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Balandar's Florida Vacation

Balandar's Florida Vacation
February 27th to March 6th 2004.
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Friday the 27th to Saturday the 28th:

I woke up at 8:30am and headed down to my Dad's home, 3 hours to the south. We (Dad, Judy, and I) left that night at 7:30pm and drove through the night and the next morning to Florida. We arrived at West Gates Lakes Resort & Spa at 11:30am on Saturday in Orlando. Throughout the entire trip, I slept for only an hour. I was pretty much in that phase beyond sleep where your reflexes are slow and you are sooo tired you feel like you could fall asleep in a heart beat, but unable to do so. Unfortunately we could not register until noon. Once we were registered, we had to wait for three hours before the room was ready, so we walked around a bit, checked out the pools and the lake.

The suite is awesome! There is a full kitchen with all appliances: microwave, washer, dryer, fridge, toaster, coffee maker, dishes, silverware, dish washer, etc. The main living room area has a large leather couch with a big screen T.V., VCR, and CD player. The main bedroom has a roman hot tub and full shower. My room had a full shower as well. There are also table and chairs in between the living room area and the kitchen. The walk-out patio is off of the main bedroom and living room. We were on the fifth floor overlooking the lake.

Saturday Pictures:


Palm trees at resort  
Taken at ground level Taken from kitchen of main room
Roman bath tub View of lake from patio through screen mesh


Sunday the 29th:

I woke up today at 7:30 to the sounds of carts being pushed by the maids outside my window. It seems my room is the closest to the elevator. I might as well get used to getting up early, for I will be up at 7am every day in the days to come.

Dad and I headed off to the Kennedy Space Center today. The size of the rockets is incredible. Just plain huge! You need to see it at least once in your lifetime just to appreciate what NASA does there. Dad and I took a bus tour around the complex and visited two sights. The first that we arrived at is called the LC-39 Observation Gantry. From here you can view the launch pads at about 3 miles away. Everything is set up 3 miles away from the pads. If one of those rockets should explode, it has the power of an atomic bomb and the smoke/rubble/heat can reach up to 3 miles.

The next and final stop for the bus tour is at the Apollo / Saturn V Center. Here you can view the huge rocket that was sent up into space for the first Apollo mission (I think it was the first (-: ). This thing is huge; you could stand in any one of the engines.

From the bus you could see several of the large machines that move the rocket/shuttle around. They burn fuel at 150 gallons per mile and can move at a max speed of 2 miles per hour while carrying nothing. They move on a road of pebbles/gravel that is 7 feet deep. The reason for so much stone is because of the massive weight of the rocket and mover.

After the tour, we headed over to the rocket garden. These were the earlier rockets and attempts to get into space after Russia did (back in the late 50's/early 60's). Dad and I also went to a 3D movie, narrated by Tom Cruise, which involved the building of the international space station. The movie was played on a 5 story screen and we viewed it with 3D glasses.

After the Kennedy Space Center, we went down to the beaches along the Atlantic coast. I now have seen the Pacific, the Atlantic, and on Monday, the Gulf.

Sunday Pictures

To the left is the engine used to send our shuttles into space. Two rockets attached to a very large fuel tank. If this exploded, you would have a very large bomb on your hands. The middle tank used to be white in color, but they found they could save 600 pounds of weight by not painting it =)
This pic shows the crawler that hauls the rocket to the launching stations. Remember that the stations are 3 miles away from the assembly building. This machine eats up fuel at 150 gallons to the mile. This picture is of one corner of the crawler only.
This is Launch Complex 39A I believe, taken from LC-39 Observation Gantry.
This is also taken from LC-39. You can see the Assembly building in the background and the two long yellowish lines is the road for the crawler. Each of those lines is rock and stone that goes 7 feet deep.
Here is a direct shot taken from the bus of the Assembly Building. If you look closely you can see the large USA flag on the side. A bus could drive down each of those lines easily. Also, the large doors on the side are 450 feet tall. They could fit two Statues of Liberty on top of each other. They take 45 minutes to open.
That's a big rocket!! I believe this is Apollo 1 from the Apollo / Saturn V Center.
The rocket garden with the earlier 50's/60's rockets.
The Atlantic Ocean and beach.

Monday the 1st:

Today I went to Clear Water Beach on the Gulf. There is white sand all along the shore. It was very "fine" grain, no rocks, or shells. You could dig your hands and toes into the sand. Very nice beach there. Unfortunately, there were no women in skimpy swimsuits showing off their assets. =( There were a few good looking women, but not what I was expecting. I guess I'll have to head over to Daytona Beach next time.

