Trip Start Sep 03, 2007
Trip End Jun 17, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Florida
Sunday, November 25, 2007

Up early and ready to roll, a sunny 74 deg. We were originally going to have 2 days in Miami, to prepare and chill out before we set off on the next driving session but as we had had an extra days 'chill !!' in NOLA, we decided to stick with the master plan.............

EXCEPT - Instead of going anti-clockwise round Florida we have reversed the route, so as to try and catch a Space Shuttle launch on the 6th December - it's a 'boys toys' thing !! 

We try and contact the car rental place at 0930 and they eventually pick us up at 1200 !!!
Tactfully appraising them of their, somewhat, lack of service ( I'm good at this, it's a skill I inherited from my Father - now that should raise a few chuckles from the family !!!!!!), we get an apology and an upgrade. Thus we now have a Volvo S40 to play with and set off at 1300.

Maps - we have bought several maps from gas stations and they are basic in the extreme. Book shops don't seem to carry them and we found that the state by state maps, issued by the 'Best Western' hotel chain, gave plenty of road details, points of interest (as well as their hotel locations) to be the  'best' ones - do you like that little pun, I don't know how I do it!
Unfortunately most Best Western hotels don't stock their own maps or even know they exist, (any publicity people want a challenge?), so we set off using a smaller map to Hwy 41. This runs east / west across southern Florida from Miami to Naples and Tampa and is called the 'Tamiami trail' - d'ya geddit?

We passed a few 'airboat' places - those flat bedded boats with an enormous fan on the back and reached the part of the swampland where a narrow waterway (the Tamiami Canal) runs next to the road. On the far side are swampy forests and we saw our first alligator! He also saw us and we set off, even though there was a big crash barrier between him and us!!! Just watch (and listen to) the video when we get it uploaded! All along the road / dyke there were 'gators, herons, egrets, kingfishers, cormorants, ibis, storks, vultures, other birds of prey (too quick to be recognised) and what we think is a 'swamp based' cormorant, Fish could be seen in the reasonably clear water and were jumping for flies. This was a fascinating afternoon. We kept stopping for more wildlife and eventually ran out of this bit of swamp and reached 'Naples', a very pretty modern town. 

We found a Best Western and yes, they did have a map - so now we're fully armed and ready to go. I'm just typing this on Sunday night in the hotel, whilst my dearly beloved has a 'laundry session' - well, we haven't had anything to wash for over a week and I don't want her to forget how to do it!  Oh, there's a bull frog 'burping' outside in the garden - all we need now is Paul McCartney and it'll be 'perfick'.

Distance driven      129 miles

Monday 26th November
The hotel is quite a large one with 3 seperate blocks, 2 heated (in Florida ?) swimming pools, hot tubs and a laundry. It is more like a mini resort. There are shrubs and gardens all around, a Koi carp pond and deckchairs everywhere. There is also an internet terminal in every room - hence the up to date blog! It wasn't a hard decision to book another night, especially as we wanted to see more of this part of the Everglades.

At a nearby small shopping mall I visited a barber. There was a sign outside that said 'No solicitors permitted', so I guess all the lawyers here must have long hair ! I eventually underwent a 'No 5' and was just glad there were no Marine recruitment sergeants about. I mean, ME  - I never had that much hair to start with !!  We took a major logistical decision and bought some mosquito repellent and set off to look for "Everglades City'. In the hot, 82 deg it was a pleasant run but rain clouds were forming over the coast.

We reached 'The City', off Hwy 41, a small town, very quiet in the off season and noted that most of the houses were built on supports to raise them off the ground. Alligator protection, snakes or storm / flood prevention ? We didn't find out. We drove down past 'Chokoloskee Bay' on a narrow inlet, reached a dead end and came back! We nearly finished off last night's pizza, sat on a bench near the gulf coast visitor centre when it started to rain heavily. We took shelter under a palm roofed dining area but half the roof had been blown off, so we had to be selective where we sat. Rain and pizza over, we walked back to the small dock and watched pelicans, cormorants, egrets, a belted kingfisher (which hovers before it dives) and then an osprey. It started to rain again, so we set off back to Hwy 41.

We found 'H P Williams roadside park', a small boardwalk overlooking a crossing channel. A few alligators, loads of fish in the water that all the herons were feeding on and a few small turtles. The local deputy arrived in his patrol car, just as we were slapping on the anti - mozzi because the weather had gone really humid after the rain. We had a really good chat with him and he left us with the advice to use plenty of spray but even so " We always like you folks coming here, cos we knows you are always gonna give blood"!!  We drive up the side road onto gravel and follow the channel. Every few hundred yards the tall side vegetation stopped and allowed a view of the water and its inhabitants. There were many 'gators, just floating in the water like logs or comatose on the bank but they all had their eyes open and as we stopped you felt many pairs of eyes lock onto you! We have identified more of the birds as: Anhinga (the cormorant type bird), White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Brown Pelican, Belted Kingfisher, White Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Purple Gallinule, Mangrove Cuckoo, and the best one was the endangered Wood Stork (it's like a large fat stork with a big vulture type bare head which glints like hammered metal - its enormous). The birds were all over the place, on the poles, in the trees, on the banks and in the river. Half way down the road we were stopped by a Ranger's car and she showed us a picture she had taken of a panther (same as puma, mountain lion) crossing this road in the morning a few days earlier. We spent ages looking at all the wildlife in this fascinating eco system before setting off back to town just as it was getting dark. The clouds had gathered again and it rained intermittently but heavily.  A very interesting day.
Oh yes, the bull frog has just tuned up for tonight's performance.

Miles driven   116 miles       Distance driven from Miami  245  miles
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