Impressions from a memorable vacation 7th-20th november 1992
- state in the US
142.127km2, 1.897.414 inhabitants, about 435.000 negroes.
The capital is Tallahassee. Florida is a peninsula that separates Mexico from the Atlantic Gulf, a low Tertiary limestone plateau with lagoon shores, a series of islands continues from the West Coast south of the peninsula Florida Keys. The climate is subtropical, in the south even tropical; cypress swamps occupy large areas, particularly in the tropical zone where drainage is poor, around Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades Swamp area. Florida's main profession is agriculture, which in particular produces grape, fruit, oranges, tobacco, peanuts and cotton; major cereals are maize, rice, oats and oats. Farming produced 1938 for $ 72.2 million. Phosphate is the most important of Florida's minerals, the State being the world's second largest producer of this chemical. An important industry is hotel business, where Florida with its pleasant climate plays a major role as the United States vacation land. Main export items: fruits and phosphates. Florida means "the land of flowers" and got its name in 1512 by Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon, who reached the country Palm Sunday, Spanish Pasqua florida.
Nordic Conversation Lexicon, Volume 5, 1945
Saturday, November 7, 10 a.m. the plane departed from Copenhagen. First we flew for Frankfurt (a one hour trip) onboard an Airbus 320, and then the big trip over the Atlantic onboard a MD 747 - also known as Jumbo Jet. This plane in many ways is contrary to an Airbus; the chairs are very close, very little room for your legs. During the trip I noticed, that the seats in the other departments were just as close as ours. Why then fly EuroClass, BusinessClass or whatever. This was the first time I tried to fly the Jumbo. I was VERY impressed as the machine from standstill position accellerated over the runway and finally lifting into the sky. What an experience!
At the international airport of Miami we got in close contact with the american way of handling people. I won't go into detail, but in short it was just ridiculous, e.g. our four green cards were discarded because they were filled out with a pencil - not a pen, which was required. Anyway, when this was finally done, the doors to God's own country were open wide. We were allowed to step out into the predicated country we had heard so much about.
The transition from an airconditioned airplane to the open air of Miami was enormous. Out in the street the temperature was some 27°C and humidity high. Dust, dirt and american lifestyle was overwhelming.
And by the way, about airports. I have seen a few, and no one is as stylish as the one in Copenhagen, e.g. all flooring is marble. In Miami it consisted of a reddish velvet carpet with (too) much water damage. The ceiling is many places dripping with water from a flat roof.
We landed in Miami at 6am (local time = Danish midnight), there were lots of shuttle-busses, e.g. our bus departet every 20. minute round the clock, round the year. First night we slept at Best Western Airport Inn, where we had rented a room for four. Air condition everywhere is extremely efficient, but also noisy, so we didn't sleep too well the first night. Besides, we all had a hangover due to jetlag.
Next morning, several times we tried in vain to call auntie Dotty to tell her, we had arrived. We did not understand why it was so difficult to get in contact. Finally we had to ask the staff down the lobby to call her, which they did in the first attempt. The reason of course were, that you, beside the area code have to dial "1". We simply didn't knew.
Hertz Rent a Car
Next to our hotel there was a restaurant. Early sunday morning we got a first impression of american breakfast: thin transparent bread, thin coffee, danish muffins (sigh), but also banana, grapefruit and water melon. Later on we found out that orange juice usually is homemade from real orange - extremely delicious.
Andrew was here!
After renting a car at Hertz, our plan was to visit The Everglades, so we drove (or rather, Engelhardt did) south along Highway 1. During the trip we saw clear traces of Andrew, the hurricane. Many a place you found this admonishing writing on a battered wall: Andrew was here! And so he had. The entire area from southern Miami down to Homestead, on the edge of The Everglades, was bearing clear evidence of his visit. Large areas were totally demolished, coconut palm trees were teared up by its roots. To find room for all this waste, large areas were taken in as temporary garbage dumps. We saw many of these.
At a place near Homestead we saw some nifty trucks on the other side of a McDonald parking lot. We asked the drivers if we could photograph their machines as we didn't have them back in Europe. Sure, no problem, go ahead, they said. Especially an elder man would very much like to show his truck, tell about himself and hear, what we were doing here. Among others, he told us that he came from neighbouring state Alabama to help with the clean-up after Andrew. His wages were so low (I beieve he said 1700$ a month) that he had to sleep in the car to make it financially. At home in Alabama he had four children and one wife, so it was a difficult situation for him. Maybe I should add, that his truck was nicely arranged with space for bed, aircondition, refrigerator and everyting.
