Friday, October 18, 2019

Feeling the Whine... and the Vulture Story

I am back at McDonald's in Key Largo this morning October 18th.  I only have two more days here and I can't wait.

But before I get to the whining, let me tell you about the vultures.

I had vultures in the title of my last post, but ran out of blog time before I got to the story of the vultures.

On Wednesday October 16th I was up before daylight and I packed up in the dark.  Once I turned the corner off the Timiami Trail (Highway 41) and headed south toward the Keys I was in territory that was new-to-me.  The road wasn't as rural as I expected and was mostly just a two lane road with lots of construction.

I figured I will never get down this way again, so I should check out Flamingo.  I had wanted to go to Flamingo since I heard about the trip my bike group took there years before George and I moved here.  They had biked the road passing many gator.

I stopped at the visitors center on the road to Flamingo and asked if I would see Flamingo there.

No, the ranger told me.  There are no Flamingos in Flamingo.  Ahh, well, then, why go?  It is a long drive and I had been thinking I would see the pink birds on stilts.

I went to the next visitors's center that was only four miles down the road.

When I pulled in the lot I was amazed to see so many vulture.  There were three groups of them.  Two groups were fighting over two different blue tarps on the ground.  They were tugging and grunting and hopping and flapping

I grabbed my camera and walked toward them.  I saw a car with a blue tarp on it and I wondered if there was dead body in the car and that was why there were so many vultures here.

I took pictures and video.  Then I turned around and there were four or six vultures on my car.  They were tugging on the rubber around my windshield!

I chased them away and then ran back and grabbed one of the tarps they were fighting over and covered my vehicle.

I did a quick walk of the board walk, but I was worried about my car.  What else might they want to eat?

When I returned to the parking lot I chased the vultures that were liking something underneath one of the cars in the lot.  And I stuffed a tarp under there.

I chased them away from another car, but then I realized I would be chasing all day.  I found out there was a bin of tarps provided by the Visitors' Center.   So when a couple of women pulled up I told them about the tarps and the vultures.

As I drove out of the lot I passed a convertible.  There were seven vultures pecking and pulling at the canvas roof.

What surprises me when I think back is that the Visitor's Center provided tarps but did not have any big signs warning visitors.  Strange.

Now I was done with the road to Flamingo.  I set off for John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo.

After I set up camp I texted the Sisters on the Fly event host.  She had offered to take me to a beach as a beginner snorkeler and give me some instruction.

Gail lives in an airport neighborhood.  Simple homes with big drives with room for boats and planes and cars.  All the houses face the grass runway.

Gail told me that she had 60% cancellation for the event, so there will only be a few women here for the Sister's event.

The beach she took me to had lots of Jelly fish that looked like lace doilies setting on floor of the sea.  It was scary for me to float over them, worried that I might have to step down.  Gail said it was good for me because when you are swimming over the coral reefs you should never put your feet down.  You harm the reef when you do that and could get injured too.

It is very hot.  Sometimes I wake in the tent and I am covered in sweat.  There is no breeze. 

 The next morning I rode my trike to the beach at John Pennekamp to try some more snorkeling.  There is a point when the gentle slope of the sea floor drops and there is nothing there.  I can't see a thing.  No fish, no nothing.  I was terrified.  I swam back to where I could see the sandy floor again.

 And there may be crocodiles in these waters!  Crocodiles are much more aggressive and dangerous than alligators.

Now I don't want to do this.  I want to give up and go home.

I am making excuses.   It is hot, I am tired of traveling, I am tired of the mosquitoes and the no-see-um.  Am I talking myself out of jumping off the boat into the dark and scary ocean?


Thursday, October 17, 2019

Ibis, Vultures, and Sweat

It is Thursday, October 17, 2019 and I am writing this from a McDonalds in Key Largo, Florida.

I like going new places and being surprised by new sights.

I last wrote from a Starbucks in Miami.  Then I thought I only had one more night at the Everglades campground.  I was mistaken.   I had two.

Kamp-rite Tent Cot

I like sleeping in my tent cot.  I am outside so much.  If I wake up in the middle of the night I can see the stars and listen for any sounds.

I expected the Everglades campsite to be full of sounds.  I expected a shrill of frog calls and the rustling of bushes and the rumble of gators.   Crickets, I heard crickets and an occasional air boat in the distance.  In the early mornings I heard trucks that seemed to thunder across the Everglades on the Tamiami Trail in the early morning hours.  I didn't see a lot of trucks when driving that road.

The one downside... or maybe two, to sleeping in my tent cot.
Sometimes I wake up and there is no breeze.  I am covered in sweat.  I have to get out and move around to get cooled off.   Fortunately the bugs aren't too bad in the middle of the night.

