March 10, 2007: Spring Arrives at 7011 Inwood
February 16-19, 2007: Visiting Guy at Ruckman Haus
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February 23 - March 4, 2007
Our Trip to Florida

 

 

That time has rolled around again for our winter trip down to Fort Lauderdale. This time, we are looking forward to having Guy visit us for a few of those days, although when I saw him in San Antonio just a few days ago, his coming down was problematical, due to the fact that he wasn't feeling up to par. He isn't supposed to join us until Monday, so we still hope that things will work out.

Greg is back from his cruise, so we have prevailed on him to take us to the airport on Friday evening for our 8:30 flight down to Fort Lauderdale. While we arrived at the airport in time, the flight was somewhat delayed, so we didn't get in until almost 1am. Then there was an interminable wait for the rental car, so we weren't at the condo until about 2. Then we needed to get some dinner, so we walked down to the Floridian. All this meant that we didn't get to sleep until almost 4 in the morning, so I suppose we will be sleeping in.


 

Saturday, February 24

 

We did sleep in, and weren't up and around until after noon. Today there are a few showers around, so we have taken the opportunity to run some errands and such. We simply relaxed and took it easy, went to Holiday park to throw the frisbee, had a frozen drink at the dock, ate at Peter Pan and went out for a while in the evening.

We also talked to Guy on the phone, and it is beginning to look as if he won't join us this coming week. I still have the reservation in Key West, and I will hold it until Guy makes a definite decision, which will probably be tomorrow.


 

Sunday, February 25

 


As is his usual, Fred slept late this morning, so by the time we got out and about it was close to lunchtime. I've talked with Ty, and told him that we planned to go throw the frisbee for a while early this afternoon, and he and Scott are going to meet us at the park- they want to fly their kite. I told him that where we throw the frisbee is an excellent, open space for kite-flying, so they will join us about 1 or 1:30.

Around noontime, we started out for the park on our bikes. It's easy to get there from the condo- it is pretty much directly north- and there are lots of ways to go. Usually, we try to avoid any busy streets, so we just take 9th Avenue across Las Olas, turn left at the Himmarshee Canal and then take 8th Avenue north to Broward. We jog across and then straight up through Victoria Park and around into the main entrance to the park.


Holiday Park is actually quite large, and you can only see parts of it in the aerial views shown here. In these views, you are looking, basically, at the western edge of the park. North and east of the Auditorium are playgrounds, baseball diamonds and tennis courts. East of the Auditorium is a 1.5-mile jogging path, an indoor sports center (basketball and stuff like that) outdoor racquetball courts and a roller skating rink, more expansive playgrounds and soccer fields. South and east of the Auditorium are at least four large soccer fields as well as eight tennis courts and a tennis center. On weekend days, and when there are special events, there can be thousands of people participating in scads of activities all throughout the park. It is really one of the nicest, most accessible and usable parks I know of.



The aerial views are illustrative, but not accurate for the day we were there. As you can see in the enlargement at the right, half of our frisbee field and one of the playgrounds across the road seem to have been taken over by a carnival or fair on the day that the satellite images were taken. You can pick out carousels, tents, rides and such in this close-up view. Usually, the entire field that I have labeled as the frisbee field is empty, and the only occupants are the occasional mounted policeman working with one of the horses that are kept in the stables at the north end of the field.

Anyway, when we got to the park, we still had an hour before Ty and Scott were supposed to arrive, so we started throwing the frisbee around. Today was particularly windy, and throwing the frisbee was giving us fits- we couldn't seem to get many good throws in. We are just not expert enough, I guess. But fortunately Ty and Scott showed up a bit later to put us out of our misery.


They brought their kite, got it assembled and then, with a few false starts, got it up in the air. As you can easily see, our frisbee field is free of obstructions- just a huge open area with no trees (judge it's size by the vehicles parked south of the carnival). And so it was a great area for kite flying. Fred shot an excellent movie of our kite flying experience, and you can watch it with the player at left.

Below are the thumbnails of some pictures that Fred took of Scott, Ty, myself and the kite. To look at any of the full-size images, just click on the appropriate thumbnail:


We thought we'd all get a turn to try flying the kite, but our experience was cut short by the arrival of a city Police vehicle. The patrolman parked by the Playhouse and walked out onto the field to politely but firmly inform us that city ordinances prohibit the flying of kites anywhere within the city limits of Fort Lauderdale! I'd heard about such silly laws still being on the books in places, but never expected to find such an ordinance enforced. But that, sadly, was the end of our kite-flying for the day.

Ty and Scott suggested that we just take a walk around the park since we were all already there, and so we made a large circle through the park, taking about an hour to do so. In the corner of our kite-flying field, Fred found this commemorative marker, and in front of the War Memorial Auditorium we also stopped by the large granite memorial to the area soldiers and sailors who participated in World War II. You may know know it, but after World War I and into the 1950s, Fort Lauderdale boasted one of the largest Naval Air complexes in Florida. But as the area got more and more populous and built-up, this activity was moved to the new bases at Jacksonville and Homestead, and the activity at Fort Lauderdale considerably reduced. Fort Lauderdale is also famous as being the base from which the noted "Flight 19" originated, that being the largest single group of aircraft lost in the "Bermuda Triangle."


We enjoyed our walk with Ty and Scott, and left them to head off to their dinner engagement around 4. We returned to the condo and made plans to meet Ron Drew and his new friend Jay for dinner later, occupying ourselves until then with frozen drinks at the dock. There, Fred snapped some casual shots of the river traffic (like the one at left). Click on the thumbnails below to view the full-size images.


Before we left for dinner, we got a call from Guy. As we feared, he didn't feel up to coming down to Florida tomorrow, and so he definitively canceled. We had been looking forward to seeing him (although I had just seen him a week ago, Fred has not seen him since last year), but it was not to be. Fred and I discussed whether we'd like to go to Key West anyway, but thought we'd save it until we could show it to Guy sometime in the future. So I made a mental note to call the hotel in Key West first thing in the morning and cancel our Tuesday night reservation.


 

Monday, February 26

 

Today was the worst weather of the entire week we were in Florida this time; it was the only day there was more than just a single morning or afternoon shower. It was overcast much of the day, and, although there were periods of sun, we didn't think that going to the beach or riding our bikes would be a good idea. So I let Fred sleep for a while while I called the Key West hotel to cancel. The snag was that the hotel had a 72-hour cancellation policy; I should have called yesterday evening. The desk clerk said that they would try to sell the room but that if they couldn't, I'd be on the hook for the cost. I told Fred about that later, and we decided to wait to see what happened before deciding whether to go on down there tomorrow morning.

We'd seen Ron and Jay last night and we'd been invited to Ty and Scott's for dinner on Wednesday and Ron and Jay's on Saturday. We also planned to have dinner with Brent Whitley on Thursday. I was hoping that we wouldn't have to use the room in Key West and that we could go to Catfish Dewey's for all-you-can-eat shrimp night tomorrow, but in any event we were on our own for this evening. Fred did some Internet research looking for some places we could try, and he found a nearby Southern barbecue restaurant that we decided we'd try this evening.

Fred had some breakfast and then we decided to take a walk through downtown and along the Riverwalk, perhaps stopping somewhere for lunch. Below is a map of the approximate route we took. You can refer to it if you are interested to know where some of the pictures coming up were taken. I'll repeat the map as necessary so you don't have to keep scrolling back to this copy.



