I'm sorry to report that yet again I am derelict in my duties as a blogger. We have had Sam and Donna of http://samdonna-5thwheelvagabonds.blogspot.com/ at our home for a week and I managed only one blog while Sam was putting out a well composed blog every day. I would suggest that you visit his blog to get an idea of what went on this past week. I already covered Saturday and Sunday in the last blog.
Monday we all went to the Homosassa Springs Attraction, a wildlife park located in the southwestern part of the county. There we saw manatees, alligators, fox, eagles, owls, and a lot more. Helen and I have been going there for years. Once it was privately owned, but was later bought by the state. There have been a lot of changes over the years and most of the exotic, non native animals were removed. Basically, what you see now is what was always here. Lucifer is the exception. Lucifer is a hippopotamus, surely not native to Florida. Actually, he was born in California in 1960 and was used in a number of movies. Later he "retired" to Florida. When the non native animals were removed, there was no place for Lucifer to go. With some public pressure, the Governor at the time made Lucifer a Florida citizen so he can spend the rest of his days here. Monday was the first time in 30 years that we have seen Lucifer inactive. He can be seen playing with a huge tire or moving around his quarters. Monday he was almost inert. You can check out more of the Park at http://www.hswsp.com/main.html
Donna and Helen near the entrance to the park
The park is in two parts. The first entrance is right on Route 19 in Homosassa and the park provides a pontoon boat to take visitors to the park. The trip is narrated and one gets to see more of wild Florida.
The second part is the park itself and one can drive directly to the park without the boat ride. Once you've had the boat ride, you will probably drive directly to the park. We do now, but wanted Sam and Donna to have the whole experience.
Sam, me, and Donna at the Fishbowl
Part way around the park is the Fishbowl, an underwater viewing area where numerous fish and a few manatees can be seen. This is a steel bowl with viewing windows. Many years ago it was constructed next to the spring and was slid into the spring using banana peels. Then, concrete was poured in until the bowl settled to the proper level. Some years back, Helen and I would SCUBA dive the spring and clean the outside of the windows as algae would grow and block the views.
One of the larger alligators in the park. It's nice to have a strong fence between us, though he would probably scamper away if there was no fence and we got close.......maybe.
Tuesday was another pool day for the dogs and they really had a great time, as they always do. I realized that for the most part, the dogs really do not play together, they all play with a human. Jodie and Riggs played tug for just a short while, but mostly they relied on me and Sam. I would play tug with them and that was OK. Coco will not play tug or chase and only wants to fetch, so as long as she's out there she wants someone, anyone to throw something in the pool. She will not quit and she has never ever quit. We eventually have to put a stop to her activity. Sandy is content to have her favorite ball and keep it in her mouth all the time. When I take it from her and toss it in the pool, she is quick to retrieve it, but the ball is SO slimy from being in her mouth so long. Jodie likes to be chased. She will pick up a toy and try to get one of the dogs to chase her, but they won't. I have to pretend to chase her and she loves it.
Donna and Helen supervising the dogs in the pool. Please note that they are far away from where the dogs exit the pool and shake. The ladies stayed dry, but Sam and I were not so lucky.
Riggs with one of his toys. His preferred toy was the orange one.
Sandy with her preferred toy, a tennis ball that she had peeled half of the felt off.
One of the nights we had a fire. Something about a fire is almost hypnotic, like an aquarium. From left to right you can see Coco, Me, Riggs, Sam, Jodie, Donna, and Sandy.
Wednesday and Thursday were chill out days. Donna noticed a draft in their camper and Sam discovered that part of the bedroom window on the left side had fallen off. This was a crank-out window and the actuation rod apparently broke. They have no recollection of hearing it fall and it could have happened anywhere on the way down. Sam and I made a temporary repair of 3/8 plywood that fit right in. Sam got Donna to get on the ladder and caulk around the edge and later prime the wood. Friday AM she applied a finish coat of gloss white. We were pleased with the result. A local RV dealer quoted us a delivery of five weeks on a replacement, so a temporary repair was the only option.
Friday afternoon we took the guests for a boat ride up the Rainbow River. In Florida, many of our rivers flow full volume out of springs. The Rainbow Spring flows 490 MILLION gallons of water a day. In addition, smaller springs downstream add to the flow. There is a lot of wildlife and a great deal of activity on the river. We would not go there on a weekend as there is way too much traffic. One popular activity is tubing down the river. There are at least two places where you can rent a truck inner tube or something similar and float down the river. Helen and I have done that in the past with our boys and friends. The water from the spring is about 72 - 73 degrees year round, so you can get some sun, yet cool off when you want.
Sam and Donna getting some sun.
The Great Egret is an excellent hunter. They seem to move slow, but then in the blink of an eye they thrust their bill down and impale a small fish or frog. It is my understanding that they can put that bill right through a man's hand.
This is one of three alligators that we saw on the river. Some girls in kayaks were passing as we startled one and they were not pleased to learn that an alligator was nearby. It was only about 4 feet long and was no danger to them, unless molested, and that wouldn't happen. A male might want to harass a small alligator, but girls have more sense.
The Anhinga or Snake bird. This bird swims with only his head and neck out of the water and it looks like a snake. It swims underwater and is very adept at catching small fish. When he is through fishing, he flies to a low place to dry his wings as flying wet is too taxing.
This, to me, is the star of the trip. We found a family of river otters as they were swimming down the river. They are so cute and agile in the water. They are also very adept at feeding themselves and sometimes I wonder how the small fish population survives.
If you read Sam's blog, you will find that Friday night is very often (always??) pizza night at the Weeb Ranch. This week was no different as Sam ordered in pizza from a local pizza place.
I think we had a great time with Sam and Donna and we certainly ate well. Donna brought her famous lasagna and Helen now has the recipe for her sauce. Sam taught me a lot about helicopters that I didn't know before. I knew that Sam was in the Navy off Viet Nam and was part of a helicopter rescue unit. Some of his stories were amazing. Sam and Donna both have interesting histories and their stories often kept us spellbound. We met them in 2010 on our way back from Alaska and had a brief afternoon with them, but have kept in contact since. Still, you wonder what you will see when they stay for a week. Helen and I think that we will remain friends with them for a long, long time.