Friday, June 8, 2012

Florida Vacation 2012, Part 2, Monday

Connie took the week off, but because of her work, still had things that needed to be done at times.  Monday was open.  Neil had to work, but Marisol was off, so we three decided to go visit my Aunt Audrey, my Mother's sister, over by Daytona.

We took the long way out, going SR-40.  It went through one of the various forests.  Pretty drive. 

When we got to Audrey's we were greeted by Barb, her daughter, and Barb's husband Lou.  It was good to see them again! 

Connie had planned on us going to "Over Under Sideways Down" for lunch, but due to circumstances and time decided to go to "Pickles".  "Over Under Sideways Down" is what Connie called the place, since I don't think she can actually remember the name of it.  Pickles was cool.  They have a salad bar with quite a variety of pickles.  The meal was excellent, and the portions were HUGE!  Great place to eat. 

Audrey had asked Connie for something of Mom's that she held near and dear to herself.  Connie and I wracked our brains trying to figure out what to take to Audrey.  A sweater?  No, Connie had told the nursing home to dispose of all of Mom's stuff.  A book?  The Scrabble game?  We had even considered jewelry, but Mom wasn't one to wear much, if any.  There was nothing we could think of.  So at lunch Audrey asked Connie again if she had brought something of Mom's, and Connie told her "Us"!  What else is there?  Audrey looked forlorn, but I piped up and told her that Connie had intended on leaving me there with her.  That broke the mood, at least for the moment. 

Barb and Lou had to leave, and we did shortly thereafter.  We drove out to the beach in Daytona, and I went wading in the Atlantic.  I wanted to go swimming, but we didn't have time.  We then went back to Audrey's and visited for a while, looking at olde pictures of her and her sisters. The older sister, Flo, died a number of years ago.  Now Mom.  Audrey is the last one. 

Audrey has a cat, Tootsie, that she dotes over.  "I brush her every day", she proudly told us!  Cute and soft, a real companion to her.

We had to go as it was getting late, and Connie took us back via I-4.  Lots of rain along the way.

The visit was nice, and we fulfilled our family obligation, so to speak, but bitter sweet.  I couldn't help but notice how lonely and sad Audrey looked as we drove away.

Florida Vacation, June 2012, Part 1

I had scheduled my vacation WAaaayyyy back in February, to be in Florida for Mom's Birthday June 9th.  And of course while there visit my Sister Connie, Nephew Neil, and his wife Marisol.  When Mom passed away on May 16th, since she didn't want a funeral or memorial, we decided not to change the plans. 

I got into Florida Saturday afternoon and was met at the Sarosota/Bradenton Airport by Connie and Marisol.  From there we went to Neil's and Marisol's new place, where we had a barbeque and chatted about family and what we were going to do Sunday.

Sunday we got started somewhat early, and head down towards the Everglades.  Along the way we detoured to a back road that led us into the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park.  From what I understand, it is the longest and widest Cypress forest in the United States.  Neil and Marisol had been on a hiking path that led way back into the olde forest and persuaded us to take a hike.  It was Beautiful!  Lots of animal life and heavy growth.  The path at a couple of points had boards laid over cinderblocks to traverse marshy areas, which made for a fun obstacle course.  We used a full container of OFF mosquito repellent! 

From there we went down to the Everglades where we went on an airboat ride at Wooten's Everglades Airboat Tours.  What a kick!  Captain Scott is obviously somebody who really enjoys his job!  It was only half an hour, and I say "only" because it went too fast.  Pun intended.  Next time I'll opt for the hour tour.  We had gotten a package deal that also included a (?) swamp buggy tour of the Cypress swamp.  It was interesting, in that our guide knew his stuff, but slow.  I wouldn't recommend it.  Maybe it was a let down after the excitement of the airboat ride? 

While waiting for the airboat ride, a very LARGE alligator came up to the airboat docks side, and just laid there in the water glaring at us.  I was thinking about tossing Marisol in to see who could swim faster, but she was being nice to me so I didn't.  On the other side of the ticket office was another inlet where we were feeding some fish.  Some of the fish were over three feet long!  Big Fish!  All of a sudden an alligator came splashing up out of the water towards us!  Scared us!  Then he just sat there glaring at us.  We were told that since we were feeding the fish, he wanted fed also.  Just so you know, it's 'legal' to feed the fish, since they have a dispenser there where you can buy fish food (cat food) to throw to them.  It's like a candy machine at a grocery store, where you put in 50 cents, turn the knob, and the food falls out.  It was fun.

From there we went to the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk.  It is what the name implies: a boardwalk into the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park.  There were signs along the way explaining some of the various things that you can see.  From one end to the other it's 3/4 of a mile long!  Nice walk.  Big Trees! 

After we got back to the car, my sister had to wait for another tourist to move his car out of our way.  She then said, "Look Scotty, an alligator!"  I looked out on the road thinking it was a Colorado 'gator', that being a tire tread from a truck.  I didn't see anything.  She then mentioned that it was behind us.  Duh me!  I was wondering why there was a tire tread behind us!  Then she told Neil and I to get out and take a look.  I noticed she didn't invite Marisol to go...!  So Neil and I got out, and Lo and Behold, ther WAS an alligator about ten feet behind the car!  He was about eight feet long.  Too big for me to want to go and wrastle with, but Michael might...  After a couple of minutes the gator moved up and slowly worked his way into the water alongside the road. 

I cannot figure out the fascination about alligators.  Is it because they're living dinosaurs?  They're deadly nature?  They make great boots and handbags? 

We then head back towards home, found a Chinese buffet, got stuffed, and waddled our way home.  After a shower to get the bug spray and sunscreen off, I slept good.