We See Sanibel & Captiva Islands
Thursday, 15 March 2007 - Midmorning yesterday, we drove over to Betty & Garth's place and from there Garth drove all of us over to see Sanibel & Captiva Islands, two barrier islands offshore from Fort Myers, Florida.
The islands were not what I was expecting. With only one visit, we obviously missed a lot, but from what we did see, these two islands are a testament to what happens when real estate developers are allowed free reign.
Both islands looked to be simply wall-to-wall houses, resorts, restaurants, and other vacation-related businesses, with the exception of the J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge which protects about a third of Sanibel Island from development, or I have no doubt that acreage would also be full of buildings.
To their credit, the islands limit building height to that of the tallest palm trees, or what looked to be 3 or 4 stories, commercial signage was limited in height and size, and all the properties were full of trees, so the overall impression was that of a verdant landscape.
The real problem I saw was extremely heavy traffic, which is amazing in itself considering there is a $6 toll just to get onto the islands, and there was almost no public parking available anywhere. We did see one small public parking lot, but it was, of course, full and also nearly full of vehicles standing around waiting for a space to open up. We took our chances by parking in a restaurant's parking lot just long enough to walk around a little, but parking illegally takes much of the fun out of sightseeing.
So, unless one owns or rents a place on the islands or is staying at one of the countless resorts and hotels there or planning to spend money in one of the shops or restaurants, one is unlikely to have a very leisurely and relaxing time there. And this was on a Wednesday. I can't imagine what the place must be like on the weekend. The islands clearly and intentionally don't cater to someone like myself who just wants to photograph a place, not spend money there.
Before leaving Sanibel Island and returning to the mainland, we drove through the wildlife refuge. As I've mentioned before on this page, Sandra and I have had very little success in the past with seeing any significant amount of wildlife in these refuges and such was the case this time, having seen more wildlife in the ditch along Betty & Garth's compound than we did in the refuge. We did see a couple interesting birds close enough to photograph in the refuge, like the tri-color heron in the photo above and the yellow-crowned night heron which can be seen here, but otherwise what little else we did see was too far from the road to get a good photo of and required binoculars just to be able to tell what it was.
So, not impressed and doubt we'll go back to see what we missed. I don't have Garth's patience to endure slow moving bumper-to-bumper traffic only to find no parking available at the end of the road.
For Sandra's account of the day, click here.
Our First Week In Fort Myers
Wednesday, 14 March 2007 - It seems like half the times I've come to Florida to escape the cold northern winter I've come down sick with either a cold or flu and this time history tried to repeat itself.
When we were in Austin, Texas back in November, I was supposed to get a flu shot at the same time Sandra got hers there, but I had gotten a case of shingles, which is a viral ailment, and the doctor didn't feel a flu shot for a different viral ailment would be a good thing, so I was to put the flu shot off until the shingles cleared. But by the time they did, we had moved on to the gulf coast and I forgot all about flu shots.
That was until last week...when I started to feel like I was coming down with the flu!
In an effort to fight it before it got a firm grip on me, I pumped myself full of vitamin C, Airborne, and Contac Cold & Flu. This seemed to fight it to a stalemate, sometimes I felt like I was going to fight it off, other times it felt like it was going to get me.
The last two days though I've felt fairly normal, and at the worst of times it never really made me completely ill with fever, nausea, sore throat, runny nose, etc., although all those symptoms were present at times at very mild levels that felt like the onset of them.
So, while we've still managed to do things, like two visits with Betty and Garth, one at their place in a posh golf gated community and one here at our lowly little RV, and we've driven around the area seeing some sights and scouting out photo locations, yesterday was the first day I felt well enough to go out to photograph the sunrise.
The photo above is one I took of it, taken at Estero Bay near Bonita Springs and a 20 mile drive from where we're located, which is further than I like to travel on a daily basis to take photos, so fortunately after carefully studying the maps I found a very nice picturesque park of small lakes dotted with little islands that's just 3 or 4 miles from here and should serve my sunrise and sunset purposes quite nicely.
Later this morning, we're meeting with Betty & Garth again and they're taking us over to see the sights on Sanibel and Captiva Islands.
For Sandra's detailed accounts of the last week, click here.
