Sunday, December 5, 2010

Gators and daughters.

My daughters enjoying the warm water in Miami.

After our stay in Key West we headed back to Miami for a few days before my wife and two of my daughters would fly back to Vancouver to get ready for the Christmas season. Once in Miami we searched out the Internet and talked to the locals about visiting the Florida Everglades. Since I was a child, I have always wanted to ride one of the air boats across the water and through the tall grass in search of alligators. It was time to actually make it happen.

Everglades Safari Park
Our boat captain.
Alligator swimming beside our boat.
The Everglades are wetlands comprising the southern half of a large watershed. The system begins up near Orlando with the Kissimmee River, which flows into the vast but shallow Lake Okeechobee. Water leaving the lake in the wet season forms a slow-moving river 60 miles (97 km) wide and over 100 miles (160 km) long, flowing southward across a limestone shelf to Florida Bay at the southern end of the state.

Getting to the Everglades is really easy as the west side of the Miami suburbs border them, and it is just a one hour drive from South Beach. The highway to the everglades has a canal that runs parallel to it and as you drive along it and watch off to the shoulder, you start to see alligators sunning themselves on the grassy banks. The bank nearest the road has a barrier on the side to keep marauding gators from venturing on it.

Marauding man-eating gator!

After our ride through the park we got to watch one of the rangers put on a show with some alligators. I was impressed with his knowledge and handling of the animals. As we left the show and walked through the park you are in direct contact with wild alligators if they choose to come up on to the slopes. These are not park animals but wild ones. They warn you to be careful and take precautions when you leave. As we walked along, we came upon this guy, about 8 feet in length. He did not seem to be interested in us which made me a little brave. I started taking pictures and got a little closer and closer. I tried to bet my wife I could touch his tail and she just got angry with me and told me to not be stupid! This is as close as I got, though. There was a palm tree behind me and I was afraid if he turned to snap, I would run into the tree and get eaten. I kept it safe and made it within about two feet.
Eight foot wild alligator!

The Everglades themselves are more beautiful then I anticipated. It is far more then just tall grass and water!

My wife and two younger daughters flew back to Vancouver leaving us for with one more week in Miami. I met up with the guys at South Beach Divers and I went back to the Florida Keys to go diving with them at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo. The marine park includes approximately 70 nautical square miles (240 km²) of Atlantic Ocean waters and was the first underwater park in the United States. The primary attractions of the park are the coral reefs (such as Molasses Reef) and their associated marine life. Diving in Key Largo was awesome and I got to see many species of corals and fish including Barracudas. It is a one and a half hour drive back to SoBe after sunset and I am tired from the day. Melissa and I choose to eat outside at Lincoln Road Mall that night. Lincoln Road Mall is a huge open air mall that is lined with designer stores and filled with outdoor restaurants all down the middle. It is filled every day and night with thousands of people. Definitely my favorite place to have dinner.
The next day I am up and off on a dive boat again. This time to dive a wreck in the ocean south of Miami in about 60 feet of water. Again visibility is great and I end up having two fantastic dives that day. The highlight obviously just being around the wreck.

Getting ready for a day of diving on the reefs.

Empty tanks and a sunset.

Authentic barbecue in South Beach
It would not be a barbecue blog without good old barbecue, so hear it is! "Bar-b-que Beach Miami". We ventured into and ate at this place not once, not twice, but three times! After spending time in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, who would have thought some of the best we would eat would be in South Florida's Miami Beach... Yes it was not only good, but authentic. The one wall inside is lined with a wood pile for the smoker in the back consisting of Pecan, Oak and Apple. The pork shoulder and ribs were really good and they had a good selection of sauces on the side. We ordered the "Little Piggy" option off the menu and it fed three people until we were fully stuffed. Chicken, pulled pork, ribs, brisket and sides. We managed to only eat about half the food on the platter so we asked for a couple of containers to go. As we walked back to our hotel we spotted a couple of homeless people and dropped off the food with them. You should have seen the looks on their faces when they saw they were getting barbecue! As we walked on, Melissa said to me "Dad, did you see the smile on his face when he saw it was barbecue!" I guess most of us love good old 'que..

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