Days One to Three

Our tip so far can be summed up in one word: beautiful!

Day One

We left Tucson in the pre-dawn dark for a drive to Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix and flew to San Francisco. San Francisco is huge, has atrocious traffic, and is gorgeous.

GALLERY

Cinda wanders one of the galleries at Sky Harbor Airport

We blasted right out in our little rental (a silver Toyots Yaris I named Pearl) and across the parched landscape of northern California.

DRY

We crossed Lake Shasta which is fed by snowmelt from a number of streams, Including Doney Creek, below. Likely, all the rivers and streams are much like Doney – nearly no water. We saw far too many that were bone dry, and trees along their banks were dead or dying.

IMG_1405-001

The old sign on the bridge over Doney Creek just added insult to its trickle.

IMG_1404

In the middle of all this drought, we passed by fifty miles – fifty miles! – of cropland, all planted. Much was in trees, and most of those were almonds, at a cost of one gallon per almond. No wonder the state is running out of water!

Mount Shasta was gorgeous! We caught glimpses of her along the route to Yreka where we spent the night.

IMG_1414-001

The drive left me certain of two things. First, California’s drought is very real. Second, I need to plan a two-week visit to this gorgeous area. Highway 5 is not the way to see Northern California.

Best sign of the day: Guided Goose Hunting.

Day Two

Cinda and I awoke early to the sound of geese passing by. We did not tell them of the sign we’d seen the previous day.

We were off again before dawn to missed seeing the gorgeous mountains we passed through, but this was compensated by the brilliant star-filled sky and a sweet quarter moon.

Past Ashland, Eugene, and Grants Pass. For so long they have been words on a map, and finally I was able to place them in my mind. We stopped for gas in Grants Pass where the 58-degree temperature bothered our desert-warm bones, but locals were out and about in shorts.

We did a bit of noodling so I could catch some photos.

IMG_1422

Then on through Portland and were in Washington State for lunch. Mount Rainier was buried in clouds, but we did see Mount St. Helen, her flat top exposed due to her last eruption.

We were in Edmonds, north of Seattle, in time for a lovely afternoon on the deck of Cinda’s friend, a fab dinner on the deck and a relaxing night’s sleep.

Day two left me certain that I needed much time up in the Northwest. Portland alone could take a week.

Day Three

And now the real fun began! A quick trip to Trader Joe’s and we were on our way to Anacortes, on Fidalgo Island. We hit a little drive-through coffee stand where I got a great espresso and a marionberry scone.

What is a marionberry? I have no idea, but it was fab in a scone.

We arrived early for the ferry and I put the time to good use.

IMG_1452

IMG_1453

IMG_1466 IMG_1465

A forty-five minute ferry ride and we were on Orcas Island! We noodled a bit and joined up with another of Cinda’s friends for the night.

IMG_1475

IMG_1473

Leaving the ferry at Orcas Island

We toured the island even more with my new friend, including a drive up to Constitution. Gorgeous views from both part-way up and from the top.

IMG_1490

These two were headed out in their kayak

IMG_1491

IMG_1500

The Olgas Post Office. We spent the night in Olgas, at the far side of Orcas Island from the ferry landing.

One highlight was a trip up Mt. Constitution. The views from the top were gorgeous.

IMG_1503IMG_1509

That’s Cinda at the top of the tower.

And just as we were about to walk back down, the clouds parted and we finally saw Mt. Rainier! Except it turned out to be Mt. Baker. Oh, well!

IMG_1520

After a lovely night in absolute island silence, we did a bit more roaming

IMG_1535

and hopped the ferry back to Anacortes to continue our journey.

IMG_1547 IMG_1550

Cinda and Emilie’s Great Adventure

I have had more than one adventure with my friend Cinda. Most have been small and somewhat tame. Not true of the road trip we took through Baja California, and hopefully this one won’t be so tame either.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA
       When we were in Baja California, we took a panga out onto a lagoon and got to pet whales!

We’ve packed a suitcase each and also stuffed seconds with sleeping bags and some camping equipment. Think air mattress. I am not twenty anymore! And Cinda even managed to cram a tent into her second bag.

IMG_1379

Ready to zip ’em up!

We leave tomorrow, bright and early, for San Francisco. But we will not stay. We’ll grab our rental car and blast right out and up I-5 to Yreka where a motel and swimming pool await. It should be in the 80s when we arrive and that pool’s already calling to me.

