Saturday, January 26, 2013

Tuesday, Saturday, what day is it??!!

I can never seem to remember what day it is!  It’s just one beautiful day after another!

Today was Saturday though, so Tom and I got up early to go to the Farmer’s Market in Bonita Springs.  It seems to get bigger and more crowded every week!  He wanted to get some fish for this week, so we headed straight to the “fish guy” first.  There was a line, but he was able to get some corvina and some tilapia, so he and Nicolas will have 2 fish dinners this week.  We also picked up some vegetables, and strawberries, and honeybell oranges (Nicolas loves them!).  There was a new “German Bread” booth this week, so we bought soft pretzels to bring back for the boys.  They were pretty good . . . not quite Jo-Jo’s, but similar to the ones at the bakery in Tecumseh.

After a quick stop at Publix for a few groceries, we were back at the park by 10 . . . and the boys were still sleeping!!  We got them moving, and I went for a walk on the beach while Tom got ready to go on a motorcycle ride with the neighbors.

Along the walking path, I spotted a group of kayaks going out on the canal for a paddle.  I thought the variety of colors of kayaks made a nice picture . . .

Colorful Kayaks

The turkey buzzards were out in full force this afternoon, even on the tram bridge, where I’ve never seen them before!

Plotting on the bridge railing

As I walked along the shoreline, I was amazed at the number of sunstars out of the water.

Sunstar on the beach

I must have put 30 of them back in the water!  Bryce caught up with me as I walked along, and helped toss some back in.  I also found an area where there were tiny little baby shells . . . I picked up several that were just too cute to resist!  We also saw a couple of new birds on the beach.

I think the first is an American Oystercatcher, which I have seen here once before.


We thought this one might have been a juvenile spoonbill, but after looking at the board up by the tram stop, I think we decided it was a willet.


Bryce said Tom was almost ready to leave for his ride, so we started back so I could give him the phone.  We made a quick stop at the manatee overlook to see if any of our buddies were there, but we weren’t sure if we’d see any – they haven’t been around much lately.

We were surprised to see three of them right in front of the overlook.  We stood there, waiting for them to surface (they can stay under water for a long time!), and quickly snapped some pictures as they momentarily stuck their noses out of the water!


They are pretty easy to see in the shallow water, but they don’t come out of the water very far, or for very long!

Day 26_Manatee

They retreat quickly, barely giving me time for a picture!

Blowing out air

We heard Casey barking, and then the motorcycles starting up, so we knew Tom was getting ready to leave.  Bryce hurried back on his bike to give him the phone, and I followed on foot.

Nicolas was busy washing the layer of dust off the car (he had washed the truck the day before!),

Nick cleaned all the dust off the car

and when he finished he was ready to go to the beach.  We had a quick lunch, and then got changed and headed to the beach.  Another volunteer’s grandson, Nick, was here for the weekend, so he went with us.  Nicolas and I worked on our tans, while Bryce and Nick tossed a football around.

What a catch!



It was a beautiful day at the beach – not a cloud in the sky, upper 70s, and a nice breeze to keep us cool.


The boys all went in the water (even Bryce – I was surprised), but they said it was a little chilly.  I guess the last few cooler nights have cooled down the water some . . . maybe that’s also why we’re seeing the manatees back in the canal!



An afternoon at the beach

It was a wonderful afternoon at the beach . . . maybe we’ll go back again tomorrow!

Relaxing on the beach

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Osprey, Manatees and a Sunset

Last week was a pretty busy, vacation-like week --  the Ford & Edison Estates Tour, the Tampa RV Supershow, a car & truck show in Fort Myers for the boys and an Art Show for me – so by Sunday we were feeling pretty burned out, and we decided to “lay low” for a few days and stay away from tourist activities!

Calm Gulf in the morning_Jan 24

Monday was a holiday for me and the boys, and it had cooled down somewhat, so we decided to tackle our next family project – painting the 2nd Tram Bridge.  I guess we did a good job on the first one, since Matt gave this project to us, too!

