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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Manatees Springs


After posting the last travel post, I headed out of St Joe and as I drove down the road, the gulf was angry. The gas here, a more remote place was cheaper than on 98. So I got gas. At one point in the road, the surf was coming over the seawall and that spray covered all cars on the road. We got a salt-water bath and it was yucky. I knew then, that I would have to wash the car and travel as well as the bikes when I got to St George SP. I stopped at Indian Pass Café for oysters. The best I’ve had since being here. They had a good amount of saline. I then moved on to the Piggly Wiggly for groceries and glad I did since nothing of same value was seen on the rest of trip. I stopped at Oyster City Brewing Company to better understand the price of yesterday’s consumption. Fifteen dollars was returned. I drove around Apalachicola to learn more about this quaint little town that reminds me of Berlin, MD. The wind is still very strong and as I head east out of town over the long bridge the wind is blowing hard and the seas are high. After a short time of respite I turn into the wind, as I have to cross another bridge to access St Georges Island. At the end of the bridge I hand a left and proceed through a very stylized beach community with lots of swimming pools. My camp is at the end of this long and winding road, which looks good for a bike ride. It is a beautiful road between the Gulf and Apalachicola Bay, with good dunes. The campground is more suited for big rigs. After finding my spot, 45, I wash everything and get the salt off and then I repositioned the Scamp away from where I washed everything. After setting up, I walked around the camp to find sites suitable for the next visit, if there is another visit. I found some good sites and wanted to see what they were like in the morning. I then go and take a shower before I walk to the beach. It is a pleasant walk between two ponds that contain many cranes, an alligator, and other waterfowl with so many tourists around with binoculars. The walk to the beach is pleasant and very doable, provided the weather cooperates. It is getting late and I make dinner and retire early to avoid the chill and wind. I read and fall asleep early and sleep through the night. The heater goes on a couple of times. A bright sun wakes me and it is chilly outside. After breakfast I walk to the beach again to assess the wind for my bike ride. It is softer and cutting across the road. I walk back on the perpendicular road to camp into the wind, which is strong. I review the campsites I selected yesterday as I walk down to the path that leads to the bay side. It is very windy. I get back to my camp, get the bikes off the car, and prepare for a ride.  The wind isn’t as hard as it was yesterday, but it is still a factor. I ride into the wind to the entrance, which is six miles and that makes it a simple twelve-mile ride. After my shower, I prepare for the beach and make lunch, an egg salad and a peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I drive to the beach, since my chair, umbrella, and rest is in it and makes an easier walk to the beach. When I get to the beach, I went to open the umbrella and it falls apart. The wiring has salted out and broken. I pack up and go back to camp to fix it. It is hopeless and can’t be fixed. I prepare it for the garbage bin and stay at camp and sit in the warm sun there for the afternoon. In works out, there is no wind and the sun fills my campsite. I’m able to sit in my bathing suit and eat my lunch, while I take in the sun. Since I had planned on going into Apalachicola for the night to hear some music, I ate dinner early because The Oyster City Brewery closes at 7 every evening and the music at the Bowery Station begins at six and ends at 8:30 every night. I picked up a couple of growlers at Oyster City and moved on to Bowery Station. Riley and Molly from South Bend, IN were playing. They were on their southern tour. I bought one of their CDs. When I got home, I had a fire, had a beer, and listened to the CD. The moon wasn’t up when I went to sleep, but it was up throughout the night. I woke to a much better day and took a twenty-mile ride back to the bridge that takes us back to the mainland. After my shower, I break camp and get out at the deadline of 1PM. I follow the same road I earlier rode on the bike and take a left to go to Paddy’s Raw Bar to enjoy a dozen raw oysters and a Smithwick. I’m so used to this southern slow, I expect it and enjoy it. Many of the patrons are bemoaning that this is their last day here before they have to return to some northern locale in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and such. Also, there seem to be more Georgia plates than Florida plates mixed with the usual suspects from the north. I feel different with an eastern plate, MD. As I drive east much becomes familiar as I get nearer Ochlockonee River State Park. I drive past the park entrance to go to the Post Office to verify address so my daughter can send me my mail. I then checked in and set camp at Ochlockonee SP. I like my spot. The door is facing south. I have a good size yard and relative privacy considering the camp is full and with kids, since it is a weekend and perhaps vacation for some. In addition, the park is hosting a weekend long Primitive Arts Festival which included primitive fishing lectures and demonstrations, Atlatl competition, primitive knapping contests, and primitive archery competition. Also there were about two dozen booths selling everything from flints to the stones to make the flints, the arrows used with Atlatl and bow, jewelry and much more. I had dinner and a fire as I enjoyed the star filled sky.
