We left Cabbage Key on Monday for about a 40-mile trip to the Ft. Myers Yacht Basin in the downtown area. You pass Captiva, Sanibel, and Ft. Myers Beach on the right, Usseppa, Pine Island, St. James City, and Cape Coral on the left, joining the Caloosahatchee River after about 20 miles. Again, lots of "slow" and "no wake" zones for manatees. We were joined early on by three dolphins that rode our port side wake for a long time.
The city marina sits at the heart of Ft. Myers. Here's a view from one of the 2 bridges close by.
The downtown area has changed quite a bit, and despite a huge population in the area, it is still has maintained a sleepy little city charm and is aptly named "The City of Palms" - they are everywhere. Most of the city streets generally look like this, lined with palms.
I'll tell you what else is in Ft. Myers - a bunch of old people! Lots of retirees and "snowbirds" who come down from the north in the winter. I guess that's OK though, we're in that group now also. And of course, the city is known for the winter homes of Edison, Ford, and Firestone.
You never know how your day is going to go. We started out expecting an electronics guy to come by and check our instruments that monitor our battery system. I won't go into detail except to say the two monitor panels have not read exactly as they should since we bought the new batteries in Ft. Walton Beach. I suspicion that some "resets" probably should have been made at that time but didn't think about it then since we were in such a rush just to get them changed out. So, I had contacted an electronics shop yesterday and the guy said he would send someone over after lunch. We decided to take a bike ride around downtown and then to Publix to get some provisions. So, I called the shop to be sure we were still on their schedule. Sort of. The original shop I was expecting had decided to "hand off" the job to another shop that "should have called by then" but had not. So, we waited another couple of hours, got some paperwork, bills, and planning done, then the second shop called to schedule us for "sometime next week." Clearly that wasn't going to work so I just called the manufacturer, went through the details with technical support, entered two new baseline numbers from the battery swap, and voila, it all looks normal again. We'll watch that closely now for a couple of days and hope that fixed everything.
With most of the day now gone, we decided to get on the bikes again for an 11-mile ride to see our old home from 1990 to 1993, across the river in North Ft. Myers. I had already checked it out a few months ago on Google Earth and it was gone, so we were very curious about what had happened. It was an older home but in great shape in a very nice neighborhood when we left it for our move to north Alabama.
This is a large piece of land just before getting to our old address, 24 Lagoon Street. They used to have a mock civil war battle here every year and the sounds of the cannon fire and guns traumatized our golden retriever, Flair, for life! Afterwards, she was always instantly rattled by loud noises, thunder, etc. After we moved to AL, we came home after a thunderstorm one day and found her hiding and trembling behind the washer/dryer!
As we approached Lagoon Street we saw the canal and dock behind our old home.
And the neighbor's place.
And another neighbor's place.
As a matter of fact, everyone's home was still there except ours! Here's where it used to be, the driveway went about to where the fence is now (which wasn't there either when we left it).
Fortunately, the guy who had bought our next-door neighbors' home not long after we left was working in his garage and we were able to hear what had happened. We never knew who bought the house after us. Back in those days, the FAA bought your house and handled all of the real estate transactions later when it sold. Anyhow, here's the story. An older couple bought the house after us and they let it run down a bit. Then a drug addict bought it and literally turned it into a drug house. He said there were frequent raids by the police, sometimes they would rush the house by road and by boat from the canal at the same time! He said it was a mess. Eventually, the "drugee" was not able to maintain the house, it was in awful condition by then and was put up for sale. I'm making an assumption there were probably remnants of meth which I hear permeates everything and there's no way to decontaminate it. Regardless, the neighbor bought the house on a short sale and had it bulldozed, made it his new back yard. Here's the view behind the fence now looking toward the canal. We used to have lots of fruit trees - orange, lime, and grapefruit - they are all gone now also. Oh well, stuff happens. It was still a great home for us in those days.
We headed back to Ft. Myers and decided to ride the free trolleys around town in case we had missed anything on our previous night's walk or this morning's bike ride. They have 2 routes. We got on the first one and had it to ourselves. Here's our personal tour guide. She was really sweet. She makes the circuit 33 times a day! As I mentioned earlier, we didn't recall downtown Ft. Myers being so nice 20 years ago. It's now a beautifully restored city with cobblestone streets, lots of sidewalk cafes, boutiques, art shops, etc.. She clarified that all that has been completed in the last few years with new plans still in progress.
We took some nighttime shots yesterday evening and had noted that these fountain areas along the riverfront were just completed in December of 2012.
There were a few more folks on the second trolley, mostly older resident folks going to Publix or sightseers. One "regular" rider was kind of funny - when he got off of the trolley he asked the driver if he minded if he "picked up some wild women and brought them back on the bus with him." I thought we should hang around for a while, make a few trips around the trolley route and see what happened, but Rhonda decided we were hungry by then. So, we had a great dinner (hamburgers actually, but really good hamburgers) at "Ford's Garage."
And a short walk got us back to the marina.
I'll close with daytime and nighttime Christmas trees.
By the way, we have made a command decision - we are crossing Florida via the Lake Okeechobee route. Several reasons. We need about three good days of weather to take the route back down the Caloosahatchee River, south by Naples and Marco Island, down to Everglades City, and then across to the mid-Keys around Marathon or down to Key West at the end. We've already seen about half of that in years past (and all of it several times from Big Pine Key north), and there is more weather headed this way later in the week that forecasts unsettled waters in the gulf. Also, we have spoken to several other boaters who have recently crossed via Okeechobee and they all say it is worth the trip. It sounds like it is definitely the laid-back environment we prefer. Heading that way tomorrow.