When we left the Keys, we headed toward Fort Myers. We had reservations at a KOA on Pine Island, which we had chosen for its proximity to Sanibel Island (where we planned to meet my cousin) and its price. (It’s an Encore park, which makes it $25/night with our Ready, Camp, Go card.) RVs were packed like sardines in the park, but it would do for three nights.
My Baby Cousin
I call Alex my baby cousin because she’s the same age as our daughter, Tobi. She’s an environmentalist whose first post-graduate job was for the Sierra Club, working to protect Florida panthers. Now she’s public outreach coordinator for the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, and she’s passionate about her work. She was eager to meet us at the conservation center on Sanibel Island and show us around.
It just so happened that the center was having an open house celebration that day. In addition to the indoor museum, nature trails, and butterfly garden, there was a free barbecue, nature sounds contest, and lots of activities for kids. Alex was on duty while we were there, but she got to visit with us, and it was fun to see her in her element. We held snakes, watched kids imitate frogs and owls, visited butterflies, and took the nature walk.
Sanibel Island is a hugely popular winter destination for New Englanders, and the traffic on it was crazy. It took much longer driving to and from Pine Island than we’d expected, so we didn’t get to explore much of the island itself. We did stop by a beach, but with Bailey and Gypsy back in the RV, we couldn’t stay long.
That night, after work, Alex and her husband Ihasha drove out to our campground and we barbecued chicken. We hadn’t met Hasha before, but we liked him immediately. He teaches English Literature at a community college in Fort Myers, and he and Alex seem like a great match. We ended up talking, laughing, and carrying on into the night.
Old Eugene Friend
Val was the first friend we made when we moved to Eugene. She was a single lesbian mom, and her son was just a bit older than Tobi. The kids hit it off (as did the moms), and we were so happy to have met them. Val introduced us to all the best hiking trails and parks, swimming pools and video game stores. We spent a lot of time together those first few years. Then she moved to Wisconsin for school, and on to Florida. She lives in St. Petersburg now, and when she heard we would be in Pine Island, she took the day off from work and braved the two-hour drive down to meet us.
We had a lot to catch up on… kids, parents, missing years. So mostly we just hung out at the campground and talked. But we did get Bailey out for a short hike, and Val and I took the bikes out for a spin. Val left after dinner for the long drive home, but we were so glad she’d made the effort to come see us.