Subj:  40. Where are we?
Date:  Monday, February 4, 2002 7:08:27 PM

It's Monday, February 4, and we left Port Charlotte Florida this morning. We headed south again, this time down US highway 41. We could have made much better time by taking Interstate 75 but US 41 was a much more interesting drive. We are now in a campground in a city that is a popular point of departure for fishing trips into a National Park. To give you an idea of what's around here, Adrienne saw an alligator in the water on the side of the highway this afternoon. We also saw many Snowy Egrets and maybe some White Ibis in the grass lands on the side of the road.

We really had a good time in Port Charlotte. The first evening we were at Lynne and John's (Larry's sister and brother-in-law) we walked down a park on Alligator Bay (part of Charlotte Harbor) to watch the sunset. Sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico range from beautiful to exotic.

Lynne took us on a tour of some of the things to see around Charlotte Harbor. First we went to the Lee County Manatee Park. The park is on a canal that goes to a power plant. Since Manatees like warm water, they often come up that particular canal to rest and play. There's no food for them in the canal so they return to the Gulf at night. The day we were there it was windy so it was difficult to see the Manatees but we did see a mother and her calf.

After the Manatees, we drove to Six Mile Slough. There they have a board walk through the swamp and wetlands. The walk on the board walk is probably about a mile long and it was great. First we saw some Ibis, Egrets, and a Crane (Lynne identified the birds for us). The boardwalk starts through a forest, there were a lot of Cypress trees growing in the water. Along the walk we saw a couple of alligators, turtles, as well as too many birds to count. The Cypress Trees were very interesting. This was a great hike. We should explain that this was through wetlands. The land was sometimes dry and sometimes wet, and in some places there were ponds. Because the land is very fragile, the county government built kind of a wooden bridge over the land. This is what you walk on and it's called a boardwalk because you are walking on a path that is made of boards. Of course it above the ground.

Then Lynne had to take us to the third largest Banyan Tree in the world and the largest Banyan Tree in the continental US. This tree is only 76 years old but is huge. Banyan trees expand by sending down shoots from their branches. The shoots reach the ground and develop roots, then form new trunks. It's interesting to see a branch from the original tree grow horizontally for a hundred feet or more and see additional "trunks" supporting it. The largest Banyan tree in the world is in India and covers 14 acres of land!! To help describe the tree we're including part of an article from our encyclopedia.
"BANYAN, common name for a large Indian tree, Ficus bengalensis, of the family Moraceae (see Mulberry), remarkable for numerous aerial roots that, growing down from the branches, take root in the soil and form prop roots or secondary trunks. In this manner the tree spreads over a large area. "

By the way, the Banyan tree is at the visitor center for the Edison-Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers Florida. It was the winter home for Henry Ford (founder of Ford Motors and the creator of the first mass production line) and also the winter home of Thomas Edison (inventor of the light bulb, the phonograph (parents, you can explain that to your children), the motion picture camera, the storage battery, and numerous other inventions.

We took another trip with both Lynne and John to visit Gasparilla Island. This is primarily a vacation area near Port Charlotte. We walked the beach and picked up sea shells. Unlike most the beaches in California, the beach had lots of seashells. After walking the beach and collecting shells, we stopped by Banyan Street. Guess why they named it Banyan Street. The street is lined with Banyan Trees and it's like driving through a tunnel formed from Banyan Trees.

Lynne and Larry also spent time discussing and updating their genealogy. Their biggest problem is that neither of them understand German. Their second biggest problem is that Germany has changed so many times over the last two centuries that it is difficult to determine locations that were appropriate in the middle 19th Century using current day maps.

Lynne and John have a beautiful house on a canal in Port Charlotte. We appreciate their foresight in having a nice spot for our motorhome right beside their house and with full hookups, even 50 amp service!! We also appreciate the meals they served (they are both wonderful cooks) and the local restaurants they introduced us to. We really appreciate their hospitality.

