Category Archives: Florida

Island Life

Wanting to take a small break from the winter, Mo and I returned to our favorite sunny getaway — Ft. Myers, FL, and specifically Sanibel Island. We’d visited Sanibel (and Captiva) several times on our trips to Florida, but this was our first time staying on the Island proper. We spent four nights on Sanibel, staying at the West Wind Inn.

We visited with many interesting folks around the pool, several who have come back year after year for over twenty years. The shells were there, but seemed to be a couple yards out from shore whenever we walked the beach, and no jellyfish visible anywhere this time around. Temperatures were between 50s and 70s with no rain, so we couldn’t have asked for more in that regard. Our first two evenings we dined with Sandy, my recently retired boss of twenty years, and her husband Rich, who I also worked with. Retirement seems to agree with them (and why wouldn’t it??)


first sunset on Sanibel

With the weather so nice, besides spending time on the beach and poolside, we took several excursions to the various hiking trails on the island. We enjoyed a nice morning walk along Sanibel River in the SCCF Nature Center‘s collection of trails, seeing a few waterfowl, turtles, and fish, but generally just soaking up the peaceful walk. One highlight was a bald eagle taking off parallel with us about 15 yards out in the clearing alongside the path — the sound of its wings was impressive.

Our second hike was at Ding Darling Bailey Tract, which was more exposed than the Nature Center’s trails but included a lot of open water, which lead to more sightings of waterfowl (and gators). We saw several of the larger bird varieties here: Wood Storks, Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, and their lesser brethren like Common Gallinule, Blue Heron, and American White Ibis.

We later returned to both locations to hike other trails that we hadn’t gotten to the previous time. We learned that the first hikers on the trail in the morning have the responsibility of clearing any spider webs :/


Great Blue Heron drying itself at Bailey Tract

On our return to the airport, Mo allowed me a few minutes to wander around Hammond Stadium and “breathe in a little MN Twins baseball” while there, since she inexplicably scheduled this vacation before spring training began. There were a handful of people at the ticket office, and groundskeepers doing their thing. I wandered into the team store by the front entrance and had a nice visit with the employee there…and grabbed a handful of pocket schedules.


Hammond Stadium, home of the Minnesota Twins Spring Training

Not sure when we return to Ft. Myers, but it’s always a good time there.

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Ft. Myers Spring Training IV

This post is way late due to photos lost from my phone, but I had a few that survived, so here goes…

On our yearly trip to Florida, Mo and I stayed again in Ft. Myers at the same Cornerstone Resort condo we were at last year. Thanks to construction along the main drag, Ft. Myers Beach traffic was even more traffic-er than before. Still…no snow, though. And this year, we were joined for a couple days by my (retired) co-worker Ted and his wife Dixie.

Apparently attending a spring training game had been on Ted’s bucket list, so I was looking forward to treating him to the March 8th Cardinals vs. Twins game. Unfortunately, it was a Twins split squad game, plus the first day of their minor league camp, so the practice fields normally bustling with the veterans and promising prospects were empty. Still, it was a beautiful day for a game, and we both had our teams on the field.

Joe
Joe scores in the fourth

We had seats in the same location I’ve sat in the past trips to Hammond Stadium, which provided a great view of the field. The Cards went on to eventually win 5-3. We saw a little of everything, but we didn’t see Sano and Park homer, like in the other split squad game against Toronto in Dunedin.

One other disappointment with split squad games is the limited autograph opportunities. I did manage to catch one:

program
backup catcher Juan Centeno’s autograph

When it all comes down to it, though, you can’t beat the beach.

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the view from our lanai

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Ft. Myers Spring Training — Third Edition

This year, MLB caught us off guard: we had to make our condo reservations early, and when the spring training schedules came out, the season was starting later than usual. This would call for some strategic planning…

During our Ft. Myers stay, one thing I could plan on was dropping by the practice facilities, so I picked a nice morning, fought traffic off the island, and hung out at CenturyLink Sports Complex with many other Twins fans.

practice
team gathers on the big field for drills

It was great seeing the young ballplayers — Sano and Vargas definitely stand out, size-wise.

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third basemen practice fielding, including Miguel Sano

The new coaches were very involved and hands-on in the drills I watched, particularly Molitor, Mientkiewicz, and Guardado. Alumni were also visible all over, including Carew and Oliva.

everyday
Coach Guardado works on fielding with the bullpen

So, what ballgame did I eventually get to? The only Twins games played in Ft. Myers while we were there were either the home opener, or against the Red Sox at their home opener the next day. There was also a road game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park up in Port Charlotte just over an hour away, though.

The ballpark was quite nice, and the weather was sunny and beautiful. When I bought my ticket earlier in the year, I looked for my traditional spot just past the dugout on the third place side, and I found a nice seat in the fourth row with a great view of the action.

ballgame
in-game action

Only one extra base bit in this game, but overall play was pretty clean and still had its share of action. The Rays ended up winning 2-1.

I was able to get three autographs on my program: Max Kepler, catcher Dan Rohlfing, and extra catcher Mitch Garver.

autos
game program

Barring a rainout, you really can’t lose when attending a Florida spring training game.

Yes, Florida Again

Mo and I had been to Ft. Myers, FL on two earlier occasions, although it had been a while, and we decided it was high time to return. Doing things differently on this trip, Mo reserved time at a condo on Ft. Myers Beach, plus we had a bit of time on each end of our vacation to see other areas of Florida.

