As Karen and I left our good friend Taty in Orlando, we headed towards the Gulf to Crystal River. The first thing we did when we arrived was to drive to Fort Island Gulf Beach, a beautiful little beach with white powdery sand and a boardwalk to a fishing pier.
One of the things on my bucket list was to swim with manatees in Crystal River. In the winter, this area has the world’s largest collection of manatees in their natural environment. The manatees keep warm by staying in and near freshwater springs, which remain a constant 72 degrees year-around. The spring areas help them survive the difficult winter months and give them a place to rest and recover from the cold. Crystal River is one of the very few places that one can still passively swim with these large, docile animals, and I was so excited to finally get my chance to do so.
We chose to take our tour with American Pro Diving Center because of its excellent reviews and we were not disappointed. We had been hearing reports the last couple of weeks that the manatees had left the river because the weather had warmed up so much. Our guide Glen warned us that there were fewer manatees in the river but he would do his best to find us one. He took us into Kings Bay where for the first 1/2 hour we didn’t see any manatees, but lots of kayakers and birds.
Then Karen spotted one! We were thrilled. Glen got into the water and told us to gently enter the water and take turns coming close to the animal.
A baby manatee came right up to Glen and rolled over to have his belly rubbed. Then the mother came up, and then another and another. We ended up getting to see two groups of manatees! Even Glen was amazed at how many we saw. I am SO blessed and so happy to finally get to be up close and personal with these wonderful animals that Christopher Columbus as well as other voyagers called mermaids!
We left Crystal River absolutely elated about our experience with the manatees and drove back to Zephyrhills where Karen lives!
It just so happened that yet another couple of friends that I had met while working in Alaska were staying in Zephyrhills. We had such a fun time catching up with them on what they had been doing since we had seen them last.
They invited us to line dance with them. OMG what fun! I’m totally hooked :-)!
The next day we invited Paul and Shirley to a very eclectic little café to have an early supper and listen to music. Barb’s Café normally closes at 1pm. but on Fridays they open back up from 3:30 to 6:30pm for supper and music. No alcohol is served. Only regular and diet coke, sweet and unsweetened tea. And here is the menu we got, handwritten on a small piece of paper.
Now this was nothing like the meals we had enjoyed at the Grand Floridian or French Café in Orlando, but it was just as much fun! I mean, talk about a good, home town experience! I was advised by the waitress NOT to have the fish, but I’m told that the liver and onions were excellent!
Now let me tell you, Karen and her friends know how to have a good time. Besides line dancing, drinking green beer on St. Patrick’s day, bicycling around the park, doing water aerobics, and much more, the clubhouse had a luau one night that we all got dressed up for. What an entertaining night! The dinner was delicious, the music was great, and we danced like no one was watching.
One thing I really wanted to see while in Florida was an alligator. Now I saw alligators at the Gaylord Palms Resort where we stayed in Orlando and at Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World, but I really, really wanted to see an alligator in the wild. So on my last day in Zephyrhills, Karen said “let’s go find an alligator!”
I couldn’t have been more thrilled! Another perfect ending to an absolutely perfect trip!
Today I headed out, along with my friends Karen and Taty, two ladies I met while working in Alaska, to Animal Kingdom to have more fun and adventures.
First thing on the agenda was the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. Now normally I am not a fan of animals kept in captivity. But after reading how much Disney does for the welfare of wildlife I felt much better about having a look at these animals. Since 1995, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) has contributed more than $27 million dollars to support conservation programs in 114 countries.
So off we went in our jeep through the 110 acre wildlife reserve through open plains, shady forest landscapes and rocky wetlands. We saw giraffes, elephants, hippos, rhinos, ostriches, and of course alligators.
Around every turn throughout the park there are entertainers including the African drummers that I loved the most!
We also went to a few shows including Finding Nemo, an interesting musical version of the film. People carried around huge puppets of the characters and with the added special affects you almost felt like you were under the sea.
Another good show was the Flights of Wonder. I was so impressed at the education that was taught during the show and message that “The future of the earth is in our hands. Be inspired to do your part today!”
But my very favorite show, and the highlight of the day, was the Lion King. What an absolutely awesome production! No one should miss this show. From babies to grandparents, it will be a highlight of your day, I guarantee it! I was so moved.
Then on to some rides. I normally don’t go on fast, roller coaster type rides but I know that Karen LOVES these kind of rides so I decided to take a leap of faith (that I wouldn’t die of a heart attack) and go on a ride with her. All I can say is, I did it! I did it!!! And I lived to see another day :-)!
Then we headed to the Kali River Rapids ride to get in our raft and head down the river.
I’m not sure which one of us got the wettest, but when we got off the raft we were all drenched and laughing. Time to go home!
The next day we pulled ourselves out of bed and got ready for another full day. We started out at a lovely little French Café that Taty goes to frequently and had a wonderful breakfast of crepes and croissants. Then off to Epcot!
I loved all the topiaries throughout the park.
