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Happy 4th of July!

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We booked Wednesday night in Homestead, so I naturally had emergency transfers late in the afternoon to take our day into late evening.  I’m still glad we drove down that night, though, because it was a lot nicer to get up and drive 15 minutes to our snorkeling adventure instead of getting up extra early to battle Miami rush hour from home.  Jeff and I have been on a similar schedule of waking up early so we were both awake near 6:30.  We took our time getting moving and started the day with a walk across the street to Publix for healthy breakfast and water to take on the boat. 

Then we made our way to Biscayne National Park and I realized that this is the first National Park I have been to in a long time!  Then I looked and have only been to these places in the last 40 years:
Badlands
Carlsbad Caverns
Jean Lafitte National Preserve
Jewel Cave
Mount Rushmore 
National Mall
New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park
Sleepy Bear Dunes
Washington monument
Wind Cave National Park

So out of a very long list, I have only visited 10 areas!  I’ll need to work on that.  We had a very limited day at Biscayne, but I think we got to see some of the best parts.  We took a snorkel trip with a non-profit group, Biscayne National Park Institute, that took us out to the coral reef.  They chose Anniversary Reef, named on a trip to the reef just after Hurricane Irma, by a group of conservationists trying to come to grips with what just happened. 

This was my first time visiting a natural reef (as opposed to the Blue Heron man-made reef trail).  The water was blue blue blue in the sun.  In the water, the reef had a green-brown color when viewed from the surface.  It looked so different up close, though!  Diving down to see the coral and fish up close really brought out the color.  Only a couple of us were diving low, so most people really didn’t know what they were missing. 

Cute needle-nose fish hiding from me

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Jeff helped to point out things he wanted me to take pictures of.

Our excursion boat in the distance

One of the critters I wish I had gotten on camera was a pod of cute carribean reef squid that darted away when they saw me coming.  I also got pictures of a big barracuda, but i was trying to keep a respectful distance so you can’t really appreciate his size or shiny, blue-silvery shimmer.

Barracuda

I was worried about Jeff from the moment we dropped in the water since it was pretty wavy and he gets motion headaches and nausea.  Fortunately, by the time he headed back to the boat, there were only 10 minutes left in the water so ge didn’t have to feel sad for too long.  Another reason to be grateful for Phil Foster Park – pretty calm water, lots of fish, guarded from boats, and you can access it from shore,  Now we just need to get across to Peanut Island!

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After getting cleaned up, we went out to lunch at one of the few places that were open for the 4th and then headed to the Coral Castle for a tour of a very unusual limestone outdoor palace. A Latvian immigrant named Edward Leedskalnin managed to harvest, carve, move, and position all of these walls, chairs, and sculptures on his own with a lot of hard work, time, and incredible ingenuity. This was done in the early part of the 1900’s which means there was not heavy machinery, huge trucks, and other similar tools to help. He used metal parts harvested from old cars as tools and tricks like rolling rock slabs over logs and using winches and pulleys to move the limestone. This place looks modest, but to consider what he was able to accomplish (no matter how strange) is pretty amazing.

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Then we headed out to the Miami Brewing Company which has a very nice indoor and outdoor space.  My favorite was a Key Lime Meade which tasted like a delicious Key Lime Pie – just better as a small flight sample rather than a tall glass since it’s pretty sweet.

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After sharing a couple of flights, we then went out to the Homestead Miami Speedway for the 4th of July party.  There was music, food trucks, expensive beer, and some activities for kids. 

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By this time we were hot, sleepy, and looking forward to bedtime.  We watched about 6 or 7 fireworks shows from our hotel room with some takeout from Panera, and then celebrated not having to battle traffic after it was all done.  We are getting so old…

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