Today, after we arrived here, we took a boat trip through the 10,000 islands. These are the islands off Southwestern Florida. The islands are full of Mangrove trees. What are Mangrove Trees? The easy way to answer that question is to quote the encyclopedia. "MANGROVE-common name applied to several kinds of tropical flowering plants that are members of three different families. Mangroves are trees or shrubs that have the common trait of growing in shallow and muddy salt or brackish waters, especially along quiet shorelines and in estuaries. Typically they produce tangled masses of arching roots that are exposed during low tides. Some mangrove roots extend above the water. These specialized vertical branches, called pneumatophores, act as aerating organs." Notice the word estuaries, we used that word before when we were in Mobile Alabama and it refers to where fresh water from the lakes and rivers blend with the salt water of the ocean. We saw quite a few exotic birds. The trip was conducted by a National Park Service Concessionaire and was called the Sunset Cruise. There was also a National Park Ranger on the boat to describe the sights. He was very knowledgeable on the area and made sure we understood the sights. The boat trip went from the town where we are staying, into a National Park, then into the Gulf of Mexico, then back through the park and back to the boat basin. It was really a nice trip.

Now, where are we? We are in southwest Florida in a small town called Everglades City. It is probably named for Everglades National Park which is on three sides of Everglades City. According to the AAA Tour Book, "Everglades National Park is the largest remaining subtropical wilderness in the nation. It is a diverse and intricately linked series of habitats sheltering a variety of plants and animals, many of them threatened or endangered."

More later,
The Brauers
Havin' Fun
in the Everglades

Subj:  41. Where are we?
Date:  Thursday, February 7, 2002 6:43:57 AM

On Wednesday, February 6, we left Everglades City and headed east again. We only drove about 100 miles to where we are now. Right now we are camped in a National Park in south Florida. There is a small pond in the campground that you can fish. However, there is no swimming in the pond because there may be alligators in it.

We really enjoyed Everglades City. It's a small resort type town but it doesn't have any of the high rise hotels that many of the Florida resorts have. It's small, somewhat quaint, and people were very friendly. While we were staying in Everglades City we took a side trip to Big Cypress Bend. Big Cypress Bend is in a state wildlife preserve. There is a boardwalk there that takes you through a Cypress Forest and allows you to see the trees, birds, and animals in their natural environment. It was very enjoyable. Remember that a boardwalk is a kind of path like a wooden bridge over the wetlands.

Then we drove to a road that allows you to actually drive into the Big Cypress National Preserve. Along the West side of the road is a canal with lots of wildlife. We saw too many alligators to count, plus Blue Herons, Ibis, Egrets, Anhingas, Cormorants, and other birds that we tried to identify with our laminated cheat sheet.

After the scenic drive we stopped by the Big Cypress Visitor Center and learned more about the Florida Panther. Would you believe the Florida Panther is not black, but is the color of our California Mountain Lions (tan). Then we returned to Everglades City.

Rather than going back to the campground, we drove through Everglades City to Chokoloskee Island. The Island is connected to the mainland by a causeway, a road built on dirt and rocks that was probably dredged from the Bay. We stopped by a small restaurant and tried the Stone Crab Claws. Stone Crabs have a very thick shell that is hard to break, probably why they call them stone crabs. Fortunately the shells were already broken so it wasn't difficult getting to the meat. When Stone Crabs are caught, the claws are broken off and the crab is put back into the water. The Stone Crabs then grow another claw. Also the Claws are big, we had a pound of Stone Crab Claws which consisted of five huge claws. We quickly learned why Stone Crab Claws are so popular, they are delicious! Now our debate is which is better, Stone Crab Claws or Blue Crabs. We also had some fantastic Key Lime Pie, the best we've had so far. So, if you are ever at Chokoloskee Island, stop by JT's Restaurant for some Stone Crab Claws. Adrienne kept the small part of the claw to "show and tell" with the grandkids. These claws are like stone.

Where are we? We are at Long Pine Key campground in Everglades National Park.

We're writing this on Thursday morning. After getting to the Park and setting up camp, we drove the truck down to the Flamingo Visitor Center, about 35 miles away. There we could see Florida Bay. Florida Bay is actually an estuary filled will Mangrove Islands. The Bay is very shallow and is also murky. The tropical climate, the decaying vegetation and the combination of fresh water and sea water fills the water with nutrients (food) for all sorts of animal life. That's why there are so many fish, birds, alligators, raccoons, and other wild life in the area. This is also the area for the endangered crocodile. There are only about 200 crocodiles left in Florida.

The alligator and the crocodile are relatives. There is a difference in the snout and the teeth. The crocodile is more aggressive and faster on land and in the water. We did not see any crocodiles in Florida Bay. However, we have seen hundreds of alligators. There are even signs that say "Alligator Crossing"!

