Above: bridge out of Tampa
Southward we went to Naples, where I found an excellent hotel and made reservations. Unfortunately, the hotel turned out to be in Naples Italy, and while we considered going over there, and how awesome that would be!!! we had to face reality that we have jobs and families and a budget and needed accommodations that night in Naples, Florida.
At this point, I had to admit that although I had been denying it for days, I had a case of the flu. The botched reservation really made me aware I was not at peak function but I was still on vacation and we were just getting started! We found a drug store and I stocked up on meds and off we went. We had amazing chicken tacos at a Cuban restaurant and we managed to find a rental apartment in Estero not too far from the beach.
We dropped off our things and our host told us about Clam Pass, a couple of miles down the road. We parked and followed a boardwalk through some mangroves. The thick growth hid the towering condos nearby. We dodged the electric carts passing by with beachgoers, crossed a bridge, and looked for mangrove creatures.
After a time, the path opened up on a beach with white sand and turquoise waters. It was late afternoon and we would be there for the sunset. We walked around and enjoyed the place.
Sunset on the gulf coast
The next day was really wonderful. We went to an estuary between the Everglades and the Ten Thousand Islands. Our host has helped us reserve a tour in a double kayak of this interesting area. What we didn’t realize is that we were the only ones on the tour! We had a knowledgeable tour guide all to ourselves. He navigated us through the maze of water pathways amongst the mangroves, pointing out birds, a shark, a jumping fish I believe is called a jackfish, and a couple of alligators that were at a safe distance.
It was beautiful and the mangrove tunnel was especially awesome.
We got a hot tip about the nearby Everglades City seafood festival and headed that way. Soon we were surrounded by seafood, lots of it, under a large tent, in the middle of a happening that included a loud band on an elevated stage, beer sold in plastic mugs, and lots of people milling about.
It was way out on a country road, on which we saw miles of cropland and helmetless teenagers doing wheelies on ATVs blocking the traffic. The festival was very rural USA, not overly friendly, very pro- gun and pro-Trump, and we didn’t stay long. We needed to find a place to stay that night.
We very nearly didn’t. When we made it through the back country, we came to Homestead, Florida and it seemed to be booked that Saturday night. Maybe it was the seafood festival.
I was interrogating my cellphone for a hotel and I came upon many options in nearby Florida City that were as unsavory sounding as they were budget friendly. My favorite review went on about the moldy curtains, foul smells, and lack of towels at one establishment (apparently the reviewer had to go out and buy towels) and also mentioned the unwanted foot traffic of professional actors from “xxx movie being filmed in room 136”. I kind of wanted to go stay at one of these places for the entertaining stories I would no doubt have from the experience, but I was still feeling under the weather and I really just wanted a quiet place to sleep. Luckily, we found a rental room in someone’s house and it seemed less risky than the Florida City dives. We ended up in a very comfortable condo drinking tea with the lovely young woman who hosted us that night. The next day we would see the everglades!