On Tuesday we continue north on I-5 to Edmonds, Washington, a little north of Seattle, where we’ll spend a night with a friend of Cinda’s. The next day, on to Orcas Island via ferry and we’ll spend a night there. Then a few days and nights in Port Townsend (two ferries to get there!) and even a night in the village of Sekiu (pronounced SEE que), population 27 according to the last census.

Friend Lori claims she fell into a monkey tree (sans monkey) in Sekiu. We will have to look for such trees.

I tried in vain to place a map here that showed Sekiu. So here’s a photo I took of my AAA map. Sekiu is south of Vancouver Island and there’s a little red tent above it to indicate camping. It’s the one furthest to the left.

IMG_1380

From there? Down the coast! Highway 1 and Highway 101 will carry us slowly back to San Francisco. Then we’ll take brief a look around the city.

Stay tuned for our adventures and lots of great photos!

IMG_1381

Photo by Lori Anderson, the same Lori who fell into the monkey tree.

Apple Annie’s

On Saturday, I went on a little excursion with two friends, Lori and David. We decided to drive a few hours to Apple Annie’s Orchard for … guess what? No, not apples. They aren’t ripe yet. We drove all that way for PEACHES!!

IMG_1184

We took the scenic route up, stopping briefly in the town of Cochise.

IMG_1169

It is called a ghost town, but don’t tell that to the 1500 or so people who live in the area. There’s a Post Office, a school, and a closed inn. The Cochise Hotel was built in 1882 and was a rooming house for railroad worker. I believe there were only four or five rooms and I imagine the rooms each held two or three men back in the late 1800s.

As late as the mid-1990s, the last time I stayed there, it was a wonderful B&B operated by an older woman who cooked my breakfast wearing her worn robe and fuzzy slippers.

After visiting Cochise, it was on to Willcox then north about five miles, down a farm road and then a smaller farm road and then there we were: Apple Annie’s.

The mountains around it were rugged, rocky and beautiful!

IMG_1170

The parking area was nearly full of cars, pickups and even a few RVs. People streamed into the area where there were several vendors including, of course, the big area full of peaches.

IMG_1171

We were too late for the peach and pancake breakfast (all you can eat) and just a bit early for lunch (burgers grilled over apple wood). But we were just in time to wander through the orchard searching out the best, juicy peaches.

IMG_1181

That part was a bit disappointing. The early birds had nabbed all the ripe peaches, so we had to pick some nearly-ripe ones. Frank, below, swears he was accompanied by a few other people, but I never saw them and firmly believe he alone stole all my ripe peaches.

IMG_1174

Below, David and I are in the orchard.

peaches 032

And of course, what’s a visit to Apple Annie’s without a visit to the store?

Sauces, salad dressings and salsas! Fresh butter! Peach vinegar! And then there were samples: I had some yummy fudge and so did Lori.

IMG_1176

IMG_1179

IMG_1178Lori caved and bought a peach pie. Thankfully, she invited me to come over the next morning for a pie breakfast. How could I say no?.

I passed on the ice cream, too, but had a sample and it was killer.

IMG_1187

On the way home we went a different route, through the farming area known as Kansas Settlement. It hosts a pinto bean plant, Bonita Bean Company, that processes locally produced beans.

IMG_1191

Down the road there is a ranch that raises calves for veal – not for me, thanks.

IMG_1194

There are also many, many fields of corn. Hooray! The corn along with the water in the Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area is what lures thousands of Sandhill Cranes to our area each winter. They’ll be arriving in late October.

IMG_1195

The Kansas Settlement area has gorgeous views every direction.

IMG_1190

IMG_1188

We stopped for a huge yard sale where Lori picked up several items and I bought a welcome sign to hang on my gate.

WELCOME

We watched the storm roll in as we headed home. It broke over us when we had about fifteen miles to go.

IMG_1193

IMG_1196

peaches 046

Worth the drive, worth driving in the rain. My breakfast tomorrow will be another peach smoothie!

The Garland

I’m in Louisville, Kentucky, it’s the first weekend of May, and that means just one thing: the Kentucky Derby a.k.a The Run for the Roses a.k.a the greatest two minutes in sports.

