02/20/19 Naples, FL.

DAY #123

Got up early today, like 7:45 early, and was out the trailer door by 8:15.  The plan was to take a 40’ Catamaran out into the gulf for three hours.  It had been too long away from the water, I was excited to get my ocean fix (bad comparison?).

The starting point was on Isles of Capri, which is a group of three small islands across from Marco Island.  The cost was $65.00 and included beer, wine, soda, water, plus fruit.  A bit expensive perhaps, but I’m not going to nickel and dime it when It’s something I want to do, provided it doesn’t become foolish. Leaving the State Forest, I took the back-road exit, and you know what? it gets easier the more you drive it. It’s a slower, bouncier, work harder at driving, way to get somewhere, but the feeling of solitude and accomplishment it gives you makes it so worth it.  It’s just plain fun driving through the woods where no one else is around (does that make me anti-social?).

  Got to the place to get the boat and there were already about 15 people waiting to board the boat.  It looked to be one large group and three other couples.  I was the only single guy, except for a couple of teenagers who were with the large group.   We all got on the boat, taking our shoes off first so we wouldn’t slip and finding a seat, while the captain explained the do’s and don’ts.  It was a nice boat and the guys handling it seemed to know what they were doing.  Even though there were quite a few of us aboard, it didn’t feel crowded and having these other people around made it somewhat fun (what?).  The large couple were from the Boston area and had (for me) a very pronounce accent, it was fun listening to them.  I was a little concerned about a couple of the older guys, they were hitting the bottle pretty good and early, last thing I wanted was some loud mouthed, back bay, so and so’s, causing trouble.  Gee, I’m not stereotyping them, am I?

Away from the dock and out into the channel we go.  It’s a beautiful morning.  The sun’s out and there’s a nice breeze, not too much. The temperature is already in the mid-70s.  Up ahead, I can see the channel opening into the bay and from there, the gulf. 

As were making our way out towards the gulf, you can see the Isles of Capri on one side and Marco Island on the other.  It really is a moneyed area that’s for sure.  Beautiful homes, boats, cars.  Hey if it were offered to me, I’d take it, at least for a while. (a long while).  Since that’s not going to happen, I’ll have to continue portraying myself as progressive-socialist to justify my disdain of the lifestyle.  In all seriousness, if people work hard, save and invest wisely, and play by the rules, and then choose to live this lifestyle, I say go for it, and enjoy every second of it you’ve certainly earned it.  I can tell you this from experience, there are no free rides in life, you get out of it what you put in.  Now, that may not be always true, but it still is, the rule rather than the exception.   My-My I seem to be quite chatty tonight don’t I.  

The mainland & islands faded away and ahead of us, water as far as the horizon, we were out in the Gulf of Mexico and it was beautiful.  I had stumbled my way from inside the boat to the front, it afforded me a sweet view.  Seeing the ocean gives me much the same excitement as I get when driving through the back-roads of a State Forest.  It’s so big, so wide open, so devoid of things.  Kind of like looking at Gods handiwork through his eyes, rather than mans. (oh yea, that’s heavy).

When we reached the waters of the Gulf, the Captain put up the sails and turned the motor off.  The wind had come up and it was the perfect fuel for us to do some sailing. 

Walking around the front of the boat was kind of tricky. Odd angles, nothing to grab on to, made me look kind of silly (and not very cool, I always must look cool and in control) when I tried to get up and move closer to the front edge of the boat to take some pictures.  In addition to the angles and lack of holding on to anything, the area between the two hulls was like a trampoline without the bounce and walking on it as the boats bobbing up and down, well let’s just say it wasn’t pretty (and probably quite funny to the two teenage boys on the boat). 

Because of the sudden and unexpected changes in the weather, the Captain brought us back closer to the islands in hope of calmer waters.  It was a bit of a disappointment to come back towards land, I was really digging the ocean vibes, but it was certainly understandable, and sometimes you just got to roll with the flow (which I do so well.  Though, I did do OK today).

As were coming back in towards the island and back to the starting point.  I noticed one of the old guys who had been drinking heavy earlier had gone from the cabin to the front of the boat.  Man, I thought I looked bad stumbling around, at least he had an excuse, because he was juiced.  The other guy who had also been drinking earlier was looking like he was ready to be counted out as well.  Why would you get that intoxicated, sad, just sad to see.

Upon returning to the dock we collected our shoes, paid our bill, and we were on our way.  Was it worth it? Was it worth the cost of admission?  I think for the two old guys that needed to be helped off the boat, they got a good deal, what with all they drank.  For the rest of us, I think it was a bit expensive for what it delivered.  Oh well, really doesn’t matter anymore does it.  It was an enjoyable time and that’s what I’ll remember.

How could I top going out into the Gulf of Mexico in a 40’ Catamaran?  I know, I’ll go over the bridge to Marco Island, and do some laundry.  On google I found a small laundry right off the main avenue and popped in to do laundry.  The place was clean, prices very reasonable and overall, my best laundromat experience I’ve had so far on the journey.  While waiting for my clothes to dry, I went down a few shops to a restaurant.  I needed a decent meal, the fast food joints just weren’t doing it anymore (that is, if you could find one).  The service sucked but the food was good, plus I sat outside which made for a satisfying meal.  Maybe I was too quick to criticize Marco Island?

Last day in the Naples area.  I’ve liked the campground where I’ve stayed.  It was a bit out of the way for most things, but it provided a scenic, trouble free, enjoyable stay.  I liked driving down the abandon roads, seeing where for once nature wins, and man loses.

