Category Archives: travel

Continuing on the Southwest Florida Scenic Flight Tour

In a recent post I shared the beginnings of my private Southwest Florida Scenic Flight Tour. Starting in Punta Gorda, I highlighted the trip down to Sanibel Island and then as we headed back up the coast to Boca Grande.

Matlacha, Florida, Pine Island beyond

Matlacha Island, sitting between Pine Island and the Florida mainland.

Continuing on the rest of the flight took us from the top of Boca Grande and Gasparilla Island up to Manasota Key and Englewood Beach. We then turned inland going over Port Charlotte, spending some time flying around Charlotte Harbor and the heart of Punta Gorda before heading in. The beautiful blue skies and water continued for the rest of the tour.

It’s time to let the photos and their captions tell the rest of the Southwest Florida scenic flight tour story. Well without further ado.

Boca Grande, Gasparilla Island, Florida

Approaching Boca Grande at the top of Gasparilla Island in Florida.

The residential community of Boca Grande is surrounded by the colorful Gulf of Mexico and Gasparilla Sound waters.

Boca Grande Swing Bridge, Placida, Florida

You take the Boca Grande Swing Bridge from Placida and Charlotte County to get to the coast.

Don Pedro Island and State Park, Manasota Key, Englewood Beach in Southwest Florida

Don Pedro Island and State Park, Manasota Key and Englewood Beach straight ahead!

Placida Harbor, Placida, Florida

Rambler Hole and Placida Harbor. Placida, Florida sits off to the left.

Don Pedro Island State Park, Florida

Don Pedro Island State Park in Southwest Florida. That turquoise Gulf of Mexico water!

Gulf of Mexico beaches, Southwest Florida

Zooming in on the beachfront of Don Pedro Island. Amazing the difference in water color between the two sides.

Southwest Florida

Heading inland. Looking back to the south at Boca Grande, Coyo Costa and beyond.

My wife went up separately on a similar tour and snapped this beauty capturing all of Captiva Island amongst the turquoise Gulf of Mexico waters. I had to share it. 🌴☼

Captiva Island, Florida

Bonus shot. Wife captured all of Captiva perfectly on another flight the same day. Sanibel Island sits opposite the bridge and to the south.

South Gulf Cove, Port Charlotte, Florida

Over South Gulf Cove in Port Charlotte. Lots of vacant lots.

Charlotte Harbor, Florida

Just past Port Charlotte and over Charlotte Harbor.

Charlotte Harbor, Florida

Flying high over Charlotte Harbor. What a picturesque day for a flight.

Punta Gorda, Florida

Punta Gorda here we come! You can see the Charlotte Harbor Bridge that takes you over to Port Charlotte.

Laishley Park Municipal Marina, Punta Gorda, Florida

Laishley Park Municipal Marina front-and-center.

Downtown Punta Gorda, Florida

Fun seeing all the places that I have spent time in on the ground. Laishley Crab House is recommended.

Fisherman's Village, Punta Gorda

Fisherman’s Village. Waterfront shopping, outdoor dining and fun awaits on the little blue pier sticking out.

Downtown Punta Gorda, Florida

The heart of Downtown Punta Gorda.

Punta Gorda in Southwest Florida

Punta Gorda and the surrounding area.

I-75 cloverlead interchange in Southwest Florida.

An I-75 Cloverleaf interchange in Southwest Florida. Used to being on this interstate a lot further north.

Punta Gorda, Florida

Looking back at Punta Gorda and the heart of Charlotte County in Florida.

Punta Gorda Airport (PGD), Florida

Punta Gorda Airport here we come!

Upon landing at Punta Gorda Airport we taxied back to the hanger at which time my feet were back touching the ground. Being nervous beforehand, with the hour plus tour now over, I kind of wished I was still back up in the air. Southwest Florida is beautiful.

Selfie from hanger at Punta Gorda Airport, Florida

Back in the hanger at Punta Gorda Airport. I had an amazing flight and Florida experience.

The pilot did a great job showcasing what this part of the state has to offer. Being a small-plane first timer, I was amazed by how much has to take place pre- and post-flight as well as up in the air to keep everything going.

With one small airplane ride now in the books, I hope to see more scenic views this way again soon.

Have you ever been on a scenic flight tour? In Florida?

