Thursday, December 13, 2007

Naples Botanical Gardens

Walked through the Naples Botanical Gardens today, this is a fairly new garden (4-years old) and when they get it finished in about 4-5 years will be one you don't want to miss. Right now it's about 20-25%, they have a small walking trail with some unusual plants, and an Amazon room with the tropical plants and some spiders, frogs and turtles. But the best part is the butterfly area, it's enclosed with hundreds of butterflies, you can see the cocoons which they bring in and glue to a string on the bushes (see pictures) then the stage were they are coming out of the cocoon and drying their wings. The next room has giant geckos and the room after that had a bird similar to a Hummingbird called Honey Suckle. After that they have a mile long trail that takes you back through a wetlands/swamp area, this is where the other parts of the garden are going to be.
The great thing about this garden is it's right in the middle of Naples and you feel like you're 100 miles out in the wild.

So far this has been a great winter, low 80's everyday and it has only rained at night.

The very rare transparent Butterfly

Cocoons that have been glued to string and hung in the bush.

Just hatched and drying their wings

Giant gecko

Friday, December 7, 2007

Edison-Ford Estate

We're spending December at Indian Creek RV Resort in Fort Myers Beach,. We checked in on the 1st which was a big mistake since everyone else was also checking in, we were in line for an hour and a half before we finally got to our site but it was worth it, we got a great site on a small lake in the back of the resort. This is probably the best run and one of the nicest parks we have ever been to, what ever you want is here.

Took a day and toured the Edison-Ford Estates last week, Edison came down here before there were any roads to get a way from the crowds and years later when he and Ford became good friends Ford bought the house next door. They take you on a tour of the estates and grounds for about 30-40 minutes then they turn you loose to wander around the rest of the property, then when you want they take you on another tour of Edison's laboratory. Every Christmas they give each elementary school a tree to decorate and they put them on display around the grounds; they had some pretty neat ideas.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Montgomery Alabama, Sorry CLOSED

We decided to spend three days in Montgomery so we could tour the Capitol Building and a few other places downtown, we got down to the visitors center and found a nice shade covered free parking spot. They have a tourist bus that runs all around the downtown area and you can ride it all day for just a dollar, the bus was just getting ready to pull out so we grabbed our tickets and jumped on. There wee only a few people on the bus and traffic was very light, our first stop as the State Capitol Building, only after walking around it and finding all the doors locked did it dawn on us that it was Columbus Day and everything was closed. But what can you expect from a state that puts a three-foot fishing lure in front of its capitol. Also one of the museums we wanted to go to was closed for the summer for renovation

So after a mile walk back to the car and ten minutes of Cathy chewing the visitor centers information girl a new one, we drove out to the Zoo to try and save the day. Their zoo is very old but set up real nice and was spotlessly clean. It was pushing 90 degrees and just about everything in the zoo was trying to find some shade and sleep, as you can see from the pictures.

We did see something that we’ve never seen before and learned something new, the new sighting was an Indian Star Turtle; this had one of the prettiest shells I’ve ever seen. We thought that we were looking at a Black Panther and found out that there is no such thing as a Black Panther, but there is a Black Jaguar. Apparently they just discovered that they are really Jaguars with a different coloring gene, just like house cats.

Then there was the white tiger that was just minding his on business until I started messing with him, take a look at the pictures and you’ll see what I mean. We had a little bit of a stare down but he won.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Marie Selby Gardens

This is a real easy one to drive by without noticing, it's off of US-41 in the middle of an S-turn and on a side street that just looks like a residential street, it turns out that the society owns the entire street. This is without a doubt our favorite garden so far, it covers about 13 acres right on the bay,

has two homes one is the visitors center and gift shop the other is a museum on one floor and the main floor is where local artist have their art shows. There is a coffee shop and two small cafes and tons of benches around to just sit and relax. Following the pathway we went through many different types of gardens, through around and under the banyan trees, there is also a green house where they sell many of the plants that they have on the grounds. There was really just to much stuff here to write about it all and I could have posted another dozen or so pictures and still not have covered it properly.

Banyon Tree,
Air plants on a live oak,
Tree with a root system like an octopus ,
Rainbow trunk,
Tree with a bunch of sharp tacks on its truck.

After we left I got mixed up in traffic and we ended up back on Long Boat Key, so we went south this time and ended up at South Lido Park, so we got the picnic basket out and grabbed a table. We had a nice picnic lunch with about a dozen squirrels that decided to join use to see what they could get, after lunch we took a little walk on the beach around the point. The first thing we came across was a kid fishing and he had caught a small shark, about 12-14 inches long, he was trying to figure out how to get the hook
out with out putting his hand near its mouth, after about a minutes it bite through the line and swam away. A hundred yards father down we found a bunch of jelly fish washed up on the shore, sure makes you want to go swimming at this beach, get stung or bite your choice. We also watched a red tail hawk hover for about 2-minutes before making a dive into the water from about 40-feet to get a fish. A pretty interesting little walk for us.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Manatee Historical Village

We did the outlet mall thing in Ellenton, Cathy with her coupons and a little black magic managed to buy a $24 top for only 11-cents, she even amazed the cashier with that one. On the way home we stopped at the Manatee Historical Village, we were here about three years ago and it was kind of a rough neighborhood, but since then they have really cleaned the area u and are doing a great job of restoring the historical district of the town.

