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Published: November 19th 2016
This sweetheart is a screech owl who was brought to the center for rehab and will probably live here for life.
Shortly after our return from the Panama Canal cruise we flew out to the Midwest for a family/high school reunion. We happened to arrive in South Dakota along with the first chill of winter. It was dark, cold, windy and rainy when we arrived in Sioux Falls. But when getting together with seven siblings, there is enough warmth and love to make up for any bad weather.
I was the only one from my class of '63 at the Cathedral High School reunion but fortunately I knew many of the people from my sisters’ classes and so it was a fun party. Two of my sisters, Roberta and Judy were cheerleaders and they found their original cheer sweaters and wore them to one of the get-togethers. Everyone loved it.
After a weekend of family lunches, dinners, and parties we drove to Des Moines to see another sister, Teresa before flying back to the balmy weather of Florida. Teresa and Matt love their new home.
We have been doing the nature thing since being here in Florida. That means going to the Gulf every day for a swim, exploring the barrier islands and biking and hiking in our area
The gang gets together for a Chinese lunch in Sioux Falls.
which is a bird sanctuary. Last week we went with friends Curt and Sue to the Peace River Wildlife Reserve in Punta Gorda. There they take in injured birds and reptiles and nurse them back to health and hopefully release them back to their natural environment. They do have one permanent resident named Luna who is absolutely the cutest owl I have ever seen. It is just a ball of white feathers and big eyes. We also visited the new Vietnam War Memorial in Punta Gorda which is a replica of the monument in Washington, D.C. It is very moving to see so many names of people from our generation who were lost in that war.
This week we went to the Everglades to celebrate my birthday. En route we stayed in Ft Myers with Kevin’s brother Mike and sister-in-law Susan. Susan and I share the same birth date so it was a fine double fete. Then we spent an evening in Naples partying with several of Kevin’s high school classmates.
Then it was time to get back to nature. We decided to visit the third largest national park in the lower 48. That is the Everglades. It
The magnificent falls in the heart of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
covers most of the southern portion of the Florida peninsula and is one of the most important ecological treasures in the United States. However, it is a very fragile ecosystem which has been subjected to much abuse over the years. In the 1920s the governor wanted to drain the swamp entirely but eventually people realized that would have catastrophic results. About 50% of this natural resource had been lost before President Clinton signed the Everglades Restoration Act which seeks to preserve the remaining everglades. This “River of Grass” is home to panthers, crocodiles, manatees, 350 bird species, 300 fish types and 50 reptile classes.
We drove down to Everglades City which is on the western edge of the Park. After checking into the historic Ivey House Inn & Lodge, we took a boat tour of the 10,000 Islands which surround the National Park. You can tell that it’s not tourist season yet as we were the only two passengers on a large pontoon boat. Captain Michael and First Mate Valerie Berget gave us a lovely tour and we saw many bottlenose dolphins and numerous seabirds. The Bergets are originally from Minnesota and live on a boat in Naples. It
Susan's sisters Roberta and Judy headed up the cheerleading squad at Cathedral High many moons ago.
was great to compare notes with other liveaboards.
Everglades City is a bit of old Florida with its honky tonk restaurants and old one-room cottages on stilts. The Ivey Inn housed workers who built Highway 41 which crosses Florida from west to east and is the original Alligator Alley. The Inn is very nice with all the modern amenities including a screened-in pool. That is good for keeping the mozzies out. It was the night of the super moon which we could catch glimpses of through the passing clouds.
The next morning we took the mangrove tunnel ecotour on a small runabout. As the name implies, we toured amongst the mangroves and again were able to spot lots of different birds, crabs, jumping mullets (the fish kind not the sideburns type) and alligators. The mangrove tunnels are so serene and cool especially on a sunny, warm day. After that we headed back home on country roads having thoroughly enjoyed our brief stay in this nature wonderland.
We will have a month here in southwest Florida before embarking on the Silver Whisper on December 20 in Ft Lauderdale. We will retrace our wake through the Panama Canal to
ST. JOSEPH'S CATHEDRAL
This ornate cathedral was the place of worship for the Atkins Family--Bob and Betty and their 12 children.
San Francisco and then cruise on to Hawaii, the South Pacific and arriving in New Zealand at the end of January. These are the first two segments of the 2017 world cruise. It is great to be on a ship to bring in the new year and the prospect of spending January at sea is very appealing. There is still space on the ship if you would like to join us on the high seas.
My brother Steven lives in New Zealand with his daughter Ellie. We plan to do some touring together. We also have friends from our marina who recently relocated to Auckland. Jack and Stephanie are enjoying their new home and surroundings and we look forward to visiting them.
In the meantime, as Winston Churchill once said, “Keep calm and carry on!”
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