It’s bad when your biggest stumbling block to writing is coming up with a post title. I didn’t want yet another post entitled “Update” or something like that. Yet, that’s what this post is. A bunch of stuff happened since the last post, but not much of it blog-worthy. The biggest thing was a trip back down to Florida, where we did see some cool new things.
We are in the midst of home repairs. There was some rotted fascia that needed replacing and our upper deck was in shambles. With all of that going on I didn’t feel like I could leave the house for a photo exploration, and I probably won’t do another one until this is done.
That doesn’t mean we didn’t get away. Amy had a conference, so Laura headed down to Florida to house/dog sit for her and to do some work on her mom’s estate. She flew down on a Wednesday and I hung back to ride herd on the home repair. I would join her later.
The following Sunday was the christening for my newest great-niece, Ronan Stines. It was good to get together with family, especially for a joyous celebration. This was the first time I’d met my new niece. I also got to hear Cynthia preach for the first time. Stephen and Cynthia had us all over to their house for a gathering to celebrate Ronan and her parents, Lauren and Daniel.
After the gathering I continued southward toward Florida, leaving Glynda to handle the contractors at the house. I drove straight on through, arriving at Fort Pierce at about 9:00 pm.
This was the first long drive I’ve made in the new car. Rambulus did very well, but I’m still getting used to all of the automated safety features. I’ve decided that I really like back-up cameras. The lane-drift alarm could get annoying, and when I turned on the feature that automatically steers you back into your lane, I felt like I was being buffeted by high winds. My favorite feature, though, was the ability to pace the car in front of you when you’re on cruise control. I think this car will do nicely for our trip across country later this month.
Kayaking in Florida
When I got to Fort Pierce I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do any kayaking. Tropical Storm Emily had just developed in the Gulf, first hitting Tampa, then making its way across. We got heavy rains, but it seemed no different than any other summer storm we get down here. Even so, Laura and I spent Monday just driving around Vero Beach in the rain, exploring.
Tuesday was a bit better, so I did get out for a paddling trip. I did my now-typical route out around the spoil islands.
This has gotten to be such a common trip for me that I didn’t take many photos. The next day was beautiful and the river was flat. I headed out for a sunrise paddle.
The typical weather pattern was for it to be clear in the morning with storms developing in the afternoon/evening. I confined my paddling to morning trips. I took one last trip on Thursday morning out to the old inlet and mangroves. On this trip I found myself in a herd of manatees. They didn’t bump my boat this time, but a young manatee did swim right under the kayak. Of course I didn’t have a camera ready for that event.
Each of these trips was only about 4 miles, for a little over 12 miles total. I seem to have slowed somewhat on my mileage accumulation. I’ve only got 161 miles. Yet, I’m still ahead of last year’s pace. I only had 119 miles by this time last year. I’ve got a longer trip coming up this Saturday, but I think my pace will fall off again as we make the move westward.
Exploring New Areas
Laura and did take some time to explore new areas. On Wednesday we had to pick up Amy at the airport in Orlando. We left early enough to take a leisurely drive along US 1 through Sebastian, then explored Ikea when we got to Orlando. The return trip was also through back roads, taking us through the “lake district” of the state. I was reminded of my recent trip to the eastern part of South Carolina. There are so many cool places that people tend to bypass on their way to somewhere else.
The next day when Amy was back at work Laura and I did some more exploring. This time we visited the Fellsmere Stick Marsh area. There is a section of the Florida Birding Trail that runs through this area, and we wanted to see if any wildlife would be out on these hot days.
We headed north from Fellsmere on Highway 507, then turned west onto the Fellsmere Grade Road, a dirt road running straight for six miles between two canals. The Fellsmere Grade was once a major thoroughfare into Central Florida. According to a historical marker along the way…
Fellsmere, the northernmost town in St. Lucie County in 1919, had a population of over 800 people. The county built the first public road to cross the St. Johns River marsh in St. Lucie County (now Indian River County). Promote as the Fellsmere-Tampa cross state road, this road allowed travel between the interior and the coast. From 1919 until the 1940´s, this road served as an important transportation route from Fellsmere, across the river to Kenansville, the sawmill at Holopaw, and the cattle markets of Kissimmee, but it never reached Tampa. During these decades it became a state road (SSR 170) and provided a corridor to Central Florida and a recreational access to the St. Johns River marshes. The town of Fellsmere was dependent on the sportsmen attracted to these resources. In the late 1940´s the bridges burned across the river and the Fellsmere Grade ended in the marsh six miles from this site. Today this road serves the public as a recreational access.
The road ends at a recreation area and boat ramp that provides access to the Blue Cypress Swamp area. It was blazing hot when we arrived, so we didn’t get out of the car for long. This looks like a great place to launch a kayak for when it’s cooler.
Another road continues across the northern canal. This road is only open to the public on Mondays and Thursdays, which was lucky for us, since this was a Thursday. A narrow dirt road wends across several dikes with views across wetlands. We spotted several birds, including several roseated spoonbills.
Down one side road we found a bird observation tower. It was almost overgrown and looked neglected. Laura was skeptical, but I decided to climb it anyway, despite the heat of the day and tall grass. It provided much better views across the wetlands.
We reached a point where a sign stated “No motorized vehicles beyond this point.” I managed to get us turned around and we backtracked down the road. To the east a large storm was building and I didn’t want to get stuck on a dirt road in a downpour.
This was a nice addition to our list of places in Florida, and I want to come back when it’s cooler.
Family Business and Family Visits
Part of the reason for the trip was to do some work on Mrs. Wright’s estate. Amy and Laura managed to close a couple of her accounts and roll them over into the estate account. One of the Washington banks had a branch near West Palm, so Laura and I headed down that way. Turns out that we were just a few minutes from my niece, Katie, in Jupiter, so we ran over to visit her. Katie, Aaron, and their boys, Jackson and Carson, were available for the afternoon, so we had a great visit with them. From there we took the long way home along US 1.
Later in week I rented a U-Haul and we loaded a couple of pieces of Mrs. Wright’s furniture to take back to South Carolina. It would be a proof-of-concept as to whether or not we wanted to drag one of these things all the way across country.
However, we were not done with Florida. On Friday we left Amy’s and drove across the state to visit Chip and Anna in their new home in Tampa. It would be my first visit to the Gulf Coast.
We had a great visit with my nephew and his family. We played with the kids, Ethan and Olivia, and Chip and I stayed up far too late watching movies and just talking. On Saturday we drove over to Anna Maria Island and had a beach day. Sunday we headed to a street festival in a section of Tampa. I don’t think I took any photos, but just enjoyed our time there.
Monday we said our good-byes and made the long trek home. This time we drove up I-75 through Atlanta and saw even more new territory. The trailer did OK, but the aggravation of it made me rethink our travel strategies for later this month. We’ll see.
Back at home the new deck was coming along nicely and the cats were happy to see us.