May Day, May Day! May the first.

Today was a busy day, starting with our early wake up (we are still sort of on west coast time, despite the world around us being firmly ensconced on the east coast). We needed provisions, much like the early settlers, but unlike them, we were able to go to Walmart. But not the Walmart to which we asked Uber to take us. Our Uber driver was very sure that the closest Walmart would work for our needs, instead of the Supercenter we had selected. So we ended up at a Walmart that did not have everything we needed, and that then required a visit to Publix next door. Bottom line, the morning did not run as smoothly as we had intended and we were a little late for our rendezvous with Von, our driver. And Bessie, our R.V.. I will give you a tour of Bessie in the next few days. In the meantime I can tell you that she is large and in charge. She is also able to transform. More about that later!

Once we got the groceries, suitcases and ourselves aboard we started north toward Crystal River, FL for our private manatee snorkel encounter. We chose Gulf Coast Expeditions for this tour, and it was a great choice. Crystal River is so named because there are many fresh water springs that enter from below and reduce and or eliminate salinity from the tidal basin nearby. The water from these springs travels a great distance in an underground aquifer. Coming from the Ozark Mountains hundreds of miles away, the water remains the same temperature year round. That is why there are manatees in the Crystal River. During the winter months, when the surrounding water can drop into the low 60’s, the springs stay relatively warm, and hundreds of manatees congregate to feed, make babies and fool sailors into thinking they are mermaids.

After driving along a Florida Interstate for around 2 hours we arrived at the marina and our Manatee Excursion. After pushing our parts into wetsuits, watching an informative video about manatees and the dos and don’ts of manatee viewing (bottom line is be quiet, stay a respectful distance away and don’t be a jerk), we boarded our vessel for the tour. We drove a short way along a somewhat crowded waterway, to a place that another vessel had reported some manatees could be found. It was a Saturday, and it was Kentucky Derby Day, so we saw many people on the water, including a group having a derby party, complete with big hats! The locals seemed very blasé about the manatees and we seemed to be the only ones who noticed them. There were two in the area, but we focused on one that seemed to be staying put and we spent at least an hour with this large female. The tour consisted of two crew- our captain, Ron, and our guide, Lauren. Ron is a big guy, who was not happy with the heat. He ended up standing waist deep in the water to cool down while we experienced the manatee.

It was low tide, and the water was very shallow. We had been cautioned to not let our feet touch bottom- for two reasons, one to preserve the eel grass upon which the manatees feed, but also so as not to stir up the mud and  decrease visibility. So we were floating with pool noodles and holding our feet high. And there she was…just as we have seen in captivity, but we were within a foot of her. And she was huge, probably 1,200 pounds of schlub. She calmly fed. When she surfaced she blew nose bubbles. She would graze using her  snout, and it is easy to see that they are related to elephants. The hardest part was maintaining my distance, as several times I would realize I was right over her tail. She payed no attention to us, or the boats around us with music blaring. She just led her best manatee life. 

Ms. Manatee likes her eel grass. A lot.

After we spent more than an hour with her we got back in the boat and went to the Three Sisters Springs, one of the famous sights feted in the book “One Thousand Things to See Before you Die”. It was lovely, featuring three large underwater springs although the crowds of kayakers kept the local Fish and Game representative busy with admonitions of staying in the water, and not tying up to trees. The water temperature is generally warm until you swim on top of a deep place, devoid of debris and a light aqua in color. The temperature immediately drops and you know you are on top of the spring.

You can see how crystal clear the water is here above the spring.

When we got back on the road our goal was to reach our first Perry; Perry, FL. In yesterday’s post I gave you the history of the town so I won’t bother you with that again. We found a nice sign on the outskirts of town, and luckily did not stir up any fire ants when we walked to it. We did see the little sand hills that the fire ants dig out, but even Perry wearing sandals missed stepping in the wrong place. Apparently when you disturb them the whole village comes out with tiny torches and bite you with a blistering vengeance.

We grabbed dinner at Mama’s Italian Restaurant along the interstate, and ate at a local park, Rosemead Park. If you paid attention to the history of Perry, FL you will know that Rosemead is the original name of the town. So we paid homage to that history by eating pasta on a picnic table at that park.

It had been a very long day so we were grateful to arrive at our campground in Madison, FL and get set up. Our driver, Von graciously set up everything and carried our suitcases up from the storage below us. I will give you all a tour of Bessie soon, along with all the bells and whistles.

The fun part started when I unpacked our suitcases. Perry and I have a routine where I unpack for both of us on a cruise. The accomplishes several things- we are not running into each other, and I get the plum dresser drawers. In the case of this RV there is some storage in the bathroom at the back of the vehicle. Guess where some of Perry’s clothes are now stored? 

It took about an hour and a half to get everything put away, find the things we could not find (Perry’s razor was hiding), so it was lights out and snooze time when we finished. Perry was delighted to find the old TV show Rat Patrol on the satellite TV.  And we had good WiFi last night too. Slept like a baby, and ready for more adventure and Perry, GA next!!

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