Today, we continued our tour with visits to a couple more Springs.
A bit of editorial comment, if you want the story of the tour please drop down:
A strange thing to me, about Florida, is that some of the natural land features are owned by the State of Florida or the federal government, and some are owned by private individuals. And it's hard to understand why such nice locales are owned by certain citizens and not by everyone in the state. I know a lot of it has to do with profits and money gathering, but on one of our stops today, which I'll explain later, the privately owned piece of property was FAR TOO expensive for what it should have been. I won't say much more about this, but it just seems absurd to me that a place so spectacular could be owned and manipulated by individuals rather than offered to everyone, especially when you compare it to the other publicly owned properties around the state.
I am by no means a socialist... but I guess I'm not sure how forcing people to pay exorbitant fees to get access to a piece of property they should have much easier access to, is a good idea? In the Florida Keys, the land is OWNED by the State, but private businesses are allowed to operate in the Keys while the people still maintain ownership of the property. That seems like a much better idea to me. Let me know what you think after you read the rest of the story?
TO HERE, where we continue the story of today:
After yesterday's visit to Ichetucknee Springs, we were excited to visit a couple more springs today. It's strange, living in Florida, because all you really want to do is get into the water, but because of the gators it's not feasible to swim in the rivers. The ONLY place where it is possible to really swim in rivers, safely, is to swim in the springs. However, in the Summer, they get PACKED with people. But they are sure are fun for swimming, and they feel SO cool and refreshing.
We got a pretty early start out of O'Leno State Park today.
And we weren't sure exactly how far we had to go for the day. Unfortunately, the springs we planned to stop and swim at were really early in the day. We only had about 10 miles to get to the first spring. The first set of springs all lie along the Santa Fe River.
Our plan for the day was to stop at Blue Springs, which everyone we had talked to, had said it was a much better family location. When we got to the spot leading back to the springs, we discovered that the road went back for about a quarter mile (that we could see), and it was covered in sand.
What's with the sandy roads?
That doesn't work on a bicycle! If you own a business with sandy roads, this is a word of warning, we can't push our bikes down your sand covered road. It's not worth the effort.
So, after that discouragement, we pressed on to a place called Ginnie Springs. It was just a mile or two up the road. We made the turn off to the springs, and we actually were able to travel on a paved road for the mile or so to get back to the entrance of the springs.
It seems everywhere you go, you have to travel mile or two off the beaten path to get to your destination. In cars, not too difficult. By bike, it's a little more daunting to make that one mile trip each way, especially when you have kids traveling with you.
Anyhow, we got back to the entrance to the springs, and realized they were going to charge us $12 for each adult. And I can't even remember what the kids cost? It didn't turn out to be a cheap stop at a swimming hole, like it should have been. Unfortunately, by being privately owned, Ginnie Springs does a MASSIVE business to scuba divers who like to dive in cave systems. There are miles and miles of caving for divers here. The property also has about 7 springs you can get into. So, it is a large, important, money generating, piece of property for the entire area. And it is all controlled by private business.
It wouldn't have been so bad, if they would have knocked off a few bucks, and let us just go swimming. But, nope, they have to charge the FULL pricing of the entire park just to go in and go for a swim.
After doing all that complaining, I hate to say this...
But Ginnie Springs is an absolutely amazing park. The springs are nice. They have a full-service campground. They have a clean general store (with prices that match their entrance fees in steepness). And there is ALL KINDS of activity going on here. Apparently, in the Summer season, the entire park is PACKED with visitors. It wasn't busy, at all, while we were there. But the water felt absolutely lovely.
I guess it might be a little cold for some people. There was an older scuba diver there, who said we were the steel family, for swimming in the frigid water. But, I am guessing, he has spent a lot of time in the equatorial regions of the world. Because, compared to the Pacific Northwest waters, this was still quite warm.
After spending a couple of hours at Ginnie Springs swimming, playing, and eating lunch, we headed off in a westerly direction. Our final destination for the night was supposed to be another privately owned spring with a campground.
Before we got there, we had to bike for 10-15 miles across Wacasassa Flats. Apparently, this area is even flatter than the lightly rolling hills we've been traveling through, so they get the honor of being called flat-lands. Although the trees and shrubbery seemed a little bit different than previous areas we had biked through, I have a hard time telling the differences between the different types of vegetation here.
After we traveled across the flats, towards the west, we then turned to the south. By this time, we had reached another section of the Suwanee River. And there was a series of several more springs here.
We had intended to stop at Sun Springs for the night, to make today a nice, light travel day. However, our instructions and directions hit a snag, and caused us to keep pushing on. As we rode south, we never even saw Sun Springs along the road. So, we kept on riding. And, the place where the next spring was supposed to be, there wasn't a single sign or indicator that we could find. I kept watching, and looking, and we kept rolling along the road.
Christy was like a freight train, she just kept steaming along, expecting to get to the next stop at some point. She was about a tenth of a mile in front of Keeley and I on the tandem.
Finally, after we had traveled WELL past the expected turn, I decided we needed to figure what in the world was going on. However, that meant I had to pull out some Lance Armstrong high speed sprint maneuvers to catch up to her. If you can imagine, seeing something big and clunky (like the Oscar Meyer hot-dog weiner mobile) in a full out sprint race, that's about what Keeley and I looked like trying to speed up and catch Chris.
When we finally caught up to her, I had to yell out to STOOOOOOOP, as we steam-rolled right past her. By that time I couldn't get the tandem to slow down any faster. So, Keeley and I had to roll up another tenth of a mile to slow down enough to turn around and come back to Chris and Kait.
All I can say is it's a good thing we stopped, because when I called the second spring we were planning to stop at, we had already rolled 2 or 3 miles past the turn. I call the guy and say... "Hey, we are on bikes coming south on ___ road. How do we find you?" He says... "Yeah, you'll need to go back and turn at that road. We had our sign stolen last week, and I haven't had a chance to get a new one yet."
Great! That is so perfect! Especially for all of your visitors, who might want to find your campground and visit. They need to be able to find the place if they are planning on visiting. Don't you think?
So, we finally found the right road to turn off of. The funniest part is that even though we made finally figured out which back road to turn on, we still missed the second turn, leading to the entrance of the campground and park. Not only was there NO signage for the park from the highway we were biking on, there was also no sign from the back road directing us to how to get into the park. We actually rode past the entrance road, before realizing... duh... that was the road we needed to turn down.
Talk about INSANE!
A message to all businesses in Florida... if you want us to visit your store, we MUST be able to see that you are there. I don't have business ESP. You need to advertise that you are there, or I can't find you. Make a sign that I can see from the road. Or have a sign on your building that I can see from the road.
And here's a quick video of Kait taking a dip in the main spring, at Ginnie Springs park.
I look back on our trip back here every once in a while. It seems like so long ago, almost as if it was a lifetime. In fact, we haven't...
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