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Florida or Bust: Silver Springs Was a Tourist Trap, Onward to the Gulf Coast and More Pizza

Day 9
As with all the hotels Scott picks for work I make sure he gets one with free breakfast. Blake and I had chosen a different hotel, but Scott insisted on the Holiday Inn Express. The breakfast was pretty average, but not as bad as the hotel we stayed at in Rochester, Mn.

They actually wanted to me to cancel our second night here, but in the end we decided it was easier to stay another night.

Scott pretty much had off this day. I wish we could have spent another day by the beach.

There aren't that many beaches in central Florida.

I noticed on our atlas a Silver Springs. Our atlas is a few years old. When looking up this place online I read that the Florida State Parks had bought it after the place was declining in tourists. 

Going in it looked promising. 

According to Wiki-pedia:
Silver Springs is a group of artesian springs that feed into the Silver River in Marion County, Florida. It is the largest artesian spring in the world and Florida's oldest tourist attraction. In 1971 it was designated as a National Natural Landmark. Related amenities developed include glass-bottom boat tours on the river and an amusement park. Long privately owned and operated, the springs area and all associated elements were taken over by the state and made part of Silver Springs State Park effective October 2013.

Quite a bit of the park is abandoned or not in use.

Walking around the park we found relics of the past.

This place was one of the original tourist traps before the big corporations like Disney took over.

Unlike Kitch-iti-kipi in Upper Michigan this place charges you to enter the park and again to go on a boat ride.

I had read that you could rent kayaks and canoes so we figured that would be more fun than riding the glass bottom boat. Except we couldn't figure out where to get the boats.

We walked around some more and took more pics.

We checked out the few things that were open before trying to find the kayaks again.

We finally found the boat rental area, it was on the other side of the parking lot. The dudes working were going to let us all ride in one canoe. The only problem was they didn't have any infant life jackets. We decided to go buy one ourselves and get lunch then come back.

Meanwhile we got lunch at Taco N Madre before going on our adventure. We were kind of sick of pizza.

We also found a life jacket for Meadow at the local Wal-Mart.

Meadow played with my rocket air blower. It's for cleaning my camera.

We were having pretty good luck finding veggie options for Veganopolis.

One of the previous workers told us a story about how people would set their children on alligators for photo ops and advised us not to do that.

They thought they weren't actual gators.

 I was a little hesitant about running into alligators. We did spot one lounging on the shore and another at the bottom of the river.

It's always cloudy on days when we go to see clear springs.

Meadow hadn't napped all day and was super cranky the whole ride. I was hoping she would fall asleep, but she didn't want to.

Cue banjo music, da da din din din din din din.

I thought this was real, but it turned out be a part of the park. These must have been part of the boat tours back in the day.

We ended up turning down an area that said to stay out. Scott was afraid we were going to get shot by some hillbilly.

One of the earlier glass bottom boats was half-sunk in the river.

We saw lots of wildlife. Turtles, swimming snakes, birds.

That gator at the bottom of the water. I can't believe she put her hand in the water with her camera.

That was to catch a turtle. Are you kidding me!?

Don't be fooled, she's not asleep.

I actually think she was at the tail end of the boat ride.

We still had a few minutes to kill after doing our loop so we turned down to the boathouse. They still had some of the old glass boats from years ago.

After our little boat trip we decided to do some hiking.

We found pinecones as big as my head!

Some of the trails were pure sand.

Meadow napped most of this trek.

One side was alive and green.

The other side was dead and burned.

Fire leads to a thriving forest.

There was another ghost town in the park. This one was used as classrooms for field trips.

We found a swingset and pushed Meadow in the swings again.

I wanted to prove to Brooke that you could shoot a moving object and get it in focus.

Then we went in search of a sinkhole. It was kind of disappointing.

After taking a long nap, she nursed on Brooke.

We took service trails back as a shortcut and ended up by the rangers house/station?

I think this was a private residence. I'm not sure.

We were one of the first to arrive and the last ones to leave. Looks like we got our moneys worth. 

We thought we would get some beers afterwards. We drove by this place that was a taproom. I didn't think it would be baby friendly so we thought we would get a growler. Turns out it wasn't a brewery, but just a place that only served various kinds of tap beer.

We ate at an Indian restaurant, Amirit Palace, for dinner. It was a little fancier than some of the other places we've eaten on this trip. Meadow's loud personality really shone through here. We had to keep her entertained to try to keep her quiet.

While the food was great, a screaming baby made me want to get out here as soon as possible.

That night at the hotel I did some more googling of Silver Springs. Apparently there used to be tons to do and see. Alligator shows, petting zoos and even rides. I even found someones blog who had been there 2 years ago and did a lot more then us. I hope the State Parks really spruce up the place and bring it back to life. I also found a tick on me. I didn't think there were any in Florida.

I kind of don't think they want to be the tourist trap it was. It seems like they want it to be more like a normal state park.

Day 10

Scott had to work in the morning and we also had to check out of the hotel. Blake, Meadow and I stuck around the hotel until we got kicked out then started walking towards Scott's campus. We were near a Goodwill so we stopped there. 

I met another baby-wearing Mama who invited me to a Ocala Babywearing gettogether. I had to decline and tell her I wasn't from the area. While at Goodwill we bought Meadow a sleeping bag. It rolls up into a backpack that has a pocket for a water bottle and a flashlight. Yay, now I don't have to share my tiny sleeping bag with Meadow anymore.

As my business trip was finished we could start heading towards the gulf coast.

We always were on the lookout for veggie-friendly restaurants.

We found a noodle-centric restaurant somewhere east of Tallahassee on US Highway 98.

Meadow spilled her food  on me and ruined my pants for the rest of the trip.

Driving through the panhandle I really felt like I was in the south. People had thicker accents and all the homes along the shore were on stilts. 

In one such a town we had to change Meadow's butt.

While looking for a place to stay in our atlas we noticed a state park on an island. Of course we had to go there. I was worried that since it was a Friday we weren't going to find any camping spots. Blake asked the ranger if there were any available and he said, "Yea, but its going to be wet." We didn't care.

We had finally set up camp before dark, but of course it was raining. We drove back down the narrow island to the downtown to find dinner.

We settled on pizza.

Meadow watched an NFL Draft preview. She really digs sports on TV.

We were all sick of pizza by this point in the trip.

Our waitress asked if Meadow wanted a plate. I said that wasn't necessary as she would just eat it and throw it. Then the waitress brought out a bunch of fries for Meadow. I was okay with her eating a few. I look over later and see that she had eaten them all!

We pretty much closed up shop that night.


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