Tag Archives: Travel

No Way Out On The Road to Cougartown

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Yesterday, my family and I decided to visit Sarasota for the first time since we’d moved to the state of Florida a little over a year ago. We’d heard it was a beautiful place…gorgeous coastline, funky artist colonies, amazing food, great shopping, etc. A real Jimmy Buffet-esque paradise. So, we used our cell phone to give us directions–you know, the one with the creepy computerized voice? We set out from Winter Haven and unexpectedly came upon a toll route. Fine, we thought, we have cash for the tolls…so we proceeded on. As we drove along peacefully on our short journey to the real life Margaritaville/Cougartown, I spotted a sign a few feet down the road that read, “EXACT CHANGE REQUIRED”.

My heart skipped several beats, which is more than a little scary since I was behind the wheel of a large sports utility vehicle, and I began to yell to each of my passengers, “Oh my god! Does anyone have any change???” I’d assumed my boys were holding out, because they always find change on the ground (I guess because they are closer to it than I am) and tuck those quarters away in pockets and shoes for later use. But, no such luck….there I was, trapped with no way out…no way to turn around…and no way to magically transform a $20 bill into quarters. Most of all, I was in the throes of a full on panic attack, with no Xanax or even a new tube of lipstick (see previous blog) to be had.

As I approached the toll booth, and stopped at the red lighted stop sign, I knew I had to make a choice. Being the sort of person who, when pushed too far, has been voted most likely to jump off that cliff, guns a’blazin, into the abyss, I did not just sit in my Jeep and cry like a lot of women would. Nor did I try to back up and go the wrong way on the highway, like a suicidal psycho would. No, I did what Thelma and Louise did…I drove right on through, leaving in my wake a chorus of buzzers, bells, whistles, and flashing lights as a highly public testament to my rogue criminal nature…

Oh, and a droll Floridian in a pickup truck who followed me closely just so I would roll down my window long enough for him to shout, “You know, that’s a $100 ticket you got back there…” Uh, yeah…thanks, buddy….


Take another road to a hiding place
Disappear without a trace
Take another road to another time
On another road in another time
Like a novel from the five and dime
Take another road another time

Wild Kingdom Off The Beaten Path

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The Circle B Bar Reserve

Just this side of Disney World, and a relatively short drive from whatever overpriced, overcrowded theme park resort you might be staying at in Orlando, is a tourist’s treasure that is so off the beaten path, so under-publicized, that it is known mostly to Central Florida residents. It’s the Circle B Bar Reserve, an environmental freshwater marsh and swampland reserve that is not only a total kick in the pants to visit, but unlike your favorite theme park with their marked up souvenirs and $50+ burger and fries lunches, admission is FREE. Special guided tours are available for a fee, but you really don’t need one to see what there is to see at the Circle B.

Walking at the Circle B, Down Alligator Alley

Obviously, the infamous American Alligator is the star attraction at Circle B, and you will be treated to plenty of them in their natural habitat in the reserve’s Lake Hancock, and also in the open swamps that line your walking trails. And no, there is no barrier between you and them—this is raw nature at its best! It’s safe, for the most part, as long as you don’t do anything stupid and make sure to keep your distance if you happen to spot one of our reptilian friends on your walk. There are even signs on the trail advising tourists to turn and go another way if a gator happens to be laying on the walking trail. Visitors are warned to not attempt to walk around the gator. The scary thing about that to me is that you know that sign is there because somebody at some point was dumb enough to try. Oh, and by the way, gators can outrun us, so don’t think for a minute that you have the upper hand because of your big ole human brain. If, despite your best efforts, one does take a shine to you, this guy seems to have some pretty good gator attack and avoidance advice: Israel Dupont; Living With Alligators. I heard a rumor somewhere that you can always try to sit on their back and clamp their mouth shut, at which point they are rendered helpless. Er…no thanks, I’ll pass…

Look Closely–On the left-ish side of the photo, you’ll spot a baby alligator, covered in green swamp muck!

Just to let you in on a little Florida Insider information—here in our state, if you see a standing body of water anywhere, including lakes, rivers, drainage ditches, swimming pools and bathtubs, it’s best to just assume there’s a gator in it, because chances are, there is. This little fella moved into the small pond just a few yards away from my house last Spring. I named him Al.

Al, The Neighborhood Gator

For serious nature enthusiasts, there is much, much more to Circle B than just alligators. The reserve’s website boasts of a “tremendous bird population, including a variety of wading birds, waterfowl, ospreys and bald eagles”. For butterfly lovers like me, there are several gorgeous fluttering specimens which may be observed in their natural habitat as well.

And they’re friendly  too…

As if all of this wasn’t enough, the reserve has a very nice, air conditioned Nature Discovery Center which is open Tuesday – Saturday 9AM -4PM and Sunday Noon-4PM. There you’ll find lots of educational information and exhibits, as well as friendly folks who can tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Florida wildlife and wetlands!

I hope you’ll take the time to visit this Florida treasure! You’ll probably want to leave your mouse ears back at the hotel though. I can just hear it now…

Lounging Gator #1: Hey Fred, juicy giant rodent at 3:00!

Lounging Gator #2: You can have him George, that last one gave me heartburn…

Oh, and one more thing…PETS ARE NOT ALLOWED at the Circle B, for obvious reasons!

Standin’ on a Corner In Winslow, Arizona

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Every Eagles fan should do this at least once! This is me a couple of years ago on my most recent move back East…I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life living East…then living West…and back again. Some of us were just born to run, but that’s another song for another day…;-)