After that beach, Dad and I went to take a look at a condo that he owns on Redington Beach. That beach has a ton of shells, not many shells during the time when we were out there (high tide). But in the mornings you can get some great ones.

We walked along the beach a ways, and I stopped at a pier for about half an hour to take photos of some pelicans. Many people were fishing along the pier. Everytime someone threw a fish back, a pelican would swoop down and gobble it up. Every now and then someone would catch a gull. The gulls would fly down and try to grab the bait on the fish hooks and would end up getting hooked themselves. The fisherman/women would have to bring them on in and untangle/dehook the bird. Seems to be pretty common. There are signs that warn people that they are still wild animals and will bite as well as how to dehook them.

Afterwards, Dad and I headed out to Uncle Vernie's place and spent a few hours talking with him.

Monday Pictures:

Clear Water Beach. Notice the white sand! =D
Redington Beach

Tuesday the 2nd:

Today Dad, Judy, and I went to Sea World and to a Polynesian Luau at a Disney resort.

At Seaworld, we watched Shamu the killer whale. These people must be somewhat nutty to go swimming with one. Shamu would do jumps, splash people in the audience, carry the trainers on it's back as if they were standing on a surf board, and also push them forward as they stood on the killer whale's nose. We also saw a show called Odyssea at the Nautilus Theater. It was a ballet/comedy with people dressed up representing different sea creatures. We also saw Clyde & Semore Take Priate Island, a couple of sea lions. Very funny show. There was a mime at the start of the show who would imitate people as they would walk by following them. Every time a person looked back he would pretend to be doing something else. My jaw actually hurt from laughing so much.

We also watched some penguins swim and wobble around. They are pretty funny to watch, one kept on trying to get up a mound of snow but would start sliding backwards. There was also a stingray pool where you could feed and feel them. Some of them were huge, musta been 4 feet across or more. They have a velvety feel to them, not slimy as some would expect.

The Polynesian restaurant was an all-you-can-eat affair with entertainment. There was limited food, but the servers would keep bringing platters of it out to you. BBQ ribs, roasted chicken, stir fry veggies, and rice. The kids got chicken nuggets. Of course, I had the roasted chicken (and chicken nuggets too :P). For desert, we had some kind of moose flavored cake. Very good. Not as strong as moose, but very chocolaty. Women and men would be dancing almost the entire time with their grass skirts. One guy did some amazing fire baton twirling and actually burned himself on the arm at one point. He just brushed his arm a couple of times and went right back at it. Afterwards he was rubbing his arm... guess it hurt him more than he would show.

Tuesday Pictures

Taken at the Dolphin Nursery.
Weeeee!! Notice the guy flying through the air.
Here are two killer whales that launched themselves out of the water with their trainers standing on them.
Ride the killer whale!!
I forgot to mention that Seaworld has a Budweiser building where they can show you how they make beer and you can get two free samples a day!
This was at the Odyssea show. She was very very flexible. Mmmmmm... flexible. There was no flash photography, so I had to set all my settings to allow the maximum amount of light possible. This was the only one bright enough to actually be seen.
Penguins. That large King Penguin to the left didn't move the entire time we were there (about 45 some mins). I think he was asleep.
This is taken from the Clyde and Semore show.
And here we can see some people with their grass skirts dancing.
After the all-you-can-eat and entertainment restaurant, we sat along the beach at that resort and watched the fireworks from Disney. The castle is behind the right-most trees in the middle area (can't see it). We were a couple of miles away I believe.

Wednesday the 3rd:

Dad and I went to Universal Studios at 8:30am today. Almost nobody was around. This is the time to go!! No waiting in lines. We flew through the first 4 shows before we had to even wait in line, and that was around 15 mins. The most we waited was maybe 30 mins. Get their early folks!!! Else you will be in the lines for a good hour or two and maybe not even see all of the shows.

Anyway, I was not allowed to take pics on the rides, so there are few from them. We saw Back to the Future, MIB Alien Attack, Earth Quake, Jaws, Twister, Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue, Shrek 4-D, T2 3D, Animal Planet Live, E.T. Adventure, Universal Horror Make-Up Show, and Extreme Ghostbusters (the women loved it, beetlejuice put a spell on the ghostbusters to sing as a boy band, singing songs from Britney Spears and other pop idols. The women would shriek and whistle at the guys, I was watching them more than the show (-: ).

