Boy do I love the sunshine. Nothing was going to stop me from taking the epic journey south this Holiday...not even 1,200 miles of pavement. Last Saturday, we embarked on the journey to the Rivera Sunrise Ranch in Mims, Florida. We were greeted by 6 cows, 3 chickens, 2 Icelandic sheep, and a donkey duo called Pete and Repeat.
My family relocated to this ranch as a sort of return to their roots. My mother and her siblings grew up perusing the jungles of Latin America. My grandfather, Jesus, was a bookkeeper for the United Fruit Company. The family rode the ups and downs of this great company until my mother was about 7, when they settled in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Listening to stories of these times is like stepping into a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel. It was a roller coaster ride of political unrest and the battling agendas of private corporations and their government counterparts.
It is no wonder that my mother has ended up back in the jungles, this time in Florida. The Rivera family has come together once again, with three of the four siblings living within one mile of each other. Of course, they share the space with their beloved animals. And let's not forget the orange grove. When my mother gave me directions to the grove, she said 'make a left at the banana tree, and then another left at the rusty bicycle.' Oh, the simple life.
The days were long, punctuated by the coming and going of the sun. It started with Zulu, the gallo, making his rooster call. The funny part was that Zulu is a bit of an old man. My mother would have to wake him up and only then would he stretch out, and do his rooster thing. My father said they bought him from a gentleman deep in the bush, and that he was only $15 because he was so old that nobody wanted him. But I have to say, watching him was more entertaining than television!
After hanging with Zulu, we would hop on the golf cart and greet all of the animals. A calf was born the day we arrived, and it was so amazing! Within an hour he was up and running! He had two other calfs to play with and they enjoyed their time munching on grass and wading in the pond. It was really cool to watch how their mothers would groom them and then guide them over to the tall grass, apparently teaching them how to hide from predators. It was the job of Pete and Repeat, the donkeys, to keep the predators away. I hear that donkeys can kick a fatal blow. I am sure that comes in handy when the wild cats descend from the jungle to prey on the calfs!
The family lives 2 miles from the Indian River. The river is vast, and looks a lot like the ocean to me. There are manatees in the water, and most of the surrounding land in the area is a preserve. The air is thick, the grass is heavy, and there are animals abound. It truly is a wonderland!
The nearby ocean was quite beautiful. The waves were large, but manageable. They broke away from the shore, making them perfect for surfing. It rains a lot in the winter, and the sea is quite choppy. We saw many a surfer!
The architecture is not to be taken for granted. The downtown areas are filled with Art Deco buildings. The white washed walls are such a stark contrast to the blue sky. The cubic shapes sit nicely on the flat lands. It is very different than hilly New York. I can see why my mom and her family are down there. It looks and feels like their home. It seems that everything in life comes full circle.