We are babies in paradise, with gracious Simon pouring a Francis Coppola 2008 Merlot, as we sit by the fire pit, under the towering oaks in the early evening, with stately Sandhill Cranes afoot in this Markham area. Steven’s cousin Katy, along with her husband, Simon, and their family have been wonderful hosts making this a very hard place to leave to continue the road trip. They provide the following: newfound friendship (with family members an even greater bonus!), travel information, new twin grand-babies living here, a hot tub, super comfy accommodations, cocktails, fine wine and delicious meals. They also provide what I have been craving: lots of shade trees over the top of a mosquito-netted great room containing the pool, barbecue and outdoor living room. We are surrounded by tropical flowers and bromeliads outside and inside the net. How COOL (and shady) is that! I haven’t been so comfortable since we entered Florida five weeks ago….bug bite free!
We have enjoyed the local farmer’s market, live music at their friend’s bistro that opened a week ago, tennis courts, tennis lessons, free access to the local YMCA allowing lap swimming and tango practice in their mirrored dance room. Although we have been “swimming with alligators” in the freshwater springs in Florida, somehow paddling our kayak out in the middle of a large lake feels a lot more risky in the event of a capsize. We have looked at several launch sites and then…chickened out. We enjoyed rescuing this big tortuga who kept wanting to cross the busy road; after several attempts to divert him, we picked him up and carried him to the other side of the road where he ate his way across the manicured lawn.
Instead of launching our kayak at Wilson’s Landing Park, we spent an hour following working canines, training as “Trackers.” Daja, a 4 year old German Shepherd, with a Level I Classification showed us how she can track her owner’s scent 20 minutes after the track was laid. Another Shepherd, Spencer, performed at Level II Classification, by tracking a 40 minute old track left by a stranger. The dogs are trained to lie down with front paws on either side of a found object without touching it, in this case a flat piece of wood already handled by the person used to lay the track. Trackers must stay 33 feet behind the dog to avoid influencing the tracking process. Spencer is drug search certified and has a contract with Jet Blue to search the cabins and cargo holds of flights arriving in Orlando, FL from Venezuela.
The closest beach to here is New Smyrna Beach. Bizarre concept…beautiful white, soft powdery sand, the best in Florida, that is given to the highest priority…cars. Crowd the people into small enclosures behind safety cones butt up against the condos to watch a steady stream of traffic in front of them…and hope their kids don’t get hit once they leave the water. Although 5 miles away in each direction there is normal beach access again, the center 8-9 miles of beach, has lane markers for cars. Free the cone people! Free the cone people!
I thought it would be cool to park on the beach, open our awning so Lety could sit in the shade outside while we played in the waves. We could even shower off the salt after our swim. NOT ALLOWED. No sitting outside your parked vehicle allowed….only driving. So, we fat, immobile Americans no longer have to walk from a parking space to the beach…we never have to leave our vehicles at all…almost like looking at a video of beach, without the hassle of sand, breeze, sun, salt water, heat, annoying neighbors. Reminds me of the brilliant animated film “Wall-E”, where humans floated around on lounges all their lives, and in an emergency, couldn’t walk anymore from lack of use. We went out and bought a pedometer the next day so we could be assured we were not becoming too car-oriented. 10,000 steps a day is so do-able, we used to do it just doing errands in the house and neighborhood. We also are bypassing Daytona Beach to find “walkable beaches” where we have the freedom to walk without fear of getting hit by moving vehicles.