Day 8-11 Tampa/Fort Myers, Florida   Leave a comment

Our motor coach bus tour included highlights of Tampa Bay where we saw Tampa University Campus. Within the campus is a beautiful building that was once a hotel from the late 1800s, Tampa Bay Hotel. Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt and the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, known as the “Rough Riders.” They used this hotel as headquarters and came to organize an invasion force for Cuba. Colonel Roosevelt later became the 26th President of the United States.

Tampa is a city known for outside activity, hence a beautiful river walk.

After spending a few hours in Ybor City,

the Cuban area, which was a big cigar making area in its heyday, we stopped at a wonderful Cuban bakery.

Our vegan couple even found something to purchase.

Cuban in the afternoon, Greek in the evening. Off to Tarpon Springs to learn about sponges.

We viewed a short film on how sponges are processed, and took a sponge boat tour where we witnessed a diver, dressed in “ancient” diving attire, dive for sponge.

The sponges are normally black or orange when they are gathered from the waters. Above right is the sponge that was just harvested.

Pictured below is a restored sponge boat.

Dinner was at Dimitris on the Water. A wonderful Greek restaurant with a best manager ever, George.

He greeted and entertained us while we dined. Always making sure the guests are happy. He is a character!

And when they bring out the Saganaki, everyone yells OPA!

Last year on our free day, we visited the TECO Manatee Viewing area. They are plant eaters, chewing with their teeth, which are all molars! A manatee will eat up to 10% of their weight in one day.

There is no predator of the manatee, except for watercrafts, debris in the waters,

The odor you smell from the manatee’s mouth (if you happen to get up close and personal) comes from the lungs and nose. They only breathe through their nose, not their mouth. The photo below shows a manatee surfacing to breathe.

At our driver’s meeting, we included a strawberry shortcake/ice cream social with Plant City strawberries. Sharon and Rick Gilbert joined us and I can’t believe I forgot to take photos!

Not only is Lazy Days a beautiful park, it is interesting. Check out the unique café below.

On our way to Ft. Myers, we stopped at Thomas Edison/Henry Ford’s winter homes, located on the Caloosahatchee River. Edison purchased his property in 1885 and Ford purchased his property in 1916, pictured below. The Edison’s enjoyed their stays until 1947 when Mina deeded the Seminole Lodge to the City of Fort Myers for $1. (An interesting fact about all his patents – over 1,000 – he is the only person to have 1 patent per year for 65 consecutive years!) All of the original furnishings are on permanent loan. The city also had to plant the palm tree that she imported from Hawaii along McGregor Boulevard, hence Ft. Meyers is known as “Palm City.”

Edison was given a tree, Banyan tree, known as the “walking tree”, pictured below left. They call it a walking tree because as it grows, it seems to plant new roots and appears to be walking. Below right is the 7 foot deep swimming pool complete with a high and low dive. Yes, it was only 7 foot deep! Hope they didn’t dive into it.

Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone worked together in 1927 to form the Edison Botanic Research Corporation. The laboratory was completed in 1928 to support their endeavor of producing and manufacturing a quick growing, domestic source of natural rubber.

We had our first sighting of a banana tree in bloom. Have you ever seen one?

Sanibel Island was only a 20 minute drive from our campground, depending on traffic could be much longer. Sanibel and Captiva are known as the shell capital of the world. What beautiful white beaches.

We ended our stay with a BBQ dinner. Vicki Digby and Nick Verduzco will join the tour the following day but joined us for the BBQ since they live in the area, along with several previous guests who also live in the area, Beth and Lee Behrhorst, John and Jo Moore, John and Susie Nicklas, and Jennifer Instep. Like I said before, we just love our AVC friends!

We followed dinner with a scrumptious birthday cake to celebrate all the March birthdays.

Followed by a much needed travel briefing. Just prior to our dinner, we found out that the brush fires near Naples spread to 6,000 acres and closed I-75. Our alternate route turned out to be a beautiful, calming drive, right through the panther refugee.

Ending our evening with Rock Racing. We had our “king of rock racing” Gerry with us.

Tomorrow, on through the smoke…

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Posted March 9, 2017 by carolnbill in Travel

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