It was almost a year ago that Tom and I set out for the first “whole-week” vacation I had ever taken.
We were headed for the West Coast of Florida–beautiful Naples. We had reservations at a lovely, single-story condo, with pool and Jacuzzi, not far from downtown and the beach.
We really didn’t have much of an agenda, just relaxing and seeing some sights. My Dad had told us of a park in the Everglades to visit. So we made a mental note to check it out.
In the meantime, we did manage to take a tour of the Thomas Edison-Henry Ford compounds and saw the amazing and immense “walking” Banyan tree that had spread across acres and acres of the property. We walked the grounds that had plant species brought in from throughout the world.
One of the most awe-inspiring experiences I’ve ever had occurred one late afternoon as Tom and I walked along the beach. As we looked along the shoreline–I am always looking for shells and other treasures–Tom, who had stepped out into the sparkling, clear water of the Gulf, suddenly pointed out a large, six-legged starfish, and then another and another! There were thousands of starfish just a few feet from the edge of the beach. We walked on and on, and there were more and more starfish. We were stunned and thrilled to witness such an incredible scene. And we saw Brown Pelicans perched by the dozens in the Pine trees that lined up along the dunes “yakking” loudly.
Another day on the beach, we came upon hundreds and hundreds of stingrays! The tips of their small “wings” broke the water as they swam along. We stopped and spoke to a local woman who said she has walked the beach for years and she had never seen anything like it.
Wow! What a show!
But our singularly most memorable day was when we went to explore that park my Dad had mentioned. I had never been to the Everglades. I was excited at the prospect of what I might find.
So we took off and were soon nearing our destination. We came upon some water that ran alongside the highway with a gravelly, rocky beach and even an inviting picnic table. I suggested we pull over and walk down to the water. Sure, it would be fun.
We got out of the car, and Tom picked his way carefully over the sharp, jutting rocks to the edge of the water; I was not far behind.
Suddenly, there was a loud, buzzing sound. I looked around frantically and then began to slap myself. MOSQUITOES! They surrounded us with a vengeful lust for blood covering us with their massive numbers. I’m sure they took delight in the two imbeciles who had walked straight into their personal dining hall!
We ran to the car for safe haven. To our horror–and I mean horror–we found that the inside of the car was thick with zillions of tiny, blood-thirsty vampires! We had left the windows open! We had no choice and did the only thing we could. We jumped in the car with all the windows rolled down, then took off, blasting down the highway as fast as we could to blow the mosquitoes out, the two of us slapping and wriggling as we went.
Poor Tom, with both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, got bit the worst. Finally, after the one hour ride back to our condo, the mosquitoes were almost gone. To this day I cringe when I hear that telltale buzz.
I do look back on my vacation to Naples as magical, but, as I’ve told Tom, the only way I will ever return to the Everglades is the day it snows!
A bowl of shells and other sea life that I brought back from our trip. I love to look at them and remember those days.