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My Spring Break Vacation 2022

And now – Week 3 of my 4-week series on my 6-day / 626-mile road-trip adventure here in South Florida and also up in Central Florida.

So my family flew in to South Florida (from North Texas) on a Thursday evening, and they arrived at their hotel at around Midnight. The next day – Friday – they did their own thing, as did I. (See my blog from last #TravelThursday.)

On Saturday March 05TH 2022 we spent the entire day together in Fort Lauderdale and adjacent Dania Beach. We enjoyed Breakfast at TooJay’s (one of my favorites). After that we went shopping at Five Below. (My nieces love that store.) From there we all proceeded over to the Broward County Convention Center where gymnasts from South Florida and beyond competed in various tournaments. My (almost) 12-year-old niece was one of the competitors from beyond – representing Allen Texas (near Dallas) – and she won awards. We were at the tournament for over 4 hours, and it was actually very interesting to watch. (I had never been to one before.)

That night we ate dinner at Lime Fresh Mexican Grill, and then we went shopping at T.J. Maxx. I had no idea that my sister-in-law absolutely loves that store. I think we spent over an hour there. I was bored after the first 10 minutes, but I was with my family, so that beats any other normal Saturday night for me.

The next day – Sunday – they did their own thing, as did I.

On Monday March 07TH we all cruised-up U.S. 27 (in 3 separate vehicles), and we all met at – LEGOLAND !

I’ve wanted to visit Legoland for the past decade, and just after opening time at 10 AM on that day I finally made it. (My family arrived about an hour later.)

Legoland greatly exceeded my expectations. I thought that I would just enjoy watching my nieces have lots of fun, but I had fun too. I even rode some rides including a scary rollercoaster !

My favorite part of Legoland is Miniland U.S.A. which features realistic Lego displays of various U.S. cities and their famous landmarks underneath several MASSIVE white canopy shade covers. You can walk around in this giant centerpiece of the park for a couple of hours enjoying it all and snapping photos all around.

I also appreciated the tribute to Cypress Gardens which was the original tourist attraction (and later theme park) at this location for almost 75 years starting in 1936 and peaking during the 1950s and 1960s. A portion of the original park has been preserved exactly as it used to be, and you can walk around and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. Me and my brother actually visited Cypress Gardens on April 02ND 2005 when they had already converted over to a theme park (adjacent to the botanical gardens). We enjoyed the park during the day, and then we attended a Switchfoot concert that night at the park. The concert was quite memorable for us in that Switchfoot were at their mainstream peak back then, so a good crowd came to see them. Also a strong cold front had swept through the region during the day, so it turned cold just in time for the concert after dark. There were swarms of bugs flying around in the cold. It was quite eerie.

It was a fun day at Legoland. We were there from opening to almost closing. I would actually consider purchasing a limited annual pass to the park after I retire and relocate close to that local area. (It’s about an hour up the road from Sebring.)

Next #TravelThursday I’ll conclude my recap of this fun road-trip, and I’ll reveal the location of my next vacation (and series of blog posts).

All rights reserved (c) 2022 Christopher M. Day, CountUp

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My Spring Break Vacation 2022

And now – Week 2 of my 4-week series on my 6-day / 626-mile road-trip adventure here in South Florida and also up in Central Florida.

I blogged about The Beach Boys concert in Fort Lauderdale last #TravelThursday. Original members Mike Love and Brian Johnston fronted the band backed-up by talented touring musicians who looked and sounded great together – bringing back that unique Southern California surf pop and rock sound of the 1960s.

Brian Wilson and Al Jardine co-founded The Beach Boys (along with Mike Love) 61 years ago. Brian (80 this June) and Al (80 this September) are also touring together alongside another Beach Boy from the early-1970s – Blondie Chaplin. They are co-headlining (without The Beach Boys name) with Chicago for 25 dates this June and July. I may see them in Tampa (not sure yet). I checked tickets, and good seats were running between $206 and $436 (not including fees) with not that many of those seats left. I don’t really wish to spend that much money on that concert – as much as I really want to go to it.

OK it’s now Friday March 04TH 2022, and I’m spending the morning at Flamingo Gardens – one of Broward County’s top tourist attractions that’s not a MASSIVE shopping mall or a beach. Flamingo Gardens is a longtime botanical gardens and now Everglades wildlife sanctuary and aviary in Davie Florida (a South Florida suburb near Fort Lauderdale). I’ve been visiting this fun place since 2012, and this was my 5TH visit – and 1ST since December 2017. This is the type of place that I would work at after I retire if I were to move to that local area, but there’s no chance in that occurring. Broward County is a fun place to visit for the day or for a vacation, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

That night I saw The Bee Gees – LIVE in concert. Well – sort of.

