Sunday, November 22, 2009


This has been a really great week-end for me. Yesterday, I actually got on my bike and rode it. That was a major accomplishment for me. I haven't ridden for years and years and years and I kept saying I was going to do it and kept putting it off. Then last year I broke my ankle and ruptured my achilles tendon. Since then I have really become a fanatic about protecting my ankle and I was scared to death to get on the bike for fear that I'd hurt it again.

But yesterday, I said enough is enough. Now I didn't go very far (I also didn't fall) and last night my legs let me know they weren't happy. But this afternoon I went about three times as far and tomorrow will be even better. Tonight will probably be worse but eventually I'm hoping that improves.

Yesterday morning we went to the clubhouse for breakfast. This campground is mainly French Canadian and they served baked beans and creton (a pork and onion pate that goes on toast). Very different.

Then today after Church, the Branch held a turkey pot luck dinner. This was an experience for me because they had collards, sweet potatoe pie, and a cuban rice and bean dish along with the turkey. It was fabulous. And definitely something I would never have experienced in Montana.

You just never know what is going to happen next. I love it.

Friday, November 20, 2009



As you can see, our site is near the small lake that is in this park. It's the lake with the baby ducks that are disappearing because we also have alligators.

This is a nice park, very few trees and some of the sites are close. But we're on a corner and have plenty of room.

However, the French Canadians from Quebec have discovered this park and the majority of the people here are from there. That means that most of them speak French. It's really difficult to have a conversation with your neighbor when neither of you can speak the other language. The newsletter is in both English and French.


We drove out to where we could see the lake to try and take pictures of the sunset over Lake Okeechobee. However, the mosquitoes were so ferocious that we couldn't get out of the car. It really was prettier than these pictures show.


Definitely not like our garages in Montana


The Anhinga, sometimes called Snakebird, is a water bird found in the warmer part of the U. S. (especially Florida). The word "anhinga" comes from the Brazilian Tupi language and means devil bird or snake bird. It often swims with only the neck and head above water and it looks like a snake ready to strike - hence it's nickname.

Unlike ducks, the Anhinga is not able to waterproof its feathers. Consequently, feathers can become waterlogged, making the bird barely buoyant. However, this allows it to dive easily and search for underwater prey, such as fish and amphibians. It can stay down for significant periods of time.

When necessary, the Anhinga will dry out its wings and feathers. It will perch for long periods with its wings spread to allow the drying process. If it attempts to fly while its wings are wet, it has great difficulty getting off the water and takes off by flapping vigorously while 'running' on the water.


The swamp itself is gorgeous and I think these pictures speak for themselves.


We took an airboat ride through the swamp at Billie Swamp Safari. I would highly recommend you take this tour if you're in the area.

I also took a picture of Jim by a Swamp Buggy but we opted for the airboat rather than the buggy.

They have also brought in some animals from elsewhere to give it more of a safari feeling so we also got to see a water buffalo. ( you need to open the picture to see it)

But, of course, the main draw is the alligators. I love the way they just drape themselves over the logs. Our guide told us they only eat about 40 times a year because they have such a slow metabolism. I also learned that the stuff (plates, skin, whatever it is) works like a solar panel because alligators need sun to survive. However, if they get too hot they just open their mouths and release the hot air. (Does that sound like anybody you might know?)


Billie Swamp Safari is located on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation in the Everglades. They have set up an entire village so you can see how the Semioles lived.

They also have a small zoo show casing beautiful parrots, lizards and turtles or tortoises. It bothered me that the cages for the birds and lizards were so small but they were well shaded and appeared to be very healthy.


This is a butterfly peacock bass that Jim and David caught. It's not really a bass but a tropical type of fish from Brazil that was deliberately introduced into Florida in 1984. They are ferocious eaters and are used to prey on other non-native and invasive species of fish in Florida waters. They are also a lot of fun to catch and have become a favorite among sport fishermen.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


This is a barbeque grill lighter that looks just like a fishing rod. Our good friends, Jan and Bill, found it and just had to get it for Jim. Jim then found a couple of large fishhooks to hang it on.


It was so much fun to be able to stop in Miami and have dinner with Jim's sister, Ginny. She has been a volunteer at the Miami Zoo for 28 years and she does love the animals.


Jim loved the way the sun shone on his ring and showed off the star in it.

He also wanted a picture of one of the "botels" in the keys.




Jim had a great time swimming in the ocean but the girls were not impressed. You can really see how unimpressed they were in the video.


Trees are like the birds - so very different than we have in Montana.


The Sombrero Key lighthouse was designed by General George Meade. Meade also suggested that the lighthouse be componentized. That way it could be built on shore to make sure all the pieces fit together, then disassembled and taken to the site where it would be put back together. The one thing that wasn't too well known was the effect of seawater on iron. Would it cause it to rust? The English had been conducting a test regarding this matter and had found that a process of galvanizing iron had protected the iron from seawater for over 15 years with no evidence of corrosion.

The lighthouse was under construction when a hurricane slammed into the Keys in 1856. This left the construction site in a state of disrepair. Meade once again started over and by March of 1858 the light at Sombrero Key was shining through its 1st-order Fresnel lens.


The next few posts will be from our trip down to the Florida Keys.

The word Key comes from the Spanish word Cayo which means small island. There are around 1700 islands located in the Florida Keys. They are the exposed portions of an ancient coral reef and are the only frost-free place in Florida. There are only two seasons in the Keys - hot, wet, and humid from about June through October and the drier, cooler weather from November through May. It was raining off and on the whole time we were there.
I really found this story entertaining:
THE CONCH REPUBLIC - In April, 1982, the Reagan administration's war against drugs and illegal aliens thought up a great idea. They set up roadblocks to search and question everyone leaving the Keys. The independent island people were outraged -- at the intrusion and the long delays. When their letters to the governor failed, they banded together in a mock public protest. At high noon on April 23, secession ceremonies were held in Mallory Square, Key West. Hoisting the new Conch Republic flag, adorned with a conch shell, the island rebels tossed a loaf of stale Cuban bread into the air, their token shot declaring war against the United States. They handed out passports to the citizens of the Conch Republic and promptly surrendered, making them eligible for foreign aid. Then, in true island spirit, they partied. The celebration lasted a week and has since become an annual event.
Roadblocks to check for illegal aliens and drugs are no longer set up in the Florida Keys.
Before 1900, the only link the Keys had to the mainland was by boat, but in 1905, railroad magnate, Henry Flagler, began building an extension of his Florida East Coast Railroad south through the Everglades to the southern most point in the United States. It cost $50 million and took 700 laborers seven years of brutally hard work, to build the bridges and lay the tracks over 106 miles over 31 island. The glory of the railroad was short-lived, though. The Labor Day hurricane of 1935 hit the Upper Keys with 200 mph winds and an 18-foot tidal wave. It killed over 800 people and ripped the Florida East Coast Railroad to shreds. For the next three years, Keys' transportation was again limited to boats. In 1938, the Florida Keys Overseas Highway opened. Built over the railroad's old tracks and bridges, the highway is still the mainline to the mainland.

They were holding Speedboat Championship Races while we were there.

These are pictures of the Seven Mile Bridge which is a concrete bridge that is 35,862 feet long (6.79 miles).