Monday, September 22, 2014

Florida More

This trip was intended to be a beach trip and that’s how it’s working out.  We have spent hours on the beach shelling and wading.  It’s been wonderful.  In between beach time we’ve hit the pool. All in all it’s been very relaxing.

Some of our treasures
We’ve found lots of shells, none of them incredible but treasures nonetheless!  To learn more about shells we visited the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum just outside of town.  There we saw two movies about the creatures who live in those beautiful shells.  Mollusks are very interesting critters!  Did you know that whelks’ egg casings are two to four feet long and they take about eight days to lay them?!?!  Neither did we!

Big Jellyfish!
Our favorite evening  dining spot so far is the Starfish Grille.  Soft blue neon lighting; illuminated starfish hanging from the ceiling; and a huge tree trunk upside down in the middle of the dining area.  Sounds odd, but trust me it works.  The seafood there is awesome, too!

We’ve also visited the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge which covers about two thirds of this island.  The first time we took a guided tour.  Our subsequent visits were on our own and free because they accept the National Parks Pass.  We’ve seen four large alligators (No rocks were thrown at them.), lots of different birds and even tree crabs.  Who knew trees had crabs!?!?!
Trees Got Crabs!

Yesterday morning wasn’t as fun.  I was on the beach when I got a text from Mona, “I’ve fallen.  I need u!”  I rushed back to the condo to find that she had taken a full body slam after slipping on the tile.  Bruises up and down her left side.  These aches are now added to the two badly stubbed toes she already had.  She has managed to soldier on and went with me on a guided shell walk later in the morning.  She even managed to float around in the pool for awhile, but she spent most of her evening with a heating pad.  (Yep, we packed a heating pad for this trip.  The last few trips we’ve needed one.)

Becca (in black) teaching us about shells
The Shell Walk was led by a marine biologist (I always think of the Seinfeld episode when I hear that.) who has a Masters in Squid.  Seriously.  She, Becca, thinks squid are the most interesting creatures in the sea so she spent all those years in college studying them.  I think that’s totally cool: knowing what you love and making a career of it.  Becca also knows everything there is to know about shells and she walked the beach with us explaining what we were seeing and filling us in on all the details.  She knew every detail about every shell and she could spot even the tiniest shells.  One of the coolest things she showed us was a whelk egg casing.  The casing was about four feet long and had about a hundred pods.  Each pod was filled with tiny whelks…you could fit 20 of them on a dime.  Amazing!

It’s now the day after Mona’s fall.  She’s bruised but not broken.  We walked the beach for a couple of miles, then relaxed in the pool.  The rains came back so we went back to Doc Ford’s for appetizers and then to the Sea Breeze to listen to live music.  It’s time to turn in now.  

BTW: Today we found out that mermaids are for real!  Found one that had washed up on the beach!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


We’ve been planning a trip to Florida for over a year and finally it was time to go!  We gave ourselves three days to get there, giving us time to geocache in eleven Illinois counties and eight more in Florida.  Geocaching along the way breaks up the drive and allows us to see more of the local countryside than we would from the interstate.  At one of the Florida caches someone had posted a DNF (Did Not Find) saying they were unable to make the find because an alligator was sleeping next to the cache.  You can bet we were watching where we stepped very carefully!
Driving down I75 we started reminiscing about the Florida attractions we had visited as kids: Ross Allen Reptile Institute, Busch Gardens, Waltzing Waters and of course Cypress Gardens.  These attractions along with many others are all now closed because of a mouse.  Yep, Mickey eats up almost all the tourist revenue that used to keep the old attractions alive.  Kind of sad when you think about it.  Virtually everything in Orlando is made-up…it’s cartoon and movie based.  People have abandoned the old reality entertainment; alligator wrestling, water skiers, and dancing colored-water and have switched to the illusions of Orlando.  Oh well, at least us old-timers have our memories!

Our Beach Path
Our first week in Florida will be spent at the Shell Island Beach Club.  This resort is on the eastern end of Sanibel and is within wading distance of the Sanibel Island Lighthouse.  We have an upper floor condo which fronts over the dune giving us a great view of the beach.  It’s close enough to the water that we can hear the surf.  We leave our doors open all the time so we have a constant background noise of the water.  Love it!

There’s not a lot to do on the island other than beach stuff: look for shells, watch the water, swimming, watch the wildlife and of course, eat seafood.  Mind you, we’re not complaining!  

One of the great things about visiting Florida this time of year is the lack of tourists.  The summer tourists are gone because the kids are back to school.  It’s too early for the snowbirds, so that leaves pretty much no one.  The locals have told us repeatedly that this is the perfect time of year to visit…no long lines for dinner, empty beaches and the traffic isn’t snarled at ten miles an hour.
Moon Jelly Fish

Yesterday, we drove to Captiva Island for a boat tour.  While waiting for departure we got to watch two manatees graze near the dock.  While standing there we also saw a moon jellyfish swim by.  It was the size of a dinner platter; beautiful, but we are so glad to see it from the dock and not while we were wading!

One of the pod showing off!
The highlight of the boat ride was when a pod of dolphins started frolicking in our wake.  They would swim to within 20 feet of the boat and then jump out of the water and splash heavily back in.  They followed us for five or ten minutes giving us a fantastic show!  Everyone on the boat had big smiles on their faces and there was a lot of whooping and hollering as the dolphins jumped and spun in the air.  

Later in the day, we visited the Mucky Duck where after dining on great seafood you can watch the sunset.  People from both islands (Sanibel and Captiva) gather here and watch the sun go down.  I don’t what it is, but it must be some primeval instinct that draws people to the setting sun.  I just know that wherever we go we look for sunsets; and the best spots always draw a crowd.
Sunset from Mucky Duck's - Captiva

As I mentioned, we’ve been eating a lot of seafood.  Our favorite place so far is the Sanibel Fish House where you can get a 1/2 pound of peel and eat shrimp for $5 and/or a half dozen oysters for $5.  One great thing about Florida is that the seafood is fresh and cheap!
5 Bucks! 5 Bucks!

The sun is rising….gotta go!  

Sunrise Over Ft. Meyers Beach