Sanibel Island and ‘Ding’Darling NWR are a success again. Thursday 12-30 overcast midday shoot.
Immature Yellow-Crowned Night Heron.
Cormorant successfully feeding!
Feeling marooned in southwest Florida while we wait on word on the Smart Car. What I thought might be a week seems like it may take ten days to two weeks.Moving up the road some to a Florida State Historical Site, Korsehan. Back in the day, 1894, one Cyrus Reed Teed brought his ‘followers’ to Estero to build the “New Jerusalem” for the new faith “Korseshanity”. The colony, known as the Korsehan Unity, believed that the entire universe existed within a giant hollow sphere. The colony began fading after Teed’s death in 1908. In 1961 the last four members deeded the land to the state of Florida.
A Teed biography presents: “As a young physician, Teed was always interested in unconventional experiments, such as alchemy, often involving dangerously high levels of electricity. In the autumn of 1869, during an experiment he was badly shocked, and passed out. During his period of unconsciousness, Teed believed he was visited by a divine spirit who told him that he was the messiah. Inspired, once he awoke Teed vowed to apply his scientific knowledge to “redeem humanity.” He promptly changed his first name to “Koresh,” the Hebrew word for Cyrus.
He denounced the idea that the Earth revolved around the sun and instead pioneered his own theory of the Universe, known as the Cellular Cosmogony. According to this theory, human beings live on the inside of the planet, not the outside. Gravity thus does not exist, and humans are held in place due to centrifugal force. The sun is a giant battery-operated contraption, and the stars mere refractions of its light.
Teed’s ideas, called Koreshanity caught on with others. Koreshanity preached cellular cosmogony, alchemy, reincarnation, immortality, celibacy, communism, and a few other radical ideas. Teed started preaching Koreshanity in the 1870s in New York, forming the Koreshan Unity, later moving to Chicago. Teed’s followers formed a commune in Chicago in 1888. Some followers also formed a short-lived community in San Francisco (1891-2). Small church groups existed in other towns.
Eventually, Teed took his followers to a small Florida town named Estero, to form his “New Jerusalem” in 1894. The ‘golden age’ for this community was 1903-1908, when they had over 250 residents and incorporated Estero. They built extensively, establishing a bakery, printing house (publishing their newspaper and other publications), their “World College of Life”, a general store, concrete works, power plant (that supplied power to the surrounding area years before it was available elsewhere in the region) and more. The colony was extensively landscaped with exotic tropical plantings. They tried to run several candidates for county government against the local Democratic Party but were never successful. Teed died in 1908. He was involved in an altercation between Fort Myers men and members of the Unity. Teed was severely pistol whipped by Marshal Sanchez, suffering injuries from which he never recovered, dying two years later. After his death the group went into decline.
The last remaining follower, Hedwig Michel, deeded the colony to the State of Florida in 1961. It is now the Koreshan State Historic Site.”
In addition to this history it has a number of RV sites where we will park ourselves until the car is done. There are a number of sites worth photographing nearby: Sanibel Island NWR and Cork Screw Swamp , an Audubon Reserve.
Right now it is not worth stirring until about 10 AM when the sun has warmed things up some. We find ourselves impersonating cold-blooded lizards during the day, finding the sunny warm spots and sitting there soaking up the sun and warmth immobilized.
No snow and cold, no pines and dark greenery, no family close: not Christmas. Yet there remains this need to share. A gentlemen of Quebecois descent approached in passing the past few days with stories to tell and the need to share. His stories brought emotion and a certain sense of loneliness. His stories deserve to be told and retold yet they are his, and not mine, to tell. I give thanks that I am not yet alone in this life. I am blessed by my wife and daughters and their circles. We and the solo French Canadian will dine together this afternoon to commemorate friendship, the holiday but even more so, the need to share.
Merry Christmas all. Share with those around you!
Mid-afternoon and bound for the Shark’s Valley of Everglades NP. Warm sunny late December day on the Tamiami Trail. Looking back I am tired to start with and I know it, Route 41 the Tamiami Trail is not a wide road, no real shoulders and no rumble strips on the side or in the middle of the road. One does come to depend on such marvels of engineering. The distance between the edge of the road and the guard rail is about the distance of a normal (New England) shoulder. Warm day, the first line of defense against nodding off is the air conditioning on high. I am nodding off a bit. The next line of defense, I am talking to myself and planning to pull over and stop.