I didn’t get into Naples proper and I guess I’m ok with that.  After a while, the communities and residences, country clubs, etc., start to all look alike.  Only the facades are different.

Everglades City and Big Cypress National Preserve, along with the State Preserves made for a great backdrop for some memorable experiences, I really enjoyed the time there to play in the woods given.

I don’t know if I would put this area on the top of my list.  In my view, it’s gotten too developed and it’s only going to get worse in the years ahead.  It’s great having the State Forests and Preserves, along with the National Refuge and Preserves, along with the entrance to the Everglades as a buffer. For me, those are the highlights of this area and score high on the ratings.  It’s all the development that’s taken place and continuing to take place that lowers the final score for me. 

Next, it’s off to the Everglades.

02/19/19 Naples, FL.

DAY #122

Today, the agenda included going over to Marco Island to see if an old friend was down, then on to Everglades City, and Big Cypress National Preserve.

I started out from the campground by taking one of the back ways out of the State Forest. It took about forty five minutes to go twelve miles. It’s a slower way to go that’s for sure, but you can’t beat the views.

Coming off the road out of the Forest, came across a small Citrus Operation. So cool to see, you go less than a mile further down, and its Florida 2019, in all its shiny, glitzy, glamour. The grove, in its rural surroundings is a step back to a simpler time.

The grove.

From the grove, I turned onto a major through-way (Collier Blvd), and made my way to Marco Island. One thing I’m noticing around Naples (suburbs), is the lack of fast food places. You’ll see an occasional McDonald’s, but not a lot of others. It can be a bummer when you have no microwave, and are too lazy to actually cook. I’m kind of talking out of both sides of my mouth here, First, I’m ranting about fast food joints and how they destroy the culture, and then bitch because they’re not enough of them. Oh, the hypocrisy!

Coming across the bridge onto Marco Island gave me a great view, and a first impression. My gut feeling was; I’m not into this. I’d forgotten how ugly the beachfront hi-rise condos and resorts can be. Driving down the main street and around the island, I was amazed at the amount of traffic. Man it was bad, and this was on a Tuesday around 11:30 am.

Another observation, the density of development on the island. This place hasn’t left any stone upturned when it comes to building. It almost has an “American Dream” theme park feel to it (I think I’ve used that description before, oh well, it works here too). I guess I find it too crowded, and a bit sterile for my taste.

Now in all fairness, while this may not be the place for me, I can see its allure. It’s fresh and crisp, and everything works. It feels new and has an upscale vibe to it. The style and color choices of the houses give it a “South Florida” feel, and the houses will wow you, again and again.

A modest Marco Island home.

Found the address for my friend’s house and thanks to google map, made my way to their house, and what a nice house it is, I’m envious. Knocked on the door but no answer. Later, I was able to contact them and found out they were not down there yet. I missed them by a few days. One good thing came from stopping. Now I know where to go if I ever become destitute.

Leaving Marco Island and crossing the bridge back to the mainland, I pulled over and got some nice photos of the area.

Just think how lush this must look in summer.
That’s Marco Island in the background.

Next, down to Everglades City, and Chokoloskee, FL.

While Everglades City (Chokoloskee) is only 45 miles away from Marco Island by car, it felt like a lifetime removed from the hustle and bustle of the Island.

On Marco Island, I saw a community where everything is in its place, organized and arranged, oh just so.  The tastefully ornate houses with their manicured yards and canals in their backyard.  On Marco Island, everything looked and felt new.  It also felt two dimensional, and sterile, lacking in any real culture (other than consumerism).  To me Marco Island is less a home, and more a destination (kind of rough, aren’t you?).

Everglades City (Chokoloskee) on the other hand, had the look and feel of a place not yet discovered by the great migrating herd of ‘Snow Birds’.  Its houses are singular and unique in design, modest in build, and maybe even a bit shabby. 

The place had a feel of a past to it, and it looked like it could use a good straightening up.  The canals weren’t an amenity in someone’s back yard, it was a working canal, where people put in after a day of fishing for stone crabs.  

 Everglades City feels a bit worn and lived in. It feels like it’s a place you could stay forever, not just for a week, month, or season.  Everglades City has a history and a soul, and from it, a culture.

Noticing that the Florida landscape has a sameness to its looks.
This was here when nothing else was.

I really liked Everglade City and Chokoloskee.  It gave me an “Old Florida” feel in a part of the state where that vibe is getting weaker and weaker.

Got back on the Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41) and set the directional finder (me) to Big Cypress National Preserve.  It was a bit of a drive, further than I had anticipated.  I think I drove almost halfway to the next campsite.  The plan was to drive the highway (U.S. 41) one way and take the loop road back.  Made it the first way. It was a nice drive if perhaps a Ntlittle sedate.  Then, I took the loop back.  It starts out as a paved road that looks to bordered by homes inhabited by Seminole Indians.  All the houses were of the same design, newish, and nice.  After a couple of miles, the road turned to dirt and civilization disappeared.  The loop runs for approx. 20 miles through the preserve and allows you an intimate look at the land around you.  I must admit, I enjoyed the ride back through the loop a whole lot more than the first part (and I enjoyed the first part).  I saw a lot of birds and alligators up close and personal, you can’t get that view from the highway.

No short cut route back to the campsite tonight. Took the asphalt roads and ended the day by taking a shower. It’s been so humid (dew points in low 70s), It was so fantastic that the shower worked, Now I am thankful, and clean.

Note: Today was the hottest on record (for this date), and the first time, it has reached 90 degrees in Naples in February.