Florida Keys and Key West
At the bottom of Florida there's a string of small islands which together are called the Florida Keys. These islands are interconnected by bridges, 42 in total, so you can go from Homestead to Key West in one drive. Way out at the end you'll find Key West, which is considered a must for anyone visiting the state.
Someone told us that The Everglades were closed due to hurricane Andrew. Nevertheless we decided to go down there and sleep at a motel. I assume that the distance from Homestead to Key West is about 180 km (120 miles), so we decided to take it in two steps. Over long distances we had water on both sides of the road. Pelikan, Kingfishcer and many different species of heron is found all over the place, they didn't seem to care if we were there or not. The Keys is a paradise for anyone who likes sailing, fishing, birdwatching, bathing or scuba diving.
Captain Bob's Famous Shrimp Dock Restaurant,
2200 N. Roosevelt Boulevard, Key West, Florida, phone (305) 294 - 6433
Kay West is not a cheap place to spend your time. To keep the prices down a bit we therefore tried to find a place not too far from Key West. This we did at Parmer's Place, 25 miles away from Key West. We slept here sunday night after being in Key West to eat at one of many fish-restaurants you'll find out there. Later on we found out that equivalent dishes were available at other places for half the amount of money. But okay, now we can say we were here and we ate here (prestige has a price, you know).
Resort Motel, P.O. Box 445, Big Pine Key, Florida 33043, USA,
phone (305) 872 - 2157
Monday morning we tasted for the first time homemade orange juice made from freshly picked oranges. It was an included part of the breakfast. Here, for the first time i saw this big Turkey Vulture at close range. While we stood at the water's edge, it came flying over our heads. Ten meters (30 feet) away a White Pelican was watching us. Mr. Palmer himself showed us a lot of interest when we arrived at his motel in Big Pine Key, but seemed to have lost it completely when we booked out the next day. Presumably he had expected us to stay there for a week to scuba dive at a nearby coral reef, where he ran a rental business.
This little green sign you'll find along all highways. It's a marker that tells you, how long you'll have to go to the end of the road. When e.g. it reads "MM25" or just "25" at Highway 1, it means that you have 25 miles to go to the end of the road (which in this case is Key West). By the way, an american mile is 1.6 kilometer.
Plastic card or cash?
At home in DK we were told that you have to use debit card(s) all over the US - cash is no good. Unfortunately they were all wrong, the truth (big word) about this matter is, the american payment system is best described as CHAOS. At some places they demand THIS card, at other places they demand THAT card (plus a lot of personal info), and at a third place they demand cash exclusively. To call this a system is....well, make your own judgement, but remember, if you are going to the US, to bring 10-15 different debit cards, personal papers by the dozen, plus lots of cash. And be careful they don't get stolen.
Schoolbusses you'll see all over the place.
Everglades National Park
Park Headquarters, P.O. Box 279, Homestead, Florida 33030,
phone: 305 / 247 - 6211
Park Headquarters: 15 miles southwest of Homestead on FL 27
Royal Palm Visitor Center: 2 miles south of park entrance
Areal ca. 30 x 40 miles (= ca. 48 x 64 km = ca. 3.000 km2)
1 mile = 1,6 km; 1 acre = 4840 kvadrat-yards = 0,40468 ha (hektar) = 4046,8 m2
Litteratur: Mrs. Marjorie Stonemann Douglas: "The Everglades, River of Grass", 1947.
I had read a lot of Florida animal- and birdlife, especially the great wetland, The Everglades. For this reason (and others) it was a huge disappointment that it was closed due to hurricane Andrew. To be absolutely sure, we asked at a police station and sherif McDougall confirmed that we had understood the message - thank you very much. So we drove around in the area, to see what we could find, when we suddenly see a sign saying Everglades Alligator Farm - and it's open!
From here we enjoyed one of these air-boat rides out into the Everglades swamp (averagely 10 cm / 3½ inches deep). From Lake Okeechobee (which feeds the swamp) the decline is so low that water is running less than 1 meter (3 feet) a day. In other words, a super sensitive area.
An air-boat is something that looks homemade in the worst respect: you take a flat bottom canned mackerel, smack a couple of (cheap) seats into it, and clamp a superannuated car engine at the rear. The propeller from a hijacked flight is mounted as well, and suddenly you're ready for take-off. All electrical parts are accessible and you are close to getting your head blown off, once you are out there in the open with this machine. But the gringo controlling this boat thought it was big fun to drive over the swamp at the speed of 80 km/t (50 miles) - sideways! I guess he was supposed to know something about The Everglades in general and its birdlife in particular. Well, he spoke a very lousy english, and know absolutely nothing about fish- or birdlife. E.g. I asked him about this big black bird right now hovering over our heads. He did not know. Later I found out that the Black Vulture (black head) and Turkey Vulture (red head) both are very common in the Everglades area.
