 1962, NASA acquired 140,000 acres of land to establish the John F Kennedy Space Center.  NASA needed about 10,000 acres for their buildings and launch pads.  In 1963, the US Fish and Wildlife Service signed an agreement to maintain the remaining acreage as a wildlife refuge.

Today there are more than 500 species of wildlife, including 15 endangered or threatened species, that can be found on the refuge.  There are also seven different habitats on the refuge:  beaches, coastal dunes, scrub, pine flatwoods,  brackish impoundments, hardwood hammocks, and open water estuaries.

Titusville, FL

Titusville, FL

There are many activities and classes available at the refuge.  Since our knowledge of birds is limited to “look at that big white bird”, or “is that an Eagle or just a big black bird?”, we decided to sign up for the Beginning Bird Tour.  It is a 3 hour small shuttle bus tour around the main roads in the refuge, as well at the Black Point Wildlife Drive.  The cost of the tour was only $3.00 per person, and children under 16 are free.  We highly recommend the tour.  If you do not own binoculars or a bird guide, you can check one out from the visitors center for free.  Our tour bus driver, Ned, is a retired high school biology teacher, and he did an excellent job both educating and entertaining us.

There are over 900 species of birds in the United States, and over 500 of them can be found in Florida.  Ned recommended focusing on the wading birds when starting out, as they are among the easiest group to identify.  There are 5 main ways to identify birds:  Silhouette (shape and size), Plumage/Colorization, Behavior, Voice, and Habitat Preferences.

Our tour started out on the main roads and we had a few stops near a parking lot, where several birds were busy watching the fisherman.  I don’t recall the names of all the birds.  After 3 hours, I was on ‘bird overload’!

DSC_0566 (1)

We then entered the Black Point Wildlife Drive, which is a 7 mile one-way drive through pine flatwoods and very shallow marsh impoundments.  The cost to drive on this road is $5.00, but is included in the Bird Tour.  The money raised by the refuge is used to make improvements, such as the viewing station shown below.  There are several people on the dock, but you can’t see them.  They are designed to allow viewing of the birds without scaring them away.

hideout for photographers

hideout for photographers

Across the marsh is part of the Kennedy Space Center.  The water that you see is only a few inches in-depth, and is brackish (mixture of fresh water and salt water).

Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center

And we did see a few alligators hanging around the refuge as well.

Alligator

Alligator

One of the wading birds that people come to see at the refuge is the Roseate Spoonbill, which has bright pink colors.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill in middle

Roseate Spoonbill in middle

Some of the folks we saw watching the birds had very large (and expensive) zoom lenses on their cameras.  They had some excellent photos.  I was limited with my little zoom lens, unless we were close to the birds.

Great White Heron

Great White Heron

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

Tri-Colored Heron

Tri-Colored Heron

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

We did also see a Great Blue Heron, but he was too far away for my camera.

 

American Avocet

American Avocet

Turkey Vultures

Turkey Vultures

Roseate Spoonbill and egrets (?)

Roseate Spoonbill and egrets (?)

And another Tricolored Heron, which was probably the fastest bird we saw.  He loved to run around the water!

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We will definitely return to the refuge in the future.  If you are in the area, it is worth a trip!

Quote for the Day: “In order to see birds it is necessary to become part of the silence.”  – Robert Lynd