Instead of me trying to capture the experience of this concert in my own words – allow me to share this promo with you:

Some tribute bands sound good. Some look good. Some move and dance like the originals. Every once in a while you get this powerhouse combination of sounds GREAT, looks GREAT, stage presence is GREAT, show is GREAT, light show is GREAT !

You’ll have a night like this with this Bee Gees tribute band – “Stayin Alive”. The vocal match of Tony Mattina, Todd Sharman, and Joseph Janisse to the Gibb Brothers – Barry, Robin, and Maurice – creates an eerie sense of seeing The Bee Gees LIVE in concert. The performance captures a full history of The Bee Gees music beginning with the 1967 breakout album “Bee Gees First”.

Stayin Alive offers songs and sights of a full Bee Gees playlist – singing blockbuster hits such as “Night Fever”, “Jive Talkin’”, “How Deep Is Your Love”, “You Should Be Dancing”, “Nights On Broadway”, and “Stayin’ Alive”.  In addition – they perform softer poetic ballads – “I Started a Joke”, “Massachusetts”, “Fanny Be Tender”, and “To Love Somebody” – among other great hits.

Close your eyes, and The Bee Gees are THERE in the theater. The band and their show bring back an unforgettable era of great music !  If you’re looking for a concert that will take you back in time this is it ! You might want to break out the white bell-bottoms, low-neck shirt (for the guys) with the 8-inch collars, or perhaps a leisure suit. Then again – maybe just jeans or shorts and a ’70s-looking’ tee-shirt. Oh – and maybe watch “Saturday Night Fever” before you come – just to set the mood.

I fully concur with that description of the concert. I never got to see the real Bee Gees in concert, but this was definitely the next best thing.

One final note: They performed an unknown song to me early in the show that I immediately loved and started singing along to with the 1,400+ in attendance. “I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You” was actually their first Top 10 hit here in the U.S. in 1968, but I had never heard it before. It rocked the Coral Springs Center For The Arts. #HOLDON #HOLDON

Next #TravelThursday I’ll share my fun adventures with my family (and extended family) in Fort Lauderdale – and 3½ hours away up in Central Florida at a popular theme park that’s not near Orlando.

All rights reserved (c) 2022 Christopher M. Day, CountUp

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My November Vacation 2021 Road-Trip

#TravelThursday continues now with Part 4 of my 7-part blog series on my recent 18-day road-trip between South Florida and North Texas.

Last week I left-off on Day 6 in Dallas Texas when I visited the beautiful 66-acre Dallas Arboretum And Botanical Garden. Next time I drive to North Texas I hope to spend another half (or full) day there to see everything. On this visit they were all decorated for Christmas – which was a lot of fun, and it put me into the spirit of the season. I’d like to visit during another time of the year when they are holiday decoration-free. I took 40 photos of my trek around the park. I’ll be posting and captioning most of them onto my Flickr site early in 2022.

Days 7 and 8 were spent hanging out with my family (brother, sister-in-law, and 2 nieces). Day 8 – Thursday November 18TH 2021 – was actually supposed to be another mini-road-trip for me. I had planned to visit the nearby Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary, Historic Downtown McKinney (self-guided walking tour), Collin County History Museum, and lunch at the Cadillac Pizza Pub. None of that happened. It was a full-day of fun planned well in advance, and it’s all deferred to my next road-trip to North Texas in a couple of years. (My next road-trip there may be my inaugural post-retirement road-trip.)

So let’s hit Day 9 – Friday November 19TH 2021. This was an action-packed day of fun on my own. It was a cold morning to get started. I headed east to the small town of Nevada. (It’s pronounced “na-VAY-da”.) My first stop was an old roadside diner that’s very popular with the locals – Watkins Country Cafe. I walked-in, and every table was full. Two guys at a table saw me standing and waiting, and they quickly finished-up and gave me their table. (That’s small-town friendliness right there.)

After my Breakfast there I proceeded a couple of miles away to the Military Heritage Collection Of North Texas. It’s a military museum that’s operated entirely by volunteers and funded solely by donations. (There is no admission.) I posted a 5-star review on Tripadvisor. This museum visit was the biggest surprise of my road-trip. This is the type of place that I would volunteer at if I lived in the local area.

From the military museum I proceeded over to the “Dallas” museum – as in the “Dallas” TV series – the Southfork Ranch. This was my 2ND visit. My 1ST visit was perhaps a dozen years earlier with my brother, but I don’t remember much of it. On this visit I took the guided tour – which starts as a tram tour behind the gift shop and museum. It continues as a walking tour inside the mansion (both floors). After that the tour is over, but you are free to roam the grounds of the ranch and walk inside many of the buildings within the compound. You can really spend a good half-day there checking it all out.

I became an unlikely fan of the “Dallas” TV series over in England of all places – over 8 years after its U.S. debut. Me and a couple of my military dorm buddies gathered each week to watch (and be mesmerized by) the latest episode that was being shown on the BBC. I ended-up watching the series until its 1991 ending after 14 seasons, and I also simultaneously caught-up on the reruns of the show from 1978 to 1986. I think I watched every single episode ever made, and I also watched the 40 episodes of the 2012 to 2014 reboot.

