A Salute To Those Caring For Florida’s Damaged Wildlife

All polls indicate that besides the sun and the beaches, visitors and residents alike admire Florida’s tropical environment which includes wildlife and plants.

With twenty million residents, several million snowbirds, and over one hundred million visitors there is less and less habitat for Florida’s creatures to avoid mankind.  Encounters with humans often lead to injuries and even death despite the best intentions of people. Florida’s big zoos and attractions like Sea World and Busch Gardens have nature rescue programs but I want to concentrate on some of the smaller, lesser known places.

Here is a look at some of Florida’s best animal and bird preservationists. 

The Seaside Seabird Sanctuary at 18328 Gulf Boulevard on the Gulf of Mexico in Indian Shores is a rescue operation in itself.  Lacking in sufficient funding the original Suncoast Seabiard Sanctuary (1971-2016) closed but was reopened with the help of bird-loving volunteers and specialists.

floridatraveler seabird sanctuary

At one time this location was the “largest bird hospital in the world” while its rescues of over 3,000 wild birds each year are much less than the old facility, some 80% of the birds that survive 24 hours are rehabilitated and released.  There are always residents in house and there are presentation and programs everyday for people to visit.

floridatraveler seabird sanctuary2

Down in Key West the brown pelicans and other island creatures have a big friend in the Key West Wildlife Center at 1801 White Street.  Open 24 hours a day, the center’s hospital covers dozens of boating accidents with birds and wildlife.

floridatraveler KEY WEST WILDLIFE CENTER

Highly unusual, the Center also handles the island’s huge stray wild children population.  I wonder if they have treated some of the ancestors of Hemingway’s multi-toed cats?

More than six hundred miles away south of Tallahassee is the Florida Wild Mammal Association surrounded by the dense pine forests in Crawfordsville.  Open since 1994, the center will help any sick, injured, or orphaned creature.

floridatraveler FWMA crawsfordville -raccons

In the Panhandle that could include deer, bobcats, and black bear.

Sanibel Island is a very conservation-oriented place with much of the bayside as part of the famous Ding Darling preserve.  CROW or the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife is a ten acre complex complete with hospital and nature trail.

floridatraveler -owl-in-rehab-at-CROW-hospital-on-Sanibel-Island-FL

“I’m at CROW .. but I’m an owl!”

The island may seem rather urban but the raccoon and owl population often seems as note-worthy as the water birds.

The Treasure Coast Wildlife Center in Palm City has been open since 1974 and covers an area from Lake Okeechobee to urban Palm Beach County to Martin County.

On a typical day the Center may treat a barn owl, baby wrens, and a wounded bobcat.  At least 10% of their cases involve endangered or rare species.

In Miami Sea World is famous for their treatment of manatees and dolphins, but the Pelican Harbor Seabird Station right there on the 79th Street Causeway is filled with brown pelicans and other seabirds usually caught in fish nets and lines.

floridatraveler PELICAN HARBOR at miami pelican012

The Station has serviced a monstrous 30,000 patients, with over 300 species of birds. It is a tourist attraction for nature lovers.

It is not unexpected that there is an active wildlife treatment center in Gainesville.  The Florida Wildlife Care Center gets over 5,000 rescue calls each year.  With I-75 nearby deer, foxes, opossums, and bears can be targets.

This article just touched a few bases, but if you are a Florida resident or snowbird look online for the nearest wildlife rescue place if you wish to donate or volunteer.  These spots could be educational stops for tourists with families.

 

 

 

 

 

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Underrated and Often Forgotten Great Beaches of Florida

Florida has one thousand miles of coastline and miles of terrific beaches, but some beaches are actually underrated and almost forgotten by a majority of tourists and even Floridians.  Why is that?

Sometimes, there are few large resorts advertising the benefits of the beach village and small family motels don’t promote except in local media.  Other great beaches are hemmed in by larger, more commercial communities.

