Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tampa Bay Area

Tampa Bay Area

Lithia Springs County Park SE of Brandon and now EG Simmons County Park in Ruskin on Tampa Bay. 25-degree weather and now 70-degree weather. Just like Michigan – give it time- it all changes.

While parked in Lithia Springs, a “must do” was to enjoy our annual strawberry shortcake lunch from the Brandon Farms Roadside Market. Surprisingly the cost has not gone up, in spite of the cold weather devastation they have endured in the last 2 weeks. The portions were still good and the taste was still DELICIOUS. For almost 2 weeks, the temperatures have dropped below 30 degrees each night and to save the acres and acres of half ripened berries and the blossoms for the coming promise of berries, the farmers turned on the sprinklers and literally covered the entire field with frozen water. Then - the aftermath of all that constant, county wide irrigation – the water levels fell, both in neighboring household wells and in the ground “levels” causing monstrous sinkholes in front yards, driveways and even in the middle of I 4, the cross state highway. The radio reports said that one sinkhole took 400 cubic yards – 80 truckloads - of cement to fill in just that one void.

Tampa Bay and EG Simmon’s wildlife has suffered from the cold also. As we walked the beach, the fishing areas, the sandy peninsulas and the boat areas, the other day, the shorelines were mottled with all sorts of dead fish from 2-inch fingerlings to large catfish that were over a foot long, porcupine fish and several cownosed rays. The resident raccoons have dined in style each night after a fresh batch of seafood is washed ashore when the tide comes in.

Not all the wildlife is lifeless tho! In Lithia Springs we were visited one chilly afternoon by this Red-shouldered Hawk that perched right above our campsite. The other day we checked in on the power plant that is 5 miles north of here in Apollo Beach. The canal and lagoon are fed with the heated water from the plant and were “mammal to mammal” full of various sizes of manatees and even some rays that were leaping out of the water. Today, Saturday, January 17th we visited the Mote Aquarium and Marine Laboratory out on Longboat Key, just west of Sarasota. Rays, different kinds and sizes of sharks, and several kinds of large sea fish occupied the outside tanks and inside were many more unique displays of interesting sea creatures including a preserved 37 ft long squid. Across the way in a second large structure of more large tanks were the bottlenose dolphins, the green sea turtles and another large sea turtle that came right up to face H thru the thick window. We stood for a long time, watching Hugh and Buffet the resident manatees. Several times they would swim right across their very large, temperature controlled, water filled enclosure and face H on the other side of the 3-inch thick clear acrylic window. Here’s lookin’ at you!

We’ve driven down to Ellenton and met Bud and Carol and their friends at the Ellenton Outlet Mall. The guys spent a boring afternoon waiting for their female shoppers, but were rewarded with a wonderful seafood dinner at another area favorite – Anna Marie’s Oyster Bar. Monday, B and C are coming up to visit us here in the campground and then we plan on taking them out to the beaches and another yummy seafood lunch!