We are traveling at will and enjoying the slower pace of life on the road with nothing but scenery to see. In our world we are living the dream...someday there may be jobs and a small house but for now it's just us and the RV.
I love fried polenta! We were primitive camping in Big Bass Campground in he Ocala National Forest which meant perfect opportunity to get out the grill...well, with the exception it was a bit rainy. Never fear though MiRV was up for the task.
We put the awning out just a bit and out he went to grill up our polenta.
Then he fried up a mess of eggs to go with the polenta
I really, really like manatees. I think they are the most amazing creatures. I've always jumped at the chance to go see and just watch these gentle giants and I could just watch them for hours. They are so docile, they have no known enemies, they are not aggressive ever. they have no teeth. Many people compare them to elephants but they are really more closely related to pigs. Seriously! Learn something new everyday!
Anywho, we were going to be traveling through Crystal River and this is one of only two places that allow swimming with manatees in Florida so we popped on in and set up a tour. The bonus was that Captain Tim let us boondock at the marina, too! Which was really nice since we needed to be there super early.
Our spot for the night was nice at Pete's Pier!
Captain Tim was a great guy and environmentalist who truly cares about the manatee and its habitat. He works hard to protect the manatee and also provide the close encounter experience that we had without negative impact on these awesome creatures!
Our day began with coffee and much excitement...let me mention it was cold, too. Which seems like yuck, but this is good. See manatees don't like cold water and since we were going to be going to The Three Sisters Springs and those are warm the manatee would be flocking in for the warm water on this cool morning! It was perfect!
When we set up our tour, we had to watch a video on the do's and don'ts of swimming with the manatees and also get a little education on these creatures which we did the night before we went since we were setting out on the early morning cruise. Which I am glad we did!
We met Captain Tim and boarded the pontoon boat and made our way to the spring. Only one other boat was at the spring before we were, we had already donned our wetsuits before leaving the pier so we were ready to get in the water upon arrival.
The baby we interacted with!!!
Isn't he adorable?
The manatees enjoy being scratched and you are allowed to do that, with one hand only. You cannot chase after them, they have to come to you and you cannot restrain them in any way or it's a big fine.
We were in the water no time at all when that baby calf was in our vicinity and playful, it was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. I was so enamored, it truly was a once in a lifetime experience. We stayed and played and scratched this little guy for quite awhile, his mother even swam through and he still stayed. Others joined us though and he seemed to shy away so we swam over to another area to check things out. This was where we interacted with a pretty big manatee near a dock. It was just us and him for a very long time. He enjoyed our scratching him and we had quite the time with him. He rolled and flopped for us. Eventually we worked our way back over to near our boat and guide and the baby manatee was back. This time he seemed to really enjoy MiRV cause he got a kiss and just kept nuzzling him, it was the neatest!
While the manatees enjoyed the springs warm waters, warm is relative as I was soon cold with blue lips and starting to shiver. Even though the water temp was around 70* the air temp was in the 50s, it was definitely chilly but worth every minute. However, that hot chocolate once I got back on the boat was some of the best hot chocolate I've had in a long time! This was definitely something I will not soon forget.
The manatees in Florida are the West Indian manatee, they are susceptible to the cold but their biggest threat is boat motor propellers, getting caught in flood gates, swallowing litter, fishing hooks and monofilament line and getting caught in crab traps. They are also occasionally poached!
Manatees are soft and somewhat spongy feeling, they have sparse course hairs on their body. They can weight up to 3500 pounds and reach 13 feet in length. They also have a 50 year plus lifespan. They are vegetarians, too! I love the manatee!
When I was younger and we vacationed in Florida I wanted to see the mermaids. Instead we went to Silver Springs where several movies have been filmed, including some Tarzan flicks and rode the glass bottom boats. It was a fun time but I always have wanted to see those mermaids.
