grandson mason

grandson mason

grandson jaxson

grandson jaxson

Friday, January 31, 2014

18-26JAN14 - Everglades National Park, FL

Saturday morning, 18JAN, after maneuvering out of our tight RV spot we hit the road south to the Everglades National Park on I-95S.  From Palm Beach south to Miami the traffic & drivers got worse & worse; just north of Miami all the lanes except one were closed!  Luckily Dan had written down an alternative route the night before & we bypassed the traffic jam.
 
We had planned on staying at one of the RV spots at Flamingo Campground in the National Park.  We called ahead & found out that only dry camping was available & decided to stay in a commercial RV park for three nights in Homestead, FL.  Upon arrival we discovered half the campers were Quebecers & half were Latino - do you speak French or Spanish?
 
After setting up camp, Dan did internet research & we headed to Marios Family Restaurant for Cuban food.  We had Spanish bean soup, croquette, fried green plantains w/garlic sauce, congris, yuca, filletillo churrasco, & pan con bistec; highly recommended!  From there we tried to shop at Walmart - the store was way too busy.  So we just fueled the Toad & headed back to the RV thru more bad traffic.
 
 
Sunday morning it was off to Everglades National Park to arrive at the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center right as it opened.  As at all National Parks there were displays on the Park & an informational video about the park (this one award winning).  Next stop was Royal Palm center to catch the 1030 AM Ranger led Anhinga Amble.  First thing we noticed several parked cars with blue tarps (think FEMA tarp) covering them?  We soon discovered that the numerous vultures/buzzards are known to "attack" any black rubber trim on vehicles!  The Anhinga Amble was fantastic.  Dan knew it would be great when he learned the docent was a retired Coast Guard officer (Leon Howell) with a ponytail & had been stationed in Grand Isle!!!




 


 
 
After the Amble we left the park for lunch at the Gator Grill where you can get gator burgers, gator tacos, gator wraps, etc.  We stuck to some excellent soup.  On the way back to the park we almost collided w/three ATVs traveling at high speed coming at us in our lane.  Turns out illegal use of ATVs is a big problem on this side of the park because the open area & minimal law enforcement.  In fact, in the afternoon we saw dozens of ATVs being unloaded from trailers & pick-ups - many already being raced up & down the road & beside the road.
 
Back at Royal Palm we walked the Gumbo Limbo Trail before joining the docent led tour of the Nike Missile Battery located in the middle of the park.  Another excellent event.  Half the tour is a "history lesson" starting w/the Yalta Conference, progressing thru Berlin blockade, Russia getting the A-bomb, U-2 incident, Bay of Pigs, & ending w/the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Turns out until the Crisis there were no plans for Nike missile defensive except for northern states & Alaska.  Within weeks after the Crisis temporary batteries were deployed to southern Florida, until permanent installations could be built.  Since this battery was located within a National Park, it still is basically intact after it was decommissioned in 1979.
 
Monday, 20JAN, morning we headed to the Shark Valley Visitor Center located in the northeast corner of the Everglades National Park.  We had wanted to reserve seats for the two hour tram ride with a naturalist docent but they were all booked & only walk-up seats were available.  Luckily the 10AM Tram was not full & we got seats.






 Note - if you ever go to the Everglades National Park make sure you go on earliest tours available if you want to see wildlife!!!  This is because it is cooler in the morning & most animals will seek shade as it heats up; & cause of the "coolness" they move slower as they warm up.  Birds may even be stationary w/their wings outstretched to heat up.  Most importantly many tourists start showing up after 10AM or later.  When we left the center at noon the place was mobbed w/no parking left & people hiking in from the main road.  Many people were very upset that there were no walk-up seats available on any of the trams.  The situation was made worse because it was a long weekend w/free admission to all National Parks.
 
