Sunday, June 24, 2012

Trip to USA

I'm back out of my hiding place. I didn't blog since February. I think it is time to get something posted again. I will start with my recent trip to USA.

 As retired military we can use  military space-available (space -A) travel but we fall under the lowest category so that means best time to travel is low season because when school is out military families use space-A and there is almost no chance for us.

Sunday March 25 we drove to Ramstein  as we saw on the Ramstein Passenger Terminal Facebook site that there were two planes  scheduled for BWI (Baltimore Washington International Airport) on Monday and Tuesday. We registered for the early Monday morning flight the evening we arrived and stayed in billeting on base to spend the night. At 6 a.m we were at the terminal and the sergeant told us we had a good chance as there were 178 seats available.  Our names were called and all who were waiting for this flight were able to get on board. It was a Boeing 747 quit a large plane. We paid $ 58!!!!!!...... and got on the plane. Very good flight and we arrived at BWI in the afternoon. We reserved a hotel room and were picked up by the hotel shuttle bus.  As nothing was sure when and where we would end up, I couldn’t make reservations for a rental car through my travel agency in Holland. Now I was able to call the agency to tell her that we were at BWI and she could finish making the reservation for the next day. 

Stayed with Leroy's family in SC for a week as we always do, packed our tent gear and hit the road. We decided to drive to Florida. We had Patrick AFB in mind and Key West.

Patrick AFB is south of Cocoa Beach and on a barrier island. It is separated by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Banana River to the west.  The campground is situated on the Banana River with beautiful views and sunset. We stayed 4 nights.  
The next day we went to the library for just half an hour. When we walked out we saw that it had rained pretty hard as there was water everywhere in the street but the sun was shining again. Somebody told us it was a downpour with very heavy winds. We hadn’t heard anything while inside. My first thought was the tent. Was it still there? Drove back and saw our tent laying half way down flat. Our neighbours tent was completely flat. Another couple with 2 teenagers was helping out. They had just arrived when the wind picked up and were lucky as they hadn’t put up their tent yet.  I checked our tent inside and everything was wet . The mattress, sheets, sleeping bag, just wet . Puddles of water everywhere on the floor. A lady from one of the RV’s stopped by and gave me old towels to dry with. That was so kind of her.” We are a military family”, she said, “and we help one another". I had to dip the water out first with a cup before I was able to dry the tent with the towels. After that was done the wind picked up again and it started raining. We all fled into our cars. Our neighbours tent got loose again and was flopping in the air. Luckily our tent and the two tents of the newly arrived family held up well. It took a few minutes and the sun came out again but it stayed windy throughout the day/night. 
video
Sunday we went to Merrit Island National Wildlife Refuge.  We did the Black Point Wildlife Drive   A 7-mile auto tour through one of the best wildlife viewing areas with 12 information stops.  Many of the birds had migrated north already. We were just too late to see more different bird species but there were still a lot of birds to see in the refuge of course.  Some of the birds we saw were willet, osprey, blue heron and greater egret and at the end  we saw two baby alligators. I found out that every year in January a "Birding and Wildlife Festival" is held with many fieldtrip options. That would be very interesting
 Willet 

Blue Heron
Egret
Baby Alligator

Up to the manatees    next, also called sea cows. They can be usual spotted  at the Manatee observation deck at the Haulover Canal. This observation deck overlooks an area that is frequented by manatees. We saw only two manatees but you cannot see the entire animal as they don’t breach like a whale. So we only saw part of the nose, tail or body.  It was difficult to make a picture as it seemed like the time you want to make one he vanished under the water. On the other side of the canal was a boat ramp and we drove there and saw a lot more manatees. They were very active but also here I couldn’t make good pictures. It was an interesting day.
 

Back on  base we saw this blue heron:
 
 
Dark clouds over the Banana river
 Next destination was Key West. Jim one of the camp host heard that we were going to Key West. He came up with helpful information and some interesting places to visit. He showed us a less congested way to reach the Keys, instead of driving the I 95 down to Miami.

Before entering the Keys we stopped at "Robert is Here", a famous fruit stand, but we had never heard of it. Jim told us about it. They sell all kind of tropical fruit and vegetables, jams, jellies, sauces, spices and ........milkshakes with the fruit of your choice. I choose for passion fruit. It came in a big cup. It was good at first but it was too much for me. I did finish it but ended up with a heavy feeling in my stomach the rest of the day.
  
 
 
This is Robert.
This turtle was at the petting zoo behind the fruitstand. Now what is that on his shell??
More sunbathing turtles.

