Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunset beach day in Indian Rocks Beach

School's about to start and I needed out. The beach was beckoning me since several people have asked me this week where to see a sunset. I sent a lot of people over to Honeymoon Island in Clearwater and to eat at Frenchy's... and that was my plan. Unfortunately, I feared the Saturday night crowd might be a little too much for me. Instead we headed over to Indian Rocks Beach just south of Clearwater.

Keegen's is one of my favorite places in that area and it is a 3D - Guy Fieri recommendation as well. It is good! Probably should've stuck with it. But no, I had to try something new. We hit Lulu's. Apparently it's owned by the son of the guy that owns the local crab place as well. It was OK. Food was mostly good. Service however, was disappointing. Begging for drinks, issues with the bill, and an appetizer that comes with your food, and waitresses grabbing their stomaches because they feel sick just doesn't seem to set the mood. Am I right? Luckily none of us got sick. The food was good though.

Beach time. I had checked the sunset time and it looked like it would be about 8 o'clock. It was time for us to find a spot on the beach. Since it was so late in the day it really wasn't that tough to find a parking spot and a beautiful spot in The sand. The kids played. Heck, even I did too. 

We had a good time and the beach was absolutely beautiful. The sunset was spectacular as well. I can't complain about anything at the beach. I'd go back in a heartbeat.

Friday, August 7, 2015

ABJ Road Trip - Day 5 - Hobe Sound & Jupiter Inlet

Sadly it is time to depart the Keys and head up the East Coast of Florida. I really, really wanted to go to the Blue Heron Bridge at Phil Foster Park but that is truly something to be done when the tides time out in your favor and that just wasn't going to happen today. Another time. Another time for sure! 

Instead we will go straight to Blowing Rocks Preserve in Hobe Sound which has been on the destination list for a while. This part of the coast has rock formations of limestone and some of the best shelling on the East Coast. It was absolutely beautiful. 

This is another location that you want to check the tides on before you go. The parking lot is only open until 4:30 so know that as well. If you want to explore under the rocks and into the shore line you need to aim for low tide. If you want to see the water splashing and blowing up you will need to aim for high tide. Makes sense, doesn't it? I wanted to see both but the timing didn't allow with the lot closing. 

If you go down just a little ways past the rocks the water is pristine and clear for swimming. In four feet of water you could still see your toes. It was refreshing and beautiful. Oh, and it looks so crowded, right? Nope, not at all. There were a few families out there and was so pleasant and absolutely enjoyable.

Even the walkway to and from the beach is beautiful lined with tunnels of trees. 

However, we did see the saddest of all things on the walk back... There was a sea turtle nest high up from the shore and some of the little ones didn't make it. I'm not sure if they were attacked, confused, too far or what but seeing these babies on the sand was absolutely sad. The only positive I can take away from that is usually there are 100 in a nest so I'm hoping the 90ish we didn't see are swimming happily in the ocean. This is one of the eggs some of the babies hatched from. 

We also explored the area a bit more and saw the lighthouse and drove down Beach Rd. This is where the stars vacation as we passed Tiger Wood's and Celine Dion's beach homes. Seriously huge homes with main entrances and separate service entrances. The road is beautiful as well and has a section that is canopied by beautiful ficus trees. 

Another long and beautiful day of our road trip has come to an end. Tomorrow we depart for home with tons of memories and pictures from the road trip. All in all it was a great trip. 

Time to get an oil change. 
And sleep.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

ABJ Road Trip - Day 4 - Key West

Southernmost Point of the Continental United States... here we come! Whew. Wordy, isn't that? Well,  we are heading to Key West and they do claim that fact but it's a little off in actually being that point, but you can read more about that here.

There are quite a few mandatory things you have to do in Key West and we were all too happy to oblige. The Mile Marker 1 sign was our first location we hiked to and then we ran into the store across the way to pick up some stickers.

Now off to the Southernmost Point Buoy as we pass Hemingway's House, the Key West Lighthouse and more beautiful properties with the banyan trees draping across the yards. My daughter was determined to get a coconut but was so disappointed that she didn't have a good tool to really get inside of it and tear it all apart. 

