Friday, December 3, 2010

Wesley Chapel; Hillsborough River State Park

Firstly, here is a street sign we passed which seemed so apropos:

We tore ourselves away from the manatees and drove a few hours south to Hillsborough River State Park, and found it to be another really excellent park. We had reserved a perfect site on the outside of a corner, so our yard was nothing but jungle:

The Hillsborough River winds through the park and a quick peek over at the kayak launch area revealed some of the river's denizens basking in the sun:

We came here primarily to visit my uncle Jake and aunt Bernice. They came over to camp to see the Whale and then we went out to eat. It was to be the first of three dinners out!

The next day we went over to Wesley Chapel to their house. Like their house in Virginia, this one is also home to many of the furnishings and decorations from the Albrecht family lake house on Otisco Lake, NY. It was fun to tour the house and see these familiar items. Here is the happy couple in front of their florida home:

Also at home was Lewis "The Mooch", Bernie's son, and the two Boston Terriers: Fancy and Buster Brown. Here I am with Fancy, who is looking somewhat demonic, but was probably just about to give me kisses:

We went for a driving tour of the area, stopping at a pottery shop, and antique store, and a county park where we took this group photo:

We had dinner that night in Dade City, at Kafe Kokopelli. It is a fascinating place inside and out. The exterior is completely covered in vines and the interior, which used to be a Ford model T shop, is decorated with, among hundreds of interesting items, many stuffed wild animals. We enjoyed an excellent meal, and hot fudge sundaes were savored at its close:

The next day we checked for gators and, finding none on the launch, we put in the kayaks. It was an enchanting paddle down the serpentine glassy river, overhung with live oak, cypress and palms. The clear waters revealed hundreds of fish, mostly foot-long bottom feeders, but also several trophy-sized largemouth bass, and at least one gar.

Also spotted were many turtles and this white ibis:

I took my bike out on the trails that followed along this same river and found them to be loads of fun - narrow winding trails with a few roots to give the suspension something to do:

Another dinner out with Jake and Bernie, this time in North Tampa at Bonefish Grill. Although the evening almost went sour when a skateboarder cut in front of our vehicle, we smoothed our nerves over cocktails and enjoyed a fantastic meal of shrimp, salmon, wolf-fish and mahi-mahi.

It was a really fun visit, but we must keep moving on. Next stop, just two hours north, I'll ride at one of the IMBA designated epic trail systems, the Santos Trails in Ocala. (

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