Lunch was at Miccosuccee Cafe, then it was back to the RV.  The Miccosuccee say they are one of two remaining Native Americans in the Everglades (the other being Seminoles).  But we were told on occasion that the Miccosuccee are Seminoles, but with some sort of political difference?  In our RV'ing we have tried several Native American eating establishments & we have always been disappointed.  We never get "native" cuisine.  Note - fry bread is not true Native American cuisine!  It was what they created when they were forced to reservations & provided with surplus food by the government (ie wheat, flour, butter, etc).  The Miccosuccee was also a disappointment.  In fact their menu pride fully announces their favorite foods as burgers, fries, grits & soft drinks?
 
Tuesday morning we (ie Dan) decided to head to the Flamingo Campground.  This campground is one of the few in the National Park Service that has dedicated RV spots, some with electricity.  There is a reservation system for these spots, but it is booked months in advance.  However the Park Service sets aside some for first come/first served so we were keeping our fingers crossed for electricity.  Driving there was in the rain & our dash defroster didn't work even though most of the AC was replaced last month in Houma, LA.  Every time we drive lately it seems to be in the rain & we need the system to work.  So Dan called Lazy Days in Tampa & made an appointment to trouble shoot the system next week.
 
Unfortunately we could only get dry camping in Flamingo: but since a cold front was forecasted for next few days electricity for AC wouldn't be an issue.  We can use propane if necessary for heat.  After setting up camp we were very surprised to discover our house batteries were almost "dead".  In fact they wouldn't even start the generator!  We restarted the RV so we could start the generator & charge batteries.
 
Then we headed to the Flaming Visitor Center for lunch & to sign up for Ranger led activities.  The first activity was a nature walk at 1:30PM.  The rain was supposed to clear; unfortunately the rain returned & the four of us on the walk gave up after a half an hour:(  We then returned to the RV hoping the rain would stop, it did not!  Even though we ran the generator for over two hours, the house batteries were once again dead by the morning.
 
Wednesday morning we drove to Nine Mile Pond for the 8AM canoe paddle led by a Ranger.  This is another great free activity in the National Park Service - in fact they provide canoes, paddles, seat cushions & life jackets!  We assumed the canoeing would be on open water but most it was through mangrove clusters.  Which meant many hard turns in very tight quarters(you actually had to duck to get through some of the mangrove tunnels).  As a result there many collisions with mangrove roots & other canoeists.  Tempers warmed-up every now & then, but it was an enjoyable three hours on the water.  One of the other canoeists mentioned that at another National Park the couples were encouraged to paddle w/someone other than their partner & it was less stressful?






We wanted to participate in other Ranger led activities but Dan needed to address our house battery issue.  He spent a couple of hours disconnecting the four batteries & cleaning each terminal & each cable connection.  You would think with four batteries there would only be eight cables (two for each battery).  But because there are multiple electric loads & the generator, there were fourteen different connecting cables.  Dan did find signs of corrosion & cable wastage, he cleaned the terminals & connections the best he could trying not to damage/break the wasted cable connections.
 
Meanwhile Corrie went to take a shower but discovered no hot water.  Turns out all the other camp grounds have solar heated water but not the RV section?  After successfully taking hot showers it was off to the shoreline for a walkabout with Gumbo.  No one felt like cooking dinner so we got take-out from the cafe at the Flamingo Visitor Center.
 
Thursday morning, 23JAN, we awoke to find the house batteries dead once again, looks like we will be buying four new house batteries soon.  After breaking camp we hit the road for the last visitor center in the Everglades National Park - Gulf Coast Visitor Center located in Everglades City, FL.  During the drive we discovered that the now dash heating system doesn't work!
 
Most of our drive was due west on state road 41 (aka Tamiami Trail).  This is a very beautiful drive but unfortunately the road is one of the biggest problems for the National Park.  When it was built no one realized they were building a "dam" basically extending across Florida from the Gulf of Mexico to Miami depriving the Everglades of vital water from Lake Okeechobee.
 
