Thursday, February 23, 2006

Cape Coral

We are parked adjacent to the Elks Lodge in Cape Coral, Florida (map), just a couple blocks from the Caloosahatchee River. This is the first lodge we have seen with an outdoor bar, which was quite busy when we arrived around 7ish.

After leaving Monument Lake yesterday morning, we proceeded to Everglades City and the park service visitor center there. A concessionaire operates boat tours from the center (and there are also myriad private operations in Everglades City and the surrounding area), but we just missed a tour as we were pulling in. After viewing the exhibits, we decided to drive the three miles south to Chokoloskee Island, to see if there might be some decent camping there. The whole place was rather unappealing, notwithstanding the purportedly high-end Outdoor Resorts park there. We returned to Everglades City and picked up a few groceries at the miniscule market there, and headed back to the visitor center to catch the 2:30 ranger-led boat tour.

The tour was interesting, but it stayed in open water and did not venture too near the mangroves, a bit of a disappointment for us (one needs to take an airboat tour further east in the park to cruise over the sawgrass prairie, the canonical image of the Everglades). Nevertheless, we did see several kinds of birds, and more dolphins than I have ever seen before in one place. The dolphins were quite playful, swimming in our bow wave and porpoising along our wake. At one point, we even saw a mother-child pair swimming together alongside us.

The late tour had us leaving after 4, and we headed north and west along US41, the Tamiami Trail, to Collier-Seminole State Park, where we hoped to camp. No such luck, as the park was full. At this point we had no choice but to drive on through Naples. Moving in to the highly developed and very popular resort areas of the Florida west coast, the stealth overnight opportunities remain very rare. None of the Wal-Marts or other big-box outfits in Naples permits overnights, and so we proceeded a few miles north to the Elks Lodge in Bonita Springs, right off 41 at the turnoff for the resort area of Coconut (map). The lodge was packed, and there was already a rig in the "designated" part of the parking lot, so we had a bit of a squeeze, but it was a comfortable spot. We were able to walk to a nice dinner at the most excellent Chops City Grill, a traditional steakhouse with a fusion twist.

The lodge was empty and quiet this morning, and we took the opportunity to catch up on paperwork. Louise got our taxes prepared and off to our accountant, and I caught up on some emails. It was after 3 by the time we packed up and got back on the road.

From the lodge we backtracked south to Bonita Beach Road, which brought us out to the barrier islands, continuing our theme of closest-to-the-ocean roads. That was a lovely drive, through the state park at Lover's Key (no camping, though) and into the resort town of Fort Myers Beach. It was slow going through town -- we crawled along at less than a walking pace, but we enjoyed seeing the place. My plan, heading north into Fort Myers, was to swing west and head over the causeway to Sanibel and Captiva islands. I had been to Sanibel years ago and found it very lovely, and wanted another look (and to see the changes post-04 and -05 hurricane seasons), but research led me to abandon the idea after discovering that maneuvering and parking Odyssey would be nearly impossible. Parking on the beach is permitted right along the (toll) causeway, but overnight is disallowed. Once on the islands, though, most parking is by permit only, and oversize vehicles are restricted to just a couple of lots that are not convenient to anything.

Instead, we continued north through Fort Myers and crossed the Caloosahatchee into Cape Coral. No big-box parking here either (we asked), so we ended up here at the Elks. Once again a nice restaurant was an easy walk, this time Iguana Mia, a mexican place with great margaritas.

I've scratched Boca Grande from the itinerary for reasons similar to Sanibel, but tomorrow we will head north up the other west coast barrier islands after curling around Charlotte Harbor. We keep hoping an on-the-beach camping opportunity will jump out at us, and, if it does, we will settle in someplace for a couple of days.

We learned today that we have been accepted into Response Technology training for the Red Cross in Austin, Texas the first week in April, so that has become our new target. We should be someplace along the gulf coast for Mardi Gras, which should be entertaining (as well as a parking challenge), and we will probably stop in our old haunt in Baton Rouge to check in with everyone and maybe lend a hand for a few days (they had to move facilities on the 20th, and will do so again on March 8th).

1 comment:

  1. Did you make it down to the "Florida Cracker Museum" south of Everglades City? Neat place. We're still in Yuma AZ. Heading toward Corpus Christi next Tuesday


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