Friday, January 19, 2018

Visiting the Alligators in Everglades National Park…

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After our cruise our next outing would be to Everglades National Park, a place we often visit when we are in southern Florida.Not far from our resort is our very favorite place to visit there which is Shark Valley. We didn’t bring our bikes this time around to ride the nearly 17 miles of trail but instead opted to hike several miles into the park.

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The park is always crowded this time of year and the day we chose to go was no exception. A sign outside the front of the park entrance indicated the parking lot was full. Of course we realized this well before our arrival as there were rows of cars parked all alongside route 41 outside the entrance.

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We found a spot not too far from the entrance and walked to the main gate where the ranger requested to see our National Parks Pass which granted us free admission.  Another short walk and we were at the Tram Station where some chose to pay for a tram ride around the park but we decided we would rather walk this day.

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Immediately after entering the trail we began seeing  American Alligators. Even though it was a bit cooler than when we normally visit this park there were still an abundance of Alligators.Each alligator had marked his spot to leisurely warm up in the sun. Unfortunately the other thing we always see among the alligators are some tourist “IDIOTS” in the park. The trail we walk takes visitors very close to a drainage area which is is frequented by these Alligators. The Alligators will often be partly on the paved trail and of course IDIOTS wanting selfies will often cozy up right next to one of them. We even saw one IDIOT touch the tail of an Alligator…. Sigh…Yet another was walking by each alligator snapping his fingers and yelling, "wake up". Sharon had enough of that and told him to cut it out. People amaze us sometimes.

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We also were excited to watch many of the birds endemic to the area. We loved how close we could get to the birds without disturbing them. We spent a good deal of time watching a Tri-colored Heron spearing small fish along the water’s edge. An Anhinga nearby was gulping down a fairly large sized fish which also kept us entertained for a while.

We really enjoyed our stroll in Shark Valley and were glad to have the chance to see so much wildlife. Hopefully we will find time to return once more before we head out of Florida in March…

NOTE: We are now in our winter home until March 1st in Bonita Springs Florida at Imperial Bonita Estates RV park and Coop.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Man… We needed a vacation!!! So we took a cruise…

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After nearly seven full years on the road, what did we decide we needed? A Carribean Vacation!!! We booked a cruise after finding a screaming deal offered by a discount cruise travel agency. With the ultra cheap package which included all tips, we also received a  $150 dollar onboard credit to spend on anything we wanted!. Even more amazing was a last minute swell offer to upgrade from our guaranteed inside cabin to a balcony ocean view cabin. Sweet!!!

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Sunday, January 7th rolled around and we drove the approximately 2 hours from our park over to Fort Lauderdale. We secured parking at Park and Fly and were astonished when we pulled into the parking lot to see a large band of monkeys feeding on the side of the road. These “wild” monkeys reside in the wooded area adjacent to the parking lot.It sure was a cool way to start our trip.

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We unloaded our bags and took the shuttle over the Holland American pier to our ship, the Holland America Eurodam. Boarding was delayed slightly but was relatively painless and before we knew it we were aboard the ship eating a nice lunch in the main dining room. The first day at sea was  pretty rough with many cruisers feeling a bit ill due to the rocking ship. I have never had an issue with sea sickness and Sharon used the prescription patches so she also suffered no ill effects.

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The ship stopped at four ports; Grand Turk, Sint Martin, San Juan Puerto Rico and Half Moon Cay. We had been to San Juan and Sint Martin before but were amazed at the devastation from Hurricane Irma. We felt sad for those whose lives were disrupted by this viscous storm. However, the spirit of the people in each of the parts was strong and positive. We could definitely see progress being made one nail at a time.

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We did a little snorkeling in Grand Turk seeing a few fish but at Half Moon Cay we saw some coral and many brightly colored fish. We also really enjoyed our walkabouts in the other three ports. San Juan’s Old Town appears to be well on its way to recovery even though most of the rest of the island is still suffering from the havoc created by Irma. We did our best to spread a little of our wealth around at each port to assist a little in their recovery. These ports heavily depend on tourism and it was plain to see they took extra effort to ensure the ports were ready to receive ships. At nearly every port we saw two to three other ships docked so hopefully this season will be a big boost to their economies.

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It has been 7 years since we have cruised and some things have changed! There was no big sail away band or party and no more elaborate fruit or ice carvings.  However the TVs in the rooms had many more offerings of movies, news channels and ESPN.  Because of the improved TV and of course our awesome balcony, we spent a little more time in the room than we had on past cruises.  One beautiful sunny day we were fully entertained watching a Ganet bird diving into the waves for fish.  The flying fish shimmered in the sunlight while soaring out of harms way. We also enjoyed the views from the balcony at each port so it in itself was really one of the highlights of the trip!

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After seven nights we returned to Fort Lauderdale Florida and disembarked without any issue. We loved our seven night hiatus from our normal RV lifestyle coming back energized to continue our repairs and modifications as planned for this long winter stay.  The trip was fun but it was nice to see our beautiful ten year old home on wheels...

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NOTE: We are now in our winter home until March 1st in Bonita Springs Florida at Imperial Bonita Estates RV park and Coop.