I am not a sports fan and not a horse racing fan – I can’t stand it that each year a horse’s fragile leg will break and the beautiful animal will have to be put down. Not each year at the Derby, but each year during racing season.

That said, it’s exciting times here. There have been festivities for two weeks now – parties (think women in BIG HATS),

IMG_0377

gatherings, alternative races (including the very alternative Run for the Rosé, as in wine.) local waiters and waitresses have to run a half-mile obstacle course carrying a tray holding six glasses of wine and not spill a drop.

But back to the Run for the Roses.

For the last twenty-eight years, the Garland of Roses, a beautiful garland 122 inches long and 22 inches wide, has been custom made not in a fancy florist shop but in a local Kroger grocery store. I found the Kroger was located just a few miles down the street, so I decided to go watch it being made.

Mob scene!

IMG_0382

Hundreds of people streamed into and out of Kroger to watch the garland being made. They lined up for group and individual photos. The place was truly jammed.

I saw one harried worker and said, “Whew!” to her.

She nearly growled. “This is my fifth straight day.”

And it’s almost over.”

She grinned.

The first thing I noticed was the store was specially decorated for the event.

IMG_0374

IMG_0370

Also, right at the entryway were craftspeople selling Derby items.

IMG_0369

But the garland.

It takes over 450 roses to make the garland. Each rose is in its own vial of water and is hand-sewn into the garland. The roses are bordered by greenery.

IMG_0379

The backing is a forest green material with the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s Great Seal embroidered at one end and the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs embroidered at the other end of the fabric.

In the garland’s center is a crown of roses, and each corner of the finished piece is decorated with red ribbons. Below is a replica of the finished garland.

IMG_0373

It takes eighty hours of prep work and then a team works another ten to twelve hours on Derby Eve assembling the garland. Those of us who came to watch were given some rose petals, too, from roses that hadn’t made the final cut.

IMG_0385

Only perfect roses are stitched into the garland.

IMG_0378

IMG_0380

Shortly before the race, a special van carries the Garland of Roses to Churchill Downs with a full police escort.

IMG_0368

At the end of the race, the winning horse (and the lap of the jockey) is draped with the beautiful garland.

And on to Key West

After spending the night in Key Largo, I walked across the street to the Cuban Café in the early gray drizzle and downed some great coffee and breakfast.

Cafe Cubano

Shortly after, I headed south on Florida Highway 1, across the Keys.

02-hghway

I realized again how absolutely flat Florida is. I swear, the highest point is an overpass.

I drove the length of the Keys, over all forty-two bridges connecting all forty-three islands. However, there are another nearly seventeen hundred not connected by the road.

02-hghway

Most of the Keys have the word “Key” in their names. Of those, all but two have the name of the island first: Plantation Key, Conch Key, Cudjoe Key. The two that have the word “Key” first are Key Largo, at the far northeast, and Key West at the far southwest.

In and out of rain, on and off of bridges. Some bridges were only a quarter mile long or even less but one was seven miles long. Some of the Keys are so narrow I could easily see water on each side of me. They were maybe fifty to sixty feet wide. No room for houses, stores or anything but the highway running down the center.

Others were much larger (relatively), a mile or two wide and several miles long.

Concrete power poles marched through the Gulf waters all the way south, occasionally hopping the road to the Atlantic side.

01-electric

Gas prices marched with me too, going up almost fifty cents in less than one hundred mile – about half a cent per mile of roadway.

Key Largo today is just a strip of stores, restaurants, and motels. Traffic is heavy all day long. However, once a few miles south of Key Largo, the pace slows and it’s not all commercial. That held true to just north of Key West.

I passed a sea turtle hospital, a dolphin rescue center, a manatee rescue center. The more humans in the Keys, the more wildlife that needs rescuing.

On Deer Key, I decided to stop in at the local library. I turned at the sign but couldn’t spot it. I asked several people where it was but no one knew. All tourists? I surely hope so. It would be horrid to think the locals had no idea where their library was. I stumbled around until I found it myself.

There’s an odd thing about the Lower Keys: roosters. Roosters roam the side roads and the sidewalks and strut about on people’s front porches. I asked many about the roosters but no one could tell me their story, just that people aren’t supposed to feed them – but everyone I spoke to did feed them. Just a little, they all said.

It’s odd to wander about and hear roosters crowing and to run into them repeatedly. And they all look pretty much the same.