We've started off on our walk by heading right up to Las Olas to walk along and look in the shops. I have brought two watercolor paintings with me that Larry French gave me on Friday night; he is thinking of representing the artist in the United States. I told him that the pictures looked like something that would sell well in Florida, so I am scouting the art galleries along Las Olas to get an idea of which of them I should bring the watercolors to later in the week for an opinion. As the clock atop the former Blockbuster HQ indicates, we've gotten a late start.

One of the first shops we came to had some very interesting comical ceramic figures on display in its window, and they were just too cute not to take some pictures of. Here are thumbnails for three pictures that Fred took of the individual figures; to view them in detail, just click on the thumbnail:

Since it's Monday, Las Olas Boulevard isn't very busy, even though we are still "in season." Some of the shops and restaurants aren't open on Monday; between that and the iffy weather, there weren't a great many people out. Those that were seemed to be in the middle of dining al fresco, as these diners at La Bonne Creperie and the Riverside Hotel are doing.

Along this stretch of Las Olas Boulevard, and on the other side of Federal Highway, Fred found a number of interesting and beautiful plants and flowers to add to his picture collection. Here are thumbnails for four of his best shots; just click on them to view the full-size photos:


We continued walking west along Las Olas Boulevard, and came across some new fountains that had been installed in front of an office building on the south side of the street. We hadn't seen this particular fountain before. On a low wall in front of the building, they had installed a sunburst carving, and just in front of that a lower wall that had three or four sunburst fountains emptying their water into a pool that ran along the whole length of the wall. This part of Las Olas Avenue is replete with fountains of all kinds, most of which you've seen in earlier pictures in this album.

As we continued down Las Olas, we came to the building that houses the downtown campuses for both Florida Atlantic University and Broward Community College. Fred noticed that on the east-facing wall of the community college there were some black metal wire pictures or diagrams, I guess indicative of the courses of study that were offered. Or perhaps they were just decoration with no particular meaning. In any event, they seemed quite unusual, so Fred spent some time capturing close-up views of most of the individual diagrams that made up the collage. If you want to see them in detail, just click on the thumbnails below; I've arranged the thumbnails to approximate the location of each diagram in the overall view.

Continuing down the street, we crossed Andrews Avenue right at Huizinga Park where the user-controlled, colored fountain is located, and were then in the Riverfront entertainment complex. At the end of the street that leads through the complex (it is one-way for cars coming towards us) is the Riverfront Cinema where we often to to movies. It is never very crowded, and sometimes we wonder how it survives. Today there doesn't seem to be a movie of particular interest, but we'll check back on Friday when they change. Outside the theatre, there are walkways that lead to the restaurants and shops on the second and third levels, and you can stand at the railing and look down to the street level promenade that leads to the river (behind me in the picture). The complex is basically a big "L" shape, taking up three quadrants of a big rectangle. In the other quadrant, not part of the entertainment complex per se, there is a new office building going up.


We walked north out of the complex and then along SW 1st Street to circle around Old Fort Lauderdale, an area of some old structures, a small museum, a couple of small performance venues for theatre and a bunch of restaurants. This brought us in front of the Science Museum and IMAX Theatre, where we turned to go through the gardens in front of the Performing Arts Center. As usual, Fred found some flora worthy of note; to admire the full-size images, just click on the thumbnails:


Now we headed back for home along the riverwalk itself. At first we thought we'd like to have lunch at Shirttail Charlie's, shown here across the river from Old Fort Lauderdale, but we were mystified why there didn't seem to be anybody dining along the river. The weather was iffy, but it wasn't that bad. I called the restaurant to discover that they were closed on Mondays, so we continued on along the Riverwalk to the entertainment complex where we saw a new place that had opened since the last time we were here- the Briny Irish Pub. Now, on our usual bike route north from Fort Lauderdale, we do ride along Briny Avenue through Pompano Beach, and I recalled that there was a Briny Pub on the corner of Briny Avenue and Atlantic way up there, and I wondered if they were connected. As it turned out, they were. We decided to stop here and have lunch.

This was a good idea, as it turned out, for no sooner had we found a table and sat down than it started to rain- hard. Watch the movie of the Briny Irish Pub using the player at left and it will not only give you a good idea of what the restaurant was like but also show you how the weather had deteriorated temporarily. As you can see in the movie, what sets this eatery apart from others here at the entertainment complex was the decoration, the amazing number of nautical items adorning the ceilings and walls. It was really pretty neat the way they'd done it, and you can see more of the decoration in this picture of Fred at the Briny Irish Pub. Below are four more pictures that Fred took at the pub; to view the full-size images (which are very colorful) just click on the thumbnails:

While we were sitting in the Briny Pub having lunch, it continued to rain outside, although towards the end of our meal it slowed down and then stopped. During our meal, we were treated to an opening of the Andrews Avenue bridge that allowed a very large private boat to pass under. Shortly after the cruiser went through, a tall-masted sailboat took advantage of the open bridge to slide under as well. Even with the bridge up, the sailboat's master had to be careful, his masts were so tall. You can watch movies of both of these boats passing us and going under the bridge using the players below:

A Cruiser Passes Us

A Tall Sailboat Passes


Once the rain stopped, we were able to walk back to the condo along the Riverwalk. When we got back, Fred snapped a picture of me at Riverview Gardens before we went upstairs so I could do my exercise bike and Fred could surf the Internet. It rained some more while I was on the bike, but fortunately stopped for good just before I finished, so we were able to have our frozen drinks outside on the dock. There, Fred took a couple more pictures, one of the Las Olas Grand and one of the ubiquitous Jungle Queen.

This evening, we tried a new restaurant- Jim's Bar-be-que down on South Federal on the other side of the river. It was a small place, but all the tables were full and there was a continuous stream of people coming in for takeout. The barbeque (Southern barbeque, of course) was excellent, and I am sure we will come here again.


 

Tuesday, February 27

 

This morning I was finally able to talk to a manager at the Best Western hotel in Key West, and she took us off the hook for the room this evening, so now we don't have to drive all the way to Key West to avoid losing a couple hundred bucks. Instead, we took Larry's watercolors to some galleries along Las Olas to get their opinions (everyone liked the watercolors but none of the galleries really handled that kind of art). We did some more frisbee throwing (boy, were my legs sore from the first sessions), and spent some time at the beach playing backgammon on the sea wall. We also investigated some place where we might eat breakfast on the beach later in the week.

I did my bike exercise and Fred surfed the Net. We had frozen drinks at the dock, where Fred snapped this picture of the NuRiver Landing Condominium at dusk. Finally, we got cleaned up and then met Ty and Scott for all-you-can-eat shrimp night at Catfish Dewey's- always a pleasure.


 

Wednesday, February 28

 

Today was another relaxing day where we just did what seemed interesting. We slept in and, after breakfast, went out to do some errands. There were a couple more art galleries to take Larry's pictures to, and we spent some time buying funny t-shirts for Ron and Jay. I also went shopping for a bike carrier so that we could take the bikes down to the Everglades and ride tomorrow. I got a carrier just like the one I have here, and I've left it in the condo so that we can put it on any rental car we happen to have. I also took Larry's artwork to Pearl Art Supply to price having it framed. I plan to buy one of them from him and hang it in the condo.

Ty and Scott have asked us to dinner at their own condo this evening, so after all our errands were done, I'd had my exercise on the bike and we'd consumed our traditional frozen drink, we headed up to Imperial Point where they live. They gave us an extremely delicious meal- talapia, with veggies, salad and dessert. It was a delicious and gracious meal.

