Florida road trip – Day 7 (alligators, pig frogs and a lightning bolt)

One lesson I have learnt is never to listen to the Florida weather forecast. If it says sunny, it’ll be sunny. If it says rain, it’ll probably be sunny – except of course, when it wasn’t, on day 4.

Today we made our way from Naples around 9.30am, through the Everglades and arrived at our Holiday Inn at Florida City, about 30 miles south of Miami. To us, alligators are exciting. We couldn’t get enough of them. To the locals, they are just gators and probably wonder what all the fuss is about. Our journey today took about nine hours. If we had a dollar for every time we stopped to take pictures, that’d cover our eating bills for the remaining week of our road trip. The photo opportunities were outstanding. We have now devised a new term for something that cannot be missed – an emergency photo opportunity (or EPO). If one of us sees a snake crossing the road, for example, they shout “EPO”. Nine times out of ten it is up to me to make sure there isn’t a car following closely behind before taking immediate action.

Today, I’ll just talk about Loop Road. It is a detour off the main US 41 highway that goes deep into the heart of the Everglades. It is about 30 miles long and mostly gravel road, so it has to be done quite slowly. We took about three hours. Both sides of the road are lined with trees through which you can see swamp land, the home for all kinds of tropical wildlife. The trees aren’t just along the roadside, as they continue into the swamp, but that’s how it looks from the road. As we drove along Loop Road, we had a number of EPOs, but mostly random stops in the openings between the trees, revealing all kinds of fish, birds and, of course, gators. One of the highlights was an anhinga in a tree close to us, proudly boasting it’s plumage and unconcerned about our presence. We wondered what noise gators make. We could hear frequent grunting sounds that sounded kind of frog-like and assumed that these were alligator noises. We later learnt that the frog-like noises came from… well… frogs! Pig frogs, we believe. We still don’t know what noise gators make (other than “splash!” and “snap!” of course). I think I’ll Google it later. Anyway, Loop Road is a must if you ever come this way.

The biggest danger today was not from the wildlife. Towards the end of our journey, we visited a wildlife reserve called Shark Valley. There are no sharks there. We didn’t see any wildlife, as it happens, other than an egret and some other bird that caught our attention, but we did hear lots of gators making frog noises. However, as we were walking back to the car, there were some flashes of lightning. One lightning bolt struck the ground about 20 metres from us. I’ve never been so close to being struck by lightning. It all happened so fast, and we didn’t even get chance to shout “EPO!”.

We have noticed that the Americans love their air conditioning. We finished off the day by dining at Denny’s, a restaurant chain, just over the road from our hotel. Despite the heat outside – apparently it’s one of their hottest summers in a long time – inside it was like a refrigerator. We had to go back to the car to get our jackets while everyone else in the restaurant were in T shirts.

If you’d like to know more about our story or read our book I’M NEVER ILL (A journey through brain surgery and beyond…),, please visit our website at:

http://www.markdpritchard.co.uk

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