Thursday, December 29, 2005

Oh! By the way, this is where I was yesterday afternoon...

Sand Island in Hernando County Florida
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Wednesday, December 28, 2005




It has been a while since I have been able to post anything, but, oh joy, Toshiba saw fit to repair my laptop, and though it was a painful five weeks without it, it is now back as good as new, (I hope?)

Many, many, things to write about since last report, and more to follow this report, so bookmark, folks! Bookmark!

I shall open with a wonderful surprise gift I received from “Wendy of the UK”, a fellow theme park enthusiast, whose family I have joined at the parks on a few occasions. Wendy is actually a resident and citizen of the UK, nevertheless, has annual passes to all the theme parks in Orlando! That’s dedication! Wendy also loves making things and is one of those people who can grab some fabric and do the right things with that most befuddling contraption, the sewing machine, and turn out things to delight the recipient of her skills. This time, I was lucky enough to be that recipient when, knowing my love of the movie Lilo & Stitch, she made me a small quilt based on that delightful movie.

Stitch… hmm… ya- just got it myself… maybe “Lilo” is some British slang for “fitting together pieces of cloth”?

Moving ahead to December 8th, I had been invited to an open house hosted by the owner of The Magic For Less Travel in the evening so headed down early to spend the day at Sea World.

Mike served as greeter and “direction” consultant for guests in the lobby of the resort.

As I entered, I noticed a signboard announcing something about the Shamu show. Stepping back to it to read it more closely, it informed park go-ers that “Shamu”, a name they use for all the big whales, had given birth just 4 days earlier! Thus the regular show was awaiting the return of one of its bigger stars, and a shorter more easy going show was put on, while on the big screen, video of the birth was shown! This did not seem nearly as complicated as it was impressive, for “Momma” simply continued swimming around the tank, as seen from the underwater viewing windows, and on one pass, a tail emerged from beneath her, and on the next pass, a smaller, though still 300 pound, version of herself fully emerged and continued swimming right beneath her!

After the show, many of us went to those same viewing windows, where Momma, baby, and Daddy were still swimming around and around the tank, coming before the windows every three to five minutes. Momma didn’t seem to be letting anything change her habits, as baby worked to keep up, as well as catch up enough to suckle beneath mother. After half an hour of my viewing, Daddy seemed to have become bored with the whole thing and apparently decided to find something a bit more interesting to him. He got a big fish from one of the out of sight handlers, and came down to the windows, where he entertained the guests by repeatedly grabbing and spitting out the fish like a puppy with a toy trying to get your attention. It was an amazing display, clearly showing his awareness of the audience, and desire to interact with it. I had not brought my camera and am glad, for no shot would have captured this moment, and I did not miss it trying to do get it.

On December 10th, I again was heading to Orlando for another meet, this time at Give Kids the World, a fantastic organization that provides a delightful theme park style resort for very sick kids and their families while visiting the theme parks. The MouseForLess group supports this wonderful work and each year, we have a tour for those members who are interested. A vanload of donated gifts were also unloaded at the warehouse out back.

About half way through unloading the gifts we brought for the kids, volunteer Mike passes off a small gift to our volunteer guide for the evening.

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Again, another stop before, which this time was very close to home, over in Inverness at the Citrus County Fairgrounds for the 7th annual Nature Coast Carving Club Woodcarving show. The location and building housing the show were great; and the stage was taken advantage of for demonstrations by various exhibitors and vendors. It was a much larger and more professional show than I was expecting, and I was happily surprised! But I was also in a bit of a time crunch, and had not brought my ECV, so had to hurry through it, basically just shooting as I went. I did briefly meet one woodcarver that I want to do some follow up on in the near future.

