Bringing Bella Home

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Goodland, FL – December, 2017 We now owned a boat and the perfect place to anchor her. Unfortunately for the first month they were an hour apart. This didn’t matter because Bella Vita spent that month on the service rack at the boat house in Bonita Springs.

As I mentioned in my first post about Bella, we considered the Garmin’s depth gauge the most important piece of equipment on her, and it didn’t seem to be working. We had taken her out a few times since we got her but without knowing our depth we were only comfortable retracing our route out of the inland waterway and heading straight out from shore a few miles. These trips were awesome but to explore more of the coast we had to know our depth.

We decided she needed a new GPS. Installing it entailed installing a new transponder under the boat and THAT required getting her out of the water. We figured we might as well have a mechanic look her over and give her a tune-up while she was dry.

Luckily the guys that ran the boat house were super helpful and offered to haul her out and put her on their service rack.

They also recommended a great mechanic who was willing to look at her the next week. We had them pull her out the day before and finally got a good look at her hull for the first time.

We were actually quite pleased with what we saw. It appeared to be in good shape.

The mechanic came the next day and the tune-up went well. He had only positive things to say about her inboard Mercury MerCruiser engine. He did voice some concerns about the outboard portion of her motor. This gunk was covering the whole back end.

Apparently that is not what that is supposed to look like. This little fellow was actually living in the outboard.

He recommended cleaning her back end so that we could get a good look at what we had to work with. Since we had closed on the house and were busy working on it AND we had no idea how to get all that muck off her, we hired a professional with the right tools and experience to do the job.

Then we met the mechanic there to look it over. Long story short, we ended up replacing the entire outdrive. And yes, that did cost a little more than what we had paid for her to start with.

We knew we were taking a gamble when we bought her. She’s still worth at least what we have invested so no worries. And now we have a boat in good working order and Jim knows what she needs to keep her that way.

The initial tune-up, cleaning, and inspection took about 2 weeks. Then ordering the parts and doing the major repair took another 2 weeks. So after a month on the rack they finally put her back in the water and called to tell us she was ready. We couldn’t wait to bring her home!

The trip was about 50 miles and we couldn’t leave the dock at low tide so we had to wait until almost 2 in the afternoon. No problem, that still left us 4 hours of daylight to make what should be a leisurely 2 hour journey. We ordered a Lyft to drive us to the boat and were pleasantly surprised it was just $50 for the one hour drive.

We got to the boat yard, settled up with their office, fired our girl up, and put some gas in her tanks. It was only 1:30 and the tide wasn’t quite as high as we liked but we were raring to go. Jim pushed the trim button to lift the prop a bit and we cautiously headed for the pass.

We could almost see the pass when it happened. We heard a loud kuh-klunk! Then felt an awful vibration.

We pulled over and stopped to consider our options. We could limp back to the boathouse. But neither of us wanted to go back there. We finally proceeded to the inland side of Delnor-Wiggins Pass. There is a pretty nice beach there with large sandy shallow area and relatively good visibility.

We dropped anchor in 3 feet of water and jumped off to assess our damage. As we suspected we had lost a chunk of our propeller. One of her three fins was about an inch short. We also realized during this stop that the trim button wasn’t working.

I phoned our mechanic to ask for advice. Could we drive her home that way or would it do further damage to the outboard? Or could they meet us somewhere nearby or on our way south to make the repair?

They said their guy could meet us at a public boat park in Naples and assess if there was any more damage besides what we had found and repair the trim button if possible. We headed out to open ocean and south about 15 miles. The good news is the vibration from the prop stopped when we reached about 18 miles per hour.

We met the mechanic and he insisted the trim button was working when he tested it a few days before. He checked it out and found some erosion on a cable that appeared to be the issue. He cleaned it and got it working then raised it to have a look. Everything looked fine except the prop.

We headed out of Naples’ Gordon Pass about 4 pm with around 30 miles of water between us and home. Everything pointed to us being able to make it home before dark but we were extremely anxious. We hadn’t even tested the boat’s lights yet as we had no intention of being out after dark.

Jim took us a couple miles from shore and gunned it to 25 miles per hour. This was fine until we passed Marco Island. Then our options were to take one of the passes north or south of Marco Island or go well past Marco and around Cape Romano.

We weren’t keen on trying the passes before and our time crunch didn’t make them any more appealing. When we thought we had all afternoon we had planned to give Cape Romano a wide birth. Now I found a route on the charts that just skirted the cape and looked doable.