I think about hanging a little battery operated fan, but how long would that work?

The second reason my set-up isn't ideal right now is that when twilight comes, the bugs come out, and I have to go lay down in the tent-cot to get away from the bugs.  I have tried spraying myself and staying out, but I can't spray enough, they still buzz around my ears and get in my nose.  So I go to bed shortly after the sun sets.  I read by flashlight.

I have clusters of bug bites on both knees.  Why the knees?  I figured it out.  Sometimes, when curled up in my tent, my knees set against the screen of the tent cot.  Those buggers are biting me through the screen.

Missed Opportunities

The thing about traveling and blogging is I don't have much time for anything else.  I mean I didn't spend time and attention to see where my fellow Shark Valley trikers were going next.  I had made my reservation at the Midway Campground and that was where I was going to stay.  It turned out that they were biking probably an hour or two away.  I COULD have joined them on one of their rides.  If I WOULD have taken the time to map their starting location.

But I didn't.  So I was on my own.

After leaving Starbucks I drove back toward the campground and stopped and rode the Shark Valley Trail one more time.

During our moonlight ride the night before I was at the front of the pack and kept having to wipe cobwebs off my face.   When I pulled my trike out it was covered in sticky cobwebs from our night-time ride.

My first impression of that trail when we rode it in ... what, 2010? My first impress was that there were so many gator on it.  I remember standing on the tower and looking down.  In the grass around the restrooms there were huge gator.  Probably seven to 12 of them scattered around the tower.   Now no gator.  If you want to see gator, choose to come during a drought and in March or April.  April is mating season.

During my ride this day I decided to return in February or March with friends. 

At the parking lot a woman stopped me and asked if the trike would be helpful to her.  She is going blind and has had to give up riding because she can't see the flaws in the pavement.  

I told her this kind of trike would keep her from falling.  I also said that she should get a trike with one wheel in front that she can hook onto another trike.  If her husband rides she can keep riding even after her eye-sight goes.  She was thrilled at the prospect.  Though she has some work to do convincing her husband, he was not at ALL interested in our conversation.

Back at camp, I saw a guy walking around the campsite with a nice camera with a telephoto lens.  He was taking pictures of birds and showed me a few of the lovely little things.  It amazes me that someone can capture a still of those small birds that are always moving (flitting).

He was wearing a shirt that said something about "python hunter".  He is a government contractor that hunts the big snakes in the Everglades.  He says that hunting in the winter is much easier.  The snakes go to pavement at night to get warm.  So in the winter he hunts at night.

A Gift of Another Day

I had fully expected when I woke the next day I would be packing up and heading to the Keys.  But I woke and the phone told me it was only the 15th of October.  I had another day!  At first I was disappointed.  But then I realized, how often do you get the gift of another day? 

What was I going to do with it?

I decided to drive to Naples.  Take a shower and work out at an Anytime Fitness.  There are no showers at the Midway Campground.  I have been taking sponge bathes and washing my clothes in the bathroom sinks. 

 I arrived at Anytime when the sun was rising.

A lovely shower first.  I hung my clothes in the van before starting my workout. 

After Anytime, I drove near downtown, parked, and got out my bike.  I took a picture of the intersection in case I needed it for finding my way back to 7th Street and 9th Avenue.... or was it 7th Avenue and 9th Street?

 Before I left Inverness, I had bought a mirror to replace the one that fell off.  Since I have the gift of an "extra" day, I took the time to find some shade and put on the mirror.

 My idea to walk the beach was squashed by two things. It was getting very hot already in the sun and this sign made me worry about wading in the surf.

Instead I toured some of the back streets, the used google maps to find a buffet.  I was hungry and the scale at Anytime told me I had not gained on this trip even with all the eating I felt I was doing. 

 I spent the rest of the day working to apply the edits from the Editor to the Kindle version of The Journey Continues.  It will launch December 4th and I have to have it up-loaded at least a month in advance so that people can pre-order the book. 

I left the library a little after six p.m.   I was driving the Tamiami back to Midway Campground when I saw the sun shining on hundreds of white ibis in a tree by a bridge.  I quickly pulled over to grab a picture.  I ran back to the bridge because the sun was already gone and the light was fading.

 As I approached the bridge there was a huge splash.  Obviously a BIG gator was startled by me.

 I will add a video later. 

But right now the sun is coming up here in Key Largo and I want to snorkel at the beach a bit to get more comfortable before I jump off the boat into deep ocean water.

More later...

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Sun and the Moon over the Everglades

I am writing this from Starbucks in the Miami, Florida area on Monday, October 14, 2019.

