Tribe thought she could drive in the rain – she has a license after all…
We departed Lake City in the midst of a horrific rainstorm, which slowed our progress; a couple of lightening strikes came way too close for comfort!
Florida’s vexing roads continued to plague us as well, as we threaded our way to the highway to Jacksonville, where we headed north onto I-95. Of course there were slowdowns, due to the deluge of rain, and an accident where someone had so totaled his semi truck cab (no trailer thank goodness) that only the frame with the wheels could be seen on a flatbed, and they were digging the upper bits of the cab out with a backhoe in the wet swampy land. Serves them right for not having the highways not nearly wide enough to accommodate the traffic. Most have a wide median strip – overgrown half the time – and narrow pull off strips that dive down into the ever present swamps.
Trixie watches the GPS in the car, wondering when we would reach our destination.
We didn’t leave until well after 3; and Gainsville was three hours on – so no other stops for us.
Driving hard north, going on to Lake City, Florida, through downpours that almost blotted out the road, but in the black of the night we made it to the Holiday Inn – even though we went off the first exit rather than the second, because the only stop we made after being misdirected by the GPS as we wandered around on the GPS map was at a seedy gas station that was just waiting to have its first murder of the day.
All I had programmed in at that point was Lake City; I had initially put in Lakeland to avoid returning to the mess and off-course route of Tampa. And at least until the downpour, the road was all right.
The bridge from Sanibel to Fort Myers
We tried to drive the length of the island, but gave up because we needed to visit a friend and her husband in Arcadia, so again we drove through the insane mess of roadways, nearly getting into a major accident when some moron in a white contractor’s van ran a red light and nearly into us. What should we expect in a NASCAR state?
At least after that, it was a country road that took us well off the planned route, to Arcadia, and we had a lovely visit with our friends, who were delighted to have company; we had lunch, talked about everything under the sun, and with Trixie (who explored the whole house ahead of time) got a tour of the sprawling settlement.
Sanibel Island Light
After a so-so breakfast, we drove on through the utter maze of roads in Fort Myers to the west to get to Sanibel Island; $6 admission for a car to drive across bridges and causeways to get there. Mum and Pops had visited there 30 years ago, and in the intervening years it was leveled by a hurricane, then rebuilt into a tourist trap, with mini-malls, gift boutiques and restaurants – the last time we were there, they were lucky to have a hamburger stand.
We went to view the lighthouse at the southern tip of the island – a metal skeleton type, similar to one we saw near Salem Massachusetts. The views were quite nice, as was the beach – plenty of pictures were to be taken. This is one reason we try to visit lighthouses, because they often have great views to admire, as well as seeing the tower itself.
Birds seen at the Big Cypress Preserve.
We found Tamalia Trail/ Route 40 and began heading west to Fort Myers – this route goes through the Everglades, with only the odd gator show or Native American Village along the way. Not to mention the Native American Casinos that were right at the start of the trail.
The route was hemmed in by a canal to the north, and forests to the south for the first part; massive locks were in place to help with flood control all along the route.
The nature of the land began to change as we entered the Big Cypress Preserve, with more Spanish moss and bromeliads – air-plants – hanging off the trees, and more open fields of everglades. We stopped at a small visitor’s center to stretch our legs, and spied some alligators, plenty of birds and other local flora and fauna from the modest boardwalk along the canal.
A Florida Farm sandwiched between the city and everglades.
Our room was ideally located to enjoy the sunrise over the canal below, and indulge in an overpriced breakfast on the balcony. Trixie poked her nose out between the bars now and again, wondering how cars were vanishing under her spot – they were going into the under cover parking under the hotel. We tried driving down to the sea, but the road dead-ended at a gated community. We guessed Floridians do not like to share their views if they do not have to.
We got underway on time, looking for the Tamalia Trail/ Route 40 – this is the southernmost east-west highway in the state. The GPS had a lousy time getting us there at first because of the maze of streets in Homestead, but soon we were driving north past fields of tomatoes, corn and palm trees along with garden centers. The route – a straight shot up – is mostly rural and bears a passing resemblance to the drive in South Dakota last year.
The canal seen from the hotel on Key Largo
The bridges broke up the plains and monotony, offering views of the light blue waters that were dotted with whitecaps – the wind is blowing hard here, and even in this allegedly tropical area, it is cool.
After a meal, we drove down the keys as far as Isabella, before turning around – the highway is a straight shot down the center of the islands, mostly divided in the center, and boxed in on both sides by lush vegetation and houses that block views or access to the ocean. The islands seem to be riddled with canals to ensure that condoners have access to their boats and the sea, but there are few places for a driver to pull over and admire the views.
We stopped at a tourist trap place to pick up a few souvenirs, then found our way to the hotel – a cute Mariott on stilts – our room had a fine view of a canal, and a houseboat for sales – ah, now there would be a way to see the country! We enjoyed the sunset, and retired for the evening.