WHAM! on my right side. Cars can be seen way ahead of me. Over compensate and I am careening back into the center of the roadway. Not sure what I did with the steering wheel or the brakes but the car managed to do a 360 with some sensation of side to side, being on two wheels and tipping. On the way around I did notice that there were cars well behind me. Righted myself and the car on the far side of my side of the road. Eyes peering at me as cars resumed travel. I did not make eye contact. No one stopped. Not sure what I expected. Wonder what this looked like to the oncoming and following traffic?
The engine was still running. The tire indicator was on and flashing. Called Debbie and said that I had fallen asleep and she would probably need to drive with me from here on out. This getting old piece sucks. Don’t like the lessons to be learned and I have never been one to learn the lessons of life easily. Got back on the road and drove as far as the Ochopee Fire Control Station before the front driver side tire chewed itself up and would go no further. Debbie in the Westy and the AAA tow guy arrive at he same time from different directions. Debbie missed the turn off. The Smart Car has a nice guard rail colored gouge going down all the plastic body panels front to rear, that and the front wheel and tire will need some attention. It was towed away to a Smart Center on the other side of the state, Davie, Florida, within the 100 mile AAA towing allowance.
We are extending our stay at Collier-Seminole SP until mid-week next week. We will see just how open ended this trip and travelers are. Off to Sanibel tomorrow AM early. Christmas dinner, who knows where. Missing my daughters.
Merry Christmas all!
Exceptional place; the approach, the island and the refuge. Well done and seemingly in harmony.
Early morning light, preening and pimping. (Do birds pimp?)
We will come back for more on our way Christmas Day.
The birds and wildlife seemed much more accessible in the NWR as opposed to Everglades NP. To see Everglades and do it justice you needed to be in, have access to a boat.
Everglades, gulf coast side, Chokoloskee Bay sunset boat tour, Captain Dave.
Playing in the wake; just ‘cuz they can!
White Pelicans: standing height 5 feet!
Many Bald Eagles in Florida and the Everglades but still an uncommon sighting.
Read Peter Matthiessen’s book Shadow Country, an apparently historically faithful rendering, from a number of different perspectives, of the E.J. Watson killing back at the turn of the century outside of Smallwood’s store on Chokoloksee Island. Then visit Chokoloksee Island and the Evergaldes gulf coast side. One will come away impressed with Mathiessen’s research and story telling as well as being impressed with the south Florida pioneers in the days after the Civil War. Go visit Smallwood’s store, it is still standing.
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Looking for a place to eat before leaving Chokoloskee Island the colors of the local post office building caught our eye. In the same building is the Havana Cafe (191 Smallwood Drive, Chokoloskee). We were greeted by a silver haired bearded barrel chested gent seated and relaxing near the door. From one that has, this guy looked like he had led a colorful life. We seated ourselves at his and the waitresses urging. He came to our table, greeted us and described the meals he was intent on fixing us. His manner and presentation were comfortable yet assured. Not a big fish person I went with the shrimp basket; next time I am back I will experiment (for me) and have the blackened Mahi Mahi prepared as the chef described. I also missed out on having a slice of Key Lime Pie; this next time as well. Our host, Carlos Valde’s, had a waitress come and take our order. Everyone was upbeat and cheerful obviously enjoying where they work and the people they work with and for. The background music was fifties ballads and maybe some Havanna-styled Cuban music as well. It truly had an Havana ambiance, which the owner, his wife Dulce Valde’s and the extended family and local wait staff complemented. The food was plentiful and good, subtle flavors. Afterwords, Carlos and Dulce Valde’s shared with us tales of Chokoloskee past, stories of the working fisherman and the toil involved, along with the toll taken on family. Ultimatums and choices resulted in staying ashore and becoming chef/owner as opposed to captain/owner. All seemed to be enjoying the choice as made.
I for one will return to the Havana Cafe for the food, which was very good and for the people, who were very friendly and hospitable. Thank you Carlos and Dulce (yes, as pretty as the name).
Yesterday (12/16) we toured the upper Myakka River Lake via a large air boat. We were greeted by dormant alligators, young and old alike, male and female (again it’s the size), and in and out of the water. Subtropical reptilian beasts that they are, they are constantly searching for an environment of 75 -85 degrees so their body temperature will be stable and livable. While in the dormant stage maybe they eat once a month. They do not hibernate but they do dial everything back. Intense and prehistoric looking they are cannibals to boot. Whenever an alligator breaks a tooth there is another one waiting to grow in and replace it. They swallow their food whole and then have to spend the next day dragged out somewhere in the sun digesting the meal. They build nests in layers and lay eggs. The nested eggs develop and incubate at different temperatures depending on their placement in the nest. Eggs exposed to high temperatures become males while eggs exposed to lower temperatures become females. Only one in six alligator hatchlings survive to adulthood.
Lots of bird species, lots of waders.