Trivia - what does Tamiami mean?
 
During our drive we stopped at the Oasis Visitor Center & the Big Cypress Swamp Visitor Center, both part of the Big Cypress National Preserve.  At the Big Cypress Swamp Visitor Center we saw several manatees, unfortunately Dan couldn't capture on film as they surfaced to breath.
 
 
Our RV park was located on Cokoloskee Island definitely at the end of the road, & a small coastal town Florida.  As we often find in small towns at the end of the road, they often have unique personalities; & Cokoloskee Island does.  Then it was off to the Gulf Coast Visitor Center for Everglades National Park.  Returning to the RV we stopped at City Seafood Market & Restaurant for a snack of stone crab claws.  Back at the RV we walked down to the RV park's to watch the sunset.
 
Friday morning, 24JAN, we discovered that our major credit card was now wrapped-up in the Target problem.  So now we have a block on our card & await the arrival of our new card.  Since it was a little windy we decided rather than go on a boat tour we would use the Toad to drive some of the dirt roads in the Big Cypress National Preserve.
 
We were driving on Birdon Road for about twenty minutes when lo-and-behold we had a full grown Florida Panther walk across the road about a quarter mile in front of us!!! Although we were not terribly close we could tell from the profile that it was a definitely a rare Florida Panther.  We slowly drove up to the spot on the road that we thought it had traveled but it had already disappeared into the underbrush.  While it was not an up close & personal look, we were more excited at having glimpsed it in the wild than any animal we ever saw in a zoo:)
 
After driving the Birdon & Turner River Roads we then went to the Loop Road.  Which we drove half of before heading to the Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center to report the panther.  The Ranger was glad we reported it & had us feel out a wildlife sighting card for their database.  While there we finally purchased some souvenirs to support the National Park Association.  PS - a week later we got a follow-up e-mail about our panther sighting.
 
When we got back to Everglades City we stopped by the Havana Cafe for lunch.  This small cafe is only open for breakfast & lunch (except for dinner on Friday & Saturday), but apparently people come from Naples & Fort Myers, FL, to eat here.  We don't know about breakfast, but lunch was outstanding!
 
 
Saturday morning, 25JAN, we drove to the Kirby Storter Roadside Park in the Big Cypress National Preserve to catch the 10AM Ranger led nature walk.  As we waited for the group to arrive we were having second thoughts about the "walk".  The walk is on a half mile long boardwalk that dead ends.  The start of the walk surrounded by saw grass "prairie" & although the saw grass prairie is vital to the everglades & the wildlife's survival, its not that scenic after you have seen it everyday for over a week.  But we went on the tour & we are glad we did!
 






 
Turns out the elevation of the ground drops a little over a foot by the end of the boardwalk.  This apparently small change in elevation results in varying lengths of "wetness" & four distinct environments.  The front of the boardwalk is dry eight months of year & is saw grass prairie; by the end of boardwalk is wet all year & is a cypress swamp.
 
After the tour we headed to the town Marco Island for a walk about & lunch.  Apparently Marco Island was a sleepy little coastal Florida fishing town not too long ago.  Unfortunately very little of it can be found among the high rise condos, boutiques, & golf courses.  On the way back to the RV we stopped at the Fakahatchee Indian Gift Shop.  They had some very nice items but took cash only & there was no ATM available?
 
Upon return to the RV Dan visited the Smallwood Store & Museum located at the very end of Chokoloskee Island.  Established in 1906, as their website states:  "On the western edge of the Everglades and deep in the heart of the 10,000 Islands, Chokoloskee Island has been called one of Florida's last frontiers. Here at Historic Smallwood Store you will learn the story of the pioneers and settlers who tamed this vast wilderness."
 