Here are some places to consider:

VERO BEACH may have changed some with the loss of the Dodger Baseball Spring Training City and now a less-promoted smaller McKee Botanical Garden attraction, but it still has a wonderful beach, quality restaurants, and the McLarty Treasure Museum.

floridatraveler VERO BEACH

The funky Driftwood Inn is still on the beach with some nice restaurants within walking distance.  To the south is a Holiday Inn and Suites and a Prestige Hotel, just south of South Beach Park.   Not far north at Wabasso Beach is Disney’s Vero Beach Resort.

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The Historic But Strange Driftwood Inn, Vero Beach

Another often neglected Atlantic beach town is DEERFIELD BEACH, hemmed in by the fancy resorts of Boca Raton and the huge hotels and condos of Pompano Beach.  The beach is very pristine and even in the heart of the winter tourist season not packed since the beachfront is mostly small motels and residences.

Architectural Photography

Royal Blues Hotel in Deerfield Beach

The great 976-foot International Fishing Pier is the beach focus and right next door is five star Wyndham Deerfield Beach and a half-dozen eating places.  A few blocks south is the deluxe Royal Blues Hotel Relais and Chateau.

Fort Myers Beach has been a popular resort spot for years, but first timers usually stay near Times Square, the very active restaurant center on the northern tip by the main bridge.  At the southern tip is the LOVERS KEY area.

floridatraveler lovers-key-resort FORT MYERS BEACH

Lovers Key Resort – Park Across Street

The Lovers Key Resort looks out onto the ocean and the bay where the Calusa Indian Mound Key is visible.  Across the street is Lovers Key State Park, where a tram takes you around the mangroves and lakes before the beautiful beach.  It is a truly natural setting where pirates once roamed.

If you want a strange mix of rustic casual, small crowds but access to luxury and fancy than the ENGLEWOOD BEACHGASPARILLA ISLAND area is your bag.  On the Charlotte County side of Manasota Key are small motels and resorts.  My favorite is the Weston’s WantaB Inn located at the entrance of semi-deserted one mile Stump Pass Beach State Park.floridatraveler ENGLEWOOD -stump-pass

Englwood Beach to north and Palm Island Resort to south

East of Jacksonville is ATLANTIC BEACH, often unnoticed by visitors for it hasn’t the bustle and amusements of nearby Jacksonville Beach.  Atlantic Beach has small deluxe resorts like the One Ocean Resort and Spa and the delightful Sea Horse Inn.

floridatraveler atlantic-beach

Uncrowded Atlantic Beach

A big asset to this beach is nearby Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park.  Atlantic Beach was voted by the Travel Chanel one of Florida’s best secret beaches.

While most visitors to Saint Augustine visit St Augustine Beach with its famous  lighthouse and “oldest” alligator farm, few don’t realize that on the northside of St. Augustine Inlet is peaceful VILANO BEACH with the same neat beach.

floridatraveler Vilano Beach and Pier _6_640x427

Vilano Beach bayside Pier, Beach, St Augustine Beach on right

At the southern tip are several moderate hotels including the beachfront Hampton Inn and Suites.  Don’t expect lots of nightlife, but Saint Augustine is just over the bridge and five minutes away.

 

 

 

 

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Women Who Changed Florida: My Honor Roll

I was asked at a conference if I thought Janet Reno was the greatest woman in Florida history.  She was the first female Attorney General in the USA, but she was appointed at a time Presidents realized Cabinets should resemble the U.S. populace.

Most Floridians and surely most Florida visitors know few of the women who most impacted the Sunshine State so I decided to make a list of my top choices.  Since I will be doing a literary landmark article in the future, I excluded noted writers Marjorie Rawlings and Zora Hurston, for which I will then tell an interesting tale.

Here are Florida women you should know:

Julia DeForest Sturtevant Tuttle  (1848–1898)

Julia Tuttle is the only woman considered to be the founder of a major American city (Miami) and one of the true pioneers of the Florida frontier. She first came to the isolated area to see her father’s plantation on the Miami River and while she was fascinated by the potential area, she did not consider leaving Ohio for when her husband died in 1886 she had to manage the family iron foundry.  In 1891, however, her father died leaving her his Dade County real estate.

