pulling out

and heading north. It’s that time.  But we need to do this slowly.  In order to avoid severe shock, we only travel about 1 1/2 hours north today, to the Silver Lake Campground.   The attractions for us here include the Croom mountain bike trails, within the Withlacoochee State Forest, and the lake – with these 80 plus degree temps, bring on some paddle boarding! And to satisfy ourselves that we are proceeding slowly enough, we are still well within alligator range 😉

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We’re still in Gatorville, USA

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suddenly summer

It’s only fair that I mention that after all the cold, the weather is hot now. Nothing in between, just cold to hot! Suddenly, it seems, winter is over and the temps are downright like summer. 88 anyone? And bonus! No humidity to speak of yet, few mosquitos (although they are multipying) and the mornings and evenings are still cooling down. Real summer in Florida does not offer these bonuses, or so the locals say.

We are on our less than two week count-down before we pull out of Florida and brave the unknown weather of all points north.

Enjoy a few of the oh-so-Florida scenes from some of our recent outings: 

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the shape of water

Important! This is a movie you don’t want to find out too much about before you see it, and this post will contain no spoilers. We saw The Shape of Water at the newly renovated historic Tampa Theater.  The movie features fantastic acting by Sally Hawkins, as a cleaning lady at a top secret research lab in the 1960’s, her friend, played by Octavia Butler (who also played an inspirational part in Hidden Figures) who also works there, and Doug Jones, as the amphibian man, the current subject of research at the facility. The story is both sweet and gritty, while the cinematography creates a world you are drawn towards wanting to crawl right into, at times beautifully realistic and at others, amazingly fantastical. There is a villian, played all too convincingly by Michael Shannon, and a bit of violence that I had to close my eyes to. And that’s  all I’m saying, except to recommend you see it. This movie will win awards! 

Oh, and when you go, see it at a good theater. You want a large, crisp screen and a pleasing sound system – the soundtrack is pretty wonderful, too. 

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two winters!

Only two posts ago I wrote about how cold it is, and it’s still true. We’ve had another ‘winter’ here in central Florida. Our friend was here to visit for a few days, staying in a tent and he had to make it through a 27 degree night. Brrrrr!

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Scenery from the trail at Loyce Harpe Park

The days, though, were actually quite stellar for the rounds of mountain biking that we sought out – five days in a row in this order: Alafia, Carter Road (ok, Loyce E. Harpe Park, which doesn’t have the same mountain bike trail sound to it, Balm Boyette, Santos, then back to Alafia! Doug rented a full suspension Giant Trance from A.J.’s bikes in Valrico and was pleased with the bike for his mountain bike Tour de Florida.

 

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sea fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

– John Masefield

I must always go down to the seas. As an easterner spending the greater part of my life in the midwest, the seas have always called and I must always answer. It is about an hour and fifteen minutes of a not very fun drive to get down and over to Anna Maria Island from where we are now. About one mile of travel takes at least three or four minutes through the busy thoroughfare through Bradenton from I-75 after waiting for traffic, light changes and just a darn busy road.

But the sea, ahhh, the sea. Well, the gulf. Windswept and wave-tosssed with rip-tide warnings, it was the weather itself that kept me from being tempted to bring my paddleboard or swim suit. But a walk on the beach – yes, that is always sublime.

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hunkered down, seeking warmth

Wow! To those of you back at home in Wisconsin and North Carolina and all our family and friends in the cold climes, we aren’t sorry for ducking out of it all, but sorry you are having such a cold winter to date. Unless you like that of course, and then enjoy, enjoy! It seems there is really nowhere for us to drive off to that has mountain biking and is warm enough for us camp out at, or to drive through to get there, so here we stay. West a bit of Tampa, in Florida’s winter, which seems to fluctuate from about the mid-fifties to the high seventies during the day, to the high 30’s to the high 50’s at night, with lots of clouds, a shower here and there and some sun. The days are mostly mountain-bikeable, so we are happy.

We are re-visiting some of our favorite finds from last year and adding some new ones. Our favorite beach last year was the beach at DeSoto State Park.  A warm day at the beginning of the month got us back for a visit with swimming and paddle-boarding. A nice man on the beach, a winter local, if there is such a thing, tipped us onto a restaurant nearby called The Wharf. Taco Tuesdays, with fish tacos! Peel and eat shrimp! And dolphins from the deck, if you are lucky.

