Theme: The Voyage of Discovery Phase: Phase 1: Part 3 Country: United States of America (USA) Language: English Unit of Currency: US dollars Florida Locations: Amelia Island, Ft. Lauderdale, Marco Island, Titusville, & St. Augustine Year: 2015 Bucket list: Driving on St. Augustine Beach
- Adventuring down the road of “Alligator Alley” in the Everglades
On the way to Marco Island, one passes Alligator Alley, it connects the lower east and west coasts of Florida via Broward and Collier Counties. Arrow-straight for most of its length, it crosses for the first time the heart of what was an impenetrable wilderness, the Florida Everglades. It is the link between the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts.
I had the opportunity to speak with a local before driving down the this famous road that surrounded dozens of alligators in the swamps, lakes, and grass pathways. The barber told me that it is one of his favorite “Everglade” experience. He described the large gators that sunbath off the sides of the roads and the massive heads and snouts popping out of the water.
We walked down memory lane as he enthusiastically talked about the history of Alligator Alley as being a remarkable achievement and an adventurous road. Its original official title was “The Everglades Parkway.”
- Visiting Marco Island
The mission of this portion of the world tour was to drive to Marco Island through Florida’s Everglades. The adventure itself was earlier described in “Adventuring down the road of “Alligator Alley in the Everglades.” However, in this case, getting to Marco Island was the part of the adrenaline rush. The drive from Ft. Lauderdale to Marco Island was 2 hours. The route took us from the eastern side of Florida to the western side. Signs of beware of the Florida’s black panther, alligator crossings, and Gopher tortoise crossings were the main attractions that we were interested in as we drove towards the island.
Continuing the signature jumpin’ photograph segments, eating Mexican food, strolling the beach, and taking in Marco Island’s atmosphere were a few highlights of our day trip there.
- Beach driving on St. Augustine Beach
There are not many places in the world where you are allowed to drive on a beach. Even though the weather turned from sunshine to rain in the matter of minutes, it was an experience unlike no other. There was a delegated sand road lining of traffic cones a few meters outside where beach goers were sunbathing. The speed limit was 10mph and frankly, it was easy to drive this speed limit. After all, you are driving on a beach! You did not see any cars on the sandy paths, due to the restricted “4×4 only” regulations.
For now, I introduce you to beach driving, featuring my Jeep Wrangler aka Oakley! As a Marine Biologist, I have researched this particular adrenaline activity. With the strong riptide, it is advised not to go swimming at this time; however, the trail for driving on the beach is far enough from the people and beach to disturb any of the beach critters and local sunbathers! With that being said, I highly recommend it!
The experience was incredible, and highly recommended. I should note that it was amazing to put down the Jeep top; however, even now I am still finding patches of sand in the Jeep from that day. You may ask was it worth it? Hell yes it was!
Video: St. Augustine Beach in Florida – Driving my Jeep on the beach
- Driving through a section of Florida’s wetlands in Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands of Viera
I have always wanted to take a tour of Florida’s wetlands, and the opportunity arose when our Uncle Matt resident of Cocoa, Florida invited us on a private tour to see firsthand how his development of the wetlands has progressed over the past 10 years. It was truly an educational experience as we listened to him speak very fondly of the wetlands that remain in Florida, his personal views on the animals that inhabit them, and the abundance of people that come to his facility to visit one of Florida’s most loved wetlands.
He further explained to us that approximately 60,000 visitors pass through the main entrance to the wetlands system – many drawn by the site’s stunning abundance of water fowl and wildlife. We had then asked why the facility is known as Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands at Veira. He mentioned that “Also known as the Viera Wetlands, the Board of County Commissioners designated the site as the Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands at Viera in December, 2007, in memory of Ritch Grissom, a longtime employee of Brevard County who worked the adjacent treatment facility.”
The flora & fauna ranged from birds, alligators, snakes, deer, plants, trees, rabbits, fish, and various species of amphibians. This particular wetlands that we visited were known for their blue heron. The wetlands were a popular site for birders, photographers, and eco-tourists. The wetlands consisted of 200 acres and a central lake. Sections of the wetlands were designed to maintain different depths of water, reflecting the diverse wetland conditions.
A little background about our uncle’s job:
Part of our uncle’s job at this specific wetland facility was to monitor the wetland’s health and wildlife utilization. While functioning as a healthy, productive, and effective polishing system for water reuse, the wetlands provided a biologically diverse ecosystem – affording visitors a wonderful, close-up opportunity to view Brevard County’s native wildlife and vegetation. In our eyes, this sounds like a Biologist’s dream job.
To be able to visit this particular wetlands, one must sign in and check out at the administration building on the end of the dirt road of Deep Marsh Road in Titusville. The Wetlands are open to the public 0700 or 7am until 1530 or 3:30pm M-F and weekends by appointment. Staff can be reached at (321) 567-3891 M-F at those times.
A list of rules we were given before driving through the acres of wetlands:
A) Visitors must follow the signs through the plant to the Wetlands. Do not stray from the route, stop or get out of your cars, as this is an operational facility with many potential hazards.
B) Vehicle traffic is limited to the Westland perimeter berms. All berms are open to foot traffic.
C) There is to be no planting, trapping, fishing, hunting, boating, or swimming with the confines of the Wetlands.
D) Feeding and harassing any form of wildlife is illegal and will not be tolerated. Violators will be turned over to the proper authorities.
E) The City of Titusville reserves the right to remove visitors from the Wetlands if necessary.
F) On occasion, areas of the Wetlands will be closed to the public. To ensure your personal safety, these areas will be clearly marked. Do not enter these areas.
G) Literature is available for your viewing and safety concerns. If you do not wish to keep the literature, please return it upon checking out.
H) The Staff and Management of the Water Reclamation Department wish you a safe and educational visit.