03-islands

Some of the 1700+ islands in the Keys – with no roosters.

I did some research and found the roosters were brought by Cubanos for cock fighting. After it was outlawed, the birds just went wild. There is now a major battle going on between the pro and anti rooster groups. Some want them rounded up and either contained or killed. Others say hey, that’s just the way it is down here. Part of the culture.

06a-rooster

I arrived in Key West in the early afternoon. The sign said this:

Welcome to Key West

Paradise USA

Highway 1 split at the entrance to Key West – Highway 1 to the right and A1A to the left. Highway 1 went into town, A1A to the beaches. Guess where I headed first?

At the southernmost point on Key West, I stood in the water and faced Cuba, just ninety miles away. I couldn’t spot it, but on a clear day from a second or third floor, can people see the island? It was particularly interesting to gaze toward Cuba knowing that in just a few weeks it will be legal to travel there.

04-beach toward Cuba

Havana Daydreaming (thanks, Jimmy Buffett!)

04a-beachbather

I tore myself away from the almost-warm water and headed back to Highway 1 and into the historical district. Parking is at a premium, so I paid to leave my car in a town parking garage and roamed.

07-marina

Many tourists checking into inns and motels had to do the same, so I saw many dragging their suitcases along the sidewalks.

09-tourists

Beautiful old homes.

05d-house

05e-house

Some were still decorated with holiday wreaths or lights, and the remains of Christmas trees lay in the trash in a few spots. How out of place it all looked in the warm (80 degrees) balmy weather!

08-christmas

People rode bikes and scooters. Others sat on their front porches. Roosters roamed.

I ran into one traffic jam comprised of cars, bikes, scooters, pedestrians, a tiny two-seater electric vehicle, and a man on a bike attached to a small vending cart. And a dog.

10-scooters

One more odd thing: The main road into the historical area is Roosevelt Avenue which closer to downtown becomes Truman Avenue. Most main cross streets also had two names, one going each way off Roosevelt. The most interesting one to me was the one that had Eisenhower Drive going one direction, and in the other direction, the road was named for Cuban revolutionary leader José Martí!

I returned to Key Largo just in time for a fabulous sunset.

11-sunset

And oh, yeah. I got the bumper sticker.

12-milemark

To Key Largo

Today I left Everglades City early and headed east on the Tamiami Trail. As usual, I noodled around, arriving at Clyde Butcher’s gallery around 10:15.

First, a few of the sights along the way.

IMG_8520

Smallest post office in the US.

IMG_8523

A sign we don’t see in Arizona!

IMG_8531

Another anhinga drying its wings.

IMG_8536

A bird I don’t know, but I love the way he could twist his neck.

IMG_8543

More alligators!

IMG_8564

Hungry bird.

IMG_8570

First, let me say this man (Clyde Butcher) is a wonderful photographer. He uses film, shoots in black and white, and mostly photographs the Everglades area. I’ve been looking forward to a visit to his gallery for months. However, I was somewhat disappointed.

I do have to say that when I stepped inside, it was stunningly wonderful. One of his prints, about four by six, hung on the wall facing the door. Four by six. Feet, not inches. Absolutely stunning.

What was disappointing, though, was how little of his work hung in the gallery. Yes, he had many photos. But there was work by other artists and a gift shop containing t-shirts, work by others, and his books, calendars and notecards all in a small space.

Most of his photos, rather than being on the walls, were matted and in bins with price tags. I had expected more gallery and fewer bins. Though the majority of his prints were under $80 or so, prices ran to nearly $900.

A second disappointment was the nature trail behind the gallery. I’d looked forward to it but it was quite small. I could have very easily walked it in about two minutes. Also, I’d expected educational information, but none of the plants were labeled.

IMG_8578

Another thing. As I left, I gazed over at the water fountain on the front porch. It had an “out of order” sign on it, so anyone who was thirsty had to purchase water or soda.

Finally, the parking lot bothered me. There were numerous signs telling visitors what not to do and announcing fines levied. No feeding alligators, no parking here or there, no putting trash in the gallery’s dumpster. Now, that information is good and maybe even important, but it made the place feel unwelcoming. I mention this last, but it was the first thing I noticed. To me, it seems the visitor should feel immediately welcomed rather than warned and threatened. It was very off-putting.

