August 7, 2011 — Florida Vacation

We took our family vacation this summer to stay with Bob and Jaime at their condo in Lake Wales.  From there we made many short trips to interesting destinations.  First, we hit the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, where we met Bob’s daughter Robin and her husband Brian.  It’s quite a nice aquarium. 

The next morning I was stung by fire ants while walking about the back yard.  While I am a hymenopterist, I don’t go out of my way to experience these events.  The stings themselves were inconsequential, rating barely a 1 on the Schmidt scale (which ranges from 0 to 4), but the pustules and itching that followed were very inconvenient.

We went to the Lowry Park Zoo that day and met Bob’s other daughter, Rochelle, and her daughter Riley.  It was a really good zoo, and we got a lot of cool photos.  From there we went to Venice Beach, which is known for its shark teeth.  I actually found a shark tooth while walking along in the surf.  The gulf water is much warmer than that in California or the Galapagos.  Savannah found half a shark’s tooth.

As we drove home that night  I saw a big bird cross the road to
avoid the car (it had been eating a road kill).  Recognizing it
immediately, and having wanted to see one for some 30 years, I suddenly
yelled, “CRESTED CARACARA!”  This awoke Savannah from a dead sleep.  She
was not amused, especially since I had done the exact same thing about
10 years ago for a scissor-tailed flycatcher.  The flycatcher has been a running joke in our family, and the caracara is becoming one, usually modified as “crested caca.” We turned around to have a better look.  I have murky, distant images because  it  was already sunset. 

The next day we drove down to Fort Myers and spent the night at a motel.  On the way, we stopped at Manatee Park.  There were no manatees, as they mainly hang out there during winter.  Incredibly, Savannah spotted a bobcat.  I hadn’t seen one in the wild in 25 years.  I took a stab with my camera as it ran through the brush, but all I got was a blurry shot of a palm frond.  Bob, me, and Bob’s friend Tom went downtown and did some night photography.  The following morning we drove out to Sanibel Island to get an early start shelling.   Sanibel is well known for the diversity and abundance of shells that wash up on its beaches, and Jaime has been hunting them for some 25 years.  She took us to her favorite spot and we began our walk down the beach.  Unfortunately, it was high tide, which covers up a lot of shells.  We found quite a few by wading the shallows, rather than walking on the sand.  We even saw a couple of small stingrays in the surf.  Savannah really enjoyed finding shells, and has spent hours cleaning and curating her collection.

The last day we went out to Bok Tower Gardens, which is only 6 miles away.  It is a fascinating place, full of flowers, plants, butterflies and other wildlife.  I’m not much into architecture, but the tower itself was pretty awesome.  I fell in love with the place.  Bob and I spent the afternoon relaxing while the ladies went to the mall.

I almost forgot to mention that just after we arrived at Bok Tower, an employee said that a woman was on the floor and they had called 911.  I had lost track of Stacey, and spent several panicked minutes looking before finding her in the visitor’s center.  Stacey and Savannah sprung into firefighter and lifeguard mode, respectively, and took care of the lady until the paramedics arrived.  After it was over, the manager gave us two passes for our next visit and free lunch.

Here are my best photos from the trip, more or less in chronological order.

Slide show:

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Florida 2011

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