Monday, August 25, 2014

Bryan's Family Visits: Getting Stuck in the Everglades

The next day we drove down to the Everglades Alligator Farm a little south of Homestead.  Heather's freshman year roommate, Kristie, and her adorable family live in the Homestead area and met up with all of us for a VERY adventurous day among the alligators.

We should have known what a crazy adventure we were about to go on, when on our drive out to the alligator farm we literally had to slam on the breaks for a gator crossing the road!  While we waited for the Summers family to arrive, the kids got a kick out of climbing on all the gator statues and playing in the gift shop.
Practicing their gator wrestling skills...

More adorable bonding with uncle Bryan...

After we bought our tickets for the gator wrestling show and the airboat ride, we all explored the mini zoo on the farm grounds.  They had all sorts of native animals found in south Florida, including lots of turtles, lizards, snakes, and birds.

And of course...GATORS

Before our airboat ride, we were able to see a pretty cool gator wrestling show.  The wrestler only had one hand and made sure to tell us that it was a birth defect instead of an alligator bite!  He was a great showman and wrestled an alligator just as well as all the others I had seen.  

It's still so crazy to watch them do all the different gator wrestling moves!

Afterwards we were all able to get pictures of us holding a baby alligator.  It was so much fun to watch all the different reactions from the kiddos.  Daxton, of course, kept trying to kiss it and play with it's toes.

The whole Adams Family
Bryan, Sadie, Natalie, Heather, Max, and Katrina

After the gator wrestling show, we made our way over to the airboat ride.  It was such a huge difference from the airboats we are used to up where we live (about 45 minutes north.)  Up near us, the tours we've been on have been through more manmade canals and waterways.  This ride in Homestead was truly legit!  It literally took us flying through the sawgrass of the Everglades doing 360 turns at very fast speeds and we saw TONS of gators.  I also loved that they provided headphones to drown out the noise from the fan propeller and that it was open instead of closed in.

Slow at first...

And then FAST once we got out in the open...

The interesting part happened when our guide led us on one of the "back paths."  He didn't know that this particular path had dried up just enough to cause quite the problem.  We ended up getting severely the middle of the Everglades!

At first he asked a few of the men to get out and give us a push, but when that didn't work he asked even more people to get out.  To paint the picture, Bryan and Heather have four kids, Kristie and Dan have four kids, and Dallas and I have one child.  Plus there was another couple from Denmark with a child as well.  When the airboat still wouldn't budge our guide asked all of us, women and children too, to get out of the boat to try and get it free from the mud.  Once the boat started, he yelled for all of us to "run and jump in!"  We all couldn't help but laugh as we were slipping and sliding  through the muddy sawgrass in our flip flops dragging children in our arms.  (Yes I was the one in the back taking pictures and laughing my head off at how ridiculous the scenario was...only in south Florida!)  When this tactic didn't work, our guide asked all the adults (except me who was holding a very scared and nervous 2 year old) to help pull the airboat along the path.  This lasted for about 5-10 minutes before our guide resigned there was nothing more we could do; at which point he hopped off the boat and disappeared into the Everglades.  I have to admit that we were all laughing at this point.  I mean what a crazy predicament!  Luckily we had snacks and water to share with those around us and very positive attitudes.  When our guide finally returned, he told us that he had radioed for a rescue boat, but we needed to hike through the swamp about 50 yards south to where the new boat could pick us up.  Episodes from Animal Planet and the Gator Boys kept replaying in my mind as we started our trek.  I just kept praying that we wouldn't run into any gators or pythons!  It was extremely difficult to keep our balance with the water and mud around our feet, especially since most of us were in flimsy sandals.  Daxton and Sadie rode on top of Dallas and Bryan's shoulders which helped a bit, but poor Katrina and Natalie got pretty scratched up on their legs from the sawgrass.

The most amazing thing during this whole process was that we all couldn't stop laughing.  I figured the more noise the better to scare away wildlife, but we were genuinely having a good time.  It was just such a crazy experience!  When we reached the rescue boat, we quickly realized that it was not going to be able to hold all of us.  We loaded it up with all the women and children (except poor Heather) and then headed back.  It took another 45 minutes before the men and Heather were able to be rescued!

Everyone trying to catch up to the moving airboat to jump back in...

Some of the pushing efforts...

Dan goofing off in our tour guide's seat and then tromping through the Everglades...yes I'm taking selfies :)

Loading up the first rescue boat with the women and children.  I still don't know why they wouldn't let Heather in!

Kristie and I watched all 8 kids while we waited for another boat to picked up the rest of our group.  The kids did great and explored the different reptile exhibits back at the park.  I guess the bonus for Bryan, Heather, Max, Dallas, and Dan, was that after waiting forever to be rescued they got a relaxing tour without kids.

Exploring the different gator exhibits while waiting for everyone...

Even though it was such a crazy experience, we all truly had a blast.  To be honest, I'd go back in a heartbeat and totally plan on doing so.  I mean, it's not everyday that you get to stomp through alligator and snake infested swampland while laughing with friends and family!

After our crazy adventures at the Everglades Alligator Farm we were exhausted and STARVING.  We stopped at the famous Robert's fruit stand for the most amazing homemade milkshakes.  They had tons of selections all made with fresh homegrown fruits. They also had several different tropical and homemade goods for sale.  There was a whole corner filled with all sorts of flavored honey.  We ended up getting the yummiest key lime honey and orange blossom honey.  We also got to drink straight from a coconut and the milkshakes were DEVINE.  It was the perfect place to stop after such a fun morning!

First time drinking straight from a coconut!

It was so much fun getting to know Kristie and Dan and their sweet family.  They are such incredible people, so kind and genuine, and so easy to talk with.  I really hope that we can hang out again soon since it was such a blast with them!

Daxton about lost it when he saw the massive tractor parked outside Robert's fruit stand.  He also loved all the female attention from both his cousins and the Summer family.

The Summers and Adams Families
How fun for Heather and Kristie to reunite after so many years!

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