Doing the Postcards from Florida column, I'm always learning things, too.
This past week, I also learned about the annual Key West Dachshund Walk, which will step off for the seventh time at noon on Saturday. How could I have missed this? The organizers call it a "wiener wonderland," which only makes me want to go more.
But I'm not complaining. This column offered me the chance to do plenty of cool things in 2011 and I'm already compiling my list of potential destinations for 2012. I've never been to Solomon's Castle in tiny Ona, out in the middle of nowhere between Bradenton and Sebring, but the funky castle and grounds look like my kind of place.
I'm taking suggestions for other quirky road trips, so email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, let's look back on some of my favorite trips of 2011:
I rode the rails, on a kiddie train, at the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne (brevardzoo.com), where it's possible to feed a giraffe and stand as close as you'll ever be to a Florida bobcat and other creatures in five "loops": Expedition Africa, La Selva (modeled after the rain forests of South America), Austral-Asia, Wild Florida and Paws on Play.
I had a cheeseburger in paradise on a chilly afternoon on the Venice pier (venicefishingpier.com), south of Sarasota on Florida's Gulf Coast. Even if you're not an angler, the vibe is enough to lift the spirits.
I found the quiet charm of World's Most Famous Beach scanning the shelves at Abraxas Books (386-258-8060), an experience close to walking into your grandfather's study.
In the more adventurous realm, I took a seaplane charter (keywestseaplanecharters.com) to Dry Tortugas National Park, which encompasses seven tiny islands about 70 miles west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico.
It'll be hard to top that next year, but I'm willing to try.