Tuesday, June 19, 2012

To Grandmother's House I (Try to) Go

Did I ever mention that my mom and dad are from Ft. Myers, about 40 miles north of here? Every summer and many Christmases, they would load me, my two brothers, and my sister into the Family Truckster for the 12-hour drive from Atlanta. Good times ...

The other day, I decided to ride up to Ft. Myers and noodle around the old downtown a bit, looking for some of the familiar scenes from my idyllic youth. This ended up proving two old maxims:

  1. The only constant is change ... particularly when you're talking about Florida real estate, and
  2. You can't go home again (at least, not on a bicycle, because the roads are super busy now and cars will run you down).
I stuck with my new plan of getting out while the getting is good, leaving the house just before 5 am. After a quick bagel at Einstein Brothers, I went up Tamiami Trail to just above Pelican Bay. The traffic was starting to wake up, and I was afraid that my blinking red tail light might get lost in the myriad lights of closed establishments along the busy thoroughfare, so I went over to Vanderbilt Beach Road for the rest of the way north. Of course, in spite of the road being empty and quiet, one big white pick-up truck still thought it would be fun to give me a wake-up call with his horn. Ah, those zany kids. They kill me.

The sun was coming up as I left Bonita Beach via the bridge over Little Hickory Pass, reminding me that there were other advantages to getting out super-early to ride.

Traffic remained fairly calm all the way through Fort Myers Beach and up San Carlos Boulevard. Last week, I went this way out to Sanibel and Captiva, but this time I headed on up towards the Caloosahatchee River. You can't really get close to it, since there are gated golf course communities there, but I think that I smelled the water.

I worked my way north and east on McGregor Boulevard, eventually getting to the old Edison and Ford homes about 8 am.

Of course, we toured these as kids, and I remember being impressed with the light bulbs with bamboo filaments. I'm currently reading an excellent biography of Nikola Tesla, however, and was in no mood to sing Mr. Edison's praises.

I remember my grandmother's house as being on the other side of town from this, and poked around a bit trying to find it. Unfortunately, 35 years and my bad memory made it impossible to locate anything, and it was pretty obvious that homes as old as that one had long ago been replaced.

One glance told me that Tamiami Trail was not the way to head back south, so I went further west to take Cortez Boulevard. This took me past the old high school, where my parents had graduated and my uncle Austin had coached football for many years.

When Cortez ran out, I got on Tamiami Trail for a mile or two, then headed east on Colonial Boulevard. After less than a mile, I saw a sign for a multi-use path, so I turned. Somehow, I had found the John Yarbrough Linear Park Trail.

The path followed one of the old canals south, with a railroad line to the east and the old airport to the west. It was very popular with runners, and I felt a little out of place using it instead of biking on the road. Thus, when I came to Daniels Parkway, I turned off to continue east.

Eventually, I crossed under I-75 and came to Treeline Avenue, just north of the new airport. I made a quick store stop, then took the bike-lane-loaded route from the airport to Estero Parkway, and hence to Three Oaks Parkway / Imperial Parkway / Livingston Road. It was deathly familiar, but I was in the mood now to avoid unpleasant surprises.

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