Day 4 – Sunday, April 9, 2017 – Legoland to Fort Meyers Beach, FL
This morning started with frantic packing and stumbling down to the Legoland Hotel Buffet. Today was a bit more crowded, and after a while, everyone starts to look familiar. Like this woman Sarah swears she sees everywhere who looks like Mrs. Hernandez from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Or as we leave the restaurant Sarah really does see Mr. Two Patch from the pool yesterday explaining to his pre-K aged children the difference between literally and figuratively. Yup.
Matt and B hauled out the luggage, and Sarah slumped in the castle area with a coffee while Z and Noah played with more Legos. After everything was checked out, off to the Legoland Park for the morning! We had been studying the map carefully to see what we wanted to do that we hadn’t yesterday. Then we just randomly walked around arguing in the hot, hot sun. In the end, we went on some Pharoah ride where you were supposed to shoot with a laser gun at enemies. B and Sarah didn’t totally understand, and neither did Noah, but Matt scored 14000 points. The during-ride photos show Noah looking tearful, a confused B and Sarah, and Matt gleefully aiming the gun at something. Z was just along for the ride and not allowed to handle the firearms.
We went on a Beetle Bounce ride and a couple others, hurried through a burger lunch at 11 am like the overachievers we are, and then the kids wanted to go to the Imagination Station again to race homemade Lego cars. Seriously?!? Then off to the Lego Stores and we were outta there! Stopped by the Publix on our way out of the town as everyone rejected Sarah’s purse food, which included a saran-wrapped apple, 5 slightly bruised bananas, and an uneaten burger.
Drove through Central FL on our way to Fort Meyers Beach. Ugh, such awful scenery. Won’t lie, very shady, like Adams-Friendship of FL. We hit Fort Meyers and then the causeway. Despite the entire journey taking 3 hours, there was a good hour of sitting in traffic on the causeway (“bridge”).
We are staying at the Edison House Hotel. Our hotel is great – is on the beach, with a 2 bedroom suite with full kitchen and washer/dryer, partial ocean view with balcony. The beach is amazing. There is a large pier outside (the one where Matt met a girl like 23 years ago and still won’t tell any details of it to Sarah, a-hem). (Matt: “because there are no details…”) Lots of businesses and action going on. But we aren’t an action kind of family.
We dragged the kids away from their Legos for a walk on the beach and then we walked down to a place called the Doghouse where they had excellent hot dogs (for the kids) and Matt and Sarah split a delicious reuben. We also got to see an altercation between some drunk Frisbee players and the owner of the Doghouse, as well as the owner of the hotel next door to the Doghouse, including “If that Frisbee comes across the street one more time, I will burn it” and then “I will recycle the burned Frisbee”. (Nice trash talk, older hotel owner). The kids thought this was all super entertaining and we were mortified. Funny, they seemed pretty embarrassed by us up until this point, then the roles reversed. Well, the Frisbee came back across the street toward us again from the drunk beachbum guy who was throwing it and it was captured by the hotel owner. More trash talk ensued and we got out of there just as a fire engine was pulling up near one of the numerous 7-11’s. This place also seems to have a lot of drunk college kids. Sarah noted this area seemed a tad sketchy, and Matt informed her that this was the “nice” part of Fort Myers Beach. O-kay.
Our hotel is pretty nice except only 3/5 of us got a shower before management informed us that some kind of problem on the second floor meant that no one could use their water for a while. Oh well, the ocean will cleanse us tomorrow! So excited for tomorrow, have boat ride planned with our own charter with Captain Jessica. 🙂
Day 5 – Monday, April 10, 2017 – Fort Myers Beach, FL
6:15 am: text from Captain Jessica that she was feeling feverish and and had sore throat and would have to cancel said boat ride for this morning:
6:20 am: booked spots online on the “Good Times” charter which promised a boat ride with numerous other people, mysteriously available spots still left the morning of, and a less impressive shell island than the first charter, but it leaves at 9 am and not 8 am.
