Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Manatees + Old and New Friends

Hi all - Dianne here.  We are down to our last day here at W.P. Franklin Locks.  Tomorrow we pack up and move to our next site, and let someone new enjoy this wonderful place that we hate to leave behind.

After we saw that glorious sunrise (see prior blog) we went to Manatee

 park, since it was a cool morning.  Manatees gather in the warm runoff water of a Florida Power and Light plant.  They have developed a nice viewing area and park to take advantage of it, and it's a great place to see congregations of manatees.   They are elusive creatures, and it's very hard to photograph them.  Usually all that you can see are their nose, back, or tail when they come up for air.

  We took a lot of photos of black water until we actually were quick enough to get some shots.  Of course, after these shots we had some VERY good views, but unfortunately I got the dreaded message "change battery pack" on my camera, so there's no proof of our really close views.

When I was a girl scout "Brownie," we sang a round "Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold."  That is our theme for the upcoming days and weeks.   While parked at WP Franklin, there was a tan and fit couple camping next to us.  For several days, I saw them enjoying the same type of activities we were, and I even said out loud to Roger, "See, THAT'S what I aspire to."    When I saw the wife waving a bubble wand on a windy day, I knew she was my kind of gal!   Harry and Bobbi are from Michigan.  They have been all over the country, canoeing, camping, fishing, motorcycling, you name it.   We finally did get acquainted, and had some fun times.  We took our little boats out paddling across the river together and visited the Franklin Lock visitor center.  Back home, we sat around a campfire, watched sunsets and birds, and just had random conversations whenever the mood struck and we were both out.

They enjoy nature and the same types of camp sites we do.  (Note all the patches sewn on Bobbi's jacket; these are all state parks and places they have been).  They spent last winter in Texas, and gave us some very good ideas for our possible Winter Texan adventure next year.   Before they left for their next site, Harry even taught us how to download and get on Google Earth to check out our future camp sites, look at our house back home, etc.  The possibilities are endless!!  What fun!!   I am 58 years old and have never been bored, but if I ever am, I know how to spend some fun hours now.   Thanks, Harry and Bobbi!   "Happy Trails To You...."

Now from new friends to old:  Roger's graduating class keeps in touch via internet.  Lo and behold, come to find out that one of his classmates lives on the Caloosahatchee River, just up the road!   We met for dinner one evening and spent a very fun afternoon with them on their boat.  I'll let Roger elaborate on that. 

Roger here....  One of my high school classmates from Pendleton High School's class of '68, Judy, has managed to pull together the email addresses of many of our classmates.  It was a small class of 160 students, so most of us know or at least remember each other.  During one of the mass emails, Judy asked us to answer questions about what we remembered from our high school days and what we were up to now.  Since I now have the time, I was one of the responders and indicated what Dianne and I were up to.  The next day I got an email from an old friend, Mary, asking where we were traveling and suggesting that we give them a call if we were ever in Florida.  When I told her that we would be at the Franklin Locks near Ft. Myers, she wrote back saying that they live five minutes from there.  What an amazing coincidence that Judy's email allowed us to find out that we would be in the same spot at the same time!

We had dinner with Mary and her husband, Gregg, on Sunday night at the local "Alva Diner" - good and tasty comfort food.  Dianne and I went off our healthy food kick for the evening and had country fried steak.  Yummy.  We enjoyed lots of good conversations about old-times in the idyllic little town of Pendleton, Indiana, where Mary and I grew up.  

The next afternoon they invited us to join them on their boat 

on the Caloosahatchee River.  This very large river is part of the intracoastal waterway system.  It connects the Gulf of Mexico at Fort Myers to Lake Okeechobee.  Another river connects the lake with the Atlantic Ocean.  It is a busy river with all kinds of water craft, including wave runners, fishing boats, paddle wheelers, barges, tug boats, sail boats, ski boats, the S.S. Minnow inflatable kayak, and some pretty fancy yachts like the white beauty shown in this photo: 

 We met them at their house on the river, walked through their beautiful river-front garden, then boarded their boat and relaxed while Gregg steered us along the river. 

 We first went west about ten miles toward the Franklin Locks, where we were able to see our motor home parked in the distance.  We then went all the way to our next motor home stop at the Ortona Locks several miles (30?) to the east.  It was a great trip.  Gregg alternated speed and "amusement park-like maneuvers" with slow trips around the many jungle-like islands where the water was covered with water-lilies 

and filled with all sorts of wild life (turtles, fish, birds).   At one point a tiny tree frog hopped on Dianne, who immediately unleashed her obligatory scream.  I thought that a snake or gator must be attacking the boat.  We all had a good laugh when we saw the cute little frog that you can see on Mary's thumb. 

 Mary and Dianne insisted that the frog be released onto a tree - he hopped in the river before reaching the branch, but we all watched as he frog-kicked (had to describe it this way as a former swim coach) to the shore.   

Gregg also took us down a back water to see an abandoned tug boat 

that looked like something out of Disney's Jungle cruise.

We cruised by retirement communities, three-bedroom houses, and multimillion dollar mansions along the way.   At one point, when we passed Port LaBelle, we were able to see the condo complex where my parents owned a unit and spent several of their winters.  It brought back many sentimental memories of the visits that Dianne and I made there with our daughters, often with one of their friends tagging along.  

When we returned to Gregg and Mary's house at sunset, Gregg fed the wildlife from his dock - lots of long and skinny gar, turtles, etc.  It was a memorable day that we won't forget.  Thanks again to Mary and Gregg!

Dianne again.  Continuing the "old friends" theme, in another week or two we will be seeing our oldest and dearest friends from home as they come down to Florida.  They are not campers, so we will board our dogs and spend two nights with them in their beautiful condo on the beach in Naples.  Stay tuned.  I think that blog title will probably be "How the Other Half Lives"!   Then later in March we'll be meeting our camping buddies Chuck & Cindy from home to spend two weeks together in Fort Myers at the Grove campground.  

Some exciting news for us: we actually had a house showing the other day!   We still hope the right person comes along to fall in love with our house in Pendleton so that we can be truly free and start planning another winter adventure.   You can't fault me for trying, so I'm pasting in info from an older blog entry of ours :  The  MLS listing number is 2900560 and can be viewed at the F.C. Tucker real estate web site.  (I don't know how to link it).   I sure hope it sells while we're down South, but I realize that is a pipe dream.   There is an extensive album of outdoor shots taken in all seasons at our house that can be viewed at:   Please pass this info to anyone you know who might be looking for a great house in a small town that is very near to Indianapolis and only ten minutes to Indiana's newest mall!

No comments: