Winter Escape to Florida

On Monday, January 26, I was to leave on an Allegiant flight @ 10:45 am to fly to Punta Gorda, FL. for a week’s vacation.  Mary was on her way to pick me up when I found out the flight would be delayed until 12:45 so we stopped at WalMart on our way to the airport which killed some time.  After saying goodbye to Mary, I checked my bag, shopped the small gift shop, went thru security, and headed to Millstream Pub where I ordered a sandwich and Bloody Mary.  By the time I finished my lunch, it was afternoon so I went to the gate where the plane would be arriving and read until we boarded around 1:00; we took off at 1:30.  Arrived at Punta Gorda without any problems and called brother Bob to let him know I had arrived.  Luggage was retrieved, rental car acquired, and was shortly on my way to check in at Wyvern Hotel.  Settled into my room and went to the lobby for Bob and Linda to pick me up for dinner.  We went to Whiskey Creek where all of us ordered steak which was delicious.  Returned to the hotel around 9:00 and found the Iowa State game on TV; watched it and lights were out around 11:30.

View from my hotel window

View from my hotel window

I did not wake up until 8:30 on Tuesday, the 27th.  Had coffee in the room, got dressed, and went outside for a walk.  It pleased me that I could walk across a parking lot and pick up the boardwalk that goes over water and along the harbor which I enjoyed so much on my last visit two years ago.  Returned to the hotel, had breakfast, and headed out to Bob and Linda’s.  Bob and I drove to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Audubon Center outside of Naples approximately 90 miles from Arcadia.  In December 1954,  Audubon agreed to take title to 4800 acres of land and manage Corkscrew Swamp as a sanctuary.  Today, from the Center, the 2.25 mile Boardwalk meanders through pine flat woods, an open prairie, a strand of pond cypress, and into ancient bald cypress forest, where many tower more than 100 feet into the sky.  It was a peaceful, quiet walk in which we saw egrets, storks,red-headed woodpeckers, turtles, snakes, blue herons, anhingas, and alligators.  Fantastic time!  We returned to Arcadia, picked up Linda, and had dinner at El Pirata Mexican Restaurant.  By the time we finished eating and went back to Bob’s, I was ready to drive back to the hotel…got there around 8:30.  Found a special on PBS about Thomas Edison which I watched so it was after 11:00 before the lights went off.

Boardwalk over water with hotel in background

Boardwalk over water with hotel in background

Tired snake

Tired snake

Heron resting

Heron resting

Turtle

Turtle

Birds in the swamp

Birds in the swamp

Time for a nap

Time for a nap

Resting on a log

Resting on a log

Got out of bed at 7:30 so did not have time to take a walk.  Showered, packed my bag with clothes for lunch, and took off to where my friends, Yvonne and Earl, are spending the winter months.  Yvonne and I went to Curves and then we had lunch at First Watch which was very good.  I left their place around 1:30 and headed to Bob’s.  When I got there, Linda brought out  deviled eggs which she made for me…I love her deviled eggs…she makes the best!  Bob and I, along Charlie the dog, walked at Morgan Park which has beautiful trails through the woods  and along the river.  We probably walked 3.5 miles or so; it was great being outside in short sleeves!  Returned back to Bob’s place where Linda had dinner ready; spaghetti, garlic bread, tossed salad, and fresh berry pie.  It was delicious; Linda is an excellent cook!  I was so full that I could not eat any eggs when offered (maybe my breakfast tomorrow).  After cleaning up, I headed back to Punta Gorda and got to the hotel around 7:45.  Plan on reading and turning out the lights early so I am rested up for the shopping excursion Linda and I are going on tomorrow.

Earl and Yvonne

Earl and Yvonne

View from Morgan Park trail

View from Morgan Park trail

Bob and Charlie on the trail

Bob and Charlie on the trail

Charlie fetching stick from water

Charlie fetching stick from water

Got to Arcadia around 8:40 on the 29th and picked up Linda for our shopping adventure.  On the way out of town, we stopped at McDonald’s where Bob was meeting with his friend “Big” Jack who I wanted to meet.  We proceeded to St. Armand Circle; it is centrally located on the lushly landscaped island of Lido Key.  Superb exclusive shops, galleries, exotic boutiques, sophisticated restaurants and nightlife all located on St. Armand’s Circle which is a huge, round about with shops all the way around.  What a good time we had and the weather was perfect for outside shopping.  Both of us made a couple purchases but mainly looked.  Had lunch outside of a place called Cha-Cha Coconuts; the Mahi sandwich and French fries were very good!  Instead of taking interstate back to Punta Gorda, we took 41 South and stopped at Siesta Beach which is supposedly the #1 ranked beach in Florida; it does not say who did the ranking.  The sand is very fine plus cool (no burning feet!) and there were many people relaxing on it.  Once we left the beach, we drove to Port Charlotte where we went to Beall’s outlet and I purchased a couple tops.  We went to a couple more stores and then met up with Bob at Red Lobster around 6:30.  Another meal of good food.  Bob and Linda headed for their place while I headed to my hotel in Punta Gorda.  Since I will be turning in the car tomorrow to the rental agency, I filled it up with gas on the way.  Got to the room and packed in anticipation of checking out tomorrow and heading for Key West.

Linda and I having lunch

Linda and I having lunch

Some of the shops

Some of the shops

Statues around the circle

Statues around the circle

Siesta Beach

Siesta Beach

Linda and I on the beach

Linda and I on the beach

Got some coffee in the lobby and headed out for a walk before showering and getting ready for Bob/Linda to come.  It was a beautiful morning for walking and many people were out/about; saw a twin of Charlie by the water and talked to its master.  Returned to the hotel, showered, talked to Yvonne, and checked out.  Bob and Linda pulled up, we loaded my luggage, and I followed them to the airport where I turned in my rental car.  And then we headed toward Key West.  Stopped at Best Buy so I could purchase a replacement battery and charger for my camera.  Very slow traffic heading south so we did not get to Key West until after 5:30.  Checked into the hotel and headed to the beach where Charlie could run and we get some pictures of the sunset.  Went into downtown Key West where all the action was…packed with lots and lots of people.  We decided to have dinner further away from all the action.  Found a TGI Friday’s and ate there; it was after 7:30 and all of us tired.  Got back to the room around 9:30; got ready for bed, checked emails, charged my camera battery and iPad, looked at literature about Key West and turned out the lights around 11:00.

On the road to Key West

On the road to Key West

One of many bridges over the water to Key West

One of many bridges over the water to Key West

Sun going down

Sun going down

Paddle boarders

Paddle boarders

What a glow!

What a glow!

Sunset with silhouette of Bob, Linda, and Charlie

Sunset with silhouette of Bob, Linda, and Charlie

Sun is down

Sun is down

On the 31st, I grabbed some coffee from the lobby, and took a walk along the ocean. Had breakfast with Bob at the hotel; we packed, checked out, and headed for a day of adventure. First stop was at the southernmost point of the continental USA for pictures; at this point, you are 90 miles from Cuba.

At the southernmost point

At the southernmost point

We proceeded to Hemingway’s House which is designated as a U.S. National Historic Landmark. This was Hemingway’s home from 1931 to 1939, although he retained title to the home until he died. It is a private, for-profit landmark and tourist attraction now populated by six and seven-toed cats that are descendants of Hemingway’s cats. The furnishings are from the Hemingway era, there are many cats inside and outside the house, and the grounds are beautiful with gardens/swimming pool.

