Carol writes: The unseasonably warm winter we had been having followed us up the Florida coast to Fort Myers. During our visit to the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit last summer, we learned about neighboring summer homes along the Caloosahatchee River in Fort Myers that belonged to Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Old houses with connections to historical figures—now, that was right up our alley.
The Edison and Ford winter homes were side by side.
|Edison winter home|
|Ford winter home|
Self-made men with humble beginnings, Edison and Ford were very good friends and worked in partnership during their years at Fort Myers. Edison fully realized that Ford’s invention of the automobile was going to have worldwide implications.
Edison, along with his partners Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone (of Firestone Tire and Rubber fame), directed botanical research into finding a natural source of rubber that could be grown in the United States. The banyan (ficus) trees that Edison planted while searching for a source of domestic rubber were still in existence,
as was the laboratory where he conducted scientific research.
We saw some of Thomas Edison’s original groves of bamboo on the grounds. Edison utilized bamboo to produce flexible filaments which were then carbonized for use inside his experimental light bulbs.
An old-time photo of Edison’s wife and daughter, posing with two family friends inside a stand of bamboo, was priceless.
This ghost of Thomas Edison was found wandering beside a grove of creepy banyan trees that have dropped aerial roots into the ground from their horizontal branches.
Viewing into the ground-floor rooms of Edison’s Seminole Lodge was fascinating—
study with Edison-era chandelier
Many excellent old photos from the winter estate archives were on display in the museum.
Thomas Edison and wife Mina
MINNESOTA TWINS SPRING TRAINING
If it’s March in Florida, sounds of “Play ball!” can be heard in Fort Myers, the home of spring training for the Minnesota Twins and the Boston Red Sox.
For Twins fans, the setting for the training complex
and nearby Hammond Stadium was in stark contrast to a typical March day back home in the Twin Cities.
The smaller venue of spring training parks meant there were no bad seats in our game between the Pirates and the Twins. Kudos to Al for making our seats even better by picking a section that was shaded for all nine innings…
LOVERS KEY STATE PARK
Having spent 25 years of our lives living in Colorado, we are always on the lookout for an interesting hike. That’s a little more challenging in Florida, but not at Lovers Key State Park where we found a hiking trail on a barrier island called Black Island.
We found a nice wide trail through a variety of island scenery surrounded by inner waterways.
Interesting plant and animal life complimented the hike, like tropical gumbo-limbo trees with fancy red bark,
and a gopher tortoise coming out of its underground burrow to check out the humans.
Misting from an offshore rain cell forced us back to the car earlier than we expected, but we had completed the hike and so we were content to head home.
Almost 13 years have passed since Hurricane Charley ravaged Southwest Florida. At that time, Al and I had been following this storm very closely because predictions were that the storm would come ashore in the Tampa area. Such a storm path would have placed Al’s Mom and Dad, who lived just north of Tampa, dangerously near the bullseye. I remember discussions of what we would possibly need to do if they were hit hard. At the last minute, this dangerous Cat 4 storm turned hard right and made landfall further south at the northern end of Captiva Island.
To the south of Captiva, Sanibel Island was likewise ravaged, especially its beloved tree canopy. As it turns out, Nature has a way of making things better, even after an horrific event like a major hurricane. The exotic Australian pine species was out-of-place in a hurricane-prone habitat and did not do well because of its shallow root system. In subsequent years, a massive tree restoration project recreated the canopy with thousands of trees all native to Sanibel.
The scenery on the approach to Sanibel was breathtaking and showed no evidence of the hurricane from the previous decade.
Sanibel’s much-hyped annual Shell Festival was in its first day, so we took a look around. Ho-hum, just not all that exciting for us. To our eyes, the only items of interest were a shell-covered Volkswagen beetle
and a booth of floral arrangements that had "flowers" made out of shells. Now that was really cool!
Our main plan for the day was for a picnic lunch in the “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge,
named after conservationist J.N. Darling, who made it his goal to preserve one of the country’s largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystems on Sanibel Island.
The salt-loving roots of the mangrove trees sought out the brackish coastal water…
the feathers of the white pelicans were pristine…
and horseshoe crabs were in their element in the shallow water along the shore.
There was plenty of interest to cause us to linger for a couple of hours along the 4-mile drive through the preserve. Great job, Ding Darling…
We had been warned that the worst traffic leaving Sanibel Island would be from 2-6 p.m. Since sunset was precisely at 6:30 p.m., we decided to have an early dinner on Captiva Island and catch “sunset over the water”… as sunsets should be seen.
We headed to Bowman’s Beach on Sanibel Island and found out for ourselves why its beaches have a reputation for some of the best shelling in the world.
In some spots shells deposits were several inches thick! Now I know where the artists who created those magnificent flowers out of shells got their material…
All eyes faced west at sunset… and it was spectacular… as only sunset over the ocean can be.