We are staying at the Midway Campground in the Everglades.  Located 1/2 way between Naples Florida and Miami.  The highway (highway 41) is called the Tamiami Trail.  It is named for the two cities it connects, Tampa and Miami.

Jim McCrae said they are raising up Highway 41 in places so that the flat-flowing river that is the Everglades will be able to flow better.  So far the places being raised are on the Miami end.  I drove over them this morning.

The campground has electric!  I am glad for that so I can cook my meals, make a morning coffee.  There is water at the bathroom.  The RV's don't have a sewer hookup or a dump station.  So their time here is limited.

Also, being in the middle of a very large wilderness area, there is no cell service and no internet.  Once in a while my phone would ping and I would see a message come in.  Most often I could not reply because the service just wasn't there.

Which is ok!  I get to read some, write some, sit some, ride some more.

I last posted from the two-story McDonalds in Fort Meyers.   After that I drove to the campground.

As I was driving I remembered driving this road with George and seeing so many birds in the trees by the ditch by the road.  They had created canals on the sides of the roads when they piled up rock to create the highway.  It was a place for gator to lounge and birds to hunt and nest.   This time, though, the Everglades had a lot of water from the rainy season.  The fish and food had been dispersed.  There wasn't the concentration of birds and gators.

I stopped at a board walk.  As I was walking it I had to overcome some fear.  I was by myself and I remember a story someone told me about being on a dead-end board walk and encountering a panther (or some dangerous animal... it has been a while since I heard the story.)  So I was pushing through my fear and I moved forward.

 I came upon this amazing tree that was hugging another tree stump.

 There was an explanation nearby.  A Strangler fig starts as like an air-fern.  Then it strangles the life out of the host tree and as it grows it reaches the ground and becomes a regular tree with roots.

The water through the huge swamp/river that is the Everglades is crystal clear.  I tried to take a picture to show you.  But all you can see is me floating on the surface.

 Hey sister Mary!  Are you likin' this Lichen?

 There was a building at the beginning of the board walk.  It turned out to be a Native American gift shop.

 The clerk said her ancestry was Seminole and Miccosukee.  I picked out some feather earrings made from Turquoise.

When I arrived at Midway Campground I found my reserved spot next to three huge RV's in a row.

Will Byers who arranged this ride for the South Florida Recumbent Riders was already there in one of those huge RVs.  In fact, all three huge RV's next to my little tent were from Polk City MOSN.  This was the total of our group that was here to ride the Shark Valley Trail by moonlight.

MOSN is their Polk City, Florida neighborhood bike group.  I learned that the neighborhood is an RV neighborhood, but most of the people or parts of the neighborhood also have a brick home.  Anyway, I met folks from MOSN at the Catrike rallys we used to attend.  And then I would see them riding on the Withlacoochee and elsewhere.

We are now connected via Facebook groups such as Recumbent Riders and the South Florida Recumbent Riders.

I knocked on their doors and let them know I had arrived.  They had already riden the trail that day and were chillin' in their air conditioning.   They said the weather said it was going to rain in the evening so they weren't going to do the moonlight right that night, but would do it the next night.

I was setting up camp when Marie came over.  I was glad to learn I wasn't the only single person in the group this trip.  She has been widowed a few years.  We shared stories and dreams and she helped me set up my canopy.   She said I should get an RV and we could go traveling together.  I said, "I am not rich enough."  I am on a tent kind of travel budget.  Ha ha.

At around 3:30 I decided to go ride the Shark Valley by myself.

For those of you into grasshopper porn...

When George and I visited the Everglades years ago with our friends Kathi and Karl, Kathi counted 72 gator on the seven-mile ride to the tower on the Shark Valley Trail.

This day I saw only two.  TWO!  I remember the ground around the tower being covered with gators, huge fat gators.  Today, none.

We had visited in February during a drought, shortly after a cold spell.  The gator were concentrated around the canals and water holes.  The birds were nesting all along the canal next to the trail, making for easy pickings when nestlings fall out of the nest.

I return to camp (15 or 17 miles away from Shark Valley).  I arrived just in time for ice cream!

There are 5 of us gobbling on four 1/2 gallon tubs of ice cream.  Lots of choices.  Thank you Will Byer's for the ice cream!  The light above Will's head in this picture below is the full moon rising.

 Soon the mosquitos were biting.  I returned to my "home" and climbed into my bed.  I thought I would read a while.
I was too tired.  However I woke often and looked out at the moon as it moved across the sky.   I had expected the Everglades to be loud at night.  I expected to hear critters rustling, frogs singing.   All I heard was crickets chirping and the occasional hoot of an owl.

In the morning trucks start roaring down highway 41.

