Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Multi-lingual Skype ;)

When you know you're somewhere in the intermediate realm of Spanish.  My teacher Skyped me, in Spanish, about a problem that the lesson we had today didn't register properly in the system.   Given more time, patience, and energy I probably could've answered in Spanish, but I was multitasking and it was definitely faster in English (and I know that his English is better than my Spanish) so I did that -- but I never had to cheat and translate what he was sending me either.   Finished in Spanish, albeit a little grammatically questionable ;)

Since I've been putting most of my "optional" time to piano lately, my Spanish has deteriorated horribly :(.   It gets to come back on the list as of April.  Although I'm only on day 3 of this month's challenge and determined to finish it on time, so have to do a fair bit of catch up in there ;).   But yeah, definitely noticed in today's lesson I was struggling more than normal, so need to get it back into a regular part of things.  Ah well - the list grows.

Sleep-deprived road trip thoughts

So these are misc posts I wrote as I was going along; complete randomness -- consider yourself forewarned.

We had a car cooler on loan from my mum; the car cooler has two settings: hot and cold. The first time we plugged it in was cold. Things stayed cold, life was wonderful. The second time was hot. My bag of mini mars bars is now one GIANT mars mess and we were lucky we caught it before the cokes exploded or C’s beers do whatever beers do when they get too hot. Lol at least now we know how to tell which way it’s set ;). And that mars bars, once re-chilled, make for a still tasty, if oddly shaped, pull-apart bar.

Singing loudly fuels late night driving; idk about anybody else, but I really enjoyed the live concert featuring me ;)

Google lady gives amazing instructions while driving (including, thankfully, what lane to be in) but is very hit or miss when walking.

Waterproof phone and camera both survived far more of a torrential downpour than I would willingly have subjected them to. Win.

Just because the sandals are the most comfortable footwear you own, does not mean it’s a good life choice to wear them for a 3h city hike when they haven’t been worn since pre-winter. And definitely don’t do it two days in a row, even if your other shoes are wet. Ow.

Scavenger hunts are more fun when you do all the challenges, particularly the silly ones.

I am far more willing to talk to strangers to solve a puzzle or win a game than I am for any practical life purpose. Strangers also seem to enjoy participating in said games.

Budget hotels are budget for a reason; some make it far less obvious than others.

Finding that the most amazing cookies exist but are more than a 20h drive from home is both a very good thing and a very sad thing.

I like subtlety in my life. I've come to the realisation that the things and behaviours that make me dislike the States generally fall under the “too much” category: too big, too loud, too in your face, or tries too hard. And alas, while the vast majority of people and things probably don’t fall under that category, they are, by definition, quiet about it and thus drowned out.

mmmm Piña Colada slushy

7-11s in the States have piña colada flavoured slushies. I am so jealous. I also did not discover this nearly early enough in our trip. All the junk food that I eat way too much of at home, I can’t eat here because it tastes wrong (they usually don’t use real sugar - corn starch they use for flavour is illegal in Canada). Which, when I briefly lived down here resulted in me losing all kinds of weight ;). But is less fun when you’re trying to be a kid in a candy store on a road trip. So discovering NEW junk food is wonderful. Ice cream and baked goods from actual bakeries are also generally excellent ;). And, given US sizing, I’m still going on the cookie I bought two days ago. Lol

I have, for most of my adult life, been subject to motion sickness. I can’t use gadgets in the car, or read, or sit in the back seat. Buses are my own personal hell. And motion sickness drugs knock me out cold. They do work, but less fun if a good part is the adventure is to enjoy the ride. Arm bands help a little as long as I put them on early. Usually if I’m in the front seat I’m fine as long as it’s not stop and go or really jerky driving. So I figured I’d prob be okay on this trip; if nothing else, I know what to watch for and I’m very careful not to do anything to trigger it. However, much of my blogging I wanted to do while being a passenger. Reading and writing are a hard no, but it turns out I can touch type - with a real keyboard I’ve been able to do that since high school (my single most useful hight school class bar none - grade 9 typing lol). But I never realized until this trip I can do it almost as well with my phone as long as it’s letters only. The issue is when autocorrect tries to help.  I have definitely found a few interesting “fixes” when rereading at night and undoubtedly have missed others. The other fun one is there’s no way to landmark without looking, so if I get to the wrong line I can have a very large amount of transposed letters. It’s a code you could puzzle out if you were really bored but less fun trying to remember what I was actually writing ;-P

So one definite win as we travel - burgers! I haven’t had a good burger since we moved - everywhere sells these stupid smash burgers. But idk if it’s just where we live now or if it’s an Ontario-wide trend but it is not good. Twice on this trip I’ve had truly awesome burgers. It’s the little things in life ;)

Somewhat surprised by the number of bail bond offices. How and why is that such a big industry?!?!

