Turns out, my crude index has been validated HERE: https://www.thrillist.com/travel/nation/best-countries-to-live-in-cheap
Turns out, my crude index has been validated HERE: https://www.thrillist.com/travel/nation/best-countries-to-live-in-cheap
I'm out driving around this afternoon and I feel like time is flying by, or more like I lost an hour somewhere. It's an odd feeling.
We had a nice dinner with the Florida based family then did our farewells and drove up to the very low budget motel near the Tampa airport for the night. It's the kind of place where you have to run the AC fan to drown out all the other weird sounds so you can sleep. Deborah hates places like this, but they are simple and cheap. There was nothing on TV at the motel so I read my Kindle book until I got sleepy.
Tomorrow we fly back to Wisconsin, so tune in for travel updates (if we aren't murdered by other patrons of this sh!tty motel (fyi, it's the Extended Stay America by the Tampa Airport North...avoid it at all costs!).
When we got back from our walk, we found Deborah and Michelle down by the pool and joined them. The douchey redneck people were back, talkin' smack about nothing. I don't know why they annoy me so much. Just not my types I guess. But as long as they keep to themselves, they can do whatever they want.
We decided we would try to shop at grocery stores and make our own healthy meals as much as we could on this trip, in part to save some money, but also to avoid the gluttony trap that it is far too easy to fall into on vacations. We decided to grant ourselves one dietary free day on this trip, so we could enjoy a bit of hedonistic eating. That day is today. There are no limits on what we can eat. We plan to gorge on pizza for lunch and eat key lime pie after a greasy, rich dinner.
We were nearing the conclusion of our gluttonous dietary free day, where we were allowed, for one day only, to put whatever foods and drinks we wanted into our bodies. Deborah had been looking forward to eating one of her favorite dishes today, coconut fried shrimp. She sucked down 13 of the battered bottom feeders at dinner, granting me the 14th one just so I could see what she was so excited about.
"What do you think?" Deborah inquired, after I had swallowed the morsel.
I am not a huge fan of edible shellfish, so I thought carefully about how to answer before I replied, "Of all the ways there are to prepare shrimp, coconut fried is a pretty good one."
I had coconut fried snapper (fish), but that was probably a mistake. It was a big slab of greasy, battered and fried fish that pretty much punched my stomach in the stomach. I was actually still pretty full from our massive pizza and key lime pie lunch a few hours prior. Nonetheless, in free day solidarity with Deborah, I ate the whole meal and even ordered dessert, a double chocolate milkshake.
Deborah ordered key lime pie, again. I had a small bite. Not bad.
We're back at the condo now. Deborah and I made a feeble attempt to go stargazing down at the beach when we got back from dinner, but it was still low tide and a chilly, stiff wind was blowing some unpleasant fragrances from the tide pools directly at us, so we aborted.
There is supposed to be a penumbral (read "weak sauce") lunar eclipse tonight. Unlike an actual (umbral) lunar eclipse, where all or part of the full moon gets blotted out, a penumbrally eclipsed moon just dims a little bit. I can pass on that. Also, the green comet everyone is excited about doesn't even appear in North American skies until like 3 AM or something, and it's not even visible with the naked eye. Meh.
I'm going to go sink into a food coma now.
"I have a riddle for you, Deborah," I said as we tooled around the small nature preserve some more. "What do you call someone who volunteers helping and protecting alligators?"
"Tell me," Deborah requested, after thinking on it for a minute.
I looked her in the eye and said, "It's a 'gator aide."
It was a bad pun.
I cooked up the fish and chicken for dinner, as well as a bit of stir fried veggies to use up some of the produce lingering in the condo fridge. Deborah made a salad too. It was a good feed. I had not eaten lunch, so I was pretty hungry. Only about half the stir fry survived my ravenousness and is now back in the fridge in a Tupperware container.
When I was close to the condo, I saw Deborah and her mom, Sandy, sunbaking on the beach. I finished my conversation with my mom and hung up. Moments later, Deborah's dad, Howie, came down to the beach and wanted to go on a beach walk of his own, something we had discussed earlier over "the best breakfast in town." So I joined him and did a couple more miles of walking. All told, I walked over five miles this morning and burned about 800 calories. My feet were killing me afterward, mostly because of having to compensate for the slope of the beach. But I felt great. During my walk with Howie, we came across a large beached jellyfish. I have no idea what species it was, but here is a picture. If any of my readers can identify this jellyfish, please leave a comment.
In the morning (soon after this post publishes and you read it), I'll make eggs and coffee for Deborah's folks before they have to head back up to Sarasota. Then Deborah and I will go find something interesting to do, perhaps by bike or kayak. Stay tuned.
PS. Recalling our wild manatee sighting a couple days ago, even though the waters we saw it in were technically too cold for the sea cows, I'm wondering if global warming is allowing manatees to linger in cooler waters longer. Purely speculative.
Hi Madison Peeps!
What's shaking? I hear through my channels (mostly the Weather Bug app) that Old Man Winter is having some commitment issues with the Midwest. Fog in February sounds very passive aggressive. It should be blustery and below zero this time of year in Wisconsin. Sorry that it's just being stupid there.
I'm in Florida. I'm not trying to gloat, it's just a fact. So I was thinking...if the Wisco winter has got you consternated, I encourage you to vicariously enjoy my Florida vacation shenanigans by way of my blog travelogues here. Tune in any time or SUBSCRIBE for regular updates.