This time around it was more cost effective to fly into Tampa and rent a car there, so we chose to spend our first three nights at the beach in Clearwater, staying at Pier House 60. Unfortunately, we couldn’t choose our weather — the temps were cool and it rained off and on.

On one of the days we took a leisurely drive through the south end of the island and down to Ft. Desoto, taking in the military ruins and strolling the park.

ft desoto
the guns of Ft. Desoto

We walked out on the pier, and there we saw a fisherman reel in this puffer.

porcupine fish
porcupine fish

Our other notable outing in Clearwater was to visit the Florida Aquarium in Tampa…you know, to get out of the rain. Lots of interesting things to see there, and $2 off if you order your tickets online.

By the time we leave Clearwater for Ft. Myers Beach, we also leave the rainy weather behind, too. We stayed at the Cornerstone Beach Resort, and our condo was wonderful, with direct access to the beach and a beautiful view of the gulf from our lanai.

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Cornerstone Beach Resort

We found several nice places to eat, and I took the opportunity to take in a Spring Training practice and game (more on this in a later post). Like Sanibel or Captiva islands, there were plenty of shells to be collected here as well.

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cockles & mussels, not alive alive-oh

We toasted the sunset each night, the final night being the only one with clouds, and those just at the horizon.

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the view from our lanai

Did we have a good time? We’re booked for next year…

Florida Keys — Wildlife Edition

Here is the promised post with a select few of some of the wildlife of the Florida Keys from our recent vacation

While at Theater of the Sea, this parrot (wish I remembered its name) was giving kisses, even making a kissing noise 😉

kiss
Mo gets a kiss

We even had some wildlife at our hotel (no, not that kind!) — at the bayside waterfront out back we discovered five manatees, two of which came up to the beach. K was able to touch one, which then rolled over to try and get a belly rub. We didn’t know at the time that interacting with the manatees is frowned upon, and we’re glad the contact never got more than that.

manatee
K and friend

Also, besides gar and other types of fish, we saw this stingray along the beach one day.

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stingray combing the sand for lunch

It wasn’t the best time of year for looking for interesting Key insects, but I did catch a few: here’s a Great Pondhawk seen while hiking at Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park…

Great Pondhawk (Erythemis vesiculosa)
Great Pondhawk (Erythemis vesiculosa)

…and an Io moth caterpillar seen at Anne’s Beach.

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Io moth caterpillar – Hodges #7746 (Automeris Io)

And a couple cool spiders as well; saw three Spiny-Backed Orb Weaver near the water at the Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary.

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Spinybacked Orbweaver (Gasteracantha cancriformis)

Also saw three larger Golden Orb Weaver along the Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park hiking trail.

golden orb weaver
Golden Silk Orbweaver (Nephila clavipes)

I’m not much of a bird watcher, but there were a plethora of sea fowl seen during our vacation — yet, the first bird I saw on our first day at the Keys … a cardinal! Go figure.

Florida Keys

For one week in mid-January, our family took a much-needed respite to the sunny climes of the Florida Keys. Time to post some pics!

We rented a car from the Ft. Lauderdale airport, and set up camp down at our hotel in Key Largo. One of the first things we did was to visit the Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary just down the road from us. Saw several sea birds, owls, raptors, as well as the circling turkey vultures and a few pelicans on the shoreline alongside the sanctuary.

sanctuary
bayside view from the back of the sanctuary

We spent some quality time at Sombrero Beach in Marathon; we were surprised at the lack of nice beaches in the Keys, but really there’s more snorkeling, scuba, and fishing done there than hanging at the beach. The water temp was quite comfortable. The Portuguese Man-o’-War were out in force, with a handful of softball-sized ones washing up on shore, their tentacles bright blue.

beach
facing southwest from our location on Sombrero Beach

One morning we got going early and went to Theater of the Sea in Islamorada. We arrived just as it opened, and had practially a private tour and bird show. We enjoyed seeing all the animals there, and the cooler weather that day made for light crowds.

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Sherman the dolphin’s performance highlight

Mo and I spent one morning putting in some road work on the trails at Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park. It was a very peaceful hike along three miles of tree-lined pathways, although we did a little backtracking because the recent high tide left a couple unpassable spots among the mangrove scrub on the south end.

We saved Key West for our last day, when the island was less busy. It’s a 2-hour drive from where we were staying. There is a ton of interesting history there, and we wished we could have spent more time to see the architecture and visit more of the shops.

kwest
K, Mo, and I at the southernmost point marker in Key West

It was a wonderful time of relaxing and soaking in the warm weather and great seafood.

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sunset over the bay behind our hotel

I’ll post some wildlife pics in my subsequent vacation post.

Second Annual Ft. Myers Spring Training Game – Twins 4, Cardinals 10

Once again we included a Spring Training game in our vacation at Ft. Myers, and once again we scheduled our trip to include the Cardinals March 7th visit to Hammond Stadium. The tickets I picked up were just two down from last year’s seats, fourth row just downfield from the Twins’ 3rd base dugout. The weather was sunny and ~80°F with a light breeze, so we were workin’ the sunscreen.

We were parked on Puckett Pkwy this year, and noticed Hammond Stadium again had a liberal sprinkling of Cardinal Red shirts in the capacity crowd. Who were the first ballplayers I saw when visiting the neighboring practice field?


left to right: Trevor Plouffe, Danny Valencia, Alexi Casilla, Tsuyoshi Nishioka

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