Saturday, March 21, 2015

Along the Gulf of Mexico

Boardwalk to Suwanne River
Florida St Rt 316 led us thru tall pine forests and past fancy horse ranches outlined with black, 4 board fences and dotted with grazing horses or large herds of black and brown cattle.  North of Chiefland on a back road was the Suwannee River Hideaway - a Passport America Campground.  We had stayed there several years ago on one of our trips south.  Of course the temps were cooler then and we did have a nice corner spot to park on.  This time we were
Suwannee River
directed to the back of the park and it was like parking in an open field that was covered with sand hills full of biting red ants. The brochure said wifi and cable but the cable was still iffy at best and the wifi was only available in the clubhouse and kept cutting out.  Last time we rode our little bikes out on the 1800 ft boardwalk that led to the Suwannee River and we had to check it out again.  This time we walked the long wooden bridge that had railings made of those thin steel cables.  I could not walk and talk at the same time for fear of falling off the walkway!   All the rain that has drenched the state of Georgia and the Okefenokee Swamp has now drifted downstream and has flooded the banks all along the way - - including the area beneath this boardwalk!  At the rivers edge, the floating dock was still floating but the steps that led to it were under the tannic colored water! 

Sunset at Cedar Key

In December, Cedar Key is not full of tourists and is colder and grayer. Not so in March!  The streets were crowded with cars and pedestrians. Families filled the small beach.  Our usual upstairs cafĂ© was closed so we chose the bigger, more expensive 2-story restaurant in the big brown building that sat next to the boat launch and overlooked the gulf.  Bad choice.  The service in the upstairs section was so slow and we were so ignored that when the waiter finally came and said that the printer was broken and our order had not been completed yet - we chose to get up and leave.  Luckily, we found a back street grill sitting on the edge of a bayou and ordered 2 grouper sandwiches and enjoyed them thoroughly!

Fanning Springs

Manatee Springs State Park campground is partially shut down due to construction but the young lady at the gate allowed us a 15-minute pass to drive thru the park.  We had camped here several times in the past and it still holds lots of great memories.  We strolled across the playground and then down by the springs, which was also over its banks and over the cement sidewalks.  Since it was the weekend and a very warm day, it was still full of kids and families.  

Fanning Springs State Park is just downstream from Suwannee River Hideaway and is the nearest fresh water spring.  After enjoying the sparkling blue water of Salt Springs so much, we were so looking forward to cooling off in this spring.  The springs were closed!   The short quarter mile run to the river was now a dark brown mess because the run was coming FROM the Suwannee and flooding the once aqua blue spring!  The large orange barrels that were strung across the opening to the run to keep swimmers in the spring could not keep out the mess.   Docks and walkways were underwater and covered with slimy green algae. 

Our choice now was to spend an afternoon in the small oval inground pool at the park.  While it was definitely not Olympic quality, it filled the need for splashing in cool clear water once more before leaving Florida. 

The week has come and gone.   Our tan train is to head around the “Big Bend” section of Florida – around that giant curve that leads from the “Nature Coast” to the “Emerald Coast” of the panhandle.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Springtime at the Spring

“Back to the Forest!”   Our 2014/2015 Winter Tour of Florida has come full circle once more.  Most times on our way home the campground is full but this time site #72 was open and ours for a week.  Central Florida had gone from spring to almost full-blown summer with temps reaching 90 and above and only sliding into the high 60s at night.  The heater was put away and the windows left open each night.   Each afternoon the air conditioner was cranked on. 

Within an hour of getting settled in our spot at the end of the curved road in the campground, D&S arrived to inspect our new traveling home.   What a treat!  Giggles and laughs and hugs were shared before and after a thorough inspection of my kitchen, dining room and ample living room!   Since it was a long trip back to the far side of Ocala, they cut their visit short and we promised to hug once more before we hit the road and moved to our next designation.   But, before they left, we showed them the beautiful clear water and deep turquoise blue crevices of the springs.
One afternoon, H and I took off for Palatka, the town about 24 miles north of the park and found the Palatka Skeet Club so H could finally get his gun out from under the couch.   A nice little club down a dead end road - next to a small airport with helicopters and small planes coming and going while the half dozen men were out with their shotguns aimed high at those bright orange disks that kept whizzing out across the field that was speckled with even more orange.  It was a strange sight for this amateur observer who was watching it all from the comfort of the truck.  Since it was a VERY warm day, H only shot one round but did very well indeed.  He only missed 2 out of 25 and he hasn’t shot skeet since way last summer! 

Our other afternoons were spent down at the springs, aka: “the pool” or “the beach”!  Our kayaks were slid into the water only once in the morning to see the manatees but our hot sweaty bodies were slid into the springs almost every day – sometimes by noon!  Salt Springs has 3 deep springs that send up millions of gallons of fresh crystal clear water each day.  Each deep blue dark crevice is usually occupied by a swarm of silver sided Mullet that try to keep the algae from sticking to the sides of the huge boulders.   SPFB – since we are here each year – you’ve seen our photos of the springs and fish and manatees!  We’ve never been here so late in the season tho and have not enjoyed the water this much.  After our daily swim we perch on the wall and watch others take their turn at cooling off.  Our second weekend there, the basin was full of weekenders (and probably void of fish!)  The open area outside the string of buoys was just about as full of anchored boats and their occupants who were also in the water trying to escape the heat.  No fish in the springs - no doubt, no manatees out there either!
One more chance to hug Dick  came when we all met for an early dinner at Logan’s Roadhouse in Ocala.  While Sharon and I shopped at Joann’s, the boys went to Best Buy and worked the deal of the week.  Dick wanted a new desk chair but the store only had a broken floor model in the color he wanted.  H finagled a dirt-cheap deal and D only needed to buy a new screw to fix the wounded chair.  

Now it was time to say goodbye to our newest friends, Larry and Chris from North Carolina.  They are the new kids to the camping scene in Florida and it was so fun to share some of the fun things to do and see on the back roads of the state.  If they ever get to Michigan they know who to call. 

From Salt Springs in the Ocala Forest we are heading west to Chiefland and the Suwannee River Hideaway Campground.