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Florida State Road 29

Welcome back to #TravelThursday. There’s a road that runs in a general north-south direction in inland Southwest Florida between U.S. 27 at the north-end and U.S. 41 at the south-end. It’s a rural historic intercounty state highway that I’ll be driving a short 14-mile stretch of frequently in the future – including tomorrow morning. It’s how I’ll get to and from the Fort Myers area to and from my new home in the Sebring area.

At the base of this 14-mile stretch of Florida State Road 29 is the historic city of LaBelle – just inside Hendry County from Glades County (to the north). It’s the county seat of Hendry County and its 2ND-largest city (after Clewiston). LaBelle has a population of right around 5,000. Its origins go back to the late-1880s along the banks of the Caloosahatchee River. LaBelle has a couple of nicknames – “The Belle Of The Caloosahatchee”, and “The City Under The Oaks”.

I’ve only driven through LaBelle a handful of times over the past few years. I’ve never actually gotten out of my car to walk around and explore the historic downtown district along the river. I’d like to do that during a future drive-through.

The remainder of the 14-mile stretch of Florida State Road 29 traverses Glades County farmland and raw unspoiled nature. It’s a beautiful scenic drive en route to and from U.S. 27.

I’ll be enjoying that beauty early tomorrow morning as I head home from the Fort Myers area. What am I doing there today and tonight ? Stay tuned. I’ll reveal that this #SundayScripture.

Next #TravelThursday I’ll share a couple of beautiful photos of the lake in my new neighborhood. Let’s keep traveling together.

All rights reserved (c) 2023 Christopher M. Day, CountUp

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My Carnival Celebration Vacation 2023

Welcome back to #TravelThursday. Last week I wrote about the food, service, entertainment, and Cruise Director(s) aboard the Carnival Celebration from Sunday January 08TH 2023 to Sunday January 15TH 2023. If you missed it (or any other previous editions of my cruise review) then simply scroll down on this page to read past blog posts.

This week we jump to Day 3 of my 7-day cruise – and the first port-of-call in the Dominican Republic.

But First: Occurring simultaneously I’m also uploading and captioning photos of my cruise onto my Flickr site. Go to my Flickr Photostream to check them out. (The most recent photos are at the top.)

Going into this cruise I figured that I would really enjoy my day touring San Juan Puerto Rico (Day 4), and that I would really enjoy my fun day on a nearly empty ship while docked in port at Charlotte Amalie St. Thomas U.S.V.I. (Day 5). I didn’t really have high expectations of my day in the Dominican Republic (Day 3). But that’s why one shouldn’t “overthink” a cruise beforehand. I tend to do that sometimes. I figured that it would be my least favorite port-of-call of the 3 – for no particular reason other than the fact that it was the only non-U.S. port, and a first-time visit for me.

Fun Fact: This was my 2ND-ever visit to the Dominican Republic. My 1ST visit was a little over 10 years ago as part of an 8-day cruise on the Carnival Valor. That was at La Romana on the southeast coast. This 2ND visit was at Amber Cove on the north-central coast.

This port far-exceeded all expectations that I had for it. I pre-purchased a 3½-hour shore excursion (through Carnival) titled “Mountain Views & City Sights”. Sounds kind of vague – doesn’t it ? As it turns out – that was an appropriate title for the tour – that turned out to be nearly 5 hours.

Here’s how Carnival describes this tour on their web site:

“Take a scenic countryside drive in a safari truck through San Marcos Village and up to Puerto Plata’s highest mountain – Isabel De Torres. Follow the guide on a visit to the botanical gardens and see the famous Statue of Christ. Take in the amazing views of the surrounding area before heading back down the mountain. Explore the historical center of Puerta Plata including Plaza Independencia and enjoy a photo stop at the San Felipe Fortress before heading back to the pier.” (

That’s an excellent snapshot of my day. Our tour guide on the open-air safari truck was fantastic. He narrated nearly the entire time telling us all about this beautiful region (north-central coast) of his country. He clearly loves his job and his country. He was our tour guide on the various stops along the way as well, and he pretty much stayed with us the entire time from start to finish. There was no “handing-off” to another tour guide, or a “go check everything out and meet me back here in 45 minutes”. He led us everywhere. He told us about everything. He was one of the best tour guides I’ve encountered on any recent shore excursion. He was knowledgeable, friendly, and had a fun sense of humor. His catch phrase was “Hola ! Coca Cola !”. (It never got old. I smiled every time he said that.)

That tour – because of that tour guide – was one of the top highlights of my 7-day cruise.

4 days ago on #SundayScripture I posted a photo of El Cristo Redentor (Christ The Redeemer) – a statue that overlooks Puerto Plata – the country’s 3RD-largest city – from nearly 800 meters / 2,600 feet above sea level on Loma Isabel De Torres. Here’s what Christ is looking at – the beautiful city below:


Next #TravelThursday we’ll head over to Old San Juan Puerto Rico to check-out some fortresses. Let’s keep traveling together.

