2.05.2017

Tropical Vay-Kay Day Three - Island Bound

Sanibel Island is not a "real" island to my way of thinking about islands (to wit, little oases of land surrounded by vast expanses of sea and accessible only by boat or plane). It's really more of an oversized sandbar off the west coast of South Florida, accessed by a causeway. That being said, the entire state of Florida is mostly an oversized sandbar too. Anyway, they call it an island so I will too. It feels, aesthetically, like an island. Semantics. I'm being unnecessarily nitpicky. In any case, it meets all of my criteria for a tropical paradise, other than frugality (that characteristic is not conventionally a criterion of tropical paradises for a lot of people, but it is for me). We bought groceries at a Publix grocery store in nearby, considerably frugal-er Fort Meyers FL, before crossing the causeway, so as to avoid the "paradise tax" levied on groceries at the Sanibel Publix, and to minimize going out to eat at fancy restaurants (the only kind on Sanibel) by cooking our own meals. We bought lots of veggies and salad fixin's, as well as some fish and eggs and chicken for protein. But I get ahead of myself. Let's flash back to the start of our day.

Phase 1

We didn't have to get to Sanibel Island any sooner than 3 PM, the earliest we could check in at Deborah's dad's timeshare condo where we are spending this week, so we took our sweet time getting up. I pounded through a few more pages of my library book, "John Dies at the End," while Deborah showered and prettied herself. Honestly, I can't read continuously for as long as it takes for Deborah to pretty herself, so I eventually got up and shuffled into the kitchen of the fantastic Sarasota Florida house owned by Deborah's brother and sister-in-law Mark and Michelle.

"Should I guess what you need?" Michelle, sitting at the kitchen table, asked.

"Coffee?" I answered her question with a query.

"Yes, but you didn't let me guess," she said.

"I guessed what you were guessing," I countered.

"Was the coffee I made yesterday a good amount?" Michelle asked as she got up and started prepping the coffee maker.

Not wanting to express my opinion too bluntly that the only upper limit on coffee is the speed at which my body pees it back out, I said, "The strength was perfect, but maybe just a little more volume."

We chatted about how awesome Florida is and will continue to be until it sinks beneath the sea due to climate change. About half way through her beautification process, Deborah popped into the kitchen and we had a brief planning meeting about the week's logistics and activities. My top priority on this trip is to observe manatees living in the wild. This time of year, when the sea is cold, the "sea cows" migrate inland to warmer, fresher water. At the Mote Marine Aqua Super Center yesterday, the marine biologist Chloe, who led our three hour kayak tour, confirmed a fact I thought I knew...that manatees can easily transition from salt to fresh water. I also learned a fact I knew I did not know...that notwithstanding their massive size, manatees, unlike whales and dolphins, have very little skin blubber to use as insulation against cold. These docile beasts are all muscle and bone and cuteness and hugs. But I digress. Michelle told us that many manatees conglomerate near the warm discharge waters of a Fort Meyers power plant, and the plan is to go there for the best local and low cost option to observe the beasts. They are endangered, so there is no longer anywhere to swim amongst these passive, herbivorous aqua blimps. There is a place some three hours drive north where you can kayak in manatee-infested waters for a fee almost as hefty as a full grown, pregnant female manatee, but we did not want to invest that much of our limited resources in that kind of adventure when the mutant power plant manatees were basically going to be in our backyard and freely observable, once we got to Sanibel. I'm actually a bit surprised no one has monetized the power plant manatee viewing area yet, but perhaps it is logistically difficult. I will let you know after I see it.

When Deborah was ready at last (like I said, there was no rush), we all went out for brunch at a place called First Watch. It was decent. I had a power juice with carrots, orange, and ginger in it, as well as a veggie fritatta. After we ate, Deborah and I bid her family members farewell and we hit the road for Sanibel Island, by way of the aforementioned Publix grocery store in Fort Meyers. On the hour or so long drive, we talked some more about the increasingly less hypothetical and more likely possibility of moving to Florida. I love it here, notwithstanding the surplus of rednecks and retirees, although Deborah's naturally curly hair does not. There are surprisingly few barriers to us making Wisconsin winters a permanent thing of the past. I have heard people say they could not live in the tropics because of the heat and the lack of seasons. I am not one of those people. I love the heat and eff all the seasons that aren't summer. I still think people who say they like the seasons are just rationalizing that they live in a place with sh!tty @ssed winters. Not me man!

The timing of our drive south and the grocery stop could not have been more impeccable. We pulled into the parking lot of Sanibel Beach Club timeshare property at almost exactly 3 PM. We got the key to the condo from the front office and then loaded the groceries and our suitcases into the place we'll call home for the next seven days. After putting the food in the fridge and our warm weather clothes in the dresser of the master bedroom, we donned bathing suits and decamped to poolside, where I'm currently writing this post. The weather is "end of the world" perfect. 74 Fahrenheit degrees and perfectly sunny, with a gentle sea breeze teasing the leaves of the manicured palm trees that surround the pool. I'm going to pause here so I can augment the tropical paradise ambience by eating a coconut cream pie Lara bar.

Phase 2

After naturally boosting our vitamin D levels in the sun for a spell, we jumped into the hot tub. That was fine until some beeotchy lady from Iowa got in and started talking to us non-stop about dumb things best left unspoken. I saw a black hole starting to coalesce around her mouth hole and decided to exit the pool before I became trapped in a lost time conversational singularity I could not escape. Deborah soon followed. I don't think Hillary Clinton was a nasty woman, as Donald Trump said, but this lady in the hot tub fit my image of a nasty woman pretty well. We sat by the pool a little longer and then returned to the condo.

We changed out of our bathing suits and back into casual clothes for a sunset stroll on the beach next to the condo, where I captured THIS picture (thumbnail). A bunch of millenial d-bags were raucously partying on the beach, but they didn't impact our romantic stroll at all (nor that of the other beachcombers out enjoying the fantastic Gulf Coast weather). I'm now lying on the king bed in the condo eating some walnuts while Deborah cues up an episode of "Homeland" we are going to chillax with before making dinner. I got an e-mail from my friend Wendy (of awesome Wisconsin band SUNSPOT) earlier and she told me Jack Frost is about to grab Wisconsin by the p*ssy, Trump style. I hope my chilly northern readers get their cockles warmed a little bit by reading my posts from balmy South Florida this week.

Phase 3

I cooked up a chicken stir fry in the condo for dinner, with Deborah's help. It turned out great. Deborah also cooked a couple tilapia filets, which were probably unnecessary, but I ate them anyway.

"Are you too tired for a night walk on the beach?" I asked Deborah after dinner.

"Yes," she replied.

"What about sitting on the balcony?"

"Yes," she replied.

The night was super quiet and clear. I opened up Google Sky Map on my phone to identify a couple of bright stars we could see through the mosquito screens of the balcony.

"That one on the horizon is Canopus," I told Deborah, as I googled the star. "It says here it's the second brightest star after Sirius, which is that other bright one higher up."

It was pretty cool that we could see the two brightest stars in the whole sky from the south facing balcony of the condo. On further consultation with the Giant Internet Brain, I learned that Canopus is a super giant star, considerably bigger and brighter than Sirius, but also a lot farther away from Earth. Sirius is only about eight and a half light years from our Sun and so it looks about twice as bright as Canopus.


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