J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel, FL

Day 574

     Jay Norwood Darling was born October 21, 1876 in Norwood, Michigan. He was the cartoonist for the New York Herald Tribune from 1917 to 1949, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartoons in 1923 and 1942. 

     He was an important figure in the conservation movement. Darling initiated the Federal Duck Stamp program and designed the first stamp. He was instrumental in founding the National Wildlife Federation in 1936, when President Franklin Roosevelt convened the first North American Wildlife Conference.

    The J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is part of the United States National Wildlife Refuge System, located in southwestern Florida, on Sanibel Island in the Gulf of Mexico. We took a guided tour led by a naturist through part of this area. 

     She pointed out various plants and trees, like this Gumbo Limbo tree, a native of South Florida. It develops unusual red bark that peels back – reminiscent of sunburned skin – which gives gumbo limbo the nickname of “Tourist Tree.” :

     And this cabbage palm tree: 

     The spokes on the trunk of this palm are called boots. The name comes from when the area was cattle country. At the end of the day, the tired cowboys took off their wet and muddy boots and hung them on this stiff appendage to dry.


     Yellow belly turtles


     White Ibis

     Great Egret

     and this bird, which I already forgot the name

Edison and Ford Homes, Ft. Myers, Fl

Day 573

     In 1885 inventor Thomas Alva Edison was cruising Florida’s west coast and stopped to visit Fort Myers. He soon bought 13 acres along the Caloosahatchee River because numerous bamboo trees grew there. He was using the bamboo fiber in his light bulbs, which he now had to import from Africa. Here he built his home, Seminole Lodge, as a winter retreat. 

     With WWI approaching, Edison and Ford worried about rubber production, and although most rubber was made in England, the US bought 70% of the world’s rubber. Edison planted many types of trees and plants from which he could extract latex, a key ingredient of rubber.

     He built a laboratory to test over 17,000 plant samples he and his staff collected in his quest to find a way to produce rubber in the United States. His lab was preserved:

     In 1927 he planted this banyan tree which produces a white milky sap (latex) which can be used in the production of rubber:

     This is all one tree which was planted from a single 14″ stem.

     This Brown Woolly Fig tree was planted in 1928, and now stands 102 feet high and 305 inches in circumference:

     Arn’t those roots cool?

     In 1916, automobile magnate Henry Ford purchased the home next door to Edison’s. We took a guided tour of both homes.

     Instead of walking through the houses, you peered in through the outside windows.

     Tidbit of Information:  For a short period, Henry Ford worked at the Edison Illuminating Company. On an occasion of Edison visiting the plant, Henry Ford showed him his prototype of a gasoline engine. Edison gave Henry encouragement in pursuing the project. Henry, shortly thereafter, left the employ of Edison to form a motor company.

     In the early 1900’s Ford and Edison took many road trips. In Ford’s garage on this estate was the first “RV” made for these trips:

     It was a box containing food and cooking supplies on the back of a Model T.  Notice the water spigot on the side. Thank you Henry, otherwise I would not be traveling the Country. 

Seminole Veterans Building, Okeechobee, Florida

Day 571

     Ok, I know. I already published day 572 and now I am doing 571. I clicked 572 when it should have been this. So, here it is.

     On the Indian Reservation, next to the casino, is the Seminole Veterans Building. The building is build in the shape of a 5 point star, like on the American Flag. 

     One point of the building covers the Seminole Wars, another, World War II, and a third, Vietnam and later. The remaining 2 points are administrative. 

     In the center of the star building, a pentagon, is located a 500 seat auditorium.

     The staff of the building supports getting benefits not only for the Indian Veterans but all veterans. They concentrate on service connected disability compensation for exposure to agent orange. 

Fort Myers, Florida

Day 572

     There is no Fort at Fort Myers.

     During the American Indian Wars of the 1830’s the United States built Fort Myers as one of the first forts along the Caloosahatchee River. It was used as a base of operations against the Seminole Indians. The Government abandoned the fort following the Civil War.

     The Fort Myers community was founded by Confederate Captain Manuel A. Gonzalez on February 21, 1866. On August 12, 1885, the small town of Fort Myers—with 349 residents—was incorporated.

     The city is named after Confederate Colonel Abraham Myers, a Jewish American army officer and a graduate of West Point, Class of 1833. He was descended from Rabbi Moses Cohen, an emigrant from London to Charleston, South Carolina.

Technical Stuff:

Okeechobee, Fl. to Fort Myers, Fl: 92.4 miles

2 hours 56 minutes

9.6 MPG

Diesel: $2.85