It was strange passing the tip of Marco Island and continuing away from civilization and toward the open ocean as the sun sank lower and lower.

Once we reached the cape the water looked like silk and was unbelievably beautiful as it reflected the now purple sky.

We had to slow way down and watch our depth gauge closely as we passed between the shoals. This route took us through one section the charts said was only 2 feet deep. That’s about the minimum we can scrape through but it was now high tide so, as we hoped, it never got below 3 feet. The depth increased from there and averaged around 5 feet for the remainder of the trip.

There was not a single other boat out which didn’t exactly make us feel any safer. We weren’t totally alone though as we were joined by several dolphin. One dolphin hopped in and out of the water a half dozen times. It was like he was a rock being skipped across the water’s surface. Amazing!

Of course we tried to appreciate the beauty around us but were distracted by our concern over the setting of our only source of light and our complete unpreparedness for being out after dark. Jim was concentrating on the water in front of us and his depth gauge. I was studying the chart and comparing it to our location on the GPS.

Our weather app said the sun would set around 5:40 and last light would be about 30 minutes later. We weren’t sure just how much light we would have in between. Jim was really getting concerned until he realized the only glasses he had brought were his sunglasses and once he took them off about 5:45 things were a whole lot brighter although a little blurrier!

We were elated to finally see Goodland in front of us as the sun sank behind us.

We breathed a huge sigh of relief as we pulled into the canal that led to our back door. There was still plenty of light when we arrived home just after 6. We did the bare minimum to secure the boat and headed to the house for a much needed cocktail. By the time they were mixed and we stepped back outside to check on our baby it was completely dark outside.

We Bought a House, Again!

Goodland, FL – November-December, 2017 We were pretty sure we were going to invest in another home in Florida this year. We had several possible scenarios we were considering: another flip house, a rental, or a home of our own. Once we got the boat, a waterfront property was our primary focus, one we could stay in or near and work on this season while enjoying having the boat out the back door. What we decided to do with it at the end of the season (sell it, rent it, or keep it for our use next season) was moot as long as it was a good deal.

We spent some time looking north of Bonita Springs in the Cape Coral area. We found some really good possibilities there but for some reason we just couldn’t get excited enough about any of them to pull the trigger. I don’t think we’ve ever bought a house we weren’t crazy excited about so we procrastinated and didn’t make any decision at all.

Mid-November, when I was almost recovered from what I assume was the flu, Jim asked if we could take a Sunday drive to a house he had seen on Zillow. He had saved it to his favorites list when he first saw it for sale last summer (yes, we were trolling Zillow for homes in Florida while we were sitting in the mountains of Colorado). He was really taken with the property although it was way more than we wanted to spend at $235,000.

In October, post Hurricane Irma, he received a notification from Zillow that the home’s price had decreased almost $75,000. He was curious to find out if it was totally demolished by the hurricane or just what exactly would justify a price drop of 75 grand! So we made the one hour drive south to Goodland, Florida to check it out.

We drove by and couldn’t see any obvious signs of damage. We called the agent and after some back and forth were told she could show it in about an hour. We had come out this way last year to check out real estate and although the property we looked at was disappointing, the area was awesome.

We finally met the agent just after lunch and were really excited by what we saw. The house had flooded during Hurricane Irma, but the damage was fairly minimal. As is typical for us, we toured the property for a whole 20 minutes and then made an offer. We made a strong bid and hadn’t left ourselves a lot of room to negotiate so we were really pleased when our original offer was accepted with no haggling.

So here is our latest investment. Most of these pics are from the listing. I’ll share my after photos with you in a later post. This is what we got for $150,000.

The house is a 1950’s single-wide trailer with a 12 x 16 foot addition which is used as the master bedroom.

Then, sometime in the 90’s, a 12 x 21 foot lanai was added. It was later finished out and is currently a great room large enough for living and dining.

Eventually a roof was installed over all three sections of the home. The total home is small, just like we like it at 700 square foot.

The trailer has been completely redone and even though the tires and axles are still under it, it was totally overbuilt and you cannot feel any movement when walking in it. It consists of a relatively large kitchen:

A bath (yep, that is a porthole):

And the original bedroom. The last couple occupants used it as a closet. A 10 x 8 closet! I don’t think so. We’re calling it a second bedroom and will likely put a double bed in it for guests in the near future.