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The ‘Towd’ (Smart Car) saga has another chapter. We drove in to Sarasota Smart Car Center today. It is in the same building as the Jaguar dealership. How does one pronounce Jaguar? Probably depends on whether you have the money to own one or not. The Sarasota Smart Car Center agreed to do the new car detailing that never got done up north due to our schedule and need to get on the road. The Lynnfield Dealer agreed to pick up the cost. So all is done and finalized, this purchase of a Smart Car. So far no lasting complaints. Have to say all the dealership people were quality folk who did seem to put us first.
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On the way back to Myakka River SP we stopped at the Sarasota National Cemetery (a work in progress). In it’s infancy it shows beautiful potential. As the man said, “Your tax dollar at work.” National Cemeteries do not appear to be a northern New England institution. There are no National Cemeteries in any of the three northern New England states: Vermont, New Hampshire or Maine. Why? My guess is the firmly entrenched New England church yard cemeteries or town cemeteries and the New England local control thing. The south also appears to have a stronger military family history and an uber military culture in general. No wars have been fought in the northern New England states while a war has been fought in the Southern states. Virginia with fifteen National Cemeteries, Maryland with three National Cemeteries, and Florida with thirteen National Cemeteries. Maybe all the war/service vets retire south? The National Cemetery in Arlington, the most notable and memorable one, up until this point that I was aware of, is not claimed by any single state. Here services and internments are done every 30 minutes with the flag at half staff 30 minutes before and after. The cemetery was busy this afternoon, a couple of services and a couple of works crews. I look forward to the cemetery erecting their permanent buildings and doing away with the ‘FEMA trailer look’.
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Falling behind on the images; soon!
Forty-two miles to the gallon on the first tank of gas through that ‘Towd’ Smart Car! I’ll take it, thank you very much!
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Home maintenance has managed to follow me. The camper–van head has a leak under the lav sink. Tight places, arthritic hands. ;-(
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The Pumello Jury: Ate the Pumello for dessert tonight; way good citrus flesh and excellent juice. You do notice the grapefruit parentage. We would buy and eat Pumello again!
The best side of collard greens this side of Myakka City, that and some women who are a touch camera shy, this is what you will find served up, among other delights, at Suzie Q’s Restaurant, State Road 70, Myakka City, in the great citrus-growing and cattle ranching state of Florida. Unless you are in the know, the white plain-fronted building will not necessarily invite you in or slow you down at 60 miles an hour between Arcadia and Bradenton. A young State Park ranger sized us up when we checked in to Myakka SP and thought we could handle a walk on the wild side of down-home country cooking. We owe him for turning us on to the potential of a meal at Suzie Q’s. Otherwise we never would have found our way there. The Myakka Bridge detour did it’s best to work against us but after having been to Timbuktu and back we found our way to Myakka City and Suzie Q’s.
Shortly after 1:30 PM we were welcomed through the frosted glass door by a couple of pleasant Southern female voices. Oh yes, all southern female voices are pleasant. We were encouraged to sit anywhere. Wide planked, thick pine, golden varnished picnic tables with benches awaited us. Southern hospitality, good conversation and amazingly good down-home southern cooking (and eating) ensued. Collard Greens, never having had them but having heard their virtues extolled through story and song, found their way to our table. That and home made potato chips represented as ‘Cow Chips’ plus a number of fresh homemade tortillas filled with fresh greens pork and a red salsa or green sauce: yum! Best meal between here and New Hampshire recently. In fact it rivals the Indian Taco plate on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the Dakotas for new to me tastes and textures.
The ladies were very gracious and hospitable and put up with the camera. Thank you.
Who penned the Suzie Q song after all?
The rig next to us (Myakka SP) has all sorts of internet and TV satellite dishes set up and pointing towards the data-filled heavens. The gentleman traveler was out front with a hand held orienteering compass manually adjusting his reception. As he twisted and tweaked one direction to another he wryly commented that off in the distance his ‘line’ was moving thousands of miles for each fractional increment of twist and tweak. Further into the conversation and the linguistic badge of most Canadians became apparent, ‘Eh…’ . Nova Scotian to be exact. He remarked that the Nova Scotia provincial government decided in its representative wisdom that all it’s citizens should be wired to the internet. They are erecting towers and relays hither and yon to accomplish just that. This egalitarian connectivity makes good sense to me from a number of standpoints so I said so. I also observed that Canadians and their governments could accomplish change and improvement that made sense rather effectively while we struggle with our government and ourselves seemingly over anything and everything. He (We) laughed at this reality’ Seems all things lead back to politics. A conservative government was in charge at the time and felt they could better retain political control if their power base, the outlying rural voter, was better connected on the internet. The current liberal government appears to agree is continuing the project. Go figure!