FLORIDATRAVELER -JULIA-TUTTLE facebook

          Julia Tuttle believed this frontier outpost would become a major American city and purchased hundreds of acres, including the remains of Fort Dallas. While some of the tales about her are mythical , she was able to convince Henry Flagler to extend his East Coast Railroad to Miami in part showing the area’s importance in agriculture and tourism.

She once told supporter and banker J. E. Lummus that “if you live your natural lifetime, you will see one hundred thousand people in this city.”  Lummus saw five times that amount at the time of his death.   She is truly the “Mother of Miami.”

Marjory Stoneman Douglas  (1890–1998)

Marjorie Stoneman Douglas could easily be listed as one of Florida’s ten most influential writers, but she was more than just an author.  She is viewed as the “Savior of the Everglades.”    Moving to Miami as a young journalist for The Miami Herald, Douglas became an outspoken writer for civil rights and women’s suffrage, but her biggest love was for protecting the Florida wilderness.

floridayraveler MARJORIE STONEMAN DOUGLAS

Her book The Everglades: River of Grass (1947) is Florida’s classic environmentalist non-fiction work and the inspiration for hundreds of writers and political leaders.  She was still a crusader for restoration of her big river when she died at the age of 108 and her humble Coconut Grove cottage is maintained by the Florida Park Service and is a must if you are in the Coral Gables area.

Mary Jane McLeod Bethune (1875-1955)

Best known nationally as a national advisor to President F. D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression, Mary Bethune was a key educator, civil rights leader, and important humanitarian. To Floridians, her career was even more extensive.

In Florida she started a private school for women in Daytona Beach and merged it with a male school to form Bethune-Cookman College.  She served as college President from 1923 to 1942 and 1946 to 1947.  Her house in Daytona Beach is a National Landmark.

Jacqueline Cochran (1906-1980)

Born in 1906 in a shack on stilts in Muskogee, Florida, Jacqueline Cochran is a story rarely matched in history books.  Her real name was Bessie Lee Pittman; she took the last name from her husband Robert Cochran, whom she wed at age 14.  Starting as a hairdresser in Pensacola, this farm girl soon rose to that job in New York City at Saks Fifth Avenue.  But that would not be the end of the tale.

Offered a flying lesson at Roosevelt Field in Long island, she found a new love and within two years had a commercial pilot’s license.  While becoming the first woman pilot in major airplane races, she met Floyd B. Odlum, CEO of RKO Pictures, and he helped start a cosmetic company called Wings.  By 1938, she was the best female pilot in the world, holding more speed, distance, or altitude records in aviation history than any other pilot, male or female.

When World War II started, the very patriotic Cochran volunteered to fly Lockheed bombers across the Atlantic to help save Britain and even recruited American female pilots to serve England.  When the USA entered the war, she overcame all opposition to help start and direct the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).  In 1948 she joined the US Air Force Reserve as a test pilot.

floridatravel;er jackie cochran

          Rising to a rank of Colonel, Cochran was the first women to break the sound barrier, to land on an aircraft carrier, to fly a transatlantic jet aircraft, and to fly over 20,000 feet.  In 1961 she flew a T-38 higher than any human in history. In case, you think her flying career ended her cosmetic business, she continued it and got Marilyn Monroe to be spokesperson for her lipstick.

Paulina Pedroso (1845-1925)

Paulina Perdroso is often viewed as the female leader of the Cuban War for Independence for Spain and certainly it’s most famous Afro-Cuban.  Born in Cuba, she and her husband moved to Key West as cigarmakers, a move probably triggered by her opposition to Spanish policies in Cuba.  In the 1880’s she moved to segregated Tampa and worked in the factory of Vicente Martinez Ybor, a Spanish-born manufacturer who supported Cuban independence and started Tampa’s Latin City. Her husband Ruberto headed the Marti-Maceo Society, the club of Afro-Cubans since they couldn’t integrate into the white Cuban groups.  Pedroso went with Marti to unify the Cuban cigar workers, both black and white, to support raising money for weapons and equipment to gain Cuban independence from Spain.

floridatraveler PAULINA PEDROSO

          When Spanish agents in Tampa  tried to poison Cuban Revolutionary leader Jose Marti, Marti stayed at the Pedroso boardinghouse at 8th Avenue and 12th Street, since it was protected by stone walls.  Paulina and Marti, who was white, worked to end racial discrimination in Cuban organizations.  The location of the Pedroso house is today a park in Ybor City (Tampa) donated to the people of Cuba by the people of Tampa.  She is a member of the Florida Hall of Fame.