The lot is also tiny at just under a tenth of an acre or around 4,000 sq. feet. In fact, when one of my relatives first heard that we had bought a place in Florida with 4,000 sq. ft. their first thought was “what the hell are they thinking buying a house that large?!” Later they realized that was the square footage of the entire property, not the house, which made a lot more sense.

There is an outbuilding for tools, extra storage, AND a washer/dryer.

The best part about the property is that, though small, there is plenty of room to park our 5th wheel in the drive.

OK, maybe not the best part. Did I mention there is a canal out our back door?

The yard and dock need the most work.

I am looking forward to sharing the improvements we have planned when they are finished.

You may be wondering “Is this it? Are they settling down?” The short answer is NO. We definitely plan to enjoy this little slice of paradise this season and next. After that we may sell the place or we may rent it out either seasonally or annually. Decisions, decisions,…!

Fakahatchee Strand State Park

Copeland, FL – December, 2017 While out exploring one morning Jim and I ran across the Fakahatchee Strand State Park. It is a strand swamp, which means it is a linear, water-filled channel with prairies on each side. Fakahatchee happens to be the world’s largest, at 22 miles long, and the only one with a mixed royal palm and cypress tree canopy.

Our first stop was at the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk which is right on the Tamiami Trail about 20 miles east of Naples. There is a pond out front with fish jumping, birds wading, and upon our arrival, a very large alligator sunning himself not 15 feet from the highway.

I took that picture from the safety of a bridge over the pond. We then found the path to the boardwalk. We walked a short distance beside some water keeping a close eye out for that fellow’s cousins. We soon reached the boardwalk which offered protection from ankle biters and we could spend more time looking at the amazing surroundings.

Some of the Cypress trees were HUGE.

And these lovely flowers were pretty common.

I later learned they are called swamp lilies or sometimes string lilies.

Some of the most intriguing trees were those that appeared to be being choked by a vine.

Turns out it is actually the roots of the Strangler Fig which starts out as a seed deposited in the top of a host tree. It then sends down roots to the ground and they entwine and often kill the host tree. This one literally looks like the fig is a fist wrapped around the host.

While reading the signs at the boardwalk we realized we were on the edge of a very large state park. We decided we might as well see the rest of it. A little further east on Tamiami and a few miles north on Hwy 888 and we reached another entrance to the park.

We took the park road called James Scenic Road for about 8 miles. It was scenic, and extremely rough! But it was worth it.

We had only gone a couple miles when we saw a gator. He was right beside the road and perfectly still. He wasn’t even inclined to twitch an eye muscle as I took his photo from the safety of my passenger seat.

A short distance later was a second one. He was more active. He had his head resting on some grass by a tree and moved it back and forth a couple times. Maybe he was just scratching an itch.

We saw a half dozen more laying on the edge of the water beside the road. We then saw a very large one crossing the road probably 300 yards ahead of us. He was a monster, longer than the road was wide. By the time we reached the spot he had crossed there was no sign of him.

We decided we had had enough rough riding for one day and turned around a little short of the road’s end. We’ll make it all the way on our next trip. I took a turn at the wheel dodging potholes and let Jim enjoy the scenery.

He was hoping to see a baby alligator and he saw a fairly small one, although probably not a baby. It was about a foot and a half.

The swamp was really quite lovely. The water was perfectly still and the reflection of the trees in the water was intriguing.

If you are in the area or passing through on the Tamiami Trail this park is well worth the stop. We definitely plan to visit again.

Getting Our Christmas Groove On

Marco Island, FL – December, 2017 It’s a little difficult sometimes to get into the holiday spirit down here in the tropics. Eighty degree weather just doesn’t scream Merry Christmas to me. And having most of your friends and family 1,200 miles away means there is a limited number of social engagements.

So we decided to attend the Marco Island Christmas Parade on December 16th. It takes place after dark. Pretty sure it’ the first illuminated parade we’ve attended.

While driving to the island we cranked some Christmas tunes on. Trans-Siberian Orchestra is our favorite. We attended their concerts several times around the holidays in Christmases past.

We arrived at the end of the parade route about a half hour early and parked a little way out so we could make a quick exit when the parade was over. We then walked about a half mile to the middle of the one mile parade route. The crowd was festive and it was fun to see the excitement of the many little ones.

We enjoyed the resident’s lawn decorations along the way.

And walked across a vacant lot to catch the sunset over the canal.