I had my camera along to record the occasion and below you will find thumbnails for the three pictures I took. Click on them to see the full-size images.


 

Thursday, March 1

 

Well, today we are going to do something completely different- we're going to carry the bikes down to Everglades National Park and take a bike ride through part of the park. I just got the bike carrier yesterday, so this will be its first test. Let's hope everything stays on!


 

Getting to Everglades National Park

 


The first thing we had to do, of course, was get the bike carrier attached to the Hyundai Sonata that I'd been given this week. The only hard part was having to slightly open the trunk to get the straps attached- they kept falling off. But once we got the hang of it, it went on pretty easily. We loaded the bikes (Fred's is oddly-shaped and difficult to load; it has to go on the outside, unfortunately putting a lot of weight on the back of the carrier) and then decided to take a couple of pictures, just in case we had to prove to an insurance company later that we actually did own those bikes we claimed were lost on an expressway somewhere in South Florida. Here's me with the loaded bikes, and here's a picture of Fred with the bikes.

Once the bikes were all loaded, that's when Fred decided he'd need some lunch first, so we drove up to a place called Stork's just north of Sunrise Boulevard, had our sandwich and then headed off for the Everglades. The route is pretty straightforward. South on Federal Highway to I-495, west on I-495 to I-75, south on the new I-75 extension to the Ronald Reagan Turnpike/Florida's Turnpike, south on the Turnpike to Sweetwater and Florida Route 41, and then west to the Shark Valley Entrance to Everglades National Park.


 

Everglades National Park: Location and History

 


Everglades National Park is very extensive. Most people think it is somewhere in Central Florida, south of Orlando and west of Fort Lauderdale. However, it actually occupies the southwestern tip of the state, where the land area tapers off into coastal wetlands and then finally into the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Keys. As you can see from this map of the entire park, it is actually southwest of Miami- just west of Homestead, Florida, the city that was pretty much devastated by Hurricane Andrew some years ago.

The map is too high-level for you to see much detail, but most of the swampy area is in the western part of the park. We could have gone over there for our bike riding, but all we wanted to do this trip was get a taste of the park and get acclimatized to the bike carrier. It did work well, being just like the one I have here, but we'll need to find a better way to distribute the weight so it doesn't lose its secure base on the trunk lid at highway speeds.

Everglades National Park was established on 30 May 1934, when an Act was passed authorizing a park to be acquired through public donations. Everglades National Park was to be "...wilderness, (where) no development ... or plan for the entertainment of visitors shall be undertaken which will interfere with the preservation intact of the unique flora and fauna of historic values and the essential primitive natural conditions now prevailing in this area." This mandate to preserve wilderness and its biota is one of the strongest in the legislative history of the National Park System. Thirteen years later, through a combination of federal, state and private lands, a vast wetland teeming with life was dedicated as a national park. Everglades was the first national park preserved primarily for its abundance and variety of life, rather than for scenic or historic values.

"Here are no lofty peaks seeking the sky, no mighty glaciers or rushing streams wearing away the uplifted land. Here is land, tranquil in its quiet beauty, serving not as the source of water, but as the receiver of it. To its natural abundance we owe the spectacular plant and animal life that distinguishes this place from all others in our country." With these words, President Harry S. Truman formally dedicated Everglades National Park on 06 December 1947 in a ceremony held at Everglades City. This event culminated years of effort by a dedicated group of conservationists to make a national park in the Florida Everglades a reality. The Visitor Center near the main park entrance is dedicated to the man who made the creation of the park his life's work- Ernest F. Coe.

Tom Coe was a Yale-educated landscape architect who moved to Miami in 1925. In 1928, Coe and others organized the Tropical Everglades National Park Association, devoted solely to the creation of a national park in south Florida. Dr. David Fairchild, the former head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Plant Exploration, was the association's first president. The following year, the Florida legislature authorized the Tropical Everglades National Park Commission to take over the responsibilities of the Tropic Everglades National Park Association and with the power to acquire land by purchase, gift, bequest or condemnation. In the same year, the U.S. Congress authorized an investigation into the feasibility of a national park project in South Florida. A special committee, which included the superintendent of the first National Park- Yellowstone- toured the area by auto, boat, and Goodyear blimp, with local park advocates and, upon their return to Washington, D.C., reported favorably to Congress on the proposed park. Everglades National Park was off and running on its road to reality.

Boundary changes since 1947 have substantially increased the size of the park from the original 460,000 acres to over 1.5 million acres, the last 100,000 acres added in 1989. Total visits in 1999 exceeded 1 million, with most coming in December through April. Walking, bike and canoe trails, boat tours and tram tours are all excellent for viewing wildlife, including alligators and a multitude of tropical and temperate birds.


In this enlargement of the northeast corner of the park you can see the Shark Valley section. The border of the park runs alongside the old Tamiami Trail highway, one of the most fabled in the United States. In the early 1900s, Miami was just about the only population center on the Atlantic side of the state- at least in South Florida. It was isolated from the rest of the state, with only a rail line bringing visitors and land developers to South Florida. The first major highway to be constructed was the Tamiami Trail, which linked Miami with the city of Tampa on the Gulf Coast and about a hundred miles north. This highway went right through the Everglades, and was popular for tourists who wanted to see alligators and swampland.

By the 1950s, the population of eastern South Florida had increased dramatically. Miami had grown into one of the largest cities in the entire Southeast, and hundreds of thousands of people had begun to fill the new cities of Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale and the Palm Beaches. All these people couldn't be expected to continue to use the old Tamiami Trail to get to the Florida West Coast, even though the highway had been upgraded significantly. Four new cross-Florida expressways were created. One ran directly west from Fort Lauderdale to Fort Myers. Another connected Miami more directly to Tampa (Interstate 75), one connected South Florida to Orlando and Tallahassee (Florida's Turnpike) and the last, and busiest, connected all of Southeast Florida to Jacksonville and all points north- Interstate 95. Like spokes on a wheel, these highways made it easier for Floridians to get to other parts of the state and, just as quickly, made it far easier for more people to reach South Florida, which became one of the fastest-growing areas of the entire country.

All of this impacted Everglades National Park, which saw its visitation rise steadily. The park's facilities have been upgraded frequently and now, because it is the only sizeable National Park located near a major population center (it is less than a one hour drive from over five million people), it is also one of the most visited.


 

Getting Ready for Our Bike Ride

 


We got to the Park in the early afternoon, paid our entrance fee, and found a spot near the visitor center in the large parking area (see the aerial view at right). There were quite a few cars here, even on a weekday- evidence of the park's high visitation. We started to unload the bikes and in pretty short order were ready to head off down the bike trail.

 

DANGER!
ALLIGATORS AHEAD!



 

Beginning Our Ride

 


We bypassed the bike rental and visitor center for now, and headed down the western side of a 15-mile loop road that is used by bicyclists, pedestrians and trams. You can watch a movie of us just starting out using the player below:


We were looking forward to seeing lots of wildlife, and maybe some alligators. Little did we know. From just a few hundred feet down the road, Fred took a picture of me looking back towards the trailhead. You can go either way on the trail, but it is one continuous loop and there are, as they say, only one set of "facilities" at the eight mile mark. Slow walkers be warned.