May Austin Elizabeth Mann Jennings (1872 – 1963)

May Jennings of Brooksville was the wife of Governor William Sherman Jennings.  Many viewed his success to his wife’s ability to organize voters via her vast network of Florida Federation of Womens Club members.

Following her husband’s term as governor in 1904, the couple moved to Jacksonville, then Florida’s largest city, where Jennings was an organizer of the Duval County Federation of Women’s clubs and was president of the Florida Federation of Womens Clubs and got an army of women into promoting child welfare laws, reservations for Seminoles, a State Library, state parks, compulsory eduication for all, and conservation laws.

FLORIDATRAVELER May Mann Jennings

 Club women across the state worked in campaign drives, lobbied legislators and appealed to other organizations for assistance.              After she was widowed in 1920, she was co-founder of the Florida State League of Womens Voters.  As their spokesperson, she lobbied for prison and education reforms.

She was known as the “Mother of Florida Forestry” for her part in promoting and securing the legislative act that created the Florida State Board of Forestry, known today as the Division of Forestry.

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Winter Park Is The City Of Wonderful Canals

Winter Park is identified across Central Florida as an upscale community filled with a downtown of attractive stores and restaurants along Park Avenue, wonderful lakeside estates, and Florida’s first four year college, ROLLINS COLLEGE

The mix of education, money, and Northern money gives the town a prosperous atmosphere, one that can support the world’s largest Tiffany glass collection at the CHARLES HOSMER MORSE MUSEUM of AMERICAN ART.

After shopping along Winter Park’s wonderful downtown streets and visiting Rollins College, the best thing to do is take a BOAT TOUR of the city’s many canals.  This is the best way to see many of the extensive mansions of the city.

floridatraveler WINTER PARK BOAT TOURS

The Boat Tour Shows A Different Winter Park

The area has attracted New Englanders in large numbers since the 1880’s, although pioneer Favid Mize; Jr atarted Lake View (later Osceola) in 1858 for Southern farmers. When the South Florida Railroad reached the area in 1880 it brought Loring Chase. When he saw the lovely lakes, he recruited a rich New England Oliver E, Chapman to buy land and plant orange groves around a downtown.

floridatraveler WINTER PARK from the air postcard

By 1885 Chase and Chapman sold the property to a group of investors who opened the Winter Park Company with an eye to turn the town into a winter residence of the rich. Later that year the Congregational Assembly selected the town for ROLLINS COLLEGE and the huge Seminole Hotel was built on Lake Osceola to attract the rich.

After touring the shops on Park Avenue (complete with Amtrak station so we once came here for the day from Tampa by train), tour the beautiful ROLLINS COLLEGE campus where being lakeside makes a difference.

floridatraveler WINTER PK Rollins Graphic

On campus is the CORNELL FINES ARTS MUSEUM (1942), the original site of the Morse Art Gallery, and the exquisite ANNIE RUSSELL THEATRE (1932), A Romanesque classic by O. W. Hessler and Richard Kiekael.  Original plays directed by Zora Hurston were once done here.

floridatraveler WINTER PK ANNIE RUSSELL THEATER

The Historic Annie Russell Theater

Over at 1000 Hlt Avenue is the KNOWLES MEMORIAL CHAPEL, a Spanish Revival center by G. W. Cram and Ralph Adams.   If you are renting a canoe or traveling on Lake Virginia to get scenic views of the Rollins Campus, you should notice the houses on the south shore, a subdivision called Ellno Willa. (13) At 247 Virginia Drive is the 1925 Spanish style W. B. JOINER HOUSE ; at 181 Virginia is the 1928 HERBERT HALVERSTADT HOUSE. He was Mayor of the city while his wife Gertrude was President of the Womans Club.

