|Friday, July 27, 2018: We got our van out of the public garage and left Westwinds Inn before dawn.
|So long, Key West!
|We had enjoyed great weather during our visit, but the weather report showed that the rain might be moving in after we left.
|We got to enjoy the sunrise as we made our way back northeast along the Overseas Highway.
|We were old pros at this ice vending machine thing, so we loaded up our coolers again. Best invention ever.
|While the sun was breaking through partly cloudy skies in the direction we were heading, ...
|... there were thunderstorms brewing over the ocean.
|Back on Key Largo, we finally took a photo of the thing we called the hurricane-proof tower. It served as an easily visible landmark even when we were on the boat in John Pennekamp State Park. No hurricane will ever blow this mighty tower over.
|Noooooo! This bridge is the portal to the regular world and we didn't want to leave the Keys behind.
|But leave we must, because we have much more to see and do.
|Ever since a Top Golf went up right outside Tom's work office window, we are compelled to photograph them every time we see one.
|We went past a Carnival Cruises building. You know how every time you hear about a drunken cruise ship passenger, it's pretty much always on a Carnival cruise? The poor people who work here probably have to deal with crap like that on a regular basis.
|We grabbed some McDonald's for a late breakfast just before heading inland to the land of no fast food.
|Near South Bay stands the abandoned shell of Gatorland, which was so interesting that we had to go back and drive by it again for a photo. In the 1960s, it used to look like this. Read more about it on this site.
|We saw some crop dusters flying by and then saw an airport where more were parked.
|We stopped along the edge of Lake Okeechobee at Canal Point Recreation Area.
|We had a little visitor on the windshield for a few minutes before moving on.
|We passed banana trees ...
|... and fields of sugar cane.
|We saw the Port Mayaca Lock and Dam ...
|... and the St. Lucie Canal that leads away from it.
|In this photo, you can see the rim canal running alongside the edge of the lake.
|We passed this freshly-born colt who was still a little unsure of how his legs worked.
|Debbie was committed to find a photo that featured cows, herons, and palm trees, and finally got one. You don't see a combination like this back in Wisconsin, that's for sure.
|In case we were still unsure if all those long silver fish in the water were barracudas, this oversized barracuda statue convinced us.
|We passed a ranch of some sort that had camels and zebras, but no photographic proof exists, nor have we been able to figure out what it was.
|We passed the not-so-thriving metropolis of Yeehaw Junction.
|It has clearly seen better days.
|We got back on the tollroad and used our shiny Sunpass which still hadn't charged any tolls yet. We later learned that they had well over a hundred million transactions backlogged, so their vendor was in big trouble.
|The rest stops on the tollway are quite lovely.
|We made it to Walt Disney World shortly before 3:00 PM, ...
|... and headed straight to the gorgeous Disney Springs Orange Garage.
|In we go, past the Splitsville bowling alley, ...
|... turning right at the AMC Disney Springs 24 theater.
|We had to stop at the Candy Cauldron ...
|... to peer into the window at the elaborately-decorated candy apples.
|The Star Wars Galactic Outpost offered a make-your-own-light-saber station.
|It was filled with the most enticing Star Wars LEGO models, but Tom's head was not turned.
|We passed the Coca-Cola Store with a promise to return later.
|We were heading to D-Luxe Burgers for dinner, ...
|... so we could eat on their outdoor terrace (shown on the left here), ...
|... and have this view. Our friends Brian and Ann had both posted photos from this location in the previous month, so we added a Disney Springs stop to our vacation itinerary just to take in this scenery.
|We placed our tracker on the center of our table as instructed, and moments later, our s'mores shake was brought to us.
|It was joined moments later by fries and burgers. Yum!
|Ann told us to check out the Ganachery so we looked down this street first, ...
|... then turned around and found it this way instead.
|There it is!
|Some girls had just purchased a Disney-themed s'more and were photographing it next to the ad for it outside the store.
|The store was filled with many adorable Disney-themed chocolate pops ...
|... and the prettiest little chocolates you've ever seen, but with overstuffed bellies and another hour of heat ahead of us, we didn't dare buy anything.
|We crossed a bridge that separates the suspiciously clear water of the almost-real-looking springs area from the dark water of the nearby lagoon.
|We went to the Coca-Cola Store and headed up to the Rooftop Beverage Bar. We intended to have a sampler tray of international flavors, but we were much too full to do it.
|Instead, we looked around for a moment, ...
|... and checked out the view.
|We took the ramp that circles the outside of the building from the third floor to the second. The wallpaper along the walls was fantastic.
|Enjoy it with us.
|At previous World of Coca-Cola stores we've visited, sometimes there is a single commemorative bottle you can either buy or receive as part of a tour. The gift shop on the second floor had a huge display of collectible 2016, 2017, and 2018 red bottles, ...
|... plus this overwhelming display of other designs. Debbie managed to not lose her mind and just bought a single Orlando bottle, plus a piece of Coca-Cola cake.
|We continued to take the ramp down to the first floor, ...
|... marveling at even more cool Coca-Cola-themed wallpaper.
|We passed a huge Disney building marked, "Casting," which is a pretty great way of renaming HR.
|As we approached our hotel, the rain started up. In other words, when we no longer needed it to be sunny, it wasn't. Our weather luck is absolutely amazing.
|We were staying at the Renaissance Resort Orlando SeaWorld, which is right across the way from SeaWorld, as the name implies.
|We had booked a room for free using airline miles, and then were surprised with an upgrade to this huge suite.
|The only strange thing about it is that the king size bed was a Murphy bed, which means that it can be folded up into the wall and hidden, so it had a bit of a hide-a-bed feel to it. The room was clearly more geared toward use as a corporate hospitality suite or meeting room.
|After being in a tiny Key West hotel room the size of a closet, it was nice to have lots of room to spread out.
|Here's the interior of the huge building.
|A cocktail reception was being held in the atrium. The three-piece band was playing Disney songs, since it's Orlando, after all.
|The skies cleared up but we had already decided not to ever leave our suite.
|Tom's work laptop had died the night before, so he took advantage of the downtime to work on restoring it. Besides, it isn't a Bundlings vacation without at least one photo of Tom having to work. Traditions are important.
|Instead of another meal, we snacked in our room and opened the piece of Coca-Cola cake we had purchased earlier.
|After dark, a thunderstorm rolled in so Debbie got out the camera.
|Nailed it! Lucky timing produced this shot.
Finally, Debbie took the very last dose of her shingles medication. After taking two pills three times a day for ten days, it was good to finally be done. Her shingles rash was clearing up nicely by now but we'll spare you another photo of it.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy