We left New Orleans in the rain and took the coast highway to Florida with a stop
at Gulf SP in Alabama. The highway led right along the coast and past lots of casinos. We
had made sandwiches for lunch and stopped at a beach-side bench to eat. Where we
drew a crowd of hopeful gulls.
As soon as we left Louisiana the condition of the roads improved, fewer potholes
and patches. But we are also now on solid ground not swamp.
We crossed Mobile Bay on a half-hour ferry ride and could just pick out oil rigs
in the fog and rain.
As a long time forester and wildland firefighter in the Pacific Northwest I have
worked in a lot of pine stands. To me pine and palms don't go together. It is very
incongruous to see a pine forest with a palm understory. The pine plantations have
been extensive along our route and the palms are too.
The following day we spent the night at Manatee SP in Florida. We spent two nights
here and wandered the trails and walkways of the park.
Manatee Spring is a welling of fresh water that totals millions a gallon a day and
runs a quarter mile and enters the Suwannee River. The spring water remains a constant
72 degrees F and is a warm refuge for the Manatees when the river waters are colder. This
year they are colder than usual with the Arctic cold blasts that have been coming
We did see Manatees, there was a group of seven or eight just resting in the spring. This
is not one of the places where you can swim with the Manatees so we had to be satisfied
with blurry views through the water. The water is extremely clear but the light
refection made it difficult to see unless looking straight down.
We also saw water snakes and turtles, vultures and woodpeckers, squirrels and deer.
The spring comes from a cave system through the limestone of the area. There are
"sinks", places where the roof of the cave has fallen in, and the local scuba clubs
use this area for training and have explored five miles of various under water cave
From here it is a quick run to Daytona Beach and our next campsite with a stop at
"Gator Joe's" for lunch. Joe was a huge alligator that was mentioned in a letter
from Ma Barker to her son and was intercepted by the FBI. This led to a shootout
that killed Ma Barker and one of her sons, ending her life of crime. This is a tavern
and grill set on the lakeshore near where Joe lived.
We made camp and soon left for a GWRRA Chapter meeting nearby. FL1-H welcomed us
with open arms. We had an enjoyable meeting but again we didn't win any of the door