I drove an additional 47 miles on that Friday, so that’s 1,451 miles in 9 days of driving to North Texas and while there.

And that’s where I’ll end Part 4 of this 7-part blog series. I’ll continue with my road-trip adventures and experiences next #TravelThursday. I’ll fast-forward a full week to Day 16 – and the start of my long road-trip back home to South Florida.

All rights reserved (c) 2021 Christopher M. Day, CountUp Ministries

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My November Vacation 2021 Road-Trip

#TravelThursday continues now with Part 3 of my 7-part blog series on my recent 18-day road-trip between South Florida and North Texas.

At the crack of dawn of Day 3 of my road-trip I was back on the road again – across the 4,205-foot-long Natchez-Vidalia Bridge high atop (125 feet above) the mighty Mississippi River below. When I crossed the bridge I was the only one, so there was not the usual stress involved in doing so like at the various other river crossings. (I’m scared of heights, so I get nervous driving on tall bridges. It’s exasperated by tailgaters.)

It was a clear, crisp, and cold Saturday morning in the upper-30s and lower-40s in the Louisiana “low country” near the river. It was my coldest morning in a long time. Luckily it was in the mid-to-upper-60s in my car with the heater on low.

I continued west-southwestward to Alexandria Louisiana where I left behind the old U.S. highway system and network of back roads, and I rejoined America’s Interstate highways via I-49. I took that northwestward up to Shreveport – Louisiana’s 3RD-largest city. About 400,000 residents live in its metro area. Louisiana State University (#LSU) has a large campus in Shreveport, and it’s also the home of the 22,000+ acre Barksdale Air Force Base.

I picked-up I-20 westward out of Shreveport, and I took that to Longview Texas – where I stopped for a Texas BBQ Lunch (which was not very good at all – think “gas station food”). I also left behind the Interstates, opting instead for U.S. 80, U.S. 69, and a series of state and local roads en route to my family’s house in the northeastern suburbs of Dallas.

I arrived at my brother’s and sister-in-law’s house right at 2 PM on Saturday November 13TH 2021. I drove 376 miles on this final leg, so that’s 1,357 miles in 3 days of driving to North Texas.

I had planned to visit a small church on the outskirts of my family’s neighborhood (less than a mile away from their house). I had previously (in the weeks prior) done a lot of research on churches (of all sizes) within the local area. I looked at about a dozen churches online. I eventually had it narrowed down to 3 churches, and then 2 churches, and then a single church. The church I finally selected (over the other 2) started its service at 10:45 AM on Sunday.

I ended-up not attending a church service. Family comes first, and immediate family comes before church family. My brother planned a family Lunch together to celebrate our Mom’s birthday, so we did that on my first Sunday there. We enjoyed a fun Lunch at a Japanese restaurant where you order off the menu, and then the cook arrives a few minutes later, gathers-up all of the ingredients, and then cooks your meal on the large hibachi grill right in front of you while putting on a show. It was a lot of fun, and the food was pretty good too.

2 days later (on Tuesday November 16TH 2021) on an unusually warm day in the 70s (approaching 80°F) I went on a short road-trip (within the road-trip) on my own. It was also planned well in advance. After a hot and delicious Breakfast at a historic downtown district diner I ventured about 20 miles southwestward into the city limits of Dallas.

I visited the 66-acre Dallas Arboretum And Botanical Garden. I’ve wanted to visit this place for a few years now, and now I’ve done so. I didn’t get to see all 66 acres of it, but I got to see a vast majority of it during my 3-hour visit. I know I say this often: I could’ve spent all day there. I actually bought my timed-admission and parking fee online the day before. (I think you have to do it that way. I’m not sure that you can just show-up whenever you feel like it and pay to get in during this post-COVID environment.) I took 40 photos of my trek through the arboretum. Most of them will make it onto my Flickr site, but here’s 4 of the best right here:

About 6 miles away was the George W. Bush Presidential Library And Museum at Southern Methodist University (#SMU), and that’s where I spent a couple of hours that afternoon. I had never been to a Presidential Library before. It was very educational, informative, and interesting. I’d like to visit other Presidential libraries around the country.

I drove an additional 47 miles on that Tuesday, so that’s 1,404 miles in 6 days of driving to North Texas and while there.

And that’s where I’ll end Part 3 of this 7-part blog series. I’ll continue with my road-trip adventures and experiences next #TravelThursday. I’ll tell you about a few places that I did not visit on that first Thursday in North Texas. (Again – family comes first.) And then I’ll tell you all about two places that I did visit the next day on that first Friday.

All rights reserved (c) 2021 Christopher M. Day, CountUp Ministries