As I’ve said before, Florida sure is an interesting place, especially the wildlife, and no, I don’t mean Justin Bieber in Miami. When my wife and I went down to Ft. Myers last week, our hotel was on a classic suburban strip, yet just a short walk from an old canal that’s also a bike trail, park, and home to lots of birds. We saw a wood stork, great blue and little blue herons, egrets, some ducks I haven’t ID’d yet but looked like they had Mohawk hair, and this osprey.
If you’re a serious birder or watcher, the place to be in that area is the refuge on Sanibel Island. True fact: you can go to Ding Darling to look for the Marbled Godwit. We didn’t see any of those but did get to watch some white pelicans, roseate spoonbills (which look just like their name), and more other species than I have room to list. State parks are one of the things that Floridians do very well.
Of course, at this time of year, the native feathered fauna are outnumbered by their flightless, RV and SUV-riding counterparts from up naw-wuth: the snowbirds! From Michigan they come, and Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, the whole Big 10, plus some auxiliary Greater Upper Midwestern states like Ontario and Nova Scotia.
If you think I’m kidding about their numbers, just try to get off Sanibel or onto I-75 in late afternoon; you’ll swear the city had imported Chris Christie to manage traffic. The locals sure know their customers, too. I heard more Bob Seger in restaurants around Ft. Myers than I’ve ever heard anywhere except Detroit.
In fact, most of the interstate south of Atlanta seems designed to fleece the birdies. At the point where anybody coming from Grand Rapids or Wapakoneta is bound to be desperate for a break, there’s a place called “Café Risqué – We Bare All!” and multiple billboards touting not one but two Adult Superstores: the Lion’s Den and Adult Central. I may be old and jaded, but come awwwnnn: how super can a porn shop be?
You can also get “Fireworks – Ground Shaking Mortars,” just the thing for that veteran of Afghanistan, Baghdad, or Khe Sanh in your life. And no trip is complete without visiting the Florida Citrus Center, which also conveniently peddles GATOR HEADS and WIND CHIMES. A bit north of Ft. Myers, there’s a billboard for the “No Needle, No Scalpel Vasectomy!” (If I were the copywriter, I believe I’d just leave out any mention of needles and scalpels altogether.) Then for women whose husbands missed that sign, there’s “My Gynecologist – We Deliver!”
We saw this too: a couple of Confederate flags the size of a barn door on tall poles next to the highway. One was north of Tifton, GA, the other right at the junction of I-75 and I-4, near Tampa. They weren’t flying when we drove down on January 18, but coming back on the 24th, the week of the Martin Luther King holiday, there they were. Coincidence? Not likely. The snowbirds might think this is common in the South, which it most definitely is not.