The birds woke me Saturday. I had spread some seed and peanuts the night before and the ground was filled with a variety of birds and some squirrels. To my surprise there was a rare white squirrel gnawing on a peanut. After breakfast I went into town to do some chores and upon return to camp, I took a twenty-mile ride up a road just outside the park and into the National Forest. After a shower and lunch, I walked down to the festival. I first watched the Atlatl competitors practicing. I then walked around all the vendor booths and ended up a the fire making demonstration given by two survivalists who work full time with the Army and Air Force teaching these special skills to the special forces personnel in these military units. I learned so much about starting a fire. After that, I walked out to the river and just sat there taking it all in when I heard a woodpecker. Upon further exploration, I found it and discovered it was a Red Cockaded Woodpecker, which is rare. A Ranger came by to verify it was a RCW and slowly a crowd gathered. There is only two pair right now in the park, so this was a good find. What a great day with the festival and seeing two rare wildlife. I closed the day traditionally with dinner and a fire and went to bed after hearing a very good victory speech by Hillary after SC.
Again the birds woke me, as did the bright sun. I followed a text version of the first half of the Spurs vs Swansea game. Spurs were down by one when I left on my bike ride. When I came home I saw Spurs won by one and Arsenal lost, GREAT!!! Leicester City won yesterday so Spurs were still 2 points behind LC and now 3 ahead of the Gunners. Spurs owned second place with best Goal Difference for any possible ties. I spent the rest of the day at the festival watching flints being made and primitive archery. I had cocktails in the afternoon watching the birds while sitting in a very warm sun before preparing dinner and then a fire in preparation for the Big Broadcast.
The birds and rising sun woke me and it was an even better day today, the leap day of the year. I followed my normal routine and after my bike ride and shower, I headed back to Apalachicola and to the Oyster City Brewery. I met the brewer, Clayton and shared a can of Burley’s Pale Ryeder. They had added the snapper IPA, which I was told came back from the distributor who had six kegs. I took a growler of it as well as the Mica Pale Ale and Honey Ale made with Tupelo Honey. I spent some time in town before heading back to camp. I’m amazed at the amount and variety of birds at this camp. That I spread seed helps attract them. I made some popcorn and distributed lots of it around and loved watching them fly away with a big white kernel in their tiny beaks. They looked hilariously ridiculous. When they would light on a branch to eat the kernel, many times it would fall back to the ground. Of course they figured it out, but they did provide me much amusement. The lovely evening was the same dinner, a fire, and the beautiful sky filled with stars. It was a glorious extra day.