A week was enough of a road trip for me.  Almost every other vacation, I haven't been ready to return when we did, but this one I was definitely ready to come home and sleep for about 3 days.   That being said, I had an amazing time, and really enjoyed myself, which is even more impressive when I remember it was a vacation I wasn't sure I wanted to go on to begin with.   So huge win there :)

Now it's time for Spring to arrive.

Highway Thoughts

This post is complete randomness of things I wrote regarding the actual act of driving / navigating the US as we drove many many many miles to and around Florida. Consider yourself forewarned ;)

So the rest stops that are just super clean washrooms and nothing else are very civilized. Less civilized is the need to leave the hwy to find gas and food. Not difficult but much slower and hit or miss.

So the highways in Florida - in some locations (eg going into the Everglades or the Keys) it’s one lane each way with no on or off ramps for excessively long distances. Since there was little to no traffic when we were there this made for consistently lovely driving. But, what surprised me, was with all this big open space, how I was fighting feelings of claustrophobia?!?! I really struggled with the idea that I couldn’t just get off the road or turn around. No reason I would need or want to but definitely some long since unnecessary instinct was triggered by it. Not an issue, just found it mildly interesting.

Similarly “there is a 20 minute delay; you are still on the fastest route.” Thanks Google lady, we’re on the *only* route lol 

Honking. Okay seriously Americans behave like toddlers w their car horns. Sitting at breakfast in a restaurant downtown - typical city traffic. But constant horns. OMG somebody six cars ahead was 2 seconds late off the gas!!! HEY that light is about to turn green! I’m not getting what I want right this second so everybody needs to hear about it. Or later - sitting in stop and go, nobody can move anywhere, traffic and still often horns? Like a definite boy who called wolf scenario. If everybody is always on their horns, nobody’s going to pay attention when it actually matters. And on top of that it’s loud and obnoxious.

One thing that really amused me in the keys were the number of cop cars parked as if to be speed traps that were just empty cars. Only saw one with an actual person in it, easily identified as it was parked in the shade ;)
Alas, we did not get to see an actual panther :(

So very cool - they have panther crossing signs. Which is cool enough but also, some of them flash when it knows a panther is near. How does it know? They’re tagging them with gps trackers that trigger the lights. So if it’s flashing, one of the previously caught ones is nearby. 
This seems to suggest the flashing lights might have a purpose

They also have night speed limits in animal crossing areas - we saw them for both panther and deer in separate areas - which are 10 or 20mph lower. 

Then there are these signs across Florida which made me realize they don’t have an emergency broadcast system…
I guess an emergency broadcast system would be impinging on freedoms??? ;-P

Speed limits are consistently higher than in Canada, which is lovely, and about as much (or as little?) respect is paid to them…. More of a guideline ;).  I can’t get used to 100km/h speed limits on roads with lots of entrances and stop lights though. Some of those were a little dodgy.

Traffic congestion warnings are way better in Fl than we have at home - they identify where the congestion stops and ends, even more accurately than the Google lady! Although she’s better at giving alternate routes ;)
If we knew where we were going, this might've been very helpful ;)

As long as you’re not on a hwy golf carts appear to be road legal?!?! Lol can’t get over how many we’ve seen just puttering their way around random towns. And honestly, with no snow, why not?

Tolls and parking are both generally cheaper than home, even w the exchange rate factored in.
WTF is fog smoke?!?!
We didn't see it, so remains a mystery...

Hwy lane exit info painted on the road is super helpful- definitely wouldn’t work where there’s winter, but was lovely here.

Our credit cards often don’t work in gas pumps, so we have to pay inside in advance which is just a royal pain.

Billboards everywhere - the US is just one big ad. Which, around the cities alright, but where it really got to me was when they cut down trees solely for the billboard. I really struggled w that one.

Summary - will miss the high speed limits, the advantages of no winter, and the clean restrooms with no expectation of purchase.  I won't miss the literal and visual noise.

This doesn't seem like Florida anymore...

Drove through Ocala this am - waved at the horse park and had flashbacks to when the horse world was my real life. I know some of you are down here now - I’m appropriately jealous. The Ocala forrest was also lovely to drive through and I imagine could have some gorgeous hacking :) 

This part of the drive was gorgeous.

We decided to skip the Let’s Roam in Jacksonville and headed straight for Savannah. We had tickets to tour a plantation home there and also a Let’s Roam. 

This was the house we were going to tour

Savannah was stunning AND it had a great Let's Roam, so that was an amazing combination. We were a little surprised as we got there that the home we had tickets for was right in the city centre; turns out it was the plantation owner's home, not actually the plantation. But definitely still interesting. The last of the family owners bequeathed it to the museum in the 1950s, and they've done a combination of keeping it in its original state and restoring other areas back to what they would've been.

Tours were every 15 minutes, and the only way you could see the house, so when we checked in, it was about 45 mins to the next available tour.   We decided we'd start our Let's Roam and come back when it was closer to starting time.   This Let's Roam was a Ghost Tour, the first I've done of those, and fairly entertaining.  Was a bit of a walk to the Pirate's House that started it out, but a gorgeous walk.   

This is the first city I've been in where I've noticed
No Parking so they can sweep!

We did the first couple stops which conveniently led us right back to where we needed to be; our museum wasn't on the tour, but we had a stop across the street, so at that point we hung out a did a few challenges while waiting for our tour.

We were able to wait in this fairly stunning garden;
Apparently this would've been a far more practical work space
(including housing a cow that escaped) once upon a time.

Our tour started in the stables / housing for enslaved people.  The stables had been renovated at one point beyond the point of historical restoration, so they are now the orientation centre.   However, the housing for enslaved people still exists much as it would've.

The tour guide was excellent in his word choice and in conveying
both sides of the life experience throughout the tour

The orientation centre has this wall with the names of the enslaved people
who kept the estate functioning (when they were known).
There are lots of extant letters between the husband and wife that reveal many of the details both about people and life that otherwise would've been unknown.

This would've originally been 3 rooms, and housed 6-12 people, including children

From here we moved through the garden to the house, using the back entrance.  The rooms at the back would've been more family-focused, as we moved forward through the house they became grander and more ostentatious.  Symmetry was a huge thing in the design, as were faux finishes (it cost more to paint wood to look like marble than to use actual marble, so they did that instead to demonstrate wealth; similarly with painting one type of wood to look like another).   

The grand staircase was certainly impressive, 
but more interestingly, it led to...

...this fairly stunning bridge connecting
one side of the upstairs (kids bedrooms) to the other (Dad's office)

The master bedroom was downstairs; partially this was for heat control (14' ceilings and lower) but partially it was because this was the first house in Georgia with indoor plumbing (12 years before the white house) and being downstairs allowed the owners a private bathroom.

The girls' bedroom.  Note the bedroll under the one bed;
it belonged to the enslaved nanny who would've had to stay with them,
rather than returning to stay with and raise her own daughter.

We finished the tour going down to the basement which housed the kitchen and bathing areas -- these are as they once were and show a dramatic contrast to the "above stairs".  Down here they also display, museum style, some of the artefacts of the time, and stories of some of the people who lived and worked there.  In one room are reprints of letters sent between the husband (who at this point was a politician in DC) and the wife (running the plantations) that both give some details as to the enslaved people living there, but also show how very clearly they were not seen as people but as possessions or investments.  Really horrifying to read, yet effective in demonstrating the mindset of the time.

After the tour, we resumed our Let's Roam and got to explore a lot more of the city.  

For the curious - this is an example of a Let's Roam challenge;
Challenges are all optional, but imo they make it more entertaining.
This one would've come after some sort of actual clue about the square or the statue.

I loved all the gorgeous parks scattered around.   Also a number of tree-covered streets.

Just a pretty walk

We finished our hunt and debated dinner.  C was after southern BBQ, but there was an intense storm rolling in, so we weren't sure how willing we were to get soaked again (memories of the Everglades were still clear), but we were hungry and both enjoying the town, so with the aid of Google we located some BBQ and off we went.

BBQ was excellent, but the heavens opened while we were there.  lol we retreated just down the street and Chris grabbed a drink at the mojito bar we'd passed earlier in hopes the rain would settle before we left.

Yet another store made for Chris

Suffice to say we got slightly wet, but we stopped in a nearby tourist store and bought a ridiculously low quality but reasonably effective umbrella.  lol that got us to the pharmacy for our required COVID tests and back to the car without being soaked.  By the time we were ready to drive, the rain was done.  Win.

Happy and fed, we decided we'd drive till we got tired -- made it just past Charlotte and then crashed for the night.

Home tomorrow :)

Naples and Tampa

After the Everglades we traveled to Naples - not the Italian version, although certainly saw some houses mimicking the style ;). Naples was Oakville relocated somewhere warm and then some ;). LOTS of money, everything super well cared for, very little obvious tourism, next to nothing interesting to do. But a gorgeous beach with a lovely pier that had dolphins playing off it. 

Off the pier in Naples
Chris shot this one; I was too busy watching the dolphin play to remember to snap :)

The Let’s Roam here was okay - lots of long walks w no stops which I find less fun. I don’t mind the distance, but I want to be doing stuff in the way. Also there was one where the answer was about a 5 min walk from the question, on a timed clue. That was less cool. We made it no problem but A - we’re good at navigating and B - we walk fast. There are lots who would’ve lost that one just from walking a normal pace or respecting street lights. 

The beach was stunning and I would've loved
to have planned for an actual beach day there.

Other than that it was good though and some fun pics. I was mildly disappointed not to take advantage of the beach with some perfect beach weather but we weren’t really set up for that. 

I got to meet an elephant!

I’m not sure it’s a town I’d really target for vacation per se, but I could see snowbirding there or somewhere like there if the new world relaxes enough to allow out of country remote work. Except not really, cause the internet was the worst we’ve seen yet - a mild frustration for a gps-based online game, but a severe difficulty for remote work. 

Off the beaten path, comparatively tiny and plain, but still lovely.

So after Naples we went to Fort Myers - driving it was definitely a different economic area, but when we got to the downtown it was super cute. Alas, it was also INSANE. Turns out it’s St Patrick’s Day and people take it seriously in Fort Myers. Many streets closed, ALL parking full, and people everywhere. I even saw someone with a mini-horse?!?! And even it was dressed for St Patrick’s. So we aborted that effort and continued on our way… 

Best rest stop views yet!

Evening in Tampa, dinner at Cigar City Brewing, which has been on C’s list for a while. I quite liked our waitress (Sonata) who, when C asked about St Paddy’s day food, responded with “we’re not cool like that” but was super patient with giving C time to fully explore the very long beer menu. They also had possibly the best apple crisp I’ve ever had. One of the spices was different but neither C nor I could identify it. 

Love this pic of Chris :)

Our hotel was way out of town and while still budget, light years ahead of the last two. Last night’s was almost a joke how awful it was and the night before the room was bright enough that I could read with all the lights out.

So of three potential Let’s Roams today we only ended up doing one, but lots of time in the sun and a nice relaxing dinner were all good.

Tomorrow will be the end of our Florida driving but still a couple potential Let’s Roams to go!

Everglades - take 2

Back in the Everglades today - we drove right by where we were the other day and debated going back to do the two walks we bailed on due to being soaked and cold. But in the end decided to continue so we’d have time if we found something else cool to do.

Driving through, I was fascinated by the giant cypress section - perfect horror story background - tall, whispy, ghost trees. Impression only increased by the addition of Spanish moss.

The horror movie setup

This is a prettier version

We drove past a few “back country parking” - somehow when I think of back country camping, this is not the environment I’d tackle by choice ;). I’m sure some of that is familiarity but also - I just don’t see any way if making what is essentially a giant swamp pleasant. Interesting for sure - but not so much for camping ;)

Stopped at a random boardwalk just to look and see. A ton of alligators and interesting birds. Very few people so super quiet, which was nice.
Resting at the rest stop.
There were MANY gators here.

Saw one sign for a canoe launch - have to think that’s be v difficult in the Everglades…. Paths created by alligators, super shallow, random stops…. The big canals sure but the rest? Maybe not so much.

Chris’ comment driving into Everglades City was that “it must be small; it only had one sign and the sign for the panther crossing was bigger” lol

Cute town though and we got here just early enough to snag the last of the breakfast menu at a super cute little cafe. Think Muskoka with gators.

Key West

The drive in felt very long, but was pretty :)

“Please seat yourself” a seemingly innocent sign at Sloppy Joe’s in Key West whose better translation might be “may the odds be ever in your favour” lol fortunately for us, while C had given up and was waiting for his “to go” consolation prize, some nice older ladies called me over to tell me they were leaving shortly if I’d like the table. Which meant we got to sit down and have lunch, and C could check off a bucket list item. 

Having a mojito in Sloppy Joe's

Before leaving he verified open liquor laws (aka open container laws ;) in Florida which are apparently just “don’t cause a scene” or else “vacation will turn into probation” which I found funnier than I prob should’ve. 