It became pretty apparent pretty quickly that our trip here to the Everglades to enjoy biking and see wildlife was going to be wildly successful on both counts. The biking was certainly fun, as it always is, but the variety and frequency of wildlife sightings was just incredible. We hadn't gone even a half mile from the Visitor Center before we began to see a wide variety of birds and quite a few alligators- all right by the bike trail- with the alligators so close that you could touch them. Here are some thumbnails for the first pictures we took of the wildlife; click on them to view the full-size images:


Here are a couple more good examples of the alligators we've been seeing. First, I took this picture of an alligator facing away from us at about the same time as Fred was capturing a closeup of its head. Also, I got this shot of an alligator in the reeds and then took a movie of the same reptile that you can watch with the player at right. In all these, you can see that what we are looking at are alligators.

A little further into the ride, we came upon another alligator, but this one was only a foot or so from the edge of the road, so we got a really good view of it. You can take a look at the full-size images we captured of this particular alligator by clicking on the thumbnails below; the first two pictures are Fred's, the second two I took.


 

Everglades National Park: A Park for Everyone

 

We found out that there is a distinction for certain parks around the world that only a select few US National Parks have been given; the distinction is called a "World Park." In the Everglades, earth water, and sky blend in a low green landscape; mere inches of elevation produce distinct changes in vegetation; and where a great wealth of birds and other wildlife find refuge. For this is almost exclusively a biological park dedicated to the preservation of a complex and precisely ordered living mechanism. It lies at the interface between temperate and sub-tropical America, giving a rich diversity of species, many at the limit of their ranges.

World Parks have a unique or rare topography; here, the topography is so subdued that a broad sheet of water slowly flows over and through the porous limestone bedrock on its way to the sea, rather than following well-defined valleys. Most of the park is actually covered with water during normal wet seasons, while dry winters cause fresh water to dwindle to a few open areas crowded with wildlife.

World Parks house wide varieties of flora and fauna. The great floral variety of the Everglades is one of the key resources of the park. Among its more prominent and colorful plants are Bromeliads and epiphytic orchids. As many as 25 varieties of orchids are known to occur in the park, in addition to over 1000 other kinds of seed-bearing plants and 120 species of trees. Over 36 threatened or endangered animal species reside in Everglades National Park, such as the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) and crocodile (Crocodylus acutus), the Florida panther (Felis concolor coryi), the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), and the Cape Sable seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritima mirabilis). Over 300 species of birds have been recorded, seven of which are rare or endangered.

World Parks often have plant and animal species that are extremely rare or endangered. Protection of wading birds and their rookeries from commercial exploitation and encroachments was the prime reason for setting the park aside. Although habitat changes have reduced historic numbers, tens of thousands of birds feed and nest within the Everglades, providing visitors with opportunities of a lifetime for viewing them.

But Everglades National Park is even more that a World Park. It is the ONLY park in this entire hemisphere that has been recognized with all three of the major international park designations.

First, the Everglades has been named an International Biosphere Reserve. These Reserves are a project of the Man and the Biosphere program of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Reserves are protected samples of the world's major ecosystem types. These sites are standards against which we can measure human impact on our environment and predict its probable effects. There are now over 190 reserves in 50 countries. Established for its biological values, Everglades National Park was added to this world list on October 26, 1976.

Second, the Everglades is a World Heritage Site, sites designated by UNESCO under the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. By the World Heritage Convention's 25th anniversary in 1997, nearly 150 nations had ratified the agreement and placed more than 500 sites on the World Heritage List. The Everglades, a subtropical mosaic of surprising diversity, is a refuge for 13 threatened or endangered animal species. Here, human history spans over 2000 years--from nomadic Calusa to modern settler. Because of this unique weave of natural and cultural history, Everglades National Park became a World Heritage Site on October 26, 1979.

Finally, the Everglades has been designated a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. Known popularly as the "Ramsar Convention", the Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. There are presently 116 parties to the Convention, with 1005 wetland sites, designated for inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. The Everglades was designated as a Wetland of International Importance on June 4, 1987.


Birds in the Everglades

 

The Everglades is home to a huge variety of wading birds, one of which you can see in the photo at the left. This bird was one of a great many that we saw near the trail as we were biking along.

These particular birds (whose name we do not know) made a particular clicking sound, perhaps to attract other birds or perhaps for some other purpose. Like an idiot, I thought I might be able to attract the bird to come closer by imitating the sound as best I could, but all I succeeded in doing is becoming the silly soundtrack for Fred's bird movie that you can watch with the player below:


The rarest of all the birds we saw was the Wood Stork. We were actually lucky to see one; a park ranger had stopped on the road and seemed intent on something off in the marshy brush. She was the one who pointed the wood stork out to us.

The Wood Stork is a large, long-legged wading bird about 40 inches high with a wing span of 60 inches. It is considered to be an "indicator species" in the Everglades because it has rather specific habitat requirements and is closely related with the habitats of other species.

Quality, quantity, timing, and distribution of water in its environment directly determine the well-being and number of this species as well as other species. Monitoring this selected species will reveal much about the health of the entire environment in which it lives.

The wood stork is now endangered. It locates food with its bill by groping for small fresh-water fish in shallow water. This method of feeding is best when low water periods develop and the fish concentration increases. Although, due to modern water control programs, excessive drying patterns have created difficulties for the bird. By studying the wood stork, scientists have found that there is a decline in all wading birds in the park since the 1930's by at least 90%.

Below are some thumbnails for some of the many pictures of birds that Fred and I took as we were biking down the road. Click on as many as you wish to see the full-size images:


 

The Everglades Ecosystem

 


The rock beneath this first national park created to protect a threatened ecological system is just 6,000 to 8,000 years old and in its infancy. South Florida surfaced only since the Ice Age. Nowhere does the Everglades landscape (have a look at this landscape using the player at left) top eight feet above sea level. And like some low island, this subtropical region enjoys no source of water but the rains that fall on it. Despite all its designations, the Everglades and the endangered species in it may still disappear. Numbers of wading birds nesting in colonies in the southern Everglades have declined 93% since the 1930's. Migrating birds use Everglades National Park both as critical wintering areas and as a stopover, and if it disappears, species like the Cape May warbler, peregrine falcon, bobolinks, and tree swallows will be affected.

Today, extensive canal and levee systems shut off the life-giving bounty of the rain before it can reach the national park, which makes up only one-fifth of the historic Everglades. At times the water control structures at the park boundary are closed, and no water nourishes the wood stork's habitat. Or, alternately, water control structures are opened and unnaturally pent-up, human-managed flood waters inundate Everglades creatures' nests or eggs and disperse seasonal concentrations of the wading birds' prey. Added to these problems is the presence of pollutants from agricultural run-off. High levels of mercury are identified in all levels of the food chain.

Many animals are specifically adapted to the alternating wet and dry seasons. When human manipulation of the water supplies are ill-timed with natural patterns, disasters can results. Alligators build their nests at the high-water level. If more water is released into the park, their nests are flooded and destroyed. Endangered snail kite birds feed on the aquatic apple snail. Low-water conditions, human caused or natural, reduce snail and snail-kite populations. In the early 1960's only 20 to 25 snail kites remained in North America because of prolonged drought. Snails lay eggs above the water in the wet season. If managers release more water, snails fail to reproduce.

Given present trends, the endangered wood storks may no longer nest in South Florida by the year 2020. The wood stork has declined from 6,000 nesting birds to just 500 since the 1960's. Their feeding behavior explains their predicament. Wood storks feed not by sight, but by touch -"tacto-location"- in shallow and often muddy water full of plants. Fish can't be seen in those conditions. Walking slowly forward the stork sweeps its submerged bill from side to side. Touching prey, mostly small fish, the bill snaps shut with a 25- second millisecond reflex action, the fastest known for vertebrates. Only seasonally drying wetlands (mostly in drying ponds)concentrate enough fish to provide the 440 pounds a pair of these big birds requires in a breeding season. When natural wetlands cycles are upset by human water management, wood storks fail to nest successfully.

