Florida Trip Highlights Part One

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

There's something magical about the air in Florida that makes a girl forget about her morning sickness. I'm not sure if it was the warm air on dried out Wisconsin bones, the factor of distraction, or something else, but never in the past few weeks have I felt as good as I did in the Sunshine State.

We began our trip with travels late on a Monday afternoon that got us into Orlando at the bewitching hour. We spotted a wild raccoon in some brush under a bush at the airport. Couldn't get my camera out fast enough though. The warm humid air and light rain that greeted us excited me from the moment we walked out of the airport. We picked out our rental and drove a few hours to our host's house in Bradenton.

We were immediately greeted by two crazy beautiful German shepherds that invited us in like they'd always known us.

Our hosts were the best hosts ever, fixing a room for all three of us and tending to our needs like family. We hadn't met them in person, but Hubster had known them for quite a long time. The fact that they invited us into their home so graciously and enthusiastically still makes me smile. 

Tuesday was a day spent playing with those sprightly pups (Peanut's favorite part of the whole trip) and visiting family in Sun City Center. I found this amazing Goodwill bookstore that I easily could've gotten lost in. I had to make it quick though, and all I really wanted a frothy chick novel that was made for tropical vacations. I can't be expected to always read heavy, academic novels can I? 

Wednesday was dedicated entirely to Disney, but I'll save that post for "Part Two" since it requires its own story. Thursday was probably my favorite day of the trip. We did a bit of sightseeing that was a bit more wild and natural and a little less tourist-driven.

We started out at Myakka State Park in Sarasota. Originally we planned a trip into Clearwater to do some miniature golf/feeding of alligators. But our hosts pointed us in the direction of a more natural gator habitat less than 30 minutes from their house. Yes! We pulled up to the first little river and spotted two gators right off the bat. Peanut was afraid to approach, but once he saw the gators were pretty distant, he got really into it. He's a huge Gator Boys fan, so gators are his thing right now.

The park was just beautiful. As we passed the campground, we thought about how much Florida camping is different than Wisconsin camping. In Wisconsin, your biggest fears might be about bears in the northern part of the state and ticks. In Florida, you are likely to come across snakes and potentially gators. Geckos are everywhere in Florida. Mosquitoes are everywhere up here. In Wisconsin, state parks are filled with pines, oaks, and maples. And in FL, the forest looks a bit different peppered with palm trees. In Wisconsin, you can freely swim in most waterways without fear of any kind of big creature biting off a limb. In Florida, not so much.

Taking the same highway we got to Myakka on, we passed to the opposite side of the freeway to visit Siesta Key Beaches, the #1 rated beaches in the US. White sand stretched as far as we could see. This was the part of the trip I couldn't wait for! Although between getting there and leaving, it felt like we were only there for about 15 minutes. I certainly could've used more time there. It was therapeutic. 

Peanut was karate-chopping all the waves.
We had him taste the saltwater on his hand
too, because we so rarely experience saltwater.

Last time we came to Florida, Peanut was only a year old and he was terrified of the sand. It took awhile for Hubster and I to get him away from the comfort of his towel. After some crying and apprehension, he finally took his first few steps in the sand and eventually ventured out. It just brought back so many memories seeing Peanut playing in the sand four years and many inches later.

Notice "Snapper," Peanut's new gator friend
from the Myakka souvenir shop.

For us northern birds, no Florida trip is complete without a gecko hunting excursion or five. We never get to see any kind of lizards outside of commercial pet stores up here. The fact that they're as common as cats in WI is completely novel to us.

Our trip was way to short, as trips to the southern region often are for those who suffer through relentless winters. I seriously considered checking our itinerary to see how much it would cost to transfer our tickets from Friday to Monday, but I relented. I know we won't get around to those parts for another few years, but I'm taking my sunburn and memories back to Wisconsin to try and pretend like summer isn't that far away.

Check back for Part Two of our Florida expedition, the Disney files, later this week. I'm finally starting to actually feel better as I move deeper into the second trimester. I am hoping for the stamina and wherewithal to continue with a regular posting schedule.

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