I woke up last as always and joined the others on the lanai for coffee on a beautiful day. The cool spell they were having that early Spring in Florida continued and that was fine with us … it was comfortable.
Mark made some eggs and bacon for breakfast, and we made plans for the day.
As it turned out, the first thing they mentioned was an excursion to Myakka River State Park (that we’d had penciled in to our itinerary but had missed) and we were psyched. A potential problem was that Rebecca had an appointment in Nokomis that ended at 11:00 … but that was no problem since we were having a lazy morning and it worked fine to delay departure until she was done.
We proceeded to laze around talking and then Rebecca showed up early. Again, we were so delighted to see her, their daughter whom we’d known as a beautiful and brilliant small girl, and who had recently left the nest and was making her way in the world. We covered many, many topics in the next hour and felt well caught up on her professional and domestic life in Orlando. She scurried off to her appointment and we got stuff ready for the expedition.
There were a good number of people at Myakka River on a sunny Saturday, but we got a parking space at the “Nature Trail” and had a nice walk through the flat Florida landscape, dominated by Palmetto Palms, Sabal Palms, Live Oaks and Scrub Oaks, various epiphytes (Butterfly Orchids, Ballmoss, and Cardinal Airplant among others), with Strangler Fig vines and Southern Moss draped over everything.
We climbed up into their Canopy Walkway and after a bit were 74 feet off the ground, high above the forest and with a vista to the horizon in all directions. When we finally made our way to the ground (the Canopy Walkway was crowded, we had to wait our turn to get to the top and then to descend) we detoured into a small meadow, pockmarked with snake burrows and covered with lush grass.
We drove up to the lake itself after that and eschewed the tawdry airboat ride. We saw several gators there instantly, as well as a huge fire ant nest that we were glad to miss, and had a fun time wandering around the lakeside and the gift shop. Then it was time to get out of there and we headed for a more civilized destination: Pop’s Sunset Grill on the intracoastal waterway in Nokomis.
We had more fine conversation and good beer (Jai Alai) there in the shade behind the bar, and then ordered a nice late lunch. I had the grouper reuben sandwich (they seem to like to make any kind of sandwich into a “reuben” in Florida). But this reminds me that it’s time for my:
Digression on Beer
Florida was not a beer wasteland, but there weren’t a lot of choices:
- Sweetwater – Most bars we stopped at had either Sweetwater Pale Ale or their 420 IPA [sic] on tap. They thought they were serving a local beer, but Sweetwater is brewed in Atlanta. Their pale ale is nicely balanced and the 420, though sweet, has a good character. Both were much better on tap than in the bottle. The Atlanta airport had a Sweetwater pub and I would have liked to sample their other styles, such as their rye IPA, but didn’t have time. In all, this was good stuff.
- Jai Alai – We found Jai Alai Pale Ale from Cigar City Brewing in Tampa in a couple of places (and in cans), and I loved that stuff. It has a great earthy fore-taste and some lasting malt taste.
- Ranger – Most of the beers I had were Ranger Pale Ale from New Belgium in Colorado, a beer I can’t get in Massachusetts and I love. This wasn’t exactly Florida beer, but made me feel that I was on vacation.
- Etc. – The best I could find in some cases was plain vanilla Sierra Nevada, and I have to admit that I delved into Yuengling and Budweiser at times, though those forays were brief.
Left Pop’s after too short a time … I wish we were still sitting by the turquoise intracoastal waterway and watching huge pelicans mill around like they’ve got some kind of agenda. We drove back to the house and Rebecca visited a neighbor and then took off while I started my assault on Mark’s CD collection. Debbie made a great rib dinner for us, and then we decided to not watch a movie because we were all too tired!
Went to bed in what used to be Rebecca’s dark, dark bedroom (we appreciated the dark) and instantly fell into another sound sleep … I was amazed by how relaxing our Florida trip was and I was busy burning up the sleep deficit I’d accrued over years in New England.