Shrek was my favorite. Funny show with some adult jokes. The chairs would jolt and jeer and with the glasses it seemed you were in the show. Whenever Donkey would sneeze, water would spittle across your face. The first time that happened, I was like "yuck". Also some spiders were creeping across the screen and looked like they were running down the wall, then you could feel them running past your legs. I think the chairs had some kind of air that buffeted against the back of your legs. It made me jump! T2 was my next favorite 3D show. But it had some bad acting. Twister actually had a twister, not sure how they pulled that one off. Fans most likely. There was lots of wind/rain and noise. Jaws wasn't too bad, some people got soaked though, heheheh. Jaws would attack some gas line and flames would come roaring out. This was about 50 feet or so away and the heat was almost unbearable from that distance.

Animal planet had some dog shows. Our section cheered for one dog, and the other section for the other dog. Seems we got the cheater dog. He would do everything wrong. The first dog would jump over the person, run through the tube, and jump over the last person. Our dog would run under the first person, start into the tube and decide it's not worth it. He would come out and run around the tube, then walk up to the last guy and lift his leg to pee on the poor chap. They had a parrot that would hover in mid air as a powerful fan was blowing towards it. He would hover in front of a blue screen. On the main viewer they would show some background, like ground moving past. The bird would look as if he was flying over that landscape. They had another tropical bird that would fly up into the audience and snatch a dollar bill and bring it back to the owner. Of course the trainer would then pocket the dollar bill. He then asked for another volunteer, lots of people starting raising their hands, then he said he would do it with a $50 dollar bill. All the hands dropped instantly. heheh. The bird, of course, flew back to the volunteer in the audience and returned the dollar bill. There was also a show where a monkey would make funny faces behind his trainer's back. :)

The last thing I did before leaving was spend some money. Mom said not to be "tight" with my money and to buy something down there. I like to think I am wise with my money. In any case, I bought a stuffed animal... well, it's a stuffed Shrek to be more exact. Green, mean, and smiling.

Wednesday Pictures:

Men in Black - Alien Attack sign.
Here is Shrek in the flesh. He jumped out from a hidden door as people were leaving the theater. He scared the bejebees out of some young women.
Here is the parrot hovering at the blue screen.
Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue. They would sing old rock songs and Beetlejuice would make rude comments and sounds.
Since we got to Universal Studios so early, we actually got back to the resort before 9pm for once. I took this picture of the sunset there.

Thursday the 4th:

Dad, Judy, and I went to Seaworld for the second time on Thursday. We had a 2nd day free voucher.

We watched the bottlenose dolphins do stunts and tricks as well as some black whales. There are only a couple of places in the United States where you can see the black whales, Sea World being one of them. We also watched Shamu for a second time. There was also a pet show. Dogs, cats, mice, geese, skunk, pigs, pigeons, other birds, would all do tricks and run around on the stage. There was a hog dog stand on the stage and a lot of wiener dogs would come running out, pretty funny. It's amazing what some of the animals could do. All of the animals were adopted from humane shelters.

We also went to where you could pet the dolphins and feed them. They have a rubbery feel to them, not very slick at all. And there are scratches across them, which are from other dolphins teeth. They lightly drag their teeth across each other in order to get at an itch. Next we went to the Wild Artic were they had some white whales and a a polar bear. I couldn't get many pics from the wild artic because everything was behind glass. No matter what angle I would take it from I would get the flash in the picture, and it was too dark to take a pic without the flash. They also had manatees at Sea World. Very slow and gentle creatures. They may be the next species that goes extinct because of that fact and the pollution when they come up to the surface. Boaters can't see them very well and tend to run them over. =(

Took this pic of me petting a dolphin.
Another dolphin, not my arm though.
Three of the beasts.
This was a funny one. The first dolphin cheated by pulling down the rope to allow the second to leap across.
That dolphin can get a lot of air!
Here are some of the black whales.
And the possibly-soon-to-be-extinct manatees.

Friday the 5th:

Last full day in Florida. Today Dad and I went down to the pool to get a nice sun burn. Note, not a tan, but burnt! The sun down there feels like it is melting the skin off of my bones.

Later that night, we went for a couple of hours to Downtown Disney. A lot of shops, restaurants, and 8 night clubs (7pm to 2am). Pretty neat place. They had a store devoted to nothing but Legos and several Lego statues outside. There was a Planet Hollywood which had a lot of movie relics, such as the sword from the 1995 movie Highlander and the large costume of the metal looking alien race from The Fifth Element. By this point I was out of digital room on my camera (160 some pics). So I took more with film there.

Friday Picture:

Planet Hollywood

Saturday the 6th:

Woke up at 5am. Left at 6:30am, got back to Southern Indiana around 11:30pm.

Sunday the 7th:

Left Dad's and went back home. On Monday the 8th I created this web page.

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