Wheels Up, Southwest Florida Scenic Flight Tour

Earlier this month I had the chance to go on a private scenic flight tour of Southwest Florida. This was my first ever flight tour. In fact it was my introduction to flying in a small airplane. I was nervous beforehand and initially upon take off, but my nerves quickly calmed as all the scenic views presented themselves.

Captiva Island and Buck Key Preserve

The car bridge from Sanibel to Captiva Island and Buck Eye Preserve. That blue gulf water!

The tour originated and ended at Punta Gorda Airport (PGD). I checked another airport off the list score! We went up on a recent early April morning to blue skies and light winds. Ideal conditions to be sure. There was a little turbulence over land, but while we were over the gulf, harbor and other large bodies of water, I just sat back and enjoyed the calm ride.

Punta Gorda, Florida

Just after take off the heart of Punta Gorda and Charlotte Harbor lay off in the distance.

Immediately after takeoff you could see the heart of Punta Gorda off in the distance as we turned and began the journey south.

Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park in Punta Gorda, Florida

The marsh, wildlife and beauty of Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park.

Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park in Punta Gorda, Florida

Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park, the third largest Florida state park.

The beginning of the route took us past Burnt Store Harbor. Pine Island, Matlacha and down to Sanibel awaited next. Cape Coral and Ft. Myers sat to the east on the pilot’s side of the plane. I was glad to see Charlotte Harbor, the Gulf of Mexico and countless islands and beaches on mine.

Burnt Store Marina, Southwest Florida

Looking down at the expansive Burnt Store Marina, the biggest marina on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Burnt Store Marina, Southwest Florida

Burnt Store Marina, a boaters paradise between Punta Gorda and Cape Coral.

I’ll let the photos and their captions tell a lot of the story. Well without further ado.

Charlotte Harbor, Florida

Out over the open Charlotte Harbor waters.

Southwest Florida scenic flight tour

Southwest Florida scenic flight tour is what was on the agenda for this day.

Matlacha, Florida, Pine Island beyond

Matlacha Island, sitting between the heart of Pine Island and the Florida mainland.

Matlacha Island, colorful shops and seafood shops.

Hello Matlacha Island and your wonderful seafood eateries and colorful shops.

St. James City in Southwest Florida

St. James City located on the southern end of Pine Island. Random if you are into blue crab, visit Island Crab Company. Take home some that are still moving, as they were captured that day.

Pine Island near Bokeelia, Florida

The top of Pine Island and the town of Bokeelia, the largest island on Florida’s west coast.

Heart of Pine Island, Florida

The middle of Pine Island. Pine Island Sound awaits on the other side.

Cape Coral, Florida

Looking off to the east and a residential heavy part of Cape Coral.

Once we reached Sanibel it was time to make a 180 degree turn and start heading north. We’d now be flying over the Gulf of Mexico alongside the rest of Sanibel, up-to Captiva, Boca Grande and beyond.

Northern part of Sanbiel Island, Florida.

The northern part of Sanibel Island, Bowman’s Beach is below. Flying over the Gulf of Mexico!

Bowman's Beach, Sanibel Island, Florida

Zooming in on Bowman’s Beach. Golf courses, Gulf coast homes and waterways everywhere you look.

Bridge connecting Sanibel Island and Captiva Island

Captiva Island is the furthest north you can get by car in this Southwest Florida island chain.

North Captiva Island and Captiva, Pine Island Sound sits beyond, Florida

Hurricane Charley blew out the bridge between Captiva and North Captiva Island. They never rebuilt.

North Captiva Island, Southwest Florida

You can get to North Captiva Island by boat and plane. See the thin grass strip runway?!

Grassy runway, North Captiva Island, Florida

North Captiva Island. Who wants to land their plane here?!

Cayo Costa Island, Florida along Gulf of Mexico.

The beach and state park of Cayo Costa along the Gulf of Mexico only accessible by charter boat.

Gasparilla Island, Boca Grande, Florida

The southern end of Gasparilla Island State Park, part of Boca Grande. You can reach by car via the Boca Grande Swing Bridge.

Gasparilla Island, Boca Grande, Florida

The heart of Gasparilla Island separated from the Florida mainland by Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound.

It was amazing to see a lot of the same places I’d been to on foot from a different perspective. I loved seeing all the greens and blues of the water and how quickly it transitions from one color to another. The pilot was very thorough both pre-flight and while in the air. It helped put my mind at ease. He pointed out spots of interest with lots of stories to go with along the way.

Aaron, the elATLboy, the Southwest Florida explorer by air.

Hello Everyone! It’s Aaron, the Southwest Florida explorer by air.

Oddly enough I experienced my first helicopter ride in Florida as well. I have found the Sunshine State to not be a bad place to take in the views airborne. ☀☀☀

The trip did not end at Boca Grande. Stay tuned as I will soon do a follow-up post covering the rest of my Southwest Florida scenic flight tour. More views await.

Have you ever been on a scenic flight tour? In Florida?

Hiking Battle Mountain off the San Diego Beaten Path

During a visit to San Diego I stayed in Rancho Bernardo on the north end of town and looked for ways to spend some time outdoors, while also venturing off the beaten path.

The Battle Mountain hike I went on checked off both those boxes. You’ll find Battle Mountain just off I-15 with its entrance oddly enough between two houses in a highly residential area. I initially discovered and captured this hill on another walk.

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

I wound up doing this climb just after dawn on an overcast morning.

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

The short 15-20 minute hike was peaceful. It was a little steep and rocky at times but all-in-all not too bad. I noticed a lot of erosion along the way. My legs definitely got a workout. The climb is roughly 800 feet.

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

Once at the top, you will see up-close the 20 foot white cross that has stood since 1966. Battle Mountain got its name from a battle that was held nearby in San Pasqual Valley in the 1800’s. This spot was originally called Mule Hill as soldiers from those battles had to kill mules in order to have food to eat.

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

Expansive panoramic views awaited me at the top. I saw all the residential housing of northern San Diego County, along with Starvation and Iron Mountains, Lake Hodges and more.

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego California hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

Lake Hodges, San Diego, California

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

The hike, well almost run, down the hill took only a matter of minutes. It was a great morning in the Rancho Bernardo part of San Diego walking/hiking up Battle Mountain and taking in the views. For anyone looking for a quick hike and something off the radar in northern San Diego County, this is your spot.

Tip: For a longer hiking adventure I highly recommend the San Dieguito River Park Trail, in which there is an entrance literally right across the street from Battle Mountain.

San Diego hiking, Battle Mountain, Rancho Bernardo

What other off the radar outdoor spots would you recommend checking out in San Diego?

San Diego: A Million Skyline Looks

Back to sharing skylines I go which leads me back to the A Million Skyline Looks series.

The latest edition comes from Southern California and a city known for its mild climate all year long, beautiful San Diego.

San Diego: A Million Skyline Looks

Downtown scene from the San Diego–Coronado Bridge.

I was excited to get a first taste of what San Diego has to offer. Most of my shots are from Coronado Island and along San Diego Bay as well as from random spots on the interstate. Always have that camera ready in the car, especially if you are a passenger! Palm trees make me happy so a lot of the skyline views made me smile even more. Well without further ado.

San Diego: A Million Skyline Looks

Beautiful Downtown San Diego from northbound I-5.

San Diego: A Million Skyline Looks from across San Diego Bay

Skyline straight ahead, opposite San Diego Bay.

San Diego: A Million Skyline Looks

Heading onto I-5 northbound. San Diego, California front-and-center.

San Diego: A Million Skyline Looks from Tidelands Park on Coronado Island

Palms trees guarding the skyline in Tidelands Park on Coronado Island.

San Diego: A Million Skyline Looks from Coronado Island

San Diego, California cityscape straight ahead!

Sailboats guarding the San Diego skyline

Who is ready to set sail in Downtown San Diego, California?!

San Diego: A Million Skyline Looks

What a harbor and city view these palm trees get to experience every day. Looking southward.

Beautiful Downtown San Diego, California amongst the palm trees

Capturing the San Diego skyline and palm trees every chance I get.

San Diego: A Million Skyline Looks, California

Heading off California State Route 75 and the San Diego-Coronado Bridge into town.

San Diego: A Million Skyline Looks, from the San Diego-Coronado Bridge

Looking straight down Harbor Drive from up-top the San Diego–Coronado Bridge.

San Diego: A Million Skyline Looks

Always have that camera ready as a passenger. You never know when a skyline will present itself.

San Diego: A Million Skyline Looks, from the friendly skies

Skyline peaking through the window upon descent into San Diego International Airport.

San Diego: A Million Skyline Looks

Coronado Island greenery amongst the San Diego, California cityscape.

San Diego: A Million Skyline Looks

Out on the open Tidelands Park trail.

San Diego: A Million Skyline Looks

Just a typical clear, warm day in San Diego from Coronado Island.

