Florida 2019 – Day 9 – Swimming with Gators & Gar

Didn’t expect to be swimming in an alligator-infested (dramatic overstatement), manatee-filled natural spring today.

Today consisted of a very, very slow start. Even for me. Up early, but then sat watching the mighty Blues (Man City) away at Palace. It was a 9:05 kick-off here, and not on any achievable channels, nor were the sports bars open.

However thanks to an anonymous referral, I downloaded an app from the (trusted!?) Apple store, and then watched an ad-free game, in HD, on the balcony, in the warm morning sunshine (80F), and apart from a ‘typical City’ 2-1 with 15 to go, I enjoyed the game. Helps that we won 3-1. We can only win our own games, and have no influence on others, so c’est la vie for the rest of today’s games.

A WhatsApp convo with the F’s and we arranged to meet at the Blue Spring State Park at 1pm, after picking up a mobile brunch. Not that I knew what Blue Spring was, other than the F’s had been and enjoyed themselves. Good enough for me.

After a very nice lady, very slowly served us up three Subway sandwiches to go, we took the toll road north. That’s a mobile lunch.

It’s supposed to be around an hour or so to Blue Spring, but a major overhaul of the I4 up around Sanford meant it was more like 1:30 by the time we we’re parked up. And not a minute too soon.

After a queue that reminded me of the entry to an early 1990’s ‘Bug Jam’ (at Santa Pod) albeit with fewer (i.e. no) VW Beetles or Vans, we were three cars prior to them shutting entry.

In the queue, I must confess that my mind strayed to thinking about my homebrew and wondering how the little blighter was getting on. I’m having a go at my take on a DDH NEIPA. A Double Dry-Hopped New England India Pale Ale, is my ale of choice – a ‘hop-forward’ and bitter-but-citrusy, hazy glass of 7% liquid gold. I may have to set up a “brew-cam” ™ on my return, so I can watch its birth!

Parking up, the F’s signalled their presence, in their own inimitable way, a call sign of a sort, and we joined them to figure out what on earth we’d come to.

A naturally-heated 72F spring rises from over 110ft below ground level through a series of caves and passageways. This warmth draws the manatee up the slow-flowing river for a nice relaxing bath. The manatee floating upstream draws the alligators up the slow-flowing river for a nice relaxing meal.

That’s not technically true. The ‘gators are just everywhere, even going rogue, and choosing to try any pick off the old golfist on our course, for which I will be eternally appreciative of. That’s also not technically true.

So what else would one do, but don ones bathing costume and jump in! So we did.

Or at least some of us did. Jane chose to immerse herself in the beauty of the environment and “catch more shineys”, whilst Mrs F opted to suffocate a gummy bear, by sitting on it for so long it got its own back by melting into her rear pocket. (That’s not a euphemism, by the way).

I loved it! Swimming upstream through a soup of goodness knows what, with a snorkel and mask on, simultaneously hoping to see a manatee, and not see an alligator.

I saw some decent sized catfish, a few more generic-looking large fish (think primary school drawings), and a Gar. The nearest American chap announced that “it has a mouthful of teeth”. He’s right. It’s like a swordfish-billed version of a pike.

For a brief moment, it took a passing interest in my GoPro which is in a shiny waterproof housing, unlike the funky newer version my pal the Rev has lent me (which I’m too nervous to use underwater, as it’s not mine to break). For that same brief moment, I crapped myself, thinking it would be really embarrassing and expensive to get treated for a fish bite, when it could have been a ‘gator. That would at least have been worth paying for over here.

The lads had a great time. As kids you think about the upsides and the moment, not the risks or downsides, as we end up doing the older we get. I genuinely believe that even though they knew there are ‘gators about, they probably didn’t even think about them once in the water.

That said, Peter Benchley has a lot to answer for, for us pre 80’s kids!

From there, we dried off, changed where required and us blokes went back to the cars to drop stuff off, whilst Jane, Mrs F & Charlie waited. (Sorry, kiddo, couldn’t resist the cheap, misogynistic shot. x).

On our walk back, we saw vultures, and a pink/red parakeet, all in the wild, just waffling around, eating nature’s provisions. Left-over hotdog & BBQ burgers – what do people think, or rather not think, in a place like this? I’d give up on some folk, if I was a giver-upper!

Hang on! Cut to real time. It’s 22:16. I’m on the balcony and there’s a front coming through. This time not of my making. It’s suddenly hurling down with rain and blowing a hooley. And it’s still gloriously warm. Jane definitely would live here, I’m tempted to agree, with both of us having one or two reservations. Toby. Family. Friends. City (that’s mine).

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I’m writing this now, as tomorrow we check out and head over to Clearwater before 10am, via more “Busch and Pussy” (sorry, it’s crap, I know) and there’ll be stress. So I’m aiming to get this “submitted to the editor” beforehand.

Back to non-real-time. After rejoining the girls, we took a walk up the spring. Lovely as it was, We were all gutted to realise that the sping upswell is at the end of the short walk. No wonder we’d seen scuba divers! They were funking out by scuba or free-diving into the crack, as it were. Doh!

Bugger! When we come back I’m coming here and having a go.

It began raining so we started to head back. Not that it would be an issue if I was in the water. Double Doh!

Another traffic-filled journey back , and a couple of “I know best” decisions on my part, meant we arrived at our (well, we have been in there more frequently than some of the staff over the last 10 days) Texas Whorehouse at just after the happy-hour food window shut. It’s the Lancashire-heritaged fella, not the White Rose that’s more bothered about missing out on discount. That lot are not all mean and tight, just some. 😉

As it’s our last night here, even Jane had a drink. And what a drink! Iced sangria margarita, with a shot of tequila.

Back to the apartment to throw a couple of pairs of undercrackers back in the travel bag and I’m done. Jane on the other hand is choosing to assist Charlie tomorrow. I presume that means with petrol, and a match to sort his room out.

Off to the west coast of the peninsular tomorrow. Can’t wait. Got a few things I’d like to do over there, so fingers crossed it works out. And if it doesn’t, this part of the holiday will balance that out, anyway. I love it over here.

Laters, ‘taters!

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