We Made It To Fort Myers, Florida
Wednesday, 7 March 2007 - This morning, rather than starting out at 9am on what should have been a more or less leisurely 188 mile (303 km) move down I-75 to Fort Myers, we instead found one of the tires on the RV going flat, down to 36 lbs/sq" from 90. So that had to be dealt with before we could hit the freeway.
Fortunately, the RV park had an air compressor that got the tire up to 67 lbs/sq", but could get it no higher. That though was enough to get us to the Goodyear tire store in Bushnell, where they said they could fix it, but there would probably be a two hour wait before they could get to it.
Having no choice, we waited and it turned out not to be quite two hours. They found a screw in the tire, got if fixed with a plug and an inside patch, and we were on our way by 11am, the crisis costing us only two hours and a bit under $19.
Once on the road, we pulled into the first two rest areas that came along to make sure the tire was holding pressure and it was. The event just goes to prove how important it is to check tire pressures before towing to the next location, something I very rarely don't do.
The drive down I-75 wasn't bad, considering we had to go through two fairly major metropolitan areas (Tampa and Fort Myers). We arrived here at the Fort Myers RV Resort at 2:30pm, tired and somewhat drained by the morning's events, but greatly relieved knowing we'll be able to kick back and relax for a month now.
Fort Myers RV Resort is a nice place. Not as nice as the Blueberry Hill RV Park back in Bushnell, but still very nice. Clean, spacious, friendly, and with the usual RV resort amenities such as swimming pool, shuffleboard, miniature golf, etc.
As a bonus, our site is a pull-through, so getting situated on it was painless, with the exception it was newly graveled so it was soft and required four-wheel drive to maneuver in it, otherwise it could have been ugly. It has 50 amp service, their last one available, and a completely clear view of the whole southern sky which made accessing the satellites easy.
So our trek from Texas to Florida is now complete after 1,372 miles (2,208 km) on the road and 11 days, taking time to see some sights in Louisiana and Alabama and a day's delay to find a suitable campsite near Fort Myers.
The photo above was one I shot on an afternoon drive Sandra and I took yesterday around Floral City near Bushnell. As always, click on it for a larger view, click here for a map of today's move, click here for a photo of our campsite in Fort Myers, and click here for a closer view of Sandra in it.
Overnighting At Bushnell, Florida...Or Not
Monday, 5 March 2007 - This morning, we made the relatively short move (211 miles / 340 km) within Florida from Tallahassee to Bushnell, leaving shortly after 9am and arriving here at the Blueberry Hill Florida RV Resort & Campground shortly before 1pm. This puts us another short day's drive (194 miles / 312 km) from our final Florida destination Fort Myers.
We had planned to stopover a day or two in Venice, Florida to see what birds might be waiting in the rookery there for me to photograph, but it turns out that this week there's is a motorcycle event of some kind taking place there, so no campsites that meet our requirements were available anywhere in the region. Maybe we'll give it a look on a daytrip later in the month or on our way north in April.
Anyway, this was supposed to be an overnight stop, but at this writing we haven't found an RV park in the Fort Myers area that has any space available, so we have to stay here tomorrow and hope to find something then.
This is actually a nice park and surrounded by everything we need Wal-Mart Supercenter, Taco Bell, MacDonald's, Subway all within easy walking distance. Which might become important if we can't find anything available close to Fort Myers.
The photo above is of some Spanish Moss in a grove of trees next to the RV park.
Click here for a map of today's move
Overnighting Near Tallahassee, Florida
Sunday, 4 March 2007 - As planned, we are now near Tallahassee, Florida, staying overnight in the Tallahassee RV Park. A bonus to this park when we got here was they have free campgroundwide wi-fi and free cable TV, so I didn't have to access our own satellites, which is a bit of a bother for just one night.
Today's move of 290 miles (467 km) was uneventful and done under sunny skies. However, the day dawned very windy and quite chilly at 46°F (8°C) as another blast from the north assaulted us, so packing up camp was not too enjoyable and the prospect for tonight here near Tallahassee, according to the weather websites, is to be even colder, dipping below freezing, although the owner of the campground here said not. We'll see.
At any rate, we're now back in the Eastern Time Zone. The photo above of an azalea flower (my mother's favorite, as I recall) was taken along a fence behind the RV. Click here for a photo of our campsite and click here for a map of today's move.
Leaving Dauphin Island
Sunday, 4 March 2007 - We are planning to leave Dauphin Island, Alabama later this morning and continue on our trek to Fort Myers, Florida, hoping to make it as far east on this leg of the drive as Tallahassee, Florida.