 
 
 
Sunday morning we headed to the Everglades National Park "Gulf Coast Visitor Center" to take a boat tour.  There are two tours available from the concessionaire; a small boat into the mangroves, or a large catamaran into the area of the Park called the Ten Thousand Islands.  We opted for the large boat having canoed thru the mangroves at Flamingo.  Our tour was not the one to take if you want to lots of wildlife up close; you won't see any mammals or gators, & most birds will be in the distance.  But we did see one mammal (dolphins) & a large flock of white pelicans; for us the catamaran tour was the best choice.   
 
After returning to the RV Corrie decided to take a break, while Dan & Gumbo headed to Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park to see one of the few remaining old growth Cypress trees.  Finding the park was easy, unfortunately there were no clear directions on finding the Cypress trees.  Dan & Gumbo ended up doing some serious dirt (& sand) road driving for two hours without a map (thank goodness for GPS).  After successfully returning to the RV, it was time to start preparing the RV for tomorrow's departure.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

16/17JAN14 - Fort Pierce, FL

Thursday morning, 16JAN, we hit the road for the Everglades National Park.  We decided to drive half way & spend two nights in the Fort Pierce area.  We stayed at a very nice RV resort but the campsite barely had ten feet of clearance between a pine tree & the concrete pad!  After setting up camp we headed to the nearest "dog" beach.  As we noted many years ago on visiting Daytona, FL; Florida has miles & miles of beaches, but often dogs are not allowed?  We noted several large sirens on the drive & assumed they were for tornado warnings, but soon figured out they were for the nearby St Lucie nuke plant.  On TV that evening the weather forecasters were on high alert because of another cold snap coming!  Over half the news hour was about cold weather; you'd thought a hurricane was coming.


Friday morning we headed out to our first stop of the day -the National Navy Seal Museum & Memorial.  Why Fort Pierce, FL, for this museum; & not Coronado, CA, where all SEALs are now trained?  Because Fort Pierce was the original training facility for Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs) during WWII - & the UDTs are considered the beginning of the modern SEAL teams created in 1962.  Back during WWII Fort Pierce was "remote" & sparsely populated, & the good weather & beach provided an excellent training area.

Turns out the Seabees had a training facility just up the beach.  So the Seabees would build beach structures & the UDT trainees would blow them up.  After the war the Seabees & the UDTs packed-up & left the area, not brothering to remove the remaining beach structures/obstacles.  In 1991 the remaining structures were removed & many of them are now in the museum.  An excellent museum that even has the actual lifeboat that Captain Phillips was rescued from while being held Somali pirates!








 
Lunch was at Archie's Seabreeze, Dan classifies it as a Pirate/Biker Bar.  Archie's has excellent food & a friendly wait staff who obviously have lived in local area long time, if not natives.  Archie's started in 1947 as "military shack" serving beer to the military stationed in the area.  Dan went with clam chowder & a fried conch sandwich, Corrie went with the steamers.

 

http://www.archiesseabreeze.com/

Last stop of the day was the US Life Saving Service's "Gilbert's Bar House of Refuge", a museum run by the Elliott Museum of Hutchinson Island, FL.  When Dan discovered the museum on the internet he wondered was this some eccentric museum dedicated to a bar & a house of ill repute?  Turns out the Gilbert's Bar is shallow inlet named after the pirate Gilbert, used by him to allude the authorities.  And the Houses of Refuge (ten total) were created by the Life Saving Service & were unique to the east coast of Florida.

Although there were many ship wrecks off the coast Florida every year, there were very few Life Saving Stations in Florida in the 1870s.  Turns out most survivors often made it safely ashore because of Florida's sandy beaches; as opposed to reefs, rocks or cliffs elsewhere.  However, it often took survivors many weeks to hike to safety (if they made it).  Because of this the Houses of Refuge were created, along with simple sign posts on the beach pointing & giving distance to the nearest House.  Each House had a Keeper (& usually his family), whose duty it was to provide food, water, & a place to sleep.  The survivors would stay at the House until the Keeper could signal a passing ship to take the survivors to the nearest port.





