After Fort Myers Beach, we had several interesting days. On Saturday, we went nature-exploring in the Lake Placid (Florida, not New York) area, and then worked our way up to Jacksonville, which is a fun town. We then split up, with Gibson and me going to Boston for medical appointments, and Elizabeth and Sterling driving north through Charleston, South Carolina. We re-joined each other in Richmond, and the four of us joined forces for the home stretch back to Charlottesville. Along the way, we managed to give our pig Rosie a bath in a hotel bathtub, which we caught on video.
Many would think our family is peculiar, but we love nature and wildlife — all kinds of wildlife. Our kids in particular love herps — reptiles and amphibians — and we’re very happy chasing them down. Our son has his own website devoted mostly to nature — http://www.gibsonswildlife.com. We were joined on Saturday by a nature expert from South Florida, Josh Holbrook, and his wife, and got in some great discoveries. One highlight was the gopher tortoise, which is a good-sized land tortoise. We all saw a Brahminy Blind Snake, a Southeastern five-lined skink, a blue-tailed mole skink, and a Florida Scrub Jay (a bird). It was a gorgeous sunny day, with temperatures in the 70′s, so everything conspired for a great day.
One thing we learned from Josh is to look for exotic creatures near decrepit billboards. If the old board has fallen off, it’s completely in disrepair, if it’s a big dangerous to walk around . . . well, you’re at the right place. All those boards on the ground make for great hiding places. We turned over lots of boards, and our efforts were rewarded with some nice finds.
After an uneventful overnight in Orlando, we motored up to Jacksonville, Florida. None of us had ever been there, and we were pleasantly surprised by this community. We started by taking in a baseball practice with the varsity team from St. Anne’s-Belfield, where our kids will be going come Monday. The team goes to Florida each spring for a set of games, and traditionally has had some great teams.
After some online research, we found a really fun “Bark in the Park” event in downtown Jacksonville, and had a blast walking around all the different dogs (and owners!) there. We were very tempted to try to enter our little pig in some of the contests, and claim she’s a new breed of dog, but we were worried that one or more of the dogs would be in the mood for bacon sushi. So Rosie hunkered down in the car, while we walked around the bark event.
We took in a nice little museum in Jacksonville, the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens. The museum had some nice pieces, and the grounds were spectacular, looking out on the St. John’s River. This is exactly the kind of discovery we love to make in a new city.
The next morning, with very mixed feelings, we split up. The boys went to Boston, where Gibson had an MRI and doctor’s appointment about a knee/bone issue he’s been dealing with. The girls went to Charleston, SC, and caught up with many of our great friends there, including joining a big gathering that went to see the Moscow Ballet.
Elizabeth then did a power drive from Charleston, SC, to Richmond, VA, in one day, while Gibson and I flew down from Boston, and we met at a great hotel there, the Jefferson. The hotel is an old-school Richmond hotel that allows pet pigs (great!) and has statues of alligators all over it. Apparently, a guest years ago arrived at the hotel with pet alligators and left them in the fountain, where they lived for years. Well, to be sure, the thought crossed my mind that we should take steps to ensure that the Jefferson is full of statues of pigs in future years by leaving our pet there as a thank you gift, but I’m sure the rest of my family wouldn’t go along with that!
We took in a couple of Civil War Museums in Richmond on the last day of our trip, but by then all of us were thinking about getting home in Charlottesville, so our heart wasn’t totally into these visits. Nevertheless, the American Civil War Center did a great job of explaining the causes of the Civil War. For our family, the Civil War was a theme to our trip, so this museum made for a fitting conclusion to the trip.