All rights reserved (c) 2023 Christopher M. Day, CountUp

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Biscayne Bay Tourist Attractions

Welcome back to #TravelThursday. We’re in the dry season now here in South Florida. It started during the middle of last month, and it continues until the middle of May. It’s our 7-month “nice” season here – marked by abundant sunshine, not much rain, cooler temperatures, and lower humidity. We actually experienced a near-record cold day last month on the 19TH of October when a polar-origin cold front slammed through the area and dumped our temperatures down into the lower-60s with wind chills in the 50s from the early-afternoon through the next morning. It was also cloudy, gloomy, and drizzly for the entire day. It very much resembled one of those weird dark, cold, and raw January days that we get once or twice a year (if at all). It was quite the phenomenon to get it so early in the season on the 19TH of October !

So since it’s nice out, and my days remaining here in South Florida are limited – I need to visit some tourist attractions this season and write about them here on #TravelThursday.

I just read a very nice write-up on Biscayne National Park and some renovation work they have recently completed on one of their main walkways to the sea. I haven’t been out there – just 8½ miles away from my home – since May 2016. It’s time to visit again. It’s a nice place to relax and enjoy the scenery of the sea.

It’s been 3½ years since I’ve visited the Charles Deering Estate – also along Biscayne Bay. That’s a fun 2-to-3-hour visit. They do ranger-led boat tours of Biscayne National Park that leave from and return to the Deering Estate. That’s what I did 3½ years ago. I’d like to do it again.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is also along Biscayne Bay, and I haven’t been there since February 2018. As a U.S. military veteran – I get free admission year-round, so I respect that. I need to drive up the road (about 25 miles from home) and check it out again. There’s a lot of great photo opportunities there.

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens is also along Biscayne Bay, and it’s been 10½ years since my last visit there. I get in for free there too anytime I want. It’s just another 7 miles up the road from Fairchild, so maybe I can visit both Fairchild and Vizcaya on the same day – like maybe during the week when they are less crowded.

Next #TravelThursday we’ll trek across the sea over to England. Let’s keep traveling together.

All rights reserved (c) 2022 Christopher M. Day, CountUp

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Fort Myers Beach Florida

Welcome back to #TravelThursday. On Wednesday September 28TH 2022 Fort Myers Beach Florida changed forever as Category-4 Hurricane Ian made landfall just a few miles north of the area. The Southwest Florida Gulf coast from Flamingo northward to the Tampa Bay area experienced widespread damage. The area from Marco Island to Venice was especially hard hit, and Fort Myers Beach – “Ground Zero” – was virtually destroyed. The photos online have been heartbreaking. They have brought tears to my eyes.

The Southwest Florida coast is my favorite part of the state. Over the past 35 years I’ve enjoyed numerous short visits over there (about 2 to 3 hours away from home). My last visit was a daytrip to and from Naples 3 months ago. I wrote about it on a 2-part #TravelThursday this past July.

From 2011 to 2020 I visited Fort Myers Beach on 9 separate occasions. I spent a combined 17 nights on (or just off) the island at several different hotels on 7 of those 9 visits – both on the north-end and the south-end. I walked in the surf, drove on the streets, rode on the trolleys, shopped at the stores, and ate at the restaurants. I took 366 photos of the island. 122 of them are featured within my Fort Myers Beach album on my Flickr site. They are presented in chronological order from oldest to newest starting with April 28TH 2011. That was my very first day / night ever on the island, and I instantly fell in love with it. I soon decided that not only had I found my brand-new weekend vacation paradise getaway, but I had also found my eventual retirement landing spot.

After the first 6 visits – all between 2011 and 2013 – the idea of eventually moving to the island upon retirement had waned. But I would still visit on a regular basis. I became concerned during those early visits that if (when) a major hurricane makes landfall on the island or very near it – there would be catastrophic destruction similar to what I experienced here in Homestead after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. I thought that it would be the Gulf Of Mexico destroying the vulnerable island via storm surge rather than wind. That was one of the main reasons to change my mind about retiring there.

I’ve captured some of the most beautiful sunsets of my life on that island. One of my favorite things to do during those 17 nights was to exit my hotel room, walk directly onto the beach with my bare feet, head for the surf, and join the dozens of others just like me who had the same idea to prepare their smart phones and cameras to be aimed up the beach at the setting sun on the WNW horizon.

I was originally scheduled to drive to Fort Myers tomorrow (Friday) morning – and spend 2 nights there – and attend a concert at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall. The hotel was damaged, the concert hall was damaged, and the show was moved to next March. The entire area is a disaster zone, so the last thing they need right now is tourists. I canceled my trip to Fort Myers. (It would not have included a beach visit.)

It will take many years to rebuild Fort Myers Beach. It will never be the way that I knew it during those 9 visits and 17 nights on the island. I have my fond memories and 366 photos to look back on my former paradise on the Gulf Of Mexico.

Next #TravelThursday I’ll visit Fort Lauderdale Florida. Let’s keep traveling together.

All rights reserved (c) 2022 Christopher M. Day, CountUp