Bottom line, though, I loved seeing his work.

On from there, into driving rain that stopped, started, then stopped again for the next hour. South through agricultural land and more off and on rain.

IMG_8594

IMG_8603

Migrant workers

IMG_8607

Sign in the field across from the workers. Too poisonous to touch, but not too poisonous for them to pick and us to eat?

Then across a few bridges to Key Largo.

Key Largo is, of course, the largest of the islands. The name “Key” actually came from the Spanish word “cayo” which means little island. The road from Key Largo to the tip of Key West is about one hundred miles long and has forty-two bridges!

Key Largo is about twenty-four miles long and is often referred to as the Dive Capital of the World because of its beautiful natural reefs (the only coral reefs in North America). In addition, there’s a huge variety of marine life and even sunken ships for divers to explore.

And more signs we don’t see in the desert.

IMG_8610

After roaming a bit, I settled into a great lunch at the Key Largo Conch House. It was right on the highway but nestled into trees, making it almost invisible from the road.

IMG_8612

Café Cubano, black bean-mango salad, and lobster bisque. Perfect choices all.

IMG_8614

IMG_8615

As I left the restaurant, I noticed a thank you award from a place called Island Dolphin Care. I asked the waitress about it and she gave me information as well as clear instructions to get there.

Out the door I went, straight to Island Dolphin Care (see a future blog posting for more about this).

IMG_8637

After a visit with the dolphins, I settled into my motel where I had to wrestle with the internet before I could get connected. And for some reason, it will give me my email but it won’t let me send a thing.

On the plus side, the room is fine, the bed comfortable. And two doors down is a Cuban Café!

Wander … Wonder … Disaster … Restoration

A day of wander and wonder, of disaster (other people) and near disaster (me).

Kris, Karen, Linda and I spent a leisurely early morning. Later, Linda took the other two women to the airport and I headed off on my second adventure: the Everglades and the Keys.

IMG_8431

Me with Karen, Kris, and Linda.

I noodled my way back to Everglades City (truly a town – around 400 full-time residents) and points south. On my way there I stopped in a national park and went up a few roads not on my map.

IMG_8457

At the intersection with the highway (HWY 29) to Everglades City, there’s a visitors’ information center next to a sheriff’s department building, each accessible from both highways (41, a north-south highway that goes primarily E-W, and 29 which goes pretty much N-S), so I pulled in, got a little info, and pulled out onto 29, headed north to a birding area.

Back at the intersection, I stopped for a blinking red light as did both the woman across the highway from me heading south and the person on 41 heading west. The woman across the highway began to cross HWY 41 and BLAM!!!

The cars running along Highway 41 have a blinking yellow light, not a red light, so although the person headed west had indeed stopped – causing me and apparently the woman heading south to feel it was a four-way stop – it was actually only a stop for those heading north and south.

The woman heading south was in the eastbound lane when she got slammed into. She shot a little further forward, stopping when she was right next to me. And then her car tipped sideways onto two wheels – my direction.

YIKES!!!

My first thought was CRAP! A RENTAL CAR AND I’M GOING TO HAVE TO PAY!!

My second thought was CRAP!!! SHE’S GOING TO LAND ON ME!!!

I froze. But there was nowhere I could go anyway. I was stuck there with her huge Suburban tilted at nearly a 30 degree angle. If it toppled my way, it would land on half my car – the half I sat in.

For a very, very long second or two, the Suburban just balanced on those two wheels. Then, thankfully, the car went back the other direction and landed on all fours.

Traffic immediately moved over and I hightailed it back to the sheriff’s office. No one answered when I pounded on the door, so I dialed 9-1-1. Eventually a uniformed man slugged his way to the door while I was on with the 9-1-1- operator. “Big wreck!” I shouted at him, gesturing toward the intersection. A few minutes later, from the back of the offices came a sheriff’s SUV that shot over to the wreck site.

I gave my name and phone number to the 9-1-1 dispatcher then walked over to the wreck.

The woman who was hit (and whose legal fault the accident was) seemed okay and she said she was fine, but I gave her a long hug and encouraged her to get checked out. I also gave the deputy my name and contact information. Then I got out of the way.

That’s about when all the terror hit me. I climbed shakily into my little, tiny, squishable rental and just sat until I felt I could safely maneuver. I went back to the intersection from 41 east and headed north onto 29, trying to block it all out of my mind.