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strawberry fields

IMG_2880Strawberries are ripe! The early season berries are on the shelves in Hillsborough County. After riding and working up an appetite at Balm Boyette Scrub Preserve yesterday, we thought we would swing by Goodson Strawberry Farms for strawberry shortcake. Seems like everyone else had the same idea and we could not fit inside the door to join the swarm waiting in line. We are not long term wait-in-liners, so plan B – Buy strawberries, pound cake, ice-cream and whipped cream and make our own. And so we did.

The strawberries are firm and sweet – as close to perfection as a strawberry gets. Looks like last night’s dessert will also be this morning’s breakfast.

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Merry Christmas, 2017

Wishing you the joy of peaceful present moments and a loving heart with which to enjoy today and all your future todays.

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Today, we are blessed to have Bob’s daughter and her husband with us. They arrived safely last night after two days of fleeing the Minnesota cold. We are planning mountain biking, exploring, beaching and relaxing for the next several days.

Bob and I are often away from  our families due to our travels and the proximities of our kids and other relatives. To all those we aren’t with today, we send our love and warm thoughts. And as I said last year, and will say again and again: We think of you more than you can know, and we are here for you always whether in person today or not.

Love and a special wish for peace to all!

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So long, Santos

Review of Santos Campground

Our 12 nights at Santos Campground and Trailhead are up, and we are movin’ on out today. The attraction at Santos  are the mountain bike trails. Classic Florida – scrubby, pine trees, hard woods, prairies, and lots and lots of roots and rocks. They have also built a paved greenway that goes for miles and miles from the campground, perfect for the biker who is not so into the bumpy stuff.

The campground is fairly small  – only 22 sites, and they are reserved months ahead of time, especially on the weekends. We have a one night gap between our next stay at Alafia (no Saturday night available there) and here (no Saturday night available here) even though we reserved way back in May. The sites are decently sized, but not very private. From where I site now, I can see the majority of the other sites. The price is a reasonable $22 a night  all the sites have electric and water.

It is worth it for us to be here for the trails, but if you rather something more quiet, seek elsewhere! The campground is on a noisy highway with jake-breaking trucks and loud cars and motorcycles. Not much for noise enforcement in Florida.  Yikes!! Also, the trains are frequent, not far off and whistling Dixie through the night.

Bathrooms tend towards inadequate when the campground is full, expecially for men. There is one toilet in the men’s room, a urinal and two showers. The women’s room has two toilets and two showers. We have brought the dirty bathroom conditions and lack of paper towels to the attention of the campground host three times since we’ve been here. Evidently they have a janitorial service come in four times a week – someone needs to check their work or get a new service.

The campground gets a mix of campers and tents, and one night there were at least five other small trailers here! Clientele are often fellow mountain bikers who once in a while  enjoy a party around the campfire, but most people have been friendly and respectful with their noise and pets.

Bottom Line: Would we stay here again? This was our fourth visit to this campground, so yes, for the easy access to the mtb trainls, we would stay again.

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silver, on a golden day

Silver Springs State Park has become a favorite over the last few visits. Each time, we’ve focused on seeing the park in a different way – by bike, glass-bottom boat, hiking and, yesterday, by paddle board. The park’s history as Florida’s first main tourist attraction as well the the filming sites of Tarzan and Sea Hunt, is intriguing. While there, I think back to Tarzan and Jane, Lloyd Bridges (Mike? in the tv series) and the bathing beauties of the earlt 1900’s lounging by the beach. The main attraction, then and now, are the deep springs, which magically appear in the river bottom – pools of clear, blue water lined with golden sand and teeming with fish, turtles, frogs, water birds and a few alligators here and there.


The grounds are magnificently lush with flowering plants and trees that follow pathways along the river and through the park.

The hiking/biking trail that meanders through the woods, where visitors can hope to see the pack of Rhesus monkeys that live in the park is closed, awaiting clean up from hurricane damage. Evidently, the park closed the boardwalk and the one of the decks last summer due to agressive monkeys. Visitors are prohibited from feeding them and interacting with them, both of which encourage agression. The non-native monkeys were let loose in the park in the 1930’s by a Captain Tooey to encourage tourism and attract guests to his river boat ride. The monkeys below are the group we saw last winter.

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