Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Falcon Heavy launch and a slightly less important aerial disaster...

It was finally time for Elon Musk and his SpaceX company to launch the Falcon Heavy rocket!  This rocket has been in design for 7 years.  It is the prototype of the rocket that Musk plans to one day send to Mars to colonize the planet.  This is the heaviest rocket in the world. A bit of info about it

falcon heavy info

An influx of over 100,000 visitors were expected to come to view the launch. A crowd from the campground brought chairs and patiently awaited the launch.

The lift off was delayed over 2 hours, taking off only 15 minutes before the launch window closed.  But she did take off!  Here is the initial cloud of exhaust as the ignition started.

And liftoff!  We could see the ship for a long time.

The two rocket boosters separated as planned and returned to earth to safely land on pads about 8 minutes later.  They looked like 2 balls of fine falling from the sky.  And gave us a most wonderful double sonic boom!

Unfortunately, the middle core of the rocket failed to land on the drone ship when 2 of the 3 engines necessary to guide the core failed to fire.

failure to land on drone ship

But still, a success!  The upper stage of the ship is now in orbit and so is Musk's private Tesla car, with a space dummy "Starman" at the wheel.  Musk mounted cameras on the car..real pictures..

starman in the tesla

Luke had a bit of less success with his RC plane today.  It took a sudden nosedive and ended up in the sawgrass of FL.  They don't call it sawgrass for nothing.  Both Luke and his 2 friends ended up with cuts.  It took all 3 men 2 hours of pushing through saw palmetto and brush, sometimes cutting through vines searching to find the little plane, but as they were about to give up, one of them found it.

She ended up with a broken prop and motor, plus some scrapes, scratches, gouges and cracks in the foam fuselage.  Luke and John are going to an RC store tomorrow to have it looked at and to buy replacement/repair parts.

Other than the above, it's been sorta quiet and fun.  We did take part in a campground pot luck hot dog/hamburger party yesterday.   Don't ever let anyone tell you that old folks don't like to eat!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Jupiter Lighthouse, a Falcon 9 launch, and Luke finally flies his RC airplane!

Friends Ange and Ray drove up to spend the day with us in Jupiter.  After catching up in the RV over a dozen fresh, warm donuts brought by Ange and Ray, we left to have lunch in Jupiter.  

The Loxahatchee watershed and the Jupiter inlet have supported continuous human occupation for over 5000 years!  By the time of the Spanish contact in the 1500's, the native peoples had established an inlet fishing village.  

The Jupiter Lighthouse was first lit in 1860.  Except for a brief period during the War Between the States when Southern sympathizers hid and buried the Fresnel lens, the lighthouse has been continuously lit.

Luke took the lighthouse tour, climbed the 105 steps, and got these pictures.  The first is the First Order Fresnel lens.  A first order lens is one with the brightest beam.

View to the East, out into the Atlantic.

View to the West, towards the ICW

On Wednesday we took our time leaving Jonathan Dickinson State Park and arrived at Manatee Hammock Campground around 3:20.  Winding through the narrow campground roads, we couldn't help but notice that EVERYONE was drifting down toward the dock. The reason? A Falcon 9 launch from Cape Canaveral in 5 MINUTES!!!! You cannot imagine how quickly we got the RV parked and ran to the shore.  Just in time to watch the rocket lift into the sky!

Up, up, and away she went.  It was so exciting!

Manatee Hammock in Titusville is where we spent several weeks last winter.  It is nice to be  catching up with friends back again from last year.  One special friend, John, is mainly responsible for getting Luke excited about trying remote control airplanes again.  With his new Cub RC plane, we headed off to a RC flying field today with John and his wife Janet.  John and Luke carefully checked and prepared the Cub for her maiden flight.

John is an instructor and knew just how to get Luke comfortable in his first flight, along with saving the integrity of the airplane itself (i.e.  no pieces of shattered plane)

Up into the air she went under John's guidance.  That yellow "hawk" coming in over the guy's heads is the plane.

John gave Luke opportunities to guide and fly the plane once she was in the air, eventually getting Luke to the point of being able to take off from the ground and fly.  John smartly landed her.

