Our story since saying farewell to the schoolhouse
Our home for New Year was the city of Mt. Dora. About the highest point in Florida, which is a very low-lying state. This house caused great outrage when first painted, but there is a story...
The family who lived in the house said they painted it so their autistic son could find his way home. You can read a longer version of the story here: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-44882926
Murals abound in Mt. Dora.
And some really cute Free Libraries!
On the dock at Lake Dora.
This reminds me of Ronnie Corbett's stories on the Two Ronnies. .
A very unafraid great egret.
This green heron was more wary.
An anhinga drying its remarkable plumage.
A painted turtle yogi. It held that pose for a long time.
Snakes are hard to photograph unless they coil up. Otherwise they just look like a long thin line!
This photo was taken in Winter Garden, another casualty of Florida's waning citrus industry, though it is probably a lot nicer now as a tourist destination. We met up with Lorna's pen-friend from school, Debbie, and her husband Bill, and children Katherine and Dean. Katherine worked at Disney World, and the family were there for New Year.
Lake Wales was our next stop. The campsite was on a farm, surrounded by fields of cattle, but otherwise nothing special. Lake Wales is a city in transition, like many in northern Florida, from its industrial past to a hopefully tourism fueled future.
It isn't there yet, but had some nice little stores, and impressive murals harking back to the past.
The reason we camped here was so we could visit Bok Gardens, with its "Singing Tower" which gets a mention in the "Singing Tower Passion Play" remembered by this mural.
Bok Gardens, and the "Singing Tower" carillon, were the work of Edward W. Bok. A Dutch immigrant who arrived in the US at age 6. unable to speak the language, and went on to become a successful published and Pulizer Price winning author.
He went on to purchase Iron Mountain in central Florida and create these gardens and the tower. In 1929, Bok gave the tower as a gift to the American people in appreciation of the opportunities he had been given.
Photographs can't really do justice to the extraordinary workmanship and detail of the tower.
Guess what this is.
This is probably a little clearer.
The garden designer was Frederick Law Olmstead, of Central Park fame.
We though this was a clever idea. The gardeners bring in samples of the most prolific blooms and label them up for identification.
There are literally miles of paths. Down the hill a bit is the original Bok residence, which is also open for touring.
We started to see why some northerners escape to Florida for the winter!
If you can avoid the gimmicky junk foods, which we did, it really is an amazing place. Well, OK, we have our tourist hats on in this photo!
This was part of the Apollo story - the actual mission control center from the Apollo 11, preceded by the history, from the disastrous Apollo 1 fire that killed the crew, to the eventual successful launches and the incredible risks taken on that first moon landing. The buildup and launch simulation are quite moving.
This is the retirement home of the shuttle Atlantis, which flew the last shuttle mission in 2011. Only in this momentous year did we finally saw crewed space flights from Cape Canaveral again, this time at a fraction of the cost thanks to SpaceX.
After stopping one night with friends Grant and Brit, in Orlando, we camped at Manatee Hammock in Titusville, with views over the ocean to Cape Canaveral. Phil's birthday treat was a day trip to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex at Cape Canaveral.
The beach on the west side of Merritt Island was crowded with kite surfers one windy day.
They managed some spectacular jumps.
When NASA purchased Merritt Island, including Cape Canaveral, in 1962, they did the wildlife a big favor. There are many hiking and driving trails, mostly free. This is a great place to see birds like this Roseate Spoonbill.
More of the critter. Like flamingos, their coloring comes from their crustacean rich diet.
A little excitement in the wading pool.
A snowy egret and great blue heron.
You have to look a little harder for these guys!
We saw plenty of pelicans. Such amazing birds!
Florida Southern College has a collection of 12 buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Possibly the largest number in any one place.
Wright designed 18 building, and oversaw construction from 1938 to 1958, as money became available for the project. The covered walkways are pretty distinctive!
This is the Usonian house. Designed as one of the faculty houses.
Yep, we could definitely live here!
The bow-tie building!
One of two chapels.
Skipping ahead, we started to head west along the Florida panhandle. Just before reaching the Alabama line, we visited Pensacola on a Sunday in mid January, and happened across a fund raiser for their Mardi Gras crews.
You can write your own captions!
Here we are with the Blues Brothers, well Elwood anyway. I didn't take the photo, and I already mentioned that alcohol was involved!
The fundraising revolved around alcohol, with raffles for multi-hundred dollar prizes of booze. Perhaps unsurprisingly everyone was having a good time!
Talking of Mardi Gras, we returned to Pensacola to see their light parade. The Krewes throw out beads and candy to the crowds, and from the Krewe of Anarchy, we got these steam punk goggles.
Just one of many, many, floats.
In January, we missed seeing a SpaceX launch by one day, but tried again in March. The launch was again delayed, but we extended our stay by moving to a new spot each night, and it paid off. Photos can't do justice at this distance, but it was a sight to see and experience, including the sonic boom as the booster returned.