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A Trip to Marco Island, Florida

Business trips generaly mean a quick flight to a destination that offers little more than a few nights in a hotel, dinner out with fellow team members, and a return home with a bag full of laundry and a need for a good nights sleep. Well not so with this trip to Marco Island, Florida. As part of my employment with Crescent Electric supply Company I was invited to be a memmber of an advisory council that meets twice a year. This first meeting was held in late January of 2005.

Our trip began with a drive to Minneapolis/St. Paul where we were scheduled to catch a flight to Florida, through Charlotte, North Carolina. We left a day early to enjoy some shopping at the Mall of America, a first for us. If you haven't seen this huge mall you owe it to yourself to visit at least once, be sure to wear good shoes as this place is huge. It is constructed in the old sports stadium and there are more stores than we had time to visit.

A snow storm before we left

We would be remiss in not mentioning that we had a huge snow storm as we arrived in Minneapolis and when we returned by shuttle bus from the Mall of America we had some concern that our flight would be cancelled due to weather. but by morning the runways were cleared and although the snow was a factor getting tot he airport we left on time. The picture above is a view as our airliner arrived at the gate for our departure. We flew to Charlotte to change planes and at this airport had to change planes. Our aircraft needed a new front tire so being an old Air Force airplane mechanic I watched to make sure it was done correctly (yea, like I'd remember every detail).

A new front tire before departing fron Charlotte, NC

The rest of the trip was uneventful and we arrived in fort Myers, FL, picked up our rental car, and drove to our hotel. Our trip at this point was on our own so we stayed in Fort Meyers and the next morning drove to Venice, FL to visit our friends, Larry and Corrine. We had a wonderful time catching up with them and had a nice tour of this gulf coast city. The weather was chilly, only in the 40's when we left the hotel for Venice, and with a stiff breeze we didn't get out of the car much. I snapped the picture below of a local promotional sculpture. It is a little hard to explain I guess, but the business around Venice sponsored this fiberglass sculptures of pigs and had local artisans decorate them in a variety of ways. This pig represented an Italian Restaurant

A decorated pig!

We capped the day off with a nice meal and then the short drive back to Fort Meyers. We had looked in advance of our trip for sites around the Fort Meyers area and settled on visiting the winter homes of Thomas A. Edison and Henry Ford. This is quite a complex and we spent all morning touring the homes, labratories, and gardens of this facility. The small wood fram building below is an exact replica of Thomas Edison's original labratory that sat on this site. The original lab was moved to Michigan at the request of Henry Ford so Mrs. Edison had this one built as a gift to her husband Thomas.

Thomas Edison's Florida Labratory

We were not able to tour the Edison home since it was under a restoration project, but the Ford home that you see below was open for our tour.

Henry Ford's Winter Home, Fort Meyers, FL

Henry Ford and Thomas Edison's Winter Homes, Fort Meyers, FL

The picture above shows both the Ford Home (closest to us in this picture) and Edison's home. both homes were built exactly the same and only a few modifications were added over the years. The Edison Home was due to open within a few months of our visit and would be well worth the price of admission to view.

Thomas Edison's Rubber Labratory

As part of the home tour we also visited the Rubber Lab on the grounds of this estate. We learned that Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone approached Thomas Edison with their concerns about foreign sources of rubber and asked him to develop a domestic artificial rubber product. So Edison built this labratory and over a short period of time was able to produce rubber using the Golden Rod plant, but it was not commercially viable. The lab is as it was left when the project shut down and although we aren't chemists would love to poke about to see what all lay on the benches. As well as the homes and labratories we toured the museum which houses many exhibits of Edison's inventions and displays of Ford's products. The picture below shows a small portion of the motion picture equipment invented and by Edison's research team.

Edison's motion picture equipment

As mentioned above, we also toured the extensive gardens and grounds surrounding the homes and labratories. The picture below, believe it or not, is a single tree. This Banyon Tree was a gift to the Edisons from Henry Ford and was just a twig when it was brought from abroad. This tree grows from a central root, drops vines to the ground that take root and form what looks like another trunk. We were told this is one of the largest such trees in the world, certainly the largest here in the United States.

Edison's Banyon Tree

Our day in Fort Meyer's went far too quickly, and in case we failed to mention it, the weather was very "un-Florida" like. It dipped down to 32 degrees overnight and our morning at the Ford and Edison homes found us looking for sunshine to stand in as we waited in line to see parts of the estate. We drove about 40 miles south of Fort Meyers to check into our hotel at Marco Island. This is a view from our balcony, that is the Gulf of Mexico below.

White sand beaches on the Gulf of Mexico

Courtyard view of the hotel

The hotel, although certainly not a new structure, was very well maintained and provided a very nice place to spend the business portion of this trip. The picture above shows the courtyard view of our hotel, if you can call an area this large a courtyard. The red arrow points to our room entrance point. My meetings started the next morning so we took advantage of the afternoon to do a little poking about the neighborhood and a walk on the beach. The picture below shows the beautiful white sand beach that was between our hotel and the gulf.

Our walk on the beach, chilly but nice

No trip to an ocean or the Gulf would be complete without at least one sunset picture, and this is the best we could do. Far be it for us to complain about cloudless skies, but the lack of clouds left the sunsets a little bland.

Sunsets on the gulf were a little plain

My meetings began the next day so Sandy was on her own so she took a short bus tour of the island and the picture below represents the scale of homes we saw in this area of Florida. We do not have the owner's permission to display this picture of their home so if it is yours and want it removed let us know. Most of the homes in this area of Florida are built of concrete block, concrete slabs, and stucco. With the frequent visits by hurricanes it is necessary to build very sound structures.

Homes on a grand scale!

Sandy and friends

On Wednesday it was time to pack up and head for home. We were scheduled to depart from Fort Meyers later in the afternoon so had time to see a few sights on our way back to the airport. The highlight of this return trip was our visit to the Teddy Bear Museum. I can't quote figures about the number of bears, but as you can see above, Sandy found plenty of the furry creatures to share time with. The bears ranged form the very old to the very new and I don't know that there was a particular style that was excluded from the display. These final two pictures illustrate just a few of the settings that displayed the bears from the floor to the ceiling.

Bears, Bears, and more Bears

Bears for every taste

In conclusion we both agreed that although we are not huge fans of "beachy settings" we did enjoy our trip to the Fort Meyers area of Florida and would suggest this area as a fun getaway spot, just watch for warmer weather! We were told it did warm up the day we left, rats!

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