Then we waited. And waited. The parade was supposed to start at 6 and the route wasn’t very long so we were getting pretty restless standing there. At 6:30 we agreed to give it 10 more minutes.

Five minutes later a group of motorcycles came roaring up the street, led by a motorcycle cop with his siren and lights blaring. Most of the bikes and their riders were decked out in lights and costumes.

Then there was a lull of around 5 minutes before the next group came through led by a Veterans of Foreign War Color Guard and followed by other veterans.

Then the parade continued steadily, mostly with lighted automobiles.

The Volkswagen Thing was one of Jim’s favorites.

Mine was this Bug.

Also in attendance was the oldest marching band I have ever seen. I didn’t catch their name.

It was a good time and we couldn’t have asked for better weather. Being out and about was certainly better for us than watching TV after dinner. And we did catch a little holiday spirit.

We’ll make a concerted effort to try to hold onto it for a couple weeks. We are driving to Alabama to celebrate Christmas with my whole family on New Year’s weekend. We are looking forward to that and hoping they do NOT have a white Christmas or New Years!

Boat People

Bonita Springs, FL – October to November, 2017 Sorry about the month long hiatus from blogging. Pretty sure that is the longest I’ve gone without posting since I began early in 2015. We’ve been busy, ill, and just didn’t have anything to say.

We arrived at the same park we spent last winter, Bonita Lakes RV Park, around the middle of October. We were in a new site, a premium site on D row, which was a concrete pad and a little roomier than last year. They raised their rates this season and we chose a premium site, so the monthly rate is $835 plus electric. But we found last year that when we were parked in the same place for months on end, we saved enough on gas to compensate for the higher lot rent and still keep our budget in balance.

We settled into a routine of sorts for a short while. The ankle I sprained in September was still giving me grief but I was able to avail myself of the recumbent bike in the park’s workout room and started getting some regular exercise. Jim would walk the park then meet me in the pool after. We love that we never have to share that pool with anyone before 9 am.

The park came through Irma better than expected but still suffered plenty of damage. Almost everyone we spoke to said they thought they would lose everything they had there and were pleasantly surprised when they didn’t. But the half dozen or so that did lose their trailers to high winds probably won’t be down this season, or possibly ever, so we didn’t hear their side of things. Most of the total losses were park models.

Our daughter had left her trailer behind when I flew down to evacuate with her from Hurricane Irma. We were pleased to find no serious damage. A limb had fallen on the roof from a pine tree above and an approximately 1 inch branch had penetrated her ceiling. However it had stayed put and kept the hole plugged so very little water got in.

The people we had sold our Alpenlite to were in the park through the storm and they sent us the above picture they next day. They rode out part of the hurricane in the park’s rec hall with many other residents. But when the roof was damaged they moved to their rig for the remainder of the storm. It didn’t suffer any damage at all.

We spent about a week getting Heather’s trailer ready to sell. It was priced right and sold very quickly for $4,800. Thankfully we got close to what we had invested in it.

The employees of the park had been working their butts off since the storm to get everything ready for their seasonal residents. We asked what we could do to help and they said that their storage building needed rebuilt. They had some unskilled residents that were willing to volunteer but they needed someone qualified to oversee them and get the job completed.

Jim was capable and willing to complete the job alone but he told them if anyone wanted to lend a hand they could show up and he would put them to work. He had a crew of about a half dozen the first day. Luckily this was the day they were most needed, mostly to move all the things which were stored on, in, and around the building out of the way.

Jim had one to three volunteers the rest of the week it took to complete the job which was sufficient. That included myself as I got a nasty cold/flu starting the second day and fought it for more than a week. Despite my best efforts Jim then caught the plague and battled it for another week or so.

Since we arrived in Florida Jim had started looking at boats. There is so much to do here that is only accessible by water, that we started thinking last season that a boat might be a good idea. We went to some boat yards but they didn’t seem to have anything under $20,000. So he perused many Craigslist ads.

Jim and I have avoided boat ownership during our matrimony. We agreed early on that we would be better off forking over the dough to rent a boat a couple times a year rather than buying one. But we were reconsidering our hard stand on the matter and looking at our options.

Other than a few boat yards, we hadn’t been to see a single boat when Jim showed me a Craigslist ad for one nearby. I honestly said “that looks too good to be true, is it a scam?” He said he had seen some similarly priced and thought it was worth checking out.

