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South Florida

Sally

What a way to start off a life list! Here we are in Florida, and I have to tell you that it's just as beautiful as people always say - except that it's even more spectacular when you see it for yourself. Because it isn't just the seeing, its the feeling of being so deliciously warm, and the smells and sounds of ocean waves on the beach. I'm actually getting used to seeing palm trees wherever we go! And do you know that the water here is actually warm enough to swim in, even in March?!

We spend a good deal of last week in the Fort Myers area. Fort Myers was an easy pick for me because itís near Manatee Park, where we went the very first day so I could see a manatee. I canít even describe how sweet those creatures are ñ so gentle and serene-seeming. They reminded me of underwater elephants.

We keep a big calendar in the RV, so we can keep track of what we want to do each day. After twenty years of marriage, we've found that this is especially important in a place like this where there's so much to do, so Steve can x-out his golfing days and I know when I'll have him handy to help me carry groceries or for a big expedition. It wasn't long, of course, before Steve marked the calendar up with golfing days and headed out gleefully for a day on the links. This is fine for me, too, since I get to spend that time seeing spots he wouldn't enjoy, like the fancy Burroughs Home and the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. I just love old houses!

A few days later, when Steve had gotten his golfing fix, we took a day trip to Sanibel and Captiva, a pair of islands off the Fort Myers coast. Because we wanted to take our terriers, Fritz and Sheba, with us, we drove along the causeway that carries you right over the ocean to Sanibel. Amazing! We all walked for miles along what must have been the longest beach in the world, and I picked up some of the most gorgeous seashells I've ever seen.

Now that we're in Florida, I've found so many more things that I want to do and see - more than could ever fit on my life list! I've been telling the dogs that we may need to stay here for a bit. Not that they mind! They canít really get enough of running on the beach. But for the moment, my plans include: 1) trying a mojito in Miami (doesn't that sound exotic?), 2) seeing Earnest Hemingwayís house in Key West, and 3) spotting a wild orchid in the Everglades. And, of course, taking pictures of all these incredible, colorful wild birds!

Steve

Have you ever noticed how people from cold-weather places get when they land somewhere warm, especially in a month like March, when our hometown in Minnesota is still digging out from under heaps of grimy snow? They just can't stop saying ridiculous things like, "Ah! It's so warm!" and "Can you believe the weather?"  Ever since we entered Florida, Sally's been talking a blue streak about the temperature. Which, believe it or not, is more than she ever talked about the weather at home, beyond asking if I remember to put the snow tires on the car. But now it's all "look at the flowers! Ooh, feel the warm air!" everywhere we go.

Now I'll be perfectly frank - to me, all flowers pretty much look the same. So while Sally's busy oohing and aahing over her lemon trees and bromeliads, or whatever they're called, I've been charting golf courses. Turns out, just as I'd hoped, that Southern Florida is filled with great courses everywhere you look. I played at two in Fort Myers, one on Sanibel Island, one in Naples, and I already have my tee time set for when we get to Miami (turns out that you can book it online). I even had a pro look at my putting stroke, and now Iím playing the best short game of my life!

While we were out on Sanibel and Captiva, I went out on a fishing charter while Sally hit the Sanibel Outlet stores. And man, did we ever catch some fish on that trip! We went about thirty miles off-shore, to where the water was maybe seventy feet deep. I caught two monster red grouper, while another fellow on the charter brought home - no joke - a barracuda. Meanest looking fish I've ever seen.

Now that we're in Naples, Sally's gotten her second wind for animal viewing. These pretty birds really have her going, and she's determined now to see all (or most of) the big splashy birds like flamingos, spoonbills, pelicans, and ibises. And golfing on Sanibel gave me such a taste for this island golfing, that now I want to try out some of those courses on the Florida Keys. Sally's game, so I drew up a loop-route that'll take us east on I-75 to Miami, then south to the keys, and around to Everglades National Park. That way we can see alligators, Sally can spot her birds, and I can look at the sunken galleons at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum. Iím also hoping to go on one of those boats you see in movies, the super-fast ones that whip through the water. So keep your eyes pealed and let me know if you find a way to get a ride on one of those things!
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