We went to the Coral Reefs to see all the fish and marine life. We went on the Spaceship Earth ride that took us on a ride through the history of communication. Pretty interesting and well done! After getting our fill of rides, off we went to a trip around the world at the World Showcase Lagoon.
All around the World Showcase Lagoon we walked through several countries. In France we watched the Impressions de France film on a huge screen. We listened to an outdoor concert in America. We walked through the streets of Morocco.
In Italy we watched street performers and had pizza and sangrias.
Before we knew it, it was getting dark and time for the IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth fireworks show.
All I can say is WOW! What a beautiful and moving display!
And the perfect way to end the day and our time with Taty.
And now it’s time to say good-bye… Good-bye Disney World! Good-bye Taty! You helped make all my dreams come true.
In 2006 I decided to change my life. I quit my job, rented my house out and traveled to Alaska to work for Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge for the summer. I have not for one minute regretted that decision. I have enjoyed each and every new experience I have had since that time nine years ago and continue to travel and experience new and fun things.
I’ve also met so many people, some of which have become good friends who, although I don’t have the opportunity to see very often, have lasted the test of time. One of those friends I met in Alaska is Karen who, after living in several states around the country, has settled in Zephyrhills, Florida along with her husband Jon.
I recently flew to Florida to visit Karen and do a little traveling and have some fun in the beautiful sunny March weather. First on the agenda was to drive to Orlando to meet up with Taty, another lady who we met in Alaska and now works at Disneys Grand Floridian Resort. Taty met us at the hotel and treated us to a wonderful breakfast, tour of the hotel, and hours of catching up.
After taking a ride on the monorail catching glimpses of the parks and stopping off to check out the Polynesian Resort, we headed to Downtown Disney to see the sights and pick up some souvenirs.
After a full day of seeing as much as we could cram into one day, three tired and happy gals took the boat back to the parking lot and headed to our hotel, the absolutely magnificent Gaylord Palms Resort.
The Gaylord Palms Resort is like a world all it’s own. The lush, tropical atrium recreate three Florida environments. We walked along the wooden walkways over misty bogs through the Everglades section with the moss hanging from the trees, thick vegetation, streams and waterfalls, alligators (that you can watch being fed twice a week), and a wooden shack restaurant.
The Key West section has shops that resemble the relaxed, friendly atmosphere of the island. There are also several species of fish in the streams and ponds that are fed several times a week.
The St. Augustine atrium features a small-scale replica of Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest fort in North America. Designers studied the ruins of the original, built by Spain in 1672 in what is now St. Augustine, to emulate its mysterious, romantic aura. The fort displays treasures from the Spanish ship Atocha, discovered by Mel Fisher after a 16-year search. It includes a Wedding Gazebo, Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth, and several restaurants and bars.
Outside there are two pools. The family water park with a multi-level tree house playground and a huge screen that shows movies each evening called the ‘dive-in’, and the beautiful, quiet adult pool with private cabanas and two hot tubs. The list goes on and on. You could spend a ton of time here and never get bored.
Next we head to Animal Kingdom and Epcot.
New Yorkers have a dog-eat-dog reputation, but a few Good Samaritans recently showed that their hearts aren’t as cold as the weather.
Tina Imlet and several other Manhattanites saved a stray dog from the freezing temperatures of Highbridge Park in the city’s Washington Heights neighborhood.
“He knows me. When ever he sees me coming into the park he wags his tail. He barks. We howl,” Imlet said in an interview with Fox 5 News.
But she and others, who named the canine Charlie, started to wonder how the feral shepherd mix was holding up as temperatures in New York continued to drop.
“Those who know him love him deeply, we are devoted to saving his life. He once had a family to roam Highbridge Park with, but they were all trapped years ago. Charlie was always too smart to fall for our human tricks,” Denise Lauffer wrote on a GoFundMe page set up to help care for Charlie.
“A lot of people were going out, like 10, 11, 12, 1 o’clock in the morning. There was a whole series of people going to visit him, just to make sure, to see. And everybody was like, ‘Have you seen him? Has anybody seen him?’” Imlet told the news station.
On Feb. 15, Good Samaritans managed to get Charlie into a van to take him to the borough’s BluePearl veterinary center.
The animal hospital has a team of veterinarians dedicated to taking care of him around the clock. He was malnourished, dehydrated, and unable to walk when he first arrived at the hospital.
Imlet decided to adopt Charlie so he would not be stuck outside in the cold again. Late Thursday night, she brought him back to her home.
Cassandra Williams, a veterinary neurologist at BluePearl, told NBC New York that they tested his blood for infectious diseases and were awaiting the results of a spinal tap.
“He no longer has his pack, he’s a slow old man now, and was not going to make it in this extreme cold,” Lauffer wrote. “He is a handsome mutt that was never dangerous. This stoic old boy needs some help with vet bills.”
Lauffer started the GoFundMe page to raise money to cover the veterinarian costs to get Charlie back on his feet. As of midday Friday, the Highbridge Charlie GoFundMe page had raised more than $10,000 for the pooch.
