I spent more than a month under a rain cloud in Florida last spring, from Navarre Beach near Destin, down into the Keys, and all the way up to Flagler Beach on the northeast corner of the state with several stops in between. I had a few warm sunny days, but mostly it rained… more accurately, it stormed! I saw some amazing places though, which you can read about from here and another 4 or 5 posts beyond… Rolling Into Spring. I also spent lots of time with some great friends, old and new.
When I left Florida in late May I promised myself I’d return… to revisit some of these places and friends, and discover more of this beautiful and diverse state. Now I’m back, for an indefinite period of time. After more than 15 months and 23,000 miles on the road it’s time to slow the pace a bit so I can focus on several projects. That doesn’t mean I won’t be having fun and seeking out new adventures while I’m here, I assure you!
My first stop was Orlando, where my good friends Bonnie and Scott were visiting family. Bonnie has four sisters, so I was able to blend in almost undetected amongst them! We spent one day at Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral with Bonnie’s sister and brother-in-law, Sandy and Larry. Very interesting place! We enjoyed doing a shuttle launch simulator, a tour out past the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39A, gawking at the HUGE rockets and all sorts of amazing memorabilia… from moon rocks to the earliest of space suits. We also attended a lunch with astronaut Jack Lousma. He spoke for awhile about his experiences, the most famous of which was… during his roll as CAPCOM to Apollo 13… being the one who received the message, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”
I was a small child when John Glenn first orbited the earth, and only nine when Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon, but I remember how everyone was riveted to their televisions and radios… all eyes and ears on NASA… watching the launches on pins and needles. The one thing that struck me the most while touring Kennedy Space Center was the heroics of the astronauts. What brave souls… especially in the early days… to go where no man had gone before strapped into sixty two thousand pounds of metal and twenty eight hundred pounds of fuel!!!
While in Orlando I camped in Wekiwa Springs State Park, which I found to be spacious and peaceful. I have to admit to being confused by the name Wekiwa, since the river that is fed by the spring is called Wekiva. While driving through the area I saw street signs and businesses using both spellings. I was so perplexed that I asked several people who live in the area and found that even the locals are confused by the names.
Call me curious, but I had to dig for an answer. I had a hunch, and it probably nagged at me most because of the name of the street I lived on in Texas… Calvery Court. Not only was the name misspelled in the city records, it wasn’t even the right word! In a subdivision named Custer Creek, with streets names like Big Horn Trail and Last Stand, it makes sense the word they meant to use was Cavalry, a division of the army who fought on horseback. Calvery is not a word, but Calvary refers to the hill outside of Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified. That un-ammended error irritated me for the 15 years I lived on that street.
An article written by Jim Toner for the Orlando Sentinel told of Arthur E. Francke Jr., a historian and former board member of the Seminole County Historical Commission, who after careful research concluded that the proper spelling is Wekiwa. He wrote: “The confusion arises from the fact that the river, originally spelled as Wekiwa, over the years apparently through inattention and disregard for careful spelling, became known as the Wekiva River.”
The article stated that wekiwa is a Seminole-Creek Indian word for a spring of water. And that there was some debate whether different Indian words were used to describe a spring and a river, but apparently that was put to rest by linguists who said Native American languages do not have the letter “v.”
Although I prefer the idea that they are different words with different meanings, I’m putting my money on the spelling blunder. Whether Wekiwa or Wekiva, I enjoyed an afternoon of kayaking on this beautiful river… home to an abundance of wildlife, including alligator, turtles and a variety of waterfowl.
I noticed several signs in the park prohibiting dogs from the areas near the water, and judging by the number of alligators I spotted on this river it’s pretty clear why. I didn’t feel threatened by them in my kayak, but I have to admit that it did creep me out a little when I paddled close to this turtle and got a shot of him before I noticed the alligator on the bank behind him. And the following image… of what I assume is a momma alligator (note the larger one in the middle) amongst her adolescent brood. Three of the young ones slipped into the water as I paddled near, and I count eight different gators in the picture.
Curious mind strikes again! When googled, I found out that a female alligator will lay between 20 and 50 eggs in a nest. I also learned that the sex of the hatchlings depends on the temperature of the nest during incubation. 86 degrees and below produces females, while 93 degrees and above produces males. I’m guessing that means temps between 86 and 93 produce male and female offspring. Although a mother alligator will defend her young, they have a mortality rate of up to fifty percent in the first year, and the biggest threat is other adult alligators. No wonder these youngin’s are sticking close to mom!
While in Orlando I also had the pleasure of meeting one of the fellow travel/adventure bloggers I’ve connected with virtually. When I realized that Erika Wiggins lived very hear where I was heading in the Orlando area I sent her a note to see if she’d like to meet in person. What we discovered over lunch was that although we were brought up very differently, we share many similarities in spirit, and just like that a new friendship was forged. You can find out more about my new friend on her blog, The Active Explorer.
When I left Orlando I relocated a couple hours west near Crystal River where I would finally have a chance to swim with some Florida Manatee, a story I’ll be sharing with you soon. In the mean time though, the girls and I made a car trip back to Orlando to spend Christmas Eve with Sandy, Larry and family, and Christmas day with Erika and her family! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… I am blessed to have such amazing friends in my life!
So… stay tuned for more of Florida, it’s beautiful waterways, abundance of waterfowl and my Manatee encounter!