And I was moderately successful due to the wonderful place I headed.

Deep, deep swampy area. Palms, and mangroves. Bay and holly. Pale, pinkish sea lavender and yellow St. John’s wort. Great blue herons with their six-foot-plus wingspan and great white ones. Egrets both snowy and great. Anhinga and ibis. All soothing to the soul after what could have been for me a serious, serious injury.

IMG_8480IMG_8477

IMG_8466

IMG_8484

IMG_8480

IMG_8498

It took me three hours of wandering in car and on foot to feel I could head back past that intersection to get to my hotel. But return I did, just as the gray day turned to drizzle and the clay-sand road turned to muck.

I checked in at my motel and immediately headed further south to shoreline and sunset.

IMG_8515

Back to my motel for a glass of wine and feelings of fragility. A deep sense of gratefulness that I had been spared. Concerns for those in the accident. I never saw the occupants (I have a vague recollection of two in the front seat) of the car that slammed into the other. Their car was totaled, I’m sure. The woman I met was young. She will heal. But what of the others?

No one from the sheriff’s department ever called me.

I had a restless night’s sleep.

Airboat Tour

Today was the day! The four of us headed out early (for us) and drove to Everglades City which is not actually a city but a small town. We went to Everglades City Ariboat Tours and spent a bunch of money each on what was (for me) a once-in-a-lifetime event: into the Everglades on an airboat.

It was downright chilly and still partly cloudy when we left, so we bundled up well. We bought our tickets and sat in the newly-emerged sun to await our tour.

1-sun

Karen and Kris enjoy the sun.

Just to our right was a young woman from the Netherlands, Elsa, who was not exactly bundled up. In fact, she wore a sleeveless dress.

When it was our turn to climb aboard a boat, Josh, the airboat captain, settled us in.

Jess

Captain Josh

I realized I was warm enough now that the sun was out so I passed Elsa the jacket I’d borrowed from Karen. We all put on our headphones (airboats are noisy)

2-headphones

and off we went, into the mangroves.

5-sign

4-pelican

Pelican – in a tree???

Josh told us there were four kinds of mangrove trees, two that grew in the salty to brackish water and two that were freshwater varieties. The kind we mostly saw, the ones with the long, long roots hanging into the water, was the red mangrove, a non-native species.

6-mangrove roots

  • 6a-roots

We saw some birds but were a little disappointed not to see any alligators.

It turns out it was the wrong season for alligators. They don’t like the brackish waters, so they only come to the area during the rainy season when fresh waters run off through the mangroves.

6c-Josh again

Captain Josh explains about alligators.

6b-group

Our group, with Elsa.

However, Josh suggested we go up the road about ten miles and turn north. He thought we’d have success up there. We bid goodbye to Elsa (who referred to us as “the Golden Girls” and we considered tossing her overboard because of that). We headed to the alligator area.

Success indeed!

7-alligator

7a-alligator

We saw perhaps eight alligators, including a big old boy that must have been ten feet long. We stood along the edge of the road about ten feet from him and took photos.

7b-big alligator

The Big Boy

Afterward we stopped to read a sign that told us how fast alligators move and to stay at least fifteen feet away. We were glad the old boy wasn’t hungry.

7c-alligator warning

8-anhinga drying

Anhinga drying its wings

After we’d had our fill of birds and beasts, we headed to lunch. With the help of Linda’s GPS, we briefly got lost but finally made our way to Camillia’s, right on the waterfront back in Everglades City.

9-Camillias

Entrance to Camillia’s

We all had local fare – shrimp, grouper, clams. My sautéed clams were delish and the hush puppies were the best I’ve ever had. Sorry. No photos. We dove into our food and I didn’t even think of taking a picture.

Then, home for a walk on the beach on the gorgeous soft, white sands of Marco Island. I picked up a few shells (like I need any more – I bring some home every time I go to Kino). It was warm enough to walk barefoot in the water.

Home, rest and a light dinner of ice cream and wine.

IMG_0209

Another perfect day.

Lazy Day with Girlfriends

It was a lazy day with girlfriends. Girlfriends? GIRL friends? We are all in our (late) 60s. But that is what we are and have been for many, many years. Did I mention I met Karen when we were both three years old?

