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Florida Trip

The Family and I dropped down to Fort Myers, Florida, for a week to watch some Twins baseball and do some general sight-seeing and beaching. I’ll save the Spring Training discussion for another post, but needless to say it was a good time. 80-degree weather with no rain was also a good time, thank you very much.

This was The Kid’s first flight. For the most part she was happy to be there and liked being on the plane, especially since she just recently started spotting planes and hearing planes as they pass overhead. She was mostly good on the way there (not as much on the way back). Either way it didn’t really matter since about 75% of both flights were families with kids. A good flight to take with a little one.

Stepping into the Southwest Florida International Airport’s baggage claim area, I mentioned to The Wife that it smelled like a hospital. And thus began our numerous close encouters with the retired kind. Fort Myers is not a Spring Break destination by any means. Sure, there are pockets of college kids going wild, but by-in-large we were in 60-year-old country.

I planned this trip rather late, as I tend to do with any trip I plan, so hotel choice was limited. In the end we got a pretty good location for a reasonable price compared to the prices I saw in my searches. We ended up at the Holiday Inn, Fort Myers Beach. It was a rather small hotel for a hotel on the beach. I’d say this is a good thing as no room was far from any amenity. We were steps from the pool and the beach was right outside the hotel. Though it was a decent walk to get to the water it didn’t seem that our hotel was much further from the water than others. Since the hotel had a refrigerator, we were able to go cheap for all our breakfasts and lunches. Mainly, this helped us keep from overeating, which is a problem we tend to have.

Beaching It

We stopped in to the local Publix to pick up some provisions for the hotel room and noticed two obvious signs that we were in snow-bird heaven. There were approximately 20 handicapped parking spots outside of the store. After checking out I also noticed a change machine. Meaning a machine where one could bring one’s 10-gallon pickle jar filled with pennies, pour said pennies into the machine, and receive greenbacks in return. Somewhat convenient, but not worth a grocer’s time in most other regions of the country.

One key pick-up at the Publix was some Yuengling Traditional Lager, which I’ve often been told try. The beer made it’s way down the coast from Pottsville with all the other winter travellers. I’m thankful.

As we sat drinking outside our room that night, we watched the older folks leave the Tiki Bar to stagger back home. Those that are concerned about hearing their grandparents swear maybe should watch themselves in Fort Myers. This is their environment and they’ll do what they want to. One couple walked by and told us, “Don’t tell our grandkids we’re out so late.” It was 9:30.

We visited Sanibel and Captiva Island and J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge was OK, but The Kid wasn’t interested. I think some of the canoeing would be a blast, but that wasn’t in the cards for our family unit. We sat on a beach there and, as with all the beaches we visited, there were a ridiculous amount of shells around. The Wife was nearly convulsing with all the shelling she was able to do. Not only were the shells all over up and down the beach, but also into the water. When I stepped into the water I could feel all of the shells crunching under my feet. About 3-4 feet into the water I would hit a shell “hill,” which would drop off severly into normal, fine-grain sand after another couple feet.

Ding Darling

Next day we visited the Everglades National Park‘s Gulf Coast Visitor's Center. The biggest attraction in this area of the park is the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Basically, Mangrove tree seedlings float in the water for up to a year until they can grab on to a sand bar. Once they grab, over time, an island will form around their roots (very unique roots) which collect debris and other Mangrove seedlings. The landscape is neat, but grows fairly redundant. The trees weren’t nearly as green as they usually are due to last year’s hurricane season. I’d imagine the visual impact would be a little more interesting if the trees were more alive. In any case, the Mangrove ecosystem is pretty unique and interesting.

The best part of our short boat tour was happening upon some dolphins near the Gulf of Mexico. The guide asked us all to move to the back of the boat to increase our wake size. We then rode with the dolphins for about fifteen minutes. The whole time they swam with us in our wake, jumping out of the water frequently. It was pretty cool. The Kid was bragging about “see dolphins” for the next couple hours.

I wish this lady had a smaller head

Before we docked, the guide gave us insight on where to go to see alligators. We hadn’t seen any yet and we weren’t too comfortable taking an airboat ride with The Kid. The guide mentioned that there are over 2 million alligators in Florida and there is an alligator hunting season to keep the population controlled enough to minimize alligator grazing in back yards. I didn’t realize there were so many alligators down there. Population control will only become a bigger issue as the area continues to grow exponentially with the upcoming boomer retirements.

Anyway, this alligator lazing area was right off a major highway. Fences were up to protect us citizens (though there was a gap about 50 ft down the fenceline that would certainly allow an alligator to come through). Anyway, we saw as many alligators as we needed to see.

The Kid gator gazing

Next we went to the Naples Zoo. It was a relatively small zoo and not an outstanding place. They had a lot of construction. Their unique feature was these monkey islands where they had monkey-types freely living without fencing of any sort. They boat you around and give a little guided tour. It is nice to see the monkeys in a more natural environment. Apparently the monkeys assume there is danger in the water and they simply will not cross it under any circumstances. I did run into an interesting display by the National Wildlife Federation. I’m going to peruse their site a bit, but from what I understand they can help you plant stuff in your backyard that attracts regional wildlife and minimizes upkeep because the plantlife is native to the area you live.

Pretty Polly Parrots

A cool place we visited before flying out was Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, a boardwalked park in the greenest of green marshland. We saw lots of water moccasins, various largish birds and a bunch of turtles and fish. The otters were unfortunately not out and about. We really had to rush through here and I wish we could have took our time. It’s certainly an oasis in the middle of that city.

Water Moccasin

Green, Green, Green

A large part of our time was spent sitting on the beach or in the pool. It was over 80 degrees every day, after all. We verified that the sun can still burn skin and The Kid has my complexion (meaning our sub-two-year-old now has a tan despite the gobs of sunblock used on her skin). I’d like to think she enjoyed seeing some things she has never seen before. At least she’s still talking about “dolphins” and “gators.”

The Kid relaxing on the beach

Sunset on the beach