Did the drive from Wichita to Waco today. Plagued by flooded roads at every turn but eventually got onto I35 and made up time headed south. Rental is a TRD Pro 4Runner. I can see the appeal but it's definitely not the vehicle for me. Still had some fun with it though!
Tried to hike in Arkansas today. Trail was nothing but mud unfortunately. Dual use trails (mountain bike and hiker) usually suffer this fate in the wet in my experience. Made it 1/4 mile before giving up and heading back to the truck. Just too muddy.
I'll see what I can find between Rogers and Bryant tomorrow...
Finished up work just before lunch in Rogers AR and started heading south to Bryant AR. If you make use of the ol' interstate system this trip takes a little over 3 hours. However if you take more interesting roads you can make this trip take closer to 5 hours.
I've never spent a lot of time in Arkansas but there's certainly some beautiful country out this way.
Lots of great roads to explore.
Cool water features and some awesome old buildings.
Passed by quite a few remote trailheads today. Took notes as I went and marked some POIs on my GPS to return to when I'm not working. Arkansas, you're alright in my book.
Last week saw the family headed to Los Angeles for the 4th of July. On the 4th we hit Santa Monica and the pier. Spent some time on the beach and then headed up to Malibu. While in LA we visited spores that interested the wife, Hollywood, Beverly Hills and did some shopping on Rodeo Drive. I can now say I've done it and never have to go back.
Hit up some of the motocross tracks wedge only seen on TV and stored in to see Malcolm Smith's store and museum pieces. His son's Dakar bike was awesome!
We were going to head up to Lone Pine but all the shaking going on had the wife concerned so we headed to San Diego instead. Hit up the tourist spots and had dinner in the Gas Lamp district. Made sure to take the family out to Point Loma and the National Monument. Spent some time reflecting on the cost of everything we have.
Sunday saw the family part ways. While everyone else flew home to Atlanta, my daughter and I headed for Miami. Florida was to be our home for the next two weeks. Arriving on the ground we selected a 2018 Subaru Forrester as our rental. Wedge been considering one of these (amount many other cars) for our daughter's first vehicle. I can say this one didn't make a good impression. I turned it in less than 8 hours later due to transmission problems. We swapped for a Mustang convertible and spent a lot of time with the top down.
The first few days were nothing but work but we took a little time out to see Miami Beach. If you've never been you're not missing anything. Then we heard north toward Orlando and Florida's Space Coast. The Kennedy Space Center was the only one of the big three (Houston, Huntsville and Kennedy) that my daughter hadn't been to so we made a day of it.
It's been years since I've visited and a lot has changed. First was the cost, $130 for the two of us plus parking. After securing our tickets we headed in and were greeted by gift shops and restaurants. I was not feeling optimistic. After making our way past them and consulting the map provided we hit up the IMAX theater for a video about the past present and future of American space travel narrated by Patrick Stewart. This 40 minute film alone almost made the entire admission price worth it.
Next to the IMAX theater there's a "science on a sphere" exhibit that you can use to pass the time between showings. They use three projectors to present animated 3d representations of celestial bodies on a sphere in the middle of the room. Very cool.
We wandered through other exhibits looking at replicas of the Mars rovers, information about upcoming missions and artifacts from the past. Hoping on the included bus tour we were taken past launch pads where history was made and pads that have been leased to SpaceX and ULA where history continues to be made.
The mobile platform in that last photo gets very similar gas mileage to most overland vehicles: 32 feet per gallon. Top speed, 1 mph.
The bus tour ends at the Saturn V building where you're taken through a series of video presentations including a simulated launch from inside the command center exactly as it looked when we went men to the moon.
As the presentation progresses the video monitors above play various footage while the launch is narrated by people who were there. About 1 minute before launch all the consoles come to life with audio of each station technician plays. Once the countdown hits zero the room actually starts to shake. After the presentation is offer you exit into the long hanger where a Saturn V rocket is on display. The whole hanger is full of cool things including moon rocks and some of the original capsules that return astronauts to earth.
I live about 30 mins from KSC, 20 mins from Daytona. Canaveral National Seashore is one of my favorite Sunday drives. There is a backroad loop off property that goes through the mangrove swamps and tidewater areas.
I need to do a better job updating this in a timely manner...I'm now relying on my failing memory to figure out what I did at this point. Let's see...
