Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Adios, Florida

We just got back from Florida.

It was a great trip. We had lots of quality time and laughs with the sister-in-law and brother-in-law.

I like Florida. Kathie has reservations. This is an ongoing debate with us: is this a place we should at least spend part of the year when we are both retired? I am in the “yes” camp, she is not so sure.

I like being outdoors and away from our Jersey winters. This one has been especially difficult and I have felt as though I have been sliding on ice for the last four months, when I haven’t been chopping it or falling on it. And since I am no longer commuting, the housebound thing has been getting to me.

Kathie doesn’t like all the out of control development. Granted, it is a little bizarre to see new shopping malls going up alongside recently abandoned ones.

This trip, however, we decided to get in touch with Florida’s wild side.

We took a drive to Myakka State Park, a wild life preserve that features air boat rides and canopy walks to observe the local flora and fauna.

As usual, we got lost getting there and drove through some scrubby areas that, while free of condos and strip malls, were heavy on ranches that all resembled the place where the Manson family used to hang out.

By the time we found the park it was well passed noon. Since we had to have the rental car back by 3:00, that pretty much ruled out the air boat trip since the next one was scheduled for 2:30. We took a drive around the park and stopped at the various observation areas. We saw lots of wild life including gators, feral pigs, and Osprey. We also saw a motorcycle gang which looked much more dangerous than any of the animals.

We went back to the concession area and got on a long line to buy lunch. In fact, we spent a fair portion of our remaining time on the line. When we got close enough to read the menu we saw that it featured such items as alligator stew and pulled pork sandwiches. I said to Kathie: "This is really neat; first we get to observe the animals in their natural habitat, and then we get to eat them for lunch." I guess they were out of Osprey burgers that day.

When we finished we took a walk on the Nature Loop. This is a schlep through the jungle where you have the chance to observe the infinite variety of souvenir tee shirts worn by other tourists. We did not see one animal, not even a squirrel.

The canopy walk wasn’t all it was cracked up to be either. You climb a whole bunch of stairs and then navigate a 30 foot walk suspended at tree top level. There is not much to see except, well, the tops of trees. It is fun, however, to jump up and down on the bridge and scare the crap out of your wife.

Although we didn’t see them, there are dangerous animals other than alligators in Florida. The coral snake is probably the one you would least like to have camping out in your pants, since it bite is deadly.

In all the years we have been coming here, I have gone out of my way to prevent Kathie from learning of their presence, since it is a remote risk that she would ever encounter one and since her knowing that even one was in the entire state would knock Florida permanently off the potential Andersen habitat list.

At Myakka, I pounced and led her away as soon as I noticed her starting to read about the snakes that reside in the park.

However, a few days later while touring a sugar baron’s restored mansion with my guard down, I saw her reading one of the exhibit signs and heard her cry out: MY GOD, there are coral snakes here!!!???”

Well, adios Florida.

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