6:25 am to 7:30 am: restful napping as no longer have to get up early, Sarah questions if she could ply Captain Jessica with a bunch of amoxicillin and Tamiflu to go on the boat ride anyway, but then forgets plan and falls back asleep.
So we drove the 1 mile from our hotel to the marina, which took over 30 minutes. Sadly, not kidding. We parked and our straggly group of about 4 families boarded a 38’ pontoon boat with our captain and his first mate, who was supposedly a biologist but apparently more like his sidekick and had many piercings as well as seemed to be a source of gossip for their business. Anyway, we motored out of the estuary we were in, and got to see birds and dolphins and enjoyed a beautiful boat ride. The dolphins would play in the boat’s wake, riding along it and jumping out now and then. The dolphins were pretty cool, and, apparently guaranteed on the website.
We motored our way over to Hickory Island, or as Sarah called it, “the island of broken shells”. Sarah was all worried this morning and was like, bags were promised for shelling with Captain Jessica (man, are we dragging our sick captain through the mud), now what will we do. Matt wins the best dad of the year award (AGAIN) for getting out four official mesh shelling bags he had purchased off Amazon “just in case”. And a guide to the seashells of Florida. Seriously.
So we were prepared and all of us embarked onto the island of broken shells armed with our shelling bags. All children on the boat had the most shells, because as one of the other adults said, “My kids aren’t real picky”. Everyone picked up shells. No one found a sand dollar, including the dad who googled how to find them while we were on the boat ride. Our kind of people. Zoe spent her time picking up seaweed and throwing it in the water. Everyone was happy.
We all got back on and finished the three hour tour back in the harbor. It was a wonderful morning. We stopped at the Publix for some food and then headed back so the kids could nap and rest for a couple hours. Matt and Sarah sat on the balcony watching the crowded pier and beach and listening to car alarms go off.
In the afternoon we went to the beach that was just outside our hotel. It was wonderful, crowded with snowbirds ranging from snow white in color to leathery, and spring breakers ranging from almost sober to very drunk. Note: Sarah could not ever live here due to the expense of the sheer amount of sunscreen needed to cover her entire body surface area every 3 hours. How do these people do it?!? Kids played in the ocean, built sand castles, Zoe destroyed the castles, Zoe screamed about the seaweed and refused to go near it (yes, the same seaweed she was throwing around happily a few hours before).
While we’re sitting there, the ice cream cart comes by. We were kinda hoping they wouldn’t see it, but once the bell rang, the kids turned and sprinted out of the water. We think we know how we’re going to get them out of the water from now on.
We then ordered pizza for dinner from Ray’s, the only place to do delivery on the island. It was excellent actually – we ordered the “Grandma” pizza and M-W cheese pizza special. Even the kids were willing to eat it, but not the hot wings. They also made the connection between chicken wings and chickens for the first time, horrifying them.
We then went out for a sunset walk, which turned into a horrifying expedition at low tide. The tide had gone out, so we walked along looking for more shells (equipped with our shelling bags, of course). We thought we found a sand dollar, but it was alive. Oh good god. Then we looked around and there were all these spots in the sand where you could tell a sand dollar was breathing/eating/whatever they do just below the surface (we confirmed). AHHHHH!! The beach was covered in these, like little landmines. And there were all these pretty shells, but they were inhabited. Like some sort of shell finding nightmare. And we forgot from our time in Tacoma how bad low tide can smell. We are freshwater folk. Matt tried to embrace Sarah romantically at sunset but the kids screaming in the background about seaweed and the tide pools kind ruined things. Also ruined it for the numerous other couples embracing.
Eh, everyone to sleep and Sarah and Matt silently surfed Reddit side by side while drinking the worst beer ever and eating chips and salsa. And we had first row seats to something involving multiple first responders. And we get to hear car alarms and drunks all the time. And last night we drifted to sleep listening to chants of U-S-A U-S-A and “for he’s a jolly good fellow”…. Man spring breakers are lamer than we remember!