Luke FINALLY has the remote control in his hands and is flying his plane!

There will be many more lessons and guidance as Luke becomes more comfortable and capable.

John brought one of his many planes to fly also.  Boys and their toys....

The nice day ended with a campfire at John and Janet's RV site, along with several other campers.

The adventure has just begun...

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Finishing up the west coast of FL

We stayed for a week at the Koresham State Park.  In 1893 a holistic physician named Dr.  Cyrus Reed  moved here to create a commune.  While tinkering with electricity one day, he suffered a severe electrical shock.  During this shock, Dr. Reed realized that he was the 7th Savior (Jesus was the 6th), he was immortal, and he needed to start a commune in FL.  Dr. Reed took the name Koresh, thus the name of the commune.  The commune was founded on several beliefs: the equality of men and women, the dual male/female sexuality of God, celibacy would make you immortal, and the somewhat skewed belief that the universe exists on the inside of the earth.  Best understood by Dr. Koresh's traveling visual aid, our earth formed the outer shell of this whole system.  The "outside" ring of earth was a solid gold plate.  Inside this ball of universe, our sun, moon, and planets revolved.  Oh, and this all existed in a total vacuum of space.

Dr. Koresh was apparently very charismatic and attracted a large number of very rich patrons/commune members.  All you had to do was give all of your earthy wealth to the commune to join.  You could leave at any time but with only the clothes you had on.  Must have worked, as the commune was wealthy.  Very arts oriented, elaborate plays and productions were put on at the large Art Center.

Dr. Koresh's receiving room in his home was elaborate.

The Seven Sisters lived in the house called the Planetary Court, along with one male "guardian".  The Sisters had much of the control of the everyday running of the commune - a publishing company, finances, general decisions, etc.

Their rooms were simple but nice.

The desire for electricity lead to a 23 kilowatt generator being purchased. This was originally run by a steam engine, but upgraded to a 80 hp diesel in 1925.  This provided electricity for everyone until the 1940's when the state of FL brought electricity to the southern FL. There is also a large machine shop, run by a small gasoline engine, with all machines belt driven from an overhead belt system. Both facilities are fired up and demonstrated on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, which Luke, of course, managed to catch.

Botanical gardens, food gardens, a bakery, a laundry, and a concrete factory were in on site.   Everything was made, including this.

The commune began to to fail after Dr. Koresh's death at age  69.  The story is that his grave was guarded constantly for years after his death, awaiting his return.  Finally a hurricane washed the grave and his body out to sea.  As the guide says "he still hasn't come back"....The last 4 members of the commune lived there until approximately 1965 when they gave the land to the state of FL to create a park.

One afternoon we zipped out to Lover's Key.  Apparently it  was so isolated that the joke was that only lovers would bother to go there.  The beach is beautiful soft sand and lots of shells.

Hidden in the mangroves was a lazy Black Capped Night Heron.

For our last day on the west coast, we joined Connie and Mike to go to the Corkscrew Audubon Preserve.  We started in the pine flatwood ecological area. The tall pines are Slash Pines, found only in southern FL.  The bark protects the trees from fires by burning off in small sections.  Turpentine comes from the Slash Pines.

The long boardwalk left the flatwood area and covered the wet marsh valley.

From there, we entered region number 3, the cypress bog.  Tall, straight trees densely fill this area.

The ground becomes wet, supporting the nation's oldest Bald Cypress.

Water becomes deeper as we travel further into the region.

Plants and bird life increase.  Ferns -

And swamp lilies

This palliated woodpecker was hard to find in the trees.

Our best  sighting was an Anhinga nest with 3 chicks.  The black and white feathers are mom.  Look carefully and you will see 3 little bills - the biggest chick is the easy one!

Oh, and of course, snakes.  This cottonmouth was curled on leaves below the boardwalk.  Not large, but large enough...

From the west coast to the east coast on Saturday.  We are now at the Jonathan Dickinson State Park.  It's a large park, over 4 miles long, situated between Stuart and Juniper FL.  We'll be here only 3 full days but look forward to it.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Koresham State Park and the Everglades National Park

Nestled in our new spot a Koresham State Park, we immediately started the two important things - catching up with former neighbors and sightseeing!

