One of the things I’ve wanted to do while here in south Florida was go to a mass at the Oratory at Ave Maria, so since our time here is running out, we decided to make the drive this morning. (OK, I made the decision, and nobody was given the option of negotiating with me). 40 miles away, it was almost an hour drive, but well worth it.
Ave Maria is a new “town” being built and financed through the philanthropy of Tom Monaghan (former owner of Dominos Pizza and the Detroit Tigers). The town is centered around Ave Maria University,
and is designed to be completely self-sufficient . . . with shopping, housing, doctors, small businesses . . . all surrounding the University, and with the Oratory at the center of town.
It was founded in 2007, and is still under development, but the church is there, and the University is open (and thriving, if the number of students at mass this morning is any indication), and there are a few businesses and restaurants, as well as a K-12 catholic school.
We feel a connection to the town since the school that Nicolas and Bryce had gone to was also founded by Mr. Monaghan, and some of the Sisters who taught at their school are also teaching at the K-12 school here in Ave Maria.
The church is very beautiful, inside and out, and the mass was lovely. The University Choir was singing, and they were very good.
It’s built like a Cathedral, with high ceilings, arches, and corridors along the sides of the church. It has a very gothic cathedral look to it, but yet modern since all of the arches are constructed out of steel, rather than concrete or stone, as you would typically see in an old church.
The exterior is very ornate, with a large sculpture and gold statues on the front of the building.
By the time we left Ave Maria, it warmed up quite a bit from the 40 degrees we woke up to, and with the sun shining brightly, it turned into quite a beautiful day.
After a quick stop at Kohl’s and another stop for lunch, we got back to the park and relaxed for a bit, chatting with the neighbors.
After awhile, we decided to go for a bike ride on the Eagle Trail, to see if we could catch a glimpse of the bald eagles.
We didn’t see the eagles, but it was a lovely afternoon for a bike ride. As we were riding along, some kayakers on the canal called out that they had seen an alligator laying on the edge of the trail up ahead of us. We think it heard us coming, because we didn’t see it and I heard something pretty big moving through the brush away from the trail in the area where they had seen the gator. Bummer! We didn’t get to see it!
Sometimes we can see the eagles from a restricted area of the park where we burn brush and deposit dead fish, so we headed over there after we finished the trail. We could see one of the eagles, but it was pretty far away, and my camera couldn’t quite focus on it.
We did see an osprey though; he wasn’t bothered by us at all.
The ranger on duty today, Brian, had seen our bike tracks turning down the service road and, not knowing it was us, he was coming out there to run off whoever it was. He was glad to see it was just us, and that he didn’t have to chase anybody away.
From there, we rode down to the beach and the fishing pier. The colder temperatures today kept most people away from the beach, but tide was just going out and there were lots of nice shells on the beach. I picked up a few, but didn’t have a bag with me so I didn’t get too many.
We saw the osprey at the beach, too, but no sign of the babies.
I’m not sure if they are flying yet . . . I’ll have to ask one of the rangers. On the way back over the tram bridge, I stopped to watch the Tri-Color Heron hunting for dinner in the shallow water.
Altogether, we were on our bikes for 2 hours . . . it was a really nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Back at the RV, we had happy hour and started a fire. We had brats and pizza pies on the fire, and Deby & Ken brought out their dinner to eat around the fire, too. A campfire felt really good on this chilly evening!