Tuesday, March 30, 2010


A warm & snowless March... one for the record books indeed!  We had a fun weekend on the farm... normally this time of year, things are muddy & a mess with the melt off combined with addional wet March snows... but not so this year.
We finally got to see the road we had re-dozed this fall that got buried under snow before we got a chance to check it out...

& we started on Mike's latest "experiment" -- food plots for deer!

The kids had a breezy day to try out their kites they got from Gram & Grandpa...
... Brandon's got the hang of his but Melanie preferred trying to run to get her mini-kite up in the air!

With nice weather over spring break meant some outside fun with friends.  After they left, Brandon wanted to play with his legos while his sister napped...
He still denies this is him or that he is sleeping!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

... & finally the Everglades!

So it has now been about 1 month since we left for vacation... & I'm finally getting to finishing up our trip wrap up! 

So after finishing up in the Keys, our next adventure awaited in the Everglades.  We hit the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center first thing to find out what a newbie to the Everglades should take in.  We followed the advice of our visitor's center volunteer & headed to Royal Palm as our first stop.  It was filled with alligators & birds along our boardwalk path... & this was the first alligator siting of our visit!  (but not the last... and as Mike will tell you, I probably took over 100 pictures of alligators & crocodiles alone!  I never actually counted as I didn't need to quantify his mocking of my gator addiction!  But it is about the closest thing to seeing a dinosaur as we'll ever get... you gotta admit they are pretty cool!)
After leaving Royal Palm, we headed to the end of the road to the Flamingo Visitor Center where we could rent a canoe.  It was a windy day, so we opted to not go out on the ocean but head back up to 9 mile pond where we could canoe 5-6 miles through the pond & in the mangrove backwaters.  We had an alligator sunning at our canoe landing as we got in (& yes, I got his picture... several times).  We had a cool canoe trail through the mangroves, though there wasn't much wildlife to see after getting out of the main pond.  The mangrove area went on for a long time but was only a few feet deep.
Mike in the mangroves

Our loop was marked by numbered posts, which was fortunate as it would have been tough to know where to go through this mangrove pond!  The route back was skirting the mangrove tunnels as we paddled into a headwind...made for a challenging paddle!  Eventually we made it back to the main pond & found some friends taking in the late afternoon sun...

And as we got back to our canoe landing, the same gator from when we left was still there hanging out... it isn't a bad gig they have going!
After our canoe trip, we still had time for a quick 4-mile walk out to Snake Bight & a quick walk around the Mahogany Hammock before the sun set.

The next day we headed for the Shark Valley Visitor Center.  There is a 15 mile trail that goes down to an observation tower, so we decided to rent bikes & do the loop.
The path was a virtual menagerie of birds, alligators & crocodiles hanging out all along the way... even a little group of babies enjoying the sun!

This path was closed... according to the gator! We even got a little hiss out of him!

The ride back from the observation tower was into a headwind... always our luck!
After our big bike adventure, we grabbed a quick bite before jumping on our airboat...
... couldn't be in the Everglades & not take an airboat ride!

We were nearing the end of day 2 through the Everglades, but we had one more stop in us... the Big Cypress National Preserve.

We spent our last evening in Naples, getting to town just in time for one last Florida sunset.  It was a cool & breezy evening on the beach...

It was our best sunset of the trip!

After taking in our sunset & getting checking into our hotel, we walked a few doors down to a Mexican restaurant...
Cheers to a great trip... & a convenient walk back to the hotel!
We had a great vacation... despite cooler than normal temps, we made the most of it & saw a lot!  We put 1212 miles on our rental car in our 8 days & had a blast!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Miami & more... the vacation continues

... so after leaving the West Palm Beach area, we headed to Miami for a few hours on our way towards the Keys. 

It was a gorgeous, sunny day & we headed to downtown first to do some walking around. 

Downtown Miami area
We found a nice outdoor area of shops & restaurants right on the waterfront in the downtown area & enjoyed a beverage after walking around for a few hours.
After leaving the downtown area, we decided to go explore Miami Beach area.  We actually ended up in the South Beach.  After finding parking, we took to exploring... we walked along the beach for a few hours. 

The weather was still cooler than normal, so the beach wasn't crowded & very few were actually in the water, that was also cooler than normal.  We made a nice loop & then decided to hit the strip to find a late lunch... & maybe a cocktail.. and BOY did we!
Now that's a mojito, South Beach style!

After a good late lunch, it was time to hit the road Key Largo, where we'd be staying for the night.  We had a nice hotel in town & after checking in, we headed out for a nightcap.  Stumbled on The Carribean Club, which turned out to be a local's hang out & supposedly a place made famous by the 1940s movie Key Largo.  It was a typical small town bar... our kind of place!
After enjoying our coffee outside, it was time to continue our journey through the Keys...

We walked around at Bahia Honda State Park & we stumbled upon No Name Key Pub when we went looking for the little Key deer on the No Name Key... didn't find the deer but we did find a good, late lunch at a notable spot!

Our next stop was Key West...
We walked around Duval Street on our way to Mallory Square for the big sunset gathering...
It was a WINDY night but it didn't keep the people away!
It looked as if it would be a good sunset until the clouds came in out of nowhere & literally squelched the sunset.  After the sunset, we went back to Duval Street to wander around.  Without knowing it at the time, we hit some of the hotspots...Hogsbreath, Sloppy Joes & Irish Kevin's before calling it a night. 
 It was a fun night... full of good humor & interesting people watching!

The next day we explored Key West...
we checked out the Key West garden club,
found the southern most point in the continental US (supposedly... we don't quite agree, according to our gps),
& rented a scooter to toodle around for a while.

After our scooter adventure, we headed to Kelly's (the supposed southern most microbrewery & also the original home of PAN AM offices) for a late lunch...
& I had an awesome Key Lime martini... with "Key West" even written in chocolate on the inside.  It was delish!

We said goodbye to Key West & headed north.  We planned to hit the No Name Key by dusk in hopes of seeing the Key deer milling about...
& this time we were lucky!  We found several does & even a few bucks.  The pictures don't show it, but these deer come up to Mike's knee & they are full grown!

We headed to Florida City after leaving the Keys in order to grab a hotel & be ready to explore the Everglades... crocodiles, alligators & MORE!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Florida Getaway!

On Friday (2/26), we hopped on a Friday night flight to Orlando.  After arriving a little before midnight, waiting for luggage & then waiting 1.5 hrs at the rental car place... we finally got to our hotel by 2:20!  We managed to get a little sleep & then were ready for our first full day in Florida.  It was a little rainy... good day for a little drive up to Blue Spring State Park where we heard some manatees were hanging out in the warm spring.  We did a little exploring on the way...
Somewhere in Orlando... cool trees with the spanish moss hanging on them

On our boat ride on the St John's River (in Blue Spring State Park)
We saw lots of wild life on our boat tour on the river...
Great Blue Heron

Manatee grazing in his pasture

Wild Turkeys
...  and lots more wildlife too including bald eagles,vultures, many varieties of herons, anhingas... a virtual birders paradise!  The alligators weren't out on this cool, cloudy day.

After the boat ride, the drizzle had cleared so we walked around the park & got to see the manatees hanging out in the warm (72 degrees) spring. 
Mom & babies

Pig pile... manatee style!

After leaving Blue Spring, we headed for Longwood to check out there BIG cypress tree ("the Senator")...
... it is supposedly 3500 yrs old & 120ft tall.  Another in the park was about 2000 yrs old, not quite as impressive!

Next stop was Cocoa Beach... after checking into our hotel, we found a local spot for dinner (awesome fish tacos) & then headed to check out the Cocoa Beach Brewing Company...
... which happens to be owned & operated by some high school friends of mine!

... if you find yourself in the Cocoa Beach area (near the Cape), check it out!  It is a unique pub setting with some fabulous beers!  Chris & Tracy are fabulous hosts!

Enjoying our coffee on Cocoa Beach
After leaving Cocoa Beach, we continued our journey down the coast towards Miami & the Keys... we stayed the next night in Boyton Beach (just south of West Palm Beach)
We had a fun evening down at the Two Georges on the waterfront

Next stop Miami...