Native trees, such as mangroves and cypress, are being replaced by exotic (introduced) species from other countries. Florida largemouth bass share their nesting beds with tilapia and oscars, fish imported from Africa and South America. As the Everglades yield to human introduced plants and fish, native species diminish.

Restoration and preservation efforts are underway, but the fate of the Everglades still hangs in the balance. In one of the world's largest ecosystem restoration projects, Congress has extended the park boundaries to protect the eastern Shark River Slough. Historically it hosted higher concentrations of wading bird nesting populations than any other area in the park. The enlargement should help turn around the 93 percent decline these species have suffered by restoring critical, suitable habitat. The National Park and the State of Florida have agreed to be partners in enforcing the existing water quality regulations to address water quality problems. The Park Service is working with the US Army Corps of Engineers and other water management jurisdictions to adopt natural rainfall models of manipulating water supplies.

The park was established to save the Everglades, but real problems continue to beset this landscape. Nothing is saved for good; the Everglades' fate remains our mandate.

 

Biking Along the Park Road

 


The afternoon is going quite well. There is plenty of wildlife to see as I bike along the roadway. Occasionally, I'll stop to take an alligator picture (and here I am giving the alligator a wide berth, just in case). But most of the time, it's just going from one side of the road to the other, looking at wildlife as I ride.

Fred is also enjoying his ride through the Park; he seems to be able to spot things a little quicker than I, or maybe it's just that he is usually ahead of me. There is a tram that takes those visitors who either don't want to or can't ride a bike or walk on a circle tour of Shark Valley; bicyclists are supposed to stop when it passes, as it has just done here.

I should say a bit about the landscape here at Shark River. Throughout the park, slight changes in elevation (only inches), water salinity, and soil create entirely different landscapes, each with its own community of plants and animals. Generally, the Everglades is a low, flat plain shaped by the action of water and weather. In the summer wet season it is a wide, grassy river. In the winter season the edge of the slough is a dry grassland, as it is now.

As we have ridden along, we have seen what appears to be huge amounts of what looks for all the world like lint covering large areas of the grassland. Actually, this stuff is marl sediment, a calcareous material that settles on the limestone bedrock. The marl allows slow seepage of the water but not drainage. Though the sawgrass is not as tall and the water is not as deep, freshwater marl prairies look a lot like freshwater sloughs.



A freshwater slough is the deeper and faster-flowing center of a broad marshy river. This "fast" flow moves at a leisurely pace of 100 feet/day. Dotted with tree-islands called hammocks or heads, this vast landscape channels life-giving waters from north to south. Everglades National Park contains two distinct sloughs. Shark River Slough, known as the "river of grass," is where we are now. Taylor Slough, a narrow, eastern branch of the "river," and is, of course, east of us. There are no surface connections between the two.

There are also more marine-type habitats, of course, but we are some distance from them, and so won't encounter them today. Today's plants are those of the grassland- grasses and some hardwood stands. One very common plant that we have seen all day is the thistle, shown at right, exactly the same plant that is so prominent in Fred's pasture.


 


Alligators and Crocodiles in the Everglades

 

Since we'd seen some reptiles already, we began to wonder what the difference was between alligators and crocodiles. We assumed we were looking at alligators (the Tamiami Trail is also known as "Alligator Alley"). It turns out that they are similar but different. First off, they are from different families of crocodilians. But since you can't ask them their family tree, can you tell by looking?

The easiest way to tell the difference between the two is that a crocodile has a very long, narrow, V-shaped snout, while the alligator's snout is wider and U-shaped. Because the alligator has a more powerful jaw, it can eat turtles, in addition to the fish and mammals that form the crocodile's diet.

Another physical difference is that the crocodiles teeth are mostly exposed when the jaw is closed, but most of the alligator's are hidden. Both crocodiles and alligators have an enormous 4th tooth on the lower jaw (much like the big tooth that you can see in a hippopotamus, but that tooth is exposed in a crocodile but hidden in the alligator.

Finally, crocodiles have a lighter olive brown coloration, while alligators appear blackish, and all the reptiles we saw (and that you can see in all the pictures) were, indeed, black in color, so I don't think we saw one of the relatively scarce crocodiles that make the Everglades their home.

Alligators also prefer freshwater while crocodiles like brackish water and sometimes even ocean. Crocodiles and alligators both have glands on their tongues, but crocodiles still use these glands to excrete excess salt. Alligators seem to have lost this ability, making their tolerance for salt water comparatively brief. Biologists believe this suggests that the crocodile is less removed from its oceanic ancestry.

We saw many alligators on our way to the Observation Tower at the halfway point in our bike ride, and I've selected many of the better pictures for you to look at. Below are the thumbnails for quite a few pictures of the various alligators we saw- big ones and little ones, swimming ones and sunning ones. Please feel free to look at as many of them as you wish by clicking on their thumbnails:


 

Another Close Encounter of the Reptilian Kind

 


Fred had gotten a bit ahead of me, and I was intent on catching up, so I didn't notice this fellow until I was literally on top of him. I think I swerved just a bit, and I guess Fred thought that was amusing, but I'd been looking the other way and was just startled. In any event, this was the closest I'd actually come to an alligator, and while I will cheerfully pass right by the signs on hiking trails that say "Under No Circumstances Go Beyond This Sign," I wasn't about to try my luck by reaching out to touch the alligator; I value my manual dexterity a bit too much.

But I did circle back around to try to capture the close encounter with a short movie, and you can view that movie using the player at left.

 

The Observation Tower

 


At about the halfway mark in the ride, right at the south end of the Shark Valley road, is the Observation Tower (marked on the map you saw earlier). The picture at left is a bit misleading; Fred wanted me in the picture of the tower at the end of the road, but didn't want me from behind, so I circled back to go towards him- purely for effect.


When we arrived at the observation tower, we found some bike racks where we could leave the bikes. I would have locked them up, but I didn't think it necessary. We had not passed any people walking in quite some time, although there had been a couple of people on bikes. The tram that was parked at the tower was just leaving, and we knew there wouldn't be another one for an hour. So there was really no one who could take the bikes, at least during the time we would be at the tower itself.

So, putting the bikes in the rack (see aerial view at left), we walked over to the pathway leading to the Observation Tower. As you can see from these two pictures and the aerial view, there is a circular building built on piers just about twenty feet above the swampy area below. It is in this building that there are some facilities (the only ones on the 15-mile route) and some exhibits.

Then there is a sweeping spiral rap that leads up to the main observation platform. I can only imagine that the ramp was designed to allow handicapped access. On the main platform there is another spiral staircase that leads to an upper platform. It would have been fun to climb all the way up to the top, but the spiral staircase had been closed and locked, perhaps because someone had not been careful sometime in the past.


One of the interesting exhibits in the facilities building was this one that showed the general flow of water through the Everglades.

Before Florida was settled, water from Lake Okeechobee flowed freely- like a slow river fifty miles wide and a few inches deep- and finally merged with the salty waters of Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. This water source was, and is the foundation of Everglades National Park's immensely complex web of life.

The yellow area at the right edge of the state is, of course, the urban area that is made of up of Miami, Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale. The flow of this slow, shallow "river" no longer goes across that area; canals and levees have been built at the western edges of these cities, and these direct such flow as remains to the south and west. The New River in Fort Lauderdale is one of the last remaining outlets of this flow along Florida's East Coast.

Then, in 1962, flood gates along the Tamiami Trail were closed, and the natural flow was blocked. This has had a dramatic effect on the park.

Because the Tamiami Trail and the other east-west highways in the southern part of Florida were absolutely necessary, a manmade system of canals and reservoirs had to be built to allow water to flow under these highways. This system now controls almost all overland flow into the park. But it has meant that large areas of the park that were once swampy have dried out, as water is channeled through certain areas only. In the rainy season, water may still cover those areas, but it is no longer a year-round condition.


We left the exhibit area and began walking up the spiral ramp to the platform. All along the ramp there were excellent views, such as this view of the tower from halfway up the ramp and this view of the tower from the top of the ramp. As we walked up the ramp, it seemed as if we were being watched; this crow kept walking along the ramp railing just ahead of us. The significance of this would become apparent only sometime later.

Here are some more views taken from the ramp- views of the tower and of the surrounding landscape. To view the full-size images, just click on the thumbnails:

The view from the observation tower was really neat. Looking back up the road, you can see just how flat the land is here; the flatness is broken only by some of the stands of hardwood trees that grow on the hammocks- which themselves are only a few inches higher than the surrounding land. And behind me, in this picture, you can get an appreciation for why this part of the park is called "the River of Grass."

We could see in all directions from the tower, and we could get our first look at the eastern side of the bike loop in this view looking northeast. In this view of Fred on the ramp you can see the road we came down, and the parking area behind him.

Just below us, underneath the observation tower, there was what appeared to be a small lake, and we could see a number of alligators on the shore as well as one or two alligators in the water. The birds on the shore seemed to be giving the alligators a wide berth, although I don't think that wading birds are one of the alligator's usual prey.

 

The Crime

 


As so often happens when things are about to go terribly wrong, I almost missed the first subtle hint that something was amiss. We were taking pictures from the top of the observation tower, and all seemed well. The sun was shining. The air was warm. There was a gentle breeze.

Perhaps it was that feeling of a finger of cold air gently caressing the back of my neck. Maybe it was that cloud that temporarily blocked the sun. Maybe it was just that sixth sense that we all have when danger is near. Nah. I think it was the guy who walked up to us and asked "Did either of you have anything valuable in your bike bag?"

My first quick thought was that I had been wrong earlier about the safety of the bikes. Perhaps someone had walked down to the bike rack and sped away on my sole transportation. But, no, that didn't make sense. And then, all of a sudden, it hit me. And all of a sudden the presence of the crow earlier, shadowing our every move, watching us as if on lookout- suddenly and in a flash, it all made sense.


We hurried back to the bike and found the unmistakable evidence. My bike bag had been vandalized. But not by the hand of man. No, something much more surprising was going on here- mother nature had taken the odd turn she so often does. I knew I was being watched. I turned slowly, dreading what I would see and there, sure enough, were the culprits watching me with their beady little criminal eyes and, I thought, laughing amongst themselves at my consternation.

I was angry at myself that I had totally overlooked the subtle signs that perhaps, just perhaps, I might be inviting trouble by leaving my bike bag unattended. Well, not so subtle, I guess, since the sign right in front of my bike said clearly and unambiguously "Do Not Leave Items Unattended."

Well, I'd learned a hard lesson- not to be so trusting in the future. If you want to know what the rest of the sign said, and I think you should, please watch my crime scene movie using the player at left.

 

The Geology of Everglades National Park

 

The landscapes we see today in South Florida are a direct result of geologic events of the past. There is no place better to see this than in South Florida's National Parks. Here the geologic record is still fairly intact. Although the activities of humans have altered the landscape somewhat, the overall picture can still be seen.

The rocks beneath the Big Cypress Swamp are among the oldest in South Florida. Six million years ago a shallow sea covered this area. Sediments of silt and sand and particles of calcium deposited on the bottom of this sea gradually cemented into limestone. Today this rock is called the Tamiami Formation. The Tamiami Formation is also found in the northwest corner of Everglades National Park. Here, fresh water flowing out of Big Cypress mixes with salt water from the Gulf of Mexico in a highly productive mangrove estuary. The resulting nutrient-rich soup supports a marine nursery for pink shrimp, snook, and snapper.

Other rocks beneath the Everglades were formed during the time of the Great Ice Age. Although no glaciers developed in Florida, their effects were felt here. As glaciers in other areas of the world expanded, much of the earth's water supply was trapped in the ice. Sea levels in South Florida lowered as much as 300 feet below present levels. The Great Ice Age was actually four shorter ice ages with periods of warming in between. During these warmer "interglacial" stages, the ice melted and returned to the sea. The last interglacial stage occurred about 100,000 years ago. At its peak, the sea level in South Florida rose 100 feet above present levels.

The rocks beneath the southeast section of the Park were formed in this sea. Calcium carbonate settling out of the water coated tiny bits of shell or sand in layer upon layer. The resulting spherical grains of limestone are called ooids. The Atlantic Coastal Ridge which runs from Mahogany Hammock northeast to Miami was formed as long shore currents pushed the ooids up into a long ridge. The ooids later cemented into rock known as Miami Oolite. Miami Oolite also covers most of the area east of Everglades National Park and most of Florida Bay.

In quieter waters covering the central portions of the Park, tiny moss animals called Bryozoans flourished. As they died their calcium skeletons settled to the bottom. These sediments later cemented into rock known as the Miami Bryzoan Limestone.

As in most areas of South Florida, subtle changes in elevation result in dramatic changes in vegetation communities. Pine forests are found on the high ground of the Atlantic Coastal Ridge. Where fire has been excluded, pines give way to hardwood hammocks. In wetter areas near the end of the ridge, dwarf pond cypress grow. South of the ridge sawgrass prairies take over again. A narrow band of mangroves fringe the southeast coast, and the shallow waters of Florida Bay today provide an abundant food supply for great numbers of wading birds.

 

Heading Back to the Trailhead

 

It's been quite a day, what with all the wildlife- alligators and birds- the observation tower, and even the criminal crows (why can't THEY be endangered?). But it's time to head back. This time, we took the eastern road, which we discovered to be as curvy and serpentine as the western part was straight. There weren't as many alligators here, as the land was drier. But the "River of Grass" was very much in evidence. As we were biking back, we passed one of the last trams of the day.


Just before the road got back to the parking area, we turned off onto a boardwalk nature trail that led through the marsh and the hammocks. Here, there were a number of exhibits detailing the flora of the Everglades, and taking us through all the various environment types- swamp, grassland and hammock. We walked the bikes along the boardwalk until we got to the road we'd started out on, and then we biked back to the car.

This has been a really interesting and fun afternoon. Next time we are in Florida, we plan to take the bikes over to the west coast and visit the other parts of Everglades National Park. But all we have to do now is load up the bikes and head home.

But before I finish this narrative of our day in Everglades National Park, I'd like to insert one more section on endangered species and what is being done to save them. All except the crows, I hope.


 

Endangered Species

 

Threatened, endangered and extinct are words that have become all too common in our 20th century vocabulary. The natural process of species evolution, taking hundreds and thousands of years, has accelerated rapidly since the turn of the century. Today because of man's desire for land and raw materials, his continued pollution and indiscriminate hunting many plant and wildlife species are on the brink of extinction.