Today I did! LOL Somehow I think it would have been a whole lot more impressive when I was say 8, but still MiRV and I went and enjoyed ourselves. Those mermaids work hard that for sure! As for the rest of Weeki Wachee Springs it's a pretty good day trip. MiRV thinks the water park would have been neat to experience but it wasn't yet open for the season.
I bonded with the mermaids...
I think I could pull off the mermaid gig, don't you?
We went to BOTH mermaid shows, took the boat ride, went to the animal encounter show and walked the grounds, it was a good day. We rushed to get to this park from Homosassa Springs where we spent the morning and saw several Florida native wildlife and went "in the spring". The boat ride to Homosassa spring from the visitor center should not be missed. you can also take a tram or drive yourself, but I vote for the boat!
There were more flamingos then I have ever seen in one place and they were huge in comparison to others I have seen! Pretty incredible.
I can't believe how much Roada looks like a manatee! Seriously, she does! I love this picture and will now always think of the manatees when I look at our Roada!
We have called this driveway "home" for the past several weeks...
But it's time to move on up the road so yesterday we said so long and started trekking northward. We will be making our way to Omaha see Mr&MrsBud. We will also be on hand to help them move when they find out their assigned location. Very exciting times but a bittersweet parting.
Goodness, there has been tomatoes, squash, ferns, cabbage, palms trees of all shapes and sizes, strawberries, peppers, potatoes, and of course oranges galore along with many other things I could not identify. I guess I did not realize how much is grown here. There are many, many, many fields of all sorts of produce near the Everglades, then further up you will find the hundreds of strawberry fields and just a few days ago we were traveling the countryside and saw many del Monte tomato fields.
It is an amazing site to see for this Midwestern girl who is used to seeing only crop lands of corn, wheat and beans so to speak. I am used to seeing a few large gardens but nothing compares to these fields full of row after row, after row of veggies. And they irrigate, too! Some the traditional way but others spray from trucks and tractors. Evidently it works, the fields looks lush and green and were obviously producing.
Then there are the sod farms and the nurseries growing all the plants, ferns were big as were the palm trees and many, many other types of flowering plants. Lastly, we have seen countless citrus groves. Some with smaller trees and then some with the full size trees. We've seen oranges, grapefruits, tangerines and lots of them. Also we have seen avocado trees, mango trees, not to mention the star fruit and bananas and coconuts.
So much agriculture here and I guess I never really gave that much thought, other than knowing that oranges come from Florida I never realized. And lets not forget the huge number of cattle we have seen here, which has also been surprising, just didn't think about Florida being cattle country but after the country road driving we have doing I know now that it is! Along with being the citrus state! Orange trucks rolling around everywhere!
This really struck me as funny...well, sort of! Seriously, we don't "camp" per se as we "live" in our rig. However, I am especially feeling this way in the new rig...again, funny, but not...but I wouldn't change it. It's the season we are in and we are going to enjoy the ride as long as we can or feel it's right for us.
Some days you run into things that remind you of someone. That happened recently while we were out and about. Honestly, she is always on my mind in some way or another. And I love it when we see things that remind me tangibly of her.
After our service appointment in Lakeland we decided to go on East and chase a launch! RocketBoy was in town and we were able to catch up with him for breakfast one morning before the launch. It was so good to see him, though he is working way too much...breakfast was a treat as I had a flattened out bagel type thing called a bialy with cream cheese smeared on it and topped with tomatoes and avocados. It was supremely yummy! If you are in the Cocoa Beach area the Juice N Java Café, while not cheap was tasty!
The launch was delayed for weather before finally lifting off with a most beautiful blue sky backdrop. Gorgeous is what is was. Always amazing seeing those things go up!
Avon Park that is...Avon Park Air Force Range to be exact. It's a hidden gem, another one of our priceless USAF retiree benefits. We have read about this location and since we were sort of in the neighborhood we felt like we should check it out.
