February 6 – 20
We walked over to the Museum of Art, entered and waited a few minutes for our guided tour to start. Now designated as the official state art museum for Florida, it offers twenty-one galleries of European paintings as well as Cypriot antiquities and Asian, American, and contemporary art.
Designed by the architect, John H. Phillips, this pink Renaissance-style palace enclosing a courtyard graced with copies of iconic sculptures first opened in 1930. In January 2007, the $76-million Arthur F. and Ulla R. Searing Wing was added, the final component of a five-year master plan that has transformed the museum into the sixteenth largest in the United States.
Our guide whisked us through four or five of the galleries, stopping to narrate at a couple of works, actively engaging the group in trying to get at the heart of the picture’s meaning or stylistic manner. An element of this was annoying, as with any group there are usually a couple of folks who can be counted on to view the event as solely for them, crowding others out of participation with inexorable interaction with the guide.
Exhausted by now, we finished up the tour and returned to the car for the two hour drive back to camp. Just before jumping on the freeway we stopped at a Dick’s Sporting Goods so that I could purchase a pair of shorts, the weather being so warm (consistently low 80’s) that my thinking I wouldn’t need them turned out to be a glaring miscalculation. Fortunately they had a nice pair of North Face Paramount Trail Shorts that would function nicely for the remainder of the trip.
During the drive we discussed dinner options and decided to try Pine Island Pizza which had been closed the day before. We parked in front after arriving and entered; it’s a modest two store front wide place and walking up to order at the register, we were warmly greeted by two older women working behind the counter, putting a couple of pies together. We’d noticed this friendliness of the locals, an attitude you wouldn’t necessarily expect in a place so dependent, and yet sometimes resentful, of the tourists and snowbirds that represent their livelihood.
We split a 14-inch Hawaiian pizza accompanied by a reasonably priced glass of Pinot Grigio (at $4.75 a bargain) and thoroughly enjoyed the meal, consuming the entire pizza, not a regular occurrence for us. Back at camp, we slept well, a full day’s activity creating the ideal conditions for good night’s sleep.
With another full day ahead of us, we left camp later in the morning and drove the 25 miles to Fort Myers to visit the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. Along the way we stopped just as we got into town at Bennett’s Fresh Roast, a local bakery Joanna had read good things about. You order at the counter and we settled on a couple of donuts (they are large) and a tall coffee. While ordering we noted that they also offer a version of Cajun Grits that sounded appealing. We’d check that out on a return visit.
Properly caffeinated, we drove the short distance to the Edison/Ford property and parked in a dirt lot, the place already crowded. The Edison and Ford Winter Estates contain a historical museum and a 21-acre botanical garden adjacent to the winter homes. Locating the ticket desk, we purchased our admission and took off across the street to the mansions.
Edison first visited the site in 1885 and purchased the property to build a vacation home. Completed in 1886, it served as a winter retreat and place of relaxation until his death in 1931. His good friend, Henry Ford purchased the adjoining property in 1916.
Edison’s botanical garden contains more than a thousand varieties of plants from around the world, including African Sausage Trees and a 400-foot banyan tree planted in the mid-1920s. The gardens feature plants grown for industrial purposes such as bamboo (used in light bulb filaments) and those which Mina Edison planted for their beauty, including roses, orchids and bromeliads.
During the period of World War I Edison became concerned with America’s reliance on foreign supplies of rubber. He partnered with Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford to try to find a rubber tree or plant that could grow quickly in the United States and provide a domestic supply of rubber. After testing over 17,000 plant samples, he eventually discovered a source in the Goldenrod plant five years and after his death in 1931 the rubber project was transferred to the United States Department of Agriculture.
We walked around the outside of each of the houses (you needed to buy an additional tour to see the insides) but got a good idea about the furnishings by observing them through the windows. Finished with the houses, we walked back across the street and spent time in the museum and then Edison’s workshop, a large building with lab equipment and all types of machinery used to turn his ideas into reality.
Done with being tourists, we drove into Fort Myers to Point Ybel Brewing and spent a thoroughly enjoyable hour or more consuming three drafts, chatting with the bartender and some of the other patrons. I finished with the Megahops Atlanticus, a high gravity IPA that we liked enough to take a can back to camp with us. A number of breweries have canning devices behind the bar, so you can get a generous serving, like a small disposable growler, to take with you,
The drive back to Pine Island was pleasantly shorter this time than the day before and on the way, we stopped in at the Blue Dog Bar & Grill in Matlacha, a small town on West Island (which bridges Pine Island to the mainland). This would be another wise food decision as we would enjoy a crab cake appetizer and feeling adventurous the Mullet Sampler (one fried and one blackened filet with a serving of shredded smoked mullet fish dip) along with a couple of sides.
The blackened was our favorite and the serving, a little fishier than I generally like, was quite pleasing. We finished with a delicious slice of Key Lime Pie, the perfect way to complete the meal and a fine day of being tourists. We had a five hour drive ahead of us the next day as we’d move on to Key West. After five busy days of sightseeing, we were looking forward to riding our bikes and enjoying sun and sand. It was time to move on.
Pine Island Pizza: http://pineislandpizza.com/
Bennett’s Fresh Roast: https://www.bennettsfreshroast.com/
Edison and Ford Winter Estates: https://www.edisonfordwinterestates.org/
Pont Ybel Brewing: https://pointybelbrew.com/
Blue Dog Bar & Grill: https://www.bluedogmatlacha.com/