By the way, the campground is just beautiful. We are actually camped in a pine forest. Yes, there are pine trees in the Everglades. In fact, the terrain is quite varied even though it appears to be flat and just barely above sea level. The highest elevation in the park is just 8 feet above sea level. Where there is very slow moving fresh water you will find ponds, canals, and saw grass (a tall slender leaf with teeth on the ends). At a slightly high elevation you will find slash pines, (tall skinny pine trees with growth at the top) then at the highest levels where it is driest, you will find stands of hardwood trees. In this area there are approximately or at least 100 different varieties of Palm Trees!

Late in the afternoon we went on the Anhinga Trail, another board walk through the wetlands. There were lots of alligators, all kinds of Florida birds (exotic to us), and it was a great walk. That brings up a point, what does exotic mean. Well, in the Everglades exotic means something that is not normally found in the Everglades environment. It specifically refers to something that was brought into the environment by man. All the birds, flowers, and animals that we saw were natural to the Everglades. There was a sign on the trail that listed several fish that were exotic, introduced by man, in the Everglades. We enjoyed hearing the frogs bellow, the birds sing, and seeing the alligators. We took a lot of pictures. This trail was recommended to us by several people, including park rangers at Big Cypress Preserve. We had wanted to take a starlight guided walk on the Anhinga Trail but by the time we returned to the RV and Whitney, we were too tired to go back.

The Brauers
Havin' Fun
in the Everglades.

Subj:  42. Where are we?
Date:  Thursday, February 7, 2002 6:53:10 PM

We aren't sure when we will be able to send this E-mail (or the other one) but we'll send it first chance we get.

It's Thursday, February 7, and today we left Everglades National Park. After reaching highway US 1 and a stop at Wal-Mart (we had to get Larry some clip on sunglasses), we headed south. We drove along a highway that Larry has always wanted to drive. We only drove about 130 miles total and we are now camped near the southern most spot in the continental United States. We drove over a causeway. According to the Dictionary, a causeway is a raised way across wet ground or water. This is a well known causeway in south Florida.

The causeway (or US Highway 1) goes through the Florida Keys. Now, that brings up another question, What's a Key? My dictionary doesn't have key in it (at least the kind of key we are talking about) but we do know it's a chain of islands. The drive through the Florida Keys is beautiful even if it's different than we thought. The upper keys, those closest to the mainland are like typical Florida Beach towns without the high rise hotels. The lower keys seem to be smaller and less commercialized, at least until you get where we are. The keys are connected by bridges. Most of the bridges are fairly short, at least until you get to the lower keys, then there is a bridge that is seven miles long! There are a total of 42 bridges to cross.

The drive takes you through beautifully landscaped gardens, (flowers, blooming hedges, palm trees, and trees) over bridges across aquamarine water, and through mangrove forests. We drove by the Southern edge of Florida Bay, the bay we described when we were at the Everglades. The water is a beautiful green (not algae), blue/green and clear blue in all directions. On the other side of the causeway is the Florida Strait which is water close to the Keys but is really the Atlantic Ocean.

In the next installment of "Where are we?" we'll describe our activities here. In the mean time, we are in Key West Florida!

Key West is a tropical city, as we write this it is almost 8:00 PM and the temperature outside is 75 degrees. Frankly, we hope it cools down a bit more.

We are camped on one of the Naval Bases in Key West, there are at least three. We are only a few blocks from the historical district. Frankly, we were surprised when they allowed retired Department of Defense Civilians to camp here but thankful that they do. The private campgrounds in the area cost $60 to $90 a night!! We are camping for $11 a night. Of course we are dry camping (that means no hookups) but camping in Key West for $11 a night is hard to pass up. We can't say it's the most beautiful campsite we have seen. We are in the overflow area that appears to be on an abandoned Naval Helicopter base. We are actually on the tarmac (the asphalt around the helicopter pads) with probably 100 other RVs. The campgound seems to be popular. We arrived around 2:00 PM and by 6:00 PM there were probably 30 additional RVs parked here. Fortunately, they allow generators to run from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Believe me, it is needed!

We're still trying to figure out what we want to see here but we're sure we have some good stories to tell. We did drive through the historic district and once again (like New Orleans, it is busy and crowed. Unlike New Orleans, it is smaller and cleaner).

