With a two-week road trip down to the Keys and South Florida under our belts, it was time to head back to Winter Garden. As much as we wanted to spend more time in Miami, we always prefer taking the circuitous route. That brings us through the Everglades and up to the gulf side of Florida, Naples and Ft. Myers.
Everglades National Park
Can you imagine camping in the Everglades!? That’s what we did. And we must have hit it right because it was darn right pleasant. Strange, but pleasant. One of the reasons for wanting to get down here so bad, was the notion that both the Keys and the Everglades are threatened landscapes. Grasslands, like those found in the Everglades, are considered some of the most threatened. The Everglades are a sanctuary for hundreds and thousands of delicate species of plants and animals that continually fight to survive in our modern world, and which sadly, continue to decline and lose. Big animals like the Florida Panther, or small, like the now extinct Dusky Seaside Sparrow. Everything from butterfly to shrimp species are on the decline.
Not Really A Swamp
The Everglades are grasslands. They just happen to be flooded most of the time, much like a wet prairie. If I had to characterize the Everglades, I would say it’s a massive combination of grasslands, mangroves and yes, swamp – at least where the cypress grow. There are no visual landmarks for miles. The road pierces these wetlands the entire tip of South Florida. This geography just builds on the sense of not only being remote, but surrounded by mysterious water-life which is inches away. The Everglades National Park is the largest tropical wilderness in the United States. And, the largest wilderness of any kind east of the Mississippi River.
Naples is a city on the gulf side of Florida and a favorite destination for many central Floridians. From our perspective we wouldn’t be staying long. We pulled into a crappy 50’s era motel, The Glades, cleaned up any swamp wounds, and moseyed across the street for a pizza and some pretty decent craft beer. On another day, we’ll have to give Naples another chance. After all the beach time in the Keys, we weren’t quite ready for another day in the sun.
Ft. Myers is known as The City of Palms, and, well, I guess it’s true. Palms do line the beaches, canals, and avenues. A bike ride down to the beach was a tell-tale sign that palms were everywhere.
But it was our AirBnb on San Carlos Island that was the showstopper. Our AirBnb profile goes back to 2014. Our first stay was in San Diego. We love the concept. Since then, we’ve stayed in dozens AirBnbs. In Ft. Myers Beach, we enjoyed our most unique experience, on a houseboat: the Laid Back.
One night we had the entire boat to ourselves. The next night a young couple took the berth on the stern. For the price of renting a couple beach cruisers down by the pier, this houseboat was a steal. I’m guessing the host lowered the price for these couple days to allow the upper deck hot tubs to be repaired. Instead of a hot soak, we sat on the bow of the boat watching dolphins and migratory birds play in the canal that flows out to the beach.
The free loaner bikes and kayaks, as well as Keurig coffee and bagels at breakfast, were an added bonus.
The road back to Winter Garden is about 150 miles, and it was time to head home. By “home”, we mean the place where the van is parked for about four months. A time to decompress, shop for 2020 healthcare, see the dentist, pay any bills, and plan our trip to Asia in the spring!
When its winter everywhere else, the holidays are the best time to be “home”. Stay tuned as we hit the road in about a week for some pre-Holiday Honky-Tonk in Nashville.