Bay's Travel Blog

I don't travel much any more. Resist!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

South Florida - Mon., May 21st

Despite my best intentions, we woke up late on Monday.


Also, I've not said a word about our breakfasts. Wesley didn't cook a single breakfast feast. He usually got up and went to Dunkin Donuts or Einstein Bros. Bagels for some easy breakfast food, but he skipped one or two mornings. And one night I went to Dunkin Donuts before we went to bed so no one would have to go out the next morning. I would get a plain cake doughnut, a cup of coffee, a plastic deck chair, and hide myself on the front stoop between a pillar, the wall, and a potted palm tree.

The reason I sat in the front instead of on the lovely, landscaped deck out back was because the back faced the east and was hot as hell by 7:30 in the morning. The front stoop had shade, so I could bear to sit there for a few minutes at a time.

Our directions to the Everglades Alligator Farm were printed from two sources; I had done the Mapquest thing, and Wesley had done the Google Maps thing. I hate to say it, but Mapquest beat the snot out of Google Maps in Miami. Google took us on the big interstates and toll roads where the traffic was awful. But Mapquest took us on surface streets and smaller toll highways. Once we switched over to the Mapquest directions, things started going more smoothly. But I almost always drove, just because I drive like the people who live there.

Perry had offered us some discount tickets to the alligator thing, but when Jim looked at the directions, he realized that we were going to a completely different place than they had ever been to before.

Now, Jim took Wesley to an alligator farm and airboat ride place before, and I saw the pictures. That was years ago. Apparently the Tobins went to a *nearby* tourist trap. And I have to say, it sounds and looks patently awful. Some rednecks got themselves some land, some gators, some chainlink fence, a couple of airboats, and some metal bleachers, and they call it an "attraction." Wesley's old pictures showed a couple of shirtless rednecks with cigarettes dangling out of their mouths while "wrestling" an old, tired alligator. He saw that alligator pit and the gigantic airboat ride with 65 people crammed onto the boat. Whoopee.

So Perry's kind offer of a discount wouldn't work for us, and Jim asked us to give him a report on the Everglades Alligator Farm. He had never heard of it.

That was the longest drive we took while we were down there; we bypassed Miami and went all the way to Homestead, and then we drove out into the Everglades. Oh!!!!! We drove past a Dade County prison. I tell you what; I would *not* want to escape from that place. It's in the middle of the swamp.

And it was almost an hour going out there, even without significant traffic.

Worth... every... minute!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Everglades Alligator Farm is about as clean as it can be, and they have lots of things on display -- curly-feathered geese, giant rats (capybaras? something like that; I'll ask Emily what the things are called; they're seriously as big as a labrador and ugly!), Florida panthers (rescued), some kind of hawk (also recently rescued), snakes, TURTLES, and then of course tons and tons of alligators of various sizes. There are three "shows," the snake show, an alligator show, and an alligator feeding session.

We got there just as a school group was boarding the airboats, and we watched a little from an elevated observation deck at the edge of the swamp waters.

Look, we were having a really good time just wandering around and feeding geese and petting turtles!

Then the skies opened up and the rain poured down. We took refuge in a shelter next to the turtles and panthers for a few minutes. Oh, and my camera batteries died, and I had forgotten my recharged back-up batteries, so I had to buy batteries in the gift shop. This was all cool with me.

Woodrow and Wesley went to watch the snake show when the rain abated, and Emily and I went to the grow-out pens for the baby alligators. That was right next to the snack stand, where one of the airboat pilots was getting a boat of deep-fried gator bites. OMG, that smelled good. I wanted some! He said they taste like chicken. ROFL!!!!

When the snake show was over -- it was a much shorter show than the one at the Edisto Serpentarium -- Wesley and Woodrow joined us, and we spent some quarters on pellets to feed the baby gators. That was fun. They have snappy little jaws even when they're little! And then we got in line at the airboats first. The pilots both came out and looked at the sky for a while, trying to decide if it was going to rain, and decided to go ahead and take the ride. In the meantime, a soft-shell turtle finished laying some eggs on the bank right there between airboats and slid back into the water. In broad daylight! Right there!

Our pilot Jose explained that the front row gets the wettest on the airboat ride, so we took a back row. He provided cotton balls for ear protection, and asked the front row if they wanted a slow ride or a wild ride. They said they wanted a wild ride. I asked him if we would see turtles, and he said, "You've been here before!" I said no, I read the website and I just love turtles. He said he would be sure to point out the turtles for me. We started off slow, near the farm, and the pilot pointed out the wild alligators and turtles.

