Monday, May 18, 2015

Route 41, Airboat ride and Sanibel Island

May 13 2015 We took Route 41, the Tamiami Trail (Tampa Miami) across Florida.

Rt 41 had a canal that ran along it all the way. It got smaller and was over hung with growth further down the road. 
We stopped at two places to ride on an air boat. The first one told us there was a wait and to go check on their other company. We went on down the road and stopped at
 Becky was putting the dog in the trailer and found out that the trailer rocking on and off the road had caused the spaghetti sauce to fall from the cupboard and caused a large mess. So she cleaned it up and had lunch while another bunch of people went out on the boat. Then it was our turn and we went out in the swamp. We didn't take many pictures but it was nice to enjoy the wind in our hair and a boat ride.
Some baby birds that the boat driver pointed out.

Our view of the swamp!

The Everglades park borders Big Cypress National Preserve. We stopped at the visitors center and Becky and Patrick got out to look at the alligators. Patrick said he counted 34 in this one spot. We think that they feed them to keep them close for the tourist but who knows. The alligators were all along the road in the canal. Lots of people out fishing in boats and off the side of the road.

 We ended up in Estero, Florida at the Koreshan State Park. We did not visit the historical site. What, you say? No we didn't. We didn't take the river walk or take any pictures of the campsite. It was tight backing in because each site had a large amount of foliage on each side and I was backing in blind. I had an audience watching too. All the campers turned out to see me park the trailer in two tries! The campsite was over hung with trees and a grape looking vine had infested the canopy. It provided lots of shade and a hide out for snakes. I did not see them but Iris tried to eat three of them or so Becky says.  Of course the paved handicap sites were taken by people who were not handicapped, just old. The bath house sat in the middle of the sites with a path from each site to get to the bath house. The handicap sites had paved paths but I couldn't get to them because of all the junk they had in the way in the handicap sites. So I drove the Tahoe down the service road, parked up on the sidewalk and took a shower. Shower needed cleaned though.I wouldn't mind going back to do some more exploring. It had been decided that if we came back to Florida, we would buy kayaks so we could enjoy the water.
This photo shows the tightness of the spots. We don't have slides but the canopy overhung into the trees. 
 May 14 We drove out to Sanibel Island and stopped at Bowman's Beach. Becky wanted to hear the surf and pick up some seashells that Sanibel Island is famous for.

An anhinga, a diving bird

The pathway back to the parking lot. It was long with deep sand that Patrick pushed me through. To get to the beach from the parking lot it was over a river and through the woods. Seriously we had to cross a bridge.

Becky said these are shadow selfies

The causeway from the mainland to Sanibel

Fort Myers Beach
Living the good life. 
This is a nice picture of the causeway. The big bridge drops down to these little purpose built islands that had beaches and parks all along them. They were little slices of paradise.
We stopped for supper at a place called Skip One 41 Seafood Restaurant and Market. It was late by the time we got back to the trailer. We had tied the dog off on a five foot leash so she could lay on the bed and move around and not be trapped in the cage. Boy were we wrong. She climbed up onto the counter ate  a four pound roast that we thought was out of her reach and in doing so, crawled over the sink and turned the water on. She also dumped her food container and pulled my map and computer case off the bench that we thought she couldn't get to either.
The water running into the sink filled up the grey tank, the bathtub and the sink so that it all was running over onto the floor and out the front door. We cleaned up the mess and dumped a bunch of water out of the grey tank so that the tub was empty. Then we cleaned up all the water off the floor, opened the bench to rag the water out of it and I took apart the shoe rack to move it away from the wall. It was soaked too.
In all that mess, we were down a roast, a map and some dog food. Becky was angry with the dog and threatened to give her to the first person who would take her. I always remind Becky that she was the one who brought the dog home.  

Biscayne National Park

The national park service contracts with outside vendors for boat services within the park. The one for Biscayne pulled out of the contract and left the park service out on the limb trying to find a new partner to take the visitors out on Biscayne Bay to sight see on the water, to the other islands and to the reefs and shipwrecks to service snorkelers and divers. Most of the park, like the Dry Tortugas is underwater and best seen through a scuba mask. No water sports for us this trip. This just added to the list of places and things we wanted to do on the next trip to Florida. Becky and I both find ourselves reluctant to head north. We have plans to see the rest of the United States but I could call Florida home.

 They had a nice board walk that allowed access to the water and to a stone jetty.

Off to the right you could see the Miami skyline

Everglades National Park

May 10th We went to a Church of Christ. Our family added three to a dozen members who attended the church service. One of the interesting things about traveling has been seeing different church services. When we stayed at Darrell and Evelyn's we went with them to a Baptist church. It was different from what we are used to. They had a full band and gathered people from the audience to form a choir. On the second Sunday we attended, Patrick went up to the choir with Evelyn and the girls and he sang! He liked the band, the singing and the preacher. The preacher started at the pulpit with some Bible verses and then moved down the stage and into the audience. You didn't know where he was going both physically and with service.
After the service, we went back to the camper to relax.

