mad in pursuit travel notebook
DISPATCHED FROM THE CROSSROADS
Roadtrip South, September 2009: Summary, Part 2
[<<<cont'd] We love secondary roads. Interstates are like flying on asphalt -- all about the destination, nothing but speed in between. From Ponce Inlet, we set off down the old Atlantic coast US Route 1. We turned out to Merritt Island to catch a glimpse of the Kennedy Space Center, but took the wrong road -- the one blocked off to visitors. So... a brief visit to the national wildlife refuge instead (photo right).
At Fort Pierce we turned inland and skimmed the northern edge of Lake Okeechobee. Of course you can't really see the lake because it's hidden behind an earthen water-control dike. But we saw orange groves, which thrilled me. We zigzagged our way along county roads through swamps and reclaimed swamps till we reached Bonita Springs, between Fort Myers and Naples on the Gulf coast.
Our route will never be nominated for "scenic byway" status, but we felt like we were seeing real Florida.
Day trip out to the island. Less interested in the beach (been there, done that) than the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. My little point-and-shoot camera is terrible for wildlife photos, especially birds (see photo below). But we saw a lot and they were very cool.
We took the guided tram tour, which seems like a geezer thing to do (as opposed to hiking or biking). But we do enjoy having the history and ecology of a place explained to us. Guides get excited about showing you the alligators, but geek that I am, I prefer the botany lessons of mangrove swamps.
We were going to do the boardwalk hike in Fakahatchee Strand, but then thought, what the heck, let's take a boat tour. A van picked us up in Naples and drove south along the Tamiami Trail to Everglades City. On the one hand, the Everglades is a green swampy hell. On the other, it's a showcase of human ingenuity in destroying nature and trying to make a buck by any means possible.
Our boat tour was on a six-person airboat -- a sonic abomination that roars through the swamp "alleys" slowing down only at the sight of an alligator. They give you protective earphones, ha-ha, but then you can't hear the guide. Fun but not too "green."
I took video with my new little Vado camera, but somehow I haven't figured out how to make the playback both editable and smooth (grrrrr). Uploading an unedited clip on YouTube is the best I can do so far. Hmpf.
Back in Everglades City we got to hold an alligator. It was kind of a fun tourist-y thing, even if it did defecate down my pants leg.