Friday, March 20, 2009

Cedar Key and Manatee Springs

Cedar Key

Cedar Key is a wifi hot spot! 25 miles is not too far to go to get some good wifi on a nice sunny day, especially if you know it might be the last full day in Florida!! The good folks of Cedar Key are almost done remodeling their very nice city park - complete with a sandy beach right on the gulf. (There were signs about Horseshoe crabs nesting there & sure enough – there were 2 good-sized crabs right there!) There is new sod and a very nice new picnic shelter so we tourists could sit in the shade and do our emails! Of course we had to walk the block long section of old rickety buildings that house boutiques, gift shops and ½ dozen restaurants. When we were here last with Bud and Carol we had a seriously yummy seafood dinner in the restaurant upstairs on the end. This time H and I tried out the one upstairs in the middle, which was painted purple, chartreuse and hot pink! Pretty good seafood sampler! The brand new fishing pier is built out of cement and steel so no hurricane will take this one out like the last one!

Back at Manatee Springs, we took our last walking tour of the park- the springs were full of teenage bodies and as we walked out to the end of the long boardwalk we saw the herd of deer, down among the cypress knees, yellow flowers and fresh new swamp grass. What a treat to stand above them and they didn’t even seem to care that we were so close. At our camp spot, sweet little CJ said she was worried about us being gone all day so I grabbed my wildlife book and we tried to see how many of the animals she could identify.

Friday morning, CJ picked out a heart shaped potholder for her mom to have as a gift from me and then we shared our goodbye hugs and wishes for both of us to have a safe trip home. We drove thru the quarter car wash to get the top layer of gray dust off of the Jeep and front of the trailer, walked thru the ½ empty flea market, stopped at Wal-Mart for milk and bread and then headed up the road. Suwannee River State Park was full so we crossed into Georgia just after noon. Just as the cold front was heading to Florida!! The sky grew dark, the headwinds picked up and the temps dropped over 15 degrees!

We’ve parked for the evening at General Coffee State Park, just east of Douglas, off Rt 441. This park has lots of up and down winding roads and comes complete with an antique farmstead that was fun to walk thru and check out the restored cabins, barns and corals with sheep, goats, donkeys, lots of fancy chickens and ducks and 2 VERY big ugly hogs.

Someone parked close to us here in the park has unsecured wifi and we are “borrowing” some!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Manatee Springs

Manatee Springs

We’ve been at Manatee Springs State Park before but it’s been a long time ago – and it was cold then! I remember walking out on the long narrow boardwalk that snaked its way thru the cypress swamp that had more ”knees” than a bunch of old ladies lined up along the hallway of a nursing home. Or a circle of centipedes!! This long wooden path eventually ends up on a dock out on the Suwannee River, which feeds, into the Gulf of Mexico just down the way.

This time we donned our wetsuits and swam out in the deep blue clear water of one of Florida’s first magnitude springs which is circled by cypress trees and pretty yellow wildflowers. Besides the fish and turtles this spring had 2 BIG brown water snakes curled up on the shore, watching the swimmers and trying to stay incognito mid the stumps and grasses.

The campground is woodsy but only the main roadway into the park is paved and all the rest are soft very dusty sand. Not much bike riding here! We took an evening walk thru the camp loops instead and startled several deer and their 2 fawns. We saw 9 all together! As we were returning from our showers after dark – there were 2 more deer and a raccoon right behind our trailer!

There is a very nice young couple from Clinton Mississippi camping next to us with their daughter CJ who is 4 and a half years old. Not 4, but 4 and a half!! I got my Grandma fix! We read her new book about Ann Lee the Manatee, blew bubbles and swapped stories about the Tampa zoo and riding camels!

Reminder. You can left double click on the pictures to enlarge at any time.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Rainbow River

Sunday I got to go to church with Dick and Sharon! I was Baptist again! Richard wanted me to make sure all my friends knew how wonderful he is to me - - his Mother in Law’s Daughter! And he’s so humble too! I don’t know how Sharon can take it - being in all his glow!

That afternoon, H and I got to meet Jerry and Ruth’s fun neighbors in Dunnellon. Jerry made 5 gallons of ice cream and evidently since the 4 of us weren’t going to be able to eat it all – they called in the neighbors who were not afraid to help with that worthy, yummy cause!