I contacted the seller and it seemed to be a legitimate person. We made arrangements to see it on a Thursday afternoon. We met a very nice man at his home in Fort Myers Beach and were introduced to the newest member of our family, Bella Vita. The name means beautiful life in Italian. We thought that was perfect for us and see no reason to change it.

Bella is a 24 foot Stingray. She has a cutty cabin. It includes a relatively comfortable salon.

There is also a surprisingly roomy head. And a kitchen with a fridge, stove, sink and very little storage.

She is designed to have a full bed under the deck but it has such a low clearance that I can’t imagine Jim or I crawling in there, even with an air mattress. It makes great storage though. The table in the salon drops down to make a small bed. Jim and I could probably squeeze in there or one of us could choose to sleep on the deck.

The captain’s seat lays out flat and I could probably fit on it. We have canvas walls that zip to the bimini tops to create an enclosure like this boat which is the same model as ours.

We wanted a boat for day trips and fishing. But we hoped that we’d find something we could spend a night or two on now and then. We know it won’t be terribly comfortable but we equate it to tent camping. Of course, we could also use her to get to secluded beaches and bring our camping gear for a night on the sand.

We paid six grand for her and are confident we would have lost the opportunity had we hesitated, hemmed and hawed, or waited for an inspection. We did expect she would need some work. We were hoping we would end up with no more than around ten grand invested.

The next day we made arrangements for Bella to be stored in a wet slip at the Hickory Bay Boathouse just 4 miles from our RV park. We made the first of many trips to the boat supply store for a chart, ropes, life vests, etc. And we got her titled and insured.

Then we studied the chart and planned to drive her home on Saturday morning. The seller was kind enough to pick us up at our boat house so we could leave our truck there and make our first boat trip together. We hopped aboard with high hopes and a little trepidation and were soon off on our first open sea adventure.

It was a few miles from the seller’s dock to the open water and our biggest concern was where is the channel and where is the bottom. We kept a close eye on the GPS but the depth gauge didn’t seem quite right. It did accurately show our location and where the channel markers were which was helpful.

We finally reached the gulf and went a couple miles straight out from shore. The charts showed clear sailing that distance from shore so Jim turned her south and we breathed a sigh of relief. Even though it was Saturday, we didn’t see many other boats. It was early, overcast, and storms were forecast for later in the day.

It was fun seeing the shore from this perspective and trying to figure out where we were based on the landmarks we saw. But everything looked so different from that side. The most useful thing was google maps on our phones. We were grateful to have phone reception out there and to know we could phone for help if needed.

We reached Delnor-Wiggins Pass and entered the inland waterway. Then we had 4 miles of shallow water to navigate. We had timed our arrival for high tide so we weren’t terribly concerned. We paid close attention to those channel markers and made it safely to our slip.

We’ve been boat people for more than a month now. We’ve had some fun and learned what they mean when we hear how much work a boat can be. We are still very happy with our purchase and hope to have lots of boat adventures to share over the coming months.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park

Homosassa, FL – October, 2017 One place that was not even on our radar until we reached this area and bought our Florida State Park passes was Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. It is an easily overlooked gem of a park just 10 miles south of our weeklong home on Crystal River.

We arrived just after the park’s opening at 9 am on a Tuesday morning. We were lucky to have an incredibly mild morning in the midst of 90 degree days of sweltering humidity. It was almost chilly on this 70 degree morning and perfect weather for a long walk amongst the wildlife.

This wildlife park houses many animals that are native to Florida. Just about every animal that I might hope to see in the wild in Florida is here for my photographing pleasure. Of course it’s not the same as seeing them in the wild but much more likely that I can capture their image. They may not be as cooperative as these pictures suggest but with a little time you can usually get something out of them.

If you don’t want to climb over this fence and hug this cute brown bear you are not human. He/she finally took her snout outta the bushes and sorta looked at me so I could get a portrait.

It wouldn’t be a Florida wildlife exhibit without birds and this place had a ton of them. I have been infatuated with Roseate Spoonbills since another blogger featured them.

Until now I have only seen a flock of them in a far off field and a single bird stopped by our campground before we left Florida last year. This place had an aviary you could walk through with several of them. They did not seem to mind our presence.

When they did tire of us they could easily escape.

This fellow was sitting just inside the aviary demanding his share of attention.

Before my infatuation with the spoonbills I sorta had a thing for these guys. I could still watch them all day with their slinky necks and updside down eating habits.

I couldn’t leave this red fox alone even though it was clear I was interrupting his nap.

I’ve seen a few in the wild but they are usually so FAST. This mellow fellow never got very excited.