We have signed up for a deep sea fishing trip tomorrow to fish the reef. Catching fish is guaranteed, we'll see, but it should be fun.

The Brauers
Havin' Fun
in Key West, Florida at $11 per night!! (I love the way Larry has to brag!)

Subj:  43. Where are we?
Date:  Wednesday, February 13, 2002 4:52:13 PM

This is last of three emails you should be receiving at one time. We haven't had any modem access since we left Everglades City. Please try to read them in the proper order, that way they will make more sense.

We sadly left Key West today and headed back to the mainland. We discovered that our Air Conditioner quit and scheduled an appointment to have in fixed in Key Largo. When we arrived at the repair place, we discovered that they had scheduled the appointment for Friday, not Wednesday as they told us. We checked with the factory and found another place further north. That's where we are now and the AC is fixed. While in Key West it never got too hot (the highs were probably in the 80s), and according to our thermometer never got below 68 degrees. Not too bad for February!

We are in a Florida city that is a city of islands and where the boat seems to rival the automobile as a means of transportation. Miles of lagoons, waterways, and beaches make this one of the most popular areas on the Gold Coast of Florida. Those of you under 50 may not recognize this next hint, but this was supposed to be the location of an old Connie Stevens movie called "Where the Boys Are," an old teen movie about spring break.

Key West was wonderful, although expensive. As I said before, we were lucky, the Navy allows retired DOD civilians to use their campground. We dry camped at $11/night. No, it wasn't beautiful like the Everglades National Park but we were only about a mile from all the action in Key West.

On Friday (February 8) we went out on a party boat to fish the reef. We believe the charter boat captains are really suffering. The number of tourists seems to be down. On the charter boat there were a total of 10 people fishing. The boat has a capacity of about 40. However, we certainly had fun. Larry caught a 19-inch Grouper (good eating) but the minimum length is 20-inches so we had to throw it back. Between the two of us we caught probably 30 or 40 fish, mostly Grunts. Grunts are very similar to fresh water blue gill. They are somewhat disk shaped and have white, yellow, and blue stripes. They are good to eat and we enjoyed them for dinner.

We also toured Key West on the Conch Train. This well known narrated tour starts and ends at Mallory Square and takes you by many well known places in Key West including Hemmingway's House, President Truman's Little White House, Sloppy Joe's Bar where Hemmingway liked to imbibe, and countless other places. They talk about the various neighborhoods and the history of the area. It was a fun trip.

It seems like every place here has something made from Key Limes. Key Limes are very small limes and look like a very small lemon, they may not be pretty but they are good. We've had Key Limeade, Key Lime sherbet, and, of course, Key Lime Pie. We stopped by the "Blond Giraffe" a little hole in the wall but they were voted as having the best Key Lime Pie in Key West. We also learned that they were featured on the Food Network. We can't say it was the best in Key West since we haven't tried every place that sells Key Lime Pie. We can say it was the best we have ever had, and it was the traditional Key Lime Pie with Meringue on top, not whipped cream. We stopped by a second time (different day) and Adrienne had Key Lime Pie dipped in Chocolate (no, it didn't have meringue). Larry had the more traditional Key Lime Pie. Both were really great.

Another interesting thing about Key West is that it is the Southernmost Point in the continental United States (in other words, not including Hawaii or Alaska). Key West is closer to Cuba (90 miles) than Miami (168 miles). Key West is 775 miles further south than Los Angeles.

We also took the Glass Bottom Boats out to the reef. The reef is a natural, living, coral reef. The boats are Catamarans with glass in the bottom of both keels. We had a very knowledgeable guide who shared a lot of information about the reef. It was a really great trip.

Of course in Key West there is a daily celebration called the Sunset Festival. The first time we went to the Sunset Festival, there were too many clouds for a sunset. However, that didn't stop the party. Starting a few hours before sunset, Mallory Square fills with street performers, vendors, and visitors. It's really a happening that needs to be experienced (at least once). We did see a woman mime (for lack of a better word) who pretended to be a statue. She fooled many people, including us, until she moved. She moved very slowly and, of course, there was the tip bucket right beside her. She did her act continuously for at least two hours and was really impressive. You can also see musicians, comedy acts, magic acts, and many other entertaining things at the sunset festival. If you are ever in Key West, this is a must see.