Alligator breeding on the farm
Can I help?
Where does the name originate from?
In the book "The Everglades: River of Grass" from 1947, the author explains the Florida name.
p.2Everglades Flora & Fauna Page
Spanish mapmakers, who never saw them, printed over the unknown blank space where they lay on those early maps the words "El Laguno del Espiritu Santo.
The english from the Bahamas, charting the Florida coasts in the early seventeen hundreds, had no very clear idea of them.
Gerard de Brahm, the surveyor, may have gone up some of the east-coast rivers and stared out on that endless, watery bright expanse, for on his map he called them "River Glades."
But on the later English maps "River" becomes "Ever", so it is hard to tell what he intended.
The present name came into general use only after the acquisition of Florida from Spain in 1819 by the United States.
The Turner map of 1823 was the first to use the word "Everglades".
The fine Ives map of 1856 prints the words separately, "Ever Glades".
In the text of the memorial that accompanied the map they were used without capitals, as "ever glades".
The word "glade" is of the oldest english origin.
It comes from the Anglo-Saxan "glaed", with the "ae" dipthong, shortened to "glad".
It meant "shining" or "bright", perhaps as of water.
The same word was used in the Scandinavian languages for "a clear place in the sky, a bright streak or patch of light," as Webester's International Dictionary gives it.
It might even first have referred to the great openness of the sky over it, and not to the land at all.
In English for over a thousand years the word "glaed" or "glyde" or "glade" has meant an open green grassy place in the forest.
And in America of the English colonies the use was continued to mean stretches of natural pasture, naturally grassy.
But most dictionaries nowadays end a definition of them with the qualifying phrase, "as of the Florida Everglades."
So that they have thus become unique in being their own, and only, best definition.
Yet the indians, who have known the Glades longer and better than any dictionary-making white men, gave them their perfect, and poetic name, which is also true.
They called them "Pa-hay-okee", which is the Indian word for "Grassy Water".
Today Everglades is one word and yet plural. They are the only Everglades in the world.
The Everglades begin at Lake Okeechobee.
That is the name later indians gave the lake, a name almost as recent as the word "Everglades".
It means "Big Water". Everybody knows it.
Dorothy and Lehigh Acres
Our host, Dorothy, lives in Lehigh Acres in a street called Ellendale Circle. It got its name from being designed like arches. The city is located some 30 km (20 miles) from Fort Myers. Here she and her deceased husband Normann lived in a nice house along the Caloosahatche River. She stood in the door, waving - a nice little lady. We soon found out that Denmark was her and Normann's ideal of a country. Anything Danish was terrific. Most cutlery was Danish, e.g. in the morning we ate our egg from a Måge (Gull) frame. Normann was raised in Denmark until he was 10, then they moved to the states. His interest in anything Danish had affected Dorothy to a degree where she attempted to speak Danish. Especially I think we all had a laugh when she said "smor gut" (smager godt, meaning taste well) as she said at many occations.
The church within the USA
If you drive from Lehigh to Fort Myers, you'll meet (like most other places in the states, I guess) many different churches and assembly halls from different communities along the road. USA has got no state church, so it's all left over for private enterprise. It seems like this has in no way stopped the churches expanding.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary,
Route 6, Box 1875A, 375 Sanctuary Road, Naples, Florida 33964
Thelephone: (813) 657 - 3771
Corkscrew manager: Ed Carlson
Close to Naples you'll find this plant, animal and bird sanctuary. One day we were down here to see what it's all about. Being 4450ha (11.000 acres) it is a residual part of the original wilderness that nature preservation organisations jointly succeeded to buy and manage. It all started in 1954, and in those days the sanctuary was roughly half size (compared to today) and completely impassable.
The area holds the biggest stock of Virgin Bald Cypress of North America. These are the eldest trees in eastern North America. Samples taken from the trees have shown, that they are more than 700 years old. In other words: they have been several hundred years of age, when Columbus hit the ground of America.
A boardwalk at 5800 feet (approx. 1.8 km) was finished in 1968, meaning that it is now possible to walk around a complete swampy area without getting your feet wet. Also donations from private companies has made it possible little by little to acquire the neighbouring areas. Besides alligator, turtles, frogs and snakes you'll also find several endangered bird species, e.g. Wood Stork (aka Wood Ibis) and Limpkin.