Hemingway's House

Hemingway’s House

Inside the living room

Inside the living room

Three of 50-some cats on the property

Three of 50-some cats on the property

The pool area

The pool area

After the tour, we drove to Duvall Street where many shops and restaurants are located. We did some shopping and had lunch at the Irish Pub (the Iowa Hawkeye men basketball team was playing on the TV). After eating, we returned to our vehicle and took Charlie to the dog park/beach. Charlie did not like the park as much as the beach so, while Bob watched over him on the beach, Linda and I went next door to the Key West Garden Club and West Martello Tower. The tower is a Civil War fort and National Historic Site; it is home to the Key West Garden Club and Joe Allen Garden Center. We strolled the brick pathways through arched courtyards and lush, colorful foliage. The grounds have a rare collection of native and exotic trees and plants.

Lunch at Irish Pub

Lunch at Irish Pub

Garden at Joe Allen center

Garden at Joe Allen center

Walking path at garden center

Walking path at garden center

Next we parked the vehicle and walked several blocks to Harry S. Truman’s Little White House; along the way we spotted several old, beautiful homes and many free roaming chickens which Key West is known for.  At the start of the tour, we were told no picture taking due to security; we learned the house was originally waterfront when it was built in 1890 as the first officer’s quarters on the submarine base naval station. The wooden duplex contained Quarters A for the base commandant and Quarters B for the paymaster. In 1911 the home was converted into a single-family dwelling to house the base commandant and additional land was filled in front of the house. In November 1946, President Harry S. Truman had finished 19 months in office, but was physically exhausted. His doctor, Wallace Graham, ordered a warm vacation. Truman arrived in November, 1946. As he was leaving he promised to return whenever he felt the need for rest; as it turned out, it became the winter White House for President Truman for 175 days during 11 visits.

One of many free roaming chickens

One of many free roaming chickens

One of many large, beautiful homes

One of many large, beautiful homes

Truman's Winter White House

Truman’s Winter White House

After the tour and walking the grounds, we decided it was time to depart Key West for the long drive back to Bob’s. We stopped on one of the keys for dinner at Wendy’s, got some gas, and arrived back to Arcadia around 11:30. All of us were ready to hit our beds!

Bob and I went into Arcadia on Sunday morning to meet up with his friend, Paul. After having coffee with him, we went back to Bob’s and left for Babcock Ranch which is outside of Punta Gorda. We had signed up for a tour with Babcock Wilderness Adventures which takes you on 90 minute eco-tour through the ranch. It was a nice way to spend a few hours learning a lot about the history of Florida cattle ranching, facts about a variety of ecosystems and wildlife while getting a view of a Florida panther as well as lots of alligators and birds and a walk on a boardwalk through a cypress swamp.

Baby alligators

Baby alligators

Swamp scene

Swamp scene

Birds and cracker cattle

Birds and cracker cattle

Florida panther

Florida panther

Alligators among the stumps

Alligators among the stumps

What a beauty!

What a beauty!

When we returned back to Bob’s, Linda and I went into Arcadia for more shopping. That evening we watched the Super Bowl through the third quarter but went to bed because of having to get up quite early in order to be at the airport for my departure at 8:00 the next morning.

Monday saw Bob and I leaving his house at 5:30; we went into Arcadia and got some coffee at McDonald’s. Arrived at the airport around 6:30; Bob came into the terminal to make sure there was no problem.  And there wasn’t so we said our “good byes”. By the time I got my bag checked, through Security, and to the restroom Allegiant was boarding the plane. With only a 5-10 minute wait after being seated, we took off. Arrived in Cedar Rapids early but my friends, Mary and Joe, were waiting for me. We retrieved my luggage and headed out into the bitter cold…I’m not sure if it was above zero. On the way, we stopped at Target and had lunch at Koop’s in Shellsburg. The area had been hit with 12” of snow the day/night before so roads were not totally cleared and the gravel going by my place only had one lane plowed. As it turned out, the person who plows my drive made the lane in order to get to my place. If not for that, we would not of been able to drive down the road. But we made it down and I was greeted with “Meow, Meow” from Beauty and Cutie upon entering the house. It is good to be home!

Welcome back to deep snow

Welcome back to deep snow

It does look pretty

It does look pretty

 

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