Two things of note we did at the Sunset Festival. We tried Conch Fritters, they are OK but we aren't sure we would ask for seconds. We also had a shrimp cocktail with pink shrimp. These are fairly large pink shrimp and they were great. The cocktail sauce was also great.

That brings us the question, What is a conch? There are actually two definitions of importance. The first one defines a conch as a mollusk (similar to a snail) in a spiral shell. The second definition is someone who is a native of the Florida Keys.  The Florida Keys, especially Key West, is sometimes referred to as the Conch Republic. The truth seems to be that Key West actually succeeded from the United States in 1982. In April 1982 the US Border Patrol set up a blockage at the top of the Florida Keys. Because of the traffic jam that was created, the Keys were essentially cut off from the mainland. On April 23, 1982, the mayor of Key West publicly read a proclamation of secession, which stated that the newly created Conch Republic was a nation separate from the United State. The Conch Republic declared war on the United States. This rebellion lasted for one minute, at which time the new Prime Minister of the Conch Republic (the Mayor of Key West) surrendered to the Navy. He asked for $1 billion in foreign aid and war relief. This request was denied. That story illustrates some of the humor of the Conchs of Key West.

There are other humorous stories about Key West but that is probably one of the best.

Although we didn't really eat out, we did have a Cuban sandwich for lunch one day. The lunch included fried Plantations. A Cuban sandwich is very similar to a submarine sandwich with lots of different meats. Plantations are deep fried, lengthwise sliced bananas. They are good.

One thing we have to mention again. Key West is expensive. The campgrounds and RV parks in the area cost $60 to $90 per night. Most motels seem to be at least $200 per night. So the question becomes, How can we afford Key West. Fortunately, Key West has a Naval Base with campgrounds. The do allow retired DOD civilians to use their campground. So we are staying at a military campground. Their regular campground was full so we are in the overflow area. It's on an old Helicopter area. We are camped on the asphalt about 100 yards from the water. The campground certainly isn't the prettiest we've ever been to but it's far from the worst. We have to dry camp (no hookups) but that's not a problem. We are only about a mile from Mallory Square. The cost, for DOD civilians it's only $11 per night. That's not bad at all, especially for Key West.

So, Where are we now? We are in the city of Fort Lauderdale Florida enjoying the air conditioning again.

The Brauers
Havin' Fun

Subj:  44. Where are we?
Date:  Friday, February 15, 2002 8:40:35 PM

We're not sure when we will be able to send this E-mail. Where we are now does not have a telephone connection for modems. Today (Friday, February 15) we left Fort Lauderdale and headed north. We drove up I-95 a little less than 200 miles to where we now are camped. The address of the campground is a town named for a very familiar December Christian Holiday. That should provide a big hint but it may not be on many maps. We a camped in a swampy area with lots of wildlife, but then there are a lot of Swamps in Florida so that may not be much help. Maybe the fact that we are about 30 miles inland from a part of Florida that was made famous by the space program will help.

Yesterday we toured part of Fort Lauderdale. Fort Lauderdale is a beautiful city with a very nice beach. We started by driving to and walking on the beach. Now remember, this was the Atlantic Ocean. It was warm, very little surf, but the sand was very soft. The sand was not white like it is on the Gulf Coast but it was still very nice.

After our walk, we drove to the International Swimming Hall of Fame. For those of you who know Adrienne, that shouldn't be a surprise. After all, she was a competitive swimmer in high school. The museum was quite interesting and it was the first time we actually saw medals from various Olympics. They also had a display on the history of swimming. Did you know that the first recorded swimming even was in Egypt! Also, Roman solders were required to take swimming lessons!

Fort Lauderdale has a riverwalk. That makes sense since there is a lot of water in the city. We walked part of the riverwalk and it's much different than the one we described in San Antonio Texas. We still enjoyed the quiet walk in Fort Lauderdale. There were lots of boats along the riverwalk. Maybe we should call them ships. We probably didn't see anything less than 30 feet long and most were considerably longer. The walk also goes by various draw bridges. It's interesting to see them from the river level rather than the street level.

Finally, after a stop at Sam's Club, we returned to the RV and Whitney for the evening.