We also found a new drink for Chris - it’s called a Pain in the Ass. It really doesn’t even matter what’s in it. Note - that was his statement, not mine ;) 

While Chris was discovering his new drink, I acquired a new hat ;)

Let's Roam in Key West was lots of fun.  Among other things:

Chris got points making music;

There was a tragic incident with a fish;

And we found the original Sloppy Joe's
(which seemed far more plausible a Hemmingway hangout)

While it was one of the more entertaining roams and another circle route which is ideal, it didn’t include the southernmost point of the continental US, so after we finished it we walked all the way back there mostly so we could say we had ;) 

There was a HUGE line for the good photo spot, so we made our own ;)

Plus side, Key West is gorgeous and fun and walking it twice was no hardship as we got to see things we missed the first time. 

Completely random sample house just cause it was pretty

Down side - my feet. My poor feet. My blisters have blisters. Yesterday I was annoyed at C being slow stopping me from my mini-adventure, but today I had to ask him to slow down cause I literally couldn’t keep up. Pretty much always when it comes to walking tours he quits before I do but not today. So much so that I was legitimately considering ubering back to the car (a few kms away) when a rickshaw driver did his sales pitch. C and I had recently discussed that that was something we’d never done, and I was SO sore, that we took him up on it. 

Being chauffeured back to the parking lot

Admittedly not an experience I w
as super comfortable with overall, but my feet appreciated it and it was still cool to get to explore another route. 

C making new friends ;)

From there we did one more quick visit to the Key West version of Ron Jon’s - this one was comparatively tiny, but I liked it much better. And no line to check out ;) 

The vibe in Key West was more Caribbean than American, but definitely tourist trappy.   It was fun though and 'upscale' tourist trap (as opposed to say, Niagara Falls ;).   In retrospect, I wish we’d booked a hotel room there for the night. I would’ve loved to round out the day with a sunset cruise. Alas, I didn’t know what I didn’t know, so we had to head back to our (more affordable) hotel in Key Largo. Other learnings - in future I would fly or boat in rather than drive, and I would leave at least one more day.   I suspect there's also probably decent diving options, which would be nice if time and money allowed.

Super pretty drive

Tomorrow back to the Everglades and then up the Gulf Coast.

Miami - not to be confused with Miami Beach

Back in Miami we got warm and dry and then headed out to do another Let’s Roam.   If not for Let's Roam, I would never have realised Miami and Miami Beach were not one in the same.   Suffice to say, this one was a very different experience.  It involved downtown Miami and was interesting enough, but not a loop - which means we ended several kms from where we started. Which, if my feet weren’t giant blisters from walking on different shoes (since mine were soaking wet), wouldn’t have been a big deal, but definitely by the time I got back I was ready to not walk anymore! 

Miami had some very pretty parks,
and by far the most extravagant yachts we saw anywhere.

We had a minor pause as between switching locations we saw a HUGE storm rolling in, and since we were at that time in a sheltered location, we decided we’d stay there and wait it out.

We waited this out at the art museum

So we did a bunch of challenges for extra points and the storm past quickly. 
This lovely dog got me 100 points!

Then we continued on our way. This Let’s Roam was slightly more frustrating than previous ones as it had a tendency to ask you questions for which the answers weren’t in the immediate vicinity. Which A, means more walking, and B, most challenges have a time limit so there may not be enough time to get to where the solution is. Other than that though, it was a decent walk that took us to several parts of the city. Chris got to admire some very impressive yachts, and I enjoyed the area by where they would have concerts and such. I’m sure it’s a bit of a tourist trap but I enjoyed the walk through it. 

We had the "date night" package;
One of the challenges was "take a picture of something you'd like to gift your date".
This is the gift Chris received ;)

The end portion was more city based and less fun imo. We did get to see some random street art and lots of murals (there’s another Roam that’s just murals, but we didn’t do that one), as well as some historic buildings. 

The yellow building was on our hunt,
but I really appreciated the artistry in the sidewalk.

After we finished we went on a quest for dinner. Chris wanted tacos for Taco Tuesday and we followed Google’s directions a long way, only to find the restaurant in question closed :(. By this point I was tired and sore and C was tired and hangry so we went back to the car and drove back toward our hotel. We’d found a whole strip of essentially food trucks and hole in the wall restaurants yesterday so we went back there and sure enough one of them was a taqueria :). Win!
An embarrassingly bad photo, but if you're ever in Miami, find this place.

