Minus fifteen and we are heading to south Florida – the land of alligators, sunshine, oranges and conch, home to Dexter, Horatio Cane, the Dolphins and Jimmy Buffet. With our backpacks loaded, we are ready to feast at my brother’s joint and then camp the Keys, the centre piece of our vacation or so we thought.
First stop, Fort Lauderdale where the humidity hits me like a damp towel, springing my hair into bozo the clown contortions. My brother and me, our first Floridian embrace (a long time coming). Then cigars, beer, Irish Whiskey and finally dumping Simon, my nephew, in the drink.
But we run out of beer, so it’s time to hit the musty streets on bicycles in December, unheard of in the blistering cold climate of Western Canada. We scream into the warm night all the way to the local gas station. Crappy beer but what do you expect at midnight. I don’t know what it is, but when I go to the US I have to have at least one can of Budweiser (Super Bowl hangover?), but I’m glad I got it done on the first night because there are so many great beers in the US. The “wuzzzup” jokes continue until the beer runs out, again.
The next day we are off to Whole Foods with my Sister-in-law (or whole pay cheque as me bro calls it). Are you serious? Fresh Blue Point Oysters, crab and shrimp? Blueberries that aren’t previously frozen? Wow. We take the oysters home (a little pricey, but sooo worth it) and eat a few raw – with Tabasco and Worcester sauce and the rest we “Rockefeller” up with spinach, Hollandaise, red onion, garlic and Stilton. Heaven. Stone crab was in season and looked delectable but too expensive so I bought Florida shrimp instead and these puppies were incredible, plump and sweet – sautéed with a bit of lime and red onion. We ate them like popcorn. I was also amazed by the Florida avocados – massive and a bright neon green (just like gator eyes). Can you say guacamole every day? Tossed in with left over shrimp the next day on some scrumptious fresh bread – an awesome lunch. We also picked up a schwack of Yuengling Traditional Lager, a huge step up from the tall boys (we also parked the bikes for sober riding). The food and drink sends me reeling for the real estate pages.
Next was a full moon canoe trip on the Everglades in Loxahatachee National Wildlife Refuge – home to alligators, water moccasins, coral snakes and Burmese pythons (luckily you can kill these foreigners because they are invasive in the Everglades… but still, these massive constrictors eat alligators, small children and pasty white Canadians). Oh joy, canoeing through a swap with scary reptiles that can either paralyze or death roll ya. But hang on, I’m Canadian and canoeing is in my blood. Yea right, that tradition left my family right after the Plains of Abraham.
The first part of this harrowing boat trip was frightful. We spin in frantic circles, screaming at each other while neon eyes glare at us, just waiting (Go ahead, Simon, stick your foot in the water…dare ya! Says Mr. Alligator). The panic subsided about half way through the trip as we finally got control of the boat and moved pleasantly down the middle of the saw grass canal (right means left in a canoe). After regaining our confidence (with a couple of “Full Sail,” IPAs), we sang French Canadian songs as the gators darted out of our way.
An awesome trip, one to be remembered for a lifetime and all possible because Tanya, my sis, actually cares about our world, reptilian as it may be. But as a suggestion, go with someone with more experience than a relative called Jacques who died in 1759. It’ll make the experience less stressful. With our fears settled, time to move south to the Keys.