If your interests are plants and woods, you'll no doubt find Corkscrew a paradise on Earth, as it holds lots of rare and/or endangered plant- and wood types. Most other areas of the same kind in southern Florida is taken over by private companies that use them for e.g. cultivation of tomatoes etc. What I like most about Corkscrew is that nature is allowed to care for itself. There is no interference from humans, if for example a fire break out, the forest will burn. Every time a hurricane has devastated any forest in this area, no human intervention will be considered. Walking out the boardwalk is like going backwards in time to the days when nature was unspoiled.
Acquiring videos from Corkscrew, some of the problems that nature of southern California is suffering from are explained:
1. extraordinary population growth (which demands water),
2. pollution of the water from agriculture and horticulture and
3. intensive channelling and drainage (of water that were supposed to flow through the swamps).
Corkscrew & Kurt
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary (YouTube) (4:15)
Corkscrew Swamp (YouTube) (7:14)
Corkscrew Swamp (YouTube) (1:01)
Restaurant & Lounge at Peace Tropical Gardens in beautiful downtown Buckingham.
Your hosts, Al and Pat Bliss,
5100 Buckingham Road, Buckingham, Florida 33905, USA. Phone no. 813 - 694 - 4178.
One night aunt Dorothy had invited us out to eat. It turned out to be at a place called The Hut - a rather exotic establishment with fountain and palms etc. They had an unforgettable salad bar with all the goodies from the field and garden. They also had a fantastic music duo playing every night of the week: Jerry Dycke (keyboards) and Jim forgot-his-second-name on drums. They both sang and they did it well. Their music and style was a perfect match for this place. We bought a cassette tape in the lobby when we left, Jerry Dycke: Love songs, past & present, vol II. Listening to this stuff still brings me back to the Florida swamps.
Jerry Dycke (Homepage)
Jerry Dycke (Cykelkurt)
Jerry Dycke (YouTube)
The Hut for sale
Edison's Winter Garden & Henry Ford's Home,
2350 McGregor Boulevard, Fort Myers, Florida 33901.
Phone no. (813) 334 - 3614
Edison and Henry Ford (founder of Ford Motor Company) lived here in Fort Myers next to each other. Edison developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph ("Mary had a little lamb"), the motion picture camera, the electric light bulb etc. In his winter garden you'll find just about any plant or tree from around the world, e.g. the enormous banyan tree from India. All his workshops and tools are kept, so you can get an idea of his energy and enterprise. For his wife he had invented a swimming pool (the world's first?) which works even today - not a crack or anything. He considered bathing and swimming "a total and complete waste of time", so of course he didn't use it himself.
Why did he live out here, far away from all civilization?
Because of the climate. He had some kind of disease (forgot which), so his doctor advised him to move down here. In those days the road outside the house could not even be called a wheel track, rather a cattle trail. And that's exactly what it was - a former cattle trail as cattle were shipped from here to Cuba. Even today Cuba is the next-largest cattle breeder - Texas is the greatest.
At one point Edison got a Ford T from his friend and neighbour Henry Ford, but actually he used it only occasionally.
We knew practically nothing about mr. Edison when we got here, but are all very impressed by this one man's achievements.
We were also inside the home of mr. Ford, but unfortunately I don't remember very much. What I do remember is three cars that looked like they had just rolled down from the assembly line: the very first serial produced Ford (built from wood), Ford T (Tin Lizzy) and Ford A.
August 1994 we recieved a card from aunt Dorothy with a picture from Edison's Home. The text reads:
EDISON's HOME, Fort Meyers, Florida.
Built in Maine in 1886 and transported to Florida by ship,
the tropical gardens, museum and laboratory are open every day of the year.
18400 San Carlos Boulevard, Fort Meyers Beach, Florida 33931
From Fort Myers they arrange lots of boat trips, for example. tourist trips (where you see interesting buildings, animals and plants), alcohol tours (gambling houses, one-armed bandits, liquor, etc.) and fishing trips.
One day we drove to the beach at Fort Myers, where we found a beach with complete stone-free sand and tropical blue water. At a nearby hotel a (I guess) raggae combo. It did not sound particularly good, but yet created a tropical atmosphere. Afterwards we drove to the Getaway Marina (company name), where we enjoyed a sunset cruise. During this cruise we saw, among others, dolphins and Osprey. According to the guide, you'll find SeeCow (Manatee) during the season here, but at the moment the water was a bit too cold. For this reason it migrated south.
Okeechobee Waterway, W.P. Franklin Lock & Dam
Sunday, November 15 - our last day with Dorothy, so she had arranged a (picnic) for us.