Monday we canoe-d up the Rainbow River to the headsprings and then snorkeled back down to the county park. H filled the gas tank of his little black motor again and down the river we went to the town of Dunnellon and back. When we were snorkeling, we saw a school of bass that the average size fish was about the size of David’s stuffed Largemouth Bass that is 6lbs!! There were between 30 to 40 fish in that school! The banks of the river were lined with Azaleas in all their rich colors of pink, coral, fuchsia and red. Cypress trees stood at attention as we floated past, their new pale green leaves just emerging. Statuesque Great White Egrets paid little attention to us or their reflections in the grassy waters edge where they were fishing for lunch but the Big Blue Herons let us know we were intruding. A Kingfisher played leapfrog in front of us as we went down river.

Tuesday we were hoping to visit with my high school classmates but again our schedules did not line up. Perhaps another trip! So, instead, I baked an apple walnut cake and we took it over to D&S’s to share and get our final good-bye hugs received and given. I now have another plant to bring back to Michigan to see how it will grow this summer out on our very sunny patio.

The “mobile motel” is just about ready to pull out in the morning. The Jeep will be pointed north again and the GPS is set for Manatee Springs State Park for a few days. Perhaps the wetsuits will get used again!

H just called me outside to see the “fire” in the western sky! There are layers of heavy clouds and the setting sun is bright coral! Too bad there is a dumpster and other trailers in the way to make a good picture.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ross Prairie Campground

Ross Prairie Campground

Time to go again. Ron and Nancy came with us NE from Melbourne to Apopka in Orange County for a few days at Kelly Park, a rustic looking county park that we visited when we were staying at Trimble Park back in January. Check that previous blog for the picture! Tuesday we finally got out the wetsuits and snorkeled down that crystal clear little stream. Plenty of fish of all sizes – little bitty green minnows that stayed just up under the top of the water and some good-sized bass besides all the sunfish with the bright orange painted on their sides. That evening while riding our bikes thru the park we saw 2 big tom turkeys with their tails fanned out being chased by a lonesome looking female. ‘Tis the season!

Wednesday evening we all piled into Ron’s big 4 door GMC truck and went east thru Sanford and then down and over to the coast to find a good place to park to watch the shuttle lift off! We had the cameras and H even thought of the binoculars! We found a wonderful spot with and excellent view of the launch pad, right on the causeway in Titusville. There were quiet a few folks parked there but were still some empty spots - - even at 6pm when the sun was settling in the western sky!! It was then that the folks who were shrimping up on the side of the bridge told us that the shuttle was canceled till MAYBE this Sunday evening. Oh, well . . . . . It had been a nice ride over and we did have a scrumptious meal at Victorio’s on Rt 1 just north of Titusville. On the way there we could see the dark billowing clouds of smoke from all the wildfires east of Orlando and on the way back we could even see the flames in the dark sky!

Thursday, H and I pulled out and headed back up to the Ocala National Forest and parked in a small campground carved out of the woods and right on Lake Dorr. Alexander Springs was right up the road and with wetsuits ready – off we went to get some snorkeling in. These springs are deep and blue and have plenty of swimming and sun bathing space available. There was even a resident alligator somewhere back in the swamp but no one seemed concerned when it started making it’s strange barking noises. To me it sounded like a wild pig that was snorting. The campground sign said it was “full” but we counted at least a dozen “reserved” spots that were still empty! Folks had reserved spots and either didn’t bother to cancel or reserved for Thursday and then planned to not come in till Friday so they could be sure of a spot for the weekend.

Today is Saturday and we are parked at Ross Prairie Campground where we parked at Christmas time. Dick and Sharon came to visit us and we all ended up at my favorite Stumpknocker’s restaurant for another yummy catfish dinner. H had blackened tilapia, Dick had stuffed flounder and Sharon stayed with chicken.

Yesterday on our way here we stopped at the Malls of Marion, a hugh flea market on Rt441. H succumbed to the pressure and purchased a dulcimer, 2 instruction books and a tuner. Today we had to go find a music store because he has already popped 2 strings! But after hours of more tuning, I was almost able to discern the tune of “Home on the Range” coming thru the windows from the picnic table outside!
Time to go fix supper!