Florida – A Little SideTrip

My original plan was to travel from Houston to New Orleans to Pensacola to Atlanta. As I was finalizing my own plans, my wife was making plans to fly to Orlando to meet our daughter and drive down to Key West. Less than a week into my trip – encountering bitter cold and rain – the idea of spending a little time in southern Florida became quite appealing. So, once they assured me that my presence would not hinder their quality mother-daughter time I set out adjusting my plans to join them. New plan: Houston to New Orleans to Orlando (by air) to Key West to Orlando to Atlanta to Pensacola, then back to New Orleans.

My daughter works full time for Hilton Hotels and part time as a bartender for Toothsome Chocolate Emporium at Universal City Walk. Both jobs paid dividends during our time together – a room at the Waldorf Astoria in Key West, Hilton Downtown Miami, Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal, admission to Universal. It wasn’t cheap raising her; finally getting a return on that investment. 😉

We drove a rental car from Orlando directly to Key West, then worked our way back north. Highlight of our time in Key West was a wine-tasting, sunset-watching sailing cruise. 

We had hoped to visit Dry Tortugas National Park. Unfortunately, there is only one ferry company with a concession from the National Park Service and they were sold out a few days in advance. It became necessary to do some extra bar hopping in Key West to compensate for the disappointment.

Now that I have visited the southern-most point in the United States, seems only right to plan a trip to the northern-most point.

Our route back to Orlando followed the coast to Biscayne National Park, then Miami for two nights. We spent our one full day visiting Everglades National Park via the Shark Valley Visitor Center. Options for the loop trail included riding a tram or walking, but we opted to rent three bikes. That turned out to be a good decision as we were able to move at our own pace and stop whenever we wanted, while still making much better time than we could have walking. We started the day hoping to see alligators and excitedly snapped the first few photos. After awhile, we had seen so many alligators that many of them went un-photographed. I wasn’t fast enough with my camera to catch the water moccasin crossing the trail. The Everglades is certainly a paradise for bird watchers as well.

It didn’t seem like a trip to the Everglades would be complete without taking a fan boat tour, so we signed up with a commercial tour operator. The tour included stops at two “hammocks”, the term used for small islands in the swamps – places used by Native Americans for building their homes.

During the drive back to Miami at the end of the day I looked on the internet for things to do in Miami. Not far from our hotel is a place called Wynwood Walls – a place for graffiti artists to show off their talent. The area includes a “formal” gallery area, but the art has spread out into the surrounding neighborhood. Worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Miami.

Back in Orlanda, staying at the Portofino Bay Resort. Transportation from the hotel to Universal is by water taxi. We spent an evening at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. Chocolate whisky shot, chased by two chocolate beers. Mmmmm. Chocolate.

Last full day in Orlando wandering around Universal Islands of Adventure, followed by birthday dinner celebration for my daughter’s 23rd. Damn, kids grow up so fast. She’s practically an adult now. 

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