Florida Vacation – Crystal River & Zephyrhills

March 30, 2015 at 5:57 pm 2 comments

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As Karen and I left our good friend Taty in Orlando, we headed towards the Gulf to Crystal River.  The first thing we did when we arrived was to drive to Fort Island Gulf Beach, a beautiful little beach with white powdery sand and a boardwalk to a fishing pier.

Karen on the white sandy beach

Karen on the white sandy beach

I had to get my toes in the Gulf of Mexico

I had to dip my toes in the Gulf of Mexico

Beautiful sunset at Fort Island Gulf Beach

Beautiful sunset at Fort Island Gulf Beach

One of the things on my bucket list was to swim with manatees in Crystal River.  In the winter, this area has the world’s largest collection of manatees in their natural environment.  The manatees keep warm by staying in and near freshwater springs, which remain a constant 72 degrees year-around.  The spring areas help them survive the difficult winter months and give them a place to rest and recover from the cold.  Crystal River is one of the very few places that one can still passively swim with these large, docile animals, and I was so excited to finally get my chance to do so.

Only shot I got while I was swimming.  But I was thrilled to capture him.

Only shot I got while I was swimming. But I was thrilled to capture him.

We chose to take our tour with American Pro Diving Center because of its excellent reviews and we were not disappointed.  We had been hearing reports the last couple of weeks that the manatees had left the river because the weather had warmed up so much.  Our guide Glen warned us that there were fewer manatees in the river but he would do his best to find us one.  He took us into Kings Bay where for the first 1/2 hour we didn’t see any manatees, but lots of kayakers and birds.

Karen spotted the first manatee!

Karen spotted the first manatee!

Such a thrill to  see these gentle creatures!

Such a thrill to see these gentle creatures!

Then Karen spotted one!  We were thrilled.  Glen got into the water and told us to gently enter the water and take turns coming close to the animal.

The manatee is playing peek-a-boo with Glen

The manatee is playing peek-a-boo with Glen

A baby manatee came right up to Glen and rolled over to have his belly rubbed.  Then the mother came up, and then another and another.  We ended up getting to see two groups of manatees!  Even Glen was amazed at how many we saw.  I am SO blessed and so happy to finally get to be up close and personal with these wonderful animals that Christopher Columbus as well as other voyagers called mermaids!

I'm a happy, happy lady!

I’m a happy, happy lady!

We left Crystal River absolutely elated about our experience with the manatees and drove back to Zephyrhills where Karen lives!

Shirley, me and Karen catching up

Shirley, me and Karen catching up

It just so happened that yet another couple of friends that I had met while working in Alaska were staying in Zephyrhills.  We had such a fun time catching up with them on what they had been doing since we had seen them last.

Shirley, Paul and Karen line dancing

Shirley, Paul and Karen line dancing

They invited us to line dance with them.  OMG what fun!  I’m totally hooked :-)!

Good old country music at Barb's Cafe

Good old country music at Barb’s Café

The next day we invited Paul and Shirley to a very eclectic little café to have an early supper and listen to music.  Barb’s Café normally closes at 1pm.  but on Fridays they open back up from 3:30 to 6:30pm for supper and music.  No alcohol is served.  Only regular and diet coke, sweet and unsweetened tea.  And here is the menu we got, handwritten on a small piece of paper.

Barb's Café Friday afternoon menu

Barb’s Café Friday afternoon menu

Now this was nothing like the meals we had enjoyed at the Grand Floridian or French Café in Orlando, but it was just as much fun!  I mean, talk about a good, home town experience!  I was advised by the waitress NOT to have the fish, but I’m told that the liver and onions were excellent!

Karen, Eunice, Shirley, Paul and I at Barb's Cafe

Karen, Eunice, Shirley, Paul and I at Barb’s Café

Linda, me, Karen and Eunice all dressed up for the Luau

Linda, me, Karen and Eunice all dressed up for the Luau

Now let me tell you, Karen and her friends know how to have a good time.  Besides line dancing, drinking green beer on St. Patrick’s day, bicycling around the park, doing water aerobics, and much more, the clubhouse had a luau one night that we all got dressed up for.  What an entertaining night!  The dinner was delicious, the music was great, and we danced like no one was watching.

Line dancing at the luau

Line dancing at the luau

One thing I really wanted to see while in Florida was an alligator.  Now I saw alligators at the Gaylord Palms Resort where we stayed in Orlando and at Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World, but I really, really wanted to see an alligator in the wild.  So on my last day in Zephyrhills, Karen said “let’s go find an alligator!”

DSC02856We drove down the road a way to a boat launch.  Lo and behold as soon as we walked down the boardwalk to the river there was an alligator!

A canoer paddling next to an alligator, yikes!

A canoer paddling next to an alligator, yikes!

The first alligator I've ever seen in the wild in it's natural habitat!

The first alligator I’ve ever seen in the wild in its natural habitat!

I couldn’t have been more thrilled!  Another perfect ending to an absolutely perfect trip!

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Eunice Nichols  |  March 31, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    Awesome blogging. Hope I am alive when your BOOK is published. Maybe Robin Roberts of GMA can tell the world about all your adventures!

    Reply
  • 2. roadrunner33  |  March 31, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    Thanks Eunice! I love blogging, we’ll see about a book 😉

    Reply

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