The Oh! Manatee Tour – Day 3

After a breakfast of hot peaches and omelettes (oh my god, you guys!) we hit the road to drive into the Everglades. Naples old folk homes fade into outlet shopping malls fade into strip malls fade into construction into…

Flat.

The road seem to just go for stretches at a time with the odd soft curve, while the trees and shrubs broke every so often to reveal huge expanses of swamp.

After a slight struggle with distances on our map we managed to find the Smallest Post Office in the US. As we drove in a sad minivan sped out of the lot. The only car in the lot, for that matter. When we got to the door a sign welcomed us saying the place was closed for a 2 hour lunch. Typical postal service.

Onward we drove, carefully looking for our next exciting destination: The Skunk Ape Research Center. Nestled in the deepest part of the Everglades is a campground that hosts a small museum dedicated to the mystery of the Skunk Ape – the Everglade’s own Sasquatch. Photos of foot castings and actual foot castings adorn one side of the gift shop, you know, as proof that there was a Skunk Ape. Yet as we looked at these wonders, we were easily distracted by a door out to an adjoining barn. A barn full of curiosity and wonder! Okay a barn full mostly of rescued exotic pets that were abandoned by idiots. And a couple gators.

For $5 we were able to get into the barn, have an amazing chat with the caretaker and take a ton of pictures. Two city boys with big cameras and wide eyes. The caretaker obviously loved his menagerie  and was eager to place whatever creature we were discussing at the time somewhere on our bodies.

He would describe the animal and finish off with: “Would you like to hold him?”

To which both us City Boys would be polite and stall and errr and umm. He would cut us off at the knees and say louder “That is not an answer… WOULD YOU LIKE TO HOLD HIM?”

We would always respond “Yes.”

After spending way too much time there, I left realizing I had not asked one question about The Skunk Ape.

Shrug. The barn was 1000% better.

On to our next destination: The Shark Valley Visitor Center.

There are no sharks here  (or at least we didn’t see any), but it is known for having a ton of aligators that lethargically sun themselves on bike paths. We eagerly rented two.

However, no one mentioned to us that this late in the day, this late in summer, there would be no aligators on the bike path (not my video, sadly). Though we did hear the hiss of one early on in the bike ride and *did*  see one slithering away in the water a few yards away. Regardless, it was a pleasant afternoon 15 mile bike ride. I saw two grasshoppers having sex.

We motored on. At this point I could tell you all about the air boat ride we decided to take before hitting the other side of the Everglades, where the logo was the most misshapen ‘gator I’ve ever seen, where the collection of goons running the operation scared me a bit, where our co-riders were a bunch of yammering idiots, where we felt robbed of $80+ tax and saw only 2 gators, but why bother?

We were tired, so we motored to our next hotel: the Sea Dell Motel. Lovely. All low slung bungalows kept in decent shape, clean and orderly but with nothing older than the 70s. Night time decoration for the Sea Dell was magical Xmas lights along the eaves of the buildings. The pool was “chilled” and most welcome after a day of holding critters and sitting in that car.

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