Yesterday was a dismal failure with the maps. We missed three different turns we were supposed to find along the way. That was a little bit discouraging. We were hoping, today, that we would NOT repeat that again.
Because of the longer ride yesterday, we didn't expect today to be a very long ride. We just weren't sure how long it would be. So, we got packed up early and headed out for nice, leisurely day.
As we were leaving the Hart Springs campground, we were greeted by a bald eagle. Something I have never seen in Florida. And something I didn't expect to see.
And Kait rounded up this large grasshopper, and wanted to show it off a little bit, before she let it go. Nobody else wanted to touch it. I wasn't going to go near it... let me tell you. AND, she wanted me to remind everyone, that she kissed one of the grasshoppers for part of the field trips to Crystal Springs they do for class.
And then, before we could leave the Hart Springs park, Chris thought I looked so cool that she decided to snap off a couple shots of me riding through. Of course, she had to get the girls in the pictures as well. But, really, I knew it was because I was looking so good in the saddle.
I suppose it was actually because I begged her to take some pictures of us in action. I was like... "Come on babe, get some shots of actually riding the bikes... Pleeease!". She finally agreed once I told her we could get a Starbucks frappucino once the whole trip was over.
Amazingly, we expected to have to travel for several miles to get to the next town. It turned out to be a couple miles down the road. When we realized this, our day just shrank by about 10-12 miles, effectively taking an hour or so off of our travel time. So, we had a little time to hang out.
We stopped in a little town of Fort Fanning, and actually took a picture of the Suwannee River. Although, it didn't turn out to be that big of a deal.
We had a lot more fun posing in the park, taking promo shots for Sunny D with the girls. Of course, Keeley belching right in the middle of the shoot made for a hilarious break from the highly stressful nature of the work we were trying to do.
And then throw in a picture of me, for humors sake. And Chris sitting there relaxing before we headed back out on the road again.
From Fort Fanning, we only ended up being about 10 miles from our final destination for the day.
One of the most important stops for today...
We made it to a town called Chiefland. The first decent sized town since we actually left on our tour. What do I mean by decent sized? They had a Walmart. How amazing is that? No other town that we had passed through, had a Walmart that we could find.
The importance of this stop can't be overstated. Kaitlyn had been complaining about the soreness of her cheeks for miles. And no, I'm not talking about her rosy, red face cheeks. She wanted padding for her booty. Ever since we saw the 'tushion' at Stephen Foster State Park she had been asking about us stopping to get her a seat cushion. And this... Walmart, was our first opportunity to get one for her. Pretty sad, right? 6 days of riding, and this is our first chance to get her a tushion.
Anyhow, we picked up the seat cover and headed out to Manatee Springs State Park. Interestingly enough, the 6 miles to the state park turned out to be some of the most difficult riding we faced during the entire trip, and it was because of a super strong head wind blowing right in our faces. That was actually the first headwind we had come across for the whole tour. And man was it strong. Sometimes, you push, and it feels like the wind is just stopping your forward progress instantaneously. It was a tough trip to the park that day.
However, when we got there, none of the girls were warm enough to even want to get in the spring water at Manatee Springs. Not me, though. I had NO problems getting in. Any time I have ever done any physical exertion in Florida, I get nice and toasty warm. And a jump into a chilly spring is just the perfect thing to cool off with.
There turned out to be a tremendous amount of wildlife at manatee Springs. Here are a few of the local residents we saw during the day.
And, here are a few shots of swimming and scuba diving in Manatee Springs. The girls were too cold to go into this spot, but I was all over it. It felt fantastic! The depth of this spring was actually much lower than the other ones, so it wasn't really possible for me to go down and look inside that well. Plus the velocity of the water coming out of the spring pushed me back quite easily.
It was a gorgeous swimming hole, and apparently the manatee think so as well, because they come back up to this spot in the winter, when the other Florida coastal waters are too cold for them.
I am going to finish this post with a HUGE word of warning about the wildlife at Manatee Springs State Park. They aren't afraid of you. If you think they are... you're wrong. So be careful.
Nightfall had just arrived in our camp. We were finishing up with our dinner, and had packed some stuff into the bike trailer leaning against the tree. We had seen all kinds of animals throughout the day... deer, birds, armadillo. and squirrel. So we weren't expecting much else. Christy and the girls were actually inside the tent getting everything prepared for the next day, and I was messing around the picnic table.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see a little animal sneaking up to the bike and trailer. I don't think much about it, because I didn't expect them to stick around for too long. So I glance over and realize it's raccoons.
I didn't expect this, so I actually got up and took a couple of steps towards the bike. And I let out a... 'Hey! Get away from there.' Instead of scaring the 'coon off, it freaking pulled on the velcro to the roof of the trailer and reached inside to grab the bag inside. At that point I realized that just my presence wasn't going to do a dang thing to this animal. I stepped back over to the picnic table, all the while watching the raccoon trying to pull something out of the trailer. I grabbed a hold of some tent poles. And I bounded back over to the bike and yelled, 'Hey! Get out of here!' And I took a wide swing with the pole, slapping the top of the trailer, making this real loud WHAP! I was only a couple of feet away from the coon, so I didn't feel safe (at all) if this thing decided to come at me.
Thankfully, the slap with the pole actually caused it to stop what it was doing, and take a step back. I yelled again, and slapped the tree beside the bike. And then, it slowly stepped back a few feet. It didn't back off much though. It kinda drifted back about 4-5 feet into the shadows, but it didn't disappear. And that was when I realized there were 2-3 of them, all floating just out of the light. Christy came out of the tent and provided me with some back up. And, after a few tense minutes of minor skirmishes and calling out to them to leave, they scurried off into another campsite next to ours.
That freaked me OUT!
I have never had an animal that didn't back down, at least a little bit, when we have been camping like this. And that raccoon didn't give a rat's behind about me being there. It wasn't even phased by me one iota. If I didn't slap the trailer, that thing would have rifled through the entire trailer at its own leisure, and I wouldn't have been able to do a whole lot about it.
That was pretty wild! All I can say, if you ever stay at Manatee Springs... watch out for the wildlife, because they are NOT afraid of you. Too many people playing around and feeding them have caused them to have no fear of people. And it was a little bit intimidating.
After they left, I piled all the bikes up into a big heap, and I wrapped them up with bungee cords, hoping to keep the animals out of them. The armadillos even come out at night, and go around scrounging for stuff to eat. You can hear their feet scraping around in the leaves all around your tent during the night. And after the way they tried to rip into the trailer, I felt like my face might be next. I didn't sleep well that night, I can tell you that.
We have no pictures of the raccoons, because their attack occurred completely under the cover of darkness. Talk about ninjitsu... they must have spent some time in the best black ops training in the country.
I sure hope so.