Our Last Days in Florida (or… Birthday, Breakdown, Bizarre Adventures and Bugs)

Florida never ceases to amaze with its waterways, and we were still stunned by all the crazy bridges even after we left the Keys. It was almost Thanksgiving (THANKSGIVING ALREADY??) and we were headed North to spend it with some family friends. So grateful for folks willing to take us in on Thanksgiving.

We pulled in to our next RV park near Bradenton, and you could feel the pre- Thanksgiving vibe in the park. Lots of families, grandparents, and friendly faces about, and within 10 minutes of arriving, the kiddos had formed a pack

The RV Park Gang…

There was fishing…

Beware of alligators…

And being Thanksgiving and all, cooking…

Come Thanksgiving day, we pretty much took zero pictures. It was so good to be in a house celebrating, we put the cameras down to simply enjoy ourselves and our gracious hosts.

Realizing this might be one of the last Thanksgivings I’d be spending in flip flops for a LONG time, I decided to take this:

and snuck a cute one of my boys in their Thanksgiving best…

Florida Style!

While in the Everglades, one of the guides recommended we visit Crystal River Forida to swim with the manatees. Apparently it was the time of year to do so, so that’s where we headed. I didn’t really understand what we were getting into, but isn’t that the fun part of adventure?

In the winter time, the manatees head to the many warm springs that are inland as the ocean waters get too cold for them. The Three Sisters Springs on the Crystal River is home to thousands of these awesome creatures and is the only place you are legally allowed to swim with them.

We were too late to book a tour, but the rental place said we could just go out on our own and gave us a map. Again, we had no idea what we were doing, but just followed the map, the other tour boats, and were on our way.

Most injuries to manatees are from boats. They are hard to see in the water, the boats go too fast, and they get cut and seriously injured by the propellers.

Manatee Zone!

Once we got on to the Crystal River, we docked our boat. Just for the record, we had stopped earlier at a spot in the bay where we saw a bunch of other folks, but the water was COLD, dark, and not a good introduction to this adventure as far as the kids were concerned. We got in, out, and cold. I am not a fan of cold and wet.

The Crystal River

So this is where it got hectic. The water was still COLD. Forest does not know how to snorkel. We have to swim up this narrow inlet of the river, against the current as all kinds of snorkelers are coming out. My mask is fogging. Forest isn’t having it. Harlan is going doing his best, Alan has booked ahead, and I have no idea what is going on.

Luckily, it’s shallow and I can stand. I’m holding a squirming Forest in the cold water as I push through the current, past the snorkelers floating out as I start my search for the elusive manatee. It was shallow and I didn’t quite get why folks weren’t just standing until a woman brusquely pointed out that I almost just STEPPED on one!


It was then that I understood why everyone kept their feet off the ground and faces in the water… and sure enough, there was one practically under my feet!

Manatees a plenty

Yeah. These gentle sea cows are everywhere! They swim up and down the inlet where the warm spring water bubbles up from the ground then hang out in these roped off areas away from boats. It was surreal to say the least.

I made it up the inlet with the kiddos to where it opened up a bit and we spotted a few more. Forest didn’t like putting his face in the water, but they were so close that he could still see them swimming by. All in all it was a pretty amazing 20 minutes… because by that time we were all freezing.

We got in the boat and tried to warm up, wondering what the heck just happened. It was wild.

This gives you an idea of how close we could get to them on the boat.

They are really special creatures that are
are slow and gentle and sweet, and we were pleased that the state works hard to try and protect these humble giants.

The kids had a great time and took home some souvenirs

Heading out, Forest met another fellow gardener and as usual, had no problem taking over.

After our manatee adventure, it was time for us to continue North. It was my birthday, and a short travel day back to our friends in Orlando who graciously allowed us to park and plug in at their house for the night. I was looking forward to being in good company.

Nothing better than a house guest who brings their own kitchen and bedrooms, right?

Well, sometimes RV living throws you a curveball… like having our inverter BLOW right before hitting the road. For those that don’t know what this means, the inverter is basically the electrical hub of the rig which enables the batteries to charge, and all the electrical systems to work. Yeah. That. Big problem.

Now if the RV gods were conspiring against us, I’m thinking the Birthday Fairy decided to step in because after doing some research we find out that the ONE guy who specializes in fixing the type of inverter we have is literally THREE MILES from where we are staying. Miracle of miracles. THREE

Thank you Hartmann’s for the birthday cake and laughter!

Alan tried to make an appointment for the next day but wasn’t able to get through so we decided to just drive over first thing. He thought it might be a good idea to bring the kids, to hit home the whole “we’re on the road, we’re stuck until we get this thing fixed” situation.

Welcome to our next four hours

Good thing we got there early because as the morning progressed, all sorts of people just dropped on by unannounced like us. The owner is a one man operation, super nice and completely hooked us up. I still can’t believe we were able to solve this problem so quickly.

The other bonus about this snag? We got to do kick it longer with the Hartmann’s

Yeah Hartmann Family!

This pretty much wrapped up our stay in Florida. Oh right. The bugs part. Florida has a lot of them that make you itch. We were glad to leave them behind. With our rig fixed, we were ready to continue North (to colder weather, eek!). Next stop… Georgia and Tennesee!

Thanks for hanging in on the ride!