Tuesday 19 July 2005



Bro No. 2 picked me up at 7:30 am to take me to JFK for a 10:30 am flight on JetBlue to Fort Myers.  You never can tell with Long Island traffic, so I wanted to leave plenty of time in case of traffic snarls.  As it turns out, we made it there in less than an hour.  Even though it qualifies as a carry-on, I checked my bag with the SkyCap, because I wasn’t going on yet another vacation without my tweezers!  Can you imagine someone trying to take over a plane with a pair of tweezers?  “Take this plane to Cuba, or I shall pluck your eyebrows out one by one until you scream for mercy!”.  I personally think I could do far more damage with a ballpoint pen than with a set of tweezers.  So, why aren't we banning ballpoint pens?  Hell, why don't we all just get on the plane naked with no luggage?


Anyhow, I had plenty of time to get some coffee and sit outside in the delicious heat and humidity with Harry Potter for company.  New York was going through a heat wave of significant magnitude, and it was already blistering hot outside.  But that’s how I like it.  Why else would I want to move to Florida?  Certainly not for the noseeums, one of which is biting the crap out of my ankle as I type this.


I had booked my self a window seat.  Last year, the pilot buzzed the islands on the descent to RSW, and I wanted to see if I could get some photos from the air.  My bum knee, which normally compels me to book an aisle, would just have to suck it up and deal with it, just this one time.  Next to me were a mother and a small boy of about 2-3 years of age.  Her mother and daughter were across the aisle.  We talked about the insane cost of living on Long Island for a while, before the take-off.  The little boy was very excited to be flying, and took great interest in the take-off.  It was fun showing him how we were flying right through clouds.  The rest of the time, I had Harry and the mysterious Half-Blood Prince for company.


On the descent, the pilot didn’t exactly buzz the islands, but I did get a clear shot of what I believe to be Tarpon Bay – it is very distinctive in it’s roundness, and looking at Google maps, I can’t imagine what else it could be.


Wide Blue Yonder

The pilot has just told us that we're going to cut across the state of Florida from the east coast to the west coast now...

Florida's Atlantic Coast

It's a great-looking beach, but I bet the water is COLD compared to my beloved Gulf of Mexico!

Land 'O Lakes

Florida is, like, half water, at least!

Angry-Looking Clouds

uh oh, looks like we're in for some weather!


The other half of Florida (that isn't water) has some farms on it.

More lakes

See, I told ya - half water!

Fort Myers

Looking like a dismal day

Tarpon Bay (?)

I think that round body of water is Tarpon Bay, Sanibel Island



As tradition would have it, I first made a pit stop at Starbucks for a mocha frap, then on to claim my luggage and out into the delicious humidity once more.  The Unofficial Bic Lighter Exchange Program seems to be in full force.  Last time I flew, I left my Bic on a trash can in a smoking area outside the airport, so that some hapless smoker who’d forgotten to pack a book of matches could benefit upon deplaning.  As I exited the luggage claim, I spied a Bic sitting on a garden bed retaining wall by the outdoor ashtray, and smiled.


My luck continued in the form of an Alamo bus pulling up just as I was crossing the road with my luggage to wait at the bus stop.  Wandering the sub-compact row, I spied a flaming orange Sunfire, and thus had my wheels for the week.


This was the first time in all my years coming to Sanibel that I didn’t make a grocery stop on the way to the hotel.  First off, I’m staying in a Fort Myers hotel, not on the island.  I reasoned that I would be house hunting a lot of the time, and didn’t want to waste a bunch of time going back and forth over the Causeway – I wanted to be close to the house hunting action.  I also did this trip on the cheap, and therefore the room is way less expensive than staying on the island, and pretty standard – and that means, no refrigerator, and no need for a grocery stop.  I would come to regret this later in the week, for a number of reasons.


The hotel is the Hampton Inn & Suites, just at San Carlos Blvd. and Summerlin Road.  It’s main features are that it’s cheap (Triple A rate), I get Hilton Honors points for staying here, there’s free breakfast buffet in the morning until 10:00 am, and free broadband internet access in the room.  Also, it is just about three miles to the Causeway.  There are lots of grocery and dining options in the area, too, many of which are within walking distance of the hotel. 


But they did some stupid stuff when setting up the rooms, such as, the internet access is right behind the nightstand, with only about a 4 foot RJ45 cable – yet, the desk is clear across the room.  So they provide this neat little lap desk, and I guess what you are supposed to do is use your laptop while you are lying in bed, which is what I am doing at this moment.  If you want to stay at this hotel and actually use your computer at the desk, I recommend you pack a 12 ft. RJ45 cable (Radio Shack, or any office supply store, about 10 bucks).  Be prepared to freeze, however, because the desk is right next to the AC unit, and the air flow is not adjustable.  I remedied this by putting the extra chair in front of the unit at an angle, which blew the air mostly elsewhere.


