This story starts with a surprise cell phone call and a very happy ending! My brother and I live close to each other and are close but we haven’t lived under the same roof for a few decades (give or take some)! He had an idea…why didn’t the two of us go off to Sarasota, Florida for the weekend. Never having been to Florida..ever…”YesGreatWhenDoWeLeave” became one word!
The first thing that struck me were the incredible skies, constantly changing due to the two or three hours of rain each day we were there.
Siesta Keys beach was voted the number one beach in 2012. I would heartily add my vote to that. The sand never gets hot, the water is crystal clear and the waves seemed to be the perfect size for drifting and swimming! We were there every evening after the crowds left and it was the perfect way to end the day!
One cannot go to Florida without looking for alligators and or crocodiles! I can now proudly say that I know the difference between the two after riding the “Gator Gal” airboat at the Myakka River State Park. For $12.00, one can go out on a very leisurely and informative tour of natural wonders. There are also canopy trails and horse trails but we were on a time crunch and one always has to leave something to come back to!
Fall has worked its magic on our Philadelphia trees. Maples, oaks and walnut trees are now glorious shades of orange and gold. While in Florida, watching the spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides…what can I say, I love “Google”!) draped over branches and gently swaying in the breeze is as calming as a meditative experience. It is a signature of the Deep South!
During the early 1900’s, 67,000 acres of what is now Sarasota and Longboat Key were purchased by
John Ringling to be used as the summer headquarters for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Hundreds of personal mementos as well as the world’s largest miniature circus is on display in the museum. One can walk through the opulent Venetian styled mansion of John and Mable, envisioning the huge parties and the famous guests who also walked through the same doors. Designed in the Italian renaissance style, the John and Mable Museum of Art houses his collection of over 600 painting, sculptures and tapestries. The entire Ringling estate is now under the auspices of Florida State University. What can I say, I had never been to Florida or a circus and in one weekend, I now felt fulfilled!!!
Back to the water now with Adventure Kayak. I was in the manatee playground and as my paddle went into the water, a family of manatees rose up out of the water. The term “gentle giants” is a perfect description. I loved being so close to them in their natural environment. Now my brother is a MUCH better athlete than I am and he “had my back” as I clumsily tried to maneuver my way through the maze of exotic mangrove tunnels. According the Discover, Science for the Curious, “Mangroves are survivors, due to elaborate root systems that sprawl above and below the waterline. These so-called walking trees coolly shrug off extreme heat and muddy topsoil deficient in oxygen and filter the salty waters of southern Florida and tropical Southeast Asia, where the majority of the 73 known mangrove species live. Mangroves also help other species survive, forming dense forests that shelter monkeys, kangaroos, and tigers as well as shellfish and brightly colored corals. Even humans benefit as impoverished coastal communities exploit the tree for food, lumber, and medicine. ”
Heads have to be down as not to hit a hanging black mangrove crab feasting away and paddles have to be close by as not to get caught in the complex root system. A difficult task while trying to capture the experience with a camera in one hand. A memorable experience for sure!
So even though my brother and I are so very different on issues related to politics, religion and philosophy, Florida was the perfect spot to reminisce, argue over who was the favorite sibling and enjoy our shared love for adventure! Where do we go next Tom?