December 2010 Stuart, FL, - Okeechobee Canal - Ft. Myers, FL #28

                                                        December 2010 

This has been an absolutely wonderful December!  Sometimes chilly but we've been far warmer than we've been in the past 3 winters.  Suppose we could attribute this to being farther south at this time of year.
As always, our time spent in Stuart was memorable.  We enjoyed spending time with the Smiths, Prices, and Corcoran's--all sailors; and David, an old Charleston friend who's now happily living aboard his boat in Stuart.

This was our first experience at crossing Florida from the east coast to the west, via the Okeechobee Canal.  We found it refreshingly beautiful.  The locks were quick and easy and the pristine shorelines, delightful.  Allegedly, there were camels on the north side of the canal.  I think we saw one sans humps  but Bill thought it was a sculpture.  Who knows!  I like the camel story best!

Most of this month was spent in Ft. Myers at Legacy Harbour Marina, at the recommendation of the Larsons, sailing friends from Solomons Island. Our dock is full of party animals. There is a social hour EVERY day at 5. Tuesday night is restaurant night. Thursday nights are pot luck. The weather's so wonderful that everyone's outside every day playing or working on their boats.

We visited the seashell-ladened Sanibel and Captiva Islands.  There were so many sea urchins, starfish, intact bi-valves, and so many other shells that we had to be careful where we stepped to keep from crushing them.  Could've walked the shoreline forever.

Naples! What a city! Jillion dollar bills dripping from every tree and light post. Homes are palatial! There was a home under construction on the Gulf. It was such a huge project that it even had a construction trailer on site!

Ft. Myers proudly promotes the Edison and Ford Winter Estates showcasing the homes, gardens, laboratory, and museum of these men. We spent half a day there but easily a day could be consumed touring the estates. Christmas lights adorn trees, fences, roof-lines, and windows, transforming it into a Christmas Wonderland. Henry Ford was a less than admirable fellow in his personal and employer/employee relationships but Thomas Edison was an admirable husband, father, and incredibly intelligent inventor. The museum and lab were facinating and an interesting memory- refresher of all the inventions he fathered. In 1925, Harvey Firestone, a friend of Edison and Ford, gave Edison a 4 foot Banyan tree, a species of the ficus. The trio was researching a source of natural rubber. The Banyan tree produces a white milky sap (latex) that can be used to create rubber. Now, 85 years later, this Banyan Tree is about an acre in diameter and is the largest Banyan in the country. The museum includes 7 galleries that relate the lives and associations of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. There are exhibits of Edison's inventions and Ford's automobiles.

As we cycle around the city, I continue to marvel at the prolifically blooming Bougainvillea that range from small plants to large trees. In South Carolina I felt very "green thumb" to have that plant survive the summer in a hanging basket. Ficus (Weeping Figs) are everywhere in this area. When I lived inLouisiana and South Carolina, my ficus was very persnickety! If I moved it from one side of the room to the other, it complained by dropping leaves. Here, they're huge privacy hedgerows sporting thick green foliage. Orchids sprout from tree trunks proudly displaying their delicate pastel colors.

One Saturday night a month, the city presents a Downtown Music Walk. Music abounds on every street corner and in the Patio de Leon but the real gem was staged in front of the art gallery by The Nowhere Band! They covered the full spectrum of The Beatles long and varied career and offered a reproduction of 60's Beatles performances blending period costumes and authentic instruments. The evening was an experience any true Beatles fan would love as well as the smiles and memories those songs brought back to life.

We had a remarkable and intangible Christmas gift. On the eve and day of Christmas, we were given an opportunity that we've often spoken of wanting to do "some day". Through very interesting circumstances and a story for another day, we were able to volunteer in a homeless shelter Christmas Eve helping distribute and wrap presents for children whose parents couldn't afford to purchase gifts. Christmas Day we joined an army of other volunteers in preparing and serving dinner to these families and individuals. They were so thankful and appreciative. Sunday, the day after Christmas, we went to the worship service that many of these folks attend. A young woman that I remembered from the 2 previous days bestowed upon me a very long and heart-felt hug! Those 3 days were a greater gift to us than ever we could've given them.
Our dear friend, Bob, from Greenville, SC, who visited us in July when we were in Washington, DC, fled the southern SC blizzard, and spent several days with us in Ft. Myers. It has been our intention to show him in these few days, everything we've spent a month discovering. I think we are wearing him out and he will be happy to escape back to the SC frozen tundra.

Our 3rd oldest son celebrated his birthday this month. Happy birthday, Geoff.

The last night of 2010 will be celebrated in downtown Ft. Myers with marina friends and our SC friend, Bob. There will be live music on several stages and a 170' midnight ball drop from high above the promenade overlooking the marina along with fireworks.

You may remember that our intentions are always cast in Jello, but as they stand now, we will leave Ft. Myers 5 January en route to Marathon in the FL Keys. Who knows where we'll actually wind up. Every day for us is an adventure.

We send best wishes to each of you for a wonderful and peaceful 2011.

Bill and Laura Bender
Legacy Harbour Marina
Ft. Myers, FL


Great stories, especially helping the homeless. Good job. Hey one question though about the beach! Was that girl nude? If so which beach was it. LOL

Have a great trip to points south.

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