The goal was W.P. FRANKLIN LOCK & DAM, which turned out to be a park, next to the lock. From the Atlantic, the Caloosahatche River runs across the state and passes midway through the big Lake Okeechobee, and finally ending in The Gulf of Mexico. The complete system is called (the) Okeechobee Waterway, and is totally 152 miles (243 km.) from west to east.
Along the Caloosahatche there are five locks. The purpose of these locks are to keep the water at a sufficient level, so boats can sail the river all the way to the Atlantic.
Along with Larry we discussed danes view of USA and americans. From TV and movies we have got this impression that americans are smart people driving in smart cars, talking smart talk. According to Larry, this kind of movies were seen as a joke by the average american - a parody. He also mentioned that the crime, which also is shown in this type of movie, is real enough. So, to put it short, this kind of movies is seen as a public joke (by the public).
Larry told us that he lives on a boat on the Caloosahatchee to get rid of paying taxes. He is a bachelor (has been married before and has two children), doing some wrestling with young people in his leisure time. His wrestling team was in Denmark a few years ago. He seemed to like Denmark and danes ("they are merry people, and they drink a lot!"). He was chocked by our prices. And the taxes....hopeless!
I tried to explain, that even though prices and taxes are quite high, this don't mean that we are poor. Money don't disappear, but are used for relevant purposes (according to a Dane). This is in strong contrast to the US, where you need a fortune just to see your dentist. I think he agreed in this, but according to Larry, the Danish system could not be transferred to the US. Our country is too big and too different for this, he said.
I had discussions with several americans about their foreign workers - people coming in from e.g. Mexico (many working at gas stations etc.). I had the impression that the americans did not like these people - disgusted is a strong word, but maybe not completely wrong. One of the objections against the strangers were, that these people often get an economic public help that the native american can never dream of (if this is true, I don't know). At some places the immigration is so numerous, that the natives are a minority, e.g. at Key West where Spanish is the actual main language.
The average american is welcoming, helpful and open. This you'll get confirmed no matter where you stick your nose up. This was my first visit to the US, so I had this prejudice that an american is a "smart" guy driving a "smart" car and basically not being too smart. Of course you can intelectually tell yourself that people are the same all over the world, but the suspicion, the prejudice, was there anyway. Instead, during our visit, I experienced that americans are kind and helpful, so I have to apologize that I was so terrible wrong.
When it comes to social affairs, I would say that the US is a wonderful country if you are wealthy, and maybe not so wonderful if you are not so wealthy. Compared to Denmark, I'm a little proud to be a citizen in a country where few have too much and fewer have too little, as someone put it.
Next stop DISNEY
As we waved goodbye for auntie Dotty, we headed against Orlando. Several places along the way we noticed deserted stretches where the only sign of civilization was the road itself - and maybe the cattle that sometimes could be seen in the fields. We did a couple of stops to stretch our legs, and were amazed how silent everything was. Who would think this is America!
Casa Rosa Motel
At one o'clock we found our Casa Rosa Motel in Kissimmee, near Orlando. Having dropped our baggage, we continued for Disneyland.
Road signs by the number
Generally I would say they don't use too many road signs in Florida. On major roads it is usually okay, but as soon as you drive away from the main road, it turns different. The road signs here are few and small, and placed strange places - and often missing completely. The worst thing is that the signs, that actually are there, often is drowned in the jungle of commercial signs, set up by private enterprise. Admittedly it looks exciting, but to find your way in the middle of the night here....just impossible.
Disneyworld is divided into three sections: MGM, EPCOT and MAGIC KINGDOM.
You can buy a three- or four-days card for each section - or for the whole lot, if you wish. And you can walk in and out for 3-4 days as you please.
Each of the three departments have a parking lot which is approx. 4 times Tivoli Gardens of Copenhagen. Impressive. For this reason, a train is running non-stop from the parking lot to the entrance. Additionally, the three main sections are connected by an electric train - a so-called Monorail - which runs continuously in Disney World's opening hours.
This reminded in many ways of Tivoli Gardens of Copenhagen, though not so cosy. This place is considered to be for children, but many of the rides certainly will amuse the adults too. Everyting is twice as big as Tivoli, e.g. they had a real steam train - Walt Disney World Railroad - which chugged around the entire project and stopped at a few stations along the way (Frontierland og Mickey's Starland). The staff was dressed in old-fashioned rail-dress and the stations looked like a hundred years ago.
Magic Kingdom is divided into five main sections: Adventureland, Tomorrowland, Mickey's Starland, Fantasyland and Frontierland. The main street in the kingdom, which is called Main Street USA, is basically like the main street of MGM, just in a different time style. There are plenty of ways to get rid of your money, for example Main Street Cinema (cinema), Penny Arcade ("a room full of fun for a penny, nickel, dime, and quarter," as it says in the brochure) and restaurants by the dozen.
