Florida vacation

During high school vacation week Dan, Barb, and Matt went to Florida (5 days Feb 27 thru March 3rd) to take in some Red Sox spring training action and other activities. We had GREAT weather, unseasonably warm in the mid 80’s all week. We had arranged for a Ford Mustang convertible which turned out to be an excellent choice. It even had Sirius satellite radio as a free extra.

[TIP: Click on most photos in this March 4th post for a full size view in a new window, which you may need to expand depending on your browser]

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Our flight was from Boston to Miami to Ft. Myers, and the return was Ft. Myers to St. Louis to Boston. Frequent flyer points don’t give you a lot of choices, and we were group 6 for boarding 🙁 Fortunately for all flights we got plenty of overhead cabin room since we had all carry-on luggage. We stayed at the Ft Myers Marriott Courtyard, about two miles from the facilities.

    DAY 1

We did miss the pros working out at the training facility on Wednesday since the games started that day which means they moved out to the City of Palms Park already. They are not at the training complex very long. The week before was the best time to go, but that is Massachusetts school vacation week, not New Hampshire’s which is where Matt goes (Bishop Guertin HS). We did see the minor leaguers working out, though. We read in the spring training program that this year, the Red Sox set a new record high of 12,441 visitors over a 10 day period at the complex, with 2,577 on Feb 22nd!

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We then decided to take a drive to see the Everglades. It was a couple of hours drive, mostly because we were on a route that had stop lights every intersection for 30 miles. In general we spent a LOT of time waiting at traffic lights down there. There are a lot of people living in that area, which means a lot of cars and traffic lights.

Once we got to the very northwest corner of the Everglades, we saw a coconut tree and a pelican diving for food at the visitor’s center.

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We then went on an air boat ride at this place. The boat goes through the swamplands with lots of mangrove forests and saw grass. There were birds everywhere, mostly the white (common) egrets with black legs. However, one time we came across a flock of Roseate Spoonbills.

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And of course, there were ALLIGATORS! We got pretty close too. I am sure these ones are so used to tour boats coming by multiple times each day throughout the year that they could care less, but still it was a rush.

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We finished the sightseeing at Big Cypress National Preserve. There is a .5 mile walkway through the forest with lots of signs pointing out items of interest. It was like a rainforest through there, although that was in part due to the heat and humidity we were experiencing. The amazing part was there was not a single insect to be found (on our entire trip).

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We finished the day eating at an excellent seafood restaurant back in Ft. Myers called the Prawnbroker. We were told by our waiter that Jonathan Papelbon was in for dinner the other evening along with Gabe Kapler.

    Day 2

This was a day to go to the beach. The temperature was predicted to be sunny and warm, in the mid-80’s, with only a slight chance of rain. And it did not disappoint. We chose Ft. Myers beach, since the other choices were a bit more of a drive. So we put the convertible top down, put our sunnies on, and headed out. When we got there around 10:00 AM, the public parking lot was already full and there was a lot of traffic on the one main road along the island. Fortunately there was a private parking lot just a little farther up the road for $5.00. I was thinking, “What a bargain – I will gladly pay that for all day parking right across from the beach, compared to what I would pay to park in Boston or somewhere like that.

It was a busy place, with some similarities to Hampton Beach but much nicer. The sand was very fine, white, and like powder. Very soft, and it would tend to stick to our skin. A steady wind from the ocean blew it around and quietly drifted onto our blankets and stuff. The water was surprisingly warm, in the mid to upper 70’s maybe? It just felt warmer than New England coastal waters ever get. There were not too many people in it, but we were, even going underwater.

Later we took a walk along the pier to get an energy drink and see the scenery.
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There was a pelican that hung out at the end of the pier, probably to get handouts from the people fishing. He was quite comfortable with people so Barb was able to get real close for a picture. These things are the equivalent of Canada Geese in New England. We assume this one was a male, because of the coloring. pelican 2 thumb

Here is a female. pelican 3 thumb

We also got close to an egret.
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We took the long route home, down southward to the other end of the peninsula through the town of Bonita Beach. There were some very nice and no doubt very expensive homes around there, but also a lot of homes along the road that were For-Sale. Dinner was at the Ft. Myers Ale House which we could walk to since it was right next to the hotel.

    Day 3

Game day. We wanted to arrive early to catch batting practice and possibly snag some autographs. The gates open 2.5 hours before the 12:35 game time (there were two games that day, with Daisuke Matsuzaka’s first start of his new Sox career in the evening).

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So we got there around 9:45. Matt was immediately able to get Johnny Pesky’s autograph as he was sitting just over the railing next to the dugout.

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Later, Terry Francona came by and signed a lot of autographs. Matt got his also.

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Not very many other regular players stopped by. Manny, Big Papi, and Youk signed a few autographs just briefly but by that time the area was packed. Matt did get one of the “invitees” who played in Japan last year (Alex Ochoa). We then walked around inside and bought some souvenirs.

It is a nice park, with a feel to it like LeLeacher park in Lowell, only a bit bigger and nicer.

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In these spring training games, the stars only play a couple innings before pulling them for the subs. We did see a good lineup to start, however, including Manny’s first game of the spring season.

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The Japanese media were all over the place and on the field. When the other Japanese pitcher, Hideki Okajima, came on for a few innings, the media all came running out to take pictures. He pitched good.

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One unknown pitcher for the Sox gave up six runs in one inning. The Red Sox eventually tied it in the ninth but then lost it in the tenth. No big deal since they don’t count for anything anyway. We had an early dinner at “The Shrimp Shack”. Good food, good prices, casual
atmosphere, lots of senior citizens. We were definitely the youngest people there. We arrived before 5:00 PM and still had to wait for a table.

On Saturday we left early for our flight to St. Louis to Boston. When we arrived, it was 53 degrees but felt like 30 to us. And the sun was noticeably cooler.

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