Day 6 – Tuesday, April 12, 2017 – still Fort Myers Beach, FL
Everyone woke up nice and lazy and relaxed. We headed down to the beach first thing (10:30?) and it was pretty full already. Another beautiful day in kind of shady paradise! 86 degrees and sunny. We spent the entire portion of the mid-day, until about 1:30 or 2 pm, frolicking in the full sun that dermatologists tell you to avoid. We know now that is because they wanted to keep us from having fun! Noontime is the BEST time to soak up the most Vitamin D and get the best tan ever. Seriously, the water was great, the sand castle building (and destruction by Zoe) was fun, and there were people having fun everywhere. Same as yesterday.
Our beach experience was enhanced by Matt bringing the box of Cheez-Its down from the hotel room (seriously, you have not lived a day until you have had Cheez-Its at the beach – they are like crunches of deliciousness; also you cannot tell when you mix sand with them). We also spied a door on our hotel last night labeled “beach stuff” and found out we could get umbrellas and beach toys from it. WELL, apparently all the people at our hotel get up way early because the only things left by the time we rolled down were a partially deflated American flag football and a little shovel and rake that broke upon contact with sand. It was like Christmas for our kids.
We took a nap/Paw Patrol/iPad break after the beach, complete with leftover pizza, and then considered options. Ultimately we ended up deciding to go to Sanibel Island. Now, we had never heard of this place, but Sarah’s work colleague (shout out to KP!) had mentioned it, and then it came up again in the shell book Matt bought. A few quick Reddit searches later, and Sarah was convinced this was THE sea shell place to go too, and even has the National Shell Museum!
We read that the time to go is early morning when the shells haven’t been picked over all day. However, being two steps ahead of everyone else, we (Matt would really not like credit for this) looked at the tide charts and figured out low tide on the Island was at around 8:20 pm, and remember yesterday? Low tide = tons of crap on the beach. So we figured we would go out in the evening. Things not taken into account include the fact that our children go to bed at 7-8 pm, the traffic is horrible, and that we had no clue where we were going. We got on the toll road over after getting “dinner” at Target (aka, used the bathrooms and got lunchables) and Matt was all, so what beach are we going to, and Sarah was all, THE beach. Anywhere on the “west side”, according to Reddit.
WELL, multiple turns later and after some googling by Matt after Sarah admitted she couldn’t even tell what direction we were going in nor how to read a simple map, we pulled into Bowman Beach parking lot. There sure are lots of beaches, who’d have thought? The beach was filled with our people – people with shelling bags and they even had nets! Entire families! Some were even talking about kinds of shells, a level we have not attained yet. (We are partway there with our rock picking and agates, thankyouverymuch).
We walked out on a sandbar, which was cool. We saw lots of crabs, and Sarah found the BEST shell ever, but it had a creature in it so it had to go back in the water. Matt continued his best dad ever campaign, carrying Z on his shoulders, while she kicked him and made giddy up motions and pulled his hair like it was reins. Hehe. The boys were excited to shell for like 15 minutes, then were done. We will add, the shelling was fine, but there weren’t giant colorful shells that you could shovel into your bag, like we pictured. So be it.
Sanibel Island was very cool – if we come back we would stay there. Although we identify with the trashiness of Fort Myers Beach (PS those sirens last night were from a truck crashing into a storefront right near our hotel), Matt yearns for the classiness of Sanibel Island (and not having stop and go traffic everywhere, 75 minutes to go 15 miles sucks). It was like Door County but on an island that reminded us of small town Hawaii. There were bike paths everywhere actually being used. Fun looking restaurants advertising craft beer. Nice beaches. The shelling!
We drove home and the kids went to bed, and we ate Pinchers – crab, grouper, and shrimp and some kind of IPA beer. Man, FL beer is NOT very good.
Tomorrow? On to Clearwater (Beach), FL, land of Scientology!