Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Way Down Upon the Suwannee River

New Years Eve I played volleyball in the morning while Janice readied a few things for pulling out in the morning. Neighbours, Tom and Sharon took us to Poncho Villa’s for Mexican food at San Antonio, about a twenty-five minute drive from Zephyrhills.

Pictured are Janice and Sharon entering Poncho Villa.

We spent a pretty quiet New Years Eve playing Newfie Bingo with Jim, Rose, The Other Jim and Cheryl. We were home by 12:30 and when we turned on the tube there was an Eric Clapton concert on, so we had another glass of wine and got to bed around 2:00am.

I got up too late for volleyball so we readied for moving instead. By ten-thirty we were all set to hit the road, but it took another half hour or so to say our goodbyes. Our destination, Homosassa Springs, (make up your own acronyms) was just an hour distant, so we took our time enjoying the warmth, the sunshine and the new road.

By lunch time we were set up at Turtle Creek RV Resort and decided to go into the Historic Homosassa Springs District for something to eat.

Pictured is a turtle in Turtle Creek, at our campsite.

As soon as we turned the corner from our resort we spotted Neon Leon’s Zydeco Steak House. Some of you may know that Neon Leon was the Bass Player for Lynyrd Skynyrd for thirty years, until his death in 2001. One of his cousin’s, Mitch, is the proprietor of the restaurant and a musician himself. He opened the restaurant as a tribute to his cousin and has been featuring live Zydeco music from day one. Of course, trading off of his famous cousin’s name hasn‘t hurt him.

Janice and I split a shrimp Po-Boy for lunch, which was excellent. After enquiring from the waitress about the music, she said that we’d need a reservation if we wanted to catch the show, which always begins at five or five-thirty. We exclaimed our surprise that we’d need a reservation on New Year’s Day but she insisted it was very popular, so we asked her to put our names down.

Pictured is Leon Neon’s signature stage hat.

We toured the rest of Homosassa Springs, stopping at Wal-Mart to buy a coaxial cable for the TV, which we’d inadvertently left behind at Zephyrhills.

Pictured is the waterway at Homosassa Springs.

I had a wolf nap while Janice walked around the park and then we showered and headed for Neon Leon’s. Sure enough, our places had our names on them at the bar but, aside from a few bikers we were the only ones there. A half hour went by and some customers started straggling in but, at 5:30 when the music started, this Lynryrd Skynyrd look-alike guy got up and started singing country songs over programmed tracks.

After a couple of tunes, Mitch got up and accompanied him on guitar, still over the music tracks. While the singer was very good, as was Mitch’s guitar playing, it was still nothing more than glorified Karaoke. When we enquired from Mitch’s wife if there was any Zydeco on the menu for the evening , she said, “Oh, they have the night off, but they’ll be back tomorrow night.” We paid our bill and said we’d be back.

We woke on Sunday to a sunny day and decided to take a trip to Crystal River. We got lost a couple of times following the narrow roads that meandered through the grassland wildlife refuges but enjoyed a windy lunch on the beach, entertained by the birds.

Pictured are a few of the hundreds of gulls, terns and grackles that competed for any lunch crumbs that we might possibly offer up.

Later in the afternoon we went for a long walk to the Old Sugar Mill and then I watched the second half of The Bucs beating The Saints. After dinner we went back to Neon Leon’s and caught Cajun Dave and Mitch putting on a show for a large fiftieth birthday party. Dave was an amazing musician who played acoustic guitar, banjo, mouth organ, a sawed-off electric fiddle and the squeeze box. He was exceptional at all of the instruments but the squeezebox was a real standout. Because of the birthday party Dave and Mitch were clowning around a lot, and playing requests for those enjoying the party, so it wasn’t all Cajun or Zydeco music, but still, very entertaining.

Pictured are: Janice entering Leon Neon’s; Mitch, on the left, a guest from the birthday party and Cajun Dave. All have on fake beards for the number. While the pictures are fuzzy, they give a an idea of the atmosphere at Leon Neon’s.

The morning was sunny but crisp as we headed north for Manatee Springs State Park. I pulled into a tire shop to have the tires rotated on the trailer. The tire guy pointed out that two of the tires were very worn on the inside. About an hour and $211.00 later we had some new tires and were back on the road, in time for a late lunch at Manatee Springs.

Way down upon the Suwannee River. Yes, for those of you old enough, the same river made famous by the camp fire song. It borders the park here. 35 to 150 million gallons of water pour from Manatee Springs daily and flow a quarter mile to the Suwannee River, which flows into the Gulf of Mexico, about twenty miles away. Manatees are drawn to the constantly warm water of the springs and, while we never spotted one of them, we did see some monstrous catfish.

Pictured are: Manatee Springs; the channel that leads from the springs to the river with lots of dead Cypress stumps; the boardwalk to the Suwannee River; the pier at the Suwannee River; a turtle growing moss in the murky water; some deer at our campsite; a buzzard at Manatee Springs and a Heron on the Suwannee River.

Ever since we got the new tires and brake job on the truck, it has seemed loose in the front end. I especially noticed once we started towing again - it seems I have to wrestle with it slightly instead of guiding it. We decided that the new tire tread was significant, so we decided on lowering the trailer hitch a notch, to no avail.

We pulled into a Ford dealership yesterday after leaving Manatee Springs and were told that it could possibly be a faulty wheel alignment. I mentioned I had checked the air pressure in the new tires and that, while the fronts had sixty-four pounds each, the backs had eighty-eight pounds each. The guys at Ford thought that was probably okay, but had no way to know for sure. They weren’t really helpful at all, so, knowing that the old tires had fifty pounds each, I decided to let some air out. I reduced the fronts to fifty pounds and the backs to fifty-five pounds and, voila, problem solved. Best of all, it didn’t cost anything.

As we traveled northward yesterday we noticed that we had pretty well left the jungle behind. The flora had changed to mostly scrub pines, meaning that we were out of the tropics. Not a problem - it’s an opportunity, right? The opportunity in this case was to have our first camp fire in a couple of months.

Pictured is a happy Janice at her the camp fire and the St. Marks River at the same campsite at Newport.

As I send this, we’ve just set up at the Big Oaks RV Resort in Tallahassee, the state capital. It’s raining now but we’re on our way out to see what‘s shaking…


  1. Tim, you are not only an incredible artist, talented writer, good looking, smart, funny and a welcomed relative, you are now a mechanic. Good job with the tire pressure! I continue to enjoy your blog and now also rush to read Leslie's India Experience with three girl friends. What a wonderful time they are having. Travel...there is nothing like it! H.N.Y. cuz ljc

  2. Amazing pictures as usual. Are you sure it is the fire that is making Janice smile? Sounds like you are happy to be on the move again. Isn't your recommended tire pressure on one of your door frames?

    Happy Trails,