Splash Mountain (Frontierland).
A wild and crazy tour onboard a boat, experiencing a little of each. See your life splash before your eyes, as it is told in the brochure.
Cable car from which you'll see Fantasyland, Mickey's Starland and Tomorrow Land from above.
At the end of the tour you may continue in
is an electric transportation system with vehicles like the rutchebanen in Tivoli Copenhagen.
It's all nice and easy, and you get to see Tomorrow Land from the outside as well as the inside.
Jungle Cruise (Adventureland).
One of the highlights of Adventureland is a trip into the African jungle in a motorized river boat with a guide.
To quote the Magic Kingdom Guidebook: Dodge danger as your fearless guide your pilot launch along the rivers of the world.
During the ride you'll see everything connected to the wild jungle, for example wild bathing elephants (flushing water into the boat), monkeys and crocodiles. At one place we see big beautiful butterflies and the guide says something like: .........and look at the beautiful butterflies over there, they are real - and made of plastic! IS he crazy?
IS it dangerous?
There's a sigh of relief heard, when we finally stand on the wooden bridge at the jungle post.
The various guides and ministering spirits around Disneyland all deserve a special mention. Whatever job they have, they all make it very professionally. Had it not been for them, Disney World had barely been quite as unforgettable. Jungle Cruise is a good example.
What is told here is only a small part of Magic Kingdom, anyway we move further for
MGM Disney Universal Studios (from here called MGM) (= Metro Goldwyn Mayer)
In advance we were told that MGM is not that exciting, though I would say, now that I have been there, that it is VERY EXCITING!
When you walk through the main entrance, you walk up a street which is decorated like in the 20s; Hollywood Boulevard is the name. Here and there you'll find a trio or quartet of horn players standing in the street, playing tunes in the 1920s ragtime style. It's all high class and it's all very amusing. In the crowd you'll see someone (or several) looking as if he is taken out of a movie from the 20s or 30s, swinging his cane and puffing the cigar, while he makes dance moves that will turn your head around. Big fun.
The Great Movie Ride
Down at the bottom of Hollywood Boulevard is The Great Movie Ride, where you can get an unforgettable tour through the history of the Hollywood movie. You enter a poorly lit room that resembles an old-fashioned movie studio with lights, instruments and all. A wizard appears and starts on something that we fear will be an instructive half-hour lecture. But suddenly all the chairs are turning, and you discover what was just before ordinary rows of chairs, now has transformed into an electric transportation system, which on a railroad lead us through an awful lot of exciting, funny, touching and terrifying experiences.
Among others, we are run out on a gloomy quay, with all the accessories you'd expect in such a location. A gangster is shouting at our guide and they begin to quarrel. Suddenly a 1930s car with four sinister gangsters onboard is rolling out from a warehouse towards the two quarrelling men. They begin to shoot at our guide - and us! We all crawl down at the bottom of our "car", but our intrepid guide, however, succeeds in chasing them all on the run, so we can move forward. This whole "movie ride" is indescribably exciting and interesting, for example our 6 year old son Junior several times stands up in our "waggon" to greet his Disney heroes. Moving, to say the least.
At the end of the ride, the guide tells us, that he is not allowed to receive tip, but a resounding applause is not that bad either! We applause like mad.
Tigger & Junior
Back Lot Tram Tour
The tour is in a cart which is open at the sides, and as it seems to be at rainy day, the guide starts out in a big manner with: I advise those of you in the left side of the car to move to the right side, else you'll get wet." Since we already sits like herrings in a barrel, and can not move either right or left, he continues ........."I know, of course, that you can't do that, but don't worry, those in the right will get SOAKED!"
It's a exaggeration to say that these words were calming us down, but they help to create the liberated (or devil-may-care) mood that prevails throughout the MGM.
Catastrophy Canyon (Studio Backlot Tour)
This was a special experience. On the ride through the MGM studios, we come to something that looks like an old mountain. There is barbed wire around it, so we can't get near, and our nice guide tells us that the area is used for recordings of outdoor mountain scenes and the like. As the actors and the technical staff have gone to lunch, and won't be back for an hour or so, the guide by poor coincidence (if we understand what he means!) has had an extra copy of the key made, so we now have the opportunity to look inside. But for heaven's sake, don't touch anything - his position is at stake!