Drainage of wetlands, alteration of overland water flow and hunting have all contributed to species decline. The Everglades, once known for its abundant bird life, has seen its wading bird population decline drastically since the turn of the century. The Florida Panther once common throughout the state, today is on the verge of extinction. Within the four National Park areas of Everglades National Park, Biscayne National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve and Fort Jefferson National Monument there are 16 endangered and 6 threatened wildlife species. The mere physical boundaries of a National Park do not guarantee a species survival.

Maintaining harmony between "20th century progress" and wilderness areas requires research, legislation and public awareness. For the last decade the South Florida Research Center, Everglades National Park, has been studying how changes occurring outside the parks influence the fragile areas within their boundaries. Research going on today may lead to a brighter future for many species.

Legislation such as the Endangered Species Act of 1973 has also afforded some measure of protection for wildlife. The Act provided for the classification of wildlife species as "endangered" or"threatened," and mandated legal protection for species so listed. In justification for such protection, the Act also recognized that the various species of fish, wildlife and plants have aesthetic, educational, historical and scientific value.

All of the endangered species in the Everglades are threatened by loss of habitat and alteration of water flow. An endangered species is a species of plant or animal that, throughout all or a significant portion of its range, is in danger of extinction. Everglades National Park is, or was at one time, home to fifteen endangered species. A sixteenth species, the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, disappeared from the park in the 1940's.

All of the rare and endangered species are threatened by loss of habitat and alteration of water flow to the park. The survival of these species is a major focus of the park's research effort. When active population management (such as captive breeding or reintroduction) is necessary, the Park Service joins forces with other wildlife agencies.

Endangered Species in Everglades National Park:

Reptiles:

American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus)
The American Crocodile is a lizard-shaped reptile which ranges in length between nine inches (at hatching) to fifteen feet (23cm - 4.6m). The crocodile is slimmer than the alligator, and has a longer, more tapered snout. The crocodile feeds primarily on fish, although it is an opportunistic feeder and will eat almost any animal that comes into its territory. Crocodiles in Florida inhabit the coastal mangrove swamps, brackish and salt-water bays (including northern Florida Bay), creeks, and coastal canals. It is unlikely that any will remain outside the park within five years.

Green turtle (Chelonia mydas)
Atlantic Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys kempi)
Atlantic hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
Atlantic leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

Birds:

Cape Sable seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritima mirabilis)
Snail (Everglades) kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus)
Wood stork (Mycteria americana)
Arctic Peregrine Falcon
Southern Bald Eagle
Red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis)

Mammals:

West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus)
The Manatee, or sea cow, is a massive, thick-skinned mammal with paddle-like forelimbs. It is grey-brown in color, weighs between 790 and 1,190 pounds (360 - 540kg), and is eight to fifteen feet in length (2.4 - 4.6m). Manatees inhabit slow-moving rivers, shallow estuaries, and salt water bays where they feed on aquatic vegetation. They are essentially gentle animals and have been used as agents for aquatic weed control. The survival of the manatee has been threatened due to propellers of boats, vandal attacks, poaching, and habitat destruction.

Florida panther (Felis concolor coryi)
The Panther originally occurred throughout most of the southeastern United States, but due to expanding urban development, it has been virtually eliminated. Panther sightings have been reported in some southeastern states, but probably do not exist in any of the eastern states except Florida. The Florida panther is a large, long-tailed, pale brown cat, which may be up to six feet (1.8 m) in length. The panther families usually contain only two or three young, and panthers breed only once every two or three years. Panthers are nomadic animals that have the ability to travel up to twenty miles (32 km) in one journey. They feed primarily on deer and wild hogs; however, some, particularly the younger cats, feed on smaller animals. It is believed that fewer than 50 survive.

Key Largo wood rat (Neotoma floridana smalli)
Key Largo cotton mouse (Peromyscus gossypinus allapaticola)

Insects:

Schaus swallowtail butterfly (Papilio aristodemus ponceanus)


 

Friday, March 2

 

Today was a lazy day in Florida. Not that we were all tuckered out from riding through the Everglades yesterday, but we just didn't have much on the schedule. We went by Lauderdale Cyclery and I ordered a second bicycle like mine; it will be much lighter and easier to put on and take off the bike carrier. I will keep Fred's current bike as a third one, and get rid of my old one.

We did some other errands, and also went down to the beach to play backgammon and enjoy the afternoon. Also as usual, late in the afternoon we took our frozen drinks down to the dock where, also as usual, Fred snapped a couple of pictures of the river traffic, including a really handsome sailboat and one of the dinner cruises. Then, for only the second time during our stay, we went out to one of our favorite haunts for cocktail hour, had dinner at a different barbecue restaurant, and then went out again later.


 

Saturday, March 3

 

Breakfast on the Beach

 


During the week, we'd scouted out places where we might go to have breakfast on the beach this morning, and we'd settled on The Deck, a restaurant towards the north end of Fort Lauderdale beach. The Art Fair was going on today, so most of Las Olas was blocked off, but we can always get in and out along SE 4th Street. We drove over to the beach and then headed north on A1A, and Fred took a couple of pictures of the early morning beachfront as we were driving along. You can see those pictures here and here. As we approached the restaurant, I stopped to let Fred out while I went to park the car on a side street.

The Deck Restaurant was a pretty nice place, with a balcony patio overlooking the beach- just the kind of place we had been looking for. The menu was pretty varied and the prices were reasonable, so I suspect we will come over here again. We got seated pretty quickly, although the restaurant was pretty busy, and we had a good table with a great view (including the dolphin sculpture seen at the left). You can watch a movie I made here using the player below:


I took my own pictures while Fred studied the menu; we ended up getting our usual omelette and pancakes. The breakfast was good, and we spent a few minutes walking along the beach walk when we finished (and when we finished, there was quite a line forming at the restaurant).

On the way back to the condo, while driving along Las Olas, Fred snapped a few pictures of some of the finger island canals on his side of the street, and you can view the full-size pictures he took by clicking on the thumbnails below:

As we were turning back into SE 4th Street (Las Olas having been blocked off), Fred caught the Art Fair Trolley dropping off some people. The trolley is used for various events along Las Olas; for the Art fair, it shuttles people from the parking areas further east to this point where the Art Fair begins.

 

The Las Olas Art Fair

 

It seems as if at least once a year when we come down to Florida, we hit just the right weekend for the Las Olas Art Fair. I suspect that this is the sixth or seventh spring Fair (it is held twice a year) that we've been fortunate enough to attend.


The Art Fair is held along Las Olas Boulevard from the Cheesecake Factory on the west (right over the Kinney Tunnel) to the intersection of SE 4th St and Las Olas on the East (if it went any further, we wouldn't be able to get in or out of our neighborhood). All the cross streets are blocked off, and the vendors' stalls are set up in two rows, back to back, on top of the median down the middle of Las Olas. The Fair is always absolutely full, and sometimes there is a bit of overflow into the side streets. The Fair is always fun to attend- and easy, too, since it is only a block from the condo.

After we got back from breakfast, we took our cameras and headed over to Las Olas. There were quite a few vendors with some interesting things, and each of us made a purchase or two. I got some new artwork for the condo and also paid for some ceramic tiles on which the artist puts whatever picture(s) you send him. Then you can either mount them on a wall, display them in a holder or even use them for trivets. Fred found a neat buffalo picture/artifact (a picture with a relic below it, both mounted in a shadowbox frame). That I purchased and put away for a future gift. But he found some other stuff, too.