I mean, the tacos were the best I’ve ever had. Bar none. I figured they were likely to be when A, the place was packed; and B, I’m pretty sure we were the only people who weren’t speaking Spanish. So yeah, that was excellent. And not expensive. Win. I honestly wanted second dinner, but we’d already discussed rounding it out with ice cream… 

Our second hole-in-the-wall win in one night!
Pic stolen from Google cause I was way too focused on the ice cream ;)

This shop had an added win of possessing *amazing* attitude. 

I neglected to take a pic of my fav sign which was something like: "if you have a complaint call me ###-####, unless the complaint is about me, then call my wife ***-****"

Anyways - the ice cream was excellent and huge sized. Pretty sure the waffle cones were fresh off the iron. Not cheap, but worth it for a treat.

So yeah, nice end to a good day :). We’re home early for which my feet are grateful. Tomorrow we’re off to the Keys.

Everglades Adventure

Aged rapidly this am since I had to order off the seniors’ menu to get a reasonable amount of food for breakfast lol. I am so not a fan of US portion sizes (not that ours are much better, but still a noticeable difference). Such a waste of both food and money. Even two out of the three senior options were still way more food than I would ever eat in one sitting. Sheesh.

Went to the Everglades this am.  Had a few minutes to kill before starting our tour and in that time Chris found a mother alligator and her babies?!?!   I mean - they were roped off with super-secure caution tape, which of course drew attention lol.   I'm not sure I believe being that close to babies is a good idea cause said tape was only a few feet away.   Fortunately I have a good zoom lens ;)

FYI - Baby Alligators look a little like snakes.  Also not my favourite creatures.
I took exactly one photo and exited stage left ;)

Had a tram ride that was fairly awesome. Good and knowledgeable guide. Lots of alligators of course, which pose nicely for photo ops.  A good variety of birds, including a couple of the most stunning multicoloured birds I’ve ever seen; for the life of me I can’t remember what they were called. Only got one awful picture cause they were on the other side of the vehicle from me which meant three people between me and it, and, well, I’m the opposite of tall. 

Obligatory alligator pic;
I liked this one cause he's still juvenile and definitely has teenage troublemaker in his smirk.

Here's an adult - still smirky, but not nearly as much fun.

So first half of trip was pretty good. Things to see on both sides of the vehicle. The guide told us a fair bit about the Everglades, but what fascinated me was about the groups of trees that grow together and what they’re like on the inside of the tree-bunch. Differs depending on the type of tree bunch but some have a watering hole in the middle, some are long and low while others go up as though on a mini mound and other such differences. Part of me was thinking it’d be really cool if we could go in one (ideally without angry alligators ;)

Anyways, we get to the midpoint of the tour and there’s a giant tower you can climb (curving ramp, this is not a challenge) with views at the top, and then a hiking path you could follow at the bottom.

If your sound is on, you'll hear the guide pointing out the crocodile to the school kids.  

So the view was lovely and we saw the resident crocodile (according to the guide who was standing next to us). 

The croc was less than interesting. I personally couldn't tell the difference,
esp from that angle, but I trust the person whose job it is to know ;)

 So headed back down and were going to walk the trail. C was taking his time catching Pokémon, and unfortunately we were on a time limit. So when I realized the trail actually went into one of the tree groups I booked it in and was super into seeing as much of it as I could in the super short time. 

Path carved in the tree group

From the outside, would never have guessed this was hidden in the trees

Chris called me back all appalled and bemused cause I walked by an alligator.  I didn't communicate very well that I was bored of alligators by that point and what was interesting to me was the area. Unfortunately shortly after that we had to turn around. Definitely could’ve gone farther and explored a bit more if we’d been moving faster so I’m slightly disappointed I didn’t just leave C to his alligator and power book it farther in and back, but at least I got to see a little bit. 

The one I walked by

The ride back was a serious disappointment. Because of how the road was built, a canal formed on one side - this meant all interesting vegetation and animals were on that side. Which was absolutely not the side I could see, much less get a good photo from. And then the torrential rain started, coming in from our side of the vehicle. Rain hard enough that even wearing sunglasses, it made my contacts float. So that was a less fun end to an otherwise incredible start.

Originally I’d hoped to do a couple of the boardwalk hikes after the drive, but we were soaked through and I was freezing. Chris got us dry tshirts at the gift shop, but they didn’t have anything resembling shorts. So we just decided to head back and get warm and dry.

Gratuitous bird shot because I liked it ;)