Crocodile (make that Alligator) James B.
So that's where we spent the day today - in the woods.
One of my editors at The Miami Herald is a big outdoorsman, so he recommended a place, Billie Swamp Safari, on a Seminole Tribe of Florida reservation.
Now, I have to back up a few years to when I was just a wee lad. Like a lot of boys I had a thing for "real" Native American stuff, or at least what I thought was real. You name it - clothing, living quarters (tepees, etc.), weapons (bows/arrows, etc.), food (corn, etc.).
I assumed back then that nature itself was maintained in large part due to Native American stewardship. I'm sure some of my childhood feelings were driven by fantasy and lore. But some were probably based in reality.
And when boys grow up, we become...bigger boys.
So you can understand my excitement when we approached Billie's joint this morning and saw alligators sunning themselves along the banks of a swampy waterway that ran parallel to the road, and giant geese and blue cranes walking around the parking area.
Things only got better when we got inside and saw all sorts of cool swamp creatures. The highlight of the day for me was the air boat ride that got us up close and personal with gators, crazy prehistoric-looking fish, and even a pack of wild boars and gators chillin' like old friends, the way your dog and cat might hang out at home. I thought I was Mick Dundee for a minute.
It might have been a perfect day, but then the air boat ride ended and we decided to eat at the Swamp Water Café, an "authentic" restaurant at Billie's.
I was almost giddy, remembering my childhood obsession, and had every intention of eating gator nuggets or crane fries or wild boar fingers or prehistoric fish fillet, or endangered lizard steak (sorry, my vegetarian friends). OK, I made up and am kidding about everything but the gator nuggets. I really was looking forward to them.
But the waitress told me the the nuggets wouldn't fill me up, so I opted for the authentic Indian taco, complete with fried flat bread and all the trimmings.
"Indian" and "taco" in the same sentence should have been a dead giveaway, but I was hungry and figured since it had "Indian" in the name it would satisfy my authenticity requirement.
What I got though was a plate of sliced/diced, bread, covered in chili - tasted suspiciously like canned Hormel, something I became familiar with in college - covered in lettuce, cheese and tomatoes.
That's right. My authentic Indian taco turned out to be a canned chili salad.
I drove 60 miles to eat a chili salad. I could have stayed home and walked to Crack Ronald's for an authentic near-the-beach burger.
But in spite of the food, the National Geographic experience we had today made the Everglades worth the trip.
I have to go now and eat a few more authentic roasted almonds before dinner.
Peace and hair grease till tomorrow.