Now, has anyone figured out where we are? We are camped at Christmas Airstream RV Park in Christmas Florida. Now, in case Christmas is not on your map, it's just east of Titusville and about 30 miles east of the Kennedy Space Center. By the way, every once in a while you find a gem of a campground. This is one. It is a large, private campground and it's in the woods (in the swamp). We have water and electricity for $15/night plus tax. That's not bad. Since this is the Christmas RV Park, all the streets are named after Santa's reindeer or some other name (like Joy Lane, Frosty Lane, Santa Way, and North Pole Lane) that seem to remind you of Christmas. Even the buildings have holiday names, like Holly Hall and Santa Hall. A Christmas tree stands out in front, decorations and lights still shine. It's really a nice place (even if the trees prevent us from getting satelite television reception).

The Brauers
Havin' Fun

Subj:  45. Where are we?
Date:  Monday, February 18, 2002 4:08:47 PM

Today, Monday, February 18, we left Christmas and headed west. We are now west of Orlando and camped in a new Escapee Park. Right now we can't describe much of the area other than it is supposed to be great for wild life.

We really enjoyed our stay at Christmas Florida. Our first day we toured the Kennedy Space Center. It was quite interesting. Before we describe more, we'll make the comparison that it seems to be similar to a Theme Park. Yet, it is much different. We took a bus tour which first took us to an observation tower where you can see the launch sites for the space shuttle. In fact, one of them was on the launch site being prepared for a launch at the end of February. The second stop was at the Saturn/Apollo control center. This building was the center of all the Apollo flights. They even had a full size Saturn rocket with an Apollo space capsule. On the way back to the visitor center, the bus driver pointed out two manatees in the water, a bald eagle's nest, and a bald eagle. The Kennedy Space Center is located in the middle of a wildlife refuge. It was a great visit.

The next day we visited Fort Christmas and museum. Fort Christmas was built in1837 during the second of the three Seminole Indian Wars. It's amazing just how well the museum was set up. We now know how the town of Christmas got its name. It was named after the fort! Now, how did the fort get its name. The solders who built the fort named it Fort Christmas because they started building it on Christmas Day. The fort we saw was actually a full size replica of the original fort. The local county created a beautiful park in the oak trees (complete with Spanish Moss) and really have a beautiful place. The park also has Historic Homestead Exhibits which are actually houses from the late 1800s and early 1900s that have been moved to the park and furnished as they would have been during that time. The whole area is quite well done, especially for a small county park.

We also visited the Orlando Wetlands Park, and the Tosohatchee (tos-uh-hatch-ee) State Reserve. Tosohatchee means Chicken Creek or Fowl Creek. Yes, we saw more alligators, another bald eagle, as well as a variety of birds at the St John's River in the Reserve. We are beginning to be able to identify some of the birds in Florida.

For dinner, we went to the Dixie Crossroads restaurant in Titusville. This place was made famous by serving Rock Shrimp. Rock Shrimp taste similar to lobster, look like a shrimp, but have a very hard shell. The Rock Shrimp are split before they are cooked so you pull the meat out like you would in a lobster tail. This was a very good dinner and if you are ever near Titusville, consider it a good place to eat. Just be prepared to wait to be seated.

Speaking of food, we were in the Indian River Country. This area is known for its citrus fruit and we bought some delicious Indian River Grapefruit and Oranges.

Now, Where are we? We're near Bushnell Florida at the Sumter Oaks SKP RV Park. We're dry camping tonight but we hope to have hookups tomorrow.

The Brauers
Havin' Fun.

Subj:  46. Where are we?
Date:  Friday, February 22, 2002 3:37:51 PM

We left Bushnell Florida this morning and first headed north up I-75, then east on Florida 40, then north again on I-95. We are in the oldest city in the United States. This city was founded before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts! It's where Juan Ponce de Leon landed on April 3, 1513, in search of the Fountain of Youth. In 1565 King Phillip II sent Pedro Menendez de Aviles to colonize the area for Spain. The town has been sacked by pirates. It was traded back and forth between Spain and England several times before it became a territorial of the United States.

We enjoyed our stay in Bushnell at the SKP Rainbow Park. When we arrive in the park, it was full, so the first night we dry camped for free. The next morning we had a full hookup site where we stayed for three more nights.