The discussion was mostly on conservation and indigenous plants and critters, and when he got out into the open part of the Everglades, he warned us to put away our cameras and get ready to get wet. Then he started *really* going fast, and about a minute later, it started raining again. Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! The rain pelted us in the face as we zipped through the grass and water, but it was so much fun! Jose would find a wide spot and spin the airboat in a complete 360 degrees, which made the water fly up all around us. FUN!!!!!!! We were laughing so hard we couldn't speak, which was fine because with the motor being so loud, we couldn't have understood anything we said, anyway!

As the airboat ride went on, we got more and more drenched from that downpour of rain. I was soaked through, except part of my derriere that was sitting on the bench. The rain let up a little just as we got back near the farm and Jose slowed down again. I asked him if the Everglades are fresh water or salt marsh, and he said both. He really liked me -- maybe he just likes turtles, too? He kept complimenting me on my smart questions, and he seemed really surprised to have a guest who was so... curious and engaged.

The scenery on that ride was amazing -- you can't see anything except Everglades as far as the eye can see in all directions, just this huge expanse of grass with occasional little shrubby trees and bushes poking up out of the water. It does *not* look like it looks on TV. It's just gorgeous. And there were all kinds of wildflowers that I've never seen before -- beautiful pinks and purples and light blues dotting the grasses near the channels. And I couldn't take pictures because of the rain, darn it! I just have to lock the memory away in my head, I guess.

When the boat dock was within sight, the skies opened up and the rain started to *really* pour down. I mean, it was a drenching deluge of rain. Jose cautioned us not to try to get out of the boat too quickly, and we sat there as he tried to get us as close to the dock as possible. As I disembarked, I saw a sign saying, "If you enjoyed the ride, you can tip the pilot!" But I was heading for shelter. I don't know why -- we were already soaked to the bone. People were under the shelters, waiting for the rain to subside, so we had to keep going to the covered walkways to get out of the rain, but we were all laughing. We had had such a good time!

We waited for several minutes, but the rain was not letting up, and in the meantime, we were really soaked. So we decided regretfully to call it a day. Wesley tried to find Jose to give him a tip, and I went shoppin' for souvenirs. This was our best souvenir-shopping expedition -- maybe because we had had such a great time and wanted to commemorate it, or maybe because they just had great souvenirs at the Everglades Alligator Farm. I picked out a shotglass; Wesley picked out a double-shot glass. I picked out a t-shirt; Emily picked out a t-shirt. Woodrow picked out a shotglass; I picked out a giant coffee mug. We... Just... *Loved* the Everglades Alligator Farm.

Also, Emily and I went ahead and changed into our new t-shirts. The boys took off their soaking wet shirts and rode bare-chested for most of the rest of the ride home.

As we made our way back to Homestead, we stopped at a big, open-air produce stand named Robert Is Here. Seriously, that's the name! Robert Is Here!!!! They had a fruit smoothie stand inside the fruit stand, so Em and Woodrow went to get a tasty treat while I lamented not getting fried gator bites at the farm earlier. Sniffle. Pout!!!!! I wish I had tried the gator bites!!!

Wesley and I purchased -- oh! This was the night of the pork chops! -- Wesley and I purchased locally grown organic mangos, locally grown organic corn on the cob, and a bottle of Vidalia-Onion-and-Peach hot sauce. Seriously! Hot sauce! I didn't try it, but Wesley was very excited that it just existed.

(Now that we are home and he has nearly finished that hot sauce, Wesley is also very excited to discover that he can order it and have it delivered directly to him. Never underestimate the bonds of a man and his hot sauce.)

Robert Is Here is massive with tons of homegrown, canned preserves, jellies, chowchow, pickles, relishes, and yes, even more strange hot sauces as well as the fresh fruits and veggies. I could have shopped for hours. I highly recommend it for your shopping pleasure. Emily got a cantaloupe smoothie with ice cream, and it was OK, but Woodrow got a banana/passionfruit ice smoothie that was nothing short of divine.

The drive back to Pembroke Pines was very strange, and I could have sworn that we were going south instead of north, but we somehow ended up back at Jim & Peytyn's house anyway. Amazing! I got a nap, and Peytyn had some conference calls, so the men made dinner while I hung out with Perry and Emily, and Woodrow tried to avoid being beaten to a pulp by the ever-active, perma-happy Jake. I realized around 9:20 that it was Monday night, so I caught the end of the "Heroes" season finale, and I'm as confused now as ever. I swear, I may never understand that show, but I do enjoy watching it. I also enjoy being the most knowledgeable person in my family about it. ROFL!!!

And by the way, Jim is a master of the grill. Those pork chops were the best pork chops I've had since the last time my mother made pork chops. I swear, I wish I had one to nibble on right now!

Peytyn was wired when she got off her conference calls, so I stayed up with her and we chatted a while on the screened-in porch. I really enjoyed my time with Peytyn. And of course it's lovely to spend time with old friends.

Coming up on Tuesday: Miami Seaquarium, and we still managed to oversleep, argh!


Post a Comment

<< Home