Other drawbacks of this hotel – there is only ONE laundry room, with ONE washer and ONE dryer, for guests to use.  Granted, it is right down the hall from my room, but still, the competition in there is fierce.  There is a tiny sundries shop off the lobby reception desk, and they sell all sorts of soda and ice cream – but NO MILK.  I had to stop at Publix after all, for a little bottle of milk for my in-room coffee jolt.  I cannot even think about stepping out of the room in the morning without having had coffee.  The one time I did this, it was dreadful (recall my stay at the Pop Century, and the dreaded “fug pilgrimage”), so running down to get some from the free breakfast buffet was not an appealing option for me.  What’s the point of in-room coffee if you have to leave the room for milk?  I made great use of the ice bucket and ice machine to keep my little bottle of milk cold and useable.


I also learned pretty quickly that if I didn’t want the car to be a blazing inferno when I got into it in the morning, I should make sure it was parked on the San Carlos Blvd. side of the hotel each evening.  Anywhere else, and the sun will hit it first thing in the morning, to your utter torment.


Room 457

Entering the room at the Hampton Inn & Suites, Fort Myers Beach

The Beds

Two double/queen sized beds in the room

For Topper

I took this picture of the toilet especially for Todd ;-)

More Bathroom

The vanity area of the bathroom

The Shower

I HATED that shower curtain! And there's no little clothes line to hang your wet swim gear

Lap Desk

This thing got a workout!


Your average hotel nightstand. Yes, there was a Gideon Bible.

Free Broadband!

but stupidly, they put it on the nightstand...

Desk and TV/dresser

...while the desk is WAY over here!

A Room with A View

What I saw when I looked down. Yes, that is rain on the window.

More view

Those doors go directly into the breakfast room

And yet more view

with yet more rain!



As soon as I’d checked into the hotel, I dumped my stuff in the room, slathered up with SPF 30, put on my beach bum clothing, and took off across the Causeway for Sanibel and low tide at the Lighthouse Beach.  I had some time to kill before the low tide window (I like to get there at least an hour before, if not two), and it was thunder-booming, so I drove down Periwinkle a bit to check out what it looked like after Charlie hit last year.  While there are no stumps remaining, you can still see the places in the ground here and there where the trees are gone.  I was shocked that the HUGE tree in the middle of the Periwinkle Place shopping center was no longer there – I think I remember there being a sign that told of how ancient it was, etc.  Wow.  In other places along Periwinkle, you find yourself thinking, “Wow, I never knew there was a house back there!” because the trees that used to hide it are no longer there.


I cruised back toward the east end of the island, stopping at Hexter’s Deli for a sandwich and a bottle of water, before making my way to the parking lot by the fishing pier.  It was still thundering, and I could see lightening a ways off, so I sat in the car eating my dinner.  The lighthouse itself looks SO naked without the pines around it, and the boardwalk going from the fishing pier up to the rest rooms is SO exposed!


Someone has built a platform for the osprey to nest, and nest they have.  There were two adults, one in the nest, and one on the naked branch of a nearby ruined tree, whining incessantly at one another.  Our osprey on Long Island are more of a brown color – these are blackish, with a white bib, but I still recognized them for what they are – sea eagles!  I then returned the camera to the car, put on my water shoes, plonked my Disney baseball cap on my head, grabbed the net-on-a-stick and the mesh bag, and struck out for the beach.



Sanibel Lighthouse

looks very nakey without the pines - damn that Charlie!

The Osprey Nest

Here's the one in the nest....


looking fierce!

Vulture (not really)

...and here's the one in the nearby naked tree, looking like a vulture.


Almost as soon as my feet hit the sand, the sky opened up with a mighty boom, and buckets poured from the sky.  COLD buckets!I ducked quickly under the pier, to avoid a soaking.  If you stay under the part that’s covered by the little roof, you don’t even get dripped on from the stuff pouring down between the planks.  I was prepared to wait the five or ten minutes it would take for this storm to pass, or at least for the lightening to move out over the mainland.  As I stood under there, all hunched over, I stared at the current, swirling brownish around the pylons, and started to notice that the current was taking away a layer of sand and revealing….shells!  I quickly hunched over some more (but not quickly enough – I did bunk my head lightly on one of the beams overhead.  Don’t let this happen to you!), and crept my way down to the water, under the part of the pier where you get dripped on from between the planks, to get a better look.


Oh, boy!  Hastily, I began plucking tulips and lightening whelks from the sand around the pylon.  Every minute, the swift current was revealing more and more shells that had gotten stuck there.  And they were in AWESOME condition.  I gasped when I took out the biggest tulip I personally have ever held in my hand, and realized that it was whole and unharmed (well, there’s a tiny barnacle on it toward the top, but a good bleaching and the pointy end of a knife will solve that little problem).  I gasped again when a series of perfectly intact paper figs appeared – I’ve never found a whole one, in all the years I’ve been coming here, and now I was looking at a half-dozen of them.