Time to eat some lunch after all that hiking and playing tourist! One of the true traditions is Sloppy Joe's and it didn't disappoint. Lunch consisted of fish tacos and wings and some live entertainment! Perfect!

Time for more walking and sightseeing. We hit Mallory Square, the marina, all of Duval St. and more. All in all we hiked about 10 miles today. It truly feels like it. We wanted to wait for the sunset at Mallory Square but had so much more to do. We headed back to the middle keys and pulled into Bahia Honda State Park. We didn't have snorkeling equipment but we really should have grabbed some for this trip. We could have done a good bit of snorkeling here and it was beautiful. Walking over to the old railroad was on my list... I have a thing about bridges apparently. It comes up over and over. Going under them is my favorite thing and some of the best geocaches we have done have been under bridges. This bridge didn't disappoint. Just look at the view. How could you not love this view? 

Time for sunset but back to the 7 Mile Bridge for that. See, I do have a bridge thing. Or a nature thing. Or a sunset thing. Or a being outside thing. Or just an adventure thing. Yep, that's it. Adventures by Jen. Overall, a great ABJ day. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

ABJ Road Trip - Day 3 - Everglades and Upper Keys

Here we go again! This is the biggest travel day we have since we will cross the bottom of the state from coast to Keys. It's raining on and off but there are supposedly clear skies ahead. We will see.

First scheduled stop is Shark Valley in the Everglades National Park but we managed to do a quick stop in Big Cypress as well. We hit the boardwalk and listened to the sounds of frogs and gators grunting and letting us know it was there. We walked a ways but the bugs became unbearable. I mean really unbearable, like smacking into your face at full speed unbearable! We turned around and high-tailed it out of there as fast as we could. We managed to see a few gators but the bugs truly ran us off. I had been told that the bugs would make you run in that area but I laughed it off. Boy, were they right.

Next up, on to Shark Valley! But wait, I see Clyde Butcher's Big Cypress Gallery! Say it isn't so... closed. It was early, I know, but I didn't plan on passing it just like that. I've admired his work since it was introduced to me back in high school and I would see it in person at all of the local art festivals when he participated. I did get to peek in the windows so that is something. 

Okay, back to Shark Valley. We made it to the Everglades National Park! Whoo-hoo. It's kind of a personal mission to hit one of these as often as possible. This one has been next on the list since January. 

Shark Valley is one of several visitor centers in the Everglades National Park but we picked it for the observation tower and bike ride. We had attempted to get bikes before setting out on this trip but it didn't happen so we rented them. There is a 15 mile round trip bike ride along a beautiful path where you can see alligators, bugs, birds and other animals along the way in their natural habitat. We did see plenty of gators and quite a few of these Eastern Lubber grasshoppers. 

We biked mostly in a fine mist or drizzle but it was actually perfect. I can imagine how hot it would have been in the full sun on the pavement for 15 miles. The skies let loose for a few minutes when we were up on the observation tower. 

Time to get on the road again and get to the Keys. More driving. Yeah. (Can you hear the sarcasm in my text?) I'm really not one who loves to drive so to take on this trek isn't really that normal for me but the adventure far outweighed the driving. Plus, we broke it down into manageable sections so there was always an adventure right ahead of us! 

Driving to the Keys is one of those things that I think everyone should do at some point and a MUST if you live in Florida. My daughter had only been to Key West via cruise ship so I wanted her to see the beauty that is down there. If you just see Key West you are truly missing out. The bridges over large amounts of beautiful, blue water are breathtaking! Unfortunately today it is a little gloomy and overcast so the colors just aren't popping. Wait until tomorrow!!!

We decided to stay in Marathon which is right in the middle of the Keys. Driving through the Keys from  Key Largo to Key West will take you approximately 4 hours. It's a one lane road for the most part but there is plenty to see. We made such great time that we decided to hit the Turtle Hospital a day early. We made it in time to go on the 4pm tour which was the last of the day and lucked out because they had spots for us! Yahoo! Our tour guide was excellent and so passionate about her job. We saw many, many turtles and even some baby hatchlings. Just look at those turtles!  Who couldn't love them?!?!?

And yep, let's just keep going. Why not? Time to go see the 7 Mile Bridge and explore that area. Even got to do a look underneath in the exploring. It's just beautiful in the Keys and a great way to end Day 3. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

ABJ Road Trip - Day 2 - Ft. Myers

It's time for the beach but it is actually pouring outside. I mean the wake you up in the middle of the night, trees swaying, flash flood warning kind of rain. We took it slow this morning and then just vowed that it would be a wet day and said, "so what!" And off we went...

After reading up and seeing some of Lover's Key State Park we decided to make that the stop first thing. There is a great trail there but remember the rain I was talking about? Well, most of our trail looked like this...

This would be the point where she questions my vacation planning skills and I replied that she'd have really good stories to tell one day. Really, it was awfully mucky and buggy. We did the shorter option of the trail but it was pretty funny. 

The beach, however, is gorgeous! Just beautiful white sand and clear, calm water as far as you can see. There were quite a few sea turtle nests as well. We watched the next wave of storms come in as we sat there. 

What got my attention was a bunch of driftwood trees off to my right so I went off to get a better view. These trees were absolutely beautiful and really made my day. A few were overturned and the roots exposed showing the beauty of nature. One tree had shells placed all over it (yes, I placed one as well!) and there were a few locks place on it as well. How romantic to have a lock placed on this tree in Lover's Key State Park. Maybe one day I'll get to go back for that reason. A girl should be so lucky. 

Remember that storm moving in? Well, it was time for us to move out! Off to lunch. Another place we had on the list was Heavenly Biscuit. Yum!!! They really do have some wonderful biscuits and is worth a stop in to eat. Be aware... cash only!! There is an ATM on site for your convenience. 

All in all a pretty wet and wonderful day was had by both of us. The bonding time has been a plus as well, even with a little extra time in the room watching the weather pass. Ft. Myers, I will be back!

Monday, August 3, 2015

ABJ Road Trip - Day 1 - Peace River, Punta Gorda and Ft. Myers

We set out early this morning and drove through some towns in Florida and found our way to the Peace River in Zolfo Springs at Pioneer Park. We did a few Geocaches here as well and learned some history about the area. We really, really wanted to go and find some fossils in the Peace River but it is a little too high right now to dig around. I'm told that when the water is lower in the winter, that's the perfect time.

After that stop we continued on the journey to find the Peace River Wildlife Center and walked around the Ponce deLeon Historical Park as well. This park is right on the water in Punta Gorda and has wonderful views. The wildlife center is home to many rescued birds and other animals and is worth a visit. 

One of the stops I was determined to make was a visit to Peace River Seafood... and I'm glad I did. It was soooooo good!  Just look at those blue crabs. Delicious. 

Time to head to Ft. Myers. The weather has been a bit icky with lots of on and off rain all day so I'm a little sad that the beach sunset may not happen tonight. We did stop at a few parks on the way including Manatee Park, but no manatees today. Just lots of rain. However we did see manatees at Lover's Key State Park when we drove in and pulled off to the observation point. 

Bonita Beach was beautiful as well but the clouds were just not breaking away to let much sunshine in or the sunset either. This was pretty much the case and we beach hopped down the coast through Estero Island and Ft. Myers Beach. Still, it's wonderful to put your toes in the sand. 

So instead it was dinner time and my daughter lobbied for Ford's Garage due to her obsession with Ford trucks. Dinner was pretty yummy but the ambiance is the reason to go and check it out. 

So that was a long day, right? Who are you telling? I'm exhausted! Night, night!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Let the Road Trip Begin!

Plans change. They just do. I had a few trips planned and they fell apart so it was an opportunity to pull together a brand new plan. Just me and the kid... South Florida Road Trip! Oh yeah!!!

As you all know, I have a plethora of day trips that can be done from Central Florida but I have so many more ideas that are just a little bit further than a day trip may allow. Time to bring in those ideas and put it on the map.

Yep, that's the map! 890 miles of travel and oh, did I mention I have 5 days to do it? Uh-huh. 

Crazy? Maybe a little. 

I'd like to start out along the Peace River and then head to Ft. Myers. After that it is the Everglades National Park and then to the Keys. Follow that up with going back up towards Hobe Sound/Jupiter Inlet. Let's see how this goes!