Much has happened since we left Key West. Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.
Mammals & Reptiles
We stopped on our way north to visit our niece Margaret who is the Senior Trainer at Island Dolphin Care in Key Largo. This amazing facility puts traumatized veterans and special needs kids into the water with their therapists and the coolest dolphins you’ll ever meet. The stories of the people helped there over the past thirty years are legion, and if you know anyone who might benefit from it – check out their website. It’s free to those that apply and receive a grant.
Lori and I are not exactly special needs (opinions vary here), but Margaret was kind enough to offer us a little sea mammal therapy with Lotus and Sarah anyway. Look into a dolphin’s eyes and you see wisdom and intelligence that has utterly eluded our own species. Though, to be fair, they can also be a bit naughty according to Margaret.
From The Keys, we drove westward through the Everglades and Big Cypress National Preserve. We saw all sizes and shapes of alligators who were congregating in the remaining water pockets after the end of a long dry season.
Alligators are prehistoric. They have roamed the earth since before the time of the dinosaurs. Look into their eyes and you see mainly boredom, punctuated by infrequent bouts of malice when they get hungry or horny. So more like people.
Another reptile that is a very recent and extremely unwelcome resident of the Everglades is the Burmese Python. Let me quote from the USGS website:
Non-native Burmese pythons have established a breeding population in South Florida and are one of the most concerning invasive species in Everglades National Park. Pythons compete with native wildlife for food, which includes mammals, birds, and other reptiles. Severe mammal declines in Everglades National Park have been linked to Burmese pythons.
The most severe declines in native species have occurred in the remote southernmost regions of Everglades National Park, where pythons have been established the longest. In a 2012 study, populations of raccoons had dropped 99.3 percent, opossums 98.9 percent, and bobcats 87.5 percent since 1997. Marsh rabbits, cottontail rabbits, and foxes effectively disappeared.
Friend Greg sent this photo from their trip north from the Keys. So one snake down anyway.
But apparently that isn’t going to do the trick. We need more cars in Florida, plus fewer dumbasses that import and then release non-native snakes into the wild.
Travelling north, we stopped at the beautiful Myakka River State Park where we saw lots more alligators. We also saw, as of yet, uneaten boar, raccoons, opossum, turtles, and dozens of bird species native to the region including a hawk that scooped up an unsuspecting squirrel right in front of us.
Cousins & Converters
While in Myakka River, the converter on Stanley crapped out. Prior to it crapping out, I would not have been able to tell you what a converter is, or whether Stanley owned one. Turns out that a converter converts 110V power (what you have in your house) to 12V power (what some of the unimportant systems in Stanley run on like lights, water heater, etc.). And he does in fact have one.
We made a date with an RV guy up in Tampa and headed up there to get Stanley fixed up and relax for a week. Blogging and having fun is harder work than you might imagine. (I think I left that putt just short...)
From there it was on to Atlanta. Lori camped solo at Stone Mountain Park while I went into town for the annual Order of the Glass Baseball Trip aka Smell The Mitt.
Joining this year were Feigs (The Grand Poohbah), Kit, Moga and me. We took in a ballgame and split a six-pack of beer.
South of Atlanta is Newnan, Georgia which is a historic, well-preserved antebellum town and home to Plumb Crazy Farm where my cousin Janet Flanigan (nee Plumb) and her husband Pat live. They gave us the full farm immersion from feeding the horses and chickens to driving the John Deere tractor and shooting long guns out on the range. Unsurprising to me, Lori hit the target (a small can of explosive tannerite at about 75 yards) with her first, and only, shot. Seems to run in that family. Note to self: remember anniversary.
That put a wrap on the Southeast Phase I part of our journey. We parked Stanley in their driveway, packed our badly overstuffed backpacks (we look like a couple of college kids off for a tour of the continent, minus the youthful good looks) and hitched a ride with Janet to the airport. With luck, we will be napping in Santorini in 30 hours-ish. Wish us luck!