Some closure regarding the Arcadia Youth Rodeo photography gig images. Thank you to Ann Marie Driggers for helping to identify the participants. any mistakes are mine. Will wait to see how the weekly Arcadian newspaper handles the submission. There are still loose ends regarding a Youth rodeo content driven article. There is a story to be told there: ‘The Rodeo That Josh, Jimmy and the Judge Built’. Waiting on some of the key players to return to town. there is a possibility for submission and publication through the Home Grown magazine. Again, token remuneration but content and photography publication. Exciting possibilities.
Toured the orange groves of Joshua Creek Groves. An extended family operation. The informal tour was full of interesting information and sights presented by a third generation grower. The courtesy of Yes Sir’ and ‘No Sir’ in every day conversation always leaves me feeling like I have done something wrong, that or that I am the boss. Lots of ice on the lower portions of some citrus trees from the previous night’s efforts to combat the freeze.
The jury is still out on Pumello’s but only because we haven’t eaten it yet. Maybe lunch today.
After checking out the Truth Tree in Arcadia (reputedly the hanging tree from back in the day when Pine Level and Arcadia were the wild west) we headed toward Bradenton on SR 70.
The fifty miles on the road toward Bradenton and the coast also covered about fifty years in time, the difference between the Florida Heartland communities of Arcadia and the like and the boom & bust areas along the Gulf Coast. I for one would choose the fifty years past and the Florida Heartland.
We drove North and West on SR 70 from Arcadia, then due south on I 75 to SR 72 and then due East on SR 72 back towards Arcadia. Go figure. should have looked at a map first and thought some but … ‘oh well’, we didn’t and don’t necessarily have to do either. ended up at Myakak State Park for the next couple of nights. Close enough to Arcadia still to take care of those loose ends if they present themselves. Lots of possibilities and potential in Myakka State Park: wildlife, natural history, photography, GATORS, and air boats. They have a tree canopy walk as well, the only one in the US. More to come…
Way cold last night. There was still some ice on the low growth in the citrus groves from spraying. The park folks are saying 29 degrees for four to six hours tonight which will imperil the strawberry and berry crops.Another night of worry for the growers. Apparently this weather is anticipated in January but not December.
Weather, weather; in the way. No one mentioned rain. This must be winter in central Florida. Spent the night parked in a WalMart parking lot, not a bad deal. No hook ups, bathroom available at no cost, other than the loss of anti-Walmart pride that goes with succumbing.
Weather quickly changed into a sunny beautiful blue sky fluffy white-cloud day.
We are finally below the freeze line in my mind so it is time to fill up the fresh water holding tank with the camper (20 gallons plus). We had driven down with a dry system for fear of freezing up. Found a local feed and hardware store (Smith’s Ranch and Garden) that had a hose and outside water spigot. Went in to ask for permission. I am not sure what it was, my physical presentation, my facial expression, my wording or what but the gentleman behind the counter assumed I was down on my luck and looking for some water to drink. He was more than willing to extend himself and the company’s resources. (Now that we have been in Arcadia for a day or two it is apparent that there are folks who are so down on their luck that they might ask for a drink of water from an outside spigot.) God Bless the gentleman from Smith’s Ranch and Garden. We should all be that gracious and sharing to others.
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Checked out all possible extended overnight options and Brownvill Park, a DeSoto County, park won out. Recommended by many and varied folks out and about in Arcadia. The price, amenities, and surroundings were appropriate to our needs. A lesson in ‘less is more’. Unhooked the Smart Car from the tow mid afternoon. Hopped in ready to start adventuring and lo and behold the ‘Towd’ wouldn’t start. Tried all sorts of solutions: reading the owner’s manual, wiring, rewiring, calling Bob, bemoaning the fact that we never had the detailing and final check out done by the dealership. A visitor to the park happened to have some jumper cables. Yeah! We hooked the damn thing up to his pickup truck and it still wouldn’t start. He advised letting the ‘juice’ run through it for awhile. This we did while making small talk. After a good long charge and exhausting most of the small talk the damn thing still wouldn’t start. We are now talking warranty and wherethe nearest Smart Car dealer might be (Sarasota). The conversation is starting to break down, people are commenting that it will no doubt be something way stupid that will be the solution. The next comment was, “Why don’t you buckle your seat belt?” Seat belt gets buckled – Voila! It starts right up.
How many people does it take to start a Smart Car?
In this case: four.
