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Blogging Driving Geography Military Nature Photography Travel Weather

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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Blogging Commerce Driving Food Geography Nature Photography Shopping Travel Weather

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

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Blogging Christian Driving Food God Photography Travel

Ocean City Maryland

Welcome back to #TravelThursday. Exactly 7 years ago this morning on Tuesday July 28TH 2015 me, my mom, my brother, my sister-in-law, and my 2 nieces drove westbound across the 4.3-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge (U.S. 50 / U.S. 301) after spending 3 fun days and nights on Ocean City Maryland.

It was me and my brother’s idea to return to Ocean City. It was our first visit since we were kids in the early-1980s. As a family – me, my dad, my mom, and my brother visited Ocean City for up to a week at a time about every 2 or 3 summers from the mid-1970s through the early-1980s. We usually stayed at a neighbor friend’s condo bayside. I think they still own it today !

For my mom it was one final opportunity to visit Ocean City, relatives, and friends. For my sister-in-law and my 2 nieces it was just another beach. But for me and my brother it was remembering and reliving our childhoods.

While “the girls” were sunbathing on the beach – me and my brother got to hang out for a little while together doing what we would have done together some 30 years earlier – eating the best french fries on the planet, and visiting tourist attractions along the 2.25-mile boardwalk. I also got some “me” time alone doing what I tend to do today when I’m out on vacation – capturing photographic memories.

YES – Those beautiful sand sculptures were actually on the beach. I was completely awestruck. God bless Mr. Randy Hofman for creating them and proclaiming God’s Good News surfside.

Me and my brother vowed to not wait 30+ years to visit Ocean City again. So far it’s been 7 years. What are we waiting for Danny ?

Next #TravelThursday we’ll visit a new location. I’m not sure where yet. Usually I know what I plan to write about for next Thursday, but this time I’m not so sure. Shall I remain stateside, or shall I go abroad – either to a place I’ve been, or to a place I want to visit ? I’ll figure it out before then. Let’s keep traveling together.

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

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Animals Blogging Nature Photography Travel

Zoo Miami

Welcome back to #TravelThursday. A couple of weeks ago on the Friday leading-in to Memorial Day Weekend here in the U.S.A. I visited the Miami-Dade Zoological Park And Gardens – also known as Zoo Miami. It’s about 18 miles from my home.

This was my 6TH visit over the past 11 years – but first in over 5 years. I usually like to visit once every 2 or 3 years on a cool day during the wintertime (dry season). On this occasion I visited on a sunny and hot day at the end of May (rainy season). I actually took advantage of free admission for all military and veterans during the holiday weekend.

Zoo Miami is huge. It sits on about 750 acres of land – of which less than half is actually developed for animals, employees, and visitors. Over 3,000 animals and 500 species call Zoo Miami home.

This place holds a very special place in my heart, as it’s the first zoo that I ever visited in my life – as a 20 or 21-year-old in 1988. (I never got the zoo experience as a kid.) So I consider it my “childhood” zoo that I’ve now been visiting every few years for the past 34 years. I usually spend a little over 3 hours with each visit. I also don’t see everything during those 3 hours, so I try to visit the exhibits that are new, or that I didn’t get to experience on my previous visit.

On this Friday before the Memorial Day holiday the zoo was absolutely packed with hundreds (maybe over a thousand) elementary, middle, and high school students – roaming in packs large and small – counterclockwise around the park (4 miles around). So I followed the few adults and families that traversed the park clockwise – to mostly avoid the packs of school kids.

That would’ve been nice to visit the National Zoo in Washington D.C. as a school kid in the area back in the late-1970s and early-1980s.

I took 40 photos during my 3-hour trip around the zoo. Here are a few:

Next #TravelThursday we’ll visit my future retirement area of Highlands County Florida. Let’s keep traveling together.

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