After a flight back from Indiana midday, Slim and I spent the afternoon repacking with warm weather gear and waiting for the Cap'n to get off work at 1am. We started out at 2:30am and made it down to Ft. Myers in a marathon 22 hours, including a 5 hour stop in Savannah, Ga., to meet up with my parents who were coming back from a dive trip in Florida. I think Slim's shirt says it all. (Thanks, LAAuntie!)
Clearly, this is the beginning of the trip -- a quick gas stop in Benson, N.C. But Slim has been a really good soldier throughout all our travels this last month. It's a point of personal pride for the Cap'n that Slim made it to Florida and back (and the Oregon flight, too!) with no DVDs. Just a lot of books and cars. It was tiring work to entertain him, but worth it, I think.
Why Ft. Myers? None of us had been there yet, but the Cap'n and I still reminisce about our canoe trip to the Everglades that I blogged about a month or so ago. And we were offered a free place to stay by our friend, who knew us back in the first town where the two of us lived together. Plus that child of ours needed some warm air and palm trees, as did his daddy.
It's a beautiful city, even if we didn't get to see any manatees the entire time we were there. We spent two days over on Sanibel Island, including exploring the Ding Darling Nature Preserve on a 4-mile nature walk.
We saw ibis, herons and egrets. There were plovers along the shore lines, and little crabs scurrying along the mangrove trees. We did not see any gators, but Slim got a new nickname: A.B. (Alligator Bait...doesn't he look tasty in his little stroller?) There were definitely times walking along the pathway where I could imagine a hungry gator sneaking out to snack on us.
The birds were a real highlight of the trip. We also rented a canoe at the Port Sanibel Marina and the whole family (Mia, too!) paddled out to find more birds. Again, no gators or manatees, but lots of birds, including a very large osprey.
The woman who rented us the canoe clearly thought we were nuts. She asked the Cap'n, "Don't you think you're taking a lot on?" What, there's something weird about a 7-month pregnant woman, an 18-month-old and a dog who doesn't like water going out for a paddle? But Slim was really into the ride, and most of the canoe trail was in water about 2-3 feet deep.
After the walking and paddling, the Cap'n and I needed a quiet day at the beach, which we got next down in Naples on Barefoot Beach. We saw quite a few gopher tortoises just in the parking lot. Slim napped naked on the beach and we all went for a dip in the shimmering blue waves, even if the water was still a little cold. A perfect January afternoon.
Unfortunately, we had to cut the trip a day short because we learned my grandfather got sick, and we wanted to make a detour through North Carolina. But before we left, we made a point to take Slim on an airboat ride, thinking he would be really into the wind in his hair and seeing the big gators. We did see the big gators, but Slim also quickly fell asleep on the boat.
We saw a lot more birds too, including very large wood storks and iridescent purple gallinule, but despite the Cap'n's best photographic efforts, most of the shots are of the backsides of the birds as they fled the noisy airboat. Okay, I know airboats aren't the most ecologically sensitive crafts or that good for the wildlife, but I'm just redneck enough to like the noise and the speed of them. Sorry.
So on the way back to DC, we visited good friends in Tampa and made the push through to North Carolina. By the end of the trip, there was nothing more we wanted than to be O-U-T of the car. Slim was just squirming in his seat and whine-crying. Even Mia was giving us that look from her perch on top of the bags in the back.
A fun time was had by all, but I think we may have to make shorter trips and maybe get a bigger car (Mazda6 wagon, anyone?) with BabyDos...
Quite a memorable first family vacation!