Monday, February 5, 2018

Shark Valley - Everglades National Park

95% of the mammals in the Shark Valley area of the Everglades are gone. 

 Let that sink in a minute, 95%.


 It makes me heart sick that the cause of this is people. People who released non-native species into the wild. 😧

Here is an article about the problem from National Geographic from 2012:

The problem continues despite attempts to capture these invasive reptiles.Here is a more recent article, from Popular Science, that discusses what scientists are currently trying: Pythons are invading Florida. Meet the scientists fighting back.

On our way home from the Miami area, Tom and I stopped to visit an area of the Everglades we had not yet seen, Shark Valley. We took the tram ride out to see the tower.

It was really amazing. Originally built by oil/gas prospectors, the structure has been used as an observation tower since
We thought the architecture of it was really neat and we especially admired the gently sloping ramp that you walk to go up and down.

  • "The Shark Valley Observation Tower is a classic example of Mission 66 architecture, which is sometimes called "modern parkitecture" and features large slabs of concrete, swirling ramps, flat roofs, and terraces supported by thin columns. Implemented in 1956, Mission 66 was a 10-year program intended to dramatically improve and expand visitor services in national parks by 1966, in time for the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the National Park Service." (
The views from the tower were beautiful.

Our guides on our tram ride were very knowledgeable and friendly. They pointed out birds, alligators, and turtles that we could see as we rode along. They also told us storied of the wildlife and the park.

Tom was entertained by the alligator sightings. There were many of them. I was more interested in the scenery, the birds, and turtles.

I also found the rainwater impoundment structure at the visitor center. They have a large tank next to a the gutter from the roof and can store and then use the water as they need.

We really enjoyed our day here and recommend it to anyone who is traveling across the Tamiami Trail.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Great fun at the SCCA Palm Tree Majors Tour event this weekend

As many of you know, Tom and I became members of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) last January and have been having a ball volunteering to work at races. We spent this past weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. As usual, the nice folks made us feel welcome.

We got all settled in on Thursday night and were up bright and early to don our whites and head to the Flagging and Communications (F & C) meeting on Friday morning. We were the first ones there so I had time to take a selfie or two in pit lane and to take a pic of the sun coming up.

They needed help on the Grid, so I left Tom. He headed to work corner #6 with another Tom. My job on the Grid is to get the cars into lines ready to go out onto the track. On Friday, which was practice and then qualifying laps, the cars just line up on a first-come, first-inline basis. There are 7 groups of cars that may contain many classes. On Saturday and Sunday we must get the cars to park in the order in which they will go on the track. The cars from the front have been the faster cars during practice. They are ranked from times from that weekend's practice, qualifying and races in  myriad of combinations. It can get kind of hectic when 53 Spec Miatas are coming to park in a 20 minute time span, but we had a great team and got the job done.

Each of the people on the Grid has a paper in their hand that has two columns of numbers. The first column has the car number and the second column has their place. One person stands out at the entrance to the grid and indicates which row the car should go to. The other member of the team are spread out on the grid and they wave the car over and then wave them up until they are in place. Most of the drivers are great to work with, but many of them had to test to see how close I would let them get before I moved. Mom would be proud, I didn't move unless they touched me with the car.

On Saturday and Sunday, the cars are lined up based on different combinations of time. They get another qualifying run on Sat and then a race. Sunday is all racing.
Here is a pic of cars lined up on the grid and one of Tom on Turn #6.

We had a great day and although we were tired, looked forward to heading out again the next day. Once again, Tom was assigned to Turn #6 and I went to the Grid.

The food truck showed up on Saturday. WHooeee! Cuban food. I had a Media Noche sandwich for lunch. They are toasted and contain pork, ham, cheese, pickle, and mustard. They are so yummy. (No, I didn't eat the bun.)

The sunset that night was beautiful!
Saturday night is our volunteer appreciation dinner. We were treated to a Cuban feast in the Champions Club. It was fun to go to a place that we never would be able to afford during a Cup race.
There was a mirror on the elevator ceiling so I had to take a photo. The man in the bottom right in this photo is Jim Downing, a 5-time IMSA champion and one of the inventors of the HANS device. We got a nice welcome as we stepped off the elevator.

The view of the infield from the Champions Club is amazing. We all had a great time snapping pics and pointing out where we had worked and where  our trailers or RVs were.

We were early, so we were able to see all of the food as the nice caterers put it out. Tossed salad; black beans and rice with pickled onions; yucca; and whole, roasted pigs.
For dessert we had Tom had a mini flan and I had a mini Key Lime cheesecake.

Thanks to the folks from Florida Region SCCA for such a nice dinner.
 My view of Tom as I rode in the pace car for the start of the Group 4 race on Sunday afternoon. It was so amazing to go up onto and then down off of the banking in NASCAR turns 3 & 4.
 This is the map for the track we ran this past weekend:

We were tired, but a dinner at Texas Roadhouse revived us.

One of our poor cones that got run over by the cars.
We had a really great weekend and are so happy we got to go and play with our SCCA friends again.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Christmas Bird Count at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Dec 9th, 2017
I had a fantastic day at my first bird count. The gentlemen I was paired with were experts. They could identify birds as they flitted past us. I hope with a lot of practice I can learn to identify birds that quickly.

We rode out to our count area on one of the Swamp Buggies that the Sanctuary has. This was my view from up on top.

There were 9 of us on our team. We divided up into two groups. The Buggy driver would drop off one group, drive ahead for a distance and then drop off the other team. The first team walked to reach the Buggy, then the driver took them ahead of the second team and let them out. We covered our area in this leap frog manner.
Here is a picture of the Buggy waiting for us.
I really enjoyed my walk. (Well, except for that part where the snake was on the tree. That gave me a bit of heebby-jeebies. )

A view of the rest of our group in action along the road.
We even saw some gators. They told us to walk past the first one. I went first when the men hesitated, yep, I was all brave until it hissed at me. Then I was right back behind them.

All in all a great day!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Still loving the Boardwalk!

Here are a few more pics from the boardwalk here at Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

Tom and I reflected in the glass of  a device used to record the water level. The meter is still working but it looks like Hurricane Irma took out the graphing function.

This is a neat spider we saw. Some variety of orb spider.

You can see orchids on this tree. They are not currently in bloom.

One of the trees that was felled during hurricane Irma. This one is extra interesting because a strangler fig has put a root down the hollow inside of the cypress tree.

Another orchid plant.

Beautiful lily

Another lily next to a cypress tree. Just pretty and peaceful.

one HUGE alligator. This one is probably 14 feet long. Glad he is over on the island and not too near the boardwalk.

One last photo of a rare Ghost Orchid. To see better pictures, please go here to the page about them at the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary website.

The Ghost Orchid is very high up in a tree and far from the boardwalk. This is a great thing for the orchid since people try to poach them.
This is zoomed in on the same shot. I know you can't see them well, but at least I can prove we saw them. *lol* Be sure to check out the link above.
So far we are loving this area and are enjoying the people we meet. If you are coming to the Naples/Cape Coral/Ft. Myers area, be sure to look us up. Tom and I would love to give you a guided tour.
Ooops almost forgot this video of Tom walking along the boardwalk. I am not having any trouble getting my daily 10,000 steps in any more. It feels good.