Another lightning fast character that was surprisingly cooperative was this otter.

It wouldn’t be a Florida zoo without some alligators.

We enjoyed a wildlife encounter with a lovely volunteer named Vicky who shared some interesting facts about baby alligators.

There was an awesome cougar in attendance. Like many of the animals she was a bit shy but if you spent enough time with her she would finally open up.

We couldn’t help but be impressed by these eagles.

The bald eagles were especially thrilling.

We also enjoyed the reptile house. It was a good place to practice our snake identification. For instance, based on our wildlife encounter at the previous day’s agenda, we correctly guessed that this was not a venomous snake but its look-alike the Scarlet King Snake.

From November to February this park is all about the manatee.

They house several manatees year-round but during the winter hundreds of manatee crowd in to Homosassa Springs to enjoy the then balmy 72 degree water. Their underwater observatory was pretty cool during the off season.

We enjoyed seeing sheep head and snook from within it.

It would be awesome to see manatee crowding around the observatory windows.

Our Florida Family Park Pass included unlimited admission for two to this amazing park. You might be interested to know that they never ID’d either of us. If you don’t possess a pass I believe the entry fee is $13 per person which is well worth the experience.

Mermaids!

Crystal River, FL – October, 2017 I have wanted to come to this area of Florida for many years. I certainly expected to make it part of our travel plans last season. When it didn’t work out that way, it shot to the top of the list of places to see this season.

The area is known for freshwater springs, manatee, and the famous and historic Weeki Wachee Mermaids. Since mermaids trump everything we made seeing them the number one priority our first full day there. They perform at what is now the Weeki Wachee Spring State Park, 28 miles south of our Crystal River campsite.

The attraction was created in 1947 by Newt Perry, a famous swimmer. He invented a method of breathing underwater from a free flowing air hose. He then trained pretty girls to perform underwater ballets.

Business was slow in the beginning but soon took off and in the 1950’s it became one of the country’s top tourist attractions. It was purchased by the American Broadcasting Company in 1959 and the business thrived for many years. It became a Florida State Park in 2008.

The entrance to the park is surrounded by statuary.

We arrived about an hour before the mermaid’s 11 am show and walked the entire park. Here is what the spring and underwater theater look like from above.

In the background are water slides which are open all summer and on weekends after school starts. There is also a swim lagoon which had half a dozen bathers during our visit. The theater doors opened about 10 minutes before show time and we wandered in and found a seat on the stadium like benches.

The performance began right on time.

I kept my expectations low. So I was pleasantly surprised what a great show they put on.

I wondered how they would tell the tale of The Little Mermaid in under an hour. But they did, quite effectively. Ariel meets a prince.

She innocently involves an evil sea witch in order to get some legs and join her beloved on land.

All seems well and the pair dance.

Then that darn sea witch actually demands payment, via the forfeiture of Ariel’s beautiful voice.

Everyone returns to the sea to fight this threat and save their world. The badly out-numbered witch is defeated and forced back to her underwater cave.

But not before she pops out of a trap door above the stage and scares the bajeezis out of everyone causing several youngsters to start wailing.

The show was something short of 45 minutes but they squeezed all the plot twists in quite effectively. I was very impressed with the performers’ swimming ability all while holding their breath for long periods between puffs on the air hoses that they sometimes held but were usually floating below them.

I loved how they used air bubbles for a curtain. They would release a massive amount of air below the glass and then when the scene was ready they would stop it and the “curtain” of air would rise on the next act.

It was a fun show but I can’t believe the performers get in that cold spring water for 2 shows a day (three on the weekends) every single day of the year. After the show we wandered to the back of the park for the animal show.

It was your basic talk about the local wildlife but the park ranger was engaging and funny. The park usually has a boat ride down the river included with your admission but that was shut down while we were there as they were waiting on their annual safety inspection.

This was our first Florida State Park this season and we chose to buy state park pass this year. They are $60 per person, or $120 for a family, so the same either way for us. It seemed a little steep but we can visit this attraction, and another I’ll tell you about next week, as often as we like. If we only visited them once, which is likely, we still have to visit almost 20 more state parks before the day use fees surpass the cost of the park pass. Challenge accepted!

While in Crystal River we stayed at Crystal Isle RV Resort. It is an Encore Resort, so it was pretty nice with a fitness room, pool, and hot tub. We got a sight for $25 per night through Passport America which is only available April through October.