Although not a Life Saving Station, each Keeper was expected to do their best to rescue any survivors in the water.  Often there were heroic rescues in small flat bottom boats the Keepers had built themselves, since a boat was not part of the government issued equipment.  This museum is the last remaining House of Refuge & we are very glad that we stumbled across it!

http://www.houseofrefugefl.org/

10-15JAN14 - St Augustine, FL (via quincy, fl)

Friday morning, 10JAN, we hit the road for our first tourist stop in Florida - St Augustine.  First we had to fuel the RV up with diesel & then go to another "gas station" for propane.  Since we only use propane for cooking, & heating on extremely cold days; we can go almost an entire year on one tank of propane.

Our first stop in Florida was the Visitor Center outside of Pensacola on I-10.  We have noticed over the last five years that a lot of state visitor centers want your e-mail address to send you spam.  Florida has a unique twist on this - they have a digital photo machine that makes it appear you are with a gator; but to get your free photo you have to give them your e-mail.  Dan fell for it!

We decided to split the drive to St Augustine into two days & spent the night at a RV park in Quincy, FL.  We stayed at this park back on 03DEC09.  It was pretty poor then & still is; but it is cheap, quiet, convenient to the freeway, & about halfway on our drive.  When the clerk was asked about bathroom/showers, she replied by saying - you have full hookups (ie use your own in the RV!).

The clerk made a big deal that there was a new casino within walking distance.  We decided not to visit it, but Dan decided to walk over to see what was there - since we had seen no signs for it on the drive?  Dan quickly realized it wasn't within walking distance & quickly returned to the RV.  Turns out the supposed casino was a partnership between the Creek Nation & the town of Gretna in 2011.  All they have now is a poker room & off track betting; for some reason they are still waiting for licenses for slots, video poker & table games?  Anyway, we probably won't stay here again.

Saturday morning we started our drive to St Augustine in the rain; when we discovered our dash AC didn't work, even after major repairs in Houma.  We tried to get into the St John's RV park because of their discount to Passport America members.  Upon arrival we learned the office was closed 1030 to 1400!!!  Also there is only room for one RV to park while waiting!!!  A quick walk around showed the place looked like a dump, so we left.  We ended-up at KOA in St Augustine Beach south of St Augustine.

That night was dinner at Salt Water Cowboys (very good!!).  Dan had Minorcan clam chowder (a dish native to NE Florida) made with datil peppers, & the best dish was rock shrimp.  They also have open pit BBQ, which we will have to try next time?

After dinner it was back to the RV to "skype" with Rebecca, Raymond & the grandkids.  Skype is a program/internet service owned by MicroSoft that allows "free" video calls between people that have the skype free software on their computer; & the computers are equipped with a camera & microphone.  The key thing is to make the skype call on your computer using a free internet connection (ie WiFI); otherwise you pay for the connection & the service!  It worked okay, but we need to "fine tune" our use to reduce the amount of blurred video & broken sound.

Trivia - where does the term "cracker" come from (think - cowboy)?

http://www.saltwatercowboys.com/default.aspx

Sunday morning we headed to Fort Matanzas National Monument, & caught the ferry to the Fort upon arrival.  Dan noted the ferry was Coast Guard inspected & certificated as a small passenger vessel; he even found out the ranger was Coast Guard licensed.  After the short ferry ride you are led on a tour of the small fort, then you are allowed to explore on your own before the ferry heads back to the Visitor Center.  At the small visitor center we viewed the National Park film about the fort.   
 

We then drove to the Monument's beach access parking lot, where we walked from the Mananzas River side around the south tip of Anastasia Island to the Atlantic Ocean (.75 mile).  Note this National Monument "completes" the history/story we learned when visiting Fort Caroline at the Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve in January 2009; & then visiting the Castillo de San Marcos (aka Fort Marion) National Monument, also in January 2009.
 

http://theryanrvexpress.blogspot.com/2009/01/01-03jan09-live-oak-jacksonville-fl.html

 
We then returned to the RV for lunch; & then we headed to the flea market next to St John's RV park we had given up on yesterday.  Turns out the RV park & the flea market are run by the same people. looks like they spend much more effort on running the flea market, than they do on the RV park.  We finished the day by doing a little shopping at Camping World.
 