May 11 We ventured down to...

 Our first stop was at the Ernest Coe Visitors Center for a passport stamp and some swamp knowledge at the exhibits. Its about where the 9336 road symbol is on the map. Royal Palm is about where the time stamp arrow is.
They had a statue of a panther. Patrick wondered if there were any pink ones and Iris climbed up and sniffed the statue's butt.
There were multiple signs like these. I didn't get to see one though. They are pretty elusive. 
 The next stop was at Royal Palm along State Route 9336. They had a boardwalk trail out over a borrow pit that was dug in the early 1930s to build a road through the area. What amazed me was that no matter where we were, at the borrow pits, the swamp itself, or the little canals was the clarity of the water. It was crystal clear.
This is what the River of Grass looks like. Small stands of trees here and there but mostly grass. There were signs to some of the observation points listing the elevation at 3 feet above sea level.

Talapia fish, an invasive species.


One of two alligators we saw sleeping under the mangroves.

Becky is in love with the air plants that grow on the trees. These were in full bloom.

A nice gar. He is probably a foot and a half long. The water is clear but the camera has a hard time seeing down into it.

 We continued down 9336 to Flamingo. I have an affinity for little places at the end of the road on a map. That describes Flamingo. It had a hotel, restaurant and other ammenities until it was hit with two hurricanes in the same year, Katrina was one of them. Now it is just a visitors center, a nice campground, with electric hookups, no water or sewer and a marina. The marina provides boat tours up the canal and out into the Bay of Florida. At $32 per person it wasn't cheap and we didn't go.
We met a ranger on the ferry back from Fort Jefferson who told us that we shouldn't go to Flamigo, that it wasn't worth the trip and we should just drive route 41 across the see the Everglades. That didn't sit well with me. How could you be a ranger who worked in the everglades and tell people not to go to the visitors centers? We went!

 The beach at Flamingo

 We couldn't have picked a better day to go! The wind off the ocean and the sun on your face is one of those days when I'm an old man, I can close my eyes and feel it just like I was right there. It was beautiful and perfect.
Pictorial proof that we were there!

A manatee swims in the marina.
What better reason to go to Flamingo that to see a crocodile? We were told that this was a mama with eggs that hadn't hatched yet.

  In the middle of the river of grass there are these little mounds, sometimes large mounds of trees. These are caused by alligators burrowing down into the mud to make wallow pits when the water level is low. These pits can get six to eight feet deep attracting fish and birds and other wildlife. The little mud banks that stick out of the water allow trees to begin growing and pretty soon you have these areas like you see in the pictures. The cycle of life because of an alligator wants to burrow in the mud. Pretty amazing how God designs things to work together.

Leaving the Keys

May 9 We left Sunshine Key Resort with somewhat heavy hearts. We all liked the place even though parts of it were not completely accessible. i.e. the ramp to the bathroom had a six inch step up onto the ramp. We enjoyed our time there and even though I didn't get to do any diving, we had a lot of fun.
Had to wake Patrick up.

On the way out we stopped at the The Wreck & Galley Grill. We had sandwiches and sweet tea that came in a small pitcher. Every time I have been to the Keys, I have stopped to eat at The Wreck. Then we went next door to the Dolphin Research Center. We had stopped here on the last trip and Patrick wanted to stop again. I didn't really want to but looked at the website which said that all admissions were half off due to construction. Can't pass up a deal now can we, except........they didn't honor their advertisement and the lady at the counter told me they weren't doing any construction that day. Except that....they were. I think it should be renamed making money off dolphins. Researching the inside of your wallet. As we were leaving some girl dropped a grand to become a member of this place. Uhmmm, no.

For more money you could interact with the dolphins.

Talented young ladies put on a show featuring dolphins.

You could allow the dolphin to paint a t-shirt for you. 

They had some sea dogs living at the DRC. The big one is blind, a common thing for sea lions because on the bright sun.

I'm cheap, I let Patrick hug a statue of a dolphin.
I'm not sure what they research at the Dolphin Research Center but they have to pay all those lovely young ladies, buy fish for the dolphins and do maintenance on the facility so all in all the full price is probably a drop in the bucket for their daily budget. Anyways, we had fun and learned more about dolphins.
From the Keys, we drove up into Homestead and stopped at the Miami-Everglades RV Resort. Their greeter looked rather menacing.
It seemed like this place was in the middle of nowhere but it was just around the bend from town and the national parks. It was surrounded with miles and miles of green houses and nurseries.They had massive greenhouses made from steel pipe and black fabric that stretched for a quarter mile. All this farming was made possible by draining the Everglades. Now they are trying to build a new project of canals and such to pipe more water back into the Everglades so that the Everglades can sustain itself and there is water for the growing human population. 

I called these snake head plants because they looked like Medusa. The plants are trained to grow up the poles and they build these heads. We saw one house that had a fence made from these. It would be effective too as these had small stickers on their leaves.