Midway is known for being a great place for star-gazing.  The nights we are here, the moon will be bright and keep us from seeing the lights of many many stars.  Just the brightest show up in the sky.  I keep checking.

Will arranged for us to ride in the morning.  We are to leave camp at eight a.m.

I leave a bit early so I can stop at a gas station to get ice for my cooler.  I had brought some things from my fridge for meals and it needs to keep cool.

When I arrive at the Shark Valley Trail, Will and Carolyn and Bill are talking with a guy named Jim.  I have seen him on Facebook.  Jim McCrea lives in the Miami area and volunteers on the Shark Valley Trail.  He was there to ride with us!

It was great, he pointed out birds, told us a bit about the trails history.  When I picked up a snail shell he told us that the non-native snails are shaped differently.  Some kind of hawks in the area are getting longer and more curved bills over the generations.  Natural selection is happening before the naturalists observing eyes.  Evolution in fast motion.

Back at my camp site I cooked my lunch and Marie came by to chat.  We are excited to meet each other, fellow single women travelers and adventure seekers.  I tell her about my dream to do Ohio trails again and she is all in.  She didn't ride in the morning but instead went to the visitors' center.  She saw about 11 huge gator there.  Dang!

It is warm in the afternoon.  Everyone escapes to their air conditioning.  I rest in the shade, siesta time.  I rest because this night we are doing the moon-light ride starting at six.

I love how easy it is for me to get ready to ride.  I just pull out my trike from the car, add my water bottle, and off I go!

We park our cars outside of Shark Valley because the gates are locked at six p.m.  But they let bikers and walkers into the park.   Jane Weber was there!  Jane is an Ohio tricycle rider.  When I was riding with the Ohio trikers they talked about her with affection.  They said she was in Florida doing a whole year of work-camping.  (She is working in exchange for a free camp site at a KOA.)  It turns out she was only about 45 minutes from Shark Valley, so she drove over to join us for the ride.  It was great to meet her in person.

It seems like I am getting to meet a lot of people I have connected with via Facebook groups interested in recumbent bicycle and tricycle riding.

As we were approaching the tower the sun was already disappearing behind the trees by the canal on the west side of the trail.

We rushed up to it to catch some of the color of the fading sun.  The color was wonderful and sent some rays into the sky.  The fading light made the flat grasslands to the east of us, brilliant.  We waited only a few minutes for the Moon to appear in the East among the thick dark cloud hovering on the horizon.

Yes, that dot above is the moon rising just after the round orb of the sun has disappeared in the west.

It was a wonderful and lovely experience.  Very much worth repeating.  Will said he would study the moon charts and try to schedule something for spring.

I try texting my friend Debra to let her know she has to do this one next time.

She needs air-conditioning.  She doesn't like hot weather.  Hmmm. 

Who else?  Linda Tolley from Ohio?  I wonder if our new Inverness triking friends the Texas Trikers will be interested?  I took two days to drive down here, but it could be a one-long-day drive.  Hmmmm.

I loved being there.  Just taking in the beauty. 

The group started moving again.  Heading down the tower to return to our trikes.

I got in front of the pack and didn't turn my lights on.  I wanted to ride by moon-light.  Which was fine, but when they got too far behind and I didn't see the trail as well, I would slow down and wait for them. This is about as brave as I get.

Little frogs with there white undersides shining in our head-lights would hope off the trail as we approached... most of the time.  I heard a few crunches... ewww!

I pulled into my camp site and Maria stopped her Jeep behind me.

"We are gathering in my RV for ice cream if you wanna come," she told me.


Today is Monday and the RV's are pulling out this morning.  I couldn't hang out in the mosquito-feasting twilight this morning.  I couldn't wait for them to get up and get going so I could say good bye.

Instead I will email them this morning from Starbucks in Miami.

Then maybe I will go ride the trail again, stop in the visitors' center, and chill in the heat of the afternoon.  Who knows?

Tomorrow I head south to join the Sisters on the Fly near Key Largo, Florida.  It is an event where we snorkle and dive and count fish for the DNR or some organization.  Excited and scared, I have never swam in the sea much, never snorkled in the ocean.  Something new to discover.

I went up on Fiverr before I left internet and asked the artist to add the narrators names to the covers for the audio books.  Soon soon soon, Alzheimer's Trippin' with George - Diagnosis to Discovery will be out on Audio book on Audible and elsewhere.

Marie bought a copy of this book.  She told me she is enjoying it.  Thank you, Marie!  I hope to see you again soon.  Maybe on the Van Fleet Trail this winter.

Feeling the Whine... and the Vulture Story

I am back at McDonald's in Key Largo this morning October 18th.  I only have two more days here and I can't wait. But before I get...