The large Italian Renaissance farmhouse at 147 Virginia is the 1925 DR. N. L. BRYAN ESTATE, on two acres with 15-foot outer walls.

Traveling from the Rollins campus east on Osceola it is hard to miss (B) the ALBIN POLASEK MUSEUM at 633 Osceola. It is the house where the great Czech artist/sculptor retired in 1950, but the grounds and building houses a great display of his work.

Floridatraveler WINTER PARK POLASAK MUSEUM

One Look Tells This Is Not The Typical House

It is much easier to miss (1) the REV. CHARLES W. WARD COTTAGE (1882) purchased by Alonzo Rollins from the towns first Episcopal minister to serve as the first women’s dorm at Rollins. I do not know if Alice Guild stayed here, but she was the first woman in Florida in get a BA from a Florida college in 1890.

floridatarveler winter park WARD COTTAGE

The Ward Cottage

North of Osceola on the eastern shore of Lake Osceola is (2) THE PALMS (1898), a 21 room Georgian Revival complete with boathouse and pagoda and a favorite on the Boat Tours. Edward Hill Brewer, a winter resident built the house. Later noted architect James Gamble Rogers II redid the interior for another owner.

floridatraveler winter park CANAL TRIP

Even In Summer The Canals Are Cooling

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The Forgotten Coast Is A Unique Florida Vacation Spot

When visitors, snowbirds, and residents travel around Florida, they are confronted with Chamber of Commerce produced symbols: Miami is in the Gold Coast; Clearwater is on the Sun Coast; St Augustine is the First Coast; Fort Pierce is the Treasure Coast.

Few people know where the Forgotten Coast is despite the fact it offers some laid-back vacations options and dozens of activity opportunities.  This is the busy season for Franklin County, but it is a great spot for trips in the early fall months.

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The St. George Inn on St. George Island

The Forgotten Coast actually has four barrier islands, one of which – St. George Island – has one of the most exclusive and expensive gated vacation communities in North Florida. It also has two moderate inns and dozens of new rental condos. Most owners stay here in the cold months and rent in the summer and fall. You get those pearl white Panhandle beaches without the noise and hustle of Panama City or Pensacola Beach.

The mainland center of Franklin County is Apalachicola, a historic town that was once one of the largest ports on the Gulf of Mexico.  Here are some delightful inns and bed and breakfast spots as well as a large historic district of pre-Victorian mansions.

floridatraveler OYSTER BOATS in apalachicola bay

Oyster Boats in Apalachicola Bay

If Miami Beach is famous for stone crabs, oysters are kings of the many waterfront seafood places.  Apalachicola Bay has since the days of the Apalachee Indians been one of the world’s major oyster reefs.  Taking a boat tour whether to fish or learn about area oysters is an attraction.

Some of my favorite Apalachicola sites include: the 1838 Trinity Episcopal Church, built in New York, and shipped pre-fab; the John Gorrie State Museum, honoring the physician who built the first air-conditioning machine; and the 1837 City Hall, one of many waterfront warehouses which includes a Sponge Exchange and Maritime Museum.

floridatraveler the-gibson-inn-in-Apalachicola-fl-

The Gibson Inn Has Restaurant, Bar, Two Ghosts

To get in the full atmosphere of the town, I suggest you consider the 1907 Gibson Inn, a full service hotel, or the Water Street Hotel and Marina with condo facilities and a pool.

Nearby Carrabelle, home to the world’s smallest police station (it is a phone booth), has lots of restaurants and access to many recreation sites.  Apalachicola National Forest, Florida’s largest at 632,890 acres, offers hiking, fishing, horse-back riding, and off-road ATV usage.