Friday was a day of no plans. I’d sworn to myself I’d write a post for each day, but there is so little to say for today!

We had lunch out, wandered a few shops that were far too expensive for me, and roamed the beach a bit at sunset. I even got a nap which is something very rare for me.

IMG_8407

A sand sculpture at the Marriott. We had lunch in one of their restaurants.

K-K-E at lunch

Kris, Karen and me – lunch at a beach restaurant.

L-E -KaA

Linda, me and Karen after (too much) lunch

IMG_8410

Conch chowder and sweet potato fries!

IMG_8409

IMG_8411

And of course, there was a lot of chatting and reminiscing. A true day of memories. Sometimes one of us would mention something and the other three would laugh or jump into the story. At other times, one of us would mention something and the other three would stare at her blankly. But we found that the four of us together could come up with so many memories and stories! Far more than any one, two, or even three of us could.

The day of memories was followed by a light dinner, a glass of wine.

Now, Karen said this post was a bit boring, so I do have to add we also met a mermaid.

mermaid

Linda and Kris meet the mermaid.

Tune in tomorrow – we’re taking an airboat ride!

Miami to Marco Island

I got up around seven and wandered into the cafe at my motel for cafe Cubano. What a way to start the day!

cafe Cubano

Sorry, I cannot remember her name. She was lovely!

At nine I was out front of the hotel awaiting the van back to the airport where I picked up my car.

IMG_0117

Then back to the motel to load up and hit the road. Out the drive then to the highway. A nice person waved me right onto the street.

Then I stopped. We all stopped. Traffic was a disaster. Due to roadwork, I got stuck on the highway for fifteen or twenty minutes during which time I moved about a mile. Maybe less.

Eventually I was able to get onto a southbound road on the western edge of the airport, hoping it would take me to Florida 41, the Tamiami Trail. I sailed along for about a mile and then it curved east – back to the airport!

I scrambled off on an eastbound road which took me onto a tollway. Yikes! I was able to slide back off before having to pay a toll, but the road was one way north, away from 41.

More maneuvers and finally I was heading back south and made it to 41, turning west.

Down the road I went. It was busy, full of traffic, but eventually the road narrowed and became one lane each way. Little traffic. A canal ran along the north side, my side, and I kept my eyes open for wildlife.

IMG_0120

Mostly it was birds: egrets, great blue herons, and many more I didn’t recognize.

I spotted people fishing all along the canal, and in some spots, photographers. I pulled over where they were and sometimes other places as well. Once I was moving along slowly and saw a flash of bright pink. I knew what it was: a roseated spoonbill.

IMG_8374

I pulled over quickly but it was hard to get a shot. I drove a bit further and saw another area heavy with birds, plus one of the photographers I’d already run into.

I got out of the car, glanced at the canal, and there he was. A big old alligator.

IMG_8379

He was on the other side of the canal which was maybe sixteen feet across. On my side of the canal was a steep incline about four feet high so I felt secure in stopping to get a photo of the gator.

I took one then squatted down to get a closeup of just his eyes. Through my viewfinder, I watched those eyes sink just underwater and move my direction. I, perhaps pretty wisely, chose to move along at a rapid pace and head for the birds just east of me.

I never saw the gator again though I watched awhile, hoping he’d pop up and go after a bird (sorry, birds). But alas, he didn’t show himself again.

I was starving because I hadn’t had breakfast, so I stopped in at a small restaurant operated by the Miccosukee tribe. They had dishes on their menu that don’t exist in Arizona!

IMG_0122

West past Clyde Butcher’s gallery (which I’ll visit Monday) and a few small towns and parks and walking loops and finally to the northern entrance to Marco Island, my destination.

I reached the island and called Linda. She gave me directions to the condo and when I arrived, she, Karen, and Kris were standing alongside the road waiting for me.

And this was the purpose of the trip: reunion.

we4A

Karen, me, Linda and Kris

Four of us, childhood friends, decided to skip our high school reunion and get together here, just the four of us. We chose the spot because A) it was available, and B) one of the women owned it and we could use it for free. As in no cost! Just travel expense and food.

Did I mention this is a lovely condo with a balcony looking out over the Gulf of Mexico? I am one happy woman this evening!

IMG_8385

IMG_8392

And so the reunion began. Stories and laughter. Patio time and sunset. Dinner and wine.

I am one contented woman this evening.