Tram on the Bridge

We only had enough white paint to do one side wall, but plenty of red paint to give the pedestrian walkway a fresh coat.  This bridge is longer than the 1st one we painted, but further from the parking lot, so we didn’t have as many fisherman or walkers to work around.  We started early, and got the whole project finished in one day . . . we’ve been told we wouldn’t make good government workers – we work too fast!

The next couple of days were cloudy & cooler, so between work and school, I did some laundry and gave the RV a good cleaning.  The evenings have been pleasantly cool too, so we’ve had a couple more campfires.  Overall, it’s been very relaxing and we’re all pretty much rejuvenated and ready to tackle some new adventures!  The boys are planning on getting the kayaks out again this weekend, and we may try to get over to Koreshan State Park sometime too.  Next week I think we’ll also set aside a day to go biking at Shark Valley in the Everglades . . . now that will be an adventure!

This morning there was a Manatee & Dolphin Interpretive Program, so Tom, Ken & I rode our bikes down to the beach to check it out.

Tom & Ken Biking

The guys helped Pam get setup in the gazebo, while I checked out the osprey nest for activity.  Nicolas said that one of the rangers told him that there were chicks in this nest now, so I wanted to see if I could catch a glimpse of them.

Osprey Nest with Chicks

One of the parents was guarding the nest, and I think that might be one of the chicks on the left.  Dad (at least I think it was Dad; could have been Mom, I guess) came back with a fish right then,

Bringing Home Lunch

but didn’t take it to the nest right away.  He sat on a nearby branch, picking at the fish, for quite awhile.

Osprey with Fish

I saw him again later, bringing another fish.

Osprey with Another Fish

It was time for the Manatee & Dolphin program to start, so I joined the rest of the group in the gazebo.  Pam puts on a really informative program,

Manatee Program

and we had a really large crowd for this one.

Manatee & Dolphin Program

I helped out with passing out handouts, and holding up manatee bones, and learned a lot in the process.  On the way back to the RV, along the bike path, Bryce and I were able to point out a manatee for several of the participants that were looking for one!

Manatee enjoying the warn afternoon

Bryce and I also went looking for the bald eagles today, but we didn’t find them.  We did find a bunch of turkey buzzards, though, including this guy who was keeping a very close eye on us!

Buzzard Giving us the Evil Eye

This afternoon was an informational meeting for all park volunteers, where we discussed safe operating procedures and learned all about jellies (they are not “fish”, so not being called jellyfish any longer) – the harmless ones, as well as the dangerous ones!

After the informational meeting, the resident volunteers were all trained in the operation of a new lawnmower that FOLKS (Friends of Lovers Key) purchased for the park, and that we can use to maintain our sites.  After the training, Tom was the first to try it out, cutting the area of lawn behind our RV around our firepit.  It worked really well!

Done for the day, we had an early dinner and actually ate outside for a change . . . with sunset later, we have time to get dinner in before it gets too dark and buggy! 

It was looking like we were going to have a nice sunset, so we all got on our bikes and rode down to the beach.  We were a little bit late (Tom’s fault – he had to walk the garbage over to the dumpster!), but still got a couple good pictures.

Sunset_Jan 24

Pelicans at Sunset









There was a Great Blue Heron hanging out at the beach,

Great Blue Heron on the Beach

and he was gracious enough to pose for a few pictures before he flew off.

Great Blue Heron

On the way back from the beach, we took one more sunset photo over the bridge.

Sunset over the Bridge

Back at the RV, the sky had turned really deep orange over the canal.

Sunset over the Canal_Jan 24

Orange Sky at Night_Jan 24

We’re really enjoying this beautiful southwest Florida weather this winter, and are looking forward to some more adventures in our last month here!  It’s about time to start figuring out where we're going next, though . . . more about that later!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Ford & Edison Winter Estates

Thomas Edison










Henry Ford

Fort Myers was the winter home of the Edison and Ford families, and on Tuesday afternoon, we spent some time exploring the estates.

