Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Tortoise And The Hair

There is no moral to this story - just in case you thought from the title that you should expect one. Then again, maybe you're sitting there saying, "WOW, he actually spelled it "hair," not hare.

What? You think I can't spell "rabbit"?

So there I was bending over a short warm water hose at the side of the coach, breaking my back, while Marilyn and I gave Abby a bath. It's Saturday! She kept barking- thought it was dogs going by but it just didn't stop...and this is not her normal behavior. The older she gets, the more laid back she gets.

Bath wrapped up, we went to the front of the coach for the fluff dry cycle. That done, I got out the clipper and trimmed up some of that too long HAIR. Now she was looking good but still had that barking thing going on. Only this time we couldn't begin to see what she was barking at. Her look was intently focused across the street in an empty space, a sand lot behind the row of rv slips across the way. Marilyn saw something move. I went to investigate and what we found was a gigantic (by Florida terms) tortoise. 15 inches or more in length with a high shell that looked almost armor plated. I went to get the camera but what I thought would be a slow tortoise turned out to run faster than a hare, and down the hole he went. Later near evening he stuck his head out and I circled around behind him and quietly advanced to get my picture.

So now, the moral of the story:............oh wait; there isn't one.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

City Seafood A Joke

I try my level best never to write anything negative about a business that we encounter along the way. There's so much negativity in the world to begin with that we don't need to create any more. And let me say at the onset that I'm no gourmet diner, nor do I feel special or privileged in any way in life. But Marilyn and I went out for a dinner to celebrate our anniversary tonight. THAT is special to me. We had stone crab claws and a fried oyster basket at City Seafood in Everglades City. The stone crabs were stone cold and the butter was luke warm. We asked to have the claws warmed up and though "we don't do that..." they relented and put them in the microwave for 60 seconds. Big deal. We also had two (plastic cup) glasses of wine. No biggie. I'll drink boxed wine, so again, no special palette at work here. RV Guy! What can I say?

The stone crab platter had about 6 claws on it. Doesn't take long to eat that, so we went back to the window and asked for another 1/2 pound. The time was 6:05 on a Sunday evening.

"I'm sorry we're closed."

What? We just came to dinner.

"We're closed and that's that!

"Right in the middle of dinner service you close?"

"This is what we do to people like you, the greasy waitress said as she slammed the window closed in our face. (Nice style, babe; good people skills for sure)

So there was not another 60 seconds worth of crab claws at 20 bucks a pound, and there was not another fine plastic of Merlot by the side of the river. Dinner was done. Celebration was over. Go home! We're done!

If I ever had such a bad experience dining out I don't remember it. If I can stop one other person from going here for a festive evening I'm happy reporting this. It literally would have taken 60 seconds to get us what we wanted and we could have been OK with things. We were NOT the only diners who wished to add to their meal and were refused. And the tone of the refusal was down right ugly. Stopping service in the middle of service is just downright stupid. Having been in retail and sales most of our lives we know a business lives and dies on its service. Businesses are hurting not so much because of the economy but because they don't give a care for their customers. That ALWAYS comes back to haunt you in the end!

City Seafood: kiss your claws good-bye!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Long And The Short Of It

If you looked at all the alligator shots in the last several posts, the fish in this post is gonna look familiar to you. No. It's not an alligator. It's an alligator Gar. A throwback to the dinosaur age like the reptiles that also inhabit the Glades. Fascinating to look at. Some might say "ugly." But we came across a roadside pool that had thousands of them schooling in much the same fashion as minnows might do. We caught (and released) a boatload of them (but without the boat). Why? Well the story goes that the recipe for cooking gar is as follows: Bake the fish on a cedar plank in the oven for three hours having seasoned it to taste before baking. When it's cooked, take it out of the oven, remove the fish and throw it away...then eat the plank, because it is considerably tastier and easier to eat then the fish is!

We were actually in the glades again this time looking to catch Oscars. Yes. It is the same as the aquarium fish by the same name. Your pet shop probably got them from the Everglades too. Sure, they make good (and big) aquarium fish, but they are mighty tasty too. In the pet shop, 15 bucks a piece. Out here, only the price of a dozen worms or so. But there were none to be found at the first stop so up the road we went to try another of the many bridges where the sheet flow of the glades passes under the roadway and back into the grasslands on the other side of the road. At first no bites. Then it started. But only small fish- sun fish and bass. Throw them back. All of a sudden, Marilyn's bobber went under and she set the hook. This one was not so little. After an awesome display of fighting skill on the part of the fish (ah, I mean Marilyn) I pulled the big guy up on the bank for her. Nearly 26 inches in length (long) and I'm guessing between 5 and 6 pounds, the Bowfin was an unusual catch for us (a first for either) and we had to get out the Florida Game Fish book for the ID. It didn't match the color patterns of the illustration exactly, but the fin positioning left no doubt. Turns out it has both gills and fins and can breathe even out of the water but we returned it to its pool without undue delay. A day later now, Marilyn is still bragging on her big fish and asking when we can get back out there and catch some more. Beginners luck has always been more important than skill---or so I am telling myself in consolation. And I could probably make that work for me had I not been the one to catch the shortest (and I do mean shortest) catch of the day right before we decided we needed to head back to the rig. Watch for the last shot in the slide show. Humiliating, but document-able! Oh, and no Oscars on this day.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cape Coral Karl's Drive By

I was working away at wrapping up the post before this one. Had only a few clicks to go. The phone rang.

"Greg, where are you?"

It was our friend from the old "hood", Cape Coral Karl. (see more pics of Karl and the gang on the preceding post link) Seems he brought some of his visiting family down to Everglades City to take them for an air boat ride, and when he realized the boat launch was across from an RV park, albeit a beautiful but mostly empty one, he got to thinking that he'd seen on the blog that we had been in the area- somewhere.

"Where are you?"

A few questions told me he was pretty close by. I stepped outside.

"Hey, are you standing outside the rig?"

Yep. Across the river and a hundred yards down. A wave. They were here in minutes. A quick "house tour"- the kids wanted to see the "basement" and the slides go in and out- then off to grab a bite for lunch. The Camellia Street Grill is close by too.

Here's a picture of where we had hoped to sit and eat outside by the water taken from inside. Within minutes, the storm watch we were under decided to deliver on its promise and the downpour began. So we sat inside to eat and the flash on the camera wasn't behaving so we took a parting shot outside in the bar area to try, however hopelessly, to stay dry. We did get the shot. But to be sure- we did get wet. Still it was an unexpected surprise (aren't all surprises unexpected???) and it was a lot of fun. Always glad to have visitors!

Getting Our Gator On

Ever since we saw General Larry Platt do his original version of "Pants On The Ground" as an American Idol audition, we've been following "suit" and launching into the catchy tune every time we see some teeny or tweeny walking around with low riders extreme. Somehow that evolved into a Florida version on one of our many Everglades outings. Passing one of the yellow light flashing "Panther Crossing" area warning signs one day, it struck me a bit humorous so I began singing "Panther On The Ground, panther on the ground, looking like a fool with your panther on the ground." I wish I could stop, but it's one of those things you have a hard time getting out of your head. I was making good progress putting it behind me when i saw this:

at the Skunk Ape Headquarters. For those of you who are saying WHAT?- a skunk ape is the Everglades version of the Sasquatch or maybe even the Loch Ness Monster.... just not as well known, and perhaps for good reason. Just saying!

At the time of the panther sighting and the skunk ape sighting, we were enroute to meet Stonewall Gene and Jules to take in the Miccosukee Village, the gator wrestling show, and the native American Museum of the tribe located on site. And the sightings not withstanding that is what we continued on to see. We stopped and took some plant and wildlife shots on the way, and then a lot more on our way back to Everglades City afterwords. Lots of birds. Turtles. Plants. And about a million, gazillion alligators. No lie! It was one of the first warm days this entire winter and the gators were out and about trying desperately to get their cold blooded bodies back up to temp. You could see them getting more active throughout the day, but I didn't want to miss the opportunity so I took as many shots as I though I could deal with and I got as close as I though I could get away with. At 30 miles an hour they can outrun me over a short distance. Marilyn of course reminded me that at my age they could probably outrun me at any speed and over any distance. Smart Alec. At least we didn't have to test her theory, even though that alligator wrestling stuff didn't scare me one little bit! (liar, liar, pants on the ground on fire)

Another stop I will mention, we stopped off at the Big Cypress Gallery to see some work of iconic American photographer Clyde Butcher ("where-ever you go, there you are" - his line, my motto). We met some of the other photographers who show at the gallery and had a wonderful conversation, centered around the displayed photographs of the mysterious ghost orchid. While I am always on the look for them, I have never seen one in the wild. A leafless orchid that seldom blooms and then only briefly is still out of my league I suppose, but I keep my eyes open, and after seeing all the photographs of them in the gallery my odds seem a bit improved.

Any post cards from the gallery can be mailed at the Ochopee Post Office- the verified smallest post office in the United States (even though its one and only postal carrier has a route of 135 miles covering the glades between Naples and Miami).

The slide shows today are broken into two parts. First a look at the Indian village, the gator "wrestling" show and the contained wildlife in their park. There are also some shots (like the one of the snake) that we scored on the little nature board walk that goes out from the back of the village into the glades. It was a nice time. A bit predictable, but fun, and as it wasn't busy there was plenty of time for questions and answers and we felt like we learned a lot- which is pretty much why you would want to go in the first place.

Then second is a collection of the shots I took going and coming. Nothing but wild. Nothing staged. Shots taken where you had to be constantly aware of where your hands and feet were at all times, and had to have at least a good idea that the water before you was free and clear of any lurking (and hungry or annoyed) critters.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Drag, A Dredge And A Strand

I've got a slide show and a short write for ya today. Not bad considering the computer decided enough was enough on Thursday and refused to (Go To) work! Stuff like this always happens when you are geographically far away from you daily Help Menu- that being the Geeks On Tour and or the Best Buy. But close is a relative thing and the hour to Best Buy in Naples seemed the better alternative for this go around. Off we went. New computer? Sure, no problem. Have money, will sell. But connectivity. Big problem! Since I wanted to now connect two computers, the old fixer-upper and the new big daddy- on one air card. Doesn't sound like it would be an insurmountable task, but computer technology being what it is- forever on the go- there are now NO computers left that use the type air card I possessed. Which, come to think of it, made me feel a bit possessed! Computer sale on hold- traipse off to The Verizon Wireless Store to see what we shall see. A solution. Change (on a grandfathered no-limit data plan) to a MIFI card. That reads like this: My Fi, as in wifi only it's all mine and the hot spot is where-ever I go. Runs several computers and is lightening fast even compared to my previous broadband access air card. Same price for unlimited data.... Problem solved? Are you kidding me? Nothing is that simple. I get everything back in house (that would be "bus") and the computers are working fine, running almost like I know what I'm doing (luck accounts for a great deal in life) and I'm starting not to sweat so much all of a sudden. Only, when I go to print something... You guessed it, there are no drivers to support the old printer with the new Windows 7 program. Arrrgghh! So for now I'm computing and updating and refiling and reading and loading and doing all matters of important computing on the new computer.... Then finding a way to print what simply must be printed on the old computer...until we can make the journey back to the Best Buy to see about a printer that will work with both units. I love using technology. I just hate dealing with it when it won't do what I think it should when I think it should and the way I think it should. Still, to be back in business three days after the great crash of 2010? Not too shabby in my humble opinion. And as I've had about three hours sleep between "then" and "now," I think I should just be getting on with this post. That was a drag!

We took some "personal" time and ventured out to go see the walking dredge that was used to build the Tamiami Trail through what at the time was nothing but Everglades Swampland. People often have trouble with that word. Funny name for a road. But not really. It was road carved through the swamp from Fort Myers, don't ya see, To Miami. So ya get a little lazy with your pronunciation and now you have a road that just goes from one spot on one side of the great swamp "ta Miami" - hence the name! Tamiami Trail. The dredge is the little brother of the massive bucket line dredges that we explored when we were in the Yukon Territory and in Alaska. And if you want a look at them all you need to do is look back on the summer posts from last season in Chicken, Alaska where we camped all summer in the shadow of the Pedro Dredge, perhaps one of the best preserved of its species in existence today.

Following the visit to the dredge (at the nearby state park) we took what we expected would be a quick and short (11 mile) drive through a trail that goes through the nothingness of the Fakahatchee Strand. Good thing we were fueled up before entering the "scenic trail" because we went on and on for some three hours...only to realize that it was not really a "loop" as it was described by the visitor center who said the road "isn't too bad" - only that there was a tiny place to turn around at the end of it without dipping your tires in and sinking into the swamp. Turned out not to be a rugged challenge for the Quigley, but a surprise for all, and we booked it hard to get back out by dark. Bad things happen in Sleepy Hollow at night.

So there you have it , my friends, a drag, a dredge and a drive through the strand. The slide show, out of basic lack of energy on my part at the moment, will be first of the dredge, and then images from the everglades on the strand trail. Eerily beautiful, it is easy to lose track of time and all else in the outside world. It took way longer than we planned, but was probably just the thing we needed to Hit The Refresh Button:

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Just A Fluke?

Manatees don't give a hoot if they're in fresh water or salt water- so long as they can access a nice freshwater drink when they need it. They can range from the rivers to the sea no problem. With one big IF. They can move around like this IF they can locate water temperatures that stay within their rather small bracket of temps they can actually survive in. So when they're in the right temps, they can lolly-gag around and take their time. This winter has been very hard on them. Hundreds have perished because of the overly chilled waters of southern Florida and The Florida Keys.

We have seen the gentle giants here in the Everglades, but when we do, so far at least, they have been on the move. And there has been no time for photo ops- at least for us. Yesterday, three cruised on by our waterfront campsite. Actually, cruising is probably not the right word at all. They were dashing by. Riding the swift current in the river as fast as they could book it to get out of the colder river temps and back out to sea. I took a bunch of pictures as they went by: they were swimming seemingly as fast as they could go, and I was running down the dock like a rail mounted sports cam at the Olympic cross country events. No nostril shots. No profile shots. No full body studies. Nothing but tail! So I guess you could say, it was "just a fluke..."

And speaking of tails, a member of the stone crab boat crew that docks daily right across the river from us had to go overboard for a propellor adjustment of some sort. He got his "fluke" out of that cold water just as fast as he could too. Maybe some day before we leave, it will actually be warm here in the "warm south." But not yet!