Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Seriously Up To Our Ass In Alligators

Ed and I have never driven across southern Florida crosswise - we're always going up and down, north to south, south to north - but this past week had the opportunity to cross the Everglades on our way from Miami to Fort Myers.  I was totally excited. 

If you're doing it on the Everglades Parkway, fondly known as 
Alligator Alley, you're trip shouldn't take too long since most of that road is four-lane interstate.  But since we weren't in a rush, didn't want to pay any tolls, and thought a two-lane road would be more scenic than the interstate, we took U.S. Highway 41, the Tamiami Trail

The first ten miles or so we were crawling along in construction and I was concerned that we made the wrong decision, but eventually the construction ended and the road opened up.  We drove along, seeing signs for the Everglades National Park, Shark Valley, and a casino operated by the Miccosukee Indians.  We saw a tiny post office in Ochopee, and a crab shack nearby that I'm pretty sure was closed.  But we didn't see any alligators.

I was getting concerned that by listening to Ed, who wanted to take this route, I was going to make my first trip across the Everglades - a scary, swampish wasteland which according to the many episodes of CSI Miami I've watched with my mother, is always the perfect body dump - without seeing one
reptilian creature.

And then he saw one.  But I didn't.  I was looking elsewhere and we were driving too fast for me to see it after he pointed it out.  I was crushed.

And then I saw one!
And another. 
And another. 
And another.
And another.
And another.  Once I started seeing them, it didn't stop.  They were everywhere.  Swimming in the water, lying on the shore, sunning on a pipe culvert.  Two, three and four in a grouping.  Baby ones.  Medium sized ones.  Huge ones.  I'd never seen so many alligators in all of my life.  Ever.  It was magnificent.  And unsettling.  And surreal.

Holy shit.  I'm serious, I was freaking out.  "There's one!  There's one!  There's another!  And ohmygod, there's two more!"  I was pointing and shouting as Ed drove.  The road is two lanes, there weren't any places to pull over, and I had to wait for the road behind us to be clear so Ed could slow down long enough for me to snap pictures. 

Look at this guy, eyeballing me like I was a fat, tasty treat.  Which I am, by the way.  That's right, both fat and tasty.  All Italians are.

We finally came upon a rest area to stop at, parked the truck and walked down the highway to see them a little closer.  And you can get as close as you dare.  There are no signs warning you to stay away, keep a certain distance, not to feed them. 

There are no barriers keeping them from coming up on the bank of the river, under the guardrail, and onto the road.  They actually cross the roads!  This is not a place I'd get out at night, for any reason.  It is a place I'd dump a body if I were looking to get rid of someone - alligators aren't discriminating, they'll eat anyone.

Look at this lizard-like body - a species that's more than 150 million years old.  The bumps look like molded bone.  It looks like thick leathered armor.  Or a really dirty purse. 

There was an area by the parking lot that was fenced on one side, but completely open on the other.  That, I don't get.  These reptiles are not stupid.  They were swimming through concrete culverts, from one area of water to the other.  They've had 150 million years to figure out how to travel quickly from one place to another.   

They look serene and I suppose for the most part when it comes to humans they generally are.  Since 1948, according to Wikipedia, there have been 275 documented attacks on humans in Florida, seventeen of them fatal.  But that's just in Florida. 

They're just creepy.  And they move a lot faster than you think (video coming soon). 
To leave you with a few words of wisdom, in case you find yourself anywhere near a place like this, teeming with alligators, there's a quote which has several variations, but generally goes like this...

"Never insult an alligator until you cross the river."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2012: Such A Fragrant Sprig!
2011: Coast To Coast
2010: The Joke’s On Us
2009: Eddie Monsignor Starbucks Friday
2008: All The Better To Smell You With, My Dear
2007: Neon Railroad
2006: I Left My Heart…
2005: Sorry, no post on this day. The blog didn’t start until May 2005!


Gil said...

I crossed the Everglades in 1969 and never saw an alligator. I remember being told not to stop, even to pee, and if I broke down not to leave the car. Your pictures are absolutely beautiful. They remind me of the Bronx Zoo.

june in florida said...

The Gator Boys is my favorite tv show, check it out.Google "python eats alligator" for a great picture, neither won.

Marlaina said...

As Faux Floridians, meaning we're not "of" Florida, just here for convenience, we were informed that we are coming up on alligator mating season.

