Good times with friends at Bonita Springs, FL

It’s been a while since I last posted, not for a lack of material but rather we are having too much fun hanging out with friends.  We had planned this stop to mostly work on Betsy, with a long list of to-do’s.  But we somehow managed to also have ourselves a great time.  With the installation of our new residential refrigerator a success and no other major issues, we could relax and have some fun.  So what did we do?  Lots!

Meet and Greet Party of RVrs

Meet and Greet

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The formal Meet and Greet invitation created by Joe and Judy

Six months ago our friends Joe and Judy, who had been snowbirds here at Bonita Springs for the past couple of years, recommended Imperial Bonita Estates (called IBE by locals, Steve’s review is here).  A few days after our arrival they graciously hosted a meet and greet for us.  Now,  wasn’t that sweet of them!  We were introduced to some of the regular snowbirds from New York, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and Michigan.  Most of them were very happy that they had gotten away from the freezing “Polar Vortex” that had invaded their home states recently.

Judy also gave us a long list of things we might want to see and do while here.  Knowing Judy, a very detail-oriented person, that was truly a long list.  One of the items was Canoeing at the Big Cypress National Preserve, which Judy organized for the four of us.  Unfortunately, due to an emergency in their home state of North Carolina, they had to give up their reserved seats and we offered them to John and Pam of Oh The Places.  They were thrilled to fill the vacant spots.  Not only did we go canoeing, we also went kayaking with the manatees at the nearby Manatee Park and visited the Edison-Ford Winter Estates with them.  Since they did a great job of detailing our fun with them, feel free to read the stories at their blogsite Oh the Places they go.  In the meantime, I will share highlights of our adventures with them.

Big Cypress National Preserve

We posed for Pam as we glided along the canal.  Thanks, Pam!

The months between November through March are considered the “paddling season”, when the water levels drop and temperatures and bugs become tolerable.  Ranger Andy launched our group from Big Cypress Welcome Center off of US-41.  We followed part of the 7.3 miles of Halfway Creek and Loop Trails that took us about fours hours to complete.  Our paddling route meandered through shallow estuaries, a man-made canal, sawgrass prairies and the mangrove tunnels.  Sitting in a canoe and paddling for four hours with no bathroom breaks was challenging – don’t want to drink too much water!  And the whole wonderful experience was free!

On another sunny day we headed back to the water, this time at the Manatee Park where John and Pam invited us to kayak with the manatees.  This is the place to go if you want to see many manatees up close in a “natural” setting.  We patiently waited as these huge mammals seemed to welcome kayakers, swimming around and under the kayaks.  It is when they came up for a breath of air that everyone got excited.  Unlike watching whales or dolphins, the manatees swim quietly and don’t splash much.  It was a a thrill to kayak up close amongst these incredible and endangered creatures!

The Lowes RV Adventures

Pam gets another great shot of the manatee hunters

Check out my one-minute clip below, which captures a manatee swimming along with us – and please pardon my uncontrolled giggling 🙂

We marveled at the impressive collection of Thomas Edison’s inventions and artifacts within the Edison & Ford Winter Estates and Museum.  Here we read about and saw Edison’s work as an inventor who was very prolific, earning 1,093 US patents during his lifetime.

It was here at Ft. Myers in 1886 that the Edisons came to create a lovely winter estate complex.  Their friend Henry Ford built his winter home next door, in 1916 so they can spend winter side by side.  Both families enjoyed exploring southwest Florida – fishing, boating and dancing when they got together.

Thomas Edison Winter Estate

Edison’s main house and guest house

Henry Ford's winter home

Henry Ford’s winter home right next to Edison.

After a guided tour, we strolled around the garden that Edison designed himself for many purposes, including research on the practical and industrial uses of agricultural and native plants.  The most famous tree here is the massive Banyan near the entrance. Planted around 1925 when it was 4 ft. tall, it now covers almost an acre of the grounds! The picture below is just half of the tree captured side by side.  At 84 ft. tall and 376 inches in circumference at its base, it’s the largest Banyan tree in the continental United States.  The multiple trunks in the foreground are large aerial prop roots sent down from the enormous tree in the background.

The landscape today remains dominated by the huge Ficus trees planted by Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone during the time of their quest to find a viable domestic source of rubber (latex) that would grow in the region.

Mysore Fig

Mysore Fig (Ficus drupacea), 102 ft. tall and 305 inches in circumference – gorgeous tree!

Ficus drupacea, Mysore Fig

Root system of the Mysore Fig

The Edison-Ford Estate is home to more than 1,700 plants, including champion trees (Banyan tree and Mysore Fig).  While Steve and John continued on with the self-guided tour, Pam and I wandered around the gardens.  We were fascinated by the various plant collections, including the unusual ones shown below:

We capped our day with a yummy lunch at Joe’s Crab Shack.  Get those bibs on!

Joe's Crab

Are we having fun or what?

While here, I also managed to reconnect with another cousin (I know, there are so many of them living all over the states!).  It was an honor to be invited to  celebrate Tia Eppie’s 80th birthday with her family, and she was delighted to see me after four decades.

The Lowe's RV Adventure

Happy 80th birthday Tia Eppie.

Tia Eppie’s daughter-in-law Elvie invited me for a Filipino feast. Hanging out with them satisfied my Filipino food cravings.  Thank you, Elvie!

The Lowes RV Adventure

A Filipino feast, thanks to Elvie’s great cooking

On our last week here, we got to meet John and Sharon of On the Road of Retirement. In one of John’s walks around the park he happened to glance at the name sign that hangs on the front of Betsy.  He recalled my unusual name from some other RV blogs that he followed, and being a friendly guy he introduced himself to us.  We invited John and Sharon and Joe and Judy over for a happy hour on a rainy afternoon, and it turned into a happy 2.5 hours!  It was a great evening of exchanging stories from the road and having some laughs.

The Lowes RV Adventures

John, Sharon on the left
Joe and Judy on the right

Finally, Joe and I celebrated our common birthday, as he and I were both born on the 4th of February.  Steve was so sweet to surprise us with a cupcake each, complete with candles!

Whew!  Despite the unusually wet and cold weather here in southwest Florida, we did find time to get some tasks completed, have fun, socialize and party. Thank you friends for all the good times. Great stop!

Next up:  Beach scenes

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