Inside there's an old (gas) tanker standing below the mountain. We are approx. 5-10 meters (30 feet) in front of it, under open sky. Suddenly it starts to heavily rain. A moment later, the tanker burst into fire. We all feel the heat. Out guide shouts and gesticulates, watch out, take it easy, panic is beginning to show, and now the tanker is sliding down against us! What have we messed ourselves into! Suddenly a deluge of water is pouing down from the mountain - on us! I do not think I've seen so much water at one time - it can be heard, felt and smelled. Oh boy, this is chaos! We get some great splashes into our car, but finally the fire is extinguished, thank God.
While the water drains away into a crack in the bottom of the gorge and tank car slowly rolls is rolled into place, the nice guide confide us, this was just for fun! In return he will show us how everything is structured. The old mountain is actually made of concrete, which is processed in a way that makes it look old and cracked. It is supported by a steel skeleton, which I estimate to be 50 meters long and 10 meters high. Water containers that pass these oceans of water down the mountain (and us) are scary big, I forget the size, but the water is re-used again and again.
The whole scene can be reset (restarted) in three and a half minutes, so when we rolled away from the scene, we see a new team of tourists on their way to Catastrophy Canyon. The skilful guide asks us to wave goodbye to the dumbheads..... nonsense ....poor people in the other car.......so we do.......ha ha. Later on I realize that actually there is a little laconic message in the guidebook: While riding the shuttle through Catastrophe Canyon you may get wet. I bet on that.
Rain in Florida
What can be said about the weather in Florida? Well, if you think that the sun shines all the time, you're wrong. They call it the sunshine state, but the thing is that every day at 3pm, especially in the summertime, something that reminds of a hurricane starts up. Big balls of hail hits the ground with dangerously speed. So don't go out in such a weather, your life is at risk. An hour later everything is over and life continues. Rather selfcontradictory someone told me, that no one like the floridians talk about the weather, even if it is completely predictable.
Teenage Mutant Hero / Ninja Turtles
Junior's heroes acted on stage and shared autographs to anyone interested.
A whole street consists of facade houses (that is houses without content), used for scenes taking place outdoors, in front of a house. We are informed of some titles that I don't know, but judging by the other spectators' reactions, they are well known. During the drive you see lots of props which have been used in previous films, including cars with bullet holes, helicopters, boats etc.
Oh yes, here at MGM we could easily stay for couple of more days, without feeling bored. We have still seen only a portion of the area, but Junior demand that we carry on to......
EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tommorrow), consisting of World Showcase and Future World.
The exhibitions are presented and sponsored by big american companies, each being a specialist within his field.
In the part of EPCOT called World Showcase, there are homes and communities from different countries displayed. Quote from the guidebook: A celebration of the cultures and people of the world community, World Showcase highlights eleven countries and features authentic cuisine, entertainment and merchandise.
The main symbol of Future World is the great gray dome that contains an exhibition called Spaceship Earth (presented by AT&T, one of the major telephone companies). The dome contains a conveyor belt for vehicles, transporting you around, up and down throughout the exhibition, showing man's evolution from God-knows-when and up until today.
You are transported from one room to the next, horizontal, upward and downward. In the top of the globe, you see a 3D spaceship which we are moving around. At the same time the spacecraft is moving, the carriages we're residing are moving sideways and backwards. This is something that moves! To quote from the EPCOT Center Guidebook: Inside a 180-foot-high "geosphere", spiral through the dramatic history og human communications - from the earliest cave drawings to satellite technology. Then ride through one of the world's largest "star fields" for a remarkable view of the planet we call "home".
NOTE: Guests move forward in a a dark, enclosed area in slow-moving cars up a steep incline, and ride backward for the slow return."
The Land (Kraft General Foods)
We sail around in gondolas. During this sailing, we see man's understanding and use of mother earth. Among other things, we are travelling through a rain forest, a desert, and a (outdated) farm of yesterday. In one of the last room we see a vision of what farming enterprise is likely to be in the future: genetically engineered plants, growing indoors in artificial lighting, irrigation, insemination and so on.
What makes the deepest impression is that this is reality; we are not seeing pictures or movies, no, we actually see gardeners fumbling with plants down here, 10 meters (30 feet) below ground level. It's easy to see that everything works like intended.
The living seas (United Technologies Corporation)
The world's largest saltwater aquarium: 5.7 million gallons (22 mill. litres) sea water and more than 80 different fish species and mammals, incl. sharks, dolphins and the Florida special, the Manatee.
Travel to the bottom of the sea in hydrolators and arrive at Sea Base Alpha. Talk to divers and marine scientists who explore the world's most impressive manmade coral reef. Try on an atmospheric diving suit....... etc. etc.