We began our 127 miles (205 km) island hop to KeyWest. The first island is Key Largo, followed by Islamorado. Marathon, known as the Heart of the Keys, is a small town in the middle of the islands. They say, be sure to stop at the Wal-Mart or Home Depot for anything you forgot because you won't get another chance while you're in the Keys
Then came the seven miles bridge with a spectacular view. On one side the Atlantic Ocean and on the other the Gulf of Mexico.  After Marathon comes a chain of small islands known as the Lower Keys. Then at the very southernmost Key is Key West. It was a wonderful drive and it took about two hours when we arrived at Sigsbee Park, the Navy station which will be our next four days stop.
Sigsbee is a small island and connected by Sigsbee Road to Key West. The campground is situated on the Gulf of Mexico. The camp host showed us around to choose our tent site. there were sites right on the water or in a wooded area. We choose for one near the water to see the beautiful sunsets in the evening. Also here a good breeze. The  camp host wife told us that one time there was a storm and a tent with two people in it, got loose and flew into the water. Her husband and others had to go into the water to rescue them out the tent. I didn't like to hear that story and sure in the world that night the wind picked up again and I couldn't sleep, thinking of that story. Even went into the car one time as the tent was bending down often and the fluttering of the fabric made you not sleep at all. The car was not a good place to sleep either so went back to the tent where I finally fell into a light sleep.... 

We went to the Dolphin Research Center in Marathon.  It was a nice place to learn more about dolphins. Dolphins are fascinating, intelligent and  highly social animals. I love how they “talk".


We stopped at the beginning of the seven miles bridge on our way back to Key West. On the other side of the road was Sunset Grille with a nice view over the Atlantic Ocean and the bridge. We decided to have dinner here.
Then we had to walk off our food and walked two miles on the Old Seven Miles Bridge , which adjoins the new one,     

By the time we got back to the car, the sunset had set in and we enjoyed the beautiful red/orange sky.
Next day we went to Key West, downtown area. The island is about 4 miles (6.4 km) long and 2 miles (3.2 km) wide.  Here more about the history.
There is a famous landmark that stands at the southernmost point in the continental USA. It reads “90 miles to Cuba”. So close yet but for Americans “far away”.  Maybe not in the near future.  No doubt it was a famous landmark as there was a long waiting line to be photographed next to the landmark. We waited in line too, aren’t we tourists?
It was a warm day and we bought a coconut from a coconut seller.
We walked to the lighthouse and took a tour. A bit pricey I thought but we enjoyed the fantastic view over Key West and the surrounding water.
Everywhere in Key West you see chicken and roosters roam the streets. Many times with baby chicks. Here is the story behind it.   
 View of a cruise ship leaving dock.
More pictures of Key West:
Banyan trees
 Sponge Man
Sculpture of dancing women: “Daydream” at the museum of Art and History. The sculpture is of a man daydreaming about a Matisse painting: The Dance.

A day at the Botanical Gardens of Key West where I met Nancy Forrester who took part in the Butterfly event for children that  day. She provides a small re-homing sanctuary for unwanted parrots at her home and that day she had brought some parrots over to the garden. She also has a garden; it’s called Nancy Forrester Secret Garden.  She saved the last wooded acre of undeveloped land in the heart of Key West and made a tropical rain forest out of it.  Too bad it was our last day but her garden will be on my to-go- list for the next Key West trip.
 Sculpture made by Markus Baenziger, Brooklyn NY 
 
 Giant Milkweed
"Powder Puff", Caliandra

Some pictures of iguanas roaming around on Sigsbee:
Time to leave Key West. We made some stops on the Overseas Highway:
 
 
Old Overseas Highway Railroad Bridge, Spanish Harbor Key
 We spent the night at Patrick AFB and enjoyed our last beautiful sunset on the Banana River, before driving back to SC the next day.
 
 
Before leaving SC I met Joni and Mandy for a fun Zentangle afternoon.
 

We called BWI to see when flights were going to Ramstein and we were told that the next day, Saturday, there was a flight with about 150 empty seats, leaving in the evening. We drove to Baltimore and were lucky to get a seat on that flight.

We took off at 10.30 p.m. A very good time for everybody to sleep on the flight but we experienced a lot of turbulence on this flight. For me that means: no sleep. We landed safe and sound at Ramstein the next morning. It was so cold there: 10º C (50º F) compared to the 26º C (80º F) we had in Florida. 


Our space-A trip turned out great. We met many nice people while waiting. We were lucky though to get both flights out straight away. We hope to use space-A again in fall.











2 comments:

  1. Geke, so good to find you blogging again. What a disaster with the tent (I have a tent story too from yesteryear). Littl e video added the dynamics Geke. Enjoyed your waterbirds and alligator photos. Your blue heron looks to be far more accommodating than the white-faced grey heron I see here; they're very timid. The turtle seems to be covered in algae growing on its shell. The banyan trees remind me of our fig trees. Macaws are one of my favourite parrots; they're amazing, colourful. You got some great shots of these. Oh great you got to meet up with your zentangle friends and join with them tangling; love what you did; I miss it. Right now as I write this lengthy comment, it's almost 9am, still 6 degrees celcius. Take care Geke; nice to catch up.

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  2. Good to see you back, your vacation photos are wonderful. I especially like the beautiful birds you encountered. Your zendala turned out really well, love how the hollibaugh really makes it pop! Happy Tangling!

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