The village is a freebee so you gotta like that, they have about 10 buildings that have been moved here and restored. The main building is the KW Wiggin's store, which also houses the museum. On the grounds you will find the Fogarty boat works, Manatee's first court house which is the oldest remaining court house in Florida, a church, smoke house, sugar cane mill and my favorite the Stephens house which is a Cracker Gothic style home, don't know what it means but I want it. It has a huge hallway that is open to the outdoors and gives you a breeze no matter which way the wind is blowing.
For more info click HERE.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Birmingham's Lane Park

Birmingham Botanical Gardens half of Lane Park

For a big city botanical garden, we were very disappointed in this one, the grounds weren’t dirty but they weren’t clean either, there were a lot of weeds in with the flowers, and every employee had his own golf cart and they were all racing around the gardens so you got to choke on the exhaust fuels. They were suppose to have a great Japanese Garden, when we got to that part the main gate was blocked with a pickup truck making repairs and we had to walk around to a small gate in the back, it just wasn’t worth it. The three pictures are about the only nice looking areas that we found we won’t be back.

Birmingham Zoo half of Lane Park

Out one gate, cross the street and in another gate and you are at the zoo. It was pushing 90 and the humidity was about 95% and we were thinking about passing on the zoo but decided that we were already here so lets give it a little look. We were sure glad that we did, it was totally different from the gardens, we were wishing that we had skipped the gardens and spent all our time here.

When you enter the Zoo you are greeted by a bunch of squawking parrots that can be heard 100 feet away, I think that we may have caught part of the monarch butterfly migration because they were all over the park.

The Gorilla was just sitting there eating his broccoli and carrots, probably not a normal diet for a gorilla, but 4 years ago this guy had a pacemaker installed. From what I could get from the little film this was the first time that they have done this. He was just months from cashing it in when they installed it and as of the last test he’s doing great. He’s just stuck with fruits and veggies, as Cathy said the good news is you’re going to live a long life, the bad news is you’re still in a zoo.

The birds were the best, there were about 30 of them in a large room and they had little cups of food that if you held in your hand they would come feed, but if they liked you they would just land on you and lick you or peck at your ears.

After leaving the zoo we went to Dr Pepper Place, this is an old Dr Pepper syrup and bottling plant that closed years ago and has been converted to a bunch of yuppie type shops. Since Cathy is a Dr Pepper junkie I figured that she would like having lunch in the old plant. There is a little deli right in the middle of an antique shop that sits about 8 people, they had some great sandwiches and salads and besides it was the yuppie thing to do.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Mote Aquarium

The indoor aquarium is fairly large and has probably 50 different displays, everything from a 2-foot long lobster, without the butter, clown fish, coral reefs, to some great fossils.

From here we stepped outside and found Molly the Mollusk, a 27 foot-long giant squid, this one was found in New Zealand and had been preserved, this is the only place in the USA that you can see on of these on display, no one has ever seen a live giant squid in it's natural habitat. No pictures of it, it was too ugly. There is also a model of a 14.5-foot hammerhead shark that was caught 2006 (World record).

It was feeding time for the sharks so we climbed up to the top of the 135000 gallon tank to watch them, We were all ready for a Jimmy Buffet style "Feeding Frenzy", but instead all we got was the care takers putting cut up fish on the end of a pole and holding it in the water for the fish to take, except none of the fish appeared to be hungry. The tank itself held a variety of fish: nurse, bull, black-tips and sand sharks, grouper, tarpon, snook and redfish, makes you want to go back out to the car and get your fishing rod.

From here we had to leave and walk about a block down to their other building where they keep the sea turtles and manatee.

Hang Tough is a green sea turtle (vegetarian), he was brought to the Mote with several injuries which left him blind so now he just swims around in his tank, using his flippers as a white cane to keep from swimming into the wall. You can't touch them but you can get within a foot or so of them when they come to the side of the tank.

Shelley and Montego are their two loggerhead turtles; they were born in captivity and were part of a study in N. Carolina, when the study ended they were sent here since they could not be released into nature. There is also a few baby turtle ranging in length from 2-inches to about 6-inches.

Another favorite are the manatee's Hugh and Buffett, they were born at the Miami Seaquarium and transferred to the Mote in 1996, they are trained to participate in the scientists research so they can try and save more of the manatee out in the wild.
Most of the injured wildlife brought to the Mote are rehabilitated, fitted with sensors and returned to the wild were they can be located and studied. There is also a dolphin pool but they weren't very active while we were there.