On Tuesday, we received our mail at the Bushnell Post Office. This was the first time we had the mail sent to a post office and it worked fine. On Wednesday, we went to Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park. This is a very interesting park. It used to be a typical Florida tourist trap with alligators and other animals, not all from Florida. About 1990, probably when the tourist industry was in trouble, the state bought the place and turned it into a very interesting state park. It is now used to rehabilitate wild animals that have been injured. They have about 8 manatees, numerous alligators, a Florida panther, a black bear, river otters, and lots of birds. They also have a hippopotamus that is not native to Florida. The hippo was born in the San Diego Zoo and purchased long before the place became a state park. When the state took over the park, the question was what about the hippo? They couldn't find another home for it. To solve the problem, the governor of Florida made the hippo an honorary citizen of Florida. So now the hippo can stay. The hippo was a movie star! He was in several movies that featured wild animals. We can only remember one movie called Datari or something similar. The hippo is about 45 years old.

Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park is set up kind of like a zoo. Although that may sound strange, it's really well done and the landscape has been kept as natural as possible. The main parking area is just off the highway and you take either a boat or a tram to a second visitor center where everything is located.

On Thursday, after doing our income taxes (Hooray, there're done), we went to Dade County Historical Park. This is a really nice county park in the pine and oak forest. It's a historical park because this is where the Second Seminole War began when a group of Seminoles attacked a column of US Solders. This may sound bad but the US was trying to move the Seminoles out of the land they had occupied for over a century. The reason they had occupied the land for that relatively short period of time was because they were forced out of Georgia in the 1700s. It's interesting when you find out not only what happened, but also when you learn both sides and why it happened.

Have you figured out where we are? We are camped in Saint Augustine Florida.

The Brauers
Havin' Fun
in the oldest city in the United States.


Subj:  47. Where are we?
Date:  Tuesday, February 26, 2002 4:09:10 PM

Tuesday, February 26, 2002

This morning we left St. Augustine Florida and headed north up I-95. We are now near an old city (not nearly as old as St. Augustine) that's known for its antebellum homes. The city was founded by General James Oglethorpe as England's thirteenth and last colony in the New World. Perhaps the city is best known as the last stop of General William Tecuseh Sherman's march through Georgia from Atlanta to the sea in 1864 during the civil war.

We really enjoyed St. Augustine. It's really a nice city and our campground was less than 10 miles from the historic district. It rained all day Saturday so we didn't get out and visit any of the sights, however, we did drive around the historic district just to see what was there.

Sunday we drove into town and took one of the train tours. This was a one hour tour with numerous stops along the way. You can get off the train at any stop and reboard the train. You can do this as much as you want. After taking the full trip, we walked down St. George Street. This is one of the oldest streets in America. It's now filled with shops, and restaurants. We need to mention that although it's called a train tour, and it looks like a train, it's really a small truck pulling wagons with people.

We walked by the Cathedral of St. Augustine near the plaza. It is the seat of the oldest Catholic parish in the nation.

We also visited the Lightner Museum. The Lightner Museum is in the old Alcazar Hotel which was built by Henry Flagler, the same Henry Flagler who build the railroad across the Florida Keys to Key West. This was his second hotel in Saint Augustine. His first Hotel here is now the home to Flagler College. The highlight of the museum was the music room. The room has about eight different musical contraptions from the late 19th and early 20th century. These are all similar to player pianos yet different. We managed to arrive just in time to hear a sample of what these instruments sound like. It was great.

We had to visit the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. This is the old fort that was built by the Spanish in the late 1600s to protect St. Augustine from pirates, the French, and the British. It's made from a local material called Coquina. Coquina seems to be a mixture of lime and sea shells (in fact you can see the shells in the walls). It appears to be a strong, yet somewhat flexible material. When the fort was attacked, the walls would simply absorb the shock of impact with very little damage. This is far different from concrete or stone, which would crack.

We also had to visit the Fountain of Youth. One of Ponce De Leon's goals when he found St. Augustine (1513) was to find the fountain of youth. Actually he was looking for silver and gold but found out about this special spring water. We even tasted the water from the spring that is claimed to be Ponce De Leon's Fountain of Youth. YUCK, it's typical Florida sulfur water. However, Ponce De Leon thought it was great. He also decided the water gave longevity because of the age of the local Indians. The average age at that time was between 35 - 40 years of age. The local Native Americans were in their 60's and 70's. Ponce de Leon was killed by the Calusa Indians when he landed on the west side of Florida. Guess What? He was 61 years old.

