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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Koreshan State Historic Site

Aloha Everyone,

This morning we decided to get an early start and I was able to take a nice sunrise picture before leaving Lake Manatee State Park.

J.J. and I prepared a list of "things to do" which we would like to change to "Ta Da" as Wells Fargo Bank advertises. The first order of the day was to find a Wells Fargo branch to get some funds for our trip to Cuenca. While U.S. currency is used in Ecuador, guidebooks recommend that visitors should bring banknotes no larger than $20. Merchants don't want to make change for 50's and 100's.

Denise, the teller at Wells Fargo, brightened up when we mentioned about going to Ecuador. Denise is actually from Ecuador and she showed me some videos on her iPhone that she just received from her Mom. Charming, personable, and intelligent, Denise also quickly jotted down names of Ecuadorian dishes we must try. What a wonderful way to be introduced to a country where we will be staying for a month.  If you are reading this, "Muchas gracias Denise for your kindness."

We had a lunch at Carvers. The set up is similar to fast food except the quality and service is much better. Our two entrees, side salads, green beans, and a cup of cheesecake custard ice cream came out to out to $23.

Koreshan State Historic Site reminds us of Lake Manatee State Park in terms of foliage and even our assigned spot for Honu looked similar.

There are many shaded walking and bicycle paths

Colorful wildflower just outside of Honu

Aloha -- Cathi

Monday, March 30, 2015

From Homosassa Spring to Lake Manatee State Park

Aloha Everyone,

This morning we crossed Sunshine Skyway Bridge which spans from Tampa Bay to Manatee County.

The steel and concrete bridge is beautiful. I can see why it was rated by the Travel Channel as one of Top 10 Bridges in the World. The full name of the bridge is Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge named after the Governor and then U.S. Senator who presided over its design and construction.

We were looking for a Greek or Italian restaurant for lunch. Instead we stumbled into a strip mall full of Asian restaurants. Our Chinese Dim Sum was more Vietnamese in flavor, but very good.

We were asked to wait 15 minutes for the steamed custard bun and gladly agreed.

Many of the state parks of Florida are located on the coastline, forested areas or lake frontage. Facilities and amenities are comparable to the state parks we've stayed in Oregon and Arizona.

Today, it was Lake Manatee State Park. After the building of a dam, the river was blocked and no manatees can swim into the fresh water lake. However, the name stayed.

Our place for the night

It is a peaceful setting with no cellular service. J.J. and I drove 8 miles to a McDonald's to use their WiFi.

Back at Lake Manatee State Park

Aloha -- Cathi

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Preparing for Cuenca, Ecuador

Aloha Everyone,

In 10 days, J.J. and I will be leaving for Cuenca, Ecuador. We depart from Miami on LAN Airlines for Quito and then a domestic flight to Cuenca.  Our return to Miami will be on May 9th.

According to a number of blogs we have been checking, Cuenca has become a popular destination for North American retirees. The weather is pleasant year around. The architecture is Colonial Spanish. Retirees are attracted by the low cost of living. Good meals can be found for about $3 - 4 per person. For special dining out, the cost is about $25 per person. Cuenca's elevation is  8,500 ft with a level topography. Therefore it is a very walk-able place. J.J. and I  are looking forward to doing just that. While Cuenca welcomes Americans, locals are Spanish-speaking and thus we are enrolling in a language school for the first two weeks. It will be a Spanish language immersion program.

J.J. found1B/1BA apartment that we will be renting for a month from an American, a transplant from Seattle, WA.  It is being advertised as a fully-furnished "American-standard" apartment located in an old colonial building in the heart of El Centro or the old city. The cost of our one month stay is $970. We will have WiFi (hopefully a strong signal). Fresh markets, supermarkets, medical and dental offices are also said to be just a few steps away. As the day of departure approaches, we are getting really excited.  

Packing for us is not a problem, just one medium size suitcase for the two of us. The apartment will have washer and dryer. While we will try local foods and cuisines (I am looking forward to some tropical fruits), we are packing some "must items" including Espresso coffee, Kind Bars, cereals, roasted almonds and almond butter. While available in Ecuador, the government imposes a 35% import luxury tax.

Today we spent a relaxing day at the Homossasa River RV Park. I had a chance to practice my yoga and meditation this morning and this afternoon.

Mark is from Denver, Colorado. He is also traveling and today Mark was enjoying the sunny Florida.

Aloha -- Cathi

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Aloha Everyone,

I am happy to say that I finally was able to view manatees in their natural habitat. Well, sort of. Let me explain.  Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park primarily acts as a shelter, a refuge for weak or injured animals, birds and reptiles including manatees. Ranger Joe referred to their park as, "An assisted long-term care facility where the animals are fed, sheltered and cared." Some are returned to the wild, but most remain in the park for the rest of their natural life.

Homosassa Springs discharges 5 million gallons of fresh water every hour. Manatees visit the spring when ocean waters are cold. Unfortunately for us, they departed last week. They have 4 female manatees under their care and apparently their physical conditions are beyond rehabilitation. These four participate in the park's Manatee Educational Programs for tourists and for local elementary school children.

Manatees are huge herbivores mammals. Their favorite land food is Romaine Lettuce and lots and lots of it.  They have to consume 10% of their weight to remain healthy. Manatees live in water temperature that is about 60 -67 degrees Fahrenheit.  When the weather becomes warm, they migrate north sometime as far as North Carolina.  They can weigh from 800 to 1,200 plus pounds and measure 9 to 12 feet,  Females manatees are usually larger and heavier and their gestation period is 13 months..  Newborn baby manatees have an average weight of 66 pounds.  Alligators won't attack them. Too large to swallow. Alligators go after smaller prey.

J.J. and I enjoyed a rare sunny but cold day in Florida. Please enjoy photos that were taken at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.

Florida Key Deer

Florida Cougar

Aloha -- Cathi

Friday, March 27, 2015

In Search of Manatees

Aloha Everyone,

Manatees, sometime referred to as Sea Cows, are very large, aquatic marine mammals.

Since our first RV adventure to Florida last year May, I have been looking forward to seeing manatees in their natural habitat. This morning we stopped by the Manatee Spring State Park where we were told that you might see manatees swimming in the spring waters within the state park. Unfortunately, the RV park was full so J.J. and I moved on.  

Luck was on our side. Still driving on Highway 98 South, we saw road signs about Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. We read in a couple of the Florida tourism magazines that this is a place to see manatees. Across the street is a privately owned RV park. We decided to turn-in early.

Manatee Spring

Route to Homossasa Spring Wildlife State Park

It has stopped raining and hopefully tomorrow morning it will be dry enough to walk across the street and take a closer look at manatees.  

Aloha -- Cathi