Journey into Imagination (Kodak)
Here we drive around in cars resembling the roller coaster (Rutchebanen) of Tivoli Copenhagen. Everything works, however quietly. What matters here are the creative process, the imagination, the creativity. This is demonstrated by photographing, light, darkness etc. Towards the end of the trip we suddenly get a harsh spotlight right in our face - no explanation or anything. The last sensation, before the journey ends, is a picture on a giant screen of ourselves. So this explains the previous harsh spotlight. The picture can be bought at the exit, and this we do.
World of Motion (General Motors)
Reminds a lot of Spaceship Earth. Here, however, development within transportation is the item.
Horizons (General Electrics)
Future Visions. First we see some visions of the past, e.g. Jules Verne. Then we are transported around from one future vision to another. They are all imaginable, they are alle possible.
Bye bye Disneyworld
You can talk non stop about Disneyworld and only reach a fraction. It's just too big. Hopefully my description, though, has given you some idea of what to expect in there: A LOT!!!
Kennedy Space Center
During a bus trip through the KSC area, we saw the launch vehicle used for the Space Shuttle and the moon rockets. One space shuttle is arranged in a way that you can get into it and see how life is lived onboard, how much (little) space the astronauts have at their disposal, etc.
Many of the rockets, that was used through the years, are shown on display, e.g. the Saturn V from 1969). An authentic recreation of the moon landing is installed in one of the enormous halls. Likewise, the capsule that lunar crew landed in the ocean, displayed with 6 dolls lying in two layers in the cabin, so you can see how little room they had in those days.
An astronaut in full outfit is walking around on the KSC, letting visitors photograph him together with whoever wanted to. According to my son Junior, his hands were soft and warm.
What more can I tell about KSC, well a lot, but then we might go into a lot of technical detail, so I'll skip that. But the fact is that, if you are interested in technology on a high level, KSC is the place to go.
We saw the movie "The dream is alive" (Travel in space). We had seen this movie previously at home in Copenhagen at the Planetarium. In the U.S. they call this system IMAX, at home they call it Omnimax. I guess it's more or less the same. The screen here at KSC was square (it is hemispheric at the Planetarium). Though they used JBL speakers, the sound was not very impressive, rather quite lousy. They could not play loud (which is necessary if you want to demonstrate a rocket launch) and they could not play clean, to the contrary there was a lot of distortion. I think they call the system a 3D (three dimensional), but I never experienced this at the KSC (at home in the Planetarium I have seen 3D and heard 16 channel distortion-free sound blasting the room several times). So, all in all, this was a bit disappointing.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refugee
was established in 1964 as part of Kennedy Space Center. It is a reservation for birds, animals and plants. NASA wanted to show the world, that there don't have to be any contradiction between hi tech and unspoiled nature. In 1975 came further: Canaveral National Seashore. Both areas are large and significant, with particular populations of White-tailed Deer (a special Florida deer) and Bobcat - a feline predator about the size of an Alsatian.
Thursday morning, for the last time we ate breakfast at the restaurant next to our Casa Rosa motel, and the cute waitress wished "a nice trip" to farewell. From Kissemee we drove south along the Florida Turnpike (with highway toll), among others to Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach. Most of the cities along the east coast are typical tourist cities, such as Miami Beach, which is not my cup of tea - especially not if you are looking for something unique. Miami Beach is like most other resorts around the world, with lots of skyscrapers, noise and cars. Along the way we are taking several breaks at these "holiday paradises", and finally driving non-stop Hertz.
Returning the car is incredibly simple. You drive it to the Hertz parking lot, with keys set in, and doors unlocked. By the way, the car was Ford Escort with air conditioning and everything, it worked extremely well during the whole tour, thank you very much. Finally you go to the counter, state the mileage (how many miles you drove) and how much fuel you left in the tank. Two minutes later everything is settled, and we can go to our shuttle bus.
Returning to the airport, Thursday 13am, is difficult because of traffic. On the other hand, our flight is leaving at 8pm, so why worry. Returning to Frankfurt (Germany) with Lufthansa is all right. Frankfurt arrival at 11am (Europe time). Departure for Copenhagen at 16.30 (deutscher Zeit). Arrival Copenhagen at 18 (6pm).
Later on, when we walk the marbled isle, it suddenly strikes me, that everyone speaks Danish. My own language sounds strange in my ears!
Never mind, it's good to be home!
What was the biggest experience over there?
The Everglades, Corkscrew, Jerry Dycke & Dorothy........but first of all the experience of being there.
You may have found some regret in this report from Florida, but don't get me wrong, it was a wonderful trip, and we'd all love to do it again. Thank you, Florida!
Bird- and animal life in Florida
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