Sunday, April 11, 2010

Weekend on Florida's Gulf Coast

We took a little sojourn over to the other coast of Florida this weekend. Our home away from home was the Two Fish Inn, which I recommend highly, should you ever be inclined to visit Pine Island, Florida. The island itself has limited charm, but if you like boating, it has the advantage of being surrounded on all sides by navigable water; apparently that's the main attraction there. We went for the peace and quiet, and we were satisfied in our quest.

On arrival, 4 p.m. Friday, the inn was deserted. We called the number on the office door and Charlie told us, "You're in Suite 3. Your name is on the door, the door is unlocked, the key is inside. Make yourself at home." We did as instructed. I made use of the canal-side lounge chair to read my book* while Richard went swimming in the solar-heated pool. Charlie turned up a couple hours later, checked us in and directed us to a nearby restaurant for a lovely Italian dinner. We drove to the north end of the island and back, then I took a walk around the neighborhood, such as it was. There's one main road on the island, not very pedestrian-friendly at the south end. I explored some side streets but there were dogs and dead ends and I made sure I returned before dark.

Saturday morning, Richard and I went for a swampy hike down a nearby nature trail where a sign indicated we would find an eagle's nest. For whatever reason, we didn't find any eagles or nests, but it was a pleasant walk, and we were only slightly harrassed by mosquitoes. We've lived in Florida so long, we're mostly immune to the irritation of mosquito bites. They have to really swarm and attack before we feel any discomfort. Those Pine Island mosquitoes were too shy to interfere with our hike.

After the hike, Richard went back into lounging mode. The inn provides free bicycles and kayaks so I checked out the bike inventory and found one that seemed to have most of its parts. The seat was too low and Charlie said he didn't have a wrench to adjust it, so I gamely set out down the road in spite of the inadequacy of the vehicle. My thinking was, it's just a leisurely ride, I don't need to go fast. However, it wasn't a lot of fun with the seat so low. I think it was the slowest bike ride I've ever taken. I knew there was a shopping plaza down the road and thought I could ride to it and buy a wrench and adjust the seat. I knew the plaza was 8 miles away, because the restaurant where we'd had dinner was right next to it. But "eight miles" didn't really register on my consciousness. I just set out and pedaled and enjoyed the view. Before I knew it I was five miles down the road and then I figured, that's more than halfway, and I kept going. It was a long eight miles, with my knees complaining about the awkward angle of pedaling. Sometimes I tried pedaling standing up, but, you know, that used to be a lot easier when I was ten years old.

I made it to the plaza, went into CVS and bought pliers, which is the closest thing to a wrench that they had. I returned to the bike and looked at the nut that needed to be loosened, then I remembered, this is an island bike. I spent enough time in Key West to appreciate what that means in terms of rust and how difficult it can be to loosen a nut. But I was determined, and between the pliers and the determination, I got that seat adjusted. The ride back home was much more fun and about twice as fast, though I certainly didn't set any speed records in either direction.

The weather was wonderful, sunny and about 80 degrees by 11 a.m. We checked out and went looking for the ferry that goes to the nearby islands. We did find the marina but the schedule wasn't convenient, so we just had a look around and headed for the mainland.

We made a delightful stop on the way in Matlacha (pronounced, against all logic, "matt la SHAY") a tiny art colony with more quality artwork per square foot than I believe I've ever seen anywhere. We only stayed a brief time but could have spent days there going though the shops and galleries. I had a thought that is rare to me, "If I had money, this is the kind of thing I would like to have in my house." The works were extremely original and well-crafted.

After Matlacha we drove across the bridge to the mainland and took an immediate left turn to find the Ford-Edison museum and estates. The quick tour there was very pleasant and educational. But the main thing you need to learn there I already knew: Genius=1% inspiration + 99% perspiration.

The drive back across Alligator Alley was uneventful, and we were home by dinnertime. More photos here.


*The Big Short, by Michael Lewis. I finished it on Saturday. An important book. Everybody should read it, including the Goldman Sachs executives who are in the current issue of Business Week saying "It wasn't our fault. Really."

I'm grateful to Mr. Lewis and others who have tried so hard to report the facts and clarify this perplexing situation.