A while back my brother-in-law, Mario, let us know he’d be attending an academic conference in Key West in January and wanted to know if we were interested in heading to Key West with him. Always up for an adventure, we agreed. So, Mario flew into Tampa (instead of Key West) and we drove both our cars down.
On the first day we only drove as far as Miami, stopping at the northern entrance to the Everglades to tour misnamed “Shark Valley” (a better name would be “Alligator Alley”). You may or may not remember that Debi and I visited the same place almost a year ago (to the day). Last time Debi was pregnant, so obviously we didn’t have Toren with us. This entrance to the Everglades has a 15 mile loop that you can walk, bike, or tour via a tram. We took the tram last time, but this time we decided we’d take our bikes and bike it with Toren. Thanks to a friend we have a seat for Toren that attaches to my bike. We also found a bike helmet for Toren that actually fits (helmets that small are difficult to find; ordered it on Amazon). You can see the three of us in this photo:
And here’s a close-up of Toren in his awesome helmet:
I’m sure most of the readers of this blog are experiencing real freezing weather (with snow and ice and all that fun stuff), but it sure has seemed like we’re freezing here in Florida the last week as a really nasty, unseasonal cold front has moved through. It’s been bad enough that it prompted the governor of Florida to proclaim a state of emergency (yep, you read that right, we have a state of emergency in Florida when it gets cold!). This day was pretty cold as well.
Toren is a great baby, particularly when we’re out on an adventure as he doesn’t get out of the house much and when he does he finds everything interesting. He was pretty good for the first 10 miles or so of the loop (about 45 minutes at our pace) but then he decided he was hungry. We pulled off to the side of the road in the alligator infested swamp, found a dry patch, and Debi proceeded to feed Toren while I stood guard, surveying the surrounding swampland for approaching alligators. The alligators were probably too cold to do much of anything, let alone attack Debi and Toren, but some evolutionary instinct must have kicked in as I really was very uncomfortable while Debi sat and fed Toren. However, it didn’t keep me from snapping a few pictures of them (glancing around for ‘gators between shots).
Thinking Toren’s hunger satiated, we got back on our bikes and started up again, but Toren was having none of it. Turns out, he was probably just tired, but the cold and wind didn’t help. On the first 7 miles or so of the loop (headed south), the wind was to our backs and we were doing fine. On the way back (miles 8-15), the wind was bearing down on us pretty good. While we do ride our exercise bike regularly, neither of us are in great shape (too much time in front of computers). Add the wind and the length of the loop to the mix and we were getting tired. Now throw in a screaming baby who was getting a bit cold (extremities only – he had on a long sleeve, full-pants outfit and a jacket) and we were in a pickle.
Meanwhile, Mario took the tram ride, which started at 3:00 and was going to end at 5:00. We left on our bike ride just before three. At about the 10 1/2 miles point Toren started screaming. At our best pace, we still had about 15 to 20 minutes until we made it back to the car and we didn’t want to arrive after Mario. If we didn’t stop to feed Toren, we would have done the loop in about 1 hour and 15 minutes. As it was, it was 4:15 and Toren was screaming. Not knowing if he was just cold or tired, we pressed on. He screamed from mile 10 1/2 to about the 13 mile mark, at which point he fell asleep. However, given the cold, I was really worried about him; I was hoping he was just sleeping and not experiencing hypothermia or something of the sort. Given my worry, I pushed as hard as I could the last two miles then jumped off my bike when we got to the car to get Toren out of his seat to make sure he was okay. His hands were a bit chilled, but he was just asleep. Debi took him, got in the car, and cuddled with him while I put our bikes back on the rack, finishing just as Mario’s tram arrived.
It was actually a bit traumatic. Ironically, Debi and I were discussing while we rode the loop (around miles 7 to 8) how crazy it sounded that we were taking our 7 month old child on a 15 mile bike ride through an alligator infested swamp. Hmmm…. At least Toren will never be able to say that we don’t go on adventures! Is that a bit too adventurous for a 7 month old?
From Shark Valley we drove into Miami to our 4-star hotel, the Westin Colonnade in Coral Gables. Priceline.com rocks for last minute hotel deals in Miami. We tried this last year and got a similar 4-star hotel for cheap (about $90 last year). This year we got the hotel for $85.00. It was a very nice hotel, but is also located in an expensive part of town, which meant there was no cheap dining around and parking wasn’t free either. But our room was huge. The only problem – the cold! I tell you, Florida just isn’t able to handle the cold. The heater in our room wasn’t working. We called the front desk and they sent up a maintenance worker who fiddled with it, got it working, then left. It worked for about 15 minutes then shut off again. As it wasn’t that cold, we let it be. The major concern was Toren, as he can’t sleep with blankets at this point, so it has to be warm for him.
Oh, and we had a great view from our room as well: