After so many days of being on the road we knew it was time to find a place to stop and spend at least a week. After researching our options we decided to try out the Value Place extended stay hotel chain that is located in a number of Florida cities. Lakeland, Florida, seemed like a centrally-located city with enough surrounding options to keep us occupied for a week. It is also close to our friends from Virginia, the Clendenin’s, who spend the winter months here in their RV.
Friday morning before leaving Fort Pierce, we spent some time in the downtown area, which included a visit to the Manatee Education Center. Besides the indoor and outdoor exhibits we had an opportunity to watch a group of manatees hovering just beneath the surface of the water in the ditch behind the center. The manatees like the ditch because it is an outlet from a city utility plant. The water flowing into the ditch from the plant is warmer than the surrounding water and manatees crave warmth (I know how they feel)! One of the things we learned about manatees is that the leading cause of death for them is pneumonia. They don’t have a thick skin nor a high metabolism to help them stay warm.
Leaving the Manatee Education Center we took a short drive across the inlet to check out the nearby beaches. The beaches on the Atlantic side of Florida are different from the Gulf coast beaches. It was a windy day, rather chilly, and the waves were rolling in. Standing there in the wind reminded me of other beach visits over the years in places like Virginia Beach, VA, or Ocean City, Maryland. It seems like whenever I’m there it’s cold and windy and I want to just get somewhere warm like it was when we were at the Everglades. Still a lot warmer, though, than it would have been in Virginia or Maryland.
On our drive across Florida to reach Lakeland from Fort Pierce we stayed off the major interstates to get a better feel for what Florida is really like. Lots of cattle ranches and orange groves and orange juice processing plants to look at.
Here in Lakeland we are enjoying the chance to get our bearings and know that we don’t have to pack up the car again until Friday. Saturday we got on our bikes and explored the Lake-to-Lake bicycle route.
Lakeland is appropriately named. There are multitudes of small lakes in and around the city.
Lake Hollingsworth, first lake on the Lake-to-Lake route.
Lake Morton, close to downtown.
Hollis Gardens, close to downtown.
Yesterday we attended church with our friends, the Clendenin’s and got a tour of the area where they live in Polk City, which is a small town close to Lakeland. Today we are catching up on some business and taking time to figure out where things are around the city. Our hotel offers internet, but we have found it to be frustratingly unreliable. We are now happily working on our computers using the great wireless service that is offered for free at the Lakeland Public library.
Either a cold front has moved into the state or it just isn’t as warm here as it was in southern Florida. Our bikes are on the car and if it warms up enough this afternoon we will explore another bike trail here in town. Meanwhile, it is nice to have a few days to know we don’t have to be on the move and that we have a stove where we can cook actual dinners.