October 14 (through the 18th Fort Myers, Florida...Mount Dora follows 23rd-24th)

This southern itinerary (LA-Ft Myers-New Orleans-Mount Dora-Norfolk-Washington DC-LA) is going to take me to Atlanta Four Times.

The 'airline hub' concept I think is well defined by the relationship between Delta Airlines and Atlanta Georgia. Apparently you can hardly take a flight on Delta that does not make you change planes in Atlanta.

All is well. I arrived on schedule to find a lively party in the pool-side bar at the Pink Shell, Fort Myers Beach, of all the wedding guests who had arrived before me.
October 15

We, Ken and I, decided to have a look at Sanibel Island today, first stop the Cheeburger Cheeburger recommended so highly by Riki and Mike.
It was fun!
Then we went on to the J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, just a literal spit away from Fort Myers Beach.
One part of the refuge included several miles of boardwalks to enjoy the wildlife but as Ken's foot was healing, almost better but not quite, we decided to...
...take the boat tour. The weather could not have been more perfect and we enjoyed every minute of it.
Around this dock area are the shells washed up onto the beach. You can see the footprints, it's actually the landing for the kayaks, but those shells, they just keep coming.

'Shelling', a competitive sport out here, is one of Sanibel Island's biggest claims to fame.
The first half hour of the tour was conducted under some awnings where this guy would show us sea creatures and tell us stories. It was actually very entertaining and informative.
We were far away on the other shore, and despite the fuzzies, I like this sequence.
As far as wildlife, we saw birds and plenty of them. I could see eight on this tree.

This is an example of the mangrove islands so prevalent in the brackish waters of South Florida. There is actually no land at all but just the intertwining mangrove trees that form these islands.
Love that prehistoric look.
We were a small companionable little tour group and everyone was enjoying the outing and the gorgeous day.

Several times dolphins would appear causing a great rush to one side or the another. The driver was trying to find us a manatee, thought he had seen a blip, but no luck. Otherwise it was all birds.
Back at the hotel Bill and Cheryl were hosting a cocktail party for all the wedding guests in their luxury suite. They had this picture of Kim and Ross featured on the coffee table.

The wedding party then went off for the rehersal dinner while the rest of us stayed to finish off the food and drink.
The last of the last, The Die Hards. .the Bitter Enders.
The view from the hotel lobby...
...and I got a shot of today's wedding couple (not OUR wedding couple) having the last of their own photos made.
Followed by a stroll down the road for dinner.
And then back to the hotel for lingering good nights out by the pool.

It's the bride and her sister. Good night Kim, tomorrow is your Wedding Day!!
October 16

Here comes the BRIDE! I'm standing down on the beach with all the guests, a three minute walk away for the bride and her dad as they make their way to the ceremony.
The sun and the sea, the Bride and the Groom, the parents of the Bride, the Bride's sister, the minister, and Wedded Bliss.
Mazel Tov Kim and Ross!
One good reason for doing a beach wedding...
...the PHOTOS!
More, and...
...more of 'em. Clicking away until the very last light.
While all this is going on the guests have been enjoying a cocktail party around the pool and after the photos we all move into the ballroom for dinner and dancing and the extending of many congratulations.
October 17

Looking out from the balcony, away from the Gulf towards the mainland. Fort Myers Beach is actually a town located on Estero Island, a small bit of land accessible by bridge from Fort Myers.
Ken's cousins Joan and Chuck came by today. They have a home in Naples (as well as one in Chicago and one in Wisconsin) and are there for a family wedding next weekend. Ken is just staying on because how convenient is that?!
We went back to the J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge Ding Darling Days celebration.

The face painters were quite masterful. They had free hotdogs and booths that looked like high school science fair projects promoting care for the environment. My favorite was the Florida panther protection plan. Of course.
Cousins Ken and Chucky. Too darn cute.
We took the tram tour and saw more and more of these great birds. They passed out a brouchure with good pictures and good descriptions so we could identify them pretty well as we went along.
A number of these are the pink spoonbills which are particularly fabulous, and more of the mangrove islands.
We're in the tram and for a very long way the driver telling us about this osprey nest and how the osprey have been there for many years and how we will be treated to seeing them in their nest and then...and Then...

...we see these two bald eagles! Oh my goodness says the driver. The eagles have chased out the ospreys in the few hours since he's been by, but the ospreys are circling and a battle will be forthcoming!
And who do we see there taking their own private tour? Bill's sisters and nieces!
Then we drove on to Cristobal, a small island just over a small bridge from Sanibel and the shell capital of the whole wide world.

Every morning a new carpet of shells is washed ashore.
People go NUTS for these shells.
Joan collected a nice handful for Kaitlin because she could not not. Those shells simply Demand to be picked up. Not by me though, but that's understandable.

Then we had a nice dinner, danced under the stars, and made it an early night home. How lovely!
October 18

The Pink Shell Resort from a distance. The water is warm and amazingly calm and people were wading in the water but no one was swimming. Why? I wondered...
...check out that sign. Stingrays!
And here they are - herds of them passing down the shoreline. Yikes!
The hotel does have available a wide selection of sea toys and canoeing in the mangroves was especially popular with our group.
I walked down to restaurant row on Fort Myers Beach; this is the pier. Looking off that pier...
...you see all these swarms of little fish and these pelicans diving diving diving.
And a nice evening dinner at the pool with the family who stayed on for a few days r&r. Tomorrow morning I leave for New Orleans!
October 23-24 Mount Dora, Florida

Here we have a quick over-nighter with my 'old' friend Leigh. We are (or more correctly, I am) celebrating her Big Five OHH! I am thirteen years older than Leigh and thirteen years younger than her mom Marilyn and we are off for Good Times Ahead.

(You can find the story of Leigh's and my trip to Minneapolis and here's a long ago trip to Mexico.)
We met up at Mount Dora, about an hour north of Orlando, to enjoy each other's company and to buzz around through the biggest Arts and Crafts Fair On The Planet.

What you see is 1/25th of the whole thing. Streets and streets and streets of these look-alike pavilions with Arts and Crafts For Sale.
And to keep my attention - FOOD!
Since it was Leigh's Big Five OHH (don't tell her I told you) I wanted to get her a little something that she would actually want, and here it is, with the crafty folk gathered 'round.
Marilyn arranged everything - found Mount Dora as a meeting place, got the hotel, researched restaurants, brought several cocktail hours worth of snacks and beverage.

This is the view from the parking lot of the Quality Inn! I was SO surprised and delighted.
For our big night out we ate at the Goblin Market, the hottest spot in Mount Dora.

It was packed of course because of the Fair but we did have reservations. Since there was one delay after another in seating us the bartender plied us with free drinks and the hostess gave us free hor'd oeuvres.

The food was delicious and at the end of a long day we were all happy happy joy joy.
The morning view from the parking lot.
Jutting out into the lake was a small pavilion for lounging, the site of the first picture in this account and the last picture, where we're back at the lake saying fond farewells. Until next time!
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