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The Carabelle Police Station

St. George Island, connected by a four-mile bridge from Eastpoint on the mainland, welcomes visitors to its public beach, restaurants, bars, and small shops.  There are two small inns, with my favorite being the modernized St. George Inn.   The island is 28 miles long but one-third is the exclusive St. George Plantation and one-third is nature preserve.

FLORIDATRAVELER blue parrot restaurant on st george island

The Blue Parrot Restaurant on St George Island

The other Forgotten Coast barrier islands are accessible by boat unless you have an airplane to land on Dog Island.   There are 100 houses and a tiny inn, but this is not a tourist destination for most.

FLORIDATRAVELER stvincentmapUSFWS

I first remember this island, when a few jokesters created a website that stated Dog Island was a refuge where lost dogs to stay and live freely.  They even sold T-shirts about Dog Island.  It was amusing, but highly illegitimate.

The most unusual island is St. Vincent Island, now a National Wildlife Refuge.  When it was privately owned, exotic animals from Africa and Asia were put here as a game farm. People boat here to see the 500-pound Sambar deer from Southeast Asia and to perhaps catch a glimpse of the rare red wolf population, an endangered species brought here.

If you are driving along the Panhandle of Florida, and want a place where Old Florida dominates and you will not fight for beach space, the Forgotten Coast is a great location.

 

 

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Back In Florida After I-10 Continental Journey

I have returned on a long business trip to the Pacific Coast with most of my driving on the new Southern version of Route 66 – arduous 2,460 miles from Jacksonville I-95 to Santa Monica Pier.  It is too bad they couldn’t find a way to extend I-10 to Jacksonville Beach Pier and give it the same movie glory on the Atlantic – from pier to shining pier.

There may be three longer trans-continental Interstates in the USA, but I-10 is different for one-third of the route (879 miles) goes through just one state – Texas.

Here are some observations relating in most cases with Florida:

 Green and Brown

 Our flag may be red, white, and blue, but the Southern side of this nation could be described as green and brown.  It is summer and the trees and grass are green and high in Florida and the Gulf Coast.  When you go west of San Antonio, the land goes stark brown.  The mountains look like sand piles and even the cactus seem to be small and scarce.

FLORIDATRAVELER texas highway july

I saw no cowboys, no prairie dogs, no roadrunners – West Texas.

Coastal California is browner than it was several years ago.  It is getting expensive in much of the West to truly go natural green even if you are environmentally green.

Urban and Rural

 When you drive across the nation, it reminds me of Florida, the third most populated state.  Highways in Florida cities are packed with bumper to bumper traffic during the daylight but there are still some stretches of empty roadway.

FLORIDATRAVELER houston july

Houston In July

I-10 passes through five of the twelve most populated cities in the United States: Los Angles (2nd to NYC), Houston (4th), Phoenix (5th), San Antonio (7th), and Jacksonville (12th).  Yet fully 40% of I-10 is open desert so isolated that several exits are actually the front door of large ranches.

Water and Waterless

 Florida has a water situation, but except when there is a drought, Florida’s problem is too many people are jammed into Southeast Florida (the Gold Coast) where the nearest water is the Everglades.  Florida has more major springs than any other place in the world and our subtropical climate results in a lot of rain.  Most of our water is in North Florida.

Incredibly, we got a flood alert while at a gas station in Fort Stockton, Texas.  There is nothing around this town for one hundred miles in any direction.  Yet the people were running into the buildings as it started to pour.  I live in Florida so I have seen rain, but in my state rain goes into the ground!   Within minutes two inch waves were flowing down the dusty streets.

Imagine a person in the middle of Texas drowning in 114 degree temperature.

The land west of San Antonio had miles and miles of dry river bed waiting for a few winter rains or even snow.  I kept going over bridges without a drop of water. From the top of a hill, the Colorado River looked very blue but very thin – it was a precious necklace of water which California, Arizona, and Nevada fight over.

FLORIDATRAVELER -Miami summer shower July

In Florida We Don’t Appreciate the Summer Rains

I found it amusing how the tourist areas of New Mexico, Arizona, and California plant cactus is obvious unnatural settings and combinations the way Florida cities stick palm trees at every important intersection.

