Arcadian photographer and sometime travel correspondent Priscilla McDaniel records word and camera impressions during a May visit from her sister, Diane, over 20 days. McDaniel also documents day trips with her grandson, Chris. Her stories don’t reflect a vendor or any endorsement for such. It’s day-trip wandering, mostly. This is the first of two parts.

I picked up my sister Diane at Punta Gorda Airport on May 4 for our annual visit. This is the first time it’s a 20-day visit here to Arcadia. Normally her husband doesn’t care for that, but I guess he needed a vacation too. (hehehe)

Diane has been coming from New Hampshire several years now; usually two weeks, at the most. I never question it—she says she’s coming, I just ask when? We are two of six Bergeron siblings, me the oldest, Diane number four in the pecking order. We are U.S. Air Force brats and our visits allow us to talk and laugh, about our mom, about how dad would help us find sticks for making fishing poles. We enjoy each other’s company and share a great love of nature and photography. Normally I pick her up at the airport with the car packed and off we go on our adventure, but this year I thought we should do a few day trips from home and a few overnighters. This way my husband and puppy are happy also.

Our first day-trip was to Myakka River State Park. It’s one of Diane’s favorite places (mine too), due west of Arcadia less than an hour away. She was so excited to see the fawns with the doe ... and the nice part was that they didn’t run away. The sandhill cranes with their colt were fun to photograph. My sister wasn’t aware that if you get too close to them they will attack. I only know because we had them in the yard and they came after me. Funny now, but not funny then!

Naturally seeing pink roseate spoonbills is always a treat, along with the many other shorebirds, hawks and one eagle. Diane also photographed a passel of wild hogs, many of the small ones.

The fields were full of beautiful yellow flowers. Others had the same idea, walking in and around them to get pictures. I told her to walk into a patch of flowers and I’d take her picture. I won’t tell you what she told me to do! Good old New Hampshire. It was a fun day and produced a lot of photo opportunities.

Our first overnight trip was to Treasure Island near Tampa and we stayed at a hotel of the same name. Nice place right on the beach for two nights, planning to spend one day riding around and one day at Fort DeSoto Park. We drove down to John’s Pass and had lunch on the river with the pelicans and gulls. A beautiful breeze kept us comfortable, even watching dolphins chase fish. That night we went down to the beach with all the vacationers and watched the sunset. And it did NOT disappoint, it was a beauty.

Slept like babies, had breakfast and went to spend the day at Fort DeSoto Park. We checked out the south side first and were excited to see the birds. I saw a black bellied plover for the first time, always a treat. Spent a little time there, then decided to go down by the first pier where the boat picks up island passengers. Sis walked the beach and found three beautiful sand dollars, big ones, returned them to their home, then we moved to the north beach, placed our chairs, got the umbrella in the sand and went to enjoy the water. It was fantastic! We spent several hours enjoying the water and watching the people and the birds.

After that beauty and excitement, we returned to our room, showered, I think I took a nap (smile)—I tell her it’s mandatory to take a nap in Florida, especially if your over 70. Okay, she agreed. That night we went to the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. on Madeira Beach, had a fantastic meal, went back to the room and lights out!

Diane and I returned to Arcadia for a couple of days following that journey, husband (Butch) and puppy (Paco) happy to see us and have someone restock the refrigerator and snacks for them. No matter what age, men need helping surviving.

We did several day trips before leaving home again. We visited Sarasota’s Flamingo Jungle (Jungle Gardens), Spanish Point and the waterfront marina with the famous Seward Johnson sailor and nurse kissing sculpture. We zigged back northeast to Lakeland at Mirror Lake and Lake Morton, both beautiful places ... and the birds are fun to watch. Swans and cygnets (babies) were beautiful, the ducks had their chicks close by and the moorhens and those little fluffballs were busy. The limpkin were busy feeding their chicks a menu of tasty snails. I’d have to say lakes are a happy place.

Not all was great, of course. A couple of times Diane heard thunder. And we had to run like crazy. I’m laughing and yelling for her to slow down. I can almost guarantee that if I’m with my sister, I won’t get hit by lightning.

The next day we kissed Butch and Paco goodbye and were on our way to Okeechobee.


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