Snowy Range Pass

Snowy Range Pass

Friday, February 27, 2009

Ave Maria, FL

After completing our visit to the Corkscrew Refuge, we decided to take a look at a new project going just a few miles to the south. It is the development of a new town out of whole cloth-so to speak. What started as the quest of the founder of Domino’s Pizza to build a new Roman Catholic University ended up with the founding of a completely new town with the university and a Roman Catholic Church as it centering point.

We learned that the planned town is located on 22, 000 acres of land that includes a large portion of the property for a nature preserve and the rest for a planned community centered on the church. This is not unlike the traditional European village of the middle ages. Surrounding the church is the village center with shops and housing located above. Spreading out from this center location are planned areas of housing developments. We drove into the “town” thru wide lined streets and observed the signs for these housing developments but saw few houses. The first thing to be seen as you approached the town center was the church on the skyline. Everything is new and shiny as the actual building process has only been going on for a few years. We took one of the many empty parking spots in the town center and wandered the streets.

It was a really strange feeling, like you were walking around a movie set. Many of the store fronts remained empty, but we stopped at a lunch place and enjoyed a pleasant meal in the outdoors. As we were finishing lunch a very long golf cart pulled up with a number of nuns who piled out for an afternoon coffee break at the restaurant.

We then walked some more and visited the sales center and learned that 400 of a planned 11000 housing units have been completed. We then visited the new church and found it quite impressive. The structure is made of steel with curved sides that to this untrained eye looked like they would do well in a hurricane. The inside was equally impressive with many of the interior features only recently having been completed, including Frank Lloyd Wright light fixtures.

It appears that the town growth has come to a standstill in these difficult times with no sign of additional houses being built. We agreed that it would not be on our list of places to live.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a preserve owned and operated by the Audubon Society and is considered by many to be their best site. The Society first became involved with the site when in 1912 it dispatched wardens to protect egrets and other water fowl from the commercial plume hunters who were slaughtering the birds for their feathers to adorn the hats of wealthy women. This was a dangerous job and several of the wardens were killed by the hunters.

Since then the Audubon Society has made the site in to a remarkable wildlife refuge west of Naples and near the Everglades. The swampy area contains the largest forest of ancient bald cypress in North America. There is a excellent 2.25 mile boardwalk that allows you to walk thru several different environments of the refuge from swamp to meadows and also allows you to see the river that quietly flows thru the area that helps support the abundant wildlife including several hundred species of birds, alligators, deer, black bear, Florida Panthers and numerous other reptiles.

We saw many of the birds but found the elusive owls and large hawks the most interesting. The alligators at one of the “lettuce pools” became very active during the time we were watching and were apparently approaching the mating season and enjoying chasing the birds around.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bonita Springs, FL

After leaving the FMCA Rally, we headed south to Bonita Springs, FL, just north of Naples. We have spent most of the last two weeks relaxing and enjoying the warm weather, while recovering from our last (hopefully) round of colds. It is a very friendly resort filled with those escaping the northern cold and looking to have a good time. We have managed to take part in a number of the park events and activities. We have been caught up so much in the local atmosphere that we have become a bit of “home bodies”, and are now feeling the need to get back in our “normal” routine and getting out and seeing the sights.

Several members of our Ohio Winnebago Club are in a resort just down the road and also enjoying the warm weather and we have had a good time visiting with them, as well. We made an outing to a local pick your own farm and Anneke had her initiation in the skills required to select the best fruit.

Going forward we hope to present our findings in this busy area.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

FMCA Rally, Brooksville, FL

We spent four days dry camping on runway 3 at the county airport in Brooksville, Fl to attend the FMCA Southeast Area rally. Unfortunately, the first two days were cold and windy with the temperatures falling into the mid teens for the first couple of nights. This was not very inviting conditions to walk around and enjoy the sights and activities. The seminar and exhibit tents were not heated and this limited our time in them, as well.

The entertainment in the evenings was good and by Friday we were enjoying better weather and looking the exhibits and the numerous motorhomes on display. Being on an active airport, we were able to watch the local air traffic come and go. The turnout for the rally was good and two runways and much of the surrounding ground was filled with motorhomes. It was a great time to wander the area and check what others were doing with their motorhomes and talk to the owners about shared interests.

The theme of the rally was –Sea Treasure Hunt- and many brave souls came out in the cold on Thursday to march in a parade with an appropriately nautical theme.

From Brooksville we head to Bonita Springs, FL, just north of Naples to check out this busy and affluent part of Florida and hopefully visit with some friends in the area.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom was the last park to be visited and it was the most crowded of all. There was no surprise in the fact that there were children of all ages and strollers everywhere. Much of the parks rides were off limits to those who were not traveling with small children. Watching some of the parents struggling with those children, I must admit, made me appreciate the fact that mine are all grown up. On the other hand, it was rather nostalgic remembering our family outing when the girls were small.

We did manage to take in some of the rides, like the rivers of the world cruise and the It’s a Small World tour. Anneke enjoyed seeing the Dutch display there, since they were not represented in the nations of Epcot. The real thrill ride was the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We also toured the full size tree home of the Swiss Family Robinson.

We toured all the various lands and gift shops and finished our day with the parade including all the Disney characters.

Judging by the crowds and the mostly smiling faces, it appears that the Park remains a big hit after all these years and in spite of the advent of the personal digital entertainment age.

Tomorrow we say goodbye to the fantasy land of Disney and head to a Family Motor Coach Rally in Brooksville, FL. I look forward to spotting some fantasy there, as well.