By Michael Walsh February 20, 2015 11:41 AM Yahoo News
I couldn’t end my posts about our wonderful Caribbean cruise to the Panama Canal without mentioning that during the middle of one night while we were sleeping, our ship rescued a 90 foot craft that was sinking along with its 8 man crew!
By the time our ships officers heard the distress call from the Excalibur, it had already lost power and was sinking. A crew member was desperately calling on a hand held radio. The ship was pitch black and was not visible in the dark of night. They were out of flares and running out of time.
Below is the article written about the rescue on the HAL website.
HAL’s Zuiderdam Rescue Crew of Sinking Boat
Submitted by: HAB Editorial Team
On a recent cruise, the Zuiderdam was called upon to assist a vessel in need of assistance.
At 2:10 a.m. Jan. 3, 2015, while en route to Oranjestad, Aruba, Zuiderdam answered a distress call from the Bahamian inter-island vessel Excalibur that was sinking with eight crewmembers onboard. Zuiderdam was approximately 15 miles away and the closest ship in the area.
“Congratulations to the officers and crew onboard Zuiderdam for their quick response that saved the lives of eight people,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “We are proud to be able to come to the rescue when called upon, and it’s even more gratifying when everything goes as smoothly as this operation did.”
Zuiderdam altered course and was able to successfully execute a nighttime rescue of all eight crewmembers at 3:01 a.m. The ship brought them onboard and provided food and accommodations. The rescued crewmembers debarked in Aruba Jan. 5.
I’ve been on many cruises, but never one that actually saved lives! Just one additional event that made this trip awesome!
While cruising in the Caribbean on the Holland America’s Zuiderdam, we managed to have tons of fun on the ship between ports. Mostly because of the really fun group of people we were traveling with. There were ten of us joining my friend Karen to help her celebrate her 70th birthday.
If we weren’t sitting by the pool, we were playing card games in the game rooms, going to the casino, stopping by a seminar, or having our own little party. We never got bored.
Karen’s friend Gail made a fun countdown plan for the 5 days before her birthday, so we had a five day celebration. She supplied fun party favors for each day. Every evening during dinner in the dining room, we announced her upcoming birthday and had fun with the party favors. Soon the tables around us were joining in the fun.
Here are pictures of our evenings in the dining room. Our two tables had so much fun! It was contagious and many people told us how much they enjoyed our fun.
One night we went to the Pinnacle Grill restaurant for dinner. A VERY fancy affair!
This was the first cruise that I had a verandah. It was wonderful! We opened the walls between four of our rooms so we could all enjoy our verandah’s together. We spent our days enjoying the views, and in the evenings we sat and watched out over the beautiful water in the warm night air.
The evening activities were lots of fun, too! There was a great show each night, and my favorite place to go was the BB King’s Blues Club. Not only did I absolutely LOVE the music, but the fact that one of the band members reminded me of an old flame didn’t hurt a bit either!
We also hit the Northern Lights Nightclub and danced the night away!
One afternoon we had a little party in Susie and my room. We had been given a complimentary bottle of wine in each of our rooms so we thought this was the perfect way to have a glass. Susie and I gathered snacks to serve and everybody brought their wine. It was cozy, but fun.
On Karen’s birthday we had a before-dinner party in Tina and Charles’ room. I had bought a couple bottles of Original Curacao liqueur while we were in Curacao. We served it along with chocolate covered strawberries that Karen’s sons had sent to her for her birthday.
Another fun part of the ship was the Crow’s Nest. We met in the afternoons to have a cocktail, but we also went to Karaoke night! Oh my!
Tina was the first to get up and sing. And she actually is a really good singer!
I couldn’t end the on-board fun without mentioning Susie getting all dressed up to watch the Seahawk game. She brought it all the way from Washington state! Now that’s a true fan!
What an absolutely amazing cruise!
My next post will be about our “Rescue in the night”. Something awesome that happened on our cruise.
By Bill Chappell. Written on January 13th, 2015
“Did that just happen?”
That’s the reaction one bus rider had in Seattle, after realizing a dog had just joined him for a ride through the city, traveling several stops to her destination: a dog park.
The story comes to us from Seattle’s KOMO 4 TV, which reports that Eclipse, the black Labrador who is winning fans for riding a city bus by herself, lives very close to a bus stop.
Eclipse is owned by Jeff Young, who does not seem to be a control freak.
“It’s not hard to get on” the bus, he tells KOMO. “She gets on in front of her house and she gets off at the dog park, three or four stops later.”
It all started when Exlipse refused to wait for Young to finish a cigarette before getting on the bus that takes them to a dog park they regularly visit. Then she took the bus by herself again. In the past few weeks, the two-year-old dog has been noticed by many commuters, such as radio host Miles Montgomery of station KISW.
“She is most concerned about seeing out the window, and I couldn’t figure out what that was” Montgomery tells KOMO. “It was really just about seeing where her stop was.”
This week, the story of the well-mannered dog and her beguiled fellow bus riders is being embraced by web readers hungry for a bit of uplifting and interesting news (we confess: we’re in that group, too!).
Pictures by Eric Jensen @EricJensenTV