The Start to Our Road Trip Home

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MilwVon on January 10, 2009

With 1,500 miles and approximately 25 hours of driving ahead of us, we thought we'd leave a day early so that we could take a leisurely cruise through the Everglades along the Tamiami Trail, Hwy 41 from essentially Miami to Naples. While we enjoyed the ride along this route a couple of days earlier during our Everglades Safari Day tour, it fell short in terms of opportunities to stop along the way to take photos of the alligators and birds found in and around the waters of the canals.

David served as an outstanding driver, tolerated my wish to stop at several areas to shoot photographs and to enjoy the view in a bit more intimate manner. At one point where we stopped, there must have been 15 or 20 alligators laying around on the shoreline, basking in the sun. Because they are cold blooded animals, it is essential for them to absorb as much heat during the day as possible. It is this need for ambient heat that drives them to crawl out onto the roads to get heat through their bellies . . . and often run over by cars and trucks driving through the area in the middle of the night.

If you make the drive across the Everglades in this area, be sure to pull all the way off the roadway. I couldn’t believe the number of tourists that would only pull off halfway, leaving their rear ends out in the lane of traffic. Good way to lose that rental car . . . "Hertz isn't going to be happy" to quote Shep Smith of FNC.

As you drive along the Tamiami Trail, there are several areas of Everglades National Park that you can visit. One of the most popular is the Shark Valley area. Another is the area at Big Cypress Nature Preserve. If there is a disappointment in this ride, it is the fact that visitors are teased throughout the area by "Panther Crossing" signs. As an endangered species, and one that is nocturnal, seeing a Florida Panther is a rare experience. Locals living in the area for their entire lives report that they've never seen one. Still, as we drove through, I thought "How cool would it be to be treated to such a rare wildlife sighting?"

There is little in the way of gas and food along this route. Most of what you will have available are part of the Native American reservations . . . or the tourist areas that specialize on the airboat tour market. Our view is that unless you're spending the entire day in the area; plan to eat on one end or the other of Hwy 41. You may find packing a picnic lunch to be a fun way to enjoy the area without getting caught at high priced facilities. Everglades City near the far western end of Hwy 41 is one place along the trail that provides some nice local restaurants like the Seafood Depot where we ate during our safari tour earlier in the week.

All in all, this was a great way to begin our journey home to the land of the cheeseheads.
Everglades National Park
Various Visitor Centers
Everglades National Park, Florida
(305) 242-7700

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