Miami would be totally overwhelming were it not for the “native” Richard guiding us around and getting us in and out of all the places we knew we wanted to see and several we had never dreamed of.
Tuesday saw us up well before the “crack of noon”, and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with our hosts before the only “working stiff” amoung us, (that would be Jackie Pie) had to amble off to work. Our mission for the day was to again dive into the Everglades and visit one of the longest-identified “gotta do its” on Cathy’s list: “The Anhinga Trail”. It turned out to be “better than advertised”, since so much had been done to make the trail more accessible and inclusive since she had started researching it. For instance, no amount of hype would have dared include a very visible nest of near-fledgling Anhinga chicks. They are nearly as large as their black and white parents at this stage and are startling white in camparison. The parents look exhausted trying to keep the raucous three of them fed. We had maybe a little empathy for them 🙂
Also, the discovery of a pod (is there a proper term for a herd of gators?) of EIGHTEEN of these reptilian Rambos had to be the exclamation point of the whole Everglades chapter of the Southern Tier Ride.
To mix it up a bit on the culture/nature bacchanalia we’ve been on, Richard took us to visit a site on the truly weird, only-in-Florida side. Coral Castle wasn’t envisioned as a 3 star tourist attraction when Latvian-born Ed started hand-quarrying the shallow native sea shell created limestone on the one acre parcel he owned. His betrothed had jilted him at the altar on their planned wedding day in his native Latvia. In despair and grief he left his homeland and immigrated to America. He wandered in the badlands of the Dakotas and Wyoming learning the trade of quarrying. Diagnosed with tuberculosis, the only known “cure” was the heat and salt air of far away Florida. He worked his way there as a railroad hand. Grief still heavy on his heart, he started building his Stonehenge like Castle in her memory. Using only the crudest of tools (his primary cutting tool for the solid limestone was the leaf springs from Model T Fords that he straightened out and sharpened). Using a sledge hammer, he cut the stone into 3 to 4 ton blocks and using only block and tackle, pried them out of the ground. With a hand made come-along, he would drag them to the building site and using more Pyramid-building-like tools, raise them into place. The heaviest block weighs 26 tons!
Running out of money and still with more dreams to turn into Castle pieces, he started charging the many curious onlookers 10 cents to come inside and see his creations. We have to limit the pictures, but it’s difficult to decide which to weed.
More as a reward to us than to Jackie, we agreed to meet at the Biscayne Bay Sailing Club for supper at sundown. An appropriate site as both Richard and Jackie learned their sailing skills from this beautiful location. Picture perfect setting for the end of a Florida highlights day.
The final day of the Miami interlude brought us to Vizcaya, the opulent, over the top winter home of James Deering. In the last days before the Federal Income Tax, James envisioned and his talented professionals created a “My-winter-home-is-bigger-than-your-winter-home” extravaganza. My farmer friends may recognize the name as its connection with International Harvestor. The earlier IH machinery was emblazoned with International Harvestor/McCormack Deering on their identification name plates. How he made that much money selling horse powered oat and wheat “binders” is beyond me. Tractors and other power equipment hadn’t even made it to main stream agriculture in the first 15 years of the 20th century, and yet he built this house (along with at least 3 other huge houses in New York, Chicago, and Paris). All before he was 45 years old! To top it all off, it was probably the most perfect weather day we have had here.
We bid a (temporary) Adieu to Richard and Jackie and drove north out of the hustle and bustle of Miami and slipped onto the slower paced highway A1A highway along the barrier islands. A large but peaceful Brevard County park is home for tonight. We stood on the dunes at the edge of the booming surf and looked east across the Atlantic, visualizing the vastness of the ocean and knowing nothing but water exists between where we stand under the brightest of stars and the shores of far off Africa.