If you're new to my blog, peruse the past five or six installments. You'll see some pics of tropical scenery and a couple cool videos of close up wild dolphin and manatee encounters in Tarpon Bay off Sanibel Island FL.
There's more cool stuff to come this week. I'm on the hunt to find land hermit crabs...
I seem to recall reading somewhere that the best formula for giving a speech or writing an essay is threefold. First, you tell your audience what you are going to tell them. Second, you tell your audience what you told them you were going to tell them. Third, you tell your audience what you just told them. I'm going to try the formula here.
The trail that the girl was referring to was not a land based path as most of us landlubbers think of it. She was talking about a waterway that wound through the mangrove forests surrounding Tarpon Bay on the north side of Sanibel Island FL.
"I think it's feeding," Mark said. We were a little way behind his and Michelle's double kayak. I pulled my smart phone from my pocket and turned on the video camera as Deborah paddled us toward the aquatic mammal. Usually when I try to film things in nature, they don't cooperate at all. But then this happened. Forgive the cheesy soundtrack I added.
Since Deborah's shoulder hurt, I was doing the lion's share of the paddling in our double kayak, so I decided to paddle us out toward the middle part of the bay, where the water looked darker and was presumably deeper, in a last ditch effort to find a wild manatee grazing about before we had to head back to shore. Mark and Michelle followed us. Unbelievably, a short time later and not too far away from us, a gun metal grey snout broke the surface of the water and we heard the unmistakable* exhale of a wild manatee. I hastily but carefully pulled my smart phone out of my pocket again to try to capture untamed nature as a string of ones and zeroes on its memory card. We were not entirely sure if we were seeing just one manatee or a couple, but whatever the case, it or they were far less cooperative than the energetic dolphin above. Eventually though, I captured this pretty footage. Note the rounded tail flipper of the manatee that appears briefly, confirming the sighting.
We followed the manatee(s) around for a while, trying to get more visuals, but it/they were very shy animals and we were starting to feel a bit stalkerish, so we eventually let them be and returned to shore.
To conclude, in the course of just a couple hours of kayaking, we had encountered two cool large aquatic mammals. My primary bucket list goal for this week was to see a manatee in the wild. I had been fairly certain I could accomplish that goal, because there is a place nearby in Fort Meyers where wild manatees congregate at this time of year, in the warm discharge waters near a power plant (the ocean temperatures get too cold for the beasts in "winter," so they migrate to warmer inland waters). However, that would have necessitated a somewhat lengthy drive to Fort Meyers and a $6 toll on our return trip to Sanibel after MAYBE seeing manatees. I am really grateful and thankful to Mother Nature for simplifying matters considerably. We had planned to go kayaking in Tarpon Bay anyway, and I would have been fully happy and content paddling around the mangroves, even if we didn't see any marine life whatsoever (although, were that the case, it would probably mean some kind of ecological disaster had transpired). So my expectations were far exceeded today and I crossed a primary goal off my bucket list ahead of schedule. Plus, as an added bonus, I saw a frisky dolphin up close and personal too. So you see how I came back around and basically concluded by summarizing what I already told you?
After the kayak outing, the four of us returned to the timeshare condo, by way of a quick grocery store stop, and chillaxed poolside before making a home cooked dinner that included salad, chicken, fish, turkey burgers, and some Larabars for dessert.
Before the kayaking, I'd like to note, Mark and Michelle took Deborah and I out for a great lunch at a place called the Blue Giraffe. I had mahi mahi fish tacos that were superb, so much thanks to M and M for that nice lunch outing.
I'm currently sitting on the balcony of the second floor condo facing the sea, listening to the soothing sound of the waves in the night. It's mostly cloudy, about 65 Fahrenheit degrees, with a gentle sea breeze out of the southwest. There's a little bit of wet weather passing by us to the east, around Fort Meyers, but it doesn't look like any weather will make it to where we are. And this is pretty awesome...
*Note: Truth be told, I had no idea what the exhale of a wild manatee sounded like before that moment.
After we ate, we sat on the balcony overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Deborah called her brother and sis-in-law to discuss tomorrow's action packed agenda, which involves kayaking in Tarpon Bay. The discussion centered on the best time to go, when the tide is about halfway in or out. Low tide is at 1:30 PM tomorrow in Sanibel, if you care, so we need to go kayaking mid-morning or late afternoon, depending on when Mark and Michelle arrive.
"Do you care if I go for a beach walk?" I asked Deborah after she got off the phone. "It'll probably take me a couple hours."
She did not care.
The return walk was 2.4 miles because of the orientation of the streets. I felt pretty good when I got back to the condo, notwithstanding a truckload of sand in my beach shoes. I had achieved my goal of doing a triathlon today, biking, swimming, and power walking. Deborah had fallen asleep by the time I came through the door about 6:30 PM, moments before the kickoff of some sort of sportsball game on the TV that everyone seems really excited about.
"I had an idea on my walk," I told Deborah. "I was thinking we could take advantage of the sportsball to go have a romantic dinner at the Island Cow [restaurant], because there probably won't be anyone there during the game.
I'm writing this while lying on the king bed in the master bedroom at the condo. Deborah is watching the sportsball out in the living room, but I have no interest whatsoever in the sportsmanship nor the outcome. After I wrap up this post, I'll probably read a bit more of "John Dies at the End" before getting a glorious night's sleep, thanks to my roughly 4.5 mile power walk today.