Manatees, monkey island, and synchronicity at its finest…
Upon arriving in Homosassa Springs I was faced with a tough decision for someone as indecisive as myself- pay a small fee to climb into a giant fishbowl and see manatees and other fish swimming around me, or pay a large fee and take a tour to go snorkeling with manatees. Naturally, I decided to hit a few bars and explore while letting the decision marinate in my mind.
Turns out waaay back in the day Homosassa was a huge center for sugar production. They still have an old mill in town and you can walk through the area and read about the process conducted by slaves at the time. Across the street is an old print museum ran by James “Boe” Anderson. After exchanging a few stories he was kind enough to give me a post card with a beautiful image of colorful leaf imprints on the front that I would later send home to my brother and his girlfriend.
On the other side of town is a small marina with a few restaurants and bars. One bar called The Monkey Bar overlooks an island inhabited by a handful of monkeys. It is surrounded by water on all sides, which apparently monkeys are not fond of, that has kept the monkeys on the island for generations. Cruel in my mind, but an attraction the town has to offer nonetheless. *
I decided to sit at a small bar overlooking the water to have a beer and munch on some cajun boiled peanuts- apparently boiled peanuts is a HUGE thing in the south. A worker sat down to talk with me who thought I looked sad.. in reality I was just really frustrated with how difficult it was to crack the shells on boiled peanuts without spraying juice everywhere. We got to talking and I mentioned my manatee debacle. As luck would have it, workers get free boat access and he knew of a spring nearby where manatees flocked during winter. He offered to come wind down at the end of the night with him and a friend and I ended up camping in his mother’s front yard for three nights.
The bar back, Cameron, has quite an electric personality. He is always singing, dancing, and spewing stories. His friend was polar opposite- chill, laid back, and full of jokes. An entertaining pair. Cameron’s mother Eileen is one of the sweetest souls you’ll ever cross in this world. You can tell within the first thirty seconds of conversation with this woman that she is full of love for every soul in the world, human and animal alike. She included me in family meals, let me do laundry and charge up the battery on the van, and it was here that I took my first real shower of the trip. She even allowed the cat to come in and get some play time outside of the van. The best part of this story in my opinion is that right down the street from this household is a mural Mary Ellen from Cedar Key told me to be on the lookout for, she painted it herself! And I just happened to end up sleeping less than a block away and stumbled upon it. Synchronicity at its finest.
The day finally came to swim with manatees. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly how things played out. It was too windy to take a boat out so we decided to sneak into the springs from a location up the road and swim down to where the manatees usually congregated. We had no such luck and so the manatee debacle continues. And while on the topic of luck, I should mention not everything has been smooth sailing. By this point I have lost my license, my gas cap, and still have a broken sink blocking my access to the water tank and my ability to do dishes and laundry in the van. Laundry mats for clothes and park bathrooms for dishes will have to do for now.
After a short stop in Hudson to visit family I began heading south again towards Tarpon Springs and Dunedin.
*The locals believe that since the monkeys have plenty of food and toys and live a life free of predators that it is not cruel in the least. An interesting perspective to consider.