Notes from Puzzle Palace

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Stop 2: Legoland

 Ok, so yesterday's trip to Hudson was really because I wanted to go to Legoland and needed to appease George.  I know he loves seeing how others do things and that was a perfect time to go. After all, Hudson is just in our back yard. 

Today, January 25th we are off to Legoland. We stayed in an Econolodge, and I want to know what happened to motels in the State.  This place is a dump.  I remember being able to stay in a place like this for the princely sum of $25 a night with clean rooms and breakfast.  Now, breakfast is $7 each and god help the person who looks too carefully at the floor. But, the bed was soft, the water was hot, and it's just a stones throw from Legoland.

Why are we here?  At 55 I discovered Lego.  Ok.  I know that sounds stupid and completely unbelievable, but I never played with them as a child. I bought some Duplo for the bug when she was young, but her biological father was really not into toys that could cause a mess-so Lego were out. Fast forward to this past Christmas and I assembled a fLego Christmas tree and I was hooked.  On the cruise, I took along a few nano blocks and bought a few more and the rest as they say is history.  

So that is why we are here. Legoland is only 3 1/2  hours away from Boca via the turnpike so why not. Even better, after we visited Creative Crafthouse, it was only an hour or so away.  

We entered the park at 10 am because I am still very much a child at heart.  I was eager to see all of the sights.  Our first stop was mini-land where they have created the US in Legos! This was super cool.  Most exciting here was the Pirates castle.  I took a lot of closeup photos to see how they did the turrets and the arrow slits.  When everything calms down in Panicale, I plan to make our castle out of Lego!

We wandered around a bit in the old Cypress Gardens where I was looking to find the large banyan tree.  Sadly, time was not on our side and we missed it.  But they are beautiful gardens to walk through. 

Our next shop was a 4d show which just went over our heads.  Something about a unicorn-pegasus with a missing wing and lion monsters chasing/saving it.  In the end the little guy shot rainbows out of his horn, he was given a wing by the evil lion and the story ended happily ever after. It reminded me of the Chronicles of Narnia. 

We decided not to see the other 3 shows and headed instead over to the water show.  This was worth the trip.  The story was...well, a story, but the water acrobatics was amazing. We especially loved the guy doing flips on the air tube that shoots up in the air.  

After the show we headed to Dragon's Den for lunch. George likes his beer at noon, and you've got to admit, trying to eat a whole turkey leg is always good fun.

We built a "Dots brick" and took the 6 brick challenge.  This got George thinking and we went to the pick-a-brick wall to make a purchase of some bricks for him.  When we got home, he built a puzzle out of them and we plan to make a bunch more.  Lego has the perfect jig: the large base plates!

Being older folks, we wandered around, took a few photos, and then hit the shops in the search of a Great Wave.  No such luck.  I did manage to find the valentines heart and a few other sets that caught my eye.  

The place is advertised as a place for children ages 5+ and they give away tickets to all children under 12 with the purchase of an adult ticket.  I had fun, but it really is geared towards the younger crowd.  I also was able to see what glue does in the hot Florida sun.  No superglue on my legos!

Until next time....

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The first of the Miller's final USA Road-Trip: Creative Crafthouse

This morning at 7 am we started off on the first part of our 2 month around the USA Road-Trip.  We left Boca Raton and headed for Hudson, Florida where we were to meet up with Dave Janel of Creative  Crafthouse.

Warning: photo heavy!

Now we had attempted this trip in 2020, but as we were driving along Alligator Alley, the alternator went out on the bug.  A $300 tow later and we were back at our mechanic in Boca. And then we all know what happened with the pandemic and all. Well, we finally decided to try again.  I contacted Dave and we made an appointment for noon today.  

Sadly, things don't always work as planned.  First, the 4 hour drive turned into 6 with back roads and construction, and second, Dave had some family issues and had to fly to Maine unexpectedly. Not to worry.  His son Peter was there and he took us on a wonderful tour of the factory. We got to go deep into the bowels of the workshop. We saw the wood stacked for future puzzles, those that were shipped in from overseas, and many that they have worked on themselves.  

The exhaust system excited me and gave me great ideas on what George needs to do for his new workshop. the machinery was astounding.  They have 6 laser cutters running around the clock.  There were saws, jigs, drill presses, CNC machines, planers, sanders....the list goes on and on.  

George spent some time talking to Robert, their head of the woodworking shop.  George talked machines, while he and I commiserated over a poor cryptex puzzle build that is readily available on Amazon. We got to see a few secret new puzzles they are working on for a famous client, and no, I won't show photos. 

We learned that their best selling product isn't a puzzle at all, but rather the penny drop game.  I saw that they now nail their boxes together rather than just press fitting them.  We learned the hexadecimal puzzles were very limited and that I was fortunate to get one of the few produced.  

I got a great idea for a new lock to put on the castle door for anyone to try.  Of course, it will be custom made in cast iron, but we also plan to make an exchange out of it called "The Castle Doors". 

I (We) have been to many factories over the years, and this one was impressive. I don't know what I expected to find, but it certainly wasn't this.  The shop was clean for starters.  I was told they have 15 employees and are very proud of the puzzles they have invented themselves. On the way over George and I had a slight disagreement about the origin and I am proud to say I won this time. The company opened in 2003 and has been expanding ever since.  

The hospitality we were shown was superb.  All told, we spent around an hour wandering around and asking questions.  Of course we had to buy a few puzzles, and even managed to get one of those puzzles they manufacture for another company.  

I'm sad that we didn't get to meet Dave, but perhaps one day they will venture over to Italy. It was a lovely afternoon with some lovely people, and hey, puzzle factory? You just can't go wrong.