fullsizerender_1Let the shelling begin!  Even on Florida’s east coast in Vero Beach, there are shells to be collected.  My travel companion started my shell collection training.  It’s tougher than you might think.  Bending over and walking slowly after an hour may result in achy back and tired thighs, but learning what to look for is the hard part.  I found a large, if not cloudy, Cowrie (bottom of picture), an imperfect Turkey Wing (upper right), a small, but sleekly Welk (center), and a couple of clam shells (upper center and left). I am promised better pickings when we get to Sanibel Island, our final destination.

fullsizerender_3Our friends in Vero Beach, where we luxuriated for two days, welcomed us with open arms and a spot on view of the ocean.  In addition to shelling and walking the beach, we sleep late and enjoyed lounging about.  It was also time to make clothes fresh again and repack for the rest of the trip.

On Day 9, March 1, like Determined Little Dumplings, we trekked across the state, headed west and south to our final destination.  With much of it two lane roads, we sandwiched ourselves between ominous trailer trucks stuffed with agricultural goods headed for market.  Florida is like Australia — well populated on the coasts with great unpeopled swaths in the middle.  Florida’s middle, however, is not arid desert, but exploding humid green fields capped with big blue sky. Think herds of lazy cattle grazing in fields dotted with palm trees next to fields sprouting sod, fruit or nut trees as far as the eye can see.

However pleasant this all may sound to you, there is a sinister side to it all because bogs and swamps to the north and south are being poisoned with fertilizer runoff that eventually flows into the Gulf creating algae on its shores.    You do not want to stop for gas or a pee in this middle world.  Amenities to travels leave much to be desired as it’s places to stop have a rustic, spooky Bates Hotel feel.

Frustrated a bit by bumper-to-bumper traffic, but happy to be back in civilization, we emerged onto Florida’s west coast.  And, as we crossed the causeway from Ft. Myers to Sanibel, we opened the windows to breath sea air, view directly into the bright light reflected off the water, and let the wind rip through our hair.  Ahh…Ahh…Ahh.

img_1138Once on the island, we lunched at the Sanibel Café where I received my second shell identification lesson while waiting for food to arrive.  Then, we were snug in our island home, sitting on the porch, feet up, gazing at wild life on the canal.  John soon arrived, driving across Alligator Alley from Miami after a conference he spoke at.  A rainbow welcomed us our first evening.  fullsizerender

Now, it’s six days on the Island, where each morning we wake up grinning from ear to ear saying, “What shall we do today? It’s just another shitty day in Paradise!”