Mike and Connie have moved down here, settling in Ft Myers. We had a wonderful day with them - brunch, walking and biking on beautiful trails, relaxing in the spa pool, and dinner out.  I AM happy, apparently just a little tired~

The next day the boys went for more bike riding and about 3 hours of kayaking.  They took the kayaks down the river to the Manatee Park.  The warm water discharge from a nearby power plant attracts the manatees, lots of manatees! Luke says they were  within 10 feet of his kayak when they came up to breathe - tough to get a picture, holding a paddle, with manatees so close, maybe rocking the boat! Luke was a tired explorer.  Here is Mike taking a picture of Luke's kayak.

The girls had a girls day out!  We were joined by Ali, who also moved to Ft. Myers just a few years ago.  Off to historic Venice for a leisurely lunch and lottsa shopping.

Yesterday Connie and Mike joined us for a 2 hour drive to the Everglades.  SO glad they were open.  Our first stop was at the Shark Valley Visitor Center.  No, no sharks now.  Apparently early explorers found sharks that went upstream to have their babies.  Thank goodness, no sharks now.  But there are alligators....

The center offers a 2 1/2 hour narrated tram ride through the 15 mile trail.

Yup, we took it!

It was great; an informed guide and a driver who stopped for birds and alligators made the time fly by.

Oh, there are alligators everywhere.  They are beside the road, on the road, in the water, sleeping on the warm road. Everywhere.  And they are large.

Soooo glad we weren't walking the trail.  We estimated that we saw at least 75 gaters.

The  vast prairie that we drove through is flooded this time of year, making it look more like a shallow bog.  In the summer, this land is truly a dry prairie.

In the back of the above picture, you can see a "dome" - a raised area of trees, tallest trees in the center, gradually working out to shorter trees.  This raised area gives refuge to anything that doesn't really care to live full time in the water, as well as alligators.

When the government chose to displace the Native peoples, many of them hid in the domes, making a new life for themselves there.  It wasn't until the 1930's that they moved back to "dry" land, now living on a reservation in the Everglades.

There are also deeper water pools, now covered with beautiful water lilies.  There are alligator holes, dug out over time by dedicated digging by the alligators.  This is where they and many of the smaller water animals like turtles, otters, and fish wait out the dry summer. 

Luke and I both caught shots of this Great Blue Heron taking off.  Different cameras, different light settings, and different views.

Our tram ride included a 20 minute stop at a high overlook.

Luke, overlooking one side of the park.

The other side, the road out.

Our guide showed us a python skin from the Everglades.  This is a small one, the tip just about touching his waist.

Burmese Pythons are an invasive species that are wreaking havoc on the Everglades.  With no natural enemies (just man), they are rapidly taking over the ecosystem.  Virtually all deer, racoons, rabbits, and other small animals are no longer found in the Everglades.  They are working their way north, also, with the prediction that they will be as far north as New Jersey in 30 years. Happy note - cold seems to bother them.

A few more birds - a Red Shouldered Hawk

The anhingas are abundant.  This female (you can tell by her reddish chest and neck) is looking straight at us, a little silly looking from this angle.

The male anhinga is drying is beautiful feathers.  Both sexes have these markings.

On our way home, we stopped at the Oasis Visitor Center.  This center has a long boardwalk that overlooks a wide creek.  FULL of alligators, turtles, and gars.

They were literally laying on top of each other in one area.  

We also saw lots of other birds - these are not my pictures.  wood storks

Image result for wood storks in flight

Roseat spoonbills

Image result for roseate spoonbill

and Kingfishers.

Image result for kingfisher

Today is a "work" day - showers, blog, a little shopping, etc.

OH! And Luke took the garbage to the dumpster earlier.  Sitting in a far corner of the dumpster, very forlorn and a little afraid, sat a small raccoon.  Luke called the ranger who said they will put a board in the dumpster and the little guy will use it to climb out.  Not their first raccoon! LOL