It is time to move on from the Keys. Even though we didn’t get to dive like we wanted, we ended up having a great time here. I think we will come back again. This morning we arise fairly early in order to pack up and reach Shark Valley in the Everglades for a bike ride before it gets too hot.
However, we missed a turn and probably added an hour to our trip – we arrive at Shark Valley around noon. This is a really neat area in Everglades National Park where you can rent bikes and ride on a 15 mile loop through the marsh to try and view “critters.” Rich had seen it on the internet before we left and it caught his interest. Since we are already carrying his bike, we only need to rent one for me.
I will admit that I went into this venture with a little trepidation. Not only had I not ridden a bike since our Thailand trip (where it was the hottest bike ride EVER), but this day was promising to be just as hot and humid as Thailand. Surely I can survive 15 miles.
We pack lots of water and start pedaling down the shadeless road. Both sides of the road are thick, marshy areas that are certain to hide various wildlife (we are hoping for gators). Being on the bikes give us a great vantage point to look down into the watery areas to scope for animals. We hear all sorts of neat sounds – probably frogs – and pedal slowly and silently for about a mile.
Suddenly I pass something that deserves a second look – a gator!!! Cool. It is mostly submerged in the water with just its head above and eyes closed. It is a little disconcerting to see him without a barrier in between. We stop the bikes and with the little noise we make he opens his eyes to see what is going on.
(you should definitely click on all these pics to enlarge them!)
We continue down the road and quickly pass a snake that looks pretty cool.
More gators are spotted along with many heron-type birds. Sometimes they startle us when we come upon them unexpectedly and the fly right in front of us.
I pedal along pretty quickly now since it is really hot and the only coolness is the breeze that comes from riding. I soon end up quite far ahead of Rich. Just when I think I am about to pass out from the heat I look over in the water and something catches my eye. At first I think I see a couple of iguanas on some lilly pads. Then I realize that there are quite a few of the little fellows. THEN, I see MAMA – a huge gator protecting what I now realize are her babies. Way cool. The babies make little “chirping” sounds and are very skittish. Mama keeps a close eye on them. I flag Rich down and we stop to watch for a while.
The heat gets to be too much for me and all I can think about is shade. There is an observation tower at the halfway point and I head for it without stopping. When I finally reach it, I am almost in heat stroke – my head is pounding and I feel like I am going to be sick. Rich, of course, feels great. We take a long break and I sit in the shade and drink lots of water. Rich ends up walking to the tower alone while I decide to continue on through the second half. I figure if I start now, I might be able to make it.
The second half feels a little better and I ride the 7 miles without stopping. I am relieved to make it back to the parking lot. Rich come in shortly thereafter. He thoroughly enjoyed the ride. I loved the scenery and only wish it would have been cooler.
It is now about 3:00 and we need to drive to Palm Beach Gardens (about 3 hours away). We decide to take the back roads through the Everglades and take notice that we are really in “the sticks.”
When we finally arrive at the PGA National Resort it looks like an oasis. The place is huge with 5 golf courses! We end up with a beautiful suite overlooking one of the driving ranges. First things first, we head to the bar for champagne (me) and a martini (Rich). We don’t even want to leave the premises for dinner tonight and the decision to eat in Ironwoods restaurant is an easy one – it is about 20 steps from the bar.
Dinner is pretty good – not great, but good. We share a roasted quail appetizer, a kobe beef skirt steak and a side of spinach.
After dinner we make the 2 minute walk to our room and settle in. Rich has kindly agreed to work on today’s pics for me so that I can put them in the blog.
Tomorrow is our first round (of many!) on one of the courses here. We will try to hit it early in order to be fresh for the morning.