We want to thank the Staff of Blue Heron Water Reclamation Facilities and our Uncle Matt for taking time out of their busy schedules and providing facts about the wetlands, showing us photographs of the flora & fauna that live there, allowing us to keep pamphlets of the wetlands and facilities, and most importantly, giving us a private tour of Florida’s most famous and well-developed wetlands.
- Learning about Amelia Island’s history through the locals
Throughout the years living in Miami, Florida I always wanted to drive up north and visit Amelia Island. I chose to travel outside the US and never went out of my way to visit Amelia Island until now. The location is known for one of Florida’s most popular wedding destinations and one of the state’s oldest towns. As I have learned there are quite a few Florida Islands, but Amelia Island is unique in very many ways.
During this part of the world tour, Amelia Island was our first official stop. Amelia Island lies in the northernmost corner of Eastern Florida, and was the perfect location to spend a few hours speaking to the locals about the history of this old town.
Background history about Amelia Island:
The island is separated from the Florida mainland by the Amelia River and from Georgia by the St. Mary’s River at Cumberland Sound. The latter is an important fact since there was critical time when Florida was under Spanish rule while Georgia was controlled by the English and, later, of the United States.
During that time, Amelia Island, and the small town of Fernandina located therein, was a bustling border town. Thomas Jefferson’s Embargo Act forbade trade with foreign powers, but the act had its flaws, one of which was it enforcement. Spanish resources on Amelia Island were slim, and the St. Mary’s River served as the perfect thoroughfare for smuggling goods into Georgia and the United States. Amelia Island then became a back door to the newly formed country and a staggering area for illegal activity in America. Smugglers, pirates, prostitutes, and other ne’er-do-wells flocked to Amelia Island to capitalize on the geographical opportunities it presented.
Today the island once again bustles with activity as it did more than 100 years ago. An old railroad track built in 1861 lied within the center of town and it once connected the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean in a much faster way than sailing around Florida’s peninsula. The original was destroyed in the Civil War, but was later rebuilt. My younger brother Josh and I had the pleasure to see the train tracks and learn a great deal about the history of the town.
One of the mementos I purchased was a book called, “Handbook of 50 pirates,” and it contained classic pirate images and fascinating facts of each pirate that once ruled the seas.
INTERACTIONS AROUND THE WORLD:
Every segment of the world tour, we have the pleasure to meet a few fans of “The Voyage of Discovery,” swap travel stories, and talk about their passion for 4x4s. If they are keen, we even snap a few photographs of them and with Oakley, my Jeep Wrangler.
In this particular photograph, after driving on St. Augustine’s Beach I had the opportunity to speak with Susan B. Anthony about US National Parks, her Asian travels and future aspirations, and the beauty of St. Augustine. Thank you Susan B. Anthony for the lovely conversation and taking the time for a quick pose.
TRUSTED GEAR THAT WE USE FOR THE VOYAGE:
Without packing light and having durable equipment to utilize for the world tour, we would not be able to travel the way that we do. In the beginning of the Phase 1: Part 1 it was mayhem at my beach house as we were beginning to pack our belongings in different sized luggage. After going through a trial of a dozen book bags, suitcases, and duffel bags, we were finally able to select the type of luggage that will be used throughout “The Voyage of Discovery.” Do not be surprised if our gear changes mid way through our trip – I am always looking for the next best thing!
As most of you know I do fund my own travels, because I work and travel in between international projects. I am discussing sponsorship opportunities with various brand name companies that we use on the world tour. Our favorite luggage companies are a toss between Superdry and The North Face. I could list a ton of reasons why these two companies stand out above all others, but instead I will reveal the photographs that were taken with our Superdry and The North Face gear recently in Florida.
The North Face:
BEST PHOTOGRAPHS OF MY JEEP WRANGLER FOR PHASE 1: PART 3:
As I started this world tour almost 9 months ago, I have meticulously strategized how to capture the best photographs of Oakley, my Jeep Wrangler. Fortunately, this part of the world tour I was able to capture a lot of photographs of Oakley in various angles. Shooting in Florida, brought lots of sunshine, beach scenes, and clear skies in the month of June.
The Last-Minute Florida Island Hopping Adventure:
A spontaneous last-minute trip to Florida before continent hopping to work, has brought my younger brother Josh and I for a day trip in Amelia Island, a couple days in Ft. Lauderdale with our best mates, Martin aka Marty Party & Brian, and a day trip to Marco Island. I could not think of a better way to explore Florida’s majestic well-hidden islands.
One of the best places to eat in Ft. Lauderdale as we discovered was Gyroville (on SE 17th street Ft. Lauderdale) – the pitas were fresh, the vegetables were plentiful, the beef mixed with lamb was very flavorful, and the tzatziki cucumber sauce topped off the dish well.
This particular portion of the world tour was to surprise my best friend, Martin aka Marty Party, spend a few days in Florida, and take a few day trips to the surrounding islands. It’s always nice catching up with old friends. Not to mention, the islands were breath-taking and did not disappoint!
A special shout out to Martin and Brian for letting us crash at their place. I miss you guys, and I look forward to having you join me on “The Voyage of Discovery” in the future!
Thank you Josh for coming along for another adventure on “The Voyage of Discovery!”
Our Family Weekend, after Phase 1: Part 3:
Every once in a while, my younger brother, Josh, surprises me with a post that he writes, a message he leaves in my travel suitcase, or a suggestion he makes of capturing the perfect photograph or video.
Before I left for work, he made the suggestion to head to the beach for the weekend. Maggie aka our mom mentioned that we should take more photographs at the beach with our “The Voyage of Discovery” gear. It was the perfect beach day, and with both of their ideas we had a great time before I left for Colombia that Monday morning.