And to be wary of any drainage ditch or culvert including the one that drains into? out of? the little lake? pond? at the end of our street in Port St. Lucie where there is a Beware of Alligator sign. So always the chicken I have been storming around the pond, for my daily walk, watching for alligators, imagining escape routes.

Your photos look like you were standing on top of them. How much zoom?

Amazing things you too see on your travels!

Belledog said...

Marlin Perkins got nothing on you, Salena and Ed.

I take it you did not see any "pet exercise areas" aka alligator automats?

Enjoy Florida and some friend R&R.

Dave Sanderson said...

When you travel Alligator Alley (it's a toll road now?) there were signs warning to watch for them. I notices a construction crew building the high fences that ran along the highway to keep out the said Alligators and Panthers. I wondered how much do you make to work there or who they pissed off and they had to work there. Great pics.

Anonymous said...

Your alligator post really resonated with me ! Being a Yankee from Michigan, I'm always looking for Gators anytime I cross into Florida, and I mean that I literally start scanning for them as soon as i cross the State line !! Like you and Ed, always North to South or vice versa.

I was in Kissimmee a few years ago, and was laying over at a motel for the weekend, waiting for a Monday load. I decided to walk a ways to the closest WalMart, of course..scanning the ditches for Gators, really wanting to see one. My walk was uneventful, bearing no gator-fruit, UNTIL !... In the WalMart drainage water retention pond, I saw one !

Holy Crap ! I only saw its eyes and tip of its snout as it slowly submerged itself, the way that Gators do. I was looking around excitedly to see if anyone else had seen it. No, apparently I was the only person surveilling the retention pond at that WalMart, at that particular time. I was so excited !! I remember it like yesterday !

So jealous of your numerous sightings, and really enjoyed your post!!


ELH said...

Salena, wow..some great shots..that closeup of that ones head is down right scary..thanks for the great pics..

Belledog said...

Salena, tell us again your preferred camera(s)?

Some wonderful photos. As always.

The Daily Rant said...

GIL: Isn't it freakin' scary when someone tells you not to stop? LOL Thanks for the compliment on the photos, I'm surprised I didn't get eaten in the process. And man, I haven't been to the Bronx Zoo in ages!! I was born right around the corner from there! :)

JUNE: I will definitely check out that picture, and maybe even the show!

MARLAINA: Alligator mating season? Maybe that's why they were all out and about! Lookin' for a little gator nookie! We went to a facility once in Florida to pick up freight and Ed got out of the truck because he saw the nose of a small alligator in a little draining ditch/pond thing next to the warehouse. The guy in the warehouse came RUNNING out, yelling at Ed to get back in the truck! So we sat in the truck and scanned the pond for eyeballs until we saw one little gator. Ed maneuvered the truck to get close to the pond and we threw stale bread into the water to see some movement, thinking they'd eat anything. FYI: They don't eat Italian bread. LOL

As for my zoom, there wasn't much. We were pretty close - maybe six feet away. I did zoom in on the faces though, so I could see the teeth. My little camera has a 20x optical zoom, but I didn't have to use that much of it, the lens was barely out.

BELLEDOG: There were no signs of any kind. I was actually really surprised. I'm telling you, they're faster than you think. lol

DAVE: I saw panther signs too! WTF?? I'm glad we didn't take Alligator Alley, I think we had a pretty good deal on this road being so close to the water. Glad you liked the pictures.

GARY: Thanks for the comment! You're story made me laugh out loud - looking around to see if anyone saw the same alligator. Isn't it a freakin' rush when you see those eyes? I mean, it's everything we've ever see in a movie or on TV. All of a sudden, EYES. What the hell? I think I would have been a little scared to walk BACK to the motel. You're one brave Yankee (but then again, aren't ALL Yankees? lol)

ELH: You're so welcome! I'm guessing you don't see too many of these in your area! :)

BELLEDOG: I love the Canon cameras and that's what I own. This one was taken with my little Canon PowerShot SX260 HS ( I carry it in my purse at all times. It takes great shots, has a really great zoom, the video is amazing on it, and I love the big screen on the back. It's perfect when you don't want to lug a bigger camera around. Lately, this is all I use for photos. Glad you like the pictures!

Jesse said...

Your pictures are awesome, those alligators don't look real!

The Daily Rant said...

JESSE: Thank you. The alligators are pretty awesome, aren't they? I have video, which I will eventually post, and they're definitely real!