Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Meeting some Florida fauna up close

We did have a lot of fun that first month.  In addition to pigging out at Dixie Crossroads a few times, we explored lots of other fun dining experiences.  At Dixie Crossroads, they start you out with a big basket of corn fritters dredged in powdered sugar.  It is impossible to stop eating these things, but be careful, once you get rid of them, the wait person will bring you another basketful.  If you don't exercise some will power here, you won't have room for the wonderful dinner.   Their specialty is Rock Shrimp, a hard shelled little critter that was considered commercially unprofitable until the regular shrimp had a local crash.  Still, it took Rodney Thompson, founder of Dixie Crossroads, to figure out how to shell these shrimp and make them available for good eats.  The rest is history.  The little guys really do taste like lobster.

Now about that airboat ride...   We asked our landlord about that, and he explained there were two outlets nearby.  Midway Airboat Rides is out Hwy 50 almost to Christmas, and then there is Loughman Lake Lodge out by Mims.  He was partial to Loughman Lake Lodge because they have a restaurant and you can get something to eat.  This trip, we opted for Midway because it was the closest.  We appeared at the appointed time, and were introduced to the resident potbelly pig, who would squeal with pleasure when you scratched his back.

After we got situated on our boat, the captain promised to show us lots of alligators, but also some other interesting sights.  We got a wonderful tour, as he explained about the cattle ranches, and how the cattle got along with the alligators.  He showed us an Indian mound at a fork in the river.  It seems these mounds were made by piling up shells from generations of dinners.  It sounds like they were built for living platforms in the swamp, rather than for ceremonial purposes.    He also took us into a grove of tall cypress, and he turned off the engine so we could hear the silence.  It was quiet, but for a bird twitter now and then, and the lapping of the water.  He said sometimes there are reptiles to see in there, but not today.  He pointed out numerous birds along the way, ibis, herons, a couple of sandhill cranes, my favorites.

And of course, lots of alligators:

My favorite part of the trip was the diversity of it, how many different things the captain pointed out and explained to us.  We have taken the trip again, and also the Loughman Lake one, with much less information. Those trips were mostly just alligator viewing trips.  So kudos to our captain of the day, wish I could remember his name!

The airboat engine:

We had to wear ear protection, this thing is LOUD!

After we disembarked at the end of the trip, we were introduced to Hollywood, a baby alligator, and we got to stroke him and even hold him if we wanted to. He had a band around his jaws so he couldn't bite, and we had to hold him just so, not like cuddling a baby, but like holding out a hero sandwich to show it off.  His skin is so soft, like a baby's. 

There are so many interesting things about the St. John's River area, and the coast, all different from anything I ever saw in Michigan.  I got to know a lot about the birds and plants and animals of Michigan, but I have a whole 'nother world waiting to be learned down here in Florida.

Next post will cover more fun things, and how we started house shopping.

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