Friday, February 25, 2011

We're in AVA Heaven

Well, we have now been at Blue Springs State Park for four days (out of a 13 day reservation period). The park is in Orange City, which is about 50 miles or so north of Orlando and about 40 miles inland from the ocean. We were here last year so are familiar with the park and we were looking forward to it, but it's been a little bit of a letdown after being on the ocean for almost two weeks. The state parks that are inland, if they're in a "scrub" area, tend to have very similar campsites - the campsites are basically cut out of a pine/palmetto scrub so each one has a complete wall of scrub around it, which is good for privacy. But it's like you're camped inside a box, kind of. Oscar Scherer has the same type of sites. They're certainly not as nice for Brandi, because she basically can't see anybody walking by or anything, and she is such a social dog that she just loves to lay in her campsite, on her line, and jump up and run to see everyone who passes by, especially if they have a dog with them! And sometimes (oh, heaven!!!) people with dogs will stop and let their dogs play with Brandi, which makes her go slightly insane. But at a campground like this one, she's in back of a whole wall of greenery so she has no view of the road at all. But she's such a good dog, she just lays around and listens for "critters" moving in the scrub. I'll definitely have to be sure to take her on walks and for rides in the car during our stay here.
The park itself is very nice -it's one of the primary springs, and one of the primary places for seeing manatees coming in and out of the springs area to stay warm. However, that occurs mostly when the ocean and rivers are colder, which makes the warm springs a huge attraction for them. That was the case last year - it was lousy, cold most of the winter but there were dozens and dozens of manatee in the spring area. For anyone who followed last year's blog, this is the park where we kayaked in the St Johns river and had manatee swimming right with us - in fact, Dave was able to reach out and pet one while it swam alongside his kayak. Very cool. This year is much, much warmer (NO, we are NOT complaining about that!!!) so the springs are much less attractive to the manatee. We do plan to put the kayaks in today and we'll see if there are any around - and hopefully the warmer weather will be better for fising here than it was last year. Although, frankly, Dave has caught a JILLION fish and our freezer is completely packed - I think tonight is fish dinner, so we can start using some of them up.
The biking here is pretty good too - Dave can ride around in the park, and right outside of the park is a very nice, smooth, wide bike trail that runs parallel to the northbound rail track and ends at a nice county park about 3 miles north of the park. Dave enjoys riding up there and back. I'm actually thinking about buying a new bike myself - mine is a "cross bike" so it's a little heavier than a ride bike, plus it's about 20 years old and the gears are really getting bad - most of the time I can barely shift from one gear to another. Plus there's a "scratchiness" in the gears (I don't know how else to explain it) that I can't get rid of. I think, since I've been working on the road for hours and hours, I'm going to "reward" myself with a new bike - if I can find a nice bike shop around here.
But the very best thing about this location is that there are GOBS of AVA walks in the immediate vicinity. On Wednesday we went over to the ocean and did the New Smyrna Beach AVA walk. It was only about 40 miles from here and super easy to get to. When we left home to go over there, it was very calm (no wind) and in the upper 70's and humid, so I just wore shorts and a tank top. When we got to the ocean it was very, VERY windy and only in the low 60's - YIKES. I was WAY under-dressed so I ended up popping into the Beall's that was next door to my starting point and buying a little hoodie to wear. Dave, on the other hand, doesn't seem to feel that cold at all (...ever!) so he apparently was fine. As usual, he enjoyed just riding around, especially when he was southbound on the beach with the wind to his back - he said he didn't even have to peddle! The beach there is cool because you can drive onto the beach. There were a lot of cars down there in spite of the less-than-ideal weather, but they aren't scary because they have a specifically marked driving area that the cars have to stay within - it's marked with cones and they can't leave that lane. I , of course, did my 10K walk, which was very nice. It took my along the ocean for a mile or so, then up through the pier and "fun" part of the beach area, across the causeway and back to the mainland part of town, along the riverfront area with shops and parks, and then back across a different causeway back to the starting point. It was pretty cool going over the causeways - the view was incredible! This was my 35th AVA walk, so I feel like I'm beginning to actually call myself a "real" AVA walker!
But the best news is that there are probably 15 or so walks within the immediate area (to me, that means less than 50 miles or so). Since Dave really likes the beach ones, we'll probably try to do all of those (maybe 5 or so), plus I have a few others I'd like to do. I think we're going to tackle the Daytona Beach one next - we need to do that REAL soon, because Daytona Bike Week starts next weekend and we do NOT want to be there during that time! It's totally INSANE, from what we've heard!
So, as with every park we visit, we'll figure out what the most attractive and fun things are to do in the area, and we'll love every day! The weather contnues to be spectacular - 75 to 85 degrees virtually every day - unreal! We're totally in heaven! Next blog - I'll post some pictures of the park. (Each year, I notice that the longer we're away from home the less pictures I take - I think the first two months I LIVE with my camera in my hand and then I guess I just get a little tired of it. Just like the way we take a million pictures of our first baby, less of our second baby and none of our third!! Right?)

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