The birds and sun woke me again and after my bike ride I went and did my laundry. Mail has always been an issue for me when I travel. I’ve had it held and that is fine except in times when I need access to some mail as I’ve discovered. Forwarding mail works only if I’m in one place, which I’m not. I have now had the mail forwarded to my daughter in Marietta because I will be there at the end of March. She has sent me the mail thus far accumulated, but now I have to wait for it here in Sopchoppy. I have to fine-tune this process. I’ll cross that bridge as it materializes. I stopped at the library and paid some bills online. I put the clean clothes away, made lunch and headed to Tallahassee in search of a couple of breweries and to go shopping at a Publix. When I arrived at the first brewery, Proof, the place was obviously closed and not a brewery anymore. A sign on the door informed me they had moved. I put the new address in GPS and saw I had to go back the way I had come, which was on Stadium Drive through the FSU campus and right by all the sport fields and Football stadium. The campus was very active and all were in shorts and t-shirts as they moved from here to there. When I arrived at the new location I found a playground for the students who drink beer. A lady was using a long pole to retrieve beanbags from the trees, which had been misthrows by students playing a beanbag game. The place was modern and shiny, almost like Funky Buddha in Ft Lauderdale area. I had a flight of La La Land IPA, Liberty brown ale, Ghost Totem, a porter, and Hello Dolly a further derivative of Ghost Totem. They made crowlers, 32 oz. cans, so I took a can of La La and Ghost Totem. I discovered that Grasslands was back on a road I had traveled. When I got there, I found I had passed by it and hadn’t paid attention since a couple was sitting outside drinking PBRs and the sign said Coffee. Hidden around a corner was the Grasslands sign and entrance. I went in and the place was very dark and my sunglasses made it worse. I ordered a flight and went to get my other glasses. I liked the selections: Horizon Line, a Farmhouse Saison; Groundation, Amber Ale; Roller Derby Red Ginger; and Tropical IPA. I was informed that I couldn’t take a growler. They didn’t have the capacity yet. As it happened, the brewer was sitting next to me and we started chatting. I told him how much I liked his brew, but was disappointed I couldn’t take any away with me. He looked at me cross-eyed and went back to talk to the boss. He came back and told me to get my growlers and he’d fill them. I brought in three growlers and a can of my own Burley Oak Pale Ryeder for them. I took a growler each of my flight home happy. Directions home was so simple, a right a half a mile and another right in a half a mile and stay on this road all the way home. I stopped at a Publix for a big shopping. I chose to get a coked chicken and some potato salad for dinner, since I’d be getting home in the dark and wasn’t in the mood to cook. I put the groceries away, had dinner and set a fire as I listened to the Super Tuesday results and speeches. The fire waned as did the evening and as did I. I got some more birdseed and spread it and distributed some peanuts for the morning feast. The birds and squirrels woke me as the sun crawled over the horizon. I lounged in bed and then just sat and chilled the morning away. I took a ride, showered, had some chicken salad, last night’s leftovers, and headed to Apalachicola for oysters at Hole in the Wall and then a glass and growler of Red Snapper IPA from Oyster City Brewery. I washed the car, which is getting filthy more from the yellow pollen than anything else. Then the night dew makes streaky patterns, so I decided to wash the car. The ride along the coast is so wonderful especially along this part from Apalachicola to Ochlockonee. It was a lovely calm evening as I had dinner and a fire and listened to some music before going to bed.
I woke and took a bike ride and then broke camp and was out by 12:30 heading east on 98. I stopped at Oust’s Grill &Raw Bar for some oysters. I had stone crabs here last December, but they didn’t have any this time. The place was filled with bikers on their way to Daytona for Biker Week. All were in good moods and they loved the Scamp and my two bikes on top of the car, a road bike and a mountain bike. On the long monotonous 98 from St Marks to Manatee Springs State Park, I saw trailer after trailer hauling a big wheel monster truck. There must have been close to fifty rigs. I wonder if they were on their way to Daytona or some big wheel rally or monster truck thingy. This is cowboy country. There is big ranch after big ranch, with big entrances and large fields filled with cattle. I read somewhere that there are more cattle in Florida than any other state. Add to that the citrus and floral farms, Florida is an important agricultural state. When I got to Manatee Springs SP, I immediately noticed a warmer temperature. At the end of the road are where the Manatees are. When I go back out of the park and go down the road a few miles and take a right, I’m heading to Cedar Key. I will explore this for my bike rides. I have a good spot and a cute 13’ Scamp, similar to the one I was in a couple of years ago when I did the NW is next to me. I had a good dinner, a lovely fire, and an early evening. As predicted a thunderstorm rolled through about midnight. The songbirds didn’t get the memo on quiet time.

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