Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Three Flags to Manatee Springs

We picked up Suzanne at the Orlando airport on Thursday (1/23).   After a mid-afternoon lunch and an hour drive back to the campground we were all worn out.   Suzanne did a one mile training run around the campground.

Friday morning Daniel met us at the campground.  After a nice breakfast at a nearby Bob Evans, we  visited Silver Springs state park. 

The silver springs, one of the largest in Florida is the source of the Silver river.  Crystal clear 72 degree water flows out of the springs at the rate of some 500 million gallons a day.

 It's really kind of old-school,  however, the glass bottom boat tour is still interesting.  You can clearly see the springs and the plentiful fish at 30 or more feet deep.  

As a pre-teen I had seen Silver Springs with my parents .  At that time the park was privately owned and was one of the premier attractions in Florida.  Silver Springs has since become a state park.  After some years of apparent neglect by a contractor, the state government is now doing a lot of repairs.

 Just as it was some 50 years ago you could hardly understand the tour guide who more or less sang his descriptions with a heavy deep southern accent.

I think the walking trails in the park will be much more interesting in the Spring when there will be more plants in bloom.  Other hikers  reported seeing the wild monkeys which were released into the wild many years ago.  However, we didn't see any wildlife.'

 Friday evening we visited Tommy and cousin Ginni.  Ginni's daughter Stacey;  her husband, Stephen; and their five children met Daniel and Suzanne for the first time.  I think a great time was had by all.  It's really unfortunate that our family has been geographically separated for so many years.   Ina and I will certainly try to keep closer contact with these wonderful relatives.

Suzanne and Daniel completed their half-marathon run early Sunday morning.  Ina and I wanted to at least be on-hand for their finish.   Unfortunately we were unable to reach the area of the race in time.  We met up with the pair later for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. 

 After lunch we visited Winter Park, a mainly high-end community northwest of Orlando.  Along with many shops for the well-to-do, there is a "Boutique Goodwill Store".   The Boutique Goodwill store stocks only new merchandise.  All of the clothing has new labels.  Interestingly, the clothing was only slightly more expensive than the ordinary used clothing in normal Goodwill stores.

 On an impulse we checked a boat tour of Winter Park.  The one-hour tour transited three lakes (Virginia, Mizell, and Berry)  in Winter Park which are connected by canals.  The multi-million dollar houses on the lake shore were impressive - some in the 20,000+ square foot range.  Also Lake Virginia is the site of Rollins College, a very exclusive liberal arts school.  According to Wikipedia:  "Winter Park was founded as a resort community mainly by northern business magnates in the late 19th and early 20th centuries."   Anyhow the boat tour was inexpensive and worth the time.

On Monday, we packed up and headed for Manatee Springs state park (an easy 1 hour drive a little north of Cedar Key.)  The park was reasonably priced at $20 per night.  We settled in for a two night stay.  We are hoping to see some manatees.   The springs, like Silver Springs produce about 35-50 million gallons of warm water per day.  The mantees are attracted to the warm water.  However, the warm spell of the past few days has driven the mantees downstream in the Suwannee river. 

Although we've not yet seen manatees, there are a lot of rather ugly vultures in the park as well as deer.  Perhaps we'll see some mantees before we leave.  We had originally planned on leaving on Wednesday.  However, with the icy roads in northern Florida, we decided to stay an extra day.

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