After enjoying the beautiful Atlantic Coast sunrise in Mayport, I jumped in my truck and headed southwest towards Fort Myers, FL to pick up Daria and Deb at the airport. The three of us go way back – like over a decade back! Like, they were both at my cherry Airborne jump, back! Though I was already in my 40s and had 11 years of enlisted time behind me when I commissioned into the Army, I required a LOT of mentoring to learn the ways of Army officership. Lucky for me, Deb and Daria took me under their wings for my first operational assignment and brought the full weight of their stellar career paths to bear on molding me into an asset for the Army. Even more lucky for me, we became good friends along the way! Though all of our military careers are behind us, our friendships have endured.
Daria’s flight arrived first, so I picked her up and we explored the Edison and Ford Winter Estates while waiting for Deb’s flight to land. The famous inventors, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, happened to be good friends and had adjacent winter homes in Fort Myers along the Caloosahatchee River; old school snowbirds! Thomas Edison built his winter retreat, Seminole Lodge, in 1886. Several years later, Henry Ford built his craftsman style bungalow, The Mangoes (named for the numerous mango trees on the property).
In addition to the historic homes, the grounds include a museum that houses artifacts of inventions from the two men, over 1700 plants representing more than 400 species from six continents, and a botanic research laboratory designated as a historic landmark. As an avid botanist, Edison teamed up with Ford and Harvey Firestone to create a lab in 1928 capable of identifying a source of rubber that could be grown and produced quickly in the U.S. (they were concerned about reliance on foreign rubber sources). Though the lab identified Goldenrod as a viable source, it would never become a major substrate for automobile tires. Rubber or no rubber, the gardens are incredible!
After flight delays, Deb finally made it to town in the evening and we checked into our VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner for the unenlightened 😊). Daria found the incredible little waterfront vacation house in the fishing village of Matlache (pronounced mat-la-SHAY by locals) during her online search. It was perfect for our girls’/birthday get-away. As an added bonus, the tree right across from our back dock seemed to be the local pelican hangout, so we dubbed it the pelican tree.
Matlache has an active artist community with a bunch of cute quirky shops. One of which was lit up at night and we could see from our back dock.
As much as we enjoyed the great little vacation place, we spent the majority of our days on the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva Islands. More on that to come!