Edison and Ford, both avid scientists and inventors, were also good friends, and their winter estates are side-by-side, along the banks of the Caloosahatchee River.




Arriving in the parking lot, the first thing you see is this Banyan Tree.

Banyan Tree -- It's hard to believe this is a single tree!

This Banyan Tree was given to Thomas Edison by Harvey Firestone in 1925. This type of tree produces a white milky sap that can be used to produce rubber.  Edison & Firestone were doing research to find a way to produce rubber domestically, rather than depending on foreign sources.

This tree was planted as a 4-ft. sapling, and now covers almost an acre of land.  It’s believed to be the largest in the continental United States.

After buying our tickets and picking up audio devices for our self-guided tour, we crossed McGregor Blvd. and began our tour of the estates. 

Walkway to the River

Thomas Edison purchased this property in 1885, the same year that Fort Myers was incorporated as a city, and the first structure that was built was the pier . . . to allow for building materials to be brought by barge during construction of his home.

The Caretaker’s House, built in the style of the Florida “Crackers”, was the only existing structure on the property at the time Edison purchased it.

Caretaker's House

Edison sketched the home he wanted to build, and an architect turned his dream into reality . . . Seminole Lodge.


The Lodge consisted of two separate homes – one for family and the other for guests.  Walking around the home, we admired the beautiful furniture and some of Edison’s early inventions – an intercom system between the two buildings, and electroliers (some of the oldest light fixtures in existence).

Edison Estate

(clicking on the collage will open a larger version in a new window)

In 1914, Henry Ford visited Thomas Edison in Fort Myers, and he liked it so much, her purchased the property next door and built his own vacation home.

Ford Home

The Ford Estate, referred to as “The Mangoes”, was a comfortable winter retreat for the family, built in the style of a bungalow, and is more rustic than the neighboring Edison estate.

Ford Estate

Ford and Edison maintained their winter estates until the mid-40s, when the Edison estate was deeded to the city of Ft. Myers and the Ford Estate was sold (later acquired by the Estate Foundation in 1988).

The grounds of the estates are amazingly beautiful, with many exotic plants,

Estate Landscaping

and numerous types of rubber-producing trees, planted by Edison during his research for the best way to produce rubber domestically.


There were also several varieties of giant green bamboo, which Edison researched as a material for filaments in his first light bulbs.

Bamboo . . . Edison bought the property because of the bamboo

Another interesting tree was this Calabash Tree, with its gourd-like fruit.  We found out that these are the fruits used to create maracas!

Calabash Tree . . . they make maracas out of these

Walking along the path that follows the Caloosahatchee River, we could understand why the Edisons and Ford chose this property for their winter get-aways.


The Fords only spent about 2 weeks each year at their winter estate, but the Edisons lived here for much longer periods of time.  This was evident from the presence of a pool on the Edison Estate,

Edison Pool

Sitting Room by the Pool

along with Edison’s office,

Edison's Office

and several of Mina Edison’s gardens.

Moonlight Garden

The Moonlight Garden



The Lily Pond

We finished our tour of the estates, and crossed back over to the Museum, where we were able to see many of Edison’s numerous inventions.


We were just in time to see a demonstration of music played on a phonograph that was over 100 years old . . .

100 years old and it still works!

and it still sounded pretty darn good!

Live demonstration of the phonograph

Our last stop was Edison’s Botanic Research Lab.  His Menlo Park Lab, where he invented the light bulb and other technological advances, has been moved to Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI, but this botanic lab remains here in Ft. Myers where he did all of his research with plants and fibers.


The lab is in great shape, and looks like Edison could just walk right in and sit down to work!

Edison's Lab


Our visit to the Edison and Ford Winter Estates was very educational and enjoyable, and we’re glad we spent the afternoon here.  If you are ever in Ft. Myers, you should be sure to stop in for a visit!