Bad Highways

 When you live in Florida, you expect to see highway construction projects that never end.  By the time one finishes, it is time to add more lanes.  I must state that Florida’s highways looked quite good compared to other states.  West Louisiana had some bad roads.

floridatraveler traffic at wdw july

Dreams do come true if you have four lanes!

But the real shocker was how many two lane Interstate 10 roads continued far into the most urban areas of big cities.  AAA wanted be to drive through downtown Houston – I did not for the inner circle known as I-610.  But my gosh, do people think you should go around Houston on Route 8 which adds 120 miles to your journey?

Florida has some poorly designed routes, but I saw some dillies for confused tourists out West.  I don’t like the system where two Interstate merge into one and your exit numbers suddenly change before your eyes. That was in San Antonio.  A section of I-10 in Los Angeles weaved around as a two lane street in a residential neighborhood.  You had to believe you had missed a sign.

Of course, I know there will be a traffic jam outside Walt Disney World, but at least you will be in four or five lanes of traffic jam and not in two lanes.

Mass Transit?

 Clearly the nation has a mass transit problem, but the cost of inserting a good system is difficult in the Sunbelt cities.  Most of them are “round metropolitan areas” with suburbs spread out for miles in every direction.  In Florida building a rail-line along the Atlantic Coast which is straight is much easier than figuring a rail route for a booming city like Orlando.

Houston, Phoenix, and Los Angles have extensive toll lanes along their Interstates.   They may be used during rush hour, but at 10 am and 2 pm when I went past those cities, the fast for-pay lanes were almost empty.  In Phoenix you could have filmed a “Fast and Furious” chase episode in them.

A New Motor World

 A few years ago the City of Tampa tried to place bikes for riding downtown. Today that show is over, but Tampa has developed a serious bike culture even adding one way street to help bikers.  Free downtown bike pickup and new bike trails.

FLORIDATRAVELER city scooters July

Think of 100,000 of these scooters on your roadways.

Florida tends to be several years behind the Pacific Coast on trends so I was curious to see how young people go around the traffic clogged Los Angles streets.  In Culver City it was cheap digitally rented motorized scooters.  The scooters were everywhere. People in business suits in scooters. Barefoot school kids.  Scooters scooters. And you think seeing a motorcycle behind you is difficult! The city rounds them up by their GPS at night.

Expect the scooters to reach Florida around 2020.  Anyway, I’m glad to be back in the Sunshine State and ready for some new travel ideas.

 

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Rating The New Stuff At The Big Parks

Summer months mean the huge influx of family vacationers to Orlando’s big vacation destinations.  For many Floridians the arrival of grandchildren means that despite the heat, humidity, and thunderstorms also means a trip to the parks.

If it has been an entire year since you visited Walt Disney World or Universal or other parks, you might want to know what’s new or changed and whether it is worth the time and money.

HERE are the important summer 2018 stories:

Toy Story Will Open at Disney Hollywood Studios June 30

 As a Disney stockholder, I find it embarrassing that WDW is charging people full admission to this park with the entire back area torn down and The Movie Ride closed. They even terminated some of the better counter service food stops as attendance declined.

FLORIDATRAVELER toy-story-land

Little Kids Will Love It

Toy Story will be worthwhile if you have kids under ten years, but it is not enough to motivate teenagers or adults unless you have a multi-park pass.   Toy Story will not add any outstanding full service restaurants.  The food spots look like counter service comfort food.

Alien Swirling Saucers is a three minute “Mad Tea Party ride” in elevation hosted by Toy Story’s vending machine aliens.  The rise motion will be so slow that children under 32″ will be able to walk on with parents.  It will take Fastpass at least until the Star Wars area opens in another year.

Slinky Dog Dash is a three minute outdoor roller coaster that resembles a giant Lego and Erector construction by Andy of Toy Story.  It will have no fast curves and large drops since it is believed kids over 36″ will be accepted.  Fastpass might be needed for the ride looks like the biggest thing in the new area.

