Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Lake Okeechobee, FL

Odometer 29330 - back on the road again
Trip meter- 226 miles

How can we leave this paradise in the Florida Keys? Joan and I have been privileged to have been able to stay a month at Sunshine Key RV Resort, and it has lived up to it's name. One brief period of rain in 31 days- all the rest was beautiful sunshine and a cooling breezes. They call it hitch itch and we've got it- that pull of the open road- the powerful urge to see what's up around the next bend in the road- no matter how perfect it is right here.
We were ready. We only had to do a few things to be on our way. I checked the tire pressure, unhooked the utilities, brought in the slides, stowed the hydraulic jacks, and started the engine.
A few quick minutes to hug our friends, John and Jan Tevelonis and promise to stay in touch. Why is the engine in the MH stumbling? It sounds bad. I shut it off and restart- hey, it works for my computer- but not for this beast. We've experienced this before and it usually goes away after a time, fingers crossed- I pull out and head up to the front gate where we'll hook up the car and get on the highway going north. After hooking up the toad, I cross my fingers and start up the MH again. Still stumbling- oh well, we head off up Florida 1 towards the mainland. Plenty of power so after a few minutes I'm absorbed in the scenery and have forgotten all about it. I want to drink in the scenery and imprint it on my memory- this is the stuff of dreams. Warm sunshine, blue skies, azure blue waters dappled by sunlight- Ummm.
I really want to stop at the History of Diving Museum in Islamorada on our way up the Keys. If you remember our post last week we were going to stop here on our run to Homestead to get our prescriptions filled, and ran out of time. Joan says she is interested too- so now all we have to do is find a place where we can park the MH with car attached, within walking distance of the museum. As luck would have it, the restaurant next door has a large gravel overflow lot and we sneak in there.
This is a fantastic museum! Admission is $12 each and it is worth every penny!

The museum is the work of marine biologists Drs. Joe and Sally Bauer, and represents 40 years of collecting dive equipment and memorabilia.. In the year 2000 they realized that they had the worlds largest collection of pre-scuba dive gear and that it should be available to the public. Thus plans were made for a museum which opened in 2005
At the start of the museum are reconstrucions of early man's attempts to extend the range of free divers, using open bottom diving bells and some very early helmets connected to surface air. This setup would allow a diver to stand in the bell and driect under water activities like a crane or dredge or to swim in and grab a breath.

This is a  reconstruction of an early setup that may never have worked except in very shallow water.
In 1805 Frederick Drieberg's drew up plans for the "Triton" using a bellows pump in a copper tank operated by a lever connected to the "crown" on the users head.  By tilting the head, the bellows would pump air out of the tank to the user.

There is no history of this device actually being used successfully.  It is also significant because he appears to be the first designer to actually thought about having a candle for light- and has provided a small hose for an air supply to the candle!

 The main focus of the museum however is the dive set-up shown below.
This is a US Navy dive suit that required a crew of seven men to attend each diver.
 The first recorded commercially manufactured airtight suit and helmet of this type was by Augustus Siebe in 1937.  They were manufactured and used (with improvements) up til 1975- a spand of 138 years!
This Navy Diving suit is one manufactured by Morse Company.  Established in 1837 Morse manufactured diving gear in Massachuttes from 1837 to 1940.  The Morse Mark V diving helmet would become the best known diving helmet ever built.

Here is a collection of fiberglass helmets introduced in the 1970s

The museum has a wall of dive helmets that represents helmets from all the major countries of the world. This is the largest single collection in the world.  Many of these are extremly rare, and represent the last know survivors of the type.

In the last room of the museum there is a selection of extreme deep diving armor.  Jeff checks out  pressure suits were used for salvage operations allowing a diver to operate at depths of 450 feet.

Not to be out done- Joan geared up for a deep dive in one of the museums aquariums.  Finding no treasure she soon abandoned the effort.

Back on the road, we were just leaving Homestead the first city on the mainland at the upper end of the keys, when a cloudburst dumped a ton of rain on us.

Wind and rain blasted us for several miles and slowed traffic on Route 997 to nearly a crawl at times.  However, this being Florida, we did not have to wait long to see sunny skies again.

Large dikes like the one to our left in the picture below keep the everglades wetlands- wet.   Behind that dike runs a "river of grass" that is a flowing wetland 80 miles wide and 100 miles long.

Continuing north on State Route 27 we soon  left the Everglades Wildlife Management Area and the Everglades Water Conservation Areas, and immediately started seeing some of the biggest farms we've ever seen, with rows of crops like strawberries and sugar cane that stretched away from the highway into the far distance.

The Sun was definately in control of the weather now and the temperature rose to 83 degrees and the horizon filled with giant puffy white cumulus clouds.
As we got closer to our destination we got a peek at the lake- not easy to do either- as it is surrounded by a dike that is 30 feet high to prevent major flooding during the rainy season and hurricanes.
Here Joan snapped a photo as we drove over a high concrete bridge.  In the distance you can see the locks that let boats go, to and from, the lake.  Depending on rain fall and runoff, the lake can be either higher or lower than the surrounding canals.

By late afternoon we had arrived at our destination for the evening- Gracious RV park on one of the canals that border the lake just outside of the town of Okeechobee.  A snowbird had just left this primo site on the waterfront this morning and we were lucky enough to get booked into it for tonight.

Jeff and Joan show off the strenuous life style that this adventure brings.  On the patio with cold drinks by 5PM.  Watching for gators and listening to the birds- we actually saw a young adult gator submerge in the area beyond the blue boat.

Jeff loves cloud watching and today was no dissapointment.  We believe this big cloud was positioned here to give us some local shade.  The high ground in the distance is the 30' dike seperating us from Lake Okeechobee.  The water in the foreground is a very long canal.

No blog post should end without a signature sunset- so here is one for you to enjoy!

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

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