Let's start 2010 right.
We missed the White Christmas, so we're spending some time here at the first of the year with the white stuff ... the other white stuff, AKA sandy beaches.
Here we are in the panhandle of Florida, on our way around the gulf.  This picture is of the river that runs adjacent to the above picture.
This is a footbridge to keep us up above the alligators that roam these waters.
It's very cool, but not really cold.
Sarah is in her element.
Sophia had a great nap and is full of energy this day.
Pose for Papi.
Christopher got outside and never looked back.  Eventually he found some kids at the playground to have fun with.
It's been a long time since I've seen a Winn-Dixie, and we need some groceries.
After dinner, Christopher insisted that "he" would wash the dishes.  Click the picture for video on this one.
The following morning, we headed east and eventually south.
Now there's an abrupt way to end a bridge.
Oh, looks like they had to abandon it when the old section fell down.
These folks are para-sailing.  What a cook way to spend New Year's weekend.
Lots of flat with rolling hills over water.
The girls decided to catch up on some reading when we stopped for fuel, etc.
Who wants to see a manatee?
We've stopped at Manatee Springs State Park and Christopher is catching up with the new states we've visited.
And we add Florida.  Wow, we're now up to 26 states visited since we began this journey with all the kids.
Sarah is one for fashion statements.  I'm not sure what this says.
Everyone was ready to get out and spend some time with the manatees.  The walk to their area got us some much needed exercise.
I'm good to stroll, thank you.
I've always heard of the Suwannee River, but this is the first I ever knew where it was located and only by accident.  How cool is that?
This is the pool where the Manatee's stay when it's cold elsewhere.
Christopher touched the water and is amazed at how warm it is.  Today, the temp is about 45 degrees, but this water is 76.  This is because there is an underground cavern system and warm water springs.
If it weren't so blasted cool outside, I'd go swimming in this very warm water.
Pretty, huh?
And crystal clear ... to about 15 feet down.
Time to pose for a picture.
This is one way to get a manatee to hold still while noisy kids try for a picture.
On the dock, there were views galore.
Like this one.
All hands and feed remain OUT of the water!
I said OUT of the water.
You should have seen him run.
Next stop ... the playground.  Can you see his smile?  Now that he knows how to swing himself, he's all about doing it himself.  Yes, crossed legs and all.
An angelic face with a peaceful smile.  She's right at home swinging.
Then I caught a couple of divers headed over to the caverns below.
And he made a new friend.
Back at camp, the kids were ready to play with their toys in the sand.
"Look, I have a bucket and shovel."  I'm not sure quite why, but kids just love to dig in the dirt.  Perhaps they'll farm one day.
Sophie's feeding her duckie from the water bottle.
I'm pretty surprised she didn't just climb into the box to get the things she wanted to play with.
Papi made a campfire and guess who showed up?
Can you see the deer?  They were fairly frequent visitors.
He really wanted to chase them, but I told him not until I got a picture of him with them.  He was actually quiet for five whole minutes while I went to get the camera and snap these pictures.
After dinner it was time for toasting marshmallow's.  He doesn't really eat them all that often, but he loves sitting around the fire cooking them.  It's one of the few times when he can simply sit and relax.
The next day we headed south and east toward the Everglades.  This bridge was beautiful.  The top looks like the mast on a sail boat.
The pier on the side was huge and designated for fishing.
Not huge, but very pretty.
We caught a shot of all these birds.  Maybe they're hunting for a good nail salon.
The start of the Everglades area.
Now there's some swampland.  Can you imagine that ALL of that grassy area is actually wetland?
This was a cool building.
Now there's an interesting name for a group of folks.
At the end of the day, the girls were playing puppy and kitty.  We found a great little spot at Trail Lakes Campground.  It was only about 18 inches from a grassy swampland and the gent who helped us park suggested that we hookup before dark when "it gets active".
As it turns out, Trail Lakes Campground is situated behind "Skunk Ape Research Headquarters".  They have rescued many animals and provide a home for the darnedest critters.  Christopher found one right here.
It was a love relationship for all of them.
Dave gave us a guided tour of the area where they keep the animals.  The first was a small alligator that Christopher would hardly look at when he first pulled him from the tank.
After a kiss from the little guy, the kids started to warm to the idea of touching these new and different animals.
Don't make a loud noise or he might just pee.
Big snakes anyone?
He even had a Cockatoo and many other birds.
This little fella would eat peanuts from inside Dave's mouth.
A peacock.
The girls liked the turkeys.
And what private zoo would be complete without its own alligator?
Or two?  This fella could overpower Dave at any time, but he's well fed and it's cold today so he's not in the mood for any nonsense.  He just wanted to return to his nap.
An emu?
They really liked this Jurassic Kitty.
After leaving the research center, we were driving through the Everglades and came across this tree that had grown around another tree.  Strange.
I'm glad they had all these walking bridges so we didn't have to experience the "wildlife" directly.
Sure is pretty.
From the slowest and most docile.
To a very fast hunter.
And another hunter.
Her little feet got tired so she made a chair from the railing.  Hope there's no 'gators on the other side.
Then on to a gas station and quick stop to stretch.
I think they all had fun this time.
My pony.  My pony.  I go back and get my pony!
We continued on until we reached Miami and went across to Miami Beach.
This town is really very beautiful.  We're arriving at dusk in the winter, so the sunset is VERY FAST.
Cool sign.
At the park adjacent to the beach.
They all wanted to climb this little tree.
And had fun doing it.
I told you it was little.