We drove over the Bridge of Lions (there are 2 lion statues of each side of the bridge) to the St. Augustine beaches. We visited Anastasia Island. The beach was great along the Atlantic Ocean. We walked about a mile just watching the walls, viewing the coquina (shell rock) and picking up shells.

The last place we visited was the Mission of Nombre de Dios. The place where Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed on September 8, 1565, to establish the first permanent community that Ponce de Leon had discovered in 1513. A 208-foot stainless steel cross marks the site of the founding of St. Augustine.

Has anyone who hasn't studied the Civil War figured out where we are? We are in Savannah, Georgia.

The Brauers
Havin' Fun
In Georgia


Subj:  48. Where are we?
Date:  Thursday, February 28, 2002 5:40:12 PM

Thursday, February 28, 2002

We left Savannah Georgia this morning and headed west. We drove about 250 miles to get where we are now. We first headed west on I-16, then north on I-75. We are now in a city that is supposed to be known for it's Southern hospitality, Civil War History, being the commercial, industrial, and financial giant of the Southeast. It's original name was Terminus because it was the end of the railroad, but that name was soon changed to Marthasville, and later to its current name. It has also been called the Phoenix of the South, referring to the mythical bird that rose from its ashes. This city did that after General William Tecumseh Sherman reduced the city to a smoking ruin in 1864. The city is home to Coca Cola, and is the national headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control. It is also the town where Larry was reared, and where Larry completed his Bachelor's Degree.

The drive was somewhat interesting, especially for an Interstate highway. Adrienne wanted to see what Kudzu looked like. Unfortunately, Kudzu must be deciduous because what we saw had no leaves. Now, what is Kudzu. Kudzu is a leafy green vine that entwines electric poles, decorates porch trellises, and overtakes trees. It was imported in the late 19th Century to decorate the Japanese pavilion at the centennial celebration. It was planted in the South to stop soil erosion, which it does. It spreads by sending roots into the earth where its leaves touch the ground. In a single season, one vine can creep as much as 100 feet. It can grow as much as 1 foot in 1 day! In the South, fables abound about Kudzu. One story is about a couple of hunters who parked their car in a clearing in the woods. When they came back a few days later, they couldn't find their car. It had been smothered in Kudzu.

We enjoyed Savannah. It is a beautiful city. The weather didn't really cooperate. When we arrived it was warm, in the 70's. That night it really got cold and on Wednesday, when we toured the city, the high temperature was 44. But we endured the cold.

We took one of the guided tours of Savannah. That was really the only way we could get our bearings and get to see quite a few sights. The tour goes by too many landmarks to mention. Savannah is unique in that it is laid out around public squares. Originally there were 24 public squares, that was in 1733. Today, 21 of those squares remain and are essentially parks, beautiful parks with live oak trees loaded with Spanish Moss, and flowers, and monuments.

Savannah was founded by General James Oglethorpe as England's 13th and the last colony in 1733. It's on a bluff overlooking the Savannah River (which, by the way, separates Georgia from South Carolina). Because of its proximity to the Atlanta Ocean, it is a major East Coast Port and served as a crossroad of trade between England and the communities inland. Tobacco and cotton were the primary items of trade supplied by the new colony. Cotton helped the city and port flourished until 1862 when Union forces captured Fort Pulaski. Fort Pulaski was built to protect Savannah but, after its capture by the Union forces, it prevented the port from shipping anything. Of course, Savannah was part of the Confederacy.

Savannah probably has the original river walk in this country, although it is much different from the others we visited. Called Factor's Walk, it is a row of narrow buildings along the bluff above the river. In the 19th century it was the meeting place for factors, sales agents and commission merchants such as cotton merchants, and was the center of commercial activities. The merchants used the buildings on the bluff (on Bay Street) and on the cobble stone street at the river level (River Street) are various shops and restaurants. The cobble stone streets were made from the ballast of the ships from Europe. The River Street Waving Girl statue is evocative of Savannah's romantic character. In the early years of the 20th century, the city light-tender's sister, Florence Martus, became known to seamen all over the world for waving at every ship. One legend maintains that she promised her sailor sweetheart to greet every ship until his return.

Savannah is also home to Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts. No we don't think she was around when the Girl Scouts started selling their cookies.

Now, have you figured out where we are? We are in Atlanta Georgia. By the way, Larry graduated from Georgia Tech in 1967.

The Brauers
Havin' fun