By far the coolest exhibit at the Space Center was the Space Shuttle Atlantis display. You're lead into a room where a video plays detailing the creation of the shuttle program and it's accolades. After this video you step forward into another room that is similar to a long archway or tunnel. A video narrated by the commander of the last shuttle mission plays on a screen in front of you while other video of the shuttle and shuttle missions plays on the walls and ceiling of this room. Very cool. Toward the end of the video the narrator begins to get nostalgic about the Atlantis and the final mission and makes a comment along the lines of "but I always check in on the ol' girl when I visit Kennedy Space Center". At this point the screen in front of you somehow becomes translucent and the starfield that was displayed on it is now superimposed overtop of the nose of the shuttle. For a moment you don't realize that the shuttle isn't part of the projection, it's the real shuttle behind the screen. The screen then raises and you step into the second floor of a HUGE building housing the shuttle and other items. The shuttle is mounted on steel columns and tipped toward the viewing area so that you can get a great view of it. It's almost close enough to touch. Goosebumps happened. Absolutely my favorite part of the tour.
The next day I got a call that I needed to head back down south to Ft. Myers. All gassed up we pointed the mustang south and upon arriving knocked out some work. We got up the next morning early and headed to the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve. This amazing area is a slough (pronounced "slew") that runs right through the middle of Ft. Myers. What's a slough you ask? I had to ask too...apparently a swamp is a wetland area where the water doesn't have constant flow, a slough does. Educational!
The particular slough is roughly 3500 acres that filters water as it flows toward Estero Bay. Some years back the managing group had a local dock building company come in and build a board walk out into the slough. They followed trails that had been used by locals for years to reach hidden fishing holes and swimming spots. If you get there early in the morning like we did you'll have the entire place to yourself. After walking all of the boardwalk other than one section that was closed due to a mother alligator and her nest we hit the welcome center. The volunteers there were very knowledgeable and friendly. If you're in the area I'd highly recommend taking the time to stop and check it out.
This cypress grove was planted in the past 20 years. All of the original cypress in this area were cut down in the early 1900's as the area was developed and the demand for wood products on the east coast and throughout the remainder of the country grew.
The first offshoot from the main boardwalk takes you out to a duck pond. Plenty of fish and turtles but we hadn't seen any gators at this point.
Here is where I began watching for velociraptors. Remember it's not the one in front of you that you should worry about...but the two on either side of you that you didn't even know were there.
After walking through a swamp slough and not even getting our feet wet we headed north to Venice for some beach time. There's two types of people in the South Eastern US...those that prefer the Atlantic (Daytona and Myrtle Beach) and those that prefer the Gulf (Destin and Gulf Shores). If someone tells you they like both they're either lying or they didn't grow up in the SE.
I'm a gulf guy. Warm blue water and sugar white beaches beat out the Atlantic every time in my book. Venice has some awesome beaches, free parking and city maintained bath houses. Very convenient. We spent most of the day on the beach before heading back toward Daytona. Here's the one picture you get:
In Daytona I scored beachfront accommodations for the night and the view from the room was nice...even if all that water is the Atlantic.
The one thing this coast of Florida has that the Gulf Coast doesn't is great sunrises. Of course it's not the Gulf Coast's fault it's pointing the wrong direction.
Only time I've ever seen this kid volunteer to get up at 6am.
With work in Florida completed we headed home for a few days and then set our sights on Iowa. Yep, Iowa. When most people think of Iowa they think corn...and they should. That's really the end of that sentiment, there's nothing in Iowa but corn.
Alright fine, there's other things. If you get into Des Moines you should check out their collection of city / state parks and green spaces. On this particular trip my daughter and I sought out Walnut Woods State Park. This park sits on the banks of the Raccoon River and encompasses 260 acres. There are some hiking trails a campground and several boat ramps. We walked through the green spaces and admired the river and wildflowers before heading back into town.
I'm back in Des Moines tonight. Spent some time earlier today in Brown's Woods, a 486 acre preserve made up of mostly oak and hickory. Interestingly there is signage at the parking area promoting sustainable foraging of local plants for consumption and a note that, with a special permit, bow hunting is allowed inside the preserve. I took the 2 mile North Loop through the heart of the preserve.
Other than some road noise on the eastern edge of the preserve it was a very peaceful walk. The memory card in my phone is refusing to upload any more photos right now though...