In lieu of manatees, we decided to take our kayaks down to the Chassahowitzka ("Chaz") River launch and do a bit of exploring. It was a very nice day, sunny and warm.
Just about floating down...its going to be harder coming back!
We were getting the evil eye from these pelicans...
but the little blue heron didn't seem to mind us at all.
The next day was very rainy, but we really didn't have outdoor activities planned. We drove over to Winter Garden to have lunch with our friends Steve and Joan. They come down for the holidays each year, Winter Garden being their home prior to "on the road". We haven't managed to work together yet, but they took over our spots at Chalk Creek after we left, and worked with Dan and Jonelle and Phil and Rudee this past summer up at Crazy Horse Memorial. We had a long chat, catching up on things, and then they gave us a tour of Winter Garden. It's a really nice village, and has a great bicycle path right through town. We will definitely head back on a nicer day to wander around. On the way home we made a quick detour to Downtown Disney....have to get my Disney fix after so long! We picked up our passes for the end of January and we're set to go.
New Year's Eve we paddled the Silver River up in Ocala. Jodi was anxious to see the wild monkeys, and luckily they did not disappoint! A really nice thing happened since we last kayaked this river two years ago. The original privately-owned Silver Springs Park property was acquired by the Florida State Park system. They have added a kayak/canoe launch right at the headsprings. Previously, you had to go down to the campground down river from the headsprings, and make a 1/2 mile trek to the launch. It is much easier to access the river now :-).
We saw anhingas,
and the prime objective, the monkeys :-).
*note: the weather was cloudy and threatening to rain, so I did not bring my camera with my. These pictures are from our paddle two years ago, but are indicative of the experience we had. Just no pictures of the current participants :-).
Finally, New Year's Day arrived and the event that we all look forward to...Al's prime rib dinner. The Florida branch family members gather for one awesome prime rib dinner cooked by Al. Slow cooked and beer basted, it is always a crowd pleaser :-)
It was a beautiful warm day so we gathered on the lanai prior to dinner.
The "beast" in all of it's 15 pounds of glory. Together with loaded twice baked potatoes, fresh green beans, flaky biscuits and apple pie, we had a feast fit for a king. I do apologize for no pictures of the table all set, but there was serious eating to be done :-).
With fond farewells and "see you down the road", we bid "adieu" to Ken and Jodi for the time being the next day. We had a couple days to do errands and rest up before the next wave of guests arrived, Al's nephew Tom and his wife Liz. They arrived Sunday and were treated to a great baked ham and macaroni and cheese dinner cooked by his mom, Al's sister Ginny. It's the first time Tom has visited us since we moved away from New York, and it was a real treat to meet his wife Liz for the first time.
We spend a nice day Monday visiting one of our favorite places, the Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park. It was the first time Al and I got to see our newest panther in the park, Yuma. Yuma is a year old now, having been rescued from abandonment last January just days after he was born. Nursed back from near death, Yuma was unable to be rehabilitated into the wildlife having had too much human imprinting during his recovery, and will be a permanent ambassador at the wildlife park. Isn't he a cutie?
Yes, it was a little chilly.
But not too chilly for a stint in the hot tub once we were back home!
Lastly, yesterday was our appointment to take the rig down to Lazydays. There are several minor warranty issues to be taken care of, and we wanted to get the brakes and bearings all checked out. So she's down in Tampa getting all ready for the big family reunion coming up at Disney in 17 days :-). Since we were in the area, after dropping the rig off, we stopped in Zephyrhills and had lunch with Dan and Jonelle. We firmed up some Disney plans (they will be joining us at Fort Wilderness for 5 days) and then dashed on home again. Tom and Liz left the same day, and now we are getting ready for my brother and sister and her husband, who arrive Monday. It will be a week of getting our mother's estate (such as it is) settled, the house cleaned out and ready for the market. Not such a fun week, but I am so glad they are headed down to help out, it should all go much better with more hands.
Between all that, starting the rounds of doctor visits, appointments with professionals about Mom's affairs ( I discovered having a lawyer is going to make life a whole lot easier), did I mention we were going to rest and relax?? Oh yeah, better schedule that :-)!!