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Issue #189, Epic Road Trip, June 11, 2018: Manatee Springs, Florida

June 11, 2018 9:19 am and the rain has already fallen in broad sheets here at Manatee Springs State Park. But just as quickly as it dumps, the sun breaks through the clouds and the forest plants release a collective ‘thank you’, as the omnipresent and varied vegetation requires sustained moisture to continue to thrive.

Giant fan plants (Saw Palmettos), leaves like spears arrayed around a central stalk, fill out the lower reaches of the forest; Giant Cedars with Spanish Moss, palm-like trees with bark that radiates around the trunk in spiral patterns (Sabal Palms), bird calls of great variety, and insect noises - which, during the evening, ratchets up to a fevered pitch - this is the swampy glory of such a place, only a little over 2000 miles from the arid plains and foothills of the Rocky Mountains, all connected by a single stream of ever-more expensive gasoline, which we saw reach around $2.80/gallon as compared to $2.50 or so, in the earlier states we drove through.

The drive from Alabama’s Conecuh National Forest was about 5.5 hours, not too difficult, compared to our first few days. In the morning, I did another sketch of the trees around the lake, then finished up the one I had initiated out on the dock, the evening before, where the morning reflections in the calm water (with mist slowly rising from the placid surface) provided a better contrast to the wet wood and broken plastic chair . We finished a breakfast of grits and bread and then I got to work packing away the awning and blockhouse (our shower shelter) and hammock.

I had found a green fish hook on the dock and Orion decided to try and make a fishing pole, using that plus some red line we salvaged, and a plastic orange cap of some item for a bobber. He didn’t catch any fish (we didn’t bring any fishing gear anyway - but he stored the hook in his box of altoid mints for future use).

As we drove past Tallahassee, rain began to fall in prodigious quantities, the first wave coming with such intensity that the Volvo started hydroplaning, and so we pulled into an exit and parked next to a Burger King somewhere, deciding to pop the Cricket top and eat lunch right there, getting our feet wet as the place I parked had pools of standing water all about.

The cashiers at the convenience store nearby, where I bought coffee and chocolate treats for the kids, looked overweight and bored. Then, closer to our destination - in ‘Perry’ - we stopped at a Wal-Mart to get supplies for the next several days, whereupon it began to rain with such ferocity that we couldn’t even exit the store, so we just hung out for awhile, waiting for it to diminish; during which time a woman in her 50’s with a pink shirt stood ready to face the rain with her small dog, trying to wrap the pooch up in one of the grey plastic Wal-Mart bags. Paige went up to help her put the dog in the bag, and I asked her if I could take her picture, and so got a great shot of her holding her companion, who wore a matching pink sweater with a hoodie that had moose antlers on it (just like the dog in ‘The Grinch who stole Christmas’).

Florida Wal-Mart
afternoon deluge prompting
pooch wrapped in plastic

Another African-American man stood waiting at the entrance, his cart full of several cases of Aqua-Fina water. He told me that “it rained like this all the time, and May set some records”. He eventually pushed his cart, running towards his car through the rain, saying, “Oh, well, it can’t kill you”. Also, a burly security guard with a massive umbrella also walked calmly into and out of the store while we were standing there.

Just another hour of driving and we were safely in the humid embrace of Manatee Springs. Our reservation is for three nights here, and after we got set up the kids and I explored a little, while Paige made dinner (out of leftovers) and drank wine. There is a swimming hole with clear spring water that looks inviting, which we will soon visit.

dead armadillo
enjoyed by turkey vulture
Alabama highway

spacious, sunny south
everywhere the lawns are green
and humidity high

the faithful parked at
Hickory Hill baptist Church
Northern Florida

Florida is great
with names like Chattahouchie
and Tallahassee

Tallahassee rain
drenches in successive waves
volvo hydroplanes

running through the rain
bottled water in his cart
he sprints for his car

sound of cicadas
at Manatee Springs State Park
ramps up after dark

solo/group kukai
jonathan machen