How We Roll

Spotlight: East-Central Florida


Another time we were at the wildlife drive on our bicycles. We were looking out at a small lake where we had only seen birds before. Boo spotted an alligator swimming horizontal to us, eyes and back just visible above the water. We stopped to watch it and others stopped too, most of them in cars. One man said he thought it was at least 10 feet long. 
As we watched, the alligator turned toward us. It was still quite a distance out, but it swam steadily toward us, its eyes above the water and looking directly at us (or so we imagined). We watched for another couple of minutes as it got closer and closer. Then we got on our bikes and hightailed it out of there. We like to view dangerous wildlife from a comfortable distance!
Another sighting was at the Wildlife Refuge Visitor Information Center. They have a nice boardwalk so you can walk around and see wildlife safely. A dock was built out in the water with a ramp next to it so alligators could climb onto it easily to sun themselves. Sure enough, there was an alligator on the dock. One of the park volunteers told us that alligator was a mother and had babies every spring.  It made us wonder how many alligators were out there that we didn’t see.  She also told us that one day an alligator had actually climbed onto the boardwalk while visitors were there!
The one thing we didn’t see was a snake. A woman at our campground said she saw one when she was walking her dog, but we didn’t see it. We didn’t really look very hard, though. We heard that you don’t see snakes much in the winter; they don’t come out until the weather warms up. Still, we had a difficult time thinking of the weather we encountered as winter. It was our first time ever spending that entire season in a warm climate.
We were so fascinated with the alligators that we didn’t spend as much time admiring the birds as we probably should have. We saw so many species of birds on a daily basis that they seemed rather commonplace. But I'm sure the multitude of bird watchers in Florida would beg to differ. One type of bird that we did take notice of is called a Spoonbill. These birds are a beautiful pink color and from far away they are gorgeous. But when we got close and saw their enormous spoon-shaped bills dwarfing their tiny eyes, we decided they are too goofy-looking to be beautiful; sort of the Cyrano De Bergeracs of birds.
We went to Orlando several times since it was only about an hour away, but that’s another whole blog by itself since we visited Disney World. We also went to Miami once and loved that city, but we didn’t spend much time there and plan to go back, so that will be a future blog too. There are several more places in Florida we would like to explore; Blue Springs, where manatees spend the winter and the Gulf Island area on the Gulf of Mexico. Stay tuned. Florida is a big place!
Then we went to Blackpoint Wildlife Drive Park. In one section, the waterway is wide enough to accommodate small islands in the middle. So, from the road, we were looking down an embankment and across the water to the islands. Two very large alligators were sunning themselves, one on each of 2 islands. The larger one had to be about 8 or 9 feet long. They didn’t do anything though, just sat very still basking in the warmth.
East-Central Florida rocks! We completely missed the polar vortex! While our family and friends were digging themselves out of snowdrifts and hunkering down during ice storms, we were walking and riding bikes outside and swimming at the pool. Though the pool wasn’t heated, when the weather was sunny and 80 degrees, it was refreshingly cool.  (Everyone knew we weren’t from around there…we were informed that no Florida natives would be caught dead in a pool that “cold.”) BTW, all of the pictures in the slideshow were taken by Boo.
Much of our free time (remember, I’m still free-lancing, so it isn't all free time) was spent viewing wildlife at The Enchanted Forest Preserve, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Blackpoint Wildlife Drive Park,  and Canaveral National Seashore. We saw lots of turtles and gopher tortoises, as well as armadillos, alligators, feral pigs, and hundreds of species of birds.
We saw many alligators, which had been a goal of ours since South Carolina. Our first sighting was behind a shopping center. In Florida, everything is built on top of swampy land and there are many water-control structures, like tunnels, that allow the water to flow through. So we were looking at one of those through a chain-link fence and there was a little alligator sitting in the shallow water just at the opening of the tunnel.  We were really excited, even though the alligator was only about 2 feet long.
Our motor home was parked at Manatee Hammock Campground in Brevard County, Florida during December, January, and February. That’s on the east coast of central Florida, near Titusville. The campground isn’t actually on the coast…it’s on the Indian River. But it’s only a few miles from ocean beaches. (Florida has a LOT of waterways!)
Titusville is the home of Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral. The shuttle program closed down a couple of years ago but they still launch rockets to take satellites into space and to resupply the International Space Station. We saw one rocket launch the day we arrived, and two others during our stay. But it would have been fun to have been around during the heyday of the shuttle program.