If you remember Silver Springs as a pretty good Stevie Nicks song, you probably don't remember Pre-Disney Florida when your family road trip was punctuated by visits to such " Attractions" . I really don't remember The Springs.(My family was from Missouri and we had Lots of Springs.) But I was transfixed by the army of eager teenagers attaching cardboard bumper stickers to visitors' autos. These were your passport stamps marking you as a veteran of Rock City, or Rainbow Springs...hand knotted with string at an astonishing speed.
Gladys, Where are the Mermaids??
That's at Weeki Wachie, Clarence.
Waterskiing? This place ain't big enough for...
That's Cypress Gardens. That's tomorroah!
Rainbow Springs... Look, a Monkey...
When my family passed this way in the fifties, Silver Springs had been a prosperous venue for over 100 years. Steam trains and steamboats intersected here and visitors, I assume, ate fudge.
Road trips gave way to quick flights to the Kingdom. The Mouse was ascendant and the old attractions, roadside alligator petting and OK Corral shootouts faded from memory. When the State recovered a dilapidated Silver Springs from a bankrupt concessionaire, a lot of work and treasure was required to bring this natural wonder back from its over-exploited past; We arrived in the midst of it.
The campground was off the national Reserve America listing and welcoming guests to a fraction of their sites on a first come basis. Sewer line construction stripped the landscape with sandy scars, two loops were ON FIRE as a prescribed burn was in progress.
The staff was cheerful and accommodating. We found ourselves in a huge campsite of pristine white gravel raked to the perfection of a Zen garden. The bathhouses were world class. The backhoes were active 100 yards away, but we were pleased to be here; In normal times reservations here are hard to come by.
We enjoyed a short bike ride on the Withlacochee trail with our friends and local guides Eileen and Dave. It was sunny and cool and WINDY but there was warm friendship and good stories.
Another windy day we took a tour of the major springs and campgrounds in Ocala NF, revisiting some old haunts.
Yep. He's still there.
There was the usual hiking about and errand running, lubing of hitches, filling of tanks and changing of oil -- the little tasks of living on the road. This spacious campground minimized those chance meetings that often lead to longer conversations, but Patty usually draws a crowd wherever she goes. This morning while I was off changing oil, she lectured extensively on matters of life on the road to a really sweet couple from Illinois who are considering an RV. She reports that there were dishes in the sink, an unmade bed and laundry being sorted. It sounds like they enjoyed themselves as much as I did the recounting.