Chuck Briscoe shows a detailed relief in progress. Chuck was instrumental in the work the club did for the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park featured in my book, Me & Tange…

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Then it was off to Kissimmee for the GKTW tour, which was a lot of fun, and I commented, given the delights of the resort itself, I can’t imagine any of the kids ever wanting to leave it even to go to one of the theme parks, which all provide free admissions. Most easily related is the ice cream store, stocked by Friendly’s Ice Cream Company, where any guest, at any time, can order anything they want! This, as well as every building in the resort, is heavily themed most delightfully. There are even actual pieces donated by the major theme parks, as well as a zero-entry pool- a pool that at one end comes to zero depth, allowing a wheel chair to be ridden right into the pool- and a fantastic mini-golf course, featuring, what else? dinosaurs!

A large room in a nearby building houses a major model railroad layout that the kids can operate, while an adjoining room has controls for running model boats on the small lake outside the window. All the requisite video games are there, and pool and air hockey tables are also available. A theater features child sized seating, and a popular movie each night. While we were there, a birthday party was scheduled, and came upon us as we toured the Castle, another fantastic building that features- among other things- a star on the ceiling for every child who has ever been a guest. The children on our tour were made just as welcome as any of the other guests, and participated in many of the activities.

Between these two days of Orlando visits, was the opening reception of the show of Rosemary Cove’s sculpture, Stalking the Wild Pendulum, down near Miami. It turned out to be more than I could do to make the 500-mile journey, but reports are that it was great, and that the show itself is being very well reviewed. Anyone in the area should stop by and take a look: it runs through December 28th.

Back to Orlando and the GKTW tour, after a very enjoyable visit, I parted with the fellow members of MouseForLess, and headed home. This had been a cold night, after a series of cold nights, I was chilled, and by the time I got home, I was at the beginning of a two week period of flu-like symptoms, leaving me house bound and too tired to do anything, and without even my computer, it was a very boring period.

At about the same time that I was beginning to feel as if I might live again, I received my computer back, and spent the next three days and nights downloading updates (the original operating system had been reloaded, and that predated Service Pack 1 for XP!) and then raced to catch up on e-mail, and am still working on ketchup.

A couple of weeks later, needing to get out after my self-imposed quarantine, I again headed to Orlando, and spent two days. I had intended a day at SeaWorld and a day at Universal, having a craving to ride ET for some reason! Well, there were some various adventures over those two days, more than I am up to writing at the moment, but there are three things to share now from those days. On the first day, I made it a point to get over to Seuss Landing at Islands of Adventure for the Whoville Wholiday celebration.

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The next morning I visited the annual presentation of ICE! At Gaylords Convention Center and Resort, a quite impressive place in itself, and was rewarded for my early arrival by a short wait- the previous year, the ticket line itself had been several hours long!

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ICE! is housed inside the “Florida Fridge” an 18,000 square foot temporary structure designed especially for this event. The average temperature inside is a frosty 9 degrees Fahrenheit! The show was created using nearly 2,000,000 pounds of ice: nearly 5,000 blocks of ice, each weighing about 360 pounds, were carved and transformed into this winter Wonderland by a team of 40 artisans from Harbin, China, where an ice city has been built each year for a long time! They worked inside the Florida Fridge for 32 consecutive days. More than 1,500 lights have been frozen within the ice; an additional 400 theatrical lights are used to add drama, lighting the ice from the exterior. Three types of ice are used in the construction of the attraction:

Clear “crystal” ice is created using highly filtered, de-ionized water. It takes three days to freeze the 45 gallons of water used to create each 360-pound ice block- The ice is so flawless it is compared to Waterford Crystal; White ice, which looks like compacted snow, makes up about 15% of the attraction; Colored ice, dyed with brilliant colors, brings the ice scenes to life.

Later that same day, I was on my way out of Universal Studios Theme Park when I ran smack dab into the daily Macy’s Christmas Parade, so I made the best of the blocked roads and took a few photos.

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Note that all the photos in the albums have been greatly reduced in size and quality to allow for faster loading, so if there are one or two shots that you particularly have to have, write me for full rez versions. Clicking on several of the photos here will bring you to the album containing more shots from that event.

Until next time,


Books by Jud

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