Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Key Largo and The Everglades

We left Key West in the afternoon of our second day and drove to Key Largo, the northernmost island of the Florida Keys chain.

Our hotel room there overlooked a nice pool area on the marina.

Key Largo claims to be the diving capital of the world and also is a major sport-fishing destination. From our balcony, we observed diving boats preparing to leave for the day.

Our last night in the Keys compelled us to find a seafood dinner. Taking advise from a local, we went to The Fish House. If you ever find yourself looking for a good meal in Key Largo, do not miss this resaturant!!!

 Paul had a sampler plate and I had the mahimahi special. Wonderful!

Our adventure continued the next morning with a drive along Tamiami Trail through southern Florida and the Everglades. We lost count of the alligators sunning themselves along the canal on the side of the highway.

We stopped at Clyde Butcher's Big Cypress Gallery near Ochopee.  Beth and Gary were familiar with this artist's work. He has a gallery and studio in Venice also.
His stunning black and white photos of the Big Cypress National Preserve were a very welcome discovery.

Another pleasant discovery was very close to the gallery. We stopped at the Oasis Visitor Center, the headquarters for Big Cypress National Preserve. Alligators were within feet of us as we walked along the boardwalk outside the visitor's center.

This egret waited patiently for his turn to grab a fish from the canal.

The last stop of our road trip was in nearby Everglades City, located in the 10,000 Islands region of Everglades National Park.

I was persistent about going out in a boat here and Beth and Gary graciously obliged.

Thankfully, the route is well marked as it would be otherwise impossible to remember how to get back to the docks!

The boat tour took us close to some of the thousands of mangrove islets in this part of the national park.

This osprey was wondering what we were doing in his territory.

After boating all the way out to the Gulf we knew it was time to "sail" back home to Venice.

We learned we are extremely motivated to further explore this region before we leave in April. We loved our "shakedown" cruise and are already looking at the calendar to plan a day trip with our bikes.  And, Paul was inspired to start reading Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises" while I am rereading "The Orchid Thief" by Susan Orlean. Life is good. Except, I really miss our kids. I do not like this feeling of loneliness for them. Talk to you soon.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Changes in Latitudes

One of our best friend's has a favorite saying, "If not now, when?" We took that saying to heart last week and made a quick trip to Key West. So, after making the decision on Monday afternoon, Beth, Gary, Paul and I were on the road Tuesday morning before the sun made its appearance for the day.

We left the mainland by late morning and headed down Highway 1, the "Overseas Highway" through the Florida Keys. Don't plan on making a quick trip down this stretch of road! But, then, one is supposed to be changing the attitude with the latitude!

We spent several hours that first afternoon walking and seeing the sites along Duval Street, the main tourist area in Key West.

Of course, we just had to have a margarita at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville. Can you say, "Tourist?" Excellent, margarita, though!

And, we really enjoyed our walk along the waterfront in the downtown area.

There is no problem choosing a boat to hire to go out for a fishing or snorkeling adventure along this wharf. And, one can always dream to have enough money to own a boat like one of these!

We had mojitos and a fresh seafood dinner at the Conch Republic.

After dinner, we went down to the beach area. I am sure when it is warm enough, this would be a wonderful spot to spend a day or two!

We watched the sunset at the southernmost point in the continental United States. We were quite certain we could see Cuba from there!  Because of this, I now know so much more about foreign diplomacy! :)

It was a beautiful evening, despite the chill in the air!

The naval air base made for an interesting horizon shot.

The next morning found us at the Ernest Hemingway home.

He lived here for ten years with his second wife, Pauline, during the 1930's.

He wrote many of his major works  in this room above the carriage house on the property. What a beautiful home and surrounding gardens! I am going to start a Hemingway reading phase when I return home.

We continued our walk through the downtown area, stopping for (only) a picture in the famous bar, The Green Parrot, just to say we had been there!

We also toured the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum. Artifacts and treasures from the Atocha and Margarita form the cornerstone of the museum's collection. The Atocha and Margarita were Spanish galleons that sunk in a hurricane near the Florida Keys in 1622.

In 1985, Fisher and his crew found the major portion of the cargo from the Atocha, after most of the remains of the Margarita had been discovered. The ships were loaded with treasures, including bars of silver and gold and boxes of "pieces of eight." It is an incredible exhibit well worth the time.

We had to walk along the historic wharf one more time before we said goodbye to Key West. Although it is not a cheap place to visit, it is a fun destination!

We are glad we finally made it to milepost 0.

More soon about our trip "home" through the Everglades!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

2010 Sarasota Exotic Car Fest

Beth, Gary, Paul and I went to Sarasota yesterday to attend the Sarasota Exotic Car Fest, located in the Circle Park of St. Armands. Paul took the pictures I am sharing with you here. I do not pretend to know one thing about cars. However, it was a very interesting day. We saw some amazing vehicles.

Below is the engine of a Ferrari. The show was presented by the Ferrari Owners Club Florida Region, so that car was very well represented.

Here is a Porsche, maybe a 1956. There also were Rolls-Royces, Lamborghinis, Bentleys and other "exotics" on display.

This is a Lotus, a British sports car.

The event has become a destination for exotic car owners. Some participants travel from across the nation to be part of the event. This Ferrari was owned by a Michigan State grad.

This race car was clocked at a top speed of 285 MPH. The ground clearance appeared to be about two inches. And, the steering wheel was tiny!

Here is a Mercedes. There were over 80 cars entered to compete for "Best of Show."

The judges were looking very carefully at every aspect of each competing automobile. This picture of a Ferrari engine demonstrates how spotlessly clean these vehicles were presented for display.

Many of the cars had custom interiors. Paul and Gary liked the gear shift in this car.

I never knew the Dutch Stryker existed before yesterday.

Here's Paul dreaming he owns this Ferrari.

Or maybe he could buy this Aston Martin. I had picked out a Bentley for myself.

The engine in this Camaro was much bigger than the one Paul's mom owned when he was a teenager.

I would go back to this event again.  Next time, I would take pictures of some of the designer clothes we saw! Did you know one can buy Ferrari sneakers?

After the show, the four of us had lunch at

The Old Salty Dog located on Sarasota Bay. Despite the fact the weather has been chilly, we ate outside by the water just because we could. However, Beth ate her fries while wearing gloves!

Here is a view of our sunset back at Camp Venice Retreat, our present home.  Ours is a different reality from St. Armand Circle, but beautiful nonetheless. Talk to you soon.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Jelks Preserve: Hiking with Armadillos!

We did our walking yesterday at Jelks Preserve, which is located very close to where we are staying along the Myakka River. The trail system within the preserve is very well marked and winds through several distinct habitats.

We have never seen so many armadillos. Being Northerners, we remain quite amused by them.

The word armadillo is Spanish for "little armored one."

Because most of our hiking has been in the North woods, we remain amazed at the differences we see here in the South.  The epiphytes were literally dripping off the trees as we walked down to the river.

And, this is the dry season down here. One can only imagine what this oak hammock must look like in the summer months!

Can you tell I just relearned the word epiphyte? They are plants that grow on, but are not parasitic to other plants. I know we talked about them back when we took Suzanne and Nick on hikes with us.

What beautiful surroundings to enjoy during one's daily exercise! Sure beats the tread mill.

We are staying just a few miles up the river from this spot.

Paul got out golfing this week with Kent

and Gary.

Beth and I played Bananagrams while they were on the links. She won. Rats, I hate to lose!!!
Off to ride my bike. I feel like a kid again!
Talk to you soon.