 
Monday morning we headed to the actual town of St Augustine (the oldest continuously inhabited city in the USA).  Rather than drive the Toad into town & pay for parking, we decided to take the "Old Town Trolley" tour.  Turns out the Trolley tour has a shuttle bus that will pick you up & take you into town; & the KOA is the only RV facility on the shuttle route.  We visited St Augustine for half a day back on 04JAN09 (see above BLOG) & noted than that free parking was hard to find & many blocks away from the old town.  By paying for the tour we got three days use of the trolleys, free pickup & return at the KOA, & some free access to attractions.
 
While it was nice not to have to use the Toad, we felt the trolley tour was at best average.  Part of the problem as compared to other trolley tours is that St Augustine is very compact (ie small) & you travel some streets twice, or you see the same building from all four sides.  In addition most of the historical buildings are either museums charging entry; or worse - a "historical" attraction loosely based on the town's history also charging entry (ie oldest wooden school house, oldest drugstore, etc).  Lastly most of the trolley stops are right next to a tourist attraction trying to get you to spend money!
 
After the trolley tour we lunched at Gaufre's which is a cafe run by a Greek & Polish couple.  Corrie went with the pirogues & Dan went with the feta cheese pie; two thumbs up!  After lunch we separated, Corrie to explore the shopping district & Dan to walkabout taking pictures.
 
Trivia - what is a "tin can" tourist when referring to the original RV'ers (think non-perishable food items)? 
 
In our opinion St Augustine is a very beautiful city with buildings from three distinct styles - Spanish, English, & Cracker; & the city has managed to keep out the national chains (especially fast food).  But unfortunately, almost every business is centered on getting tourists to come in & spend money.  Almost every restaurant has staff outside to talk you in; you can't go three buildings without running into another ice cream, gelato, fudge, popcorn or candy place; & because the historic district is so small, there is no room for competing businesses to spread out.  Luckily we were on the first bus into town & avoided the crowds of tourists after lunch.

Question - why is Mile 0 of the Old Spanish Trail located in St Augustine, when the Old Spanish Trail ran from New Mexico to southern California?

Tuesday morning we took the Toad back into town to first get our mail & then toured the Lightner Museum.  The museum is in the back half of the old Alcazar Hotel, in the section they called the "casino" even though there never was any gambling there.  The Alcazar was built by Henry Flagler (more on him later) soon after he built his grand Ponce de Leon Hotel (more on that hotel later).  The Alcazar was smaller & less "grand" then the Ponce, but half the hotel was devoted to the "casino".  The casino was intended to provide entertainment for the Alcazar's guest; but more importantly the very wealthy guests of the Ponce for a fee.  The casino area had the world's largest indoor pool (50ft by 120ft), grand ballroom w/almost nightly entertainment, sauna, steam room, spa, exercise room, etc.  Today the front part of the Alcazar is city government offices & the back is the Lightner Museum.

According to findagrave.com - "Newspaper editor and publisher, Collector of the Victorian Era.  Otto began his career as a typesetter at newspapers and soon discovered that he had a talent for rescuing newspapers that were in financial distress, turning them into profitable operations and in the process made himself wealthy as well.  During the Great Depression he remained financially well off as the owner and publisher of "Hobbies", one of the first antiques and collectibles magazines.  He is remembered for saying, "Even with no money, everyone could collect something" and is known for saying "Everyone should have a hobby.  Everyone should collect something".  He became fascinated with collecting and started collecting other peoples' collections.  He started buying large homes and estates in the Chicago area to house the collections in.  In the 1940s, he moved to Saint Augustine, Florida, to recover from an illness and stayed in the Ponce De Leon Hotel, across from the then defunct Alcazar Hotel, which had closed during the Great Depression.  He purchased the Alcazar Hotel in 1947 and filled the hotel with his treasures, opening it as a museum to the public. It became known as the "Smithsonian of the South".  Upon his death, he requested to be buried in the courtyard of his hotel.  He is remembered as "America's King of Hobbies"."