Eventually, the rain stopped, and I made forays out to the beach, but always came back to check out what else the pylon was revealing.  Eventually, I found a good-sized alphabet cone, a bit beat up, but still with it’s colors intact.  That was a first for me – up until this point, I’d only ever found bleached out babies.  I also found a series of moon snails in fine condition – again, only ever found broken ones before.


It was like someone had dumped a pile of great shells there for me to find.  Talk about being in the right place at the right time!  So, now you all know my sooper sekret little place to look for shells – low tide, waxing moon, around the pylons at the fishing pier.  I do NOT, however, recommend actually getting into the water under there – the current is surprisingly strong, as you will see in the next paragraph.  Stay on the sand and hover around the closest pylon to the shore.


I found a good number of smaller shells on the San Carlos Bay side of the pier, most notably apple murex and a few baby Florida fighting conchs.  And that’s where I witnessed the boating accident, and realized just how swift that current is, as it comes careening around the point on it’s way out to the Gulf proper.  A family was on a motor boat, and the boat got stuck in the current.  Try as they might to gun it, the boat just started swinging in circles, and ended up smashing into the side of the pier with a mighty crash.  A guy who was fishing on the pier called down to his buddies, who were crabbing with nets off the shore, “Get those kids out of that boat!”, and then he jumped into the water himself.  There was a lot of frantic activity as the children were brought to shore, the boat inspected for damage, etc.  All the men around the pier helped to tow it far down the San Carlos side of the beach, grabbing onto ropes and really putting their backs into it.  Then, the family got into the boat, and the men gave them a running start back into the water, shouting “Floor it, floor it!”.  The boat nearly got caught in the current again, but suddenly shot past the pier and back into the bay, the kids waving to the guys on the shore.


Well, enough excitement!  It was becoming somewhat dark, and I had a TON of shells to clean - which presented a problem.  Up until now, I’ve stayed in places where there was a shell washing sink set up outside, to remove all the sand and sea grass and grit.  I’ve also stayed in places with a full kitchen, which meant a big kitchen sink and a colander to soak the shells in bleach before laying them out to dry and be photographed.  Now, I had the challenge of a standard hotel room with a tiny bathroom sink to deal with – also, I didn’t see any kind of a shell washing station at the Hampton Inn, which makes sense, considering it isn’t on the beach.  So, I headed up the naked boardwalk, past the crying pair of osprey, up to the lighthouse rest rooms, where I knew there was a foot wash spigot.  Painstakingly, so not as to bring a ton of sand back to the hotel room bathroom sink, I rinsed each shell and returned it to the mesh bag.  I then washed the sand off of me, and tottered back to the car with my spoils.


On The Causway Beach

I took a little pitstop on the causeway beach on the way back to the hotel

Sanibel Lighthouse Au Naturale

yep, lookin' nakey!

Beach Erosion

A picnic table on the causeway beach suffers from beach erosion


Lots of construction going on - new causeway being built


I feel lucky to have captured this - that's the sun struggling through the angry clouds across the bay on Fort Myers Beach.

and MORE cranes!

This was more toward Fort Myers Beach - dunno what they are doing over there

I feel welcomed!

Signage at the causeway beach

My wheels for the week

Definitely on my color chart! :-)



On the way back, I stopped at Publix for the aforementioned milk, a small bottle of bleach, and a supply of bottled water.  I’d brought my little vinyl fold-up cooler with me, and there was an ice machine at the hotel, so I could bring bottles of water with me during my daily travels and keep them cold in the car.  I also have an insulated single water bottle holder that straps around my waist, so I can keep water with me while tramping around the beaches.  Oh, and I also made a stop in the house wares section and bought a nut picker as a tool to perform de-barnacling operations – no pointy end of a knife being available in my room.


Finally, back to the hotel.  I set the shells soaking in bleach and water in the bathroom sink, showered, and then returned to shell maintenance.  Once they were all clean and set out on a towel to dry, I was quite floored at the sight of my first day haul!  You have to understand that I have always been a summer visitor here, and although there is ALWAYS comparatively superior shelling on Sanibel than most any other place in the world, I am accustomed to somewhat slimmer pickings than this, in terms of both quality and quantity.  After the photography, I jumped into bed and slept the satisfied slumber of the successful hunter.


First Day Haul

I was in shock once I got them all cleaned and laid out - not bad for a coupla hours work!

My biggest ever tulip

...so far!

My biggest ever lightening whelk

...so far!

A pretty big cockle

...and very pretty colors, too

Different angle

Yes, that's an alphabet cone by the nickel. No, I did not run down to the local paper to get my picture taken!





Shell Catalog

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