San Diego: A Million Skyline Looks

Out on the open road capturing the San Diego skyline amongst palm trees.

What other spots would you recommend capturing the San Diego skyline from?

An Updated Ten Travel Tips for a Day Road Trip

It’s almost time to get out on the open road on a day road trip. Have you planned ahead? Spontaneity and just getting into the car and going can lead to some great trips no doubt. However there are some things that you should take into consideration before and during your roadie.

Day road trip tips - The Adventures of elATLboy.com

It’s been five years since I wrote my original post on this. The basics have stayed the same. A lot has changed though in terms of technology and in me getting more perspective from additional time on the road. Below is an update on my post and the day road trip tips I have found helpful.

1. Check the weather. The days leading up to a road trip and/or right before you get in the car, head to The Weather Channel website or app and check the forecast. You could also do a simple search like “Charleston weather” in Google, quickly becoming informed. Hmmm let’s see… winter storm? Maybe I should venture there tomorrow instead.

Day road trip tips - check the weather

Follow the weather on your phone throughout your adventure as well. You’ll increase the chances of not running into a sheet of ice (been there), high winds or getting caught up in a deluge of rain. You might change course on the spot. Who knows that could lead to an unexpected adventure and you’ll be safer.

Additional Tips: While you are at it check for major construction along with Googling “<NAME OF DESTINATON> traffic”.

2. Get a good night sleep. A day road trip could last a full 24 hours or more. I look at it like this. The longer you make the day, the further you can travel away from home and double back, meaning the more you can see. I love taking advantage of the extended daylight hours in the summer. If the sleep thing doesn’t work out then you are going to need…

3. …fuel, I mean coffee! Bring some from home. If desperate grab some at a travel center or truck stop ha-ha. As the day goes on make sure to refuel at indie, mom and pop coffee shops along the way. At least that’s my philosophy. I love experiencing something new, sometimes getting tips on things to do from bulletin boards or the locals sipping java inside. Drip Drop Drink in Muskegon is my-go when exploring the beach towns along Lake Michigan in Pure Michigan.

4. Charge, charge, charge. It’s not just you that needs to be fully charged. Make sure your Galaxy 7 or iPhone X and camera are ready to go. You will want to have enough juice to take pictures, post to Snapchat, Instagram live stories, ask for advice on Twitter, etc. Have those chargers and spare batteries, along with a portable power pack or two handy. A lot of people have USB ports in their vehicles these days. Bonus for getting extra juice while you are driving!

5. Fully stock your vehicle. Learning from experience, I make sure to have a blanket, bottled water, extra clothes, wind-shield washer fluid, flashlight, jumper cables, spare tire, emergency snack food, etc. Also check your oil and other fluids, along with your tires.

Day road trip tips - have a spare tire, windshield washer fluid, jumper cables

6. Have navigation help. Some people use Gladys (GPS), but many more gravitate to Google maps on their phone these days. The key is to have them available. Back to the word spontaneity. Make sure to put all navigational aids away at times for adventure sake. When I personally seek help I still like having my trusty, old-fashioned atlas alongside. The Waze app can help here as well.

7. Bring cash including change. You never know when you’ll need it for tolls and parking meters. When you call for help to fix a flat tire or for general road-side assistance, a lot of the time cash is the only payment option.

8. Hit the road on an empty stomach. You can snack and have your coffee, but be hungry and ready to eat so you can try some local cuisine. It’s not a day for McDonald’s or hitting up the vending machine at a rest area. How about a stop at Skyline Chili when road tripping through Cincinnati along I-75?! As far as chains go I will allow stopping at a random Waffle House ha-ha. Some of my best day road trip memories started or ended there.

Day road trip tips - stop at a Waffle House

9. Wear comfortable clothes and walking shoes. Hopefully there will be lots of getting out of the vehicle to explore. Some jogging, hiking and climbing could be in order. I once traveled fifteen miles on foot while in the heart of Chicago. With the cost of parking in a big city it’s better to centrally park and use public transportation or walk to everything.

10. Even with planning as described in the tips above make sure to have semi-plans. In other words be out there on the open road with an open mind. There it is yet again, my word of the day, spontaneity. Of course there will be places you marked to experience. You must also be willing to get sidetracked with random finds. The unexpected can be the most gratifying.

day road trip tips - lake mead, las vegas, nevada

Checkout my original day road trip tips post.

Any other day road trip recommendations? I can’t wait to see all of you out on the open road.