For a VERY reasonable price we could stay for a whole week, we could also pay a reasonable fee for all year long access. We went with the week pass. This is not a glamping location and would really not even qualify as a campground in some eyes. However, it was just fine for us. There are no hookups...no water, no sewer dump, no electricity nor is there a bathhouse. That's was okay with us, though we did find it very convenient and considered it a boon when we found there was a portapotty on scene.
Another bonus was they allowed fires and the site we chose already had a start of a fire pit we could work with. MiRV cleaned it out, made it a little better and we were good to go! The nights were dark, stars were bright and it was quiet, awesome all the way around. We were pleased that the bugs did not eat us up as we star gazed and enjoyed our fire pit.
The last night we were there we had a neighbor, they were nice and not too noisy, our other neighbors during our stay were the cows. Yep, there were plenty of cows! We got in lots of bike rides and a few walks. With no cell service to speak of and using the electricity sparingly we both got lots of reading time in.
While it is remote and there are no amenities to speak of we enjoyed it quite a lot! It is NOT big rig friendly, it certainly worked for us and Roada! Now we are headed up to Lakeland to have some tweaking done on Roada, it's been a great trip!
We decided to take a little road trip to the Everglades while in the area. When we went to Key West last year we were sooooo close I can't believe we didn't stop in. Anyway, we took our time and drove down making a stop in Venice Beach which was a nice little area where we had lunch before exploring a bit of the beach and park across the street.
We also buzzed through Sarasota but only did a windshield tour not stopping to actually "do the town" maybe another time!
This looked really fun and there were lots of people there but not a lot of parking so I just snapped this on our way by!
We stopped at Midway Campground in Big Cypress National Preserve and snagged a primitive site near the exit. It was a pretty neat place with a little lake that DID have a gator in it. that was relatively quiet. Several full hook up sites but without a reservation we were only able to get into a primitive, which was actually fine. We had our own little picnic table and awning and we were close to the potty house (no showers).
Up and back on the road we were up for adventure as we wheeled into Shark Valley, which is part of the Everglades on the top side of the park so to speak. This turned out to be an excellent adventure as we biked the trail, 7 miles down, 8 miles back. Goodness, the wildlife we saw. The gators/crocs were plentiful for sure, we saw 64 going down and 29 on the way back. That was amazing, on the way back up we saw babies in two different locations, now that was awesome!!! and so many birds of all shapes, sizes and colors. Loved the anhinga's!
The gators...sometimes, I felt our worlds were getting a little too close...
The photographer, who didn't mind the closeness!
Tonight we are at Flamingo Park in the southern park of the 'Glades. It's insect fortified, in fact the mosquito conditions listed on the park entrance sign states it's moderate today. Ugh!
What a celebration...think MardiGras with a pirate twist, aaarghhh! Yes, matey, the pirates throw beads and party hearty just like the LA folks do. It was an experience, one might say once is enough. That would be the case in my book, but it WAS fun to walk down to Bayshore Boulevard and watch a few of the floats and parade goers. It was a people watching mecca to say the least and we saw some folks that really should have checked themselves out in the mirror before leaving the house, saw others who should be heading home and others who probably won't make it home without some help.
Anywho, our new friends P&D invited us to their Gasparilla Shindig and what a shindig it was! Lots and lots of food and drinks plus tons of interesting guests. The food was so good, so many goodies to nibble on until parade time then after the parade there was some of the meatiest ribs ever and great BBQ chicken and baked beans and potato salad and hummingbird cake and well, you get the picture. I also tried smoked oysters, not bad, not bad at all! There was massive amounts of food for sure and it was very filling.
That is MiRVs arm, he caught several strands of beads for me. Some of the parade goers were pretty aggressive on this, me not so much, I think I caught one!
The other treat was getting to see P&D's home, it is one of the oldest in the area and they have been renovating over the years. It has a summer sleeping porch upstairs! They also have a bathroom that is larger than Roada. A super cute front porch that begs sitting and conversation as well as a wonderful pool and patio that we spent most of the evening and early morning hours visiting. It was delightful!