The museum is a little odd in that it is not devoted to one "theme" like a painting, sculpture, glass blowing, type of industry, history, etc.  One minute you are looking at button collections, then match box covers, then neo classical furniture, then brilliant cut glass from the USA, & the list goes on!  At 11AM one of the docents demonstrated several of the mechanical music machines they had from the 1890s up to 1920s.  Also, paying to enter the museum is the only way to see any part of the casinos upper floors.  You can enter the pool for free (we mean enter the pool, because you are walking on the pool bottom) to visit several antique stores or have lunch at the Alcazar Cafe (like we did).
 
 

 
After lunch we headed back to the RV before our afternoon tour at St Augustine Lighthouse.  Note to enter the lighthouse w/o a docent you must pay $9.75; but if you pay $14.75 you get a "Behind the Scenes" tour led by a docent.  The docent led tour gets to enter many parts of the grounds & work spaces of the Lighthouse Archeological Maritime Program not open w/general admission.  In our opinion the docent tour is worth the extra money!
 

Trivia - what is the difference between a Light Station & a Light House?

 
Wednesday morning we used our Trolley passes again to go back to town & catch the 1000 Flagler College tour.  We weren't really interested in the college; we wanted to see its main building - once world famous as the Ponce de Leon Hotel built by Henry Flagler in 1887.  The only part of Ponce open to the general public is the lobby; & this tour (presented twice a day) is the only way to view other rooms.

As the college website says - "Legacy Tours of Flagler College highlight the architectural heritage of the former Hotel Ponce de Leon, listed as a National Historic Landmark.  Built by millionaire developer Henry M. Flagler in 1887, the Ponce is considered one of the finest examples of Spanish Renaissance architecture and was one of the most exclusive resorts of its day."

"Vistors will begin in the Rotunda where they will stare up into an 80-foot domed ceiling supported in part by eight ornately carved oak caryatids, robed women copied from the temple of Diana in Greece."

"Other stops include the Dining Hall, where 79 of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s stained glass windows are displayed.  Then onto the Flagler Room, original the hotel's Grand Parlor, where visitors gaze upon Tiffany Austrian crystal chandeliers, a massive onyx Thomas Edison clock - one of the first ever to be used in a public building - and a historical photo gallery of the Flagler family."

What the website doesn't mention is that an excellent video of Flagler's life - rising from poverty to a partner w/John D. Rockefeller & the birth of Standard Oil - is shown one half an hour before the tour.  We won't bore you with the details of how Flagler almost single handedly create Florida as a destination for wealthy tourist, which eventually led to discovery of Florida's east coast as a tourist & "snowbird" destination, & then a retirement location for all classes of Americans!  It is a fascinating story & one we found very interesting.  Also the college's guides/docents are actual students.  Ours was a newbie & very uncomfortable; luckily she was rescued (or we were rescued) by another guide who was a senior & had been doing this for a few years!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

One thing not covered by the guides was that the Ponce was taken over by the Coast Guard in WWII & used as barracks/training center for the CG Reserves (82% of the CG in WWII was Reservists).  Note there is even a small plaque on display proclaiming the Ponce as the birthplace of the CG Reserves.  Dan even discovered evidence in the toilet area that the building had been under military "management" at one time - the first three toilet stalls were still labeled with gold gilt as "Officer's Toilet"! 
 

After the tour it was back to the RV on the trolley shuttle to prepare for tomorrow's departure.