We both enjoyed our stay on Dauphin Island, even though we didn't see the birds we were hoping for. There were still many other things of interest in the area and we didn't seen them all, so Sandra is talking about returning sometime in the future and spending more time here. I expect the Coastal Bend of Texas will always be our favorite area of the Gulf Coast, but Dauphin Island has quite a few of the qualities we like about the Coastal Bend.
We drove into Mobile yesterday to see the city, but encountered hordes of people and traffic due to some public event that was going on, so we had to settle for seeing only a small part of the city, which looked very interesting, especially along Dauphin Street with many of its buildings having lacy cast iron facades and balconies that brought to mind New Orlean's French Quarter.
For me though, one of the highlights of our stay on Dauphin Island is the lunar eclipse that took place last evening at sunset and I managed to get some photos of it from the island's Pelican Point. Pictured here is my favorite shot of those I took. Usually, I miss lunar eclipses either because I don't know they're going to take place, or forget that they are, or as in most cases, the sky is cloudy. Last evening's eclipse looked like it was also going to get clouded over, but the moon eventually appeared over the clouds out on the horizon.
Now On Dauphin Island, Alabama
Thursday, 1 March 2007 - (UPDATE - To all who may be concerned, the violent weather that passed through Alabama today and made the network TV news shows went well north of us and the worst we got was some thunder and a little rain.)
Yesterday, under cloudy skies we made the 191 mile (307 km) move from Hammond, Louisiana to Dauphin Island, Alabama without incident, leaving a little after 9am, stopping at the visitors centers on highway I-10 as we entered both Mississippi and Alabama, and arriving here at the Dauphin Island Campground somewhere around 1pm.
Probably the most interesting thing about the drive, other than all the idiots we encountered who don't know how to properly merge into traffic when entering a freeway, were all the signs we saw of the ongoing effects from Hurricane Katrina which pummeled this region a year and a half ago.
For instance, at every major interchange were road signs saying bridges were out on US Route 90 and all along the drive the damage to the trees was still quite evident, reminding me very much of how it looked around Ottawa after the Ice Storm of 1998 and amazing me at how similar the damage was from something so violent as high winds compared to something so unmoving as ice. It also says something about the priorities of an area when they get the casinos back in operation before basic infrastructure, such as bridges, are repaired.
Anyway, once camp was set up and we caught our breath, we hopped in the truck to do some exploring. Dauphin island is 1 mile (1.6 km) by 14 miles (22.5 km) and most famous as a tourist attraction and bird sanctuary. The Audubon Bird Sanctuary, which we learned about from Gayle and Breland back in Louisiana, is right next to the campground and was the first place we got out of the truck and walked around. Although it was cloudy and we saw very few birds, the sanctuary is a beautiful place and within easy walking distance from our campsite. We'll be spending much of our time there, I expect.
The photo above was taken at the sanctuary's beach on the Gulf of Mexico and shows the damage to a few of the trees that took the full force of the eastern side of Katrina, a hundred miles from the storm's center. Only a few of the trees were damaged to this degree, but it shows the awesome power of hurricanes.
The photo also shows some marketing hype. The beaches here are advertised as having 'snow white' sand, but you can clearly see that it isn't. Not that I really care. It's still very nice sand, as sand goes, but it's nothing like the truly pure white sand farther to the east around Panama City, Florida. It's just that marketing hype and misrepresentation really annoy me. I want a hamburger that actually looks like the burgers in the fast food commercials. Everyone of those companies should be sued for false advertising and it surprises me no one has ever done that.
Anyway, I digress again. From the Audubon Bird Sanctuary we continued our exploration and ended up on the western end of the island where hurricane damage to the houses there was much worse than on the eastern end. The western end has few if any trees while the eastern end is blanketed with them and they protected the houses there.
There's also a nice pier and beach on the western end, but we have no shortage of beach here on the eastern end as well, since even the campground has its own beach that abuts with the sanctuary beach.
We also have to drive up to Mobile, the nearest large city, and check that out. From all we've heard and read, there's a lot to see and do there too. I hope that doesn't end up as being more marketing hype.
For Sandra's account of the day, click here.
For Older News
To read details of our previous stops and camps, visit the News Archives.
Updated Monday, April 2, 2007
Copyright © 2007 by Gordon L Wolford .
All rights reserved.