Saturday, February 23, 2008

Fish Eating Creek

On Friday afternoon, the big boss man let me leave work an hour early so I could head down to Fish Eating Creek (a private nature preserve about 120 miles from Tampa near Lake Okeechobee)...a trip sponsored by the Florida Studies program at USF. At 3pm, I took off from St. Pete and drove through the little towns of Myaka and Arcadia, arriving at my destination at about 6pm. By that time it was getting dark and the mosquitoes were ready to feast.

On walking up the path that lead into the sanctuary, I was surprised when my friend Sean rolled up on this swamp buggy to pick me up. Homemade, this beast got her done in the mud. Its drive shaft had broken earlier in the day but was somehow miraculously fixed by our host and guide, crazy Bob.
After about 15 minutes of rolling through muck and swamp, I arrived at the camp fire and our motel for the evening...picture a giant shed, walled with mosquito netting, a makeshift kitchen, and about a half dozen bunks. This would be the first time I've slept outside since I was 12.

After some really good food and even better conversations around the campfire (as well as finding out that one of the twelve guests with us was Susan Surandon's brother), we headed to bed at about midnight. At this point, the reserve was dead silent except for the sporadic, eerie hoots of barn owls.
At about 7am, everyone woke up to some breakfast and coffee over the fire. Soon after, we took off for a pretty long walk through the woods. Not far from camp, we discovered this saw palmetto above. This palmetto species only grows about a centimeter a year. Granted the size of this one in particular, we're looking at about a 250 to 300 year old plant.
Through the reserve, Cypress knees were a dime a dozen. At one point I was certain that my clumsiness was going to send me to my death atop one of these bad boys...I was wrong, luckily.
On our walk there were many sloughs to cross. Most of them had makeshift bridges to span the water. This was the most aerobic of the lot. Here is one of my professors (Dr. Mormino) making it happen...this guy knows an ungodly amount of information about Florida.

Sour orange and lemon trees were found at random throughout the reserve. Most of them were pretty deep in the bush. Legend has it that early Spanish settlers planted them. Too bad they weren't concerned with taste...these things were terrible.

I had to snap this shot on our way out. This is Fish Eating Creek. Pretty breath-taking...I felt pretty lucky to have experienced its remoteness.
Thanks to Dr. Mormino for the invitation. And thanks to crazy Bob and Sean for picking me up in the swamp beast. If not, I would have had filthy feet after walking through the muck. If you didn't know, filthy feet are on my top five list of things I can't deal with...Yes, I'm an odd one.
-He Said

Sunday, February 10, 2008

thank you, garmin

I only have a few things to say about this weekend. The best part--second even to the Moroccan shiskabob at Casbah or the yummy vegan cobbler from Sentient Bean--was that Matt and I only had ONE fight all weekend. This lack of fangs is exceptional for two reasons:
  1. We were both incredibly tired. I stayed up until 5 AM finishing that paper, and Matt had a really stressful work week.
  2. Traveling brings out the worst in us. I can be a control freak, preferring to plan where my next 4 meals are coming from. And at what times those meals will occur. And where'll we'll park when we get there. Matt, on the other hand, responds to routine change by devolving into preteen Matt, who is easily overwhelmed and highly defensive. (Come to think of it, though, this is perhaps an evolution, as Matt outside his comfort zone used to turn into toddler Matt. That version threw fits and then needed naps. Preteen Matt is much better.)
What can we thank for our near perfect calm? Behold:

That blurry thing is a Garmin, a GPS system that Matt's mom recently gave him. We will never travel without it again.

--She said

Savannah, Georgia.

So last Thursday night we packed up the car and headed to Savannah. Ariel was presenting a paper at a writing center conference, a paper she was fooling with until minutes before it was to be presented. On Friday, not only did she get it done in time, but it read extremely well and she did a great job presenting it. When in comes to writing, Ariel makes it happen with precision. This was my third conference as her personal assistant, and the third time I left with a smile on my face being quite the proud boyfriend.

On Saturday, after the conference, we headed down to the old town which dates back to the late 18th century. Based around 24 town squares set up in a grid, Savannah is quite possibly the biggest historic city in the states. Although there is plenty of interesting stuff to check out (including too many tours to choose from), we settled on only one historic tour, spending the rest of our time meandering on foot through dozens upon dozens of streets covered in oak and smothered with picturesque spanish moss. The city forces you to relax ... and we needed it.

Here are some photos we snapped while walking through the city...

Forsyth Park. Created in the early 18th Century. There are two of these fountains...the other one is in France.

Again, Forsyth park. A monument to some dead dude. There's a lot of dead people in this city with plenty of monuments to commemorate them.

Palm trees look good anywhere. Every city needs some.

A prison for Union soldiers was built under this oak tree during the Civil War. The tree, according to it's plaque, is 270 years old. Many Savannahians think the South will rise again. I hate to break the news to them ... it probably won't.

Ariel likes to splurge on food. After that conference, she needed a reward. This was probably the best salad at one of the best coffee shops we've visited. (Behind this building was where the 8th Airforce formed--wikipedia it, they were pretty interesting.)

Every street in Savannah looked like this ... Seriously amazing.

Overall, it was quite the relaxing trip. If you're ever heading up or down I-95 and can afford to take a couple hours break, Savannah won't let you down.

-He Said.