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By the time this was all done we realized the fresh water system on the camper-van had not been closed up correctly. All the fresh water had leaked away onto the ground through a discharge valve. Once again the high, hard and quirky learning curve on this Sprinter Airstream Westfalia.
Full Day! Foolish Day!
Family ~ Ian Frazier
Bayou Farewell ~ Mike Tidwell
The Most Southern Place On Earth ~ James C. Cobb
Travels With Charley ~ John Steinbeck
Listen To Me ~ Lynn Lauber
Sitting ~ Diana St. Raith
A Quaker Book of Wisdom ~ Robert Lawrence Smith
Travel As a Political Act ~ Rick Steeves
The Art of Travel ~ Alain de Botton
On the Crofter’s Trail ~ David Craig
On Seeing Nature ~ Steven Meyers
On the road mid-morning.
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Coastal Georgia: Wide slow coastal rivers, lots of wetlands – good stuff. Hanging mosses, Spanish mosses – this feels southern. Armadillos by the side of the road, no different then hedgehogs or rabbits up north.
By 3:30 PM, along about Orlando, the wool sweater that was being worn due to the chill Georgia morning became too much,
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Pine Level, North Carolina and Pine Level, Florida.
More to come.
Dropping on I95 like a stone straight south. Having left the cities behind we are now driving double-laned, no more no less, by bill boards of biblical exhortations, next to 24 hour strip joint invitations, right next to tea party proclamations. America!
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Wade, North Carolina, self-proclaimed water tower announced home of Southern Hospitality; one’s southern hospitality has to be timely and by the schedule of the Main Street Cafe. They did not want our breakfast money shortly after 10 AM. The ladies of color at the Waffle House, the next exit south, greeted us with smiles, energy, attitude, conversation and an all day breakfast grill.
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Cold, cold, cold last night. No warmer than the previous night by the side of the road in the Hudson River Valley of New York State, just 600 miles further south. Twenty-one degrees tonight on the coast of Georgia below Savannah.
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Emporia, North Carolina, with an expansive smile and southern drawl to match, declared Florida to be just another northern state then produced the real estate business card …
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Arcadia, Florida bound tomorrow.
High stone walls, stone guard houses with armed guards both state police and military police are at both gated entrances to West Point Military Academy. The guards visually flinch when we pulled up in our camper van with ‘Towd’. My guess was they were all hoping we would present no provocation that would result in the need to search our vehicle.
Never having been much of a provocateur (tongue in cheek grin) …
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New York 9W through the towns of Highlands and Highland Falls is a chunk of Appalachian Mountain wilderness reminiscent of the White Mountains of New Hampshire; a beautiful drive.
Two days of well spent and necessary fussing with the ‘towd’ have given way to an evening of get-out-of-town driving. We spent the night at a roadside truck stop on I84 just into New York State near Fishkill. ‘Kill’ is the dutch suffix for river. Seemingly out in the middle of nowhere, the map shows lots of encroaching dense ‘YELLOW’: Peekskill, Croton-on-Hudson, Lake Carmel, Yorktown, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie. That and West Point; Hudson River settlements north of New York City. The Appalachian Trail crosses I84 close. Lots of Revolutionary War era history tied up here: Enoch Crosby, James Fenimore Cooper.
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We have somewhat of a schedule: Youth rodeo in Arcadia, Flordia the weekend of 12/11 and dinner at Dave’s in suburban Philly this evening. Without the semblance of a schedule we might not have left yet. A low mileage day will allow us to see West Point this AM and poke around the Delaware River and the Delaware Water Gap en route to Dave’s.
We are leaving for some serious time away. Who knows where (Gulf Coast), who knows for how long (winter).
Leaving is always interesting: leaving a social setting, leaving town, leaving home, leaving a job, leaving friends, leaving loved ones, leaving your family, leaving a spouse – leaving. Synonymous with leaving: going away, passing, exiting, releasing, departing, going, expiring, losing, deviating, diverging. Song writers write songs about leaving: John Denver: ‘leaving on a jet plane’, Beatles : ‘she’s leaving home’, Mary Chapin Carpenter: ‘And you see that you’re leaving… And you see that you’re gone…’, Bob Dylan: ‘Done laid around, done stayed around
This old town too long, And it seems like I’ve got to travel on’.
Leaving: Not always easy if done well. I have/had (years removed, not sure) a friend who was also my boss who in the end said that “the mark of a man was in how he leaves.”
While tying up loose ends with the local ice hockey arena and the youth teams, one of my good friends from that realm was questioned about my ‘leaving’. He responded to the query about my departure with a smile and a hearty proclamation, “Steve McKinney is going on a walk about.”
Maybe so. That works for me, so be it: a ‘walk about’.