The Incredibles Headline Tomorrowland’s Expo

 Call it a big movie promo, but Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland will have a Incredible Tomorrowland Expo with a stage performance with Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, Frozone, and even Edna Mode.  There will be a character meet and greet.

FLORIDA TRAVELER the incredibles

Little kids will like it, but until the ride Tron opens to the left of Space Mountain, Tomorrowland is getting to look like Past-Land.  The show will continue until September 3.

Guardians of the Galaxy Land at American Adventure

 The theater in front of Epcot’s American Adventure has been taken over by another movie and future ride promotion.  The Guardians of the Galaxy  group led by Star-Lord, Gamora, and a video performance of Little Groot make conflict with a musical group from Xandar almost every hour from 1:30 to 8 pm until August 19.

FLORIDATRAVELER guardians of galaxy

The actual Guardians of the Galaxy ride being built in Future World is more than a year away.   The Xandarians are eventually convinced to play American 1970’s and 1980’s rock music.  In Florida’s heat and humidity to wear those outfits requires out of this world motivation.

The actual ride now open in California has much better script writing than the dumb story line of this stage show.  At least those Xandarians can rock!

All The New Disney Spring Restaurants Are Open!

 After much delay the new complex of restaurants and nightclubs on the waterfront of Disney Springs are open.  All of them have wonderfully themed structures; the food does not rate as highly in all places.

FLORIDATRAVELER the edison

The Edison Has Unreal Machine Era Theming

Enzio’s Hideaway Tunnel Bar is a clever rum-running tunnel of rooms celebrating the 1920’s speakeasies and decent Italian and Sicilian food and some American dishes. The place is really a series of bars and small rooms.

Maria and Enzo’s Ristorante is a three story 1950’s air terminal of fantastic design.  The menu is expensive, but we found the Sicilian and Italian food to be more enjoyable than the more promoted Edison.  Try the ribeye or the swordfish.

Floridatraveler maria and enzio Dining Room BEST PIC

Maria and Enzo’s Stunning Airport Terminal Theme

The Edison is a huge vacant warehouse with all the machinery intact and converted into a 1920’s nightclub.  The restaurant has received the most publicity for at 10 pm it turns into a nightclub with flappers, an aerial act, a band, and DJs.  There are bars all over the place with some wild and costly signature drinks.

The new American menu is very original, but that means you may find the selections weird, expensive, and not too tasty.  I enjoyed the Edison Burger and the aged prime rib.  If you like parties, this is the adult night spot at Disney Springs.

Universal

Universal’s Volcano Bay Water Park Is Best In Florida

 Ready for its first full summer feast is Universal’s Volcano Bay, a water park that will cause updates at Disney’s two water parks.  Volcano uses more high tech to make your visit easier.  The TapuTapu wearable bracelets let you book places in the lines and not spend your hours melting in the Florida sun.

FLORIDATRAVELER-Universals-Volcano-Bay

There is a Universal Express Plus one park pass for just $19.99 that allows a person to ignore all the lines and just pounce to the rides one after another.  There are too many rides to mention, but they resemble the rides at the Disney and Sea World and Busch Garden sites, but newer and more elaborate.

One element that stands out is the diversity of food choices at Volcano Bay.  Universal has a big advantage over Disney since its resort hotels are mostly a walk away.  The Kohola Reef Restaurant and Social Club and Whakawaiwai Eats look like restaurants that belong in the Asian themed resorts.

Universal’s Adventura Hotel Opens in August

 Universal’s sixth and perhaps last on-site resort Adventura Hotel will open in August and is a towering South Miami style tri-wall of curved glass. There will be no table service restaurants, just unique food court places, but there will be a rooftop bar and grille.

FLORIDATRAVELER_Universals-Aventura-Hotel

The regular rooms are small: 314 square feet standard and 395 square feet deluxe and will compete with the Disney All-Star hotels, which are much older.   The most notable thing is the 575 square foot Family Suites, which fit five and undercut Disney by almost $200.  Weak point for place: just one bathroom versus Disney’s two.

 

 

 

 

 

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