We took quite a few pictures at the Art Fair. I won't try to describe all of them, since most of them are just random pictures of the Fair itself, some of the items being sold or the surrounding area to the Fair. You will note in this first section of pictures one shot that appears to be a row of dolls. Actually, if you send the artist a photo of a person, and then some information about their interests or perhaps how you would like them dressed, he makes the doll figures to order. It would be fun to see what he would do with pictures of myself and Fred, but in the end I decided not to find out. So here are some of Fred's pictures; To see the full-size image, just click on the thumbnail:

I took a bunch of pictures, too, as we were wandering through the Art Fair, and you can look at them by clicking on the thumbnails below:

Fred is often intrigued by architecture, and there is a courtyard building with a nice fountain in the middle of one of the blocks along Las Olas, and he stopped to take some pictures. You can see another one of the building here.

We'd been wandering around the Art Fair for a while, and then we ran into Jack Fontaine, my neighbor from two doors down at Riverview Gardens. Here's a picture of Jack and I, and here is a picture of Fred and Jack. There was someone else we ran into that I thought should be in a picture with Fred, and you can see Fred and that someone here. I should probably note here that about a week after we returned from Florida, Jack called me and said he'd put his condo up for sale. I was surprised, but he explained that since he'd had his dizzy spell and been in the hospital, he was worried about being alone, and so had put down a reservation on a unit at John Knox Village. The Village is a family-friendly place up north of Ron Drew near I-95. When you move in, you sign over, I guess, all your assets to them and in return you get a place to live, in perpetuity, and free, 24-hour monitoring and care by their medical personnel. I don't think hospital stuff is included, but at least, Jack thought, he'd never have to worry about not being able to call for help when need be. We'll be sorry to see him leave Riverview Gardens, but all things change, I guess.

There was another artisan's interesting exhibit that we took a number of pictures (not many of them good) of, and that was the Pozzobonelli "sculptures." These look like stone slabs that might have been taken from the side of an ancient building- perhaps in Greece, Rome or Egypt. In reality, they are composites. They are shaped and cracked to look very old, but are actually quite light and very sturdy (the cracks being part of the artwork). I could imagine them in gardens or in certain settings within homes or businesses; actually, we thought of Prudence when we saw them. In any event, we took some pictures of them, and they might be of interest to you. Just click on the thumbnails below to view the full-size images, and ignore the fact that Fred seemed only to be able to catch me with my eyes closed:

It was fun wandering around the Art Fair; when we got back to the beginning, we made note of the stalls we might like to return to the next day and we went back to the condo. We had been invited by Ron and Jay to have dinner at their house, but we had some time before then, so I did a stint on the exercise bike while Fred surfed the Internet, and then we had our frozen drinks down by the dock. Fred got an amusing pictures of some passengers on one of the passing boats evidently reprising Winslet and DiCaprio in "Titanic."

The dinner at Ron's house was really great. They fixed steaks and all the trimmings, and we were joined by their roommate, John and also by Ron's old friend Tom from Tampa (who had been in Palm Beach to see his heroine, Suze Orman). They really went all out, and we certainly appreciated it.


 

Sunday, March 4

 

Antique Cars on the Riverwalk

 

Well, it's our last day here, which is always a day of mixed feelings. It is so nice to be down here that you hate to go home, but you've been away from home for a while and are anxious to get back. Yin and yang, I suppose. Today we'll be biking along the Riverwalk and over to Shirttail Charlie's for lunch, and then revisiting the Art Fair to make some purchases and look at a few different things.


We biked down through town and then over to the Riverwalk, and we found that in front of the Briny Grill and Pub there was apparently a small (eight cars or so) antique car show going on. We stopped here for quite a while so that we could get a look at all the cars. You can get an idea of what the small show was like by watching Fred's artistic movie of the car show (you'll see what I mean by "artistic" when you watch it with the player below:


We also took quite a few pictures, and although you may not want to view them all, you can look at as many of the full-size images as you want to by clicking on the thumbnails below:


 

Lunch at Shirttail Charlie's

 


One of the reasons why we rode our bikes over here rather than walked is that it is a lot quicker and easier to get over to Shirttail Charlie's on the bikes. So we left the antique cars and crossed the Andrews Street Bridge to Shirttail Charlie's on the other side of the river.

On the first Sunday of the month, there is an open-air concert in the park surrounding Old Fort Lauderdale, and from across the river we could see and hear the concert. You can watch my movie of the concert using the player below:


There were people picniking all along the river from the Riverfront Center all the way to the Performing Arts Center. Taken from our table at Shirttail Charlie's, here is Fred with Old Fort Lauderdale behind him.


Like Fred, I took a movie of the concert going on over on the other side of the river, and you can watch my movie with the player at left.

While we were waiting for our lunch to arrive, both of us snapped quite a few pictures from our vantage point by the river, and I wanted to include some of them here. Across the river, behind Riverfront Center, there is a new building going up, and the interesting thing is that down here in Florida the same tradition of putting a tree atop a new building to indicate that it has "topped out" is followed, with the exception that most other places a Christmas tree is used, while here they use potted palm trees!

From our vantage point, we could get a good view of River House and a good view of Riverfront Center with the train bridge up (as it usually is) in the foreground. Fred also took a nice picture of a typical New River scene, of special interest because of the seagull perched on the piling.

I took two similar but different pictures of Fred at the end of the dock at Shirttail Charlie's with downtown Fort Lauderdale in the background, and you can view those pictures here and here. And, finally, here I am enjoying the day and the music.


 

At the Performing Arts Center

 


After lunch, we rode the bikes back across the river and then around Old Fort Lauderdale, in front of the Science Museum and to the Performing Arts Center. There, we found some benches where we could sit and enjoy the afternoon and the music. At the Performing Arts Center, as you may have seen before, there is a very nice promenade along the river, and today there were a lot of people out because of the concerts. Looking in the other direction, you can see one of the newest condominiums on the river, The Symphony, which is actually in a great location, right at the bend in the river, right at the end of the Riverwalk, just ouside downtown, adjacent to the cultural center and, at least from the upper floors, with excellent views in most directions. Across the river, just up from Shirttail Charlie's is another condominium, a good deal older, whose name I always forget. And looking upriver is a bridge we don't see two often, the Davie Boulevard bridge.

Just before we left to head back, I got Fred to sit beside the river, with the Arts Center promenade and downtown Fort Lauderdale in the background, and you can see that picture here.

We walked our bikes most of the way back around the promenade and through the concert area, and then were able to ride them home from the area where the antique cars were.


 

A Final Visit to the Art Fair

 

We needed to go back to the Art Fair because I wanted to pick up some things we'd seen the day before. I got a couple of new pictures for the condo which I will have framed when I am back down here next month. I also picked up a buffalo picture to add to Fred's collection; it will be a birthday or Christmas gift sometime in the future. Fred got some very pretty photo tiles to hang in his kitchen, and I placed an order that will allow us to send the artist some of our favorite pictures so they can be transferred to ceramic tile.

Fred took some final pictures while we moved around the Art Fair today, and you can see the full-size images if you click on the thumbnails below:


 

We Head Home

 

Our flight was at six, so we had a bit of time to get ready. As I said, I hate to leave but am always glad to get home. The flight was a good one, and Greg picked us up at the airport here in Dallas, and we ate at Don Pablo's on the way home. All in all, another excellent trip.


 


March 10, 2007: Spring Arrives at 7011 Inwood
February 16-19, 2007: Visiting Guy at Ruckman Haus
Return to Index for 2007